Tuesday, March 31, 2015

THE GOOD WIFE Fans "Recipients" of Another Great Installment

Article originally written for Seat42F.

Thank you for your advice. All options are open to me, and I’ll make a decision within 48 hours.
That’s the repeated refrain on this week’s installment of THE GOOD WIFE on CBS, “Undisclosed Recipients.” Alicia (Julianna Margulies) has won the State’s Attorney election, but that is just the beginning of her problems. She tries to play open and honest with everyone, donors and her partners at the law firm alike, but it doesn’t work too well. It’s time for her to start being a politician, and Eli (Alan Cumming) makes that very clear to her.

As much as one roots for Alicia to stand up to influence and do the right thing, it’s easy to see why Lemond (Mike Colter) and Redmayne (Ed Asner) think they should have influence over her. They did pour a lot of support into her campaign with the expectation of getting something in return. Alicia may not have agreed to terms, but she did take the money. She could have refused or made a stink about it, but she wouldn’t have won. Perhaps THE GOOD WIFE goes too easy on politicians and the influence of money, or perhaps they are just showing that even the best person is put in a difficult position within this broken system.

Eli provides a way out, backing up the stereotype that politicians are slimy liars. He tells her to deflect and appear to appreciate advice she won’t seriously consider. This works on Redmayne, and it works on Castro (Michael Cerveris), who is looking for professional respect. A variation of this also works on Alicia’s partners, whom are trying to lowball her in buying her out of the firm. But I don’t think it will work on Bishop.

Bishop isn’t a part of that world. He isn’t a public figure in the same way the rest are, preferring to dwell in the shadows. He also uses violence to fight, not words, giving him a different set of tools. Redmayne may forget that Alicia doesn’t choose who he wants, but Bishop won’t overlook Alicia refusing to call of an investigation on him. She could wind up hurt, or worse.

Alicia needs assistance in dealing with Bishop. I think it’s time she brings Eli and Marissa (Sarah Steele) fully into the loop here. Perhaps she puts them at risk by coming clean, but both have been very valuable advisors, different sides of the same coin with varying opinions. If the brain trust of these three can’t figure a way out of this, I’m not sure no one can.

The other thing that happens in “Undisclosed Recipients” is that a hacker leaks the firm’s emails because they are representing a client suing a file sharing site. Because these people let off steam, and also because they work with people they don’t always like, there are many damaging comments made that now come to light. Cary (Matt Czuchry), Diane (Christine Baranski), David Lee (Zach Grenier), Kalinda (Archie Panjabi), Lyman (Jerry Adler), and just-returned-from-New York Julius (Michael Boatman) all succumb to infighting over this. Alicia is spared only because the released emails are from the time of her campaign.

It’s interesting to see dirty laundry brought to light in this particular environment. The type of job and the sort of people who do this work create a much more tumultuous atmosphere than in most offices. Not everything said is what the authors are really thinking, though some of it is. I think it reminds us that we all find ways to work with people we don’t agree with or like, and we can’t condemn others for being no better than ourselves. It’s quite a thought-provoking story, as much as it is a juicy, dramatic one.

That Finn (Matthew Goode) lets comments Alicia pre-emptively admits to making about him roll off his back shows that he’s a different type of person that the rest of the cast. Or he just trusts Alicia more than he would most people, her actions speaking louder than words. He would be a great ally for her to have, a reasonable, logical individual who cares about her. I hope he takes the job as her deputy. Marissa, too, shows no judgment as she reads Alicia’s messages, so she also needs to stick around, given her considered take on the world (though it’s worth noting none are about her).

I also don’t think THE GOOD WIFE has seen the last of these emails. Alicia’s are not released, but they could be, as the hacker says they have two years’ worth of stuff. Given Alicia’s new job and how much more damaging this could be to her in the high-morality role, it seems too tantalizing a bait to not toss in the water. Expect this to come back up at some point, whether it’s sooner or later.

Once more, THE GOOD WIFE gives us excellent, engaging plot with authentic, layered characters in a very real situation. It rips from the headlines, but also stays true to the individuals created. I can find no flaw with “Undisclosed Recipients,” another excellent hour from the stellar series.

