Thursday, January 29, 2015

GRIMM Faces a "Tribunal"

Article first published as GRIMM Review Season 4 Episode 10 Tribunal on Seat42F.

GRIMM -- "Tribunal" Episode 410
“Tribunal” is the episode of NBC’s GRIMM I’ve been waiting for all through this lackluster fall run. It’s a full-on mythology hour, no case-of-the-week, as everyone scrambles to find Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) before the racist Wesenrein can execute him. Thankfully, the ancient group is all about ritual, so our heroes have a bit of time, though, as always happens on television shows, Monroe is not located until the last possible second.

That last sentence may sound a little snarky, but it’s true! Just once, I’d like to see someone rescued with plenty of time to spare, though I guess waiting until everything is down to the wire creates more tension. And since quite literally everyone else does it, I can’t blame Grimm for the same.

As “Tribunal” begins, there are many leads being pursued towards Monroe, but none solid enough to act upon. Later in the episode, the entire group comes together and gets to use their various strengths. Even Bud (Danny Bruno), while not under direct protection, finds a backbone and stands up for his friends! It’s more of an ensemble effort than most adventures, and as I’ve said in the past, this is definitely the path towards making GRIMM a must-watch series. There must be a variety of personalities, each contributing, and each being interesting on their own.

It’s extremely impressive when Nick (David Giuntoli), Hank (Russell Hornsby), Renard (Sasha Roiz), Wu (Reggie Lee), Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch), and Rosalee (Bree Turner) all march into battle together. Badges cast aside, this is a group united by a far more important mission than just upholding the law. What’s more, everyone can contribute; none are dead weight or weaklings that must be protected. When the fight breaks out at the court, Nick is able to stay with the larger group of captured foes while the others give chase on their own through the woods. That’s progress in the structure of the show, and a welcome development.

I don’t know why everyone is OK with Juliette participating, though. Obviously, her now being a Hexenbiest gives her the strength to hold her own, which we get to see in spectacular fashion in “Tribunal.” Except, no one knows she is one yet. Why doesn’t Nick try to convince her to stay behind, or at least ask her to stand by his side instead of chasing the fleeing suspects. Sure, that’s been done before, but it’s not unreasonable for Nick to be a little more cautious with her until he learns about her power.

Speaking of, briefly, NBC presents an absolutely awful preview for next week’s episode, making it seem like Nick would kill Juliette just because she’s a Hexenbiest. That may be the stated job of a Grimm, but when has Nick ever followed that? It’s just stupid, no fan of the show will be fooled, and the network should be ashamed for putting out such a blatantly misleading ad.

The newest member of the Grimm band is Wu, who, after a little training with Bud, goes along on the big takedown. I do think Wu is acting like too much a part of the group too quick, with no one going out of their way to make him feel emotionally included, even after the danger is past and someone should be reaching out. But I’d rather see that than for Wu to remain an outsider, so when he raises a champagne toast and acts too familiar with Monroe and Rosalee, I’m able to forgive it.

At the end, Hank and Nick providing armed escort for Monroe and Rosalee is a humorous touch that makes the episode work. The heavy stuff is past, and now we need to smile a little. It’s a good pivot at the conclusion, and brings the overall-wonderful episode around to a satisfying closure.

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

BACKSTROM Has a "Dragon" On Its Back

Article first published as BACKSTROM Review on Seat42F.

FOX’s new series BACKSTROM is from the mind of Hart Hanson, creator of Bones and The Finder. Even if you did not know this going into the pilot, “Dragon Slayer,” it would be easy to see the similarities to those other shows because of a near-copy of tone and format. As a fan of Hanson, I’m interested to watch BACKSTROM. But as someone completely burned out with the formulaic police procedural, I’m sad he didn’t expand his premise a bit more from the beaten path.

Rainn Wilson (The Office) stars as Everett Backstrom, a colorful man in the vein of The Finder’s Walter Sherman. Rather than withdraw from society, though, Backstrom lives right in the middle of things, unfeeling towards those he offends. His attitude gets him demoted to traffic duty for five years, but as BACKSTROM begins, he is back in a position he likes, serving in Portland’s newly created Special Crimes Unit.

Backstrom is surrounded by a team of very capable professionals. There’s veteran detective John Almond (Dennis Haysbert, 24, The United), fresh-faced and eager Nicole Gravely (Genevieve Angelson, House of Lies), button-pushing consultant Peter Niedermayer (Kristoffer Polaha, Life Unexpected, Ringer), and muscle Frank Moto (Page Kennedy, Blue Mountain State, Weeds). Along with the attractive French civilian support officer, Nadia Paquet (Beatrice Rosen, Cuts, The Dark Knight), whom Backstrom “befriends” under his doctor’s (Rizwan Manji, Outsourced, The Wolf of Wall Street) orders, they make up his Bones-esque ensemble of colorful supporting players.

The reason I still watch Bones (though I’m quite behind on it) is because, despite how predictable and repetitive it is, there’s a very entertaining group who get excellent lines and entertaining subplots on a regular basis. BACKSTROM has a similar cast, many familiar faces oozing with talent and humor. The question is, how much of each hour will be spent on the boring old plot-of-the-week and how much will be fun? The balance is incredibly important to make the series worth watching, though it would certainly behoove Hanson to ditch the weekly-solve format as soon as possible, unlikely as it may seem that he would do so.

Because every modern cop drama must include the lead’s family, and Backstrom is not the type to have family and friends around (though we do get a forced-in story about his abusive father in “Dragon Slayer” to further shape the character), Backstrom regularly interacts with Valentine (Thomas Dekker, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). Valentine operates in the illegal underworld, son of a stripper, a transvestite in his own right. It takes a very strong personality to compete with Backstrom, and Valentine fits the bill. Plus, going by looks alone, I suspect he may secretly be Backstrom’s son, though one or both might not know it yet.

I probably don’t need to tell you about the main plot of “Dragon Slayer,” though doing so won’t spoil it for you. A body is discovered in an apparent suicide case, which is quickly ruled a homicide. The person you first suspect isn’t guilty, and through a serious of brilliant leaps by our above-average investigators, Backstrom is able to personally collar the culprit. This will likely be repeated in most episodes.

Overall, I like BACKSTROM; I really do. It has a terrific cast and is written by the man I believe is the current master of the genre. No one makes this type of show better than Hanson. But after a decade of watching his material, and seeing much of the same on the broadcast networks (most of which I don’t watch), I may finally be reaching my fill of it, as I noticed my attention drifting several times in the first episode alone. I’m hopeful the era of this type of show is near the end, ratings to the contrary, and the program can spin itself off into something better. Otherwise, BACKSTROM is yet another entry in an over- crowded field that feels wholly unoriginal.

