Thursday, August 28, 2014

Outlander: The Way Out (1x03)

Jamie you are adorable and I love you.

The End.

Okay, no. Here's the plot of this one.

Unless I'm much mistaken, the main plot of this episode is actually not in the book at all. Claire is starting her job as a physician at Castle Leoch, while Dougal's men continue to follow her and watch her. When Claire finds out that a young boy has died, and the villagers suspect demonic possession, she is concerned. When Mrs. Fitz's nephew later falls victim to the same symptoms, she wants to help. However, everyone is convinced that the boy's ailments are spiritual in nature. He went up to the black kirk, which is known among the people as a place haunted with demons.

Claire tries to help Laoghaire flirt with Jamie, but at first it seems Jamie is much more interested in Claire. Later, however, Claire sees the two of them kissing. When she teases Jamie about it at dinner, Murtagh tells Claire to back off of Jamie, because things would go badly wrong if anyone were to find out.

Claire visits Geillis Duncan, and witnesses a young boy being nailed to the pillory by the ear in punishment for stealing. When Jamie comes to get Claire, she pretends to swoon to distract the crowd, so that Jamie can help the young boy pull his ear loose. The two of them go to the black kirk together, where Claire finds a plant that she believes is poisoning these young boys. She makes a remedy and saves the boy. This cure, along with her assistance for Colum's pain, makes her all the more valuable to the people of Leoch. It seems as if her release is further from her than ever.

Claire listens to a Gaelic song, while Jamie translates. It tells the story of a woman coming through a circle of standing stones, and then returning home again. Claire hopes that she will be able to get back home, and plans on escaping from Castle Leoch as soon as she can.

Let's start with the problems...

It might just be me, but the translation of the song at the end felt a little too spot-on to me. The lyrics were describing Claire's situation so perfectly that it made me roll my eyes a bit. I can't remember how it happens in the book, but in any case, I felt it could have been a tad more subtle here.

Same complaint about subtlety for the scene with Laoghaire, Jamie, and Claire. It was like watching a bad teen movie for some parts - Laoghaire pitifully tries to get Jamie's attention, while Jamie stares, love struck, at Claire.

This show is doing a superb job of conveying tone and messages, but sometimes I think they need to put a bit more trust in the viewers. We can grasp these things without their being shoved in our faces quite as much.

But now onto the good stuff.

This new little detour plot was actually quite excellent! It served as a vehicle for Claire to explore her setting, meet new people, and prove her prowess as a physician. More importantly, perhaps, it gave Jamie and Claire some room to spend even more time with one another. Their scenes alone in the kirk and in Claire's surgery were quite lovely, and gave us time to get to know the two of them together. You can already tell that Jamie's beginning to be smitten with Claire, and Claire seems to enjoy his company more than almost anyone else's.

Because of the setting, and the high-born status of some of these characters, everyone is fairly reserved when it comes to expressing romantic interest. More than that, Claire is still trying to get back to Frank, and hasn't let herself truly notice the man in front of her yet. Both of these things mean that Claire and Jamie can get to know each other as people first, before the real possibility of a romantic relationship becomes clear to them. It's endearing to watch their friendship grow, and I'm happy to see that these actors have great onscreen chemistry.

I'm also still greatly enjoying Geillis Duncan's character. The scene where she and Claire talk was one of the most intense of the show, in some ways, as the audience begins to be suspicious of Geillis, and her strange interest in Claire. Jamie's interruption comes at just the right moment to frustrate Geillis, and, in a way, the audience as well.

One more thing to praise - I really enjoyed the fake-out, where Claire tells Mrs. Fitz the truth, and she panics. It was odd, because I didn't really believe they'd change the plot so drastically from the books, but I was genuinely startled all the same. It was a nice look at what people might think of Claire if she were to be honest. Even so, with the truth concealed, people are starting to view her as an oddity, with her miracle cures and sassenach accent.

This is a lot more brief than I was planning on being, but I've said what I wanted to say. Another great episode - the best so far, in my opinion. I'm happy to see how successful this show can be when it deviates slightly from its source.

9/10

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Doctor Who: Deep Breath (8x01)

I think I have a problem, and that problem is this: it's impossible for me to attain objectivity. I see everything that Moffat writes through this veil of dislike now, and it's like even when he does something good, I can't stop nitpicking at it. But I'm going to try and be fair in this review. As fair as I possibly can be.

Let's start with the plot.

In Victorian London, a giant dinosaur is walking around. Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax all see this, and then they see the dinosaur spit up the TARDIS. When the Doctor emerges, they immediately notice that he is volatile and not doing so well.

While he rests, Clara tearfully asks how they can put him back to how he was, and laments the lines on his face, since it's brand new. Vastra does not take kindly to Clara, thinking she's being shallow. However, Clara is simply struggling with all of this change. The Doctor wakes up and goes looking for the dinosaur. He finds that it has been killed. Clara and the others catch up with him, and he notices a suspicious man walking away from the spectacle of the dead dinosaur. He also learns that there have been other cases of mysterious deaths recently. He leaves, and Clara goes back with the Paternoster Gang.

Clara receives a message to "the impossible girl" in a newspaper and shows up for lunch at a restaurant. While there, the Doctor reveals that he thought Clara was the one to send the message. Since neither of them did, something fishy is going on. They then notice that all of the other patrons of the restaurant are not eating - or breathing. They learn that their waiter is wearing someone else's face, and that his other body parts are recycled from humans, too. Turns out, Clara and the Doctor are what's on the menu.

They're dropped down through a chute into an ancient space craft below the restaurant, where they find more of the cyborgs. The Doctor appears to abandon Clara, and she tries to get away, but is caught by the main cyborg guy. She refuses to tell him where the Doctor has gone, correctly assuming that her life will be useless to them without that information. Turns out, the Doctor was there the whole time, disguised as a cyborg. Clara uses a code word, "Geronimo" to summon the Paternosters, who come in to save the day.

As Clara and the others fight their way out, the Doctor goes to talk to the main cyborg, lamenting that he has to die. Apparently, this ancient space craft is the sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour from "The Girl in the Fireplace." They are trying to rebuild themselves again and again to reach the promised land. As the leader seems to be in despair, the Doctor tells him he needs to end his life. The cyborg says that self destruction is against his basic programming, and the Doctor tells him that murder is against his. We never get to see if the Cyborg jumps or is pushed, but he falls to his death, impaled atop a tower.

The Doctor vanishes again, and Clara isn't sure if he'll come back. Vastra seems convinced that he will, and tells Clara to be there for him. Later, when in the TARDIS, Clara says she's not sure if she knows who the Doctor is anymore, and doesn't know if she can stay with him. At this point, Clara's phone rings. She goes outside to answer, and it's... the Doctor! (Matt Smith's version, anyway.) He says goodbye to Clara and asks her to please help him - him in the here and now, because he's scared. Clara still isn't sure, and the Doctor laments that she can't see him, even though he's right in front of her. Clara takes a good long look, and then hugs him. The Doctor and Clara go off to get some chips and coffee.

In an odd epilogue, we see the cyborg leader talking to a mysterious woman named Missy who claims that she knows the Doctor. She tells the cyborg that he has reached Heaven!

This episode was good. It had a lot of interesting things to say about the Doctor, about who he is over-all, about his relationship with Clara, and about the direction this show will be taking. It had some moments of real strength. Some great suspense. Great dialogue in some moments. A creative premise. A surprising link to a previous Doctor Who episode. Great, great acting from Capaldi in his debut, and from Coleman in an interesting new challenge for her character.

