Wednesday, November 20, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 4, Episode 8 “The Funerals to End All Funerals” (B+)

I think I sort of expected that things were going to go this way, that Michael would somehow find a way to convince the judge that the point system was indeed flawed but it wouldn’t result in whatever our main characters thought it would. It’s very fair that the three decent humans got better and that Brent ended up with just a slight decrease since his overconfidence that he belonged in the best place made him more horrible but then he shot way up at the very end when he almost had the chance to say something nice to Chidi. Eleanor, Tahani, Jason, and Janet having funerals for each other was an entertaining process, with a fitting tribute to who each of them have become. I’d liked to have seen what Chidi would have wanted for his funeral, but I guess we’ll have to settle for having him step in to figure a new point system to save Earth in just forty-five minutes. I found the judge’s eagerness to bring back “Ally McBeal” a bit odd, though it made much more sense when she got to say that she was essentially rebooting it by restarting all of Earth. What I didn’t see coming was Janet’s ability to hide the earth wiper-outer from the judge and Bad Janet showing up to reveal that she had read the manifesto and convinced all the Janets to stand against the judge to hide the device from her. There are few comedies that end on a cliffhanger every episode, and I’m just glad that another new episode comes very soon.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 4, Episode 8 “Sorry” (B+)

I like that this show is exploring new chapters in its characters’ lives rather than feeling like it’s not headed anywhere new. There is a bit of that, like with Deja wanting to reconnect with her mother, but that’s natural given everything going on in her life. I like that Malik tried to respect her privacy at first by telling Beth that it wasn’t his place to tell her, but she kept pushing and he remained as loyal as he could be while still sticking up for her. Kevin picturing his father every time Nicky spoke to him sent him spiraling, and it’s a good thing that he chose to look for a beating instead of deciding to drink instead. Fortunately, he cleaned himself up well enough with some help from Cassidy, and now Nicky is even going to come for Thanksgiving, where I’m sure he’ll strike up thrilling conversations with Deja’s mother. It was sad to see the look on Kate’s face when she realized that the wonderful moment she shared with Gregory didn’t include Toby, and I hope she tells him about it before it turns into something much bigger that she’s hiding. It’s very worthwhile to see the transformation of the young, awkward Randall into the much more confident man we see today, and sticking up for his mother after she almost didn’t get a job because of her lack of computer experience was a great instance of that. Her negative response to being asked about her memory indicates that she doesn’t want him to overstep his bounds as a child when she’s still the parent, yet another way in which this show sometimes so sharply captures real life.

What I’m Watching: The Conners

The Conners: Season 2, Episode 6 “Tempest in a Stew Pot” (B)

I think this is going to be my last episode of this show. I’m always reluctant to give up on comedies because they’re usually just half an hour, but that’s still time I don’t need to be spending with a series that isn’t either fulfilling me or one that I’d revisit anyway come Emmy time because it’s nominated for a handful of awards. I just don’t care if the family all comes back together again, and I miss Darlene’s multiple boyfriends. Becky and Jackie planning this elaborate stew restaurant did nothing to convince Darlene that it was a better option than the other offer that she had gotten, and they both seem ready to be militant just for the sake of it and stay bitter instead of accepting her decision. Harris isn’t exactly radiating positive qualities, lying to both her mother and her grandfather about seeing her friend Odessa again after the bike incident. I think part of the issue is that it’s not Odessa who’s the problem, but Harris herself, who seems intent on breaking every rule just for the hell of it without ever trying to do anything nice for someone else. As Darlene pointed out, people do like Mark, and his efforts to make Thanksgiving more personal were sweet. I also liked Dan’s line in response to his objection to Dan’s use of the word Indians to describe Native Americans about how he and his kind are on their way out. That’s a fine note for me to end on – I’d be happy watching an occasional episode in the future, but I’m ready to be done with regular viewing.

