Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Mindy Project 2.02: "The Other Dr. L."

“The worst place in the world is Fenway Park.”

“The Other Dr. L.” starts to really deal with the logistical nuts and bolts of Mindy’s decision to return to New York from Haiti several months early. Dr. Leotard is still occupying Mindy’s office, and Mindy has no patients. Somehow, she has to rectify all of this, and quickly. Mindy’s preference would be that Dr. Leotard would go away entirely. She sees him as someone who has stolen her life, mostly because he also trades in cuteness and goes by the nickname “Dr. L.” The other major storyline in this episode is Danny’s effort to start getting over Christina. The two plots come together to explosive effect at the end of the episode. By the end of the episode, Mindy’s problem is solved, and Danny has let off some steam about Christina. The only thing left to resolve is Jeremy’s very unfortunate stress-caused weight gain. Can someone share the managing partner duties with him already? That character needs to be pretty to be funny, as shallow as that is.

This episode picks up not too much after the last one left off. Mindy and Casey are trying to figure out how to make their long-distance relationship work. At the moment, it involves Mindy and Casey Skyping while Mindy shows off a whipped cream one-piece. Because that’s how she rolls. Obviously, that doesn’t end well. It is however, a humorous and original foreshadow of the troubles that are sure to befall Mindy and Casey in the future. Casey still has about eight more months in Haiti, and something bad is going to have to happen between them after all that time. It’s a convenient distraction on the way to an eventual Mindy/Danny relationship. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about Mindy and Danny as a potential couple, but if there’s one thing I don’t like in my television, it’s repeated manufactured reasons for a couple not to get it together.

Anyway, as I already implied, Mindy’s professional, as opposed to personal, issues take center stage in this episode. Dr. Leotard (James Franco) is still working at the practice. This means he’s still in Mindy’s office, which, of course, also means that Mindy has no office. Mindy tries to get her office back by just going in and claiming it, but Dr. Leotard doesn’t go for that. Instead, they find Mindy some office space in a storage closet. It’s in an out of the way corner of the office, so nobody stops by or even really notices that Mindy is around. As someone who has the “hall monitor” office in my own workplace, I can’t imagine what this must be like! Mindy also has no patients, which she realizes when Dr. Leotard goes out on a call for a former patient of hers.

Meanwhile, Danny is leaving the office in the middle of the day and being really shady about it. Everybody thinks he’s doing something gross, like visiting prostitutes or something, so Jeremy, as managing partner, decides to follow Danny and find out what’s up. Jeremy finds Danny enjoying a pick-up basketball game with a bunch of fellow recently single guys. These guys sort of have the older, basketball version of the He Man Woman Haters Club from “Little Rascals.” The thing that makes the bit really funny is that Kris Humphries is part of this group. My nerdy exterior disguises an encyclopedic knowledge of celebrity gossip, so I found the Kardashian dig to be pretty darn funny. Kris Humphries is a pretty terrible actor, but the joke of having him there at all was pretty great anyway.

Anyway, the problem of the two Dr. L.s comes to a head at a pretty kick-ass office happy hour. Dr. Leotard is, like me, kind of a lightweight at these events. Apparently this is the one thing about him that irritates his coworkers. Thankfully, my coworkers aren’t quite so judgey. To my face, at least. When she learns that Dr. Leotard is a lightweight, Mindy things she finally has her strategy to get her office back. She challenges the other Dr. L. to a “shots off.” Mindy is obviously able to out-drink Dr. Leotard, and he agrees to give her the office back. There’s just the tiny problem left that he’s really trashed and needs to get home.

Mindy thinks it’s the decent thing to do to help Dr. Leotard home. He can’t find the key to his apartment, though (actually Danny’s apartment, which he sublet when he moved in with Christina), so Mindy just leaves him propped up against the door. This is where Christina finds him, when she stops by to drop off some of Danny’s stuff, not realizing that Dr. Leotard still lived there, presumably. One thing leads to another, and Christina lets Dr. Leotard into the apartment and then some. Dr. Leotard blames it all on being completely wasted, of course, although that doesn’t sound like all that great of an excuse to me.

The next morning, Dr. Leotard confesses to Mindy what he has done. They both agree that Danny is going to go a bit nuts if he finds out what happened. Clearly it has to take something this major to get rid of Dr. Leotard, as before this, Jeremy and Danny were both really happy with the ridiculous amount of business Dr. Leotard had brought into the practice. Anyway, Danny walks in on Dr. Leotard and Mindy talking about what happened, and he immediately thinks that they slept together. He starts to act like an ass, coming very close to calling Mindy a slut. Paul Leotard won’t stand for that, though, so he admits that he actually slept with Christina. At first, it seems like Danny doesn’t care about this as much as somebody sleeping with Mindy, but after considering it for a second, he slugs Paul. This leads to a knock-down-drag-out fight. When the dust settles, Paul is leaving after all, and Mindy’s got her office back.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

New Girl 3.02: "Nerd"

“I came here because I’m your old man now. And if you’re going to do something that’s obviously very stupid, then I’m going to do it with you.”

“Nerd,” while not an all-time classic episode of “New Girl,” was a step above the season premiere for sure. There were some good laughs, and it was an interesting exploration of Jess and Nick trying to explore how their relationship will work back in the “real world” of the loft. They’re still figuring things out, but they seem to be working on it in a more positive way. I’d consider anything that is not running away to be positive, really. I don’t have quite as good things to say about the two secondary plots in this episode, which is probably why it doesn’t reach all time classic status. Winston’s only characterization continues to be crazy person.” At least he kind of showed a spine by the end of the episode, though. The Schmidt tries to date both Cece and Elizabeth plot also continues, and it really can’t end soon enough in my opinion. It’s cheap. Anyway, with that, on with talking about the details of the episode!

In this episode, Jess suddenly has a new job. She’s back to teaching middle school. After how Jess’ job search and move into adult education was such a centerpiece of last season, it would have been nice to see how Jess got this new job. Anyway, there’s a clique of cool kid teachers at Jess’ new school, and for some inexplicable reason, Jess really, really wants to be part of the clique. I would have expected Jess, who always thinks the best of everyone, to just automatically assume she was part of the clique. I’m not sure if this is mischaracterization or character growth, really. Anyway, because acceptance in the clique is what Jess wants, acceptance is what Nick wants to help Jess get. Because she’s his “old lady” now. I don’t know why Nick seems so relationship inept in this episode. We certainly know from the first two seasons that Nick is not new to relationships.

Meanwhile, Schmidt’s big conundrum in this episode is that his company is having an office party. He plans to have Cece be his date to the party, but Elizabeth spoils that plan by stopping by the office earlier in the day. Schmidt’s kind of annoying coworker Beth sees Elizabeth, and she takes it upon herself to try and derail Schmidt’s dating both women plan. She tells Elizabeth about the party, so of course Elizabeth expects to be invited. Oh, by the way, Schmidt’s gotten a promotion that comes with his own office, and he’s turned his office into a “2/3 replica” of Don Draper’s office from “Mad Men.” Anyway, Schmidt stops by Cece’s latest modeling job to tell her that the party is now employees only, no “sig oths” allowed. Cece is surprisingly cool with it because she thinks her job is going to run late.

As I already sort-of mentioned, Nick is determined to help Jess in her quest to become a cool teacher. He starts by buying the cliquey teachers school supplies, then he offers them free drinks at the bar. The free drinks turns out to be the winner. Jess and the cool teachers drink…a lot. So much that Jess gets the nickname “toilet pants” for trying to sing and dance in the toilet. She is officially a member of the clique, though. Like any good high school popular girl wanna-be, Jess is of course willing to do something stupid to maintain that status. The something stupid in question is breaking into her principal’s house to mess with his “jacuze.” The principal is a weird dude, and at a staff meeting, he mentioned how he solved the school’s budget problems by taking a long soak in the “jacuze” that also gave him baby soft elbows. If only it was that easy.

The final sub-plot that this episode tries to keep going is (spoiler alert) the end of Winston and Daisy’s relationship. Daisy wants Winston to watch her cat, Furguson, for a couple days, but when he goes to pick the cat up from Daisy’s apartment, Winston hears somebody in the bathroom. At first, Daisy tries to play it like she just left the shower on, but then the shower turns off and the toilet flushes. And there’s a very large basketball shoe in the living room. Back at the apartment, Winston starts to become unhinged over this, and it gets to the point where he is trying to figure out how to kill Furguson in retaliation. Winston’s first idea is a noose, but then he quickly escalates to wanting to bash Furguson’s head in with heavy metal tools. There’s an especially funny sequence where Nick is trying at the same time to both keep Jess from vandalizing the jacuze and keep Winston from killing the cat. You know things are bad in the loft when Nick has to be the voice of reason. Nick doesn’t quite know what to do with himself in that role, which is pretty hilarious.

Jess ends up not heeding Nick’s advice, so she finds herself at the principal’s house with her cliquey coworkers. They hoist her over the fence, but they don’t follow. Nick shows up, and the teachers hoist him over next. Jess is surprised that Nick showed up, and he explains that since he’s her “old man,” he’s going to be there with her when she wants to do something stupid. Nick and Jess do indeed get caught by the principal, but Jess doesn’t get in trouble. He assumes that they want to enjoy his awesome jacuze. Jess gets the punishment of having to take a soak with Nick and her principal. The cliquey teachers appreciate Jess taking one for the team, but Jess doesn’t really want to hang out with them anymore. She’d rather hang out with Nick. There’s a cute resolution where Nick (who was a popular stoner hackey sack player in high school) assures her that if he and nerdy Jess had gone to high school together, he would have noticed her.

Schmidt finds himself in a bit of trouble when both Elizabeth and Cece show up at the party (Cece decided to drop by when her modeling job ended early). Beth revels in the impending chaos, but Schmidt actually manages to get through the night with both relationships still intact. He convinces Elizabeth that he wants to play out a fantasy where she’s a disinterested businesswoman who wants to leave the party early. When Cece sees how coldly Elizabeth treats Schmidt, she’s not worried about Elizabeth anymore. Schmidt needs to get called on this foolishness soon, but clearly that time has not come just yet. Winston, meanwhile, doesn’t actually kill the cat. He goes to Daisy’s apartment and calls her on cheating. She admits it and doesn’t seem to think much of it. Winston has had it with her ditzy attitude, and he says he’s done. And he’s keeping the cat.

