Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Round Two: Perry Mason

Perry Mason: Season 1, Episode 2 “Chapter Two” (B)

This was definitely an involving follow-up, and the mystery appears to be a bit too muddled to solve, which doesn’t make the characters caught up in it any less interesting. I recognized a few new faces in this hour, one of whom I knew was going to appear. Tatiana Maslany was incredible on “Orphan Black,” and while this role doesn’t appear quite as challenging, she’s absolutely the right person to take it on, and I look forward to seeing more of her, hopefully as she expresses her unapproved thoughts to eager listeners like Perry. Stephen Root, a recent Emmy nominee for “Barry,” was the district attorney, and Chris Chalk from “Homeland” and “The Newsroom” was Paul, a good cop who isn’t going to stand by and agree with what he knows to be untrue. I was sure I knew Birdy’s voice but couldn’t place the actress, and now I see that she was played by Lili Taylor, best known for “Six Feet Under” and “American Crime.” Actors weren’t the only identities revealed in this episode, as Herman was outed as Matthew’s father, which explained the high ransom demand. There’s a whole lot of showmanship here, not just in Alice’s passionate sermon against the devil but in the police’s very public flair, first parading Matthew out in front of the cameras and then arresting Emily while she was walking with the funeral procession. There are many elements at play here, and Perry’s military past also appears to have influenced him considerably, something that Herman tried to expose when he was called out for a lack of honesty. There was also another very gruesome visual that I’d like to soon forget, and hopefully the rest of this run can do without too many more of those.

What I’m Watching: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Universe Is Indifferent” (B-)

There’s a degree to which characters seem safe on shows because of the prominence of their roles. That’s part of the reason that Andre couldn’t stay in the drawer for more than an episode since he has a major part to play. I mistakenly thought the same would be true for Josie, who managed to communicate directly with Miles with Bennett watching from the next room and then was next on Melanie’s list for some very pointed interrogation. I thought that Zarah was being returned to the tail as punishment, but instead she publicly pointed Josie out so that she could be escorted away in a showy and frightening manner. Melanie wasted no time in freezing and hammering off one of Josie’s fingers, and Josie’s decision to fought back almost worked until Melanie won and left her for dead. That’s going to be seen as a tremendous escalation by Andre and everyone in the tail, and cements her as a villain that everyone wants to take down. Her response to Ruth coming straight to her after finding out a mutiny plan was absolutely wrong, and there’s no way that she’s going to remain unchallenged since she can’t even acknowledge her most loyal people. Josie did manage to help enlist Bess for their cause, and she’s going to be torn between her duty “to the train” and her sense of what’s right, not to mention Jinju being entirely complicit with everything that Melanie knows and is hiding from everyone. Andre deciding to team up with LJ is a sign that everything is falling apart, and a violent revolution is coming swiftly.

What I’m Watching: Black Monday (Mid-Season Premiere)

Black Monday: Season 2, Episode 7 “Who Are You Supposed to Be?” (B+)

I don’t think I expected to see a new episode of this show so soon after its second season was cut short by uncompleted post-production as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. It’s only been two and a half months since that time, and now this show is back for its remaining four episodes. It’s still a bit strange to see Mo on the sidelines, pleading with Dawn not to play an active role in the illegal move that Blair was about to make that would get him swept up right away by Connie. Realizing that he had no options left, Mo made a smart decision to trick the very gullible Keith into calling Larry up and getting him to do it instead, making Dawn a bundle of money in the process for doing the opposite. Connie’s onto Dawn anyway, and I’m eager to see just how uncomfortable their double date with Dawn and a clueless Marcus will be. It was a pleasure to see June Diane Raphael’s Corky again, and Tiff is definitely a good friend for her to have. I like that their layered proposal of “lady business” was repeatedly mistaken for a sexual advance by Tiff, and their impending partnership should certainly prove interesting. Connie is well aware of the fact that Keith is working for Larry, which might mean that whatever next move Larry makes with the new information that Keith overheard at the party could lead to him becoming the legal target rather than Dawn or Blair.

What I’m Watching: The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Episode 2 “Downtime” (B)

I was surprised to see that this episode was only thirty-one minutes long, and it’s interesting to think that the timing actually worked pretty well, even if the content didn’t seem quite as substantive as other installments. I was immediately entranced by the central performance by Morena Baccarin, a familiar face from “Homeland,” “V,” and “Firefly,” as she talked at rapid speed and told a humorous story about Canadians right before she scored a major promotion at work. The unusual circumstances quickly made themselves known when she went outside, and it was indeed eerie seeing her panicked and running through the streets with everyone else frozen and looking up at the giant eye in the sky. Colman Domingo from “Fear the Walking Dead” and “Zola” had a brief but memorable role as Carl, who slipped into a strong accent before looking right into the sky, and Serinda Swan from “Marvel’s Inhumans” was Ellen, who appealed to her husband to remember that he was just inhabiting this virtual body of Michelle. The tech support representatives appearing in a disarmingly casual manner, and even the supervisor, Tom, played by Tony Hale from “Veep,” was relatively friendly and non-confrontational. The idea that Michelle could continue to exist here since Phineas had died after his heart attack was fascinating, and making that decision knowing that her world wasn’t real felt like the most typical embracing of this show’s dimensional concept: accepting that the world around you might not make sense and deciding to stay in it anyway.

Monday, June 29, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Politician

The Politician: Season 2, Episode 2 “Conscious Unthroupling” (B+)

There’s a reason the characters on this show speak so quickly – there’s a lot to cover in each episode. I thought I had remembered season one mostly being thirty minutes, but it turns out I was wrong and every episode was roughly between forty minutes and an hour. What’s most interesting is that the focus now is just as much on Dede and her campaign as it is on Payton’s campaign, in which he’s becoming an increasingly less prominent player. I was thrilled that McAfee, played by Ben Platt’s original “Dear Evan Hansen” costar Laura Dreyfuss, got a bigger focus in this episode as she proclaimed her need to have some time away from James and Skye and to have sex with someone. That plan went awry when she ran into both of them at the same Broadway show, and her date David was only so willing to be ignored in favor of their very codependent friendship. Alice also returned in a big way, doing her part by following Astrid and suggesting that she and Payton bring her into a thruple so that they could assure she wouldn’t be able to act against them. They did wait a bit too long to act on Payton’s threat of going public with the gossip about Dede’s thruple, and she made the decision to publicize that on her own. The timing for William to officially leave them to be with Hadassah couldn’t be worse, and now they’ll have to work hard to maintain the illusion of something that was supposed to be secret in the first place. Tino is keeping all his options open, and I suspect that he’ll ditch both Dede and Georgina after leading them on for quite a while, that or he’ll face one of them in the presidential race instead.

Emmy Catch-Up: Schitt’s Creek

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Schitt’s Creek: Season 6, Episode 3 “The Job Interview” (B-)

There don’t seem to be many boundaries that exist in the Rose family. David was immediately horrified to have walked in on Alexis about to have cybersex with Ted, Johnny was perfectly oblivious, and Moira had suggestions for her daughter about how to do it. Ted having to bench-press tortoises because there’s no gym was a bit absurd, but not as much as Alexis buying a turtle that she named Ted so that she could feel closer to him before losing him almost right away much to Twyla’s great concern. David is definitely competitive, and being asked for help in picking out an outfit for Stevie to wear to her interview led to him trying and failing miserably to one-up her. He was particularly bad at listing his own weaknesses after agreeing strongly with Stevie’s much better examples, and he did indeed exemplify the absolute wrong approach to how to deal with an upset customer. That airline does sound miserable, and I don’t think Stevie’s going anywhere all that fast. Her sticking around would have been helpful for Johnny to get the loan since her name was on the motel, but his hapless partner Roland appears to have come through with an unexpected move. It’s troubling that he didn’t realize that some of the things he and Johnny said to the loan officer were clearly made up to bolster their image, but he’s in now and it may be just the opportunity Johnny and Moira need to get into a new and potentially lucrative property.

