Friday, April 26, 2019

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 7 “The Dubby” (B-)

I had never thought about the fact that we see the three women on this show together all the time yet we haven’t, as far as I can recall, seen their significant others together in the past. I’m no fan of Dean’s, and his suggestion that they had to do something to get rid of Rio is only going to serve to corrupt Stan, who I do like considerably more. Agent Turner asking Ruby for her in-laws’ names so that he could drop that cruel grandparents line on her was unnecessarily theatrical, and while she wasn’t exactly helping before this, her very explicit photography of in-progress criminal activity shouldn’t take too long to be noticed and identified by her co-conspirators. Beth bringing her kids with her on a car drop was a bad idea to start, and then showing up at the house to ask for the stuffed animal back was a further misstep. Reframing the situation to make it seem like she was in control was hardly her best power play, but at least no one had to go down to the basement to help anyone else look, and she managed to get the animal mailed back to her in the end. I couldn’t figure out where I knew the lead drug dealer from, and it turns out he was Blake Shields, who used to star in “Sleeper Cell.” Annie’s new boss seems absurdly accommodating in a totally unbelievable way, and it could have been fine if she hadn’t gone and slept with him right away, making everything far more complicated and potentially problematic than it needed to be.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 4, Episode 5 “A Proper Sendoff” (B-)

Theatrics are key here, and I’m sure most will contend that this show jumped the shark a while ago. I’m still in because I’m curious to see where the characters go, even if their arcs are long since become even wilder and more excessive than they were then the show started. Axe charging Chuck with going after Taylor for him did not seem to be anywhere near the top of his priority list yet it’s still already started, but Chuck appears to be much more interested in getting his own revenge first. After Bryan jutted out and startled him on his way into office, it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to get anything done, a likelihood confirmed by the governor’s acknowledgment that he was not in fact looking forward to working with him. Preempting his eulogy for Jack Foley and having all of his former cohorts arrested during the funeral was the definition of grandstanding, and this is only the start of what he’s going to do. Axe demonstrated a true penchant for vengeance of his own after his former protégé John Rice tried to cash him out, and the complex nature of his takedown indicated that he wasn’t ever really giving him a chance to undo his mistake. I didn’t immediately peg Seth Gabel, who once played a far less buttoned-up heir on “Dirty Sexy Money,” as John, but I did recognize Jade Eshete, a standout player from the sadly departed “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” as Lauren Turner, Taylor’s new secret weapon. The multiple hip movie references were mildly interesting, and I’m curious to see what becomes of the now-greenlit business venture between Taylor and their father. I don’t have much to say about Wendy other than that she’s understandably angry and whatever happens next will likely be more engaging than her role in this hour.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Pilot Review: Les Miserables

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones (Season Premiere)

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 1 “Winterfell” (B+)

I’d wager that this may well have been the most anticipated final season premiere of all time, more exciting even than “Breaking Bad” a few years ago. Though my review is only going up now, I watched it right as it aired on HBO almost two weeks ago now, placing it ahead of the many other episodes of the week I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to see. Though I’ve always found this show to be somewhat dense, I can acknowledge its greatness, and I actually felt that season seven was one of the show’s strongest years to date. This opener was pretty fantastic, uniting all of the surviving Stark family members for the first time in a way that didn’t prove to be a letdown. I remember Arya almost coming face-to-face with her brother Robb and her mother right before they were killed, and it was so satisfying to see her run up to Jon and get to celebrate being with him instead of tragically losing yet another sibling or parent. So much has happened that I had forgotten Sansa and Tyrion even knew each other, let alone were once married. I like just how much Sansa and Daenerys don’t get along, and how hard Jon was trying to get everyone to accept his new queen. I would not have pegged Sam as the one to, at Bran’s encouraging, let Jon in on the major secret that he’s actually his new love’s nephew and the rightful heir to the throne. The undead body left to be discovered was sufficiently disturbing, though the most memorable part of the episode was saved for the very end, as Jaime returned to come face-to-face with the boy he once pushed out a window. I’m so eager to see what comes next.

