“Stranger Things” Season 2: Intense, Creative and Charming

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Almost overnight, it seems like “Stranger Things” has become the new “must-binge” TV show from Netflix, following in the long line of popular shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” that have influenced the pop culture mainstream. So it shouldn’t perhaps have been a big surprise that Season 2 of “Stranger Things,” when it finally dropped on October 27, was just as intense, creative and charming as Season 1.

The audience viewership numbers for “Stranger Things” Season 2 are off the charts

Netflix has been notoriously secretive about the total viewership numbers for its shows, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of Nielsen from finding ways to measure how many people are actually watching shows like “Stranger Things.” And it turns out that the audience viewership numbers for “Stranger Things” Season 2, as measured by Nielsen, are off the charts.

Here’s just one number that really stands out: Nielsen found that 361,000 people watched all 9 episodes of Season 2 within 24 hours of their first release on October 27. That is the true definition of a “binge.” The average viewer watched 2.9 episodes within the first 3 days of release, meaning that they averaged 1 episode per night. You might call this a “light binge” because these viewers were still on pace to watch 9 episodes in 9 nights – very impressive by any standard.

Moreover, on average, Netflix attracted an average of 8.8 million viewers per episode of Season 2, of which 6.2 million were in the all-important 18-to-49 demographic. But that’s just an average – Episode 1 attracted 15.8 million viewers, with 11 million in the 18-to-49 demographic. Even the final episode (Episode 9) attracted more than 4 million viewers – a clear suggestion that close to 4 million viewers did an intense three-day binge of the complete Season 2.

Some of the more intense, creative, and charming elements from “Stranger Things” Season 2

So what exactly was driving all this impressive viewership of “Stranger Things” Season 2? Here are just some of the themes that social media interactions were picking up on with great regularity:

  • Anything involving demons (especially the “demodogs”!)
  • The supernatural elements of the Upside Down
  • Will Byers being held captive by a demon
  • The evildoers at the Hawkins lab

While Season 2 tended to follow the same basic narrative arc of Season 1 – the lab in Hawkins commits errors, Will Byers gets victimized by supernatural elements, monsters escape to wreak havoc, and Eleven finds a way to save everyone – the way the show continues to weave new narrative subplots in and out of this basic narrative arc is very impressive. Some of the scenes can be intense – such as just about any scene of Will being victimized by supernatural elements – but they help the viewer to identify even more strongly with the characters of “Stranger Things.”

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“Stranger Things” 2 includes plenty of references to 1980s nostalgia

One favorite pastime of “Stranger Things” fans is trying to spot all the references to 1980s pop culture contained within the show. Some of the references are obvious even to the casual, first-time viewer, such as the “Ghostbusters” outfits worn by the kids, but some of the other references might be a bit harder to figure out. Keep in mind – this show is set in the year 1984, so it’s easy to see why viewers love to track down all of these 1980s references.

Insider.com, in fact, tracked down 17 of the more creative and charming 80’s pop culture references within the show, finding connections to some of the most beloved films of that decade, including “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “War Games,” “Risky Business,” and “E.T.” Sometimes, these references included something very subtle – like a videocassette for one of those movies appearing in a scene – and sometimes they a subtle homage to those films, such as when Steve and Nancy dress up like Joel and Lana from “Risky Business” for a party.

Here’s just one example of how clever and charming these ‘80s references are: when Will is being held at the lab for tests, he’s asked to give his first choice for candy. He eventually decides on Reese’s Pieces. Well, there’s a good reason for that – Reese’s Pieces were the exact type of candy that the kids in “E.T.” fed E.T. in order to get him to trust them.

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“Stranger Things” 2 is all about creative and charming character development

As more than one movie critic has pointed out, the main reason why viewers insist on binge-watching “Stranger Things” has to do with the creative and charming character development. We really want to learn more about these kids. Thus, it seems like Season 2, much more than Season 1, focused on their growth and emotional struggles. For example, you have the heartbroken Mike after he fails to win the girls of his dreams, and you have the sad, crestfallen Eleven shattering windows and adopting a new “MTV punk” look as a way of dealing with her emotions.

All of these emotional subplots are woven into the larger story, showing us what it means to deal with adolescence. And, in one of the more creative touches of Season 2, it turns out that a mysterious storm bearing down on the town of Hawkins turned out to be (spoiler alert!) a physical manifestation of puberty. The storm was meant to show us what this phenomenon must have felt like for these kids, so unused to experiencing certain feelings and thoughts.

“Stranger Things” 2 is all about the new monsters and demons

Based on the types of social media interactions that fans of “Stranger Things” have been posting on Facebook and Twitter in the period after Season 2 was released, it appears that viewers were intensely interested in all the monsters and demons that have been released by the Hawkins lab. Fans really wanted the return of the Demogorgon in Season 2, but what they got instead was a big, spider-like storm beast. So there was a lot of discussion about the differences between Gothic-style monsters and smoky, shadowy monsters. And fans couldn’t stop talking about the Demodogs!

“Stranger Things” 2 has a chance to become the new Netflix flagship hit

For so long, “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” have been the flagship shows of Netflix, showing us what it means to create an intense, creative and charming show. Well, it now looks like “Stranger Things” – thanks to its amalgam of 1980’s pop nostalgia, strong character development, and creative adaptation of classic science-fiction plot lines – is now on pace to become the new Netflix flagship show.

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Learn About Lady Gaga in Netflix’s “Gaga: Five Foot Two”

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Lady Gaga is undeniably one of the world’s most famous and talented musicians, and now Netflix is bringing us a new behind-the-scenes documentary that looks at a year in the life of this celebrated icon. “Gaga: Five Foot Two” takes us inside the making of her fifth studio album (“Joanne”) and gives us an inside look at the making of her halftime performance for Super Bowl LI. There’s a lot we can learn about Lady Gaga from this important new Netflix documentary.

“Gaga: Five Foot Two” shows us Lady Gaga’s relationship with her fans

First and most importantly, this new Netflix documentary gives us an unprecedented look at Lady Gaga’s relationship with her tremendously devoted fan base. It is clear from this behind-the-scenes look at Lady Gaga that she really feeds off the energy and passion of her fans, and that’s why the fan encounters that “Gaga: Five Foot Two” depicts are so illuminating – they show us the character and persona of Lady Gaga. We see how she feels a unique burden to live up to the expectations of her fans – and also how these brief fan encounters are a way for her to energize and re-charge.

