Review: Katla

By John Ruberry

This summer Netflix debuted the Icelandic series Katla. The actual Katla is a subglacial volcano, which last erupted in 1918. 

Whereas for the series, which is centered on the village of Vík, Katla erupted one year earlier, forcing the evacuation of most of the town, save for some essential workers and their families.

Then a Swedish woman covered in ash, Gunhild (Aliette Opheim), not seen in Vík for twenty years, appears mysteriously, having not aged at all.

Others then emerge in the same manner.

To explain the setting and mood of the Katla, I need to make a diversion. Stick with me. Although this bit is quite fascinating.

According to Icelandic folklore much of the country, particularly rocks and boulders, are inhabited by the huldufólk, the hidden people. 

Iceland is unique. In the fifth episode of his long running podcast Lore, “Under Construction,” host Aaron Mahnke describes the island nation this way: “Now you have to understand something about Iceland, much of the region is a vast expanse of sparse grass and large volcanic rock formations,” adding, “the ground boils with geysers and springs and the sky seems to be eternally gray and cloudy.”

Nature is particularly harsh in Iceland. Earthquakes are common, it has a chilly subpolar oceanic climate, long winter nights, and of course there are those volcanoes, nearly thirty of them are active. 

The use of folklore is a common method to explain the world and with so much of Iceland being a seemingly blank canvas–the “vast expanse of sparse grass” that Mahnke described, as well as its unpredictable volcanoes, it is understandable that folklore’s roots are deep there.

Mahnke in his podcast mentions a couple of road projects in Iceland–one just six years ago–that were altered to assuage fears that the huldufólk would not be disturbed. Click here to find other projects that were changed for the sake of the huldufólk.

In a 1998 survey slightly more than half of Icelanders said they believe in the hidden people. In the minds of many Icelanders the huldufólk are quite real. They are certainly part of the psyche of this Nordic nation.

Huldufólk take on many incantations within Icelandic folklore, among these are as changelings.

Katla is an eight-episode series that is the work of Sigurjón Kjartansson and Baltasar Kormákur. The duo was also responsible for the series Trapped, Kormákur directed the movie Everest.

It appears Kormákur and Kjartansson’s primary audience for Katla is Icelanders and other Scandanavians. The former and probably the latter have a basic understanding of the huldufólk, whereas the primary audience of this blog does not. Hence my diversion because the huldufólk legends aren’t discussed at all in Katla except briefly midway in the series, but that part is featured in the Netflix trailer.

After the emergence of the young Gunhild, the “other” one–twenty years older of course–is discovered in Sweden. Next to come from the ash is Ása (Íris Tanja Flygenring), whose return puzzles her sister Gríma (Guðrún Eyfjörð), a rescue worker in an unhappy marriage with a dairy farmer, Kjartan (Baltasar Breki Samper). Ása and Gríma find themselves entangled in the complicated life of Gunhild and an old relationship of his.

In Katla we also find a deeply religious man, police chief Gísli (Þorsteinn Bachmann) and a scientist Darri (Björn Thors), whose lives are dramatically altered by the new arrivals. 

Katla is part science fiction and part psychological drama. It’s worth your time. 

The show’s directors make the most of the stark scenery–the cinematography is breathtaking. And the acting is compelling.

Katla is rated TV-MA for violence, scenes of suicide, brief nudity, and strong language. It is available in English, in Icelandic with subtitles, and in English with subtitles. I recommend watching the Icelandic with subtitles version, as there are passages in English and Swedish–and that method of viewing fills out the storyline a little better.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review: Season Two of Ragnarok

By John Ruberry

Late last week Season Two of Ragnarok began streaming on Netflix. The Norwegian series presents a modern telling of the ultimate battle, Ragnarök, between the Norse gods and their enemies, the jötunn, evil deities who are usually called giants in English. It is set in the fictional small fjord town of Edda, which is being poisoned by the town’s largest employer, Jutul Industries. The company is run by Vidar Jutul (Gísli Örn Garðarsson), the head of the jötunn quasi-family. His wife, Ran (Synnøve Macody Lund), is the principal of Edda High School, which Magne Seier (David Stakson) and his brother, Laurits (Jonas Strand Gravli), attend. Also students there are two other Jutuls, Saxa (Theresa Frostad Eggesbø) and Fjor (Herman Tømmeraas).

