December 02, 2016

Supernatural: Rock Never Dies (12x07)

Aw, man. I really, really wanted to like this episode. It had such promise. Our guys all together, fighting off Lucifer, some comedy with the '80's rock cliches... but what I got was kind of a snooze-fest. I just wasn't impressed with most of this episode.

Cons:

So, the story is that Lucifer returns from where he was banished to the ocean, and drinks in the glory of being adored as Vince Vicente. He makes one of his die-hard stalker fans cut herself to prove her devotion, and plans on hosting a reunion concert with his band so he can trap a bunch of people in a concert hall and kill them all. Crowley, Cas, Sam, and Dean all go to LA to try and head him off. They succeed in rescuing the crowd, but Lucifer flees Vince's breaking body and escapes their grasp.

A basic plot, which would be fine if I felt like it was going somewhere. The thesis of this episode, if you will, is that Lucifer has no plan. He's just chaotic evil, now. Wasn't that kind of Amara's thing? She just messed with the world because it was there to mess with? Sam contends that Lucifer not having a plan is scarier than Lucifer with a motive, but I just don't see it. He's simply not threatening. I never got the sense that any of our characters were in actual danger, here. With Mark Pelligrino, Misha Collins, or even Jared Padalecki playing Lucifer, I knew that shit could get very real very fast. But in this episode, Rick Springfield's Lucifer barely even dented Cas and Crowley. I mean, sure, Crowley got pretty bloodied up, but why didn't Lucifer just kill them all on the spot? Or at least kill Crowley and Cas, and maybe Dean? I could understand Lucifer's fascination with Sam stopping him from just snapping his fingers and having done with it, but that doesn't mean he has to be such a wimp!

The Big Bang Theory: The Property Division Collision (10x10)

Hey, I actually thought this one was fairly cute. Elements that have tended to annoy me in the past actually got better, and there was an actual big step being made by a couple of the characters.

Cons:

I do wish some of these ideas could be pushed further, though. Some of this stuff felt repetitive. Raj and Stuart are fighting over who gets to be the third wheel with Bernadette and Howard. It's decently entertaining, actually, and has a good emotional payoff, but it feels like retreading the same old ground. I want to see Raj with his new love interest, or see Stuart find some meaning in his life outside of his sad-sack ways. Instead, we got a whole subplot to remind us that the writers often don't really know what to do with these characters to make them distinct individuals.

Pros:

That being said, there were a lot of really funny lines with this setup. Howard and Bernadette selfishly take full advantage of Stuart and Raj fighting over who gets to help more. I also loved Raj's line to Stuart: "this pregnancy had an emotionally needy third wheel long before you came along!" Stuart asks why there can't be four wheels, and Raj is angry with him for making such a good point. And like I said, this plot thread actually had an emotionally satisfying payoff. Bernadette goes into labor, and Raj and Stuart instantly put their squabbling aside and spring in to action. They're all part of Team Baby, after all.

December 01, 2016

Modern Family: The Alliance (8x08)

This was probably my favorite episode of the season thus far. Modern Family works well when it has some heart to back up its comedy, but it also works well when it has a tight concept and it mines that concept for all of its comedic possibilities. This episode did that perfectly.

Cons:

The centralizing plot in this episode thankfully took up almost all of the time, but there were a few subplots hovering around as well. These subplots weren't horrible, but they were pretty bland, and just took time away from the better ideas going on elsewhere. In one, Haley meets Rainer's teenage daughter, who is disdainful of her father's latest fling. In the end, Haley finds her inner mom and disciplines the girl for wanting to go out to a party dressed provocatively. In another subplot, Jay is upset that the club has banned smoking cigars in the main building, and he tries to get people to sign his petition complaining about the ban. He unwittingly uses Luke as bait to get an older woman to sign the petition, making Luke massage this cougar and ignoring the uncomfortable fact that Luke is being forced to work at this woman's house shirtless. Finally, in another subplot Claire is still having trouble making decisions at her job without relying on her father's expertise. She wants to get out of his shadow. This plot thread doesn't really go anywhere, although Claire does decide to make a decision on her own after Jay tells her to trust her gut.

