Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review - Leverage Season 4 Episode 6 The Carnival Job

Leverage is a show with a formula that works nearly every time. Each week team is introduced to the latest corporate villain, portrayed in such a manner as to clearly divide the good guys from the bad guys, and then they do their tricks to bring him/her down. The character are very likable, each with their own quirks, so nothing can go wrong. The show can even stray from the formula, as was the case with "The Van Gogh Job," and it works because it is significantly different than the usual episode.

Something was off with "The Carnival Job," though. It strays from the formula, but not enough to be unique in any way, and left me wanting the formula rather than what was actually given. Basically, the episode turns into Elliot saving a little girl. Yes, Elliot is an awesome badass who can only be taken down by a roller coaster, but it's nothing new. The plot was one of the thinnest of any Leverage episode, and the episode felt like cobbled scenes of the show's characters instead of an entire story.

Score: 8.0/10

Review - The X-Files Season 4 Episode 7 Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man / 8 Tunguska

"Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man"

If "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" were to be taken at face value--as a completely authentic, factual account of CSM's life--it would be a very troubling episode, throwing a bunch of inconceivable parts into the mythology. Somehow, CSM would have personally shot and killed both JFK and MLK, rigged the 1980 "Miracle on Ice," and is the reason why the Bills never win the Superbowl. Thankfully, the story is narrated by Frohike, who, as we know, is part of the Lone Gunmen and a notorious conspiracy theorist. He notes that he got all the information from a magazine he subscribes to, and will confirm the information from his hacker sources. We can all breathe easily that the episodes depicted in the episode probably aren't accurate in the least bit.

But even if this isn't really what CSM's life was like, the episode still delves into the mentality of the men in the shadows, who seemingly have control of everything, with a spark of reality. The emotional core of the episode, the despair of CSM as his stories continue to be rejected, remains true even if the facts are exactly true. At the end of the day we can say that, yeah, he probably didn't do any of those things or was only a small part of them, but his life isn't a picnic. He's human, just like us.

We see him sent out to carry out orders from the higher ups, often with a degree of discomfort. He respects MLK, but for the country he must do it. There is a sense of duty in every action, and what we perceived to be malicious evil in the first three seasons is only devotion to duty. Reflected in the alien conspiracy, the members of the Syndicate probably aren't always happy about the things they do, but realize that they have to get dirty in order to keep order. This lingers heavily on the conscience, as there are plenty of times when CSM looks conflicted.

Throughout the episode, CSM tries to get stories published and fails--for although his official job has lots of clout, it is shrouded in secrecy, unknown and unhailed. After years of work, he has no public recognition, nothing to leave behind as proof of his efforts and struggles. CSM is a nobody, a random government employee with a suit, as regular as everyone else. But he knows he is more, except no one else does.

Score: 9.2/10


There is an epicness to "Tunguska," I think, unmatched by any previous episodes. What began as a simple conspiracy, confined to the United States, becomes global, as Mulder and Krycek travel to Russia, finding themselves in the midst of a gulag where prisoners are experimented on with black oil, and the episode ends with Mulder infected with black oil as well. This is heavy stuff, bolstered by the appearance of Scully at a Senate hearing at the beginning of the episode, refusing to reveal Mulder's whereabouts.

But the episode also leaves you wondering, "Well, what now?" The previous batch of mythology episodes introduced the clones, and then promptly disappeared them. Now we're back to black oil which apparently came from inside meteors from space and landed in Russia in 1908 and aren't giving anyone radiation burns. Was the black oil in the previous season different from this strand? CSM and Well-Manicured Man are scheming, but they aren't being forthright as always.

Once again, Chris Carter writes a good episode, with some very cool actions scenes and plenty of foreboding tension. However, no loose ends from previous episodes are being tied up. If anything, Carter drags things out further and further. There is a finite length to long how one can keep this up, and Carter surely does not realize this. Indeed, he plows ahead, adding layers and layers to the mystery without going back to answer previous questions.

Score: 8.8/10

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review - Haven Season 2 Episode 3 Love Machine

Warning: Spoilers for The Colorado Kid ahead. It's very short (100 pages) and there isn't much to it, but there are some key points I'll talk about.

I read The Colorado Kid early this week to see if I could gain any insight into Haven, and well.. I didn't get any. This is a classic case of name-dropping, Stephen King in this instance, in order to get some publicity. The only similarities between the show and book is the setting in Maine, a female protagonist, and two old guys who work at the newspaper.

Most glaring is the thematic disconnect between the two. While King uses the frame narrative as a larger allegory for the nature of stories and mysteries, the writers of Haven clearly have different ideas. They have a mystery, to be sure, but not of the kind King envisions, the one where the answers are left up in the air. The mystery of Haven is derived from the supernatural elements described as the troubles. This is not a mystery where there are small clues and seemingly unanswerable clues but a mystery dependent on the random nature of these troubles. Every time something bad happens, it's obviously the troubles and can be fixed by pinpointing the person at the center. Not a great mystery if you ask me, especially since no one can explain anything about the troubles.

"Love Machine" has one of the better troubles, machines repaired by a guy going berserk to keep him in Haven, as there are some gruesome scenes and actual danger for Audrey and Nathan. But the ongoing stuff with the second Audrey and the mystery takes an abrupt turn when the second Audrey goes to the coordinates in the book and returns with no memories. Then her boyfriend takes her away. Huh? What's up with that? And the building on the island is now gone. Yes, it's the troubles again, but seriously, WTF?

Score: 7.4/10

Review - Flashpoint Season 4 Episode 4 Through A Glass Darkly

Every episode of Flashpoint begins with an awkward situation which looks pretty clear cut, someone is doing something dangerous and the SRU is there to stop him/her. But the episode progresses are we learn the whole story, even sympathizing with the original "bad guy". This requires a degree of contrivance for the tables to be completely turned every time, but it's somewhat believable most of the time.

"Through A Glass Darkly," though, is so far out there that it's hard to take seriously. Two guys kidnap kidnap a girl, because... they tricked granny! That they would kidnap the girl--and her mother--in broad daylight is already suspect, and the stuff about fooling the grandmother was perhaps more bizarre and unbelievable.

Score: 7.8/10

Friday, July 29, 2011

Review - Damages Season 4 Episode 3 I'd Prefer My Old Office

The ending of "I'd Prefer My Old Office" is very perplexing, indicating that Muslim will target Hewes & Associates in the next three days, and quite frankly, out of the blue. After an entire where the flashbacks are either Chris's recollection of his teammates dying, or Michael becoming a drug dealer, this thing pops up, leaving us with more questions. Could Boorman be setting a trap?

Speaking of Boorman, Erickson appears more and more to be a decent person led astray by Boorman. He clearly has his convictions and believes in more than self-interest. On face value, he seems rather genuine. However, Boorman is constantly insinuating that less-than-legal actions must be taken, and Erickson more or less declines to respond, recognizing that for High Star to survive and continue on his vision, the company must first survive.

After Ellen's trick to get Patty to offer her help last week, Patty is fully on board this week after Ellen hits a major roadblock, with Chris being coerced by AC. It's clear that the mercenaries in Afghanistan are unforgiving, emphasized by the shooting of Chris's informant, so we can see how easily it would be for Chris to end up where he was in those flashforwards.

I'm not entirely sure about the Michael stuff, however. While I recognize the importance of Michael, I never really cared about him beyond how Patty reacted to him. An entire episode with flashbacks of what he's doing didn't resonate with me. Now that he's back in the picture and likely up to something devious I sort of care, but I could have done without so much of him in the episode.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Burn Notice Season 5 Episode 6 Enemy of My Enemy

Burn Notice is getting so stale to me that I have a hard time deciding whether to review the episodes or not, but I'll take what I can get. "Enemy of My Enemy" is a solid episode with Sam in real danger, and it's always fun to watch scumbags tear each other apart as Sam manipulates the situation. Pearce is rounded out better than she was in her first appearance while Maddie and Fi find the identity of the Michael impersonator who is now purchasing a gun.

There were three recurring characters in the episode--Sugar, Carmelo, and the CIA guy who dislikes Sam--but I only remembered Sugar clearly. I remember nothing about Carmelo and only vaguely that Sam pissed of the CIA in the average Sam Axe movie a while back.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Suits Season 1 Episode 6 Tricks of the Trade

Until now, I've been very optimistic about the direction Suits is going in. Harvey and Mike have become closer, we learn about Harvey and Jessica's backstories, there has been good office politics, and Mike's old demons continual to haunt him while he tries to reinvent his life. All in the first five episode, this is relatively dense stuff already and seems adequate to cover the entire first season, especially since there is a case every week alongside the development of the plots.

However, "Tricks of the Trade" throws a wrench in with the addition of another big development, Rachel figuring out Mike's secret, that he doesn't have a law degree and took tests for others. The writers try to make it an issue of morality, tying in the case--a trader accused of insider trading who is torn up about the ordeal--to what Rachel is going through, wanting a high score, possibility with the help with this guy who takes tests for other people.

The writers spend little time explaining exactly how Rachel put all the pieces together--it still seems highly implausible and contrived that she did come to the conclusion--but at the end of the episode, she knows the truth and walks away from Mike, angry at his lies, as he tries to tell her that there's more to the story. At this point, what do know about Rachel? She's ambitious yet bad at tests, and is cute. Not much there, exactly. The impact, aside from the possibility that she tells everyone the secret, doesn't seem big at all. At least with Jenny and Trevor, we knew there were complicated stuff going on before the series began. With Rachel, it's all rather plain.

Score: 8.4/10

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review - Wilfred Season 1 Episode 6 Conscience

The writers have made Wilfred into such a versatile character and Jason Gann plays him so well that any given episode of the show will be funny regardless of the plot. The plot this week is a step below last week's hilarious one at the hospice, but there is plenty of humor to be found in the bro-action and, of course, Wilfred.

Wilfred can go from dog who listens to the alpha to dog on webcam to evil chemist, and it all makes sort of makes sense since we know Ryan's mind is messed up. There is a semblance that Wilfred may be part of Ryan's mind that is trying to improve himself, that Ryan actually believes in underhanded tactics to get Jenna.

Score: 8.7/10

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review - The X-Files Season 4 Episode 5 The Field Where I Died / 6 Sanguinarium

"The Field Where I Died"

"The Field Where I Died" is supposed to be emotional; it's supposed to be deep; it's supposed to be romantic in a dark way. But is it all those things in reality? It's a highly ambitious episode, uncovered by comedy or the usual trademarks of a "different" X-Files episode, and Glen Morgan and James Wong surely go for broke with the episode. However, it does reach its intended goals, in my opinion.