THE GOOD WIFE airs Sundays on CBS.

THE WALKED DEAD Did "Conquer" Story and Ratings

Article originally written for Seat42F.

The central question of the season finale of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD is, what will the Alexandrians do with Rick (Andrew Lincoln)? After Rick’s gun-waving breakdown at the end of the previous episode, Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) is leaning towards kicking him out of the settlement, but she holds a town forum first to get opinions. As scary as Rick may have been in the moment, though, is he wrong, and do the people see that?

Rick’s contention is that the Alexandrians have been lucky thus far and they are not prepared to take care of themselves when that luck runs out. He and his people have been out in the world and have seen firsthand how bleak it can get and how cruel people can be. This darkness may not yet have touched Alexandria, but it will.

“Conquer” begins by showing us some of that evil that Rick is so worried about. Morgan (Lennie James) has been tracking Rick all the way to the D.C. area. Stopping for a little breakfast, he is set upon by two “Wolves,” people who ruthlessly take all they can, set traps of brutalized Walkers, and have no qualms at all about killing people that they come across. Morgan is able to deal with two of them and walk away, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still pose a threat, especially as we don’t know the size of their group.

Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) run into this same contingent on the road. They lose a man they are considering recruiting, distracted by one of the Wolves’ traps. Not prepared, they realize too late what is happening, and are soon stuck, finding an ominous note that bad people are coming. Thankfully, before the duo perishes, Morgan shows up and saves them because he’s just a good dude.

THE WALKING DEAD presents a world where two types of people survive. One type is the bad sort, like the Wolves or The Governor, but another is the kind that look out for others and stick together like a family. Morgan is an example of the latter, altruistic towards innocents, and not even killing the Wolves that attack him. Daryl and Aaron are, too, each willing to sacrifice themselves for the other before deciding to make a break for it together, which they thankfully don’t end up having to do.

Glenn (Steven Yeun) proves himself in the same category in “Conquer.” Nicholas (Michael Traynor) feels threatened, not understanding the gift of protection Glenn is offering him. Frightened, Nicholas strikes, luring Glenn outside the walls and shooting him, trying to kill him. Multiple times the two scuffle, Glenn tough enough to survive one idiot and a handful of Walkers. In the end, though, while Glenn could easily kill Nicholas, he does not, instead limping back to Alexandria together. Not many would spare Nicholas as Glenn does, likely seeing Nicholas the scared child that he is.

Nicholas will likely come out of this learning something about Glenn and having a new-found respect for him. He isn’t the only one changed by his encounter with Rick’s people, Tobin (Jason Douglas), Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge), and even Deanna’s husband, Reg (Steve Coulter), believing Rick should stay and maybe is needed to save them. The weaker in this world have to put their faith in someone, and those like Glenn and Rick are the types to earn that faith.

Which brings us back to the start of this review, and that is to Rick himself. His gun swinging does feel a little crazy, but “Conquer” gives us a little more insight to the sheriff. Despite Carol’s (Melissa McBride) assertion the two of them should continue their deception, Rick doesn’t feel comfortable lying to the others, especially Michonne (Danai Gurira). He’s worried Michonne won’t side with him against Deanna (though of course she says asserts her continued loyalty), but he thinks Michonne deserves to know what’s going on. Here, we see Rick’s nobility, and as he explains to her, he snaps a bit because he is totally frustrated at how blind these naïve people are, which is understandable. He refuses to apologize to the group, but he does offer to make them his family and teach them how to survive, being open and honest. This puts him firmly in the good column.

There is a slight snag in the neat ending, as Deanna orders Rick to execute Pete (Corey Brill) after an angry Pete accidentally murders Reg, a regrettable happenstance. This seems to be Deanna deciding in Rick’s favor and putting to bed the debate, but Rick murders Pete just as Morgan walks in, and Morgan is all about zen-like non-violence these days. Fans of THE WALKING DEAD widely love Morgan and wish him to be a part of the cast. Will Rick’s brutality, necessary as it is, scare him away? Will Morgan’s journey have been for nothing?

