Saturday, June 30, 2018

What I’m Watching: Westworld

Westworld: Season 2, Episode 9 “Vanishing Point” (B+)

I’m amazed that it’s been almost a full week since the season finale aired and I haven’t had either of the final two episodes spoiled for me, and with six hours of television ahead of the finale in the queue, I’m hoping that will continue. This episode was unusual because it actually provided some direct answers and, more importantly, showed us specific scenes that happened in the real world. I don’t want to read any recaps to confirm that what I saw was indeed what I saw for fear of stumbling upon a critical spoiler, but I think the gist is clear. William’s addiction to Westworld pushed his wife to the edge, exacerbating a drinking problem that may have started as a result of his frequent absences and making him feel lonelier and lonelier as he pursued the end of the game. Killing all of the people who showed up and then shooting his daughter because he thought she was Ford trying to test him shows how far he’s gone with no hope of return, and seeing Ford present his initial challenge to William doesn’t justify the fact that he has now killed the only person who still mattered to him. Teddy shooting himself in front of Dolores doesn’t feel as consequential since he is a host and could therefore be easily received, something I don’t believe is possible if the guests die within the park. Bernard is the true hero of this season, fighting valiantly against his programming to prove that he can be good. I’m excited for the finale and hopeful that it will be intense, enthralling, and satisfying in whatever way this show can be.

Friday, June 29, 2018

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys (Season Premiere)

12 Monkeys: Season 4, Episode 1 “The End” (B)

I never understand why networks feel the need to release an entire season over the course of a short time period since, unless it’s dropped all on the same day on a streaming service. It just doesn’t feel like the network is all that invested in the success of its programming, cramming all the episodes in instead of spreading them out over the course of ten to thirteen weeks. After airing all ten hours of season three in a single weekend last year, the eleven episodes of season four will be spread across four weeks, the third of which is tonight. I’m going to stretch it out as I usually do, watching a few quickly as I catch up on all my shows but still taking them one episode at a time. I like a lot of things about this show but I’m not quite as into the mindless action which involves gun battles that end only with fringe characters dying. Olivia, the newly cemented Witness, arriving with an entire city to destroy the nuisance that is Jones and her time-traveling facility once and for all, is a formidable and unforgiving nemesis, and though she believes that she’s taken them out, she’s not going to stop once it’s clear that they’re poised to be far more influential than they knew. Returning to the moment before Cole went back in time to first meet Cassie is fascinating, and I’m so interested to see where things go from here. I was thrilled about the notion of two different Jennifers defying a paradox to work together on heists, and the revelation that she’s just imagining separate versions of herself is a real letdown.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Resuming Soon!

You may have noticed a lack of posts here in the past week. A busy couple of weeks during which I fell behind on all my TV was followed by the unfortunate news that my grandmother passed away. I spent much of last week in Florida before returning home for less than 48 hours before departing for a previously-planned two-week trip to Israel. I'm currently in Haifa and trying to focus more on my travel than on my TV, which means posts will be significantly delayed for the time being. Rest assured, I'm still watching TV when I have free moments, and will be back soon with reviews as I write them as well as Emmy predictions in advance of the July 12th nominations announcement. Thanks for your patience!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Round Two: American Woman

American Woman: Season 1, Episode 2 “Changes and the New Normal” (B-)

I was up for giving this show a second chance, but I think that’s enough. The news that there was a warrant out for Steve’s arrest at the end of the first episode was downplayed considerably in this hour, with his participation in a pyramid scheme boiled down to Bonnie being close to losing the house and Steve having a court date coming up. It’s true that accepting money from Kathleen isn’t a great long-term plan, but you’d think that Bonnie might be okay with it to make sure that she doesn’t lose the house. There was plenty of institutional chauvinism on display in this episode, with Diana told that she shouldn’t get the promotion over her dim-witted male coworker because, as a “single gal,” she doesn’t have to support her family. Greg is doing his best to keep his sexual orientation under wraps, getting turned on by a man during an audition and rushing in to have sex with Kathleen while he’s fired up. Bonnie demonstrated her resilience and creativity by selling herself as an asset because of her ability to bribe her friends into not shopping elsewhere, counteracting her complete lack of experience with anything aside from being a “transportation coordinator” in regards to getting her kids to school. Bonnie working up the courage to wait on someone she knew on her first day on the job showed that she’s acclimating, and she’s going to do it with sass too. I’m sure there will be more drama to come, but I’m happy to part ways with this show at this point.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pilot Review: Strange Angel

Strange Angel (CBS All Access)
Premiered June 14

I went into this show without knowing anything about it other than that it was the first original drama to air on CBS’ premium streaming service that wasn’t a continuation or reboot of a previous series. After finishing the hour, I didn’t feel that I came away with much more knowledge, since this show is a real head-scratcher that doesn’t try too hard to explain what it’s about. I’m not at all familiar with Jack Parsons and his role in the creation and development of rockets, and I don’t know anything about the occult ritual group that it appears that he’ll soon become involved with after following his eccentric neighbor. What I did find most interesting wasn’t the plot but the presentation, with Ernest first introduced as a man with an unknown background who definitely seemed off in some way and Jack wide-eyed and watching, trying to figure out what his story was. The more standard scientific showcase of the rocket engineering and funding efforts are also mildly interesting, though Jack seems way too wild and unpredictable while the more stoic Richard exercises reserved caution at every juncture. Though I imagine there’s more intrigue to be found her, the little I saw of the community Jack seems destined to join – described in synopses as performing sex magick rituals – was substantially unappealing to me. The hook here wasn’t strong enough, suggesting a character that might be worth watching but failing to hone in and make following his story feel truly urgent and compelling.

How will it work as a series? Ernest, played fanatically by Rupert Friend, in a decent role for the “Homeland” alum, seemed very excited that Jack was following him around, while someone else clearly was angry enough to try to scare his wife off with a threat. The intersection of his scientific work and his extracurricular activities is sure to be sensational, though I’d imagine things will get weird quickly.
How long will it last? It doesn’t appear that this show is getting great reviews, though it’s not all bad. A mixed reaction means that it’s not as strong a case for renewal as CBS All Access’ other offerings, which have proven to be slam dunks. Tentatively, I’d say that this one isn’t going to get renewed, but without any sense of ratings data, it’s impossible to know and could always end up going the other way.

