June 19, 2018

Elementary: Sand Trap (6x08)

I have feelings.

Cons:

The case of the week was about a sand gang, and it was kinda just meh. There were a few pieces of it that I enjoyed, but for the most part it was your run-of-the-mill case-of-the-week. (That was a lot of hyphens!) Nothing wrong with it, per se, but nothing that much grabbed my interest.

I'm still a little bit worried about the idea of Joan wanting to become a mother. This episode was good. It didn't piss me off. But I'm still watching very closely to make sure we're not falling in to some problematic cliches.

Westworld: Vanishing Point (2x09)

I mean... damn. In some ways this episode crossed a line for me. That was a level of intensity that I was not expecting.

Cons:

There's a moment where Ford gives Maeve a little talk, and I had some problems with it. Basically, this is part of Ford's consciousness, programmed to give Maeve a message, right? Well, in that message, we learn that pretty much everything Maeve did up to the point of turning back for her child was of Ford's design. Her coming to a realization of herself, her access to her own programming, all of it. There are moments when Ford's planning becomes a little too ridiculous and far-seeing. It makes a twisted kind of sense why William would be so convinced that Ford is always behind everything, because it seems like a lot of the time, he is behind everything.

I... mean... William kills Emily. And I really don't know how to feel about that. In one sense I guess it was effective, in that I certainly wasn't expecting it and it made me feel emotions. But on the other hand... yikes. This was a level of intensity from this show that I wasn't really looking for. I know William has done a lot of terrible things, but this is beyond the pale.

June 13, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale: Smart Power (2x09)

This show is... it's something special. It hits at a place deep within me that feels such sadness and worry about the state of our world today. It strips things down to their basic level and hits at the core of certain issues in a way that's just so powerful.

Cons:

I honestly don't have much of anything? Maybe the girl who's living with Luke and Moira could get a bit more development. We haven't really checked in with her in a while and I don't feel like I understand her whole deal.

Pros:

Okay let's start with the stuff in Gilead. June learns that Serena is going to kick her out as soon as the baby is born, so she asks Rita to look after her child. She later brings up her concerns to Aunt Lydia, and we get one of the most fascinating Aunt Lydia scenes to date. See, Aunt Lydia is in some ways easier to hate than Serena, but there's this drive to her that captivates me. More so than almost anybody else in Gilead, she feels like she was born in this system. The life she had before is completely hidden from us. But we learn just a tidbit here - she was godmother to her sister's child, who died when he was just four days old. When June offers her condolences, Aunt Lydia's response is: "it wasn't my fault." This just fascinates the heck out of me. What does it mean? In some ways it seemed like Aunt Lydia was asking for June to understand that none of this is her fault. That she's a cog in the machine, a victim as well as part of the problem. I'm not sure if I agree, but it's interesting to think that she might look at her situation that way. When she tells June that she would never let anything happen to a child, I believe her. It doesn't excuse her abhorrent behavior, but I believe that she really does hold the lives of children above all else.

June 12, 2018

Elementary: Sober Companions (6x07)

Well. Dang.

Cons:

I'm glad that we're not done with Michael yet, but I do hate that just when things are ramping up and getting interesting, he decides to go away and give Sherlock time to recover. This means that we'll probably have a whole string of C-plot episodes before we get more interesting stuff with this serial killer. This is typical of a show like Elementary, and it's a big part of the reason I wish they had smaller episode orders so they could do a tighter and more exciting season arc.

There's a moment where Sherlock buys drugs, and we're supposed to be all scared that he's about to relapse, but it turns out he bought the drugs as a plan to drug Michael and get him to slip up and make a mistake. I think this heroin might be something of a Chekhov's Gun situation, in that it might pop up later and tempt Sherlock. But for now, I was a bit annoyed by this scene's attempt to trick us.

Westworld: Kiksuya (2x08)

Not my favorite episode, unfortunately.

