Sunday, March 26, 2017

Once Upon a Time 6.14: “Page 23”

“I care because this started with me. I showed you your future with the pixie dust, the one with the lion tattoo. You should be with him. He’s still out there.”
- Tinkerbell

It would appear that the final showdown between Regina and the Evil Queen is at hand. With only a handful of episodes left in the season, I suppose they needed to wrap this plotline up so they could focus on Gideon and Emma. I still stand by my solution of just ask Emma for help but whatever. Gideon is stubborn like his papa so that probably won’t happen even though it makes perfect sense to do.

In the Enchanted Forest that was, we see Regina as the Evil Queen still hunting for Bandit Snow White. She kills one of her guards when she finds that they’ve been duped. She claims to care for the peasants, saying Snow doesn’t, when who should appear but Tinkerbell. Apparently, she’s managed to come back from Neverland or maybe she hasn’t gone there yet. Either way, I’m happy to have Rose McIver back on my screen a week early (iZombie returns next week and of course we’ll be covering it). Tink tells Regina that she feels responsible and that Regina is just scared to find love because she doesn’t think she deserves it. I think Regina is just full of hate and anger and isn’t thinking straight but that’s just me. It would seem Regina’s dad is going to try and help his baby girl get what she wants. He’s got a spell book that belonged to Cora with some mystical map that can lead them to an object that will take them to Snow White. Sounds convoluted but she’s thrilled he wants to help! She’s not so thrilled when he leads her to Cupid’s Arrow with the hope of finding love. She just wants revenge! So, she enchants the arrow to lead her to the one she hates most. I have a feeling it may backfire on her a bit. As predicted, the arrow leads Regina and her father back to the castle where it lands in a wardrobe and shows Regina her own reflection. She smashes the mirror which plays into some interesting imagery in the present.

Back in Storybrooke, while Emma and the good guys fawn over her new engagement ring, the Evil Queen and Robin are teaming up. He doesn’t quite trust her (I mean she’s kind of insulting to him but in a way we saw back in season 3). She then takes him to the cemetery and makes him dig up a box that has the shears that everyone was so hot to trot about earlier in the season. I swear I thought those got destroyed or something. But no, it turns out the Evil Queen is going to use them on herself to sever her connection to Regina so that final battle can be fought and only one can become the victor (if I’m honest, I’m pretty sure Regina’s going to win). While Hook confides in Captain Nemo (who is on his way off on some new adventure with Hook’s baby brother in tow…wait they can’t stay long enough for the wedding? I mean what is Henry going to be Hooks’ best man? That’d be some lame bachelor party if the Best Man can’t get drunk!), the Evil Queen is paying a visit to Henry. She takes his Author pen and hands over Page 23 (hence the episode title) with a note which basically says come alone and fight me one last time or the hottie archer gets it. Despite Emma’s offer to fix the mess, Regina is determined to end this on her own terms before anyone else gets hurt.

Robin is trying to convince the Evil Queen to let him out of his restraints (at first I thought it was just for show but she’s really just having fun messing with him) and to go off with him somewhere and start fresh. But she isn’t interested in his proposal. We also see Hook try to burn his memory of killing David’s father. Emma (miraculously) sees both the memory and what Hook was about to do. They have some words and she ends up giving the ring back because the man she agreed to marry would have leaned on her for support and not kept things a secret. Well, that lasted about as long as Barry and Iris on the Flash! And apparently, he’s now become good at running away because Hook decides he needs to find himself and join Nemo and the gang on their adventure (plus side he gets to spend some quality time with his brother?).

Regina makes it to the Mayor’s Office where the Evil Queen actually uses the shears to sever their connection. It was a cool effect, I’ll give them that. And then, the sword fighting begins! They are both getting their licks in but Regina gets the upper hand. She restrains the Evil Queen and even starts to crush the villain’s heart when she sees her reflection in some broken glass, harkening back to all those years ago. Instead of giving in to revenge and hatred, she’s going to embrace hope and love. She does some weird heart-to-heart magic and shares some of her love and takes some of the Queen’s darkness. For the first time in Regina’s life, she accepts the good and the bad and she truly loves herself (and so should the Evil Queen). I have to admit I did not see that coming as the resolution to their storyline but in a way I think it fits. Embracing all parts of yourself is a good message to send to viewers. I just hope the Evil Queen decides to take Robin and go somewhere else, so at least one Regina gets her happy ending with the man with the lion tattoo. Thanks to Henry, the Evil Queen ends up in the wish realm with Robin where they both get their fresh starts.

After a little pep talk from Snow (even though she doesn’t realize she’s giving him one), Hook goes to tell Nemo he isn’t going with them. And then the ship starts to submerge and we find Gideon has sent off the crew to keep Hook out of Storybrooke so the pirate can’t meddle in the Dark One’s son’s plans. Oh boy, this is going to get complicated!

Fresh off the Boat 3.13: "Neighbors With Attitude"

“You got a child kidnapped? That is the sweetest thing you’ve ever done for me.”

“Neighbors With Attitude” felt like a kind of inconsequential episode of “Fresh off the Boat,” but it was entertaining enough. Jessica has to deal with the fact that the more forceful aspects of her personality make people not always want to work with her. Now I’m usually all about pushing back on the “bossy” label and pointing out that assertive men are usually praised, but I don’t enjoy working with people who are always convinced they are right and aren’t open to other ideas, regardless of their gender. Jessica does make baby steps towards trying to become more of a team player throughout the course of the episode, but given the episode’s resolution, I’m not convinced it will stick. Jessica’s going to Jessica, after all. Loosely tied together in a Valentine’s Day theme, we also see Eddie struggle with nerves before his first kiss with Alison. It was an amusing enough plot, even if it didn’t truly fit with the episode’s main plot.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and Jessica and Louis are looking forward to another romantic evening of doing their taxes. The open the mailbox hoping to find the last stray 1099 forms that they’re going to need, but instead, they find a full, uneaten pastrami sandwich. This is indeed weird (if not potentially delicious, although if the sandwich had been sitting there for a while, maybe not so much) situation, so they go to the police. The police officer they talk to doesn’t seem especially interested. He thinks rogue pastrami sandwiches are more of a neighborhood watch issue. Jessica loves the idea of a neighborhood watch (because it gives her nosy neighbor tendencies official worth), so she proposes it at the next HOA meeting. Deidre says it’s a great idea and they’ll start really planning at the next HOA meeting. Jessica is all excited, researching ideas for the Neighborhood Watch, when she discovers there are a bunch of Neighborhood Watch signs already out in the neighborhood. She tries to prove to Deidre her usefulness by speed solving Where’s Waldo, but Deidre says it’s not Jessica’s skills that are in doubt. She’s just not a team player.

Meanwhile, Eddie and his pals are also anticipating Valentine’s Day. It’s the first year that they’ll be old enough to go to a dance that a local scout troop hosts every year. They’re excited, because there will be plenty of dark corners of the JCC in which to make out with girls. Eddie insists that while he hasn’t kissed Alison, he did kiss a bunch of girls back in DC, so it will be no big deal. Later, though, Eddie goes to visit Trent and expresses his nervousness at kissing Alison. He ends up admitting that he never did actually kiss any girls in DC. Trent has his own secret. He is actually a Sparrow Scout, even though he constantly rails about how stupid the Scouts are with their flat management structure. The two boys talk through Eddie’s problem a bit. Eddie has built up in his mind how he wants his first kiss to be, and that’s why he’s been so hesitant. He wants it to be perfect like the kiss between Tupac and Janet Jackson in “Poetic Justice.” Trent promises to be Eddie’s wingman.

Louis is determined to help Jessica reach her goal of becoming involved with the Neighborhood Watch. He and Evan put her in stressful situations where she has to act like a team player. They simulate situations like somebody taking credit for one of Jessica’s ideas or somebody suggesting an idea Jessica doesn’t like. When they think she’s ready, Jessica takes her case to the HOA. She has a three point plan for increased neighborhood security (cameras, patrols, and a tip line) that she really wants to present. Deidre shuts her down completely, though. She insists that the signs posted throughout the neighborhood are enough, because there haven’t been any more sandwich incidents, and she calls the Neighborhood Watch meeting to a close immediately. On the way home, Louis and Evan talk about how unfair the situation is (and Evan steams about another HOA member not reimbursing him $12 for something even though she bought new sandals). Louis ponders what would happen if things started going wrong in the neighborhood a little more often. He soon (sort of) gets his wish. Police are all around their new neighbor’s house, who happens to be a single mom with a son. Their frog lawn statue is gone, and so is the son (the statue was a hide-a-key).