Emmy Catch-Up: Pose

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Pose: Season 2, Episode 3 “Butterfly/Cocoon” (B+)

I’m not typically fond of storylines centered on accidentally killing someone and then going to crazy lengths to cover it up, but I can appreciate that this is much more nuanced. Elektra did exactly what her client requested and returned to check on him only to find that he was no longer alive, and she wanted to do the right thing but knew that there’s no way she wouldn’t be charged and prosecuted as a person of color painted as a sexual deviant because she’s trans. That she went first to Blanca was telling, and Candy was an interesting second choice since both she and Elektra are very strong personalities that have often clashed. Keeping the body in her closet was a very literal way of grappling with guilt, and it was nice that she was concerned about saying a prayer for the man when everyone else just wanted to reminisce about how terrible he was supposed to be. Elektra actually liked him, even if their relationship was based on her humiliating him. Dominique Jackson, who plays Elektra, really is one of the most underrated parts of this show. Though Angel didn’t get the top spot she was going for, she did land a pretty formidable gig in the process. Papi professing his feelings for her was sweet, and though he seemed broken by her missing their big date because she had to stay late at the photo shoot, everything melted away to pure joy when they saw her face plastered all over a Duane Reade aisle.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Emmy Catch-Up: Succession

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Succession: Season 2, Episode 3 “Hunting” (B)

It’s episodes like this that remind me why I wasn’t so into this show in the first place. Logan’s behavior is rarely kind or acceptable, and he usually just demeans his underlings and family members by barking orders and swearing at them. But, on occasion, he forces anyone who doubts his loyalty to sit on the floor and literally compete for pieces of the very pigs they had just hunted. In a sense, it’s hard to imagine that kind of thing actually happening, but it’s also very obvious that anyone who did experience it would be terrified into never talking about it for fear of retribution. Logan obviously believes he is omniscient, refusing to accept that he just wouldn’t be able to prevent the publication of a book about him and ready to pounce on a dead man’s computer after finding out that he had been the leak. Plotting to spend $20 billion rather than take the batteries out of his brother’s remote was indeed a foolhardy endeavor, but that wasn’t feedback he wanted to hear. I can’t imagine why Frank accepted the invitation to the retreat since he immediately reentered a world that he had escaped when he was fired following the unsuccessful takeover, and he doesn’t even have Kendall on his side anymore. Kendall did seem to be softening to Roman, but it turns out he was just investigating him for his father. Roman threatening to walk would have been more emphatic if he hadn’t immediately realized his powerlessness and added “back to his office.” Connor asking to be put in prison was absurd, and Willa, genuine as she seems, didn’t understand Shiv’s warning that her dreams can’t come true if she doesn’t have access to Connor’s money. I am intrigued to see what happens next, and hopefully a return to America will make things ever so slightly less edgy.

Emmy Catch-Up: Ozark

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Ozark: Season 3, Episode 3 “Kevin Cronin Was Here” (B+)

Those dreams Wendy is having are intense, but Wendy’s feelings towards her husband are likely much kinder than whatever fate is in store for him where he’s going. Padlocking the casino doors so that Marty couldn’t turn her clean operation dirty, which Ruth already wasn’t so on board with because he was clearly lying to his wife, was a clever and unsubtle move that shows just how little they trust each other right now – rightly so given how both of them are actively working against the other. Her imagined offer for him to leave town immediately with half a million dollars would have been preferable to his instantaneous abduction following his apparent agreement to work for his new live-in FBI auditor. Ben banging on Ruth’s window so that they could follow the car that took Marty was a relief turned newly intense and worrisome situation when their tailing operation was noticed. While Marty is headed for misery, Ben and Ruth will be able to swiftly improve their relationship as they get closer as a result of being left behind, with Ruth already slotted for promotion by Helen, whose move Marty knew to interpret as a contingency plan for him being taken out of the picture. The news that Marty is bribing his therapist helps to explain his delusions with his position and what risks he actually faces. Carl and Anita’s story didn’t end too well, with them left with no options and Anita sent violently tumbling to her death when Carl responded angrily to her voicing her opinion.

What I’m Watching: Council of Dads (Penultimate Episode)

Council of Dads: Season 1, Episode 9 “Stormy Weather” (B)

On the day that this episode aired, this show was officially cancelled, which means that the next episode will now serve as the series finale. This was definitely the most intense, dramatic hour yet, and it’s a shame to know that there won’t be much resolution for the characters past the remaining installment. The approaching storm was a real driving force as JJ and Charlotte initially indicated just how prepared they were, a sure sign that things would inevitably go awry. Theo’s attitude wasn’t productive, and the resentment he felt towards his mother only pushed him to more destructive and dangerous behavior. Robin did manage to swoop in and save him, remaining calm the entire time, until that tree went and fell on their car as they were about to leave. What better timing for Anthony to swoop in and save the day, after he somehow flew in from Las Vegas to a distant airport and also managed to get through the police blockade without knowing for sure that anyone was still at the house? That action may well be what saves Robin and Theo’s lives, but he has no idea what he’s in for when they get to Oliver’s and find out that JJ and Charlotte have also read Luly’s article. They were so charmingly helpful as Oliver struggled to help Sage prepare to deliver as she panicked while wrestling with her mortality, and Oliver is definitely one of this show’s most compassionate characters. The most affecting plotline was that of Larry and his daughter Lauren, who was resentful of Luly’s description of him as the dad who shows up and who opened up to Luly about why she couldn’t see him that way.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Emmy Catch-Up: Schitt’s Creek

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Schitt’s Creek: Season 6, Episode 2 “The Incident” (B-)

This episode was very predictable, and it’s possible I would have found it funnier if I felt more attached to all these characters. David wetting the bed had him very riled up, and he quickly pointed out that he wouldn’t be nearly as forgiving if the tables were turned, which made Patrick supporting him all the more difficult. It was obvious from the first moment that Moira announced that she was going to be doing a social media takeover that she would end up sharing that secret with the world by accident. She didn’t even pretend to turn anything off when she put down her phone, and therefore the news that she had live-streamed the whole conversation wasn’t at all surprising. At least Patrick insisted that Alexis take the post down since she had still left it up, and he brought out his mouth guard and “nose thing” to make David feel better about his own shortcomings. Moira at least seems to be slightly more self-aware than Roland, who brought Johnny and Stevie to what we thought was a showing without having any clue that it was actually a funeral for one of the co-owners. Johnny managed to turn the situation into a much more positive encounter, thanks in part to Betty’s belief that they were there to investigate her dead husband’s gambling debts rather than just to inquire about buying the property. That deal might work out, but Stevie doesn’t seem to see a future in this industry for herself, something that Johnny isn’t likely to accept.

