Monday, March 8, 2021

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 11, Episode 7 “Two at a Biker Bar, One in the Lake” (B)

This episode felt a bit more cringeworthy than usual because it wasn’t just our favorite characters making depraved decisions but instead doing things that were absolutely stupid and sure to have very problematic consequences. Kev wins that prize for this hour, looking at the bike with the full knowledge that he shouldn’t take it for a spin and then getting pulled over, which might have been problematic enough without the cop being intent on buying the stolen bike. I’m not sure why cell reception seems to be so bad that Kev and Lip couldn’t get through to each other at any point, but this last-ditch effort to cobble together enough money to avoid living with Tami’s family falling through was enough to push Lip to the edge. Debs was already riled up by Sandy’s lack of desire to be a mother to her son, and Lip showing up with a sledgehammer seemed to really scare her. The police couldn’t have come to question Lip at a worse time, and I hope that his family, both the Gallaghers and Tami, will be there for him. It was good to see Liam taking a stand for himself after some guidance from Veronica, while Carl managed to mess his situation up in a major way by accusing the latex-averse Tish of plenty of things that she hadn’t actually done. Watching Frank wander around Chicago so impossibly lost produces complicated feelings, because he was using his newly-diagnosed dementia as a way to con others until he lost sight of where he was, deserving of compassion but also unlikely to give it to anyone else under similar circumstances.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

What I’m Watching: WandaVision (Series Finale)

WandaVision: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Series Finale” (B+)

It’s hard to get into a show and then see it go after just one season, possibly even more when it is well-received and audiences would definitely be up for more (see: “Watchmen”). In this case, it’s good to know that most of the characters will indeed be back in other Marvel Cinematic Universe projects, even if those take a few years to come out. I know that this finale was divisive, but I’m pretty pleased. It delivered the payoff I wanted after not exactly being sure where it was all headed at the start when things were still all sitcom-centric. The white Vision fighting the one we know was most worthwhile not for the physical combat but for the intellectual conversation they had about his prime directive and whether the Vision that Wanda brought back to life actually constituted the entity he was charged with destroying. Wanda demonstrating her true power when Agatha tried to harness it from her was a formidable sight, and Agatha’s fate to be trapped in the sitcom role felt extremely punitive though likely appropriate given her nefarious aims. Having the boys hold off the soldiers while Darcy showed up to stop Hayward provided a nice way to close off those storylines. Seeing just how much the people of Westview reviled Wanda as she walked through to meet Monica was intense, and having to go from being a member of a loving family to all alone is sure to have a devastating effect on her psyche, though the Scarlet Witch’s machinations in the second post-credits scene suggest that Wanda isn’t really in control. I hope that “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is just as enthralling and creative as this show, and that whatever comes next with all these characters does them justice. It’s been a fun and mind-bending ride. To anyone who liked this show, please watch “Legion” on Hulu next.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Elizabeth Olsen

What I’m Watching: Clarice

Clarice: Season 1, Episode 4 “You Can’t Rule Me” (B-)

It’s good to see that this show employs purposeful and moody cinematography choices and aerial shots in an effort to make it more than just a standard procedural. But, unfortunately, it hasn’t really felt elevated in any respect, especially over the course of this episode, which felt like unnecessary filler. There was no way that VICAP was going to get shut down even though things did not look good, and it all seemed like a dragged-out debacle that was just going to lead to the team feeling more united. They got to have fun with Murray covering for his absent colleagues while they went out and did actual investigating, while Krendler played mind games with Tony, who clearly had a personal vendetta to air with him. He was more than happy to put himself on the chopping block to protect his team, and was all about defending Clarice’s instincts even while acknowledging his own initial doubts about their veracity. Tomas made fun of Clarice’s crappy car but was a good partner for her in the field, and she could use some help right now given the very precarious situation in which she’s found herself. Ardelia getting assigned to investigate VICAP made things very uncomfortable for her and Clarice, and it’s going to be hard for them to continue as friends without what happened getting in the way of that. I do think that Ardelia could be a worthwhile character in her own right, and exploring her more outside of just her relationship with Clarice will likely be interesting.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

What I’m Watching: B Positive

B Positive: Season 1, Episode 10 “B Negative Part 2” (B+)

I’m not usually fond of episodes in which characters do drugs and then start acting in a very silly manner. That definitely happened here, except of course for the actual taking of drugs since Drew was delusional because he skipped dialysis and not because of the Tylenol that Gina gave him from the bag of mints in her fanny pack. It is refreshing to see him at least confronting the reality of the situation and trying to find ways to get comfortable with the uncertainty. It’s good that he wasn’t planning to go to Iceland with Maddie and that he was sending Julia with her instead, though his airport sendoff wasn’t a great moment when he made the ill-advised choice to run past TSA to give Maddie her guidebook. He pegged Gina’s skill at being a cheerleader and that he wasn’t in the mood, but she isn’t one to give up easily. It was sweet to see that his dialysis group showed up to look for him, and that Gina and Eli got to bond while they were walking around on the snowy-ish streets. Seeing Drew in a hospital bed at the end of the episode felt more dramatic than this show tends to be, but the mood lightened considerably when Samantha mocked him trying to breastfeed a garden gnome and opted to visit Jerry so that she wouldn’t have to come back and pay for parking again. Even Jerry got to let someone else be the punching bag for once, and he returned the favor by thanking Drew for giving him a reason to live (and laugh).

