Plus, 'And Just Like That...,' 'Secret Invasion,' and 'I'm A Virgo'
This week’s newsletter coming up just as soon as my password is GoFastBoatsMojito, all one word…
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In last week’s newsletter, I acknowledged that my list of the best shows of the year so far was coming a week before the return of The Bear, and that odds were good that the FX on Hulu show would have made the list if it had come out later in the month. Guess what? I was right! The Bear Season Two is incredible, and in some ways I loved it even more than the first. (If nothing else, it gave me fewer panic attacks than the first year did.)
Over the weekend, we’ll be publishing my spoiler-filled look at the season, which you can find, like everything else I write for Rolling Stone, on my author page there. Odds are that some of you have already binged the whole thing, and if you want to discuss it in the comments here, that’s completely fair. But for the sake of folks who won’t get to it until the weekend, I set up a separate Substack chat where it may be more appropriate to get into the nitty-gritty of everything. If you want to comment here, maybe be a bit less specific about some things? Use your discretion, and enjoy it at whatever rate you watch, cousins.
What else is Alan writing?
I published three other pieces this week:
The And Just Like That… writers clearly heard all the complaints about Season One, and have done a lot of course correcting, whether putting a lot of sex back into the city or trying to make Che less of a caricature. The new season’s not quite what I would call “good,” but it’s enough of an improvement to no longer feel appreciably worse than most other TV revivals. (I was amused but not surprised, though, that some of the initial reaction to my piece was disappointment from people who hate-watched the first season precisely because of how absurdly terrible it was.)
Disney+’s Secret Invasion is so boring and inert — like the worst parts of Falcon and the Winter Soldier and the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a baby — that I spent a lot of my review ruminating on the trap that Marvel and DC have both set for themselves by emphasizing the importance of how connected everything in their respective cinematic universes is meant to be.
Boots Riley’s new Amazon comedy I’m a Virgo — starring Emmy winner Jharrel Jerome as a 13-foot young man who causes a stir when he reveals his existence to the people of Oakland — is as strange and engrossing and darkly funny as you’d expect from the writer/director of Sorry to Bother You. It will not be everyone’s tempo, but you will know almost immediately if it’s yours.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds recaplet: “Ad Astra Per Aspera”
Finally, let’s talk about this week’s Strange New Worlds. Star Trek at its best is able to straddle many genres, and this show has leaned way into that. The season premiere was an action episode, while “Ad Astra Per Aspera” is a courtroom drama. And it’s one that feels an awful lot like one of the best Star Trek episodes ever, “Measure of a Man” from Next Generation. That story put Data on trial to determine whether he was a sentient life form or just a machine; this one asks whether the laws that discriminate against Una’s people are just, or simply a remnant of a more paranoid, less enlightened time.
Though the story is primarily about Una, the episode does a nice job of spotlighting the entire cast, plus guest stars like Yetide Badaki as Una’s lawyer and estranged friend Neera, and the return of Melanie Scrofano as Captain Batel. (I will continue to stump for a spinoff focusing on Batel’s legal career, by the way.) In the midst of all the tension over Una’s fate, we get that very funny scene where Ortegas imitates Spock, followed by Spock apologizing to the crewmembers who had to witness his completely undetectable “outburst.” We hear the whole crew extol Una’s virtues, and we also get a lot of La’an wrestling with guilt and self-loathing about her family’s own connection to genetic modification. It’s an excellent ensemble episode.
“Measure of a Man” ends with Data being ruled an autonomous person, in a way that could have impact on future artificial life forms. This one takes a different approach. Neera has been using the case as a way to argue on behalf of her people as a whole, but in the end, she chooses a strategy that will really only help Una. It’s not a sad or cynical conclusion, though, because it puts Una back in uniform, and it gives her a chance to show Starfleet and the Federation that an Illyrian can be trusted and even admired. It’s the “model minority” trap, but in this case perhaps a necessary one.
They’re two-for-two this season.
That’s it for this week! What did everybody else think?