June 27, 2016

Outlander: The Hail Mary (2x12)

Alright... penultimate episodes are always intense, and this one was no exception, with a couple of major deaths and a final sealing of some tragic fates. Let's get going.

Cons:

We get a time jump in this episode, which was a little bit awkward. Other than Claire telling us that time had passed in some rather sloppy exposition, I didn't really get the sense that things had changed. There was a lot of telling instead of showing in this episode. For example, Jamie warns Prince Charles that the men are weak from lack of food and rest, but we don't really spend much time with these men, to see how run down and demoralized they've become. In fact, this complaint stretches into an even bigger one: there were two very important character-driven plots in this episode, but they took up so much space that the third plot, the one concerning the actual uprising, got relegated to a subplot. In short, Jamie manages to convince Charles to lead a surprise attack on the British camp. Claire finds out the location from Black Jack Randall, which I'll get to in a second, and the men all move out to attack. But Charles' troops get lost in the night, and Jamie's column of men is forced to turn back, unwilling to attack with insufficient troops. This means that Charles' original plan will follow: they will meet the British the following day on Culloden Moor.

I mean, this is important stuff, guys. The whole season has been building up to this fateful battle. And the plot leading up to its inevitable arrival was relegated to a rushed few minutes of screen time at the start and finish of the episode. It's difficult to complain too much about this, because the other plot threads were really intense and I enjoyed them a lot. But is this really the time to be pushing the Jacobite plot into the background?

June 20, 2016

Outlander: Vengeance Is Mine (2x11)

While perhaps not as solid as some other installments this year, I found "Vengeance Is Mine" to be compelling for a couple of key reasons, and I'm certainly still looking forward eagerly to the last few episodes of the season. Let's jump in.

Cons:

The reason I say this isn't as solid is that some of the big moments didn't feel as grand as they might have done. The decision to have Jamie sent away from Bonnie Prince Charlie happened in a moment, I didn't feel like the full weight of this switcheroo was fully felt. Basically, Jamie goes from being Charles' trusted advisor to being sent along to Inverness on a fool's errand, simply to get him out of the way. Jamie was the only of Charles' officers to encourage him to march forward to London, which Jamie knew would have changed the course of history. In failing, he also seems to have lost his position as the right hand of the prince. It should have felt like a serious blow, but instead the issue was muddled by the fact that we only find out about this switch because Dougal delivers a letter with the news, and suddenly our heroes are turning about-face and heading to Inverness.

The other big moment is the reveal that the Duke of Sandringham was a bigger villain than we ever knew. I think maybe the reason I sort of shrugged off this event was that it was just revealing that an obviously bad guy is a bad guy. Turns out, the Duke owed the Comte St. Germain money, and to ease some of the debt he agreed to have Claire attacked and raped. So it was the Duke who sent the men after Claire and Mary Hawkins. We also learn that the Duke is... dun dun dun... Mary Hawkins' godfather, which adds further levels of complication. While I appreciated a hell of a lot of the elements of this plot thread, the Duke's character came across a bit too camp, and a bit too comedic to ever feel like a proper threat. Let's just say that there was a lot of metaphorical mustache twirling going on.

June 13, 2016

Outlander: Prestonpans (2x10)

Nooooooo. Okay before I start reviewing this episode, I want to say that I straight up don't remember how this goes down in the book. I do know that our dearly departed character of the week played a significantly reduced role in the books, and didn't hang out with Claire and Jamie as much as he does in the show. I also know that I care a hell of a lot more about him in the TV version than I did in the books... in fact, I don't really remember his literary counterpart. Let's get to talking about this.

Cons:

This was one of those episodes that hit every emotional angle it needed to, and also had a lot of forward motion in the plot... but at the same time, I did feel like the top half of the episode was a little sluggish in terms of the pacing. We've been building up to actual battle for a long time, pretty much all season, and to have to wait so long for the fight within this episode didn't feel like the tense ramp-up that I think it was meant to.

Also, in regards to the death, they made it painfully obvious what was coming, which took away a bit of the horror of it all. But that's a small thing, and I was certainly still devastated.

June 06, 2016

Outlander: Je Suis Prest (2x09)

This is one of the better episodes this show has ever had. I'm getting mighty nervous for the rest of this season, because I anticipate a lot of angst. In fact, I'm pretty much guaranteed it at this point. Let's get talking about this episode.

