Sunday, August 7, 2022

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven (Series Finale)

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 10 “Unbroken Circle” (B+)

I think I expect that reunions should be dramatic and full of conversation about what’s happened in the many years since the people involved have seen each other, but that’s just not always the case. I think it was fitting that Jeevan and Kirsten just recognized each other and hugged, and that they only asked each other a few questions before they parted ways, hoping to reunite in a year when Jeevan brought his family to the performance when the Traveling Symphony returned to its new Wheel stop of the Severn City Airport. Jeevan did exactly what he needed to do in his role as doctor, suggesting a treatment for Clark and being there to tell Sarah that it was okay to let go. Tyler playing a role in the play with Elizabeth and Clark also acting was deeply therapeutic for everyone involved, and it was nice to see Elizabeth agree immediately to leave with Tyler when he asked, giving them both a happy ending even if it’s not as comfortable as the airport existence that Elizabeth had previously been living. I wasn’t sure if we’d find out that Miranda was also still alive, but instead, we got to see how she made an important phone call to ensure that Clark, Tyler, and everyone else didn’t die by convincing the pilot not to let his passengers off the plane. That action and her book were deeply influential for the next twenty years, making for a very creative and highly involving series. This finale earned Emmy nominations for writing, editing, and music, all of which I’d say it deserved. This has been a unique and interesting ride.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Mackenzie Davis as Kirsten

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven (Penultimate Episode)

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 9 “Dr. Chaudhary” (B+)

This episode makes the strongest case yet for Emmy nominee Himesh Patel as a lead on this show, since he’s been surprisingly absent since the first episode, in which he was definitely the most-featured actor. But it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that, in a world without technology and the ability to communicate as we can in our present, people can have entire existences without others knowing they’re still alive and well. The brief appearance of Tyler in this hour was an example of that, since people don’t know who others are supposed to be unless they properly introduce themselves and explain their backgrounds and connections. Jeevan calling himself a doctor and saying that he was alone got him into trouble since he got brought in following his wolf encounter, and it was interesting to see him in a world defined by synchronized birth and simple survival. That Kirsten reading Station Eleven was what led to him getting attacked the first time and then going out to try to find her book after their fight feels like it should have been so preventable, but it’s easy to develop complicated interpersonal dynamics when you only encounter a single-digit total of people in the post-pandemic world. There were some sweet scenes showing how he grew into his role, and I do wonder now that we know he’s still alive in the present if he’ll be able to somehow be reunited with Kirsten before this show comes to a close.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 8 “Who’s There?” (B+)

This is the kind of straightforward narrative storytelling I’ve been looking for since the beginning, bringing all of the characters together and offering some potent flashbacks to explain how we got to this point. The episode six cliffhanger wasn’t really addressed, with the answer just being that Kirsten managed to take all of her assailants out, but luckily there wasn’t much time wasted in them being found by someone else from the museum who was ready to take them there. The older Clark is definitely paranoid, but for good reason. Even though no one is physically sick anymore, there are still those who have diseased thoughts, like Tyler, who Kirsten helped to infiltrate the airport by staging a scene from Station Eleven with him. I had thought that either Clark or Elizabeth might have recognized the story, but there’s no reason they would have ever read the book. Fortunately, this show isn’t one that thrives on death or destruction or even a terrifying, miserable ending, and instead Tyler did manage to burn the memorial and blow up the tower, which will destroy Clark, but theoretically no one was hurt and now he’s been taken into custody by Brian. Kirsten calling Tyler by his real name made for a strong scene, and him being recognized and addressed by Elizabeth and Clark was also poignant. The flashbacks to Arthur and Clark’s relationship were informative and engaging, and I’m curious to see what’s left to follow in the final two episodes: maybe Miranda also?

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 7 “Goodbye My Damaged Home” (B)

I’m not sure why I expected an intense cliffhanger like the one that closed the sixth episode to result in a clear-cut continuation of the story, but I didn’t think that it would be a purely memory-oriented hour that found the adult Kirsten transported back to formative memories of Jeevan and Frank. I don’t know if we’re supposed to assume that she hid the antidote on her but repressed that memory, and it’s also not clear how she was able to wake up on the ground still alive with the many people who were around her also unconscious in the snow. Seeing a bit of Frank’s backstory showed that he dumped all of his drugs when he heard that Jeevan and Kirsten were at his door, and that he managed to do pretty well considering the withdrawal he should have been undergoing, especially with two unexpected guests in his home. As they watched those news reports about a flu that doesn’t incubate and the terrible state of the world, it was intoxicating to watch Frank get up and lip-sync. While he was set on finishing a ghostwritten autobiography and Kirsten just wanted to finish her play, Jeevan was thinking about the movie “Alive” where a rugby team has to eat their deceased teammates after a plane crash, which I was recently reading about being inspired to a similar real-life story as “Yellowjackets,” which is purely fictional. The themes of saying goodbye in Kirsten’s play hit a bit too close to home, especially considering an intruder then showed up to declare that this was his home now. Frank wasn’t in any mood to be evicted, and it was understandable that Kirsten blamed what happened next on her desire to put on the play. Ending with an adult Kirsten back in the present talking to a skeleton on a bed of flowers was peculiar, and I wonder whether we’ll get back to the main narrative or if it really was an existential confrontation rather than a literal one.

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 6 “Survival is Insufficient” (B+)

We’re now at a point where the events of the previous episode took us right to where we are now, albeit without certain important bits of context that will determine where the true threat really exists. It makes sense that Tyler would believe that those within the Severn City Airport, now known as the Museum of Civilization, were malicious entities who posed a threat to everyone inside. Yet he’s also hung up on a prophecy taken from a book written by his father’s first wife, and so it’s hard to know if anything he says can be believed. Brian’s explanation of the loss of his accent boiled down to being told that he left and not remembering any of it, so there’s still plenty of mystery there. The way this episode ended was intense and unoptimistic, and I’m glad to see that at least viewers weren’t left hanging with the seventh episode airing back-to-back with this one. In a world with no clear order, it’s hard to know which side you’re on, hence Kirsten stepping in to act swiftly when she saw that they were under attack and in the process protecting Tyler, also because she believes her friends, who appear to be quite comfortable, are in imminent danger. She’s obviously been well-trained, but the odds are not in her favor given how many people are surrounding her and that she was traveling otherwise with children. I’ve decided not to watch more than one episode of this show per day, but there’s definitely a temptation to continue watching right away without even that minimal wait.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Severn City Airport” (B+)

