Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

May 28, 2015 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Thursday, May 28, 2015
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com


‘Between’ fails
with lacking plot



Daily Arts Writer

“Between,” a new Canadian series

on City and Netflix, belongs to the
genre that channels like the CW and
MTV have been


out of for years:
YA science fic-
tion combining


teen drama. Shows like “The Vam-
pire Diaries,” “Teen Wolf” and
“iZombie” have been doing this with
lots of success because, for all the
stigma attached to the “paranor-
mal romance” and “dystopian YA”
genres, they’re enormously enter-

“Between” follows an ensemble

cast of characters living in the small
town of Pretty Lake, where a strange
disease suddenly strikes and kills
everyone over 22 years old. As the
pilot episode progresses and adults
quickly die off, the military raises
a fence around the city, effectively
quarantining everyone inside.

In the hands of creator Michael

McGowan (the critically acclaimed
“Still Mine”), who wrote the pre-
miere, the show doesn’t deliver the
thrills its genre often suggests. One
of the problems is that while shows
like “Teen Wolf” both commit to
their goofy premises and don’t take
themselves too seriously, “Between”
doesn’t show a lot of self-awareness.
There’s almost no real fun to be
had here; subplots basically revolve
around the teen characters’ parents
dying and there isn’t much variety.

“Between” could be entertain-

ing if the actors hinted at a sense of
humor that the script itself doesn’t
suggest, but the cast is almost uni-
formly bland. Jennette McCurdy,
who showed some sense of comic
timing in “iCarly,” gives the vibe of
a poor man’s Juno in her first scene
as Wiley, walking down the hallway
at school with her best friend Adam
(Jesse Carere, “Finding Carter”), but
the sarcastic charm of Sam Puck-
ett is toned down here in favor of
Wiley’s uninteresting teen pregnan-
cy subplot. Besides, any chemistry
Wiley might have with Adam grinds
to halt whenever Jesse Carere opens

his mouth. Carere’s acting is surpris-
ingly bad, his line deliveries all read
in the same emotionless voice and
his unblinking eyes always staring
blankly at whatever poor actor he’s
sharing the screen with.

Those are only two of the char-

acters who round out the ensemble
cast. There’s also Wiley’s religious
sister Melissa Day (Brooke Palsson,
“Less than Kind”), jail inmate Mark
(Jack Murray, “The Prize Winner of
Defiance, Ohio”), rich kid Chuck Lott
(Justin Kelly, “Degrassi”), farmer
Gord (Ryan Allen, “Get Rich or Die
Tryin’”), drug dealer Ronnie (Kyle
Mac, “Carrie”) and Pat (Jim Watson,
“The Strain”). Notice how I couldn’t
even pair Pat with an interesting
character epithet? That shows how
hard it is to find anything intriguing
about these characters.

It’s difficult to get remotely

invested in any of these characters
because the pilot episode spends
so little time with only of them,
sketching them out with extremely
expository dialogue in brief interac-
tions before moving on to the next
character. The episode becomes
marginally more entertaining when
the unrelated plot lines begin to
intertwine, just because the episode
can be more efficient with its time.
Gord interrupts a conflict between
Chuck’s cartoonish, rich father and
Pat and Ronnie, then rushes over to
help deliver Wiley’s baby. Still, the
intersection of conflicts is kept to
a minimum, leaving the audience
with a number of disparate subplots
that don’t demand next Thursday’s

It’s hard to see what future epi-

sodes of “Between” could look like,
both content-wise and quality-wise.
With the right cast and crew, later
episodes could prove more inter-
esting, since there’s potential for
the idea of an isolated “Lord of the
Flies”-esque society without adults.
Perhaps putting Wiley, Ronnie
and Chuck in a situation in which
they’re forced into becoming the
leaders of a new society will bring
out something new and fascinat-
ing in the conflicts. Still, based on
the performances and writing of
the lackluster pilot episode alone,
“Between” might not be capable of
something like that. Besides, most
viewers might not have the patience
to wait that long.



Season Premiere


Rocky LP revives Yams

Following ‘To Pimp
a Butterfly,’ ‘A.L.L.A’
gives voice to the dead


Managing Arts Editor

“We catchin’ spirits. We ain’t

even really rappin’, we just lettin’
our dead homies tell stories for us.”

Those words


spoken by the
ghost of Tupac

“Mortal Man”
— the closing
track on Ken-
drick Lamar’s
To Pimp a But-

they offer what is perhaps the best
characterization thus far of the

2015’s most ambitious projects in
hip hop and R&B. Starting with
Flying Lotus’s October release
You’re Dead!, continuing through

finally to Kendrick’s masterpiece,
a new canon of technically and
lyrically stunning work is rapidly
being assembled as America’s most
critically acclaimed Black artists
open themselves up to conversa-
tions with an ever-expanding host
of spirits.