It’s the night of the big dance, and Eddie, Trent, and Alison roll up to the JCC. All does not, however, go as planned. The Robin Scouts at the ticket table, who remember very well one of Trent’s rants about their flat management structure, ban the group from the dance. Trent tries to save the evening by suggesting they go to a diner, where Eddie and Alison can share a milkshake. At first this seems like a great idea. Alison is enjoying herself, and Eddie is about to deploy the candy “Kiss Me” heart that he intends to be the precursor to the actual kiss. Eddie makes the rather strange choice to eat the heart, though, and he starts choking on it. Trent wants to use his Scout abilities to save Eddie, so he rushes in. Instead of the Heimlich, he tries giving CPR, and somehow that works. Later, Eddie apologizes to Alison for ruining the night, and she points out that the night isn’t over. They end up sharing their first kiss, and Eddie is satisfied.

Louis tells Jessica about the missing child situation, and Jessica immediately wants to go to the tape. It turns out that even though she was turned down by Neighborhood Watch, she decided to install some security cameras anyway. She retrieves the tapes, and before she can see what happened, Louis admits to stealing the hide-a-key. Jessica is touched that Louis would do such a thing to help her follow her dreams, so she’s going to help him get out of this mess. They discover by watching the video that Marvin was on the scene around the time of the disappearance. He tells Louis and Jessica that the kid couldn’t find the key, so he was going to go to the mall to get a new one. Louis and Jessica head to the mall and find the missing kid in the food court. As a reward, Deidre offers Jessica the Neighborhood Watch committee. Jessica accepts and quickly slams the door in the face of Deidre and her chief toady.

There was also a small plot running through this episode about Grandma Huang’s money. As part of the overall family discussion on neighborhood safety, Grandma mentions that she hides all of her money in the house, and she’s hidden it so well that it’s absolutely safe. This is naturally a sort of “Challenge Accepted” moment for Emery, who makes it his mission to try and find Grandma’s money. Eventually Emery finds some money in Evan’s underwear drawer, and Grandma lets him think he has succeeded. In the resolution of the whole incident with Deidre’s toady who wouldn’t pay Evan his $12, however, we learn that Emery actually found Evan’s secret stash of money. Oops! Grandma is still the Huang family woman of mystery. As it should be.

No Tomorrow 1.13: “No Sleep ‘Til Reykjavik”

“If I followed you to DC, I’d regret losing this opportunity. Just like you would if you followed me. So, let’s agree not to regret anything. Because I don’t regret a thing so far.”

Since this was likely the final episode of “No Tomorrow” ever, I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it. It ended with some pretty major changes in the lives of all the characters, and there were a few really nice character moments that lend the episode some sense of finality, but there are two major problems. We don’t know if efforts to stop the asteroid will be successful, and Evie and Xavier aren’t together. There are multiple bizarre twists of fate to keep Evie and Xavier apart – the types of bizarre twists that always cause me anxiety when watching rom coms (and I do enjoy a good rom com once in a while). I’m sad that we’ll probably never get to see Evie and Xavier move past those twists, and I’m also sad that we will never see definitively what happens with the asteroid. After this episode, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the asteroid is coming, but we’ll never know if Xavier successfully prevents it. Ah well, I suppose I should be grateful that “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Jane the Virgin” will both be getting an additional season. You can’t win them all.

This episode picks up pretty much right where the last one left off. Tyra DeNeil Fields (the Neil DeGrasse Tyson analogue of the “No Tomorrow”-verse) and some goons are in Timothy’s house, and they’re threatening him. Xavier’s calculations check out, and they need to find him. Tyra warns Timothy not to tell anyone about this, because it could incite mass panic. This, clearly, causes Timothy to panic. His new boss/girlfriend Talia stops by his house to check on him, and she can tell he’s out of sorts. He doesn’t tell her what is going on, but she suggests they try some psychedelic tea. It has some pretty interesting effects, for sure.

Anyway, convinced that his asteroid calculations were wrong, Xavier wanted Jesse to drive him to the airport so that he and Evie could go to Iceland together. Instead, however, Jesse has knocked Xavier out with horse tranquilizers and he’s passed out in the back of an RV while Jesse is driving. When Xavier comes to, Jesse explains that he’s driving Xavier to Houston for the NASA meeting he was planning to go to before he found out about the calculations. Xavier is upset with Jesse because he doesn’t think the meeting is necessary anymore, and he really just wants to see Evie and go to Iceland with her. Jesse insists, however, that they’re going to Texas. There’s just one problem. Xavier’s pants are missing, and they have his ID in them. They start retracing their steps, and they are just about to recover the pants when a police officer stops them, and they are arrested.

Meanwhile, Evie is on the flight to Iceland sitting next to an empty seat. Across the aisle from her, however, is a hot Médecins Sans Frontières doctor named Graham. They hit it off because they are consulting the same guidebook, which they each meticulously researched. Graham offers to meet up with Evie to see some of the sights, but Evie insists this needs to be a solo journey. There’s a bit throughout their conversation about sleeping passengers who drool on Graham during the flight (one is his original seat neighbor and the other is Evie), and I really can’t decide if the Evie part of that equation is cute or gross. Xavier tries calling Evie from jail, but naturally he just gets her voicemail, since she’s on her way to Iceland and all. When she gets to Iceland, however, Evie is upset that it doesn’t appear that Xavier has called her. Throughout her travels, she keeps running into Graham. Their identical suitcases (another product of their mutual penchant for fastidious research) get switched at the airport, and when they go to take them to the hotel concierge, they realize they are in rooms across the hall from each other. Then Evie is solo dining when the hostess asks if they can seat another solo diner with her. Of course it’s Graham. Graham isn’t with Evie when she finally sees the Northern Lights, though. The awesome sight makes her cry.

Back in Washington, in a kind of stupidly madcap C plot, Deirdre, Hank, and Kareema have all started their new jobs at the Tacoma branch of CyberMart. Deirdre wants her first act as manager to be a healthy initiatives program, and she forces Hank to support her sugar and soda ban. When Mikhail starts really jonesing for soda, Kareema sells him a sip of a soda she snuck in for $20, and she thinks she now has a way to fund her honeymoon. She turns a hidden part of the warehouse into a sort of Soda Stream speakeasy with sodas of all kinds. This throws Hank for a loop, because he needs to decide where his loyalties lie – with Deirdre or with Kareema (and sweet, sugary soda). Timothy shows up, just barely sobered up, and he convinces Hank to re-start the idea they had for a band. Deirdre catches Timothy and Hank acting goofy, and she can smell the soda on Hank’s breath. She finds the speakeasy and starts destroying it until Hank speaks up and asks Deirdre to tell him what is wrong to make her act this way. Deirdre reveals that she’s pregnant with Hank’s baby, so she’s been extra worried about their health. My reaction to this was a combo of “eww” and “are we really sure this is Hank’s baby?” Hank seems happy about the news, though.

Xavier and Jesse get bailed out of jail by none other than Tyra DeNeil Fields. She takes Xavier to NASA, where he gets so excited about sharing his asteroid theory with the scientists there that he starts to forget about Evie. Meanwhile, Evie and Graham meet up again in Iceland. He wants her to extend her trip so they can travel together a bit, but Evie says no because she has to go home for a job interview. The actual interview doesn’t go as hoped (the international and philanthropy components are lacking), but the hiring manager says Evie should talk to her sister about an opportunity. She says the opportunity would mean upending her life but that Evie sounds ready for that. At the same time, Xavier is continuing to work with the NASA team, but they aren’t making any progress on a plan to defeat the asteroid. Tyra tells Xavier that an asteroid defense team of the best scientists is meeting up in DC, and she wants Xavier to join. Naturally, it would mean upending his life.

Evie goes to visit Xavier at the trailer, and Xavier apologizes for not going to Iceland. They each reveal their job offers to each other (Evie got the job that the hiring manager’s sister was trying to fill), and it turns out that Evie’s is in the Philippines. Evie and Xavier decide to do one last item off their respective Apocalists together. They’re going to go tubing down Mt. Rainier. After their tubing adventure, they thank each other for the past few months and say goodbye for now. They hold on to some notion that maybe they will consider getting back together after the asteroid is successfully diverted. I think this was the creative team’s attempt to give us at least some Evie and Xavier closure if this is indeed (as is likely) the series finale.

Before Evie leaves for the Philippines, she and her CyberMart crew enjoy a concert put on by Hank and Deirdre. They’ll be very sad to see Evie go, but they’re all moving on to new adventures in their own lives, what with Kareema now married and Hank and Deirdre having a baby. Even Timothy seems happy with Talia at the moment. We eventually see Evie get on her flight to Manilla, and who is sitting by her on the plane but Graham. Apparently Evie’s new job is in logistics with Médecins Sans Frontières in Manilla, and Graham’s new MSF posting is in Manilla too. Even more, it turns out that Xavier inspired Graham to do something more with his life and join MSF in the first place. While they wait for takeoff, we see Tyra make a big public announcement about the immanent asteroid collision, and Xavier is there with her. Evie and Graham don’t hear the announcement, though.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Once Upon a Time 6.13: “Ill-Boding Patterns”

“I embraced darkness for good but I never became a hero because once you give in to darkness it’s almost impossible to resist its call.”
- Rumple

After a trip down David’s memory lane, we are back on track with Gideon and Emma trying to face off. I really hope someone points out to Gideon that if he just asked Emma for help in defeating the Black Fairy then maybe she’d say yes. Speaking of someone else hoping for a “yes”, Hook is sitting at Granny’s downing rum at 9am when Archie stops by. Hook is torn about what to do on the proposal front. He could keep what he realized to himself and take it to his grave but he also wants to tell Emma the truth. But he also worries if he does, she’ll spurn his advance. Archie tells him he should at least try. In the end, while he gets a fiancée out of the deal, he doesn’t spill the beans on murdering Emma’s grandpa in cold blood.