“Gaga: Five Foot Two” gives us an unforgettable look at the Super Bowl LI halftime show

Has there ever been a more iconic and talked-about Super Bowl halftime show in recent memory than the one featuring Lady Gaga in 2017? The way she stood on top of the stadium in Houston and dove to the stage, and then burst into her most popular songs ever – it was simply incredible. And so “Gaga: Five Foot Two” gives us the remarkable story of how the show was dreamed up, how it was executed, and why it was so meaningful to Lady Gaga to pull off such a career-defining performance.

“Gaga: Five Foot Two” gives the viewer a chance to learn about Gaga’s family

We often think of rock stars like Lady Gaga as being so absorbed in their music, tours, and entourage that they no longer have time for a real family. But that couldn’t be further from the truth for Lady Gaga, as “Gaga: Five Foot Two” makes clear. What quickly becomes clear from this documentary is that her family is what helped to make her such a strong person. There’s genuine love and affection, and we see that through each of her family members – Angelina Germanotta (the grandmother), Cynthia (her mother), Joe (her father) and Natali (her sister). The big moment, of course, comes when it’s time to unveil her new studio album, “Joanne,” which has special meaning for her and her family.

“Gaga: Five Foot Two” shows us the celebrities in Gaga’s life

We always knew that the world of Lady Gaga was wonderful and fabulous, and this new Netflix documentary gives us the briefest glimpse at the types of celebrities whom she interacts with on a daily basis – people like Florence Welch, Tony Bennett, and Donatella Versace.

And, where the documentary really covers new ground is in its exploration of Lady Gaga’s feud with legendary musician Madonna. Is this just one of those staged feuds in the music world for both people to benefit from the resulting PR buzz? Or is there a real reason for two of this generation’s top musicians to have animosity for each other? Those are just two of the questions that this Netflix documentary helps to answer.

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“Gaga: Five Foot Two” is unfiltered “year in the life” saga

The documentary takes on a cinema vérité approach, showing us a real, unfiltered look at Gaga, her entourage, and her adventures. And we see that not everything is glamorous for this rock star. For example, part of the documentary deals with Lady Gaga’s physical problems, including her ongoing struggle with chronic pain. It’s not easy to be on tour for months at a time, or to carry out all of her high-energy performances, time and time again, and it’s clear that this performance lifestyle has taken a physical toll on our rock star hero.

And, as part of this “year in the life” saga (which some have compared to “Madonna: Truth or Dare”), we get to see some of the other creative projects in Lady Gaga’s life. For example, she is taking on a guest role in “American Horror Story: Roanoke” and this could be another way to tap into her immense and very unique talents. And, of course, she is always looking for ways to make her stage performances all the more stunning. What emerges from this documentary is the story of a much more nuanced, complex character than we might have assumed. For many of us, Lady Gaga is larger than life. But she is very human, with her own weaknesses and frailties.

“Gaga: Five Foot Two” has the narrative arc of a true documentary film

On the surface, it might be easy to dismiss Netflix’s “Gaga: Five Foot Two” as just a celebrity puff piece, just another tool in the PR toolkit to build out her worldwide fame and generate sales for her new album. But do you know what? This is a real documentary film, and as proof of that, it actually debuted at the very prestigious Toronto International Film Festival before starting to stream on Netflix.

That, perhaps, is what gives this 2017 documentary film such a sense of realism – it is not just a rough cut compilation of unrelated scenes. Instead, it follows a true narrative arc. Yes, it might have a lot of rapid-fire cuts, but that’s only to intensify the feeling that we are one of the world’s busiest and most active performers. Everything that Lady Gaga does is high energy, and this documentary tries to convey that.

To be sure, you will learn a lot about Lady Gaga in Netflix’s “Gaga: Five Foot Two.” You will meet her entourage and her family, you will see her encounters with her fans, and you will see the making of two wonderfully creative works – her new studio album “Joanne” and her Super Bowl LI halftime show. And, best of all, you will learn about Lady Gaga not just as a performer and creative artist, but also as a wonderfully talented individual with a fascinating story to tell.

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Season 4 of “Bojack Horseman” Is Darker Than Ever

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Netflix’s adult animated comedy-drama “Bojack Horseman” is back for Season 4, and it’s clear that something has changed. Sure, the first three seasons of “Bojack Horseman” always seemed to be pushing the edges of just how far the show could go – but Season 4 is taking the show in a much darker direction, exploring themes like addiction, dementia and depression in ways that we never expected. In short, Season 4 of “Bojack Horseman” is darker than ever.

“Bojack Horseman” is no longer just a brilliant satire of Hollywood celebrity culture

When the star character of a show is a humanoid horse who’s also filled with addictive tendencies and a sense of deep self-loathing, there’s plenty of potential to explore the darker side of existence. Yet, for the first three seasons, it seems like “Bojack Horseman” was mostly willing to satirize Hollywood and celebrity culture. You basically had a washed-up Hollywood star – Bojack Horseman – trying to get back in the game and restore his once-fabulous TV career.

Along the way, we meet his on-again, off-again girlfriend (the pink cat Princess Carolyn), and watch him struggle to adapt to his current existence as a 50-something nobody without any real prospects in show biz. But here’s the thing: we as viewers believed that the show was about finding happiness, about finding redemption, and about finally making it in the end.

Season 4 has changed all that. Themes like anxiety, drug abuse and depression are everywhere. It’s not just that Bojack Horseman is bitter and depressed, it’s that he’s now sinking further and further into the cesspool of dark emotions. He is, in short, now a substance-addicted narcissist. He is not getting any closer to enlightenment, and really, he doesn’t care. That’s dark, right?

“Bojack Horseman” has some dark scenes involving family members

In Season 4, we are learning more and more about Bojack Horseman, and we are finding out that he is not a very nice horse. For example, consider the plot lines involving his mother Beatrice. He has placed her in a ramshackle nursing home in Michigan, glad to be rid of her both physically and emotionally. As viewers and fans have pointed out, he has literally turned his back on her.

And that’s not all – Bojack Horseman is not dealing very well with the fact that Hollyhock might actually be his daughter. He doesn’t want to adopt her, and is looking for a way out. He is not willing yet to take on responsibility for her, and seems to be actively looking for someone else to take her on. He seems to be just going through the motions, not yet doing the “right thing” and becoming a loving parent and adopting her with love.

“Bojack Horseman” is shifting its dark focus from Hollywood to politics

On the surface, a plot line about Mr. Peanutbutter running for political office shouldn’t be all that dark. After all, he’s just a golden Labrador Retriever, right? But even here, you can start to see how “Bojack Horseman” is now willing to take on modern politics.

