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Monday, March 2, 2015

Blu-ray Review: ‘Doctor Who – Last Christmas'

Article originally published as Blu-ray Review: ‘Doctor Who’ – “Last Christmas” on Blogcritics.

A few months ago, as the BBC has often presented, Doctor Who aired a special on Christmas Day in both the United States and the UK. The latest holiday-themed episode is called “Last Christmas,” and it finds Santa Claus (Nick Frost, Shaun of the Dead, Mr. Sloane) dropping in on The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman). This leads to an adventure at the North Pole with a group of scientists. But things get dreamy-weamy when a brain-sucking alien that can alter perception attacks them. This special is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Overall, I was quite disappointed with the most recent season, the eighth since the reboot, but “Last Christmas” is slightly better than those other installments. It is fun and scary and has a classic-type villain that poses a puzzle for our clever heroes, which is the good part about it. Sadly, it also flirts with character development without fully committing to it, teasing at some depth between the show’s leads, but failing to deliver a meaningful package, which is the main weakness of season eight. In short, it’s enjoyable, but also disappointing.

“Last Christmas” picks up after a long separation between our two protagonists, who lied to one another about their “happy endings.” Well, The Doctor lied, and Clara didn’t correct his assumptions about her, spelling an end to their time traveling together. Thrust back into adventure (which is explained adequately enough), they do have a brief screaming match to air the truth, but then they decide to resume their past arrangement with no discussion of the problems between them, minimizing what should be a really cool personal subplot.

I finally have a theory as to why the writers don’t deal with the underlying issues between this pairing. The Doctor is never one to dwell on his darkness when a companion is around, trying to present a cheery front. Normally, his companions help ground him, but Clara is also an avoider of reality, and between the two of them, a true confrontation and discussion just isn’t likely to spring. Which is why Clara needs to go. Part of why Doctor Who is so awesome is because of the complexity of its main Time Lord. With Clara by his side, The Doctor is allowed to ignore his issues, as she just wants to find the fun. The Doctor needs a companion that will stick challenge him to be his best self in a way that Clara does not.

That aside, the episode itself is mostly satisfying because it messes with the viewer’s brain. Some of the best installments of Doctor Who present something to fear and then outline why you cannot protect yourself from it. “Last Christmas” does that brilliantly with it’s Inception-like concept of dreams within dreams. Making Santa Claus, played by the always-terrific Nick Frost, a part of this makes a lot of sense. It’s not as mythology heavy as the previous two Christmas episodes, but it’s a fine stand-alone.

For extra meta-fun, there’s a guest turn by Michael Troughton, Second Doctor Patrick Troughton’s son, who plays one of the scientists, and Dan Starkey, who has a recurring role as Strax, pops up here as an elf.

On a side note, how did The Doctor and Clara encounter Danny Pink’s (Samuel Anderson) descendant in series eight when the later dies without having children? Danny’s cameo in “Last Christmas” makes me think his story may not quite be over, but I don’t see a way for it go forward from here, unless the show repeats itself with him as it did with Rory. I keep expecting Clara to be pregnant, but it doesn’t seem like Doctor Who is going that way, and Danny doesn’t seem to have coupled with anyone else, given his mental state. Will the series follow up and explain this?

The extras on this release are quite weak. We get a ten minute behind-the-scenes, which is pretty cool, as far as these things go, but that’s it for featurettes. There’s also an audio commentary track with the director, Paul Wilmhurst, and a producer, Paul Frift. Both are interesting enough, but I think fans would rather hear from the stars of the show, so it’s a bit disappointing. With only these two bonus features, I don’t think this release is worth it for the extras. If you already have a digital copy of the episode, that’ll surely be enough.

Doctor Who will return for a ninth series (since the reboot) sometime in 2015. Doctor Who: Last Christmas is available now.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

SLEEPY HOLLOW Resides in the Past

Article originally written for Seat42F.

