Friday, April 29, 2016

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 4, Episode 3 “Job” (B)

A lot happened in this episode, but I feel like most of it was away from Banshee and therefore a little less involving. This show always manages to outdo itself in its depiction of misery, and that was truer than ever as we saw a broken Job being tormented by his captors. He was almost unrecognizable, and given how much of a personality he has, it was especially harrowing and unsettling. After being more than ready to perform a foot amputation, our friends did manage to rescue Job, and he got his revenge on his torturer nearly immediately with a direct shot to the head. He’s obviously not going to be the same for a while, and the latest turn of events doesn’t suggest that any of our friends are going to be in good shape. Carrie seemed most worked up by Brock marching in with his deputies to arrest Lucas. Those charges might not stick, but he doesn’t seem to be fighting much. Proctor is very distracted, helping out a young girl who reminds him of Rebecca and regretting it pretty quickly. Rebecca’s parents showing up to demand her body is a reminder that not everyone involved in this is a sinner. It’s useful to know that Cruz is fully in Proctor’s pocket and eager to exploit that relationship even more. Bunker, on the other hand, is definitely a good guy, not too keen to jump at the chance to kill his brother after his wife suggests it. Calvin is ready to explode, and hopefully Bunker won’t pick the wrong time to make his move.

What I’m Watching: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season Premiere)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 2, Episode 1 “Kimmy Goes Roller Skating!” (B+)

Ah, this show. I wasn’t too fond of season one overall but I thought there were some great aspects to it. This premiere, absurd as usual, emphasizes some of the best and most ridiculous elements that make this show work. I’m still not so into Lillian as a character, but she’s in the background enough hanging out with Fred Armisen that it’s not too much of a problem. I worried that Titus being revealed as a married man would lead to a long, drawn-out plotline, but instead it was all neatly wrapped up with a dance routine on the Amtrak platform and a handful of past lives coming back up as part of Titus’ schizophrenic personality. I enjoyed the reframing of Amtrak as a purposefully late destination for reuniting lovers, and I also appreciated Titus referring to Kimmy as Kim Blake Nelson, an especially humorous nickname given the fact that Tim Blake Nelson plays her father on the show. Kimmy’s spirit, as always, continues to be the defining part of the show, going after Dong and nearly getting him into trouble with immigration, constantly driven by positive energy. Seeing Jacqueline in her native habitat was pretty hilarious, as she failed to remember where her house was and then got sent out to the middle of the cornfield to do a dance so that she wouldn’t bother her parents anymore. That’s another plotline that could have gone wrong, yet this show managed to make it work. Here’s hoping for more of that this season, which I’ll get around to watching in full closer to the summer.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What I’m Watching: The Catch

The Catch: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Princess and the I.P.” (B+)

This was a pretty solid episode, finishing a few plotlines in ways that weren’t expected. I’ve been particularly impressed with the princess as a character thus far, and it was good to see that, when her brother showed up to take charge and knock her down a gender peg or too, she didn’t succumb to his influence. Instead, she forged ahead and managed to come up with the hefty sum of $15 million with no trouble at all. And she even gave Ben a parting gift expressly designated for him to give to the woman who got away. Speaking of said woman, it was great to see Alice catch Ben by surprise and show up as a wealthy philanthropist. Working with Agent Dao means that she realizes that she needs to catch him the right way to make him pay, and she obviously wrestled with whether it was what she wanted to do. Her decision to put her finger to her lips and unbutton her shirt to reveal the wire at the very moment that Ben was about to incriminate herself was a wonderful moment, one that indicates that these two are going to have a very complicated relationship going forward that isn’t going to be shared fully with their respective colleagues. Margot dealt with her latest obstacle in an interesting way that does seem to have successfully bought her more time. The case of the week had an unexpected ending, but the good guys appear to have won, which is a plus.

