Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Reviews 4/30/12 - 5/7/12

I've fallen way behind on television for the 20th time, so there are lots of shows left out that I wanted to comment on but didn't have time or shows I haven't watched yet--Breakout Kings season finale, Fairly Legal, Magic City, Bones, and maybe even some more in the backlog. As a general rule, though, the shows I left out are shows I don't have anything pressing to discuss--mostly comedies and other shows which aren't really good or really bad (though I liked Veep and Girls enough that I would have said something had I enough time).

Castle: If Andrew Marlowe hadn't gotten Castle and Beckett together at the end of this season, he would have had a revolt on this hands that would make Hart Hanson hate look tame. So he did the smart thing and did what everyone was asking for and finally pulled the trigger. Now, I won't give him much credit for such an easy decision, because he's bungled the show incredibly, but maybe the show is moving in the right direction. Maybe... but probably not. The whole SERIOUS episode tone made a return along with the conspiracy, so the plot was predictably the running around in circles stuff we've gotten to know.

Towards the end of House's seventh season, there was a planned arc where House would be on the road which was ultimately scrapped. I suspect the remnants of that story found its way into last night's episode, in which House and Wilson take a road trip, possibly their last, and have a good time doing various funny things. It was different than the usual episode, much like last week's episode in which Wilson went through serious treatment, and it had the needed somberness that lay behind the plot. Still, this plot feels forced, created only because of the hard deadline of a series finale. Imagine what could have happened had this plot been done 3 seasons ago and the possibilities that could stem from it. The rest of the episode focuses on Chase and he comes to the realization that he should go off on his own. Coupled with none of the series finale promo photos containing Chase, we're being led to believe he'll actually leave. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. He left in the past but came back later. Again, this is the series finale and the writers can do whatever they want without consequences.

I don't get why the central of Smash is cheating. It's happened so many times that either it's the only drama the writers know how to write or that they're telling us it's something inherent in theater. Now, since a lot of these people are working in theater, are they really telling us that infidelity is this prevalent in theater? And WTF is going on with Michael? Do the writers want us to dislike him more than Ellis? Also, Julia is an idiot. She's the one who got into the mess with Michael in the first place and now she think it's Tom's fault for saving the show. Are the writers actively trying to make us hate as many characters as possible?

I haven't said much about 2 Broke Girls for a very long time, and even after the season is over, I don't think much needs to be said about the show--it hasn't changed. The stereotyped characters are still there, the corny jokes are still there, and the plots are still the same. Well, it's a CBS comedy and the ratings are fine as is. The show certainly had potential to do cool things with the cupcake business, maybe turn it into a real plot instead of a plot device, but the writers were more comfortable regurgitating the same stuff over and over again than actually making progress. The season finale, like the pilot, pushes the cupcake plot one step forward. Now they have a semi-endorsement from Martha Stewart, which should be a big deal.

Though in its fifth season Mad Men still feels like a very fresh show, in large part due to Megan. She's a new character, far more developed than in the fourth season, and it allows us to have a new perspective on the old characters. Her decision to leave the firm for acting is the catalyst for exploration in her and other characters. For Don, it's a chance to get things right with a marriage and while he's unhappy, he takes it out on Peggy instead. His glances into the distance tell a different story than what he says to Megan, and the empty elevator shaft was ominous enough. Peggy, at first, does not understand why Megan is leaving, especially since her Heinz idea was so successful. Peggy reflects on her own experiences, how hard she worked to get into the door and then come up with good ideas, and can't understand why Megan would leave something like this. But in her conversation with Joan, who views Megan through a second-wife lens, Peggy states that Megan is good at everything. And maybe she is--maybe she'll succeed at acting like she did acting. Pete continues to flounder and finds himself in the arms of Beth, played by Alexis Bledel, whose unaffected acting style reminded me of January Jones. Once again, Pete finds himself following the footsteps of Don, but he's simply not Don. As hard as he tries, Pete can't make this thing with Beth permanent or even a multiple times fling.

Game of Thrones exposed major weaknesses in the characters. Most obvious is Theon, whose rein over Winterfell is as ineffectual as his beheading of Rodrick Cassel. While Ned knocked off heads in one blow, it takes Theon several chops, and then Osha completely fools him. Daenerys has even less is work with than Theon, who at least has some soldiers. All she has are a dubious claim to the throne and her dragons, which are stolen at the end of the episode, brought to the warlocks' place. Robb finds himself attracted to the nurse, but Catelyn reminds him of the deal with the Freys. Of course, were he to renege, that would mean drama, which is what GoT is all about. At King's Landing, the residents turn on Joffrey, the guards, and the other royalty, and Joffrey unable to retaliate, getting slapped by Tyrion once more. Jon is tasked to execute the wildling woman Ygritte but can't do it and finds himself huddling with her at first (love interest alert!). It's the peripheral characters who are the strongest--the Hound, Jaquen, Osha--and yet, they're not the ones in charge.

Book spoilers: The show continues to detach itself from the books as the season proceeds, and I'd say last night's episode had the largest departure, with Catelyn meeting with Robb, the dragons being taken, the extension with Ygritte the Theon plot retooled with no mention of Reek. The Reek twist is really cool in the book, as Ramsay Bolton is assumed dead. But I assume Ramsay is still around since Roose Bolton says his bastard will take care of Theon. It's increasingly likely that Talisa is Jeyne who Robb brings back to Riverrun in A Storm of Swords.

I think I'm done commenting on Once Upon a Time unless the season finale is notable. It's too stupid to warrant any meaningful thought.

