Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 4.02: "First Day"

“One of the flautists went missing, but they found her in a bog.”
-Alison

This episode found almost all the Huangs trying to deal with big life changes. Cattleman’s has new ownership. Eddie and (surprise!) Evan have new schools. Eddie’s still feuding with this friends from the neighborhood, and his relationship with Alison becomes shaky as they adjust to life in their new school.

Eddie is rather excited for his first day of high school. He wants to wear a cap that says “Booty” on it, but Jessica forbids it. He ends up sneaking it to school and wearing it anyway. I’m surprised it wasn’t confiscated, actually. I was only a year behind the real Eddie in school, and people got dress code violations for much less in my high school. Grated we also got “I’m so disappointed in you” speeches from our principal on the maybe two occasions in three years when there was a food fight in the cafeteria, but that’s a whole other story. Anyway, Nicole drives Eddie to school, and on the way, they drive by his former friends, and they all jeer at each other. Eddie is glad that, even if his boys abandoned him, he still has Alison and Nicole. Nicole has to correct him on that one. She can’t be seen with a freshman at school, so she drops him off nine blocks away, and he has to walk the rest of the way.

Emery is excited that, as the lone middle schooler in the family (Eddie’s starting ninth grade and Evan should be starting fifth), he’ll finally be able to go his own way in school without one of his brothers around. He’s super excited to have a chance to spread his wings. He gets on the bus, and he’s rather confused when Evan sits down next to him. Apparently Evan is skipping fifth grade, so he’s now going to be in middle school with Emery. Emery asks Evan why he didn’t tell him about this, and Evan figures that since they never talk about anything in their family, when they were about twenty-five, they’d just look back at that time he skipped a grade and nobody said anything and laugh. Emery finds this plausible. At school, Evan is greeted with a big hug and a fancy pencil by the principal, because he’s the school’s first grade-skipper. Meanwhile, Emery picks up a chemistry book that a girl dropped, and he’s shocked when she is cold to him. Usually the girls all love him.

Eddie is not having the easiest time in his new school. When he arrives, he finds Alison surrounded by a gaggle of football players. They all want to hang out with her because she’s in the marching band, apparently. As somebody who was in color guard in high school, I can attest that this is not at all accurate. Not a lot of marching band/football cross pollination happening in my high school, even if we were at all the football games. When Alison tells Eddie that some of the football players want to sit with them at lunch, Eddie is rather incredulous. When he goes home that evening, he tells Jessica he wants to try out for the football team. Jessica absolutely forbids it. She’s convinced he’s going to end up with a concussion, which is actually pretty forward thinking of her. Eddie ends up forging her signature and trying out for the team anyway.

Meanwhile, Louis can’t get a hold of anybody at Kenny Rogers headquarters since they took over his restaurant. He finds the “Kenny Rogers’ Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch” sign a bit ridiculous (don’t we all) and he wants it taken down. Eventually, somebody from Kenny Rogers corporate shows up at the restaurant, and it’s Louis’ worst nightmare. The sign’s not coming down, because Kenny wants to memorialize his victory. The corporate guy also wants to replace some of the steak dishes on the menu with chicken, get rid of the host position for a casual, seat-yourself vibe, and sort the salad bar in descending level of crunch. When Louis complains about all of this to Jessica, she says that instead of being upset with the changes at Cattleman’s, he should be taking his Cattleman’s success and starting more restaurants. Louis is about to take Jessica’s advice when the corporate guy says Louis needs to give up his favorite taxidermy bear, Mark. At that point, Louis decides it’s going to be war.

At home, Emery complains to Grandma about how nothing seems to be going right for him, and he blames Evan for following him to middle school too early. Grandma doesn’t think it’s Evan’s fault, and she says she’ll tell the boys what’s going on if they buy her a red Gatorade at the 7-11. After she chugs her Gatorade, Grandma explains. Emery is twelve, which means it’s the first time his Chinese zodiac animal has come up in the rotation since his birth. Apparently in Chinese beliefs, your zodiac year always brings bad luck. Evan thinks this is right – Emery has indeed been having bad luck since before the school year started. He got Evan kicked out of private school, and they missed seeing the big peanut roadside attraction, among other things. Later, on their way to school, Evan explains to Emery that maybe Emery’s bad is everyone else’s good. Emery has lived a pretty charmed life. As Evan puts it, normal people get ignored sometimes. Evan offers to let Emery borrow his school supplies to ease the pain, but that ends once Emery accidentally drops them all on the ground.

At football tryouts (where there is a rather nonsensical bit where it’s supposed to be funny that the football coach is a woman…what is this, the 1950s?), Eddie meets a kid named Max who has a similar build to him and is also trying out for the team. Later in the hallway, he tells Alison that he made the team, and he’s going to be number 22. Word eventually gets to Jessica that Eddie is on the team, and she goes to practice to try and stop them. Of course as she’s watching, number 22 takes a pretty nasty hit. She and Alison rush over to find that it’s not Eddie, but Max. Eddie has been hiding, watching from the sidelines. Can I say at this moment how much Alison seems to dress like I did in the mid-late 90s? At one point she’s wearing a horizontal striped shirt, and in another, a beaded choker necklace. Both were staples of my late middle school/early high school wardrobe. Alison is upset that Eddie thought she’d break up with him for a football player, so she…breaks up with him. A dejected Eddie prepares to eat lunch alone in the cafeteria, but his boys have his back and join him. They heard about what happened, and they’ve decided to let bygones be bygones.

At home, Jessica is fretting over Eddie’s football antics, and Louis is fretting over what is going on at Cattleman’s. Jessica doesn’t understand why Louis doesn’t just start some new restaurants until she has a realization. Cattleman’s is Louis’ Eddie. His first baby (restaurant) that he will continue to fight for even if it’s sometimes a bad idea. With that realization, Jessica fully supports Louis continuing the war. Louis goes to the restaurant and tells the corporate guy in no uncertain terms that he founded Cattleman’s and nothing is changing. The corporate guy is surprisingly cool with it. It turns out that concussed football player Max is actually his son, so he’s got bigger things to worry about. Louis is elated that he’s succeeded in “saving” Cattleman’s.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lucifer 3.03: “Mr. and Mrs. Mazikeen Smith”

“Burn brighter, Mazikeen. Go out and hunt the most challenging human you can find.”
- Lucifer

Maze is finally back on the scene (or more accurately the actress portraying her is back from maternity leave). Maze is hanging at Lux with Linda (they’ve been drinking for the last 3 hours and Linda isn’t holding up so well) when Maze realizes she’s even getting bored hunting humans. Lucifer suggests she goes out and finds the biggest, trickiest bounty hunting case to get some thrill back into her job. So, she does just that and decides to find a cold-blooded killer who has recently popped up in Canada.

As Maze is packing her things to head out, Chloe warns her to be careful. Also, our dear detective (rightly) critiques Maze’s cold weathering packing skills. And then there’s the matter of Trixie trying to stow away to watch Maze’s back. Chloe and Maze convince Trixie to stick around as Maze heads off. At the precinct, after bidding farewell to Dan for a few weeks in Hawaii, Chloe is not only tracking the last known whereabout of Maze’s bounty but she’s also trying to keep tabs on Maze through reports of violence. We see part of one of the alterations when she gets to a ski lodge and his shivering and a kid bumps her and laughs. She steals his jacket and sticks him headfirst into a snow pile. Later, she humiliates a concierge at a different lodge to get the location of her man.

Maze is definitely hot on the guy’s trail as Chloe and Lucifer bring in her query’s lawyer. Lucifer even gets Chloe’s approval to use his power on the woman to learn that she’s in love with her murderous client and has been helping him out financially. She explains that no matter who you are, his charm will win you over. Which could be a problem for our resident demon when she puts on a blond wig and meets the guy at a bar (pretending to be his girlfriend). She has the sense to at least cuff him to a rail under the bar. They share a drink and he ends up cuffing her to the bar and taking off. Maze doesn’t seem too miffed by this situation as she likes the chase. She also isn’t pleased that Chloe is checking up on her.

At first, Lucifer isn’t happy with Chloe’s helicopter parenting of his favorite demon, either. But after Chloe finds the bounty’s address and Lucifer then sends it to Maze, things take a dangerous turn. Sure, Maze gets to handcuff herself to the guy and they tussle for a bit. But then another bounty hunter with a big ole machine gun pops in and he gets nicked by a bullet. Cue a Skype call to Linda (while in session with Lucifer) and even our devil is now worried. Maze is going to stick up the bullet wound but after she knocks the guy out so he doesn’t fight her trying to remove the bullet, she sticks a pillow under his head and fluffs said pillow. This convinces Lucifer that the man is a devious con man going after his Maze.

When he wakes up, he fills Maze in that he used to be a bounty hunter for the same Lieutenant that Maze is working for. But the kids he’s accused of killing weren’t his fault. He refused to kill them and then he got framed. We still don’t know if he’s telling the truth when Dan shows up (from one of his many layovers) because Chloe called and asked him to check in. He starts to report the bounty as a fugitive to Canadian police but Maze takes off, intent on finding her bounty and the woman who tried to kill them both. Back in LA, Chloe gets a weird feeling about the Lieutenant and brings in the security guard who testified that the bounty was the shooter. In short order, Chloe and Lucifer manage to get him to admit he was lying. But things don’t stop there. Maze still has to attempt a daring rescue (with a little help from Dan). I’m glad Maze is back and that she got to kick so much butt this episode. I also liked that we got to see her evolving as a character and while she may never have a soul, she’s at least gaining emotions and learning that there are people in her life that matter to her.