Another episode, another completely different focus. Though I would have liked to experience this show with others when it first aired, I do appreciate the fact that I can now watch something like an episode per day and not have to wait an entire week between installments to piece together the many facets of this show’s universe. I’m very glad to see that Caitlin FitzGerald is in more than just one episode of this show, and she underwent quite the character transformation here as Elizabeth was initially quite haughty and rude to Clark and then became one of the leaders of the community at the airport. It’s both intriguing and terrifying to see the similarities between this show’s world and our own, and how the pandemic portrayed here was much worse than ours in so many ways. Having Clark and Miles offer Elizabeth and Tyler labeled KN95s did feel a bit too close to home, but that’s hardly the fault of the show. The notion of someone like Nick the janitor posing as a Homeland Security agent before breaking off with his survivalist group makes a lot of sense, as people in a crisis often defer to authority figures without checking on their credentials. Tyler’s precociousness combined with Clark and Elizabeth’s on-air conversation suggest that he may be the prophet, reading lines from his father’s copy of Station Eleven and going around to terrorize people after faking his death. But there’s also Brian, who we saw with a thick accent as Elizabeth’s agent, and the fact that what Clark was talking about putting together sounded a whole lot like a museum of civilization.

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 4 “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Aren't Dead” (B)

This show is undeniably interesting, but it’s also a bit hard to process and completely understand. We still don’t have too much information about what happened between year one and year twenty, and only a few flashes of a young Kirsten obsessing over the book while Jeevan tried to warn her about the dangers that were around them. It was trippy to hear Kirsten repeat verbatim the same disciplinary warnings to Alex that Jeevan had shouted at her when she was younger, and we’re also hearing a lot about the prophet of this notion of “there is no before” which is quite ominous. Yet there’s also a good deal of comedy laced into all of this that makes it hard to determine how seriously everything should be taken. Brian just rode up on his bicycle only again inviting them to come to the Museum of Civilization, armed with an NPR CD of Sarah’s. The casting of David Cross, one of my favorite actors that I’ve interviewed, was a sign that his role might be more lighthearted, but after some miraculously-sidestepped mines and talks of a return from retirement, he appears to have been killed by the kids wearing mines who went up to embrace him. Watching Kirsten descend the stairs as she was trying to warn them was intense and very worrisome. This concept of “post-pans” is definitely an intriguing one, and I wonder if those born before the world-changing virus are the same people claiming enlightenment only for those born after it.

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 3 “Hurricane” (B+)

While this episode was definitely engrossing, it’s a strange sentiment to have a third installment of a new series that barely features any characters we’ve seen before. We did see Arthur again and got to connect with the main part of the series that we’ve seen so far with Miranda discovering Kirsten’s Instagram, but otherwise this was a compelling showcase of a character who got her start without much experience and then ended up as a high-powered saleswoman who happened to be in Malaysia when the flu broke out. I was pleased to see Timothy Simons, a great comic actor from “Veep” who showed dramatic potential in “Candy,” as Jim, Miranda’s colleague who initially seemed to be very obnoxious and full of himself but revealed a much deeper side as he understood the gravity of his fate. Going golfing just before the end of the world did demonstrate quite a bit of denial, but he broke down and confessed just how scared he was right before they went back to their rooms to seal themselves in. The flashbacks to Miranda’s relationship with Arthur were very worthwhile, and I always appreciate the opportunity to see Caitlin Fitzgerald, an exceptional actress from “Masters of Sex” and “Succession.” Elizabeth telling Miranda that she told the press that they were the ones having an affair was a blunt way of trying to redirect, and she got her revenge by setting his poolhouse on fire. I don’t know what to make of that spacesuit ending, and I’m curious to see how everything ties together when we see familiar faces in upcoming episodes.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Emmy Catch-Up: Station Eleven

Station Eleven: Season 1, Episode 2 “A Hawk from a Handsaw” (B+)

I didn’t keep going with this show following its first episode back in December but then heard only very positive things about it, and now, even though it missed out on a bid for Best Limited Series, it’s up for a handful of awards, including for lead actor Himesh Patel. What this episode did which the first one didn’t is focus heavily on Year Twenty, with the Traveling Symphony being warmly welcomed in St. Deborah-by-the-Water. I’m a fan of Mackenzie Davis’ work from films like “Tully” and “Always Shine,” and she’s definitely delivering a compelling performance here as the adult Kirsten, who is not terribly trusting and who holds the people in her life very accountable for their loyalty and their decisions to abandon the troupe for a notion of a simpler life. I immediately recognized Lori Petty by her voice, and I think the role of the Conductor is just as fitting for her as her part on “Orange is the New Black” was. It’s interesting to see how free and open things are in this future in terms of gender roles and free love. Enrico Colantoni’s guest appearance as a man from an apparently secret community was certainly ominous, as was David’s threat to hurt everyone if he and Cody weren’t accepted into the community. The early days were also unsettling with the young Kirsten receiving texts that her parents’ bodies were at the morgue, something she reacted to with appropriate distress before getting ready to move on with her new family.

What I’m Watching: What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows: Season 4, Episode 5 “Private School” (B+)

This definitely got out of hand, but it’s not like the vampires usually do a very good job of preparing for social interactions. They’ve never understood what it means to actually be human - even if they were once before they became vampires - and they tend to overcorrect in a big and extremely noticeable way. They also never listen to Guillermo’s advice, and he was the one who was able to best summarize what Colin was like and what his interests were so that they might have had a chance of getting him into the private school. But it turns out that 428 hypnoses is much higher than the recommended seven or fewer per hour, and all of that effort and position-switching was for nothing. Laszlo’s determination to be gay and play that up was entertaining, as was the fact that they had the Nadja doll talk at one point, which didn’t phase Headmaster Warren at all but did manage to really freak out Sean, who is generally oblivious to almost everything but also willing to accept the most absurd of explanations. Signing Colin up for all the sports teams they could possibly think of was actually a brilliant idea, since it’s good to keep him busy and he managed to get tired out so that he wasn’t terrorizing them at home anymore. Not knowing his age is a sign that he’s likely to soon grow up, and I think we’re going to get more of an active “Guess what” routine than the even more draining demeanor of the corpse that birthed him.

