Saturday, October 13, 2012

More reviews!

My schedule will be wonky for a while until I catch up on everything I've missed. Here are a couple reviews.

Strike Back's third second (the second co-American season) was a mixed bag for me. While the visuals were stunning and the action frantic, the plot never took off. There was Knox and his wacky plans and not much else. Twists never really came and individual multi-part episodes weren't as good.

Yep, Grimm is going there with Renard and Juliette. That was the most predictable thing that could have happened and the writers choose it.

Beauty and the Beast is a misfire from the CW. The dialogue is horrible, the acting is horrible, and it's just boring. For all the sexiness littering the script, the pilot is just lifeless with Kreuk just going on with the flow when she's supposed to take charge. What's going for the show is that it follows The Vampire Diaries and it has a very similar setup to TVD, the main character being saved by a mysterious "beast" with a dark past. Also, the actors/actresses are good looking...

The Vampire Diaries: I was done with Klaus when the team failed to kill him midway through the third season. He'd already gone a whole season as the big bad, killed Jenna, and he's still here. From then on, I was annoyed by Klaus's existence. When he died in the season finale but showed up in Tyler's body, I was even more annoyed, and you can guess my reaction when he returned back to his body in the season premiere. Without Elena blood, he's not much of a supervillain anymore, unable to create the hybrid army he wants. Now what, more chasing Caroline? Most of the episode, consisting of Elena becoming a vampire while dealing with the council, was solid. The writers didn't cop out of turning Elena and there are some really good moments. The council part was a little more iffy, as a bunch of random people come out of the woodwork and cause lots of trouble for the vampires. Then the rev blows them all up. Um... okay?

Ranking the three Last Resort plotlines, I would say sub > DC > island. The sub part actually make sense because militarizes about the world want to get rid or steal the Colorado, which makes for some tense action scenes. In DC, Kylie poking around makes business sense, even if there is no personal reason why she's looking in places she shouldn't be. Then there's the island, which makes no sense. Between the flat SEAL and Dichen Lachman parts and Julian irrationally pissing off Chaplin, the island parts are just weird and seem to belong in another show. Another problem is that the show isn't describing anything else that's going on in the world. What happened after the nuclear missiles hit Pakistan? Shouldn't Chaplin be following this, in case there's an opportunity out there?

The CW is doing something right. Arrow managed to get good reviews and ratings (for the CW). It's a dark comic book adaptation with shades of the recent Batman trilogy, while keeping with the requisite CW sexiness. The pilot sets up Oliver Queen as the Green Arrow, and there are plenty of cool action scenes. There is plenty of eye candy with Stephen Amell's chiseled abs out in the open and Katie Cassidy who's a lawyer instead of Black Canary. Arrow has a mystery in it, the island where Oliver learned all his tricks.

I'm not counting out Supernatural yet, as there's been nothing in the first two episodes that are particularly concerning, certainly nothing on the level of the Leviathans. Kevin and his mother are great characters, funny at times and also very human when they need to.

Nashville's pilot does just about everything right. It's a sprawling drama with plenty of characters but also a very clear identity. We see the stratification of the music scene, from the aging superstar Rayna James to the hot upstart Juliette Barnes to Scarlett, a newbie who isn't even writing songs yet. There is also political drama brewing with Rayna's husband, a failed businessman running for mayor with Rayna's father's help. It's all a bit to take in, but the pilot does an excellent job with Rayna, giving her enough historical foundation so we can really understand her. Juliette, meanwhile, is given extra layers by having her mother having big problems. And Hayden Panettiere, despite the criticism, is quite good, pulling off Juliette's shiny veneer with ease while also doing the private scenes pretty well.

Chicago Fire premiered badly and probably won't last very long. I think I'll watch some more, because, well, the fires were quite impressive. That's pretty much all I have to say. The rest of the show is as generic as it comes.

Once again, Vegas procedural plots leave much desired when across town Vic Mackey, Savino rather, is handling the guys from Chicago. Savino has proven to be a savvy guy, not an angry thug like Rizzo. He has a legitimate business plans, knows how to handle problems diplomatically, but also knows when to get his hands dirty.

Revolution: Well, there goes Maggie. We didn't get to know her well, but there was enough weight behind her death, as the flashbacks reveal some information, up until her final, sad breath that it wasn't a complete waste. However, her death could have been far more effective if the writers had spent more time building up her character, especially her relationship with Charlie. Instead, all we get is a brief explanation, some short flashbacks, and tears from the girl who always cries. Up until the last minutes, we never saw Maggie and Charlie being particularly close or anything beyond friends. But the last minutes worked, which is mostly what people will remember.

