Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pilot Review: Aquarius

Aquarius (NBC)
Premiered May 28 at 9pm

Star power is definitely something that motivates me and many others to tune in to a new show, and the advertisements for this show with David Duchovny’s face on them that have been adorning New York City buses and other places for months now piqued my interest in this show more than many others. I knew that, watching this show, I would find a character somehow similar to Duchovny’s previous TV personalities, and wouldn’t you know it, his Sergeant Sam Hodiak is indeed a veritable combination of Fox Mulder from “The X-Files” and Hank Moody from “Californication.” He’s among the squarest of his 1960s peers, though his time frame permits him to be all about the use of excessive force and deception tactics, with the standout being writing the word “snitch” in permanent marker on an uncooperative witness’ forehead. Hodiak knows that he’s a cop and couldn’t pass for anything else, but his partner Brian spends most of his life undercover as a hippie, hardly a stretch given his appearance and demeanor. While it’s interesting to focus on Charlie Manson and his followers as his cult emerges, it doesn’t seem like a sustainable premise, especially since they’ve already identified him by name within the course of the first two episodes but will obviously be hopeless to stop him. Manson’s relationship with his lawyer is certainly sensational – a love affair that could destroy the father of the girl who is being simultaneously indoctrinated into the cult – but it’s not nearly as compelling as it wants to be. It’s fun to see Duchovny on TV again, but I’d rather watch him as one of his former characters. I’d also appreciate seeing the talented Brian F. O’Byrne, who starred previously on “Brotherhood” and “Flash Forward” on a better part, even though he’s without a doubt the strongest member of this ensemble. This show could be fun to get into, but two episodes already feels like an eternity.

How will it work as a series? We got a glimpse at a second installment during this two-part debut, and it’s clear that it’s an overarching storyline much more so than one involving weekly cases. NBC is putting all the episodes online to be watched well in advance of their airdates each week, justifying the move as ensuring that viewers can digest the story all at once, which doesn’t say much about its electric pacing.
How long will it last? Having all of its episodes available to watch ahead of time shouldn’t benefit this show’s ratings, so I don’t see how it will live a long and healthy life. Lackluster ratings for the two-hour pilot and middling reviews won’t help this show survive, and I suspect this summer will be all it gets.

Pilot grade: C

Take Three: Wayward Pines

Wayward Pines: Season 1, Episode 3 “Our Town, Our Law” (C+)

This show certainly feels like a limited series, killing off multiple major characters within the span of its first few episodes and bringing and grounding a few of its fringe players into Wayward Pines without giving them too much time to exist on the outside unsure of whether Ethan was dead or alive. It seems like Wayward Pines is awfully easy to locate and enter, as Theresa and Ben found out where Ethan was and then within minutes were close enough for Sheriff Pope to pull them over and sabotage their car so that they too would be stranded in his town. Also, time doesn’t add up – if five weeks meant ten years for Kate, how does several days for Ethan also equal several days for his wife and son? It appeared that events had aligned themselves so that Theresa and Ben would be furious at Ethan because based on what they saw he was continuing his affair with Kate, but there’s no time for such uncertainty on this show, and instead they’ve already progressed to Ethan needing to protect his family within Wayward Pines. Pope’s death was a bit of a surprise, but apparently the town may be more than just controlled by creepiness and instead actually haunted by some demon force. I don’t suspect we’ll get any sort of answers anytime soon, especially since the Secret Service appears to be complicit in whatever’s going on, but it would be nice to at least have some sense of where things are headed. It’s good to know that Kate is an ally, though she’s definitely come to terms with where she is and had long stopped trying to leave before Ethan showed up.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 1, Episode 11 “Astroburger” (B+)

Consuming the brains of someone who died under mysterious circumstances in a mental hospital is hardly a smart idea, and what that gave us was something more than just temporary personality traits. There’s something marvelous about watching how Clive sees Liv and her various food-induced tics, and the look on his face when he saw her yelling at the vending machine was priceless. Arguing with bags of potato chips was a real low, but what actually happened in a more serious manner is far more impactful and disconcerting. It seemed too simple for Liv to bare all and tell Major that she was a zombie and for him to take it so well. Instead, Liv had to watch the disturbing video of her gnawing on brains before realizing what she had become and then discovered that she had in fact hallucinated her confession to Major. Having Major realize that zombies are real before he knew that she was one makes its inevitable revelation infinitely worse, and it’s going to be tough to navigate that and keep the danger-seeking Major out of harm’s way. That will be even more painful considering that Major and Liv clearly both still have feelings for each other, as evidenced by their tender moment in bed together. I’m glad to see that Ravi and Peyton’s budding relationship seems to be going well, but the simultaneous downward spiral of both their roommates isn’t a good omen. Neither is Blaine discovering Liv’s connection to Lowell and showing up at the morgue just to get inside her head.

Friday, May 29, 2015

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 4, Episode 7 “Mommy Meyer” (B+)

It’s very interesting to see more and more of Hugh Laurie’s Tom James, who really is impossibly charming but definitely has some far-out views and opinions on things. Likening a shooter to his victims was a serious misstep, but he managed to walk it back without even explicitly apologizing, convincing everyone that he was just a nice guy deserving of their forgiveness. Talking about legalizing drugs threw everyone for a loop, but fortunately he expressed that he is smart enough not to ever air those beliefs in public. Selina’s old friends saying they’d support her terrible bill if he was selling it was not a positive development, and it descended quickly into a rather mean gathering, culminating in Selina being unnecessarily protected by a legion of bodyguards while her friend was in harm’s way but apparently immune because Selina herself was the only person who would want to kill her. I enjoyed Gary reminding Selina of a fun memory to share, Catherine being yelled at for eating ice cream, and Selina chastising one of the agents for trying to grab food from the table. I don’t think I’ve conveyed how much I love Richard as a character, the perfect veep for the eternally hapless Jonah. Watching Dan and Amy compete as siblings of a sort is great fun, and I think this is the perfect job for both of them, selling their souls while mercilessly convincing others to do things that in the long run will surely not benefit them.

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley: Season 2, Episode 7 “Adult Content” (B+)

It’s nice to see Richard score a win every once in a while. His frustration with not being seen or heard was compounded by being misidentified as Erlich when he walked in calling himself the CEO, and Russ’ solution of buying the company that stole their idea and essentially swallowing up Pied Piper was hardly fair or intelligent. It’s not too shocking that Pied Piper will end up being a bastion of the porn world rather than some more legitimate industry, and this is one way that they might actually be able to make money. I love that Gilfoyle justified his theft in his usual deadpan way by noting the stupidity of a CEO to leave his password written on a post-it note with enemy programmers in the building. Dinesh’s romance seemed so set to pan out, and of course a saved wi-fi password meant that she had been a former and apparently current flame of Erlich’s, which is a disappointment. I enjoyed the awkwardness of Jared and Richard discussing layoffs within earshot of the employees they might have to lay off. Big Head’s presentation of his miraculous idea was pretty terrific, and the best part was clearly when he revealed to a horrified Gavin that this technology might in fact be available within their lifetimes. That the group decided to take lunch before getting to work is yet another instance of their commitment to unproductivity, a remarkable thing that the maniacal, self-involved Gavin can’t seem to stop and notice.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What I’m Watching: Happyish

Happyish: Season 1, Episode 5 “Starring Josey Wales, Jesus Christ and The New York Times” (B+)

This is definitely the best episode this show has aired yet, and I’m pleased to see it developing into something that isn’t so entirely pessimistic, able to let its characters breathe for a moment and enjoy life every once in a while. The timing of this train-centric episode is really something, and the offscreen death of one anonymous commuter feels so insignificant in comparison to the casualties and extreme nature of the real-life Amtrak crash that occurred several weeks ago near Philadelphia. Thom being inconvenienced and stopped for several hours on his way to work is nothing like a derailment that might actually cause him some harm or threaten his life. I like that the stillness caused the woman sitting next to him to reconsider whether she should be reading the New York Times rather than try to push him to her way of thinking, while the woman behind him proselytized her aggressive seatmate. I love that Thom turned around and went home to surprise Jules and Lee in the snow, and that he was having an actual human moment while Gottfrid was criticizing his priorities. I wasn’t so fond of Lee suffering through a neverending story from a Holocaust survivor since this show’s obsession with Lee’s hatred of Holocaust guilt is far from my favorite of this show, but it serves Lee right that an offhand remark should result in an hourslong diatribe from an oblivious visitor. It seemed to affect her a lot, but she’s the one who brought it up to someone she mistakenly thought was harmless.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 7 “The Gift” (B+)

Though it’s not uncommon on this show, power is shifting drastically in more than a few places. Starting with something relatively insignificant, Sansa begged poor Theon to go give the signal to Brienne that she needed rescuing, and he ran straight to Ramsey to tell all to him. Ramsey and Joffrey aren’t all that different, and casually showing her the corpse of the ally who could have saved her was fitting for his particular brand of cruelty. Olenna going to see the High Sparrow and cavorting with him about not being able to kneel because of bad knees and hips was a falsely light reintroduction to Margaery’s imprisonment. Cersei’s trip to Margaery’s cell was full of spite, but just as soon as she thought that she had made her latest play and executed it successfully, a face from the past reemerged and the High Sparrow imprisoned another member of the royal family to face trial and certain conviction. I don’t see Tommen being strong enough to outwit the zealot, but maybe Olenna and Baelish will prove helpful once they realize just how much of a threat he is. Bronn’s cellbound flirtation nearly turned deadly for him, and it’s clear that his female neighbors mean serious business. Stannis said winter is coming, but it’s already here, and what a ferocious start with Sam standing up for Gilly to two would-be rapists from the Night’s Watch. Jorah made a formidable showing to Daenerys with a mask on, and it’s a good thing that Tyrion ran out and announced himself to the befuddled queen before he got carted off and locked away. I’m curious to see what this alliance could bring and if it could dramatically help all three parties.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What I’m Watching: Orphan Black

