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Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Crossed" At THE WALKING DEAD

Article first published as THE WALKING DEAD Review Season 5 Episode 7 Crossed on Seat42F.


Not a lot happened on last night’s THE WALKING DEAD on AMC. Sometimes, the show does slow-burn, character-heavy episodes that don’t advance things a lot, but this episode, “Crossed,” is not that because no one is featured for very long. It has the full cast in it, so the action is split between many different settings, not allowing a lot of time for anything to happen to anyone. I hate to say this, because I have no specific complaints about what does play out on screen, but that makes this hour my least favorite of the season, though it is still the best series on television overall.

“Crossed” is really part one of a two-part finale, which has been built up to over the past few weeks. I think it would have benefitted from airing as a two-hour finale, rather than splitting the story over two nights. That way, the big showdown could be in the same installment, making it feel worth it to go through the slower parts. But in a mere seven days, we’ll get that conclusion.

The most central story in “Crossed” finds Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and Noah (Tyler James Williams) heading in to Atlanta to rescue their people from the clutches of Dawn (Christine Woods). They disagree about how to do so, though. Rick wants to go in and slice throats, whereas Tyreese and Daryl favor capturing a couple of Dawn’s officers and trading hostages. Outvoted, Rick gives their plan a chance.

It’s interesting to see how the power structure on THE WALKING DEAD frequently shifts. Rick is the undisputed leader, but some of the group try a lot harder than Rick to hang onto their humanity. It’s a testament to Rick that he listens to those people, and even though the plan doesn’t seem to be going as smoothly as one might hope, he’s not a dictator who changes course at the first sign of trouble. Bob’s legacy lives on in those who support peace and diplomacy over violence.

Of course, not everyone is a part of the group and will see things that way. Father Gabriel’s (Seth Gilliam) subplot this week finds him ripping up floorboards to escape the church. The fact that he struggles mightily with the first Walker he encounters and can’t bring himself to kill it may send him scrambling back to the safety of the group; at least, I hope so. It’s telling, though, that he thinks he must sneak out of the church, rather than walk out the front door. It’s good that Rick is tough, but he needs to be careful about how he presents himself, lest he continue to scare off new recruits.

Back in Atlanta, Sasha allows herself to be comforted by Tyreese, then softens towards a prisoner, Bob Lamson (Maximiliano Hernandez, the Marvel franchise), who appears to be cooperating. This lets Lamson get the drop on her and escape. Will that harden Sasha’s heart again and remove what trust she is gaining towards others?

I hope not. Lamson could seriously hurt or kill Sasha, but he doesn’t. He merely knocks her unconscious and escapes. He’s afraid, and justifiably so. Surely, she can see that point of view and not blame him too harshly?

Lamson gives me an idea about an alternate climax than a bloody battle. Noah proclaims Lamson one of the good guys, and that judgment seems reasonable. Might some of Dawn’s people join up with our group? Maybe even Dawn herself? Hear me out. While Dawn rules in a brutal fashion, she is trying to keep people alive. If she sees there’s another way and can unload from herself that heavy mantle of responsibility, maybe she can get along. Unlike other groups, the hospital people aren’t totally evil. They don’t torture and usually don’t kill. Noah might not want Dawn to join up, but that seems the best outcome, even if it’s iffy that Dawn will give up what she sees as a safe haven. Unless that haven is destroyed, of course.

We actually do see a little of Dawn’s softer side in “Crossed” when she gives Beth (Emily Kinney) the keys to the medicine cabinet, allowing Beth to help Carol (Melissa McBride). Instead of resenting the prisoner who almost escapes, Dawn seems to have developed respect for Beth, finally seeing her as strong, a characteristic Dawn respects. That is the thread of hope in her that makes me believe a peaceful resolution is a possibility. As long as Rick doesn’t go in guns blazing, that is.

Elsewhere, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) remains unconscious and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) doesn’t move. It takes Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to get through to Abraham in a tough love approach. Abraham has lost hope and he surely feels guilty for hurting Eugene. But amazingly, he does want to live. THE WALKING DEAD so far paints him as someone who might become somewhat suicidal once his mission is taken away. I’m glad that doesn’t end up being the case once he has to take a long look at what that would mean.

Tara (Alanna Masteron) says it best when she points out that one can’t blame Eugene too much for using the one tool he has at his disposal to stay alive. Glenn (Steven Yeun) seems to agree with her, and Maggie covers Eugene from the sun, so the group isn’t abandoning Eugene. Rosita (Christian Serratos), perhaps accidentally, proves Eugene’s usefulness in the skills he taught her. Eugene screwed up big time, but it doesn’t appear he’ll be abandoned, nor does he really deserve to be.

So what’s next for the mid-season finale? I assume at least one main character (Sasha?) will die and the hospital plot will be over. But THE WALKING DEAD has proven over and over again that it’s not predictable, so the only logical thing to do is to hold tight and wait to see what happens.

THE WALKING DEAD’s mid-season finale airs next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

THE GOOD WIFE Goes to "Trial"

Article first published as THE GOOD WIFE Review Season 6 Episode 10 The Trial on Seat42F.


It’s finally the day of “The Trial” for Cary (Matt Czuchry) on CBS’s THE GOOD WIFE. Unfortunately for him, trials do not happen in a vacuum, and there are a number of exterior factors that affect various parties involved. Meanwhile, a joke note that Alicia (Julianna Margulies) writes ends up in the wrong hands, becoming a problem for her campaign. Will she compromise her morals to save it?

We all realize that judge, juries, and lawyers have lives outside of court, but rarely does a television show ever present those stories. THE GOOD WIFE chooses to do so here when the stakes are high. Judge Richard Cuesta (David Paymer) is trying to score Neil Diamond tickets for his anniversary. One juror (Zak Orth, Revolution), perhaps the one most sympathetic to Cary, has to read lips to understand what is being said. The prosecutor, Geneva Pine (Renee Elise Goldsberry), is watching her marriage fall apart because of an affair. None of these things should influence the trial, but they do.

It’s this level of authenticity and whole-world outlook that sets THE GOOD WIFE apart. Sure, Cary’s trial may not be the most convenient time for this to happen, but the truth is, it’s a factor in every single case. People are only human, and humans have messy lives with separate areas that bleed into one another. That’s no stopping that, so it’s nice to see it illustrated so nicely.

Interestingly, though, none of the elements mentioned above actually affect the outcome of the case. They all have the potential to do so, but they don’t, at least not in any meaningful way. The trial stands on the evidence presented, some factual, much circumstantial. But it’s what’s laid out for the jury to consider that matters most. So maybe THE GOOD WIFE is trying to show us that, even in a distracting world, justice can still be served.

Of course, Cary going back to jail is not justice. Viewers know this, Cary knows this, Cary’s friends know this. The judge and jury do not. The case against Cary is awful, and even when Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) finds a way to force the one witness who can help Cary, Dante (Mark Green), onto the stand, said witness is intimidated to lie, torpedoing Cary’s chances of being acquitted. It’s frustrating, but the jury could be completely forgiven for finding Cary guilty based solely on what is presented to them in court.

At the end of “The Trial,” Cary pleads guilty. We don’t see any further than that, and we’re left to assume Cary is going to prison for at least two years. I don’t think that’s what is happening, though, because THE GOOD WIFE can’t send away one of its best characters for such an extended period of time. What I am hoping is that Cary is taking the other deal, pleading guilty with time served in exchange for testifying against Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter). Cary is terrified of Bishop, and turning against him would not only endanger Cary’s life, but go against his ethical code as a lawyer.

The reason Cary might take the deal is for Kalinda. If no one stops Bishop, she is dead. Kalinda goes into Bishop’s home and threatens to have his son taken away. Kalinda is still alive because she took steps to protect herself in that moment. But Bishop didn’t give in to the blackmail and will come after her. Jailing Bishop is the only way to save Kalinda, and even that might not work because his reach is long.

It’s time for THE GOOD WIFE to have all of its characters turn against Bishop. Kalinda and Alicia need to step up and testify, too, supporting Cary. They need a strong enough case to put Bishop away for a long time. These characters uniting would be a grand, triumphant moment, reaffirming how much they care about each other, which we do see in several excellent moments in “The Trial,” and stopping a very bad man once and for all. It has to happen. Doesn’t it?

Alicia’s subplot is another example of the ridiculousness of politics. Alicia’s quote from a TV show, written down to make her daughter, Grace (Makenzie Vega), laugh, is accidentally shown to the wrong person and taken out of context. Then, a conniving teacher and principal leverage it to gain political favor. When they can’t get that from Alicia, they get it from Peter instead, which Alicia doesn’t like any better. This is a dirty, ugly business, and like the trial, it is just not fair.

The benefit of this plot, though, is that it gives us more wonderful scenes with Eli (Alan Cumming) and Johnny (Steven Pasquale), who make a terrific combo. From the moment they find out this is a real crisis, through how they handle it, they deliver the humor that THE GOOD WIFE wisely uses in combination with its dark drama, making for a very well-put-together episode overall.

