Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review - Necessary Roughness Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

Necessary Roughness feels like a show torn between USA brand--the light, breezy procedural--and a show that is deeper and darker. Its procedural elements are fairly simple--Callie Thorne playing Dr. Danielle Santino, a therapist who starts working with a football team.That alone could have worked if the show was like Royal Pains, the show proceeding it. Dani could have an array of weird and quirky clients while she messes with their heads until their problems are solved, and Necessary Roughness does feature that

But the show differs in that the usual USA show would put family drama and story arcs below the procedural, devoting a small amount of time, usually to the beginning and end of the episode, for those purposes. Instead, the therapy parts of the show are shoehorned into inconsequential segments which all appear to be the same--football player TK doing bad things before Dani calms him down. Is that what therapy is, a couple minutes of someone lying down while the therapist says a few lines?

What takes precedence is the relatively dense family drama--Dani dealing with her sleezy soon-to-be-ex husband, her daughter acting out. There is some dark stuff in here and Callie Thorne readily handles the material. However, when these parts of the show start kicking in, we're soon reminded that Dani also has to take care of a patient and we're stuck with scenes which don't quite work.

Score: 8.3/10

Review - Royal Pains Season 3 Episode 1 Traffic

If remembering what happened in the previous season is a mark of how good a show is, Royal Pains would rank pretty low for me. Before the recap at the beginning of the episode, I was trying to remember what happened in the second season finale and just couldn't remember anything. After the recap and a couple minutes into the episode, however, memories flooded back and got reacclimated with the show. The bigger point is that I don't care much about the various plots of Royal Pains, not Boris and his medical problems, Hank and Jill's on-off-on-off relationship, Divya and her parents, or Evan and Paige. It's certainly not bad and makes for decent material in between the medicine, but it's not something I actively think about.

"Traffic" starts the new season with a reset of sorts. Eddie is in prison and out of the picture, Boris lets Hank back into his guest home, both Jill and Paige return, and Divya, not engaged to Raj, continues to work for HankMed. There aren't too many immediate concerns, but there are two big ones--Jill wanting to go to Uruguay full time and be with Hank at the same time, and Divya's parents, clueless as ever, try to set Divya up and cut her off after she refuses. I'm a little confused about the Divya situation because I thought she'd earned enough money over the years to get a place to stay, not necessarily in the Hamptons, but somewhere near.

The medical mystery was light padding on top of the ongoing drama and was fun, if not intriguing. The patient thinks she has allergies, but Hank believes she has a deep vein thrombosis. Hank is proven right and while she collapses and has to go to the hospital, all is well in the end.

Score: 8.5/10

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review - The X-Files Season 3 Episode 23 Wetwired / Talitha Cumi


"Wetwired" is a perfect example why The X-Files often reaches another level of quality. The episode starts off in normal X-Files territory, a poor sap killing his wife who he believe to be someone else and similar cases, but soon veers off in a deadly direction, involving Mulder and Scully to the fullest potential.

The culprit for these killings, it turns out, come from these extra lines from the TV broadcast signal which makes them paranoid. Scully, who has been watching the tapes, is sucked into this paranoia, seeing Mulder with CSM (surely a gut-wrenching experience giving Mulder's supposed convictions). It's kind of a cop out that Mulder happens to be red-green colorblind (I believe it's the first and last time this is brought up), but it's a plausible explanation which keeps the episode moving ahead.

Scully ends up going crazy, believing Mulder is behind everything (now THAT would make for an insane twist if it were real), and hides at his mother's house until Mulder and Margaret talk her down. Everything is fine in the end and Scully is given a perspective on how Mulder lives, always wary of those around her and the ever-powerful government.

There is real deception at work, as Mulder finds X cleaning up for the government and we later see X meeting with CSM. His conversation with Mulder reveals his intentions--to use Mulder for his own ends rather than help Mulder. It just happens that their goals intersect sometimes. While we still don't know how this is all related, whether the aliens are part of this mind-altering program or whether it's something else that the conspiracy people do on the side, it's still a spooky, unnerving look at the power these people have with human technology alone.

Score: 9.0/10

"Talitha Cumi"

I think the mythology of The X-Files starts unraveling around "Talitha Cumi." After the introduction of black oil early in the season, we get set of episodes which ignores black oil while introducing several new ideas. As more moving elements are introduced without proper explanation, the final payoff has to be inclusive and contain a lot of content. But there is also a point at which there may be too much to handle and through three seasons, The X-Files has already accumulated plenty of unexplained parts. This isn't too much of a problem right now, but it's certainly worrying to see things continually packed on.

As far as the episode itself, there is plenty to like about it. The conspiracy is in full force along with some more alien elements. Mulder and Scully are again plunged into this dangerous world which seems to have no end. The plot lies in the arrival of a guy--or, more precisely, an alien--named Jeremiah Smith, who has the power to heal people and change his appearance. Mulder obviously has an interest in him as well as CSM who manages to capture him. What transpires is two fascinating conversation between CSM and Smith about God and the role of the government, culminating with the revelation that CSM is dying of cancer.

The episode has lots of twists, with the reveal of Jeremiah Smith changing his face like the bounty hunter aliens, and the fact that a bounty hunter alien pretended to be Jeremiah Smith when coming to Scully. Scully also finds Jeremiah Smiths all across the country, which is a big deal going forward. In the midst of these aliens who don't seem to be on the same side, CSM is doing things as well as X, who gets in a huge fight with Mulder.

Following the revelation in "Paper Clip" that Mulder's father was involved with those currently running the conspiracy, we learn that CSM knew Mulder's mother well and even went to speak with her. Apparently, this gave her extra stress and she had a stroke. She is bedridden the entire episode, but manages to give Mulder a hint which leads him to those pokey things you use on the back of the aliens' necks.

Like the second season, the third season ends on a great cliffhanger, the bounty hunter having found Mulder, Scully, and Smith. Unlike the previous season's cliffhanger, though, there is more going on, with Mulder's mother in need of treatment and discussion of colonization.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - Covert Affairs Season 2 Epiode 4 All the Right Friends

"All the Right Friends" could have been a good episode given the premise. Annie is trapped in Argentina with an asset she needs to protect and an assassin chasing them. It works for a while until you realize the episode has actually become Annie and the super-annoying Italian guy who constantly talks nonsense. But in the end, the Italian guy is safe and out of Annie's life.

Back at the CIA, Auggie is offered a job by Arthur to become one of the public faces of the CIA. Obviously, this is a PR ploy since the blind guy would get lots of sympathy, but it is also a big advancement. We'll see what happens next week and whether Auggie takes the job. My guess is that he will be back where he is right now at the end of the season, but may take the job offer and spend a few episodes there.

Score: 7.4/10

Review - White Collar Season 3 Episode 4 Dentist of Detroit

After two very solid episodes to begin the season, I'm reminded why I don't like White Collar that much. Behind the intrigue of Neal and Mozzie's quest to sell the U-boat paintings and chemistry of Peter and Neal lies a show which often does not have an adequate plot. This week's episode sheds light on Mozzie's backstory, which is perfectly fine, charming even, but doesn't have much else. Neal and Peter do their con, Mozzie does his thing, Neal and Peter save Mozzie from a mobster and it's over. Without any cool tricks from Neal or anything too exciting, the episode lacked the charm that can make the show good.

Score: 8.0/10

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review - Breaking Bad Season 2 Episode 2 Grilled / 3 Bit by a Dead Bee


"Grilled" takes Breaking Bad to new heights with one of the most choking experiences ever. Walt and Jesse are trapped with Tuco and Tio for almost the entire episode and the plot is draining every step of the way. Tuco is such a weird character that his mere presence is frightening--to Walt and Jesse, and also the viewers. We don't know when he'll snap, or even what he wants. But one certainty is that he is crazed and can inflict severe damage to anyone.

As the plot moves ahead, Walt and Jesse are left with fewer and fewer options while Tuco is going crazy about Gonzo. First they contemplate attacking Tuco, but there is nothing to use. Then they try to poison Tuco, but Tio stops them by knocking the plate onto the ground. The scenes with Tio are scary in that their fates lie in the hands of this bell, which also makes it a little funny. And as much as Walt and Jesse try to talk their way out, Tio is still a sharp guy who knows what's going on.

Finally, Tuco takes them outside and begins beating on Jesse before Jesse manages to shoot Tuco. The situation is resolved when Hank, looking for Jesse, arrives and is surprised to find Tuco but kills him nonetheless. I could certain see where one could be miffed by this easy resolution, Hank of all people saving Walt and Jesse from Tuco without actually seeing them, but Tuco was a loose cannon ready to go and he would have to go eventually. And it's not like the story is over right there. Walt still has to explain his whereabouts for the past few days and his other cell phone, and those explanations could drudge up even more questions.

Meanwhile, Skylar, Marie, Walt Jr., and Hank all go out to look for Walt and we see how much of a toll it puts on all of them, especially Skylar. It also doesn't help that Marie is still in denial about the tiara. Again, the secondary characters are used effectively to balance the tension of Walt and Jesse's scenes and it works nicely.

Like the season premiere, "Grilled" begins with an ominous set of images, though no in black and white, depicting Jesse's low-rider, windshield blown out, bouncing up and down. This is explained at the end of the episode, but we don't get any new information about the pool or charred bear.

Score: 9.3/10

"Bit by a Dead Bee"

"Grilled" sets up an exceedingly tense situation for Walt and Jesse to get out of, and "Bit by a Dead Bee" immediately follows up on that with their explanations. Breaking Bad once again proves it shift gears in an instant and set its character on a new path.

Walt's explanation is filled with deception, layers upon layers of lies. He shows up in the middle of a grocery store naked as part of the plan to show how messed up his mind was, backing up his statement that he doesn't remember anything. It all makes for a convenient yet plausible explanation. Here is a guy with cancer, with bills to pay, a pregnant wife, and cerebral palsy. When he lies to the psychiatrist about the actual "truth," it sort of fits together. Only Walt is hiding something much, much darker. Walt proves himself to be a master liar, fooling his wife and doctors, and it's very convincing with Bryan Cranston behind the wheels.

