Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review - Luther Season 1 Episode Three

Luther is show that only works because of Luther and Alice. The criminals in the second and third episode have been boring and surprisingly average considering how great Alice was in the first episode. They lack the shock factor of most Criminal Minds psychos and aren't nearly as cunning as Alice. "Episode Three" features a deranged killer who previously evaded the police until Luther, predictably, mindgames and arrests him.

Alice is still scary in the third episode, doing whatever she wants to antagonize Luther. This time around she decides to beatup Mark and blame it on Luther, although by Luther's request, she gets Mark to recant his story. One thing I don't understand is that if Alice has been doing all these things, clearly in public view, why has Luther not taken it to Rose so he can be more aggressive in his investigation? After all, shouldn't Alice be a person of interest in her parents' murders?

Score: 8.5/10

Review - The Walking Dead Season 1 Episode 1 Days Gone Bye

I'm personally not a fan of horror movies. The idea of stressing myself for an extended period of time isn't appealing, and I've watched very, very few horror movies from beginning to end, mostly out of obligation. It's good, then, that The Walking Dead isn't a straight-up horror show.

Every second is not continually racketing up tension in anticipation of something jumping out. Zombies aren't constantly on screen chasing after humans. Far from it, The Walking Dead is about the people who are still out there, living in a world which is all but over. The presence of zombies is only there to provide the spark for what humans do.

And that's what sets apart AMC and select cable networks from other networks. Despite the unique setups, Mad Men is not just about an ad agency, Breaking Bad is not just about drug dealing, Rubicon is not just about a conspiracy, and The Walking Dead is not just about zombies. It all comes down to the unique characters, their different reactions to the situations they're in, and how they shape the world. The way these show do this is to vary the pacing, occasionally slowing down to extend the exposition and development of the characters.

After a shocking opening where a police officer is seen shooting a young zombie girl, the pilot, "Days Gone Bye" introduces the main character Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the police officer, who wakes up from a coma and finds himself in a deserted, rundown hospital. Soon, after running from some zombies, he finds Morgan (Lennie James) and Morgan's son Duane. Interesting, the middle part of the episode is dominated by James. Morgan knows his wife is a zombie, but can't get into the mindset to kill her. It's a disturbing situation. On one hand, his wife is recognizably his wife, and shooting his wife has to be psychologically damaging. On the other hand, shooting her would relieve her of the terrible condition. In the end, he manages to kill his wife, the mother of his child, and must bear the consequences.

While Rick doesn't go through anything to that degree, the realization that the world is over is dramatic enough. Coming out of the coma and not seeing zombies slowly take over, Rick is immediately saddled with a mountain of initial shock, unable to fathom what happened. By the time he decides to leave for Atlanta, Rick is able to bring himself to do what must be done--kill zombies. When he reaches Atlanta, though, all he finds are broken cars and even a tank, signs that even the military could do nothing to stop the onslaught. The worst part is that zombies quickly swarm him, literally ripping and eating his horse, before Rick hides in the tank, luckily hearing a friendly voice coming through the speakers.

Also introduced, though in lesser capacity, are the Rick's wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), his partner Shane (Jon Bernthal), and son Carl, who are still alive and in a camp outside of Atlanta. Unfortunately for Rick, Lori and Shane have this thing going on, presumably from the stress of everything going on and the belief that Rick's dead. It's unclear when Rick will reach them, but it's a safe bet to think that it'll be the first big arc.

Based on the 90-minute pilot, it looks like each episode will cover one volume. Given that there are currently almost 80 volumes and only 6 episodes this season, The Walking Dead could go on very long, which is surely good news.

Score: 9.5/10

Preview of Week 10/31/10 - 11/06/10

The Walking Dead - AMC, Sunday, October 31, 10:00pm ET

If you ever wanted a television show with the purest sense of absolute hopelessness, it's The Walking Dead. Featuring sprawling shots, ghastly makeup, and horrendous conditions, there's no escape for the characters--and no escape for the viewers staring at their television screens.

Chuck - NBC, Monday, November 1, 8:00pm ET

After last Monday's episode, the fallout resulting in everything that happened will be massive--or at least it should be.

Fringe - Fox, Thursday, November 4, 9:00pm ET

Fringe returns with an alternate universe episode.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review - Blue Bloods Season 1 Episode 5 Smack Attack

I don't understand why every Blue Bloods episode needs an "issue." Discussing various real-world topics isn't bad per se, but the format is utterly predictable and it gets preachy week after week. Only minutes into "Smack Attack," I knew there would eventually be talk about drug legalization. Once we saw the drug usage and Nicky being snarky, it was clear where the episode would go.

And like clockwork, the dinner table discussion about drugs arises, with only Nicky and Jaime arguing for legalization. Yeah, it's a relevant topic, especially since Prop 19 will be voted on in California next week, but the show could be much more tactful about conveying various messages about drug use. Maybe it's because I've been spoiled by The Wire, but character chiming in with generic talking points isn't potent as it could be.

"Smack Attack" also undercuts serious inquiry into drug legalization, because the crime turns out to be a teacher who had sex with a student and wanted revenged. Ultimately, though, the episode is more about Erin and Nicky than drugs. The episode ends Erin being nice for a change, realizing how much her mother has on her plate.

Score: 8.2/10

Review - Sanctuary Season 3 Episode 3 Bank Job

"Bank Job" takes a unique spin on the usual abnormal capturing episodes. Instead of running around to catch the abnormal, the team must quarantine a bank, and Kate decides to stage a bank robbery. Kate's skills actually put to good use for once and her knowledge of law enforcement operations allows her to drag out the negotiations as long as possible, giving Magnus enough time to find which host the abnormal is in.

There's a good mix of everything in the episode, as the bank robbery and negotiations are balanced with finding the abnormal with limited resources, but nothing spectacular or special. In the end, the other guy looking for the abnormal is arrested (though he could easily make an excuse) and the abnormal is found.

Opening credits... ugh. It was bad enough that last week's was the same one from the season premiere, but this week it was about 2 seconds. In a day and age when opening credits are shortened beyond belief, it was nice for Sanctuary to have full length credits, but now it's joined the pile of shows which don't have a unique theme.

Score: 8.7/10

Friday, October 29, 2010

Review - Supernatual Season 6 Episode 6 You Can't Handle the Truth

Last week, I talked about how this season of Supernatural has put the characters in positions where they aren't in control. The Winchesters don't know why creatures are expanding their dominion and the path following the Apocalypse is unclear. What's more, Sam is clearly out of control and Dean doesn't know what's going on.

"You Can't Handle the Truth" tackles the relationship issue directly, with a character, Veritas, whose sole purpose is to extract the truth. This leads to the moment of truth, when Dean directly asks Sam about standing by to allow the vampire to turn him, and the result, shockingly, is anything but the truth. Sam delivers boldfaced lie after boldfaced lie without any hesitation. Just incredible, almost like Lucifer in Sam's body last season.

And when they finally confront Veritas and get tied up, Sam once again lies his ass off in front of Veritas herself and Dean. Recognizing the lie, Veritas claims he's not human, confirming Dean's suspicious, but before she says more, there's a big fight and she dies. Then Sam finally tells the truth: Since his return, he's been a better hunter, but also feels nothing. Of course Dean has to give him the beating that's been coming to him.

We come to the end of the episode and there's a stark fact. Sam isn't Lucifer and he's not being affected by a creature. It's him and only him, a human being who is dehumanized to the point where right and wrong, truth and lie have no meaning. Veritas induced truth from him, but if his brain truly cannot distinguish between the two, what comes out defies even what the magic can obtain. This is physically the Sam as we knew him. The scary part is that there is no obvious solution, no destination to drive to, no demon to vanquish, no special recipe. Sam must confront his problem head-on (apply directly to the forehead--sorry had to do that).

Score: 9.1/10

Review - The Mentalist Season 3 Episode 6 Pink Chanel Suit

"Pink Chanel Suit" is as average an episode can get. There's the body and investigation with a misdirect before Jane uncovers the killer. Just so the episode isn't entirely lifeless there's a bit of Jane ruffling feathers and screwing up at first, so Hightower has to get involved.

As with every episode this season, there's been a small bit about Rigsby and Van Pelt. Honestly, it's getting redundant. They like each other but can't be together, so they express jealously at the other's relationship. Can we have more?

Score: 8.4/10

Review - Nikita Season 1 Episode 7 The Recruit

"The Recruit" is much different than the previous episode. Nikita and Alex, for all intents and purposes, are background characters in the episode, helping the real main characters along their own paths. We get to see two new perspectives of Division recruits and how they differ from Alex.

There's Sarah a bottom-tier recruit who's tasked unknowingly to become a suicide bomber, and eventually gets away with Nikita's help, getting a final glimpse of her daughter as well. The other recruit, Robbie, is not as lucky, however. Despite Alex's encouragement and support, once he's assigned to security, he snaps and starts shooting up the place. The scary part is that Amanda still wants him to be a cleaner, seeing how he killed fellow Division members without a second thought.

All in all, though, we learn next the nothing other than some operational nuances. The message about Division has gotten stale. It's the evilest, most devious, most murderous, most deceitful organization in the history of the world. Percy would mass murder puppies if it served his ends. The continued emphasis on this point leaves little wriggling room: Nikita final goal is both worthy and necessary. She is always right and Percy is always wrong. In my opinion, the show should operate more in a grey area where Nikita can consider the morality of her choices instead of going in guns blazing.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - The Office Season 7 Episode 6 Costume Contest

Halloween at Dunder Mifflin is always fun, because the characters are wacky and creative in their own right. With the added incentive of "$15,000," everyone buckles down and tries even harder to come up with a great costume for the contest which fills most of the episode.

The only part that detracts from the episode is Michael. All the ragging of Darryl got unfunny and tiresome, especially when it spread over to other characters. It's his last season, and if his behavior was always on the "Costume Contest" level, I'd be glad he's going. For once, Michael should just be in the background instead of making a big deal out of nothing and coming off looking mean. Michael's cluelessness can be innocuously fun, but this definitely was not the case.

We finally learn that Danny didn't call Pam back... because she's a dork. Well, the audience is perfectly fine with the way she is and Jim is too, coming back in the Popeye costume.

Score: 8.8/10

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review - The Big Bang Theory Season 4 Episode 6 The Irish Pub Formulation

I know Kaley Cuoco broke her leg and all, but couldn't the writers have tried to include her in some way? It's completely bizarre that Leonard would sleep with Raj's sister in the episode and Penny isn't there to talk about it. The past two episodes have proceeded as if Penny was never part of the show at all, much less an integral character.

