Saturday, August 31, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 1, Episode 8 “Vendetta” (B+)

After last week’s surprising break in the case, it makes sense that Sonya, in keeping with the tradition of ardent law enforcement officials intent on never giving up, would already move to pursuing new leads while everyone else thought that the culprit was sitting right in front of them. Her supposedly aimless search for the dead David Tate turned out to be more accurate than she could have expected, and it’s a major reveal that definitely proves shocking and satisfying. I did feel that Eric Lange might be more useful than in a small role as Alma’s coworker and lover, and it’s good to see the man who played the irritable Stuart Radzinsky on "Lost" suddenly turn into a killer with a personal axe to grind with Marco, who seems to have a habit of engaging in affairs. Watching him slit Santi’s throat so casually was a harsh wake-up to the fact that Alma is in real danger if Kenneth decides that he wants to harm her rather than use her to harm Marco, and, thus far, I’m impressed with the depiction of him as a controlled, subtle person whose personality didn’t shift entirely once his true intentions were unveiled. I’m not sure what happens next, and I can’t imagine that catching Kenneth, if that’s even slated to happen soon, would resolve everything neatly. Gus’ meeting with Sonya was interesting, and she actually handled it pretty well. Ray’s new business plan is not working out well, and Tim is going to get him into much more trouble than he could ever have bargained for.

Friday, August 30, 2013

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the fourth category of the 7th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2012-2013 seasons. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Kat Dennings, Zooey Deschanel, Lena Dunham, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Poehler

Emmy nominees: Laura Dern, Lena Dunham, Edie Falco, Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Poehler

Semi-finalists: Krysten Ritter (Apartment 23), Dreama Walker (Apartment 23), Natasha McElhone (Californication), Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project)

Finalists: Dakota Johnson (Ben and Kate) was cute and endearing mostly because of her apparent need to make every situation awkward. Lena Dunham (Girls) charged through some of her character’s less sound plot developments by keeping her eternally self-obsessed and intent on creating drama. Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds) grew as a person in her show’s final season after so many misadventures, and her final transformation was her most compelling trick. Tina Fey (30 Rock) saw her show through to the end with her individualistic zaniness, and it’s clear that she always had a great time doing it. Emmy Rossum (Shameless) worked up the courage to speak her mind occasionally while still remaining the same parental figure always more responsible for her family than for her own well-being.

The nominees:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) took sarcasm to a new level with her unapologetically rude and hilarious series-steering performance. Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) was quirky and adorable as she explored a new romance and continued to live a life filled with slapstick. Tamsin Greig (Episodes) started off from a different vantage point and navigated her American life with a new energy and curiosity. Laura Dern (Enlightened) embodied her show’s individualistic spirit and helped lead it on its course towards true social change.

The winner:

Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) was on fire as she experienced her first year holding public office, and it was great to see her creativity and overenthusiasm gush into her new position.

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the third category of the 7th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2012-2013 seasons. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Don Cheadle, Danny McBride, Jason Schwarzman, Adam Scott, Geoff Stults

Emmy nominees: Alec Baldwin, Jason Bateman, Don Cheadle, Louis C.K., Matt LeBlanc, Jim Parsons

Semi-finalists: Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)

Finalists: Don Cheadle (House of Lies) blazed a very self-destructive path on the way to greater success. Nat Faxon (Ben and Kate) was idiotic and charming, and a fun lead for an all-too-short-lived show. David Duchovny (Californication) was typically irresistible as he finally tried to clean up his act but couldn’t really change. Michael Ealy (Common Law) and Warren Kole (Common Law) were infinitely entertaining as mismatched partners with a penchant for irritating each other.

The nominees:

Matt LeBlanc (Episodes) was funny but truly shone in his unexpectedly serious moments related to his body image. Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) played campaign manager to Leslie’s candidate, and the role suited his dorky nature well. Jake Johnson (New Girl) took on a more prominent role on his show and made for the perfect awkward romantic. Elijah Wood (Wilfred) moved in sync with his show’s foreboding shifts towards darker territory.

The winner:

William H. Macy (Shameless) epitomized his show’s disregard for dignity or any sense of morality, and his character was easily the show’s most hilarious and watchable element.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Thursday, August 29, 2013

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

This is the second category of the 7th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2012-2013 seasons. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Claire Danes, Julianna Margulies, Elisabeth Moss, Jessica Paré, Kyra Sedgwick

Emmy nominees: Connie Britton, Claire Danes, Michelle Dockery, Vera Farmiga, Elisabeth Moss, Kerry Washington, Robin Wright

Semi-finalists: Gabrielle Anwar (Burn Notice), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Glenn Close (Damages), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Mary McDonnell (Major Crimes), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy)

Finalists: Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) dealt with life’s cyclical curveballs as she became more and more like her mentor. Lucy Liu (Elementary) was a surprisingly strong modern-day female Dr. Watson and the perfect foil to Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes. Connie Britton (Nashville) and Hayden Panettiere (Nashville) were excellent adversaries, both equally obsessed with fame and the music world, and both just as deeply flawed. Robin Wright (House of Cards) matched wits with Kevin Spacey’s mastermind, and chewed out more than her fair share of people in the process.

The nominees:

Claire Danes (Homeland) made Carrie just as mesmerizingly crazy and committed as she used to be but on a much more public scale. Emily Mortimer (The Newsroom) was a wonderful fit for Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue and a firecracker in the studio. Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) dealt with unexpected political and personal developments with her usual blend of confidence and humility. Dominique McElligott (Hell on Wheels) imbued her show’s most strong-willed female character with an intelligence and conviction equal to that of her male counterparts.

The winner:

Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) played so many different roles that it actually seemed like they were being portrayed by different actresses. Her main part, Sarah, was almost her most simplistic and least impressive, but that’s the beauty of her controlled and marvelous performances.

Next up: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

This is the first category of the 7th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2012-2013 seasons. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Bryan Cranston, Liam Cunningham, Kelsey Grammer, Jon Hamm, Damian Lewis

Emmy nominees: Hugh Bonneville, Bryan Cranston, Jeff Daniels, Jon Hamm, Damian Lewis, Kevin Spacey

Semi-finalists: David Strathairn (Alphas), Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice), Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Timothy Olyphant (Justified), Peter Krause (Parenthood), Aden Young (Rectify), Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Patrick J. Adams (Suits), Gabriel Macht (Suits)

Finalists: Jon Hamm (Mad Men) unraveled more than ever before in the most fascinating way. Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) was self-destructive and deadpan in a brilliant performance. Kelsey Grammer (Boss) chewed all the scenery around him with zest and bravado. Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) turned a conscious-free politician into an enthralling storyteller. Antony Starr (Banshee) used subtlety to his advantage as an ex-con leading a dangerous double life.

The nominees:

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) descended even further into darkness magnetically. Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) had to deal with new enemies and a reclassification of him as the show’s hero. Michael C. Hall (Dexter) found a likeminded soul and transformed marvelously. Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary) made Sherlock Holmes devilishly entertaining and watchable.

The winner:

Damian Lewis (Homeland) worked with what may well be the most complex character on television and delivered a tour de force layered performance.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What I’m Watching: Longmire (Season Finale)

Longmire: Season 2, Episode 13 “Bad Medicine” (B+)

What a packed finale! There was a brush with the Cheyenne that got Mathias involved in everything, Ed was in the hospital after getting beaten to a pulp, and Detective Fales showed up to wreak havoc on Walt’s personal life and those closest to him. Ultimately, Ed was the most inconsequential element of the episode, but it was still worrisome to see how concerned Walt was because of his condition, since he had threatened him enough to be cast as the prime suspect. It was interesting that Ferg figured that Vic was having an affair with Ed, while Ed concluded that Vic must be sleeping with Walt. Leaving town with a haunting note for Vic was actually the worst possible outcome, since she won’t be able to live peacefully until he’s fully out of her life. Fales’ return meant bad things for everyone, and Cady was certainly in a less cooperative mood than the last time we saw her. Having Mathias arrest Henry was a big deal, and though I’m sure he’ll hold up okay in custody, that’s hardly the way things should have gone down. And it’s not even as if Walt can give it his full attention, because his new friend Branch got himself stabbed by a dead Native American. Who knows what could happen next? This was a very solid season, and though the show has yet to be renewed for a third season, I have no doubt that will occur, and look forward to its return sometime next year.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Katee Sackhoff as Vic

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom

The Newsroom: Season 2, Episode 7 “Red Team III” (B+)

