Monday, March 27, 2017

What I'm Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 6, Episode 20 "Misery" (B)

I understand that this episode's title is meant to serve as a parody of the Oscar-winning 1990 film helmed by Rob Reiner, who got to have fun played the bed bound character here whose caretaker, under the guise of keeping up his health and speeding along his recovery, wouldn't let him out. Like many of Jess' plotlines of late, it fell flat, and it's better just to ignore and forget it altogether. I enjoyed the fact that Schmidt and Cece just showed up at the loft and found that every single person, including Winston's mom, made mention of them having moved out and asked what they were doing there. They were so eager to still be involved in their lives since living in a house wasn't all they had hoped it would be, and I laughed when Cece reacted to Nick not having her number in his phone. Egging Nick on to assert himself in Reagan's life a bit wasn't an initially intelligent idea, but I think it pushed him far enough to be able to realize that he and Reagan just don't work. If Jess ever answered her phone, maybe they could get started on getting back together since anything else seems inevitable at this point. Winston hosting a fake radio show just so that his mom wouldn't know that he was a cop was the epitome of ridiculousness, and I'm glad that Aly found something different - bargain shopping - to bond with his mom about which led to some serious honesty and included a few funny moments.

What I'm Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 3, Episode 17 "Music Meister" (C+)

So I don't really read much about shows or episodes before they air, and as a result some major crossover events like this one come as a surprise to me. I'm not sure I would have been any more excited had I known what was in store. The entire existence of the Music Meister felt unnecessary, and showing up to teach them a lesson about the power of love was far from a convincing legitimization of his appearance. I'm also not sure why we needed a musical episode, though I can understand that the talent involved makes it seem like a no-brainer. I remember seeing Grant Gustin, Jesse L. Martin, and Victor Garber in musicals back when I first heard of each of them, and it suddenly occurred to me halfway through the episode that the Meister was played by Darren Criss, who had a thread with Gustin during his breakout role on "Glee." Having Cisco, Stein, Winn, and Merlyn play parts in the musical was moderately fun, but I've seen the same thing done better in other projects in the past. I honestly would have preferred to see Kara and Barry get together before going back to the old inevitable couples from their respective shows. Barry re-proposing to Iris while belting out an incredibly operatic tune was one way to reignite the romance, and at least it means that they'll be back on the right track, united to finally try to defeat Savitar once and for all by the end of the season. This musical diversion shouldn't last past this episode, and I think there's more to be done to cover the team in its own universe without the need for more musical tunes.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What I’m Watching: Humans

Humans: Season 2, Episode 7 (B+)

Okay, so I know that AMC actually aired the eighth and final episode of this season right after the seventh, but I’d prefer to stretch this show out longer, especially since this hour was really good. It’s hard to decipher who the good guys and who the bad guys are when the one at the top is actually Dr. Morrow, whose feelings about synths come from a much more personal place and who isn’t intent on making the sentient ones suffer the same way as some of her colleagues are. After Hester nearly intimidated Mattie into cooperation by force at the start of the episode, she showed a cool, calculating demeanor when she didn’t let herself be talked down by a surprisingly adept Pete and instead killed both the doctor and Pete. I’ll admit that Pete’s death caught me off-guard since I hadn’t imagined that he would be killed and certainly not like this, and the most intense part of it was seeing Karen sob with such sadness and then reveal no trace of any emotion just seconds later. The devastation that Leo and Anita felt when all of the freed synths collapsed behind them after they had been broken out was poignant, and it’s easy to forget that they too can be simply switched off with a mere touch or click. As they are immersing themselves fully into the battle, Niska is deciding that she doesn’t want to be a part of it anymore, preferring instead to spend time with her girlfriend, someone who makes her feel human. The news that Renie isn’t really a synth probably shouldn’t be too surprising, and it’s just the latest interesting comment about what kind of behavior passes for normal in this new world.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 14 “Chapter Fifty-Eight” (B)

I’m usually all for this show and its imagined diversions enthusiastically described by the narrator, but I wasn’t too fond of the election parody that served as the meat of this episode. Having Jane and Petra fight to be room mom was dramatic enough on its own, and the “I’m with her” ending, which mildly amusing, wasn’t worth the whole thing. I do like the fact that Rafael ended up being the choice, though I’m not sure what that says about patriarchy in society (not much, I assume, just a bit of food for thought). Mateo’s new aide seemed a little casual and laidback, ready to clash with Jane on everything, but he turned out to be just the right dose of optimism for both Jane and Rafael, who were feeling insecure in the face of Mateo’s behavior. I enjoyed Rogelio having a Sunday Funday with Mateo which involved being fitted for suits, and clearly Rogelio’s inappropriate communication was well-timed since Bruce got the hint that Xiomara wasn’t over her ex, who may now have moved past his kid condition. It’s nice to see Alba reinvesting in her romance with Jorge, despite an unfortunate mishap. As the narrator would say, she’s not the only one jumping back into the dating scene, with Jane declaring herself ready to think about it and Rafael and Petra going down a very familiar road for what’s now probably the third or fourth time. Will it stick this time? I’m betting not, but I’m eager to see how it plays out and what happens when it comes out.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 2, Episode 16 “Star-Crossed” (B-)

