Monday, August 8, 2022

What I’m Watching: Physical (Season Finale)

Physical: Season 2, Episode 10 “Don’t You Say It’s Over” (B+)

It was interesting to see how Danny and Sheila were actually doing pretty well after separating, with him respecting her need for space and giving that to her. Running into Breem at the tap dancing class at the gym made for an unexpected but wholly worthwhile confrontation, one that found Breem calm and eager to move on while Danny just wanted to be angry and to get revenge on the man who slept with his wife. But it wasn’t that encounter that turned Danny back into a bad guy, but rather Ernie, who, in a move that very much angered Greta, enlightened Danny about how he had rights to a piece of Sheila’s business under community property law. She was doing so well, checking in with her former nemesis Harriet and crafting the perfect block, and then she got the twin punch of seeing that a local celebrity had done the same thing and that Danny was going to reenter her work life in a way that he never deserved to despite his onetime participation in a brainstorming session. The voice came right back but she knew what to do this time, and enlisting Breem’s help because he’s an asshole sets up an intriguing season three that I hope will soon be commissioned. I also liked that we got to see Tyler and Bunny again, and that they tried to get rid of the Mormons at their door before they found out that Breem had sent them specifically to get funding for their new church, an unfortunate development in their blackmail scheme. This season has been great, bring on season three!

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Rose Byrne

What I’m Watching: Trying

Trying: Season 3, Episode 4 “Little Steps” (B+)

I love when Nikki and Jason have to try to prove that they know something very well or are particularly good at a skill that they don’t have. They always overcompensate, and it was fun to watch Jason indicate that Nkki that she was being overenthusiastic and citing statistics that weren’t relevant to the conversation. Asking their case worker Noah if his grandmother was okay after he had just said that she died wasn’t a great start, but Jason’s inappropriate ringtone going off for what felt like forever was much worse. Penny getting a promotion is good for her but not as much for Nikki and Jason since Noah isn’t nearly as warm or encouraging, but they at least do appear to be doing okay aside from the whole invested-money thing that Nikki doesn’t know about and Jason doesn’t know how bad it’s actually done. Nikki was understandably a bit thrown off by Karen’s news - as she herself was - and it wasn’t a surprise that Scott didn’t even bother to let her share it before noting that his blog might be picked up and therefore he was ready to quit a job he had just started. She did a great job of rallying the kids and saving the day at the party that Nikki and Jason hadn’t quite fully thought out, and it was fun to see her go take out some aggression on Scott that turned into a very sweet miming reveal of her pregnancy that it took him a minute to get. It looks like he’s already driving her crazy, but at least she’ll have his enthusiastic support. I also liked the episode-ending shout-out happy birthday message on the radio.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

What I’m Watching: The Resort

The Resort: Season 1, Episode 4 “A History of Forgetting” (B)

This episode dove fully into Balthazar’s backstory and what happened at the resort just before the hurricane, and the end also introduced an undeniable supernatural element that suggested that Emma and Noah have been part of all of this much longer than they realized. Alex was definitely eccentric, and I knew I recognized the actor from somewhere, likely Ben Sinclair’s similarly offbeat, if otherwise quite different, turn in the upcoming comedy “Spin Me Round,” which debuted at SXSW. The apocalyptic visions he was having and his claims of “memory leakage” were cause for concern, though Balthazar didn’t seem quite as upset about it as Luna did. It does explain the post-its and the mural, though the big shock at the end of the episode was that Emma and Noah were both part of it even though they hadn’t entered that room until just before then. The timing of the hurricane felt very dramatic and intense, as he noted that there was a shelter prepared to a worried guest and he went to speak with Sam’s parents and Hannah about Sam being missing and that penis photo on the phone. That Alex was the Santa in the penthouse doesn’t bode well for anyone, and Alex wasn’t willing to remember anything about it when Balthazar did confront him. Seeing Murray sit with Balthazar and Luna in the lobby because they all had nowhere to be right before the waters burst in was an ominous way to transition back to the present, with plenty of unanswered questions still sitting right there waiting to be addressed.