Here we have an episode to essentially wrap up all this Genoa drama, revealing in its opening moments why exactly Marcia Gay Harden’s Rebecca was asking everyone so many questions about what happened. The idea that Jerry sued the network because he felt that he was wrongly scapegoated and terminated for his role in the production of the false story is ridiculous since he, above all, was always pushing the story even and especially when others expressed doubt, and that’s made clear by Jim’s strong objections to it and Jerry’s response that he doesn’t like it because he’s not the one in charge. It was hard to foresee the devastating discovery that Charlie’s contact actually hated him and wanted to punish him for firing his son, and not even that was as wounding as Mackenzie’s gotcha moment of watching the sports footage behind the general’s head to deduce that Jerry had in fact edited the footage. Weaving in the Genoa retraction with Benghazi was effective, and this was one hard-hitting, dramatic episode. The final scene of the episode was pretty terrific, with Jane Fonda’s Leona Lansing stopping by to chew some scenery and take Will’s Daniel Craig and Mackenzie’s McMac down a peg before telling them that they and Charlie need to earn back the trust of the public. With just one two-part episode left titled “Election Night,” I suspect that this too-short season is going to go out with a bang, and we’re going to see some exciting developments in the final two hours.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 9 “Road Trip” (B+)

There’s a reason that Ray hired Sully to be the one to take his father out: he’s ruthless enough to strangle his girlfriend to death just for making a phone call, disturbing even tough Israeli Avi. Things have taking an interesting turn with Mickey, however, since Van got worked up enough to come bother him to wire up and get Sean on tape confessing to the murder before Ray’s guy had the chance to share the damning evidence of Van’s hallucinogenic intoxication, but Mickey went and messed everything up by shooting him dead after he shared that he hadn’t told anything about their deal. That leaves Ray as the only one who knew about it, and theoretically makes Mickey much more vulnerable to being sent back to jail, if only that’s still what Ray’s plan was. This was a good showcase for Ray as a patience-free, determined fixer, whipping Tommy back into shape and going so far as to hit an aggressive reporter’s boyfriend with his car and then threaten to beat him up even more with a baseball bat just to get his point across. Without Marvin and Bridget in focus, Connor got his chance to shine, trying on a tux and preparing to go to an exciting kids’ choice awards show in a truly interesting intersection of his father’s personal and professional lives, where, for once, things actually seemed calm to an outsider looking in without knowing what was really going on and what Ray has planned next.

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 5, Episode 11 “Confessions” (B+)

The pacing of this show at this point is simply excellent. That’s always been the case, to a degree, but now it’s clear that, over the course of the final eight episodes, some monumental events will occur, but other smaller developments will take just as much time and play out in the most mesmerizing of ways. Starting in the present day with Todd telling the infamous train story was a great way of reminding that, however out of the business Walt thinks he is, he’s still a living legend whose reputation will never die. Setting up a meeting at a restaurant with Hank and Marie felt very sterile, but it seemed to be the only way for the two angry couples to confront each other. The most vicious comment came not from Hank or Walt but from Marie, who might have scratched the surface of making Walt feel bad about himself when she told him just to kill himself to make things easier on everyone else. Walt responded in horrific kind, of course, making what initially appeared to be a sincere confession video but was quickly revealed to be an attempt to pin everything on Hank and scare him out of turning Walt in to his bosses. Jesse, on the other hand, was certainly not doing well, and I loved that Saul just burst into his interrogation room shouting about rights. Unfortunately, even after a comforting talk from Mr. White, Jesse’s disappearing act couldn’t come before he discovered that Saul and Walt colluded to poison Brock. Saul already bore the brunt of his rage, and now Walt’s house is going to suffer in a major way.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 8, Episode 9 “Make Your Own Kind of Music” (B+)

This episode was mostly compelling, but I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the way one part of the story is going. While reading another review of last week’s episode, I agreed with the author that it would be a letdown if the Brain Surgeon didn’t have some greater connection to Dexter’s past. For it to be Oliver and Oliver to be Vogel’s is interesting in terms of the psychological themes this show has tried to develop, but, ultimately, Vogel isn’t one of the series’ main characters. The ending of the episode, with Vogel sitting and eating with Oliver after proving to him that she didn’t send Dexter, is less than fulfilling, since it would be better if it was all much more relevant to Dexter. I did like Dexter weighing the value of police protection for the inconvenience of having to hide Hannah and the safety it would provide for Harrison. Kenneth Johnson’s Marshal is definitely going to cause problems for Dexter and Hannah, since there’s no way that he bought Dexter and Arlene as a couple, and I suspect he’ll stick around to cause some more trouble. Dexter agreed way too quickly to go away to Argentina with Hannah and Harrison, and I’m not excited to see that bubble get burst. Suggesting that Hannah stay with Deb was brilliant, and I enjoyed Deb’s humorous comments about eating the food that Hannah made. Quinn kissing Deb was less exciting, though she could use some affection given the fact that Elway basically threw her out when Batista welcomed her back at the lowest possible level on the totem pole. We’ve only got three episodes left, and I do hope things end on a dark and memorable note.

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 3, Episode 4 “The Game” (B)

This wasn’t this show’s strongest installment, mainly because a good deal of the hour was spent with Cullen and Elam facing certain death, something that both of them have stared directly at before without much chance of it actually occurring, and playing violent games instead of doing productive work on the railroad. It seems that this season is much more about the challenges Cullen is going to face in continuing to expand the railroad in terms of the people it affects rather than simple manpower and construction issues. I enjoyed the fact that Cullen made out better because Jimmy realized that he was a Southerner. Durant telling Louise about the murders that Cullen committed is a commendable effort at sabotage, and it does seem that Louise is intent on frank, honest reporting, if her article about Eva is any indication. Unfortunately, her high praise of Eva didn’t translate to a positive opinion of Elam, and that argument is what paved the way for someone, presumably Declan or an employee of his, to take Eva’s child, which is going to prompt all hell to break loose in next week’s episode. I like the rapport that Cullen has with Ruth, who laughed for the first time in a while when he told her about the bearded lady. Though it’s not clear just what his endgame is yet, I’m glad to see the Swede featured at several points during this hour, chanting “fee fi fo fum” about the blood of a Mormon boy as if it weren’t the creepiest sentence ever uttered.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 3, Episode 11 “Stagnation” (B+)

It’s easy to forget that other people exist on this show besides Ryan and Wilfred. This episode brought back two recurring players from this season, Ann and Kristen, to help explain how their presence in Ryan’s life was affecting his productivity. Ann thinking about moving out was a great impetus for Ryan to meet with a recruiter, but, as always, he never quite follows through on the goals that he sets for himself. His sex dream was about as productive as he got, and I suppose asking Ann to move out was a positive step that might actually lead to something, if not a new course altogether for Ryan. The presence of her pit bull in heat was over-the-top in all the ways that you’d come to expect on this show, and proved to be a generally entertaining if appropriately brief plotline. Ann departed with just the right amount of weirdness, noting that her new home will be closer to her boyfriend’s prison. Kristen, on the other hand, revealed herself to be entirely dependent on Ryan, and telling the masseuses that she and Ryan were a couple just to get a free bottle of wine was pretty twisted. Leave it to Wilfred to scare Ryan into thinking that Wilfred inseminated her with his sperm to get him to wake up and realize that their “funemployed” friendship was getting unhealthy. Of the random moments on this show that seem to pop up at least a few times each episode, my favorite from this half-hour was the anger that Wilfred expressed about Legos not being for adults.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 11 “Tipping Point” (B+)

Now this is what I’m talking about. After four weeks of iffy episodes that didn’t really get anywhere, all hell broke loose as Strong seemed a bit too overconfident that it was time to take down James and his operation. Michael teasing Sonya to get the location of their mission was a deceptively calm and lighthearted way to start the episode, which quickly got tense and serious following the major shootout in which Michael was definitely on the wrong side. James not wanting to go down with a fight was worrisome, and it’s never a good sign when Michael’s narration works against him, grounding part of his team and giving James new ideas of how to outwit an overconfident Strong. The best moment in the episode, before its final scene, of course, was the ultimate sign that this show is counting down to its end with Simon’s reappearance. It caught me by surprise, and it angered Michael enough to kill him rather brutally and to warn James and Sonya about the impending arrival of backup, blowing the mission in the process. Strong hiring Simon is almost enough to make Michael switch sides completely, and what’s most telling is that James seems convinced that Michael is telling the truth. Stepping in to save Sonya was noble, and it’s hard to know what could possibly come next, especially since Sam and Jesse are still on the other side of things. Fiona and Madeleine represent another group that will surely be affected by Michael’s actions. Either way, this hour has me pumped for the final two installments of this show, which returns on September 5th after a break for Labor Day next week.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 1, Episode 7 “Destino” (B+)

