Thursday, May 31, 2018

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 3, Episode 10 “Redemption” (B)

It’s episodes like these that make we wonder how much of this show is supposed to represent something that looks like reality and how much is purely exaggerated in an unbelievable way to make the plot the most entertaining possible. This show already has some superb characters without needing to amplify them with ridiculous plots, and this episode went a bit overboard on that front. Wendy’s job has never felt entirely authentic, especially since she often projects a cutthroat attitude that resembles Axe all too much and doesn’t track with most of what she does as a character in her personal life. Coaching Ben Kim to express himself seemed ill-advised from the start, and comically chasing after him while she was standing around not doing much before he performed his cringe-worthy dance routine in the elevator was laughable, and not in a good way. And somehow it managed to give him the confidence he needed to spit out his idea, which cemented his employment when I’m sure Axe and Wags were ready to fire him and torch his career. Similarly, the thought of working with the sleazy rich guy played by David Krumholtz was enough to compel Axe to go in a different direction that didn’t require him to give him any real autonomy and managed to impress Gregor enough to negate the loss he was supposed to suffer, and sadly Taylor’s relationship with Oscar seems to have been sacrificed for his financial prosperity. Chuck is going after something altogether more altruistic, and naturally he would be late home after getting a flat tire on the night that Jeffcoat invited himself over for a dinner that Wendy hired Axe’s chef to cook. There’s definitely something to be found where he’s digging, and he’s making decent progress in taking down a man who up until now has been completely untouchable.

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

Killing Eve: Season 1, Episode 8 “God, I’m Tired” (B)

Well, that title sums it up. This was an intriguing, action-packed episode, to be sure, but also one that delved into a relationship that has spiraled way out of control. We’ve always known that Villanelle is someone who likes to entertain herself, shouting down Konstantin’s obnoxious daughter and bragging when she found a language the child didn’t know. She wasn’t intimidated at all when Anna got a gun and then turned it on herself, and she claimed to have been seduced before admitting that she was probably the one who seduced her. And she’s obsessed with Eve, who apparently feels the same way, to a degree. I believe that what she said to Villanelle before she stabbed her in the bed was true, that she does think nonstop about what she does and why she does it, but it’s less of an attraction than an irresistible magnetism that makes her unable to look away. Of course Villanelle managed to escape after being stabbed and shooting back at Eve, and now Eve, who was very brave if not quite as smart in her execution of things, is going to be her prime target, yet one who probably won’t be killed since she feels more affinity for her than for anyone else, including the apparently deceased Konstantin, who was relatively honest with Eve when she pointed a gun at him while he was urinating. This has been an unapologetically strange first season, and while I’m still looking forward to the second run of “Fleabag” more, I imagine I’ll tune in for season two when this show returns.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Jodie Comer as Villanelle

Pilot Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Amazon)
Premiered May 25

Amazon’s latest acquisition is this Australian series based on the same 1967 book that was adapted into a 1975 film by Peter Weir. This is a period drama that sticks out completely for the way in which it presents its characters, sort of like an antique version of “Mean Girls” with a bit of mystery and devastation mixed in. It’s more reminiscent of “Marie Antoinette,” Sofia Coppola’s take on the infamous queen that purposefully included more than a few anachronisms and modern music to make its events feel all the more lively. This reviewer wasn’t terribly fond of that film, but fortunately this show, hardly one of a genre that appeals, does a considerably better job at being just what it wants to be. There’s obviously the central plot of these four girls that go missing, an event that was presented in stark dramatic fashion with the most ominous foreshadowing. What’s most worthwhile, however, is the central performance from Natalie Dormer. She’s well-known to most for her role as Margaery Tyrell on “Game of Thrones,” and I was also impressed by her turn in the first season of “Elementary.” Here, she’s a tyrannical and unforgiving headmistress, practicing no-nonsense negotiation in the procurement of her property and also in the treatment of those around her. She seems to have her fair share of secrets that haunt her and also make her even more determined to stay on top. If this was the kind of fare that intrigued me, I might well stick around after this start.

How will it work as a series? Six episodes should be an appropriate amount of time to uncover everything that led to this disappearance and the role of Mrs. Appleyard and everyone else in it. There’s a lot to be exposed and covered, and this show knows just how it wants to tell its story.
How long will it last? All six episodes premiered on Showcase a few weeks ago in Australia, and now they’re all available on Amazon. Reviews seem to be mostly positive, and it’s hard to find any ratings data either for Australia or for Amazon, suggesting that this may well be just the limited six-episode series it was supposed to be or could also end up being recommissioned for another run if there’s more of a story to tell.

Pilot grade: B

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What I’m Watching: Lost in Space

Lost in Space: Season 1, Episode 7 “Pressurized” (B+)

Another episode, another life-and-death situation where a member of the Robinson family nearly sacrifices themselves for the good of their relatives. Though they had to fight off some frightening quicksand, John and Maureen ultimately had a therapeutic time in close quarters discussing things they hadn’t previously verbalized. Maureen not arguing with John when he said he was fine after she offered to take over was the start of it, and then he was trying to show off when she gave him a hard time but had to cut the show short since they were already too far in to escape. After supporting without hesitation her decision to alter Will’s test results, John was very eager to give his own life to save Maureen, and fortunately she realized just in time that there was a way for them to escape which gave them a fun laugh once they finally made it. A PHD in engineering doesn’t necessarily mean that she’ll fix the air conditioning, but at least their relationship is stable. Judy’s patient dying after her valiant efforts to keep him alive was a blow to everyone, and the only thing it strengthened was her relationship with Don. Vijay telling his father about the planet’s prospects led to a surprisingly selfish decision from Victor, and I can’t imagine that he’s really abandoning everyone else and that, if he is, he’ll get away with it. As usual, Dr. Smith is up to no good, and she may have already orchestrated events that won’t make Don and Judy’s eventual arrival with important news about her identity as crucial or effective as it should be. Penny trying to cheer Will up was nice to see, and for once neither of them appeared to be in imminent danger.

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet (Season Finale)

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 2, Episode 10 “Halibut!” (B+)

Sheila and Joel, as usual, had it all figured out, but then a number of wrenches got thrown in their plan, with the zombie hunters identified at the end of the previous episode not even figuring it at all as obstacles. Having Gary call to leave a voicemail on Dan’s phone was derailed briefly by his joke-making, and I thought right away that they shouldn’t even leave deleted voicemails on a phone that they’re hoping to have the police discover. Fortunately, one of their missteps turned out to be in their favor, with the cheapest burner phones turning out to be too unsophisticated to have deleted voicemails kept. They bungled their way through the meeting with the intimidating Detective Bill Ramirez, played by Steve Harris from “The Practice,” and as long as Anne didn’t tell him about the bracelet she heard on the voicemail, they should be fine in that area. Anne going shopping through all the belongings they were trying to run away with but pretended to be donating was entertaining, though nothing compares to that final scene in which she was more than happy to shoot Sheila a few times and then - miraculously - saw Sheila as an instrument of God rather than a murderer she had to stop. The timing of the explosion in the distance as a sign was particularly fortuitous. Abby asking for Eric’s help with the explosives continued their familiar banter, and my favorite moment was their decision to kiss when they thought they might never see each other again. I loved this season, which was even better than the first, and I can’t wait for season there. All I ask is more Lisa - she needs to be utilized properly!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Timothy Olyphant as Joel

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 2, Episode 12 “AKA Pray for My Patsy” (B+)

This has been a season mostly about Jessica’s relationship with her mother, and therefore it’s extremely interesting to see Dorothy return and make Trish’s hospitalization all about making sure Patsy’s career and reputation can be rehabilitated. Jessica wasn’t very kind to herself in this hour, and she braced for the lashing she thought she would get from Dorothy but then didn’t receive until she learned that Alisa had nearly killed her. Alisa was relieved and awed that Jessica managed to talk her down in the hospital room, but the arrival of Costa and Sunday at that exact moment couldn’t have been any more poorly-timed. Alisa diving out the window with Sunday in her grasp, killing her, was a very unfortunate turn of events, and now there doesn’t seem to be a way out of this that leaves Alisa alive. Knocking Jessica out and throwing her in the back of the camper van means that she has just about the least sympathetic hostage with her, demonstrating that she’s not trying to negotiate but rather to escape with the one person she cares for who’s still alive. Trish offering up her apartment as meeting place for the two of them showed how much she cares for Jessica, even if she doesn’t necessarily respect the way she uses her powers. Hogarth managed to get revenge on Shane and Inez, sending a gun into a loaded situation and driving away with little to show for it other than the satisfaction of not having fallen prey to the con and just letting it go.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

What I’m Watching: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 2, Episode 5 “Make-up Game” (B+)

Now, this is what this show needs all the time. I was worried when Jules was once again absent last week after her surprise reappearance at the end of episode three, and it was so great to see her show up at the start of this half-hour. Brockmire had so many chances to say and do the right thing, and he picked a few of them correctly while letting the rest go. Being asked to talk about the one that got away in one of his drunken rants could have been the first real chance, but she felt that she had to say hello to him even though he went for something other than her. I love that she too has a Google alert for “Jim Brockmire dead,” and it was gratifying to see her try hard to say yes to him and make sure that he didn’t give her time to change her mind when she knew it was the wrong decision. She gave him a hard time, to be sure, but he also is a different person around her, giving her a piggyback through the streets of New Orleans after taking her away from a tourist attraction like Cafe Du Monde (which is excellent and totally worthwhile, of course). She didn’t even seem to mind that he had a whole shop of women’s clothes for her to choose from in the morning, but it was his eagerness to accept a job in Atlanta and think that they could just meet up once a month without any commitment that made her leave seemingly without looking back. Charles was right to celebrate as if his parents were getting back together, and I surely hope this isn’t the last time Jules will try to let herself give in and be swept away by our talkative title character. The closing scene did leave quite an impression thanks to the appearance of Emmy winner Carrie Preston from “The Good Wife” and “True Blood” as the women in the bar who appears to be even crazier than Brockmire, stabbing a man in the hand just to prove that she’s wilder than he is. Let’s see more of her - that can’t be good for him, but it will definitely be entertaining!

