Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Art of the Con - Three Shows that Do It Well

So, if you’ve hung around the blog long enough, you know I am a huge fan of con and heist shows (and movies…still need to see Ocean’s 8). I thought I’d take a look back at some of the con and heist shows that I’ve enjoyed and break down what they do well and why I love them.

Leverage

I covered the first season in recaps a few years ago and I’ve since re-watched most of the show on DVD several times over (I enjoy listening to the commentary from the producers and writers. It is just fascinating to hear how they come up with certain ideas and find locations). If you aren’t familiar with the premise (well you’ve been living under a rock), it follows a group of thieves, hackers, and grifters as they work to take down bigger bad guys. Think of them like Robin Hood in the modern age.

Over the course of the five seasons that the show ran, we not only got to know these characters extremely well, but we got to see them progress and grow as people and expand their skillsets until the end where the baton is passed. I primarily got into this show because of Christian Kane (who I adored from his days on “Angel”). But, I stayed for the team dynamic, great acting and fun cons.

I think my favorite part of the show, besides seeing the cons play out, was at the end of each episode where they reveal how everything was in fact a con and how it all was laid out. It fills the viewer in a little on how they pulled it off and I find that aspect of it all really satisfying. I guess I’m just curious to know how it all works. That was probably why I enjoyed the first Ocean’s move so much, too.

Deception

This was a mid-season show this past season which sadly only lasted 13 episodes before getting the ax. And right when things were really taking a turn for the crazy and interesting. Deception fell into the “quirky consultant to the police” procedural niche where you’d expect to find shows like “White Collar” or “Castle”. The lead protagonist, Cameron Black, is a disgraced magician (because the world discovered he had a twin brother (Jonathan) he used in his act who got arrested for murder). The premise of the show was Cam working with the FBI to prove his brother was framed and free him. Unfortunately, by the end, Cam was the one behind bars while his brother walked free and no one was the wiser. I wanted to see what happened next but alas, it is not to be because the network decided to cancel it.

Similar to what I enjoyed in “Leverage”, I liked seeing the magic that Cam and his team used in their deceptions as well as unraveling the mystery behind the magic. It was a fun, for the most part light-hearted show and the cast of characters was interesting and very watchable. There was still so much I needed to know about these characters. I would have loved some flashbacks to before the start of the show to see Cam and Johnny working out their acts and why they decided to continue performing as if they were one person even though their dad was a big jerk. I got into it because the lead actor (who is a newcomer to my TV screen and to acting in general) was so charming and cute. Why do the Brits have to be so damn adorable! I think this show hurts the most because it still had a long way to go with its story and we will never see what happens to Cam and his team.

Sneaky Pete

“Sneaky Peter” is an Amazon Prime original series which is much darker in comparison to the other shows mentioned in this post. And that’s primarily due to the fact it is on a streaming platform and can afford to be more graphic and violent (and foul-mouthed). It follows the story of Marius, a con man who gets out of jail and assumes his cellmate’s identity to avoid a powerful man from his past from coming after him. He ends up landing with his cellmate’s bail bonds owning family and all sorts of shenanigans ensue.

What I liked about this show was that they had multiple layers and levels of cons going on. And none of the characters were strictly good or bad. They had shades of grey (and not the creepy BDSM kind). Despite some of the flaws, you were rooting for most of the characters (well okay, maybe not Brian Cranston’s character, he was kind of an epic tool). I also liked some of the bit players we got to see throughout the seasons. They’d pop up occasionally when Marius needed them and it reminded me of when the Leverage crew teamed up with some of their adversaries in season 4 finale.

The show really felt like it was more of a mature “Leverage” throughout its two seasons and I am really hoping we get a third season (though from what I’ve read it’s not very profitable for Amazon so they may be cutting it from their roster). I also liked that with this show, you never quite knew who to trust and what was going to happen. And they weren’t afraid to kill or hurt people. I also found it kind of funny that we actually got to meet and interact with the real Pete in season 2, along with his mom. Maybe say a small prayer that we will get another season because Marius and company aren’t done yet!

If you want to check out any of these shows (and I highly recommend you watch all of them), Sneaky Pete is available if you are an Amazon Prime member. White Collar is still on Netflix last I checked and ABC should have all of Deception up on their website or mobile app. Happy viewing!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lucifer 3.24: “A Devil of My Word”

“Hello, Pierce. It’s time for a reckoning.”
- Lucifer

We have come to the end of an era. Only a few short days ago, we got the sad news that Lucifer has been cancelled by Fox and unless another network or streaming service picks it up, this is the last we will see of Lucifer, Chloe and company. And I know I bitched about the storyline the back half of this season but after this finale, my faith in the show was renewed and I am downright pissed about not getting more. I can absolutely see now why the producer warned fans that they would be frustrated by the episode’s closing moments.

I’m going to structure this post a little differently than most of my recaps, seeing as this is the series finale. The crux of the plot is really bringing our team together to take down Caine for Charlotte’s murder. We know he did, even if he was aiming for Amenediel (side note: it seems for now, big brother has gone back to Heaven to stay). Dan is the first to accuse Cain after finding Charlotte’s Sinnerman file at home. I know it’s just a waffle iron but it broke my heart when Dan threw it against the wall and shattered it. He and Charlotte really were robbed of their happiness together. Lucifer has no trouble believing it since he’s known that Cain was the Sinnerman for ages and Chloe eventually gets on board with the theory (not the Sinnerman one necessarily but that he killed Charlotte). Ella is the last among them to be brought into the loop but only after Cain uses his Sinnerman connections to frame someone. Lucifer figures out who helped plant the evidence and the when the team uses Ella to try and draw Cain out, they get a hitman for their troubles. Before we get into the big final showdown, we also need to touch on Maze and Linda. They had their ups and downs this season with the whole love triangle nonsense but maze has finally realized that she needs Linda as a friend and she would run four miles and kill twelve guys just to get to her to make sure she was safe. I’m going to miss their odd little friendship. I was looking forward to seeing how they developed after maze accepted that emotions can make her stronger. For non-romantic pairings, this one was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed their drunken confrontation on the bachelorette bus a few weeks ago.

It turns out the hitman who promised information lied and sent Lucifer and Chloe into a trap. We know that things can get dicey for Lucifer when Chloe is around and she steps up to protect him (even as she continues to profess she doesn’t believe his metaphors). She takes a bullet and then Lucifer’s wings come out, creating a cocoon around them. The pain on Lucifer’s face as bullets hit him from all sides I horrible to watch and listen to. But he manages to save Chloe (thankfully she was wearing a vest!) and goes back to finish what he started. Despite the fact his wings are bloody and clearly causing him pain, he uses them to take out Cain’s men and ends up killing Cain with Maze’s blade. Amenediel’s theory about them making their own destiny seems to have rung true for Lucifer, but in killing a man, he gets his Devil face back, just as Chloe sees him and for the first time believes every word he’s ever told her. And that is where they leave us! What does Chloe do now that she has this information? How does it change her feelings for Lucifer (if at all)? So many questions left unanswered.

I have to admit that despite the ups and down of this past season, I have really loved this show. I really enjoyed Tom Ellis’ portrayal of the devil. Not having any background by way of the comics on which the show was originally loosely based, I came into the pilot with no expectations. And for most of the run, I wasn’t disappointed. I think they took what could have been a sort of hokey premise and made it something special. Sure, they are lots of procedural with a twist shows out there (and lord knows I’ve probably watched many of them as they tend to be in my wheelhouse) but Lucifer as a show really stood out to me. They built interesting characters that you wanted to get to know. They presented story arcs that drew out some fundamental questions and they weren’t afraid to throw you curveballs. Chloe being Lucifer’s Kryptonite? Wasn’t expecting that. Hell, I wasn’t expecting Lucifer to get his wings back or lose his Devil face. While the waiting and wanting to know the answers to some of these questions drove me nuts, I’m satisfied with the answers we got. I like that Lucifer and Amenediel figured out that the changes they went through weren’t God’s punishment or test but were their own feelings about themselves. It made the more human and relatable. And I have to admit, I miss Charlotte a lot!

