Saturday, August 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 4, Episode 9 “The Bride” (B-)

This show’s detour feels like it’s never going to get back on track, and I’m just sticking around until the finale wondering why it was that TBS opted to continue this once-decent show over the far better “People of Earth,” which I still miss following the questionable to un-renew the show months after season three had already been announced. This episode filled in Nate’s story to tell us that he hadn’t in fact been killed and had his organs harvested, but instead that the Russian bride he had met wanted him far more than he realized and was going to great lengths to make sure he didn’t come to harm. I thought Natalia looked familiar, and that’s because I’ve seen actress Olga Fonda before in the pilot of “Agent X.” She, like many other guest stars on this show playing zany characters, did a solid job of portraying the woman who didn’t want his fatty organs but longed to be with the man from Syracuse who just didn’t get that at all. Seeing his family members all dressed in white at the end represented a wondrous reunion for the four of them, but I don’t think Natalia’s mom boss father is going to be all too happy to let them go even if he is humbled by the power of love. The one moment in this episode that truly made me laugh was Nate’s inability to distinguish between a Russian-accented pronunciation of his last name and the term “parkour,” leading him to make an extremely ill-advised attempt to defy gravity through an art he doesn’t realize exists.

Round Two: Our Boys

Our Boys: Season 1, Episode 2 “Chapter 2: I Love Toto” (B+)

This episode aired immediately after the pilot, but I wanted to review it separately since the first two installments were produced separately. This show is premiering at a very interesting time as Israel is in the spotlight for the questionable policy decisions of its prime minister regarding the admission of two Congresswomen into the country, and I don’t think that this show will help with any sort of public relations. That said, it is a tremendously involving and honest depiction of the layers of society in Israel, with tensions understandably high as a result of the events depicted here but also emblematic of deeper historical and cultural decisions. This episode was grounded by the incredible performance by actor Jony Arbid as Hussein, who, frustrated by the inaction of the Israeli police, chose to go with them to the station despite all of his neighbors warning him not to, and ended up being interrogated and not told that his son has already been found brutally murdered. I neglected to note in my pilot reaction that Simon, the one investigator who believes that Jews are indeed responsible for this revenge killing, is played by Shlomi Elkabetz, brother of the late, great actress Ronit Elkabetz. The two directed “Gett: The Trial of Vivianne Amsalem,” a superb look at the difficulties of religious divorce. I’m impressed with how this show manages to make me feel like I’m right there, experiencing it all, and I plan to keep watching to learn more. I hope other viewers will too, and won’t make any problematic, generalizing real-life assumptions based on events depicted thus far that can lead to the kind of conflict that is emerging here.

Friday, August 16, 2019

What I’m Watching: Legion (Series Finale)

Legion: Season 3, Episode 8 “Chapter 27”

I wish I could be more satisfied with this finale, but there are a number of reasons that it left me unfulfilled. The first is that, weird as this show was, it should have been given more time to tell its story. After an eleven-episode second season, these last eight episodes felt rather rushed, and I didn’t find that this conclusion addressed every element of this show’s very multi-faceted universe. I’ve never understood the need for musical numbers, and the emphasis on Switch and her role as a time god or whatever she was supposed to be didn’t feel necessary to me. I knew Legion from his role in the X-Men comics, where he went back in time to try to kill Magneto and ended up killing his own father, who dove in front of his best friend to save him, creating the Age of Apocalypse, where Magneto formed the X-Men. That was never going to happen here, especially with no mention of the X-Men in this show’s universe, and instead we got a much smaller, insular world with Gabrielle feeling totally abandoned without Charles by her side. What was great about this finale was the last opportunity for Cary and Kerry to merge together and let her do the leading, and for Syd and David to have a chance to say goodbye to each other before being reunited. Charles striking a deal with the future Farouk was interesting, and I’m still not so sure what to make of his double identity throughout the show. Season one remains one of the most astounding television experiences I’ve had in a while, and it’s a shame that Aubrey Plaza played no role in this finale at all. It’s been wild if nothing else.