Pilot Review: The Split

The Split (SundanceTV)
Premiered May 23 at 10pm

The latest international series to be broadcast stateside by a network known for exposing American audience to great foreign fare is this BBC1 drama, which airs its sixth and final episode in the UK tomorrow. This is quite the dramatic show, one that has a distinctly British flair but also involves nearly as much sex and intrigue, if on less explicit display, as any cable American drama. I immediately recognized the two top-billed stars from their roles on shows that have made it over to the United States, Nicola Walker from her recent part as a lesbian reverend on “Collateral” and Stephen Mangan from his memorable lead role on “Episodes.” Walker’s Hannah is a quiet force to be reckoned with, someone who works in the messy world of divorce law but doesn’t seek to break apart families and go for her opponent’s throat, and she’s often sitting right across from her sister during negotiations as she represents the other side. The featured client of the hour made a passionate appeal himself to spend time with the son he knew was in the building, a far more pressing concern than giving up his right to make jokes at his ex-wife’s expense. The other major client dropped a shocking divorce request on his wife in the meeting with the lawyer, hardly a kind step mired further by his obvious and problematic infidelity. There’s a whole lot of interwoven webs and illicit affairs going on here, which is sure to lead to some disastrous explosions that should keep this decent drama going.

How will it work as a series? The return of the patriarch is already causing the three adult sisters and their mother to grapple with long-suppressed questions, and the ongoing cases are such to make matters even more stressful. The six-episode format should allow the arcs to be properly explored and wrap up in a way that could well legitimize another season or conclude it satisfactorily.
How long will it last? I can’t find much ratings or review data on this show for either the United States or the UK, but my suspicion is that it will be positively-received in both countries, perhaps better across the pond. There are so many limited series like this these days that it’s hard to know what will be renewed, but I think this one could very well be recommissioned for another round.

PIlot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2, Episode 5 “Seeds” (B+)

One of the most interesting facets of this show is how those who aren’t in power manage to continue existing in this new world order by accepting the roles that they’ve been assigned by those who feel that they’re able to make such determinations and decrees. Aunt Lydia is one such person who seems to have a true faith in what Gilead stands for, and she also enjoys certain privileges due to her enforcer status. She doesn’t seem to like Serena much, partly because she understands the nuances of trying to humanize the handmaids, once they’ve been stripped of their identities, of course. After Serena managed to get her husband, who didn’t seem to be paying any attention to her, to have Nick married off, she dealt a harsh blow to Offred by dismissing her because the ensuing activities were for “husband and wives only,” neglecting the truth that June is indeed legally married. The introduction of a rabbi who performs lesbian weddings and funerals within the prison camp hit close to home for me since it’s easy to forget that the real world that we know turned into this one, with any other religions quashed completely and rival clergy forced to suffer the same fate as anyone else who doesn’t toe the party line. As the mourner’s kaddish was recited over the recently-wed deceased, what seemed like all hope lost for Offred’s pregnancy turned out to be far brighter, and, most promisingly, we saw June’s spirit return, determined to save her baby and herself from the state in which she seemed previously to have resigned herself.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 3, Episode 9 “Asshole, Other Asshole, and the Depressive Muppet” (B+)

Is it possible that this thruple could find its end not in a dramatic act of betrayal but rather in a relatively peaceful separation based on different needs of its members. After an angry exchange at the start of the episode, Kylie made her feelings known and also put a ticking clock on the consideration of a full-time move to Seattle. Izzy seemed to get over things better than expected, pouring Jack and Emma way too much orange juice before leaving for what turned out to be positive news from her advisor. For someone who hasn’t been able to focus on getting her work done, this job offer come as a stroke of fortune and one that seems too good for her to pass up. Giving Jack and Emma a free pass to go to Seattle and see whether it was a fit for them is probably the best solution for the moment, though I suspect it won’t be such an easy break. At least she has her dad, who may become a more permanent fixture in her life, to turn to while her best friend is busy juggling two guys. Shaun was awfully eager to play Nina’s game, much more so than Andy. It’s hard to have much sympathy towards Nina, who doesn’t really give either of them the time of day. It was great to see Dave decide to take the month off to stay home with the kids, catapulting Carmen into an unexpected leadership role for which she’s definitely not quite ready.

Monday, May 28, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 2, Episode 8 “Chapter 16” (B+)

This episode didn’t provide all that much clarity, but that’s hardly the purpose of this show these days. It was intriguing to see the narrator explain Plato’s allegory of the cave towards the end of the episode, using cell phones as a modern impediment to being able to truly see the world. On a show like this, one that rarely features a phone call, much less a smartphone, it feels a bit strange, but there’s very little on this show that doesn’t feel strange. It was cool to see David trying to figure out a way to enlist the help of those around him in finding Farouk’s body when he knew that they were susceptible to having their minds infiltrated by Farouk, and therefore he opted to plant the ideas within their mind to be followed and executed much later. Unfortunately, Oliver helped Farouk establish a link to this season’s most absent player, Melanie, who is now under his sway and took Clark out just as he was about to do what David had asked of him. Ptonomy, trapped within some mind, was able to take control of one of the mustachioed female robots and communicate with David, while Syd built up a lot of aggression towards David for not fully reading her in because of what her future self had said. I really don’t know what comes next and if they’re as close to Farouk’s body as he seems to think, and I’m curious if the unsupervised Lenny’s departure via motorcycle will come into play in any helpful way soon.

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

The Flash: Season 4, Episode 23 “We are the Flash” (B+)

I’m pleasantly surprised to report that this was a great finale, one that probably should have come about six episodes ago so that this whole thing didn’t feel so dragged out. The best part is knowing that DeVoe has been truly vanquished, with his electronic reincarnation and subsequent near-destruction of the planet hastily avoided thanks to some sincere teamwork on the part of our heroes. It was wonderful to see that Ralph was still alive and kicking within DeVoe’s brain since he was presently occupying his body, and that he was able to escape and take control once again. Defeating him by using something whose value he couldn’t understand felt fitting, and it only serves to strengthen them as a unit to combat whatever foes may come next. I do think that Marlize got off a little too easily, pardoned and even offered the opportunity to join Team Flash after helping her husband to cause such significant damage and death. The actual sequence of events that allowed the team to defeat DeVoe was exciting, and it would have worked just as well around episode eighteen, with Ralph being gone for so long serving as the only real reason to wait so that his return could be all the more emphatic and welcome. Harry not being returned quite to normal is an intriguing if unexplained development, one that likely won’t be addressed right away given his departure for his own earth. I am very optimistic about the official introduction of the speedster from the future that I incorrectly guessed was Cecile and Joe’s newborn daughter but was instead Nora, the daughter of Barry and Iris, who believes that she’s made a terrible mistake. I’m pumped for season five, and hopeful that it can be a bit more focused and less drawn-out than this season often felt.

