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The Irregulars : An unkindness in London

Not your regular types

Stephen Fry in his introduction to the Hound of the Baskervilles (audible) observed that Conan Doyle did well to separate his preoccupations in the supernatural and the perceptive nature of his super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes. 

For Holmes, it was always logic and reason.

Eliminate all which is impossible, then what remains, however improbable, must be the truth. 

The new show, ‘The Irregulars’ aims to mix the supernatural with the super sleuth of whom we don’t see much of in the first episode. 

Just the legs, maybe the next episode might give away the hand, then a smile and then finally the eyes, much like a hero introduction from a Kodambakkam film.

But this series is not about Holmes, it’s about the struggling kids in his neighbourhood. The Irregulars be four : Bea, Jess, Billy and Spike living in a cellar, awaiting the winter and unable to pay rent. 

Bea, cool and confident, our lead is almost like a mother to the other three, but has just now turned 17. It’s the workhouses, they prepare you for anything, even being chased by an ‘unkindness’ of ravens. 

Then, there is Leo, he of royal blood (ahem) but whose blood or the non-clotting of it is why wishes to escape the stuffiness of his palace (?) and into the streets to breathe in the city air (pollution levels unknown). 

Naturally, he takes a liking to Bea, well, of course at the first instant. 

The first episode of the Netflix’s Irregulars, seems to have been written with a gun to the head of the writer, who in the lack of time uses elements from other films (Antman, Hitchcock’s The Birds) to move the story ahead. 

It isn’t much of a mystery, which is quite sad for a Sherlock based show, but there is room to explain the supernatural part. Speaking of that part, it’s when the series goes all Stephen King, a girl has the ‘gift’ and a guy who can summon ‘all the birds’ in England by thought. But I do fear that the show will take a teen love turn, it’s inevitable.

Hmm, so then it brings me back to the first Stephen Fry quote, maybe there was a reason why Conan Doyle didn’t mix the mystical with the mystery.

The Irregulars is now streaming on Netflix and it could very well be the name of our blog considering our posting schedule. 

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TV

Just Watching Justified : Fire in the Hole (S01E01)

I have never read an Elmore Leonard, completely. 

Get Shorty , 21% on the kindle. Yet to watch the movie. 

Rum punch, same. 

Up in Honey’s Room, started this year, did not finish.

Of course I watched Out of Sight and 3:10 to Yuma. 

I also read those ten rules he framed for writers, which included the most famous “try to leave out all the parts readers tend to skip.” 

Sane advice, something I’m sure he must have followed. Although I cannot be completely sure because I have never read a Leonard novel. 

But for some reason I could never read a Leonard novel, 99% of that is only because of my motivation and it’s a shame. 

It’s a shame because I cannot accept that 100% is because of my lack of focus. 

But I’ll get there, because writing is all about honesty. Get honesty out of the way so that we can start telling stories.

While this lack of motivation and focus posed a serious threat to my reading abilities, another elitist mentality seemed to be creating flaming problems on the other side of the spectrum. 

When confronted with a media recommendation, namely a TV series or movie, I would brush it away with five fat fingers and with a smug look say, “ gotta read them books first” 

It’s the reason why I haven’t seen Game of Thrones, Sacred Games, you-name-it-the-trending-tv-series-of-the-time etc and for years I have felt some small pride in saying this.

Honestly, if I ever in my life say to you, “gotta read them books first”- I give you full permission to say, “stop lying you lying **** piece of ****”

Well, that’s true, I never got around to reading them, I never got around to seeing the TV series flavour of the day, It didn’t help my culture seeking mind and I was all the poorer for it. 

But from sometime last year, Leonard was in my collective consciousness, and he also added to my collective shame. Ah yes, the same shame that prevented from accepting my lack of reading skills. 

And that made me pick up, Up in Honey’s Room, and as you know, drop it, even when I found it engaging. 