Cons:

There were only two small things I'd call "flaws" in this episode, and they were more matters of slight discomfort for me. First of all, Jamie makes the decision to sentence himself to flogging in this episode for being lax with the security of his training camp. This isn't at all a bad decision from a leadership standpoint, but it all happened so fast, and the ramifications were so little dwelt on, that the whole scene gave me whiplash. It's like I knew this scene was supposed to teach me something new about Jamie or about the situation, but I couldn't quite figure out what.

The other thing is even more difficult to describe. We meet Lord John Grey in this episode (yay yay yay my excitement knows no bounds) and then we get Claire and Jamie cleverly tricking him into giving up information about his camp of British soldiers. How do they trick him? Claire pretends to be a British prisoner of the dirty Scots, and Jamie threatens to rape her unless poor teenaged John does the right thing and saves her honor. Now, in the books, this is much more subtle. John sees Jamie and Claire goofing off and comes to the wrong conclusion, hearing Claire's English accent. He actually confronts Jamie for the sole purpose of saving Claire's precious honor, and Jamie, perceiving that this annoying little intruder has got the wrong idea, decides to role with it, leveraging Claire's completely fabricated distress against John's helpful knowledge about the nearby British camp. I liked this in the books because the whole thing played off of John's unfair assumptions about Scottish brutality. He dug his own grave by making an unfair guess about his enemies. In this version, we get Claire and Jamie playacting sexual assault, on purpose, to force John to do what they want. Obviously as the viewers we know that Claire is fabricating this story to a) get them the information that they want and b) stop Jamie from having to cause the boy bodily harm. I just... I don't know. The presentation in the book of this same scenario is so much more subtle. In a show that deals very seriously with the consequences of rape and sexual assault, it's very jarring to see Claire and Jamie acting out such a scenario, even when I understand the reasoning.

May 31, 2016

Outlander: The Fox's Lair (2x08)

This episode was something of a transition episode, reminding us of old characters and accelerating the Jacobite plot back in Scottish territory. In all, I'm pretty happy with it.

Cons:

There was a bit of a problem with this episode, and that's that it felt slightly disjointed. The first few scenes are at Lallybroch, and then after that we jump to Lord Lovat's estate, and by the end of the episode we're off to join the uprising. A lot happened in one episode, and there didn't seem to be a seamless connection between all the different parts. One thing I generally admire about this show is its ability to keep an episode thematically tied together, even if a bunch of different things happen in it. I didn't feel much of that thematic resonance here.

Also, Laoghaire makes a reappearance in this episode, in a total departure from the books. Basically, she ends up at Lovat's estate as a maid for Colum. She apologizes sincerely to Claire, and then later Claire uses her to try and soften up Lord Lovat's son and get his support for the uprising. In the end, Jamie thanks Laoghaire for her assistance, at Claire's insistence, and we see that Laoghaire still has dreams of winning Jamie's love. Okay... I don't mind Laoghaire being weaved back into the story here. In fact, I find the actress really likable, and I get the need to see her again and reintroduce her character to the story so that viewers will remember her when she becomes important later. But this plot thread presented a rather unbalanced image of her. She seems truly repentant, but then in the end she's still scheming to win Jamie from Claire? And Claire's behavior was a little unbalanced, too. Are we meant to see Laoghaire as a scheming evil bitch who tried to have Claire killed, or a lovesick girl who didn't know what she was getting involved in, and truly feels bad? Claire's reactions to her seem to vacillate between these two very different things.

May 26, 2016

Supernatural: Alpha and Omega (11x23)

As a finale to Season Eleven, this episode kind of sucked. As a jumping-off point for Season Twelve, with a solid wiping of the slate and some new elements thrown in, it was quite good. So... I'm torn.

Cons:

It's hard to describe exactly what was so unsatisfactory about the bulk of this episode to me. Individually, I thought a lot of the moments worked really well, but when they coalesced, the final product felt thin. I knew that the stakes were high, what with the sun dying due to Amara and Chuck being "out of balance," but even with God on the verge of death and Dean preparing to sacrifice himself, the whole thing was pretty easy to shrug off. There wasn't much of an emotional journey for Dean and Sam to take here, since we all know that they will be back for Season Twelve. It makes the tension a little hard to maintain. To compensate for that, they focused on God and Amara's emotional arcs. Which is fine... but a bit odd for a season finale.

