Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What I’m Watching: Goliath

Goliath: Season 2, Episode 5 “Who’s Gabriel” (B-)

Opening this episode with a hand-drawn cartoon with subtitles to give some backstory was certainly strange, and it’s hard to find a common style on this show. This season, which has just three episodes left, isn’t in a much of a rush to get anywhere, with repeated threats being delivered and received multiple times an hour from so many of the characters to each other. The crucial turning point in this hour is that, even though he didn’t show the first time, Roman decided to change sides and tell a very furious Hakeem what he knew. He didn’t catch on to the fact that Danny was following him, and Danny in turn tried to hold off telling Tom that he knew exactly who the leak was and was then somehow surprised when Tom matter-of-factly ordered him to kill his best friend. Tom really did open up to Brittany, who seems to be completely enchanted by him and more than willing to fulfill his fantasies, and he, like Marisol, was way too obvious about his allegedly casual interest in the case. Elena probably could have guessed what Gabriel’s question about prayer meant, and Marisol seemed spooked enough to fire her on the spot and, puzzlingly, bring Billy with her down to Mexico to meet him face-to-face. I have no idea what’s going to come of that. Patty had a whole intense speech prepared to scare Jeff off, but he didn’t take the bait at all and might even have scored a point or two with her in the process.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 3, Episode 8 “The Worst Possible Use of Free Will” (B)

This episode was perfectly fine, but I don’t feel that we’re getting to a completely vital place right now. Michael telling Eleanor that, in one version of events in the afterlife, she and Chidi fell in love doesn’t seem entirely purposeful, though I guess it is meant to show her that she is capable of love, which represents a huge step for her and the potential that she has to be a good person. I like that, after seeing everything, Eleanor came to the conclusion that there was indeed no free will, and that everything that she had done was actually influenced, if only slightly in some cases, by what something else had done first. Michael pouring his iced tea on her was a great way to wake her up, and now they’re on to the next hair-brained scheme to be able to save as many souls as possible. Seeing flashes of our human friends back in the good place was fun, though the centaur Tahani was definitely strange. I was talking to friends recently who stopped watching this show after season one, and to me it’s still been terrific, but this season hasn’t quite matched the first two. Reintroducing both Shawn and Denise at the end of the episode as they built their own illegal portal to Earth was a very welcome step, and I can’t wait to see what they try to do to sabotage Michael and the humans, who are far more equipped for their arrival than they could possibly realize.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pilot Review: The Cry

The Cry (Sundance Now)
Premiered November 8

Four-episode limited series continue to be extremely popular and prolific overseas, and they are increasingly coming over to the United States thanks to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Sundance Now. The latest import comes from the United Kingdom, and originally aired there from September through October. I knew that something was going to happen to their baby but I didn’t know what, and therefore this pilot was full of dread as current court proceedings and flashbacks to happier – but equally stressful – times gradually started to reveal what led to how things were when we first met Joanna. The events here were relatively simple, and I applaud this show for being able to dramatize a lengthy flight from Scotland to Australia in such an intense and foreboding manner. Jenna isn’t exactly likeable, though it’s easy to have sympathy for her given the way that she was treated on that flight and the way in which Alistair stepped in to be the hero after sleeping for the majority of the time while she had to get yelled at by everyone for not being a competent mother since her child wouldn’t stop crying. This is a show that’s likely to be as much about the specific events of the baby’s disappearance as it is about the unraveling of Joanna’s mental state, whether or not she has actually suffered a break from reality. It’s not the most enticing of these shows that I’ve watched thus far, but it is decently intriguing and works well thanks to its pacing.

How will it work as a series? It took until the end of this episode for the specific incident that prompted all this attention to be revealed, and it’s not clear if the subsequent installments will be presented in a similarly splintered fashion or if they’ll just follow the proceedings of the court. Flashbacks will likely be crucial for filling in information, and four episodes seems like a proper amount of time to cover this story.
How long will it last? The ratings back in the UK were great, landing this show one of the top spots among new series. The reviews aren’t quite as consistent, with some objections to the non-linear narrative, but this does rate as one of the more successful such endeavors. Based on the subject matter, I don’t think it’s meant to go more than four episodes, but it should help prompt production of other series like this.

