Saturday, February 13, 2016

Take Three: Billions

Billions: Season 1, Episode 3 “YumTime” (B+)

As Axe moved in on and completely eviscerated another company, it’s becoming clear that his actions are not entirely motivated by revenge but also designed to have a very specific impact. He was disappointed in the taste of the sweet that reminded him of the value of hard work from his childhood, and then he found out that the formula had been changed to cut costs, so he forced his way in and made sure that the formula was changed back and the costs could be cut elsewhere. In doing that, he not only removed the CEO but also an uncooperative board member who just happens to be the mistress of Chuck’s father, an additional bit of spite that will leave a sting. It’s extremely complicated since Wendy works for him, and she’s also crossing lines of her own, interfering in the therapy of one employee because she knows that Wags is going to make her life miserable, and then going the extra step to put money with her as she moves to a new company. Lara is not above getting her way forcefully either, as was made painfully clear by the ease with which she ruined the life of a potential threat, and then got her to offer to sign a nondisclosure agreement that she just happened to have lying around. Chuck got to have his own power trip walking his dog when he made his careless neighbor pick up his dog’s poop with his hands, and he needs that kind of distraction since his new hapless colleague is ready to ruin the chances of what will surely prove to be a difficult takedown of Axe. Even being dominated by Wendy isn’t helping him to focus, and I’m sure things are only going to intensity as the case moves forward.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 6, Episode 4 “Going Once, Going Twice” (B+)

Aside from them all being depraved people, the one constant when it comes to the Gallagher family is that they live in a house right under the L train filled with way too many people and plenty of deplorable activity. It was a rollercoaster of an hour for Fiona to figure out the best way to be able to keep the house, first rejecting Carl’s instant offer of $3,000 in drug money and then ultimately accepting Sean’s savings stipend to get to the finish. Still, it couldn’t prepare her for the opportunity to be outbid by a very nice-seeming couple who just want to live in a new home, and I can imagine it’s going to get very ugly from here since the Gallaghers will fight to keep their home and someone is going to pay for the injustice of what happened to them when Patrick tried to get out of paying back money that he owed. That Sean confessing to having killed someone is not the most memorable development of the hour is a credit to this show’s ability to juggle so many plotlines and characters at once. Ian’s new firehouse obsession should be interesting, and hopefully it will help him get better rather than make him too attached to something unattainable. Helene confessing to Lip that this wasn’t just a fling was made so much more heartbreaking when she wrote it off as drunken nonsense the next morning, and now I think he won’t give up which will only get him hurt in the end. Frank is trying harder than ever to pull off his latest scheme, fixing Debs up with a man whose wife is dying from cancer, returning him from brief hopeless romantic to the hopeless depravity he’s mastered so well.

Friday, February 12, 2016

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 7, Episode 13 “Judged” (B)

There had to be a point at which Alicia’s new firm really got itself into trouble, and a handful of outstanding bills are now the least of her problems. Judge Schachowsky is an unapologetically corrupt and despicable man, and he’s due to be taken down. That’s what makes it all the more agonizing to see countless evidence thrown out by another judge who, to his credit, seems to be acting relatively impartially. That he needed to provide consent to be recorded by an employee in his own courtroom is unfortunate, and Alicia getting countersued for misrepresentation is a truly bad turn. Cary has made countless offers for her and Lucca to come back to whatever used to be Lockhart Gardner, and something tells me that may be in the cards since there is nowhere else to turn at this point. Lucca has definitely become the new Kalinda, a less mysterious but equally competent and capable ally for Alicia who has no trouble calling her out if she’s acting unhinged or out of line. They’re much closer now that Alicia has let everything out and opened up completely to her new confidante. Contrasting Alicia’s attempted lawsuit with Diane ending up in mediation with a familiar peacemaking face in a case of campus freedoms made for an interesting comparison, and a rather effective one as Diane defended the rights of someone to have an unpopular opinion and remain unregulated since the powers of the campus professionals had only previously been selectively enforced anyway.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 6, Episode 5 (B+)

