For those who enjoyed the unpredictability and edginess of Stranger Things, Netflix’s new series, The OA - co-created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij - needs to be next up on their binge-list. The OA raises questions about the world, the afterlife, and the space in between. This 8-episode season incites hope and bridges connections in unexpected places. Each episode traces the story of Prairie (Brit Marling), a young blind woman who has been missing for seven years. When she returns home, now calling herself the OA, her sight has mysteriously been restored. The FBI, her parents, and the local news reporters all want to hear her story, but Prairie finds a group of five misfits to share it with in hopes that they can help her save the lives of others. The show is thrilling but offers hope in dire circumstances, creates community among unlikely individuals, and demonstrates what willpower can achieve. And the story is so compelling that the end of each episode demands starting the next.

As it starts to seem like this season is finally getting closer to providing some answers, Episode 5 shakes things up and raises more questions. As a whole, this show is driven by its mysterious plot, while its setting provides a disturbing, but artistic, appeal. The acting supports these other elements but is not the crux of the show’s success. That’s okay, though, because the audience does not need to be emotionally invested in the characters to appreciate the uniqueness of the show’s storyline and the remarkable attention to detail the creators have paid in building both versions of America.

Coming off the excitement of Episode 3, the fourth installment of Season 2 of The Man in the High Castle slows down as it puts the key players in place in what feels like a setup episode for upcoming action and plot resolutions.

As Episode 3 builds tension between characters, confrontations and interactions keep us on edge and in anticipation for some hefty climaxes. Characters previously involved in separate storylines cross paths, such as Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente) visiting Juliana’s parents (Daniel Roebuck and Macall Gordon) and Obergruppenführer Smith (Rufus Sewell) questioning Juliana (Alexa Davalos). As we hold our breath, characters must not slip up in order to avoid potentially dangerous consequences. The music in this episode is loud and poignant, which also heightens the intensity and makes each scene even more dramatic. The dangers seem more real as some characters teeter on the brink of their breaking points.

In Episode 2, a withered Ed McCarthy (DJ Qualls) returns and is reunited with Frank (Rupert Evans) who now owes the Japanese. At this point, Frank’s plot doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Juliana’s (Alexa Davalos), but I imagine that what he builds for the Japanese will ultimately connect to the other main storylines. It seems likely that Joe (Luke Kleintank) will run into Juliana again too, even though he currently thinks she’s dead. Misinformation and deception are so common in this show that the characters really shouldn’t trust anything that anyone tells them.

The disturbingly beautiful rendition of “Edelweiss” by Jeanette Olsson in the opening credits of The Man in the High Castle brings us to the alternate reality where the Nazis rule eastern America and the Japanese have control of the west coast. Adapted from Philip K. Dick’s short novel of the same title, The Man in the High Castle shows us an America that lost World War II; however, this world is not as simple as an alternate version of history. When videos inconsistent with this reality are discovered, showing America winning the war, the characters risk their lives trying to get their hands on the films. Season 1 left us wondering whose side characters were really on, with growing tensions between the Nazis, the Japanese, and a secret group called Resistance. The sci-fi element throughout Season 1 has been subtle but present enough to raise questions as to whether these characters can recover the history that we know. Season 2 provides similar suggestions of alternate realities coexisting, and the first episode, “The Tiger’s Cave,” leaves us anticipating another great season.

Like its predecessor, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra is a miraculous mix of Eastern and Western influences, comedy, drama, and action. Now, Nickelodeon has packaged all four seasons – or books – in one handsome package as The Legend of Korra: The Complete Series. Does the series hold up after its 2014 conclusion?

Okay, at this point you HAVE to know there are going to be spoilers here.  It’s unavoidable.  Like, even here, in this spoiler alert, I’m just going to throw out that the chick in The Crying Game is really a dude, and that Rosebud was Citizen Kane’s sled (and, apparently, William Randolph Hearst’s nickname for his mistress'…know what? Let’s not go there.)  The point is: There be spoilers here!   You have been warned. No refunds past this point.

For those not inclined to classical music, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” was written by Johann Sebastian Bach in two books, each consisting of a prelude and fugue in each of the 24 major and minor keys in chromatic order from C major to B minor.  The “well-tempered” of the title refers to a type of tuning in which the keys will be in tune with one another.  An interesting choice of title for an episode that also shows off intricate patterns, fugues, and characters coming in tune with each other.  The entire episode is a bravura score, touching on all the keys of the show.  Plus, it’s really hard to play.

HBO’s Game of Thrones played the episodic series structure differently.  Think back to the number of genre shows that would end their season with a big climax and perhaps a cliffhanger.  This structure was de rigueur. (I’m looking at you, Walking Dead and every Star Trek series from the nineties!)  Then, along comes GoT and suddenly the penultimate episode (number nine) is the big climax.  The finale is for cleanup, reset, and setting up the next season, not as a cliffhanger, but as the next arc of an ongoing story.  Westworld might be following this model.

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