50th Anniversary Countdown: Doctor Who 7.07: "The Bells of Saint John"

“When you say, ‘mobile phone,’ why do you point at that blue box?”
“Because it’s a surprisingly accurate description!”
-Clara and The Doctor

“The Bells of Saint John” was the first episode to feature the “real” Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) as a companion. It was a welcome return to the type of story that was often told during the Russel T. Davies era of the show, where there are threats lurking in everyday things. This episode actually kind of reminded me of an updated version of the series 2 episode where Ten and Rose go to the 1950’s, and Rose gets sucked into a television set. Just replace 1950s with present day and television set with wi-fi. Yep, wi-fi is evil in the Whoinverse, y’all! In this version of the story, the Doctor and his companion do not have the deep bond of many shared adventures together to see them through. This version of Clara has no memory of the Doctor at all. Eleven has to gain her trust as he tries to keep her from essentially getting sucked into the Internet for eternity.

We begin the episode seeing where this version of Clara lives. She’s a live-in nanny for a family with two kids. She’s also very technologically inept, and she can’t for the life of her figure out how to get the Internet to work on her laptop. Meanwhile, the Doctor is living sort of as a monk in the thirteenth century. He’s trying to figure out just who Clara might be. Since she’s died twice, he’s intrigued. The Doctor’s thoughts are interrupted by a ringing telephone, which must be quite strange in the thirteenth century. The ringing phone is the TARDIS, and Clara is on the other end of the line. She wants help with her internet connection, and she’s calling the “help line” that someone in a shop gave her. The Doctor just haplessly plays the annoyed IT guy for a bit until Clara uses “Run you clever boy, and remember” as a mnemonic for her password. The Doctor realizes it’s Clara and heads to present day London as quick as he can.

The first present-day meeting between the Doctor and Clara doesn’t go well at all. He’s still in his monk’s habit, and when he knocks on the door of Clara’s house, she thinks he’s just creepy, and she doesn’t let him inside. Clara has made a big mistake, though. In trying to get an Internet connection, Clara clicked on a network name made of strange characters. This is the gateway into the bad things lurking in the wi-fi. There’s an office of people in a famous London building called The Shard who are working on downloading people’s consciousness into the Internet. Their leader is a woman called Miss Kizlet, and she’s able to control the people working for her through a tablet computer. It’s kind of creepy really. She can essentially use the tablet to “hack” their brains. Anyway, Clara’s clicking on the mystery network brought her to the attention of this group, and after evaluating her, they think her brain could be useful.

The Shard group sends a “spoonhead” to tap Clara’s brain. A spoonhead is basically a robot disguised to look like something in the victim’s consciousness. When the robot turns its head around it’s a spoon shape that has the capability of uploading their brain to the Internet. Clara’s spoonhead looks like a character in a book she was reading with one of the kids she nannies. A book that was written by none other than one Amy Pond Williams, I might add, which was a nice little continuity touch. The Doctor, having changed out of his habit and back into “sensible clothes,” manages to save Clara mid-upload. He then sends a warning message to the Shard saying “Under my protection.” Miss Kizlet confers with her “client,” they talk about how they were expecting the Doctor might get involved, and they decide to work even harder to do what they want to do against the Doctor’s will.

Much of the rest of the episode involves fun action sequences as the Shard folks and the Doctor kind of chase each other, but before we get to that, trust has to build between Clara and the Doctor. The Doctor camps outside of Clara’s house, determined to protect her from a repeat brainnapping event. Clara sees him still lurking about, and instead of being freaked out, after a brief conversation, she joins him outside. Shard operatives begin to close in, and the lights in the neighborhood start going on, then turning off. When a mysterious figure appears and seems to be a spoonhead, the Doctor hurries Clara into the TARDIS, where she has the obligatory new long-term companion “it’s bigger on the inside!” moment. She doesn’t have long to marvel before Miss Kizlet sends a plane hurtling towards them. The Doctor blocks the wi-fi so that the previously controlled-by-Kizlet pilot and co-pilot can wake up and start piloting the plane again. That’s the first good action bit.

The Doctor pilots the TARDIS to the next morning, and he and Clara sit at a café, trying to work out what’s going on. Clara has obtained some serious computer knowledge from the time she spent semi-uploaded, and she demands that the Doctor let her use those skills to find out who is behind this. The Doctor goes to get some caffeine and snacks, and the Kizlet-controlled people in the café distract him. While the Doctor is distracted, a spoonhead disguised as the Doctor successfully uploads Clara. The Doctor figures out what she had been working on, though. Clara managed to trace the activity to the Shard, so the Doctor appears to head there on an anti-gravity motorbike. This would be the second fun action sequence, and it ends with the Doctor crashing the motorbike into Miss Kizlet’s office. This isn’t the Doctor, though, but the spoonhead, and he/it uploads Miss Kizlet herself. Trapped, Miss Kizlet demands that she and everyone else in the Internet be released.

Clara is restored, and back at the Shard, we figure out who Miss Kizlet’s “client” was. It was none other than the Great Intelligence. The Great Intelligence demands that everyone involved in these activities, including Miss Kizlet, be “reset” so they have no memory of what they did. This reduces Miss Kizlet to the mentality of a small child. Across town at Clara’s house, the Doctor offers to let her be a full companion. Clara’s unsure, though, so she tells the Doctor to try asking her again the next morning. Clearly she won’t keep turning him down forever! All of time and space has been too much of a draw for any of the other people the Doctor has recruited!

Person of Interest 3.01: "Liberty"

“You think you were the first kid who had to stand in front of a judge and pick door number two? Turns out I was good at it. Maybe even made for it. And so are you.”
- Reese

And the boys are back! Season 3 kicks off right with the action as Reese rescues a diplomat’s son from some cartel thugs who want to kill him to send a message to Daddy. Carter (after trying to knock down HR and got busted down to a uniformed patrol officer), pulls up and asks where all Reese’s friends are. We jump to another part of the city where Shaw and Fusco save a womanizing thief from a mob hit. Shaw’s a bit trigger happy and anti-phone still since her whole government assassination attempt last year. So she’s only a semi-willing participant. But hey we got to see Fusco dressed in a costume which was funny and he refuses to work with Shaw anymore because she’s a lunatic.

The next morning, Reese and Finch get a new number for a sailor named Jack. It’s fleet week so it may be a little harder to find their guy with all the other seamen around. But Reese gets lucky at bar number 6, only to lose him after a bar fight breaks out. So he’s going to enlist some extra help. He enlists Carter’s help and it’s a good thing he does. She knows about a few haunts he doesn’t including a hidden strip club. Reese finally catches up with Jack and his shore leave buddy, RJ, but things don’t go too well. RJ goes off with a dancer and then misses the meet-up with Jack an hour later. And then some super angry Marine-types corner Jack and demand he give them back what he took (which he’s got no clue what’ they’re talking about). They start to pound on him and Reese needs to make a move to get him out of there. It involves stealing a car and taking out of the Marines.

For those who haven’t heard, the ever-lovely Amy Acker has also joined the cast as a series regular. So Root is still around. Her storyline this week doesn’t really dovetail with the main storyline so I’ll just cover it briefly. Finch has locked her up in an institution and she’s still got contact with the Machine. She gets put in solitary after she steals her doctor’s cell to keep communicating and when she finally gets out, she explains that she and the Machine have been debating whether Root’s going to kill the doctor. Yeah, she’s going to be very dangerous going forward.

Shaw gets in on the action when Reese realizes that Jack got shot during their escape. She manages to extract the bullet before the Marines call saying they’ve got RJ. And we learn what all the fuss was about. The Marines stole a bunch of uncut Somalian diamonds from some pirates and RJ nicked a few. Really not a good idea, buddy. I have to say though, I’m quite enjoying the Reese/Shaw team-up. They are a lot of fun and have an interesting chemistry which is different from Reese/Zoe. From what I hear we’ll see Zoe shorty in a guest role. I love the people they’ve populated this world with. Reese and Shaw accompany Jack to the meet but things are getting out of hand (though Shaw is quite excited to use a high-tech sniper rifle). RJ is rigged to go boom and because Reese has joined the party, the Marines want Jack to proceed alone or else RJ gets turned to shrapnel.

Jack heads off and is told he’s going to fence the diamonds for the Marines and he’ll die if things go south (aka the fence tries to low ball the price). Meanwhile, our team is also trying to locate which fence will be used. Carter pays a visit to Elias (who is in hiding) and gets the name which she passes off to Fusco. Unfortunately, Reese takes the Intel and leaves Fusco to defuse the bomb. Not the best use of assets, people. Anyway, Jack delivers the diamonds to the fence and he says he’ll pay 30 cents on the dollar. He apparently promised the Marines 50 cents and they all bust in, guns drawn. Since this guy is a shady Russian mob-type, he’s got his own guns that show up. They spend a little time all shouting at each other to put their guns down which I thought was kind of stupid and then Reese arrives. Until that point, the team leader thought he had extra insurance on Jack since he told Reese not to leave (or else RJ would go boom).

So Reese’s appearance pisses off the team leader and he tries to set off the bomb. Luckily, Fusco manages to defuse it just in time. Yay Fusco! Reese gets Jack clear just as bullets start flying. The Russians have a little extra back up which Shaw clues Reese in on and she even gets to use the nifty sniper rifle to take people out. She has gotten very snarky and I kind of love it. After the two sides are thoroughly bullet-riddled, she insists that Reese buy her a steak because she worked up an appetite. And he actually does! In the aftermath, a man comes in and takes the diamonds and the cash. It’s one of Elias’s guys. I shouldn’t be surprised. Elias still has great pull in the criminal community. Reese checks in on Carter who insists she’s fine. And she turns down his offer of help if she ever needs it. She clearly is not over Cal’s death or what HR did to her. In fact she’s got a secret flowchart of the organization hidden on the back wall of her closet. Something tells me she’s going to get in some serious trouble if she pursue them on her own too long. Maybe she should have accepted Elias’s offer to wipe out the Russians and HR. Reese meets up with Jack as he is about to head back from leave and warns him that Jack is made for the military but if the CIA comes knocking to recruit him, he should turn them down. It sounds like Reese has some guilt over joining (to be fair, if he’d only been in the army still he might have been able to save the woman he loved from being killed). Finch replaces Jack at the bar and he’s worried that there’s more disaster to come. But for now, he gets to try his first boiler maker (which looks like an Irish car bomb but with lighter beer).

Overall, I was very pleased with the premiere. It’s getting back to helping people which was the core of the first season and made it interesting. I’m not saying I dislike the mythology portions about the Machine but it got a little out of hand and I really wish they’d wrap up the HR plot soon. It’s gone on too long.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.01: "Pilot"

“With great power comes…a ton of weird crap that you are not prepared to deal with!”