The stakes on this show have rarely been high, except for when Sybil and William both died. The fact that things so infrequently get ultra-serious made the sight of Robert vomiting up a concerning amount of blood all the more worrisome. I’d hope that if burst an ulcer, it wouldn’t play out quite as gruesomely as that. Fortunately, all seems to be well, though it did give everyone a big scare. The presence of Neville Chamberlain at that meal was intriguing, and he certainly had an unforgettable experience. I like the rapport that he and Tom formed, and that he confided in Tom the real reason that Violet had been able to persuade him to come and listen to the divided pleas for different hospital futures. Carson and Mrs. Hughes’ new marriage isn’t without its problems, and Carson so casually criticizing her cooking is not going to start them off on a good foot. Andy eagerly offering to help Mr. Mason and learn his craft was kind, and it’s nice to see Thomas being genuine and good for once and agreeing to keep the fact that he can’t read secret while helping him to learn. It’s a treat to see Edith experience some happiness again in the form of a kiss, while Mary got called out by Tom for always having to come up with an excuse to hang out with her new beau aside from the fact that they’re attracted to each other despite their class differences, which are a major stumbling block to Mary.

What I’m Watching: Galavant (Season Finale)

Galavant: Season 2, Episodes 9 and 10 “Battle of the Three Armies” and “The One True King (To Unite Them All)” (B/B+)

It’s very possible that what may be this show’s final two episodes were also its best. I’ve come to enjoy this show a lot, and I think it’s probably better than I give it credit for. I enjoy musical television shows, and given that this is about half of what’s on now – “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” being the other, superior series – I’m grateful for this show’s existence. These episodes, particularly the finale, made no secret of the fact that the showrunners and everyone involved never expected a second season, and the concluding song even proclaimed that this would be the last anyone would ever see of it unless it got another surprise renewal. I liked the introductory song at the start of the first episode recapping the battle that was about to begin, and this show really has done a fine job of telling its absurd narrative. Galavant showing up with a shockingly handy Richard and Sid appearing with his gay army to save the day were predictable but entertaining moments, and I love that Gareth immediately abandoned Madalena and stood by his friend Richard and that the former king refused to let his onetime bodyguard go into battle for him without being there by his side. Isabella delivered a great takedown of Madalena, and Galavant didn’t have to try hard to win Isabella back after the fart comment situation had been cleared up. Things were tied up in a pretty good bow, though the ending scenes with Madalena yearning for darker power and Richard finally seeing his dragon breathe fire were fun teasers for a third season that I’d really quite like to see.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Timothy Omundson as Richard and Vinnie Jones as Gareth

Monday, February 8, 2016

Honeymoon Hiatus

I'm currently on my honeymoon in New Zealand and Australia! Every review I wrote before I left is now up, so you can look forward to plenty of catching up on three weeks' worth of television when I return in late February. Watching TV comes fourth after sightseeing, eating, and sleeping while I enjoy traveling with my wife! I'll figure out the best way to catch up as I slowly make my way through all the TV that will air during that time.

For now, head over to MoviesWithAbe.com for a number of categories from the 9th Annual AFT Awards that are still being announced!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 1, Episode 11 “AKA I’ve Got the Blues” (B+)

