Saturday, May 30, 2020

What I’m Watching: Ramy (Season Premiere)

Ramy: Season 2, Episode 1 “Bay’ah” (B+)

I’m very excited that this show is back, and it feels like it’s been more than thirteen months since its last new episodes premiered (though I didn’t finish season one until the end of June. This opener was a strong reimmersion back into Ramy’s world, providing some helpful hints about what I forgot happened when Ramy went to Egypt. He certainly is masturbating a lot since his return, and he’s much more conflicted about the contradictions of his religion and his desires than he’s ever been. I like that the imam told him that the prophet didn’t watch porn, to which Ramy replied that the prophet didn’t have porn. Michael was helpful in directing Ramy to a new imam, played by two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, who’s also a two-time Emmy nominee for his performances on “True Detective” and “House of Cards.” He seemed a bit too eccentric at first, but he showed Ramy that he was actually listening to what he was saying by not dismissing his urges and inner conflict. Discussing the conditions of the actresses working in porn and asking him if he had showered were fair things for Ramy to contemplate, and he definitely got him to open up about everything that was bothering him. Farouk drinking whiskey to impress his boss while Maysa was confusing Eva Longoria and Jessica Alba was a major development that is sure to have reverberations throughout this season for this family. Ramy having the gun Uncle Naseem gave him pointed at him in the bathroom was an intense experience that added considerably to this multifaceted episode. I look forward to experiencing the rest of this season over the next few weeks.

What I’m Watching: Defending Jacob (Series Finale)

Defending Jacob: Season 1, Episode 8 “After” (B-)

This didn’t feel like the emphatic conclusion I was hoping for, doing what series finales often do and skipping ahead to a scene further in the future that necessitated a quick sprint through the events that got us there. Patz confessing and killing himself meant that Jacob got exonerated right away, but of course both Ben’s father was still convinced that he had done it. Father O’Leary stepping in to protect them from him revealed to Andy that he was working for Billy, who, perhaps not surprisingly, had sent his henchman to go take care of Patz, who very well may not have been guilty. Deciding to go to Mexico seemed innocuous enough, and Jacob’s fast friendship with Hope was a positive thing for the teenager who had been exorcized from society. But it all came flashing back when Hope went missing, and, most problematically, Laurie was reminded of what she believed her son to be capable of doing. Their drive to get him a haircut turned into something far more intense, and he, for the first time, seemed even more scared than she was. Turning the wheel so that they would hit the wall was a bold and, by all indications, purposeful act, one that did manage to prevent Jacob from hurting anyone since he couldn’t go anywhere or function on his own. Laurie getting cleared of all charges while Andy now has to live with the uncertainty of not knowing if everyone in his family except for him is capable of killing was definitely haunting, but it didn’t feel like the right way for this to end. All performers involved were strong, but this resolution makes this limited series feel less essential.

Series grade: B
Series MVP: Michelle Dockery as Laurie

What I’m Watching: Council of Dads

Council of Dads: Season 1, Episode 5 “Tradition” (B)

We’re only a few episodes into this show, and I appreciated the pinpointing of holidays as crucial moments in time that we could skip forward to in order to cover material more quickly. Her relationship with Sam progressed pretty well, with her revealing rather bluntly that Scott was dead and then ending up going on a fancy date with him on New Year’s Eve. They really would be a good match, but they’re not exactly in the same place since his ex is very much alive and potentially interested in trying again. Theo still didn’t seem thrilled at the notion of his mother dating someone else, though he caused plenty of trouble in this hour, even if he was just seeking a connection to normalcy. Robin’s mother coming to town was a lot, and I like that she swooped in right when she was needed to suggest cancelling Christmas so that they could do something great that didn’t constantly remind her of Scott’s absence. There seems to be a potential romance brewing between Larry and Patricia, and their portrayers are actually almost the same age, so maybe that could work. It was moving – and deeply reassuring – to see Oliver finally return home to forgive Peter and work on their marriage again. Margot, on the other hand, didn’t have much reason to celebrate, and it was good that she advocated for an equitable relationship when Anthony was all about loving everything but her. Things seemed to be going well for everyone by the time Scott’s birthday came around, but there’s always another crisis around the corner. Charlotte has barely been featured so far, and now her health looks to be the next big threat to this family’s happiness.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Take Three: Love Life

Love Life: Season 1, Episode 3 “Danny Two Phones” (B+)