What I’m Watching: Only Murders in the Building

Only Murders in the Building: Season 1, Episode 7 “Flipping the Pieces” (B+)

I love that this episode offered another chance to get to know Theo, who did his best to communicate with Mabel even though she continued to insist that she didn’t know ASL and didn’t try to speak any slower even though his card indicated how ineffective lip reading really was overall. She was pretty stuck in her own head, remembering doing puzzles with her sick dad as a kid and then contemplating just how much of her memory was fading. I did think that, after they went to Coney Island and she went off to use the bathroom, something bad was going to happen to Theo just as he had managed to endear himself to Mabel, but fortunately that wasn’t the case, and instead he was inspired by seeing her with Charles and Oliver to call his dad. I was thrilled to see Detective Williams again, returned just after they thought they had been communicating with her, and how Charles and Oliver kept going to the bathroom to talk and she was listening to their entire conversation from just outside. Bringing in the knife was a humorous moment, as was her starting to sing to her baby when Oliver had presumed that she didn’t know how to do the same thing he did. It looks like Lucy is in danger, but it’s going to be hard to figure anything out with a city-wide blackout currently in effect, a surefire suspicious sign of foul play or maybe just an unfortunate coincidence.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 6, Episode 11 “Breaking Bad” (B+)

I knew because it had been previously reported that both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul would be reprising their roles as Walt and Jesse, and I might have deduced it just from this episode’s title. I’m not sure how crucial it was to have them return, and it was certainly jarring to hear Skyler’s name uttered by Francesca as she was catching up with the man who now goes by Jimmy over the phone. The idea that Kim had called to check on her was also a callback to a much more recent past that was the active present on this show just a few episodes ago, and it doesn’t seem like Jimmy’s attempt to reach out went very well at all. There was added context to scenes I barely remember from the original show, with Jesse asking Saul who Lalo was because he had panicked, thinking that’s who was after him. But he really has become a deeper and more layered character, one whose status as the protagonist of a prequel had initially given me pause but truly surprised me and totally paid off. Gene’s new scheme was typically repetitive and fascinating, particularly with his alcohol-sucking device so that he could stay sober while his marks got completely wasted. I thought that the man with cancer played by Kevin Sussman would trigger some empathy on his part, but the fact that he still wanted to go through with it shows that he doesn’t have much left in the way of humanity.

What I’m Watching: Industry (Season Premiere)

Industry: Season 2, Episode 1 “Daddy” (B+)

It’s interesting to see how this show has incorporated the pandemic into its narrative, with Jay Duplass joining the cast as Jesse Bloom, a wealthy investor nicknamed “Mr. Covid,” Harper working exclusively remotely from a hotel while everyone came back, and just one employee wearing gloves and a mask in the office while breath and particles are constantly floating around him. Eric is still firmly trying to help Harper, but that involves forcing her to get him coffee even though it wasn’t just if she was getting for herself anyway and suggesting that she get some therapy that clearly is of no interest. With Yasmin not at all interested in being on remotely good terms, Robert is currently the best friend she has, taking her back to her hotel room after she got very drunk at the drinks for Rishi’s engagement and refusing to engage with her in that state. This is a workplace where people absolutely air their grievances and launch psychological warfare on each other, and the new hire isn’t into that, something that got Yasmin very angry when she tried to enforce the same abusive behavior that she had been subjected to when she first started. Losing her biggest client is a problem, but she may have a new opportunity even after mistaking a high-powered colleague for a sex worker at the party. Eric was very rattled by the New York import likening him to George Clooney, and he may be able to help his position if Harper’s risky gambit with Bloom ends up paying off.

What I’m Watching: Westworld

Westworld: Season 4, Episode 6 “Fidelity” (B)

It’s interesting to see Caleb become the center of the world, or at least of Charlotte’s attention, which does mean something given that she reigns over the entire city of unknowingly subservient people. It was jarring to see the many attempts to remake him in physical form, as he noticed three other versions of himself in cages around him and then encountered a number of hims on his way to the roof, where he did finally manage to get a signal out. Charlotte was very disappointed that he had spent so long trying to get to that point only to transmit a message of affirmation, but the idea that there’s still hope and victory remains possible is certainly something much more comprehensible to humans than to machines. And Frankie did hear just enough of it to instill in her a reason to fight when she was nearly taken out by the mole, who wasn’t the one she originally thought. I like that Bernard recounted the many scenarios he had processed, one of which somehow involved Stubbs as the mole, and fortunately Maeve roared back to life at exactly the right moment to save the day. She and Frankie are a good pair now that they can finally work together, and they’re going to start striking back at an opportune time when even Charlotte is starting to see her hand twitch and her grip on her new constructed reality threaten to crumble. And she’s still obsessing over a 279th build of Caleb, which will likely serve to at least temporarily paralyze Frankie when she sees her unaged father apparently still alive.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

What I’m Watching: Loot

Loot: Season 1, Episode 8 “Spades Night” (B)

It’s great to see the underdog and “nice guy” getting a boost of confidence after doubting that he might be able to win over the woman he likes, but unfortunately that’s playing out at the same time as Molly seems to be pretty happy with Jean-Pierre. Though we only saw him giving her a strawberry Kit Kat made only from Japan at the start and then texting her a picture of the lavish gift that he had for her the next time they saw each other at the end, she did express that she was feeling very good. Hopefully, some time spent with the family that she hasn’t had a chance to see in a long time will make her more down-to-earth and appreciate the less exotic appeal of someone like Arthur. Howard, as usual, didn’t completely think through his plan to get Renee to like Molly, but she managed to endear herself after the new table misstep by just opening up and telling the truth. It was good to see Kym Whitley from “Made for Love” as Renee and Britney Young from “GLOW” as Kelly, the cousin whose close friendship with her roommate was interpreted as a secret relationship by her entire family. I like that Sofia getting a delivery of flowers to the office with a salacious note inspired Arthur and Nicholas to get so invested in her relationship drama, and for them to confront her and then offer differing perspectives on which of them she should choose.