Two more intersecting subplots of note plays out in “Conquer,” making more obvious some of the internal struggles Rick and the others go through as they try to adapt to civilization again. In the first, Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) tries to literally bury her demons as she cleans up dead Walkers outside the wall. She’s at a very low point, even lying in the mass grave with them because she feels as dead as they are. Still, she is clearly trying to get better as she goes to Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) for advice and spiritual guidance.

The good father is in no position to counsel her, or anyone else who asks, for that matter. He hates himself so much for not saving his parishioners that he goes outside the walls and tries to commit suicide-by-Walker. When he can’t bring himself to do that, killing his first undead, he tries to goad Sasha into taking him out. I do think the emotional confrontation that follows, which they both walk away from, should be cathartic enough to help them begin to move on, but it’s very charged and it takes us into the depths of their pain.

THE WALKING DEAD packs a lot into this final hour and a half. All of the stories mentioned above are deeply personal and complex in their highlighting of personalities. We also see Maggie (Lauren Cohan) be set up as a spiritual healer, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) make peace, and Tara (Alanna Masterson) looks like she’s recovering. So much goodness, and still with pacing that doesn’t feel rushed.

“Conquer” does succeed in overcoming the strife of the past eight episodes, though, bringing everyone, Alexandrians and our group alike, which are now one and the same, into a common cause. This is super necessary, as we know the Wolves will soon be coming. Thankfully, Rick has a bigger group than ever to help fight those that are evil and give those that deserve to the best chance possible to survive. It’s going to be a hell of an exciting sixth season.

THE WALKING DEAD will return, likely around October, to AMC. The companion series, Fear The Walking Dead, which takes viewers to L.A. in the early days of the Walker outbreak, launches late this summer on the same network.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Break Your "Date" With GRIMM

Article originally written for Seat42F.

The latest installment of NBC’s GRIMM, “Double Date,” introduces us to a Wesen with multiple personalities. It turns from a male (Mark Famiglietti, Terminator 3) to a female (Briana Lane, The Real Housewives of Horror) and back again, both forms being completely separate individuals. This make the creature especially dangerous when it starts preying on horny guys, and the deadly liquid it secretes in its Wesen form is pretty bad, too.

There are actually some very interesting moral quandaries raised in “Double Date.” To arrest the Wesen, Nick (David Giuntoli), Hank (Russell Hornsby), and Wu (Reggie Lee) must trap it in its male form, which doesn’t sit right with Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell). While the Wesen doesn’t have an equivalent in the real world, there are definitely shades of gender rights, mental illness, and transsexuality built into the story, and a general feeling of icky-ness when the cops take the ability away. While GRIMM doesn’t delve too deeply into the issues it raises, at least this case makes one think.

It also paints Nick as a bit of a bully. Being a Grimm is his job, and sometimes he has to go outside of the legal boundaries in order to get that job done. Yet, Nick shows no remorse over what he is doing to this Wesen, nor worries about its state of mind after it is caught. While Nick doesn’t kill Wesen like other Grimms, he has definitely developed a professional detachment that makes him seem cold and cruel. I hope this is an angle the show examines more in the near future.

I’m not super hopeful that will be the case, though. “Double Date,” like many recent installments, concentrates a lot on the case-of-the-week, minimizing the serial arcs of the show. This hour is a little less procedural than the last few, but still majorly falls into the formulaic column, a huge disappointment. I feel like I could copy and paste many of my complaints about GRIMM in recent columns and reuse them this week, though I’ll refrain from doing so. It still bums me out to see a program fall this far in quality and story freshness as GRIMM has this year.

In the serial bits that do exist, Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) is sleeping in her car, refusing to come home. Nick didn’t kick her out, but she isn’t happy with herself, and won’t let him care for her. Their separation is purely her decision, which is frustrating since she is doing nothing to work through it. Even worse, she goes to Renard (Sasha Roiz) for help. Renard may be the one person who can understand her, but given her past with him (under the influence of a spell, but still…), this won’t sit well with Nick.

Not that it sits that well with Renard. He has his own issues to worry about, finding himself inexplicably covered in blood with no medical explanation. Whatever is happening is a result of what his mother did to him, but neither he nor the viewers quite understand what that means yet. If only GRIMM would devote a little more time to this, it could be a very interesting subplot.