Cons:

I'm going to start with a disclaimer, alright? I'm not equipped to talk about the nuance of media representation when it comes to Native Americans. I can only speak to what makes me a little twitchy, and that's what I'm going to do here. See, I've been complaining for weeks that the portrayal of the native characters in the park has been... less than ideal. They spoke in stoic, one-worded remarks, when they spoke at all. We only ever saw them in their full face makeup. We saw them committing acts of violence. We didn't really see any alternative to this representation.

Finally, we see a nuanced portrayal. A man named Akecheta tells Maeve's daughter a story, a story of how he learned the truth (or at least some version of the truth) of his own existence, and began to seek a door to another world. My problems with this story are many, although I have heaps of praise for the man playing Akecheta, Zahn McClarnon. My first problem is that this story seems, for all that it's about a robot Native American, kind of cliche. It seemed to be vaguely "spirit quest" like, and it fell into a pattern of storytelling that I feel like I've seen before. Stoic native man bravely soldiers on in the face of his pain.... I don't know. Maybe I'm reaching. It just felt like it came through in the tone of the episode, with the music, the dialogue, the long shots of scenery... eh.

June 06, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale: Women's Work (2x08)

This show just slays me. I cry like every week now. Crazy.

Cons:

Nick handled the letters thing really poorly. He sees the packet of letters, and knows that Eden saw it. Instead of playing it off and being cool about it, he freaked out and totally made her way more suspicious. I get that sometimes you just react to stuff without thinking, but Nick should be better at this by now. It's his job to be sneaky and subtle.

Pros:

Okay. Where to even start? Serena and June bonding over their subversive behavior? That is my jam. I've mentioned this in the past and I'll continue to mention it for the rest of this show's run, I'm sure - Serena is such a fascinating character, and the twisted relationship between Serena and June is maybe the most fascinating thing this show has to offer, and that's saying a lot. Serena admits that she hates knitting. June compliments Serena's writing. It's all so complex and subtle and there are so many things that they just can't say out loud. You can tell that both women are sorry to see the end of this time of conspiracy when Commander Waterford comes home.

June 05, 2018

Elementary: Give Me the Finger (6x06)

Oh boy. This was a good one.

Cons:

I don't know if this is necessarily a "con," more just a general true statement about the show - I like the stuff happening in the periphery more than I liked the main story. This is almost always true with Elementary.

I thought the bad guy in this episode was kind of stupid. She kills a former member of the Yakuza, has valuable information, and then wanders straight into a trap. Not even a particularly clever trap. I felt like the way the murderer was caught in this episode sort of undercut her effectiveness.

Westworld: Les Écorchés (2x07)

This episode was a bit of a letdown. It wasn't bad. I've yet to encounter a bad episode of this show. But I felt some ennui while watching. Let's dive in to the specifics.

Cons:

I've been alluding to this for a while, but it feels like everything is buildup without payoff. Dolores keeps talking about her quest to be truly free. Maeve continues to under-utilize her new superpower and worry for her daughter. Bernard is confused. Hale doesn't know what's going on. And even this episode, which had a bunch of confluences and moments where characters finally came together, didn't feel as impacting as I think it was meant to. I still feel like I'm waiting for everything to click together.

Ford is super creepy and obviously Anthony Hopkins is doing a great job, but there were a few lines in there that were... less than subtle. When he's talking to Bernard he says something about how the human brain is the "last analog device in a digital world" and it made me cringe just a bit. These are the kinds of lines that draw far too much attention to the show's attempt at social commentary. I'm not saying it's a bad attempt, there's just no need to point it out so obviously.

June 01, 2018

Westworld: Phase Space (2x06)

Poor Maeve. Poor... everybody.

Cons:

So we learn that there's this backup computer network called "the Cradle" where all the hosts exist together in a hive mind type of thing. Bernard uploads himself into it to try and gather more information. I have no problem with this idea, and it leads to some great material in the episode. But I find myself a bit annoyed that it hasn't been brought up or discussed before this point. Elsie brings it up and it feels very exposition-y and info-dump-y in a way I didn't much enjoy.

