Sunday, August 9, 2020

Emmy Catch-Up: What We Do in the Shadows

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 watching the entire season of every series nominated in the top category.

What We Do in the Shadows: Season 2, Episode 2 “Ghosts” (B)

This episode is one of the three installments of this show that’s up for an Emmy for writing. I understand that the concept is somewhat funny, particularly when Nandor insisted that Guillermo shouldn’t exaggerate because he’s only encountered one badabook, not multiple, making that an exception rather a frequent occurrence. I was pretty sure I recognized actor Jake McDorman from “Limitless” and “Manhattan Love Story” as the headless ghost Jeff, and it turns out I was right (he appeared in three season one episodes, apparently). The ensuing assumption that the vampires must also have ghosts who represented the things they didn’t do before they died was an intriguing one, and produced decently humorous relationships between each vampire and their ghost. Nadja and hers got along well, while Laszlo had an uncomfortable task to complete that he apparently did successfully, which was pretty gross. Nandor remembering only how to say “good morning” in his old language wasn’t too convenient, but their unproductive communication was endearing at least. Colin’s obsession with getting someone to ask what “updog” was kept him busy for most of the episode, and bringing back the ghost of his grandmother so that he could get her to do it and then dismiss her was much more to-the-point than most of what he does as an energy vampire. This show has a good sense of what it is and how it wants to incorporate vampire mythology, and I can understand that some find it to be a commendable feat. I’m hopeful that the other two nominated episodes will be more resounding.

Netflix Catch-Up: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 7, Episode 2 “Just Desserts” (B+)

I’m glad that I decided to watch the entire final season of this show rather than just Laverne Cox’s Emmy-nominated hour since I really do like (most of) these characters and I’m glad to see them again. This show has such a large ensemble that it’s interesting to see which players are featured and which aren’t even mentioned because there are so many more people to show. This was the first time we had seen Maritza in a while, and I’ve been watching Diane Guerrero (who I also met at Sundance) on “Doom Patrol,” which is a very different part. She even made the smart decision not to violate her parole and leave the state and ended up with a terrible consequence, which was her arrest and incarceration at the new ICE facility operated by Litchfield where Blanca also is. As she’s given more power, Linda is exercising it in poor ways, buying the precise language that Tamika – who is probably the most honest choice for the job – used at Caputo’s recommendation to impress her and secure the warden job. She’s going to be hated by a lot of people, including Hopper, who’s not a bad guy but is quite literally a criminal in that he’s part of a drug smuggling operation. McCullough’s flashbacks were unsettling, and deciding that she could take charge by having Alex traffic drugs for her rather than for the detestable Hellman was a puzzling conclusion. Adeola seems intent on helping Dayonara secure whatever power she can, and I’m fine with that as long as we don’t have to suffer through more of Badison in the near future. Piper’s struggles in the real world seem insignificant compared to what’s going on inside, but I suppose it’s endearing that she’s trying to support Alex in the way that she needs.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

What I’m Watching: Stateless (Series Finale)

Stateless: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Seventh Circle” (B+)

I wasn’t sure how all of this was going to be resolved since a happy ending didn’t seem appropriate given the real-life inspiration for many of these stories and the fact that it really just wouldn’t fit tonally. Instead, I think the characters experienced some intense growth and faced harrowing decisions that made them come out the other side broken but on the mend towards something that might hopefully be healthier for them. It was reassuring to see Margot press so hard to locate her sister when she came up against so many obstacles that made no sense, and it was a relief that, though she missed the ambulance that took Sofie away after she had to be sedated, she was in fact able to find her. It says something that someone who didn’t belong in detention because they were entitled to other rights as an Australian citizen was the catalyst for a change in treatment to other detainees, but I suppose it’s an indictment of the bureaucratic nature of the operation that takes the humanity out of it, resulting in situations like this. Sofie hallucinating everyone dancing was an intriguing stylistic choice, one that worked well since she suffered considerably but got to enjoy something comforting and pleasing while everyone else just perceived a dismal camp. Ameer’s choice to separate himself from his daughter for her protection was heartbreaking, but he recognized that it was the only way to ensure her safety and permanent stay in Australia. Cam being promoted by Harriet put him in a place he couldn’t stand, pushed to be someone he wasn’t by his circumstances, and simply walking away was the only way he could deal with it. Claire giving a different story to David so that Ameer wouldn’t be the focus of everything was her own sacrifice, and she was ready to accept the consequences if it blew back on her. This show was absolutely thought-provoking and well-done, featuring strong performances and an important story.