Please, something! Say she's on vacation and have her talk on the phone. Say she's visiting relatives. But don't write her out as if she never existed.

Without a Penny in the mix, "The Irish Pub Formulation" is completely reliant on Sheldon and Leonard. The result is a one-dimensional episode which has the usual tired jokes. Sheldon does his usual crazy person thing while Leonard tries to get him to go to sleep so he can get Priya into his room. Sheldon eventually finds out, leading to a big confrontation at the lunch table where everyone's dirty secrets get let out and they yell at each other before apologizing.

Score: 8.0/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Wednesday 10/27/10

Fox won with the World Series Game 1 (4.7).

CBS was second with Survivor (3.5), Criminal Minds (3.4), and The Defenders (2.1). Bad news for The Defenders. It dropped again and is now risk of dropping below 2.

ABC was third with The Middle (2.9), Better With You (2.5), Modern Family (5.1), Cougar Town (3.3), and The Whole Truth (1.1). Huge gains for ABC comedy while the canceled Whole Truth fell yet again.

NBC was last with Undercovers (1.4) and repeats of Law & Order: SVU (1.3), and Law & Order: Los Angeles (1.2). Undercovers still floundering.

Review - Community Season 2 Episode 6 Epidemiology

Coming only two episodes after the big Apollo 13 parody, "Epidemiology" runs the risk of alienating viewers with another straight parodies. I like these parodies as much as the next person, but I hope that doesn't completely overwhelm the show and the actual community college stuff.

But even if Community goes down the road and becomes a collection of parodies in the future, "Epidemiology" is a great episode by itself. Since Halloween is in three days, it's naturally a Halloween episode, rivaling even last season's Halloween episode. With everyone dressed in various costumes, a real life zombie outbreak happens, quickly overrunning the school.

The episode is a total blast with literal zombies biting things and eventually the entire group getting turned. Along the way, Shirley and Chang sleep together (like Jeff and Britta did after paintball), while Abed and Troy work out their friendship and save the day.

Score: 9.4/10

Review - In Treatment Season 3 Episode 3 Jesse: Week One / 2 Adele: Week One

I tried to see if I could review In Treatment on the same night it airs, but I couldn't find any time. I did watch the episodes on Wednesday, though, so I'll review it now while it's still fresh in my mind. I'll definitely be watching and reviewing the show on Saturday next week.

The third and final patient is Jesse, a gay teenager who is a little spastic in his constant mood switches. What's more, he may be delving in a world he's not yet ready for.

There's a degree of uneasiness between Paul and Adele, his new therapist. All Paul wants is his sleeping pills, but Adele wants to dig further into his mind. Paul gets his prescription in the end and leaves, but following the format of the show, he'll be back next week.

Score: 9.0/10

Review - Friday Night Lights Season 5 Episode 1 Expectations

The fifth season of Friday Night Lights sits in a weird place. It's the final season, and nothing is going to change that because the ratings suck. And it does serve as a natural ending point of sorts. Most of the original high schoolers have gone on, and the remaining, Julie and Landry, depart in "Expectations."

But at the same time, there was the new crop of kids introduced in the fourth season. As much as the writers tried to balance them last season with the old characters, they were kind of given the short end of the straw and ended up not having entirely fleshed out stories from beginning to end.

"Expectations" does its part in beginning the transition, which ultimately will end in 13 episodes, a short season of television. We get the emotional moment from Julie and Eric playing ping pong before Julie's departure, the fun moment from Landry at his last band gig and at the strip club, and the haunting moment of Tim in prison. By the end of the episode, the old is out and the in is new.

I'm still ambivalent on the new characters, so we'll see what happens. Jess's father is out of town, trying to open more franchises, leaving her behind to care for her siblings, including Andre who is out of control until Vince talks to him. Becky, left behind by her father and mother to be with her father's girlfriend (wife?), turns to Billy for a place to live. There's also this new basketball player named Hastings who is recruited for football and has a thing for Jess.

On the football side of things, Billy becomes a coach and already gives an embarressing speech. Somehow, the Lions manage to beat last year's state champion, no doubt helped by an almost Jason Street injury. In the past two games, these lowly Lions have managed to beat both West Dillion and the former state champions. Really? It'd be cool and all if Coach Taylor won another state championship in the final season, but with the Lions who were awful last season?

Tami tries to deal with the East Dillon high situation, but faces a mountain. The students, most of whom come from broken families, etc, are unable or unwilling to turn the corner and grab their futures, and the faculty is content to let them proceed indefinitely.

Without knowing what happens next, it's hard to tell whether the final season of FNL will live up to previous season. "Expectation," by itself, is a solid if not spectacular beginning to the season.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Terriers Season 1 Episode 8 Agua Caliente

The past couple of Terriers have been able to switch things up significantly, putting the other characters in situations we might not otherwise see them in. The twists and emotional scenes between character have made me a fan of Terriers.

However, there's something unsatisfying about "Agua Caliente." After a entire episode where Katie is in imminent danger and Britt is in Mexico trying to protect her by helping the cartel, it looks as though everything will come down to a crazy climax where Britt learns about Katie's cheating and something major will happen since everyone has their guns out. As quickly as the potential arises, it's instantly defused. By the end of the episode, everyone is where everyone was at the beginning of the episode. Britt is none the wiser about Katie, Hank is still pretty much the same (even though he gets shot), Katie still feels bad about keeping the big secret, and Gustafson is still a cool guy.

Part of my disappointment comes from the fact that Terriers episodes rarely start with something insane. Most of the time, episodes start in average procedural fare and only later in the episodes does something really significant happens. "Agua Caliente" doesn't build to that point. It dishes out the initial shock, Britt's kidnapping, and then slowly resolves the problem from there.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Criminal Minds Season 6 Episode 6 Devil's Night

Sometimes I question exactly what Criminal Minds is going for. There are clearly more gruesome, heinous crimes committed in the Criminal Minds world than in the real world. It's a lawless place where people can do terrible things to others and the world goes on normally. Half the stuff featured on the show would be instant top of the newspaper headlines.

There's something perverse about the nature of "Devil's Night." The killings are flat out torture and are unimaginable on any scale, and yet, we see several people lit on fire. Quickly, though, the victims and their families are nothing more of afterthoughts, instead the episode shifting focus onto family bonds, more specifically between father and son in order to emphasize Hotch and Jack, and the victims are nothing more than afterthoughts. The emotion in the episode comes not from those burned, but the guy who does the burning, which in turn shows how demented everything is. Was that the desired effect? We'll never know.

Score: 8.7/10

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review - Modern Family Season 2 Episode 6 Halloween

Short on time, so this'll be short

I've never been a big Halloween guy, or for that matter, a big participator in holidays. The effort to think up a costume and apply it is just too much for a single day. I do, however, love to see what people can come up with. Modern Family delivers on "Halloween," creating an episode which has the entire family together on Halloween and several intersecting, charming plots.

The best moments of the show are when the various storylines come together at the same time, resulting in a climax on epic proportions which quickly spirals out of control. That's exactly what happens, and everyone yells at each other.Gloria's English boils over, Cam continues on his Halloween story tirade, the entire haunted house falls apart, and Claire runs out in near tears. Of course, everyone realizes they shouldn't get caught up in meaningless stories and feelings and the episode ends on a happy note.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - NCIS Season 8 Episode 6 Cracked

"Cracked" could have been a great episode. The connection between Abby and the victim is great and let's Abby do something special for a change. However, that seemed to be the entire focus of the episode, as the crime solving part of the episode was shoved into the end of the episode for a quick resolution.

Score: 8.5/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Tuesday 10/26/10

Fox won with Glee (4.9) and Raising Hope (2.5, 2.2). Rocky Horror Picture Show tribute proved to be a success.

CBS was second with NCIS (4.1), NCIS: Los Angeles (3.4), and The Good Wife (2.4). Lower TGW than expected, but it's all part of the fluctuation.

NBC was third with The Biggest Loser (2.4) and Parenthood (2.0).

ABC was last with No Ordinary Family (2.0), Dancing with the Stars (3.1), and Detroit 1-8-7 (1.9). Detroit is in striking distance of NOF ratings-wise. What will ABC do about them? Neither is performing close to ABC standards, but no new ABC show is.

Review - No Ordinary Family Season 1 Episode 5 No Ordinary Quake

If next week's episode has some of that Incredibles crime-fighting family stuff, we can look at "No Ordinary Quake" as the episode when No Ordinary Family went from lame family dramedy to an awesome family action dramedy.

The pacing is fast and gives Jim and Stephanie plenty to do--and they finally work together for a change! We see another person who has powers, a woman who's been developed (?) to have cool sonic boom powers. Jim finally tells Stephanie that others have powers and JJ finally tells the truth. At least we can move on from the useless lies now.

"No Ordinary Quake" was the strongest episode so far with everything going on with Jim and Stephanie and JJ finally revealing his powers, but there's still endless pieces to pick apart.

Daphne's powers seem terrible in comparison to JJ's. While JJ can do the craziest math, calculating length, weight, density, and 50 other variables with the naked eye, all Daphne can do is hear a sentence of unspecific information.

Another thing I learned from No Ordinary Family: Pee is in DNA! JJ didn't notice anything funny about it so it must be real!

Score: 8.8/10

Review - The Good Wife Season 2 Episode 5 VIP Treatment

Earlier this season, I talked about how the increased attention to the political stuff cut into the courtroom side of the show, diminishing the effectiveness of each part in their own right. With last week's episode and and "VIP Treatment," however, the intersection between law and politics is proving to be a good as any storyline from the first season.

A masseuse comes to Lockhart Gardner after an attempted sexual assault, and lands the firm in a tricky situation. The accused is a Nobel Prize winner, Joe Kent, who helps women in Africa. He's an all-around hero, and the wrong move will leave LG in a mountain of trouble. At the same time, the most brilliant twist in a while, Kent endorses Peter's campaign, almost forcing him to put pressure on Alicia to back off. They may be fine if the accusations were false, but as the investigation reveals, Kent has done stuff like this before.