Friday, March 5, 2021

What I’m Watching: Call Me Kat

Call Me Kat: Season 1, Episode 10 “Business Council” (B-)

The setup of this episode felt a bit obvious, with Kat completely oblivious to the fact that Carter wanted to “butter her up with a vegan sandwich” and Carter failing to consider that there could be legitimate reasons that Kat would decide to vote against his proposed extended hours. I also get that there’s an idea of unyielding loyalty, and it was good therefore to see them reconcile in serious fashion after Kat showed up first with tap shoes and then with hand-written signs spelling out a message that he wasn’t interested in hearing. Kat was definitely wrong to think that no one had manipulated her in the past since she’s highly susceptible to flattery and generally gullible, but it is affirming to see her sticking to her principles when the arguments do compel her to make the right choice and to cancel her proclamation that the “season of Carter is over.” I’m not exactly sure how Daniel not being available for Randi’s photo shoot led to her taking naked pictures of Phil and the two of them taking a foot bath together, but sometimes it’s better to ignore the questionable origin on the sitcom plotlines here and just go with it so that you can enjoy the friendship between Kat’s two employees. It was fun to see Max’s reaction to Kat suggesting another option for the furniture that he was supposed to be taking, an exercise that didn’t work out all that well for anyone given the fate of Kat’s dad’s jukebox.

What I’m Watching: Call Your Mother

Call Your Mother: Season 1, Episode 7 “Feelings” (B+)

I guess Celia has gotten over the fact that Jean isn’t her biggest fan – and Jean has maybe warmed to her future daughter-in-law – so that the two of them can get mad at the men in their lives for the things they did. I liked that Celia’s confidence and comfort level made Jean doubt her own situation, which in turn prompted Danny to make the mistake of putting his foot down so that Jean could walk right out the door and Freddie could later mock that move as something he would never do. It is fun to watch the awkward romance between Jean and Danny develop, especially since they’re not trying to pretend that the feelings aren’t mutual but just navigating a complicated reality. Jean lying to Freddie about going over to Danny’s to replace his carpet with other carpet was funny, and I enjoyed Celia’s quote about how love dies and her apartment is rent-controlled. Calling it a backup like car insurance was an entertaining way to put it, and all worked out with Freddie showing his affection and understanding by proposing that she keep her apartment. Learning about Jackie’s neuroses was a lot of fun, like that she got a fake ID just to be able to work at Dairy Queen, and Lane taking her to a restaurant where tables are reserved for walkups so that the actual reservations don’t get seated was hardly the brightest option. Her conclusion that she needed to feel this way and that she’s a pretty crier were helpful enough to her, and I’m eager to see what the newly unemployed and newly single woman does next with her life.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

What I’m Watching: Resident Alien

Resident Alien: Season 1, Episode 6 “Sexy Beast” (B+)

We got some great new cast additions in this episode. Linda Hamilton is of course one of the most recognizable faces in science fiction thanks to her iconic role in “The Terminator” and its superior sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” and it’s fun to see her in a more villainous role where she gets to intimidate subordinates and give orders. The relationship between David and Lisa now makes much more sense, and it’s clear that David hasn’t been fully read into what’s going on while Lisa doesn’t care about much other than achieving her mission. The other new cast member is Michael Cassidy from “People of Earth” as Ethan, the new doctor whose mastery of French and general charming nature got Harry very bothered and claiming that he had already fixed the coffeemaker when he was most definitely not capable of doing that. Covering his tracks out of jealousy isn’t going well for anyone, as he was ready to get Max out of having to be shipped off to boarding school but then reversed course on having misdiagnosed him to preserve his pride. I did enjoy him being encouraged to joust at the bar, but Harry effortlessly dislocating Ethan’s shoulder when they arm-wrestled only made the new doctor more likeable. Darcy was certainly charmed, but she was not into the fancy breakfast Ethan prepared for her in the morning. I’m glad that Mike was impressed with Liv’s secret murder board, though that does mean that Jay is their prime suspect. I enjoyed seeing a few characters together at the bowling league and Asta’s confrontation of Jimmy. Harry is hardly operating as well, being caught on the glacier by Darcy and now apparently cornered by the military agents hunting him. Things can’t end so early, but I am curious to see how he worms his way out of this situation.