The resolution of our main plot was pretty anticlimactic. Think about all the buildup we had. Amara wanted to turn the world into nothingness. She had this weird creepy connection with Dean. In this episode, Dean and Sam collect souls from ghosts, and Billie lends an assist by getting souls from the veil. Rowena puts all these souls into Dean, and all he has to do is get close to Amara and set off the Soul Bomb, and Amara will be killed. Only... instead of doing that, Dean gives Amara a talk about the importance of family. Amara brings Chuck to her, and heals him. The two are reunited as siblings, and they decide to go away for a while, but not before Chuck removes the souls from Dean and saves him.

May 23, 2016

Outlander: Faith (2x07)

This was a big episode. The final culmination of the season's entire arc in Paris. So many major events took place. And... it was brilliant. The best episode we've seen this whole season.

Cons:

It's funny, but with this show I seem to come back to the same complaint over and over again. When you have such an intricate story with a lot of well-developed characters, a cool setting, and some truly incredible actors to bring the story to life, you don't need to spell things out so insistently. Most of this episode worked on a level of brilliant subtlety, so the few times that symbolism or meaning was shoved in my face, it really stood out to me. The biggest example I have of this is in the hospital, where Claire miscarries her child. There's a statuette of the Virgin Mary that topples to the ground and shatters. Later, the same image of the statue shattering is shown. Talk about heavy-handed. I also thought there could have been less explicit evidence of Jack Randall's rape of Fergus. I like the idea of seeing flashes of it, but honestly the less you show, I think the more horrific it becomes. This was a circumstance where Fergus' grief and trauma could have carried the story without us seeing the full truth of what happened. Maybe it's a personal preference thing, in this case, but still.

The episode begins with a flash-forward to Claire and her daughter Brianna in Boston in the 1950's. I get the idea, that we see Claire with her daughter in the future, and then we watch Claire lose her daughter in the past. But it felt a little bit too much like pandering. As cute as it was to see little Brianna, I feel like if I wasn't a book reader I'd just be more confused than anything.

May 20, 2016

Grey's Anatomy: Family Affair (12x24)

I don't even know how to respond to this episode. In a lot of ways there are things I shouldn't have liked about it. So many clichés. So many contrived ways to cram in some drama. But the thing is... that's the show. And this was a remarkably happy episode, for all that it had its sad moments as well. Let's get started on what ended up being a really solid ending to a season riddled with plot threads that I just couldn't get behind.

Cons:

The only plot thread that I just cannot endorse is the Jo and Alex story line. Jo tries to prove that she is all in with Alex by offering to have a kid with him, but Alex says no. He's tired of playing games. He's a grownup now, and wants to move forward seriously with Jo. Later, Jo gets super drunk at the bar, and DeLuca ends up taking care of her. Jo reveals, in her drunken state, that she can't marry Alex because she's already married. She left her husband, who was abusive, and now she can't divorce him because he'll find her. DeLuca helps Jo get home, but Alex walks in at the worst possible moment, seeing DeLuca struggling to put a half-naked and drunk Jo to bed. Alex attacks DeLuca, punching him over and over.

Okay... I'm sorry, but no. Jo is already married? What a cliché! And she had no good reason for not telling Alex. I wasn't expecting this twist, because I thought this show could do better than that. Also, Alex walking in and jumping to the wrong conclusions... that's the kind of lazy writing that I can't respect. In all, this plot thread was the one with the bleakest ending, and also the one with the most nonsense. I also hated the fact that Stephanie was barely present. She tried to comfort Jo in her drunken state at the bar, but of course Stephanie's boyfriend just freakin' died, and other than Jo trying incompetently to offer her comfort, there's no mention made of this. She has no real arc in this finale whatsoever, which feels like a waste.

May 19, 2016

Supernatural: We Happy Few (11x22)

I liked this episode, but I feel like maybe I should have liked it more. It was missing a few key elements that might have ramped it up to even greater heights. Still, I'm looking forward to the finale, and I think we'll probably get something more solid than we got last year.

