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Review: Schitt’s Creek Strikes a Balance Between Revision and Reformation

In its fifth season, the series manages to make its steady flow of transformations feel organic and endearing.

3.5

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Schitt's Creek
Photo: CBC

Even as it becomes increasingly uncool to be rich, we remain obsessed with stories about the wealthy. In film and television, the rich are often depicted as woefully cruel and bafflingly incompetent, as in HBO’s Succession. Part of the appeal of that series is watching the central family squirm; we marvel at their unbelievable monstrosity while simultaneously reveling in their pathetic debauchery. By contrast, the less mocking Schitt’s Creek strikes a more careful balance in its depiction of the once-rich family at its center.

The Rose family, led by Johnny (Eugene Levy) and Moira (Catherine O’Hara), lost their fortune when they were defrauded by their business manager. Years earlier, they bought the small town of Schitt’s Creek as a joke for their son, David (Daniel Levy), and now it’s their only remaining asset. Since settling there, they’ve ever so slowly acclimated to the townsfolk and their new, downtrodden lives. Though it’s chided the Roses for their haughty attitudes and fish-out-of-water cluelessness across its five seasons, Schitt’s Creek has slowly worked to humanize these characters and depict their redemptive arcs as moral citizens.

The series is, of course, a comedy, and a gloriously deadpan one at that. Levy and O’Hara, who have a long history together as performers, are the comedic force at the center of it all, with Levy’s bizarro-world straight man the ideal foil to O’Hara’s attention-seeking spectacle. While their characters have had moments of growth, though, the majority of that work has been handled by their children, David and Alexis (Annie Murphy), both of whom grew up with parents who were rarely present, with the emotional stuntedness and scars to show for it.

Last season, David and local resident Patrick (Noah Reid) made their romantic relationship official, and the show’s fifth season sees them settled into a relatively comfortable normalcy as a couple; the way their queer romance is so easily accepted by the denizens of the rural Schitt’s Creek is the source for so much of the show’s open-heartedness. Scenes of the couple running a store together reflect David’s independent resourcefulness while also hinting at a capitalistic whim within him; his arc is largely beholden to his success with the store (which is closely aligned with his partnership with Patrick), suggesting that his redemption, such as it is, remains stuck in what he knows as “success.” In recent episodes, however, the messages are focused on the fulfillment David finds in that relationship, as he shows real maturity in his understanding of Patrick’s expectations and needs.

Moreover, that outline of fulfillment is paralleled through David and Alexis’s ongoing work to reckon with their parents and the lives their family used to lead. Some of the humor is, naturally, about how disconnected the Roses are from the “real world,” with the residents of Schitt’s Creek, especially Stevie (Emily Hampshire), left to roll their eyes or look at the Roses with bewilderment. David and Alexis have always been close due to their parents’ neglect, and it’s only now that they’re able to actually find out who Johnny and Moira really are.

So as to let new match-ups and supporting characters flourish, this season of Schitt’s Creek inevitably leans less on interactions between the Rose family members, but there’s still pathos to be mined in an episode like “Housewarming,” in which Johnny and Moira take care of a friend’s baby, while noting that David and Alexis’s nursery used to be in a separate wing of their mansion. The episode doesn’t make much of this, but it’s easy to understand David’s selfishness or Alexis’s insecurity as extensions of their childhoods, and Johnny and Moira seem determined to right those wrongs, however imperfectly.

None of this growth feels easy. Schitt’s Creek is technically a sitcom, which is traditionally code for stasis: How much can change if the core dynamics of the series that viewers love can’t really evolve? Schitt’s Creek undercuts that convention by giving us an honest representation of a once-wealthy family coming to terms with their new lifestyles, which develops through incremental revelations and moments of revision and reformation. Often, it’s one step forward and two steps back, particularly for Moira, who’s the source of much comic relief on the series but also seems to have the hardest time moving on from their past. She’s still prone to making an offhand remark about the family returning to its former glory, punctuated with an acknowledgement that money isn’t everything. Schitt’s Creek somehow manages to make this steady flow of transformations feel organic but also endearing.

