Thursday, May 23, 2019

Pilot Review: Catch-22

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Take Three: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 1, Episode 3 “It’s All My Fault” (B+)

It’s helpful to get the clarification that Steve wasn’t aware that Jen’s husband was the man they hit, since it seemed extremely manipulative for him to be considering Judy crazy when he was acting pretty terribly by working with her to sell his house. This reveals instead that he’s just not that bright, evidenced also by his excuse to his parents that his “tummy” hurt when she called him to be bailed out, eliciting a fantastic response from Judy that he should be able to come up with something better given that he’s forty-four years old. I don’t think that the two of them lapsing back into a romance is the best idea given that Judy seems to be doing well with Jen and her family, though the guilt she’s feeling is eating away at her. I was worried, as I’m sure everyone watching was, that Judy’s very enlightening balloon message would come floating back down, and instead we got a surprise of different order in the form of a woman on Jen’s husband’s game who appears to have been sleeping with him. I don’t think she’ll express the same rage when she tracks her down as she does when she’s hunting dented cars, but I am eager to learn more. Jen has a very harsh relationship with her mother-in-law, who is incredibly condescending and terrifies the hilarious Christopher, who got a great showcase in this episode. I also enjoyed Abe’s less-than-friendly greeting when Steve showed up to see Judy.

What I’m Watching: Ramy

Ramy: Season 1, Episode 5 “Do the Ramadan” (B+)

This was a really great episode, and it’s so interesting to see the parallels between Islam and Judaism, the latter of whichis far more familiar to me. Sarah named one, which is that she doesn’t even fast for Yom Kippur and he avoids food and other voices all day for an entire month. Watching Orthodox Jews and his uncle eating while he was at work demonstrated the way that the world doesn’t conform to or stop based on his observance, and the run-in with his construction worker classmate whose mom was sick exemplified both how religion is often tied into everyday life in a simple, casual way like praying out on the street and how people often want spontaneous prayer when that’s not a concept natural to either Islam or Judaism. “Don’t break my balls, do the Ramadan” was a memorable line, and, after everything, he found out at the end of the episode that his mother did die, a sad note on which to conclude as accompanied by the woman’s son asking him if he was a bad guy. Being interviewed by a woman seeking marriage made for the most entertaining scene of the episode, with a few backhanded compliments praising his own assessment of his flaws and suggesting the atonement that he could be doing if he actually wanted to do it. I liked his idea about taking Arabic with his kids so that he could demonstrate a commitment to continued learning, a notion she shot down brutally with a scientific conclusion that the brain stops developing at twenty-five.

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 14 “Penultimate Patrol” (B+)

We’re getting towards the end here, and while I’ve seen some reports that this show was renewed for a second season before the first premiered, I’m not entirely sure that’s the case. This focused hour involved the welcome return of Danny the Street, a friend of Flex’s and a helpful ally who gave them useful information despite still not wanting to cross Mr. Nobody. While their victory wasn’t nearly as decisive as they seemed to think, it’s true that this Doom Patrol isn’t the same team they were the first time Mr. Nobody tried – and succeeded – to get in their heads. Recognizing the situation that was around them was a huge first step, and kudos to Rita for realizing that she too could narrate and take away some of Mr. Nobody’s power. Stripping his ego down was a far more effective manner of combat than Cyborg just showing up to blast him away, though apparently that didn’t actually happen. Shifting to the Chief experiencing a wonderful morning filled with breakfast and followed by the certain destruction of the team over and over was a formidable way of demonstrating that the threat he poses is far from gone, and if he really is so invincible and unstoppable, I don’t know how things can end next episode. Unlike Mr. Nobody, I don’t feel that this show has really gone off-course in the time since its pilot, but it’s still good to return to where it all started. I’m excited for the finale, and I really hope there’s much more of this show after it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 3, Episode 11 “Get Lit” (B+)

This show aired its season finale this past week, and so I just have one more installment left after this and I’ll be fully caught up. I was surprised to see this show listed as one of Entertainment Weekly’s official early predictions to make a first-time appearance in the Best Comedy Series race when Emmy nominations are announced this year, and I’m curious whether installments like this one – and the others like it this season – will play with voters. It’s definitely hypnotic, but there’s a non-narrative aesthetic that’s both captivating and also hard to grasp onto since the plot rarely proceeds in a straightforward way. Opening the episode with a psychic in the house talking about a male presence was entertaining for the vicious treatment he got from Phil, who was ready to call out each of his parlor tricks as being easily contrived and guessed. Sam going ballistic on Max’s friends for smoking in the house was a solid scene, and she even managed to make Paisley cry, something that doesn’t seem all that hard, similar to Max’s own master manipulation of her mother. Frankie’s poetry contest performance was indeed impressive, though Sam should have realized that she wouldn’t be thrilled to be shown physical affection given the nature of her writing’s content. Sam’s response to the woman talking about her grandchild in the bathroom was pretty hilarious, commenting on the intensity of her experience and eliciting a simple disapproving “no” from her. It’s moments like those that really enhance this show.

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 5, Episode 3 “Five, Six, Seven, Ate!” (B+)

This is the first time in a while that we’ve seen such an immersive episode based on the brain(s) that Liv was eating. I like that she was able to choose between two brains so that they could deduce as much as possible about the dancers, and that Ravi was bullied immensely by the first brain she ate and then supported entirely by the second. Ravi was so nervous about his performance, yet he somehow managed to keep up the act and actually do pretty decently when forced to dance, even with Liv out of the picture after a sudden flash of memory was triggered during their set. The best part of this episode was Clive, who got to express sentiments not usually seen in two different major plotlines. His enthusiasm for dancing was a lot of fun, and I liked seeing him and Liv dance as they were trying to show Ravi that he would be able to learn. Attending birthing classes with Dale was fun to watch too, with his attentiveness to notetaking and his planning for the worst, quickly shifted to tremendous awkwardness when Michelle showed up in the class expecting a baby that he thought might be his. Dale choosing to be nice to her was refreshing. Major and Peyton making nice after their tiff was good to see, and the knowledge that humans have died helping zombies is an important step forward in positive societal relations. This episode didn’t provide a neat ending to its mystery, and I’m curious to learn more about who has been poisoning all these dancers.

What I’m Watching: The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Episode 8 “Point of Origin” (B)

This episode was decidedly dark, taking its protagonist from her high perch in society to a place where she couldn’t even help herself, unable to identify what’s real about her own history or to deny what other people tell her is true. I appreciated the casting of Ginnifer Goodwin as Eve since I remember being disappointed by the lackluster nature of her real-world character in “Once Upon a Time,” and it’s good to see her display so much energy here, transforming Eve from disconnected socialite to powerless prisoner. James Frain from “True Blood” was a natural choice to play the interrogator, who has a sinister presence in everything he does, even if he’s supposed to be good guy. His demeanor here didn’t indicate any sympathy for the woman he was questioning, and he was all too happy to apologize only to her husband and sons for treating them wrongly when he still didn’t release her. Tricking her into believing that she was released and confiding in her husband was enough to get her to confirm what he had suspected all along, though that wasn’t nearly as horrific as the real reaction her husband had when she was able to catch a ride home with the ice cream man. I suppose the moral of this episode was that we really can’t change where we come from even if we accomplish so much, an important parable with easily recognizable parallels to immigration in the United States as expressed early on by the relationship between Eve and Anna.

What I’m Watching: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 3, Episode 7 “Disabled List” (B+)

I’ve been very pleased with how this season has played out, remaining consistently engaging and making fantastic use of its characters. I’ve been waiting for Christine Woods to be showcased as Maggie, and we got that in a big way here. Brockmire experiencing a lack of sex drive could have been an irritating, throwaway plotline, but something about this new sober version of him has made him considerably more appealing and sympathetic. As a result, it was fun to see him so frustrated by his situation, in one case taking out his anger on a wheelchair-bound member of his addiction support group. Shirley gives it to him straight, and it’s entertaining to see her explain to him why he doesn’t have it nearly as bad as he thinks. Maggie was also appropriately encouraging in a different way, and it seems like the two of them may just last if they managed to surmount this obstacle in a lighthearted way. And they even got it to work in the car at the end of the episode, something that Maggie celebrated with surprise as it lasted a whole lot longer than she expected once it finally started. Brockmire may have been overly optimistic about Matt’s chances for recovery, but it turns out that he was able to be there in exactly the right way for him at the end. I don’t think that this show has terrific Emmy prospects, but I’d love to see some love in the guest categories for both J.K. Simmons and Woods, not to mention a few of the other guest stars we’ve seen this season.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 8 “Chapter Eighty-Nine” (B+)