This episode was annoying. It was all about the Doctor and his psyche. It was all about what he needed, and about what Clara can offer him. Jenny and Vastra's relationship was played for laughs on numerous occasions, and the dinosaur was there just to make things look grand. Moffat clearly has an ego-trip problem - bringing back an episode from the Russel T. Davis era that Moffat himself wrote (an episode, incidentally, that involves a girl sitting around and waiting for the Doctor to return to her, even though Madame de Pompadour kicks ass in real life. Seriously, in Moffat's eyes, every girl just wants the Doctor. I think de Pompadour was the prototypical Amy Pond: the Girl Who Waited).

Do you see what I mean? There were great things, but also a lot of annoying things that I can't seem to look past, no matter how hard I try. Let's try and separate these out and talk about them a bit more clearly. Starting with the negative.

Madame Vastra and Jenny's relationship. Not all bad, and I'll get to that in a second, but did anyone else feel like this was just extra, extra exploitative, like: woo look at me, I'm inclusive, here are some lesbians! They brought up the fact that they were married like ten times more often than was necessary to remind the audience, made jokes about how "men are monkeys," had scenes where Jenny (admittedly looking very smokin' hot) posed for Vastra, and made lots of references to checking Clara out. It's like... yep, they're lesbians! Good job! Now let them be more than that. I also get really uncomfortable about Jenny's subservient position to Vastra. I know they say it's to cover up the truth, but doesn't it look like Jenny's always the one being pushed around? And one other thing - did they have some sort of weird telepathic link when being attacked by the cyborgs? And how is the two of them kissing and "sharing breath" supposed to trick the cyborgs? They're clearly not behaving in a normal cyborg fashion, so wouldn't that blow their cover anyway?

The Doctor shot someone with a sonic screwdriver. NO. Excuse me, but NO. That made me want to cry and throw my computer across the room. I know it didn't kill him or whatever, but still. That was... just annoying.

Throughout the episode, Vastra keeps talking about the Doctor as if he were this mystical, impossible to understand entity. It reminded me of River Song's line back in... oh, Season Six, I think? She describes the job of the companions as: "We do as we're told." That made me livid at the time, and although it wasn't done quite so blatantly here, I still got the same vibe from some of Vastra's conversations. She kept going on and on about how the Doctor works in mysterious ways, and how if they ever wanted to see him again, they had to do this, or how in order to be there for him, they had to do that. Despite Vastra being interested in women, this episode still barely passed the Beschdel test, in that practically every line of dialogue out of Vastra's mouth was about the Doctor, and Clara's entire arc in the episode was entirely about the Doctor.

And let's talk about that, shall we? I want to make it clear that I have no problem with focusing this episode most specifically on the Doctor's character. It makes sense - we're introducing Peter Capaldi, and his new version of this beloved character. But did you notice Clara's arc throughout this episode? She's upset because the Doctor is different, and then Madame Vastra and the Matt-Smith-Doctor convince her to help the Doctor, and so she decides to accept him. Because he's the Doctor, and she likes him. There's no other real reason, here. It's not like the story suddenly becomes unreasonable because of this, but I'm thinking about Rose's first episode with David Tennant, and how she was surrounded with her family, and how we learned more about her as a character, than we've ever known about Clara. She nannies some kids, there's some weird unexplained hallucination about teaching in a classroom, but what does it all lead up to? A devoted companion of the Doctor, and nothing more.

While Capaldi's performance was amazing, I was still annoyed by his calling Vastra and Jenny "the green one" and the "not green one," because it seemed to cement that he really does only see people for their superficiality. Obviously, the joke was that he was in a disturbed and unstable state, but you can almost look at it as if he were extremely drunk: he was revealing true yet unpleasant things about himself, including the fact that he really can't tell Jenny and Vastra apart as people, beyond their skin differences. It's irritating.

And finally, what the hell was up with that epilogue? Who's Missy? Is she supposed to be the "girl from the shop?" Or is that something else? I know I might be overreacting, but to me it seems like this sort of thing is exactly the problem with Moffat's Doctor Who. Here we have this epic episode with a lot of good stuff in it, that works as a jumping off point for Clara and the Doctor's new relationship parameters, and then you have to throw in some weird little mystery at the end. Why can't we just have a stand-alone adventure? It drives me nuts! When we were in Davis' hands, the seasons always led up to something bigger, but we didn't need anyone holding our hands and screaming at us: "notice this! It's important!" Yikes.

But as I said earlier, this was a good episode in terms of the Doctor's character. It was delicately and subtlety wrought, and it did place a lot of emphasis on the utter enormity of the Doctor's life, and his struggles. His pain, and his principles. Let's talk about that.

The humor was pretty fantastic. "An independent state of eyebrows" was probably my favorite bit. I loved it when Matt Smith's Doctor made fun of his own chin, and I love that Capaldi seems to have a hangup about the eyebrows. The disoriented way that Capaldi was talking throughout the episode really helped us to understand his state of unease. He couldn't keep names straight, he couldn't find the word for "cold," and he couldn't get out the questions he wanted to ask.

I loved that scene, where he said that the question wasn't "who did this," or "how did they do this," about the dinosaur being dead. I was worried that the punch line would be: "The question is, why?" But instead, the question was a very logical "have there been any similar murders?" I loved that!

And while Vastra and Jenny may have annoyed me a bit, I still like the way that the two of them and Strax are playing up the Sherlock Holmes comparisons. Strax is like their Mrs. Hudson! We see them solving crimes, contacting detectives and even using a network of boys to spy for them, just like Holmes does in ACD's stories.

My other favorite humorous scene was the lunch scene with the Doctor and Clara, where they both misunderstand each other and think that the other person placed the ad. The Doctor taking Clara's hand and telling her to never change... hahaha. And "it's a face!" "Yes, it's very convincing," "No, it's a face!" "Ahh!"

The dinosaur may have been a bit... in your face, but I still thought it worked as a good comparison to the Doctor. Old, alone, confused, in a place he doesn't belong... and the Doctor watches this creature die, knowing he cannot save it. It seems like maybe he can't save himself, either. By the end of the episode, we see the Doctor admit to that - he can't be alone. He doesn't know how.

I just thought of something: this is the first time ever in this show that I really felt the Doctor's sense of fear at the idea of a companion leaving him. I'm not talking about 10's grief over losing Rose or Donna, or even Matt Smith's panic over losing Amy. See, this Doctor doesn't think he's going to be able to find anyone else to rely on. He's depending on Clara helping him, for the sake of what he used to be, not what he is now. I think he's truly scared that he's not worth anyone's time, and that his previous versions command more love and respect than he can. Very interesting.

Oh, and speaking of comparisons to the Doctor - not only do we have the dinosaur, we also have the cyborgs. These creatures have been replacing bits of themselves until there's nothing original left - and where did the cyborg get that face? Where did the Doctor get his face? He feels like he recognizes it, ostensibly from the Pompeii episode back in Series Four. I like the idea that the Doctor has been borrowing bits and pieces from the world around him until he can't really recognize who he is anymore. Hopefully, throughout the season we see him start to find who he is at his core.

