Friday, April 30, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4, Episode 3 “The Crossing” (B+)

It is truly disturbing to see how Gilead treats and tortures the women it deems less than human, but there was an added dimension to it in this episode as it was portrayed as a truly religious mission, one that reminded me most of what I’ve read about the crusades. Stopping to pray and recognize the holy work that was about to be done before waterboarding June was so off-putting, as was the use of a towel with a cross emblazoned on it. Reed Birney, who did some great work as a member of the four-part ensemble in the Sundance film “Mass,” was the perfect choice to play the commander who played nice and acted as if he was June’s friend, even calling her by her real (some cultures would say Christian, ironically) name when he thanked her for help and had previously pushed a handmaid to her death off a roof like it was nothing just to get June to realize the seriousness of her situation. Ultimately, it was Lawrence who got through after being pushed to do so by Nick, challenging June’s assertion that Gilead actually cares about children. He continues to be seedy but also so right about everything, aware of his role and hers in what he described as a necessary evolution of sorts for the young fascist country. She was so disturbed by Hannah being scared of her, and it was chilling to see the handmaids found after she gave up their true location. There was an unexpected sentimentality and soap opera quality to her running on the bridge back to kiss Nick, but that’s what passes for a real relationship on this show in this horrific world that June so bitterly described to Aunt Lydia. The notion of June and the other handmaids spending their lives at a Magdalene colony where they would be visited repeatedly for ceremonies by commanders and their wives would have been a lot to take, but I didn’t expect more than an ardent, willful look from June while they were in the van stopped at the train tracks. It’s devastating that June’s decision not to strike Aunt Lydia may have delayed them enough and alerted the driver to their presence too early to cost the other handmaids their lives, but June and Janine made it over, ready to escape to some unknown fate and likely capture soon. After the slow-motion running, June recounting the names of the handmaids she came to know in that gymnasium was a masterfully powerful way to end. It was also interesting to see how Luke talked to Moira, who last episode was resentful of June, about how he was grappling with the knowledge that she knew her fate and that she was continuing to choose not to come back to him, even when she had multiple opportunities to do so. I think they would both argue that she’s doing very important work on the homefront, but that doesn’t mean it hurts Luke any less.

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4, Episode 2 “Nightshade” (B+)

I am continually astounded by this show’s ability to be devastating in the way it portrays the severity of living under a regime like Gilead. It did seem like June was operating relatively freely while being the most wanted fugitive in the nation, and she was able to execute her mass poisoning at the brothel with remarkable skill and ease. Janine saluting her as “Red Leader” before she left felt particularly playful. Of course that high was immediately diminished by indications that something was wrong back at the farm, and just like the helicopter pilot who was killed instantly by a shot to the head when June was previously trying to escape, her loyal male co-conspirator got taken out as multiple sniper lasers were aimed at her. Seeing Nick in that moment was mildly comforting, though keeping her alive is probably a worse punishment than death in many ways given what Gilead will likely have in store for her. It took me a few minutes to recover from the impact of the end of this episode, and I’m purposely waiting a day or two before I move on to the next hour to let the solace further sink in. I knew I recognized Daisy’s voice, and I correctly identified that it was Laura Vandervoort from “Smallville” and “V.” If we see her again, things certainly won’t be good. It’s jarring to see how angry Moira got at June for making messes for others to clean up, and she was very disturbed by the need to have Rita go in to make Asher feel like he was back in Gilead. There’s a bureaucracy to the fundraising efforts and gladhanding that has to happen which doesn’t match at all with the horrors that are going on in Gilead. There was something distinctly wrong about Mark being the one to tell Serena that she was pregnant in a supposedly free society, but regardless of how that information was distributed, it certainly complicates matters.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale (Season Premiere)

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4, Episode 1 “Pigs” (B+)

It’s refreshing to have one familiar show back that didn’t have its production as severely impacted by the pandemic, but it’s also been a year and a half since season three concluded. I’m in the camp that the third season was still very good even if it wasn’t as strong as the first two, and I found this opener to be extremely strong. The impact of that plane landing in Canada is still very much felt, and we got to see that through all of the characters. It’s continually fascinating – and disturbing – to see just how poorly women are treated in Gilead, with the eternally loyal Aunt Lydia appearing before the tribunal after being repeatedly beaten, while the obviously guilty Commander Lawrence sits around reading books and getting regular shaves in his luxurious prison cell. Aunt Lydia’s religious fervor remains, now directed entirely at June, while Lawrence is free to make whatever sarcastic remarks he makes as he sees that Gilead still needs him for his logistical know-how, which of course makes him complicit in the gender-discriminatory system he helped to build. The legal implications of working with a regime like Gilead are also equally intriguing and terrifying, and the reaction from Fred illustrated that since Gilead will surely both claim that the children should be returned home and prepare to invade Canada rather than continue its diplomatic approach. I’m glad that June isn’t back in some commander’s home and instead has found refuge somewhere that represents the most freedom people can have in this system, away from watchful eyes (and Eyes), but still relegated to a familiar structure. I’m thrilled with the casting of Mckenna Grace, a fourteen-year-old actress who was terrific in “Troop Zero” and has already built an impressive resume, as Mrs. Keyes, who admires June for her revolutionary efforts yet still seeks to uphold what she’s been taught as a wife and mistress of her house. It’s good that additional episodes are available – I’m absolutely ready for more.

What I’m Watching: Big Sky

Big Sky: Season 1, Episode 13 “White Lion” (C+)

Any notions that maybe that blow John Wayne delivered to Blake’s head wasn’t fatal were quickly debunked as soon as Cheyenne crawled down and confirmed it. I wasn’t sure what she was up to when she took his body and moved it, but it was clear that she was covering her brother’s tracks and ensuring that she had some leverage over him at the same time. She’s seen what a woman’s place is supposed to be in her family given the way that her father treats her mother, and it sounds like things may be about to change. Rosie indicated that there was good reason for Jenny and Cassie to be afraid of the Kleinsassers, as if them casually dissolving skeletons in acids wasn’t enough of a red flag for audiences, and her father, played by Michelle Veintimilla’s “The Baker and the Beauty” costar Carlos Gómez, didn’t even want to discuss it. A large vehicle being driven into the motel while Jenny was about to learn whatever it was from Angela was an intense and unexpected ending, one that isn’t going to make the already grieving Jenny feel any better or be inclined to let it go. All that was more interesting and palatable than anything that happened with Ronald, which found him for some reason wrapping Mary up in a blanket before stabbing her multiple times, then just happening to be inside when Cassie and Mark were outside. It’s also hard to believe that there was a similarly-wrapped body inside her freezer, which presumably is the ex Mary and Scarlet were discussing? Seems like it would have been a whole lot smarter for everyone to communicate since Scarlet could have been much more helpful to Arthur if he had just told her who he really was and that he had (allegedly) changed.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 6, Episode 5 “Prom Night” (B+)