Series finale: B-
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Navid Negahban as Farouk and Aubrey Plaza as Lenny
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Dan Stevens as David and Aubrey Plaza as Lenny
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: Pilot

Pilot Review: Our Boys

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.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Loudest Voice (Series Finale)

The Loudest Voice: Season 1, Episode 7 “2016” (B+)

I think I was expectedly a finish with a bit more oomph, though it is true that Roger died shortly after all of this came to a head and therefore was in a way saved from considerable embarrassment because he never did face trial of any sort. What was most powerful about this episode was the switch that happened with Beth when she heard that Gretchen made recordings, something Roger didn’t even acknowledge and railroaded right past to decry the character of those who made allegations against him. Trump being featured on television defending his good friend after Roger called him was typically unsubtle, but it speaks volumes, since Trump does the same thing in his handling of situations he can’t deny – he tries to be the loudest voice in the room so that he can drown out anything he doesn’t like. Evidently, Roger made plenty of enemies, with Lachlan, portrayed by a questionably-accented Barry Watson, taking particular delight in watching Roger’s fall from grace when Rupert brought him in to fire him. The avalanche of testimonies featuring Roger’s deplorable nature was intense and excessive, though I think that’s the point since he tried to get away with whatever he wanted without any sense of, or regard for, the harm he was causing to people. I’m still interested to learn what plot points were fabricated or imagined for the sake of drama on this show, but I think the overarching message is clear, which is that power, left unchecked, can be dangerous if abused by those with far too much of it. This limited series held my attention each week, and I very much hope Russell Crowe is now more liked than he used to be so that he can claim an Emmy for his astonishing turn.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Russell Crowe

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Take Three: Another Life

Another Life: Season 1, Episode 3 “Nervous Breakdown” (B-)

I’m trying to get into this show, but I feel like it’s not really for me if I’m not overly invested in which characters die each episode and which ones survive. Airlocking crew members seems like an awfully casual activity, one that was apparently unnecessary and could have instead been replaced by some instant sterilization, something that probably should have been mentioned ahead of time by William but also was seemingly unavoidable. Niko going blind couldn’t have happened at a worst time, though she at least demonstrated that she was still able to lead even though she couldn’t see. Her condition was considerably better than Petra’s nervous system leaping out of her back like the title character from “Alien,” offering a rather grotesque sight that seems to be par for the course on this show. Niko also nearly got killed by Michelle, who’s only going to have so many chances at forgiveness for her mutinous behavior. Back on Earth, Harper is becoming a more prominent player, refusing to back off Erik and baiting him into a game of trivia to decide his cooperation level. Though he won the game, she was the true victor since she got him to give her information that for some reason he wants disseminated, a move that’s surely going to come back to haunt him. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll give episode four a shot, but this show isn’t quite delivering in the way I wanted it to at this point and likely won’t get there.

Pilot Review: Bulletproof

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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Round Two: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Four Weddings and a Funeral: Season 1, Episode 2 “Hounslow” (B)

In its second outing, this show continues to be entertaining and watchable, even if it might not be the most highbrow relationship drama. After the wedding that wasn’t, Ainsley was evidently having a lot of trouble getting over Kash, and not returning any of her texts or calls hardly helped her to move forward. Donating pretty much everything of his in their apartment enabled her to get some revenge, though she couldn’t know what a mistake it was to send Maya over to Kash’s since she won over his entire family. At least Maya was smart enough to realize that talking to him after he showed up at Ainsley’s door to try to explain himself would have been a mistake. She did dress up a bit too much to go meet Ted after he texted her about being in London, and she wasn’t at all prepared for his wife to show up. Shelley Conn, who I’ve seen previously on “Liar” and “Terra Nova,” made quite an impression in just that scene as Liz, who wasn’t about to let Maya even think about continuing any sort of relationship with her husband, which will finally enable Maya to make the decision to stay in London. It’s not going to make things any easier for her male friends, with Duffy finally trying to take the hint and respond to advances from a colleague, and Craig having to prioritize his girlfriend over her. I’m glad that we met Julia, who’s played by Ashely Madekwe from “Secret Diary of a Call Girl,” and she may now be open to Craig having some interaction with her daughter, if Zara is okay with it. The other person who’s going to have to adjust to Maya being around more is Gemma, who’s still not fond of the number one competition for Ainsley’s attention.