It also provides yet another scene in which we can’t tell if Prady (David Hyde Pierce) is a jerk or not. He may not have intentionally attacked Alicia, but he refuses to walk comments back, which says something. He could offer to negate his words about school violence as they pertain to Alicia if Alicia denounces the homosexual rumors surrounding him. He doesn’t. I still don’t know if he genuinely wants the campaign to be clean, but he’s not giving it his all to keep it that way.

“The Trial” also has some good Alicia / Finn (Matthew Goode) stuff as they try to avoid getting romantic, and end up in a romantic cliché. Their being a couple is another thing that “has to happen,” and while the writers are finding authentic ways to delay the inevitable, fate seems determined to see them together.

This week’s installment is yet another example of how excellent THE GOOD WIFE can be, combining a plethora of great characters with brilliantly interweaving story. The plot is carefully constructed to keep things tense and allow surprises, and the story is very engaging. Well done.

THE GOOD WIFE airs Sundays at 9 p.m.-ish ET on CBS.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I "Cry" For GRIMM

Article first published as GRIMM Season 4 Episode 5 Cry Luison on Seat42F.


This week’s GRIMM on NBC is called “Cry Luison.” Luison is a variation of the werewolf mythology, used primary in Paraguay and other Guarani-speaking cultures. Which means, roughly, there is a South American werewolf on the loose, terrorizing people. To be more accurate, there are multiple werewolves, and they’re only terrorizing one woman, whom no one believes when she mentions said wolves. But you get the point.

Once more, a large chunk of GRIMM is given over to a formulaic plot. Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) investigate the woman’s case in a story that really has nothing to do with the larger mythology, save for letting views know that Blutbads aren’t the only wolf-type Wesen out there. It’s very standard fare, Nick still not having his Grimm powers, and Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) just helping out a bit, as is often the case.

I wish GRIMM would stop doing this. There are subplots in “Cry Luison,” which I’ll get to in a minute, that are very good. But GRIMM is a genre show and should start acting like it. Forcing crime procedural stories into this structure is unnecessary and annoying. Perhaps it seems worse this fall after a long-arcing tale last spring that abandoned the standard format. But I’d hoped GRIMM had moved beyond that and am very disappointed that it hasn’t.

Now, while Nick, Monroe, and Hank are off on this, there are a number of other, much more interesting, stories playing out. Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) has to decide if she wants to temporarily look like Adalind (Claire Coffee) and have sex with Nick so he can be a Grimm again. Adalind is trying to escape a prison that messes with her mind. Trubel (Jacqueline Toboni) secretly protects Nick when Bud (Danny Bruno) blabs about Nick losing his Grimm powers. Renard (Sasha Roiz) speaks to his mom (Louise Lombard) about his daughter. All of these could be expanded and made to fill up an episode, and probably should be.

Juliette’s decision is a hard one. Nick doesn’t want to tell her he misses being a Grimm, but surely she knows him well enough to figure that out. Plus, she overhears the trouble Bud causes, so she’ll see the wisdom in in helping Nick get back to fighting form. But she would like a chance at a normal life, which Nick does want to give her. And she’d have to look like Adalind while having sex with Nick, which brings up oh so many bad emotions, especially jealousy and anger. What will she do?

I think it’s almost certain that Juliette will go through with this. She has to, to keep the premise of the series going. Plus, Nick’s calling is noble, so she would be petty to stand in the way of it. She has her own heroic part to play by sacrificing the life she thinks she wants for Nick. Besides, she has Wesen friends now, too, so surely she doesn’t want to leave them behind, as detestable as the act will be to undo the spell.

Nick’s talk about moving away and giving up the Wesen-hunting calling in “Cry Luison” is only talk. Were he to follow through, there would be no show. However, he really should mention to Monroe how hard it will be to leave friends behind. I feel bad for Monroe when Nick is going on about this choice without bringing up the strong bond they share.

I’ve missed having Bud around, who has been seen sparsely in the past season or so. “Cry Luison” doesn’t make it easy to miss him, though. I know he’s a little talkative and that’s always been a weakness of his. But he has to know that blabbing the particular secret that he does is a huge mistake. Bud feeling bad isn’t enough punishment. GRIMM should take this element and run with it, giving Bud a good story to enact change and growth for himself. They probably won’t, though.

Adalind’s prison experience is cool enough that it doesn’t completely seem like filler, though that’s primarily what it is. Last week’s near-death disaster turns out to be a hallucination, and it isn’t the last one she has. If her going through this ordeal doesn’t convince Viktor (Alexis Denisof) she’s telling the truth, I don’t know what will. I’m actually feeling sorry for her, even when she disobeys the Key, because motherly instinct would be hard to shut out and she doesn’t have a reason to trust him, anyway.

Once more, Wu’s (Reggie Lee) involvement in the supernatural world is kicked down the road. Renard mentions to Nick that Wu’s investigation into Trubel must be stopped, but “Cry Luison” doesn’t go any further than that. Is Wu really content to let things simmer this long? Come on already!

“Cry Luison” has good elements, but isn’t a great episode overall. After some excellent runs, it’s sad to see GRIMM decline in quality this year. I hope the change is temporary.

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

Monday, November 24, 2014

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Want "Things"

Article first published as MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Review Season 2 Episode 8 The Things We Bury on Seat42F.


ABC’s MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. looks into “The Things We Bury” this week. Coulson (Clark Gregg) pushes the team to find the city he’s been sketching, which draws them into a secret about Hydra hidden for decades. At the same time, Ward (Brett Dalton) pays his brother, Christian (Tim DeKay), a visit to talk about a troubling childhood memory.

Little did viewers know that when Ward tells a story of brothers at a well last year that it would have such lasting effects. It’s a tragic tale, to be sure, but one that has apparently stuck with Ward even more deeply than he let on. Having escaped from confinement, he captures his brother and forces Christian to admit the truth about what happened. For some reason, it’s vitally important to Ward that Christian fess up.

But with Ward clearly off his rocker, is Christian finally admitting something he lied about, or is he just saying what Ward wants to hear? That’s impossible to tell. We know this event hurt Ward, but we don’t know why yet. Is this something intended to be explored further, which it begs to be, given its importance to a core character? Or will it be dropped now that Christian is (unfortunately) dead, the purpose Ward needed him for fulfilled?

Everything in MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to come back around, which gives me hope for the above question. More central to this element in “The Things We Bury,” though, is Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond). Daniel is alive back in the time of Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) and the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D. This installment shows his experiments with the obelisk, his triumphant mission to unlock the secrets of youth from an ageless woman (Dichen Lachman, Diamond’s Dollhouse co-star, also killed off too soon), and how he escapes confinement, decades after being locked up.

Whitehall is a great villain because of the rich history and his connections to the past. “The Things We Bury” gives us a quick version of his story, and may be the only exploration of his past we’re going to get. But it’s enough. We understand his motivations, we understand his arc, and we understand what our heroes are facing. What a terrific, developed character!

Whitehall works through agents, though, rather than running into the field himself. When Coulson and company arrive at a base in Australia to search for the lost city, it’s not Whitehall who is there to confront them, but Skye’s father, The Doctor (Kyle MacLachlan). The Doctor is a cool henchman because he has his own purpose and goals, but serves Whitehall well at this juncture. There is always the potential for The Doctor to step up into his own, however that seems unlikely, given the way he interacts with others. He likes to manipulate and play games, but he doesn’t seek to conquer anyone. At least not yet. The city could change that.

I do wonder if Coulson should take a lesson from Whitehall about sending others to do the dangerous work. Coulson is a good man who wouldn’t ask his people to do anything he wouldn’t do, which is fine. And he’s eager to uncover the truth, so has a hard time holding himself back. But he is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. now. That’s an important position in an agency that’s only beginning to rebuild itself. I’m not saying it wouldn’t find a way to go on without him, but right now he’s pretty instrumental in what S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing. He shouldn’t be on the front lines. He’s too important.

“The Things We Bury” is a solid episode with lots of fun moments, which MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. wonderfully blends together with the darker and more dramatic plots. I love the tension between Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Hunter (Nick Blood), and how that resolves. It’s cool how Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) worries us when he can’t quite hit a time target, only to reveal he’s healed enough that he’s been using his bad hand to challenge himself. These little bits give the series that special kick it needs, and combined with the whole, make for a show I usually look forward to watching.

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

SLEEPY HOLLOW Wants Its "Mama"

Article first published as SLEEPY HOLLOW Review Season 2 Episode 9 Mama on Seat42F.



FOX’s SLEEPY HOLLOW introduces viewers to the “Mama” this week. Mama Lori Mills, that is, mother of Jenny and Abbie. She is haunting Tarrytown Psychiatric Hospital, the setting of many a SLEEPY HOLLOW scene, presumably urging patients to kill themselves. Our heroes take the official police case, well-suited to the supernatural component that no one else knows about or is willing to admit.