This episode didn’t feature Darby falling head over heels for someone, but I liked that since it felt more realistic. Not every relationship is a big deal, and not every hookup leads to a relationship. Darby running into Augie sent her spiraling, and going to a party with Sara was a good opportunity for her to focus on something else. She did not react well to Danny’s initial move of taking her phone out of her hands, but he had a leg up on her when he saw her peeing on the roof and watched her get cut by a nail. I recognized actor Gus Halper, who played Danny, and I think it’s from his role as Joseph on “Dickinson.” Here, he was hard to read at first, and when we found out that he wasn’t a drug dealer but instead a guy so obsessed with his ex that he was paying for a second phone to keep all her voicemails, his persona changed. Doing 100 chin-ups impressed Darby at first, but she sensed enough where it was going that she had to make up a story about moving to Cleveland to avoid him. I like that he came to the museum and stood up for himself when he understood what she was doing, which gave her enough power to realize that it felt good to be the one walking away for once. Knowing that Augie was stalking her on social media while planning to leave with his new girlfriend would surely delight her even more. I enjoyed Sara’s many references to Jewish terms and traditions, and she sure has a lot to think about when it comes to the relationship everyone is so sure she’s supposed to be in with Jim.

Round Two: Love Life

Love Life: Season 1, Episode 2 “Bradley Field” (B+)

It’s interesting to watch this show knowing that each of the relationships Darby enters into aren’t going to work out, though it’s very possible that one might restart again and end up sticking. The shot of her pregnant and walking the streets of New York City at the end of the episode gives us something to look forward to, and this time we got to experience something that was much more uncomfortable than a career move to Washington diluting the fun of being at a wedding together. The sexual tension between Darby and Bradley was very evident as soon as she showed up to his luxurious apartment, and that relationship had a relatively natural start since they already knew each other and just hadn’t seen each other in a while. I like actor Scoot McNairy, who has appeared in “Frank” and “Narcos: Mexico” and plenty more. He was great here as the likeable if somewhat hard to read Bradley. Darby adjusted pretty quickly to that way of living, bringing over her friends’ laundry and doing well in front of his fancy friends, even if that made her feel inadequate and like she needed to enroll immediately in art classes. Things really were going perfectly fine until his dad died and she felt out of place at his funeral being treated like the help, and his ex-wife showing up like a celebrity guest just made it all much worse. His mother, played by Marceline Hugot from “The Leftovers,” was also quite intimidating. Giving a toast where she referenced his sexual preferences was cringe-worthy, and there didn’t seem to be much left to do after that. The beauty is that another relationship is bound to start soon, and in this time she even missed some developments in the lives of her friends, namely the girl hugging her who appears to be dating Mallory.

Pilot Review: Love Life

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Mrs. America (Series Finale)

Mrs. America: Season 1, Episode 9 “Reagan” (B)

I found this final episode to be the weakest of the series, but that doesn’t mean it was bad, just that everything else up to this point was superior. Maybe it was that each hour focused specifically on one woman, and the penultimate one was about the lesser-known women behind the scenes. This hour was more about what happened after as this show rushed to its rather abrupt conclusion that came as a result of Reagan’s election. The biggest casualty was definitely Phyllis herself who, after basking in the glory of getting to mock Bella and Gloria publicly and await a phone call from the president she helped get elected, did in fact get that call, only to be told that she couldn’t get what she had worked for because he needed to placate the pro-ERA groups. Her fate wasn’t all that different from what happened to Alice, which was to realize that she was no longer part of the movement she had worked so hard to support, unwilling to accept the concessions that Rosemary cruelly told her she should have known would have to be made. Bella being dismissed because she wasn’t wanted anymore was another unfortunate retirement, though at least she had the backing of her fellow liberals – including Jill – who showed solidarity by refusing to participate if she couldn’t be a part of it. Ending with cuts to modern-day happenings related to the ERA was very powerful, and this show definitely signed off on a high note. This series is likely headed for major awards recognition, and I for one will be happy to see it collect many trophies. While Blanchett was obviously excellent, I’d also love to see recognition for Elizabeth Banks (Jill), Ari Graynor (Brenda), and Kayli Carter (Pamela) in addition to the big-name stars.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Cate Blanchett as Phyllis

Thursday, May 28, 2020

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 5, Episode 14 “The One Where We're Trapped On TV” (B)