Season grade: B/B+
Season MVP: Katee Sackhoff as Amunet

What I’m Watching: Roseanne (Season Finale)

Roseanne: Season 10, Episode 9 “Knee Deep” (B)

I think I would have expected a comedy like this to end its signature return run on a far more celebratory note than this one, but its characters were able to find a silver lining following an unpredictable and unstoppable event. The sight of Dan standing in the submerged basement didn’t leave much hope for their financial future, especially with Roseanne getting stuck on the toilet and in more pain each day. Chuck was pretty upset also with the notion that Dan was going to use other workers because he couldn’t afford him, but circumstances seem to have led to them making amends on Chuck’s highly demanding terms. Dan grabbing all of the sports trophies instead of the kids’ photos and birth certificates showcased the more humorous focus on the effects of the flood, something that should have devastated and impoverished the family if not for their successful chanting of “State of Emergency!” that suddenly turned their fortunes around completely. Their home may be ruined, but now they’ll have the funding they need to fix it and get plenty more work fixing other people’s homes at the same time. Roseanne and Jackie getting the doll that their mom treated like royalty but wouldn’t let them play with was mildly entertaining, and of course a minor repair meant that it was devalued from $5000 down to $100. Becky trying to teach Darlene how to make more tips was a tough job, and Darlene is only going to flirt and flounce in the way that she deems worthwhile, which really isn’t all that effective. I’ll probably continue watching this show in subsequent seasons if it attracts awards attention, and it’s enjoyable enough to merit a half-hour out of my week.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Sara Gilbert as Darlene

**Update as of 5/29 - apparently Roseanne Barr's latest tweet was enough to get ABC to cancel the show outright, meaning both that it won't be back again for subsequent seasons and also that it's highly unlikely it will earn any Emmy love this summer. An unexpected turn of events, to be sure!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 4, Episode 12 “You’ve Got to Hide Your Liv Away” (B+)

It was weird to see Liv and Major playing house like a couple straight out of the 1950s, showing that it’s possible not to resist the brain that you’re on and to actually embrace what living someone else’s life could look like. I was waiting for Liv to wake up and lock Major in the basement, but I didn’t expect the hostility she expressed when she refused to let him go and got extremely angry at him for daring to kidnap her so that she couldn’t turn herself in to face certain execution by Chase. Levon turning himself in as Renegade was brave, and unfortunately he made a failed attempt to get Liv out of there that now has him on the chopping block right alongside her. With Russ at the safehouse gunning for Major, it’s hardly likely that he’ll be able to pull off the coup that was suggested to him, albeit as a test, by Hobbs. Angus being released from custody and then getting an orchestrated, supposedly divine sign of snowing brains means an entirely separate threat to human-zombie peace that might derail things in the season finale, which somehow has to spare Liv’s life unless this show is going to change in a big way. Ravi served as an entertaining stand-in, going full on social media millennial, much to Clive’s chagrin. Let’s hope he can Isobel’s death as a catalyst for getting the cure out in time. Clive went back to Dale without much hesitation as he was about to leave for a date with Michelle, but it seems that proposal may have been premeditated. This hardly seems like a time for celebration, but I’m sure that an hourlong finale can cover some of these threads.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 3, Episode 19 “The Fanatical” (B)

This was a relatively welcome break from Reign trying to destroy the world and managing to best her foes no matter what they threw at her, with Lena’s containment field holding her for the moment and giving them some time to regroup. Of course that’s the moment that Coville’s followers would choose to try to create a new world killer of their own, continuing to push this show away from its more appealing science fiction roots towards supernatural fare that just doesn’t intrigue me at all. We got to see James come close to having to reveal his secret identity to the world, leading to a deep dive into his identity and experiences as a black man, just the latest example of this relatively flighty show tackling a serious current issue like Alex’s sexual orientation. It would make much more sense for Kara to just tell Lena that she’s Supergirl since their relationship is so warm in contrast to the steely front that she portrays to Supergirl, reacting with shock at the notion that they could ever be friends. Mon-El going undercover was entertaining, and he’s definitely having fun sticking around in the present to help prevent the apocalypse. Ruby and M’yrnn bonding over foosball was a nice diversion, and Alex was smart to realize that Ruby thinking that Hank might worry that he’ll end up like his father meant that she was worried about turning into Sam too. Coville showing up alive at the end of the episode means this whole cult business is far from over, and Reign is not going to be the only thing our friends from the DEO will have to worry about in the near future.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 3, Episode 9 “Icebreaker” (B+)

It’s always a nice surprise to see a completely unexpected guest star, especially one as well-cast for this role as John Malkovich. The two-time Oscar nominee is probably best known to most for appearing in the truly odd “Being John Malkovich,” and he was last seen on television as Blackbeard in the short-lived NBC series “Crossbones.” While he’s definitely American, it was fun to see him chew almost as much scenery here as he did in his unforgettable part as a criminal in “Con Air.” It would be hard to imagine someone who could go head-to-head with Axe, aside from Chuck of course, and someone who could strike fear in him in a way that Chuck has never managed to do. Making a comment about being invited to the place where Axe’s kids sleep got the moneyman to be very defensive, and that story at the end of the episode showed that he isn’t going to tolerate anything, including the rightfully unpredictable stock market taking even a bit of his money. It’s Axe’s own fault for being so desperate to do something extreme, and Taylor is obviously hedging their own bets, bringing Will Roland’s smartass on board to give him another chance. Bonnie seems like an interesting addition to the team, and putting her next to Dollar Bill after he got the guy who stole his dollar for luck demoted. In the wake of the death in custody of the man they were supposed to prosecute, Kate and Chuck seem to be on the same page about going against Jock, who said in explicit terms that not all people are created equal, creating an even greater foe for Chuck to go after than Axe ever was.

What I’m Watching: Westworld

Westworld: Season 2, Episode 5 “Akane No Mai” (B)

After an episode rooted in science and plot development germane to how we got to where we are now, this was an extremely dense and less than invigorating hour. Seeing much of the Shogun World play out just like we’ve seen Westworld in the past isn’t as enticing, and there’s something - perhaps it’s the language barrier - about it that just makes it pale considerably to the mystery and the grandeur of Westworld. We’re learning more about the hosts and less about what makes them who they are, with both Dolores and Maeve continuing to take on powerful roles in understanding what they can control now that they have their memories and that they know what’s really happening. Others are being clued in to Maeve’s abilities, with Musashi ordering her gagged so that she couldn’t command them, a temporary solution whose complete uselessness was demonstrated by the unexpected mental powers she utilized at the end of the episode to spare her life and orchestrate chaos around her with nothing more than her mind. There were two notable guest stars in this episode, Hiroyuki Sanada from “Lost” and the very underrated 2010 film “The City of Your Final Destination,” as Musashi, and Rinko Kikuchi, Oscar-nominated for the overrated 2006 film “Babel,” as Akane. Dolores grasps that Teddy is far too idealistic for what’s to come, and therefore he’s not going to get to experience it all clear-eyed like she will. The most fascinating moment of this episode, to me, was Clementine watching the new version of her character, played by Lili Simmons, recite the same lines she used to say, and I’d love to get back to the operational goings-on rather than these simulated storylines.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

What I’m Watching: Killing Eve

Killing Eve: Season 1, Episode 7 “I Don’t Want to be Free” (B)

This episode got a bit messy, breaking down relationships we thought were central to this show and making things mighty uncertain going into the season finale. Eve did not understand at all that Carolyn and Konstantin were wearing the same clothes from the day before because they slept together, and you’d think that she’d be a bit more consistently perceptive. Getting Nadia released meant nothing since, as we knew, she was already dead, but Eve didn’t waste a moment, enlisting Kenny to surveill his mother and meeting with Anna to learn more about who Villanelle was. After an unconvincing stint with the cellmate she killed within hours of being paired with her, Villanelle got sprung on her prison transport, reacting in amazement to the number of dead bodies resulting from her escape. Her fellow freed prisoner wasn’t so into her new status, and Villanelle bestowed the same fate upon the man who wasn’t Konstantin who tried to explain how the world was going to work to her. Konstantin seemed very frightened to find Villanelle in his daughter’s bedroom, but he took those pills and then got the upper hand, giving her the finger while he got away on his boat. As Eve discovered that it was Carolyn who met face-to-face with Villanelle and help get her released - a puzzling twist given that she’s the leader of this entire operation who put Eve in a position to expose what Villanelle was doing - it’s hard to know what’s going to happen with Villanelle and Eve both finding that the mentors they looked up to are colluding with each other and working in opposition to the very different goals they are aiming to achieve.

What I’m Watching: Lost in Space

Lost in Space: Season 1, Episode 6 “Eulogy” (B+)

Another episode, another life-and-death situation that managed to turn out okay for the Robinson family after a handful of close calls. Maureen’s discovery that they can’t stay on this planet is an ominous one that’s clearly going to eat at her, and the fact that a conversation she thought was just with her husband was overheard means that it will soon become public. The official decision that the robot can stay but all of its movements need to be documented was something that Will initially didn’t understand but his father helped him to see when he showed him that he had to do his own work sometimes. Dr. Smith proved especially destructive in this hour, coaching Angela so that she would try something violent, resulting in John getting hurt and Will having the robot plunge off the cliff to his death. Hopefully Dr. Smith won’t be able to inflict all that much more damage now that Don and Judy are well aware that she is not who she says she is. Don encouraging Judy to use the rover’s “sunroof” was entertaining, and I love that she twisted his “princess” remark into something else. He did seem to be genuinely honored that she thanked him for his heroic action, and it’s good to see him being accepted given how we know this crew will continue to be stranded. Penny’s big plan to get Vijay to kiss her was hilariously derailed, but she still managed to make it work in a pretty spectacular and unforgettable way.