Orphan Black: Season 3, Episode 6 “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” (B+)

This was certainly an intense episode, one that shifts the landscape and changes things dramatically. It’s never been clear what we’re supposed to make of Paul, but this episode emphasized the fact that he has always been a good person caught in a bad situation. The home videos we saw in this episode clearly show that Art wasn’t the only one in love with Beth, a haunting character we barely got to know. Apparently, he has been spying to find something that Virginia was doing wrong, and as soon as he found it, he tried to take charge and imprison, only to be undone by his own superiors. Fortunately, he managed to take out his share as he died, though it may only be infrastructure as Mark and Virginia may well have survived just like Sarah did. Helena eating the talking scorpion was a triumphant victory for Helena’s return to relative sanity, and it was great to see her return to save the day just as Sarah could have been buried by the explosion behind her. Felix was in full revenge mode in this episode, ready to torture Rachel to get answers about Sarah, with Scott hopelessly standing by. It’s wonderful to see Cosima so happy, and Delphine’s return couldn’t have been any more poorly-timed. Alison and Donnie dancing in a pile of money was wholly ridiculous, and while I love the idea of them running a drug front, it’s painfully obvious that Donnie’s stupidity and jealousy are going to doom the entire operation from the start.

Pilot Review: Between

Between (Netflix)
Premiered May 21

In the continually developing realm of television partnerships, what we have here is a Netflix coproduction with Canadian network City for this six-episode series that will premiere simultaneously on the American streaming service and on the Canadian broadcaster. What’s most interesting about this show is that it includes an almost entirely unknown cast, something which might actually be to its benefit given that experiencing the apocalypse is often more believable if familiar faces aren’t popping up at every turn. The idea of a virus wiping out all adults and leaving only children is definitely an alluring concept – and I distinctly remember reading some book about such an event when I was a kid though I can’t recall what it was. There are multiple issues, of course, that arise out such a lofty premise, many of which are not resolved in this pilot. Containing the outbreak of this virus to just one area can be handled by not allowing the adults from outside the perimeter in for fear of contracting it, but there are still those over 21 outside who can affect decisions about policies within. Some adults, like Chuck’s father, take much longer to die and therefore still have the ability to practice odd and archaic forms of punishment like tarring and feathering those who offend him. I prefer the idea of the 21-year-old teacher who is going to end up being the moral compass as the elder of the surviving residents. This may be too aimed at young adults for my taste, but if the writing and characters were a bit better, this show could actually be decently compelling, and now is just the time to launch when it may manage to build and attract an audience.

How will it work as a series? Netflix is unfurling this show one episode per week, which is how I watch all of my shows but a notable departure from its unusual all at once format. That should allow suspense and anticipation to build, but especially if this show gets better as it goes along, it could well lose viewers who might be more likely to binge now than wait patiently until more shows premiere this summer.
How long will it last? It’s hard to know how ratings will be measured since Netflix data is remarkably hard to come by and its future isn’t entirely dependent upon its success in Canada. I think this show won’t attract the viewership it wants to and that six episodes will be all it gets.

Pilot grade: C+

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Take Three: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Dinner” (B)

This show is proceeding along consistently, and though I don’t love it yet, I’m definitely getting attached to it and enjoying it. There’s plenty of uncertainty and awkwardness involved in figuring out how to navigate the new state of things, and I like that the fathers are being factored heavily into the plot of the show. It turns out that Grace and Frankie didn’t find out about the big family dinner being held without them, but they faced their own challenges unrelated to their ex-husbands. Grace going back to work only to find out that she was no longer the face of her own company because Brianna wanted to go with something more relevant was rough, and her meltdown at the checkout counter wasn’t pretty. Frankie’s humiliation wasn’t as public but it was still miserable, as she thought she was interviewing for a job but instead was being given a tour of a retirement home as a prospective resident. While Brianna is definitely the harsher of the two sisters, it was Mallory who needed a drink most to get through the dinner, which also gave us some insight into exactly what Coyote did to make her hate him so much. It’s interesting to see how something as simple as Robert taking Sol’s hand and calling him babe can so unsettle their adult children, and it is abundantly clear that there is nothing about this transition that is going to be easy or solvable with just one tasty if overdiscussed dinner.

What I’m Watching: Daredevil

Daredevil: Season 1, Episode 7 “Stick” (B)

There’s something about a guest character that can reinvigorate and refocus a show so completely as he or she takes over an entire episode. Scott Glenn’s Stick did that and more as Stick, the blind instructor who taught Matt to be who he is and to use the abilities he lacked to his advantage. Meeting him mid-decapitation signaled that he wasn’t going to be the kind of ally Matt wanted, someone who would agree not to kill anyone while they were working together. Watching the two blind men fight was certainly enticing as they both employ skills that are pretty visually incredible, and both demonstrate such an expert mastering of their surroundings despite not being able to see. I learned more than I ever would have expected about a vanilla ice cream cone and all the things contained within it, and it’s a truly intriguing perspective on the more insignificant things in life. Stick’s talk of half-measures, reminiscent of “Breaking Bad” midway through its run, emphasized that Matt really has taken the unusual path by not using his talents to become a villain. It’s good to see that Karen is ready and willing to defend him while others such as Foggy want to punch him in the face, though she’ll get herself in more than enough trouble trying to straighten the spaghetti with Ben. I like how Ben has charted out crime in Hell’s Kitchen and cast Fisk as the king and Daredevil as the jack. On a lighter note, I love Karen’s hilariously uncensored language and enjoyed Foggy’s reference to Claire as “Hottie McBurnerphone.”

Monday, May 25, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1, Episode 12 “Kimmy Goes to Court!” (B)

This show is in full absurdist mode, and a return to Durnsville for more of the trial only enhances that. I like that Kimmy isn’t relegated to being shocked at what is happening during the trial and that she is instead trying to be proactive and take an active role in finding something that can put the reverend away for good. There’s no end to Jon Hamm’s magnificent charm, turning Wayne into a local hero who babbles garbage and watches the townsfolk eat it up. It’s not as if Durnsville has much in the way of intellect to recommend itself, though we at least are supposed to believe that Randy is the least competent member of the police department, which suggests that the normal brand of stupidity is at least a degree higher. The four Mole Women are all so radically different, and bringing them all together again is fun. I’m extremely curious to know what they found in the bunker, and I’m sure that will be front and center in the season finale. Titus’ ascension to stardom was doomed from the start, and seeing the guy from the opening credits as a has-been cautionary tale was great. There’s almost nothing I could think of that would be worse for Titus than being a meme, and he played so majestically into it by doing as much as humanly possible to embarrass himself while he was unknowingly on camera. He’ll never be able to live down that shame, and I’m sure it’s going to plague him for a long time.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards (Season Finale)

House of Cards: Season 3, Episode 13 “Chapter 39” (B)

After such an intense season, I’m not wholly sure about this finale compared to the rest of it. The most significant development of the episode is one that, by the time it happens, is inevitable: Claire leaving Frank. He’s always been cruel, but rarely to her, instead justifying his next power move as relevant and crucial to them as a couple. Now, after she expresses a legitimate acknowledgment that she’ll never be his equal, he explodes and tells her that she doesn’t deserve any of it and needs to bend to his will to help bolster him. Truthfully, leaving him is the most damaging thing she can do, far less ambiguous than not being at his side for campaign events. Though her political prowess has never been her best asset considering the public’s reaction to her interest in wanting to be ambassador, it’s still possible that she could end up winning some other office of her own as the more likeable of the two. At least Frank is keeping his other allies close, like Dough, with his unexpected knowledge and approval of his field trip to go take care of Rachel, who at first successfully pleaded for his life and then ended up buried in an anonymous ditch, providing Doug some closure and a clear transformation from a man who could barely walk to one who can beat someone like Gavin with his cane. Tom’s meeting with Claire was enlightening, and he hit the nail on the head when he said that neither she nor Frank ever answer a question directly. This season has been good, merging drama and scandal on a regular basis, and I look forward to seeing where a surely more divided season four takes us.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Kevin Spacey

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Round Two: Wayward Pines

Wayward Pines: Season 1, Episode 2 “Do Not Discuss Your Life Before” (B-)