Okay, so this was pretty fun. It was definitely something different than what we’ve been experiencing, and that’s a good thing. I was so impressed with the two actresses selected to play the younger versions of Kara and Alex, and after some quick research, it turns out I was just as impressed the first time they showed up, back in a high-school set episode, “Midvale,” that I didn’t remember from season three. I’m also intrigued by the notion that Kenny, someone who apparently was the focus of that same episode but played by another actor, may still be alive in the present everyone will eventually return to, which could have interesting implications for Kara’s life and love life given that he knows about her powers. We don’t know, of course what Kara ended up telling him and how he took it, but it’s going to be up to the teenagers to save Brendan and Brenda now that they’ve been captured by the two aliens eager to complement the selection in their zoo. Their behavior and eagerness to fit in with the 90s vibe was hilariously off-base, and Brainy took very quickly to the idea of both singing and playing baseball when it was an option to, in his mind, lay low. The presence of a young Cat Grant means that all this is surely going to have an effect on the future, but the way I see it, the more time-travel the better, especially if it keeps us out of the Phantom Zone for longer.

What I’m Watching: Breeders

Breeders: Season 2, Episode 7 “No Excuses” (B+)

It was jarring to see Paul so angry and distraught by those flashes of Ally with another man, and Luke was rightfully worried that he was distracted and going so fast. That resentment couldn’t possibly last, and it’s good to know that things have mostly been resolved between them. The look on Ally’s face when Paul demeaned Luke’s account of his panic attack as just something that he had to get used to demonstrated how her concern over the way he was treating his son trumped anything that she might have done to make him upset. Fortunately, they seemed to end on a much better note, with Luke headed back to school under the guise of him having been sent home for breaking the rules instead of leaving because he didn’t have his pillow. There’s a stark difference between Ally’s mother and Paul’s parents and even the speed at which they move, with Leah showing up to announce her engagement to Alex and the start of a new chapter in their lives at the same general time as Jim and Jackie were disappointed not to be spending the day at the house with Luke so that they could watch season two of “The Wire.” Though it didn’t end up amounting to much, I enjoyed seeing Darren accidentally touch something in the editing booth and then completely lie to Ally about it as soon as she came back in and asked what he had done. We don’t see enough of Ally’s work life anymore, and I’d be open to that being featured more.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Round Two: Mare of Easttown

Mare of Easttown: Season 1, Episode 2 “Fathers” (B+)

This episode matched the grim nature of the opening hour while giving us considerably more insight into all of the characters. This is such a small town and community that it’s hard to believe things could be happening without anyone knowing. That scene where Dylan went into the gas station where Dawn was working before Mare later came in and was threatened by Tony encapsulated it all, even topping Siobhan showing up on the video when Colin asked earlier in the episode. I wouldn’t have thought of Evan Peters, an excellent actor from “American Animals,” “WandaVision,” “Pose,” “American Horror Story,” and much more, to play this relatively normal part, but it’s good to see him as someone who respects Mare and her relationship with others in the town but definitely, as Siobhan warned him, has expectations that are far too high of what Mare is willing to give. It was strange to see her get all dressed up and go meet Richard at his event in the middle of all this, and he didn’t do a great job of acknowledging her while she was busy spitting out the food and hiding it in the gaps in the couch. Kenny took irreversible action when he found out about his daughter’s death, and now it seems that Dylan wasn’t even his grandson’s father, putting Mare even more in the middle of all this then she already was. I am intrigued, and the strong character development is helping to compensate for the daunting misery on display here.

Pilot Review: Shadow and Bone

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.

Monday, April 26, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Season Finale)

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Season 1, Episode 6 “One World, One People” (B+)

This was a finale full of action and speeches, and one that does a fairly good job of wrapping up what we’ve seen over the course of the past five hours and keeping the door open for certain returns for all of these characters, whether in a series format or just in the next million MCU movies. It was good to see that John redeemed himself to a degree after showing up only to settle a score with Karli and then teaming up with Bucky to capture everyone else. His new stint as U.S. Agent isn’t likely to be quite as noble given Valentina’s sinister manner of speaking, but I’m sure it will be interesting to see how he is manipulated and used for evil-minded purposes. Sharon being revealed as the power broker does change things, especially considering the pardon she now has, and the way that Sam and Bucky trust her makes her even more dangerous. Sam’s speech to the senators was very powerful, and Isaiah’s reaction showed just how impactful him taking a stand and refusing to accept the status quo was. It was exciting to see the show renamed “Captain America and the Winter Soldier” at the end, and I’m certainly up for more Marvel fare in whatever form it comes. This show was most memorable in its featuring of the dynamic between Sam and Bucky and the spotlight on Karli’s cause. I think I overall liked “WandaVision” better, but I am on board with the idea of MCU TV shows, even if they could probably go on longer than the brief teases that are being given with these short, potentially one-season runs.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Erin Kellyman as Karli

Take Three: Rebel

Rebel: Season 1, Episode 3 “Superhero” (B)

It stands to reason that Rebel wouldn’t be able to win every case she tried, and that her actions might cause collateral damage for those who can’t devote all of their time to fighting the system. Jackie, who I didn’t realize was played by Katey Sagal’s real-life daughter Sarah Grace White, was not happy with the fact that standing up for what was right had gotten her evicted, and fortunately Rebel swooped in to help and caused enough of a nuisance for the landlord to get some positive change going. Cassidy found out almost right away that she was being manipulated to sabotage Cruz’s case, and she wasn’t nearly as mad at her father for telling her without looking up that he had gotten his client to agree to the potential conflict of interest before she was involved with the case as Amir was at her for stabbing Cruz in the back. Though Rebel got him very angry at her, Cruz did appear considerably more sympathetic after she revealed some personal information, but now it seems like he may be down for the count after an apparent heart attack, the latest twist in this very soapy show. I’m a big fan of Abigail Spencer’s line delivery as Misha, particularly her repeated explanation of how her 9am patient dying meant that she was now free, but for study talk and not sex since the relationship had to be carefully managed due to his not being nana-friendly. I can’t imagine that Sharon Lawrence’s Angela is going to do good things for what’s left of Grady and Rebel’s marriage, but there’s no turning back after he took his ring off to introduce himself to her.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

What I’m Watching: B Positive

B Positive: Season 1, Episode 15 “Miss Diagnosis” (B+)

I knew right away that I recognized Adriana but couldn’t figure out how, and that’s because actress Rosa Salazar has had her face altered by animation in her two most prominent roles, “Alita: Battle Angel” and the fantastic Amazon series “Undone.” It’s great to see Drew meet someone who might be compatible with him, and the fact that she had her own medical condition that she was reluctant to share didn’t come as all that much of a surprise. Drew using one of the inside jokes they had already created and showing up in a jester costume was cute, and I like that they’re going to give this a try even if both of them may not be sure of how or where their lives are going to lead. Samantha wasn’t much help in shielding Drew when he tried to hide between a glass door that he was going to fog with his own breath, but at least she was moderately encouraging of the relationship. Drew did seem extremely overconfident and obnoxious when he backtracked from Eli’s major news by reminding everyone that he had shared his own excitement just moments earlier, making Samantha’s point about him not being himself considerably more relatable. Eli revealed a softer, more serious side under that confident swagger that had him eagerly auditioning for an announcer job, and the only positive of it is that he’s opening up to Gina so that she might be able to help him put on a front for his friends while he works to get back to a better place of financial stability.

