Saturday, April 30, 2022

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 6, Episode 14 “The Night Before the Wedding” (B+)

It was fun to have this episode come after Madison and Beth’s confused detective work, and to see how it played out in all the ways they thought it did as Kevin tried to work his way through what he really wanted. Though I did make a mid-episode prediction that it was going to end up being Arielle the wedding singer, in part because Katie Lowes is a relatively big name and the role would otherwise be rather small, I’m ultimately very happy that it ended up being Sophie since I’ve always been a fan of that relationship. If Katoby couldn’t last and Nicky wasn’t able to end up with the girl he hadn’t forgot, at least Kevin and Sophie can get another chance. That it wasn’t a given for her when she finally revealed that she was divorced was important since she really got to think about and he had to muster up a big speech to win her over. He also got to process with Cassidy that they weren’t each other’s person and cement that they do have a strong friendship which will endure. Randall’s Superbowl losing team merchandise speech didn’t seem like it was going to connect, but ultimately it came in exactly where it needed to, and I love that he was the leading the crowd of thrilled onlookers who apparently saw and heard everything they were saying as they finally realized they were ready to get back together. Bring on another wedding, or whatever comes next if a remarriage isn’t necessary.

What I’m Watching: Mr. Mayor

Mr. Mayor: Season 2, Episode 7 “Murder in the Old West” (B+)

Much as this was a very silly episode, it was a fun opportunity to see everyone out of the office and trying to endure Jayden’s murder mystery. Aside from Neil’s new girlfriend, played by Ted Danson’s real-life wife of nearly thirty years, Mary Steenburgen, the people who were most into it were James, who took it very seriously, and Tommy, who just wanted to solve it so that they could go home. Arpi was completely obsessed with another mystery, which was what the newly-discovered slush fund of $90 million would go to now that Neil knew about it, while Mikaela couldn’t stop digging for answers about why James had turned her down. It turned out that Neil’s use of the money was highly regrettable, and he hid it from Arpi because he knew she would never have approved it. A space elevator seems like an absurd idea but exactly like the kind of innovation that could be pitched by an eccentric and wealthy tech industry personality who conveniently might offer to fund it themselves. The reveal of James’ story about living with his ex-girlfriend was fun, and I like that Mikaela still needed further clarification that he was indeed interested in her. Though Jayden can be insufferable, he’s at least learned how to make it work for him, like listening to the therapist who advised him to wait to invite people until the day of an event so that they couldn’t come up with an excuse, which worked wonders with Tommy and Mikaela, who were so startled that they had to accept.

What I’m Watching: Superman and Lois

Superman and Lois: Season 2, Episode 10 “Bizarros in a Bizarro World” (B+)

I’m all for alternate realities and getting to see all the characters we know in a different context, and what I honestly enjoy most in this kind of scenario is those are markedly different, going from bad to good. In this case, that was Tal, who had a warm relationship with his brother Kal in this world and a relationship with Lana, who was much more confident – and villainous – than the one running for mayor back in the other Smallville. Others were similar to their other selves, like Sam and Christy, operating in similar fashions even if the surrounding world didn’t treat them the same way. And then there was Jonathan, who it turns out was all bad news, and who has arrived in the Smallville we know for malicious reasons. Watching the two Allys merge was ominous, and perhaps the sight of that will compel more people to switch sides and realize the error of their ways. Anderson made that major change already, and he was someone who was ready to go to extreme lengths to accomplish what he believed was right. While Bizarro Jonathan was able to make it to the world we know without a problem, it’s not clear whether others will be able to travel between them as easily, if there’s even a division to remain after the Allys merge. I’m intrigued, and hope this allows us to see characters coming face-to-face with their doubles, since that would certainly be more exciting than them just merging.

What I’m Watching: The Girl from Plainville (Penultimate Episode)

The Girl from Plainville: Season 1, Episode 7 “Teenage Dirtbag” (B+)

While I don’t normally cite real-life experiences as indicative of what’s true or believable on a TV series, watching this courtroom drama did remind me of my time on jury duty. I was struck by how much it was about the legal specificity of the charges, and not whether someone did or didn’t do something. No one is arguing the content of what Michelle sent Coco by text, but instead what her mental state was and whether that meets the legal criteria for her to be held responsible. Dr. Breggin was insistent on what he felt Michelle did as a result of her medication regimen, and he objected to Katie trying to catch him in a lie by citing one of her texts and then revealing the date to have been earlier than he has said would fall under his period of diagnosis. The fact that he never met her was the most jarring part to me, and the courtroom definitely responded in a way that isn’t necessarily suggestive of what the judge thinks but does indicate considerable doubt about the merit of his testimony. In flashbacks, we did see Michelle opening up more to her friends about what she was talking about with Coco, and that’s of course going to do her in since she shared a lot in a nonchalant way. That final scene and her reaction in the crowd showed that she’s seeing herself as very central to the world around her, which isn’t the case despite her strong influence in one person’s life and ultimately his ending of it.

Friday, April 29, 2022

What I’m Watching: Better Things (Series Finale)

Better Things: Season 5, Episode 10 “We Are Not Alone”

I think this is just about as fitting a finale as we could have gotten, with Phil and Max left in England in the previous episode and nothing necessarily left to be finished in this one. I like that it was essentially a collection of normal experiences, including Sunny and Jeff getting married again and Sam searching frantically for a tampon while Jeff was on the toilet. Meeting Jon Ortiz’s ranger who was happy to connect with Sam about the house she used to live in but didn’t want to rescind the ticket he had just issued them for dumping Gefilte the fish in public water was fun, but it was even nicer to see a whole host of familiar faces. Caroline – or is it Carolyn – coming over to bond with Sam about the matricidal impulse was a great touch, as was Marian reminding her that the baseball cards were his and then crying over the gift she got him. Duke telling Sam she was nice was an important moment of bonding, while Frankie didn’t get the same sweet signoff, but did instead get to deliver an intense interpretation of the glass-smashing wedding tradition. Ending with Sam putting up a for sale sign might have been enough, but getting to see everyone sing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” was particularly fantastic. This show has been unique and great, and I hope it earns some more Emmy attention for its final season. I’ll look forward to what Pamela Adlon does next and also to see the other talented performers in successive projects.