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 2, Episode 9 “Suspicious Objects” (B+)

I don’t know which was funnier, the fact that Joel is just as unsubtle about trying to gather facts about clams with a series of very specific questions or that he billed himself as a “clamauteur” (if you will). The casting of Sarah Baker from “Louie” as Ruby, who managed to produce a staggering 5000 infected clams, was great, and I enjoyed watching her try to seduce Joel only to realize that he wasn’t the aspiring clam man he claimed to be. Eric and Abby, who were hilariously passive-aggressive to each other, did the bickering for this episode while Joel and Sheila almost stumbled over each other to apologize and take the blame for starting this whole mess. Sheila had some trouble remembering which side of her face Ann accidentally punched her in, and her encouragement of the painting unfortunately just pushed Ann to go to the right audience to be able to get her investigation fast-tracked. Joel was correct in noting that they’re not precise people, and it was fun to see him squirm when he kept assuming that certain people were female. I’m glad that these characters have time to debate current social issues while attempting to save the world. While Paul and Marsha taking out Ruby’s clam incubator was helpful for one problem, the fact that their next step is hunting down and killing whoever it was that ate the clams is definitely something that they’re going to have to contend against in what’s sure to be a memorable finale.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces (Season Finale)

Life in Pieces: Season 3, Episodes 21 and 22 “Video Piercing Model Hangover” and “Sixteen Spanish Car Leak” (B

This show has perpetually been on the bubble every single year, and it was finally renewed for a fourth season just a few days before these episodes aired, after most others series had already had their fates announced. This two-part finale included a series of segments that felt more interconnected than usual, with one particularly uplifting and unusually sentimental development. Colleen and Matt, hardly the definition of stability, have been trying for the entire season to have a baby, and for them to find out that their very willing surrogate was already pregnant when she was about to be inseminated was a truly unfortunate but hardly unpredictable blow. Jen and Greg discovering that they were pregnant after Lark was starting to do things for herself was a heartwarming moment of excitement, one that had to be hidden due to Colleen and Matt’s own efforts. I’m not sure how this adoption process will work, but it’s good that they’ve already moved on to another option instead of getting stuck following their latest hurdle. John being hired as a model for a stair chairlift was mildly entertaining, far more so than him and Joan trying to learn Spanish. My wife and I related very much to the thank you notes plotline since we sent out our own thank you notes a full year after our wedding, with what we thought was a clever note about how those who are late have much more fun. Sam coming home to the surprise party her family convinced her they weren’t throwing and asking her boyfriend to be her first in front of all of them was pretty hilarious and a definite high point of these two episodes. I’ll continue watching this show next year at midseason because it’s fun enough, but I’d love to see it become just a bit more consistent.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Zoe Lister-Jones as Jen

Friday, May 25, 2018

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 2, Episode 11 “AKA Three Lives and Counting” (B+)

It’s strange to have Kilgrave back, mainly because he’s not nearly the threat he once was, and there wasn’t even a moment where Jessica thought that he was real. He was such a force in season one who terrified Jessica, and now he’s just a nuisance trying to convince her that, even without his influence, she’s a killer. Through all her moodiness and unwillingness to help those she doesn’t like out, like the ultimately cooperative veterinarian she left locked inside one of the cages, Jessica still has only killed three people: Luke’s wife, Kilgrave, and now Dale. It’s understandable that she would be spiraling because of this, and when she finally tracked down her two closest associates, she made the wrong decision to blame Malcolm rather than trust him. Trish having Karl turn her into some sort of superpowered being showed how far she’s slipped, and she’s not going to be pleased to find out that the process was interrupted - by Jessica, no less - and now Karl is gone as a result of his own actions. Alisa was doing so well, being treated kindly by her new guard and even allowed to watch television that could help take her away to warmer, friendlier places, but that access to television also meant that she saw the news of Karl’s death before Jessica could come talk to her. Things can’t possibly get better from here, and I don’t see a way that Alisa survives after this.

What I’m Watching: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 2, Episode 4 “Retirement Ceremony” (B-)

After a brief, all-too-delayed shot of Jules at the end of the last episode, I had hoped that he wouldn’t immediately give up on trying to win her back and that she’d return to being a fully featured player on this show. Instead, we had an installment that was almost entirely Brockmire-focused, with Charles sitting out the funeral to experience what it’s like to be sitting next to a far more appreciative commentator. Brockmire’s “load bearing anecdotes” should come as no surprise since he’s all about delivery, and naturally he’d be capable of writing something heartfelt and sincere about Charles as long as he never had to tell him such nice things while he was still alive. Going home for his father’s funeral was an unwelcoming experience to say the least, with his first relative getting him to cough up $1000 because he didn’t know his name, which was in fact the same as his. I was pleased to see Becky Ann Baker from “Girls” as Brockmire’s sister, who had no kind words for him and didn’t appreciate his mockery of her new last name, Glasscock. Lucy’s reappearance felt relatively tame, and I would have loved to see actress Katie Finneran, who was much more memorable in season one, put to better use. We’re starting to get to the point where a formerly plot-driven show is becoming one that could be watched unsequentially, which doesn’t speak too well to the enduring power of its narrative.

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2, Episode 4 “Other Women” (B+)

This episode addressed one of the most important things about how Gilead has managed to stay in power and quell those who wish to resist. We saw protesters being gunned down in a flashback during season one, and Aunt Lydia made it completely clear to June that she would stay locked up in a room until the baby was born, but Offred could go out into the world. June is fully aware of what compliance can get her, and she saw what it was like to be free of all this. There’s a true delusion to be found in the rituals of the women of Gilead, who celebrate the impending birth of the child as if it really is Serena having it. She got so angry with Offred for daring to comment about what she did after her own baby shower, unable to accept the idea that Offred could ever have had a life of her own. Saying that she was kidnapped rather than that she tried to escape makes the Waterfords seem like heroes, rescuing those less fortunate and returning them to this wonderful life of servitude, and it was especially difficult for her to have to apologize to and thank them in front of Nick. Flashing back to the beginnings of her relationship with Luke, when his ex was tormenting her for breaking up their marriage, made the notion of this new world order seem all the more absurd, since the handmaids are barely even thought of as people. Seeing the body of the driver who saved her hanging and learning that the wife will be forced to be a handmaid was a horrifying confirmation of the omniscience of this totalitarian empire, almost as terrifying as seeing how subservient Offred is now planning to be in order to survive.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 3, Episode 8 “The Insidious Lure of Pumpkin Spice” (B+)

Andy really does have bad timing, and Nina pretty much shut down as soon as he reappeared, activating only to punch him in the gut. Just as Nina and Andy discovered that they were probably better for each other than Izzy and Andy were, I think that Nina and Shaun are a far more solid pair, if Shaun is okay with Nina’s inconsistent and often condescending behavior. I love that Nina and Shaun ended up coming with Izzy to the party in the suburbs, where we were treated to yet another fantastic cliffhanger ending, with Kylie emerging from her car and being relatively unfriendly to an equally annoyed Izzy, ready to confront the unsuspecting Jack and Emma. It does feel more than ever like Izzy is a third wheel, with Jack and Emma trying hard to relive their old lives that Izzy has no desire to recreate, and then subverting her wishes by considering a place that they know she won’t want to live. She does seem to have dismissed her dad altogether after he bought her boots, and it’s probably better for her to consult her very distracted best friend for advice rather than a man who long ago proved his untrustworthiness. Carmen and Dave interviewing a prospective nanny was entertaining, particularly when their tunes changed entirely after she presented the extremely demanding rate that she charged for her esteemed services. At least they both seem to be on the same page and are going through this process together.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 2, Episode 7 “Chapter 15” (B+)

After another cleverly-worded “previously on” introduction phrased as “ostensibly on,” I wouldn’t have expected an episode to ultimately make sense like this one did in the end, thanks in no small part to narrator Jon Hamm asking us, what have we learned? Future Syd’s conversation with Farouk about how he might not be the villain but might instead be the hero who stops David from destroying the world was enlightening if not entirely clear was very interesting since we rarely see anyone besides David, and since it followed Syd’s own expressed concerns about the nature of David’s relationship with her future self. Lenny snapping her fingers and reliving the pain that Amy was in was disturbing enough before we got to the many nightmares Ptonomy was experiencing. I don’t even know what to say about the mustachioed women multiplying and regenerating as Ptonomy and Kerry took them out, and what happened after the basket came off of Admiral Fukyama’s head. Fortunately, David showed up just in time to find the parasites in Clark and Kerry’s heads and pull them out, though he didn’t get to Ptonomy before he morphed into a terrifying giant spider. Who knows what will become of Ptonomy, now trapped deep inside someone’s mind, but the shift in pacing with David at the end of the episode was incredible. He seemed so irritated that the arachnid had chosen this time to attack since he was dealing with so much else, and managed to reframe the situation so that he was the giant and his opponent was tiny. Trapping it in a glass and popping it with his mind was a less comic ending, demonstrating just how destructive this immeasurably powerful mutant, currently on the good side, can truly be.

