Girls, Looking, Banshee and Boardwalk Empire on Blu-ray DVD
First things first, have you been watching Girls? Perhaps the most relevant show about sex, dating and relationships since Sex and the City continues to mature and develop. What was once a show that once seem destined to devolve into self-parody, emerged with a pretty fascinating season, with developments like Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) finding her boyfriend Adam Sackler, (Adam Driver) revealing that he has a heretofore unspoken of sister Caroline, and that she is played by Gaby Hoffman. And that the season features not one, but two appearances by Broadway legend Patti Lupone as “herself”, a surprising episode involving the disintegration of Hannah’s grandmother Flo (June Squibb), a surprising development involving her eBook and her editor David, (John Cameron Mitchell), and a quite shocking revelation at the end of the season.
Standout episode: Beach House, which is cringe-inducing, but with some quite humorous choreography
Standout character: Shoshanna Shapiro, (Zosia Mamet) and Ray Ploshansky, (Alex Karpotsev), whose too bizarre to be true relationship has morphed into something very sweet, and says a lot about growing up.
Looking is a show that sneaks up on its audience. This is because at first, it might seem a little slow, and the palette is a little muted, but in the end, it reveals itself to be one of the most honest and driven developments of modern gay life on Television, perhaps ever, and this is precisely because it does not present itself as a gay, but it just so happens to be. Of course, it helps when your show has a lead as charismatic as Jonathan Groff, (known to some as the voice of Sven from Frozen) whose character of Patrick, like Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath seems to be unaware of how to act in certain situations, but reveals a surprisingly tender side to encountering situations for the first time. While Girls is perhaps more broad, Looking is subtle in all of the right ways, and shows off the beauty of its setting, San Francisco. The greatest aspect of Looking is that the show found its voice early on in the first season, and will continue to develop into a well-oiled machine.
Standout episode: Looking in the Mirror, which was directed by Joe Swanberg (!) This is the episode about insecurities and how they are mishandled, from Patrick’s budding romance with Richie, to his friend Dom’s unhappiness at turning forty and his station in life.
Standout character: Always welcome to see Scott Bakula in anything, and his character of Lynn, manages to seem showy without being at all flamboyant.
Okay, enough relationship drama: time for some action! Banshee is a show for fans of mystery, car chases, explosions, sex scenes, double-crossing, murder and betrayal. In other words, a show for pretty much anybody. It would be difficult to deal with specifics in Banshee, because so much of the show involves surprises and cliffhangers, (plus the lead character is unnamed, played by Anthony Starr and working under an assumed identity), but let’s just say that the show, co-developed by Jonathan Tropper, (author of This is Where I Leave You) airs in the U.S. on Cinemax, and it feels every bit like it. There are some really shocking twists in season 2, and for those that enjoy binge-watching, Banshee is the perfect show for which to do so, because the spectre of a future swerve casts a Longshadow, and keeps you guessing.
Standout character: Ivana Miličević plays the role of “Carrie Hopewell”, but is really the ex-partner of the unnamed protagonist who must decide if her loyalty is to him or her ordinary family. Miličević first came to fame as Patty, the girlfriend of obnoxious tennis pro Miloš on Seinfeld.
Standout episode: Bullets and Tears, the season finale, which features plenty of both.
Sadly, the season now out on Blu-ray and DVD is the final season of Boardwalk Empire. Sadly, because the show was masterfully well-developed, standout costumes, cinematography, hair and make-up, and some unbelievable acting performances, including Michael K. Williams’s Albert “Chalky” White, Michael Shannon’s Federal Agent Nelson Van Alden, and yet the show always revolved around Steve Buscemi’s Enoch “Nucky” Thompson. The fifth and final season offers some truly terrifying conclusions, as the show moves ahead to the year 1931, and shows the effects of prohibition during the Great Depression, and shows the degree to which the rumrunners and bootleggers really did expand their empire.
Standout episode: Eldorado, the last episode of the series, which is tremendously uplifting and yet so tragic.
Standout character: Gillian Darmody, played by Gretchen Mol. First of all, it is great to see Mol reach her potential from being the “It Girl of the Nineties”, after starring in Rounders and Celebrity. Secondly, Gillian plays a crucial role in the show as a former showgirl turned owner of the brothel, to a feigner of insanity to, well, you will see why Gillian is the key to the series in the series’ final episode.
HBO Canada features the new seasons of Girls and Looking, and TMN airs the new season of Banshee.