Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Selfie 1.01: Pilot

NOTE: This post was written based on ABC's online preview of the "Selife" pilot. Some things have been significantly changed for the broadcast version. On the positive side, Henry's creepy/annoying coworker/friend has been edited out. On the negative side, the final two scenes were refilmed to be much less subtle, and Henry doesn't say he has as much to work on as he did in the original version.

“When I was sick, not one person called to see if I was okay. And I don’t know why. People used to hate me because I was butt . . . I’m not butt anymore.”

“Selfie” has a highly unfortunate title. There really isn’t a term in modern vernacular that grates on my nerves more. It has, however, actors I tend to enjoy. Karen Gillan (Amy Pond on “Doctor Who”) and John Cho (of the “Harold and Kumar” movies, “FlashForward,” “Sleepy Hollow,” and many other things) star as vapid pharma girl Eliza Dooley and marketing expert Henry respectively. Also, as you might have been able to tell from those character names, the premise of the show is loosely based on “Pygmailion”/”My Fair Lady.” I’m a big fan of theatre and musicals, and this story is a favorite. I enjoy watching updates of classic stories, like BBC’s “Sherlock,” because I like seeing the creator’s thought process in how to modernize some of the specifics of the story. So, despite the pretty terrible title, I’m up for giving “Selfie” a shot.

Like I said, Eliza is a vapid pharma girl who works for a pediatric pharmaceutical company. As she tells us early in the episode, she was a loser in high school who was voted “Most Butt,” so she transformed herself into a social media obsessed wanna-be celebutante. She’s got a ton of “friends” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but as she finds out, she still doesn’t have any actual, real life friends. This comes into especially sharp relief when Eliza and a bunch of her coworkers are flying home from a conference. Eliza is being her usually vapid self, getting an upgrade to first class and rubbing it in the face of some other pharma girls. Also, Eliza discovers that the coworker she had been fooling around with is actually married (everybody else knew it before she did, of course).

A combination of turbulence and humiliation at dating a married man leads to a severe bout of air sickness for Eliza. As she is taking her sick bags back to the lav, the bags break and vomit flies all over her outfit. Her fellow passengers take to social media with gusto to document the moment. When Eliza finally makes it home and treats herself to a soak in the tub, she realizes that she has absolutely no one in her life. She’s out of ginger ale and needs to find a grocery store that delivers. The situation is pathetic, and Eliza knows it. At the staff meeting at work the next day, Henry is praised for rebranding their nasal spray after it was discovered that said spray causes Satanic hallucinations. Eliza wonders if Henry might be able to rebrand her, too.

Henry is a bit dubious about Eliza’s request at first, but eventually he agrees. Henry is, if I may say, kind of an ass. Most of what he does all episode is complain about how everybody is too distracted by electronics these days. He constantly preaches about how he hates living in a city that only values digital connection. Despite being an ass, however, he does have some valid points about Eliza’s behavior. His first lesson is to get Eliza to ask other people how they are instead of just constantly going on about her own drama. He tries to get Eliza to ask the company receptionist, Charmonique, how she is, and it’s horribly awkward.

The president of the company (who is kind of horribly awkward himself and seems to kind of have a thing for Henry) has a daughter who is getting married, and he wants Henry to come to the wedding. Beyond that, he wants Henry to come with a date. He thinks it’s weird that Henry is by himself all the time. Being kind of a loner myself, I’m not sure how I feel about that! Henry decides that for her next lesson, Eliza is going to be his date to the wedding. He gives her rules on how she should dress, all in the form of a sort-of rhyming poem. Not sure how I feel about that, either. Anyway, Eliza’s credit cards are maxed, and she doesn’t have any clothes that meet Henry’s dress code, so she begs for help from her neighbor Bryn. Bryn is clearly meant to be a Zooey Deschannel caricature, and she and her book club friends Eyelet and Wren are kind of amazing. I really identify more with Bryn than I do with Eliza. Is that sad? Bryn says that make-unders are her specialty, and the whole group sings Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” (complete with ukulele) as they work.

Eliza’s wedding look is a hit. The wedding itself is kind of a disaster. Eliza watches the bride recite a very long (and very dumb) poem to the groom, and she starts to wish somebody would look at her the way the groom is looking at the bride. It takes her right back to her unpopular high school days. Eliza tells us that when she’s feeling vulnerable, she hides behind her phone. We get an awesome, perfect late 90’s – early 2000’s school dance flashback (shout out to my fellow class of 2002 folks) with the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” playing and Eliza playing snake on one of those little blue Nokia cell phones. In the present day, Eliza starts playing a game on her smart phone, and it makes noise, interrupting the wedding. After the ceremony, Eliza and Henry have quite an argument, with Eliza accusing Henry of being “unfun” and “a cockscomb,” and Henry accusing Eliza of being a lost cause. That last one hits Eliza hard.

The next day after work, Eliza has a nice conversation with Charmonique’s son, and then Charmonique herself. Charmonique remarks that this is the first time they’ve ever talked about anything other than Eliza’s drama, so whatever Henry is doing is working. Eliza runs to Henry’s house to tell him the news, and it starts to rain. At first, Henry is not at all happy to see Eliza. Eventually, though, they come to an understanding that they both have things the other can help them work on. Henry can help make Eliza more considerate of others, and Eliza can encourage Henry to live life instead of always sheltering himself.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sleepy Hollow 2.02: "The Kindred"

“You founded a country. Figure it out.”
- Abbie

In true “Sleepy Hollow” fashion this episode kicks off with a bang. In the woods, Headless is dragging around Katrina to perform a creepy ritual that is supposed to sanctify her so he can marry her. It turns out to be a dream Ichabod was having after he read about it in a lost gospel of the Bible. He’s convinced more than ever that they need to rescue his wife. Abbie understands his desire to save her and they seem to be making progress in narrowing down where the Horseman could be hiding. While Abbie goes to meet the new boss, she tasks Ichabod with figuring out where Abraham would have taken Katrina.

The new Captain is a woman that worked in the department when Abbie and Jenny were young. Apparently she responded to some of the domestic violence calls that wen on back in the day. Abbie acts like it doesn’t throw her off but I bet it does. I also worry that this woman is going to get in the way of our Witnesses doing their thing. Luckily, Ichabod arrives with some fresh intelligence about where he believes Headless is keeping Katrina. A recon mission proves his instinct was right but Abbie has to literally drag her partner away before he goes off half-cocked and gets himself killed trying to rescue Katrina. Back at the cabin, our team finds some information on a creature that Ben Franklin and Katrina’s coven worked on that was supposed to rival the power of the Horseman. The only problem back in the day was they didn’t have a piece of the Horseman to complete the creature. I have to say this totally reminded me of Frankenstein’s Monster. Anyway we know our Witnesses have a rather large chunk of Headless lying about so they may have a shot at raising the Kindred.

After a bit of squabbling about whether it really is a good idea to raise the Kindred, our heroes decide to go for it. Jenny’s off to raid the weapons stash just in case while Ichabod deciphers the rest of the raising ritual. Abbie pays Irving a visit and he’s not doing well. No one likes ex-cops in prison and he’s gotten quite the beat down for it. He tells Abbie he considered the insanity defense but his lawyer didn’t think it would stick. The reason for her visit, despite being concerned about it, is more pressing. They need the Horseman’s head. He’s secreted it away at Sleepy Hollow Savings & Loan in a big ass safety deposit box. The part where Abbie and Ichabod go to the bank was one of the exclusive clips we saw at Comic Con in July and it still cracks me up. Ichabod is so indignant about the guy trying to get him to sign up for a credit card it is rather adorable. Unfortunately, Jenny runs into the new Captain while bringing the cache of weapons to the archives and gets arrested. I really don’t like this woman.

Elsewhere, Henry gets pulled into Purgatory for a tongue lashing by Moloch. Henry may be powerful and think himself a badass but he’s really just a big child seeking affection from a neglectful parent. It’s rather sad. And speaking of neglectful parents (sort of), Katrina is pissed that Abraham is insisting that they will be together. He’s also trying to sow doubt in her mind that while Ichabod may be alive and free, he went for Abbie first. I have to believe that Katrina understands their bond and knows that Ichabod is coming for her.

Things really aren’t going well for our team on the new Captain front. Jenny’s still locked up and Ichabod is basically on the outs, too. At least Irving takes Abbie’s advice and plays the “demon” card during his polygraph and gets moved to the same psych hospital Jenny was at. It’s a lot easier for our heroes to access their Captain if he’s close by. After leaving Jenny behind, Ichabod and Abbie go trolling through the tunnels to find the preserved body of the Kindred (gross). On the way, we get some very important character beats about both of our Witnesses. Abbie explains that her faith in Ichabod is her weakness and she thinks maybe Henry is Ichabod’s. After all, they’re going after the Horseman of Death instead of Henry. Speaking of, he’s relaying Moloch’s message to Headless and Katrina listens in. He tells her that they’re all blind to what’s coming and that while Ichabod and Abbie may be coming to save Katrina, there’s going to be no one to save them. I have a feeling the two Horsemen are going to team up. Really, Abbie and Ichabod should realize this already.

I have to say the scene where Ichabod and Abbie raise the Kindred is pretty amusing. In typical fashion, Abbie has to jab at her pal when nothing happens after he reads the incantation. He reads it a second time and it’s just enough to get their monster up and running. At the house, Katrina tries to play on Abraham’s feelings. She says she wanted to marry him but she wasn’t ready to marry anyone and Ichabod gave her time and that ultimately turned into a husband (well and a baby). She wants to make the choice to be with Abraham of her own free will and it seems he accepts before going off to try and kill Ichabod. And as predicted, Henry’s got a hand in all this, too. It looks like he’s fashioned a bad ass bullet of some kind that he’s going to use via the Horseman of War’s armor that he now controls.

The Kindred is pretty awesome and it fights not only the Horseman of Death but also War. It gives Abbie a chance of getting to the house to try and get Ichabod and Katrina out. Too bad Katrina’s decided she’s going to stay and play spy for them. Ichabod is pretty much heartbroken at that revelation and I doubt he agrees with her belief that their son can be saved. He’s pretty far gone. But at least they managed to get to Katrina so the plan wasn’t a total bust. Though they should go find the Kindred (and the Horseman’s head). I have to admit I was a little worried it would pop off during the fight and they’d all be screwed. Now, it just seems that Irving is the one that’s screwed. He never got the Henry is Jeremy is War memo and who should show up at the psych ward posing as Irving’s new attorney but one Henry Parrish. He even gets Irving to sign an agreement (basically in blood). The thing I thought was a bullet was actually a pen. Something tells me Irving’s life is about to get very tricky and dangerous from here on out.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Once Upon a Time 4.01: "A Tale of Two Sisters"

“Henry brought me to Storybrooke to bring back the happy endings. My job’s not done until I do that, including you.”
- Emma

I have been very excited for “Once Upon a Time” to come back. Yes, I spent the summer angry at the writers for threatening the happiness of Outlaw Queen and completely squashing Swan Fire but I’m ready for the next adventure. Let’s take a peek at where we left the Storybrooke denizens. Snow and Charming happily welcomed baby Neal into the fold while Henry got his memories back. After a trip to the past, Emma and Hook are considering a more romantic relationship and Robin and Regina’s burgeoning love story is hampered by the return of one Maid Marian. Oh and Queen Elsa has been transported to Storybrooke.

