Defending Jacob (Apple TV 2020)

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Well, it was a boring Sunday/Monday scenario, and I binge-watched another series, Defending Jacob, which is an Apple TV production.  Let me just say that I’m impressed by the quality of these series.

This one is based on a book written by William Landlay, but takes the liberty of changing the ending. I’m definitely not going to tell you the change, and if you just can’t wait, you’ll have to Google it yourself.  However, I suggest if you do, wait until you’ve watched the entire series. Each episode runs an hour long.

Based on the story of a family living in a small town in Massachusetts, it revolves around the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy. Meet the family in the center of this tale, which is the son, Jacob, played by Jaeden Martell, his father the Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber, played by Chris Evans, and the mother, Laurie, played by Michelle Dockery (who ditches her English accent for an American part). They are the perfect family until suddenly evidence points to Jacob being the murderer of a classmate by the name of Ben.

If you think by the title that this is an eight-part courtroom drama, you can put away that assumption. Although you will be part of the courtroom for two different proceedings, the story is mainly focused on the family dynamics of two parents whose son is accused of murder. The trial itself is only two episodes, but the episodes are not entirely in the courtroom.

So the crux of the story revolves around the unconditional love question. Do you believe Jacob when he says he didn’t do it or do you stand by him in the belief you know your son would never do anything like murder a human being? This is the conundrum that Andy and Laurie find themselves in as they vacillate back and forth from did he or didn’t he.  Being the great drama that it is, it does a fine job of throwing your own assumptions back and forth and never gives you a clear-cut answer to that pointed question.

Other characters are (1) the grieving parents of the dead boy, (2) Cherry Jones who plays the defense attorney, (3) Pablo Schreiber who plays the prosecuting attorney (who by the way is annoying as hell); and Betty Gabriel, a police detective. The only dynamic that I didn’t quite understand was this hatred by Neal, the prosecuting attorney against his coworker Andy, who taught him the ropes. Not sure if that was a plot hole why he hated Andy so much or if I missed it during a bathroom break.

I have to say that it’s a five-star show, keeping audiences engaged. Acting is top-notch and frankly makes you wonder how you, as a parent, could survive such an ordeal yourself. As far as the fourteen-year-old son, who is the focus of the story, the young Jaeden Martell does an excellent job of jerking your chain by not quite giving you a hint either way.

It makes me admit that this show is as good as it gets with drama and mystery, nearly giving my beloved Brits a run for their money. It’s high octane acting by all, well played, throughout, and filled with a few twists and turns. You’ll just have to make your own decision in the end – did he or didn’t he do it?

Also, after reading the ending of the book versus the movie, I probably would have gone for the book ending instead. Nevertheless, you know those writers, directors, and producers in Hollywood have to give things their own twist.

Kate & Alfie: Redwater (RTE One & BBC One 2017)

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I don’t think I’ve ever watched a television series that has left me so bleeping mad that I cursed at the end and screamed, “what the hell?” BEWARE, before you tune into this BBC mystery now streaming on BritBox. They canceled the bleeping show and left everyone hanging at an extremely critical point in the story. Before you invest yourself in six episodes, please be aware it’s going to cause you to swear at the end.

After saying all that, it’s a story about a woman who returns to find her long-lost son who she gave up for adoption 32 years earlier.  Apparently, it’s based on characters from the soap opera EastEnders, which I haven’t watched. It’s filmed in Ireland.

As the story unfolds, it’s a fairly good mystery with a few surprising twists that kept my interest through the six episodes. It’s the ending that leaves you hanging, but apparently the question of “survival” is answered upon the return of the characters to EastEnders, which I’ve not seen.  I can only say it’s a rotten way to treat the audience and poor planning for those who are not invested in the soap opera or its characters.  Frankly, it’s down-right cruel RTE One and BBC One.  What were you thinking?

If you want to read more about the show and episodes before investing the time to watch it with the full knowledge of the outcome, I suggest you travel over to old Wikipedia.


The Moonstone (2016 BBC TV)

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Ah, BritBox!  My second series to binge upon was The Moonstone, which is a five episode drama based on a  detective novel by Wilkie Collins written in 1868.  This tale is a classic who-done-it that will keep you guessing until you find out who-did-it.