The episode goes along fine, until the multiple personalities kick in and Kristen Cloke starts overacting. The persona Sydney, in particular, is off-putting as to derail the entire episode. She has this scrunched up face, weird voice, and these bizarre ticks which, put together, make her inhuman. This would actually work well in other episodes of the show, but not this one.

"The Field Where I Died" is about stretching the concept of love across time, that Mulder and this woman have a universal connection, spanning over a century. This is heavy stuff that shouldn't be taken lightly, and then Sydney pops up, doing her crazy person thing with wild, awkward gesticulations. She just doesn't belong in the episode. Even if you buy the conceit of the episode--Mulder and this woman being soulmates--the episode doesn't have a proper flow, especially with the impromptu regressions where David Duchovny tries really hard to cry and be all emotional.

The lack of comedy, which I pointed out earlier, is one of its main features. This is serious business! While Darin Morgan probably could have done wonders with the premise, his brother and James Morgan portray this relationship as sacred, and perhaps something that could be real. There's a funny line about Scully not wanting to redo the flukeman incident, but this episode is one of the heaviest of the series, with a continually foreboding tone to go with the romanticism of characters going into their personas. But I think the harshness of the ending, the cult members all dying, really kicks the message home, however hokey and overacted it may be.

Score: 7.8/10


Putting aside all the dumb dialogue about plastic surgery, you have to admit that Kim Manners really knows how to get the optimal gore out a scene and does a great job with a limited plot. That said, the episode is unmemorable in every respect other than directing. The biggest problem is that the writers lead the audience to believe that the doctors in charge of the hospital are actually a group of evil witches. But no, they are just evil plastic surgeons. The actual witch is lone doctor who kills people every 10 years to rejuvenate his face. The message: look at the things people will do for youth!

Score: 8.0/10

Review - Covert Affairs Season 2 Episode 8 Welcome to the Occupation

"Welcome to the Occupation" has a solid plot, both Joan and Ben tagging along with Annie. This makes for some more meaningful scenes, as we're usually treated to Annie and a random person who never shows up again. The hostage situation was tense and far more enjoyable than the usual running around plot.

However, Covert Affairs remains inept at things beyond the A-plot, with two subplots that either shouldn't have been there or should have been buffed. Annie's doctor boyfriend better turn out to be an undercover agent or something, because his scenes were beyond terrible. So generic and bland. And Henry Wilcox is revealed to be Liza Hearn's mole. Maybe Jai will have more to do now?

Score: 8.7/10

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review - White Collar Season 3 Episode 8 As You Were

With the first half of this season winding down (only two episodes left this summer), hard decisions have to be made. For Sara, it is letting go of Neal, whom she knows will only cause her trouble. For Neal, it is lying to Mozzie about Peter having the manifest. The cat and mouse game that Neal and Peter have been playing seems to have come to a detente now that Neal made his choice, but there are always issues out of their hands. Mozzie, for instance, is still intent on selling the art and unlike Neal, has no attachments. Something will happen soon and it probably won't be pretty.

"As You Were" is a Jones episode, something that has been coming for a long time (now we only need to wait for an Elizabeth episode), and it works fine. We get to know Jones's backstory and how he was almost married to his best friend's wife, and Neal gets to poke fun at his nickname, CJ, as well as connecting with regard to relationships. The plot seemed a little more out there than usual, with armed mercenaries in New York high rises, but it's not a big deal.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - The Closer Season 7 Episode 3 To Serve With Love

Flynn and Provenza episodes haven't gotten old since the first one in the second season, and "To Serve With Love" is no exception. This is a duo that will be funny under any circumstance. Tempted by extra money on the side, they get into trouble once again, drawing Buzz in as well. They are doing some borderline illegal activity and certainly unethical activity throughout the episode, but they aren't malicious and everything works out fine in the end.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Warehouse 13 Season 3 Episode 3 Love Sick

I want to watch more of the season before casting judgment, but "Love Sick" is a bit troubling. The main plot is solid and what you would expect from the show. Artie, Claudia, Dr. Vanessa, and Hugo Miller discover an artifact that is turning people in clay while Artie deals with the fact that Vanessa and Hugo had something going on. The stakes are pretty high and Saul Rubinek is good at the serious as well as the funny.

However, there is another plot back at the Warehouse, unattached and completely pointless. It's funny stuff, to be sure, but that's all it is, a glorified romp through the Warehouse, showing all the cool and funny things Pete and Myka could do with the artifacts. There is some mystery, as the two had bronzed Steve while under an artifact's effects, but they quickly solve the problem and we see what happened in a series of flashbacks. I'm fine with this plot, but it also took up big chunk of the episode which seemed unnecessary. Will the rest of the season follow in this way?

Score: 8.4/10

Review - Alphas Season 1 Episode 3 Anger Management

Alphas rebounded this week with a strong episode that featured quite a shocking twist, the death of Don Wilson, the guy supervising the whole operation. While the team will remain intact and nothing has really changed, the way in which he died was startling. The alpha releases his pheromones, inducing everyone, except Bill, into violence. This is something that happens on sci-fi shows once in a while, but this scene is all out bonkers--changing colors, camera wildly swinging everywhere, people pounding each other, and finally, Wilson beaten to death with a chair. In total the ordeal lasts less than two minutes, but was stylized in such as way as to be very disorienting and memorable for the viewer.

I'm fairly certain this episode was supposed to be the second episode instead of the third, with the female supervisor last week, so the character development in the episode may have already happened. Still, it's unlikely anything will be notably different.

Score: 8.8/10

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review - Leverage Season 4 Episode 5 The Hot Potato Job

"The Hot Potato Job" is one of those episodes which isn't complicated, the job consisting of the recovery of a potato, which results in lots of useless flashback scenes to fill in the empty space, but the episode is consistently funny, making up for the deficiencies in plot.

This whole Nate and Sophie thing is rather bothersome by now and I wish the writers would either make up their mind what to do with them or stop with the brief, cutesy stuff which don't really have a purpose.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - Falling Skies Season 1 Episode 7 Sanctuary (Part 2)

"You know, I actually thought about buying in this neighborhood once upon a time?" This line, uttered while Clayton's troops are preparing to kill Hal, is a good summation of where this episode went. The characters just aren't serious enough to be inhabiting this apocalyptic world, creating a mismatch of potential and reality. The situation of humans cooperation with skitters demanded potential, but instead, the episode turns towards the usual plot of people running and shooting. There's clearly defined good guys and bad guys, and the good guys win in the end.

Want to buy time for kids? Wait until you're surrounded so your son has no father. Kids tired of running from men who'll give you to skitters? Stop at the house beside the road and play Battleship. No urgency whatsoever.

At this point, it probably wasn't too surprising that the episode wasn't interesting. The pathos didn't work for the hundredth time and the plot was similar to the previous ones. Clayton and his men are not humanized so we can empathize with them, and they're practically human version of the skitters, faceless things that have to be defeated.

Score: 8.2/10

Review - True Blood Season 4 Episode 5 Me and the Devil

"Me and the Devil" is the most well-rounded episode of the season, without anything that was bizarre for bizarre's sake, the biggest problem that plagues the show. The episode gets off to a splendid start, as Tommy kills his parents, ridding us of some of the most grating characters on the show, and it gets better from there. Almost half way through the fourth season, True Blood is once again kicking into high gear.

Bill makes his move on Marnie, locking her up and interrogating her, only to find that she knows nothing. After a bunch of teasing, the writers decide it is finally time for Sookie and Eric to kiss while Pam accidentally  lets slip about Eric, which leads Bill to Sookie's house. Sookie meets Marnie for the first time and gets a reading. Interestingly, when Sookie reads Marnie's mind, she hears Gran talking, and is told that her growing love for someone and Marnie are dangerous. As the two plots intersect, there will be definite fireworks next week.

Alcide got something new this week outside of Sookie's world when local pack leader shows up and wants Alcide to register, something he doesn't want to do given his earlier experience. I'm not sure why Alcide had to have this new plot, but it was only one scene, so it wasn't a big deal.

The subplots which usually grind the show to a halt were pretty good this week. Terry getting the Reverend and Lettie Mae to do the exorcism in their house was cute and what presumably is the evil doll can set things on fire. As much as I'd like to complain about the way Tommy's plot got from point A to point B, him and Sam working together to rid the body was much better than anything they've done before. It ties theirs fates together with regard to breaking the law which can lead to plenty of other things. And no Hot Shot!

Score: 9.0/10

Review - Breaking Bad Season 4 Episode 2 Thirty-Eight Snub

The shock of last week's brutal and bloody murder resonates throughout "Thirty-Eight Snub" as Walt, Jesse, and Mike--those who viewed the event other than the sociopath Gus--deal with it in their own ways. It's a messed up time for all of them, realizing how close they all were to this particular murder, and especially for Jesse who had killed another man a day earlier.

Walt proves himself to be the masterminding criminal we know him to be, purchasing a gun to kill Gus. This isn't any ordinary gun for Walt to haphazardly carry, though. It has its serial numbers filed off and Walt practices whipping it out as fast as possible. Walt's rationalization is about as scary as his precise calculation. When the gun seller questions him about the gun, Walt tells him it is for defense only and repeats this in his later conversation with Mike. Walt truly believes that what he wants to do, killing Gus, is purely self-defense and nothing more. This kind of thinking can go way overboard, but by now we know Walt won't consider the ramifications of his behavior or thought process.

With the combined weight of Victor's death and his own slaying of Gale, Jesse crashes hard, gathering Skinny Pete, Badger, and bunch of people for a days-long party in which lots of drugs and alcohol are consumed. Jesse's plot is riddled with futility and the ending shot, Jesse turning up the music and slumping down in his  trashed home, was very fitting. Though both initially clean, Skinny and Badger fold a few minutes after the drugs come out. As pathetic as they are (though extremely funny), Jesse is no better. Andrea shows up to question Jesse about money he left her and Jesse seems to believe she can get out of this world. Jesse, on the other hand, is not going anywhere soon, walking back into the house for another round of partying.

We see Mike in rare moments of distress, as he sits down to drink his coffee, groaning at this shit storm that was embroiled him. Before, he got orders from Gus and did them--and quite well I may add--but with Victor's murder, which must hit hard at home, Mike has more things to worry about.

Like Walt, Skyler thinks she has the ability to do something alone, buy the car wash in this case, and comes up empty. While Saul would certainly have made progress, her attempts to buy the car wash fail. The owner initially wants $10 million to which Skyler offers less than a million, citing her research. But the owner's offer is upped to $20 million because she is Walt's wife.