Throughout Season 4, there are veiled references to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger. How did we get to this point in modern society where it’s easier for a celebrity to win political office than it is for a life-long, professional politician? There’s something cold and unsparing in this analysis, though, that has overtones of darkness.

“Bojack Horseman” continues to explore the meaning of melancholy, shame and guilt

Part of why fans love “Bojack Horseman” so much are all the goofy background gags in nearly every scene – like polar bears hanging out in Hawaiian shirts when other animals are wrapped up in heavy jackets, or all the funny word plays on signs (“I Pita the Ful”). But here’s the thing – these signs and gags have started to be less about being funny and cute, and more about reinforcing the shame and guilt that different characters feel.

As one TV reviewer noted, “Bojack Horseman” is now “a marvel of melancholy.” You might say that the show has transformed from being “biting and sarcastic“ to being “darkly funny” to now being “a marvel of melancholy.” Each season, the show seems to be headed deeper and deeper in that direction.

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“Bojack Horseman” is all about broken, not flawed, characters

It might seem like a subtle difference on the surface, but there is a major, fundamental difference between being a “flawed” character and being a “broken” character. During the first 3 seasons, it was possible to see Bojack Horseman as a flawed character. Yes, he had destructive tendencies, and yes, he tended to feel sorry for himself, but you had the sense that it would all work out in the end.

Flash forward to Season 4, however, and it’s clear that Bojack Horseman is now a broken character. Some have compared him to Don Draper in “Mad Men” – someone that we initially trusted to be a true protagonist, but someone who showed that he was without true redemption. Bojack Horseman has addictive tendencies, he’s filled with self-loathing, and now he seems to be much more willing to take all this out on others.

So do we give Bojack Horseman another chance? Is a broken character like him capable of finding happiness? When he was simply bitter and jaded, we thought the answer was “yes.” Now, we are not so sure of the answer.

“Bojack Horseman” is still brilliant – but different than we remembered

It’s hard not to admit that “Bojack Horseman” creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg is absolutely brilliant. Obviously, the first three seasons were epic in ways that we never could have imagined. In Season 4, though, it seems like he has tried to push things further, to really make us understand the thoughts and motivations of Bojack Horseman.

And so Season 4 is somehow different from how we remembered Seasons 1 through 3. It’s still funny, and the sight gags and background props are still there, but the show is definitely darker than ever. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Bojack Horseman is finally able to find his own personal form of enlightenment.

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Why “Glow” Is the Netflix Show of the Summer

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Think about what makes a great summer TV show – it has to be fun and entertaining, of course. It has to be binge-worthy. And it has to feature themes and topics that are light enough for the carefree days of summer, when many of us are heading to the beach (or, at least, the local neighborhood pool). So that’s exactly why “Glow” is the Netflix show of the summer – it delivers on all of this, and more.

#1: “Glow” is just good nostalgic fun

There’s nothing that says nostalgia more than ‘80’s music, big hair, and Jane Fonda leotards. This show has it all, and it’s just good fun. There are LA skate punks, seedy California motels, and plenty of hair spray.

Critics have called it “shameless summer fun” – and why not? If you’re sitting at home during the summer, you probably want to stream something on TV that’s not going to require a lot of mental effort, and that’s “Glow.” Just sit back and soak in the outrageous outfits and beautiful women in the wrestling ring.

The basic plotline of “Glow” is that a group of washed-up actresses from Hollywood during the 1980s are going to unite to form the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW). The movie itself was inspired by the original cult TV hit of the 1980s, which covered the rise of the women’s pro wrestling league in the 1980s.

And that’s what makes us so nostalgic – there seemed to be an era not so long ago when it was perfectly OK to enjoy shows just like this. Back then, professional wrestling was still a very underground, amateur sport and that’s what gave it so much fan appeal.

#2: “Glow” features a great ensemble cast and sharp character development

The real goal of “Glow” is to show us how these out-of-work actresses suddenly became wrestling stars. In this Netflix series, we meet them from the very beginning, when Sam Sylvia (played by Marc Maron) comes up with this outrageous concept. Maron himself is excellent in the role of the GLOW promoter, and special mention has to be made about Alison Brie, who plays the role of actress-turned-wrestler Ruth Wilder.

While Alison Brie is the official star of the show, the unofficial star of this show are the other 12 ladies. Each one of them seems to have a unique story, and it’s all very compelling. The character development in this series is top-notch, and encourages you to keep on watching. By the end of the 10 Netflix episodes, you will really care about these women.

#3: “Glow” is light and binge-worthy enough for a summer escape

You can watch “Glow” however you want. It’s a Netflix show, so the initial urge is to binge. And that’s what many people did as soon as the show came out. But here’s the thing: “Glow” is only 10 episodes of 30 minutes each. That’s a total of 5 hours. You could theoretically binge on this during a long summer afternoon. And that’s why “Glow” is really so much fun. It doesn’t require as much focus or attention as a typical 10-episode or 12-episode Netflix binge.

#4: “Glow” is the perfect mix of “Wonder Woman” and “Orange Is the New Black”

The one movie that took cinema box offices by storm this summer was “Wonder Woman.” That movie was so special because it was a superhero movie made by a woman for women. It reflected a real female mentality and point of view. And, in many ways, “Glow” shares some of those characteristics. It’s also made by two women – Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch – and it also reflects a uniquely feminine point of view. In short, “Glow” seems to tap into the current cultural zeitgeist.

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And there’s one more thing – the same team behind “Glow” is also behind the Netflix cult favorite, “Orange Is the New Black.” If you love OITNB, you’ll love “Glow.” It’s also a story of strong female characters. Only this time, these characters are not in the Litchfield prison facility, they are in the professional wrestling ring.

So “Glow” manages to combine the very best of “Wonder Woman” and “Orange Is the New Black.” These female wrestlers may not be traditional superheroes, but they are heroes to many (including many teenage boys). And the show delivers the same type of dynamic character development that we’ve come to expect from “Orange Is the New Black,” but without all the heavy commentary about socio-economic conditions in America.

#5: “Glow” is not afraid to explore gender and racial stereotypes

Yes, “Glow” is a light, entertaining TV series for the summer. But it also has range and depth to it. The show is fearless in exploring gender and racial stereotypes. There are plenty of scenes where the wrestling promoters are trying to come up for identities for these girls – “the Arab girl” or “the Big Black Beautiful Woman” – where we vividly glimpse all the stereotypes floating through American society at that time.

But there are also all the stereotypes within the Hollywood acting community. There’s a reason why these women are out of work or under-employed – they are fighting against entrenched prejudices in the industry. In fact, many of the characters talk about “justice” during this TV show.