Lori Mills (Aunjanue Ellis, The Mentalist, The Help) is someone oft-talked about, but never seen. We know she was crazy, and that the demons she wrestled with deeply affected her daughters, who were taken away and placed in foster care. We suspect, given what those daughters have found out as adults, that Lori’s ghosts were real, though, and that she had a firmer grasp on reality than anyone knew, but just didn’t know how to deal with it. “Mama” clears up a lot of the details in that theory and reveals quite a bit about Lori.

The mystery itself, where Abbie (Nicole Beharie) and Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) investigate their mother’s connection to several recent deaths, isn’t anything special. Since Abbie and Jenny are good, it makes sense that Mama Mills is, too. Besides, a prime suspect, Nurse Lambert (Cynthia Stevenson, Men in Trees, Dead Like Me), who seems a little too sweet, is introduced right away in “Mama.” When Lambert shows up in the abandoned wing, Abbie may be too distracted to think that’s strange, but it immediately confirms her to the even moderately discerning viewer as the real culprit.

Why “Mama” succeeds, though, is the emotional heft bringing Lori into the story delivers. Sure, it could have been a little weightier if saved until a crisis point in one or both of the girls’ lives. But it feels more realistic (if that words applies to SLEEPY HOLLOW) to bring her in during a ‘typical’ week. It makes Abbie and Jenny confront their childhood and their memories, and gives them deeper understanding of where they come from. Lori fought the demons, too, and it allows them to bond, especially in the teary farewell sequence, in a way the family never has. There is love, understanding, and acceptance.

“Mama” is a side trip from the main plot, and Lori isn’t likely to pop up again soon, if ever. However, it’s a strong touch point in the growth of these characters, so is important and makes the episode far more intriguing than if the ghost had just been a random person.

Ichabod (Tom Mison) is sidelined for most of the hour, which does seem a little convenient, given the Mills story. The way SLEEPY HOLLOW gets around this is by making Ichabod sick, which leads to numerous amusing scenes as the ailment is played for laughs. I’ll hand it to the writers; when they are on their game, they can dress up a story in the best of fashions.

Hawley (Matt Barr) also shows up, now cast as the helpful boyfriend. He assists the Mills without asking for anything, and even brings Ichabod, whom he clearly is lukewarm, at best, on in the hand-holding séance, soup. It doesn’t seem like Hawley and Abbie are official yet, and Abbie learning Hawley used to sleep with Jenny will be the false drama that delays them. But they are firmly on the road to coupledom, which is welcome.

Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) is in “Mama,” too, of course, being a resident at Tarrytown Psych. He is one of the intended victims, though that death would be far too pedestrian to actually stick, and so he is saved. More importantly, though, he uses the going-ons as an opportunity to escape, hopping into Abbie’s vehicle as she leaves the facility.

I’d think the other characters would be happier to see him out. Irving’s soul does belong to Moloch, but he’s a friend who has been wrongfully imprisoned. Surely, he’ll be more help out in the world than behind bars. But I guess they also have to hide him, and that could get them in trouble, which leads to Abbie’s reticence. Oh, well. She’ll get over it. Though isn’t Irving staying in to protect his daughter? Doesn’t his leaving endanger her?

In Casa de Henry, Katrina (Katia Winter) is goaded into holding baby Moloch, who appears to be a normal sweet child. In SLEEPY HOLLOW, things are not always as they seem, and the infant is an illusion, created by Katrina’s necklace that allows her to see Abraham as he was, rather than the Headless Horseman he has become. The baby makes her neck scaly and gross, which she can’t help but notice.

I’m glad the baby does this to Katrina because it destroys any fantasies she may have of doing motherhood over again. Surely she can now resist any pull the infant has over her and do what must be done, quickly concocting a potion to stop him. She doesn’t count on his rapid growth into a child, but that shouldn’t change her plan, should it? Her pause at the end of “Mama” has to just be from shock, right?

“Mama” is not the best SLEEPY HOLLOW episode, but by layering lots of good things on top of a formulaic framework, fans will probably be distracted enough not to notice. The character development is rich and the mythology is satisfying, which leaves one with an overall good impression of the installment.

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

TV Review: THE GOOD WIFE "Sticky Content"

Article first published as THE GOOD WIFE Review Season 6 Episode 9 Sticky Content at Seat42F.


Despite the easy dirty jokes that can be made at the title of this week’s installment of CBS’s THE GOOD WIFE, “Sticky Content,” which just happens to be the ninth episode of season six, the hour is, in fact, quite serious. The FBI plays Cary (Matt Czuchry) a tape of Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter) ordering his execution. Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) works to verify the authenticity of the recording. Meanwhile, Alicia (Julianna Margulies) considers what type of campaign ads to run.

I am terrified that THE GOOD WIFE might kill Cary. On one hand, he seems far too vital to the story to do away with. Just last year, the show killed off someone just as important, which does set precedent, but it seems too early to repeat the stunt. But Cary is a rich character who the writers have dumped on in the past for good drama, and there’s always a chance the show will go there.

Cary thinks the tape is fake, and I’m inclined to agree with him, given all the static on the tape and the untrustworthy way law enforcement has been portrayed this season. But, after Lemond sees Carter Greyson (Victor Williams, The King of Queens), the body guard the firm hires for Cary, the threat becomes quite real, if it wasn’t already. Why else would Cary have a bodyguard for than if he is turning on Lemond and needs protection from the drug dealer?

Cary stupidly goes to confront Lemond one-on-one, just as Kalinda confirms that the tape is real. It may not be the wisest decision Cary can make, but at least he has guts to directly confront Lemond. Cary’s frankness may rise from desperation, which makes him no less brave for laying his cards on the table. It’s one of the best scenes in recent memory from THE GOOD WIFE, which has plenty of excellent contenders for this category, a moment full of tension and pregnant pauses, with both actors involved doing brilliant work.

Cary leaves this meeting apparently feeling reassured, but I’m not sure why. Surely he knows he can’t trust what Lemond says in “Sticky Content.” Lemond doesn’t have the same moral code most of us do, and I would not put lying past him in the slightest. Even when he admits the truth, or part of the truth, to Cary, there is a nagging suspicion he plans on going through with the execution order, maybe even more so than before. If I were Cary, I would not sleep soundly any time soon, even if Lemond should be put behind bars.

I do think it may be time for Cary to cooperate with investigators. Past time, in fact. Having Lana (Jill Flint), Kalinda’s girlfriend, present when Cary, Kalinda’s boyfriend, is played the tape is dumb and brings messy emotions into the mix, which at least contributes to Cary’s resistance. It could also hurt Cary’s legal career to flip on a client. But with a man as cold and dangerous as Lemond, getting him off the streets is necessary. Though the outcome here would have to be witness protection for Cary, which would remove him from the show as surely as killing him does.

The ending of “Sticky Content” shows Lana is likely in trouble for leaking the tape to Kalinda. I don’t care. Lana is whiny and needy and Kalinda belongs with Cary. Though a fired Lana could provide someone for Kalinda to run away with for a happy ending when she departs later this season, which would be acceptable.

In the B story, Frank Prady (David Hyde Pierce) asks Alicia to keep the campaign clean, much to chagrin of Alicia’s campaign manager, Johnny (Steven Pasquale), and advertising editor, Josh Mariner (David Krumholtz, Numb3rs). Can she take him at face value? I want to believe him, as he seems like a decent guy. Alicia’s distrust of him in a previous episode have biased me against him, though. Her wariness is based on circumstantial evidence, and THE GOOD WIFE has not revealed whether he is noble or not. But I have a hard time knowing if I should root for him.

Prady is just one of Alicia’s obstacles in “Sticky Content.” Seeing Peter (Chris Noth) with Ramona (Connie Nielsen) sparks some jealousy in Alicia, almost sending her into the arms of Finn (Matthew Goode). She stops herself, but not by much. Alicia’s later cold dismissal of Peter, telling him she’s annoyed that he threatens their political careers, is insincere, covering her pain. But might she finally be ready to move on from the dead marriage, getting over Peter once and for all? If so, Finn seems a good choice for moving on with.

It does certainly look like Alicia is slowly getting more comfortable with politics. She does have some trouble recreating a sincere moment, but the fact that she listens to her advice guys and lets them play on her sympathetic moments shows a change within Alicia. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, politics being a dicey arena, but growth is always welcome, and it will probably make Alicia a tougher competitor in all areas of her life.

“Sticky Content” is another great episode of THE GOOD WIFE, providing engaging plot, intense drama, and enjoyable moments. I’m glad the show has continued to stay at the top of its game, still not having come down from last year’s high benchmark.

THE GOOD WIFE airs at 9 p.m.-ish (depending on football) Sundays on CBS.

ARROW Struck By Cupid's "Bow"

Article first published as ARROW Review Season 3 Episode 7 Draw Back Your Bow on Seat42F.



It must be Valentine’s Day on the CW’s ARROW because Cupid, a.k.a. Carrie Cutter (Amy Gumenick, TURN: Washington’s Spies), has arrived in Starling City and has her eye on a certain hero. Friends may tell Oliver (Stephen Amell) to “Draw Back Your Bow,” though, because this Cupid cutie is more than a little nutso, as her real name also indicates, and she embarks on a killing spree to get his attention. Not exactly a match made in heaven.

