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WARNING: This article contains explicit details about the season two finale of the Cinemax series “Banshee,” which debuted at 10pm Friday, March 14. If you have not seen the finale or the series itself, and you don’t want to be spoiled, please stop reading this article now.
Last chance to take the highway out of *SPOILER* town…you’ve been warned.
The fictional Pennsylvania town of Banshee is a place of extreme dualities. It is small town where gentle people gather for Spirit Festivals and Amish girls sell pies; it is a den to which criminals are drawn to hide out, and other men create lucrative empires out of preying on weaker souls.
In the world of Cinemax’s “Banshee,” it’s also the kind of town where an ex-convict master thief can assume the identity of a sheriff and keep the law with his fists, bullets and explosives. But even that disguise has its limits. In season two our mystery man received a surprise visit from the son of the dead guy whose identity he is assuming, and quickly discovered how much trouble having a kid can be. Our fake sheriff felt the weight of losing that surrogate son, too, when Banshee’s crime boss decided to disappear the young man.
The woman the fake sheriff loved –loves? – nearly lost her family, did time in jail, and still faced retribution from the sadistic mobster father she didn’t quite kill in the season one finale. Oh, and that bag of diamonds she and her lover stole together? The payday supposedly valued at millions of dollars, enough to make the trouble of going to prison, changing identities and dodging assassins worth their while? Like the sheriff, those stones are also completely fake.
In spite of all this, the mysterious man known as Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) is in a better place than he’s ever been at the end of season two. The Ukrainian mobster hunting him, Rabbit (Ben Cross), is dead. His former lover, Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic), is on the path to reuniting with her husband and children. For better or worse, Hood’s biological daughter, the one Carrie is raising with her husband Gordon (Rus Blackwell), knows that Hood is her father. “Banshee” even reconnected Hood with one of his former partners in crime, Fat Au.
Also, all of the people mentioned above, along with most of Hood’s current co-workers in Banshee’s sheriff’s department and Carrie and Hood’s closest friends Job (Hoon Lee) and Sugar (Frankie Faison), are alive and mostly well. In this town, breathing is a precious commodity.
On the poorer side of the equation, the God-fearing Emmett Yawners (Demetrius Grosse) found out that surrendering his badge and gun and leaving town wasn’t enough to keep him or his wife alive. The white supremacists who attacked his pregnant spouse, killing their unborn son, came back to finish the job after Emmett repaid their violence with violence and Proctor killed their leader.
“Banshee” fans also may be mourning Alex Longshadow (Anthony Ruivivar), the young chief of the Kinaho tribe who could not maintain political power with his actions and, instead, made a deal with the town’s devil, Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen). Kai helped him hold his position by intimidating his political foes, a dirty debt Alex was never going to be able to pay off. One can’t blame the Chief for seizing upon the opportunity to put away Proctor once Hood had constructed a case against him.
In the final analysis, Alex Longshadow’s greatest enemy was Alex Longshadow… more specifically, his own hubris. By revealing his plans to take down her Uncle Kai to Rebecca (Lili Simmons), Alex underestimated Rebecca’s allegiance to family as well as her burgeoning addiction to power. The shunned Amish girl responded to his advances by adding a new move to her seduction routine — one that involved a gun, a knife and a lot of her enemy’s blood.
“Banshee’s” saga began long ago in New York, with Hood and Ana stealing kisses and diamonds. That plotline came to a close on a church bench in the season finale, aptly titled “Bullets and Tears”. The next, more treacherous chapters are being refined as we speak.
Prior to the finale, “Banshee’s” executive producer and showrunner Greg Yaitanes , and executive producer Jonathan Tropper, who co-created the series, spoke with IMDbTV about the episode and their plans for season three.
IMDbTV: This season began as very emotional, deep and quiet. But by the end, you’ve violently killed off several really key characters. How did you find that balance, in terms of really establishing those characters and delving into lots of emotional depth while still dealing out a lot of death, both inside and outside of the town?
Jonathan Tropper: Because we get into the characters in that way, ultimately it sort of dictates to us who will live and who will die. If you keep everything pretty superficial, you can keep each character spinning in its own orbit for endless seasons. But we’re not a procedural. That’s not what we do. So as we go into each character’s story arc, because of the way they’re all interconnected, sometimes it becomes very obvious that this character, his story is going to end this season. We actually really try to be open and let what happens in the writers room and in our brainstorming sessions dictate if that’s really going to be the case. We try not to get sentimental about it, because it’s all about story.
IMDbTV: So it sounds like you knew that this was really it for Emmett this season. That he wasn’t just going to leave town, but there was no way that he was coming back.
Tropper: Yes. There’s an underlying premise in our show, which is that not too many people are going to get out alive, and that everything that happens in Banshee corrupts what’s pure.
Emmett was pure. But ultimately Banshee corrupted him and that resulted in his death. So yeah, that just seemed like a pretty straightforward storyline that is true to the underlying premise of the show.
IMDbTV: It also seemed as if, if it were possible for Banshee to have a moral center… Emmett was it. So I guess while it didn’t surprise me that he left… that 11th hour execution was shocking.
Greg Yaitanes: Yes, we had a conversation about that. The thing that we wanted to show is that “Banshee” is a show where there aren’t always happy endings. It is a show where anybody can go at any time. But also, it was evil for evil. We kind of told everybody in episode 8 how that was going to end. Just because they [the white supremacists] did something bad and a like response was met, that doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story. We wanted to show there was a real consequence to the action. That was not the end. It’s very powerful that way, because it’s obviously going to fuel us at the front of the season next year. But I know it was very powerful choice for that season.