In the end, Chloe and Lucifer get to arrest the Lieutenant and all seems well. Maze tells her former bounty that with the cop’s arrest, he’s a free man and she doesn’t have to bring him in. I was almost expecting her to still ask him for the money for the bounty so she wouldn’t have a wasted trip but she didn’t (which is probably progress in and of itself). But he insists that the cop wasn’t the only piece of the puzzle. He worked with other people who know all about him and won’t stop hunting him. He tells Maze that they know more about her than she thinks too and now that she had contact with the Lieutenant, she’s in their cross-hairs, too. She’s not too worried. I mean, she is a crazy powerful demon. But that might be what they know. And now I’m wondering if this is all connected to the Sinner Man and Lucifer’s abduction. Maze shares a kiss with her former bounty (who offers to let her run away with him) before heading back to LA to be with her roots. As the episode ends we see someone putting photos of Maze and the bounty into a folder and then into a cabinet. That really doesn’t bode well. But, I did enjoy the episode and thought it was a lot of fun seeing Maze kind of in her element with the rest of the cast having to support her.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

This Is Us 2.04: “Still There”

“I just wanted to say … I’ve had two nervous breakdowns in my life. One right before Tess was born and one just earlier this year. And they happen when I let myself get stressed out and it just builds up inside and then boom. But, one of the things that helps me feel less stressed out is running. I run every day. It just helps me clear my mind. So, if you ever feel like you want to I would love to go running with you.”
- Randall

A few more weeks have passed for our favorite family and in the 1990s, a crazy snowstorm is on the horizon. The family is at Blockbuster picking out movies for the inevitable snow-in when Kevin kind of loses it. He’s got a fever and it turns out both he and Kate have chicken pox. Oh, I remember that. It’s not fun. Randall isn’t sick but the doctor says it’s easier if all the kids get them at the same time. So, Randall goes around trying various methods to get sick. He walks around in his underwear when it’s really cold out and is then chasing Kate around the kitchen for her germs. This would all be kind of adorable if Rebecca’s horrible mother didn’t show up unannounced and try to take over everything. We know that she disapproves of Jack and she clearly doesn’t think Rebecca can do anything right either. First, she gives the kids presents and while Kevin’s is fine (a football helmet), Kate gets a too-small dress and Randall gets his third basketball. We know he’s not really into sports very much. And then, she insists on making soup because Rebecca isn’t doing it right and she banishes Jack off to the upstairs when he, too, comes down with a fever. I do like that we are getting to see more of Kevin and Jack’s relationship. Kevin is suffering pretty bad and Jack gets him to scream his “battle cry” to focus on something other than the itch. It’s a sweet scene until Grandma ruins it. Later that night, Rebecca has it out with her mother. She points out that she could kind of explain away her mother’s disapproval with Rebecca’s cooking and cleaning skills and the family income but she won’t it around while her mother treats Randall like a second-class citizen. She outright calls her mother a racist which is totally true but neither of them realize that Randall has heard the whole thing. Jack and Rebecca try to explain that racism can come in many forms to Randall but he just wants to go to bed. The next morning, the whole family is avoiding going downstairs so they don’t have to face Grandma. But Jack mans up and he and Kevin go dig her car out of the snow. Grandma admits she’s trying to deal with the whole thing but I suspect the relationship won’t be mended any time soon. Even if she does tell Randall he’s special when he shows her his finished science fair project. I’m glad Rebecca had the strength enough to finally confront her mother about her feelings. I just hope it allow the whole family to move forward in a positive manner.

In the present, Kevin has been hobbling around on his bad knee for a few weeks and the producer on his movie sends him to the doctor. He’s got a tear in his knee which they can fix in a pretty quick surgery. While he’s laid up, Kate and Toby plan to take care of him. Which is all well and good except Kate got her first big paying gig and she’s obsessing over losing enough weight to fit into a particular dress. She abandons Kevin with Toby to go to yoga and Kevin promptly declines the pain medication and starts unwrapping his knee. He’s convinced he can be good enough in a week to finish filming. Kevin is pretty but god is he dumb sometimes. One of the guys from set brings over a fruit basket and updated script pages for Kevin while Kate is out trying to find a quick way to fit into her dress. It turns out that she wasn’t buying a quick fix to fit in her dress. Kate and Toby are expecting! I have to say, I didn’t see that coming at all. Sadly, I did see Kevin wallowing in his pain and succumbing to the use of prescription pain meds. That’s going to lead down a bad road I can just tell.

The more interesting present-day arc is Randall and Beth and the girls. Deja still isn’t really feeling comfortable at the house. Namely because she hasn’t showered in like two weeks. It’s pretty gross. Beth and Randall agree they need to talk to her about it but Randall wants to take the lead and try to make her feel welcomed before discussing the issue. His solution is taking the girls bowling. But Deja isn’t wearing socks and she isn’t about the idea of giving up her shoes. When another girl in the alley calls her out for her hair, Randall immediately jumps in to defend her but she just walks away. Beth agrees to take her own approach the next morning and I have a feeling while Randall’s heart is clearly in the right place, Beth is going to have a better shot. And in fact, she does. Deja lets Beth do her hair and we learn that Deja has alopecia and it gets worse in times of stress. The condition is also apparently somewhat common with African Americans. I did not know that. Unfortunately, the little bit of trust Beth built with Deja goes out the window when Randall shares his nervous breakdowns and his running. She takes a pair of scissors to her braids. I really feel for Randall. He is trying so hard to find a way into this girl’s comfort zone and he just keeps getting rejected at every turn. He was right, though. This is really as hard as people say.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Mayor 1.02: “The Filibuster”

“I would be nowhere if it wasn’t for the lessons I picked up right here. Music kept me out of trouble.”
- Courtney

Now that Courtney has been in office for a few days, he thinks he’s got the hang of things. But Valentina has different ideas. I have to admit Lea Michele is the least awesome part of this show and really needs to tone things down. She always comes off as overbearing in all of the roles I’ve seen her in. Anyway, Valentina wants to prep for a budget meeting later that day but Courtney and his boys have set up a visit to the local elementary school where Courtney got his start and love for music. It starts out as a pretty awesome gig. He’s chatting with some kids and shares how music kept him out of trouble and ultimately led him to becoming mayor. And then as he surveys the crappiness of the instruments the kids have to work with, he promises to provide them with a whole new music center and brand-new instruments. Valentina reminds him that he shouldn’t be making promises he can’t keep (although that’s textbook politician) but he insists he’s going to make it work.

At the pre-budget meeting with a really snooze-fest worthy guy, Courtney realizes that the town budget completely cuts music programs. This is an unfortunately very real issue in a lot of places where the first things to be cut are arts and sciences. How people expect kids to grow up and be functioning adults without these avenues to express themselves is beyond me but then again, maybe I’m biased as I grew up with the arts. Anyway, Courtney gets all fired up about the lack of music and he thinks he has the power to change the budget and just veto the whole thing. His buddy starts livestreaming which only sends Courtney into more hot water when his veto gets overruled by the budget committee. I suspect he won’t make that same mistake twice. While all of this is going on, TK (the Constituent Services liaison) his bumming around with Dina because he thinks the position is a pity job (especially since the post hasn’t been filled since 1976). What she eventually shows him (it is kind of sad how long it took and it was pretty obvious what she was doing from the start) that there are issues he is aware of (including a set of traffic lights with a whole mess of sneakers thrown on them and only one semi-functioning light and a giant puddle) that he can fix in his position and he’s going to work on doing it. I like that we are starting to get to see some of the supporting characters and how they fit in and what their backstory is.

Courtney is clearly upset that he got overwritten and he’s even more annoyed when Valentina points out that she could have told him that but he wasn’t interested in the process. She eventually explains that they need to use the system that is in place and find ways to break it and get around it. The next morning, Dina gives her son some important advice (as it seems she has to do at least once an episode) and explains that she cut money here and there when he was a kid to get him the things he wanted. This gives him the idea to go through the budget and find places to take money from other departments and put it toward the music program. But he’s going to need a distraction to keep the committee from voting. So, as the episode title suggests, he does a filibuster. It’s pretty amusing (far more so than the intercuts to Valentina and the budget guy trying to find places to cut). Ultimately, Courtney must yield the floor when Valentina informs hi they couldn’t find the money.

Valentina suggests that while they may have lost this fight, they should focus on the next thing to fight for. In a rather touching speech that really speaks to many issues, including the treatment of children based on race in education, where he tells Valentina that the first time he was told “good job” in school or any teacher showed any support for him was after the fifth-grade winter concert where he played solo trumpet. Sure, it sucked even though he practiced really hard but it was someone validating the work he had put into it. He’d always been told he was a screw up and now he’d been given a chance to do something more with him. He wonders how they could take away that chance from the kids, leading Valentina to maybe check her white privilege for a hot minute because she races off. While she’s gone, Courtney goes back to the committee hearing and starts talking as just a concerned citizen about taking all of this away. And then the kids bust in and Courtney’s other friend starts living streaming the performance. Courtney even gets to rap a little bit before the lead committee member pulls him aside and remarks that it won’t change his vote. The kids themselves may not make the change but all of the other constituent’s calling their reps to make sure the music program isn’t going anywhere certainly does. I thought it was a somewhat obvious decision but also kind of ingenious and it worked. I don’t know that I necessarily want to see Courtney win every battle he faces because that’s not realistic. But I do like that he is learning that he needs to sometimes work within the confines of the system to make the change he wants. And hey, with TK getting the sneakers off the street lights, they’ve got some new kicks (even if they’re filled with bugs and other creepy crawling things). Overall, I thought this was a pretty solid second outing for “The Mayor” and I will continue to watch and enjoy Courtney’s journey and the wisdom his mom and those around him provide him.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Mayor 1.01: "Pilot"

“Courtney Rose is a no-nothing egomaniac whose entire campaign is a stunt. Voters won’t fall for that. Not in America.”
-Valentina

I’ll admit, as your garden-variety “Hamilton” fan, the involvement of Daveed Diggs was what first put “The Mayor” on my radar. He’s an executive producer of the show, and he even had a bit of a cameo in the pilot episode. Given the current political climate, especially as someone who has dedicated all of her education and career to government service, I was a little wary of the “guy runs for office as a publicity stunt and accidentally wins” premise. Unlike our current President, however, rapper Courtney Rose actually does seem to care about other people, and deep down, he does want what is best for his city. I think it’s just going to take him a little time to get good at it and stop getting distracted. There’s a memorable cast of characters, from Courtney himself, to his mom, to his best friends, to his chief of staff Valentina (Lea Michele). I think I’m going to enjoy spending time in this world and with these characters for as long as the show lasts. It’s nice to see popular culture depicting somebody actually trying to do good through government, because for many of us who work in government in real life, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re there because we really do want to make things better, and that’s partly why the past year has been so painful.

Courtney Rose is an aspiring rapper who lives in the Northern California town of Fort Grey. I get the sense that it’s supposed to kind of be like pre-gentrified Oakland. Courtney lives with his postal worker mom, Dina, and he has only had minimal success with his rap career so far. He desperately wants a gig at the 8:30 club. Early in the episode, Courtney excitedly shows his mom a news story about his candidacy. The best part of the news story is when the story shifts to his two friends TL and Jermaine, who are helping him with his campaign. The actors who play TK and Jermaine have excellent comedic timing as they riff on how they’ve been financing the campaign on credit cards and TK is using his personal phone for the campaign. Dina doesn’t quite know what to make of all this. I get the sense that she doesn’t think her son needs to engage in this kind of publicity stunt in order to eventually become a successful rapper.