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this show, because in one sense it seems to be proceeding along at an accelerated rate, revealing quite a bit about its town and its rules and even publicly executing one of its main characters in its second episode. Certain major questions still remain, like why everyone thinks it’s 2000 and why they all comply with these rules if most of them are in fact outsiders who have been deemed not allowed to try to leave, to talk about their lives before, etc. It’s hardest to read Kate, who we know tried to communicate some secret message by the porch fan to Ethan and now emotionlessly converses with all the. She also seemed somewhat turned off by watching Beverly’s execution, signifying that maybe she isn’t as completely in line with the town and its rules as it seems. I like that Ethan is figuring out subtler ways to push the boundaries, like calling the Seattle office and tricking the secretary into admitting that she isn’t actually in a real place. Theresa and Ben driving to Idaho is worrisome, but I suspect that they won’t be able to find Ethan since only a fatal car crash or some other devastating incident can actually send you to Wayward Pines. We’ll see if this show continues to be alluring and intriguing or if it gets lost in its own convoluted rabbit hole instead as it unfurls more and more of its mystery and what it is that makes this town so creepy.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family (Season Finale)

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 24 “American Skyper” (B-)

This wasn’t a terrible season finale, with a few entertaining plotlines and lines mixed in to otherwise unimpressive scenarios. There was also a good deal of sweetness included, particularly with Alex, who got an amazing heartfelt gift from Mitchell and then an extremely generous one from Jay, and still told Claire that she didn’t need anything from her but instead wanted to invite her to come with her to Europe. I think I enjoyed Haley’s storyline most since she’s rarely more aware than everyone else around her. In this case, however, she was the only one who realized that Beth straight up hated her and might be crazy. Phil was on fire with the robot humor, and it was very funny that his audio cut out just as Haley and Andy were embracing and he realized that they actually had feelings for each other right before Andy was set to propose to Beth. It’s good, if nothing else, to see Mitchell relaxing, enjoying his time off with his new pal in the park, playing checkers and spending hours on a memory book for Alex, and fortunately Cam’s affair suspicions didn’t take him too far off the ledge. Jay suspecting Gloria’s cousin of stealing from them provided a few humorous moments of translation but otherwise nothing too worthwhile. This episode was emblematic of a lackluster season, even if it was slightly better than most of the installments throughout the past year. This show will be back for another season and surely plenty more, and I’m not sure if it will ever be the consistent, creative show it once was.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Ty Burrell

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 1, Episode 10 “Mr. Berserk” (B+)

That this show could follow up the whopper of an episode that was last week’s and not even feature the villainous Blaine is a testament to its quality and to the fact that it has plenty going on to fill its episodes. Liv eagerly ingesting alcoholic brains in order to rid herself of her PTSD wasn’t a good sign, though it did do just the trick in terms of giving her an ace journalism interest that helped them get to the bottom of exactly what was going on with Max Rager. There hasn’t been an instance since the near-death of Liv’s hapless brother in her apartment that Liv has been so directly put in harm’s way as when she was attacked with a blow that should have killed her and ended up about to be thrown to the bottom of the ocean aboard creepy cleaner Sebastian’s boat. It’s a good thing her zombie nature kicked in when it did, but it’s bad news that licking her face was enough to turn him into a zombie, one who could end up an unlikely ally for Liv in this new life but will likely be a dangerous enemy. Liv allowing Major to think he’s crazy and check himself into a mental institution might have seemed like the best idea at the time, but unfortunately it appears that others have been sent down similar routes and now Major has an answer for what’s going on. It’s about time Suzuki sat down with Liv to let her know he’s a zombie and figure out a way to keep him fed and solve the whole Blaine problem. Steven Weber’s guest spot wasn’t big, but he’s just the actor to play the part of a seedy operator well aware of the dangers of his product and more than willing to ignore them for the sake of business.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

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

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 23 “Fast Enough” (B+)

Now this is a season finale. Everything was building towards a big showdown with Wells, but instead what we got was a different deal, which involved Barry getting to reset his past and save his mother’s life in exchange for Wells, or, rather, Eobard, getting to go back to his time. Barry deciding that he shouldn’t save his mother but instead give both of them the opportunity to say goodbye was immensely moving, and then he raced back to the present to cancel Eobard’s ticket back to his time, declaring that he liked his life. The ensuing battle was certainly chaotic, and who would have expected Eddie to do something significant and sacrifice himself in order to ensure that Eobard would never be born? I read before I watched this episode that this show would feature parallel timelines next season, and I’m incredibly excited since, while wormholes are exciting, nothing beats alternate universes. I’d love to see how Barry could grow up with both parents and have the real Wells help him to become the Flash, with all the characters behaving slightly differently. I don’t know exactly what’s in store, but I do know that this show has been superb this season and I’m incredibly eager to see where season two takes it. And I like that the erasure of Eobard doesn’t necessarily mean the death of Harrison Wells (in fact, it saves the real Wells’ life). I can’t wait to see where season two heads, even if it doesn’t emphasize another reality – this one is more than sufficient already.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Grant Gustin as Barry

Friday, May 22, 2015

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 4, Episode 6 “Storms and Pancakes” (B+)

It’s inarguable that Hugh Laurie has been a spectacular addition to this show, not expressing much enthusiasm on a regular basis but shining in just the moments he needs to, which has managed to piss Selina off more than anything since she’d rather have the spotlight. The look in her eyes when he offered up a dairy-free pancake batter was priceless, and he doesn’t seem to have enough energy in him to develop resentment towards her, but she’ll certainly try to keep him down so that he doesn’t overshadow her. I love that Dan getting Amy a job means a demotion for him and plenty more benefits for Amy, and while Dan hasn’t managed to deliver much since beginning in his new role, Amy is the perfect fit, capable of promising to skewer others and then actually deliver on it. I’m a huge fan of the subtle character interactions on this show, and Ben stopping by to complain to Sue about how lonely and quiet it is when everyone is gone was a nice touch. That she responded by later hiding from him so that she wouldn’t have to make conversation was very entertaining. Selina isn’t the vice-president anymore, but showing up to the wrong place after declaring a state of emergency when there wasn’t even any inclement weather is exactly the type of ironic mishap that used to befall her all the time. Her post may have changed, but the harsh, devastatingly sarcastic way she reacts to such a situation hasn’t changed a bit. I like that Jonah’s post-Teddy plotline is going in this direction since it’s entertaining to watch Jonah react so horribly to the fact that all of the women he met look just like him.

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley: Season 2, Episode 6 “Homicide” (B+)

I liked the trajectory of this episode, which started out with Gavin taking a big hit that wasn’t related to Big Head’s incompetence and an opportunity presented to Pied Piper, one that seemed to be in jeopardy but ended up tanking for multiple reasons completely unrelated to that. There’s something incredible about Erlich being so oblivious to the significance of his Kool-Aid nickname yet so aware of the meaning behind AA’s Double Asshole moniker. That Richard chose that as the thing to finally say rather than let both AA and Erlich talk over him his whole thing was pretty tragic. I don’t think Russ’ fury over someone else having done the livestream with Pied Piper’s algorithm bodes well either, and that could have some seriously negative impact in the near future. I loved seeing Dinesh and Gilfoyle bond over a common cause, the knowledge of an important mathematical fact and their hatred of someone who had refused to even let them speak for a moment, and that they SWOTted the situation out in public so that their intended victim could read all of the pros and cons of letting him die. Jared’s attempt to encourage Monica and Carla to be friends simply because they’re female was typically uncomfortable and amusing. The person running the focus group saying each member’s name over and over was hilariously and fabulously awkward, truly in the spirit and tone of this show. Gavin’s definitely down, but Pied Piper failed miserably to steal the spotlight at just the moment that would have been most opportune.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What I’m Watching: Mad Men (Series Finale)

Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 14 “Person to Person”

It’s hard to capture an entire series in just one final episode. Many shows have a tendency to focus on where main characters are at the moment and give them added significance that doesn’t reflect their greater story arcs, and others pay true tribute to their long-running universes and wrap up threads in a more fitting manner. Though this episode featured almost no cameos of people who used to appear on the show, romantic partners aside, it mainly managed to avoid that trope. The one exception is the out-of-place love story, complete with a run-up to a kiss, between Stan and Peggy, two characters that didn’t need to be romantically linked, precisely because Peggy has always defied the notion of needing to rely on a man rather than her professionalism. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve a happy ending that may or may not be related to her work, and I suppose it’s a decent if surprising conclusion for her. It was sad to see Joan’s relationship with Richard disintegrate in an instant as soon as she expressed her desire to go back to work, and good for her for fighting for what she wanted to do and not even considering giving it up to be with him. Seeing her do what she always wanted is wonderful, even if she couldn’t have it all with the perfect partner too. It’s also sweet to see Pete, a less featured player by this point, board the plane of his dreams surrounded by his family to embark on the next chapter of his life. Roger showed the most growth, finally ending up with a woman who would never go tired of him or his age, and even having the humor to go through the trouble of learning French just to call Marie his mother as a joke to a waiter. Betty succumbed to her lung cancer and Sally showed up to take over motherly duties, growing up quickly and helping her brother make dinner. And then there’s Don, the only one to end up in a truly different place, far away from civilization and perfectly free to disconnect from its burdens. I’m not sure that’s a fitting ultimate destination for him, but there’s no denying the effect of transitioning from the beachside hippie gathering to that haunting Coca-Cola commercial, bringing everything full circle for the eternal ad man. Even more tellingly, that same ad spot was just featured in this week’s episode of “Happyish,” a modern-day show about advertising that used exactly that as an example of where advertising is and should be today. This show has been a long, eventful experience, and I look forward to writing some sort of retrospective about one of the most unforgettable and transformative shows I’ve ever seen.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: A-
Season MVP: Jon Hamm
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Jon Hamm
Best Season: 3 and 5
Best Episode: TBD

