“Vikings: Valhalla”…As a long-suffering “fan” of the original “Vikings,” I kept watching all six seasons years after most people had given up. So I wasn’t totally thrilled to see Netflix revive the “Vikings” brand, and in a way where changes are so minimal, they’re practically non-existent. Fans of the original will recognize some very familiar plots in Valhalla (a viking invasion of England as revenge for a betrayal by untrustworthy British royals, once again making a deal with the same English royals that have screwed them over and over, and yet another war for Kattegat between people that originally joined forces to invade England). I’m not totally sure why “Valhalla” exists if it was just going to rehash the same plots we’ve already seen several times from the original series, except that Netflix knew it would be a huge hit for them. Still, the new characters aren’t nearly as memorable as Ragnar or (in later seasons) his feuding sons, and it doesn’t help that the new cast is more bland as well. Outside of a few inventive battle sequences (which “Vikings” has always excelled at), and a couple of applause-worthy scenes (finally the treacherous British royals aren’t the smartest ones in the room), there’s not much to truly love here. However, a conflict between Pagan-Vikings and fanatical Christian convert-Vikings shows perhaps what this season should’ve focused on, and what future seasons might follow. Grade: C+
[Some spoilers follow…but that’s okay, because you don’t really want to watch this piece of junk]
“The Girl Before”…You can blame Netflix’s excellent satire “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window” for absolutely ruining dumbassed, molasses-paced, implausible, contrived domestic thrillers that are glorified Lifetime movies gussied up with better production values and higher-profile actors. This “Girl” is one of the many “limited series” that should be a two-hour movie instead of a multi-episode time waste, and there’s too much time-padding in the middle episodes especially. Also, it’s yet another example of modern TV/Film’s abysmal treatment of black/white couples, so that from the first few minutes you can pretty much guess who’s going to die, and who’s going to be responsible. The problem with that is not only that it’s morally dubious and easy to figure out, but also that it’s built around the type of ludicrous ending that “Woman in the House…” spoofed so uproariously.
Not to mention, it kind-of cheats David Oyelowo’s icy control freak out of becoming the proper villain he’s meant to become. This is a character that we never really get to know, but everything we do sounds pretty awful (even before his “traumatic event,” he pitched such a childish fit over a wall being “wrong,” he knocked it down with a bulldozer, killing his wife and son). And yet “Girl” suggests that he just needs therapy, despite his reluctance to register other people before or after the tragedy he caused. “Girl” seems to go out of its way to avoid criticizing the new kind-of OCD-rich that think anything outside of what they want is “wrong.” Grade: F