This week’s SLEEPY HOLLOW season (series?) finale on FOX, “Tempus Fugit,” finds Abbie (Nicole Beharie) in 1781. She must convince Ichabod (Tom Mison) to help her take down his evil witch wife, Katrina (Katia Winter), who has come back in time to kill Ichabod, and thus save their son’s life. Ichabod is hesitant to believe Abbie, as one might expect, but Abbie is nothing if not smart and resourceful, so she gets the job done.

“Tempus Fugit” is a very fun episode. Fun is the best word I can use to describe it, as story continuity has been lacking, but we’ll get to that in a moment. This finale, really a stand-alone-ish adventure, basically mirrors the pilot, with Abbie now the one out of time who must seek help from her partner in his element. This role reversal is satisfying for the fans, played well by the two actors with excellent chemistry. Toss in an appearance by Benjamin Franklin (Timothy Busfield), who of course believes everything Abbie says, and have Abbie encounter her ancestor, Grace Dixon (Onira Tares), and one gets almost everything one wants from this episode.

But here’s the thing: the set up of “Tempus Fugit” is lacking. Abbie knows Franklin is much more likely to believe her than Ichabod, so why not go to him in the first place? She may need Ichabod’s help and time is short, but surely it would be easier and quicker to get Ichabod to do what she wants with Franklin’s intervention. That she eventually succeeds in proving herself doesn’t take away from the fact that she wastes valuable time doing so.

This lack of thinking things through extends to the characters, who sometimes act without sufficient motivation. Katrina’s descent into villain is swift and complete. She doesn’t hesitate to kill innocents, such as Colonel Sutton (Marc Menchaca, Homeland). She’s acting without any regard for who she was in the first place. I know she wants to save Henry’s life, but doesn’t she feel bad at all for trying to wipe out the man she supposedly loved? She’s reduced to a very two-dimensional persona, and I don’t like it.

The biggest problem “Tempus Fugit” has by far is the lack of any stakes to care about, making the events of the hour, while entertaining, meaningless. It’s true that if Abbie and Ichabod do not manage to reverse Katrina’s spell, much would have been damaged in the world of SLEEPY HOLLOW. But there can’t be any viewers who seriously believe that’s a possibility, given how the story is presented. From early on in the episode, even before the Headless Horseman (Jeremy Owens) decapitates Ben Franklin, it’s very obvious that whatever happens in this 1781 doesn’t count, and it will all be erased. That basically ruins any tension the installment might build up, providing much simmering frustration as I watch scenes that would otherwise be very good.

Don’t get me wrong; I mostly enjoy “Tempus Fugit.” If nothing else, the pain Ichabod feels when he stabs Katrina to death is real, and Henry (John Noble) returning to escort his mother into the afterlife is very moving. As I’ve said before, the chemistry between Beharie and Mison is absolutely fantastic, and it is well used in this hour. But that’s not enough if the story can’t play out in a cohesive, logical manner. I’d say SLEEPY HOLLOW has Glee syndrome, doing the emotion well, but frequently dropping the ball on its larger arcs, not taking the time to make each new week match up with what has already been established.

If SLEEPY HOLLOW gets a third season, and that’s a big if at this point, we’re in major need of a reset. That is sort of telegraphed when Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) shows up with a “cured” Irving (Orlando Jones) at the end. In this reset, real care needs to be taken to craft a structure for a new serial story that pays homage to the past, but basically begins a new adventure for the Witnesses. If the writers can do this, I’d be happy to see it renewed. If not, “Tempus Fugit” feels like a good place to put the show out of its misery, a decent enough episode capping a very uneven, inconsistent season.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

"One Last Ride" for PARKS AND REC

Article first published as TV Review: 'Parks and Recreation' Series Finale - "One Last Ride" on Blogcritics.

TV Review: ‘Parks and Recreation’ Series Finale – “One Last Ride”

Parks and Recreation, the last great sitcom in NBC’s once-proud legacy of comedy, came to an end this week with the hour-long “One Last Ride.” In it, the Parks Department gang goes on one final mission, while we see flash forwards to the futures of all of our main characters, as well as several secondary characters. It’s an emotional triumph.