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 12 “Sacrifice” (B+)

Though I don’t feel that this season’s narrative has been as consistently excellent as the first two seasons of this show, I think it remains headed into a fascinating direction, and I’m very glad that a fourth season was commissioned a few weeks ago, which will allow more of this terrifying, slowly-changing world to be explored. Not all that much happened in this episode, but it became clear that Eleanor was going to be a real liability, suggesting in front of Olivia that they could take her kids out with them, a misstep Joseph was barely able to correct. The notion that Joseph might now become the figurehead of Gilead with Winslow allegedly missing and Fred in Canadian custody is immensely intriguing, and he might be well-positioned to help June in that role while slowly inching Gilead towards moderation and away from its oppressive totalitarian practices. It’s too early to celebrate that promotion and contemplate its potentially positive effects, but for now it seems that the plane is a go. June’s decision not to save Eleanor was risky, but she’s still managed to endear herself to Joseph, who will likely work just as hard to do good in his late wife’s name now that getting her out isn’t an option. Serena and Fred’s meetings with Moira and Luke, respectively, were hot-tempered to say the least, with Moira’s remark about Serena being the gender traitor the most biting moment. I’m really not sure how things will play out, but I’m very much looking forward to the season finale.

Monday, August 12, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 4, Episode 8 “The Same” (C+)

If nothing else, this episode reframed the hopeless search that the Parkers have been on for a while with both kids now on the run from the parents that just want to be reunited with them. It’s obvious that parallels are being drawn between the women and the men, with Delilah constantly compared to Robin and Jareb usually just as well-intentioned but truthfully useless as Nate. Delilah definitely doesn’t yet possess the same charming abilities as her mother, resulting in them getting on a nine-stop flight to Russia, which itself seems absurd given the multitude of connections possible from anywhere in the United States, while Robin got herself and her husband with the new shoes on a private charter plane thanks to the conveniently-present Gene. While Nate was entertaining himself by watching Delilah’s apparently hilarious ex-boyfriend, it was Robin who got their flight grounded by plowing a reserve pilot with alcohol so that he had to land the plane. I don’t have much to say about the antics in Iran, though I guess the two kids going to hide in the bathroom so that their parents wouldn’t see them and getting covered by the explosive toilet contents was even more absurd and over-the-top. Robin recognizing Delilah and Jareb by their eyes under the burkas was a sweet moment, which of course turned deadly serious in a second thanks to the presence of JR’S enemies ready to take them hostage. Nate doesn’t seem to be in much better shape either – I don’t know what to expect from the final two episodes of this season, but my hopes are not high.

What I’m Watching: Divorce (Series Finale)

Divorce: Season 3, Episode 6 “Knock Knock”

This feels like such an unceremonious end to a show that really impressed me as it went on, the latest sign that HBO pilots are rarely a sign of a show’s enduring quality. “Enlightened” and “Bored to Death” are two other examples that came to mind right away where the big premise wasn’t all that appealing and I only started liking the show once I gave it more time to develop. Season two was this show’s strongest point, and, unfortunately, this final stretch felt a whole lot like what many other abbreviated last seasons do, which is that it would have been nicer to have more time to see everything happen. That said, there wasn’t all that much ground to cover, and we got some rather concrete conclusions for just about everyone. Diane got to quit in a moderately satisfying way, fully aware of the choice she was making and that everyone in her life knew what she was choosing. Dallas saved herself some embarrassment and legal trouble, and may have found a more appropriate calling. Jackie broke things off with Robert, which didn’t seem to bother him all that much, and it appears their relationship going forward will be relatively civil. Most surprisingly, Robert and Frances are in the best place they’ve been in since the show started, even if it’s not a romantic coexistence. Henry was far too nonchalant for Frances’ taste, and both she and Robert seemed happy as the credits rolled. I’ll miss this show, but given its lukewarm reception, I’d say the twenty-four episodes it got is well worth celebrating.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Becki Newton as Jackie
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Thomas Haden Church as Robert
Best Season: Season 2
Best Episode: “Worth It

Sunday, August 11, 2019

What I’m Watching: Legion (Penultimate Episode)

Legion: Season 3, Episode 7 “Chapter 26” (B)