What I’m Watching: Happyish

Happyish: Season 1, Episode 4 “Starring Sigmund Freud, Charles Bukowski and Seven Billion Assholes” (B)

In describing this show, I can’t decide whether I’d most emphasize its strangeness or its darkness. Having both of its main characters run towards a window when they saw a spaceship and wave their arms frantically, shouting “Wait! Come back! I don’t belong here!” signals truly unhappy people, those who jokingly imagine that they must be from another planet because they’re not like the other seven billion assholes on earth. That’s strange, though not any more so than sex dreams about Keebler elves or violent Dora the Explorer cartoons. But then there’s the quoting of the book that’s supposed to dwarf “Mein Kampf” in terms of its serious Nazi doctrine (Cheney read that, Bush read “Mein Kampf), which Jonathan used apparently for the third time in as many months to pitch a concept to a client. It’s not as if either Thom or Gottfrid is much more positive, but at least they’re not pitching Naziism as a comparable brand to Coca-Cola. Gottfrid interrupting the meeting to compare them to terrorists wasn’t too bright either, and it’s going to be hard for this company to stay afloat with its three biggest talking heads competing with each other for who can be the most depressing and dismal. There wasn’t much of a satisfying resolution, but I did like that Lee refused to cave and called Fitzgerald an asshole to his mother. Julius is an odd kid, sure, but there’s no way that he’s the bully in this situation, just someone who was encouraged by his parents to fight back to teach his tormentor a lesson.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 6 “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” (B+)

Who would have thought that Sansa could find another husband as despicable as Joffrey? While Ramsey’s cruelty is more directed at Theon than the entire population of the realm, he’s still pretty awful, and there’s no denying that Sansa is suffering at his hands. With her third engagement of late, she’s back to realizing what being miserable truly feels like. It’s not as if the new wife of the Baratheon king is faring much better, as Cersei has played her big move of revenge against Margaery, who with her grandmother dared to presume that her family was immune to the law. Tricking her into perjuring herself on the stand was low, and Tommen definitely doesn’t have what it takes to defy his mother and decree that she be pardoned despite her clear guilt in this case. The game of many faces was much more fun for Arya back when she was ordering Jaqen to kill at will for her, and now she’s just getting slapped a lot. If any Stark can handle it, it’s her, but the road towards progress is not a short one. Tyrion came extremely close to being killed on the spot and having body parts severed, but leave it to him to talk his way out of any situation and save the bold warrior Jorah Mormont in the process. Jaime and Bronn’s timing wasn’t great, but they may still be able to prevent too much Lannister-focused bloodshed in a land over which they have no decided dominion.

What I’m Watching: Orphan Black

Orphan Black: Season 3, Episode 5 “Scarred by Many Past Frustrations” (B)

This was a fine episode, but it only featured a few clones and didn’t move the story forward on too many levels. Sarah’s reunion with Helena wasn’t quite as warm as she had expected it to be, especially considering her sestra broke out of her cell and then left Sarah behind to fend for herself as payback for abandoning her. I enjoyed Helena using her sense of humor, telling Sarah that maybe she had been institutionalized as well, but clearly that’s about all the sentiment she has left for someone she believes has betrayed her. Paul’s role in everything is much more direct, telling Sarah that he tried to keep her out of it and then marching straight to Virginia to reiterate that Helena being brought in had been his bargaining power to keep Sarah safe. The exiled Gracie really wants to have fun, and who better than Felix and Mrs. S to help her do it? If only she hadn’t collapsed in terrible pain with red eyes, a symptom also exhibited by Art’s contact, which suggests that the Castor gene is highly volatile and may affect those who aren’t clones as well. Cosima’s date with Shay, on the hand, went swimmingly, giving her the first real dose of happiness she’s had since Delphine’s departure. It's hard not to suspect that she has some ulterior motive given the history of our clones and their love interests being monitors. Photos being taken of them doesn’t point to Shay as the culprit, but it does confirm that someone has an interest in what’s going on with Cosima.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Round Two: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Credit Cards” (B)

Most of this episode is a whole lot like the first one, meaning that Grace is angry and vindictive and Frankie is doing her very best to stay sane despite feeling betrayed. The dynamic hasn’t changed much, but it’s clear that Grace can’t truly disconnect herself from caring about a woman who she spent most of her life hating since she actually does care a little bit. Frankie continues to emphasize meditation and drugs as the answer, which hasn’t gotten tiresome yet but surely will eventually. What I like most about the show is that it’s not confined just to its two main characters and their soon-to-be-ex-husbands, who thought it wise to cut off their credit cards without talking to them first because it’s what they’d do first if it was anyone else’s divorce case. The adult children of both couples are quite fascinating and add some different drama to the mix in the way they interact. I best recognize Ethan Embry, who used to be so terrific on “Brotherhood,” as Coyote, who appears to have had an epic drug-related meltdown and is now seen as a screwup everyone expects to slip. Baron Vaughn, who was on “Fairly Legal,” is his far more responsible brother Nwabudike. Brooklyn Decker, former star of “Friends with Better Lives,” is Grace’s daughter Mallory who feels eternally indebted to her mother, while June Diane Raphael, who recurred on “New Girl,” plays her less committal sister Brianna. Also in the ensemble for this episode were Geoff Stults from “The Finder” as Mallory’s hapless husband, Joe Morton from “Scandal” as Jason, and Mary Kay Place from “Big Love” as Amanda. What a cast, and what an interesting expanded universe this show lives in.

What I’m Watching: Daredevil

Daredevil: Season 1, Episode 6 “Condemned” (B)

The explosions at the end of episode five seemed bad enough, but now it’s clear that things have gotten much, much worse for our masked hero. After paging him on the walkie talkie and offering him the chance to walk away unscathed, Wilson engineered events with his monstrous influence to make it appear that the man in the mask was the one responsible for setting off the bombs and for taking out multiple police officers. It’s going to be impossible for him to exist in this city now without having everyone, including the general public, looking for him with malicious intent. This show is emphasizing its darkness and grittiness by showing just how corrupt Wilson’s lieutenants are, arriving to find a kidnapped police officer and declaring that he was found dead, executing him promptly so that he won’t contradict them. It would have been so much better for real cops to have cornered him at the beginning of the episode, and it’s a shame that the officer who lost his life felt inclined to radio in the situation instead of just letting Matt knock him out and be on his way. Claire talking Matt through treating Vladimir with a bit of vindictiveness mixed in was a productive process, and it’s good that he has someone to call when he needs. Karen did a good job of taking care of Foggy, and now it’s about time one of them realized that their blind buddy Matt is more than just the lawyer he seems to be.

What I’m Watching: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1, Episode 11 “Kimmy Rides a Bike!” (B)

It wasn’t perfect, but I really enjoyed this episode. The casting of Jon Hamm as Reverend Wayne is brilliant, and he’s so fantastic in this role that it’s hard to remember that he skyrocketed to fame for his muted portrayal of a serious character. Titus’ obsession with the trial is convenient since it’s among the most entertaining plotlines this show has ever featured. Tina Fey and Jerry Minor playing the feckless, ridiculously incompetent lawyers prosecuting Wayne is just as fabulous, and it’s a lot of fun to see them in this send-up of courtroom trials and all the absurd showiness associated with them. Kimmy refusing to let it dominate her life and focusing instead on cycling with Jacqueline was a fun distraction, one that led to a truly glorious unmasking of the real truth. The fact that Nick Kroll’s Tristafé was actually sitting on a toilet behind a TV screen of his legs moving was extremely funny, and good for Kimmy for actually being able to show to the world that, for once, she’s paying more attention and isn’t the most naïve one in the room. I can only hope that her return to Durnsville will embellish her more positive attributes, and that she’ll be able to show everyone that Wayne is a true menace. On this show, I can’t imagine it will be that easy, but it should prove wild and entertaining to watch, if nothing else. More of Jon Hamm and Tina Fey is definitely a good thing, and I’m eager to see them again as the trial continues.

Monday, May 18, 2015

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 3, Episode 12 “Chapter 38” (B+)

This show has always managed to be very intimate and personal despite the grand scale of the role its main characters inhabit, and this show was especially poignant in a few of the interactions it displayed. Frank meeting with Dunbar in a side room and then vowing to himself to slit her throat in broad daylight if she harmed Claire was intense, and taking the phone from Doug to deliver his message after Doug burned the journal in front of him was equally theatrical. Though he didn’t go about it in the noblest way, it’s good to see Doug back on top, and great to see that, instead of alienating Seth and minimizing his role, he’s allowing him to continue to function at full capacity and even independently, recognizing that he’s a far better ally than enemy this time around. Claire visiting the home a woman who really does not support Frank was poor planning on the part of her scouting team, but the conversation it produced behind closed doors was truly fascinating. The woman was very blunt about her marriage in terms of both language and detail, and it seemed to open Claire’s mind to the fact that there are real people involved in the games she and Frank play. Frank dismissing Tom has egged the author on to share his story, and fortunately even dogged reporter Kate is smart enough to know that it’s not smart to go up against the president. Now that she’s out of the race, it’s good to see that Jackie is still keeping her friends close, and her very passionate moment with Remy was certainly welcome since those two are among the most endearing characters in this despicable universe.