To think of it, there needs to be no shame in not having read any author, but personally it’s best to read the masters before I call myself a fan of the crime fiction genre on my “about me” page. 

That’s the cause of the shame. 

And again today, the conscience was active like a schoolboy on the first day after holidays. First it was a ‘trailer from hell’ of 52-Pickup (another Leonard novel, I have never read)

Audience to me: Lying ****, you’ve already said you have not read any Leonard novel, why do you keep doing this? 

Okay, so it was the trailer to 52-Pickup, which interestingly enough, the screenplay was written by Leonard, complex from what the trailer narration suggested. 

The trailer narrator also suggested this TV series called “Justified”.

That rang a bell somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, it was not very clear because the deep recesses of my brain were shrouded by shame. 

It took me back to the old days when torrenting was an exploration sport and we were all adventurers.

Someone said, “hey boy, why don’t you check out Justified, it’s the perfect mix for you, crime+western and good dialogue, based on the books of Elmore Leonard” 

Me, with five fingers moving to the side, “gotta read them books first” and finish with a winning smug smile. 

Someone said “ugh” and walked away.

10 years later. 

Someone is now a dean on crime writing and appearing on podcast special episodes discussing the chemistry between Clooney and Lopez in Out of Sight.

While me, sitting at home saying, “gotta read them books” 

Damn that felt cathartic. 

Cut to now, while I finished watching the trailer and immediately checked out Sony Liv (which is where the real gold is while I sell my organs to subscribe to Netflix) and lo and behold, it’s there.

Sitting right there, all six seasons. All six seasons of the series that New York Post called “a true male fantasy show complete with broads, bad guys, blow-ups, bullets and buckets of blood.” 

The one that the retro trailer voice over guy called the greatest thing to have happened to TV recently and this series came out in 2010. 

I could watch it or I could come back after ‘gotta read them books’. My brain tik-toked away, but I finally gave in to ‘broads, bad guys, blow-ups, bullets and buckets of blood.’

More B words in a sentence have not been found in the universe.

Hence this series, ‘Just Watching Justified’ or the story of me giving up my useless reasons for not watching stuff and actually watching them and…writing about them. 

So to make up for lost time and to beat this ‘Someone’ in life, I thought I’ll go one step ahead and start writing about them. 

Every one of the 78 episodes.So dive right in. 

These are not reviews, but these are recollections of the experiences that I undergo while seeing the series , so it won’t be could-have would-have film writing nor will it be a series of words that start with B and appreciate the show. 

It’s just a cool, casual collection of contemplations. 

Episode 1: Fire in the hole. 

We open with the close follow of the capped crusader (Timothy Olyphant in a ‘Timothy Olyphant is Raylan’ kind of role), our hero, Raylan Givens, it’s a rooftop pool restaurant, sunny and fun, the kind that does not exist in Chennai. Naturally I was interested. But this was Miami. 

Raylan goes to a waiting man at a corner table. 

“I give you two minutes” he says like Bhavani in Master and so it begins. 

These nervy two minutes are the perfect setup for the show and for the character, he is within the law, but willing to go beyond it and has the brains to make these things look lawful. But Raylan surely knows how to shoot in sequence. 

‘He pulled first. I shot him.’

The words that would put US Marshal Raylan from the streets of Miami back to Harlan County, his hometown. 

Yes, another sheriff coming back to town story.

Obviously, there is no look of happiness on Raylan’s face, he wanted to get away from this place all his life and within minutes of his arrival, he is handed a fat file of one Mr. Boyd (an amazing Walton Goggins) who is the local heel in western parlance but is actually an arsonist, gun crazed drug dealer, bank robbing tax evader and whose views on the Bible will get your eyes rolling. 

Oh also he leads the local Nazi tattooed white supremacist group and they go around town blowing churches. 

Oh also he is Raylan’s childhood buddy. 

Talk about set-up. Maybe that’s why they love you Leonard, maybe that’s why, I am definitely reading you more. 