Series finale: A-
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Pamela Adlon
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Pamela Adlon
Best Season: Season 4
Best Episode: “Graduation

Pilot Review: We Own This City

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: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 6, Episode 3 “Rock and Hard Place” (B+)

I’m not sure why, but I was convinced that I remembered Nacho being a part of “Breaking Bad” and then appearing on this show after that. Evidently, that’s not the case, but he’s still been an endearing character and one who never had it easy. After hiding out in the sewer and then getting through to Mike while he had a gun pointed at him, Nacho got to exactly where he needed to be and even got the drop on Bolsa. But then, rather than executing the plan, he shot himself in the head. It’s a sad goodbye for a character who had far more control over his own fate than, say, someone like Hank, who still chose to go out quite memorably when he had no other options. Jimmy’s accidental slip when used Lalo’s name when being questioned about De Guzman seems to have tipped the A.D.A. off to exactly what happened, with the incorrect conclusion that Lalo is now dead. Jimmy’s still not being fully honest with Kim even though they’re engaged in capers together, though that’s likely for her own protection given that she should be as far away from the cartel as possible. It was interesting to hear Ericsen’s assessment of Jimmy as a human being underneath all his showiness who knows what’s right and to see it from Huell’s perspective when he asked Jimmy why he did all of this. I think Kim knows who Jimmy is, and she’s just as ready to cross a line if she sees value in it as he is.

What I’m Watching: Barry (Season Premiere)

Barry: Season 3, Episode 1 “forgiving jeff” (B+)

I still can’t believe it’s been nearly three years since this show finished its second season. I remember it being delayed even ahead of the pandemic, and now, two years into it, we’re finally getting to see it. Fortunately, this return preserves all its greatness and offers some more, following the same characters along new misadventures. Fuches is far away in Chechnya eating second choice cereal and not having to deal with the mess he left back in the United States. Barry is miserable and has resorted to finding jobs on Craigslist, which isn’t going great but also isn’t helped by his asking a woman who is trying to hire him to kill her husband for advice on which flowers to get Sally. She’s in her own world enmeshed in the theatrical experience, and I’m excited to see Elsie Fisher, who I interviewed a few months ago, as her costar Chloe. Natalie does not seem to be benefiting from her new role, and Sally isn’t likely to realize that she’s pushing her away until she grows very resentful. As always, my favorite scenes involve Noho Hank, who was absolutely thrilled to participate in his first interrogation and did very well, and then returned home to be with Cristobal, only to be interrupted by an unwelcome visit from Barry, who asked another person the wrong question given what he did to him. Cousineau’s crumbling gun nearly led to his death, but I’m very intrigued to see what Barry has in store for him now that there’s no more hiding the truth.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Pilot Review: Billy the Kid

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: The Man Who Fell to Earth

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 First Lady

The First Lady: Season 1, Episode 2 “Voices Carry” (B+)

This show’s selection of its three protagonists was surely intentional, and so while we’re not likely to get many explicit references to more than one at the same time, like a 90-year-old Betty Ford’s letter to Michelle Obama on the occasion of her inauguration, there are still going to be connective threads tying them together. In this case, the focus seems to be on visibility and independence, and the idea in all three eras that the first lady is a job, and, as FDR put it to Eleanor when she asked, no one else was getting two appointments. Eleanor’s struggle seems to be the most uphill, though at least people aren’t paying attention to her in the same way that Betty and Michelle are under a microscope and being told constantly to behave differently. I’m glad to see some familiar faces in all three timelines, including Lily Rabe as Hick, who seems to understand and see Eleanor in a way no one else does, Judy Greer as Nancy Howe, who was able to push Betty to be heard and do what she felt was right, and Donna Lynne Champlin as Mel Winter, one of the few people who got that Michelle needed to do her own thing. I’m also always happy to see Kate Mulgrew, and it seems like Susan is here to stay and to support Michelle in carrying herself the way she wants. Donald Rumsfeld’s efforts to keep Betty out of the spotlight have failed miserably, and she knows exactly when to cite her husband’s support for something as a key to making it happen.

Pilot Review: Gaslit

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Pilot Review: A Very British Scandal

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: WeCrashed (Series Finale)

WeCrashed: Season 1, Episode 8 “The One With All the Money” (B+)

When I get into shows like this about recent events, I try to stifle my curiosity and wait until I finish watching to know how things turn out, namely Adam’s exit from the company in this case. It was hardly a surprise, if the title wasn’t indication enough, that Adam and Rebekah’s decision to rewrite the S-1 was their undoing, and the instrumental version of “Roar” playing was an appropriately somber anthem for Adam being instructed to step down by the board. Bruce threatening to break him arm if he didn’t resign after he showed up with a handful of concessions and Jamie saying that he didn’t do anything he asked him to do were the last straws, and things looked very bad for Adam when even Masa told him to stand down. There was still a delusion afloat when the company’s valuation was cut in half as Rebekah called Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama “peers” that they could put on their board, but that all evaporated quickly. Rebekah telling the WeGrow parents that the school was shutting down was met with fury since they now had no options, whereas Cameron being installed as CEO seemed to be welcome particularly because he chose to go after Adam as a joke. Ending with Adam and Rebekah struggling in the water in Israel after Masa told Rebekah that he’s out for blood was hardly the most flattering way to say goodbye, but at least they were far from their problems and in a serene space like the one they tried to create. This story is wild, and this series make it into an entertaining and very watchable saga.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Jared Leto as Adam

What I’m Watching: Atlanta

Atlanta: Season 3, Episode 6 “White Fashion” (B+)

This episode allowed Alfred to direct confront the idea of tokenizing black people to apologize for racist behavior, agreeing to be on the company’s diversity board if he got free clothes and tailoring for three years. As soon as he was on the panel answering questions from reporters, he took the first opportunity to say that of course racism wasn’t over, which Khalil prompted stepped in to correct by saying that racism would be ended by 2024. It was interesting to watch the meeting play out and hear Alfred advocate for ways to help the community while everyone else just demanded what they wanted for themselves. The “we’re all from some hood” ad was a terrible bastardization of his “reinvest in your hood” campaign, and Khalil offered him some wisdom about how to get those who are only interested in rehabilitating their own image to contribute to foundations that can actually do some good. Darius got an unusually down-to-earth plotline, one that found him connecting strongly to a Nigerian restaurant only to see the woman he brought there with him buy the property and open up a food truck where she named a dish after him because it had peaches in it, a miserable reduction of identity that replaced something truly meaningful. Earn and Van also had an intriguing reunion when he helped defend her from a white woman who wanted to perform a citizen’s arrest and scored a free hotel room in the process, and she very deliberately avoided answering his question about whether she actually stole the bag by kissing him.