IMDbTV: So that part of the show’s storyline isn’t over?
Tropper: Well, the death of one our major characters at the end of this season is obviously going to have repercussions moving into season three.
Yaitanes: Evil for evil.
IMDbTV: It also makes me curious as to how that decision-making process played out with Alex. His death is more understandable in a sense…he was warned by his sister Nola (Odette Annable) , and went ahead and got in bed with Proctor anyway, which was of course repaid. Does that mean that we can expect Nola will come back?
Tropper: Well, we’re not going to really give away anything about season three too much. But obviously what we’re teeing up is that the battle between Proctor and the Native Americans is heating up, which will have far-ranging repercussions for everybody in the town.
IMDbTV: So there’s a big storm coming, between that and everything that’s going on with Lucas Hood as well.
Tropper: We always try to make sure that all of our stories are interconnected. So nothing can happen between Proctor and the Native Americans that doesn’t affect Hood, and nothing can happen between Hood and Proctor that doesn’t affect the Amish and the Native Americans. It’s a bunch of dominoes set up in concentric circles.
IMDbTV: Is it safe to assume that we haven’t seen the last of Job?
Tropper: (laughs) Yes, that’s a pretty safe assumption.
Yaitanes: When and how, that’s part of the fun of next year. I’m going to say something about scripts for season three, because we’re getting scripts for season three right now. The way Jonathan ends next season blew my mind. I cannot wait until season four. It is the ultimate fan finale coming up at the end of season three.
IMDbTV: That’s amazing to hear right at the end of season two. Speaking of the second season, one of the things we spoke about earlier is that this season was all about the resolution of identity. Not just with Ana, but with Hood and to a certain extent, with Sugar and Proctor. What is the overarching theme with season three, then? Can you give us a hint about that?
Tropper: We’re basically exploring the same thing. In every season we’re exploring the evolution identity. And in season three what Lucas is really struggling with is, ‘If I’m sitting in the sheriff’s chair, I’m wearing this uniform and I’m doing this job, at some point am I not in fact the sheriff of this town? And am I then, in some way, now responsible for it?’ It is that kind of “Man Who Would Be King” struggle of, ‘Maybe I was meant to be here’ and ‘Maybe this is my true path’.
It’s just a further exploration of who is he is and, you know, whether it’s Lucas Hood or Kai Proctor, are they fated to always be these men? Are they somehow able to change the people they are? Or are they always fated to be these killers and these warriors? Existential sh*t!
Yaitanes: What we try to do is, we sit and have that process of what the next season would be about before this season aired. We try to preserve and keep the process as pure as we can, based on what we think will work and where we can take the story. I really love my creative marriage to Jonathan because we build on each other’s thoughts in a very supportive way.
IMDbTV: Do you have an ideal number of seasons that it would take for the story to properly play out?
Yaitanes: I’ve always said it’s five. I think Jonathan feels the same… Personally, I never want to be the show that overstays its welcome. I think we feel that we can deliver five unbelievable, high-quality, where-every-episode-is-good, seasons.
Tropper: We’ve always discussed the fact that there is a natural arc to this, and that there’s also simply a limited amount of time that we can pull off this ruse where the sheriff is a criminal. Every season, we’re picking at more threads and more people are finding out. At some point, we’re going to have to blow that whole story out of the water. And that’s not necessarily the very end of the show. But we’re definitely getting you there. What we don’t want to do is find artificial ways of preserving the ruse, because then it will just start to feel stale.
IMDbTV: It seems that once some shows hit a certain stride, their network grants them a little more leeway in terms of bringing in more prominent guest stars. You’ve had Ben Cross, but his arc is over, as well as Julian Sands’. Going in to the third season, do you have a wish list as who you’d like to bring on?
Yaitanes: We’re actively exploring that right now. One of the things we like is that, whoever comes in isn’t really bringing a lot of baggage or overtaking the show with their presence. The thing that I like about our guest stars so far is that they’re phenomenal, but Cinemax has always been confident in the fact that we can work with new faces everywhere on the show, which is enormously empowering. I never want this show to feel like “The Love Boat”. …We’re still a scrappy show. We don’t have an enormous budget, and we just want to be smart. That’s how we find great new faces like Fat Au. In a way that adds to our credibility, in the fact that you really haven’t seen these people a lot.
Tropper: We don’t want to take you out of the show. Suddenly you’re a little less in Banshee now because you’re seeing somebody whose face you see on magazine covers all the time. We want to keep the feeling that this town is its own place.
IMDbTV: OK, a very basic question: The diamonds are fake, so the main reason for Lucas hiding out in Banshee is gone. Rabbit is dead. Job is in New York, for the time being. It seems the only thing that’s left for Lucas right now in Banshee is conflict. …Why does he stay? Why does he keep coming back?
Tropper: We do deal with that, from a story perspective… Once the threat of Rabbit is over, well, you know, his daughter [Deva, played by Ryann Shane] now knows that he’s her father. This guy, he’s never had anything else in his life and now there’s a girl who knows he’s her father. Events just keep conspiring to keep him there, even though the best thing he could do for all concerned is get out of dodge.
IMDbTV: Do you have a clear vision of what the final scene of the series is going to be?
Tropper: We’ve always talked about what the last scene is. But we’ll certainly never reveal it. We’ve always kind of known, in theory, where this show ends. But of course, once you’ve spent years of working with characters and becoming very attached to them, I think you have to be open to letting the story tell you, in some way, where it’s going to end.