Speaking of “Frozen”, we begin at sea in Arendelle as Elsa and Anna’s parents’ ship is about to go under in a crazy storm. But the Queen is insisting on writing a letter to the girls explaining the meaning behind their trip. A short time after their parents died, Anna and Elsa visit their graves and bring flowers. Elsa tells her little sister that she has a surprise for Anna’s wedding. Apparently this takes place after the movie time line. Interesting. Unfortunately, Elsa is in Storybrooke now and confused as hell. She even freeze the town sign. Seriously, what did the sign ever do to her? It reminds me of the Sunnydale sign. That thing got beat up all the time. She also has bad luck with cars. Grumpy and some of the other dwarves have left the party and Sleepy’s at the wheel. He falls asleep and Elsa freezes the truck to avoid a collision.

Elsewhere in Storybrooke, Regina is still reeling from the revelation about Marian. Robin tries to explain things to both women, or at least get them to talk but it doesn’t go well. Marian can’t believe everyone is being nice to Regina and Regina storms off to have a good cry. And hopefully not do anything evil. Things seem to be looking up when Robin stops by for a chat. He admits his feelings for her are real and very deep. But ultimately, he needs to honor his wedding vows because if he doesn’t live by a code, what is he doing? Well I’ll tell you what you’re doing, moron. You’re choosing the wrong woman. Something tells me Regina is going to see to it that Marian isn’t around long. In fact she goes to pay Sydney a visit. I guess they can do that now that he’s not off killing Patriots in Texas.

Back in Arendelle, Elsa’s wedding gift is some magic-made jewelry and their mother’s wedding dress. The sisters banter a bit about Elsa walking down the aisle with Sven and Kristoff cutting his hair. Things turn somber when Elsa finds their mother’s diary with the information on their death. Aw, sad. I’m guessing Elsa and Anna are going to find their mother’s note and danger will follow. And I was right. Elsa’s hiding out because she found a passage in her mother’s diary about them leaving because her powers were too much and she was terrifying. But Anna won’t listen and thinks they can ask the rock trolls for help. They only get a little further in their search but at least they now know where their parents were heading. Elsa still isn’t thrilled that Anna wants to take off to see what she can find. Elsa finds out that Anna has gone off and Kristoff is being a dutiful future husband and lying for her. I have to say, the actors are doing a pretty good job of personifying the characters. And the reindeer was great. It turns out the land that Anna is bound for is the Enchanted Forest and she left Elsa and Kristoff home to look after one another.

Meanwhile, Rumple has his first chance to really say goodbye to Neal since Zelena was defeated. He give this beautiful speech about the first time he felt like a man capable of raising his son on his own. And how he ruined everything with magic and that he’s doing the same thing with Belle and the dagger. But he swears to fix things and spend the rest of his days living up to the heroism his son showed him. I definitely got very teary eyed by this bit. And then, he and Belle go on their honeymoon and share the iconic “Beauty and the Beast” dance and I got weepy then, too!

It wouldn’t be Storybrooke without a little insanity. Emma is kind of avoiding Hook (and it seems Regina is avoiding everyone) when Leroy comes running with news about the latest magic wielder. So naturally, Hook and Emma go investigating and Elsa creates a snow monster to protect her. I guess Olaf wouldn’t be that terrifying but it would damn hilarious to see Hook react. Emma and Hook try to reason with it but it only kicks their butts. They take off and eventually the monster heads towards the forest away from all the screaming townsfolk. Oh, and Elsa finds a photo of Rumple and Belle announcing their wedding. I guess they had time to print those up. Mr. Gold better be on the look-out. Elsa breaks into his shop and finds the necklace she made for Anna. It would seem that her sister crossed paths with the Dark One.

Down in her crypt, Regina explains to Sydney that she wants to get rid of Marian by going back in time and killing her before Emma can save her. So she makes Sydney into the Magic Mirror again so he can show her the moment she captured Marian. I really can’t imagine this is going to turn out well. I mean, look at how much Emma managed to mess up. And she wasn’t even trying. Anyway, Emma and the men folk chase the monster to Robin’s camp but it’s Regina who saves the day (including Marian). I guess maybe she changed her mind about killing her boyfriend’s wife? Actually, after a little pep talk from Emma (she promises to find a way to bring Regina’s happy ending to reality) Regina decides she’s going to find the writer of the story book and make them write her the happy ending she wants.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.01: "Shadows"

“You called it. Talbot hasn’t crushed Hydra. Just sent them slithering back to the shadows.”
“I hate being right.”
-May and Coulson

“S.H.I.E.L.D.,” bucking the Mutant Enemy show trend, is back for a second season. And I don’t know if I can take what they’ve done to my beloved FitzSimmons. I know Joss Whedon (and his siblings) like to tug at the hearts strings with their work, but this was too much. There was a lot going on in this episode. It was very action-y and it gave us a good sense of what the paradigm is going to be moving forward (for now at least). But what happened with FitzSimmons kind of casts a depressing patina over the whole thing. This is something that I hope the creative team fixes as soon as possible. It doesn’t seem credible that these characters would have made the choices we’re being told they made. No sense at all. I’m reserving judgment, but I can only take so many shows where characters I like keep making choices that just create more pain.

I kind of feel like this might have been what would have happened character-wise if beloved Whedon “dead too soon” cult show “Firefly” had gotten a second season, with the team whose camaraderie we came to love in the first season broken apart in the second. I think the creative team is trying to earn an emotional response from the audience by changing the team in the way they have. Here’s the low-down on some of the new additions. Agent Coulson is searching for allies for his newly resurrected S.H.I.E.L.D. everywhere he can. The closest allies are a team of mercenaries led by Izzy Hartley (Lucy Lawless). Triplett is also still an integral part of the team. As is the newest Patton Oswalt clone, Billy.

We begin this episode, however, back in the 1940s, with what really amounted to a teaser for this winter’s event series “Agent Carter.” Carter’s team is raiding the last Hyrda base they know of. They come across a shiny metal object known as the Obelisk. We don’t know much about it, but we know it is responsible for great evil. Everything in the Hydra base is boxed up, numbered, and photographed. Interestingly, the box containing the Obelisk is given the number “084.” As we know in modern day S.H.I.E.L.D. parlance, an “084” is an object of alien origin.

The 084 connection is immediately made when we head back to present-day Arlington, Virgnia. A deal is going down where a shady guy who seems like he might be Hyrda is trying to sell Izzy’s team a photograph of the Obelisk in its 084 box. He says the U.S. government has all sorts of dangerous things like this boxed up in a warehouse now that S.H.I.E.L.D. as we knew it has fallen. May, Skye, and a backup team appear behind the mercenaries, and a full on fight goes down. The person we later know as Carl “Crusher” Creel takes part, and because he has the power to take on the characteristics of material he touches (like metal), he does some serious damage. He’s definitely Hyrda.

When the team returns to the Playground (where Coulson’s skeleton crew S.H.I.E.L.D. is based), May briefs him on Crusher and the picture of the 084. Apparently Coulson is a difficult man to find, because he has spent much of the past few months jetting across the globe (in economy class, to his chagrin) looking for allies. May seems kind of irked that he hasn’t been very available, but she begrudgingly admits that it is necessary. May mostly gets upset because she wants to protect Coulson, but she can’t do that if he stays out of contact with her.

We learn that two members of Coulson’s season 1 team are not doing especially well at all. First, May pays a visit to Fitz. He has not completely recovered from drowning last season, but he’s trying to work on developing cloaking technology. He is having serious expressive language difficulties, and his thought process is moving very slowly. Simmons seems to be by his side helping him work through everything, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much good. Ward, meanwhile, is in custody. Skye is given the task of asking him what he knows about Crusher, and it’s incredibly creepy. Somebody described it as a Hannibal and Clarice vibe, and I have to agree. Ward keeps trying to ask personal questions, and Skye threatens to end the conversation every time he does so. She does get one useful bit of information from him. Hydra used white noise between S.H.I.E.L.D. frequencies to communicate. When Billy pings those frequencies, he finds that the Hydra communications network is still very active. General Talbot hasn’t crushed Hydra. He just sent them back into shadow for a little while.

Much of the back half of the episode focuses on an elaborate plot to get S.H.I.E.L.D. access to the Obelisk. First, they need to capture General Talbot. Coulson calls Talbot and suggests he go with S.H.I.E.L.D. as they believe his life is in danger. Talbot refuses, but if he wasn’t so stubborn, I think he’d regret that choice when Crusher appears and starts to attack. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team rescues Talbot, and Talbot finds himself in an interrogation room. Coulson says just the right things to be able to get a voice sample and fingerprints out of Talbot. This will come in handy when the team tries to raid the government warehouse where the Obelisk is being kept. Talbot is tranquilized, and when he comes to, he finds himself in a car in the middle of nowhere. He immediately radios for help, but it’s Billy on the other end of the line. Now S.H.I.E.L.D. has Talbot’s security clearance code, too.

Izzy and her team head for the warehouse. They pretend to be another General and his entourage who are supposed to meet with General Talbot. General Talbot’s voice barking out orders to the poor gate guards however, is actually Coulson using a voice modulator. Before the team can grab the Obelisk and escape, though, Crusher again appears on the scene. Izzy grabs the Obelisk, thinking it will help her fight Crusher. Instead, it starts to turn her arm into stone or metal or something. Whatever it is, it’s very bad. The team tries to escape the warehouse. They make it into the car and start driving away. It’s looking like the only way to free Izzy of the Obelisk is to cut off her arm. Crusher has other ideas, though. He flips the escape vehicle, killing (I think?) Izzy and at least severely injuring the other member of her team in the vehicle. Izzy’s severed arm (with Obelisk) is in the middle of the road, and after touching a tire to turn his hand to rubber, Crusher is easily able to take the Obelisk and run off.