What I’m Watching: Elementary (Season Finale)

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 24 “A Controlled Descent” (B)

This show bringing back its recurring characters is always a good thing, but I’m not as fond of it returning to Sherlock’s addition at the same time. Moriarty and Irene resurfacing was one thing, which was great, and Mycroft’s role in the second season finale was considerably less satisfying. Now, the big villain is Michael Weston’s Oscar Rankin, Sherlock’s junkie buddy who lords over Sherlock with his half-witted scheme to show him that he’s not perfect and should in fact succumb to his desire to take drugs once again. I think Sherlock has faced far more formidable battles on the show and that this isn’t a productive use of time, especially since, in the end, he didn’t end up using and Alfredo got rescued before he succumbed to the environment in which Oscar left him. (Random trivia – did you know that Weston and Ato Essandoh, who plays Alfredo, both starred in “Garden State”?) It’s not possible that Oscar is clever or vindictive enough to concoct such a plan to shame Sherlock yet still lives on the street and spends his time as he does. The bigger takeaway from all this is that Sherlock’s father is finally coming to town because he’s aware of what’s going on, and hopefully that will be a legendary encounter that could head in a truly interesting direction rather than an unfortunate distraction from Sherlock and Watson’s crime-solving ways. This season has covered a lot – remember Kitty? – and I’m hopeful that season four and beyond will be a bit more focused and consistent.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Lucy Liu as Watson

Pilot Review: Wayward Pines

Wayward Pines (FOX)
Premiered May 14 at 9pm

This isn’t a great time for network shows to premiere, and so the barometer really isn’t that high. My main concern with this show, which I learned about only days before it premiered after seeing advertisements all around New York City, was not that it wouldn’t be good but rather that it would be scary, since “The Sixth Sense,” which I wrote about this weekend because it’s available via Netflix Instant Streaming, is one of the best movies I’ve seen but also one of the scariest. I love thrillers of all kinds as long as they don’t involve people coming back to life (conspiracies are okay, demons and ghosts are not), and it seems from this first hour that this show might be creepy but will still fall under the thriller classification rather than horror. It is reminiscent in some ways of a supernatural “Under the Dome,” which might not be a bad thing since that show, in concept, was much cooler than in execution. I’m definitely intrigued by all the elements of the town that seem unchangeable but the distinct presence of rebels who know that something is going on and are doing different things to deal with it – Juliette Lewis’ Beverly actively leading Matt Dillon’s Ethan to important evidence and Carla Gugino’s Kate trying to blend in and not cause problems. Following Ethan’s family and boss in the outside helps to emphasize the spooky nature of whatever is going on in Wayward Pines. I didn’t expect to want to come back for a second look, and now I’m eager to see if it can match its intrigue in episode two with quality answers and plot progression.

How will it work as a series? Its mystery framing worked well in this episode as did its insular nature, trapping Ethan in a cyclical situation with no answers. He made a lot of noise and now knows that he’s stuck, so it’s a question of whether the show can continue to exist and enthrall now that he’s going to be primarily focused on figuring out how to get the hell out of his current prison of sorts.
How long will it last? This ten-episode first season is being billed as a miniseries, and from the way it started, it looks like that’s all this show will end up being. Airing original episodes when everything else on network TV is headed into reruns could help, but it’s going to need a serious surge to merit a second season.

Pilot grade: B

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 23 “Crying Out Loud” (C+)

As usual, my quibble with this show is that it is always either too literal or too suggestive and never both at the same time. The way that each plot point arises also requires considerable suspension of disbelief, something that this show shouldn’t need. You’d think that Claire would try to have a more direct conversation with her father about whether he really wants to have her stay at the company and pass up a better opportunity rather than just assuming that his tearfully looking at a photo of her in his office contradicted everything he has ever indicated to her about his feelings. Phil, Haley, and Luke forcing Alex to miss school on Senior Skip Day was a fun idea, but the actual field trip was pretty silly. I don’t buy that Haley would ask Alex if she was ever going to call her since she too never wears her emotions on her sleeve or expresses them in a way that makes it seem like she cares about other people. That questionable exchange came at the same time as a very staged physical routine that was played entirely for laughs and didn’t turn out to be terribly funny. Lily growing up never does much for me, and Mitchell serving as the unemotional one to Cam’s permanent bucket is nothing new. While Gloria trying to prevent her son’s latest relationship from continuing wasn’t all that spectacular, I do appreciate that it gave Gloria something to do other than stutter through English or have people stare at her.

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 1, Episode 9 “Patriot Brains” (B+)

There’s something jarring about a comedic show taking a very dramatic turn that makes it all the more poignant and effective. Liv eating sniper brain definitely contributed to her nonnegotiable breakup with Lowell, but it was because she reacted to her new undead condition by trying to help people by assisting the police in solving crimes and he more selfishly took to surviving whatever way worked best and didn’t necessarily involve thinking about other people or who it was suffering to feed him. It was Liv’s underlying conscience that overcame her military meal to prevent her from taking the shot, but unfortunately Blaine deserved the swiftest execution, regardless of how it was motivated. Lowell professing his love for Liv and then moving to kill Blaine himself because he realized he didn’t deserve to live was noble, and Blaine shooting him in the head represents the first real and irreversible death of consequence on this show, one that is going to deeply wound Liv. Major not shooting his pursuer in the head was a mistake, and let’s hope Clive mentions what happens to Liv or Ravi so that they can step in to keep him both out of a mental institution and out of harm’s way. He’s not doing himself any favors by marching into a gym and suggesting that he eat human brains to bulk up, and clearly Ravi trying to distract him with video games isn’t working either. It will just be a matter of whether Liv will be too distraught to move forward in any way or if her next batch of brains can propel her back to being on her feet and driven to stop Blaine from hurting more kids.

What I’m Watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season Finale)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 2, Episodes 21 and 22 “S.O.S.” (B)

Now, this was a season finale. This double-decker episode demonstrated that this show doesn’t need “The Avengers” to define where it goes and what plotlines it features since it has more than enough going on in its own world that deserves plenty of focus. What these two hours did more than anything was to redefine a few of our characters and who they really are. After Cal turned into what would best be described as the monster from “Young Frankenstein,” Coulson managed to talk him down and convince him that he’s never been the monster but that it was the Jiaying that he rebuilt after Whitehall destroyed her who turned him into that, who continuously urged him to wreak havoc and destruction on innocents to further her goals. Seeing him end up with his memory wiped as a happy-go-lucky vet was extremely sweet, and it’s nice to see one positive outcome of everything. Gordon, who seemed just as angelic at times as Jiaying, was also recast as a villain, one whose death was almost celebrated by Mack and Fitz. When Ward set the death trap for Bobbi and Hunter, he revealed himself not to be just a mercenary but someone obsessive who couldn’t let things go, cowardly firing a few bullets into the woman he thought was May but was actually his beloved Kara. I’m not sure what his plan with his team involves, but it looks like he’ll be focused more on Hydra than on S.H.I.E.L.D. for the moment, which is good. Fitz asking Gemma out to dinner was wondrously awkward but equally wonderful, and it’s just a shame that Gemma appears to have been swallowed up by the Kree stone. That mist-ified fish oil is definitely going to be trouble too. I can’t say that this season has been spectacularly consistent, but I think I’ll be back to check out season three next year.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Nick Blood as Hunter and Adrianne Palicki as Bobbi

Saturday, May 16, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 22 “Rogue Air” (B+)

This was certainly an action-packed episode, and I like when this show brings back recurring characters and reinforcements. On other shows, it might seem like a crutch, but there is clearly a fantastic greater universe in which this show exists, and it’s popular enough to have spawned another show, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” slated to join the CW schedule midseason next year. Teaming up with the Green Arrow and Firestorm to take down Wells was a strong plan, and while I don’t think that they’ve neutralized the Reverse Flash in the way that they think they have, they’ve at least caught him by surprise enough to slow him down. I’m glad that his being in a wheelchair was explained since it seemed previously like a completely unnecessary burden for a time-traveler from the future. Barry reaching out to Snark was a bold, risky move, one that now resulted in three metahumans with a serious axe to grind with the Flash being on the loose. Lisa and her brother are so similar in terms of their demeanors, and I like how both Cisco and Caitlin are hopeless to act logically around Lisa for very different reasons. After Eddie was taken, you’d think he’d be thrilled to be reunited with Iris, but instead he insisted on breaking it off because the news that Barry will marry Iris has overwhelmed any possibility of a happy future for the two of them for him. I suspect that this was deliberate since Eddie is an ancestor of Eobard’s and has to meet the mother of his unborn child, who is definitely not Iris.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin (Season Finale)

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 22 “Chapter Twenty-Two” (B)

