February 25, 2017

The Vampire Diaries: It's Been a Hell of a Ride (8x14)

Hahahahahahaaa oh my God I should have seen this coming... this is just excellent. I've decided to go for broke and just roll with the punches for these final few weeks of The Vampire Diaries. Does anything that's happening actually make sense anymore? Nope. Do I care? Also nope.

Cons:

As I just said, I'm done caring about plot holes and cop-outs and all of those things. There was one moment, though, that tested my patience just a little. Damon sacrifices himself to save Stefan and Elena, and it's glorious and angst-y and all that, but then after Cade is killed, Damon strolls up, completely unharmed, and his explanation is "oh, Cade's death must have just sort of pushed me back into my body! How convenient!" Obviously I know that nobody stays dead in this damn show, but come on. That just felt lazy.

Similarly lazy is that Alaric ringing the magic McGuffin bell apparently hurts Cade enough to give Stefan a chance to beat him. Was that established somewhere? I don't know. That stupid bell is annoying.

February 24, 2017

Supernatural: Family Feud (12x13)

So far, this second half of Season Twelve has featured at least one additional main character in every episode, meaning even the C-plot episodes like "Regarding Dean" still tied in heavily to the main plot. Rowena, Crowley, Mary, Cas, Lucifer, etc. It's a regular party up in here! No Cas this week, but we did get lots of Mary, along with various baddies. Let's take a look.

Cons:

Crowley's son Gavin is back, which is quite fun, but this is one of those rare moments when I felt some concern for casual viewers of the show. I barely remembered what happened to Gavin, and I can't imagine that most other people did. Also, the justification for the C-plot is kind of flimsy. Basically, Gavin had a girlfriend, Fiona, who sneaked on to the boat he was supposed to be on so many centuries ago. Since Gavin ended up going through a time portal instead, courtesy of Abaddon, he wasn't on the boat with her. She was attacked and mocked, and because the teacher on the boat didn't stick up for her, she now has a ghostly vendetta against teachers. I feel like that's a weak explanation for a ghost. There also wasn't much of an explanation as to why she started on her revenge now, instead of several years back when Gavin first came to this timeline.

Typical of Supernatural, there was some clunky exposition here. We hear the very end of a phone-call between Cas and Dean, as Dean says "so you don't have anything new on Kelly and Lucifer's baby? Okay, well, keep looking. Bye." or something like that. Since Kelly Kline is actually in this episode, it felt odd for Cas to be absent and so ineffectually shoe-horned in. Why not show Cas on Kelly's trail? Or, if not, why not save the Kelly stuff for another episode, where it could get time to expand and grow?

Grey's Anatomy: Back Where You Belong (13x14)

Grey's has never been the most subtle show on air, but this episode was really hitting me over the head with its foreshadowing. Let's take a look.

Cons:

One plot thread featured a mom giving a kidney to her son, when suddenly her remaining kidney fails, leaving all the doctors in a pickle. Who gets the kidney? Good thing the abusive husband and father is around to offer his own kidney and also to freak Jo out. See, she's mighty uncomfortable with the idea of an abusive husband coming in to the picture and making decisions for his wife, who tried to escape him. Hmmm I wonder when we'll be seeing Jo's husband?

Then there's another plot thread where a girl shows up rambling and raving. It turns out that she's schizophrenic, and her parents thought she was dead for seven years. Riggs is all twisted up at the thought that this girl has been alive the whole time, and the parents have been living their lives and moving on. It's almost like his fiance, Owen's sister, is destined to re-enter the picture at some point! Subtle. Really.

The Big Bang Theory: The Comic-Con Conundrum (10x17)

The two standard complaints I have about The Big Bang Theory are that it's lazy, and that it's frequently insulting in its apparent attempt to "deconstruct" stereotypes. This episode falls into the second category.

Cons:

The whole episode is centered around going to San Diego Comic-Con. Who's going? Who's not? Well, all the guys want to go, but there are obstacles. Bernadette wants Howard to prove himself by helping around the house in order to earn a trip with his friends. Raj can't afford the ticket now that he's on a strict budget, monitored by a gleeful Sheldon. And Leonard is having a problem, too. Penny is coming to Comic-Con, but Leonard doesn't think she'll have a good time. But guess what? Penny only wants to go to make Leonard happy! When they realize that neither of them actually wants Penny there, the issue is solved. In the end, Raj, Howard, and Leonard all decide not to go to Comic-Con this year, while Sheldon insists that he's going, and tries to cajole Amy into coming with him.

