Friday, December 25, 2015

Holiday "Classic" Recap: The Goldbergs: "A Christmas Story"

“No. Guilt has no place in our people’s holiday. Shame on you. I hope you feel guilty.”

“The Goldbergs” is one of my favorite comedies currently on the air, mostly because it features a family growing up not far from where I did in the 1980s. While I was a little younger than the Goldberg kids, I still remember a lot of the places they go on the show. Willow Grove Park mall, for example, was pretty much Mecca to kid/tween me, and it is mentioned quite often by the characters. One aspect of the Goldberg family that is pretty obvious but not generally stated outright is that they are Jewish. So the episode we are going to talk about today is a Hanukkah episode, which I thought would be an interesting change of pace, even though Hanukkah is over and today is Christmas. There is a little Christmas thrown in, though, as the Goldbergs try to compete with their neighbors, the Kremps, who go all out to try and have the “perfect” Christmas. As you might expect, not all is as perfect as it seems at the Kremp family Christmas.

In the opening voice over, we learn a bit about how the Goldberg family Hanukkah usually goes down. The family isn’t especially enthusiastic about the holiday. Because there are eight nights of presents, the presents are “mostly filler” like toothbrushes and underwear. Bev also breaks out eastern European dishes like cabbage rolls that nobody seems to actually like. And older sister Erica always has somewhere else to be right after the present opening. Overall, nobody seems to have a good time. Then Bev and Murray pay a visit to the Kremps, and everything changes. It appears that the neighbors are preparing for an ideal Christmas, with beautiful decorations and timeless gifts like a snare drum. They even ask if Murray will play Santa for them. He’s not at all enthusiastic about it, but Bev pushes him into it because she’s so bamboozled by the Kremp Christmas magic.

Meanwhile, little brother Adam looks forward to the holiday break being a time to bro out and play the signature family game of “Ball Ball” with big brother Barry. This year, though, Barry has a girlfriend, Erica’s best friend Lainey, and Adam is upset to see Barry playing Ball Ball with her instead. Barry has switched up all the (already very complicated) rules so that Adam doesn’t know how to play anymore, and he even made a new trophy. Lainey says Adam can play anyway, but Barry puts the kibosh on that. Adam is very upset, because he wanted to spend quality time with his brother like always.

Inspired by her visit with the Kremps, Bev announces a change-up in the holiday plans for the year. This year, the Goldbergs will be celebrating “Super Hanukkah.” They will have a decorated “Hanukkah Bush,” put up lights outside, open all their presents on one morning instead of over eight nights, and they will get gifts from “Hanukkah Harry.” At first, everybody enjoys this change, because they’re actually getting gifts that they like. Erica gets a sweet electric guitar, for instance. Adam gets Barry an Eagles keychain, but Lainey outdoes him with a signed Eagles jersey. That’s just the beginning of the drama, though. Pops arrives, and he is upset and disgusted to see the holiday all Christmas-fied. He feels like his family/cultural traditions are being disrespected. He storms out, determined to teach Bev a lesson.I was surprised he felt so strongly about this, since Pops is usually an easygoing guy, but I guess somebody had to point out Bev’s ridiculousness. Mrs. Kremp also makes a brief appearance and wants to know the stories behind all the “Super Hanukkah” traditions. Bev’s explanations get progressively more and more ridiculous (and funny).

The final straw for Adam is when he sees Barry and Lainey watching “A Christmas Story” together. It’s Barry and Adam’s favorite holiday movie (mine too!), and they have a tradition of watching it together. Adam is so upset that he challenges Barry to a dare, which everyone knows you should never do, because Barry will do whatever it is, no matter how stupid. Adam tells Barry to meet him at the tetherball pole. If you’ve ever watched “A Christmas Story,” you can probably guess what comes next. Adam triple dog dares Barry to lick the tetherball pole, and of course, Barry gets stuck. Adam finally admits he’s upset because Barry has been replacing him with Lainey. Barry apologizes and asks for a hug, but it’s not at all sincere. Instead he uses the hug to get Adam stuck to the pole, too. And since it’s the 1980’s, they don’t have an easy way to call for help.

Pops arrives back at the Goldberg house dressed in a blue Santa suit and calling himself “Hanuclaus.” He also has his “Sack of Shame,” which contains things like a photos of relatives who escaped Poland, empty jars where his dreams of sharing his family traditions used to be, and other items as well, each more depressing than the last. He is determined to go through all of them with his family to make them fully understand why he is upset. The whole thing devolves into Pops playing Christmas songs with angry Hanukkah lyrics on the banjo. Bev tries to take away the banjo, but she ends up accidentally setting the Hanukkah bush on fire. The Kremps watch as the Goldbergs take the bush outside to extinguish it, and they continue to want to know more about the meaning behind these “exotic “ traditions. Bev eventually tells them off and says that there are no idyllic Goldberg traditions, they just suck at family.

Barry and Adam end up making up while they are both stuck to the tetherball pole. As they try to hug it out, they realize the pole is loose. When they arrive home (still attached to the pole), Murray says he raised morons, and the boys don’t disagree. Barry, Adam, and Lainey all settle in to watch “A Christmas Story.” Bev and Pops make up as well, over a locket with a picture of Bev and her mother when Bev was a child. Pops says the picture was of Bev’s first Hanukkah and her mother was so excited about it. They both agree that it’s important not to forget where you came from. Finally, Bev realizes that the Kremps aren’t any better than her own family. She finds Mrs. Kremp sitting outside, distraught over all the things that have gone wrong on Christmas, including a ruined dinner. Bev offers to introduce the Kremps to her family’s true Christmas tradition , which is another thing you’ll be able to guess if you’ve watched “A Christmas Story.” The Kremps and Goldbergs go to a Chinese restaurant.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3.08: "Many Heads, One Tale"

“And you dove through a hole in the universe for me.”

