Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 6, Episode 17 “Undisclosed Recipients” (C+)

It’s fair to expect that Alicia’s new position of power comes with more than a few built-in relationships that may not be fully desirable to Alicia. It’s not as if either Guy Redmayne or Lemond Bishop was subtle in his statement of demands to the new State’s Attorney, and her response, to tell them that she was headed in a different direction, wasn’t uncalled for. Yet of course she’s not a political player, and Eli nearly bursting forced her to correct that error with the kind of pandering speech that I find it hard to believe wouldn’t infuriate Guy or Lemond. Castro is a different story altogether since he and Alicia were always at odds, and at least Finn, who would make a great choice for Alicia’s second-in-command no matter how it might look publicly, isn’t fazed at all by her stance. The case with the downloaded film was interesting, to be sure, but the juvenile reactions and gossipy culture the hack of e-mails from the firm created were far less compelling. It’s certainly true that many things have been said over e-mail that people at any level of an organization wish they had never said, whether due to genuine remorse or simply political savvy, but I didn’t find its execution, particularly all the bickering and Howard’s misremembering of dalliances with Kalinda, worthwhile. Marissa combing through Alicia’s e-mail history to find references to Will, on the other hand, is considerably more satisfyingly juicy. Things really haven’t been the same since he died.

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 1, Episode 11 “Shonin” (C+)

I think I’ll have a much better sense of the quality of this show once we see where everything that has happened so far leads to, or, more specifically, if the writers always had a plan in place or if it seems like everything is assembled haphazardly. This entire episode felt much more like an alternate pilot, mainly because it reedited some of the scenes we knew had happened with Ramsey there along with Cole. Ending up in prison after meeting Leland and stabbing Cole in 1987 presented us with a fast-forwarded version of Ramsey’s ensuing years as a hardened inmate kept going by mysterious letters delivered to him throughout his sentence. Being picked up by the Pallid Man and Striking Woman after his term was up and invited to “witness with them” reset events considerably, as it is now clear that they knew exactly what was supposed to happen and left it precisely that way to ensure that both Cole and Ramsey got sent back from the future as they were supposed to be. Cole splintering to 2015 as he was bleeding out in 1987 and making the connection to Cassandra that Ramsey is the witness is a big deal, and it’s just a question of whether that matters with his limited number of visits and the fact that the clock is ticking. I’d love to see things reset for season two with some echoes of what we know and have seen over the course of this past season, but I just don’t know. I like seeing Jennifer more and understanding that her father kept her locked up despite having proof of her innocence, and it was in the Striking Woman that she found a much-needed mother figure.

Round Two: Bloodline

Bloodline: Season 1, Episode 2 “Part 2” (C)

I checked back in to watch the second episode of this show mostly because, in watching the pilot with my wife, she enjoyed this show a lot more than I did and found it intriguing. This second outing doesn’t inspire much confidence. “Damages” was always frustrating because it offered only a glimpse of the future at the beginning and end of each episode, and while this show does show at least a full scene or two that drops a big bombshell, it still seems like a simple storyline that my wife thinks would be better set for a movie is being stretched unnecessarily out into thirteen episodes. What seems very clear is that Danny was pushed to being the bad person he is by the treatment he receives from his siblings. The revelation that events did happen exactly as he describes them and he had nothing to do with causing his father’s death doesn’t make him a great person but it certainly doesn’t make him the man that his siblings think he is. Regarding the other three siblings, I’m disappointed that all we’re seeing of Linda Cardellini’s Meg is a reliable daughter eager to allay the concerns of her mother but incapable of having any real personality of her own. The same is true to a different extent of Kyle Chandler’s John, since Chandler’s quiet demeanor works well in other contexts but is a bit lackluster here. Norbert Leo Butz is being allowed to be as enthusiastic and frenetic as he wants, making him the show’s star hothead. I’m considering a third go of this show, but I don’t think its pacing or plotting will be compelling enough.

Monday, March 30, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1, Episode 4 “Kimmy Goes to the Doctor!” (C+)

I keep hearing from friends that they love this show, and I always forget that others aren’t waiting to watch just one episode per week as I am. While it’s possible that the show’s consistency will improve over the course of the season, I can’t imagine it’s going to change all that much. I like the idea of it, certainly, but sometimes I feel it really does follow far too much in the footsteps of “30 Rock” in presenting a fully ridiculous reality that isn’t nearly as compelling as a slightly exaggerated version of real life would be. Martin Short’s plastic surgeon is a prime example of this problem, a humorous plotline in theory but one that feels far too over-the-top in execution. Kimmy running away from the mistake of getting plastic surgery and delivering what she thought was a flawlessly uttered speech that turned out to be completely slurred and incoherent because of the numbing agents at work throughout her body was one such plot point that wasn’t as funny as it could have been. Jane Krakowski’s Jacqueline continues to be one of the stronger parts of the show, consistent enough in her complete obliviousness to the world around her. Titus auditioning for the new Spider-Man musical was most worthwhile for the competition it permitted him to have with his nemesis whose “Law and Order: SVU” stint still didn’t give him the dream career he wanted. The notion of a third Affleck brother who lives in his car might be funny, but it’s much more assuredly random.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 3, Episode 5 “Chapter 31” (B+)

Frank can certainly be described as a bully, but now he’s transforming from subtle power player to full-on force determined not to let anyone stand in his way. Forcing America Works through the system by taking control of FEMA to fund it is a bold and aggressive move, and though he has the support of the D.C. mayor, he’s going to encounter a lot of opposition. Positioning Jackie to start a fake presidential campaign in which she criticizes him and America Works before eventually conceding to being his vice president is truly playing the long game, and I feel like there’s way too much that will happen before we get there for it to go flawlessly. Dunbar is arming herself for a vicious campaign, and I like how she analyzed that Doug wasn’t a mole because he negotiated his salary rather than taking the first offer. He’s a true asset, but his steely demeanor still makes his true motivations unclear. Kim Dickens’ journalist is going to be trouble for Frank and more crucially for Seth, and it’s fortunate that she’s too high-profile for Frank to merely quash with a wave of his hand. I like that Frank went from playing a game on his iPad to bringing in a famed novelist because of his video game reviews to write the perfect biography of him to sell to the American people. It took me almost that whole scene to realize that the actor playing him was Paul Sparks, best known as the oily, high-pitched Mickey Doyle on “Boardwalk Empire.” Claire has learned from her husband how best to exercise her authority, meeting with the Russian ambassador while doing her makeup in the bathroom. Her conversation with Frank about sleeping in the same bed felt awfully professional, but it’s still so interesting to see the two of them actually act like humans. Seeing Freddy watching the fireworks was haunting, and it suggests that the little people Frank is ready to hurt along the way may not all go so quietly.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 18 “Spring Break” (C)

I’m writing this review a few days after I watched the episode, and I went online to remind myself of exactly what it was about. While summaries aren’t everything, the one-line description on TVRage.com reads “Claire does some spring cleaning. Haley attempts to distract Alex by taking her to a music festival.” The second part is obviously a much more substantial plotline, but the first is an example of how this show really stretches sometimes to fill the content of a half-hour episode. It’s nothing new that Claire snoops through her children’s stuff, and therefore finding out about Alex’s rejection from Harvard seemed inevitable. That Haley would try to get her to unwind and end up loosening her up too much at the music festival was somewhat entertaining, but I have a hard time believing both that Haley would take her and that Alex would actually agree to go. I prefer the much subtler instances of Phil and Luke bonding since his impossible perfection in both music and gymnastics abilities was far from compelling as a father-son obstacle. I wasn’t interested at all in Cam’s musical feud or Gloria’s role in it, and Mitchell trying to rescue Lily from camp because he thought she was having a miserable time was only slightly amusing. Jay’s thorough attempts to smoke a cigar in peace were redeemed only by his casual donning of a full-body orange track suit and hairnet so that he could mask the smell from certain detection by his wife.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 6, Episode 10 “Trust” (B+)

I’m pretty pleased to say that the final season of this show isn’t flying by as I had expected it to, but instead proceeding along at the kind of deliberate, slowly fascinating pace this show has always excelled at. We still have three episodes to go and each one so far this season has radically redefined where everything is headed. I can’t decide which I love more – the many layers of trust and deception or the exceptional dialogue that makes this show feel so much like a modern-day Western. Everyone is double-crossing everyone else but then going back on it, and it’s absolutely terrific. Mikey deducing Wynn’s role in the imprisonment of Catherine’s husband and calling Catherine to cash in on that knowledge became irrelevant quickly as Boyd took her hostage and used her to get Avery to pay him. Then, as Ava was telling Boyd she’d support him and then chatting with Raylan about what was really going on, Ava decided to shoot Boyd and run away with the money, leaving a flummoxed Raylan without the first clue about what to do. And all that after Vasquez revealed that he was planning to send Ava back to jail no matter what. On to the subject of conversation, I loved Boone’s dialogue with Raylan and the fact that, while he was looking for something fun to do in Harlan County, he opted to go back to the diner and intimidate the waiter into giving him his hat for $80. “They always say that, probably heard it in the movies” was one of my favorite lines, but I also liked Raylan asking Tim, “You really think this ends in a trial,” to which Tim essentially implied that Raylan was the one who would end up shooting him.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 18 “Skip” (B+)