There were two things that didn't mesh with the episode. The biggest was Peter having to explain to Eli the significance of Kent's endorsement. I mean I even saw it coming from miles away? Was Eli simply under too much stress and the writers made him miss the point intentionally, or a momentary slip-up from the writers? The second was how Kent's lawyer was such a douchebag to the point where Will had to fight with him.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - Sons of Anarchy Season 3 Episode 8 Lochan Mor

Now we're getting somewhere. After a season of waiting, the Sons finally get to Ireland and ride across the landscape in an amazing opening montage. Stargate Universe producers should take notes. First, the music is actually good and not some whiny chick music, and second, the characters are actively doing something, not slobbering in self-pity.

"Lochan Mor" doesn't go all-out bonkers, as one may have expected, but resolves the ongoing issues and at the end of the episode, SAMCRO, or at least certain members, knows exactly what's up. Father Ashby lays out all the card for Jax. He gets rid of Jimmy and he gets Abel  back, or Abel probably won't be seen again. With this move, Jax is trapped into a corner and must commit, carrying out Ashby's orders regardless of the consequences. At the same time, Jimmy continues to use certain members of the Belfast charter to tug everyone around.

There was a lot of family drama going on as well and I'm very interested to see exactly what went on between John, Maureen, and Gemma. The scenes between Maureen and Gemma are loaded with tension, and must have a backstory to shed more like on the Sons as a whole. Jax and his half-sister... I don't even want to think about it. Please, please, Kurt Sutter, don't go there!

Score: 9.0/10

Review - Caprica Season 1 Episode 13 False Labor

Given Caprica's bad ratings which are only getting worse and the BSG prequel movie in the pipelines, I doubt Caprica will have a second season. After "False Labor," there are only five episodes left in the season. There won't be a proper ending, with the complexity of the world and all the various threads, but we could get some kind of conclusion for the series in the form of Cylons going crazy.

"False Labor"goes opposite to last week's episode which was all about Zoe, Tamara, and Lacy, focusing on the Taurons and Daniel. And, extrapolating into the future, I can sort of piece out how the Cylons could go wild and turn on the colonies.

The episode digs into the Adama's past on Tauron and shifts the story in yet another interesting way. With the current political struggle on Tauron, Sam ships guns back home, but is stopped by another Tauron gangster. The Guatrau, though, is against any intervention, and has Sam clean up the mess. He does so... with a Cylon! The tension that arises is very juicy. Sam is under strict orders by the Gautrau not to ship guns, but Sam clearly wants to do more, saying that they did enter politics back home. Also, as the other gangster said, the Gautrau isn't so powerful, and Sam has a frakking Cylon.

Daniel's attempts to replicate Zoe's program have so far failed while his company wants to start selling the problem soon. Recreating his wife, Daniel soon comes to a problem: She's too affectionate and sexual. That's not Amanda. After telling her all the bad things he did, virtual Amanda continues to love Daniel, definitely something the real Amanda wouldn't do. The frustration comes to a head as breaks the holoband. Better luck next time.

Meanwhile, the real Amanda, showing how different she is than the virtual Amanda, infiltrates the hearts and minds of one of the sister-wives, moving one step closer to trapping Clarice who's too busy wrapped up in her religious mumbo jumbo.

Score: 9.1/10

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review - Stargate Universe Season 2 Episode 5 Cloverdale

"Cloverdale" doesn't add to the main story, the Lucian Alliance or Rush's ongoing craziness not mentioned in the episode, but it's actually a welcome change from the crop of Lucian Alliance episodes.

Whether we take Scott's dreams as his own thoughts or whether anything that happened in the episode will carry on, the dreams serve as a metaphor for Scott's character, and did a much better job defining him than in the previous 20+ episodes. The implication is that Scott is insecure about himself, conflicted about Chloe, monogamy, and whether he should move on. In recent episodes, we've seen Scott question his relationship with Chloe in light of her changes. But as his dream shows, he's less concerned about her than himself and his ability to stay with her. The final grace note, Scott and Chloe getting married as Chloe's transfused blood saves Scott, is, in my opinion, an emotional highpoint for the show.

The problem with the dream, however, is that it's slow, and the episode gets bogged down in insignificance. We see how Scott views everyone else, but it isn't new information or particularly relevant information, given what's going on in the real world.

The rest of the episode is pretty awesome with the attacking plants and use of flamethrowers to beat them off. But like with every other alien we've seen on the show, I wish we could learn more about them. And we may have if much of the screen time wasn't dedicated to the dream.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Glee Season 2 Episode 5 The Rocky Horror Glee Show

How many different ways can we watch Will pine over Emma? Probably not many before it becomes tedious, but Ryan Murphy sure loves to tug at Will. We watched him pine over Emma for the for the first half of the first season and now it's back in full force, more irritating than ever.

Will, Emma, and Carl are insufferable. In "The Rocky Horror Glee Show," Will sucks the energy out of the scenes with his childish behavior which, frankly, makes Britany look normal. He manipulates the entire situation to satisfy his love for Emma and the kids get tossed around like ragdolls to accommodate his most immediate feelings. He finally realizes it at the end, but the damage is done. He's a horrible person for 90% of the episode, much like Rachel is most of the time.

Along the way, there's a body image message and a very good tribute to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. That still can't excuse the fact that the main story, Will being mean and nearsighted to win back Emma, is dreadful on all levels.

Score: 7.5/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Monday 10/25/10

ABC won with Dancing with the Stars (4.3) and Castle (2.9). Castle above Hawaii Five-0!

CBS was second with How I Met Your Mother (3.2), Rules of Engagement (3.0), Two and a Half Men (4.4), Mike & Molly (3.7), and Hawaii Five-0 (2.8). See above. CBS has to be queasy. CSI: Miami was consistently beating Castle last year. Then again, it had a bigger lead-in.

NBC was third with Chuck (1.9), The Event (2.0), and Chase (1.3). NBC must be feeling uneasy about Chase's still dropping ratings, given that they gave it a whole season last week.

Fox was last with a repeat of House (1.4) and a new episode of Lie to Me (1.6). Horrible numbers for Lie to Me.

Review - Castle Season 3 Episode 6 3XK

Aside from the sometimes lackluster plots, my biggest problem with Castle is that nothing stands out. I can't point to a single scene which was very emotional or thought provoking. The shows rolls along at a good pace, never slowing down enough to grab the nuisances in the middle of the investigation.

"3XK" has a few above-average confrontations with Beckett taking Gates head-on without Castle in the room before Beckett squeezes him about his brother and he crumbles. As far as everyone is concerned, it's the end of the case. However, it's actually his cellmate that is the killer.

The problem with final twists on procedurals is that viewers can always look at the clock. Too much time remaining and they know something is up; too little time and there is no twists. "3XK" skirts the edge of that boundary and I had an idea that something would happen, so it wasn't a complete shock. Still, Jerry is out there and will have to be caught at a later time.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Hawaii Five-0 Season 1 Episode 6 Ko'olauloa

First off, I can't help but point out the "protecting the island" line that belonged on Lost. Either it was a big coincidence or an intentional shout out, considering Jin was standing right there. Either way, it made me smile.

The rest of "Ko'olauloa," however, was pretty boring. It was a Kono-centric episode, but failed to give her any depth. Okay, so there's this guy and they haven't seen each other for years and he may be the killer (though every viewer knows he's not). We learn Kono is willing to put her work in front of her personal feelings. And?

The larger story deals with paternity and paternity and how evil corporations are, an wholly unoriginal, boring plot. But again, the visuals were stunning, especially the ceremony at the end of the episode. Is that enough to keep watching?

Score: 8.0/10

Review - Lie to Me Season 3 Episode 4 Double Blind

How fitting was it that Tricia Helfer played a duplicitous thief who fooled even Cal? As fans of Battlestar Galactica are well aware of, even just people who follow television, Tricia Helfer played the infamous Number Six, a blond bombshell who directly helped destroy the colonies.

We've always seen Cal in complete control of the science, despite no one else being on his side. Of course he's always right in the end because he's the main character. This time, Cal and the others suspect Naomi is up to something, but they have no definitive proof.

"Double Blind" moves with two parallel stories, the robbery at a museum and Naomi seducing Cal, before they intersect with the revelation that Naomi was one of the thieves. The final revelation is dampened by the fact that Naomi only wanted to return the artifact to India.

I'm liking the third season more than the second. Cal's blatant douchebaggery is finally having consequences, as Gillian continues to keep herself at a distance from him. However, we do see flashes of jealously from her, obviously because they'll hookup down the road.

Just a small note about ratings: Lie to Me has been performing horribly, even with House as a lead in. I won't be surprised if it isn't renewed.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - In Treatment Season 3 Episode 1 Sunil: Week One / 2 Frances: Week One

In Treatment is a show that could work on radio. It's about 90% talking, and the visual cues only add to the ongoing discussion. On a medium like television which is heavily reliant of what viewers look at, it's odd that In Treatment would be such an enthralling show. The way the entire season plays out is nothing short of remarkable. Each year, Paul meets the patient and the layers are slowly uncovered, all while Paul deals with his own problems on the side. In the end everything comes together to a conclusion for all characters.

The third season of In Treatment, premiering well over a year since the end of the second season, starts with a clean slate. With the Israeli series BeTipul gone as a guidebook, everything is new. There's no Gina, no leftover patient stuff from previous season.

The first patient we meet is Sunil, a transplant from Calcutta who moved in with his son, Arun,and daughter-in-law, Julia. Recently, he's been a shut-in, refusing to eat and be normal in general. As Paul talks with the three of them, rarely getting a response from Sunil, we get a some kind of idea where things are going. Arun adapts to what Julia wants, not the other way around, and Sunil, who is forlorn over the death of his wife and displacement from homeland, is resentful towards her.

While we get a pretty good idea of where Sunil's story is going, the second patient, Frances, is more of a mystery. She's the sister of one of Paul's former patients and does no reciprocate anything Paul inquires about. Clearly there's something wrong with her. But at the same time, her suggestion that her sister's cancer being related to their mother's cancer is the jumping point for one of Paul's development. After the session, he tries to get in contact with a neurologist, knowing his father died of Parkinson's disease.

Score: 8.9/10

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review - The Event Season 1 Episode 6 Loyalty

Exactly how long can The Event last for? At best, the show seems to be a long line of twists, albeit doled out at the right time. The characters started weak and have yet to improve, with exception of Simon who was quite interesting in the episode and instantly became better than Sean and Leila. It seems like there is a definite life to how long the writers can come up with stuff that won't have us groan each time.