Series grade: B+
Series MVPs: Yvonne Strahovski as Sofie, Jai Courtney as Cam, and Asher Keddie as Claire

Emmy Catch-Up: Normal People

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 watching the entire season of every series nominated in the top category, as well as this one, which netted a few important nominations even if it missed the main limited series race.

Normal People: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

This is one show whose pilot I liked a lot but I unfortunately decided not to keep watching when it premiered at the end of April, which was a busy time of TV for me. Nathaniel, the editor at The Film Experience, has raved about this show, and anyone I’ve spoken to who kept watching insisted that it was absolutely wonderful. Because it earned bids for star Paul Mescal and for directing and writing, I decided that it was worth checking it out, even a few months after I missed my first chance. I have to say that it is truly captivating, and part of that has to do with the very strong music choices used. But it also may well be the most immediately immersive and intimate thing I’ve seen in a while, wisely choosing to spend most of this episode getting to know its two protagonists as they get to know each other. The sex scenes are both passionate and reserved at the same time, and there’s a real sense that everything we’re seeing is completely necessary rather than gratuitous. The way that Connell and Marianne talk to each other is mesmerizing, and that of course stands deeply apart from the way that they (don’t) interact when they’re around anyone else. They’re so incredibly honest with each other, and I’m definitely on board to see how this romance is going to play out over the course of the next month or so before Mescal competes for his chance to win an Emmy.

Emmy Catch-Up: The Mandalorian

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 watching the entire season of every series nominated in the top category.

The Mandalorian: Season 1, Episode 2 “Chapter 2: The Child” (B)

Now here’s a show where I know I’m in the minority since it was extremely popular upon release last November. I’m a big “Star Wars” fan, even if I only liked “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” out of the most recent spate of films. This show earned a somewhat unexpected Best Drama Series Emmy bid to go along with its impressive performance in the technical categories, and so now I’m going to go back to try to find out why everyone loves it so much. I understand that Baby Yoda is meant to be very cute and impressive, and he certainly held his own in this episode as he used the Force to stop that giant creature in its tracks so that the Mandalorian could kill it and cut out the egg to trade with the Jawas. But it does seem more than a bit precarious to bring him along through the desert as the bounty hunter continues to encounter enemies bent on killing him, especially after the blows he did suffer that could have incapacitated him and left Baby Yoda defenseless following an exhausting exertion of the Force. This show definitely wants to feel like “Star Wars,” with its frequent transition wipes and its adventurous spirit, but I’m still not seeing its greater purpose. Unlike so many traders portrayed in this universe, Kuiil really is one of the good guys, determined to keep his word and eager to help the Mandalorian even when it definitely doesn’t benefit him to vouch for someone who is no friend of the Jawa.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Emmy Catch-Up: What We Do in the Shadows

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 watching the entire season of every series nominated in the top category.

What We Do in the Shadows: Season 2, Episode 1 “Resurrection” (B)

