Cosmos (2014) Espisode 3: Best and Worst
March 25, 2014
It's time to evaluate the newest episode of Cosmos! Sorry I'm a day behind on this; I had a long weekend of work-related stuff draining my time and didn't even get a chance to watch live. Luckily, I have TiVo to keep me on track. So let's take a look at Episode 3.
Episode 3: "When Knowledge Conquered Fear"
Cosmos seems to be getting better and better with each episode. I really did enjoy this one, built as it was almost entirely around the story of Halley and Newton. Unlike the Bruno narrative from Episode 1, this history was built into the entire episode, weaved into the science and wonder. The writing was tighter and that tale itself was more engaging as well. I've long been familiar with the science of both Halley and Newton, but I confess that I knew little about their history together. So for me, this episode was engaging AND educational.
I think my favorite specific moment in the show was when Tyson delivered the line,"Does the fact that most of us know the names of mass murderers, but have never heard of Jan Oort, say anything about us?" It seems to me that line is a perfect encapsulation of the problem COSMOS itself is trying to address: public illiteracy about science. We get fascinated by the morbid, sordid details of sensationalist stores while we forget the important people and discoveries that got us to where we are today.
Also, did anyone catch the subtle shout out to marijuana legalization? Loved it.
The animation continues to do little for me, and it's the one complaint I really had in this otherwise well-executed episode. I'm getting used to it, such that it wasn't the distraction that it was in the original episode (it was also telling a better story, which helped). It just doesn't match the style and quality of the rest of the series.
Speaking of quality, the voice acting on these segments isn't great, either. Producer Seth MacFarlane practically owns an animation house; surely he could have helped the show tap some more dynamic talent than this? The first conversation between Halley and Newton, for example, was almost cringe-worthy.
Finally, I have to say something about Jan Oort. This is the first live action character the series has presented us with, and it just didn't play well. He was silent, impassive, and genuinely creepy. Having him say lines would probably have come off equally bad, but in a different way. The best choice was probably not to go there at all.
Now It's Your Turn
What did you think of Episode 3? Am I spot on in my observations, or did I get it backwards? Let me know! And I will be back next week to talk about Episode 4.
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