(Stay tuned for a book exploration series called the Learning to write with Leonard, coming soon, hopefully)

Someone: Liar, don’t give unwanted hope you lying ****

Me: okay, okay

But Boyd has hots for his recently widowed sister-in-law,Ava, who has had a crush on Raylan since the time they were in school.

Talk about set-up.

There are lots of other characters, namely the passive aggressive local chief, Raylan’s ex-wife and an absentee father who remains an absentee but gets multiple mentions. 

Coming back to learning to identify good writing, two men sitting at a table with guns is the running theme but it’s different yet overlapping. 

Not spoiling anything, but Raylan is a bit quicker and there are 77 more to go! 

Remember to tune back in, because we are just watching justified.

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Mondays with Mason : Chapter Eight

In conclusion, my lord, the case is inconclusive. 

No we didn’t make that up, It’s what Mason says while he tries in vain to put down a decent concluding statement. Maybe it was also said in the writer’s room. 

We are all for revisionism, if it has a place in the story, if the ‘revisionism’ dawns on me when we later understand the workings of the story. But revisionism in place of definite endings is problematic. 

Ever since the first episode we have been doggedly pursuing every clue that this show throws at us, every week we place it with what we already know, to see who killed baby Charlie Dodson? Will they be brought to book? 

Okie yeah, we do know who killed the baby, whose horrific death on the tram car made this the most arresting case to follow on television. 

But is there a sense of satisfaction in the end? 

Partially yes. 

It’s not as neatly tied up as we would expect or as Perry would have wanted his first case to be. He’s really grown from being an investigator, but let’s call this the learning curve shall we?

We could also argue the that the writers did not give us a concrete finish to keep things open for the next season or we could also say that this is a Perry Mason for a different time, a time where there are no definites, it’s all very mixed and hence being inconclusive is not a choice but a characteristic. 

Clue trails go cold, but the series spends much time of the finale in making a statement with the character of Della Street, she not only (and rightfully) bargains her next employment with Perry (not Mason & Associates, but Mason & Street, nice touch) but she also contributes to the case taking a more emotional turn. It’s the most questionable turn the case takes, but one that provides a verdict which doesn’t seem to be a victory for any party involved. 

Our hero is really not arguing the case that he has built which we could say contributes to his inability to come up with solid concluding remarks, because it was Della’s idea to put Emily on the stand. To appeal to the sentiments and not facts. 

Perry had the case, he had Innes- the main perpetrator in our eyes, he could have squeezed the slimy detective in court, hell we even get a glimpse of it in a mock trial, but hell no, apparently no one confesses on the stand. Or so they say. It’s a brilliantly conceived scene nevertheless brought back memories of the 1973 Sivaji Ganesan film Gauravam which too had a similar mock trial, albeit a fruitful one. 

Not so neatly tied up parts linger, while the tied up parts including what happens to Emily Dodson and the trio of Drake, Street and Mason seem to stick out but promise some excitement for the future. 

You can only seek justice when you find the truth, Perry says. But what we got was just parts of the truth, and so justice is not pronounced but hanging in the air, like a thread whose holder we know not.

We enjoyed watching & writing this TV series recap, and we trust you liked our coverage. Tune in back again, hopefully. 

Perry Mason is streaming on Disney+Hotstar and has been renewed for a second season. 

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TV

Mondays with Mason: Chapter Seven

Uncharacteristic for this series, episode six begins with a camera crawling on a field after a girl. The episodes as you may remember just begins mid-scene or mid movement with the words Perry Mason in the largest of art-deco fonts that could occupy our screens.  Much like below

But here is the camera slowly following a little girl admiring nature’s beauty, it’s Sister Alice, no, it’s just Alice before she became the ‘instrument of God’. The only other time this series went back in time was to show the impact the Great War had on Perry Mason. 