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

New Girl: Season 7, Episodes 7 and 8 “The Curse of the Pirate Bride” and “Engram Pattersky”

Here we are, finally at the end. After eight relatively disappointing episodes, I don’t feel any more satisfied than at the end of season six last April, and that strong episode would probably have served as a far more fitting finale than this one. The characters on this show have always been infantile, and therefore imagining what they would be like as married people and parents probably would have been more effective instead of having it translate to actual plot. Nick waited long enough to pull off the perfect proposal, which of course didn’t go as planned, and naturally the wedding had its hitches, not the least of which was Jess falling and needing to wear an eye patch and Aly predictably going into labor as they were about to begin the nuptials. Russell trying to get Jess to run away with him was random, and didn’t serve much of a purpose other than to show how bad all these men were at fighting. The strangely absent Coach, who I can’t imagine would have missed this wedding, probably would have fared better. Episode eight was an unnecessary reminder of how obsessive Jess can be in a bizarrely specific way, and showing Cece and Winston crying about their dance parties and Schmidt and Nick remembering foot cream gifts felt peculiar at best. Winston pulling off his greatest prank by evicting them was equally odd, but at least it’s in keeping with his character, and allowed us to see a brief montage of a handful of characters who don’t really represent this show’s best recurring guests. Looking back through my reviews of all 146 episodes, this show has been through a lot and hasn’t been great in a while. I won’t miss this show, but I do want to go back and watch some of the episodes I rated as the best to remind myself how much I once liked it.

Series finale: C+
Series grade: B-
Season MVP: Nasim Pedrad as Aly
Season grade: C+
Series MVP: Jake Johnson as Nick
Best Season: Season 2
Best Episodes: “Quick Hardening Caulk” and “Cooler

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 4, Episode 22 “Think Fast” (B)

I appreciated the fact that, in the seemingly neverending quest to defeat DeVoe, we finally got a break (sort of) from losing battle strategies and got to witness an actual conversation about where Barry and DeVoe stand on the human race and their opposing viewpoints about what’s best for it. DeVoe got to be the grandstanding villain he’s always wanted to be, storming into the facility where Fallout was being kept and orchestrating chaos to take out every single guard who stood in his way. He’s free to maim or kill whoever he wants now that Marlize has abandoned him, yet she still believes that her departure only reinforces his worldview that the human race shouldn’t be burdened by things such as love. Caitlin made a major breakthrough, no thanks to Dr. Finkel, who apparently bills this group by the quarter-hour, about Killer Frost and the fact that, puzzlingly, she’s been a part of her since well before the particle accelerator explosion. I don’t know what that means, but it will probably help her to get her powers back and create some new questions to be answered. I’m a bit sick of this forgetful Harry, who is apparently the prototype of what DeVoe sees the new humans being like, but I did enjoy Cecile taking on an unexpected new power which found her hilariously taking on the personalities of those around her. The stoned pizza deliveryman was fun, but I preferred her take on Caitlin, which was very funny.

What I’m Watching: Roseanne

Roseanne: Season 10, Episode 8 “Netflix and Pill” (B)

Being so into television, I find that conversation with friends often turns to what we’re watching, and I’m definitely one of the few in my circles still keeping up with this show. I’m asked how this show supports Trump and his administration, and to me the best examples are the subtle digs that get turned into comedy about how no one in this family can afford to make a decent living and buy what they need because of how the deck is stacked against them in favor of some other, which may well be the masses. The news that Roseanne has been taking a whole lot of pain pills that didn’t belong to her elicited an immediate and serious response from Dan, one which shows how much he wants to make sure she doesn’t remain addicted and that says that he’ll find a way to pay for this surgery that she has been putting off because she doesn’t believe they can afford it. It’s a far realer issue than most of the content on this show, which is all presented through a comedic lens as a way to process it. Darlene didn’t need to put much effort in to get the job that Crystal was retiring from, and that appeal of the full benefits package was all the impetus she needed. Tim Bagley’s guest appearance as the hotel concierge was another portrayal of how those in the working class are often looked down upon by those more fortunate, though you’d have to hope that no institution employee would be quite as condescending as he was.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 4, Episode 11 “Insane in the Germ Brain” (B)

It was just confirmed earlier this week that this show’s next season will be its last, and I’m not too disappointed given that five years is hardly a bad run in this day and age, especially considering this hardly seemed like the CW’s priority with just one out of four seasons slotted for the fall and renewals always coming later than the rest of the network’s slate. I think about how much this show has transformed each season, with the introduction of Fillmore Graves as an out-and-proud zombie force in season three and then the new world order in this place this season. I’d like to think that the show will now have a renewed sense of purpose and direction, all trying to get towards a specific end that helps to better the world or make it all the more chaotic. Isobel’s death in this episode, coming just after her mother finally made it to see her, refocuses everything in a tragic lens, and it’s going to be hard for the good guys to bounce back from that loss. Chase shooting one of Major’s soldiers in the head after a screw-up on an otherwise extremely successful mission shows that he’s transformed into a tyrant, one that should be opposed in a more active way than Liv secretly scratching people. Maybe Peyton can do more to help improve zombie-human relations on her trip to the capitol, but she has a lot stacked against her, most notably Angus and his now very well-known preachings about how zombiekind should overtake its inferior predecessors.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 3, Episode 18 “Shelter from the Storm” (B-)

I don’t really get how this show’s time travel hypothesis works, with the heroes from the future traveling slowly back to their home with one passenger able to make a decision midway through the journey that he wanted to turn back and stay in the present. I’m not nearly as well-versed in these theories as I should be given my enthusiasm for time travel on television and in film, but it does seem that the ability to come back to another era to change history could be used more helpfully than it has been so far. I remember how on “Smallville” there was a “no tights, no flights” rule and that only in much later seasons did Clark actually become Superman, and I feel like the unfortunate equivalent here is the inexplicable obsession with cape tricks, turning Supergirl into a well-trained fighter and more than just a do-gooder hero. With Reign seemingly impervious to every possible thing they try against her, I’m not convinced that Kara tapping into her humanity is going to be enough to hold her off for a staggering five episodes left to go in this season. Alex going to find Ruby at Lex’s invisible mansion wasn’t a necessary step and in fact proved destructive since she left her cell phone for her to be able to call Sam, and now Ruby is going to be haunted by the sight of her mother’s face while she was possessed by Reign. At least M’yrnn got to contribute something positive to the fight, a win he could really use right now given his negative outlook on his future.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What I’m Watching: Barry (Season Finale)

Barry: Season 1, Episode 8 “Chapter Eight: Know Your Truth” (B+)

I’m not sure how I was expecting this season to end, but this finale managed to wrap up most of the active threads and send us in an uncertain new direction with Barry ready to live his new life as an actor, doomed to be haunted by his actions. While I like Barry and actor Bill Hader, my clear favorite of this season has been Noho Hank, played by Anthony Carrigan. He’s an overall sweet guy, one who was ready to call Barry to thank him for his friendship and warn him that he shouldn’t return to acting class if he wanted to live. Fortunately, and perhaps purposely, he wasn’t in the garage when Ruslan was building stocks to fancifully kill Fuches and then Barry took out Goran and everyone else just in time to save him. Fuches seemed more angry with Barry that he was abandoning what he thought was his calling than anything else, and Barry being welcomed in by Sally when he showed up to say goodbye set him on a very different path than he had expected. Flashing forward to an idyllic weekend at Cousineau’s cabin made it seem like everything was going great, with some logic gaps still present in Barry’s life plan with Sally, like switching roles each night for the many theoretical repeat attendees of their play. Cousineau sharing Barry’s speech about being a hitman was a low point, one that forced Barry to presumably kill Detective Moss. I’ve greatly enjoyed this show all season and look forward to whatever comes next in year two. Now, let’s get Carrigan nominated for an Emmy along with Hader!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Anthony Carrigan as Noho Hank

Monday, May 21, 2018

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley (Season Finale)

Silicon Valley: Season 5, Episode 8 “Fifty-One Percent” (B+)

I was ready to kill Richard when it appeared that we were going to be treated to a season six with Pied Piper being owned by a gloating, reenergized Gavin Belson. Instead, the often impulsive coder and CEO planned ahead for once, putting his vulgar new signature catchphrase to use after stalling just long enough to have Colin put his new users onto the network so that all of the invading phones from Yao and Laurie could be booted. Fortunately, Colin seems to be closest to my favorite character on this show, who was woefully underused this season - Big Head - hard to offend and more than happy to help when his friendship is needed. It’s good to see that all this hard work paid off and that things may be headed in a positive direction for them, finally, with Monica showing them their massive new offices which will include dozens of employees and new divisions given the scope of their product, an incredible contrast to their diminutive space acquired by Jared what feels like so long ago. I love that Gilfoyle expressed some sort of moderate affection for Monica, and that Dinesh was able to save the day by giving the trooper a ride in the Tesla he bought for his employee. I wish that this season had been longer since I feel like it flew by, and though it wasn’t the best one we’ve seen, this show continues to be well worth watching. I look forward to seeing season six when it returns next year, and hope that it will continue to be rewarded with deserved Emmy nominations come this summer.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Thomas Middleditch as Richard

What I’m Watching: Timeless (Season Finale)

Timeless: Season 2, Episodes 9 and 10 “The General” and “Chinatown” (B-)