BACKSTROM premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

Monday, January 26, 2015

SLEEPY HOLLOW Paints an Inferior Portrait

Article originally written for Seat42F.

The title of this week’s SLEEPY HOLLOW installment on FOX, “Pittura Infamante,” refers to a particular style of painting, which is seen in this episode. An evil killer from the past is trapped in such a portrait, but soon starts trying to get out, killing innocents in the process. It’s up to Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Katrina (Katia Winter) to interrupt their date and stop him.

As far as cases-of-the-week go, “Pittura Infamante” is a good one. It’s tied to Katrina’s past and an old friend, Abigail Adams (Michelle Trachtenberg, Gossip Girl, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and it unfolds in such a way to allow a couple of main characters to work through their feelings. It’s a bit exciting, and there are a couple of unexpected twists, as well as a trip inside the painting itself. Though, I still contend that our heroes know way too many famous people.

I worry, though, that FOX is going to ask SLEEPY HOLLOW to make more of this type of episode, given recent comments to the press about how the show has become “too serialized.” I disagree completely, arguing it hasn’t become serialized enough. I’m fine with a rare episode like “Pittura Infamante” because it serves a purpose. But if every week were like this one, I would be highly disappointed, feeling the show is better when it’s concentrating on its larger arcs. If I wanted crime solvers, I’d turn on one of a hundred other programs currently airing.

I don’t mean to use this week’s review as a platform to push my particular viewpoint, but it and the show exemplify a large issue. There is a major schism in the viewing audience. There are certainly a large number of people who enjoy self-contained hours, being able to drop in and out of a series at will, as evidenced by high ratings on such programs as Bones and NCIS. But there are also plenty, especially young people, who consume gripping series in large chunks and want a more intelligent, engaging story. Unfortunately, the financial model currently leans towards the former group, but I feel the future has to be in the latter, and hope there’s some sort of shift in the near future.

Back to SLEEPY HOLLOW specifically, though, this plot does allow Ichabod and Katrina to try to find a way to work together and relate to one another again. I am not a fan of their relationship, hoping it goes away sooner rather than later, but from Ichabod’s perspective, he wants to fix his marriage, and that’s laudable. Katrina needs help adjusting to the present, as Ichabod has, if they are going to be able to work. “Pittura Infamante” shows a path combining the two eras, and it allows them to actually feel on more solid footing than they ever have on the show.

Elsewhere, Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) returns to the police station and is immediately jailed. Abbie (Nicole Beharie) wonders if her friend is back, or if this is another Brooks situation, a dead man controlled by a demon. SLEEPY HOLLOW is keeping its cards close to its chest on this one, as they should, giving us more questions than answers thus far. Either way has some interesting possibilities, and I like that Irving’s family is finally acknowledged again, even though they are of little importance.

Usually, SLEEPY HOLLOW’s biggest strength is in its interactions between Ichabod and Abbie. There is precious little of that this week, but it does show each can stand on their own. They don’t need each other all the time. Not that they should be separated long, but it can work on occasion.

Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) also gets a few scenes, and provides comic relief in “Pittura Infamante.” The corpse she has to dig bullets out of is super gross, but it allows Greenwood to show what she can bring to the table, which sadly has not been demonstrated all that often. Jenny doesn’t have to be central to SLEEPY HOLLOW on a regular basis. But she should appear a bit more if this is how they’re going to use her.

As I said, “Pittura Infamante” is a solid example of a case-of-the-week, and it does tie into some larger stories. Because it luxuriates in some of the characters, exploring new aspects of their personalities and doing it well, I think it’s a good episode. It’s not what I want every week, but for now, it satisfies.

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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

ARROW "Left" Me Excited

Article first published as ARROW Review Season 3 Episode 10 Left Behind on Seat42F.

Arrow 3x10 Left Behind
The CW’s ARROW comes back from a nail-biting cliffhanger this week with “Left Behind.” Several days after Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) deadly battle, his team has heard nothing of his fate and struggle to accept the possibility he might not be coming back. They valiantly try to continue the good fight in his name, but they may not be up to the task without their leader.

Oliver is the glue that holds Team Arrow together. Personally, I think it would be really cool for ARROW to kill off Oliver, something that happens in comic books, an alter ego dying and another picking up the mantle, but I don’t believe has ever happened to a central superhero on a television series. Yes, Black Canary is killed and replaced, but not being a main or titular character, it’s not the same thing. It’s not that I don’t like Amell or Oliver; it would just be a very bold, unexpected move that would signal to the viewers that this series means business.

Instead, because Oliver is made to be the glue, things cannot function without him. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), once she stops denying the most likely scenario, quits the team, and tells Ray (Brandon Routh) that she won’t be helping him fight crime, either. Diggle (David Ramsey) tries to wear the green hood, but he is not that skilled with a bow and finds it easier to return to his plain clothes and gun. Roy (Colton Hayes) is the only one that seems to be doing well, but he can’t go it alone.

An answer to Team Arrow’s problem could be Laurel (Katie Cassidy), who dons the Black Canary outfit for the first time at the end of “Left Behind.” She has a strong enough personality to be a leader, though there’s no guarantee the existing members would take orders from a semi-outsider. Plus, she’s been acting a little reckless, so she may not make the best decisions for them.

So Team Arrow is left in a holding, or disintegrating, pattern until Oliver can return. He’s alive, of course, Malcolm Merlyn’s (John Barrowman) evidence to the contrary, though Malcolm can be forgiven for believing as he does. Maseo (Karl Yune) rescues Oliver from the cliff because, as we see in flashback, Oliver risks his neck to save Maseo’s wife, Tatsu (Rila Fukushima). Thus, it will only be a matter of time, and perhaps some physical therapy, before Oliver resumes his role as protector of the city.

That time can’t come soon enough. The bad guy in “Left Behind” is Brick (Vinnie Jones), a returning foe who is able to gain the upper hand here. He isn’t someone to be trifled with, and now that he knows the heroes are vulnerable, he’ll probably be breaking quite a few more laws than previously. If he is to be stopped, either Team Arrow needs to pull itself together or Oliver needs to get back on the job.

Thea (Willa Holland) doesn’t know that Oliver is dead, but since he’s really still alive, I guess that doesn’t put her at a disadvantage. She’s worried because she hasn’t heard from him, but despite the fact that she’s the one who sends Malcolm to investigate in the first place, Malcolm doesn’t share what he finds with her. So Thea still doesn’t know Oliver is The Arrow or that he went into a fight to the death on her behalf.

