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Friday, October 31, 2014

SLEEPY HOLLOW Takes a Step "Back"

Article first published as SLEEPY HOLLOW Review Season 2 Episode 6 And the Abyss Gazes Back on Seat42F.

Sleepy Hollow 2x06 08

This week’s SLEEPY HOLLOW verges on really good, but has a few elements that don’t quite hit the mark. “And the Abyss Gazes Back” finds Joe Corbin (Zach Appelman, Kill Your Darlings) returning to town from Afghanistan. He’s been a solider overseas, hence why he misses his dad’s funeral, and now he’s come home, with a chip on his shoulder, to follow his father’s final instructions. He quickly gets drawn into the supernatural game.

The idea of Joe is kind of hokey. This is someone we’ve heard nothing about, yet he drops in with an already-established history with Abbie (Nicole Beharie). Shows do this all the time, of course, but it really seems strange that a new player important to the show’s mythology would enter the picture this late, this suddenly. Stranger still, even after getting the full story, Joe decides to go to Quantico, rather than stay and join the team, ruining the role.

I understand that shows have guest characters to move the narrative along and Joe fits firmly in a typical guest character mold. What’s disappointing is that SLEEPY HOLLOW should be better than this. It isn’t the typical procedural, and when it presents installments that lean in that direction, like “And the Abyss Gazes Back” does, it’s upsetting. Joe could easily be written as a long-term player, but isn’t. Why not?

That being said, “And the Abyss Gazes Back” is not the worst episode of SLEEPY HOLLOW to date. Despite Joe’s fleeting appearance, he does contribute something to the main characters. He brings father/son themes to the story, as well as shedding a little light on Sheriff Corbin, who remains a vital figure, even if a short-lived one.

Joe is bitter about how he thinks his father valued Abbie more than him, and that sparks something in Ichabod (Tom Mison). Thus far, we’ve not seen Ichabod talk about his feelings for Henry (John Noble) much, but he reveals that he does still love his son. This is a little hard to wrap one’s head around. Sure, Katrina (Katia Winter) thinks their son can be saved, but Ichabod seems more grounded than she does. Henry is very clearly evil, cursing Joe and taking Irving’s (Orlando Jones) soul. How can Ichabod hope for redemption? Yet, every parent doesn’t want to believe the worst about their child, no matter who that child may be, so it makes a kind of sense.

The scenes between Abbie and Joe are really sweet, after the initial conflict. Abbie did take Joe’s father’s attention away, but in a sense, that makes them like siblings. We get that by the end of the hour. Children grow up and get over petty jealousies, especially once they can see the bigger picture, which is hard to do when one is young. These two have an interesting relationship I’d love to see explored more.

Irving’s plot in “And the Abyss Gazes Back” is compelling. Learning that Henry owns his soul, Irving tries to resist Henry’s first job for him, which could also be his last: kill the man that paralyzed Irving’s daughter. Irving is sorely tempted to go through with it. Now only would the act get Irving out of the soul deal (or so Henry says; one can’t really trust him), but it would allow Irving to get vengeance for a very dark past wrong. However, Irving is not a monster and stops himself, even though he wants to strangle the man. No matter what happens after this, the episode firmly establishes Irving as a hero, not a traitor or stooge forced to the other side.

“And the Abyss Gazes Back” has some fun moments, with Ichabod getting into video games and trying to remember who Superman is. But it also gets a little goofy when he talks about knowing Daniel Boone. Is there anyone Ichabod didn’t know from colonial times? The world has far fewer people back then and Mr. Crane obviously ran in esteemed circles, but it’s getting a little ridiculous that he is personally acquainted every single person of note.

Over all, I like “And the Abyss Gazes Back,” but it is neither the best nor worst installment of SLEEPY HOLLOW this season. There are some of the elements present that consistently make the show great, while also taking some of the too-often-traveled routes other shows use. My wish is that the writers really come into their own and own their cool concept, tossing off the shackles of what they think broadcast television needs to be.

SLEEPY HOLLOW airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

THE WALKING DEAD - "Four Walls and a Roof" Review

Article first published as THE WALKING DEAD Review Season 5 Episode 3 Four Walls and a Roof on Seat42F.

The Walking Dead 5x03 2

This week’s installment of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD is an emotional rollercoaster. Much of the series deals with finding morality in a much-changed world, debating what values can be held onto and which must be dropped to survive. What defines a good person in this new age? It’s surely not the same as what modern viewers are used to. This most recent hour, “Four Walls and a Roof,” finds many characters struggling to find that line.

First, a quick recap of events: Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) delights in telling his kidnapper-cannibals that they have eaten tainted meat, revealing he has been bitten by a walker. Gareth (Andrew J. West) and the others are disgusted, but have a new plan. They drop Bob back at the church to enrage Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the group, luring a strike force away from the main contingent. As soon as Rick et al. leave, Gareth and his men sneak in to finish off those left behind. But Rick is smarter than that and doubles back, brutally ending the Terminus survivors once and for all.

The scene in which Rick, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) savagely beat several of the Terminus guys to death, including Gareth, is stomach-turning. Fans might expect a triumphant moment of enemies being defeated, but that’s not what “Four Walls and a Roof” delivers. Instead, it’s an ugly side to these characters. Yes, Gareth and his followers are bad people and cannot be trusted to be set free again, so no one is arguing they don’t deserve to die. But the method of execution seems more cruel than necessary even if Rick’s excuse of not wanting to spend bullets makes sense, and there’s poetic justice in Rick fulfilling his promise to Gareth involving the red-handled machete.

Of course, this leaves hanging the question of if it’s safe to eat someone who has been bitten, with the diners dead before digestion completes.

Does this mean Rick and the others are bad people now? Even some of their friends look away in disgust, uncomfortable with what they are seeing. Yet, no one defects from Rick because of this. Everyone agrees it is necessary. This is where the line between right and wrong gets blurry, and one wonders if humanity can be held onto.

Bob provides that string of hope for the audience to keep liking our group. He tells Rick how awesome it is that Rick takes him in, making him a part of the family. Some other marauders are only looking out for themselves and would not allow anyone new to join them. Rick and his friends rescue Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) as recently as last week, proving they haven’t completely gone to the dark side. They only murder those who deserve it. Rick should keep looking for others to save.

One cannot say Gareth is redeemable. There is a certain charm to him, and his chilling oratory makes much more sense than it should. He is wronged in the past, and much of his killing is done to keep his people alive. The difference is, he slaughters those who have done nothing to him. And he is fine with using people and creeping them out in a sadistic manner, drawing an A on the church like the one on the train car in which he imprisoned the group. Gareth crosses the line of decency, and that’s why he must die.

In fact, we actually look down on the characters whom cannot kill someone like Gareth. Father Gabriel reveals his cowardice, hiding in the church as his parishioners are devoured, and that makes him pathetic and detested, not a man to look up to as he cannot kill even a walker. Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) leaves a Terminus guy alive in a cabin, and that paints him in a poor light, even if he is able to spare Sasha the pain of taking Bob out, only proving he can kill walkers, not humans. Those who cannot step up the plate the way Rick does seem doomed to perish, sooner rather than later. Brutality, as hard to stomach as it is, is a necessary part of this world.

Still, without that scene in “Four Walls and a Roof” in which Bob tells Rick what a good man Rick is, Rick balancing his baby daughter on his hip, it would be hard for the heroes of THE WALKING DEAD to come back from this. There has to be good mixed in with the bad. Rick has to have a moral line about who is judged worthy of being put down, and we have to know he won’t do the same to whoever they meet next. Justified or not as killing Gareth’s band is, it’s hard to watch a good man do it, and that is part of why this series is the best drama on television.

The only thing that bothers me about this episode is when Abraham takes Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Rosita (Christian Serratos), along with Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Tara (Alanna Masterson), off on their own. His goodbye to Rick is great. Glenn and Maggie’s decision to join up makes sense. But why can’t Abraham wait? It’s clear that Eugene wants to. The immediate threat of Gareth is gone, so there’s no rush to move on, right?

I guess Abraham is a man on a mission who suddenly feels his mission has been delayed too long. I get it; I really do. He is out to save the world. But the group would be so much stronger if he’d just give Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) a day to get back. The fact that Daryl shows up soon after the others leave makes it all the more groan-worthy. It’s true that Abraham has no way of knowing the wait would be so short, but still…!