If this is all we ever get of Lucifer, I’ll be disappointed because there are so many stories left to tell but I realize that many things go into renewing a show and admittedly Lucifer wasn’t owned by Fox (plus the ratings were down year over year and Fox may not exist beyond next season anyway). I have no doubt the cast will land on is feet wherever they go next and I do look forward to following them to whatever project pulls them in. So, thank you to Lucifer’s cast and crew for putting on a quality show that is gone far too soon. I know what I truly desire is more time with these characters but as in life, we don’t always get what we want.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Lucifer 3.23: “Quintessential Deckerstar”

“I am the devil.”
“Not to me, you’re not.”
- Lucifer and Chloe

It has been a long time since we’ve had a double quote for a post but I felt this was necessary. We are making some movement forward with Chloe and Lucifer and I think we may have gotten a potential answer to why Lucifer’s wings came back. But, more on that in a minute. This week’s case drew a lot of our characters together and highlighted a lot of the reasons I do enjoy the show. Lucifer thinks because Chloe “un-chose” Cain, that it means she chose him. Linda tries and fails to get him to see that isn’t the same thing but in typical Lucifer fashion he doesn’t listen. He decides instead of just saying he wants to get things back to normal, he’s going to do normal and try to recreate some of his and Chloe’s best moments on cases, complete with a drink and playing the piano at the crime scene of a famous baseball player whose wife has been murdered.

Charlotte is still having her hell loop dreams and when she wakes up from the latest one, we see that Dan was in the picture (which is really sweet). When she gets to the precinct, she sees the baseball player who was in her dream. She swears that he has to be the guilty party. Chloe doesn’t really think there is strong evidence (he had a head injury from being knocked out and everything) but Charlotte is insistent. When she was a young lawyer years ago, her boss gave her a bloody duffel bag in the middle of the night from the player and told her to burn it. She did and she clearly feels really guilty for helping to cover up his past crimes. She just can’t prove that he’s’ the killer now. Ella, thankfully, starts to poke holes in the guy’s story about his head wound. He said it came from being clocked with a gun but Ella identifies it as a sharp force versus blunt force injury.

Enter the mistress. She corroborates his whereabouts on the night of the murder so they are back to square one. Along the way, Amenediel starts to wonder if maybe he’s responsible for losing his wings and not God. Like, there’s no test, he has to help himself. This doesn’t impress Charlotte much because she still thinks she’s going to Hell. I do really like them working together, though. They are a lot of fun. He poses as a potential client to get into Charlotte’s former firm and then she shows up as a distraction while gets files that show the baseball player paid off a lot over women over the last twenty years.

One other thing the mistress does, is say that the victim was having an affair, too. The alleged adulterer explains that they just worked late and that they were trying to thwart corporate espionage. They pass off some video footage of a hat and glasses clad figure which Chloe spends all night reviewing to try and break the case open. She turns Lucifer away when he shows up with a board came, intent on continuing their greatest hits tour. She thinks he’s making fun of her but he isn’t. Around this time, Charlotte and Amenediel figure out that one of the women the player paid off was murdered around the time Charlotte was given the bag and that the man who went to prison for the murder didn’t do it and just got out of prison. In short order, Chloe gets the recent parolee to confess to the present-day killing. Lucifer sees this and realizes that she didn’t need him to do her job.

While the rest of the drama is unfolding, Cain has moved digs and Maze shows up to end him. He proposes they kill Amenediel so he can get his mark back (I don’t quite understand why that is the case that’s what he wants) and then Lucifer will be forced to take Maze back to hell. But, Maze pulls a crying ruse on Amenediel and is surprised when he comforts her and tells her that he’ll always be there for her. I think she just hasn’t seen that the people around her still care about her. She goes to tell Cain that the deal’s off and they get into quite a fight until Cain says that he’s hurt Linda as insurance against Maze. When she goes to check her phone, h nails her with a sedative and runs off.

Thanks to some clever teamwork between Chloe, Charlotte and the player’s latest mistress, they catch the player admitting to the past murder. So, that’s two murders Chloe solved without Lucifer’s help. You expect him to be upset that he’s not needed but he realizes that Chloe works with him because she wants to. He also finally admits his feelings that he was too afraid to tell her the truth honestly before because she worried if she knew all of him, she’d run. He admits that he’s the devil and she tells him that he’s not to her. Now, Amenediel’s theory seems like it might hold some weight. What if Chloe seeing him not as the devil he thought all this time gave him his wings back? It’s a possible theory that I hope we continue to explore. And hey, we get a kiss between them, too! Unfortunately, all of the happiness is short-lived. Cain has decided to take matters into his own hands and he goes to kill Amenediel in the park as he sits with Charlotte. I really wish got to see more of them together. They’re a fun pair. They hear the approaching gunman and Charlotte throws herself in front of Amenediel, taking the bullets meant for him. She dies in Amenediel’s arms but he realizes that he has his wings back and he carries her off to Heaven. I do hope he comes back to face off against Cain with the rest of the gang and maybe be a shoulder for Dan because he’s devastated by Charlotte’s death. Poor Dan. He just finds happiness and it’s ripped away. I was honestly worried for a second they were actually going to kill Linda. Next week’s finale is going to be good.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Lucifer 3.22: “All Hands on Decker”

“It’s one night, what could possibly go wrong?”
- Ella

This episode turned out to be more entertaining than I expected it to be. Given that at the start of the episode, Chloe and Cain were getting married in just three weeks, I’m pretty pleased with the end result. Chloe is kind of overwhelmed by the all the wedding planning so Cain convinces her to take a few days of vacation to work on it without distraction. Ella also gets to fulfill a dream of hosting a bachelorette party. Things take a weird turn though when Ella appoints Maze as co-host. Maze still thinks Cain has his mark and she’s convinced she’s going to make sure they get married so the mark will go away.

With Chloe on vacation, Lucifer gets paired with Dan and much hilarity ensues. Lucifer can’t figure out why Chloe would say “yes” and so he’s decided to get into her head by being her. Meanwhile, Amenediel is tackling the Cain angle (Charlotte is on Chloe duty at the party). Charlotte suggests that Amenediel tap into some of his own fears since turning mortal and use them to needle at Cain to try and get him to change his mind. The guys do share a drink at Lux but I don’t think our fallen angel was successful in his task.

The Bachelorette party is a bust at first, too. Maze has planned a ridiculous party with no booze, strippers or good music. Charlotte remedies the situation by hiring a party bus (and convincing some potential sexually harassing college students to strip in exchange for dropping charges). Along the way, Linda sort of figures out what Maze is up to and a fight nearly breaks out on the bus several times (not least of which because Maze literally tosses the guy Linda was making out with off the bus). Ella is also not happy that Charlotte appears to be freaking Chloe out with divorce stats and such. In the end, it appears Chloe gets some sage advice from the bus driver that leads her to make an important decision.