So... nothing terrible here, and there was even some fun potential with Haley trying to act like a mom to a girl pretty much identical to how she was as a teenager. But none of these stories really went anywhere. In fact, Jay's cigar thing just sort of tapered off at the end with no resolution at all. Claire's story was just a rehash of things we've seen a thousand times, which was a tad frustrating.

November 30, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Deals with Our Devils (4x07)

This episode kicked ass! There's so much to talk about!

Cons:

So, the main plot is that Coulson, Fitz, and Robbie are stuck in a different dimension, and they can see everybody else but nobody can see them. The whole team comes together to find a way to get them back. I loved almost everything here, but you know what's annoying? Jemma wasn't there for any of it. She was off in a little subplot, which I didn't mind in terms of the subplot's content, but... I wanted her to be there! I wanted her to fight to get Fitz back just like Fitz fought to bring Simmons back! It feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity, if we're being honest. But that's a nitpick.

Pros:

I'll start with Simmons' subplot really briefly. Basically, she is brought to Senator Nadir's brother, who is encased in rock. She uses her expertise about terrigenesis to help free him from his imprisonment. Of course, Jemma is kept in the dark about who this guy is, and just as she starts to free him, she's ushered away. I love the possibilities, here. We know that Nadir is blackmailing Mace, and we know that her brother has been trapped for months. But Jemma knows none of this, and it seems like Nadir's brother might be a pretty cool guy. He certainly seemed thankful to Jemma for helping him. I can't wait to see where this goes.

November 29, 2016

The Walking Dead: Swear (7x06)

So this is intentional, then. Each episode taking place with a different group. The first episode resolved last season's cliffhanger, and then we've gone, in order, to the Kingdom (with Carol and Morgan), the Savior's post (with Daryl, Negan, and Dwight), to Alexandria (with the bulk of our ensemble), to Hilltop (with Maggie and Sasha), and now to another community, this time with Tara. I'm getting whiplash!

Cons:

Like I just said, I'm getting whiplash. It's an interesting idea to have each episode focus on a different community, but there's a problem here. There's no buildup. No rising tension. Each episode is its own little plot cul-de-sac, and as such there's no sense of how these pieces are all going to come together. I suspect that they're going for a really cool payoff when all of these disparate communities come together to take down Negan. That could be really awesome, but it's frustrating that the buildup is so choppy and slow.

Also, it's frankly a little ridiculous that it took us this long to get back to Tara. I get that everybody has had other things going on, but it's been bugging me that nobody has even mentioned her all season. My parents, who are casual yet loyal watchers of the show, couldn't even remember who Tara was at first when they were watching this episode. It's not a good sign when the viewing audience starts forgetting members of the core cast.

November 28, 2016

Once Upon a Time: Changelings (6x09)

This episode had a lot of really high points, but it also had some moments that didn't make sense, and the result is a bit of an unbalanced episode.

Cons:

Most of this episode is about Belle and Rumple, with a little dash of Emma and Hook thrown in. That's all fine, but there are also two little subplot things that are shoved in awkwardly and don't seem to move the story forward.

First of all, the Evil Queen tries to kill Zelena, on Rumple's orders, but Regina saves her. Why? Because she's a hero now, and heroes save people, even people who might not deserve it. Regina tells Zelena that she'll never forgive her for Robin's death. Zelena has been beyond useless as a character all season, and this moment just cemented that for me. I thought we were going to go with co-parenting sisters who could learn to heal old wounds and be a family again. That would have been decently entertaining to watch. But no. Regina gets a million chances to change her ways, while Zelena does not. And I can't blame Regina for not forgiving Zelena, since Zelena doesn't seem at all repentant. What a poorly handled character!

The other subplot is Aladdin and Jasmine's. Jasmine and Snow briefly talk about their work at the school, bringing up that plot thread for the first time a while. Then Jasmine reveals that Aladdin has the Genie's lamp, but that she's nervous about using it to get back to Agrabah - what if there's a price to pay? Snow encourages Jasmine to be a hero. But, it's a moot point. The Genie has already been freed from the lamp. Aladdin decides to imprison himself, turning himself into a Genie so that he can help Jasmine get home.

