Thursday, October 20, 2016

What I’m Watching: Narcos

Narcos: Season 2, Episode 7 “Deutschland 93” (B+)

Pablo being angry at those who he feels have wronged him is a very dangerous thing. Opening with all of the bombing of the drug stores and the retaliatory acts by Los Pepes indicated an unfortunate cycle of violence that continues to pervade the streets of Colombia, but the transformation that happened at the end of the episode when Pablo’s family returned was far more horrifying. Choosing an anonymous man mourning the devastating loss of his daughter was a very effective representation of the senseless bombing that Pablo had executed so that Gaviria could feel his wrath which makes the major jump from targeted executions and bombings for retribution to the murder of innocents unlucky enough to be in a certain place at the wrong time, not even affiliated with anyone sordid. Judy clashing with her allies is bad news also, and there’s not going to be any winner in this scenario. Steve was very much up for the task to just pick up and fly to Germany, and his close proximity to Escobar’s family makes his continued safety a true concern. Javier calling Messina instead of his Los Pepes contact was a positive step, but it still wasn’t enough to stop Duque and his son from being murdered, with the assistance of the CIA, no less. There’s very little good currently going on in Colombia, and the distrust between Javier and Steve isn’t good for either of them. With just three episodes left this season, I have to hope that things are going to get better soon.

Pilot Review: Falling Water

Falling Water (USA)
Premiered October 13 at 10pm

I read a short description of this show a few weeks ago and was immediately intrigued by the premise but just as skeptical of its execution. People’s dreams are an obviously interesting subject for television or film, but it’s hard to find an example that manages to tackle them in a way that proves both engaging and reasonable. “Inception” is the exception to the rule, one that, however complex, proved to be incredibly cool and exciting even if some of the suggested science didn’t hold up. A TV example that works relatively well is “Sense8,” though it’s hard to find much logic or clarity on that incredibly confusing show that takes dreams to the next level and instead establishes the kind of deep conscious connection that this show is going for. On this show, an incredibly overeager Zak Orth seems to want to unite people during their dreams and help to understand more about our minds that way, though one of his subjects is already trying to subvert him, telling the “guest” in his dream to lie to Orth’s Bill. Regardless of what high-minded intellectual notions this show has, the way it plays out is extremely dense, uninviting, and confusing in a way that doesn’t command return viewing. I find it strange that a noted trendspotter is the first candidate to go under and figure out how to help with all this, but she also apparently has a baby she doesn’t remember having for which a miscellaneous $10 hospital charge is the only evidence. None of the actors are particularly impressive, and this show’s pacing is not a plus. This show might get interesting a few episodes in, but I’m not up for the long ride it will take to potentially get there.

How will it work as a series? So far, only Tess is aware of what Bill is trying to do and that there’s something worth taking away from her dreams that isn’t just in her head. My assumption is that Burton and Taka will soon get there, but how much will happen before then is another question that I’m not too attached to having answered since this show is already so muddled.
How long will it last? This pilot first aired a few weeks ago after the “Mr. Robot” season finale at 11pm, a late hour to debut a new show, before airing again last Thursday night. The reviews weren’t great, and USA is trying to delve into darker territory with this kind of show. I don’t think it holds a candle to the network’s other offerings, and I wouldn’t expect this to survive to season two.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 1, Episode 6 “Alarms” (B+)

As this show goes on, it’s becoming more and more about Sam’s life and her dealing with whatever is thrown at her. While that’s what a lot of shows are technically about, I’m paying this series a compliment since it’s less structured and instead just goes with the flow and tackles the latest obstacle in Sam’s happiness. The first part of the episode had to do with her being one of the peers, interacting with friends like Diedrich Bader’s Pats and Alysia Reiner’s Sunny, who are all on the same level as she is. The casual talk of disease and dating felt very comfortable, yet there’s still plenty of disagreement to be found, even among friends. It felt strange to watch Sam in a sitcom, though it was quickly revealed that she was just shooting a pilot, one that she cared far less about than her cocky TV husband and her horny TV son, both of whom made very inappropriate comments to her about how attractive she was. Telling Sam that it was weird that she was playing his mom since he would hook up with her was awkward enough, but getting overly excited in the car was pretty horrifying. Sam just moved on with her life, and then had to deal with her mother, a unique influence who didn’t bother to deprogram her alarm when she walked in to her house and couldn’t be bothered to clean off even one surface. If the end of the episode was any indication, some good old American vodka might do the trick.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What I’m Watching: Pitch

Pitch: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Break” (B)