Who would have thought, way back in early season one when it was cool in the blogosphere to write think pieces hating on “S.H.I.E.L.D.” that the show would be so strong well into its third season? While I don’t think the first half of the third season is the very strongest “S.H.I.E.L.D.” has ever been, it is certainly still very strong, and I enjoy watching it very much. I am still very invested in these characters. And sad FitzSimmons (a bit of which we got in this episode) still makes me sad. We learned quite a bit about what the ATCU is up to in this episdode, and we also learned Hydra’s true motivations. And, of course, there seems to be a connection between the ATCU and Hydra. The jury is still out on Rosalind’s role in all this mess, but for the moment, she seems like the only trustworthy person connected to the ATCU. I’m betting she’s regretting that life choice right about now.

We open this episode with a conversation between Ward and Gideon. There is something very important to Hydra in the Von Strucker vault, and Ward wants it. Gideon, however, has other plan. He sends his goons in to shoot ward, but Ward manages to injure them all. He asks for their help in finding the vault, and when they refuse, he breaks out some knife. Seems like some more torture is on the docket. Through said torture, Ward finds out that while the Von Struckers have multiple vaults, the particular one he needs is in Germany. This, of course, leads to Ward commandeering a plane that happens to be flying over the German town where the vault is located.

Meanwhile, at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, Andrew’s body is taken away by the ATCU. May is devastated, and she refuses to talk to anyone. Inside, Fitz is still working on the portal problem, and he shows Simmons the symbol that was found near the portal room the team used to get her back. Skye and Lincoln also have a rather flirtatious conversation where they talk about Lincoln potentially sticking around S.H.I.E.L.D. for a while. Also sort of sticking with the romance theme, Mack confronts Coulson about whether or not he’s sleeping with Rosalind. Coulson responds to the accusation of poor judgment by calling a meeting where he reveals to the team that he’s got a plan to spy on the ATCU using Andrew’s stasis pod.

The middle of the episode is a lot of fun caper stuff, which I really enjoyed. One of my all time favorite movies is “Sneakers,” after all. Rosalind is brought to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ for a tour while Coulson’s team works the caper. Daisy sets off a homing signal in Andrew’s pod that immediately alarms the ATCU’s IT guys. They call the FBI, but the person who answers the phone is actually Mack. He sends in a “task force” that is actually Bobbi and Hunter. Hunter trying to pretend to be an rebel, emo hacker is pretty darn hilarious. The IT guys end up calling Rosalind about the situation, who tells Coulson that his folks need to turn off the homing tech on the pod. Clearly this is exactly what Coulson wants to have happen.

Meanwhile, the FitzSimmons relationship takes a turn for the better and the worse all at once in this episode. Fitz has a theory that an ancient blood sacrifice cult tied to the portal was using Will and the other astronauts for their own nefarious ends. Simmons gets very frustrated that Fitz is continuing to do all the right things instead of being angry over the Will situation. When they pick up the argument later, Fitz says he’s sick over it all, but not directed at Simmons. More at the universe. They kiss passionately, each taking a turn initiating a kiss, but Fits looks said, says they are cursed, and leaves the room. Simmons finally realizes the connection between Wil’s astronaut patch and the cult symbol when she looks down at some of Fitz’s research materials.

At first, the ATCU caper seems to be working. Bobbi sneaks off and finds the super-secret containment area while Hunter keeps the ATCU occupied. He asks them to make his computer system username “God save the Queen,” which again, was just hilarious. Meanwhile, Andrew is in containment, but not where Coulson and his team thinks. Gideon actually comes to pay him a visit, although Andrew doesn’t really want to have anything to do with him. Gideon really just wants to permanently turn Andrew into Lash. Anyway, Bobbi sees no Inhumans in the official containment area, and nothing to indicate that the ATCU is actually working on a cure. Instead, she finds massive quantities of fish oil pills, and Mack and Daisy are able to figure out that the ATCU is trying to give terragen to as many people as possible. Things get hot quickly at the ATCU, and Bobbi and Hunter both have to fight their way out of precarious situations.

As soon as Coulson hears about all this, he puts Rosalind in containment and says she needs to convince him that she’s not Hydra. Each end up accusing the other of being a heartless spy in a very big confrontation. When Coulson brings up the “enhanced specimen unit” Bobbi has been investigating, though, Rosalind swears she knows nothing. She throught they really were working on a cure, not trying to create more Inhumans. So she says, at least. The wheels start turning for Rosalind, and she realizes that Gideon is likely the problem. He was heading up that particular unit. Meanwhile, at the ATCU facility, Bobbi and Hunter continue to have to fight off attackers, including one particularly nasty Inhuman who can shoot guns with telekinesis. Rosalind, however, as soon as she fully understands what is going on, sends in one of her own trusted operatives to help them escape. She also tells Coulson and his team everything she knows.

After his plane hijacking hijinks, Ward shows up at the correct Von Strucker vault to find Gideon already there. Gideon is impressed that Ward found the place and extends an offer to be Hydra’s “second hand.” AS part of the deal, he gives Ward a Hydra history lesson. Hydra didn’t start in World War II with Red Skull. Hydra and its predecessors have been around for much longer than that. They believe that a particular Inhuman was meant to rule Earth, and that Inhuman was banished to the world on the other side of the portal. Hydra was founded to bring that Inhuman back. These days, they call the effort “Project Distant Star Return.” Andrew and several other Inhumans are being stored by Hyrda to be used in the project. Gideon is extremely optimistic about the project considering S.H.I.E.L.D. just brought someone (Simmons) back from the other world for the first time ever. In his containment unit, Andrew demands to talk to someone. To his chagrin, Ward appears. Ward says Hydra wants to know how to turn the “monster” back on, and he’s very happy that he’ll be causing May pain by doing his experimenting on Andrew. Gas floods the containment chamber, and Andrew starts to Lash out.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Fresh off the Boat 2.08: "Huangsgiving"

“Who pets a deer? What is she, Snow White?”