What I’m Watching: Ghosts (Season Finale)

Ghosts: Season 1, Episode 18 “Farnsby and B” (B+)

It’s really so much more reassuring to watch a season finale knowing that the show is coming back than when that’s not the case, like with another CBS sitcom, “B Positive,” whose fate remains unknown. Fortunately, this one was renewed back in January, and it’s great since it’s really a delight. It really was a difficult decision for Sam to have to make about whether to risk losing the ability to hear the ghosts, and having them all make appeals for the things she had done for them was sweet, even if Isaac thought that what he said would have been enough to apply to everyone. Isaac speaking his mind and not letting Nigel go after Jenkins’ duplicity was revealed was a great move, and the ghosts did have to try hard to muster up shock at the news that Isaac was finally coming out. Thor’s very rare ingredients needed to get rid of the curse were similarly predictable, but it was still fun to watch the drama of his delivery. Jay’s nonexistent pickle ball prowess nearly did them in, but having to find a way to buy back the house was never going to be as entertaining as, say, having to do a lot of work with the floor caved in and the basement ghosts being far too accessible for everyone’s comfort, especially Pete’s. This first season has been a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see what antics are coming up in season two and beyond.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Brandon Scott Jones as Isaac

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

What I’m Watching: Call Me Kat

Call Me Kat: Season 2, Episode 16 “Call Me What the Kat Dragged In” (B+)

It was very uncomfortable to see a dejected Oscar come to Kat’s lacking any of the liveliness and positivity that we’ve previously seen, and Kat trying to be lighthearted and funny only made it worse. Randi was right to warn her not to read a haiku, but she already had a breakup gift basket and playlist ready, underlining that she does care about him, which is not a sentiment that’s going to make him feel good at the moment. Having her friends show up while she was singing into a spoon was a nice gesture, though Max’s attempt to reassure her about how she could be single for the next forty years of her life didn’t quite come out as planned. Running into Nick during her awkward solo date was the perfect opportunity for her to give in to impulses that she might otherwise deny, and she wasn’t quite as subtle about it as she had planned to be given his very obvious exit down the stairs. He’s also not going anywhere given that he took her up on the suggestion she accidentally gave him and is now her landlord, which is going to mean that he’ll be around a lot, preventing any possibility of her getting back together with Oscar. Carter going over to Randi’s without her permission nearly broke their relationship, but fortunately she gave in and realized she was ready for a next step, one that still comes with rules but is a definite progression in the right direction.

What I’m Watching: United States of Al

United States of Al: Season 2, Episode 19 “Guilt / Gunah” (B+)

It’s very true that, up until this point, Riley hasn’t been remotely interested in learning anything about Freddy, and in fact, he’s been downright hostile to him. Now that he and Vanessa have officially filed their divorce papers, he could theoretically be able to let go, but instead he’s still carrying on an affair with her and he’s the only one who seems to be feeling guilty. Making Freddy a birdhouse was a kind gesture, and I suspect that Freddy’s ominous words at the end were free of any true meaning, but he’s going to find out eventually, especially considering that Al knows and might accidentally share it with the wrong person. After Cindy tagged Al in a photo on Instagram, Al was resigned to marrying the neighborhood bully to appease his furious mother, and it was fun to see Art step in, after earlier telling Lizzie that he could translate Angry Disappointed Parent without even knowing how to speak the language, to defend Al to his mother and assure her that he was an incredible guy who was raised very well by his mother. I enjoyed Ariana’s reaction to finding out that Al was going to have to dump her because a white girl tagged him on social media, and I think there’s hope for the two of them working out now that Al’s letting his vulnerable self be seen. Breaking up with Cindy for good isn’t going to be easy though, and he’s the one with the neater love life right now anyway compared to Riley.

What I’m Watching: Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard: Season 2, Episode 8 “Mercy” (B+)

I’ve been a big fan of Jay Karnes since his performance in a standout season one episode of “The Shield” called “Dragonchasers” where his character, Dutch, interrogated a serial killer to get him to crack, and while I’d love to see him getting regular roles, I am pleased what he does get. He was playing hardball with Picard and Guinan when he was offering definitive proof that they were aliens, but as Guinan managed to communicate to him after Q came to see her, he was actually a true believer who was terrified by the encounter he misunderstood with a Vulcan when he was a child. Picard warmly explained what he was actually trying to do, and the newly-fired Agent Wells got to be the hero before he walked out of the building. Rios and Teresa fast-forwarded their relationship, which was sweet, but they likely won’t have much more time before they have to leave this era. Adam was completely honest with Kore now that she’s discovered the truth, and her walking away with the antidote after he demeaned her existence only got him to spiral further into miserable fury. That made him the perfect target, either an ally or a conquest, for the newly-repowered Borg Queen Agnes, who didn’t kill Seven and Raffi when she had the chance but did start assimilating some soldiers, a frightening development for a humankind that is not at all equipped to defend itself without the advanced technology they’ll come to invent in the future.

What I’m Watching: Julia

Julia: Season 1, Episode 6 “Breads” (B+)

Exhausted new parent Russ really is much nicer and more amenable to just about anything Julia says than the man we came to know previously, and, like so many, he had no idea that sweetbreads were not in fact some sort of pastry or donut but instead a far less appetizing part of the meat that only appeals to a select clientele. They were, however, far more authentically French, something that Julia felt she needed to do given the reshoot opportunity after being made to feel guilty by Simca. Having to skip her planned break meant controlled chaos for everyone around her, starting with Judith and Paul reluctantly teaming up to bake bread but then figuring out the perfect solution after a whole lot of experimentation. Avis and Alice had some interesting interactions, starting with Avis not realizing that a lack of pushiness was all that was preventing Alice from being helped at the market and leading to Alice breaking the news to Avis that they could now pay someone to do that job that she had until now been volunteering to do. Julia stepped in to fix it all and defend Avis to Alice, and then, when she went in to meet with Hunter and he pitched her on a second season, ensured that Alice got a full producer credit as a reward for all the unrecognized hard work she’s been doing. There’s no word just yet on whether this series will get a second season, but I’d happily watch more of this light culinary drama.

Monday, April 25, 2022

What I’m Watching: The Flight Attendant

The Flight Attendant: Season 2, Episode 2 “Mushrooms. Tasers, and Bears, Oh My!” (B+)

This show has such a large cast, and I’m glad to see that we’re getting familiar faces back from season one in addition to the many new members of the ensemble in this season. It was good to see T.R. Knight back as Davey, staying in town to support his sister as she hit her major sobriety anniversary. Jenny, who is quite an intense character, seems obsessed with him, but she also appears to want to get close to Cassie, which could mean that she’s in on this frame job, even if her being so obvious about it might not be the best cover for that being her true aim. Grace is suspicious to be sure, but she may be involved in other things that don’t have anything to do with Cassie. Meeting Annie and Max’s new neighbors Gabrielle and Esteban quickly revealed them to be threats that they have no idea are targeting them, putting them in a very dangerous situation. While Max drooled over Marco when he met him, Annie did have an absolutely terrible job interview, answering questions in a way that made it immediately and abundantly clear that she was not the right fit at all. Cassie flashing to that room where the many versions of her were taunting her is a device that’s growing on me, one that is maddening to a degree but also represents how she is trying to resist falling back into behavior that she knows isn’t good for her, even if she’s hopeless to escape it. I’m not sure what’s going on with Megan, but it’s very strange and seemingly precarious.