As Homeland progresses, I predict there will be more instances where the writers have to really stretch the realm of possibility. The problem is that we know all the players and the general situation, so it's hard to come up with a serious twist. The second episode of the season ended with an impossible twist, Saul finding a memory card with Brody's confession hidden in the bag Carrie took from the house of the Hezbollah guy. The chances of this happening are close to zero, and no viewer could have figure this out. And yet the twist works in the narrative, because it puts Saul on Brody's trail. The downside is that the show becomes even more unrealistic, if that matters to anyone. The bulk of the episode is the tense operation to nab Abu Nazir. It plays out with Carrie and Saul waiting in Beirut while Brody watches it at the Pentagon. Brody foils the plot, but it's confirmed to be Abu Nazir which gives Carrie plenty of confidence. She may be home now, but with her appetite for the spy world whetted, it's only a matter of time before she returns to the game.

Dexter: Deb finding out about Dexter being a serial killer is the saving grace of the show. The rest of the show is still pretty shitty as we found out in the second episode of the season. The stuff with Louis is plain stupid, with no tension unless Louis turns out to be more of a psycho, in which case Dexter can easily dispose of him. And who gives a fuck about Quinn? Dexter, like The Office, has ruined so many of its characters that even if some parts are good, there will still be serious problems left over.

Okay, what is The Good Wife doing with Kalinda? She's basically become a generic sex kitten. The last time she had any real material was when Alicia found out about her and Peter. This thing with her ex-husband hasn't gone anywhere yet and there's no indication it will.

Revenge: The bitch is back. Victoria pulled out no stops in reinserting her back into everyone's lives and positioned herself to gain even more. I love the way Revenge just throws this massive twist right into the middle of the episode and essentially resets everything.

Alphas is awesome. I've said this plenty of times, but it needs repeating. Even more awesome is Kat, currently my favorite television character. The writers have an exact bead on her character and give her the best line. It always helps that there is depth to her character, explored in the heart wrenching reveal that the woman in the blue dress was from a TV commercial. Meanwhile, Rosen is becoming more and more disturbed, further blurring the line between the good guys and bad guys. Maybe Rosen is on the right side, but he's quickly becoming a sociopath.

Castle: Stana Katic has surprised me. After her complete failure in the 1940s flashback episode, I was worried she wouldn't be able to pull off the flirty banter. But indeed she did, putting new life in a show that's been sputtering for a while.

I don't have much to say about Hawaii Five-0, but I'm wondering why Michelle Borth was made a regular when there is no indication Catherine is leaving the Navy and joining the team. Is she really just going to help the team in her spare time? Surely she can't be searching for McGarrett's mother every week.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A couple reviews

Behind on television again so short reviews and a lot missing. :(

No ragging on Fringe's overall plot incoherence this time. I'll think of the show as an anthology, each season a different story with the same characters. In this particular iteration, people from the future have invaded, the characters we know have been frozen for two decades, while Peter and Olivia's daughter have been growing without them. Her development in this twisted world has gone way off the mark Olivia envisioned, adding an extra layer to an already torn world. The character dynamic in the episode is remarkable stuff and it's been the strength of the show through all the seasons. The plot, on the other hand, felt video game-y, like a quest to collect a couple items.

Grimm made progress last week, sort of. Monroe finally explains the whole shifting deal to Hank, and at long last the viewers aren't confused about the mechanics of the magic (took long enough, writers). The plot is pretty resonant this week, putting Monroe front and center. But then there is Renard doing his usual mystery business. Hint to the writers: without explaining anything, I don't give a crap. So as usual, Renard and this blond woman are talking in circles, skirting around the words that would actually shed new light on the situation.

It looks like the final season of the The Office is going to be a mixed bag. The two regular characters, Pam and Jim, are going to have a solid story to finish off the show while the others continue their sad existences. That's the problem when the show relied on gags for so long. The characters outside of Pam and Jim don't even have the possibility of a good plots because they been marginalized over the years.

Last Resort's ratings started off pretty low and went down in the second week expectedly. If it wants to stop bleeding viewers, it should pulling the gimmicks it did in the second episode. First, the RUSSIANS!! twist is too easy of a way to avoid any hard choices and then there's the reluctant SEAL comes to save the day "twist" to get out of yet another sticky situation. Beyond that, we get some good, needed backstory on the characters. Maybe the second episode exposed the limitations of the show, with the single island and single ship.