What I'm Watching: Orphan Black (Season Premiere)

Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 1 "The Collapse of Nature" (B+)

I'm so glad to have one of my favorite shows back on the air, and it's a shame that I'm so far behind on TV that it took me two full weeks to watch the premiere. After a great third season that transformed this show's premise by adding the dimension of a set of male clones, this fourth season completely rebooted everything. It's an incredible tribute to the incomparable Tatiana Maslany that she can introduce not one but two new characters and make it feel like an entirely different actress is playing them. It's a particular pleasure to meet Beth, since she's a character who, in death, played such a big role in the start of this show but who we never actually got to see. She's formidable both in her doggedness and in just how controlled she is by addiction. Both Dr. Leekie and the famously-tailed Olivier are back after making exits from the series as well, and it's fascinating to see how Beth fits in to the clone collective. She was definitely in charge, telling Alison what to do, like wiring money to a frustrated and broke Cosima for tuition without an expense report. I like how the show transitioned from a Beth-centric episode back to the present, with Art returning to the picture and this new, mask-wearing clone MK in town to warn Sarah that she's in serious danger. She could have been just like Helena or Katja, yet, like the other clones, she’s so singular in her strangeness. What a superb season it’s sure to be.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1, Episode 11 “The Magnificent Eight” (B+)

This show is usually all about the science fiction, and therefore it’s nice to see a fully fun episode that resembles the third “Back to the Future” film a lot more than the first two (though I personally like the second film best). I enjoyed Ray’s enthusiasm for getting to experience the Old West and that Rip knew he was hopeless to stop the team from going out and messing with the timeline as they got themselves into a bar brawl within a few minutes. It’s a good thing that Snart had his finger on the trigger to save Professor Stein’s life when he nearly got himself shot from trying to defend a woman’s honor. It figures that they would run into someone who knew that they weren’t from that time, who happened to be Jonah Hex, who I now realize was also the title character played by Josh Brolin in the poorly-reviewed 2010 film. The notion of getting too attached to being in a certain time is intriguing, and it’s evidently the cause of many problems. Anna Deavere Smith playing an older version of Kendra’s past self was pretty trippy, and an important charge for her to defy her destiny. The Pilgrim seems like a formidable and worrisome enemy, especially since she’s starting by taking out every member of this team long before Rip ever found them. I’m not sure how exactly they can combat being hunted that way, and it’s definitely a much more serious and intense threat than they’ve dealt with so far.

What I’m Watching: Underground

Underground: Season 1, Episode 6 “Troubled Water” (B+)

The slaves are still on the run in this episode, slowing making their way to freedom as their pursuers continue to be right on their heels. Coming upon a boat was an interesting development, and August acted quickly to ensure that they wouldn’t be able to navigate before he got shot and started to bloody the water. Ultimately, I think that this show’s weekly format is working well since it’s a grander historical drama, and it gets to play itself out over the course of a full season, plus the second season for which the show has just been unsurprisingly renewed. The cinematography in this episode was very strong, with the small boat floating along in the vast water a powerful image. Rosalee’s ability to swim came in very handy, and she managed to save the day in a tremendous way when the catchers who ran August out of town were about to shoot every one of them. August was formidable in his brief exchange with the Native Americans, and it seems that, despite that relatively peaceful interaction, they’re all for siding with the underdog against the white man. They should prove to be excellent allies for the runaway slaves as long as no other conflicts emerge. John and Elizabeth managed to pull one over on the marshal in a big way, working to establish their allegiance to the cause of catching runaway slaves while hiding one of them in the same wagon as the concussed lawman without him having any idea.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 19 “Man Shouldn’t Lie” (B-)

