“American Dad” can range in its perception of topics from the utterly metaphorical to the banal of dexterity. What is an interesting balance is that where it lies on the TBS cabler, allows it to push itself every so much more without going off the abstract deep end where many Adult Swim animated shows find themselves. Each arena has its own advantages, challenges, strengths, weaknesses and drawbacks. With an episode like “Brave N00b World”, what seems like a simply episode devolves or evolves into something much different, both dark and hopeful at the same time. Interestingly enough this is not a Roger thing. it is a journey of discovery between Stan and his son Steve. Interestingly enough in this current climate, Stan is taking Steve to a kiddie theme park he had promised to do 6 years before. Steve is too old now of course and makes it clear that Stan needs to pay more attention.
A call comes from work for Stan to join an E Games tournament at the request of the CIA where a North Korean dictator will be present for Stan to assassinate. “Overwatch” as a game is brought into play which is even more of a metaphor. There is almost a play to “Childhood’s End” but not quite. Patrick Stewart and an interesting guest voice cast lends themselves to the travails. However the aspect of intent and what Steve calls “Split Focus” in his father’s psyche comes to a head. And while Stan might have made a correct decision it takes things in a completely undeniable turn. In not giving away the ending, it simply because very deep while still operating in the right way on the surface including of all things an ice ream cone which in some ways leads back to the beginning. Considering a recent would-be discovery about the existence of the universe in different from, this episode is oddly prescient indeed but also gives a lot to think about.
The aspect of genetic technology has found its way to the forefront of technology and continues to grow. Where these kind of investigative pieces are usually grounds within 20/20 or narrative fiction procedurals, “The Genetic Detective”, which was made in conjunction with ABC News, plays like a more reality based CSI but through the use of computers. The trick is to show the inherent path of DNA and make it accessible while not losing the process of the problem solving. What is great is that each episode speaks to the path of family and how it breaks down. Genetic Genealogist CeCe Moore, who once began as a model but returned to her love in genetics, was one of the first people to help move the structure of family trees to backtrack genetics before the advent of consumer DNA testing which only strengthened the texture of what she did and does. Adoptees started coming to her to find biological parents through this process. She was eventually brought in with a Washington based firm who helped her realize the bridge between privacy and investigation and how to work with law enforcement in this way. When she helped track the Golden State Killer, it opened the door t other possibilities on cold cases.
The aspect of cold cases now can take on a whole new meaning as long as the DNA of certain cases in kept The first one she investigates (seen in Episode 1: “The Case Of The Missing Lovebirds”) was in Snohomish County in Washington State in the case of a double murder that happened to a young couple where they were killed in separate places. The killer had covered up many aspects but not his DNA. Because the incident took place in the mid 90s, the technology was not quite in play yet. The explanation that Moore offers about how the certain genetic markers have to match up is fascinating. Without giving too much away, it shows how the DNA database that has grown in the United States really can aid with the process. CeCe Moore does a great job of representing the science while showing the path of data and analytics in this new investigative world. And it brings a different perspective to this kind of show which in many instances are done on smaller or more abstract cablers. With the texture and intricacy of ABC News and the ability to integrate graphics for maximum effect while still making it palpable, this investigative series shows the process without it seeming like school work. It also provides the inherent basis for inspiring a new generation of STEM students, especially women to pursue a path that fascinates them as it did with CeCe.
The prevalence of community and the idea of identity has always been a strong form of drama but anime sometimes cannot address certain part of these issues in a mainstream way without resorting to metaphor or mythology which is a great balance point but can affect the impact of reality. The idea with “Tokyo Godfathers” is two fold as it addresses both aspects of the LGBT+ community and homelessness. Attending the closing night of the International Film Festival Macao last December, the film “i’m livin’ it”, a piece into on the worlds of the homeless surrounding a fast food establishment in Hong Kong gave a view into this portion of that life and the stories behind it. While this anime is based in Tokyo and made in 2003, many of its themes are still prevalent today if not more main stream (though stigma is still attached in many aspects). What the film does today is that by embracing actors who can perceive the experience in one way or another, it brings an authenticity which can be very telling both in the readings and the humor. Granted the style in some scenes of anime can be over-the-top but”Tokyo Godfathers” in many ways moves between the two worlds including degrees of subtlety. A scene on a bridge as well as on a roof is undeniable in its power.