Fringe: Yes, yes, everyone knows what I'll say first... the plot doesn't make sense and there are plot devices everywhere. Well, that's true, and I'll also say that the plot doesn't really matter at this point, given how much random stuff was make up on the spot through the years. So yeah, the return of William Bell, despite its plot deviceshness, makes for exciting television. He's supposed to be dead, he knows Walter well, and he's been behind DRJ the whole time. Why? Who cares, Olivia is cortexiphaning it up, Walter is sciencing it up--it's all quite fun.

Supernatural: Like with Fringe, I don't think the plot matters at this point. Maybe in the fifth season or even the sixth, but not anymore, what with Crowley, Lucifer, angels, demons, Leviathans all mashed into one unconceivable blob of general Winchester enemies. Last week's episode kind of just threw everything against the wall and almost all of it stuck. There was the return of Cas with Mischa Collins spitting great one-liners every minute, poor Kevin Tran who becomes a prophet overnight, a couple of Cas's old angel buddies, some demons, and finally Oscar the Leviathan who snatches Kevin.

Grimm usually has a twist on a fairy tale story, like the Rapunzel episode all the way back, but it basically did the full Cinderella story, only making Cinderella into a bat-like wessen. It made for an okay episode, bolstered by the cool screeching ability, with some development on Nick's parents front.

The Secret Circle peeled back the last layers to the Blackwell mystery and the show suddenly became a lot more interesting. It turns out that he's the ultimate bad guy, tricking everyone and using magic to get everyone pregnant. His plan has been years in the making, and will culminate when the crystal skull is assembled. This is serious business!

The Vampire Diaries: Finally, finally, finally(!!!!) Klaus is gotten rid of. Yes, I've been vocal about his uselessness, so I was of course pleased when he was spelled. He'll surely be back, but hopefully the situation in Mystic Falls will be different enough that his role is different. The rest of the episode was classic VD with hunter Alaric on the loose and all the characters running around the place doing their thing.

Midway through the season Awake appeared headed towards something big for Michael, with the hallucinations and whatnot, but it changed course and we're not bad in normal territory. While it's a bit different, as Rex's pregnant girlfriend is there, it's nowhere as urgent as prior indicators were. At this point, with anemic ratings, it's almost pointless to talk about the show as a whole, but it's worthwhile to say that Awake, as a procedural, is very solid, balancing the different characters wonderfully. We really get to know Michael, Rex, and Hannah. It was good to learn that the conspiracy turned out to be nothing more than a dirty cop, not something spanning both worlds. This is all a bit odd, considering Howard Gordon is the showrunner. Perhaps Kyle Killen has more control of the show than the titles would indicate.

I haven't said much about The Mentalist, but my impression of the second half of the season is that the writers decided to turn back and keep everything calm instead of doing anything too dramatic. At one point it seemed like Van Pelt would be shooting people up at any moment and she's fine now. The rest of the personal stories--Rigsby having a baby, and Cho and Summer--have felt awfully subdued. Even though the Cho and Summer story got pretty heated, it's over now and the subplot never felt like a big deal anyway.

Revenge turned things up a notch by giving Daniel full knowledge of his family's horrid past, and Emily knowing about this. Daniel's been the hapless guy, not too bright, and in the dark about most things. But by learning these things and continuing to defend his family, there are no excuses. Now the question is, does Emily care about him that much, to keep him alive even when he flies against the face of Emily's purported goals?

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 is quickly becoming my favorite new comedy of the season, over New Girl and Suburgatory. The show moves quickly, from one development to another, and it's all very fun and energized. June turning the tables on Chloe was great stuff, and continued to peel back the layers on Chloe, making her a more understandable character.

The strength of previous NCIS arcs was that the characters were not only involved but completely immersed in the arc. Tony and Jeanne--that actually matter to Tony. Ziva and Ari and Rivkin--again it deeply mattered. This Watcher Fleet plot, though, is trivial. Supposedly this is a major national security issue, but from the safety of a familiar NCIS office, it sure doesn't feel like it. The characters investigate as they usually do, as if nothing is wrong. And, really, from the audience's perspective this is nothing more than an extended case, nothing more than another bout of interrogations and computer magic.

Glee: Yes, it was a piece of utter, godawful crap. The domestic violence PSA plot ranks in the top 5 of worst things I've ever seen on television, out of thousands of episodes watched. Full stop. I don't want to insult Marti Noxon, but seriously, WTF? It's not that domestic violence isn't a big issue--it is. But you have to go about it the right way. The dialogue reads like a stupid, condescending guides to domestic violence, like one of the pamphlets Emma has. Worst of all this is Glee, which has little continuity. We barely know anything about Cooter, so the domestic violence seems more like an external problem that magically comes from nowhere. It'd be far better if someone we've know the whole time, say, Will, had been doing this to Emma for a while. That way, it would explain his patheticness and his ass would be thrown in prison and we'd never have to see him again. And like all Glee PSA's, it won't be revisited, which diminishes the issue again. Obligatory praise: Rachel botching her audition was incredibly powerful, not that it was unexpected, but because we've been following her and her dreams since the first episodes (hence the various callbacks to the Rachel quirks introduced in the pilot), and now we see them destroyed. So the lesson is: more continuity, better plot, less continuity, worse plot. It ain't that hard to understand, Glee writers.

Hawaii Five-0/NCIS: LA crossover: The Hawaii segment of the two-parter was about one might expect, running around the island looking for the smallpox. I haven't watched NCIS: LA regularly since the first season, but it felt the same to me. The comedic beats aren't quite right in the way NCIS's always are, and the entire show slows to revolve around these canned jokes.
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