We also find Rumple and Belle (with a brief assist from Blue) trying to find Gideon. But he’s after the sword he thinks he’s destined to use on Emma. Rumple finds him at the Sheriff station having just robbed the same. Rumple doesn’t want to lose another son so he magically puts Gideon to sleep. Gideon wakes up in the clock tower to get a lecture from dear old papa about the risks of embracing dark magic, even for good intentions. I mean if ever there was a cautionary tale, it’s Rumple. His actions were motivated by the love for his son but look where’s gotten him! I am a little miffed Rumple only referred to Bae as “my first son” rather than “your brother” but that’s just me. They have a little chat where Gideon explains why he wants to be a hero. And then things get dicey when Rumple tries to dose him with a memory potion. Gideon gets the upper hand and snags papa’s dagger. So now he can force his father to help him, even if he doesn’t want to. Rumple shows Gideon the spell he needs to repair the sword and tells his boy he needs his fairy godmother’s blood to restore its magic. All the while, Rumple is pleading with him to stop and not go through with it. Where the hell is Belle in all of this? I mean she managed to somehow remind him to try and stay good! Girl needs to pull her weight! Gideon finds the Blue Fairy and is about to take her blood (and her magic) when Rumple appears. He’s going to do the deed for his son to keep his heart pure (or at least as pure as it can be when he was raised/tortured by the Black Fairy). I mean, this all has me wondering if the Black Fairy didn’t want a kid, couldn’t she like magically give herself a miscarriage or an abortion or something? But hey, at least the Blue Fairy isn’t dead and it looks like Rumple’s act of sacrifice is bringing him and Belle closer together.

We get to jump back pretty far into the past to the Frist Ogre War where we meet Beowulf (yes that one) who has the same sword Gideon is after. He wields it in battle and survives while everyone else dies. And then Rumple shows up (newly minted as the Dark One) and puts an end to the war. But Beowulf remembers Rumple as the coward from years ago and calls him on using dark magic in front of teenage Bae. I guess if we can’t get Michael Raymond James back as adult Bae we can make do with the younger one. He begs his father not to use magic anymore, especially since the war’s over. Rumple promises no more magic but I can’t see him keeping it. Well, he at least tries to keep his word, even when people show up begging for his help to defeat Grendel (man, I was not a fan of either of those epics when I had to read them in high school). Bae thinks his papa can defeat the beast even without magic (and hey he can show up Beowulf again!). Rumple and Bae set off in search of the beast when Rumple reveals he brought the dagger because he needed it. Much like his crutch, he’s come to rely on it. He feels he can’t live without it. Basically, as I’ve said for seasons, he’s addicted to magic. But he hands over the dagger to Bae, insisting that his boy stop him if he tries to use dark magic. Unfortunately, Beowulf is a total tool and has tricked them into coming. He gets hold of Rumple’s dagger and he’s going to make it look like Rumple killed all the villagers so that Beowulf can be lauded a hero. Hmm, sound familiar? Things go from bad to worse though as Bae tries to face off with Beowulf. In the end, Bae darkens his heart by forcing his father to kill Beowulf. Rumple then uses the same memory potion we see him try on Gideon on Bae and we see Bae hate his papa for using magic. Poor Rumple. He was trying to protect his son and it still backfired!

The other drama going on is Regina and Robin. She finds him hiding in the woods (he manages to secret away her box of potions) before she finds him. He promises to let her show him some more of the town a bit later and then pops by Zelena’s for a chat and an offer. He wants out of Storybrooke so he can be a major dick and thief and he suspects she wants out, too. But he needs her magic to break the protection spell around the town. I do not like this version of Robin at all! Regina somehow gets hip to their escape plan and catches them at the town line before they can leave. The potion Zelena whipped up doesn’t work though. Despite the fact that you can see Regina is breaking inside, she agrees to find a way to take down the protection spell so Robin can find his happiness. God it reminds me of Neal’s death and I so didn’t need that writers! Regina and Zelena have kind of a bonding moment in the vault until they find that the snake Evil Queen is gone. She’s followed Robin and managed to turn herself back to human. See, I knew this Robin would be a better fit for the Evil Queen! I still am uncomfortable with it but hey, at least I was right on something!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 3.12: "Sisters Without Subtext"

“Classic Connie. We’d all love to go back to school. Audit a German class. Get good at beer pong. But we are adults. We have responsibilities.”

“Sisters Without Subtext” tried to navigate two very different plots, and as such, felt like kind of a filler episode. We explored the relationship between Jessica and her sister Connie more and learned something new about Jessica, but I’m not sure I was ever that interested in Connie to begin with. This episode also paired up the three Huang kids with Honey and Marvin, which was something new. I do generally appreciate when shows try new character combinations. The plot in which they were involved, though, didn’t do much for me. Marvin decides to take Honey and the kids to a nursing home of all places (because he wants to move there with Honey in a few years). Honey understandably balks at this, since as she continually reminds us, she’s only twenty-eight (which I didn’t realize…is she actually telling the truth here?). They reach an understanding at the end, but I didn’t really find the plot to be necessary in the first place. I would have enjoyed something like wacky hijinks at the beach more.

As the episode opens, the family is engaging in usual business. The boys are figuring out the TV schedule for the week, and Louis has organized the pantry (much to Evan’s chagrin, who accuses him of being a kiss ass) in an attempt to win points with Jessica. All of this is forgotten when Jessica gets a post card from her older sister, Connie. This is the third in a series of postcards Connie has been sending lately, all from college towns like Ithaca, New York and Athens, Georgia. Jessica doesn’t put together the pieces right away, though. She calls Connie to find out what’s going on, and that’s when Connie breaks the big news. She wants to go back to college. Jessica is thrilled, because she sees this as Connie trying to take charge of her life and be more like her (Jessica). We all know Jessica approves of anyone doing what she would do.

Connie arrives to see colleges in the Orlando area, and instead of the usual passive aggressive subtext (that requires subtitles at the bottom of the screen), Jessica is sincere. This throws Connie off, naturally. Jessica is really excited and wants to go on the tours with Connie. She’ll just have to leave the boys with Honey and Marvin for the day since Grandma Huang is at the casino in Tallahassee. At first, the boys have a lot of fun during their day with the neighbors. They get to ride in Marvin’s convertible. There’s just one problem: their destination is a nursing home. To Honey’s horror, Marvin says that this is the nursing home where he hopes they’ll live one day. Jessica also doesn’t get what she expected out of her trip. The first school on the tour is the Orlando College of Art and Design. Connie wants to go to art school, which Jessica thinks is worthless.

Connie has quite the story to tell about why she decided to go to art school. She recently got in a fight with her husband, so she went to the National Gallery of Art, because they have a good hot dog vendor outside. She saw a sign for an interesting exhibit, so she went into the museum and was completely moved by Girl with a Pearl Earring. Jessica is unmoved. In fact, she’s the opposite of moved. We later see her very angrily putting together packets for a property she’s trying to sell, and she complains to Louis that she’s actually doing real work. Louis wants to know why Jessica is taking Connie’s choice so personally, so she takes Louis into the garage and shows him a bunch of paintings she painted when she was in high school. She gave up painting when she went to college because she thought she had to grow up and become a responsible adult. When Connie sees the paintings, she thinks Jessica is jealous, and they have a big argument over whether or not it’s okay to take any time to pursue your own passions. Jessica sees doing anything other than serving her family or working as being selfish.

Meanwhile, the nursing home visit seems to go okay at first. The boys think all the activities look cool, like shuffleboard. They think it basically seems like being on a cruise. Eddie also likes the idea of dinner being at four o’clock. Then Evan and Emery start getting their cheeks pinched a bit too much. Honey is not at all thrilled by the place, but she agrees to the tour for Marvin’s sake. Marvin and Eddie are ballin’ at the shuffleboard court while Honey runs on a treadmill in the gym. When the boys question why she’s running, she reminds them she’s twenty-eight, and she runs even faster. She ends up flying off the back of the treadmill into a rack of therapy balls, hurting her hip. She goes home in a wheelchair and is fed Combos by the boys. She finally tells Marvin that while the nursing home was nice, she doesn’t feel like they’re at the end of their lives together. Even if they are at the “middle,” they’re part of a tight community and their best friends are next door. Honey will be okay when Marvin is no longer around.