Holy gender stereotypes, Batman! Here's a newsflash that the folks over at The Big Bang Theory really need to get through their heads: girls like Comic-Con. Hell, I love Comic-Con. It's been a long-standing pet peeve of mine with this show that even with two nerd girl characters (Amy and Bernadette) we don't have a single female character who's in to pop culture, video games, tabletop RPGs, comic books, or even some of the more main-stream nerd pursuits like Star Wars. It's always this really gross thing where the guys are in to nerdy stuff, and the girls couldn't care less. That's simply not the reality of the situation! I'll spare you my feminist dissertation on the subject, but suffice it to say, dudes, your precious Star Trek would not have gotten off the ground if it weren't for letter-writing campaigns organized and participated in primarily by women. Grrrr.

February 23, 2017

Modern Family: Heavy is the Head (8x14)

This episode had too much going on, and none of the plot threads had any connecting theme. I didn't hate everything they were going for, but very little of it actually stuck the landing.

Cons:

Claire and Gloria's plot thread was the most inane. Claire is stressed at work, and Gloria tries to give her a good birthday present by having a masseuse come to her office. Claire doesn't like massages, and is stressed by trying to answer everybody's questions about the downsizing the company is undergoing. Gloria ends up telling off Claire's employees, and that ends up being the perfect gift.

I'd love to have more exploration of Claire and Gloria's relationship. Or maybe more of a serious story-line about Claire and her job. But this episode didn't end up amounting to much. It just sort of sat there and pulled time away from the other potentially more interesting stories.

The plot of land that Phil and Jay purchased is right on top of a sewer line, meaning it's not usable for any commercial project. At first Phil is crushed, but then they come up with the idea to pave over it and turn it into a parking lot. Problem solved. I was miffed at this story line because it took the great buildup with Phil following his dreams, and it turned it into a dead end. You would think this would be an opportunity to explore the complexities of Phil and Jay's relationship, but it just peters out. Kind of a bummer.

Suits: Quid Pro Quo (6x15)

Eh. I guess my problems with this episode outweigh my positive notes about it, but it's not like I had a bad time watching or anything. I'm a little torn.

Cons:

Donna and Benjamin's plot continues to be stupid, although I did like some of the elements that came out of it this week. I'll discuss that in a moment. Still, the entire premise is so painfully stupid and unearned by the rest of the show. I couldn't help but agree with the investors that Donna and Benjamin met with. Why should anybody throw money at this thing?

Louis and Tara veered right back into stupid town. I mean, they never really left it, but at least I've been enjoying Louis' character development. This week, Louis continues the streak of making informed, logical decisions and not losing his mind over inconsequential things, which I quite enjoyed. But he decides to tell Tara the full truth about Mike - he knew Mike was a fraud, and he leveraged that knowledge to become name partner. She predictably thinks this is awful, and then Louis has the audacity to compare what he did to the fact that Tara was sleeping with more than one man when they met.

February 22, 2017

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Self Control (4x15)

UM. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD.

Cons:

Nope. No complaints. Literally not a single one. This was as close to flawless as any show can get.

Pros:

The plot can be stated fairly simply: everybody at the base is an LMD except for Simmons and Daisy. They team up and manage to escape with a few other random S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, partially thanks to LMD-May, who lets them go. Yo-Yo helps Daisy and Simmons to enter the Framework, where all our other characters are. The plan is to infiltrate and save the rest of the team. Meanwhile, it seems Aida is firmly in control of the Framework, as she forces Radcliffe to enter the Framework to avoid a conflict between her primary motivations of keeping the Framework safe, and protecting Radcliffe.

And I mean... that's all you need. This episode was just one giant, tense, amazing setup for our third section of episodes this season, which will take place in bizarre Framework land, where Simmons is apparently dead, Fitz has some other girlfriend, Coulson is a teacher explaining the evils of Inhumans, May works for Hydra, Mack has his family life, and... and... Daisy is with Ward. I just. The last two minutes of this episode packed in so many interesting twists and questions. I cannot wait for this show to come back after hiatus, because I need to know how this all shakes out.