That's what makes it all the more tragic that the Doctor is convincing this cyborg that he has nothing left to live for - that it's time for him to give up and die. If the Doctor is noticing the parallels between himself and this robot, and he most certainly is, then he's noticing that his own usefulness might be running out, too. And while I hate the thought of the Doctor doing violence, I absolutely ADORE the fact that we don't know if the Doctor pushed the cyborg, or if the cyborg jumped. Yikes. How brutal. (Although, again, we didn't need it shoved in our faces by that weird little epilogue where Missy asks the cyborg if the Doctor pushed him or not. Thanks, lady. I wouldn't have caught the tension of the moment if you hadn't explicitly stated it for me. Gosh.)

Another thing to praise is the pacing and the buildup in this episode. The scene where Clara is abandoned by the Doctor and has to walk through the ship holding her breath was actually very creepy. And when Clara places her life in the hands of the Doctor, depending on her faith in him and she reaches her hand out backwards... "please let me be right!" And the Doctor grabs her hand and spins her around. That scene had my heart pumping. (Although I do have to point out that it's another example of how Clara's entire being is centered around the Doctor. She may have been smart enough to survive down there without him, but her plan for escaping was simply to hope that she could still trust the Doctor. If that had been Rose, Martha, or Donna, I'm convinced that they would have called for Vastra and the gang a lot sooner.)

The suspense before the cyborg fell to his death was also perfectly executed. I really didn't know what was going to happen, or what I wanted to happen. So that was nicely done. The Doctor even looks into the camera briefly, after we see the cyborg impaled. Creepy.

I'll end with a discussion of the last scene. Although, once again, this was all about the Doctor and not really about Clara, I still really loved it. We see the Doctor's hope and then despair, as Clara says she doesn't know him anymore. The best line was when Clara told the Doctor he shouldn't have been listening to her phone call, and the Doctor points out that he didn't have to, because he was the one who made the call. "I'm not on the phone, I'm right here. Standing in front of you. Please, just... just see me." In that moment, both Clara and the watching audience had to try and squish Matt Smith's character together with Capaldi's. The pieces don't quite fit, but they're not really supposed to. Clara is willing to risk the Doctor that is, for the sake of the Doctor that was. Hopefully we continue to see that tension play out.

I also have to praise this little moment: "Clara, I'm not your boyfriend." "I never thought you were." "I never said it was your mistake." This was so perfect. Matt Smith's Doctor was clearly smitten by Clara, but it was always just part of the illusion - the veil of the Doctor's young face, the performance he was putting on for her. This new version of the Doctor is older, lined, grim, and maybe a lot more true to who he has been inside for quite a long time.

Okay, I should probably wrap this up. I have complicated feelings about this episode and about this show in general, but Capaldi's performance was great, and I want to explore his dynamic with Clara further. And who is the woman in the shop?

7/10

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Legend of Korra: Enter the Void/Venom of the Red Lotus (3x12/13)

This was excellent, I'll just say it up front. After a slow, rather gentle season of Korra, we end on a finale so epic that it can hold its own with the ATLA finale. First, the plot.

Korra and the gang realize that the only way to save the Air Benders from Zaheer is for Korra to give herself up. They devise a plan: Mako, Bolin, and Asami will go to the Air Temple to get the Air Benders, while Korra will go to a separate location to hand herself over, with Tonaq, Lin, Suyin, and other Zaofu cops standing by to get Korra back, once the Air Benders are safe.

Korra hands herself over to Zaheer after getting confirmation from Mako that the Air Benders are safe - but then, it turns out to be a trap! The Air Benders were really just empty cloaks filled with water by Ming-Hua. So Mako, Bolin, and Asami have to fight against Ming-Hua and Ghazan, while also getting an injured Tenzin out. Ghazan sets the whole place to melt in lava, trapping them inside. Bolin uses his Earth Bending to get them out through the walls, but the lava is encroaching. At the last minute, he is able to Lava Bend to save them all! Kai then shows upon his baby bison and flies the three kids and Tenzin to safety, as the Air Temple crumbles behind them.

While all of this is going on, Korra tries to escape from Zaheer and P'Li, learning that the Air Benders are still captives. Tonraq, Suyin, Lin, and the other cops all help out. Toph's two daughters take on P'Li, and they kill her. Zaheer pushes Tonraq off the edge of a cliff, and Korra believes he is dead. Even though Korra is chained hand and feet, she still puts up a good fight, but is finally subdued by Zaheer, who escapes from Lin and the others by flying (unaided) away, a new skill that Air Benders don't usually have.

Tenzin, Mako, Bolin, Asami, and Kai unite with Lin, Suyin, the thankfully still alive Tonraq, and the others on the ground. Now that Korra has been taken by Zaheer, they need a plan to get her back. They also need a way to get the Air Benders back, and Kai has the answer to that one: he saw where the Red Lotus took the captives! They think Korra might be in the same place, so they all go to find them.

Meanwhile, the captives are trying to get away from some anonymous Red Shirts - I mean, uh, Red Lotus members. Tenzin's family and Opal devise a plan to get out, actually managing to get their hands on a key, but a guard member sees them. Lin and the gang show up to rescue them, though! Now that everyone has reunited, Jinora can tell everyone that she went into her Spirit state and found Korra, and that they need to rescue her.

While this has been happening, we see Korra chained up in the air. Zaheer, Ghazan, and Ming-Hua are all there. They force poison in through Korra's skin, which will force her body into the Avatar State as she tries to reject the poison. They will then kill her, ending the Avatar Cycle. Once in the Avatar State, Korra is able to escape and duel with Zaheer. Zaheer flies, and Korra uses Fire Bending to propel herself in the air (like a jet pack). Epic battles ensue, with Zaheer and Korra in the air, and Bolin and Mako fighting Ming-Hua and Ghazan in a cavern. Mako kills Ming-Hua by Lightning Bending while she's standing in water, and electrocuting her. Ghazan takes the cavern down around his own ears using Lava Bending, and Bolin and Mako escape.

Korra and Zaheer are still fighting it out, so Jinora gets all the Air Benders together to create a giant funnel that pulls Korra and Zaheer to the ground, allowing Korra to slam him to earth. Lin and Suyin enclose him in rock. Suyin is then able to get the poison out of Korra using Metal Bending, because the poison was metallic.

We flash forward a few weeks later to see that Korra is still in an extremely weakened state from the poisoning. She is in a wheel chair, and seems defeated in both body and spirit. Jinora becomes an Air Bending master, complete with shaved head and tattoos, and at the ceremony, Tenzin promises that he and the other Air Benders will embrace their nomadic roots and travel the world, restoring balance and keeping the peace on behalf of Avatar Korra, who is still recovering.

Thus ends the season. HOLY SHIT!

I'll very quickly list the few negative elements, but seeing as this was practically a flawless double episode, I don't really have much to say.

The biggest problem was that I was a little bit confused about Ghazan's death. He and Bolin were Lava Bending, and then Ghazan decides to bring the whole place down around his ears so that Bolin and Mako will die with him. Okay, I get that, but then Bolin and Mako are able to easily escape using Earth Bending, so why didn't Ghazan just do the same? Did he just get tired of fighting? Maybe I'm missing something.

The other tiny thing... there were a few jokes that missed their mark. Bolin stuffing a sock in Zaheer's mouth could have been funny, but it would have been funnier if someone else, say, Bumi, had said "oh, put a sock in it!" And then Bolin had said "way ahead of you" and done just that. Instead, Bolin just sticks a sock in Zaheer's mouth and then explains the joke, saying "get it?" It was too much.

Also, they name-dropped this Metal Bending cop girl... I think her name was Kuvira (spelling is a total guess). It was really obvious that they're setting her up for something, but it made no sense and felt awkward. Oh well.

But enough of that nitpicking nonsense. This episode was AMAZING!