#6: “Glow” is the perfect origin story show

Deep down, we all love origin stories. We all want to know how something started, and why. And that’s why people love “Glow” so much. In many ways, this Netflix series is the perfect origins story, showing us how a pop culture phenomenon of the 1980s came to be.

And this is also a story of underdogs. And who in America doesn’t love a good underdog story? To give the series as much authenticity as possible, the female actresses even agreed to do their own stunts on set. So we are seeing real women being transformed right before our eyes into pro wrestling divas. This is really exciting stuff.

Thus, for so many reasons, “Glow” really is the Netflix show of the summer. It’s lightweight and entertaining – but comes packed with enough punch to make it truly binge-worthy. You’ll love following along as these women, led by Ruth Wilder, reinvent themselves as the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

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“Orange is the New Black” Season 5 Is the Worst One Yet

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Maybe long-time Netflix viewers started to expect too much from “Orange Is the New Black,” and they were inevitably doomed to be disappointed sooner or later. After four magnificent seasons, in which “Orange Is the New Black” made us re-think what’s possible in a TV series, Season 5 just never lived up to expectations. It’s safe to say that “Orange Is the New Black” Season 5 is the worst one yet.

Bizarre tonal shifts

While “Orange Is the New Black” has always shifted between genres, often interposing scenes of tragedy and comedy next to each other, there’s something distinctly “off” about this season. It’s almost like the series has lost its bearing, veering wildly from comedy to tragedy and then back to comedy, and viewers really don’t know what to think.

The New York Times has compared Season 5 of OITNB to “a speeding vehicle with a wheel missing.” With this season, the show is going too fast, the steering is unsteady, and it’s clear that there’s no slowing down. And this lack of focus can be disjointing – especially since all the action of Season 5 takes place within a very concentrated period of 72 hours. The mood swings are just too intense.

Plotlines and narratives just don’t add up

By now, you probably know that the dramatic narrative of Season 5 involves a prison riot and its aftermath at the Litchfield prison facility. The inmates rise up, take over the facility, take hostages, and reorganize themselves. One prison inmate, Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (played by Danielle Brooks), tries to negotiate with the private company that runs the prison, urging them to change the living conditions within the prison.

So far, so good, right? This is the type of compelling story that “Orange Is the New Black” is known for. But then comes an episode smack dab in the middle of Season 5 that just doesn’t make any sense. Online fans have referred to this as “an homage to slasher films,” and it involves one of the prison guards (Piscatella) acting like he’s a villain from one of the “Friday the 13th” movies, abducting and tying up inmates.

What’s so bizarre about this whole plotline is that even the show’s writers don’t know how to play this. As a result, you get an episode that’s part horror film, and part comedy. It’s campy and cute and also horrifying. At some point, viewers don’t really know what to think. “Are they just messing with us?” is a thought that’s going to come to you during Season 5.

And that’s not all. There’s also the plotline of the prison inmate Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (played by Taryn Manning), who winds up getting married to the man who raped her in Season 3. The show tries to make this into a bigger story of forgiveness and redemption, but it just comes off as a mess.

“Orange Is the New Black” fails to deliver on Shakespearean-sized ambitions

After four seasons of being an “important” series, “Orange Is the New Black” seemingly overdoses on its sense of self-importance. The website Vox.com has called Season 5 “staggeringly ambitious” and “a huge mess” – in the same sentence. That’s because the whole series starts to take itself too importantly.

Here’s just one example: the effort by the prison inmates to reorganize themselves into some kind of new women’s commune. There are all kinds of “important” socio-economic issues raised here, such as the possibility of building a society anew so that it is fair to everyone. But “Orange Is the New Black” constantly interjects its Shakespearean ambitions here, almost as if the show’s writers were trying to combine the very best of Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies into one TV show for the ages.

And here’s another example: the role of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (played by Uzo Aduba), who has a role very much like that of the Fool in “King Lear.” She’s been taking medications for her mental illness, but the more addled she becomes, the more capable she is of speaking truth to power. But when it all comes as a rambling monologue, it just doesn’t add up.

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“Orange Is the New Black” has a final cliffhanger scene that may have driven too far off the cliff

The big cliffhanger scene of Season 5 – the one that has already sparked debate and discussion about a Season 6 for “Orange Is the New Black” – is a microcosm of what’s both right and wrong about the series. In that final cliffhanger scene, the riot police have stormed the Litchfield facility to restore order. And the 10 key characters are standing together in one room. For one of the first times in the five seasons of the show, the dramatic action has seemingly transcended racial and tribal lines.

This is supposed to be a big, important moment. It is supposed to be a moment when we imagine what’s possible when people rise up and reorganize into a better, more just society. But instead, the cliffhanger comes off as a tired ending to the season after the show has already careened out of control.

It’s almost as if many of the main characters are being prepared to be sent in new directions (or perhaps written out of the show entirely), and the easiest way to do this is just to gather all of them in one place (the abandoned swimming pool-turned-bunker at the prison) and then have the writers spend the off-season debating what to do with all of them. Next season, when some characters disappear, there will be a good reason why.

In addition, two of the main stars of the show – Alex Vause (played by Laura Prepon) and Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) – seemingly no longer have a primary role to play in the series. In Season 5, they are often reduced to offering snarky commentary on the prison’s living conditions, but do not play a heroic role in changing those conditions. Some fans have even speculated that these characters won’t even be coming back for Season 6.

Ultimately, the problem may be that “Orange Is the New Black” simply raised our expectations too high. It was always one of the Netflix poster children for the “golden age” of binge-watching, but it’s clear that binge-watching (just like binge-eating) can have some pretty negative consequences. You don’t feel so good, and you suddenly can’t stomach the idea of one more episode of the series.

Hopefully, that feeling of a bad binge will wear off and we’ll be just as excited for Season 6 as we were for Season 5. But one thing is certainly clear – “Orange is the New Black” Season 5 is the worst one yet.

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How “House of Cards” Season 5 Stacks Up

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By now, viewers know what to expect from Netflix’s “House of Cards” – a bleak portrayal of the American political landscape in which the only constant is the relentless ambition for power. And that’s exactly what Season 5 of “House of Cards,” which debuted on Netflix on May 30, delivers.

1. Raw political ambition and the lust for political power

If anything, Season 5 of “House of Cards” is bleaker and more nihilistic than any of the preceding four seasons. We’re already used to the raw power ambitions of U.S. President Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) and First Lady Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright), but now we’re convinced that nothing is ever going to change. In fact, if anything, it’s clear that America’s timeless traditions and institutions may be no match for the current powerbrokers in Washington.