I don’t think I can accurately call something my favorite thing about this show anymore since there are so many things I love about it on a weekly basis, but its use of recurring characters is truly tremendous. We got to see Harper, Beth, and Iris again, all taking on much more significant roles in the scheme of things. On the new guest star front, Ato Essandoh, who plays Alfredo on “Elementary,” was Ray, the big man in everyone’s sights, and Katheryn Winnick was Frankie Wells, the private investigator with more than a passing resemblance to a female version of Reese. Their coordination while handcuffed together was extremely impressive, and she was all about the flirtation with her talk of handcuffs and overt kissing of one Detective Riley. Harper wins the prize for most daring and effective move, standing up in the middle of a three-sided group gunfight to propose a deal in which nearly everyone wins. Reese just letting her go means that she and Frankie will inevitably be back at some point. It’s good to see Iris finally make a move with Reese after awkwardly tiptoeing around him all episode, and let’s hope that doesn’t put her in danger. Obviously fraternizing with one of our dependable team members can be problematic, as was the case with Beth when Root decided that she had to kill her so that Finch wouldn’t end up dead. Drinking the poison she was planning to use to kill Beth was an extreme move, but it got the message across and saved her life. Unfortunately, Root still sabotaged any hope of a friendship Finch could have had with her, and while it’s good to see them both still alive, it looks like we’ll be seeing less of Root in the immediate future until her assistance becomes vital when things start getting crazy before the end of the season.

Round Two: iZombie

iZombie: Season 1, Episode 2 “Brother, Can You Spare a Brain?” (B+)

This was certainly an effective follow-up to this show’s surprisingly strong debut last week, and at the moment I’m confident that it’s the kind of series that I will enjoy watching but don’t feel like I absolutely need to if I end up with too much television on my plate. I think that the zombie aspects of Liv’s personality and life are far more intriguing and worthwhile than the actual cases featured, though I’m sure those will have their moments too. Her newfound skill and appreciation for art is great, especially because of just how casually she uses advanced terms and reacts to simple situations in which those around her are hopeless to react in a way that represents anything other than pure shock. It looks like David Anders’ Blaine will be a major character, and it’s hard for me to acclimate to his American accent and not being Sark, though it’s a similar role in that he’s not clearly a villain but also extorts newly turned zombies for brain provisions and kills those he deems to be a threat. It was good to see Judy Reyes of “Scrubs” fame as the wife of this episode’s main murder victim and eventually the one revealed to have done it thanks to some collaborate investigation by Liv, Clive, and, most crucially, Ravi. Liv’s attempt to reach out to Major at the end of the episode was sad in the resentment it provoked in him, but at least she’s started to return to the idea of what it’s like to be around another person.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 2, Episode 14 “Love in the Time of Hydra” (B-)

There’s still a whole lot going on here, and while I’m intrigued to see where some of it goes, it’s not all completely even in its execution. We hadn’t seen Ward since before this show went on hiatus back in December, and I guess I had just assumed that he died since I couldn’t recall all the developments of that eventful midseason finale. It turns out that’s not the case, which I’m fine with since I think that he’s become a decent character after his surprising change into Hydra mole for hire. Agent 33 is also interesting, and the two of them make a decent team and couple, even if their exact aims aren’t fully clear. Her not being able to get rid of May’s face is intriguing, though obviously it presents both advantages and disadvantages. Talbot’s search for the imposter wearing his wife’s face was extremely over-the-top, and hardly the best use of his character, who is at least now firmly pro-S.H.I.E.L.D. if otherwise incompetent. I’m thrilled to see Edward James Olmos as the commander of the “real S.H.I.E.L.D.” and unsurprised that Kirk Acevedo is playing another mid-level troublemaker with an attitude, but I don’t really understand what this other organization is about other than questioning Coulson’s leadership. Skye’s new seclusion may do her some good in terms of getting her new abilities under control, but I have a feeling that being alone for too long is going to lead to her changing too much and not being able to keep her frustration and isolation in check.

Friday, March 27, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 16 “Rogue Time” (B)

This episode wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the hour that came before it, both in terms of its plot developments and its general positive nature. It’s an important lesson for Barry that he’s at his best when he’s quietly confident rather than outright cocky, since his attempt to predict every moment with a full knowledge of what was going to be said made him seem awfully arrogant and produced wholly different results than he was expecting. Things played out very much unlike the previous time Barry experienced it, but thankfully no one had to suffer the consequences since the creator of the tidal wave ended up in the underground prison before he could grab Joe or stir up any storms. In his place, we got the “Prison Break” boys back along with the newest member of their gang, played by Peyton List, who gave Cisco a wild ride before coming clean about her true intentions. It’s interesting to see Barry make a deal with him to continue his crime wave in exchange for keeping his identity a secret on the condition that he stops killing people. Cisco’s brother Dante, played by Nicholas Gonzalez, started out as quite obnoxious and didn’t end up being too much better when he revealed his true nature, and I think we’ll do well to be rid of him for a while. Fortunately, Cisco is safe, and it was very intriguing to see Dr. Wells’ conversation about him being like a son take a very different and much livelier direction. It’s a shame Barry ended his relationship with Linda, the one event that actually went well in this version of events, since Iris clearly isn’t interested just yet and we’ll have to wait a while until another major outpouring of suppressed love for her adoptive brother.

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 1, Episode 8 “Rico” (B+)

I really like what this show has become. I wasn’t fond of the first two episodes but I’m extremely supportive of where it’s gone since then. Beginning with a flashback to Jimmy revealing to his coworkers that he had passed the bar after working diligently in the mailroom at Hamlin’s practice provides some important context to who Jimmy is and how he got to where he is now. Not playing the audio of Hamlin’s conversation with him while he was eating cake was actually more effective than hearing it would have been since Hamlin’s excuses don’t matter because he obviously didn’t take Jimmy seriously. That makes Jimmy’s new class action lawsuit discovery process all the more fascinating, as he just happened to realize that he had stumbled upon something when his elderly client couldn’t pay him the measly sum for drawing up a will. Having Chuck help him was great, and I love that Chuck came through and sprang into action at just the right moment, demanding $20 million dollars from the arrogant lawyer who tried to offer $100,000 as a settlement only moments earlier. Chuck casually walking outside to get some files from his trunk was a shock, but not as big as the one he got once he realized what he had done. Seeing just a bit of Mike and his daughter-in-law was certainly worthwhile, and I’m glad to see that plotline continuing even if those of us who have watched “Breaking Bad” know how it all ends.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 4, Episode 10 “Praise Money! Hallowed Be Thy Name” (B+)

Marty had everything he could want, and he just had to go ahead and tank it just for the sake of being difficult and getting his way. Courting the burger chief whose company and outlook on life bear more than a striking resemblance to Chick-fil-a was the one thing he was told expressly by Denna that he couldn’t do, and that just made him want to sabotage his success. Her dismissal of him when he went to her office was deserved, and it’s going to be a bitter downfall from here for Kaan and his associates. Roscoe certainly got an unfortunate punishment, facing expulsion from his school after selling fake handbags at designer prices but more upsettingly being ostracized by all his former friends. I don’t see Marty being able to comfort him and get him through this, and I just hope it’s not the start of a serious downward spiral. It was inevitable that Jeremiah’s age-inappropriate romance would to at least a flirtation with one of his sons, and Chantelle did not respond well to Malcolm’s advance. Speaking of uncomfortable romances, the sight of Kelsey making out with Doug and Clyde in succession was not a pleasant one, and it’s strange to think that Clyde is the hopeless romantic in this situation, vying for her affection and really pouring out his heart, something we’ve rarely if ever seen him do. It was definitely odd to see Jeannie’s pregnancy presented as a wholesome, positive thing, and of course that was the heart of Marty’s big con sales job.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What I’m Watching: Girls (Season Finale)

Girls: Season 4, Episode 10 “Home Birth” (B+)