The announcement of this show as a Best Comedy Series nominee was definitely one of the most surprising moments of the Emmy nominations broadcast, and it also came near the very end, especially since it’s alphabetically last, and was the only announced bid for the show (it also earned technical bids and three writing citations). I enjoyed the pilot of this show just fine even if I think that we don’t need more mockumentaries in the world, and now I’m going to watch the ten episodes of season two to try to understand what everyone loves so much about it. This opening installment was entertaining enough, and having them check back in with the camera crew about what happened during the time off seemed to be like a fairly sufficient recap to get me situated with the events and characters. I immediately recognized actor Haley Joel Osment, best known for being the kid who could see dead people in “The Sixth Sense” and a recent recurring player on “Silicon Valley” and “The Kominsky Method,” as Topher, the familiar who, unlike Guillermo, didn’t put any effort into what he was doing and, also unlike Guillermo, got plenty of credit for being great. From his quick demise to his unfortunate reanimation, I most enjoyed his constant eagerness to have Guillermo high-five him, even when he was literally holding his severed arm in his hand. I didn’t feel the same affinity for Wallace, played by Benedict Wong from “The Martian” and “Doctor Strange,” whose obviously imperfect spell-casting was a bit much. I didn’t expect the ending with his zombie keychain factory, but I guess this show is capable of surprises. This season might be fun.

What I’m Watching: Little Voice

Little Voice: Season 1, Episode 7 “Ghost Light” (B)

Sometimes it feels like Bess is the least sympathetic character on this show, trying to figure out who she is but also failing to put the necessary effort in when she doesn’t get exactly what she wants. She’s had a lot piled on her lately, and she tore her entire apartment up looking frantically for the songbook we saw her leave on the subway, so perhaps she’s earned a bit of a pass. Going from audition to audition was exhausting enough on its own, and for Bess to be told alternately that her voice was great but in need of a real songwriter or that her songs were great but in need of a real singer was pretty crippling. That Jeremy’s guy complimented both but told her he wouldn’t be able to offer her anything was a real blow, and good for her for finally realizing that he’s not a nice person and calling him on it. Samuel was a solid support system, which proved especially important when she was horrified to find her father sleeping on the street and not willing to come home with her. Elaine, played by Becky Ann Baker from “Girls” and “Hunters,” made an interesting point when she noted that Bess wasn’t letting Louie fight any of his own battles because she always picked up the phone, though that didn’t make it any easier to see him get crushed again and again while trying to start his vlog. Prisha’s big bagel brunch was certainly a celebration of something she didn’t want, and the way things are moving make it seem like this is going to become permanent and irreversible pretty soon.

Pilot Review: Hitmen

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, August 6, 2020

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

Doom Patrol: Season 2, Episode 9 “Wax Patrol” (B+)

I was right that the end of the world was going to coincide with Clara’s wedding, and it’s a good thing that he just left a voicemail at the diner instead of actually having to hear the disappointment in her voice that he wasn’t going to make it. I will say, this was a pretty bleak ending, and it’s tough not knowing whether this show will be back for a third season, especially since it took a few months for season two to be commissioned after the first finished airing. Flashing back to Miranda as the primary in 1969 Wisconsin meeting a seemingly kind musician was informative for how her being in the driver’s seat was, and the reaction from the rest of the personalities was very bad when she showed up in the underground after the wild swingers’ party triggered some traumatic memories. Jane taking over at that point made sense, and it’s not entirely clear if it was the candlemaker who was posing as Miranda or something more internally sister. It was brilliant that all of the other characters had to face their own imaginary friends, who they managed to bond with after some time until the candlemaker showed up to terrorize and then freeze them. Rita’s was a freaky giant paper collage with her mother’s eyes, and she did a good job standing up to something that is the physical embodiment of her worst fears. Vic’s Doctor Cowboy was well aware of his purpose as the yes men, enthusiastically approving life choices he knew were terrible but that he was supposed to unconditionally affirm. Cliff’s angry, swearing Jesus may have been the best one, and I liked Cliff’s question about if he had an exemption to take his own name in vain. I would be very sad if this is the last we saw of this show – it’s been another wild and fascinating ride this season.

Season grade: B+
Season MVPs: Brendan Fraser as Cliff and Matt Bomer as Larry

Pilot Review: Star Trek: Lower Decks

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.