The end of Captain Flint’s journey is nowhere in sight, but as of Saturday night, season one of “Black Sails” will pull in to port with its finale. Here’s an exclusive photo from “VIII.”, the last new episode for now. Fortunately Starz has already renewed “Black Sails” for a second season, so even if the Walrus crew’s pursuit of the elusive Urca de Lima does not bear fruit this week, we’ll find out what happens eventually.
The season finale of “Black Sails” airs at 9pm Saturday on Starz.
It’s up, up and away for AMC’s brand-defining drama “Mad Men“, launching its final season on Sunday, April 13 at 10pm.
Earlier this week the network released three gallery images from the upcoming season, depicting characters arriving — or waiting — at the airport. Perhaps tellingly, one image featured Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) standing beneath a Trans World Airline sign, looking beautiful and somewhat concerned about something unidentifiable in the distance — but not looking at each other.
In this exclusive photo from AMC, Megan is stepping out solo…from a taxicab. Click on the link to see a full-sized version of the image.
As a reminder, the final season of “Mad Men” will air in two seven-episode segments, with final boarding starting in 2015.
Sexy vampires. Likable outlaws. A heist gone wrong, and a crusading lawman with a score to settle. Many a television series has been draped from these plot devices over the years. Some have become hits, others barely saw the light of day. Few, if any, arrived with a network built specifically for the kind of audience that would watch it.
That is the plum slot in which “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” finds itself. Based on the 1996 film directed by Robert Rodriguez, the 10-episode action series makes its debut tonight at 9pm on the cable channel El Rey.
Rodriguez, a man best known for directing a diverse range of films, from Sin City (and its upcoming sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) to the Spy Kids franchise, founded El Rey with the vision of appealing to second- and third-generation, largely English-speaking Hispanics in the 18-49 age demographic.
“We wanted to cater towards a male demographic at first, because they had limited choices in this arena,” Rodriguez said. “Maybe I should say, men and kick-ass females, from 18-49… millennials, leaning toward Hispanic as well. All of that. We wanted… to see what range of an audience we can bring.”
Although it launched December 2013, you may not have heard of El Rey. But if “Dusk” makes the kind of noise that Rodriguez believes that it will, the burgeoning channel may soon occupy a few slots on your DVR list of recordings, especially if you happen to be a particular type of film fan.
Meaning, the kind of fan who would happily surrender hours of his or her day to a marathon of Sonny Chiba films. Or one who would cry out with glee upon finding, say, Switchblade Sisters while channel surfing. Those viewers made the film version of From Dusk Till Dawn a cult classic, and could become the perfect evangelists for the series.
“Film lovers and people who love cool, kickass stuff should really come to the network and feel like they’re treated like a king,” he continued. “Like, you turn on your TV, and everything you could possibly want is right there. And you don’t even have to change the channel – personalities have curated it to actually be [about] things that they say is cool. You’re not going to be asking, ‘Why am I watching this?’ It’ll all make sense.”
We sat down with Rodriguez recently to talk about his vision for El Rey and how “Dusk” could infuse new blood into the vampire genre on television.
IMDb: Are you going to do something along the line of what Robert Osborne does with Turner Classic Movies and have curators and hosts?
Rodriguez: We’ll have introductions for some of our movies, for sure. They won’t be quite as stiff. But they most certainly will be about passion and what moves people. I’m going to be introducing some, Bob Orci, Harry Knowles, and we have a bunch of other guests we haven’t announced yet, but they’ll be introducing their favorite films.
IMDb: Can you tease me with just one?
Rodriguez: Ha. No, we’ll probably be saving that for another announcement. But other people, you can probably figure it out.
IMDb: Maybe somebody whose name starts with a Q?
Rodriguez: Possibly. There’s a long list of different people. But this is fun, as it grows, there’s already so much great content out there that we already have, and that we will get as the windows open up on that content later.
IMDb: You talked about expanding the mythology of From the Dusk Till Dawn. But this TV show is arriving at time when, in popular culture, vampires have just about come and gone in popularity. Now everything is about zombies. What does this show bring that’s new to a trend that people are saying is fading out? What’s left that this show is going to cater to that hasn’t been seen recently?
Rodriguez: One, this show has the best characters in the world. So you come for the characters first. They’re great: The Gecko Brothers, Santanico, Earl McGraw…all of the Fuller family. You’re just into it for them. But then you’ll realize there’s this whole thing that’s being built up, that’s much different from the movie.
I did a lot Aztec and Mayan research for the original film, trying to find an actual cult that existed that could have been vampire-like, that would have had traditional vampires. And there’s a lot of interesting stuff there. So I put pieces of it in the movie, but we just had traditional monster makeup and we didn’t really get to explore it and didn’t have a story built around it. This time we’re getting to go in there and delve into something that has much more authenticity and is different than anything anyone has ever seen. I’m excited about that difference…I don’t even know if we could even call them vampires, I don’t want confuse people by calling them something else. But they’re not traditional vampires.
IMDb: The other big vampire franchise I can think of that’s very seminal on TV, particularly for millennials, is “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. You and Joss Whedon have something in common, in that he wrote the movie script….
(Rodriguez starts laughing.)
IMDb: …and then he created the series. However, he didn’t direct it –
IMDb: –so it ended up being exactly what he didn’t want to do.
IMDb: Then he went back to do the series, and it became this epic, inter-generationally affecting work. One of the benefits, and the main differences, between that and this series is that you directed the original work and now you’re returning to it and expanding on it. But what are other things with this series that you’ll be able to take to a different level for the television medium?