Since Hank was originally looking for Jesse when he found Tuco, Jesse is the focus of Hank who quickly catches Jesse. But Jesse has a tight alibi which the hooker confirms, and Tio refuses to cooperate. Just like that, with Jesse is free, the trailer in a safe place, and Walt itching to cook and earn money, they can go right back into the business.

Left out, of course, is Walt's family. They don't know what's going on with Walt and are disturbed by his indifference. Walt sneaks back home to retrieve the money and spots Skylar and Walt Jr. trying to deal with the situation. Alas, he says nothing and sneaks out to enter the drug world again, leaving them to suffer. It's difficult to put any blame on Walt other than his inattention to his family. He has to lie or else he'll be thrown in prison, and he wants money for his family. At this moment he's still on the path he set out on in the first episode.

Score: 9.4/10

Review - Weeds Season 7 Episode 1 Bags

Weeds was once a show respect by everyone--viewers, critics, award shows. It really captured the idea of the suburban mom forced into the weed business, led down a dark, dangerous path with dark humor and a good amount of drama. But then Weeds kept going and going, always playing the same games with the plot and characters and it got old after a few seasons.

After a while I stopped caring, and in its seventh season, I wasn't planning on reviewing episodes unless I liked them. Since I'm reviewing "Bags," it's safe to say that I liked it, not so much for the episode itself but for the direction this season is going in. It feels like a fresh start, after a three-year time skip. Nancy is living in a halfway house, Andy, Shane, Silas, and Doug (he's definitely a problematic character like many characters in previous seasons which should have been done away with long ago) living in Denmark, and Stevie with Nancy's sister Jill. Best of all, Esteban is dead, according to Lipschitz, so there won't be more worrying about him.

With this fresh start, Weeds has a lot to work with. How does Nancy cope with the constraints of the halfway house after being cooped up in prison for three years? What is Jill doing with Stevie? How will she react to Andy and Shane? Will she reconnect with Silas? f course, most are wondering what the hell she's doing with the guns and grenades.

Score: 8.8/10

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review - The Big C Season 2 Episode 1 Losing Patients

I didn't feel like reviewing the season premiere of The Big C because I had so many misgivings about the first season, which was plagued by numerous problems. The biggest was that Cathy never told anyone about her cancer until the end of the season, so for the majority of the season, she'd act out of character, the other characters wouldn't know how to react, and everything would be awkward. And that's pretty much what first season was, someone hiding the truth for no good reason, leading to a lot of misunderstanding.

But since that silliness is over, The Big C is on much stronger ground now. Paul knows about her cancer and tries to help Cathy instead of doing whatever he was doing in the first season. It's a huge plus that Cathy can be open to someone. Even if the other parts of the show remain the same--Sean being a weirdo and Adam being lame--the show has still improved.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Treme Season 2 Episode 10 That's What Lovers Do

One thing I never understood is why people hated on Sonny so much in the first season. Sure, he was doped up and leeched off Annie, but in comparison to Davis, he wasn't that bad. Davis, instead of being mellow, was straight-up annoying, being loud and an ass. That's part of the reason why I thought Davis finally got his comeuppance in the episode, when he finally realizes that he may not have what it takes to be a star in the music business. Sonny, in comparison, has a steady job and is acknowledged by Annie to have helped people from the rooftops.

Not much happened in the episode happened to be honest. Perhaps the biggest change was Antoine's band losing Wanda after Antoine's pompousness pisses her off. Sofia finally makes a right decision by rejecting pot and the cute musician. Back in New Orleans, Albert and Delmond's music turns out great and appears to be going ahead well. But other than that, it was mostly the same stuff: more investigating by Toni and Colson, more Nelson buying property, more Ladonna having trouble, more of Antoine's wife getting mad at him, more Janette being a good chef in the wrong city.

With the season finale next week, the table is set for some changes. Every character has had something change these past few weeks, for the better or worse, and now we'll see what happens in the end.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Falling Skies Season 1 Episode 3 Prisoner of War

The writers of Falling Skies continue to slather on the pathos as much as possible, always giving us a scene of Tom hugging one of his sons every time after returning from fighting the aliens. In small doses, this sort of thing could work. Instead, each scene goes on too long and with sufficient repetition it just gets tedious. I get that this is a post-apocalyptic situation in which you have to cling to what you have left, but do we really have to see that every time?

That said, alien invasions are awesome no matter the circumstance and Falling Skies has done very well on that front. The skitters remain an enigma, but we're slowly learning more about them. They seem to be rather cruel, allowing Hal to see an execution after Mike retrieves his son. There was also progress on the harness, with the arrival of Dr. Michael Harris whose procedure to inject Mike's son with morphine before cutting the harness off seems to be working so far. But at the end of the episode, the skitter POW wakes up and so does Mike's son.

The dynamic between the survivors is still interesting with several developments as well. Pope is actually a chef and for now proves to be useful in the kitchen. Michael Harris, in a big coincidence, was actually the last person with Tom's wife, and after some cajoling, admits that he ran off. His justification, though, is that him running away was actually good because Ben can be saved. I guess he has a point, but his original intention is far from admirable.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - True Blood Season 4 Episode 1 She's Not There

I became disillusioned by True Blood during the third season. The vampire parts of the show were great, as is expected, but the writers kept putting in more, trying to fill in time with the multitude of other characters who are nowhere near as exciting as vampires. The result was as show which fluctuated from one minute to the next, from vampires doing awesome things to characters I don't care about doing usual soap-y things. Whether the writers planned this to reduce the load for the stars or genuinely thought the other characters should have equal standing with Sookie and the vampires, a lot of the previous season didn't click for me.

That's why I'm hesitant to say too much going things about the season premiere, "She's Not There," which I did enjoy. Like the previous season premieres, it's a cool episode because it shifts the show in a substantial way. Characters are in new situations and roles, and there are new enemies and supernatural stuff. With all this new stuff going on set in the mystical world of True Blood, it's hard not to get excited. That said, do the writers have enough material to carry the excitement for an entire season? Their track record says no, but maybe they have something new this time around. Just maybe.

And if the format stays the same, oscillating between the relatively boring residents of Bon Temps and the vampires, I guess that would be okay. The first 15 minutes are probably the tripiest minutes of the show since Maryann's first orgy. Sookie is surrounded by fairies in their glowing splendor, and even finds the bellboy from last season and her granddad. But the illusion is popped, fairies turned into wrinkled hags who want to close the divide to the human world. Sookie returns to the human world where she finds her home being sold and her brother who informs her that she's been gone for a year!

In that year, a lot has changed. The vampires are making outreach to the community, and of course everyone was consumed with finding Sookie, who they presumed to be killed by Bill. There actually isn't too much in the episode, but by the end of the episode, there are some startling new developments. Bill is apparently king of Louisiana now, he's infiltrated the witch group Lafayette and Jesus are in, and sleeping with the lawyer Portia whose last name indicates a relation to Andy and Terry.

One of the most surprising parts of the episode was that Lafayette and Jesus are doing something interesting. The witches can actually do things and the leader even makes contact with Eddie, the vampire from the first season, and it makes for a good shock. But it's outdone by the final ceremony--which has the gravitas  Supernatural Latin stuff never has--the group holding hands and momentarily possessing a bird. Out of all the non-vampire plots, this plot was the only one which got a big reaction out of me, so hopefully it pays off in the end.

Now on to the stuff I didn't really like or don't care about. Andy is addicted to V and is out of control, something we've seen time and time again, and has little potential. Tara is off in New Orleans doing MMA hooking up with girls, and trying to create a new identity--probably better than her plot last season and Andy's this season, but I want to see more first. Sam is part of some shape shifter anger management group, which is almost an afterthought. Jason is still trying to help the people at Hotshot, but they toss him in the refrigerator. While Jessica remains as cute as ever, her problems this season, fighting the urge to drink others' blood, is pretty much the same as her problems last season, the only difference being that she's living with Hoyt now. Arlene's baby apparently rips heads off dolls... but who cares other than Arlene?

All in all, "She's Not There" made for an excellent season premiere. Even if the other characters still don't interest me, I still think the episode had enough good parts to make up for it. My philosophy with True Blood is that it is watchable until the vampires are no longer interesting. Each minute wasted on a boring plot about some random person is actually a minute closer to something good. Optimistic, yes, but that's how I get through each episode.

Score: 9.0/10

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review - Leverage Season 4 Episode 1 The Long Way Down Job

After three seasons, Leverage still remains a very likable show. It will never be touted by all the critics or win many awards, but it has a charming quality that makes it watchable under any circumstance. The characters are as good as it gets, individually and as a group. Whatever plot comes along will work as long as the characters are used correct.

Take "The Long Way Down Job," for example. The pieces of the plot don't matter one bit--not the bad guy, his profession, or the various other people. But there's a big mountain with lots of snow. And put the characters on it, give them the objective of recovering an item, and the episode works. The characters continuing to be awesome is far more of a reward than this new arc of someone bugging Nate, but I'm also hoping the plot has more meat than that of Moreau.

Character development has always been suspect on Leverage and shows of the same type. Often, character development comes in spurts, as necessary changes to the show's dynamic, rather than an organic development out of the plot. It's a glaring problem in "The Long Way Down Job" when Parker decides to break down over their inability to bring the body back, a random act that has no bearing other than the fact that she does this and it presumably will lead to more between her and Hardison. But even if it did come out of nowhere, it is character development, so we'll see what happens from there.

Another thing to watch out for is Nate and Sophie. After there tryst at the end of last season, things are awkward between them. By the end of the episode, they agree to keep things buried, and for now they will continue to do what they've been doing.

Score: 8.8/10

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review - The X-Files Season 3 Episode 21 Avatar / 22 Quagmire


Before watching the episode, I honestly didn't remember much about "Avatar" other than that it was a Skinner episode and an average episode. After watching the episode, I think I know why. The episode is a hazy experience, indicating significance of both the supernatural and conspiratorial kinds, but ends up fulfilling neither to a satisfactory extent.

While the episode certainly has merits of its own--Mitch Pileggi finally getting a large role and really doing a fantastic job, introducing Skinner's backstory, Mulder and Scully  heavily involved--the episode feels like a start to developing Skinner and not a story that can stand on its own. His wife, the succubus, and CSM messing with him would all be great to expand on since we learn relatively little about them, but they weren't developed in later episodes.