There are scenes in Season 5 that have deep symbolic meanings – such as when Claire Underwood appears to trample an American eagle underfoot on a rug in the White House, or when Frank Underwood appears to wander the White House alone, almost like a ghost, while music plays at some party he has no intention of joining. The message is clear: America is now a waning power on the world stage, and there’s no idealistic young up-and-comer who is going to save the day.

In fact, one of the trademark plot twists in “House of Cards” is how even idealistic newcomers are quickly brought up to speed on how things happen in Washington, D.C. The people who survive are not those that have an ideology or who want to change the system – it is the people who spend all day thinking of ways to subvert the system to their own whims. They study constitutional law, not to understand how to protect the Constitution, but how to subvert it.

Even the war on terror becomes just another tool for political power consolidation. In Season 5, the Underwoods are intent on inflaming public fears about ICO (the show’s version of ISIS) in order to steadily erode constitutional rights and find loopholes to increase their own power.

2. An underlying pessimism about American institutions

“House of Cards” almost seems to celebrate the men and women who have no ideology and no guiding political philosophy. That, perhaps, is why so many critics have called this the bleakest “House of Cards” yet. There is a sense that any vestige of dignity has departed the office of the Presidency, and all we see, in episode after episode, is yet another lesson in how absolute power corrupts absolutely. The goal of power, it appears, is simply to get more power. In doing so, all the political actors in “House of Cards” go about their nefarious ways.

What is most disturbing about Season 5, perhaps, is that it is not just the men and women who are flawed – it is the very institutions keeping them in power. There is a sense that all the ideals, principles and careful checks and balances that the Founding Fathers had the foresight to create are nothing more than tools now in the hands of the wrong people.

And Frank Underwood has no shame whatsoever in rubbing this in our face. At one point, he turns to the camera and says, “You voted for me, America.” Thus, as easy as it might be to blame a single person (or power couple, as in the case of the Underwoods) for this low point in American politics, we only have ourselves to blame.

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3. The Trump context

Of course, you can now see why so many people are trying to make this season’s “House of Cards” a pointed commentary on the current political environment in Washington. The Trump presidency, in many ways, is a mirror image of the Underwood presidency. You have an egomaniac in the White House, using the Oval Office simply to advance his own ambitions and business brand.

The way that Frank Underwood humiliates his underlings, too, has an analogue in the way that Donald Trump likes to punish and humiliate his underlings – whether it’s forcing Sean Spicer to go out and give a press conference at the most inopportune time, or when it comes to directly contravening statements made by one of his inner circle via a late night Twitter outburst.

And, of course, the way that many say that President Trump has degraded the office of the presidency with his constant half-truths and reckless Executive Orders have a clear precedent in the Underwood presidency.

But here is the thing – whereas Frank Underwood has absolutely no underlying ideology or values, one could argue that Donald Trump is at least following some abstract notion of “making America great again.” In the case of Frank Underwood, it’s not so much a case of making America great – it’s about making himself great.

And many people fail to point out that Season 5 of “House of Cards” actually started production BEFORE Trump was ever elected. Thus, even though the show debuted almost exactly four months after Trump was sworn in, it actually had already been in production long before.

For liberals, Donald Trump is just a slightly more odious version of Frank Underwood. For conservatives, though, the double-dealing and corrupt Underwoods are a slightly more odious version of the Clintons. You can see why we’re at such a political impasse in America these days – both figures are so polarizing that there’s little or no opportunity to meet in the middle.

**

So what to make of “House of Cards,” then? Many would argue that it has simply become too repetitive. The characters may change, but the plot does not. There is more scheming, more shifting of alliances and more egomaniacal attempts to subvert the system. Even the newcomers to Season 5 – Patricia Clarkson (as the deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade) and Campbell Scott (as a top adviser to the President) – do little to change the underlying dynamic of the show.

But something very distinct has changed in the way that we view “House of Cards” in 2017. If, back in 2013 when the show first premiered, we thought that the Underwood presidency was pure fiction and too insidious to ever become true, we now realize that it is, indeed, possible. In fact, it may now be the case that fact is stranger than fiction. The naked power grab of the Trump presidency and all the inflamed rhetoric about making America great again may actually have the opposite effect – it may reveal just how low the American political system has fallen, and how the lust for power has become all-consuming on both sides of the political aisle.

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“Master of None” Season 2 Sparks Social Commentary and Conversation

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When Netflix signed up comedian Aziz Ansari to do a special original comedy series, they couldn’t have possibly expected that “Master of None” was going to spark so much social commentary and conversation. But Season 2 of the show has just absolutely changed the national conversation on so many topics, including LGBT issues and what it means to be a Indian-American.

The show, of course, is a fictional account of Aziz Ansari’s life in which Aziz plays Dev Shah, a 30-year-old New York actor. The show is “loosely based” on real-life experiences, including his travels abroad, his experiences in New York, and the friends and family members who have influenced him.

And here’s where things get really interesting. “Master of None” (the title of the show is a reference to the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none) was really meant to be more of an itinerant series, moving from here to there at whim, showing some funny scenes from Aziz’s life. (In Season 2, for example, Aziz winds up in Italy.)

That approach was a remarkably successful formula for Season 1 back in late 2015, when the show routinely made the list of “Best TV Show of 2015.” Critics loved the show, and ranked it as one of the Top 10 shows of the year. There was a lull, and then in May 2017, here came Season 2, fortified with 10 new episodes.

On the surface, perhaps, viewers weren’t expecting the series to become such a spark for social commentary. After all, one of the key plotlines of Season 2 was the character of Dev Shah going to Italy to learn how to make pasta. There were some funny scenes – like the one where Aziz Ansari and his friend accidentally get their car stuck between two buildings in Italy. But then came “Thanksgiving”…

In “Thanksgiving,” Dev shares the story of how he likes to celebrate Thanksgiving with his childhood friends since his parents do not celebrate the holiday. And one of his best friends from childhood (Denise, played by Lena Waithe) happens to be both black and queer. That led to the idea that the episode would feature Denise talking about her decision to “come out” and announce that she’s queer. The episode also featured Angela Bassett as Denise’s mom Catherine, and that’s where things became explosive – the mom is not so accepting of Denise, and that sparked a major conversation about LGBT life.

In fact, that one episode attracted so much buzz that Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe did a special feature for New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, in which they broke down, scene by scene, how and why they decided to do the “Thanksgiving” episode. Lena Waithe is also gay in real-life, and was willing to share her own experiences and ideas about what it was like to come out on TV.

