Television has had its ups and down this year, and in a moment I’ll be briefly covering what’s worth watching. But first, I have a dash of news about Thunderbird Studios. Come the end of April, this site will be taking a month-long hiatus. We’ve really been trying to organize ourselves in a way that prevents bottlenecks and avoids a “one man” mentality.

We’re not bad about that, as we’ve had no trouble getting great reviews and articles. The problem is that after the writing comes a few art needs, formatting and promotion of our articles. I’ll be training a few people to be able to take over my position. While I enjoy running the site, I have my own writing projects that need attention, and balancing a media platform atop of that is quite difficult.

And now, on with the entertainment…

Halt and Catch Fire, Season 3:

The first season of HaCF was great, but the second struggled with believability. Time and time again, the series tried to sell its audience on the “wow” of a foreseen future. T1 cable lines, built-to-order PCs, first-person shooter video games, viruses and cyber-security. As though just three people were responsible for several huge innovations in the 80’s tech-boom. Come on…

This time the showrunners returned with a stronger formula, one of which AMC is no stranger: business drama. Donna and Cameron run an online subscription service that gradually evolves into a precursor for eBay. Joe has become a security mogul, thanks to Gordon’s abused gift. By balancing the business with the tech, and focusing more on fun elements (laser tag, the NES), this has been the best season yet.

In many ways, the show has become even better than Mad Men. There’s a sense of seasonal progression for one, where past episodes are building blocks of a larger story. Mad Men could often be a little too anthological. And two, the slights against our characters never feel forgotten. It’s not that Mad Men abandoned every grudge, but I’m not convinced everyone got their comeuppance. Halt and Catch Fire still has some scores to settle, though I fear the hunt for the World Wide Web may see us crawling back to season 2’s themes again.

Homeland, Season 6:

I can’t deny that I keep hoping for each season of Homeland to be the last. Yet the show perpetually reinvents itself, thus I keep giving it a chance.

However, this season abandoned the show’s biggest draw, and I may finally have the excuse to walk away for good. The first three seasons took place in locations both foreign and domestic as main character Carrie focused on a potential national security threat. After that ended, the show became somewhat more anthological. Season four took place almost exclusively in Pakistan, five in Germany. The crazy thing is, sometimes the bad guys would win too. We keep thinking of terrorism as life or death, but that’s just not always the case.

The sixth season has all but abandoned the foreign focus. Rather, the problems are all domestic and revolve around a power struggle between the president-elect (played by Elizabeth Marvel) and the US intelligence community. I can’t deny that it’s good television, but the effect is “excellent white chocolate.” Well made, but still not what I wanted. I was initially attracted to how each season took place in another country, placating my travel bug. Without that, the desire to watch fizzles. Even with the excellent twist I saw last night during the 11th episode.

Given that the eighth season will be the last, I’ll at least consider what Showtime is doing with the seventh before deciding for good. We’ll see.

The 100, Season 4:

The 100 had an interesting problem during the prior seasons. The first had 13 episodes and was great. Seasons two and three possessed 16 installments apiece. Instead of delivering a grander tale however, the producers filled the opening episodes with chest-pounding teenagers making dramatically dumb decisions. Not much more than sex and bravado, at least until around episode four.

The fourth season redressed this, shrinking back to 13 episodes and cutting three wasteful hours. That’s probably why it hit the ground running, cutting to the meat of the plot.

Every season has done a great job at organically introducing a new threat. In the past, it’s always been some new faction, such as the Mountain Men, ALIE or the Ice Nation. This time however, it’s the environment itself that has turned against our dubious protagonists. As a fresh blast of radiation threatens Earth’s flora and fauna with black rain, Clarke and crew race to find an answer.

That’s not to say it has been perfect however. I must admit that a big plot hole in that the encroaching radiation is destroying wildlife (and thus food supplies). Surviving the second rad-mageddon only to die of starvation is pretty grimdark. I hope there’s some plan to fix this, but I’ll hold judgment until the end.

Spoiler warning from here on.

There’s also still this sense that the producers are manipulating things against a natural story. For example, one can feel the invisible hand of the showrunners upon this kid Ilian, who in short order:

  1. Blew up the Ark, which he was in, and survived.
  2. Thanks to Kane’s passionate humanitarianism, somehow wasn’t eviscerated by a slightly annoyed mob of former-Ark residents.
  3. Had sex with Octavia and possibly started a relationship.

No. No really. That’s what happens. If any one of these events occurred, I could probably have bought it. But all three at the same time is a huge bite of disbelief.

But The 100 coasts because there’s nothing quite like it on television. When you talk post-apocalypse, there’s Battlestar Galactica and The Walking Dead, but these shows are often more about running than rebuilding. And I think it’s the rebuilding themes that have been a huge appeal for female fans of post-apocalyptic stories. Perhaps because of the potential to address issues in modern society, to show their mettle, and to make history on the re-frontier.

Basically, I guess it’s just some saying, “hit the reset button and we’ll show you what we’re really made of.”

James Fadeley photo.

About James Fadeley

James is a short story author and novelist who spends way too much time playing video games. His first novel, The Gift of Hadrborg is based on The Banner Saga universe. If you think yourself insane, he can be followed on Twitter @JamesFadeley.