What I’m Watching: United States of Al

United States of Al: Season 1, Episode 4 “Spinach/Sabzi” (B+)

After Al struggled to adjust to some of Lizzie’s behavior in the last episode, here he took Hazel on fully in his constant critiquing and outright criticism of the way in which the youngest generation was not living up to her potential as an unquestioning server of those who had sacrificed for her. After he got her to reluctantly stand up for Art when he came into the room, he encountered considerably more difficulty in getting her to eat the food that he had prepared, and I was convinced that it was going to end up on the floor with a plate shattered all around it, but fortunately Al swooped into action to catch it when she pushed it all the way off the table. Expecting that this culture was going to look exactly like his was never realistic, but Al is slowly imparting some important values to his American family. Art may be part of the problem, of course, since he has certain needs, like sitting close to the bathroom, and plenty of stubbornness that likely originated not with Riley but with him that he has passed down from generation to generation. Riley may not always prioritize the projects his father asks him to do around the house, but it’s a sentiment many adult children can surely relate to, when they are expected to do things that they can easily do but won’t always be the first item on their to-do lists. It may not be sophisticated, but Lizzie did provide a useful service to Al in the form of her impressive photoshopping abilities.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Pilot Review: Rutherford Falls

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: Call Your Mother

Call Your Mother: Season 1, Episode 11 “Save the Date” (B+)

Jean and Danny’s relationship has been a long time coming, and their first official date at a fancy restaurant felt very formal in a way that it didn’t necessarily need to be. I liked the banter that preceded it, with Jean using spray paint instead of oven cleaner and then telling Danny that no one likes an eye bragger. They seemed to be set for a nice evening out until Jean got in her head after realizing that it was her anniversary with Mike. Fortunately, Sharon was doing more than just betting on how much action Jean was going to get and looking out for her best friend’s happiness, choosing to see her forgetting about what day it was as a positive sign that she was moving on. I’m glad that Danny was just joking when he pretended to remember at midnight that it was an important day for him too. As usual, Freddie failed to communicate with Celia and assumed what she wanted when, as she bluntly pointed out, that she had picked out her ring before she picked out her groom. Jackie was so distracted by her Oreo-stacking skills and finally being able to have the trucks for herself that she didn’t realize that Freddie was manipulating her into giving up Jean’s ring. Lane helped to show her that she could take back some power for herself, and keeping the trucks so that she could sell them for a good chuck of change was a great way of getting revenge against her brother.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Take Three: Home Economics

Home Economics: Season 1, Episode 3 “Bounce House Rental, $250” (B)

There wasn’t much external interaction in this episode like the wedding this family completely derailed in the last installment, but that didn’t mean any shortage of drama for these adult siblings. We’ve seen how Connor’s investments have managed to pay off and lead to him not really doing all that much with his time given his massive wealth, and that Tom documents almost everything that happens to him so that he can put it into his own work. We now got the chance to see what Sarah does and how she jumped at the opportunity to use her professional training to show that her niece wasn’t going to process how she was feeling well with all these happy distractions her father was forcing on her. I enjoyed seeing the very relatable storyline of Denise knowing that what Sarah wanted to do was going to be perceived as the unrequested meddling it was and backfire, and that she had to admit that, this one time only, she might not have been entirely correct. Sarah did have luck with Connor, whose picture indicated a much more melancholy attitude than the one he was putting out into the world. Tom not being the funcle was hardly a surprise, but he put those energy-draining superpowers to great use when he was called by his wife and sister to shut down the party, something that he was uniquely qualified to do with his low-volume rendition of “Mad World.” Everybody has their role, and he’s learning to adjust to it.

What I’m Watching: Big Sky

Big Sky: Season 1, Episode 12 “No Better Than Dogs” (B-)

Both Cassie and Jenny ended up in very bad situations at the end of the last episode, and now they’re in better shape but both shaken and unaware of just how much worse things have gotten since their dire straits. Jenny had her gun the whole time and could have been okay, but it was still helpful that another brother came to her rescue. Blake seemed like he was actually the most well-intentioned and good-natured of all the brothers, but his determination to do the right thing and not merely accept what others say has happened landed him face-down in a ditch and presumably dead. Cheyenne and her mother may also ultimately end up turning against their family, though it’s hard to compete with all that aggressive and violent male energy. While Cassie was very shaken by her experience, at least she ended up back at the police station and was quickly greed by Mark using his connections to the governor. I’m pretty sure I heard the sheriff use the expression “fed-splained,” which seems highly contradictory given his likely conservative political leanings that wouldn’t allow him to have ever heard the term “mansplain.” I knew I had recognized the picture of Rosie when it was first shown, and that’s because she was played by Michelle Veintimilla, who had a memorable role in “The Baker and the Beauty.” Ronald is not being smart, showing up in his disguise to watch Jerrie perform, and now he’s having to explain the cryptic note Mark left at his mother’s grave to his taser-happy girlfriend who really should know that something is up by now.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 6, Episode 4 “Lost Souls” (C+)

This title is an appropriate one for a storyline that I feel isn’t headed anywhere interesting anymore, and I’d just like to get Kara back from the Phantom Zone and all of the phantoms gone from National City. It took some effort for them to find a mirror that would enable them to escape the Phantom Zone, and, unsurprisingly, Nyxly showed herself to be far less pure and well-intentioned than the far too trusting Kara had thought her to be. Whether Zor-El can survive in the real world after so much time spent in this mental and physical captivity is still uncertain, but Nyxly has particularly nefarious aims that Kara recognized were too dangerous to permit her to escape, even if that meant Kara had to keep herself trapped in the process. Lena had a great solution that could have saved Kara but meant worse things for others, and she’s feeling a tremendous amount of guilt for what Lex did that’s not allowing her to make rational decisions like what Alex is able to do regarding her own sibling. I’m not sure exactly what going back to high school will do, but I’m certainly up for that trip if it gets us to a different place and format for this show. Everything Brainy is going through as he’s processing his own shortcomings is getting more and more grating by the minute, and I think this team could use a win in the near future before the next big and theoretically final threat emerges.