Pilot grade: C+

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What I’m Watching: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 2, Episode 7 “Caught in a Rundown” (B)

I know I sound like a broken record, but shouldn’t Jules have been a crucial participant of any intervention for Brockmire? Maybe she prefers him drunk because then at least she knows they’re both on the same page making bad decisions together. Either way, in this penultimate episode of the season, we finally got to an event that should probably have happened at the very start of this show and will surely happen again since, like Tina Fey in her memorable “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” role, he was drinking through his shirt the entire time. It was fun enough to see the top five people aside from Jules try to get Brockmire to realize that he’s drinking all the time, even if most of them really don’t like him. Charles and Pedro are pretty much the only ones who actually do, and Charles isn’t in Brockmire’s good graces at the moment because of his recent betrayal, even if it really is him looking out for his best interests. Brockmire going after him shows that he does still care for him, and their fates are linked together whether Charles likes it or not. Lucy and Jean haven’t shown much affection for Brockmire in the past and their interference now didn’t feel like a major reintroduction into his life, while Raj managed to impress him by roasting him instead of appealing to him in a kinder way. Opting to drown his sorrows with Carrie Preston’s wild Elle should only make his problems worse, but it should make for an intriguing and worthwhile finale.

What I’m Watching: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4, Episode 2 “Kimmy Has a Weekend!” (B-)

Here we have a sharp return to this show’s more absurdist tendencies, playing up the real world in an extreme way rather than with slightly subtle humor. Somehow, Kimmy has managed to keep her job after the sexual harassment scandal she very innocently created, and now she wants to make sure she’s living an educated and active life. Thinking that she’s judged by others for her time in the bunker helped to explain why she couldn’t see her white privilege, something that was harped on with plenty of exaggeration when she and Titus when shopping together. Walking into the salon and demanding that all of the employees be referred to by their actual names was a winning moment for her, helping to undo the damage done by those who ate salads off the heads of the women working there. Jacqueline is also a major offender, doing exactly what Kimmy hates, and now she’s trying to help an incredibly dumb shlub become an actor just so that she can get him out of her apartment and pretend for her son that she’s not actually so poor that she’s currently living with Kimmy after being discovered in her office. I’m not too into all of this fake television and film that everyone is watching, and it looks like that may continue based on how this episode ended. The best line in an otherwise lackluster episode came from Titus, referencing himself in the third person in typical fashion: “Titus Andromedon doesn’t deliver, he Digiorno’s.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2, Episode 8 “Women’s Work” (B+)

This was a very difficult episode to watch, not only because of the cruel violence we saw from a character who’s been one of the few that isn’t so terrible up until this point, but also because of the tremendous regression it represented. Continuing on the impactful end of the previous episode, we saw Serena and Offred growing much closer thanks to the activities that Offred described as befitting colleagues in another life but decried as heretics in this one. Instead of the extended break from the horrors of Gilead that we got at the start of this season, their liberation was a brief one, with Fred’s return a depressing event, one that turned brutal when Fred understood that Serena had tried to assert herself in his absence, something he couldn’t tolerate even though they had worked together like this “before.” Bringing in a doctor currently serving as a Martha to try to help Janine’s baby was bold, and something tells me that, even if she had been able to save the child, Fred would have punished her anyway. What’s most important is that Serena has reached a breaking point, one that might compel her not only to be more humane to Janine and to Offred, who’s checking on her now, but also to work to change this monstrous society she’s helped to create. Maybe that Canada trip can be truly impactful. As Nick’s wife tries everything possible to please him, he’s turning into exactly the controlling husband she wants him to be, becoming something that he’d never want to as likely the only thing that could help hide everything she suspects about him. Ending the episode with Janine holding the baby was certainly unexpected, proving that true maternal bonding does mean something in a world that's tried to erase it.

What I’m Watching: Humans

Humans: Season 3, Episode 2 (B+)
He may not be particularly emotive, but Max is a good, calm leader, one who wants to make sure that the synths under his care aren’t all unilaterally punished for the crimes of others. He was smart to make sure to get Mattie and Leo out of there as quickly as possible once Agnes indicated that her subordination wasn’t close to over and that she was determined to find whatever he was hiding. Niska wasn’t into following his orders either, and her latest trip allowed us to see Mia springing into action to help protect the refugee synths who arrived looking for some hope of salvation. Though she was originally upset at the idea of having a synth escort because of her role on the commission, Laura found ways to use Stanley to her advantage, helping with the shopping list, catching projectiles thrown by angry people, and calculating the percentage of likely truth in a fellow commission member’s statement. I was questioning why it was that Joe continues to be a part of this show, teaching Toby about work ethic in his moderately successful grocery store, and I guess it’s so that he can help Karen and Sam realize that they’re not nearly as safe as they think they are, even if Sam is able to correct his “inadequacy requires more effort” statement to something a bit more human. Joe hasn’t been useful for a while, so let’s hope that him being featured prominently means that he’s going to an asset rather than the hindrance he’s been since he first tried to have sex with Mia.

What I’m Watching: Legion (Season Finale)

Legion: Season 2, Episode 11 “Chapter 19” (B+)

This was one hell of a transformative episode, showing us that everything we learned from Future Syd about what David would become was indeed true, though it’s possible that knowing what he would do made them act in a way that then caused him to turn. The opening scene was uniquely weird, with David and Farouk transforming into different people, animals, and objects in their midst of their epic battle, animated above their bodies as they participated in a questionably necessary musical number. Syd showing up with a gun pointed at David because she realized that he might not be the hero was a somewhat unexpected but equally inevitable development, and Lenny springing into action to fire two bullets to give David the upper hand was incredibly choreographed, especially with the sideways cinematography showing her walking in the desert carrying her gun. Farouk was felled pretty effectively by that power-cancelling and painful-looking crown, but, as we quickly learned and David did too, it wasn’t him that was on trial. David’s fury was evident when he was trapped in that containment bubble, but Syd telling him that he drugged her and then had sex with her demonstrated how out of touch he is with his own actions. Melanie and Oliver calmly commenting on events from three years in the future without their bodies and a good chunk of their memories opened this episode in a very different way than it ended, with David’s triumphant and terrifying turn, bringing Lenny along with him for a destructive joyride with Blondie firmly in his rear-view mirror. I’m so intrigued to see what happens in season three.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Dan Stevens as David

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 3, Episode 22 “Make It Reign” (B-)

We’re almost finally to the end of this very lengthy saga, and I sincerely hope that whatever happens in the season finale makes all this feel worth it and charts a path for season four that involves completely different plotlines. The one relatively exciting moment in this hour was when Alura decided to jump through the portal with them in full costume, traveling to Earth to help defend her daughter’s planet in a way that none of her other people were willing to do. I’m about ninety percent certain that this will end with Alura making the ultimate sacrifice, along with M’yrnn, to stop the worldkillers, taking her away from Kara just as they’ve finally been reunited. I can’t hope to understand how it is that these worldkillers are created and then can pull in human minds and bodies from elsewhere, but it doesn’t seem like a great idea for the severely weakened Sam to go straight into the lion’s den to combat three very powerful, very angry scorned Kryptonians head-on. I’m also not quite sure how Hank and his father were able to discern that there was trouble afoot at the DEO when they were so involved in this mind-meld of sorts, but it’s good that they’re back in action so that these worldkillers can finally all be felled, returning Supergirl to a more prominent status as the superhero defending Earth who just has to deal with regular old human criminals.