I didn’t find this episode to be all that great, mainly because, once again, characters jumped to conclusions and assumed that personalities had changed overnight when that couldn’t be further from the case. Yes, it’s true that Mon-El lied to Kara about who he was, but that’s also because Daxomerites and Kryptonians apparently really hate each other. I didn’t recognize Teri Hatcher, famous for her own part in a Superman series, at the end of the last episode, and if I hadn’t seen her name before Kevin Sorbo’s in the credits I may not even have recognized her. It’s a fun idea to have the likes of Hatcher, Dean Cain, Lynda Carter, and Laura Vandervoort take on guest roles on this show, but this was the most lackluster such spot thus far. I’m not sure the whole plotline added much, other than leading to Kara’s breakup with Mon-El, which was immediately followed by the appearance of yet another otherworldly disruptor to trap Kara in a trance of sorts and lead to the very exciting end titles declaring that this story would be continued on “The Flash,” an unexpected but welcome crossover just a few months after the last CW multi-show event. Lyra turning into a con woman felt like it came from out of nowhere, and of course she was just doing it for her kidnapped younger brother, a device that seems to be used very often. Let’s hope a visit to Earth-One will help improve the quality once this show picks back up next week.

Friday, March 24, 2017

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 6, Episode 6 “Full Disclosure” (B+)

This episode was a return to more of the conversations that have helped to define this show throughout its run, and the content of this half-hour constituted what this show should be covering right now. Hannah isn’t being too subtle about her pregnancy, telling the world in a blunt way and almost always receiving laughter as a response since no one can believe that she would actually be seeing considering having a baby. I enjoyed the fact that even the likes of Keith, her father’s boyfriend, decided to weigh in on whether she should tell the father, something she apparently considered at the end of the episode even if it didn’t lead to much since the operator couldn’t connect her to Jean-Louis. Jessa coming by to tell her that she was hurt was interesting, and her choice of the word “dear” to describe her friendship with Hannah was telling, since it didn’t indicate any sort of real or true closeness but rather an enduring presence devoid of substance or strength. Adam was obsessed, predictably since it’s his nature, with Hannah watching the movie to tell him if it was real, and the lingering shot of him calling her back to the bed at the end of the episode suggests that he may well be where she’s headed in the end. Desi showing up high was a predictable development, and the more telling thing is that, as articulated by her mom, Marnie still can’t tell when she’s around someone who’s not in his right mind and clearly under the influence of drugs. I’m not sure that we needed to see Marnie’s mom as her partner slash fake sister, since this seemed like a ripe opportunity to focus in on Marnie’s revitalized career as a solo artist.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 2, Episode 5 “Currency” (B)

I’ll admit, I didn’t exactly follow what happened in this episode and who was playing who. Axe is all about risking it all for a huge return, and he nearly got screwed over – I think – by one of his former allies, and then managed to bait his other friends-slash-enemies into sticking with it to ensure he could still make a boatload of money. Not telling Boyd about his impending arrest after he found out was a calculated move, and he managed to get the upper hand with Chuck by telling him that he definitely expected to see more of Chuck arresting people with him looking on and getting to walk away. I’m not sure why we needed so much time devoted to Wags on his personal journey back to a place of soundness and mental fitness, and anyone should have been able to realize that he was feeling inferior because he was no longer Axe’s only right-hand man. It was jarring to see Axe exhibit such cruelty towards Lara, someone he has always supported up to this point, and I think it’s something that she’s not going to soon get over since he clearly doesn’t want her to be successful, certainly not as much as him. Despite the church status update, it doesn’t seem that the world’s least friendly and social internal auditor Oliver is really headed anywhere with his case, still determined to find a smoking gun that may not be there in the way he wants it to be if he hasn’t been able to stumble upon it yet.