What I’m Watching: Physical

Physical: Season 2, Episode 9 “Don't You Want to Get Better” (B)

This was an interesting departure from the characters who are usually featured, introducing Sheila in a new context where others around her aren’t so easily buying what she’s selling. Harriet in particular knew she didn’t like her and was happy to come up with multiple reasons why that was the case. I was excited to recognize the always terrific Alison Wright as Luann, whose lengthy and repetitive stories Sheila found irritating but who was also very well equipped to handle things like Sheila yelling at her and her finding out that Luann backslid. Sheila couldn’t handle it when they had to very slowly savor the flavor of the oranges before eating them, and she ultimately made the right pivot to accept her surroundings, which got everyone to then support her since she was finally opening up. Danny’s visit with Maya found him expressing a lot of selfishness, not happy that she was finally working on herself since he was very angry about her affair with Breem. I’m not sure what he thought he was doing before if he’s now “done being in her cheering section.” Her time spent trying to work on herself did pay off with Greta, however, since she came there to pick her up and they were able to repair their fractured relationship. Ending with buckets of letters from adoring fans was an optimistic parting note, one that sets up a finale that might be quite positive and will hopefully lead to a new and exciting direction for season three.

What I’m Watching: Trying

Trying: Season 3, Episode 3 “Capture the Flag” (B+)

It’s funny to think of Jason as the fun one since it feels like he’s always full of quips and negativity, but Nikki was flailing trying to figure out how to get Princess to really relate to her. Telling her she could bring one thing with her on their kayak outing was nearly a trap since Princess wanted to pick Jason, but she ended up doing quite well when they went out and she pretended to see sharks. Jason, on the other hand, got in his head after being forced to be the serious one without Nikki there and grapple with Tyler’s very real questions about the world. It was endearing to hear Nikki profess that no one’s ever not liked her and witness her Jason impression, which prompted him to share his philosophy on life. The whole family getting into capture the flag was great to see, and I’m sure this episode was fun to film for the cast. Unfortunately, their luck is soon going to run out thanks to the miserable downturn in their riskily-invested funds that Scott just witnessed. He’s also likely not to be much help since Karen will probably be panicking about the news that she’s pregnant and potentially keeping that from him. Freddy’s search for companionship took him to the least appropriate of places where he totally dominated by confessing all the bad stuff he’s done, which was awkward but entertaining, and now he’s on his way towards being a better person by donating meager amounts to help those in need.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Pilot Review: Paper Girls

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: Surface

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: Uncoupled

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.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Pilot Review: Keep Breathing

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Take Three: The Resort

The Resort: Season 1, Episode 3 “Tempus Exhaurire” (B)

I’m trying to be into this show since I do like the actors involved and I think that there is some value to the story, but the pace at which it’s proceeding, especially in the present, just isn’t all that inviting. Noah was right that he and Emma should probably go to couples’ counseling when she insisted on climbing down an elevator shaft in an abandoned resort, not thinking until much later about how they might get out of this particularly trepidatious situation. There is something intriguing about how they ended up in exactly the same situation as Sam and Violet did years earlier, hiding in the closet after thinking that they were alone, and there are so many question marks raised by the infinite number of post-its and that very detailed mural that had Balthazar, Luna, Sam, and Violet in it. Now that Balthazar showed up, grabbed the phone, and tried to run, he’s unconscious and possibly dead, and the phone, which started vibrating because a call was coming in, has fallen down, likely never to be found again. We did get to see Sam’s parents and Hannah again, which was fun, and it’s always a treat to have Nick Offerman around, especially in a more dramatic one like this when he was drinking alone by himself on the anniversary of his wife’s death. These first three episodes were presented all together, and so I suppose it’s worth seeing what a second week with a single installment has to offer.

Round Two: The Resort

The Resort: Season 1, Episode 2 A Noxious Toothworm (B)

It’s interesting to see the two different time periods play out here, but there’s no denying that this show has a seriously strange vibe to it. Emma and Noah were horrified to read what they thought were texts recounting a graphic, sticky situation related to sex, and only later realized that Violet was actually literally applying glue to Sam’s head in the wake of his unfortunate collision with a tree. They formed a warm relationship but then the episode ended with Violet texting him and then looking up to see him sitting very cozily with his girlfriend Hannah, and then there’s the presence of her happy-go-lucky father Murray, who seems entirely oblivious to the fact that she’s met someone else on their trip. In the present, Emma and Noah got into a lot of trouble when they tried asking the wrong people questions and were almost on the hook for a very expensive dress, and Emma is all about solving this case, even if local law enforcement is warning her that it’s a very bad idea to keep pressing. It was a weirdly optimistic and haunting ending with them going swimming before going to find the room the next day, and Emma pulling a clue out of her own mouth. There’s also the matter of this Balthazar, who is now very much aware of the fact that they have Sam’s phone but doesn’t seem quite as threatening as his reputation would make him seem, not that it won’t still make him intimidating to Emma and Noah.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Pilot Review: The Resort

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.

Emmy Catch-Up: Squid Game (Season Finale)

Squid Game: Season 1, Episode 9 “One Lucky Day” (B)

I was expecting some late-breaking twist that would add an entirely new dimension to all of this and frame it in a new context, and while we did get something like that, it wasn’t what I had hoped. That’s partially because Player 1 seemed like the sole element of true goodness on this show, and it turns out that he was actually the most guilty one, forcing others to suffer and only joining in since he thought it would be much more fun to play the game than to only be a spectator. I should have known that not seeing his death onscreen and only hearing the gunshot wasn’t just a way of sparing viewers from watching a tough death but instead an outlier, since all the other players, as far as I can remember, died onscreen. The final game was actually quite lackluster, and Player 456 trying to quit the game and forfeit the prize made it all seem so worthless, which I suppose is the point. Giving a portion of the money to Player 218’s mother and having her take in Player 67’s brother was a nice way of paying his debts to the people he was closest to, and all seemed good as he was headed with a new haircut to America for a new chance. But then he saw that same man slapping and betting someone else, which reengaged all that trauma. I know that a second season wasn’t initially in the cards but this ending definitely did leave the door open for what’s coming next. I still fail to see the real point of it, but the production values and performances were indeed strong.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Oh Yeong-so as Player 1

Emmy Catch-Up: Squid Game

Squid Game: Season 1, Episode 8 “Front Man” (B)