What I’m Watching: The Flight Attendant (Season Premiere)

The Flight Attendant: Season 2, Episode 1 “Seeing Double” (B+)

Like so many other series, it’s been a while since we last saw this show, which ended its first season in December 2020. It’s great to have it back and to see that there’s an entirely new direction for its second round, one which says goodbye to characters like Alex and replaces them with a peppy, irritating version of Cassie who’s set on luring her back into all the things she let go after giving up drinking. I’m thrilled about the new talent present, starting with Santiago Cabrera from “Star Trek: Picard” as Marco, her new good influence boyfriend. Shohreh Aghdashloo from “24” and “House of Sand and Fog” is her sponsor Brenda, Mo McRae from “Rebel” is her new handler Benjamin, and Cheryl Hines is the intimidating FBI boss. I’m also intrigued by Grace, who seems to be a perfect bad influence just baiting Cassie to lapse into her former ways. Losing time is not a good sign, but, like in season one, she may be paranoid, but someone is very much out to get her. I’m very happy that Annie and Max are back, and that now they’re part of the main storyline from the very start, with Cassie getting a bloody wig delivered in a suitcase that isn’t hers and realizing that someone is pretending to be her. Megan, one of the best characters from last season, is in a very seemingly precarious situation, and Cassie is going to be far too wrapped up in her own antics to realize that she’s in a lot of trouble.

What I’m Watching: Russian Doll (Season Finale)

Russian Doll: Season 2, Episode 7 “Matryoshka” (B+)

It’s not easy to find an end to a time loop or some other sort of time travel story, both when you’re in it and when you’re writing it. That set high expectations for this finale, which needed to find a way to resolve things that made sense and also left something to potentially be explored in the future. As Alan expressed his displeasure with Nadia bringing her baby self to the present, they ended up back at her birthday party from season one, but quickly ended up moving through illogical spaces as non-playable characters, including an encounter with a rabbi and many Ruths coming up the stairs to see Nadia as she was leaving the party. Nadia was so sure when they followed Horse to the stopped train in the middle of the tunnel that things must work out if she was still standing, but her attitude changed entirely when they got on the train and she realized that she had missed Ruth’s death. Getting separated and dropped into separate pools of water in some sort of timeless train station was a poignant representation of their re-acclimation to reality and their gradual acceptance of having to say goodbye to people that they failed in some way. Showing up arm in arm at the wake happy to celebrate Ruth’s life was a great way to say goodbye and to send off this season. It’s been quite a ride, one that only this show can offer and which I’d be happy to board again in whatever new form season three and beyond might take.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Natasha Lyonne

What I’m Watching: Russian Doll

Russian Doll: Season 2, Episode 6 “Schrödinger’s Ruth” (B+)

Delivering on the subway platform was a dramatic turn of events, and we got a sense of how much she’s losing her grip on what time she’s in by the arrival of everyone she knows to help, even people who shouldn’t have been there in that moment. Waking up in the hospital next to Chez smoking a cigar was a strange comfort since at least he was relevant to that era, though he was quickly ushered out by an angry Vera. Ruth was there advocating to give Nora a chance to raise the baby herself, and Nadia made a very puzzling decision to take the baby on the subway with her, a real “Thelma and Thelma,” as she described it. Upon returning to her present with the baby intact, she saw how things began to unravel and she kept jumping in time a week back, seeing Ruth in the hospital in various conditions based on what had brought her there on that date. Finding multiple corpses of herself and then of Alan was extremely worrisome, and Alan also started to see his own stable reality begin to crumble. Getting asked for his grandmother’s papers in 1962 was the first unfortunate step, and then getting off the subway in Nora’s 1982 was deeply concerning. Seeing his friend’s dad who had been dead for years and meeting the three Oatmeals got him spooked, and it does at least seem like both he and Nadia with baby in arms have found each other in the same timeline, whatever that will mean for their ability to correct things.

What I’m Watching: Russian Doll

Russian Doll: Season 2, Episode 5 “Exquisite Corpse” (B+)

I should have expected that, on this show, Nadia traveling back to the middle of the Holocaust in Hungary wasn’t going to involve her getting caught or anything traumatic, but instead her walking around, smoking a cigarette, and smuggling out a good portion of her family’s jewelry felt quite casual and rather easy. Having her speak Hungarian for the majority of the episode was also somewhat trippy, but this show, for all that’s sometimes predictable about it, has the capacity to surprise in entirely unexpected ways. Things got very intense and disorienting towards the end when she kept walking from car to car and seeing a different version of herself, but the biggest realization is one that hedges closer to Alan’s perspective about not wanting to change things, or in this case, not being able to since they always happened like that. Nadia’s reaction to the insistence on the particular currency for the valuables made her realize that this was always a part of her history, and that nothing she had done had made any difference since events were still fated to play out the same way. What that suggests, to me, is that this theory of time travel is one in which time doesn’t play out in a linear way, meaning that Vera and Nora both shared a consciousness with Nadia at a certain point, and while Nora may have been more aware of it, especially since they separated for a time, that likely contributed to the diagnosis of mental illness. I’m not sure how that will lead to resolving anything, but it does provide plenty of food for thought.

What I’m Watching: Russian Doll

Russian Doll: Season 2, Episode 4 “Station to Station” (B+)

Well, this is certainly interesting. I was right that there was German written on the subway doors when Alan got on them, and it turns out that he’s been living in his grandmother’s life, which is a considerably different experience than the one that Nadia has been having with her mother. He also has a radically different perspective from her about what to do with that incredible ability, which he’s basing in the same way on the movies that he’s seen: don’t try to change anything. Of course, he only felt that way when he thought it was an idyllic existence and that happiness might be possible, but upon learning that his grandmother was part of an operation to tunnel under the Berlin Wall, all he could think about was trying to change the past. I was surprised that Nadia just abandoned 1982 to go to Hungary, where she was mission-driven but Maxine was intent on accomplishing something else, eager to be impregnated by the grandson of the Hungarian Nazi while Nadia searched for clues. They did wake up by that grave of the priest, but then we got a great and somewhat disconcerting surprise at the end of the episode: Nadia’s train destination changes depending on where she is. I imagine she’s now in the body of her grandmother, which is going to be a wild ride and one that might be quite precarious and chilling, especially considering she’s still herself and isn’t likely to try to fly under the radar.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

What I’m Watching: Russian Doll

Russian Doll: Season 2, Episode 3 “Brain Drain” (B+)

This episode was heavily disorienting – not that most of this show isn’t already – and I noticed particularly the effect of the room closing in on Nadia as she spoke to the doctor while she was wearing a straightjacket and started to understand the seriousness of her situation. But this isn’t a show that’s going to find her locked in a psychiatric ward or an asylum but instead one that will easily see her finding a way out the window in mere moments. What she has to endure is that she knows what’s happening to her and that it’s real, but no one is going to believe her. The way that Ruth speaks to her is especially interesting, since she cares very much for her and almost doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that what she’s saying doesn’t make any sense. Having Nora split out of Nadia’s body when she smashed the mirror was a worthwhile development, one that allowed them to have capers together and to feel like partners rather than just a host and a traveler or parasite of sorts. Looking at slides from the Holocaust changed the mood of the episode considerably, but this isn’t about reliving suffering or connecting to heritage, rather the pursuit of something physical that was taken away and the attempt to rewrite history to create prosperity and strong family relationships. Going to Hungary is a new idea, one that feels like a major trip given Nadia’s inability to seamlessly ride the subway, but she seems set on figuring this out.