This year, we got our first glimpse at how the Huangs celebrate Thanksgiving. Come to think of it, since “Fresh off the Boat” premiered at midseason last year, this fall was the first opportunity the creative team had to do any holiday themed episodes. We have started to get a good read on how the Huangs approach American holidays (the one big one left is Christmas), but I’m wondering if the creative team will tackle Chinese holidays, too. The Mid-Autumn Festival is essentially Chinese Thanksgiving (at least the way I celebrated it with a Chinese roommate once), so an episode featuring that holiday probably wouldn’t tread much in the way of new ground after this episode, but maybe Chinese New Year would be interesting. Anyway, let’s step back to the episode we’re supposed to be talking about. It’s time to celebrate Huangsgiving!

At the beginning of the episode we learn about a Chu (Jessica’s family) tradition. Grandma Chu gets on a conference call with her two daughters, Jessica and Connie, and announces who will be hosting Thanksgiving that year. Connie is the usual host, as Jessica would tell it, because she is their mom’s favorite. Jessica thinks this is her year, though. She’s been sending her mother shipments of citrus fruit to remind her that Jessica’s family now lives in Florida, which would be a great place to visit. When the phone call comes, it’s the news she was hoping for. This year, as Louis would put it, is going to be Huangsgiving. Jessica and Louis call a big family meeting to go over the plan for the day. They are going to have Cornish hens, because personal poultry is way classier than the duck Connie usually serves. And instead of the charades game they always play at Connie’s they are going to play Monopoly.

The day before Thanksgiving, Connie and Grandma Chu are the first to arrive. Steve, Connie’s husband (played by the same actor who played Harry Tang on “Chuck”), arrives separately. Instead of the fancy sports car he was driving the last time the Huangs saw him, Steve is driving a busted-up Geo Metro. He tries to drive it like a sports car, but it doesn’t go so well. Connie announces that Steve drove separately because their marriage is on the rocks. Jessica, of course, thinks this is all a ploy on Connie’s part to steal the holiday attention. Connie makes a point of saying that she and Steve need to sleep separately, and this would have been much easier to accomplish at her own house in DC. Louis helpfully offers the pull-out couch, which impresses Jessica.

Steve convinces Louis to drink with him by saying how much the estrangement with Connie has been affecting him. It is unclear whether Steve is genuinely upset and wants Louis’ companionship, or if this is just another manipulation to ruing Huangsgiving and make sure that Steve and Connie host the holiday next year. From this point, the episode becomes a classic farce, with the action getting more and more crazy and out of control by the minute. On Thanksgiving morning, we find Louis passed out on the sidewalk in front of the house, with Grandma Chu sweeping around him. Louis is seriously hung over, but he is determined to make Huangsgiving a success.

Because of Louis’ hangover, dinner is behind schedule. To make matters worse, when the Cornish hens arrive, they are still alive. Grandma Huang is ready to chop their heads off, but the door has already been slammed in the deliveryman’s face. Louis says he will just grab a turkey from the restaurant instead, and they will cook and eat that. The situation improves a bit when Oscar Chow (Jessica’s ex whom her mom loves) and his new boyfriend arrive. Grandma Chu is only too happy to chat up Oscar for a while.

The situation deteriorates again when Honey and Marvin arrive. Louis invited them over without telling Jessica, which seriously stresses Jessica out. Marvin wants to play touch football in the back yard, and Jessica tells Louis to join the game, mostly to prove to her family that she can handle Thanksgiving on her own. Immediately, things go from bad to worse. Grandma Chu decides she doesn’t like Oscar’s boyfriend, so she gets Connie to take her away from him. Then Jessica discovers that Louis forgot to turn the oven on, so the turkey is raw. She tries to get Louis to come back inside to help, but Louis is the worst charades player ever, so he doesn’t understand her hand signals. Louis is distracted enough, though, to get hit in the head with a football.

Louis’ injury is pretty severe, but with Jessica’s help, he eventually regains consciousness. They decide to try and distract the rest of the family with Monopoly until the turkey is ready, which is going to be several hours thanks to the oven incident. Louis keeps falling asleep during the Monopoly game, which would be quite dangerous if this was real life instead of comedy. Connie then sees Jessica trying to cook the turkey with a hair dryer, and she tells the rest of the family that the turkey is raw. Grandma Chu tells Jessica that Connie went to the one store open on Thanksgiving to get a turkey fryer, since that will cook the turkey in less than an hour and “rescue” Thanksgiving.

At the store, Jessica confronts Connie about trying to make Thanksgiving all about her. Connie says Thanksgiving was the one time of year when she got attention for the right reasons – throwing a nice party. Most of the time it’s just for getting injured at inconvenient times or other drama. The sisters reach an understanding, and Jessica buys the fryer, saying that they can use it this year, and also at Connie’s house next year. At the time, I figured that buying a turkey fryer in a comedy couldn’t possibly end well, but the Huangs and extended family do get their Thanksgiving dinner without burning the house down. So I suppose all is well that ends well!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3.07: "Chaos Theory"

“Take Lash. If putting a bullet in that monster’s head doesn’t do the trick, then what?”