Pilot Review: The Mandalorian

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.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Round Two: His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Idea of North” (B+)

I’m enjoying watching this show as I try to remember bits and pieces of what I know from the books, like that Lord Asriel is Lyra’s father, and blissfully ignoring other revelations until they’re made so that I’m in for some surprises. I did realize ahead of Lyra that the General Oblation Board could be abbreviated to Gobblers, something that only scratches the surface of what Mrs. Coulter is doing. There is a childlike sense of adventure here that’s captured most in Lyra’s behavior, and then an undercurrent of disturbing violence shown through Mrs. Coulter burning the abducted children’s letters and by the physical crushing of a daemon by an unfeeling Lord Boreal. We’re getting a few more hints of what’s going on, like Lord Boreal being able to cross into another world that looks a whole lot more like ours than the one Lyra lives in, and I presume that Lord Asriel’s absence in this hour won’t become a pattern, though he’s sure going to have some explaining to do when he next comes face-to-face with Lyra. I’m very happy to see Ruth Wilson in the role of Mrs. Coulter since it’s so different than the role she played on “The Affair,” and it’s continuously difficult to deduce where her allegiances actually lie. In the process on waiting for clarity on what exactly is at play in these two worlds, the visual effects, costumes, and production design are more than satisfactory. This feels like a very worthwhile and well-staged production, far better than the 2007 film version of “The Golden Compass.”

Take Three: Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher: Season 1, Episode 3 “Care Package” (B+)

I really liked this episode because it delved into the minor characters we’ve only seen and met briefly, embellishing their stories so that they feel human and three-dimensional. I suspected that Josh Pais would have a larger role as Barry, who got to treat everyone to an enjoyable and transformative evening at his bar and react in a regrettable way to the revelation that Margo was trans. A romance between Julian and Eve was inevitable, and they both started to realize that something was happening at the same time when Julian was looking up at Eve’s feet. Telling her that she was pretty before he threw up a whole lot put the brakes on anything concrete for the moment, and I was also surprised that the connection between Julian and Brendan came up without much fanfare aside from Eve’s correct conclusion that they were not friends. I like that Brendan did eventually call his mother back a while after he heard her angry voicemail, and she was perfectly satisfied at the end of the episode just eating and enjoying herself on the floor, a more successful run than her earlier attempts at pleasure that didn’t result in much. Brendan did a terrible job of reading the room at the support group, and it’s puzzling that Chloe is still into him. I’m hopeful that Margo and Curtis becoming closer won’t end poorly, and the class is sure going to be different the next time they meet back in their dreary setting.

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley: Season 6, Episode 3 “Hooli Smokes!” (B+)

I’ve missed the crazy stakes present on this show and just how quickly fortunes can be gained and lost in the span of a single episode. Buying Hooli is a big get, but there could easily be a few more major moves in the remaining four episodes given this show’s usual pace. Maximo teaming up with Colin and Laurie was bad news, and regardless of whose math was right, things were not looking up for everyone. Leave it to Gavin to have a flash filled with kombucha instead of alcohol, and for him to turn down Richard’s brilliant mutually beneficial deal just because he doesn’t believe in playing nice. Having people literally push him and change him during the triathlon was typical, and I’d hope that his win would be discredited if it actually mattered now that he’s been ousted from his own company. Richard and the team did move very quickly, and their takeover went smoothly, which now positions them to be in great shape to potentially survive for a bit. Jared hid his emotions during Richard’s apology behind his sunglasses, and I imagine he’ll come back to work with Pied Piper or Hooli if Richard invites him. I enjoyed the brief appearance by Ben Feldman as Richard’s lawyer Ron, who offered to be honest with Richard for once, a statement that rightfully worried his top client. We don’t see enough of Jian-Yang or Big Head anymore – I hope we’ll have the chance to spend more time with them before this show signs off for good.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot: Season 4, Episode 6 “406 Not Acceptable” (B)