I think it’s safe to say that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (as we’re going to call it, because the whole title is too damn long) was the most anticipated pilot of the fall for us here at MTVP. Sarah and I are both pretty massive Joss Whedon fangirls, and having his unique sensibility back on television brings us much happiness. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is different from previous Whedon television series in two important respects. First, the universe of the show isn’t Whedon’s original creation, it’s the Marvel universe. Second, the showrunners are Whedon’s brother and sister-in-law, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Joss will still have a role in the production of the show, but the day-to-day is Jed and Maurissa’s baby. While I wouldn’t say this is the best pilot I’ve ever seen, I saw potential and good building blocks, and I’m excited to see where Team Whedon takes this week-in-week-out.

Since this is a pilot episode, it was kind of light on plot and heavy on exposition and character introductions. If you’re a good Marvel or Whedon fan, you know that this show isn’t all about the big-name heroes that we’ve seen in the Marvel movies. It’s mostly about S.H.I.E.L.D., a quasi-governmental/military/spy group that kind of organizes Earth defense and recruits the superheroes. It looks like week-in-week-out, the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew are going to be trying to recruit people with special abilities or avert smaller time disasters (or both). The show is set not long after the Battle of New York (the big battle at the end of “The Avengers…spoiler alert), and the early acts of the show go to some length to tell us about how much Earth has changed since that battle. People were starting to grapple with the existence of superheroes before that point, but the Battle of New York made it something nobody could ignore anymore.

First thing in the episode, we’re introduced to the concept of the sort of random, B-team people with superpowers who will presumably feature in the series. The first such person we encounter is Mike Peterson, played by J. August Richards. Any good Whedonite will know him as Gunn from “Angel.” He gives one of the more charismatic performances of the episode, which I think bodes well for the series overall. A semi-procedural about S.H.I.E.L.D. could be boring if the guest characters aren’t well-drawn and interesting to watch. Anyway, Mike and his son are walking in New York City when there’s an explosion in a nearby building. Mike rushes to help, and we see that he has super abilities. He kind of jumps up the wall into the burning building, and he rescues a woman before jumping way farther than he should be able to survive. This explosion is potentially the work of a group called the Rising Tide. They’re kind of an anti-government, anti-surveillance state group.

We’re also introduced to the S.H.I.E.L.D team that we’ll be getting to know better throughout the series’ (hopefully) long life. The first agents we meet are folks you’ve seen before if you’ve seen “The Avengers.” Agents Marla Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) figure heavily in the episode. These scenes take place at a S.H.I.E.L.D. field station, so we get to see Hill and Coulson in positions of authority in a way that we haven’t seen before. In “The Avengers,” Hill was kind of an afterthought who occasionally had to say military-like things. Coulson was the superhero fanboy comic relief who gave the film a bit of pathos when he “died.” Here they’re pretty much the most important people in the room. Instead of being window dressing, they command the screen, and it’s pretty fun. I think I’m going to enjoy seeing Coulson in his element, and hopefully next year after HIMYM has wrapped, Marla Hill as well.

The rest of the team are complete newbies, unfamiliar even to those of us who have seen some of the Marvel films. The key entry point character for viewers is new agent Grant Ward. He’s pretty by-the-book, and he’s kind of an ass. I don’t think he’ll be a favorite character as the show progresses, but every ensemble needs a straight man to counterbalance the quirkiness of everyone else. Another character we meet early on is Melinda May. She appears to be a former field agent who found herself in a bad scrape and got gun shy. She’s been on desk duty for a while, but now Coulson wants her back out in the field, just on transpo duty for now. Next there’s Skye, a fairly new recruit who is a computer hacker. For much of the episode, we are led to believe that she is part of Rising Tide, but that set-up was actually a test for Agent Ward. Finally, there’s the gadget producing duo of Fitz and Simmons. They are going to be the loveable comedy duo that Whedonites quote for years to come. They are definitely the most Jossian of all the characters, for sure.

So anyway, it turns out that Mike worked in this evil factory, and apparently he got injured on the job and was screwed out of workers comp. He went to this shady doctor for help, and her treatments not only healed him, they gave him his superpowers. The only problem is that there are side effects. Spontaneous combustion side effects. First, the patient gets more and more mentally unstable. Specifically, he or she gets really angry. Mike goes back to the factory and just completely tears the place up. It turns out that beyond the emotional instability, the treatments cause physical instability too. If Mike isn’t treated, he’s going to blow up, just like the person who caused the explosion at the beginning of the episode. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team has to put together a trap to catch him. By the time they do catch up with Mike, he’s so far gone that he doesn’t really even care about his son anymore. Agent Ward shoots him with some sort of tranquilizer, though, and we learn later that he is finally stabilizing under S.H.I.E.L.D. care.

Sleepy Hollow 1.02: "Blood Moon"

“Belief is sanity, Lieutenant. Now I’m no more eager to accept it than you, but if Katrina’s warning is real, and we shall sound find out, then it appears evil has found a new home in Sleepy Hollow.”
- Ichabod

We begin this week in a dream sequence. Ichabod is being chased by the four horsemen through a forest. Some tree roots (literally) swallow him into the earth only to reveal it was Katrina at work to warn him that before the other three horsemen can descend, evil creatures must first make way for them and the first one is coming at the blood moon. Ichabod wakes and we get to see Abbie plead her case about the horseman with Captain Irving while Ichabod gets acquainted with some modern conveniences like hair dryers, TV and coffee machines. Abbie goes to pick up Ichabod for the Sheriff’s funeral and he imparts Katrina’s latest otherworldly message. She’s skeptical because her word is being questioned as suspect and she’s tired of it. Over at the morgue, we learn that dead doesn’t always mean dead on this show. Andy comes back to life and I swear the scene should have come out of Torchwood: Miracle Day. His neck is still snapped back and the horned demon fixes it and basically tells him to go resurrect someone. Creepy. But totally not a waste of John Cho, hurray!

On the way to the funeral, we get some more hilarious Ichabod car banter. This time he’s avoiding discussing his and Katrina’s relationship (though we learn she disliked him when they first met and he believes she kept her witch-y secret to protect them both since the country was in the midst of the witch trials) and ranting about the donut tax being 10%. The Revolution began on a tax of less than 2%. If we could just have the pair of them riding around in the car with Ichabod remarking about things I’d be happy (and laugh a lot). The funeral is a somber event but also helpful in that Ichabod figures out that the first evil nasty on the way is a witch. We see night fall and Andy actually resurrects the burned body of a witch. He’s also got a message from Mr. Horns: Andy’s job is the help get the witch revenge and full resurrection. It seems the first step in this process is to kill some poor guy named Jeremey in his car on the side of the road. It’s very creepy. I have to say one thing I really like about this show is its ability to mix the creepy and the funny so well. But seriously, how the hell does Andy have access to a sheriff’s vehicle and uniform still? And didn’t anyone notice his body missing from the morgue?

Back at the precinct, Ichabod is trying to impress upon his new partner his theory about witches and their power being linked to the lunar cycle. But, when Abbie again balks at accepting what’s been dealt to them, Ichabod keys in on the fact she’s not finished morning the Sheriff. And so she gives a bit of back story about the time after she and Jenny saw the demon. She turned to being a bit of a wild child with drugs and stupid boys. The sheriff caught her breaking into a pharmacy but instead of arresting her, he took her to a diner and ordered apple pie. The scene we saw in the pilot turns out to be something of an homage since he tells Abbie she’s got til the pie is soupy to tell him what happened and decide to change her life. Obviously, she did. And it means we get some flashbacks with the actor who played the Sheriff. Nice to know this talent isn’t wasted either.

Not long after Abbie reveals her sordid past, they get called to Jeremy’s crime scene. After taking a gander at the corpse, Ichabod recalls a dark witch named Serilda who plagued the colonial troops during the war. General Washington thought the Brits had struck a deal with her. It fits the Sheriff’s theory about two competing covens in the area. They head back to check his files but find the office empty. Abbie goes to find where they ended up and Ichabod has a run-in with a cop who turns out to be Abbie’s (very recent) ex, Luke. Ichabod establishes not only his cover (visiting Oxford history prof) but that he can snark with the best of them. When Abbie returns with the news that the files got moved to storage in a guarded building, Ichabod comes to the rescue and shows her some secret subterranean tunnels they used during the war. Of course, it requires him to take an ax to a concrete wall.

As they traverse the tunnel into storage, Ichabod explains that the bones of convicted witches are also buried in the tunnels but that Katrina’s remains are still shrouded in mystery. They do some digging and we learn that Ichabod also has an eidetic memory (except for the 250-year nap he took) and he also know several languages. From a book, he recounts that Serilda was weakened by a good coven and burned at the stake. Before her execution, she swore to return at the blood moon and use the magistrate’s descendant’s to rise again. So Jeremy’s death wasn’t pointless. Unfortunately, we see Andy scope out a little boy who is then stalked by Serilda’s crispy corpse. Andy really is creepy. And there seems to be a small note of regret in his tone as he’s confronting the people who are going to die. As Serilda sneaks up on the boy, Ichabod and Abbie race off to try and warn the family. Serilda makes off with what she needs before Ichabod and Abbie arrive. So now it’s a race to stop her from resurrecting herself (though we do get a somewhat amusing scene where Andy is digging up her bones in the tunnels and griping about doing all the work). Abbie and Ichabod split up in the tunnels which usually never ends well. We get another classic Ichabod moment. He shoots at the resurrected Serilda and then promptly drops the gun, not knowing it had more than one round in it. Things are starting to look dire as Serilda taunts Ichabod with the knowledge that Katrina is the one who weakened her but now Katrina is trapped in a world between worlds. Helpful info, really, if he wants to restore his lady love to this world. He ends up igniting centuries-old gunpowder and blows Serilda to bits.

That morning, as they return to the precinct, Abbie has her own vision, except her info-dumper is the Sheriff. She wants to know what to do and he tells her to have faith and to not be afraid of number 49. Cut to an institution and room 49 houses her sister, Jenny. Jenny appears to be pretty bad ass, working out. But there’s definitely something not right as the demon appears behind her.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Trophy Wife 1.01: "Pilot"

“You’re not even a real grown-up. Your car is full of garbage and shoes.”

I’ve decided to go a bit more comedy-heavy in my own blogging rotation this fall considering my demanding work schedule, and that means recaps of a new comedy on ABC called “Trophy Wife.” The previews of “Trophy Wife” made it look like a real charmer, and the pilot was pretty much as advertised. The show stars Malin Akerman as Kate, third wife to Bradley Whitford’s Pete. Pete’s first two wives, Diane (Marcia Gay Harden) and Jackie (Michaela Watkins), and the three kids between them are still heavily involved in Pete’s life, and wacky hijinks are sure to ensue on a regular basis. While this may all seem a bit clichéd, the well-drawn characters give the show potential to be something more. There’s a crazy crew of people in Kate’s life, but there all instantly differentiable, with clearly defining personality traits. I’m looking forward to watching the crazy adventures of this uber-blended family and seeing how Kate’s new insta-family helps her grow up.