Let's start with the obvious strengths: the fight sequences. The creativity in each one of these fights was just so incredible to behold.

In Korra's first fight, she's bound hand and foot, but she's still able to creatively jump around using her feet. The Metal Benders are in fine form as they swing themselves up the mountainside. Tonraq kicked some major ass against Zaheer. There were also quieter moments, such as Lin telling Suyin she loved her, just as she went off to fight, or the epic slow-motion shattering of Tonraq's ice spear. Zaheer's flying felt like a natural progression for his character - both surprising and inevitable as it happened.

Meanwhile, we've got Bolin's epic Lava Bending discovery - their trip through the Air Temple was really creative and suspenseful, and even though I figured Bolin wasn't going to die, it was still genuinely frightening to see him rush forward towards the lava in one last desperate bid to save himself, his brother, Asami, and Tenzin.

Then there's Zaheer and Korra's second showdown. Coming off of the first fight, where Korra is chained up, to the second one, where Korra manages to free herself from impossible odds, was really powerful. In an animal-like fury over the death of her father, her eyes bright in the Avatar State, she holds her own against a man with the power of flight. This was such a cool scene, reminding me of Aang's last battle with Ozai. All four elements were in play, and the fact that Korra seemed almost inhuman in these moments made it all the more frightening.

Although this fight was rightfully the focus, Bolin and Mako's fight against Ming-Hua and Ghazan was equally intense. It was such a smart move to give Bolin the power of Lava Bending. After waiting and waiting for his Metal Bending skills to come out, it was a lovely subversion of my expectations to see him Lava Bend instead. And to use it against the guy who introduced the concept to us was really awesome. (Random side-bar... I feel like Lava Bending is something of a combination Bending technique. Fire Bending and Earth Bending combined, almost. Since we know that Bolin has Fire Bending in his lineage, given Mako's abilities, maybe that's why he can Lava Bend? It's just a theory).

Mako kills Ming-Hua in one of the coolest ways possible. I was wondering if she would actually die - after P'Li's quick death by the hands of Lin and Suyin, I was wondering if the other Red Lotus members would get the axe, too. And the way it happened was just so creative! Lightning Bending is something that Mako doesn't do all that often, but he manages to pull off something seriously impressive here.

Then there's Jinora, who uses the power of teamwork to save Korra from Zaheer. I know that sounded cheesy as all hell, but I was so proud of her, and I loved the idea that the Air Benders, even though they might not be experts, can work together to create something powerful to take down a true master.

Suffice it to say, beautiful animation, creative fight choreography, and an ever-mounting intensity made these Bending sequences amazing to watch.

The next thing I must praise is the progression of Korra's character through this double episode. Because she runs the gambit, here, and it's all amazingly rendered and portrayed through the animation. First, we see her determined yet somehow oddly defeated at the same time. She's going to give herself over, and while she trusts her friends to save the day if possible, she's also willing to truly sacrifice herself if it's the only way to save the Air Nation. Then, as she's fighting Zaheer the first time, she thinks Tonraq is dead. She is an extremely talented Bender, and she lets her rage fuel her to continue fighting. But... at least this first round, she cannot succeed.

The scene where Korra is poisoned while chained up in mid-air... is this actually supposed to be for kids? My God, this was dark. The animation was so creepy, as Korra flickers in and out of the Avatar State, trying to avoid entering it completely. The strength of her character really shone through when she showed that she was more worried about the Avatar Cycle being broken than she was about her own life. And those hallucinations of Amon, Unalaq, and Vaatu were really disturbing. Nicely done. When she finally enters the Avatar State, she's in full bad-ass mode, but it's scary because it honestly doesn't feel like Korra anymore. This is something else, something beyond anything we've seen from her before. There's no control, only rage and desperation.

Juxtapose Korra madly fighting for her life and for revenge, with the Korra from the last scene. Again, the animation is so impressive, in that it truly shows us Korra's desolation and hopelessnes. It seems that her worst nightmare has come true - she cannot fight as the Avatar any longer. She feels useless. However, she's not completely defeated, as we see moments of joy when Pema and Tenzin's kids crowd around her. Tenzin honors Korra by offering to do the job of the Avatar for her, but at the same time, Korra feels such a sense of loss in these moments.

It's also interesting to note that President Raiko accepts her back, calling the Red Lotus members "terrorists." Honestly, I think Korra kind of understands where the Red Lotus were coming from, even after all they've done. This episode did attempt to humanize them a bit more, what with P'Li and Zaheer's scene together (I love how tall P'Li is, by the way) and Zaheer's genuinely anguished reaction to her death. As Raiko congratulates Korra on eliminating this threat, I can just see Korra thinking back to Raiko's politics and wondering if the man in front of her isn't just another - more quiet - example of the evil she's been facing this whole time.

I love the teamwork aspect to this episode, as every character gets their chance to help out and shine. In particular, I think it's lovely that Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi are all virtually out of commission for all of these fights. Tenzin has to live with the fact that his entire family is captured by the Red Lotus - wife, kids, and siblings. When they're freed, Tenzin then has to rely on his daughter to lead the way. He knows when to back down, and I enjoyed that. All of the rest of them get to kick ass, though. The sisters Lin and Suyin; the brothers Mako and Bolin. Korra. The Metal Benders. Jinora and the Air Benders. All of them were important in defeating the Red Lotus.

And now on to the best thing ever: JINORA! I actually, honest to God, started crying when Tenzin lifted her hood and she was bald, with the full tattoos. This was such a brave, beautiful, meaningful, precious thing for the show to do. I can't even explain how much it meant to see Jinora become a master. She is honestly one of the very best things about this show. I have a friend who complained that Kai's character was pushing Jinora to the side, but I disagree. Jinora really took charge this episode, helping to lead her people and bring down Zaheer. The love and respect that Tenzin shows for her is another reason to praise Jinora as a character. She may be a young girl, but she's a Bending master and commands all of the attention and respect that that entails.

I want to take a feminist moment to say that I love the women on this show. There are a lot more of them here than there were in ATLA, and they are so varied and amazing. You've got Korra, who's portrayed as very muscular rather than curvy; she's rash, hot-tempered, but amazingly generous and kind. Asami, who's the traditional beauty in appearance, but is a technological genius and a gentle friend. Middle-aged women, like Lin and Suyin, whose story-lines focus on their sisterly bond rather than any men in their lives. P'Li, a good head taller than her love interest, who is one of the most intimidating characters on the show. Ming-Hua, who didn't have much of a character, but was a double-amputee and was still an enormous threat. Kya, who is well past middle age but still strong, needing no man or children to validate her. Pema, a quiet and strong mother who is devoted to her family. Opal, a sweet young teenager who wants to explore her talents and still find love along the way. Jinora, a gentle yet fierce child who knows how to lead her people, and who shaves her head to participate in the honorific of her people. I can't think of any other show that would really shave a kid's head as a sign of honor. It's such an amazing thing.

Yikes, this review is getting long. Let me list just a few more moments that I felt were really important.

The Southern Air Temple is gone! Not only was this a dramatic and effective shot, as we see the temple melt away into lava; it's also such a good story decision. It was the catalyst for Tenzin and the other Air Benders to become nomads, and a way of getting these characters out of their comfort zones once again.

Asami. She didn't have a lot to do in this episode, but I loved it when she grabbed Korra's hand and promised to be there for her if she needed to talk. That was such a sweet moment for these two good friends.