Pilot grade: B

Friday, November 9, 2018

Take Three: The Bodyguard

The Bodyguard: Season 1, Episode 3 (B+)

I was going to comment that this episode was as compelling as the first two hours but far less action-packed. That changed, of course, when David, after spotting two false threats, ran right after the guy charging up to the podium who prompted to set off a bomb that appears to have seriously injured the woman whose bed he’s sharing and who he’s charged with protecting. I suppose that it’s a good thing that, bad as our political discourse is in the United States right now, our leaders aren’t subject to constant threats of assassination, but this is television, after all. There’s plenty more intrigue to be found in this hour, starting with David being questioned about why the shooter killed himself and definitely not selling his story of not having spoken with him at all. As he’s listening through the wall to Julia’s private conversations, he’s also having a hard time doing his job when Julia is trying to jump his bones in the bathroom during an alleged pee break and enticing him to follow her into the bedroom from her doorway. It’s still so difficult to figure out where his allegiances ultimately lie, and Julia telling him that his kids’ school was on her possible list of targets might help to shift his position since she’s trying to open up and be honest even though she really doesn’t have to be. Before that penultimate scene, the most intense part of this episode was when David nearly strangled Julia when she half woke him up in the middle of the night, showing her that it’s much better to have him on her team than the other way around.

What I’m Watching: Manifest

Manifest: Season 1, Episode 6 “Off Radar” (C)

It’s time now to forget about the adults hearing things and helping to save people as a result of their newly-gifted powers. That said, now both Ben and Michaela decided to share with their partners what they can do, which went poorly on both fronts. It would have been much more convenient for them to experience these inklings in those very moments so that they could prove what they could do instead of seeming crazy and just pissing Grace and Jared off more. Cal manifesting the reactions of Marko and rambling in Bulgarian was its own kind of disturbing, and naturally he was miraculously healed without the medical help that was proposed and nearly utilized despite the threat that it posed to his health. Ben went straight to the man in charge to air his theories and threaten public action if he wasn’t heard, and it’s apparent that he’s not the only one who doesn’t know what’s happening with all the passengers on the flight. The notion of an unlisted fifth bus including those who couldn’t legally stay in the United States has its own greater political implications that won’t be addressed at all on this show but could play to the current landscape, and instead it’s just going to be another mystery plot point in the seemingly endless saga of what happened to these passengers on that plane. It’s hard to believe we’re only six episodes in – it feels like this show has been going on forever without getting anywhere.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 3 “Dancing Queen” (B-)

This episode didn’t do much for me, and I’m really starting to feel that having only five legends around, one of whom is Constantine, is considerably less exciting than everything up until this point. Ray trying to infiltrate a punk rock band that was going to rewrite history by sending the Queen of England to a psychiatric ward wasn’t nearly as enticing as even the disco effort by the legends a while ago that showed up on the front of a newspaper in this hour to blow Ray’s cover. After Ray tried to out one of them as a leprechaun, the more plausible (at least for this show) explanation of Charlie being a shapeshifter was revealed, leading to a clever reintroduction of one familiar face in a completely new role. I thought Maisie Richardson-Sellers was one of the best parts of this show as Amaya, and though it’s not clear how long she’s still around as Charlie’s frozen face following Constantine’s spell-casting, I think it should be a lot of fun to see her in a totally different part. It is probably the worst possible time for Nate to try to get back out there following his many misadventures in time with Gary, who’s probably my least favorite character right now after Constantine. I’m finding Zari’s many barbs to be a bit anachronistic given when she’s supposed to come from, but I guess there needs to be someone smart and sarcastic aboard the Wave Rider aside from Sara, whose alleged unprofessionalism according to Ava was quite entertaining.