This episode had its share of moments, though I didn’t find it to be terribly effective as a second-to-last installment that’s meant to nearly wrap up an entire series. I’m still hung up on the different nature of Amahl Farouk the gracious host and entertainer and the Shadow King who haunted David’s nightmares and life for years, and seeing him in the flash eagerly welcoming Charles in felt much more like the former than the latter. He did manage to come face-to-face with his future self, somehow freed from the time between time, but he was caught off-guard when David walked in posing as a soldier friend of Charles. Having his father eat knowledge was a clever and quick way for David to transmit the necessary information about who he was and why he was there to the man he wants to be his ally so that they can together defeat Farouk and then somehow restart and reset time. It seems unlikely that they would succeed, especially with Farouk having some assistance from his future reformed self, though it’s possible that he’ll realize that the only way to defeat David is to allow history to proceed as it already has. Syd made an important decision to stay with Gabrielle and leave baby David alone, while Kerry was more than ready to end things right there so that they could prevent everything that happened from transpiring. I honestly have no idea what to expect from the series finale; I just hope it serves as a fitting conclusion to this eternally mesmerizing ride.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Amazon with Abe: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2, Episode 9 “Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy” (B+)

I haven’t watched this show in almost six months, abandoning it two episodes short of the end of the season in favor of more pressing new television released just as I started a big road trip at the beginning of February. Yet the first scene alone served as a completely fitting reintroduction to this show’s particular world and its unique rhythm. The revolving tables with Susie trying to get different people to vouch for Midge were humorous, and they were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Susie’s interference over the course of the hour. Of course Rose and Abe would be all for telethons until Midge explained that she was going to be on one, and she’d end up being relegated to the worst possible slot after Sophie exerted her influence. The host, played by Josh Cooke from “Better With You” and “Longmire,” reacted just the way I did, so impressed with her ability to work the room and turn a lackluster showcase into something truly incredible. The rift between Susie and Midge couldn’t have come at a worse time, when Midge’s popularity is blowing up and she’ll likely be fielding offers from others with less investment in her being able to do what she really wants to do. Abe finding out from his son that Midge mentioning Bell Labs in one of her acts may have resulted in his project getting stalled is not going to be good either, and he’s going to be a lot more upset about that than he was about Zelda giving him the silent treatment. Benjamin was very forward with his eagerness to meet Ethan and his referencing of a potential future engagement, which would definitely change things. Moishe firing Joel is going to leave him bored and purposeless, but it’s probably for the best given the fact that he was working way too closely with both of his parents.

What I’m Watching: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 1, Episode 9 “I Have to Be Honest” (B+)

This was the moment that this show has been building to since we first found out that Judy was the one who killed Ted, and it was about as powerful as it could have been. I always suspected that Judy was just going to confess, overcome with guilt for what she had done, and trying to relieve Jen of the burden she felt for being responsible because of the fight they had moments beforehand demanded just that. She knew that the police were closing in after Steve told her that her ex-boyfriend had been by to ask questions, but she had a solution for that, which of course is now likely to get her into legal trouble since a piece of the paint job is still evident on the floor of the storage unit. Steve telling Jen that he would take both houses in cash was a bold and showy move, though it wasn’t nearly as objectionable as his misinterpretation of what Jen was saying to him that caused him to believe she was hitting on him. After Judy confessed, Jen’s reaction was indeed harsh, telling her just to die, and then the most miserable thing happened after that when Judy went to go see Abe only to learn that he had died without her having the chance to say goodbye. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the finale, but this show has been renewed for a second season, which means that something unexpected and transformational is bound to occur.

Friday, August 9, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Loudest Voice (Penultimate Episode)

The Loudest Voice: Season 1, Episode 6 “2015” (B+)

As his health is declining and he’s no longer able to appear as strong as he’d like to, Roger is making sure to do the exact opposite of what he’s instructed in every case so that he can show that he’s still kicking. For anyone to expect to report to the same boss for nineteen years in a row is crazy, and Roger isn’t about to accept anything that feels like a demotion or him being pushed out by those he deems less capable. This limited series was supposed to be all about Fox News and the rise of Trump, with the latter being on full display in this hour as Roger coached him on how to officially launch his campaign and promised airtime to his team whenever they requested it so that they could help him win. I don’t want to read too much about what actually happened so that whatever I don’t know can still be revealed in the finale, but I am curious what here has been confirmed and corroborated rather than just assumed and invented by those who spent time around Roger and his closest associates. It’s reassuring to see Gretchen taking proactive action to try to take Roger down, continuing to record her conversations with Roger and consulting a lawyer to figure out what her options are. Getting out of the building without signing those papers upon her dismissal was particularly impressive, and now we’ll start to see the dominoes fall, though Roger’s ailing health may take care of him first.