The premise of the show is that Kate, a young-ish party girl who meets somewhat older laywer Pete when having a karaoke night with her best friend Meg (Natalie Morales) following a break-up. Kate falls off the stage and onto Pete, breaking his nose. At the hospital, Kate is quickly introduced to the rest of Pete’s crazy family. Jackie and all the kids arrive as soon as Jackie gets the news, and Diane is already a doctor at the hospital. Despite the chaos, Kate agrees to a coffee date with Pete, and the rest is history. A year later, they are married, and Kate is trying her best to adjust to being a wife and stepmom to three kids. She tries to cook elaborate breakfasts that end up burnt, and she simultaneously acts too young and tries too hard to act adult. She really wants to be involved in the kids’ lives, but they accuse her of trying too hard.

It’s probably time for an introduction to the rest of the extended family. Diane, Pete’s first wife, is an uber-accomplished surgeon. She doesn’t especially love Kate, or the fact that her ex married a “child bride,” but she’s not a hateful person, either. Diane and Pete have teenage twins, Hillary and Warren. The twins are sort of polar opposites. Hillary moves in the popular circles and tries to sneak vodka into school. Warren is uber nerdy and wears braces, and he admires girls in his class by writing kind of creepy erotica. Jackie, Pete’s second wife, takes crunchy granola to the extreme. She babbles about her organic food co-op and such on a pretty regular basis. She also doesn’t really have any sense of boundaries, as we learn she has her own hide-a-key for Pete and Kate’s house. Pete and Jackie have a son, Bert, who they adopted from China. Right now, Bert is kind of just a “kids say the darndest things” delivery system, but I hope that the character will deepen as he gets older (if the show sticks around). Finally, there’s Kate’s best friend Meg. Meg was Kate’s party and hook-up partner in crime, but now, she’s on help Kate out with the stepkids duty. I can see this being a major source of tension in the future.

The plotlines in this episode are all fairly simple family drama, most likely to serve as an introduction to the crazy clan for the viewers. Kate and Pete are fairly newly married, so Kate is still trying extra hard to be somewhat of a parental figure by making the aforementioned highly burned breakfast. Warren’s teacher calls wanting a parent conference, but Pete has a big court case going to trial, so he can’t make it. Kate eagerly offers to go in his place. She also tries to bond with Hillary by talking about a time she went to Lollapalooza and snuck in vodka in a water bottle. This will clearly backfire later. Anyway, at the seriously awkward school meeting, Warren’s teacher informs Kate and Diane that Warren has been writing Poseidon-themed erotica that may feature Kate. Kate doesn’t think it’s her, but Diane does, of course. As they’re all about to leave the school, Kate spots Hillary about to drink vodka out of a water bottle with her friends. Due to a rather complex series of events, Kate ends up drinking the whole bottle of vodka herself to prevent either Hillary or Warren from drinking it.

Meanwhile, Bert needed to go to orchestra rehearsal, but Kate couldn’t take him due to the school conference about Warren. Kate, as I alluded to earlier, enlists Meg for Bert chauffeur duty. Meg, however, decides to stop at the bar where she works to pick up her paycheck (so she says) before dropping Bert off, though. She leaves Bert in the car. Bert is pretty upset about the fact that he’s going to be late to rehearsal (it means he won’t be given a solo), so Meg goes into bargaining mode. She agrees to take Bert to the toy store instead and buy him a big, fancy toy. Back at the house, more Bert-related drama is happening. Pete catches Jackie snooping around the hamster cage in Bert’s room. Apparently Bert has twin hamsters, one of whom lives at each of his parents’ houses, and the hamster at Jackie’s house died. Jackie was hoping to switch the alive and dead hamsters so that Pete would take the blame. While trying to resolve the situation, Pete accidentally smushes the remaining hamster to death in a door. This leads to a wild, unsuccessful replacement hamster chase for Pete and Jackie.

All of these plots come together at the end of the episode at Pete and Kate’s house. Meg brings Bert home with his new toy, which is quickly replaced in Bert’s affections by the puppy Jackie and Pete bought him to distract him from the missing hamsters. Also, Diane, who drove Kate and the kids home from school, realizes that Kate is seriously drunk. Diane throws a fit, threatening to sue for full custody again, until Hillary fesses up and explains why Kate drank a whole bottle of vodka at once. Kate is cleared of blame, but Hillary is grounded. This means she can’t attend a concert with her best friend as she had been planning. Hillary’s best friend is also at the house, and she now wants to know what to do with the extra concert ticket. Warren is only too happy to offer to take the ticket, and the friend surprisingly agrees. And that’s when everybody realizes that Hillary’s friend is the person Warren was writing about, not Kate. As the episode closes and Kate nurses her hangover, we see how she’s slowly but surely adjusting to her new life, and we can now look forward to the wacky hijinks sure to ensue in future episodes.

Monday, September 23, 2013

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2013: The Aftermath

“I think you’re all forgetting a simple fact. I hosted the Emmys before all of you.”
-Neil Patrick Harris

So you know how on Saturday I said that this year, the award winners were likely to be boring and more of the same, but the telecast itself would be entertaining? Strike that, reverse it. There were a couple typical winners, but also some pretty great surprises. The telecast itself however did not quite meet expectations. The telecast overall seemed to have a theme of “death,” which isn’t really the best idea for what is already generally a pretty somber affair. While most viewers probably expected and looked forward to a lot of big production numbers with Harris as host, this telecast took that a bit too far. There were too many random musical performances, and in the one place where everyone really wanted a performance, the beginning there wasn’t one. Ah well, I guess you can’t please all the people all the time. This was still better than the last two telecasts, although not by as much as I had initially hoped.

Since I generally like to finish up positive, let’s start with some of the elements of the telecast that I found problematic. The most problematic thing was, unfortunately, the decision to eulogize several actors who passed away recently separately from the In Memoriam segment. These eulogies were spread out throughout the telecast, and while they were all very thoughtful and heartfelt, I don’t think the idea worked. The separate eulogies gave the whole telecast a sort of death theme. Add in a performance by Elton John of a song to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of Liberace (which would actually have been last year) and a segment about how television media covered the JFK assassination 50 years ago, and the death theme became even more palpable. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely in favor of the awards show In Memoriam segment. This telecast had an especially good, classy one, with a single cellist playing Bach’s first suite. Overall, though, the Emmys are supposed to celebrate the year in television. Awards shows tend to be a bit stuffy and self-important, so reminding people of death several times an hour isn’t really the best way to get viewers to stay tuned in.

Also on the problematic side, I didn’t love the show opener. I was hoping for a fun song and dance number, as per usual for a Neil Patrick Harris-hosted show, and I think most viewers were expecting the same. Instead, we got a pre-recorded bit where Harris attempts to binge watch an entire season of television in preparation for hosting duties, then a fairly unfunny live bit where a menagerie of former Emmy hosts tried to give him hosting advice (never mind the fact that this is Harris’ second time around with the gig). The bit only got funny when the camera zoomed in on Kevin Spacey, so started doing an Evil Speech of Evil about how he was trying to throw Harris off his game by having all these other former hosts giving advice. The real shining moment of the bit wasn’t anything Harris did, unfortunately. It was a brief heckling moment, complete with 3-D glasses, by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. As much of the commentariat has said in the past 24 hours, when the hosts of a different awards show are the funniest part of the opener, ya got problems.

Continuing our move on the spectrum from negative to positive, there was a pretty cool song and dance number featuring Harris in the middle of the show. Aptly, it was titled “Number in the Middle of the Show.” I appreciated the meta-cleverness of it, because it reminded me of some great songs from one of my favorite musicals, “Spamalot.” It was very much in the vein of “The Song that Goes Like This” or “The Diva’s Lament.” The performance didn’t make my jaw drop like “Put Down the Remote” did in 2009, but it certainly wasn’t bad. What made it fun was a surprise appearance by Nathan Fillion and Sarah Silverman near the end. I love the ongoing pseudo-rivalry between Harris and Fillion ever since their Dr. Horrible days, so Fillion appearing near the end of the performance and singing (even if he doesn’t sing spectacularly) was perfection. We won’t talk about the really strange number honoring most of the nominated shows that was choreographed by the Outstanding Choreographer nominees. Trying to be positive in this part of the post, after all.

Surprisingly, the best thing about this telecast was some of the winners. Some of the winners were great simply because they were unexpected, and some were great because they both were unexpected and the resulting speech was awesome. In the just unexpected category, Jeff Daniels won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for “The Newsroom.” Go figure. I know it’s cool to hate on “The Newsroom,” but I just like to see things shaken up a bit, and even if “The Newsroom” has structural problems, Daniels is certainly a fine actor. I enjoyed that Daniels was just as surprised he won as everyone else, joking about how the only other thing he’s won is an award from the AARP.

The cast of “Veep” also made out well. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale both won their respective awards for the Showtime comedy. The Tony Hale win made me especially happy, because I enjoyed watching him on “Chuck” back in the day. As Louis-Dreyfus was giving her speech, Hale hovered behind her, apparently like his character on the show. The telecast made me more convinced I need to watch “Veep.” I love the British version of the show, “The Thick of It,” and both that show and “Veep” were created by Armando Iannucci, so there isn’t the concern about bad American remakes of British shows that I usually have. Finally there was Merritt Wever, who gave the shortest (and best) speech ever after winning for “Nurse Jackie.” In her words, “I gotta go. Bye.”

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Summer TV Rewind: Wonderfalls 1.12: "Totem Mole"

“But let’s face it. Seer-ing, or whatever, isn’t my destiny. I’m just not cut out for that kind of work.”

“Totem Mole” is kind of an odd episode of “Wonderfalls.” It’s the penultimate episode, so you would think that the major plot arc at the moment, aka the Jaye/Eric/Heidi drama, would take front and center. Instead, Eric and Heidi don’t make an appearance. They aren’t even mentioned at all, actually. It’s an attempt, I think, to kind of meditate on the nature of Jaye’s abilities before wrapping up all the character drama. Jaye, Mahandra, and Sharon took a trip to a Native American reservation in this episode, and the result was all spiritual angst about whether or not Jaye is a true seer. It’s a bit too abstract, for my taste, though, and I think it literally loses the plot. To be honest, I tend to love Bryan Fuller shows more for the quirky characters and the twee (yes, there’s even some quirk and twee in “Hannibal,” believe it or not) as opposed to the big spiritual/philosophical wrangling he sometimes tries to do.