I finally had a chance to really start catching up on “S.H.I.E.L.D.” and man did this episode bring the feels. There was FitzSimmons, May and Andrew, Bobbi and Hunter, and Coulson and Rosalind all reaching turning points in their relationship. The developments with FitzSimmons and with May and Andrew were especially emotional. What happened with May and Andrew in this episode was especially devastating, but I think I had more of an emotional response to the FitzSimmons developments, mostly because I’m so invested in FitzSimmons. Simmons has been kind of terrible to Fitz over the course of the past couple seasons, but he loves her, and he’s adorable, so I want to see him get what he wants. And Simmons really does have feelings for him too, as we see in this episode. It was adorable and melancholy at the same time.

We begin the episode with a flashback to May and Andrew on their getaway to Hawaii six months ago. They are enjoying a lovely meal on the beach, and it looks like paradise. May says she won’t go back to S.H.I.E.L.D. right away, because she really wants to give their relationship a chance to succeed. And yes, they do want to try being in a relationship again. We next see Andrew back home, on the phone with Coulson, telling him to ask May when she’s wants to go back to work. He opens a book on his desk, and he gets infected with some sort of smoke. This is clearly what turned Andrew into Lash. In the present day, Daisy and Coulson are fighting over the ATCU containment matrix, with Andrew listening to the conversation. He is pro-containment matrix, by the way. Coulson and Rosalind have a meeting scheduled with the President, but before the meeting, Coulson wants Daisy to talk to Rosalind. Andrew also offers to do a reassessment of Joey Gutierrez to see if he’s a good candidate to be an example of a successfully transitioned Inhuman.

Fitz is still working on the portal, but Simmons has another task for him. The SIM card in the phone she had with her on the other side isn’t working, but she would like for Fitz to try and retrieve data from it. Fitz doesn’t seem thrilled by the idea (he’s expecting mementos of Will), but he says he’ll do it. Fitz starts looking at the data, and when he sees a picture of Simmons and Will, he gets angry and starts throwing things. When he’s about to leave the room, though, he hears a recording of Simmons telling him (Fitz) what she is going through. He starts listening to the recordings in earnest, including one about how Simmons imagined the two of them would settle down in a small town in Scotland. Fitz gets teary, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t, too.

On the flight home from Lisbon, May is understandably very quiet. Bobbi mentions that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been tracking Lash, but the tracking is difficult because of the transitions into human form. Back at HQ, May immediately starts looking up in formation in the computer about both Lash and Andrew. While she is there, she runs into Skye, who tells here Andrew is at an offsite training facility. May is alarmed and demands to know where. At the facility, Joey seems to be doing better. He can sculpt things, and he says he’s excited to have more control over his power. We see Andrew appear to lash out at Joey, but it’s all in Andrew’s head. May arrives on the scene, and she has Joey taken away by guards. She wants to talk to Andrew alone. Their confrontation erupts into a huge fight, and Andrew shoots May.

Unlike May and Andrew, Bobbi and Hunter have a rather sweet reunion. Bobbi tells Hunter that she doesn’t want either of them going after Ward anymore. She doesn’t want to be consumed by revenge and turn into a monster like Ward. Between the big Lash reveal and this conversation, there’s kind of a monster theme going on in this episode. At the same time, Mack’s been acting kind of sneaky in this episode, taking mysterious phone calls. He ends up meeting up with Lincoln, who called Mack because he didn’t want to put Daisy at risk. He says that he is fairly certain Lash is with S.H.I.E.L.D., and he want’s Mack’s help with revealing Lash’s true identity.

Daisy gives Rosalind a tour of the S.H.I.E.L.D. flying base, and while they do argue over what to do with the Inhumans, they seem to be gaining respect for each other. May, meanwhile, when she comes to after her big fight with Andrew, she finds herself chained up in what appears to be a building at Andrew’s university. Andrew apologies for his outburst and says he panicked. He tells May that he started to change when he was reading one of Jiaying’s books that was booby trapped with terrigen. Lincoln and Mack interrupt a conversation between Rosalind, Coulson, and Daisy to announce that they think Andrew is Lash. Lincoln thinks someone has been using Jiaying’s ledger to find Inhumans from Afterlife, and Andrew is the only person who had access. Coulson mentions he was just informed that May and Andrew are missing, so the group decides they need to find them. Lincoln warns them that Andrew won’t always be able to shift back to human form – eventually he will permanently be Lash.

Coulson and his team find Andrew pretty quickly, and Coulson confronts him. Everyone tells Lincoln to stand down, but he is angered by what Andrew is saying about an “outbreak” of Inhumans, so he goes in anyway. When Lincoln attacks, Andrew transforms into Lash. Lash is about to attack Lincoln, but Mack shoots and distracts him. Mack and Coulson both take their turns fighting Lash, but gunfire from the ATCU escalates the situation further. Eventually, Lash has Rosalind by the throat, and he tosses her out the window of the very tall building. Daisy manages to use her powers to slow Rosalind’s fall and save her. May gets between Lash and Lincoln, and as she talks to Lash, he starts shifting back to Andrew. Then she shoots him in the chest and he falls back into the containment unit, all Lashed-out again. This scene was just devastating.

After the Lash situation has subsided, Mack asks Lincoln if he’ll stick around with S.H.I.E.L.D. for a while, and Lincoln agrees. Rosaland also makes an offer to May – she can put Andrew in stasis to slow his transformation in the hope that a cure can be found. When presented with this choice, May asks Daisy what she would do. Daisy says she would do whatever it takes to save the person she loves. May agrees to have Andrew taken to the containment/stasis center. It is clearly one of the hardest decisions she has ever had to make, and it is heartbreaking. Near the end of the episode, we get another flashback of May and Andrew in Hawaii, and she tells Andrew she didn’t think she deserved the kind of happiness she feels when she’s with him. Poor may just can’t win for trying.