This was a perfectly good episode, but I don’t know how I feel about it as a season finale. After a shaky start with the season premiere, I was actually quite impressed with this season and the direction it took, and while I do wish Hannah was still in Iowa insulting Desiree Akhavan and her other classmates, her return to New York was pretty worthwhile too. The birth of Caroline and Laird’s baby is a very tangential event in many ways, but seeing Adam and Hannah standing near the child and talking honestly about where their relationship meant was very relevant and a byproduct of that situation. Naming their baby JessaHannah is an equally nice and peculiar thing, and it was interesting to see that Jessa made it more about herself than Hannah did, a rare feat. Kudos to Hannah for finally standing up to Adam and rejecting his attempt to go back to the status quo. I’m happy to see that she’s with Fran in the near future, and hopefully he’ll be a big part of season five. Shoshanna’s interviews really are quite wild, and it looks like she’s headed to Japan, which probably won’t be a complete disaster, though it will surely ruin her budding relationship with Scott. Ray’s unprovoked takedown of Desi was pretty fantastic, but unfortunately it appears to have sent him running, which isn’t a problem since it helped Marnie get her solo start, and hopefully she won’t be a complete wreck without him. This season reasserted my confidence in this show, and I’m now eager to see where it’s headed.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Lena Dunham

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 5, Episode 10 “South Side Rules” (B+)

It’s a pity we didn’t get to see any of Carl ruling juvy in this episode, but this was another one of those devastating hours that went from comedy to drama in an instant without any warning. Watching Ian and Mickey beat each other senseless and then make up made the subsequent development, Sammi calling the army to come claim their deserter Gallagher, all the more heartbreaking, and that’s one harsh feat that Fiona and the family won’t let her come back from, no matter what role Carl had in incarcerating Chucky. The other big moment was Lip springing into action to bring his tripping resident to see Helene’s husband believing him to be a medical doctor rather than a doctor of theology, which resulted in Helene giving Lip a stern lecture about the real world and doing what actually matters rather than what might be expected of him by his peers. There’s a magnificent contradiction in Debs’ proactive plan to go on the pill to prevent teen pregnancy and her dismissal of Derek’s responsible presentation of a condom despite having been told expressly that the pain takes a couple of days to work. That’s a disaster just waiting to happen, and I’m truthfully worried about how she’ll deal with it. Frank trying hard to win Bianca’s affections seems surprisingly sincere, and it’s sweet that he’s putting so much effort into connecting with someone who really needs to live every day like there’s no tomorrow and she has nothing left to lose.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 15 “Try” (B-)

Here we are almost at the end of the season with just one episode left, and I feel like this show’s circular nature is rearing its head once again. Things were just starting to get interesting in Alexandria, and now they’re going to hell just in time for the season to end and things to pick up in a whole new place when the show returns sometime around Halloween for its sixth of who knows how many seasons. It was quite a sight to see Rick explode with rage when he was being so diplomatic and trying to get a drunken Pete out of Jessie’s home and away from her. Rick smacking Carl off of him seemed almost as violent as Pete pushing Jessie to the ground, and there’s no going back from the bloodthirsty beating Rick was enjoying giving Pete. At the very least, it’s good to know that no one else stood behind Rick and served to further alienate the Alexandria residents, and Michonne even went so far as to punch him out when he got too belligerent. Something tells me that his friends won’t leave him to be jailed or punished by anyone else, and though that system of law and order could work, it just won’t happen. I liked seeing more of the underused Rosita in this hour, and I hope that in the finale and beyond we get to see a bit more of all of our characters. And I think we have to be approaching a time when Sasha does more than just blindly shoot things to get out her aggression.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 6, Episode 16 “Red Meat” (C+)

Sometimes, this show is just a bit too random for its own good. We’ve seen that Sarah Steele’s body woman Marissa is pretty much the counterpoint to the nonstop stress by campaign advisors Josh and Johnny, but it’s a stretch to think that she’d be so relaxed as to convince the candidate to play video games while waiting for the results of the election to come in. Finn joining in as a teammate was also far from believable, and I think some actual flirtation might be preferable to this. What was intense and resounding was Alicia’s spat with Peter, in which she finally spoke up and told him how what was on her mind. His response, to discourage voters from coming out because they were secure in the fact that she would win, was low, and I like that he managed to go back on it in the end by causing a traffic jam that prevented Prady’s supporters from coming out to vote for him. Her roadside meeting with Prady was interesting for the honesty and discord it presented, and I imagine this is now the last we’ll see of him. I’m especially displeased with the route of Kalinda’s character. If she’s leaving the show, it’s about time it happened, since her role as mostly mute babysitter just isn’t cutting it. I did enjoy Diane’s time spent among the conservatives, complete with a superb abortion debate with Oliver Platt’s mystery man who just happens to be looking for new legal representation.

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 1, Episode 10 “Divine Move” (C)

I really like the music on this show, and so I tend to get very excited during the opening credits each week regardless of whether the content of the episode is actually good or not. I’m all about what this show wants to do, but this episode just did not do it for me at all. Ramsey’s break with everything wasn’t really precipitated by anything, and felt too sudden even though we had warning that he was growing discontent with Jones’ leadership. Seeing Jennifer in the future lost its appeal since she literally looked like a witch leading a group of “daughters” as they wandered through the barren landscape. Ramsey sending himself back through time is an interesting concept, but to think that all that would be needed to successfully splinter after so many failed tests is one injection is hard to believe. The jump that’s been made from Cole and Ramsey being friends to where they are now was far too quick and intense, and Cole declaring that he’ll kill Ramsey if he tries to stop him is also less than convincing since he’d still likely do anything for his friend. Back in the past, Cassandra and Aaron aren’t doing much, and it looks like 1987 is a much more worthwhile time to be in at the moment. Let’s hope that Cole sorts things out there and gets back to the present, 2015, where he needs to be to pick Cassandra back up and set her back on track.

Pilot Review: Bloodline

Bloodline (Netflix)
Premiered March 20

It seems like Netflix is churning out a new season of some show almost every week now. The latest premiere, which came without too much fanfare, is “Bloodline,” a family drama slash thriller set at a hotel in the Florida Keys. As with “Parenthood,” this family produced a generation of four adult children, all of whom are extremely different. The cast assembled to play these four is pretty diverse and impressive. Kyle Chandler, who won an Emmy for “Friday Night Lights,” is the do-gooder son who became a sheriff. Linda Cardellini, who recently appeared on “Mad Men” and got her start well before that on “Freaks and Geeks,” is the daughter who can’t seem to get her life together. Norbert Leo Butz, a respected Broadway actor, is the lackadaisical brother. And Ben Mendelsohn, who I saw in two Sundance films this year and loved in “Animal Kingdom” and “Starred Up” before that, is the troublesome one who just can’t be relied upon. Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard, two venerated veteran actors, are the parents, and a handful of other TV faces, like Jamie McShane, Katie Finneran, Steven Pasquale, and Mia Kirshner also appear in the pilot. The problem is that this show, which comes from the creators of “Damages,” feels a whole lot like that series, which slowly added little bits of information each episode to build a storyline that could have played out over just an episode or two. That style could work better for a show that can be binge-watched immediately, but I still don’t see it being too satisfying. It reminds me of a far less compelling version of “The Affair,” and I don’t see what makes this stand apart. I’d be willing to give it another episode or two, but it has to really pick up the pace.

How will it work as a series? The ending of the pilot presented a real shocker, which makes watching this show a little bit more enticing. How we go from voting one brother off the island to three siblings murdering him is sure to be a stretch, and let’s hope that having an entire season preordained doesn’t lead to stretching out the plot too much.
How long will it last? Netflix is on a bit of a high at the moment, with a number of successful shows and one of its other offerings, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” picked up before it premiered for a second season. This one got decent reviews and seems likely to ride that wave to a renewal, though it’s not the network’s number one show.