February 20, 2017

The Walking Dead: New Best Friends (7x10)

I'm a little frustrated with this show nowadays, for a lot of reasons. I think it comes down to a matter of preference, in some ways, which makes my opinion difficult to talk about cogently. Let's give it a try.

Cons:

So, Rick and the crew meet up with a bunch of weird sombre people with a leader named "Jadis" who talks all weird and formal. These people seem like they're in a cult or something. They have Gabriel, but they haven't hurt him. They test Rick by throwing him off of a cliff-like thing into a dump below, where he fights off a Walker with spikes coming out of it. Having proven himself worthy, Rick is able to strike a deal with Jadis. Jadis' people will help Rick and the others fight the Saviors, and they will get to take a lot of the loot afterwards.

I read a review of this episode that pointed out something to me: this season of The Walking Dead feels more like a comic book, or rather a graphic novel, than anything we've yet seen. We've got Negan, a comic book villain if I ever saw one. And we've got things like Shiva the tiger and Ezekiel the weird Shakespearean king, and now this new group, with a leader called Jadis. It's all very... cheesy. And in some ways that could really work to the show's advantage, because often the grim realism stuff falls flat as well. But personally, I'm just not in to the over-the-top comic vibe, or at least I'm not with this show. So all these new cartoonish elements are not doing it for me.

Elementary: Rekt in Real Life (5x14)

This was not a good episode. It didn't really hold my interest, and Sherlock and Joan were pretty much swallowed up by the crazy plot monster. Too bad.

Cons:

The case of the week was so convoluted that it seemed like it should have been stretched out over multiple episodes. A guy who live-streams interactive video games and recruits players for sponsored teams ends up getting taken out during a live broadcast online. Gregson's niece was watching at the time. We're then led to a guy who signed a deal with a kid the victim had recruited, and then we learn that there are Czech women were are actually secretly prostitutes who have been rescued from human trafficking. Oh, and over on the side there's also a woman who hates one of the players because he kills seals as part of the traditions of his inuit tribe, and she's an animal rights activist. In the end, it's this woman's attorney who set up the crime.

Between the human trafficking, the commentary about professional video game playing, the overexposure of the victim's attack via the internet, the concern over indigenous lifestyles vs. commercial hunting... wow, was this episode crowded. Every time I thought we were on a path, things would veer off in a new direction. And not in a good way. Any one of these elements could have made for an interesting episode. I wanted to learn more about the professional world of video games. Or about this human trafficking scheme. Or about the seal hunting. Oh yeah and there was also a bunch of stuff about the ice caps melting and trade routes and stuff. All of these things piled up together? Yikes.

February 18, 2017

The Vampire Diaries: The Lies Are Going to Catch Up with You (8x13)

I knew Kai was going to save this show. Damn, I love that guy. Let's dive right in.

Cons:

The only plot thread I didn't care for all that much was Stefan's. He gets kidnapped by Dorian, who has remembered that Stefan murdered his family. See, all of the people Stefan compelled as a vampire are now remembering what he ordered them to forget. That's cool, and I'll talk about that in a moment. But Dorian basically forces Stefan to dig his own grave, then shoots him in the stomach. Then, seemingly for no particular reason, he changes his mind and freaks out about what he's done, calls Matt to tell him, and helps to save Stefan's life.

My problems are these: first of all, Stefan has already been severely injured through a stabbing. He's only been human a couple of days. The dude needs to be on bed rest or something. Secondly, Dorian is one of those characters that's never going to grab my attention, and to have him be the focus of an arc just served to remind me how uninterested I am in him. And his emotional arc was fairly nonsensical. It's not like he shot Stefan in a fit of passion, and then regretted it. He planned for this. He contemplated it, kidnapped Stefan, waited while he dug a hole, and then shot him, seemingly without remorse. Stefan doesn't say anything particularly compelling to get Dorian to see the error of his ways, but suddenly Dorian regrets it all. I guess there could have been an interesting angle here, but this plot thread didn't quite find it.

February 17, 2017

Supernatural: Stuck in the Middle (With You) (12x12)

Woah... Reservoir Dogs + Supernatural + Richard Speight Jr. in the director's chair = amazing episode. Damn.