It’s nice to be right in the middle of the narrative here as most of the other shows I’m watching are finishing out their seasons. This was a difficult episode to watch since Jane got so excited by the idea that Rafael wanted to initiate plans with her and that them rocking it as educational co-parents was a sign that their relationship was going to work out. As usual, a grand romantic gesture works better in practice – or on paper – than in real life, especially when, as has tended to be the case, she ends up putting Rafael in a truly uncomfortable position at work. I like that Rogelio and Jane’s relationship was also the focus of this episode, and they were both able to teach each other plenty about what’s important. The Ro-morse basket was a nice touch, and I enjoyed Rogelio cautioning Jane about her texting when every instinct of his was telling him to do the opposite. It was wonderful to see Jorge finally realize after they rocked the immigration interview that he does love Alba, and now they can be together when they’re not actually required to anymore. Petra discovering that it was her daughters who were staging threats so that they could rid of JR was devastating, and good for JR for matching the determination that Petra showed a little bit ago and declaring that she wasn’t going to give up on them just yet. Seeing that Rose’s henchman, who is also posing as Luisa’s best friend, is tailing Rafael is a bad note on which to end the episode, a sign of much more drama to come soon.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 4, Episode 6 “Eat Your Strangers and Don't Talk to Vegetables!” (B)

I liked this episode better than the previous one now that the guru isn’t being prominently featured hacking away at the stability of this thruple. The seeds of doubt, however, are there, and the literal gifting of a door from Jack and Emma wasn’t going to make up for that. Izzy and Nathan are still trying to figure out ways to push each other beyond their respective comfort zones, something that isn’t going all too well at the moment. Izzy isn’t nearly as realistic about boundaries and what’s actually possible as the other two partners in her relationship, and now this show is shifting its focus slightly to the younger generations at school. I guess it makes some sense that the sexual orientations and identities of those exploring themselves in high school would be worthy of spotlighting, which in itself presents some complications as people try to be more interesting and diverse than they are in order to appear more attractive. I still don’t find that nearly as enticing as following the main characters, and there’s no way this show could continue without its three protagonists still fully at its center. Lala has made herself new friends and allies in Emma’s next-door neighbors, and the Trakarskys seem to be their primary targets, not that she has nearly as much power as she likes to believe and try to wield. I like that we nearly saw Carmen and Dave together again, though she pulled the typical trick pretending that the signal was cutting out on them.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

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

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 22 “Legacy” (B+)

Overall, I’d say this was a pretty good finale, even if it has felt for the past few episodes like things have dragged a bit, especially when it came to Cicada. I’m usually all for the time travel that occurs on this show, but I don’t know why it was that Eobard’s execution in the future was so synced-up with the moment in the present when the dagger was destroyed. It was cool to see Barry and Nora show up there to reverse the time that he had used to take out the guards around him, but now he’s gotten away and declared that he’ll Barry at the next crisis, which apparently is coming sooner than expected as a result. Nora disappearing from existence has been a long time coming because of the extensive time she spent with Team Flash before her birth, and now it’s going to be up to Barry and Iris to actually have a child and raise her in a different way than she experienced during her childhood. Cicada’s disappearance took a bit longer, but at least the younger Grace is going to have a better life with a much kinder outlook on the universe. Cisco taking the metahuman cure makes more sense after learning that Carlos Valdes is leaving the show, and while he’s been an integral part of it since season one, there are more than enough people around now to fill the void created by his absence. I like that Singh acknowledged that he’s known for a while that Barry was the Flash, and Joe’s promotion to captain is a deserved one that honors his many years of service to the force. Overall, this hasn’t been a fantastic season, but I’m still eager to see what comes next for this show and its characters.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Grant Gustin as Barry

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 15 “Terms of Service” (B-)

It was interesting starting this episode with young Zari in 2019 watching Neray (a great name) broadcasting warnings of dangerous monsters among the human population. I did notice that they left the backpack with the dragon egg in it, resulting in an ending that reminded me of young Ray meeting an untimely end back when he and the rest of the legends were going to be wiped from the timeline. This show is trying to balance its demonic content with the Fairy Godmother, who expressed no qualms with fellow witch Nora only to trick her into agreeing to take on her role, both freeing her and indebting her to Gary, which ultimately might not have turned out to be so bad had he not instantly banished her to hell without realizing who she was now. Punitively turning the legends into a big baby, a high school nerd, and nonstop dancers was rather petty, but it was a good point that Gary made when he noted that he didn’t want to send them to hell but instead just to hang out with them. Now that he’s officially a part of the team, they may be able to defeat Neray, though Constantine isn’t doing too well in hell since he has precious few friends there, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’m not sure what will be resolved in the finale, but I’m hopeful that the focus will shift from Constantine and these magical creatures and instead to some new threat for which the legends are hopelessly unprepared but nonetheless eager to combat.

Pilot Review: LA's Finest

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

What I’m Watching: Veep (Series Finale)

Veep: Season 7, Episode 7 “Veep”

It doesn’t feel bittersweet for this show to come to an end since it has really has run its course. Sixty-five episodes is a lot in the modern day of cable television, and the last season of this show that I found to be truly terrific was season four. This shortened final run has still been entertaining, and this extended episode did include quite a bit of content. Tom reentering the race was a curveball that Selina struck down immediately by planting the right seeds of doubt in the head of Rhea Seehorn’s Michelle, the chief of staff she previously demeaned by dictating a coffee order to her. What that newfound alliance showed is that Selina, similar to a current inhabitant of the White House, does not truly value any friendship or relationship, willing to throw anyone to the wolves if it will help her and to promise anything to a potential ally even if it contradicts a previous pledge she’s made. After her accidental transgender bathroom bill statement in North Carolina, her most cutthroat moves were to have Gary arrested for all the Meyer Fund activity and to get same-sex marriage overturned. Seeing how the people formerly closest to her, namely Catherine and Marjorie, who for once got heated in this episode, didn’t even attend her funeral demonstrates just how little she actually mattered in the end due to the prioritization of her choices. The fact that both Kent and Amy couldn’t believe that Selina actually chose Jonah was a sign of how even they couldn’t support her desperate politics, and it’s a relief that he apparently got impeached before the Christian mathematician who corrected the term “ex-husband” with “step-husband” could do all that much damage to the country. Seeing everyone in older makeup at the funeral twenty-four years later was a fitting if moderately depressing way to say goodbye, emphatically ending this show on a sour note rather than an overly humorous one. At least Richard became president and managed to concoct a three-state solution to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so there’s some hope. I do expect this show to do well at the Emmys again this year, and I’ll just put in my regular promotion for Timothy Simons as Jonah and Sam Richardson as Richard since they’ve been excellent for years and did some of their best work this year.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Timothy Simons as Jonah
Season grade: B
Series MVP: Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina
Best Season: Seasons 1-4
Best Episode: D.C.

What I’m Watching: Barry

Barry: Season 2, Episode 7 “The Audition” (B+)

This episode totally reframed things, shifting almost entirely into the crazy world of theater and acting. What Lindsay saw of Sally’s scene prompted her agent team to see different potential in her, putting her in the room with the famed TV producer who actually wanted to make her a show called “Payback Ladies” with the tagline “It’s that time of month – for revenge.” It was good that she passed on it, though she received quite a bit of anger and judgment from all those who couldn’t believe that she would turn down any opportunity to be a lead. Barry, on the other hand, scored an audition for a leading role simply because of his height, and even after he didn’t put any effort or emotion into the audition, they were still talking about how tall he was and how good he’d look on the poster. This is an entertaining skewering of the way the industry works, exaggerated to a degree but also so rooted in truth. I love and have missed Sally’s nonstop rants, and I like that Barry didn’t even respond to anything she said but just kept doing his next line. I’m intrigued to see if Sally’s show goes well in the new venue Lindsay found her as an apology. I do hope that Hank isn’t going to meet an untimely demise after he delivered a melancholy speech while the revolt was happening around him since he continues to be a great and memorable character. Gene, on the other hand, doesn’t seem long for this world, at least not in his current capacity. Fuches bringing him to the car that has Moss’ body in the trunk and calling the police to confess as him was a clever ploy, and it’s not one that Barry will likely be able to refute, certainly not without exposing his true identity to his acting teacher.