Rodriguez: Part of it was knowing how high we had set the bar originally. We cast George Clooney and Salma Hayek, and other stars for that. We wouldn’t settle for anything less than amazing casting of this to bring these characters to life, because they’re really rich, fantastic characters. And then the mythology that we wanted to delve into, in order to re-tell the story in a way that set us up to sustain it for future seasons. It had to be extremely intricate, evolved and rich. That’s what was cool about exploring Hispanic themes, is that it’s untouched. It’s just sitting there, waiting to be explored. It’s new! Nobody’s even thought to make anything like this before. It’s just ours to go and make it our own.
That’s exciting, to create a world that’s going to be all about exploring themes, ideas and story elements that nobody’s seen before because no one’s thought in that direction. They just repetitively imitate other versions of it but not do anything really new.
IMDb: A few years ago, the networks tried and failed to expand telenovelas to an American audience. This might seem like a silly question, but is that something you could see El Rey putting its own spin on and doing for the network? I ask because when the average American viewer thinks about Hispanic television, it’s one of the first things that come to mind.
Rodriguez: Right. They think about the Spanish counterpart. But I think what we want to invent is something completely new, something that anybody can watch and not even realize it has a Hispanic touch to it. People are surprised to realize, sometimes, that Spy Kids is actually a Hispanic film, because it doesn’t seem like it. But it is. It’s just so mainstream, and it taps into a universal quality. That’s what we want to do. I think if we just looked at Spanish television and said, “Let’s just adapt that to English!” we’d fail, just like if we took “CSI” and said, “Let’s do the Hispanic ‘CSI’,” we’d fail. So it has to be completely new, and it has to feel mainstream and original, and not feel like it’s translated.
In general, we always knew that wasn’t the key. We have to make something for everybody.
“From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” premieres at 9pm Tuesday, March 11, on El Rey.
Life can be tough for an Object of Unknown Origin, better known to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” viewers as a 0-8-4. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say life looks tough for living Objects. This observation is based on what has happened so far to Skye (Chloe Bennet), the S.H.I.E.L.D. team’s newest member and its resident 0-8-4. A superior hacker with a wry sense of humor, Skye has been thrust into a number of highly dangerous situations, the most recent of which left her clinging to life in a hyperbaric chamber.
Having spoken to Bennet on the “S.H.I.E.L.D” set a few episodes after the cast had filmed the shocking incident that nearly killed her, we could have told you that she would recover. But where would the fun lie in spoiling that?
The entire “S.H.I.E.L.D” team does everything it can to spoiler-proof the series, and Bennet is no exception. The actress did not give up significant scoop about what was in store for her character. Nor did she drop many hints about where the show’s “Uprising” arc is leading, beyond sharing fan excitement for next Tuesday’s episode: Earth is getting another visit from Asgard, this time from Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander).
Indeed, sharing any “S.H.I.E.L.D”-related information passed along by a member of the cast is to understand that she can’t tell you very much, and only half of what she does say will be true. Everything about this show is cloaked in secrecy – so much so that in order to gain access to the set, reporters were asked not to reveal the name of the studio or its location. Having established that, here’s the information we were able to decode from Bennet during a recent classified set visit.
IMDbTV: What’s it like to be a part of a production that is surrounded by so much security and so much secrecy?
Chloe Bennet: It’s interesting. I came from doing “Nashville,” where you can just tweet anything and talk about anything. Then, here…well, you know. It makes it feel very cool because you’re like, ‘Well, I can’t talk about that.’ But then it gets kind of annoying because I have a lot of friends who are excited and they want to know about things! It’s kept this way for a reason, so that people can be surprised. Even though people say they want to know, you don’t really want to know. You want to find out when you see the episode. It’ll be better for you. It’s like eating your vegetables. You don’t really want to, but you do it because you want to feel good. I think of it that way. It helps me. It’s good for you to wait to see it.
IMDbTV: I know you can’t reveal anything, but there’s been a lot of speculation about what’s going on with your character. Do you know what’s happening with Skye?
Bennet: I know a little bit more than what you guys know, but that’s about it. What we found out in a recent episode is that she’s an 0-8-4. And everyone’s like, oh, what’s it like to find out all of this new information? Well, that information opens so many more doors… there’s even more unknown about her. So, I could be an alien. I could be an Asgardian. I could be…Spider-Woman! Who knows? There’s so many different things. I’m very excited to find out. I’m waiting for the next script like it’s my birthday!
Bennet: No. Oh, I try to trick them all the time. I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, yeah…Act 1! So funny! What happened there?” And they say, “Nice try.”
IMDbTV: Since it was announced that Sif was going to appear on the show, there was some online speculation that she may be related to Skye.
Bennet: Yeah…I didn’t put that together…Sif is a very loyal soldier to Asgard. So whenever she comes down, I think she’s cleaning up a bit of a mess for Odin.
IMDb: Is that a hint?
Bennet: Maybe. That’s all I can give you.
IMDb: Well, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is part of the The Avengers universe, but from the very beginning one thing that the producers were careful to say was that there wouldn’t be many crossovers… However, one main Avengers subplot is that there are powerful, intergalactic objects that have been kept separate from each other. Have you heard anything about whether that plot will possibly play a part in the show?
Bennet: I have…but… I can’t! I can’t say anything.
IMDb: Wait, you have?