Back at HQ, Fitz is still doing research for Simmons, and he notices that the logo for Will’s NASA mission matches the symbol from the portal chamber door if you turn it upside down. He thinks it’s all a big conspiracy theory, and when he talks with Bobbi and Hunter about it, they think it’s worth checking out. Fitz goes to check on Simmons, and he finds her waiting to see the sunrise. He briefly mentions he might have had a breakthrough on the portal, but he’s more interested in talking to Simmons about what he saw and heard on the phone, including about settling down in Scotland. He tries to brush it off as Simmons being dehydrated or something, but Simmons says she was very clearheaded when she said those things. Fitz isn’t quite sure what to do about all this, but for now, he just wants to watch the sun rise with Simmons. And they’ve gone and made me teary again. I like that instead of staying super jealous of Will, Fitz used the opportunity he got with the phone to better understand what Simmons went through on the other planet.

In the episode’s tag, we see Ward and Gideon have a conversation. Gideon thinks that Ward’s torturing of Werner Von Strucker was stupid, and he believes Ward should be operating on a grander scale than simple revenge. Ward tries to defend himself by saying he wants to cut off the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Coulson) because it won’t grow back like Hydra can. In the middle of this conversation, Gideon takes a call from Rosalind. He an advisor to the President that Coulson was supposed to meet. Rosalind says she will bring Coulson to NORAD as soon as possible. This shouldn’t be too difficult, since apparently Coulson and Rosalind have stated sleeping together.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Once Upon a Time 5.11: "Swan Song'

“Power is only as strong as the one who wields it and all you’ve done are parlor tricks.”
- Rumple

It’s kind of hard to believe that the fall finale is upon us and we are once again halfway through another season. Before we get back to Storybrooke, we flash back briefly to Hook as a child when he was just little wee Killian Jones. He thinks he knows the kind of man his father is but he’s actually a fugitive and ends up trading his sons into the service of some nasty old man so that he can get away from the authorities. Do all the villains on this show have to have crappy parental figures? I mean really!

Anyway, back in Storybrooke, the heroes and Emma spread out to look for Hook to try and stop him from raising the Dark Ones. They learn a little too late that he’s already succeeded and the gang all gets marked for death. As Rumple explains outside his shop, they can’t win this battle. When the moon reaches its peak, they are all going to be dragged down into a place worse than hell so he suggests they spend what little time they have, saying goodbye to their loved ones (which in Robin’s case might actually be his still-nameless baby girl). While the Charmings decide dinner at Granny’s is going to be what they need (rather than doing some more research), Rumple sends Belle out of town with a protection spell to cross the town line and the keys to the car. He urges her to see the world and live her life like she’s always wanted to.

Meanwhile, Regina goes to try and talk some sense into Hook and reminds him a test she put him through that time she wanted him to kill her mother (and he ended up teaming with Cora). We see in the Enchanted Forest of the past that her test involves Hook standing up to his father. It is kind of a dick move on Regina’s part but on the other hand, I mean she is trying to get him to deal with his resentment and daddy issues. So it’s kind of a mixed bag. I have to admit I didn’t see all of their exchange coming. I assumed Hook had to kill his father to prove he could handle Regina’s task. I didn’t expect him to chicken out. Apparently his father’s tale of being caught, tossed under a sleeping curse and falling in love with his nursemaid touched an emotional nerve in Hook’s heart because he lets his father live. He even offers to secure a letter of transit so that his father can get away. But they have to make everyone think he succeeded. But here’s the twist, Hook lost one brother in Neverland but it seems he’s got another half-brother somewhere. That really intrigues me. I want to see how Dark One Hook uses that knowledge. Will he actually care about his half-brother or not? Well it probably won’t matter one way or the other because after Hook hears his father give the same speech about bravery to his half-brother Liam, Hook stabs his father in the stomach (dude died awfully quick from one single stab wound).

Because Emma still feels responsible for everything going wrong (which, to be fair it is), she decides that she’s going to take all of the darkness into herself and then commit suicide to ensure that no one gets taken to the Underworld. Rumple hands over Excalibur without argument or deal making (he’s over that stuff now I suppose) and tells Emma she’s very brave but her plan may not work, given that the sword chooses who it deems worthy and what miracles it will perform. Her acts in Camelot may have sullied her in the sword’s mind (does a magical sword even have a mind?). Oh and Regina manages to send Zelena back to Oz so she can’t get her mitts on the baby. I guess that solves that problem, at least temporarily.

Emma watches her family at Granny’s while Rumple watches Belle leave town. Hook is watching both of them and ends up taunting Emma back at her place, claiming she allowed him to become the man he always wanted to be. She begs him to let her save her family by killing herself but in the end he tricks her into handing it over by posing as the one person Emma could never intentionally (physically) harm: Henry. I have to give it to the Dark One, he knows how to push Emma’s buttons. But even if she can’t stop the Dark Ones from succeeding, she’s going to fight like a mad woman to get her family back from the Underworld. That prospect excites me for the back half of the season.