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 11 “Hunting Season” (B-)

I’m not sure what the significance of getting a thumb in the mail was supposed to be, and it’s hardly a stretch that they would find a body in a freezer, bury it in Beth’s yard, and then discover that it actually belongs to someone else. These three can’t catch a break, but that’s mainly because they keep making bad choices which take them in the wrong direction. Ruby is doing everything she can to come up with money to help Stan, and something tells me that the defense is still going to suggest that he earn some time, even after the exorbitant fees they’re charging when they should be even moderately sensitive to the family’s situation. Beth and Dean are at least being honest with each other now, as he claims he has to get out because Beth can’t and she freely admits that she enjoys sleeping with Rio. Their game of twenty questions when he found her snooping in his apartment was a bit strange, but I guess there’s a certain kind of intimacy that has developed even as he continues to force her to pay off debts for the rest of her life. I’m glad that Annie found a smart way to tail Noah and discover his true identity, and hopefully they’ll be able to score a win for once by using the information he doesn’t know she knows to combat Turner’s efforts to take Beth down in a way that gets her more than just Martha Stewart time. Using Sadie to get to Annie was a low blow, and he’s going to have to pay for that once all the cards are on the table.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 4, Episode 9 “American Champion” (B-)

After an episode of direct confrontation between Axe and Taylor, we’re back to subtler, more devious interactions as they each try to up their game and make the latest chess move. Ben Kim bringing up the fund caused a whole lot of problems at Axe Cap, and choosing Ari to be their spokesperson felt like a very bad idea. Naturally, it was all a big scheme perpetrated by Taylor so that Axe would be off his game and distracted as Taylor attempted to poach Bonnie. That wouldn’t have been a good move, in my mind, and so instead Bonnie got to prove her allegiance to Axe and then start getting it on with Dollar Bill, creating a rather formidable and scary power couple. Lauren did an exceptional job setting Taylor up for success by arranging a meeting at Kellogg’s, and she was rewarded with a positive reaction to the move she made on Taylor, which really is better kept secret from Sara, who likely wouldn’t be pleased with the close attachment her boss is developing for one of her employees. Taylor lost this round to Rebecca, and I do wish that they were both on the side since Taylor is clearly a better person than Axe. Wendy asking Chuck to scorch earth to make sure that she doesn’t lose her medical license was an understandable request, and he did appear to be trying as much as possible without risking adverse consequences for his wife. Things don’t look good for them, but they’re not out of this fight just yet.

Friday, May 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones (Penultimate Episode)

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 5 “The Bells” (B+)

Well, this was quite an episode. Despite all the death and brutality we’ve seen over the years, I’m not sure I’ve found another installment to be quite as disturbing as this one. I think it’s because all of the reckless collateral damage that cost so many innocent lives came as a direct result of the actions of someone who, up until this point, was a hero rather than a villain. Positioning Cersei as the last step on Daenerys’ ascension to the true throne was a red herring for this episode that allowed her to do very little, standing defiantly as her city was attacked and then crumbling like the walls around her when defeat was closing in. After sentencing Varys to death for his would-be treason, Daenerys ignored Tyrion’s pleas for a peaceful resolution that wouldn’t result in so much death, and after Cersei’s forces surrendered, she didn’t accept it and went on a rampage with her one remaining dragon. Jon doesn’t want to be a leader but he’s going to have to, using his rightful claim to the throne as a way to take down a ruler who, like so many before her, have given in to their primal instincts and allowed them to prove ruinous for their subjects. Arya’s continued survival felt endless, but I think that was the point – to show just how devastating the assault of Daenerys and her dragon was on the people, destroying everything around them rather than liberating them from the shackles of a tyrant. I think Jon has to be the one to ultimately kill Daenerys, but we’ll see. The Hound plunging to a fiery death with his unstoppable brother was far from my favorite part of the episode, but I suppose it was the only way for a character no one else could kill to be felled, especially since he was more concerned with not backing down from a fight than protecting his queen. It certainly seems like Jaime and Cersei are dead after being crushed by the rubble around them, but we didn’t see them die, and this show never likes to provide an unconfirmed off-screen demise. I’m ready for the finale this weekend – let’s hope it proves satisfying.

What I’m Watching: Killing Eve

Killing Eve: Season 2, Episode 6 “I Hope You Like Missionary!” (B+)

I can’t say that I really understand how we’ve gotten to a point where Konstantin and Villanelle are just openly and freely working with everyone from MI-6, but I am finding it to be extremely entertaining. Konstantin eagerly beating eggs and celebrating lots of old friends being in the same house was just the start, and now we have Eve in Villanelle’s ear while she’s out on an operation. Villanelle, for one, is having a blast, giving her “partner” Eve a range of accents to choose from, including the American one she opted for her to use. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Villanelle is completely unpredictable out in the field, even pushing a woman she didn’t like into traffic so that she’d be instantly decapitated by a bus. Apparently Carolyn is more irritated by the idea of breakfast than the notion of one of the people she’s supposed to be handling casually opting to murder someone. Villanelle managed to get close to Aaron remarkably quickly, and he picked up the contradictions in her created character right away. I’ve enjoyed playing Dix-it in the past with my sister, and so it was fun to see that as the real catalyst for him to point out that she was supposed to have these advanced degrees but couldn’t understand the basic rules of a game made to be played by children. Eating her earpiece and then punching him in the nose when he started bullying her was an intense play but one that feels totally like her, and maybe it will manage to get her closer to Aaron than anyone else. While Nico and Eve had an exciting night together, their marriage does seem to be in serious trouble, and Nico is playing right into Villanelle’s hands in distancing himself from his wife.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 21 “Red Dawn” (B+)

As the end of the season approaches, the endgame is becoming increasingly clear and rather irreversible at this point. Kara did a cool trick to gain the upper hand while tied to a chair but opened the door to find Red Daughter there with a wig and holding Kryptonite, just the first instance of the two similar but opposite super-powered beings going head-to-head, as indicated by the opening credits with Supergirl’s name spelled out in a distinctly foreign language. Fortunately, three very strong women were working hard to find solutions to help while Supergirl was otherwise occupied. Lena bringing a truth-seeker and poisoning her mother to get her to help was clever, and it turned out to be extraordinarily useful when James went into a sort of shock after trying to stop Lockwood from taking out Otis. Dreamer was eager to risk everything to help those in need, which would have been great had Brainy not been immediately identified when he brought her in as Lockwood. Watching his reboot meltdown was intense, and now he’s so emotionless that he doesn’t mind putting both Dreamer and Hank in serious danger so that they have the best chance of success. Alex was the most crucial player, triggered by the sight of Supergirl fighting for her life to remember who her sister really is and able to encourage her to harness the power of the grass (I guess?) to save her own life. President Baker thanking Lex Luthor on TV for killing Supergirl is going to be a hard announcement to come back from, and I don’t think it’s going to end simply with Supergirl back in the public’s good graces.

Pilot Review: The Society

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Round Two: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 1, Episode 2 “Maybe I’m Crazy” (B+)

I liked this second outing just as much as the first, mainly because it didn’t try to make Judy living with Jen and her sons seem like something normal. Charlie and Henry had different reactions to her being there, with a particularly contentious relationship smoothed over by the introduction of marijuana and pizza. Jen did notice that Judy was sleeping outside, which is definitely weird, and Judy seems to be acting strangely both because she’s just an odd person and because she feels so tremendously guilty for having been responsible for the death of her husband. It’s interesting to see the relationship developing between Steve and Jen even as he’s actively trashing Judy and taking out a restraining order on her. James Marsden is indeed charismatic, and therefore it was extremely intriguing to learn that he was in the passenger seat of the car during that fateful hit-and-run. Evidently that shared experience contributed to the dissolution of their relationship, but he’s much less innocent than he claims to be even if he thinks she’s crazy. I was pleased to recognize Ed Asner, who just showed up on last week’s episode of “Doom Patrol,” as a well-named character – Abe – who appears to be Judy’s closest confidante at the moment. It’s really something to see Jen exhibit her rage against those who are irresponsible drivers, calling the police repeatedly and then going to town with a purpose on that flashy yellow car when she happened upon it while they were out driving.

What I’m Watching: Ramy

Ramy: Season 1, Episode 4 “Strawberries” (B+)

I was intrigued enough by this flashback episode to Ramy’s childhood before things took a serious turn with the revelation of just what day in Ramy’s past this was. Going into a chat room to ask questions about masturbation reminded me of the very entertaining film “Yes, God, Yes,” which I saw at SXSW, and I like that someone told him to search for “nice boobs” and he ultimately chose the magazine cover to serve as the proper inspiration. It was fascinating to watch the shift that happened after news of the terrorist attacks broke and, just as that moment, he heard Arabic emanating from the walkie-talkie that his mother insisted upon calling a cell phone because its functions were essentially the same in her view. His friends casually asking him if he was a terrorist on the walk to school was insensitive but not in an entirely cruel way, though forcing him to go into the woods to masturbate to prove that he wasn’t lying about everything did cross a certain line. It somehow felt natural for Ramy to wander into the kitchen late at night to find none other than Osama Bin Laden going through his fridge looking for whipped cream before delivering a lecture about the western appropriation of strawberries. After that head trip and a visit from the woman on the cover of the magazine to provide the appropriate encouragement, it was sweet to see the roots of his friendship with Steve long before his sense of humor took a dark turn.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 13 “Flex Patrol” (B+)

I guess I hadn’t realized that the man in the cell next to Vic was none other than the legendary comic-leaving Flex Mentallo, whose coolest ability in my opinion is his ability to hear and understand things that others only hear in their heads, namely Grid and the negative spirit. Watching him being broken at the ant farm as he was planning his escape so many years ago with the spirit was tough, and his current state when they found him was indeed poor. I like that he described a chief’s evil twin brother taking his place only for Jane to realize that he was describing a soap opera, which led to the episode on which Cliff happened to have made an appearance. Hearing him champion the Daytime Emmy buzz that never materialized for his wooden acting was entertaining, and it’s nice to see some friendly bickering and mockery happen when the fate of the world is at stake most of the time. I was surprised to recognize Ed Asner, who will turn ninety later this year, as the patient who Rita helped not knowing that he was actually Mr. Nobody, who apparently believes that he scored a victory in convincing her to have Vic sit out the big battle as they finally take the fight to him. We’re back to the manipulative fourth-wall antics of Mr. Nobody, pausing his iPad as he sits in his Doom Patrol gear and burns the show poster down to celebrate the fact that, with just two episodes left in the season, things are really heating up.

