Saturday, August 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 4, Episode 9 “The Bride” (B-)

This show’s detour feels like it’s never going to get back on track, and I’m just sticking around until the finale wondering why it was that TBS opted to continue this once-decent show over the far better “People of Earth,” which I still miss following the questionable to un-renew the show months after season three had already been announced. This episode filled in Nate’s story to tell us that he hadn’t in fact been killed and had his organs harvested, but instead that the Russian bride he had met wanted him far more than he realized and was going to great lengths to make sure he didn’t come to harm. I thought Natalia looked familiar, and that’s because I’ve seen actress Olga Fonda before in the pilot of “Agent X.” She, like many other guest stars on this show playing zany characters, did a solid job of portraying the woman who didn’t want his fatty organs but longed to be with the man from Syracuse who just didn’t get that at all. Seeing his family members all dressed in white at the end represented a wondrous reunion for the four of them, but I don’t think Natalia’s mom boss father is going to be all too happy to let them go even if he is humbled by the power of love. The one moment in this episode that truly made me laugh was Nate’s inability to distinguish between a Russian-accented pronunciation of his last name and the term “parkour,” leading him to make an extremely ill-advised attempt to defy gravity through an art he doesn’t realize exists.

Round Two: Our Boys

Our Boys: Season 1, Episode 2 “Chapter 2: I Love Toto” (B+)

This episode aired immediately after the pilot, but I wanted to review it separately since the first two installments were produced separately. This show is premiering at a very interesting time as Israel is in the spotlight for the questionable policy decisions of its prime minister regarding the admission of two Congresswomen into the country, and I don’t think that this show will help with any sort of public relations. That said, it is a tremendously involving and honest depiction of the layers of society in Israel, with tensions understandably high as a result of the events depicted here but also emblematic of deeper historical and cultural decisions. This episode was grounded by the incredible performance by actor Jony Arbid as Hussein, who, frustrated by the inaction of the Israeli police, chose to go with them to the station despite all of his neighbors warning him not to, and ended up being interrogated and not told that his son has already been found brutally murdered. I neglected to note in my pilot reaction that Simon, the one investigator who believes that Jews are indeed responsible for this revenge killing, is played by Shlomi Elkabetz, brother of the late, great actress Ronit Elkabetz. The two directed “Gett: The Trial of Vivianne Amsalem,” a superb look at the difficulties of religious divorce. I’m impressed with how this show manages to make me feel like I’m right there, experiencing it all, and I plan to keep watching to learn more. I hope other viewers will too, and won’t make any problematic, generalizing real-life assumptions based on events depicted thus far that can lead to the kind of conflict that is emerging here.

Friday, August 16, 2019

What I’m Watching: Legion (Series Finale)

Legion: Season 3, Episode 8 “Chapter 27”

I wish I could be more satisfied with this finale, but there are a number of reasons that it left me unfulfilled. The first is that, weird as this show was, it should have been given more time to tell its story. After an eleven-episode second season, these last eight episodes felt rather rushed, and I didn’t find that this conclusion addressed every element of this show’s very multi-faceted universe. I’ve never understood the need for musical numbers, and the emphasis on Switch and her role as a time god or whatever she was supposed to be didn’t feel necessary to me. I knew Legion from his role in the X-Men comics, where he went back in time to try to kill Magneto and ended up killing his own father, who dove in front of his best friend to save him, creating the Age of Apocalypse, where Magneto formed the X-Men. That was never going to happen here, especially with no mention of the X-Men in this show’s universe, and instead we got a much smaller, insular world with Gabrielle feeling totally abandoned without Charles by her side. What was great about this finale was the last opportunity for Cary and Kerry to merge together and let her do the leading, and for Syd and David to have a chance to say goodbye to each other before being reunited. Charles striking a deal with the future Farouk was interesting, and I’m still not so sure what to make of his double identity throughout the show. Season one remains one of the most astounding television experiences I’ve had in a while, and it’s a shame that Aubrey Plaza played no role in this finale at all. It’s been wild if nothing else.