Speaking of Daryl, who is behind him in that final scene? If it’s Carol, why doesn’t she come out? Is it Beth (Emily Kinney) and a group of other captives Daryl has rescued? I want to know more about this right now!

“Four Walls and a Roof” is a fantastic episode, made all the better by setting it inside of a church, which is, as one character says, just “Four Walls and a Roof.” It really plays to the strengths of the series, and both significant deaths are affecting, in different ways. Seven days is a long wait for the next installment.

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

MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES Mysteriously Hilarious

Article first published as MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES Review on Seat42F.

Mike Tyson Mysteries Adult Swim

MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES premieres next week on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. What is MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES, you may ask? Well, imagine you and your buddies got high, watched a bunch of old episodes of Scooby Doo, and wondered what the show would be like if retired boxer Mike Tyson starred in it. Then, toss in an Oscar-winning screenwriter (who also appears in a zany sitcom), a semi-washed-up comedian who doesn’t always get the respect he deserves, and a bunch of jokes that only an on-drugs college student, possibly an English major, could come up, and you have this show.

Which is why MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES is awesome!

In the animated series, Mike Tyson (who also acted in The Hangover films) voices a version of himself taken to extremes. Mike lives with his adopted, eighteen-year-old, Asian daughter, Yung Hee (Rachel Ramras, Mad), a guy who was turned into a pigeon by his ex-wife and who now goes by the name Pigeon (Norm MacDonald, Saturday Night Live), and a closeted gay, gentleman ghost, Marquess of Queensbury (Jim Rash, Community). They form a team that solves mysteries together, because, why not?

The program is created by Hugh Davidson, who is famous for writing and performing on Robot Chicken. Obviously, Hugh gets some of the random gags from his experience there, but puts together a more cohesive story for this project. What he is doing works extremely well.

I’m not sure exactly why I love MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES so much. It’s part nostalgia, to be sure, as the style and tone references older works for children that I grew up watching. It’s partially the inane sense of humor, often dirty, which Adult Swim is known for. It’s somewhat due to the intelligent references, proving the writer is educated. And it’s just all cleverly woven together, bringing subplots back around full circle and letting even the most insane one-liners actually mean something to the larger picture.

Let me give you an example of this. In the first episode, Mike receives a letter from Pulitzer Prize-winner Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) asking him to help find an ending to his latest book. Mike tosses out a crazy theory as to what the mystery might be, which everyone else scoffs at because it seemingly has no basis in reality. A series of mishaps occur that takes the team to McCarthy’s place, even bringing a second author into the story, and then it all wraps up as Mike predicted, to certain extent. The script isn’t predictable; there aren’t clues connecting point A to point B. But in the end, it all makes a strange kind of sense.

Now, I don’t know if McCarthy voices himself or not, and can’t seem to find confirmation on the internet as of yet. But Mike Tyson, who has had a mixed reputation based on past press coverage, must have a sense of humor about himself to participate in this. The fact that McDonald and Rash, both respectable people, signed up to join him should lend weight to the show, too.

Now, I’m sure MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES is not for everyone. It’s off-the-wall enough that it probably will attract a wide variety of viewers, but not everyone likes their comedy this goofy. It’s far from a traditional family sitcom or a show one can watch with one’s kids. But to a thirty-year-old male critic who watches far too much TV, it tickles the funny bone and strikes me as nearly the most original thing to hit the adult animated scene in years, even with its generous borrowing of other works.

MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES premieres Monday at 10:30 p.m. ET on Cartoon Network.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Breaking" Down ONCE UPON A TIME

Article first published as ONCE UPON A TIME Review Season 4 Episode 5 Breaking Glass on Seat42F.

LANA PARRILLA, JENNIFER MORRISON

This week’s episode of ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME is called “Breaking Glass,” a title that doesn’t really fit exactly with the episode. And that isn’t the only strange thing in the mostly entertaining, but occasionally inconsistent, installment which finds a friendship forming, inner strength being found, and a mother learning how to be more than that again.

First, we have Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Regina (Lana Parrilla), and Elsa (Georgina Haig) all on the hunt for the elusive Snow Queen (Elizabeth Mitchell). The Queen has taken to the woods, and when Emma goes to Regina for help, not only does Regina refuse to do so, but the Snow Queen manages to lure the left-alone Elsa into a trap (after Elsa sits in the car for an incredibly unrealistic long time). Emma and Regina become reluctant partners on the trail, until all have a big showdown in which the Snow Queen triumphs.

We still don’t know the Snow Queen’s plan, but it involves getting Regina’s pocket mirror in order to complete a larger mirror in her lair. Incidentally, this also allows Sidney (Giancarlo Esposito) out of his entrapment when he switches allegiances, but the Snow Queen doesn’t really want him, and it’s certainly too late for him to go crawling back to Regina, so he’s left a bit adrift. But back to the Snow Queen, it’s all ice and mirrors as she plays with everyone, accomplishes her goals, but reveals nothing to the of herself to the characters or the viewers.

The Snow Queen seems interested in Elsa, whom we know is her niece, though Elsa isn’t aware. The Snow Queen gets Elsa out of the way so she can attend to the task at hand, but when Elsa is able to break free, the Snow Queen seems proud. My guess is that the Snow Queen would like to help Elsa, but only if she proves herself worthy of her attention, and Elsa is well on her way to doing so. However, the help will probably only come if it benefits the Snow Queen, at least in casting Elsa (who really needs to change clothes) as an apprentice and heir-apparent.

The Snow Queen doesn’t seem to care so much about Regina and Emma. True, one could argue that the way the bridge disintegrates is designed to lead the women somewhere rather than to kill them, but the Snow Queen is just a little too careless with their lives to seem like she worries about keeping them alive in any way.

Which makes the revelation that Emma lived with her as a teenager, something the Snow Queen has wiped from Emma’s memory, and that doesn’t quite justify the pointless Emma flashbacks in “Breaking Glass,” all the more puzzling. Why is the Snow Queen interested in Emma, and how did she get out of Storybrooke during the original curse? Or why did she join the town sometime during that curse, as seen in pictures?

The welcome outcome of this ONCE UPON A TIME adventure is that Emma and Regina acknowledge something like a friendship. I do feel like Regina shuts Emma down too much, even in keeping with her character, and the way that Emma sees Regina as a much-needed friend comes out of nowhere, not satisfactorily answered in the flashbacks. But “Breaking Glass” gets the women to a place they need to be, on the road to a real relationship, and that is very moving.

Regina needs Emma’s friendship as much as Emma needs Regina. The latter reasons are obvious, as Emma could use some help with her magic. The former may be less so. Regina is losing her humanity, treating Sidney like a pawn again and considering dark options, even as she doesn’t go through with them. Henry’s (Jared Gilmore) faith in his adopted mother helps keep Regina good, but an adult friend, one who can see through the bull in a way Henry can’t, as well as someone whose faith in her that Regina doesn’t expect, can help Regina even more. Emma is important in Regina’s redemption sticking and continuing forward.

Another great scene is a small one in which Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) shows interest in Emma’s past. This romantic, compassionate Hook doesn’t quite gel with the schemer seen last week, but it is the Hook fans want, and the Hook that Emma deserves. Hopefully, ONCE UPON A TIME will give us more of this Hook and less of the other one.

Elsewhere, Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) thinks David (Josh Dallas) leads her on a wild goose chase after the escaped Will Scarlet (Michael Socha) in order to get her groove back. It turns out not be a trick by David, but the side story is a good use of Mary Margaret and David, usually flat, uninteresting characters, and the more Will can be worked into the story, even if his narrative is unfolding as fitfully as the Snow Queen’s, the better.

ONCE UPON A TIME is having a rough fall, better than last spring’s batch, but lacking the cohesiveness and the rich layers of the previous autumn’s Neverland arc. “Breaking Glass” does much to get the show back on track, but unfortunately, in doing so, it has to stray from some established bits in recent weeks. Here’s hoping ONCE figures out what it needs to do and sticks with it in time to salvage this story.

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Night" Is Near For DOCTOR WHO Season 8


TV Review: ‘Doctor Who’ – ‘In the Forest of the Night’

Article first published as TV Review: 'Doctor Who' - 'In the Forest of the Night' on Blogcritics.