Kai and his cute little bison! Kai has been sort of boring as a character since they actually got to the Air Temple... I thought he had real promise when they introduced him, and then he was just kind of... shrug. But he was really adorable in this episode. I liked how none of the adults would listen to him at first, even though he saved their lives. When he finally does get to speak, turns out he has useful information! Who knew that kids his age could be helpful? I mean, it's not like Jinora has ever helped anyone before... :)

Gosh, I really should stop there. This is getting ridiculous. If you couldn't tell, I loved this episode so much. The Legend of Korra has had its ups and downs, but if they're capable of this, I'm excited to see what's coming for us next season.

10/10

Friday, August 22, 2014

Suits: This is Rome (4x10)

Wow. Wow. Wow. No. Not okay. This is... not good. This was quite a stellar summer finale, but I am so, so, angry that I have to wait to see what happens next. First of all, the promo for this episode was enormously misleading. I thought Mike was going to betray everyone in some surprising twist, and I had no idea how they were going to pull that off. Instead, we got something quite different. Let's start with the plot.

Louis has left the firm, and is struggling to find somewhere else to work, since he's not allowed to bring clients with him from Pearson Specter. He asks Harvey for help, but Jessica won't give Louis clients. Harvey gets Louis a job offer, but Louis won't take it, since it's in Cincinnati. Harvey then tries to get Louis a job in Boston, so he can be with Sheila (at Donna's suggestion). When Louis goes to try and get back together with Sheila, it doesn't work, and Louis doesn't take the job in Boston, either. Mike now tries his own hand at helping Louis, by going to Robert Zane and asking him to hire Louis. Robert agrees to meet with Louis, but then says that Louis needs to show he has balls by stealing a client from Pearson Specter and breaking his contract.

Meanwhile, Mike has been working to try and help Harvey retain a client, Versalife. Katrina tells Louis about the client, and Louis goes to poach them. Jessica thinks that Mike told Louis about Versalife, but Harvey doesn't believe it, and goes immediately to talk to Mike, who confirms that he said nothing. Even so, Louis now has Versalife. Harvey is pissed, and tells Louis that he's done having compassion for him and trying to help him. Mike has a way to get Versalife back, but it involves a bit of awkwardness, since he and Harvey have to go and talk to Walter Gillis. Gillis doesn't exactly forgive Mike, but he does agree to buy a division of Versalife, to give him a new purpose in life. Thus, Pearson Specter retains the client, and Louis has nobody to bring to Robert Zane.

Jessica tells Mike that even though she thinks of him as a risk, he keeps pulling off impressive acts and is an asset to the firm overall. Harvey and Mike go out to dinner to celebrate keeping Versalife, but not before Harvey goes to Robert Zane and asks him to take Louis even without a client. Zane doesn't seem interested, but at least Harvey and Mike both know that they did what they could for him. Jessica learns that Katrina is the one who told Louis about Versalife, and gives Katrina the option to quit with dignity. She does so.

And then comes the twist. Louis realizes that Mike didn't recognize a key from Louis' office, even though it was something Mike should have received as a member of an elite Harvard club. Upon further digging, Louis puts together the truth: Mike did not go to Harvard. He confronts Donna, and his suspicions are confirmed.

Louis goes to Jessica, and forces her to admit that she's a liar and a hypocrite. Jessica does, but she refuses to apologize. Louis says that he wants Jessica in handcuffs, but Jessica knows that Louis wants something else. Louis asks for it: "Pearson Specter Litt."

And thus ends this section of the season, leaving us on that horrifying cliffhanger as we move forward into months of nothingness. Noooo.

Complaints?

A few, I guess. The only thing that felt a little unbalanced to me is that Rachel was hardly in this episode whatsoever. When we do have plots focused on Mike and Rachel's relationship, they're subplots. When we focus on the "real" plot, the one driving the story, Rachel is completely sidelined. You know, she works for Harvey too! Shouldn't she have some sort of a job to do? Maybe she could have offered to visit Louis? Nothing? And believe me, I'm not complaining about the Mike and Harvey dinner scene, but Mike says he's going out to celebrate, and he does so with his boss instead of his girlfriend. Hmm.

And there was no Jeff Malone. Which, frankly, I'm thrilled about, because I hate him. But even so, it felt a little odd to drop his character like a hot potato.

Also, while I loved the banter between Mike and Harvey in the restaurant, I have to bring up the fact that the word "pussy" needs to be retired as an insult. Now. When Harvey says Mike should order a cosmo, and that he's a "nice pussy," all I'm thinking is "pussy" = feminine = weak = should be mocked. I try not to read in to every little thing, but in a show like Suits, with such strong and interesting female characters, I tend to notice when there are micro-instances of sexism. So that was badly done by the writers, I felt.

But let's be honest, this was a kick ass hour of television overall. And we should talk about the good stuff!

First of all, the plot was nice and simple. This episode was more about the emotions of the characters and the way these wheels turn in their relationships. It didn't need a complex plot, and it didn't have one. We don't know much about Versalife, or the other two firms that were merging, or any of the specifics. We basically just know that Pearson Specter is in danger of losing it, and Louis grabs it out from under their noses.

I love that Jessica stands her ground with Louis. He broke the law, and he deserved to be fired for that. Jessica did him a favor by covering up the truth, and she's willing to give him a glowing recommendation. She made her decision, though, and she won't let Louis take clients. In the end, when it all comes back around on her, you can see that she has to stick with her principles, however messed up they are. Jessica is a hypocrite. She couldn't forgive Louis for willfully breaking the law, when she's been doing just that ever since she found out about Mike.

Harvey and Mike have a number of lovely moments. Firstly, I like that Mike gets chastised by Harvey just a bit in this episode, and we see Mike scrambling to get something done for Harvey. I think it's important to maintain that working dynamic between them, where Mike truly is Harvey's subordinate. When Jessica accuses Mike of spilling secrets to Louis, Harvey immediately defends him, and doesn't really believe it for a second. Despite the promo leading me to believe that Mike did something awful, I really liked the subversion of the trope in this episode. Rather than let misunderstanding fester between them and lead to more problems, Harvey immediately goes and talks to Mike about it, and Mike tells him what's going on. From there, they can move forward.

The scene with Walter Gillis was really powerful. First of all, you have Harvey's continued defense of Mike. He wants Gillis to understand that Mike isn't the kind of jerk who would use Gillis' son against him. Harvey is the one who did that. Also, it was a strong moment for Mike's character when he said he would regret hurting Gillis for the rest of his life. We've sort of lost the innocent, do-gooder Mike from the earlier days of this show, but we see his sense of honor and his desire to help people still shine through.

The dinner scene was pretty great, barring the "pussy" thing that I mentioned earlier. The lines about Harvey's repeated jokes were particularly stellar. I also just love the sense of ease and comfort they have with one another. It's the witty banter scenes that show us how much these two characters genuinely enjoy being around one another.

I must say, I felt real sympathy for Katrina in this episode. Her loyalty to Louis may be confusing, as I don't know that he's ever really earned it, but it was sweet and sad to see her go down with him. Jessica also proved herself compassionate as she let Katrina go. Katrina was doing for Louis what Harvey would do for Jessica, or Mike would do for Harvey. The last scene with her, as she starts tearing up in her office, was actually quite emotionally poignant.

And now we must move to the focus of this episode - Louis. Rick Hoffman. Holy God. This guy needs an Emmy, stat. So, after last week's heartfelt goodbye letter, Louis is understandably going to try and get a new job. But when Jessica won't help him by giving him clients, he immediately becomes antagonistic. Louis is like a little kid in some ways - ruled by his emotions and very changeable. He also feels entitled to certain things, and thinks that because he really loved Pearson Specter, he should be rewarded for his dedication, no matter how many mistakes he made.