Gumenick is deliciously delightful as Cupid. Her character is off her rocker and a danger to society, but the actress still brings a fun charm to the role that demands people sit up and watch her. Carrie will never be part of Team Arrow nor a serious love interest, but she makes such an impression here that I hope she becomes a recurring player, popping up periodically to cause further turmoil.

Oliver isn’t having none of it, though he could be forgiven for being tempted, because his heart belongs to another. I’m not sure I understood just how deeply Oliver’s feelings for Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) went until I watched “Draw Back Your Bow.” He’s so bad at expressing himself that it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking. However, his complete lack of any interest at all in Cupid’s flirtations, and she is very attractive on the surface, likely indicates his heart is spoken for and can’t be swayed.

Felicity may not be in the same boat, though. Ray (Brandon Routh) buys her a very expensive dress, loans her a necklace worth millions, and, most importantly, pays attention to her and praises her. Plus, his body is every bit as good at Oliver’s, and as Felicity say while drooling over a shirtless Ray working out, she definitely has a type. Though their dinner date with clients is labeled “purely platonic,” there is no mistaking that Felicity, at least, is interested in taking things a little further by evening’s end.

Ray is the one that stops sex from happening, but why? I can’t believe he’s not interested in the beautiful Ms. Smoak. His every action and word speaks to the contrary. Could it be that whatever secret plans he’s been cooking up for the city prevent him from getting involved with anyone right now? Is he that altruistic? He can’t possibly be the opposite (evil), or why knowingly keep Felicity close? He’s a bit confusing in “Draw Back Your Bow.”

Weirdly, Diggle (David Ramsey) is the one who tries to play matchmaker, encouraging both Oliver and Felicity to admit their feelings to one another. This isn’t something he’s done a lot of in the past, and suddenly having not one, but two scenes in which he does so seems off. However, he’s also recently had a baby, so he’s probably more emotional than usual, which could explain the behavior. After all, that warm happiness is surely what sparks him to invite Oliver and Roy (Colton Haynes) over for a family dinner, a very sweet moment in the hour.

There’s also flashback, of course, in which Oliver and Tatsu (Rila Fukushima) work together to find a missing Maseo (Karl Yune). I assume the connection ARROW makes between this flashback and the present story is that both circle around love, but that’s a weak thread and there are no other obvious connections. The fact that ARROW has to make such tenuous ties these days is probably a sign that, as I’ve long been saying, these past scenes are unnecessary. Any time they occur, I’m itching to get back to the main plot the entire time.

ARROW is a CW show, and follows some of the elements of such. Programs on this network often have eye candy, and “Draw Back Your Bow” delivers plenty of that for both sexes to enjoy, no gender bias present. They also tend to be a little more melodramatic than typical scripted dramas, and ARROW falls into this a bit, too. But it’s hard to argue that the show isn’t enjoyable, and the plot is usually engaging enough to get past those features, as it is in “Draw Back Your Bow” and most ARROW installments. That’s why I like it.

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

GETTING ON And On And On

Article first published as GETTING ON Review Season 2 on Seat42F.



HBO’s GETTING ON is back! For those that missed the six-episode first season a year ago, feel free to jump on into season two when the premiere episode, “No Such Thing as Idealized Genitalia,” airs this weekend, no prior knowledge needed. But for fans, you’ll delight in seeing the staff of the Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit of Mt. Palms Hospital in Long Beach, California again, who are basically up to the same things they were when last seen.

Dawn Forchette (Alex Borstein) is continuing to work for Dr. Jenna James’ (Laurie Metcalf) research study. Dawn doesn’t like working for Dr. James, and why should she? Dr. James is emotionally abusive and takes advantage of Dawn whenever she can. But for Dawn, who isn’t feeling well (something explored with a very unexpected twist late in the episode, and that will extend to future installments), she’s tired of bending over backwards to fit Dr. James’ requests in with her regular work and getting absolutely no appreciation for the effort. In fact, Dr. James expresses the opposite of appreciation.

Dr. James is under a lot of stress, admittedly. She is still fighting Dr. Paul Stickley (Mark Harelik) to get her research funded, something far from a certainty in her business. She has to put up with the hospice corporate vulture she hates (Jayma Mays, Glee) trying to make inroads in the hospital (again, something that will continue throughout the season because of another beautiful twist). She is drawn into a fight with an obnoxious patient (played by a familiar face I can’t quite remember – feel free to let me know who she is in the comments) for bed space. And she has to deal with the annoyance of Nurse Patsy de la Serda’s (Mel Rodriguez) “green” program, which results in lights turning off in the bathroom after mere seconds. But does that justify her behavior towards Dawn? Nope.

Technically, GETTING ON is a comedy. The laughs come at the characters’ expense, though. Is it fun to see Dawn get dumped on my Dr. James? No, but there’s something inherently amusing in the way Borstein shows the pathos of the downtrodden character. Does one laugh at Dr. James issues in the bathroom? Of course not, but again, there are some sight gags that will elicit a smile, even as we feel sorry for her. It’s smart, slow-burn comedy.

In “No Such Thing as Idealized Genitalia,” Nurse Didi Ortley (Niecy Nash) emerges as the heart of the show. This is something she’s been seen as before, but the role is reinforced in her behavior this week. Whether it’s taking care of her family or her co-workers, whether they could actually be called friends or not, Didi is a person who has compassion for others. This, all while making next to no money, and meeting much resistance for requesting even the smallest of raises.

This hospital highlights the ridiculousness of bureaucracy and the flawed nature of human beings. It does so without judgment, reflecting familiar traits in slightly exaggerated ways. There are very few moments you’ll laugh out loud at, but you will be amused as much as depressed by the proceedings. Though a scene where the characters finally get to air some grievances will come close to getting a chuckle.

In considering quality television, GETTING ON excels. It’s an authentic piece with nuanced characters. The cast is across-the-board excellent, both the stars and the supporting players. The world is well-developed, and if anything has changed in season two, it’s that the writers know their parameters better, making for a more fully realized premise. I highly recommend checking it out.

GETTING ON airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on HBO.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Prayer For GRIMM To Improve

Article first published as GRIMM Review Season 4 Episode 4 Dyin' On a Prayer on Seat42F.

Grimm - Season 1

Unfortunately, this week’s installment of NBC’s GRIMM, “Dyin’ on a Prayer,” was another case-of-the-week snooze fest. A Gollum attacks an abusive husband. Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) have to investigate, bringing in Trubel (Jacqueline Toboni) when they think a Wesen might be involved, since Nick is still without his Grimm powers. The fact that, while certain people involved in the case are Wesen, the murderer itself is not, makes it even more like every other crime procedural on television.

GRIMM airs Friday nights at NBC. If there were ever a night and time to break the standard formula and do something interesting instead on broadcast television, it’s that one. Add to that, GRIMM has already done several good arcs in the past that depart from the common structure, with a heavy supernatural mythology. Why, early in its fourth season, would it revert to a weaker story makeup? If viewers want a run-of-the-mill police story, they have a plethora of other choices. GRIMM should stick with what makes it special, not try to be like everyone else.

I do like the Rabbi (David Julian Hirsh, Weeds) who calls forth the Gollum to protect his nephew, David (Jakob Salvati, Red Widow). There is massive opportunity for character development here, a man who abhors violence, but accidentally sets it loose, not understanding what he is doing. The Rabbi is very clearly a good man, and is plenty willing to pay for the consequences of his actions. Unfortunately, “Dyin’ on a Prayer” spends very little time exploring that element.

There are subplots that entice this week. Adalind (Claire Coffee) continues her escape from the castle, only to be stymied by a weeping wall which threatens to drown her. Her fate is not shown. Again, this is another cool concept that is actually visually pretty impressive. There are real stakes in these scenes. But they are brief, barely a few minutes of the hour, and underdeveloped.

“Dyin’ on a Prayer” teases us with a story involving Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Rosalee (Bree Turner) dealing with haters, who don’t believe Wesen should marry a different breed of Wesen. This hate-crime thing is probably a little dated, but when a brick is thrown through the shop window, I sit up and take notice. Unfortunately, that one moment is all GRIMM does with this, not making any effort to show us how the characters deal with the attack.

A third storyline in which Elizabeth Lascelles (Louise Lombard) figures out what Adalind did to Nick is cool. She is an intriguing character, and has some great lines. I don’t know how long she’ll stick around, but she is a welcome addition to the recurring cast. However, in spite of providing a nice capper to the episode, she is also barely used.

A fourth (yes, fourth!) possibility for greatness emerges when Wu (Reggie Lee) brings his suspicions about Trubel to Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz). Renard knows who Trubel is, of course, and must protect her, so doesn’t give anything away to Wu. It is past time Wu is brought into the secret loop, though, and the more he pushes, the more likely that is to happen.