The majority of The Event is not bad per se, especially when compared to FlashForward which quickly ran out of steam. As The Event progresses, there appears to be a bigger picture surrounding these individuals. "Loyalty" mainly focuses on how the characters on the small-scale will go somewhere, and not on how they affect everyone else. Most of the time, people are running around the place, but we have no idea what their motivations are, which is annoying but tolerable since the outcome is another twist.

The whole sequence of events from Sophia's escape to the ending is probably the best plot the show has had. The three aliens, Sophia, Simon, and Thomas, attempt to escape the grasps out of government with a few clever tricks. Before they can get away clean, however, the government gets Sophia on camera. The episode ends with the building collapsing and Simon standing to look at an empty crater.

Sean and Leila are supposed to be the normal people caught out in this huge mess we can related to, as opposed to the technologically advanced aliens or the powerful government people. Unfortunately, they are neither good characters, nor do they have good plots. They could be absent for an episode or two and I'm sure no one would mind. This week, they find themselves on the other end of a gun, because they run off to Leila's parent's house. Why would they do this knowing they're fugitives? Don't ask me. Anyway, there's a reporter played by Paula Malcomson who tells them about the aliens.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Chuck Season 4 Episode 6 Chuck Vs. The Aisle Of Terror

After a some some subpar episodes this season, Chuck hit the mark where it was last year, emotional, fun, and delightfully twisty. "Chuck Vs. The Aisle Of Terror" was definitely my favorite episode of the season. There's a fun tie-in with Robert Englund as a mad scientist who eventually is brought down by Jeff and Lester's silly Halloween images. And Morgan gets a piece of the spy action as well, although he's only the magnet.

Linda Hamilton really packs a powerful emotional punch, strengthened by the final revelation that she is working for Volkoff and not for the US, as we see just how conflicted she was. Staying behind in Los Angeles just a bit longer to see her daughter is ultimately the factor that led to her capture.

In addition to Mary being captured, Chuck instantly knows Sarah is involved. The good news is that the relationship will be put under more strain than the usual Chuck insecurity, and could actually produce some genuinely emotional scenes. I'm guessing that Chuck will be angry at first and then come around once he realizes that Sarah did it to protect him and his sister.

Looking ahead, Chuck was given an additional 11 episodes last week, which means the stuff with Mary could be extended further than is currently planned. But as of right now, the evidence appears to be pointing towards Mary being a bad guy. However, I'm sure there'll be further twists down the road to throw the characters through the wringer again.

Score: 9.3/10

Review - How I Met Your Mother Season 6 Episode 6 Baby Talk

The sixth season of How I Met Your Mother has brought the focus of the show back on the relationships. Lily and Marshall are the primary couple of the season and "Baby Talk," but the other characters are not ignored at the same time.

The episode focus on Marshall and Lily's potential child. Of course they want the gender they are themselves, and they go through of series of names, only finding themselves apprehensive at the possibilities. It's becoming more and more apparent that Robin and Barney will end up together. There was the mysterious wedding in the season premiere and now we learn that Barney is Robin's only ex that likes how she takes charge. Barney is, after all, a confident guy who won't feel bad about himself is Robin is doing something for him.

"Baby Talk" did not, however, strike me as a funny episode. Marshall and Lily performing all those ridiculous gags for conceive either a son or daughter were amusing, but no stunt actually had me laughing. Barney's baby talk was completely unfunny and the only part about the competition that was funny is the fact that Barney takes it so seriously.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Boardwalk Empire Season 1 Episode 6 Family Limitation

Boardwalk Empire is a show with tons of material that shouldn't be on broadcast television. But since the pilot, there hasn't been that much violence, the filthy material mostly coming in the form of nudity. The violence exhibited in the pilot, though, was in full force this week. The meeting in Greek town ends in a wonderful shooting with guns draw and heads popped. The grisly violence is accentuated by the cool style the three players have as they stroll out.

At the same time, we see the tensions rise between the major players and the show picked up major momentum, which hopefully last until the end of the season. Capone and Jimmy have some very tense scenes where it isn't clear whether one will act. As we've seen, Capone isn't exactly the most stable guy and Jimmy joking about his fake military service certainly doesn't help. In Torrio's eyes, Jimmy is probably on a higher level than Capone. Capone, who started at least on the same level as Jimmy, he must be fuming.

Nucky continues to fight his political and gang-related battles, coming close to beating up Lucky Luciano and realizing that Senator Edge probably won't help.

Margaret learns the hard way exactly who Nucky is. It's great at first as he cuddles with her and provides a large house. She responds by pushing back against Lucy. However, he soon blows her off and is with a prostitute. At least she still has the house.

Right now, Van Alden is probably my least favorite character. He's dedicated to the law, but far too crazy for my tastes. He has this weird thing for Margaret and then has a weird self-flagellation fetish. I don't see him as a long term character, but he could be a good villain for the time being.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - Luther Season 1 Episode Two

Just like that, Luther went from an intense psychological drama to an action drama on 24 levels. The standalone story of a soldier on a cop killing spree is very predictable, but the stakes are unbelievably high. First he snipes multiple officers and then blows up an entire building filled with more cops! Of course we know Luther is safe, but the scale of death is something we never see on procedurals.

Likewise, the Luther stuff, being on the edge literally and figuratively is too predictable. Alice, however, remains as scary as ever, playing games with Luther and Zoe without restraint.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Dexter Season 5 Episode 5 First Blood

For the longest time, I haven't been impressed by Dexter when everything is amped up and Dexter is running around the place. Even the Trinity Killer last season never got too much out of me. I mostly watch the scenes with indifference, knowing Dexter will get away in the end.

"First Blood" has few of those moments, but delivers on what draws me to the show--Dexter and his mind. To me, exploration into Dexter as a character is far better than the actually killings. Dexter must handle two potential killers, Lumen and Harrison. In both cases, he realizes they should not go down the path he did and tries to get Lumen out of town, first preventing her from killing the wrong person and then giving her a plane ticket to leave. There's something calming about Dexter trying to turn someone away from the life of murder, but despite that, Lumen is still in Miami at the end of the episode. As for Harrison, it's stupid to believe he could be exhibiting signs of a serial killer at 8.

I'm repeating myself, but as always I don't care about LaGuerta and Angel's marital problems or the intersection of Quinn's buddy, played by Peter Weller, with LaGuerta and Dexter. They just aren't well-developed characters and their storylines don't have anything close to what Dexter's doing or even the Santa Muerte stuff.

Score: 8.7/10

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Preview of Week 10/24/10 - 10/30/10

In Treatment - HBO, Monday/Tuesday, October 25/26, 9:00pm ET

This is the first time In Treatment will not follow the Israeli series BeTipul. Hopefully the show can continue be as good as it was. As for reviewing In Treatment, I already have 9 shows to watch on Monday and 6 shows on Tuesday, which is too much to handle along with 2 episodes of In Treatment. My plan is too watch all the week's episodes in bulk on Sunday and then review them.

Glee - Fox, Tuesday, October 26, 8:00pm ET

I don't like pure tribute Glee episodes, but this week is the Rocky Horror Picture Show episode.

Friday Night Lights - DirecTV 101, Tuesday, October 27, 9:00pm ET

The most consistently emotional show returns for its final season. I'm kind of worried where the fifth season goes, seeing as the fourth season had very questionable storyline choices (more so than in previous seasons) and a few important characters won't be coming back which is disappointing.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review - Blue Bloods Season 1 Episode 5 What You See

When I saw the Arab guy arrested in the first two minutes of the episode, I immediately thought the episode would be about racial profiling where everyone gets together around the dinner table and gives their thoughts. Danny and Henry would support racial profiling while Erin would adamantly oppose them. Frank would be on Erin's side, though less vocal.

While "What You See" does feature the usual discussion, along the aforementioned lines, and a predictable white terrorist, the episode emphasizes the importance of family in the end and not terrorism or race, deviating from previous episodes. The biggest problem with the episode is the standard police work this time around.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - Sanctuary Season 3 Episode 2 Firewall

It's unbelievable how Sanctuary can go from the dreary Kali story one week to "Firewall" in the next. Whereas "Kali" has a straightforward story built entirely on plot, "Firewall" takes a breath before launching into the mysterious new storyline.

The first third of so of the episode deals with a few leftover problems--Wexford and Will's ongoing struggles--while also introducing sprinkles of a solid plot (SGU writers take notes). The fact that Kali was incapacitated when the tsunamis were stopped and that she was flanked by two other powerful looking figures looks to be the driving point of the episode. If, as Magnus speculates, Kali get a physical body in Big Bertha, it would stand to reason that those who stopped the tidal waves do to. After Kate spreads some money around, they learn that the Cabal lost 400 men chasing an enormous underground abnormal.

The episode kicks into high gear once two white, chameleon-like abnormals try extracting memories from Will. They're captured and before much happens, they destroy themselves. Still, Henry is able to use a device from the abnormals to get Will's memories back. The fast pacing and unexpected twists made "Firewall" a great second episode of a season.

The final plot twist with the the physical appearance of a mini-city due to Magnus's birthday presents from her father, as cool as it is, is kind of ridiculous. But as Will says, "Just go with it, Henry." Well, viewers will just go with it and see where it all leads.

I was hoping the new theme from the season premiere was a one-time thing, but it's here to stay. Sigh... After the Ashley mess, you'd think the producers learned the important lesson--don't change what ain't broke.

Score: 9.1/10

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review - Supernatural Season 6 Episode 5 Live Free Or Twihard

The sixth season of Supernatural is as brutal as it gets. Despite defeating Lucifer and averting the Apocalypse, the brothers aren't better off than they were. The world is a different place: Instead of angels and demons running wild, it's monsters growing bolder by the day. Stopping the Apocalypse was but another step in life, and a dark one at that, where there is no clear enemy..

There is an air of uneasiness permeating every scene. In previous season, when a character would go off the rails, it would be visible and one of brothers would quickly catch on. In season six, however, there is something different at work. Sam is deliberate in his actions, and as far as we can tell, not under influence of a foreign substance. At the same time, clouded by Sam's return and his own personal problems, Dean is left completely unaware and easily fooled by Sam's lies. The scary part is that Dean has no clue who's sitting beside him, something we've never seen before. There were periods of ups and downs for them, times when they yelled and fought, but never had one slowly subverting the other.