The episode ends on an extremely sad note. You know how I said it seemed like Simmons was trying to help Fitz? Well, we learn that she actually left months ago, thinking that her absence would help Fitz recover, but it actually made him go off the deep end. He’s just talking to himself now and hallucinating Simmons. When he hears about the attack on Izzy’s team, Coulson starts monologueing about all of the sacrifice that fighting Hydra has taken. We see the wrecked car, we see Fitz mumbling to himself, and we see Ward down in the holding cell (apparently he tried to commit suicide more than a few times, or so he tells Skye). We can only hope that all of this mess wasn’t in vain.

Doctor Who 8.06: "The Caretaker"

“I have to be good enough for you. That’s why he’s angry. In case I’m not.”
- Danny Pink

I have to say this series has had a lot of nostalgic moments and emotional callbacks to prior series and characters. As the Doctor and Clara run off on various adventures, we see that she is aging a little and is always affected by wherever they go (fish people planet, desert) and Danny is starting to notice. She’s basically leading a double life like Amy and Rory did. She is determined to keep it up though and to keep the two parts of her life separate. I’d think it would be less stressful on her if she told Danny about her travels. It has a very early Mickey feeling with her running off to be with the Doctor. Anyway, things get wonky when the Doctor tells Clara he has to go under deep cover for something and she can’t come along. She’s miffed but she gets even more annoyed when it turns out that the deep cover is as the new caretaker (that would Custodian for all you non-Brits) at her school. I was so happy he was using the John Smith alias again. Nice call back to Tennant’s era.

Clara confronts the Doctor and asks why he’s there and if there are aliens afoot (besides him). He won’t say what it is but the kids are definitely not safe. We also get a River Song reference when he says that he can act like a normal person (he lived among otters quite successfully after a big row with the wife). I’m pretty sure that’s not the same thing. Anyway, he also meets Danny and doesn’t take to him very kindly. The Doctor doesn’t believe that Danny isn’t a PE teacher and is just generally rude to him. Clara tries to make the Doctor see the link between Danny and Orson from the future but the Doctor’s just being ornery and ignoring her. He gets kind of goofy and smiles a lot when the other English teacher starts talking to Clara about Shakespeare. He thinks that’s the fellow Clara’s been seeing on “serious dates” lately. Yeah, I don’t think he’s going to be too pleased when he finds out that Danny is in fact his companion’s new beau.

He’s also fiddling around in a fuse box and puts some kind of device in it. As it turns out, he’s putting them all over the school to set up a scanning network. It would seem that he has need of a scanning network. A police gets shot by a hostile alien robot thing that his scanner picks up. It’s a very dangerous alien that could blow up the entire planet. The Doctor also had a sort of awkward conversation with this student who keeps saying unintelligible things to Clara. She sees the Doctor come out of the TARDIS and starts asking him questions. Luckily the bell rings and he manages to shoo her away.

The Doctor’s plan is to lure the alien to the school at night when no one is there and to send the alien through a time vortex to the far future where it can’t hurt anyone. The Doctor’s also got a new watch that makes him invisible. For a second I thought it was going to be an updated version of the fob watch but that wouldn’t make any sense. The plan starts to go off just fine but Danny, being suspicious of the Doctor is at the school and finds two of the devices that operate the time vortex. The alien tracks the Doctor to the school and is about to blow him up when the Doctor sonics the time vortex. It only sends the alien three days into the future so now he’s got to come up with a new plan. That’s going to have to wait until Clara explains things to Danny.

To say that Danny finding out Clara’s secret doesn’t go well is an understatement. He’s freaking out that Clara’s an alien (and the Doctor is her father) and he’s a bit glazed over after seeing the TARDIS. He demands to know the truth about who Clara really is and why she travels with the Doctor. She admits that the traveling is amazing and she’s seen wonders. The Doctor is also rather cross with Clara because he doesn’t understand why she’d be dating Danny, a soldier and he also can’t wrap his head around the fact that she loves him either. The next day, Clara tells Danny that she will show him what she’s like when she’s with the Doctor. Somehow she’s nabbed his invisibility watch and lets Danny borrow it. Clara thinks she’s awfully clever in doing this but it turns out the Doctor’s not impressed. In the middle of trying to avert the crisis, he tells Clara they should go off on an adventure. When Clara says no, Danny becomes visible again and the Doctor admits he knew he was there the whole time.

Danny goes all mocking military on the Doctor and then the Doctor kicks him out of the TARDIS. Again, this really isn’t going well. As the Doctor crossly fiddles with whatever his new plan is, Clara and Danny have parents’ evening (something like open house here in the US). The Doctor also has to shoo the annoying girl away. Unfortunately, the alien returns earlier than anticipated and it’s a race to stop it. The Doctor doesn’t want Danny involved and he sends Clara off to be the bait. Things look dire as Clara dodges fire from the alien. The Doctor impersonates the alien’s commanding officer but realizes that he’s missing an authorization code. The alien is set to self-destruct but Danny distracts it long enough for the Doctor to shut down the alien. Danny also figures out that the Doctor’s been so angry and annoyed because he thinks Danny won’t be good enough for Clara. That’s kind of sweet in a way. It seems that maybe they will be able to get along or at least tolerate each other after all.

The Doctor takes the annoying girl out to space to send off the alien and it’s just too much for her. Maybe it will scare her straight. Who knows? Clara and Danny have a little heart to heart as well. He tells Clara that if the Doctor ever pushes her too far to do something she can’t handle, she needs to tell him so he can help. Seems like a decent enough promise. And of course, we end with a brief visit from Missy. Well she walks by as another guy is introducing a policeman who got killed by the alien to the Promised Land.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Girl 4.02: "Dice"

“Never date a man with pets. The only acceptable pet for a man to have is a saltwater fish.”

And so we’ve seen week two of the “New Girl” creative team’s attempt to retool the show. It was, indeed, very funny. It even had some heart and made strides towards making Schmidt more like a human being. It seemed to be lacking a sense of overall purpose, though. I prefer my comedies to be a little more ambitious with longer-term storytelling. Overall, though, it was fun to watch, which I guess is more than I could say for many of last year’s episodes. I am definitely hoping that after a few “reset” type episodes, we go back to more long-term storytelling, but with some of the changes made in the reset intact. Like the humor and Schmidt no longer being a cartoon. My wishes for Barney on HIMYM to not be a cartoon were never really heard, so I can at least hope that Schmidt will be able to evolve.

The main plot of this episode involves a dating app called Dice, which is basically the “New Girl” version of Tinder. The app shows you other users nearby, and you swipe up or down to indicate interest (or non-interest). Jess knows in her head that since it’s been a few months since the break-up with Nick, she needs to get back in the dating game. She is finding it difficult, though. Schmidt, on the other hand, seems to have pretty much a parade of ladies spending time in his bedroom. Which, now that I think about it, must suck for Nick considering Nick and Schmidt are sharing a room these days. Jess asks Schmidt how he is getting so many dates, and Schmidt mentions Dice. He tells Jess not to try it, though. Her temperament is too sweet and innocent for a hook-up app.

Meanwhile, Nick, Coach, and Cece don’t really know what to do with themselves, so they decide that they should get stoned one last time before Winston (who is in the police academy) can arrest them for it. Cece offers to bake some brownies, and they’re good to go. Before the brownie consumption, though, Winston complains that he’s not fitting in socially at the academy. His fellow cadets haven’t even given him a nickname. Winston thinks he has an in with his classmates, though. He’s going to crash a party they’re throwing, and he wants to bring all the roomies (and Cece) with him. Considering they’re all baked at the moment (or testing out Dice…more on that in a bit), it might not have been the smartest idea. Nick, Coach, and Cece agree to go to the party because they think they can be cool and act normal.

Eventually, Schmidt realizes that Jess is going to try to use Dice despite his warnings, so he agrees to teach her how to use the site. The lessons that follow are designed to show exactly how naïve Jess is. It’s almost like she has learned nothing over the past three years! She didn’t realize that a guy would plan a date hear his house so he could take her back to his place. He starts small by setting up hypothetical dating situations, and Jess fails them all. It’s basic personal safety stuff, really. Anyway, once he’s done with the hypotheticals, Schmidt reveals that he has arranged ten Dice dates for Jess. He calls it the “Dice Diez.” The idea is that Jess can get over a lot of dating awkwardness and totally level up in dating all in one day.

So, when Coach, Cece, and Nick arrive at the party, they realize that going to a party where there are wall to wall cops while high may not have been the smartest move ever. They try their best to be cool, but they really fail miserably. Nick kind of tries to be the stoned guru, giving advice to Coach and Cece about how to act normal. He’s not really acting normal himself, though. Which you’d expect considering, you know, he’s high! Coach has never had pot before, but surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly because TV rules), he is best able to pass as normal. Nick keeps telling Coach that the way he’s speaking sounds off, but like I said, it’s not. Cece at one point finds herself pouring out her life story to a random.

The first of the Dice Diez short dates happens at the bar the gang all frequents (where Nick and Cece work). Jess tries to indulge the annoying guy Schmidt set her up with, but Schmidt is trying to teach her how to reject guys. The first one is difficult, but through a montage, we see Jess having an easier time using really obvious blow off lines. She reads them off a piece of paper, too. It would be kind of hilarious if it didn’t infantilize Jess so much. It’s really a regression for her character. This plot in season one would have been awesome. Anyway, the final date is with a guy whose picture Jess thought was hot earlier in the day. She thought he had dreamy eyes. He makes the mistake of saying he lives near the restaurant where they are eating, though, and he gets offended when Jess says she doesn’t want to go back to his place (he apparently didn’t mean it that way).

Nick, Cece, and Coach end up hiding in a closet (so they don’t get busted) having the giggly, existential conversations that high people on television so often have. The party is broken up when a bunch of cops and cadets stage a raid on the closet. The roomies think they’re being busted, and they freak out. It turns out it’s all a joke though. The cops thought their being high was funny, and they think that they must be difficult roommates for Winston to deal with. The roomies, meanwhile, have run away (and Nick kicks over the grill on the way out). In sympathy, they finally give Winston a nick name. Toilet. Because he has to put up with a lot of crap from his roommates. Winston is thrilled.

Meanwhile, Jess is upset that she drove off Mr. Dreamy Eyes. She and Schmidt have a really sweet conversation about what they each want out of dating. Schmidt talks about how he thinks dating is just something you do over and over again and never stop. Jess wants a relationship. Schmidt tells Jess that on a dating site like Dice, she’s the prize, not the guy. Jess is encouraged to go apologize to Mr. Dreamy Eyes and ask for a second chance. He turns out to be kind of an idiot and a douche, but Jess is committed to at least giving him a fair chance. Schmidt decides to try for something longer-lasting with one of his more recent conquest, but she’s not interested.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sleepy Hollow 2.01: "This is War"

“You and I must remain together if there is any hope of victory. The only risk, Lieutenant, is in leaving you behind.”
- Ichabod

In case you forgot, I am a huge “Sleepy Hollow” fan. I went back and watched the entire first season again this weekend in preparation for the premiere. And last we left our Witnesses and their comrades, Ichabod was buried in a box, Abbie was abandoned in Purgatory, Irving is going down for murder, Jenny is unconscious in a busted up car and Katrina is now in the hands of Headless. Oh, and Henry (aka Jeremy aka the Horseman of War) is free to run amok in town and serve Moloch. Before we get into the meat of the season premiere, I’d just like to point out that it is very interesting to me that two of the four Horsemen have very deep, personal links to Ichabod and Abbie.

