Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reviews 5/16/12 - 5/22/12

I watched every episode of House, all 177 episodes, so I wanted this finale to be good. For all the criticism of the show I've had over the years, Hugh Laurie remained steadfastly dedicated to the character and to his acting. Every wince, every movement,  every limp was owned by him, and he's the main reason why I stayed around. But beyond that, I always thought the show had potential as a drama, as the first two seasons and the fourth season finale showed. There were exciting stories in those seasons, when things actually seemed to be on the line, before the later seasons came and the show descended into gimmicks

Even though this final eight season hasn't been particularly good, I held out hope that the writers would pull out something in the final episode worthy of Hugh Laurie. They didn't. The first forty minutes of the episode are a flat out embarrassment, with a framing device that would make Glee look subtle. House is hallucinating in this burning building and past characters are showing up to talk to him and guide him through the story of how he got there. It's blatant fan service at its worst, bringing back random characters to talk to him. So there's Kutner, Amber, Stacy, then Cameron, and they're all trying to talk to him and explore his psyche. I'm not sure if it would be possible for any writer to make something successful out of this, but the writing is rubbish, the characters weaseling their way into House's head with pure sophistry. Do we really need people to lay out, word for word, who House is? While it's painfully blunt, I wouldn't have so much problems with this had it not taken up so much time. I kept checking the clock, incredulous that the writers would drag this on for so long, but they did. Then, House somehow comes to a revelation that he should live, fakes his death, listens in on his funeral, rides off with Wilson, and the series is over.

As for the other characters, the patient, and the medicine, those were glossed over as they usually are. The returning characters have about a line each and they don't even talk to other people. The patient is part of the framing device, so he's kind of just there to guide House's flashbacks/storytelling. In the end, House was always a show about House and all attempts to give extra dimensions to the other characters fell to the wayside. The writers got so caught up in exploring House with pure dialogue that there wasn't anything left in the episode, no meat to backup what was going on.

Am I surprised the finale turned out this way? Kind of. I thought the writers would come up with something meaningful and not stilted. This was there time to shine and prove everyone wrong about the past seasons, but it seems like they either didn't care or were just lucky in the past.

Girls tried something a bit different this week, focusing on Hannah alone. It's a nice episode of television, showing us Hannah's past while comparing it to her present, and how it may be better if she returned to a familiar home where rent, among other things, is not a problem.

Mad Men is a thoroughly entertaining show. I know, it's obvious to anyone who watches, but seriously, I amazed each week how fun it is. This week's episode featured the return of Paul Kinsey who we haven't seen since season 3, I believe. And boy was it a return. He's in full Hare Krishna garb, with a wacko girlfriend, and has written a Star Trek script for an episode titled "The Negron Complex." Hilarious stuff all around, including Harry's reaction. The show can also turn around and crank up the heat, as Don and Joan's conversation at the bar was beyond smoldering. Megan and Don have a huge fight in the episode and it looks like their marriage is in trouble. Don's going to be done and Megan still thinks t

With the big battle looming next week, Game of Thrones tries to get everything settled before bodies go flying. Part of me feels like the episode was a throwaway since nothing crucially important happened that couldn't have happened in the season finale. The biggest developments are Cat letting Jaime go, Halfhand getting captured, Robb hooking up with Talisa, and Arya escaping, which have great implications for the future. What I liked the most, however, was Stannis's conversation with Davos, who In my opinion, we haven't seen enough this season. Stannis draws parallels between himself and Davos, two men who performed admirably when it mattered most. In Stannis's case, he was given little reward, while in Davos's case, Stannis made him a knight.

Book spoilers: So much was changed from the book that it's pointless to talk about differences. What was interesting, though, is how far the show dipped into the third book, A Storm of Swords,  8 episodes into the seasons with Jaime and Brienne leaving together.

Despite improving through the season, Grimm was never able to bring together the various pieces floating around like Renard and the Wessen world, and the season finale did nothing to resolve any issues. It even brought back the plot device coins. At the end of the day, Nick's mother is back, Juliette may or may not be the same, and the viewers are none the wiser about the mythology of the show.

