…and the TV season starts. Many series have been renewed and not all are neccessarily heading for a better, brighter tomorrow.
Criminal Minds, season 8 announced for September 2012
for example made the old mistake the show is so damn prone to: They released a main cast member and hired a new one. First, CM traded Elle Greenaway for Emily Prentiss. Next, it was Jason Gideon for David Rossi. Then it was Jennifer Jareau for a flopped spin off show and… Agent Seaver. (Did she have a first name anyway?), with Prentiss as good as gone, too. After that, they switched back; Seaver for Jareau and (literally and literary) reviving Prentiss. Now, she’s officially out again and a yet unnamed replacement takes over for her. Frankly, all that trading team members back and forth isn’t helping the show.
What might make season 8 good anyway is that a crime show can – for a while – live from their “monsters of the week” until the main cast has found a new chemistry and direction. Emily has been the center of a major plot arch in season 6, and went through a lot character development through season 7. Now, there’s a gap to fill and how “well” CM deals with that situation became evident when JJ was replaced with Seaver. They introduced a “fresh newbie” character that needed everything explained in detail that was already explained in detail in season 1, when the viewer was the “fresh newbie”. In other words, Seaver came years too late and worse, she brought no other qualifications than “my dad was a serial killer”.
In the remaining main cast, Hotch and JJ have what appears to be a happy family life. That is boring and it will remain boring if some freak of the week threatens their families on a regular basis. We had that already, plenty of times. On the other hand, Reid’s fear of schizophrenia (as well as his mother) have vanished into thin air. Actually, Reid came off as “the guy who tags along because he has nothing else to do” for the past season. And Morgan wasn’t off much better in terms of character background. Rossi reconnected with his ex-wife just to bury her shortly after, so he isn’t exactly involved in any interesting developments either. Remains Garcia, who dumped her boyfriend Kevin and appears to be reunited with him since Prentiss’ farewell party. We’re back at status quo on that end, too. Even Strauss is back and cured from her alcohol addiction.
My anticipation for season 8 is rather modest, as there’s no cliffhanger, no minor story arch left. And I’m not really curious to meet the new team member either. I more dread it. In a perfect world, this opening in the main show would have been a second chance for one of the more interesting characters from the spin off (namely Prophet, Beth or Mick). But alas, it isn’t a perfect world and I would not freak if someone decided to cancel CM at this point.
Spartacus, season 3 announced for January 2013
I gave Liam a chance. I really did. But it’s not working. It’s not so much that he simply isn’t Andy, he also fails to make you forget that. An actor replacement is a different story than a character replacement, I realize that. And there were very few cases were the lead actor was replaced, but not the character. Sadly, two actor replacements of main characters are not the biggest problem Spartacus has. The biggest problem at the moment is “Kill them all!”
Many viewers found it difficult to adjust to Spartacus and Naevia being played by other actors now, and with the death of Batiatus at the end of season 1, the show lost both a big name from the cast and an iconic character from the story. Sure, it was inevitable. But the issue remains – a lot that was recognizable and made Spartacus Spartacus is gone.
Within a few episodes, the Roman antagonists were killed off – Varrus and Cassutius from the prequel, Senator Albinius, that new Roman smug preator, Seppius. Not one of them managed to be really memorable or develop a personality beyond “evil Roman”. Seppia alone got a bit more development and became somewhat interesting, yet was still overshadowed by Lucretia – who likely survived the massacre in the season 1 finale just to not lose both John Hannah and Lucy Lawless. It was up to Ilythiya and Glaber to carry the Roman side, and that was clearly a highlight of season 2. However, they are now both dead. So is Lucretia, and every other free Roman who ever played any, even just a minor, role in the show.
In the ranks of the slaves, things aren’t looking much better. Ashur is dead and as much as it pains me, it was about time. Surviving on this much luck and second/third chances had become ridicolous. A minor disappointment was also his execution by the hand of Naevia instead of Oneomaus, who – you may have guessed it – is also dead, by the way. Yet again, the series failed to give Barca the tiniest bit of recognition. They neglected his backstory in Gods of the Arena, killed him off early in Blood & Sand and the one who wanted to avenge his death had to take a step back in favor of a hysterical Naevia, who is already the center of too much attention and too-dumb-to-live-like twists.
With Ashur and all his cronies dead, and Oneomaus dead, there should still be something left on the side of the rebels, right? Well, yes. Something. One character that made many major steps in the right direction, and in a somewhat believable way at that, was Mira. She never appeared to be the typical damsel and already knew what she wanted in season 1. Besides becoming a master archer way too fast, her development was well done. Needless to say she’s dead now.
And what remains is rather sad. A Spartacus who is not quite Spartacus, whips out big speeches every episode to a point where they completely lose their power (at least to the viewer) and lost his woman for the second time. A lovesick puppy version of Crixus who basically doesn’t do a thing but stare at Naevia with glary eyes and teaches her to become a swordmaster, which is even less believable than Mira becoming a master archer in a few weeks. With Rhaskos dead, there aren’t many Gauls left for him to interact with anyway. Then, there’s the shadow of the character formerly known as Gannicus, who mostly hung out uninvolved, waiting for Oneomaus’ forgiveness. Which he now has, and lacks of a new direction ever since. Unless you count the 2 or 3 brief glances between him and the hyped female warrior character Saxa, who basically consists of a few fight scenes and muttering “German” curses. Agron is still around, much to the surprise of the fan front that didn’t realize that “kill your gays” automatically applies if everyone gets killed. He gets a hell of a lot more screen time and lines, but remains somewhat shallow, limited to “damn, I hate the Gauls” and being in love with Nasir, whose character can be summarized as “he is gay and in love with Agron”. Doesn’t make a too exciting combination.
So, by the end of season 2, nearly everyone is dead. Most importantly, all the Romans are dead and there is no-one left to build a bridge to the new Romans that have to be in season 3 to make sense of it. The secret of who killed the cousin of Marcus Crassus died with the people involved and can’t be used to connect the new characters and their motivations either. Hence there will be new faces all over again, the pillars Spartacus was built on are gone and there won’t be a surprising step up from semi-minor character to main cast either. Glaber wasn’t that central in season 1, but became a believable and layered antagonist – the actual Big Bad – of season 2. It would have been nice to see either Varrus or Cassutius do a similar thing, if only to introduce the new Romans around Crassus. But alas, everyone is dead. And so I more or less dread the next season, because I fear something really wonderful is being ruined by the premise to become and remain “the boldest show on television”. People seem to forget that “everyone can die” doesn’t equal “everyone has to die” and a series needs characters the viewers can relate to. By switching out at least 70 % of the main cast from season to season, none of the characters gets the writing to do justice to them; not enough time to really develop, and not a death that is memorable beyond “yeah, that was unneccessary”. See Saxa, who was announced like the second coming of Jeanne D’Arc and ended up as just another background extra with a few action scenes.