What I’m Watching: Kidding

Kidding: Season 1, Episode 9 “Lt. Pickles” (B-)

Jeff is the definition of a ticking time bomb, not acknowledging that he completely trashed the office and then channeling all of his pent-up frustration into the copyright-infringing Lt. Pickles game that Sebastian was so worried he was going to go ballistic about when he discovered its existence. It was weird to see him and Jill switch into co-parenting mode after Jill brought the chickens he bought to school and got into trouble. Jill wanted to defend him as an asshole while Jeff sought to find the beauty and inspiration in his behavior, hardly the response that the principal would have expected. Peter got taken up on his selfless offer to let them have some alone family time, and their trip to the restaurant got pretty trippy when it became clear that Jeff was experiencing Will’s magic trick in a truly mind-boggling way. What, unfortunately, was not an instance of Jeff losing himself in his own mind was the performance on ice that Sebastian pushed through by encouraging Sara to step into the spotlight. I still can’t decide what to make of the horrifying sight of Sara accidentally slicing Tara’s throat during a show that was up until that point going so well. In another reality-defying moment, Scott pretending that he was totally straight and had never had a coded conversation about not continuing his extramarital activities, and it says something about the state of their marriage that Deirdre’s immediate response was to grab a puppet and tell Pickles-San that they should have sex. This is an undeniably bizarre series.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 2 “Staten Island, Part Two” (B)

There were two moments in this episode that were far too literal for my tastes, in which criminal Donovan sons had their illegal activities spelled out explicitly by others. Daryll couldn’t believe that Jay responded to K’Lei that he had blackmailed him after he helped him clean up a murder, though that didn’t matter too much since they ended up getting her on board, so he’s just going to have to worry now about his father having it out for him if he can stay conscious long enough. Ray wasn’t at all amused when he was called out for buying supplies to cut up a body, and he was very frustrated with being called back into the same line of work that he’s been trying to leave behind. It was reassuring to see him eventually return to what he’s good at, telling Anita not to worry about what he was going to do and then finding a clever way to solve two of his problems with two bodies in one place. Bridget getting engaged to Smitty was an interesting development, but I have a hard time believing that their wedding could ever be attended by members of the Donovan family, namely Ray who tried to kill him. Mickey’s escape plan seems to have worked, though it’s really a shame that he roped poor Bunchy into it. Mickey doesn’t have much left to lose given his age and mental capacity, but Bunchy is considerably sweeter and more well-intentioned, even if he’s not as resourceful or obviously intelligent. Let’s hope Ray can help with that one too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 6 “A House Divided” (B-)

The sentimentality that is so intrinsic to this show makes it less effective than it could be, and the knowledge that everything is going to work out so neatly causes more eye-rolling than genuine smiling, at least on my part. What this episode did do that was positive was compound the nature of the God account and its influence by incorporating the religious beliefs of the latest friend suggestion into what its relevance to Miles’ life should be. I immediately recognized Navid Negahban from “Homeland” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as Hasan, the friendly cab driver who ended up taking them to his home because things were getting bad with his son, who turned out not to be the child with the issue. I have a hard time believing that Hasan would be so familiar with Jewish marriage customs like the ketubah if he wasn’t open to an interfaith marriage, and I’d be equally shocked that the two lovebirds would want to incorporate religious customs into what was going to be a shotgun wedding due specifically to their parents’ refusal to approve of it. Miles is also way too pushy when it comes to just showing up and trying to influence other people’s lives, and having a smile on his face the whole time doesn’t make his actions any better. Arthur awkwardly asking Trisha out was sweet, and that relationship seems like a much more productive idea than Cara deciding to give Eli a second chance when everyone knows that she should really be with Miles.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 4 “Ahimsa” (B)