Emmy Catch-Up: Pose

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Pose: Season 2, Episode 2 “Worth It” (B+)

I like that this season continues to be about the characters we’ve come to know and not just the epidemic that has taken so many of them, even if that remains a crucial element in the many funerals they must attend and the constant mortality facing them. That fear manifested itself in an initially unserious way, when Damon suspected that Ricky had been unfaithful to him while he was away, which resulted in Damon making an important decision about what he wants for his future even if Ricky did end up being clean. I’m thrilled about the spotlight on Blanca, who Angel rightly tried to brighten up a bit after she shared her experience not being able to pass and repeatedly being kicked out of dressing rooms. I recently finished watching “Hollywood” and therefore was not surprised to see a Ryan Murphy favorite, Patti LuPone, as the completely despicable Frederica Norman, who rented a space to Blanca on a handshake alone and then tried to kick her tenant to the curb after her son told her that she was trans (in a far cruder way, of course). I’m glad that she’s been egged on by Pray, Judy, and everyone else to maintain her squatters’ rights and fight to be able to open her salon. Elektra is a character I’ve enjoyed watching for a while, and she didn’t waste any time in pulling her “new signature move” on her new house and then forming her own, which she tried to introduce with style in the middle of someone else’s show at the ball.

Emmy Catch-Up: Succession

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Succession: Season 2, Episode 2 “Vaulter” (B)

I can understand why people find this show interesting, but it’s so hard to find any of the characters even remotely endearing. Greg is probably the purest one at this point, and he’s far too embedded in the Roy family to remain good for long, even if he just wants to sleep in his new free bed while Kendall is determined to party. At least Kendall waited until after he put in the hours he had to at work before letting loose, while Roman was content to get some employees drunk so he could figure out just how valueless the company really was. Kendall was rather blunt and harsh in how he executed his father’s orders to close the company, and he’s not making any friends aside from his proud father who only praised him after he took Roman took a peg. Shiv was accurate in her assessment that Kendall hasn’t found a happy medium between worshipping and trying to kill his father. After Logan spelled out the three-year process that he had in mind for Shiv’s ascent, I would have presumed that she’d take Gil’s chief of staff offer instead of brutally sabotaging that career just to let some of her anger out. That Purell scene has an added relevance now given the pandemic we’re facing, though Gil’s point about being human and not looking down on “common people” still stands. Tom was far too eager to trim the fat from ATN to ensure a victory, and I was surprised that he actually stood up for himself and lashed out at Shiv when she and Roman were mocking his attire. His reaction to Shiv’s news made sense in some ways but also demonstrated his failure to even consider his wife’s potential.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Emmy Catch-Up: Ozark

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Ozark: Season 3, Episode 2 “Civil Union” (B)

One of the main reasons that I’m trying to get through these episodes before Emmy nominations are unveiled is that I want to be able to see the performances that will earn accolades before they’re officially cited. In my coverage of the Emmy races for The Film Experience, Tom Pelphrey’s name has emerged as a strong contender in the supporting actor category, and now I can see why. I’ve encountered Pelphrey before in “Iron Fist,” which I try to remember as minimally as possible, and “Banshee,” where he played a reformed white supremacist who became a police officer. Here, his character, Ben, is evidently much closer to criminal than public servant, even if his intentions, like punishing those who would torment a classmate, are theoretically good. Marty tried to be gentle in telling him to leave, and I’m sure his presence is going to prove to be very disruptive. Marty’s doing a good enough job of making things difficult on his own, deliberately sabotaging the deal that Wendy and Helen worked hard to negotiate just because he felt they were working against him. I immediately recognized Marceline Hugot from “The Leftovers” as Anita, who was far more eager to sell than her husband. We saw the consequences of Ruth’s actions towards Frank Jr. and knowing that they’re both untouchable is helpful even if this is sure not to be the last of their grievances. Helen is in the Ozarks now but her family is far from safe, and she’s obviously not comfortable sharing the details of what’s going on with her number one new ally Wendy.

What I’m Watching: Stargirl

Stargirl: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Justice Society” (B)

Now things are kicking into high gear, with our first official faceoff between the new costumed team and a set of villains intent more on teaching them a lesson than actually trying to kill him. I do appreciate this show’s expository style, introducing new characters at the start of each episode as they become relevant to the story. Lawrence and Paula were intimidating enough just cheering from the stands for their athlete daughter, and learning that they’ve disposed of numerous coaches they didn’t feel were appropriately featuring her shows that they make their voices heard (to dead people, but you get the point). As Crusher and Tigress, they were formidable and seemed even to enjoy showing the young JSA members that they’re not nearly as equipped for combat as they might have thought. It did take Rick some time to come around to the notion that he should be a hero and join the team, while Beth was once again entirely underappreciated to the detriment of those around her. Pat showed up at exactly the right moment to serve as the cavalry and encourage Crusher and Tigress to retreat, though they also knew their work was done since the Gambler finished his hacking. I’d think that Mike would be a great choice to join the team, but for now Courtney is probably going to start listening to Pat while Jordan gets the Injustice Society to figure out who their pesky new foes are. They may not have Dr. Mid-Nite’s encyclopedia goggles, but this isn’t a big town and those costumes only disguise so much.

Pilot Review: Perry Mason

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What I’m Watching: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer: Season 1, Episode 6 “Trouble Comes Sideways” (B)

We now have some information that makes this story considerably more interesting. The notion that the drawers aren’t meant as punishment or imprisonment but instead a way to keep the human race alive through stasis once the power of Snowpiercer runs out is definitely intriguing, and that frames everything in a completely new way. Melanie really is doing everything, pretending to be Wilford, serving as the public face of his will, and physically hanging out the bottom of the train to fix a problem that could have meant derailment for the entire train. It’s fortunate that Andre didn’t kill her or impede her from that mission when he managed to locate her instantly while everyone else was holding on and bracing for dear life, and hopefully he can now work to be an ally with her while preventing panic from taking hold. I suppose he deserved a bit of time off to enjoy his new luxury accommodations with Josie, though things could get awkward when Zarah reveals that she’s pregnant, likely with his baby. A fear of imminent mortality may be just what Bess and Oz need to get past their recent disagreement, and maybe it’s even possible that the many law enforcement officials on this train can work together while first-class villains like LJ are busy shattering items just to keep themselves amused. I’m curious what Melanie wants Miles to do, and let’s hope she’s trying to make him an ally rather than to manipulate him so that she can get Andre right where she wants him.

What I’m Watching: The Twilight Zone (Season Premiere)

The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Episode 1 “Meet in the Middle” (B+)

I really liked the first few episodes of this revival last season, and I’m ready to dive deep on the show now that all of its second series is being released on one day rather than a week at a time. This opening installment was immediately riveting, and I was particularly impressed because the hardest part of all these stories is figuring out a way for them to end. There wasn’t necessarily going to be an explanation for how Phil and Annie were connected, but the resolution of that bond was much more important. I’ve been a fan of Jimmi Simpson since his work in the pilot for “Virtuality” that never became a series, and he’s been featured much more prominently recently on “Westworld” and “Perpetual Grace, LTD.” He possesses exactly the right demeanor to play this kind of character, so tuned in to what’s happening in his own head and uninterested in what’s going on in the world around him. Kristen Lehman from “The Killing” and “Motive” was his therapist, and though I was sure Annie was played by Maria Dizzia every time I heard her voice, I now see that it was Gillian Jacobs from “Community.” Annie being married was a hurdle that was overcome when they just had to be together, and I wasn’t expecting her to be attacked by someone when she was on the train to meet him. The lengths he went to in order to protect her were extreme, and hearing her admit to him as he was being taken away in the police car that she had used him to break free of her marriage was a chilling and very effective finish. I’m ready for more immersive trips into the twilight zone.