What is Malcolm’s game? Why doesn’t he tell Thea the truth about Oliver? Is he worried that the truth will make Thea think more highly of her brother, thus bleeding away some of the influence Malcolm has over her? Or does he want to draw out Thea’s distress so she comes to rely more on him as a shoulder to cry on? And is he sincere about wanting to be a father, or does he have some dark purpose for Thea?

These questions and more will surely be answered in upcoming installments of ARROW. If there’s one thing you can say about the show, it’s not boring (except some of the flashback parts). It’s also usually well crafted, with mysteries eventually being solved and elements playing into one another. If it were a little bolder, it would be nearly perfect.

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

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Article first published as TV Review: 'American Horror Story: Freak Show' - 'Curtain Call' on Blogcritics.

The fourth season of FX’s American Horror Story, subtitled Freak Show, concluded this week with “Curtain Call.” Perhaps the most satisfying season finale of the show yet, capping a season which, in my opinion, tied with the first for best of the series, it gave almost everyone who deserved it a happy ending. Mixing tears and joy in moving pathos, “Curtain Call” is the ending fans deserve.

Right away this year, American Horror Story: Freak Show made us care about the freaks. It is the people outside of the carnival that are the problem. Those with the deformities are the persecuted, and the ones to root for. The story tears down prejudice among those who watch, building sympathy for the outcasts. This continues right on through to the end.

As “Curtain Call” opens, the freak show has been sold to Dandy (Finn Wittrock), the biggest beast of the year. But the freaks, who have suffered enough, don’t put up with his gruff for long. They quit, prompting him to go on a killing spree and murder almost every performer left. Thankfully, four survive long enough to punish Dandy.

Wittrock’s performance in American Horror Story: Freak Show is nothing short of amazing. Even as he dramatically dies, drowning in Houdini’s water escape tank, we see the pain and anger in his eyes. He feels misunderstood, miscast in life. The more he tries to carve out his place and hone his talents, the worse he does. He’s deeply damaged, far from emotionless, desperate to find acceptance. He does horrific things, though, and like a diseased dog, the most merciful thing is to put him down, which our heroes do.

One might think that being slain by a madman is not a happy ending, and I mentioned in the opening that the ending is satisfying. “Curtain Call” toys with an afterlife, though, a specific fulfillment of the wishes of those who died. The freaks who are killed, and not just in the season finale, are reunited in an eternal caravan, performing nightly for packed houses. It may not be the ideal existence for most of us, nor even what many of them thought they wanted in life, but it’s what these people end up valuing most, enhanced by perfect circumstances and surrounded by beloved family.

Even Elsa (Jessica Lange) gets to go there, despite her sins. She achieves the Hollywood fame she desires, and finds it’s far less than she wishes for. As she gets bigger and bigger, she feels less and less at home, missing the family she built. In the end, she commits suicide on Halloween, letting us glimpse terrific guest stars Wes Bentley and John Carroll Lynch again, and ends up at the heavenly fair, rather than roaming with the cursed troupe. It’s a reward for the good she does before she does wrong. Ethel’s (Kathy Bates) gentle scolding that Elsa was not a good friend, boss, or cook but that she was born to perform is the perfect emotional chord, reuniting the oldest of friends in a tear-worthy scene that, as usual, proves what a considerable talent Lange is.

Speaking of Ethel, Bates is killed off far too early in American Horror Story: Freak Show. I miss her the moment she leaves, and while we do see her twice more, it only makes me wish for more of her. Angela Bassett’s Desiree, who survives, is also less featured than I’d like. I hope that, if Lange does step down or back in season five, a regrettable circumstance for sure, Bassett and Bates rise to take her place. They have earned a showcase like the one Lange has been getting these past few years.

The quartet that make it through “Curtain Call” intact are Desiree, Jimmy (Evan Peters), and Dot and Bette (Sarah Paulson). All end up happily married with children, having gotten away with the multiple murders they justly committed. My only small complaint about this is that it feels extremely familiar to have Paulson and Peters’ players achieve their bright futures, the two actors among the small number in past seasons who have similar conclusions. That’s likely because they keep getting cast in certain types of roles, the ones that naturally survive, but it still feels a tad bit like a repeat.

In the end, I’m left amazed by the tale told and the characters created. So many impressive performances, so many fascinating guest stars, and so many terrific twists. The plot feels more substantial than in the past couple of seasons, and the emotions run deeper. While half of the main characters sit out the finale (not unusual for this franchise), there are enough supporting characters appearing to keep it feeling full. “Curtain Call” is a great culmination of what builds up, and I cannot think of a better way to wind the various threads together.

American Horror Story has been renewed for a fifth season, which will feature as-of-yet unannounced new cast, setting, and subtitle.

Friday, January 23, 2015

JUSTIFIED On "Right" Track For Finale

Article first published as TV Review: 'Justified' - 'Fate's Right Hand' on Blogcritics.

Justified begins its final season on FX this week with “Fate’s Right Hand.” Picking up just after last season ended, Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) is sticking around Kentucky just long enough to take down his old frenemy, Boyd (Walton Goggins), then he’ll be off to Florida, where his baby daughter lives. There are thirteen episodes to play out before that can happen, though, so obviously the story won’t zip along, even if it starts out in an exciting manner.

J2The Raylan / Boyd relationship is the linchpin of Justified. They aren’t always together; in fact, they spend much more time in their own arcs than crossing paths. But keeping Boyd, who is only a recurring character in the first season, around is a brilliant move. Every time the pair come together, it’s explosive magic, and it certainly feels like this final season will give us more of that than ever, since taking down Boyd is the focus of Raylan’s final story.

This dynamic is served nearly right away in “Fate’s Right Hand.” Boyd is intent on robbing a bank and suspects Raylan of watching him. To combat this, Boyd dangles Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) out as a distraction to Raylan and the marshal takes the bait. It’s a very smart move on Boyd’s part, knowing Raylan isn’t supposed to go near Dewey and knowing Raylan won’t be able to resist doing so anyway. It doesn’t take Raylan long to realize he’s been played, but it’s just enough for Boyd to get away with his dastardly deed. It’s this deep understanding of one another that makes the game between them so intense, and while I root for Raylan to win in the end, I’m glad it won’t be easy on him because it’ll be an entertaining ride.

