Friday, October 23, 2020

What I’m Watching: Tehran

Tehran: Season 1, Episode 7 “Tamar’s Father” (B+)

I’m glad to see that this show continues to portray the Iranians who are actively working to stop the Israelis as intelligent, capable of making their own mistakes but also more perceptive than they appear to be. Ali went right to the substation once he realized that it was connected to the military systems and pegged immediately that Parham was acting suspiciously, and though it’s bad news for Tamar and the mission, it made sense that he would be listening in to his call and setting a trap for the agents. Unfortunately, his fate seems sealed just like Razieh’s was when she too tried to do the right thing and ended up getting punished for it. Kadosh’s arrival in Iran meant that Tamar, who was definitely compromised by the picture she received from Faraz of her father as a hostage, didn’t need to be on in the same way, and now it seems like what they were going to do has been called off altogether, which is good given that Ali would have surely caught them. Milad was very resentful of Tamar, and he seems to be right about what’s going to happen to him even if he cooperates. Gorev did a good job getting through to Naahid, and though he got very angry with his hostage, Faraz was smart to let Mordechai go, since he would have lost any leverage he had when he killed him and ensured that his wife would not be safely returned. I’m not sure what to expect from the finale, but things are certainly tense and worrisome right now.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Take Three: Soulmates

Soulmates: Season 1, Episode 3 “Little Adventures” (B+)

I appreciate the fact that this show is making each of its episodes feel very different, not just in the characters portrayed but also in the tone and major takeaways. I was happy to see Laia Costa, a very memorable actress from the movie “Duck Better” who also stars in the CW’s recently-premiered “Devils,” as the main player in this episode who managed to drive not one but two romantic partners crazy. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought that Libby and Adam had already taken the test and that’s why they had their extramarital arrangement in place, since they were so sure that it was going to work out and they should do what they needed to be happy. Signs were obvious at the start that Adam wasn’t as into the setup as Libby was, and Miranda’s arrival only made things worse since Libby was clearly going to cross the boundary he set of not sleeping with her. I am impressed that, after a predictable turn of events, things ended in a different way than I had expected. I enjoyed the very purposeful choreography of having Adam answer the door and first Libby and then Miranda popping up to show that all three of them were part of a deal that the poor woman who just wanted coffee might eventually agree to, given how well it seemed to work for all of them. I’m curious to see what episode four will offer since I have no idea what to expect.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

What I’m Watching: We Are Who We Are

We Are Who We Are: Season 1, Episode 6 “Right here, right now #6” (B)

There is no question that the adults on this show have complicated relationships with their children and don’t always make the most obviously sound choices when it comes with how to interact with them. Sarah certainly has boundary issues with Fraser, and she was extremely supportive of him going on what felt a lot like a date with a thirty-year-old man. Jonathan isn’t as clueless as he’s making himself out to be, inviting a woman who appears to be his girlfriend on their “date,” a term he didn’t correct when Fraser used it. Since Fraser is supposed to be only fourteen on this show (actor Jack Dylan Grazer just turned seventeen), it’s worth flagging that dynamic as inappropriate, something Maggie raised as a concern right away. Nothing overly objectionable happened, and Fraser came home feeling like it was the best day. Caitlin had a more restrictive experience with her father on their hunting trip, and he didn’t mince words when he asked her about dating someone who he was very sure was gay. I appreciated the blunt honesty that Sarah employed toward the end of the episode in recognizing that Caitlin wanted to grow up to be a male soldier, prepared with paperwork and all. I’m sure that’s an idea her dad isn’t open to hearing at all, and he’ll likely blame the boss he already doesn’t like much for making his daughter think about it. Ending with Trump’s victory was depressing, and the incoming administration may not feel quite as warmly about someone like Sarah commanding a military base.