Bennet: Maybe I have, but it’s all top secret. I’m very good at digging myself in a hole. Clark was just talking to me about getting out of questions like that. Was that smooth?
IMDb: Not at all. But even if it’s nothing, at least you gave me a red herring.
Bennet: You’re welcome.
IMDb: Are there things you can talk about?
Bennet: It’s tough, because I’m just as much of a fan as the viewers are, and I want to yell what happens in the next couple of episodes… From here on out, it is nonstop.
New episodes of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” air 8pm Tuesdays on ABC.
Let’s get this warning out of the way, shall we? “Hannibal” creator and executive producer Bryan Fuller is a man who doesn’t unnecessarily stretch out storylines or hoard nail-biting thrills in the bottom of the freezer. Like his main character, Dr. Lecter, Fuller would rather serve up his stories fresh, pulsing and rare enough to bleed.
So if you don’t want to be spoiled regarding any twist coming this season on “Hannibal”… well, we hope you haven’t seen any of the ads for it on NBC, and you’d better stop reading this story now.
Consider yourself warned.
Those who have seen commercials for the drama, returning at 10pm Friday, February 28 on NBC, already know that Hannibal’s mask is going to drop, forcing at least two key characters to fight for their lives. Even if you’ve somehow managed to avoid those ads, Fuller won’t make you wait to witness one of the season’s most brutal conflicts: Friday’s premiere opens with a grueling fight scene previewed in the trailer, with Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) viciously attempting to fillet Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) in his kitchen.
Fuller’s decision to kick off this season with that adrenaline-spiking sequence came in part from knowing the show’s fan base could handle it, while also being aware of the wider culture’s familiarity with Hannibal Lecter’s curriculum vitae.
“The audience knows that he’s going to be incarcerated, eventually,” Fuller explained in a recent interview. “I wanted to see this fight sequence from the get-go. The other part was, it’s kind of good to tell the audience, ‘You’re not going to be jerked around. We have an end game. We’re not just making it up as we go along. We have a plan.’
“It goes back to that idea of, the bomb is under the table,” the executive producer added. “It’s the basics of Hitchcock: Show the audience the bomb. Don’t just have it go ‘boom’. Show the audience the bomb and make them nervous. There’s something very exciting about telling the audience that this is going to be ending horribly for all of these characters in different ways.”
As if anyone believed anything different.
“Hannibal” is one of those surprising television entries that could have vaporized into ratings oblivion in its freshman run. Tough as it is to get any series off the ground, it’s infinitely harder for new shows to find lasting purchase on a broadcast network in the midseason.
But “Hannibal” passed the test with a devoted portion of viewers, whether they were fans of Thomas Harris’s iconic characters or coming in cold. “There was so much perception of, like, ‘Oh God, another Hannibal Lecter story,’” Fuller recalled. “… I thought there was an opportunity to do something with Hannibal Lecter that hasn’t been done before. There are chapters in his life that we haven’t really seen and explored. That was exciting for me. What was also exciting was creating a visual vocabulary for the show that was very distinct. I love cinema, and I love beautiful imagery.”
Fuller’s reverence for the cinematic medium and aesthetics is front and center in “Hannibal,” which is presented in a style he’s frequently characterized as operatic and “purple.”
Like Mikkelsen’s impeccably dressed, emotionally cool Lecter, the show itself is a work of elegance, inviting the audience to indulge in lush visuals and not simply consume the story, but digest every morsel of it. Every moment consciously plays with the juxtaposition of gorgeousness and visceral terror with the effect, at times, of slowly luring the audience into a sense of being in collusion with Hannibal.
“It’s breaking down those moments and trying to make them sensual, and finding ways to tell story purely with cinema,” Fuller explained. “We have an episode where a major character dies, and almost half the act is non-dialogue, with just people reacting. Part of it was, do we really want to write another scene where somebody says, ‘Oh it’s sad’? When those things happen, words aren’t your tools for communication. It is so internalized and traumatized. I just wanted to see people’s devastated reactions, because that’s how you feel. You don’t feel words. That was kind of the impetus there.”
Taken in concert, the vision realized by “Hannibal’s” production staff, as well as nuanced, powerful performances by Fishburne, Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Caroline Dhavernas and an array of portrayals by guest stars including Gillian Anderson (returning this season as Lecter’s confidante and fellow therapist Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier) blend perfectly to create a very quiet, thought-provoking show that never drags.
Within the first two episodes of this season, for example, is a scene that is as pleasing to the eye as it is horrendous to see. This is intentional, Fuller explains. When the writers are weaving story, he invites them to be inspired by great filmmakers like David Kronenberg, David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick…as well as other cinematic sources one might not expect.
“Taking inspiration from Busby Berkeley and coming away with a human mural is part of how our brains work in the writers room,” Fuller says with a laugh. “I’m approaching the story from a place of filmmaking and psychology. I always forget that the audience isn’t in on the process of creating it, so they don’t know how we got there. So it is much more abrupt and visceral for the audience than it is for us…I guess that’s my apology.”
Not that any fan is for asking for it. On the contrary, some may wonder why we aren’t getting longer seasons of “Hannibal”. Season one and season two are each only 13 episodes long, and Fuller is happy to hold to that commitment.
“When I watch a show, you know the episodes that are treading water. You’re like, ‘Okay, nothing really happened in that episode. There’s interesting character development, but where are the big plot points?’ In this season, we were very adamant about…needing to keep things moving, keep things exciting for ourselves.
