Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What I’m Watching: Orphan Black

Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 5 “Human Raw Material” (B+)

She may be the most simplistic of the clones, but I suspect that Krystal is the most fun one to play. I like that she just happened to be at the clinic to get pregnant while conducting her own investigation into Diad and the sinister things that are going on with this new birthing clinic while Cosima and Donnie were on their stakeout. Donnie’s attempts to keep her occupied by giving her an impromptu massage were entertaining, and I think that Kristian Bruun deserves enormous credit for the way in the which Donnie interacts with all of the clones differently. I like Donnie and Cosima as a pair since neither of them gets on the other’s case for any of their tics or idiosyncrasies, and Donnie did manage to keep things under control for a bit while Cosima snooped around. It was great to watch Susan and Evie get confused by Krystal and Cosima being there at the same time, and I love that Cosima was able to ask such probing questions and Susan actually entertained her and gave her the answers. Sarah not trusting Adele was understandable, but the way that she berated her in front of Felix was foolish, and when the results came in that she was indeed his sister, things looked pretty bad for her. The clones all seem to be on edge, and Sarah and Alison in particular are not doing a good job of getting along. That kind of disunity is not what they need right now with multiple threats facing them.

What I’m Watching: The Catch

The Catch: Season 1, Episode 8 “The Package” (B+)

The little summary of the events that happened to set Margot up as Alice’s therapist was helpful since I was concerned that she was so omniscient that she had always been Val’s therapist, and it turns out that’s not the case at all. It does seem highly risky since Val could easily spoil the whole thing by describing any physical feature of her doctor that doesn’t match Margot, but the professional con woman is getting so much out of the interaction that it’s well worth it, asking every single question she wants to about how much Alice knows and how much Ben shared with her. Margot is far more conniving and manipulative than Rhys, who is more sinister but much poorer at keeping it all under wraps. It took him no time at all to reveal to Ben that he was well aware of Alice’s existence and to threaten her life should he deviate from his every instruction. That was a huge mistake, since it compelled Ben to do something totally surprising and choose a side, going straight to Agent Dao to align himself with him and Alice and take down the real bad guys. I’m curious to see where Margot will fall in all of it, and I hope that Alice is smart enough not to talk about the latest twist in therapy. Learning about Sophie’s singer past was fun, and I enjoyed guest stars Nia Vardalos from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” as the package and Kevin Alejandro from “True Blood” as the seedy producer.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1, Episode 15 “Destiny” (B)

Some really crazy stuff is going on now, as the time masters are claiming that everything Rip and his team has done up until now has been a direct result of their manipulating events. I’m not sure I quite buy that, and the argument that an alien race is going to try to conquer the earth a few years after Savage already did that will be the only thing that saves humanity doesn’t quite hold sway. Putting the events of this episode alongside Savage’s murder of Rip’s family was moderately effective since it indicates that some fates are unavoidable, but only until that point since the time masters are now defunct and Savage is going to become a time-traveling nemesis more than a world-conquering one. I do hope that in next week’s finale, they vanquish Savage once and for all and move on to other threats, but I suspect that won’t be the case. I do like that Kendra’s attitude is positive and that she’s taunting Savage rather than giving in to the dire nature of her current situation. I enjoyed watching Sara and Snart argue about what to do before Gideon called on the phone, and though I’m very sad to see Wentworth Miller leave this show, his sacrifice was a memorable and heartfelt one, knocking Mick out and taking his place after the big lug did the same thing to Ray, the one man who knows he actually has feelings. Jax’s triumphant return after a trip back to 2016 to the moment that he left was great, and I’m glad everyone except for Snart and Kendra is in a safe place and state heading into what is sure to be an eventful finale.