So, in summary, GRIMM gives us four excellent threads (five if you count the Rabbi, which is arguable) in “Dyin’ on a Prayer,” and still chooses to make the vast majority of the episode revolve around the one storyline that is boring and trite. The ingredients for a truly excellent series are present, and the writers tease us with them without delivering on any. How frustrating is it when a show that has been so good in the past stubbornly refuses to maintain that quality on a consistent basis? I can’t wait to get past these crap episodes at the start of the year and to this season’s real plots, which are surely coming, but not nearly quickly enough.

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

THE GOOD WIFE Sees "Red"

Article first published as THE GOOD WIFE Review Season 6 Episode 8 The Red Zone on Seat42F.



Numerous players on CBS’s THE GOOD WIFE go into “The Red Zone” this week. Alicia (Julianna Margulies) tries to do what she thinks is right and good, but quickly learns that, like Games of Thrones’ Jon Snow, she knows nothing (about campaigning or how things she does will play to the public). Cary (Matt Czuchry) considers testifying on his own behalf, since any witnesses that can help him are dead, but prep for said testifying goes horribly wrong. Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) is caught between the woman she loves, the man she loves, and a cold-hearted murderer. So, it’s just a typical day at Florrick / Agos / Lockhart.

First, let’s talk Alicia. She is still living her life like she’s not looking for votes. She takes on a new client (Californication’s Madeleine Martin) just as she’s supposed to be pulling back just because her brother (Dallas Roberts) asks her to. Then, she accompanies Finn (Matthew Goode) to a soup kitchen because she genuinely feels the need to give back, but unconcerned about appearance, the trip backfires when skewed pics are taken and posted online. Alicia protests that it goes against common sense to avoid these things, but Eli (Alan Cumming) basically tells her to get over it.

Candidate Alicia is going to be different than Lawyer Alicia. Now that she’s made the decision to run, she’s also made the decision to change, to become a politician. She resists, of course, but she does want the office, so she can’t help but make allowances. “The Red Zone” finds her listening to Eli and Johnny (Steven Pasquale) and the focus group they conduct. She may not like it, but she is coming around to how the game is played.

Can Alicia do this and still hold onto herself? I think so. Her case against Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox), which she wins be default, proves that. It’s a way to show her keeping a grip on the woman she’s become, the woman worthy of the office.

The question is, though, how far will she go? When her opponent is Castro, one could see her making quite a few sacrifices because he’s an evil bastard and needs to go down. Now that she’s up against a much more upstanding citizen, she may be tempted to hold back. Alicia hates Prady, who did trick her, but she has to admit he’ll do a much better job as State’s Attorney than Castro, so that might give her pause at a key moment.

Cary needs a pause in “The Red Zone.” With trial fast approaching and no one left to help him, he takes Kalinda’s advice to testify for himself. But angry that Kalinda is lying to him, sleeping with her old flame, Lana (Jill Flint), Cary gets emotional when Viola Walsh (Rita Wilson) and Diane (Christine Baranski) attempt to prep him. This Cary seems entitled and arrogant, and while we the viewers who know and love him can understand his frustration and rage, a jury will not. It takes Alicia in a moment of brutal honesty to make him pull back and find his center.

I’m really worried about Cary. He is drowning. He reaches out to Kalinda for an emotional life raft, and she snatches it away. Whether because she doesn’t feel the same way or because she’s trying to protect him, the reason doesn’t matter. Cary is alone with this and things are not looking good, even once he gets his head on straight.

Funnily enough, it is Kalinda that can save him. Kalinda is also backed into a corner, being intimidated by Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter), who doesn’t like her sleeping with a fed. Kalinda knows how dangerous Lemond is, how he’s killed those that inconvenience him. Kalinda alone at the law firm could come forward to testify against Lemond and stop him once and for all. It’s losing a valuable client, whom they’ve at least temporarily lost anyway, but it’s the right thing to do, if she can manage to stay alive while doing it.

I’m not sure if Kalinda is at that point yet, but she should be. By choosing not to stick a card in Lana’s wallet, Kalinda has marked both herself and her girlfriend for death or further threat. This is the time Kalinda needs to come clean to Lana or other law enforcement officials and go into witness protection. Though, knowing Kalinda, should she decided to go on the take-Lemond-down path, she’ll want to gather more evidence first or wear a wire, which could end tragically. Panjabi is slated to depart at the end of this season of THE GOOD WIFE anyway; might the show make her exit a little sooner and a little more permanent?

“The Red Zone” is another outstanding installment of THE GOOD WIFE, jam-packed with gripping story and numerous, great, recurring guest stars. The stakes seem high, the drama feels real, and no one is in a great position, making fans drool with anticipation for the next episode. I’m impressed the show has kept this up at such a high level for over a year now, and hope it continues indefinitely.

THE GOOD WIFE airs Sundays at 9-ish ET, depending on football, on CBS.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

STATE OF AFFAIRS Is Solid

Article first published as STATE OF AFFAIRS Review on Seat42F.

State of Affairs - Season Pilot

Anyone who remembers the Grey’s Anatomy behind-the-scenes drama of a few years ago won’t exactly be excited for Katherine Heigl’s return to television. NBC decided to take a chance on her anyway with STATE OF AFFAIRS, premiering this week, which has Heigl in the leading role. With some good actors around her, though, and an interesting premise, this series is not half bad, though far from great.

Heigl plays Charleston “Charlie” Tucker, a CIA Analyst responsible for assembling and delivering the president’s daily briefing. Charlie is haunted by her past, though, suffering PTSD from witnessing her fiance’s death in the Middle East, leading to copious drinking and erratic sexual decisions in her off-hours, before somehow still managing to be a put-together woman at work, doing her job well, even at 2AM. Will this catch up with her? Or might her therapist, whom she resents having to see, eventually be able to help her work through her issues?

STATE OF AFFAIRS does suffer from an abundance of coincidence and believability-stretching elements. The president whom Charlie serves is Constance Payton (Alfre Woodard, Desperate Housewives, Star Trek: First Contact), who just happens to be Charlie’s dead fiance’s mother. Constance is bent on revenge for her son, which makes one wonder how she manages to stay in office and be a good leader as the first black female POTUS. There’s also a mystery surrounding the day of the death about which Charlie is repressing memories. This all feels a little too contrived to me.

Charlie’s team is equally preposterous, eagerly standing by her at the risk of their own jobs, without pausing to consider what might happen to them. Even if they like her, they shouldn’t be so willing to jump off a cliff for her, at least not without agonizing over the decision.

Charlie has a scene in the pilot in which she defies her boss in order to do a noble thing, putting the life of a doctor captured by terrorists ahead of petty vengeance. This is supposed to establish Charlie has a genuine hero, but instead, drags STATE OF AFFAIRS down. For one, why do TV shows always have to have one person who ignores authority because they inherently know the right thing, proving themselves better than everyone else? For another, why would a briefer have the power Charlie has to affect events?

Yet, I still want to watch this show. One big reason for that is because it is a political drama. I love the machinations of politics, various factions battling one another for power on the national stage. There are many shows that have done it a lot better and more authentic than STATE OF AFFAIRS; The West Wing and House of Cards spring to mind, or even Scandal. But there is still some draw that this show has in that arena.

For another, besides Woodard, whom I enjoy, the show has David Harbour (The Newsroom, Manhattan) as Chief of Staff David Patrick and several familiar guest actors sure to be recurring. These performers are entertaining to watch and raise the show a bit above Heigl’s expected quality.

STATE OF AFFAIRS does have the afore-mentioned personal component in Heigl’s character, but unlike new CBS stinker Madam Secretary, doesn’t allow it to make the show melodramatic or whiny. The scenes outside of the work place are well used to add depth to the character, but not the meat of each episode. Hopefully, it stays that way.

STATE OF AFFAIRS is popcorn in the way 24 was. It gets the adrenaline pumping and it’s fun to watch, but it’s never going to win any awards for being the best acting or writing on television. For my money, that’s good enough for now, and compared to a very weak crop of fellow freshman dramas this fall, this one is certainly one of the better recent entries on the broadcast networks.

STATE OF AFFAIRS premieres Monday, November 17th at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

ONCE UPON A TIME Needs a Long Look in the "Mirror"

Article first published as ONCE UPON A TIME Review Season 4 Episode 8/9 Smash the Mirror on Seat42F.


A lot happens in last night’s special two-hour ONCE UPON A TIME on ABC, “Smash the Mirror.” We see the rest of the Arendelle flashback story, bringing us up to the point in which the Snow Queen (Elizabeth Mitchell) comes over to our world. We witness the battle for Emma’s (Jennifer Morrison) soul, both internally and externally. And a former villain is given hope for a happy ending. Let’s get started.