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 2, Episode 3 “Pain Patrol” (B+)

This show is capable of channeling true darkness, and it can be quite disturbing. These characters have endured enough with their painful backstories, and to have to encounter a literal monster who preys on his victims by tapping into what scares them most was almost unbearable. We did get to see the Chief at a different age, as a child in 1888 initially entranced by Red Jack before it became clear who he was and what he was doing. Though he was subjected to nightmarish visions of him becoming like Cliff and then sprouting those butterfly wings, the Chief remained focused enough to ultimately fell Red Jack, giving the team a slight reprieve until the next interdimensional, mind-bending nemesis shows up. Larry being chained up and having his bandages slowly unravel and fall off was an unsettling form of torment, and reliving his scuba-suited introduction to Rita during that was very effective. She truly is the most compassionate and community-minded of the group, not prone to anger or selfishness and happy to spend time teaching Dorothy to make French toast. Cliff meeting his daughter couldn’t have gone any worse, though I guess no one got hurt and the police didn’t try to engage him in a fight. Jane being trapped in a cage in her mind after her personalities staged an intervention is not a good thing, and Cliff is going to have to pay enough attention to her to help get her freed. Vic and Roni seem to be a great fit in many ways, but she’s much less interested in a long-term relationship than he is, which could pose problems since he wants it to turn into something.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 2, Episode 2 “Tyme Patrol” (B+)

There’s just something about the way this show presents its events and expository material that’s so inherently captivating. Starting off in 1927 with the tip the Chief got to go see the “ape faced girl” that he suspected was his daughter grounded his relationship with Dorothy as he spent time in this episode explaining to those around him, particularly an irate Cliff and a disappointed Rita, that his time is indeed limited because he traded the talisman for their upsizing. The fact that he’s actually 139 years old and aging by the minute is worrisome, and Cliff wasn’t kind when he reviewed the many band-aid options that he might come up with to preserve himself to be forever by his daughter’s side. I like that Rita led the mission briefing with stick figures that Cliff later apologized for mocking as they opened a wormhole to attend a typically trippy roller-skating disco party with a man with a clock for a head. Seeing flashes of Cliff and Jane’s pasts is unsettling, particularly watching Jane being dunked by religious snake-charmers with a different personality emerging each time she was brought up for air. This was an effective time for Larry to be on his own grappling with the relationship he could have had with the late son who apparently knew all along that he was somehow still alive, and that zoom-out after the butterfly landed on his hand was most definitely ominous. Vic’s new friend has a lot of personality, and I found her eagerness to give her mugger a second, or even fourth, chance very intriguing and thought-provoking.

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol (Season Premiere)

Doom Patrol: Season 2, Episode 1 “Fun Size Patrol” (B+)

This was one of my favorite shows last year, and I’m thrilled that it’s back tomorrow for a second season more than a year after the first ended, now on both DC Universe and HBO Max. I had the opportunity to watch the first three episodes early, and I appreciated that this expository hour managed to resolve the issue of size while leaving many more problems on the table for the always fractured team to face. The chief’s daughter was certainly introduced in a memorable way, and after this episode, it’s clear that her imaginary friends are dangerous, and the fact that her father dying could make them angry is an extremely worrisome concept. Jane and Cliff were both working through a lot of their rage, which they were eager to take out on the rats, and they don’t seem to be much closer to being in a good place. I recognized Michael J. Harney from “Orange is the New Black” as Cliff’s father, and I suspect that this one 1984 flashback isn’t all we’ll see of him. Rita’s desire to become a superhero is affirming, and I’m glad that she used Victor’s tricks to help her achieve some mastery over her limbs. It’s too bad that he’s now missing in action, even if I’ve previously found him to be the least interesting member of the team. The negative spirit showing Larry a memory of him not being sufficiently approving of his young son was haunting, especially when he then saw his adult son overdose on pills because he was still tormented by his father not being proud enough of him. With all this baggage to contemplate, it’s sure to be a memorable and intense season.

What I’m Watching: Search Party (Season Finale)

Season three of “Search Party” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all ten episodes in advance of their streaming debut – this review contains spoilers for the selected episode.

Search Party: Season 3, Episode 10 “The Reckoning” (B+)

This episode was a rollercoaster of emotions much like the rest of the season has been. Drew showing up angry with the murder weapon and demanding the truth from Dory about whether she’s convinced herself that she’s innocent or not showed that he was still not even close to on board with the way that she’s chosen to approach this case. Dory hallucinating herself in the jury box was unnerving, but she did a good job of mounting her own defense and appearing sympathetic. I enjoyed the banter between Elliott and Portia during the arguments about how they both hoped they were the most famous people in the world, and Elliott was right to point out to Portia that she knew well that Dory wasn’t innocent. Flashing back to the many things they did as the “not guilty” verdict was announced was haunting, and Dory’s visions of Keith and June haven’t gone away. Just at that moment, I was thinking how excited I was for season four before she learned that there was someone else in her room, who’s not nearly as enamored with her as the man who tried to have rats eat Portia despite his similar appearance. I had forgotten all about how the first episode of this season started with Dory with a shaved head, and it’s clear that, even if the jury believed her story, she’s still going to have to tell the truth as she’s very securely chained in some dark room somewhere. That’s going to be a different experience, but I’m definitely intrigued. I’m not sure we’ll see Chantal again, but I did enjoy her very airheaded assertion that she didn’t remember doing any of the many things she was charged with by the FBI when they arrested her. This has been a great ride, and it’s good to know that more is already on the way.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Alia Shawkat as Dory

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Season three of “Search Party” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all ten episodes in advance of their streaming debut – this review contains spoilers for the selected episode.

Search Party: Season 3, Episode 9 “Irrefutable Evidence” (B+)

It’s good to see that Portia has recovered somewhat from her ordeal, able to focus for a few seconds on buying a new suitcase to put in Gail’s closet before she panics because she thinks she sees a rat. Dory seemed legitimately confused to see Cassidy presenting that evidence until she realized that Portia had made up for her testimony with this gesture. June’s timing with her presentation of the journal couldn’t have been worse, though I’m sure the jury was plenty distracted by the constant bickering and name-calling going on between Cassidy and Polly. When the reconstructed tape was replayed, I couldn’t stop laughing after the bailiff suggested that he heard “pancaked” instead of “murdered,” which had the entire court wondering just what had been said. The apparently terminally ill Bob came through with his Internet search for the sexual definition of the term “pancaking,” which was enough to get the evidence deemed inadmissible. Dory’s smirk when she told Drew that she told him there was nothing on the tape was the definition of overconfident, and firing Cassidy seems like a mistake. At least the lawyer was honest when she told Dory that she heard murdered on the tape. Elliott made it all the way back to his woodsy home to resume his old life only to instantly throw it all away to meet with Charlie about having a show together, which is honestly much more natural for him. The interest that Wallace Shawn’s mystery investor William had in Chantal now makes complete sense, since her wildly expensive project is the dream of those looking to launder their dirty offshore money.

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Season three of “Search Party” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all ten episodes in advance of their streaming debut – this review contains spoilers for the selected episode.

Search Party: Season 3, Episode 8 “A Dangerous Union” (B+)

That doll with the whole backstory was indeed creepy, and fortunately Dory didn’t ever really need a bodyguard since her number one fan, who’s now deceased, wasn’t ever intent on harming her but only those who he felt had hurt his beloved obsession. His presence and actions were a helpful way to reunite the foursome who are at the heart of this show, prompting some much-needed reconciliation between an icy Dory and Portia. Nearly being eaten by rats after being tied up and covered in honey was certainly a terrifying and violent way to do it, but that bond was instantly repaired when Dory raced it to rescue Portia, who conveniently still wearing her microphone so that everyone still at the wedding could hear her distinctive screams. And it did help provide a good distraction from the misery of Marc leaving Elliott at the altar, an event made worse by the fact that Elliott was contractually obligated to continue with the event and the acknowledgment of all sponsors through midnight. Chantal was expectedly out of touch with reality, seeing an open spot on the steps for the photos and just jumping into it, and her eager confirmation that she had filed fake forms now means that she’s going to be working with Wallace Shawn’s interested wedding guest, whose ulterior motives are unknown at this time. We have two episodes to get back to the trial, and though the friends are back together, June discovering April’s journal is not going to be good news for them.