Some parts of this episode weren’t all that bad, which is nice to see. What I saw as the main plotline, however, was relatively irritating, since Phil being on his own planet is something that happens often but isn’t quite as good as when he’s actually invested in something. Claire trying so hard to make sure that he didn’t find the dog that she had accidentally brought home so that he wouldn’t try to get a pet seemed unnecessary, especially since he nonchalantly identified the pug as soon as he noticed its existence, so long after the dog first entered the home. Jay trying to enjoy his life and embrace his unexpected new friendship with cool guy Reece, who embodies everything Jay admires and knows just about everyone, without giving Gloria the satisfaction of knowing she was right was pretty entertaining. I liked the casting of Adam Arkin, a great actor who has done both comedy and drama recently, as Reece. I wasn’t into Mitchell’s crusade to help his upstairs neighbors come out of the closet, but the twist of Cam ending up as the enthusiastic drummer while the band played the song “Man Shouldn’t Lie” was perfect since that took a truly unfortunate turn that resulted in a mangled attempt by Cam to salvage the situation and impart some tolerant knowledge on the audience. The kid stuff was fine in this episode, relegated to Alex being too scientific with her anniversary gifts and Manny annoying Joe with his questions during his show.

Pilot Review: Game of Silence

Game of Silence (NBC)
Premiered April 12 at 10pm

There’s something about this show’s title that made me not like it long before I knew anything about it, and watching the actual series didn’t do much to help. There are some good actors in this cast, to be sure, but there’s so little about this show that’s appealing. I don’t mind dark or disturbing if it’s worth it, like “Banshee” or “Jessica Jones,” but to me there wasn’t anything that made seeing these young boys who made a mistake joyriding being tormented in prison just because the other prisoners, the guards, and the warden felt like it enticing. On many shows, I feel like I want to learn more about the characters and see where their stories go. In this case, I’d rather forget them as soon as I can. It’s hard for me not to picture star David Lyons as General Monroe on the very poor “Revolution,” though he did star in a more heroic vehicle on the equally terrible “The Cape.” I don’t find him to be a great lead, though he is a good fit for the moral ambiguity that comes with the role. Michael Raymond-James was superb on “True Blood” but I haven’t found anything he has done since then all that memorable. Larenz Tate has been great on “House of Lies” and “Rescue Me,” and he really deserves a better part. And then there’s a man from the aforementioned “Banshee,” Demetrius Grosse, stuck in one of the only inarguably fully villainous roles. I imagine these actors will all be on other shows soon, and I look forward to following some of those series rather than sticking around for this one.

How will it work as a series? There are a number of gaps between what we saw happen when the boys got sent to prison in 1988 and the present, so I imagine there’s quite a narrative to plug those holes. It’s sure to be grim and unpleasant, and there’s also the matter of Jackson needing to keep the secrets of his past from his former boss and future wife, which should up the intensity considerably.
How long will it last? The show premiered okay on Tuesday night at 10pm and then faltered considerably when it moved to its regular Thursday at 10pm slot. It doesn’t seem long for this world. NBC might not get rid of it right away, but there’s no way it’s going to live on past this season.

Pilot grade: D

What I’m Watching: The Grinder

The Grinder: Season 1, Episode 19 “A System on Trial” (B)

Having this show off the air for a while has made me forget all about it, which isn’t necessarily a sign of the quality of the show, but moreso an indicator that it’s not one of my must-watch series. We still have three episodes left before this show closes out its first season and goes on hiatus, possibly forever, though by then I imagine we’ll have the expected confirmation that this show will be back for a second season, which I hope will continue to hone the quality and get us towards a better and more consistent place. What was fun about this episode was that it brought in a focus group, something our friend Dean is very familiar with, to analyze Dean Sr.’s behavior. As always, it ended up backfiring on Stewart, who found himself subject to critique by the focus group and tried to shape his behavior to appear more lawyer-like, among other things that shouldn’t matter given the fact that he, and not Dean, is actually a lawyer. I’m really enjoying the brief interactions between Claire and Debbie. Debbie doesn’t get nearly as agitated as her husband about not being heard, and therefore it’s a delight to see her marvel at Claire’s ability to just not care in any given moment, and to give the impression that she doesn’t care even if she actually does. I’d still like to see Claire put to better use and featured more, but for now having Debbie around to get her to speak is a perfectly adequate and entertaining solution in the interim.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 1, Episode 4 “Check a Box” (B+)