What I’m Watching: Killing Eve

Killing Eve: Season 2, Episode 2 “Nice and Neat” (B)

I’m wondering how long it’s going to be that Villanelle stays on the run, slowly killing the people who are dumb enough to help her. The call that she made towards the end of the episode to report in only to be told that there was no one there for her indicates that she’s on her own, and something tells me that’s only going to lead to more dead bodies. Shouting Eve’s name on the phone shows just how connected she still wants to be to the woman who stabbed her, and it shouldn’t take Carolyn too long to deduce that they did indeed encounter each other more recently. Eve commenting admiringly on Carolyn’s look was funny and weird, as was her very dry response. Eve’s new team members seem enthusiastic if nothing else, with Hugo proving particularly irritating. I recognized Nina Sosanya, who I think I know from her role in “Love Actually” more than fifteen years ago, whose character, Jess, hasn’t done much of note just yet. Eve’s openness with her husband seems to be working somewhat, though he’s likely going to be in danger if Villanelle gets too close. I was surprised to hear Jodie Comer’s spot-on British accent before I learned that she is in fact British, which makes a lot of sense. Her temporary landlord was indeed creepy, and it was evident that she was going to find some way to kill him once he snapped. Konstantin still being alive was spoiled for me by a still I saw, and I think that Carolyn is going to have a hard time talking Eve down since there’s no way she’s going to be willing to work with him.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me (Season Finale)

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 20 “Que Sera Sera” (B-)

When our three protagonists went to gather and drown their sorrows at Ali’s at the start of the episode, it came as no surprise to me that all three of expected to be fired, mainly because none of them were particularly good at their jobs beforehand, spending altogether too much time on the God account when it related only to Miles’ primary work. It took long enough, but we finally met Henry Chase, played by Derek Luke from “Antwone Fisher,” who was a bit of a gentler personality than I had expected, even if his initial introduction presented his gruff exterior. No one said it, but there are definitely echoes of Miles, Cara, and Rakesh in Henry, Pria, and Simon, though I’m not sure the roles match up the same way in that group. Simon getting fired by his board almost seemed inconsequential since he managed to line all three of them back up with jobs before being ousted, which felt all too convenient given that they should have had to start from the bottom up again. Cara going to Paris is going to present complications for this budding couple, but at least they’re giving it a shot. Arthur proposing to Trish after losing the election gives him something new to focus on, and it was touching to see him opt to go on Miles’ podcast. A few familiar faces wasn’t going to be enough for this finale, and so we got that last-minute introduction of someone else who has apparently been chosen the same way Miles has by the God account, something that presumably won’t sit well with him in season two. I expect to continue watching even if I continue to find this show hard to seriously digest most of the time.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Joe Morton as Arthur

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

What I’m Watching: Shrill

Shrill: Season 1, Episode 5 “Article” (B+)

This episode was really great, which makes me excited after hearing that it was renewed for a second season last week. It’s no surprise that Annie’s article would end up becoming an enormously successful hit, with over 19,000 clicks and plenty of comments, but that didn’t mean that Gabe was going to be happy about it. Not firing her and making her suffer instead is probably the worse punishment, and something tells me that tracking down her troll isn’t going to score her any points with her boss. The interaction that she and Amadi had with Maureen down in IT about her Bradley Cooper avatar was entertaining, and I hope that she makes an appearance in the season finale. It was great to see Annie stand up to multiple people throughout the episode, starting with Fran when she tried (and ultimately managed) to guilt Annie into staying to clean up her mess, and ending with her mom, which unfortunately also resulted in a miserable parting thanks to her failed attempt to fight a war her dad didn’t want her to invoke for him. Ryan showing up after she called him to help with Bonkers and his shroom trip was entertaining, and who would have thought that a heart-to-heart with Fran would prompt him to be open, honest, and even kind, asking Annie to be his girlfriend. Having sex on the couch as they embark on a new, healthier romance would have been a great ending if it didn’t mean Annie disappointing someone else, which is really going to put a damper on this happiness.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 9 “Jane Patrol” (B)