What I’m Watching: Perpetual Grace, LTD (Season Finale)

Perpetual Grace, LTD: Season 1, Episode 10 “A Sheriff in the Era of the Cartel” (B)

This finale was involving but couldn’t really compare to most of what’s happened in the run-up to it so far this season. We have no idea if a second season is going to happen, which is a shame, since I’d definitely be up for further exploration of these fascinating characters with this immensely talented cast. Glenn being the one asked to go over the entire plan at the start was entertaining, especially considering his minor word mix-up and his lack of confidence in his dad. New Leaf making baseball metaphors felt appropriate even before he explained that he was a minor league prospect convicted of manslaughter for hitting a player who was sleeping with his wife. James boarded that train, changing the metaphor for his parents to rain, and it seems like nearly every part of the plan was set to go off without a hitch. Walker concluding that, even with his analysis of all the tells of lying, he couldn’t deduce what was afoot here, had him ready to leave town, but a misjudged Dave was all it took for him to stay. That final scene indicated plenty of trouble for James given that Paul’s real uncle was in the audience, and hopefully we’ll be able to find out what happens next. Pa having to dig his own grave while Ma walked wasn’t looking good for either of them, but Hector being told to follow the plan resulted in no notable casualties other than himself. At least he got to narrate his own death as he would have written it. This show has been peculiar but immensely intriguing, and I’m definitely down to revisit this crew again. Let’s hope awards bodies like it too, even if it’s only Kingsley who earns the accolades.

Season grade: B+
Season MVPs: Luis Guzman as Hector and Dash Williams as Glenn

Thursday, August 8, 2019

What I’m Watching: Euphoria (Season Finale)

Euphoria: Season 1, Episode 8 “And Salt the Earth Behind You” (B)

This was a fittingly hypnotic finale that didn’t serve to bring all of the plotlines to a close but rather to redirect them for the second season, which I continue to look forward to since I think it will be able to more strongly explore its characters’ next steps. This show has impressed me greatly in terms of its investment in its portrayal of its players’ backstories, its cinematography, its editing, and its narration style. This episode got a little into that at the end of the hour with the dancing and singing, but I can understand that it’s one way to interpret the wild inner machinations of Rue’s mind as she slipped back into drug use and Cassie as she grappled with the significance of the procedure she was having. What I found to be more effective was the group sitting around at the winter formal talking about what they’ve observed. I’m glad that Kat was finally open and honest with Ethan, and maybe their relationship could work out until her extracurricular activities are eventually revealed. Cal telling Maddy that her relationship with Nate was not sustainable was harsh, and good for her for finally sticking up for herself and ending things, though that didn’t last too long if their dance was any indication. Maddy suggesting to Nate that sexuality is a spectrum did not go over well, and he completely crumpled and lost it when his dad pinned him down after his solo game success. So much of Rue and Jules’ conversation was hypnotic, but, after everything, Rue is back to being alone and using. I don’t know how this show will fare come awards time, but I’d love to see its performances and technical elements deservedly recognized.

Season grade: B
Season MVPs: Zendaya as Rue, Hunter Schafer as Jules, and Sydney Sweeney as Cassie

What I’m Watching: iZombie (Series Finale)

iZombie: Season 5, Episode 13 “All’s Well That Ends Well”