Pilot Review: Coroner

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.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Netflix Catch-Up: Orange is the New Black (Season Premiere)

Orange is the New Black: Season 7, Episode 1 “Beginning of the End” (B)

I’m very late to the party streaming the final season of this show, and I actually watched this episode and wrote this review months ago. Things got busy and I didn’t get past this episode, so now that Laverne Cox has been nominated for another Emmy, I feel like it’s time to catch up and finish a show I’ve always liked. Unlike many, I thought that the riot season was very strong, just as good as the four years that preceded it, while the denouement that was season six didn’t impress me much. I don’t know why this premiere chose to kill off Daddy rather than Badison, since I think most viewers would have been much happier to have the far more palatable new addition from last season still around. I suppose this will create the most conflict, since Alex is now in a position of power she doesn’t want that will almost certainly get her into trouble, and Dayanara has lost the security she’s had for a bit. I’m not sure how I feel about the new device where each of the inmates (and Piper) narrate and seemingly think out loud, and we got some random thoughts from a handful of the inmates at the end of the episode too. Piper’s life on the outside is far from glamorous, though her attitude has never succeeded much in gaining her sympathy. I like how the relationship between Gloria and Red continues to build as they spend time in solitary confinement, and I’m not sure what to make of Aleida’s affair as she does a poor job hiding her lack of interest in Hopper. It should be an interesting final hurrah if nothing else!

What I’m Watching: Stargirl

Stargirl: Season 1, Episode 12 “Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. - Part One” (B)

I thought that there couldn’t be too much ground left to cover on this show now that the bad guys all know the secret identities of their enemies and have decided to take them out. I underestimated the tendency for comic book villains to gain delight out of their conquests and kills, and that proved to be the undoing for Sportsmaster and Tigress, who wanted to be artful in their approach to getting rid of Courtney’s entire family and failed as a result. They knew Courtney and Pat had some abilities and fighting experience, but it was Barbara and Mike who ended up surprising them and gaining the upper hand. It’s good to know that there’s a safehouse where they can all be together and regroup, even if they’re not exactly subtle, what with Justin showing up with snacks and Pat having his giant suit fly in by itself. Sportsmaster and Tigress might have gotten carried away and killed one of their own – the Fiddler – when she criticized their parenting skills, but the bad guys appear to still be out front and looking ready to wreak havoc on the world. Beth did seem startled by the humanitarian aims of their manifesto, but the idea that twenty-five million people would die because they couldn’t accept the brainwashing made it clear that this was indeed an evil plan. Trapping Barbara in a trance was disconcerting, but being able to control Pat and the suit was much more worrisome. This is an uphill battle our youthful team has ahead of them, which should make for an intense finale.

What I’m Watching: Perry Mason

Perry Mason: Season 1, Episode 7 “Chapter Seven” (B+)

This episode was full of sensational events, and I’ll admit that I googled around for a recap to make sure that I fully understood all of the revelations. Opening with the flashback to Birdy agreeing to “give” Alice to a man in exchange for a ride helped to explain more of their dynamic, and that made the final scene in which Birdy tried to give Alice credit for a resurrection that she was devastated she hadn’t been able to make happen feel much more impactful. Alice recognized the tall order she was putting on herself, doing something that hadn’t been done in nearly two millennia, and Emily’s blind faith in her was deeply troubling. It didn’t help Perry at all, who had to close the bible she was reading in court so that she wouldn’t be automatically convicted. He shook off the egg that was literally thrown on him to wow in court with the stunt of having all the financial records brought in, something that Maynard did not expect, but his failure at the brothel was just as palpable, and considerably more painful. Lupe buying his house was another blow, and he even managed to alienate Pete following his unsuccessful tailing of Sidel. Smoke bombs being thrown in court didn’t even account for the wildest and most intense part of the hour, which was definitely Della having to drive through an angry mob at the cemetery after the coffin was opened with no body inside. While the mystery of what happened to Charlie Dodson will likely be resolved in the finale, I’m glad to know that this show will be back for a second season since its characters and storyline have plenty more to be explored.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Episode 9 “Try, Try” (B+)