The moonstone is actually a yellow diamond that has been stolen by a corrupt British officer while in India. The stone is revered, precious, and outrageously big.  When he dies, he bequeaths the stone to Rachel, his niece. Unfortunately, with that gift comes problems, greed, and danger.

Upon her eighteenth birthday party, Franklin Blake, Rachel’s cousin, has been entrusted to give her the stone now that she is of age. Once again we are faced with cousins romantically entangled with one another in the series as two vie for Rachel’s affections. She has a large birthday party celebration where everyone in attendance gets to see the fabulous diamond and handle it. Insistent that she merely keep it in a drawer in a cabinet in her room overnight, she discovers in the morning that it has been stolen.

The story is an interesting premises where the audience is brought along to remember the occurrences of that evening as reflected upon a year later. Franklin returns to England, hoping to win back Rachel’s heart, but he knows he must find the stone in order to do so. An interesting group of characters are all suspects, including Rachel, and the whereabouts of the stone and its current location remains a mystery. Even traveling Indian Hindu priests wanting to return the stone to India are suspects in the missing stone.

Of course, we are back in the Victorian era of cousins falling in love with cousins, and this time Rachel has two quite dashingly handsome men wanting her hand in marriage. If anything, the story kept me intrigued trying to figure out who stole the diamond, and the end has a few surprising twists and turns as the mystery is solved.

Apparently this is the second time this series has hit television, with Greg Wise being Edward Blake in an earlier BBC version in 1997. There is even another movie version in 1934, which is an American mystery film.  Who knew?  Apparently, not me because I’ve never heard of this gem (no pun intended) until I subscribed to BritBox.

Okay, I’m off my soap box.  It’s worth the watch.

Stranger Things (Netflix 2016)

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Right now at the season of horror and suspense, if you haven’t watched the new Netflix Series, Stranger Things, you better tune in.  It’s strange all right, and the program sort of reminds me of Lost.  You remember, don’t you?  The plane crash, the strange island, the strange things happening.  Well, welcome to the little town Hawkins where strange things are afoot in a town where nothing interesting happens.

It starts out scary enough with a young boy returning home from spending time with his best buddies.  They’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons for ten hours in the basement.  On the way home, strange things happen.  Something creepy is stalking Will Byers in the woods and right into his house.  He runs out into the shed in the backyard to load the family rifle, but before he can defend himself he vanishes into thin air.  The story starts and so do the crazy things in this sleepy town turned literally upside down.

The premise of the story is (spoiler) alternative universes.  The show is filled with all those unanswered and mysterious questions, including a secret government installation.  In their captive is a child with special psychokinetic abilities, who escapes her life as a Guinea pig of sorts (played by Millie Bobby Brown, a very talented young lady).  However, while her story continues on one wave length, it is strangely intertwined with the story of the missing boy.  The show has it all – drama and mystery.  If that isn’t enough, add the element of horror, because out of this alternative universe comes a resident monster into our universe preying upon the town and going for blood.

There are quite a few characters to follow in this story.  And, yes, at times you feel as lost as you were watching Lost.  However, the cast is one huge roller coaster of emotion, including Winona Ryder, the mother of the boy who has disappeared.  Her portrayal of grief, terror, and determination is probably worth an Emmy.  Other great performances are from the family members, hormonal driven teenagers, and David Harbour, who plays the Sheriff in town dealing with all the crazy occurrences and trying to make sense of it all.stranger-things-season-2

There are three young boys who try their best to find their friend, Will, who has disappeared.  One of them befriends No. 11, the young girl who escaped her life from the government crazy people.  The three kids are a comedic release as they banter back and forth.  They are the science geeks of the school and played upon by the bullies, until No. 11 (or L) teaches them a lesson.

If you’re looking for an entertaining, I can’t figure it out show, tune in to Stranger Things.  It will make you scratch your head, jump when the monster appears, and give rise to a thousand questions of what in the world is going on.  After eight episodes of Season 1, we are left hanging for answers until Season 2 rolls around.