Cons:

The plot this week was basically just getting all of our various players into place to face off against Amara, weakening her so God to take the final blow. The ramp-up to this final showdown could have offered a bit more of a nuanced understanding of how the relationships between these characters should work. For example, we didn't have any acknowledgement from Sam about Lucifer torturing him for an untold number of years in the Cage. Sam didn't seem even slightly skittish around the devil he was so afraid of earlier in the season. We got mentions of Cas, but none of our good guys checked in with him to make sure that this was what he really wanted. The relationship between Crowley and Rowena was left untouched. Dean's creepy special bond with Amara was referenced, but nobody dove in to the greater details about why this bond exists in the first place. You'd think, with God sitting right there, more questions could have been asked.

There were certain other bits of the story that seemed to get cut off at the pass with a bit too much casualness. Primarily, Donatello, our brand new prophet from last week, is already dead. Amara did him in. That was a pretty hardcore waste of a character introduction. Although maybe we'll get another prophet, and this time we can get somebody other than another white guy?

Modern Family: Double Click (7x22)

Well, to nobody's surprise, this finale was a lackluster end to a lackluster season. I don't know what happened this year, but Modern Family could not sustain itself very well. Hopefully after a break we can get a more invigorating Season Eight.

Cons:

Last week the whole gang was heading to a wedding. I sort of thought the finale might explore that, but there was no mention of it whatsoever, and everybody was just back to their regular lives. I thought a wedding episode might have been a fun way to create some sitcom hijinks. I guess not. What we got instead was a severely overcrowded episode. There were way too many different plot threads going on here, and as a result there wasn't the time to let them breathe and develop. Almost nothing hit its mark.

The Dunphy family is all having a bad day, with various things pulling them in different directions. Alex is grumpy because she just arrived home for summer vacation and nobody notices or cares that she's returned. Phil has to confront the fact that Luke might be sexually active, and might be sneaking girls into his room. Claire is anxious about firing somebody at work, because this guy just beat her score on a dance game in the warehouse, and she's afraid people will think he's getting fired because of that. Andy gets a dream job that means he'll have to move away. Andy and Haley agree to make it work, but Haley is depressed at the thought of losing her first real love.

May 18, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Absolution/Ascension (3x21/22)

I didn't love this two-part finale. But I appreciated a lot of what it set up for next season, and it had a few genuinely intense and emotional moments. I'm going to try and get through all of this relatively quickly.

Cons:

The plot is pretty basic, which I would normally compliment. But in this finale, it sort of felt like a lot of the two episodes was just buildup for the final moment of predictable sacrifice. In short, S.H.I.E.L.D. captures Hive. Hive escapes. Many agents are turned in to the deformed Inhuman slaves of Hive, and our team is forced to hide out on the base. Hive gets a hold of a Quinjet that he plans on using to distribute the Inhuman changes to large parts of the world. Lincoln manages to get inside the Quinjet with Hive. He flies it up out of the atmosphere, and the triggering substance is thus disseminated harmlessly into space. Hive and Lincoln both die.

Honestly, the reason this basic plot didn't work for me is that the only thing really going on here was one giant tease about who was going to die. All through the scenes with our agents running from Hive's men and trying to figure out a way to stop his evil plan, we get fake-outs. Things look really bad for May and/or Fitz at one point. Simmons nearly gets trapped. Yo-Yo gets shot trying to protect Mack. And the damn cross necklace ends up in the hands of Yo-Yo, Mack, Fitz, Daisy, and then finally Lincoln. Part of the problem was in the promotional materials for this finale. They could not have built up this death any more. They really pulled out all the stops to make us feel the weight of this epic death...

May 17, 2016

Castle: Crossfire (8x22)

Um. What a terrible finale. Sorry... but this was just not good. I know that this was a version of the episode that they had prepared in case they got cancelled. I was expecting a fully rounded ending. Instead, we got what I assume was the originally planned cliffhanger, with an insultingly brief epilogue tagged on to the end to wrap things up with a pretty bow. I'm not happy.