In the latest episode of the BBC’s Doctor Who, “In the Forest of the Night,” trees suddenly sprout all over the Earth, clogging major cities and seemingly taking over everything. Is this an alien invasion? The environment fighting back against human intrusion? An attempt to create chaos? Or something else entirely? The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), assisted by Clara (Jenna Coleman), Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), and a group of schoolchildren, intends to find out.

The core mystery at the center of “In the Forest of the Night” is interesting. Like the Weeping Angels and the creatures that live under the bed, the trees are an ever-present, real thing made creepy. When The Doctor theorizes that fairytales paint the woods as haunted because the trees have long been a threat to mankind, it makes sense. Not only that, but the motivation for attacking us, who harm them, is sound. But when that idea is turned on its head, that the trees actually protect us, not hurt us, it’s a twist on a structure used often in Doctor Who, making it seem somewhat fresh.

It is also interesting that no one wants to be saved by The Doctor if their families will die. The kids need their parents, Danny needs to stay and stand his ground, and Clara doesn’t to be the last remaining human. There’s a theme of loneliness explored a bit, forcing a perspective that many compassionate humans can agree with and get behind.

The Doctor doesn’t understand this. The 12th Doctor, more than previous incarnations, is self-involved and doesn’t worry about others unless they’re among the few individuals he cares about. At one point, The Doctor considers leaving the Earth to its fate, everyone doomed to die, and I kind of wish the series had gone through with this. Not only would it irrevocably shift the dynamic between Clara and The Doctor, it would force the writers to deal with a callous part of The Doctor that has been festering all season. Instead, it’s hinted at and then dropped, disappointingly, as The Doctor reverts to form and figures out the puzzle.

Clara is in the opposite position from The Doctor, learning to care a lot about those around her. A year ago, while she would have continued to urge The Doctor to fight on, she might not have been so willing to die with everyone else. Now, she has Danny, understanding Danny who will forgive her lies about cutting off ties with The Doctor if she can figure out how to be true to herself. He gives his very good explanation of what he wants out of life, and it appeals to her. I think Danny will help Clara be who she should be, giving up her adventures and escapism to finally start living the life she’s meant to have.

It’s actually pretty ridiculous how the children fold into this story. Doctor Who has involved civilians in the past, but rarely on this magnitude. All of Clara and Danny’s charges (none among the recognizable ones from previous weeks) are in on the secret, present for the important parts. What’s more, it phases none of them to learn The Doctor’s secrets, which is tongue-in-cheekily dealt with, but certainly not in a satisfactory manner.

As has been usual this fall, “In the Forest of the Night” is mostly a stand-alone episode. There is barely a glimpse of Missy (Michelle Gomez), and character arcs are only touched upon, not explored. Doctor Who‘s large stories would lose nothing by leaving this episode out of the run, and that’s never a good sign. Where has the series, which used to be complex and convoluted, gone so wrong that most hours these days are forgettable?

So, as has happened a lot lately, “In the Forest of the Night” leaves one with an empty feeling. Good ideas are not realized as fully as they should, and the story does not sufficiently tie into the bigger picture. Where once there is a mythology-heavy must-see program, in the eighth season, those in charge have made the show more “normal,” more pedestrian, and far less appealing to discerning fans. I don’t know if this is meant to help the show continue to grow in its appeal to the masses, but it’s having the opposite effect on the fans, with viewing numbers shrinking greatly this year. This episode is not the way to fix that.

Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.

Monday, October 27, 2014

CONSTANTINE Yet Another Hero

Article first published as CONSTANTINE Review on Seat42F.

Constantine - Season Pilot

FOX has Gotham, ABC has Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, the CW has Arrow and The Flash, and now NBC has CONSTANTINE. It’s getting very crowded for superheroes on the television airwaves. And those are just the ones directly based on the comic books, as Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, and others could be considered in this genre, too. How does the latest, inspired by a DC character spun off of Swamp Thing twenty-some years ago under the comic title Hellblazer, stack up with its competition?
Well, for starters, CONSTANTINE has a different tone than most of its peers. While other DC series have gone to dark places after the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, CONSTANTINE is a horror title, so it necessarily doesn’t have a lot of fun in its DNA. The world is shadowy and washed out, and the titular character and his friends, what few of them he has, all struggle with their inner demons as much as the literal ones invading the world.

John Constantine (Matt Ryan, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, Layer Cake) begins the series in an institution. Once mired in the supernatural world, he has distanced himself from all that junk and tried to clean up his life. We soon learn this is because he feels responsible for something that happened to a little girl awhile back, but whatever his reasons are, he’s out of the business and working on bettering himself.

However, just because Constantine is done with demons and such doesn’t mean they are done with him. After all, the show isn’t called Demon Hunter Rehab. So Constantine is forced out of hiding when a threat comes to town that requires his unique skill set. Will he continue to resist, or step up and be the hero that the world needs him to be? Take a wild guess.

Constantine isn’t alone, of course. An angel named Manny (Harold Perrineau, Lost, Sons of Anarchy) is assigned to watch over him, much as Constantine is given the task of protecting Liv (Lucy Griffiths, True Blood), a young woman whose father he knew. Constantine’s best bud, Chas (Charles Halford, True Detective), lends a hand and a taxi, and while not a main character, a reluctant Ritchie Simpson (Jeremy Davies, Lost, Justified) is roped into joining the gang, at least temporarily.

What unfolds is not a standard procedural tale, but rather, an involved narrative that is both scary and dire. I could compare CONSTANTINE to shows like Grimm, Hannibal, Dominion, Arrow, Gotham, and more because it borrows from all of those in tone and style, though isn’t a carbon copy of any of them, either. CONSTANTINE stakes out its own piece of the landscape, and it does manage to feel somewhat unique.

I can’t say it’s among my favorite programs, though, at least not from the pilot alone. It’s not that the pacing is slow, because a lot happens, but I still felt my attention wandering. It’s a bit boring, perhaps because it puts bringing the fright ahead of making one care about the characters, even as it doesn’t commit fully to an action piece. It’s pretty consistent and decently enough made, but just doesn’t grab me the way others have. And it won’t help DC unseat Marvel as Comic-to-Screen King anytime soon.

I will say, CONSTANTINE isn’t really predictable. One of the characters mentioned in this review (not Simpson) isn’t sticking around, at least not full-time. They are neatly written out of the story, kind of making them feel like they’re in a case-of-the-week guest star situation, but with a role that is developed more than most, as if intended to be a main character, then dropped. There is a replacement coming to the story soon, which may change my overall opinion of the show, depending on how the dynamic could shift. So the jury remains out, for now.

CONSTANTINE premieres Friday, October 24th on NBC.

"Thanks" GRIMM!

Article first published as GRIMM Review Season 4 Episode 1 Thanks for the Memories on Seat42F.

Grimm - Season 4

GRIMM returns to NBC with its fourth season premiere, “Thanks for the Memories.” A Wesen that can suck memories out of a person’s brain comes to Portland. Nick (David Giuntoli) begins investigating the case, made more difficult by the fact that he no longer has his Grimm powers. Luckily, he still has friends, and they are all willing to help him out.

Nick has quite a few things to overcome. For one, his job as a detective is harder. He is a fine policeman before he becomes a Grimm, sure, but now he’s used to operating a certain way and can’t any longer. With his captain, Renard (Sasha Roiz), fighting for his life in the hospital, Nick doesn’t have that automatic backing from above, and “Thanks for the Memories” doesn’t reveal what the new hierarchy may be in the department. Even if Renard lives, which I cannot say if that will happen or not, it seems certain it would be quite awhile before he could be back on the job, and GRIMM will have to figure out how to handle that.

Another complication at work is Wu (Reggie Lee), who is looking into the death at Nick’s house. Nick’s dwelling has plenty of Wesen documentation, which revives Wu’s suspicions about monsters. Personally, I feel it is time he is brought into the loop, allowing Lee a deserved larger role on the series. But if the writers decide to keep him in the dark, they must keep the characters dancing circles around Wu to confused and distract him, which is becoming harder and harder to do.

What’s more, because the deceased is an FBI agent, there is now federal involvement in the investigation. Since everything went down at Nick’s house, there is no way he can avoid getting involved. He has to deflect this unwanted attention and may have to keep coming up with plausible explanations as more and more things pile up against him. What we learn of the lead FBI agent in “Thanks for the Memories” only adds to the challenges GRIMM is throwing at its lead.