As I already mentioned in the intro, the big plot point of this episode is that Jaye, Mahandra, and Sharon go to a Satsuma reservation. There are a couple reasons for the trip. Mahandra is 1/8 Satsuma, and she wants to become an official member of the tribe. She goes on about “tribe loyalty,” but what she really wants is to be able to take advantage of a federal program that will help pay off her student loans if she’s officially Native American. Sharon’s on the trip to buy some cheap, tax-free cigarettes. Jaye just wants to escape Niagara for a day to get a break from all the Muses. Unfortunately, the Muses have other plans. A totem pole talks to Jaye in this one, admonishing her to, among other things, “tell him who is special.” Actually, the first thing that the Muses tell Jaye to do is to go inside a teepee. Inside, Jaye talks to an elderly woman who claims to have some knowledge of Jaye’s ability and potentially how to make it go away. The conversation is interrupted when the woman’s grandson, Bill, enters the teepee. The woman is Bill’s grandmother, and she’s dead. Bill is on the reservation for the funeral.

Meanwhile, Mahandra is trying to turn in her application, and Sharon is trying to buy a couple cartons of cigarettes. Sharon is about to pay for her haul when she is stopped by a former law school classmate, Deanna Littlefoot. Deanna has given up her lucrative law practice to be the tribal lawyer on the reservation, and she’s gone on a crusade to make sure that outsiders aren’t profiting at all from exploiting her people. This includes limiting the amount of cigarettes that can be sold at a discount to non-tribe members. Which means Deanna puts the kibosh on Sharon’s cigarette purchase. Deanna and Sharon are both hyper-competitive to the extreme. You know, like most law students and lawyers. Only worse. Deanna was first in their class, and they get into a heated argument over Sharon’s ranking. When Mahandra enters the store with her application, Deanna immediately tells Mahandra that her application is denied, basically just because she knows Sharon.

Jaye and company hightail it off the reservation before they can cause any more trouble, but what Jaye learned there continues to stick in her head. She wants to be able to talk to the tribe seer and find out how she can be relieved of the burden of the Muses. The clerk of the reservation convenience store, who seems to be pretty much the only Satsuma who doesn’t hate Jaye, says that since Gentlefeather, the woman Jaye was “speaking” with died, the tribe has been without a seer. Jaye wonders why this is, considering Gentelfeather’s grandson lives. Then Jaye takes it as her mission to convince Bill that he has the gift of Sight and should give up his accountant job to become the Satsuma tribe seer. To accomplish this, Jaye brings Bill into Wonderfalls and shows him the “I Surrender to Destiny” video. I guess she wanted him to see his people had legends worth preserving or something? Anyway, it works, and Bill heads up to the reservation to try and take his rightful place.

Meanwhile, Mahandra is allowed to appeal the denial of her application, so the whole crew heads back up to the reservation. Sharon is going to be Mahandra’s lawyer (probably not the smartest move considering Sharon is the reason Mahandra’s application was denied in the first place), and Jaye wants to check on Bill. Anyway, the appeal before the tribal court doesn’t go well at all. Deanna has won the game before it even starts. The previous night, she had gotten the tribal council to approve a new rule limiting the forms of birth certificate that would be acceptable in an application to join the tribe. What do you know, Bryan Fuller and crew were kid of prescient here given the controversy that would turn up about our President’s birth certificate much later that decade. Anyway, this just makes Sharon even more crazy determined, which naturally ups Deanna’s level of crazy, too.

Jaye spends her time on the reservation sitting in on the tests Bill is going through to determine if he is really a seer. First, a feather is supposed to float across a room and land on someone with the gift of Sight. Of course it lands on Jaye. Then, Bill has to do the classic “which one of the items belongs to your grandmother” test. A bear skull tells Jaye that it should be picked, and Jaye only slightly surreptitiously passes the message on to Bill. The final test is finding out if Bill can come “back to life” after smoking a bit too much peyote. With Jaye’s help (she sort of tries to do CPR), he does, and the tribe accepts him as seer. This doesn’t result in the answers Jaye hoped for, though. Bill takes a contingent of the tribe to Wonderfalls to stage a sit-in protest over all the tacky Native American souvenirs they sell. Alec calls the cops, and all the protesters but Bill quickly disburse. Jaye tries to tell Bill that she’s the one who is special, not him, but he doesn’t want to listen.

Sharon and Deanna end up at the same gym, and that turns into both of them being in the steam room together, each trying to outdo the other for how long they can take the heat. Sharon eventually gives up, and the bracelet she had been wearing accidentally gets caught in the steam room door, trapping Deanna inside. By the time Deanna is released, she’s had a sort of spiritual awakening. When the whole crew again returns to the reservation, Deanna is poised to be the tribe’s new spiritual leader. Instead of staying bogged down in the tribe’s past, she’s looking toward its future. She wants to try to get the Satsuma nation in on some casino action. And, what do you know, she needs a good accountant like Bill to help make that happen. So, as the episode ends, everyone has seemingly found their place in the world. Except for Jaye, of course, who is still reluctant to accept her gift.

50th Anniversary Countdown: Doctor Who 2012 Christmas Special: "The Snowmen"

“He was different once. Kind. A hero even. The Saver of Worlds. But he suffered losses which hurt him. Now he prefers isolation to the possibility of pain’s return.”
- Madame Vastra

We have come to the Christmas special which starts our transition out of the Ponds and to the new companion. We start in the early 1800s in London as a little boy starts to build a snowman. One of his caretakers comments on how it’s disturbing he doesn’t talk to the other children. The boy says he doesn’t want to talk to other children because they’re silly. The snowman talks back to the boy and says it can help him so long as the boy doesn’t leave. Jump fifty years into the future where the boy is now a man and goes by the name Dr. Simean. He’s got men collecting snow from snowmen all over town and the voice that came out of his snowman as a boy is now in a giant globe thing. They’ve got some nefarious plan cooking and it can’t be good. It’s also sad because he lets the snow eat the guys helping collect samples.

Next we hop over to a pub where a girl that looks exactly like Oswin is working as a barmaid. She heads out back and finds a snowman. She asks the man who walks by if he made it and we see the Doctor. It appears he’s not been doing what Amy told him. He’s been alone and hiding from the world. He asks the girl her name (it’s Clara) and he walks off. Clara is determined to follow after him and manages to hop on the back of his coach as Madame Vastra is chastising the Doctor that it always begins this way with him and new travel companions. Clara pops through the roof and asks “doctor who?” since she’s been listening in on the phone conversation.

The Doctor tries to get Clara to leave but she’s not having it. We get some funny bits with Strax being told to get the memory worm to wipe Clara’s memory so she won’t remember the Doctor since he doesn’t do the whole companion thing anymore since Amy and Rory got taken. It reminds me a tad of ret con on Torchwood. Just…slimier. The Doctor finally nabs the wiggly critter but doesn’t use it on Clara. The snowman comes back and more pop up the more she thinks about them. The Doctor explains she’s caught in their telepathic field and that the more she thinks about them, the more they’ll show up. She succeeds in picturing them all melted. Meanwhile, Dr. Simean pays a man a visit about a woman who drowned in his pond and froze. Dr. Simean says whatever is in the pond, will belong to him.

Oh and it appears the Doctor is living in the clouds (quite literally). Clara follow him after he tells Strax to take her back where they met her. She sees him pull down a ladder and climb up into the trees. Next we see her, she’s dressed as a governess checking up on her young charges. They’re the children of the man with the dead woman in his pond. And quite oddly, the pond is still frozen. The girl, Frannie, says she’s dreamed about the dead woman who says she’s coming back for Christmas to punish the children. Her brother says that she needs a doctor and it would seem Clara agrees. She goes back to where she last saw him and starts shouting for him when Jenny intervenes. She takes Clara to see Madame Vastra and we get an interesting conversation where Clara is only permitted to give one word responses. She needs the Doctor’s help because of the snow. Vastra says the Doctor doesn’t help people ever. When Clara calls her on her lies, she explains that he lost people and he’s taken up isolation as a defense mechanism. But there is a test she can give Clara to see if the Doctor will help her. Clara sums up her troubles in one word; pond. Yes, it’s a direct reference to Amy (he’s wearing her reading glasses from episode 5 when he gets the call). So I guess there’s a bit more link between the first half and second half than I initially realized.

That night, the Great Intelligence (aka the glowey ball full of snow) warns Simean there is danger near. The Doctor shows up and figure outs what the Intelligence is. He also figures out that in order to adapt and survive on Earth, they’ll need to evolve including sampling human DNA in ice form. Bingo! That’s where the dead ice lady comes in. Clara is busy putting the children to bed when Frannie worries she’ll have the bad dreams about the dead woman again. Clara says it won’t happen because there’s a man who lives on a cloud and whose only job is to make sure no child ever has a bad dream. Unfortunately, she’s dead wrong and the ice lady comes for them. They run into a lounge and the Doctor pops in to save the day. But he insists it’s a one off thing. Elsewhere, a man triggers a device that sends snow directly at the house to help reconstitute the ice woman.

The Doctor starts to feel sentimental when he sees he’s put his bowtie on. That doesn’t last long because ice lady reforms and she’s melt proof. So Clara and the kids get the standard “run!” order. Shortly, the snowmen corner the house and Vastra, Jenny and Strax arrive to help defend the premises. Dr. Simean arrives too, demanding they release the ice lady to him. There’s no way the Doctor is going to do that. By this point, the children’s father has gotten in on the action and the Doctor says he’s Clara’s gentleman friend. For good measure as the Doctor starts formulating a plan, Clara goes with him and snogs him (just to keep up pretenses). They make it to the roof and she falls on him. I’m really not keen on the flirting. I prefer my Doctor flirting only with his wife, thank you very much. Anyway, they lead the ice lady up with them to keep her away from the snow. The Doctor and Clara head up to the TARDIS and Clara goes against the grain, noting it’s smaller on the outside. And in a tie in to the first episode of the season, Clara likes making soufflés. In an uncharacteristic move, the Doctor hands over a TARDIS key. Unfortunately, Clara gets nabbed by the ice lady and they fall all the way to the ground. Clara is not looking good. The Doctor is not happy because as we know, he hates losing people. He asks Clara to go with him if he saves the world (and she survives). He straightens his bowtie and gets to work. He taunts Simean and heads to his office to end things. Simean demands to have the box that the Doctor says contains a piece of the ice lady. The Doctor hands it over but it’s got the memory worm inside it. Without his memories, the snow should just disappear. But it’s managed to evolve so that it can inhabit Simean’s body. Back at the house, Clara dies and the family mourns, turning the snow to rain and washing out the Great Intelligence. At the cemetery, the Doctor starts putting the pieces together. Clara’s full name was Clara Oswin Oswald. He now has a new mission and races off in search of Clara. The girl who died twice. We see her again in the present standing by her own grave stone. Thus begins the mystery of Clara.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2013: The Players

Well, folks, it’s late September. In my world, that means three things. My day job is starting to get a little hectic (to put it mildly), the leaves are falling off the trees, and most importantly, it’s Emmys weekend! The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast on CBS tomorrow night, and you can bet I’ll be watching. To be honest, I’m not especially psyched about the nominees this year. It’s a lot of the same stuff we saw last year, minus some “New Girl” folks. What has me excited the most is the return to CBS, because that means Neil Patrick Harris will be hosting the telecast for the second time. Any regular readers of MTVP (does such a person even exist?) know that I am an unapologetic Neil Patrick Harris fangirl, and I have been for many years now. He’s just a consummate professional and a great all-around entertainer. He also loves awards shows, and he has become known for being one of the best at hosting them. I know with Harris at the helm, we definitely won’t be bored.