It’s always strange to see in the age of streaming where episodes can be however long an installment that’s considerably shorter than the rest. Maybe it’s a sign of good storytelling, that a particular piece of the plot wouldn’t take the normal length and so it’s not overstuffed, but it was still jarring to have this episode clock in at just thirty-two minutes when the rest have been much closer to an hour. There were still plenty of big developments, namely the death of two main characters, leaving just two players left. After tricking Player 1 into losing the game of marbles and then getting a sentimental thank you for playing with him, Player 456 took a very different approach with Player 67, who had apparently been wounded by the glass from the previous game and didn’t display much of an appetite for that steak with a side of steak knife to go. Pounding on the door for a doctor when he saw that she was bleeding was a sign of compassion, whereas Player 218 seized that moment to slit her throat and ensure that Player 456 was his only competition. Their argument at the beginning of the episode guarantees that things won’t end peacefully, but Player 218 is the more skilled and intelligent, so it will be an uphill battle for the main character of this show to win the whole thing. The Front Man revealing himself to be Hwang’s brother was a twist that didn’t entirely make sense given that they’ve been in close proximity and Hwang has heard his voice, but it does beg the question of whether the Front Man is actually in charge of anything or if he’s trapped in this depraved game too.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Emmy Catch-Up: Squid Game

Squid Game: Season 1, Episode 7 “VIPs” (B)

It’s very jarring to hear English spoken on this show, even though we did hear the Front Man answer the phone in English before this. The idea that there are wealthy men who come in masks to witness the misery of the players in person makes it even more horrific than it’s been so far, and the fact that they bet on particular players to win is also despicable even though it feels in line with what we’ve come to expect from this game so far. The suicide of the man whose parternship with his wife ended up resulting in her death was sad but unsurprising, and apparently Player 212 suffered no consequences from not getting a partner since the uneven numbers were not her fault. This episode was high on body count due to the very precarious nature of the latest game, and the two characters whose demise was most felt went out in style. Player 212 was there to taunt Player 101 at the very end when she saw him express fear and selfishness, not prepared to follow the rules because that would put him at risk, and she kept true to her promise to kill him as they both hurtled to the ground together. The Front Man turning the lights off when the man who had worked with glass before didn’t seem very fair even though no one’s supposed to have an advantage, and now we’re down to the three core players: 456, 67, and 218. Hwang has very damaging information and appears to have escaped, but the fact that the Front Man has so many soldiers at his disposal knows exactly who Hwang is makes his chances for survival seem very unlikely.

Emmy Catch-Up: Squid Game

Squid Game: Season 1, Episode 6 “Gganbu” (B)

I’ve been careful not to do too much research into these characters for fear that I might get plenty spoiled for myself watching this show so many months after it first aired. I’m glad I didn’t since we lost two of the main cast members in this episode, including Emmy nominee Oh Yeong-su, who was the very endearing Player 1. I had a feeling that people were going to have to turn on their partners, something that Player 218 knew and why he chose Player 199 as his partner. He was particularly devious in how he stole his marbles when he convinced him that there was going to be a way for them both to survive, while Player 456 felt much worse about it. Player 1 indicated that he knew that Player 456 was taking advantage of him, and thanking him for playing right before he got executed was a sad way to see him depart. This was also a great showcase for Lee Yoo-mi, who earned an Emmy nomination in the guest actress category for her performance as Player 240, who initially seemed quite prickly but then ended up being an unexpectedly endearing and all-too-brief part of the show, forgetting multiple times as she was talking to Player 67 that they couldn’t both go on to accomplish what they wanted. Sacrificing herself so that Player 67 could be with those who mattered to her was entirely selfless and a rare bit of sentimentality on this show. Player 212’s fate is a mystery, since it theoretically wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t find a partner due to the newly odd number of players, and I have a feeling that, since we didn’t see her get killed, she’s still alive.

Emmy Catch-Up: Squid Game

Squid Game: Season 1, Episode 5 “A Fair World” (B)

It’s strange to see some ethics come into play when people are being brutally murdered for arbirtrary reasons on a regular basis on this show. The Front Man’s assertion that whether someone was eating or selling organs didn’t matter, but he had messed with the number one rule of the game, which wasn’t keeping your mask on but rather ensuring equality, something that these people had endured in their regular lives but didn’t need to here. I wouldn’t really agree with that given that there are still disadvantages like physical strength and age, and even those who managed to be exceedingly clever, like Player 1, are still subject to the limits of their own health, as his high fever indicated before his accident when the guards came in. I would imagine that there will now be even stricter protocols to ensure the players stay in line even though it was the guards who were abusing the rules in the first place, and Player 101 surely won’t be happy that he’s lost the asset who can preview what’s coming next. The man currently posing as Guard 29 has had his cover blown but not his true identity, and getting out is going to be next to impossible. Learning more about the past lives of the players, like Player 456 and Player 199, is interesting, and they obviously all have something to contribute based on what they’ve experienced and the reason that they ended up in this place aside from the whole lack of money thing.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Emmy Catch-Up: Squid Game

Squid Game: Season 1, Episode 4 “Stick to the Team” (B)

This episode got off to a violent start, one that was all about the players beating each other up rather than being terrorized by the guards. It wasn’t too surprising to learn that they had manipulated things to incite unrest by purposely giving them less food, and Player 101 wasn’t about to clarify that he hadn’t taken seconds before bludgeoning the person who dared to question him to death. It was interesting to see Player 1 get up and tell them all to stop or they would die, and he was the absolute MVP of the team when he calmly explained how they could win tug-of-war without being physically superior to the other team. It feels like each of the games is getting deadlier, with machine gun fire taking out anyone who was moving in the first, gunshots to the head felling them in the second, and now everyone falling to their brutal deaths when the rope got cut and they got pulled all the way forward. Though we didn’t see exactly how this one ended, I have a feeling that the team featuring most of the regular players isn’t going to end up losing. Player 101 may have a doctor with inside information on his team, but he managed to alienate Player 212 quite egregiously, to the point that she’s promised to kill him following his betrayal. I’m curious to see if this group of ten will remain together or if they’re going to part their ways when the next challenge forces them to be more cutthroat.

Emmy Catch-Up: Squid Game

Squid Game: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Man with the Umbrella” (B)

This episode took us back into the brutality and senselessness of the games, something that makes me feel more secure about my initial decision not to continue watching this show because of its disturbing nature. There’s somehow something worse about each player who failed the second game being shot in the head than them being gunned down by machine gun fire since the former is much more deliberate and intentional while the latter is more random. I also had a feeling that the guard who was forced at gunpoint to take off his mask was going to be killed too, and the fact that the Front Man had to come onto the playground to do it himself suggested the seriousness of that incident. It’s not all that reassuring that Hwang is on the ship since he’s likely to be found out soon, and dumping a guard’s body with his ID on it won’t help anyone find him, if that’s even what his intention was by doing so in the moment. Player 212 is playing with fire - both figuratively and literally - as she’s making a scene and not being intimidated by the guards, helping Player 67 to go undiscovered when she went into the vent and then throwing a lighter to Player 101 to help him finish the game successfully. Player 456 wasn’t subtle once he realized that he needed to lick the cookie to melt it, and it will be interesting to see how that perhaps unintentional act of community will be perceived by the game’s overlords.