I wasn’t too sure at the very start about spending more time with Christmas music, but hearing Fernando spin his story to it to a predictably tied up Krista was undeniably intimidating and mood-setting. He made his point to be sure, and I’m curious whether her episode-ending call to Elliot was in fact to warn him or whether she was still his prisoner, not that it mattered much because he ended up in the trunk of car headed nowhere good. The more intense transformation in this hour was that of Elliot, who even Mr. Robot couldn’t support in the way that he shifted into ruining Olivia’s life. I hoped that maybe he hadn’t actually put drugs into her drink, though that would have been even more horrible if she had succeeded in her suicide attempt. Making sure that he knew that he was just as evil as the people she worked for was appropriately harsh, and I’m not even sure he’ll be able to do anything with the information he got now that he’s headed for some miserable fate thanks to Fernando. Dom’s future isn’t looking much brighter, thanks to Janice walking in at the worst possible time when Dom was trying to have Darlene kill her as the only possible way out of this situation. The choice she made won’t end up benefiting her, since Janice will not likely take it out on her family, and Darlene is likely to be tortured in some awful way as Janice tries to extract Elliot’s location. The only way this all ends well if the Dark Army and Fernando take each other out and no one gets hurt in the process.

Pilot Review: Back to Life

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.

What I’m Watching: Watchmen

Watchmen: Season 1, Episode 4 “If You Don't Like My Story, Write Your Own” (B+)

This show continues to offer rewarding showcases for fantastic actors, and it’s wonderful to be able to meet Lady Trieu, played by Hong Chau, in this hour. I loved Chau in her Golden Globe-nominated role in “Downsizing,” and wasn’t so impressed with her follow-up parts in “Homecoming,” “Driveways,” and “American Woman.” Playing the mysterious trillionaire here seems like a perfect fit, and she made an incredible impression showing up to see the Clarks, putting a timer on the table, and offering them a ready-made child in exchange for their home. She’s aware that her daughter felt tired from a dream that was evidently more real than she knows, and she’s working directly with Will potentially in cooperation with some faction of the Rorschach group. I’m glad that we got confirmation of Laurie’s past and her relation to the Watchmen we know, referred to as the Minutemen here, and I’m all about the intriguing technology used like the Ances-Tree in which Angela was able to plant her acorn to learn about her great-grandparents. I love the music used for Sister Night, and it pounded into full effect when she chased that unknown figure until he or she slid into the grate in a very cool and astounding fashion. Whatever Adrian, who was referenced by Laurie when they went to go see Trieu, is up to is getting far more sinister, as even his new creations seem shocked by the devastation he has wreaked upon all the poor clones he butchered in a fit of rage.

What I’m Watching: Shameless (Season Premiere)

Shameless: Season 10, Episode 1 “We Few, We Lucky Few, We Band of Gallaghers!” (B+)

It’s rare to find a show that’s just as good going into season ten as it was when it first premiered. Because this show finally split its most recent season into two parts, it’s only been a little over half a year since we last saw the Gallaghers. Fiona’s exit was known since the beginning of season nine, and therefore her absence here was felt only in its starkness when everyone showed up to see Lip at the end of the episode. The conclusion of this episode was unusually serious, with Tami needing emergency surgery and set up to potentially not survive, which would leave Lip in a very different situation than his younger sister, who is still playing mom to her young child while taking Fiona’s place as family money manager and working on a side operation of her own. The other creative entrepreneur of the hour was Kev, who found a niche that could make him a good deal of side cash that he’ll hopefully decide to spend on something smarter than sneakers that don’t make him any better at basketball. Liam’s new hairdo and cultural superiority aren’t doing him any favors, but at least he’s bonding with Veronica in the process. I’m thrilled to see the fantastic Luis Guzman back as Mikey, working hand-in-hand with Frank to steal a couch and share the spoils of his pharmaceutical acquisitions. Carl made quite a negative impression on his instructors at military school, and it looks like he’s in for one hell of a ride while Kelly is still around trying to achieve a world record in having sex.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Pilot Review: The Dublin Murders