In Season One, my DTG review is here, teenager Magne suspects he is the rebirth of Thor. Yes, he’s another “chosen one.” In the final episode of that season, while Laurits humiliates Ran in a public address, Magne confronts Vidar in a battle. 

The second season picks up where the first ends. Somewhat diminished this season is the teen love anxiety–while the Norse mythology is elevated. There are few scenes at the high school. So there is a bit less of a Twilight feel this time around.

Laurits is a prankster so if you know a little bit about the Norse gods, you should have suspected in the first season that he is a modern representation of Loki, the mischievous god. Reluctantly and by happenstance, as Jake and Elwood did in The Blues Brothers, Magne is “putting the back back together,” and that includes Wotan Wagner (Bjørn Sundquist), Edda’s Odin, and Harry (Benjamin Helstad) as the militaristic god Týr. Edda is multicultural, so it’s not surprising that an immigrant from Sri Lanka, Iman (Danu Sunth), achieves goddess status as Frigg, a clairvoyant.

The powers–and the alliances–of the gods and the jötunn as told in Norse mythology are complicated–as they are here. So are the romances, particularly the one with Fjor and a human, Gry (Emma Bones).

According to the myths Loki was a shape shifter–that is not shown here–and some of those tales of the trickster god involve gender fluidity. Laurits is unsure of his gender–but more certain of his sexuality. Oh, there is also a brief sensual scene with two women.

All through Season Two the government is investigating the environmental devestatation Jutul Industries brings to Edda–as well as the company’s financial improprieties. 

Magne and Laurits’ mother, Turid (Henriette Steenstrup), does her best in keeping the family together while struggling with poverty and of course, raising two teen sons who are conflicted gods. 

The final episode, the sixth–Season One is also consists just six entries–brings forth another climactic confrontation. The door is open for a third season of Ragnarok and I’ll be back if there is. Although to be honest I probably would have lost interest during Season One has their not been a mythological foundation for the series. As of this writing Ragnarok is a Top Ten series on Netflix.

The streaming service gives viewers the option of watching Ragnarok in dubbed English or in Norwegian with English subtitles. There are also some passages, dubbed of course, in Old Norse. 

Season Two of Ragnarok is rated TV-MA because of foul language (and gasp!) smoking. In reality the series is more like a PG-13 movie in regards to possibly objectionable content. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review: Season 1 of Shadow and Bone

By John Ruberry

Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s there was the hope, egged on by the music media, that soon “the next Beatles” would arrive. The Bee Gees, Badfinger, and the Knack were among those acts who failed to match the hype. And no band could match the Beatles’ level because even when they were together they were already legends. 

In that same time period there were even more “next Bob Dylans” heralded.

No one can supercede a legend.

Late last month the first season of Shadow and Bone began streaming on Netflix. 

And many are wondering if Shadow and Bone is the next Game of Thrones

Short answer? No. Longer answer? Not even close. And as HBO’s Game of Thrones has entered the world of legend, Shadow and Bone doesn’t have a chance. 

Call me sadistic, but I knew in the first episode of GoT, “Winter Is Coming,” that here was a series that broke the mold when Jamie Lannister pushed young Bran Stark from a high window ledge so to hide his sexual relationship with his sister, Cersei.

With Shadow and Bone you are exposed to an eight-episode muddled mess. 

The show is based on a trilogy of high fantasy books by Leigh Bardugo, and there are elements from two of her other works thrown in too. To understand what is going on you it seems you have to read all of these books first. And I’ve read none of them.

“Students,” I can see a teacher announcing, “your assigment is to read five books and then, only then, watch Shadow and Bone.” Uh, no.

The alternate world of Shadow and Bone is largely based on Russia of the late 19th century. The costume designers make the most of it and they deserve an Emmy nomination for their efforts. Soldiers wear fur ushankas and papakhas. Women don ornate dresses, the heads of civilian males are often topped with bowlers. While GoT and Lord of the Rings is rooted in the Middle Ages of western Europe, viewers here find themselves in the Russia of the Industrial Revolution. There are guns and a train. But no sword battles.