It’s interesting to see how this show uses masks, with Agent Liberty more than happy to remove what he claims is a way of universalizing his cause and Supergirl hidden behind something that makes her look like the robot from “Lost in Space” because it was keeping her alive. And then we have Guardian, whose mask no longer serves any purpose since everyone knows his identity, and it would actually have been smarter for him to don a different helmet so that he couldn’t be re-prosecuted for the same crime. The horizontal pole on the bottom of the motorcycle was a nice trick, and one that helped to defeat his enemies in the moment. There is something warped about Mercy and Owen Graves using aliens’ powers against them, but vilifying the other by exaggerating the threat they pose is a common tactic throughout history. Mercy shooting a human also goes against Agent Liberty’s very specific code of only killing aliens is likely to be a breaking point between the two of them eventually. It’s good to see Brainy and Lena teaming up and helping each other alternately suppress and channel emotions, but the biggest new piece of help is Manchester Black, whose worldview doesn’t include the same resistance to violence that Hank’s does, though that’s fading each day, especially with the confirmation that Fiona did in fact die as soon as they found her. Our heroes are getting worn down a lot lately, and hopefully there’s a turning point coming sometime in the near future.

What I’m Watching: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle: Season 3, Episode 4 “Sabra” (B-)

I had the return of a character thought by most to be dead spoiled by reading the opening lines of an article in the Jewish Journal discussing the increased focus on Judaism in this season. I’ve never been a fan of Frank Frink, and I thought that his being gone was actually a positive for the show. Instead, we find out that he’s the artist behind the rainbow resistance image, living in a community of secret Jews pretending to be Christians that nearly got compromised by the man who forced Mark to bring him back to his home. It’s difficult to watch that when there’s so much anti-Semitism roaring its ugly head in the real world, and here it’s state-sanctioned, which means that if they get caught, they’re all going to be killed and it won’t even be considered a crime. While Frank being alive may have been a surprise to audiences, the Kempeitai seems to be fully aware that he is likely out there. Before he and Robert were robbed of their bus and all their possessions by the biker gang, Ed got to experience true happiness in a surprisingly public way, one that was also indulged by the creator of propaganda herself, Nicole. I know how being a “gender traitor” is handled on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but I can’t imagine it’s something that the Reich takes kindly to even if it’s not their most despised trait. As he tries to handle Helen, John is getting more and more disturbed by the films and the dreams about Thomas, and I wonder where it’s all going to lead. Joe may be wooing Juliana, but he’s sure killing a lot of people, the latest of which may be Tagomi.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What I’m Watching: Maniac

Maniac: Season 1, Episode 4 “Furs by Sebastian” (B-)

I don’t really know what to make of this episode. I’m aware that both Jonah Hill and Emma Stone are credited as playing three different people on this show, but I don’t think I expected an installment fully devoted to their joint dream of being Bruce and Linda Marino. I don’t see what the point of this was, portraying Bruce as a loyal but less than intelligent spouse without too many ambitions, and Linda as a self-centered woman with her own strange aims. Linda was living out a different fantasy than Bruce, and I guess, in the end, it was Bruce who paid for it by sacrificing himself to the police and Linda who was left lying on the couch without having to bear any responsibility for her actions. Bruce is certainly more talkative and self-assured than Owen, while Linda looks much more similar to Annie, who is more than happy to lie and manipulate others if she feels it will be to her advantage. I appreciated seeing guest actor Glenn Fleshler, a ubiquitous TV player who has also appeared in “Billions,” “Barry,” and “Waco” this year, as Sebastian, who initially played a throwaway part as the owner of the fur store but then went out with a literal bang when the Fish and Wildlife officers showed up. This episode felt even more eccentric than the three that came before it, but it also felt pointless in a way that doesn’t make me feel great about investing in it. Seeing them both asleep and dreaming at the end of the episode gives me some confidence that the next episode will course-correct.