We jump in with both feet as the season kicks off. Ichabod is in the dark until Abbie turns on the lights and yells happy birthday. After going through the hilarious tradition of blowing out the candle and making a wish, we get some rather depressing news. It’s been a year since Henry betrayed them and Jenny and Katrina are both dead. Our Witnesses have been training to take out Headless with new weapons. They get called to meet with a professor at a historical society but Headless got there first. After Abbie finds some notes on Benjamin Franklin, Ichabod muses about being the man’s forced apprentice (thanks to General Washington). We learn that Franklin is fond of air baths (which was apparently a real thing in history). We also see that the famed kite flying lightning story is not about electricity at all but about destroying a key Franklin obtained from the Hellfire Club. As Abbie and Ichabod search for clues about the key’s location, we get hints that something isn’t right. Ichabod keeps looking like he can’t breathe. They pay a captive Henry a visit (they’re keeping him locked up in the cell the Masons had set up for Headless) to see if he can tell them where to look for the key. Abbie recalls Jenny mentioning a trip to Philly on Corbin’s orders. That’s just what Henry needs to break the illusion about Purgatory and sends Ichabod back to his root-infested grave. Oh, and the big deal about the key; it can break the rule about a soul exchange to escape Purgatory. Oh shit.

In fairly quick order, we are assured that Jenny is alive. Unfortunately, Henry and some Hessian soldiers have her locked up. Henry reads her sins and finds some coded information about the key. I’m guessing Jenny has until he figures it out to escape or else she’s really dead this time. And Katrina is awake and aware that she’s the Horseman’s captive. He tries to be nice and feed her but she tries to escape and that just gets her tied up again without food. Silly witch. Back in his coffin, Ichabod makes a pretty exciting discovery. The coffin is buried under sulfur and thanks to being from 200 years ago, he builds a rudimentary fuse and busts out of there like the badass he is. And per usual, he tries and fails to use modern technology. And it seems Abbie might have an ally of her own in Purgatory. Say hello to Andy Brooks. I was wondering if he’d show up again now that he’s got a leading role on Selfie (tune in next week for our recap of the pilot). I’m happy to see him make an appearance and for the moment it appears he’s trying to keep Moloch from breaking into the earthly realm and bringing a horde of demons with him. Andy leads Abbie to Moloch’s cave where he’s got some magic mirrors that will allow her to get Ichabod a message. It’s nice to see Andy get a little redemption after everything he did.

Back in our world, Ichabod tries to call Jenny and it’s the distraction she needs to break free and kill one of the Hessians. Ichabod heads to the warehouse where Jenny’s being kept and quite heroically busts through in a big honking ambulance. This being “Sleepy Hollow”, we needed the humor of him not knowing how to reverse and having to do the awkward climb over Jenny so she could bust their asses out. Now it’s a race to the archives to get the pages of Franklin’s sketchbook to find the key. I like Ichabod and Jenny as a team. It’s a different dynamic from Abbie but still a lot of fun.

Abbie manages to connect with Ichabod in Moloch’s creepy cave and he swears he’s coming back for her because they need to stick together as Witnesses and all. He’ll use the key (once acquired) to save her. When Ichabod and Jenny arrive at a statue of Franklin, the Hessians are already there digging. But Ichabod recalls a turn of phrase Franklin told him once and they locate the key and sneak away. Oh and apparently Franklin had his own alphabet that he made Ichabod memorize and that was the code used in the sketchbook. Ichabod makes Jenny stay behind as he heads into Purgatory. Thanks to some magic imbued in Katrina’s necklace, she can now see the Horseman as Abraham. He says that Ichabod will soon be dead and they can start their life together. I’m guessing that won’t end well.

When Ichabod finds Abbie in Purgatory, she’s still searching for Katrina’s amulet (that’s supposed to protect her from Moloch). We get a creepy evil version of Ichabod that’s trying to temp Abbie. I hope the real Ichabod can save her and pull her out of there. Our Witnesses need to get back on track to kicking some Horsemen booties. Purgatory isn’t quite done yet with Abbie and Ichabod. Ichabod gets to fight his evil self and thankfully, due to some pronunciation, our Witnesses escape Purgatory together and reunite with Jenny. The gang isn’t quite all back together yet but I’m sure it will be soon. As our first foray back into the world of “Sleepy Hollow” comes to an awesome close, Henry is granted his Horseman of War armor (complete with flaming sword).

All I can say is this premiere was so worth the nine month wait from the season one finale. It had everything that makes “Sleepy Hollow” great and memorable. It advanced the storyline in a creative way and it also reminded you where our gang had been and what still awaits them in the coming apocalypse. Good job writers. I tip my imaginary hat to you. Now, bring on episode two!

Doctor Who 8.05: "Time Heist"

“You agreed to rob the most impregnable bank in history. You must have had a very good reason. We all must have. Picture the thing you want most in the universe and decide how badly you want it.”
-The Doctor

“Time Heist,” from the previews, seemed like it would be a lot more fun than it ended up actually being. Don’t get me wrong, I love anything heist/caper-like, so I certainly didn’t dislike this episode. I was just expecting something a little more cheeky. Much like with “Robot of Sherwood,” the ending didn’t fit with the tone of the episode. It felt slapped together in an effort to quickly tie up all the plot lines. It was also kind of predictable. I called from the beginning of the episode what the Doctor’s role was in this caper. It couldn’t have been any other way, really. Like pretty much every episode of the Moffat era of “Doctor Who,” a fantastic premise suffered from severe over-plotting. Come to think of it, that couldn’t have really been any other way, either.

The episode opens normally enough. The doctor is trying to entice Clara with plans for a fun day of traveling, but Clara’s not interested. She has a date with Danny that she can’t miss. Before she has time to duck out, though, the phone on the TARDIS rings and stops her in her tracks. There aren’t many people who have that phone number. Next thing we know, the Doctor, Clara, and two strangers are sitting around a table, recoiling in horror at some large worm-like creatures they had been holding. The strangers end up being Psy, an “augmented” human (he’s got a lot of computer components in his brain) and Saibra, a “mutant” human (she has the ability to morph into living beings that she touches).

A recording plays indicating that each of the four consented to a memory wipe. Then we learn a little more about what they all have been gathered to do. They are going to rob a bank. Not just any bank, but Kalabraxos, the most secure bank in the universe. The whole thing has been planned out by the Architect, who only appears via video with an altered voice. The direction of the episode once we start the heist is interesting. It’s kind of a cross between “Leverage” and “Sherlock” in visual style. The stakes are quickly clear. The appearance of the team has set of security sensors, so the head of security asks for a “Teller.” The Teller is a creepy looking creature that can read thoughts and detect guilt. Our team manages to keep their mind blank, but the Teller detects guilt in another patron. The Teller then turns that patron’s brain to soup (he cries liquefied brain…it’s gross).

There’s a lot of chase-y stuff in the middle of the episode. The important point is that the Doctor and crew are armed with dimension-shifting bombs. Instead of causing a big explosion right where they are standing, these bombs send molecules away to another dimension. There’s a pivotal scene where the team encounters the Teller, and the Teller appears to be in a Plexiglas cage. As the Doctor approaches the cage, I’m reminded of Peter Capaldi, as bureaucrat John Frobisher, tried to negotiate with the 4-5-6 in “Torchwood: Children of Earth.” Given that the Doctor has acknowledged he has seen his current face before, I’m not sure that’s an accident.

Anyway, seeing the Teller sets off a sequence where each of the team members are threatened with brain soupage. The first victim is Saibra. She sets off a dimension-shifting bomb before her brain can be turned to mush. Then the Teller tries to go after Clara. Clara and Psi have developed a friendship through the course of the episode, though, so he goes to great lengths to save her. He broadcasts thoughts about all the greatest criminals in history. This is more interesting to the Teller, so the Teller starts to target him. He also sets off the dimension-shifting bomb before his brain can be turned to soup. Psi had been trying to undo the many locks to the Bank’s vault, and one is still left engaged when he disintegrates. Conveniently (too conveniently…it’s kind of a plot point) a solar flare hits and disables that final lock, so the Doctor and Clara are able to get into the vault. They have papers on which the items each member of the team were hoping to steal are written. Psi wanted a device that would restore memories he wiped. Saibra wanted a cure for her morphing power (which seems unfortunate to me…it’s a pretty cool power). Whatever the Doctor and Clara were looking for is in the “private vault” belonging to Kalabraxos herself.

The Doctor and Clara are interrupted by a Teller. Next thing we know, they are in the Chief of Security’s office. The Chief of Security orders some guards to incinerate the Doctor and Clara, but those guards turn out to be Psi and Saibra. Apparently the devices they were using were actually teleporters, and they were perfectly safe the whole time. The foursome make their way to the private vault, where they meet Kalabraxos herself. It turns out that the Chief of Security was a clone of Kalabraxos, and Kalabraxos casually says she’s going to have to kill the Chief now. The Doctor then has a revelation. People don’t like reflections of themselves. He really doesn’t like the Architect. Therefore, he himself is the Architect.

The Doctor gives Kalabraxos the TARDIS phone number, telling her to call him when she is old and full of regret. Then he goads the Teller into showing him the time that has been erased from his memory. Kalabraxos did indeed call him. The Teller then opens the door to the vault, and the group sees a female Teller. That’s what the mission has been about the whole time. As the Doctor puts it, it’s about saving a whole species. We get a happy ending with the Tellers going back to their home planet, and Psi and Saibra telling the Doctor to contact them in the future for more adventures. I hope that those two are added to the semi-regular stable of characters like the Paternoster Gang. They are fun and seem to have potential.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014 Pilot Preview: A to Z: "Pilot"

“You know how people have like a type? Well this girl was my type. And I remember looking at her and thinking I wish I was here with that girl. And not just that night. In that moment I pictured our entire lives together.”
- Andrew

So I’m not a big comedy fan. Most of my viewing habits encompass hour-long dramas of one flavor or another. But I have to say I was intrigued by the sizzle reel for “A to Z” when NBC released it back in May and so I jumped on the opportunity to take an early look at it. The show follows Andrew and Zelda, two people who are very much alone.