This show has managed to remain rather sophisticated despite its frequent dealings with immoral, despicable people. It’s impressive to see how it handles its more overtly sexual moments, namely the sexual deal that Graciela makes with Ray in exchange for their continued business together. It was equally evident in the way that the shot of Ray in the pool was framed through Charlotte’s legs, and when Charlotte asked Ray if she could trust him right in the middle of a passionate moment during sex. This episode was possibly more brutal than ever before, if only for the one scene in which comic relief Manny was talking about an epiphany he had during the removal of his braces had his face instantly blown off by Jack, who was perched with a sniper rifle. Seeing Jack was jarring, but what was most effective about this episode was hearing Jack’s conversation with Sonya while Hank, Tim, and a blood-covered Marco searched for him. Sonya getting shot when she shot him was intense, and I think that’s going to shake her up almost as much as the unease everyone feels about Jack being so deranged. Staying sober hasn’t been easy for Daniel, but it is causing him to be rather unpleasant to Adriana, and it now looks like he might be in serious danger once again. Steven’s latest job is definitely going to be tricky, and it’s a good thing that Sara decided to save his life rather than let Fausto kill him. That’s going to be one tricky assignment, but I think that Steven is going to find a way to get the job done.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 2, Episode 12 “A Good Death is Hard to Find” (B+)

Whenever the lawmen on this show go to talk to a member of Branch’s family, you know things aren’t going to be pretty. It was great to see Peter Weller again as the deep-voiced, shady Lucien Connolly, who would of course want to play a game of chess with Walt while they were chasing down a man missing a finger. I’m glad that Lucien’s involvement was limited to an occasional tendency to remove digits and sleep with criminals’ wives rather than outright corruption and murder, and having him around definitely made things a bit more foreboding and intriguing. This story was strange from the start, and I’m glad that, though he asked her questions like he believed her, Walt wasn’t overly compelled by Connie’s tales and inclined to take her word seriously when she clearly had a thing for sleeping with law enforcement officials. Ed popping up again provided an excellent impetus for an unfortunate misunderstanding between Vic and Lizzie, though, given Walt’s enthusiasm for the relationship as a whole, I doubt he’ll be too broken up by the fact that she might not stop by pretending to return a book late at night anymore. Vic going to Henry to hire a mercenary was considerably more intense, and the fact that he called Walt meant that he knew things had gotten bad. Walt’s visit to Ed’s motel at the end of the episode seemed effective, but I suspect that he’s not done trying to make her life miserable just yet.

What I’m Watching: Major Crimes (Mid-Season Finale)

Major Crimes: Season 2, Episode 11 “Poster Boy” (B+)

It’s interesting to see that this show is continuing to experiment with its format, showing the immediate after of the murder as the detectives walk around and take it in for themselves at a later time. I suppose it’s more of a “Law and Order” style, which sometimes begins before the murder even happens, in contrast with the way this show usually starts with the squad arriving at a crime scene. It was somewhat sickly entertaining for the squad to discover that there was a body inside the very couch on which the eternally irritating Rios was sitting, and there was something innovative and frightening about these lived-in crime scenes with the poster boy talking casually to his grandmother on the phone after violently disposing of someone from his life. This is just the kind of case that’s fitting for a finale, and it ended considerably more destructively and desolately than most of the other ones on this show. With Provenza’s eyesight and Flynn’s health back on track, and Sanchez pretty much over his crush on Rios, the only real thread to wrap up was that of Rusty, who ultimately got ratted out by Chris, who, in all truth, probably did the right thing by telling Rios about the many letters he had received. Whether that means he’ll go into the Witness Protection Program and no longer be on the show is uncertain, and I doubt that, though it might greatly benefit the series, he’ll depart so completely after the show has invested two seasons in him already. This has been a pretty good year for this procedural which I’ll likely keep watching when it returns for the back half of its second season.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: G.W. Bailey as Provenza

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom

The Newsroom: Season 2, Episode 6 “One Step Too Many” (B+)

There’s no denying that the dialogue on this show is excellent. Part of the credit is of course due to the actors who utter the words so quickly and cleverly, but it’s the words themselves that are so brilliant. It’s evident most in conversations between people who don’t typically interact, like Don and Mackenzie, and whose interactions are the most compelling. The best dynamic is that between Sloan and Will, whose banter is absolutely terrific and whose sentences are literally completed by the other in the back-and-forth moments between the two intellectual newscasters. It’s jarring to see Will in his tranquil home life, and, while productive, Nina’s idea did not turn out well, exemplified by Will’s poor sportsmanship and his even worse sports abilities. There was plenty of relationship drama in this hour, and my favorite was the pairing of Neal with the very drunk, very passionate Ron Paul supporter. The newly unemployed Taylor was a great unforeseen crasher of Jim’s double date, but it wasn’t even that or Maggie’s presence at the bar that got in the way of his night. The way Jim speaks to Maggie about being so worried about her is definitely going to drive her closer to her eventual frenzied state, and we’re getting nearer to that event every week. Despite Don and Sloan counting reindeer, Charlie and Mackenzie running over garbage cans, and Stephen Root playing the sports-watching general, it seems that this Genoa business is no laughing matter, and hearing Charlie confirm to the investigatory committee that it isn’t true is extremely worrisome, even though we knew that all along.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 8 “Bridget” (B+)

This is a very fettle title for an extremely powerful episode that dealt with the residual effects of two Bridget Donovans. The fact that Ray didn’t kill Marvin was almost worse than if he had, since a clearly sorry Marvin revealed to Bridget that he couldn’t sleep with her because Ray had scared him by putting a gun in his mouth and forcing him to move home. Fortunately, Bridget’s grudge didn’t last long, and after leaving a harsh note on the mirror for her parents and running away to Marvin, she was back home to bond with her father and come to a relatively good place of peace. The Donovan brothers’ celebration of Bridget’s birthday was made even more meaningful by Ray telling the younger Bridget that her aunt killed herself because she was pregnant and on drugs. Terry beating up Frances’ husband when he found out that he hit her was both commendable and irresponsible, and ending the relationship was an unfortunate and self-destructive next step. Going to confession only to have the priest tell him not to be so hard on himself was poignant, and I’m glad to see that Eddie Marsan has netted such a terrific role on this show. Rosanna Arquette was the perfect choice to play Linda, the woman at the spa who flirted with Mickey and then got in over her head when she asked him to put a gun to her head and he took her a bit too seriously. That was a great plotline, and it wasn’t the only twisted relationship drama in this episode. Lena punching her girlfriend was an interesting if certainly regrettable choice, and I loved hearing Avi try to get her to open up about her feelings.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 5, Episode 10 “Buried” (B+)

I wasn’t blown away by this show’s still-great premiere last week, but this episode reaffirmed the fact that this is going to be a brutal and wholly worthwhile journey until this show signs off for good. It’s reasonable that both Hank and Walt would immediately call Skyler, and, unlike Walt, she completely shut down as soon as Hank started talking to her about it. Of course, he has no idea that she’s actually quite complicit in his illegal actions, and that she really does need a lawyer. Saul predictably freaked out but also handled the extraction of Walt’s money from the locker smoothly, and I like that Walt got a lottery ticket to remember the coordinates of where he buried the money. Marie’s reaction to the whole situation was the most jarring, and to see her try to take Skyler’s baby away was difficult. Convincing Hank to share his as-of-yet unconfirmed suspicions with the DEA is worrisome, but it’s far more complicated than that. The look on Hank’s face when he heard Jesse’s name said it all, and ending the episode with him walking in to the room rather than saying anything to Jesse was extremely effective. I don’t know what Hank’s endgame will end up being, if he even knows already, but I know it’s going to a tense, tempestuous trajectory. Lydia taking out her new cooks with Todd’s help was an awesome extra piece of the puzzle, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

What I’m Watching: True Blood (Season Finale)

True Blood: Season 6, Episode 10 “Radioactive” (B-)