Round Two: Superman and Lois

Superman and Lois: Season 1, Episode 2 “Heritage” (B+)

I’m always happy to see alternate universes, especially when this one came about as a result of a crisis of infinite earths that resulted in the multiverse being apparently combined into just one. Knowing that Captain Luthor was a soldier along with Sam Lane in a place where Superman rained fire from his eyes makes his fervent hatred of the Kryptonian understandable, but there’s obviously no reason to suspect that the Clark we knew is going to inevitably turn out like that. I’m curious to see what Sam, who tends to be an adversary and impediment of sorts for Superman in most forms just like the Hulk’s father-in-law, will do now that he’s been clued in to what he might have experienced in another world. It’s good to see Lois getting back to the journalism that means something to her as she sets up in Smallville with the editor-janitor of the local gazette, where she can be free to publish anything she wants that tells the truth about Morgan Edge and his real motivations. I realize now that I recognized Edge from actor Adam Rayner’s starring role in “Tyrant,” and I also appreciated the casting of Angus Macfadyen from “Robert the Bruce” as Jor-El, who was a bit harsh to his slightly-superpowered grandson upon their first meeting. I’m entertained by the bitterness that Kyle has towards Lois and that he suggested that she wasn’t going to find a tofu burger on his grill, the ultimate encapsulation of liberal antiestablishment behavior.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Flash (Season Premiere)

The Flash: Season 7, Episode 1 “All's Well That Ends Wells” (B)

This definitely doesn’t feel like a season premiere, and that’s because this is one of several shows returning now after it was forced to end its previous run a few episodes early because production had to stop because of what was then the initial coronavirus outbreak. There are definitely elements here that feel unfinished, and after the action-packed hour that did end up ultimately closing out season six, this one felt a bit like getting back to normal, at least in terms of preparing Barry for his next big battle with his returned speed. Nash sacrificing himself hardly felt finite given that all the other versions of Wells managed to still exist within his brain and then inside Barry’s body for a short time. I enjoyed Grant Gustin getting to play all those characters, particularly his mastery of Sherloque’s exaggerated French accent. It was strange not to see Cisco or Caitlin around, while Ralph and Sue’s absence was explained away to give the show more time to figure out whether it’s recasting Hartley Sawyer or just doing away with the character altogether. Allegra and Chester are fine additions even though they don’t feel all that familiar just yet. Cecile proved to be a formidable adversary for the steely and intense Rosa, turning how she made others feel with her powers back on her to get the confession she desperately needed. Hopefully all this skill will help them in the fight against Eva, who is starting to realize that she may not have had all the facts a little too late to reverse all that she’s done.

What I’m Watching: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer: Season 2, Episode 6 “Many Miles from Snowpiercer” (B-)

This episode wasn’t all that enthralling since it seems painfully obvious that Melanie isn’t going to die, and if she was, it would happen in a far more public and purposeful way than her freezing to death all alone. Anytime there’s an hour of television that takes place at an isolated station in a remote icy area, I always think of the terrific “The X-Files” episode “Ice,” but this show has never been anywhere near as clever or imaginative as that classic series. I was excited when I saw a flashback to civilization because, for all the stories we’ve heard about this dystopia, we haven’t actually seen what things were like before and during the transition to a lengthy train as the only place where any living being could survive. The limited information we did get was that Wilford was an uncaring tyrant, which isn’t too surprising, and that he was more concerned with building a brothel on his ark than letting extra bodies onto his train, executing them in cold blood instead. He shouldn’t have been all that shocked that Melanie and Ben decided to leave him behind, though he evidently also had a backup plan in the form of Big Alice that he was able to get up and running quickly enough not to have everyone left there freeze to death. Melanie hallucinating the most influential people in her life giving her pep talks and taunting her was a moderately effective device for this hour, which ended in a way that made it unclear whether she was imagining Snowpiercer leaving her behind or if they’re actually on the way to get her.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Pilot Review: Debris

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: Shameless: Hall of Shame

Shameless: Hall of Shame: Episode 6 “Frank: Ghosts of Gallagher Past” (B-)

I’d say this was the weakest of the hall of shame episodes, which I’m still glad we got since it was an entertaining reminder of just how much material this show has covered in its eleven seasons. I think that I just wasn’t all that impressed by the framing device that found Frank encountering three different people from his past, present, and future who were supposed to remind just how terrible a person he is. There also wasn’t any mention of the alcoholic dementia diagnosis that he’s just received and the fact that he might end up meeting a sadder and more dramatic end than anyone anticipated that could even pull at the heartstrings of the children who have literally tried to kill him on a number of occasions. An entire montage dedicated to things being inserted into a part of his body made the tone considerably more comical, while shots of him putting a toothbrush down his pants and choosing the opportunity to win a drinking contest over tending to his miscarrying girlfriend didn’t show him in the best light. Turning down Dottie’s new heart right before he had sex with her until she died was another low moment, and I think his existence is best summed up by that preview of the two things that would remain after the apocalypse: cockroaches and Frank Gallagher. This nostalgia trip has been a nice way to ensure that almost every week had plenty of Gallagher craziness, and I’m looking forward to getting back to the final episodes of new content over the next few weeks.