Elementary: How the Sausage Is Made (5x08)

Can you guess what I'm going to say? ... The subplot was more compelling than the main story.

Cons:

In fact, the main story lost me a couple of times. It wasn't horrible, but it didn't really grab me, either. Some scientists create a meat product that's grown in the lab, and hope to make a bunch of money off of it. The only trouble is that "Big Meat," as Sherlock keeps referring to them, doesn't want this new product on the market as a competitor. I won't really get into the specifics here. In the end, one of the bad guys is arrested for murder, while his co-conspirator gets to go free.

Pros:

The best part of the case was the way it started - Sherlock and Joan go to the morgue see a guy who was killed by horse tranquilizer. But he didn't ingest this tranquilizer directly - he ate some sausage that ends up being human meat... Ugh! And that meat has the tranquilizer in it. This was a really clever, albeit disgusting, way to get the case started.

November 21, 2016

The Walking Dead: Go Getters (7x05)

Damn, Maggie! Damn, Carl! You guys don't mess around! I guess you're the "Go Getters" mentioned in the title.

Cons:

Despite the fact that I'm very impressed with a couple of our key characters here, I will admit that this episode dragged on a bit. I was getting sick of Negan, but now in an episode without him I felt like all of the tension was gone. And, another problem is that none of these episodes really build on top of each other. You've got everybody spread out so far that there's no rising tension or advancement of larger plots. In almost every episode, we've got to start back at the beginning. First it was with Carol. Then with Daryl. This week it's Maggie and Sasha. I think I've said this before, but episodes like this can stand pretty well on their own, but they don't help the feel of the season as a whole.

We're at Hilltop this week, which means we're back with Jesus (yay!) and Gregory (booo). Gregory is just too much of a cartoon villain. I mean, Negan is too, but with Gregory there's not even a hint of impressiveness to go along with it. He's sexist, he's racist, he's a coward and a traitor. Not exactly a guy I want to spend a ton of time with, and this episode kept spending time with him. He's a dick to Maggie and Sasha, wanting them to leave as soon as possible so that the Saviors don't find out that they're harboring anybody. Later, one of Negan's representatives shows up with a group of men and has a talk with Gregory, who cowers and plans on giving up Maggie and Sasha on the spot. There's just nothing all that compelling about such a wimpy scumbag. And the group of Saviors didn't feel very threatening to me at all, especially without Negan or Dwight there to lend some gravitas.

Elementary: Bang Bang Shoot Chute (5x07)

I surprisingly really did not enjoy this episode. It was filled with weird stereotypes and stupid twists that didn't really add up to anything. The subplot was good, though, which always makes me happy.

Cons:

The main case involved a guy who was "murdered twice." While jumping off of a building, he is shot out of the sky. Later, Sherlock discovers that the man's parachute was sabotaged prior to his jump, so even if he hadn't been shot, he still would have died. This means we have two potential killers with two different motives. A really compelling concept, no? Well, sure, but they totally wasted it. The saboteur ended up being the victim's pregnant wife, who discovered her husband was having an affair, and so decided to kill him. This is a wife that we see for like 30 seconds in the second act and who isn't brought up again until she's revealed to be guilty.

The other killer is the brother of the woman who the victim was having an affair with, trying to shoot down the big bad white man for sleeping with his sister, because... oh, did we mention? He's an illegal immigrant, and he's Taliban. Cool job, Elementary. What great timing you have. This was just so uninspired. I kept waiting for them to put a fresh spin on it, or maybe to explain in more detail the plight of the refugee, and the struggles that immigrants in this country have to face, given the political turmoil back home and here. But... nope. Dude was Taliban. Dude was terrorist. Dude was illegal immigrant. Case closed?

November 20, 2016

The Vampire Diaries: Coming Home Was a Mistake (8x05)

This was an important episode in that it escalated the plot and really set things up for a strong push. This season is only sixteen episodes long, so we're about a third of the way through already. It's time to pick up the pace, and I think we've accomplished that.

Cons:

A lot of stuff is going on in this episode that I'm really interested in. One thing I'm not really interested in is Matt's relationship with his dad. There's no buildup here, no real stakes. Matt's nonexistent dad was never really an issue with his character before this point, or if it was, I certainly forgot to care about it.