There’s a lot to unpack here, and as of this writing, this show has yet to be renewed or cancelled by NBC. The team’s trip back to the Civil War era was full of predictable tropes like Rufus being all too willing to pose as a slave without an exit strategy while Harriet Tubman demonstrated her impressive ability to get stuff done. That was followed by an expected betrayal by Jessica, who apparently had been working for Rittenhouse her entire life, getting close to Wyatt but not killing them all because she still does love him? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, since she seems to be pregnant but doesn’t want to be with Wyatt even after Emma went and killed both Carol and Nicholas just because she couldn’t stand them telling her what to do anymore. Why all four Rittenhouse operatives that we know by name and face were together looking for Gia and waiting for the team to show up is an inconsistency akin to high-ranking crew members and captains going on away missions on “Star Trek,” and now we’re expected to believe that all of Rittenhouse will take orders from Emma after she executed their previous leader? Rufus still dying was a confirmation that the universe does in fact correct itself after an attempted disruption, but then we got the biggest shock of all with the arrival of a second lifeboat containing rugged presumably future versions of Wyatt and Lucy. That’s the kind of invigorating twist that this show has needed for a while now, and I’d be pumped for a third season based on that, even though there are many questions to answer that I doubt this show will bother to address. Like last year, I wouldn’t champion this show over others, but I’m definitely intrigued about what a revitalized and more action-packed third season could look like.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Goran Visnjic as Flynn

Friday, May 18, 2018

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 3, Episode 8 “All the Willburys” (B)

This episode started to address what might happen next on this show now that Chuck is no longer pursuing Axe, but then it all got stopped before it had a chance to really get going. Chuck Sr. and Jack showing up to end the indulgence of Chuck’s fantasies made both him and Wendy very angry and defensive, but they should have stopped such reckless and public behavior a long time ago if he actually wanted to be governor since Axe could easily have had his guys find out about it if he doesn’t already know. That aggressive action, however, seemed to infuriate them so that Chuck wanted to have a weapon against Jack that he could use, prompting him to conduct a sting to ensure that he would have no leverage against him in the future. How quickly things change, of course, as DeGiulio called in his one favor, which was for Chuck not to run for governor, leading to him endorsing Matt Servitto’s Bob Sweeney instead. The two men who had tried to show him they could control him should have realized that giving him a platform to speak without knowing for sure what he would say was a bad idea, and he showed how powerful his words could be when he chewed Bryan out in front of the entire office staff and fired him. Axe and Wags seemed to have just as much fun dismissing Ari, but he managed to get into Dollar Bill’s head before he left, making sure that Axe Capital isn’t going to steer clear of illegal activities anytime soon. Axe competing with Taylor for the most committed employee isn’t a productive idea, and he’s further alienating his family and a totally enraged Lara, who went off on Wendy in a way we haven’t seen before for daring to talk to her son.

What I’m Watching: Westworld

Westworld: Season 2, Episode 4 “The Riddle of the Sphinx” (B+)

One of my favorite things that shows can do is to bring back a character that was presumed dead or simply written out of the storyline but whose death or departure was never actually shown. I did wonder why it was that Shannon Woodward, who was great on shows like “The Riches” and “Raising Hope,” had such a small role in season one before being apparently taken out by a mysterious figure later revealed to be Bernard. The fact that he was able to subvert his programming enough to chain her up and keep her alive was great, and she’s understandably very pissed. It’s helpful for Bernard to have someone around who understands what’s going on and can speak his language, though we’re seeing that he’s experiencing quite a few glitches which make him experience time in a non-linear fashion, which suggests that Elsie may well no longer be alive since he doesn’t know what’s now and what already happened, including his own murder of a scientist. Without either Dolores or Maeve to anchor the episode, we saw more of William and his efforts to get to Glory, saving Lawrence and his family from Craddock, who was on the warpath, only to be told by Ford, speaking through Lawrence’s daughter, that he was on the wrong track. Watching William, first in his youthful form and then as the Man in Black, have the same conversation with Delos over and over again, was mesmerizing but also indicative of just how much he wanted to perfect this recreation of a person’s life that experienced just as many hiccups as Bernard seems to be. It’s helpful to see plotlines coming together, like the tiger hunter who managed to escape her Native American captors turning out to be none other than William’s daughter, a truly intriguing revelation.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What I’m Watching: Killing Eve

Killing Eve: Season 1, Episode 6 “Take Me to the Hole!” (B+)

All of our characters were in much closer contact than ever before in this episode, one that highlighted important relationships as Eve pressed on in the wake of Frank’s murder. Not only did Carolyn reveal that she has a close history with Vladimir, she also knows Konstantin by name! Eve didn’t like either of them when she met them, and it’s interesting to see her go behind Carolyn’s back and enlist her son’s help in digging up dirt that could help pressure Vladimir to release Nadia. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know that she’s too late, thanks to the behind-bars effort of Villanelle, who had no qualms about checking herself into prison for a few days. She’s definitely not meant for confinement, flirting with the guards and then fighting back, something that quickly earned her harsh treatment, though she also managed to get two guards killed in very little time. She nearly got spotted by Eve when she was being led through the yard, and accomplished her mission with typical flair and style. Sadly for her, it appears that Konstantin may have tricked her into accepting this job, now locked up with no one to help get her released and apparently subjugated to a medical regimen that should have everyone convinced she’s crazy. Let’s see how long it takes Eve to find her and if she’s the one to help her get out, if only to ensure that she doesn’t escape justice and has to answer specifically for all the crimes she committed rather than whatever allegedly got her into jail.

Pilot Review: Patrick Melrose

Patrick Melrose (Showtime)
Premiered May 12 at 9pm

I don’t always get to all of the miniseries that air these days, though the lines are becoming increasingly blurred with one-shot limited series that end up being renewed for a second season even if the source material doesn’t extend beyond that. Showtime’s latest is set to run for just five episodes, over the course of as many weeks. The big draw here is that Benedict Cumberbatch is the star. He has picked up a number of accolades for his TV work on “Sherlock” and earned an Oscar nomination a few years back for “The Imitation Game,” and so it’s completely worth noting the projects he chooses. This is quite the role, an adult man hooked on alcohol and a number of drugs trying to cope with the death of the father who was very abusive to him. Cumberbatch is indisputably excellent, and the best parts of his performance are when he acknowledges the voices in his head and reacts almost in annoyance that other people can hear either them or whatever he’s saying back to the person he believes he’s conversing with. We didn’t see much of his mother, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, in this episode, but Hugo Weaving, best known for playing Agent Smith in “The Matrix,” made quite an impression in just a few short flashback scenes as his father. Allison Williams, from “Girls” and “Get Out,” stood out a bit more as the American date who really wasn’t into what he was selling. This is an intense trip of a show, and I think that this first dose was more than enough for me.

How will it work as a series? This show is based on novels by Edward St. Aubyn, and so there’s presumably a good deal of material to cover over the next four episodes that will explain the events that made Patrick into who he is and whether he’s able to recover from this latest crushing blow to his livelihood or if his out-of-control, addictive lifestyle is going to kill him first.
How long will it last? I don’t see any reason to expect that this will continue past its initial five-episode plan, mainly because I believe that the story is contained within it. Reviews seem to be mostly positive, and Showtime airing it on Saturday nights rather than its regular Sunday programming night helps to distinguish it as more of a special event than a continuing series.

Pilot grade: B

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What I’m Watching: Lost in Space

Lost in Space: Season 1, Episode 5 “Transmission” (B+)

All of a sudden, we have tons of people on this planet hanging out right by the Robinsons’ ship, yet we still managed to get individual storylines for all our main characters. The most important interactions were those between Don West, Dr. Smith, and the Robinson family members who got more information about who the two of them are as a result. Don being mocked by Judy for being less than brave about his broken nose was by far the most entertaining part, and everything else just demonstrated how masterful and manipulative a liar Dr. Smith continues to be, especially when she gets backed into a corner. She dismissed Don’s accusations of stranding him and leaving him for dead, going so far as to claim to forgive him for not finding the meaningless treasure she sent him out to find. She also spun a story when confronted by Judy about what Don really did and then proactively got John distracted by spilling the beans about Will and the robot. Fortunately, the robot showed up just in time to stop that dinosaur creature, and Will was able to control it after his kill command nearly went too far and took out some of the innocent people from the colony. Maureen’s solo mission, which almost got her very injured, was commendable, and we’re now seeing just how far she’ll go to make sure that anyone she loves is protected, no matter the circumstances. The Resolute isn’t coming for them anytime soon, but at least Maureen is focusing on the right ideas.