Ravka (Russia) is in the center of the continent and it’s separated by the Fold, a thick cloud wall inhabited by human-eating volcra, who are a cross between griffins and pterodactyls. Spoiler alert: there are no dragons. The Fold was created years earlier by an evil grisha, that is, a magic maker of Ravka. Maybe I’m a dope but it wasn’t until the third episode that I ascertained that the grisha were magicians. They are particularly adept at fire-starting. The grishas make up one of two armies of Ravka.

The central character of Shadow and Bone is Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a woman in her late teens and a grisha who is half-Shu Han. The Shu Han nation, which we don’t encounter here, is the show’s version of China and they are enemies of Ravka. To the north is Fjerda, a stand-in for Scandinavia. We see the Fjerdans when they fight the Ravkans.

An orphan–just like Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins–Alina encounters racism because of her foreign looks. She has a puppy love relationship with a fellow orphan, military tracker Malyen “Mal” Oretsev (Archie Renaux), they’ve known each other since childhood. Alina is a mapmaker for the First Army, the non-magical one–and man oh man, could viewers use a decent map here to get a grip on the geography of Shadow and Bone. Only one is briefly shown. More time is devoted to Alina burning maps.

We quickly learn that Alina, like Harry Potter, is a Chosen One. The revelation brings her to a grisha leader, General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), and the capital city of Ravka, where she meets the king, who looks a lot like Czar Alexander III. Alina is declared a Sun Summoner, that’s a really big deal you see, and then begins her training to fully utilize her powers.

Word spreads about Alina–all the way to the island nation of Kerch–which is Shadow and Bone’s version of the Netherlands, complete with its largest city, hedonistic Ketterdam, which parallels another city. Do I really need to spell out which one? We meet three underworld characters there, Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) who leave Ketterdam to kidnap Alina for a one-million kruge reward. The three criminals have an intriguing dynamic and they are more captivating characters than Alina and Mal. 

If you like elaborate clothes, eye-catching special effects, and being transporated to an alternative yet familiar civilization, then Shadow and Bone could be for you. But if you expect fully-developed characters and a coherent plot line, then stay away. 

If magic and the 19th-century interests you then instead I recommend streaming Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell on Amazon. In this series, among other things, the Duke of Wellington is aided by a magician to fight the French during the Napoleonic Wars. 

As for the grisha–if they are so powerful how come they are captured with relative ease?

Shadow and Bone is rated TV-14 for violence, adult situations, and brief nudity.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review: Season One of Tribes of Europa

By John Ruberry

I guess I’m in an arts and culture mood of late so I’m reviewing my latest Netflix binge-watching adventure, Tribes of Europa, a six-episode series about a dystopian Europe centered on the former Germany in 2074. 

In December of 2029 the world’s power-grid fails–the cause of which is never explained, but it could be because of a cyberwar gone too far, along the lines of the biological warfare that precedes the Charlton Heston classic, The Omega Man.

Europe has devolved well past the European Union or even the nation-states that the borders of which–for the most part–have been resilient since the end of World War II. Microstate tribes have replaced the old order. One of those tribes is the Origines (rhymes with aborigines), a peaceful group of several dozen hunter-gatherers, wearing, presumably, scavenged clothes from before society’s collapse. Their community is destroyed after a B-1 type aircraft, belonging to the technologically advanced Atlantians, crashes near their village.

Three young Origine siblings, Liv (Henriette Confurius), Elja (David Ali Rashed), and Kiano (Emilio Sakraya), along with their father Jakob (Benjamin Sadler), are forced to scatter, the siblings carve three storylines, much like what the children of Ned Stark did in Game of Thrones. Yes, this show is derivative. Much of the mood and tone recalls another German series, the time-travel show Dark. The producers of that series also are behind this one. And there is a bit of the Star Wars franchise in Tribes of Europa. Moses (Oliver Masucci) is a fast-talking salvage merchant who is constantly trying to keep one step ahead of a powerful lender. Who does that remind you of? Moses takes Elja under his wing. Masucci is a gifted actor, he portyayed the brooding Ulrich in Dark, a cruel but ultimately tragic character, as well as Hitler in the comedy Look Who’s Back

Moses is only interested, at least initially, in Elja, the youngest of the Origine siblings, because he found an Atlantian cube, which, must like the Ring of Power in the Lord of the Rings, is sought after by other tribes, particularly the Crows. And in the early episodes, like the Ring, we are unsure of exactly what powers the cube possesses. As for the Crows, they are barbarians who party in discos and participate in gladiator duels.