Even though he doesn’t actually want to be mayor, Courtney still has to participate in a debate against his rival, a stuffy city councilman played by David Spade. Working for the councilman is Valentina, who happened to be Courtney’s tenth grade lab partner. Valentina is a go-getter to an extreme degree, and the sideshow nature of Courtney’s campaign disgusts her. Courtney struggles at first with the debate when he is asked for his stance on a school choice bill. When the councilman tries to say he’s been leading the effort to restore the Fort Grey Commons (a small park that is basically now a dump), Courtney has had it. He tells it like it is, saying there is no way the Commons has been restored – it’s still a trash heap. When the councilman vows to have it trash-free by 2020, Courtney points out that there will be a lot of trash added in 2018 and 2019. He doesn’t understand why the place can’t be cleaned up right now, and the audience applauds.

On Election Night, Courntey, his pals, and his mom are watching television, and they are shocked (Courtney perhaps most of all) when Courtney actually wins the thing. Courtney’s first instinct is that he really, really doesn’t want to be Mayor. He wants to go to City Hall and withdraw (although TK says he should be Mayor for at least a day so he can get the cool, ceremonial ribbon cutting scissors). At that, Dina screams “fire,” which means that she wants to have a serious conversation with Courtney on the fire escape. It still kind of freaks out TK and Jermaine, though. In a speech with the type of optimism about government that I have only ever seen on “The West Wing,” she reminds Courtney that in this country, putting your name on a ballot means something. It means you’re offering to help make lives better for people. And in Courtney’s case, the people said, “okay!” She also points out that Courtney is a rapper because he’s a commentator and observer of the status quo, but this might actually be a real opportunity to do something to change the status quo. Courtney’s ready to give this whole Mayor thing a shot.

Courtney wakes up the next morning to Valentina hovering over hims (he’s understandably disturbed by this). She wants to be his chief of staff – she wants to outmaneuver Kellyanne Conway one day, after all. Courtney eventually agrees. They go to City Hall where Valentina introduces Courtney to the staff she’s sired, and Courtney reveals that TK and Jermaine are going to be on staff too. Valentina wants to write out note cards to plan Courtney’s first 100 days as mayor, but Courtney has other ideas. He wants to start off by cleaning up the Commons, and he thinks he can do it for free by organizing a “Turn Up and Clean Up” party. Valentina agrees, but she warns him to get the right permits.

The clean-up party is a big success. Lots of people show up to help clean, and the after-cleaning party is rocking. Courtney even shows Valentina that he filed for the right permit. As the party is in full swing, Courtney gets a call from the 8:30 club. Their opening act dropped out at the last minute, and they want him to open for Mac Etcetera, his favorite rapper (who also happens to be none other than Daveed Diggs). Jermaine tries to convince Courtney to stick with his current responsibilities, but this is a chance he can’t pass up, so he runs off. While Courtney is having a blast rapping with Mac Etcetera, his party gets shut down by the cops because he’s the one with the permit and he isn’t there. Dina manages to get herself arrested in the process too, and the guys and Valentina have to bail him out.

Courtney is the last to show up at the police station, and everyone is pretty pissed off at him. He and his mom end up having a heart-to-heart conversation in her mail truck. She reminds Courtney how many people are counting on him as Mayor. This thing is bigger than him now. The next morning, the gang can once again not find Courtney. Valentina suggests the Commons, and Courtney is indeed there, trying to finish the clean-up. He tries to play it off like he’s been doing it all himself, but one of the neighbor kids has been helping him. Valentina says that maybe Courtney isn’t completely hopeless after all, and the next four years won’t be a complete waste. Courtney, up until that point, did not realize that being Mayor was for four years.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lucifer 3.02: “The One With the Baby Carrot”

“I thought this would be a bit more … reverential, less angel wing dumpster fire.”
- Linda

Things for Lucifer aren’t going too well this week. I mean sure, he’s got a hot lady he’s about to hook up with but she ruins the mood after his wings accidentally unfurl and she makes some quip about cosplaying as a devil. This prompts Lucifer to hack off his wings anew, which has Linda concerned because it’s technically self-mutilation. I’d be honestly worried if she wasn’t worried about him. I just wish Lucifer could see beyond his laser focus to actually understand what she’s talking about. But he’s more concerned with the Sinner man and how he’s coopting Lucifer’s “schtick” of giving out favors with the expectation of repayment at the to be determined time. Then again, as Linda points out, he hasn’t been giving out favors very much of late.

Chloe is not interested in his theories about this new villain and shuts him down when Lt. Pierce comes by with a new case. Chloe begs Lucifer to drop things unless he can give her some actual proof. Knowing our devil, he’s not going to give up. So, they head to the crime scene of a struggling comic who was murdered. He posted a video online about how a famous comedian stole his jokes. Ella is a huge fan of the famous guy and her reactions to everything were really ridiculous. He’s totally an asshole when they go see him on his set but all Ella sees is him calling the make-up artist “honey” and telling them to stay for the taping. As they watch the start of the show, both Lucifer and Chloe are somewhat baffled by what’s going on. The guy is talking to puppets and Ella explains they are his imaginary friends. In typical fashion, Lucifer ends up interrupting the taping and trying to get the man to confess. He pulls out a puppet from the bag—I’ll give Tom Ellis credit for doing a pretty good puppet voice—and ends up discovering there’s a gun in the puppet and he inadvertently shoots the guy. The guy ultimately admits that he stole the jokes from the victim but he was going to let it run its course so he could get fired and keep all his money. Oh, and he was being threatened by anonymous email.

While all of the case stuff is going on, we get to see Amenediel and Linda spend some time together. She invites him for a drink at Lux to thank him for his part in saving her life. She even says it must be great having his powers back. He confides that it was a one-time thing until he completes the test his father is putting him through. That test, you ask, is getting rid of Lucifer’s severed wings…which he’s hiding in a closet! They pack up the wings in garbage bags and take them a dumpster where Amenediel lights them on fire and with Linda’s insight, realizes that Lucifer is his test. Everything his brother does has a way of hurting Amenediel. We need some family therapy again!

While Chloe has the cyber division looking into the emails—we also learn that whoever the victim stole the jokes from had a micro-penis—Lucifer tries to get a still-absent Maze to hunt down the Simmer man. When he gets home, he finds Lt. Pierce has broken in. The new guy shares that he had a run-9in with the Big Bad in Chicago and lost someone very close to him in the process. And later on, when Lucifer still won’t back down, Pierce agrees to work together but they have to keep Chloe out of it. As a favor, Pierce has brought in the killer of the man who kidnapped Lucifer but all Lucifer’s devilish interrogation tactics yield is a jealous guy who didn’t want his girl sleeping around anymore.

Back on the case, the gang discovers that the sender of the emails always sent them from a comedy club during an open mic night. Dan gets roped into doing stand up to try and draw the guy out but he’s terrible. In his defense, he does improv which is a different comedic skillset. Lucifer ends up tossing out some good jokes in an attempt to heckle Dan and draw out the killer that way. It works but the guy didn’t kill our victim. Sure, he was mad at the rich guy stealing his material but he kind of had sympathy for the victim, being a struggling comedian and all. He also reveals that there is a subset of women who sleep with comedians—like groupies—and he once shared stories with one who likely passed it along. He also clues Chloe and Lucifer in on the fact that our victim had been dealing with the warm up comedian for Ella’s idol (well she’s less thrilled with him now knowing he’s a thief). Our duo heads to the setup of the rich guy’s show and it’s all very creepy and dark with all the puppets. Chloe finds the rich guy who has a nasty wound on his head from the butt of the warm up lady’s gun whom Lucifer then corners on the catwalk. She gets to have her little Evil Speech of Evil and say that it isn’t about the content of the joke but what you do it with that mattered. Lucifer gets to punch her out and save the day, though so he’s pleased. And he takes her words to heart and decides he’s not going to keep cutting off his wings (as they’ve come back for the third time now). He’s just going to pretend they don’t exist and then decides he’s getting back into the favor business. Basically, he’s doing his very best to revert to the man we met in the pilot. That’s not a good road for him to go down and I hope he realizes that error sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 4.01: "B as in Best Friends"

“You're my family. And where I come from, it’s an unspoken understanding that you don’t say ‘thank you’ to your family, because you don’t need to. You know they’ll always have your back no matter how hard things get. And you will always have theirs.”
-Jessica

If there’s one theme that ties together most of the fourth season premiere of “Fresh off the Boat,” it’s the meaning of friendship and when we can count on people. The Huangs are trying to move back into their old house and resume a slightly nicer version of their old life, and this tries a lot of the friendships the family has made. The Huangs are in a tough spot having sold their old house while their old house was rented to a new tenant, and it’s time to see who will be there for them, and who won’t. How far will Honey and Marvin’s hospitality go? Can Louis count on Michael Bolton to keep the restaurant in good order while he takes a few days off? Will Eddie’s friends forgive him for calling them losers, and will Eddie make any new friends in the meantime? All of this is addressed along with the show’s typical humor and awesome 90s references (this episode had one of my favorites, even if it was rather low-key).

If you recall, at the end of last season, the Huangs had moved into a fancy mansion so that Evan would be accepted into private school. The lifestyle wasn’t for them, so when Evan got kicked out of school (for reasons not entirely his fault), they decided to just move back into their old house. Only when they arrived, a new tenant was already living there. This new tenant understandably isn’t really interested in moving out if he doesn’t have to, so the Huangs end up living with Honey and Marvin temporarily while Jessica tries to convince their former landlord to sell the house. The Huangs quickly take over and start to wear out their welcome. They eat the last of the cereal, and Jessica has filled a closet where Honey was keeping her wedding dress with board games, among other things. Honey, especially, is to polite to say anything, though. Jessica keeps assuring Honey that she’s making progress in trying to buy the old house, but the process keeps hitting snags. Jessica is her usual aggressive negotiation self because she thinks she can stay at Honey and Marvin’s for as long as she needs to.