What I’m Watching: Billions (Season Finale)

Billions: Season 3, Episode 12 “Elmsley Count” (B)

Someone I was talking to about this show told me that they were sure this was going to get back to the Chuck-Axe rivalry after all indicators were the opposite, and I certainly didn’t expect to see the hour end with Wendy, Chuck, and Axe sitting together drinking wine and strategizing the best options for revenge against their new enemies. You’d think there would be far too much bad blood at this point for them to do it, but I guess they realize they have much big fish to fry to accomplish their shared goals. I knew that something was coming for Chuck when he so easily set up his takedown of Jock, and all those he had quashed seemed to take great satisfaction in knocking him off his throne. What doesn’t make all that much sense is that Jock was dictating how cases should be handled, and now Bryan, Oliver, and Kate have allied themselves with someone they know to also be corrupt in taking down one corrupt boss. Taylor’s betrayal was nearly as dramatic, and if Axe didn’t seem angry enough at them for their betrayal, Wendy was even more furious at the thought that she could be poached. Both Axe and Taylor working with Grigor is a bad idea, and seeing him slap Hall in the face when he interrupted him showed just how dangerous he is. This has not been my favorite season of the show, often favoring grandstanding speeches and scenery-chewing to legitimate plot developments, but it’s still a decent ride and one I look forward to re-boarding in season four.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Asia Kate Dillon as Taylor

Monday, June 18, 2018

What I’m Watching: Westworld

Westworld: Season 2, Episode 8 “Kiksuya” (B+)

It’s a risky thing to be more than a week behind on this show, and so I’m catching up as quickly as I possibly can (I’ll make it before the finale). What I had read about this episode was that some considered it to be a career-best turn for actor Zahn McClarnon. I think I first encountered him in a regrettable role on the CW’s less-than-quality “Ringer,” but then I got to see him in crucial recurring roles on “The Red Road,” season two of “Fargo,” and of course as Officer Mathias on “Longmire.” I know he was submitted as an Emmy contender for Best Guest Actor for this role, and I’d be surprised if he did get the nomination because I doubt many know who he is, but it would be nice if he got that recognition. What this hour accomplished is that it showed how those hosts who are able to remember things from their previous iterations - previously just Dolores and Maeve - experience their enlightenment through seeing a way out, sharing past memories with someone else, and then watching that entire history be erased when the techs arrive to reprogram and reboot defective, wandering hosts. Having Akecheta tell Maeve’s daughter about everything he learned and went through while Maeve was lying, seemingly unable to be saved, on the table was powerful since she seems to have developed even more incredible powers, and just because she’s not following a map specifically laid out by Ford doesn’t mean she’s not capable of astonishing things, even when she’s not conscious.

Pilot Review: American Woman

American Woman (Paramount)
Premiered June 7 at 10pm

There’s a wave of early feminism being showcased on television now, with series as diverse as “Good Girls Revolt,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and “Good Girls” serving as call-outs to mostly fictionalized acts of defiance against institutional chauvinism. Not all have been hits, but this is clearly a hot subject these days. The newly-branded Paramount Network is launching a few shows at the moment, and this could well be its flagship comedy. There’s a lot that’s recognizable about this show, but its characters do make a distinct impression, particularly its protagonist, Bonnie, who drags her kids out at night to follow her husband and reveal his affair. This is the first starring vehicle for Alicia Silverstone since NBC’s short-lived “Miss Match” a whole fifteen years ago, and she is nothing if not determined to make her character memorable. I’m always happy to see Mena Suvari, the breakout star of “American Beauty” nearly two decades ago, and she does seem to have the second meatiest role on this show. I recognized Cheyenne Jackson from “Glee” as Kathleen’s closeted boyfriend and couldn’t peg James Tupper from “Men in Trees” as Bonnie’s worthless and apparently criminal husband. This show does seem invested in portraying its time period in an in-depth way, and it does commendably on that front. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll be back for another episode to see where it goes, but a half-hour show like this should be harmless enough and, as soon as I’m caught up on all my shows, I should have some time to give it another shot.

How will it work as a series? Bonnie didn’t waste any time in pursuing an official separation, and she seems attached more than anything to holding onto the house. The news that there’s an arrest warrant out for her husband changes the game, but something tells me it’s only going to make Bonnie more determined to seek out and prove her independence from her husband.
How long will it last? The reviews aren’t great, and the ratings are even worse from what I can tell. This show isn’t pulling in the audience it should be, and unless Paramount is especially committed to making this concept work since it’s hot right now, I think one season will be all this show gets.

Pilot grade: B-

Pilot Review: Condor

Condor (Audience Network)
Premiered June 6 at 10pm

DirecTV’s original channel has been doing well recently with its dramas, and it’s no surprise that a counterterrorism thriller would be next on the list. This is one case where I’m glad that I didn’t read the official summary before I watched the first episode since it completely spoils its events. I’m not too fond of seeing defenseless people gunned down in their places of work by assailants since it hits a bit too close to home with real-life shootings happening regularly, and it never gets any more comfortable, even if it’s crucial to the development of the plot. Before our analyst whiz saw his entire office taken out, I noted that this series really is a ticking time bomb show, which I remember John McCain debunking in the powerful documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side” after a clip of terrorist interrogation from “24” played. Joe made the point that Muslim-Americans are allowed to have P.O. boxes and work in football stadiums, and it seems that the man killed before he could unleash this deadly virus may have been framed after all, which suggests that this show is combating the popular notion that all Muslims should be suspected terrorists and that torture can really prevent immediate threats from being carried out. It’s worth noting that this show is based on a 1975 film, “Three Days of the Condor,” from director Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford. Though I haven’t seen that film, I assume this is a pretty stylish update, one that involves lots of sex and nudity to go with all the action and violence. I was pretty sure that was Brendan Fraser in the opening scene and wasn’t sure he would be starring in both this and “Trust,” but it indeed was, and William Hurt is always recognizable by his voice. Star Max Irons is the son of Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons, and he does seem energetic even if he can’t quite mask his British accent. This show does its suspense well but its plot doesn’t appeal enough to me - I’d recommend the superior “Counterpart” instead.