What I’m Watching: Breeders

Breeders: Season 2, Episode 6 “No Choice” (B+)

Things progressed very quickly from Ally thinking she was pregnant in the last episode to them trying IVF, though Ally evidently wasn’t on board with the whole thing, something she tried desperately to communicate to an either uninterested or unavailable audience. Keeley would have been a great sounding board but she had other problems to deal with, and Darren was hardly a suitable substitute, so out of touch with what Ally needed. As usual, it’s those flashbacks that really make the episode, with Ally and Paul being enamored with their home when they first saw it and Paul dubbed every single room the “sex room.” Ally responded honestly when Paul talked about finding his dream home, and I think that both having another child and finding another place to live are things that aren’t going to happen anytime soon. I imagine that her kissing another man won’t be a lingering issue, but it wasn’t a great moment – at least he recoiled right away. Jim and Jackie weren’t being particularly helpful in their comments to Ally, and even their big planned move didn’t end up happening when the size of their fish and chips helped clue them in to the fact that the idyllic setting they wanted to have as their daily life wasn’t what it used to be. I’m enjoying the brief moments of interaction we get between Paul and the kids, and Paul’s total shock at Luke’s willingness to give up his cell phone – presumably because he didn’t have any bars anyway – was a close second to Luke reluctantly accepting stuff being stored in his area when Paul sarcastically offered to take it all back down four flights of stairs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Pilot Review: Mare of Easttown

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: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 2, Episode 10 “Zoey's Extraordinary Girls' Night” (B+)

It was funny to see the radically different expectations for the girls’ nights that Zoey and Emily had planned. Zoey’s reaction to seeing Emily’s outfit was almost as great as Emily’s immediate demand that Zoey change her shoes from the very comfortable footwear to something more suited for going out to party. It did take a lot for Zoey to be able to break through the barriers that Emily was putting up, and having Emily sing a song while in the bathroom stall was a particularly effective device. That worked well also for Deb to come barging in to the house when it appeared that Maggie forgot all about her but had instead already let her know about the postponement of their plans. Their outing to the casino was certainly over-the-top, and an ultimate reminder that it’s not possible to entirely escape your own life, no matter who you try to be. It’s reassuring to know that two romances are in great shape, as Rose was relieved by Max’s desire to find a way to stay together despite her departure and Perry decided to bring his kids to meet Mo during his big solo, which went fantastically on all fronts. Zoey spending so much time with Emily meant that she was neglecting Simon, and her not telling him about her powers is more than just about keeping a secret, since the nature of their relationship and their whole connection is based in part on her being able to see more deeply into his mind than he ever could into hers. It’s good then that she’s trying to talk it out and work with the therapist played by Oscar Nuñez from “The Office” and “People of Earth,” and I just hope that he’ll work through what he might believe are metaphors rather than stopping to focus on the comical element that she is exaggerating or imagining things.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Pilot Review: Big Shot

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: Frank of Ireland

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 Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Season 1, Episode 5 “Truth” (B+)

This was an interesting episode in that it appeared to close the door on the storylines we’ve known thus far and move on to other issues before returning starkly to those very present and worrisome threats as the hour concluded. I’m not classifying this as a penultimate episode since I believe that, unlike “WandaVision,” it is not intended to air for just one season. John was not happy about the idea of relinquishing the shield, insistent that he was Captain America and that no one could take that away from him, a position that seems based on a relatively short tenure and dependent very much on him having taken over the mantle from someone else. He was summarily dismissed by the government and military without being given the chance to argue his case, and that parting post-credits shot of him crafting his own shield was definitely foreboding. If there’s one actress I wouldn’t have ever expected to see in the MCU, it’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but it is fun and exciting to have her as a clear villain who wields her intelligence as a weapon. Sam training with the shield now that he’s back at home is helping him to fulfill a destiny he previously turned down, and he’s going to need to spring into action soon now that Karli has put her plan into action and global security is very much at risk. I have no doubt that an eventful, action-packed finale awaits, and I’m curious how things will be left with no second season yet confirmed but some major plan surely already meticulously in the works.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Round Two: Rebel

Rebel: Season 1, Episode 2 “Patient X” (B)

I’m still so baffled by the extraordinary talent present on this show, and this episode even added two more to that list. I’ve been a big fan of Abigail Spencer since I first saw her on “Rectify” and “Mad Men,” and while she was fun on “Timeless,” it’s good to see her back in a role that gives her a bit more actual acting to do like that of Misha, who speaks quickly and isn’t about to let herself be ghosted by Nathaniel again now that she’s working with him in running this study. Dan Bucatinsky won an Emmy for his guest-starring role on “Scandal” and was most recently memorable in “The Baker and the Beauty,” and after finally managing to prove, with Rebel’s help, that his neo-Nazi student had been harassing him, he’s now Patient X and ready to help the case move forward, which finally has Cruz’s emotional support after Helen called him out for not being fully invested in it. Grady moving all of Rebel’s things into the guest house was a bold and unkind move, and she showed how she felt about that by taking a shot at his car. There might be hope for them now that their daughter has mandated marriage counseling, though there’s plenty more chaos sure to be on the way with Cassidy now working the other side of the case her old firm is handling. The very clear attraction that Luke has to her isn’t going to help to make things any less awkward in this very incestuous, interconnected show.

What I’m Watching: B Positive

B Positive: Season 1, Episode 14 “Love Life Support” (B+)

I’m glad that all of this sneaking around didn’t last long, even though it was funny to see how much Gina appeared to manage to cover up her stumbling in late at night and waking up Drew and Norma. Drew’s knowledge of the whole thing meant that it was out in the open and needed to be deal with, and him being the “mystery meat in their love Sloppy Joe” ended up leading to a truly awkward and excessive display of support for their relationship from a clearly unhappy Drew. Trying to buy all the flowers the woman in the restaurant was selling for the happy couple was a particular low point, though Jerry and his stolen butter took the bigger brunt of all that when Samantha reacted angrily to his offer of a flower for her. It wasn’t Drew but Gina who nearly undid things in her newfound relationship after she panicked following Gabby and Norma convincing her that Eli inviting her to come to a family wedding in Las Vegas was serious. She nearly got away with having Paul sleep over until he returned for his bagel and a kiss, and luckily Eli does seem invested enough in trying to make this work that he was open to giving her another chance. Paul mistaking Norma and Drew for Gina’s parents was a very entertaining moment, and though I don’t think it will go anywhere, Norma pointing out that she knows Drew has feelings for Gina was probably better said than left unsaid.