The plot with Marie and Hank hasn't gone anywhere in the first two episodes of the season, but it's clear what is happening. Hank is being a total dick and Marie is trying her hardest to put up with him. Their relationship will collapse eventually, if it hasn't already. Marie's behavior towards the physical therapist seemed to point to something, so we'll see.

Eventually, nothing major happens by the end of the episode. Walt ends up in front of Gus's house, Heisenberg hat on and ready to kill, but is called off at the last moment (My initial thought was that either Mike or Gus called him, but upon listening to it three times at high volume, I'm more inclined to say it was either Gus or a random henchman.) Later, Walt tries, with a rather flimsy argument, to convince Mike that it is in both their interest to kill Gus. But Mike will have none of that and pummels Walt into the ground. This is a far cry from the confident Walt who began the episode believing him would kill Gus. If he can't even handle Mike, how can he deal with Gus? There is a lingering question over Walt's lack of physical prowess and where his place in the world is. Is he going to get special training in order to fight against these people?

I'm curious to see how this season is plotted. In the previous three seasons, there was already some external element that presented a clear danger in the second episode--the Cousins in the third season, Tuco in the second, Krazy-8 in the first--but this episode didn't have much by way of plot development. There's no situation the characters have to extricate themselves from; instead, it is a battle of the minds, every character struggling with themselves, which provides the conflict.

Score: 9.2/10
  • Jesse's sound system and Roomba instantly reminded me of DJ Roomba from Parks and Recreation. Jesse isn't quite on the level of Tom Haverford yet, combining the two in an unstoppable machine.
  • Uncut pizza? Scissors!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review - Flashpoint Season 4 Episode 3 Run, Jaime, Run

Years after something becomes popular, television writers suddenly discover it and marvel in the wonders of it, deciding to incorporate it into an episode. This usually turns into an awkward mess where the writers are trying to throw in these "cool" terms so they sound hip and with the times. "Run, Jaime, Run" is somewhere in that vicinity, but manages to avoid the major problems that befall these episodes. Yes, there are descriptions of social media and its implications, definitions of internet lingo (ROFLMAO), but Flashpoint is a show which always keeps moving and the episode doesn't get bogged down.

Also, there is a message in the episode, which trumped the glories of technology, regarding the way people view other people--Jaimie and Kyle, Sam and Natalie, the public and Jaimie. The incorporation of technology with this idea made for a great twist, as the girl Jaimie was helping by killing her father turned out to be a guy manipulating him over the internet and with a voice changer.

Score: 8.8/10

Friday, July 22, 2011

Review - Wilfed Season 1 Episode 5 Respect

I really liked the direction of "Respect," a fully surreal experience that maintains the doggish nature of Wilfred. Ryan is hailed as a hero after volunteering at a hospice and Wilfred somehow knows when people die. It doesn't make much sense, but the point is that Wilfred is suddenly in the spotlight. But Ryan soon discovers that Wilfred may be killing the patients. With Wilfred snorting drugs and going out of control, Ryan can't keep the situation under control and it makes for a very funny episode.

Score: 9.1/10

Review - Suits Season 1 Episode 5 Bail Out

The return of Trevor was bit jarring at first--after all, Mike had ditched him twice in the first three episodes already--but I think it works itself out in the end, with Harvey roped into Mike's mess, further entangling them together. The emphasis is not on Trevor and Mike but Harvey and Mike, that Harvey not only is sticking with Mike, but is also willing to put himself out there in harm's way to protect Mike. However, the continual reappearances of Trevor are a matter of concern, as Trevor proves himself to be trouble each time and seems more and more like an obvious plot device.

The cases this week weren't anything special and didn't have the cohesion of the first three episodes, but it was as step up from last week's episode. Suits remains a great surprise with its willingness to take chances on the characters.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Burn Notice Season 5 Episode 5 Square One

The appearance of Matt Lauria probably won't make too big of a dent (I believe he'll show up in more episodes), but his character Ethan is somewhat interesting and relatable to Michael. He begins the episode hot-headed and ready to seriously hurt the guy who hurt his sister, but soon enough, he gets in to spy mode and is ready to say or do anything to get the job done.

The conspiracy grows larger as Michael recovers the tape of a convenience store where the incriminating phone was bought and finds that the person who bought the phone looks suspiciously like him. Along with the arrival of the CIA investigator Pearce (who's fashions herself as a bull dog), Michael has a lot to handle, but for now he can continue to suppress all information from the CIA.

"Square One" didn't have anything that stuck out to me--like most episodes this season--but it had its moments and the spy plot moved forward significantly. Whether these new elements introduced in the episode will have any effect is a question that will be answered later, however.

Score: 8.7/10

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review - Damages Season 4 Episode 2 I've Done Way Too Much for This Girl

While the season premiere last week had its fill of deception, "I've Done Way Too Much for This Girl" is the episode where the wheels start churning and you tell yourself, "Damages is back." Boorman manages to get Chris to Afghanistan, separating him from Ellen, through some underhanded tactics, a cooked up story about a mullah going after Chris. Boorman is clearly a bad guy, willing to kidnap and torture a poor Afghani immigrant to solidify the story, and Erickson isn't too bad yet. Yes, he wants to keep the company clean, but he explicitly tells Boorman not to hurt anyone and is upset when he learns of the psychiatrist's death. However, he seems to realize that getting dirty and doing potentially illegal things are within the boundaries.

One of the interesting twists of the episode is how Ellen and Patti eventually team up once again to take down High Star. Ellen doesn't want to reach out to Patti and owe her anything--unless Patti reaches out herself--so Ellen concocts a situation so Patti will offer help. She takes the High Star case on her own and while eating with Patti in a restaurant, some guys pound on the window to threaten her. She later orders drinks for them and it's revealed that they are her friends. Nicely played, Ellen. I'm not too sure whether the writers should have revealed that this soon, though. It's nice that there is definite momentum for Ellen and Patti's plot, but the revelation possibly could have had more impact later.

Interestingly, the episode has no flashbacks until the very last scene--a grisly torture--the earliest the show has done this. But the season also has 10 episodes opposed to the usual 13, so that could explain why the writers are doing it this way.

Score: 9.0/10

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review - White Collar Season 3 Episode 7 Taking Account

If I had it my way, every USA show would model the framework of White Collar's third season and, to an extent, Suits. Overarching character-based plots, not wild conspiracy-based plots. By using the stolen artwork as a catalyst for character development and a game changer down the line instead of as a starting point for further conspiracy, the writers took the show in the best direction possible, character-based like all the great television shows. Now, White Collar isn't Breaking Bad, nor will it ever be, but you can say there is a definite similarity between them in the way they use characters.

"Taking Account" takes the allure of wealth to dive into Neal's past while the stolen art plot moves forward. Caught in between is Sara, who enjoys the luxury the large sum of money initially afforded, but there is a fine line she refuses to cross. After spending lots of time with Neal, she types the password into his laptop to find a picture of the stolen artwork. With lots of conflicting interests on the horizon, I'm very curious to see how this all works out.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - Covert Affairs Season 2 Episode 7 Half a World Away

For all the lame attempts to recreate exotic locales with green screen, Covert Affairs came through in a big way, shooting on location in Istanbul. Director Félix Alcalá makes full use of the scenery, and really immersed the viewer in the setting. It's clear the episode cost a lot of money to make, and it turned out great.

Also helping is that "Half a World Away" is an Auggie episode, with Annie off to the side for the first time. Auggie is the most charming character on the show, so more of him is always good and the episode filled in the blanks of his past.

The plot is muddled, and after thinking about this for a while it barely makes any sense. Here are the facts. While in Iraq, Auggie and his team were sent to kill a man named Khani. The operation hits a snag (what did they expect, driving a single Humvee and parking it right in front of the safehouse?), but Auggie manages to kill the man who is supposedly Khani, confirmed by a photo. But then the translator, Nasir, radios about a trap and throws an explosive under the Humvee. It blows up, blinding Auggie.

In the present time, Auggie hears a voice on the recording--Khani's voice--implying that Nasir was actually Khani. Indeed, the person Auggie is tracking in Istanbul is Nasir, not the supposed Khani from the photo. Annie also visits Khani's sister, implying that the government somehow knew afterwards that Nasir was Khani after all. Basically, the intelligence before the raid was all wrong--that the man in the photo was either a random person or a decoy, and the real Khani was their translator Nasir. After the raid, the government somehow pieced together the information and Nasir became Khani and found Nasir/Khani's sister.

Here's where things fall apart: Auggie recognizes Nasir/Khani by his voice, implying that he believed that   Nasir/Khani died in the blast, or else why would he have Annie check to see if Khani was dead? At that point, did Auggie believe the Khani in the photo--the one he shot dead--was the right Khani? Was Auggie briefed about Nasir/Khani after the raid?

We have a semblance of what happened--betrayal, the loss of a team, loss of eyesight--which fuels the pain and vengeance in the episode, but the plot really needed more explaining. Although I'm usually not a stickler for plot holes, this one got to me because it made no sense and the writers didn't even try to rectify the problems by throwing in a few lines of dialogue at the end that could have clarified the situation. Still, very strong episode minus the plot holes and of course Rebecca Mader. :)

Score: 8.8/10

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review - The Closer Season 7 Episode 2 Repeat Offender

It turns out that Delk did die and Pope is now Chief of Police. Funny how these things work out... Anyway, it adds extra layers to the IA investigation, sure to complicate matters for Brenda and her department. Pope as Chief would normally be a good thing since he has and would protect Brenda. However, because Delk initiated the investigation and Pope is new, he has to cover all his bases, especially since he was the one would granted the guy immunity which led to Brenda dropping him off where he got killed. And because of department rules, Raydor cannot tell Brenda what Pope ordered of her. It's a dangerous game everyone is playing and it'll only get more volatile as the season goes on.

The case in "Repeat Offender" is pretty forgettable, with Brenda's usual tricks to catch unsuspecting suspects on camera and during the interrogation. Like the case in the season premiere, there was little to see, not much intensity or something different.

Score: 8.2/10

Review - Alphas Season 1 Episode 2 Cause and Effect

After only one episode, Alphas already hit a roadblock: originality. This isn't too big of a problem right now, but it does seem a little early to have an entire episode based on very derivative themes, doesn't it? The plot this week is the team tracking a guy named Marcus who can alter a situation with his intuitive knowledge of cause and effect, basically the bad guy in the Fringe episode ""The Plateau," which aired less than a year ago.