Cons:

This didn't feel like a finale in any measurable way. It barely felt like the end to a season, much less the end of a show that's been airing for eight seasons. I've made no secret of my distaste for the LokSat plot, and the wrap-up was no better than the buildup. In short: Castle gets kidnapped by LokSat's right hand man, and is given a truth serum that forces him to give up the identities of everybody else who knows the truth about LokSat. Beckett and Castle had just revealed the truth to Ryan, Espo, Alexis, and Martha, which means that these four are in danger along with Beckett, Vikram, and Haley. Luckily, Ryan and Espo save Castle from dying, and Beckett realizes that LokSat was actually Mason Wood, the guy Castle had met in LA, who headed the Great Detective's Society. Beckett and Castle defeat him, and all seems well. But then at the last second Caleb Brown, who they all thought was dead, shows up and shoots them both. Beckett manages to kill him, and then she and Castle seemingly succumb to their wounds, holding hands. Flash forward to seven years later, and they're both fine, and they have three kids.

Okay... where to even start with this? The big shocking reveals in this episode were utterly lackluster and nonsensical. If Mason Wood had been a character that we'd seen in more than one other episode, maybe the reveal that he was LokSat would have packed more of a punch. As it was, this reveal was even more of a disappointment than the final reveal of Red John from The Mentalist. And then the Caleb Brown fake-out... there was no attempt to explain why Caleb wanted to come after them after having faked his death. Was he supposed to be the real LokSat? And if so, why risk his life to take out Castle and Beckett, when they thought that they had already defeated LokSat? It made no sense, and it was a cheap way to cause a panic in the last two minutes.

May 16, 2016

Once Upon a Time: Only You/An Untold Story (5x22/23)

I didn't dislike this finale, but I did think it had a lot of structural weaknesses when you look at it on its own. Most of its merit seems to be in setting up the game for next season, which I'm alright with in theory... let's just take a look.

Cons:

This episode splits itself into two separate branches. One follows Hook, Snow, David, and Zelena, who accidentally get sucked in to another realm through a portal. The other follows Emma and Regina, as they follow Henry and his crush Violet to New York, where Henry is determined to find a way to destroy magic for good. Why? Well, Henry suddenly reasons that every bad thing that's ever happened to him and his family has been because of magic. Henry and Violet are also being tracked down by Rumple, who does not take kindly to his power source being threatened. At one point Henry does "destroy" magic, at least temporarily. He then learns that the rest of his family is trapped in another realm, and by destroying all the magic from Storybrooke, he has cut them off from each other. Henry then does a total 180, and makes a speech about how magic can save them all. He and his family all throw coins into a fountain, and Henry gets the other New Yorkers to throw coins in as well. Wishing to be reunited with the family seems to be enough to restore magic, and Hook, Snow, David, Zelena, and their new friend Dr. Jekyll all come through and reunite with their loved ones.

I have several problems here. First of all, Henry suddenly hating magic does not make any sense. He's a smart kid, and he has the heart of the truest believer, right? So shouldn't he be able to understand that it wasn't magic that killed Robin Hood, but rather the evils of Hades specifically? It's not magic that causes Regina such inner turmoil - it's a battle with her own inner demons. Magic is a tool that can be used for good or for evil. (This reminds me of the intrinsic argument from BBC's Merlin, actually). I can understand Henry making a rash decision born out of grief and desperation, but for him to totally turn around and hate magic all of a sudden felt totally idiotic to me.

May 15, 2016

Outlander: Best Laid Schemes... (2x06)

Okay! This episode is the one I've been waiting for. I knew this was coming, and I was excited to see how they would handle it. Obviously this was brutal... but I think it was fairly well executed.

Cons:

That being said, as I sit back and think about this episode, I realize that there were a couple of very well-executed scenes, in an episode that was a bit more middling than the rest of the season thus far. I think this is a consequence of some story lines jumping forward with all due haste, and others sort of plodding along and becoming repetitive. I think I have more complaints about this episode that I've had of any episode all season... but the highs were really high, too.

The final scene of this episode is where things really shine, but a lot of the rest of it felt like marking time. Basically, this week we have Jamie and Claire's plan to fake smallpox in order to stop the Comte St. Germain from being able to fund Charles Stuart and the Jacobites. While that is going on, Claire is continuing her volunteer work at the hospital, where she learns that King Louis is planning on executing a bunch of people connected to the "dark arts." She rushes to warn Master Raymond of the threat, and he promises to flee the city. The smallpox plan works - sort of - but now Charles and Germain want to move the wine sooner to avoid inspection. Jamie and Murtagh stage a highwayman robbery, which successfully deprives Charles of his funds. We also have Murtagh finding out about Claire, and then we finally get to the big climax.