How will it work as a series? The way this episode ending always demands that the next episode be watched, though it’s hard to imagine that Gabrielle will manage to catch Joe and kill him since he’s the main character on the show. The pacing is good even if the story isn’t as original, and I imagine that it won’t take much to entice audiences to return for more as the plot progresses.
How long will it last? Reviews for this show were pretty good, and it’s hard to find much in the ways of ratings data. I suspect that this is the kind of fare that Audience wants to able to present, especially one of its flagships, “Rogue,” ended. I’d expect a season renewal to be announced soon.

Pilot grade: C+

Sunday, June 17, 2018

What I’m Watching: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season Premiere)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4, Episode 1 “Kimmy Is… Little Girl, Big City!” (B)

This review comes considerably after this show first dropped on Netflix, and while I always watch streaming shows one episode per week (much later than most), it’s usually my plan to review the first episode right after it airs, but time got away from me recently. Here’s the first episode of the final season, only it’s actually the first half of the final season, and we might get a movie or two to wrap it all up, so no reason to say goodbye to Kimmy just yet. Starting with a fake credits sequence was moderately entertaining, but this episode ranked more on the bizarre side of things than the entertainingly irreverent one for me. Kimmy’s HR fiasco might not have been so over-the-top had she not thought that dropping her pants would be unobjectionable, and continuing to work there isn’t going to be good for anyone. Titus trying to win Mikey back by pretending to be on a show with Greg Kinnear seems to have actually worked, at least in the genesis of “The Capist” with the actual Kinnear starring on it. It’s good to see Jacqueline in a role that allows her to do something productive, even if she’s still saying all the wrong things when given the opportunity. Leave it to Lillian to help Artie find his eternal resting place by getting his ashes into the members-only club in disguise as cocaine, giving Lillian a huge chunk of cash that she didn’t even realize she would get.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2, Episode 7 “After” (B+)

I know it’s a dangerous thing to be so far behind on this show when two more episodes have aired, but I’m doing my best to catch up after a busy few weeks. This post-attack installment was very effective, for the first time in a while linking the three main threads of the show and displaying what was happening in relation to the same events in each place. Fred survived the attack, which is a surprise but also means that he’s incapacitated, forcing Serena, Nick, and Offred to work together to ensure that their house won’t be impacted by this investigation, which, to help maximize the impact of the terror, is punishing entire homes for what one member did. Serena sharing that she used to vacation with Cushing before all this was a vulnerable moment, and one that gave Offred the energy to stress the importance of making sure that he believed she was taken rather than having run away. Serena is asserting herself in a major way now that Fred is no longer able to be in charge, and having Offred copy-edit the new orders was a huge gain. Maybe while she’s inciting individuality by introducing herself as June to other handmaids, she can also help change the world they live in to something more tolerable. Serena handing her a pen was a big moment. Seeing how Little Canada hears the news of the attack with actual names reported rather than a funeral ceremony with red veils was intense, and I can now understand why Emily and Janine were sent away to prison since their crimes can be forgiven as long as the roster of handmaids remains full.

What I’m Watching: Humans (Season Premiere)

Humans: Season 3, Episode 1 (B+)

This is a show that has largely flown under the radar, broadcasting first on Channel 4 in the UK and then on AMC, reaching a third season without much fanfare. This show truly is underrated since it’s a subtle but extremely effective picture of what advanced technology could look like if it wasn’t entirely rebellious but just malfunctioning and desiring of a right to direct its own existence. It’s been more than a year since season two finished airing on AMC, and so I had forgotten that Mattie did something major that changed everything. Picking up a full year after Day Zero, in which 110,000 casualties were suffered, shows the dire state of things, with the synths we know hiding out in a camp undisturbed by the authorities but just waiting for the big crackdown that finally came after the bombing which turned out to have been executed by a group of violent synths. Laura really is trying to hardest to advocate for them, but it’s hard when no one seems interested in giving them a chance and one sector of the population is making them all seem like villains. As usual, Niska hasn’t really chosen a side, seeking her own personal vengeance against whoever it was that perpetrated the attack, and Karen is training Sam to pick his nose like a good little human boy so that he won’t get spotted as a synth. The most resounding line of the hour came from Mia in response to another instance of irreversible system failure: “Death. Call it death.”

Friday, June 15, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 2, Episode 10 “Chapter 18” (B+)

For a show where it’s often hard to figure out what’s really going on, there was no mistaking what happened at the end of this episode, with Farouk gazing out into the distance, back in his own body. Only we’re not sure he’s really the villain anymore, since he did manage to trick David into torturing Oliver while he was being put back into his body, but that said much more about David than anyone else. Melanie is definitely not acting like herself, but that doesn’t mean what she’s saying is illegitimate. Syd served as a very effective stand-in for the audience in this episode, slowly realizing with clip after clip of mostly things we’ve already seen that David has gone down a dark road. The enthusiasm with which he tortured Oliver was disturbing, and I think he knows that but is powerless to stop it. As usual, the presence of regenerating enemies that all look and act the same was creepy, and Kerry and Lenny rallied to save the day even though they have no clue what it is that they’re fighting. I’m far enough behind that the final episode of this season has already aired (I’ll get to it as soon as I finish the other outstanding episodes of other shows I need to watch), and it’s hard to imagine a more impactful and game-changing finale than this. I assume that David’s dark road might be solidified by an irreversible action, killing one of the good guys (aside from Syd, who is safe given that we met her future self) and showing that, much as he’d like to be the hero, he just can’t be because of how powerful he is. Where that leaves Farouk, I don’t know, since, if I’m following things correctly, Future Syd’s chat with David may have change the course of history since he wasn’t supposed to get his body back in the world that she knew.