As the episode continues, we can see him become more and more desperate, and more determined to get what he wants by whatever means necessary. He refuses to accept Harvey's help, thinking that Harvey only pities him, and is willing to break out of the contract that he himself wrote, all for the chance of working in New York. He is so determined to remain at the top of the field that he won't even consider working somewhere else, where he would probably be a huge asset to a new firm and still be able to make tons of money. Louis is prideful and wants what he wants.

And then comes the twist. Rick Hoffman's acting in the two final scenes, with Donna and Jessica, is absolutely astounding. Gina Torres and Sarah Rafferty are also incredible. I was genuinely startled when Louis yelled at Donna to sit down, and the tears in Donna's eyes were heart-wrenching to see. Obviously the delivery of his lines to Jessica is spot-on... he gets really intense and yells, and yet there's more than simply anger here. He's deeply hurt, to the bone, by what he's learned. The final line of the episode packs exactly the right punch, and leaves me desperate for what comes next.

So... yes. This was a fantastic episode. The utter randomness of it all... just a stupid key, and Mike's secret is blown. I wondered how Louis was finally going to find out, and I certainly wasn't expecting it to happen here. This whole season did a good job of distracting me from that particular underlying plot, so when Louis found out, I was shocked. I can't stand the wait! I want more!

9/10

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Outlander: Castle Leoch (1x02)

Okay, here's episode two. I have to say right off the top... they are certainly taking their time with this! We're about 100 pages through the first book as of the end of this episode. I'm really happy that we're taking our time. Here's the plot of this one.

Claire, Jamie, Murtagh, Dougal, et. al. arrive at Castle Leoch, where Claire meets Mistress Fitzgibbons, a kindly old house maid. Mrs. Fitz, as most people call her, is scandalized by her outfit, but when she realized that Claire is a medicine woman, of sorts, she immediately tells Jamie to listen to Claire and let her help him.

Claire cleans Jamie's wound and re-bandages it. As she's doing so, she sees scars on Jamie's back, and he tells her the story. The show gets a little muddled, so I'll tell it to you in chronological order. At least, I think this is what happens: Jamie is tending his farm at Lallybroch when he hears his sister screaming. He goes to rescue Jenny, and he sees Captain Jack Randall and some other British soldiers restraining her. He is tied up and whipped in front of Jenny, who is given the choice to go inside with Jack (ostensibly to be raped) or to watch her brother continue to suffer. Jenny, believing that Jack will kill Jamie, goes inside with him.

Later, Jamie was whipped twice more after escaping from prison. He managed to get away after being whipped nearly to death. As such, he has large roped scars all over his back. Jamie then holds Claire as she cries about Frank, realizing that her husband is not alive (even if he's not... dead. Time travel is weird).

The next day, Claire is cleaned up and given fresh clothes by Mrs. Fitz. She is then sent to go meet Colum MacKenzie, the laird of Castle Leoch. Claire makes up a story about heading to France to meet with family, now that she's widowed. She was set upon by highway men, and then attacked by Captain Jack Randall, who took her clothes. Then, Murtagh rescued her. Colum seems skeptical of this story, but agrees to help Claire get passage back to Inverness on the following Saturday.

At dinner, Claire sits with Colum and Dougal, and Colum continues to press Claire for details. Claire realizes she's being interrogated, and tries desperately to keep her story straight. She then meets Hamish MacKenzie, a young boy. Claire mistakenly thinks that Hamish is Dougal's son, when in reality, Hamish informs Claire that he is Colum's son and heir to Clan MacKenzie. Colum has a degenerative disease that gives Colum only a few more years of life. (Although the show is kind of fuzzy on this, in the books I think we're told that this disease makes Colum impotent, or at least makes it unlikely for him to bear children. Claire is therefore pretty sure that Hamish is not really Colum's kid).

Claire visits Jamie at the stables to help him with his bandages, and the two of them flirt a bit. Jamie tells Claire he's decided to trust her. Somebody, however, is not so trusting: Dougal has been having Claire followed. He thinks she might be an English spy.

After this revelation, Claire decides she should just keep her head down until Saturday, when she'll be back on the way to Inverness, Craigh na Dun, and (hopefully) her own time. While out collecting plants for Mrs. Fitz, she meets Geillis Duncan, a mysterious and bold woman who says the villagers are suspicious of Claire.

Geillis proves useful to Claire as an interpreter, as the two of them go to watch Colum receive his people and hear their complaints. During this evening, a man brings his young daughter, Laoghaire (pronounced Lee-ruh) in front of Colum and asks that she be punished for loose behavior. Jamie steps forward and agrees to take the punishment on Laoghaire's behalf.

Afterwards, Claire cleans Jamie up and tends to his wounds (he took the punishment in the form of fists), and she asks him why he did what he did. Jamie says that he can stand to be beat a bit, but for Laoghaire, the incident would have shamed her greatly, and taken a long time to get over. Mrs. Fitz thanks Jamie, since Laoghaire is her granddaughter. Claire and Jamie take leave of one another, as Claire gets ready to depart the following day, as Colum promised.

Claire goes to get a ride with a man on his way to Inverness, but Colum and Dougal do not let her go, instead taking her to look in the surgery of a now deceased doctor. They have heard she's a good healer, so Colum tells her to be the new medicine woman of Castle Leoch. Dougal and Colum both believe Claire is hiding something, and have decided to keep her close by, where they can watch her.

Let's talk about some of the weaker aspects of this episode. Overall, I was pleased with things, but I wouldn't be me if I didn't have something to complain about.

My biggest pet peeve: too many flashbacks! They are very overused. Not only do we get a very, very long "previously on" before the episode starts, but every few minutes I swear we see Clarie think back to her own time and do a blatant compare/contrast of Castle Leoch then vs. now. It's like the before and after pictures Extreme Makeover: Home Edition!

A few elements that I know from the books are not explained very well here. Earlier, I mentioned the thing about Hamish and his dubious paternity. I'm not sure if that spoils things for people who haven't read the books, because I honestly don't know if the episode wanted us to grasp that plot point from what we were given here. Will we be told later, or not?

The character of Murtagh is another point in which the book does a better job of explaining things. This isn't giving anything away, so I don't feel bad about saying it: Murtagh is Jamie's godfather, and his particular friend and protector. We saw that a little bit here, as he tries to dissuade Jamie from taking Laoghaire's punishment, but I don't think his relationship to Jamie, or even his name, have been clearly established within the show.

But, along the same vein, let's switch to some of the good stuff, starting with ways in which the deviations from the books are improving upon the source material, rather than detracting from it.

Geillis Duncan. In the book, she is introduced a little bit later. I don't mind introducing her sooner - in fact, I encourage it. While we've met a lot of characters thus far in the story, I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that Mrs. Fitz is not going to be our #1 most valuable or interesting character here. Instead of giving her more scenes with Claire (in the book, she is Claire's translator) we get to meet Geillis and start developing her a tad earlier. Again, I don't think I'm giving much away when I say that Geillis is a character you should be keeping your eye on. I love the actress they got to play her, too. Lotte Verbeek has already infused Geillis with just the right mixture of charm and mystery so I'm drawn in to her secrets, and am also just a bit scared of her.