I feel like this show has spent nearly half its time so far either within someone’s mind or in an imagined reality that’s been deliberately manipulated to mess with the person experiencing it. In Jane’s case, I actually find the external display of the personalities as expressed by Diane Guerrero and the unpredictability with which they emerge to be far more compelling than seeing them all with different faces interacting with each other, and I think I might have preferred for Guerrero to have played all the parts if we were going to experience it this way. I liked how it all started, with Larry mocking the notion of shrinking “Magic School Bus” style to get inside her head before the spirit did just that to Cliff. Once he was in there, however, things got very, very dark, particularly with the creepy three-headed sisters and the “sweet, sweet baby Kay” anthem that kept loudly haunting her. Ultimately, it was most therapeutic for Cliff, who got to inhabit his old body for a while, which was strange, and then later discovered that he wasn’t a man anymore. Cliff accepting that part of himself was what Jane needed to be able to see that she could stand up to the monster father that has terrorized all of her personalities for so long. The ending of the episode indicates that Jane hasn’t completely gotten over her trauma, which is completely understandable, but she does seem ready to focus back on the hunt to find the Chief and stop Mr. Nobody.

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 3, Episode 6 “What Is Jeopardy?” (B+)

There was a lot in this episode, a half-hour that felt somewhat more thematically unified than the past few installments. The opening scene with Sam prepping food and watching “Jeopardy” with her mom, who shouted out each answer right after she did, indicated a certain monotony that was nowhere to be found for the rest of the episode. It was a surprise to see Matthew Broderick as Sam’s old friend and current therapist Dr. Miller, who had creative answers for Sam’s phone bill and other things irritating her in her life, one of which involved a song that took a minute to register with Sam. Opting to call Xander so that she could organize a rendezvous to do whatever illicit act it was that they used to do involving the boots and the underwear indicated a defeat of sorts that was negated by her ultimate decision to leave and return home before anything happened, even if it may have had to do more with her period than actual regret. Duke’s reaction to being gently hit by her grandmother’s car was worrisome for a while until it became clear that something else was going on that got her scared. The best scene was Phyl calling her son and agreeing to give up her license in exchange for lifelong Ubers, flavored popcorn once a month, and a black credit card that Marion definitely wasn’t going to give her. If only actual conversations with aging parents would go that way in real life…

Take Three: Abby’s

Abby’s: Season 1, Episode 3 “Free Alcohol Day” (B)

This show never promised sophistication, and this episode felt particularly like a sitcom installment, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Fred getting dressed up to enjoy what he considers the best day was always going to end in disappointment of some sort since all the hype of previous Free Alcohol Days had to set the bar way too high. Dani arrived expecting positive reviews, something she did not get, which helped to create the amusing scenario of Abby forcing her top customers to take shots of the vile mixture in order to pry precious secrets about her personal life out of her. Leave it to Abby to act so casually around a woman that she had dated for a decent period of time and then expect that no one else was going to notice when she was quietly flirtatious. Beth took Abby’s reclusiveness the hardest, and I like that she took to investigative means to pull the truth out of her, leading to an unexpectedly sentimental proclamation about the nature of their relationship and the genesis of the bar from Abby. Bill never really manages to say the right thing, and of course he would explode with awkwardness as soon as Abby announced that she was bisexual. His response to Dani being a lesbian was even worse, and he did himself no favors by continuing to dig his own grave and try to explain it away after his initial reaction. If nothing else, he’s consistent in his inability to have normal interactions with people.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Take Three: The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Episode 3 “Replay” (B+)

I was very impressed with the first two installments of this show, which I reviewed a few weeks ago in a Minute with Abe. Though it took me a while to watch it, I’m pleased to report that this third episode is just as strong. Like the second episode, this one dealt with technology having an extraordinary power, after the iPod foretelling the doom of its listener’s flight. I recognized most of the cast here and confirmed later that I was right about knowing the fourth from somewhere too. I was a big fan of Sanaa Lathan’s when she starred in the second season of “Boss,” and she recently appeared in a moderately worthwhile role on season four of “The Affair.” Damson Idris, who played her son Dorian, currently stars on “Snowfall.” Steve Harris was a regular on both “Legends” and “Awake,” but most probably know him from his Emmy-nominated role on “The Practice” two decades ago. The best instance of casting was Glenn Fleshler, who recurs on “Billions” and has also appeared in many other projects, and as soon as I saw his police officer appear I knew that his character was going to serve some nefarious purpose since you don’t waste an actor like that. What I liked most about the trajectory of this hour was the way in which it embraced the supernatural nature of its selected item’s power without questioning it. Every scenario that Nina tried ended up with her son either doomed or dead, and both her brother and her son chose to trust rather than doubt her, which was cool. Best of all, when Dorian suggested that they simply go back and try again when Officer Lasky confronted them, Nina was brave enough to end the loop and take a stand against his recurring racism. I thought that this hour was going to end without a negative fate for its characters, but that final sound of a gunshot after her camera finally broke signified that wouldn’t be the case. I’m not sure if this show will be Emmy-eligible for its performers, but I’d love to see a few of these people get recognized for their stellar work here.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What I’m Watching: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 3, Episode 2 “Player to be Named Later” (B+)