Pilot grade: C

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Take Three: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1, Episode 3 “Kimmy Goes on a Date!” (B-)

One of the best – and simultaneously worst – elements of “30 Rock” was its randomness. Sometimes, it worked wonders, and others, it just didn’t make any sense, and did the show a disservice by not taking itself seriously. I haven’t quite made up my mind about one of the major plotlines of this episode, which is the revelation that Jacqueline was actually born and raised Native American before she dyed her hair, started wearing contacts, and tried her hardest to act like a white person. It’s funny to a point, but it’s hard to know what to make of her entire character. I like that, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons, she did step in and speak up for Kimmy in this installment, defending her to her nasty stepdaughter and hurling German flight attendant phrases at her elderly suitor so that he would get back to his home at a faster pace. Kimmy needs some real human contact, physical but more importantly emotional, and hopefully she’ll be able to get that soon with Charles, though I suspect that any hint of personality on either of their parts will prompt Jacqueline to fire one or both of them. Titus pretending to be headed to a funeral to fool his landlord into thinking he didn’t have money was moderately entertaining, and the best part was undeniably when his money got snatched while he was holding it out to her, a firm reminder that the fantasy world he and Kimmy live in doesn’t actually exist.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 3, Episode 4 “Chapter 30” (B+)

Frank does not like to lose, and not getting his way makes him set his sights on truly spectacular revenge. It’s hard to blame Heather for going on the offensive and announcing her candidacy for the presidency without responding to Frank’s offer of a Supreme Court seat after she realized just how manipulative he was, at first persuading the judge not to retire and then nearly forcing him to do so once Frank realized that Heather might pose a threat to him. She’s not inherently likeable, but neither is he, and I’m sure there are many more things that will happen long before we get to any sign of an election or even a campaign. Doug tracking her down for a shadowy meeting was a great move on his part, but let’s hope that Frank doesn’t find out, otherwise he won’t spare his old loyal servant Doug any pain in obliterating him for his betrayal. It’s not often that people say what they really mean to Frank, and being told by a victim of a drone strike that he had dreamed of strangling him with his bare hands was intense, though Frank trying to make good with an apology didn’t exactly merit much more than that. Spitting on a statue in a church is a move only Frank would make, and it crashing down is a perfect physical manifestation of Frank’s perceived omnipotence and how powerless he actually is. Ayla definitely went too far in pushing Frank during his briefing, but I feel like she’s not going away anytime soon, no matter how efficiently Seth thinks he’s solved the problem.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 6, Episode 9 “Burned” (B+)

I love the dynamics and interactions of characters on this show. It’s such an integrated community that Avery would hold an event for his candidacy and have such figures as Boyd and Loretta show up to crash to the party. It’s great to see that Loretta is still a formidable personality, speaking up and rallying the people against Avery to stand behind her, and that after being threatened by the latest unsavory element to arrive in Harlan. I remember Jonathan Tucker best from his stint as a candidate in his own right on “Parenthood,” and it’s fun to see him buried under some ridiculous facial hair as Boon, who made quite an impression with his casual conversation about a snake in Loretta’s home. Ava is certainly in a compromised position, in league with Boyd but hopeless to lie to Raylan at the same time. Wynn being turned as an informant is big news, and I love that we got to see him spending time in his tanning bed as he was once again interrupted by an unannounced visitor. Katherine saved the day in the calmest and coolest way when Seabass showed up intent on getting what he felt he deserved from Avery for betraying Tye, and she’s another one whose loyalties are difficult to read. I like seeing Art around again, there to remind Raylan that he can’t always be such a loose cannon. Boyd nearly being killed by Zachariah and having his operation ruined is sure to compel him even more to pull it off, and we have just four more episodes to see how all of this plays out.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pilot Review: One Big Happy

One Big Happy (NBC)
Premiered March 17 at 9:30pm

How many times have we seen stories in film or television about a woman preparing to have a baby with her gay male friend? This show puts a slight twist on that by making the mother-to-be the one interested in the same gender, and, of course, the guy meets the girl of his dreams just as he’s about to start a family with someone he loves, but not in that way. This show, most of all, feels like someone plucked directly from the early 2000s when “Will and Grace” was in its heyday, complete with an obnoxious laugh track that cues the audience to laugh when there isn’t really anything funny happening. A major reason that it feels more than a decade old is that all three of its stars had roles on shows in the early aughts. Elisha Cuthbert will forever be remembered as Jack Bauer’s daughter Kim on "24," known for getting stuck in bear traps and kidnapped repeatedly. Though she is beloved by “Happy Endings” fans, it appears that Cuthbert’s acting chops have not improved in the past fifteen years, as she possesses little charisma in a role that should be inherently endearing. Nick Zano was on The WB’s “What I Like About You” with a then-normal Amanda Bynes, and here he gets to be passionate, energetic, and not entirely grating as the relatively clueless guy who doesn’t understand that he’s abandoning his best friend just after she realizes that she’s pregnant. And then there’s Kelly Brook, whose name I recognized from her stint as Lex Luthor’s girlfriend in season one of “Smallville” way back in 2001. It’s as if she doesn’t realize that there are other people on this show, determined to overplay her already over-the-top character as much as possible. The concept, in theory, is cute, but these three just don’t jell together as well as they should. I’m willing to give it another chance, but I’m not optimistic.

How will it work as a series? Brook’s Prudence isn’t going anywhere, and I’m sure that Cuthbert’s Lizzy will regret running to the airport to beg her not to leave. What this show needs to do most of all is tone down Prudence and her nonstop nudity, and give Lizzy a personality of some sort aside from just being uptight and talking about how she’s a lesbian.
How long will it last? It actually got off to a decent start in terms of ratings, but the reviews for this show were pretty poor. That doesn’t spell doom, of course, but it means that NBC isn’t likely to fight for it if it has other possibilities to take its place. Right now, I’d bet on it being taken off the air at the end of its first season.

Pilot grade: C-

Pilot Review: iZombie

iZombie (CW)
Premiered March 17 at 9pm

Expectations aren’t everything, but they can help to amplify an experience. This season has been a great one for the CW, surprising viewers with the quality and heart of “Jane the Virgin” and impressing its superhero fan base with “The Flash.” Adapting a popular comic book series about a young zombie who can pass for normal as long as she eats brains on a regular basis is a task that seems truly fitting for the CW and its niche audience, and, once again, it seems that the young broadcaster has done pretty well with what it’s been given. Some quick research indicates that the premise of the show diverges considerably from its comic book origins, but I think the basic idea is the same, and it seems like a creative and worthwhile concept for a weekly TV series. I didn’t recognize Rose McIver from her role as Vivian Scully on “Masters of Sex,” though it’s not easy to do so considering the amount of white makeup she wears on this show. She possesses the perfect combination of spunk and unspoken sweetness to portray Liv, who might as well be an antisocial teenager, though she owes the majority of her mannerisms to the fact that she is undead. Her morgue coworker Ravi is great, and it’s fun to see her interact with do-gooder cop Clive. I was pleased to recognize David Anders, who I and many others know best as Sark from “Alias,” as the man who appears to have caused the zombie outbreak and seems to be a zombie himself, if Liv’s latest dream vision is any indication. I like that she needs to eat brains to keep herself sane and, for lack of a more accurate phrase, human. This feels a whole lot like “Warm Bodies,” which I found to be a very fulfilling look at what zombies could look like if weren’t portrayed in the normative way. Here’s hoping this show keeps it up.

How will it work as a series? That depends on how well the show deals with keeping Liz’s state secret from those around her. Suspension of disbelief is only possible to the extent that everyone is so oblivious to her current condition, and having her put on a bit of makeup to give some kids a good Halloween scare is a great example of how this show can be creative and effective while winking and acknowledging its premise. I think it can do a good job.
How long will it last? It wasn’t the smash hit that the CW’s other two major offerings this season have been, but it still should be a success. Strong reviews should help it, and I think that the CW, which renewed pretty much its entire lineup for next season, will be eager to check off another hit show and add it to the list.

Pilot grade: B+

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 2, Episode 13 “One of Us” (B-)

I praised another episode that aired this same night, the latest installment of “The Flash,” for achieving so much in a single hour. This show, on the other hand, was far too ambitious in this episode, introducing a handful of new characters and piling on the action to a point of self-destructing way too early. The two most notable cast additions are portrayed by the most notable actors, which is hardly a surprise. Drea de Matteo, who I would never have expected to appear on this show, is Karla, a woman on the index with especially sharp nails, and Blair Underwood, a better fit for this show’s universe, is May’s ex-husband and someone who may actually be able to help Skye keep her newfound powers in check. Apparently, Skye did quite a lot of damage to herself bottling everything up, but it would have made a lot more sense if she had in fact acted to protect everyone on the football field since this was yet another human victory over superhumans without much explanation. And then we have the enormous bombshell that Mack is actually working for the real S.H.I.E.L.D, hence his abduction of Hunter, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’ve stuck with this show through other uncertain and unpredictable times, and I’m hopeful that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m just not sure. As has tended to be the problem with this show, there’s a whole lot going on and I just don’t know how much support or depth there really is behind the curtain.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 15 “Out of Time” (B+)

This episode deserves commendation if only for the sheer immensity of its revelations, and it’s hard to believe that this isn’t even a midseason finale. I’m not even sure where to start, but I think the acknowledgment of a few key things that we’ve known to be true for a while is probably a good place. We knew that Dr. Wells was the Reverse Flash but didn’t quite know about his circumstances, and it seems that Cisco digging into the truth was too close for comfort for him, though he’ll undoubtedly have to explain to Caitlin how he got up and walked out of his chair (you’d think that being able to move like lightning would enable him time to at least move the chair too). Cisco’s death is hard to take, and being impaled by a super speed-powered hand doesn’t seem likely to be reversible. It’s intriguing that he’s stranded in the past, and now we know that Barry has some time-related powers. Running into the past was a big deal, and let’s hope that he’ll be able to change things this time around, even if that still won’t save Cisco since he’ll be focusing his efforts on Joe. Ignoring Linda when she came to talk to him didn’t see like the cue to finally break the news to Barry, and that made his dramatic reveal right after their big smooch all the more fantastic. This show certainly knows how to pack its action into an hour, and let’s hope the follow-up to this is just as exciting.