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 3, Episode 10 “Show Me that Magic” (B+)

It’s so interesting to see how Sam’s relationships with the men in her life are portrayed. As soon as Lala’s husband showed up to interrupt their girl time, she exploded, angry that he would dare to intrude on them. Lala didn’t take her reaction lying down, standing up to her in a way that the adults in Sam’s life rarely do. The fact that she still wanted to watch Sam’s movie after that was surprising, but I think these women realize that they just want to be together rather than engaging in the kind of battles they have to fight with other people in their lives. Sam getting into the car to see her father sitting in the backseat was yet another haunting reminder of the influence that he’s had on her, and I liked her response to Duke asking her about him and then pointing out that she’s close to fifty herself. The most memorable scene of the episode was Sam’s latest ill-advised session with Dr. Miller, which started with her bizarre request for him to lie to her kids about the adverse effects of their bad behavior towards her. Making out during the session was quite the development, and I like that Dr. Miller felt the need to point out that he wasn’t going to be charging her for the hour. A normal relationship doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards for her right now, but maybe this is just the kind of diversion that she needs at the moment.

What I’m Watching: Abby’s

Abby’s: Season 1, Episode 7 “Soda Gun” (B+)

NBC announced its primetime schedule for the fall earlier this week, and apparently the fate of this show and a few other freshmen still airing episodes hasn’t been decided yet. I for one am enjoying this show even if it’s hardly the best comedy on the air, and I’d be happy to see it return, especially since the last time Natalie Morales had a sitcom I enjoyed, “The Grinder” got cancelled after just one season. This installment was fun since the crew at the bar rallied to figure out how to make Fred happy after Bill bringing in a real handyman to fix the soda spout got him feeling useless and unwanted. I like that Rosie has a checklist prepared of the possible things Fred could be mad about, including categories where nature, man, and Fred himself are the causes of distress. James was eager to let Fred win at dominoes through he’s apparently never actually beat him, yet another one of his very selectively useful skills. Abby going into Fred’s smoky car to talk directly to him and thank him for the burrito he brought her was an endearing moment, far more effective than their misguided attempt to give him the prized token. My favorite part of the episode was Bill trying to get into the spirit of the token cult even as he realized how patently absurd it was, knowing the type of behavior he needs to model if he’s ever going to move up from the position of favorite punching bag for everyone else at the bar.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 4, Episode 5 “Sonogram Frog Rub Family” (C)

I found most of this episode to be highly forced, with the first three segments feeling entirely contrived. Greg had to try very hard to say things that sounded bad and then pretend like he didn’t realize their double meanings, and it was obvious from the start of that vignette that he would steal the photo, they would take it home, and they’d eventually discover that they were going to be having a girl. Why they would trust Tim’s medical opinion is a mystery, and the only worthwhile part of that whole bit was the parting quip about a son’s hockey game and how he was his best friend, something Greg oneday hopes to experience. I don’t know too much about different animal species, but it seems unlikely that the internet would recommend to exterminate a type of frog immediately upon discovery, which is both violent and rather repugnant. Leave it to this crew of teenagers to fail completely because all of them except for Tyler were far too sympathetic to the plight of poor Michael. I didn’t know why Tim’s plotline took a sharp turn last episode, and now we see that it was the prelude to him being far too friendly in a way that should merit a response from the Short family that has had no trouble telling him how little they think of him in the past. The fourth segment was the only saving grace, though it too took an unexpected dramatic turn. Why the woman who delivered bad news by pushing a box of tissues towards her clients didn’t think of this match that seems likely to come to fruition is unknown, but maybe this new family could work out splendidly, fulfilling the longtime dreams of these eager soon-to-be parents.

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 5, Episode 2 “Dead Lift” (B+)

I was very pleased to see the return of annoying Liv on the given brain of the week, this time a fitness freak who lectured Clive on how many calories are in a pint of ranch dressing and then chastise Ravi for having enjoyed fifty-seven empty calories when he excitedly identified the blood as corn syrup. I knew all along that the human murder scene had been staged, though it was interesting to see how Major decided to play it, pretending to exercise vicious justice against zombie perpetrators in his own midst to make sure that he appeared like a forceful and bold leader. Zombies are definitely in danger with the human forces working against them, and the police force needs to be united in order to provide the protection necessary to all the people within the Seattle borders. Major’s going through a tough time, and he’s punishing himself by not indulging in delights like Liv’s home-cooked brain meal, a nice sentiment that would have been unfathomable at the beginning of this show when he was all muscle and Liv broke off their engagement out of fear that she’d hurt him. I like seeing Peyton’s increased role in daily affairs, having to negotiate between the two city council members who happened to be different species, and her enthusiasm and resourcefulness with Ravi’s proposed “Hi, Zombie” idea. After he was so gruff and unpleasant in the previous episode, it’s good to Ravi get such delight from coming up with smart ways to solve the problems he sees around him.

What I’m Watching: The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Episode 7 “Not All Men” (B)

This episode felt like the closest to horror that we’ve seen yet on this show, with a clear issue spreading and threatening to turn every possible ally into a violent and uncontrollable enemy. I recognized a whole bunch of actors in this episode, starting with Luke Kirby from “Rectify” playing a far less sympathetic role as the first man to become infected by the meteor. Taissa Farmiga, recently seen in films like “The Mule,” “What They Had,” and “In a Valley of Violence,” was the lead who began to notice this horrific shift, and Rhea Seehorn, one of the most valuable players on “Better Call Saul,” as the sister who took a bit more time to start believing her. Ike Barinholtz, usually far more obnoxious in projects like “The Mindy Project,” was a creative but effective casing choice as Mike, whose creepy rendition of “Happy Birthday” was by far the most memorable scene of the episode. I knew I recognized Cole, who was played by Percy Hynes White from the recently-cancelled “The Gifted.” I like that Seehorn’s Martha wanted to harness the power of the meteors that was turning the men into superpowered fighters, though the rules of this nightmare didn’t allow for that. The near-closing interaction with the guard who was evidently affected demonstrated, as this show usually does, that all is decidedly not well, and understanding what the problem is doesn’t mean that it can be easily solved. A happy ending is rarely in the cards on this show, even if characters did manage to survive.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 3, Episode 6 “Placed on Waivers” (B+)

I really liked this episode. It’s a tribute to this show’s format that it could work well without bringing back the two supporting characters that always made it for me, and it’s also refreshing to see Brockmire as the sane one giving advice to someone else who is spiraling out of control. Celebrating the news of Gabby’s pregnancy was exciting, and that bubble burst quickly when she returned home to find Gayle in the tub with Dakota, who apparently loves Instagram and isn’t great at holding her breath for long periods of time. Watching Gabby’s subsequent meltdown was pretty spectacular, and I do wonder whether Panda Express paid for all the advertising that they got in this half-hour since it was mostly negative about the quality of the food and the establishment over all. It appears that things are indeed progressing for Brockmire with Christine Woods’ Maggie, and I did enjoy watching her reaction to being lambasted for her sauce-related failure. I suppose it does make great entertainment to have the broadcasters air their meltdowns during a game, and Brockmire did try his best to talk some sense into Gabby and encourage her to save some of her feelings for a time when everyone wasn’t listening in to their conversation. He did succeed at getting her to use a pseudonym for the wife that she wanted to complain about, one we likely won’t see again after the unsubtle message that Gabby left for her on their garage door. I liked seeing this side of Gabby and hope to see more of it in the future!