Louis and Jessica have a big heart to heart when Louis finds her trying to destroy her old paintings. Louis thins maybe Connie has the right idea and that it’s okay to at least have hobbies. Jessica says she can’t imagine what their parents would think of having hobbies that didn’t bring any money into the family. Louis reminds Jessica that their parents were in survival mode, and they would probably want more for their children just like they want more for the boys. Jessica finally becomes a bit more open to the idea of spending at least a little time on her own interests, and she apologizes to Connie by playing (and singing along to) a song from The Color Purple (their favorite musical, because Oprah) on a boom box. Strangely, she can sing much better now than she could in the flashback episode. Not sure what’s up with that. Anyway, Louis goes to the effort of creating an art studio for Jessica in the garage. It’s going to take just as much work to get her to stay there and paint instead of doing chores, though.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

This Is Us 1.18: “Moonshadow”

“You weren’t just my love story, Rebecca. You were my big break. And our love story, I know it may not feel like it right now, but baby I promise you it’s just getting started.”
- Jack

Like many “This Is Us” fans, I’m not ready to say goodbye to the Pearson clan. But alas, we must. On the bright side, we know we have them in our lives for at least 36 more episodes (season 2 and 3)! We pick up where we left Jack, drunk and on the road to Rebecca’s show per Kate’s request. And as he’s drinking and driving, we get a glimpse at him and Rebecca back in the early 1970s before they even met. Jack is baby faced and with shorter hair and lord does he look young! He’s recently back from Vietnam as a mechanic and one of the old ladies he’s helping with her car wants to set him up with her best friend’s granddaughter. Enter Rebecca who is singing open mic nights on weeke3nds and who has just recorded a demo. She bemoans that fact that everyone (her mother, grandmother and friends included) are trying to set her up with people. She wants to just focus on her music! It appears that Jack is still living at home with his mother and asshat of a father. But he and his buddy have dreams of owning their own auto body shop. Jack thinks his buddy’s cousin’s high stakes poker game is just what they need but somehow, I can’t imagine that working out well. Sure, enough Jack wins like $1500 but the card game leader’s goons rough up Jack and take the money back after they leave. But both Jack and Rebecca seem to agree to go on a date with each other and I can’t imagine it won’t go well. But it turns out I was wrong. They haven’t been set up with each other! While Rebecca waits for her blind date at the restaurant (some rich guy named Ethan), Jack and his buddy are going to rob the bar and get their money back. Oh Jack, stop making bad decisions! Luckily, Rebecca runs out on her boring date because she just needs to sing and ends up at the bar that Jack is going to rob. The money is sitting right there in his reach and he is just so captivated by Rebecca on stage that he can’t focus on anything else. Damn their meet cute was adorable! I’m so happy that Jack didn’t go through with the robbery (although his buddy was probably a bit confused).

Jack makes it to the gig in one piece but continues to drink as he sits there at the bar. Back stage, Rebecca is kind of freaking out about the size of the crowd when Ben tries to make a move on her. Don’t be messing with Jack Pearson’s woman now! She exclaims that Jack was right and she storms out, right past Jack at the bar. Oh boy! Jack is decidedly wasted when he goes to look for Rebecca (who is leaving him a sweet message on the house answering machine). He even takes a couple swings at Ben when he finds him. Jack is just not in a good place right now and it’s breaking my heart. I know he’s only human but to see him hurting and so vulnerable is just gut-wrenching. Rebecca is through with the band and insists on driving Jack home but she won’t accept his apology (or anything he has to say) while he’s drunk.

All the years of pent up anger and frustration and hurt feelings come to the surface as Jack admits to drinking for the last few weeks. Things quickly devolve into a shouting match where neither of them are listening to each other. Rebecca then challenges Jack to tell her one thing he loves about her the way she is now. He can’t and she storms off to bed. I suppose this had to happen given the stress we’ve seen the two of them under the last few episodes but damn! I can’t imagine what it was like filming those scenes for them. But the next morning, when Jack starts to apologize, Rebecca cuts him off. She says that they both meant what they said the night before and they need some time apart so he should go stay with Miguel. Oh come on! Don’t fall apart on me now, Pearsons!

Jack gets ready to go and Rebecca is now fretting what to tell the kids. Jack says they should tell them the truth because they’ll be fine. We glimpse the Big Three in the present as they start to make some big live changes. Kate and Toby are now back in LA and she wants to sing. Kevin is going to meet with Ron Howard about the part but he still seems committed to making things with Sophie work. And Randall, fresh off quitting his job and losing his other father informs Beth that he wants to adopt a baby. All the while, Jack is recounting all the things he loves about Rebecca now. Her crazy dancing, her fierce motherhood and her spirit. He thinks they are going to be okay and good lord I hope so! Rebecca tears up as Jack leaves, clutching the moon pendant in her hand tight. I am both hopeful and anxious about what faces the Pearson clan when we return in season 2. I feel like there are so many questions, like how much time will have passed? Are the Big Three really going to prosper on the next steps of their journeys as adults? Will Jack and Rebecca reconcile before Jack’s death? Never have I felt so connected to characters as I have on this show. It’s bene such a beautiful glimpse into the lives of these ordinary people and I have loved every minute of it. I can’t wait to spend more time watching Kate and Kevin and Randall grow and Jack and Rebecca love one another so dearly.

Once Upon a Time 6.12: “Murder Most Foul”

“I thought he didn’t fight for us but he did, with everything he had. He did the right thing and it wasn’t enough.”
- David

I have to admit I wasn’t overly thrilled with this episode of “Once Upon a Time”. I’m glad they resolved the mystery of David’s father’s death but did we really need a David and Hook buddy-drama episode? I suppose it’s best to get this out of the way then. David, still running on a massive lack of sleep, decides he’s going to find out what happened to his father and he needs magic to do it. But he’s not going to go to Emma because what he needs involves a little breaking and entering and theft. So naturally, he turns to Hook, being a pirate and all. And therein lies part of Hook’s dilemma for the episode. He doesn’t want David to just see him as a pirate. He wants his girl’s dad to see him as potential son-in-law material. Hell, he’s even bought a ring (from where … Gold?). Archie suggests that Hook just tell David what he’s worried about and see if David will give his blessing for the union.

Before Hook can pop the question about popping the question, he needs to help David solve this mystery (especially when David starts hallucinating his dead father’s ghost). In flashbacks, we see Rumple come and take baby James away in exchange for live saving medicine. It seems both boys had weak lungs (I guess medical care in the Enchanted Forest for the poor people is about what it is today in the US). So, they give up one baby instead of losing both sons to sickness. But it is clear that this has haunted David’s father because we see him hitting the booze hard when David is about six years old. But then his chance for redemption arrives in the form of King George. Ever the tool, he says his son has been abducted and he’s offering a reward for any help and information. So, David’s father goes back to Rumple and demands that Rumple help him find James. Rumple makes a show of taking a hair from the mans’ head as payment for the information on where the boy is. But really, I think for a hot second Rumple felt the fear and anxiety of another father just trying to find his little boy.

With a little distracting from Hook to keep Emma out of the shed, he and David figure out the last place his father was before he died: Pleasure Island. This leads them to seek out August (as in flashback we see David’s father run into a still-wooden Pinocchio). August remembers that the man was stone cold sober and little James didn’t want to go back to King George and be a knight. In fact, he seemed quite keen on the idea of being a normal boy with a brother on a farm. This is kind of sad given how the brothers met in the Underworld. A lot can happen I guess. Instead of giving the man the gold, George orders his men to kill David’s father and make it look like an accident.

The other frustrating plotline of this episode revolved around Regina and Robin. And boy are they definitely not Outlaw Queen. He’s still getting used to things in this world (including alarm clocks) when Zelena pops by demanding that he stay away from her baby. Regina even has to stop Robin from killing the Sherriff of Nottingham. He’s quite angry and violent really which makes me wonder if somehow when the Evil Queen created the Wish Realm, she created a version of Robin for herself. He certainly seems like a schemer and I don’t trust him. It also broke my heart more than just a little bit when they kissed and Regina felt nothing. As she described to Snow (in the two scenes that someone apparently convinced David to take a nap) it felt like kissing a picture. Snow points out that this isn’t Regina’s Robin. I think we all get that but did the writers really have to break our hearts again by bringing him back if Regina wasn’t going to get a happy ending? I mean really! By episode’s end we see Robin sneaking into Regina’s vault and stealing a box that she previously told him was dangerous. I’m wondering if the Evil Queen is locked in there or something.