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 1, Episode 7 “Bingo” (B+)

Following up on last week’s great flashback installment, this hour solidified the fact that this show is indeed a compelling new series with a fascinating perspective. I think that the Kettlemans are truly fantastic characters, and they belong so completely in this show’s extended universe. Craig has no personality whatsoever and is entirely feckless, bending to the every need and whim of his wife. Betsy, on the other hand, is so incredibly intense in her defense of not having done anything wrong and her judgment of other people. Kim being honest with them about their options triggered vehement denial in her, and Jimmy showing up to notify them that their money was gone was such sweet revenge. It’s good that Jimmy did Kim a favor, since he needs to make friends now that he has achieved his newfound success. Mike was a fitting partner for him, and as we well know, this won’t be the end of their interactions. Mike’s situation was solved rather simply after Omid Abtahi’s Detective Abbasi yelled at him and at Jimmy, with Barry Shabaka Henley’s Detective Sanders spelling out a much simpler truth and working things out with Mike on a professional level. Chuck forcing himself to go outside to work past his allergy to electricity is terrific, and I’m eager to see how him get back to being more functional, although something tells me that he and this new version of Jimmy won’t work together all that well in the real world if they ever get back there.

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 3, Episode 3 “Exposed” (F)

I think we all learned an important lesson from this episode: if you’re a serial killer with a particular interest in boxing people up, it’s best to try to make a clean getaway without a memory-handicapped family member by your side. It’s extremely hard to believe that Neil Perry managed to stay in the wind for so long when he snapped and nearly killed his father’s nurse for letting her out of his sight for a minute and he was so well known for his specific talents that Haley could identify him to the FBI in mere minutes. Usually, it’s police incompetency that rules the day, but in this case Ryan and his pals actually did okay, getting spotted on their way into the market but not allowing any innocent to die while they were in pursuit, which has to be a record. Sure, those two reporters got killed during Mark’s interview, but that’s actually a pretty low body count for an episode of this show. I can’t comprehend why Kyle and Dawn are so set on keeping Mark in the dark about their real purpose when they obviously think he’s crazy and don’t actually need him for whatever their ultimate endgame is. Bugging Max’s apartment is a worrisome development, but one would think that as a main character, she’s immune to true harm, since it’s only fringe characters who actually get killed, with the exception of Debra and, on the other side of things, Emma. Regarding the latter, fortunately actress Valorie Curry has moved on to much better things in her current recurring stint on “House of Lies.” After starting on this show, however, is there any way to go but way up?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 16 “Chapter Sixteen” (B+)

This show has continuously managed to take what could become simple sitcom plotlines and turn them into something much more effective and entertaining. Petra and Rafael taking care of the dog was the best example in this episode, since it could have been a visual joke to have them running after the dog but instead did more, forcing them to focus on that while other more pressing things were happening in Rafael’s life and then resulting in a big sigh of relief when the big star’s assistant revealed that it was actually her dog and not her boss’. Petra goes from being not at all likeable to one of the show’s most sympathetic characters every ten minutes, and I love that. This was a rare opportunity for Rafael to be mad at Jane, and they managed to move past it after some uncertainty, and I like that the episode ended on a note that felt very much with “Desperate Housewives,” with Rafael waiting for the big answer to a question just asked: who is his mother? Jane critiquing her writer’s workshop classmate also turned into something much more complex than it could have been. Alba objecting to Xiomara moving in with Rogelio is definitely going to leave an impression, and Jane will no doubt be eternally caught in the middle. I enjoyed Rogelio’s ridiculousness as he proved to be the most obnoxious shadow ever invented, plaguing Michael’s time on the job. I like that even Michael gets another love interest, and the fact that she and Jane are very similar people is sure to make things especially interesting in the coming weeks.

Friday, March 20, 2015

What I’m Watching: Episodes (Season Finale)

Episodes: Season 4, Episode 9 “Episode Nine” (B+)

This was a funny season finale, one that tied up a few important loose ends and set them all on very different courses for the fifth season that I certainly hope ends up getting picked up and produced. I wasn’t pleased with how the Helen storyline went, but I think that this is the best possible way that it could have been rescued and resolved. Helen telling Carol she’d be out of town and then tracking her down to surprise her at her walk with Beverly, followed by an immediate demand for her clothing back that left Carol topless, was a pretty spectacular takedown of the woman she believed had wronged her. I doubt she had anything to do with Caster happening to show up and then offering Carol a made-up job as his number two at the CW, but that was an even greater punishment that unfortunately will leave Carol seriously in the lurch. Not cancelling Beverly and Sean’s new pilot at first seemed noble, but bringing Tim, who announced his presence with his token “Oh, no,” in to run it instead was the best revenge she could possibly have gotten on Beverly. It seemed inevitable that either Matt, Merc, or both would end up in the box, and after Merc insulted Matt’s time spent at the gym, it was fitting that he would be the victim of a triumphant “Release the bugs!” from a vindictive Matt. And finally, Myra did end up having a baby, one who groans and grumbles just like her. This wasn’t the most even season this show has had, but for the most part, I really liked it, and eagerly look forward to a very worthwhile season five.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Andrea Savage as Helen

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 4, Episode 9 “We're Going to Build a Mothership and Rule the Universe” (B+)

When Marty doesn’t like someone, he’s not exactly shy about showing it. Steven Weber was a great choice to play Ron Zobel, the expert brought in to help do to Marty’s company what he does to other companies. Unfortunately for Marty, he realizes just how much of what he does is made up out of thin air, and therefore he was never going to take to Ron particularly well. Ron was right that Marty was too quick to dismiss everything he said as garbage, but of course pointing that out only egged Marty on even more. Forcing him to admit that he didn’t have any idea what he was talking about in the middle of a meeting with a client was a particularly embarrassing form of revenge, and it’s a good thing that Denna likes Marty and that it didn’t ruin everything. Jeannie also has a magic touch which also helped to soothe the relationship with the client. Jeannie trying to run from dinner was hard to watch, and it’s a relief to see Marty finally start acting like a human and acknowledge Jeannie. The scene with her passing plenty of gas was most worthwhile for the satisfied look on her face and the lack of shame she had for such an occurrence, coupled with Doug’s utter inability to respond to the situation. Clyde’s father really is driving him crazy, and his continued presence is only going to serve to make Clyde more on edge. Let’s hope he doesn’t mess things up in a big way, particularly with Kelsey.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 4, Episode 9 “Daddy Issues” (B+)

Starting this episode off with Ace and Jessa in bed together was not an accurate indicator of where this episode would end up, as Ace casually stopping in with his current girlfriend Jessa to see his ex-girlfriend Mimi Rose and her unexcited boyfriend Adam resulted in what was a far too lackadaisical conversation about who should be dating whom. Jessa, who’s always rather ethereal and abnormal about relationships, just seemed annoyed that Ace wasn’t interested in her, while Adam, for once, was the truly reasonable one in the room, failing to comprehend how Mimi Rose could so easily and quickly dismiss the fact that they’re living together. Elijah helping Hannah’s dad adjust to his new status out of the closet definitely wasn’t helping Hannah deal with it any better, and she went into Ray’s election party feeling just about the same as he was after Marnie told him the news of her engagement and the two stared off into space as the credits rolled, both equally discontent. Ray looking right at Marnie when he promised to take care of people was intense, and it’s a good thing Shoshanna didn’t catch his line of sight. Marnie announcing the engagement at the end of the party after telling Desi that they shouldn’t make a big deal of it shows just how disconnected she’s become from her friends and how desperately she wants to make sure that this is actually real, which means that its inevitable end is going to be soul-crushing and devastating for the already drama-prone Marnie.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 5, Episode 9 “Carl’s First Sentencing” (B+)