The major theme in the episode is the idea that humans are incompatible with Alphas, that they cannot coexist. Again, the idea that super-humans and regular humans come into conflict is littered throughout fiction of any kind. But this is a popular theme because it is effective and interesting, dredging up thorny issues on a number of topics. Marcus seems to believe that Alphas are already being thrown under the bus while Rosen doesn't think that will happen. Indeed, when Nathan, intending to kill, shoots Marcus square in the chest, there is a sense that the world of Alphas has become a much different place in which the characters may have to choose a side eventually.

Score: 8.4/10

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review - Warehouse 13 Season 3 Episode 2 Trials

If you remember all the way back to the first season of Warehouse 13, it was largely Artie, Pete, and Myka alone, before Claudia joined their crew and Leena got more to do. With the addition of Steve Jinx to the team, "Trials" gives us a good idea of how the writers will utilize all the characters. Their answer is to cut down on unnecessary plot points, splitting the team into two groups, so there are less of those pesky procedural elements. It works well for the most part, resolving the lingering issues between Myka and Pete as well as letting Steve get acquainted with Claudia.

Myka and Pete track down an artifact being used to steal memories, solve a murder, and get an innocent man freed. Through the artifacts memory regression, Myka learns that Pete has serious abandonment issues from earlier in her life, making her realize just how hurt he was, and she eventually apologizes. Since this is only one of the plots and there is a fair amount of character development, the plot moves quickly without too much hang out at any place.

Meanwhile, Claudia gets her first solo mission with Steve to back her up. It barely needs any investigation, as the very first suspect is the thief of Typhoid Mary's knife. The twist is that the thief transferred his son's leukemia to himself, so everyone is fine. Throughout the episode, Claudia and Steve do some talking (we learn that Steve is gay), and Artie shows up to support Claudia.

At the end of the episode, we see that Myka's voiceover was a conversation with the Regents to reinstate her as a full agent which they do. As Myka returns back to work, everything seems normal again and it's one big happy family.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - Falling Skies Season 1 Episode 6 Sanctuary (Part 1)

Yes, the schmaltz was again poured on too much, but "Sanctuary" sets up an intriguing situation, regardless of how ludicrous the setup is. Up until now, the humans have being running away from aliens and fighting back when possible. But now, we learn of this collaborator Clayton who is luring kids to his ranch to give to the skitters. There's lots of interesting places the writers can go with it, so it's a welcome change given that the first five episodes haven't exactly had much.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - True Blood Season 4 Episode 4 I'm Alive and On Fire

The fourth season of True Blood has some interesting dynamics in the vampire world--setting it apart from the previous seasons--but I groan at the constant retread of the stereotypical crazed white trash portrayal. Jason finally gets away from the Hot Shot people, who are so weird that they can neither by empathized with or feared. We're free from the crazies, right? Nope. Tommy is grabbed by his father, beginning another cycle of wacky people doing wacky things. It's not funny, emotional, scary, grotesque, or even interesting. It's plain weird. But Alan Ball seems content on these plots, so it's probably better to ignore the plots altogether than complain about them.

The vampire stuff remains interesting which is the good part (and really, the only thing I care about). Bill's new position as King of Louisiana is wrought with difficulty. He wants to do things his way but Nan makes sure he knows the Authority is keeping a close eye and isn't afraid to threaten him. At the same time, he's torn between his professional duties and Sookie who he clearly still cares about. By separating Bill and Sookie, the writers have more freedom, allowing for Sookie to get help from Alcide, drudging up further problems. The intersection between the witches and vampires is the strongest part of the season. With Pam looming over them, Jesus, Lafayette, and Tara manage to get Marnie on board, but Marnie is clearly out of her league and only knows that a powerful spirit performed the spell on Eric. The episode ends with Pam's skin falling off and Marnie falling over, making this the second time witches were able to fight off vampires.

Score: 8.0/10

Review - Breaking Bad Season 4 Episode 1 Box Cutter

It's a good thing I rewatched the first two seasons the past month, because my heart may have exploded if I wasn't prepared. We've come to expect nothing less than brilliance from Breaking Bad, and Vince Gilligan and his crew deliver again with masterful hour of television, tugging the viewer left and right in a slow, methodical, but supremely suspenseful episode. There's not much more you need to say these days: it's Breaking Bad.

Continuing from the third season finale, "Box Cutter" begins with Gale alive, setting up the lab for Gus. It's an instant reminder of the person Jesse has just shot, a proud, unassuming chemist who finds an almost childish pleasure in these instruments Gus has for him. We soon learn that it was Gale who brought Walt on board, as he tries to convince Gus how great Walt's product is. To Gale, who is a chemist like Walt, 96% is a lot worse than 99%, and Gale wants the chemist with the best skills. Like everything else on the show, each decision brings with it a fateful consequence and for Gale that is death.

The mainstay of the episode is, of course, Walt and Jesse's confinement in the lab and the arrival of Gus. It's a tense stretch of time, as Walt and Jesse are unsure of their fate while Mike and Victor don't know what to expect either, and the viewers are in the same boat too. Gus arrives eventually and boy is it terrifying. The writers stretch it out as long as possible. Gus slowly removes his jacket, hangs it on a rack, and dons a protective suit. We know Gus is a quiet man who doesn't get down an dirty, but he's clearly preparing for something.

All the while, Walt tries to argue his case why he and Jesse should live, that only he knows the chemistry and that Victor following directions is limited. There is a moment of uncertainty when Walt realizes that Gus is completely silent, that anything can happen. But in bold move, Gus cuts Victor's throat, splattering blood everywhere. Now we see Gus getting his hands--and face--dirty. The murder doesn't come too much of a surprise, considering the early appearance of the box cutters (I like to think of them like Gilligan's box cutters, a corollary to Chekhov's gun), but the manner in which it is done is brutal, quick, and shows us exactly who Gus is. And just as Gus entered the lab, he exits, first rinsing himself off, removing the protective suit, and then putting his jacket back on. Cold, deliberate, and utterly frightening.

There are a couple reasons why Gus would kill Victor. Obviously he wants to scare Walt and Jesse, but there are other reasons why. Victor called Gale a few times and even went into his apartment, evidence for the police to track back to Victor and ultimately Gus. Victor now knows the ingredients for Walt's perfect meth formula, and after Victor demonstrated some capability of making a batch, Gus wants to get rid of them. The reasons are good alone, but it is the indifference of Gus that is frightening. He isn't the out of control drug boss like Tuco. He's smart, deadly, and uncaring--the deadliest combination possible.

There is a cute (or disturbing, however you want to look at it) callback to the failed attempt by Jesse in the first season to dissolve Emilio's body in the bathtub. Three seasons later, Walt and Jesse are knowledgeable and capable of getting it done correctly.

Those few plot elements--Gus showing up, killing Victor, and leaving--basically make up the episode and were relatively skimpy compared to most episodes. Skyler has several scenes in which she is worried about Walt's whereabouts, even tricking a locksmith into getting her into Walt's condo. She finds the teddy bear's eye from the second season, but nothing else, and is none the wiser when Walt returns. Walt's in new clothes, tells a couple lies, and he's back to Walter White, normal guy (or, to Skyler, drug cooker who's not in big trouble). Hank and Marie's scenes weren't crucial to the episode, but there is a conflict brewing. Marie still has lots of medical bills and Hank has taken up buying rocks online, or minerals as he calls it

Looking ahead, there are several issues to tackle. The biggest is Gale's notebook which surely has information about Gus's lab and the blue meth. It's out in plain sight and the police will read it eventually, once again focusing attention on Walt. We'll see how well Gus can deflect this incursion. The second thing is Jesse, who is visibly rattled after shooting Gale. Even at Denny's (yum!), Jesse seemed very distant and out of it. After losing Jane, murdering a man in cold blood, and seeing another man killed right in front of him, he must be feeling messed up.

Score: 9.4/10

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Review - Leverage Season 4 Episode 4 The Van Gogh Job

Wow, that was as nice change of pace, wasn't it? It can get a bit old when every episode of Leverage begins with a client getting in trouble before asking Nate for help, so I was surprised to see the show deviate from the format which worked in nearly all the episodes. I was even more surprised to see the flashbacks which spanned time and included the characters in the past. Along with the heartfelt narration from Danny Glover and the decent story, it was very cool and enjoyable.

As for the plot about the painting, it was used more as a framing device than anything else and provided us with the staple of any Leverage episode: Elliot kicking ass. Parker and Hardison are one step closer to getting together now as well, though the writers are taking lots and lots of time with them.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - Breaking Bad Season 2 Episode 12 Phoenix / 13 ABQ

Sorry I procrastinated on the final two episodes. They're here, though, a few hours before the fourth season begins, rounding out reviews for the entire show thus far.


Walt is so contemptible in "Phoenix" that it's impossible to defend him at this point. He is practically delusional in his inability to see straight, and his warped mind, which was once a product of the drug dealing, now manifests itself freely at home. He speaks to his baby daughter about all the great things he's done, all the money he's earned, ignoring all the negatives. Then, when his son decides to set up a website for his father, Walt scoffs at the website and the idea of charity. There is a bitter vileness in his tone as he said this, and he doesn't realize how hurt his son is.

In the stunning final scene, Walt goes to Jesse's place and finds Jesse and Jane passed out from drug use before Jane starts choking. He stares and stares as she dies and does nothing. Walt is not doing this for Jesse. He is doing this so Jesse can get back to cooking as soon as possible. It is at this point where Walt has become directly complicit in a woman's death. He could have saved her but chose not to even try. Shame on you, Walt.

Score: 9.4/10


The second season, following the shortened first season, solidified Breaking Bad as one of television's top shows (while the third solidified it as the best), and "ABQ" caps a season of character growth--or what is more like character devolvement. Walt began the season with his family intact and supportive of him, but as he went further into the drug world, withdrawing and insulating himself, he lost them. There are always prices to pay and Walt surely pays them. The question is, however, does it even matter to him? Ostensibly, Walt seems to care that his wife is leaving him, but is that for reasons greater than that he views it as a personal affront?

Meanwhile, Jesse is basically in Hell, having woken up to find his girlfriend dead. It's hard for him not to feel guilty, and Walt later finds him in a drug den. Interestingly, Walt seeks Jesse, his partner, in the end. There is a connection between them, not solely about drug but of the kind of people they've become. Walt sees Jesse as a version of him, a tortured soul done in by outside forces. In reality, though, it is Walt who brought it upon himself--and Jesse.

The final scene is, in my opinion, truly brilliant on every level. This is the culmination of a season in which Walt has gone from bad to horrific, from teacher leaving money for his family to brutal drug dealer, from loving family man to inhuman creature. It Walt who brings this upon himself and everyone around him. As the planes crash above Walt's head and the debris comes down upon him, the audience is given the full impact of Walt's doings.

