Art critic, journalist
Television novelties often come from the television formats (their finances and display regiment, advertising commitments and script writing) and enter afield which is more free than even film production.
A good series is a self-sufficient product, a movie story, simply a bit longer than a movie. And long is good, if the story is engrossing, the scriptwriters are smart and the plot is masterfully built.
The series that we suggest watching are interesting, first of all, because of their structure, which doesn’t dictate the genre, but authors’ views on that genre.
As you watch, it might seem as though you know or can guess the next turn in the plot, but that so-called knowledge lasts a very short time, the authors immediately change the course of the story and insert something completely unexpected. And you’re only grateful to them, because watching TV is not just a waste of time and entertainment, but a strain on your mind, feeling the impact of the story on your own skin.
The first is a spy thriller, the second is a conflict between criminals and the police, and the third is a drama about a noble standing on the verge of self-destruction.
The three stories are fresh, including the personalities in them. It is just as important to have rich materials to play as it is to have those who are capable of playing those materials, and vice versa...
In the end, the important thing is the result. Not only do you want to watch them, but also talk about them.
Killing Eve, BBC, 2018
In the first episode of the series, an extremely beautiful young woman smiles at a beautiful girl eating ice cream sitting at a nearby table at a cafe. The girl and the woman seem to have a silent and quiet conversation. Then the woman gets up from her seat, walks through the cafe and with light and crisp movements flips the remnants of the ice cream on the neat and pretty girl. There is an expression of satisfaction on the flawless face of the woman as though to stuff like that can happen.... or rather, that’s exactly the kind of stuff that happens…
Killing Eve is a high quality, British eight-part series, in the spy genre filled with passionate and delicate humor.
Between the episodes is the connection between two women, an extremely dangerous, experienced and brave hired assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and a very charming and affable agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh).
This s not the case when someone runs away, and the other tries to track them down. There is gravitation between these two women, a connection that is as strange as natural.
The spy and the criminal are interesting for one another, they can feel each other and the emotions from that are broad and with far-reaching consequences.
The two heroes love their jobs and are also connected by it. Villanelle murders with childish pleasure and cruelty, as if she is exploring how professional and original she is, and Eve is pursuing her with no less absorption, trying to prove to herself that the instinctive decisions are the most rational.
And both of them feel underestimated.
The male heroes in the series are so secondary and short-lived, and the women are so juicy and multi-layered, that they appears to have a slightly feminist shade (at least, up till now the female personages were not so interesting and leading), but story of Killing Eve is not about re-organizing gender roles.
The author of the series Killing Eve is a young British filmmaker, screenwriter and actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who gave the new scenario completely new ups and downs.
The murderer with Russian roots, with her exotic creativity, constantly perfecting her killing techniques is a real abyss, which is being looked at by an unlucky agent with Korean roots, Eve, who sees that the abyss is also attractive.
In general, the relationships between the heroes are like a ring of chains , where the boundaries of love and hate are impossible to find and very strong. You could hate while admiring at the same time.
Actress Sandra Oh is the invention of this series, with sometimes shameless moves, with tremendous reserves of self-irony, absence of makeup, and tremendous charm, she tries to match the level of coolness and joyful beauty of Villanelle. Think and feel like her. Understand her.
And she manages to do it well. Eve is a good spy, since she is a contrast to the stereotypes (say James Bond), and has had no special training, she even didn’t learn how to shoot.
A few operations within the series take place in Russia, and the russian trail becomes very relevant (for example, spreading poison through perfume, which is based on a case that happened in real life with Russian agent Skripal being poisoned with “Novichok”).
The series Kill Eve can make a tragicomedy out of a spy drama with wonderful and sophisticated women who are constantly changing roles (who do not understand who is pursuing whom).
La Casa De Papel, Spain, 2017
At first glance, this Spanish series offers a very simple clash, a fight against lawbreakers and transgressors.
There is a group who plans a blatant crime, and the other group, using all of the state’s resources, which tries to neutralize them.
Of course, some criminals may be much more charming than the police, and the audience will love them, but the author of La Casa De Papel (The Paper House), Álex Pina makes you love everyone, since all the personages are created to be interesting and presented with unlimited pleasure.
The self proclaimed Professor (Álvaro Morte), collects various professional and amateur-level criminals, conducts master classes with them in various fields (the most important is the art of predicting and using public moods) and practically uses an almost idealistic plan in a hectic and eccentric way.
Seven people dressed in a red gown, each with the name of the city they have chosen (Tokyo, Moscow, Berlin, Oslo, etc.) and Salvador Dali masks, enter the Royal Mint of Spain, take hostages and take shelter there for 11 days.
The goal is not to steal, but to print their own money, exactly 2 billion 400 million euros.
And the police, led by the charming Raquel (Itziar Ituño), whose personal life has been turned into ruins, need to seize them.
Step-by-step we get to know the heroes, and it seems like we’re already familiar with them, a new detail comes forward, which makes the previous knowledge irrelevant, and everything takes a fatal turn.
This is a puzzle series, with passionate and calculating heroes. And they are always looking one step ahead (in different directions by the way), which keeps the audience in a constant state of tension.
And what will happen later? That question sounds happy in the case of House of Paper. You are happy that that question doesn’t annoy you, but sounds inviting.
For example, to grasp what the amount of one billion euros looks like and how much space it takes up.
Or how does the public support help reassess the state’s monopoly to print money at any time. Or even to follow the direction of that a crazy and rapidly developing personage will go.
The scenario creates intersections and bridges from one person to another, and watching the hot-headed Spanish characters makes it all the more attractive.
This series became the most intriguing non-English series which aired on Netflix.
It’s worth watching in hence Spanish (with subtitles) and think about the role of the public and the power of the media. At times, the media decides who is guilty and who is innocent and flips the black and white positions upside down.
You do not need to steal in the 21st century, it’s enough to print your own money, and in better quality.
Patrick Melrose, Showtime (Great Britain, USA), 2018
This five-part series is based on five novels written by English writer, Edward St Aubyn. Each episode is dedicated to one novel, which is an unprecedented level of luxury for television productions.
The luxurious and shiny protagonist is played by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who passes through the five different styles of the series as a ball of fire.
He is an English dynasty aristocrat, a stylish, addict, alcoholic and fragile person, who has a past of a bunch of psychological and sexual violence, which can drive someone to insanity and saintdom.
Patrick Melrose - Cumberbatch is neither one or the other. He is drowning more with every performance and following that process is very impressive and entertaining.
Introducing comedy in drama is a sign of copyright. Edward St Aubyn tells his stories with irony, even during the darkest parts, the reader isn’t suffering with the hero for long periods of time, rather finds themselves tricked by the distance required for irony. This is a very English talent, irony is being approached with irony, in order to make way for the real tragedy.
The actions of Patrick Melrose are carried out at different times from 1967 to 2005. At the same time the environment, the music, the clothing (all those elements that are simply perfect) are changing, and the traumatic memories are always present.
As a result, there is widespread loneliness, all of the manifestations of which are played with flexible mastery by Cumberbatch, from the ups and downs of drug addictions and alarming thoughts to eccentric, elegant or philosophical thoughts.
The self-destructive man is tragic in any situation (like Hamlet) and in any situation which is thick with tragedy, he is ironic (like Hamlet).
Patrick Melrose is a high quality film story that is like nothing else. It offers to go down to the bottom off an abyss to have a chance to take a breath and reconcile with life which is both beautiful and terrible.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.