Leave it to this show to send two of its youngest characters to prison and have it not be a deathly dramatic development. Chucky really is out of the loop, and Sammi is making for problems for him than she is helping. Carl, on the other hand, ignoring Fiona’s advice and instead directly insulted the judge before telling her that he’d make better decisions about how to sell drugs in the future. Now that he’s officially in the clear as far as his boss is concerned, he’s going to be running juvy pretty soon, and hopefully poor Chucky won’t have too hard a time. Prison isn’t easy for anyone, as evidenced by Sean’s current state, literally frozen in place so that he won’t make a mistake he regrets because of the news that he can’t leave the state and go with his daughter. Ian’s new dishwasher job may be just what he needs, and could help him achieve some good stability. Kev’s legendary status as the Rape Walker was an entertaining way for him to realize that he needs to patch things up with Veronica, and getting confronted by a bunch of guys angry that he was making seducing the ladies harder for them was funny. Frank taking a cancer-diagnosed doctor on the ride of her life was actually quite sweet, and this could be the start of a decent friendship rather than just a petty theft. I was thrilled to see Sasha Alexander, from “Rizzoli and Isles” but who got her big start in the original incarnation of “NCIS,” as Lip’s new professor who finds him quite appealing. His student loan may come without strings attached, but his new romantic situation is definitely a bit more complicated.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 14 “Spend” (B)

How quickly the calm is gone, and there’s one simple reason: they left the tranquility of the town. Going out on supply missions is an important thing, sure, but mixing two groups with vastly different styles of hunting and gathering can be enormously detrimental and, in this case, deadly. Our group has long since been purged of its malicious elements like Shane who left Otis behind to be violently killed by walkers. Even Eugene came back honking his horn like he meant it to save the day. Unfortunately, the selfishness of new friends cost Noah his life, and he suffered a truly horrible and disgusting death, one which Glenn had to witness at close range. How Deanna deals with the less reputable elements of her town and whatever punishment should befall them should dictate the course of peace in the near future, but the warning from Gabriel may put a serious damper on that. Carol should have learned from her dealings with children who don’t understand the nature of walkers that she can’t trust seemingly innocent children, and her connection to her cookie-eating kid seems to have already been cut off. There is such a contrast between the way things were at the party last episode to how they are now, and it’s easy to see that this paradise, if it really is that, isn’t equipped to deal with those who don’t believe that they belong in heaven, and things are only going to deteriorate as more lives are lost.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 6, Episode 15 “Open Source” (B-)

This was the most law-focused episode of this show that we’ve seen in a while, though it was still a bit messy because there are too many characters to manage in a coherent way. Finn is the attorney in the case but also has Diane sitting next to him, involving her husband as an expert witness in a move detrimental to their marriage, and Cary, still distrustful of the man who nearly sent him to prison, and Alicia, distracted by her campaign, sitting by as well. This was certainly an evolving case, one constantly reframed by new information and by the easily biased tendencies of Denis O’Hare’s Judge Abernathy and the direct manipulation by Mamie Gummer’s Nancy of his emotions. Diane and Kurt did just fine making it through the awkwardness of having to do their intertwining jobs. Alicia and Prady had a pretty good moment together, seeming genuine and honest, and I’m quite glad that Alicia didn’t follow up Prady’s Jesuit confession with an admission of her deteriorated marriage with Peter. Johnny defying Eli was bold, but he did manage to get Alicia to give a good speech and even prepare for a passionate kiss at the end of the episode that is sure to lead to more. Canning and David tricking Alicia into inquiring about money for a Palestinian group wasn’t an enthralling as I think it was meant to be, and Alicia moving Canning’s phone even further out of his reach when she walked out didn’t feel like the kind of move she would typically make, even if it was meant to be spiteful.

What I’m Watching: Banshee (Season Finale)

Banshee: Season 3, Episode 10 “We All Pay Eventually” (B+)

I think there’s a contractual requirement for this show that every season finale needs to involve a handful of the show’s characters marching in guns blazing to eradicate their latest enemy, with no thought given to the collateral damage or very public impression it may cause. Lucas showing up to the base and telling Stowe exactly who he was certainly classifies as bold, though it’s hardly surprising given what we’ve seen him do in the past. Bringing Gordon back to help with the prison break was a smart plan, and him getting caught in the line of fire and serving as the major casualty of the operation is especially tragic since his willingness to come along demonstrates just how far he had come to accepting the state of things in general and Carrie in particular. Lucas flashing back to Chayton with Siobhan as Stowe had a gun to Carrie’s head was worrisome, but I think all this may be showing him that violence is not the only way. That said, Job got grabbed by his number one fan, and it’s going to be difficult if not impossible to track him down. I’m curious about the introductory segment we got with David Harbour from “The Newsroom” as an elite military recruiter of some sort who got inside Lucas’ head in a way no one else has managed to, and to see how that will relate to the search for Job in season four. Kai made an important decision to side with the buyers he hadn’t most recently offended, and even let his new associate have some fun with his sword by slicing off his former competitor’s head, in a bit of gore that rates as gratuitous even for this show, coupled with an arm chopping too. Kurt’s plotline is just developing, and after a bit of anger management help from Brock, it looks like he’ll have even more to get his aggression going following the horrifyingly painful event we got a preview of, as his former brothers broke in to his home to burn his Nazi tattoos off so that he could truly be free of his past. The addition of his character is a sign that this show is continuing to transform and grow as it loses an alarming number of characters to a violent death. I’m eagerly awaiting season four.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Trieste Kelly Dunn as Siobhan

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 1, Episode 9 “Tomorrow” (B+)

I like that this show is constantly reediting itself, and that we may see a wholly different past or future in each episode. 2015 was barely even acknowledged in this hour, as Cole woke up in a 2017 where the virus had broken out and number one scientist Cassandra was able to get him helicoptered out of Chechnya so that he could meet with her just in time for her to tell him that plenty happened over the course of the past two years before she died and he splintered back to the future. It’s debatable how much of what Cole will say is shaped by what Cassandra told him he already said to her before he had those instructions, but I’m still following and I’m still relatively satisfied. The history of Ramsey and Cole’s entry into their current group was somewhat unexpected, and it really does frame Jones as a much more dangerous prophet than Foster, so set on fixing the timeline that it’s unlikely that anything will ever prove satisfactory enough to stop meddling with it. Shooting Foster while the two were calmly sitting together was a shock, and the subsequent evisceration of Foster’s entire group was relatively brutal. That, coupled with the aerial shot of the infected woman being shot as she ran across the bridge, made things considerably more dramatic than usual. Best of all, we finally saw Jennifer again, ready to rabble rouse and shout about the 12 Monkeys in 2017, just as fantastically maniacal as ever.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Round Two: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1, Episode 2 “Kimmy Gets a Job!” (B-)

I really want to like this show, and there are some things about it that really do work. The problem is that there is a certain infantile quality that defines it, and which reduces some of the plotlines that could be far funnier to less sophisticated, broader attempts at comedy. Titus in general fits that bill, and rallying all of the other mistreated costume renters to demand their $200 security deposits back wasn’t terribly worthwhile. It’s as if this show sees the world through Kimmy’s eyes, where Titus lives in relative luxury yet obsesses over $200 that he can’t get back because he spends his days in an Iron Man costume in Times Square. Kimmy, on the other hand, is enterprising no matter the situation, trying hard to be able to keep her job and show that she is dedicated. Grounding Xanthippe was a particularly triumphant moment, even if she too exemplifies the lack of depth of characters on this show. Mrs. Voorhees truly is a role created for Jane Krakowski, allowing her to be fully over the top and completely oblivious to the real world around her, dressing up to impress her absentee husband and staging a luxurious party so that he would be interested in her again. Kimmy’s heart is what saved the day, as it did in the pilot episode, coupled this time with a surprising willingness on Titus’ part to be attacked repeatedly by the birthday boy who wanted nothing more than to be a supervillain.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 3, Episode 3 “Chapter 29” (B+)

It’s rare than an entire episode has pretty much just one focus, with Doug and Gavin occupying a very small portion of the hour in their own intersecting subplots. The two main obstacles standing in the way of the Underwoods achieving what they want – reelection support and ambassador confirmation – seem to have been dealt with for now, with Frank back in control of his objectives without having to think about 2016 and with Claire having to contend with being thought of first as the President’s wife and second as the ambassador, overshadowing the secretary of state who should really be doing most of the speaking herself. Fortunately, that relationship has been smoothed over thanks to a post-vodka round of beer pong which put Claire and Catherine on even footing and allowed them to bond while decompressing. The visiting dignitary certainly ruled the evening, planting a big kiss on Claire and getting the entire White House party to drink several shots of absurdly expensive vodka. While Frank didn’t let the alcohol affect his demeanor, he did lose control of the night. His personal conversation with Petrov was one of the episode’s best moments, and I like that he chose to get his revenge by holding a press conference without his Russian counterpart, throwing him under the bus for ignoring the protesters who poured out their vodka and stormed out of the party. Doug’s new job did seem too good to be true, and it’s clear that he is not prepared to let go of his former post just yet.

