‘Game of Thrones’ Series 8

This is a full review of the first episode of Series 8. Remember, the internet is dark and full of spoilers.

Game of Thrones is a hard thing for me to review, or even take notes on, as I’m so always so totally engrossed in the action; every word, every look, every tiny moment. I’m not the sort of person who insists on absolute silence for watching TV, but if I miss one single word on GoT I feel short-changed if I don’t rewind and watch the scene again. In my nearly four years of writing for Dead Pixel Test, I don’t think I’ve ever properly reviewed an episode. So I if descend into gibbering girlish squeals of excitement instead of actual words and phrases, please excuse me.

Khals and Khaleesis we are back! And this is what we’ve all been waiting for! Series 8 – the beginning of the end; winter is here. Even the credits were exciting, and seeing the dependable ancient Wall broken in two made me gasp. The opening sequence has always been a fantastic tabletop version of the changing landscapes of the Seven Kingdoms but now we’re seeing much more of the insides of the palaces and strongholds we’ve come to love. It was absolutely stunning, culminating in a view of the throne room in the Red Keep and, to be honest, quite a cute and dinky Iron Throne.

There’s a massive reunion up at Winterfell, with anyone who is anyone arriving to join up with the biggest army the world has ever seen. As we see a young boy dash through the crowd and climb to a vantage point, and Arya wait in the crowds it was direct nod to the first ever episode as the citizens of Winterfell waited for King Robert, the Lannisters and all that emotional incestual baggage to arrive. But this time everything is somber and dark. Jon Snow, Daenerys, their entourage and the thousands of Dothraki and Unsullied are not here to drink, hunt and fuck, like the royal houses before them, but to wage war on the army of the undead. It’s so good to see our favourite characters again, weary but ready for a fight. The sweetest reunion was without doubt Jon and Arya, so different now and parted for so long, but still easily the Starks who like each other the best.

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‘Trapped: Series 2’ – Episodes 7 & 8

This is a full review of episodes 7 and 8 of Trapped so don’t read on unless you’re up to date.

Episode seven opens with the fairytale of Gutti the goat boy, his personal tragedy and how he gets trapped in a lost future. If it’s meant to evoke any sympathy or understanding in steely Halla it falls flat. “Gutti was an idiot” she says. There’s more myths and legends butting up against the everyday in these episodes as the villagers start to feel they’re cursed.

The man competing for unluckiest villager is Vikingur, stood awaiting his fate against a very suitable blood-red backdrop locked in a room in the plant to keep him safe from the angry mob. His white shirt is splattered in blood, the backdrop is a once-white sheet covered in red spray paint. Pawel was hit in the head with a nasty-looking pointed hammer and Vikingur looks extremely guilty. Pawel the Pole was running jobs with various foreign workers at the plant. Was he a mini mob boss? If so, I bet he had plenty of enemies.

Stefan, the clean-cut pal of Vikingur, rescues Ebo from yet another mob and puts him up with Hjortor and his girlfriend Soffia. Stefan can’t help but look guilty to seasoned fans of the genre – he’s so clean-cut he must be hiding something. Ebo speaks to the police to provide some context for Vikingur’s rage at Pawel and the homophobes they worked with. Lovely Asgeir’s English is beautifully spoken in this scene; he’s so kind to this terrified man.

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‘The Bridge: Series 4’ – Preview

Have you ever been so excited you put your fist in your mouth to suppress a squeal of glee? Have you ever been so excited that you could swallow your own fist down and keep going up past the elbow and beyond, squealing away regardless? It’s not often I go full fangirl about anything, but guys, it’s nearly time to see the very last series of The Bridge! And I am so excited. You can keep your Infinity War. This is the original most ambitious crossover event. It’s time for Denmark and Sweden to put their differences aside and work together again on outrageously gruesome killing.

It goes without saying that someone is murdered near to the Oresund Bridge. Yes, it’s a woman and yes it’s totally brutal. However you feel about that on TV more generally, you have to admit this is The Bridge’s classic calling card. Why change now? This woman is Margrethe Thormod, the head of the Danish Immigration Board. And she and her team have recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons – filmed clinking champagne glasses and celebrating the deportation of a gay man back to a Muslim country where he will most probably be executed. Taariq Shirazi has gone to ground and Margrethe is murdered in a way that seems to have cultural and religious connotations. Is there a connection?

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‘Santa Clarita Diet’

I think we can all agree that 2016 was rubbish, punctuated by the occasional depressing shitstorm. So far, 2017 is just bleak, barely registering on the Shrug Scale of shit-we’ve-all-just-got-to-get-used-to a.k.a. the new normal. So it’s the perfect time to turn your brain off, get grizzly and relish some zombie face-munching fun.

Welcome to Santa Clarita, a deeply boring middle-class suburbia somewhere in dull dry Southern California. Sheila and Joel are good-looking super-normal upwardly mobile estate agents (or realtors as they say over there) quickly sliding down the slippery slope into a totally ridiculous situation. Poor Sheila dies, only she doesn’t. Life goes on as normal, as best they can, while she, Joel and their teenage daughter Abby deal with the fact she is now a zombie.

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‘Braquo’ Series 4

Grim. Unrelenting. Relentlessly downbeat. An extremely difficult watch. No, not soundbites describing the year that was 2016. These are all the reasons that I never got around to watching the rest of series 2 of hard-boiled French cop drama Braquo. So despite being a big fan of series 1 there’s a distinct gap in my Braquo knowledge as series 4 starts.

It’s a hard watch, but it’s good. This is the real deal – far grittier than any US or British cop show I’ve ever seen.  Braquo was created by former cop Olivier Marchal and based on his knowledge of the beat – a sobering thought considering the morals, or lack of, on show in every single one of his characters. You’re in safe, if grubby, hands, with the Canal+ mark of quality. Just don’t ask where those hands have been.

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Beck – ‘On the Box’

Well this is a bit risky. I’m diving in to a series at episode number 31. But Beck is special. It turns out we don’t have very many episodes available with English subtitles. BBC4 only started showing it from last year at around the episode 25 mark. This is a Swedish series that has been running since 1997 so there must be a big back catalogue. And with all the Euro dramas available on BBC4 I wonder, have we reached saturation point already? Or was this my mistake, overlooking a classic.

Beck is based on a number of much-loved books by  Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö written in the 1960s. The excellent Mrs Peabody Investigates says they are recognised as the forerunners to Henning Mankell’s ‘Wallander’ novels and therefore countless other Scandi police procedurals. Beck is the daddy of the genre. So even if this isn’t Episode 01, Series 01 we ought to sit down and take notice.

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‘Marcella’ – On the Box

ITV has had a bit of a coup with the new London noir drama series Marcella. Written by Hans Rosenfeldt, the Swedish guy behind The Bridge which was such a success for BBC4, you’d think that naturally this would go to the Beeb. But no – it starts on ITV tomorrow night (Monday 4th April at 9pm).

I think it’s clear that ITV have been inspired by recent Scandi noir successes (The Bridge, The Killing etc) and by the revitalised UK detective dramas that have been must-watch tv – Happy Valley and Luther. The bucolic Midsummer Murders is done. Professor Plum in the dining room with the candlestick didn’t do it. It’s all gotten rather gritty, which is no bad thing. But can this writer shift his focus to London, or will the whole thing be lost in translation?

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