In its final 10 episodes, “Valerian and Laureline: Time Jam” wraps up by riffing heavily on the “Star Wars” prequels, but it stands as its own thing thanks to its trademark bevy of wild ideas – many involving time travel, as the series fully embraces its title. And as had been telegraphed in the sitcom-esque bickering flirtation (or flirtatious bickering?) heading into the closing credits of many episodes, the saga’s final statement is about Valerian’s and Laureline’s relationship … although it’s not exactly what I hoped for.
It’s been a strange year for the “X-Men” Universe. “Legion” Season 2 and the excellent “Deadpool 2” came out, but those are peripheral stories. Two films – “Dark Phoenix” and “The New Mutants” – were pushed back to 2019, so no stories on the main timeline had been told since “The Gifted’s” (8 p.m. Eastern Tuesdays on Fox) first season ended in January. For me, this week’s Season 2 premiere, “eMergence,” is an exercise in “Wait, what happened again at the end of last season?” and “Oh yeah, I remember that guy.”
“Manifest” (10 p.m. Eastern Mondays on NBC) isn’t quite the “What does it all mean?” “Lost”-style mystery I thought it would be. Then again, it’s not exactly original, either. It’s just that the TV shows it reminds me of are different ones than I had assumed.
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).
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.
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.
Writer-director Leigh Whannel’s “Upgrade” – now available for streaming – blends sci-fi elements we’ve seen before into a fresh yarn that’s gripping as a thrill ride and a near-future mystery. Most remarkably, it’s also darkly funny, making it one of the hidden gems of the summer movie season.
As anyone who has searched the web for specific “Valerian” information knows, scholarship of this franchise is sketchy compared to, say, “Star Wars” or “Star Trek.” Two reference books have been released in English — and hopefully more will follow, including a pair of Jean-Claude Mezieres art books that are only in French for now. But here’s a look at the two books – one on the comic universe, one on the film — that are available to English readers now:
The “Valerian and Laureline” franchise follows a similar pattern to the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” empire. Both started with a comic aimed at adults (or at least young adults), were franchised into a cartoon aimed at kids, and then a movie aimed somewhere in between. In each case, those in charge rejiggered the characters, vehicles, settings, plot and purpose.