There is also a dexterity of storytelling where events are not always what they seem. Huamn foibles persist but also depth as well as lack of perception of characters as the progress on their journey. Hana (as played by trans activist Shakina Wayfack) brings a humanity to the path especially for that of a mother. Gin and Miyaki provide the chorus in her trinity. Hana won’t be brought down. She is a force of nature The dramatic essence of her theater background definitely brings a balance of light in the darkness especially when she returns to see Mother (played by gender theorist Kate Bornstein). This scene and many others definitely gives the restoration and perspective a sense of realness. Many times with new dubs it can take away certain subtleties because of political correctness. “Akira” is a good example with some of that film’s brutality maybe toned down a bit in later dubs. “Tokyo Godfathers” retains its power but also takes into fact the aesthetics, both inwardly and outwardly. It was amazing to see the sync more adequately line up and play to the emotions especially with Hana. The restoration especially with the shadows since most of the film takes place at night and in the cold gives a sereneness even in the more textured scenes.
The ideas of path and conscience play heavily into Episode 3 of “Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels” entitled “Josefina & The Holy Spirit”. This ideal can be reflected in the metaphor of loss of innocence but inherently a perspective of reality. This is true within all the characters but more dominantly the females, in this case Molly and, to a heavier degree, Josefina, the younger daughter in the Vegas family. The men lash out in violence much more diametrically but there is inherently sometime more dark tendency in how the women see the world here which is reflected in Santa Muerte and the triple portense of her sister. The Holy Spirit in many ways speaks to the harbinger of death because in many ways, the sister is building down the different ares of the story down on itself to create a powder keg. But this can also be seen in a sense of light with Molly to combat the dark. While the incessant energy of the club from the previous episode is not found here, the dread is. What is interesting is that many of the stills provided for the episode do not reflect the final episode, as if certain areas were reworked for more sustainable power (which the episode does have). This might be true since very aneel of the different vignettes throughout is pointed and creates the notion of paradoxes.
Sister Molly is both truthful and deceiving. She cannot be what her detective suitor wants her to be but he has trouble being within the structure of the LAPD what he needs to be. Yet is it truth or temptation. His brother is being drawn into a life of darkness that is undeniably fueled by acceptance. And yet there are spark points throughout the play of the story especially a simple but trigger point scene that has inherent relevance later in the story. Adding in another structure in the form of a well known comedian’s darker approach to an underlying narrative which in many perspectives is essential to this story definitely creates a tension that is building. What is also interesting in the genre spinnings of this story are the little moments including references to stigmata and the notion of both the trinity and deliverance. Josefina represents that and her path between who should listen and who does what is very telling. Again”City Of Angels” ups the ante within the series in a different way using the textures of mixed archetypes, anti-heroes and intellectual metaphors without overwhelming the viewer creating a patchwork that is both modern and yet undeniably old school and decidedly classical.
The Machiavellian approach to the notion of self is approximated in the ideas of what family is and what it is created to be. The 3rd episode of the 5th season of “Billions”: “Beg, Bribe & Bully” is an undeniable truth within that. The indelible aspect about this episode as compared to all the others so far this season has is that it has to do with personal worth and perspective. “Billions” sometimes has problems being subtle but that is just the nature of what the alphas of the series are. The ideal is about winning sure but it is about impact. Both Axelrod (played by Damian Lewis) and Chuck (played by Paul Giamatti) are seeing these ideas from different perspectives which sometimes need time to ferment. Axelrod’s has to do with his son who has the ambition of his father but perhaps not the exact ingredients to be like his dad. Yet he will try.
The question which is pointedly shown by of all people: Chuck’s ex-wife, whois 2nd in command for Axelrod, to Axelrod in confidence is telling. There are paths that these people take, however subtle…and every move creates a different divestment within the portfolio, both in financial and in human tallies, either to build it or break it down until there is nothing left. Some can be rebuilt. Some cannot. In Chuck’s case, it is reflected in his father who has a new family with severe backlash on his part. Granted with both of these guys, it comes out to personal representation and a case of self worth. But even in the case of Asia Kate Dillon’s fixer, there are some cases of doors which she cannot control or necessarily walk through. She makes a decision in logic for the greater good at one point, but what necessarily is interesting and ambitious is that she herself cannot see everything no matter how intrinsically made for the world of numbers as she is.
The kicker is also the double take in the case of Wags who knows how to play the game but sometimes knows he can’t do it exactly like Axelrod. He is outflanked by his nemesis on many points. And yet when you see Axelrod on stage at one point addressing a university body after vapid negotiations got him into play, shadows of Gordon Gecko reach out for a different space. It is not so much a reflection of his own worth but what his son in many ways sees inside him. Beyond that an aspect of dinner and even Axelrod’s simple integration with an artist that is done for the principle as well as the glory creates an interesting diametric of what worth is. Is the metaphor about building or to destroy just to build again.