Series finale: B-
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Navid Negahban as Farouk and Aubrey Plaza as Lenny
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Dan Stevens as David and Aubrey Plaza as Lenny
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: Pilot

Pilot Review: Our Boys

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.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Loudest Voice (Series Finale)

The Loudest Voice: Season 1, Episode 7 “2016” (B+)

I think I was expectedly a finish with a bit more oomph, though it is true that Roger died shortly after all of this came to a head and therefore was in a way saved from considerable embarrassment because he never did face trial of any sort. What was most powerful about this episode was the switch that happened with Beth when she heard that Gretchen made recordings, something Roger didn’t even acknowledge and railroaded right past to decry the character of those who made allegations against him. Trump being featured on television defending his good friend after Roger called him was typically unsubtle, but it speaks volumes, since Trump does the same thing in his handling of situations he can’t deny – he tries to be the loudest voice in the room so that he can drown out anything he doesn’t like. Evidently, Roger made plenty of enemies, with Lachlan, portrayed by a questionably-accented Barry Watson, taking particular delight in watching Roger’s fall from grace when Rupert brought him in to fire him. The avalanche of testimonies featuring Roger’s deplorable nature was intense and excessive, though I think that’s the point since he tried to get away with whatever he wanted without any sense of, or regard for, the harm he was causing to people. I’m still interested to learn what plot points were fabricated or imagined for the sake of drama on this show, but I think the overarching message is clear, which is that power, left unchecked, can be dangerous if abused by those with far too much of it. This limited series held my attention each week, and I very much hope Russell Crowe is now more liked than he used to be so that he can claim an Emmy for his astonishing turn.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Russell Crowe

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Take Three: Another Life

Another Life: Season 1, Episode 3 “Nervous Breakdown” (B-)

I’m trying to get into this show, but I feel like it’s not really for me if I’m not overly invested in which characters die each episode and which ones survive. Airlocking crew members seems like an awfully casual activity, one that was apparently unnecessary and could have instead been replaced by some instant sterilization, something that probably should have been mentioned ahead of time by William but also was seemingly unavoidable. Niko going blind couldn’t have happened at a worst time, though she at least demonstrated that she was still able to lead even though she couldn’t see. Her condition was considerably better than Petra’s nervous system leaping out of her back like the title character from “Alien,” offering a rather grotesque sight that seems to be par for the course on this show. Niko also nearly got killed by Michelle, who’s only going to have so many chances at forgiveness for her mutinous behavior. Back on Earth, Harper is becoming a more prominent player, refusing to back off Erik and baiting him into a game of trivia to decide his cooperation level. Though he won the game, she was the true victor since she got him to give her information that for some reason he wants disseminated, a move that’s surely going to come back to haunt him. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll give episode four a shot, but this show isn’t quite delivering in the way I wanted it to at this point and likely won’t get there.

Pilot Review: Bulletproof

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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Round Two: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Four Weddings and a Funeral: Season 1, Episode 2 “Hounslow” (B)

In its second outing, this show continues to be entertaining and watchable, even if it might not be the most highbrow relationship drama. After the wedding that wasn’t, Ainsley was evidently having a lot of trouble getting over Kash, and not returning any of her texts or calls hardly helped her to move forward. Donating pretty much everything of his in their apartment enabled her to get some revenge, though she couldn’t know what a mistake it was to send Maya over to Kash’s since she won over his entire family. At least Maya was smart enough to realize that talking to him after he showed up at Ainsley’s door to try to explain himself would have been a mistake. She did dress up a bit too much to go meet Ted after he texted her about being in London, and she wasn’t at all prepared for his wife to show up. Shelley Conn, who I’ve seen previously on “Liar” and “Terra Nova,” made quite an impression in just that scene as Liz, who wasn’t about to let Maya even think about continuing any sort of relationship with her husband, which will finally enable Maya to make the decision to stay in London. It’s not going to make things any easier for her male friends, with Duffy finally trying to take the hint and respond to advances from a colleague, and Craig having to prioritize his girlfriend over her. I’m glad that we met Julia, who’s played by Ashely Madekwe from “Secret Diary of a Call Girl,” and she may now be open to Craig having some interaction with her daughter, if Zara is okay with it. The other person who’s going to have to adjust to Maya being around more is Gemma, who’s still not fond of the number one competition for Ainsley’s attention.