Another change from the book: Claire almost gets away! This change gives Claire a specific goal and starts her on the way to accomplishing it. She has made her decision to go back to Craigh na Dun, and in fact almost gets in a wagon and starts setting off in that direction. The nice thing about the story, for those who haven't read the book, is that it seems totally feasible that maybe Claire does get away and start heading back to Inverness. Maybe more adventures befall her on her way, and she's forced to turn back to Jamie and the MacKenzie clan for help. Instead, we see her goal thwarted. Colum and Dougal go from being vaguely threatening to being true obstacles to Claire's goals.

Geillis wasn't the only new character we got to meet this week. We introduced Dougal's brother, Colum MacKenzie: leader of his clan. I am thus far very impressed with Gary Lewis' performance. Colum has to be both vulnerable and intimidating. His disease has to make him an obvious cripple, while his manner has to convey a subtle and terrifying power.

I want to take a moment to praise the opening credit sequence - I love the song they've picked out for it. I don't know why it's a big deal to me, but there's something so nice about the fact that a woman is singing it - reinforcing, even in the credits, that this is a woman's story. On that note, I really enjoy all of the music in the show so far. It hasn't been overpowering, but it helps to add to the atmosphere in a very subtle yet meaningful way. I've heard several strains of popular Scottish songs played in the background, including a very famous and beautiful song called "Loch Lomond," which I recommend everybody listen to at some point in their lives.

A footnote before I sign off - this has nothing to do with this episode, but actually about how this show is being marketed. I keep on seeing promotional material that talks about the "love triangle." What? What do you mean, love triangle? I suppose Claire is supposed to be torn between Jamie and Frank, but in reality, it's more that she's torn between the world she belongs in, and the one she's been thrust into. Obviously this story is a love story, but it's much more Claire's story, with everything that goes along with that. I would hate for anybody to be put off by the "love triangle" aspect. Frank and Jamie don't even live in the same century, for goodness' sake! I can promise you, there's no jealousy between the two of them as they fight over Claire. This is not that story.

This episode might not have made quite a strong a showing as the first one, but it was still very good.

8/10

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Legend of Korra: The Ultimatum (3x11)

Ahhhhh! What?! Oh my. Ohhh kay. Let's just... uh. Plot.

Mako and Bolin are released from Zaheer's custody, and rush to go find Korra and the others. They have a message from Zaheer: Unless Korra turns herself over, Zaheer will kill the new Air Benders at the Northern Air Temple! Korra decides to try and find Zaheer in the Spirit World to hold him off, while the others keep trying to contact Tenzin at the Air Temple.

While in the Spirit World, Korra does not find Zaheer, but she does find Iroh. Korra feels alone because she can't talk to Aang or any of her other past lives. Iroh reminds her that Zuko and Aang were best friends, and that she could try going to him for advice. Korra does so, telling Zuko that she spoke to his uncle. Zuko tells her that Aang would have done anything he could to protect the Air Benders, but that he understood that he had a responsibility to the world, as the Avatar, not to give up.

Korra finally gets through to Tenzin to warn him about Zaheer, but she's too late! The Red Lotus have arrived! Tenzin sends Jinora and Kai with the rest of the Air Benders, telling them to escape to the flying bison and get away. Meanwhile, Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi will hold off Zaheer, Ming-Hua, and Ghazan. However, P'Li uses her Combustion Bending to keep the Air Benders from escaping. Kai tries to distract her, and nearly falls to his death, but is saved by a baby bison in the end. Kya and Bumi are both thrown off a cliff by the Red Lotus, and Zaheer and his team back Tenzin into a corner, beating him thoroughly.

Yikes. Do I have complaints?

Oddly, while I loved the emotional poignancy of the scenes with Iroh and Zuko, I was a bit nonplussed about how little they seemed to tie in. If Korra had decided to give herself up, and then Zuko's advice changed her mind, I'd understand that. But here, it just seems like it was an excuse to give the fans of the show feels. Not that I'm really going to complain about Iroh and Zuko feels. But still.

I don't think I really even need to explain why this episode was awesome, do I?

Firstly, I loved Korra's character here. We see, once again, that she's all about action. The idea of being stuck somewhere, not fighting, drives her crazy, especially when she knows Tenzin and his family are in danger. She's gotten a lot wiser since Season One, but she still has that rash side of her. She wants to do something, and do it quickly.

It was fantastic to see Iroh again, despite the seeming lack of relevance to the plot. (As of yet. Maybe we can explore Korra's decisions more closely in the next episode). Zuko's face when Korra told him that she'd seen Iroh was so precious. I felt like crying. I could see young Zuko behind the lined face. Also, am I the only one who is utterly desperate to meet Zuko's daughter, the Fire Lord? I want to know her so badly! And who's her mother? Mae?

Most of the focus of the episode was at the Northern Air Temple, as it should have been. The awesome, creative fighting was completely captivating. I felt true and immediate fear for Tenzin, Kya, Bumi, Kai... It was all very exciting.

Seeing Aang's three children fighting together was something special, as they each took on one of the Red Lotus. That Lava Bending thing is really quite scary, but I like how Ghazan still Bends earth, too. And Ming-Hua's Water Bending is awesome - I love how she has the long streams of water, and she freezes just the tips, like the end of a sword, to try and cut Kya.

I honestly don't know what's going to happen - next week, we get the final two episodes of this season. Is Tenzin going to die?! A part of me can't believe they'd go that route, but they've done some pretty messed up stuff on this show, so I guess it's definitely possible. I'm hoping that Zuko, Lin, Korra, Mako, Bolin, Tonraq, and Asami all turn up to the Northern Air Temple in time to fight it out with Zaheer. This is going to be an epic finale.

9/10

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Suits: Gone (4x09)

Okay, okay, okay, but did you guys see the promo for next week's episode? My heart hurts just thinking about it. What the eff is going on? What does Mike do? Why does Harvey have a kicked puppy look on his face?! WHAT IS HAPPENING?!

Sorry. Ahem. That promo has damaged my soul. And you know what else damaged my soul? This freakin' episode! I mean, my goodness, how much angst and bromance and soul-crushing am I supposed to be able to handle?! Let's talk about the plot. I apologize, but I'm going to be brief about the actual events of the episode.

Louis tells Jessica and Harvey what he did. Jessica calms him down and tells him not to confess, but she tells Harvey that she plans on firing him when it's all over. Donna tries to convince both Harvey and Jessica to keep Louis, but Jessica is not to be convinced, and Harvey doesn't think there's anything he can do.

From here, we get a back-and-forth between Cahill and Pearson Specter, as each group gets permission to look into the sins of the other. It's a race - if Cahill gets his hands on the paper proving Louis' guilt, it's over.

During a deposition of Harvey and Mike, Cahill sniffs closer to the truth, as he realized that somebody at the firm got paid something that they weren't supposed to. He's honing in on the truth. At this point, Louis goes against what Jessica expressly told him, and goes to confess to Cahill.

But... Cahill isn't there. Just Woodall. Woodall listens to Louis' confessions, but seems not to care, and rushes him out of the room. When Louis tells Jessica, Harvey, and Mike all of this, they figure out that this means that Woodall must be colluding with Forstman. They try and find a link, but can't. Then Louis figures it out: it's Woodal and Forstman, and not Cahill. He doesn't know about it. They go to Cahill and reveal to him his partner's evil-ness, thus stopping Cahill in his tracks, as the man finally sees who the real bad guy is.