Before we get to the big two outcomes of the episode, I should discuss the case of the week. Dan and Lucifer end up investigating the murder of a dog show participant and along the way, find the missing show dog. Things are rather awkward at first as Lucifer tries to “be” Chloe and Dan has to remind of things like certain questions to ask. The first lead takes them to an illegal gambling den where Lucifer does a little sleight of hand and takes Dan’s gun and badge and slips a wad of cash in his pocket before leaving Dan inside. He almost gets their current suspect to confess over poker when Lucifer bursts in with SWAT. It turns out, the suspect got into dog shows while in prison. He was seen arguing with the victim because the ex-con’s dog had gotten the victim’s dog pregnant and they were negotiating over the puppies. Their next lead takes them to the vet who has to certify all the dogs in the show. She claims to not know the dog was pregnant but Lucifer’s persuasion works on another employee who admits to taking the dog. She wanted to sell the puppies because she’s strapped for cash. As Dan and Lucifer are heading back to the precinct with the dog in the front seat, Dan explains that Chloe isn’t just her job. She’s a friend, a single mom and so much more. He also acknowledges that he’s been scared to tell Charlotte what he wants and he also points out that Lucifer is scared to ask Chloe why she agreed to marry Cain because he doesn’t want to know the answer. They return the dog to the victim’s husband but things don’t seem to sit right with Dan or Lucifer (especially after Lucifer discovers in doing the paperwork for the case that the husband knew about the puppies which contradicted what he’d told them when he picked the dog up). Dan also figured it out when the dog wouldn’t go to the husband. So, he’s gone to face the killer alone and unarmed. Lucifer shows up and Dan manages to take the guy out. It would seem the husband felt displaced by the dog (and now the puppies). The death was an accident and its at this point that Lucifer realizes why Chloe would say yes to Cain. He seems safe and stable and reliable.

However, it would appear that all of Lucifer’s soul searching wasn’t really needed since Chloe ends up breaking up with Cain (after he suggests eloping). We aren’t entirely sure why she ended it but I’m just glad she did. And so is Lucifer when he sees she’s no longer sporting a ring. I’m also happy to report that Dan and Charlotte are officially back on. Dan wants her and she’s cool with that. I think I’m going to like them together more than I did when she was Mom and just being weird and using him for sex. I think he can really have a good influence on Charlotte. I’m not sure why they decided to end things as quickly as they started them with Chloe and Cain as it seems a bit contrived. If they wanted to pit Maze against everyone as it seems they are doing, it could have been accomplished another way. As it stands, it looks like she’s still going after Lucifer so that’s not going to be good. I just hope the rest of the gang is able to thwart whatever she and Cain cook up next. And for goodness sake, Lucifer needs to admit his feelings to Chloe! I want to say that him being so immature and taking whole episodes to realize what he’s doing wrong or seeing his own behavior reflected in someone else is just his jealousy of Cain because I thought he’d made some good progress emotionally last season. But, it could just be the writers are still finding ways to keep them apart.

Lucifer 3.21: “Anything Pierce Can Do, I Can Do Better”

“I’m in. You are my brother and my test, whatever needs to be done.”
- Amenediel

So, going into this episode I had a sinking feeling I wasn’t going to like where it left Lucifer and Choe and the Cain of it all. And boy was I right. I’d love to say I’m surprised by Lucifer’s actions, but at least the way he acted was in character. And hey, I wasn’t the only one disappointed in him. He was, too!

The case involves the murder of a prima ballerina. The first suspect is her understudy (whose shoe was found at the scene and was in fact the murder weapon). But, Lucifer and Chloe are quickly pointed to a new avenue of inquiry: the victim was leaving to host a reality ballet coemption (seriously, do we need any more reality show?). With a little devil mojo thrown in, we learn that the head of the show was blackmailed into hiring the victim and then when he confronted her about it, she quit. Apparently, this guy was a big-name dancer who allegedly suffered a leg injury in a car crash. Thanks to Lucifer’s persuasion, we learn he faked the whole thing. Hence, blackmail.

In the midst of the investigation, we find both Cain and Lucifer trying to win over Chloe. Lucifer won’t admit it at the start but he wants Chloe to be with him. He initially frames it as restoring their partnership to what it was pre-Cain. Linda considers stopping him but doesn’t and she comes to regret it by the end of the episode. In his effort to woo Chloe back to him, Cain orders Maze to back off their plan (although hey his mark is gone). She isn’t going to let things go. She wants to kill Cain and pin it on Lucifer so his life on earth is ruined and he’ll take her back to Hell. She tries to make amends with Chloe in order to further her own objective but I don’t think it works out so well. Lucifer quickly sees what Cain is doing (trying to win Chloe back) and decides it’s going to be a competition of who can be better.

They start with giving her “stuff”. They both give her baked goods and then Cain stuffs her car with roses. Lucifer thinks he can one-up the Lieutenant by buying Chloe a car. She’s initially amused but then when she realizes he did it to one-up Cain, she gives the keys back. I really wish lucifer got out of his own way sometimes and just told her how he felt about her! He also tasks Amenediel (and by extension Charlotte) with finding a way to prove that Cain is the Sinnerman so that they can disrupt Cain’s attempts to win Chloe back.

I will admit, I enjoy Charlotte and Amenediel working together. They are quite fun. They stalk Cain to a meeting with a known fence and then Charlotte takes off on a motorcycle when Cain leaves. She lies about why she was following him (offering to be a rebound) to try and see what he got from the fence. Unfortunately, she can’t get her hands on it and when they break into his place later on, whatever he got from the fence was gone.

Thanks to some sleuthing by the cyber crimes division, Chloe learns that the blackmail video was sent from the IP of the person who runs the ballet company. Lucifer similarly deduced this (though I’m not sure how) and he’s already there when Chloe arrives. They start snooping and Lucifer proclaims the man is a stalker. When the guy gets home and Lucifer grabs him, Chloe realizes it isn’t so nefarious. They were having an affair. Later, Cain invites Chloe over to dinner so he can explain what’s going on. Lucifer overhears and invites Chloe to his place so that he can try to dissuade her from taking his nemesis back. Again, Chloe is impressed at first until she realizes that Lucifer is just trying to beat out Cain. She’s about to head over to see her ex when Ella and Dan discover a reflection in the blackmail video of the male lead in the production.

It’s only at this point that Lucifer realizes what a big mistake he’s made. The killer didn’t want to kill the victim but he did want her out of the way so the understudy could be the lead because he loves her. He was just afraid to admit his feelings to her. So, as Lucifer wallows in his own self-pity and heartache, Linda drops by to tell him she’s sorry for not stopping him. She challenges him to confront why he doesn’t want Chloe to be with Cain. First, he rails about his father’s plan but she calls bullshit on him. It’s an excuse and he knows it. He really wants Chloe to choose him because he loves her (and if Cain’s theory is right that Chloe’s affections make them both vulnerable, then she has feelings for him, too). But, Lucifer’s revelation is too little, too late. He arrives at Chloe’s to watch from the window as Cain proposes to her and she says “yes”. Honestly, I’m not sure why she accepted. She spent most of the episode unhappy with him and saying she couldn’t trust him for what he did. I knew this was where the story was headed based on previews and some other articles I’d read and it’s partly why it took me so long to get this post up. I really have not enjoyed this part of the season because it feels like an artificial way to keep Lucifer and Chloe apart. There was so much promise at the start of the season that now, feels like such a long time ago. Let our leads get together. Let Chloe know the truth and go from there. That can still be an interesting story and quite honestly, if we don’t get to at least Chloe knowing the truth by season’s end (in 3 episodes), I may be done blogging Lucifer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lucifer 3.20: “The Angel of San Bernardino”

“I am definitely not this angel and I know just how to prove it.”
- Lucifer

I went into this episode expecting to be highly annoyed with the Chloe and Cain storyline. It was kind of irritating but there were parts of the episode that made up for it. I’m also hoping that Maze is done with her revenge because that’s just unnecessary. There are too many storylines going on right now to put up with that.

Before we dive into the two main storylines of the week, let’s get Charlotte’s C-story out of the way. Now that she knows about God and angels and Hell and all, she’s reverted back to her wicked ways assuming that Amenediel can just pop her up to Heaven when the time comes. She even convinces Dan to sneak into a utility closet at a bar and stirp naked. Yeah, Dan is just so gullible. And totally into her. I do hope they work out but she needs to get her head in the game. Amenediel stops by for a chat as she’s trying on some ridiculously expensive necklace to explain that it’s who she is and her actions that determines whether she gets into Heaven. She doesn’t think she can change but I suspect Amenediel is going to make it his mission to help her out.