What I’m Watching: Manhunt: Deadly Games

Manhunt: Deadly Games: Season 2, Episode 4 “Run Rudolph Run” (B+)

It’s interesting to see how the FBI just got a major lead in their investigation into the perpetrator of several apparently linked bombings and, at the same time, Richard is working to prove his innocence. Only Earl seems interested in even trying to link the two, something that Jack wasn’t even willing to consider because he wanted to continue to claim that the FBI had done a great job. They certainly have an uphill (literally) battle ahead of them, thanks in part to the somewhat logical decision not to have Sheriff Thompson go in on his own to arrest Rudolph and the absolutely preposterous call not to have at least one agent waiting outside in case Rudolph decided, as he did, to make a run for it before they could arrest him. Murphy, North Carolina also seems to be the least inviting place for a federal government organization to show up and try to get community participation in, or at least acceptance of, a manhunt. I recognized Nick Searcy from “Justified” right away as the sheriff, and I’m not sure I would have had as easy a time realizing that it was Jack Huston from “Boardwalk Empire” and the concurrently-airing fourth season of “Fargo,” as Rudolph, who we really haven’t seen speak yet. Kathy being told that she was only suited for greatness within the confines of Atlanta was a real blow, and maybe she’ll be able to see the different possibilities surrounding Richard’s guilt that should be clearly evident by his attempt to recreate the police timeline that can’t possibly be right.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Third Day (Series Finale)

The Third Day: Season 1, Episode 6 “Last Day – The Dark” (B)

Well, I guess it’s something that the final episode of this show was better than most of what came before it, ending on an interestingly ambiguous note that really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for a series that always kept viewers in the dark – conveniently this episode’s title – since the start. Helen not believing that it was actually Nathan because he hadn’t aged was cemented by Mrs. Martin’s confirmation that they had let him believe that the boy was his son and not just a relative who didn’t actually look much like him. That led me to the conclusion that this island and its religion isn’t supernatural or magical, but just that people believe what they want to and, in the case of Jess and her supporters, are determined to extinguish any perceived threats for fear that they will one day try to stake a leadership claim that may rightfully be theirs. But then Helen seemed completely haunted by what Nathan said to her, which could easily have been something Sam apologized to him for multiple times since they’d been together on the island, but was likely a private moment between the two of them that no one else could have known aside from the real Nathan. I’m glad that Ellie had a change of heart in the end and didn’t willingly stay, though it’s not clear how far they got and if Helen is indeed still alive. This show did have a bit too much senseless violence and disturbing content for my liking, but the performances were certainly strong. I don’t expect it to be much of an awards season player, but it’s always possible. Even though this finale was a decent end, I want to make sure that it is just that – I don’t need to revisit this nightmarish island and universe anytime soon.

Series grade: B
Series MVP: Jude Law as Sam and Naomie Harris as Helen

What I’m Watching: Fargo

Fargo: Season 4, Episode 5 “The Birthplace of Civilization” (B+)

With so many characters featured this season, it tracks that some of them would have to die eventually. I’m sad that the first (well, not quite the first) to go was Doctor Senator, played so emphatically by Glynn Turman. I don’t know what kind of Emmy love this season is going to get, but the past winner for “In Treatment” definitely deserves another shot at a trophy for this performance, particularly his final line that may just have been the last straw that got him killed. I’m glad that he got the signature movie music to play him out. Tensions are very high, and Loy is dealing with many issues on his front, starting with Thurman, whose attempt to pay Loy back with his own stolen money did not sit well with him. Dibrell tried to make the situation better, but Loy wasn’t having any of it. Ethelrida proved to be creative when she realized what Oraetta had done and thought of a way that she might be able to hold her accountable for it, but she got outsmarted by Deafy, who appears to just want to get back home to his family in Salt Lake. Unfortunately, Loy was one step ahead of him in tracking down Roulette and Capps, enlisting them in working for him rather than just killing them. He also managed to get inside Odis’ head by telling the story about his mine duties, something that might come back to haunt him but likely won’t because he seems to have much more power and influence in this town than Odis does.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Take Three: The Walking Dead: World Beyond