Adalind’s (Claire Coffee) segment of the episode is smaller and less intriguing. She decides she’ll get Viktor (Alexis Denisof) to sleep with her so she can frame him for her current pregnancy, which seems a dumb idea, given the issues she’s had with the royal baby she birthed already. Before she can seduce him, though, Viktor is sent away. I don’t know why Viktor is being replaced by another royal, who is not seen in “Double Date,” but the way the camera just misses him makes me think he’s leaving due to an actor availability issue, which stinks and is poorly handled.

Will GRIMM gets its act together before the May finale? Or is it destined to be a much weaker show for the rest of its days, favoring crime-solving over character-development? Sadly, all signs seem to point to the latter.

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

ARROW Has Some Great "Tendencies"

Article originally written for Seat42F.

Any television episode that features a wedding is bound to have something dramatic interrupt the proceedings, and ARROW’s most recent installment, “Suicidal Tendencies,” is no different. Diggle (David Ramsey) and Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) barely say their I-dos (again) before two emergencies force them and their friends into action. Will their love story have a satisfying ending?

Thankfully, Oliver (Stephen Amell) seems to want Diggle to be happy, sending him on his honeymoon instead of allowing him to deal with the threat in Starling City. Ra’s and his followers continue to impersonate The Arrow, ruining Oliver’s good name, in the hopes that Oliver will abandon that persona and become the next Ra’s. It doesn’t work because, while the city turns against The Arrow, Oliver remains committed to clearing his name and stopping the imposters.

Oliver’s foe in “Suicidal Tendencies” is Ray, a.k.a. The Atom (Brandon Routh). While Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) and his cops are no match for the superhero, a fellow crusader might be. Except, Ray is too new, unequipped to really deal with The Arrow. So it’s more a battle of the minds, with Oliver trying to convince Ray that he’s innocent of the murders. Eventually, this works out, but not before fans get a showdown between the pair, which The Arrow easily wins. Hopefully, this new alliance will survive the death of Mayor Castle (Christina Cox), which will surely be pinned on Arrow.

On a more personal front, both Ray and Oliver feel betrayed by Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) when they learn the other’s secret. This is understandable for Oliver because he gives up a chance at romantic bliss with Felicity in order to save the city, and she is now in the arms of someone else doing the same. But Ray is still naïve, not knowing the price of the life he’s chosen, and Oliver is sure they won’t work out. Ray has to decide if Felicity is leading him on, a complicated effort when she’s still keeping a past flame’s secret. Yet “Suicidal Tendencies” ends with them reuniting. I doubt they can make it work long-term, but while I root for Oliver and Felicity to wind up together, it’s nice she has this relationship for now.

Speaking of love, despite Oliver’s intentions, Diggle and Lyla don’t get to fly off on vacation. They are intercepted by A.R.G.U.S. and sent on a mission with a couple of members of The Suicide Squad, Cupid (Amy Gumenick) and Deadshot (Michael Rowe). While the team tries to take down corrupt Senator Cray (Steven Culp, Desperate Housewives, Bosch), the newlyweds wonder if they have any shot at domesticity while they engage in such dangerous professions.

Deadshot says they do not, and we see why he believes this in a series of flashbacks to his character coming home from war. This is far more compelling than the usual Oliver flashbacks, the story of a man whose child doesn’t recognize him and whose wife is afraid of his PTSD. It’s heart-breaking, and certainly gives a lot of depth to the recurring player. By the time Deadshot sacrifices himself (I really hope he’s not actually dead, and he probably isn’t) to stop Cray, which isn’t completely effective, even Diggle, whose own brother was murdered by Deadshot, can’t help but respect the man.

But that doesn’t mean Deadshot is right about the couple. Lyla gives up A.R.G.U.S. because they let Cray get away with his lie in the aftermath, so both parents aren’t going to continue to be in constant danger. Even if something happens to Diggle, their baby will still have a parent at home. And something won’t necessarily happen to Diggle. Lyla rejects his offer to quit Team Arrow, citing the good they are doing for the city, but that doesn’t mean Oliver won’t do everything he can to make sure Daddy Diggle goes home in one piece every night.