So, at the end of the day, "Avatar" is an episode that could have been part of something great. Instead, it leaves us with some decent Skinner background and a bevy of unfulfilled ideas.

Score: 8.5/10


"Quagmire" generally isn't considered a classic X-Files episode. There's nothing too inventive about the episode, nothing too emotional or funny. It's not profound like Darin Morgan episodes or exciting like mythology episodes. We're not left at the end of the episode stunned at anything. The episode is, for all intents and purposes, a typical MOTW episode

But I'm a huge fan of the episode and have watched it bunch of times. (I'm really surprised I didn't put in on my list of top 25 episodes.) There is an innate likability permeating the episode due to Mulder and Scully. Mulder drags Scully to a remote lake where people have been disseminating and where the fabled Big Blue is supposed to live. We see people being killed, so we know something is truly up. At this point, there is nothing out of the ordinary, as the usual local cranks and local police do their thing while Mulder engages the imaginary and Scully sticks to science.

Then, Mulder and Scully go out in the middle of the lake in a boat, get hit by something big, and end up stranded on this small rock. For an entire 10 minutes, they just sit there and talk. This, in my opinion, is a classic X-Files scene. It is the culmination of the episode--after all the complaining about being dragged out there and poor Queequeg getting eaten. Now they're stuck in the middle of a lake with a monster circling them. Scully compares Mulder to Ahab and bemoans how Mulder lives and acts. Mulder, in turn, takes it in stride and isn't bothered too much.

But despite their apparent differences, they are still together after these years. What began as Scully "spying" on Mulder has become a real partnership, with trust and friendship and devotion. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are absolutely dynamite in the scene, their chemistry popping off the screen. There is a closeness between Mulder and Scully not only in the words they say, but also in the way they say them.

Eventually, the monster turns out to be an alligator which is nowhere near as cool as a sea monster but monstrous in its own way. The end threw my for a loop, because I though the final shot was only the lake and something moving underneath. Instead, we actually see the monster come out of the water, lift its head, and go back down.

Score: 9.3/10

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review - Breaking Bad Season 2 Episode 1 Seven Thirty-Seven

Perhaps the most memorable part of the second season of Breaking Bad is the opening scene and its later follow-ups. The season begins, quite ominously, in black and white--a hose dripping, wind chime moving, sirens blaring. We have no clue what's going on, but the writers are obviously telling us this is important, even if don't know why. Soon, something more ominous enters the screen, an eyeball floating in a swimming pool, before seeing where it came from--a pink teddy bear that is slowly revealed to be charred on one half. With that, the second season of Breaking Bad begins with a clear message: there will be scary shit going down. As always, there is incredible directing and imagery, using only a minute to convey a very powerful feeling.

"Seven Thirty-Seven" takes no time reintroducing the immediate concerns for Walt and Jesse, first replaying the last scene from the first season and then adding further content, more of Tuco being crazy and his henchman actually dying. The whole time, Walt and Jesse are shocked, staring at this dead guy and Tuco, realizing how fucking insane everything is. But money is money, and Walt needs about $700,000 for his family after his death, only 10 weeks worth of meth.

The rest of the drug plot for the episode doesn't advance too much until the end. Jesse believes that Tuco wants them killed and Walt soon follows. This is confirmed when Hank, in a too-big-to-believe coincidence, sends Walt a photo of some dead bodies--Tuco's dead henchman and Gonzo, the fat henchman. Their is lots of fear going around, but also resolve. Walt concludes that the only course of action is to strike back and hopefully kill Tuco. Before that can happen, though, Jesse pulls up in front of Walt's house--with Tuco in the backseat holding a gun.

The writers have done a good job incorporating the other characters sicne the middle of the first season, and it really shows in "Seven Thirty-Seven." Skylar is a major character in the episode, and all the weight is on her. She has to deal with Walt's increasingly erratic behavior, Walt Jr.'s behavior, Marie's overall bitchiness, and Hank's denial about the extent Marie's problems. By the end of the episode, she's just at her wits end, exhausted by all these things swirling around her.

The first, shortened season of Breaking Bad was a highly successful season of television that was funny (in a dark way, of course), harrowing, and deeply sad. Now with a full 13-episode season ahead, Breaking Bad continues to tap into these elements with great result.

Score: 9.3/10

Review - Suits Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

Suits is pretty much what one expects from USA these days. It's a tad less light than other offerings, but the setup is similar--guy named Mike Ross has a perfect memory and no degree teams up with guy named Harvey Specter who has a Harvard Law degree. Mike's memory is useful at times, but he doesn't know the ins and outs of the legal world, which is where Harvey comes in.

None of the pilot is anything fresh or exciting, and the other characters get put to the side, though Gina Torres is great as always. But what gives Suits an edge is his best friend drug dealer who Mike ditches by the end of the episode. There is a real sense that Mike is leaving a world completely to enter another, a stark change which is nice in comparison to the normal USA stuff.

Score: 8.4/10

Review - Wilfred Season 1 Episode 1 Happiness

Wilfred is one weird, weird show. It begins, normally enough, with a guy trying to kill himself and failing. But then the meat of the premise is introduced: Ryan meets his neighbor Jenna and her dog Wilfred--who looks like man in a dog costume to Ryan, only he's actually a dog. People see Wilfred as a normal dog, but Ryan sees Wilfred as a guy in a dog suit and hears Wilfred speaking to him. It's kind of like Calvin and Hobbes in live-action form with much cruder jokes.

The weirdness is what carries the show, at least initially. I was entranced by the bizarre nature of this whole thing, how Ryan reacts to Wilfred and Wilfred's outrageous behavior which is normalized by the fact that he is a dog. Elijah Wood and Jason Gann are terrific together and it makes for an all-around good time.

I'm not quite sure about the plot, though. There's Ryan's sister Kristen who spends the episode yelling at him for being a loser, Wilfred and Ryan breaking into Spencer's house and stealing pot plants, and Wilfred pinning it on Ryan, and finally Jenna and her belief that Wilfred really likes Ryan. But we don't get much indication exactly how the plot will work through the course of the season aside from the general idea that both Wilfred and Ryan are messed up in their own ways which will drive each episode.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - Burn Notice Season 5 Episode 1 Company Man

After four seasons, Burn Notice doesn't have the spunk or allure it used to have. The overarching plot of Michael's burn notice has become a labyrinthine mess of spies, spy agencies, and whatever else in an impossibly complex system created to stretch the show out a few more seasons. Meanwhile, the action scenes no longer have the coolness to them. Explosions, car chases, gun battles, spy tricks--we've all seen it.

These problems become very evident in "Company Man," one of the weakest season premieres of the show to date. Following the seemingly huge shift at the end of the fourth season, Burn Notice had the chance to switch things up for once, which may or may not have been a good choice. Still, the alternative, what the writers choose, is lacking--a several minute long montage of how Michael and the CIA took down a bunch of people until only one called Kessler remains. Convenient, isn't it?

 Well, rest of the episode is a listless procedure through the normal steps leading up the Michael finally cornering Kessler and seeing that he shot himself. There are good moments in there--Michael's Russian character and the Venezuela, some of Fi and Sam--but the plot is lacking, even in comparison to average midseason episodes. There isn't an identifiable villain (when the writers are great at creating them) and none of the spy stuff is particularly inventive.

At the end of the episode, it's unclear where the show is going. Michael is back in Miami with his friends and family, but he also has his CIA buddies. There will again be the struggle between the spy life and personal life, and it seems like Michael might be leaning on the personal side, uncovering his car after a discussion of his mother.

I want to be optimistic about this season, but given the show's progression over the years, it's hard to stay positive. Kessler appears to be the final bad guy in a long, convoluted stream of them, and there is no indication there is more. But there always seems to be more, and the CIA guys could probably be in on this also as part of something bigger. And why is Jesse staying around?

Score: 8.0/10

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review - Combat Hospital Season 1 Episode 1 Welcome to Kandahar

Combat Hospital is a show suited for summer. It has a generic premise, doctors in a war zone, which lends itself to decent plots in the framework of a procedural. The characters and acting are nothing special, but in Kandahar, they'll always have something unique to do compared to medical dramas set in other places.

I wouldn't mind watching another episode or two if I had to, and there are probably plenty of people who can watch the show while doing something more important. But if Combat Hospital were to go up against the regular season shows, it would certainly fall behind. There's nothing about the show that really stands out or is worth caring about, and that's not enough.

Score: 7.7/10

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review - Covert Affairs Season 2 Episode 3 Bang and Blame

Last week, I talked about how the first two episodes of the second season didn't have the fish out of water feeling of the first season and how that was a big reason why I enjoyed the first season. "Bang and Blame" partially regains this by sending Annie back to the Farm to complete her gun training (finally!) and catch whomever is leaking names of recruits. The plot is perfunctory as always, culminating in Annie catching a line of dialogue one of the recruits says and having a lame midair fight. But it does give us some reflection on her time on the Farm and the life there. Best of all, Auggie shows up and is awesome as always.

The writers haphazardly throw in a new love interest for Annie, a doctor Annie meets while bringing her niece to the hospital. Annie decides to follow the instructors advice and go ahead with her personal life. It's all very random, framing the episode at the beginning and the end, without any chance to learn anything about him. I thought there was something fishy about the doctor, but we'll learn soon enough.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - White Collar Season 3 Episode 3 Deadline

After brilliant episode and another strong episode, White Collar more or less returned to its standard with "Deadline." The main plot of protecting a journalist is, unsurprisingly, not very compelling and is mostly filler for the background schemes of Neal and Mozzie trying to retrieve the list of stolen artwork, following from the end of last week's episode. This week's episode ends with similar panic, Mozzie crying out in desperation that the list is already headed to Washington D.C.

Chiefly, the thing that holds White Collar up is Peter and Neal. With Peter on the sidelines, though, the episode lacked the chemistry that makes the show watchable. Diana is good, but she just doesn't have the extra spark of Peter and Neal. And Sara... well, let's just say I could do without her.

Score: 8.3/10

Review - Treme Season 2 Episode 9 What Is New Orleans?

When things seemed to be going relatively well for most characters, "What Is New Orleans?" shocks us back into reality with a series of downers before the gruesome ending. Annie and Harley are walking after a gig and are robbed at gunpoint, and Harley, unfortunately, speaks up. He receives a close-range shot to the face, The Wire-style, and is likely dead.