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.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 5, Episode 6 “Confidence Women” (B)

This episode provided a welcome interruption from the seemingly endless battles and storylines that we’ve seen so far this season. I appreciated how the story of Lena’s friendship with Andrea was interwoven with her becoming close with Kara, something that sort of just happened on the show without much explanation. We also saw Jon Cryer as Lex again briefly, which makes me think that maybe he’ll return on a more regular basis to the show soon since a short guest spot like a lot of work if he wasn’t going to do more. I recognized two other familiar TV faces who played major roles in Andrea and Lena’s lives, though it’s possible this is the only time we’ll see them. Steven Bauer, who played Avi on “Ray Donovan” was Andrea’s father, for whom she sold her soul and agreed to be an assassin on demand for Leviathan. Rahul Kohli, who played Ravi on “iZombie,” was Jack, who was close with Lena during a time where she really needed someone and who I didn’t remember had previously appeared in a season two episode, “Ace Reporter.” I knew that Lena was going to pull Andrea away during a difficult time, but it turns out it was Andrea who betrayed her by lying about the medallion. We found out that Russell wasn’t bad just in time for him to get killed as punishment for Andrea trying to shirk her duties, along with the revelation that her powers don’t come from the medallion. Lena incepting Russell to kill himself if Andrea didn’t do what she wanted proved just how little she values other people, even those she wants called friends, and probing Eve’s memories only reinforces that.

Friday, November 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: Batwoman

Batwoman: Season 1, Episode 6 “I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury” (C+)

Our main characters are coming together in very intimate ways that makes it feel like, eventually, everyone’s going to know that Kate is Batwoman, which can’t be what she wants. Mouse used his creepy skill to get Alice to reveal Batwoman’s identity, which is much more dangerous than Sophie knowing since he actively hates the woman he thinks is going to try to steal his sister. The “Alice in Wonderland” references are getting tiresome, and as if Kate’s outlook on life wasn’t disturbing enough, now we have Mouse, who is going to be able to effortlessly pretend to be someone else and pose a real threat to the security of Gotham. After Sophie confirmed her theory and called Batwoman Kate right before she passed out, it was nice to see Mary give Sophie a piece of her mind without realizing quite how stinging her comments were by asking her if betrayal was her thing. Sophie isn’t going to tell Jacob, though Kate should realize that the longer she hides her secret identity from her father, the worse it’s going to be when the truth eventually comes out at exactly the wrong time. I suppose this episode deserves moderate credit for creating a villain who was very specific in how he took out his victims, killing htem in the same way that an executioner would in Gotham’s prisons. It’s hardly on the level of “Se7en,” though I wouldn’t expect anything like that from this show. Luke’s connection to his father is interesting, and I wonder if we’ll ever return to that storyline in the future.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 2, Episode 7 “Instant Karma” (C)

Is it bad that I enjoyed watching Rakesh and Miles key in new eleven-digit combinations hoping they would be the matching code only to be disappointed each time that they weren’t? Things continue to be a bit too easy for these interfering know-it-alls, and yet again, everything managed to work out in the end. Finding a lottery ticket that was a million-dollar winner would happen to these do-gooders, and as a result they had to keep hounding Sameer, who didn’t want to incur any more karma, before being pressured into cashing it in by Jai, only to have Sameer insist that he had to sign it over to Judy, the rightful buyer. Of course it would be her hospital wristband number that would ultimately crack the code, a rather undeniable sign that the God account must have some supernatural power or otherwise just be a super-smart computer capable of generating the wristband number to match it. Audrey is quite a character, leaving her car on a New York City curb because she assumed it had to be a valet post. It felt like there were more predictable moments than ever before here, like Judy being revealed as the ticket buyer, Ali wanting to go into church work, and Cara showing up to finally tell Miles that she loved him. I was caught off-guard by Ali actually being given lines that weren’t merely in reference to helping other people, and perhaps her return to her roots will be a great opportunity to reconnect with her father as he takes his next big step.