We witness their first meeting in the pilot as Zelda goes to do an interview about her experience with the dating website that Andrew works for while taking a break from being in court (she’s a lawyer). I did find the intro to Zelda kind of funny. She’s at a costume party dressed as blind Justice. It was kind of fitting and sort of nerdy in a lawyer way that I’m sure a lot of other law nerds can appreciate. Anyway, Andrew is something of a hopeless romantic at heart and he seems pretty taken with Zelda at first meeting. But their exchange is kind of awkward (made more so by Andrew’s buddy Stu). As it turns out Zelda and Andrew have been working in the same office building for two months but due to random happenstance haven’t run into each other before. Finally, Andrew convinces Zelda to go out for a drink with him and things take a weird turn. He swears he’s seen her before and when music comes on at the bar, they both remember being a show for a really terrible band two years earlier. Andrew recounts his experience of seeing this girl in a silver dress that he determined was his destiny. He thinks Zelda is that girl. She shuts him down and then ends up venting to her best friend, Stephie (played by the UK Being Human’s Leonora Critchlow). I have to say I had to do an IMDB look up to make sure it was her. I’m actually pretty good with voices but without the super frizzy curly hair I wasn’t 100%. I have to say it’s nice to see her getting some work now that Being Human is over. While Zelda tries to stop panicking (because she’s still trying to convince herself that there isn’t such a thing as destiny), Andrew gets some of his company tech whizzes to find proof that Zelda was at the concert in the silver dress.

Zelda realizes her mistake and is about to apologize to Andrew in line for coffee when the programmers show up with photo evidence that she was in a red dress, not silver. She takes it as a huge invasion of her privacy (probably rightfully so even if Andrew’s heart was in the right place) and storms off. But as Stephie is reeling from the realization that the cool jazz trumpeter she thought she was seeing turned out to be Stu, Zelda realizes she’s never had a guy try so hard to impress her and she finally admits that she was in the silver dress. She finally calls Andrew to apologize and while she doesn’t believe in destiny, she’s willing to give them a go and they end up making out in front of a fountain.

The first thing I noticed about the pilot is that it states very clearly at the beginning (and at the end which seemed a little repetitive I mean the episode wasn’t that long) that the show covers the entire 8 month, 3 weeks, 5 days and 1 hour of Andrew and Zelda’s relationship. Either that means maybe they get married and are no longer in a “dating” relationship or they break up. Either way, I worry that it will hinder the show’s longevity. There’s only so long you can draw out time (yes I know How I Met Your Mother did a weekend over most of its final season….and to be fair a lot of people disliked that season) over the course of several seasons. Now I could be wrong and the writers intend to have their show be a one and done season but from what I’ve gleaned about the industry, you always go in with a several-year plan in your back pocket when you are pitching a project. I guess we will see how it goes with the season.

Another thing I hope they move back from as the show goes forward is the reliance on voiceover. It can work as a narrative tool just fine (see Veronica Mars) but a comedy may not be the right type of show to have it more than just the first episode. I also thought (as mentioned before) explaining the duration of the relationship and that the show is covering the whole thing was repetitive to have at the start and end of the episode. I was also taken out of the show a little bit as the narrator specifically mentioned the show, as if speaking directly to the audience. It just sort of took me out of enjoying the story. I clearly know it’s a TV show. I don’t need them reminding me.

All that said, I did enjoy the pilot and found both the leads to be likeable. I was especially drawn to the actor playing Andrew (Ben Feldman). He has kind of a calming quality to him. Plus he’s kind of cute to look at so that doesn’t hurt. And since I never was a HIMYM fan, I didn’t get to see Cristin in anything but Once on Broadway (which she was very good in). The situations made me and laugh in a good way and I’m pretty sure that’s a sign of a good comedy. I will definitely plan to keep “A to Z” on my fall schedule DVR when it premieres on Thursday October 2nd at 9:30pm on NBC.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Girl 4.01: "The Last Wedding"

“Why does everybody get to have a party for everything in their life? Why can’t I have a party for really dedicating myself to knitting this summer?”

“New Girl” is entering a very precarious time in the life of a comedy. Does the creative team try to evolve the characters, or do they stick to just making jokes. I guess I’m a little sensitive on this issue because of the implosion of “How I Met Your Mother.” I’d say that at one point HIMYM occupied the same spot in my television-loving heart that “New Girl” does now. That show had a stumble in its middle seasons, very briefly recovered, then plummeted to lows I couldn’t have even imagined in its final two seasons. I’m not going to lie, seeing the destruction of a show that meant so much to me hurt. So can you blame me if I’m a little wary of continuing my love for “New Girl?” This episode left me cautiously optimistic. I’m concerned that the creative team might be heading down the “let’s make everyone a cartoon version of their original selves” road since last year bombed critically, but on the bright side, this episode actually made me laugh.

Summer is winding down, and the five roomies are still living together despite any potential Jess/Nick breakup awkwardness. Apparently the whole group has been spending the summer going to a ridiculous number of weddings. Eleven, to be exact. I’ve always said that weddings seem to come in waves (I once had a summer of three weddings, two of which are still surviving marriages today). Jess has also been doing a lot of knitting, apparently. Schmidt thinks it’s time for Jess to finally get back in the saddle after months of getting over the Nick break-up. Only Schmidt and Coach have gotten any sex out of the previous weddings of the summer, and Schmidt thinks that’s wrong too. The roomies all make a “sex fist” (no comment) pact that they are all going to go home from the wedding with a hook-up.

As you might expect, gradually throughout the wedding reception, all of the hook-up prospects of the roomies diminish. The first to go down is Coach. He’s done so much wedding hooking-up that pretty much all the single ladies at this particular wedding have already been one of his wedding hook-ups. None of them are happy to see Coach again. Winston is too sore from the police academy to put much effort into his search. Complicating things is the appearance of Cece. She was supposed to be in Australia all summer with her young-ish boyfriend Buster, but Cece and Buster broke up, so she’s back in LA early. The catch is that Schmidt doesn’t know they broke up yet, and when he finds out, he’s going to start obsessing over Cece again.

Schmidt and Nick decide to go after two especially attractive wedding guests. These ladies are interested in Schmidt and Nick, but there’s a catch. They want to have a foursome. Schmidt is in favor of this just because he wants to bang two ladies, but Nick is squeamish. When Nick finds out about Cece’s single status, however, he starts to feel really guilty. He wants to make Schmidt feel better, so he says he’s up for the foursome. Schmidt accidentally touches one of Nick’s hands, however, declares said hand rough like a “hoof” and calls off the foursome. In explaining why he agreed, Nick accidentally lets it slip that Cece is single. Schmidt seems to take the news reasonably well, although I have no doubt he’ll explode eventually.

As the evening progresses, Jess is the last woman standing with a chance at a hook-up. Her quarry is the best man, Ted. Jess and Ted seem to be getting along well enough when they are interrupted by Kat (Jessica Biel). Kat is an accomplished scientist who thinks extremely highly of herself. She pretty much tells Jess straight up that she (Kat) is the better choice of woman with whom Ted should procreate. Strangely, Jess ends up taking advice from Winston of all people. He tells Jess to just “be there.” If she constantly follows Ted, he’ll eventually relent and hook up with her. Jess decides to call this tactic “Bidening,” which I found kind of amusing. Unfortunately, Kat knows the tactic of Bidening, too, so the two ladies find themselves in a stand-off, both following Ted around and neither relenting.

Jess then decides to go for some “Extreme Bidening!” by following Ted into the men’s room. Ted finds this really awkward, and Kat blocks the door so that Jess can’t immediately escape the awkward. Jess ends up sitting in a toilet stall for a while, wallowing in her humiliation. Eventually Nick finds her, and they have a heart-to-heart about how she’s the last roomie with a chance at a hook-up, and she deserves to try and move on. As much as I appreciated the creative team trying to recapture the pre-season 3 Jess and Nick vibe, I didn’t find it realistic. I don’t think that a couple in Jess and Nick’s situation could go back to being friends and be that comfortable with each other. It will be what it will be, though, I suppose.

Anyway, Jess and Kat both try to plead their case to Ted, and he just can’t make a decision at all. After waiting until almost everyone else has left the reception, both Jess and Kat end up giving up on him. Kat then ends up going home with the minister (her standard back-up plan). The roomies realize that although none of them scored a hook up, they aren’t going home alone. They have each other. Which is kind of cheesy as hell and has more of a place in season 1 of the show than season 4, but again, it will be what it will be. I did, at least, really enjoy the final scene. The roomies and Cece gather around the loft refrigerator and dispose of all the wedding invitations that have been cluttering it. They come across an invitation for a wedding that hasn’t happened yet, and they end up throwing that out too.

Monday, September 15, 2014

2014 Pilot Preview: "Red Band Society"

“Ok, it does hurt, but not in the way that you think it will. They give you awesome painkillers for the physical pain. What hurts is not that it’s gone. What hurts is remembering it was ever there. But then with time, that memory stops hurting too.”

“Red Band Society,” based on a Spanish TV property, premieres Wednesday, September 17 on FOX. Thanks to a campaign where FOX made the pilot available for a few days as a reward for fan charitable contributions, I’m brining you an advance review. The pilot was definitely high quality, with engaging, memorable characters. I will not, however, be watching or blogging “Red Band Society” on the regular. It pushes some emotional buttons that I just can’t deal with on a week-to-week basis. I want to encourage networks to make more pilots available to us peons in advance, though, so I thought I’d do FOX a solid and tamp down those emotional triggers just this once. While seeking out more information on “Red Band Society,” I came across a headline about how this and “The Fault in Our Stars” is the type of story teens really want to read/watch. That certainly doesn’t fit teenage me. It would have set off anxiety attacks like nobody’s business. When I was a teen, I preferred MTV (both the videos during the day and Real World and Road Rules at night), the Phillies, and the Flyers.

Like I said, the pilot was very high quality in the character development department. If the series continues at this level, it should be good television in the “eat your vegetables TV” sense that “Friday Night Lights” was. It will tear you apart emotionally on a regular basis if you like that sort of thing. We don’t cover a lot of eat your vegetables TV here at MTVP, because my ethos in running the blog is that since we don’t get paid for it, we should just blog whatever we find fun to blog. “Red Band Society” is about a hospital ward for kids with serious or terminal illnesses. The interactions between the kids are charming, but you can’t call “Red Band Society” fun because, you know, really sick kids. Part of me also questions, in the effort to cut all the “sick kids” seriousness, how realistic the show actually is. These kids have huge, elaborately decorated rooms, have the run of the hospital, and even have a classroom.