First, despite the glaring flaws in this fall’s run, the Frozen tale has been nearly flawless. “Smash the Mirror” picks back up where last we left it, Anna (Elizabeth Lail) imprisoned by her aunt. Elsa (Georgina Haig) learns of this and quickly concocts a plan to stop the Snow Queen, refusing to believe ill of her sister. Their plan fails, unfortunately, with Elsa ending up in an urn, Anna and Kristoff (Scott Michael Foster) frozen (hehe) in the castle, and the Snow Queen messing with Elsa’s memory before The Apprentice (Timothy Webber) sends her to our world, circa 1982.

The story of the sisters, Elsa and Anna, is a strong one. Anna goes to other realms to save Elsa, and Elsa never stops believing in Anna, even when Anna is under a spell that makes her say horrible things. There is an argument to be made that Nasty Anna is buried deep inside the real Anna, an expression of the suffering she has endured. But an essential part of Anna is that she keeps hope and moves past such issues, always deciding to believe in Elsa. Seeing Elsa pay this back is extremely gratifying, and it’s this bond that the Snow Queen will never have.

There’s very much a there-but-for-you-go-I element in “Smash the Mirror.” Had the Snow Queen’s surviving sister stuck by her, no matter what bad things the Snow Queen accidentally did, her fate might have turned out very differently. The Snow Queen desperately wants what Elsa and Anna already have. Knowing they won’t accept her as one of them, she goes to extremes to force such a relationship. What she will have to end up realizing, but hasn’t yet, is such bonds cannot be forced. They have to be given freely.

ONCE UPON A TIME does make the plot quite cohesive, providing a believable way the Snow Queen comes to our land, sets the stage for her memory spells, and provides a possible motivation as to why she does what she goes. Once the Snow Queen knows she can make people forget and start with a clean slate again, it would be tempting to do so anytime things go bad. That’s surely what happened with Emma, though we haven’t seen that yet.

The Snow Queen is a formidable foe. She goes toe-to-toe with Rumple (Robert Carlyle) this week and wins. While she herself is not the instrument of victory, she does manages to link Emma and Elsa to herself, which is the next stage in her plan, and goes against Rumple’s desires. It will be interesting to see how she can be defeated because, despite knowing she must fail, she is in a pretty good position at the episode’s end.

Emma is still a bit out-of-character in “Smash the Mirror.” After making Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) very slightly bleed, she goes into a panic, and eagerly accepts Rumple’s offer to remove her powers. It takes her forever to get to his cabin, and the others have plenty of time to track her, which doesn’t seem right, but from an emotional standpoint, these hours do a better job of illustrating the turmoil in Emma’s heart than others have. She wants to rid herself of power because she’s afraid of it, but Elsa, who has personal understanding, gets through to Emma and helps her accept herself.

It’s a little strange how easily Emma has things under control at the end of the episode, a new stage for ONCE UPON A TIME. Yet, perhaps it’s a timing thing. Finally able to see who she is and live up to her potential, she gets a handle on the powers. Even if the path to get there is a little bumpy, there are some strong character moments for Emma, and her fireworks scene is an earned triumph.

More uneven than Emma is Rumple’s plot, though. This Rumple takes Hook’s (Colin O’Donoghue) heart and seeks to destroy Emma so he can have power and take over the world. This is absolutely ridiculous. Rumple has never been shown to have these ambitions, and in fact works directly against such things in past seasons. The Rumple in “Smash the Mirror” is a completely new character than before, and not in a good way. ONCE’s biggest glaring mistake this year is to toss out Rumple’s entire arc and start fresh with an unrecognizable antagonist. It makes me ill to see how he has been handled.

Hook, to a lesser extent, is in a similar boat. His actions, from betraying Emma, to confessing to her, have bene erratic and nonsensical. I get the urge to be a hero and worthy of Emma, but then it’s more confusing when Hook acts against those interests. He has been used poorly as of late, too.

On a polar opposite, Regina’s ONCE UPON A TIME arc has been stellar. This week, she gets assurances from Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) that she’ll have a happy ending, ponders the path not taken, has a touching moment with her son, and is given encouragement by Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), of all people, who admits her own bratty past. I was worried for a bit the show would let Regina slip, negating her growth, but the other characters have rallied around her, even those who one doesn’t expect to, and in their eyes, Regina finally sees her best self reflected.

What’s more, Robin’s discovery in the library, with the help of Will Scarlet (Michael Socha), gives Regina hope. Robin finds an alternate page to Henry’s storybook, one in which Regina is not a villain. This proves the book isn’t set in stone so Regina can still change her ending! Yay!

Which begs the question, are new pages being added to the book? If so, why hasn’t anyone mentioned it? And because the page just appears in Robin’s bag, does that mean the author is still around? Possibly hiding in the magic library? Maleficent is still in the basement, isn’t she? And where is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who can see past and future, these days? Anyone else get the feeling the Apprentice might actually be the Sorcerer? Hmm.

For everyone awesome ONCE UPON A TIME moment, and there are many in “Smash the Mirror,” there is an unfortunate one, sometimes small, but always present. When looking at the TV schedule from last night, ONCE is only about the sixth or seventh best show on Sunday nights (behind The Walking Dead, The Newsroom, The Good Wife, and arguably several others) right now. There are a heck of a lot more than six shows on Sundays, but that’s still not a position to really brag about. If only it would get its act together, like it did a year ago, it could rise to match or exceed some of its currently-better peers. The potential is high, but the series just doesn’t live up to it as much as it should, making its wins, such as last night’s episode, bittersweet.

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

THE WALKING DEAD "Consumed" Review

Article first published as THE WALKING DEAD Review Season 5 Episode 6 Consumed on Seat42F.


The title of this week’s episode of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD is “Consumed.” This refers to the way fire consumes, metaphorically and literally. As Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBridge) track the missing Beth, they reflect on how their old selves have been burned away, possibly multiple times, and whether they are phoenixes or ashes. We also see Carol remembering some actual fires, both ones alerting her to danger, and ones highlighting her own mistakes.

Carol has become a fan-favorite character, right up there with Daryl, for many good reasons. Her memories show Rick (Andrew Lincoln) burning the bridge with her, the people Carol murdered at the prison, Carol burying the girl she shoots, Carol rushing to save her friends at the prison and Terminus, and Carol considering fleeing again. These are all pivotal moments in her character’s journey over the past season or so, and by keeping them brief, THE WALKING DEAD does a good job of reminding us of them without hammering them in too hard.

Because of all of these things, Carol isn’t sure she wants or deserves to be a part of the group any more. She agonizes over decisions made. She is too close to the source, though, to see it clearly. The rest of us have a fuller picture of her, remembering everything she has done, who she was, and how far she has come, not just these glimpses. Daryl gives voice to our side of the story, telling Carol that she “ain’t ashes.” She is still a human being who is as deserving of love as anyone else.

Daryl has a similar arc, though less prevalent in “Consumed.” As Carol says, he has grown from a boy into a man, stepping up to do what must be done. Daryl obviously still has doubts about himself, unlike how he sees Carol, because he takes a book on abuse from the shelter they stay at. This clues us in to things Daryl has trouble saying out loud. But again, Carol gives voice to our thoughts when she reassures Daryl about who he is.

There are many things to love about THE WALKING DEAD, but these characters are at the top of the list. Not a lot happens in “Consumed,” but that’s just fine because it gives us time to examine these personalities a bit more closely. While circumstances have shaped everyone in different ways, such as Rick into a badass leader, it has made Carol and Daryl much more noble and worthy people than they would have been in the old world. It has stripped away their previous issues and given them a second chance. They are both using this new start well.

The fact that Daryl and Carol are hunting for Beth and helping each other at the same time proves this point. “Consumed” sees Daryl burning abused children Walkers for Carol and willing to go over a bridge in a van. Carol does the latter, too, willingly for a girl she hasn’t seen in awhile and probably owes nothing to. They are heroes, plain and simple.

“Consumed” also unites them with Noah (Tyler James Williams), who stalks them and steals their weapons. Had this been all we’d seen of Noah, it would be difficult to use him this way or know whether to trust him. Because we know he’s also working to save Beth, though, one hopes for him to get a chance to talk to the pair so they can discover their common ground and work together. Thankfully, THE WALKING DEAD finds a natural way to do this, as it would be all-too-easy to make it clunky.

Noah is one of the fastest characters audiences have come to trust, and Daryl has been semi-comfortable with, too. This unique ability he has to worm his way into hearts, surely helped along by excellent writing, makes him an individual to watch, and one I hope sticks around. Circumstances ally him with Daryl, but choice can make him part of the group.

“Consumed” brings us up to other points seen, where Daryl returns to camp and an injured Carol is brought into Beth’s hospital. This means, with two hours to go in this half season, we’re promised action and large-group stories. I like how the first half of the year has danced back and forth between those exciting times and these character focuses, striking a terrific balance in a show known for both.

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

ARROW "Guilty" of a Few Things

Article first published as ARROW Review Season 3 Episode 6 Guilty on Seat42F.

Guilty

The CW’S ARROW proclaims someone “Guilty” this week when a serial killer begins slaughtering criminals. Suspicion immediately falls on Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez), who is seen on the scene of multiple murders and who, it turns out, used to be a vigilante himself, like The Arrow. Laurel (Katie Cassidy) is sure Ted is innocent, but could that be because she’s developed a loyalty during her training sessions and so is blinded to the truth?