Stefan and Damon have a confrontation in this episode, which I loved. What I didn't love was Stefan telling Caroline that he needed to do this alone, that he needed to keep her safe, etc. etc. If he can't understand that they're a team, what does that say about their impending marriage? Caroline ends up showing up to save his ass, anyway. Stefan needs to drop the martyr thing.

Over on the Sybil side of things, Alaric leaves the all-important job of hitting the tuning fork to one of his interns. This is supposed to cripple Sybil and stop her from breaking out. The intern, of course, has no idea why he's being asked to hit a tuning fork periodically, and when he gets a call regarding the missing Georgie, he leaves the "experiment" behind. This lets Sybil escape, which in turn lets Sybil find Damon, who Stefan had just successfully captured and tied up in his coffin. Way to go, Ric. Seriously? You're that lax about Sybil staying imprisoned?

November 18, 2016

The Big Bang Theory: The Geology Elevation (10x09)

This was a dud...

Cons:

The main plot involves Bert winning a McArthur Grant, and Sheldon spending the episode feeling jealous. He injures himself by throwing a rock and attempting to punch a water fountain, and then Stephen Hawking shows up over the phone and tells Sheldon that he's too brilliant to be jealous.

How many times can I complain about this show wasting its opportunities? Sheldon is jealous of somebody else's professional success. This could be an opportunity to delve in to the fact that Sheldon has been struggling with his career recently. We could bring up the navigation system, how Sheldon was stalled on a major problem. But no. We don't bring any of that up. Instead, Sheldon injures himself in slap-stick-y ways, all of which happen off-screen so we don't even get to appreciate them. Then, in the end, Sheldon gets praised by Stephen Hawking and instantly all of his turmoil is gone. He and Bert go to sit in the studio audience on Ellen. Okay... nothing got done, here. The Ellen bit was really shoe-horned in, too.

Grey's Anatomy: You Haven't Done Nothin' (13x09)

Is it winter finale time already? I feel like all of these shows just came back on the air! This was a great episode of Grey's Anatomy, escalating various plot threads, resolving some dangling ones, leaving some cliffhangers, setting up some new ideas. All of this is centered around a very cheesy and appropriate metaphor in the shape of a big disaster that has our doctors scrambling.

Cons:

There were a lot of elements to this episode, a lot of different stories to tell. There was bound to be one that slipped through the cracks, and unfortunately this week that was Owen and Amelia. Owen and Riggs talk about their pasts, which I liked, but then we get a moment at the very end of the episode where Owen comes home and finds that Amelia has left him. She just... leaves a note and runs off. I'm very frustrated about this. It seems like there must be something better to do with Amelia at this point than just have her screw up her life again. I get it. She's unstable and unhappy. But at some point doesn't that get old? Owen is a sad martyr and Amelia is a pathetic train wreck. So what else is new?

This episode also had a couple of logistical problems, which are so not a big deal, but they still bother me. First of all, I live in Seattle. When did this earthquake supposedly happen? There hasn't been an earthquake bad enough to crack building foundations in the area since like 2001. The other thing is about Alex's trial. They were all acting like the trial was going to take one day. For a case like this, you're looking at probably two weeks. And Jo gets called to the stand last minute? Nope. Nobody does that. She would have been deposed and questioned long ago if either side planned to put her on the stand. It's unrealistic.

Supernatural: Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox (12x06)

Oh my God, what?! That episode was absolutely amazing! Jody Mills! A group of hunters! Mary Winchester! Even Billie made an appearance!

Cons:

Uh... okay. I will admit that this episode required some suspension of disbelief. And I don't mean the standard "there are demons" suspension of disbelief, or even the "how many times can these two guys be in perilous situations and still make it out alive" suspension of disbelief. I'm talking about the fact that this episode featured a whole group of hunters trapped in a house together, and they were soooo ill prepared. They didn't have holy water, or weapons other than a few knives. I would think that hunters would all be over-prepared for a situation like this. Also, hasn't this show established that you can just say "Christo" to reveal demons? Oh, and why do they all not have anti-possession tattoos? Doesn't Dean still have his, anyway? Shouldn't that mean that he couldn't have been a suspect, even at the beginning? I'm willing to put up with a little convenient incompetency for the sake of the plot, but this did stretch my belief just a tad.