When David realizes that George is behind his father’s death (or so he believes) he goes to try and kill him but Hook steps in and reminds him that if he does this, he will have to live with it forever. David, ultimately being a good guy and a hero, doesn’t go through with hit and breaks down with Hook beside him. Things are looking pretty good for our one-handed pirate, especially when David gives his blessing. But things aren’t all happiness and puppies because August swings by Emma and Hook’s place to share the pages he originally took out of Henry’s storybook way back in season 1. He apparently didn’t want anyone to see his days at Pleasure Island. But as Hook looks at the pages, we see that he in fact killed David’s father for being witness to Hook killing the King’s soldiers. Well, he was kind of an epic dick back in the day. But he’s got that secret hanging around his neck like an albatross. So how he expects Emma to accept him as her husband when he killed her grandfather in cold blood is going to be an interesting thing to see.

As I said, I didn’t particularly enjoy this episode. I appreciated it gave closure to a storyline that was introduced at the start of the season (and the little cameos by characters really makes me think that this should be the final season) but it mostly just frustrated me. No matter how much they push Captain Swan, I’m never going to get behind it. I know they are endgame but it doesn’t mean I have to like it!

Monday, March 13, 2017

MTVP So Cal Summer: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 1.15: "Josh Has No Idea Where I Am!"

“No, you’d be surprised. You lie to yourself well enough, you can convince other people, too.”

A return to our So Cal Summer series means a return to one of my favorite shows, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” “Josh Has No Idea Where I Am!” was the most experimental episode of the first season at least (I haven’t brought myself to watch the second season yet because of some plot developments I’m aware of, but I’ll rip that Band-Aid off eventually). I’m not usually a huge fan of experimental episodes that are mostly filler, but I really enjoyed rewatching this one, and I think that speaks to the quality of the series as a whole. If a filler episode can have so many nuances and layers and funny and poignant moments, what does that say about the real sweeps types episodes? I think this episode just spoke to me because it’s all about appreciating what you have in life instead of perseverating on what has gone wrong. That’s something I need to work on, and to see it laid out so clearly made me really do some thinking. 2016 was a difficult year for many of us, and I was very focused on things that went wrong. But there are a lot of people right here who care about me and would be upset if I suddenly disappeared, and that’s exactly the lesson Rebecca learns in this episode.

We pick up in this episode after Rebecca has learned that Josh and Valencia are going to stay together and she runs off. She finds herself on a plane next to Dr. Akopian, her (sort of) therapist, who has offered to spend the five hour flight doing some therapy. At first, we think Rebecca is going to Hawaii, because she was originally going to be kind of a stalker and follow Josh there, but instead we soon find that she’s actually on her way to New York. She asked her old firm if she could have her job back, and they were only too happy to oblige. Another important point – the Dr. Akopian that Rebecca is talking to isn’t the real Dr. Akopian. Rebecca took some sleeping pills along with a Bloody Mary and is having a very vivid dream. The Dr. Akopian in the dream says she’s a “Dream Ghost” who is supposed to help Rebecca work out her problems. She is joined by two other Dream Ghosts, played by Ricki Lake and Amber Riley, who sing about their job and how their “union health plan” doesn’t have dental. It’s a pretty great “Dream Girls” pastiche, but the union health plan thing bugged me. People not in unions get way worse benefits. If you want awesome benefits, be lucky enough to get a union job. Unions have been negotiating awesome benefits in lieu of salary increases for decades.

Meanwhile, back in West Covinia, Paula is camped out in Rebecca’s house enjoying a little “staycation” while she thinks Rebecca is in Hawaii frolicking with Josh. She realizes that all is not actually well, however, when Josh stops by to talk about the situation with Valencia. Since he’s not in Hawaii and all. Darryl stops by looking for Rebecca, and so does Greg. Paula decides to take drastic measures and logs on to Rebecca’s computer (because naturally she knows her bestie’s password). She quickly realizes that Rebecca didn’t go to Hawaii after all. She finds a great deal of evidence that Rebecca is actually planning on moving back to New York. This still makes the whole crew upset, and they keep milling about Rebecca’s house. I have a close group of friends here, but if they broke into my apartment and just hung out for a while, I’d be kind of pissed off. Just saying.

Anyway, Dr. Akopian guides Rebecca through a couple different memories during the course of the episode. First there’s the time not long after her parents divorce when Rebecca secretly traveled to Santa Fe to see her father on Spring Break. He acted all happy to see her, and he was accommodating for the most part about doing the things Rebecca wanted to do at first, but after just a couple days, Rebecca’s mom shows up at the door. Present-Day Rebecca is convinced that her mom just wanted to destroy her relationship with her dad, but Dr. Akopian shows Rebecca what really happened (since Rebecca had no knowledge of the ensuing conversation between her parents, I’m not sure how this was supposed to work, but I guess I’ll go with it, since it worked emotionally). Rebecca’s dad had called her mom to come pick Rebecca up because the mere presence of his daughter was interfering with his efforts to “find himself” or whatever. Rebecca’s mom, understandably, is pissed. Not so much at Rebecca, but at her father for being unable to deal with Rebecca for even a few days. Rebecca is devastated to learn the truth, but Dr. Akopian tries to point out how much her mother loves her. Rebecca rightfully counters that a mother’s love is kind of the bare minimum of love one should expect in one’s life.

We next see Rebecca in college, where she’s participating in a really pretentious guy’s student production of a “Moby Dick” musical. She catches the director’s attention, and naturally they sleep together. And of course there’s also a schlubby fellow cast member who is kind to and protective of Rebecca, but she friend zones him. Eventually, the director admits to Rebecca that he’s been sleeping with several members of the cast, and Rebecca, to her credit, is having none of that. She drops out of the production. At first, Rebecca assumes that Dr. Akopian is trying to tell her that she shouldn’t have overlooked schlubby guy. She actually had a different point, though. Rebecca has always had a love for music and musical theater that has sustained her through dark times. Rebecca admits that she does stage musical numbers in her head to try and make sense of the world (it’s the premise of the show, after all!). So love doesn’t necessarily have to come from a person to be meaningful.

Finally, Dr. Akopian shows Rebecca how worried all her West Covina friends have been about her (contrasting her New York coworkers who cheered when Rebecca last impulsively moved). Rebecca, trying to win an argument, speculates that Greg probably wasn’t all that upset. Dr. Akopian tells Rebecca to check Greg’s phone though, where Rebecca discovers that before he realized Rebecca was safe, Greg called all the local hospitals, and even morgues and funeral homes. Rebecca returns home, and the gang is all extremely relieved to see her. She reassures everyone that she’s back in West Covina for good, and she gives Greg a hug and a “thank you” (much to his shock, obviously). For now, at least, Rebecca is content to enjoy the love she has in her life, even if it isn’t perfect romantic love.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 3.11: "Clean Slate"

“I forgot to pick up my lucky red dress from the dry cleaners. The one I’ve worn every New Year since I retired my women’s power suit/ dragon brooch combo in 1989.”

I think the one adjective I would use to describe “Clean Slate” is “cute.” It was the show’s second Chinese New Year episode. “Fresh off the Boat” is in a unique position to show its characters celebrating Chinese New Years. Last year’s episode took it as more of an opportunity to speak about larger issues surrounding Asian culture and othering. This year’s episode seemed to take more of a typical family holiday problems, just with a holiday you don’t hear about much approach. I think both approaches are ways for “Fresh off the Boat” to make a statement. As one of only a couple comedies that feature an Asian family, the show has a unique chance to present a perspective that we don’t often get to see in pop culture. Part of me wishes this episode had been a little more aggressive on that front, but I suppose the normality of holidays for Americans of all background can be powerful too.

Since Chinese New Year is coming up, Louis takes Evan to his barber, Reuben, for fresh hair cuts. Louis wants the “usual” for himself, but Evan wants a “Randy” (as in he wants to look like Johnathan Taylor Thomas’ character from “Home Improvement). Sadly for Evan, the haircut does not turn out looking at all like mid-90’s JTT. Back at the house, Jessica grills the whole family on whether they have settled all their disputes for the new year. Louis has returned a bird feeder to Marvin, Evan has settled a beef he had with a neighbor who finished one of his jokes, and Grandma has even settled a decades-long grudge with her cousin. Jessica is thrilled, because she thinks this could be the first year where the Huang family has a completely clean slate, ensuring them good fortune for their business dealings in the coming year.

Unfortunately, most of the characters’ clean slates will be seriously tested throughout the episode. Grandma’s cousin asked if her great-nephew Simon who is studying abroad in Florida, could spend the New Year with the Huangs, and Grandma agreed. Jessica isn’t thrilled about this, but she stays gracious for the sake of maintaining the clean slate. She makes Simon Eddie’s responsibility, which does not at all thrill Eddie, naturally. He thinks Simon is a tall/older version of Eddie (ie super nerdy and not at all into the things Eddie likes). Eddie tries to distract Simon with a copy of Mad Magazine so that he can go hang out and freestyle with his friends. When Jessica figures this out, she commands Eddie to go hang out with Simon instead.