I bring up the race of these musi-

cians in part because their music
expresses a hyper-awareness of
their own identity as Black men,
but mostly because the spirit realm
their songs belong to hangs over a
physical world increasingly cov-
ered with Black bodies. The shoot-
ing and death of unarmed teenager
Trayvon Martin in 2012 served as
an introduction to what now seems
like an unending litany of Black
victims gunned down by white
authority figures. The sheer weight
of this reality should be inescapable
for any American, but it is particu-
larly so for African-Americans, who
make up a disproportionate per-
centage of the casualties of police
violence in this country. “Trayvon
Martin could have been me,” Presi-
dent Obama famously said.

These artists find themselves in a

landscape covered in bodies, but it’s
unclear whether they’re standing
in a cemetery or in front of a mass
grave. The difference between the
two scenes hinges largely on the

cyclical debate over whether people
like Mike Brown, for example, were
criminals who received their just
desserts or innocent victims of a
society that unjustly singles them
out for destruction. While the offi-
cial report invariably describes
the former scenario, often the only
witness who might contradict the
powers that be is the dead man with
a policeman’s bullet in his chest
— and, as the old adage goes, dead
men tell no tales.

But it would seem that dead men

can in fact rap, and nowhere is that
fact more apparent than on the lat-
est release from Harlem-bred MC
A$AP Rocky, At.Long.Last.A$AP,
which features posthumous vocals
from Texas rapper Pimp C and
A$AP Mob founder A$AP Yams,
both of whom died young of a pro-
methazine overdose complicated by
sleep apnea. While Tupac’s benevo-
lent ghost offers guidance to a
troubled young rapper on To Pimp a
Butterfly, A.L.L.A.’s cover artwork,
which features the upper half of
Yams’s face eerily superimposed
onto Rocky’s forehead, suggests a
much more ambiguous relationship
between the artist and the ghosts
trying to speak through him.

The source of that ambiguity is

left somewhat unclear by the end
of the album, but the emotional and
philosophical fluctuation between
A.L.L.A.’s first nine pot- and LSD-
laden tracks, to the homage-heavy
quartet running from “Jukebox
Joints” to “Wavybone” and finally
to the frenetic rumination on the
overlaps between love, drugs and
money on the LP’s final six tracks
makes it clear that this album is
something of a musical disembow-
elment for A$AP Rocky. He’s put-
ting himself out there with a type of
frankness and self-confidence that
simply wasn’t present in his metic-
ulously crafted Long.Live.A$AP
and Live.Love.A$AP personae, and
this frankness occasionally leads
him to blurt out things that really
should have stayed inside his head,
like the “Type of hate that make
you feel worse than a rape victim”
line off of “Back Home.” Yet other
quotable lines — like “Left ‘em Har-
lem shaking on the pavement” from
“Pharsyde” or “This year I turned
racist, all I wanna see is green
faces” from “Electric Body” —
reveal a beautifully macabre sense
of humor that lends Rocky’s crudity
and goofiness a significant political
and philosophical weight. The guts

he leaves on the table are perhaps
hard to look at, but they’re there in
all their gory detail. While mean-
ing is there to be found, grabbing
onto it means getting your hands

And I think the best way to think

of A.L.L.A. is as A$AP Rocky run-
ning his hands through his own
entrails, painfully searching for a
way to define himself among that
pile of skin, blood and intestines.
Part of that process involves exor-
cising the ghosts he finds inside
himself, which leads, of course,
to the voice of A$AP Yams filling
the same role on “Back Home”
that Tupac played for Kendrick on
“Mortal Man.” He closes out the
album with a Dame Dash-esque
invocation accompanied by haunt-
ing, reverb-heavy piano melodies,
concluding Rocky’s self-vivisec-
tion on a definitely unsettling
note. His speech evokes Harlem,
fashion, cultural influence and the
A$AP Mob, and it might have been
a spot-on description of Rocky’s
pre-A.L.L.A. ethos. But Yams is
dead, and while talking to his ghost
might explain everything leading
up to his death, it doesn’t explain
what comes after.

And what does come after? For

now, Rocky’s answer is an image
he provides at the end of “Dreams”:
“Police brutality was on my TV
screen / Harmony, love, drugs and
peace is all we need.” But some-
how that doesn’t satisfy either, in
part because it doesn’t do enough
to bridge the gap between the two
lines. What it has done, however, is
demonstrate that Rocky is tapping
into the same issues facing the best
artists in hip hop right now, issues
that have already produced some of
the best and most socially engaged
albums of the last 20 years. This
album is not one of those mas-
terpieces — though if it came out
in any year other than 2015, I
would be writing a much differ-
ent conclusion to this piece — but
it suggests to me that we’re look-
ing at the prelude to an explosion
of depth and maturity in Rocky’s
sound, and I wouldn’t be surprised
if we’ll be looking at A.L.L.A. in the
afterglow of Rocky’s next album
in much the same way that we’re
looking at good kid, m.A.A.d. city

In the meantime, the dead don’t

rest easy — but they just found
another rapper who can make
them speak.



A$AP Rocky


Back to Top

© 2024 Regents of the University of Michigan