J1Stuck in the middle of the duo is Ava (Joelle Carter). She is done with Boyd, but is being pressured by Raylan to pretend that’s not the case so she can feed information to law enforcement. Art (Nick Searcy) tells Raylan he would have never have approved such an arrangement, and I’m inclined to agree with Raylan’s former boss. It’s true Ava is in a position where she can help, but there are too many messy emotions involved to trust her, or to trust Raylan’s judgment concerning her. In fact, in this premiere, she tries to play both sides, searching for a middle ground, before being told that’s not an option. It’s a risky move to allow this to carry on, and it is likely to not end well for one or more of the involved parties. Though, I’m heartened that Raylan is wise enough to seek advice from Art, even when he doesn’t have to listen to it.

I talk about messy outcomes, and there’s one teased at in “Fate’s Right Hand” as Boyd, having just killed Dewey, sits and stares as Ava as she sleeps. Does he suspect her of turning on him? He’s smart, and he knows her better than most people. And if Boyd does know that Ava is double-crossing him, does he still love her enough to spare her life? Or will he use her as a pawn in the continuing match? We know Boyd caring about someone does not preclude him for murdering that person. She’s in deep.

I didn’t mean to toss out Dewey’s death as a mere mention, as it is vitally important to Justified. Dewey is a long-standing, recurring player. Justified is full of such people, bringing in excellent actors and helping them create memorable roles, but Dewey is one who has really stuck because he fits so well in the setting. He’s been in a LOT of episodes. “Fate’s Right Hand” does off him a bit earlier than I’d have preferred, but it does it in a cool way.

J3Dewey leaves prison and still feels trapped. The life he used to enjoy is gone, and try as he might, he can’t get it back. He has no one to turn to, Boyd betraying him easily enough because he senses how unstable Dewey is. That’s because Dewey knows Raylan is in pursuit and he won’t find a moment’s rest. There can be no happy ending for Dewey, and he’s done enough bad things that one doesn’t really want him to get one, anyway. But the way things come together, culminating in the moment Boyd pulls the trigger, fits wonderfully with the show and the character, especially after giving Dewey deserved focus throughout the hour. Plus, it informs Boyd’s stare towards Ava, and chills viewers to the bone.

“Fate’s Right Hand” is an excellent installment of Justified, although I expect no less for the series which has yet to deliver a bad season. Justified is done with such a specific tone and style, unlike anything else currently airing, and adding to that the weight of the approaching conclusion, felt often throughout this episode, it all just clicks into something spectacular. This hour also makes good use of all of its cast, including Tim (Jacob Pitts) and Rachel (Erica Tazel), who are often under-used. These next twelve episodes should be something very much worth watching.

Justified airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Wesenrein" Conquer GRIMM

Article first published as GRIMM Review Season 4 Episode 9 Wesenrein on Seat42F.

GRIMM -- "Wesenrein" Episode 409 -- Pictured: (l-r) David Giuntoli as Nick Burkhardt, Russell Hornsby as Hank Griffin -- (Photo by: Scott Green/NBC)

When NBC’s GRIMM took its holiday hiatus, there were a few pretty important cliffhangers left dangling. This week’s return, “Wesenrein,” picks up right where the previous installment left off. Wu (Reggie Lee) is finally getting the truth because it is the only way to save his sanity. Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) is shocked to find she’s now a Hexenbiest. But both of those things take a backseat because Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) has been kidnapped by the titular Wesenrein, a Nazi-like hate group, who intend to punish him for his “sins,” such as marrying a different Wesen species than himself and befriending the enemy of almost all Wesen, a Grimm.

I like “Wesenrein” but I don’t love it, and here’s why. Wu being let in on the Wesen secrets has been stretched out far too long, and then is glossed over too quickly. Having the revelations halted because of an emergency is an understandable plot device. Yet, from Wu’s perspective, as he is not friends with Monroe and doesn’t know about the situation, he should be pushing back more, not least of which because police procedure is being ignored and he’s a good cop. Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) tell him they’ll explain more later, but he has no reason to believe them, given how they frequently brush him off. He deserves better and should be demanding it.

There are many interesting ways GRIMM could go now that Wu is brought onto the team. He brings a fresh viewpoint, and the series should be using him to remind us of the wonder of the world that hooked many a fan in the first place. What I fear is that his part won’t expand, and he’ll still just be used as a tool by the main characters, such as when he is sent to guard a person of interest this week. Wu has been wasted enough; it’s time to give him something worthwhile.

I’m less upset about Juliette’s story being placed on the backburner. Monroe is her friend, so of course she’s concerned and wants to be there for Monroe’s distraught wife, Rosalee (Bree Turner). She has something that is deeply upsetting her, but she’s willing to be there for those that need her first because her issue really isn’t quite as important. I assume the show will deal with this next week, which would be fine, as long as they don’t string it out like they have a few other arcs.

I never for a second believed Rosalee was dead because it didn’t make sense for the story, though that was a cool dream sequence. It’s disappointing that it doesn’t even come close to authentic deception, though. Other shows have managed to be unpredictable, and having Juliette accidentally kill Rosalee would have been an earth-shattering event. As much as I’d hate to lose Rosalee, and I think it would mean losing Juliette, too, because she could never come back from that, it would have been really satisfying to see GRIMM take such a big risk. Sadly, it’s this unwillingness to ever do something so shocking that holds GRIMM back from its potential and makes it distinctly inferior to peers such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The meat of the episode, though, is Monroe being a captive of a truly horrific people. It’s impossible to ignore the similarities between this group and Nazi Germany, both in attitude and symbolic style. I feel like GRIMM makes these people too cartoonishly evil, but the terror Monroe feels, and that the viewers feel for him, is authentic and raw. Though I wish for a less straight-forward set up, the stakes are real and tension is built excellently.

Monroe will survive this, of course, but I’m hoping there’s lasting damage. Again, I don’t expect it because the writers almost always play it too safe, but in an event such as this, Monroe should wind up mutilated, emotionally if not physically. There’re few situations worse he could be in. Until Nick can locate and slay the baddies, Monroe doesn’t know he’s going to make it out. I feel that from Mitchell this week, which is why I like “Wesenrein,” despite its flaws.

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Jagged Little" GLEE

Article first published as TV Review: 'Glee' - 'Jagged Little Tapestry' on Blogcritics.

This week’s episode of FOX’s Glee, “Jagged Little Tapestry,” is about unexpected pairings. There’s Rachel (Lea Michelle) and Kurt (Chris Colfer), clashing in the way they’d like to run the new New Directions. There’s Becky’s (Lauren Potter) new boyfriend, whom everyone is suspicious of. And, of course, there’s the music, which mashes up Carole King and Alanis Morissette. None of these seem like a particularly good idea.