May 13, 2016

The Vampire Diaries: Gods and Monsters (7x22)

Sigh.... there's never any peace for our dear heroes, is there? I'm not surprised that we ended the season on another angst-ridden cliffhanger that's going to cause everybody more pain to come. I am surprised that I rather enjoyed this season finale!

Cons:

This episode wrapped up a lot of the season's plot threads, and while I actually thought a lot of the scenes were emotionally poignant and felt real, I can't ignore the fact that the plot threads being wrapped up were not exactly stellar. This season has been a real mess at times, and the finale was definitely not good enough to completely cover up the rough patches.

In plot news, things are streamlined and simple - Bonnie has the Huntress's urge to kill all her friends. Damon and the others manage to get into the Armory using the twins to syphon Bonnie's magic away from the door. Damon goes in, kills the Everlasting, and Bonnie is freed from the Huntress curse. Just as everybody is ready to celebrate, Damon is lured by the mysterious evil thing in the Armory, and is turned evil. Enzo tries to follow him, and is turned also. The two disappear, leaving everybody else anxiously trying to find them.

The Big Bang Theory: The Convergence Convergence (9x24)

Well... that certainly didn't feel like a finale. I'm disappointed... although should I really be surprised at this point?

Cons:

I know I sound like a broken record, but The Big Bang Theory has this huge problem with wasted opportunities. Maybe we'll get to see Penny and Leonard's wedding ceremony in the Season Ten premiere, but this episode was nothing but the buildup to it. The plot is basically that Leonard's father shows up and argues with his mother a lot, and that Sheldon invited his mother to the wedding as well. Leonard's father and Sheldon's mom hit it off, to the consternation of their sons. That's the whole main plot. Penny's family doesn't even make an appearance to spice things up.

Another thing about this main plot is that it doesn't really give me a lot of Penny/Leonard relationship feelings. You would think maybe we'd get some insight into their love and their marriage, but no. Other than one quick toast, the focus is all on the parental drama. It doesn't even seem like Penny and Leonard care about this ceremony at all. Penny pretty much admits she's only doing this to try and foster a better relationship for Leonard and his mother.

Grey's Anatomy: At Last (12x23)

This episode is so strange to me, because by all rights I should hate it, based on the things that actually happen in it. Several plot threads seemed to skip straight past a lot of buildup to a conclusion that needed a lot more time to develop. Some things that have been dragged out too long suddenly fizzled into awkward conclusion. Yet somehow, the pacing and the character work pulled through, and this ended up being a very solid installment.

Cons:

...With some exceptions, of course. In this episode, Meredith is undergoing what you might call a grief relapse, as she watches Owen sell Derek's old trailer, and then watches as Amelia and Owen start talking about a future where they get married and have babies. She gets more and more agitated at the fact that Amelia is living this normal and happy life. She gives Amelia this super hurtful speech wherein she says that Amelia has basically stolen Derek's life and happiness, and needs to get her own. I don't hate the idea of Meredith being upset and bothered over Amelia and Owen moving so fast. That's fine. It makes sense, even. But honestly, Meredith's words to Amelia were completely uncalled for in every way. How can Meredith say such things to Amelia about Derek, when she knows how hard Amelia took the death of her brother? They should be sharing in this grief, not coming to blows over it. Meredith and Amelia have been at odds in a sort of ill-defined manner all season, and they've only just gotten back on track. For Meredith to be so cruel to her now seems like a departure from the character arc we've seen for her all season.

And then on Amelia's side of things... her and Owen feel happy and good about their relationship, and as a consequence, they start moving way too fast. By the end of the episode, Amelia is proposing to Owen, and he's accepting. I get the idea that Amelia is moving too fast and we're supposed to see that... but the problem for me is that Owen and Amelia are so clearly not even close to ready for something like this that it stretches my suspension of disbelief to think that Owen would go along with it. He is, by necessity, a pretty level-headed guy. He's serious about his relationships and commitments. I'm not saying he doesn't love Amelia, but this is a lot too much, a lot too fast. It doesn't help that I personally don't care much for their romance in the first place. It just hasn't grabbed me.