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Vitamix” (B+)

The aftermath of the wedding provided a wake-up call for all the characters who suddenly realized that moving a wedding up to accommodate a heart attack and surgery has consequences that need to be addressed. As usual, it’s the children who were the best part of the episode as they tried to find the best way to deal with all of the vendors and lose as little money as possible. Naturally, they have different methods, and it’s very entertaining to see them all work. The contrast between Brianna’s aggressive, cutthroat nature and Bud’s kind, slow-burn style was especially fun. The fact that they recorded a message detailing all the information they didn’t want the guests to learn and then accidentally sent it was a bit of a stretch, but its unforeseen and very confusing autocorrect form was a great save. Coyote being assigned as the person to watch over Robert and be there when he woke up was a nice treat, since it was full of comedy but then ended up being far more poignant, as they had a heartfelt conversation that got to the root of why Coyote did what he did. The antics at the house with Frankie getting stuck and Grace getting mad were fine, but hardly the highlight of the episode. Sol’s insurance frustrations were wonderfully turned around when he decided to put his lawyer hat on and scare the hell out of the guy behind the desk who really wasn’t prepared to fight that battle without his supervisor.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What I’m Watching: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 2, Episode 2 “Kimmy Goes on a Playdate!” (B)

I had forgotten how far-out this show can be, untethered to reality as it skewers convention and society at least a hundred different ways in a single half-hour. It didn’t take long for Jacqueline to return to the city after realizing that she was out of place back home, and she showed up in style, crashing the police car onto the sidewalk and trying to get inside as quickly as possible. The casting of Anna Camp as Jacqueline’s nemesis Deirdre Robespierre is perfect, especially considering her experience as a vain socialite in the “Pitch Perfect” movies and “True Blood.” She’s considerably more grounded than the often frantic Jacqueline, and they make a great pair of enemies. Kimmy’s willingness to go along with everything despite her objections never ceases to be entertaining, and she even got the chance to make her feelings known and possibly inspire a bit of accidental charity on Jacqueline’s part. Her plan to pay $11.5 million was bold and probably very dumb, but for now it had its desired effect. Titus’ inability to part with his clothes was typically outlandish and excessive, and the fact that he ran into a man who remembered him and thought that having a picture of “hot chick” Tilda Swinton made him seem straight to his colleagues made his treasure hunt for his clothes along a New York City street all the more enjoyable. Titus isn’t one for relationships, but knowing that he – and his clothes – has had that impact on someone gives him great joy and a reason to wake up every morning.

What I’m Watching: Transparent

Transparent: Season 2, Episode 7 “The Book of Life” (B+)

It’s been almost four months since I watched this show, and though I’m still catching up with current television that’s airing at the moment, I’ve decided to finish up the final four episodes of this show’s second season. When people talk about how Jewish this show is, I think this is the episode to which they’re referring. I like how multi-faceted it is, showing each of the members of the Pfefferman family members and how they observe Yom Kippur. I think it’s very genuine and honest, especially since it doesn’t presume that they all know everything about the holiday or that they are strictly observant in their practice. But they do all take something away from it, like Sarah who went to see an uninterested and unhappy Tammy to sort of ask her for forgiveness. It’s good that Steve responded to Sarah’s request for rape by pumping the brakes, and Sarah showing up high to the break-fast meal didn’t go over too well. It was tough to see Josh suffer through the meal with everyone asking him when the rabbi was going to show up, especially after Raquel so bluntly told him that they’re over. I like that Shelly brought home a date in the form of Richard Masur’s Buzz, who actually did a great job of taking care of her when she started melting down after Josh broke his news. I love that Ali gave her form of a religious sermon while they were waiting for Raquel. Maura’s decision to tell Davina that she could do better after Sal was too forward with her was a serious mistake, something I don’t think she’ll do again anytime soon after recognizing Davina’s kindness and compassion.