In this episode, our main married characters didn’t even interact with Izzy into the final scene, but, as usual, she was on their mind in a big way. It’s so interesting to see how much Jack and Emma are actually on the same page about going forward with Izzy, since they’re both worried that they are going to become too invested in Izzy and that their own relationship won’t truly be strengthened. That said, they had plenty of great sex without her being there, and just because they were thinking about her the whole time shouldn’t diminish it. I like that we got our first glimpse of Ava acting on the knowledge that she has gotten from spying on her next door neighbors, flirting with Jack and forcing him to come up with a cover story about his twenty-year-old niece that is surely going to come back to haunt him very soon, especially when he has her mother over for a dinner party as part of his plan to win his new position. As Carmen threatened to chase down Emma if she didn’t break things off with Izzy, it was Jack who actually showed up at her apartment to end things. I love how Izzy enticed him to reconsider, and that a furious Nina arrived home and realized who he was, prompting a fabulous cliffhanger ending where he has to answer whether he’s a client or not. I’m extremely eager to find out what he said, though obviously Nina and Izzy’s roommate arrangement is in serious jeopardy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 3, Episode 16 “Paradise Lost” (B+)

This show is really centering back on that original inhuman currently inhabiting Ward’s body and the origins of said race as it relates to Afterlife. We got to see a glimpse of Malick’s past and his family’s immersion in the cult of Hydra, as well as a reappearance of Reed Diamond’s Dr. Whitehall, in prison at the time yet still highly influential on a young Malick. As the pieces came together, it seemed like Malick’s daughter Stephanie, played by Bethany Joy Lenz from “One Tree Hill,” was even more of a true believer than he was. The fact that seeing Hive’s true face only made her more loyal didn’t end up doing anything for her since he opted to punish Malick for his sins by literally sucking the life out of his daughter instead of taking out the disloyal father and keeping his daughter by her side. He has quite the ally in Giyera, who got more screentime than usual as he fell for the trap set for him by Coulson and May but then managed to escape and take control of the ship enough to sabotage it and send it straight to the ground and into enemy territory. I’m not quite sure why Lincoln’s past as an alcoholic is so crucial, but I was impressed by how Daisy dealt with the mines after she successfully separated herself from the first one. Blasting them all away and knocking their unfriendly host unconscious in the process was a neat trick.

What I’m Watching: iZombie (Season Finale)

iZombie: Season 2, Episode 18 and 19 “Dead Beat” and “Salivation Army” (B+)

This season was much longer than season one, increasing from 13 episodes to 19, but I still wish there was more of it. Fortunately, this series was already renewed as part of CW’s network-wide endorsement of its programs, and based on how the finale ended, I’m very eager to see how the show will be different when it returns. There were a number of crucial developments in these two episodes, and enough villains are dead that things have to be substantially transformed simply because the same threats don’t exist. It’s impressive that Liv made it almost two seasons without revealing her true self to Clive, and he didn’t buy it when she finally spilled the beans until she stabbed herself and then pulled the knife out with no problem. There wasn’t much time to think, and fortunately Major survived after his idiotic lawyer, played by the always entertaining Ken Marino, failed to give him the energy bar Peyton delivered. Blaine is no longer a bad guy, now officially the knight in shining armor after she was kidnapped by Boss’ guys, much to Ravi’s disappointment since he too was pining for Peyton. With Blaine’s henchmen and Boss’ team out of the picture, it will be interesting to see what role Blaine plays, although the world has definitely changed in a big way. I’m beyond thrilled to see Andrea Savage from “Episodes” as Vivian Stoll, the military powerhouse who was hanging out and chewing on a brain waiting to meet Liv and tell her the war has started. Vaughn’s death was appropriately gruesome, and though Rita didn’t make it, Major managed to be a true hero in that moment. Drake’s death was tragic but at least we know that he sacrificed himself so that no one else would be hurt. This was a pretty cool double-decker finale, a fantastic capper to a great season that has solidified this show as one of the most consistent and enjoyable on TV.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Rose McIver