Also, I must continue to complain about the pacing of this season overall. As far as I know, there are only ten episodes, right? If that's the case, we're 60% done and I still have so many questions. I don't know what the climax is going to be, I don't even have the slightest clue where all of this is heading. This episode doesn't do anything to start pulling together the pieces. If anything, it just introduces more questions. We get scenes with William and his daughter, but learn very little of substance. We see more of the Shogun story-line with Maeve, which is interesting, but it doesn't seem to propel Maeve and her companions forward on their own path, until the end when Maeve goes in search of her daughter. I'm enjoying everything we've been getting, but I'm worried that the culmination isn't going to be as powerful as it should be.

May 30, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale: After (2x07)

I'm emotional. That was excellent.

Cons:

Uhhhh.... nothing?

Pros:

Where do I even start? There were so many powerful moments in this episode that I just cannot even pick my favorite, or the one that impacted me the most. Let's start with poor Moira, who finds proof that her girlfriend was killed during the war. The flashback stuff, learning that Moira had a kid for a couple, who payed her thousands of dollars, really added a lot of flavor to her character. I feel like I understand her better. And putting a face to her previously unknown girlfriend added to the tragedy of it all as well. This episode came with some surprising reunions, but here we see the proof of one reunion that is never going to happen. It was incredibly moving.

I also enjoy the development of Luke and Moira's friendship. I like the fact that they're really only tied together by their shared connection with June, and that they didn't actually get along all that well in the past. But now, on the other side of so much pain and heartbreak, they stand united. Luke holds Moira's hands as she mourns her lost love, and I believe in the power of their found family.

May 29, 2018

Elementary: Bits and Pieces (6x05)

Michael is so creepy, you guys. I'm so worried about what's going to happen!

Cons:

I was thrilled to get a bit of a focus on Gregson this week, but I get nervous because I don't know that I trust this show to follow through in developing its secondary characters. Basically, I liked what we got, but I'll like it less if we don't see it continue.

The same sort of thing is true when it comes to Joan. We get things like her sudden interest in parenthood, and then no hint or mention of it this week. That makes sense, given everything else that's going on, but I want Joan's characterization to get the same careful and meticulous development that Sherlock's is getting. Time will tell.

May 24, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale: First Blood (2x06)

This show. Oh my God.

Cons:

I'm starting to think that I'm supposed to root for June and Nick as a couple, within the context of the narrative, and... I don't. I feel great sympathy for them both and their terrible situation, but I don't see them as particularly romantically compatible. I'm still waiting for June and Luke to be able to reunite, honestly.

Pros:

Let's start with Eden and Nick. The girl is FIFTEEN YEARS OLD. This is beyond disturbing. The sex scene between them was one of the most painful things I've ever had to watch. Thankfully it was brief. Think about how twisted this situation is. Nick has been given a wife against his will, and this wife is a literal child. She insists that they have sex, as it is their duty to God to conceive children. And Eden confides to June that she's worried Nick might be a "gender traitor," so June has to tell Nick that he needs to do his "duty" as her husband, or Eden will start making trouble. This is so sick, so twisted, so revolting. I love how this show can twist everything up so you feel as trapped as the characters themselves. What other option do they have, honestly?

May 22, 2018

Elementary: Our Time Is Up (6x04)

This episode came so close to being PERFECT, but then one little moment at the end had to throw things into wack for me.

Cons:

I loved the plot thread with Joan and Lin so much, but then we see that Joan is considering adopting a child at the end. Don't get me wrong - I love a motherhood narrative as much as the next person. But I feel like you never see stories on TV about women who never become mothers and also never regret it. Joan has never indicated that she wants kids. We don't have a story about Sherlock never becoming a father, and yet we're obligated to have a story about Joan becoming a mom? Why? Can't we have a strong woman who genuinely is not interested in kids? Can't we have Joan be a complete person without children in her life? All I can say is, I hope this subject is treated with nuance and care moving forward. I don't want Joan to adopt a kid, but if she does, it better be handled properly.