If that’s not enough, Nick still has Trubel (Jacqueline Toboni) to look out for. Trubel is plenty happy to help by stepping up and taking on Nick’s Grimm duties, the first time she’s really been around people who count on her. Nick allows her to do some of this because, after all, someone has to, and he’s not up to it right now. But she’s a kid and she’s not a cop; he has to be careful around her. Trubel still isn’t a main character, which worries me about her continued survival, and she is liable to throw herself too quickly into a situation, endangering herself and others. Trubel could cause more trouble than she already has.

The one benefit of Nick no longer being a Grimm is in his relationship with Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch). She is complaining about what his destiny does to their relationship, and she’s definitely still not over Nick sleeping with Adalind (Claire Coffee), no matter how cleverly Adalind tricks Nick. But will Juliette soon come to regret her wish? If Nick is no longer a Grimm, he may not bring threats around as often, but he’s also less prepared to protect her in a world they’ve already, irreversibly gotten involved in. I have faith their bond can survive, once Juliette has time to get over Nick’s ‘betrayal,’ but I’m not so sure a Grimm-less life is good for them.

Add to this more Viktor (Alexis Denisof) machinations, newlyweds skipping their honeymoon to help out a friend, and the aforementioned case-of-the-week, and GRIMM’s season premiere is incredibly jam-packed with all kinds of drama and going-ons, much of which cannot be answered in a single hour. Thankfully, GRIMM is smart enough to realize that and take its time in letting the involved tale come to fruition.

“Thanks for the Memories” isn’t as exciting as many of the other installments of the series, but it is solid in its storytelling and deals with the aftermath of last spring’s finale in an entertaining and appropriate way. That’s good enough for me. It doesn’t stand strongly on its own, but I prefer the serial style, anyway.

GRIMM airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

ARROW Goes to "Corto Maltese"

Article first published as ARROW Review Season 3 Episode 3 Corto Maltese on Seat42F.

Corto Maltese

In a move that feels overdue for the CW’s ARROW, even though it is only three episodes into its junior season, Oliver (Stephen Amell) travels to “Corto Maltese” to bring Thea (Willa Holland) home. Of course, a few other things happen, but the hour is mercifully free of Oliver’s flashbacks, instead just giving us a few glimpses of Thea over the past few months, and it’s a pretty solid hour, especially in terms of character focus.

Oliver and Thea’s relationship is broken because of all of the secrets Oliver keeps from her. He considers coming clean in “Corto Maltese,” but instead, gives her just a taste of the horrors of the time he spent missing, using that as a way to assure her he’s staying silent for her own good. This may be wise, as Diggle (David Ramsey) points out Thea would feel incredibly betrayed all over again if Oliver admitted to being the Arrow these past two years. But it seems to forestall the inevitable. Thea ran away this time when she was kept in the dark. What will she do the next time?

It is true that Oliver needs Thea, but one issue not raised in this episode is how revealing his secret might endanger Thea. In truth, she is in danger anyway, should any villain discover the man behind the mask. But Oliver wouldn’t want her on Team Arrow, right, constantly putting herself in danger?

Someone that could benefit from the support of the team is Laurel (Katie Cassidy). Oliver turns her away because he doesn’t want her to get hurt, but he clearly doesn’t see the determination in her eyes. Laurel is angry at her sister’s death and one hundred percent committed to avenging it, whatever that takes. She isn’t even tempted by alcohol anymore, so focused is she on her singular goal these days. Thus, after Oliver won’t help her, she turns to Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez, Power) for training. Now, Oliver will have no say over Laurel’s fate, which he could come to regret, even if he tries to keep her away from this life for her own good.

Diggle remains on Team Arrow, which is sort of odd because Oliver is giving up the hunt for Sara’s killer, the reason Diggle rejoined. I guess this can be explained because Diggle doesn’t really think Oliver is done with the search, and he wants to be there when the murderer is found. My guess is, given who shows up at the end of “Corto Maltese,” our heroes will begin their investigation anew next week.

Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) might not be available to help them, though. She has a new job, a good job with her own executive assistant, working for Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh). He even allows her time off, just after she starts, to hop over to The Flash spin-off to visit her now-out-of-a-coma friend. True, this week she keeps putting her job on hold to help her friends, but if Ray keeps treating her this well, making her feel appreciated, how long before she shifts her efforts to someone who rewards her for them? Ray is no Oliver, who blows her off for justifiable, but dumb, reasons.

This, of course, raises the question of Ray’s motivations. Sadly, “Corto Maltese” gives us no hint of those.

We do know Roy’s (Colton Haynes) reasons for accompanying Oliver and Diggle on their trip. He wants to see Thea again and apologize, as well as tell her that he just wants her to be happy. Roy is never bad to Thea, not really, but this side of him, caring and sweet, is a step forward. This is a man worthy of Thea, and because of that, viewers can renew their hope for the couple to reconcile, something that looked like it would never happen at the end of last season. Someone has to be happy, right?

Finally, we have Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman). Is he still evil? He’ll surely be following everyone back to the States, given that he’s now a main character on ARROW. He has formed a trusting bond with his daughter, Thea, albeit through brutal means. Does he really care for her? Does he want her to be his disciple in crime? Will he try to use her to execute some nefarious plot?

ARROW is doing a fine job this season setting up things to come and charting new paths for all of its players. “Corto Maltese” continues that trend.

ARROW airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Escapes the "Wolfhouse"

Article first published as MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Review Season 2 Episode 5 A Hen in the Wolfhouse on Seat42F.

ELIZABETH HENDSTRIDGE, IAIN DE CAESTECKER

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. pumps up the fan base with last night’s episode, “A Hen in the Wolfhouse.” In the exciting installment, much comes together as several of our central cast are imperiled or find their secrets dragged out into the open. Relationships are paid off and the danger level is heightened, which is probably what viewers of the superhero film spin-off have been hoping for.

To start with, Simmons’ (Elizabeth Henstridge) position within Hydra is compromised at the worst possible time, just after the evil new security chief, Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki, Friday Night Lights, About a Boy) shows up to hunt down a mole. Corned by Bobbi, things look dire for Simmons, and one can imagine this poor women being tortured. Simmons isn’t built for torture.

Then, lo and behold, Bobbi is secretly S.H.I.E.L.D., too, sent by Coulson (Clark Gregg) to protect Simmons! This not only shows us that Coulson still does are deeply about his people and makes backup plans for them, something in doubt in his new role as he distances himself, but also leads to some really great action sequences as Bobbi gets them away from Hydra. Not to mention, Hydra has been beating on the good guys, and “A Hen in the Wolfhouse” shows S.H.I.E.L.D. winning a hand. It’s gratifying all around.

Bobbi is a fun character, tough and caring, totally badass. Most of the team quickly takes to her when Coulson announces she’s joining them. The exception is Hunter (Nick Blood). Bobbi, it turns out, is the awful ex-wife Hunter constantly moans about. Is Hunter’s bitterness justifiable? We aren’t yet privy to the details of their union. It seems like Bobbi doesn’t hold the same grudge, since she is the reason Coulson recruited Hunter in the first place. Still, it’s great to see entertaining conflict between the two characters.

Another clash comes as Skye (Chloe Bennet) continues to push Coulson to reveal where the symbols she’s working on are coming from. Coulson is defensive, even after May (Ming-Na Wen) recommends he come clean, a real sign as to how much May has warmed to Skye. Eventually, Coulson has no choice because Skye is smart enough to figure things out, and soon she’s in the loop.

I like the tension between Coulson and Skye. Coulson is a good father figure to the young agent, whose own father (Kyle MacLachlan) hasn’t been around. Skye is angry that Coulson shuts her out, as she should be, but Coulson has his reasons. I see why May wants Coulson to bring Skye into his confidence, as she can help, but I also see why he resists, not just to cover his own butt, but to keep a needed hierarchy in place in the organization. It’s a complex situation, one MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. handles well, from the fall out to the confirmation that the fighting doesn’t destroy their underlying bond.

Another mystery opens up with this development, though: Skye has taken the same drug Coulson took, so why isn’t she scratching symbols? Skye’s backstory has been a long-running mystery on the show, one in which we only get small pieces at a time. By relating this now, and having her psychotic villain dad looking for her, the show is signaling a deeper delve into things. Given her father’s powers and Skye’s immunity to the chemicals, might she be of alien origin? That would be really cool! And there isn’t another conceivable explanation offered as of yet.