Harley's shooting represents the balance of New Orleans, which is excellently defined in the brief exchange between Sonny and Antoine. A raucous group runs past them and Sonny states that that's what New Orleans is. As soon as they pass, however, a group of police cars, with sirens blaring and lights flashing, pass them, and Antoine notes that that's New Orleans as well. We're instantly reminded, soon afterwards, that the crime can strike at anyone, anywhere.

For all the great music and culture of the city, there is a dark underbelly to it. The police department did not suddenly turn bad after Katrina, but its problems were brought to the top and exposed in this time of need. The corruption of city officials and greed of people like Nelson is not a new phenomenon, but something exacerbated by the glut of post-Katrina rebuilding money. While Katrina is a large force which influenced everything, it is not the defining factor of New Orleans. There was New Orleans before the storm, New Orleans after the storm, and everything still exists, the good and the bad.

This is illustrated by the exchange between Delmond and his father, who apparently is so obstinate that he believes that Africans learned to use feathers from the Indians. We begin to wonder, was he like this before Katrina? Was he changed by Katrina, perhaps in a depression? Or, like New Orleans's problems, was he already this stubborn before the storm?

Davis's musical aspirations hit a big roadblock after Lil Calliope decides to promote his own thing, a catchy dance song which upstages Davis's own song. Antoine's battle with Kermit was awesome, even if it won't have long-term ramifications. Larry finally confronts Ladonna about her apathy and ownership of the bar. At the end of the episode, he prepares to sell it, but there are still many hurdles ahead. And it's possible they may not be able to get over them.

The one thing that continues to bother me is Janette's plot. She's cooking at a new restaurant, Chang is really cool, but she's going back to New Orleans eventually, and her development this season seems stunted. It just seems like the same stuff again and again.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - Sanctuary Season 3 Episode 20 Into the Black

At first glance, "Into the Black" looks like an awesome episode that leads into an exciting fourth season. The episode ends on two cliffhangers which leave all the characters in difficult situations. But we also have to consider the way in which the writers handle cliffhangers. Every season ends on a cliffhanger, and there was even a cliffhanger in the middle of this season. Always, the cliffhanger suggested that the world was on the brink, and always, everything returned to normal after a while. Will this time be the same?

That said, I'm going to hold judgment on this arc until the fourth season. "Into the Black" ends in a manner that should be sufficiently thrilling for anyone. Worth's machine has destroyed Praxis, and, in turn, abnormals are coming out of Hollow Earth at an alarming rate. As Will and Henry find out at the end of the episode, there are several invasion forces with thousands of abnormals. Meanwhile, Magnus and John head into Hollow Earth to find Worth, kept alive by John for a second time. He's created a rift and is trying to go back in time to the year his daughter died. At the end of the episode, Worth succeeds, but Magnus follows him and ends up in the past.

I have problems with the episode, though, specifically the use of Edge. From the promos, it seemed like Syfy really wanted him to get exposure so more people would watch. It also meant that he had a lot to do in the episode, antagonizing people and almost killing Will. However, his character is badly developed and hardly critical to the episode, other than providing a distraction, that a large part of the episode is wasted on him.

Score: 8.7/10

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review - Falling Skies Season 1 Episode 1 Live and Learn / 2 The Armory

For what it's worth, the strongest thing about Falling Skies is its premise. The aliens have arrived, attacked, and the world is in shambles. Unlike recent alien invasion dramas, V and The Event, there is no turning back. The characters are in a shit hole and don't have numerous tools are their disposal to bypass plot holes. Compared to the languorous plots of the recent alien invasions, Falling Skies is already on great footing.

That said, a lot of the first two episodes doesn't land. Between the action and discussion of the dire situation--which is very good--is a melodrama, one which lacks any draw. Tom and his son Hal try to get through their problems while taking care of Matt and looking for Ben, Tom's third son who is missing. Meanwhile, Tom is getting closer to the doctor Anne. None of this is particularly inventive or emotional, what with the flat acting. Worst of all is Hal's personal problems, juggling Karen and the obvious attempts by Lourdes to woo him. None of this would be too much of a problem if it were only a small part of the show--except it isn't. These parts of the show take up lots of time and divert attention from the fighting alien parts.

The writers preemptive deny any criticism of the Mech's design by having a character ask why they have two legs while the Skitters have six. I have a bunch of ideas, but it's impossible to narrow anything down without further knowledge of the Skitters. Hopefully the writers have a better idea than I do.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - United States of Tara Season 3 Episode 12 The Good Parts

Although "The Good Parts" was only intended to be a season finale, not the series finale, I thought the episode gave proper closure to the show in its own way. Like Tara herself, the finale is not a nice thing you get fit in a box. It has rough edges, maybe is too sprawling, but comes together at the end to remind us what the show is about, even if it ends without a resolution. After three wonderful seasons, I'm sad to see the show go, but also glad that it ended the way it did.

After a season of being driven to the brink, Max got his time to shine and go berserk. It's actually quite clever what the writers did, giving us two separate instances when Max imagines himself going crazy but acts normal. The last time, however, Max does go crazy, ranting, grabbing the bird, and hurling it against the wall. The first two times act as a buffer, leading us to believe that the third is the same thing and that things will return to normal. But it slowly sets in, just as the family has come to terms with Tara. Max is really doing this and things can't be normal.

Marshall and Kate have gotten a lot to do in the past few seasons (relative to the first), and they got to wrap things up with Tara is well. Marshall and Tara finally connect when Tara brings him to Lionel's memorial. For all the things we can say about Tara as a person (jumping off the bridge was pretty dumb), this moment exemplifies her character, a woman who loves her kids and tries to do the right things, even when it's not possible. Kate decides to stay home and take care of Marshall, but also gets to keep Evan. Charmaine and Neil agree to move to Houston, and Charmaine, in the cutest way, proposes to Neil. It's mostly good news for the more axillary characters.

And so, at the end, Max and Tara drive to Boston, awaiting what may come next. It's not a conclusion which answers questions or even tells us what happens next. Instead, after a season of misery,   it ends on a hopeful note.  Tara may not get better, but if one thing is for certain, it's that her family will be behind her. Tara was hardly a perfect person, with or without her alters, and neither is United States of Tara. But with both, there was also something to draw on and enjoy.

United States of Tara, in the last two season, was not primarily about the scientific details of DID or how Tara became the way she is. The show, like many others, turned towards the various characters and the Gregson family. We got to know them much better, learn the consequences Tara had on them. As all the characters became human so too did Tara and her condition. What started as a wacky show about a person with wacky personalities became much more. Bravo to everyone involved with the show.

Score: 9.4/10

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review - Game of Thrones Season 1 Episode 10 Fire and Blood

I finished reading A Game of Thrones last week and made good progress on A Clash of Kings, so I believe I have a better perspective on Game of Thrones than before. While reading, I wondered how the producers would incorporate certain parts of the book which had big roles for certain characters who weren't prominent in the show. David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, as always, dealt with it effectively, shifting the dialogue from one character to another, and it was perfectly fine. While the book provides far, far more backstory and information about Westeros, the show has condensed the major plot points and backstory into a crisp 10-episode season which stayed very faithful to the book.

As far as "Fire and Blood" goes, I already knew that not much happens after Ned's death, so I wasn't too disappointed about the lack of major plot developments. Interestingly, the episode dips a little into the second book in order to provide more content for certain characters. Largely, "Fire and Blood" was intended to show us the aftermath of Ned's execution at the end of last week's episode and provide us with an idea of where the next season is heading.

In a stirring scene, Robb is declared King of the North by Greatjon and everyone else follows in suit. After reading the chapter--the second to last in the book--I thought it would be a great way to end the season, but   David Benioff and D. B. Weiss apparently thought differently. We get a good sense of where the plot is heading, both Robb and Catelyn very angry and ready for war.

At King's Landing, Joffrey is being Joffrey yet again and if it wasn't chilling already to see his callous disregard for others' well-being, we see him order Sansa to be slapped around. Because Sansa was intended to be an annoying character, the dumb, naive girl who wants to be princess, it was hard to like her before. But Sophie Turner really sold the scene, as Sansa is slapped into reality, faced with the cruel world stretching ahead of her.

For the first time, we get the sense that the Lannisters are not invincible. Their wealth and fighting prowess may have reputation, but the simple fact is that Robb has beaten them several times. And Tywin knows this and needs to keep things under control. He sends Tyrion to King's Landing to be King's Hand in his stead, declaring that Tyrion is his son. It may be a backhanded complement, seeing as Tywin hardly cared about Tyrion before, but he did put Tyrion in a place of power and acknowledge his son.

At the Wall, Jon runs off, prepared to join his brother in battle, before being surrounded by his other brothers, the ones he swore an oath with. They bring him back and no harm is done. The larger story is that Commander Mormont decides to move out beyond the Wall, to confront whatever may be beyond. There is plenty looming ahead, especially Jon's decision to honor his oath and going into the unknown.

The episode ends on quite a spectacular note--Daenerys rising from the ashes with three baby dragons crawling on her. It stands in stark contrast to his despair earlier in the episode brought upon by Drogo's vegetative state and the death of his baby. Now, after burning Drogo and the witch on the pyre, she is renewed, with a sense of hope and forward vision, and ready to take on any challenge.

Score: 9.0/10

Review - The Killing Season 1 Episode 13 Orpheus Descending

I'm still out of town, but I did have some time to watch TV, so I'll have a few reviews soon.

In the middle of "Orpheus Descending," with every shred of evidence pointing to Richmond as the killer, I told myself: "If the writers pull another fast one on us, I'll call the show trash." So, without further ado, The Killing is trash.

It was supposed to be a serious show, AMC's foray into the realm of crime solving, humanizing the elements of single murder into a 13-episode season. Instead, it turned into a big joke, a season long pursuit of red herrings which ultimately resulted in nothing. The episode gives us twenty different reasons why Richmond is the killer, but just as everything seemed over, the writers did it again--albeit later in the episode--showing us that Richmond was actually the fall guy for something bigger. And, oh yeah, Holder is dirty and unafraid to let Linden find out. Now The Killing is in mediocre 24 territory, wacky plot twists with none of the action. I would be fine with Richmond taking the fall, despite the cliche of the dirty politician with lots of secrets. But this, the writers yanking us down another wrong path for the nth time, is just too much.