And just when I thought that this show had a whole new cast, it turns out that J.K. Simmons wasn’t in this episode at all and Amanda Peet was! I very much enjoyed the focus on Jules, who tried to buy a new shirt in the bathroom before her interview and managed to offend the receptionist by judging her fashion style rather than asking for her shirt. Eagerly accepting the challenge of populating the stands against all odds demonstrated just how confident she is, and when her strategies were maligned because no one in the crowds was actually into the game for its own sake, she knew exactly what to do to get all eyes on the field. She was also pretty formidable after asking Brockmire if she could drink and then ordering a whole bottle of wine in a cup with ice that she hastily consumed before demanding an instant refill. Not being a sports fan, I really do miss a lot of the humor here, namely the fact that both George Brett and Bob Costas are real people. Coming clean with Bob about having given him pink-eye as part of his journey to make amends was extremely poorly-timed, but somehow that got him to do the favor because he knew just how much it would hurt Brockmire inside to see it fulfilled. Jules threatening to kill the pig and then Brockmire doesn’t suggest that she’s leaving on a great note, so I’m not sure if we’ll see her again, which is a shame. But Brockmire’s latest problem – the yips – should more than keep him busy for the time being.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 3 “Chapter Eighty-Four” (B)

This episode did manage, if nothing else, to get us to feel like, even though there might be a tiny bit of chemistry between Jane and Jason, it’s nothing at all like what Jane and Michael had, and therefore their relationship couldn’t possibly last or threaten the stability of Jane’s newfound love with Rafael. After the unfortunate fishing trip, Jason proved not to be such a bad guy and actually showed up with the divorce papers. Leave it to this show to then throw in the extremely (in)convenient timing of Jason seeing one thing that managed to trigger all of his Michael memories in one fell swoop, transforming him completely as a character. It would have been too easy for him to just disappear after this miraculous and shocking return, and now he’ll be back as Michael rather than Jason, which is going to make Jane’s life a whole lot harder. Rafael is going to be particularly devastated, and it’s going to return to the original state of things on this show: #teammichael vs. #teamjason. I enjoyed Jane bickering with Petra as they tried to stop their kids from fighting, and it’s nice to see that they have a great relationship which at times can be quite volatile. I was waiting for a point to be made about how Rogelio might suffer from a pay discrepancy because of his ethnicity, but his absurd response to River’s salary was good entertainment, especially after he once again sent her to the hospital thanks to his clumsiness.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her (Season Premiere)

You, Me, Her: Season 4, Episode 1 “Triangular Peg, Meet Round Hole” (B+)

It’s always a treat when this show, one of my favorites and one I feel like almost no one knows exists, returns each year. I’m particularly excited to see where things go this year as Emma is extremely pregnant, Izzy is trying to adjust to the idea of the suburbs, and Jack is just trying not to mess things up with either of the women in his life. It’s better not to have Emma off gallivanting in another state while Jack and especially Izzy express just how angry they are with her, and they’re more than capable of getting into trouble together. I like how much Emma is trying to pressure them into not falling into typical truple tropes, and her constantly pointing those out is irritating her two partners greatly, in one case killing the mood when she told them to stay and have sex while she went out. Carmen is getting an increased focus now that Dave has apparently effortlessly achieved literary success on his first try while his wife continues to experience rejection at every turn, and while it’s nice to see her in the spotlight, this does not seem like a productive direction for their relationship. Seeing Nina and Shaun together is a strange sight indeed, though I guess there’s some comfort to be found in the fact that she doesn’t behave any differently towards him or anyone else even though she’s apparently professed affection publicly. Izzy’s rapport with her dad also seems to have gotten to a great place. Things are, it would seem, looking up right now.

Pilot Review: The Code

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.