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 17 “T-Bone and the Iceman” (B)

This show is always all about the cutting edge of technology. Freezing people seems like a thing of the future, but obviously it’s not, and the fact that it is happening in the present creates considerable problems like, say, the lack of space necessary to preserve people as they were promised they would be kept before they died. Sherlock, Watson, Bell, and Gregson got to have some fun acting incredulous about the state of affairs in the body preservation industry, and it unraveled and uncovered a much more complicated crime than initially seemed to be the case. This wasn’t the coolest of scientific focuses for this show, but it did manage to be interesting throughout the course of the hour. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a member of either Sherlock or Watson’s families, and this latest opportunity to see Watson’s mother presented an unfortunate new development that is sure to have reverberations on Watson in the coming episodes. I like that, once he realized what was going on, Sherlock sprang into action and, for once, put himself out there to be directly involved in helping a good friend of his tackle an enormously difficult obstacle in her life. He may be looking at it from a pragmatic, technical point of view, deducing that assisting her in overcome the challenge of having to confront her mother’s fading memory will help her concentrate better on being a consultant, but I think he’s also remembering just how much she’s helped him and that being nice and genuine isn’t such an impossible thing.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 6, Episode 8 “Dark As a Dungeon” (B+)

I feel like I need to have a pen and paper handy while I’m watching this show to be able to write down all of the spectacular dialogue uttered by its characters. The best thing about this final season focusing on the showdown between Raylan and Boyd is that they have such fantastic conversations, layered with subtext and intellectual insults. It’s also so interesting to see just how many levels of good and evil there are, as Tye’s visit to Boyd’s home initially means he’s threatening them, then that they’re partnering, and then that Boyd and Ava are reluctantly turning him over to Raylan. Tye’s final words are fitting for any victim of Raylan’s – “You shot me in the back!” – prompting a superb retort from the trigger-happy lawman alleging that he should have run backwards towards him if he had wanted to be shot in the front. This new dynamic of Boyd knowing that Ava is Raylan’s informant changes things considerably, and things are going to implode in a bad way very soon. I enjoyed Art’s visit to Catherine, full of flirtation and veiled accusations. Raylan practically begging Boyd to take the reward money while Zachariah was busy digging in the mine suggests that, even with Tye’s death, there are still so many players and factors at work here that it’s impossible to predict how things will turn out aside from the certainty that it won’t end with most of our friends left standing. At least we still have a few episodes to go before it’s all over.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 17 “Karma” (B)

It’s strange to see flashbacks featured in this show that depict Finch as a vengeful person seeking to harm someone else. Everything we’ve seen of him up until this point, from his time with Nathan to his present setup, suggests that he wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, let alone plant a bomb in their car to kill him. His tormenting of Alicia Corwan, who died long ago on this show, seemed out of character and very much unlike him, even if it was to prove the point that killing is never the way to go, no matter how bad you may think someone is. Patrick Kennedy’s Dr. Edwards went to great lengths to set up the man he was convinced had killed his wife, ready to take his own life so that he could be punished and imprisoned for the murder. Fusco wanted to let him take out the garbage for him wasn’t so shocking, but I’m surprised that Reese seemed so willing to let him go through with it. While Finch was pretending to be one of his patients, Reese also got closer with his own therapist, using Iris as a way in to the gala where Dr. Edwards presented his passion project and then got threatened by Wyatt. They’re undoubtedly getting closer, which is a good thing for the usually stoic and lonely Reese, but as they’ve learned, having attachments also means having vulnerabilities and places where those with malicious intentions can really get to you when they most want to.

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 2, Episode 12 “Who You Really Are” (C+)

I’ll admit that I get a bit lost and tune out to a degree whenever Asgardian mythology is invoked. I much prefer unexplained superpowers to alien deities, and I like it also detracts considerably from whatever minimal seriousness this show still possesses. I didn’t even recognize Lady Siff from an episode right around this time last year, “Yes Men,” and I noted in my review of that episode that I didn’t remember her from “Thor.” I suppose it’s fitting, therefore, that she couldn’t even remember herself in this hour. I did, however, recognize Eddie McClintock, who was the star of Syfy’s “Warehouse 13,” a show often similar to this one in terms of its supernatural content and general style, as Vin-Tak, the villain-turned-hero-turned-villain-again. What never makes much sense to me is how humans manage to hold off superpowered aliens. I understand that Skye bests all, and that even without wanting to, she could still eradicate everyone in her midst. Bobbie, on the other hand, shouldn’t be able to fight Vin-Tak simply by arming herself in both hands, though maybe it’s her banter that distracted him enough for our team to prove victorious. The cat is out of the bag in regards to Skye’s transformation, and, in a change from the status quo, Simmons has reason to be angry with Fitz for hiding the truth and manipulating the results to try to protect Skye’s secret. Where this team goes from here is unknown, and with more and more people learning about Skye each episode, she and the team won’t be safe for long.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 1, Episode 6 “Five-O” (B+)

Now here’s an argument for this show to exist: Mike Ehrmantraut getting to do more than just sit behind a tollbooth. Jimmy played second fiddle in this hour to Mike, who got his entire backstory revealed and got to call none other than Saul (well, Jimmy) to defend him when Philadelphia cops tried to interrogate him about his alleged role in the death of two of their best and brightest. We’ve only really known about Mike in relation to this granddaughter, and now we learn that his son, a cop in Philadelphia, was killed. He still maintains a relationship with his granddaughter and his mother, who is played by the lovely and very talented Kerry Condon, who here is too smart for her own good, trying to be a do-gooder when Mike has already taken care of the matter. The flashbacks to that fateful night in Philadelphia where a drunken Mike was nearly put out of his misery before he turned the tables and shot the two corrupt cops who had killed his son were enormously effective, and it helps to explain some of his eternal stoicism, though I imagine some of it existed before his son was murdered. I liked how Jimmy strolled in to the station and how he responded to the quits about his outfit that he got. The best part was unquestionably his asking Mike how he knew that he would spill coffee on one of the detectives so that Mike could seize the opportunity. We know this is the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership, and it’s the best plot development this show has featured yet.

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 3, Episode 2 “Boxed In” (F)

I need to make sure that, at the very least, my reviews of this show are decently entertaining since this show is a true horror in every sense of the word. Killing off Agent Clarke is an easy way for this show to demonstrate how deadly and threatening its new villains are without actually harming any of the four central law enforcement characters it now features, and while he died brutally, we didn’t have to see it, and his wife wasn’t needlessly suffocated while he wasn’t even there. I didn’t recognize Joy Osmanski, who I remember from her days on “The Loop” nearly a decade ago, as his wife, who got to appear just to be flirted with in the supermarket and then nearly asphyxiated just for sport. What gets me every time is just how incompetent the FBI and the police are on this show, to the point that local law enforcement had vehicles prepped for them to conduct searches within minutes of being notified of their landing but couldn’t have bothered to start the searching themselves to actually save Clarke. The unpredictable insanity of the bad guys continues to clash deeply with their ability to stay off the grid due to their supposed superinteligence, and the fact that Mark is being used as a pawn without any knowledge that he’s being played makes little to no sense. This season is unfurling its purpose very slowly, and we didn’t even get to see Joe when Ryan went to a maximum-security facility for a heart-to-heart, with Dr. Arthur Strauss instead. I’m still not convinced that Gwen is an innocuous non-threat, but arranging for her to be the doctor who saw Clarke when he had a heart attack seems like a stretch, even for this show’s omniscient villains.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 15 “Chapter Fifteen” (B+)

It’s always a disappointment when a major life event that should be filled with nothing but joy is overshadowed by some other factor and the unfortunate truth that it just doesn’t come under the right circumstances. That’s never been truer on this show than with the case of Rafael’s proposal, what he thought would be a heartfelt gesture of acceptance of Jane needing certain things to be certain ways in her life. He did it in a great way that cleverly manipulated this show’s tendency to make Jane the center of the universe, making it seem like she was hallucinating what the famous author she ended up massaging was saying when she was doing a reading when she was actually introducing Rafael’s proposal. Seeing Jane and Michael laughing together was not a helpful development, and I think Rafael is going to have a tough time getting past that. Though both have questionable qualities, I’d definitely choose Rafael over Michael for Jane. It appears there’s some intrigue with Aaron that adds a certain mystery to his seemingly harmless Jain persona, and it’s hard to keep track of Petra as she’s now moved on to being allies with Rafael after Lachlan decided that he was done with her. Rogelio did do a terrible job of reacting to the news that Xiomara might be pregnant, but I think that’s something they should be able to get over since both parties have certain hang-ups that they won’t ever really be able to fully change.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 4, Episode 8 (B)

With just one episode left to go, I sincerely hope that Showtime and its co-producer BBC opt to renew this show and bring it back for a fifth season. There’s obviously plenty of room for it to go places, even if it’s stalling a tiny bit right now. Helen has continued to devolve into a purely jealous person, not hiding her lack of affection for Beverly at any point. Carol, on the other hand, is doing her best to make sure that Helen won’t suspect that she is carrying on a friendship with Beverly, training her assistant not to announce her calls and meeting covertly behind a dumpster. That can’t last long, and it’s hard to see this whirlwind romance that has developed ending any way but poorly when Helen finds out that Carol has been lying to her. That will mean that either they’ll keep working together awkwardly or Helen will follow her predecessors and find her office once again unoccupied. Things are looking up in one sense or Merc, whose show is going to make it to air, but it comes with the crucial caveat of being hosted by his number one nemesis, the one and only Matt LeBlanc. Matt isn’t doing too well these days, and having to show his beach house to Stoke, who is doing incredibly well for himself, definitely hurt. It’s rare that Matt is the most aware and honest person in the room, and it’s quite telling of the fact that he knows he doesn’t have many options left to stay afloat.