Indeed, we can trace Walt's roll in the plane crash which is happens right above his head. He is the one who led Jesse to expand the drug business and he was the one who watched as Jane died while doing nothing. There are no excuses and the audience knows it. But Walt, on the other hand, will not acknowledge. He is fine lying and obfuscating the truth, let along acknowledging his wrongdoing. In his eyes, everything he's done has been right and those who don't see the same way are simply wrong.

Although I personally think the ending is great, there are certainly reasons why it is a cop-out. From the season premiere, we were led to believe something horribly bad happen--to an important character on the show. Instead, it is two planes filled with anonymous people while all the characters are only minutely influenced. For all the flourish of the scenes, there was little direct impact to the show's fabric. But I think that's part of what makes the ending such a good twist, our expectations completely reversed with Walt being the perpetrator instead of the victim. It follows the general pattern of the season and is very striking image.

Score: 9.5/10

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review - Haven Season 2 Episode 1 A Tale of Two Audreys

I stopped watching Haven midway through the first season due to reasons I'll explain later, but I caught up a few months ago just to see if anything improved. Well, it didn't. There were some episodes which were more interesting, but the central premise of the show is still underwhelming. The show has a complete focus on these "troubles" while ignoring everything else. Unlike other Syfy shows, there is little humor, tension, human drama, or anything remotely interesting. These troubles are basically one big plot device, unexplained but governing every aspect of the show. A discussion of the troubles goes like this: Something bad happened? It's the troubles. What are the troubles? Bad things.

"A Tale of Two Audreys" follows the same format and is pretty boring save the appearance of the other Audrey Parker. The Biblical plagues occur all over town and after investigation, Audrey finds out that the guy read the Exodus earlier in the day. He's troubled, but Audrey gets him to read another book and all is well. It's completely random and bizarre, and no one seems to explore further into what the troubles actually are unless the troubles are actively doing something bad.

On the other hand, the arrival of this other Audrey Parker, who seems to have all of Audrey's memories, is kind of interesting, considering her FBI boss seems to be real and shows up at the end of the episode. Does that mean Audrey's boss isn't actually in the FBI. But the plot suffers the same problem as the rest of the show--a lack of curiosity. Obviously this new Audrey Parker doesn't have the Haven memories of the other Audrey. Why not backtrack to see when their memories diverge?

Score: 7.6/10

Friday, July 15, 2011

Review - Flashpoint Season 4 Episode 2 Good Cop

"Good Cop" is a fairly standard episode of Flashpoint, with an added emphasis on Ed. After a cop is found innocent of the murder of a black teenager, everything goes crazy and the team is forced into a tough spot. Since this is the second episode of the season, coming right after the team got back together, it was likely no one would get hurt and no one does get hurt. At the end of the episode, Ed is back on the team, but, under his wife's orders, will have his job scaled back a bit.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - Damages Season 4 Episode 1 There's Only One Way to Try a Case

Damages is a show of diminishing marginal returns, starting from its premise. The elaborate setup of flashforwards and flashbacks was revolutionary in the first season, especially with a bloody Ellen running into the street. But after three seasons, we know what to expect. The devilish twists and turns don't quite have the pop they used to have, and there will always be the combinations of corrupt corporate types and hired hit men.

And yet, Damages remains a fascinating show, stretching the boundaries of television storytelling when so few shows take that extra step. The push-pull relationship between Patti and Ellen, despite them going back and forth many, many times, is still interesting, as each character evolves separately and their relationship in turn also evolves. The clues are doled out slowly, the writers refusing to give us easy answers and by the end of the episode the viewers--along with Ellen and Patti-are sucked into a crusade that will last a season.

The setup this season doesn't seem too different from the previous ones. There is a private security company trying to get enough votes for the government to renew its contract while Ellen looks into the company for an illegal operation. The acting remains topnotch, with Glenn Close and Rose Byrne joined by John Goodman playing the CEO of the private security company and Dylan Baker as his associate. The flashforward shows a hooded person, presumably in Afghanistan, getting killed before Ellen walks in and begins crying. The obvious choice for the hooded person is Christopher Sanchez, but the writers probably have more twists lined up.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Burn Notice Season 5 Episode 4 No Good Deed

As expected, the conspiracy of Burn Notice isn't done yet. After four seasons of going around in circles, there just had to more for whatever reason, presumably to drag the show on as long as possible. Michael returns to the CIA office, situated under the FDA guise, and finds Max dead and the shooter escaping. The Charger roars back into action in the nick of time for Fiona to save Michael from the rooftop, but this is only the beginning. Now, Michael will have to find out who was trying to frame him and why Max was coy about his inquiries. There is a possible lead with Max's last words about his wife, so there's a start at least.

The case this week is rather unimpressive, featuring the too-cute-to-be-true-jack-of-all-trades-psycho-hacker chick who stole a server using Barry's brother's access numbers. As Michael tells Max, it's for the teachers! Michael is put in real danger a few times, but the case is as by the book as it gets, and only had one explosion and no car chase.

Score: 8.1/10

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review - Suits Season 1 Episode 4 Dirty Little Secrets

"Dirty Little Secrets" is the first episode of Suits which felt like standard USA fare. The previous three episodes had a surprising amount of material not related to cases, covering office politics to Mike's personal matters. Compared to other USA shows, this seemed pretty deep. This week's episode, however, was more or less a regular episode with two cases and not much else. There is little of the mentoring that went on in the previous episode and the show didn't work as well with the split attention.

The biggest thing to come out of the episode was Gina Torres finally getting more to do, as we learn of Jessica's past and her ex-husband. It's not particularly interesting, but it drove the plot forward while providing backstory. I'm not sure if too many people care at this point, but when Mike asks out Rachel on a date for real, she turns him down, telling him she doesn't date anyone in the office.

Score: 8.4/10

Review - Wilfred Season 1 Episode 4 Acceptance

"Acceptance" makes good use of Wilfred's dog personality to spin an episode that was probably more obscene than 99% of television. There's a dog, a perverted guy, dog daycare, peanut butter, and yeah... It's done in a funny way that also deepens the relationship between Wilfred and Ryan, making Ryan give up prior commitments to save Wilfred. I'm still not sure what Kristen's role on the show should be, especially since Ryan blew her off again, but the show remains funny.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Breaking Bad Season 2 Episode 10 Over / 11 Mandala


Breaking Bad began as a show about a man dying of cancer who wanted to leave behind enough money to support his family. This was a noble goal--marred by the illegality and immorality of the business he engaged in--which he carried out fairly well. But in the previous episode, ""4 Days Out," Walt learns that his tumor diminished significantly and likely will not die. It begs the question, "What now?"

The episode begins with a disturbing confrontation between Walt and Hank, Walt drinking lots of alcohol and also pouring plenty for his son before Hank tries to stop him. We see Walt's alter-ego, Heisenberg, come out, the mean, angry man who won't let anyone dictate to him. Walt doesn't care what anyone thinks and, now drunk, isn't afraid to express his opinions loudly. Truly fantastic acting from Bryan Cranston.

Walt spends the majority of the episode fixing the house while his family stares at him, not entire sure who this  person is. He isn't the angry drunk they saw earlier, but he also isn't the mopey, absent Walt from a few episodes ago. Most telling is Walt's inability to sense anything is wrong, going about business without a care in the world. Eventually, Walt goes to the hardware store where he finds a guy buying products likely intended for meth production. Seeing the wrong items, Walt tells him what to buy instead before the guy runs off. Outside, Walt sees the guy and his boss, a bald guy. It's kind of a funny situation, given the similarities to Walt and Jesse, but Heisenberg comes out and tells the bald guy to leave. And so, Walt returns to what he's been itching for the whole time, the drug trade and the money.

Jane's character is expanded a tad bit when we see her react to her father's arrival. They seem to be on good terms, but considering Jane's past as an addict, there is definitely something interesting there. While Walt is acting odder by the day, Skyler turns to work, or more precisely, her boss Ted who is also interested in her. Nothing has happened between them yet, but

The teddy bear flashback gave us the clearest picture yet of what happened. We see Walt's car in the driveway with a broken windshield as well as several body bags. Yeah, something really bad happened.

Score: 9.2/10


The arrival of Gus Fring marks an important turning point for Breaking Bad, when Walt and Jesse go from street-level guys to the corporate-level. This is especially important because of what happens in the third season and the season finale. After Combo is shot during the cold open, a deliciously frightening scene, Walt turns to Saul who points him in direction to get rid of the 38 pounds.

Gus is essentially the person Walt wants to be but isn't. He's the owner of the Los Pollos Hermanos chain and undistinguished by appearance. He doesn't hang out with addicts or do anything that would call attention to himself. Simply put, he's a normal guy, discreet and unsuspecting. Giancarlo Esposito plays the character perfectly and his first appearance as a manager talking to Walt doesn't clue the viewer into his real character. In comparison, Walt, despite his seemingly high standard, is far from the model drug boss. His second in command is a druggie, and he often gets into situations in which he could get caught. But the one thing Walt has are his cooking skills and his current load of meth, and Gus recognizes his worth.

At the same time, Jesse and Jane end up in a terrible position. Jane gives in and starts shooting up again, introducing Jesse to heroin. The blame for her relapse can't really fall on Jesse since she had plenty of chances to ward him off--when he originally came to rent the place, when she smelled the pot, when he invited her to watch TV, when she figured out he was a drug dealer. Also, Jane's eventual fate truly spells out who was wrong.

While everyone is falling onto old habits, Skyler is no different. She discovers that Ted has been doing some illegal accounting to keep the company afloat, and he even admits that. Skyler initially tells him she won't be coming back, but returns to him, knowing he is supportive of her when her husband has not been. We all know where this is leading and it isn't pretty.

The episode ends on a frantic set of events, Gus's man telling Walt to deliver a shipment in a certain window or the partnership is done forever. The problem is, Jesse has the stash and he's currently passed out on the bed. Luckily, Walt acts quickly, breaking the back door, waking Jesse, and getting the meth--while Skyler goes into labor. This is Walt pushed to the limit and he seems to have won on the drug side of things, but he family problems are still as big as ever and constantly growing.

Score: 9.0/10

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review - Covert Affairs Season 2 Episode 6 The Outsiders

I'm glad that Reva stuck around longer since she actually got to know Annie fairly well in last week's episode. That's the only thing notable about "The Outsiders," an episode featuring a standard capture by a foreign country before an escape. Annie and Reva argue a bit, but Annie comes out on top like she always does and her plan works.