G5I very much enjoy Carole King songs, and I very much enjoy Alanis Morisette songs. However, the mashups in “Jagged Little Tapestry” are not very good. The kids sing “Hand in My Pocket” interspersed with “I Feel the Earth Move,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” intermingled with “Head Over Feet,” and “You Learn” intermixed with “You’ve Got a Friend.” All six of these tunes are excellent on their own, but the pairings are disjointed both melodically and in the messages of the songs. Every switch back and forth is jarring, and it just doesn’t work as it should.

The best of these three is the middle one I mentioned because it is performed as a very charged duet between newbies Jane (Samantha Ware) and Mason (Billy Lewis Jr.). Mason and his sister, Madison (Laura Dreyfuss), seem far too close, so I wonder if this is the beginning of something between Jane and Mason which will cause serious jealousy from Madison. The sparks are already flying in one manner here, and as creepy as the Mason / Madison thing is, the writers could have some fun with a love triangle involving siblings.

Plus, putting the Blaine / Kurt flashes into this song strike a very strong emotional chord. Well done.

G3Also in this episode are “It’s Too Late,” a sad lament between a separate Blaine (Darren Criss) and Kurt, and “So Far Away,” in which Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) and Quinn (Dianna Agron) try to help Becky impress her boyfriend. The latter is cut short when Becky runs from the room. These King songs are emotional and well used, so no complaints there. I only wish the rest of King’s songs were better sandwiched into the episode.

The plot where Becky brings her new boyfriend, Darrell (Justin Prentice, Terri), home to her unseen parents, but everyone from Sue (Jane Lynch) to Santana (Naya Rivera) to Coach Roz (NeNe Leakes) reacts poorly, is an interesting one. You don’t often see someone with Down syndrome dating someone without it or a similar condition. Sue, in particular, wants to know if Darrell is messing with Becky because Sue is extremely protective of her former student. But Darrell does come across as genuine in “Jagged Little Tapestry,” and even if it feels wrong to many viewers (admittedly including myself), I like that Glee challenges our prejudices and makes us rethink them. Because Darrell is authentic, which I think we must assume for now, the issue is in the person who is uncomfortable, not the couple themselves.

G2Less satisfying is learning that Coach Bieste (Dot-Marie Jones) is going to have a sex change. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a compelling story or that it doesn’t fit in the show; it absolutely is and does. The problem is that it is Bieste herself that the plot surrounds. We see Bieste searching for love and being comfortable with herself on numerous occasions in the past. Sure, some people can hide their true feelings, but she doesn’t strike me as one to do so, especially given some of the raw moments we witness of her. To have her, of all people, go through this feels inconsistent for the character. Which is a shame, because I am excited to see Jones as a full-time cast member, and I just wish she were given material more in line with who she’s been since her introduction.

The good Sue is back in her support of Bieste. Sue is usually shown to be cruel in order to inspire and push people to do their best. The exception is when she eliminates arts education from the school, but maybe this can be justified in some twisted way because she thinks such pursuits are holding students back. I don’t quite buy it, but I’m glad to see Sue hasn’t been turned into a cartoon villain in the final season.

G4Another weakness in “Jagged Little Tapestry” is how the Kurt / Rachel conflict is handled. Knowing the two of them, obviously they will be at odds, and obviously they will work through them. Perhaps because of everything else going on in the hour, though, this arc is zoomed through, skipping steps between break and heal. This either needs to be a bigger focus or spread out over multiple episodes. Maybe it will be, but they seem to come back together far too easily at the end.

G1Luckily, to balance out the flaws, the hour contains some of the best Santana / Brittany (Heather Morris) stuff ever. Unlike the rest of the rocky pairings, their union is solid, and it finally blooms into an engagement. (I do hope it is mentioned this season that Ohio, where the show takes place and where I live, is one of the handful of ridiculous states that still outlaw gay marriage.) We are given a really intimate post-coitus scene that is a little more adult than most of Glee has been, but earned for these two. More importantly, we see them express their feelings for one another in a very authentic way, for them. I’m so happy this couple is making it and set for a happy ending.

Kurt’s jealousy here is completely natural, and while he mishandles it, he does apologize to Brittany. I wish we’d see how Santana takes the sorry, especially given how she (deservedly) rips Kurt a new one, but I’ll settle for what’s in the episode, glad Kurt is chastised, even though his pain is understandable.

“Jagged Little Tapestry” is a middling episode. Great music not well used, and two pretty good plots alongside a couple lesser ones keep it from reaching its potential, but also keep it from being a disaster. Overall, I’m pretty happy with Glee‘s final season. Hopefully, that will hold.

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

12 MONKEYS Not Too Many

Article first published as 12 MONKEYS Review on Seat42F.

12 Monkeys Syfy Amanda Schull as Cassandra Railly, Aaron Stanford as James Cole

SyFy’s newest series, 12 MONKEYS, is inspired by the 1995 film Twelve Monkeys. Those familiar with that movie know the basic story. Almost all of the world’s human population is wiped out by a deadly virus. Desperate scientists in the future send back one man to change the past and prevent such disaster. It’s mind-bendy, twisty stuff, full of action and time travel and paradox.

Aaron Stanford (Nikita) stars in 12 MONKEYS as James Cole, the Bruce Willis role from the film. In the pilot, circa 2013, Cole meets Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull, Suits) and enlists her help with his mission. When Cole returns to Railly in 2015, scant moments have passed for him, but her life has forever changed by the task he assigns her: find Leland Frost. With a little help, she does locate the man Cole believes is responsible for the epidemic (Zeljko Ivanek, Damages, Heroes, Madam Secretary). Of course, that’s only the beginning of the story.

One thing that struck me about the film Twelve Monkeys is that it is quite difficult to try to keep track of everything that is going on and when everything is supposed to have happened, especially once the time line begins to change – or does it? 12 MONKEYS begins with this same head-spinning issue, bringing in not just two distinct time periods, but several more. However, by being given many weeks to unfold the tale, I assume it will be much easier to follow as it goes along, the series being given the gift of more than two hours to tell its story.

12 MONKEYS is ripe for such exploration. The movie is great, a self-contained film that leaves one thinking. But the universe has plenty to unspool over multiple seasons. The time traveling hero who doesn’t have all the answers, nor does his boss, the mysterious Jones (Barbara Sukowa, Hannah Arendt), meets the girl who takes a chance on him. Toss in a secret terrorist organization, the 12 MONKEYS mentioned in the title, led by a female version of the Brad Pitt part, Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire, My Awkward Sexual Adventure), and there’s the makings of an epic battle of good versus evil fought over decades, with the lines not clearly drawn.