This show, or at least its protagonist, doesn’t stop for anything, not even sleep. That’s extremely detrimental, of course, as she managed to get hit by a car among other incidents over the course of the hour and definitely wasn’t operating at full capacity. I found the flashbacks shown in this episode to be among the most effective ones yet showcased on this show, mainly because it explained how Jessica and Trish became the close friends with harsh outlooks on the world that they are today. The abuse Trish’s mother inflicted on her daughter had seemed purely emotional up until this point, but it’s clear that it was very physical and psychological too. Trish discovering Jessica’s powers and calling her a “good kind of freak” was a nice moment, and Jessica chose exactly the right time and way to show her adoptive mother what she could do. That background was especially helpful as it related to Trish bravely ingesting the red pill Will had taken to go toe-to-toe with him even with the risk of not remembering to breathe, which of course kicked in just a few minutes later. We didn’t have to see Kilgrave for his presence to be felt in this hour, though Jessica had to first deal with Will and then with trying to warn the invincible friend of hers we haven’t seen in a while: Luke, who is just about the best ally she could want at this point. Malcolm not doing anything when he saw that someone was in Jessica’s apartment was a sad moment since his worldview and optimism has been irreparably shattered.

Round Two: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1, Episode 2 “Pilot, Part 2” (B+)

I could definitely get attached to this show, though I’m realizing that it’s not necessarily as attached to some of its characters. Hawkman’s demise was a surprising one since I thought he was an integral part of the story, but I don’t mind too much since Kendra was always the stronger character of the two of them. I’m not too enthralled by the idea of Savage being a consistent villain for the crew, but it’s actually getting better and it might not be so bad if he was always enemy number one. It didn’t take long for the crew to be recognized and identified as not fitting in with the times, and that was due more to Professor Stein’s actions than anything else. It was a treat to meet Marty, the young, energetic version of Professor Stein who was able to talk to his older self and not immediately go catatonic like in “Back to the Future II.” The dynamic of the entire group is a lot of fun, and even the more peripheral elements, like Jefferson, are finding their way in. Leonard and Mick had a fun role to play in this hour, and I look forward to seeing them take the lead again in the future. What continues to be best about this show is its action scenes, which in this episode were highlighted by Ray zooming out of Professor Stein’s pocket to attack his opponents. I’m on board for this show, and excited to see where it goes and how it plays out in the future.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What I’m Watching: The Grinder


The Grinder: Season 1, Episode 12 “Blood Is Thicker Than Justice” (B+)

I really enjoyed this episode, and I think it did a great job of mending the rift between the Sanderson brothers in a very entertaining way. Dean being certified by his new employers as a legal intern was a smart way to get him to be able to talk in court, and it seemed like things were going great for a while as he impressed the partners with his mumbo jumbo and grandstanding speeches. It didn’t take long for them to sideline him, however, and what was more egregious than them using him for his fame, which was to be expected, was how quickly and completely they dismissed him when it became clear that his celebrity wouldn’t do anything to help their case. I loved his initial objections and comments during Stewart’s opening arguments, and the best part of the episode was when the brothers apologized to each other as if they were speaking for their feuding clients who definitely did not echo their conciliatory sentiments. Claire did a spectacular job of dealing with Todd’s overzealous observation that they were primed to be the next potential office couple, and she scared him so badly that he nearly hyperventilated and ending up trying to talk her out of it. Dean buying and knocking down the houses next to Stewart’s, which included relocating some of the residents, is just the kind of ambitious, brazen move he tends to make, and it’s guaranteed to keep him close by and create plenty of headaches for the whole family as well as some positive developments to go along with them.

What I’m Watching: Grandfathered


Grandfathered: Season 1, Episode 13 “Tableside Guacamole” (B)

This episode, unlike many others, had just one central theme: Jimmy trying to get the restaurant back on track. It’s very true that Jimmy has not been focused since he found out about his family, and logically Annelise is the one who doesn’t see that as a good thing since her whole life is about work. I can’t imagine that Gerald’s idea of a celebrity would have worked out too well, but the airheaded musician they got wasn’t too terrific either. I like Ryan Hansen from his time on “Party Down,” and he was exactly the right actor for this part, even if it didn’t give him as much opportunity to show his trademark stupidity and instead just to be carefree and obnoxious. Gerald getting ready to give him a piece of his mind and getting interrupted after firing off a few opening compliments was funny, and it didn’t take long for him to be nearly ready to get a tattoo and compromise all of his principles to make his dad proud. Jimmy wasn’t exactly subtle about what he wanted, and that’s part of what made Chasen leave in a huff. Sarah thriving on her 80s knowledge was fun, and good for her for bringing the eighteen-year-old who asked her out over to the girls who said she was old to rub their clueless faces in it. Vanessa getting her own tattoo while Jimmy got his modified was amusing, and it’s good to get reminders every once in a while that she and Gerald couldn’t be more different.