November 17, 2016

Modern Family: Thanksgiving Jamboree (8x07)

This episode didn't really do a lot for me. Often times Modern Family can really pull out big wins for holiday themed episodes. But much like this year's Halloween episode, I felt that this Thanksgiving story was lacking any real punch. That's not to say that it sucked, but it didn't wow me either.

Cons:

The whole family gets together for a "Thanksgiving Jamboree," which is a big Southern to-do that normally Mitchell would hate, but Cam is really excited about it. Claire thinks that Mitchell is only going along with it because he did something wrong, and it turns out that she's right: Mitchell accidentally got rid of Cam's Fizbo costume. When Mitchell finally tells Cam this, he reacts calmly, which makes Claire and Mitchell suspect that maybe he's the one hiding stuff. Indeed, he is. Cam spent all the money set aside for an upcoming romantic getaway in order to make the Thanksgiving Jamboree.

I'm sick of plot threads like this, that are built on the comedy of spouses lying to one another. For Cam to spend a big chunk of money like that without talking to Mitchell is actually pretty serious, and if this weren't a sitcom it would be a sign of a deep fundamental problem in their relationship. As it is, we're meant to laugh at it.

November 15, 2016

The Walking Dead: Service (7x04)

I wish I could be more effusive with my praise of this episode... there were a lot of individual elements that were just fine, and totally built the tension. And yet... I don't know if I'm fully on board.

Cons:

So, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is doing an excellent job as Negan, and from an acting standpoint I totally get that he's super scary, and I also totally get that Rick is broken, and he's decided to do whatever Negan wants, in order to protect his people. But my logic keeps kicking in and disrupting my ability to buy into this stuff. They have SO MANY GUNS, okay? I just keep thinking that Negan is the only thing holding this operation together. Couldn't they have had people posted on the wall with guns, and then just take him out the second he appears? I feel like a lot of the Saviors are loyal to Negan because they're broken, or because Negan's got the best stuff and the most men. But Rick had all the guns! That's a very real advantage, and I don't fully believe that Rick is so defeated that he wouldn't even contemplate retaliation.

This all comes to a head when Rick makes Michonne give up her rifle, which Negan had no reason to believe she had. I get that he's worried one of Negan's people would see her with it and somebody would die. But... just... bury it. Or save it for when you have a plan. What is with the utter defeat?

November 14, 2016

Elementary: Ill Tidings (5x06)

The character work in this episode was exquisite, as is often the case with this show. The actual plot was adequate, but nothing special. That also tends to be the situation with Elementary. I hope this show survives beyond this year. There are so many other things on TV right now that I would prefer to see cancelled. We'll have to hold out hope for higher ratings going forward.

Cons:

The main case was one of those where the twist comes so far out of left field that instead of feeling shocking, it just feels ridiculous. Somebody is murdering people using snake venom, and at first you think it's got something to do with cyber security. Then, it turns out to be an art heist of the New York Stock Exchange. This feels more like a setup for Leverage than for Elementary, and I've got to say, it doesn't work to the show's favor.

There was one moment that could have been really intense, but instead it went nowhere. The team has been hunting down this venomous snake, and they find it - in the apartment of one of the bad guys. It's free from its cage, and it's right behind Joan's foot. We cut to commercial, and when we come back, Joan and Sherlock are back at the Brownstone, and the snake is safely contained. Is it too much to ask for just a little drama? Was Sherlock scared for Joan's safety? How did they get everybody out of that situation safely? That's the kind of thing I'd like to see play out on screen.

Once Upon a Time: I'll Be Your Mirror (6x08)

Regina and Emma are an awesome team, okay? I may not ship them romantically, but I totally get where all the Swan Queen people are coming from, and episodes like this are a big reason why.