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 4 “I’m the Talking Ass” (B)

We’re starting to settle into a new normal here, and there are elements of it that I just don’t like. Badison is the ultimate example, mainly because we’ve gotten to know these characters over the years, and while there have been a few new additions, largely it’s worked well with the same people. It’s understandable that, after an entire season devoted to a riot, this one would be devoted to its aftermath. What we’re seeing is the discrepancy in representation and, as a result, the future prospects of a handful of the inmates. Flashing back to Nicky’s childhood and how she transformed her Bat Mitzvah speech into a biting takedown of the two parents that didn’t have any interest in taking responsibility for her was informative of how she’s developed loyalty over the years and why she felt so bad for what’s going to happen to Red, who truly doesn’t deserve her fate. Taystee was also horrified to learn the charges that she was facing, and calling Caputo was a smart idea since he can vouch for her to a degree. It was nice to see some old familiar faces like Aleida, who was so annoyed that the shake saleswoman used one of the selling techniques on her, which she proceeded to do to the guard that stepped in to pacify her when things nearly got very bad following her shortened conversation with Daya. Luschek isn’t nearly as endearing, and of course he’s going to be the one to make this whole “Fantasy Inmate” thing implode. Though Badison is still there to ruin things, it’s great to see Piper back with a spring in her step now that Alex has been safely found and reunited with her fiancĂ©e. The most enjoyable part of the hour was definitely watching Pennsatucky, Donuts, and Dixon having a blast at the theme park, with Dixon stepping in to defend his allegedly gay friends, something that may very well lead to their being caught. 4

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 4 “I Get Physical” (B+)

There aren’t many shows aside from musicals that can get away with essentially featuring a concert midway through an episode. That proved especially effective as Mariah tried to confront Bushmaster and wish him well as he headed back to Jamaica, only to be condescendingly called by the last name Stokes, which really got her angry. In this season’s exploration of social media as a boosting factor for Luke’s persona, it’s interesting to see just how much people in Harlem are entertained by the video of Luke getting knocked out by Bushmaster. Having it covered on ESPN and compared to famous boxers being defeated made this all feel like a sporting event, one which Luke is definitely losing. Misty could tell that he was out of it when he didn’t fight her quite enough to be in charge when they went in together and then didn’t argue at all when she had to go to ICE with Tomas and couldn’t take him because he’s an ex-con. Claire leaving is really bad for him since she was a certain kind of support, and Bobby tried to offer some sage advice before jetting off to California to be a hero of another sort. Comanche seemed to be going out of his way to try to piss Mariah off, and therefore the revelation that he’s actually working as an informant for the police is huge news. We don’t yet know who is suing Luke, but that look on his face shows that he’s not at all happy about it.

Monday, November 5, 2018

What I’m Watching: Goliath

Goliath: Season 2, Episode 4 “Alo” (B-)

I’m getting a bit tired of how much we need to see of how Tom isn’t nearly as bad as the men that he’s working for, with new limbs being amputated on screen and then even the victims of his depraved fantasies being executed just to scare him a little en route to Mexico. I’m still perplexed by the casting of Mark Duplass in that role, especially after he arrived to rescue an all-too comedic scene with an equally strange choice, David Cross, before predictably beating Loomis with his racket. The turning point that may have been accomplished by episode’s end, after Billy got Roman really riled up by marching into the police station with the severed head in the box, he showed up to spell out for him that he has no interest in seeing Roman dead, and being at the bottom of the food chain means that he may want to consider switching sides. Hopefully, Billy is finally starting to realize that Marisol doesn’t have his best interests in mind, after she refused to answer his legitimate questions and then showed up to convince Denise to push for details about the case. The case is ultimately this show’s focus, and they may have scored a win by convincing Judge Wallace that they have more behind them than she initially thought. Brittany telling Tom that she googled him means that she should realize that he’s trouble, but that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon given how committed he is to getting what he wants, especially when he’s the one in control. I enjoyed Patty’s swift rejection of Jeff trying to take her out for a drink, even though he was really quite passive and far politer than most of the people in her life.