Monday, March 1, 2021

What I’m Watching: WandaVision

WandaVision: Season 1, Episode 8 “Previously On” (B+)

This episode was unusually direct, showing us exactly what happened to get us to this point even if it was clouded somewhat by Wanda’s refusal to accept it. The opening scene established Agatha as a tremendously powerful witch, capable of destroying all her sisters in 1695 Salem when they tried to kill her because of her alleged betrayal. She went from simply having fun, commenting on Wanda’s inconsistent accent and calling Fake Pietro Fietro, to seeming truly angry and threatening, first with Wanda after she tried to use her magic and then when she was holding her sons hostage. I’m not sure exactly what naming her Scarlet Witch is supposed to indicate (I’ll read deeper once the finale airs so I don’t risk getting anything spoiled), but it was almost as ominous an ending as the post-credits scene that showed an apparently redesigned Vision coming back online outside of Westview. Agatha taking Wanda through a tour of her real memories was very helpful, starting with her love for sitcoms becoming so apparent through the moments she shared with her parents and brother as a way of learning English. That doesn’t explain everything about how she was able to manifest this entire created reality just by willing it, but it was informative enough and shows her true power that she isn’t entirely able to control. Director Hayward is much more responsible for this than previously indicated, and I don’t know what happens if this new Vision goes into Westview and meets the Vision we know, but I’m definitely eager to see that in what may be well the series finale this Friday according to recent reports.

What I’m Watching: Dickinson (Season Finale)

Dickinson: Season 2, Episode 10 “You cannot put a Fire out” (B+)

I’ve been hoping for this all season, and it really didn’t seem like it was going to happen, even midway through this episode. Sue and Austin have been growing apart all season, and him taking on responsibilities to love Jane and her child felt like a clear indicator that he was checking out of his marriage in the fullest way possible. Sue chose the right moment to leave, right before that fire, and Emily was in mood to see her, to the point of putting her hand around her neck when she was trying to make her case. That managed to turn into something far more passionate, outdoing what Sue appeared to feel when she was with Samuel. It’s good to see them back together again, and I think it’s going to inspire a much more positive outlook in season three. Samuel proved his obnoxiousness when he responded to Emily calling him the devil with the assertion that he was a feminist, and it was great to see the oft-ignored Maggie step in to slyly help one of the only people who actually acknowledges her existence. I don’t know what’s next for Lavinia and Ship, but I’m glad she refused to accept his obsession with going to New Orleans, which he insisted on calling NOLA each time. Edward’s premonition felt very ominous, reminiscent of Emily’s haunting visions of Frazer, and I’m curious to see how that’s incorporated into season three. I liked season one but this year has been even better, and I can’t wait for more in season three.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Anna Baryshnikov as Lavinia

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Take Three: Clarice

Clarice: Season 1, Episode 3 “Are You Alright?” (B-)

This show isn’t getting any more interesting, though I guess it’s better that the current focus is on some sort of widespread criminal conspiracy rather than on a depraved serial killer. I do tend to prefer that kind of storyline, even though this psychological profiler premise is something I knew coming in. Krendler is doing a better job of trusting Clarice’s instincts even if he acknowledges that he doesn’t have the authority to go with the decision he wants to make, and we also saw more of his relationship with the attorney general when she called to warn him that they might not be able to keep the VICAP operation running all that long. Ruth is struggling to defend what she’s doing and having a hard time at home reaching her daughter, and those stresses are likely to push her to get results even if they’re not as definitive as they should. What Karl Wellig being killed while in custody means in a positive way is that the entire team saw it happen and realizes the dangers that only Clarice suspected. I see now that actor Kris Holden-Ried, who played Wellig, is probably most familiar to me from his series regular role as a far more well-intentioned operative in “Departure.” Claiming to have merely been a repairman rather than a hitman inspired a good bit of acting from Krendler and Tomas, not that it got them all that far. Ardelia being present, even if she’s in the wrong division, should help Clarice in the long run since she has an ally who isn’t blinded by chauvinism and is more than capable of advocating for her right to be taken seriously and treated fairly.