26 May 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.

23 May 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.

20 May 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.

19 May 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.

18 May 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...

17 May 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.

16 May 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.

15 May 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.

13 May 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.