I sometimes forget while I’m watching this show that I’m not actually a fan of baseball – though it is the one sport I don’t mind watching – and therefore this all-star game means nothing to me. I can understand, however, that it is a very big deal, and therefore Ginny being selected is both monumental and questionable, since, like everything she does, it may just be because she’s a woman. That was certainly the first reaction that Blip had when, awkwardly enough, Ginny got the call that he knew he was next in line with, and instead he got to contend with an unfortunately-phrased sentiment about the biggest moment of his life and later make up for it by coming back down after to spend some time with his family. Ginny’s family dynamic was explored in a big way in this hour, with some helpful history about her mother and her infidelity to fill in the gaps of their strained relationship. Inviting Mike and Amelia to dinner changed the vibe considerably, and their efforts to seem cool and nonchalant about their own private romance were poorly executed at best, though no one seemed to notice because it was the least of the drama going on at the table. We barely saw Al in this episode, and instead we got more of Oscar, who put his own life story out there when he flew across an ocean at a moment’s notice to score a suddenly available Cuban future all-star. I’m not sure if I’m using that term correctly…

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 1, Episode 6 “What We Owe to Each Other” (B+)

One of the best parts of this show, which is definitely much better than it should have been given the premise, is that, in trying so hard to hide the fact that she’s a terrible person, Eleanor is actually becoming a good person. She was panicking about how she was going to redirect the investigation that Michael wanted her help on, but she used her expert skills on dodging responsibility to show Michael what it’s like to put everything aside and just cut loose. I love that Michael is getting very into “Friends,” citing important tropes like the unrealistic nature of their jobs actually supporting their jobs and the illogical attempts to push Joey and Rachel together at the end of season eight. Deciding that the was the problem and that he needed to go wasn’t a big surprise, but that’s the next immediate project that Eleanor is going to have to deal with. Chidi accompanying Tahani and Jianyu to their couples’ massage seemed like it was obvious and excessive, but the moment that Jianyu started talking, his presence made sense as a necessity. Jianyu getting Tahani a framed picture of what he thought an impressionist was represented a kind act on his part, and Chidi course-correcting it for him was helpful. I prefer, however, this new evidence that Tahani and Chidi may actually be soulmates, both interested in the same things and flailing about in this good place because of the accidental insertion of two totally misplaced people as their matches.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow (Season Premiere)

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 2, Episode 1 “Out of Time” (B+)

I spent the whole first season of this show thinking that it would be better if Vandal Savage wasn’t the only villain, and then we ended up with the Time Masters, who were a bit on the out-there side and then ended up being even more villainous. Therefore, I’m pleased to see a fresh start, anchored by Oliver Queen and a self-proclaimed “time detective” in the form of Nate Heywood, played by Nick Zano, last seen as precog brother Arthur on “Minority Report.” This show still demands an extraordinary reliance on “Arrow” and “The Flash,” and I was excited to see Neal McDonough in the episode before realizing that his character, Damien Darhk, was a regular player on the show I don’t watch. Having Eobard Thawne show up as Darhk’s new ally was considerably more exciting because I’m much more familiar with his character and think he could contribute positively. I don’t know anything about the Justice Society of America, but it is cool to see people with powers in 1942 and for them to interact with these time travelers. Kidnapping Einstein only to find that he was a sexist pig was entertaining, and I like how this episode dealt with the past, particularly the legends’ extensive use of their powers. Sara seducing the Queen and then corrupting supposed witches in Salem was entertaining, and I like her rapport with Jax and the rest of the team. Charging ahead without Rip should be interesting, and I think the show has recovered well from the losses of Kendra and Snart. I’m eager to see where the season goes.

What I’m Watching: Easy

Easy: Season 1, Episode 4 “Contolada” (C+)

After a disappointing third episode that wasn’t focused enough on a romantic relationship, I had hoped that this episode would return to a format closer to that of the first two installments. Instead, we got a sudden infusion of Spanish that didn’t actually serve to enhance the episode at all, and instead just spotlighted a third wheel as he showed up to wreak havoc on the lives of his two friends. At first, it seemed like it was a positive thing for Martin to show up and infuse some energy and excitement into the rather standard and unspectacular days and nights of Gabi and Bernie. What wasn’t as obvious from the start, which is what connected this show back to its relationship roots, was that Gabi had a past with Martin, one that he was all too eager to relive, making multiple moves and even pushing Gabi up against the glass window for all those outside to see when they started being passionate with each other one night. Since the content itself wasn’t particularly engaging and I’m not familiar with any of the three performers featured, I have to look at it in how it portrays romance, love, and sex, and how they intertwine. In this installment, it was clear that Gabi wasn’t into the normalcy that they had achieved and that her attraction towards Martin, which wasn’t necessarily all that present and was more about just tolerating him while Bernie didn’t, provided some excitement. Compared to previous efforts, this one was hardly noteworthy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 3, Episode 7 “The Only Thing That Helps” (B+)

