This week, Netflix’s dark mystery Bloodline returns, Noah Baumbach’s latest comedy hits HBO Go, and Wayward Pines’ second season begins.
Following the ends of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, the world awaited the arrival of the next great prestige drama. The world may have gotten it in Netflix’s Bloodline, a tense mystery set in the Florida Keys. The show is a family drama of sorts, centered on the Rayburns, who own a beachfront hotel. The family are big names in their town, with one son, John (Kyle Chandler), working as a detective. The family has some dark secrets, however, and their past rears its head with the return of eldest son Danny (Ben Mendohlnson), a prodigal child whose presence threatens to tear the family apart. The Rayburn’s are a family of morally gray, all too human characters, and through them Bloodline explores the darker aspects of the human mind.
Railroads were the lifeblood of America in the 19th century, allowing people and products to move across the continent at unthinkable speeds. While railroads have long been a symbol of American ingenuity and prosperity, however, the history of their building is stained with blood. Hell on Wheels explores the lives and troubles of the people involved in the westward expansion of the railroads. The show’s protagonist is Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), a former Confederate soldier seeking revenge on the Union men who killed his wife and son. While on his quest, Bohannon is drawn into the business of the Union Pacific railroad, who want to continue their drive to the west coast at any cost.
Noah Baumbach’s third film to star partner (working and romantic) Greta Gerwig, feels in many ways like a successor to their previous collaboration, Frances Ha. Where that film examined a young woman trying to decide what to do with her life, Mistress America tackles the frightening realization that age does not necessarily bring answers. The film follows Tracy Fishko (Lola Kirke), a freshman at Barnard who can’t seem to fit in. Tracy’s mother is remarrying, and suggests Tracy get in touch with her future stepsister, Brooke (Gerwig), as both of them live in New York. Brooke is a little older than Tracy and seemingly a lot more accomplished, planning to open her own restaurant and easily navigating the New York social scene. Mistress America is, like Baumbach’s previous films, sweetly human, always taking a sympathetic eye toward its characters and their foibles.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was one of the iconic tragedies in American history, proving that even the most powerful man in the world was not immune to the turbulence of the decade. While Kennedy and his death have been the subject of endless discussions and works of art, his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, is often overlooked in popular culture. All the Way, a film adaptation of the award-winning play, explores Johnson’s (Bryan Cranston) attempts to hold the country together and pass the Civil Rights Act. Johnson, a leader by circumstance and not by popular vote, has to contend with pressure from two sides: an obstinate Congress, whose Southern delegates think the bill goes too far, and Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. (Anthony Mackie), who wants the bill to pass without giving concessions to Southerners. The events are dramatic, and Cranston’s performance is outstanding, so thoroughly does he channel the 36th President’s folksy humility and vicious determination.
As if decades of horror stories have not driven home the point that small towns are not to be trusted, here is Wayward Pines to reaffirm the stereotype. The show opens with Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) waking up after a car accident. Burke has come to Wayward Pines searching for two missing agents, and after stumbling into town, he finds the inhabitants to be a bizarre collection of characters ruled by Sheriff Arnold Pope (Terrence Howard). Worse yet, Burke is trapped in the town, as anyone who tries to leave is executed. The first season follows Burke as he tries to uncover the town’s mysteries, ending with a twist not unlike those of producer M. Night Shyamalan. Season 2, somehow, looks to get even weirder.