There are some subplots, too. Jessica and Malone continue to butt heads, as Jessica doesn't tell Malone about what Louis has done, and he insists that she treat him like a special snowflake for some reason. Mike has moved back in with Rachel, but things aren't smooth sailing between them just yet. Mike reveals that he's not over Rachel's betrayal yet, and Rachel despairs, not knowing what else she can do. Even though things are difficult for them, they will continue to persevere together.

As the episode ends, Jessica remains firm in her decision to fire Louis. Harvey says he wants to be the one to break the news, so he can say goodbye. But Louis beats them both to the punch, leaving a note where he says that Pearson Specter was his home, and that he doesn't want to put either of them through the pain of firing him, so he's quitting.

This episode was one of the best that Suits has ever had, but there are a few problems... the stuff with Jessica and Malone, as well as the stuff with Rachel and Mike's relationship, felt like a distraction. A lot of plot was going on here, and I think the focus really should have remained on the resolution of the SEC plot, and of Louis' many mess-ups, rather than bringing in these recurring relationship subplots.

In the case of Jessica and Malone... I seriously want to kill Jeff. I don't understand where he gets off, treating Jessica like this. And the fact that their relationship gets outed in this episode makes me even more angry. You know what I realized? We're given no reason to understand why on earth Jessica would risk her career for this guy. We don't ever really see them having a good time together! They're always fighting!

With Mike and Rachel, I really did like the subplot, but I think it took up too much time in this episode, and wasn't given enough time for its own sake. You know, now that I'm thinking about it... why couldn't they have stretched things out a bit more? This episode - the twist with Cahill and Woodall, Louis quitting... this all could have been a great summer finale. It wouldn't have ended on a giant shocking cliffhanger, but it would have been a good stopping point. That would have given them one more episode of space to deal with such issues as Mike and Rachel's relationship after the Logan fallout. It would have given us a chance to see Mike back in his element before things get all ripped apart again. There's no settling period.

But I did say this was a stellar episode. Let's talk about why.

Donna: I love the fact that Donna tries to go to Jessica, and it fails. We tend to see Donna as this master manipulator (in a good way) who always gets what she wants when she demands it. Here, we see that Jessica is the boss, and not even Donna, as bad ass as she is, can always win. Her friendship with Louis has been well developed this season, and it was touching to see her defend Louis as best as she could. It was also really sweet and touching that she went with Harvey at the end, as Harvey planned on firing Louis. She was supporting Harvey and Louis by this act.

Rachel: I know I said the subplot with her and Mike was wasting time, but that's only because of what else needed to be accomplished in this episode. For what it was, I really enjoyed Rachel's practical yet remorseful attitude about her relationship with Mike. She's truly sorry, but there's nothing more she can honestly do to fix what happened. She needs to know if Mike has it in him to forgive her and move forward, or if they're doomed. I like how she made sure to get food for Mike that he liked and she didn't, and it was very adorable to see some glimpses of baby Mike and his parents in the photo album.

Katrina: Didn't have a lot to do this week, but in a surprising twist of fate, she's had really fun and endearing moments in two episodes in a row. Her loyalty towards Louis doesn't always make sense, but I enjoy her consistency, and I loved how she compared Louis' situation with Jessica to a mob movie. Louis' remark that the genre always seemed offensive to Italian people made me laugh.

Jessica: Although every scene with her and Malone pisses me off because of what a jerk this guy seems to be, Jessica was the Queen in this episode. Damn. Don't mess with her. I loved Jessica and Harvey being a bad ass team in confronting Cahill and Woodall, and even though I felt for Louis in this episode, I still admired Jessica for sticking to her guns about firing him. While it's true that Louis loves the firm and wants to do what's best, he does let his emotions get to him, and he does cause a lot of problems. He's a liability, and Jessica won't stand for it. (Although it begs the question - why doesn't she just freakin' fire Harvey and Mike and be done with the risk? I almost want to see her do it. You go, girl.)

Cahill, Woodall, and Forstman: Cahill has been a sort of pesky but not-too-evil antagonist all season, and I really enjoy the twist here, that he really was just doing his job. He had bad information from Woodall, who is truly the bad guy here. When Cahill finds out what's really going on, he backs down. He's not one to keep going because of a vendetta. This is sort of an interesting direction for the show, though, as we see yet again that Pearson Specter gets away with breaking the rules.

The nice thing about Woodall being the bad guy all the time is that... yeah. It's sort of like revealing that the bad guy was secretly the bad guy from the beginning. We already knew Woodall was the one with a vendetta. But to have the truth sneak up on Harvey, Louis, and Mike in this episode, and to see how Cahill was actually being fooled by this guy was... wonderful.

And Forstman is just the perfect obvious villain, with his sinister cigar smoking and his "I don't give a shit" attitude. He acted as a good smoke screen to what was really going on. All in all, the twists about the real bad guy in this episode had me guessing up until the last moment. Very nicely done. (Side note, though... what exactly did Harvey and Forstman do together, all those years ago? Will that get brought back in?)

Harvey and Mike: Mike's plot with Rachel was good, as we see he continues to struggle with what she did, but the best moments ever come in his scenes with Harvey. You know, it's weird... as this episode went on, I had resigned myself to the fact that this one was going to focus on Louis - which I'm fine with - but that it probably wasn't going to have much cuteness between Harvey and Mike. I mean, I've been so spoiled with all the amazing bromance between them lately, that I figured it would be okay to take this one episode off from that. Instead...

During that deposition, Harvey literally referred to Mike as his brother. Really. It happened. And Mike just has this little satisfied look on his face when Harvey says it. I think the strongest testament to this relationship is that this moment wasn't the focal point of the episode - it wasn't some emotional epicenter of everything. It's just how Harvey thinks of Mike. Their fierce loyalty and friendship is no longer something either one of them doubts. They know what they are to each other. And speaking of loyalty, I love that Harvey can't help but brag about how awesome Mike is. I mean, this is a deposition. They're fighting for their lives here. It's not really the time to be going on and on about how Mike is fantastic and how "anybody would be lucky to have him." Aww! Also, there's the fact that Donna, in trying to get Harvey to keep Louis, and how does she try and convince him? By reminding him that Louis brought Mike back. Later, in Mike's attempts to defend Louis, he says the same thing to Harvey, knowing that Mike's presence in the firm is a big asset to Harvey. How adorable.

I also have to point out one other little thing... I was so happy when Harvey walked into Mike's office to talk about work. I know it's a small thing, but it means Harvey respects Mike as an equal. After all the time Mike has spent in Harvey's office, I loved seeing the reverse happen here.

And let us end with a discussion of... Louis. I never really liked Louis in the beginning of this show. He was such an annoyance to Harvey and Mike, and over the years, and even over this season, I've been irritated about his repetitive plot lines, wherein he messes up in order to gain Harvey and/or Jessica's respect. They yell at him, but the problem is solved and he's forgiven.

In this episode, we see that all come to an end. Finally, Louis has crossed a line he can't come back from. And even if he was only doing it for Harvey's approval, that doesn't make it okay. At the end of the day, Louis' actions are selfish. I love the fact that Louis still wants to help, and he actually manages to be part of the dream team one last time before leaving. And that letter... I don't think I even need to explain how awesome that was. I think honestly it's the perfect way for Louis to bow out (although, come on, I'm sure he'll be back. It's Louis). He showed his respect and love for the firm in the best way he knew how: by letting it go. It's the ultimate sacrifice, and it was a genuinely touching moment.

I'll end here. That promo is making me super super nervous, but I'm also extremely excited. Next Wednesday, here we come!

8.5/10