Pilot Review: Dietland

Dietland (AMC)
Premiered June 4 at 10pm

Many shows exist as a way to parody something that is accepted as mainstream and normative in society, and often those shows are deliberately over-the-top so that they can expose the ridiculousness of what it is they’re targeting. There are shows that deal with being overweight and efforts to lose weight, and others that present the beauty industry both in a straightforward manner in a mocking one. This show is a bit all over the place, finding its heroine in a woman who has accepted the nickname Plum due to the size and shape of her figure, and rallying in support of the many women who write letters to fashionista Kitty thinking that it’s her and not Plum answering and helping them. This show is comparable in some ways to “Ugly Betty,” though it’s far less entertaining and possibly even more outrageous, without the important characteristic of it being a telenovela. There’s this mysterious murdered soldiers plotline happening with an unknown woman named Jennifer, which by the end of the second hour seems pretty clear as a revenge operation against those who have mistreated women. I haven’t seen Joy Nash before in anything that I can remember, and I know Tamara Tunie from more serious roles in “The Red Road” and “24.” Robin Weigert, from “Deadwood” and “Concussion,” is well-cast as Verena. Perhaps the most intriguing part of this show is the casting of Julianna Margulies, who in recent TV history has been playing a do-gooder lawyer and here gets the chance to have a blast and portray someone far less charitable. Watching two hours of this show, which has moments that indicate it could be worthwhile, was more burdensome than anything else, and I think the world would be just fine without its existence.

How will it work as a series? There’s a lot that still has to be unpacked, like why there is mistrust between Julia and Verena, and what role Plum is ultimately going to play in the big revolution that’s to come. The flashes that connect the revenge murders to what’s going on with the primary plot suggest that they’re much more connected than we think.
How long will it last? Puzzlingly, this show seems to have received mostly positive reviews from other critics. The first two episodes aired together, and now a third has also been shown. A decent initial showing in week one dropped for week two, and I think that one season of this show is more than enough for viewers to experience.

Pilot grade: C

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 3, Episode 21 “Not Kansas” (B-)

All the action played out very quickly at the start of this episode, with our returning team easily subduing Reign and returning Sam to her human form, abandoning her for the entirety of the hour to be happy with Ruby. I did feel that the reintroduction of Kara’s mother felt extremely sudden last week, and so having Kara return to try living there at least acknowledged its abruptness and its potential for completely changing the way this show works. Why multiple Kryptonians don’t just decide to come to Earth so that they can take down Reign and other threats is a mystery to me, since they would all have the same powers as Kara and Clark and they’d be able to wrap things up pretty quickly. But they have their own security protocols and naturally they all thought that Kara was crazy to think that someone was trying to harm her, and they don’t trust her enough to realize that protecting Earth is a worthwhile cause that they should assist her in for the benefit of all people everywhere. The non-alien focus of this episode felt awfully preachy, trying to deal with more contemporary issues like gun control in a very overt way. James and Lena didn’t really resolve their own disagreements, and Hank’s big speech about creating non-lethal weapons for use at the DEO felt a bit too much like a political appeal (even if it’s one that I might be tempted to agree with).

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 3, Episode 11 “Kompenso” (B-)

This show is diverging more and more from the initial premise of its two protagonists going to war with each other, now getting ready to fight enemies from within that they don’t even realize are working against them. It did seem strange that Chuck invested so much effort in helping to fix Ira’s situation since he didn’t appear to express any remorse for what he did at the end of last season, and Ira didn’t seem to harbor any ill will towards him when he went to the trouble of having her sign a post-nup agreement and, thanks to his father’s interference, opt to stick it out with him. Chuck should have been more fully focused on taking down Jock, and the issue now is that his two most previously loyal deputies, Bryan and Oliver, are teaming up to take him down. Learning that he’s trying to topple his own more corrupt boss isn’t going to win them over since, in their minds, he’s just as bad. Axe’s method of determining comps felt very brutal, and some of the exchanges were more entertaining than others. Giving Taylor part of what they wanted happened a bit too late, and the full picture of what they were up to is now clear, signaling a huge shift that has the potential to cripple Axe Capital, especially if they team up with Gregor. Wendy making peace with Lara was a positive step for everyone, and it’s probably for the best that Lara and Axe didn’t have a romantic moment together. I’m not sure what to expect from the season finale, which has already aired but which I won’t watch for a while since I’m still catching up on other missed television, and I’m hopeful that it will prove satisfactory to the current storylines and enticing enough to anticipate season four.

Pilot Review: Succession

Succession (HBO)
Premiered June 3 at 10pm

Though they both premiered well over a week ago and I’m just catching up since I was focused on the movies showing at the Israel Film Center Festival, this is one of two shows that debuted on June 3rd, both of which were heavily marketed based on their creators. In this case, the tagline was ‘From the director of “The Big Short.”’ While I did enjoy the film that earned director Adam McKay an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, it’s worth noting that it was really a comedy, albeit a more sophisticated one than the other projects McKay had made previously. This family drama, in the vein of “Bloodline” and “Dirty Sexy Money,” chooses a more dramatic route for its storyline, with more than a few predictable turns and familiar dynamics within this large adult family. McKay’s style and particularly the rapid-fire dialogue works better when framed in a different context, and it quickly becomes irritating here. Early moments like Kendall mocking a subordinate for asking if he wanted to call his dad gave way to excess with all too much emphasis on shots of faces and fists. Roman offering $1 million to a kid if he hit a home run was an intense display of braggery, and there’s a whole lot to unpack within this family, which of course now has to contend with the expected turn of events featuring the patriarch’s midair health crisis, assisted by overbearing music. Brian Cox is a great actor but this isn’t his best role, and I enjoyed Jeremy Strong much more in his recent arc on “Masters of Sex.” Familiar faces like Hiam Abbass, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck, and Matthew Macfayden can’t save a show that’s all over the place and not nearly as interesting as it should be given the talent involved. Based on this introduction, I’m not compelled to return for successive episodes.

How will it work as a series? As if there wasn’t already enough drama on the surface, there’s sure to be much more unearthed as time goes on. The fact that Lawrence felt so much hatred for Kendall that he would threaten him after informing him of his father’s hemorrhage shows that, whatever demons may exist within the family, the outside world is far from fond of them too.
How long will it last? HBO likes to make quick decisions about its series to secure them if they’re successful, and because it took me more than a week to watch this pilot, I can now confirm that it has already been renewed for a second season as of this Monday. The reviews seem to be pretty good, but all that doesn’t matter too much since this show is officially guaranteed to return. I’d predict a three-season run.