Anyway, let’s talk about some of the characters. The show is told through to point of view of Charlie, a kid who has been in a long-term coma following an accident. He still hears everything that goes on in the ward, though, and he is only too happy to tell us about it. He also appears to the other kids when they are unconscious. Leo mentions that Charlie gave him advice when he was under anesthesia for his leg amputation surgery. Brittany speaks to him when she passes out due to her own health condition. Through the episode, we learn that Charlie’s dad was with Charlie when the accident happened, and he was then banned from seeing his son. He pretends to be a music therapy volunteer at the hospital so he can still see Charlie. It’s kind of ridiculous when you think about it too much.

The ring leader of the (conscious) kids is Leo. He’s been at the hospital for a while fighting osteosarcoma, and he has lost a leg in the course of the battle. Leo is smart and driven, but he’s also feeling that teenage urge to live a little. His best friend is Dash, a cystic fibrosis patient who enables Leo’s more rebellious tendencies. Leo’s love interest is a girl named Emma who is in the eating disorders clinic. Can I say again how ridiculous the medical aspect of this show is? The staff in the eating disorders clinic don’t even watch Emma eat all her meals. Another character is able to eat part of Emma’s lunch (because it’s better food, and the other character is spoiled like that) and Emma gets the credit. Leo and Emma had a relationship previously, but they have broken up, and it’s clear that Leo wants to get back together.

Another major character amongst the kids is Jordi. Jordi has osteosarcoma like Leo. He wasn’t supposed to be a patient at this particular hospital. He did some research and found out that Dr. McAndrew (more on him later) is the best, and he wanted to be treated by the best. He goes into the ER and claims to be a patient of Dr. McAndrew. McAndrew is paged, and after a long conversation, agrees to take Jordi on as a patient. Leo and Jordi become roommates, and Leo ends up showing Jordi the ropes of life at the hospital. He kind of regrets it when Jordi and Emma start getting along pretty well. It’s pretty clear, though, that Emma is just hitting on Jordi to make Leo jealous. Leo ends up hosting a big party for Jordi up on the roof of the hospital the night before Jordi is supposed to have leg amputation surgery. I get the sense that while they’ll probably fight over Emma throughout the course of the series, they will always be kindred spirits.

The other major teen character in the show is Kara. She’s a cheerleader who finds herself at the hospital after fainting at practice one day. She’s pretty much the caricature of a high school mean girl, so nobody at school actually likes her very much. She also is a pretty frequent cigarette smoker and drug user. That last characteristic is what caused her to faint. She has an enlarged heart, and she’s going to need a heart transplant sooner rather than later. Thanks to the drug abuse, though, getting a new heart is going to be easier said than done. Kara’s at the hospital for the long haul, and it looks like she’s going to be torn between trying to be the queen bee of her new home and trying to treat others with more kindness.

As for the adult characters, there are three worth mentioning. First there’s Dr. McAndrew. He seems like he could be kind of a womanizer in the “Grey’s Anatomy” mold. Hence the “Mc” last name. Then there’s Nurse Jackson. She’s a little clichéd in the sense that she seems like a hardass, but on the inside, she really cares about the kids on her floor. She puts a lot of thought into roommate pairings, and when Kara puts a sign in her window asking for pizza (she thinks the smell of it might wake Charlie out of his coma), Nurse Jackson has a bunch of pies delivered. There is also Ruben Garcia, an eccentric benefactor to the hospital who lives in the hospital because he is a hypochondriac. He serves as a sounding board and friend to some of the kids.

So if you’re looking for a teen drama that has a good mix of lighter moments and very high stakes (these are all kids with serious medical conditions, after all), “Red Band Society” may be worth a watch. Like I said, I personally don’t think I could deal with the emotional wringer this show is likely to put viewers through, but if you’re a fan of real “eat your vegetables” television, you’ll probably be just fine. The pilot at least put a lot of thought and effort into developing the characters. This gives me hope that it isn’t just meant to be a teen angst-fest. The characters are well-drawn and fully three-dimensional. We can only hope that continues throughout the series.

Doctor Who 8.04: "Listen"

“Fear is like a companion, a constant companion, always there. But that’s okay because fear can bring us together. Fear can bring you home. I’m gonna leave you something just so you’ll always remember. Fear makes companions of us all.”
- Clara

I’ll be honest I wasn’t a huge fan of this episode. Not just because Moffatt wrote it but because it was very confusing and bizarre. Sometimes that can be good and sometimes, it’s just frustrating. I think I had high hopes after the pretty solid “Robot of Sherwood” the week before and this just let me down. The episode opens as the Doctor questions whether we are ever really alone or if there’s always someone with us. He wonders if there is a creature so good at hiding that we’d never know it existed until it wanted to be found. This kicks off a bizarre adventure with him and Clara to the past and future to try and solve the riddle. Before we talk a little more about the time-hopping, let’s take a minute to discuss the really awkward Clara and Danny dynamic. They’ve finally gone out for that drink and it’s just one disaster after another. They keep verbally stepping on each other’s toes until Clara says something about Danny knowing about battle that really sets him off. I swear the guy has PTSD. Anyway, it ends with Clara leaving the restaurant and going home for a cry. I have to say most of their interactions in this episode were painful to watch. Some p0eople just don’t mix and it’s pretty obvious that Clara and Danny have a long way to go if they are going to gel at all.

The Doctor’s already waiting to whisk her off to find out what is hiding in the dark and under the bed. He doesn’t really give her any choice in the matter. Instead, he links her to the TARDIS telepathic circuits to go back to her childhood when she first had a scary dream about waking in the middle of the night, hearing noises and something under the bed grabbing her ankle. The Doctor thinks that everyone in the universe has had the dream. Unfortunately, Clara gets distracted by Danny and they end up in Gloucester in the mid-1990s to find a little boy named Rupert Pink who is scared. It had a feeling a bit like the orphanage did in “The Impossible Astronaut”. It was very creepy for sure. I half expected the Doctor to look down and find hash marks on his arm but alas, no reference to the Silence.

While the Doctor is interrogating the night watchman, Clara is chatting up Rupert and trying to show him that there’s nothing scary under the bed. While they are both stuck under the bed, something sits down on top of the bed. I will admit I thought it was the Doctor but it’s not. He’s there, sure, but there’s a figure hiding under the covers on Rupert’s bed. It’s pretty creepy and the Doctor tells Clara and Rupert to turn away and not look, don’t even stare at the reflection to give the creature what it wants, to hide and not be seen. The thing under the covers disappears (along with the blanket) and Clara tries to reassure him by putting toy soldiers around his bed to guard him. The boss soldier (he’s not got a gun) is called Dan the Solider Man. Clara makes the connection and is worried that he’ll remember all of this when she meets him as an adult but the Doctor knocks him and gives him a dream of Dan the Soldier Man (hence adopting the name Danny).

Speaking of, Clara makes the Doctor take her back to just after she left the restaurant to try and patch things up with Danny. Too bad for her she continues to stick her foot in it. And Danny gets suspicious since she doesn’t have her jacket. Clara also gets distracted by a guy in a space suit. It didn’t occur to me when I was first watching but it’s kind of reminiscent of “Day of the Moon” with little River in the space suit. It’s not a little girl this time but someone who is named Orson Pink and appears to be a descendant of Danny. He’s also been stranded at the end of the universe for about six months and just wants to go home. The first thing I thought of was the 3-part series 3 finale. This was a very different end of the universe. We also see that Orson has the toy soldier (he says it was a family heirloom). As much as I don’t see much chemistry right now between Danny and Clara I get the feeling that they might get married.

Things get very tense near the end (and the Doctor gets very shout-y). The Doctor orders Clara to stay in the TARDIS while he confronts whatever is hiding out in the dark at the end of the universe. The outer doors of Orson’s ship are breached and the Doctor gets knocked unconscious. So Clara taps into the telepathic circuits again. This time she ends up in a barn at night and there is a little boy crying. She thinks it might be Orson or even Rupert but in fact it is a very young (and scared) Doctor. Before he took on the name and ran away with his TARDIS. Clara realizes as she whispers to him to go back to sleep that she is the reason the Doctor thinks he’s had that dream and that it freaks him out so much. I did like the nice tie-in to the War Doctor (we got footage from the 50th Anniversary special as he’s going to the barn to set off The Moment). I really am not a fan of Clara. She still feels a lot like a plot device to me. First she was the “Impossible Girl” and her whole purpose was to save the Doctor and here she is being the instigator of his nightmares! Good job. She manages to stop the Doctor from crossing his own timeline (which is good, we don’t need things going any more wonky than they are) but we don’t get any answers to what was under the covers or what was knocking on the ship’s door.

As I said at the start of this post, this was not one of my favorites. It was convoluted, questions that seemed like they might be important weren’t answered and it just seemed unnecessary. I seriously hope the rest of the season is better than this. I can handle one dud in the group but not too many more.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Orange is the New Black 1.13: "Can't Fix Crazy"

“Yeah ‘you gonna die’ is really vague. Like totally open for interpretation.”

“Orange is the New Black” certainly knows how to do a holiday episode. Christmas wasn’t really the centerpiece of the episode, but the Christmas Pageant was definitely an important event. As is appropriate since this is the season finale, a lot of the conflicts that have been brewing all season finally come to a head. The Larry/Piper/Alex triangle must be resolved. The Piper/Pennsatucky feud must be resolved. Red losing the kitchen must be dealt with. There’s a lot to cover for one episode! The episode also leaves us on a big cliffhanger for season two. As annoying as Piper has gotten, the situation Piper finds herself in at the end of the episode was shocking and left me wondering where she show would go next.

It’s almost Christmas, and as the episode opens, the ladies of Litchfield are auditioning for the pageant. The auditions are all entertaining, at least. There’s plenty of bad singing, some beat boxing, and Pennsatucky tries to make a case for being cast as the Angel. There are all sorts of crazy talents that will probably have no place in the pageant. Taystee can actually sing, and Suzanne does a silly dance that is her trying to pretend she’s ice skating. Sophia and Sister Ingalls (who are directing the pageant) are going to have a heck of a time trying to put a show together out of all this.

In the previous episode, Larry gave Piper the ultimatum that they were either going to go through the rest of Piper’s sentence as husband and wife (aka get married right away), or break up. Piper asks Healy for a marriage request form (which he denies, since he’s a child and he’s still pissed at her), which means she has accepted the get married right away side of the deal. Doesn’t seem like the smartest idea to me, but Piper is desperate to have a socially acceptable life. When Larry tells his parents that he and Piper are getting married, the reaction isn’t positive, to say the least. His mother jokes that Larry can’t be worried Piper will meet someone else in prison, and while he doesn’t say anything, Larry just looks crushed. He and Piper are both kind of horrible people, so I’m not sure how I feel about this.