The crime of the week involves the son of a wealthy family who is murdered and the landlady who says she was saved by a guardian angel. Lucifer, who has been having trouble sleeping, fears that he is somehow responsible and so first decides to handcuff himself to his bed (after he finds what he believes is the figurine that went missing from the woman’s house in his bedroom) and then comes to the conclusion that he just shouldn’t sleep. It seems every time there is another step in the case, it comes in the evening and no action can be taken until the next day.

So, he ends up binging on drugs and alcohol and sex for a week (and binge watching all 12 seasons of Bones which I think is pretty hilarious). He imagines himself as Bones and Chloe as Booth. It’s all pretty hilarious until he claims a man of interest (who was seen arguing with the victim not long before his death) is in fact the killer. He actually played a killer on Bones in season 3. He’s an actor who was hired to be friends with the victim. In fact, this guy was hired to be the best man at a friendless guy’s wedding. This leads the Lucifer figuring out that a man they talked to and thought was the husband of the victim’s ex-girlfriend (who is the mother of the victim’s son) is also an actor for the same agency. Lucifer in his manic state confronts the guy at home and he admits that he killed the guy because he didn’t want the victim to take away his family. The woman had fallen in love with the actor for real. As Lucifer rails against the guy for being an imposter, he comes to the realization that Chloe may in fact be in peril.

This brings us to the continuing drama of Chloe and Cain. It seems that Cain is setting up Chloe to utter “I love you” so that he can then disappear on her. He seems to think that getting someone to fall in love with him will remove his mark and he can then die. Maze is willing and able to help out with the dying part. She also gives Chloe some advice. Admittedly, Chloe is a little suspicious of some of the phrasing Maze uses because it’s exactly like what Cain says. But, she brushes it off because she’s so smitten. And when Lucifer freaks out on her that he can’t sleep because he’s going nuts, she confronts him on why he’s so opposed to her and Cain (obviously she doesn’t know his true identity) being together. He drops the truth on her but because he’s so strung out and manic she doesn’t believe him. I really wish she would. But that wouldn’t make for romantic drama.

Chloe thinks everything is going great with Cain when he shows up with chocolate cake (Trixie’s favorite) and some beers. But right before Chloe says the three magic words, he bails on her. Lucifer, it turns out, is having about as a good a night as the detective. Maze shows up to find him frantically looking for the figurine to prove to Chloe that he was set up by Cain. Well, it wasn’t Cain. It was Maze pulling his strings because she’s mad at him for not taking her home. So, she played on his daddy issues to get back at him. Lucifer shows up at Chloe’s house to find her bereft, leading him to bust into Cain’s place and lay a beat down in anger on our immortal. Cain admits that he couldn’t hurt her by letting her say “I love you”. And now, somehow—I really hope they explain how because I’m a little lost—Cain’s mark is gone. He’s human and able to die. But something tells me he’s not so ready to go as he thinks he is. I also doubt that Lucifer is going to let him off the hook so easily with how he’s hurt Chloe.

From what the preview shows it looks like Cain is going to try and win Chloe back and Lucifer wants Chloe to choose him. It’s going to be all out war between these two immortals and I know who I want to win. It’s always meant to be Chloe and Lucifer form the beginning. It shouldn’t matter that Chloe was put there for Lucifer. Maybe that’s a good thing. Lucifer is so busy believing everything God does is to hurt him that he can’t possibly admit his father did something to help him. I just really hope this love triangle resolves before the end of the season. I don’t want to go into the new season with all of this drama hanging over our heads.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Lucifer 3.19: “Orange is the New Maze”

“We can’t punish the innocent or the usually guilty but innocent this one time. It’s the principle of the matter.”
- Lucifer

This week’s episode was all about Maze. Or at least the A plot focused on our resident demon> Maze is still unhappy with all the humans and their emotions and she wants to go back to Hell. But Lucifer refuses, saying that it would have bad consequences and could put Chloe in danger. It would appear that Maze takes matters into her own hands when a body is found and security camera footage shows Maze pulling a knife out of the dead man’s chest. Lucifer thinks he’s guilty and trying to manipulate him to take her home, but Chloe doesn’t believe that she’d do this. Cain—who is now her official boyfriend—thinks Chloe can’t be objective. God, the more he’s around and horning in on Lucifer and Chloe, the more I want to punch him in his smug face.

After ID’ing the body, Chloe and Lucifer go to the winery where he worked and talk to the owner and the foreman who claim that Maze stopped by to talk to the victim. He was a former bounty of hers. They find a can of Maze’s favorite drink in the victim’s trailer and then Maze shows up at the precinct with the knife to confess. It quickly becomes clear that she didn’t kill the man. So now, Lucifer and company must set out to find out who is framing her and for what reason. Maze has other plans than just waiting in a jail cell to be exonerated. She tricks Ella into a hug to snag her pass so she can get into the file room and steal a file.

While the team is trying to hunt down the real killer, Lucifer and Amenediel have to deal with a big problem of their own: Charlotte. She’s told Linda that Amenediel shared that she was his stepmother and she’s just confused and can tell he’s holding something back. Linda urges Charlotte to just drop it and move forward but she can’t. When Charlotte later runs into Lucifer, she confirms that Amenediel is his brother and he drops the truth about Hell and her soul’s journey there on her. This leads Charlotte to think she’s crazy. I wasn’t entirely sure what the point of going down this road was for, other than to eventually redeem Charlotte. In the end, Lucifer shows her his wings and she’s not freaked out at all. She’s just relieved that it was all true and she wasn’t going mad. Where they go from here, I have no idea.

After Maze absconds with the file (it has the name of the bail bondsman who contacted Maze about the dead guy), she finds him at a weekly bowling night. The guy is a total pig but in typical Maze fashion she gets him to talk. I mean, sure she doesn’t get to stab anyone but she does threaten the guy with getting his face pummeled by a bowling ball. He was paid to call her to track down the victim. So there’s yet another layer of the frame job. He has just enough time to tell her the name of the corporation that hired him before someone takes him out with a sniper shot to the head. Maze is gone by the time Lucifer and Chloe arrive on the scene but the rest of the bowling team is able to corroborate that Maze was in the room when the bail bondsman was killed. So, at least they know she’s not responsible. But, she’s still in the wind and they need to find her. They think talking to some of Maze’s other bounties will prove useful. While most of them are useless (although oddly enough everyone seemed to really like Maze and cited her as being how they turned themselves around or at least learned useful skills for prison), the last guy used to work at the same winery as the victim.

It turns out that Maze caught the winery owner’s son who had driven drunk, killed a little girl and fled the scene. Maze beats our team to the winery and she kind of can’t believe that the woman blames Maze for the son dying in a prison fight. I have to side with Maze here. It is in no way her fault at all. But Maze now intends to take out the mother. She’s going to have to dodge bullets from the foreman to do it. Thankfully, Lucifer and Chloe show up. Lucifer gets to use his angelic strength to bend the rifle barrel so it’s useless and knock out the guy. Chloe tries to talk Maze down but it doesn’t really work. She ends up stabbing the woman in the foot.