The most telling quote from showrunner Veena Sud shows how doomed the show was from the beginning:
So there were a lot of discussions about, “We’re definitely not going to do the 45-minute procedural.” Then we stepped back and said, “Should we do a murder a season? But is that not creating yet another formula, and yet another expectation, and yet another way to put a bow on a gift and wrap it up really easily?” So then we very organically [concluded that] the [Rosie murder] story still had other possibilities after 13 hours, after 13 days, so that’s where we went. It was risky, it was brave, it was bold – that’s what AMC is known for.
Excuse me, but isn't The Killing formulaic in its own way? Linden and Holder find a clue, do further investigation, narrow down a suspect, believe this suspect is the murderer, bring him/her in for questioning, and the episode ends. It looks like a slam dunk, but the suspect is soon found to be innocent. Is that not an "expectation", that every suspect isn't actually the murderer? This red herring formula has now been extended to the entire season and nothing has changed.

Even though The Killing largely turned into something not worth watching, I'm curious to see the second season. After an entire season of uselessly burning through suspects, how will the writers proceed? Will they continue to go through a new list of suspects, oblivious to the obvious formula? I really want to know what Veena Sud is thinking.

Score: 7.0/10

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gone until Wednesday

I'll be out of town for the next 5 days, so I won't be able to review any shows. This means I won't be reviewing any shows, including the season finales of Game of Thrones and The Killing until I get back, but I'll get on them as soon as possible.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review - Franklin & Bash Season 1 Episode 3 Jennifer of Troy (and a bit about the portrayal of Chinese on television)

As it pains me to admit, I kind of like Franklin & Bash. Sure, it's immature, but that's the appeal. The show is just so ridiculous you can't help but laugh. Take the premise of "Jennifer of Troy," for example: A not overly attractive woman wants to sue her employer for firing her for being too attractive.

You wonder, how will Franklin and Bash prove this? Will the writers pull out something brilliant? Of course not! The courtroom devolves into a madhouse with the wildest antic yet, Bash making out with the client on the stand. I laughed out loud really hard at the sheer silliness of the whole thing. This show is flat out bonkers. The episode does leave something of a message, that beauty comes in many forms, but that clearly wasn't the priority of the episode.

The other plot involves Infeld and the guy who is supposed to work on Franklin and Bash's internet. The details aren't important, but Infeld works his mystical guru magic and all is well at the end.

What I want to discuss is television's portrayal of Chinese people. I was watching the X-Files episode "Hell Money" earlier today and after watching "Jennifer of Troy," it struck a nerve. You will almost never see a Chinese person on television (or in movies, for that matter), whether it's network or cable television, but when you see several of them, it's always in a certain context. It's like all the Chinese people are cordoned off in one area, completely separate from everyone else. They seem to live in a parallel universe--in the United Sates but with different values. They have a different social structure which requires expositional dialogue to explain.

Of course, this isn't the case in real life. You can find large groups of Chinese all across the country living just like everyone else (and find old people without accents!), not just in secluded areas by themselves. I could go on about this in more detail if I had the time (shoot me an email if you want me to), but you get my drift.

Whenever I see this specific portrayal, I wonder why it happens. Isn't liberal Hollywood supposed to be a bastion of tolerance and inclusion? Why does it choose to marginalize Chinese by painting them as an Other?

Score: 8.2/10

Review - The X-Files Season 3 Episode 19 Hell Money / 20 Jose Chung's From Outer Space

"Hell Money"

Unlike the previous episode, "Hell Money" actually has some interesting ideas. There is a particularly cruel lottery in which the loser loses an organ instead of a dollar, and spirits in freaky masks going about the place. The family drama behind the lottery is potent as well, a sick daughter and a father needing money for an operation. The set-up is decent and could have made for a good episode.

Unfortunately, the episode suffers from the same problem as "Teso Dos Bichos"--Mulder and Scully aren't involved. They follow-up on leads and do normal investigation stuff, but none of it seems particularly special. There isn't much of a supernatural presence, and their input hardly makes a difference in the episode. Eventually, they reach place of the lottery, bust in with their guns, arrest Chao, and it's over.

Score: 8.1/10

"Jose Chung's From Outer Space"

"Jose Chung's From Outer Space" is possibly the best episode of The X-Files. Regardless of where you think it ranks, though, the episode is undoubtedly an instant classic. Penned by Darin Morgan, it's an incredible episode from beginning to end--funny, delightful, insightful, everything. The episode is more peculiar than most episodes, but Morgan, who wrote most of the other funny episodes ("Clyde Bruckman," "Humbug," "War of the Coprophages"), knows the exact balance and when to pull back on the absurdity.

The premise of the episode isn't that complicated: Scully is visited by the famed writer Jose Chung, who is doing research for his latest book. He wants her account of a particular incident, and this frame narrative of their discussion leads us through various characters and wildly differing accounts. And you can kind of piece together a general idea of what happened. The two teenagers Chrissy and Harold  were probably taken by people from the Air Force dressed as aliens in order to hide the existence of an experiment. It's possible that the kidnappers, Chrissy, and Harold were then taken by actual aliens, though only Harold and Roky seem to recall this. In between all of this, two men in black who look like Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek are going around warning people to be quiet.

Of course, none of this has to do with the central mythology of The X-Files--no Syndicate, no black oil. But it has lots to say on the entire show in general and the search for the unknown. Every character has their story, their beliefs of what happened. And through this, they form the way they think. Jose Chung sums this up nicely at the end: "For although we may not be alone in the universe, in our own separate ways on this planet, we are all alone." Peering into the darkness, all these people who seem to have experienced the same events, or were at least in the same vicinity, are on vastly different tracks, believing what they may believe, desiring what they may desire.

The frame which the episode operates through is incredibly effective. Humor permeates the episode, inside jokes flowing from one line to the next as the story unfolds.As Scully talks with Jose Chung, the story is slowly strung together, and by the end of the episode, we have a much better idea of what happened. It is also not clear exactly what happened. Were Chrissy's memories stolen through hypnotism? Was Mulder with the Air Force pilot in the diner? Who were the men in black working for? At the end of the day, the truth is not known by anyone, despite multiple stories.

The opening of the episode--what appears to be a spaceship flying through the sky and the camera pulling back to reveal a basket holding an electric worker--shows the exact problem. Everyone sees things from close-up, at the ground-level. Even the most intuitive person cannot hope to get the full story without pulling back to see the larger picture. In this case, the government likely knows what happened, but muddles things up even more by messing with Chrissy and Harold.

Score: 9.8/10

Review - Covert Affairs Season 2 Episode 2 Good Advices

A big reason why I liked the first season of Covert Affairs is that it had the sheen of newness. Annie Walker just joined the CIA and didn't have a good grasp on the whole place. She grew through the season, but was still flustered at times and trying to figure out who she was.

"Good Advices," however, is about as straightforward as an episode gets. She goes to Paris, competes with the Eyal, the Mossad agent from last season, for information from a woman, plays spy games with him, and they eventually save each other from harm. The interaction is cute enough, but there's really not enough meat on the episode to say anything more. I guess you can say that Eyal taught her to open herself up, which see does in telling her sister she actually went to Paris, but it seemed more throwaway than anything else.

The other plot is Joan forced into jury duty and Auggie being left in the charge, over Jai's objections. Nothing much comes of it. Joan angers the judge by using her cell phone and is about to become a jury member before making a simple text and getting out. Auggie holds the fort and nothing bad happens, and there is little tension with Jai either.

One last thing, give Annie a gun already!

Score: 8.0/10

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review - White Collar Season 3 Episode 2 Where There's a Will

Following last week's very strong season premiere, "Where There's a Will" is another strong episode, featuring  treasure hunt and a kidnapping. While the plot behind the kidnapping of the girl was rather thin, there was plenty of good stuff in the episode. Elizabeth finally went outside, Peter solves the clue of the sundial, and Neal and Mozzie infiltrate a planetarium.   It's all fun stuff to see, even if the plot itself didn't have much.

Meanwhile, Neal talks Peter's art consultant into revealing information about the case--that they have a partial list of the art, possibly including the piece Mozzie went to sell. If Mozzie's sell does go through, which Neal is desperately trying to prevent, red flags will go up everywhere, making it nearly impossible for them to escape on a plane.

What appeals to me most about this season of White Collar is how the writers aren't following the same pattern of the first two season for the overall story. There's no big mystery couched in pointless, cryptic dialogue. There's no pieces of art leading to more pieces of art leading to clues leading to more clues. It's just a straightforward story of a con deceiving the fed and the fed trying to catch the con--all the while working together. In this simpler set-up, we can enjoy the interplay between the characters and the overall story without being dragged around by the writers and the latest goose chase.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Breaking Bad Season 1 Episode 6 Crazy Handful of Nothin' / 7 A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal

"Crazy Handful of Nothin'"

The cold open of  "Crazy Handful of Nothin'," like the beginning of the pilot, defines the enthralling nature of Breaking Bad, the potential for anything to happen in any circumstance. After Walt informs Jesse that he'll will be in charge of the chemistry, Jesse will be in charge of the selling, and that there will be no more violence, we see Walt walking out of a destroyed building with a bloody bag. Holy shit! His head is shaved and we know something really, really bad happened. Again, Bryan Cranston has the perfect look of despair and  "I don't give a fuck." Immediately, we wonder how Walt got into that position with his explicit instructions and the episode does not disappoint.

With Krazy-8 and Emilio dead, Jesse is forced to turn to the new big player in town, a guy called Tuco who Skinny Pete knew in prison. Aside from the dingy nature of drug dealing in general, everything seems fine. Tuco isn't quite normal, but neither is the average drug dealer. But the screws slowly come undone, as Tuco keeps revolving, from calm to angry to calm to batshit crazy. Feigning to give Jesse the money, he beats Jesse in a pulp, landing him in the hospital. It is, for the first time, we've seen a real negative to using meth, since it seemed to be the primary reason why Tuco got out of control.