What I’m Watching: Russian Doll

Russian Doll: Season 2, Episode 2 “Coney Island Baby” (B+)

It’s interesting to see how Nadia is taking advantage of her ability to travel back to the present to help her get important information, though she’s also seeing the drawbacks to getting on the subway and missing time in the past. Bragging that she could use the World Wide Web, a concept that sounded crazy to anyone listening in 1982, to do in one night what one man could do for her in two to three weeks was indeed productive in finding Chez, who seemed to be very much the same man four decades later, albeit a bit less optimistic about his future. Talking about the idea of a Coney Island didn’t hit Nadia well, and she still seems fervently intent on correcting the past. What she doesn’t seem to see, and which is likely the case, is that events may correct themselves, and just as she was stuck in a time loop before, she may now be fated to try and change the past with no hope of ever doing so. Finding out that, after she tracked him down, Chez had already given her the coins back the night before led her to a series of unsuccessful attempts to get them back, only to lose them on the subway at the end of the episode after she finally found them. I was pleased to see Annie Murphy from “Schitt’s Creek” and “Kevin Can F**k Himself” as young Ruth, who seems to be the best possible influence for the wayward Nora in 1982, and we also got a glimpse of Alan on his own train, though it remains to be seen whether his reflection will also be unrecognizable to Nadia.

What I’m Watching: Russian Doll (Season Premiere)

Russian Doll: Season 2, Episode 1 “Nowhen” (B+)

Wow, this gap really has been long – over three years since season one dropped its eight episodes. I caught up a few months later, in September, but that’s still more than two and a half years. For a show like this with time loops, I suppose that’s not as relevant, but I am glad to be able to get ahead of it this time and watch before or with everyone else rather than after the fact. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and thought this might just be another time loop, and I’m thrilled to see that it’s something different. Not being able to explain why it happens isn’t all that important since the fun comes in watching it, and there’s something productive about Nadia being able to step back out of her mother’s body in 1982 and into her present situation, so that she can look up clues and figure out what will be most important when she goes back. I didn’t recognize Sharlto Copley, who I interviewed recently for his role as Ted Kaczynski in “Ted K,” as Chaz until I saw his name in the end credits, and I wonder whether he’ll be back or that’s a fixed moment that’s passed without her being able to fix it. I’m still waiting to see what happens when Alan gets on the subway since I was pretty sure I saw writing in German on the doors when they closed, and it would make sense that he would have a slightly different experience, though I have no idea what that means. I wasn’t expecting it, but I very much enjoyed Nadia’s comment that “Purim came early this year” when she got offered a treat.

What I’m Watching: Home Economics

Home Economics: Season 2, Episode 20 “Mango THC Gummies, $18” (B+)

I enjoyed the series of instances in which Tom rushed quickly to pick up his phone when he thought his agent was calling and failed to catch a mug or something else as he did it. Answering Denise’s phone without realizing that it wasn’t his was also quite entertaining. Marina trying to keep herself sane from his constant yammering led to her taking both the gummies she brought for her and the ones she brought for him, and it was the perfect unfortunate opportunity for her to run into her boss Robert Richard. His enthusiasm and expressiveness is really impossible to notice, and his description of how he was being so emotional and they would have obviously been able to tell was a humorous ending to that plotline. Sarah’s big show did become a bit of a disaster, but Denise was able to help salvage it and it ultimately came together after a long and mildly disturbing scene featuring Julia Child’s bottom half running around silently on stage. What I liked most was the introduction of June Diane Raphael, a terrific actress from “Grace and Frankie,” as Vice Principal Lauren, who was able to provide some refuge for Connor from the woman trying too hard to set him up and was making out with him by the end of the show. I like her in this role and would love to see how this potentially unadvisable romance works out, and particularly how she interacts with the rest of the Hayworth family.

What I’m Watching: Moon Knight

Moon Knight: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Tomb” (B+)

Much of this episode was just spent wandering around and looking for answers, and that wasn’t too enthralling, along with them fighting mostly unseen and rather creepy creatures, but the parts that were more exciting did deliver. Layla made a formidable stand when she hid behind the car and that grabbed the flares, and she made sure that they got out of there alive, which was hardly guaranteed. Steven defending Marc when Layla went in to kiss him was an unexpected show of loyalty for someone who has been trying to keep him suppressed and unable to be in control of his own life. Harrow did try to get into Layla’s head by telling her that he read Marc’s scales and that he’s not a good person, mainly because he was there when her father got killed. Fortunately, she wasn’t too swayed by that and still tried to help Marc, who promptly got shot multiple times by Harrow. I’m not big on the idea that this might all just be a dream or a hallucination, with Marc waking up as a patent in a psychiatric ward with Harrow, Layla, and other people surrounding him in various roles, but Marc finding Steven in one of the caskets made it seem like there’s definitely something serious going on here that’s not just in their minds. Their joint scream when the elephant lady started talking to them was a weird but a fitting way to close out this episode, and I wonder what kind of answers we’ll get in the next two episodes.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 6, Episode 13 “Day of the Wedding” (B+)

This was a sweet episode, one that great emotional resonance for the Rebecca storyline but also felt distinctly like a second wedding. I liked that Phillip refused to listen to Madison and Beth telling him that it was bad luck to see the bride on her wedding day since he argued that he had done this before and that superstitions didn’t help much with that marriage. This episode wasn’t all that much about the bride and groom, and instead focused more on other people’s experiences at the wedding. I appreciated Miguel getting a spotlight as he tried to distract himself from Rebecca constantly mistaking Kevin for Jack and calling Randall out for not letting him just have an hour away to enjoy some fine wine with the stepchild of his who most appreciates similar things. Randall had an important moment of recognition about his parents getting older, and he communicated warm but realistic sentiments to the wedding party. Despite constantly thinking that Jack was there, Rebecca was present during her song performance, which had the entire crowd very emotional. Pairing that present-future with Rebecca getting a new haircut and Jack shaving his beard to just a mustache to show solidarity with her was sweet, and it’s a nice way to give meaning to something that’s been part of the show since near the beginning. I enjoyed the humorous subplot of Madison and Beth trying to solve the Kevin mystery, and though I would be happy with either Cassidy or Sophie, I don’t mind the idea of the wedding singer Arielle, played by Katie Lowes from “Inventing Anna” and “Scandal.”