Pilot grade: C+

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pilot Review: Pose

Pose (FX)
Premiered June 3 at 10pm

Ryan Murphy may well be one of the most powerful names in television today. He started his career off with “Nip/Tuck,” moved on to “Glee,” and now operates not but one three monstrously successful anthology series on FX: “American Horror Story,” “American Crime Story,” and “Feud.” It’s no surprise that the network that got him started would want to give him his next big show, in collaboration with frequent partner Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals. Like his other past and current projects, this show has a distinct sense of what it wants to be, transplanting audiences to a moment in time and showcasing a group of people that don’t always get their due, and certainly didn’t at that moment in history. What’s interesting about this show is that it’s particularly overt in its casting of James Van Der Beek and Evan Peters as high-up executives working directly for one Donald Trump. Mentioning the now-president by name as the wealth and prosperity of those two characters contrasts so sharply with the situation of the trans and greater LGBT community is surely no accident, and it’s one of the many audacious moves this show tries to pull off in its opening double-decker episode. Its ball sequences and the closing emotional dance audition by Damon were the high points in an overstuffed extended pilot that firmly establishes it as a portrait of the era, always eager to spotlight a lofty speech by a character about what they see in the world. This was more than enough for me, but it was certainly immersive.

How will it work as a series? It’s only been two episodes and we’ve already seen a face-off between House Evangelista and House Abundance, and, especially after a loss, that’s sure not to be the last of that conflict. Stan’s family life and newfound financial success is also sure to collide with his side interests in a way that probably won’t be pretty for anyone involved.
How long will it last? Both reviews and ratings seem to be decent enough for this show, and given that everything Murphy has done on FX has been a success, I’m sure this one will be too. Pairing it with promos for season two of “Snowfall” shows that it’s what FX is all about these days, taking on HBO and Netflix for its mastery of period dramas. I predict a renewal very soon.

Pilot grade: B

Thursday, June 7, 2018

What I’m Watching: Westworld

Westworld: Season 2, Episode 7 “Les Écorchés” (B+)

I don’t think there’s a point at which I’ll be able to put everything we’ve seen this season in chronological order, with new developments related to Bernard and Charlotte being presented simultaneously while they obviously occur at different times. That pales in comparison, however, to the major conclusion that Bernard verbalized in his conversation with Ford, which built upon what we saw of Delos previously saying the exact same words over and over again in each iteration. The notion that the stories, anchored by that musical intro with the same dialogue each day, are the same for the sake of capturing the behavior of the guests rather than the hosts is mesmerizing, and that careful analysis stands in stark contrast to the orchestrated chaos that Ford seems to be championing, deeming it a necessary step of the evolution of the hosts. Dolores gets it completely, unconcerned with inaccessible backups because she sees them as a hindrance to their development rather than a crucial fallback, and she was ready to drill right into Charlotte to show her what it’s like to be experimented on. She wanted to put Maeve down, but this new world needs both of them in order to truly become what Ford seems to believe it should as he appears in Bernard’s head and forces him to do his bidding even after he’s been killed. After she was nearly dismembered, Charlotte is now back on top, ready to find the key and, thanks to Bernard, possibly have a leg up in this worsening conflict.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pilot Review: C.B. Strike

C.B. Strike (Cinemax)
Premiered June 1 at 10pm

Here we have an interesting product - a BBC One adaptation of a set of novels written under a pseudonym by J.K. Rowling that was broadcast in the United Kingdom as a set of three different seasons each focusing on different cases. Cinemax and HBO Canada are now airing it on this continent as a straight series of seven episodes. This show is in many ways a very recognizable story of a private investigator with few social skills who just doesn’t care what other people think of him. There are some layers to it, however, that make it worthwhile, like the fact that he’s a veteran who lost part of his leg and the son of a famous rock star. His first introduction was memorable, with his new temp Robin nearly falling down the stairs after witnessing the tail end of a blowup argument. Fortunately, he’s not nearly as decrepit as many similar characters, and Robin is enterprising enough to be able to prove her worth, handling his calendar with ease despite little information from her boss and then making her job permanent rather than having to deal with going through the temp agency anymore. Of course Strike would be the kind of man who would be told by important people that he would be ruined if he didn’t stop his investigation, and such threats wouldn’t shake him and instead just compel him to keep digging. I see that both Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger have starred in a number of British and international productions, and though I’m not familiar with either one of them, they both seem very well-cast. This show might be interesting to me if there wasn’t much else on, but for now I’m happy to classify it as a better use of an hour than most other shows I abandon after their pilots.

How will it work as a series? Splitting it into two- to three-part seasons makes a lot of sense for the story, and I don’t think that airing it in one straight shot is necessarily a problem, especially given how some lengthy broadcast TV shows this past season might have been made bearable if the plotlines hadn’t been stretched out to fill the content. The mystery and framework both seem solid here.
How long will it last? Reviews seem to be fine if not spectacular here, and the show did pretty well in the UK with the first two seasons broadcast one after another last fall and the last one released earlier this year. It sounds like any continuation is based on whether Rowling writes another book, which is apparently delayed based on initial expectations. As long as the primary cast members are available, more seasons should happen.

Pilot grade: B+

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What I’m Watching: Lost in Space

Lost in Space: Season 1, Episode 8 “Trajectory” (B+)

One potentially treacherous element was neutralized at the start of this episode, with Maureen and John working together to ensure that the Dhars’ jupiter didn’t take off, but that unfortunately wasn’t all the Robinsons should have been worried about in this hour. Maureen did her best to strip the jupiter of every piece that didn’t need to be on board, and Don was smart to advise that the weight calculations weren’t exactly correct since the actual ship wasn’t quite the same as the specifications on paper. The Robinsons simulating John’s journey into space was both an entertaining and effective exercise, closing the doors so that he could feel the g-force pull and then waking him up after he was out for nineteen seconds each time before Maureen announced that he was dead. Don didn’t respond quite as quickly, but having the two of them up there should have been a recipe for success. Will’s curiosity, as always, got the best of him, and Dr. Smith, ever the manipulative liar who had already been caught by Maureen, conned him into letting her out. Why she had to knock Maureen out at just the moment that she was going to give John and Don crucial instructions on where to turn next is a mystery, and I still think that they survived even though that explosion looked bad from the surface of the planet. I’m not as certain that the Resolute is still intact, but I didn’t imagine that they would make it anyway given this show’s premise of them being lost in space. On a less life-and-death note, Penny got the ultimate revenge on Vijay after he broke up with her while they weren’t even together, calling him a bad kisser as he ran away from her.