Take Three: United States of Al

United States of Al: Season 1, Episode 3 “Shorts/Neykar” (B)

One of my favorite things on TV shows is when characters who don’t typically interact spend time together. That happened in a great way in this episode, as Al got concerned that he offended Lizzie because Riley talked to her about dressing more conservatively around him, and he was so determined not to come into her room even though she was completely fine with it. Her reaction to her brother’s poorly-conceived request was entertaining enough, and she expressed genuine surprise at Al revealing that he hadn’t ever experienced barely-clothed women or shorts. He got very distracted by the driving examiner wearing shorts to the point of backing into a tree when he was supposed to be pulling forward, and it was just unfortunate that a T-shirt car wash was happening when he was otherwise nailing his retake. It was fun to meet some of the family members in this installment, like Al’s mom, who is not a fan of shorts and who wanted him to be more like Riley with his pants. Riley and Vanessa’s daughter Hazel proved to be very precocious within moments of meeting Al, realizing that his eagerness to get to know his goddaughter could make him a particular useful adult to manipulate into doing and getting things her parents would never allow. Art’s story that was meant to compare his own experience was humorously far off-course, showing once again that he operates in a totally different manner than his children do and often lives in a fully different world.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

What I’m Watching: Made for Love (Season Finale)

Made for Love: Season 1, Episode 8 “Let’s Meet” (B+)

As of this writing, there’s no word on whether a second season of this show is going to be made, and I’d like to argue that it should. The opening installments of this rather quick run were extremely intriguing, and I feel like there are so many characters and subplots – Fiffany, Herringbone, and Bangles – who we barely got to see and know who could have entire episodes devoted to their backstories. There wasn’t actually much that played out over the course of this finale, but what little did happen was monumental. Hazel saw that she finally had the power in their dynamic for the first time and used it to her advantage, forcing Byron to back up his offer of vulnerability and actually allow himself to be exposed. The fact that he teared up as he was revealing details about himself was winning him points, but then he went ahead and had an involuntary reaction that indicated an entirely different sentiment that he was feeling. Offering to help Herbert in exchange for Hazel returning to the hub was a manipulative but predictable move, and the quickness with which she responded that she would rather let him die – which Herbert heard – made it seem like she wouldn’t even consider it. Instead, the big payoff from the over-the-top ridiculousness of Judiff bugging the ketchup turned out to be crucial to the plot, and Hazel knew that the ability of the hub to mimic at least the look of the outside world would probably be enough to keep Herbert from thinking anything unusual was going on. It’s the ultimate show of respect to the father she’s reconnected with even though he didn’t ask for it and may not have wanted it, but we’ll see how all that plays out in the second season that will hopefully exist.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Cristin Milioti as Hazel

What I’m Watching: Made for Love

Made for Love: Season 1, Episode 7 “I Want to Feel Normal” (B+)

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Byron feels no loyalty to anyone and that he wouldn’t reward someone sacrificing their convictions with anything other than betrayal. It’s not as if Herringbone does much that makes him endearing, though at least he wasn’t actually going to hurt Bennett. But he did seem very willing to throw Fiffany under the bus, and now the two of them are trapped in the pasture cube together, permanently on the run from whatever it is that seemed legitimately terrifying. Byron is taking further steps to convince Hazel that he’s serious, but I think we all know – and hopefully she does too – that it’s psychological manipulation, and that he wants her to see the divorce papers as a gesture that she doesn’t need to sign since him offering them was enough of an indication that he’s changed. Hazel did spend this episode doing something selfless, preparing Diane as if she was real and making it so that her father could see that she understood how he felt, even if it wasn’t something normal that she had initially accepted. Getting everyone at the restaurant to act nicely was sweet, and it’s just a shame that her very human interaction with her new coworker got cut short because of Byron’s announcement. Herbert offering to give Diane up if Hazel decided to keep the plane made it clear that he and his daughter have reached a very good place, and now we’ll just see how he supports her as she considers an important step in her own relationship.

What I’m Watching: Call Your Mother

Call Your Mother: Season 1, Episode 10 “The Prime Of Miss Jean Raines” (B)

It seems like Sharon’s visit is coming to an end, which is really fine since she’s probably better as a distant sounding board for the antics in Jean’s life. Their Vegas trip might have been a worthwhile event to see, but it was also entertaining to see them getting very drunk in the backyard in preparation for all the craziness that definitely did ensue. Jean got hung up on the fact that there was a much bigger age difference between her and Danny than she thought, something that he of course had known all along given that she had to give him her driver’s license when she first came to stay. Their relationship is interesting since they clearly like each other but both aren’t quite sure at what speed they should be moving. Freddie so bluntly saying that he and Celia were never having kids prompted a big reaction from her, and I liked that after she tossed the remote control and swatted away the donut from him, she kicked the donut so that his five-second rule could no longer apply. As usual, they worked it all out and seem to be headed in a good direction, while Jackie went from a very peculiar plan to one that actually makes a lot of sense. I like that Nick was rightfully concerned that he was either about to get seduced or murdered when Jean tried to overtly warn Jackie not to ask him outright to be her sperm donor, and it was a graceful pivot to her asking him out, something he readily agreed to because he thought they were already on a date.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Round Two: Home Economics

Home Economics: Season 1, Episode 2 “Mermaid Taffeta Wedding Dress, $1,999” (B+)

This episode was a pretty entertaining follow-up to the first one, showing how family dynamics can spiral out of control when it’s definitely someone else’s turn to shine. The money inequality thing wasn’t the cause of tension but rather that Tom, who does appreciate the opportunity to be praised for his writing abilities, felt like he was constantly relied on to do the hard work so that Connor could skate by. Unfortunately for them and humorously for those of us watching, it all exploded during a toast that Connor was giving to his friend Spags at his wedding. It’s fun to see them both get so riled up, stealing the microphone from each other and turning their lifelong issues into a very public squabble. Sarah also made the evening about herself in a peculiar way after she tried to deprogram Denise’s notions of longing for the fancy wedding she never had and ultimately realized that giving her a semblance of normal traditions might help to abate her lingering feelings of resentment. Like in the opening episode, Marina was a particularly great supporting player, cherishing the opportunity to be away from her kids for a night and executing a carefully-planned drinking schedule that included vomiting at a certain point so that she could continue to enjoy her night in a way that she never gets to during real life. I’m definitely on board for more of this show, which I think succeeds more than perhaps it should thanks to its well-cast ensemble.

Pilot Review: Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!

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.