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 7 “Chapter Eighty-Eight” (B)

I understand that this episode may have been structurally necessary, but it wasn’t a terribly productive use of the limited time this show has left. Jane was never going to do well in Montana, though, to her credit, she let go of some of the reservations she had about trying new things. It was more than inconvenient that she didn’t have any cell service to be able to talk to Mateo or work through her thoughts with Xiomara, but it did help her to make a decision all on her own, even if she enjoyed a sweet goodnight kiss with Michael when they ended up having to camp out overnight because they weren’t going to make it back before the sun went down. I knew that I recognized Charlie from somewhere and was excited to learn that she was played by Haley Lu Richardson, a standout performer from “Support the Girls” and “The Chaperone.” I’m more than happy to be done with all this Michael business, which now represents a stumbling block on the path back to victory for the side I’ve always been on, #teamrafael! Unfortunately, the man she now knows that she wants to be thinks it’s too late and that he can’t trust her anymore. While that was sad news, I’m glad to see that Jane isn’t willing to give up just yet, and when she puts her mind to something, she’s not going to let anything stop her. I imagining her path back to his good graces will be awkward and uncomfortable, but I’m looking forward to following it.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 4, Episode 5 “Santa Claus Rides Loch Ness Monster into Atlantis!” (B-)

I didn’t find this episode to be terribly worthwhile, mainly because this thurple commits plenty of poly fouls they’re capable of dealing with on their own. Attending this absurdly overpriced seminar with no refunds felt unnecessary, and it was just an opportunity for Jack to realize that Emma is right about some of the issues she always warns them about and for Izzy to panic even more about being an afterthought in their relationship. Being spoken to as someone who would want her own pairing since she could never truly be a part of theirs is a worrisome thought that no one has brought up for a while, and it’s just going to be another reason that she’s going to try to bolt. I enjoyed the opportunity for Carmen and Nina to spend some time together at the impromptu binge night, with Nina blaming Carmen for taking her best friend away as an extension of the suburbs. Lala is being rehabilitated in much the same way that Lori was when she was still a part of the show, and though she definitely talks during the show a lot more than she’s supposed to, she’s growing both on me and seemingly on the residents of the neighborhood as well. It was announced last week that this show will be ending with its fifth season, which to me is totally fine since it’s been on the air a while and is no longer quite as good as it used to be in season one.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 21 “The Girl with the Red Lightning” (B)

I didn’t realize that this was the penultimate episode of the season – I’ll soon have a chance to watch the finale, which aired last night. I’m ready to be done with Cicada just dropping in and then shooting up into the air, and I think this show has more ground it can cover than just one big bad. Inviting metas into CCPD so that they can all get the cure was an interesting plan, and one that seemed to make the usually unflappable Joe go into panic mode. I liked the opportunity to see Irene again, and to see her use her powers when Cicada came after her and Sherloque told her he knew she had abilities. Sending her to a different Earth for her protection was a sweet move, and maybe he’ll travel there with her at the end of the season if he manages to survive. Seeing Barry and Nora run together and Nora get into Cicada’s head with her negative energy was intriguing, and it was once again endlessly frustrating to see Nora disregard the express instructions her parents gave her. I’m more sympathetic to her after she made the argument that she’s an adult and they have to start helping her face it rather than keeping her away from it. The last-minute reveal about Eobard’s true intentions does make things much more exciting – and worrisome – since it shows that the bad guy we’ve been told to trust all season has actually been masterminding a major move that might result in him getting back to a time he wants to be in and taking down some good guys on the way. I’m eager to see what happens in the finale!

Pilot Review: Chernobyl

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 14 “Nip | Stuck” (B-)

I can give this episode the most credit for its clever title and for Ava’s casual coining on the phrase “nip-notized” to describe the “Gary is all the man we need” effect. It’s not always a good idea for these characters to act unlike themselves, but in this case, it was worthwhile to see Ava and Nora fall under his nip-spell and then get knocked out of it when Mona’s Wolfie bashed their heads together. For the first time, Mona managed to conjure up her alternate personality at just the right moment, though now it appears she’s been taken prisoner by Neron, Gary, and Tabitha the fairy godmother. I wasn’t impressed by Neron’s trip back in time with Constantine to show him how his ancestor was responsible for creating a rift between humans and magical creatures, and I’d like to hope that the focus on Neron means that season five won’t deal as much with Constantine and all these spells. I like that Mick and Sara started to argue after he made the call for Gideon to fire, and that they reminisced and acknowledged that the two of them and Ray were the only originals left. I do like the team as it stands right now, especially with Nate and Zari finally getting together and Charlie having a blast. Going into hell to rescue Constantine is sure to be a dark journey, but if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s this crew. It will certainly be messy, but they’re up for the job.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What I’m Watching: Veep (Penultimate Episode)

Veep: Season 7, Episode 6 “Oslo” (B)

I’m not even sure what to say about this show anymore. I know it’s already over, and I’m sure the finale – which is coming up soon on my watchlist – will be memorable. This episode threw in a whole bunch of curveballs, namely Selina accidentally admitting to being a war criminal to her least favorite ambassador, Minna, which resulted in her being reported to the International Criminal Court. In this show’s not-all-that-exaggerated version of America, somehow that helped her, until of course she tried to mitigate the damage by showing that only elephants were killed. It was truly awkward and uncomfortable to watch Selina have to repeat over and over her dedication to keeping Tibet free after she had just casually offered it back to China as a debt to be repaid upon her victory. I did much more enjoy hearing Minna irritate Selina to no end, first by asking for Selina’s forgiveness and then telling her she could not forgive her for killing innocents, and hilariously confirming that they would be sharing a room in the embassy. Michael McKean’s governor didn’t last long, and now Richard is one step closer to his likely selection by Selina as a running mate since he’s pretty much the only person she doesn’t want to snub for the job. Other humorous subplots included Dan bringing Amy’s abortion doctor to Jonah’s dad’s funeral and Mike being hired for CBS News as the youngest correspondent by a long shot. Jonah killing his dad after being patient zero in the spread of adult chicken pox to anti-vaxxer communities along the campaign trail was an absurd event that would happen only on this show, and something tells me that Jonah’s eager embrace of killing a good number of immigrants may ultimately make him Selina’s fiercest opponent in this truly deplorable contest.

What I’m Watching: Barry

Barry: Season 2, Episode 6 “The Truth Has a Ring to It” (B+)

One of the best things about this show is that it’s often hard to determine just who the good guys and the bad guys are, especially since we’re always rooting for Barry and he spends a lot of his time killing people. That has sort of shifted in this episode, since we’re also on Hank’s side, and his attempted coup against Esther, which would have resulted in many people dying, appears to have failed miserably. I do hope that Hank won’t have to endure fatal consequences for his actions since I hope that we’ll see other scenes like him leading a Chechen song and dance in Barry’s honor. Barry’s police problems went away entirely thanks to the open-and-shut classification of the case, and it seems like the dead cop’s partner is off the scent too. Watching Barry channel the darkness not only of his wartime kill but also of coming face-to-face with Moss at the end of last season was intense, and he delivered a truly terrifying performance opposite Sally that had everyone in the class completely entranced. Gene’s assurances that Barry, unlike Sam, is not an inherently violent guy didn’t assuage him all that much, but he’s doing his best to make a clean break. Cutting off Fuches won’t work out all that well for him, as the formerly affable ally is now set on going after Barry’s new mentor in a way that likely won’t end well for anyone. Seeing this new side of Fuches is indeed interesting, and I’m very intrigued to see where it’s going to lead.

Pilot Review: The Spanish Princess

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 10 “This Land is Your Land” (C+)

I’m getting tired of the way things are playing out on this show, and the sudden introduction of Beth confessing her sins to a support group of addicts makes me wonder how it can possibly go anywhere worthwhile. Beth being out was never going to last, but that’s not entirely her fault, since her fellow moms should never have decided just to purchase prepared goods from the supermarket after she spent hours baking everything. Describing the feeling of nearly being arrested as fun, however, is very much cause for concern, and she won’t be quite as excited about it when she realizes that Turner was able to locate the damning documents that she thought she cleverly hid. It’s true that Annie never thinks anything out as well as Beth does, and she’s just about as reckless. That said, Ruby deciding to just dump everything in the garbage because she got nervous doesn’t consider any of the consequences of that action and on not delivering, something this show seems to willfully forget at every possible turn. Noah showing up at the dealership in a suit to look through everything with Turner seems foolish since Beth could easily recognize him, though Annie for once earns some credit for realizing before someone expressly told her that her new boyfriend has been playing her all along. Let’s hope she finds a way to use that information to her advantage since he should feel very bad about everything he’s done given the quick intimacy of their relationship and the fact that his betrayal is going to hurt Sadie more than anyone.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 4, Episode 8 “Fight Night” (B-)

I wasn’t sure why Mafee and Dollar Bill yelling at each other was featured so prominently in the recap before the episode since I didn’t actually think they’d be fighting each other. They definitely do not strike me as an appropriate physical match-up, and it turns out that, after a good deal of prep on both their parts, the fight petered out and managed to disappoint everyone except for the one person who smartly bet on it to end as a draw. What was far more enticing was Taylor and Axe going after each other in a public forum, with Taylor first calling Axe a dinosaur on TV and then him getting very heated and swearing at them on the air when they called in to combat his assertions. This show always likes to acknowledge its twists and surprises, and therefore Axe was more than happy to talk out the scheme he fell prey to that allowed Taylor to score a bigger win than him with the fracking ruling. Wendy’s circumstances are worsening, with the review of her medical license triggered by Sara reporting her throwing everything into jeopardy. Why Chuck thought convincing her not to sell the house would enable him a pass to get back into the bedroom is a mystery, and he should be happy with the unlikely victories he scored in other arenas in this hour. I liked the casting of Saul Rubinek from “Warehouse 13” as Hap, who couldn’t catch a break with the ever-manipulative Chuck, who was at least kind enough to give him a parting gift for being a pawn in his game. Bryan making a move against Chuck Sr.’s lot seemed like an early opportunity to show his hand, but I think he’s trying to get Chuck to panic and do something truly prosecutable.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 4 “The Last of the Starks” (B+)