Cons:

There was a subplot in this episode about Belle, Zelena, Rumple, Jasmine, and Aladdin, and it got just a little bit muddled. Basically, Belle asks for Zelena's help in getting out of Storybrooke, because she's afraid that Rumple will use the Shears of Destiny on her child. Zelena says she needs the magic wand that Rumple has in his possession, so Belle enlists Aladdin to help steal it. Aladdin sneaks in, steals the wand, and delivers it to Belle and Zelena, earning praise from Jasmine for heroically breaking and entering. Just as Zelena is about to open a portal that will get Belle to safety, Rumple shows up and takes the wand back, putting a bracelet on Belle's arm that traps her, preventing her from fleeing Storybrooke. When Rumple tries to hurt Zelena, he ends up hurting himself. The two are linked from when Zelena saved Rumple's life in New York. (yeah, I hardly remember that, either). Rumple and the Evil Queen have another stomach-curling make-out session in Gold's shop, and Rumple says that he wants the Evil Queen to kill Zelena and get her out of the way once and for all.

Okay, where to start? If Belle was going to enlist Aladdin's help in breaking in to the shop, why wouldn't she ask him to find the Shears of Destiny, instead of the wand? Why even bother to include Aladdin and Jasmine in this episode to begin with, honestly, when they're given negligible screen-time and their story is not advanced at all? Why does Rumple want to kill Zelena so badly? Because Zelena was trying to help Belle escape? Oh, and even better question: why was Zelena willing to help Belle? Because she's mad at her sister for making out with Rumple? In what universe does any of this add up?

November 13, 2016

The Vampire Diaries: An Eternity of Misery (8x04)

So... we've gotten the Siren backstory. I'm liking it okay, but all in all this episode felt a bit filler-ish, and it made a few decidedly unbalanced decisions.

Cons:

This show used to be really good at surprises and fake-outs. Remember when Katherine first showed up, and kissed Damon, and there was the reveal that it wasn't Elena? Aw man. Good stuff. This week, we learn that Sybil the Siren has a sister. And then we learn that it's Seline, Alaric and Caroline's nanny. This comes completely out of left field, because we hadn't been told that there might be a secret coming up. The fact that Sybil has a sister wasn't built up in any way until this episode. And then they did this charmingly ineffective fake-out, where we think that Georgie is the second siren, but it turns out that Seline is controlling her. I'm totally cool with the hot nanny being a secret baddie, and I'm totally cool with the concept of a second Siren... but I'm not totally cool with their execution of said "twist."

To add insult to injury, Seline finishes off her great big reveal as a villain by killing Georgie, who is then dragged to Hell. Or something. Georgie wasn't this show's most interesting or innovative character or anything, but why spend time building her up for half a second, only to kill her off? What is it with this season and its inability to effectively use character deaths? What a waste of a potentially interesting character.

November 11, 2016

The Big Bang Theory: The Brain Bowl Incubation (10x08)

Surprisingly, this episode was good. It could so easily have been very bad, but it was not!

Cons:

I thought Sheldon and Amy's plot thread could have been treated with a bit more gravitas, given how serious the situation is. Essentially, Sheldon is inspired by the miracle of science to create a baby with Amy. Amy is not ready for kids, and continually evades his seductive advances. The idea of Sheldon wanting a kid is an interesting one, and of course it would be the pursuit of science that got him there. But I do wish we could have had a scene where maybe Sheldon contemplated what it would really mean to him to be a father. Maybe we'll get that in the coming weeks? I don't know. As it stood by itself, this plot thread was all comedy without any of the heart to ground it.

Supernatural: The One You've Been Waiting For (12x05)

This was the first clunker of the season. It wasn't irredeemably bad or anything, but it also didn't offer all that much in the way of creativity or innovation.

Cons:

To make a long story short, the evil necromancers called "Thule" try (and succeed) in resurrecting Hitler by using a young woman who happens to be Hitler's descendant. They need his blood to resurrect him. Sam and Dean find out about all of this, and Dean kills Hitler.

I think my big problem with this episode is that it felt like it was trying to set something up, but I don't think it was. Hitler's great-great-grandniece, Ellie, was a fun enough character, but it doesn't seem like they were setting her up for a return. And the main bad guy's son turns on his father and his father's men, which could have been interesting, but I don't think we're really setting him up for a return either.