This show made a serious decision with this episode that it wants to be considered a telenovela. After an entire season of an exuberant narrator regaling us with juicy stories about Jane and everyone in her life, the story was actually poised to end up in a relatively dramatic and normal place. Instead, Jane’s baby got stolen by Sin Rosestro, who is apparently a new face, Petra stole Rafael’s sperm, and Rogelio and Xiomara got married in Vegas while they were drunk. On top of all that, Michael let his ex-partner get away just so that he could track her and unintentionally end up being the hero who reunites Jane with her precious Mateo. I think this show was doing just fine before ending on this note, and I’m somewhat disappointed that it seems to have dialed up the spice and suspense for no apparent reason. What I liked most about this season was this show’s endearing nature and the way in which its events were always entertaining even if they were over the top. I think Rafael and Petra in particular were superb characters who far overcame the way that their characters were initially written. I love Rogelio and Xiomara and hope that their marriage won’t get in the way of them being strong characters too, and that motherhood suits Jane. I’m eager to see this show return in its second season and head in new soapy involving directions. It was one of the best surprises of this season.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Gina Rodriguez as Jane

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 4, Episode 5 “Convention” (B+)

Kudos to Anna Chlumsky for delivering a terrific performance in this episode, one that had Amy bubbling over with fury at the ridiculousness of what was happening around her. There are always absurd things that happen on this show and get recognized, but few of them compare to someone like Karen, who literally never offers an opinion of any sort and instead sides exclusively with Selina or just says nothing at all with her ambiguous, meaningless declarations. Amy actually saying something was a big deal, and I sincerely hope that she’s welcomed back to Selina’s team sooner rather than later, especially since Selina went and took her advice anyway and went with Tom James as the vice-presidential choice after both Chung and Maddox turned her down. Tom’s introduction was spectacular, with the surprising choice of Hugh Laurie stepping out of the elevator and shaking everyone’s hands, charming the pants off of them, only to then prove to be immensely awkward with his deadpan, emotionless humor that was repeated over and over again. Patton Oswalt’s exit should be an unfortunate occasion, but the way in which his casual fondling of Jonah was handled and tied in to the vice-president stepping off the ticket in a way that didn’t embarrass the president was actually pretty great. Dan calling in Jonah and Richard to serve as his insiders was a regrettable move, one that panned out exceedingly poorly for all parties involved. Richard asking for an eggnog latte if it was in season and then subsequently concluding that it was not was one of my favorite moments, followed closely by Kent’s point that the definition of science is that it is precise.

Friday, May 15, 2015

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley: Season 2, Episode 5 “Server Space” (B+)

Not having any servers is definitely an issue for this up-and-coming company, and it’s not as if their funding is going to be able to solve that for Pied Piper. Gilfoyle volunteering to build all the servers on his own was a surprise since he never seems up for doing anything, but of course that came with two caveats, both of them problematic. That he wanted to be able to relax in the home space that was also his work space is understandable, but his inability to allow Dinesh to help in any way screwed them over since he felt so compelled to try to do something that he brought down the power of the whole block. Erlich’s wheelchair-bound neighbor was not too happy about that, as evidenced by his drawn-out detour to come tell them to their faces how he felt, and that’s just another hurdle that Pied Piper will have to overcome. Jared living in the garage wasn’t too shocking, and of course Richard’s attempt at being a good person would lead to him being the one who has to share a room with him. I’m not sure which is worse: Jared shouting commands in German in his sleep or Richard waking up drenched from what is either night sweats or peeing himself. Life certainly isn’t glamorous at this moment, but it is plenty entertaining as the bright promise of a new space is quickly overtaken by the reality of a growing size in an increasingly constricting house.

What I’m Watching: Mad Men (Penultimate Episode)

Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 13 “The Milk and Honey Route” (B+)

How interesting it is that this show’s second-to-last episode spends so little time within the walls of an advertising agency. Most of its members made their exodus from their new employer last week, and now the one person who truly stuck around has decided that he’s headed out the door. Duck’s visits have never brought good news, but though his intentions may have bene deceptive, ultimately they’re really in Pete’s best interest. Taking a job in Wichita is a big move, and reuniting with his family is an even more triumphant one, extremely unlikely given everything that transpired between him and Trudy but wonderful nonetheless. Not everyone gets such a happy ending, of course, as seen most clearly in the tragic, surprisingly endearing case of Betty. Deemed too insignificant in her time to even be told the news of her own condition, Betty and not her ex-husband nor his many colleagues becomes the first one to succumb to lung cancer. While Henry wants to save her, Sally sees her desire not to have treatment as a selfish act. For once, Betty reacted in a mature way, content to go out on her own terms and smile at the thought of being reported to the doctor as Mrs. Robinson. It’s an unexpectedly sweet, sad way to send out one of this show’s most memorable and often despicable characters. Don wandered off to midcountry tranquility only to be beaten up and accused of theft after a night of military reminiscing, including what amounted to a full confession of his murder of the real Don Draper. Returning the money and even giving the true thief his car show his true soul and that he isn’t so concerned with what happens to him, but what does that mean for us the viewers and this show’s legacy? Can just one more seventy-five minute episode really do this show and its many characters justice? Let’s hope so.

Take Three: Happyish

Happyish: Season 1, Episode 3 “Starring Vladimir Nabokov, Hippocrates and God” (B)

This show has no qualms about being angry and basically telling the whole world to go to hell, and so why not blame God for being so high and mighty and refusing to serve as a true example of his people by not internalizing and living their problems? I like that the show’s featured historic players tie in well to each episode and serve as a guiding theme more than anything else. Watching Thom’s team in action as they struggle to deal with layoffs and figuring out how best to send the company in a new direction is undeniably interesting, and it’s also marvelous to watch Thom invest so much of himself in trying to keep things stable, determined not to lose the New York Life account. Having his pitch be so flatly rejected as the Swedes won out was hard, and I think that takes away just about all of the energy Thom had left in doing what he was doing. The staff meetings with Thom, Jonathan, Gustaf, Gotfrid, David, and Maya are definitely entertaining, and I look forward to more such creative brainstorming sessions laced with negativity and fatalism. Thom arguing with and stomping on the Geico gecko was an amusing device, the latest brand incorporation to work in the show’s favor. Rob Reiner playing himself wasn’t particularly funny in its own right but it’s clear that his enthusiasm about the live-action elves is a bit over the top and not likely to lead somewhere positive once it reaches the general public.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife (Season Finale)

The Good Wife: Season 6, Episode 22 “Wanna Partner?” (B-)

I’m not quite sure what to make of this finale, which feels both slow and rushed at the same time and comes at the end of a decidedly scattered season. Peter reporting that he has been asked to run for president so that he can actually secure the vice-presidential nomination comes from out of left field, and though I know it’s possible to come back from political pratfalls, it would seem to me that a state’s attorney who served time in jail might have a hard time getting elected, and having his wife disgraced and forced to resign due to corruption charges can’t possibly help either. Committing to the suspension of disbelief is crucial here, as Alicia is now looking to build yet another firm with random partners, pulling Finn around for the second time recently, linking his future completely to hers. Louis Canning showing up at the end with an offer to partner based on his fury at David, Diane, and Cary for firing his wife because they thought she was a spy is a shocking twist, and one that I don’t think Alicia will take to kindly, though I suppose it would be quite interesting to see the two of them working together, constantly disagreeing about ethics. Kalinda’s big return was certainly dramatic, but her final appearance is emblematic of her wasted time on this show this season, something that should serve as a strong argument against keeping characters around for no reason. Nothing worthwhile was accomplished with her this year, and it’s a shame it took up so much of the plotline. This show just got picked up by CBS for a seventh season, and I can only hope it will be better than this year has been.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Julianna Margulies

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 5 “Kill the Boy” (B+)

Being in charge means making tough decisions, and for the would-be rulers of the realm on this show, that can involve a great deal of violence or a great deal of restraint. Daenerys and Jon are the two most struggling with that distinction, and fortunately they’re thinking clearly, even if those around them are clamoring for war. Daenerys bringing the heads of the major families in front of her dragons was harsh, but exercising forgiveness was a sign of strength. Jon has a large weight on his shoulders as Stannis pulls his army, and his family, out, and he puts his faith in Tormund and the Wildlings. Sansa has no luck with her husbands-to-be, and just because her new fiancé isn’t putting the heads of her family members on stakes around the city, that doesn’t mean that he’s not a disgusting brute. Parading Theon around in front of her was cruel to both of them, and it became clear just how worried he is about his ascension to the throne when he found out that his father is expecting another child. Hopefully Sansa will come to her senses and realize that her guardian angel Brienne is the one to whom she should turn for much-needed help. Tyrion expressing his desire to drink wine on his journey didn’t lead to anything productive since Jorah’s dangerous path put them in harm’s way almost immediately. Jorah getting touched is a bad sign, and let’s just hope he lives long enough to ferry Tyrion to his queen.

What I’m Watching: Orphan Black

Orphan Black: Season 3, Episode 4 “Newer Elements of Our Defense” (B+)

This show is full of surprising revelations that further complicate the origin and future of both sets of clones. Johansson’s status as Duncan’s former lab assistant makes things very interesting, especially since Bonnie’s carrying of the baby eternally tethers Mark and Sarah to the Proletheans in a way that isn’t severed by either Mark being nearly killed by Bonnie or Gracie losing the baby. They’re a frightening group, and I don’t think their future interactions with either clone line will be pleasant or peaceful. It’s as if every time one Castor clone disappears, dies, or even just passes out, another one appears with even more disdain for Sarah and her sisters. Saving Mark’s life and then digging up the baby seemed to put her on even ground with Mark, and he returned the favor, though it looks like she’ll be headed straight for military captivity after being knocked out. Helena’s continued conversations with the talking scorpion nearly led to her escape, but her decision to give it up and kill the anguished Castor clone being experimented on cemented her commitment to do what is right and punish those who have done wrong. It’s entertaining to see Felix try to help Cosima get out there and meet a girl to help her get over Delphine, something she’s not eager to do. Allison getting approached by a drug dealer with an axe to grind seemed like it was going to be very bad, but it turns out it’s just her old classmate Jason Kellerman, played by Justin Chatwin, who portrayed similarly devious young men on “Weeds” and “Shameless.” Allison’s plotline is always something else entirely, and this should be plenty of fun.