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 12 “Sacrifice” (B+)

Though I don’t feel that this season’s narrative has been as consistently excellent as the first two seasons of this show, I think it remains headed into a fascinating direction, and I’m very glad that a fourth season was commissioned a few weeks ago, which will allow more of this terrifying, slowly-changing world to be explored. Not all that much happened in this episode, but it became clear that Eleanor was going to be a real liability, suggesting in front of Olivia that they could take her kids out with them, a misstep Joseph was barely able to correct. The notion that Joseph might now become the figurehead of Gilead with Winslow allegedly missing and Fred in Canadian custody is immensely intriguing, and he might be well-positioned to help June in that role while slowly inching Gilead towards moderation and away from its oppressive totalitarian practices. It’s too early to celebrate that promotion and contemplate its potentially positive effects, but for now it seems that the plane is a go. June’s decision not to save Eleanor was risky, but she’s still managed to endear herself to Joseph, who will likely work just as hard to do good in his late wife’s name now that getting her out isn’t an option. Serena and Fred’s meetings with Moira and Luke, respectively, were hot-tempered to say the least, with Moira’s remark about Serena being the gender traitor the most biting moment. I’m really not sure how things will play out, but I’m very much looking forward to the season finale.

Monday, August 12, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 4, Episode 8 “The Same” (C+)

If nothing else, this episode reframed the hopeless search that the Parkers have been on for a while with both kids now on the run from the parents that just want to be reunited with them. It’s obvious that parallels are being drawn between the women and the men, with Delilah constantly compared to Robin and Jareb usually just as well-intentioned but truthfully useless as Nate. Delilah definitely doesn’t yet possess the same charming abilities as her mother, resulting in them getting on a nine-stop flight to Russia, which itself seems absurd given the multitude of connections possible from anywhere in the United States, while Robin got herself and her husband with the new shoes on a private charter plane thanks to the conveniently-present Gene. While Nate was entertaining himself by watching Delilah’s apparently hilarious ex-boyfriend, it was Robin who got their flight grounded by plowing a reserve pilot with alcohol so that he had to land the plane. I don’t have much to say about the antics in Iran, though I guess the two kids going to hide in the bathroom so that their parents wouldn’t see them and getting covered by the explosive toilet contents was even more absurd and over-the-top. Robin recognizing Delilah and Jareb by their eyes under the burkas was a sweet moment, which of course turned deadly serious in a second thanks to the presence of JR’S enemies ready to take them hostage. Nate doesn’t seem to be in much better shape either – I don’t know what to expect from the final two episodes of this season, but my hopes are not high.

What I’m Watching: Divorce (Series Finale)

Divorce: Season 3, Episode 6 “Knock Knock”

This feels like such an unceremonious end to a show that really impressed me as it went on, the latest sign that HBO pilots are rarely a sign of a show’s enduring quality. “Enlightened” and “Bored to Death” are two other examples that came to mind right away where the big premise wasn’t all that appealing and I only started liking the show once I gave it more time to develop. Season two was this show’s strongest point, and, unfortunately, this final stretch felt a whole lot like what many other abbreviated last seasons do, which is that it would have been nicer to have more time to see everything happen. That said, there wasn’t all that much ground to cover, and we got some rather concrete conclusions for just about everyone. Diane got to quit in a moderately satisfying way, fully aware of the choice she was making and that everyone in her life knew what she was choosing. Dallas saved herself some embarrassment and legal trouble, and may have found a more appropriate calling. Jackie broke things off with Robert, which didn’t seem to bother him all that much, and it appears their relationship going forward will be relatively civil. Most surprisingly, Robert and Frances are in the best place they’ve been in since the show started, even if it’s not a romantic coexistence. Henry was far too nonchalant for Frances’ taste, and both she and Robert seemed happy as the credits rolled. I’ll miss this show, but given its lukewarm reception, I’d say the twenty-four episodes it got is well worth celebrating.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Becki Newton as Jackie
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Thomas Haden Church as Robert
Best Season: Season 2
Best Episode: “Worth It

Sunday, August 11, 2019

What I’m Watching: Legion (Penultimate Episode)

Legion: Season 3, Episode 7 “Chapter 26” (B)