Meanwhile, Evan is in a panic and tells Louis that a letter he wrote is missing. It’s hate mail, so he was going to wait until after the New Year to actually mail it. And it’s to Reuben the barber. Louis is very upset about this. It will bring Evan bad luck, and since barbers all talk, the two of them will probably never get a decent haircut in Orlando again. They feel like they have no choice other than to intercept and steal the letter before Reuben can read it. They go into the shop and try to see if the Sports Illustrated issue has been switched out for the next week yet. If it has been, they’ll know the mail has already arrived. Unfortunately, Reuben catches them, and Louis tells him that Evan needs yet another haircut. Poor Evan’s hair looks even worse after attempt number two.

Jessica is eating ice cream when she realizes that her lucky red dress is still at the dry cleaner’s. She had planned to not leave the house to minimize her risk of getting into an argument and breaking her clean slate, but she’s been wearing the dress since 1990, and she’s not going to stop now. She enlists Emery’s help. Since he gets along with everyone, he’s going to be her “kindness Sherpa” and help keep her out of trouble on the outing. It’s a challenge right from the get-go. Jessica and Emery are confronted with some very loud new wind chimes outside of Honey and Marvin’s house. She really wants to destroy the chimes, but Emery convinces her to wait until after the New Year. There are so many potential obstacles for Jessica at the dry cleaner’s. There’s the fact that the dry cleaner likes to call her “Jessie,” and there’s the guy trying to collect donations to save the wales outside the shop. Emery thinks it’s better if he goes in and retrieves the dress on his own, and he puts on NPR to help Jessica zone out. Emery is taking a long time, though, and Jessica makes her way inside the shop to find him arguing with the dry cleaner over whether he gave him a $10 or a $20.

Eddie and Simon play some SNES, which makes me happy since that’s the only console gaming system I’ve ever owned. It’s even hooked up to my television right now! I spent plenty of happy hours playing Super Mario and Donkey Kong Country games. Eddie tells Simon he is “controlling the Koopas” in the Mario game they’re playing, which obviously isn’t really a thing. Grandma is not impressed with Eddie’s lack of hospitality, and she instructs him to show Simon what American life is like. She does not want to get into another thirty-year feud with her cousin. Eddie takes Simon to the mall at ditches him at Build-A-Bear so he can go hang out with his friends. Simon interrupts Eddie freestyling to present the bears he made that look like himself and Eddie. Eddie has had it, so he freestyles an insulting rap about Simon. Simon gives it right back to Eddie with an even better rap and finally earns some respect.

Emery is very upset with Jessica that she didn’t stand up for him at the dry cleaner’s, so Jessica goes back to try and make things right. She tells the dry cleaner that she’s willing to pay the extra $5 if he takes Emery’s picture off his wall. The dry cleaner agrees. Jessica then says he should get ready to take her picture, because she’s about to do something to deserve it. She lets the rest of the family think that she still has a clean slate, though, even though she doesn’t. After unsuccessfully trying to steal the hate letter from the mailman, Evan and Louis have a heart-to-heart about haircuts. Louis reveals that he didn’t want his haircut when he first went to Reuben, either. He wanted the “Clooney.” Evan convinces Louis to “date around” for a new barber, and the resulting “Clooney” looks terrible. Louis is cool with it and chalks it up to a lesson learned. The big family New Year dinner is a rousing success, and Eddie and Simon entertain family and friends with more freestyling.

This Is Us 1.17: “What Now?”

“It’s my fault. I’m the reason he’s dead.”
- Kate

We are in the final episode before the season finale and I don’t know what I’m feeling. Jack is not handling Rebecca’s assertion of independence well. Randall’s grieving the loss of another father and Kevin and Kate are a tiny bit adrift. Get things together Pearsons! My tear ducts can’t handle this. In fact, I have a habit of watching this show on public transportation (because I’m stupid) and I flat out cried openly this episode.

In the past, we pick up with Jack and Rebecca where Rebecca is just about to go off on tour. Jack is late getting home (he’s at a retirement party for a colleague he doesn’t particularly like). Rebecca is mad that he didn’t leave when he said he would. It’s so painful to see the two of them at odds like this. We’re so used to them being strong and united. I don’t like them fighting. And neither does Kate. After Rebecca leaves (Jack only gives her a peck on the cheek), Kate admonishes him and he goes out to say a proper goodbye but she’s already gone. Then when he drops them off at a friend’s house for a party, she doesn’t get out of the car because she’s worried something is wrong with her parents. He tries to convince her that everything is fine and she should worry about being a teenage girl. But, at the after-party for the retirement party when his assistant hits on him, he realizes his daughter was right and he needs to be with his wife. But of course, he’s been drinking and that can’t lead anywhere good.

In the present, we find the Pearson clan trying to figure out how to mourn William (I have to say I loved the bit of the acoustic version of the song from last week playing as Randall is looking around William’s room). Beth and Randall find a note from William to the girls, putting them in charge of his memorial service. Because the girls are so darn cute, they come up with celebrating his life by recreating his perfect day with the rest of the family in attendance (including Rebecca and Miguel). Rebecca is apprehensive about being there given her role in keeping William and Randall apart for so many years. But there’s breakfast to be had, until Beth kind of loses it in the kitchen with Randall. First, she’s upset because she looks in the cabinet and realizes she refilled all of William’s medications. And then, she laments that she didn’t even get to say goodbye to him like Randall did with the trip to Memphis or Jessie in private or the girls by planning the memorial. So when it comes time for the “toast” (eulogy), Randall hands the mic over to his wife. She gives a great speech which ends with noting that going forward; the family is going to remember things before William and after William.

At this point, Kate kind of loses it. When Toby tries to comfort her, she just runs out of the house crying. Randall goes to console his sister and she admits that since the camp and the therapy, a lot of things have been coming to the surface for her emotionally, especially about Jack. She promises Toby as the family heads off on William’s afternoon walk that she will tell him after Kevin’s play that night. And as they continue to meander, Rebecca finally unloads on Randall all the feelings she’s been holding in. She had promised herself she would tell Randall when he was 15 (and then 16) because she knew it would hurt him, especially since William had been so poorly off when she first met him. She feels guilty for him not having enough time with William. But Randall counters that he had enough time with his father to know he was loved and that was good enough.

On the Kevin front, he’s trying to get the New York Times critic to come to the second opening night of the play but he’s not having it. He alsow ants to share the fact he’s dating Sophie with his family but she’s not ready. She’ll be there but she’s not going to sit with them. The play goes off really well and the family has nothing but positive things to shower upon Kevin. Kevin even tells Sophie afterwards that he came to New York to win her back and he’s going to wait however long it takes for her to believe that. Cue them falling into bed together. And then Ron Howard calls. He was in the audience with his niece and he wants Kevin to be in a movie he’s shooting out in LA. Please dear God Kevin, don’t make the same mistake you made with Sophie before. Don’t put your career ahead of your love. Oh and in spectacular fashion, Randall swings by the office and confronts his boss for being such a heartless jerk this whole time. Randall helped build the company to what it is and all he got was a box of fruit he’s allergic to and a generic printed card? So he up and quits his job. Good for him! Go take some walks or turn the music up and roll through the neighborhood like William would have done.

And as we end, we find Toby and Kate packing for LA and he reminds her of her promise to share things bout Jack’s death. We still don’t know how it happens but Kate does drop quite the bombshell on Toby and the rest of us. According to her, Jack’s death was her fault and she’s been holding onto that for so many years. This leads me to think something happens when Jack goes off to apologize to Rebecca on tour (since Kate pushed him to go and do just that). That is an awful weight to be carrying around for half your life, especially for a teenager. No kid should have to feel like their parent’s death was their fault. I really hope Kate can find a way to heal from these wounds because she deserves to be happy and not have to bear that burden anymore. Man, I’m so not ready for next week’s finale.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Once Upon a Time 6.11: “Tougher Than The Rest”

“This is on me. The wish I made to give the Evil Queen what she deserved. It brought him here. Now, I am not going to wake Snow until I fix this.”
- David

Well it’s been three months since we last checked in with the denizens of Storybrooke and boy are they in quite the pickle. Emma and Regina are still stuck in the Wish Realm (thanks to wish-Robin showing up) and Rumple and Belle have a grown (and evil) son to deal with who is likely to end up on the not-so-nice end of a hook and a sword. Before we pick up with the action where we left it, we get a glimpse into Emma’s past. We find her on the streets as a pre-teen in winter. She’s burning pages from a fairytale book to keep warm when an older boy (part of me wondered for a second if it was August and he just didn’t know her) stops her and explains his version of the Ugly Duckling. And thus, we see Emma get her last name!