“I think in terms of chapters,” he added. “Season one was one chapter. Season two is actually two chapters, and season three may be two chapters as well. Originally I was thinking, ‘Season four is going to be Red Dragon.’ But then I thought, ‘Oh gee, how do you spread Red Dragon over 13 episodes and keep it effective and keep the momentum? Wouldn’t it be interesting if we compressed it to seven episodes, to six episodes?’ Then we could…not waste any time or mess around. So it’s really about the gift of doing fewer episodes and being able to strategize what’s going to be the most impactful.”
Fuller was careful to add that NBC hasn’t given the official word that season three is being picked up. There’s no harm in being prepared for that scenario, of course. On the off-chance that – perish the thought – “Hannibal’s” road were to end with the season two finale, however, wouldn’t it be interesting to see Fuller add his signature to the list of producers and directors who brought the character to be big screen? Anything is possible. For the moment, though, Fuller seems content to explore the limits of of television’s palette.
“We’re in the Golden Era of television right now, but we’re kind of in a Tin Era of cinema,” he observed. “Television is kind of running circles around most movies.”
The second season of “Hannibal” premieres at 10pm Friday on NBC.
If Michael Hirst’s work has a calling card, it is passion. The heat of it made Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Elizabeth I glow with power and sensuality in Elizabeth, and made Henry VIII believably seductive and lusty in “The Tudors”.
Watching Hirst imbue his signature sense of passion into the world of History’s “Vikings” is a completely different feat. In building the world of “Vikings” Hirst, the drama’s creator and executive producer, had no documentation of court intrigue or parlor games to call upon. Nor did he have much in the way of preserved gowns or suits of armor in museums from which to draw inspiration.
“Vikings” has challenged Hirst to delve into largely unexplored historical territory, the Dark Ages, to bring us the perspective of a culture portrayed as savages by the Christian monks who recorded their encounters with them. Much in the way the drama’s hero Ragnar Lothbrok dares to raid and explore other lands and their cultures, Hirst is looking beyond the overwhelmingly negative portrayals passed down in written records of the Vikings to create characters who are spiritual, thoughtful, flawed and heroic.
“Vikings have always been the bad guys. They’ve always been the ‘other’,” Hirst explained in a recent phone interview. “They’re always the guys who break into your house at night, and rape and pillage,” Hirst added. “So it seemed a big challenge to have them as the heroes, or the lead guys. But they are a wonderful culture, and I have had very, very little historical criticism about the show, which has been amazing.”
Listening to Hirst chat about “Vikings” is to hear a man in love with a treasure trove of unfamiliar stories he’s discovering for the first time – and not just the ones in history books. There’s an electric thrill in his voice as he talks about upcoming episodes, challenges his heroes will be made to face and transformative plot twists. When he refers to an upcoming confrontation as “one of the best things ever seen on television”, you can hear the belief and unshakable confidence in his voice.
Interpret that bravado as you will, but odds are the fans will agree with him. They’re a fiery, loyal bunch. The first season of “Vikings” averaged 4.3 million viewers over the course of its run, with 3.6 tuning in for the season finale in April, and made a rising star out of the man viewers know as Ragnar, Travis Fimmel.
Much of the success of “Vikings” may be credited to its action sequences; no other show on basic cable right now features bloody swordfights on the battlefields and life-or-death duels. The season two premiere gives us all that in addition to a moment of family strife that makes soap opera squabbles look like playground slap-fights.
At the same time, a central part of the story revolves around deep discussions about the role the Norse gods play in the lives of these characters, and that belief system’s stark contrasts with Christianity.
“The funny thing to me is that, of course, [to Viking culture] the Saxons were the enemy, the Saxons were the ‘other’. That’s our culture. We’ve always thought of ourselves as much more cultured and religious and spiritual and good,” Hirst said. “So I’m messing around with stereotypes, and I’m doing that quite deliberately, because I love many aspects of Viking culture. I love their gods. I love the fact that their treatment of women is much more enlightened by the Saxons and the Franks, and they’re much more democratic.”
Indeed, the women in “Vikings”, particularly Ragnar’s wife, the shieldmaiden Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and the ambitious Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig), the wife of a deposed ruler desperate to regain power, provide the focal point of significant family drama and romantic entanglements in the series – especially the clashes coming up in season two.
Hirst had not counted on that aspect of “Vikings” catching on when he first started writing the series. Initially, Lagertha’s role was not as significant as it is now, he admits. “But when we cast Katheryn and when I started to worth further on the script, she became a huge character and someone who brought a big female audience to the History Channel and to the show.
“That was fantastic to me, because one of the things I do is write female characters – from Elizabeth to Lagertha,” he continued. “I realized I had something totally unusual on American TV: I had a female character who is a mother and wife, and who kicked ass.”
She’ll be challenged to call upon all of her strengths in season two. Without giving away too much, both Lagertha and Siggy must contend with a new player on the scene, the mysterious and demanding princess Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland).
Anyone who watched season one knows that Aslaug’s arrival in Ragnar’s Great Hall is going to be quite problematic… for Aslaug. Lagertha’s fan base is quite vocal on social media, and at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con the mention of a transgression committed against her led to a chorus of booing from the crowd.
“In the second season, I take Lagertha to darker places, where she still has to prove that she’s a very strong character,” Hirst said. “But also, Aslaug, who in theory is a much more sort of bourgeois or obvious female character, she faces dilemmas later down the line – probably around episode six or seven – in which she shows totally unexpected strength, a new sense of who she really is.
“Actually, by the end of the second season, you will really respect Aslaug in a way that you never thought you would while still thinking that Katheryn is the best thing since sliced bread. Which, of course, she is.”