Eddie tries to reinstate his friendships with his old crew, but they aren’t having it. When he tries to pull up a lawn chair at one of their gatherings, they tell him to leave. Eddie’s girlfriend, Alison, is still out-of-town for the summer, and he’s feeling especially alone. Nicole, Marvin’s daughter, asks Eddie if he wants to get dinner with her at a local Mexican place that has the best free chips and salsa. Eddie interprets this as a date, and he goes to ask one of the guys for advice. At first, Eddie’s friend reminds him that they aren’t really friends anymore, but then he admits that he just really doesn’t have any advice about Eddie’s situation. Eddie is happy with Alison, but he’s had a crush on Nicole since he moved to Orlando, so this might be too good an opportunity to pass up.

Their time at the Mexican restaurant is fine until Eddie tells Nicole that he’s not interested in dating her and wants to stay with Alison. Nicole chooses that moment to come out to Eddie. Eddie had everything all wrong. Nicole didn’t want to go to dinner as a date. She wanted to talk to someone about how she’s been feeling lately that she might like girls, and she thought Eddie would be easy to talk to. There’s a very long awkward silence after that, including during the car ride home. Just as Eddie is about to get out of the car, though, he has a change of heart. He becomes supportive, and he starts asking Nicole all sorts of questions about what it’s like to be a Lesbian. Nicole is a little bemused by some of the questions, but I think overall, she’s happy to have someone who isn’t judging her and is supportive. This was an interesting twist in the Eddie and Nicole saga of the past 3-plus seasons, and I liked it.

Jessica is deep into her negotiation to buy the old house, but she decides to backburner on that when she gets a letter inviting her to be on Wheel of Fortune when the show comes to Orlando. It’s going to be Best Friends Week, so she’s told to bring her best friend with her for the competition. Jessica, of course, invites Honey to join her, and Honey agrees. Their practice doesn’t go especially well, especially because Jessica is doing her typical Jessica thing (taking complete control) while her family continues to overrun Honey’s house. Wheel is proving a distraction from the greater goal of moving out, and Honey is getting frustrated. When it comes time to play the game for real, they actually do really well, but then Jessica lets Honey know that the move-out has hit another snag. Their old landlord has refused to repaint the house, so Jessica is walking away from the sale again. Honey has an outburst on television, and that’s when the two women come to an understanding. Honey hadn’t said hosting the Huangs was a burden because of Southern hospitality. Jessica hadn’t said “thank you” to Honey because she considers Honey family. You don’t say thanks to family because they’ve always got your back and you’ve always got theirs. When Jessica realizes how Honey actually feels, she goes back to the landlord and says she’ll take the house without repainting.

In our final plot of this episode, Emery decides he wants to build a birdhouse for Honey and Marvin. Louis mentions how he used to want to have his own construction company, which he’d call Huang Construction, of course. Louis gets called away to work before he can start helping Emery with his bird house, though. At the restaurant, Michael Bolton is in an especially good mood. He sent a gloating letter to Kenny Rodgers about how successful Cattleman’s has been, and Kenny is jealous. He tells Louis, however, that he should take a few days off to spend time with the family, and he’ll keep the place running. He even sings a few bars of “Lean on Me” to make the point. While helping Emery build the bird house (which turns out creepy and haunted), his pager goes off a few times, but he ignores it. Then, at the end of the episode, the Cattleman’s chef comes to talk to Louis in person. There’s an emergency, and Louis heads to the restaurant right away. It’ snow Kenny Rodger’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch. Kenny was jealous and Michael sold out. So much for “Lean on Me!”

This Is Us 2.03: “Deja Vu”

“I think this might be the thing that’s as hard as everyone says it is.”
- Randall

This episode had a lot going on this week. Then again, that describes pretty much every episode of “This Is Us” ever. It seems that it’s been about three weeks in both the present and the past since last we saw everyone. In the 1990s, Jack is still going to AA but he’s finding it difficult to open up to the group and he’s having trouble talking to Rebecca about his feelings, too. Rebecca clearly notices his distance and after having lunch with Shelley (Miguel’s ex-wife) Rebecca decides to “Jack Pearson” her husband by planning a romantic night. They go to the burger place they like and drive to the spot of one of their first dates, where they spent the night in the car because the concert they were going to see was rained out. Rebecca starts getting all handsy but Jack pushes her off. He’s just not ready yet. When they get back to the house, Jack admits that his life before they met was pretty terrible and the program says to deal with that stuff and move forward but he’s finding it hard to hold it together. He wants to talk to her about things but he’s afraid of feeling the way he’s feeling. But they get back in the car and keep talking. Jack admits that he borrowed money from his dad to buy the house. He’s got other things he needs to share in his own time and Rebecca promises she’ll be ready when he is. They end up having sex and for the moment things look like it might be heading back toward normal for these two. They also find the dog that Kate had the night we see that Jack died so we are clearly not too far off.

While Jack and Rebecca are rekindling their relationship, Randall is taking the initiative to try and find his birth parents by putting out a classified ad. He gets a response but Kate and Kevin are skeptical. Well, Kate mostly so they go to the park with him when he goes to meet the woman who claims to be his birth mother. She turns out to be a strung out white lady and Randall very quickly realizes it’s wrong and books it out of there. Good on him! When Kate and Kevin ask why he started the search now, he explains that it’s like this ringing sensation in his ears that comes and goes. I didn’t really get what he was trying to describe but I’m sure for him, it was valid.

Speaking of Randall, in the present, he and Beth get the news that they’ve been waiting for. A twelve-year-old girl named Deja is going to be staying with them. But she’s not at all what they expected. She doesn’t say much and she’s very jumpy. Obviously, she’s coming from a very bad situation but she visibly flinches when she’s in an argument with Beth and Randall comes into the room. Beth manages to calm people down and they’ll talk about it in the morning. But that night, Deja goes into Tess and Annie’s room and starts pressing them for the household rules and what happens if they break them. She kind of can’t believe they both have iPads and punishment for rule breaking is losing privileges. We then flash back to the first night William was with the family and Annie catches him trying to leave. She warns he’ll set off the alarm if he opens the door and then she convinces him to stay by recounting a time she went for a sleep over at a friend’s house and was sad when she went home because she could have had fun. She’s a pretty smart little girl and I wasn’t expecting the William cameo! The next morning, Randall gets Deja’s file from social services and learns that her mother will likely be in jail for a while. Randall tries to soften this by leading into the conversation with the fact that he sees some of himself in her and that since his life turned out pretty great with the extended network of people he had, maybe it will for her. But she can’t seem to accept that her mother won’t be coming back.

Across the country in LA, Kate is visiting Kevin on the set of his movie and she totally fangirls out over meeting Sylvester Stallone. While Kevin is prepping for the first of two scenes, Kate is chilling with Sly, telling him about Jack’s love of all things Stallone and how they used to watch all of his movies when she was a kid. Be it when she or Jack were sick. It really was another bonding moment with Kate and Jack and it was really sweet. Right before the first scene in which Kevin is supposed to give a big emotional monologue, Stallone mentions that Kate told him about Jack and this totally throws Kevin off his game. He can’t even get through the scene. As he tries we see him flash to different points in his childhood with Jack. Afterwards, he and Kate get into a big fight about Jack’s death. It appears clear to everyone but Kevin that he hasn’t dealt with his feelings about his father’s death. But he refuses to acknowledge it in that moment. The next scene is an action sequence and he’s supposed to be saving Stallone. Again, as he’s going through the scene we see him flashing to Jack and we get very brief snippets of Kevin in the hospital with his broken leg, which leads to Kevin falling and reinjuring his leg. He calls Kate to apologize and tells her that he banged up his leg but he brushes off her concern when she says he needs to keep an eye on his leg. As the episode comes to a close, we see him downing some painkillers. Given the family history of addiction, I fear we have to be worried about Kevin!

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Good Place 2.03: “Team Cockroach”

“How about this, you help me trick Vicky and those other goons, I can get you into the real Good Place.”
- Michael

While I wasn’t entirely pleased with the season opener for “The Good Place” (or the prior episode if I’m being truthful), I do think the point we find our characters at now is interesting and could prove a lot of fun. Our core four know they’re in the Bad Place and Michael is fed up with his group of demons (who have increasingly weird demands) that he decides he’s going to team up with our gang. Let the new dynamic begin!

Understandably, Eleanor and the rest of the gang are very skeptical of Michael’s offer and figure he has to be lying to them. He explains that he was only given two tries to get the whole torture right and that it was supposed to last thousands of years. His boss doesn’t know he’s on attempt 802 and if he lets Vicky (former “real” Eleanor) run the place and it fails, she’ll spill the beans to Sean and everyone will be screwed. We also learn that every time Janet is rebooted, she gets more socially aware, which is kind of an interesting concept but they haven’t really shown how it is helpful to the plot. Eleanor drags everyone into a private meeting to figure out what they should do. Jason goes on a tangent about trusting guys in bow ties because he once did something illegal for a guy in a bow tie and made $600. He’s not really making sense but they agree to ask Michael all the questions they can think of to try and decide whether to trust him or not. Jason, obviously, is asking stupid questions and Eleanor has Janet give him something shiny to amuse himself with.

Michael answers all of their questions, and even offers to get them into the real Good Place if they help him out. All they need to do is pretend they’ve been rebooted. When they question whether they would be let in (including Michael), the demon tries to assure them that it would be fine but it’s complicated and would need to be done in secret. Oh boy. Eleanor drags Chidi and Tahani into another meeting and she insists they can’t trust him. Chidi suggests that they give a go, seeing as it would give them the chance to become better people. Tahani is still against it until Michael shows her how she died. We all know Tahani is self-centered and constantly comparing herself to her sister, Camilla. She was doing that right up until she died, pulling down a giant gold statue of her sister and getting squished by it. At first, she doesn’t get Michael’s point that she’s still being self-centered but eventually she realizes she does belong in the Bad Place right now and that she wants to be the person she was perceived as on Earth (for the most part anyway).

So now, Eleanor is the only one still questioning the plan to team up with Michael. She tells Chidi she needs a minute to think things over in private but she secretly summons Janet and decides she’s going back to the Medium Place (which Michael has confirmed is real) with lots of cocaine for the place’s only inhabitant. I’m not sure if Eleanor is just going to bail or if she’s going to try and get some advice from Mindy. It turns out she’s just bailing and Chidi catches her trying to sneak out the door. She offers to let him join her but he’s not having any of it. So, Eleanor realizes she needs to ask Michael a few follow up questions. She wants to know whether Chidi ever declined to help her and thus she had to improve on her own, to which Michael says no. I really like that they are slowly setting up that Eleanor and Chidi really are going to be soul mates, even if they weren’t intended to be in reality. He does make her better.