The case may be closed but things are still very much up in the air. Lucifer is still annoyed that Cain for moving in on Chloe and Cain is now intent on getting rid of Lucifer so he doesn’t have to compete with the Devil. And Maze still wants out. Lucifer claims he still can’t take her back to Hell because he doesn’t want to lose her, too. Maze breaks down at this point, realizing that she will always be a consolation prize for Lucifer and no one puts her first. Well, that may be changing. Cain catches up to Maze at the bus station to tell her that they should team up. Sure, they aren’t friends but Cain won’t pretend to be. And they can both get what they want. This unholy alliance makes me really anxious. We only have a few episodes left in the season and this makes me think we won’t be done with Cain storyline before season 4 begins which just drags things out unnecessarily. I can only hope that the resolution involves Lucifer coming clean with Chloe and that she believes him and understands. Maybe God gave Lucifer his wings back for a reason he does not yet understand. Maybe it’s so Chloe can be with him? We certainly know that Cain is using Chloe for his own ends.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Lucifer 3.18: “The Last Heartbreak”

“My problem, Detective, is that we don’t need a third party interfering with our partnership.”
- Lucifer

I have to admit I wasn’t very excited about watching this episode. I’m really not a fan of Cain getting in the middle of Chloe and Lucifer (and obviously, neither is Lucifer). But, maybe it will push Lucifer to admit the truth to Chloe finally. Before we get to that point, though, we have to contend with a case from Cain’s past. In the 1950s he worked in LA as a detective, chasing a killer known as the “Broken Hearts” killer. It would appear they caught the man responsible because when we jump to present day, the killer has just died in prison. Amidst some awkward sort-of flirting between Cain and Chloe, Dan drops a new case that bears striking similarities to the crimes back in the day.

Cain insists on inserting himself into the investigation, figuring he knows what to look for and what the motivation could be. They assume it is a copycat killer but from my years of watching Criminal Minds, it makes me wonder if they got the wrong guy back in 1958. Anyway, the MO of the original killer was to hunt down cheating couples. A quick look at the victims’ social media shows that the guy was married. They bring in his wife and while it looks pretty bad for her (she’d threatened her husband a bunch of times), they were getting divorced amicably. And it wasn’t likely her when they hear that another couple has been found.

While the case drama continues to unfold, Amenediel has some drama of his own when he sees Charlotte a coffee shop and thinks it’s Mom. He goes on a big ramble about how he thought she was gone but when she says she doesn’t know who he is, he backs off and refuses to say more, even when she points out that he knows Lucifer so he must know who she is (and what happened to her). Big brother is not going to be happy with our Devil. He pays Linda a visit who is not shocked by the revelation that Charlotte is alive and warns Amenediel to stay away from Charlotte. He doesn’t listen and as the episode comes to a close, he finds her at the coffee shop and promises to tell her everything.

As Chloe and Lucifer come up against a dead end on the killer, Cain recalls a chat with a waitress at a bar where she points out that the killer was very meticulous and wanted to get every detail right. That prompts him in the present to check security camera footage at the second scene from earlier in the week. This reveals a guy taking photos. It turns out, he’s a tour guide obsessed with the original killer but he denies being the copycat when Chloe and the gang drag him in.

Cain heads back to the bar he used to frequent and runs into the waitress’s granddaughter. Apparently, is old partner and the waitress got married and lived a long, happy life together. His partner also didn’t stop digging for clues after the killer was caught. A motive was never identified. So, Cain has Chloe come join him to go through files. He ruminates on the night he left LA and the waitress behind (she pointed out he’s neve going to find someone to love him if he doesn’t let them in) when Chloe finds that there was one connection between the victims back in the day: their spouses called in to a relationship radio show.

Of course, Ella would know the equivalent show now and she’s obsessed with it. This calls for a sting operation which only annoys Lucifer more when Cain says he’ll be the guy Chloe is cheating on Lucifer with. Lucifer even seeks some advice from Dan of all people to try and deal with his emotions but it isn’t until the actual killer knocks Chloe and Cain out that Lucifer realizes he can’t make Chloe be with him (or not be with Cain). Before they get knocked out, Cain asks Chloe out on a second date. She reminds him that he turned her down originally but he’s willing to be open to her now if she lets him. I know Cain is using her to get what he wants (and whether that’s to die or not is now kind of unclear) but I just know it’s going to end poorly.

Lucifer drops by Chloe’s place to check on her and let her know that he understands she can have all kinds of different relationships in her life and it doesn’t mean they won’t still have their partnership. You’d think he would be man enough to admit his feelings but I guess God putting Chloe in his path is still a hang up for him because he declines her offer of coffee which leads her to agree to another date with Cain. As much as I adore this show, the will they/won’t they is getting to be too much and they have unnecessary obstacles. There is plenty of story left to tell once Chloe and Lucifer get together. I mean, you can’t not have drama when you’re dating the Devil. And there is also plenty to mine with the new Amenediel and Charlotte relationship and with whatever is going on with Maze. At least form the previews (and the little bit we saw of her this week) she’s reverting to her demon roots. She’s tired of humanity and just wants to go home. That’s enough to keep the fun times going without throwing a love triangle in the mix. I just hope that by the start of season 4 Chloe is in the know and Cain’s storyline has been dealt with. I like Tom Welling as an actor but I don’t want to see him continue into next year. Wrap up his story and move on to something else. Give us more celestial family members or something!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fresh off the Boat 4.08: "The Vouch"

“In Dan’s defense, Enya’s voice has been known to summon whales.”
-Walter

This particular episode of “Fresh off the Boat” really focused on Louis and Jessica’s relationship, particularly the extent to which they do or do not support each other in their endeavors, and silly as those endeavors may seem. Jessica advocates for supporting one’s spouse no matter what, but I’m not sure if that’s always the best policy. Yes, Cattleman’s Ranch has worked out way better than Jessica thought it would, however I would want someone who loved me to let me know if they thought I was doing something that would have really negative consequences or just be a major embarrassment. I wouldn’t want them to harp on it too much, but waring me, and then maybe supporting me if I decided to do it anyway, would be ideal.

Anyway, the subject over which Jessica and Louis have a disagreement in this episode is Jessica’s novel-in-progress, “The Case of the Knife to the Brain,” featuring Jennifer Hong. I love how many people, including the “Fresh off the Boat” creative team know that Jennifer is the alternative name someone named Jessica would use and vice versa. Late 70s/ early 80’s uncreatively named ladies unite! Anyway, Jessica is suffering from some writer’s block while working on her book. Evan is the one who actually identifies the problem, because apparently had writer’s block when writing the HOA bylaws. When he finds out about it, Louis tries to encourage Jessica to keep writing through it, which is actually being supportive when I think about it.

Eddie and his friends are listening to a Busta Rhymes album, and unfortunately for them, the CD ends, and nobody feels like getting up to change it. Conveniently, they see an add for a 300 CD changer for $300. They realize they can make the purchase if they each chip in $60. Understandably, the other boys are a little skeptical that Eddie has $60, but Eddie swears he’s good for it. He then immediately goes and tries to borrow the money from his brothers. The boys buy the CD player and set it up in Eddie’s room. When they turn it on, it starts playing the soundtrack to “The Lion King.” This is the work of Evan and Emery. They believe that since they chipped in money for the thing, they deserve a few of the 300 slots. All the boys but Eddie agree, and they all want their own dedicated slots, too.

Louis is kind of freaking out because Kenny Rogers is going to be visiting the restaurant. He’s trying to figure out a gift for Kenny, and he’s torn between a motion pen and a drawing of a cow and a chicken. Meanwhile, Jessica has finally finished her book and is quite proud of it. So proud of it that she wants Louis to read it all that night. She’s on a creative high, but Louis is preoccupied with the Kenny Rogers visit and has a lot of trouble getting through the book. It turns out, for the record, that the killer was Jennifer Hong herself. Jessica got the idea when Louis told her not to be her own worst enemy. Louis clearly doesn’t love the book, but he tells Jessica it’s great.

Louis has successfully wrapped up the pen for Kenny in a way that doesn’t give away the fact that it’s a pen, so he’s riding high. Jessica harshes his buzz, however, by asking him to give Kenny the manuscript for her book. Apparently Kenny wrote a book, so Jessica thinks he must have an “in” in the publishing world. Louis reluctantly agrees. Louis consults Marvin and Honey, who point out that Jessica is always blunt herself, so she could probably handle a real critique of her manuscript. Marvin and Honey don’t particularly want to read it themselves, though, so they send copies to the other HOA ladies, and they all hate it. After they give their feedback, Jessica throws out the copies of the manuscript she made for all of them and swears she won’t change a word because they’re just jealous.