Round Two: Chad

Chad: Season 1, Episode 2 “Sword” (B-)

I’m not sure that this is a show that I need to keep watching, in part because it’s just so cringe-worthy, but it must be said that Nasim Pedrad is so fantastic as Chad. He’s such an ungrateful brat, one who not only demands presents on his sister’s birthday but actively insults them right away. Naturally, he would bring the sword to school right away after he was told explicitly not to, and he made poor Peter carry his cello out of the case while he hid it in there. Gathering everyone together for his big announcement was indeed a disappointment, but what made it infinitely worse was that he was so excited that Reid liked it that he just went ahead and offered it to him. Actor Thomas Barbusca, who plays Reid, looks so familiar to me but I can’t place where I know him from even after looking at his credits, which include “Black Monday” and “Schooled.” Jumping through the back window of Reid’s car while he was there watching was particularly uncomfortable, and things just got pretty sad after that, including the guidance counselor tackling him after he promised he wouldn’t. It wasn’t a shock to learn that Chad’s father wasn’t the one who got him the sword at all but his mother trying to stand in for his other absent parent, and even though Chad definitely won’t learn from this lesson, he was able to appreciate all that she does for him, which was nice for a moment.

Friday, April 16, 2021

What I’m Watching: Big Sky

Big Sky: Season 1, Episode 11 “All Kinds of Snakes” (B-)

I guess I missed the memo, but apparently this is the hottest show on the air, attracting a wave of actors I’m very happy to see back on television. When I saw Michael Raymond-James in the previous episode, I went back to reference my 2008 review of the “True Blood” season one finale, in which I expressed excitement at the addition of Michelle Forbes to the cast. It turns out that she’s here too playing his character’s mother, and Britt Robertson, another impressive actress who has done plenty since a young age, is his sister, who’s far more sensible and reserved but still perfectly willing to threaten uninvited out-of-town guests as the need arises. Though it’s a close call, Horst seems to be the most volatile member of that family, pulling a gun during nighttime games and accusing Jenny of trespassing while she was talking to his wife. No one in this town seems too inviting, with the motel clerk far too inquisitive and creepy, and the sheriff totally uncooperative before his deputy went out to arrest Cassie and bring her somewhere other than the police station. Jenny’s situation doesn’t seem much better, as she’s now trapped in a pit with the most unhinged Kleinsasser salivating over what he can do to her. Ronald isn’t at risk of getting found out back at home or with the truck he failed to properly scrub, but Scarlet found his taser and was a little too into the purpose she suspected it served, triggering his frantic disciplinary mode that’s not going to enable him to stay hidden in this idyllic life for long, even after he was somehow able to charm her discerning and gossipy sister.

What I’m Watching: Big Sky

Big Sky: Season 1, Episode 10 “Catastrophic Thinking” (C+)

This show is back after a two-month hiatus, and things do feel relatively different. I’m starting to understand who is meant to be the focus of this show, especially seeing the names of certain series regulars that have been dropped from the credits, like Jade Pettyjohn (Grace) and Natalie Alyn Lind (Danielle), who don’t seem relevant anymore. Instead, it’s Jenny and Cassie who are the protagonists, with Ronald still existing for some unknown reason since he’s really rather unbearable. Calling and breathing into the phone so that Jerrie, who is at least being put to good use as the new office assistant for the P.I. agency, could know it was him was one thing, but lurking outside in his disguise was definitely a sign of idiotic behavior. That he managed to win over a woman and her daughter enough that they would trust him and not notice his peculiarities is hard to believe, and that the mere presence of an unexpected element would cause him to express silent anger with his taser in the bathroom makes it unlikely that he’ll be able to keep up this façade for much longer. Fortunately, I’d like to think that the infusion of so many new characters means he’ll soon fade from memory. We already saw two new bad guys introduced and killed, but I’ll focus instead on three familiar faces that I’m happy to see here even if I’m unsure that the material can live up to their talents. Ted Levine was great both as a cop on “Monk” and as a serial killer in “The Silence of the Lambs,” and he seems quite angry and powerful here, and Michael Raymond-James from “True Blood” is a great choice to play his inmate son with an apparent connection to Cassie. Omar Metwally is another great performer from “The Affair” and “Mr. Robot,” and he seems intent on following in Timothy Olyphant’s footsteps as an eccentric U.S. Marshal with an unusual way of regarding his job. Maybe they’ll be able to enliven this show and improve its quality.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 5, Episode 13 “Brotherly Love” (B+)

This show is doing a remarkable job this season of portraying white fragility and the uncomfortable conversations many people are finally having about passive racism. Exploring the way that Randall was always singled out because of the color of his skin has been fascinating, and it was best exemplified by Jack telling the crew member from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” that “it happens all the time” when he mistakenly thought two white boys were his sons. Kevin is also the perfect person to grapple with this concept since he tends to use grand gestures to show his emotions and he, like many other white people, want resolution and to feel as if their apologies have been heard and accepted. Randall telling him that he was trying not to be annoyed and refusing to do anything more than acknowledge his appreciation of his “monologue” didn’t sit well with Kevin, and they got to pour out their honest feelings that are complicated by years spent looking at each other in different ways and with plenty of baggage. The flashbacks to Randall insulting Kevin’s painting and Kevin calling him Carlton were highly informative, and it’s nice to see that, in spite of everything, they’re able to coexist and find tremendous value in each other. Hearing about Randall’s ghost kingdom was particularly poignant, and Kevin’s response to that, to his credit, was far more appropriate and supportive than I would have expected. It’s important to know that things won’t ever be completely okay between them but that they’ve reached a good place.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 6, Episode 3 “Phantom Menaces” (C+)

I don’t know what it is, but I’m not feeling energized by any of the storylines on this show right now. I recognize that Kara being stuck in the Phantom Zone may last a long time, but that’s a particularly draining plot point that hardly seems in a rush to be resolved. Additionally, it’s likely that her new friend Princess Nyxlygsptlnz might have ulterior motives and not be someone that she wants to free from the prison her mother created, and I also suspect that Zor-El won’t fare all that well in the real world either. Seeing her still alive there and knowing that she’s the protagonist of this show makes the despair that her colleagues and friends on Earth are feeling less genuine, even if they truly believe that she might be trapped forever and gone from their lives. M’gann being injured could have led to her death since she is a recurring character and not entirely central to any of the others’ stories aside from Hank, but of course she managed to survive and affirm Hank’s dedication to what he does (I know I should be calling him J’onn but I’m sticking with Hank). Lena and Brainy probably should have realized that messing with Lex was going to lead to consequences, and setting a hospital on fire to villainize Lena tracked with his tendency to enjoy showmanship and theater above all else. Brainy’s angry freakout was a bit much, and I’m not sure that Lex really will tire himself out the way Lena thinks he will now that she’s opted to walk away so that he can’t manipulate her as he always has.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 7, Episode 7 “Growing Pains” (B)