It’s hard to believe that Oliver (Stephen Amell) doesn’t take Laurel at her word immediately when she says she is with Ted during a murder. After all, Laurel and Oliver have a long history together and he even trusts her with his secret identity as The Arrow. Why would she by lying to him now? She has been a little erratic lately in seeking vengeance for the death of her sister, but I still don’t think that should cast doubt about her words in a totally unrelated matter. It’s just poor writing.

It is neat to learn about Ted “Wildcat” Grant’s past. He serves as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale to Oliver. Ted was tough enough to handle the city’s scum, but he had an apprentice named Isaac (Nathan Mitchell, Tide Waters) who crossed a line, and is the one framing Ted in the present. As Oliver thinks about Roy’s (Colton Haynes) woes and how young Speedy has strayed from the path, it’s easy to see the parallels between the two men’s situations.

Unfortunately, ARROW isn’t completely solid on the storytelling here, either. Roy asks Oliver not to give up on him and Oliver says “Never,” as he should. Then, immediately Roy wants to hang up his superhero suit. Is Roy asking Oliver to not give up on him personally? If so, that’s not clear. The handling of this is a bit murky when a few tweaks would have made it solid. Also, the transition of Roy from Speedy to Arsenal is a bit heavy-handed when coming up with the new name.

Roy’s big issue in “Guilty” is that he’s being haunted by dreams of murdering Sara. He eventually confesses to first Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), then when Felicity indicates Roy may have actually done it, to Oliver, Laurel, and Diggle (David Ramsey). This is a major step for Roy, but one that his character has earned in his growth. He is willing to take responsibility for his actions, even those he isn’t entirely in control of. He’s ready to turn himself over to the authorities so that Sara will get justice, even though it wouldn’t be justice for Roy. Excellent Roy moment.

When Roy realizes he didn’t kill Sara, just a cop, the fact that his guilt quotient remains high is terrific. This proves Roy really is a compassionate person, above and beyond worrying about his friends. I think Oliver can help Roy get over the guilt and I hope Roy lets him do so, but another excellent development for the sidekick.

I’m disappointed that Diggle turns on Roy so quickly, arguing that justice must be applied equally to friends and foes. Diggle is fully aware of the Mirakuru drug and what it can do. He also knows Roy, a man who would never kill an innocent. Why can’t Diggle be the least bit understanding of the situation? Why does he think Roy should be punished and kicked out of the group? It’s a stretch for ARROW to do this.

Now, Laurel turning on Roy, that I would understand. It’s her sister that is dead, and emotion over something like losing one’s sibling can override common sense. “Guilty” doesn’t reveal if Laurel will blame Roy or not. But then Roy is cleared, so he should be safe from her. Not so for whoever the actual murderer is because, despite Oliver reiterating that Laurel shouldn’t be training, she goes back to Ted at the end of the episode and carries on.

Katie Cassidy as Black Canary ArrowThe scene in which Oliver tells Laurel he never sees her as helpless, he just tries to protect her because he cares, is a great one. It’s a charged moment between the two exes, and one that holds out hope there could be a rekindling at some point, though they’re not on the same page right now. It’s also a testament to how Laurel has changed over the course of ARROW to be much more than a damsel that needs rescuing. The pictures that the CW released yesterday of Laurel donning the Black Canary outfit (right ) should continue this nicely.

There’s also another completely unnecessary flashback of Oliver in Hong Kong this week. It does deal with memories and such, which ties it to the main plot of “Guilty,” but the episode could easily have proceeded without them and not lost a thing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is past time for ARROW to drop this element.

“Guilty” is a bit uneven, as shows on the CW in general and installments of ARROW in particular tend to be, but it’s still got some good stuff in it, especially where Laurel, Roy, and Oliver are concerned. As long as the show sticks to its character development and allows continued growth, it’ll remain worth watching.

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Breaks Through a "Wall"

Article first published as MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Review Season 2 Episode 7 The Writing on the Wall at Seat42F.

HENRY SIMMONS, IAIN DE CAESTECKER

Is “The Writing on the Wall” for ABC’s MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.? Well, it quite literally is in last night’s episode, which finds Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) carving compulsions getting stronger and stronger, taking over his life. Luckily, there may be a break in the case as others who share his affliction begin showing up dead, murdered at the hands of one of their own. The team tracks the killer, hoping he will lead to answers.

I like that MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. has these big arcs right off the bat in season two. Season one began quite slowly, killing time until the series could build into the secrets revealed in the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While it seems this year’s stories could tie into the motion pictures, too, at least eventually, they also feel like they’ve been given the freedom not to wait for the big screen to catch up, to just go ahead and tell the tale they want to tell now. It’s a marked improvement.

Fans of both big and small screen Marvel endeavors have long wondered about Coulson’s resurrection, a key mystery when the show begins. The general facts are now known and “The Writing on the Wall” reveals more, as viewers are offered glimpses of the past when the serum was tested with six other individuals. It didn’t work out well, memories having to be re-written, and now only two, the killer (Brian Van Holt, Cougar Town) and his last would-be victim (Joel Gretsch, V), remain. This is the program that gave Coulson his second chance.

What I wonder is, though, after these tests failed, why was Coulson injected? Presumably it wasn’t up to Coulson, or that’s what the end of last season indicated. Perhaps Fury decided Coulson was valuable enough it was worth the risk. But Coulson alone was allowed to keep his identity. Why? Who thought this would work? Or did they know exactly what would happen and want the city Coulson has been carving to be found? That’s the new question going forward.

Skye (Chloe Bennet) continues to show none of the same symptoms as Coulson, even though she, too, has the alien blood in her veins. Does this mean Skye is an alien? Or perhaps an Inhuman, as that race has been given an upcoming Marvel film?

Coulson does betray Skye in “The Writing on the Wall,” but she should forgive him. He isn’t in his right mind, and that’s pretty obvious. This stuff made Garrett crazy, too, but Garrett had underlying evil in him. When Coulson makes poor judgment calls, he does so so that he can go try to save a life. It might not be wise or kind, but he’s not hurting anyone.

The other half of “The Writing on the Wall” finds May (Ming-Na Wen) and several agents on the trail of the escaped Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). This episode reminds us just how capable Ward is, eluding May’s attempts to get close, and quickly recognizing even agents he doesn’t know, such as Hunter (Nick Blood) and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki). He’s a very smart person and it will not be easy to recapture him, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s best not yet being up to the task.

We knew Ward had to get out eventually, and I’m fascinated by the journey he is on. Equal parts insane and purpose-driven, it’s hard to know what he’ll do next. He definitely has his own inner compass that he follows and his own goals, so he’s not an erratic target. But what he believes and thinks is quite far enough skewed off of the norm that he’s not predictable, either. With the skills he has, he’s an impressive adversary.

I think it is telling that Ward doesn’t hurt or kill Bobbi or Hunter or anyone else. In fact, he gives his S.H.I.E.L.D. tail a present, a high-ranking Hydra official. Why? Is his end goal to prove himself worthy of Skye, which will never happen? Does he want to rejoin Hydra, which seems unlikely now that Garrett is gone? Does he think S.H.I.E.L.D. may just be desperate enough to take him back? I just don’t know, and that’s a good thing.

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. is not as good as the movies, and I think it would benefit from shorter seasons, giving the writers more time to develop a compact story. However, it is still quite exciting, and has improved over its beginnings. The characters are excellent and the stories lead to somewhere worth going. “The Writing on the Wall” continues this trend.

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

SLEEPY HOLLOW Would Benefit From Less Structure

Article first published as SLEEPY HOLLOW Review Season 2 Episode 8 Heartless on Seat42F.

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In this week’s SLEEPY HOLLOW, “Heartless,” we learn that baby Moloch is not dead, but merely in need of some TLC. Apparently, the demon doesn’t eat formula, though, instead needing to consume souls (natch). Henry (John Noble) brings forth a shape-changing succubus (various actresses, but mainly Still’s Caroline Ford) to collect dinner, which our heroes must scramble to destroy before it kills more people. This is easier said than done because the only way to kill a succubus is to use a spell to burn its heart, which is hidden somewhere outside its body.

I’m quite disappointed SLEEPY HOLLOW still uses a case-of-the-week format so often. Sure, the succubus plot is tied into a larger arc, that of Moloch coming into our realm. And the hour is full of character development and fun moments, which is why the show is still worth watching. But the story would be so much better if it would allow itself to be more free-form, rather than forced to conform to a repetitive structure, with the good stuff built around the unoriginal core. Sigh.

“Heartless” begins with Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Katrina (Katia Winter) curled up to watch a reality dating show. It’s a humorous scene, Ichabod’s fish-out-of-water quality multiplied times two, and mainly brings a smile to the viewer’s face. However, pick apart the moment a little deeper, and you’ll notice that it illustrates a schism between the pair, with both seeing different things in the show and concerning love. This could be waved away easily enough if the hour didn’t further illustrate that they are at different points in their lives with differing opinions as to what must be done.

