There are more good shows on TV than ever, but the traditional fall season has become the dumping ground for the least exciting new series – perhaps because they need the extra buzz of Fall TV Previews more than something with the cachet of an “Atlanta” or a “Fargo.” Still, some quality series rise to the surface: Recent years have given us “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “This Is Us,” along with glitzy franchise entries like “The Gifted” and assorted MCU efforts (“Iron Fist” and “Daredevil” boast new seasons this fall).
Christopher Golden pens another of his excellent “Buffy” epics with “The Wisdom of War” (July 2002). While it feels a little too big for its britches as I try to reconcile this story fitting into the TV show’s narrative flow – for example, Xander nearly gets turned into a fish monster in a more serious reprise of “Go Fish” (2.20) and Buffy suffers a life-threatening injury in the final battle – it earns serious points because Golden nails Faith’s characterization in his first crack at writing the rogue Slayer.
On my first read of IDW’s “Spike” comics, my attitude was “Why are they introducing new characters instead of using the familiar group?” That’s the curse of new characters introduced into a comic book that continues a TV narrative. Without an actor to anchor them, they seem ephemeral. But the passage of time has changed my perspective, and I warmed up to Brian Lynch’s four-issue “Shadow Puppets” (June-October 2007) on this read.
The “Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline” writers finally give us the cute romantic sequence they had been so obviously holding back from us in the 30th episode, “Get With the Times,” and darn if it isn’t almost tear-jerking. Laureline must stay on a planet and press a button after Valerian takes off in their ship; they can’t both depart.
After a few late-Season 5 novels skimmed over Joyce’s death as if scared to address it, Mel Odom does it right with the young-adult novel “Crossings” (June 2002). Set between “Forever” (5.17) and “Intervention” (5.18), as most of these late-Season 5 entries are, it digs into the new Buffy-Dawn dynamic while also serving as a sneak preview for additional Season 6 themes like Willow’s magic addiction.
Whether it’s because I’m more used to the show’s rhythms or because the scripts are getting better, I enjoyed episodes 11-20 more than the first 10 episodes of “Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline.” These aren’t the comics’ Valerian and Laureline, who love each other and don’t make a big deal about it. These versions of V&L are melodramatic; every time a second male is in the story, we get a love triangle because of Valerian’s itchy-trigger-finger jealousy.
I’m generally not a fan of stories about a character (and it’s almost always someone who doesn’t belong there) stuck in prison or an asylum. And I didn’t have good memories of my first read-through of Brian Lynch’s “Spike” and “Angel” work, as I probably always judged him harshly against the fact that Joss Whedon loved his storytelling and hand-picked him to tell the ongoing “Angel: After the Fall” story.
“Tag” – now available for home viewing – isn’t too bad for what it is. The problem is that we know exactly what it is from the get-go: A group of friends carry their game of tag into adulthood. The theme is mentioned several times in the dialog: People don’t stop playing games because they grow old, they grow old because they stop playing games. Although it’s not common for adults to play tag, neither the characters nor viewers need convincing that it is a harmless way for these friends to stay in touch with each other, and with their youth.
In his debut Buffverse novel, the young-adult entry “Sweet Sixteen” (April 2002), veteran fantasy writer Scott Ciencin seems to make a smart call by focusing on the often-underused Dawn. But after a solid start where Dawn befriends picked-on new girl Arianna, the plot is driven by misunderstandings, manipulations and contrivances. Arguably worse, most of the Scooby Gang is out of character. The book never coalesces into a satisfying whole, and even good tidbits are few and far between.
Director and co-writer Gus Van Sant channels some of the character- and relationship-building magic of “Good Will Hunting” in “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” which delivers a message that a good life can grow out of horrible circumstances if one works at it. Yet this film – which is still playing in some arthouse theaters — is never preachy.