Cons:

I was having a little trouble with Mary in this episode, honestly. The premise is that the British Men of Letters ask Mary to help them retrieve an item. So, she recruits a friend and has the friend tell Sam, Dean, and Cas that he's calling them in to help kill a demon. Easy, or so Mary thinks, but she doesn't want to tell the boys that she's working with the British. The only trouble is, once she steals the item from this demon's house, everything starts going terribly wrong - her hunter friend is killed, and Cas is mortally wounded, and Ramiel, Prince of Hell, threatens to kill them all unless his stolen item is returned to him. And Mary... does nothing. She doesn't give the item up. She doesn't tell anybody what she's done. And then at the end, she talks to the British Men of Letters, yells at them for throwing her in over her head, but still continues to work with them! She even hands over the thing she stole without a second thought!

Now, I'm all about giving Mary a meatier story line, and having her be at odds with the boys in some way. But it's like Dean says, when they're all discussing the British MOL. "Yeah, they got the gear, but they tried to kill my brother, so..." It's crazy to me that Mary would seriously work with them after this. I'm mighty disappointed in her.

Grey's Anatomy: It Only Gets Much Worse (13x13)

Well, I watched this episode in public which was a mistake, because it actually made me cry. Yikes.

Cons:

Meredith doing the voice-overs is always awkward when she isn't even in the episode. I've got to say that the voice-over thing is my least favorite element of Grey's Anatomy. I mean I know it's here to stay, but come on. Maybe try not to be so obnoxious with it.

For whatever reason, I'm noticing that in this season the ensemble nature of the cast has been a real burden. There are only so many characters you can focus on at a time, and as such, several plot threads get dropped and it feels very awkward. Is Alex not back to work yet? How is Meredith handling suspension? Even if it makes sense to set those two aside, what about Amelia? It makes no sense to me that Meredith and Maggie aren't more worried about where she's at. And hey, here's a question: why on earth bring Leah back if you're not going to do anything with her? 

Pros:

Despite all the things this episode couldn't manage to fit in, we actually covered a lot of ground here. There was something very smart in focusing on one central theme: the battle for control of the residency program. Throughout this, you can tease out lots of different elements and character dynamics. Let's talk about some of them.

The Big Bang Theory: The Allowance Evaporation (10x16)

Huh. A good episode. A genuinely good episode.

Cons:

I mean I guess I wish Leonard and Penny had more to do on this show... but this week we focused on Raj, and on Sheldon and Amy, and both of those stories were so successful that I don't really mind putting everybody else on the back-burner.

Pros:

Raj, after talking to his father, realizes that he is too dependent on his parents for money. His father pays his rent, his car payments, and his credit card bill. He decides he wants to strike out on his own, and so he says he'll stop taking his parent's money. This means a lot of lifestyle changes for him. I'm so happy that we're giving Raj a plot with some substance for once! It's enormously refreshing. I like the idea of examining some of his many shortcomings. A few weeks back, there was the rather unsuccessful attempt to look at his failed relationships with women. This episode is a much more successful version of that, as we examine Raj's inherent selfishness. I can't wait to see how this continues to play out.

February 16, 2017

Modern Family: Do It Yourself (8x13)

A cute episode with a couple of really excellent elements. I didn't dislike anything that happened in this half hour, so that's a great sign.

Cons:

The only plot thread I did feel ambivalent about was Claire's. Apparently, she's a terrible cook, and never listens to the advice of a TV chef that she watches every day. Haley signs her and her mom up for the guy's cooking class when he's in town, so hopefully this guy can tell Claire she's a bad cook. However, when the guy insults Claire's cooking, Haley feels compelled to jump to her mother's defense. Claire still thinks her family likes her food. This just felt rather uninspired to me. It's not like the acting was bad or anything, but it just didn't provide anything new or particularly clever. A working mother who can't cook! Who woulda thunk it. Also, it seems to come out of nowhere... has Claire been portrayed as a bad cook in the past?

Pros:

Cam and Mitchell's plot was the silliest, with a lot of great laughs. Lily hires a cleaning lady to clean her room, making Cam and Mitchell realize that they're too reliant on technology to do their chores for them. In an effort to set a good example for Lily, they end up disturbing a wasp's nest, and they all get stung. There's nothing really substantive here, but I laughed a lot. My favorite moment was probably when Lily took her cellphone out to videotape her dads trying to get rid of the wasp's nest. She says sometimes her friends at school don't believe her stories.