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven (Series Finale)

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 10 “Unbroken Circle” (B+)

I think I expect that reunions should be dramatic and full of conversation about what’s happened in the many years since the people involved have seen each other, but that’s just not always the case. I think it was fitting that Jeevan and Kirsten just recognized each other and hugged, and that they only asked each other a few questions before they parted ways, hoping to reunite in a year when Jeevan brought his family to the performance when the Traveling Symphony returned to its new Wheel stop of the Severn City Airport. Jeevan did exactly what he needed to do in his role as doctor, suggesting a treatment for Clark and being there to tell Sarah that it was okay to let go. Tyler playing a role in the play with Elizabeth and Clark also acting was deeply therapeutic for everyone involved, and it was nice to see Elizabeth agree immediately to leave with Tyler when he asked, giving them both a happy ending even if it’s not as comfortable as the airport existence that Elizabeth had previously been living. I wasn’t sure if we’d find out that Miranda was also still alive, but instead, we got to see how she made an important phone call to ensure that Clark, Tyler, and everyone else didn’t die by convincing the pilot not to let his passengers off the plane. That action and her book were deeply influential for the next twenty years, making for a very creative and highly involving series. This finale earned Emmy nominations for writing, editing, and music, all of which I’d say it deserved. This has been a unique and interesting ride.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Mackenzie Davis as Kirsten

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven (Penultimate Episode)

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 9 “Dr. Chaudhary” (B+)

This episode makes the strongest case yet for Emmy nominee Himesh Patel as a lead on this show, since he’s been surprisingly absent since the first episode, in which he was definitely the most-featured actor. But it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that, in a world without technology and the ability to communicate as we can in our present, people can have entire existences without others knowing they’re still alive and well. The brief appearance of Tyler in this hour was an example of that, since people don’t know who others are supposed to be unless they properly introduce themselves and explain their backgrounds and connections. Jeevan calling himself a doctor and saying that he was alone got him into trouble since he got brought in following his wolf encounter, and it was interesting to see him in a world defined by synchronized birth and simple survival. That Kirsten reading Station Eleven was what led to him getting attacked the first time and then going out to try to find her book after their fight feels like it should have been so preventable, but it’s easy to develop complicated interpersonal dynamics when you only encounter a single-digit total of people in the post-pandemic world. There were some sweet scenes showing how he grew into his role, and I do wonder now that we know he’s still alive in the present if he’ll be able to somehow be reunited with Kirsten before this show comes to a close.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 8 “Who’s There?” (B+)

This is the kind of straightforward narrative storytelling I’ve been looking for since the beginning, bringing all of the characters together and offering some potent flashbacks to explain how we got to this point. The episode six cliffhanger wasn’t really addressed, with the answer just being that Kirsten managed to take all of her assailants out, but luckily there wasn’t much time wasted in them being found by someone else from the museum who was ready to take them there. The older Clark is definitely paranoid, but for good reason. Even though no one is physically sick anymore, there are still those who have diseased thoughts, like Tyler, who Kirsten helped to infiltrate the airport by staging a scene from Station Eleven with him. I had thought that either Clark or Elizabeth might have recognized the story, but there’s no reason they would have ever read the book. Fortunately, this show isn’t one that thrives on death or destruction or even a terrifying, miserable ending, and instead Tyler did manage to burn the memorial and blow up the tower, which will destroy Clark, but theoretically no one was hurt and now he’s been taken into custody by Brian. Kirsten calling Tyler by his real name made for a strong scene, and him being recognized and addressed by Elizabeth and Clark was also poignant. The flashbacks to Arthur and Clark’s relationship were informative and engaging, and I’m curious to see what’s left to follow in the final two episodes: maybe Miranda also?

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 7 “Goodbye My Damaged Home” (B)

I’m not sure why I expected an intense cliffhanger like the one that closed the sixth episode to result in a clear-cut continuation of the story, but I didn’t think that it would be a purely memory-oriented hour that found the adult Kirsten transported back to formative memories of Jeevan and Frank. I don’t know if we’re supposed to assume that she hid the antidote on her but repressed that memory, and it’s also not clear how she was able to wake up on the ground still alive with the many people who were around her also unconscious in the snow. Seeing a bit of Frank’s backstory showed that he dumped all of his drugs when he heard that Jeevan and Kirsten were at his door, and that he managed to do pretty well considering the withdrawal he should have been undergoing, especially with two unexpected guests in his home. As they watched those news reports about a flu that doesn’t incubate and the terrible state of the world, it was intoxicating to watch Frank get up and lip-sync. While he was set on finishing a ghostwritten autobiography and Kirsten just wanted to finish her play, Jeevan was thinking about the movie “Alive” where a rugby team has to eat their deceased teammates after a plane crash, which I was recently reading about being inspired to a similar real-life story as “Yellowjackets,” which is purely fictional. The themes of saying goodbye in Kirsten’s play hit a bit too close to home, especially considering an intruder then showed up to declare that this was his home now. Frank wasn’t in any mood to be evicted, and it was understandable that Kirsten blamed what happened next on her desire to put on the play. Ending with an adult Kirsten back in the present talking to a skeleton on a bed of flowers was peculiar, and I wonder whether we’ll get back to the main narrative or if it really was an existential confrontation rather than a literal one.