What I’m Watching: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies: Season 1, Episode 5 “Once Bitten” (B)

There were a lot of flashes happening at the beginning and end of this episode, and a few throughout as well, and they’re not providing all that much information and absolutely no answers. We had our first bit of true danger with Madeline, who was confronted by the man who was ready to run away with her and then was involved in a pretty major car accident that luckily didn’t cause her any damage and didn’t even make anyone close to her wonder why she was in that car in the first place. Celeste reached an important point in her secret solo therapy when she acknowledged that Perry hurts her and started to realize that maybe it wasn’t right or something that she had to stay in, but hugging Perry so tightly when she went to surprise him with the kids at the airport didn’t show any more progress in that area. Jane outright lied to her new friends about her intentions with the father of her son, and it’s a good thing that she decided not to use that gun she brought with her even if she was pretty frenzied on her drive home, erratic enough to get herself pulled over. Ziggy didn’t cause any trouble in this episode, and in fact seemed perfectly content and elated to spend some extra time with his friend Chloe when Madeline picked them up from school, and it was Amabella’s turn to be seen as a child who might have some issues dealing with society by her extremely concerned parents who have little patience left for the way the situation at school is being handled.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 14 “The Other Side” (B-)

We’re getting closer to what’s sure to be an explosive end to the season, but we’re still inching towards it piece by piece with a continually segmented approach. We haven’t visited the Hilltop in a bit, and therefore it’s somewhat stirring to see the intensity of the training that’s going on to ensure that, when everyone finally decides that it’s time to rise up, they know how to fight. The dramatic music to go along with that was pretty effective, and unfortunately the rest of the episode didn’t quite match it. I think we’ve seen Maggie, Sasha, and Rosita plan to trek over to the Saviors’ compound and take their revenge enough times already, and it was remarkably simple for them to get there and have Negan in their crosshairs within moments of arrival. The shot wasn’t taken, of course, and then Eugene didn’t even want to leave with them despite a clear path of escape. It’s hard to tell whether Gregory is going to give the mutineers up or if he’s playing them so that he can allow his people to take them out by seeming like he’s cooperating, but I’m betting on the former, which is bad news for everyone involved. I’m getting very tired of seeing the Saviors show up and tell the good guys how great they have it, and how they should be grateful for the privilege of not having every single thing they have and find immediately pillaged from them by the more powerful.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 6, Episode 9 “Sock Puppets” (C)

I’m not amused by this episode’s title, which references the scheme being put on by Brett O’Keefe’s people. His character makes some sense as a conspiracy theorist, and it is mildly interesting to see that he’s directing his minions to troll the Internet with his ideas and ensure that mass chaos and disruption are created whenever possible. Yet Max having the perfect resume and just being his own antisocial self to get the job without so much as a background check or a reference doesn’t track at all, since, even if Brett didn’t trust those avenues, he’d still need to do something to research his hire before letting him have unfettered access to everything, exposing himself in a big way. We’ve learned from this show that paranoia is worthwhile, and no one is immune from it. Dar should be watching his back as he literally has Quinn in his home demanding answers and Carrie gunning for him with Keane’s full support after she completely flip-flopped and decided to trust Carrie implicitly after writing her off last week. The notion that Saul goes down for all of this even though he’s always been pure of heart and intention is miserable, and I’d be far more impressed if the action was more compelling and involving. This show doesn’t seem to have a point other than to show how broken the homeland security system is, and rare moments of tangential relief, like Carrie getting visitation with Franny – which of course immediately struck me as a trap engineered by Dar – are meant to be the only light in an otherwise very dark world.

Take Three: Making History

Making History: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Boyfriend Experience” (B+)

This show continues to be a lot of fun going into episode three, and it didn’t take long for some of Dan’s lies about all the things from the future that he invented to come back to haunt him. It’s funny that he was surprised that Deborah was listening so closely to him while he was yammering on about everything that existed in the future, and watching her react to the wonder of Dan’s brilliance was very entertaining. She’s not nearly as clueless as she often seems, as her rejection of Chris’ assertion that there are different kinds of smart indicated. It’s totally true that dressing up as someone whose appearance she wasn’t familiar with as a romantic gesture was hopelessly misguided, but at least it managed to impress her enough after he fell into one of her traps and apparently drank his own fake breast milk to survive the hour or two that he spent in there. My favorite line of the episode, highlighted by exceptional delivery, was Dan’s reply of “Yon woods?” Chris fighting for tenure does seem to be a little more intense of a battle in a literal way than you’d expect, but it appears that he’s forever tethered to his good friend Dan, which is all but guaranteed to keep his academic future from being too bright. I like that Dan went back to the past to get some sage advice from his friends, who were supportive of his plan but not appreciative of the fact that he didn’t ask them anything about how their revolution was going.

Pilot Review: Iron Fist

Iron Fist (Netflix)
Premiered March 17

I feel like I need to be watching all of these new Marvel series, partly because I know that I’m going to want to follow “The Defenders” when it premieres and won’t want to miss anything from the mythology. While I was completely enthralled with “Jessica Jones” from the first episode, it took me considerably longer to warm to both “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage.” This show, on the other hand, seems markedly different, and much, much less sophisticated and impressive. This introductory exposition felt like it dragged so much, with the nonchalant and mysteriously alive Danny Rand insisting over and over that he was who he said he was while two people from his past refused to even acknowledge the possibility before eventually turning much more sinister, making their intentions to keep his potential existence quiet clear. The one scene in which Danny did something impressive, flipping himself out of the way when a taxi nearly took him out, also felt somewhat forced and out of place, and I can only hope whatever action awaits going forward will be far more convincing and compelling. I feel like I need to give this show another try just to see if there’s anything of interest to be found, but at this point, I’m not at all optimistic given this extremely lackluster and plodding start. No one in the cast did much to help that, and I’m finding Danny more irritating than anything else, hardly what you want to be saying about your main character from the very beginning.