Cast: Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Daniel Levy, Annie Murphy, Noah Reid, Emily Hampshire Airtime: CBC/Pop, Wednesdays, 10 p.m.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Review: Amazon’s Hanna Quickly Exhausts the Novelty of Its Premise

The series fails to uphold, subvert, or otherwise comment on the stylistic vision or thematic coherence of its source material.

1.5

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Hanna
Photo: Amazon Prime

Like the 2011 film upon which it’s based, Amazon’s Hanna follows the eponymous teen (Esme Creed-Miles) as she embarks on a revenge mission against a shadowy spy agency. The series milks visceral thrills from Hanna’s fight skills as she kicks, punches, shoots, and kills burly adult men. But where Joe Wright’s film was distinguished by its thumping Chemical Brothers score, bluntly filmed and brutal action scenes, and strikingly lensed locations, the series neither carves a unique path for itself nor upholds, subverts, or otherwise comments on the stylistic vision or thematic coherence of its source material.

After an opening sequence that sees Hanna’s parents fleeing for their lives from the spy agency, the series flashes forward to regard Hanna training with her ex-military father, Erik (Joel Kinnaman), in the woods where they live in solitude. When the duo is eventually forced to flee their safe haven, Erik reveals to Hanna that he’s actually been preparing her to hunt and kill a villainous C.I.A. agent named Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos). While Marissa is shown in flashback to be nefariously connected to Hanna’s childhood, Erik tells Hanna nothing else about her target. Consequently, the central mystery of Hanna’s origin, and Marissa’s role in it, is predicated on the secrets that Erik keeps from her for reasons that are never made clear.

Every episode of the series more or less follows the same format, as slow-burning cloak-and-dagger spy games eventually yield a few more revelations about Hanna’s past before leading to an eruptive and often incoherently filmed climax. The season’s middle stretch is particularly dull, as Erik and Hanna’s first attempt to kill Marissa goes awry and the teen finds herself stranded with a vacationing English family. Hanna attempts to use the relationship which emerges between Hanna and the family’s daughter, Sophie (Rhianne Barreto), to yoke a violent revenge plot to a coming-of-age teenage drama—which doesn’t work, chiefly because it’s impossible to understand why the otherwise unremarkable Sophie would be suddenly obsessed with Hanna, who’s nearly feral and prone to extreme violence.

Of course, Sophie’s fascination with her new friend is mysterious in part because Hanna herself is purposefully difficult to know, with Creed-Miles uses her open face and wide eyes to portray Hanna with a faraway look and a curious intelligence. The girl is inscrutable by Erik’s design, but less understandable is why the adults in the series, particularly Marissa, are similarly vague. Throughout, Hanna goes to great lengths to make its villain, who’s shown committing heinous acts, more sympathetic to the viewer. Certain plot twists suggest that Marissa may be ready to deal with her guilt over the nature of Hanna’s being, yet Enos’s severe, unsmiling performance and the season’s hectic third act go a long way toward muddying our sense of whatever change of heart the woman may be experiencing.

This muddled depiction of Marissa’s ostensible moral transformation, along with the introduction of a cabal of more menacing villains operating alongside her, rob the season finale of catharsis—which is about the only quality otherwise still preserved in the vicious retributions doled out by Hanna. Just as the series struggles to define Marissa’s motivations, it doesn’t hint at what might eventually happen to the rest her shadowy organization. The season’s conclusion asks as many questions as it answers, appearing to exist only so that Hanna may sustain itself, offering more henchman bones for Hanna to snap without wondering whether the character should, or even wants to, keep snapping them.

Cast: Esme Creed-Miles, Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, Khalid Abdalla, Rhianne Barreto, Benno Fürmann, Sam C. Wilson, Félicien Juttner Airtime: Amazon Prime

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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