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And there have been other episodes that have also sparked social commentary. For example, Episode 3 (“Religion”) features Dev and his decision not to be a devout Muslim. He can’t possibly tell his parents that, so he has to fake it in front of them. That led to a lot of discussion in the media and entertainment blogs about Aziz’s “pork-fueled feud with his parents.”

More generally, it gets to the root of what it’s like to be Muslim in America. That’s a particularly sensitive topic right now, especially with all the discussion about a “Muslim ban.” How are Muslims assimilating into America? How are they reacting to the Muslim ban. Aziz is such a funny comedian, that we sometimes don’t even think that he’s thinking about these issues. But he’s only human, and it’s clear that all of his hilarious “brown people jokes” are really meant to be a biting commentary about America and its unwillingness to accept Muslims as equals.

And then, in another episode of the show, Aziz Ansari explores how it’s possible that everyday people can actually be racist in their own way. In Episode 4 of Season 2, for example, he dates a number of different girls, and the one he ends up sleeping with actually has a figurine in her home that the character Dev Shah interprets to be racist.

That raises an interesting question – especially from a social commentary perspective – and that’s how people can claim they have “brown friends” or “black friends” and yet still be racist. It could be that these feelings and emotions are so deep under the surface that they don’t even know that they are there. But the appearance of something seemingly as innocuous as a figurine can bring them to light.

Finally, there was one other issue raised in Season 2 that has started to get traction on the blogs and social media, and that’s the very difficult topic of sexual harassment. Despite all the claims that women are equal to men in America, it’s still the case that sexual harassment in the workplace is rampant. And that’s a topic that “Master of None” hasn’t been afraid to tackle.

So, as you can see, “Master of None” is really more than just a Netflix original comedy. It’s more than just funny insights into Aziz Ansari’s life. No – it’s really an increasingly important platform to discuss important social issues that show up again and again in daily life.

Take the example of LGBT issues. That’s something that Aziz Ansari rarely – if ever – tackles in his standup comedy routines, but it’s a topic that suddenly shows up in “Master of None.” Or take the issue of sexual harassment. Aziz may make a lot of jokes about how he is “human garbage” for the way he acts around women sometimes, but his show takes a deeper, more critical look at the issue.

Ultimately, comedy is a great tool for exploring these issues. And, as we’ve seen with Aziz Ansari and his amazing Saturday Night Live (SNL) hosting gig after the presidential election, he’s increasingly willing to take a stand on tough issues. That’s what makes “Master of None” such a great Netflix show. Even as we’re laughing, we’re also getting incisive takes on deeply important social issues.

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Why Fans Loved Season 3 of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

When Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” first premiered back in March 2015, it was clear that this comedy was going to develop into a cult show with a huge fan base. And so, perhaps, it’s no surprise that fans loved Season 3 of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” as much as they loved Season 1 and Season 2. This show really delivered everything they wanted – and then some.

#1: More twisted, wacky plot lines

All you have to know about “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is that comedian Tina Fey is one of the executive producers and co-creators of the show. She is really the creative genius behind the show, and it shows up in all the plot lines of the show. Even the major premise of the show – that Kimmy Schmidt (played by Ellie Kemper) was rescued after being imprisoned for 15 years by a doomsday cult and is now living in New York City with a gay Broadway actor (Titus Andromedon, played by the amazing Tituss Burgess) – is just so wacky.

But it’s that 15-year separation from the world that makes Kimmy so endearing and lovable. It gives the show’s main actors a unique vantage point to question the world around them. Kimmy seems to question everything, and especially the Internet. She’s still fascinated by Google, and can’t quite figure out the meaning of Airbnb, asking at one point, “So, it’s basically like a sleepover with strangers?”

And the wacky, twisted plot lines include the appearance of characters like Jane Krakowski’s Jacqueline. She plays an Upper East Side society woman, but it turns out that her whole life is really just a façade. In fact, her real name is Jackie Lynn, and she’s a native American who fled her life on a Lakota Indian reservation. And to make things even more farcical – she’s dating someone who is linked to the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Everything about Jacqueline is a hot mess – like how she tries to keep the trappings of wealth even after her divorce by creating cardboard cutouts of jewelry – and that’s why fans can’t stop laughing when they see her.

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#2: The new star power of Tituss Burgess

The show might be named for Kimmy Schmidt, and she may still be the star of the show, but the one actor that everyone is talking about these days is Tituss Burgess, who plays Kimmy’s gay roommate in New York. You’ve probably seen him making all the rounds on the late-night comedy shows, and for good reason: we may be seeing a new star break out on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

The best example, perhaps, is the parody of Beyonce’s “Lemonade” that was touted so highly in the trailer for Season 3. In this scene, Titus Andromedon dresses up in a yellow, flouncy maxi-dress just like Beyonce, grabs a baseball bat, and proceeds to take that bat to both a fire hydrant and a car belonging to his gay lover, a construction worker who happens to be cheating on him. And just like Beyonce sang about jealousy and craziness, Titus also sings about being turned crazy by jealousy. The actual Beyonce clip with the dress and baseball bat (“Hold Up”) has been viewed more than 100,000,000 times on YouTube – and now the parody video with Tituss Burgess is also going viral.

#3: The nuanced return of the doomsday cult plot line

In the first two seasons of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” we learn the basic back story of how she was held captive by a doomsday cult leader (played by Jon Hamm), and how she was kept in some kind of underground bunker for 15 years. But in Season 3 is where we really start to find out all the details. This makes the show much more nuanced and intriguing.

And, in some ways, the details are really dark. There’s the insinuation that Jon Hamm may have continually raped her over those 15 years – and that really gives us pause for thought. Kimmy Schmidt seems so optimistic and so naïve, that we suddenly realize how much of her past life she’s had to sublimate. There’s a dark alternative reality to all her good moods, and it involves both sexual and mental abuse.

In Season 3, the unhinged cult leader (Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, played by Jon Hamm) has a new surprise in store for Kimmy Schmidt, and that’s his plan to marry his jailhouse sweetheart, Wendy (played by Laura Dern). On the surface, Wendy seems like a very established, well put-together woman, but we quickly realize that she’s a lunatic, just like everyone else on the show.

In one plot line of Season 3, Wendy visits Kimmy, trying to convince her to sign some divorce papers so that she can marry the cult leader. That leads to a whole lot of hilarious jokes – like the need to print out the divorce papers using an outdated, archaic dot-matrix printer.