In the end, Eleanor agrees that they need to work with Michael but she’s got conditions that he’s not going to like at all. In fact, he balks at them immediately. They will let him be on their team (Team Cockroach) so long as he also attends ethics lessons with Chidi and tries to become a better person. After all, I highly doubt he’s going to be able to get into the real Good Place in his current state. Eleanor flips the script back on Michael by telling him that he’s running out of time (Vicky only gave him a half hour) and they’re his only option. I really enjoyed that this episode was a lot cleverer than the last few and it not only moved the plot along but it wasn’t repetitive. We are really going to get to see how they all work together. I also had to chuckle when Eleanor was asking her questions and Janet popped in with a brick of cocaine and the escape train at the ready.

Later on, Michael gives Eleanor a fake tour. They’ve gone back to a lot of how the set up was during the first iteration. That includes all the frozen yogurt shops and everyone having a perfectly matched soul mate. I’m kind of glad we went back to that set up. I liked how the neighborhood was the first season. It was quirky and had personality. At the “new recruits” gathering, Michael introduces Vicky as the top “point getter” and says she’ll kind of be the mayor (which makes sense since she’s running the show). But Michael has convinced her to tell him how she plans to torture Eleanor at the welcome party and he also got put on surveillance so he’s got an excuse to spend time with them to do ethics lessons. And best of all, we learn Janet’s purpose is to make humans happy so she’s on board for Team Cockroach. I can’t wait to see their plan in action!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Good Place 2.02: "Dance Dance Resolution"

“I have tickets to Hamilton next week, and there’s a rumor Daveed Diggs is coming back!”
-Janet

“The Good Place” is currently working through what every show that counts plot twists as a significant component goes through at some point. What happens when the creative team shows their hand with a completely game-changing plot twist? Where do we go next? The season finale, where it was revealed that the Good Place we knew was actually the Bad Place, was just such a gamechanger. When Eleanor wrote herself a note reminding herself to look for Chidi after the simulation was reset, I thought I had a good idea of what was coming next. Eleanor would find Chidi, have some instinct of what he meant to her and what was going on, and they’d fight Michael together. Surprisingly, the note was taken out of play in the first episode, and the Bad Place was reset yet again in the season premiere, so I went into this episode having no clue where the show was going to go next. I was worried (and still am, somewhat) that there would be plot twists to the point of exhaustion in the episodes ahead. I think the season’s second episode, however, eventually set us up for where the story is going to go next, though. Or at least I hope it did.

This episode begins with Michael narrating his plan for attempt number three and what I’m going to call his “huis clos” (“Hell is other people” as Sartre so eloquently put it) theory of Bad Place torture. This is followed by attempt three failing when Eleanor again eventually realizes that they’re actually in the Bad Place. This is followed by a montage of many, many further attempts to make Michael’s plan work. Most of the time, it’s Eleanor who figures it out. A couple times she overhears Michael narrating to himself in his office, so that ends those particular attempts quickly. My favorite is one where it’s Jason who figures it out because, among other things, there’s no NFL Red Zone, and he would totally have that available in the real Good Place. In almost every permutation, Eleanor and Tahani hate each other, Jason is his usual doofus self, and Eleanor at first thinks Chidi’s a big nerd, but then tries to learn from him. Given the whole Huis Clos vibe, I’m actually surprised that we didn’t see a permutation where Chidi figured out they were reenacting some Sartre. But we didn’t.

One of the things we got to see was how the restaurants around the “Good Place” changed with every permutation. Fro yo was the original, after all. My personal favorite was an Italian theme with a shop called “Holy Gnocchi.” You can damn well believe that my version of Heaven would offer gnocchi! Another thing that happened with each permutation was that Michael would have to reset Janet. Each time, she would protest strongly (she was programmed to). One time she claimed to be having Michael’s baby, and one time she claimed to have Hamilton tickets. Eventually, the Bad Place torturers Michael has enlisted to help with his experiment, and led by Vicky (aka “Real Eleanor”), they decide to go on strike. Vicky still wants her fantastic, memorable part where she gets to use the Australian accent she practiced, after all. And most of the others just want to go back to more straightforward types of torture.

In the latest permutation (800-something, I believe), Chidi and Eleanor discover they’re in the Bad Place when they take a break from ethics lessons at the clam chowder fountain. As an aside, Eleanor goes on a bit about how gross clam chowder is, but I actually really like it (New England, not Manhattan). The idea of a chowder fountain is kind of gross, though. Anyway, as they are chatting by the fountain, Chidi and Eleanor overhear some of the torturers complaining about their new jobs. One of them is even a legit fiery golem of some kind. Chidi freaks out, naturally, but Eleanor has a plan. She calls up Janet and asks Janet to take them as far away from the neighborhood as she can. Janet ends up taking them on the train to none other than Mindy St. Clair’s “Medium Place” house. Mindy is upset that nobody brought her some coke, because they’ve been to her house over and over since Michael started doing his resets, and she asks for coke each time. Meanwhile, back in the neighborhood, Vicky tries to blackmail Michael to get what she wants. She has all of Michael’s experiment failures documented, and she will send the documentation to Michael’s boss if he doesn’t do exactly what she wants.

Mindy basically tells Eleanor and Chidi that trying to escape Michael’s hellish torture loop is futile. As soon as he realizes they’re on to him, he’s going to reset the scenario, and they are going to forget everything they learned. Chidi frets over this in an especially nerdy, philosophical way, which annoys Eleanor enough that she goes and complains to Mindy about him. Mindy says that Eleanor always complains about Chidi, and that’s because they’re hot for each other. Eleanor tries to deny this, but then Mindy breaks out some tape. Yep, after Eleanor and Chidi had sex in her house a couple times, she started taping it because she’s gross like that. The tape shows a post-coital Chidi and Eleanor telling each other that they love each other. At this point, Eleanor grabs the tape, calls for Chidi and Janet, and tells them they’re going back to the neighborhood.

Michael, feeling pressure from Vicky, enlists the advice of Jason of all people. Michael himself seems to sense this is a bad idea, but he goes with it anyway. Jason tells him a story about how his best friend started a rival dance crew back in Jacksonville, and this gives Michael an idea. When Chidi and Eleanor return and are reunited with Jason and Tahani, Michael tries to enlist their help to take down Vicky and the other blackmailing demons. He wants to start a new “dance crew” with the humans, believe it or not. Eleanor especially seems very skeptical of this, but we fade to black before we learn whether or not they will agree to help Michael.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

This Is Us 2.02: “A Manny-Splendored Thing”

“You know, Beth, that’s the only time in my mother’s entire life that he’s actually risked failure. The only time, do you know how hard that was for him?”
- Kevin

Have you finished reeling from last week’s closing moments yet, Pearson clan? No? Okay, me either! But, it’s time to move forward with our favorite family and see where this crazy journey takes us next. While we initially catch up with Rebecca and Jack as they get home after Rebecca tells Jack they will combat his drinking together, most of their story takes place when the Big Three are nine-year-olds when Jack kicked his drinking the first time. We briefly get a rehash of when Rebecca told Jack he needed to stop drinking and he promised he would for her. The next day, his boss calls him and yells at him for messing up some building permits. His co-worker suggests a “liquid lunch” but Jack begs off and almost goes to an AA meeting. But instead, he heads to the kids’ school and has a sweet little heart to heart with Kate. There’s a talent show that night and all three kids are participating. Kevin is doing an impression, Randall is doing a yo-yo trick and Kate is singing. But Rebecca is pushing Kate and she’s not happy about her mom’s pressure. Jack understands but says that Rebecca is just trying to make her better. At home, we see Rebecca pick out a floral print dress and alter it.

Things start to look up for Jack when instead of getting a drink at five at work, eh ends up going to a boxing gym to try and keep his promise to Rebecca. And at home, Kate is all excited to wear the dress that Rebecca made for her until she hears Rebecca singing in the shower (the same song Kate plans to sing). Kate doesn’t want to go on at the show and Kevin is pretty ridiculous (although Sophie laughs). The next morning, Jack explains to Rebecca that he kept his problem to himself back in the day but he can’t do it anymore so he goes and has a very honest conversation with Kate about his problem and that he hated to disappoint her. It has to be so hard to be a parent have these parts of yourself that you don’t want your children to know about. But, by episode’s end, Rebecca is dropping Jack off at an AA meeting.

In the present storyline, Kevin has been asked back to “The Man-ny” for a special episode and he’s invited the whole family to come see the taping of the show. Kate is stressing out about seeing Rebecca because every time her mother comes to visit, she’s always critiquing Kate and Toby is trying to impress Miguel. Everyone still kind of is lukewarm on the guy and until we know how it happened that he ended up with Rebecca, I’m with them on the cold shoulder treatment. Beth is also annoyed at having to go across country to watch Kevin tape a not-funny show. But hey, the flight will give Randall the chance to fill out the insanely detailed foster parent questionnaire. And then, there’s Sophie. Obviously, everyone knows she and Kevin are back together and even Kate seems cool with it. I want to see more about why Sophie initially didn’t want Kate knowing they were back together!

Slowly, one by one the Pearson family leaves the taping before Kevin’s done. First, Beth and Randall leave because Randall needs a walk and he confesses that it isn’t the fact his father had a drinking problem or that his biological father had a drug problem that’s holding him up from finishing the foster parent forms, it’s that Beth was so ready to answer “yes” to question about whether they are able and ready to potentially take a child with serious abuse issues. He is questioning whether they are actually ready for this and to put their girls through this. Beth reminds him that they’ve already talked about this but they need to table it until they get home. And then, Kate gets a call from the band she’d auditioned for because they need her to fill in for the lead who got strep. And then Toby and Rebecca leave to go support Kate. So, Miguel is left to watch Tess and Annie while Kevin freaks out that the writer of the episode changed the ending to humiliate Kevin. It is a pretty humiliating scene (he’s in a diaper crawling around like a baby) but everyone, Sophie included, is laughing at it. And then we get a scene I wasn’t expecting and it was also touching. Beth mistakenly ends up in Kevin’s dressing room and she rants ab it about Randall and then Kevin points out that he was the one who helped Randall to get Beth to go out with him in college. It was a nice way for the two of them to connect, even when they don’t always get along or really like each other. And this paves the way for Randall and Beth to tell the girls about their foster plans.