Things are looking pretty dire for the team as they all get summoned to the lake surrounded by Dark Ones. Emma busts in before they can get swept away but it is Regina who ultimately makes Hook realize that all this madness needs to stop. He uses Excalibur to absorb the other Dark Ones and makes Emma stab him. So she’s no longer the Dark One and her family seems safe for now. But yet another man she loves dies in her arms (Neal’s death was still more moving and emotional for me but I’m probably super biased). Apparently Storybrooke has actual EMTs because a guy shows up with a gurney to take Hook’s body away while Emma sobs into her parents’ arms. And then because the writers of this show are jerks, they let Belle fall back into Rumple’s arms, only for Emma to learn he tricked everyone and became the Dark One all over again but this time he’s got all their power. So Emma threatens him in order to get what she wants, a trip to the Underworld to save Hook. She plans to let them share one heart like her parents. So of course, everyone goes with her into hell. Oh boy!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

iZombie 2.08: "The Hurt Stalker"

“So, Fatal Attraction brain. That’s gonna be fun.”
- Ravi

After twenty episodes, we are finally really diving in to Clive as a character. Too bad it’s due to him being a murder suspect. A wedding planner named Regina Sumner is murdered and Clive’s gun is found at the scene (Regina was shot). Things take a pretty nasty turn when the FBI agent drops off a fake wedding book Regina put together of her and Clive (from photos we learn he’s a really good cook and pianist). Unfortunately, Liv has already eaten her brains when the agent shares that Regina was kind of a crazy stalker.

This leads to some very comfortable exchanges with Liv and Major. She questions him about lady’s shampoo in the shower (it’s Ravi’s) and then uses his thumb print while he’s asleep to read his texts from “Rita” (aka Liv’s roommate and the head of Max Rager’s daughter). Liv admits the brains are making her jealous but it really isn’t an excuse. Major tells her that he split with Rita as soon as he and Liv got back together. But that doesn’t stop her from demanding he open the safe in his closet for her. This is not going to do much good for their relationship. Although I kind of hope Liv finds out soon about Major’s extracurricular activity. I fear, though, that he may be in more trouble than he thinks since they are close to testing Super Max on human.

Clive finally opens up to Liv and Ravi that he met Regina at a wedding and as soon as he found out she was a badge bunny (women who sleep with cops), he dumped her. He also tells that that she was suing a couple for unpaid fees. So Liv and Ravi go undercover and Liv gets a vision of the husband of the couple telling Regina they were done. We also see that he’s a cop, too. Very interesting. As they leave the shop where they met the couple, Liv fills Ravi in and points out a detail about where the husband tossed the wedding album. Ravi knows where to look and at first they think the husband is the killer (which would be good for Clive). But even after Ravi finds the wedding album, Liv shares that the husband was on a call at the time of Regina’s murder. Oops! But Liv does figure out that they may have a third option since they found locks (on a bridge where couples put locks to symbolize their love) for Clive and the client’s husband, and a third guy, W.P.

Liv does a little digging and finds that a black SUV with police plates was spotted near Regina’s place. So Liv puts out a fake post trying to track down the location of said SUV to figure out which cop drives it. Meanwhile, Liv is stalking Major on Facebook when her roommate comes home and kind of feeds into Liv’s paranoia by saying that Major deserves to be punished. Yeah, I really hope that doesn’t go any farther. It’s just so wrong.

Liv finally gets a lead on the locations of the SUV just as Clive drops by with some Cajun cuisine from his grandmother. They are interrupted by the lead detective on the case demanding to know who took missing evidence. Our team denies any knowledge (and I’m inclined to believe them) but the detective won’t say what the evidence was. Luckily (or maybe not), Liv breaks into the SUV and finds out that it’s the chief of the department and the evidence was a wedding album as well. He’s W.P. Unfortunately, Liv gets caught in the back seat of the car.

Having a zombie in jail is definitely not an ideal situation and by the end of the weekend, Liv is ready to eat her cellmate’s brains (well to be fair, the woman was really annoying and kept yelling about how she couldn’t be charged with the same crime twice and such) but she gets released. While she was locked up, though, Ravi did learn there were two blood samples at the crime scene and they are testing Clive (even though it’s unlikely it won’t match). Regina’s paranoia has mostly worn off by the time Liv gets released but it’s all Ravi had on hand at the morgue so it’s back to being stalker Liv for just a little bit longer.

Maybe that’s a good thing, though, at least for the case. Liv pulled a page from the scrap book with the original photo of Regina and the chief. She was wearing her client’s engagement ring. Thanks to some pretty good police work for people who aren’t police, we get a confession from the wife (and learn it was her brother who beat up Regina). They didn’t plan to kill her but she acted in defense of her brother when it looked like Regina was going to kill him. Good lord, Regina was nuts!

On the Max Rager front, the head of the company tests Super Max out on himself but it seems it brings out the anger and violent tendencies in the zombies in him, too. So I hope Major doesn’t try it. And since Liv is back on Regina brain for just a bit longer, she demands Major open the safe. The list of zombies and the drug to sedate them aren’t in there. But her engagement ring is. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting that. That night, Major gets a text from Rita and Liv starts texting back, asking for a picture. Of course her roommate isn’t stupid enough to send a shot with her face in it but I’m hoping it’s enough to get Liv curious at least and notice something about her roommate going forward. This wasn’t the best episode of the season but it was still interesting. And I’m glad we got some backstory on Clive, even if it was food and Game of Thrones related.

Friday, December 4, 2015

iZombie 2.07: "Abra Cadaver"

“You know what this means. The murder was a magic trick. Sometimes I love this job.”
- Ravi

This week’s episode is going to be magical, if you couldn’t already tell by the title. After some heavy petting and chatting between Liv and Major (since you know they can’t have sex or else he will turn into one of the living dead), the team gets called to a hotel where a man is found dead by a maid. He’s a magician named Sid Wicked and his throat’s been cut with a razor sharp playing card (I thought Damien Dahrk killed that guy on Arrow!). Anyway, Liv eats the guy’s brain and not only does she become obsessed with death, but she actually is pretty slick at magic. I have to say, like Ravi, this is one of my favorite personalities we’ve seen with Liv so far. There is a conundrum with the dead guy though. The maid said she heard shouting and the guy arguing with “the angels” earlier. But the video footage doesn’t show anyone entering or leaving the guys’ room aside from the maid and hotel security. Very intriguing.