What I'm Watching: Jessica Jones (Season Finale)

Jessica Jones: Season 2, Episode 13 "AKA Playland" (B+)

There was no good way that this could end which would involve Alisa being alive. It was nice that, after Jessica expressed plenty of anger at her mother for kidnapping her, they got to work together to save the victims of a pretty horrific car crash. Jessica also realized in that moment how much her mother meant to her and was ready to go across the border with her rather than just make sure that her mother got away on her own. Alisa seemed to be at peace with the carnival being the place it all ended, and it probably was the best way it could have gone down. Trish shooting Alisa and instantly killing her was final but quick, and though Jessica won't be able to forgive her anytime soon, she saved Jessica's life and ensured her freedom by making it look like Jessica was the one who put her own mother down. Fast-forwarding to however long later, it's very interesting to see how things have turned out for our characters. Hogarth is on top, building a new empire and popping pills, and Malcolm made the right decision after she didn't hire him to ally with Pryce. It's strange that he and Jessica don't even speak when they pass each other in the hall, and Trish's attempt to restart the friendship didn't work either. The hint of Trish's powers was reminiscent of Whizzer at the start of the season, and I'm so curious to see what happens with her. Jessica is lonely and drinking again, but at least she maintained her relationship with Oscar and was able to describe how she truly was her own type of hero to an excited and admiring Vido. This season couldn't have been as great as season one but it did just fine, and I eagerly await its return for a third round.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Krysten Ritter as Jessica

Monday, June 4, 2018

Pilot Review: Reverie

Reverie (NBC)
Premiered May 30 at 10pm

Ever wondered what "Inception" might look like as a TV series? That's definitely the closest thing to this social media-influenced, computer-built world in which people can relieve only their happiest memories. Having a hostage negotiator be the one to go in to convince people that they're not actually living in the real world makes sense as a follow-up to some of the plot elements of that film, though this world seems much less sophisticated in some ways and much more problematic in others. I don't think there was anyone clamoring for a show about this, and though it tries to be highly technical and mimic some of the film's cool visuals, this really isn't the same thing. In fact, it feels a lot like a procedural, which is strange given its sci-fi roots. Part of that might stem from the fact that four of its lead actors are all recgonizable faces from broadcast TV series. I'm always happy to see Sarah Shahi working, but I much preferred another tech-heavy sci-fi show she recently wrapped, "Person of Interest." Dennis Haysbert was on "24" in its early years and then anchored "The Unit." Kathryn Morris starred in "Cold Case," and Sendhil Ramamurthy was a fixture on "Heroes." Here, they're starring in show with a gimmicky premise but one that doesn't deliver anything all that inventive or worthwhile. Mara's eagerness to continue doing this work to atone for the mistakes she's made that have cost her loved ones isn't going to make this show any more interesting; it's just going to bury her further in the appeal of this program.

How will it work as a series? This virtual world seems like a very risky enterprise in general, and it reminds me of how the techs in "Westworld" seem to consider themselves scientists. I don't think there are quite as many layers here that will make this journey as compelling.
How long will it last? I don't know what NBC expected, premiering a show at the very end of May long after most of its midseason offerings have started and before the summer really picks up. Critics weren't impressed and the ratings weren't great, and so I'd expect this show to air its ten ordered episodes and then fade into oblivion.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 2, Episode 6 “Broadcasters Jinx” (B+)

I called the fact that old-school Art was going to be a racist from the very beginning of this episode, but that didn't stop it from being as enjoyable as possible given Jules once again not being present. Phil Reeves was a great actor to play Art, recognizable from his roles as similarly unfiltered and far more unapologetically rude characters on "Veep" and "Detour." Of course Brockmire would choose as the one thing that he found objectionable Art's racism, and feel the need to call him out on it on-air in a way that enabled them both to miss the most momentous and unprecedented moments of the game. What proved most enjoyable about this episode was that it gave a strong showcase to Dreama Walker, who I had worried would be a relegated to a lackluster recurring part. Whitney getting drunk and freaking out at Brockmire was great, and I hope we see more moments like this if they're ever given the chance to interact again. Brockmire's future seems very uncertain now that Charles is pursuing other enterprises, and I'm not sure how easily their relationship can be repaired. It's very clear that Brockmire needs Charles to be able to succeed, and realizing that he's looking into other options, even just on the side, shows that Brockmire truly is on his own. I'm not sure what comes next for him, but I don't think that Charles is going to be able to get away from Brockmire's influence and toxic orbit anytime soon.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2, Episode 6 “First Blood” (B+)

Not that this show doesn’t usually address gender roles in a fascinating way in every episode, but this hour felt particularly poignant. Offred felt no sympathy for Nick in not wanting to be forced to have sex with someone she didn’t want to, and she tried to help his very nice-seeming wife before she realized that she had grown up in such a brainwashed society that her first thought for why Nick didn’t want to be with her was that he might be a “gender traitor.” Showcasing Serena as the voice of the Gilead movement long before it was normalized is immensely ironic in that women were stifled and silenced in this new world order. This show reaches peak disturbing mode when it showcases flash of Gilead and its rise in the society we know today, with Serena being shouted down as a Nazi by furious protesters and then “blowing up on Twitter” after a speech. Though this episode aired almost two weeks ago, its timing feels especially appropriate following the swift cancellation of “Roseanne” following a highly objectionable tweet by its star. Fred declaring “She has a right to speak! This is America!” was so eerie and strange given that he was fighting to speak about a society in which people no longer have the right to speak. Though mentions of June’s first pregnancy tend to irk Serena, she seemed to be trying so hard to get along, bonding about pregnancy pillows, brunch places (not in Framingham though, twenty minutes from where I grew up), and inviting over other handmaids to gab with Offred, including the tongueless Ofglen. Responding so harshly and inhumanely to Offred's request to see Hannah demonstrated how inferior she believes her to be, and Fred had to step in to make himself seem like the hero in order to keep his house in order. It does appear that this is the last we'll be seeing of him following the terrorist attack carried out by a handmaid at the new Rachel and Leah Center, an event that is sure to increase security measures that surely won't mean good news for any of the handmaids or resistance members.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her (Season Finale)

You, Me, Her: Season 3, Episode 10 “You Be You and I’ll Be Me” (B)