After an action-packed disaster like last week’s episode, it’s hard to expect the finale to include just as much in the way of momentous developments. That said, there’s still plenty that occurred and some very important changes that will affect next season. This episode was mainly about the fact that, all of a sudden, Warlow turned back into a villain because Sookie decided that she might want to slow things down a bit. It’s not such a far-fetched twist, but the way his entire plotline played out, with Niall jumping back in from another dimension to help save the day, was inconsistent and unsatisfying. The six-month jump was necessary since it explained away several illogical events surmised to have occurred in the interim, namely Sam becoming a public figure and being elected mayor, Bill writing a book in mere minutes and getting on the bestseller list, and Bon Temps returning to its Christian roots to unite its people to become feeding partners for vampire protectors. The final scene really did remind of “The Walking Dead,” and I’m not sure that vampire-on-human war is quite as exciting as human-on-vampire war. Tara’s mom offering to feed her verged on disgusting, while Jessica agreeing to protect Andy and his daughter was sweet. I guess Alcide’s back from his plotline to resume his relationship with Sookie, and, if she’s going to have to date a “super” of some sort, better a werewolf than a vampire. There’s also no way that Eric could be dead after simply bursting into flames following his nude sunbathing atop a mountain in Sweden, so that will have to be explained away somehow. This shortened season was intriguing from the start but got lost along the way, and let’s hope next season can reboot things back to a good place.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 8, Episode 8 “Are We There Yet?” (B+)

I wasn’t as sure last week, but now I’m convinced that it’s absolutely wonderful to have Hannah back on this show. To see how Dexter looks at her and speaks to her, expressing complete honesty in every moment and functioning on the same moral plane, is intoxicating. Deb tailing Dexter to the Keys seemed like a situation ready to explode, but, as soon as Dexter walked in to find Deb and Hannah talking, things turned around. It’s very true that Deb and Hannah both care about Dexter, and they now realize that they have to live with each other if they want him to be happy. This episode almost turned into a comedy, but in the best way, as Zach rode in the backseat with Dexter and Hannah and asked “Are we there yet?” Watching Dexter and Hannah coach Zach in how to kill responsibly was terrific, and to learn that Zach was actually following the code without knowing it was inspiring. Unfortunately, that comedic middle, highlighted by the family dinner at Vogel’s house, was shattered by the startling sight of a de-brained Zach in Dexter’s living room. Asking Hannah to stay in Miami is only natural, but now Elway is going to be gunning for her, and Dexter has to worry about the Brain Surgeon coming for him or for Hannah since it’s now been revealed that the killer is still very much alive and operational. I’m very interested to know who the Brain Surgeon is, but, for the moment, I think this episode reached a positive peak in terms of chronicling Dexter’s growth as a person and as a teacher.

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 3, Episode 3 “Range War” (B+)

Things are getting deadly in Hell on Wheels, and the imperialistic gusto of the army is not going to help matters at all. It’s always terrific to be reminded that Cullen is an intellectual man who can outwit most that he comes into contact with, and to see the army unit’s commander meet him on the same level with a furious resolve for unnecessary violence is deeply worrisome. Cullen also isn’t immune to the effects of what is happening around him, and Ruth asking him if he hates his sin was an intense way of fleshing out his conscience. His recently-bartered deal for cattle doesn’t seem like it will pan out fully to his advantage, but it’s good to have Durant back and pulling strings to make Cullen’s life miserable. Bringing a corpse into the saloon with him was quite a move, and leave it to Durant to be pretty much unfazed by it. Durant mapping out his imaginary new town with Maggie was fantastically intriguing, and I’m curious to see how he and Culen can learn to coexist. Declan Toole’s arrival spells certain trouble for Elam and Eva, but he seems like a sophisticated man who, while tethered to his principles, might prove to be an upstanding and productive new member of the Hell on Wheels community, and his respect for Cullen can’t hurt. Most importantly, I’m thrilled to learn that the Swede is still alive, posing as a wounded family man but surely up to no good in a short matter of time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 3, Episode 10 “Distance” (B)

I’m never really sure how I feel about episodes involving Dwight Yoakam’s Bruce since he epitomizes the lack of clarity of who Wilfred is and how he truly exists in Ryan’s life. What was fun about this episode, however, was the way in which Ryan attempted to play his own prank on Wilfred, and, to a degree, succeeded. Seeing him slap that patch on Wilfred’s testicular area to make him think that he had been neutered indicated such an unusual excited vindictive streak in Ryan that we so rarely see. Actually getting Wilfred and Bruce to eat dog testicles instead of the meatballs they were so desperately craving was a huge victory, especially because it shows that Ryan is finally learning to catch on to the fact that he’s being constantly manipulated by Wilfred and to foresee how to try to beat him at his own game. Asking Kristen about the drawing was predictably unproductive, but, alienating as it can sometimes be, this show is much more about the solitary relationship between Ryan and Wilfred than about his connections to any other people. Bruce is an exception to the rule, and a bizarre one at that, who makes it possible for Ryan to externalize Wilfred’s ridiculous sentiments. Faking feminine inclinations following his perceived neutering surgery was an expected move on Wilfred’s part, and it mirrors the maturity that he expressed when he was scratching at Ryan’s door and ultimately forcing him to pay to get the message removed. Wilfred is nothing if not abusive to his potentially delusional owner’s neighbor.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 10 “Things Unseen” (B)

This episode was somewhat more focused, and it was great to see Sonya again, but I do wish it would feel like we were actually in sight of the end of this thing rather than just burrowing deeper into Michael’s life undercover. Being forced to kill his friend, and, worse still, be the one to pull the trigger, was tough, and it shows once again that Michael isn’t always able to step in and do the right thing even when all signs point to it being impossible. Carlos’ reaction is probably the most impactful, as explained to a tearful Fiona, that he would never be able to get over the fact that seven people had to die just to rescue him, and it’s a sign that maybe Michael isn’t the only one in over his head. Fiona’s willingness to do anything for him saved his life but cost her their relationship, and I think she’ll have trouble dealing with that as Michael mourns a similar loss of control and integrity. On the guest star front, Amaury Nolasco wasn’t nearly as entertaining as he was as Sucre on “Prison Break,” though it was fun to see Fiona feign horror before taking his gun from him and saving the situation. Madeleine always seems to be in the right place at the right time to offer sage advice to an unwilling participant in whatever the latest scenario is that Michael and his friends have compelled someone to be involved in, and it’s useful to have her passion invoked to positive ends.

What I’m Watching: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 1, Episode 6 “ID” (B+)

This show is really grim. As if nearly getting kidnapped and put up for ransom in Mexico and then returning to America to see her father brutally murdered wasn’t horrible enough, Gina has to go through a rough day of questioning and then get herself killed by the Beast while stupidly running away from Sonya and Hank after enjoying some perfectly peaceful burgers. What’s most stirring about Gina’s murder is of course the reaction it triggers in Sonya, and the sight of her covered in Gina’s blood is certainly haunting. Visiting her sister’s brain-damaged killer and sharing a bonding moment with him was an emotional way to end the episode, and I can’t think of a more fitting actor for that role that Brad William Henke, who had a similar part on “Justified” in its second season. Marco’s attempts to make peace with his wife did not go well, and stopping by to pick up his things didn’t result in any remote form of sympathy. He’s getting in deep with Fausto, but it’s good to see him return the money even if no one but the two of them will ever know about it. A sober Daniel hardly seems like a permanent reality, but thinking clearly means that he’s prepared to investigate Marco’s corruptibility, and he’s likely to find unsettling information if he continues down that path. Charlotte asking Ray for help probably seemed like a smart idea, but it’s concerning to think that Tim’s rat status might end up endangering much more than just Ray’s life on the outside given what he’s gotten himself into recently.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 2, Episode 11 “Natural Order” (B+)

This was a busy episode, to the point that Walt was fully recovered from his time in the desert midway through the hour and Cady being in the hospital was barely even a concern anymore. The aftermath of her car crash was most worthwhile for the entertainment value of her sitting and eating ice cream with Henry and chastising him for giving Walt his cell phone. It was also great to hear, on a related note, a story about Walt and Henry’s first meeting from the latter individual, conveyed to Branch to underscore Walt’s forgiving tendencies. Having Branch back at work and Walt willing to give him a second chance is good, since, while their rivalry did provide drama, we haven’t yet had the opportunity to see how these very two lawmen work together when they’re actually getting along. I enjoyed recognizing Jim Beaver, who wrapped a terrific season-long stint on “Justified,” in a similarly meaty role as Lee, whose character took a surprising turn for the murderous in what turned out to be quite a somber plotline. Walt’s personal and professional lives intersecting with Cady’s hospital mate was interesting, and it’s always impressive to seem him talk to people, especially when’s a difficult conversation. Once again, this was a strong and thought-provoking episode that was focused on something culturally specific to Wyoming and that part of the country, digging deep into hunting culture and the ethics of hunting and killing animals during specific seasons and times of the year.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What I’m Watching: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 2, Episode 10 “Backfire” (B)