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 6 “Survival is Insufficient” (B+)

We’re now at a point where the events of the previous episode took us right to where we are now, albeit without certain important bits of context that will determine where the true threat really exists. It makes sense that Tyler would believe that those within the Severn City Airport, now known as the Museum of Civilization, were malicious entities who posed a threat to everyone inside. Yet he’s also hung up on a prophecy taken from a book written by his father’s first wife, and so it’s hard to know if anything he says can be believed. Brian’s explanation of the loss of his accent boiled down to being told that he left and not remembering any of it, so there’s still plenty of mystery there. The way this episode ended was intense and unoptimistic, and I’m glad to see that at least viewers weren’t left hanging with the seventh episode airing back-to-back with this one. In a world with no clear order, it’s hard to know which side you’re on, hence Kirsten stepping in to act swiftly when she saw that they were under attack and in the process protecting Tyler, also because she believes her friends, who appear to be quite comfortable, are in imminent danger. She’s obviously been well-trained, but the odds are not in her favor given how many people are surrounding her and that she was traveling otherwise with children. I’ve decided not to watch more than one episode of this show per day, but there’s definitely a temptation to continue watching right away without even that minimal wait.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Severn City Airport” (B+)

Another episode, another completely different focus. Though I would have liked to experience this show with others when it first aired, I do appreciate the fact that I can now watch something like an episode per day and not have to wait an entire week between installments to piece together the many facets of this show’s universe. I’m very glad to see that Caitlin FitzGerald is in more than just one episode of this show, and she underwent quite the character transformation here as Elizabeth was initially quite haughty and rude to Clark and then became one of the leaders of the community at the airport. It’s both intriguing and terrifying to see the similarities between this show’s world and our own, and how the pandemic portrayed here was much worse than ours in so many ways. Having Clark and Miles offer Elizabeth and Tyler labeled KN95s did feel a bit too close to home, but that’s hardly the fault of the show. The notion of someone like Nick the janitor posing as a Homeland Security agent before breaking off with his survivalist group makes a lot of sense, as people in a crisis often defer to authority figures without checking on their credentials. Tyler’s precociousness combined with Clark and Elizabeth’s on-air conversation suggest that he may be the prophet, reading lines from his father’s copy of Station Eleven and going around to terrorize people after faking his death. But there’s also Brian, who we saw with a thick accent as Elizabeth’s agent, and the fact that what Clark was talking about putting together sounded a whole lot like a museum of civilization.

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 4 “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Aren't Dead” (B)

This show is undeniably interesting, but it’s also a bit hard to process and completely understand. We still don’t have too much information about what happened between year one and year twenty, and only a few flashes of a young Kirsten obsessing over the book while Jeevan tried to warn her about the dangers that were around them. It was trippy to hear Kirsten repeat verbatim the same disciplinary warnings to Alex that Jeevan had shouted at her when she was younger, and we’re also hearing a lot about the prophet of this notion of “there is no before” which is quite ominous. Yet there’s also a good deal of comedy laced into all of this that makes it hard to determine how seriously everything should be taken. Brian just rode up on his bicycle only again inviting them to come to the Museum of Civilization, armed with an NPR CD of Sarah’s. The casting of David Cross, one of my favorite actors that I’ve interviewed, was a sign that his role might be more lighthearted, but after some miraculously-sidestepped mines and talks of a return from retirement, he appears to have been killed by the kids wearing mines who went up to embrace him. Watching Kirsten descend the stairs as she was trying to warn them was intense and very worrisome. This concept of “post-pans” is definitely an intriguing one, and I wonder if those born before the world-changing virus are the same people claiming enlightenment only for those born after it.

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 3 “Hurricane” (B+)

While this episode was definitely engrossing, it’s a strange sentiment to have a third installment of a new series that barely features any characters we’ve seen before. We did see Arthur again and got to connect with the main part of the series that we’ve seen so far with Miranda discovering Kirsten’s Instagram, but otherwise this was a compelling showcase of a character who got her start without much experience and then ended up as a high-powered saleswoman who happened to be in Malaysia when the flu broke out. I was pleased to see Timothy Simons, a great comic actor from “Veep” who showed dramatic potential in “Candy,” as Jim, Miranda’s colleague who initially seemed to be very obnoxious and full of himself but revealed a much deeper side as he understood the gravity of his fate. Going golfing just before the end of the world did demonstrate quite a bit of denial, but he broke down and confessed just how scared he was right before they went back to their rooms to seal themselves in. The flashbacks to Miranda’s relationship with Arthur were very worthwhile, and I always appreciate the opportunity to see Caitlin Fitzgerald, an exceptional actress from “Masters of Sex” and “Succession.” Elizabeth telling Miranda that she told the press that they were the ones having an affair was a blunt way of trying to redirect, and she got her revenge by setting his poolhouse on fire. I don’t know what to make of that spacesuit ending, and I’m curious to see how everything ties together when we see familiar faces in upcoming episodes.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 2 “A Hawk from a Handsaw” (B+)