Pilot Review: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
Premiered May 8

Netflix is churning out hit after hit these days, and its latest show is one with a different generational appeal. Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston are esteemed actors who have been appearing in film and television for decades now. I relate them most recently to two Aaron Sorkin TV shows in which they costarred, albeit with different pairings. Fonda and Waterston interacted frequently on “The Newsroom” and Sheen and Tomlin played off each other on “The West Wing.” Now, they’ve come together for what should prove to be an endearing and entertaining comedy about getting older and dealing with unexpected challenges, namely when two women’s husbands come out and say that they’re leaving their wives so that they can be together. I like that the relationship dynamics are very different, with Frankie acting like a hurt best friend after Sol cast her out and Grace going ballistic with rage that Robert wasted so much of her life. Smoking and getting high in the first episode isn’t a promising sign, but I suppose that it was an important step in getting Grace and Frankie to realize that they need each other and can coexist. It should be a fun, hate-filled relationship if nothing else, and I like the fact that Sheen and Waterston are regular cast members and should appear frequently since their lives will be forever linked in some way to their ex-wives and their impending marriage also means that they’ll be in the same place. This pilot wasn’t raucously funny, but I think this show has potential as it grows to become something endearing and enduring.

How will it work as a series? A show about two divorced women who hate each other living together in the same house could get gimmicky very quickly, and I’d like to think that four veteran actors such as these can help ensure that it doesn’t devolve into that but instead becomes a mature and enjoyable comedy.
How long will it last? Though some reports of how many people actually watch Netflix shows are now surfacing, the streaming service’s shows depend more on positive buzz and reception than anything else. This show isn’t really like anything else the network is doing, and so I think they’ll be eager to invest in it.

Pilot grade: B

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What I’m Watching: Daredevil

Daredevil: Season 1, Episode 5 “World on Fire” (B-)

I’m waiting for this show to pick up steam and it’s not really getting there yet, so I’m considering the notion of giving up on it since I’m not sure I want to commit to thirteen whole episodes. What I did like about this episode was the way it intensified two of its primary potentially romantic relationships. Matt has been opening up to Claire gradually for a while now, and she’s also the only person in whom he has confided his yet-to-be-finessed secret identity. That their relationship would turn into something more intimate was inevitable, but it’s only a matter of time before she both feels permanently in danger thanks to recent events and that becomes too much to bear for a connection with someone who will never really let her in to his life. The more unexpected development that is headed in an interesting direction is the budding romance between Foggy and Karen. It wasn’t initially established that they would have that kind of bond, but thanks in part to the woman who Foggy selflessly wanted to help, they were pushed to go on a date and to explore what it might like to be more than just boss and secretary, which could of course lead to complications of its own down the road. But while Matt is the hero who is actually going out and saving lives on a daily basis, Foggy is a pretty great guy too, running headfirst into danger to save innocents. Wilson seems to be more of a cartoonish villain than anything, and I’m most intrigued by the fact that his lady obsession seems more than a bit comfortable with the lifestyle they’ve started living together.

What I’m Watching: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1, Episode 10 “Kimmy’s in a Love Triangle!” (B)

It would be strange to call this the best episode this show has produced yet, but I actually found it to be the most consistent and entertaining of the ten episodes I’ve now seen. Kimmy’s love triangle clearly showed something that I think was expected all along but wasn’t confirmed, which is that Logan is pretty oblivious to what Kimmy cares about and what makes her happy. Calling immigration to get Dong deported was a low blow and a cowardly move, and it’s great to see the usually naïve Kimmy react so well right away, kicking him out of the apartment and out of her life. While getting married to Dong is a bit of a leap, it doesn’t seem out of the question for the sweet-natured girl always intent on helping other people. Trying to do what she thought was best for Xanthippe, whose name she hilariously misspelled to her mother, was equally well-intentioned and also completely switched over from one desired outcome to another, with her ultimately revealing that Xanthippe is in fact a good kid and quite a nerd at that. It was fun to see Dean Norris of “Breaking Bad” fame as the Loup, who was marvelously invested in aiding Titus in the art of passing for straight with a fake audition for the nonexistent “Entourage 2.” The best line of the episode, hands down, was Kimmy’s reassurance to Dong that the love triangle was over and had now become a biangle, or, as the distressed math whiz corrected her, a line.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 3, Episode 11 “Chapter 37” (B+)

If there’s one thing that Frank hates more than anything, it’s insubordination. I’m not sure I can think of a case where such insubordination was more legitimate than Jackie dropping out of the race and endorsing Dunbar, even without the offer of a vice presidential bid. Her objections to Frank’s plan to have her attack Dunbar as sexist and then seem like a hypocrite because her husband’s kids go to private school were perfectly solid, and he had no right to throw her under the bus, permanently aggrandizing himself while taking others down with no thought to their independent futures, political or personal. Remy calling Frank out on his treatment of Jackie and then apparently resigning is the bigger shock since he’s been on both sides of Frank’s world, and his feelings for Jackie were what pushed him over the edge to recognize the wrong committed by Frank in this case. Frank chatting with Remy and Freddy was an oddly intimate moment, one in which Frank seemed so at ease with Freddy and so guarded in how he spoke to one of his most loyal lieutenants. Claire passing out while giving blood in New Hampshire prompted an unexpected fiery and brave response from Tom, who up until now has pried but has largely kept his own feelings to himself, and now felt comfortable enough telling the president off for trying to control what Claire was doing and where she was rather than actually being there for her. Doug finding out about Rachel being alive is bad news, and let’s hope he doesn’t do something stupid in his eternal pursuit of the moment who forever changed his life.

Monday, May 11, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Red Road (Season Finale)

The Red Road: Season 2, Episode 6 “Shadow Walker” (B+)

This may well be the last episode this show ever broadcasts, which would be a shame since I think that it is definitely headed to very interesting places. Starting in the middle of the action with Philip and Harold running towards Junior in the woods didn’t end in a bad place since all three of them made it home safe, but there was plenty of volatility going on by the time they got there. Jean confronting her father about what he did to Brian and then trying to suffocate him was nothing compared to not calling 911 and letting him die of a heart attack. Jean comparing Junior to Philip rather than Harold while talking to Rachel provided some enlightening insight into her perspective on two very different men in her life. Harold has his hands full with everyone blaming the Lenape for poisoning the water and tensions preparing to explode, and the Lenape themselves appeared ready to bring a case against the government for their contribution to the poisoning. Philip was fortunately on his toes when Junior’s father paid him a visit, and the fact that he offered him money to spare his life right before Philip killed him was a crucial sign that he doesn’t have principles, just a desire to be rich and remain alive. Philip solving one problem in his life wasn’t enough, as he showed up to find Junior shot and Marie, a great character on this show, dead. Things were in miserable shape at the start of this season, and I can only imagine how desolate they’ll be when this show returns for a hopefully existent third season.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Jason Mamoa as Philip

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 23 “Absconded” (B-)

Sometimes when I watch this show, I get distracted for a moment and then feel like I’ve long the entire gist of where the story is headed in a given episode. I’m not really watching any other police procedurals right now since “Person of Interest” and “iZombie” are both distinct enough variations to not count as such, and so maybe it’s just that sometimes criminal cases aren’t all that engaging to follow. This show also tends to feature elaborately spun tales that aren’t easy to prove or confirm, and this episode was the epitome of that, what with a missing sheikh who in the end turned out to not have been missing at all, or so his government claimed to protect his reputation and avoid encouraging future abductions. I enjoyed Sherlock getting stung by pees on purpose and Joan’s reaction that she hadn’t had enough caffeine to deal with the fact that he was doing that. Gregson being offered a promotion was a big deal, though I find it hard to imagine that this show would part with him so easily even though he’s not such a featured element these days. It speaks to his strong character that his first step was not to blindly accept the offer but to have Watson investigate the effectiveness and morality of his replacement. Turning it down, as he was told, may have been a grave mistake, but I expect that he’ll manage to come out ahead with the bright minds of Sherlock and Watson in his corner.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family; Season 6, Episode 22 “Patriot Games” (B)

I’ll admit that I actually enjoyed this episode much more than I tend to like this show these days. Alex and Sanjay tying for the distinction of valedictorian and deciding that the only way to decide the true champion was to do a race was an unpromising setup, but Sanjay coming over to reveal his feelings to Alex was an unexpected twist that did in fact seem like a distraction tactic. I’m happy to see that it wasn’t revealed as such and instead turned out to be pure, resulting in a competitive makeout session that was very endearing and funny. Cameron and Mitchell showing up to try to prove that they’re political with ambiguous signs reading “Stop doing what you’re doing” and “Shame!” was pretty hilarious, and leave it to them to go to protest and end up dining at the very establishment they were boycotting, set up perfectly to get caught red-handed betraying their alleged beliefs. Gloria preparing for her citizenship test had its rough moments, like her horrifying attempt at a Texas accent, but it was filled with some humor, namely Jay’s apparent desire for them not to have to wait in long custom lines with her and Manny’s motivation that he doesn’t want to pay high estate taxes when Jay kicks the bucket. Gloria eagerly going in for her citizenship test only to be asked two easy questions, one of which was simpler because of the flag in the room, was quite funny and an unusually expertly-calibrated use of Sofia Vergara.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest (Season Finale)