Emmy Catch-Up: Squid Game

Squid Game: Season 1, Episode 2 “Hell” (B+)

I’ll admit that this is a show I probably should have caught up on a while ago, but after watching the first episode, I wasn’t terribly intrigued despite the insane popularity it had. Now that it’s gone and won many awards and is now a major Emmy player, I felt the time was right to finally dive in. What I didn’t expect about this second installment is that it would take place entirely outside of the games, with a third rule in the contract cited so that everyone could take a vote to determine if the games would indeed continue. Showing the prize money in the giant piggy bank in very dramatic fashion surely swayed many of the people, particularly because they were all targeted for specific reasons, but it was Oh’s vote that ultimately made the difference. Kang once again demonstrated her cleverness and resilience when she had Seong untie her first and she tried to leave him there, choosing briefly to trust that he would keep the vow he had just made not to demand his money back. No one seems to be doing particularly well on the outside, and even though Oh has the best attitude, even he admitted that there’s much more to live for in the life-or-death environment of the games. The police didn’t respond well to what they thought was a prank from Seong, but Hwang has his own reasons for finding the truth which should lead to interesting places and highly precarious situations.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

What I’m Watching: What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows: Season 4, Episode 4 “The Night Market” (B+)

It’s a wonder that Guillermo has been able to survive this long, with Nandor irresponsibly talking loudly about how his familiar could beat any of the others in the death fights at the night market and then eagerly volunteering him up for some fatal combat. Guillermo did accomplish quite a bit by just standing there and refusing to fight, and the announcer and onlookers were not rooting for any humans to make it out alive. Nandor was annoyed that Guillermo was embarrassing him but fortunately they were able to figure out a way to stage his death so that they could both escape untouched. Though Baby Colin does have talent on stage, his boring personality is threatening to overwhelm that and cause him to forget the words, and Laszlo is making it his number one priority to ensure that he’s at least somewhat better off than the dead corpse that birthed him. Telling him the real versions of stories and how adults make up lies for truths that are either too scary or too boring isn’t likely to ultimately help, since it’s just going to make him less optimistic about the state of the world and eager to drain others’ enthusiasm as well. Nadja may go about things in a roundabout way, but she does know how to keep the people she needs on her side there through just the right amount of attention and bribery. The vampire nightclub may not be a long-running success, but she’s going to try her hardest to keep it going.

What I’m Watching: Only Murders in the Building

Only Murders in the Building: Season 2, Episode 6 “Performance Review” (B+)

I do like when an episode starts with a new narrator and introduces us to a character we haven’t really met before, and who could be more interesting than the dependable assistant Poppy, who has to endure constant abuse from the world’s worst boss, Cinda Canning? Poppy obviously sees herself as similar to Cinda in terms of her podcasting ability, and her efforts to get a performance review so that she might get a promotion were met with what seemed like validation from Cinda around a colleague before she revealed a much crueler determination to never let her rise above her current station. That was a productive impetus for her to call Mabel to undercut Cinda, but it was the worst time given that Mabel saw the guy who had taken the bag and then apparently stabbed him as captured on a number of cell phone videos before she fled the train. Coming after Jimmy’s contributions to the podcast and everything else, that’s not going to look good, and she was also not in a good place after she saw what Alice had been setting up all along with her as an unknowing art subject. After Oliver and Mabel reacted equally poorly to the news that Charles had started up a relationship with Jan again, I love that he decided to send Sazz to break up with her, which resulted in an unexpectedly passionate interaction. The three podcasters talking and not paying attention to when their glitter bait exploded was the epitome of their incompetence, all about the wild ideas and not so great with the follow-through.

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 6, Episode 10 “Nippy” (B)

This episode felt like a classic version of this show, an hour that proceeded along at a very slow, deliberate pace where not all that much really happened. It’s jarring to go from Kim’s departure to Jimmy becoming Saul Goodman to him being someone else altogether. The intro was ominous and purposeful, and it was great to see Carol Burnett, who turned 89 this April, in a role that befits her talents. She was just a part of Jimmy’s overall plan to recruit Jeff into his latest scheme. I couldn’t figure out where I knew him from, and I now see that he was played by Pat Healy, the memorable star of “Take Me” opposite Taylor Schilling. This was a very different role for him, one that reminded me of Damon Herriman’s character Dewey Crowe on “Justified.” It was also good to see Jim O’Heir from “Parks and Recreation” in a moderately more serious part, eating that Cinnabon ritualistically each night as Jimmy carefully calibrated every piece of his complex burglary plot. Setting up a maze to simulate what it would be like running through the mall and devising a mnemonic so that Jeff could remember what to take shows that he loves this game more than anything, and being excited about getting away with cleverness is what will likely ultimately bring him down, presuming that Gene’s fate is intricately tied to both Jimmy’s and Saul’s, and that his past will more surely catch up with him before this show ends.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

What I’m Watching: Westworld

Westworld: Season 4, Episode 5 “Zhuangzi” (B+)

It’s intriguing to see the dynamic that exists between Charlotte and William, who have taken on different roles than the humans whose identities they’ve assumed used to have. Charlotte is even more confident but also extremely bored, not content with the role of gods to just sit back and observe the people unknowingly serving them. I feel like this was a more enthusiastic hour for William than we’ve seen in a while, indicating the depth of Ed Harris’ performance that has him tapping into an energy William has that he rarely uses unless he truly feels like it serves him. The concept of outliers is being set up in an interesting way, suggesting that in any utopia or dystopia, there’s always a chance of it crumbling due to the dissatisfaction of the powerless with not being able to control everything. That made it fascinating, therefore, for Christina to discover, with Teddy’s help, that she is in fact a god and can narrate events to ensure the outcome she wants, or to produce the information she’s seeking. Charlotte is keeping close tabs on her, but refusing to share Teddy’s name was a smart way of staying under-the-radar, even if she didn’t know that’s why she was doing it. I want to know more both about a process that feels a lot like a more serious version of what happens in “Upload” and also the “human virus” that William spoke to his human counterpart about that makes hosts kill themselves. That “you did” ending was definitely emphatic, continuing in a trend of strong finishes for episodes this season.