As per usual, here’s my deal with these “The Players” posts. I’m going to highlight a few categories where I have an opinion on who I would like to see win. I’m not a professional Emmy prognosticator (go read the Hollywood trades for that), nor am I even a “real” professional TV critic who has seen all the nominated performances (go check out Allan Sepinwall and Dan Feinberg’s excellent work on HitFix for that). I’m just a fan writing about what I like. And like I said, this year I’m more excited about the telecast itself than the awards. So here goes nothing…

Outstanding Drama Series

The Nominees:

Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men

My Pick: Game of Thrones

Is this choice really a surprise at all? This season of Game of Thrones continued to suffer slightly from the disbursed storytelling that started in Season 2, but there were huge, iconic moments that got everyone talking. Red Wedding. Need I say more? And also, if you’re going to complain that’s a spoiler, it aired a few months ago. You had your chance. This past season was really well crafted, with a gradually building impending sense of doom. It became increasingly obvious that things were not going to go well for King in the North Robb and his new wife, and it’s also clear that the intrigue in King’s Landing is not going to end well for Tyrion and Sansa. I really felt for the characters this season, and for that reason, “Game of Thrones” gets my vote. It would also be kind of cool if “House of Cards” won, since as a Netflix production, it would be the first Internet-based series to win a major Emmy. Also, it films right here in my lovely state of Maryland.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

The Nominees:

Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel)
Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey)
Claire Danes (Homeland)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)
Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
Connie Britton (Nashville)
Kerry Washington (Scandal)

My Pick: Connie Britton

Is this also even a surprise to anybody who has read MTVP Emmy coverage before? I’m a big fan of Connie Britton from her “Friday Night Lights” days. On “Nashville,” she plays old-hand country music superstar Rayna James. I appreciate Britton’s bravery in taking on the role of Rayna. She was so critically lauded for playing Tami Taylor on “Friday Night Lights,” that she knew any role she would take in the future would be compared. Also, she has to sing quite a lot. Britton certainly gives the performance her all, and I commend her for that. “Nashville,” while good fun and quality entertainment, is no “Friday Night Lights,” so I don’t see Britton actually winning this year, but I had to throw kudos her way anyway! If Britton can’t win, I’d enjoy a surprise win by “Scandal’s” Kerry Washington. I watched the first season of “Scandal,” and Washington was really the standout of the cast.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

The Nominees:

Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad)
Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)

My Pick: Peter Dinklage

Another no-brainer for anybody at all familiar with my work here on MTVP (yeah, I know there’s not many of you…I can dream, right?). I love me some “Game of Thrones” and some Tyrion. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Tyrion is the clever, scheming uncle to the rather disgusting King Joffrey on “Game of Thrones.” I like Tyrion because he fights with his intellect, and he loves a good political game. In the most recent season, Tyrion found himself relieved of duty as Hand of the King, so most of his intellect was focused on survival. Dinklage had some great material to work with as he tried to navigate preserving his relationship with his lover Shae and being forced by his father to marry young Sansa Stark. Tyrion is the one Lannister with a good heart, and I appreciate that. Dinklage submitted “Second Sons” as his episode for consideration. Featuring Tyrion’s drunken wedding to Sansa, he really couldn’t do any better submission-wise.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Jason Bateman (Arrested Development)
Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)
Don Cheadle (House of Lies)
Louis C.K. (Louie)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

My Pick: Jim Parsons

Let’s wrap this up with one more no-brainer of a choice. You all know I’m a Jim Parsons fan. I mention it every year. Last year, Parsons lost this award to Jon Cryer in an Emmys moment I’d really, really rather forget. But guess what? Jon Cryer is not among the nominees this year! Huzzah! Parsons’ submission this year is “The Habitation Configuration,” where his character, Sheldon, utterly fails to mediate a dispute between his girlfriend, Amy, and none other than Wil Wheaton. Wil Wheaton episodes of “Big Bang” theory are generally entertaining, and this one was funny enough. It may not be enough, however, to overcome the Academy’s urge to give Alec Baldwin an Emmy as a 30 Rock parting gift. Again, though, at least there’s no Jon Cryer!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Mindy Project 2.01: "All My Problems Solved Forever ..."

"I really thought that I’d changed. I just got really good at pretending to like things that I didn’t."

So, apologies in advance. This year on MTVP, my contributions are going to primarily be sitcoms about quirky women around my own age. What can I say? I guess I’m a bit of a narcissist? Oh, and I’ll be covering the new Joss Whedon offering, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” as well. So at least there will be some diversity. Anyway, as I think I might have mentioned here around this time last year, I really enjoy the combination of “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project” on Tuesday nights. I get to work out my quirky perpetually single almost 30-something (seriously…my 30th birthday is next month…what the hell) girl issues out in one night of sitcom goodness every week. “New Girl” is the twee, mostly positive version of the story, while “The Mindy Project” is a little grittier. Both are fun in their own way. Anyway, last season’s finale saw Mindy and her pastor boyfriend Casey heading off to be do-gooders in Haiti. This episode gives us an idea of what happened next.

The episode opens with a sequence narrated by Mindy that shows her and Casey’s new life in Haiti. Mindy is desperately trying to be upbeat and all, about the bug zapper being the best entertainment, and she and Casey being able to “car pool” (aka ride on the back of a cart together) to work. Mindy has also been writing pretty constant letters back and forth to Danny back in New York. It’s pretty apparent that while Mindy is trying to make the best of her situation, she really does miss all the comforts of New York. Early one morning, Casey takes Mindy out to see a sunrise while sitting in a tree, and he is pleasantly surprised by how little she protests. Mindy’s reward is a proposal and engagement ring. Mindy doesn’t have much time to celebrate, though. Later that evening, she starts not feeling well at all. Next thing she knows, she’s waking up in a hospital bed with Morgan of all people looming over her. That is not what I would want to see when I’m not feeling well. Morgan is creepy as all get out. It turns out Mindy was rushed back to New York for emergency gall bladder surgery.

Mindy is only supposed to be back in New York for a week or so before heading back to Haiti, but she sure packs a lot into her time there. For instance, she goes back to the practice and finds she’s been replaced by an OB/GYN/Sex Therapist named Paul Leotard. Dr. Leotard is played by James Franco, so you probably already know exactly what he is going to be like. Super mellow in that Keanu Reeves way. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. I’m still a bit bitter over that Oscars hosting fiasco a few years back. I don’t like when my awards shows flop! Anyway, Dr. Leotard is a male model turned doctor, so of course Mindy fawns all over him, and that kind of pisses off Danny. Danny claims his irritation is because Mindy is flirting with somebody when she’s engaged, but it’s pretty obvious that Danny just wants Mindy for himself.

Speaking of Danny, he’s trying to make things work with his ex-wife Christina, because in TV land, that’s what people do, even when it’s a horrible idea (yes, I do intend to finish the TV Rewind of “Wonderfalls” at some point in the near future). They are just very mismatched, I think. Danny’s a chill, kind of boring in an endearing way kind of dude who just wants to be left alone to watch his Ken Burns documentaries in peace. Danny and Christina go to sex therapy sessions with Dr. Leotard, and Christina wants to try some of the stupid things Dr. Leotard suggests, but Danny just isn’t into it at all. Probably, once again, because he really wants Mindy. The creative team kind of hits this point on the nose repeatedly throughout the episode.

Casey and Mindy have some preliminary wedding discussions, and when they start to realize how difficult the logistics could be (Mindy’s family is in Boston and India, and Casey’s family is in California), Casey suggests something a bit more impromptu. He suggests they have a small wedding in Mindy’s apartment before going back to Haiti. Mindy clearly always wanted the ostentatious fairy tale wedding, but she decides to go along with it, because she just goes along with whatever Casey wants these days. Then, as she’s getting ready for the big evening, Casey accidentally pees on her wedding dress (long story). Mindy ends up having a heart to heart with Danny out on her balcony, where each questions the other on their current relationship choices. Danny wants to make sure that even though this isn’t Mindy’s dream wedding, she’s happy about the guy she’s marrying. Mindy says that she is, and Danny decides to be supportive.

Mindy decides to wear her scrubs for the ceremony, but when Casey realizes how craptacular this wedding has become (dress ruined, banner falling off the wall), he decides to call it off. At first, Mindy thinks he’s breaking up with her, but then Casey clarifies that he wants to marry her, just in the fairy tale way she deserves. He also wants her to stay in New York while he goes back to Haiti. She’s clearly much happier among her New York creature comforts, and if they’re going to have a big wedding, they need the money Mindy can earn at her New York practice. Mindy is sad when she has to take Casey to the airport to go back to Haiti, but it’s pretty clear that she knows this is ultimately a good decision for her. I like that Mindy is a bit of a prissy city girl, because I can be too. Heck, I don’t even like camping. Give me a hotel any day. Anyway, the episode ends with Mindy making plans to start slipping back into her old life. Care to take bets on how long this ill-fated engagement with Casey will last?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Girl 3.01: "All In"

“Oh my God, pull over! That piñata’s shaped like a monkey!”

“New Girl” is back, y’all! Okay, I’ll admit, it wasn’t the series’ best episode, but it was still oh so good to have my favorite (currently airing) show back. There were some problematic plot elements, sure, but there were good laughs, and that was enough for me for now. I’ll give the creative team a little bit of a chance to ease into the new season and the changed Nick/Jess paradigm before I once again start demanding that they share my brain! Most of the biggest laughs for me came from Nick and Jess moments, although the underlying conflict between them in this episode was a little frustrating. Lamorne Morris also produced a master class in comedic acting, although the performance didn’t really result in any better definition of Winston as a character. He’s still the guy who isn’t one of the original roomies who has a bunch of really crazy quirks.