“Suicidal Tendencies” is mostly a great episode because of the character development and questions it raises. ARROW has been on a roll this year, and by finally making the flashback element interesting again, this installment raises the bar even more. Overall, I really liked it.

Which is not to say that it’s without problems. There are some very obvious issues as ARROW allows tropes and flubs to slip in. From Cray revealing his entire plan to our heroes, to Deadshot not flinching when Diggle slaps his injured arm, to Ray having to fill in last minute as minister, there are some sloppy parts of the hour. ARROW isn’t usually this obvious in its flaws, but considering the bigger picture, they are not enough to tear down the episode.

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

COMMUNITY Finds "Decorum" in a "Crisis"

Article originally published as TV Review: 'Community' - "Basic Crisis Room Decorum" on Blogcritics.

TV Review: ‘Community’ – “Basic Crisis Room Decorum”

It’s not unexpected that Greendale is accused of granting a dog a diploma on this week’s episode of Community, “Basic Crisis Room Decorum.” It’s only surprising that it’s taken this long. The community college not known for its standards is accused by its rival, City College, of graduating a canine, and the Save Greendale committee must scramble to minimize the impact.

The new Save Greendale group is really coming together. Elroy (Keith David) wanders into the mess when Britta (Gillian Jacobs) runs by his trailer sans pants, and slowly begins to understand them. The Dean (Jim Rash) is more interested in flirting with Jeff (Joel McHale) than admitting his mistakes, but he can still be helpful, if bringing olives is helpful. Even Vicki (Danielle Kaplowitz) and Dave (Darsan Solomon) assist, though they know they aren’t really part of the club, and will barely get to say anything. OK, so Jeff, Annie (Alison Brie), and Frankie (Paget Brewster) are really coming together.

C3The alpha females are finally clicking. Frankie is the first one Annie calls with the news, and the two seem to have developed a mutually-respectful working relationship. “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” tests that bond when Frankie wants to get Greendale off on a technicality, which goes against Annie’s high moral standards. Annie almost transfer schools in protest. But at the end of the day, they find a way to work together, which is heartening.

Chang (Ken Jeong) remains a bit of an outsider. He isn’t invited, which is kind of a jerk move, considering how long he’s been part of the group. He isn’t getting much of his own stories, either. While Chang isn’t always the best character, I do think he’s earned a little more than “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” and the previous two episodes this year give him.

“Basic Crisis Room Decorum” is a great illustration of Community in general. It is funny, such as when viewers discover that Jeff gave The Dean a false cell phone number and The Dean has been texting a teenager in Japan for some time. But it also has a lot of heart. Abed (Danny Pudi), Jeff, and the others might be willing to deny the truth, but Annie will not, and they care about her hapiness. Thus, they devise a way to make a commercial supporting Greendale that also lives up to Annie’s standards. This sweet / humorous combination is why Community has so much emotional heft, and why it earns so many loyal fans.

C2The other component that makes the show successful is its weirdness. In season six, the weird comes in little tidbits, rather than devoting a full installment to it, at least so far. While the past may have seen paintball wars and pillow fights, this year Britta has a trippy hallucination mid-episode in “Basic Crisis Room Decorum.” It may be that an entire half hour in a dreamscape won’t fit into the more somber tone Community has taken on in its later years. But by including these bits piecemeal, at least the writers still give fans of the weird what they want.

I don’t have any specific complaints about “Basic Crisis Room Decorum,” which is a very enjoyable episode, but I do have complaints about its presentation. As thrilled as I am that Yahoo! Screen revived Community from cancellation to help fulfill its #sixseasonsandamovie prophecy, I wish the platform had worked its bugs out before launch. The video feed stutters constantly this week on a connection I know is stable and fast, tested before and during streaming.

Tuesday night, the day the episode premiered, it was completely unwatchable, and Wednesday was still tough. Add to that, the player inexplicably switched back to an earlier episode halfway through, and in trying to get back, I had to watch three full batches of commercials (twelve total ads) in a row. It’s worth it to endure these issues to get fresh Community, but it does make the viewing experience a hardship to endure. #FirstWorldProblems

New episodes of Community are available every Tuesday on Yahoo! Screen.