What I’m Watching: Underground (Season Finale)

Underground: Season 1, Episode 10 “The White Whale” (B+)

This was one of the most eventful season finales I’ve ever seen, and it’s hard to know what season two will look like with so many characters dead and in such different circumstances. The most startling and unexpected change is certainly Tom’s death at Ernestine’s hands. He seemed far too casual about the idea of taking Ernestine with him to D.C. when he’s still married to another woman, and of course it couldn’t make up for the fact that he strung up her son and gave a campaign speech above his dead body. Stringing him up was a fitting execution, though Ernestine’s fate may be even worse now that his vindictive wife has decided to sell her and raise James as her own. The plan that John and Elizabeth hatched with Rosalee and Noah was brilliant, and the vengefulness with which John killed Marshal Risdin was frightening. Leaving August to die wasn’t a smart move, but it seems that his decision to kill other slave catchers has now led to his imprisonment by a character I’m intrigued to see more of in season two, Brigid Brannagh’s Patty. Ending the episode with Rosalee having a picnic with William while Noah sat in jail staying strong was very powerful, and Rosalee’s vow to go back was inspirational and exciting. This show turned out to work a lot better than I ever expected, and I’m glad that I stuck around and got to see it all play out. I don’t know what’s in store for season two, but I’m intrigued to find out and I hope that this show gets some well-deserved awards attention when the Emmy nominations are revealed this fall.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Rosalee

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 21 “Crazy Train” (B)

This episode gets points for creativity, if nothing else. Setting the episode on a train allowed it to be more inventive and turned out to be much more entertaining than a lot of the destinations this show has traveled to in search of comedy. As Mitchell pointed out, saying “hello!” at the end of every joke doesn’t necessarily make it funny. Fortunately, this episode did turn out to be mostly entertaining. Phil and Cameron running into their favorite author, played by Simon Templeman from “House of Lies,” and ruining his book after he tried to get rid of them by giving them a chapter was a fun use of their time, resulting in them acting the entire thing out to find a way it could work before Haley ruined it and then a newly intelligent Luke showed up to solve it again. Luke’s interest in an older woman led to an unexpected geography lesson, something that Luke accepted even though he really didn’t want to learn. Alex’s time spent in “steerage” was mildly amusing, and of course it all ended with a stolen wallet and a visit from a confused Manny. I’ve never seen a meaner train crew, and you’d think they’d at least give passengers the chance to show their tickets before shouting them down as trying to move up into a different class. Jay struggling to get Dede’s new stepson not to tell his father to call off the wedding was fun, and the fact that Dede is ultimately just as crazy as her new arsonist husband was great. Will the wedding be the main focus of the finale? We’ll see – it could be enjoyable.

Monday, May 23, 2016

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 5, Episode 3 “Truth Be Told” (B+)

I suppose it’s not crazy to expect that there’s still plenty to learn about Reese’s past. What’s more impressive is that, so many years into this show, actors like Annie Parisse are still up for an occasional guest spot as a long-dead recurring character. In the previous episode, we were reminded of the many people that Reese has killed and the notion that he didn’t always save people. Shooting a suspect point-blank before he knew for a fact that he was guilty was a cutthroat and brutal decision, and neither he nor Kara seemed remotely disturbed about it. The fact that he told Brent’s brother that he was innocent and that he was killed in action is a sign of a more compassionate and caring person. What I liked most was that Keith David’s Terence Beale didn’t let the CIA know that Reese is still alive since he likes the idea of him being out there. I didn’t realize that Iris was still in the picture, though unfortunately the end of the episode indicates that she’s moving on since Reese can’t fully let her in. Root installing the malware in a not-networked computer was a bold move, but she and Finch do make a great team who should be able to figure out how Samaritan works and help use the machine to take it down and save the world. As Root keeps mentioning, hopefully they’ll find Shaw in the process and bring the much-missed Sarah Shahi back to the show.