Meanwhile, in Eddie’s room, the boys load up the CD player with all their picks. When the first turn the machine on, an Enya album plays, which is obviously a nightmare (I’ve disliked Enya probably since around the time this episode takes place). Then one of Evan’s audio books about the Revolutionary War plays, which Eddie thinks is even worse. Since they all have such different tastes, the boys think they’re going to have to move the CD player between all their houses so they can each have some time with it. Eddie demands that he at least be allowed to choose the music while it’s in his room, and the rest of the boys all leave in response. When the music starts playing, it’s Enya again, of course. Then it starts playing that audio book again, and it gets Eddie thinking. He takes a liking to George III, of course. He basically wants to be a benevolent dictator of music (although George III wasn’t exactly benevolent, obviously). Eddie makes the pitch to his brothers, stressing that music has always been his thing. Emery, however believes that it’s time for the CD player to “shuffle expectations,” and Evan throws in a “no taxation without representation.” The situation continues to devolve from there. The boys say they will each have an equal say in the music played on the CD player from now on. Then really loud rock comes on and only one of them likes it.

Louis freaks out a bit as Kenny approaches the restaurant, but the visit ends up going well, and the men end up bonding over rattlesnake boots of all things. When Kenny leaves, Jessica rushes in and asks if Louis gave Kenny the book. Louis says Kenny read a few pages and said crime novels aren’t his thing. Jessica then reveals that she actually put an instruction manual, not the manuscript, in the envelope she gave Louis, so she now knows that Louis didn’t give the manuscript to Kenny. Louis finally owns up to the truth and tells Jessica he didn’t like her book. Jessica is pissed because she’s supported Louis in the past even when she thought he had a bad idea (like Cattleman’s). Louis ends up mailing the manuscript to Kenny with a very nice letter, and Jessica is happy. At the end of the episode, they get a letter back from Kenny saying he loved the book.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

This Is Us 2.18: “The Wedding”

“I’ve been holding onto that feeling for a long time now, you being with me. But Dad, I’m getting married today and I’ve gotta make room for Toby. I’ve gotta let go.”
- Kate

Well, Pearson clan, we’ve arrived at another season finale and as the episode title indicates, we are finally getting Kate and Toby’s wedding! Before we get there, though, we get a sort of “what if” scenario where Rebecca and Jack are renewing their wedding vows after forty years and old Jack got me teary-eyed. We get to hear Jack talk about when he and Rebecca started Big Three Homes and it’s just so bittersweet to see what could have been. We also get a reprise of “Moon Shadow” which is really sweet.

In the present, Randall and Kevin are on wedding duty and handling everything from wedding favors (which Randall is racing to finish) to the caterer and everything in between. In short, both Pearson men are going to drive themselves and everyone else batty. Then again, so is Kate. They are having Jack’s urn by the guestbook and she wants to wear her dad’s Daytona shirt as her “something old”. She’s a bit obsessive and totally panics when she can’t find the shirt. We are also finally getting some needed backstory on Toby by meeting his parents and they are a trip. Rebecca is also fretting about not wanting to ruin Kate’s big day and Miguel shares his feelings of being left out in the family.

While this should all be a happy occasion (neuroses aside) except that Deja has apparently turned into a mega brat. Shawna has officially terminated her parental rights and Deja has given the Pearsons attitude. Randall and Beth even have to take a moment to share their concerns about her future before they can head off to the wedding. It’s nice to see them doing little Beth-and-Randall couple things like that. It adds to the layers of their relationship. I hope we get more Beth next season. We do get to meet Beth’s sister Zoe who is taking photos. When they all get there, Deja is not impressed. I do hope her attitude changes with time. I understand the heartbreak she’s suffering with her mother permanently stepping out of her life. Beth and her sister have a chat about Beth’s fears and how Deja is acting. Zoe offers to talk to her, having been the angry kid. We learn that Zoe was left with Beth’s family by her mom at a young age and she was angry and treated her family in a similar way that Deja is acting.

Kevin and Randall try to find replacements for Jack’s shirt but nothing is going to work. Kate thinks she’s got an idea to replace it and goes to the ice cream shop they went to at the cabin. She’s disappointed to learn it’s been sold and they don’t have the ice cream flavor Jack ate. Randall and Kevin go off in search of Kate when Rebecca’s calls to Kate keep going to voicemail. The guys’ game of “what if” doesn’t have the same effect as Beth and Randall, although it allowed them to get out some of their insecurities as brothers. Kate ends up calling Rebecca to tell her that she’s been having this dream about Jack and Rebecca’s vow renewal. It’s all sweet until Kate reveals that Toby isn’t in the dreams.

Speaking of Toby, his parents show up in his room and try to talk him out of marrying Kate. They think she’s unstable and that he’s catering to her too much. They worry he’s going to spiral out of control and become deeply depressed like with his last wife. I really hope Kate doesn’t abandon Toby at the altar. They’ve gone through so much to get to this point. They deserve to be happy together. Thankfully, Kate doesn’t run. She goes to share a much-needed chat with Jack at their spot outside the cabin. She says she’s carried him with her for so long but she has to make room for Toby now. Kevin and Randall find her and let her have her time with Dad before getting to the nuptials. And hey, Zoe’s talk with Deja had a good effect. She’s I n a dress with some lip gloss!

Before Kate can walk down the aisle, she has to reconcile with Rebecca and I’m so glad that they have finally made their peace. Rebecca felt she was always in Kate’s way but Kate assures her mom that wasn’t the case. She always longed to be like her mom, as a singer, wife and mother. It was beautiful to see. As was Kate and Toby tying the knot while in flashback, we hear Kate ask Jack if she can marry him someday. Jack explains that she’s going to find someone better than him one day and he’ll be there to walk her down the aisle and help celebrate. In a way, he is and it made me cry even more. Both Kevin and Randall’s toasts are heartwarming and wise and beautiful. But as the continued revelry goes on, some things may not be all they appear. Deja—after Toby’s mom told her that she looked like Randall—went out and smashed the windshield of the car. And we catch glimpses of what might be in the future for the Big Three. Kate appears to be dealing with Toby having depression again and Randall and adult Tess are off to see “her”, although Tess isn’t ready. And Kevin and Beth’s cousin are heading Vietnam which makes me wonder how that ties in with Jack’s past. I’m glad that Kate and Toby were married and it felt, as one would expect with This Is Us, that Jack was there with everyone. It’s going to be a long six months until we get more time with our favorite TV family. I’m just thankful for the ride.

Lucifer 3.17: “Let Pinhead Sing!”

“I know what you’re doing. Our bomb scare made you realize just how dangerous this job is and that you and I could lose each other.”
- Chloe

This week finds our duo pulled into the world of divas and big shows. They are called to the scene when a woman is killed on stage at a show. Apparently, someone shot the victim (who was a backup dancer that had switched places with the actual singer) with a firework. Lucifer decides he is going to take Chloe out of his orbit and spotlight and starts focusing on random people. All it does is annoy Chloe and make Lucifer look like a phony. Although he does get to use his powers on a back-up singer who apparently quit because she wants to rival the starlet, Azara. Didn’t make a ton of sense but whatever. Ella does some digging through social media and found a fan who was granted a VIP pass to show the night of the murder. He’s kind of super stalker-y.

When Chloe and Lucifer find him dead and a suicide note on hand, Lucifer assumes the case is closed. But it quickly turns out the guy was killed before the show so he couldn’t have been their killer. Our duo goes to tell Azara that she’s still in danger. She doesn’t believe them until someone starts shooting. Knowing that she needs protecting, Lucifer offers to guard Azara at his penthouse. Chloe only agrees because it’s an unexpected move. Chloe does bring in the manager because it was his gun used in the attack but he denies responsibility. He also points out that lots of managers have insurance policies on their talent (trying to belie Chloe’s suspicion about the one he took out on Azara).

