TV – Justified: Season 3: A-

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It begins with a great stand-alone episode whose final scene reminded me why I liked Timothy Olyphant’s character, and the show in general. When you cultivate such strong characters, as Justified does, including those only used in a single episode, it’s a simple thing to keep the viewer interested. It introduced several entertaining new characters and improved many of the existing ones. My only minor complaint remains that the Boyd character and his mini-arcs remain mostly a lull in the main, more compelling plot-lines.

TV – Luther: Season 3: A

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I must not have been the only one whining about the second season, since they corrected most of my complaints. Elba continued to please, but his co-stars finally stood out on their own too. And Alice was back, and though she shone brightly in season 1, her return lit things up quite nicely. I enjoyed the new serial killer cases, but some of the plotlines could’ve used a few more episodes to properly explore.

TV – Space Dandy: Season 1: A

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It took me a few episodes to get on board, but once I did, I thouroughly enjoyed the ride. After I resolved myself to its chaotic narrative style and just let it flow, it was much easier to enjoy the whimsy. I believe the fourth episode was the first to showcase how subverting the expected story structure can pay off so well. The animation is top notch with certain episodes notably standing out, especially the first. The action flows gorgeously and the character/alien designs are creative and unique. Once you abandon searching for things like continuity or making sense and just embrace the insanity, Space Dandy is quite enjoyable.

TV – Orphan Black: Season 1: A-

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It’s a fantastic premise, one which facilitates all kinds of great drama and symbolism. And for the most part it lives up to that promise. At times it leans on “because the plot requires it” reasoning a bit much, but there’s usually an acceptable amount of intrigue created by such leanings. Tatiana Maslany does an excellent job juggling several roles, (mostly achieved through differing accents and wigs), but it’s especially impressive when she’s doing a scene where one clone has to pretend to be another. It uses several fun “not who/what you think” moments, and has a near-endless potential for plenty more.

TV – Game of Thrones: Season 4: A+

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This season’s “All men must die” tagline certainly proved apt, and the show continued to reenforce how choosing favorite characters is not a good idea. The Red Wedding from last season saw the deaths of many major players, but not since Season 1 have we seen so many fall, and in such creative, satisfying ways. The full-episode battle at The Wall was easily the best battle scene I’ve watched on television. There were of course plenty of great performances, especially The Hound, Tywin, and predictably, Tyrion. Lots of interesting developments left most characters at the ends of arcs, so that the season felt wrapped up, but with plenty of intriguing uncertainty about where things will go from here.

TV – Top of the Lake: B+

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Top of the Lake clearly has the aspiration to be among other great moody crime dramas like The Killing, Luther, or Wallander, but its admirable parts never quite add up to whole toward which it seemed to strive. Characters make stupid decisions, which seem less like character flaws than plot requirements. There is some quality drama but ultimately not many surprises. The final episode contains almost all the dramatic reveals, and then doesn’t give you much in the way of denouement. But the thrills still entertain as required, and with the gorgeous New Zealand landscapes to complement everything it’s easy to enjoy the experience.

TV – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1: B

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It’s incredibly difficult to assign a grade to SHIELD’s inaugural season. I’m sold on the show now, but I’d given up halfway through until I’d heard it improved and Captain America 2 confirmed something had to be happening. The first half is fairly awful, with boring characters and weak stand-alone plots, like rejected X-Files episodes.  Then  Winter Soldier forced a change (though clearly in the works all along), and the show becomes episodic and suspenseful, full of great reveals and red herrings. The characters found their places, and the actors meshed. Even the fight choreography got notably better. It attempts Whedon-esque wit throughout, and the quips evoke more chuckles than groans. The addition of some fantastic actors, including Bill Paxton and cameos from Sam Jackson, Patton Oswalt, and Cobie Smulders, also did much to improve the show.