And then we get Kate singing at the club intercut with Jack at the boxing gym getting out his frustrations. We see him flash back to not only being a younger man watching his father drink but also the very first glimpse of his time in Vietnam, climbing out of a helicopter, rifle in hand. It was a really powerful montage and I think the writers and producers did a great job intercutting that. But then Kate has it out with her mom and Kate explains how she always felt not good enough for her mother and that her mom was trying to mold Kate to be the person Rebecca wanted to be. It was definitely harsh but I think Kate needed to get those feelings out in the open. And Toby totally stands by his woman, which Rebecca seems to respect. So, for the moment, the Pearsons seem to be in a good place but it is inevitable that calm is just waiting to deliver the storm.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Lucifer 3.01: “They’re Back, Aren’t They?”

“Well, God’s your father, Lucifer. And things are never simple with him. You don’t know for sure why your wings have returned.”
- Linda

Lucifer is back, ladies and gentlemen and he is one unhappy devil. Or is it angel? Because, as we saw at the end of last season, someone knocked him, dragged him to the desert and returned his wings. Once he makes it back to the city (he encounters an armed robber and returns the armored truck the guy stole while sending him running out into the wilderness in just his underwear, Lucifer begins to try and make up for things. He lavishes Linda with flowers and a hot guy and then asks her to cut off his wings (after he shows them to her). She refuses, as both his therapist and his friend. He’s going to have to find someone else to help him with that particular issue.

When he goes to the precinct he’s surprised no one was upset that he was gone. Chloe tells him he’s only been gone two days and she figured he was hiding from the new lieutenant (Tom Welling). Welling’s character, Lt. Pierce is kind of a tool to everyone. He reminds us that Dan had that corruption stuff in his past and he won’t shake Lucifer’s hand due to his nearly three-digit list of the lovers. And worst of all, he refers to Chloe as Lucifer’s partner. What an ass. But the team doesn’t have a lot of time to dwell on that because they’ve got a case! A hotel mogul is found dead in the desert when Lucifer drags Chloe out there to try and prove he’d been kidnapped. Meanwhile, Amenediel still doesn’t have his powers back and only starts to suspect that Lucifer got his wings when he finds a feather in Lucifer’s apartment when looking for towels (Lucifer called a masseuse for his big brother to help relax). I did highly enjoy the fact that Lucifer send Amenediel a text in only emojis about Mom being in her own universe. That was pretty hilarious actually, especially when Lucifer tells his brother he’ll text him later and Amenediel calls after him that it better be in words this time.

Thanks to Ella’s stellar police work, Chloe and Lucifer head to the hotel to talk with the dead guys’ business partner. They found a keychain with the guy’s print on it. He doesn’t think they are real cops and is extremely sexist toward Chloe. This only serves to piss Lucifer off and he chucks him over a balcony. When they get him back to the precinct, he explains that his friend got him in trouble for having a tiger and so he arranged to have his friend fake kidnapped in retaliation. Not a smart guy if you ask me. And when Chloe attempts to indulge Lucifer by trying to see if there’s a connection between their case and his own experience, he can’t even show her his devil face. I’m wondering if maybe he doesn’t have that ability anymore since he’s got his wings back or if it was just performance anxiety?

The gang eventually decides to run a sting on the company that the friend hired to kidnap the victim and Dan gets set as the bait. Well, until Lucifer decides to take things into his own hands and throw the operation into chaos. No one at the precinct is pleased with that. While they are running the sting, though, we get a nice little scene with Ella and Amenediel which was fun. I like that we are getting to see some different characters interact. We also get some nice continuity about Dan being upset that Charlotte doesn’t remember him. Well, when your body is hijacked by a celestial being, that probably is a reasonable side effect.

Lucifer manages to get himself kidnapped just as he’d hoped and the guys who are responsible are pretty pathetic. It’s nice to know at least that his super strength and mojo aren’t completely gone. Just his devil face and he actually demands to know how they got rid of it so it wasn’t performance anxiety after all. He ends up taping the heavy guy on top of the smaller guy to a chair to get them to admit there’s a third person involved. And that’s about the time the gang at the precinct figures out that one of the non-local PD they dealt with at the scene is in fact not a cop and is likely their killer. Lucifer busts down the guy’s door and is ready to deliver some serious punishment to this guy.

Before Chloe and Dan show up, Lucifer gets out of the guy that he was hired by someone named The Sinner Man to kidnap Lucifer and that when the guy got him, Lucifer already had his wings. He doesn’t know anything more than that and he figures because he didn’t complete the job (he says the Sinner Man is a big-time mob boss) he’s dead anyway. And in fact, he gets out on bail and a while later Lucifer and Chloe are called to the scene of his rather gruesome murder. In the meantime, Lucifer tells Amenediel that he’s got his wings back (and in fact they’ve grown back since he cut them off again) but he’s now not so sure that God is behind it. He fears this is something far more sinister and evil. I do like that Amenediel pointed out that if Lucifer could be redeemed then anyone could be. That’s definitely a theme the show has been toying with for two seasons so far. I think they’ve set up some very interesting mysteries and new dynamics with the characters and I can’t wait to see what they do with the rest of the season. From what I’ve heard, some of the standalone episodes are going to be pretty awesome and hilarious. Well done, “Lucifer” on a very entertaining premiere.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Summer TV Rewind: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 2.03: "All Signs Point to Josh . . . Or Is It Josh's Friend?"

“So you know what, I’m going to let destiny take the wheel like Jesus supposedly does sometimes.”
-Rebecca

The whole Greg/Rebecca/Josh situation had to come to a head sooner or later, and it happens in this episode. I pretty much saw this entire episode as a cry for help on Rebecca’s part. She is so off the rails it’s almost uncomfortable to watch. Scratch the almost, it was legit uncomfortable to watch. I’m not usually all that sympathetic to Josh, but my look of horror matched his with what Rebecca put him through in this episode. And then for her to go seriously after Greg right after that disaster – it just wasn’t right. Rebecca is seriously unwell and needs to get help. She’s seeing Dr. Akopian again, which is great, but whatever she’s doing isn’t working, because Rebecca seems more manic than ever, and she’s destroying the lives of people she cares about. I don’t mean this as judgment on Rebecca as a person at all – just expressing my sincere wish that the creative team eventually has her get the help she needs, because girl is spiraling downhill, and it’s painful to watch.

The beginning of the episode features a fantasy sequence where Rebecca imagines herself with both Josh and Greg. Josh and Rebecca are chatting in bed together when Greg stops by with a pizza and the three of them start spooning. In reality, Rebecca is talking to a polyamorous threesome she recruited on Craigslist. Apparently she wants to know if she should try dating both Josh and Greg. The polyamorous folks tell Rebecca that not being able to choose is different from polyamory. Being torn between two people isn’t going to be solved by polyamory. At this point, we get our first musical number of the episode (the only one actually, I believe). It’s called “The Math of Love Triangles,” and it’s an effective Marilyn Monroe pastiche. I’ve never seen a full Marilyn Monroe movie (I’ve seen clips), but maybe I should get on that.

Rebecca goes to see Dr. Akopian, who I think is pretty quickly becoming Worst Therapist Ever (and she even admits her own ineffectiveness in this episode – wondering if it’s even ethical to keep taking Rebecca’s money when Rebecca doesn’t listen to her at all). Rebecca tells Dr. Akopian that she wants a sign from the universe about whether she should date Greg or Josh. Dr. Alopian, understandably, is skeptical about this. Rebecca joyfully walks down the street after her appointment, looking for signs. Of course, she gets conflicting signs for both Josh and Greg. Later at work, Paula and Rebecca talk about how their periods typically synch up (they even have an app on their phone to track this). I can’t judge this because my next door office neighbor at work and I tend to synch up too (if you really wanted to know). They are both a little late, and Paula thinks it’s her fault because she’s been stressed over applying to law school. Rebecca suddenly starts not feeling well, and she hurls in the trash can. Rebecca thinks this means she must be pregnant, but Paula thinks it’s probably the bad quality egg salad sandwich Rebecca had for lunch. Rebecca’s not hearing that, though, and she’s convinced that “carrying Josh’s baby” is the sign from the Universe that she’s been waiting for.

Meanwhile, Greg has his own drama he’s dealing with. He arrives home to find his dad having a conversation with a Realtor about a deal closing. It turns out Greg’s dad sold their house. He offers Greg half the money from the sale to go to Emory. He is using the other half to buy into a swanky retirement community. Greg is reluctant to make this move. He says it’s because he’s supposed to avoid big changes during his recovery, but his dad suspects there’s something more to it, especially when he finds a picture of Rebecca among Greg’s stuff while they’re packing. Near the end of the episode, he straight-up tells Greg that he thinks Rebecca is bad for him. Regardless, though, he says the money is still Greg’s no matter how Greg decides to use it. Greg also talks to Guardrail, his AA sponsor, to see if he has any advice. Guardrail stresses that he can’t make Greg’s decision for him, but despite it being early in Greg’s recovery, he isn’t against Greg going to Emory. He even knows someone in Atlanta who can take over as Greg’s sponsor.

And soon after discovering she’s “pregnant,” Rebecca goes even more off the rails. She texts him repeatedly to come home, and when he does arrive at the townhouse, Rebecca immediately jumps him and tries to make out with him. Then he sees her prenatal vitamins. When questioned, Rebecca says that yes, she’s pregnant, but she has to go pee. When she returns, Rebecca announces that she is having her period, so apparently she isn’t pregnant after all. And she wants to know if Josh is up for some period sex (we see her start to sing a song about this, but she gets cut off). Josh looks absolutely horrified, and he tells Rebecca he’s leaving for good. And he follows that up by actually walking out the door. I don’t really blame him for that. Rebecca is clearly unhinged and needs help, but I don’t think Josh is really equipped to help her. He can barely take care of himself.

At work, Rebecca tells Paula what happened with Josh. Paula thinks this means Rebecca should be alone for a while, and Rebecca decides to take a walk to think this over. When Rebecca leaves, Paula makes an emergency call to her husband and asks him to meet her at home. She tells him she thinks she’s pregnant. Her husband is supportive and makes it clear he still wants Paula to follow her dreams and go to law school, but Paula is dejected. She’s convinced she’s fate’s bitch, basically. Back at the office, Darryl has good news for Paula. He knows the dean of the law school she applied to, and he got her accepted via rolling admission. This means she can start school right away. He arranged a whole office party for her and everything, and he gives her a gift of a pair of Nine West heels. The whole thing means a lot to Paula, even moreso now that she might not be able to go to school after all. She starts crying and leaves, but somehow she still won’t say that Darryl is her best friend! By the end of the episode, we learn that Paula is indeed pregnant.