In Storybrooke, Hook and Charming are off to find Gideon (although they don’t know it’s him) and Charming is kind of running on fumes and anger. Hook is right to call him out but David doesn’t seem to give a damn. He wants to keep his baby girl safe! And things aren’t any less confusing for the Gold family either. According to Gideon, the Black Fairy tried to turn him evil but he wouldn’t break thanks to Belle. But he’s still here to kill Emma because he’s laboring under the notion that if he does so, he gets her powers and the Savior mantle which he can then use to back to the Black Fairy’s realm and kick Grandma’s butt. Yeah buddy, I’m pretty sure that isn’t how it works! As Gideon meditates in the woods, Rumple goes to chat with his boy. He doesn’t think his son has what it takes to kill the Savior, not if he can’t even hit his own papa. But Rumple’s tough love approach isn’t going to win his son over. I suspect Belle won’t be able to talk him out of it either. But she certainly thinks she can talk him down when she pays David and Hook a visit. They’ll try it her way but she has to be ready for them to take action if her way doesn’t work.

In the Wish Realm, Emma and Regina promptly get robbed by Robin and have to hide from Henry and his guards. But as they duck behind some driftwood, Emma gets an idea. They can use the magic wardrobe to get home. Unfortunately, this version of Pinocchio dismantled it years ago as it reminded him of the time before the Evil Queen was defeated. It was nice to see August again and he was pretty quick to trust Emma and Regina’s story. But, as they plot to build a new wardrobe, Regina goes off to see if this version of Robin (who interestingly hasn’t aged) is better off without her.

Regina finds Robin in the pub he’d been in the night she chickened out back in the Enchanted Forest. Unfortunately, while her presence gives them some privacy (people are littler climbing out windows to get away from her) and it looks like they may have a chance to reconnect, the Sheriff of Nottingham shows up and arrests them both (slapping that damned magic suppressing cuff on Regina’s wrist). Emma and August aren’t having much luck either. They’ve found a magic tree and she fills him in on her Savior destiny when old Hook (complete with awful hair and beer belly) shows up to rescue her. Lord I hope she kicks his ass! Well she sort of does but it’s mostly because he’s drunk and old and stupid. That’s my kind of Hook! Unfortunately, when Hook went sprawling thanks to Emma’s magic, he broke August’s magic chisel so he can’t carve the tree. Meanwhile, Robin and Regina have a heart to heart where he admits he never had love and isn’t really happy. She’s hopeful and when wish Rumple shows up to free them, she’s practically beaming. Until he reveals that the Evil Queen killed Belle and he wants to make someone bleed. Oh no!

Emma tries chiseling the tree herself but it doesn’t work. As she sets the tool in the box, she finds a box with her name on it and a swan carved inside. She confronts August and r3ealizes it was in fact him in our world as a kid giving her advice. Makes me wonder why he couldn’t just stick around with her then. Anyway, She and August go back to the tree and start to chisel their way home. Robin and Regina share some more moments in Rumple’s dungeon as she explains where she came from and who he used to be. And then he busts them out. I want them to go back to our world together but I know the actor who plays Robin only is in a few episodes. I’m not ready to have Outlaw Queen back if it’s going to be yanked away again!

After a little worrying, Regina, Emma and Robin get back to our world and Regina is thrilled! Emma is on her way home when Gideon pops in and we see the battle that has been plaguing Emma all season. But she changes her fate and doesn’t let him kill her. Instead, she’s got a piece of the sword’s broken blade to his throat when Gold begs her not to kill his son. Gideon disappears in a puff of smoke again bemoaning he doesn’t need papa’s help. Things aren’t all happy though because Gideon is still out there and Snow is still asleep under the curse. We end with Gideon destroying the clock tower as his parents share a rather gentle moment by the well. Rumple swears he’s not going to use the shears on his son and he never wanted what’s happening. He wanted his boy to grow up as a boy should. And if they are going to find a way to stop him and get their child back, they’re going to need to do it together. I have to say, I know they aren’t true love anymore but I want them to work through this and actually team up.

MTVP Binges Out: "Atlanta" Season One

I’m a big fan of Donald Glover from his work on “Community” and his very different, but equally memorable turn as Rich Purnell in “The Martian.” So when I heard positive reviews of his new FX show, “Atlanta,” I decided to check it out. I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorite shows ever, but it was definitely an enjoyable ten episodes with a lot of potential. I liked the lo fi aesthetic and how it just attempted to depict people as they are. There were a couple episodes that were a bit too experimental for my taste, but when the show focused on the misadventures of Glover’s “Earn” Marks, a kind of hapless wannabe rap manager, the show was at its best. I appreciate shows with a sense of place, and while I’ve only been to Atlanta twice, I think Glover achieved that. I can’t vouch for how “Atlanta” the show actually is, but it definitely had a particular viewpoint and Earn was operating in a pretty defined world.

“Atlanta” is, as I mentioned, primarily the story of Earnest “Earn” Marks, a Princeton drop-out who wants to try and finally provide for his daughter by managing the career of his rapper cousin, Paper Boi. Earn is on and off with his daughter’s mother, Van, who really wants a better life for her family and continually tries to push Earn to be a better provider and just a more supportive partner in general. Then there’s Paper Boi (real name Albert) and his crew, most notably his pal Darius. In many episodes, Albert and Darius have some humorous side-plot happening while Earn is experiencing his own misadventures. They really provide more of the overt, more slapstick humor in the series. There are also a bunch of memorable one-off characters, like an overly ambitious vlogger named Zan, a black Justin Bieber (a kind of surreal gag that also had its funny moments), and Craig, a rich white guy who has basically made black culture a hobby.

At the Television Critics Association press tour this past August, Glover said, “The thesis with this show was to show people what it’s like to be black, and you can’t write that down. You have to feel it.” I’m a white person who has lived most of my life in suburbia (I was raised in an outer ring suburb of Philadelphia, went to college in rural Central Pennsylvania, and I currently live in a suburb in Maryland). Other than three years I spent living in downtown Baltimore and a year I spent living in an inner ring Washington, DC suburb, I haven’t experienced as much beyond how I was raised as I probably should have. So I feel like I don’t really have the authority to say whether or not Glover reached his goal. I will say that two of the characters in “Atlanta” have made me start giving more thought to how I go about being an ally to the black community in Baltimore. Or at least these characters have clearly shown what not to do. Both of the characters I’m referencing are major cultural appropriators. One is a DJ at a radio station, and the other is Craig, who I have already mentioned.

My favorite episodes of the first season center around Earn going on sort of wild goose chases to solve a problem. I think the humor of a situation like that transcends cultures. The first episode of this nature that really held my attention was “The Streisand Effect.” Earn needs some money and is going to pawn his cell phone. Darius promises he has a way to get even more cash and encourages Earn to trade the phone for a katana sword. The sword is then traded for a dog that goes to a breeder. The breeder says that when the dog produces puppies, Earn will be paid handsomely. Earn explains to Darius a truth that many of us already know. It’s expensive to be poor. When you’re poor, you’re just trying to survive – you can’t afford to invest. Earn needed the money from the phone now to put food on the table for his daughter, not the money from the puppies months from now. Darius takes pity on Earn and gives him another cell phone to trade in. The other episode of this nature that liked was the season finale, where Earn retraces his steps trying to find a jacket he lost at a crazy party, and increasingly bizarre things happen. It’s not the jacket Earn really cares about though. It’s a key in the pocket of the jacket. And that’s all I’ll say about that to keep the ending of the season a surprise.

There were a couple episodes that were a bit too experimental for my taste, although I wouldn’t say either were bad, per se. One was “Value,” where Van goes out to dinner with an old friend and realizes they don’t have all that much in common anymore (although they do smoke week together, which causes Van all sorts of trouble). I guess this one was really just experimental in that it focused on Van and not the guys. It was an interesting story, and I’m glad the creative team decided to try and tell and episode from Van’s perspective, but I don’t find her all that compelling of a character. The most experimental episode was “B.A.N.” which was entirely a fictionalized talk show that Paper Boi was participating in to discuss transphobia. There were parody commercials and everything. I think this episode was mostly lost in translation for me, since I have never really watched B.E.T. I am sure there were plenty of specific things that they were sharply parodying that I just didn’t pick up on.

Overall, “Atlanta” introduced me to the “real” Atlanta. That is, the Atlanta outside the Peachtree Center hotels I’ve stayed at for conferences and the Poncey-Highland neighborhood where I once had a delicious lamb burger at Richard Blais’ Flip Burger Boutique (the beginning of my foodie tendencies). The Atlanta where people actually live and interact and try to survive. And in that sense, Glover and his creative team were extremely successful. The writers’ room was comparatively green compared to most TV shows, and I think that had a (positive) role in the show’s lo fi aesthetic. The show feels very lived-in, like you’re just dropping into the middle of the lives of Earn and his friends. I’m excited to see what this team does with the concept moving forward as they gain more experience.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Long Road to Air: “Emerald City”

Way back in 2014, when Jen and I were at San Diego Comic Con, one of the new shows NBC was touting was “Emerald City”, a darker reimagining of the tale of Oz we all know. I was intrigued by the premise (more so than any of the other Oz-centric pilots being tossed around at that time). I’m still not quite sure what it says that this was the only one to ever see the light of day. But, it did take 2 development seasons to get here. First, there was a change in executive producer because the vision that the network had wasn’t jiving with the producer’s idea of how the story should go. Then, we slowly got casting news and finally, the show made it to air.