After the epic battle against the dead from the previous episode, this extended four felt almost uneventful, though something has to be saved for the final two installments. Some processing time was definitely necessary, and the splintering of forces I had expected in the wake of victory against an enemy presumed unbeatable didn’t happen en masse. Instead, Tyrion and Varys began conversations that everyone is thinking about even without the knowledge of Jon’s true identity regarding whether Daenerys is indeed the best ruler for the Seven Kingdoms. Telling his sisters was inevitable even though Daenerys asked that he not share it with them, and having Bran be the one to tell them likely make the news all the more resounding. Arya not trusting her and Sansa not liking her are different things, but they’re both important factors in why Daenerys may not succeed as a leader. It wasn’t a surprise that Arya turned down the newfound lord’s proposal since she has no desire to be a lady, and she may still be the one to kill Cersei. Jaime being pulled to fight after he and Brienne tried to start their life together was equally unavoidable, and he too is going to be a powerful player in the final fight. The second dragon was easily felled by Euron, who may now have impregnated the queen, and the fact that we only saw one other major death in this hour indicates how skillfully Cersei is willing to play the game. Taking Missandei prisoner and then executing her when Daenerys and her army were watching was cruel but purposeful, and I, like so many others, are immensely intrigued to see what’s happened next. Though this review is late and the next one will be too, I’m preempting my watching of any other shows to make sure I view each hour of this one before anything gets spoiled for me.

Monday, May 13, 2019

What I’m Watching: Killing Eve

Killing Eve: Season 2, Episode 5 “Smell Ya Later” (B)

It has seemed for a while like this show, manipulating the words in its title slightly, has been building towards turning Eve into a killer. That Carolyn sent in someone to monitor her response to seeing a brutalized victim and Villanelle’s face on a projector screen means that she’s well aware that her number one agent has become a liability. It’s hard to discern, however, where Carolyn thinks things are headed, since she and Konstantin were sitting together in a car watching their two assets run off together, where Villanelle was freely allowed to torture the other female assassin for the information they desperately wanted. The home visit between Eve and Villanelle was indeed immensely watchable, as it appeared that Eve had the upper hand despite Villanelle showing up in fancy attire and ready to give Eve the poison. Eve’s willingness to take it, even though it wasn’t actually fatal, was intriguing, but it still remains difficult for me to see what the endgame is here, both for the two of them and the show. Villanelle speaking directly to Eve’s husband while posing as a chaperone with him was a new and somewhat unexpected development, one that’s sure to wreak havoc in whatever is left of her personal and professional career. Given the close relationship between Carolyn and Konstantin, something tells me they’re both going to keep their assets in play even though they know just how volatile and unpredictable they’ve become and the damage they will likely both cause if allowed to continue operating freely.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 20 “Will the Real Miss Tessmacher Please Stand Up?” (B)

Things have reached a disconcerting boiling point now that humans who feel that aliens shouldn’t have any rights to exist on this planet can inject themselves with something that will instantly give them superpowers. Lockwood is off the rails, storming out of his wife’s funeral and then trying to get every innocent alien in the same place as the one who killed her. He already tried to usurp authority that wasn’t his while Haley was attempting to get his access revoked, and Brainy was only able to do so much to stop him. I like that this show has officially created a group of superheroes, with Brainy, Dreamer, and Guardian ready to stop the advancing forces from policing and imprisoning a community that has done nothing to them. Kara and Lena did pretty well in Kaznia, with Kara finding the right opportunity to slip out of the small plane that Lena was piloting to save it as Supergirl and then arrive back in time to pretend to pass out from all the excitement. Finding Red Daughter’s room with all the pictures of Kara and Supergirl really shook her, and I was glad to see that she was finally revealing her double identity to Lena. Not doing so because it would have broken her trust is just going to result in her finding out another way, one which will only demonstrate that Kara lied to her. Eve has become quite the pesky nemesis, and hopefully all versions of her will be gone by the end of the season. A romance is clearly being set up between Alex and Kelly, which should be interesting to see if they can focus enough with the latest somewhat predictable threat now emerging: the president himself is well aware of the illicit activities Kara wanted to expose to him.

Pilot Review: Dead to Me

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Take Three: Ramy

Ramy: Season 1, Episode 3 “A Black Spot on the Heart” (B+)

I wasn’t so sure about the way this episode started, with the depiction of the Orthodox Jew that had workarounds so that he could have his granddaughter pay for his watch feeling more than a bit unnecessarily exaggerated. Fortunately, after the weirdness of Ramy being asked “what is time” and then being told to take off his clothes, things got a whole lot more normal. I like that Ramy told Sarah that he was actually “the other Middle Eastern thing” and attributed his hair as belonging to the whole region rather than “Jew curls” since the Jews get the land, a humorous breakdown of the area that didn’t feel all that layered or complicated. I knew I recognized Sarah from somewhere, and that’s because she was played by Molly Gordon, who appeared in two great comedies I saw at SXSW that will be coming out soon, “Booksmart” and “Good Boys.” I hope we’ll see her again, since her Palestine comment while on drugs and her apparent dalliance with someone else didn’t feel like the proper goodbye, especially considering how much Ramy seemed to like her. His drug trip was indeed impulsive, and I’m glad that it wasn’t just a generic stoner scene like the ones featured on so many shows, pushing him instead to say some very real things that were horribly offensive to the mother of the one person just as typically offensive as he was in that moment. Steve will certainly forgive him, and I’m sure he’ll be clearer once he comes down from his first drug experience.

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 12 “Cyborg Patrol” (B)

It seemed like the deck was stacked against the Doom Patrol once again with yet another theoretically ally turned against him, but fortunately that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, on this often very weird show, the butts got loose? That event was apparently devastating and destructive enough to cause the general to kill himself once he heard the news. I enjoyed the interactions that the prisoners – not counting Vic – had with their interrogators. Cliff being told that he was a primitive design that they were able to stop with a magnet who should be sent to the scrap and recycle program was entertaining, and I like that he then opened his mouth to let Rita blob out, proving his value. Jane found herself a vindictive nemesis in the man that she called “Discount Dexter,” and he made the fatal mistake of playing a song to torment her that turned into Karen and got him completely hypnotized by her love spell. Larry seemed to be having the toughest time, especially when they were prepared for the spirit and managed to bottle it up, but when Larry released him, he took everyone out right away, which was enormously useful. Vic’s mental journey while in holding was unsettling, particularly when the guy in the next cell seemed to be able to hear Grid. Seeing the video footage showing Silas’ aversion to the consequences of Vic becoming entirely cybernetic was immensely triggering, resulting in that brutal punch, and Mr. Nobody’s applause arrival suggests that things really are not as they seem. He may just have scored a major point that’s going to take Vic out of the running in the same way the original Doom Patrol was defeated.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 3, Episode 9 “The Unknown” (B+)

One thing that this show does relatively subtly is to introduce actors who work with Sam that may or may not be big names. I recognized a few of them in this episode, most notably Mark Feuerstein from “Royal Pains.” There was also Keith Powell from “30 Rock,” Holland Taylor from “The Practice” and “Two and a Half Men,” and, though she barely had any lines, Gabrielle Ruiz from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” A lot of this episode was spent with Sam just being there and watching, but it was most powerful in its opening scene and the last one that included a lot of dialogue. Sam usually has to deal with her daughters or with her mother, but in this case it was all about the adults. Her father being made an honorary friar gave her the chance to talk to Durham, played by Griffin Dunne, who is now on “This Is Us,” and she learned some interesting details about what their parents might have had together. Sam’s father has been a recurring presence as of late, and it’s interesting to see his existence acknowledged by others in a way that doesn’t necessarily contradict what we’ve seen of him as Sam hallucinates him. What will likely be Sam’s last interaction with Mer went very poorly, starting with what seemed like more innocent flirtation but ending with Mer being truly offended by Sam’s utter lack of interest expressed only after indulging a lot of the attention she had given her up until that point.