Greg conveniently happens to be taking a walk in the Park while Rebecca is (or is Rebecca deliberately walking where she knows Greg will be?), and they see each other. They have some banter, and Greg ends up kissing her. I wanted to scream at Greg to stay away from Rebecca and scream at Rebecca to stop messing with Greg. Rebecca tells Greg she wants to try again, but this time they would take things slow. If he’s interested, she wants him to meet her on the bridge in the park the next day, and they’ll go have dinner at Olive Garden together. If Rebecca wasn’t obviously using Greg as a Josh substitute, I would be all about this. As it is, I just think run, Greg, run! The next day, Rebecca is waiting on the bridge. A happy Greg approaches, but as he does, he sees a danger sign, remembers his father’s words, and hesitates.

Eventually, Rebecca goes home to wallow, and when she wakes up the next morning, there is still no text (or any other communication) from Greg. Then she gets a Snapchat alert, and she immediately runs off. It’s quickly apparent why. Greg and his crew are gathered at the airport because Greg is about to leave for Atlanta and Emory. He’s saying his goodbyes to each of the guys, and it’s actually a very touching scene. His goodbye with Josh is the best, though. They’ve been friends for practically their whole lives, so they quickly put the Rebecca drama behind them and genuinely have a moment. As the guys are leaving, Rebecca is rushing to the airport. Rebecca rushes into the airport and stops Greg at the escalator. Will Rebecca have her perfect rom com moment and convince Greg to stay? Or will Greg do what’s best for him and finally attend the “Harvard of the South.” We’ll find out soon enough.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

This Is Us 2.01: “A Father’s Advice”

“Sometimes in marriage someone has to be the one to push to make the big moves. And oftentimes in our marriage it was your father. Our marriage wasn’t perfect, it’s true. But none are. And your father wasn’t perfect either. But he was pretty damn close. As close as they come.”
- Rebecca

It’s been a long summer, Pearson clan but we are finally back for season 2 of “This Is Us” and I cannot wait to see what the writers have in store for us this year. When last we left the family, everyone was in a bit of a state of transition. In the present, Kate and Toby were moving in together in LA, Kevin had gone back to LA to shoot a film while Sophie stayed in New York (they are still together at this point) and Randall had quit his job and told Beth he wanted to adopt a baby. In the past, Jack and Rebecca have had their epic fight and Jack has left to go stay with Miguel and the teenage Big Three don’t know what’s going on just yet.

In the past, we see Rebecca pick up the kids the next morning and she and Jack try to explain about their separation. Kate immediately tries to side with her dad, saying she’ll go stay with him and Miguel but Jack shuts that down. The boys don’t take it much better and when Jack insists they will be fine, Rebecca isn’t ready for even hand holding. As she puts it, she needs to feel something else other than disappointment first. I have to say, this show always makes me teary eyed and this week was no different. But what did it for me is that we hear old William narrating a poem from his book that he left for Randall and it’s beautiful, as one would expect. A little later, Jack is at Miguel’s, relaying what happened and all he wants is for his friend to tell him everything will be okay. Miguel comes through eventually but Jack just looks so sad, sitting on the couch waiting for the phone the ring. Rebecca isn’t really handling things much better as she drags the kids to a movie despite there being zero interest. And as the family sits and watches the movie, we see that Randall had left the party and gone back home, catching part of his parents’ fight so he’s got information the other kids don’t. And as we know, Kate likely feel responsible because she urged her father to go be with her mother. And man, Jack is trying to find ways to win Rebecca back and it’s just not working. He goes to one of the clubs she sang at and tries to convince the owner to book Rebecca as a solo act but he refuses. The look on his face just makes your heart break. And then the big reveal comes. When Rebecca tries to get him to go home—they have things to work on but that’s okay—he tells her that he’s been drunk for weeks and he can’t go home until he’s got a handle on it. She convinces him to get in the car and then we cut to sometime in the future (it’s unclear although we know that the Big Three were seventeen at the time) to find the house a gutted mess by a fire and Jack’s wedding ring in the dash of Rebecca’s car.

In the present, the Big Three are celebrating their 37th birthdays. And while things may look good on the outside, there are chips to be found. Beth is kind of giving Randall a bit of a cold shoulder. Whether it’s the fact she had to go back to work to support the family while Randall stayed home with the girls or the whole baby fever/adoption thing, it’s unclear. But she’s just not thrilled with him. Kevin seems to be having some success with filming the movie but Sophie is stuck in New York taking care of her MS-stricken mother. Which means the double date with Toby and Kate is now an awkward trio grouping. And boy, is Toby not happy. Not having siblings, I don’t quite understand the bond that they can sometimes have but I know enough about twins to know they share a certain extra connection which is evidenced by their shorthand when Kevin just bursts into Kate and Toby’s place while they are in the middle of getting sexy. As Kate sits waiting to audition for a band, she sees all the pretty, skinny girls and flashes back to that awful day at the pool in her care bear bikini and she walks out. That night, she and Kevin are doing their twin thing again and when Toby makes a toast to tell Kate how proud is of her, she admits she bailed on the audition. He’s even more angry when he finds out that she told Kevin first. Toby is really having a tough time with Kate and Kevin’s relationship. I think them being back in the same city in LA they are sort of falling back into old habits of their codependence. Toby and Kevin get into it and Kate overhears. She decides that she doesn’t need anyone to coddle her or push her. She’s going back to the audition to wipe the floor with the competition. And damn girl can sing! She doesn’t get the part but it’s not due to her age or her weight and it’s something she can work on so she’s happy. We also get a heart to heart with Kevin and Toby where Kevin admits he kind of sucks at life but he didn’t have to try to be Kate’s brother. Hell, she told him that Jack had died.

At the adoption meeting, Beth finally gets to let some of her feelings out. She rants that Randall wants to adopt a little boy to honor his fathers’ sacrifices and commitment. Randall makes things worse by telling her that his longing isn’t going to go away so she needs to get her head around things. OH boy, he should not have said that. He goes to see Rebecca and she tells him that she didn’t want to take home another baby at first. But Jack kept pushing her, determined that baby Randall was meant to be theirs and now, obviously, she’s grateful he pushed. That may have worked with their marriage but Beth is too strong-willed to let Randall just push his desires onto her if she really doesn’t agree with them. In brief flashback, we see Beth rant to William a little about how Randall pushes people on her and how it frustrates her. Randall eventually comes to the realization that he doesn’t want to be his parents so he needs to adjust his plan. Beth might have a thought or two on that front. She takes him to William’s favorite spot (sort of in the hood) and says that if they’re going to go the adoption route, they should take in an older child that no one else would want. I like Beth’s idea and I suspect Randall will quickly come around to it, too.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Game of Thrones 6.06: "Blood of My Blood"

“I’m not angry at you. I’m angry that horrible people can treat good people that way and get away with it.”
-Gilly

As you might expect from the episode’s title, this episode really was all about family. In fact, the episode really fit with a theme better than most. Family influenced pretty much everything that happened, which I guess isn’t all that unusual for “Game of Thrones,” but the title especially made it stand out to me. Families were fighting and characters were remembering families lost. There’s also quite a family reunion at the end. When “Game of Thrones” can be very fragmented what with the many characters and the diverse plots in which they are involved, it was nice to see an episode that seemed to really be crafted well around a theme and hold up as a piece of the whole. The developments in this episode seemed to really move the plot forward in new ways, too. I think the show is stronger for having an end point to work towards now. It’s also stronger for not having to be quite as beholden to the “A Song of Ice and Fire” books, although I have a feeling both the books and the TV show will end up in roughly the same place.

We begin this episode just about where the last one left off. Meera is still trying to drag a catatonic Bran through the forest, and the white walkers are catching up. Bran now appears to have a bunch of history downloaded into his brain, and we experience him having visions of many events that occurred earlier in the series. Meera can’t outrun the walkers, though. Just as they are about to overtake Bran and Meera, a mysterious figure on horseback arrives on the scene and helps fight off the walkers with this pretty cool flailing fire weapon thingy. Later, as the trio are gathered around a fire, recovering from a fight, the mysterious man reveals himself to be none other than Benjen Stark, Bran’s uncle who was lost north of the Wall while serving as a Ranger in the Night’s Watch. Bran, understandably, wants to know what happened to Uncle Benjen. He says that he was indeed stabbed by a White Walker while ranging, but the Children of the Trees saved him, and he wasn’t turned.

Next up, it’s time for a Tarly Meet-the-Parents session. Sam’s plan is to drop Gilly and Little Sam off with his (pretty terrible) family while he goes off to study to be a Maester. Lady Tarly, Sam’s mom, is very friendly to Gilly and Little Sam. She’s extremely happy to meet her “grandson” (of course none of the Tarlys know that Little Sam isn’t actually Sam’s biological son). Sam’s sister also seems happy to see everyone. She instantly takes Gilly under her wing and tries to find a fancy dress for her among her wardrobe. She’s got to be dressed up for family dinner, after all. When it is dinner time, Papa Tarly just wants to talk about “manly” things like hunting. He’s disappointed that Sam is still “soft” and cares the most about books. Gilly tries to defend him, talking about creatures Sam had to kill in the North, but she ends up revealing she’s a Wildling. Papa Tarly hates Wildlings, so he is not happy with this news, and dinner ends abruptly after a big family argument. Privately, Sam apologizes to Gilly for how awful his family is. He’s about to just leave, but then he changes his mind. He leaves all right, but he takes Gilly, Little Sam, and his father’s prized sword with him.

We next head for King’s Landing, where the High Sparrow is still really in charge. He lets Tommen see Margaery. Which is kind of ridiculous considering Margaery is Tommen’s wife and all. In their interaction, Margaery seems super religious now, but she’s sneaky and power-hungry like her mother-in-law, so I’m not buying it. Meanwhile, Jaime lets the Tyrell family army into King’s Landing and accompanies them to the Sept where the High Sparrow and his minions have been hanging out. Unfortunately, Jaime’s gambit fails. Margaery has convinced Tommen to work with the Church now, and Tommen, who is King after all, is totally cool with the High Sparrow controlling his capital city. He kicks Jaime out of the Kingsguard and assigns him to head up the army that is going to help Walder Frey take back Riverrun.

We see Walder Frey, played by the always entertaining David Bradley (yay replacement First Doctor!) for the first time in a while in this episode. He is very pissed off at his sons for losing Riverrun to the Blackfish. He’s holding Edmure Tully (the Blackfish’s brother) hostage, however, and he is not going to hesitate to use him to get Riverrun back. That’s also where Jaime and his supposed new army come into play. In King’s Landing, Jaime tells Cersei about his fate. Instead of attacking Riverrun, he wants to kill the High Sparrow. Cersei doesn’t think this is the best course of action, and she tells Jaime he should be at the head of an army where he belongs. And then they make out. Because twincest never dies, apparently.