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#4: The ongoing visual and verbal jokes

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has so much humor going on at one time, that it can be difficult to sort through it all. On one hand, of course, there are all the verbal jokes. And then there are all the visual jokes. These visual jokes are really what separates “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” from other shows. In one episode, for example, a water stain on the wall becomes an ongoing sight gag.

In terms of the verbal jokes, Season 3 really distinguishes itself with all the ongoing jokes about young millennials. That’s because Kimmy Schmidt has decided to go back to college in Season 3, and somehow ends up on the campus of Columbia University in New York City, where she learns about all the strange habits of young millennial college students. One of these concerns dating – and the whole need to fill out a “consent form” if the two people plan to engage in any physical activity during a romantic relationship.

On Rotten Tomatoes, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a superstar show, pulling in a total freshness score of 96%. That’s just unprecedented, and it really shows how much fans loved Season 3 of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The show has so much going for it – the unique comedic talents of Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess, the diverse cast of wacky stars (including Laura Dern, Kane Krakowski and Jon Hamm), and, of course, the continued creative direction of superstar comedian Tina Fey. Fans just can’t wait for Netflix to greenlight Season 4 now.

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I Gave Up Netflix for 60 Days – Here’s the Result

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Two months without streaming a single movie or TV show on Netflix? When my co-worker first proposed this to me as a personal challenge, it seemed impossible. After all, I’m the type of person who binge-watches entire series over the weekend and who is always streaming video content on the go. But, never deterred by a challenge, I decided to give it a go. I gave up Netflix for 60 days.

WEEK ONE

Once I decided to give up Netflix for two whole months, my entertainment schedule seemed to be a disaster. This must be how people feel when they go on a juicing diet – you start to question how you can possibly follow through with it. There just didn’t seem to be anything to do with all those empty hours in front of me.

But that’s when I decided to take control of all those empty hours in my life formerly filled by Netflix. I started by actually taking a closer look at what was on live television. The problem here was that I had cut the cord with cable a long time ago, so it meant that I was limited to getting broadcast TV shows. And it meant actually looking at the TV schedule for the week and planning my time accordingly.

This was perhaps the hardest part – at least at the beginning  – of giving up Netflix. It meant that I was no longer free to consume content anytime, anywhere. It meant that I had to be on the couch right at 8:00 pm if I had any chance of watching primetime TV shows. And it meant that all of my multi-tasking habits had to be changed accordingly. If I wanted to watch TV, it meant that I had to give up my tablet or phone.

With Netflix, the great thing that I missed the most was the recommendation engine – always getting helpful tips about what to watch next. Staring at the TV in front of me, I reverted back to my old ways – just flipping channels incessantly, fervently hoping that something – anything!  – would be on TV. Only I didn’t have hundreds of channels, because I didn’t have cable. Instead, it meant that I had a handful of channels to choose from. And the commercials seemed to be everywhere! Every time I turned on the TV, there were commercials for medications that I couldn’t possibly use (or, at least, hoped that I wouldn’t possibly ever use).

WEEK TWO

By week two, I had abandoned the whole “let’s rely on broadcast TV” strategy as a way of watching content. Sure, it was fun to catch up on some of the sitcoms I had heard my friends at the office talking about, but what I really missed were all the movies. And, to be honest, there just weren’t a lot of movies on broadcast TV. Plenty of sitcoms and dramas and celebrity news programs, but no movies! And certainly not any art house cinema movies, or any quirky movies – the kinds that I loved Netflix for finding.

So I turned my attention to other things. I realized that all my Netflix binge-watching had been seriously cutting into my gym time, so I started going to the gym every other night. Previously, I might have watched a Netflix show while on the treadmill, but now I was forced to watch the monitor in front of me, showing my progress as I raced around an imaginary (digital) track.

Working out for a change was certainly good for me. Not only did I feel like I had more energy, I also realized how watching Netflix had ingrained certain behaviors in me that weren’t exactly conducive to losing weight or getting into better shape. For example, I loved to munch on chips while watching a movie at night. I bought “low fat” chips or “organic” chips, but still… chips are chips. So by cutting Netflix out of my nightly routine, I was actually helping to work wonders for my diet.

WEEK THREE

This was the week that I resolved to set up more social meetings to hang out with friends I hadn’t seen before. The first brunch date went well, but something seemed to be off – suddenly, I didn’t have as much in common with my friends. We used to talk about the latest episode of “Game of Thrones,” or discuss all the cool new movies coming out on Netflix this month, and now I was drawing a blank. As part of my “no Netflix for 60 days” strategy, I was doing my best to avoid reading any online content that might possible remind me of my glorious Netflix days.

WEEK FOUR

Was it just me, or did it seem like Netflix was inserting itself back into my life in ways that I couldn’t have imagined? All of my email newsletters seemed to have a reference to Netflix, or some new show coming to Netflix. Every time I walked down the street from my home, it seemed like there was a billboard for a new Netflix original show. My social media feeds seemed to be filled with people talking about some Netflix show. It was just 30 days in, and I was beginning to feel the effects of Netflix withdrawal.

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WEEK FIVE

OK, I admit it. Week Five was originally going to be my “cheat week.” I knew that I could get through the first 30 days without Netflix, but to keep myself going for the full 60 days, I knew that I knew some kind of Netflix fix. I still wanted to observe the 60-day ban, but wow! It was getting more and more difficult. So I started to watch Netflix trailer videos on YouTube. I started to check out which new shows and movies would be hitting Netflix at the end of the 6o-day period. And I started to gravitate toward entertainment shows on TV, desperate for some connection to my Netflix days.

WEEK SIX

This was the week that I resolved to get through an entire novel. Yes, I was going to beat this Netflix challenge by going Old School. I was going to read an entire novel, cover to cover, during all the extra hours in my schedule that I used to fill with Netflix shows. I looked through my bookshelf and found a title that I had ordered from Amazon Prime years ago, but had never picked up. This was perfect! It was going to get me through the week.

But I found that my all-digital lifestyle – consuming all content on my tablet, or streaming on my TV – had made me flabby when it came to handling a written novel. In the same way that hitting the gym had seemed strange and unnatural after such a long absence, so was actually committing to a period of reading. In silence. With no TV on in the background!

WEEK SEVEN

Two weeks, and I would be done. This was the week that I decided to fill my hours with social media. I started to check out all the “live” broadcasts that my friends were doing, and I started to check out all the Instagram Stories my friends were creating on a daily basis. But you know what? All those brief snippets of video activity only made me realize how much I really missed Netflix. You can’t fill an hour with random “live” video clips that people post on social media, and certainly not the same way you can with a Netflix movie.