Ichabod is a Witness, called upon to stop the forces of darkness. Katrina gets in the way of that a little, as Abbie (Nicole Beharie) is definitely feeling neglected (even if she tries not to show it) when Ichabod repeatedly puts Katrina before his partner. This isn’t good for the work, even more so than Ichabod’s nagging hope that he might still save his son. Plus, when Ichabod is confronted by the succubus, it sees pain and woe within him that definitely indicates Mr. and Mrs. Crane are currently out of sync.

Katrina, for her part, does prove her worth to the team, which even Abbie is forced to admit. But she’s not a team player, striking out on her own mission to go back to being a double agent without consulting anyone first, least of all her husband. One may assume that her motivations are pure, but this disconnect will only increase the tension and discord between the couple, which really do feel doomed to failure at this point.

Even more worrying is how Katrina is sucked into what is going on with Moloch. Her affection for Abraham (Neil Jackson) is most likely feigned, something Henry probably sees through even if Abraham doesn’t, but the look Katrina gets when staring at the baby seems real. Moloch appears to be a typical human infant, not a scary demon child, and he did come forth from Katrina’s womb. Might she see him as a second chance to be a good parent? A way to prove to Henry that she can be? Or is this part of an enchantment she’s under because of the necklace she’s wearing?

While Ichabod’s love life is falling apart in “Heartless,” Abbie’s is coming together rather nicely. Hawley (Matt Barr) doesn’t like to show his vulnerable side too freely, but he’s definitely smitten with the cop, and comes to her defense without asking for payment. The fact that Abbie gives him a reward shows the feelings are mutual because she wouldn’t go out of her way for him if she didn’t care. When Ichabod blesses the relationship, it’s all but certain they will get together.

Now, Hawley and Abbie aren’t a perfect match. He has a heart, but he’s also got a business to run and won’t switch his activity to purely altruistic pursuits. This often puts him at odds with the job Abbie must do. However, they both want this, clearly, so they’ll find a way to make it work.

The vast majority of this review is about the good elements in an exciting story. If the show would just free itself up a bit further, as they sometimes, but not often enough, do, it could be among my favorites. Unfortunately, it holds back, not reaching its full potential, which is a frequent disappointment.

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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

THE WALKING DEAD Characters Reveal "Self"

Article first published as THE WALKING DEAD Review Season 5 Episode 5 Self Help on Seat42F.

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This week’s episode of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD, “Self Help,” follows six of our survivors on the road to D.C. They don’t get very far, running into issues both man-made and Walker-inspired, but we learn a bit about a couple of the players, and a startling revelation ends the hour in a big way.

The entire reason this group splits off from the main one is Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz). Driven in his mission to bring Eugene (Josh McDermitt), who says he has a cure for the outbreak, to the nation’s capital, Abraham refuses to be patient and wait for the others. He doesn’t put up with any delays or detours, pushing on, even if the going is slow. This is a man who has blinders firmly in place.

One may wonder how Abraham got that way, and the initial reasoning seems to be that’s he a soldier who only knows how to take and follow orders, but that is far too simplistic an explanation. “Self Help” shows us how Abraham’s family flees from his brutality, only to die without his protection, taking Abraham to the point of suicide. He is strong enough to survive in this world, but his loved ones were not. Had Eugene not shown up with this cause when he did, Abraham would have no reason to live, everything he cares about being gone. The mission is all that is keeping him going, a shred of hope in a hopeless existence.

Sadly, this is stripped away when Eugene reveals that he is lying. Abraham reacts the only way he knows how, punching Eugene in the face. They are sort-of friends before this point, but Abraham justifiably feels betrayed. Eugene’s lies remove that thread to which Abraham is clinging, so Abraham has nothing left. Eugene could not have done anything worse to Abraham, even though Eugene saved his life.

Eugene reveals his motivation in “Self Help,” too, first in small pieces to Tara (Alanna Masterson), then to the group as a whole. He speaks of feeling helpless, knowing he couldn’t survive on his own. He had to find something invaluable to contribute, to make people want to take care of him. The lie, selfish as it might be, is his way of fighting for survival, something everyone understands. He is a desperate man, too, and his method of staying alive isn’t really that bad, compared to what others have done, especially when he confesses to those he trusts. Even the bus sabotaging, while potentially dangerous, doesn’t seem that bad in the face of everything else, especially since no one was seriously hurt.

I do think Eugene can take care of himself to a certain extent now. He finally stabs a Walker this week, stepping up in a way he has not before. He’s not the group’s strongest fighter by a long shot, but I think part of why he spills the secret is so he can begin contributing as he should. This people have been kind to him, especially the larger group, and he feels guilty for those who have died while he hid behind them. He’s connecting with them on a personal level, something that clearly doesn’t come easy to him. He’s a coward, but facing and owning up to his fears puts him on the path to becoming a stronger man.

What will the group do now? Hopefully, turn around and go back to the others. D.C. may still be their best hope of survival, and I assume that’s where they will end up, as they do in the comics, though Eugene’s confession comes later. But they all should go together. Without Eugene’s non-existent knowledge, the urgency is gone.

I also hope Abraham finds another reason to continue. Maybe his relationship with Rosita (Christian Serratos), which seems playful but sincere, not just about sex, could help? She may not be the love of his life, but he has to care about her, right?

This is the episode of THE WALKING DEAD I’ve had the least to say about in recent memory. Yet, I still feel it is a good, solid episode. It concentrates on only a few things, but it does them very well.

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Boston" Beginning of the End for THE NEWSROOM

Article first published as THE NEWSROOM Review Season 3 Episode 1 Boston at Seat42F.

THE NEWSROOM Recap Season 3 Episode 1 Boston

HBO’s stellar series THE NEWSROOM begins a six-episode third and final season this week with “Boston.” I know THE NEWSROOM polarizes people, and many viewers either strongly love or hate it. You can probably tell from the first sentence of this review that I am in the former category, seeing it as a brilliant piece of television that has been killed too early and will be sorely missed. But if you fall into the latter, stick with me briefly, if you would, and I’ll tell you why “Boston” and this show are fantastic.

As some may have already guessed from the episode title, the premiere takes place in the days immediately following the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Explosions go off, killing and injuring many innocents, and the country goes into panic mode. Our team struggles to balance expediency with rebuilding a sterling reputation, refusing to jump the gun in reporting rumors and tweets.

If you watched season two and stay up on current events, you can probably put the pieces together about where “Boston” is going. CNN gets out in front of a story, reporting misinformation, and it causes waves. Remembering the Genoa incident last year, in with ACN made a similar blunder, the staff takes pride in not falling into the trap again. However, with everyone else rushing to cover the latest Twitter and Reddit items, ACN begins losing their ratings share.

This presents a possible end-game for the series. The whole premise of News Night With Will McAvoy is to return to TV journalism’s roots, only reporting well-sourced, fact-based, non-biased information. This goes against the current trend in cable news, and without the immediate feedback that other networks practice, involving the public in the story, News Night risks being a dinosaur. That could kill it.

The depressing thing is, News Night is doing the right thing and everyone else is doing the wrong thing. We need a show like News Night, which currently only exists in this fictional world that Aaron Sorkin has created. It’s commentary on our current system, and those watching it should take note and demand better news. We deserve as much.

There’s another threat looming, too, but I feel like I can’t go into it here without spoiling one of the episode’s beautiful twists, several of which come together at the end of this initial hour to set the stage for the season and provide a driving force.

One thing not hampering the show any more is Reese Lansing (Chris Messina). He remains committed to his people with the newfound respect he develops for them last season. “Boston” very much represents a coming together of the cast with an us-against-the-world attitude. It may end in their version of The Alamo, but it’s one that is inspiring, nonetheless.

Besides Boston, THE NEWSROOM begins an Edward Snowden-esque plot when Neal (Dev Patel) receives thousands of leaked government documents, many of them classified. Another important debate of our time is how much the public has a right to know and if whistle-blowers should be protected. Since the Snowden saga hasn’t finished up in real life yet, Sorkin will have to bring us his version of how this story should end. I look forward to his take on such a complicated issue.

There are tons of moments and touches that make “Boston” a fine example of THE NEWSROOM’s proud run. MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) and Will (Jeff Daniels) are planning their wedding and not understanding twitter, Sloan (Olivia Munn) uses her considerable genius to solve a puzzle no one even knows needs solving yet, and one of the primary players, who has only worked from the sidelines, finds themselves unexpectedly in front of a camera, with surprising results. And, of course, Will makes an impassioned, blood-pumping speech. These and more get me super excited about the coming season.

I’ve pounded out this review in ten minutes flat mainly because I am so excited that I cannot wait to get back to the other two episodes HBO was kind enough to send with this one. I hope the above illustrates how THE NEWSROOM is maintaining its gripping style, and gets you as anxious for this final run as it has me. There really is no better show on television.

THE NEWSROOM airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.