Five Short Thoughts on the Matrix Sequels

Well, with a trailer drop a couple weeks ago, it seems that it is indeed time to go back to the world of the Matrix for the first time since The Matrix Revolutions hit the screens in 2003. Which, like…that was the same year as the invasion of Iraq. Wild. I’m naturally skeptical of the film, but I’ll probably see it anyway. With one of the Wachowskis involved, there’s a decent possibility that there might be a story worth telling here rather than just another cynical cash-in…or maybe not. After all, I’ve already watched two sequels to the Matrix by the Wachowskis, and, generously, they both kind of sucked.

But hey, either way, the version of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit that plays over the trailer kicks ass, so there’s that.

Regardless, this did inspire me to revisit the Matrix sequels, all these years later. Were they secretly good all along, and unfairly maligned by critics and fans both? Are they hidden masterpieces waiting to be discovered?

(No)

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Doctor Who returns, and my optimism has been vindicated.

In case you weren’t here for my episode reviews of Chris Chibnall’s first series of Doctor Who, let me catch you up: I didn’t care for it. I thought the visuals were muddy, the writing painful, the exposition sludgy, and the Rosa Parks episode, although well-meaning, an enormous mistake. However, I did enjoy the New Year’s special, which though imperfect felt like an across-the-board improvement, and on that basis I maintained an air of cautious optimism for the followup series. Lord knows Jodie Whittaker wouldn’t be the first Doctor to have a rough first year on the job.

Well, it’s been a full year since Resolution restored my optimism, and at long last we have the premiere of a new series of Who: Spyfall. Or rather, Spyfall Part One, with part two coming on Sunday. This is a review of an incomplete story, and as such everything I say about it is a bit tentative. But I feel pretty confident saying that, unless Spyfall Part Two is a complete and total bomb, I was right to be optimistic. This series is off to a much stronger start than the previous one.

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Resolution finishes off this year’s Doctor Who series with a bang, rather than the anticipated whimper.

It is with great relief that I declare that Resolution, the Doctor Who New Years Day special, and the last episode of Doctor Who that we’ll be getting until early 2020, is…pretty good! I was braced for disappointment after a thoroughly lackluster series, and if it had been bad, I may have found myself marinating in bad feelings about the show for a full year, which would not exactly be setting myself up to give series twelve a fair shake. Fortunately, Chris Chibnall surprised me by pulling out a surprisingly enjoyable and fresh-feeling take on a classic Who monster, producing what is almost certainly his best Doctor Who script ever. It has some issues, but I think with only a few minor edits Resolution could have been an all-time classic story.

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Chibnall Reclaims The Reins, and It’s…Okay I Guess

After a string of guest writers, during which the writing quality spiked noticeably, showrunner Chris Chibnall returns to the writer’s chair to pen The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, the series finale of Doctor Who. Low-rent Ice Warrior Tzim Shah, him with the teeth in his face, returns from the series premiere, this time in command of a genocide machine powered by a pair of psychic aliens with religious issues. I wish the episode was as exciting as that description makes it sound, but unfortunately, I must report that this episode is merely Okay. Just like every script Chibnall’s submitted this year. Goddamit.

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‘It Takes You Away’ Is The Weirdest Episode Of the Season. I Can’t Decide If That’s a Compliment.

In this episode of Doctor Who, we travel to Norway, where the Doctor and her companions discover an isolated cabin, its doors and windows all barricaded. Its only inhabitant is a blind young girl named Hanne, who warns them that there’s some kind of monster in the woods outside, which broke into the house and stole her father away. When this episode opened, I hoped that we might be getting into some Norse monsters, which are awesome and terrifying. What I got instead was something far stranger.

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The Witchfinders is a Mess…But a Fun Mess

Doctor Who travels back into the past once again, this time to 17th Century Lancashire, where the Doctor and her companions find themselves in the middle of an old-fashioned witch hunt. It’s an episode with a few too many moving parts, but which manages to be a lot of fun, especially by the standards of historical episodes, which I tend to not enjoy as much.

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Kerblam! is a Fun Sci-Fi Romp, But it Gets a Bit Confused At The End

Series eleven of Doctor Who continues the trend of being substantially better when Chris Chibnall’s not getting a writing credit. Kerblam! is not a true classic, but it is an awful lot of fun, by turns funny and frightening, with a great spooky robot design and an actual mystery to solve. Ultimately, what holds the episode back from true greatness is an excess ambition without direction; it has pretensions at social commentary, but lacks a coherent political stance, making it all feel a bit confused and flimsy. Which is a shame, because apart from that, this really is a fun little show.

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It Finally Happened

I’ve been waiting expectantly for this day to come. Finally, the eleventh series of Doctor Who has a properly good episode. Unlike much of this series, Demons of the Punjab is not merely adequate or mediocre, and while it is not as sweepingly ambitious as Rosa, it also dodges many of the problems that plague that episode. At last, Jodie Whittaker stars as the Doctor in an episode that I can feel good about recommending.

And all it took was Chris Chibnall not getting a writing credit for the first time this series. Bless.

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This episode of Doctor Who is a high mark for this season…but only because of weak competition.

In The Tsuranga Conundrum, Chibnall-era Who has finally given me an episode that left me feeling satisfied at the end. That’s not to suggest that this is a particularly good or memorable episode; in another season, this would be a middle-of-the-road piece, neither a favorite nor hated. But I wasn’t bored or put off by this episode, and for this season, that makes it stand out.

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