The case this week had its fair share of twists and turns, and for the most part I found it enjoyable... but the motivations of the bad guy were a little odd to me. It also bothers me that he was figured out because he said a Greek Orthodox saying in a recording of the murder, and his last name is super Greek. That feels a bit like clumsy story-telling.

Westworld: Akane no Mai (2x05)

Well then. We've got some samurai to deal with.

Cons:

As a stand-alone episode, I found all of the stuff in the new park to be really fascinating and moving. But as a piece of a larger season, I'm starting to get seriously concerned. We're halfway through Season Two, and I feel like we've barely started setting up some of this stuff. There are so many timelines, so many characters, so many different stories going on at the same time, that I worry about how it's all going to come together. Maybe I should trust the writers more, but honestly. I'm having trouble putting together which stories are happening at the same time, and which ones are displaced. It's getting a tad bit distracting.

Pros:

I seriously thought Dolores was going to kill Teddy, and it scared me so bad. Of course, a hard reset is basically robot murder, so maybe Dolores did kill Teddy, in one sense of the word. I am beyond excited to find out what this means. Dolores is freaking me out with how ruthless she is, and I feel so bad for poor Teddy. This show has an enormous amount of subtlety when it comes to exploring some of its big themes. Essentially, Dolores starts to wonder how much of what she feels for Teddy is genuine, and how much is what humans programmed her to feel. To take that one step further, does it really matter one way or another? And can we be sure that anything Dolores does or says or feels is her own, and not part of some larger scheme? Teddy is a total puppy dog, following Dolores around, but he broke her trust by refusing to murder that guy in the Confederate camp, and now he's getting what amounts to a robot lobotomy for his trouble. Yikes.

May 20, 2018

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The End (5x22)

I cried so hard. God damn it. I cried SO HARD.

Cons:

So, they weren't sure if they were getting renewed when they wrote and filmed this, right? So it had to feel like a final episode of the show. I get that. But the enormously sweet and touching ending is a bit undercut by the fact that we will be getting more episodes. I really hope that the sixth (and likely last) season of this show is a bit mellower, maybe structured more like an epilogue. I don't want a new big bad to come in and screw everything up, I just want to see maybe a smaller, more localized set of stories with the team, so we can have a nice long while to say goodbye. Time will tell.

I was DEVASTATED by the ending, what with Fitz and Coulson and all of that, but I had a bit of room left in me to be slightly annoyed at the "gotcha" element of that final memorial/celebration. They wanted us to all be shocked by the "twist" that Fitz can be saved, but I just felt manipulated, honestly. If this really had been the final episode, then Fitz's death would have felt like a cheap way to end his character. If everybody else gets cheesy final words, I want some Fitzsimmons cheesy finale stuff too. I know we still have a chance for that now, because the show was renewed, but I'm annoyed that this could have been the end.

Once Upon a Time: Leaving Storybrooke (7x22)

I'm feeling very bittersweet! I can't believe it's over. I started watching this show right when it started, so I've really been there from the beginning to the bitter end. It's always a little hard to review finales, because I try to balance looking at the episode on its own merits with how I feel about the show as a whole.

Cons:

I have to be honest, though. This episode was a little clunky. The main problem I had with it was the stuff with Wish Realm Henry. It came out of nowhere last week and it petered out in a really lackluster way this week. It's sweet, in theory, that Regina could save any version of Henry. But it doesn't really make sense. This Henry doesn't have any memories of Regina as his mother. He thinks of her as a coldblooded killer, and he's given no reason to change his mind about that. Suddenly he's fine, and he and older Henry are both affectionate sons of Regina? That's just weird.

Supernatural: Let the Good Times Roll (13x23)

Cas is SO UPSET, you guys. And so am I!