Time loops are common in movies and television, and in fact a movie about the subject, “Palm Springs,” premiered on Hulu just two weeks after this episode first debuted. There are many things I liked about this episode, and the first was that it wasn’t inherently clear from the start that this was about a time loop. Instead, Topher Grace, an actor who started his career on “That 70s Show” and has transitioned to more serious projects like “BlacKkKlansman” recently, played someone who had a clear connection with a woman portrayed by Kylie Bunbury from “Pitch” and “Brave New World.” We knew she was an intellectual and a scientist, and how he knew so much about her and had so much in common was a mystery. Predicting what was going to happen next was a neat trick at first, but obviously that wasn’t enough for Marc, whose extensive time loop experience had convinced him that he and Claudia were soulmates. Her response – that she couldn’t match his feelings since this day was new for her – was absolutely correct, and it produced a terrifying response from Marc, who was also correct that he could do whatever he wanted because the day was just going to start again from him. The resolution was far from reassuring, since he’ll remember exactly what happened and likely hold it against Claudia even though she won’t have done it yet on that new day. I imagine I’ll be thinking about the implications of what was presented in this episode for a while, and it’s nice to know that even something as frequently done as a time loop can offer new food for thought.

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 11 “The Bachelor Party” (B)

This was not a particularly exciting bachelor party, though Stevie did have her work cut out for her trying to find a happy medium between David’s seven-page list of lavish demands and Patrick’s one request for an activity he really wanted to do. She obviously wanted to amuse herself with the shirt she had custom made for David that didn’t have an arrow on it but just said “I’m stupid,” and I enjoyed that both he and Moira confused the escape room concept with the movie “Panic Room.” No one except for Patrick was remotely into it, until Alexis’ history of dating men from exotic places combined with a lot of people yelling at her made her the definitive MVP of the group, enabling them to escape after desperate pleas from both Johnny and Moira to be let out just a few minutes into their timed hour. The cat’s out of the bag with Johnny’s big endeavor, and it’s a relief that, despite Roland’s unbearable stupidity and his phone being taken away from almost an hour, the meeting appears to be on and hopes are high. David giving some real advice to Alexis about what she should do was sweet, and it’s nice to see them bond seriously and make some progress instead of teasing each other every once in a while. I’m starting to see the appeal of some of the enduring humor on this show, like regional airline Larry Air (or is it Leriere?) once again being featured with Moira having to read all the terrible rhyming one-liners.

What I’m Watching: Stateless (Penultimate Episode)

Stateless: Season 1, Episode 5 “Panis Angelicus” (B+)

Doing something in the middle of the night suggests that there’s something untoward about it, and pulling Al Alwani out because his visa was denied and he was set to be deported had the opposite effect of keeping it quiet since his piercing screams woke everyone around him. That was just the beginning of bad news for the detainees as visitors and cooked meals were suspended and the barrier was erected between the two facilities. Claire did feel that she was doing a good job in both helping the detainees and making the facility run better, but that didn’t mean that her head was safe from the chopping block, a reality that made her even angrier because she had been expressly convinced by Genevieve. She and Brian got into an intense screaming match blaming each other, and her gesture of friendship came all too late after he ended up being the one to take the fall for all of it. It was devastating to learn that Ameer’s actions to protect his family had led to him doing something that could implicate him in smuggling charges since that’s the opposite of what he had been trying to do, and it hardly seems like a black-and-white situation that even Claire stopped to question. Sofie’s situation was even more harrowing, as she wasn’t able to stop hallucinating being at Gordon’s mercy, reliving trauma that then caused first a psychologist and then all of the guards to think that she needed to be moved to a psychiatric hospital. Even Cam managed to get corrupted, choosing to indulge in an attraction to Sharee after his wife made him leave their home because of the way he lashed out at his kids. One more episode doesn’t seem like enough time to resolve all of these plotlines, but that’s what we have left, and I’m sure it will be emphatic and resounding.