Saturday, April 23, 2022

What I’m Watching: Mr. Mayor

Mr. Mayor: Season 2, Episode 6 “Venus on the Moon” (B+)

I liked that we got to see more of Orly in this episode in a context that didn’t allow her to be smarter than her dad but instead to realize that, as a result of his coddling and donating things so that she can have opportunities, she’s never actually developed any skills of her own. Aside from her unfortunate introduction alongside those who had accomplished a great deal, her inability to make a pot of coffee was particularly cringe-worthy, not helped by the fact that her first suggestion was to decide whose SUV to take to pick up people’s orders. I love the casting of Anna Camp as Natalie and that she starred in some truly awful questionably erotic movies that Jayden was able to skip through to let Orly and Neil let off some steam at her so that they could go out to get ice cream and bond as father and daughter. While Tommy was busy congratulating Orly on doing a great job when she was in fact terrible, he also got into Mikaela’s head, forcing her to work fast and cancel her dentist appointment to prove she had a life, only to fall asleep in the parking lot before her tooth fell out the next day. Getting a half-hour break on Sundays hardly feels legal or recommended in any capacity, but she seems like one of the more well-adjusted characters on this show, so she’ll likely survive. Arpi did use the kids to her advantage to move forward a bill close to her heart, and they joined in to help her cause until they realized how slowly the machine works and accused her of being part of it. I’m eager to see what watching a campaign ad of her younger self will energize her to do.

What I’m Watching: The Girl from Plainville

The Girl from Plainville: Season 1, Episode 6 “Talking is Healing” (B+)

I didn’t expect to get to the trial quite so soon, even though there are only two more episodes after this, only because many of the other true-life shows like this have saved their biggest moments for the final hour. But this one took us there now, with Michelle looking different than we’ve seen, emphasizing her eyebrows and questionably requesting a bench trial rather than a jury to judge her. Katie and Teresa were certainly not happy with that choice, one that required them to change their strategy and opening statements, but it’s hard to deny the effectiveness of many of the witnesses who took the stand. While Lynn’s testimony was particularly emotional, it was Natalie and Cassie reading messages from Michelle that seemed to hurt her the most. Michelle coming face-to-face with Lynn and Co on her way into the courthouse was also an intense moment. Flashing back to Michelle’s time in a facility designed to help with her eating disorder was interesting since she was completely cut off from her phone, and since Coco thought he was being ghosted, he was not kind to her when she finally responded and explained the situation. Seeing him lash out at Michelle’s attempt to offer sympathy by insulting his family was unsettling, as was his pledge to end up dead the next time so that everyone will finally listen. The circumstances of Co hitting his son were also unpleasant to watch, though Coco seemed to see and acknowledge his role in that situation, even if it’s still hard for Co to defend.

What I’m Watching: Better Things (Penultimate Episode)

Better Things: Season 5, Episode 9 “England” (B+)

I’ve long felt that the second-to-last episodes of seasons or series are often the best, and that usually applies to dramas, but this show has never been just a comedy. It was fitting to go to England and have Phil declare that she wants to stay because she’s ready to move on to the next chapter of her life. Max, on the other hand, is making yet another decision that may not make all that much sense but isn’t pushing in the same way, explaining to Sam that it was her idea and that Phil didn’t force her into it. Duke and Frankie were quite shocked to learn that news, but Phil’s goodbye song was a very appropriate way to bid farewell to an extremely entertaining character. Marian was absolutely thrilled to not have to worry about his overbearing mother anymore, conceding her to Greenwich Mean Time, and pointing out that Sam might have a hard time without her mom boyfriend Phil wasn’t all that kind. I liked that Sam gave Max her shoes only to ask for them back for the night since they were still on the trip, a grand gesture indicative of a deeper sentiment. In addition to seeing some iconic scenes recreated, we got to see Duke chug Max’s entire drink, yet another exploration of her growing up fast, and Caroline even got to respond aggressively to Sam’s attempt at an act of solidarity that she found very condescending. I’m looking forward to the finale – it’s been a good run.

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 6, Episode 2 “Carrot and Stick” (B+)

I’ll be honest, it’s been so long that I don’t remember exactly what happened with Betsy and Craig, but I did like that Jimmy got them exactly where he wanted them so that they would go in to see Clifford with allegations that Howard had a cocaine habit. While he promptly refused to take the case and returned to playing his guitar, this is only going to continue to feed into his doubts about Howard that Jimmy and Kim are trying to create. Kim, as usual, was the most memorable player of the hour, starting off by telling Jimmy that his sob stories needed some work and then swooping in to intimidate Betsy by calling her contact and getting ready to bring down the hammer. While Mike was never likely to hurt those two girls staying at Nacho’s house, things didn’t look good for a moment. There’s a real mastery to the way that everyone works when they try to take apart an entire operation to find what they need, and unfortunately that was bad news for Nacho in this case. He managed to find one person who was after him but then came face-to-face with the twins, which is never a good thing. Gus’ visit to see Hector paid off since he got the intel about Lalo still being alive, but he’s still trying to figure out his next move. I don’t think it’s a problem or that it’s overly distracting, but I’m definitely spending a lot of time trying to connect what’s happening now with what we know happens later, and I’m curious how much of the future we’ll end up seeing before this show ends.

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul (Season Premiere)

Better Call Saul: Season 6, Episode 1 “Wine and Roses” (B+)

It’s been just shy of two years since this show aired its season five finale, and so much time has passed that I forgot that Jimmy’s desert ordeal was so recent. He does seem somewhat more subdued than I remember him, though he’s still eager to get involved in a new scheme to bring Howard down a peg, playing the part in just as committed a way as he always has. Yelling loudly about a restricted club and decrying antisemitism was met with anger from those closest to him, but he’s never minded that since other people’s opinions haven’t stung him much in the Saul Goodman era. Kim is doing very well in her new job, thrilled to be defending the people who need it most, responding to Jimmy’s comment that it sounded like a rough day with a firm denial of that fact since this does mean so much to her. With the number of episodes left counting down, Kim’s fate still remains a mystery, and as she knows more of what Jimmy really does, I imagine that will only continue to imperil her. Lalo, whose name Jimmy accidentally let slip when he was confronted about his inexplicable circumstances, is already planning his next move, since letting Gus think that he’s dead hardly feels like a permanent step on his part. Nacho is rightly afraid for his life, and having Gus’ support will only get him so far if someone else doesn’t find him first before he makes it to safety.