It’s definitely jarring having the speed force just parade around and show up everywhere in a flash as Nora, and her/its presence was messing with Barry’s ability to control his powers. Fortunately, after Barry got pretty worked up about it, they found a good balance that enabled him to channel his abilities and use the speed force as a positive motivation. Chester was awfully excited about his first solo crime scene tech call, and just like Barry and Cisco have often found themselves, he wasn’t able to do match to help protect the meta suspect that he knew wasn’t actually the culprit in this case. I was pretty sure that Joe had set things up so that Caitlin could be arrested and then proven not to be Killer Frost because Frost was elsewhere doing something at the same time, but it wasn’t anything that elaborate, and Frost was ready to get herself implicated because she wanted to break Caitlin out of custody. I wasn’t sure what was going on when Frost got very distracted by the bartender’s shirtless body, but the attraction became obvious later once it was revealed that he was the ice-touting meta who had framed her. I had forgotten how Allegra came into this show and what she did before she joined Team Flash, and it was interesting to see her allegiance to Frost as a fellow reformed criminal. I didn’t expect Frost to turn herself in at the end since nothing good can come from that, but it is true that she didn’t kill anyone and it’s possible that she’ll be rewarded for a recent shift to heroic behavior.

What I’m Watching: Breeders

Breeders: Season 2, Episode 5 “No Baby” (B+)

One of the most powerful elements of this show is something that’s far from original: the interspersing of flashbacks with moments from the present. Every time we see Paul try to control his anger, we’re treated to the explanation for why he wants to do so because we see what happened a previous time when he completely lost his temper. The best instance of that in this episode was Ally remembering how horribly Paul responded when she told him she was pregnant with Ava, which of course made her put off telling him that she was once again pregnant. He ended up being the one to bring it up, even if he didn’t think he was being serious, and he actually did a decent job of being legitimately surprised and uncertain about what to do but not negatively dismissive of the entire thing. Ally consoling Ava after she heard the comment about how hard the post-pregnancy time was turned out to very sweet, and it was probably good for her to have that great motherly moment before she found out that she wasn’t actually pregnant but instead experiencing perimenopause. Seeing how Paul and Ally dealt with the news that Luke had lied to them and was in fact smoking was entertaining, and they really do choose their battles since making too big a deal of it might have ended up sending the wrong message. Ally’s mother asking Ally if she had told him she was pregnant in front of Paul was pretty hilarious, and I enjoyed all of the reactions that came immediately after that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

What I’m Watching: Shameless (Series Finale)

Shameless: Season 11, Episode 12 “Father Frank, Full of Grace”

Series finales are tricky because they need to do their best to provide a fitting finish to so much that’s come before in just a short span of time. In this case, there were 133 hours of content leading up to this, and so I’d say this episode did just fine even if it couldn’t cover anything. I’m impressed that there wasn’t undue weight put on new characters, with Heidi there to serve as a distraction and potential draw to a new life for Debs and Arthur as Carl’s new police pal who might end up being his partner in a cop bar, should that idea actually lead to anything. There were no big cameos, much as I would have liked to see Fiona in some form other than as part of a hallucinated flashback of Frank’s. We didn’t actually get all that many answers, with Lip likely accepting less than half of what he had hoped for and turning down Ian’s generous offer of his share because, like always, he’ll figure it out. Mickey played dumb for the whole day while Ian got mad so that he could surprise him with an anniversary party at the Alibi, and all of a sudden they might be able to have a kid since Tami is probably pregnant again. Debs was attracted to the danger Heidi represented, and that relationship might be akin to Ian’s romance with Mickey in that there’s nothing she can do to control her criminal partner. Carl is still a cop and doing what he’s doing, with an unknown future ahead of him. And Liam was able to recognize how his siblings had all depended on Frank at some point, and now it was his turn. Frank’s narration and levitating into the air as he rose to the sky was a strange device, but the notion that he would die alone in a hospital when he could have been surrounded by his family is fitting and somewhat tragic at the same time. I’ve greatly enjoyed and appreciated this show, and while I would have loved to see it continue for years and years, I’m very happy with the eleven seasons we got that I’ll be sure to revisit and recommend in the future.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: A-
Season MVP: Christian Isaiah as Liam
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Emmy Rossum as Fiona
Best Season: Do I have to pick?
Best Episode: This Is Chicago!

What I’m Watching: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 2, Episode 9 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Mystery” (B+)

It’s enjoyable to see Zoey’s powers on the fritz, mainly because it provides an opportunity for everyone to act differently. Her not being able to swear at the beginning was a fun way to start. Working with Mo and his board of pictures to determine whose song was supposed to go with which person was remarkably entertaining. I think that the best part of this episode was probably Simon launching into a very passionate and animated rendition of “What Does the Fox Say.” I liked the clever opening of them remarking how weird it was, not to sleep together, of course, but to switch sides of the bed, and things are going well aside from Zoey’s potentially smart decision not to tell Simon the truth about her biggest secret. Max’s advice was smart, and it was good to see him react so positively to the news of Rose’s sobriety which allowed them to move forward in a very good way. Mo may be the one sabotaging his relationship with Perry, but meeting Perry’s kids – plus that great number from Perry’s son – suggests that the characters are here to stay and things might ultimately work out. I also enjoyed Zoey flashing her VIP science museum badge like she was super cool. Maggie singing both parts of “Anything You Can Do” after the dinner party that went poorly was a strong scene, as was the “One in the Loneliest Number” performance by the competing teams at work, a song that immediately made me think of the great film “Magnolia.” While it wasn’t all that much of a surprise that the M meant Emily, the seriousness of her situation was, and it was powerful to see Zoey show up and offer her immediate and full support to her sister-in-law who was clearly in distress.

Pilot Review: The Nevers

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.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Whole World Is Watching” (B+)

This episode was easier to follow even without the context of who people are, and the main summary was people who have generally similar beliefs fighting with each other instead of focusing on their real enemies. Ayo made her terms clear, and of course it was Zemo who managed to get away when John took the wrong approach with the Wakandans, resulting in Bucky getting his arm ripped off and plenty of other unpleasantness. Zemo is smart and knows how to stay alive, getting just as much information as he needs and keeping it from those who would take it and then punish him rather than understand his necessary value. As Sam was making an appeal to Karli to change her ways, she was also making an appeal to him to join her cause, something that we know he won’t do but which does seem more understandable when presented that way. Unfortunately, John’s impulsive arrival meant that Karli doesn’t trust him, and she’s shown that she’s ready to reach him in different ways, namely through his sister. The biggest and most memorable moment of this episode came after the unexpected death of Lemar, a character I thought was very interesting, and the immediate impact it had on John. Sam and Bucky have been telling him repeatedly that he’s not Captain America, but even if he’s never going to be Steve, he very much is Captain America for the entire world, who have now just witnessed him violently beating someone to death with his shield. That’s going to have major implications for the final two episodes of this show, and I’m definitely more intrigued than I’ve been thus far.