This episode picks up pretty much right where the last season left off. We find out exactly what happens to Jess and Nick after they drive off together from Cece’s cancelled wedding-that-wasn’t. They drive for a little bit, then they decide that the car could be better used for sex. Once they have that out of their system, Jess and Nick try to go home. They find that they can’t go through the apartment door, though. They’re worried that because it’s going to be hard to be in a new relationship already living together with two other roommates, they’re going to lose each other sooner than they want. Schmidt starts furiously texting Nick about his Cece/Elizabeth indecisiveness, and Nick and Jess suddenly realize that they really, really want to get away for a little while to figure things out. This getting away takes them to Mexico, where we get fun random Jake Johnson line deliveries like the Quote of the Episode above.

Meanwhile, back in LA, things kind of start to fall apart at the loft without Jess and Nick. We already know that Winston and Schmidt get kind of weird around each other when Nick isn’t there to be a sort of buffer, and what happens in this episode takes that dynamic to a whole new level. Winston decides he wants to do a puzzle, and we learn that doing puzzles is yet another of the many things that make Winston a little crazy. Winston sings to himself about doing his puzzle, and he really wants no distractions. I appreciate that Lamorne Morris really went all-in on this bit, taking it to complete whackadoodle status. The height of whackadoodle-ness is when Winston, dressed only in a sweatshirt that he’s wearing as pants, just has the pieces all over the table in a big mess. Some are turned the wrong way, and he’s using an almost to connect two pieces. Schmidt tries to explain the concept of identifying the corner pieces, but Winston just doesn’t get it.

We learn that Nick and Jess have spent several days bumming around in Mexico, and they’ve run out of cash. They briefly contemplate heading back home, but Nick really, really wants to stay put. He’s afraid that if they go back to real life, their relationship will end. Jess seems to have slightly more confidence in their future than Nick does, but not enough to overrule his pessimism. While this immaturity kind of irritates me, I was so happy to see them on my screen again that it didn’t really bother me all that much. The combination of Jess’ twee positivity and Nick’s grumpy old man in his early 30’s bit just makes me smile. Anyway, Nick has an idea about how to extend their time in paradise. He wants to sneak into a nearby resort. The whole resort-sneaking idea works at first until Jess and Nick realize that the resort has security guards checking to make sure everyone on the resort’s beach is actually a paying guest of the resort. Nick scares a kid to get a resort bracelet for Jess, but he doesn’t have time to get one for himself before the guard stops by. Nick tries to run into the surf, claiming he’s in international waters and armed with a shell, but he gets run down by the guards pretty easily. Jess is told that Nick is being taken to jail.

Back in LA, Schmidt’s got himself in quite a conundrum. He’s been told that he needs to choose between Cece and Elizabeth, but he just can’t do it. At first he tries to talk out the problem with Winston, because Nick’s not answering his phone. Because of Winston’s puzzle fixation, though, Winston really isn’t much help. The rather one-sided conversation leaves Schmidt thinking he should break up with Cece and stay with Elizabeth (because they have more history). When he actually goes to break up with Cece, though, he just can’t do it. He can’t break up with Elizabeth, either. So he tries to pull a Three’s Company and date both of them without the other knowing. This becomes a bit of a problem when Cece drops by the loft, and Winston tells her he’s sorry (he thinks Schmidt broke up with her). The situation escalates to the point where Winston and Schmidt have to make up this story about Winston having slept with Elizabeth and being gross wearing her panties. It really wasn’t all that funny.

The wackiness at the loft comes to a halt when Jess comes home to tell the rest of the roomies that Nick is in Mexican jail. The three of them then head back to Mexico to retrieve their friend. Finding Nick is easier said than done, and Schmidt uses all his cash bribing the hotel staff. Jess finally gets the job done when she offers a security guard her car in exchange for information on Nick’s whereabouts. He’s not in “real” Mexican jail after all. He’s just in a room by himself at the resort while they figure out what to do with him. Nick’s not especially happy to be found. He’s still really, really afraid of going home, so he tries to shred his Passport. Just as Jess convinces Nick that they should give their relationship a try in the “real” world, Nick accidentally shreds the Passport anyway. Winston uses his puzzle non-skills to try and piece it back together, and inexplicably, Border Control lets Nick back into the United States. As we end the episode, Jess and Nick are again standing outside the door to the loft, alternating between arguing and kissing, about to reenter their real life.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Summer TV Rewind: Lost Girl 1.13: "Blood Lines"

“I am ready to know who or what I really am. Whatever the cost.”

And we have reached the finale of our “Lost Girl” Summer TV Rewind. To be honest, it was a little bit of a let-down. I like my “Lost Girl” to be a little kooky in that early season “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” way, and kooky this was not. There was no case of the week, just an attempt at a dramatic showdown between Bo and her mom. I guess maybe it didn’t feel as epic as the creative team was going for because Aife seemingly escaped in the end. The cribbed right from “Empire Strikes Back” Luke/Vader moments didn’t really help maintain the atmosphere of solemnity, either. The whole “I know there’s still good in her!” thing was just too much. Too much. Then of course, you have the obligatory sacrifices by Bo’s harem at the end of the episode. Because Bo can’t beat this by just kicking ass. Both Dyson and Trick make major, major sacrifices to make the victory happen.

So yeah, as the episode opens, Dyson is telling Bo the truth about “Saskia.” Bo is really not happy about it. Actually, she’s mostly unhappy that Dyson has lied to her for so long. Dyson tries to make the excuse that the whole thing about Aife (the real name of Bo’s mom) was actually Trick’s secret to keep, not his. This, very logically, leads to a trip to the Dal, where Trick needs to perform one massive info dump. Two important bits of information are that Trick is a Blood Sage (anything he writes in his own blood comes true), and that Aife was once in his clan. A long time ago, Trick used his power to force a peace between the Light and Dark Fae. Aife chafed under this forced peace, and she led a rebellion of sorts, killing the leader of the Dark Fae. Still hoping to salvage peace, Trick turned Aife over to the Dark for them to do with her as they would. Trick warns that Aife can only be up to no good, but Bo wants to give her mom the benefit of the doubt and walks out, Kenzi trailing behind her.

In the present day, Aife is certainly getting ready to wreak some havoc, just as Trick warned she would be. Aife meets with a high ranking Light Fae under the pretense that she is considering joining the Light. Instead, she has her thralls kill the Light Fae in cold blood. Or whatever it is that Fae have. Aife just really, really wants to start another war. Maybe she’s trying to relive her heyday? Anyway, it’s clear that Aife intends to cause a lot of mayhem, so when Bo and Kenzi come up with a plan that basically amounts to “let’s go ask Lauren what to do,” I get a little worried. Lauren tries to make nice with Bo, which makes Kenzi uncomfortable, so she decides to leave. On her way out of Light Fae HQ, Kenzi runs into Hale. Hale leads Kenzi to Dyson, who wants to use Kenzi to get back in Bo’s good graces. Kenzi agrees to help when Dyson admits that he loves Bo.

Bo gets home from her consult with Lauren to find Aife in her kitchen baking cookies. Aife acts like she just wants to be a good mom, and Bo buys it, because she’s been looking for a connection to her Fae biological family for so long. Turns out, though, that the cookies are drugged. Bo takes one bite and passes out. When she comes to, Bo is in Aife’s lair, and a bunch of shirtless men are gathered around her. They offer Bo a drink, which she thankfully doesn’t accept. Aife and Bo have a chat, where we see that Bo is still completely gullible when it comes to her mom. She buys it when Aife goes on about how she was abused by the Dark King for years after Trick turned her over. Even though she was just drugged and kidnapped, Bo tells Aife she’s still wants to get to know her.

Meanwhile, Trick pays a visit to the Ash to warn him that Aife is in town and causing trouble. The Ash is mostly pissed that Trick didn’t warn him sooner. Trick’s excuse is that he had been trying to protect Bo. The Ash warns Trick that he overstepped his boundaries this time, and that they can definitely handle two succubae. Only they really can’t. The Ash is taking a meeting with some other Light elders to figure out what to do about both Aife and Trick when one of Aife’s minions enters the room and detonates a bomb. The result, of course, is destruction and chaos. The Ash survives the initial blast, but he’s in very bad shape, and he’s rushed to the Light Fae HQ sickbay.

Back at Aife’s lair, Bo finally realizes that Aife is more than a little nuts. It becomes apparent that Aife basically wants to rule the entire world, and Bo, being the “nobody’s going to tell me what to do” kind of girl that she is, is not at all cool with that. Bo wants to leave, but when Aife says Bo is grounded, Bo finally makes a run for it. Bo feeds off of Dyson for a hit of energy, then she pays another visit to Lauren. Lauren has read about an amulet that could potentially neutralize Aife’s powers if Aife tries to feed on Bo. The amulet is in a Light Fae museum of sorts, and Lauren gives Bo a key to that museum so that Bo can retrieve the amulet. Dyson also tries to help Bo by paying a visit to a crone called the Norn. If you ask for something from her, she’ll take what you care about most in return. The last time Dyson tried to bargain with her, she wanted his ability to shift into a wolf. That was too high a price to pay then, but Dyson is willing to pay it now to transfer some of his power to Bo for the fight ahead. There’s just one problem. Since the last time, the thing Dyson cares about most has changed. Instead of taking his wolf, the Norn takes Dyson’s feelings for Bo.

Bo, now armed with the amulet, goes to Aife’s lair to start a fight, while Kenzi becomes yet another unsolicited helper. Kenzi and Hale team up to convince Trick that he needs to use his Blood Sage powers to get Bo out of this alive. The trying-to-be epic fight between Bo and Aife just feels way to much like Luke and Darth Vader fighting in the Star Wars movies. The fighting itself reminds me of “Empire Strikes Back” and the “I know there’s still good in you” nonsense reminds me of “Return of the Jedi.” The extra Dyson power boost kicks in, and Bo is finally able to really hold her own against Aife. Aife ends up dangling over a ledge, and Bo stupidly decides to try to save her. Aife wants Bo to just let her go, and when Trick’s magic kicks in, Bo doesn’t really have a choice. Aife plummets to the ground below. When Bo and Kenzi (who has shown up to try and help some more) make it to where Aife landed, though, Aife is missing.

Sleepy Hollow 1.01: "Pilot"

“This bible was left with me for a reason. The connections are all around us. You just aren’t willing to accept them.”
- Ichabod Crane

Well the first fall show has arrived. I have to say I’ve been anticipating this one since I saw the pilot preview a few months ago. I know it will sound blasphemous but I think I was looking forward to “Sleepy Hollow” even more than “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. That’s not to say it won’t be awesome because Joss Whedon is behind it, but this was a different type of show and I was not disappointed.