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 5, Episode 14 “300 Feet” (C)

If there’s one thing I think that this show didn’t need, it was Jess having a restraining order taken out against her. Jess does enough crazy things that appear stalkerish without having to actually be labeled as one, and this episode’s plot was just a recipe for unfunny disaster. Jess going through a car wash was especially silly and unnecessary, and there are so many moments that she could have avoided the situation and just happened not to, which was unfortunate. Naturally, getting back together with Sam, or at least sleeping with him, was an inevitability, and that’s where Winston came in to reference his cop nature and tried to separate them since Jess was very much in violation of the restraining order at that point. I actually like this show a lot more when Jess is in a committed relationship with someone, though I’d prefer that it was Nick or even Ryan to the pretty useless and inconsistent Sam. Nick and Schmidt were off dealing with the competitor who considered them like annoying ants, and of course they turned that into something much bigger than it needed to be. I enjoyed the casting of Busy Philipps as Connie, and I liked every part of Cece’s role in the whole debacle. This show transitions to two episodes per week for the next four weeks to finish out its season, and I’d like to hope for more consistency and quality, and some general direction other than everyone just waiting out the time until Cece and Schmidt finally tie the knot.

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 2, Episode 9 “Nailed” (B+)

This episode did not waste any time in showing all the implications of Jimmy’s late-night copying and doctoring activity. The wrong address on the paperwork was such a simple mistake that it shouldn’t have been a problem, but Jimmy was smart enough to know that it could undo the entire deal, as was the case when the board argued that they had not had a chance to consider the property at 1261, just the one at 1216. It would have been just a simple mistake had Chuck not been in court to see the whole thing combust, since Howard would have assumed that Chuck was just too stressed and had made a minor error. Instead, Chuck knew exactly what had happened, and called Kim over to tell her about it. It’s disheartening but fair that Kim knew right away that Chuck was probably right, and her first response in bed that night was to tell him that they would never talk about it before she warned him that he needed to be careful to cover his tracks. Chuck’s aggravation got the best of him in the copy shop, and that fall looked very bad, which may make things even worse. Mike ripped off the cartel pretty easily, and so far it’s just Nacho who’s on to him, but Tio and the cartel can’t be far behind. My question is when Gus Fring enters the picture if in fact he does, and I’m sure I’m not the only “Breaking Bad” fan who would be happy to have him stop by the show and become a regular player, even though the show is already superb without him.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What I’m Watching: Blindspot

Blindspot: Season 1, Episode 17 “Mans Telepathic Loyal Lookouts” (B-)

I noted last week that I wasn’t sure how I fond I was of having David appear as a physical hallucination to Patterson, and this episode featured him almost more than anyone else. These tattoos really don’t lead to good places, as evidenced by the imaginary David leading Patterson down a trail that got her knocked out, tied up, and ready to be sacrificed as soon as the time was right. Not telling anyone what she was looking into was her first mistake, something she should have considered since David could have been saved had it not been for his solo work. Fortunately, everyone knows her well enough to realize that her being late even just an hour or two was cause for concern, and though she nearly froze to death and got shot, she was rescued just in time. It’s hard to believe that an elected official would be complicit in such things when he was so visible, and I feel like that only happens in TV or movies, whereas it’s usually sex addiction, prostitutes, or cheating in real life that leads to the downfall of politicians. Jane is connecting quite a bit with Oscar, opening up to him and trusting the information that he gives her as accurate and honest. Sarah just won’t give up trying to figure out why Edgar stopped seeing her, and he’s doing his best to keep her safe while he’s obviously being watched. Bringing Bethany into the circle of trust was a smart idea, but Tasha is going to be on their heels trying to get information to get out of her own sticky situation.