The crime-related part of this episode was perfectly fine, but I have a fundamental issue with the other half of it. I was never quite sure why Rusty needed to be a character on this show in the first place, since “The Closer” worked just fine by sticking to the cops, and I would have thought that, even with a new boss at the helm, this show could function in a similar if not identical manner. Instead, Brenda’s name was invoked to try to shame the squad into doing better, and Rusty is still around, waiting endlessly until he has to testify and receiving an alarming number of death threats in the meantime. This was only the latest time where he was sitting innocently in the middle of the station when almost certainly confidential and very devastating news was broken, and it would seem to me that, as if Sharon taking him weren’t problematic enough, having him witness all this evidence would be highly illegal and not permissible. His entire relationship with Chris is also rather irritating, and I do wish it took up much less of the show. At least my other least favorite character had a relatively positive role to play in this episode, arguing with the judge about ethics, and earning some sympathy from Sanchez in the process. Unsurprisingly, this show has been renewed for a third season, and while I can’t say I’m glued to my seat most weeks anymore, I do anticipate continuing to watch it following next week’s mid-season finale.

Pilot Review: Low Winter Sun

Low Winter Sun (AMC)
Premiered August 11 at 10pm

Launching a series behind the final eight episodes of “Breaking Bad” is a brilliant idea. Something as dark as the notion of two cops killing one of their own and then working hard to keep it covered up seems like a perfect pairing. It’s even more enticing when the two actors, who I’ve nominated for a handful of AFT Awards – Lennie James for his TV work on shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Hung” and Mark Strong for his film work in “Body of Lies,” “The Guard,” and “Zero Dark Thirty” – are cast in the lead roles. Unfortunately, this pilot was far from satisfying, going for way too gritty in its opening moments and failing to recover from that. It feels much too staged, with Strong cast as the stoic but conscience-burdened one and James the smooth-talking justified of their initial deed and subsequent acts. It’s peculiar to me to see two British actors starring as American partners, but I suppose that’s less relevant. Incorporating the late McCann’s impending drug bust and his death’s ripple effect on the criminal community is somewhat interesting, but it’s difficult to be drawn in to that storyline because of the nature of the characters, who are all far from appealing. I also don’t quite get the concept of this show as a weekly series, since it seems to me to be more of a one-shot event that only proves relevant in how they act to continue hiding what they did. From this start, I’m far from intrigued, and less than interested on seeing where it goes from here.

How will it work as a series? I wasn’t impressed with the pilots of “Breaking Bad,” “Hell on Wheels,” or “The Killing,” all of which turned out to be pretty decent, and so I’m inclined to think that this show might just need a bit of time to grow into its own skin. It still seems to me to be a thin and temporary premise, but with the right follow-up storylines, maybe it could work.
How long will it last? Premiering right after “Breaking Bad” is both helpful and harmful, because it creates high expectations which an unclearly-named show can’t possibly match. It’s hard to predict how this show will fare because it’s such a wild card, but given lukewarm reviews and unspectacular ratings, I suspect this might be one of AMC’s rare one-season dramas.

Pilot grade: C+

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 7 “New Birthday” (B+)

This show has such a foreboding, fantastic tone best evidenced by that final scene with Ray silently driving a naïve Marvin talking about his new birthday. Ray’s trip to Boston was full of those kinds of scenes, specifically Ray’s reunion with Gary, which took a dark turn after a peaceful start. Ray getting beaten up was also an unusual sight, but he handled it in stride, just like everything else. James Woods is a fantastic choice to play Patrick, who it seems is more than interested in Ray’s offer to come kill Mickey. He’s causing plenty of trouble for Sean, pitching an idea about exactly what happened to send Mickey to jail, and he’s not even getting along with Van, demanding money from him in exchange for the services he needs to provide to keep himself out of prison. Van’s resolve is worrisome, particularly because Ray’s contact tried to negotiate with him and is instead going to have to resort to ousting him from his job, and I’m certain that Van won’t go down without a fight. Marvin pushing Bridget after she confessed her love for him was unexpected, and it’s definitely something he’s goin to regret. It was an extremely serious ending after a much lighter plotline involving Abby, who it turns out is quite the troublemaker when she gets some alcohol in her, and who had a blast stealing expensive shoes just for fun and then flirting with Ray after he picked her up from the police station.

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom

The Newsroom: Season 2, Episode 5 “News Night with Will McAvoy” (B+)

I’ve compared HBO series in the past to full-length films, and watching an episode of this show definitely feels like sitting down for an entire movie. The thread of this episode was grounded by Will getting the call from his father’s cell phone at the start and not calling him in time to talk to him while he was still alive. Will’s passive non-reaction was almost expected, and it was only when the camera was focused on him and he didn’t speak for a few seconds that the impact of that life event really hit. Jeff Daniels seems to be the one part of this show that Emmy voters actually like, and this feels like a perfect Emmy submission for next year. Mackenzie seemed much meaner than usual in this episode, but she did have some important things to say to the Rutgers student who planned on coming out on television. Having Jim back in the episode was most useful for exposing Maggie’s instability, and seeing her discover her screw-up was rather devastating. Charlie’s meeting with his stoic source was quite enlightening, and it’s all just as intriguing as it is worrisome given that we know how this all plays out. I’m glad that Sloan and Don didn’t kiss but had such a great bonding moment while she lamented the embarrassing photos taken of her – and got her revenge – and he tried to take back his jesting comment that got taken all too seriously. The best moment of that exchange was inarguably Sloan’s deadpan delivery of the lengthy animal joke.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad (Mid-Season Premiere)

Breaking Bad: Season 5, Episode 9 “Blood Money” (B+)

To say that this episode was highly anticipated is a serious understatement. After an awesome toilet-top discovery by Hank that Walt was the man he had been hunting for so long nearly a year ago, it was absolutely worthwhile to see how it all played out. Hank having a panic attack and crashing his car into a mailbox was intense, and to see him hole up in his garage with all of the files was a miserable reminder of his mineral-collection phase. Walt strolling in with a big smile on his face was an inviting prompt for that vengeful punch, but, as usual, Walt didn’t seem phased by it, pointing out to Hank that, since his cancer had returned, it would be futile to prosecute him anyway. I wonder what Hank is going to do with this information, but I suspect that he won’t tell all because of the shame that he feels for not seeing what was right under his nose. Lydia stopping by the car wash proved unproductive, and it’s startling to see just how honest Walt was with Skyler about who she was and why she was here. That didn’t stop him from lying through this season to Jesse about Mike being alive, but clearly he’s spiraling out of control anyway. Giving the homeless man a big bundle of cash and throwing the rest out his window was a sign that he’s just as lost and confused as his friend with the very complex, fruit-filled “Star Trek” story. There’s nothing quite like this show, and it’s going to be a wild ride to the end.

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 6, Episode 9 “Life Matters” (B-)

In some ways, this was a good episode, but I can’t help but think that this show has turned into an enormous bloody mess. I know it’s about vampires, but there has never been more gut-bursting blood in any episode, even the ones where the Authority members were running around maiming humans. I understand the notion of revenge and the fact that the doctor and the psychiatrist had to die brutally, but this was extreme, even for this show. The sight of all the vampires in the white room feeding on Bill can’t really be unseen, and I can’t comprehend how this blood seems to be passed around so many times that no one need die ever because of it. Eric allowing Steve to burn was rather cruel, while Jason’s decision to let the Bible-quoting maniac Sarah go may have unfortunate consequences in the future. Why Tara and Jessica allowed Violet to live is a mystery, since now Jason is going to have to deal with having her around all the time. Vampire developments aside, this episode was fully focused on Terry’s funeral, which was bizarre considering we saw much more of him in this hour than we ever saw on the show when he was alive. The awkward flashbacks didn’t help at all, and I’m not sure why he deserved such a big send-off. I suppose it was just a ruse for Sookie to do some good and for Alcide to return to the giant teddy bear that he is and to finally break free from his destructive pack and uncontrollable plotline.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 8, Episode 7 “Dress Code” (B)

This was a perfectly fine episode, but I can’t help thinking that Hannah’s return should have been a bit more dramatic. Poisoning Dexter and Deb just for the hell of it when she’d rather not be bothered seemed ill-advised, considering she knows Dexter and how he responds to things, and it makes much more sense as a cry for help. That said, it didn’t take much time for Julian Sands’ abusive Miles Foster to be disposed of, reuniting Dexter and Hannah because of their shared part in the killing but still keeping them at odds romantically because of Dexter’s irreversible act of betrayal. Unfortunately, Dexter’s new act of loyalty has caused problems in two other arenas. Deb following the two of them means that her vendetta against Hannah is still strong, and even if she and Dexter get back to a good place, Deb isn’t likely to stand for it. It’s good to see Jacob stand up for himself and not let himself be trampled by Deb, and I hope that romance comes to some sort of fruition, especially with Quinn moving in with Jamie, making that relationship seem infallible, at least for the moment. Dexter really should have kept a closer eye on Zach and listened to what he said, because the death of danger-seeking neighbor Cassie in the apartment right next to Dexter’s is going to put everyone on edge. On a lighter note, Masuka trying to offer his topless daughter a job was sweet, and I’m glad that a secret like that seems to be the worst of their problems.