Cons:

Okay, so... the special effects were pretty darn bad. Especially the flying Dean/Michael and Lucifer fight. That was not nearly as cool as they wanted it to be. And it wasn't funny in a purposeful way either. It was just kind of pathetic.

I guess I was kind of confused as to the plans/motivations of all the Apocalypse World people, because in the last episode, the idea was that none of them would have left at all unless they knew they could come back and defeat Michael for good. And then in this episode, even though they still assume that Michael is in their original world wreaking havoc, they all start settling in and talk about staying. It was a really weird and sudden shift in motivation.

May 19, 2018

Grey's Anatomy: All of Me (14x24)

A lot of this was very cute, but on the whole this finale was just okay for me.

Cons:

I think TV shows are overly saturated with "disaster wedding" episodes, and I guess I was just looking for something a little different. There's a moment early on where everyone is sitting at the church and the wedding music starts, and I was pleasantly surprised by the idea that the wedding ceremony was going to happen early on, and that the rest of the episode could be focused on the reception. But, instead, it turns out that most of the guests were at the wrong ceremony. There are tons of disasters, both medical and otherwise - Jo and Alex get stuck in a shed with a skeleton, the wedding planner goes into anaphylactic shock, the pastor is super late, etc. etc. Wouldn't it be nice to just have a normal, easy ceremony for once? I'm not saying it would make the best TV, but still.

There was some clumsy writing with the way both Arizona and April got written off this week. My little shipper heart was thrilled with the suggestion that Arizona and Callie might be able to find their way back to each other, but to find out in an offhand comment that Callie and Penny broke up feels very odd to me. Callie moved away from her whole life because of Penny. If the two of them aren't together anymore, then why is Callie still in New York? What was the whole point of Sofia bouncing back and forth? It was all just handled so very poorly. And April gets a very clunky line of exposition where she tells us that she's helping the homeless now, and that's why she quit her job at Grey Sloan. This feels like a good ending for April hypothetically, but it's a bit of a sudden and flimsy excuse for her being written off the show. As far as I can tell, she and Matthew are still living in Seattle, right? Maybe she'll be able to pop back in and make guest appearances?

May 17, 2018

Modern Family: Clash of Swords (9x22)

This episode was really lackluster. It's not like I hated it, but it just felt kind of half-hearted, and while I can see how this is the finale, it didn't have the energy or emotion behind it to really land the big ideas of change it was going for.

Cons:

For example, Manny wants to go on a road trip, but he's nervous about it and keeps trying to recruit Haley and Alex to go with him. In the end, he makes a big speech about facing fears, that's meant to wrap up the overall theme of embracing change. But... it's a road trip. And we don't even get to see any of it. Seems kind of insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And the other big changes, which should have felt more momentous, kind of fall flat as well. Claire and Jay decide to merge their company with a new high-tech closet company. That's a big change, but the thing is, this show is so inconsistent with the way it looks at Claire's job that I just know it will only come up a few times, whenever they decide to do a plot addressing it. We won't see any real character change or growth from Claire or Jay. Mitchell and Cam decide to keep Cal, Pam's son, with them, since Pam is in jail. This is a big decision, taking on the responsibility of raising a child, but it's kind of done as an afterthought.

May 16, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale: Seeds (2x05)

Oh jeez. I really thought June was losing that baby. I was so freaked out.

Cons:

We saw June break at the end of last episode, so this week we're seeing Offred. Which I absolutely loved, in the worst way. It was hard to watch, which it should have been. But at the end of this episode, it seems that we've gotten June back. She's back to being secretly rebellious - she's ready to try and escape with her unborn child. I wanted the effect of that breaking to be even more dramatic. Not because I like to punish June, but because I want the stakes to mean more, narrative-wise. This is probably a nitpick.

Also, I think maybe it's because the women of this show are just so interesting, but I just think the Commander is boring and stupid. I honestly think maybe that's the point. But his and Nick's whole thing, where they both know that Nick is likely the child's father, just seems petty in comparison to what June is going through.