May 12, 2016

Modern Family: Crazy Train (7x21)

This season has been underwhelming to say the least, but every once in a while we get an episode that reminds me of the glory days. This episode, while perhaps not a stunning work of art or anything, did get a lot of laughs out of me.

Cons:

Luke and Manny's plot thread was the weak link in the chain, as often seems to be the case with these two lately. The whole family is taking the train to Portland for Jay's ex-wife's wedding to her new husband. Manny and Luke decide to use the time to pick up girls, since, as Luke puts it, trains make girls crazy. The vibrations do something to girls, plus they're trapped, so that's nice. Ew. Manny thinks that Alex has a crush on him, which is just disturbing, and Luke flirts with an older woman and thinks she wants to sleep with him, when it turns out she just wants to give him a geography lesson. Both of these plot threads were lacking in laughs, and in Luke's case I just felt highly uncomfortable about the whole thing. Have we seen a single plot thread with these two that didn't involve hooking up with girls? Any amount of lovable idiocy that Luke had going for him has been replaced by utter bro-ish douche-baggery.

Supernatural: All in the Family (11x21)

Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner are the bane of some Supernatural fans' existences. These are the people who brought us "Route 666" and "Man's Best Friend With Benefits," among other weak installments. They're also the writers who killed off Charlie, and a lot of people haven't been able to forgive that, myself included. As such, whenever I see that an episode is going to be penned by this writing team, I brace myself to be pissed off. However, this wasn't one of those episodes that's going to reinforce their reputations as bringers of evil. It was a decent installment, all in all.

Cons:

The less infuriating yet still undeniably problematic element of Buckner and Leming's episodes is that they try and cram too much information into one hour of television. Despite the amount of stuff that actually happens, the dialogue can often be choppy and repetitive, as the same information is repeated in different ways throughout the episode, and sometimes small things get too much focus and big things get sidelined. It makes for a bit of an unbalanced final product, although it's not anything substantive that I can put my finger on.

In this episode, Sam and Dean team up with Chuck, Metatron, and a new prophet named Donatello. They decide to save Lucifer, in order to get him on board the Anti-Amara team. In order for this to work, Dean distracts Amara by meeting with her in private, while the others rescue Lucifer. All I can say is... the Dean/Amara thing is really unsettling. Now, I do understand that it's meant to be unsettling, but it's not working for me in the world of the story. I don't understand why Amara, God's sister and our primary antagonist for the season, needs to have a romantic connection with one of our leads. I can think of so many more interesting ways to approach Amara's character. Maybe they could keep the part about Amara and Dean being connected, but instead of Amara disturbingly commenting on the "sensations" that Dean makes her feel, she could be annoyed by the connection. She could be frustrated, wanting to kill Dean and be done with him in the same way that Dean wants to kill her. I don't know... every time we get one of these Dean/Amara scenes where they stand a great distance apart and speak in measured sentences to each other, I just get more and more frustrated and grossed out.

May 11, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Emancipation (3x20)

This was a great episode, but it did have some small problems. Let's dive in.

Cons:

This week was the Captain America: Civil War tie-in. In a lot of ways, it worked really well. The idea of the Sokovia Accords impacting the Inhuman characters that we know is a great way to tie things together. But whenever we're reminded about the connection between this show and the larger cinematic universe, I start to get a little twitchy about the plot holes. They're making it sound like Hive could usher in an Armageddon situation, and yet nobody even once considers asking the Avengers to step in. Also, we get hints that Coulson would be Team Cap (duh) and Talbot would be team Iron Man, since he is in support of government control. But it feels a little simplistic, and I might have wanted a bit more complexity with such an interesting issue.

Along the same note of complexity, there were a few characters here that feel just a little bit one-note. Talbot was here to learn about S.H.I.E.L.D., be horrified by the disaster going on, and make a bunch of snarky comments disparaging Coulson's ability to do his job. Over on Hive's side of thing you've got James, who is decently funny on occasion but doesn't have a lot of character, and then Dr. Radcliffe, who has a few really funny lines but nothing substantive to back him up.