Pilot Review: Them

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: Rebel

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.

Monday, April 12, 2021

What I’m Watching: Clarice

Clarice: Season 1, Episode 7 “Ugly Truth” (B-)

I stated last week that I might be giving up on this show but that the final scene had intrigued me enough to try another hour, and I’m not really sure what to make of this follow-up. It took remarkably little time for Clarice to see the man whose face she had finally recognized from her ordeal on a magazine cover on Krendler’s desk, truncating what I had expected would take at least several episodes to play out. Krendler confronted it but also denied what was likely happening, and now he’s in a very problematic spot, blackmailed into keeping the team off his new divorce lawyer’s tail while they’re all fully aware that Clarice has identified him and that he has connections that all but assure his criminality. It makes me wonder what the point is of this show exactly, and where it’s all supposed to end up. Ideally, Krendler would continue telling Hudlin what he wanted to hear while secretly working with his team to follow him and build a case, but I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen, especially as they’re busy investigating dark cases of those who aren’t as adept at covering their tracks and manipulating others into doing their bidding. Ardelia feels like a full part of the team now, though she’s also being pulled in multiple directions by a complicated relationship with her father and concerns about making herself too visible at work. History was certainly affecting Murray as he got very upset with everyone while investigating a case that hit way too close to home.

What I’m Watching: B Positive

B Positive: Season 1, Episode 13 “Inflammatory Response” (B)

Well, at least this is something new and mildly unexpected. Gina did seem to feel quite comfortable and at home with Drew and his dialysis buddies, and a romance was probably inevitable. It might have been entertaining to see Samantha go after Gina even though she would only be interested in the kidney, and instead we got a quick connection between Eli and Gina. Getting her way too many flowers because he didn’t know which option she’d like felt like a move but she liked it, and deciding not to move ahead because it might complicate things with Drew getting the kidney didn’t last long. I suspect that Eli is a better secret keeper than Drew and can succeed in not having him find out that they’re still seeing each other for a while, but Gina will probably feel more guilt about it and opt to tell him when he’s not even close to finding out. His night at the cigar bar went pretty well even if he stole a phone number intended for Eli and claimed it at his own, and it’s good to see him have a win. I wasn’t optimistic about how Norma staying with them and turning Drew’s house into her own following the heat lamp incident was going to go, but it was nice to see that it ended up being a bonding moment for her and Drew, where she got to pretend that he was her son for the police officer who brought her home and he got to make her a genuine and warm offer of hospitality. It’s affirming when comic relief characters are also capable of serving other functions.

Round Two: United States of Al

United States of Al: Season 1, Episode 2 “Repair/Tarmim” (B-)

This show definitely doesn’t get a lot of points for its writing or creativity, but there is a certain heart to its content that makes me want to stick around to watch more of it. That final scene in particular suggests the depth to the relationship between Riley and Vanessa that means they are meant to be together, something Al is completely sure of even if both of them have accepted things and moved on. There’s evidently fault to be placed not just on Riley but also on Vanessa, and it was entertaining to learn that, after continuously denying that anything was happening with Freddie, Vanessa was in fact now dating the man, something that she knew would anger Riley. After some initial poor reactions, he did come around to it and approached it in a surprisingly mature way, something he almost immediately undercut by acknowledging their positive communication that in his mind still shouldn’t lead to sex. Al’s failure to respect any boundaries is going to push buttons but also lead to unexpected dialogue between people who have no interest in talking to each other. Art’s love affair with his metal detector was a bit much, but it was nice to see him step in right away to help Lizzie search for Michael’s missing dog tags and then go back out to look the next morning after a very lengthy and unproductive first attempt. The Lizzie we saw happily engaged to Michael at the end of the episode was very different, and I think it will be interesting to see more of who she was and who she is now.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

What I’m Watching: Made for Love

Made for Love: Season 1, Episode 6 “I Want You to Give a F*** about Me” (B+)

All the time Byron has spent in a simulated world has made him pretty much incapable of functioning in the real one, though at least he’s aware of how what he’s experiencing isn’t actually reality. Trying to amplify the distractions he might encounter at the beach proved to be very unhelpful, and once he did venture with Bennett into Los Angeles, he didn’t bother paying attention to the ticket he got and to the fact that he was being surveilled and photographed in an environment that he wasn’t controlling. It’s reassuring to know that the main character of this show didn’t die, mainly because Byron didn’t execute the merge, and that, even though Fiffany and Herringbone were only interested in taking the chip out to serve their own interests, they decided to let her go after Hazel compared Fiffany to Byron, something she didn’t appreciate at all. Things didn’t work out positively for Fiffany, who appeared to secure her exit package only to find herself trapped indefinitely by her angry employer. Hazel managed to communicate how she was feeling over the course of this episode very well to other people in her life besides Byron, chewing her father out for not caring about her nearly as much as he did about his sex doll partner. I enjoyed seeing Kym Whitley, who just appeared in last week’s episode of “Call Your Mother,” as Judiff, another peculiarly-named individual who became a nun to infiltrate the church and expose its crimes, and who knew how she might be able to help Hazel provided she didn’t look directly at her. Finding out about Diane seemed to change her perspective, but at least Hazel and Herbert got to a pretty good place bonding at the cemetery as the episode ended.

What I’m Watching: Made for Love

Made for Love: Season 1, Episode 5 “I Want a Lawyer” (B+)

It does seem futile for Hazel to try to figure out a way to get away from Byron without him knowing since he is watching and listening to everything she does, and Herbert is too lazy to use their very convenient secret language to mask their conversations. I’m not sure what it is that Bengals did with Diane overnight that got Herbert upset, but at least he was relatively interested in helping Hazel to connect with his typically sleazy divorce lawyer contact at the bowling alley. Biff – a great name for such a character – was all about minimizing the abuse she described so that it didn’t sound bad at all, and he was only interested once Herbert mentioned Byron’s name and he realized how much money he stood to make from a settlement. That productive development was short-lived as Byron demonstrated his omnipotence with the blackmail photos appearing instantaneously on the bowling alley TV screens, but what he was actually doing was far worse. It tracks that both Fiffany and Herringbone aren’t really on the side of morality but rather money, though it’s possible that selling the chip to Ignacio will also weaken Byron enough that he will no longer possess the problematic power he does now. Things don’t look good for Hazel after Byron apparently executed the merge, but maybe she’ll somehow spring back to life once they take the chip out, or she’ll act like Byron does? I’m sure that would be entertaining, though there has to be some way back from this.