Monday, August 3, 2020

What I’m Watching: Intelligence

Intelligence: Season 1, Episode 4 (C+)

This episode was by far the least sophisticated installment to date, with too many low-hanging plotlines that really weren’t all that funny. Jerry’s eagerness to bring in a hacker to the intelligence unit should have been a red flag, though his generous offer to take the hit on it if anything went awry was indeed appealing to Christine, who would love nothing more than to embarrass him. Tom was painted as an absurdly perfect person, capable of smelling great with no deodorant and doing gymnastics just for fun. As we see just how much Joseph admires Jerry and yearns for his friendship, it’s brutal to watch him continually get shut down by Jerry in favor of something more attractive. Joseph dying his hair and piercing his own ear to try to be cool was unfortunate, as was his chewing a cigarette because he didn’t have lighter, and it wasn’t even remotely surprising that Tom hacked Barnaby’s presentation. Tuva’s interest in Barnaby’s previous relationship with Mary was probably the most worthwhile part of that entire plotline, and I have a feeling that Jerry’s references to karate during his overzealous preparation were just to please “Friends” fan who enjoyed Ross’ obsession with that martial art. His protective detail couldn’t have been any more useless since he was the one who panicked most when things first started going awry, and the sprinklers going off after Tom signed his name to the chaos was certainly going to reflect poorly on him, had he been concerned with anything else other than getting steaks with his backup pal.

What I’m Watching: The Capture

The Capture: Season 1, Episode 4 “Blind Spots” (B+)

There are a lot of different elements at play here, and it’s understandable that there’s plenty of confusion. Rachel is closest to really figuring out what’s going on, comprehending the implications of CCTV footage being manipulated and how anyone can be made to look like they’ve done anything. I was correct to assume that she’d be targeted for what she knows, and confronting Hart in public wasn’t a smart move. It was gratifying to see her come into direct contact with Shaun, though he rightfully didn’t know who he could trust and decided to steal her car rather than have her bring him in with her assurances that she would make sure he was treated right. Getting to talk directly to Frank also only served to confirm Rachel’s suspicions that what was going on was being explicitly endorsed by higher-ups to make sure that the true objectives remained hidden. Being brought to a place with loud music and people not paying attention to him didn’t give Shaun the comfort he needed, especially after he thought that it was Frank’s people who had taken him again. Having Charlie come out to him at the end and assess that he must really want to know what was happening was a surprise, and his sentiments certainly qualify as an understatement. I’m glad to know that a second season of this show has already been ordered since two more episodes does not seem like a sufficient amount of time to satisfyingly cover what’s at play here.

What I’m Watching: Brave New World

Brave New World: Season 1, Episode 4 “Swallow” (B)

This episode, like the one before it, felt very expository, and I’d prefer there to be more action and substantial development. There are enough people in New London who have some concept, however vague, of what life before, or currently in the savage lands, was like, and so the way that John is acting should make sense to a degree. Instead, he’s roaming around outwardly expressing a resistance to the way of life he’s being told is normal while everyone acts surprised that he’s not conforming when he couldn’t possibly understand what a world that devalues his connection to a parent is. Bernard seems simultaneously obtuse and curious, insistent that he has a relationship with John that makes him uniquely qualified to help him but also clueless about why his perception would be the exact inverse of how he reacted to being a tourist in the savage lands. Lenina is expressing more understandable difficulty reacclimating, which has to do in part with the trauma that she endured. It’s interesting to see that this dystopia has thus far cast as its most dangerous villains the people closest to humanity today, not the ones who want to control thought and free action. I think this show will become more enthralling and compelling when it moves to a focus on how those in power, like Mustafa and Henry, exert their influence over others to try to brainwash them and quell them with those drugs everyone so freely pops at the first sign of a stressful or disquieting thought.