Unlike the rocky stuff above, Simmons and Fitz’s (Iain De Caestecker) reunion is a happy one, mostly. Fans have been longing for the two to get back together. However, what comes after the pair being in the same place again remains to be seen. Will this screw up Fitz’s budding friendship with guys in the group? How will the real Simmons being there impact Fitz’s hallucinations of her? Will Fitz stay upset about Simmons abandoning him? Did Simmons have a choice about leaving? They come together too late in “A Hen in the Wolfhouse” to begin exploring this yet.

All of these characters are handled extremely well this well, authentic to who they are, but also moving them forward. The same goes for recurring players like Raina (Ruth Negga), trapped between Whitehall (Reed Diamond) and Skye’s dad, who both wouldn’t mind seeing her dead. Coulson might be inclined to help her, but only if she brings some benefit to him, since she hasn’t done anything to earn Coulson’s trust in the past; quite the opposite.

Every hour of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t be as intense as “A Hen in the Wolfhouse.” Sometimes, the story needs to move slower so it can explain things. But overall, this is a very good show, and having episodes like this one pays off the patient fans who have been following along in a big way. It’s appreciated.

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"F-" NEWSREADERS

Article first published as NEWSREADERS Review Season 2 on Seat42F.

Newsreaders Season 2 Adult Swim

NEWSREADERS is back on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim this week for a second run! For those unfamiliar with the series, a semi-spin-off of Childrens Hospital, the name tells you pretty much exactly what it is. It’s a parody of a 60 Minutes-style news magazine, but delivered with tongue-in-cheek humor, sort of like The Onion. Basically, it’s very funny, so you should check it out.

The first episode back is called “F- Dancing, Are You Decent?” and is divided into several segments, despite its roughly ten-minute running time. In the first part, Amir LaRussa (Kumail Nanjiana, Portlandia, Franklin & Bash) examines a new trend sweeping teen pop culture of people actually having sex while dancing. In the second, a correspondent (Lost’s Harold Perrineau) proves people are racist, and when those walking by don’t reveal that ugly side of themselves right away, goes to extremes until they have a reaction that he can pervert into classifying as racism. There’s also a commentary from popular ‘old man’ Skip Reming (Ray Wise).

These segments are much the same as fans of the first season have come to expect. They go after a topic like a normal news reporter would, but then skew it far to the extreme, often with a weird twist few would think of, and milk it for it’s worth. All of the participants are in on the game; this isn’t just a ‘gotcha’ hidden camera show or a Daily Show-esque interview that some people could mistake as real. Instead, it’s completely scripted for maximum effect, and it lands.

The most obvious change in season two is that host Louis La Fonda (Mather Zikel) is sadly gone, though his replacement, Reagan Biscayne (Alan Tudyk, Suburgatory, Firefly), is a worthy successor. Reagan may not share Louis’ Kate Walsh obsession, but he does a fine job keeping the train on the tracks, introducing the various parts of the episode.

A level of social commentary pervades NEWSREADERS. When looking at “F- Dancing,” the trend is not all that far off from the way teenagers actually act. This lends an authenticity that allows the audience to relate to the joke, even if the particular way things are presented would never happen. They then take it a step further, showing what happens when the older generation joins in, and extending the commentary.

Now, the racism stuff is more poking fun at the way CNN and other news networks treat their reporting on racism, not actually pushing forth a political viewpoint as to whether racism is over or not. NEWSREADERS is clearly meant to make people laugh, not to effect change in our culture. It avoids judging anyone or anything real, setting itself in a crazy, fictional world.

The quality of the writing is apparent, and the talent attracted to this project further lends it gravity. Besides those listed above, Reno 911’s Tom Lennon and others appear in the first episode, with a rotating cast over the weeks, allowing many familiar faces to pop in for a spell. The way NEWSREADERS is shot allows a flexibility to include people who might not otherwise be available, given busy work schedules.

It’s difficult to evaluate a single episode of NEWSREADERS on its own. Perhaps if a bad one were ever aired, it would stick out, but instead, the program is consistent and full of small bits, not delivering a cohesive story, but not needing one. “F- Dancing, Are You Decent?” is as good as other installments I have seen.

The premiere episode of NEWSREADERS is available now on Adult Swim’s website, and fresh installments will be airing Thursday nights / Friday mornings at midnight on Cartoon Network.

No "Weeping" For SLEEPY HOLLOW

Article first published as SLEEPY HOLLOW Review Season 2 Episode 5 The Lady Weeping on Seat42F.

Sleepy Hollow 2x05 09

After last week’s disappointing go-round, it’s gratifying to witness SLEEPY HOLLOW’s return to form in tonight’s “The Weeping Lady.” A haunting figure from Ichabod’s (Tom Mison) past begins threatening the women he cares about. It’s not a creature-of-the-week story, though, as the plot ties into a number of threads for various characters, making the struggle matter to the much bigger picture.

“The Weeping Lady” opens with Ichabod hanging out with Caroline (Laura Spencer), who, as viewers may remember from last year’s season finale, is involved in historic re-enactments. The two have become friends, and this bond survives even after Caroline (justifiably) mistakes Ichabod for a single man with whom she could have a romantic entanglement. Sadly, this marks Caroline to be The Weeping Lady, Mary’s (Heather Lind, Turn: Washington’s Spies), first victim, and she’s soon dead.

It’s a shame Caroline bites it. I know Spencer is super busy these days, with roles on The Big Bang Theory and Bones, but she lets us see a side of Ichabod that no one else does. Their involvement in her hobby, which allows Ichabod to nostalgically revisit his own time, is sweet and moving. It’s also a break from the monsters and mayhem. I hope SLEEPY HOLLOW finds someone else to take Caroline’s place in the near future, even if the show risks repeating itself in developing characters.

After Caroline, Mary goes after Abbie (Nicole Beharie), of course, but Abbie survives. It doesn’t make a ton of sense that Abbie escapes what Caroline cannot, but that’s just one of those things viewers have to accept to enjoy a television show. Main characters usually survive; guest stars, not so much. Besides, we don’t really want to lose Abbie.

Finally, Mary learns of Katrina’s (Katia Winter) existence, and the spirit is no match for the witch, who manages to stop her once and for all. Katrina is a formidable foe for anyone, and no one else stands a chance at Ichabod’s heart while she is around.

Is that still true, though, after “The Weeping Lady?” Katrina reveals that she covered up Mary’s death in the past, and this is a final straw for Ichabod, who reams her out for all of the deceptions she has committed. Before the couple can work things out, Katrina goes home with Abraham (Neil Jackson) to protect her cover, further alienating Ichabod. Ichabod is too good a man to just end his marriage, but it’s something he should consider since Katrina is proving to be less than trustworthy and is certainly not around much. Her excuses make sense, but they are excuses, and there’s far too many of them.

While Ichabod’s relationship falls apart, Abbie’s is kicking off, her flirtation with Holly (Matt Barr) heating up. Or is it? Unfortunately, what Abbie doesn’t know is that Holly and her sister, Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood), have an existing physical relationship. Holly definitely prefers Abbie and rejects Jenny’s advances, but that won’t stop some major drama when the siblings learn that they have their eye on the same guy.

Henry (John Noble) slides into the episode because he brings Mary forth in an effort to thwart Katrina. He is subsequently chewed out royally by Moloch (D.J. Mifflin) for endangering Katrina because she’s an important part of his plan. This really starts to fill in some blanks in the overall mythology of SLEEPY HOLLOW and it’s very interesting to see where Henry fits in the villain hierarchy, perhaps a little lower than some might have thought.

The way all of these various character are interwoven, though, is by far the best part of “The Weeping Lady.” There’s a little bit for each of these players, complete with Revolution-era flashbacks, and they all seem to fit together like a well-made puzzle, interlocking, sometimes in unexpected ways, but all part of a singular vision. It really takes a team of brilliant minds to make a show this cohesive, and while not every episode of SLEEPY HOLLOW is perfect (last week’s stinker, for example), this is a fine example of the program at its best.

SLEEPY HOLLOW airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

ONCE UPON A TIME Might Want to "Apprentice" Itself to a Storyteller

Article first published as ONCE UPON A TIME Review Season 4 Episode 4 The Apprentice on Seat42F.