The Walking Dead: World Beyond: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Tyger and the Lamb” (B)

It didn’t take long for Felix and Huck to catch up to our four main protagonists, and there’s something reassuring about having the entire cast together even if they haven’t yet figured out the best group dynamic. I expected it to be a much more drawn-out process, but instead it happened right away, and even Hope, who ran off to be heroic for the sake of the rest of the team, was reunited with them by the end of the episode. It’s not going to be entirely smooth going forward since they evidently have different priorities, and going back to the campus is an idea that’s going to lead nowhere other than a greatly increased amount of fear due to the severity of a threat that they don’t even really know exists. Silas’ backstory offered some details but not all that many, and what we did learn that’s important going forward is that this group is always going to accept him exactly as he is. He and Elton have a particularly strong bond, and it’s good to see just how encouraging he is of the less emotive Silas. Hope sharing the fact that she killed Elton’s mom with Iris is a positive development since that’s a secret she didn’t want to come out at the wrong time because she was holding it in. Elizabeth’s brief appearance at the end of the episode was intense and memorable, as she went to great lengths to illustrate her point to one soldier who wasn’t at all happy to go along with her morally questionable orders. I’d like to see more of what’s going on there in the future.

What I’m Watching: Lovecraft Country (Season Finale)

Lovecraft Country: Season 1, Episode 10 “Full Circle” (B+)

I’m still not sure I understand all that much of what happened over the course of this entire season, but this episode seemed to offer up a few relatively uncomplicated conclusions to particular arcs. Atticus and Leti were able to go back to the house and get more concrete answers than the first time they were there, while Hippolyta and Montrose were frantically trying to revive them in the present. I did like the music that was playing as they bravely got set to pull it off, and it actually seemed sort of easy, aside from Titus’ brief escape to appear right in front of Christina’s crashed car. He proved himself right away to be a horrible person and a racist, things we knew already and which led to his very quick death via brutal heart extraction. Christina’s assertion that there was no generational hate, just a consequential death related to her spell, didn’t feel all that genuine, especially when Leti realized that she had killed Ruby and taken her form for their road trip. After Leti got thrown out the window and Atticus was having his blood drunk (always fun to watch), it seems like there was little hope, but then we got Leti up and running again, which typically signifies something awesome about to happen. It turned out that Ji-Ah was meant to be there, even if it did also mean that Atticus died. Leti casting a binding spell so that white people couldn’t have magic was a formidable win, though I’d say the ending scene with Diana violently killing Christina was the more shocking and emphatic moment of the episode. Season two has still not been announced, and even though this isn’t exactly my type of show, I’ve been impressed with the way that it’s been done and I think I’d tune in.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Jurnee Smollett as Leti and Jonathan Majors as Tic

Saturday, October 17, 2020

What I’m Watching: Five Bedrooms

Five Bedrooms: Season 1, Episode 7 “Four Meats” (B)

This episode was a bit predictable but still entertaining, though I’m not sure it concerned the most realistic bathroom emergency scenes I’ve ever seen. Ben does seem to be a bit too put-together for the messy version of himself he describes, and therefore it wasn’t a huge surprise that his paella turned out to be rather poisonous – for everyone except for him and Heather. His daughter wasn’t too happy about the idea of staying with him, and getting him to tell her why he went to jail, however noble it may have been, didn’t end up winning him any points with her mother. Heather was predictably furious when Lachlan, who really does seem so sleazy every time he shows up, arrived at the door to take care of Ainsley and then dared to propose that he move in to take her spot. This all felt too good to be true, and the notion of breaking up the house isn’t necessarily a show ender since these characters all have arcs that could be followed even if they ended up separating. Harry has a handful with his mother, who isn’t open to the idea of accepting him for who he is, and Liz may just have blackmailed her way into a job she desperately needs, even just for her own sanity. I’m eager to see how things resolve in the season finale, and my hopes of following this show’s threads in the future are bolstered by news of production on season two having begun in June.