Suits: Admission of Guilt (6x14)

I mean, there were some things in this episode that ordinarily would have pissed me off, but actually worked quite well. And then there are other things that I've been asking for for a while that just do not work. In all, I'm feeling conflicted.

Cons:

Donna's current plot thread has got to be the stupidest thing this show has ever done. It's like something out of a completely different show. Benjamin continues to work on "The Donna," trying to give this AI the ability to feel compassion. He gets frustrated because he can't do it, and Donna tells him it's okay, he's only human. Later, however, "The Donna" makes actual Donna feel better about something, and Donna realizes that her robot self is learning to feel compassion.

I mean... what? First off, this has nothing to do with the rest of the show, and feels totally disconnected from the reality of this world. And Benjamin at one point has a crisis about how he's not good enough, while I'm sitting here thinking... dude, you've basically created life. The Donna is way more sophisticated than any artificial interface that actually exists today. And also, what's the point of The Donna? I thought the idea was to make a computerized assistant, but The Donna doesn't do anything that could be construed as helpful in the workplace. She makes quippy comments and tries to comfort people who are upset. It's stupid.

February 15, 2017

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Man Behind the Shield (4x14)

I fully admit I was a little distracted when watching this episode, so I apologize if I don't go into too much detail. That being said, I think this episode was a great success!

Cons:

Were I to complain about one thing, it's the villain. We've been hearing rumblings about the Superior all season, and I already mentioned in my last review that meeting him was a bit of a letdown. Here, we learn through a series of flashbacks that Coulson and May once went to retrieve an 0-8-4 from a base in Russia, and said Superior was one of the men also tasked with getting to the alien object. Due to his men's failure to retrieve it, all of them were killed, and the Superior has sought revenge against Coulson for this. There are two problems here. First of all, there's the fact that the character himself seems ridiculously boring and generic. Giving him a personal vendetta against Coulson doesn't really count as giving him a personality. And secondly, that personal vendetta feels kind of strange. This whole time, we thought this was a battle between the Watchdogs and the Inhumans. But apparently the leader of the Watchdogs was just after Coulson? It's a little convoluted, and it feels like it came out of nowhere.

This is a bit of a nitpick, but I do have to mention it: Fitz and Mack have a conversation about ethics in scientific advancement. Mack makes the argument that all the bad things Aida has done are Fitz's fault, and that May is trapped in the Framework because Fitz is the one who made it. Fitz mopes about this briefly, and then Simmons makes a speech about how scientific advancement is net-neutral, and that Fitz creates things to help people. He's not responsible for what Radcliffe has done with that technology. Fair points, and a lovely little moment of Simmons encouraging Fitz, but still. Isn't this a bit overdone? Are we really going to have the cliche "what have we created?" message be spelled out for us? We're already embroiled in an ethical tornado when it comes to the LMDs. I really think the audience could figure out the conflicting feelings going on here, without having an after-school-special style moment to explain it to us.

February 13, 2017

The Walking Dead: Rock in the Road (7x09)

This episode was one of those that could so easily have been a total flop, because there is indeed a lot of silly contrivances, unbelievable conveniences that we're supposed to accept, and some cringe-y lines of dialogue. But after watching Rick and the others spend a whole half season demoralized and subservient, it's such a release to see them start to fight back. For that reason alone, I found myself enjoying this episode, despite its flaws.

Cons:

I don't want to harp on the small stuff too much, because as a whole I actually did have a good time with this episode. That being said...

This is the episode about gathering allies. The Hilltop, Alexandria, and the Kingdom. But there's a big problem here. Gregory of the Hilltop is comically annoying, to the point where he doesn't even make sense as a human being. We have the predictable moment where the people turn to Maggie, ready to believe in her power to change their fortunes, since their official leader isn't doing anything for them. And then over in the Kingdom we've got that CGI tiger from hell. I mean I don't actually mind Ezekiel that much - at least he' unique. But the tiger? I'm never going to be able to take that thing seriously.

February 11, 2017

The Vampire Diaries: What Are You (8x12)

I loved this episode. In some ways it was just dealing with the fallout of last week, and setting up how we're going to finish things off for the next few weeks. In other words, it balanced all of the craziness it needed to balance.