There is all sorts of administrative drama happening around Litchfield too, of course. Because of the drug smuggling reveal, Caputo essentially fires Red from kitchen duty. He doesn’t even promote one of her minions. He puts Gloria in charge of the kitchen and says she can choose her own staff. Meanwhile, Fig has a plan to make sure the drug smuggling won’t be a problem for much longer. She has a meeting with Bennett, and she uses Bennett’s over-eagerness to her advantage. You see, Bennett stopped the Neptune Produce truck before it even entered Litchfield grounds. So it wasn’t Neptune Produce that brought drugs to Litchfield. It was Bennett. It’s a really *headdesk* inducing chain of logic. Poor Bennett thinks he has been foiled.

The relationship drama continues as well. Alex and Piper talk, and Piper basically tells Alex that she chooses Larry because she needs a more structured life. Alex is pissed. Meanwhile, Pornstache stops by Litchfield. He claims he’s just there to pick up his check, and he asks Bennett how Daya is doing before he disappears. He’s a creeper, that one. We also get a scene of COs sorting inmate mail, and there are two interesting letters. One is a letter for Daya signed “Hot 4 You.” The other is a letter from Larry to Alex asking Alex to put Larry on her visitation list so they can talk. Alex does so, and the two have a bit of a verbal confrontation at visitation. Alex tells Larry that Piper was the aggressor in the rekindling of their relationship, and she warns Larry that Piper is messed up, and he’s going to have to deal with that.

Not realizing that Larry has this new information from Alex, Piper is still pursuing the marriage request form. This time, she asks Fig. She tells Fig about how Healy called Larry to tell him about her “lesibian activity.” Fig had been meeting with Piper to talk about Larry’s radio show. She had a list of “corrections” that she wanted Larry to incorporate in any future public comments on Litchfield. When she hears about what Healy did, though, she’s pissed. Fig grants the marriage form, and she later gives Healy quite the talking-to about how he needs to stop his lesbian-phobic idiocy. Healy, as you’d expect, is not amused.

Breakfast at Litchfield is pretty awesome under Gloria’s watch, but Red’s minions all have to make themselves say it’s too spicy. Also at breakfast, Nicky is organizing a Secret Santa for the white inmate clique. They decide to include Alex and Piper, too. Nicky drops off a Secret Santa paper at Red’s cube, and Red is clearly not in a good way. She’s been eating nothing but Cup O Noodles since being kicked out of the kitchen. And she’s not interested in Secret Santa-ing. Later that night, Red sneaks into the kitchen and tries to sabotage everything she can. This includes putting lots of extra grease in one of the ovens. One of her minions gets severely burned in the resulting explosion, and Norma (the usually silent minion) confronts Red by tearing up her Secret Santa paper that had Red’s name on it. To make things worse, Red is also now persona non grata in the chow line, just like Piper was earlier in the season.

Pennsatucky, of course, is determined to kill Piper. Her minions try to laugh of the rants, but Pennsatucky is serious. Things come to a head when Piper is taking a shower, and Pennsatucky’s minions block the door. Pennsatucky herself barges into the shower and freaks out Piper by using a razor to cut herself and smearing blood all over piper. Girl is certifiable. Luckily, Taystee had seen things start to go down, and she called a CO to rescue Piper. Taystee tells Piper she needs to go on offense and take Pennsatucky out already. The next day, Boo arrives in Piper and Taystee’s cube (Taystee is Piper’s new roommate) to deliver Piper’s Secret Santa gift. It’s the screwdriver that went missing from the electrical shop early in the season.

The Christmas pageant itself is pretty sweet. There’s actual decent music, which I wasn’t expecting given the audition footage we saw at the beginning of the episode. There is a sweet moment when Crazy Eyes gets stage fright, and the usually silent Norma takes her solo and kicks ass. Piper can’t take too much of the pageant, though, and she walks out. Pennsatucky walks right off stage (she got to be the Angel like she wanted) and follows her outside. Pennsatucky tries to attack Piper with a sharpened wooden cross, Buffy-style. Healy sees all of this going down, but because he’s pissed at Piper, he decides to ignore it and go back inside. In the middle of the fight, Piper takes the advantage when she kicks Pennsatucky in the crotch. She then starts whaling on Pennsatucky while she’s down, Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” style. And that’s where we leave her for the season.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.13: "The Colonel"

“I know you better than you know yourself. And you don’t know me at all.”

And we have reached the finale of yet another of our summer shows. Today we conclude our Summer DVR dump of the first season of “The Americans.” All of the tension between the FBI and the KGB comes to a head as each side thinks they have an intelligence leg up on the other. All of the KGB agents are in jeopardy, really. It was an exciting, action-packed hour, but there was also emotion and character development. It struck me just how much of a fully realized world the show inhabits. I feel invested in the fates of all the characters. I was also pleased that the season didn’t really end on a cliffhanger. Some crazy things certainly happened, but we know the status of everyone by the end of the episode.

We open this episode with a reminder that Sanford, the asset Elizabeth has been handling, has been arrested for failure to pay child support. He’s in trouble, especially because of his security clearance. Because of what he was working on (I presume), Stan is conducting the investigation himself. Sanford is trying to play it like he hasn’t been betraying his country, but Stan sees right through it. He leaves him to wait for a while in the interrogation room by himself. He thinks that eventually, Sanford will be so agitated that he will spill whatever he has to to get out of FBI custody. By the end of the episode, we see that Stan isn’t wrong, although it seems like he stops short of compromising Elizabeth.

There are two spy stories really happening simultaneously in this episode. First, there’s the meeting with the Air Force Colonel who Sanford was trying to turn. It seems like a suicide mission, especially now that Sanford has been arrested, but in a meeting with Claudia, she learns that the operation is still on. The promise of learning more about Star Wars was just too much for the Center to resist. Also, the KGB have picked up information about an interesting meeting to take place at the Secretary of Defense’s home office. It’s from the bug in his office, so we, the audience, know that the report of the meeting is probably fabricated by the FBI. This suspicion turns out to be true. Agent Gaad is going to have a team ready to catch whoever tries to pick up the transcript of the meeting.

Phillip and Elizabeth squabble quite a bit over who should take which mission. What’s interesting is that they both think that the Colonel meeting is the more dangerous of the two. Phillip wants to take the Colonel meeting. He wants Elizabeth to grab the transcript from the Secretary of Defense’s office, pick up the kids, and drive to a secluded hotel. If he survives the Colonel meeting, he’ll join her. Elizabeth, of course, wants the opposite. Partially because Sanford was her asset, so she feels responsible, and partially because Phillip is better with the kids. I think they’re both reasonably good with the kids. Elizabeth is more uptight, but she’s not a bad mother. She cares deeply about Paige and Henry, and that’s what matters most.

Speaking of Phillip’s interaction with the kids, there’s a brief Jennings family life scene before everything goes really crazy when they’re all sitting on the couch eating snacks and watching TV. It’s kind of a big deal because Phillip and Elizabeth are still technically separated. It was worth a mention to me because they were watching the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals. My mother still complains over thirty-four years later about how the Islanders beat our beloved Philadelphia Flyers that year. On the other hand, she and my dad had their first date watching the U.S./Soviet Olympic hockey game earlier that year, so it wasn’t all a bad year on the hockey front for her!

Stan and Sandra’s relationship, however, has no such happy moments. Stan is super excited because he thinks that the Secretary of Defense sting operation is going to work, Nina will be exfiltrated, and all can go back to how it used to be. He buys a tropical getaway for himself and Sandra in the hope that they can rekindle their romance. Sandra, to her credit, is having none of it. She is tired of how distant Stan has been ever since they moved to DC, and she doesn’t think that one vacation will fix their very deep-rooted problems. Considering Stan has been cheating on her for a while now, I think she’s making the right choice. It appears that the Beemans will be headed down the separation road sooner rather than later.

We also learn that Paige is a pretty smart cookie (although she’s very nosy). One night she has a nightmare, and she gets curious when Elizabeth isn’t in her room to comfort her. She walks downstairs and sees Elizabeth coming from the laundry room. Elizabeth claims she was folding laundry, but Paige doesn’t buy it. Elizabeth had, in fact, been listening to a tape of her mother that the KGB sent her. By the end of the episode, Paige has the house to herself and goes down to the laundry room to check things out. She finds no spy evidence, but not for lack of trying.

Nina’s all triple agent now, so things probably won’t end well for Stan. She and Stan meet up at the safe house, and Stan gives her the news that something big is happening, and if it works out, she will be exfiltrated. Nina tries to act happy about this, although it doesn’t exactly help her mission to redeem herself (which has been officially approved by Moscow). After Stan leaves, Nina rushes right to the Rezidentura and reports that the FBI are about to do something big. She thinks it means the Colonel meeting is a set-up, so Arkady tries to send out the abort signal (a spray-painted car) right away.

Phillip sneakily ends up being the one who goes to the Colonel meeting. Surprisingly (I guess) the Colonel seems legit. He says that the big secret about Star Wars is that it doesn’t work. The technology won’t be possible for at least another fifty years. The signal car drives by, and Claudia rushes into the scene to provide backup for Phillip. Which is a pretty decent thing for her to do considering Phillip and Elizabeth submitted paperwork asking that she be reassigned. The Colonel claims he knows nothing about a set-up. Phillip instantly knows what’s wrong. The Colonel meeting wasn’t a set-up. The message pickup from the Secretary of Defense’s house was.

Elizabeth is about to take the transcript out of an abandoned car when Phillip drives past and gets her to jump in his car. Stan knows his mission has been blown, and he and Gaad order a chase of Phillip and Elizabeth (although Stan still doesn’t know it’s actually Phillip and Elizabeth). After a prolonged action chase sequence, Phillip and Elizabeth manage to get away, but Elizabeth has been shot. She is operated on by a doctor in a warehouse, and when she comes to, she asks Phillip in Russian to “come home.” Phillip isn’t going to leave Elizabeth’s side, so he calls Stan and asks him to watch the kids because he and Elizabeth have to go take care of her sick aunt. Stan just got back from delivering the news to Nina that she’s not being exfiltrated because the mission failed, but he still drops everything to take care of the Jennings kids. If only he knew.

2014 Pilot Preview: Forever 1.01: “Pilot”

“I’ve lived a full life. Fallen madly in love, had my heart broken. I’ve fought in wars and seen my fair share of death. In my long life I’ve experienced many ends, but only one beginning.”
- Henry Morgan

If the pilots we’ve seen so far during our “Pilot Preview” are any indication, this season has a good start for freshman shows (both drama and comedy). Now I was planning to watch “Forever” during the 2014-2015 season regardless of whether I could get an early glimpse but I’m so glad I got the chance. My original draw to the show was naturally the lead actor casting of Ioan Gruffudd as Dr. Henry Morgan. Some of you may remember him from “Ringer” recaps a few years ago. He’s extremely attractive and has a sexy Welsh accent. Of course, once I saw the trailer, I was intrigued by a man who couldn’t die (what can I say…it’s a thing. Blame Captain Harkness).