Pilot Review: Grand Army

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.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Pilot Review: Helstrom

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: Tehran

Tehran: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Engineer” (B+)

Things got derailed very quickly, and suddenly this operation feels like it could go south and end up with a lot of people dead. Tamar had Milad just where she wanted him, and he didn’t even seem to notice quite how aggressive she was being with Farham in trying to get him to commit. But then Karim showed up to throw a wrench in all of it, and Mohammed shot him dead right in front of a terrified Milad. It does seem like Mossad has a number of loyal agents who will do absolutely anything for them, making Tamar’s place there seem less necessary, but I guess it’s because she also possesses the hacking skills. Milad is likely to be uncooperative now if they even try to use him for anything, and Tamar is getting sentimental thinking about her father at exactly the wrong time. In the wake of Masoud’s death and his firing, Faraz got very creative in forcing Arezoo to call her brother-in-law and pull an extreme version of the “buy debit cards and drop them off to pay your parking tickets before the marshal arrests you” to get Tamar’s father to come to Istanbul. It does make sense that Mossad wouldn’t necessarily be monitoring Mordechai because they didn’t think there was a chance that he would leave the country and put himself at risk for his sister-in-law. It’s a daring ploy given that he’s not actively employed anymore, but I’m sure that Ali will be happy to work with him if he tries for something more than just trading him for his wife. It certainly intensifies things, with just two episodes left before the season ends.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Pilot Review: Social Distance

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: Ratched

Ratched: Season 1, Episode 4 “Angel of Mercy: Part Two” (B+)

I was wondering how quickly things were going to progress with Mildred being very aware of who Charles was hunting and the hired hitman being close to his target. It didn’t seem clear whose side Mildred was really on, as she told Charles exactly where Dr. Hanover was but also made it so that he would be ready to defend himself. Her moral code is complex and confusing, since she was upset enough about the hot-cold water torture to have Huck spirit two patients out of the hospital but had no problem turning the temperature way up to burn Charles’ skin off in an effort to kill him. The fact that it didn’t work and he instead had to walk through the hall as his skin was melting off was even more brutal, meeting what may have counted as a merciful end from the security guard’s gun. Gwendolyn coming to check in to the motel made things interesting, and she wasted no time in listening in to Charles’ conversation and showing up to the hospital at the worst possible time. Though Mildred resisted her advances when they were very close to each other in the doorframe, she’s obviously warming to the idea of a romance. She’s now complicit in a sort of way and might soon understand more of Mildred’s mindset and goals. Mildred was also surprisingly supportive of Dolly’s sexual relationship with her brother, and we learned that, while she likes to classify certain behavior as untoward and unacceptable, she’s done things she’s not proud of in the past too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Round Two: Soulmates

Soulmates: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Lovers” (B+)

I’m always a bit disappointed to watch anthology series since, if I’m impressed with one installment, it’s sad not to see those actors and characters again in a subsequent one. Fortunately, sometimes two hours are so completely different, and it’s interesting to see how the same premise is used to create both. This episode had echoes of the upcoming movie “Promising Young Woman” (which is excellent) and a season two episode of “The Twilight Zone.” I’ve been a fan of David Costabile since his early work in small parts on shows like “Breaking Bad,” “Flight of the Conchords,” and “Damages,” and more recently, I’ve watched him ham it up on “Billions.” This was a more controlled performance, and what was most brilliant about it was how he played the wrongly-accused victim up until a certain moment where he snapped and became the clear aggressor, set on attacking Alison/Jodie even if he hadn’t been guilty of what she claimed. But, as he said by describing himself as the monster she thought he was, he really was admitting his capability for violence and cruelty. I recognized actress Sonya Cassidy from her role as Hester on “Humans,” and it was a pretty formidable performance to go along with Costabile’s. I have no idea now what to expect from episodes three and beyond, but it does seem obvious that this soul gene isn’t nearly the miracle discovery everyone thinks it is but instead something capable of ruining relationships and manipulating people into doing things very much counter to their common sense instincts.