Pilot Review: The First Lady

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.

Friday, April 22, 2022

What I’m Watching: Swimming with Sharks (Season Finale)

Swimming with Sharks: Season 1, Episode 6 “Chapter Six” (B)

I’m not sure I expected everyone to survive this episode, but I don’t think I would have predicted the first casualty. Lou standing over Redmond gave her power in a way that he usually wields even while he is laying down, and though she alleged that she was being framed by Travis and that he too wanted to destroy Redmond, she took him out rather quickly and decisively. Detective Witter and Joyce discussing how they were both pregnant seemed to deflect from the questions at hand, which Joyce avoided by pretending not to have known Lou. But after she watched Joyce and Miles having sex and then saw them being photographed at the premiere, she showed up to confirm what wasn’t definite before, which is that Joyce did in fact use Lou’s eggs. Shooting Miles in the hand that he used to masturbate was a pointed and particular move, and Joyce seemed to acknowledge who Lou really was in a way that moved her to leave without killing her. That parting note about getting a happy ending depending on where you stop the story was haunting, as was Lou’s final act. I hadn’t noticed before this that creator Kathleen Robertson, who impressed me greatly on “Boss,” was the one who played Lou’s mom in the flashbacks, a fitting part for her. While Lou certainly won’t be back for season two, I do wonder if this milestone foray into half-hour programming for Roku will lead to a second season for this show. It has been intriguing and involving, even if it feels like it’s over so quickly.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Kiernan Shipka as Lou

What I’m Watching: Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks: Season 1, Episode 5 “Chapter Five” (B+)

It turns out I was wrong and that Lou was very much responsible for Alex’s death, showing up at his door with a warm offer of (cold) cookies and cream before pushing him into the pool when he started to feel sick. Unfortunately for Lou, getting rid of Travis just meant he had more time to focus all of his energy on finding out everything about Lou, which turned out to be easily accessible and entirely damning. Meredith was particularly furious when she found out that Joyce was turning over authority over her projects to Lou, and Marty was very surprised to get that angry phone call. Travis didn’t wait to get Marty’s input on what to do before calling the cops, and now we’re at the point where Lou has been completely found out with no doubts about what she did. That’s not how I saw things going, and even if she’s one step ahead of the law hiding out far from anyone who would be able to find her, I’m sure she won’t be able to resist the temptation of exacting whatever kind of revenge she still hopes to seek. Offering to be Joyce’s egg donor was a bold move, and Joyce was quick to distance herself from someone who got much more under her skin than she’s willing to admit. Lou didn’t exactly endear herself to Redmond, but it’s still possible that he’ll influence this situation in a way that may complicate things and make a victory for Lou still possible.

What I’m Watching: Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks: Season 1, Episode 4 “Chapter Four” (B+)

This show seems intent on one-upping itself each episode in terms of its sexual content, and this one felt like a fever dream with Lou very eager to fulfill a fantasy Joyce hadn’t ever really expressed. Whispering in her ear so that they could start making out and entice the man who they had sitting far away watching them was a predictable step, one that allows Lou to share something more with Joyce than just having looked at something or shown her something. As soon as real life restarted, Joyce was quick to try to make sure that Lou knew the limits of their relationship at work, and Lou responded in kind, pretending to forget it all while that surely won’t be the case. Even if her endgame isn’t to help Joyce, she did manage to score a major win when she recorded Redmond’s very dinosaur-like demand not to have an interracial couple at the center of his new project. The way she spoke to Travis was definitely meant to drive him insane, correctly pointing out that, if she had actually been responsible for Alex’s relapse and death, she could have targeted him instead, yet he still stood there in front of her. Mixing up his medication with her dog’s was an unforgivable offense, and he’s likely to go after her with all he’s got now that he’s out of a job and free to follow up with all the references she gave who definitely don’t know anything about her.

Take Three: Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks: Season 1, Episode 3 “Chapter Three” (B+)

Lou isn’t wasting much time in moving ahead with her endgame, and those around her are starting to catch on. After Travis treated her very poorly when he had the upper hand in their relationship dynamic, he has now reached the conclusion that she is manipulative and can’t be trusted, something he’d like others to hear but sounds petty when he says it. Miles, on the other hand, was very open to showing her his place and spending a lot of time together, but when she texted him a photo and he found out that she worked for his wife, he wasn’t happy at all, aware that he had been pulled into something with suspicious and problematic overtones to it. And then there’s Redmond, who makes Joyce and whatever she may have done look angelic by comparison. He’s wielding the fact that Joyce thought he was on his deathbed to exert even more crippling influence over her and to crush her dreams with pleasure. On a show full of mostly terrible people all trying to achieve something for their own aims, it’s hard to find a sympathetic character who seems truly pure of intention. The closest thing ended up floating in a pool at the end of the previous episode, and while Marty certainly treats people better than most, he also didn’t mind giving in to temptation and letting Lou keep a secret for him that definitely fell under the category of something he knew he shouldn’t have been doing.

Round Two: Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks: Season 1, Episode 2 “Chapter Two” (B+)

This show is full of complicated relationships, and this second episode only further intensified everything from the first. Lou was not happy to learn that she was being fired by Travis without a chance to prove herself and execute her carefully-concocted plan, but he really shouldn’t have done that given Joyce’s subsequent demand that she be rehired or he would be dead to her. Lou was ready for that scenario, asking what was in it for her and presumably negotiating a scenario that would be far less unpleasant and condescending for her to endure. She did not seem to expect to see Alex’s dead body floating in the pool, which suggests that wasn’t a part of her plot but doesn’t necessarily upend her goals either. She’s gotten very close to Marty and compelled him to trust her and appreciate her ability to keep a secret, something she’ll surely use against him in the future. She did manage to easily seduce Joyce’s husband at least into taking her out on his boat, though he does appear to be committed to his wife, ready to do – and watch – whatever it takes to help them start a family. Joyce was relieved to learn that Redmond was hours from death, and he chose to make what he thought were his final moments an opportunity for manipulation and stimulation rather than something more profound. Unfortunately for Joyce, he’s now in remission, and sure to make her life as miserable as possible now that he has more time left in his.