Yes, there is a bit of The Hunger Games in Tribes of Europa.

Liv falls in the the Crimson Army, which is led by General Cameron (James Faulkner). He’s the actor who portayed the stern Randyll Tarly in Game of Thrones. One of the Crimson Army’s goals is to seize the former Berlin, Brahtok, the Crow capital, where Kiano and Jakob are being held.

Cameron dreams of bringing back the old Europe. Liv asks the general, “Do you really think you can pull it off, unite the continent?” Cameron replies, “The European idea will never die.” According to numerous media sources the idea for Tribes of Europa came to show creator Philip Koch after the Brexit vote in 2016.

The German in Tribes of Europa is dubbed for Netflix. But in a key revelation, English is still the lingua franca in post-collapse Europe.

There are just six episodes in the first season and as this one ends with three cliffhangers, I imagine a second season of Tribes of Europa is planned. If there is I’ll tune in.

Netlix rates Tribes of Europa as TV-MA for graphic violence, foul language, nudity, and very uncomfortable sexual situations. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review: The Liberator on Netflix

By John Ruberry

By John Ruberry

Lost among the fallout after the presidential election was the debut of a compelling four-episode on Netflix, The Liberator. It tells of exploits of the leadership of Felix Sparks (Bradley James), who eventually reached the rank of lieutenant colonel, of the 3rd Battalion of the 157th Infantry Regiment in the European theater of World War II. Yes, for the most part, this is a true story.

The series which began streaming on Veterans Day, is animated and it uses the new technique of Trioscope, which combines live action and computer and manually created images. The series is based on Alex Kershaw’s book The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau. It’s a huge improvement over rotoscoping, most famously, or notoriously used in the first feature film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings, which was directed by Ralph Bakshi. The animation is grainy with a touch of sepia, the latter hue of course is common in films set in first half of the 20th century.

For the most part, The Liberator avoids hackneyed plotlines and characters of many World War II projects, other then sepia. There is no “Guy From Brooklyn” in it. But here is a soldier from Chicago, who of course is a Cubs fan. Fact: real and fictional characters from in television and movies are never White Sox fans, unless, as in Field Of Dreams, the South Siders are central to the plot. Oh well, to be fair it was the Cubs, not the White Sox, who played in the World Series in 1945.

When Lieutenant Sparks arrives at Fort Sill in Oklahoma shortly before America’s entry into World War II, he’s given command of “Company J,” which consists of soldiers locked up in the stockade. These ragtag men are a mix of Mexican Americans, Native Americans, and cowboys. 

It’s a tough command, “The Indians and the Mexicans don’t like each other very much,” a jail guard tells Sparks. “And they hate us more.”

But Sparks is looking for fighters, not divisiveness. He and molds them–even though the Native Americans and Mexicans can’t enter a bar off base in Oklahoma. In Italy a captured member of the Thunderbirds is confronted with this irony by a German officer. 

During its two years in Europe, in addition to the invasion of Sicily and the liberation of Dachau, but also the invasion of southern France, as well as the Battle of the Vosges near the German border, and finally fighting in Bavaria, the 157th Infantry Regiment encountered over 500 days of combat. Sure there are arguments and spats among the soldiers. People never always get along. But the soldiers form an effective fighting unit. 

The German troops are treated relatively sympathetically in The Liberator, but only up to a point as the Thunderbirds later of course liberate Dachau.

The supporting cast is superb, particulary the performance of Martin Sensmeier as Sergeant Samuel Coldfoot and Jose Miguel Vasquez as Corporal Able Gomez, two composite characters.

Originally The Liberator was intended as a live action miniseries for A&E Studios for the History Channel but filming such a project in so many disparate locales, the plains of Oklahoma, Italy, the Mediterranean coast, the Vosges, and Bavaria, proved financially impossible. Not so much with animation. Which is why The Liberator is probably on the cusp of what we’ll see soon on the big and small screens. And the use of animation in war dramas will spare us motion picture embarrasments such as the desert combat scenes in the 1965 box office flop The Battle Of The Bulge.