It’s early August, which seems an unremarkable time for this series to end four and a half years after its March debut in 2015. But I’m happy that we were able to get five decent-length seasons out of this show, which explored notions of humans and zombies living peacefully – and then not so peacefully – together in Seattle, which became far more allegorical over the course of its run due to current events. I was impressed early on with how the first three season finales completely reframed the format and direction of the show, and while this final run was probably the least exciting and enticing overall, it was still involving and worthwhile. This closer provided some impactful and memorable moments, like Major boldly going on live TV and getting shot repeatedly by Enzo to prove that the zombie cure worked and Liv pushing Don-E into the well after he had just pushed Blaine down there. I for one was always a fan of Don-E, especially in the end, so I’m not sure he deserves to be trapped with Blaine for eternity, but he wasn’t exactly emanating promise after Darcy’s untimely death. Dale holding off on delivering her baby until Clive showed up was sweet, and it’s nice that they ended up raising Michelle’s child too following her death in the bombing of the police station. Flashing forward ten years to a virtual chat with Ravi, Peyton, and Clive was a fitting way to end the show, with the presumed-dead couple of Liv and Major showing up to remind them that paradise on Zombie Island is only a scratch away. This show has been entertaining and enthralling, standing out from other similar projects because of its inventiveness and strong characters, not to mention its comic book storyboard style. I’m glad I chose to stick with it after the pilot surprised me in a great way.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Rose McIver as Liv
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Rose McIver
Best Season: Season 3
Best Episode: Pilot

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Round Two: Another Life

Another Life: Season 1, Episode 2 “Through the Valley of Shadows” (B)

In its second outing, this show continues the same stakes and intensity it had in the first hour. This is a claustrophobic space drama if ever I’ve seen one, and now the final scene indicates that there might be something going on similar to “Alien,” though we don’t know what just yet. Unlike “Lost in Space,” which also briefly featured Selma Blair, whose Harper Glass had a more substantial role in this episode after her minor appearance in the pilot, this show features a whole lot of cursing, which does in some sense heighten the stakes, but also feels a bit excessive. It’s good to see Jessica Camacho, best known for playing Gypsy on “The Flash,” put to good use as the very angry Michelle, who isn’t about to keep her opinions to herself. Niko was initially horrified to hear the projection of Ian talking about how she would kill them all, but William’s inability to accept what she had done made her think twice about whether she should consider what the dead man had to say. She didn’t hesitate much in front of her people, taking credit right away for killing him and then springing into action when they discovered that they had five hours to live. This show possesses elements of great sci-fi, like the red moon that was nearly as dangerous as that wave-filled planet in “Interstellar,” but I’m not sure that the mix of so many different recognizable plot points is all that compelling in its own right here.

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

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 19 “Chapter One Hundred”

Now this was a wonderful finale. I was disappointed at first to learn that the ninety-ninth chapter was a retrospective hour rather than a scripted installment, but it turned out to be both a lot of fun and an endearing way to begin to say goodbye to these characters. Clip shows are a thing of the past, and interviewing the cast was a really nice opportunity to look back on all that’s happened over the years. I like how this final episode emphasized this show’s roots as a telenovela, with the narrator promising that this would be a fitting conclusion in the grand style of the format. After Rose showed up to hold Jane hostage before Luisa helped her fall to her death, it was nice that the drama here wasn’t all that excessive, with Rafael getting arrested and Jane commandeering a local bus to make sure they could make it to the wedding after all as the most outlandish plot points. It was generally just all sweet, and what a happy and tear-filled occasion the wedding was. I’ve been rooting for Petra and JR for a while, and her showing up to the wedding before the other Jane was perfect. Lena being pregnant and Esteban proposing to Darcy were nice moments too, and everyone really managed to get a happy ending. Rogelio blowing up on social media and achieving crossover celebrity status in America was fantastic, and I also liked the brief mention of how the show’s narrator was actually a grown-up Mateo. This show has been an involving delight from start to finish, and I’m eager to see what all these cast members do next. It would be fun to revisit this show at some point and review its many engaging arcs – it’s been a blast.

Series finale: A-
Series grade: A-
Season MVP: Gina Rodriguez as Jane
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Gina Rodriguez
Best Season: Season 2
Best Episode: Pilot

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Pilot Review: Four Weddings and a Funeral

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: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 11 “Liars” (B+)