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Season three of “Search Party” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all ten episodes in advance of their streaming debut – this review contains spoilers for the selected episode.

Search Party: Season 3, Episode 7 “Rogue Witness” (B+)

It still remains to be seen how Julian, who we’ve seen only sporadically this season, and Chantal, who’s going forward with her Chantal’s Castle premiere boutique shelter for heartbroken women, will be involved in this case or whether they’re being featured minimally only because they used to have more relevant roles on the show. Elliott being on the stand went about as well as Portia’s testimony, very strong and seemingly reliable at first before being totally obliterated. It was more reassuring when it was Dory and Cassidy who were bursting the bubble, and Polly was very happy to congratulate herself on taking down the defense’s star witness, who was made to be the opposite of credible once his many lies were exposed. His history of faking cancer wasn’t a great star, and things got much worse when Portia revealed that he was never enrolled at NYU and that he had hired actors to play his parents. He was not happy to see his real family there to show support, and Marc rightfully didn’t know how to respond to that until he came to the realization that knowing Elliott so well was actually a better reason to be with him. For someone who’s not so perceptive, new musical star Portia is much more aware of the sexual dynamics of her church friend group than those around her, which may not end up serving her all that well. Drew was not smart to sleep with one of the jurors, which will likely throw the case in jeopardy, and Dory’s outburst about losing the suitcase didn’t show her in a great light. Receiving that doll from her number one fan was creepy, and I think it’s about time her stalker made himself and his true intentions known.

Monday, June 22, 2020

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Season three of “Search Party” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all ten episodes in advance of their streaming debut – this review contains spoilers for the selected episode.

Search Party: Season 2, Episode 6 “In God We Trust” (B+)

I really did not expect Cassidy to come through, but she really did in a way that was totally her. Not wanting to practice her opening statement because she didn’t want to be put on the spot was a bad sign, and Polly starting with a version of the same story she was going to use made it seem like all hope was lost. But her intense theatrics had some of the “ladies in the room” nodding along with her, and then she took Dory’s note about Portia using a word she’d never be able to define and went with it, scoring tremendous points and obliterating Portia’s credibility. I laughed out loud at Drew’s reaction to Bob calling him Eddie, and I think Cassidy should be memorable enough to defend both of them. I hope we’ll get Chantal up there next since whatever she says is sure to be even less believable than Portia trying to play the role of herself. It wasn’t a surprise at all that Elliott decided to go on Charlie’s show, and she threw him for a loop by immediately bringing up the topic that he had stated was a no-fly zone. He responded in kind, however, with his implication that she had farted, and they seemed to have so much fun screaming insults at each other. It’s good to know that Dory’s stalker is on her side, but knowing that he derived pleasure from putting sharp glass in the mailbox of her YouTube troll is disturbing and certainly won’t help her much if he somehow tries to aid in the case.

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Season three of “Search Party” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all ten episodes in advance of their streaming debut – this review contains spoilers for the selected episode.

Search Party: Season 3, Episode 5 “Public Appeal” (B+)

Tender, normal moments like the one we saw where Dory came out to the common space Drew was trying to fix up to cheer him up to play a song are just fodder for talk shows to paint her as even more of a sociopath, and she could certainly use some image rehabilitation. Cassidy was most concerned about her curls staying put, but her baggage with her parents goes much deeper than that. Her mother initially said she didn’t want to appear on TV because she’s gained weight, while her father was more truthful about how he realized that she was just taking advantage of them. Exploding at them right before they went on camera with Annette O’Toole’s celebrity interviewer did not produce the result I expected, instead painting them as a perfectly normal, tight-knit family, who might even be sympathetic. Drew eagerly accepting the stuffed shells a fan brought him didn’t exactly conjure up the support he should have been giving in that moment. Elliott and Marc really did find the perfect wedding planners who wanted to make their theme “attention,” and it’s a good thing they had sponsors in mind when Elliott balked at the totally understandable $1.2 million price tag. I can’t wait to see how absurd these companies with a legacy of homophobia to correct are, and the fact they wanted Dory there so that they could make a statement with all the murderers being present shows just how over-the-top this event is going to be. Even if her gameplay is still a bit harsher than her new Christian friends, Portia has absolutely found the fierce protective supportive system she’s so desperately needed. Julian just took $750,000 for his silence despite his protests that his phone could easily still be used by someone else to blackmail Mary. We’ll see how that works out for him, and if he’ll use that money to somehow help his old friends.

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Season three of “Search Party” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all ten episodes in advance of their streaming debut – this review contains spoilers for the selected episode.

Search Party: Season 3, Episode 4 “A National Affair” (B+)

I enjoyed the opening montage of news and gossip shows reporting on this case, describing the “unusually styling perpetrators” and “seemingly charming hipsters” with a “mountain of evidence” against them. None of them seem to be taking it too well, but it’s definitely impacting all of their daily lives, especially when someone recognizes any of them and then has an instant desire to eviscerate them. After Dory panicked about people stealing her shoes, she got spat on and run out of her gym before dropping her purse in front of the paparazzi and freaking out about her keys, which were in her pocket the whole time. Seeing that her angry tattooed stalker is a photographer means that he has been close to her before, and has more access than an everyday person which is worrisome. June coming by to ask about April was freaky as Dory saw both the living twin and the dead one speaking at the same time. Drew taking the video of him killing a duck as a child was a random errand, and threatening to kill its previous owners didn’t make too much sense as they’ll likely report that incident, especially if they’re called as witnesses. The feedback to Chantal as a potential witness for the defense was overwhelmingly negative, and it’s funny to think just how much trouble she’s caused since her disappearance inspired this entire fiasco. Elliott is definitely going to go on that conservative talk show since he can’t resist the spotlight, and it may not even bother Marc that much or disrupt their impending nuptials. Portia is one to latch on to comforting elements, and her newfound immersion in religion is sure to be deep if not too long-lasting. I was wondering if we’d see Julian again since the whole of “God Friended Me” aired since this show went on hiatus, and I’m glad that Brandon Micheal Hall is back even if it’s not clear what his role in all this is going to be given that he’s just lost his phone and been threatened by Mary.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Season three of “Search Party” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all ten episodes in advance of their streaming debut – this review contains spoilers for the selected episode.

Search Party: Season 3, Episode 3 “The Whistleblower” (B+)

The gang got back together again, but that didn’t last too long. I enjoyed that Dory and Drew thought that it couldn’t be Elliott and Portia in the ocean because they had pitch-black hair and that Elliott was insisting that talking in the freezing water was the only way to ensure that none of them were wearing a wire. Their conversation was exactly productive, highlighted by Drew calling everyone a psychopath and Portia getting reamed out for telling Elijah, and it took literally seconds for Elliott and Portia to be arrested after they got out of the car. Elliott managed to resist his bad cop interrogation thanks to his absurd lawyer and his apparent lack of existing fingerprints, but Portia didn’t fare too well when she got too overwhelmed and said quite a bit to the good cop played by Carlos Gómez from “The Baker and the Beauty.” Louie Anderson’s lawyer was more interested in taking a nap and getting Drew to kiss Dory than actually learning too much about the case, and Dory went head-to-head with Cassidy when she tried to confront her about not being able to trust her. Polly’s still gunning for them and taking steps to discredit any evidence that suggests they’re not guilty, and now there’s some unknown person getting Dory’s name tattooed on his fingers eager to sinisterly meet her. Chantal appears to have found the supportive community she needed to come up with her big business idea, but I think she’s already in over her head with her proposal of a “luxurious” shelter.