COLIN O'DONOGHUE, JENNIFER MORRISON

This week’s installment of ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME is called “The Apprentice.” Rumple (Robert Carlyle) tries to steal a magical box from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Timothy Webber, Men in Trees, Arctic Air) that would allow him to keep the Dark One’s powers, but without the limitations. Meanwhile, Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) have their first date, a thief plagues the town, and Elsa (Georgina Haig) searches the town census for signs of her missing sister.

I need to start this paragraph by saying I STRONGLY disapprove over the spoiling of Rumple’s character this year and last spring, negating his growth arc from the first couple of seasons. Still, at least “The Apprentice” finally offers a plausible explanation as to why Rumple cannot have a happy ending, mentioning that villains cannot find their bliss because that’s not how the storybook works. It would be nice if this were established before now, but still, at least it’s offered now. In Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) quest to end up with true love for herself, might she also show Rumple a way to finally, once and for all, get back to who he should be?

This week’s ONCE UPON A TIME doesn’t give us any positive signs in Rumple. His quest to get the box from the Apprentice is something every Dark One has attempted, as we see in a Zoso (Brad Dourif) flashback, and it is only done for evil purposes. Rumple is tricking Belle (Emilie de Ravin), the woman he supposedly loves, and taking out innocent men to get what he wants. These are not good signs.

Hook lets his inner villain out, too. It’s one thing for him to get his hand back (which, by the way, the fact that the hand is not really cursed is totally predictable), but it’s another for him to engage in a game of mutual blackmailing and lying with Rumple. True, Hook has never had that catalyst moment, as Rumple did, where he turns over a new leaf and truly proves himself, but fans of ONCE UPON A TIME don’t expect him to behave this badly. It’s a bit inconsistent for the character, and not a welcome development.

Henry’s (Jared Gilmore) actions also don’t make sense. Isn’t Rumple suspicious when his only grandchild, whom Rumple has strangely ignored for awhile despite Henry’s connection to Rumple’s beloved son, suddenly wants to spend time with him? Rumple is too bright to be fooled by the kid unless love blinds him, and there is no hint of that. Their family connection also should have been explored more fully before now, and that’s glaringly obvious when it is approach at this juncture.

The Frozen arc takes a sharp left turn this week when Anna (Elizabeth Leil) accomplishes her task of figuring out why her parents went to the Enchanted Forest and she returns home. One does not expect this, given Elsa’s efforts to find Anna, so there’s definitely more story in their land to tell. I like when the writers surprise me, which doesn’t happen every week on ONCE UPON A TIME, and that kicks this episode up a couple of notches.

Less enticing is the Snow Queen’s (Elizabeth Mitchell) behavior. She appears only briefly in “The Apprentice” to taunt Emma. It’s fine if the show is taking the slow-reveal approach and only giving us bits of the Queen’s motivation at a time. But it’s weird to get so much of her last week, and then just a brief look at her this one that has her behaving strangely with no discernable reason as to why she is doing so. That needs to sort itself out.

I’m sorry if this review has leaned negative, as I mostly liked it. There is just a lot more to say about the complaints than the impressive bits. There are lots of good things to say about “The Apprentice,” too, though. I love how Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas) make too big a deal over Emma’s date, the Lady and the Tramp reference at the restaurant, the hints about Will Scarlet’s (Michael Socha) true mission in Storybrooke, which has to be to find the Red Queen again, and the meta references where the characters basically acknowledge their storybook roots. This style of humor is exactly what the show should strive for more of, as it works extremely well for the premise and makes for entertaining dialogue.

“The Apprentice” isn’t a bad episode, but it’s not a great one either. It is very Rumple heavy, and I like his Dark One stories, but his behavior in Storybrooke is troubling, as is Hook’s. If the characters and tone were a little more consistent, that would improve the overall presentation a lot.

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

THE GOOD WIFE Remains "Shiny"

Article first published as THE GOOD WIFE Review Season 6 Episode 5 Shiny Objects on Seat42F.

Shiny Objects

CBS’s THE GOOD WIFE has a very intriguing recurring character in Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston), one they cannot resist bringing out on a fairly regular basis, thankfully. This week’s episode gives us a peek at the genius who is easily distracted by “Shiny Objects,” letting her take the opening of the hour, and showing glimpses of the way her brain works throughout. It is a fascinating.

Unfortunately, Elsbeth is not the focus of most of the hour. Don’t get me wrong; I really like “Shiny Objects” as an episode. It has some wonderful moments, exciting legal battles, and the type of compelling drama that THE GOOD WIFE is known for. The story is interesting and the characters are well-developed. It’s just, with the Elsbeth-centric opening, I was looking forward to more of the quirky lawyer, and am disappointed she is only in a few scenes, in a relatively minor capacity. Even her love interest, Josh (Kyle MacLachlan), showing up is barely a quick blip. She should get more.

It’s hard to point to one main plot for this week’s episode because there are several. Obviously, there’s the case where Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Dean (Taye Diggs) face Elsbeth in court is important. Then, there’s Kalinda’s (Archie Panjabi) reunion with Lana (Jill Flint), an FBI agent, which is connected to the tale of the law firm’s computer data being held for ransom and the search for the blackmailer. This also leads to Diane (Christine Baranski) having to face David Lee (Zach Grenier). And Alicia has to plan the important announcement of her candidacy. It’s a pretty full hour.

If pressed to pick a favorite subplot of “Shiny Objects,” other than the Elsbeth stuff, I’d have to go with the Diane vs. David Lee showdown. David Lee has an email that Diane needs. Diane still controls the lease for the office space David Lee uses. In recent struggles, Diane has been losing, but now she has a much bigger hand to play. She finally gets one over on him, getting him to give up the email in exchange for her consideration of transferring the lease, not a promise to do so, proving how much more important the lease is than the email. That should wipe the smirk of his smarmy face for an afternoon.

I have to say, though, I’ll be disappointed if Florrick, Agos, & Lockhart moves right back into the old Lockhart/Gardner building. Admittedly, the new space has plenty of flaws, but it’s been nice to get some fresh sets. I assume the former place would undergo some kind of makeover, if for no other reason than to provide three main spaces for the three named partners. But part of THE GOOD WIFE’s strength is that it keeps moving forward, and returning to Lockhart/Gardner would an uncharacteristic step back.

One thing that is not a step back, though it some ways it may appear to be, is the recreation of that famous Alicia / Peter (Chris Noth) press photo on stage. Now, it’s Alicia running for office and Peter supporting her, rather than The Good Wife standing by her cheating man. It’s not repetitive because the power dynamic has shifted so much, even though Peter still needs her more than she needs him, and Alicia has come quite far. It highlights Alicia’s arc and growth more than anything.

Unfortunately, this may also be the end of Alicia and Peter as a couple. They’ve never been all that solid, throughout the course of THE GOOD WIFE, but after Will’s death last year, things have been even more tense between them. When Alicia refuses to give in to Peter’s demand that Finn (Matthew Goode) not introduce her, it almost ends their arrangement, Peter being furious and not used to having to give in to Alicia. It shows us just how far apart the two have become, and makes any type of reconciliation, which is a long-shot before this anyway, totally unrealistic. I hope there are no shippers for the two of them left.

Speaking of shippers, Kalinda / Cary fans will be let down when Kalinda falls back into bed with Lana in “Shiny Objects.” Kalinda definitely cares much more for Cary and sees Lana as a tool she needs to use, and yes, sex is part of that. But I doubt Cary will understand if he confirms what he already suspects about the girls. And any hope that Kalinda could just pick up with Lana after losing Cary disappears when Kalinda finally feels something for Lana, but for the wrong reasons, driving Lana away.

Kalinda has, arguably, the messiest love life of any character on THE GOOD WIFE. Cary is her chance at stability, but (SPOILER ALERT!) since the actress is leaving the series at the end of the year, there’s virtually no chance of them ending up together. I feel like Kalinda only seems put together, and knows what she wants least of anyone. I’m rooting for her to find meaning by the time of her departure, as she deserves it.

“Shiny Objects” is not a “big event” episode (we’ll probably get one of those soon for November sweeps), but it is a fine hour of television, something THE GOOD WIFE manages to pull off most weeks, one of the few broadcast shows to do so. As long as they keep up this level of quality, I’ll watch them forever.

THE GOOD WIFE airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET. (or so, depending on football run-overs) on CBS.