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels (Season Premiere)

Hell on Wheels: Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2 “Big Bad Wolf” and “Eminent Domain” (B+)

It’s hard to reboot a show after killing off your two best characters and putting the other one in prison. This show did, however, find the perfect way to start, by having Cullen emerge from a hypothermia-induced hallucination and prove triumphant by getting the train started and returning to Hell on Wheels. It was terrific to see him in action in New York, insulting the hired son-in-law and explaining just how useful his services would be. He and Elam make a great duo, and it’s no surprise that they physically came to blows. I loved the conversation about Mormons between Cullen and the appropriately-named Psalms, and that whole new area of the plotline is extremely fascinating. Cullen sitting down to talk with the father to tell him he would try not to build through their land seemed sincere, and to have Elam’s new boss so brutally killed when the evictors came was alarming. The father offering up his son for execution was even more unsettling, and I can tell that this won’t be the last of this kind of attitude or behavior that we’ll see related to the expansion of the railroad. The arrival of Jennifer Ferrin’s reporter is welcome because she presents a new style of narration for the show, summarizing the mood in each episode and even encountering some unfortunate realities for herself. Durant isn’t going down without a fight, and to see him realized from prison so fast is worrisome, considering just how vehemently he plans to fight for the destruction of Cullen and his railroad.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 3, Episode 9 “Confrontation” (B)

This was a fully intriguing episode, but I found the fact that it seemed so detached from reality alienating rather than inviting. It makes no sense to me that Ryan would host Christmas at his house and not involve Jenna and Drew in some way, especially if Wilfred was around. Bringing Mary Steenburgen and James Remar in for the half-hour was extremely welcome, especially to see them spar verbally for the length of the episode. Watching Kristen try so desperately to get her father’s approval was awful, and it’s rare to see Ryan as the more put-together child. Wilfred egged him on more than ever to mistrust his father’s true intentions when he seemed ready to forgive his misdeeds, and it was extremely powerful to see Ryan confront his father about his suicide attempt and to hear his father actually apologize for not being there. Wilfred’s presence did seem deceptively soothing, but his accident when Ryan’s father popped out as Santa was a sour ending to the evening. This episode took a devastating turn for its closing moments, revealing that Kristen was the one who made the drawing, not Ryan, and not permitting viewers the typical drug-induced post-credits scene, instead ending on a shot of Ryan looking helplessly at Wilfred. It’s unclear whether Kristen being the artist means anything more than that Wilfred has always been present in Ryan’s life, but this latest information provides no comfort, instead elongating the eternal quest for answers about Wilfred’s existence and his meaning in Ryan’s life.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 9 “Bitter Pill” (B)

This episode was perfectly decent, but hardly what one might expect so close to the end of this show’s run, with considerably more intrigue that could have potentially been offered. James bringing everyone together in a mysterious and sinister fashion to give them an assignment didn’t ultimately deliver since their mission was rather normal and by-the-book. Like last week’s installment, the singular point of this episode was made in its closing moments, as Michael didn’t step in to defend Snyder as much as he could have, leading James to shoot him in the head for leaving Fiona behind. Actor David Meunier is always great, seen last season in recurring roles on both “Justified” and “Revolution” and last week as Agent Gedman on “The Bridge.” Seeing Snyder in the field was disconcerting mostly because he first seemed too casual and unprepared and then switched gears entirely to withhold the antidote from the man who gave it to him just for the sake of letting him die. James coming to see Madeleine in her home was jarring, and that’s a level of commitment to the overall endgame that no overseeing adversary of Michael’s has managed yet, even taking Anson and Card into account. There’s still been so sign of Sonya since she introduced Michael to James, and it would be nice for her to show up and suddenly realize that, strong as her beliefs may be, she’s on the wrong side of this whole thing. I thought that Fiona was going to die in this hour, and while I’m glad it didn’t happen, I do hope that something big occur in advance of the show’s series finale in just four short weeks.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Beast” (B+)

It’s great to see Sonya and Marco getting closer together as a result of some unknowing missteps on Sonya’s part, actions she does not comprehend or regret yet still serve as excellent bonding moments. Stopping by Marco’s home on a Sunday night because she couldn’t reach him was a fantastic start, and not eating the food because she said it didn’t taste good was unsurprising but especially entertaining because of how Marco’s daughter tried to get out of finishing her own portion. Giving Marco his wallet back in front of Alma was ill-advised, and she didn’t waste any time in kicking her out. I like that the show is interested in being omniscient, continuing to follow Alma and Gus’ interactions even without Marco front and center. Charlotte was ready to move on right away too after Marco indicated to her that their affair wouldn’t continue, and her boy toy, played by Brian Van Holt, is sure to get her into plenty of trouble. The always creepy Linder is also heading down a dangerous path, though I suspect his suspicious mannerisms will end up saving rather than dooming him. Marco stealing Daniel’s phone was bold but effective, and having Sonya talk directly to the killer while Marco negotiates for Maria to get asylum is probably in everyone’s best interests. Gina is now fully immersed in show’s storyline, and after two brushes with mortal danger, she may finally be safe after seeing her father killed and catching a glimpse of the Beast’s face.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 5, Episode 8 “Hammertime” (B-)

I opted right before I watched this episode to stop watching and reviewing “Covert Affairs” since it no longer held my attention, even a slow summer, in the midst of more intense dramas. I thought that this series, made for the summer, would be immune to the apparently decreasing affection I seem to have for USA shows lately (“Burn Notice” exempted), but I now do feel that I might not need to continue watching this show. While once I might have thought that things were neatly contained and this was a surprisingly decent comedic medical drama, I think there’s far too much going on right now for it to be appealing on a weekly basis. Jeremiah, for instance, didn’t even appear in this hour, and to have a solely Boris-focused episode immediately after HankMed got acquired is a faux pas. Hank not being able to treat patients in his home should now be irrelevant because he’ll have a state-of-the-art facility he can use. Divya’s pregnancy is really being dragged out, with her constantly coming face-to-face with parallels about family and love. This episode was bizarrely structured as a (tame) horror movie of sorts, with a highly unnecessary series of recalled flashbacks from Paige’s perspective about how they hatched their self-congratulatory plan to stage an auction just to get Milos’ attention. I do hope that Russell and Paige were well-compensated for the ruse, and I suppose it’s worthwhile to note that Milos’ homicidal tendencies all led back to a medical diagnosis.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 2, Episode 10 “Election Day” (B+)

It’s a wonderful to see a show not get bogged down by a series-defining election but instead let it help illustrate just how unique and strong the series is by having it play such a small part in this particularly compelling hour. Vic telling Walt that he won at a moment where he couldn’t care less was both extremely powerful and yet another instance of him being almost immune to the facts of things going on around him. Branch, by contrast, giving Ferg a hard time for not having “done his civic duty” was especially ill-timed, and we got to see Ferg spring into worrisome action in a way we never have before, motivated by his own affection for Cady but certainly fueled as a way by a disdain by Branch’s recent attitude and activity. The aftermath of Branch’s defeat doesn’t seem positive either, despite Jacob’s energetic call to honor his supporters, and, even if Cady makes a full recovery, he’s sure to suffer much more at Walt’s hands after trying to defy his authority and so evidently failing. Vic dragging the suspect back over state lines and Walt charging the driver with an almost endless list of offenses demonstrated just how seriously the sheriff’s department treated this case, which hit far too close to home. Walt and Henry blaming themselves for Cady getting hurt in the first place was troubling, and Walt’s decision to go on a vision quest is not likely going to end with him being in a good place, and it’s going to take some hard work from the people around him to get him back to his normal gruff self.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What I’m Watching: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 2, Episode 9 “There’s No Place Like Home” (B)