We know well that Jimmy doesn’t react to events, both good and bad, in the normal way that humans should. I’m not sure how much his father’s death had to do with his struggle to write that was conveyed in the opening montage, but his casual response to the arrival of his father’s ashes in a package necessitated some closure to help him move on and past it. Sending a friend to read a eulogy for him was a smart way to get the last word in, and Jimmy was not at all pleased to realize what he had done. Wanting his ashes scattered at Tony Shalhoub’s home because of a connection to the great food movie “Big Night” was a strange request, but what else can you expect on this show? Ben Folds being Gretchen’s new client was a surprise, especially since this show doesn’t tend to do celebrity guest stars, but it worked out pretty well mainly because she wasn’t at all fazed by who he was and he was trying way, way too hard to stay relevant with his pork shoulder and planned paparazzi. I liked seeing Tim Bagley’s caseworker, who I didn’t remember had previously appeared in a season two episode, and he was definitely not into Edgar’s request for one medicinal remedy to his condition. Of course Vernon would have a scheme ready to help him in his quest for pot. Paul did not seem into what Lindsay wanted to do at all despite his initial willingness, and calling Raul back was about the sweetest thing he could have done for a wife who needed that show of support.

Take Three: Designated Survivor

Designated Survivor: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Confession” (B)

This episode was somewhat more focused than the second episode, ignoring both of the Kirkman children and instead just featuring the new first lady asking for the help of someone who is surely going to ask for a favor in return at a very bad time. What we’ve seen of Congresswoman Hookstraten, who feels the need to constantly remind everyone that she is currently half of Congress, so far is that she always shows up to be helpful and to the right thing in the moment, in a way that shows that she’s making power moves. Granting Alex’s request means that she’s just biding her time to come at the president in a way that’s really going to hurt him. Emily flying to Michigan to witness and safeguard the protest failed, and then Tom’s authoritative federalization of the National Guard tanked too when they wouldn’t acknowledge his authority either. Lying to Emily so that she would bring Royce to him where he could publicly arrest him without being challenged was cunning but also cutthroat, and it’s definitely the move that Aaron would have made but not something that feels like Tom, who made a good point that it doesn’t always feel good to do what needs to be done. Firing General Cochrane was another successful show of power, one made even more emphatic by his eventual authorization of the mission. Hannah is on the right track, but it would be nice if whoever had information about who was behind the attack on the Capitol didn’t insist of being so cryptic.

Round Two: Frequency

Frequency: Season 1, Episode 2 “Signal and Noise” (B)

I want to like this show a lot, but I’m still not sold on the concept working in a regular weekly format. Raimy is realizing that every little thing she does have a serious effect on things in the past, no matter how small. It’s going to get increasingly difficult to keep track of what actually happened and what has now transpired in the new timeline, with only the 2016 version of Raimy there to remember more than one version of things. Raimy could have scored a solid win and ensured that her mother’s life was saved by acknowledging that what seemed like craziness that Frank was spewing to his wife in 1996, but I guess the relationship needs to be purely between the two of them at this point. Frank is being celebrated as a hero in 1996, and he would do well not to try to push back and get himself put in the crosshairs again. Serving on the Nightingale task force might be helpful, but obviously that’s already changing things, namely getting the number one suspect who is definitely guilty of kidnapping and probably other things to move from his home years earlier. I just worry that we’re going to lose sight of the case in this whole process, too, but I’m willing to give this show at least another chance or two before abandoning it altogether. The police investigations happening in both time periods should prove more engaging, at least, and so I’m optimistic that it could be interesting.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 8, Episode 4 “Weathering Heights” (C+)

Based on everything we know about Phil, it makes total sense that he would idolize a weatherman for providing a truly noble service to the community. Casting Nathan Fillion in the role of the fantastically-named Rainer Shine, a character who could only exist in this show, was brilliant, and naturally Phil would utter have a conversation in which he encouraged Rainer to date his daughter without having any concept that he was doing so. I don’t know if Fillion will be back again, but I think that keeping Rainer around for a bit could be fun. As she’s dealing with the tail end of her mono, Alex is becoming truly insufferable, and her victory celebrations are far worse than any unethical cheating that Luke and Claire might have attempted. Lily trying to frame her new housemate by putting alcohol bottles under his bed shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise, and I think her fathers’ inability to feed her since they were allowing Dwight to eat and finish all the food was more than ample cause to do so. Jay shaping Manny’s video in a very artificial way was just the run-up to the more dramatic development of the hour, which was Manny realizing that both of his current parents have shaped the person that he is today. I was just thinking that it was a little last-minute for him to be waiting for the big idea to hit. Gloria trying to learn how to speak English better was both mildly entertaining and pretty horrifying.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What I’m Watching: Blindspot

Blindspot: Season 2, Episode 5 “Condone Untidiest Thefts” (B)