12 MONKEYS also has a supporting cast experienced in the genre. Standford’s Nikita co-star, Noah Bean, plays Aaron Marker, a former love interest of Railly’s, while Fringe’s Kirk Acevedo is Ramses, a contemporary of Cole’s. Along with those noted above, this makes for a pretty solid, if not well-known, core cast.

SyFy has been moving into more intelligent dramas as of late. Its cheesy movies and goofy shows, like Warehouse 13, still have a place there, but the network is also attempting some higher concept stuff, such as Helix and 12 MONKEYS. It’s a good sign, to see their fare turn to something more worthy to serious fans of science fiction, as nothing really has there since Battlestar Galactica and Caprica ended, and 12 MONKEYS certainly fits that label. It’s similar in makeup to the Canadian program Continuum, which also runs on SyFy, but adds several other layers to that concept. It’s not my favorite new series of the year by a long shot, but it’s interesting and complex, which is a step above what I expected.

The pilot eats through much of the movie’s most central plot, skipping some subplot items that won’t fit in a longer-running show and not really getting to the mental institution yet. While the latter does leave enough to fill another hour or so, that means that very early on in season one, 12 MONKEYS will be leaving its source material behind and starting to forge its own path. I look forward to seeing where that’s going.

12 MONKEYS premieres this Friday, January 16th, at 9 p.m. ET on SyFy.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

No "Debate" About THE GOOD WIFE

Article first published as THE GOOD WIFE Review Season 6 Episode 12 The Debate on Seat42F.

The latest episode of CBS’s THE GOOD WIFE, which aired an hour later than usual last night for some reason, is “The Debate.” Alicia (Julianna Margulies) faces Frank Prady (David Hyde Pierce) in a televised debate, while at the same time, Diane (Christine Baranski) and Cary (Matt Czuchry) square off with David Lee (Zach Grenier) in Neil Gross’s (John Benjamin Hickey) divorce, and Peter (Chris Noth) tries to keep race riots from erupting in Chicago.

Alicia’s evolution to politician has been interesting to watch. She is so completely anti-politic at the start, and slowly finds her footing in a thing that she begins to care about. She gets into the State’s Attorney’s race to fight a corrupt incumbent, but in order to do a decent job at running, she has to convince herself she deserves to be there. Thus, even when that opponent drops out and she likes her new antagonist, somewhat anyway, she stays in because she now wants to do this thing she talked herself into. It’s a pretty cool example of character development.

During “The Debate” itself, Alicia starts off rocky, then gets on track just before the proceedings are put on hold, wherein she and Frank continue their talk, sans moderator, for the kitchen staff, much to the chagrin of their campaign managers. This may be slightly silly, but THE GOOD WIFE is just so good at writing these moments of high drama. Were Alicia and Frank not totally believable, a credit to both performers and the writers, none of this would work. Instead, it’s a gripping narrative for those who love good political stuff.

I actually hope Alicia wins. It would suck to see her taken away from Cary and Diane, but the firm has plenty of people to go on without her. The State’s Attorney’s office has long been a part of the show, too, and seeing Alicia there would shed even more light on the job. Plus, the prosecutor / defense chemistry is almost always one of friction. It would be interesting to see Alicia, who has respect for defense attorneys, take over in that role, changing the dynamic of the justice system in fictional Chicago.

Alicia’s current problems are not so much in the race itself, but in the parts of her life affected by her new position. Cary and Diane make decisions without consulting her, such as hiring back David Lee, which somewhat justifiably upsets Alicia, though the pair can be forgiven for taking that step. They support Alicia’s candidacy, but they have a job to do, too. She did the exact same thing while Cary was embroiled in legal troubles. Her marriage with Peter is suffering again because once more he’s been caught with another woman, even though their union is merely for show at this point and Peter quickly ends things. Not to mention, Alicia accidentally discovers her own campaign manager, Johnny (Steven Pasquale), may have feelings for her.

I didn’t see the Alicia / Johnny thing coming. If Alicia were to be with anyone other than Peter, Finn (Matthew Goode) seems the natural choice. But there’s something kind of cool about the two of them together, so I’m kind of hoping that THE GOOD WIFE does go there. After the election, of course, as she won’t win if her marriage is known to be falling apart.

Alicia is asked about the state of her marriage during “The Debate,” and she responds quite aggressively that it’s none of the press’s business. I feel like this is a tough topic. On one hand, if you put yourself in a position where you’re asking the public to trust you, what kind of person you are is their business. On the other, those kinds of questions can’t be asked in an interview for virtually any other job, so why should they be brought up here? It’s a complex issue, but for Alicia’s personal situation, she handles it beautifully.

Another, even more complicated matter unfolds on the streets of Chicago, eerily bringing to mind the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, which THE GOOD WIFE references in text on screen at the start of the hour. We’re at a crucial moment for race relations and police power in the United States. The system is obviously broken, but an easy fix is hard to find, as Alicia and Frank argue in their kitchen debate. And as one staff member asks them, why do these white people think they can or should solve it for everyone else? There’s no really good way to broach things, but Peter does the best he can while stepping up with the local religious leaders.

Is Peter acting out of personal self-interest or because he wants to help? Probably a bit of both, but that doesn’t make him wrong or bad. He advocates peace, and gets others to do the same. He doesn’t have a solution yet, but he’s right to try to keep violence from erupting, as that doesn’t solve anything. Peaceful protests are completely justified, and it’s easy to see how some may take it a step further out of frustration. It just doesn’t help their cause in the eyes of the larger society if they hurt anyone. Nor does letting police who have acted wrongly get away scot free, of course. I applaud THE GOOD WIFE for tackling a divisive, important issue before there is a clear path through it, sparking conversation without being teach-y or preachy.

In all, “The Debate” is yet another example of great television from the best drama series on the broadcast networks. As usual, I cannot wait for next week, nor can I predict with any degree of certainty what will happen.

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Homecoming" For GLEE

Article first published as TV Review: 'Glee' - 'Loser Like Me' and 'Homecoming' on Blogcritics.

FOX’s Glee began its final season with two episodes this past Friday. In the first, “Loser Like Me,” Rachel (Lea Michele) sees her Hollywood dreams crash and burn. Returning to Lima, Ohio, she realizes the program that inspired her is no more as well, so she petitions the superintendent to revive the arts at McKinley. He agrees – if she will run the show choir. The story continues in the second hour, “Homecoming,” in which many of Rachel’s fellow alumni return to help her recruit.