The Liberator is currently streaming on Netflix. It is rated TV-MA, although despite depictions of battlefield wounds and the frequent use of profanity–in English and Spanish no less–I’m unsure why. Oh, some people smoke cigarettes in it too. I’m mean c’mon. This is the 1940s!

Tune in and start watching. You’ll be glad for it. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Quick Under the Fedora Thoughts. If Trump is for it I’m agan it Edition…

Judson: I’m agan it!

Mack: Agan What? You didn’t hear what Daniel said?

Judson: If Daniel said it I’m agan it!

Daniel Boone Ken-Tuck-E 1964

The Atlantic magazine has come out against the Nobel Peace Prize itself

If Donald Trump is for the Peace Prize they’re agan it!


Can we now assume that the Nobel Peace prize for Barack Obama was an affirmative action award?


I think it’s been really something to see the left go on a full defense of what objectively is child porn in their defense of Netflix “Cuties”

If I was Donald Trump I’d direct the AG to investigate if the movies violates US child porn laws as written.

The whole: ” If Donald Trump is against Child Porn then I’m for it” reaction from will be something to see, of course in fairness they’re already all defending it. I wonder how fast they would condemn the movie Fatima about the miracles there if Trump came out for it?


Well at least the new peace deal between Barain and Israel is something that Democrats can celebrate. Right?

If Donald Trump is for a peace deal I’m agan it!


There has been another ambush of law enforcement and the Joe Biden Voters are acting like…Joe Biden voters

I’m sure they’re just getting ahead of the President’s condemnation of this act of terror to be agan what he’s for.


Apparently at least one NFL player has figured it out:

After watching Thursday’s game and also watching the Dolphins players’ video, it shows that it is not about who is standing or who is kneeling for the anthem,” Mayfield said. “But instead, coming together and taking action to create real change. Also after reading many letters and messages over the past few weeks, I have been showed (sic) that a gesture such as kneeling will only create more division or discussion about the gesture, rather than be a solution towards our country’s problems at hand. With that being said, I am choosing to stand for both anthems to show respect, love, and unity to everybody involved.”

Trump will obviously be for this so as you might guess the left is agan it but I suspect those who have invested in him as an advertising spokesman are for it. The real question is this: Given that the Ravens are expected to be blitzing a lot will his offensive line be for it or agan it?

Datechguy off DaRadio Livestream 3 PM EST, Goodyear , NetFlix & Bannon oh My!

This week’s DaTechGuy off DaRadio no frills livestream podcast comes via a new laptop (Thanks to all of you) and some new topics:

  1. Goodyear Goodbye & fighting back
  2. Netflix & the Weinstein / Epstein Culture
  3. Bannon and the big lie

We’ll be talking about these and more on DaTechGuy off DaRadio today at 3 PM EST. You can watch the live stream here (the embedded placeholder of last week’s show will be replaced 5 or ten min before we start)

Looking forward to our time together.

FYI remember this podcast exists to do two things.

  • Boost the readership of the blog
  • Bring in an extra $180 or so a month.

If you like what we do here please share the podcast or consider kicking into DaTipJar. Of course there is the problem of us getting big and effective enough for google, youtube and twitter to ban but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Review of Season 4 of The Last Kingdom

By John Ruberry

Are you stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown? Here’s another Netflix binge-watching opportunity for you: The Last Kingdom.

Last Sunday Season 4 began was released by the streaming service.

On the old platform of Da Tech Guy I reviewed the first three seasons. Here’s a brief summary: Uhtred Ragnarsson of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), the son of a Northumbrian nobleman, is raised by Danish Vikings, along with another Saxon, Brida (Emily Cox), after his father is killed in a battle. Both of them abandon Christianity and convert to the Norse religion. As adults they serve as bridges, Uhtred much more than Brida, between the Danes and the English. Uhtred, also called “Uhtred the Godless” and “the Daneslayer,” sets his goal to reclaim Bebbanburg, his ancestral castle.

In the first season the four Saxon kingdoms, Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia, and Wessex have been conquered by a Danish force later called the Great Heathen Army. Only Alfred (David Dawson), the king of Wessex, puts up an effective resistance. Uhtred and Alfred form an uneasy alliance to defeat the Danes. Wessex of course is that Last Kingdom. Alfred is one of two English kings to be given the moniker “the Great.” The other was Cnut, an 11th century ruler.