On most shows, characters inexplicably appearing on sitcoms with laugh tracks might seem strange, but somehow it doesn’t seem so far from normal on this one. I’d like to see a little bit more of the big picture of this fate-ruled world where the worker drones edit history so that there’s nothing objectionable or rebellion-inspiring since we just got a taste with the chatty Mona and doomsday prophet Gary. At least it explains that Charlie had a whole plan to keep the legends alive since she knew her sisters might be victorious, though it doesn’t seem that she planned for them to ever escape their blissful TV show existences. I enjoyed the parodies of “Friends,” “Downton Abbey,” and “Star Trek,” with a real commitment to costumes and questionable copyright infringement. The notion of having both the Zari we used to know and the one we’ve come to know along with a reincarnated Behrad is definitely appealing since it gives us more legends to try to fight the deadly sisters, and I wouldn’t mind having two Zaris around for the foreseeable future. If Amaya and Charlie can have the same face, why can’t one actress play two characters at the same time, even if they’re (sort of) the same person? I don’t think this show’s season got shortened at all as a result of production delays, so I’m ready for what well could be a satisfying season finale to close out this run and prepare us for a surely enjoyable sixth season.

What I’m Watching: The Baker and the Beauty

The Baker and the Beauty: Season 1, Episode 7 “Blow Out” (B)

That was quite the awkward opening breakfast, and Mari’s big show giving everyone a pep talk worked well enough until she got to Natalie, who correctly pointed out that she didn’t have a good argument to make her realize that her problems weren’t all that bad. Daniel was right, of course, to note that Natalie’s rebellion really wasn’t all that bad, and that she would have turned off her phone location if she didn’t want them to know where she was. Mari explaining her reason for caring so much about her daughter made a lot of sense, and it’s good to see that they’re back in a good place. Noa and Daniel seemed to be doing great at the start of the hour, and after Lewis helped to save the day by negotiating directly with Noa’s father before he passed out in the board meeting, Noa took something important away from that whole debacle that Daniel didn’t see coming at all. I do like that Vanessa was the one to bail him out since it shows that she isn’t crazy and is taking some responsibility for what she did by giving that interview, and she definitely had a lot of rage to offload that she unfortunately took out on her tires. I’m glad that Mateo took a break from ripping apart his sound studio to finally make his move on Vanessa, which makes it look like two of the Garcia children are now officially in relationships while the one with the most public one may now end up being single.

Pilot Review: Barkskins

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Round Two: Stargirl

Stargirl: Season 1, Episode 2 “S.T.R.I.P.E.” (B)

I want to like this show, and I think I’ll give it one more shot to see if it’s headed somewhere worthwhile. Brainwave was set up as the big villain in the first episode, and here he seemed ready to destroy our protagonist when he demanded that she come with the staff or he’d kill her mother violently. Thanks in part to Pat and mostly due to her resolve and determination to fulfill her destiny, Courtney showed up to take him down, and asking what bad guys they’ll need to face next sets up future episodes as her honing her abilities and preparing to take on each new threat. I will give her credit for using her home economics (a class I never took) materials to sew her own costume, and embracing her father’s codename to create one for herself. This show is definitely set in a small town, which means everyone – good and bad – comes together for school functions and all that, and also means that Barbara’s new nightmare boss who hates all of her ideas isn’t just obnoxious but also in league with Icicle, who’s more than ready to kill the new heir to Starman’s staff. I like that there is still humor, mostly centered around Pat, who hasn’t quite mastered his giant robot suit and made the mistake of walking into a gym holding a baked good. He could definitely use some bulking up, but he doesn’t know quite what he’s committed to and how much his new trainer is determined for him to succeed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What I’m Watching: Run (Season Finale)

Run: Season 1, Episode 7 “Trick” (B-)

Well, this was a bit of a letdown. I was totally on board when our main characters were on board, but as soon as they got off the train, this show didn’t really have a sense of where it was going. The introduction of Babe in the previous episode felt random and sudden, and there’s obviously a larger storyline involving the eccentric Laurel and their strange romance that started when she slept with the woman she was supposed to be interviewing for a murder case. But there just wasn’t enough of that, and for her to give the keys to Laurel and get on the train only to not end up catching up with either Billy or Ruby is far from satisfying. There’s more that needs to be explored there, and it felt far too rushed to be compelling. Billy seemed like an idiot grinning to himself while Ruby was seeing his ultimate betrayal, and the audacity he displayed when he introduced himself to Laurence was truly appalling. I also don’t quite get how Laurence was okay with whatever was happening since it was pretty hard for Ruby to deny anything since Billy was right there. Her choosing not to go with him is obviously the right decision, but she didn’t give too much thought to running off and abandoning her family in the first place to try being with him. I still think that both Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson were excellent and deserve any accolades they might get, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge was pretty great too. But I’m not sure I’d endorse a second season of this show given the lackluster resolution here, though I guess it would be better than ending like this.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Merritt Wever as Ruby