What I’m Watching: Abby’s

Abby’s: Season 1, Episode 6 “Liquid Courage” (B)

This show may not be the smartest comedy on TV, but it is fun to watch. I liked how offended Bill got about the Irish goodbye, a term that he tried to break down as offensive before using it in a worse way himself, and that he managed to discover what the alternative is and just how exhausting (and time-consuming) the suck-in can be. Bill confronting Fred about thinking that they had become friends was a good and rare instance of him actually successfully standing up for himself, and Fred’s gesture of restarting their interrupted conversation only to see it fizzle out immediately was sweet and hilarious. James really does have an ability to come up with the worst possible outcomes in every situation, and I like that he was able to use that to everyone’s advantage when he nearly messed everything up by finally working up the courage to confront the terrible Richard. I guess someone who’s doing Whole 30 and married his nutritionist is the enemy of everyone at the bar, and I really would have enjoyed Fred having to read his erotic political thriller Gettysburg Undressed. I thought Bill was finally going to come in handy for everyone at the bar and tell Richard he wasn’t going to get away with extorting them, but instead he just wanted to get his goodbye in since he’s so committed to that now. For the moment, all the patrons in this illogically operable bar can remain well after 8:55pm, so all hope is not lost.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 4, Episode 4 “Birth Meddling Jacket Denial” (B-)

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that this show won’t be coming back for a fifth season – its late return at the end of April didn’t suggest much of an endorsement from CBS. While I do enjoy watching it, I’ve never found it to be all that great, so I’ll happily finish out the thirteen episodes of this season and then forgot all about its existence. That said, I do hope that some of the better actors on this show end up with great new roles on other comedies or dramas in the near future. It was a relief to see Morgan not be completely horrible about something for once, though I did get nervous that she was having second thoughts about giving the baby to Colleen and Matt in general before realizing that she let her guard down and managed to get scared. She didn’t have much of a part, but I was excited to recognize Kate Berlant, who had a great part in the Tribeca movie “Safe Spaces,” as Eliza, the woman who pitched the home birth. Sam’s friend Jenna really was the worst, and it was fun to see Heather and Joan react the same way to their daughters not listening to their advice. “You’d be surprised how fast a friend can go from being dead to just being dead” was a memorable line from Joan. Greg’s present mistake was truly regrettable, and it was funny to watch him mess it up even more by putting Jen’s make-up gift in Joan’s jacket pocket. I don’t know what to make of Tim’s health stuff, which seems both more serious in nature and more over-the-top ridiculous in presentation.

What I’m Watching: iZombie (Season Premiere)

iZombie: Season 5, Episode 1 “Thug Death” (B)

What an unceremonious final premiere for this show, which will air well into the summer for some unknown reason along with another departing CW show, “Jane the Virgin.” I’m happy to have it back for one last round at least, and, like the seasons before it, it’s a whole new show at this point. Things have gotten pretty bad in Seattle, and I liked how Peyton had to appear on Johnny Frost’s show opposite Dolly, who was spouting comparisons between zombies and humans to humans and T-bones. Clive’s assignment from Dale to find salted caramel dark chocolate was nearly as difficult as keeping the peace on Seattle’s streets, and it was sad to watch Major identify a likely threat with the van too late to stop it from exploding and killing a number of innocent zombies. He has a tough job having to deal with someone like Blaine, who understands his role in helping Seattle to stay balanced but also is more inclined to his mercenary, murderous ways with the border agents, not all of who were happy to give it following his threats. I honestly couldn’t remember anything about whoever it was that made Ravi act the way he did this whole episode, though it was fun to see him trying not one bit to control his behavior while Liv got to act serious and put on her Renegade hat. I’m not sure if a human was indeed killed by a zombie, but it looks like that investigation is about to go down a dark path.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Episode 6 “Six Degrees of Freedom” (B)

Like the last two episodes, this one started from a point where its characters were undergoing an incredible experience without knowing where it was going to lead. The beginning of the hour reminded me of “Last Resort” when one submarine was out on its own after a nuclear event, and the idea of a mission to Mars taking off as most of the human race was wiped out by nuclear bombs was certainly very intense. Once aboard, especially when the one crew member was trying to bait the rest of them and there was another shot of steamy sex, I was thinking about “High Life,” the recently-released film that I saw at the New York Film Festival last year about death row inmates sent into space to harness the power of a black hole. I’d say that the most on-brand part of the episode was Pierson starting to believe that none of this had actually happened and that it was all a test, going so far as to airlock himself to prove it. Like the last time we encountered aliens, in Alaska, they were far more aware of what was going on than any human, though it turned out that Pierson’s bravery and ability to see someone watching – even though he had no idea who or what it was – was enough to make the human race worthy of salvation. Though it wasn’t presented as such, it was a far more optimistic and rather hopeful ending than usual for this show.

What I’m Watching: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 3, Episode 5 “Clubhouse Chemistry” (B+)

It’s good to know that Brockmire isn’t the only one on this show who has a tendency to get himself into volatile relationships. Tracing some of what Charles experienced in the time since we last saw him was entertaining, and I didn’t remember that we had met Quinn Cooke’s Denise before towards the end of season one. Cooke deserves tremendous commendation for her fantastic performance here, relatively unhinged but also so reined in as she knew just when to pull out all the stops and pull out that knife. The fact that she actually stabbed Brockmire after he had earlier thrown the blanket over her to get her out of the bedroom was pretty hilarious, especially after she said that they had thrown out all of his knives to prevent any such occurrences from happening again and that he wasn’t even doing anything wrong in the moment. I enjoyed Charles championing the public bathroom behavior that he and Denise were so thrilled about engaging in, which repulsed even Brockmire, which is a difficult thing. It seems this is all we’ll be seeing of Charles for a while, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about the new character introduced who will be sticking around. I’m a big fan of Christine Woods from “Hello Ladies,” and I can’t wait to see more of her flirtatious nurse. He’s no longer nearly as aggressive as before, but Matt still managed to make an impression on Brockmire, helping to open him up to new ideas about what being a good person means.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 6 “Chapter Eighty-Seven” (B)

It’s not too pleasant to see Rafael not doing well, though at least he’s trying to take proactive steps to help himself rather than spiraling downward and regressing into addiction. Jane was definitely a bit too pushy with Petra, though she also should have known that telling her to let something go was never going to work. Watching Petra try to act cool in front of JR’s friends was very awkward, but at least she managed to have a great time with Jane trying to lighten up before Leona confirmed just how little she trusted her. That relationship seems to be the most solid compared to the others, which is troubling, but that’s just where things are right now. Xiomara losing her sex drive didn’t cause nearly as much strife as it could have for the usually selfish Rogelio, and they seem to be getting through it together. Alba getting that passionate kiss from Jorge so that he could alert her to the presence of the surprise immigration visit was the last straw, and good for her for speaking her mind even though it didn’t result in him expressing the same feelings. Her enthusiasm for vibrators was an unexpected subplot, and it was nice to see the Villanueva women crying and then laughing together. Michael remembering what he saw the day Rose shot him was helpful but not overly productive, and now we’re going to be treated to what will surely be a wild and transformative trip to Montana to get to know the parts of Michael that are still Jason.

Friday, May 10, 2019

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 3, Episode 4 “That's So Stupid and I'm Definitely Not Crying” (B)

Things in the thruple relationship are getting a bit boring as of late, and this show is starting to follow suit. Emma tried to continue spicing things up after she got over being mad at them for their latest poly foul, but then she too fell asleep, dooming them all to lackluster suburban interactions for the near future. I thought that Emma and Izzy were sneaking away to do something illicit, but instead they were just meeting one of this show’s more irritating characters, Gabe, so that he could reveal something about Jack’s father that’s going to prove immensely troubling whenever it is that he eventually finds out. I more enjoyed Izzy clashing with Lala even more than Emma did, and that, despite Izzy’s assertion that Emma was far too busy to consider it, she is now likely to run for HOA president just because she doesn’t want to lose. Izzy was so ready to bail the moment she saw her future with Jack and Emma being doting parents with her on the sidelines, and luckily they picked up on that. This poly training camp for a whopping $600 each is going to be interesting, and maybe it will help them get their groove back. I’m glad that Carmen appears to have gotten some inspiration that will lead her back to a good place, and Izzy seemed to be able to talk Nina down after she was ready to make heads roll after her run-in with the interior designer Shaun definitely will not be hiring.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 20 “Gone Rogue” (B-)

I’m not sure why Nora thought it would be a good idea to enlist three noted meta villains to help her in some heist, but she’s been full of poor notions for a long time now. Barry was only slightly willing to listen when Iris suggested that maybe Eobard was trying to atone for his sins, but that doesn’t mean any of what Nora did was smart. I actually would have preferred to watch XS go off the rails a bit, joining forces with this new evil crew to get revenge on Team Flash for not believing in her. Instead, we got one cool moment in this hour when the hostages in the room turned out to be Joe and Iris decked out in combat gear. I continue to find Rag Doll to be immensely creepy, and he didn’t seem to fit too well with Weather Witch, Queen Bee, and XS, but his ability to fit in tight spaces did come in quite handy. With the three of them taken care of thanks to a quick turnoff of the power dampener, it’s back to the team being united, with Caitlin in a good place again thanks to Ralph and Nora back with them, and the adult Grace showed back up at just the right moment to make sure that they’re alert. Cicada II’s plans are indeed vengeful and nefarious, and it doesn’t help that she’s hallucinating the uncle that she killed standing there nodding his approval when we know for a fact that he didn’t support her violent quest in his dying moments.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 13 “Egg MacGuffin” (B-)