If that wasn't enough, Walt decides to step in. Drained by chemotherapy and the weight of everything around him, Walt just doesn't care. He'll do what it takes to get the money. This transformation is also physical, as Walt shaves his head, and the result is a brutality that goes back to the killing of Krazy-8. He walks in, confronts Tuco, blows the whole floor up, and threatens to blow up even more if Tuco doesn't pay the money plus extra for Jesse. Pure badassery. Outside, Walt sits in his care and pounds the wheel, knowing how it feels to let go for once. And this time, Walt has a continuing deal with Tuco--Heisenberg lives.

There are more external costs for Walt's drug dealing once Hank traces the lab equipment in the desert to the school. The friendly janitor who cleans up after Walt is arrested by drug possession and is presumed to be the cooker. Walt can only look on as Hugo is shackled, knowing his role in all this. But Walt is on this path of drug cooking and earning money. He must continue and take whatever consequences come his way.

Score: 9.6/10

"A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal"

For a season finale, "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal" doesn't have the tension or dramatic push that one who expect, especially with the preceding episode. Everything kind of comes together, but you can't help but think that the season should continue. The reason for this is likely the writers strike, which decimated television a while back. Without it, Breaking Bad would have had a longer first season and probably more development. In any case, the first season still remains a wonderful exploration into the drug world and the psyche of Walter White.

The episode leads naturally into the second season and would fit better as a season premiere. It opens a new avenue for Walt and Jesse to produce larger quantities of meth as well as establish exactly what their drug dealing will be like. With an increased demand, Walt turns to a new batch of ingredients, one which requires theft of a barrel from storage. There is a sense of recklessness in their actions, going to great, illegal lengths to get the required ingredients. But Walt also promised Tuco and certain amount, and it had to be met.

Walt's second meeting with Tuco isn't as explosive as the first, but it's as unpredictable as Jesse's. After exchanging meth for money, one of Tuco's henchmen says something Tuco doesn't like, and receives a savage beating. Despite Walt's pledge against violence, it happened again and he had to let it happen. Tuco is a crazed man fueled by drugs who also has the pipeline to the druggies. Walt must accept this violence as part of doing business.

The kleptomaniac stuff with Marie was only shown once in a previous episode, so her large role in the season finale doesn't quite seem to fit. It did lead to an important conversation between Skylar and Walt, though. We begin to see Walt trying to rationalize his behavior, first talking with Hank about drugs and second talking with Skylar about doing things for the family. Obviously Marie wasn't trying to help her family by stealing the tiara, but Walt sees something similar in her, the behavior of 'breaking bad'. He continues down this dark path which may have no end, as his cancer treatment is going fine.

Score: 9.0/10

Review - United States of Tara Season 3 Episode 11 Crunchy Ice

Wow. With the series finale next week which was intended to be the season finale, it's hard not to think of an ending that will be sad. As Max drives Tara to a new treatment center, Tara kisses Max and jumps off a bridge, capping an episode in which everything reached a boiling point.

It's a horrifying episode from everyone perspective. Bryce continues to wipe out alters, as Buck, T, and Alice all come out before being offed. Meanwhile, Bryce everyone else, culminating in him trying to kill Marshall. This is the final straw and Tara manages to come out, sobbing over what she has done. Her condition has had a huge toll on everyone, and knowing this destroys Tara. The series finale may not provide the ending the writers wanted, but I'm sure Diablo Cody has something good regardless of the cancellation situation.

Score: 9.3/10

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review - Sanctuary Season 3 Episode 19 Out of the Blue

I, for one, will be grateful when Sanctuary goes back to the 13-episode season format in the fall. "Out of the Blue," like last week's episode, takes a well-worn sci-fi concept--putting the characters in an alternate reality--and does nothing innovative with it. What began as a promising season with the Hollow Earth episodes has since become a boring and languid walk through typical science fiction tropes.

The episode begins with Will and Magnus living in a suburban neighborhood, Will as a surgeon and Magnus as a painter. There is nothing special about the episode once everything is set. The audience immediately knows that their condition is caused by an outside source and Will and Magnus soon realize that too, their world unraveling before them. In the end, they break out of their "bliss," and drive off a cliff, escaping from their world. Abby and John act as deterrents to them getting out, which may reflect on the real world, however you want to take it.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this is how Magnus perceives John. She imagines John's killing tendency as a separate entity, the newspaper headline telling us that John was the one who convicted the ripper and that this is what consumed him. Indeed, this is what happened in the real world, an entity which pushed John to kill. But it is John himself that Magnus rejects. Despite his best efforts, she turns away from him. How much of this is attributed to the fact that she wants to get back to the real world is unknown (as is the case with Abby), but she didn't seem to like him regardless of the situation.

The final revelation is that Will and Magnus were put into the state by a large creature and were actually being helped by Virgil St. Pierre of all people (the guy who wanted to bug/hero costume), who was recruited by Kate, Henry, and Bigfoot. The episode all but confirms what we learned in "Metamorphosis," that abnormals are coming out of Hollow Earth. This time, however, a very large number is coming out and all the sanctuaries are on high alert.

At the end of the day, "Out of the Blue" seemed like an unnecessary episode. Sure it was cute to see Magnus and Will in a different setting, but until the end, the episode lacked the punch of forward momentum which fueled the first half of the episode.

Score: 8.0/10

Review - Treme Season 2 Episode 8 Can I Change My Mind?

With three episodes left in the season, the plots of Treme are on the brink of something big, whether good or bad. Every character is coming to a realization about what he/she wants to, while others continue to flounder.

On the musical side, Delmond plan to infuse jazz with his father's music is moving along, and he also has plans to get his father to take money. Davis's music is warmly received, even if it's not a large stage, so he seems good to go. Annie, however, is lagging behind, afraid to perform her music in the public. After forgoing to chance to perform on stage, she performs on the street, with Davis watching proudly from afar, and it goes fine. For now, these musical endeavors are going the most positively.

Antoine finds himself troubled by the way his sons were brought up. He likes teaching the students, and after seeing how much his sons enjoyed the music at Mardi Gras, he regrets not teaching them to play over the objections of Ladonna.

One of the plots that has bothered me and many other viewers has been Sofia. She keeps acting out and there's nothing much to it. This time, however, she ends up in juvenile detention, which brings about the inevitable confrontation with Toni. It's emotional, intense, and reveals the pain Toni has been carrying all this time, unable to explain why Creighton did what he did.

Another plot that has bothered me is Jannette, who has stayed in New York for far too long without doing much. She is shuffled from one restaurant to another, this time to David Chang's restaurant, but her development seems a bit lacking. Is she just going to go through these restaurants until she realizes that she belongs in New Orleans?

Score: 9.1/10

Review - The Protector Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

The Protector is as generic as it gets--about the same level as Lifetime movies. Ally Walker plays a divorced mother of two and detective, and it only gets worse from there. The police procedural elements are very basic--uninspired interrogations, hunting leads, office conflicts, female buddy to talk to--and it makes for a boring plot to frame the rest, which isn't much better. The family life is also rife with cliches--cool brother with an alcohol problem, kids dealing with living in a new place--and leaves much to be desired. The end result is a bland hour of television which drags on far too long. I can normally entertain procedurals of all sorts, but this is just too bad even for me.

Score: 6.5/10

Review - The Killing Season 1 Episode 12 Beau Soleil

Because the first season has 13 episodes, something had to happen in "Beau Soleil." The plot advanced forward and we finally got pertinent facts about Rosie and what was was doing. Unfortunately, though, Rosie being part of an escort service is nothing shocking, and has been done on television plenty of times before. Furthermore, I hardly care about her as a character and this new revelation doesn't do anything for me.

On the plus side, it looks like Linden and Holder are finally on the right track and get the name Orpheus. The final scene was the most frightening ending to any episode, putting Linden alone in the direct path of the potential killer. But we also have to remember that every time it seemed clear the killer was found, it turned out to be wrong. Unless the writers finally changed their pattern after 12 episodes, it's doubtful Richmond is the killer, and there will probably be an easy excuse. Then again, Richmond could actually be the killer and dramatically change things up.

Remember my prediction back at the beginning that Jamie was the killer? Here's my scenario: Jamie knew Richmond was sleeping with Rosie, so he killed her to keep her quiet.

Score: 8.3/10

Review - Game of Thrones Season 1 Episode 9 Baelor

That was fucking awesome. Despite being spoiled by my brother over a month ago (not that I mind), the final scene held me in rapt attention. Masterfully directed by veteran Alan Taylor, it truly captured the cruel world of Game of Thrones, as Ned is sentenced to death by Joffrey. I knew that would happen, but the scope and enormity of the situation was magnified, each beat getting one step closer to death--Arya finding out about the execution, climbing up on the statue, Ned seeing her, Ned confessing, and finally, Ned, unable to see Arya, bowing his head in defeat. Just like that, someone who seemed to be the main character is dead.

But that wasn't the only shocking thing about the episode. Unlike other shows which would have built an entire episode surrounding the death, if they were to even broach the subject, Game of Thrones rolls right on ahead. Even without the death, it would have been a fantastic episode. In a turn of events, Robb is able to trick the Lannisters, dangling out 2,000 men to lure Tywin while capturing Jaime with the remaining 18,000. It's a nice twist, considering how Jaime seemed near-invincible in previous descriptions, and it greatly enhanced the shock factor of the end. After Jaime is captured, there is a sense that all will be well. Trade Jaime for Ned and the girls, maybe declare peace, and that's that. Instead, Ned is dead and Robb will surely be pissed and quick to make a rash decision.

At the Wall, Robb talks to Master Aemon, who is revealed to be a Targaryen. Beyond this new piece of information,  Aemon has an important message which reflects not only on the immediate situation of the war and Ned's capture, but on Westeros in general. There is duty and there is love, and when the Targaryens were slaughtered, Aemon stuck to duty. That's why those on the Wall cannot have outside relationships. While Robb says that Ned will choose honor, he picks love--I suppose he wanted to live as well--and pays the dear consequence.

We don't get to see any battles, but a considerable amount of time is paid to Tyrion, Bronn, and the prostitute Shae the night before. They talk and we learn quite a bit about Tyrion and how his father was a real monster to him. Before the battle even begins, Tyrion is knocked out and wakes up to find the tribes killing those still remaining, a funny scene among the grimness.

