Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reviews 7/17/12 - 7/23/12

Way behind on television once again. :(

Warehouse 13, being a fantasy dramedy, never had a grand vision of where the show would go. The mythology grew, villains plotted, but at the end of the day, the show is about finding artifacts. The end of the last season saw the Warehouse blow to pieces, Steve dead, and Peter, Myka, and Artie standing in the rubble. This would be a monumental shift if it had lasted for more than an episode, but no, there is of course an artifact that fixes things, except Steve is still dead. The artifact Artie uses supposedly creates something evil, which could be interesting if done correctly. I like HG being alive, as Jaime Murray is pretty great.

Alphas was one of the biggest television surprises from last year. Sure it didn’t get nominated for any serious awards, and likely won’t be remember 20 years from now, but it broke out of the mold of Syfy shows in the way it approached the characters and the situation they’re in. The characters have their own, distinct limitations, their own powers, and different ways of thinking, and they really came together through the course of the season. The second season premiere begins eight months after Rosen’s very public revelation about the existence of Alphas. It’s pretty clever how the writers get the team back together. We get to see the inside of Binghamton, how chips are placed in all the prisoners, while reintroducing Gary who’d hurt some being after being reassigned to the NSA (yes, the government is really terrible). Then, there is trouble in prison, and… the guy in charge wants only Rosen! So Rosen is let out of the mental facility, he rounds up the team, and they save the day. As with Warehouse 13, the show has returned to its original premise, alphas catching alphas, but the changes from season to season are more pronounced. The characters have changed in the eight months, and it’ll be a while before they get back into the swing of things. What’s more, at least some people in the world believe in alphas, as much as the government tried to discredit Rosen, and Stanton Parish is executing his plans now that Rosen is out.

Unlike in previous seasons of Breaking Bad, the beginning episodes this season have largely been absent of those shocking events which make your heart stop. The show, however, remains eminently watchable, each minute as gripping as the next. The season premiere is contained in a small world, with Walt, Jesse, and Mike cleaning up their immediate problems from the previous season. The second episode does the exact opposite, showing us the whole world Walt has been in, and we realize just how small he is. From the opening scene, the hilarious sauce taste test, to the interrogations, we see that Gus’s network extended far beyond Albuquerque or even Mexico. We see Mike trying to take care of the situation, reassuring partners, and even bringing this woman Lydia into the fold. In this context, Walt’s actions—replacing the ricin cigarette, trying to get Skyler to come on board, restarting the meth business—seem doomed to failure. There is so much going on, but Walt has no idea any of this is going on, nor does he want to learn more. He is the master of the universe, his small, insignificant universe.

My criticism of Falling Skies last week, that plot developments happen too quickly and without notice, is again in play this week. Ben and Karen are somewhere out in the woods, Karen turns on Ben, then Tom saves the day and captures a tall alien in the process. There’s no explanation how this comes about, but it immediately propels the episode in a certain direction. The stories each week are distinct and interesting, emphasizing that Falling Skies was never meant to be a completely serialized show. Other than the march to Charleston and Ben’s harness, we can see the divide between each episode, the clear episodic nature of the show. One episode, Weaver’s daughter shows up, she’s forgotten by the next episode, then Weaver becomes gravely ill, he’s treated, and now he’s perfectly fine. This is actually fine, as a show like Walking Dead gets bogged down by serialization. Whether Falling Skies succeeds in the end are the plots, which have greatly improved this season. This week’s episode was one of the best episodes yet, featuring disgusting bugs like the episode a few weeks ago as well as real stakes with Jamil and Boone getting killed. Falling Skies needs this sobering reality, especially when the first season episodes had those ridiculous candlelight vigils. In terms of story, I’m a little miffed we learned nothing more when the tall alien was in custody. He seems to be giving the usual “we know better” spiel that all advanced aliens give when they invade.

Leverage always does the “fight the rich, evil bad guy” thing, but this week’s episode was a little different. The bad guy isn’t rich and isn’t evil. He’s more willfully ignorant, with a son who wants him to get help. There is this other bad guy, the owner of the team, who doesn’t factor into the episode too much. The episode has lots of funny moments with Vlad the ex-hockey player, Nate, and Sophie. Of course, nothing could top the hilarious Jack the Bear name given to Elliot’s hockey player character.

True Blood: I was surprised to see that we’re already at episode seven of this season, past the halfway point. Between the Authority HQ and Bon Temps, we haven’t been to many places this season. But the plot is slowly rolling along as the vampires, on Lilith blood, went rampaging. Okay, so none of this makes any sense, but stuff is happening, right? More importantly, unlike other seasons, there isn’t an explicit big bad causing trouble. Russell has become just one of many problems, and remains charming as ever. The rest of the episode was okay—Sookie burning off her fae power, Jason shooting Jessica in the head, fire monster laughing at Terry, Lafayette going to wierdoland, Tara disowning her mother—and, surprisingly, nothing this season has really bothered me. There were lots of stupid stories in previous seasons, but not this season.
Suits is more dynamic than any other USA show. There are no easy answers to the multiple problems and there haven’t been those classic resets which show up on its USA counterparts every season. Last week’s episode went even further, following Donna’s discovery of the missing memo in the previous episode. After Donna shreds the memo and everyone finds out, she’s fired, but not before a lot of emotion. Donna and Harvey arguing was one of the most legit scenes I’ve seen on USA. Really good work from Sarah Rafferty since the start of the show and this episode. We’ll probably see her soon enough, because ditching a character right now doesn’t seem like a good plot choice.

USA, the network where nothing changes. Burn Notice started the season of Fiona in jail and Anson on the loose. A few episodes and prison scares later, Fiona is out, after helping catch this bad guy. We’re back to square one, with Michael and Fiona with the CIA instead of out on their own. The show will return to normal and the conspiracy story will continue going around and around in circles. The biggest change will be the size of Michael’s team with the new girl and Pearce. Compared to the first season when there was only Sam and Fiona, there are a lot of people and combinations now.

White Collar also did a rest, with Neal coming back safe and sound, having brought back the island boss buy from Cape Verde who turns to be a notorious criminal. The difference is that Mozzie isn’t around anymore and Peter is out of his job, although I’m sure they'll be worked into the fold eventually. While this was always inevitable, I wonder if the writers can come up with a situation that was as good as the one from the previous season, when Neal and Mozzie were sitting on all the art and they didn’t know what to do with it.

Damages, in previous seasons, focused on the case primarily, and the cases determined where the plot went. This final season, though, appears to be going in a new direction, with Patty vs. Ellen driving the plot. The second episode manages to shed more light on McClaren, but the episode focuses on the legal battle between Patty and Ellen before the trial even begins. Ellen believes she is outmaneuvering Patty, going through these hoops to remove the judge who she believes is partial to Patty. In reality, Patty has complete control of the situation, preying on Ellen’s founded paranoia and using her to remove the judge who was actually biased against her.
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