New "Strangers" Among THE WALKING DEAD

Article first published as THE WALKING DEAD Review Season 5 Episode 2 Strangers on Seat42F.

The Walking Dead 5x02 2

AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD has conditioned us to be wary of any new face, as the group has been burned so often by “Strangers” in this post-apocalyptic landscape. That’s why, even as our group comes together more solidly, viewers are likely be nervous around the new cast member introduced this week, Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam, The Wire, Teen Wolf).

Fans of the comic book already know who Father Gabriel is, but that may not help them. While never yet introducing a comic villain as a hero or vice versa on TV, it’s bound to happen sooner or later, given the huge license the television writers take with the source material. Last night’s episode, “Strangers,” does a fine job of both introducing Father Gabriel, and making fans and characters alike suspicious of his intentions and back story. Could he really survive alone in the woods all this time? Why are there strange words written on the wall of the building? The car with the cross that kidnapped Beth (Emily Kinney) seems like it could easily be connected to him. These questions are not answered fully this week, but Gilliam already makes a strong impression with his memorable take on the character.

It’s pretty neat that our heroes still rescue Father Gabriel, despite what they’ve been through. Rick ignores a man Carl (Chandler Riggs) wants to help at the end of last season. Granted, that man is already being torn to bits and they likely couldn’t save him. But even after recently being badly betrayed by Terminus, they take a chance on this new guy, which is a sign their humanity remains intact, if skewed.

Rick’s “three question” test is usually a pretty good way to judge a person’s character, checking their attitude towards others. It doesn’t work on Father Gabriel. If he’s telling the truth, he hasn’t killed anyone, human or Walker. This makes him a very, very rare exception in a world where everyone kills to survive. Thus, he remains an enigma, which is an interesting new take for the story.

As Father Gabriel helps our people find food, the episode spends a lot of time smoothing out the dynamics of the group. The cast has spent quite awhile splintered, and only at the end of last week’s premiere, have they come back together again. This means no one knows that Carol (Melissa McBride) killed a girl. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) banished Carol previously; is that still a factor between them? Some may wonder why Tara (Alanna Masterson), who is seen with the Governor’s people, has joined them. Some characters have motivations that could pull them away from the rest. These are all burning questions that demand an answer.

“Strangers” starts giving us those answers, thankfully not making us wait weeks to deal with them. Rick and Carol have a lovely scene where Rick asks if they can all join Carol on the road. He doesn’t exactly apologize, but that is in the subtext of his words, and it’s obvious that he bears no grudge towards her. Can she get over the past and say the same? Well, the episode doesn’t tell us if Carol is mad or just no longer feels like part of the ensemble (it hints the latter), but she does try to sneak off on her own, so she isn’t fully integrated back in, at least not yet. Hopefully she will be soon.

Carol could be worried about what the others will think if they learn that she murdered a child. The only one that knows is Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), who seems to have forgiven her, and has no desire to remember it, nor tell anyone. Carol’s guilt would be the only thing blocking her here, but that just might be enough to do her in, as she’s, at heart, a good person.

So Carol tries to flee, and of course it’s Daryl (Norman Reedus) that goes after her. They are besties, if not more, and it would suck to see them separated again. Daryl won’t be willing to leave the others behind, even for her, but he also isn’t going to let her go without a fight. Their side trip to rescue Beth when they see the cross car only forestalls this confrontation, but whether Carol chooses to stay or go, at least we can look forward to at least one more adventure together for the two of them.

Tara’s path is smoothed by the fact that she saves Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) life and he vouches for her. Everyone likes Glenn, so if he says she’s good people, they’ll accept her. End of story.

What’s weird is the love triangle that seems to be brewing between Tara, Glenn, and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), considering Tara likes girls but she’s eyeing Glenn. I guess maybe sexuality gets a little more fluid when the choices are so limited, and saving one’s life creates a bond that defies gender? Still, I can’t help but feel that this dynamic may end up like the version of Carol in the comics – a young woman who wants to insert herself into a couple (it was Rick and Lori on the page) just so she isn’t alone in the scary reality, which is an understandable emotion, but not one Maggie and Glenn are likely to be willing to help Tara satisfy (as Rick and Lori refused Carol).

Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) has a different problem than the others. He is accepted well enough, but he has a mission to complete: get Eugene (Josh McDermitt) to Washington D.C. to save the world. Most of the group is sympathetic, but now that they have in Rick the leader they’d always hoped for, they all defer to him and will stand by him. Thus, Abraham only has to convince one man, albeit a man who isn’t very optimistic about their outlook, making it a hard sell. Abraham is right to bide his time, waiting for a moment where Rick will be willing to consider it, and by doing so, Abraham gets what he wants. He’s a smart cookie.

Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) is the one with the cheery outlook on life in “Strangers.” He keeps spinning things positively, and always wants one more kiss from Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). As a fan of THE WALKING DEAD, this signals his demise to me. He isn’t killed this week, but when he’s captured and his leg is amputated by The Hunters (Gareth (Andrew J. West) and his fellow Terminus survivors finally being confirmed to be this group), it’s not a surprise. No one is allowed to be so happy on this show. Bob’s cheeriness is his undoing.

There is a twist hinted at in “Strangers” concerning Bob. Remember, he leaves the church on his own volition and is crying when they find him. I think he was bitten in the basement, which I kept expecting to be revealed, but never was. What happens to people who eat the flesh of a man turning into a Walker? I think we’ll soon find out.

So much unfolds in one short hour, and so much of it is rich, character-driven stuff. THE WALKING DEAD is an excellent show because it can balance these dramatic moments with the action scenes, and by doing this well, “Strangers” is an excellent entry for the series.

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

THE 100 Bats Far Above "The 48"


TV Review: ‘The 100′ – ‘The 48′

Article first published as TV Review: 'The 100' - 'The 48' on Blogcritics.

Warning: The following contains some spoilers from the season premiere of The 100.

CW’s The 100 is back for a second season this week. As the premiere episode opens, our cast remains scattered after the chaos of the season-ending battle last spring. Clarke (Eliza Taylor) and forty-seven others have been taken below ground by a group of survivors trying to live much the same way people used to on Earth, hence the title of the hour, “The 48.” Octavia (Maria Avgeropoulos) lies dying from the poison arrow she is shot with, Raven (Lindsey Morgan) is stuck with an unexpected companion, and Bellamy (Bob Morley) tracks a captured Finn (Thomas McDonell) through the forest.

Clarke’s subplot gets the biggest focus, as one might expect, since she is the main protagonist. She wakes up in a white room, confused, not knowing where she is or how she got there. The 100 does a good job of communicating the terror of being in an unfamiliar environment, letting the audience see things through Clarke’s eyes, and only after a bit of action do we find out what’s going on.

Clarke soon meets Dante (Raymond J. Barry, Justified), the leader of the so-called Mountain Men. He and his people are generous, offering the ‘rescued’ teenagers clean clothing and good food. Much of the group is very happy to be there, but Clarke is suspicious, believing the whole thing is too good to be true. “The 48″ doesn’t tell us whether or not Clarke is right, as most smartly-written dramas keep us guessing, letting things unfold in such a way that Dante could be a hero, a villain, or something in between. It will be interesting to see how things with him play out.

Clarke’s story is intriguing, but The 100 is smart to divide its cast because it allows for other avenues to be explored at the same time. Various combinations of personalities can be tossed together, played with for awhile, then remixed to keep the story interesting. For example, Murphy (Richard Harmon) winds up spending time with one of our main group. No one likes him, but by constructing the story in such a way that a beloved cast member is forced to spend time with him, it allows the conflict needed for drama and keeps things moving along. Thankfully, “The 48″ doesn’t end this pairing in a predictable way, either.

What many viewers will be wondering throughout this initial installment is, where are those that fell to the ground from space? Abigail (Paige Turco) and Marcus (Henry Ian Cusick) do show up about two-thirds of the way through the episode. I won’t spoil where they enter or what they do, but one thing is definitely clear: their presence marks a shift in the balance of power. The kids, despite having been back on the planet for only a short time, have their own hierarchy and rules now. Does anyone really think their parents and elders will just join that framework? Of course not. Which makes for another thread I’m anxious to see more of.

Finally, there is one main character who appears to be done in last year’s season finale but is definitely not. I was quite surprised to see this person pop up in “The 48″ and I’m not sure exactly why the writers have decided to keep them. Yet, like most of the other story lines, this one is mysterious enough to draw one in, and I definitely look forward to seeing how the writers get this person out of the corner they’ve written them into.