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 2, Episode 8 “Easels and War Paint” (B+)

It’s a wonder that Carl didn’t end up dead after all given how completely horrible he is, but his decision to fire Sheila for not showing up sent things in an interesting direction. Sheila was understandably mad at Joel for bumbling and not refusing to continue working with him, and how nice it was that, after everything, Joel spent $9 on a business card proof so that he could demonstrate his dedication to starting their own business to work for themselves. It was very entertaining to retrace the steps Sheila took during her blackout, and she was definitely disturbed when the moment of murder became clear and they saw her pounce on the Nazi and devour him in the middle of the parking lot. I like that she had no patience for Joel worrying about their carbon footprint given the number of dish gloves they go through, and she had a decent counterpoint with the fact that every time they kill someone, they drive less. She was awfully proud of herself for encouraging Ann to back off these disappearances to focus on her painting, but unfortunately those paintings are all about the very disappearances and mysteries involving our favorite couple. Abby telling Lisa that she and Eric were dating in order to get Dan’s goggles provided some nice time for the two of them together, revealing just how lonely Lisa is and eager to make someone else up and showing Abby that maybe she’s much too extreme for poor Eric, who doesn’t even want to graffiti anything and couldn’t hit Christian with a book like Abby did. In better news, I’m always nervous that watching a show weeks after all its episode premiered means that it will be cancelled by the time I finish, but this one just got renewed last week for a third season, which is extremely deserved and exciting.

What I’m Watching: Sneaky Pete (Season Finale)

Sneaky Pete: Season 2, Episode 10 “Switch” (B+)

It’s deeply disconcerting to me that this show debuted its second season more than two months ago and has been yet to be renewed, especially considered Amazon reupped less than a week after season one premiered. This show is immensely deserving of a third season, with a finale that wasn’t quite as clean-cut as season one and opening the door to much more internal strife in hypothetical future episodes. Otto may well have been this episode’s MVP, refusing to consider himself and Sam even and then solving two problems by introducing the two thugs trying to kill Julia’s skip to each other. Frank killing Luca as revenge for murdering Joe was a similarly helpful solution, though it seems that the acid-loving madman was alive long enough to Maggie to get her revenge by destroying the money right in front of him. Marius’ con was perfectly executed, with his fake FBI friends playing their parts well, but unfortunately he didn’t see Maggie double-crossing him. Her parting gift seems to have been not to blow his cover, but Julia has been paying attention and made the bold decision to go to Bagwell to understand just who her alleged ex really is. That coupled with a big reveal set up about how Carly’s parents actually died more than make the case for season three, which leaves Audrey home free thanks to Taylor’s frame job that Joyce totally figured out. This show was one of my favorites to watch this season, and I sincerely hope season three will soon be confirmed.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Jane Adams as Maggie

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What I’m Watching: Atlanta (Season Finale)

Atlanta: Season 2, Episode 11 “Crabs in a Barrel” (B+)

I’m reading all of these reviews and recaps about how this is the best - and most layered - comedy on television right now, and though I really don’t agree, I do see its merits and how it works to address societal issues and preconceptions. The scene in the Hasidic-run passport expediting office was one that showed how a population that many make assumptions about might still be better off in the long term than African-Americans who will be forever marginalized due purely to the color of their skin. Earn should never have asked that question, of course, but let’s call it him trying to step up and be the manager he’s always supposed to have been, listening to Paper Boi’s request for a Jewish guy rather than the black man they met. Earn leaving the gun in his backpack as he was going through security was an enormous mistake, but he acted fast and all three of our protagonists got to just walk away and board their plane while someone else took the fall for it. Paper Boi did seem to moderately approve of Earn finally taking a bold action that benefited them, and maybe he won’t get fired as he expects to when they get to Europe. Going to the parent-teacher conference at his daughter’s school only to learn that Lottie is advanced and that apparently her school is awful and there’s no place for her to go there was a harsh bit of reality that’s certainly exaggerated in how it might play out but not so much in the way that things really are. There’s no word yet on a third season of this show, but as long as Donald Glover is up for it, this critically-acclaimed hit will be back.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Donald Glover as Earn

Pilot Review: Motherland

Motherland (Sundance Now)
Premiered May 10

With so many networks broadcasting to American viewers these days, it’s easy to find plenty of international programming that might previously not have been available to watch. One such series that has arrived to great acclaim is “Catastrophe,” distributed by Amazon, and now another show involved Sharon Horgan behind the scenes is arriving from BBC Two via Sundance Now’s streaming service. There have been a number of shows in recent years and throughout TV history about motherhood and the many demands it places upon those given an unreasonable amount to do by unsupportive, absent, or simply absent-minded fathers. In its opening scene, this show encapsulated it all thanks to the brilliantly unhinged performance of Anna Maxwell Martin as Julia, the mother who was cursing out speed bumps and running unnecessary red lights to get her kids to school only to find out that they were on break, and then try to cover up for it by making up an allegation about some random kid bullying her daughter. Among the other highlights of this episode were Liz casually chopping off her finger while trying to break apart the frozen cheese she had in her freezer, and Julia’s fervent hunger leading to Lucy Punch’s Amanda announcing the omelette she was going to be making for her, prompting the naive Kevin to request one of his own. This show is somewhat fun but not one that feels vital, just British enough to be less than inviting thanks to the general awkward dispositions of its characters.

How will it work as a series? Julia doesn’t seem to have any qualms about infiltrating the Alpha Mums group, but that’s also because she doesn’t let things like shame or embarrassment stand in her way, too fed up with the world to be held back by others. There should be some fun and a whole lot of uncomfortable moments along the way - viewers should know what to expect after this pilot.
How long will it last? Despite only decent reviews from critics in America, this show was a hit after debuting in September 2016 on BBC Two as nothing more than a pilot. Its first season went well and its second is already on the way. I see no reason why Sundance Now wouldn’t want to keep airing this show if it continues.

Pilot grade: B

Pilot Review: Safe

Safe (Netflix)
Premiered May 10

Michael C. Hall is an incredible actor who first became known for his role in the ensemble of “Six Feet Under,” and then got to anchor his own show as the undisputed lead and title character of “Dexter.” The successful Showtime serial killer drama went off the air in 2013, and Hall hasn’t appeared on television, aside from a one-episode guest spot as John F. Kennedy on “The Crown,” since. Now, he’s back with his first Netflix show, sporting a British accent that I did not expect to hear. Hall’s strengths on his first two big TV series were to get at the heart of a character who had many secrets and presented a different, more normal exterior to the world. The same is definitely true of Tom as far as the secrets are concerned, though it seems that he’s not the one keeping most of them and that almost everyone around him is hiding something. I go into shows not knowing what they’re about, and watching this pilot didn’t provide my with any quality or answers. It doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, and I’m surprised that a show starring Hall made it to air with such an unspecific and flimsy premise. The only other cast member I recognized was Marc Warren, who plays Pete, from his much-despised arc on “The Good Wife” as Kalinda’s ex-husband. I won’t be back to find out more about what this show’s title means and why its characters exist - this one fell completely flat.

How will it work as a series? Pete’s daughter is still missing, and now he has reason to suspect that his best friend may have been involved. There are plenty of other messes surrounding him, but not one of them has demonstrated itself to be worthwhile of focus just yet, making this entire setup unappealing.
How long will it last? I still don’t understand why a show with Hall, who fans love from “Dexter,” hasn’t been promoted more intensively by Netflix, with its Thursday launch hardly an endorsement. The reviews seem to be decent, far more so than I expected, and so I guess a second season is possible though hardly likely in my opinion.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 2, Episode 10 “AKA Pork Chop” (B+)

This show manages to be so many things at once, and when it starts to veer towards something less interesting, it doesn’t stay there for long. I was worried that watching Alisa get tormented by Dale in prison was going to become tiresome, but it took a very different turn after she initially mentioned that she didn’t eat meat and he started becoming far less kind than he originally was. Jessica is, primarily, a private investigator, and so it was somewhat comforting to see her start tailing Dale, realizing that there was more to the story when she saw the burn marks on her mother’s arm. She managed to deduce that he was a hunter of sorts, and while she still managed to fell him even after he pepper-sprayed her, her true act of self-defense turned out to be a fatal one, leaving her in a position that is going to be near-impossible to explain or hide. Trish bombed her audition, but she’s doing far more disconcerting things, like knocking Malcolm out and putting him in the trunk of the car so that she can go over Carl on her own. The news that Jessica gave Trish was the most soul-crushing of all, revealing that not only was Shane a con artist, but Inez was too, making her way into Hogarth’s life and getting close to her only to con her, rob her, and disappear. Hogarth had nothing left to lose before this, but now she’s been deceived and may not have the energy left to go after Inez and Shane to punish them.

Monday, May 14, 2018

What I’m Watching: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 2, Episode 3 “Knuckleball” (B)

This episode had me doubting my continued allegiance to this show, since I don’t feel that it’s necessary to watch two men engage in a foursome before masturbating with their backs against each other on the baseball field. At least it got more relevant when Brockmire got paired with Raj to cohost a game, which ultimately wasn’t all that bad since they do sort of balance each other out. I’m impressed that, once again, Charles found a way to help Brockmire be Brockmire and counteract things like the Fallon effect to get back into the good graces of the people. Filling his binoculars with alcohol was clever, and things got extreme quickly when he soaked the tampon in alcohol so that, all chemistry and any sort of educated science aside, he could get drunk during the game without Raj noticing. Having Pedro play his last big game made it relatively personal for Brockmire, who went to bat for someone other than himself or Charles to make sure that Pedro’s good name wasn’t dragged through the dirt before he made his big comeback. What changed my mind about this show altogether after an episode that got better over the course of the half-hour was the moment I’ve been waiting for all season. My mouth dropped when Jules answered the door. I couldn’t be more excited to have Amanda Peet back on this show, and I love that the “Starring Amanda Peet” credit came up at the bottom of that screen when she got him to back up and slammed the door in his face. Let’s hope that this isn’t the battle that he chooses not to fight since this show desperately needs her around to compensate for Brockmire’s excessiveness.