This episode was one of those that went straight into action mode with our FBI team once again pinned against impossible odds and greatly outnumbered by gunmen in a tight spot. I sincerely hope that such instances aren’t commonplace in real life, both because there’s so much collateral damage but also because storming a public place with no regard for eventually being caught seems immensely foolhardy. Kurt going to Allie’s doctor’s appointment with her at the start of the episode helped to frame the stakes in a much more personal way, with Allie also possessing a personal connection to Patrick O’Malley’s turncoat whistleblower, played by the usually creepy Lee Tergesen, who was perfect for this role. Allie revealing her pregnancy to Jane in the heat of the moment was effective if nothing else, and she did a masterful job getting her out of there, with some help from a furious Kurt and a fearless Nas. There was little mention made of using a video camera lens to fire a bullet, just the latest in advanced weaponry that this show has featured. Edgar sleeping in his car and then taking a personal day was an unfortunate separation from his support system, and it looks like Tasha was just a minute too late to stop him from killing the coach who may have abused him and standing motionless over his bloody dead body. Let’s hope there’s more of a story to be found there, because the way things are looking right now, it’s very bad for him.

Take Three: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 1, Episode 3 “Kyle” (B)

This show is proving to be immensely popular, and I know that, for that reason as well as my wife’s affection for it, I’m going to be continuing to watch this show. I do appreciate the format and don’t think that the show is bad by any measure, but I’m not as entirely enthralled as I was with a show like “Parenthood,” a series that is often used as a point of comparison for this one. What this episode didn’t have was a shocking finish like the first two installments, but there was a major revelation during the episode, which is that Rebecca and William know each other. This show really does romanticize the past, chronicling the run-up to Randall’s birth with a sweet montage of bus boardings that summarized the love felt by William for Randall’s mother. Rebecca’s struggle to bond with her third child is what led her to find William, and it’s pretty crazy to think that William was aware of where his son was but didn’t try to initiate contact the whole time. That secret is sure to come out, and Randall only being more invested in helping to prolong his birth father’s life is going to make the fact that he could have had more time with him all the more devastating. We have no more information about why Miguel is in the picture and Jack isn’t, and instead we got to see Jack be a loyal father to his three kids when Rebecca was having trouble. Toby is a pretty dramatic and loyal guy, and it was nice to sweet a nice ending to the episode after his grand gesture at the nursing home. Kevin leaving on a redeye without saying goodbye is probably for the best, and we’ll see how well he does on his own in New York and how much his absence will help Kate to move on with her life.

What I’m Watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 4, Episode 3 “Uprising” (B)

These are dangerous times for inhumans, and this is hardly the first time in this universe – and so many others – that those who are being persecuted are framed as the enemy so that the true menace can rile up anger against them. Setting off EMPs and cutting power to cities was an enormous show of power for this militant human extremist force, and demanding that inhumans not be forced to register was an appropriate redirect that was far from their actual mission. The ending reveal that Parminder Nagra’s senator is the one behind it all and that she’s doing something freaky and alien with her brother is worrisome, and it’s a good thing that Director Mace is on the side of the good guys. Though he didn’t come out as inhuman, since that would probably be bad timing, he did a masterful job of triumphantly announcing S.H.I.E.L.D.’s return and giving the agency full credit for saving the day. After she was forced to hide her true identity and then faced immediate dismissal and hatred from her friends, Yo-Yo sprang into action in the most impressive way. Mac is obviously very angry at her and isn’t soon going to get over that, but it’s nice to see them working as a team. I’m very glad that Simmons and Dr. Radcliffe were able to save May, bringing back another reliable member of the team. Unfortunately, Daisy is not in nearly as good shape, encouraged by Robbie’s brother that she was the problem and now relegated to suffering silently and alone, a very worrisome position indeed.

What I’m Watching: Atlanta

Atlanta: Season 1, Episode 7 “B.A.N.” (C+)

This was by far the least traditional episode this show has offered yet, and I can’t say I was a big fan. I understand what Donald Glover was going for here but it just didn’t win me over. This show, up until this point, has been all about subtly parodying American society, particularly the way that black people are treated and perceived. This episode is all about that, with a fake show with a host named Montague on a fake channel called the Black American Network. Paper Boi being a guest along with an advocate for trans people was never going to go well, but that wasn’t enough. Defending the fact that he didn’t want to sleep with Caitlyn Jenner was just the start, and then things got crazy with a black man who identified as “transracial” and considered himself to be a thirty-five-year-old white man. The eventual revelation that the transracial guy was not into gay marriage and actually quite a homophobe just highlighted the absurdity of all these conversations, ending with an advertisement by Montague for Paper Boi’s new mix tape. The commercials mixed in throughout the episode were all sort of dark and strange, and none more disturbing than the one featuring the black wolf being arrested by the cop for just trying to eat the kids’ cereal than they were more than happy to share with him. If nothing else, Glover was brave for not appearing at all in this very experimental installment that was just a bit blunt for me.