As the episode opens, many in the group are getting ready to leave Pawnee, Indiana. While they have all moved on, none currently employed at the office in which they so memorably worked together, they’ve stayed in touch and still lived nearby. But now, some are moving halfway across the country, and it’s a true end of an era. Leslie (Amy Poehler) plans on commemorating it with a very in-depth recounting of their time together.

Thankfully, Leslie’s plan, which most of the others find boring, is interrupted when a citizen shows up to ask to get a swing fixed. Despite the fact that the Parks Department isn’t yet open for the day and that none of them have any authority to help, Leslie sees this as a chance to recapture their glory days, and as has happened so many times, the rest grudgingly agree to assist.

PR2Leslie is the glue that holds them all together, and while she can be annoying, without her, they wouldn’t have built the family they all cherish so much. That’s why she and her husband, Ben (Adam Scott), get the lion’s share of the focus in “One Last Ride,” with hints that Leslie eventually becomes President of the United States after serving successfully as governor of Indiana. Her dedication and her persistence helps them all, and at the end of the day, they do all realize and value that.

The various other futures, which are shown in different years to give us a more complete view of the characters’ timelines, are appropriate. All the characters end up happy, professionally fulfilled, and romantically satisfied. It may not be realistic to have such across-the-board success, but with Leslie behind them all the way, often popping back into their lives when they need her, it makes sense that this particular group would defy the odds and do well for themselves. Donna (Retta), Ron (Nick Offerman), Tom (Aziz Ansari), Andy (Chris Pratt), April (Aubrey Plaza), even Garry (Jim O’Heir), who, despite his plethora of names over the run, I still think of as Jerry, end up where they should be. This fixing of the swing is not the last time they are all together.

The central cast of Parks and Recreation is strong, but the series has always benefited from a solid second and third string. “One Last Ride” pays tribute to that, too, with flash forwards for Craig (Billy Eichner) and Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz), and appearances from Chris (Rob Lowe), Ann (Rashida Jones), Lucy (Natalie Morales), Joe (Keegan-Michael Key), Perd (Jay Jackson), Mona-Lisa (Jenny Slate), Ethel (Helen Slayton-Hughes), Gayle (Christie Brinkley), Jen (Kathryn Hahn), Brandi (Mara Marini), Dr. Saperstein (Henry Winkler), Joe Biden (himself), and more. What’s notable about all of these guest stars is that they slide seamlessly into the main narrative, not distracting or disrupting the main story. Not everyone that arguably should be included is, but that’s OK because they aren’t the point of the finale. They are all well used, and while it doesn’t feel like a role call is being conducted, we’re left with quite a significant list who are involved.

Similarly, the futuristic technology included is a fun touch, but not all that important to what’s going on. This has been a trend all season, as these episodes have been set in 2017, and other than one really funny bit, the tech isn’t essential to any scene.

The hour ends far too soon, taking us back to the present setting of the show. It’s an installment full of humor and heart, one that makes fans laugh and cry, and captures both the spirit and the core point of Parks and Recreation. All told, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect way to send off the odd comedy about a bunch of misfits who achieve great things as a team. It will be sorely missed, both because of its own merits, and because it leaves the network that brought us Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office without another sitcom of this level of quality.

Friday, February 27, 2015

No "Recovery" for THE NIGHT SHIFT

Article first published as THE NIGHT SHIFT Review Season 2 Episode 1 Recovery on Seat42F.

THE NIGHT SHIFT Recap

Last summer, NBC aired a drama series called THE NIGHT SHIFT. This week, The Night Shift begins its second year in the regular television season, an upgrade few summer shows get. Has the show, which I labeled “pretty much a waste of time for all but the most bored summer viewers” in my pilot review on this very web site, improved enough to justify such a promotion? In a word, no.