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2, Episode 3 “Baggage” (B+)

June was so close, and now she doesn’t have any hope of ever being as free as she just was. At the beginning of the episode, the choice of music showed how June was taking back her life, trying to get into shape and make the most of her isolating existence, waiting with no knowledge of what instructions would come next. Pleading with her driver not to leave her behind led her straight into what counts as the most normative life possible in this new world order. You’d think she would know not to look out the window when no one is supposed to be home, but she was bold enough to try to reclaim her life and wander outside in the subtle, conforming clothes of her unwilling host. It was miraculous that she wandered through the woods and found the aistrip, managing to prove to the pilot that she was who she said she was, and then she could have been home free. Instead, those shots prevented the plane from taking off, and there’s nothing quite as finite and frightening as an immediate execution, which took the pilot out of the equation. Let’s hope they at least know who she is and that the Waterfords are able to help her avoid the fate of that uncooperative pregnant handmaid, or something worse. Knowing that her mother, played by Cherry Jones, was an activist who chastised her daughter for not protesting enough only to be apprehended by Gilead early on gives us plenty of context for who June wants to be. Up in Canada, Moira seems to have adjusted to how life is there, and I sincerely hope that she and Luke haven’t forgotten that June is very much in need of a rescue after her latest and bravest escape attempt.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 3, Episode 7 “Hold Onto Your Ovaries” (B+)

This is one of the shows that I watch each week with my wife, and she’s not at all happy with how things are progressing. I, for one, am relieved that this thruple is back together since it was difficult to see them apart, and I think that, complicated as their relationship may be and surely will continue to be, they’re good for each other. Leaving the party to go have sex is their go-to move, putting aside the real problems to indulge in each others’ bodies, something that may help in the short term but won’t resolve everything that’s sure to come up again. Emma revealing that she had already assigned certain baby tasks to the other two seemed like a bold statement given how newly reinvited to this party she is, and Izzy alleging that she doesn’t change diapers seemed like it can’t possibly hold up if she’s going to legitimately contribute to raising this child. The far more pressing issue is where they’re going to live, since Emma making more than four times what Jack made with her job in Seattle is the most compelling reason to relocate there, but the three of them have entirely different ideas of what they really want. At least Carmen and Dave seem to be doing okay for the moment, and Nina was even making some progress with Shaun. Leave it to Andy to choose that moment to show back up in her life.

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 2, Episode 6 “Chapter 14” (B)

After the horrifying revelation about what happened in order to give Lenny her body back, I suppose this was the only way for David to be able to process it, experiencing multiple possible realities where his life took a very different course. Among the most compelling - and comprehensible - of the options was the one in which he worked as the coffee boy and managed to impress Molly Hagan’s Laura by helping her avoid a disastrous deal and then rising way up to the point that he was in charge. His ability to read minds presented very clearly, and he used it first as something that excited him and then as a weapon to yield against others, like Amy, who came asking for a new house because of her unfaithful husband. Seeing the other ways that things could have turned out, like David the homeless man wielding his powers in an uncontrolled and destructive way against the teams sent to apprehend him and Kerry chopping him apart, showed that what we saw, which was David being arrested when Amy was late to meet him and ensure that he was on his meds, was how things should have happened. Where we go from here isn’t clear at all, but David can now obviously appreciate just how vital Amy was in her selfless devotion to him, and he’s going to use her loss as a way to go after Farouk with a vengeance. I can’t imagine it will happen, but I’d love to see Katie Aselton earn an Emmy nomination after FX confirmed earlier this week that she’d been submitted in the guest actress category.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

What I’m Watching: New Girl (Penultimate Episodes)

New Girl: Season 7, Episodes 5 and 6 “Godparents” and “Mario” (C+)

There are a number of things on this show that have never been as funny as its writers and cast seemed to think, like Jess’ crazy overzealousness in certain situations and Schmidt’s inability to fit in at work despite how hard he tries. The former was on full display in the second of these two episodes, as she fell in love with the dog that Sarah Baker’s Judith came to show her for adoption and didn’t let up at all, making her think that she was full-on insane. I think I as a viewer was more annoyed than Jess’ dad with the time it was taking Nick to execute the perfect proposal, and I suppose it’s fitting that he finally pulled it off by surprising Jess in the middle of an entirely different situation with her putting the pieces together. Cece’s immediate failure to cover for Schmidt with Ruth duties when he went back to work was hardly believable, and Nick made it all a whole lot worse before Schmidt successfully incorporated his love for his family into the pitch. Cece wanting to get pregnant again brought out some issues of very overdramatized behavior from both of them, and it’s not even worth touching Winston and the glasses that helped him not be colorblind for the first time, which proved to be only slightly enjoyable as an experience. Casting J.B. Smoove as his not-dad was a far more believable exercise. I’d really like to believe that the final two episodes of this show will redeem it, but I’m not holding my breath at this point.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 4, Episode 21 “Harry and the Harrisons” (B)

After an episode that ended with the introduction of a mysterious speedster and also Marlize leaving DeVoe just as his plans were about to come to fruition, we had an entirely DeVoe-less hour that found the team trying to figure out a few other problems to help them mount their best defense yet. Iris wanting to expose DeVoe through journalism feels a bit idealistic, but I suppose there’s something to be said for getting the public rallied against a cause when they know metahumans to be a very real thing. I’d hope that he wasn’t actually walking around in his own skin but rather as Ralph, unaware that anyone would be looking for him, but it’s good to know that the city wants to help and that they may just be able to use something against DeVoe that he didn’t see coming. I love that they reached out to Amunet, who was posing as a southern poker game runner. Katee Sackhoff is always fantastic, and her fanciful fake British accent adds to the charm as she chews scenery as the latest villain to be moderately rehabilitated, not completely changed but open to less deadly resolutions against our heroes. That eye snake was definitely creepy, and at least it won’t be back to threaten anyone. Cisco getting the Council of Harrys together was a recipe for silliness, but at least it managed to be entertaining while it lasted, and may provide some hope for Harry’s future.

What I’m Watching: Roseanne

Roseanne: Season 10, Episode 7 “Go Cubs” (B)

This was an undeniably entertaining episode, one that put all of Roseanne’s prejudices towards her Muslim neighbors out in the open. Tackling ignorance, immigration, and all that is especially interesting on a show like this that paints Roseanne as the sympathetic protagonist, similar most to the racist Archie Bunker, endearing despite the horrible things she baselessly thinks about people. Having Jackie there is like the opposite of Karen Waker on “Will and Grace,” a parody representation of what the other side thinks. In this case, Jackie was more than happy to share what they thought their neighbors’ wi-fi password was after Roseanne was managing to be mildly nice to them. You’d think that Samir would realize that ordering tons and tons of fertilizer by clicking too much on Amazon would probably make him look especially suspicious, but no one ever accused this show of being complex in its portrayal of people its main characters judge based on their appearance. Roseanne chewing out the cashier for airing her own discriminatory feelings hardly had the effect it should have since she just moved on to try to use a coupon, with the threat of telling her manager serving as the likely extent of her action. We briefly saw Andy Milder from “Weeds” as Al, who delivered the bad news to Dan that he wouldn’t be using his crew, prompting Dan to lament the use of “illegals,” a term he was warned not to use around anyone concerned with political correctness.

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 4, Episode 10 “Yippee Ki Brain, Motherscratcher!” (B)

I liked this episode’s title and expected a few more “Die Hard” references than we got from the opening word duel between Liv and Clive. Police brutality is hardly a laughing matter in this day and age, but this was more about flashing back to the kind of 80s and 90s use of excessive force in tackling subjects, however entertaining that ever was. Dale suspending Liv was the first actual professional consequence in a long time that we’ve seen her get, though her subversive activities have a lot less to do with law enforcement than with her smuggling efforts. It was only a matter of time before Major found out about what Liv was doing, and while I suspected that he would discover it in some dramatic way that would make them both feel terrible, it was a much simpler moment, one that showed how unsurprised he was by the fact that she was trying to save the world in this way. I’m curious to see what will happen now that he knows and will have to lie to Chase, who is already quite on edge about everything. Angus trying to impress Blaine by having his flock devour the woman who made his childhood miserable was certainly an off-putting attempt at parenting, and I have to wonder how long that church is going to be able to last with its very frequent public murder scenes. I’m sure diehard Rob Zombie fans were thrilled to see Enrico Colantoni in what’s likely to be his final appearance on this show.