Sunday, August 2, 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 10 “Sunrise, Sunset” (B)

It’s clear that calling David a groomzilla would be a colossal understatement, and I assume that Patrick wasn’t present at the tasting because he wanted to leave it to the partner that he knew would care much more than he did. He would probably have realized that Johnny wasn’t too thrilled about the price tag of the extraordinary lavish menu he had selected, but his absence meant that Johnny could only look to Stevie for sympathy as he failed repeatedly to communicate just how over his budget it really was. His enthusiasm for the tenderloin didn’t help since that also prevented him from saying what he really wanted to. It’s nice that, after so much sarcasm and lack of interest from Stevie, she was the one who, after having read his book, suggested that they buy a whole bunch of motels so that they could actually make this enterprise profitable. It’s no surprise that Moira wouldn’t have put together that she was killed off her show in a series of truly humiliating ways, and that it took Alexis drowning in misery and binge-watching the terrible series to open her eyes to it. There were two very notable guest stars both known for plenty of roles, Saul Rubinek from “Hunters” and “Warehouse 13” and Victor Garber from “Legends of Tomorrow” and “Alias.” Both actors, who appeared on the Emmy ballot but didn't get nominated, were a bit over-the-top in their performances here, but it was nice to see familiar faces. Moira’s story of victory wasn’t quite as satisfying given that it didn’t end up happening, but at least she seemed pleased with how it went.

Emmy Catch-Up: Pose (Season Finale)

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 10 “In My Heels” (B+)

I have to say, this has been one hell of an emotional season, and this episode was a formidable bookend to the powerful premiere that I watched a little six over six weeks ago. Blanca was doing well running her nail salon in her apartment but not doing well physically, and seeing her in the hospital felt even more devastating than Pray being there since she had always been such a source of strength, particularly for him when he was recovering. Noting that she was only thirty years old to Judy was sobering, and it really seemed as if this might be it for her. There was no better time, therefore, for the lip-synching category to give her the perfect opportunity to express herself, showing up in a wheelchair to perform an incredible rendition of the national anthem that was extremely moving. Noticing two young attendees and offering to buy them food was a very sweet way to send out the season, signaling a new generation to come and a continued generosity and sense of love on the part of the elders. Elektra taking a stand against the boys club of judges was a worthwhile endeavor, and everyone seemed to enjoy the role-reversal that helped them to literally put themselves in the shoes of others that they couldn’t possibly fully understand. Angel being cut off from gigs because she was outed was very sad, and it was so affirming and wonderful to see Papi take off as a manager and net her a gig whose funders were actually thrilled that she was trans. Them getting engaged was also a fantastic development. Damon’s return was sentimental and inspiring thanks to his own house father status in Paris, and it’s good to see that all the kids are doing pretty well. I’m definitely going to watch this show when it returns for season three, and I’m grateful for the enlightening and excellent experience this season has been. I'm sad that it didn't get an Emmy nomination for Best Drama Series and that only Billy Porter was singled out from a superb cast.

Season grade: A-
Season MVPs: Mj Rodriguez as Blanca, Dominique Jackson as Elektra, and Indya Moore as Angel

Emmy Catch-Up: Succession (Season Finale)

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 10 “This Is Not for Tears” (B+)

Well, this ending was quite a surprise. Logan’s shareholder told him that it was going to have to be his head, and though he suggested it to his family before dismissing the possibility entirely as unrealistic, he never thought it was actually going to be him who fell. Meeting on the most absurdly luxurious boat that I’ve ever seen with a helicopter bad and giant attachable water slide was the very representation of a disconnect with reality and consequences that defines the behavior of this family. Things started off separate with Tom defending his “deadcatting” while suggesting that “Benign Fungus” should be the title of Greg’s memoir, and Willa throwing Connor’s tablet into the water when she read a bad review of the play. Roman was bold to tell Logan that he thought that the appealing offer he had received wasn’t actually real, and Jamie didn’t hide his fury at being subverted. Hearing them sit around the table and debate who should be thrown to the wolves was unsettling but typical for these characters, and nothing anyone said was excusable. After Shiv tried to make a threesome happen on the boat, it was refreshing to see Tom finally stand up for himself, confronting her for agreeing that he should be served up and for suggesting an open marriage on their wedding night. The biggest news had to do with Kendall, who for the entire season has been faithfully serving his father and who seemed so disappointed when Logan made it clear that Naomi, who he said was good for him, wasn’t welcome. The look on his face when Logan told him that it was going to be him conveyed so much misery, and it seemed like he really was going to take the fall. It’s been easy to forget how he tried to bring down his father in season one because of the debt he’s felt after Logan cleaned up his mess from the season one finale. Announcing that Logan was a malignant presence was extremely brave and the ultimate declaration of war, and it seems like he didn’t tell anyone (except maybe Greg) what he was doing. That sets up a formidable conflict for season three, which I think I’ll plan to watch when it debuts. Like “Ozark,” I’m still not entirely sold on this show but I do see some of the appeal, and can particularly respect the performances. This episode earned both writing and directing Emmy nominations, which I can appreciate.