Score: 8.1/10

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review - White Collar Season 3 Episode 6 Scott Free

While "Scott Free" isn't nearly as slick or fun as previous episodes of White Collar, it capitalizes on the uneasy tension between Neal and Peter, which originated in the season premiere, and the case this week, a young guy named Scott, not unlike Neal, who is going around town stealing things.

It brings up some interesting questions about Neal's form of criminality--that one could readily leave the life, as Scott does, upon learning the right lessons. But the storyline this season, of course, has been Neal and Mozzie trying to sell their Nazi loot before getting away and Neal has not come clean yet. He still hasn't changed despite what Peter may be inclined to believe after working with Neal for two seasons. Perhaps Neal has been a criminal for so long that he can't change anymore.

Sara was integral to the show's plot for the first time since she part of the setup, though they probably could have succeeded without her. In any case, it's been bothering me how little the writers are utilizing Sara, making her the generic girlfriend, so it's nice to see her doing something for once. Ending the episode, she finds Neal's new identity and seems to more intrigued than horrified. Lots of stuff to think about.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - The Closer Season 7 Episode 1 Unknown Trouble

The seventh and final season of The Closer begins with a very lackluster case. There is a dead rapper and 6 other bodies, and Brenda eventually catches the killer, the ex-boyfriend of the rapper's girlfriend. The dead people are barely established and we're given little reason to care about them other than that the music industry probably corrupted them. Gabrielle's connection doesn't factor in the end and is explored, oddly enough, through conversations in the police headquarters rather than Gabrielle actually talking to the victims' parents.

But the case wasn't the primary issue in the episode. Brenda has bigger issues, with a lawsuit filed against her for her actions in "War Zone," in which Brenda released a gangbanger out in a neighborhood where she knew he'd get beaten to death. Now, Delk and Raydor are breathing down her neck and with Pope moved to traffic, there's no one to protect her this time.

The episode ends on a shocking note as Chief Delk keels over with a stroke. So much for worrying about what Delk would do. Presuming that Delk dies or is put out of commission, the Chief of Police position is once again open. Taylor? Pope? Brenda? With the seventh season being the last and the announcement of a spin-off called Major Crimes starring Mary McDonnell, there are many on options on the table.

Those fretting over the end of The Closer can breath easier for a while longer. Although the first 15 episodes of the season will air this year, there will be another 6 episodes next summer to ease into the spin-off, giving us plenty of time to give Brenda our last goodbyes.

Score: 8.4/10

Review - Alphas Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

Alphas fits the current Syfy brand perfectly in a way that will bother those who call on Syfy to have actual science fiction and appease those who probably don't watch the channel too often. Like the two shows airing before it, Eureka and Warehouse 13, Alphas is terrestrial, without aliens in makeup, spaceships, or scientific jargon.

The characters of Alphas are distinctly human, located in America, and seem normal--except for their powers. There is Bill Harken (Malik Yoba), the super-strong black guy, Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell), the hot seductress who can control people's minds, Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), who has Asperger's syndrome and can see all kinds of waves, and Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada ), who can sense what others feel. Joining the team by the end of the episode is Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie) who was being controlled to kill a witness. Running the team is Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn), who dilligently and calmly handles this ecclectic group of people, and his boss Don Wilson (Callum Keith Rennie).

The powers all seem pretty strong, but limitations are seen throughout the episode whether their come from personality or an inability to fully control the powers, so potential plot holes can be avoided. One thing that isn't fully explained is Nina's dark past, something that cuts into her godly powers which seem the most useful.

The plot, like the characters, is simple case for the team the solve through the first episode. There isn't some massive conspiracy or superhero underworld they wade into. They investigate, find the bad guy, and that's that. The biggest thing to carry over into future episode is Red Flag, an organization made up of other alphas. We don't know anything about them so far, but I'm sure we'll be seeing them soon enough.

The writers know the limitations of Syfy and of the genre. They aren't going for the Heroes "we're going to save the world!!" vibe or something philosophically deep. Instead, Alphas has good characters and simple plots with powers thrown in. With ready humor mixed with the serious tone, the show is well-suited for the summer.

Score: 8.8/10

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review - Warehouse 13 Season 3 Episode 1 The New Guy

Warehouse 13 is a fun, light sci-fi/fantasy show suited for the summer and has worked well for two seasons already. Sure the show could do a lot more with the concept itself or even the larger arcs, but the show works just fine from an episode to episode basis, as evidenced by the season three premiere, "The New Guy."

There's nothing too notable about the episode, but it's entertaining and fun as expected. Pete gets a new partner, Steve Jinx (Aaron Ashmore), who can tell when people are lying. Thus far he's a normal guy and is receptive to Pete's personality at the end of the episode and they get along fine throughout the episode despite some tension at first. His "special ability" is being able to tell when people are lying, which should come in handy. The other big development was the return of Myka who left at the end of the last season. Pete ropes her into the case and after a eerie hologram visit from H.G., who is locked up somewhere, she decides to return.

I'm curious to see what the writers will do next. If Myka was brought back so early in the season, why is Steve there, assuming Aaron Ashmore will get a fair amount to do given his pedigree? In any case, I don't see the immediate harm in adding him since he seemed to work well with the others.

The plot this week was fairly simple and open-ended. The artifact was Shakespeare's Lost Folio, a collection of pictures depicting deaths from Shakespeare's plays which causes those to touch the page to experience the death. While Pete, Myka, and Steve are able to save everyone's lives--including Steve's--the culprit gets away and is killed by the FBI chick Pete clashed with throughout the episode. *Cue music indicating this is important* The other plot was basically pointless, filling in time and giving Artie, Claudia, and Leena something to do. The statues of Zeus and Hera discharge electricity at each other, so Artie and Claudia move Zeus far away. Exciting...

Overall, "The New Guy" was a good return for Warehouse 13, getting us back into the groove of the show and moving forward a little. I like Aaron Ashmore, so hopefully the writers can find him a place on a team which worked fine for two seasons.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - The X-Files Season 4 Episode 3 Teliko / 4 Unruhe


"Teliko" is one of The X-Files's most forgettable hours and I don't really want to say much about it. The episode begins with a pretty startling sight, a black guy turned into an albino, but the episode drops from there. It's one of those episodes, you know, the ones where the writers add an "ethnic" flair to the episode, this time showing off African folklore. While the episode has a notion of the government ignoring deaths of black men, it also seems rather anti-immigrant, the immigrant in question,Samuel Aboah, turning out to be a monster and the guy helping him getting hurt.

The teliko itself is pretty forgettable itself, as we don't know its intentions for a long time and we don't really see it in the end when Scully shoots it. There's the usual science vs. supernatural debate which ends with the scientific knowledge that the teliko is a tribe of people that steals hormones from blacks.

Score: 7.8/10


Compared to "Teliko," "Unruhe" is a pretty great episode. There are good Mulder and Scully moments, a decent villain, and genuinely tense scenes. But the episode isn't all that interesting. The supernatural hook of the episode is a killer who somehow imprints his visions onto film. Since the killer turns out to be a legitimately crazy person, we never really know why it happens and the episode feels empty in the end.

The photo manipulation in the episode seems like a precursor to the thousands of scenes in the last decade in which the computer basically blows the investigation wide open. It's cool for The X-Files since computers aren't widely used, but it has gotten way overused as a method of plot development.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Leverage Season 4 Episode 3 The 15 Minutes Job

"The 15 Minutes Job" was the funniest episode of Leverage in a long time with plenty of great moments from all the characters and lots of Parker in particular. I can't help but laugh whenever Parker is talking and she had tons of lines in the episode. The case was standard stuff, taking down a guy who ruins reputations, without any big twists which made the episode uncomplicated so we could enjoy all the jokes fully.

I was having some doubts about the episode since the target in question didn't seem too bad at first. Yes, he ruined others' lives, but only on the orders of those who pay him. But then the writers gave us a fully sufficient reason to hate him when the team learns that he killed a passenger in the car while drunk driving and pinned it on someone else. That pretty much sealed the deal and put him on par with the other scoundrels and the rest was history.

Score: 9.1/10

Review - Falling Skies Season 1 Episode 5 Silent Kill

At this point, halfway through the first season of Falling Skies, there's not much we can really say about the show. We know the characters--a set of mostly bland, generic, good-looking people--and the enemies--mechs and skitters--who have yet to reveal their motives. The plot thus far has been about as unimpressive, groups sent out to recover supplies or harnessed kids. All in all, it's fairly standard alien invasion stuff. Those who expected the Battlestar Galactica of alien invasions probably didn't get what they expected.

"Silent Kill" wraps up the goal from the second episode to get Ben back. With Margaret's knowledge of the hospital, Hal is able to sneak in the hospital, stab the skitter while everyone comes to help, and they get away cleanly. The surgeries are performed and just like that one of the major goals is resolved.
The more important part of the episode was the backstory for the characters. We learn that Margaret was a cancer survivor and not the hard-ass chick she seemed like. Anne doesn't have any photos of her family so that weighs on her. And there's something troubling Weaver, though there's nothing specific.

After last week's episodes, you would expect a guard to be watching the skitter at any time. Nope! Harris tests his luck and is killed like an idiot. It's as senseless as a death can get, random and born out of sheer stupidity. There is a consequence in that Anne is the one who must perform the surgery and bear the burden of the dead child.

What happened to Karen? Are they not going to look for her?

Score: 8.2/10

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review - True Blood Season 4 Episode 3 If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin'?

I realized that I was spending far too much time reviewing True Blood, so I decided to cut down on my reviews by not fully recapping the stuff I didn't like or didn't care for. For "If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin'?" there was very little I liked, so I'll keep it short. The episode displayed True Blood's normal tendencies to a high degree, with many, many storylines but only a few that actually have something to look forward to. Basically, half the episode is relegated to the "this again?" or "why does this matter?" categories while the other half keeps us interested and has actual content to work with in future episodes.

The spell Marnie put on Eric last week led the episode in a fun direction. Without his memory, Eric is a nice, innocent guy who doesn't know what to do with himself. Alexander Skarsgard is quite good in this role, extending his charm from bad guy Eric to good guy Eric. This makes for lots of funny scenes, as Sookie slowly realizes that this Eric is much easier to control than the old one. Of course, Eric still has his base urges, biting and killing Sookie's fairy godmother who, to be honest, didn't seem like much help anyway, and the episode ends on a hilarious, "Sorry."