What I’m Watching: New Girl


New Girl: Season 5, Episode 4 “No Girl” (B-)

This episode was actually pretty entertaining, though it was pretty stupid too. Jess’ absence is definitely going to have an impact on this show, and we’re seeing it right away as her not being there means disastrous things for anyone who needs female advice and also that her room is available for what quickly became a full-on bed and breakfast being run by the most hapless host of all, one Nick Miller. It was fun to watch Schmidt scramble to adhere to every little thing that was asked of him, including being given a heap of underwear to wash. Nick didn’t have an easy time communicating with one guest in particular, and then their relationship got sexual, and asking for her money made him seem like a prostitute, a predictably ridiculous mess that only Nick could wander his way into. Fred Armisen’s guest was particularly peculiar, and seeing him dressed up in Jess’ clothing was certainly strange, though it’s nothing new for the “Portlandia” star. Not having Jess around means that we’re seeing a whole lot more of Cece, and her engagement to Schmidt didn’t play too much of a part in this episode. She did, however, have the fantastic opportunity to give terrible advice to Winston that led to his breakup, but she also scored in a major way by helping him to get exactly the revenge he needed to move on from that toxic relationship. For the man who likes to prank either way too big or way too small, popping out after his ex-girlfriend was told that he was dead was just right.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 11 “The Reverse-Flash Returns” (B+)

I’ll admit that I’m not sure that this show’s concept of time travel makes all that much sense, but the characters speak with such scientific authority that I’m inclined to value it so much more than on “Heroes Reborn,” which completely butchered any logical interpretation of the science fiction idea. I don’t quite understand how Thawne disappeared immediately when Eddie killed himself in the present moment yet continued to exist in his own past enough to show up in Barry’s future. One explanation is that the timeline continues to exist based on what Barry and others have experienced, but it still doesn’t quite track. I’m willing to forgive it because I’m all for predestination and playing into creating the future, as done here when Wells spelled out the fact that this was the moment when he learned everything that he needed to know about the Flash to come back in time and create the past as Barry and everyone knew it. It was also cool to see Wells interacting with him, and I think that their brief interaction was very likely the basis for how Thawne when he took over his life. Cisco harnessing his powers with Wells’ help was cool, and I’m eager to see where that leads. There’s so much going on with the vast array of characters we have, and I like that Jay is still thinking about getting his speed back with Caitlin’s help. Wally and Iris bonding as their mother is on her deathbed should help to get them closer, and I’m excited to see what that relationship and Wally’s newfound dynamic with his father will look like. Patty figured out pretty easily that Barry was the Flash, and calling him with a fake emergency to say goodbye was a great way to part, and it leaves the door open for some future interaction that I so hope will happen, though we know that Barry is destined to end up with Iris.