WEEK EIGHT

The Netflix detox was finally over! Somehow, I had made it through the full 60 days without watching a single TV show or movie on Netflix. It was finally time to add up all the pluses and minuses to see how it had changed me.

Most importantly, this 60-day challenge made me realize more than ever before how many digital entertainment options are out there that aren’t named Netflix. Believe me, I had sampled a lot of them, and I was now more attuned than ever before to their advantages and disadvantages.

And I had become a bit sharper about life in general. Going to the gym more often had given me more energy, and watching only broadcast TV had made me watch the nightly news – something I hadn’t watched for years. And I became a bit more knowledgeable about the level of programming on primetime TV. There were actually a lot of good shows on these days!

Would I do it again? It’s hard to give an unequivocal answer to this question. Much as some people go on juicing diets, or go on a social media detox, the idea of going on a Netflix detox diet still seems like more of a stunt than anything else. I still can’t imagine not having Netflix in my life. Old habits die hard. Once a binge-watcher, always a binge-watcher. Maybe I was watching too much TV, but I always told myself that I was watching “quality TV.” Somehow that always made me feel better.  At the end of the day, I felt an affinity for the Netflix brand, and what it promised. And I loved the endless stream of content that always seemed to be available. If other people want to cut their ties with Netflix, OK, that’s fine. But I’m planning to hold on to my Netflix.

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What Fans Think of Marvel’s “Iron Fist”

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When it comes to their opinions about Marvel’s latest creation for Netflix – “Iron Fist” – there’s a sharp divide between fans and critics. Whereas critics offered a mostly negative take on the show, fans were much more accepting. You can see that divide on many movie rating sites, where the ratings can differ markedly.

This is now the fourth Marvel series for Netflix – following “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage” – so much of the split between fans and critics was mostly based on how they viewed the entire Marvel universe of characters. This show is obviously the setup for “The Defenders” (which features the stars of each of the four Marvel shows on Netflix) so most fans were willing to give this series a pass, as long as it helped to interconnect all the relevant Marvel plotlines.

#1: Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist

It’s impossible to talk about the new Marvel series without talking about the main hero, Danny Rand/Iron Fist (as played by Finn Jones). In this role, Jones must play a billionaire Buddhist monk and kung fu expert who has come back to New York City to reclaim his business empire (Rand Enterprises) after being absent for close to 15 years. For those years, he has been training to become a warrior with amazing kung fu skills.

The problem is not so much with Jones the actor, as with his martial arts skills. As in, he’s not a big kung fu expert. Although he trained extensively before the series began, and has been practicing Buddhist meditation principles in order to immerse himself in the role, he still falls a bit short of what people were expecting.

Making things worse, this is one of the few Marvel superheroes who can’t hide behind a mask and a cape. That means you can’t have stunt doubles coming in and taking over your scenes. That has led to some pretty tough criticism of Jones, with one  reviewer calling him “a befuddled surfer who wandered into the middle of a kung fu movie.”

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#2: The second-rate fight scenes

If you’re making a movie about a martial arts expert, then you have to have some exciting martial arts action. The only problem is, there’s not a single memorable fight scene in any of the 13 episodes. When you look at the original Marvel comics, you can see the problem: the original comics had Iron Fist plowing through group of enemies and assailants at a single time.

In contrast, the fight action in “Iron Fist” often seems like it’s been slowed down so that Finn Jones can catch up. Reviewers have suggested that Finn Jones is holding back the manic pace of fighting that they were expecting. As a result, you don’t have any of the over-the-top choreographed scenes that we saw even in “Daredevil.” Every scene seems heavily edited, to the point it’s not even possible to focus precisely on the action. It’s like one giant aggressive cut, all mixed together to create the appearance of action.

#3: Too much dialogue

Another fan concern was the proper balance between action and dialogue. While there has to be some dialogue and exposition to explain who Danny Rand is, and why he was training with Buddhist warrior monks (his family died in a plane crash over the Himalayas), the common consensus is that the series just gets bogged down in way too much dialogue.

There are 13 episodes in this series, and the common consensus is that it could have been told in just six! That gives you an idea of just how much extra dialogue there is in this series. There’s a serious issue with the pacing and storytelling.

#4: An underwhelming villain

The centerpiece of every great Marvel comic is the arch-villain. Just consider the Marvel shows for Netflix: some of the great villains have included Killgrave and Cottonmouth. In “Iron Fist,” however, the main enemy is a shadowy organization known as The Hand. There are some ninja enemies, and a lot of talk about how they are preying on people in New York, but we never really get a sense that Iron Fist is facing an arch-rival or arch-fiend. That just brings down the whole series. We wanted super-villains, and they just gave us a bunch of bad ninjas.

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#5: Questions about racial and ethnic identity

One problem cited by both fans and critics is how the series treats the martial arts, as well as how non-white characters fit into the Marvel universe. In this case, it seems like all the good guys are white, and all the bad guys are people of color. Moreover, some fans have accused the series of “Orientalism,” or the desire to characterize and stereotype an entire race with a few simple tropes. In the case of “Iron Fist,” the martial arts are just one more way for white people to triumph over evil, and it’s felt that the Asian characters are never fully developed.

#6: Mad props for Jessica Fenwick

If there’s one character who gets a lot of love from Marvel fans, it’s Jessica Fenwick, who plays Colleen Wing. She’s a sharp, tough martial arts expert who owns a NYC dojo. Fans like the fact that she seems like a no-nonsense New Yorker and someone who makes a worthy sidekick for Iron Fist.

#7: The weakest link in the Marvel chain

The problem, quite simply, is that Marvel shows like “Daredevil” spoiled fans. It featured great fight scenes, a tight script, great pacing and some amazing action. In comparison, “Iron Fist” is commonly considered by fans to be the weakest of all the Marvel series on Netflix, trailing not only “Iron Fist,” but also “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage.”

And, most disturbingly, some fans have basically suggested that Marvel is only using “Iron Fist” to set up its next show, “The Defenders.” In order to do that, it had to set up the whole back story of Danny Rand, and explain the powers of his glowing Iron Fist.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to see why fans and critics diverged in their assessment of “Iron Fist.” Critics tended to judge it primarily on its merits, in terms of acting and pacing and storytelling. Marvel fans took a bigger picture view, and evaluated the series as part of the Marvel universe. And there were more willing to overlook the shortcomings of Finn Jones as Danny Rand. Whatever the case, all eyes are now squarely on “The Defenders,” which is coming to Netflix in August 2017.

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