Across the sea, Drogo's wound continues to fester and he is on the verge of death. As Jorah tells Daenerys, Dothraki don't care about blood and will fight for leadership, including killing her baby. With this in mind, Daenerys asserts her power and gets the 'witch' to perform blood magic on Drogo--which involves lots of horse blood and an awful screeching sound. There is some dissent, but after Jorah successfully defends her (armor FTW!), everyone falls in line before Daenerys begins to give birth.

I was dealing with computer problems for the latter half of this week, so I wasn't able to read the book again, but hopefully I'll finish before the season finale.

  What's great about HBO is that they have big budgets and are able to get a big set with tons of people yelling and screaming at Ned. You can't help but think that maybe they deserve what they'll get from Joffrey.

Score: 9.7/10

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review - The X-Files Season 3 Episode 17 Pusher / 18 Teso Dos Bichos


"Pusher" is one of the coolest non-mythology episodes. It's one of the new episodes not shrouded in darkness, but the stakes remain as high as ever. What sets the episode apart from other is how human the case seems. Though there is a supernatural element to it--Robert Modell able to push thoughts onto others simply by talking--the fact that he is a living man, openly professing his guilt, makes things more unsettling. We know he's a sentient human being, lurking out there and waiting for the right time to strike.

Like in the best X-Files episodes, Mulder and Scully are invested in this episode. After falling into this case, they immediately are pushed into action. Mulder testifies on the stand against Modell, who gets away, and see Burst die in front of their eyes. And the climax is full of exhilaration, as Mulder plays Russian roulette with Modell before finally shooting him.

The one thing that doesn't quite work in the episode is Skinner and the woman who beats him. The whole episode is unnecessary in an episode which focused on Mulder and Scully, and didn't seem necessary to the plot. Both Skinner and the woman are tools to advance one plot point, that Modell is interested in Mulder.

The final scene in which Mulder contemplates what happened is, to me, Mulder reflecting on his resemblance to  Modell. Here's this man who was a nobody, who wanted to be a somebody. A special ability came to him, and he grasps at this one chance to be a somebody, foregoing life. He desire to achieve his life's goal trumped all and he chose to kill people. Mulder, similarly, has goals and dreams he has not yet achieved, proving the existence of extraterrestrials. What if Mulder had the chance, like Modell, to reach his dream, but also give up his life and humanity? How far would be push himself?

Score: 9.3/10

"Teso Dos Bichos"

"Teso Dos Bichos" is the opposite of "Pusher," forgettable and boring. The episode begins with the standard setup of a skull of a female shaman being excavated and the natives believe it to have a curse. Lo and behold, one of the scientists is killed. From there, the episode goes as expected, people debating the morality of taking the skull from its home country and superstitious stuff in the background.

Mulder and Scully spend the episode phoning it in. It's the same as usual--Mulder believes in the curse, Scully doesn't. They help the police with the investigation, but they are nowhere near as involved as they were in "Pusher."

Nothing too interesting happens until Mulder and Scully are nearly killed by a pack of cats, a fairly good twists since we were led to believe the culprit was a jaguar, and it's kind of scary if you don't like cats. But that can't save the episode which wasn't interesting to begin with. The skull returns home and we're left with a generic and broad statement: don't mess with some things.

Score: 7.8/10

Review - Chaos Season 1 Episode 7 Remote Control

I didn't review Chaos last week, but I remain very positive about the show despite its cancellation. It's certainly a procedural-y show, with a similar set-up, but at the same time, it remains relatively fresh. The ODS visits a different country each week and experience various kinds of people (usually stereotypes) and there is always an extra wrench thrown in which is always different. To top things off, there is always some meaningful pathos behind the episode relating to spies and the spy world.

As far as long term planning goes, "Remote Control" seems to be a significant episode, though we'll never know what happens. While Michael and Fay seem well on their way to getting back together, Rick and Adele have a larger problem. Their relationship is based on deception, Adele ordered to bug Rick. She may like him, but orders and advancement trump everything else.

Score: 8.5/10

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review - Camelot Season 1 Episode 10 Reckoning

This may make me a bad person, but I laughed out loud several times while watching the season finale. Obviously that wasn't the intent of the writers. I think I finally realized how silly the show is. The episode begins with Arthur doing Rambo stuff, culminating in an "epic" battle comprised of 5 guys chopping down 50 useless people. At least Spartacus was visually mesmerizing while delivering killings. Camelot is just the same, tired chopping we've seen everywhere.

I'm not entirely sure why I laughed at the next item, but I did.   Maybe it's the fact that the writers feigned to get Leontes into the clear by having everyone survive the fight. Once the writers made it clear that they wanted both Arthur and Leontes to look like virtuous people, it was clear that the only viable path would be if Leontes died.

Morgan becoming queen seemed, to me at least, something that might have come from a comedy. All the lines of dialogue fall into place perfectly, building and building until it's only logical that Morgan become queen. The people are enthralled by her and every single line panders directly to her. But wait! Before Morgan can bask in her glory, there's this slow clap coming from the back. It's Arthur! The look on his face was enough to have me laughing and the clapping pushed me over the edge.

And then there was the needless deaths. I can understand why Sybill had to die--though not why she had to return as Obi-Wan Kenobi--but Igraine's death was entirely senseless. She manages to spit out the last piece of information that she actually saved Morgan by sending her to the convent. And the result? After toiling for a while, Morgan returns to her business.

It's taken a while and I'm not sure why I didn't seen it sooner: the writers have no clue what they're doing. Between the various unfulfilled plots, Camelot has not solid ground even after 10 episodes. The writers are still floundering from idea to idea--Morgan shifting from internal usurper to internal child bearer--and there isn't much to look forward to.

Score: 7.6/10

Major computer problems

To make a long story short, my laptop can't boot and it can't seem to read the recovery CDs. I've tried fiddling around with the BIOS, but nothing seems to work. Right now I'm trying to get my hands on a Windows 7 CD, but I'm not optimistic. I'm using an old computer right now, so I should be able to post delayed reviews, especially since there's not much to watch anymore. We'll see what happens, and I'll post updates if the situation changes.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review - Breaking Bad Season 1 Episode 4 Cancer Man / 5 Gray Matter

"Cancer Man"
After a string of high-octane episode, Breaking Bad settled down to give us a better look at Jesse who, until now, has been the funny one-liner guy. While nothing much contributes to the overall plot, we learn quite a bit about Jesse and where he's coming from. For the first time, there are real negatives to drugs, as Jesse hallucinates and runs to his parents house where we see that Jesse grew up in a good place but was eventually led astray. Jesse seems to be a decent person as well, covering for his younger brother and taking all the heat for the pot. But at the end of the day, he remains without a job and only has drugs to support himself, and no matter how good of a person he may be, it doesn't matter.

The episode also does a good job expanding Walt's relationships with his family members after he tells Skylar about the cancer and she tells the rest of the them. This immediately puts more pressure on Walt since everyone wants their input on the situation, and the result is that Walt is pushed further and further. He clearly wants nothing to do with drugs and that world which already forced him to kill people, but also needs the money for treatment. This all comes boiling out when he blows up a douchebags cars. In this circumstance, it's easy to get behind Walt since "KenWins" was so obnoxious, but it is a troubling precedent.

Score: 9.0/10

"Gray Matter"

Like the previous episode, "Gray Matter" sheds a lot of light on a character's past, Walt in this case. He and Skylar go to an old colleague's birthday party where, surprise, surprise, we find him married to that woman in the flashback. Apparently, the couple, Elliot and Gretchen runs Gray Matter and are filthy rich while Walter has nothing. We begin to see why Walter ended up where he is and the underlying anger, and it provides us with a better idea who he is. From all accounts, Walt was a brilliant scientist, far smarter than those now richer than him. So, when Elliot offers to pay for Walt's treatment, he declines. After all, Walt is smart--he doesn't need charity, not the least from Elliot. If there is no big thing to fault Walt for, it's that he simply doesn't take the money. He just has too much pride.

Meanwhile, everyone has a sit down with Walt so they can express how they feel about his conduct. The general consensus is that Walt is being far too passive, which is a valid point since Walt has practically given up. And with the Schwartz's offering to pay, there's is hardly any problem--except Walter isn't taking the money. Instead, he turns back to Jesse and the drug world.

That goes directly with Jesse story in the episode, which is an abrupt turn of events. After Badger gets the materials to cook up another batch, Jesse cooks again, but has a cloudy batch. The old Jesse would be fine with the cloudy shit, but the new Jesse has goals and wants to be the best in the drug market. Naturally, the Jesse who wants the clear meth and Walter who wants money at back together at the end of the episode.

This middle stretch of episodes in the first season is quite interesting. It relieves the tension in the first three episodes, and there is little chance Walt or Jesse will get caught, though Hank's investigation is leading him in that direction. Instead, the episodes spend plenty of time to build their characters, showing who they were and how that motivates them. At the end of the two episodes, they're back to where they were at at the end of the pilot, getting ready to cook meth. This time, however, their characters are much deeper and fully formed.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - Franklin & Bash Season 1 Episode 2 She Came Upstairs To Kill Me

I normally wouldn't watch a show like Franklin & Bash again, but since this is summer when there are very few new scripted shows, I went ahead and watched the second episode. The second episode was largely the same as the first episode, with a sillier case than you'd usually see on law shows, a woman accused of sexing her husband to death. The episode somewhat shifts the focus away from Franklin and Bash towards Infeld, played by Malcolm McDowell, and is delightfully charming.

Score: 8.5/10

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review - White Collar Season 3 Episode 1 On Guard

"On Guard" is the most impressive episode of White Collar since the pilot. Well, maybe it's actually more impressive. The relationship has been built up between Peter and Neal for two seasons as they've taken down criminals of all sorts. They've come to like each other and they are more like partners than adversaries despite their differences in position, Peter being the fed and Neal being the con.

The end of the second season had a major change, Neal in a room with the art from the German U-boat, but the writers could have taken this any way. In the first season, it looked like Peter was the big bad who had Kate, but it turned out he was not. The opening of the third season reinforces the idea that Neal has completely turned and all ties with Peter will be cut. He and Mozzie load their wares onto a planes and prepare to take off, pursued by the FBI.