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Season three of “Search Party” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all ten episodes in advance of their streaming debut – this review contains spoilers for the selected episode.

Search Party: Season 3, Episode 2 “The Rookie Lawyer” (B)

It’s good to see that, after some mildly harrowing experiences during their brief stints in jail, both Dory and Drew are out with some supporters trying their best to defend them. Dory being bailed out by Gail’s friends whose condition was that they let their daughter represent her for free did earn her some five-star sushi, but Cassidy doesn’t seem to have everything too together or be all that interested in hearing from her client. It’s not as if Dory listened, making a statement to all the gathered press that affirms her innocence and Drew’s while directly contradicting what all three of her co-conspirators have decided to say. Drew’s family wasn’t listening to him anyway, and they’re pretty committed to helping him whether he’s guilty or not. As usual, Portia and Elliott have no idea what they’re doing, and being forced to babysit after they did a terrible job dying their hair black showed how clueless they are. Shouting that they’ll be fine isn’t going to help them stay out of jail in any way. I’m excited about the casting of Michaela Watkins from "Casual" as federal prosecutor Polly Danziger, and she seems intent on going after her targets even if there is problematic evidence to suggest they’re not the culprits. As in the past, Chantal hasn’t thought through the consequences of her actions, and it doesn’t appear that any of her family members are going to be able to help her given that they’re prone to exactly the type of overly dramatic behavior that she is.

What I’m Watching: Search Party (Season Premiere)

Season three of “Search Party” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all ten episodes in advance of their streaming debut – this review contains spoilers for the selected episode.

Search Party: Season 3, Episode 1 “The Accused Woman” (B)

I didn’t realize quite how long it had been since this show last aired – more than two and a half years. Season one unfurled over the course of one week, season two was one month, and now, in the style of many streaming services, brand-new network HBO Max is dropping all of season three on one day (this coming Thursday). I’m not opposed to that style at the moment since this first episode left something to be desired, jumping right back in and demonstrating how much trouble Dory and Drew are in, both arrested and being interrogated for the crimes they very much did commit. Opening with Dory sporting a shaved head and asking if the audience wanted to know what happened was ominous, and she seemed much more lucid than usual, aside from her occasional terrifying hallucinations. Bashing herself in the face so that she could shout for her medicine and destroy the tape with the confession on it was creative but rather violent, and she was confronted with some gritty photographs during her interrogation. Drew didn’t waste much time in trying to escape to China, but he couldn’t avoid having the flight delayed so that he could be escorted off by law enforcement. Both Elliott and Portia haven’t been implicated in anything yet, at least not officially, but they’re both likely to do themselves in by freaking out to their partners and anyone else who will listen. I’m intrigued and hoping for some more movement in episode two and the rest of the season.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Politician (Season Premiere)

The Politician: Season 2, Episode 1 “New York State of Mind” (B+)

It feels early for this show’s second season to premiere, after its first debut in September and I finished it by November. It’s just unusual for streaming shows to have seasons released that close together, even though broadcast network series only take a few months off during the summer (until virus-related production delays may have now changed that). Either way, it’s nice to have this wild, overstuffed show back as it leans fully into its new setting and slate of characters that were all introduced in the season one finale. One thing I like is that, even though the show is still prone to characters feeling over-the-top and presenting as completely unrealistic, there were some honest, sincere moments where they did feel real, particularly Judith Light’s Dede Standish and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Georgia Hobart coming to life while arguing during debates. Payton’s attempt to run this race clean didn’t end up winning out, and only Skye noticed that he was happy to let an entire watercooler spill on the floor because he was angry about poll numbers. Complaining about spending a fraction of the budget on hand sanitizer takes on a whole new meaning now, and it’s evident that all of these characters would retreat into cocoons if they had to live in our current reality. There’s plenty of treachery afoot, with Andrew spying for Payton’s campaign and Astrid working directly with Hadassah to spy for Dede’s. Tino sleeping with Georgina can’t be a good idea, and his eventual announcement that she’s his pick for vice-president is going to make Dede much angrier since she happens to be Payton’s mother. This season is only seven episodes as compared with season one’s eight, and I’ll spend the next few weeks working my way through what’s sure to be an entertaining and energetic rollercoaster.

What I’m Watching: Council of Dads

Council of Dads: Season 1, Episode 8 “Dear Dad” (B)

Not much happens on this show to any one person without it affecting everyone else, though I guess Robin’s big romantic move hasn’t yet been shared with either the council or her children. She did hold out long enough, and even resisted his attempt at a platonic activity like bowling before eventually showing up at his house to tell him that she was finally in. Anthony’s news, however, didn’t stay secret for long, and Luly actually took it considerably better than expected. Meeting with her birth mother was a smart step, and writing a letter to Scott was also a good idea. Putting it up on her blog may not have been as forward-thinking thanks to its near-immediate publication by the Savannah Gazette, which will ensure that her siblings find out about it before she or Robin have a chance to tell them. Savannah and Las Vegas really aren’t very close to each other, but this group seems to travel that route with ease, which has apparently prompted Theo to consider getting his GED and moving there to go to cooking school. I’m glad that Larry is making some headway with his family, and he’s not the only one making a difficult connection. Oliver and Peter’s adoption situation seemed far too perfect to be true, and it turns out it was, since she was indeed wonderful but also sick with an untreatable, incurable disease. I think that will mean that she’ll want to be involved somehow in raising her child with Oliver and Peter, though it could also complicate her desire to give her child up to someone else.

Emmy Catch-Up: Schitt’s Creek (Season Premiere)

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Schitt’s Creek: Season 6, Episode 1 “Smoke Signals” (B)

I only first encountered this show last year after hearing a lot about it, sampling the six submitted episodes when it broke through at the Emmys for its fifth season. I don’t have a particular problem with it, but I have yet to see the hilarity that I hear all my friends and fellow critics raving about all the time. I did see the proposal in season five, and now it appears that David is trying to move forward with planning the wedding with minimal input from his oh-so-understanding fiancé. He doesn’t seem to have any reasonable expectations about what a venue could cost, and it was pretty horrific when, once they finally decided they wanted to try to make it work, they truly understood why the date they were looking at was so deeply discounted. Alexis is just as clueless, in this case not just about her flight being listed with the day first and month second but also about what flying in economy is like since she has wildly unrealistic expectations. I like that Stevie was with them with her stage makeup accidentally not removed, and I’ve always had a soft spot for her because I’m a big fan of actress Emily Hampshire’s work in “12 Monkeys.” Moira doesn’t seem to have moved on too much since returning from the role she was filming in the season five premiere, and just as she was about to throw in the towel, she’s newly invested in finally breaking through in show business. I’m going to do my best to find this show endearing, and hopefully I’ll have only positive thoughts about it by the series finale.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Emmy Catch-Up: Pose (Season Premiere)

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Pose: Season 2, Episode 1 “Acting Up” (A-)

Unlike the other three shows that I’m watching as part of this Emmy catch-up and trying to convince myself to like, this one really impressed me in season one when I revisited some of the episodes after finding the pilot decent but not particularly relevant for me. Now, I recognize the importance of encountering topics that don’t feel familiar to me, and I’m glad the season two became available on Netflix so that I can follow the entire storyline. This episode felt so appropriate to watch in the current moment, most notably because its cast is actually representative of the people and community they portray, and it excelled both in terms of what its plot meant and its specific character development. The die-in on the church floor was exceptionally powerful, and this was a formidable hour for Billy Porter as Pray went from not being interested in joining Judy at the activist group meeting to publicly calling out Elektra for not showing up to the protest. The other MVP of this hour was Indya Moore, as we saw Angel get a shot at modeling in a public forum that didn’t define her as trans and forced to endure a photographer taking advantage of her inability to pay and her vulnerability. I’m glad that this season is moving away from Stan and Matt’s storyline and instead focusing exclusively on the characters who are facing the increasingly deadly AIDS epidemic, like Blanca, and the excitement that comes from Madonna’s voguing potentially helping some elements of this underground culture to go mainstream.