What I’m Watching: We Hunt Together (Season Finale)

We Hunt Together: Season 2, Episode 6 (B+)

I have to give credit to Jackson for besting most other TV and movie characters, deciding to text Lola very directly that Robert was the bird man after she repeatedly ignored his calls rather than waiting to, let’s say, show up and tell her when it was already too late. He did get into what appeared to be a very serious car accident when Robert fled just as he was showing up, but fortunately he ended up being fine. Robert was insistent on being portrayed in exactly the right light, and Freddy saying goodbye to Henry when Robert played the victim was too much for him. As she said, she’s not the bee or the spider but the snake, and she managed to get out of a very precarious situation with her life. Liam, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky, and Freddy endeared herself to Lola by staying to try to save him even though those efforts didn’t work. Her ending up in jail doesn’t feel like the most fitting ending, but there does seem to be the possibility for a third season based on that package they got from Robert demanding her release from prison. Jackson seems to be in an okay place when it comes to his wife having a baby without him there, and I’d love to have a chance to see these characters again in the future. This show is vividly interesting and its performers are terrific, and I hope season three is going to be announced soon.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Hermione Corfield as Freddy

What I’m Watching: Loot

Loot: Season 1, Episode 7 “French Connection” (B+)

It wasn’t the fact that Jean-Pierre’s first language is French that made Molly’s is-it-a-date with him such a frustrating experience, but rather that he just couldn’t make it clear if he wanted to be with her romantically or if he just really, really wanted to work with her. It was fun to discover that Sofia is apparently an excellent Internet stalker, one of the many elements of her out-of-work personality that deserve more of a focus down the road. But it still took time for her to figure out that Jacqueline wasn’t in fact his girlfriend, and then he had to go ahead and ride on a horse to show her that he was actually interested in her romantically but hadn’t been sure about whether or not to make a move. Sofia did seem to pick up on Arthur coming in to ask about Molly, so hopefully there still might be a chance for the two of them down the road. Nicholas and Howard’s friendship took an unexpected turn when Nicholas realized that Tanya was not in it for the long haul and tried to warn Howard, only to find out that Tanya was on the phone with him testing whether Nicholas was a dangerous element to have around because he might try to share the truth with Howard. I liked Howard’s line “Here’s a movie I haven’t seen, Get Out!” but it does spell trouble for his romantic future and is definitely going to make things uncomfortable at the office.

Monday, July 25, 2022

What I’m Watching: Physical

Physical: Season 2, Episode 8 “Don’t You Run and Hide” (B+)

This episode felt a bit like a dream, not the same one where Vinnie came over in his sappy commercial to talk to Sheila about her bulimia, but the truth did come out in the most direct way it has throughout the entire course of this show. Vinnie was right to question Sheila on whether she was there to work for him or to become him, and he provided some quick mentorship to her as he went about his day. Sheila confessed both about her eating disorder and the voice in her head, and Vinnie did a remarkable job of forcing her to share everything and confront it. Unfortunately, all it took was a bit of stage fright to send him right back to Marika, showing Sheila that he wasn’t able to overcome his demons and let them take hold of him again despite putting up a fa├žade. I still think this was a strong role for Anna Gunn, a far cry from her Emmy-winning time on “Breaking Bad” but I guess something different and interesting. I enjoyed greatly that, after Wanda told Danny he was being forced out of his own organization for not having the right leadership skills, he ended up being saved in the ocean by Tyler. Bunny was entirely suspicious the entire time that they were eating the failure of a mole (he meant guacamole) that he had offered, and things seemed to be going very well until Tyler blurted out a piece of information that Danny didn’t know, which has now sent him searching for Sheila at precisely the wrong time.

What I’m Watching: Trying

Trying: Season 3, Episode 2 “The Circle” (B+)

There is nothing Jason won’t do in service of his family, whether that means dressing up with Freddy to pretend to be government scientists to protect Tyler from embarrassment or figuring out a way to afford being able to stay in the flat that has only recently become a home for their two new children. Unfortunately, he’s chosen to go about it in a dishonest way, meeting Scott for some help with a risky investment that he didn’t want to tell Nikki about it, saying that it was his father who was lending him the money instead. I’m anticipating the discomfort of that moment when she does thank Vic and then she expresses legitimate, sweet confusion about why Jason would have told her something that isn’t true, whether or not it ends up paying off the way it needs to for them to not have to move. Trying to get his dad to put asbestos into the flat to lower the cost was a creative plan that was ultimately not going to be particularly effective. Nikki is dealing with her own tricky situation at the moment, enlisting her work best friend Jen in a secretive operation to help boost productivity at work only to realize that her being distracted with a special assignment solved all the problems since she’s the one who’s the weak link. Jen has always been an entertaining presence on the show, so I hope that, even if we don’t have to witness the awkward firing, we do get to see her again in some capacity.

What I’m Watching: Trying (Season Premiere)

Trying: Season 3, Episode 1 “Home” (B+)

I really love this show, and I’m so happy that it’s back for its third season in just about three years, a rare feat for series these days and especially during the pandemic. Things started on such a high with the two kids present and ready for the perfect day, something both Jason and Nikki put a lot of pressure on given that they thought this was going to be it. Jason putting on a vest to feed the penguins made for one of the funniest scenes when he tried to answer questions from onlookers with the most basic and incorrect of facts, assisted by some light heckling from Nikki. The advice that both parents gave to their kids was both sweet and humorous, and I love that Tyler ended up repeating some of it back to the social worker who came to take him away. Wrapping up everything in the kitchen to make sure it was childproof and safe was an entertaining exercise that definitely felt excessive, and I like that Nikki’s parents were already outside when she called them to ask them to make food since she didn’t have any in the house. Vic rallying the entire family to come show their support was a wondrous and unexpected gesture, and I like that they just marched from house to house to do it. I also enjoyed that Vic reported having found Scott’s fedora in the bushes, something she was not happy to have revealed since she was evidently trying to get rid of it without him finding out.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

What I’m Watching: The Old Man (Season Finale)

The Old Man: Season 1, Episode 7 “VII” (B+)