For those who are fans, though, and I know that everyone has their own preferences, so there have to be some people out there that like THE NIGHT SHIFT, a sizeable enough number to convince NBC that moving it was a good idea, I will strive to give you a tantalizing preview into this new season.

When last we left the cast, much turmoil was rolling through the hospital. TC (Eoin Macken) was having trouble concentrating on his job, having flashbacks to past trauma. Jordan (Jill Flint) disobeys orders, putting in jeopardy her position of power. And the relationship between Jordan and Scott (Scott Wolf) is falling apart.

As the season premiere, “Recovery,” begins, much of that has played out further. Jordan is no longer the head of the staff. Jordan and Scott are no longer together. And TC is suspended, not allowed to do his job. These are all natural progressions from the season finale, and should come as no surprise to anyone.

The love triangle between Jordan, Scott, and TC, is a key component of The Night Shift, and “Recovery” has fun with this. Just because TC is suspended doesn’t mean he isn’t around, and while Scott remains a recurring player, not a member of the main cast, both find their way into the hospital with Jordan in the premiere hour. Their dynamic is fundamentally shifted by the close of the episode.

More surprising, to me anyway, is that one of the main characters quits their job. I do not think this signals an end to this person’s tenure on THE NIGHT SHIFT, as an intriguing new opportunity presents itself, and the show will surely follow them down that road, too. But in a charged scene that I enjoy very much, perhaps mostly because it involves guest star Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager), this person is fed up and does not go quietly into the night.

There are also two major medical emergencies to keep the story moving. One is in the hospital itself and is due to equipment malfunction. The other is in a more exotic locale, providing the action-packed cold opening. Because there is little emotional investment in these incidents, since they are not happening to major characters, they’re more set dressing than plot. But the latter is definitely something that will hook in fans wondering if they should return.

There’s also a very sweet moment in which a doctor makes a very large personal sacrifice for the sake of a patient. It’s the kind of decision no doctor could possibly routinely make and keep their sanity and even a middle class lifestyle. However, the believability is not as key here as making one of the players look like a hero, which happens all the time in primetime scripted dramas.

And, just to lighten the mood, a prank war breaks out in the hospital, which is as fun as it is hokey.
Only one main player from season, Dr. Landry de la Cruz (Daniella Alonso), is not back, and no new players have been added to the core group. The show continues to star, besides those listed above, Freddy Rodriguez, Ken Leung, Robert Bailey Jr., Brendan Fehr, Jeanne Goossen, and JR Lemon.

The inherent flaw with THE NIGHT SHIFT is that it’s covering well-trod ground such giants as ER and Grey’s Anatomy have already done better, with little original to justify its contribution. That trend continues in “Recovery.” Had I never seen another primetime medical drama, I might be vaguely interested in the tension between co-workers and the unusual medical cases. But with so many better options readily available, it seems pointless to set a season pass for a series that barely rates that low level of interest.

THE NIGHT SHIFT airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

Presenting THE JACK AND TRIUMPH SHOW

Article originally written for Seat42F.





For the (several) generations that grew up watching Lassie, many may often have wondered what became of the boy and his dog. That question is answered, sort of, in THE JACK AND TRIUMPH SHOW, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim’s latest live-action series. Of course, the dog in question is not Lassie, but the unnaturally-long-lived Triumph (an insult comic puppet voiced by Robert Smigel), who starred in the fictional series Triumph’s Boy years ago.

As THE JACK AND TRIUMPH SHOW begins, Jack (30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer) is living with his former co-star, June (June Squibb, Nebraska), who takes him in after his parents squander his money. June has also gotten rid of the bad influence that led Jack into drugs and prostitution post-show business, Triumph, but after years away, “Triumph Comes Home.” It takes the dog no time at all to get dim-witted Jack into his old habits.

The main plot of the series seems to be a battle between June and Triumph over Jack’s soul. Jack is easily manipulated, and while he may have a pure moral code, Triumph knows how to subvert that code with tricky (to Jack, not the viewer) language. Jack is essentially a plot device more than a fully fleshed out character, and that works for McBrayer, who has mastered the blank face.