Friday, March 27, 2015


Article originally published as THE GOOD WIFE Review Season 6 Episode 16 Red Meat on Seat42F.

THE GOOD WIFE Recap Season 6 Episode 16 Red Meat

THE GOOD WIFE gets into some “Red Meat” in this week’s installment on CBS. You may take that title literally, as Diane (Christine Baranski) goes hunting with her husband and his rich, conservative buddies. But there is also ample opportunity to take it figuratively. The Good Wife is always juicy and filling, and “Red Meat” is no exception.

The main plot revolves around Election Day for Alicia (Julianna Margulies). Things are looking good for her, so Marissa (Sarah Steele) and Finn (Matthew Goode) try to distract her with video games so she doesn’t worry too much. Unfortunately, a little worry is necessary when Peter (Chris Noth) blows up Alicia’s chances, sending Josh (David Krumholtz) and Johnny (Steven Pasquale) scrambling. They even considering having The West Wing’s Melissa Fitzgerald (herself) do a robo-call, though they don’t know who she is. Thankfully, Eli (Alan Cumming), almost always a fan of Alicia’s these days, and relatively honorable where she is concerned, convinces Peter to help fix his mistake, and Alicia wins.

Peter and Alicia’s marriage is over. This has never been more clear than in “Red Meat.” When Eli has to convince Peter to help his wife after Peter is the one that screws things up, that’s a sure sign there’s nothing left there. He has little respect or love for her, using her merely as a political tool. She has seemingly shut down most of her emotion towards him as well, and hopefully now that the election is over, they can get a divorce. It might not be what Eli wants, or the most helpful thing for their public image, but it’s time for them to move on.

Alicia has two romantic options going into “Red Meat,” but both seem to be gone by the end of the hour. Although Finn offers to cancel a date to go out with her, Alicia doesn’t let him. And while I think she would take up with Johnny, Johnny sees Alicia and Peter together and wrongly assumes their marriage is still viable, so he leaves town. Either would be good matches for Alicia, but I have to admit, I’m sad that Johnny seems less likely at this point because they were very good together. Thank god Marissa is sticking around to help Alicia, even if she only provides for less physical urges.

Alicia offers Prady (David Hyde Pierce) her number two spot and he declines. This is disappointing, but understandable. He doesn’t believe in Alicia’s approach, and how can he serve an office he doesn’t respect? A friendship of a sort may have formed between the two, and I do hope they come back into one another’s circles in the future. But they are just too far apart in outlook for the District Attorney’s office to be place for it.

While this is going on, Diane is off hunting with Kurt (Gary Cole). She can’t resist turning it into a work trip when she finds out a big name in the tech industry, Gil Berridge (James Snyder, Adonis), is present, but that’s still relaxing for her, as she enjoys her career immensely. Despite screwing things up with Gil, she does find herself in an engaging political debate with R.D. (Oliver Platt, The Big C), who turns out to be even richer and much more open to her pitch, providing her firm stays out of abortion issues.

“Red Meat” is pure fun for Diane. We get to see her out of her element, but also somehow in her element at the same time. She’s surrounded by those she has fundamental disagreements with, but as in her marriage, she makes it work, and she ends up having fun. Diane is a complex, wonderful character, and I’m glad that THE GOOD WIFE gives her this focus, away from cases, to explore her personality.

Back at the firm, that leaves Cary (Matt Czuchry) and David Lee (Zach Grenier) as unlikely partners. Thank goodness Diane will soon be back, as I can’t imagine David Lee getting a position of too much power again, given his recent bad behavior. Still, Alicia leaving the firm will shake things up, especially for her co-founder, Cary, and I look forward to The Good Wife milking the dramatic possibilities.

Finally, Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) continues to work for Lemond (Mike Colter) in a situation she should absolutely not be in. That Lemond has decided to get out of the drug business after his son is kicked out of yet another school doesn’t improve Kalinda’s position any. Now Lemond wants Kalinda and Alicia to protect him for jail, which will not be easy. I don’t think Lemond will find Alicia all that cooperative, no matter what he did for her campaign, and Kalinda is the easiest one to take his frustration out on. Even if Alicia doesn’t like Kalinda any more, I’m sure she’ll try to protect the investigator from harm. Will she be able to?

