‘Insurgent’ has the emotional intensity of androids reciting an instruction manual. There’s nothing new to see here, and it’s delivered in the most listless fashion possible. Even for a sci-fi soap opera, Insurgent feels lazy and uninspired.
Red Band Society ends the season strongly with a set of episodes that are each bittersweet, hopeful, and triumphant. As a whole the show has been sporadic with its narrative as well as ham-fisted and manipulative with its drama, but throughout the season there have been great moments. The very strong young cast at the series’ core has been able to push the right buttons in order to, at times, get the audience to overlook these obvious issues. As episodic as the show has been, the series memory is fairly good, with mistakes made by the characters (or more accurately, the writers) in earlier episodes addressed and factored into the resolution of those characters arcs. The final three episodes reward the audience with an ending that gives closure to the series in a way that is satisfying and both honest and optimistic.
The first quarter of the premiere season of Red Band Society has featured some very strong character moments throughout a narrative that has been, at times, emotionally manipulative. The episodes are often inconsistent with one another, which makes this series feel more episodic than serialized. The pilot episode introduced the main cast and their situations, with the kids more developed than the adults, but as the season has progressed and the stories between the two age groups have intertwined, both sides have gained and lost character momentum respectively. The relationships frequently fail to grow organically, with the character motivations mostly hard to pin down. The questions raised in the pilot episode continue to be addressed, but to a degree that is not fully satisfying, merely confirming information that the audience already has. Although the season’s start is for the most part flawed, the most recent episodes have presented development for the overarching storyline that has potential for some interesting results.
Red Band Society began as a remake of Catalan television series called Polseres Vermelles, which is about a terminally ill group of mismatched teens that live in a pediatric ward and band together as friends. The series was picked up by Amblin Entertainment, who then developed it for American television with former Boardwalk Empire writer Margaret Nagle. As a child, Nagle had spent some time living in a pediatric ward alongside her comatose brother, which she has cited as the source of her inspiration when writing the treatment of the source material.
Fruitvale Station is a series of vignettes searching in vain for connective tissue. Its anchor is the excellent young actor Michael B. Jordan, and while he and the other performers in this dramatization of a harrowing recent tragedy are all solid, the final product is still a bit too scattered to make an impact, despite the moment-to-moment resonance.
Death does not negotiate. When it arrives at one’s door, there is no escape. Disease, fatal accidents, murder, suicide, death cares little for the means, only the end, literally. The discussion of death becomes all the more morbid when people engage in ideas of who deserves to die and who deserves to live.