Since Eric is in trouble, Pam got a lot to do, first explaining to Sookie that Bill likely setup Eric and then trying to deal with the Wiccans. In the end, she cuts a deal with Tara and Jesus to not go after the group as long as they bring Marnie to reverse the spell. But given the way Marnie was so invested in this spirit that possessed her, that likely won't happen without a big fight. As always, Pam had the funniest lines, so it was a pleasure to have more of her than usual.

There was one last thing I liked in the episode, Jessica's talk with Bill to begin the episode. It's a sweet moment, the vampire version of a father-daughter talk, and it allows Bill to reflect on his deception with Sookie. Also, Jessica's plot finally moves forward a bit when she glamors Hoyt, who is upset that she drank someone else's blood. This opens up a dangerous can of worms which I'm sure will be opened further as the season progresses. And that doll business seems pretty spooky too.

Sadly, the rest of the episode was mired in irrelevance: Hotshot people being crazy while Jason dies, Andy being addicted, Tommy being bad, random meetup with Alcide and Debbie, Bill and Portia hooking up, Arlene worry. All this stuff is probably relevant later on, but right now it all seems like a big chore to watch these snippets of plots which hardly seem important. What I would prefer is if they concentrated these plots in one episode for once so we get lots of development in one week instead of waiting half a season to see what happens.

Score: 8.4/10

Friday, July 8, 2011

Review - Flashpoint Season 4 Episode 1 Personal Effects

I haven't been reviewing Flashpoint since CBS has been aired the episodes out of order and I didn't want to deal with the order/episode numbers, but now that CBS and CTV are in the same spot, I'll start reviewing the show again.

The third season finale was a pretty clever clip show and set up problems for the team beyond the usual crimes. Through all the adversary and bad things that have happened as a team or individually, the team was always the glue that kept everyone together. Everyone knew they had back-up when they need it and everyone offered their support. That's what made the job bearable. But then this psychologist comes, and with Greg's help, switches things up significantly and breaks the team apart.

With the shooting of Ed, the team is reformed and there are no immediate consequences by the end of "Personal Effects." Jules and Sam are safe, and Ed's wife Sophia and their baby are fine. But there is a significant crack that will be explored later in the season--Dr. Toth basically forcing Greg to keep a close eye on the team, not as a friend but as a boss and this clearly upsets Greg.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Breaking Bad Season 2 Episode 8 Better Call Saul / 9 4 Days Out

"Better Call Saul"

The arrival of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) comes with the shift from a small-time operation to a large-scale operation and with his distinct personality and the situation at hand, "Better Call Saul" is very funny most of the time while still maintaining a degree of tension.

This all starts when Badger is arrested, tricked by a detective played by DJ Qualls who exploits his stupidity. Jesse turns to Saul who apparently helped Emilio with serious charges. As Jesse tells Walt, they don't want criminal lawyer; they want a criminal lawyer. Saul is that sleezy kind of lawyer, the one with cheesy commercials and everything else crass.

The plan starts going awry when Walt, talking to Saul, learns that the DEA is involved and hunting down Heisenberg. Of course, this means Walt tries to do everything possible to stop any deal from going through, something Saul doesn't quite understand. After Walt and Jesse kidnap him and threaten him, Saul figures out what's going on and gets with the program. He's perfectly fine getting into the drug business--as long as he gets thousands of dollars. There are a few more snags, but Badger is out in the end and a fake Heisenberg is fed to the DEA.

An interesting scene in the episode is when Saul asks why they don't just have Badger killed. After all, if the goal was so Badger couldn't spill the beans, then the easiest solution would be to have him killed. Compared to the eventual, complex solution, this would be much easier. But Walt and Jesse aren't those kind of people--yet. They're not entirely comfortable killing people, much less an associate, in cold blood. For now, they are able to avert this situation, but it's definitely something to think about.

Jesse's new girlfriend seems very normal, but she admits she has been 8 months clean. Oh uh...

Score: 9.3/10

"4 Days Out"

While "4 Days Out" is a great episode with all the hallmarks of a special Breaking Bad episode, I have a complaint to levy against it. Part of the appeal of the episode is the sense of danger, that someone may die or that someone may get hurt. Each plot development sinks Jesse and Walt further and further into danger, but in the end nobody is seriously hurt and the crisis completely averted. At some point, situations in which Walt and Jesse are placed in immediate harm will become tired if there aren't fatal consequences.

In need of quick cash, Walt lies to Jesse about the methylamine going back in order to go to the desert for a multi-day cooking session by lying, and lies to Skyler about visiting his mother for a few days. Already, Walt is on shaky ground, but it only gets worse.

The episode takes us through the biggest of ironies once the trouble beings, using brilliant callbacks to items--keys, water, cell phone, etc--referenced earlier in the episode. With over a million dollars worth of meth in the RV, the battery dies, leaving them stranded. They try to use the generator to start the battery, but it fails and blows up in flames. Jesse's boneheaded response is to dump all the water on it. Then, Jesse calls Skinny Pete but Skinny drives to the wrong place and the phone dies while calling him back. After hand cranking the generator fails, they are left in the desert to die.

In the end, Walt rigs up a battery to start the engine and they get out fine, but not before serious contemplation. Walt cannot believe that he's really in this position, stranded in the middle of nowhere with his punk Jesse. Each fateful decision he's made has put him closer to this position and now he'll face the consequences. But in a last twist, when Walt gets back to see the doctor, he learns that the cancer is in remission. Now what?

Walt's final outburst, striking the paper towel dispenser, shows up perfectly what Walt must be thinking. Originally setting out to get money for his family before dying, Walt has become another person, unrecognizable from when the series began. And this wouldn't be too bad if Walt was indeed going to die. But now Walt learns he won't die, and that he'll have to live with himself far longer than intended. This twist of fate is disturbing and Walt surely knows it.

Score: 9.5/10

Review - Suits Season 1 Episode 3 Inside Track

Perhaps this is case of lowered expectations for USA shows, but nonetheless Suits once again impressed me. At the office place, there are plenty of things for Mike to deal with already, learning the ropes, dealing with Louis, helping Harvey. And in his personal life, he has plenty to handle as well, Trevor and Jenny, his grandmother, and possibly something with Rachel. Compared to the content of other USA shows, this is quite a bit more material.

And despite that, the writers continue to handle the show with ease. "Inside Track" is a very fluid episode, going from one plot to another without ever skipping a beat and feels very complete by the end of the episode. The main plot--Harvey trying to kick on the incoming CEO of a company he represents--isn't overly complex, but it mixes the elements developed in previous episodes, namely the office politics which is wrought with surprises at every turn, and Mike's growing competence.

On the personal side of things, Mike finds himself facing Jenny and Trevor again, this time owning up to his previous cover-up and finally confronting Trevor. That tension between Jenny and Mike in the pilot was explained once they start kissing, confirming most of our suspicions. The episode ends with a hint of a love triangle as Mike turns down a call from Rachel, who seemed to have a really good time with Mike at dinner.

Rick Hoffman is excellent at playing the snarky jackass, but I feel like the writers might be pushing it a little too far. His character is so grotesquely mean-spirited that you begin wondering why he isn't fired. We never see him contribute to the company in a large way, but he's always causing trouble.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - Wilfred Season 1 Episode 3 Fear

I'm beginning to wonder how much Wilfred really has in terms of a solid premise for a successful show. "Fear" is a funny episode with Ethan Suplee as Ryan's crazy neighbor Spencer hanging out with Ryan. He's obnoxious and oblivious, and through Wilfred's guidance, Ryan learns to take control of the situation and strike back. This is all well and good, but part of me feels like the show could have a lot more exploration into Ryan and his condition. How much of Wilfred's behavior is completely imagined in Ryan's mind? Without explaining anything, it seems like the writers could practically have free reign on Wilfred's behavior and turn everything into a joke when there are serious problems with Ryan.

Score: 8.7/10

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review - Burn Notice Season 5 Episode 3 Mind Games

"Mind Games" is the best episode this season, with a good A-plot for once and some new, interesting material regarding Michael's mental state. The case this week is pretty normal, Michael and the crew taking on a bad guy terrorizing a woman Nate knows. In classic Burn Notice fashion (something we've been missing), Michael brings out a squeaky, unstable accent that greatly enhances the episode. There is a cool twist when the guy Michael wants to frame as a cop actually turns out to be an FBI agent, undermining the plan and, to an extent, Michael's psyche.

At the same time, Michael is having trouble adjusting to normal life, being paranoid all the time and unable to put aside his past. Despite Fiona's pushing, Michael continuously pries into his past, believing there is something more to find. Given his experiences in the recent years and his work with the CIA to hunt down a dense network of spies, it's hard to blame him for anything.

While there is a sense that these issues Michael has are psychological, that he needs only to overcome a mental barrier in order to move ahead in life, we have remember that this is Burn Notice, a show which maintained the overarching plot through a string of characters for four complete seasons. I won't surprised when Michael actually stumbles on something concrete, opening the door to yet more inquiry into the conspiracy.

It seems like the writers are going through the list of people to bring cases to Michael in Miami. Last week it was Jesse, this week it is Nate, and from the promo, the CIA will bring the case to Michael. Will the season continue like this?

Score: 9.0/10

Review - Breaking Bad Season 2 Episode 6 Peekaboo / 7 Negro y Azul


Just when you think, "Oh, it's the middle of the season and Breaking Bad will serve up a dud soon," we get another stunner of an episode, each minute more gripping than the last, further exploring these characters we've come to know and the world they've created.

Vince Gilligan masterfully strings viewers along, as Jesse is sent to retrieve drugs and/or money from Spooge and his woman before running into trouble. In true Breaking Bad fashion, things just don't work out as they should. First, Jesse shows up to their house, gun drawn, and is prepared to do whatever it takes. But they aren't there. Instead, there is a small child whose non-reaction to everything sums up how he's been brought up by these druggies. Jesse gets the jump on Spooge when they return and Spooge begins cracking open an ATM to repay Jesse. Of course, the tables are quickly turned when Jesse pays a little too much attention to the kid. As quickly as that happens, though, Spooge gets ahead of himself, calling his woman "skank" one too many times and gets his head squashed by the ATM.

There is some levity afterwards, cash pumping out of the ATM at Jesse's feet, but it's a terrifying experience overall, much like the earlier captivity by Tuco. Spooge and his woman are disturbing to the fullest degree--how they look, how they act--not to mention the wake of dead bodies they left behind at the store. The cinematography, with the green lights shining into the house, works wonders, making Spooge and his woman look scarier than they already are.

Through all of this, Jesse comes off as a sympathetic guy (in contrast to Walt). He makes sure to keep the kid safe, feeds him, and even entertains him. Jesse has to realize that selling drugs isn't exactly helping the kid's situation. But at the end of the day, Jesse has to walk away and not turn back. Shit happens in the world and you gotta move on.