This finale contained a big surprise that I definitely didn’t see coming, one that makes Dan and Harold much more like each other than Harold knew. It also weakens Dan’s cruel reminder to Harold that Emily wasn’t his actual daughter, since, apparently, Dan isn’t either. Though we saw his face for only a moment, I immediately recognized Navid Negahban, who has appeared in series like “Homeland,” “Legion,” and “Tehran,” as the older Faraz, who looked wearied but elated to see his daughter finally return home to him after being taken decades earlier. That explains why Faraz hated Dan so much, since Abbey was involved in the decision to leave with Dan but Emily couldn’t have been. What she knows, however, is more of a mystery, and theoretically she’ll be safe in her real father’s care, even if the two men who love her like a daughter will stop at nothing to get her back. Dan didn’t waste much time in disposing of their escorts once they were told that they had to turn back since the deal was off, and he and Harold do make a good team even if they don’t get along particularly well due to all they’ve endured over the years. Zoe appears to be out of the picture now but I’d be surprised if that remained the case, especially considering how Harold referred to her as a loose end that might need cleaning up. I don’t know what to expect in season two but I am intrigued to see these characters return and to see what the terrific Negahban does with his character.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: John Lithgow as Harold

Pilot Review: Rap Sh!t

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.

Emmy Catch-Up: Stranger Things (Season Finale)

Stranger Things: Season 4, Episode 7 “Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab” (A-)

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like I really understood what was happening on this show, and that may still be the case, but I was pretty floored by the way everything came together in a spectacular way at the end of this episode. It’s been difficult to discern when everything was taking place over the course of this season, especially as Eleven has been going through her memories. But it was very intense and effective to learn that the orderly who had been coaching Eleven was actually One, who killed everyone else at Hawkins Lab and then was sent into the upside-down by Eleven, where he became Vecna. Tying that in to Creel’s story where he was actually the one who was causing everything was chilling, especially as Nancy got to see it all happening. There were little moments of humor infused into this otherwise very dark episode, like Erica threatening to tell Dustin what she found under Lucas’ back unless he told her everything after trying to out them as liars to their parents and the cops and Nancy apparently having guns in her room. Figuring out that they were in an older version of her house was almost as cool as them figuring out how to communicate and get between the upside-down and the real world. Hopefully Nancy will be okay now after facing Vecna and hearing Barb screaming, though I’m sure they’ll be an epic battle in the final two supersized episodes that I somehow haven’t gotten spoiled for myself yet. Murray’s big act for the guards paid off, and now Hopper’s back with Joyce and ready to come back to a Hawkins that could use some help from the adults.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Sadie Sink as Max

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Emmy Catch-Up: Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 4, Episode 6 “Chapter Six: The Dive” (B+)

Jason didn’t have too hard a time radicalizing the entire town when the police didn’t do much to comfort them, and the fact that there is a demonic entity threatening all of Hawkins means that they’re likely to get close enough to see what’s going on but still assign blame to the wrong people. Though I’ve been in favor of the group staying together, we got to see the big kids go off on the boat claiming a size limit and then leave behind the younger kids, which worked out well since Max was able to think quickly to distract from what was happening on the water while Steve put his swim training to good use. It’s about time all their parents realized they weren’t where they were supposed to be, and I enjoyed Erica’s reaction to the idea of calling the movie theater to find out if they were actually there. Eleven’s time-looped memories were quite disturbing, and even if Dr. Brenner has good intentions now, he did a lot of damage to her and the other kids in the past. Fortunately, there was comic relief in the form of Suzie’s know-how, the chaotic situation at her house that involved some strong acting and an unexpected romance for Argyle, and Murray and Joyce made the best of their situation to turn the tables on Yuri and go with a version of his plan that would work to their advantage. I’m sure that the super-sized finale will have plenty of intense moments and a cliffhanger that I’ll be fortunate to be able to speed through given how late I’m watching it.

Emmy Catch-Up: Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 4, Episode 5 “Chapter Five: The Nina Project” (B+)

Cell phones and the internet really have made things easier, and a frantic search for a way to contact Owens and a road trip to Salt Lake City to find Suzie would not have been necessary. But fortunately all these people are clever and finally working together, doing their very best to protect Max and to help train Eleven so she can be the asset she needs to be. So far, things are going okay with Max and listening to her music, though she’s right to think that maybe she’ll get sick of it eventually and it won’t always be a comfort. I like that she and Lucas are back on good terms, though it’s possible that he should have stayed with his football friends to prevent them from terrifying Eddie as he was fleeing by boat. But Patrick kept hearing that chime and seeing the clock, which is never a good thing, and now he appears to be Vecna’s latest target. Eleven is having a tough time readjusting to being back in an all-too-familiar place, and Dr. Brenner’s methods for restarting her training were far from comforting. Now it appears he’s gotten her back to a place of submission, one where she might be able to continue harnessing the return of her powers. As Enzo and Hopper suffer together in a cell, Joyce was the one thinking ahead and figuring out a way to get free so that Murray could channel his childhood black belt experience into taking down Yuri, which he did a little too well, sending them crashing to the snowy ground.

Emmy Catch-Up: Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 4, Episode 4 “Chapter Four: Dear Billy” (B+)

This seems to be one of the standout episodes of the season, submitted along with the seventh installment for Emmy consideration in the directing category, and I can see why. It was quite a grand (extended) hour, with Max nearly getting overtaken in the same way that we’ve seen so many times from others but managing to resist, in part because of the conclusion Robin came to after their undercover academic operation and Lucas helping Dustin find the right music to play for her. This show knows how to go from a tender emotional moment to a terrifying one, showing the dark clouds coming in and how Max appeared possessed while she was interacting directly with Vecna. Writing letters to everyone in her life in case she did die was an intense choice, one that no one wanted to acknowledge but which suggests she’s much more prepared for what’s to come than any of Vecna’s other unsuspecting victims. Creel’s story was unpleasant and full of horrifying moments, and I appreciated the twin casting of Robert Englund, of Freddy Krueger fame, as his older self and Kevin L. Johnson from “Ozark” as his younger self. Things are getting very real on every front, with a clueless Argyle driving past the Byers home at exactly the right moment when they were trying to escape certain death. Yuri did feel like he could be friends with Murray, but opting to turn in Enzo, Hopper, and both of his new American friends for a bigger payout suggests that future is unlikely to come to pass.