"Live Free Or Twihard" has the initial tinge of clever humor, poking fun at Twilight and its ridiculous anti-feminist message which somehow appeals to masses of girls (who really need to move on to better literature), but the episode takes a deadly turn when Dean is turned into a vampire--due to Sam standing idly by (with even a smirk!?!).

My initial reaction was that it would be some kind of dream/hallucination. After all, Sam couldn't have just stood there and Dean can't turn into a vampire, right? As watched Dean run off to Lisa's house, I still couldn't believe it was all happening. It wasn't until halfway through the episode when Samuel brought out the antidote that I accepted what had happened.

Dean's infiltration of the nest reveals the big vampire plan which is operating covertly. Again, the characters are left oblivious to the threats. Before, monsters were a fairly simple deal. They come out of the shadows and the hunters take them down. But now it's another ballgame. The vampire alpha is strategically planning his ascent, using the draw of vampires to lure in recruits. Vampires are no longer hiding in the darkness; they are out in the open, building their forces, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop them.

When Samuel questions Sam about Dean, we learn just how craven Sam is. Sam, knowing about the antidote, allowed Dean to be turned in order to find the alpha. This definitely isn't our Sam.

Five episodes into the new season and Supernatural has found its narrative drive. The future battles are taking shape, through Sam's duplicity and the Twin Peaks-ish vision, and it's very appealing.

Score 9.3/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Thursday 10/21/10

Fox won with game 5 of the NLCS (3.5). That's where all the viewers went.
CBS was second with The Big Bang Theory (4.1), $#*! My Dad Says (3.1), CSI (3.4), and The Mentalist (2.9).

ABC was third with a repeat of Grey's Anatomy (1.2) and new episodes of Grey's Anatomy (4.0) and Private Practice (2.7).

NBC was last with Community (1.9), 30 Rock (2.2), The Office (3.4), Outsourced (2.3), and The Apprentice (1.3). Outsourced is looking like another low rated NBC comedy.

Review - The Mentalist Season 3 Episode 5 The Red Ponies

A couple times last season, I pointed out that Jane went over the line of civility. He got way out of control sometimes and I have a hard time not disliking him for being an ass. The beginning of the third season has a very different tone than the second: every episode related to Jane's past and the human side of him was brought out.

"The Red Ponies," though, is more or less a normal episode. There isn't any Red John or references to Jane's past, which is completely fine. The factor that elevates "The Red Ponies" over a large majority of season 2 episodes is Jane's presence. He's not an overbearing figure who constantly does dangerous things, nor is a rudely belligerent. He puts up a facade as a horse whisperer--as is expected--but contains himself from doing anything overtly stupid, choosing to be the master in the background, controlling everyone without too much direct action.

Score: 8.6/10

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review - Nikita Season 1 Episode 6 Resistance

Nikita had a 24-vibe this week. There was the interrogation scene with threat of torture and then actual torture, the breakout, and a several twists. Nikita is on the sidelines with the guardian, who eventually escapes and recovers the black box, as Alex deals with a Division test which seems to be a legitimate capture. In the end, Alex messes up the test by breaking out and shooting her captor--a Division agent--before Michael takes her back at the gas station. Her actions, though, warrant death, which Michael begins to carry out. Percy shows himself to be a duplicitous as ever, as the test was not only for Alex, but also Michael--the gun only contained blanks.

While the flashbacks do bring a fair amount of pathos, they frankly aren't that interesting. It moves in small increments and the path is very predictable. Nikita reveals that she saved Alex as a child, so Alex eventually trusts her, and even requests to join her crusade. As far as I'm concerned, the backstory stuff could just be covered in a single flashback episode.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - The Office Season 7 Episode 5 The Sting

With "The Sting," it's like the writers decided that Danny (Timothy Olyphant) was going to be hired in the end and the middle section shouldn't follow any logic. It was definitely a funny episode, but based purely on silly gags.

The setup is that Danny is a superior salesman at an inferior company, so Michael decides to copy Danny's sales technique--by setting up a fake office with a hidden camera. How this is even possible is baffling. Surely Danny would know where the Dunder Mifflin offices are, and I don't believe Michael would even be competent enough to get Danny to go the office without flubbing the phone call. In any case, Meredith ends up as the fake boss, but believes Danny is coming onto her, which she reciprocates. All attempts to reign her in are futile--and hilarious. In the end, Michael proves to be the ultimate salesman, selling the job to Danny.

There was also a fun little subplot with Andy forming a band with Darryl and Kevin. It's mostly padding to allow some other characters to actually do something, but is enjoyable for what it is.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - The Big Bang Theory Season 4 Episode 5 The Desperation Emanation

The Big Bang Theory is a show based upon stock characters. Leonard is a genius who wants to get girls but can't. Sheldon is a genius who doesn't care about girls, or other people for that matter. It's hard not to see Leonard as a more pathetic guy when he strikes out. Watching someone strive and fail is more painful than watching someone be funny all the time due to indifference.

"The Desperation Emanation" plays on the two characters in their stereotypes. Leonard is so desperate that he resorts to Howard to get a date, resulting in a date with a woman whose hygiene is a little under par. Then, when she asks for another date, Leonard agrees. It's another head-shaking move which makes us dislike Leonard even more.

Unlike Leonard, Sheldon is just funny without fancy frills. Amy Farrah Fowler wants him to meet her mom, and the episode becomes a hotbed of cringe-worthy scenes where Sheldon does everything wrong, including the final scene where he overexaggerates having sex with Amy.

The lack of Kaley Cuoco is very apparent in the episode. Without Penny as a sounding board and normalizer, the episode is monotone with a basic, predictable plot. Penny adds a complete different dimension to the show, so I'll be glad when she's back.

Score: 7.7/10

Review - Community Season 2 Episode 5 Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples

I have no clue what "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples" is supposed to be. It's less wacky than last week's episode and yet more surreal and bizarre. There could be thousands of different, unique interpretations of the episode from the religious overtones, film making from Abed, Pierce being old, and everything in between.

So here's my take.

"Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples" is an intentional overload of meta, itself a bit of meta to challenge viewers and critics alike to think about what makes Community. Wherever you look, from professional publications to fan forums, the word once meta is used more than once in reference to Community. In fact, it's usually the biggest selling point of the show: the meta-commentary is clever and bitingly humorous.

But this episode contains the most meta we've ever seen. The word meta is used over and over again (maybe 50 times), and for good reason. Abed is making a film based off the life of Jesus that will forever transcend film through meta. In other words, it's Community, a show based off other comedies that will transcend television through meta. There's lots of weird buildup with Abed dressed up in a white robe and long hair, filming around school as the enthralled masses gather around.

Abed is the physical embodiment of meta, the guy people thinks is Jesus but actually is not, because Abed is not Jesus, as meta is not the Jesus of Community. He's actually beloved by everyone, unlike Jesus back in the day, and is seen as a hero rather than someone to shun. The resulting film is a failure in Abed's eyes and the experiment in the ultimate meta proves to be a failure and Abed's reputation is only saved because "God" makes Shirley destroy everything.

The lesson is that too much meta can be a bad thing. It might sound incredible on the outside, especially with the crazy mirror diagram, but ultimately is detrimental. The alternative, then, is increased expansion of the characters, which we do see in Pierce's old person subplot.

Again, this is what I think about the episode. I have no clue what's going on in Dan Harmon's mind, but it must be magnificent.

Score: 8.8/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Wednesday 10/20/10

CBS won with Survivor (3.6), Criminal Minds (3.7), and The Defenders (2.3). The Defenders is barely hanging in there, so we'll see what happens next.

Fox was second with game 4 of the NLCS (2.9).

ABC was third with The Middle (2.6), Better With You (2.1), Modern Family (4.7), Cougar Town (3.1), and The Whole Truth (1.4).

NBC was last with Undercovers (1.5), Law & Order: SVU (2.7), Law & Order: Los Angeles (2.4). NBC must be very happy about the two procedurals jumping back up after the distressingly low ratings last week. Undercovers isn't dropping anymore, but it still doing bad.

Review - Terriers Season 1 Episode 7 Missing Persons

Terriers is a procedural, but the execution is largely free-form, with no definite timings or twists that you'd see on a normal procedural. Cases don't present themselves in the beginning, and Hank and Britt do whatever they want during their investigation. It's very freeing compared to the restraints on typical procedurals.

"Missing Persons" only features one person who's actually missing, a college student, but almost every other character is missing inside their heads. The guy who kidnapped her is missing almost all his memories. Steph realizes she isn't getting better after imagining a long sequence of events, forcing Hank to let her go to a hospital. At the same time, Hank is bound by Katie's secret and struggles to keep the truth from Britt, as Britt is more and more distressed about Katie's attitude. And of course Katie doesn't know what to do and pulls back into a defensive shell.

I'm disappointed we won't be seeing Steph, at least for a few weeks, but the overall effect is that everyone's problems deepen as this season progresses. It's not Lindus or the trial anymore that keeps them down--it's themselves.

Score: 9.0/10

Review - Criminal Minds Season 6 Episode 5 Safe Haven

First thought: We need to get a comparison of the Frankie Muniz unsub to the Frankie Muniz lookalike unsub. They look too similar!

"Safe Haven" is creepy without the usual dim lighting and tense situations where no one can seeing anything. The unsub is out in the open, it's sunny, and the effect is equally chilling. This kid is the ultimate manipulator, hiding under the veil of childhood and feigned innocence, but he's a stone cold killer, up their with the worst of them.

Ellie didn't have her constant smile (only briefly in the beginning), but it looks like she's gone for now to live with her mother. On the other hand, would the writers really end it right here? If so, what was the point of her?

Score: 8.8/10

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DVD Review - Spartacus: Blood and Sand The Complete First Season

Spartacus: Blood and Sand defies the laws of nature: people have physiques chiseled from marble, ketchup-red blood spurts at unnatural rates, blades slice like buzz saws. That is to say, despite claims to the contrary in the foreword, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is not historically accurate, nor does it strive to be. Unlike Rome which had splendid, expensive sets and costumes, Spartacus is on a more meager budget, with small sets and CGI to fill in the blanks. It wants to be like 300, a wild panache of blood, sex, and plot twists--nothing more. There's no room for complexity or nuance.