I’ve striven to tease without revealing, but I found The 100‘s season premiere quite good. It picks back up nicely from where it leaves off, and it begins a number of new plots that should serve the show well.

The 100 airs Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. ET on the CW.

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF SHIELD "Face" Another Challenge

Article first published as MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Review Season 2 Episode 4 Face My Enemy on Seat42F.

CLARK GREGG, MING-NA WEN

On MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., in an episode titled “Face My Enemy,” Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen) go undercover to obtain an artifact that has the same strange markings Coulson has been carving. They are hampered by a familiar face with unknown motives. Meanwhile, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) may be the only one who can save the rest of the team when The Bus is sabotaged. But with his mental problems, is he up to the task?

“Face My Enemy” isn’t a relatively big episode, by any means. There are some nice character moments, but little movement on the larger arcs, the script mostly focused on a mission-of-the-week. This is disappointing as AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., like most shows, works best when it favors the overall story, rather than a procedural format. Hopefully, as in some of the rough episodes early in season one, the seeds planted this week will blossom into something more enticing as the year unfolds.

In looking at the characters, Fitz has the best plot. He is still stammering, still hallucinating Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), and growing very frustrated that he is no longer valued. I think he’s wrong that the others don’t care him, as they will do whatever they can to help, but he’s right that his importance is minimized, with a new lab being built without consulting him. These decisions may make sense logically, but Fitz’s feelings should be considered, too.

Fitz is determined to prove himself to be valuable once more. It’s no easy task, but an excellent opportunity presents itself when several lives, including his, are put on the line. Operating under pressure and strict time limits is a constant part of the job, and that’s when it’s most vital that Fitz step up. Thankfully, he does, working with Hunter (Nick Blood) in a couple of moving scenes that show Fitz not only getting better, professionally speaking, but starting to form new bonds of friendship, which will serve him well in his re-integration to the team.

At the same time that everyone on MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. is able to stop worrying about Fitz, they need to start worrying about Coulson. Coulson clearly wants to help himself, going out into the field personally to recover the artifact in “Face Me Enemy,” rather than just sending his people. Yet, he himself wants to discuss contingency plans, naming May heir apparent, a mantle she doesn’t want to shoulder, as she’d rather devote her resources to taking care of Coulson.

How much should one really be worried about Coulson? He keeps saying he doesn’t want to end up like Garrett, but Garrett was part of Hydra long before he took the medication. His issues went far deeper than the connection he shares with Coulson. Coulson may lose his judgment and reasoning skills, but as long as May is able to help him step down from the Director job, he doesn’t need a bullet in the head, Coulson’s suggestion for dealing with the problem. Why is he thinking in such extremes?

I sincerely hope MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t remove Coulson from the game. It’s hard to imagine the show without him, the writers already bringing him back from death to star in it. The characters on this show are not static, but there are plenty of directions to take Coulson in without killing him. Whether he is healed or descends into madness, there’s no reason to get rid of him any time soon.

Besides, Coulson will be needed. Whitehall (Reed Diamond) is demanding Raina (Ruth Negga) give him back the mysterious obelisk, and it looks like she’ll have to if she wants to live. In Whitehall’s control, there is no telling what the strange device will do. We’ll need all hands on deck, including Coulson’s.

Is it just my imagination, or is something sparking a little bit between Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Triplett (B.J. Britt)? There’s nothing overt, but an underlying tension seems to be present, and I’ll take this pairing. They are both young, hot, and capable. Why not?

There are plenty of enticing things in “Face My Enemy,” from the “reveal” of Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) to be Hyrda, to the reveal that he’s not actually Hydra, to May fighting a woman disguised as May (both played by Wen), to some lovely dialogue between May and Coulson. For an episode that really doesn’t go far enough into the mythology, it’s still pretty entertaining.

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

No "Oppo" For THE GOOD WIFE

Article first published as THE GOOD WIFE Review Season 6 Episode 4 Oppo Research on Seat42F.

Oppo Research

This week’s episode of CBS’s THE GOOD WIFE, “Oppo Research,” puts the recent legal drama on hiatus as the focus shifts to Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) campaign for State’s Attorney. That’s right, she’s running, and Eli (Alan Cumming) sets her up with a campaign manager named Johnny Elfman (Steven Pasquale, Rescue Me). Together, the three begin laying out what Alicia’s campaign will look like, starting with the bad stuff, which is much more of a problem than Alicia, or perhaps the viewer, expects.

There are plenty of people in Alicia’s life that could spell trouble for her. Her mother, Veronica (Stockard Channing), isn’t the most put-together woman, and there is video of her spanking a (horrible, misbehaving) child. Alicia’s husband, Peter (Chris Noth), hasn’t always been faithful, and because their separation isn’t public, it’s quite likely that he is sleeping with someone and it will look like he’s cheating. We learn in “Oppo Research” he isn’t fooling around with his slutty intern, whom Eli takes great joy in firing, but Peter could be sleeping with the intern’s mother. These two will probably flare up with more issues as the story unfolds.

Worse is Alicia’s brother, Owen (Dallas Roberts), who is seeing a married bareback gay porn star. Alicia doesn’t confront Owen about this in a mean way; instead, she is worried about his safety. But even raising the issue causes him to storm out. It’s really a shame that this should come between them, though Owen would have a right to be mad at Alicia for dragging him into the public eye without his consent. Let’s hope they work it out.

She also has a big problem with her son, Zach (Graham Phillips), who she learns had a secret abortion. Alicia is so furious at Zach that she essentially cuts him off, just asking him to support her in the media’s eye. We’ve never seen Alicia like this, though her anger is understandable, her son having been lying to her for quite awhile. Can she repair her relationship with Zach? He’s one with a track record of being trouble while thinking he’s doing the right thing, righteous stupidity. Combined with the now-chilly relationship, this can’t be good.

Alicia herself is by and large a good person. That’s why the name of the show is THE GOOD WIFE, and when considering her personally, there isn’t much dirt to dig up. She is moral, and while some may have a problem with her atheist leanings (a real life political landmine that shouldn’t be, in my opinion, being one myself), she does the right thing the vast majority of the time. Her slip ups are minor and average.

But even she does not escape the smear. Before even announces she’s entering the race, she is already set up for a DUI test (which she passes easily) in full front of the public eye, and stories about her alcoholism (which isn’t true; she isn’t an alcoholic) are spread. This goes to show that even someone as good as Alicia is at risk of being torn down during a campaign, a regrettable fact that only paints her opponent in a more negative light, which is saying something, since he’s already known to be total scum; the main reason Alicia is getting into politics is to keep him out of a position he doesn’t deserve.

The question I’m left wondering, and I’m sure it’s intentionally painted that way, is, is Finn (Matthew Goode) betraying Alicia? She is meeting him for a drink just before she is pulled over. Technically, he works for her opponent. While he claims that he wishes her nothing but the best and that their fights in court are merely a part of the job, what if he’s turned?

Now, I don’t really think that, of course, but you can be sure the thought will cross Alicia’s mind, and if not hers, than Elfman’s. This makes Finn look very bad. Thus far, Finn is painted only as a good guy on THE GOOD WIFE, and if he ends up being crooked, I will be very surprised. But the implication may be enough to stir up trouble.

And, of course, there’s Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter), a drug dealer that Alicia represents. She tried to fire him, and once he finds out why, he not only lets her, but forms a secret PAC to support her. Alicia has never liked Lemond and it’s likely she sees the campaign as a good excuse to be rid of him once and for her. His thwarting of her efforts, tying her even more firmly to him, will come back to hurt her in the end. It’s not Alicia’s fault she’s in this position, exactly, but I don’t see any way for her to come out of it smelling good.

So, with all of this in mind, should she run? It’s a little late to ask that, since she’s pulled the trigger, but I’m more divided now than ever. One wants to see her move up in life, and the arc ramped up on “Oppo Research” gives the show new ways to grow, exploring fresh plot avenues. Unfortunately, this is also a way more cruel game than Alicia is used to playing and I worry what might happen to her in the heat of battle. One thing is for sure, this will not be a boring year.

THE GOOD WIFE airs Sunday evenings on CBS around 9 p.m. ET. Air times may vary based on sports run-overs.