What I’m Watching: The Grinder (Series Finale)

The Grinder: Season 1, Episode 22 “Full Circle” (B+)

I thought that this show had a decent chance at a renewal, but unfortunately that didn’t happen, so this is it. I like that the opening moments of the episode solved the mystery of who was behind Cory Manler and the lawsuit against Dean Sr., showing each of the events that led Leonard the prosecutor, played by Kumail Nanjiani of “Silicon Valley” and “Franklin and Bash,” to plot the downfall of the Sanderson family. I suppose that’s exactly how the Grinder would have solved a case on the show-within-a-show that so humorously anchored so many of this show’s episodes, and therefore it was very fitting. The inexplicable, illogical twist that he had a twin brother was even more appropriate, and somehow the entire case got dismissed, which was great. Much like I lamented the underuse of one major female character on “Grandfathered,” I also think that both Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Debbie) and Natalie Morales (Claire) could have been featured more prominently on this show, and this episode gave a bigger spotlight to Debbie as she got drunk and then had to steal her children’s tape recorder back to try to cover for what she said. I do think that Hana Hayes and Connor Kalopsis were great as the kids on this show, and they played a pretty big role in this season. Best of all, Rob Lowe and Fred Savage were a strong pair, never missing a beat in their eternal battle between theatrics and logic. I’m sure Lowe will be back with another show soon, but I did enjoy him here.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Rob Lowe

What I’m Watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 3, Episode 20 “Emancipation” (B)

It’s hard to tell whose side certain inhumans are really on these days, and this episode was all about deception to get to its big and admittedly cool reveal. The first thing I’ll say is that I still haven’t seen “Captain America: Civil War,” and the only thing that seems like news to me is that these accords have divided the Avengers and it’s relevant to this show because the inhumans, as powered people, are supposed to register themselves so that the government can determine whether or not they should be classified as threats. Talbot being paraded through the S.H.I.E.L.D. base to express his constant disapproval at the seeming level of disorganization felt like a waste of time, and then it ended up being even more of a theatrical thing since all Talbot had not seen outweighed the incompetency he thought he was witnessing specifically because of how covert and smooth their operations were. Lincoln seemed all too eager to leave to be with Daisy, and May swapping him out for Lash so that the inhuman-hunter could get rid of the ultimate inhuman was an extremely smart plan. This was the first time we’ve seen anything close to fear in Hive’s eyes via Ward’s body, and it’s a shame that the chain-happy James killed Lash before he could truly finish the job. I don’t think Hive is down for the count, which makes me wonder whether anything can truly defeat him, and this army of zombie inhumans that even Dr. Radcliffe isn’t proud of is going to be a formidable threat to the continued existence of humans and inhumans on earth, one that should be thoroughly addressed in the two-hour season finale.

What I’m Wathcing: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 1, Episode 8 “The Relationship More Populated” (B+)

This show has developed a certain general format for each episode, which finds Jack and Emma living their lives and fretting about others finding out about their more populated relationship and then shifts gears completely when Izzy shows up at their door to rock their world with a new theory on how to make it work. The main complication of this episode didn’t even come up at all after the opening scene, in which Emma got very defensive and told Ava that no one liked her because of her name. Emma’s temper is very entertaining, and the way that she reacted to meeting Nina, who came up to see them at the bar and asked for their intentions for her girl Izzy, was amusingly prickly. Nina calling them Uncle Jack and Aunt Emma was an added bonus and a victory point for her against the couple she felt was abusing her friend. Speaking of that friend, Izzy showing up to pitch a tent in their living room so that they could have a completely platonic, very drug-assisted night together in their own home was extremely sweet and thoughtful, and it was going so great until Izzy once again dropped a huge bombshell and then got offended when Jack and Emma needed to stop and return to the real world before simply accepting it. I was proud that Jack spoke up honestly and said he was confused since nothing about the tent being pitched in the living room should have suggested that they were ready to have her move in, let alone without being invited. It’s sad to think that they may have broken up, and while we still have two episodes left in this season (and hopefully many more after that!), I’m sure that this relationship isn’t completely done just yet.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

What I’m Watching: Grandfathered (Series Finale)