Spartacus is the definition of a guilty pleasure, a show with no redeemable qualities, at least from an analytical standpoint, but is almost impossible to pull your eyes away from. The gory fights are longer than they should be, as the writers relish in decapitations, shallow cuts that sends gallons of blood flying, or various other limbs severed in single slices. The sex scenes are graphic beyond belief, showing everything imaginable--short of actual penetration. The language is as filthy as it gets, with modern curses thrown around every few seconds in reference to literally anything (variations of "fuck ____" and "stick your cock in ____" are the norm). A looming fervor lingers around every corner as the audience is always wondering what graphic display is next. Spartacus plays to our base, animalistic instincts--as gladiator fights did for the Romans--and does so to great effect.

Once the plot kicks into full gear--around the sixth episode--Spartacus could be considered a decent show. While the first few episodes of the show rely purely graphic displays to keep people watching, the writers show they actually have more to offer. Quick plot twists and entangled relationships emerge from a pile of guts and limbs, leading to a compelling narrative drive which comes to a bloody mess in the end (what more could you ask for?).

Now I wouldn't say Spartacus is anywhere near what we've seen on premium cable before, or even what it could have been, given a different intent. The acting in general is a pitiful affair and the dialogue is laughable. But what Spartacus does, which few shows do, is to let go, say fuck it, and just run with whatever the hell is there, boobs, bushes, penises and all.

Is Spartacus great television? No. Is it good television? Probably not. Is it fun television? Most definitely.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Modern Family Season 2 Episode 5 Unplugged

Race is one of those hot button topics which is rarely broached on television. Journeys into predominantly ethnic neighborhoods in various procedurals often feel preachy and shows like Aliens in America and Outsourced, in particular, get too heavy-handed with the portrayal of "white people" as ignorant.

Two out of three plots of "Unplugged" tackle race and both fail miserably. The lesson is that when people are totally ignorant and/or being racist, we should be laughing. That's right, next time you see your local skinhead, laugh at him for being stupid.

Jay and Gloria's plot is completely perplexing. The entire episode, Jay acts as though Gloria--and her countrymen--are savages who regularly kill and mutilate animals. It goes beyond Jay's usual assumptions of Colombia and more of a vicious colonial attitude taken from 200 years ago. He apologizes in the end, but it's ridiculous to even entertain the thought of Jay thinking along those lines. They've been married for a while (possibly years?) and somehow Jay, for this episode, decides to be stupid and insensitive. And it's not like this is the first episode. We've seen them act relatively normally together for 20+ episodes. Why would Jay change his attitude towards her now? I mean, let's go back to the pilot, using Jay's "Unplugged" mindset, and see how he should react.

Cam and Mitchell's plot is certainly more understandable, but ends on equally insensitive terms. Affirmative action is alive and kicking (although I'd argue being Asian is actually a detriment in California), so I can see why Cam and Jay want to maximize Lily's chances of success when the opportunity presents itself. However, Cam turns into Jay and decides to do Native American-style talking during the preschool interview. Just like that, a potentially teachable moment becomes "let's make Cam into a bumbling fool."

While the other plots are unplugged from reality, the Dunphies go through a literal unplugging of electronic devices, and thankfully makes the episode more watchable. Eventually, Haley wins due to very clever trickery, pretending to use her cell phone, making Phil think he wins. Maybe she's not so dumb after all.

Score: 8.0/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Tuesday 10/19/10

CBS won with NCIS (4.3), NCIS: Los Angeles (3.9), and The Good Wife (2.6). Not much to say here. Excellent numbers for CBS as usual.

ABC was second with No Ordinary Family (2.2), Dancing with the Stars (3.2), and Detroit 1-8-7 (1.8). Without Glee to compete against, NOF didn't drop as much as it did in previous weeks. Detroit 1-8-7 also went up slightly.

NBC was third with The Biggest Loser (2.6) and Parenthood (1.9).

Fox was last with repeats of Glee (2.1), Raising Hope (1.6), and a new episode of Running Wilde (1.1). Running Wilde is pretty much dead by now.

Review - NCIS Season 8 Episode 5 Dead Air

Last week, I talked about how NCIS stays away from tackling real world issues head on. An issue, such as funneling money to Afghan warlords, may be central to the plot, but in considering the morality of the foreign policy, there is no stance taken.

"Dead Air" does the same, creating a militia group so bizarre it's hardly relevant. About a month ago, Time had an interesting article about rising militias in the United States, so I thought it was cool that NCIS was being relevant, something The Good Wife does to great effect almost every week. However, the militia has a ideology that makes fringe groups look wacky: they want the military to withdraw from foreign countries to protect America and its citizens. In other words, they want to turn the United States into a police state. Right.. And to top that off, they're using Ben Franklin's Join, or Die cartoon which was about uniting the colonies, and in later years was also about opposing the British.

But enough of that--NCIS shouldn't be taken as having a political message.

"Dead Air" does a fantastic job paralleling the terrorist's daughter with Ziva. At each point, we see Ziva skirting with her Mossad past and considering her father. As the final scene at the baseball field shows, Eli wasn't all bad and it looks like there'll be an amicable conclusion in the future.

Score: 9.0/10

Review - Caprica Season 1 Episode 12 Things We Lock Away"

These days, when Battlestar Galactica viewers see an imaginary person, they probably say, "Oh great, an angel." When they say Zoe talking with a ethereal version of herself, they probably had the same reaction. It's not that an angel in the head of Zoe couldn't work, it's just that we've been burned before with angel stuff which was plain stupid.

And for the time being, it's not bad since we learn the origins of Zoe's computer prowess and the angel seems to be pushing virtual Zoe to be an entirely different person, detached from real Zoe. On the other hand, the angel will only make a mark in the virtual world, which frankly wasn't very interesting this week. Virtual Tamara and virtual Zoe meet for the first time, but the plot regresses to a bunch of fighting before they stop.

Daniel is reinstated as CEO, only a few episodes after being kicked out. The quick change in direction makes the whole Vergis vs Greystone seem almost too trite, especially now that Vergis is dead. The upside is that we see Daniel willing to take on the Tauron gangsters.

The other pieces remain slow, but they're moving at least. Clarice has Lacy sent to STO training camp (maybe she'll return a competent terrorist) and Amanda moves in with Clarice so she can scope out her place.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Sons of Anarchy Season 3 Episode 7 Widening Gyre

It seems like the middle of "Widening Gyre" was designed only reach reach the eventual conclusion. The Sons would be off to Ireland and Gemma with them. How they get there is rather messy with lots of random pieces and inexplicable actions.

The whole deal with the Mayans, Calaveras, and Alvarez in the bathroom seemed wholly unnecessary ands adds nothing to the episode. We already know people get shot in the head and we already know Alvarez is a snake. The scene where Alvarez is tracking Tara could have been there without the Grim Bastards.

Tara helping Gemma kind of comes out of nowhere and makes little sense. Gemma breaks out easily with no resistance despite Unser being there and the explanation from Tara, backed up by her boss, is somehow accepted.

The Sons will be in Ireland next week (and if they aren't, I'm likely to shoot someone), so we can expect an action packed episode to take our minds off things.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - The Good Wife Season 2 Episode 4 Cleaning House

The second season of The Good Wife has greatly expanded the show from where it began. The two main tracks from last season, Alicia's job and Peter's release from prison, have expanded to encompass more characters and plots. Alicia's job is circled by the ongoing battle between Kalinda and Blake, Bond, the new partner, is a wrench into what Dianne imagined. Peter and Eli have greater roles, as the campaign is in full swing.

At the same time, the writers are not half-assing anything. They're determined to have everything, both a compelling case for Alica along with the people around her and constant twists for Peter's campaign. Nothing is shoved into a corner of an episode or explained with a full line. Both storylines are in the forefront.

"Cleaning House" is the best example of that, and is the most well-rounded episode of the season. While Alicia has a case forcing her to blame the victims in order to win, political winds are brewing once more. Childs is coming after Peter vis-a-vis Alica, so he uses Cary as an attack dog to force Alicia into a corner before Will declares he'll reveal something about Childs. A third candidate is also entering the race, the judge who spurned Dianne last season. But she's corrupt and Dianne manages to get her to back out. The next move--have Wendy Scott Carr, the attorney from last week's episode, enter the race. Cue Eli's reaction: "Who's Wendy Scott Carr!"

There was a bit more of the love triangle thing going at the gala and the competition between Kalinda and Blake increased about 10 steps in intensity, with Kalinda taking a baseball bat to Blake's car before tempting him sexually.

Score: 9.4/10

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review - Stargate Universe Season 2 Episode 4 Pathogen

Stargate Universe went from barely passable plots to what is, at best, a loose construction of random threads. "Pathogen" is all over the place with a multitude of characters doing their own thing, resulting in an episode which has no drive towards an ending.

The one thing that will carry over from this episode is Chloe's condition, which increasingly appears to be transformation into a alien. Her cognitive functions spike when looking at Rush's math board and there are periods of time when she can't remember how got somewhere. As Chloe changes, there's nothing she or anyone else can do. Scott is concerned but as clueless as the next person and Chloe, expectedly, is at wits' end. To make things worse, Rush, decides to pin the ship anomalies on her, putting even more pressure on her. Hey, if Rush is an unsalvageable human being, at least we can feel sorry for Chloe.

And there's the stones again, those mystical problem solvers which have limitless scope and power. The scenes with Eli and his mom aren't half bad, with real emotion coming from both ends, but as Eli's mom refuses to believe Eli to actually there, a logical conclusion presents itself--put his mom on Destiny. Just like that, the problem is solved.

On the other hand, Wray and Sharon aren't fairing well because Wray can't physically be there. Despite how broken the stones are, actual physical presence trumps all. While I like how the stones weren't a cure-all this time around, personally I don't care much for Wray and Sharon. Their relationship was pretty much generated out of thin air, without seeing what made them drawn to each other in the first place, so they're just a generic couple to me.

Greer gets into a confrontation with Robert Knepper's LA character, but it all boils down to the same old thing: Greer has anger problems. We. Get. It. Also, TJ has a thing for the other LA guy. Oh boy...

Stargate Universe is one of those shows I've lower my expectations for enough so that I'm never too disappointed at the end of an episode. I take what I can get--with "Pathogen," very little--shrug my shoulders, and move on.

Score: 7.8/10

Review - No Ordinary Family Season 1 Episode 4 No Ordinary Vigilante

"No Ordinary Vigilante" is probably the end of the road for me, or at least the last episode I'm going to review. I want to find out what's going on with the plant, but everything else is an endless stream of tired cliches that leave me eyes rolling and rolling.