The series is based The Saxon Stories books by Bernard Cornwell.

Minor spoilers in the next paragraph:

In the fourth season Bebbanburg, weakened after a siege by the Scots, finally seems within reach of Uhtred. He’s been united with his children, yet another Uhtred (Finn Elliot), a devout Christian, who was largely raised in a monastery, and his daughter, Stiorra (Ruby Hartley), who like the elder Uhtred is conflicted in her relations with Saxons and Danes. Edward (Timothy Innes), who succeeded his father, is the new king of Wessex and has a strong influence over Mercia, where his sister Aethelflaed (Millie Brady) is queen. 

The Viking era of the British Isles lasted over two-and-a-half centuries, ending in that auspicious year of 1066. The Last Kingdom is set roughly half-way into that conflict. If the Danes were to issue a knock-out punch, it needed to be by the Great Heathen Army over Alfred. That didn’t happen so that sets the table for a long series of alliances and betrayals. There is plenty of both in the show, in this season the prominent one is a scheme from the traitor Eardwulf (Jamie Blackley), a member of a fallen Mercian noble family. Meanwhile Alfred’s widow, Aelswith (Eliza Butterworth) weaves her plan to fight the Danes. 

The middle section of Season 4 is overly burdened with plots and counter-plots, made even more confusing because many of the historical characters in The Last Kingdom have similar names. For instance we have Aethelflaed who is married to Aethelred (Toby Regbo). Such similarities can work in books, but the scriptwriters for the series should have changed one of those names. There is more. Aelfwynn (Annamária Bitó) is their daughter. Her grandmother is the aforementioned Aelswith.  While Edward is in Mercia, Wessex is ruled by an ealdorman, Aethelhelm (Adrian Schiller). His daughter, Aelflaed (Amelia Clarkson) is married to Edward.

But the season is redeemed by the battle scenes which are quite intense. And of course the later episodes are dominated by major one, a siege with Uhtred and Brita on opposite sides of the walls. The Saxons are led by Edward, the Danes by a new Viking leader, Sigtryggr (Eysteinn Sigurðarson).

A fifth season seems likely as The Last Kingdom has enjoyed a top-ten Netflix viewing all week. One issue that needs to be resolved is that the main characters have barely aged yet Uhtred’s children are in their mid-teens. It’s time for a touch of gray in his hair. And Brida’s too.

The Last Kingdom is rated TV-MA for violence, torture, and nudity.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review: Season Three of Ozark

By John Ruberry

Late last month Season Three of Ozark began streaming on Netflix. The center point of the story is the Bryde family, father Marty (Jason Bateman), a former Chicago financial planner, mother Wendy (Laura Linney), a onetime Illinois Democrat political operative, and their children, teens Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz), and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner).

In the first season Marty, talks his way out of assassination by convincing his killers that he can be of great use to his Mexican drug cartel client, who turns out to be Omar Navarro (Felix Solis), by laundering even more money for him in the Lake of the Ozarks region of southern Missouri. He does that of course for self-survival, but also for his family.

If you haven’t seen Ozark yet the following paragraph and the trailer contains minor spoilers.

But being the money guy–with bloody hands–is a strain for the other Byrdes, even though Wendy is for the most part a willing participant as the family moves up from laundering cash though a failing restaurant, then a fledgling church, and finally a casino boat, which is how the second season ends–the final shot is a sepia still of the Byrdes–with none of them smiling–at the grand opening. 

Warning: “F bomb” in the trailer.

The second season introduced the cartel’s lawyer, the cold-blooded Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), another Chicagoan. Like the Byrdes, she is facing a challenge by balancing her criminality with her family, specifically her teen daughter Erin (Madison Thompson). Helen and Erin in Season Three move to the Ozarks for the summer.

The primary new character in the third season is Wendy’s troubled younger brother Ben Davis (Tom Pelphrey), who offers the best performance so far in Ozark in an Emmy-worthy performance. Laura Linney is superb again too.

Meanwhile the Navarros are at war with another cartel. And as with most of the major European wars since the 17th century, the battles cannot stay contained in a tight geographic area. The cartels are always “all in” in their fights–and the title of the last episode of the third season is “All In.”