Slowly but surely, the writers peel back the layers until we learn what's really going on. And what really happens is more interesting than the implication that Neal is on the loose. Instead, we learn that it was actually Mozzie who stole the art without consulting Neal first. The plane turns out to be part of the case, and Neal sacrificed his chance to escape in order to save Jones. It's not all bright and sunny, though, as there is clearly an underlying deception. Neal knows about the art and is keeping the knowledge from Peter, even swapping out the swatch of the painting Peter got tested.

While everything is ostensibly fine at the end of the episode, their relationship is the closest its been to the verge of collapse. Neal will have to keep the secret, always deceiving Peter, and Peter will always have his eye on Neal. With these circumstances, a lot can happen.

Score: 9.5/10

Review - Covert Affairs Season 2 Episode 1 Begin the Begin

When "Begin the Begin" started, I wracked my brain to remember what had happened at the end of the last season. I know I watched every episode, knew generally who Ben was, but I couldn't remember any specifics about the last episode or what precipitated the dramatic opening scene. After reading my review of the first season finale, I vaguely remember what happened. The point being, the serialized parts of Covert Affairs don't really work, and the rest of the episode backs this up.

While the episode tries its hardest to play up Annie's personal life with Ben being safe, the whole package doesn't quite work. Ben is still in two modes, either in love with Annie or super-cryptic, making him seem very inhuman. That portion of the show is completely detached from Annie and Auggie, which is by far the more enjoyable part of the episode. But with all the Ben, Joan, and Arthur stuff, the plot is paper thin, explained in a flurry of activity before culminating in a car chase.

At the end of the episode, Ben goes missing again and Annie is left to pine for him. But does anyone care?

Score: 8.0/10

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review - The X-Files Season 3 Episode 15 Piper Maru / 16 Apocrypha

 "Piper Maru"

On its own, black oil is a sick idea. Oil is as ubiquitous a substance as there is and for aliens to either be oil or use oil as a medium of transportation is very scary. In "Piper Maru" and "Apocrypha," we see just how easily aliens can slip in and out of humans without being noticed, and the aliens seem to be special abilities as well. That's the good part. Looking back on black oil, it's still a great idea that was horribly wasted as the series progressed. And it's a shame consider how great these two episodes are.

"Piper Maru" is a very ambitious episode of television, bringing back the stolen tape and the murder of Scully's sister, while introducing a new threat using a black and white format. That's a lot to handle, and the episode never feels rushed and no part gets shafted. All the plots are engaging and different--revisiting the past, learning about new things, or coming to terms with the world.

Mulder chases a woman to Hong Kong and finds Krycek, presumed to be the killer of Scully's sister, while a black oil alien is shadowing them. Scully revisits her childhood home, still dealing with the fact that her sister's murderer will likely never be found. She finds a friend of her father who recounts his tale on a submarine, and the striking effects of black oil. What was believed to be a salvage operation for a nuclear warhead became a death coffin with an unknown danger. Back in Washington, the shadowy forces send a blunt message, having Skinner shot in a restaurant for poking where he shouldn't be.

As the episode moves ahead, so does our understanding of what's going on. What used to be lights in the sky are now tangible things Mulder can clearly see. While we don't know what black oil is or how it fits in, it all seems like we're one step closer to the truth. Things are being uncovered and information is coming out, or so it seems.


Whenever there is a new threat in the X-Files, it is never localized in certain area, away from everyone else. There is always a global component to the conspiracy, that the dark, multinational entity is waiting around every corner. The episode culminates in Mulder and Scully tracking Krycek to an abandoner missile. They are finally there, about to uncover all the mysteries, and then the rug is pulled out from under them. Armed men arrive and it's over.

But even if they end up with nothing, there is a resounding echo of hope. Mulder and Scully have come farther than they ever have and make some gains. Skinner is alive and the supposed killer of Scully's sister is dead. They've made inroads, however small they are, and that is enough to fuel the hunt.

Score: 9.4/10

Review - Switched at Birth Season 1 Episode 1 This Is Not a Pipe

I wasn't planning on watching Switched at Birth until I read a summary--two girls switched at birth end up in completely different situations. That's the kind of wacky ideas that can make a show totally unwatchable or, if executed well, into something worth watching, so I immediately perked up. My curiosity got the better of me and I went ahead and watched it.

For the first three-quarters of the pilot, I was very uneasy about the whole thing. There was already the massively stupid. childish cliche about Bay being the same as her biological mother and the complete opposite of the parents who raised her, as if biology is the only thing that determines how someone turns out. And the same went for Daphne. The writers make no attempt for nuance, instead presenting a black and white distinction. I'm sure the lines will be blurred as the show progresses, but force feeding differences in the pilot is a bit obnoxious. Another problem is that the Kennish parents are very stuck up, almost expecting Daphne to be given to them simply because they can provide better monetary support. It smooths out after a while, but they still suffer from government-syndrome, the idea that they alone know what's best.

But the pilot manages to right itself eventually. As the characters of Bays and Daphne are developed, we really get the sense how much everything is weighing on them. Their worlds have been upturn and alternative lifetimes are placed right in front of them. Their parents, meanwhile, are squabbling, so their best option is each other. They may have completely different backgrounds, but they no what it's like to be on the outside, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Score: 8.1/10

Review - United States of Tara Season 3 Episode 10 Train Wreck

To me, "Train Wreck" ranks as one of the most jarring episodes of the series, and ranks high among television episodes in general. This is where things get bad, and it's hard to imagine how dark this show could go in the final two episodes.

With Lionel killed in a car crash, Marshall is sent into a slump and everyone, including Tara, tries to console him. The result is that Tara doesn't receive the immediate attention she needs, and Bryce inevitably comes out. Toni Collete is, as always, in her portrayal of alters. Bryce is truly menacing and is quite scary. There is further fallout once people start realizing the truth: Tara won't change. Kate decides to move out and get serious with Evan, Neil wants Charmaine to cut all ties with Tara, and Max and Marshall turn towards each other for support. In the middle of all this, Tara is left out, trapped in a body currently controlled by Bryce.

So, with once two episodes left in the series, there are a looming question. Will the show continue down this dark road and end in despair, or will the show--and Tara--finally turn the corner and end on the bright side?

Score: 9.5/10

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review - Sanctuary Season 3 Episode 18 Carentan

The concept of "Carentan," main characters stuck in a time dilation field with people who will disappear, is nothing new and has been done many times before. Luckily, the episode doesn't get too caught up in the concept itself, which can spur discussions on what it means to exist and whether one has the right to end these people's lives. Instead, the episode focuses on how the characters interact with one another and the situation at hand. The episode works well for the most part, even if a reset at the end was inevitable.

Were the writers trying to make a connection to the previous episode? There was the fire elemental in the recap at the beginning, but nothing came of it. Are we to assume that whatever force Magnus mentioned at the end of the episode is harnessing the fire elemental's power?

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Treme Season 2 Episode 7 Carnival Time

I'm busy this week and especially today, so no time for a long review.

"Carnival Time" departs from the rest of the episodes to other a sweeping view of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The episode is visually impressive with all the costumes and different locations, and it also manages to move a couple stories forward, including a clever way for Delmond to get musical inspiration.

Score: 9.5/10

Review - The Killing Season 1 Episode 11 Missing

For a show which has spent the first 10 episodes of a 13 episode season trying to figure out who killed a girl, "Missing" is very random. It focuses on only Linden and Holder and aside from the beginning and end, stays away from Rosie Larsen. We learn a lot more about Linden and Holder in the process, but I have to wonder why this episode couldn't come earlier, preferably before the show burned several episodes pointlessly pursuing Bennet. In the grand scheme of things, the episode probably won't matter much, and the writers could have put the details of Linden and Holder's pasts into the middle of previous episodes (like Game of Thrones does effectively), but it's a serviceable episode of television.

I don't think what we learned in the episode is important enough to recap, though I greatly appreciate that we finally learn who Reggie is--but the interaction between Linden and Holder was the strongest its been and following them around for an entire episode while learning about them wasn't bad. Again, the writers tried to lead us on, this time with the possibility of Jack dying, but it didn't happen in the end. If it did, that would surely be a twist to remember.

Score: 8.7/10

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review - Game of Thrones Season 1 Episode 8 The Pointy End

With two episode left in the season after this, "The Pointy End" handles the run-up to war in splendid fashion, maintaining momentum and setting the stage for the next episode. Written by George R.R. Martin, the episode shows us what every party is doing, and in some respect is more hurried than the previous episodes. Yet we still get full immersion into the world, learning backstory along the way and getting character development.

At King's Landing, all is lost for the Starks. Ned is thrown in the dungeon, left to listen to Varys and his inaction. Arya manages to escape, although Syrio stays behind and likely dies, and Arya accidentally stabs a boy outside, marking her first kill. Like Jon said, stick them with the pointy end. Sansa, meanwhile, is perhaps left in the most difficult situation. Unlike Arya, who can only run, and Ned, who can only sit, she has options. She may not be the smartest person, but even Sansa knows trouble when it's there. She does her best to appease the Lannisters, telling them what they want to hear and writing a letter to her family members. That is, of course, what they wanted from her in the first place. But they also want something else, Ned to acknowledge their rule, placing further pressure on Sansa who has to get Ned to admit his fault. For a girl who only wanted to wear frilly clothing and be a princess, all of this is a tall order.

Elsewhere, war has practically begun. Jaime is already on the move and laying seige to Riverrun, where Catelyn is from. Tywin is as ready as ever, and is perfectly fine accommodating the demands of the people who nabbed Tyrion. Catelyn meets up with Robb who, urged by Greyjoy, is awfully eager for war. He even sends a spy back to Tywin to antagonize him. Robb seems a tad bit presumptuous, given his age, but he also needs confidence and has plenty of that.

The episode spends some time on Daenerys and her apprehension over Dothraki practices. Having been in a similar position to the conquered women a while ago, she wants to save them. Luckily, Drogo is quite enthralled with her and fights for her, ripping out an offender's tongue. While the plot doesn't exactly move the Dothraki any closer to Westeros (though they are gathering resources for ships), it poses a question as to the culture of the Dothraki. Clearly Daenerys wants them to stop certain practices against women, and that will be a huge problem when they enter Westeros. These practices are entrenched in their culture and more Dothraki will not like these changes.

Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to read the book, but I'm about halfway done. I may finish before next week's episode, so I'll probably have more to say with regard to the book.

Score: 9.4/10
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