Supernatural hasn't been the same since the end of the fifth season. Years of plot and twists came together and once that was resolved, there was nothing left, as much as the writers tried. The Leviathans in the previous season were a complete bust, boring beyond belief. It's hard to get excited about this new season. It's an amalgamation of stuff we've seen before. Dean's been in Hell before, Sam's been in Hell before, and Dean's tried the domestic thing before. Shuffle around the names, and you get the new situation, Dean having been in Purgatory and Sam having tried the domestic thing. The season premiere dispenses with all this information as fast as possible in order to get the boys back on the road, so there are a bunch of flashbacks and not much else. I'm sticking around, but the show doesn't have much left.

If the rest of Vegas plays out like the second episode did, I'll keep watching. There's Lamb solving a case, Savino doing dirty work, and the two butting heads from time to time, all good enough for me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reviews 9/30/12 - 10/2/12

I'm way behind on television again, so here are some reviews. I'll see if I can add more on Sunday.

Alphas needed a cool down episode after all the action in the previous weeks. It's not a bad episode, certainly not in comparison to other shows, but it wasn't up to the extreme standards set this season and in the previous one. Besides, the Rachel stuff, which was flat as always, there wasn't much objectionable to the episode. Gary was awesome as always and Rosen had some good moments. Next week, Kat!!!

Revolution is really trying to underwhelm, isn't it? These latest episodes have worked like clockwork. There's a problem, Charlie is incredibly naive yet handy (which makes her all the more annoying), a flashy action scene, some flashbacks, and then a twist at the end. The characters remain boring and it's getting pretty tiresome at this point.

When Warehouse 13 pulled the same obvious trick Dexter did in the previous season by making Brother Data part of Artie's mind, I rolled my eyes. The show has hit a creative dead end, and this was the final nail in the coffin, confirmation of the show's dead end. Myka and Pete had become a squabbling sideshow, Claudia and Steve don't have anything special after fixing Steve's problem, and Artie is under influence of an artifact, of which the level of influence is unknown so we can't differentiate Artie from the artifact. All in all, these artifacts and the characters have remained the same, and there's not much left in the show. Maybe the show will become more interesting in the second half of the season, but I'm holding out hope.

When Homeland won all those Emmys the other day, I wasn't sure it really deserved them, having watched both Breaking Bad and Mad Men much more recently. But when Homeland returned, all the memories came back and I immediately remembered what made the show so great. The episode sets the pieces for the season, showing us where all the characters are months after the end of the first season, before turning everything up a notch. The smile the episode title refers to is the turning point of the episode, and it's an iconic moment of television, crystallizing who she is, her desire to get down and dirty with these world events. Her demeanor, restrained earlier in the episode, completely changes as does the direction of the rest of the season.

Dexter ran out of good ideas seasons ago, culminating in the sixth season, the godawful batshittery overflowing with obvious, twists, and pointless side adventures. The big question going into Dexter's final two seasons was whether the show could reinvent itself enough that it could reclaim, if partially, the glory of the beginning seasons and not end up like Weeds, forever scorned after a promising start. The signs in the seventh season premiere are hopeful. There is lots of progress with Dexter's life for once, with Deb recalling things that happened to her, doing a little digging, and discovering Dexter's secret. And after lying for a majority of the episode, Dexter comes clean in the end.

Once Upon a Time is a show about magic where anything and everything can happen. As such, the writers make stuff up as they go and there is still some logic left over. Throw in fairy tale characters everyone knows and they have a hit. The second season resets the show without rhyme or reason, but promises interesting things will happen with new characters as well everyone's memories back.

Revenge started off a bit like a procedural, Emily x-ing off people each week while working a larger plan. Soon, though, that changed, and Revenge became one of the big surprises last season with its twists and solid characters. Its second season remains ripe for reinvention, as Victoria is shown to be still alive while revelations about Emily's mother have raised another can of worms. One complaint: the old Takeda looked cool and the new one really does not.

Positioned at Sunday 10PM after Once Upon a Time and Revenge, 666 Park Avenue was in the right time slot. It has magic going on like in Once Upon a Time, but also the darkness of Revenge. And Terry O'Quinn knows how to be this devlish kind of villain perfectly. The pilot is a solid piece of television, never slowing down to a crawl, and delivering some genuinely scary scenes in the vein of those you'd see on Supernatural. Along with good looking characters and the mystery of the setting, the show is near the top of new shows this season.

The Good Wife sort of fell off the map to a degree last season, moved to Sunday and not having anything too compelling happening during the season. Sadly, the season premiere doesn't indicate anything too big will happen this season. Lockhart Gardner has money problems and the campaign is getting more press, but the show still feels too comfortable for every character, except for Kalinda, who's off with her own wacky plot.

I'm not sure what to say about The Mentalist's season premiere. The CBI squabbles with the FBI, Jane pulls his usual tricks, and Red John gets to Lorelei. Nothing particularly interesting happens.
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