The FBI, which is not shown in a favorable light throughout the series, remains hot on the heals of the Byrdes. Which means Marty and Wendy not only have to balance their money laundering and shell companies with the needs of Navarro along with the demands of parenthood, but they are also under the constant scrutiny of the FBI, this time led by an agent of better character than what we’ve seen before here, Maya Miller (Jessica Frances Dukes). 

One one more headache for the Byrdes is the Kansas City mob.

Of course there was criminality in the Ozarks before the arrival of the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of Missouri, Marty and Wendy, who as F. Scott Fitzgerald said of former in The Great Gatsby, “smashed up things and creatures.” Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), the leader of that family’s small-time criminal family, is now an integral member of Bryde Family Enterprises. But the other homegrown female crime leader, Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery), an avowed enemy of the Brydes, revs up her operation after a respite.

This is the best Ozark season yet. The penultimate episode, “Fire Pink,” is the most powerful one and it contains an homage to the film noir classic The Killers, which starred Burt Lancaster. The 1964 remake, a thriller with John Cassavetes in the Lancaster role, is worth a look too. It was Ronald Reagan’s last dramatic film appearance. 

Ozark is rated TV-MA. It contains graphic violence, torture, obscene language, and nudity.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review, Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak

By John Ruberry

“While we can’t predict where the next influenza pandemic is going to come from,” Dennis Carroll, the director of the emerging threats unit of US Agency for International Development, says in the third episode of the new six episode Netflix documentary series Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak, “there are certain places that you want to pay particular attention to–and China is one of those, that’s the place where we’ve seen the emergence of virtually all of the deadly influenza viruses over the last half-century.”

Carroll says this while images of a Vietnamese wet market, where live chickens are sold and slaughtered, are shown.

“We know that viruses move from wildlife into livestock into people,” he says early in that same episode.

I’m writing this from home in Illinois, where I am living under Governor JB Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order because of the COVID-19 coronoavirus outbreak. While the origin of this disease is still being debated it is likely, according to experts, that it did first infect humans at a wet market.

I saw Pandemic last week on my Netflix welcome screen and at first I looked away and said to myself, “If I want to know about pandemics I can switch on the local news–or cable news.” And I was concerned that this was, to use the legendary chant from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a “bring out your dead” series. And it starts that way, with Carroll, at a mass grave in western Pennsylvania, one that is marked by a single crucifix. The site contains the remains of victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Yes, not only can it happen here–but it has happened here.

And the “not-if-but-when” pandemic has arrived, only it’s coronavirus instead of influenza.

The focus of Pandemic is on the scientists, the aid workers, and the doctors on the front lines of disease prevention and cures. People like Jake Glanville and Sarah Ives, the scientists who are working with pigs in Guatemala to develop an all-strains flu virus, as well as Dr. Dinesh Vijay, who treats flu patients at a crowded hospital in Jaipur, India. But disease isn’t just an urban phenomenon. In Pandemic, we meet Holly Goracke, the sole doctor at tiny Jefferson County Hospital in rural Oklahoma, who works 72-hour shifts. And we also become acquainted with Dr.Syra Madad, the director of the special pathogens program of New York City Health and Hospitals.

Along the way we are introduced to anti-vaccination activists in Oregon, health care workers at an Arizona border detention center, and World Health Organization disease fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who not only face the risk of contracting the extremely deadly Ebola virus, but also getting murdered by gangs.

Surprisingly, religion is viewed favorably in this scientific docuseries. Madad, Goracke, and Vijay all rely on faith to strengthen them as they battle disease.

Not surprisingly there are a few knocks in Pandemic over lack of funding from the Trump administration. Including from Madad. But she’s not infallible. In January, in a CNBC interview shortly after the debut of Pandemic, Madad praised China’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, although she did parse her statement with, “It’s too early to tell.” I wager she’d like to take that praise back.

If you are suffering from anxiety over coronavirus, you may want to stay away from Pandemic. The same goes if you are an anti-vaxxer–you’ll just get POd. Also, I suggest if you decide to view Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak then take it in just one episode at a time. At times the series is emotionally exhausting.

Pandemic is rated TV-14, Netflix says, because of foul language and smoking. And there are some disturbing scenes.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.