This episode had its share of moments, though I didn’t find it to be terribly effective as a second-to-last installment that’s meant to nearly wrap up an entire series. I’m still hung up on the different nature of Amahl Farouk the gracious host and entertainer and the Shadow King who haunted David’s nightmares and life for years, and seeing him in the flash eagerly welcoming Charles in felt much more like the former than the latter. He did manage to come face-to-face with his future self, somehow freed from the time between time, but he was caught off-guard when David walked in posing as a soldier friend of Charles. Having his father eat knowledge was a clever and quick way for David to transmit the necessary information about who he was and why he was there to the man he wants to be his ally so that they can together defeat Farouk and then somehow restart and reset time. It seems unlikely that they would succeed, especially with Farouk having some assistance from his future reformed self, though it’s possible that he’ll realize that the only way to defeat David is to allow history to proceed as it already has. Syd made an important decision to stay with Gabrielle and leave baby David alone, while Kerry was more than ready to end things right there so that they could prevent everything that happened from transpiring. I honestly have no idea what to expect from the series finale; I just hope it serves as a fitting conclusion to this eternally mesmerizing ride.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Amazon with Abe: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2, Episode 9 “Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy” (B+)

I haven’t watched this show in almost six months, abandoning it two episodes short of the end of the season in favor of more pressing new television released just as I started a big road trip at the beginning of February. Yet the first scene alone served as a completely fitting reintroduction to this show’s particular world and its unique rhythm. The revolving tables with Susie trying to get different people to vouch for Midge were humorous, and they were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Susie’s interference over the course of the hour. Of course Rose and Abe would be all for telethons until Midge explained that she was going to be on one, and she’d end up being relegated to the worst possible slot after Sophie exerted her influence. The host, played by Josh Cooke from “Better With You” and “Longmire,” reacted just the way I did, so impressed with her ability to work the room and turn a lackluster showcase into something truly incredible. The rift between Susie and Midge couldn’t have come at a worse time, when Midge’s popularity is blowing up and she’ll likely be fielding offers from others with less investment in her being able to do what she really wants to do. Abe finding out from his son that Midge mentioning Bell Labs in one of her acts may have resulted in his project getting stalled is not going to be good either, and he’s going to be a lot more upset about that than he was about Zelda giving him the silent treatment. Benjamin was very forward with his eagerness to meet Ethan and his referencing of a potential future engagement, which would definitely change things. Moishe firing Joel is going to leave him bored and purposeless, but it’s probably for the best given the fact that he was working way too closely with both of his parents.

What I’m Watching: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 1, Episode 9 “I Have to Be Honest” (B+)

This was the moment that this show has been building to since we first found out that Judy was the one who killed Ted, and it was about as powerful as it could have been. I always suspected that Judy was just going to confess, overcome with guilt for what she had done, and trying to relieve Jen of the burden she felt for being responsible because of the fight they had moments beforehand demanded just that. She knew that the police were closing in after Steve told her that her ex-boyfriend had been by to ask questions, but she had a solution for that, which of course is now likely to get her into legal trouble since a piece of the paint job is still evident on the floor of the storage unit. Steve telling Jen that he would take both houses in cash was a bold and showy move, though it wasn’t nearly as objectionable as his misinterpretation of what Jen was saying to him that caused him to believe she was hitting on him. After Judy confessed, Jen’s reaction was indeed harsh, telling her just to die, and then the most miserable thing happened after that when Judy went to go see Abe only to learn that he had died without her having the chance to say goodbye. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the finale, but this show has been renewed for a second season, which means that something unexpected and transformational is bound to occur.

Friday, August 9, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Loudest Voice (Penultimate Episode)

The Loudest Voice: Season 1, Episode 6 “2015” (B+)

As his health is declining and he’s no longer able to appear as strong as he’d like to, Roger is making sure to do the exact opposite of what he’s instructed in every case so that he can show that he’s still kicking. For anyone to expect to report to the same boss for nineteen years in a row is crazy, and Roger isn’t about to accept anything that feels like a demotion or him being pushed out by those he deems less capable. This limited series was supposed to be all about Fox News and the rise of Trump, with the latter being on full display in this hour as Roger coached him on how to officially launch his campaign and promised airtime to his team whenever they requested it so that they could help him win. I don’t want to read too much about what actually happened so that whatever I don’t know can still be revealed in the finale, but I am curious what here has been confirmed and corroborated rather than just assumed and invented by those who spent time around Roger and his closest associates. It’s reassuring to see Gretchen taking proactive action to try to take Roger down, continuing to record her conversations with Roger and consulting a lawyer to figure out what her options are. Getting out of the building without signing those papers upon her dismissal was particularly impressive, and now we’ll start to see the dominoes fall, though Roger’s ailing health may take care of him first.