We still have half a dozen episodes in this season of THE GOOD WIFE, but “Red Meat’ is starting to build towards the finale, as have other episodes that have come before it. The story is extremely serial at this point, and it’s enjoyable to watch each unexpected new twist.

The only complaint I have about “Red Meat” is, where are Alicia’s children? Shouldn’t they be around while she’s waiting for the results, and certainly at the celebration after?

THE GOOD WIFE airs Sundays around 9 p.m. ET (depending on inexcusable sports overruns) on CBS.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Article first published as ONCE UPON A TIME Review Season 4 Episode 16 Poor Unfortunate Soul on Seat42F.


ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME focuses on yet another “Poor Unfortunate Soul” in this week’s episode. This time, it’s Ursula (Merrin Dungey) who is getting a bad rap based on past wrongs. Can our heroes use that to their advantage and peel her away from the other villains? Hopefully before Regina (Lana Parilla) and / or August (Eion Bailey) are lost to them forever?

The backstory between Ursula and Hook finally comes out. When Ursula is young (and played by The Following’s Tiffany Boone), she is promised help from Hook (Colin O’Donoghue). When her father, King Poseidon (Ernie Hudson, Ghostbusters, Oz), interferes in their deal, though, Hook also fails to hold up his end of the bargain. In a fit of rage, Ursula trades tail for tentacles and becomes the familiar evil monster. Of course, Hook makes up for his bad decision in the present, helping Ursula get her voice back, and the sea witch gives up her dastardly quest to return home with her dad.

I don’t know that I really buy this. This is the trade deal Hook is so ashamed of he can’t tell Emma (Jennifer Morrison)? Seems he is at least sort of in the right, even if he’s not noble. Ursula, while plagued by grief, gives up everything because her singing voice is gone, rather than fighting to get it back? Then, a long, long time later, she switches sides again just because she gets the voice back?

And how does Ursula get a happy ending with her father? She’s a villain, right? The rules that ONCE UPON A TIME establishes are that villains cannot have their happy endings. Yet, Ursula gets one, and Hook is having one with Emma right now. Regina would be near one had Robin (Sean Maguire) not been forced to leave, which had nothing to do with the story. This is all quite flimsy and doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

That is, unless we find out all of Rumple’s (Robert Carlyle) character development, including his redemption arc from the first two and a half seasons, is magically taken away by the book because of the story rules, and the same happens for Ursula and Hook. That would fix a large number of the problems I and others have had with the last year, and help get ONCE UPON A TIME back on track. Though, there’s no evidence of that happening in “Poor Unfortunate Soul.”

Speaking of the bad guys, the witches and Rumple torture August for information, which they don’t get. However, Regina manages to get a message off to the good guys, who then come and rescue August. Because Rumple doesn’t trust Regina, this actually works in her favor, making sure she’s not around to blame for August’s escape. This is a clever twist.

Will August stay in the show? I don’t think Once Upon A Time will toss in a true Emma / Hook / August love triangle because Emma and Hook are already quite far down the romantic path, so what would August’s purpose be? Honestly, I don’t care; I’d just like to keep him around.

August reveals that the author is trapped inside the book, which makes him much harder for the villains to get to. I don’t know why Regina tells Rumple that Henry (Jared Gilmore) has the missing page, as she should do everything possible to keep from endangering her son, especially after seeing Rumple torture August. But for now, as long as Henry holds onto the page, the author will be safe and the villains won’t get their happy ending.

Yet, going directly for the author isn’t Rumple’s plan, anyway. He wants to turn Emma’s heart dark, since the bad guys can’t win as long as the Savior exists. Wouldn’t the Savior, by definition, have to be a Savior? How can she be swayed to the other side? Does that negate what she’s done? I don’t get this bit of logic, or lack thereof, either.