G3I’ve been pretty critical of Glee in recent seasons as the quality of the show, never consistent, noticeably declined. The bright spot was whenever the series moved to New York, with the Ohio plots being much lamer. Unfortunately, this sixth (and final) season pretty much eliminates New York altogether, as there is no one left in the Big Apple to follow.

That being said, something Glee usually nails is emotional heft, and season six is already showing greater willingness to use this hammer. The story may not be entirely believable (Sue’s antics so ridiculously misrepresent what would be allowed in education that I want to scream) nor make total sense (why did Chord Overstreet’s Sam decide to move home and become the assistant football coach?), but “Loser Like Me” succeeds in making me feel something for the characters again. Many of them, especially Rachel and Kurt (Chris Colfer), are at a crossroads in their lives. Things haven’t exactly turned out as they’d hoped, something many young adults face, and they may need to readjust career goals and priorities.

Adding to that is this desperate crusade in the final war against Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) to save arts education. The New Directions did something very special for all of the core characters, and Rachel, Kurt, et al. want to make sure that tradition continues. This is an idea many fans of the show can get behind, and it makes it all the more special when old friends, including Puck (Mark Salling), Mercedes (Amber Riley), Artie (Kevin McHale), Quinn (Dianna Agron), Brittany (Heather Morris), Santana (Naya Rivera), and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), come together to help one another.

G2A quick note on casting. I’m glad to see Riley back to full-time status, and the promotion of Dot-Marie Jones’ Coach Beiste makes sense, as well as being very satisfying. But why is McHale sticking around, given that he should be the only one left in NYC? And it’s with great regret to note that Rivera has been downgraded to guest star, though she’s expected to appear in several episodes.

The final season will not only see people come together in opposition to Sue, but it will also test the bounds of new relationships. Kurt and Rachel are heading up the New Directions, and two of their loves ones are now coaching their own glee clubs, Will (Matthew Morrison) having been hired for Vocal Adrenaline and Blaine (Darren Criss) returning to his Warblers. This will provide needed drama, which already begins in “Homecoming” when one of Blaine’s students switches to McKinley. But Kurt and Blaine are destined to repair their relationship and Will clearly isn’t happy with his less chummy group, so those are all just obstacles to overcome, rather than signaling an unhappy ending.

Speaking of Kurt and Blaine, their breakup, shown in flashback in “Loser Like Me,” is incredibly sad. I get why it happens, and I think it’s one of the better fleshed out developments in Glee recently, but it’s still incredibly hard to see this “perfect” couple fall apart. I enjoy Karofsky (Max Adler) getting into the triangle, but I have faith the series will bring Klaine back together in the end, which is how it should be.

The evolution of homosexuality in Glee‘s six short years on the air has been astounding. In the beginning, Kurt is bullied for being gay, and Karofsky certainly can’t bring himself to admit who he has feelings for. In “Loser Like Me,” we are introduced to Spencer Porter (Marshall Williams, How to Build a Better Boy), who is “post-gay,” meaning he doesn’t fit into any of the stereotypes gay boys usually fit into, and hardly anyone has a problem with his sexuality. I don’t think the world has changed quite that dramatically in six years, but it certainly has moved majorly in that direction, thanks in large part to shows like Glee and Modern Family, which gets a name drop this week. I hope those involved in Glee are proud of their societal contribution in this arena, and it’s awesome that the show is able to realistically include a character like Spencer before they go off the air.

G1Joining Spencer (who is not yet in glee club, but certainly will be) in the fresh batch of newbies are: chubby transfer student Roderick (Noah Guthrie, Dancing With the Stars); discrimination-busting Jane (Samantha Marie Ware); and Flowers in the Attic-esque siblings Mason (Billy Lewis Jr.) and Madison (Laura Dreyfuss). Virtually all these performers are unknown, not a rarity for Glee, but they seem like an interesting group, and even if the latter are only comic relief, they should make for some worthy, albeit brief, narratives in the final season. Plus, they can all sing quite well.

I am a bit sad “Loser Like Me” and “Homecoming” introduce a brand new batch of kids without including any of the most recent students like Marley and Unique. I mean, had Sue not transferred them to other schools, they probably would have kept fighting her, and thus Rachel would not have a clean slate. But I like those guys a lot, despite the horrible stories they are often given, and I’m sad they don’t appear to be returning. Kitty (Becca Tobin) is still around, but it doesn’t look like she’s re-joining the choir. It’s not like they’re the first people Glee regrettably diss-ed though; I still miss Zizes.

While I mainly want to talk story this week, I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on the music in “Loser Like Me” and “Homecoming.” “Suddenly Seymour” is a favorite song of mine, and Glee presents it beautifully. I’m not as big a fan of “Let It Go,” but it’s hard to complain about Ms. Berry’s fantastic rendition of it, and I love the mother/daughter angle because the woman that made the tune famous, Idina Menzel, plays Rachel’s mother on the show. “Take On Me” is telegraphed well before it shows up, but that doesn’t negate it’s effect when it finally does. “Uninvited” is nice, “Viva Voce” is cool, and “Tightrope” is spectacular. “Home” works well for the ending of the two-hour episode.

I was less thrilled with “Mustang Sally,” “Problem,”Dance the Night Away,” and “Sing,” but that speaks as much to the song choices as the performances of them. Though Glee has turned me around on icky songs before by finding a new angle, so the fact that these fail to wow is too bad.

Overall, I am reasonably satisfied with Glee‘s return. These aren’t the best two hours of the series, but they are mostly enjoyable, and they appropriately add serious emotion in the beginning-of-the-end plots introduced. It seems like the show is setting up the ending these characters deserve, and since creator Ryan Murphy has a tendency to nail the dramatic stuff, I’m cautiously optimistic about where the show is going.

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

Monday, January 12, 2015


Article originally written for Seat42F.

MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER is Alias in the 1940s, so with a large dose of how women were treated in the first season of Mad Men. Set two years after the events of the main plot of Captain America: The First Avenger, SSR Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) has been relegated to a desk job that wastes her talents. But when Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) is accused of selling weapons to the nation’s enemies, he calls upon her to secretly investigate who stole his tech.

AGENT CARTER is not about the start of S.H.I.E.L.D., set prior to that organization’s founding, nor does it feature connections to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., at least not yet. Instead, the miniseries is its own thing, a self-contained mission seemingly designed to highlight Atwell’s talents and prove her worthiness to Stark, who certainly needs no further evidence. It’s not ground-moving to the Marvel universe, but it is enjoyable.