How will it work as a series? We know that there’s more to Danny than he’s letting on and that he is indeed who he says he is, and so I assume we’re going to learn a lot more about what turned him into who he is today and why everyone seems to want him did. It might be a bit interesting, but I’m not sold.
How long will it last? Premiering this show last was probably smart for Netflix since, seeing the dismal reviews that it has gotten across the board, I assume there’s going to settle for Iron Fist being a character on an ensemble show and not getting another showcase season of his own.

Pilot grade: C

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1, Episode 8 “How Much Vomit?” (B+)

Of course on this show the killer who they accidentally turned into a zombie instead of taking him out would want to “kill with music” rather than go on a literal killing spree. I enjoyed the fact that Sheila immediately took to Loke and that they bonded because there was no one else they knew who could relate to what they were going through. Sure, things got a little weird when he brought a literal food locker for Sheila to go through, but I like that he kept recording things he said because he thought that they would make great lyrics. Falling for Sheila and determining that he had to murder Joel wasn’t a great development, but they managed to make use of the extra stuff that they bought when they went shopping – even though it wasn’t on the list – to take him out and solve that problem once and for all. Abby and Eric got into shenanigans of their own when they sold Joel’s bike, which was promptly chopped up for parts, and then had to figure out how to best dismember it so that they could kill two birds with one stone and show Sheila and Joel that Abby was ready to be on board with their new lifestyle. The ending scene was comic and disgusting at the same time, with Joel humorously indulging Sheila’s efforts to turn her missing toe into something sexy before her eye decided that it was the right time to drop out of its socket. Oh, what it must be like to film this show.

What I’m Watching: Sneaky Pete (Season Finale)

Sneaky Pete: Season 1, Episode 10 “The Longest Day” (B+)

Well, this concluding hour didn’t disappoint. I’m relieved to know that it was Winslow and not Audrey who got himself shot when the gun went off, though it clearly put her in a state of shock as her walking out in front of the car when Otto and Taylor pulled up indicated. For as goofy and unserious as Taylor has seemed throughout this season, he sprang into action in an impressive way, calmly figuring out what to do to ensure that Audrey and Otto wouldn’t be incriminated in any way by what had happened with Winslow. Lance looked like one hell of a fool trying to turn the tables on Chayton and insist that the land was worth so much because of the uranium, and Julia was not in the mood to humor him even for a moment. She really has been a crucial part of this show, and still ranks as my favorite character. Things played out differently than I expected with the whole Vince situation, with Pete stepping in to play cards and then getting caught cheating with the other guy, implicating all of them in yet another con on Vince. Fortunately, there were so many layers that even with Vince shooting someone he managed to get shot and they all got away safe. Eddie was hurt that he didn’t know what was going on, but Pete was smart not to let him in on everything since he did confess right away to try to save his brother. Saying goodbye to the family wasn’t too definitive, which is good, but it looks he has entirely different troubles, in the form of Desmond Harrington from “Dexter,” waiting for him next season. I look forward to it – this has been a great season!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Marin Ireland as Julia

What I’m Watching: The Catch

The Catch: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Hammer” (B-)

There’s a certain silliness to this show that doesn’t quite feel appropriate for the rather serious and deadly content that does happen on this show, both with the assassination of Margot’s most loyal henchman and Tommy’s precarious predicament. I can’t understand why Margot would think to hire Alice and Val, and I’m just as puzzled by the fact that they didn’t try to ensnare her in a trap so that they could send her back to jail. Somehow, they pulled this off without the FBI catching on or even noticing that anything was up since Justine was too busy mocking Ben and Rhys for thinking that they knew better regarding how to execute a job. They’re both being awfully casual about this informant-undercover work they’re doing, and just as unsubtle with impromptu dinner parties complete with Rhys wearing an apron and preparing a home-cooked meal. I’m not growing too fond of Tommy the more we get to know him, and tracking down Rhys to do something illicit with the money that we’ve just learned is very dangerous is a twist that just serves to complicate matters. Their plan to smoke out the sniper was admittedly pretty cool, and it worked very well even if he did get off a few shots at the decoys. Sophie being mad at Danny for not checking in on her might have been more compelling if the two were more fully-established characters, and instead we just got to see Sophie jump way in to an ill-advised romance with Tommy.