Possibly more disturbing is Walt in the episode. I'm not sure anyone could be supportive of him at this point. He's a real asshole. There is a mean bitterness to him now, the feeling that he deserves what he wants and that he is always in the right. Coupled with his lies, Walt becomes this unrecognizable creature who is almost as despicable as Tuco was. His worst moment comes when he's talking to Gretchen about the situation, trying to explain why he lied to his wife about receiving money from her and her husband. His statement: I'm very, very, very, very sorry, but I won't tell you why. When she pushes him further, he strikes back, unleashing all his resentment on her and blaming her for everything. The most telling moment is when Gretchen explains the situation--that Walt was the one who abandoned her. And does Walt state his side of the story? Nope. He's right and she's wrong, no matter which way it went down.

Walt's final act in the episode sums up who he has become, a lying bastard who has strayed far from his original path. After Skyler tells Walt that Gretchen told her that she and Elliot could no longer pay for Walt's treatment, Walt the mastermind comes up with a set of lies to fit the situation. He drove to Santa Fe earlier in the day to talk to they and found out they have no money. It perfectly explains Walt's long absence and why Gretchen didn't want to elaborate.

Score: 9.5/10

"Negro y Azul" 

After a half season of the drug trade slowly getting back on its feet and expanding, "Negro y Azul" sows the seeds for further expansion and the very real perils it brings, tying together Walt and Jesse's plot on the American side of the border, and Hank's plot on the other side of the border. It's a volatile mix--one that Walt indirectly continues to push for.

Walt's initial dismay over Jesse's attitude fades once he learns that people actually think it was Jesse who squashed Spooge. Cunning as ever, Walt sees this as an opportunity: if people think Jesse is a big badass, everyone will be scared of him, even drug dealers currently controlling other parts of the city. Jesse is the blowfish! At the end of the episode, Heisenberg meets up with Jesse's three dealers and Jesse later tells them to start hiring more people to expand their empire.

Hank is off in El Paso and out of his element, unable to speak Spanish and still reeling from his experience with Tuco. It doesn't help when he and others go down to Mexico, only to find the head of their informant Tortuga on top of a tortoise. Yeah, freaky stuff and well-directed. Then the tortoise blows up, not harming Hank who thankfully walked away to the car but killing several and gravely wounding others. In the chaos, Hank runs out to help and, along with the viewer, sees the absolutely gruesome sight.

The implication of all this is that the growing elements of Walt's drug trade in New Mexico is not just local, but also international, where the gangsters are not mindless hardasses like Tuco but smart, sadistic killers who can pinpoint targets from far away. Walt has no idea what he's stepping into, believing Jesse's new reputation of head-stomper is enough to protect the trade. Those who rigged the tortoise would probably laugh off Jesse and his supposed exploits.

Without an A-plot that really drives the episode, there is a lot of other stuff going on in the episode. Jesse befriends his landlord Jane and by the end of the episode, they hold hands in front of a blank television. Of course, since this is Breaking Bad, we have to wonder when this cute stuff will descend into madness. Skyler, thinking the family needs money, gets her old job back very easily. It's clear something was going on between her and her boss before she quit and it makes her uncomfortable, but it also seems like she enjoys the allure of having a boss that caters to her.

The narcocorrido at the end of the episode was pretty catchy, I guess, just as long you don't pay attention to what's being depicted.

Score: 9.2/10

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review - Franklin & Bash Season 1 Episode 6 Big Fish

The wild antics of Franklin & Bash will probably get old eventually, but for now I remain highly amused by the lack of restrain the writers have. They make a mockery of practically anything and anything ridiculous that can happen will happen. This week Franklin and Bash have the job of defending a corporate scoundrel played by Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame. With the troublesome moral issues involved in the case, Franklin and Bash do their thing--work against their client. Pindar is finally useful and nabs a client in the cute/weird sort of way, adding to the silliness of the episode.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Royal Pains Season 3 Episode 2 But There's a Catch

"But There's a Catch" resembles most episodes of Royal Pains.The medical plot has some urgency to it, resolved eventually by Hank's wacky MacGyver medicine, and the plots for the other characters move along nicely at the same time. There is the Hampton's "twist," with rich people playing football to provide the setting and it makes for a light, fun episode.

Divya not depositing her checks was manufactured out of nowhere since Evan would have noticed that if he were a competent accountant, but it does leave her with nothing now that her parents have cut her off. It serves as a constant reminder that her parents no longer want anything to do with her and leads to some good scenes between Divya and Evan. And, in the true spirit of the Hamptons, Divya's spirits are lifted, at least for now, when she gets a new, expensive car.

What's up with Paige? Her problem is probably medical, assuming she didn't lie to Hank, but then again, she was very distraught over something. The television cliche would be pregnancy, though Royal Pains doesn't seem like the kind of show that would do that.

Even more confusing than Paige's condition is what the writers want to do with Jill. I never thought she really got enough screen time to be that significant, even to Hank, and I always thought she could get more to now. Now, on the verge of going back to Uruguay, she hangs out with Hank for a while, but it's a pretty lax affair. What do the writers want to do with her character? Constantly do this push-pull thing with Hank?

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Covert Affairs Season 2 Episode 5 Around the Sun

 Covert Affairs showed off its inability to construct a satisfying arc, ending the two new developments from last week's episode quickly and without anything dramatic. After one episode on his new job, Auggie returns to the DPD, Reva is displaced, and nothing changes. Other than some brief moments when Annie wants him back, this plot development was completely pointless. Similarly, after more than a season of mounting pressures against Arthur, the lawyer he gets turns a miracle and gets the hearing called off. So much for that... I don't understand why the writers would included these seemingly significant events if there's not any payoff or forward momentum with them.

The case for "Around the Sun" was fairly enjoyable with a larger than normal bag of cliches. There's Reva, the techie who hyper-rationalizes everything, the silly part about FARC getting to a teenager, but the main plot isn't too bad in the end. Annie befriends Reva who isn't as tedious as her first few lines indicated, and Jai even got to do something active for once.

Score: 8.3/10

Review - White Collar Season 3 Episode 5 Veiled Threat

White Collar is at its best when it is charming, and that's exactly what "Veiled Threat" is, fun, playful, and very charming. The difference between this episode and any other episodes is that the setup goes beyond the usual loose collection of tricks and focuses on the black widow Selena (Mädchen Amick) and Peter's undercover operation to nab her. Along with Pete on the sidelines helping, Elizabeth slowly becoming incensed, and the other supporting characters chiming in, the episode is better plotted than a large majority of White Collar episode.

Continuing the trend this season, all the characters (except Sara) are used effectively for plot purposes. Now all that's missing is a Jones episode, something that should happen soon since Diana got her own episode a couple weeks ago. I'm still ambivalent on Sara, but her brief appearance did add to the fun of the scene.

Score: 9.0/10

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review - The X-Files Season 4 Episode 1 Herrenvolk / 2 Home


As I stated in my last review, the end of the third season and beginning of the fourth season, in retrospect, is about where the mythology begins to unravel. There is more and more mystery piled on top of the existing mystery without explanation and it all begins to become too much to handle. At the end of the episode, we have more to work with: bees, pollen, clones (including one based on Mulder's sister), X dead, X's replacement, markers in the smallpox vaccinations, Jeremiah Smith getting offed, the bounty hunter healing Mrs. Mulder. If that seemed like a lot, well, it is. And that's just the new content in this episode along. Include black oil, the alien Deep Throat showed Mulder, the Syndicate, and a bunch of stuff I'm forgetting, The X-Files is already jammed packed with layers and layers of mystery which need explanation.

But I gotta admit, "Herrenvolk" is an exciting episode. Mulder is running around the place with Jeremiah Smith, discovering all this new stuff which seems to be of utmost importance, before returning to the hospital with an incredibly haggard look. (Long aside: I read Cybill Sheperd's autobiography a while back and remember her talking about Moonlighting how long it took for her makeup to be done while Bruce Willis didn't need much, and how she's be blamed if she looked tired while Bruce's looking tired only added to the David Addison look. Point being, I wonder if it was the same with David Duchovny because damn does he look jacked up at the hospital.)

Scully, meanwhile, is abandoned by Mulder at the beginning of the episode (the way she kept yelling his name, never getting a response, made me feel really bad for her), and after some initial excitement, returns back to DC to do some investigating. The other plots of the episode feel the same, part of a never-ending cycle of deception. CSM gets X and Mulder has lost an important ally once more.

By itself, "Herrenvolk" is a strong episode, fast paced and everything. That may be enough for those who don't particularly care about the mythology. But for those who try to connect the dots, those who piece together the puzzle Chris Carter has laid out, it all seems a bit much. Does Chris Carter have the answers for all these questions? If he actually pulled through in the end with a non-convoluted explanation, then I would say he's a genius--but that never happened.

Score: 9.1/10


"Home" is an unquestionably classic X-Files episode and memorable to anyone whose watched it. The primary reason is that the episode features some of the most fucked up, degenerate behavior imaginable, directed in the scariest fashion possible. There is a constant feeling of claustrophobia, as Mulder and Scully enter this dark world of the Peacocks and face these horrors. At the same time, though, despite the horror movie setup which often stifles characters, Mulder and Scully, their distinct characterizations in particular, come out. Mulder and Scully can still poke fun at each other even when they are in scary situations.

There is also a disturbing ambiguity in the episode as to who is in the wrong. Obviously the Peacocks are murderers and should be dealt with accordingly, but the initial provocation is in doubt. These are people who isolated themselves from the outside world, unbothered by the tumult of the modern world and not bothering anyone else. But after the baby is found, everything changes. The feds, Mulder and Scully, roll into town, investigating the baby, and everything changes. Even the now-deceased sheriff acknowledged that. There is a touch of sympathy when you think of that it those terms.

The Peacocks were all willing participants in their hellish (from our perspective) and would have been fine if left along. The end result, two dead and only Edmund and his mother alive, is sad in its own way. The incompatibility of the Peacocks and the modern world speaks to the larger idea that the small town life is disappearing. For the mantra "the truth is out there," there is yet another disturbing angle--that the truth and the quest to uncover the truth has with it the destruction of a certain culture and community, much like CSM and the Syndicate hint it.

At the end of the day, "Home" remains a terrifying and brilliant episode whichever way you look at it. There isn't much supernatural element to it and the mystery is largely figured out at the end of the episode. It is the nature of humans that resonates with us and that's where The X-Files strikes its hardest.

Score: 9.8/10
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