“Poor Unfortunate Soul” isn’t totally bad. A dream sequence Regina has involving Robin and the Evil Queen is cool, even if the writers then have Regina over-explain it to the audience. There are also some good lines and touching moments, including when Ariel (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) returns and saves Hook. The problem is, the story is so disjointed and poorly planned out that it’s hard to see how the show will twist itself into something even resembling a satisfying resolution. Not to mention, when did Elsa get the power to shrink ships and store them in bottles? ONCE UPON A TIME has been driving on the edge of a cliff, frequently teetering, but I think it’s finally gone off completely.

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Don't Quite "Love" MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Article originally written for Seat42F.

Last night on MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., two people find “Love in the Time of Hydra.” Maybe. At the same time, another relationship or three nearly completely dissolve and things continue to build towards a semi-unknown showdown. What does the rest of the season hold for the team? I certainly don’t know.

Ward (Brett Dalton) finally shows back up, in the company of Agent 33 (Maya Stojan). Ward decides to take 33 under his wing, and step one is to nab Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) and torture him. The problem is, Bakshi is still in Talbot’s (Adrian Pasdar) custody and 33’s face replicator isn’t working. These are surmountable tribulations, and it isn’t long before 33 is trying to repay Ward for his help by allowing him to finally have sex with Skye (Chloe Bennet). Well, have sex with 33 wearing Skye’s face and possibly May’s (Ming-Na Wen) voice, though Ward may just be over Skye and ready to move on with the real 33.

33 and Ward make a creepy pair, and if Ward’s affection for Skye has really and truly evaporated, they are dangerous foes. I’ve been pleased at MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.’s decision to keep Ward around full-time, even if he’s not in every episode, and the set up for him in “Love in the Time of Hydra” elicits a general feeling of fear and uneasiness. It’s not clear what this duo’s plans are, but they are definitely up to something sinister.

S.H.I.E.L.D. has more than Ward and 33 to worry about, though. They also must fear S.H.I.E.L.D. Or, the other S.H.I.E.L.D. See, Robert Gonzales (Edward James Olmos, Battlestar Galactia), Agent Weaver (Christine Adams, Terra Nova), Agent Calderon (Kirk Acevedo, Fringe), and others decide that Nick Fury keeps too many secrets, and that Director Coulson (Clark Gregg) is going down the same wrong path. Bobbi (Adrianna Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons) apparently agree with them, and because they’ve infiltrated our heroes so fully, this could spell trouble, especially if they act at the same time Ward does.

Hunter (Nick Blood) might be able to warn Coulson and company, but will it be in time? He manages to escape his captivity on a ship in the middle of the ocean, twelve hours from land by the sub he steals. Bobbi says she only needs six hours to do whatever she’s going to do, which doesn’t exactly point to the outcome Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. will want. But considering Bobbi says her affection for Hunter is true and she does let him escape, might she be a double double agent, working for Coulson while pretending to work against him?

Let’s hope so, because Coulson is distracted by what’s happening with Skye. He takes her to a cabin where she and the rest of the team can be safe, separated, while they figure out what to do with her. The “vacation” is not punishment, even if she kind of feels like it is. It makes logical sense to isolate her, given how Skye shakes the base down repeatedly, a barely controllable Hulk in their midst. But if there really are two dangers coming at S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson may regret sending away his best weapon, as Skye has talents none of his other agents have. Although most of alt-S.H.I.E.L.D. seems ineffective, Hunter easily overcoming the whole group of them, Bobbi is anything but, and we still don’t know for sure whose side she is on.

“Love in the Time of Hydra” has all of the moving pieces mentioned above, but those aren’t the only threads weaving through MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Something the show does well is balance a variety of segments who all have their own motivations, letting them clash at the perfect, sometimes unexpected, times in spectacular showdowns. Roughly two-thirds of the way through this season, it seems likely that will happen again soon.

In the meantime, this installment does serve various characters well. The scenes between Hunter and Bobbi, between Ward and 33, between Coulson and Skye, and between Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), the last of which are still on the outs, make for compelling personal drama. What more could you want?

Well, something. I love this show, but lately it’s felt like there’s just a little something missing for me. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is because all of the stuff I talk about above is exciting. Maybe some of the characters are a little flat or the pacing is slightly off, but season two has just not quite been clicking like the latter half of season one did. When I figure out exactly why that is, I’ll surely let you know.

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