This episode felt like a fever dream more than a nightmare, one that found its characters in unexpected places as they chart unexplored territory that could alter both their own lives and Gilead in extremely influential ways. June’s eagerness to go forward with her new plan hit a snag thanks to Eleanor coming to grips with what her husband has done and how much it has hurt so many people, though June was masterfully able to defuse this situation. June and Joseph understand each other at this point, both aware of the absurdity of their realities but attuned to how best to subvert them increased scrutiny that the household is now under thanks to both the lack of any fruit being borne and Fred’s obsession with his former handmaid. Getting Joseph to take her to Jezebel’s was a win, and she seemed to be making progress before George recognized her. What he was doing there in the first place is a mystery given that his sexual proclivities aren’t tolerable in the Gilead regime, but he was threatening enough to derail June’s confidence. Fighting back and stabbing him multiple times rather than just accepting it as a horrific part of her “job” demonstrated just how fed up she is with giving in and that she’s not going to back down anymore. There does appear to be a network in place to protect her, which will likely be more helpful than the gun that Joseph handed to her. I’m not sure what Serena told Fred about meeting Mark or if she was in on it, but him getting arrested on Canadian soil is a tremendous development that has the power to be truly transformative.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 4, Episode 7 “The Entertainer” (B-)

This was a definite recovery from the previous episode, though I’m still finding this show to be relatively pointless in its pursuit of not too much. Jareb wasn’t even enthralled by his own idea to stage a funeral for Nate so that Delilah would come, and of course she’d end up being the only one who didn’t show up to the miserable affair. Robin was hardly enthusiastic in her delivery of all the comments about Nate, and there wasn’t anyone there with a positive thing to say. Gene’s return was predictably laced with inappropriate advances towards Robin, and when Nate’s mom isn’t the meanest person in the room, there’s a problem. I do like Jere Burns, who I know from “Justified” and who also stars on “Angie Tribeca,” but I found his character of Blu Brown, who almost certainly is not Nate’s father, to be very irritating and over-the-top. This show presents a lot of ridiculous people and situations, and doesn’t shy away from offensive characters whose behavior is clearly deplorable. It does usually take it a bit too far, and that was clearly the case here. No one in the room was particularly happy to discover that Nate was still alive, aside from the ex-girlfriend beloved by his mother who also pretty much started making out with Nate right in front of Robin. I’d rather focus more on stuff like that since it’s fun to see Robin when she’s actually invested in something and not just letting Nate do all the pratfalling for once.

What I’m Watching: Divorce (Penultimate Episode)

Divorce: Season 3, Episode 5 “Away Games” (B)

I liked this episode more before I realized that it was the upcoming installment is the series finale. With her future with Henry uncertain, Frances was more than open to the idea of a romance, or at least an enthusiastic one-night stand, with Jeremy, something that Robert wasn’t even able to truly care about since he had to contend with a disruptive problematic element and an issue of a player breaking the rules. Jackie sent him off with a loaded goodbye, and the question she asked immediately upon his return was indicative of her dismissive attitude towards his unfortunate choice of words and sentiments during the dinner party. It was interesting that Frances was the one to make the call about Cecily being taken out of the game since she’s the only one of the chaperones who’s not actually a coach, and she was least impacted by it even though the game loss was pretty crushing to all of them since they would likely have won with their star player not benched. The big blowout between Jeremy and Robert was pretty intense, and it’s just another stressor Robert doesn’t really need now, not that we’re going to see much of its fallout with just thirty more minutes left in this show’s run. Diane does seem to be contemplating a relationship with an eighty-year-old man so that she can return to a life of luxury and fortune, which will likely make her happy. And though her she’s been featured so minimally recently, it was entertaining to see Dallas in the company of other medical professionals who had more than questionably crossed the line.

Friday, August 2, 2019

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 3, Episode 6 “Chapter 25” (B-)

While I can appreciate the excitement of the opening credits finally rolling just ten minutes before the end of the episode when Syd finally found her way back to herself, there’s so little time left on this show that this isn’t how I would have wanted to spend almost the entirety of an hour. I had wondered what had become of Melanie and, to a lesser extent, Oliver, presuming that Jean Smart had simply decided not to return to the show for its final season. Instead, we were treated to this odd dark fairy tale, with Jason Mantzoukas, a standout comic performer from “The Good Place” and “Sleeping with Other People,” as the wolf. This almost felt stranger than anything else we’ve seen on this show, and that was before we got to the point of Oliver suggesting a rap battle. I don’t know why that had a place in this universe, other than as a nod to Jemaine Clement’s real-life involvement with “Flight of the Conchords” and the band, but that made Clement and Mantzoukas stick out on this otherwise dramatic show. I was much more into the final extended scene where Syd asked Cary not to tell her about the return of the time demons, which found Cary absorbing a distraught Kerry so that he could take on her injuries and she could go back out to bravely fight. We have just two episodes left, and I hope that the majority of the time is going to be spent with this crew and with David since I want to see as much as I can before, regardless of what happens on the show, they disappear from my reality for good.