What I’m Watching: Insecure

Insecure: Season 4, Episode 7 “Lowkey Trippin’” (B+)

I like when shows choose to spotlight their supporting players, even if it means we don’t see the main character for an entire episode. We flipped from Issa seeing Molly in the restaurant and deciding not to go in and instead saw it from her perspective, which is a friend who’s really pissed off at someone she sees as not trying at all to repair their relationship. It’s a good thing that, after arriving very late to the airport, Molly didn’t miss the flight, and instead they at least got off to a good start with some excitement on the plane and not too much unfortunate conversation with their oversharing fellow passenger. Andrew suggesting that Molly should pack something other than bikinis for Mexico apparently inspired him to think outside the box, and that did make for some wild and passionate sex to help them remember some highlights of the vacation. Hearing Issa’s voice when Nathan called almost ruined it for her, but instead that got left to Victor, who chose to challenge Molly’s reaction to a racist incident by encouraging her to consider whether that was really the towel woman’s motivation. To his credit, Andrew did the right thing and stood up for her, and they seem to be in a good place. Running into Lawrence at the airport was undeniably awkward, though part of that was because he went in for a handshake, and I’m curious to see who he called and whether we’re going to see him get back together with Issa after all.

What I’m Watching: Killing Eve

Killing Eve: Season 3, Episode 7 “Beautiful Monster” (B-)

I just don’t understand what the point of this show is right now, and it’s hard to stay attached to the characters because everything seems so aimless at the moment. I was surprised at least that two main players got killed off in this episode, except that they didn’t, and instead we have more unresolved plotlines that aren’t headed anywhere productive. I’m a big fan of Konstantin’s, and I’ve enjoyed seeing him so rattled constantly. In the first season, he wasn’t all that interesting, but now he’s easily the most endearing and likeable of everyone. I’m glad that he isn’t dead, though the disappearance of Villanelle’s killer instinct meant that she didn’t make sure she killed Dasha, who I wouldn’t have minded losing. This show’s title is no longer applicable because there’s literally no one trying to kill Eve, just the people who mean a lot to her, and we’ve barely seen any interactions between Villanelle and Eve this entire season. That’s what I’ve always found to be best about this show since it’s a complex and extremely intriguing relationship, and to deprive viewers of that all season is a real disappointment. Fiona Shaw continues to be the other MVP alongside Kim Bodnia as Konstantin, infusing Carolyn with a wild energy that allows her to dominate every scene. Gemma Whelan, as her daughter, is also great. Mo’s death means no one is safe right now, and I can’t imagine what could transpire in the finale that’s going to allow this season to end on just as emphatic a note as either of the first two years.

Take Three: I Know This Much Is True

I Know This Much Is True: Season 1, Episode 3 (B-)

Miserable things don’t just happen to the characters on this show – there’s at least partly to blame for what happens after life deals them yet another bad hand. Take Dominick’s response to the two women in his life who are interested in having babies. His revelation that he got a vasectomy was received very poorly by Dessa and is likely what led, in part, to their separation after the death of their child. When Joy told him she was pregnant, his only reply was to ask if she was sure it was his, which caught her completely off-guard and demonstrated a total lack of interest in even considering the notion of starting a family with her. Much as Dominick may not be the kind of man who rates other women like his friend who initially turned off Dessa when they first met, he’s also not the warm and fuzzy type, unwilling to change his behavior to suit anyone else, except of course for his brother. Thomas has a better excuse – his schizophrenia – to explain away his failure to comply with what Dominick and Lisa were telling him was necessary for him to get released. This episode was full of melancholy moments, like the eerie death of a classmate in elementary school and the car crash that ended it. Dominick was more concerned about his car being teepeed than anything else, and getting in that car drunk was not a good idea. I can’t imagine how much more unpleasant things can get, but it seems like that’s where we’re headed.