Back at the house, we get a rather entertaining scene with Ravi, Major and Peyton (Liv is at the morgue). Ravi is freaking out about his girlfriend and Peyton is being cheeky with him. Major claims all is good on the Liv front aside from the creepy voicemail she left him about drowning. But hey, at least she just needs to eat another brain to get this one out of her system. He is a little freaked by hearing about her go full on zombie mode and kill people (although that’s rich since he’s been killing people too). While the housemates are having this bonding moment, Blaine shows up at the morgue to ask Liv to team up to find out who is killing Seattle’s zombies. This is so not going to end well!

Liv and Clive pull Sid’s assistant, Angel, in for questioning and she points them to a couple of other magicians who likely had it out for Sid. He made his career exposing other people’s tricks. So while Clive and Liv head to question one of them, Ravi is subjected to the super awkward Guy Fawkes Day celebration with his girlfriend (notwithstanding the fact that it was several weeks earlier). Ravi ultimately dumps her because she’s just so clingy and nuts and I don’t blame him. Plus it gives him and Peyton a chance to rekindle their romance! Liv gets brought up on stage for one of the tricks performed by Houdina. It involves throwing playing cards at a stalk of celery to show how sharp they are. And wouldn’t you know, the card that was used to kill Sid is missing. And that’s not all. Live got a vision while she was on stage of the woman tossing an engagement ring back at Sid. She explains that she and Sid had been together when they were younger and he wasn’t so obsessed with death. But they he really got into it and she didn’t want any part of it. So his revenge was to ruin her best trick, then modify it and build his career on it. He doesn’t seem like a very nice guy.

Elsewhere, Liv and Blaine stake out the FBI agent’s house. They were expecting she and Clive to head out to a movie but they are staying in so the breaking and entering will have to wait until daylight hours. They don’t find much that they don’t already know until someone drops a forensics report through the mail slot. Blaine just rips it open and they see that Clive is looking into some brains found in the captains’ mini fridge. Liv is going to try to doctor the report and return it. But first, she and Clive head out to question the other magician. He explains that Sid used to be his opening act and when the magician refused to give Sid additional time on stage, he left and then gave a really nasty blurb for the guy’s autobiography.

We catch up with Liv at home with Major and she shares the news about the dead zombies. He promise that no one is going to go after her. Oh if only she knew the truth! I am just waiting for that shoe to drop. And my hopes for a Ravi and Peyton reunion may be stalled a bit by Blaine being kind of charming when she stops in to let him know the drug kingpin dropped by her office. He gives her his cell phone number. It would be kind of sweet if he weren’t such an asshole. At the lab, Liv is doctoring the lab results when Ravi picks up on a new lead thanks to angry Twitter messages between Sid and a duo called Smoak & Meers. Liv and Clive go to question them but they don’t get much, other than pointed back to Houdina. She says that the waitress at the end of her show is really her just in a different costume. Clever. The only person left who went into the room was the maid (who is undocumented and paid under the table). I don’t have any clue why she would want to kill him but I guess we will find out.

As soon as Clive stumbled onto the stage to interrupt the duo, I figured out what had happened. At least part of it. Meers was mute and it turns out he is a she and she was the maid. Liv also found the woman who was apparently the sort-of alibi for the other magician and she was paid by Smoak to lure him out of camera range. They thought they had covered their tracks but thanks to magician brain-Liv, she figured it out. She also manages to slip the doctored report into the FBI lady’s house. But there’s a woman watching the house and while Clive and the agent cuddle in bed, she drops off an envelope on the front porch that says “occupant’. Mysterious. Ravi and Peyton are also in an awkward place when he goes in for a kiss and it’s obvious she thinks this is rebound territory. And Liv is doing some Ouija board stuff when Major gets home and he ducks out. Guess he can’t handle any more death-obsessed Liv.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

iZombie 2.06: "Max Wager"

“Before I became a zombie, I was wasting my life. Human Blaine was a nobody, an underachiever. He was a joke. Zombie Blaine, though? He was the man.”

“Max Wager” was an interesting take on where “iZombie” could go as far as mixing mythology with cases of the week. There was a case of the week in this episode, but it was, in a way, a continuation of the previous episode’s mystery. The murderer last time was the victim this time. It was a nice, full-circle kind of deal. We also got to learn a bit more about Blaine and his rather twisted family dynamics. One particular aspect of Blaine’s family dynamics intersected in a very clever way with Major’s current torment. Ravi, meanwhile, was relegated to zombie research for most of the episode, although this time around, his task had more to do with living with zombism than it did with curing it. It was an interesting aside that served to deepen the mythology and the relationships between characters in a lighthearted way.

At the beginning of the episode, Ravi and ex-girlfriend, now awkward roommate Peyton marvel at how chipper Major is when he joins them for breakfast. All is clear when Liv also comes downstairs dressed in one of Major’s shirts. Liv and Major are officially back together, although they aren’t having sex yet due to fear of Liv re-infecting Major with zombism. Ravi says he needs to do some research on how Liv and Major could safely have sex. Meanwhile, Mr. Cole, the murderer from the previous episode about the basketball coach, has reached a plea deal. Babineaux confronts him on the courthouse steps because he’s worried Cole is a flight risk. As Cole is walking away, a shooter drives by on a motorcycle and guns Cole down, leaving him dead. Babineaux manages to avoid the gunfire.

Ravi and Liv’s workplace chat about zombie safe sex is interrupted by Babineaux delivering news about Cole’s murder. He and Liv interview the fixer from Cole’s law office, Thronk, who is slimy as all get-out. Thronk says he couldn’t have ordered a hit on Cole, because he was in jail at the time of the murder. Babineaux has a recording of Thronk making a phone call that seems innocuous on its face, but it could be in code. Babineaux describes Cole as a “degenerate gambler,” and we know we’re going to be in for some fun times with Liv’s brain-eating side effects in this episode.