What I’m Watching: Years and Years (Season Finale)

Years and Years: Season 1, Episode 6 (B+)

Well, this was a pretty intense and thorough finale. Seeing the BBC close and journalists banned for challenging Vivienne was an unoptimistic start, but things got a lot better by the end of the hour. Gran planning to sell her house was a sign that the family might truly disintegrate, especially when it was revealed that, not only was Bethany working with Edith, but Celeste was working with them too to try to track down Viktor. To me, their affinity for Viktor both before and after Daniel’s death has been the strongest indicator of the bond that ties this family together. I like that, so many hours of watching and years of events into this show, it transformed into less of a family drama and into more of a triumphant showcase of a revolution. Edith taking her phone out to begin recording and, in her own words, start a war, was an exciting moment that was followed by Rosie barging in with an extra set of legs and a truck, and Bethany broadcasting to ensure that their message got out to the world. While it’s hopeful that it wouldn’t take over a decade to reverse some of the more troubling trends of our day, this was a reassuring finale that also had an eerie forward-facing conclusion. Explaining the framing device as Edith narrating her life so that she could be digitized was an interesting reveal, and having everyone turn towards SeƱor to see if her consciousness had been downloaded into it was a mesmerizing way of ending the show. At least Stephen got redeemed somewhat too, making the family narrative piece of this worthwhile in addition to the overall global perspective it portrayed. I don’t imagine that a second season will be happening but I’d be somewhat curious to see it. Mostly, I’m hopeful that some of the technological advances predicted do end up becoming real while the global developments don’t.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Ruth Madeley as Rosie

Thursday, August 1, 2019

What I’m Watching: Perpetual Grace, LTD

Perpetual Grace, LTD: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Elements of an Epiphany” (B)

Not much happened with Pa and Ma in this hour, which felt a bit strange given their prominence in previous installments. Instead, those in their lives made moves to propel their own plans forward in ways that aren’t looking good for anyone. DeLoash set his sights right on a perfect target – New Leaf – convincing him of his own invalidity and getting him to leave his gun on the ground for him so that he wouldn’t even have to buy it, and there seem to be fewer and fewer people in this ghost town who we haven’t already met. I do like that Glenn ended up sitting next to James’ dad while he was wearing the helmet, talking all about “now plus one second,” and that they ran off together to hitchhike and ride so that the scenery reflected in his helmet. I liked that we saw Hector again, content enjoying the mundanity of his life and continuing with his novel, though that happiness was disrupted by Valerie’s return with a photo to blackmail him, an option he’d rather not take in favor of leaving Pa to the cartel. I was relieved that Paul managed to levitate himself after Walker was ready to test him on whether he could actually do magic, though it did look like he might not be able to get himself down. Everything is sure to come together in the finale, and I’m hopeful that Epix will decide that this show – and that this cast – is worthy of a second season.

What I’m Watching: The Loudest Voice

The Loudest Voice: Season 1, Episode 5 “2012” (B+)

This show can, at times, be a bit much, turning into a paranoid thriller in a way that it doesn’t need to, feeling like it’s stretching believability a bit far with events that might be hard to truly know happened as they are portrayed here. But we are seeing the true narrator of the story now in journalist Gabe Sherman, played by Fran Kranz from “Dollhouse,” who wrote the book that serves as the basis for this show. We saw the ousting of Brian Lewis in this hour after he confirmed that there was indeed an operation actively working to troll Sherman and discredit him, and though he angrily rejected the first offer of hush money from Roger, a much larger sum was enough to get him to leave the building and then call Sherman to warn him that he better stop digging. We also met Casey Close, played by Josh Charles from “The Good Wife,” who doesn’t have any clue what it is that Gretchen is experiencing on a regular basis. It was very gratifying to see her push the play button on her phone at the end of the episode so that something can finally be done to try to stop Roger from his oppressive behavior. Joe just wanted to get away for a bit but Roger didn’t want to lose control over him, demonstrating just how important and majestic he thinks he is in every arena. His downfall may not be imminent, but he’s sealed his fate with his horrific treatment of everyone around him.