We also have some continued drama on the Maze and Linda front as well as Cain moping about. Let’s focus on the more interesting of these subplots first. Linda tries to make amends with Maze by buying a big ax (and gift wrapping it). That doesn’t work obviously. Then, while in a session with Charlotte, our reformed bad actor offers to mediate between Linda and Maze. Linda starts out being apologetic and saying she doesn’t have any grievances but then gets fired up, claiming Maze called dibs on a guy she doesn’t even like. Which definitely doesn’t seem fair. But Linda points out that she gave up this one guy that she liked for her friendship with Maze. Maze still isn’t getting it or willing to let go of her anger and hurt feelings. In the end, she breaks the axe.

Meanwhile, Cain has turned to strumming a guitar and trying to sing his blues away. Someone really ought to tell Tom Welling he cannot sing. Especially in an episode where you’ve got a decent female vocalist and Tom Ellis. It was painful to listen to Cain croon. I nearly hit the fast-forward button when he started the second time (after Ella tried and failed to cheer him up). Dan’s attempt goes about as well as expected (read: total failure). And then Amenediel shows up and that just makes things worse. Amenediel thinks because Cain has given up and is no longer allied with Lucifer that he’s passed his test.

Azara sneaks out of Lucifer’s penthouse and down to Lux (after trying to seduce Lucifer) and starts singing “I Will Survive”. The song felt a little on the nose to be honest, although it did get Tom to sing as well which is always nice. I think he enjoys that part of the show, especially getting to play a character with all kinds of talents. Their little duet ends and Azara’s friend and social media person brandishes a knife. She’s the real killer and she wanted Azara all to herself. She’s been in love with the singer since high school and she just couldn’t stand being on the road in the spotlight for years on end (which is what Azara wanted). Chloe tries to talk the woman down but Lucifer ends up tackling her to keep her from using the knife on herself. That of course means that Lucifer gets the knife in his chest. He’ll survive (no pun intended) although it’s rather unfortunate Chloe was there making it worse. It does present a scene for Amenediel to comment on to Cain though. If Lucifer can find happiness with Chloe, then maybe Cain can find that, too. He sets his sights on Chloe and I almost punched my phone screen because we don’t need another love triangle. It was bad enough a couple seasons ago with Dan. This is just a tired and worn out plot device and I’m really getting tired of the writers dragging things out with Lucifer and Chloe. Just let them get together already!

Chloe gets VIP passes to Azara’s rescheduled show and Cain invites himself before Lucifer has a chance to do so. In the end, Lucifer goes to Linda and admits he’s made a big mistake in pushing Chloe away. Now he’s going to have to fight he world’s first murderer for the woman he loves (even if he’s not willing to fully admit it). While this episode did move some of the plots along a little bit, it felt a lot like a filler episode. And I am not pleased with the triangle reveal. Then again, I haven’t been super into the whole Cain storyline at all. Or maybe just not the way they have been presenting it. Last week was interesting with Abel. Continue that storyline. Show us the brothers getting to know each other after all these eons and see if they can find some common ground. Don’t make him Lucifer’s romantic rival. Because the show is called Lucifer and you know he’s going to win in the end. I just worry that in an attempt to keep her, Cain is going to reveal Lucifer’s secret and for whatever reason Chloe will believe him and it will drive her and Lucifer apart.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

This Is Us 2.17: “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life”

“The next time you find a bed that feels even a little safe, don’t blow it.”
- Raven

Much like last year’s seventeenth episode gave us insight into Dr. K and his backstory, it appears we will be getting a similar structure this year with Deja. We begin where all good stories do: at the start and we see Deja born to a 16-year-old mother who is definitely not ready to be a mom. As we see Shawna in labor we also catch glimpses of Rebecca, Beth and Randall’s biological mom as well which I thought was a nice contrast. We also get a little montage as Deja—age three or four—is read Goodnight Moon by her great-grandma. We see Randall read it to his girls and Rebecca read it to her kids and young Jack reading it to Nicky. When Shawna’s grandma comes home late one night to find Shawna out and Deja by herself, the older women have words. Shawna, now 19, wishes she was out with her friends at college instead of taking care of a child. Her grandma warns that she won’t be around forever to take care of them and we see her pass away (I’m guessing a heart attack). As Shawna and little Deja mourn, we catch glimpses of William morning his girlfriend’s passing, Randall mourning William and Rebecca mourning Jack. I like how we are seeing how all of these people are connected by these events and emotions (in addition to their interwoven tales).

We fast forward to the age when we first met Deja and it is clear that she has had to take on a lot of the responsibility of raising herself. We see her making breakfast for her mom and paying bills for her (in contrast to Rebecca and the kids making pizza and William and the girls making scrambled eggs). It’s Shawna’s birthday and Deja wants to make a special recipe for dinner but ends up cutting herself while trying to open a can. She (rightfully) freaks out but gets herself to the hospital where she’s treated and introduced to Linda. Shawna shows up a while later, claiming her phone died while she was out celebrating her birthday. Clearly, this woman doesn’t have her child’s interests at heart.

Next, we find Deja in one of her foster homes. She’s been in the system for a year now and while things may seem okay superficially (she’s got a foster sister she likes), the family is abusive, especially when the girls are caught shoplifting make up for the school dance. Deja speaks up to the social worker and her foster sister blames her for them being separated and for having to be bounced around again. I can’t imagine the upheaval kids in the system must feel. I was briefly involved in the foster system (my parents fostered an older girl when I was in early high school) and it was a big adjustment for our family. I know it was a big change for her, too. Especially when she ended up leaving us. I’m really glad the writers of this show don’t shy away from dealing with these types of issues. It really highlights the admirable intentions but also the many flaws of the system. When Deja is eventually reunited with her mother, the happiness is short-lived. Shawn’s new boyfriend, Alonso, moves in and he’s a drunk and not very nice to Deja. In fact, it is his gun that they find in Shawna’s car when she gets pulled over. But, we see Deja meet the Pearsons and begin the journey that will hopefully bring her back into their lives for good.

The next tie Deja and her mom are reunited, it’s the same story. Things start out great and they are doing well and then Shawna starts down her destructive path and they end up evicted and sleeping in the car which is where Beth and Randall find them at the end of the previous episode. My heart broke a little as Deja considered selling her great-grandmother’s broach (and we saw Kevin’s struggle with his dad’s necklace). In the end, though, Deja keeps hold of that memento of her great-grandma. She really has had to grow up so much sooner than children ought to. I’m really rooting for her to get a happy ending with Randall and Beth and the girls. They have so much love to give. As it turns out, Deja may be getting the family she’s longed for. As the Pearsons, Deja and Shawna spend the night together, Shawna slowly realizes how happy being with these people makes her daughter and that it allows her to act like a child for once. She and Beth have a heart to heart while Deja and Randall have one of their own. Deja kind of rambles (though it comes off as sounding rather philosophical) but it’s nice to see her and Randall bond more. When Randall heads downstairs, Shawna is leaving. I am hoping she’s going back to rehab or somewhere to get her life tougher so that she can be there for Deja in a different capacity. I just hope someone remembers to call the social worker in the morning to get this all on the up and up!

As trends go from seasons to season, I like what the writers have done with focusing on a secondary character that touches a lot of our main cast in a deep way. We got to see more about who Deja is and how she came to be the way she is which informs her interactions with the Pearsons. And it showed us that Shawna isn’t all bad. She just doesn’t make very good decisions and never really learned to put her child’s needs above her own. I’m excited to see where the show goes for its second season finale and it’s going to be a long six months until the show returns for season 3 (and hopefully many more years to come).