This show is often at its most entertaining when it features comedic storylines, and this episode was certainly an instance of that. This was far from a serious murder case, thanks in no small part to the wealth of guest stars and the TV work for which they’re most well known. Likely to be most familiar to current TV audiences are recent Emmy winners Doris Roberts of “Everybody Loves Raymond” fame and Tim Conway of “30 Rock,” as well as Ron Glass of “Firefly” and Paul McCrane of “ER,” “24,” and “Harry’s Law.” What this turned out to be was a wild and wacky episode most notable for its final scene, in which each of the senior citizen conspirators admitted to their part in the poisoning and assisted unintentional suicide of their not-so-dearly departed landlord. I liked that Provenza got himself a new pair of glasses out of the whole thing and managed to pass the shooting test which spared him both a tough conversation with Sharon and a path straight towards a job tethered to a desk. It’s not clear to me why Hobbes was suddenly back in this hour to replace Ruiz on a case that seems much more up the latter’s alley and suited for her temperament. Rusty’s non-romance with Chris seems fated to never end, but at least they’re getting along positively and he’s not trying to aggressively push her away anymore with made-up stories of sicknesses and histories that might otherwise indicate that he just isn’t available.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom

The Newsroom: Season 2, Episode 4 “Unintended Consequences” (B)

This was inarguably an informative episode, though perhaps a bit more dramatic than the scope of this show requires. Maggie had quite the traumatic first night in Africa, and it’s jarring to see just how unprepared she and Gary were for their visit, unaware that the presence of his camera would instill such fear in the kids and that their lives might be threatened at any moment by cattle raiders attacking an orphanage. Also, it sounded quite clear to me that they were shouting about a camera. Jim catching Taylor in an irreversible statement and giving away the interview he netted to Hallie was ill-advised in many ways, and while it did get him a pretty spectacular kiss, it also got him in trouble with Mac enough to get him returned home. He and Jerry are sure to have differences of opinion, especially as Jerry grows ever closer to cracking open his extremely interesting story. Shelly’s interview was difficult to watch, and it makes me even more impressed with actress Aya Cash’s fiery performance. The fact that Will apologized after they already found her source without her help thanks to the comedy of errors that was Sloan and Don trying to apologize was big, and it’s great to see Will painted as such a continually complex character. This episode wasn’t so strong in the news department, though experiencing Charlie’s reaction to Elliot’s choice to pronounce the name of Rick Perry’s ranch was definitely an entertaining high point. Elliot is underused, and it’s always a fierce treat to see and hear Don.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 6 “Housewarming” (B+)

These Donovan brothers truly are fascinating. As if Ray wasn’t self-destructive enough on his own, we also got a great look at both of his brothers in this hour. Terry wasn’t featured too much, but he did seem to forgive Frances almost instantly despite having seen her with what appears to be a family, and I worry that he’s going to bring it up at some point soon and it’s really going to ruin things. Bunchy, on the other hand, had everything going for him, a supportive father who encouraged him to buy a house and a sister-in-law who was willing to come decorate it for his blow-out housewarming party even though her husband would be furious to learn that he had purchased the place at all. Falling off the wagon was a bad step, of course, and setting fire to the house was definitely ill-advised. Ray showing up and pulling a gun on Mickey was the worst part of the night, mainly because it so clearly terrified his children, which is the last thing that he wants. The execution of Avi’s coffee swap with Van was brilliantly-showcased, and his hallucinations were extremely weird at best. His unbroken resolve is certainly problematic, and if there’s one thing that Ray really doesn’t like, it’s being thwarted. Putting himself directly in a federal agent’s crosshairs was not what he wanted, and that makes him just as dangerous and vulnerable as anyone else on his list, and all the more likely to do something drastic and irreversible.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Killing (Season Finale)

The Killing: Season 3, Episodes 11 and 12 “From Up Here” and “The Road to Hamelin” (B)

It’s weird to have an hour that’s so completely focused on a character who, up until this point, hasn’t been very relevant to the story. It’s stranger still not to have either of the season’s standout characters, Seward or Bullet, present since both of them are now officially deceased after valiant efforts to preserve their lives. It’s hard to argue that this episode wasn’t well-executed, particularly the moment that Sarah realized that Skinner was the killer when she saw his daughter’s jewelry, but that doesn’t mean its twist is logical. To the show’s credit, Skinner didn’t turn into some deranged, violent monster who all of a sudden couldn’t control himself. Instead, he was the same reserved, subdued person he’s always been, just confessing to inner thoughts that he’s never before had the opportunity to share. I have a hard time believing that this character could really be the killer, especially since there were no signs of any kind to indicate it throughout this season. It was possible to construe that Becker, on the other hand, could have been the culprit, but to suggest that a peripheral personality like Skinner who was supervising the case did it is difficult to swallow. It did make for an unsettling conversation about having slept with Linden, and made her episode-ending decision to shoot him dead all the more powerful. What I liked most about this episode was how Holder got out of his detainment by inciting Carl’s wrath, and their relationship was this season’s strongest point aside from everything involving Seward. I don’t know whether a fourth season is in the cards, but this has been the show’s most even year so far, so I wouldn’t mind seeing more.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Peter Sarsgaard as Seward

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 6, Episode 8 “Dead Meat” (B-)

It’s strange to see Sookie preparing to make an enormous life decision regarding eternal betrothal to a fairy vampire, which might well save the entire vampire race, when she’s been so peripheral to the plotline for such a long time now. She and Bill were originally the show’s main characters, and what Bill is isn’t even close to the main thing being featured at this point. What’s more intriguing is the relationship between Eric and Bill, something that has always been tempestuous but has never quite reached these limits. Let’s hope that even while he is hurt and in morning, Eric will think of his people above all else and not simply on preventing Bill from doing what he wants to do. The reminder that Niall is still missing once again brings up the unknown true intentions of Warlow, and just how odd and inconsistent his whole plotline has really been. Back at the facility, of course, events are getting dangerously close to what Bill saw in his vision, and the way in which everyone got there was well-executed. Sarah has become a fearsome and deadly force without her late boyfriend to keep her in check, and, while it’s always good to see Anna Camp going nuts, I did feel that her thriller chase scene which ended with her killing Suzuki with a high heel was, for lack of a better word, campy, and not in a great way. This show needs to figure out where it wants to go, and reigning in subplots like the aftermath of Terry’s death and Alcide’s place in the world would help a lot.

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 8, Episode 6 “A Little Reflection” (B+)

Things are getting back on track now as this episode got away from Vogel playing therapist to the Morgan siblings and launched a few new and important threads. Most significant is the fact that Dexter might now have an apprentice, something he tried to do several seasons back with an ultimately suicidal candidate and then recreated in temporary form with less success due to differences in the ethics of killing with Lumen and Hannah. Dexter’s initial resistance to Vogel’s suggestion of teaching Zach the code made his eventual decision to offer him a new chance at life and more controlled killing all the more impactful. Dexter’s preoccupation with Zach, however, is going to mean that the relationship Jamie wants so desperately to create for him with Cassie won’t ever come to fruition, but they didn’t seem to be hitting it off anyway. That’s probably for the best because of the character that unexpectedly showed up at the end of the episode. I and most other viewers have known this whole season that Hannah would be back, something I was very much anticipating, and to have her return in the middle of a rare moment of calm and peace for Dexter and Deb was brilliant. I can’t wait to find out what she wants now that she’s back. If she still has it out for Deb, I imagine Jacob will come looking for her to make sure that she’s okay and get himself into trouble. Let’s hope Masuka didn’t ruin his new relationship with his daughter permanently, and that Quinn and Batista can survive their professional differences.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 3, Episode 8 “Perspective” (B+)