I didn’t keep going with this show following its first episode back in December but then heard only very positive things about it, and now, even though it missed out on a bid for Best Limited Series, it’s up for a handful of awards, including for lead actor Himesh Patel. What this episode did which the first one didn’t is focus heavily on Year Twenty, with the Traveling Symphony being warmly welcomed in St. Deborah-by-the-Water. I’m a fan of Mackenzie Davis’ work from films like “Tully” and “Always Shine,” and she’s definitely delivering a compelling performance here as the adult Kirsten, who is not terribly trusting and who holds the people in her life very accountable for their loyalty and their decisions to abandon the troupe for a notion of a simpler life. I immediately recognized Lori Petty by her voice, and I think the role of the Conductor is just as fitting for her as her part on “Orange is the New Black” was. It’s interesting to see how free and open things are in this future in terms of gender roles and free love. Enrico Colantoni’s guest appearance as a man from an apparently secret community was certainly ominous, as was David’s threat to hurt everyone if he and Cody weren’t accepted into the community. The early days were also unsettling with the young Kirsten receiving texts that her parents’ bodies were at the morgue, something she reacted to with appropriate distress before getting ready to move on with her new family.

What I’m Watching: What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows: Season 4, Episode 5 “Private School” (B+)

This definitely got out of hand, but it’s not like the vampires usually do a very good job of preparing for social interactions. They’ve never understood what it means to actually be human - even if they were once before they became vampires - and they tend to overcorrect in a big and extremely noticeable way. They also never listen to Guillermo’s advice, and he was the one who was able to best summarize what Colin was like and what his interests were so that they might have had a chance of getting him into the private school. But it turns out that 428 hypnoses is much higher than the recommended seven or fewer per hour, and all of that effort and position-switching was for nothing. Laszlo’s determination to be gay and play that up was entertaining, as was the fact that they had the Nadja doll talk at one point, which didn’t phase Headmaster Warren at all but did manage to really freak out Sean, who is generally oblivious to almost everything but also willing to accept the most absurd of explanations. Signing Colin up for all the sports teams they could possibly think of was actually a brilliant idea, since it’s good to keep him busy and he managed to get tired out so that he wasn’t terrorizing them at home anymore. Not knowing his age is a sign that he’s likely to soon grow up, and I think we’re going to get more of an active “Guess what” routine than the even more draining demeanor of the corpse that birthed him.

What I’m Watching: Only Murders in the Building

Only Murders in the Building: Season 1, Episode 7 “Flipping the Pieces” (B+)

I love that this episode offered another chance to get to know Theo, who did his best to communicate with Mabel even though she continued to insist that she didn’t know ASL and didn’t try to speak any slower even though his card indicated how ineffective lip reading really was overall. She was pretty stuck in her own head, remembering doing puzzles with her sick dad as a kid and then contemplating just how much of her memory was fading. I did think that, after they went to Coney Island and she went off to use the bathroom, something bad was going to happen to Theo just as he had managed to endear himself to Mabel, but fortunately that wasn’t the case, and instead he was inspired by seeing her with Charles and Oliver to call his dad. I was thrilled to see Detective Williams again, returned just after they thought they had been communicating with her, and how Charles and Oliver kept going to the bathroom to talk and she was listening to their entire conversation from just outside. Bringing in the knife was a humorous moment, as was her starting to sing to her baby when Oliver had presumed that she didn’t know how to do the same thing he did. It looks like Lucy is in danger, but it’s going to be hard to figure anything out with a city-wide blackout currently in effect, a surefire suspicious sign of foul play or maybe just an unfortunate coincidence.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 6, Episode 11 “Breaking Bad” (B+)

I knew because it had been previously reported that both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul would be reprising their roles as Walt and Jesse, and I might have deduced it just from this episode’s title. I’m not sure how crucial it was to have them return, and it was certainly jarring to hear Skyler’s name uttered by Francesca as she was catching up with the man who now goes by Jimmy over the phone. The idea that Kim had called to check on her was also a callback to a much more recent past that was the active present on this show just a few episodes ago, and it doesn’t seem like Jimmy’s attempt to reach out went very well at all. There was added context to scenes I barely remember from the original show, with Jesse asking Saul who Lalo was because he had panicked, thinking that’s who was after him. But he really has become a deeper and more layered character, one whose status as the protagonist of a prequel had initially given me pause but truly surprised me and totally paid off. Gene’s new scheme was typically repetitive and fascinating, particularly with his alcohol-sucking device so that he could stay sober while his marks got completely wasted. I thought that the man with cancer played by Kevin Sussman would trigger some empathy on his part, but the fact that he still wanted to go through with it shows that he doesn’t have much left in the way of humanity.