Season grade: B
Season MVPs: Kieran Culkan as Roman, Sarah Snook as Shiv, Matthew Macfadyen as Tom, and Holly Hunter as Rhea

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Emmy Catch-Up: Ozark (Season Finale)

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 10 “All In” (B)

This is a very tense show, and there’s nothing like being pretty sure that you’re about to executed to keep things miserable and serious. Over the past few episodes, alliances have shifted so that Marty and Wendy are back on the same page and Helen has been directly opposite them, growing more and more unsure of their dependability. All of the Byrde family members realized what their fates could be, and Wendy was bold to ask for assurances from Navarro that they would still remain relevant, a worthwhile question considering she had already gone to him to request to take over the casino operations while selling Marty out to the FBI. I got worried when yet another young person pulled out a gun with no hesitation, and Jonah is lucky that his antics didn’t result in severe repercussions. Wendy was also fortunate that Jim called her to tell her that Helen had in fact applied for an expedited casino license, making it very clear what her intentions were. Maya didn’t hold back in warning Marty not to go to Mexico with the confession Helen wrote for him being processed, and I’m sure that he didn’t expect what was going to happen as soon as Navarro welcomed him with open arms. Choosing the Byrdes over Helen, whose death was just as swift and brutal as many of the execution she ordered likely were, is a big move for Navarro, and presents an intriguing situation for the show’s final fourth season. Darlene blasting off Frank Jr.’s genitals hardly seemed like a productive decision since it’s hard to believe that Frank Sr. would partner with her after that aggression. I’m still not completely sold on this show as one of the best on television, but watching an entire season through has shown me that it is better than I thought, with some formidable performances featured. I’m on board to watch the fourteen episodes of season four when it premieres. This episode earned an Emmy nomination for writing along with two other episodes of this show. 

Season grade: B
Season MVPs: Laura Linney as Wendy, Tom Pelphrey as Ben, Julia Garner as Ruth and Janet McTeer as Helen

Pilot Review: Get Even

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: The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Episode 8 “A Small Town” (B+)

What I like most about this show is when it takes a simple concept, follows a relatively predictable trajectory of events, and then draws an unexpected conclusion that gives it an entirely deeper meaning. Jason, played by Damon Wayans Jr. from “New Girl” and “Happy Endings,” just wanted to see the town do well. His discovery of that astonishing model that, when turned on, mirrored real life, led him to do things to improve it. It seemed at the start that his undoing would be a need for credit, when in actuality it was just that he couldn’t stand to see the new mayor, played by David Krumholtz from “Numb3rs” and “The Plot Against America,” claim that he was the one doing it when he was responsible for the town being in such bad shape. He didn’t want the clerk at the convenience store to thank him – he just wasn’t okay that a man who had do nothing to improve the town was being showered with praise. And as a result, when he was confronted with the inevitable discovery of the model, he chose to sacrifice something important to him for the benefit of the town, ensuring future prosperity thanks to the giant piece of gold on the main street. I like that message, and this episode ended on a strangely optimistic note. Two additional points: I’m a fan of Paula Newsome from her work on the short-lived series “Women’s Murder Club” and more recently on “Barry,” and it was humorous to me after taking a recent interest in getting to know the U.S. interstate highways, that Interstate 10 was featured when the southernmost cross-country route doesn’t come close to any place that would see that kind of snow.