Emmy Catch-Up: Succession (Season Premiere)

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Succession: Season 2, Episode 1 “The Summer Palace” (B)

Here’s another show whose appeal I’ve never quite understood. I watched the pilot and then the second half of season one, and now I’m going to invest more heavily in the storyline in an effort to appreciate it fully. I immediately recognized an actor who I believe was just in a bit part, Ingvar Sigurðsson, the star of the Icelandic film “A White, White Day,” who appeared in the first scene when he came to spirit Kendall away from his insanely fancy rehab back to the real world. It was helpful to see the entire family together meeting with Logan as rumors circulated about him thinking about selling the company. I don’t know quite enough about all the characters to understand what they’re capable of, but it seems clear that the only one who presents as moderately decent – Kendall – is still a pretty terrible person, evidenced by his reaction to the type of cocaine that Greg brought him. Shiv wasn’t too warm to Kendall but Roman was particularly harsh, and after putting his hand down during the vote to oust Logan, he’s now feeling freer in what he says in earshot of his father. He wasn’t happy with being named co-COO with Kendall, while Shiv seemed much more pleasantly surprised by her father’s promise to make her CEO after a certain period of time. I suspect, like she does, that it won’t actually come to fruition, but that’s just part of the intense drama this show is sure to provide over the course of the rest of the season.

Emmy Catch-Up: Ozark (Season Premiere)

Every year, I watch the six submitted episodes of every series I don’t regularly watch that’s up for one of the Emmy series prizes. This year, I’m getting a jump start to check out the entire season of some of most high-profile shows I didn’t watch when they originally aired.

Ozark: Season 3, Episode 1 “Wartime” (B)

This is one show where I’ve never quite understood the appeal despite watching nine of the twenty produced episodes from the first two seasons. In an effort to try to more fully appreciate it, I decided that I’m going to watch the entire season this time. I wasn’t enticed by the bloody opening start, but I do think the story is more interesting than it’s been in the past. Marty thinks he has everything under control, and he has a signature line that he keeps using to justify his cautiousness since he’s so sure that there’s law enforcement embedded in his operation. Wendy isn’t on board with that wait-and-see approach, and she was bold enough to make a pitch directly to Omar, which made a lot of sense but still puts them on the hook for more than Marty is comfortable with and might have problematic implications in the future. Marty’s poker tournament seemed like a relatively harmless concept, but Ruth isn’t quite on the same page, targeting Frank as a consistent flouter of the rules who shouldn’t be given special treatment despite his powerful mob connections. Throwing him off the boat into the water was a startling move, one that is absolutely going to blow back on them. Both of the Byrd children seem to have their heads on their shoulders, and if that moderately corny video Marty and Wendy recorded about the casino boat is any indication, their front may just be enough to keep them alive and somewhat safe for the time being.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Pilot Review: Love, Victor

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Stargirl

Stargirl: Season 1, Episode 5 “Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite” (B)

This episode introduced us to two new heroes, though we had a good idea that Beth was going to take on some mantle already. It’s frustrating just how little Courtney and Yolanda are taking her seriously or even paying her any attention, since they should realize that her role as an outcast makes her a fantastic fit for their new team. She was also much more open than Yolanda to understanding what her capabilities were with Dr. Mid-Nite’s goggles, and she asked the right questions that then elicited extremely helpful answers for everyone. I’d hope that Courtney can see her value now and that she takes proactive steps to act on it before Beth feels totally ignored. Rick wasn’t at all into the mantle of hero, preferring instead to punch his adoptive father’s car and motivated by revenge, which at least will enable him to join the team and soften his heart later. Pat has a lot of catching up to do, and it’s time that he stepped in as a mentor to warn them of the potential shortfalls and advise them rather than trying to keep Courtney from prying and pushing ahead to form a new team. He also isn’t taking her observations seriously, since we saw that the principal is definitely working with Barbara’s suspicious boss, who appears to have powers of his own. Identifying the villains in this town shouldn’t be too difficult, and looking at those hiding in plain sight is absolutely the first place for the man who’s encountered all of them before to start.

What I’m Watching: Insecure (Season Finale)

Insecure: Season 4, Episode 10 “Lowkey Lost” (B+)

This was a great season ender, featuring some unexpected developments and some much-needed conversations that we didn’t quite get to hear in their entirety. It’s a relief that this show was renewed a while ago for a fifth season since it absolutely still deserves to be on the air. Even if it felt weird in this current climate, it was nice to see an interaction between black people and law enforcement that resulted in nothing but humor, with Kelli relishing her opportunity to curse out the people who had dared to call the police over before thanking them for their service in the same breath. Tiffany going missing was a chance for Molly and Issa to come together and work for the common good of their mutual friend, and to realize that they did need to talk. While I would have loved to know what was said in the final scene, it was more emphatic to know that they were hashing it out and that we’ll see the results when this show returns for season five. Nathan’s space for Issa could use some work, but the bigger question is what’s going to happen with her romantically. Telling Lawrence when he got the job that she was open to long-distance or even maybe moving to San Francisco was a big deal, and Condola’s news couldn’t have come at a worse time. The way that Condola telling Lawrence and him telling Issa were interwoven was extremely effective, and I’m so curious to see what ends up happening since Issa was not at all pleased with Lawrence, even though he was saying all the right things. Molly’s relationship with Andrew doesn’t seem fated to last since she doesn’t want to talk about anything, but maybe she’ll be open to a bit of self-reflection. That has been a really great season and I can’t wait for season five. Bring on the Emmy attention!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Issa Rae as Issa and Yvonne Orji as Molly

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

What I’m Watching: I Know This Much Is True (Series Finale)

I Know This Much Is True: Season 1, Episode 6 (B-)

This episode started with another insanely depressing development that meant we barely got to see Thomas anymore following his apparently accidental death at the falls. Harris Yulin’s Father LaVie delivered a moving eulogy that favorably compared Dominick to the brother that Cain should have been to Abel, praising him as his brother’s keeper. He also had kind words for Ray, who we saw through Dominick’s tortured flashbacks would be incredibly cruel to Thomas, with him banging on the closet door begging to be let out particularly haunting as he now lay trapped in the coffin. Dominick chose a very public moment to confront Ray about his abusive behavior, shouldering plenty of the blame for not standing up to his stepfather and being complicit in bullying Thomas to death by trying to toughen him up. Ray maintaining that his conscience was clear wasn’t the right response, and his own subsequent decline was enough for Dominick to step in and care for him the same way he had for his brother. Dr. Patel encouraging Dominick to return for sessions and Lisa refusing to agree that Dominick’s arrogance killed his brother were comforting last visions of those supportive characters whose presence Dominick didn’t always perceive as helpful. While much of this episode was well-done and superior to everything that ran up to it, I wasn’t impressed with the fact that the answer Dominick always sought was right in front of him the whole time, with Ray fully aware of who his father was. His new connection to an uninterested Ralph Drinkwater wasn’t all that compelling, and the same was true of the miserable flashback to Domenico having his wife committed so that he didn’t have to fight for influence over his daughter. This series did feature some strong performances, particularly from Mark Ruffalo, but it felt too much like it was drowning in its own melancholy to be truly effective.