The episode begins with Dr. Morgan walking the street of New York City and getting on the subway. Through flashback and voice over narrative we learn that he is over 200 years old he first died on a ship carrying slaves from Africa. He gets shot and dumped overboard for trying to defend a slave when the ship’s captain wanted to shoot him for allegedly having cholera. Since that time, Henry has lived and died a lot. As it turns out, each time he dies he can feel all the pain but it doesn’t stick and he always comes back naked in bodies of water. We see also that Henry has a keen sense of observation and uses it to almost score drinks with a hot Russian cellist on the subway when another train slams into them and everyone in their car dies. Naturally, Henry wakes up in the river and is ultimately rescued from police custody by his good friend Abe, the only living person to know his secret. In this time, Henry is a medical examiner and we (and he) are soon introduced to the case of the week and Detective Jo Martinez.

Things get off to a rocky start between them (she finds footage of him getting on the subway car and accuses him of killing the driver of the other train. But he lets her work out his motive (or lack thereof) and after finding a latent print on the driver, we are led to the real killer. It takes Henry dying twice more before the case is closed. We also learn that Henry keeps meticulous notes of his deaths in a hopes of finding a cure for the curse of his immortality. And all the while, he gets mail and calls from someone who seems to know his secret as well. This person, it seems, is going to be Henry’s nemesis throughout the course of the first season.

Overall I think this pilot was very strong. One thing I’ve noticed in all of the pilots I’ve watched so far is the use of voice over. I think though that for the most part it has worked for each show. I have a feeling after the pilot, Henry’s voice over explanations will be fewer as we have established the necessary premise to go forward with the show. I have a feeling we are going to get some interesting and funny cases of the week as well. I tend to like procedurals that are sort of fantastical too (like Grimm). I found it believable that Henry could convince Jo of the way (and timing) in which he found certain evidence. I enjoyed that we have several mysteries going on; the mystery of Henry’s immortality and now this mystery guy claiming to be just like Henry. We also have to contend with the fact that eventually Jo will find out Henry’s secret, too.

While I don’t foresee the show lasting 10 seasons, I think they could reasonably stretch out the mystery stalker for season 1, perhaps ending with Jo finding out Henry’s secret and then in seasons 2 and 3 we deal with the fall out and ultimately I think it would be fitting for Henry to finally find out how to die and making the decision whether or not to actually go through with it. We don’t need the two leads to get together romantically (as “Sleepy Hollow” showed us.) But I have a feeling that they might send Henry and Jo down this path eventually. Depending on how they do it, I might be okay with it. We saw that Henry is still grieving his wife Abigail (whom he met at the end of World War Two when she delivered baby Abe into his arms). But Jo is still getting over the death of her lawyer husband so maybe they can grieve together.

I found the use of humor in the episode (especially regarding the interactions between Abe and Henry) to be just light enough to break up the seriousness of the case at hand. I don’t know if his morgue assistant will be sticking around past the pilot but I really hope so. For those of you who watch Bones, the actor who plays intern Fisher is now playing Henry’s lackey. I think a lot of the comedy works because the actor is so darkly funny anyway. He has a knack for being morbidly hilarious and I hope they keep him around (besides Bones has enough other interns to rotate through the Jeffersonian anyway).

As I said earlier, I felt this pilot was very strong and I enjoyed it a great deal. I will be looking forward to seeing how it unfolds and I hope it does well enough to get a back 9 order and even a second season. The only concern I have is that it’s going up against Chicago Fire and Person of Interest in the Tuesdays at 10pm slot which is unfortunate because I’m going to have to figure out what to watch as I will be partaking of all three shows. But that’s why they invented the high capacity DVR.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Doctor Who 8.03: "Robot of Sherwood"

“Old-fashioned heroes only exist in old-fashioned storybooks, Clara.”
-The Doctor

I’ll admit, I was a little grumbly that my first solo Doctor Who review of the new season was going to be a Mark Gatiss episode. I love Gatiss’ work on “Sherlock,” but his “Doctor Who” episodes have been decidedly subpar. Also, this was a historical episode and I generally prefer more sci-fi episodes. By the way, that last bit is one of the things that is great about “Doctor Who” overall. There is such a wide range of stories that can be told within the framework – there’s something for everyone. Anyway, all of that was a long-winded way of saying that I was pleasantly surprised by “Robin of Sherwood.” There was absurd humor in abundance, and Peter Capaldi’s “slightly toned down Malcolm Tucker who doesn’t swear” take on the Doctor had me laughing while watching “Doctor Who” for the first time in a very long time. Huzzah!

The Doctor offers Clara a chance to go where/whenever she wants to go this time around, although he kind of regrets it when she says she wants to meet Robin Hood. The Doctor tries to tell her that Robin Hood is just a storybook character, and he starts listing off places he would rather go. Clara insists on Robin Hood, however, and the Doctor eventually relents. This kind of reminds me of Amy Pond’s love of Ancient Rome. Anyway, the Doctor takes them to twelfth-century Sherwood Forest, no doubt hoping to prove Clara wrong, but as soon as they arrive, an arrow is shot at the TARDIS. The Doctor peaks out to see what is up, and he encounters none other than Robin Hood.

The Doctor and Robin clash from the start, maybe because they’re more similar than either would like to admit. They are both big personalities, and they are both heroes who don’t particularly like to think of themselves as such. Robin at first tries to steal the TARDIS, but of course the Doctor is having none of that. They have a pretty hilarious swordfight where the Doctor’s weapon of choice was a spoon. Random, but funny. Robin takes the Doctor and Clara to meet the rest of the Merry Men, and the Doctor immediately starts doing experiments to see if they are fake. The Doctor can’t accept that Robin Hood could possibly be real. Clara, for her part, is having a great time. Her fantasy is coming to life. Both the Doctor and Clara agree, however, that Robin laughs too much. The Doctor thinks it means he’s fake; Clara thinks it means he’s actually sad about something. It turns out Clara is right. Robin is sad because he hasn’t seen Marian in a very long time. She’s the person who inspired him to go down the “steal from the rich to give to the poor” path.

The Merry Men have heard word that the Sheriff of Nottingham is having an archery tournament. Clara warns Robin that it’s a trap, but Robin says he already knows that. He can’t resist the tournament, trap or not. The tournament itself is pretty entertaining. The final match is between Robin and the Sheriff, of course. Each hits the bullseye exactly, but since Robin split the Sheriff’s arrow, he is declared the winner. Until the Doctor interrupts and splits both their arrows, that is. He doesn’t want the golden arrow, he just wants information. Before he can claim his prize, though, Robin splits all the arrows. They go back and forth like this until the Doctor gets frustrated and just blows up the target. At that point, he realizes that the Sheriff’s guards are actually robots. He feels vindicated, although he, Clara, and Robin are all sent to the dungeons for their trouble.

There’s more amazing Doctor/Robin banter in the dungeons. They really know how to get on each other’s nerves. This is when I appreciated that Peter Capaldi is basically bringing a slightly toned-down Malcolm Tucker vibe to his portrayal of the Doctor. He can trade verbal barbs with the best of them, and he is seriously pissed off. Clara eventually can’t take the bickering anymore and tells them both to shut up. She then tries to find out if either of them has an idea of how to escape, but neither of them really do. A (non-robot) guard then tells them that the Sheriff wants to speak to their ringleader. The Doctor and Robin squabble over who that is as the guard takes Clara away. That bit was predictable, but funny.

Clara uses her meeting with the Sheriff to learn more about what is going on. By acting like she has experienced the same thing, she gets the Sheriff to tell her about how he saw a spaceship crash, and he got the robots inside to do his will. He wants to do more than just be Sheriff of Nottingham. He wants to rule the entire world. This Sheriff was a bit more moustache-twirling than I would really prefer. I kind of wish the actors from BBC’s “Robin Hood” were reprising their roles in this episode – they were all excellent. It would be kind of fun for Harry Lloyd to be the next Peter Capaldi and play two roles in the Whoinverse before being cast as the Doctor!

Fitting the farcical tone of the episode overall, the Doctor and Robin escape by literally carrying the blocks to which they are shackled. They wind up in the control room of the robots’ ship. A characteristic that is fundamentally of The Doctor regardless of the regeneration is that he believes learning/information is the best weapon of all. He finds out all he thinks he needs to know about the situation from the ship’s database. A group of robots was trying to find the same “Promised Land” as the clockwork robots from the premiere. They landed on Earth and disguised their ship as a castle. The Doctor thinks they ganked Earth legend to blend in, so he now thinks everybody they’ve been interacting with, including the Sheriff and Robin, is fake.

The Sheriff, along with Clara and a robot guard, enter the control room, and a fight ensues. Robin manages to save Clara (by grabbing her and jumping out a window), but the Doctor ends up back in the dungeon with the peasants. The Doctor and a young peasant woman who had been featured throughout the episode end up defeating the robot guards with what look like metal plates (they reflect the robots’ laser beam weapons back at the robots). Once he escapes, the Doctor tries to strike a deal with the Sheriff. He will help the Sheriff repair the ship (that’s what all the gold the Sheriff wanted was for), if he frees Clara. The Sheriff (rightfully) thinks this is dumb considering Robin has Clara. The Doctor goes through his theory that Robin is a robot designed to be “opiate for the masses,” but the Sheriff denies it. Robin eventually appears on the scene, and he has a big fight with the Sheriff. The fight ends when Robin pushes the Sheriff into the vat of molten gold. And yet another Harry Lloyd connection – the death reminded me of Viserys’ death on “Game of Thrones.”

The Sheriff may have been defeated, but there’s still the tiny problem of the robot ship. It has blasted off, but it doesn’t have enough gold to get into orbit. It’s going to crash if nobody does anything. Luckily, the Merry Men still have the gold arrow from the archery competition. Robin’s arm is injured, so he can’t shoot the arrow at the ship, and the Doctor admits he used a homing device on his arrow at the competition. The Doctor, Robin, and Clara all have to work together to shoot the arrow into the ship and get it safely into orbit before it blows up. Mission accomplished, it’s time for the Doctor and Clara to leave Sherwood Forest. Both the Doctor and Clara have nice heart-to-hearts with Robin before they go about being a hero and Marian respectively. After the TARDIS whoops away, Marian materializes. Robin is overjoyed and shoots and arrow into the sky in celebration. It’s supposed to be a joyful ending, but I was kind of worried the arrow was going to come back down to Earth and hurt somebody!