We begin our journey at the battle of Hudson Valley in 1781. Ichabod, though clearly British, is in colonial colors. He fires off a few shots before going to check the hands of several fallen redcoats. A comrade calls to him and we see a looming figure in a mask, with a broad axe. Ichabod fires off a shot but it doesn’t stop the rider. Ultimately, Ichabod lobs the man’s head off after suffering a mortal chest wound himself. They fall to the ground as he passes out, only wake in a cave. He climbs out and emerges in present day Sleepy Hollow. In town, Lieutenant Abbie Mills is having coffee with the sheriff. It seems Abbie is off to Quantico in a week and the sheriff is trying to entice her to stick around due to all the unsolved cases and general weirdness in town. When they finally head out, they get a call to respond to spooked horses at a nearby farm. The little trip ends poorly for the sheriff. He encounters Ichabod’s nemesis and falls to the blade of his axe. Abbie calls for back up and a fellow officer, Andy (played by John Cho), nearly runs over Ichabod (who’s run into the street in his confusion). Abbie confirms he wasn’t the killer but Ichabod does recognize the description of the headless murderer. Abbie orders him to tell her when he last saw the headless hacking machine, to which Ichabod replies “when I cut off his head”. I have to say I think the pilot well shot well. I liked some of the cinematography and the camera work to show transitions from scenes.

Ichabod is moved to an interrogation room for questioning which is rather amusing. I was a little surprised he was using words like “damn” and “hell” but I thought the way he delivered the lines about his backstory, including the mention of serving under General Washington and his wife, Katrina, were very good and believable. He gets sent for a 72-hour psych hold and Abbie convinces the lead detective to let her transport him so she can question him. She doesn’t outright call him crazy but she says a headless horseman is impossible. He goes on a bit of a rant about how if all of the things he’s seeing aren’t real because they’re impossible, then he must really not be in the future with his wife dead for two centuries. On the car ride we get one of my favorite scenes from the previews. Ichabod remarks that a building used to be a livery stables but it’s now a Starbucks. He spies another one and asks how many there are to which Abbie replies “per block?” and he goes “is there a law?” It cracks me up. I like that they’re adding in a lot of humor, even if some of it isn’t intentional. Just the way Tom Mison delivers his dialogue makes some of it amusing. Abbie doesn’t take him to the psych hospital right away, though. She wants to see the cave where he woke up. Oh, and on the car ride we see the local priest (who Ichabod recognizes from his past…creepy).

Ichabod unearths a Bible with the book of Revelation marked telling of the coming of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. We also get a little revisionist history in that Ichabod says Washington gave him a mission to kill a man on the battlefield, but he wasn’t a man. He was Death. And we see the horseman corner said priest. The good father tries to fight him off with some mild magic (flinging chains at him) but the horseman uses his handy axe to cut through and lob off the priest’s head (the camera work switches to the reverend’s point of view as the head is cut off. Creatively done). Abbie brings Ichabod along to respond to the call of the dead priest and she gets into it with the lead detective again for not following orders. Andy warns her off linking herself to Ichabod. Speaking of, after seeing a hawk (which we saw sitting on the Sleepy Hollow sign earlier) he manages to extricate himself from the cop car and finds Katrina’s grave. He’s rather heartbroken to find she was burned for witchcraft.

Abbie still isn’t sure she believes Ichabod’s story and she’s got a reason that she’s not ready to divulge yet. But he does pick up on the fact that something happened to her that made her doubt herself. Apparently she has a change of heart on the drive to the psych ward because she explains that when she was in high school, she and her sister had this weird encounter where they saw four white trees and demonic like voice and being. Her sister, Jenny, has drifted in and out of psych wards since and we know understand why Abbie is trying to leave Sleepy Hollow. She wants to move on and forget her past. Something tells me, she isn’t going to get her wish. She swings by the sheriff’s station and finds a hidden cabinet full of research on the occult and two local covens in the area. It would appear our deceased lawman not only believed Abbie’s story but believed in a lot more. I really am intrigued by the mx of religious connections, historical intrigue and the supernatural aspects. I think all of those elements, combined with the humor, are going to make for a good show.

Ichabod is dreaming and he is pulled into a little pocket of existence by Katrina. She’s been trapped in this dimension by the evil that Abbie saw. She infodumps a bit about the fact she’s part of an ancient order sworn to fight against the evil and that the horseman is after his skull (really buried in Katrina’s grave). And it would appear the priest was actually a member of her coven. Guess that explains the magic he was throwing around. She begs Ichabod to free her and to stop the horseman from achieving his goal. If he doesn’t, the other horsemen will come and the end will begin. Ichabod wakes and Abbie saves him from a sedative thanks to what she’s seen in the sheriff’s secret cabinet. She calls Andy for back up and tells him to meet her at the church. Unbeknownst to her, he seems to be working for the horseman because the headless figure is waiting at Andy’s place and the cop relays the message.

We have a showdown between Ichabod and the horseman over the horseman’s’ head and Andy tries to keep Abbie out of it by knocking her on the head with the trunk of his car. She bites him in return. A couple other cops show up to the party but all they do is get shot at by the horseman. Ichabod manages to hold on to the horseman’s noggin til sunrise (the horseman can’t stand light according to Katrina) and Andy gets arrested. Ichabod imparts the belief that he and Abbie are the two witnesses who are prophesied to guide humanity through the Apocalypse. Unfortunately, they don’t get any answers out of Andy because the same shadowy demon thing Abbie saw when she was younger breaks his neck and slips back into the dimension where Katrina is. This is going to be an interesting premise. I can’t wait to see how they handle the show week-to-week. The pilot felt pretty epic so they’ve got a lot to live up to in week 2.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Newsroom 2.07: "Red Team III"

“Leona, we don’t have the trust of the public anymore!”
“Get it back!”
-Charlie and Leona

This is the episode where the shit really hits the fan on Operation Genoa. We both see the moment when the story is broadcast (and the fallout) and finally learn what this potential lawsuit is all about. The former was kind of predictable, the latter was just ridiculous. Apparently Jerry is suing for wrongful termination. Yeah, he doctored an interview that almost drove ACN into the ground, but because nobody caught it in time, there was an “institutional failure,” and he was made a scapegoat. First of all, I want to know how he had anything other than at will employment, and second of all, even if he could only be fired for cause, what kind of defense is “institutional failure” when you do something as blatantly wrongheaded as doctor an interview? Notably, this episode, while it does contain the most movement on Genoa so far, actually does deal with a pretty big real-life news story. The September 11, 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi occurs in this episode, and of course, the News Night team are the only news team out there who think it might have been a terrorist attack. Sigh.

This episode continues the legal client interview framing device format that many of this season’s episodes have used. This one focuses in on the third meeting of the Operation Genoa Red Team, this time including Will. The addition to the research this time is an interview that was conducted by Mackenzie. That interview is the final straw that convinces everybody (except Jim, really) to go with the story. The story broadcasts with the vintage Sorkin dramatic notes one would expect. It’s not just a broadcast of News Night, it’s a special called “ACN Reports.” Will narrates in dramatic fashion as all of the interviews and pieces of evidence are disseminated. What I find strange is how court-like it all is. The interviews are like direct examinations, not real interviews that journalists would do. Journalists don’t have to adhere to the Federal Rules of Evidence. The facts should just be laid out in a compelling way.

Anyway, though the client interview framing device, we finally learn exactly why AWM is being sued in regards to the Operation Genoa story. It’s not a defamation lawsuit by anyone profiled or some sort of espionage charges from the federal government. It’s a wrongful termination lawsuit. Filed by Jerry Dantana, of all people. The idiot who doctored the interview with the three star general and really kickstarted the whole mess. He says that he was made a scapegoat and fired to take the heat off of an “institutional failure.” I don’t know, even if he did have a contract that made him something other than your garden variety “at will” employee that his employer can fire for any legal reason at all, doctoring an interview seems like cause to fire someone to me, even if his supervisors were too caught up in their own drama to catch it in time. Don’t take that as actual legal advice, obviously, but it just sounds plain stupid. How can you create a fraudulent work product and expect to not get fired if it’s found out? Especially when the finding out causes your company international humiliation.

Anyway, the threads of Genoa start unraveling not long after the special airs. The first thing to go is one of their interview subjects. The soldier in question is invited to do a live interview on Elliot’s 10:00 show, and it’s pretty much a disaster. The soldier admits to suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury in an attack prior to Genoa. This, unfortunately, instantly undermines his credibility. He also did not disclose his condition to the News Night staff prior to the interview. The next red flag is when the Department of Defense doesn’t respond right away to the story. Mackenzie is anxiously awaiting such a response on the DoD website, but it’s a very long time in coming. When the response does appear, it is unequivocal in its denial of the story. The News Night crew also learned that Pentagon Counsel and the Attorney General had a hand in crafting the statement, which means they were likely extremely serious about making it clear that the United States never used Sarin. Despite all of this, though, the News Night team still votes to stand behind the story.

Giving the News Night team some hope is the fact that Will and Charlie both have a source who tells them to stick with the story. Unfortunately for Will and Charlie, they don’t realize that they’ve each been talking to the same source, and to say that source was unscrupulous would be an understatement. Charlie goes to DC to meet with the source in a parking garage, Deep Throat-style, and that’s where the truth comes out. The source had a son who worked as an intern for News Night in the past and committed suicide soon after he was fired from the job. In retaliation for his belief that the News Night crew are somewhat responsible for his son’s death, the source fabricated evidence, particularly a flight manifest that suggested Sarin might have been transported, and tried to convince both Charlie and Will that the story was a lot more airtight than it actually was.

For a while, the News Night crew continues to defiantly stand behind the story. It all falls apart, though, when Mackenzie discovers the doctored footage, thanks to some newly acquired sports knowledge of all things. Early in the episode, Mackenzie and Will had been talking about sports that have a secondary clock, and Will explains the shot clock in basketball. Recall that when the three star general was interviewed, a basketball game was on television in the background. The game was blurred out for the broadcast, but it was still visible in the (doctored) “raw” footage. Jerry made sure that the game clock was out of frame, but the shot clock was still visible, and Mackenzie sees it jump all over the place. She confronts Jerry and fires him immediately, then she glumly goes to the newsroom and tells the crew they have to retract the Genoa story immediately.

Back in the “present,” the interviews with the AWM lawyer are finally at an end, and the news doesn’t seem to be good. The lawyer thinks that Jerry might have a possible defense with the whole “institutional failure” think that I think Sorkin may have just pulled out of his ass. Will, Mackenzie, and Charlie decide that the best course of action is for them to resign, considering they all screwed up too. Leona, who is called in from some sort of gala to deal with the situation, refuses to accept their resignations, though. She, in a rare moment of sanity, also thinks that it’s ridiculous Jerry would be trying to sue for wrongful termination after he did something so stupid and damaging to the company, and she doesn’t care how much it will cost to defend the case in court. Will, Mackenzie, and Charlie still want to resign, though, because they feel they’ve lost the public trust and can’t really do their jobs anymore. Leona disagrees, and she charges them with getting that trust back.