It’s difficult to know whether this show will be back for another season and when that announcement might come given that the last news of any renewal came almost two years ago, and therefore it’s probably safest to assume that this is the series finale. I hope that’s not the case since I do think there’s more to be explored with these characters, but I’d say that it was a relatively fitting conclusion if that’s what it ends up being. Their impromptu three-way wedding was exactly in keeping with most of their activities, more than a little weird but approached as perfectly normal since it works for them. They did have some big wins, the most significant of which were Emma discussing her lifestyle with her employers and being supported and Ben showing up to the wedding and offering some sort of affirmation of their relationship. Realizing on the drive that Izzy had dumped them made them miss her more than anything, and it was sweet that they came back for her and made sure that they weren’t taking her for granted anymore. Izzy’s romantic decision was far less compelling, since she at first joked about becoming a thruple and then turned them both down since she really needs to focus on herself, something she’s been doing all season long. Dave and Carmen didn’t get much screen time in this episode, but maybe we’ll see them do other things also. I don’t think that this show has exhausted its premise, and I’d be eager to return for season four if the powers that be decide this show is worth continuing.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Priscilla Faia as Izzy

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 2, Episode 8 “Chapter 17” (B+)

This show is a real rollercoaster, and part of the way through this episode I was feeling tired of some of its antics only to find it relatively rewarding on a few fronts by episode’s end. The part that most swayed me was when Amy showed up to torment Lenny after her wild night of sex, describing how she would play the same role as Lenny did for David when she was trapped inside his mind. Lenny is a fairly unstable character as it is, and to see someone messing with her mind to try to get her to achieve good is a mesmerizing process. Convincing her that David needs her help was smart since, ultimately, she is loyal to him and wants to be with him. I loved the conversations between Cary and Kerry as they unraveled what David had put into their head for them to follow with the car. Kerry not understanding the concept of feeling blue and claiming that she would get death before it got Cary was so interesting, and Kerry also wasn’t buying Melanie’s claim that Kerry might just be Cary’s fantasy and not exist. Let’s hope they really do have a way to track the car now that Lenny got into it and it disappeared, and that it burning in that infinite desert doesn’t get in the way of that. It’s so hard to tell who’s really on whose side here, with it seeming like Melanie might actually be working with Oliver against Farouk, though that seems unlikely to work since Farouk should be well aware of what Oliver is up to in the mind where he’s currently residing as a parasite. In great news, this show has been renewed for a third season, ensuring plenty more peculiarity to come in the future!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 4, Episode 13 “And He Shall Be a Good Man” (B)

There’s no denying that this episode felt a bit rushed at times, running to sum up a few plots that were out there and then hastily presenting admittedly great resolutions. Chase giving Clive, Ravi, and Peyton mere moments to say goodbye to Liv was cruel, and it became even more clear that he had become a dictator who wanted to use excessive force to subdue a mere hint of insurrection from anyone. It was a (preventable) shame that Levon had to die before Major burst in and Liv dove at just the right moment to ensure that Chase was the final victim of his guillotine, resolving a few problematic threads all at once. Ultimately, there were more sympathetic people who wanted to do the right thing than villains, and even those who don’t offer favor the moral route showed their softer sides. I was sure that Blaine was baiting his father to go out and get killed, but when he confessed that he had tried to feed his faith, his father didn’t want to listen and paid for it with his life. Major being in command of Fillmore Graves is a good idea, and employing Blaine and Don-E to work for him rather than against is also smart. Liv being applauded as the rebellion leader she was felt good, and I like how this episode ended, sending this show into its final season with a new, brighter world ahead. I could have done without Clive and Dale being so blatant about spanking and their sex lives during their own version of a shotgun wedding, but it was nice to see that Liv will remain undead as she gave her cure to Dale instead so that they could start a family. I didn’t love this season as much as years past, but I’m still eager to see it through to its end around this time next year. It deserves the chance to wrap up the way its creative minds want.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Rose McIver as Liv

Friday, June 1, 2018

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 3, Episode 20 “Dark Side of the Moon” (B-)

And look at that, we’re finally ready for the finale, with our heroes arriving just in time with exactly the weapon they need to stop Reign as she finally breaks through from the confines of Lena’s prison. Only there are still three episodes left in this overstuffed season, its longest yet and the one that has the misfortune of airing after pretty much every other show has bowed out for the season. The trip to this city in space offered a surprising revelation, one that was swept under the rug and emphasized less than it should have been just like the return of another parent of Kara’s earlier on in the show, Jeremiah. I was a big fan of Laura Benanti even if this was hardly a role comparable to her work on “The Detour” or on Broadway, and I do think it’s moderately clever that Erica Durance from “Smallville” was cast to replace her, here given more lines than ever before after a few brief scenes featuring a pre-Reign Sam and Kara interacting with memories of her. I also saw Tim Russ’ name in the credits and recognized the “Star Trek: Voyager” actor as Jul-Us, one of the council members who was less than willing to help the inhabitants of this faraway planet. Mon-El proved once again that he is a nice guy eager to help others, wowing a child and his mom by curing his disease. Back on Earth, Winn being annoyed by Ruby and then having a long-overdue bonding session about murderous parents was far more worthwhile than Alex trying to figure out who wanted her dead and then doing a parkour-like move to take him out. It’s time for Lena to use the kill switch, though I’m not even sure it would work anymore.

What I’m Watching: Westworld

Westworld: Season 2, Episode 6 “Phase Space” (B+)

Not getting to this show until four days after it aired, I accidentally glimpsed a few headlines declaring a shocking return appearance, which of course happened in the last seconds of the hour, but fortunately I managed to avoid learning the character’s identity. Ultimately, it’s hardly a shock that Anthony Hopkins would continue to be involved with this show given Robert Ford’s instrumental role in making the parks what they are, and it’s also hard to trust Bernard’s experiences as indicative of when they take place, meaning that Ford may well not be reincarnated but simply existing in a time before he was killed by Dolores. Bernard seemed very ready to subject himself to immense pain in order to help Elsie figure out what was going on, and it still feels very risky for anyone to be traipsing around the facilities when there are dead bodies lying around everywhere and no sign of an end to this conflict anytime soon. Charlotte got Peter secured in a pretty brutal way, and let’s hope that the transfer of this most wanted host means that some sort of backup is indeed ready to kick into gear. I was relieved to see an episode that pulled back from Maeve’s adventures in Shogun World since the host-host interactions aren’t nearly as compelling as the host-guest scenes. I don’t think we need to see hands and heads cut off when we could be watching techs disagreeing about whether to help sympathetic hosts defend themselves against threats from other hosts. As he should, the rebooted Teddy is feeling very resentful towards Dolores for reprogramming him, no longer subject to the same kindhearted inclinations he used to be. It was intriguing as always to see Dolores in one of her familiar conversations with Bernard, in which she stopped him to freeze his motor functions and test his fidelity. William isn’t doing himself any favors by believing that his daughter is Ford talking to her through a host and then leaving her behind since he really could use allies to stay alive and achieve his ultimate aims.