It’s too early in its lifespan to prophesy what kind of impact “Vikings” will have on television’s pantheon; season two of “Vikings” starts this week, and although nothing has been officially announced by History, Hirst is currently writing the roadmap for season three. But at the very least, History and Hirst can be satisfied with shedding light and sparking deeper interest in an under-appreciated culture in a way that’s respectful, exciting and entertaining.
“If you walk out of your office in New York or Los Angeles, you get three blocks, you’ve passed about 30 Vikings,” Hirst said. “They’ve left an indelible legacy, and I’m just trying in a way to plug into that legacy and at least explain a little bit about the impact that they’ve had.”
The second season of “Vikings” premieres at 10pm Thursday on History.
In SundanceTV’s upcoming drama “The Red Road,” the clash between the people of a Lenape Native American tribe and the non-Native American occupants of Walpole, NJ, a small town close to New York City, creates drama all by itself.
But when town pariah Phillip Kopus returns home, the very sight of him sets the place on edge. In “The Red Road,” which premieres at 9pm Thursday, February 27, on SundanceTV, that sensation of foreboding is palpable from the moment that Kopus (Jason Momoa) first casually strolls past a tribal gathering.
It’s been a long journey to get to a project of “The Red Road’s” caliber for Momoa, who was first introduced to television viewers via “Baywatch”. He would go on to play Ronon Dex on “Stargate: Atlantis” and star in Conan the Barbarian, updating a role that made Arnold Schwarzenegger into an action flick legend. Of course, that role is now eclipsed by the character that changed everything for the actor: Khal Drogo, Daenerys Targaryen’s fierce husband, a horse lord who was only featured in one full season of “Game of Thrones” but whose spirit still rides within the hearts of millions.
If you’re one of those still-smitten “Thrones” fans, take note: As deeply as Momoa respects that universe and the role it had in transforming his career, he recently told a group of reporters attending a press conference that “Red Road” is “the greatest thing, (the) greatest scripts I’ve ever read.”
“As far as, like, fantasy, ‘Game of Thrones’ is amazing,” Momoa said. “… But I’ve never yelled at a script and been like, “No!” And flipping to the next page and just freaking out that I’m so excited by just reading the script…I’m really pumped for everyone to see it! And it burns. They burn story. It’s fun.”
Within the first few scenes, “Red Road” paints Walpole as a town of blended and dueling traditions, containing a dark history of cultural tension and tragedy simmering just beneath the surface. When that tension is exacerbated by a shocking crime that weighs heavily on the town’s sheriff, Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson), the tenuous peace within the town starts to crumble.
Kopus’s return does nothing to calm the place. Quite the opposite – soon, he’s asserting himself within the local underworld and stepping in to make Sheriff Jensen an offer he is in no position to refuse.
Momoa’s enigmatic portrayal of Phillip Kopus challenges the viewer’s perception of who is truly the antagonist. He’s an outsider among outsiders, an imposing man whose face seems to be incapable of softness, whose nature is predatory but whose spirit radiates pain from a deep, open wound. Momoa makes him unnerving, dangerous and tragic all at once, which ultimately makes a person curious to see how — and if — Kopus will evolve.
“A lot of things, when you see the story unfold, you just see why he was done wrong, and why he is the way that he is. Like ‘Game of Thrones’, you assume that Drogo’s a bad guy. But you’re going to find out what Phillip Kopus is made of.”
Speaking to the question of whether redemption is possible for Phillip Kopus, Momoa said, “It’s going to find him. Some of the best lessons in life are when life teaches you, and not when you are searching for something and you don’t find it. He’s definitely not searching for it.”
In addition to his starring role in “The Red Road,” Momoa has also spent the last couple of years writing and directing Road to Paloma, a film about two bikers on a journey to the Teton Mountains. Both projects also gave the actor the opportunity to work with his wife Lisa Bonet, who plays a tribal lawyer in “The Red Road” and his love interest in Paloma.
“It’s an honor, and I always wanted to work with her,” he said. “It was great, because she’s my love interest in that. …I think Sundance, when they saw that, they really liked the chemistry. We’ve got a good chemistry. We’ve got two kids to show for that chemistry.”
The challenge of working with his wife on “The Red Road,” Momoa observed, was throwing cold water on that chemistry. “Even though (our characters) grew up together, and we’re kind of smitten with each other, he won’t cross that boundary. He’s a pretty complicated guy. Who doesn’t want to go be with her? He’s messed up. He won’t cross that line, being that she’s on the other side of it and he’s just in this grey area.”
For the present, Momoa can rest in knowing he no longer has to search for another peak in his career. “I knew I was going to get here,” he said. “It was just a matter of convincing you guys that I had it in me.”
“The Red Road” premieres 9pm Thursday, February 27, on SundanceTV.
Last week, “The Walking Dead” returned to the air with another grim episode, as Carl (Chandler Riggs) blamed Rick’s refusal to claim his leadership position for The Governor’s attack on the prison. Meanwhile, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was barely able to breathe, and Michonne (Danai Gurira) was left wandering alone in the wild with only a pair of armless, toothless walkers and nightmares of a beautiful life ripped to shreds to keep her company.
In this exclusive image from Sunday’s episode “Inmates,” it looks like Beth (Emily Kinney) is fortunate to have Daryl (Norman Reedus) as her guardian. AMC’s official description of the episode reads, “The group encounters many obstacles in their quest to find stability and safety, but sometimes all they have to guide them is hope.”