The ways in which this show can be frustrating, never confirming what’s actually real and constantly weaving a paranoid universe in which Ryan exists, can also be rewarding for their cleverness factors, and that’s exactly the case with this hour. Notable guest stars are hardly a rarity on this show, but Lance Reddick of “Fringe” and “The Wire” fame is still a big get. His deadpan delivery of Wilfred’s made-up story about Matt Damon’s four heads was probably his strongest moment, though his steely resolve also likely helped Ryan to get into his own head. Conjuring up a white version of Wilfred as his mind’s subconscious made for a trippy ride into the past, highlighted by the sight of Wilfred headed for a clearly fake spaceship to take off for his home planet. Pulling out a map of Ryan’s brain was also fun, and it’s clear that Ryan’s past is just as wild as his present. Seeing his father cry was the most crucial moment of the episode, and I think that’s going to help things going forward if it makes him open to the idea of restarting a relationship with him. Among the episode’s many non-regression entertaining moments of the episode were Wilfred calling Ryan’s wiffleball bat a belly-smacking pat and demonstrating its usage more than once, and Wilfred changing the tape in his tape player to supply his part of the conversation rather than actually speaking. The ending chocolate consumption was very amusing, and another inventive way of reminding us that, after all is said and done, Wilfred is still a dog.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 8 “Nature of the Beast” (B)

I understand that James is the one at the top of the food chain, and, based on what we learned about him at the end of the episode, he does seem like a formidable enemy, infinitely more dangerous than Simon. But I do think that, at least recently, dedicated soldier Sonya was a more interesting and compelling piece of the puzzle, so to see her completely ignored for an entire episode after Burke went to such sacrificial lengths to save her is disappointing. Michael did still manage to pull off a cool caper, posing as his prisoner to get close enough to his enemies to physically stop them from blowing him and Sam to pieces. I’m not sure I’ve said it before, but I love that Sam’s eternal alias is Chuck Finley, no matter what the situation. Fiona and Jesse also provided ample support to an unusually accommodating and understanding Strong, and Jesse in particular deserves commendation for his impressive work under pressure. I immediately recognized Michael Reilly Burke, who this past season played the D.A., also known as the Avocado, on “Vegas,” as the criminally insane man terrified about James finding him, and Peter Mensah, who played Authority member Kibwe on “True Blood,” was the kingpin Michael delivered to James. It was hardly the focal point of the episode, but when your current boyfriend calls your ex-boyfriend’s mother to check up on you, you know it’s a bad sign. I think Fiona and Michael will ultimately end up together, but we still have five episodes left to see who even makes it through alive.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 1, Episode 4 “Maria of the Desert” (B+)

What’s good about this show is that it’s undeniably violent but far from hopeless. Both Sonya and Marco pressed on with extreme determination to find Maria when everyone else thought that there was no hope, and they managed to get to her before her time was up. Marco being intimidated into taking money was troubling, mainly because he is such a pure and honest cop, despite his recent extramarital indiscretion, and to see him forced to accept corrupt cash suggests that he’s soon going to come under serious scrutiny. Sonya and Marco finding Daniel hung over after a one-night stand only served to affirm his reputation as a horrible human being, and he seems intent on listening to the killer’s every instruction while subverting and dodging the police at every possible turn. The killer asking for the names of the FBI agents making the drop was beyond troubling, and seeing the video of Gedman with Cristina Fuentes indicates that this whole thing is much larger than just one unsolved murder. It’s difficult to determine whether Charlotte is going to have more trouble managing the newly reopened tunnel or her relationship with her evil stepdaughter. Kate telling Charlotte that the Mexican found Marco’s wallet in the guest bedroom was vicious, and I’m sure that she’ll be sticking around to make Charlotte’s life as miserable as possible. I’m hopeful that Charlotte will soon embrace her new unintentional role in supervising the tunnel, and I look forward to seeing her try to take the reins of her situation back from other parties.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 5, Episode 7 “Chock Full O’ Nuts” (B+)

All of this show’s plotlines are converging as Milos’ U.S. arrival grows ever nearer and nothing moves forward on Evan’s campaign while he encounters problems in his personal life. Everything involving Milos is very much in the background of the show and certainly this episode, but when Shelby casually mentioned that she got a call from Hungary, it completed changed the tone of the episode. Hopefully Paige’s carefully-catalogued auction will be effective enough to get Milos on a plane, but I suspect that there’s trouble in store for the Lawson brothers before that happens. It’s pretty monumental that HankMed has now officially been acquired, but this installment was much more about the process of getting there and the unexpected romantic entanglement between Shelby and Keller. It was good to see Josh Cooke, recently seen on “Dexter” and “Better With You,” as the spin instructor experiencing symptoms of his own, and to see Hank connect as he always does with someone he meets in some random situation. On the home front, Divya staging a violent choking fit in Jeremiah’s kitchen was probably ill-advised, but it’s nice to see that he’s trying to adapt to having other people in his life. Evan and Paige’s fight was pretty miserable, but it’s reassuring to see that Evan knows exactly how to atone for his mistakes. They’re one power couple who would be well-served to stay happy with each other because they seem to be connected to just about anyone in the Hamptons and could surely get a lot done together.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 4, Episode 3 “Into the White” (B)

I’m still unsure about the path that this season is taking, but I think it’s getting more on track at this point and might be close to establishing a regular routine that will make it more plausible and watchable. The idea of Teo as an unknown quantity, an undercover spy who might have gotten lost after he got in too deep, is an interesting one, though I think it makes Annie seem a bit isolated. Part of what made a show like “Alias” work is that, while its protagonist was indisputably its protagonist, there were always other characters involved doing other things. Here, Annie is out there by herself with only Auggie to support her back home, who, since the beginning of their newfound romance, hasn’t really had a personality of his own. Arthur isn’t too useful, and Joan managed to blackmail her way into scoring Arthur’s old job, which definitely puts her at the top of the food chain. Her nonplussed reaction to the news of Seth’s death was intriguing, and I think that her ability to be stoic in the face of disheartening information should prove useful in her new position. Even without being in the room, Henry is still capable of making an impression, and it seems to me that this whole thing is bigger than Henry pulling the strings and Annie’s new best friend Calder Michaels trying to take down Teo while Annie continues to be convinced that, all evidence to the contrary, he’s actually one of the good guys.

Friday, August 2, 2013

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 2, Episode 9 “Tuscan Red” (B+)

I find myself giving this show the same compliments week after week, and that’s because each installment digs deeper into the psyche of Walt’s county and the many intersecting cultures within it. It was good to see the easily irritated but ultimately clearheaded Mathias again, with his good conscience most evident in his disappointed arrest of Mancell Lone Elk. Henry was also thrown into the middle of it all, straddling both sides as he weighed law and order versus justice. This episode added a new dimension of complexity to everything, as Vic’s husband Sean was involved directly in the aftermath of a murder, nearly torn apart by an angry mob on his way to work at the energy company. Vic suspecting him of reporting Dolan Lone Elk as a terrorist didn’t help their marriage much either, but I think that non-romantic relationship is beyond saving at this point. This episode did feature some very interesting developments related to the supposedly defunct romance between Cady and Branch. Speeding just to get his attention in a way that wouldn’t have people in the town talking was a bold tactic, but he managed to turn it around on her, and nearly of them seem to be able to hold their alcohol at all. I think Cady is going to come to regret that more given how set against a relationship with Branch she had seemed to be, and because she spilled the beans about her mother’s murder. Branch telling Walt that he needs to start thinking about his daughter was actually noble and professional, but something tells me Walt is not going to come around to seeing it that way and that this is also going to drive his passion to crush Branch.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What I’m Watching: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 2, Episode 8 “The Deep End” (B+)

This felt like an event episode in many ways, starting with a helicopter approaching the crime scene with the journalist within charged to get the true story and not just what the cops were telling people. The fact that the supposed victim was actually the perpetrator was a great way to start things off with a twist, but that was outdone considerably by the fact that he was also guilty of an entirely different and much more major crime. The coach wasn’t featured nearly as much as the family of his victim, which was an interesting way to spin things. That allowed for the crime to take on a much grander nature, as Sharon’s very clever ploy to tell the media that they had cleared the coach of all allegations of sexual misconduct only served to bring forward more accounts, one of them recent enough to be used against him in a court of law. It’s difficult to see Rusty present and involved so directly in cases like this, and to see him lash out when Brenda checks in to see how he’s doing handling a very adult subject such as this. The part of Chris’ mom wasn’t a typical role for Lori Loughlin, and her interaction with Sharon suggests that the non-romance between Rusty and Chris isn’t yet over. I’m not sure if it will be the case, but I’d love to see Flynn and Sharon together at Flynn’s daughter’s wedding, which would be a rare glimpse into the personal life of one character defined previously only by his health and his friendship with Provenza.