Pilot Review: Swimming with Sharks

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

Thursday, April 21, 2022

What I’m Watching: Roar (Season Finale)

Roar: Season 1, Episode 8 “The Girl Who Loved Horses” (B)

This episode was not what I would have wanted to end on given the strength of some of the other installments, and, like the second episode starring Nicole Kidman, I just didn’t really see the draw in the same way. I guess I have seen actress Fivel Stewart before on “Atypical,” but I didn’t remember her, though I was very excited to see Kara Hayward, an exceptional actress from “To the Stars,” as her friend who was not enamored with horses. I enjoyed their banter and their dialogue, and that to me kept the episode more engaging than the overarching storyline. I was also surprised to see two supporting actors whose resumes are radically different: Leslie David Baker, best known as Stanley on “The Office,” and Alfred Molina, who recently returned as Doc Ock in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” This show certainly has no shortage of talent, and the performances from Stewart and Hayward show that. But especially in a series that took place almost exclusively in the present, or at least appeared to, this was a strange note on which to end. I’m terming this a season finale since I have a feeling that it may return for more episodes, though Apple hasn’t been entirely consistent about which shows it renews enthusiastically. With a new show premiering almost every week and plenty more on tap for the months to come, it’s hard to know what they’ll opt to continue. Overall, I think this was interesting, and I would love to see what talent is tapped next.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Merritt Wever

What I’m Watching: Roar

Roar: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Woman Who Returned Her Husband” (B+)

What I like most about this show is how its unbelievable plotlines are posited as normal and not worth questioning. The notion that a husband could be returned because everything in America can be returned was a humorous setup for Anu to be able to, for the first time, really think about what she wanted for herself. Meera Syal was a great choice to play that lead, and I enjoyed seeing Bernard White opposite her in a lighter part than the one he’s currently playing on “Big Sky,” similar to his “Silicon Valley” and “Kidding” characters. Seeing how his value went down because he got returned again as she tried out a few other options who didn’t end up being right for her either. It was fun to see Julie White as the neighbor who had apparently always had a crush on him and who wanted to act on it, which in turn prompted considerable resentment from the original “buyer” since he hadn’t put that kind of effort into their relationship in a very long time. It was sweet, and perhaps a bit expected, to see that she ended up back in the store and eager to steal him rather than buy him even at a low price, allowing them to do something unlike the people they used to be and infuse a bit of adventure into their lives. This was definitely the most harmless and accessible episode thus far, sparing any trauma and violence and instead navigating the intersection of boredom and unhappiness.

What I’m Watching: Roar

Roar: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Woman Who Solved Her Own Murder” (B+)

What a cast for this episode, bringing back another star of “GLOW” for a truly terrific experience. I saw Alison Brie in the SXSW movie “Spin Me Round” recently, and she’s always at the top of her game. In this case, we got to see her express tremendous frustration at the incompetence of two detectives and make some humorous and pointed quips along the way. Hugh Dancy and Chris Lowell were great choices to play those detectives, who had radically different approaches to their work but weren’t nearly as focused as Rebecca would have liked given the gravity of the work they had to do. To top it all off, we also got Jillian Bell as Rebecca’s friend and briefly suspected murderer, and Ego Nwodim as the up-and-coming local sheriff’s department employee who did indeed deserve a raise rather than to be barked at to get coffee by a condescending detective who can’t be bothered to actually investigate a case. I like that Rebecca got to gradually discover what she could and couldn’t do, and that she was able to break the boundaries of her ghostly presence to actually influence people and touch things when she got angry or passionate enough. Brie’s commentary made the episode more than anything, responding to the insults people were making about her in the wake of her death and noting how annoying it was that Dancy’s detective was actually kind of attractive. I couldn’t help thinking of a term popularized by “Ghosts” to describe what happened to her in the end: getting sucked off, but in a more appropriate and celestial way.

What I’m Watching: Roar

Roar: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Woman Who Was Fed By a Duck” (A-)

I’m such a big fan of Merritt Wever and would happily watch her in anything. For a while, I was expecting her to get two Emmy nominations a few years ago, for “Run” and “Unbelievable,” and then the former got cancelled and she got snubbed for the latter. There’s something about her onscreen presence that is just spectacular, and this episode was no exception. She was able to create chemistry with a duck who wasn’t even visibly moving its bill, which I think was a smart choice given that the mere fact that she could hear him was the important part. It took me until just before the end of the episode to land on exactly who was voicing him and I figured it out in the nick of time. Justin Kirk is also superb, and he was a great choice to play the duck who initially seemed like the best guy in the world until he revealed his baser, manipulative, male instincts. The dialogue in this episode was fantastic, and I’m still impressed that this concept didn’t seem all that strange even though it was surely absolutely ridiculous on paper. I was also happy to see the reliable Jason Mantzoukas as Dave from animal control, who might have had a shot at the end with her if he had acknowledged what she noted, that she was going to be the doctor, and Riki Lindhome as her sister, who knew that Larry was bad news even if she didn’t realize that he was a duck who was literally defecating all over her apartment when she went out for a few hours. This episode wasn’t as dark as other installments but probably my favorite so far.

What I’m Watching: Roar

Roar: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin” (B)

The first three episodes of this show started out positively, with the women at their center looking forward to a bright and optimistic future that started to fade as the reality of their circumstances – and some creepy supernatural factors – set in. This one had a rather violent and disturbing start, with Ambia giving birth and nearly dying in the hospital. It seemed obvious to me from the start that it was her daughter’s need to be by her side that was going to cause her distress, and she had enough to deal with having to find a closet to pump in at the office and then being talked down to by the men in her professional life before she started physically manifesting the longing her daughter felt. While it felt at times like this episode was going to lean more into horror, it kept her situation to one that was presenting enough to bother her coworkers and the people in her life, but which also allowed her to continue going around normally, which only led to more people seeing and noting her predicament. This was a strong performance from Emmy and Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo, and I also recognized Jake Johnson, best known for “New Girl” and “Minx,” in an unusually dramatic role, one that found him lashing out for “parenting two kids on his own” and then ultimately apologizing and recognizing all that his wife does for their family. This ending worked well, providing a more uplifting direction for an otherwise grim premise.

Take Three: Roar

Roar: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Woman Who Was Kept on a Shelf” (B)

I was excited to see the talent involved in this episode, with the creators of “GLOW,” who also made this show, bringing back one of their favorites and the only performer to score an Emmy nomination (well, three) for that series: Betty Gilpin. She’s a terrific actress I first remember seeing on “Masters of Sex,” and this felt like a particularly fitting role for her. I was also pleased to see Daniel Dae Kim, an actor from “Lost” who I got to meet at the Sundance premiere of “Blast Beat” the last time the festival happened in person. The way that he suggested that she be in his eyeline while he was working felt so creepily normal, and she didn’t have to think much about it before she decided to agree to it. Seeing her in lavish outfits sitting on that admittedly comfortable-looking bench was hypnotizing, and the passage of time was well conveyed by her increased boredom and her husband’s relocation of his desk so that he could no longer see her. Her daring escape led to a wild but understandable celebration of the feelings that she had upon finally being in the fresh air and free to move around after years of sitting still for others to look at or ignore her. When she was in the water, she went through a jolting shift back to reality, one that led to an uncertain end, with her starting her own store that found her doing just what she had been doing for so long and yearning for fulfillment that was out of reach.