Triumph and June are surprisingly well matched. June fully commits to their battle, tossing Triumph out the window in the woods, and seeming serious about it. I credit that to her skill as an actress, as many performers, especially those of her generation, would not be able to so convincingly go to war with a felt co-star, but she does it handily.

The larger problem is, the series isn’t that funny. The concept is dated, and much of the show plays out in a very old-sitcom style, thoroughly unrealistic. This is likely done on purpose to match all the throwbacks, from the obvious Lassie parallels to former pop culturally relevant guest stars such as Michael Winslow (the Police Academy films) and Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation). It’s a piece that pokes fun at itself, but perhaps not as expertly as one might wish.

The best part of “Triumph Comes Home” is when Triumph talks to Brent and others at an autograph show. He slips back into the comedic insults and off-the-cuff interviews that are a trademark of the Triumph character. This is what he was created for, and he has it mastered. A whole series could probably not be effectively built off of this, though, hence the more mundane trappings surrounding it. Still, by comparison to the insult comedy, the rest of the half hour is a little tame.

Perhaps tame is the wrong word for a show that has Jack McBrayer in a crop top giving hand jobs to Japanese businessmen in an alley. Yet, somehow that’s what it feels like. It may be Jack’s overwhelming sense of innocence, no matter how perverted the things he’s talking into doing are, or perhaps it’s because there’s a cartoon-like quality to the proceedings that lets you know no one will really get hurt, emotionally anyway, that makes everything seem safe. Either way, the tone of the program takes away much of the edge that would otherwise exist.

I like THE JACK AND TRIUMPH SHOW, but I don’t love it. I feel like it’s a premise that could get old very quickly. I am amused by the meta humor and numerous references to the past, but that doesn’t seem like recipe enough to sustain it. If this series is going to last, either the writers have to come up with an insane number of zany situations for these characters, or find a way to let them grow. My guess is, they’ll go for the former, which is far more challenging than the latter. I wish them the best of luck.

THE JACK AND TRIUMPH SHOW airs Fridays at 11:30 p.m. ET on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

THE WALKING DEAD Goes "The Distance"

Article first published as THE WALKING DEAD Review Season 5 Episode 11 The Distance on Seat42F.

The Walking Dead Recap 5x11 The Distance

The survivors of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD have gone “The Distance,” and now might they finally find rest? That’s the question posed at the conclusion of last night’s installment, but before the group gets there, they must first overcome the things they’ve relied upon to help them survive. That’s not easy, to be sure, but there are many hopeful signs that it can be done.

As “The Distance” opens, Aaron (Ross Marquand) is brought to the group. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) does not immediately welcome the stranger to their midst; quite the opposite, in fact, slugging him as Aaron tries to present his case. Aaron tells the group that he has come to recruit them for his settlement, but knows they will be skeptical of his offer. His approach is the best that can be made under the circumstances, likely usually delivered to smaller, more desperately wanting acceptance, people (though he should have just ate the applesauce without complaint, Rick’s demand and reason for it being obvious). When the little bits of proof he provides turn out to be true, he asks Rick what else it will take to convince him. Rick doesn’t have an answer.

Rick obviously can’t save everybody all the time, and the cast has suffered major losses along the way. But Rick is, by and large, the reason this many people have made it this long. He hasn’t always known what to do, going too easy on people for awhile, swinging to extreme Ricktatorship, and then swinging back the other way to peaceful farmer. But by the time they encounter Terminus, he is exactly the leader the group needs to survive out on the road.

Thankfully, Rick isn’t alone. Others around him have proven themselves in a variety of ways, as well as found ways to survive without him when everyone was separated. There isn’t anyone in this group who can’t hold their own any more, or has found a way to arrange protection, so Rick doesn’t have to be the sole decider, nor are they willing to let him be. Even while letting Rick be the figurehead, Michonne (Danai Gurira), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Carl (Chandler Riggs), beyond-the-grave Bob, and even Daryl (Norman Reedus) express support for following Aaron home. On the advice from his closest advisors, Rick has to at least give Aaron a chance.