Pilot Review: Lucifer


Lucifer (FOX)
Premiered January 25 at 9pm

I’m not a huge fan of sentences that start with “What if the devil..?” I don’t have much interest in the devil, and just about every cinematic interpretation of the demonic entity that I’ve seen has not been good. “Little Nicky” comes to mind as one particularly horrendous example, and “Spawn” on the opposite end of the spectrum was horrifying, traumatizing, and not at all good. Therefore, I’m pleased to report that this show is nowhere near as insufferable, and dare I say it might actually be decent. Now there’s no risk that I’ll actually watch another installment, but I did enjoy it more than I thought. I can’t quite comprehend why Tom Ellis’ Lucifer decided to leave hell and why he didn’t end up doing something a bit more glamorous, and why D.B. Woodside’s Amenadiel doesn’t have any power to compel him back to hell aside from spreading his wings in public. Lucifer’s ability to get people to confess things to him is interesting, and the sex appeal that goes along with it makes it considerably racier than it might otherwise be, especially when you bring in the fantastic Rachael Harris as the therapist who was ready to jump his bones the moment she laid eyes on him. Lauren German makes a fine companion to Ellis as Detective Chloe Decker, and they went from being permanently at odds to trusting each other pretty well as a dynamic duo awfully quickly, which undoes the need for much exposition going forward. This show might have a devilish appeal to some, and I’m more than content to say it wasn’t a complete waste of an hour.

How will it work as a series? Lucifer clearly has some connections in his current life, and with demons coming for him, it’s unlikely that his life will be peaceful or pleasant anytime soon. This show won’t be your typical police procedural, but it does follow the recent format of people with special abilities assisting cops in being able to save crimes. I’m sure this show has its target audience and they’re loving it.
How long will it last? The ratings for the pilot were good, considerably better than the almost certainly defunct “Minority Report” in the same timeslot this past fall, and premiering with “The X-Files” definitely helps. I think this show will do very well for FOX, and they’ll be excited to see it succeed with a second season sometime soon.

Pilot grade: B-

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 9 “Chapter Thirty-One” (B+)

As usual, every episode of this show covers some familiar territory - in this case, Jane trying to work on her educational aspirations while dealing with an inconsistently-sleeping baby at home - and drops a handful of plot-altering bombshells. The main reveal, of course, is that, while Luisa’s mother faked her death, she died and is not Mutter, but Rafael’s mother is! Stabbing him in the neck with a syringe was a fearsome way to end the episode, and now all bets are off, since only Michael, who may or may not be Rafael’s mortal enemy, knows Mutter’s true identity. It makes sense that it’s another spouse of Rafael’s father since they tend to go into crime, and I’m sure there will be plenty of drama now. Susanna kissing Luisa was a surprise since that was never her intention and Luisa even asked her if she was flirting just to get her to trust her, but I suppose other characters deserve some relationship drama too. Jane friending Michael’s new girlfriend by accident while trying to sleep-train Mateo was a low point for her, and Michael coming by to explain that he needs her out of his life was harsh. Failing the basketball star who plagiarized his paper was bold but right, and kudos to Jane for finding a creative way to compel him to actually do the assignment. Her lack of basketball skills came in just as handy as her incomparable persistence. It’s hard to find anyone flashier and more dramatic than Rogelio, but Glamma and his gay father certainly come close. It seems their relationship is much more complicated than anyone thought, and I’m sure that will continue to play itself out in the coming weeks.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What I’m Watching: The X-Files


The X-Files: Season 10, Episode 2 “Founder’s Mutation” (C+)

Part of me feels like every episode of this reboot really needs to count, but I also realize that if this show does well, which it has thus far, it’s all but guaranteed that FOX, which has just recommissioned both “24” and “Prison Break,” will bring it back for more episodes. It’s hard to believe that a show can air for nine years, go off the air for thirteen and a half years, and then just start up again like nothing happened. This episode was very much a freak-of-the-week installment, though the plot was a bit grander than that in terms of the genetic study it featured. I’m always much more for aliens and strange powers, and this was a bit too relational and based on these people who might somehow be possessed and connected. I guess I’m longing for the days when someone drowned in the backseat of a car because she was able to swallow the water that should have killed someone else, or for the cerulean blue that helped the pusher escape from prison. We got a glimpse of the Cigarette-Smoking Man at the end of the previous episode, and now we don’t get to see him at all. Instead, there’s a bit of Skinner, who honestly is not a terribly interesting or exciting character except when he’s really given something to do. I have higher hopes for the remaining four installments, which I’d like to see get back to what was really best about this show and what I’d like to think inspired FOX to revive it.