Worst of all is JJ. His insistence on keeping his powers secret is about as painful as watching The Big C and the football storyline is ridiculous beyond belief. We're supposed to believe that football takes absolutely zero physical ability and zero training to be good at. A genius such as JJ can come in and be the best quarterback in the world. Okay, so maybe that's just suspension of belief, but it makes build up before JJ throws the ball a hokey exercise in the whole "let's show him calculating" thing while building up false hope that a more realistic outcome--JJ failing miserably--would actually happen.

I one thing I did like, though, is the family dynamic still at the heart of annoying plots. The final talk between Jim and the vigilante brings things into focus, both for the viewers and Jim. Instead of chasing criminals, Jim should be with his family, and that's exactly where he is in the end.

Score: 7.1/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Monday 10/18/10

ABC won with Dancing with the Stars (4.0) and Castle (2.5). Hopefully the dip for Castle was only a blip (rhyming!).

CBS was second with How I Met Your Mother (3.3), Rules of Engagement (2.9), Two and a Half Men (4.4), Mike & Molly (3.5), and Hawaii Five-0 (2.9). HF0 continues to slide downwards and is below where CSI: Miami was last year. Not sure whether CBS is happy with that.

Fox was third with House (3.6) and Lie to Me (1.9). Again, horrible, horrible retention for Lie to Me. Fox must be itching to put something in the slot that won't waste the House lead in.

NBC was last with Chuck (1.9), The Event (2.2), and Chase (1.6).  All three shows were picked up for a full season, so we shouldn't have to worry about the ratings for a while unless they really dip lower.

The sad story of NBC

With the recent pickups of Law & Order: LA, Outsourced, The Event, Chuck, and Chase, it would seem like NBC did great this season, their only canceled show being Outlaw. On closer look, however, it's more akin to survivors popping their heads out of an underground bunker to find a nuclear wasteland: they're alive, but in the worst possible circumstance.

Looking at the ratings, every show picked up, with the exception Outsourced and to an extent, Law & Order: LA and The Event, are doing terribly compared to shows on networks. On CBS, all of those shows would be surefire cancellations. On NBC, though, what should be failures are success on a network which has failed to launch a successful show in years. Year after year they pump money to develop shows, only to find themselves staring at low numbers. Their Leno experiment last year, an attempt to cut costs while maintaining average to low ratings, also failed.

This year NBC was going places--no medical shows and a slew of big projects. They grabbed up an Abrams spy show, a Bruckheimer procedural, another Dick Wolf procedural, the "next Lost," and an office comedy following The Office. Unfortunately, not only did none of the shows become breakout hits, Undercovers proved to be an utter ratings failure.

But regardless of how well this crop of shows are doing right now, their pickups shed more light on NBC's midseason future than anything else. Sadly, the fact that NBC wants more low-rated episodes means they have even less faith in their midseason lineup. Somehow, the future crop of shows are so bad that NBC doesn't think they can pull ratings between 1.5 and 2.

Unless NBC pulls off a miracle, it looks like they'll be stuck in this rut for a very long while. Aside from football and The Office, there's no show which appears remotely close to coming to the top. The solution for NBC, then, would be to churn out new shows--and severely lower the budgets to compensate for low ratings. In turn, fewer producers will want to turn to NBC, meaning the network will be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Well, here's to hoping NBC can pull out of this nosedive and deliver quality television show.

Review - Hawaii Five-0 Season 1 Episode 5 Nalowale

As I said last week, Hawaii Five-0 is a fairly average procedural. The high octane story in the pilot was only a one-time deal while the rest of the episodes became usual procedural crimes--prisoner escape, gangs, etc.

Although "Nalowale" is no different in terms of crime, as the team tracks the kidnapped daughter of an ambassador, it's also a step above the other episodes in nearly every other regard. Instead of relying on the interaction between McGarrett and Danny for humor, a few new and old characters are in the episode to provide a certain spark not seen in previous episodes. The medical examiner played by Masi Oka, reminiscent of his Scrubs days, is wacky and fun, and McGarrett's sister Mary returns for a few playful words with McGarrett's Navy girlfriend who once again helps in the case.

I like that Hawaii Five-0 has a large enough budget to consistently bring back old characters, and hopefully we'll be seeing all of them very soon.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - Castle Season 3 Episode 5 Anatomy of a Murder

"Anatomy of a Murder" is one of those episodes which was decent but unremarkable. The case isn't original or clever, but it's logical and has more than one component to it. The stuff with Castle, his ex-wife, and Alexis shed some light on Castle, but was plain. Beckett declares that she'd save Castle from prison, but we already knew she would.

Honestly, I don't really have anything else to say about the episode. In its third season, Castle often ends up around the same ballpark as this episode, and there's not much worth commenting on anymore.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - Lie to Me Season 3 Episode 3 Dirty Loyal

Wow, I can't remember the last time Lie to Me left me glued to the television. Deviating from previous episodes where Cal messes with random people, "Dirty Loyal" puts everything on the line, testing how far everyone would go to protect their partners. It's also the best plotted episode in a long while, without those pesky "twists" which end nowhere.

With Wallowski under IA investigation for helping a gang member along with her partner, Cal does his best to protect her, all while the police are leaning on Gillian to find the truth. Of course Gillian knows the truth--Wallowski was covering up for her partner, knowing the gang member was his son.  And she does come perilously close to incriminating Wallowski. However, Cal manages to dissuade her at the last moment.

The best part is that the current problems between Cal and Gillian have only gotten started, and "Dirty Loyal" kicks it up one notch. I can't wait to see when the inevitable blowup occurs.

Score: 9.2/10

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review - House Season 7 Episode 5 Unplanned Parenthood

While watching House and Wilson scramble to deal with the baby before Cuddy returns, I was consciously thinking that the scene is supposed to be funny in an amusing way and that somewhere in America someone is probably his/her ass off. But I sat there annoyed with how stupid everything had gotten. Remember when House could be a competent, witty doctor without bumbling around like a fool?

In the middle of all this, there is a patient who'd just given birth. After relatively few steps, the mother sacrifices herself for the baby. And her other daughter is a nuisance who is there primarily for the melodramatic ending where she realizes her mom allowed herself to die.

Then there's the hiring of a female doctor. Needless to say, it doesn't end well because House is playing games, but it also makes us dislike the other characters even more. I guess we can't expect more House these days.

Score: 8.2/10

Review - The Event Season 1 Episode 5 Casualties of War

The Event is a show which works on the large scale. President Martinez going head to head with Thomas was interesting in all regards, 24-esque in the tough choices to be made. The revelation that Thomas helped on the Manhattan Project was another cool reveal.

The small scale parts, Sean and Leila reuniting is nice and comforting, but nowhere near as compelling as the bigger stuff going on above them. It's hard to recognize their significance when they're both not interesting characters or doing anything interesting. They're just running around the place. Likewise, Vicky's son is revealed to be a baby she was supposed to kill. Yeah, it humanizes her, but I'll need more than that to actually care.

As some people might have read, The Event was given a full-season pickup earlier today, mostly because NBC has terrible ratings (somehow The Event was NBCs highest performing drama last week). With the pickup and in my mind, a fairly good episode, I guess I'll be sticking around for the rest of the season.

Score: 8.4/10

Review - How I Met Your Mother Season 6 Episode 5 Architect of Destruction

There's been speculation that Jennifer Morrison's character could be the Mother. That would be great news for fans who've been waiting years for the eventual revelation. However, after watching "Architect of Destruction," I'm not sure I want Morrison's character, Zoey, to be the Mother.

I know her character will be expanded, but my first thought is that she's plain annoying. Her "small person fighting big person" act is unlikable in its own right since she seems more a crazy than an normal activist. And her unlikable characteristics, the focus of the episode, are enhanced by the structure of How I Met Your Mother. Character development is exceedingly slow, and we learn facts about her piece by piece, episode by episode.

The subplot, luckily, was not just one long penis joke. It turns into a general discussion of partners sharing their sexual experiences, with women clearly sharing more than men.

From a humor standpoint, I laughed a lot during "Architect of Destruction," so it could be considered a success. Ted dragging out the fact that he's the architect of the building was particularly funny and the snakes gag got me every time. From a storyline standpoint, a potential Mother, like many others before, is dangled out to leave us wondering and it's nothing to be impressed with by now.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - Chuck Season 4 Episode 5 Chuck vs. the Couch Lock

Thankfully, "Chuck vs. the Couch Lock" stayed away from ongoing Chuck-Sarah angst, which made for a fast paced episode filled with jokes. With Casey and Morgan as the central characters, Chuck and Sarah take a backseat for once, allowing the other elements of the show to expand without hindrance.

In the end, Morgan's fearlessness--stupidity in some eyes--pays off as he takes out Casey's former teammates and makes sure the gold is safe. Morgan, in turn, gains Casey's respect and it looks like he and Alex are going to be fine.

While Chuck himself is not central to the story, the overall story arc involving Chuck's mother, is pushed forward. There is a distinct possibility that she may on the wrong side--though it's probably not going to play out that way in the end. Still, though, the possibility leaves its mark on Chuck who realizes that he already has a family willing to stick by his side through anything. But his mom calls at the very end and the search will be in full swing again.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - Boardwalk Empire Season 1 Episode 5 Nights in Ballygran

"Nights in Ballygran" deals with people who want to be in a position they can't be in. Nucky's brother Eli wants to have the great oratorical skills his brother does, but his speech is largely ignored as the crowd almost breaks into a riot. Margaret wants to be with Nucky and Nucky wants to be with her, but they're on opposite sides of every spectrum. Pearl wants to be able to earn money again, but realizes her sliced face leaves no possibility for that. Jimmy shows real affection for Pearl, but knows her drug use is dragging her down. Agent Van Alden wants to

The ensuing result is a whirlwind of an episode where, for the lack of better words, stuff happens. Margaret rats on Nucky, as reprisal for ignoring her, and Van Alden crashes the party. Later, Nucky and Margaret hook up, which puts them both in difficult positions. Possibly the most tragic part of the show so far, Jimmy and Pearl's romance, comes to a sad ending with Pearl shooting herself.

Score: 9.3/10

Review - Dexter Season 5 Episode 4 Beauty and the Beast

The arrival of Lumen last week gave Dexter a huge problem. She's an innocent, abused beyond belief, but also saw Dexter's deed. "Beauty and the Beast" works extremely well, building off that. While Harry tries to convince Dexter to kill her, Dexter relates Lumen to Rita, knowing they were both innocent people caught in the crossfire. He goes far beyond his call of duty to make Lumen feel safe, and despite her trying to escape several times, they come to an amicable relationship. I'm definitely looking forward to see how this progresses.