Things are getting a bit silly now, as if they weren’t already, though I guess it’s important to recognize the power of demons in being able to sway those on the margins of society. Gary has been this show’s go-to punching bag for every other character, and being offered back his nipple by someone who was validating him has now transformed him from a harmless nuisance to a vessel that Neron can likely use even more effectively and destructively than Ray. Nate took quite a beating after his Indiana Jones-inspired time date with Zari, and that was the perfect opportunity for them to finally kiss after so much buildup. It was funny to watch Sara try so hard to read the book for book club, ultimately settling on listening to it sped up while running on the treadmill, and she was the one who had come closest to actually reading it. I’m glad that Ava is most set on protecting humanity and was up for bringing Nora onto the team officially, which is a bit questionable given her previous illegal and even murderous behavior, but she seems to have been completely rehabilitated as a character. Charlie posing as artist Rebecca Silver was entertaining, and while I’m not sure that Mick being revealed as the truest feminist author there is supports any sort of modern ideals, it was still fun to watch and to see him reveal his softer side. This was the first mission that the two of them seemed to be truly invested, which is something.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 7, Episode 5 “Super Tuesday” (B)

We’re almost at the end now, with just two episodes, one of which has already aired, to go! I’m still not finding this season to be as terrific as past years have been, but there are is some humorous material to be found. Keith Quinn is proving his salt as the official Chinese source, which of course everyone else on the team suspected someone else was, and their impact is being seen very directly. Leave it to Selina to make up an illegal immigrant named Rosa that she could reference all the time and then actually get a poor woman identified and caught. Lines like “I can’t have people thinking I’m Jewish right in the middle of the primary” make it clear that this is indeed a two-woman race to see who is less offensive to the American people. Selina and Andrew may have different backgrounds but they’re not all that different, and she was barely even fazed by his untimely demise in the boat that she accidentally ordered. Dan serving as the new chief of staff for Richard didn’t help too much as Richard managed to say exactly what he wasn’t supposed to and get everyone above him arrested. His political ascension has been very swift, and he may just be the best candidate for the top job in the end, utterly unqualified but totally honest. Jonah finding his birth certificate wasn’t news for his apparent Canadian nationality, which is probably problematic, but instead for the confirmation that he still doesn’t comprehend that Lloyd is his real dad, meaning that his wife is indeed his half-sister and the baby she’s going to have has more than a few family members in common on both sides. And somehow that still won’t be a problem for him since he’ll find a way to turn it into a chant for the crowd to cheer.

What I’m Watching: Barry

Barry: Season 2, Episode 5 “ronny/lily” (B-)

This episode was considerably less serious than nearly all of the installments that came before it, and while I appreciated the fact that it just followed and stayed with the action for the entire duration, I would have preferred an opportunity to see other characters like Sally, Hank, or even Gene, who could ground the story a bit. Barry decided that he wasn’t going to kill Ronny, but the way he went about breaking into his home and then trying to arrange for him to leave town to head to Chicago went all kinds of wrong. I do enjoy the way in which Bill Hader stays so calm and conversational, even as Ronny tried to kill him and then kept fighting even after he was severely wounded, and that for me helped to save the episode. It would be far too simple – and horrible – for Barry to kill a kid, and instead both he and Fuches got terrorized by the trained ninja. Fuches failed to acknowledge the seriousness of Barry’s condition when he just wanted to get him away from the scene and use superglue to deal with some of his more problematic injuries, and that led to more issues, namely Fuches supergluing his own hands to the steering wheel. Ronny was one bad/good guy who just wouldn’t stay dead, and Detective Loach really should have checked that before he tried to kill two birds with one stone by taking Barry in – or out – too. I don’t know what comes next, but Barry giving himself up after all this would be pretty crazy.

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 9 “One Last Time” (B-)

The notion that Beth is going to get out is hard to truly believe, especially since this show was recently renewed for another season. Stan being arrested is a huge development, one that makes this seem like an open-and-shut case for Turner, who is talking in a way that doesn’t conform much with his character, suggesting that he would utilize corrupt methods to get Stan to cooperate. Ruby choosing to rob the place that she had visited and left an impression was a questionable choice, and their captive turned out to be an irritating handful. His decision not to report her to the police and to instead use her address so that his nephew could go to a good school seemed like a fair trade which once again worked out much better for these three than it should have. Greg telling Annie that Noah was bad news was a bad move destined to make her more inclined to get serious with him, and though she tried to slow it down, he played her perfectly by confessing his alleged illegal actions that made her far more interested in sharing a whole lot more than she should. Dean telling his mother that it was his fault that things in his marriage got bad because he cheated was a sign of his growth, and, though it was inaccurate, seemed like enough to get him and the kids back home. Annie getting brought in by Noah and Turner should be the next step, but I feel like this is going to be dragged out a lot more with other problems coming up first.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 4, Episode 7 “Infinite Game” (B-)

It’s never felt right for Wendy to be so expressly involved in taking down Taylor since the reason that she’s so good at her job is that she’s able to read people and motivate them to do what she wants. With Taylor, she’s been manipulating them to achieve something for someone else, and now she’s been given a double dose of guilt, first from Taylor, who caught on to her lies during their conversation, and then Mafee, who burst into Axe Cap guns blazing in a way that we’ve never seen him get angry before. I’m glad that Rebecca is in Axe’s life to help point out when he’s going too far, enlightening him about his beloved pizza chef’s actual desires that don’t involve a five-year business extension just because Axe doesn’t want to go elsewhere for pizza. That plotline reminded me a lot of “The Sopranos” and the notion that you can never get out, and while Bruno did get a happy ending, he’s pretty much the only one on this show who will. As she’s facing self-examination for her business decisions, Wendy is pressing on with personal ones, not buying Chuck’s pancake eater story since he always controls what he wants to reveal to anyone. Having the apartment shown without his sign-off is a bold move, and it’s going to prevent Chuck from seeing the next storm brewing as he willingly conspires with his father on a tapped line while keeping his other dealings more secretive. The sight of Jock at the urinal next to Danny was quite humorous, and I wondered for a moment if the actors really are so different in size. Taylor’s father leaving in a huff when Taylor made the proper business decision given the factors was disappointing, but Taylor needs to be as focused as possible at the moment, and the relationship they had with their father never seemed to be particularly positive.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 3 “The Long Night” (B+)

I managed to see this episode in the midst of the Tribeca Film Festival when my gracious hosts on Sunday night watched it with me when I arrived home at midnight. It was not, as I had joked to one of them who wanted to go to sleep instead, the most impactful episode ever that the entire series had built to, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I remember when I first noticed the White Walkers (I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the pilot), I wasn’t impressed at all with the zombie focus on an otherwise great show mostly not steeped in supernatural storytelling. The beginning of this season had made it seem like it was going to be the living versus the dead, and I’m actually glad that it’s no longer the case. This episode was epic to be sure, and the large-scale battle scenes were pretty incredible. Seeing the Dothraki get wiped out as the torches went out a few at a time just moments after Melisandre magically let them all was frightening, and for the Night King to reanimate everyone on the good side who had just been killed made doom all but certain. Holding the attention of viewers during one extended battle scene for nearly ninety minutes is no easy feat, and this episode managed to do that. The big deaths everyone predicted didn’t really happen, with only Jorah and Theon as the longstanding characters to perish. Yet this show’s major deaths have all been shocking and not at all expected, and so those can be saved for the final three episodes when Cersei once again becomes the villain. It might also be that these united factions no longer seek to remain as one now that the otherworldly threat has been defeated. Arya’s last-minute takedown of the Night King was indeed formidable, and a great way to close this chapter and prepare for the second half of this season, which is sure to be unforgettable.

What I’m Watching: Killing Eve

Killing Eve: Season 2, Episode 4 “Desperate Times” (B)

Eve and Villanelle have developed a relationship that seems to be working both ways, and its intimacy is being blocked by supervisors on both ends. Konstantin is having enough trouble keeping Villanelle reined in so that she won’t get herself arrested for some other crime than her assassinations, and Carolyn was pretty direct with Eve that she should not be the one to go to Amsterdam even though Villanelle had expressly requested her presence. The apprehension of the Ghost is almost insignificant since Villanelle is still out there, but Eve is going to have to hard time focusing and being happy with this one victory when the one she really wants has yet to be caught. I don’t know what to make of her near-kiss with Hugo, which was both highly inappropriate and highly unusual behavior for Eve, but I guess she’s just so distracted that anything feels normal at this point. Villanelle didn’t do a particularly good job of laying low and not making a production of her kills, and what an opportunity it was to execute someone in full view of the public while she was wearing a mask and they all thought it was a show. There’s no way Eve is going to let it go, and I’d be more intrigued to see Carolyn and Konstantin get back in touch and figure out how they can deal with their unruly assets in a way that gets as few people as possible killed, which is far from an easy task.