Cons:

I'm the tiniest bit tired of Matt's role in events. We see flashbacks through hallucinations that Matt has been getting through a journal written by one of his ancestors. (That's a convoluted sentence right there). Apparently, the secret to killing Cade is written in this book. Sybil and Seline had planted it there, telling this old Maxwell family member about it but prohibiting him from telling anybody else. The long and short of it is that the journal holds the secret to killing Cade, and Damon figures it out. The rest of this flashback crap is pretty unnecessary, and felt like a flimsy excuse to a) bring Matt even further into the mythology of this final season, and b) get some of our actors in period dress so we could look at all the pretty outfits. In all, not impressed.

Pros:

I liked the relative simplicity of the setup, here. While Bonnie is dealing with her grief over Enzo, and Caroline is dealing with a grief-and-guilt-stricken and newly human Stefan, Damon is on a mission: get the journal from Matt, Alaric, and Dorian, since Cade will kill Stefan at midnight unless he gets that journal. Damon of course succeeds in getting said journal to Cade, who promptly burns it. Even with the flashbacks and all this boring crap about the Maxwell bell or whatever, this episode managed to not be too talk-y or filled with new mythology. It's basic: there's a way to kill the devil. We're not sure what that is yet, but it doesn't matter. It's more interesting to focus on the character work.

February 10, 2017

Supernatural: Regarding Dean (12x11)

As much as I love the angst and pain on Supernatural, I will freely admit that most of their best episodes have been comedic, with a nice strong heartfelt foundation. Think about "Mystery Spot," an episode that takes a turn for the dark, obviously, but that has at its core a lot of laughs. When I saw the description for this episode a while back, I wondered if they'd be taking a dramatic or a comedic take on the idea. I'm pretty happy with the results!

Cons:

Our plot is basic - a witch places a curse on Dean, who slowly starts to forget everything. Rowena comes in to help. I liked the basics, and I liked most of what came out of it. But it's always a little frustrating when the bad guys are super generic. This family of witches was instantly forgettable. I didn't care about them or feel particularly threatened by them at all. I could have used a bit more nuance with them.

Also, I felt like the drama/comedy balance in this episode was mostly great, but there was just one moment I thought failed - at the end, Dean comes in to save the day with witch killing bullets. He sees one of the witches, then sees Sam, and hesitates, pointing his gun between them. He doesn't remember who Sam is, so he's not sure who to shoot. Sam just tells him - I'm your brother, that guy's a witch - and Dean shoots the witch. This could have been a great moment, if the witch hadn't just stood there and let it happen. Maybe he could have tried to convince Dean that Sam was the witch. And then Dean could shoot the witch, and when asked why he picked the way he did, we could see that Dean has some sort of inherent sense about Sam. After all, he remembered Sam's name after forgetting his own. This could have been a very powerful moment. As it was, it's not like it was bad, it was just... eh.

Grey's Anatomy: None of Your Business (13x12)

Well, this episode was about as subtle as a bag of bricks to the face, but I'm actually okay about that. You'll notice that virtually every plot thread in this episode is about putting up walls, and how that damages us. Are you listening, Mr. President?

Cons:

I used to really love Maggie, and I still do, but this season she has been testing my patience. She's constantly acting like a baby, making things about her, when there are much bigger concerns going on. This week, her mom shows up, is perfectly polite to everybody, and just wants to spend some time with her daughter. She has a consultation with Jackson about how to remove some weird rash from her skin, and Jackson discovers that she has breast cancer. Before she can tell Maggie, Maggie goes off on her, complaining about her ruining their family by leaving her father, and basically kicking her out. Maggie then immediately feels guilty, but still. Too little too late. I felt like we needed more of an explanation as to why Maggie was so upset. She's a grown woman - her parents' divorce should not be an excuse for her to act like a child.

We had a plot thread about a woman who got herself tangled in barbed wire, but it didn't really go anywhere, and felt a little too blunt to fit in with the rest of the episode's theme. The patient and her husband were exclusionary, and they built a wall around their property. Her husband died, and now she's breaking free of her isolation. She loses part of her leg. Owen gets his arms cut up trying to help her. Neither of these things really go anywhere. I was excited for this plot thread when it started out, but it just sort of petered away to nothing.