Then there's everything not related to Dexter which belongs on another show. Batista apologizes to the guy he beats up, but the IA investigator won't let things drop and implies to LaGuerta that he wants a blowjob. Come on... Deb loses the Santa Muerte killer and feels bad for herself, so she goes to Quinn. How do these things get into the show?

And Quinn adamantly refuses to give the guy Dexter's photo because it's a sensitive matter, opting to find the safe house himself and then gets caught, resulting in his suspension? Really?

For the most part, I try to avoid factoring in the various police subplots when I review Dexter. They're absolutely horrible and have no place on the show. Somehow, year after year, the writers continue down this path, trying to give the other characters something interesting. The result is almost embarassing.

Score: 8.4/10

Review - Mad Men Season 4 Episode 13 Tomorrowland

Going into Mad Men's fourth season finale, I had a couple expectations. In my mind it would be about the salvation of Sterling Cooper Draper Price, an offer from a big company that would set right a season of financial woes. After all, Don's ad about cigarette companies was the lynchpin of last week's episode and seemed to be leading somewhere. Boy was I wrong. For better or worse, Matthew Weiner is a master of misdirects and delivers a doozy no one saw coming.

The first quarter of "Tomorrowland" wanders around without a clear end. Glen shows up again, Don meets with the American Cancer Society, but it all heads towards Don's trip to California. Because Betty had to be a bitch and fire Carla, Don brings Megan to help with the kids. Incidentally, Megan is amazing with the kids and Don instantly recognizes that. One thing leads to another and they end up in bed together, but then, Don proposes, using Anna's ring. This is Don using drugs Midge gave him, right?

Although Don is engaged to Megan, we can't help but remember all the women he's tossed aside before. There's Betty who he ignored, Bethany Van Nuys who is barely mentioned, Allison who mistreated, and lastly Faye who receives the cruelest kick of them all. Don is a terrible person. But is Dick a bad person? He tells his kids that Dick is a nickname, one step closer to embracing who he is. Can marriage to Megan turn over a new leaf?

It's too early to make any firm judgments, but my gut reaction is that Megan is not as genuine as she appears. We know that the first time they slept together, Megan did a bit of manipulation, Don Draper-style, on Don himself. After Don finishes his call to Faye, Megan enters his office and towers over him as he sits in his chair. She caresses his face, and quite literally has him in the palm of her hand.

The discussion between Peggy and Joan is about as perfect as one can get. Clearly disappointed in Don's decision, Peggy vents to Joan while Joan tries to stay composed and detached. Peggy has an excellent point. As far as she and Joan have come, here's this secretary who comes along and is instantly elevated above them due to looks only (as far as they know). Peggy, singlehandedly, just got the first account in a long while, and does she get any notice? Nope. It's all about Don and his secretary. Yeah, kind of sucks.

From an overall story standpoint, how will Don's engagement affect the relationship between him and Peggy? Will it destroy what was forged in "The Suitcase" and set off more dissension?

We see Joan take some of Peggy's anger and use it in her conversation with Greg, repeating what Peggy said earlier. And we learn that Joan is pregnant, the second biggest revelation of the episode. (I didn't take a stance on whether she was pregnant or not since it seemed like 50/50.)

OK... now it's time to say a few things about Betty. To start, I was mostly neutral about her until this season. She was never likable in previous season, but we could feel sympathetic towards her in certain cases. In the fourth season, however, with less screen time, Betty turned into a pathetic, single-minded character unique to Mad Men. It was either yelling/hitting her kids or being totally helpless, neither of which were pleasant to watch. Her behavior in "Tomorrowland" initially follows the pattern: Betty is acting like an awful, awful person, firing Carla without so much as a warning and then acting belligerent afterwards. It's hard not to hate her.

But then the second to last scene rolls around. I really felt sorry for Betty. It's Don and Betty alone in their old house. They talk and it's as if there's never been any distance between them. They're comfortable and at ease with each other, discussing their old life. To Betty's chagrin, Don also informs her he's getting married. While Betty's current marriage is on the rocks and likely to fail, her ex-husband, who she clearly wants to get back together with, is moving on. Seriously great job by January Jones to make Betty seem human again. For a split second, I wanted Don and Betty to get back together.

Looking months ahead toward the fifth season, the status quo has once again changed. After what I'm guessing will be a lengthy (several months) time skip, Don will be married, Betty will be living far away, Joan will be well into her pregnancy, and SCDP will be doing fine. Yeah, maybe overspeculation on my part, but it sure sounds good.

"Tomorrowland" is one of those episode which will divide fans. The focus is not only on Don, but also this new character Megan, an unknown factor as of now. In the season finale, the whole world is turned upside-down and in a fashion no one expected, with Don's new fiancee instead of a new account. Personally, I'm very interested in where things are going.

Well, that's the end of another excellent season of television. Unfortunately for us, Mad Men isn't coming back for almost a year, so we'll just have to wait to see what happens.

Score: 8.9/10

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review - Rubicon Season 1 Episode 13 You Never Can Win

By showing all the cards last week, Rubicon was boxed in a corner. For sure there was a terrorist attack in Galveston Bay and for sure it was the doings of Atlas McDowell in conjunction with Truxton Spangler. The resolution, then, would have to be incomplete for the show to go on if it were to have a second season.

"You Never Can Win" comes to a belated ending, staggering forward towards the finish line. The conspiracy angle of Rubicon started slow and didn't pick up until about halfway through the season. As the details of the conspiracy crystallized and real actions were taken by Will and the conspirators, the conspiracy came up to par with the intelligence portion of the show.

However, as the season finale proves, conspiracy theories have definite lifespans. Rubicon's ended last week. "You Never Can Win" is unable to build up the momentum gained at the end of last week's episode, instead giving us a half-hearted explanation that Atlas McDowell wants war with Iran, a fairly boring conclusion. Unlike 24 which could spin a story every which way, Rubicon is almost too real. Additional twists would throw the show off a certain equilibrium.

After being an inconsequential character for a very large majority of the season and taking up a fair amount of screen time before entering the fold a few weeks ago, Katherine Rhumor is killed by a quick injection. And with that, she's gone forever. The only useful thing she does in the episode--and arguably the entire season--is that she links Andy to the conspiracy by uncovering the recording. Unfortunately, we don't get any elaboration whatsoever on Andy, and we don't even know what side she's on.

On the other hand, Spangler, once the powerful figure who presided over API and the conspiracy, is shown to be as vulnerable as the ones whom he easily dispatched. In one fell swoop, the conspirators clamp down on him and send him a clover,

What "You Never Can Win" and Rubicon in general is successful at is showing the human cost of the intelligence world. Tanya, fed up with everything, quits for good. Miles, informed by Will of the conspiracy, is unable to properly function with the realization that everything he's done is a sham. Grant receives the promotion he's been looking for, but a glimmer of good news under the weight of all that's going on.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Luther Season 1 Episode One

Luther has a heady premise: brilliant, troubled cop against a brilliant, psychopathic killer. The show isn't revolutionary by any means, apart from the fact that Luther knows who the killer is, but the execution is clearly on point.

The pacing is taut, never a dull moment in the pilot, and there are plenty of memorable moments. Because there is no drive to finish a complete story, i.e. wrapping up an entire investigation like a normal procedural, "Episode One"  is chalk full of confrontations, made oh so delicious by Idris Elba's looming presence, which are left unresolved.

Whether it's his mercurial visits to his wife Zoe or simmering interrogations with the killer Alice, Luther is an immensely compelling character who we can both cheer for and question. Let's hope future episode maintain the same quality.

Score: 9.0/10

Preview of Week 10/17/10 - 10/23/10

Forgot about writing this, so it's very late.

Rubicon - AMC, Sunday, October 17, 9:00pm ET

It's almost hard to believe, but the first season of Rubicon is over. And last week's tanker explosion at the end of the episode was only the beginning. We'll see what the writers pull off this week to top that.

Mad Men - AMC, Sunday, October 17, 10:00pm ET

What game-changing twist will happen in the fourth season finale? The possibilities are endless.

Luther - BBC America, Sunday, October 17, 10:00pm ET

Idris Elba of The Wire fame gives a sterling performance as John Luther, a cop with a troubled past.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review - Blue Bloods Season 1 Episode 4 Officer Down

Four episodes into Blue Bloods, and we have a pretty good idea what kind of show it'll be down the road. It's definitely not as deep as it could be, seeing as the family is boring on all levels, but has plenty of untapped potential. Likewise, the police work in each episode is boring and stuck in a rigid format.

There is, as always, discussion of the Blue Templar and discussion of a certain issue among family members, this week being "the old days," only with the positions in the episode switched. Instead of Blue Templar talk coming in the end, it's at the beginning, and instead of issue talk in the middle of the episode, it's near the end, and only between a few characters.

Even though "Officer Down" is no different than the rest of the episode, it packs an emotional punch with the death of an officer (which culminates with a stupid, Michael Bay-esque shooting of the shooter), and the lighter tone at the dinner table in the end was nice.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - Sanctuary Season 3 Episode 1 Kali (Part 3)

Episodes following direct cliffhangers are largely dependent on the previous episode. If the previous episode sets up a situation which has diverse, unpredictable components, we can expect the next episode to carry through and be a good episode.

With "Kali (Part 2), though, that isn't the case. The ending, Magnus losing control of the Sanctuary network before Big Bertha creates the tidal wave, leads to a logical conclusion at the end of the next: Big Bertha will be stopped and Magnus will regain control of the Sanctuary.

And as expected, "Part 3" does exactly that. It's an boring hour of television where we know who's right, Magnus, and who's wrong, Wexford. Without room for moral ambiguity, the episode plows forward to a predictable conclusion: the ship's personnel side with Magnus Will reconnects with Kali, and further flooding is prevented. Great. The only unexpected part of the episode was the only guys with Kali who presumbly were the ones who stopped the floods, meaning there are other entities out there more powerful or as powerful as Kali.

Part of the episode was devoted to trying to make the audience like Kate with her running around to save normal people from the flood. The problem is, I already hate Kate and Agam Darshi is incredibly bland. Seriously, just bring Ashley back through some hackneyed plot device.

Score: 7.7/10
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