Author Archives: Dana Brand
Season 1, Episode 4 – Star Trek: Discovery continues to excel, combining all the idealism of Star Trek’s core mission with contemporary serialized storytelling.
Season 1, Episode 3 – The Inhumans introduces some new characters and a smidgen of interesting plot but overall continues to be scattered and lackluster.
Season 1, Episode 1 – The first offering of The Gifted is chock-full of action and a bit light on character but provides a solid foundation for the rest of the series.
Season 1, Episode 3 – The third episode of Star Trek: Discovery introduces new characters and sets up the main mystery while indulging in scientific speculation and exploring Starfleet ethics.
Season 1, Episodes 1-2 – Star Trek: Discovery starts well with an excellent narrative foundation and beautiful aesthetics, but the CBS All-Access platform will likely be its downfall.
Season 1, Episode 1-2 – The first two episodes of Inhumans, released in theaters in IMAX format, are so genuinely terrible that there is nothing good to say about them. Everything from the writing and characters down to the costuming and set design feels scattered and seems to lack even the barest amount of effort.
Season 1, Episode 5-8 – The back half of The Defenders employs a few slick narrative twists to keep things interesting while our four heroes continue to negotiate their relationship to each other. With more background on the Hand and the discovery of their ultimate goal, the story keeps a swift pace into a finale that’s ultimately just okay.
Season 1, Episode 1-4 – The Defenders takes its time getting Marvel’s four Netflix title characters together, allowing them to organically team-up through various alliances and environmental factors. The story’s pacing combines with the visual beauty of the series to create an appropriately thematic experience from start to finish that gives every character their own space to flourish.
Season 4, Episode 22 – Agents of SHIELD‘s fourth season finale is all action and no substance as it wraps up the various dangling plot threads with shock and awe. But you know what? The entire season is so good that it doesn’t really matter if the ending is a bit flat.
Season 4, Episode 21 – Agents of SHIELD achieves the seemingly impossible, landing every emotional beat in their complex season plot to perfection in “The Return.” The episode expertly ties up narrative loose ends and uses them to catapult the story into its season finale with one last super-sized, super-powered conflict.
Season 4, Episode 20 – In “Farewell, Cruel World!” Agents of SHIELD bids adieu to its warped alternate reality but brings back psychological consequences and some dangerous antagonists. The episode provides closure in most of the placing where the plot was tiring and replaces the resolved storylines with all-new tension and stakes.
Season 4, Episode 19 – Agents of SHIELD reveals motivation and takes a step toward escape in “All the Madame’s Men.” One group of our friends moves closer to freedom while another searches for the reason why they’re all trapped in a virtual prison. The episode moves the story forward just enough to set up some kind of conclusion.
Season 1, Episode 8 – Even in its finale, Feud can’t manage to muster enough conflict to make Joan Crawford and Bette Davis’ fictional feud compelling. “You Mean All This Time We Could Have Been Friends?” offers little in the way of growth, resolution, or narrative while it stumbles through shallow emotions to its long-awaited termination.
Season 2, Episode 13 – The Expanse puts all of the usual suspects in personally dangerous situations rather than system-level ones in “Caliban’s War.” Utilizing everything from science to diplomacy, the second season finale delivers an excellent, suspenseful, tightly-plotted adventure that offers closure on many plot points while opening up vistas of possibility for the future like a good season finale should.
Season 4, Episode 18 – “No Regrets” continues this astonishing run of Agents of SHIELD, mining every aspect of the show and current affairs for its alternate universe. Our friends remain trapped in a VR nightmare while the series knows just which wounds to press and which character traits to tweak for maximum devastation.
Season 1, Episode 7 – Feud finally hits the right level of vindictive manipulation in “Abandoned!” allowing both Crawford and Davis to own their personal problems while underscoring the true basis of their hatred. The episode emphasizes the issues of the characters themselves, rather than trying to make a misguided point about misogyny, and the story stands up better with that more personal conflict at the core.