What do you think has happened to the rest of the group? Do you believe Judith is still alive? Will we see Carol again? Share your theories with us in the comments section!
A new episode “The Walking Dead” airs 9pm Sunday at AMC.
While spending time in the Midwest over the holidays, the subject of Jay Leno’s exit from “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” happened to come up in conversation. My mother-in-law, a lady who is very friendly with her television, described herself as a Leno viewer who tunes in just about every night. However—and this is important—she made of point of saying she is not a Leno fan. She found him to be dull.
That said, when it came to hosting “The Tonight Show,” my mother-in-law unequivocally preferred Leno to Conan O’Brien. “All that carrying on with that masturbating bear,” she sighed, shaking her head and wrinkling her nose. “I don’t get it. It went on and on. Was that supposed to be funny?”
Then, without prompting, she weighed in on Jimmy Fallon—what a nice young man he appears to be, how accurate his impersonations are. To her, Fallon simply exudes entertainment and fun.
There, in a nutshell, is the main reason that Leno’s second passing of “The Tonight Show” torch to a new host—now, it’s Jimmy Fallon—will take this time. Fallon trades in the kind of fun that goes down easy, especially from the warmth under one’s comforter at bedtime, while being keenly aware of the importance of taking his best bits viral the morning after.
All signs point to “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”, premiering at midnight Monday night on NBC, before settling into its regular timeslot (11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m. ET/PT Mondays-Fridays )* being anything but dull. In addition to moving “The Tonight Show” back to New York, Fallon is adding a full moon to its logo and the “Starring” back to its title, as Jack Paar and Johnny Carson did before him. The very first guests on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” will be Will Smith and U2. Later in the week, the show will feature performances by Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire, Tim McGraw and Justin Timberlake, with Jerry Seinfeld, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, Michelle Obama and Bradley Cooper scheduled to sit in the guest chairs.
Indeed, Fallon could be just the man to take “The Tonight Show” franchise back to what it was in its heyday—spiritually speaking—when Carson was the King of Late Night.
Fallon knows that fun can be harmless and have broad appeal while still highlighting creativity, edge and intelligence. Think of his “Classroom Instruments” series, or his recurring “Let Us Play With Your Look” skits. But Fallon, at 39, is very much attuned to pop culture trends both lasting and ephemeral. Some of his most successful “Late Night” bits call upon very distinct slices of pop culture know-how. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a Neil Young fan, or if you’ve don’t know any of his work. All that matters is whether watching a crunchy folk singer cover the theme to “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” with all the earnestness of a mourning song makes you laugh. That kind of thing generally hits on a broad scale.
Mind you, this is not to disparage O’Brien’s talent or to insinuate that “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” would not have eventually flourished. Yes, the ratings took a hit during O’Brien’s seven months in the “Tonight Show” chair, a situation which was not helped by NBC’s terrible decision to schedule “The Jay Leno Show,” a talk show vehicle that failed out of the gate, at 10pm. Had O’Brien been given the time to tweak his style to suit the timeslot’s audience, we would not be writing this blog post.
But what O’Brien never got a chance to perfect, Fallon is already doing. He has found a way to bridge the gap between young viewers and old, by bringing back entertainment variety to the format. Just as Carson gave us characters like Art Fern and Carnac the Magnificent, Fallon employs the skills he honed on “Saturday Night Live” to execute flawless celebrity impersonations. Fallon showcases his wide-ranging musical tastes and abilities in incredibly creative ways, starting by naming The Roots as his house band when he assumed control of NBC’s “Late Night” franchise.
Like Carson before him, Fallon also has a tremendous talent for bringing A-list celebrities down to Earth simply by getting them to play along with him. Can you think of any other host who could have persuaded Tom Cruise to break an egg over his head and not look like he wanted to kill the guy who made him do it?
Those same ingredients, mixed in perfect amounts, are a significant part of made Carson a legend, as I previously wrote in 2005:
“In contrast to the showy emcees before him, the low-key Carson and his sidekick, Ed McMahon, made us feel comfortable enough to hang out with them in rumpled pajamas. Calming as he was, though, the man was rarely a snore.”
Fallon seems to understand that. “I wish that Steve Allen and Johnny Carson were still around just to see what we’re going to do with the show because I think, when they invented this show, it was all about being fun and silly and goofy… It should be goofy and fun and make everyone laugh,” Fallon recently told critics at a press conference in California. “Everyone works too hard, and we’re the first thing after your local news. You watch us, and you get a good laugh, and you go to bed with a smile on your face. And that’s our job.”
But the days of late night television viewers coming together under one big tent are long gone. There are “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” viewers, David Letterman devotees, fans of “The Colbert Report,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and, yes, TBS’s weeknight talk show “Conan”. Fallon has the advantage of entering the fray as the host of the top-rated show in late night, and his debut is expected to enjoy a nice boost from all the promotional time he’s been getting during NBC’s coverage of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. He will certainly enjoy a large slice of that pie.
Long after the novelty of his new kid status on “The Tonight Show” fades away, viewers will have a better sense of what Fallon’s “Tonight Show” legacy will be. Jay Leno, for all of his flaws, is a workhorse who lasted 22 years in the job. The guy before Fallon lasted seven months. Even if Fallon’s reign ends up falling somewhere in between, if he can restore a sense of classic, Carson-style fun to “The Tonight Show,” that can be considered to be the real win. More than a few mothers-in-law will be counting on him to do so.
*This post has been updated from an earlier version that incorrectly listed the premiere time for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”.