For those wondering about continuity, well, it works fine with Captain American, but not with the Marvel One-Shot, Agent Carter. In the One-Shot, which takes place one year after Captain America, thus one year prior to AGENT CARTER, she is rescued from obscurity by Howard to begin the organization Nick Fury will one day run. This hasn’t happened yet, and she’s still locked in the desk job, albeit with a different boss and co-workers than in that short. Toss out the One-Shot, or assume it happens at a later date, and all is well. Though, it’s a tad disappointing we don’t get to see Peggy traipsing the globe with Dum Dum Dugan and the Howling Commandos, picking up artifacts as glimpses in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this fall.

Taking AGENT CARTER on its own merits, I like it. It’s a new take on the detective / cop / spy story, with Carter having to work behind her superior’s backs because they don’t trust or believe in her. She has a sort-of bumbling male sidekick, Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy, Those Who Kill), and when she’s not working, she has a gal pal to hang around with, waitress Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca, Nikita). There is character development when someone Peggy is close to pays the cost of Carter’s activities. Peggy’s adventures are exciting enough, and it’s fun watching her kick butt and brilliantly outsmart the villains, including Spider Raymond (Andre Royo, The Wire), Leet Brannis (James Frain, Grimm), and Miles Van Ert (James Urbaniak, The Venture Bros.).

AGENT CARTER is feminism in action without pounding you over the head with it. Sure, Peggy’s boss, Roger Dooley (Shea Whigham, Boardwalk Empire), has no confidence in her, nor do co-workers golden boy Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray, One Tree Hill) and bumbling Ray Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer, Perfect Couples). But Stark and Jarvis have plenty of faith in her, and her peer, Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj, Dollhouse), respects her, too. So how people regard Peggy is more about them as individuals than the time as a whole.

Where the show gets most preachy is when we hear the Captain American radio plays, which paint Peggy as a damsel in distress that the hero must rescue. Of course, at one point this is interspersed with her beating the heck out of a baddie, so it’s more laughable bit than social commentary.

AGENT CARTER feels fresh, and it feels new. I think making it a period piece sets it apart from other network fare, and while the structure of show isn’t wholly original, making it one big story instead of cases-of-the-week keeps it compelling. I do wish it had been set in the early days of S.H.I.E.L.D., thus adding to the franchise as a whole, but it’s still a fun piece without that, and I look forward to seeing where the plot is going over the next six weeks. And maybe season two will satisfy that other want?

AGENT CARTER airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Article originally written for Seat42F.

In “Paradise Lost,” the first of seven episodes this winter, FOX’s SLEEPY HOLLOW returns strong. It’s been six week since the defeat of Moloch, and neither Henry (John Noble) nor Irving (Orlando Jones) have been glimpsed since. Katrina (Katia Winter) keeps Abraham (Neil Jackson) captive as she tries to figure out how to separate his soul from the demon, while Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Abbie (Nicole Beharie) ponder life after being witnesses. Then, an angel shows up.

I really dig Abbie and Ichabod thinking they may have won the day, and thus their lives’ purpose is fulfilled. It’s an interesting concept no television series has ever really explored much. What happens to the superhero after the supervillain has been vanquished? What is the purpose of supreme good when supreme evil no longer exists? Neither character has much of a plan beyond what they deal with immediately, and thus are a bit lost when it comes to moving forward.

Of course, viewers aren’t likely to buy the notion that the duo’s ordeal is over, as novel as that might be, as that isn’t the format of SLEEPY HOLLOW. It’s also far too fast-paced a show to give any character much time to dwell on a new world order before sending chaos back into their midst. Thus, “Paradise Lost” introduces new challenges early in the hour.

Enter Orion (Max Brown, The Tudors, The CW’s Beauty and The Beast). He tells them he’s an angel that has been trapped in Purgatory, and now that he’s out, he wants revenge on the being that put him there, which just so happens to be our own Headless Horseman, a.k.a. Abraham. But Orion’s words seem off to Ichabod, and those fears prove founded when it is discovered that Orion plans to bring judgment upon the Earth, as he has done in the past, basically ending life as we know it.

Orion is interesting because he’s an avenging angel. He thinks he’s good, and there’s an argument to be made that he is. But he is also full of hubris, thinking he is worthy of passing judgment on others, which isn’t true. And so he must be stopped, which Abbie and Ichabod manage to do, after getting over their disagreement with one another.

More importantly, Orion’s escape from Purgatory signals that others have fled, too, so there will be plenty of demons around for our heroes to battle, as well as some potential new allies. A disarmed Orion will likely not be one of the latter, though he lives to return another day at the close of “Paradise Lost.”

The big twist at the end of “Paradise Lost” is that Captain Irving is walking around again. He is presumed dead by our crew. Did he briefly go to Purgatory? Or does he remain on the Earth because Henry owns his soul? It’s a very mysterious introduction, one that leaves the explanation for another week. But at least we see Irving, as Henry is completely MIA from this episode.

Another after-effect of the big battle is that Ichabod and Katrina’s marriage is in tatters. That’s understandable. Katrina proved herself untrustworthy where Henry is concerned, and her continued compassion for Abraham as a friend, someone who Ichabod has no interest in being close to again, sparks his jealousy. I don’t think Katrina is with Abraham romantically, but one can see why Ichabod might suspect that is the case.

Can Abraham be saved? He’s been on a sort-of path to redemption, and Katrina could hold the key to his cure, should she be back on the market. I can’t help but feel it might be a better outcome if Ichabod is done with the witch, especially as that gives an opportunity for a demon to become a man again, but also because Katrina is annoying. Let’s hope this is how things shake out.

Lastly, there’s a bit where Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) goes to Hawley (Matt Barr) for help, and he expresses regret at their break up. I’m not sure what this is about. Didn’t Hawley ditch Jenny because he has real feelings for Abby? Is he changing his mind? Or is SLEEPY HOLLOW creating false drama? It’s bad enough that Abbie doesn’t know about Hawley and Jenny’s past; I hope this doesn’t morph into a true love triangle.

While there are weaknesses where intriguing possibilities are glossed over, “Paradise Lost” is a good returning installment because it quickly gets the story moving again and there is some fantastic Abbie / Ichabod interaction, the cornerstone of SLEEEPY HOLLOW. It’s hard to ask for a better return of a broadcast network show.

SLEEPY HOLLOW will take next week off for some stupid athletic competition, and then resume its run Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.