Across the sea in Braavos, Arya is still working up to killing Lady Crane. She watches the players again, this time a scene that recreates that beautiful time when Joffrey died of poisoned wine at his wedding. After the show, Lady Crane catches Arya snooping around backstage, and they have a pleasant conversation. Lady Crane tells Arya about how she ran off to join the players at a young age. Arya likes Lady Crane, so when Lady Crane is about to drink the poisoned wine, Arya knocks it out of her hand and saves her. The Waif sees this and reports back to Jaqen, who is not happy. He basically gives the Waif permission to kill Arya. Arya knows her time with the Faceless Men is over, and she goes and retrieves Needle for the fight to come.

Meanwhile, in Dothraki territory, Dany and Daario argue about what to do next. He is skeptical about her plan to rule the Seven Kingdoms, because he thinks she’s a conquerer more than a ruler. Dany, meanwhile, senses something on the wind, and she goes ahead, telling Daario to stay behind with the Khalessar. Daario is about to betray his orders and follow her when Dany comes back riding a dragon – it’s Drogon, no less. She gives a huge speech, reminiscent of one Khal Drogo would give the Khalessar, about how they’re going to cross the sea in wooden horses and fulfill Khal Drogo’s promise to her. Of course, the crowd goes wild.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Good Place 2.01: “Everything Is Great!”

“You gotta trust me buddy, I would never put you in a painful situation.”
- Michael

This double episode premiere of season 2 of “The Good Place” did a lot and not very much plot wise all at the same time. I wasn’t a huge fan of the reveal at the end of the first season about them being in the Bad Place so maybe I’m just biased. We start the season off with Eleanor having met her soul mate who keeps running off to the gym whenever she tries to talk to him about well…anything. It’s very odd. She also finds the note and can’t figure it out. Slowly, Eleanor almost runs into the core four. Out on a walk with Michael, she runs into Jason and he gives her a piece of a bicycle that she thinks is a talisman of some sort and then at the neighborhood welcome party, she finds Chidi.

As we see Eleanor start to wonder what is going on, we also get some insight into Michael and the rest of the people in the “good place”—aka all the other demons. I will admit seeing him try to rally the troops is kind of amusing. He also gets tongue-lashed by his boss who is obviously not meant to be a nice guy. Michael has one more try to really show that his vision can work or else he’s going to be recycled. It also appears that a lot of people aren’t happy about their role changes. The woman who played “real Eleanor” last time, is now a pizza shop lady named Denise. And one of the gay guys asks repeatedly if he can bite our core four. Michael instructs his people to ensure that Eleanor gets wasted at the party because he’s going to make her give a long speech and he’s planning to pull from her speech for the chaos the next morning (it seems they are sticking with some of the same things from last season).

Unfortunately for them, Eleanor is more interested in figuring out who Chidi is and why he’s important to her. We also see some of the torture the rest of the core four is put through and I will admit it was clever and built on their individual insecurities and issues. Chidi was made to choose between two soul mates and when he was going to choose the one he really felt like he almost had a connection with (this is Chidi after all and he can’t commit to much of anything), Micheal bursts in and says that the woman Chidi didn’t connect with is his soul mate. Bummer man but it definitely fits with his character flaws. I mean, he hated to have to choose and would have preferred someone else make the decision but he clearly wasn’t happy with the decision that was made. And Tahani is paired with a short guy in a small house (with a rather hideous self-portrait of her sister) who prefers comfort to style. Michael even gets rid of the second floor of the small house when Tahani’s soul mate says they don’t need all the space. It was fun to see her squirm. And Jason, he’s paired with another Buddhist monk who will never leave his side (hence the bike sabotage). I will admit it was funny to see him mirroring the other guy because he had no idea what he was doing. It really was a good punishment and personal torture for Jason. Not being able to have his space and not being able to talk.

Tahani in particular is having a bad go of it, especially when she agrees to go ‘comfy” and ends up in an oversized denim top and cargo pants with Crocs. Seriously, no one thinks that’s a good look ever! So when Eleanor is pouring herself some shots (she abandons them when she hears Chidi’s name), Tahani takes them and gets really drunk. When it’s time for Eleanor’s big speech, Tahani busts in all drunk and ends up knocking something over and starting a fire. Eleanor and Chidi manage to slip away and Jason wanders off and bonds a bit with Janet while the rest of the neighborhood regroups. Michael is furious that things didn’t go according to plan. And he’s even madder when he realizes all of the humans are missing!

Of course, everyone ends up at Eleanor’s house. Chidi is trying to wrap his brain around the fact they’d clearly met before in the ‘good place” and that she doesn’t belong there. He then comes to the realization that he doesn’t belong there either. Enter Michael and a bunch of soul mates that are “worried sick” about their human halves. This keys Eleanor in to the deception and she calls Michael’s bluff far sooner than he expected. He didn’t know about the note Eleanor hid in Janet’s mouth the last time. So he takes action faster this time and we start back up again. Michael hasn’t told his boss about the third try (for obvious reasons).

I’m concerned that we basically moved through all of season one in about 40 minutes and that we’re already on our third reset of the plot and characters. How long can this really go on without being repetitive and boring? And what happens ultimately when they come to the realization yet again and Michael runs out of chances with his boss to try this out? I mean, do they get sent to the real version of the Bad Place? Do they show that they’ve improved themselves enough to legitimately score a spot in the Good Place? It isn’t clear at all from what we’ve seen in the premiere and I’m a little annoyed we don’t have a clear direction this season. The show was so fun and creative the first season. I don’t want to see it fall into the sophomore slump! The acting caliber is too good for that to be the case.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2017: The Aftermath

“I thought you loved morally compromised anti-heroes!”
-Stephen Colbert

The 69th Primetime Emmy Awards telecast is in the books, and to say it was a memorable telecast would be an understatement. With our current national turmoil and Stephen Colbert as host, politics was front and center. There was a rather controversial politico cameo in the show’s opener, which I’ll get to in just a minute. The winners of the night were, for the most part, satisfying. Many of my picks from Sunday’s “The Players” post won their awards. Donald Glover actually won two awards. How exciting is that! The slate of winners was satisfyingly diverse, representing many unique perspectives. The show also moved at a good clip, finishing just a few minutes after 11:00. Overall, with the exception of the misstep that was the political cameo I alluded to, I would say that Stephen Colbert’s turn as host was a success.

Colbert opened the show with a partly pre-taped, partly live song and dance number about how television is a great distraction from the state of the world right now. He entered the stage with backup dancers dressed as Handmaids in red robes and white hats. Colbert pointed out how upset Donald Trump has been over the years with the fact that his shows never won an Emmy, so he half-jokingly blamed Trump’s current Presidential reign of terror on the Emmy voters. The crescendo of the Trump-ified opener was none other than Sean Spicer himself appearing on a rolling podium to declare the Emmy audience the biggest ever. At first I laughed out of the shock of it, but as I thought about it more, the Spicer appearance didn’t seem that funny. Up until very recently, he was enabling the destruction of our country and blatantly lying to the American people. It’s soon for that to be funny. If Melissa McCarthy as Spicer had rolled up, that might have been funny. The real Spicer, though? Not as much.

There were a lot of winners that made me happy, were groundbreaking, or both. John Lithgow won for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Crown,” and while his win wasn’t groundbreaking, I thought it was much deserved, as Lithgow brought gravitas to the role. Even Lithgow couldn’t escape the political climate, however, as he thanked the real Winston Churchill for demonstrating what government service should look like. Kate McKinnon also won for her work on “Saturday Night Live” for a second year in a row, including her work as Hillary Clinton. McKinnon thanked the First Lady for her example of grace. One of the presenters of that particular Emmy, however, was Gina Rodriguez, and I wondered to myself why she has never won. Gina Rodriguez is a fabulous actress who brings such heart to the title character of “Jane the Virgin,” and she deserves all the awards.

Donald Glover won not just one, but two Emmys. Both for his creation, “Atlanta.” He won Outstanding Director of a Comedy Series for directing the episode “B.A.N.” which was an experimental episode that took the form of a show on a BET-like network, complete with commercials. He also won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his portrayal of Earn Marks on “Atlanta.” It was great to see someone who has worked so hard in the industry get some recognition. He had the distinction of being only the second Black man to ever win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Another favorite actor of mine (he played Eric Northman on TrueBlood…enough said), Alexander Skarsgard, won for his work on “Big Little Lies.” I haven’t seen all of “Big Little Lies” yet – I have only watched the premiere so far, but Alexander Skarsgard is a beautiful man, so I admit being shallow. I mostly just enjoyed watching him give his speech.

There were also a few random moments throughout the telecast that struck me as especially entertaining. I knew ahead of time that Rachel Bloom, of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” fame, would be doing some sort of song-and-dance number. Her song-and-dance ended up being a bit to introduce the accountants of all people. It was a fun little number that was vintage Rachel Bloom. Though I think they could have had more fun with an “our accountants are better than the Oscars’ accountants” angle. There was also a bit where Stephen Colbert interviewed “Emmy” herself, played by Ru Paul dressed up as the Emmy statuette and sassy as ever. The In Memoriam segment was also rather memorable. Chris Jackson of “Hamilton” fame killed it with his song (I’m not sure what the actual song was). While I was watching it, I realized that many people had died since last year’s Emmys that I had completely forgotten about, like Mary Tyler Moore. Then I remembered that oh yeah, 2016 was basically shit (and yes, I know Mary Tyler Moore actually died in January 2017, but this past winter in general, there were just so many celebrity deaths).

As for the big two awards, Outstanding Comedy Series was won by “Veep.” As you know from my post on Sunday, I was rooting for “Atlanta,” but I can’t be too upset about the Armando Iannucci-created political comedy winning. I’ve liked the few episodes of it that I’ve seen. “The Handmaid’s Tale” won for Outstanding Drama Series, and while it wasn’t my top choice, I was okay with that, too. Between that and “Big Little Lies” winning for Outstanding Limited Series, it was a night to celebrate and fight for women. I haven’t been able to stomach the idea of watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” yet. I read the book the weekend the travel ban first started and everyone was rushing to the airports to protest, and it was just a little too real. It continues to be a little too real. I am glad, however, that such important work has been recognized.