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 22 “YHWH” (B)

This show has done a fantastic amount of rebooting in its season finales each year, and while this one certainly commands that, it wasn’t as effective in terms of truly overhauling the show and how it works. The machine typing out an apology to its father Finch for failing to survive was a very sentimental moment for a show that rarely has that for its nonhuman elements, and Samaritan summarily taking out its more revolutionary elements and typing out its own report to Greer was an intense way to show who had very clearly won the war for now. Fusco was never going to die but I didn’t think that both Elias and Dominic would get taken out too, as would Control’s only ally, Shaw’s former partner. It’s sad to see Control get caught and imprisoned after she had such a change of heart and was actually trying to do the right thing. Finch and Root appear to have saved the machine in the most minimal way they could, but it’s going to be very difficult for them to stay off the grid while they’re rebuilding it and getting it ready for a revenge match against Samaritan. This season was definitely good, turning Reese into a cop and everyone else into chameleons, but I think that the rest of it didn’t quite live up to the high expectations set by seasons two and three. This is still one of the stronger and more consistent shows on television, and I’m extremely excited for wherever season five may go.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Sarah Shahi as Shaw

What I’m Watching: Weird Loners (Season Finale)

Weird Loners: Season 1, Episode 6 “We’re Here. We’re Weird. Get Used to Us” (B)

In just six short episodes, this show has definitely been weird, and I’m pleased to report that its season finale is its strongest installment, strange to be sure but effective in telling quite a substantial story with three separate threads. I was very excited to see Katie Aselton as Zara’s ex-girlfriend who came over to flirt with Caryn and ended up dating both her and Stosh. I love that Caryn decided to try being a lesbian just to compete with Stosh, and though the victim of their game ended up in the middle of them dancing and literally got kissed over, she wasn’t so innocent since she was fully involved with both of them. Caryn and Stosh’s kiss was pretty momentous, and their reactions to it happening were perfect. Zara lucked out too, getting her ex-girlfriend back as two of her friends finally got together. And then there’s Eric, who was confused throughout his entire career as a stellar dart thrower as a female lesbian, who made out with his crush before returning home where both she – and apparently he – were shocked to find out that he was, in fact, not a female lesbian. There’s something wonderful and inspiring to see our weird loners lined up and making out with other people at the end of this episode, still a bit socially awkward since they’re making out in public but marvelously improved in their situations in terms of their loneliness. I don’t think this show will merit a second season, but especially after this finish, I’d definitely tune in!

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Becki Newton as Caryn

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 1, Episode 8 “Dead Air” (B+)

Every episode, I’m impressed with how this show incorporates the traits of the former owner of the latest brain eaten by Liv, and it’s even more entertaining than the week before. Listening to the radio show was fortuitous for Liv in the run-up to the murder of the host, who turned out to be quite a terrible person whose murderer, while somewhat deranged, had a much better sensitivity towards people and the kind of sentiment that her more successful colleague projected on air. Liv turned into a whole different person as she suddenly became judgmental and learned about all things related to relationship and sex, which tied in perfectly with Ravi’s sudden interest in Peyton. It’s a surprising match to me since I thought that Ravi played for the other team, bonding quite a bit with Liv’s new boyfriend when he ate gay brains. It should be interesting to see their romance begin, and I’m eager to see it play out. Despite her attempt to psychoanalyze where their relationship was headed, Liv and her zombie boyfriend are actually doing fine, and it’s good to see Liv get to relax and enjoy something like sex again. Major, on the other hand, is not in a good place, losing his job and his girlfriend after his beating in jail, and he’s not going to give up until he proves that the Candyman was carrying real brains. Liv seeing Blaine murder Jerome in her vision amps up the serious subplot of the show, and maybe a certain zombie police captain will reach out to Liv for help subverting his killer food supplier. This show just got renewed for a second season, which means we’ll see plenty more of Liv and everyone else!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 2, Episode 20 “Scars” (B-)

I have a few thoughts about this episode, two that have more to do with the show as a whole. Tying the previous episode and this one into “Avengers: Age of Ultron” does this show a disservice because it makes this show seem less important in the grand scheme of things and that it exists only to serve the greater movie franchise, with an entire season-long plotline explained away by its connection to the movie, something we didn’t even get to see acknowledged here. I purposely made sure to see the film before watching this episode, but if I hadn’t I can only imagine I would be very lost and disappointed. This show was just renewed along with nearly all of ABC’s primetime slate, including underperforming spinoff “Agent Carter,” and so now we know this show will have more of a chance to get to really define and develop itself. I’m very surprised by the turn of events at the end of the episode, with Jiaying revealing herself to be a lying warmonger while Gonzalez was actually a man of peace ready to sit down and talk with the supposed enemy. That’s going to destroy Skye, but I worry that she won’t know in time to align herself with the right side. Cal turning himself in to S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t be good, and he’s sure to wreak havoc if Jiaying told him her plan. Bobbie has been caught in the middle of an unexpected revenge play by Agent 33 and Ward, whose exact allegiances are unknown but definitely worrisome.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What I’m Watching: New Girl (Season Finale)

New Girl: Season 4, Episode 22 “Clean Break” (B)

It’s lamentable to report that this was one of the strongest episodes of a very uneven season, but at least it ends things on a positive note as the show heads into its fifth season and a chance at syndication with just six episodes to go before it reaches the 100th episode mark. The weakest part of the episode was Coach’s drawn-out departure, a long goodbye for a character who left the show right at the beginning and then inexplicably came back. It wasn’t horrible, certainly, but it just isn’t funny the same way that other things are, even some involving Coach, who definitely had his moments. What I enjoyed most was a return to romance for two couples who seemed long dormant. I love that Jess decided she had to tell Nick that Cece was still in love with Schmidt with him standing right there so that he could make a move and not give up on her, after his regrettable time spent down at the donation box with Jack McBrayer’s anti-Semitic donation collector. Proposing to Cece as she walked in the door was sweet, and maybe going from not being together to being engaged will prove fun in season five. I’m personally most excited about the rekindling of Nick and Jess’ relationship, especially if it comes about as a result of Winston trying to make sure their sex mug lives on as a cat mug. This show is always at least a bit fun even when it’s not great, and I’m hoping that season five will be a return to its former quality.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Zooey Deschanel

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 21 “Grodd Lives” (B-)

I’m all for metahumans, but there’s something about a superpowered gorilla that just doesn’t do it for me. I understand Grodd may be part of the mythology of this universe, but I’d prefer a return to what’s driven this show over the course of this season. Joe and Barry traipsing through dark tunnels holding bananas seems like more of a distraction than anything when Wells is out there somewhere holding Eddie hostage. I still don’t quite understand why he took Eddie since it seems like it was only to reveal to him that he’s an insignificant ancestor and to hurt Iris which will hurt Barry indirectly. More confusingly, why is the future so set in stone and a byline by Barry’s future wife in a decade certain to be written if there’s so much that could change between now and then? The bigger significant development of the hour was Iris taking big steps to confirm that Barry is the Flash, first giving him the chance to lie to her and then walking in to interrupt his conversation and catch him wearing the suit. In my opinion, it’s always good to have a bigger team, and now Barry won’t be tiptoeing around her trying to deceive her at every moment to keep her out of harm’s way. Joe nearly getting killed (or killing himself) at the hands of Grodd was conveniently timed to create a smoother path to forgiveness from Iris, which is good. Now let’s get back to Wells and whatever his devious plans are for Barry and his friends.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 21 “Chapter Twenty-One” (B)

While I still like this show, I do feel that it’s not delivering as much as it did earlier in the season. It’s mainly that the plot is stalling somewhat now as Jane tries to discover who she is and romantic attachments realign themselves. Michael isn’t over Jane, Rafael isn’t over Jane, Petra isn’t over Rafael, Rogelio is over Xiomara, and Jane isn’t sure what she’s feeling, except for the certainty that the high school crush who didn’t know her name and freaked out when he saw that she was pregnant probably isn’t the right guy for her. It’s frustrating to watch Rafael fail miserably at confessing his feelings for Jane and taking everything back, and he went to all the trouble of tricking Petra into thinking that he was falling for her again so that she would force her mother to turn herself in to the police. It’s easy to like Michael now because he is so good-natured and seemed genuinely interested in Jane and how she’s feeling, something that never ranked first for Rafael even in the best of times. Rogelio being afraid of heights in spite of his affinity for grand staircase entrances made sense, and it was incredibly sweet that Xiomara stepped up to the plate and pretended to be the one afraid in order to save his dignity. Hopefully he’ll see and appreciate the gesture for what it is and interpret it as more than just mere friendship. Jane pursuing her future with a graduate writing program is a great step, and it should provide just the positive motivation she needs to get through the first stages of raising a child without a fully committed partner.