Sister Alice is an odd character in the Charlie Dodson case, her story thread strain runs parallel to the case but they never seem to meet, but it’s not too far away. Our now dead George Bannon and Emily Dodson first fell in love in Sister Alice’s Radiant Assembly of God. The establishment itself was funded by Herman Baggerly, who was Charlie Dodson’s grandfather as we got to know, but the biggest trick that the series played is in the character of Alice. The trick was to focus on the grand standing assurances made by the sister and to make us question her power and circle around the drama between Alice and her mother. 

All that is broken in the pre credits sequence. 

A lot of other assurances are broken too in this episode as we approach the end of the mystery, like for instance the friendship between Perry and Pete; both have been on the street detectives from the start but I guess it’s the end of their working relationship. After Perry became a lawyer (he is more confident in his appearance in court), they are no more on equal footing and yeah Pete does “fuck it up” at the most inopportune moment. 

Perry not only loses a working friendship but also his family property which is a terrible blow considering that’s all his motivation when he was in the dumps. In these thick of things though, he fears losing the case more than losing the property. 

There’s a nice running gag about Perry Mason’s suit which attained peak when a lady threw collected garbage as he walked in to court, did we mention that he actually does feel and talk like a lawyer now? Yeah we did, but we also want to point out that Perry is also always on the side of data and points and not emotion and narrative, that’s an admirable thing especially when Della asks him to go easy on the numbers. 

The numbers do make sense, acting on a clue from the last second of the previous episode Perry builds a competent case, almost a winner if not for the misfortune mentioned earlier. What also makes sense are the answers to three of the four questions we raised, and the fourth? Well that’s reserved for the final showdown. 

Just another week. We wait, much like those outside court dangling effigies of baby Dodson, but not with terror but with bated breath. 

The episode ends as it begins, with Sister Alice. 

HBO’s Perry Mason is now streaming on Disney+Hotstar and has been renewed for a second season.

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TV

Mondays with Mason: Chapter Six

And we are back. 

We mean from the sort of disappointment that episode five was, but this episode does not leave behind the sudden pick up of pace in the story telling. While we have stated that it could be because maybe the writers room just realized that there are not many episodes to go. 

Here we are with Perry Mason, finally taking center stage in a show that bears his name, if you would recall the last bits of chapter five where we see him get his license to law. Six begins directly at the courthouse and it promises to be a cracker. Except for our hero it is his first outing and all he outs are coughs and even the cameramen’s flash falls like lightning bolt.

It’s heartening to see the show come back to its root themes of how really tough it is to go against the system and how even justice is not about plain facts but about opinions, sentiment and circumstance. While Mason is trying his best to build up a face saving defense, he is also stuck with a client (Gayle Rankin is absolutely the best actress on the show) whose inability to be honest costs them a lot with the jury. 

The episode’s best moment comes when Perry gets to go against Matthew Dodson, now siding with the state, it makes a larger statement as to how society views differently the vices of men and women. But again, the case proceeds only around conjecture and that’s only because those who know the truth are too afraid to do so. And evidence…well that was sort of Perry’s trump card becomes futile. 

They only have two more episodes to go and what began as a single thread has now distributed into multiple strands and while old threads continue to provide more clues to Pete Strickland while he goes on a quest to connect the three brutal murders from episodes past. We of course know who did it, come on catch up soon, Mason & associates!

The scene of a frustrated Mason and his team reminded us of a similar scene from A Few Good Men. Keep at it guys, the truth presents itself to those who dig. 

It’s our job to do the recap right, so we tell you what are the questions that are still not close to being answered, 

A> We still don’t know who killed Baby Charlie and why

B> We don’t know what the Radiant Assembly of God is protecting

C> We don’t know for whom Innes is working for, but another dimension of his relationship with partner Holcomb came through

D> We don’t know if Sister Alice is doing the whole resurrection to divert the case away from its real interests

But what we do know is that Perry Mason will ultimately solve it for us.