The show was billed as an “event series” which used to mean mini-series or a one-and-done season show. Now, that’s not a bad thing. Shows like that can be great and tell a compelling story given they only have a finite number of episodes to get the plot across. I personally think the fact it took so long for Emerald City to make it on the air should have told everyone involved that given this status, it should have actually just been a one-and-done (as it is, the ratings have been subpar and given the strength of NBC’s other shows right now, renewal is a slim chance at this point). But, the way the season ended definitely leaves it open for a next season. And that is so frustrating. Maybe my expectations were too high or skewed, assuming given the way the show was billed and its ratings that it would provide resolution and now more questions.

As I said at the start, the original premise of the show intrigued me. I liked that it was going to be grittier and pull from some of the later Oz-centric books that were published. But, the execution was sorely lacking. We were given a slowly plodding story with characters we didn’t really connect with and way too many plots. Yes, there was the twister that brought Dorothy from Kansas to Oz. Yes, we met versions of the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow. But they weren’t very deep characters. When characters met their ends, I wasn’t moved or gutted in any way really. Similarly, the tension between the Cardinal Witches and the Wizard should have been intriguing but it was only mildly interesting. Perhaps part of the problem was also that there were way too many plotlines going on at once. You had Dorothy and her trek to Emerald City and dealing with the Wizard. You had Tip and West dealing with their drama but also West and North clashing. You had Emerald City and the City of Ev clashing as well. It was all just too much going on. Oh, and you also had Dorothy and Lucas and their pseudo-romance. Sure, they’re both pretty but there wasn’t a whole lot of chemistry between them.

I understand they were trying to build the backstory of the world (with the Beast Forever coming back to ruin the land and the feud between the science-based Wizard and the magic-wielding witches) but they could have done that much quicker and gotten to the far more interesting part of how Dorothy fit in and what her powers were. They gave her magic but never explained how it was possible, since they also established that witches are only born from Mother South. Besides, if we believe the other characters, Dorothy was born of an interloper, not a witch. So how could she wield the power of the Witch of the East? Also, when the finale ends and Lucas comes to bring Dorothy back to Oz to stop the Beast Forever, I was honestly expecting a resolution, not a cliffhanger. Also, it let you wondering, how could Lucas show up and not want to kill Dorothy after she left him strung up like a scarecrow again? What happened to dilute Glinda’s magic over him?

Now, the show wasn’t all bad. The visuals were absolutely stunning. I can’t imagine how much they spent on sets and shooting on location but it had to be pretty expensive. And whoever did the costuming should be praised as well. Some of the outfits worn by the witches were fantastic. Unfortunately, the beauty of the scenery and costumes just wasn’t enough to make up for the faults in the show. Also, I was a little disappointed that when they tried to tackle a transgender issue with Tip, they ended up just making Tip female because that’s how she was born and that’s the only way the witches would follow her to retake Emerald City. I’m not saying it should have been pushing a political agenda (that’s not really what this show is about) but it would have been far more interesting to see Tip be who Tip wants to be and see that rest of the kingdom fall in line. It could have given such a strong message to people. It felt like a partially wasted opportunity.

So, in the end, I think NBC would have been better off had they not spent all the time to make this show come to fruition. Sometimes, when something doesn’t work and you take another look at it, you have to accept that it just isn’t going to work out no matter how much you want it to. Maybe with different writers or team behind it, the show could have been stronger and earned more airtime the following year. But what we were given was just not enough in my opinion to justify giving it more episodes next season. There are better ways to establish the world (see Shannara Chronicles) and move a similar quest-like plot forward with multiple storylines without it dragging like Emerald City did. I don’t regret watching the show but I do wish it had been time better spent with these characters.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 3.10: "The Best of Orlando"

“It’s grandma! She’s in as long as we give her a cut of the profits and a steady supply of green apple Blow Pops.”

I liked this particular episode of “Fresh off the Boat,” even if the plot wasn’t especially consequential. It continued to explore the relationship between Jessica and Louis, which I enjoyed, and Louis learned some lessons about valuing his wife in the process. When Louis wins Orlando Small Businessman of the Year, Jessica can’t stop singing his praises, and Louis has to learn to show his appreciation of Jessica with similar enthusiasm. There was also another great bit of 90’s nostalgia in this one – none other than JNCO Jeans. I did not own a pair myself as a teen (I actually thought they were pretty stupid in their heyday), but I do love me some 90’s nostalgia. The JNCO plot also had a cool connection to the real-life Eddie Huang, who has had his own street fashion line. I do wonder if the real Eddie Huang has ever gone back to watching the show that he inspired, because while the fictional Huang family seems less dysfunctional than the real-life version, the show does address many of the issues Eddie champions, and they do nod to his real-life achievements and interests.

At the beginning of the episode, Louis brings home an important envelope he received at work. He has been named Orlando Small Businessman of the Year, and there is going to be a reception in his honor. Jessica is thrilled, and while Louis wants to keep the event low-key, Jessica has other ideas. She loves the idea of an awards ceremony because it is a chance to brag and show off her husband, who is clearly the best. She invites Deirdre (as payment for all the Tupperware parties she has attended), and she has a very passive aggressive conversation with her sister, Connie. She pretty much invites everyone in the Orlando area that they have ever met, and she enlists Evan’s help in the effort, of course.

Meanwhile, Louis takes Eddie and Emery shopping for outfits for the event. And this is where Eddie encounters JNCO jeans while Louis is distracted by cologne. Eddie desperately wants the jeans, but Emery has less than three dollars and a warm yellow Starburst in his pocket, so they clearly can’t afford it. Emery thinks he has a solution, though. He gets Grandma Huang to sew up a pair of knock-offs. Eddie is impressed until he realizes the jeans aren’t the real deal. Emery doesn’t want Grandma’s work to go to waste, so he wears the jeans to school. Everybody thinks they’re great, and girls start really noticing him, even though he’s just a sixth-grader.

It’s the night of the awards banquet, and a whole crowd is there to cheer Louis on. He’s afraid of microphones, but when it’s time to give his speech, Louis performs rather admirably. He thanks his best friend Marvin, his Cattleman’s Ranch staff, and his boys. He just forgets to thank Jessica. Everyone notices, too. There’s a very passive aggressive message on the answering machine from Deirdre asking if Jessica is okay. There’s one from Connie, too. Louis feels horrible and tries to apologize with a bowl of wooden fruit (because it won’t die like flowers), but Jessica isn’t having it. She makes a really good point about how she’s always bragging on Louis, but he completely forgot her at the awards banquet. Just as the argument is about to get really heated, the anchor team from the local morning show call – they want to interview Louis. Both Louis and Jessica see this as his opportunity to thank her properly, and Evan is instructed to bring the contact list to Jessica can once again call everyone they know. Louis is just about to give his big thank-you to Jessica when the program cuts to an armadillo giving birth on the highway. Again, Jessica is treated to passive aggressive phone messages from their friends.

The popularity of Emery’s pants gives Eddie an idea. He may hate that the pants are knock-offs, but clearly his classmates don’t. So why not sell the pants for half the price of real JNCOs. He figures they can easily enlist Grandma’s help with a cut of the profits and a steady supply of green apple Blow Pops. Eddie is right, of course, and they easily make sales to their classmates. When the principal discovers this, Eddie is worried they’ll be shut down, but the principal is just impressed with the craftsmanship. Eddie thinks that now their operation is “licit,” nothing can stop them. The principal does end up stopping them, but not in the way they anticipated. He buys a pair of JNCOs for himself and wears them at school, instantly making the jeans “uncool” to the students. Eddie and Emery are left with a lot of inventory, but Grandma still demands her full payment due to the “craftsmanship.” Eddie and Emery are left only a few dollars to the good after paying expenses. It seems to me like it was a good first attempt at fashion entrepreneurship, though.

Louis hides out at Marvin’s house after the morning show disaster. Jessica looks for him there, but Marvin covers for him. Louis can’t figure out how to possibly make all this up to Jessica, especially considering she doesn’t like candy or flowers. Marvin suggests Louis ask for advice from someone who knows Jessica really well. Louis, naturally, enlists the help of Evan. They stage a “Huang house” edition of the awards banquet, and Louis gives a new version of the speech where he goes out of his way to thank Jessica. Jessica does truly appreciate the gesture, which she should because it was a nice, heartfelt speech where Louis admits that all the work Jessica does is usually overlooked. She says it means more in front of an audience of one. Jessica extrapolates on this literally, though, and she takes Louis around to each of the guests they invited to the reception and has him recite the new speech to each of them individually. It’s many audiences of one.