Friday, March 13, 2015

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 4, Episode 8 “He Didn’t Mean That, Natalie Portman” (B+)

After Jeannie punched Monica in the face at the end of the last episode, I had expected to see plenty of Marty’s ex-wife in this half-hour. Instead, we got a focus on our four main characters and a few of the people in each of their lives, with Marty’s spotlight reduced to just one person, Mary McCormack’s Denna Altshuler. She certainly is a formidable ally for Kaan and Associates, but she also seems just as interested in getting something out of it as Monica did when she was sleeping with Marty all the time. The shocked look on Marty’s face at the end of the episode was concerning, since it’s rare to be able to catch him off guard in a way that makes him feel powerless. Marty did manage to rile Ellis up as he arrived at their offices intent on pillaging everything, furious that Marty and Denna had colluded to tank the stock price that they had worked so hard to get up past $200. Clyde’s father is certainly something, and I like just how excited Jeannie and Marty got to be able to spend time with someone with embarrassing dirt on Clyde. Doug looking out for his good bud and putting in a good word with Kelsey did not turn out at all how he had hoped it would, and something tells me that Clyde will be just as disgusted as Doug was to learn that Kelsey is interested in both of them. Somehow, I just don’t see a threesome happening, though I think Doug would be far more open to considering it than Clyde possibly would.

What I’m Watching: Togetherness (Season Finale)

Togetherness: Season 1, Episode 8 “Not So Together” (B+)

Short seasons like this always catch me off guard, especially when the series they’re paired with have more episodes left to air. Fortunately, this show was renewed for a second season over a month ago, and so we’ll be able to see more of these characters again next year. I found this to be a very solid finish to a pretty great first season. I liked seeing Brett allow himself to open up and relax for the first time in a long time, and being buried under leaves seems to have done him a world of good. Dealing with his daughter’s lack of desire to go to school by taking her to the beach was definitely not a typical solution, but it was great to see him conquer his negativity towards the beach and have a wonderful bonding moment with his kids. Ending the episode with him driving up to see Michelle was simultaneously sweet and intense, especially because we know what’s going on in the hotel where Michelle is staying. She really managed to save the day when David’s presentation hit a snag due to his future commitments, and all of the note passing between their rooms was a sure sign that something was about to happen. Let’s hope Brett has the capacity to be forgiving and that both he and Michelle really think about what they want. It’s wonderful that Alex got a part in the end, and I loved how he tracked Larry and Tina down to their massages and showed up to confess his affection for Tina. Her response was great, and I’m eager to see where things pick up when he’s back from being a moderately successful up-and-coming actor.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 4, Episode 8 “Tad and Loreen and Avi and Shanaz” (B+)

It’s always a treat when characters who aren’t usually central to the storyline get to take the spotlight and earn a plotline all their own. We’ve seen Hannah’s parents many times before, at best obliviously ignoring the needs of their daughter and at worst contributing directly to her depression by insulting whatever she might have seen as even a meager accomplishment. In this episode, whose title spoofs the 1969 Oscar-nominated “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice,” Hannah’s father Tad decides that he’s not comfortable being just a subplot anymore, and feels the need to come out after so many years in the closet. Loreen was decidedly not pleased, though her main anger was due to the fact that he was choosing to come out just after a big milestone in her life. Hannah does have to be the center of attention in some fashion, of course, and therefore she gets to hear the news from her overeager mother who wants to spread the pain and annoyance of what she’s just learned to someone else. I’m enjoying the budding relationship between Shoshanna and Jason Ritter’s Fran, and I think it might even be able to work out as long as Shoshanna doesn’t become too obsessed about Ray, positively or negatively, while helping him campaign and hearing him talk about Marnie as the ideal mate rather than her. Marnie getting proposed to is a big deal, but there was something very lackluster about how it happened that I think foretells inevitable doom for that romance.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 5, Episode 8 “Uncle Carl” (B+)

Is there anything better than the relationship between Carl and Chucky? Even after he repeatedly called him his niece and then strapped drugs to his body so that he would take the fall if police caught them, which they did immediately, Chucky still enthusiastically regaled his Uncle Carl with kind words and get excited by the proximity of their cells, a fact that was horrifying to irritated young delinquent Carl. He’s getting an early start on getting to know the prison system, and it was so entertaining to see the entire Gallagher clan pound on the glass and yell at him not to say anything. Let’s hope that Lip’s money scheme doesn’t get him into legal trouble since he really does have a promising future at the moment. Sammi’s new relationship with Frank has him carefully adhering to her every instruction to avoid being shot again, and it’s actually probably one of the healthier times of his life. The news that Gus is going on the road is welcome since it means that he might have some time to cool off and Fiona shouldn’t have too much opportunity to make things any worse, but her spontaneous idea to pick up and come with him did not go over the way she seemed to have thought it would. Ian isn’t doing well, and it took Mickey long enough to finally show up and be there for him, though it’s definitely going to be hard going forward. I heartily enjoyed Debs’ attempt to fake symptoms to get Ian a fresh dose of his pills.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 13 “Forget” (B+)

It’s jarring to see this group in such peaceful surroundings and to see just how much it unnerves them. Some of them are acclimating better than others, and Sasha definitely represents the less conductive end of the spectrum, freaking out at a kind woman offering to make her her favorite meal, unable to comprehend that making something that she wouldn’t like would be her biggest worry. Daryl came the furthest in terms of his attitude towards their new dwellings, spending some quality time with Aaron over spaghetti and realizing that arming themselves might not be so necessary. I like the idea of Daryl as a recruiter, though I don’t see him fully taking on the responsibility just yet. The sight of Rick and Michonne in ties and uniforms was quite something, and they just need to focus on what’s best for the town and not just for the group, and they should do just fine. Everyone has husbands and happy families, which is strange, but maybe that’s just what our friends need right now. Nothing compared, of course, to what Carol chose to do when an innocent boy caught her snooping where she shouldn’t have been, telling him one hell of a ghost story about what she would do if he told anyone what he saw, ending her threat with a promise of a whole batch of cookies just for him. There’s no need to worry about walkers when Carol, dressed nicely and eager to please with her recipes, is prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect herself.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 6, Episode 14 “Mind’s Eye” (B-)

I’ll admit that this episode’s format was somewhat engaging, but why set an entire hour in someone’s imagination when there are plenty of real developments that could be playing out? I suppose this was a decently useful examination of everything that’s going on and what’s plaguing Alicia, as she struggles to balance the more mundane and insignificant annoyances in her life, like Canning’s suit, and the much more crucial, future-defining moments, like her upcoming interview. Her nonchalance about her laryngitis only emphasized how much she had on her mind because she couldn’t vocalize it. It was a trippy experience to see her jump from Will to Finn to Johnny and then picture Kalinda with Peter, going over every sexual thought she’s had over the course of the past few years. Howard was probably the most entertaining part of her imagined testimony, as he tends to be, completely unaware of and indifferent to what’s going on around him unless it involves food or the allure of apparent power. Eli and Marissa popping up to offer their contradictory commentary on what they thought of Alicia’s remarks was amusing, as was Prady showing up to wax philosophic about their campaigns. Canning getting sent to the hospital was a dramatic and divergent twist, and Alicia being the only work “friend” of his to show up was actually sweet. This installment made it easy to get caught up in the theoretical, like a homeless Zack, and its ending marked a poignant return to what’s actually happening in Alicia’s life.