Babineaux and the FBI Agent Bozzio are outside taking a friendly snack break from work, and Babineaux tells Bozzio about how Suzuki’s wife gave him the container of brains Suzuki was keeping in the refrigerator. They have an awkward meet-up with Liv and Major, where Liv and Major announce they are back together and assume Babineaux and Bozzio are dating. Regarding the latter, they don’t exactly deny it. It seems more like the thought just hadn’t occurred to them. After they are back on their own, Major expresses concern about Bozzio, but Liv tries to reassure him by saying Bozzio is just in town to look into the recent disappearances of a number of rich guys. Since Major is responsible for many of those disappearances as part of this zombie-killing work for Max Rager, he is understandably still concerned.

At Shady Plots, Blaine’s father, Angus, makes a dramatic entrance. He tells Blaine that Blaine works for him now. He knows all the names on Blaine’s client list, and he threatens to turn Blaine back into a zombie if he doesn’t play along. Blaine’s first assignment under the new regime is to kill the son of one of Angus’ business rivals. Blaine does not seem at all happy about the new state of things. Angus has already killed off most of Blaine’s goon’s though, so he doesn’t think he has much of a choice. He’s pretty much resigned to it.

Liv has a vision of a collections goon threatening Cole, which leads Liv and Babineaux to the headquarters of a famous bookie called the Barber. It’s a barber shop, of course, with all the chatter that entails. The Barber says he didn’t kill Cole, and he suggests Liv and Babeineaux investigate Cole’s widow. Liv can’t help but gamble on a horse race while she is there. Liv and Babineaux decide to go to Cole’s memorial service in the hope of getting to talk to the widow. Unfortunately for Blaine (because Babineaux is looking for him in connection to the Meat Cute explosion), the service is at Shady Plots. Ravi and Liv both end up giving Blaine a heads-up, so he lays low and out of Babineaux’s sight. Liv pays him a visit, though, and they have an interesting conversation on whether or not being a zombie is a good thing (Blaine is decidedly pro-zombie). Babeineaux interviews the widow Cole, who says there was no big life insurance policy. Also attending the funeral is a famous basketball player named Calvin (Rick Fox), who was a college buddy of Cole’s. Calvin shows off his championship ring, and Liv sees a vision of Calvin leaving Cole behind with “psychos.” It appears Cole had been asking Calvin for money.

Liv goes back to see the Barber to pick up her horse racing winnings, and the buys at the barbershop ask for an update on Cole’s case. Liv can’t give any details, obviously. They all start gossiping about the perfect crime, and one guy in particular mentions Skype and gets a bit creepily specific. He starts about threatening someone’s wife and family, too. Peyton, who is at the office after hours working, is confronted by that creepy guy from the barbershop, who happens to be none other than Mr. Boss. He rearranges her conspiracy wall while generally looking threatening. He alternatively threatens and bribes Peyton, saying he can pretty easily figure out her source for information about his organization. He questions Peyton’s credentials and why she was chosen for this particular case. Peyton doesn’t seem scared off yet, at least.

Thrunk’s call from prison was about taking care of his turtle, and Babineaux has managed to acquire the turtle. And he finds a huge bag of coke in the turtle’s tank. Thrunk is brought back to the station, but Liv isn’t part of this interrogation. She and Major have a Skype date where they are playing a strip card game. It is both awkward and kind of sweet at the same time. Despite the kind of sweet, though, I’m still not all that invested in Liv and Major’s relationship. I miss Lowell! Anyway, the next day, Liv wins another sports bet, and he decides she wants to gamble again. The Barber pauses at Liv saying she wants to put all her money on Arizona to win. Liv says Calvin Owens (Rick Fox) gave her the tip, and that gives the Barber even more pause.

Liv wins another bet – gambles again. Barber pauses at Liv wanting to put all money on Arizona. Even more pause when Calvin Owens mentioned. Later, Babineaux tells Liv that they found the motorcycle from the shooting, and it has been traced to a Serbian crime gang. Babineaux thinks the shooter was a gun for hire. Before Babineaux interrupted, Liv had been watching one of Calvin’s college basketball games. She thinks he might have been shaving points. Liv and Babineaux interview Calvin, and Liv reveals that she thinks Cole was blackmailing Calvin about his college game-throwing days. There is also a connection between Calvin’s Serbian former teammate and the assassin. Peyton breezes in and offers Calvin a plea deal he can’t refuse.

Liv, still in a gambling mood thanks to Cole’s brains, turns things up with Major, and it appears that they are about to have sex despite Ravi’s research still being incomplete. Ravi arrives home, sees the strewn clothes, and makes a panicked dash to Major’s bedroom. Liv and Major thankfully haven’t actually had sex, because Ravi has some bad news. The Zombie virus is so small that no condom Ravi has tested can contain it. Liv and Major vow to just get creative until a better solution can be found, but they don’t seem especially thrilled about it.

We end the episode for a very odd twist for Blaine. We see him at a hospice taking care of his ailing grandfather, and while there, he takes a phone call about getting the brain his father has asked for (the son of the business rival). Then he smothers his grandfather with a pillow. Back and Shady Plots, Blaine takes his grandfather’s brain and boxes it up. The idea is to pass it off as the brain his father wanted and subsequently force his father to experience (when he eats it) what it is like to be near death. It turns out Major was ahead of the game, though. Angus happened to be the latest potential zombie on Major’s kill list. Only we learn that Major isn’t actually killing all the zombies. He’s freezing them.