Season 2, Episode 12 – The Expanse provides monsters, moral quandaries, and political intrigue in spades with “The Monster and the Rocket,” turning the tables on established power structures and examining the dilemmas of life in space. The episode takes three storylines that are connected but aiming to achieve separate goals and intertwines them seamlessly.
Season 4, Episode 17 – Agents of SHIELD continues to rewrite itself in “Identity and Change” by taking the best ideas from the whole series, reworking them, and forcing the characters to confront their demons. The episode knows exactly which spots to poke and which wounds to rip open for maximum effect, both painful and delightful.
Season 1, Episode 6 – Feud continues to bumble its way through 1960s Hollywood, hitting sporadically upon events and issues without ever pausing to examine them. “Hagsploitation” is another example of the series’ aimlessness, presenting the characters as victims of circumstance without achieving a narrative goal or even providing cheap thrills.
Season 2, Episode 11 – The Expanse finally shows off some of its monsters in “Here There Be Dragons,” paying off one of its big mysteries in a satisfying way that leaves plenty of room for future plot development. Every character has a chance to test their integrity and to choose their own battles.
Season 4, Episode 16 – Agents of SHIELD rewrites the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe in “What If…” mixing together painstaking attention to MCU detail with a little real-world politics. The differences between SHIELD regular world and the alternate reality provide tension while nothing is changed so much that you divest from the story entirely.
Season 1, Episode 5 – Feud wastes the story of the 1963 Oscars—which began the real-life hatred between Bette and Joan—by ignoring motivation in favor of sequential melodrama. Yet even that can’t manage to generate tension or emotion in this patronizing and reductive rendition of a story that has so much factual dramatic potential.
Season 2, Episode 10 – The Expanse‘s “Cascade” doesn’t just balance all the Belter, Earther, and Martian plots against each other but it manages to leave enough time and space for the characters to process all of the world-changing events that are happening to them even as those events march on around them.
Season 1, Episode 8 – “Chapter 8” confirms that Legion is a mess but its a pretty mess so at least it has that going for it. Overall, the series has muddled plot arcs and inconsistent characterization spending the majority of its energy on artistic visuals that ultimately feel hollow without any narrative substance behind them.
Season 1, Episode 4 – Feud finally manages to strike the perfect balance between sexism, feminism, actual history, and campy trash in “More, or Less.” With defined narrative arcs for every character, the episode explores the challenges of mixing art and business in the entertainment industry while still incorporating the over-the-top melodramatic moments that the series was created to serve up.
Season 1, Episodes 9-13 – Just like its main character, Iron Fist ultimately fails to find its purpose. The series props itself up with pieces from previous Marvel Netflix shows and never tells a coherent story of its own. A few characters are enough to save the show from complete disaster by providing interesting growth as a counterpoint to Danny’s aimlessness.
Season 2, Episode 9 – The Expanse is full of science, spies, and political briefings in “The Weeping Somnambulist.” The Rocinante crew takes a back seat to Bobbie and Chrisjen investigating the battle on Ganymede station. The episode deftly connects all the disparate plotlines while giving everyone equal time to move their stories forward.
Season 1, Episode 7 – Legion finally escapes its narrative loop in “Chapter 7” but still doesn’t follow through on the story it started telling. With just one episode left in the season, the series can’t seem to choose between cohesive plot and auteur stylistics.
Season 1, Episodes 5-8 – The second third of Iron Fist picks up a bit with the welcome inclusion of Claire Temple and the development of a few character arcs. Unfortunately, the series still lacks a coherent narrative even more than halfway through the season’s run. Iron Fist is watchable but too messy to be truly great.
Season 1, Episodes 1-4 – The first third of Iron Fist suffers from off-putting character introductions, a lack of motivation, and painfully slow pacing. While there are glimmers of what could be an interesting story, the first four episodes are largely devoid of plot and show no sign of narrative structure either within episodes or in the season overall.