Grandfathered: Season 1, Episode 22 “The Cure” (B+)

At the time that this episode aired, this show hadn’t yet been cancelled, but now, almost two weeks later, that’s been a fact of life for a while now. There wasn’t even much chance of this show surviving, but it’s a shame since I did really enjoy it and would have loved to see more of it. This episode in particular set events in motion for what I imagine would have been an interesting second season with a newfound strained relationship between Jimmy and Sara. It wasn’t too hard for Sara to break up with Craig despite his intent to immediately move in and his poor reaction, but Jimmy chickened out and couldn’t complete his part. That he went to the airport and broke up with her after the fact only made it worse since he never intended to fill Sara in on the timing of it, and that led to the unsatisfying ending to this episode since we now have to permanently picture Jimmy sitting by himself at a concert waiting for a date who’s never going to show up. Fortunately, though Gerald’s proposal plan worked horribly and Vanessa didn’t pick up on the sentimental nature of each of their stops, it was so incredibly sweet that she ended up asking him to marry her while she was throwing up on the side of the road. The thing I’m most sad about regarding this show’s cancellation is that Christina Milian never had enough to do and I think Vanessa was a great character. Oh well, I guess a season is all we’ll get. This was fun while it lasted.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Paget Brewster as Sara

What I’m Watching: New Girl (Season Finale)

New Girl: Season 5, Episode 21 and 22 “Wedding Eve” and “Landing Gear” (B)

These were generally fun episodes, though I don’t know that this show really has a better case for coming back for another round than its two Tuesday night companions that were just cancelled. I’m still going to watch of course, since I don’t think there’s anything that this show could do to really make me stop watching again. I’m glad that, after Jess distracted herself and everyone for an entire episode with a game of True American to avoid getting proposed to by Sam, it finally came out that he needed to break up with her because he was in love with Diane after all. Good riddance to him – he didn’t contribute much, and now Jess has the chance to realize that she’s still in love with Nick. The best part of these two hours was when she yelled at Nick for not realizing how great he was, which was of course closely followed by the news that he was going to give it a try with Reagan. I’m glad that Megan Fox did decide to show back up for the finale, though she definitely seemed much nicer and sweeter than the ice queen who first moved into the loft while Jess was on jury duty. I like how Winston’s relationship with Aly is progressing, and that they got to tell each other “I love you” after Aly was throwing up like crazy. And then there’s Schmidt, who thought it was a good idea to make the ultimate gesture and fly to convince Cece’s mom to come to the wedding when she ended up flying there on her own anyway. Some silly shenanigans followed, and I’m hopeful that their life as a married couple will prove slightly more entertaining than their time as an engaged one. This season wasn’t terrible but it also wasn’t great – this show can do better in season six.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Nasim Pedrad as Aly

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 21 “The Runaway Dinosaur” (B-)

I’m not a huge fan of hokey episodes, and that is completely what this was. I don’t really buy the notion of the speed force existing as a physical entity with the ability to personify itself and take the form of people from Barry’s life, and that was an extraordinarily manipulative device that I didn’t find effective. It’s interesting to see what’s happening now and the role that people have in Barry’s life. Henry returning all of a sudden and now claiming to have some interest in an active role in his son’s life is awfully presumptuous, especially because other people, like Harry, have been around and watching over him while his real father was away following his release from prison. Iris sort of declared her love, or rather her desire for love, to Barry, and now they seem to be moving closer together, with an emphatic hug rather than a kiss after she managed to lure him back from permanently staying in the speed force – whatever that means. The simultaneous resurgence of Tony was worthwhile only for Cisco’s “iZombie” reference and the fact that he was played by Greg Finley, who was Drake on that show, which happens to air right after this show on the CW. Zoom’s metahuman gathering at the end of the episode and his threat to Caitlin were foreboding, and it’s hard to see how the returned Barry and his friends will be able to think of a plan that will be able to defeat them.