Rick being Rick, he has to do things his way, though, and while that makes sense, it also causes mishaps, leading to the group losing a car and Glenn and Aaron almost getting eaten. Thankfully, they make it through this and Rick (and the viewer) finally start to have their doubts about Aaron’s honesty erased when we see him with his partner, Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1). As Carl tells Rick late in “The Distance,” just because he’s wrong doesn’t mean he’s not right.

Thus, with Rick’s hackles somewhat calmed, the caravan reaches Alexandria, Aaron’s home, and this is where the most damning piece of evidence to support Aaron comes to light. Rick and Michonne discuss approaching Woodbury and approaching Terminus, and how they are met with silence at the gates both times. As the group gets to Alexandria, the sound of children playing drifts over the heavily-reinforced walls. This is the first place encountered that not only might kids be safe enough to be kids, but they are allowed to do so. It’s not a guarantee that all is well, but Rick risks walking in with his infant in his arms, and that’s saying something.

Can Rick lay down his weapons and be a member of a community? It’s hard to tell. Soliders, especially generals, do not usually easily adapt to peacetime. Rick is nothing if not a general, and he even does what he does at Terminus, leaving a backup firearm hidden outside the gate, though notably only one gun is in his stash this time. Rick shows signs of easing up, but it won’t be a quick or painless conversion. It’s just nice that he gets the opportunity to do so.

Not that Rick is the only one who won’t accept Alexandria at face value. Even Michonne, the most vocal supporter of going there, gets suspicious when she catches Aaron in a lie and makes him answer The Three Questions. His answers mean nothing by that point, a dramatically intense moment in the hour, more about revealing Michonne than Aaron.

This paragraph contains SPOILERS from the comic, so you may want to skip it. At this point in the written THE WALKING DEAD, the group settles into Alexandria where they still are, more than fifty issues later. This is a fundamental shift from survival mode to the rebuilding of civilization, a clearly divided two halves to the series. While their challenges are not over, they become part of something much larger than themselves for the first time. For this reason, I want to relax and appreciate the calm. However, THE WALKING DEAD television series has done such a good job of making me not trust anything and often deviates in ways large and small from the page. Because of this, I still feel like Rick, optimistic, but very cautiously so, as they enter the gated community. Whether the series follows the book or differs greatly, both offer many fascinating new possibilities.

“The Distance” is yet another excellent episode of THE WALKING DEAD. It has the obligatory action sequences and walker kills, but by and large, it’s a character piece. We learn something about ourselves and humanity in general while watching it, and that’s why, in an extremely competitive field, it has edged out all others as my favorite currently running television program.

THE WALKING DEAD airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Glee Celebrates "A Wedding"

Article first published as TV Review: 'Glee' - "A Wedding" on Blogcritics.

TV Review: ‘Glee’ – “A Wedding”

This week’s installment of FOX’s Glee, titled “A Wedding,” is set almost entirely in a barn in Indiana. See, it’s Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) and Brittany S. Pierce’s (Heather Morris) wedding day, and they still can’t legally tie the knot in Ohio, which is not harped upon, but is definitely wrong. As everyone plans and attends the wedding, the characters apparently make several trips that take multiple hours each direction across state lines, but almost no one important misses the big day, which turns into a double celebration.

Santana and Brittany are one of the two best couples on the series, arguably the best one, so it’s natural that they would get married before the series’ end. They always understand each other better than anyone else can, and their love is true. They break up for awhile and pursue their own interests, but eventually come back together because their bond is so strong. This episode is not surprising and a very welcome development, up to and including Brittany’s superstitious freakouts.

Brittany springs the idea of a double ceremony on Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) and Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss), who are just getting back together, and while the boys acknowledge the craziness of the idea, they do say their vows. Klaine is another destined-to-be-together pairing who has explored separate avenues but always come back to one another. It does happen too fast, but no one cares because the guys know who they are and what they want, so it works.

Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) tries to make it a triple wedding when she proposes to ex-boyfriend Mike (Harry Shum Jr.), but he declines. This feels just as natural as the other two tying the knot. Not everyone meets their soul mate in high school, and despite Glee‘s propensity for mostly only having McKinley students and alum date other McKinley students and alum, most high school sweethearts don’t work out. The promise Artie (Kevin McHale) and Tina make to marry if they’re still single at 30 is a silly, dated reference, and one that probably won’t work out since Glee won’t still be running in ten years.

So, look, the general conceit of this episode, that two pairs of must-be spouses not only date in their teen years, but get married at twenty, is ridiculous. It’s not realistic. But Glee isn’t always realistic, and I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions in the past that the series tends to favor emotion over story structure. In this case, “A Wedding” is an enjoyably sweet episode, even if it doesn’t really make sense when viewed from a real-world perspective.

Which doesn’t mean Glee should be forgiven for all of its mistakes. Will (Matthew Morrison) not showing up until the last minute and Quinn (Dianna Agron), who is around earlier this year, not showing up at all, is pretty inexcusable. Where are the couples’ friends from New York? The frequent costume changes at the wedding and reception are downright ludicrous. Burt’s (Mike O’Malley) lack of surprise at his son suddenly getting hitched and Kurt having ready vows is unforgivable. The girls being gifted a month-long honeymoon while the boys get a weekend and none react to it is stupid, but clearly signals who’ll appear these next few weeks. Why isn’t Sam and Brittany’s fake wedding referenced? I’m just saying the overall feeling of joy one gets from watching “A Wedding” mostly outweighs this, but Glee would be a much better show if their writers exerted a little bit of effort on continuity.

G2Sue (Jane Lynch) isn’t invited at first because Santana hates her, understandably. But Brittany, like most of their classmates, forgives Sue easily, like one would a racist elder relative, so the principal manages to worm her way in anyway. Sue is a complex character at her best, and while she isn’t always written consistently, her support of these unions is nice and shows a good side to her character.

Sue’s ticket in is by bringing Santana’s abuela, Alma (Ivonne Coll), to the ceremony. I like that Alma doesn’t come around on gay marriage, but decides she wants to be a part of Santana’s life again. Alma’s tears during the wedding likely are as much from disappointment as joy, but this is a realistic take on the generational divide, with Glee’s trademark happy ending twist to it.

Finally, there’s a weird little subplot in which Rachel (Lea Michele) is afraid of what Finn’s mother will think about her moving on with Sam (Chord Overstreet). I guess, from Rachel’s perspective, this is a concern, but from a logical approach, there’s no reason to think Carole (Romy Rosemont) would disapprove, and of course she doesn’t. I’m still not a fan of Samchel, nor do I think this story is needed here, but if it is going to be done, this is the best way Glee can do it.

The musical numbers in “A Wedding” start late, but are solid. The moms group, including Carole Hudson-Hummel, Whitney S. Pierce (Jennifer Coolidge), Maribel Lopez (Gloria Estefan), and never-before-seen Pam Anderson (Gina Gershon), whom duet with the reconnected Troubletones – Brittany, Santana, Mercedes (Amber Riley), and Sugar (Vanessa Lengies) – on “I’m So Excited,” is all kinds of crazy fun mixed with real talent. Mercedes and Artie’s “At Last” is perfect for the wedding. “Hey Ya!,” which features Artie and a couple of high schoolers who probably shouldn’t be there, may not be generation-ally appropriate, but comes off great. Finally, the two couples sing “Our Day Will Come,” and it may not be the best piece in the hour, but is still pretty good.

“A Wedding” is a feel-good installment designed for maximum emotional impact, and it succeeds there. That the story is full of holes is sadly beside the point, but this close to the end, forgiveness of these glaring mistakes comes a little easier. Overall, I think this episode succeeds.

Glee airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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