Series grade: B-
Series MVP: Mark Ruffalo

What I’m Watching: Quiz (Series Finale)

Quiz: Season 1, Episode 3 (B+)

I do wish that this show had been longer since it was very watchable and well-done, but I can appreciate that there are only so many facts – and theories – about what actually happened with this case. I wanted to be more certain about things, but apparently, despite a good deal of incriminating evidence, it’s not universally agreed upon that the Ingrams did indeed conspire to cheat. Helen McCrory’s DC Sonia seemed more than ready to take on their case just for the thrill of being able to defend them, and her arguments were rather persuasive. Diana was quite surprised to learn that she was being filmed, though there wasn’t any damning evidence that she was coughing into a microphone, despite what we saw when it was being filmed and Charles was on stage. What this show did very well was to make us believe we knew what we were seeing and then cast doubt because it wasn’t all conclusive. Charles was very emasculated by his wife and devastated by having to step back from his job, and, from what we saw, it didn’t appear that he was all that complicit in everything. Seeing that one scene where they were reacting loudly to the news on the phone two ways said so much, which is that it’s always possible to find a new interpretation based on the way an argument is presented. Paul’s meeting with Paddy startled him because of just how substantial a percentage of their contestants came from this ring, but he and the other producers all won out in the end because their documentary got very high ratings. Ending with Charles imagining Chris talking to him from the TV and inviting him to “tell us, what’s the answer” was effective, and I’m also left feeling very curious after this informative and thought-provoking piece of historical entertainment.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Matthew Macfadyen as Charles

What I’m Watching: Billions (Mid-Season Finale)

Billions: Season 4, Episode 7 “The Limitless Sh*t” (B-)

If nothing else, this unintentional finale comes at a reasonable point in this show’s narrative, with Axe gearing up for war and ready to eviscerate anyone who gets in his way when the back half of this season returns after production can resume. What wasn’t as satisfying was that both of its protagonists apparently forgot about their gripes with each other and instead set their sights on completely different targets. Yes, Chuck did task his entire office with finding dirt to make sure Todd was taken down, but not seeing him gloat about it almost made it seem like it didn’t happen. He was far too preoccupied with secretly testing everyone to see if they’d be a match for his father, which Kate was right to point out wasn’t even close to ethical. I recognized actor Rick Hoffman, who played the questionable Dr. Swerdlow, from another overdone performance of his on “Suits.” On the note of unproven science, Axe encouraging all of his underlings to take pills that he thought were the real-life version of “Limitless” was extremely irresponsible, and fortunately Taylor figured it out in time, potentially, for them to reverse the harm done. Partnering with Mike wasn’t a good idea, and she and Wendy should known that Axe would finally that completely unforgivable. The biggest mistake Axe was made in alienating Wendy, who was already responding shortly to him during their immensely awkward triple date with Wags. She’s the best ally he could possibly have, and the damage done to their relationship because of his jealousy is not going to be able to be repaired. I’ll still watch this show when it returns with new episodes, but I’m just expecting more of the same.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

What I’m Watching: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer: Season 1, Episode 5 “Justice Never Boarded” (C+)

This episode really accelerated one storyline while completely slowing down the other, and neither development is particularly promising. There are all these systems in place on the train to ensure that this new society can function with some semblance of law and order, but that also creates plenty of problems, evidenced by LJ’s thinly-veiled threat to expose some of Wilford’s deepest secrets while she was being tried for murder. Melanie going to the trouble of putting together a legitimate tribunal only made things worse, since a first-class jury would have been expected to deliver a result that would allow LJ to go free. Bennett and Javier evidently weren’t pleased with Melanie’s decision even if they seemed similarly worried when they heard what LJ said for everyone on the train to hear. The revolt that’s sure to occur as a result is less significant than the serious security breach that could permit Josie and Terence to so easily snatch the keys to the drawers from Henry’s pocket, and the fact that the secret of their existence and location was so widely known makes it hard to believe that nothing transpired earlier. It’s been remarkably simple for Josie to sneak uptrain unnoticed, and she managed in very little time to go through all the drawers, recognizing nearly all of their inhabitants, and rescue Andre with the unexpected help of Bess, who will now have to contend with finding Oz and covering her tracks. He’s definitely not in good shape, and having lucid dreams about cannibalism won’t prepare him all too well for his fight to stay hidden and survive.

What I’m Watching: Ramy

Ramy: Season 2, Episode 4 “Miakhalifa.mov” (B+)

A good amount of time passed between Ramy being given the dog and not seeing Malik, and I think that was helpful to get us to the next step, which was Ramy volunteering to drive with Zainab to Connecticut to offset some of the damage had done in trusting Dennis. His enthusiastic claims that he could speak Arabic fluently turned out not to be entirely accurate, as evident immediately by his inability to understand the security guards, allegedly because of a difference in dialect. Zainab wasn’t at all keen on his suggestion to “jam out” to his favorite Quran reciter on Soundcloud, but her impression of him definitely improved after he showed his competence with Bin Khaled. I thought that was Omar Metwally, recently seen on “The Affair,” as Khaled, who is absolutely the most eccentric personality we’ve seen so far on this show. I wasn’t familiar with Mia Khalifa, a well-known former porn star who appeared as herself, and it was interesting to see how Ramy interacted with her, especially after learning that Khaled brought her in to drink her breast milk to combat his complicated feelings of sexuality. Khaled wanting Ramy to live up to his namesake and shoot an arrow for the dog was a wild idea, and the fact that he didn’t count his practice shot that he nailed was unfortunate. Somehow, Ramy managed to convince him he should still donate, apparently because he thought it was $200 million rather than $2 million. Malik seemed surprisingly open to the idea of Ramy dating his daughter, though telling him to tell her about his “exploits” and warning him not to desecrate her should make him think carefully about whether he should proceed.

What I’m Watching: Space Force

Space Force: Season 1, Episode 4 “Lunar Habitat” (B)

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone that Mark is the type of person who would boldly march into a situation he saw wasn’t working to try to fix it himself without bothering to ask any questions about what had gone wrong and what specifically needed to be addressed. He started off poorly when he expressed a distaste for all the potatoes, which gave me flashbacks to “The Martian,” and it wasn’t long before he started eating bugs. I recognized the sculptor, Jerome, as actor Michael Hitchcock, a familiar face from other shows like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” He appeared most sympathetic to Mark from the start and, in the end, Mark being able to open up about his feelings and what worried him most helped the mission to come to a seemingly positive and successful conclusion. Erin’s eagerness to throw a party in her father’s absence resulted in a whole lot of uneaten pizza and many more bugs than were on the counter because of the spilled smoothie, and I like that Mark came home and just started cleaning it up himself rather than yelling at her for not doing it. Maggie wasn’t very helpful when Erin came to her for advice, and I wish Erin would have called her good buddy Angela or her boyfriend Bobby to spend some time with her. Brad has been positioned as a completely useless assistant thus far, and in this episode we saw that he at least gets what is supposed to be accomplished even if he can’t always execute it. Tony, on the other hand, doesn’t want to listen to anyone, and instead seeks only his own career advancement, as evidenced by his totally counterproductive efforts to placate FLOTUS’ request for absurd new uniforms.