Many times, it's good to take a step back when evaluating serialized shows like Supernatural, maybe even wait until the end of the season to cast judgment on certain parts. Now that the season is over, I will declare the Bobby ghost story, which I was mostly ambivalent about, to be garbage from beginning to end. When he died the first time, he was given a good, proper send-off fitting for his character. Then the writers decided to make him stick around as a ghost, and for what? To make him die again? Yeah, okay, we saw how ghosts lived and all, but it wasn't crucial to the larger storyline. That brings me to the Leviathan plot. It started off fine, as Leviathans were freaky villains, but it just became disorganized and random without any central point except that Dick Roman is trying to take over the world. In the end, Dick is dead and Dean is in alone in Purgatory with Cas possibly still in Purgatory. The ending is cool and sets up good possibilities for the next season, but given how shoddy the plotting for this season has been, I'm not holding my breath.

While the other season finales on Friday were disappointing, Nikita had that kick-assery we tune in to see, and significantly altered the state of the show. Percy and Roan is dead, the old parts of Division gone, and Nikita is now in charge. This is actually where the original La Femme Nikita series ended after five seasons, with Nikita taking over, only this time Michael is staying. Looking ahead, there doesn't seem to be any immediate threats other than Amanda and Ari. In fact, everything seems fine for all the characters. Alex is filthy rich and Sean is still alive, Nikita has Division and Michael is still there, and their main enemies are gone. My guess is that Amanda and Ari will leverage the black box to gain power and then oppose Nikita and Co.

The Mentalist doesn't seem to have a plan to reveal Red John's identity any time soon, but that doesn't mean the episodes are bad. It's fun to see Jane try to defeat Red John with his trickery, and then seeing the plan fail due to Red John's seemingly mystical powers. The fourth season finale wasn't as good as the previous season's, which had Jane killing who he believed to be Red John, but there were enough twists to make the episode worth watching.

In its penultimate episode, Awake pulled out all the stops in an exhilarating episode that propelled the plot further in both realities and had Britten again questioning everything he knows. We probably won't get all the answers we need in the season finale, but this ride has been pretty incredible regardless of the outcome.

Three new episodes of Community was like a dream come true, and these final episodes may be important now that Dan Harmon is out as showrunner. Next season's episodes may not be the same without him. The three episodes are vastly different from each other--the first a video game episode, the second a heist episode, and the finale a character driven episode where everything is on the table before getting resolved.

Criminal Minds is a wildly inconsistent show, but when the writers put some effort into their scripts, they can turn out something decent. The episode included the characters into the plot much more than they usually are, and the bank robbery was fairly interesting. The main thing people will remember is Paget Brewster leaving a season after she was booted off the show and then returned. Honestly, most Criminal Minds actors deserve better than what the writers can give them, so I'm fine with her leaving.

Suburgatory took a direction towards drama for the season finale and itk gave the show a little extra. There have always been heartwarming moments on the show or frustration from the various characters, but never the drama shown in the season finale when Tessa realizes what she's been missing. The comedy was still in episode and we got a glimpse of what we might see in the next season.

NCIS: This whole Watcher Fleet thing has been pretty bad, but the season finale at least made up for it by making Dearing a crazy guy who's fine blowing up the NCIS HQ.

Glee: New Directions winning Nationals was a foregone conclusion. It's a show that preaches "Follow your dreams, because they'll come true!" so of course they win in the end. Narratively, this doesn't mean it has to be boring and uneventful, even in the lead-up. Unfortunately, this is Glee, which wouldn't know a coherent plot if it got shot out of a cannon at it. Nationals was never a big theme through the season, and the club seemed to be doing fine. There were no ups and downs, at least with regards to their performance, so winning Nationals was par for the course. I liked the body swapping parts at the beginning of the first episode since it gave Tina more than 10 lines of dialogue, but the rest of the two episodes were otherwise empty. The worst moment came when Will was given an award for best teacher. This teacher didn't even know the subject he was supposed to be teaching for years, and he's being glorified? No wonder public schools suck.
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