Lucifer 3.16: “Infernal Guinea Pig”

“Let’s put Abel in this old coot. He gets a second chance at life and you get a chance at death.”
- Lucifer

Lucifer and Cain are trying their hand at resurrection this week as Chloe investigates a bomb that was delivered to a Hollywood producer. It wouldn’t be “Lucifer” if the procedural and the supernatural didn’t mix and hey, we actually progressed some of the smaller plotlines, too. Lucifer has the big idea to go down to Hell and bring Abel’s soul into a recently dead person so that he is technically alive again, hoping that will cure Cain’s ills. Of course, it doesn’t go off as planned. Unfortunately (although it makes for some amusing sight gags), Abel’s soul ends up in the body of the would-be victim of the bomb attack. She gets up and strolls out of the hospital with purpose (apparently those life-threatening injuries don’t mean a thing when you’ve got a new soul in the body). Then again, that does track with Charlotte being possessed by Mom.

So, while Chloe and Dan dig into a potential stalker who just turns out to be a conspiracy theorist who is actually right about a drug cartel connection, Lucifer and Cain head off to look for the newly resurrected Abel. Apparently, Abel’s hell loop involved him partying and eating a lot and always getting killed by Cain. So, they think with their manly parts and find Abel at a roof top pool party. Unfortunately, Amenediel found Abel first and has given her a gun to kill herself so she’ll go back to Hell. That isn’t likely to happen, when the drug cartel hit man pops up and she shoots him. A little later, we also learn that Lucifer’s latest theory—that if Cain gets killed by Abel (making thing seven), the curse will be gone—is dead wrong. Concerned that the drug cartel isn’t finished coming after Abel, Cain sends Chloe and Charlotte in to offer her a plea deal. Which Abel takes really easily.

While all of the craziness is going down, Linda tries to get Charlotte to open up about her trauma and make her patient understand that Linda knows what she’s talking about and that she needs to start her healing process by confronting her personal hell. Charlotte eventually agrees to this (after an interaction with Abel) and we finally learn what her hell loop was: her family being shot to death every morning by a different criminal she helped go free as a defense attorney. I honestly hope that Charlotte is able to move forward and deal with her trauma. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting her to take this kind of a turn and become a sympathetic character after Mom. But I’m liking it.

Speaking of traumatic experiences, Maze is still on the warpath with Amenediel and Lucifer enlists her to keep his angelic big brother occupied while he and Cain try to find a way to remove the curse. This leads to Maze tricking Amenediel and beating him up until he tells her that he doesn’t get why she’s mad when she dumped him and that hurting him won’t make anything better. In fact, it’s just hurting Linda more. Maze, obviously upset, storms off. I really hope the three of them can sort this out because the drama is so petty and ridiculous. I get that Maze is still new to human emotions but she’s been dealing with them long enough she should have some kind of control over them! But, I suppose that’s asking a lot of a demon who up until recently didn’t know she could experience human emotions.

Lucifer soon finds he has a little lack of control over his own feelings when he and Chloe take Abel to the Hollywood producer’s office. A previous visit yielded the nugget that the assistant (whom Abel is now inhabiting) was the only one who could open the desk drawer certain files in it. A little too late, Chloe realizes said file drawer is a trap and is rigged with another explosive. Lucifer is mentally kicking himself for putting Chloe in danger (see: Amenediel is right when he says that there’s more for God to take away from Lucifer if he continues to be defiant). But with a little teamwork and guidance from Cain, Chloe is able to diffuse the bomb and everyone is safe. It turns out the producer was laundering money for the cartel and the assistant found out and thus they tried to kill her. As murder plots go, it’s not super original but with this show, it doesn’t really need to be. Not when we have such heavy mythology going on right now.

So, it’s another case solved but things with Lucifer and Cain are far from settled. Cain still bears his mark and Abel is out in the world. And now, because Lucifer can’t justify putting Chloe in danger, he’s breaking his word to Cain about helping him die. This surprises Cain, seeing as Lucifer never breaks his deals. That’s kind of his whole schtick as the devil. Something tells me that Lucifer isn’t going to completely set up of the line of fire. He’s too invested in seeing his father be snubbed. I’m eager to see how the new dynamic between Cain and Abel develops as well. I understand that they had sibling rivalry but I want to know more about how it developed and why and whether now, after millennia of growth, they can put their angst aside and get along. Maybe see that there have more in common than they thought. And for the love of all things holy, please let Chloe find out the truth about Lucifer. I’m tired of sounding like a broken record but it is well past time that she knows. I mean, she was all jealous that Lucifer and Cain were working together on part of the case. It’s obvious they care about one another and are supposed to be together. So, just do it already! The will-they-won’t-they is getting boring.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Fresh off the Boat 4.07: "The Day After Thanksgiving"

“No one is lonely, Louis. That’s not a thing.” -Jessica After dealing with some computer trouble and things being especially crazy at my new job, it's time for me to get back to recapping! “The Day After Thanksgiving” was an interesting take on the classing Thanksgiving episode of television courtesy of the “Fresh off the Boat” creative team. You’ll recall from previous seasons that the Huangs don’t especially like Thanksgiving, because it usually involves spending time with Jessica’s insufferable sister Connie and her equally insufferable family. Jessica and Louis actually like the day after Thanksgiving better, because that’s when they actually get to do what they want to do. Starting from that point we get a fun, unique Thanksgiving episode that actually reveals a lot about Grandma Huang. I feel like we don’t get to see a ton from her in a typical episode other than a few comedic moments, so I appreciated that this episode delved into her character a bit more. It was also a fun opportunity to see more of George Takei in his role as Bernard the English teacher.

The episode opens with Louis and Jessica going over their Thanksgiving plans. Jessica has already told Connie that they’re not coming to DC for the holiday because, as they did the previous year, they’re going to open the restaurant again. What Louis and Jessica are really looking forward to is the day after Thanksgiving. Louis is planning on taking all the naps. Jessica plans to, along with Honey, dominate Black Friday via a plot that involves using Grandma Huang’s wheelchair. We then fast forward to the actual day after Thanksgiving. The family are all arguing over who is at fault for whatever awful things actually have transpired. Poor Evan is overwhelmed. He’s just sitting at the kitchen table with a blank look singing the “I Love You” song from Barney the Dinosaur. It was hilarious, although I still very much hate Barney. My childhood dog, who was born in 1987, was named Barney, and when I got to about third grade, kids started making fun of me for it, even though he was around before the purple dinosaur.

Grandma Huang, meanwhile, seems to be not doing particularly well in her ESL class. She keeps writing depressing answers on her worksheet, and Louis and Jessica are of course rather judgmental about this. Louis does support his mother, however, by going to an event where everyone from the ESL class recites a movie monologue. Louis and Bernard chat after the event, and Bernard says that the class is ending soon. We then cut to Louis telling Jessica that he has invited Bernard to the Huang family Thanksgiving dinner. The Huangs have been told by Kenny Rogers corporate that they will not be allowed to open the restaurant on Thanksgiving, so their plans are definitely unraveling. Jessica is not happy about Bernard coming to Thanksgiving, because that means she’ll have to cook a full, fancy meal. Louis, however, thinks Bernard could be the cure for Grandma’s loneliness. At first, Jessica is skeptical about Grandma’s relationship with Bernard. She thinks Grandma is just flirting with him to get an A in ESL class. Then Grandma offers to both pay for and cook the meal, so Jessica thinks her feelings must be legit. Jessica tells Honey she thinks this dinner might put Grandma in such a good mood that she’ll let them use the wheelchair for Black Friday.

The B story in this episode is that Evan seems to really want to grow up. He wants to be allowed to go to the school supply store by himself to buy a new three-hole punch, but Jessica won’t allow it. She reminds him that he is still young, even if he did skip a grade. Eddie and Emery offer to take him to the mall, which doesn’t thrill Evan because he can’t buy a three-hole punch there. Eddie gets some fresh new socks, and Evan is unimpressed. The boys see an ad for “I Know What you Did Last Summer,” and Eddie really wants to go see it. Emery, however, is skeptical that they should be taking Evan along. Eddie gets Evan on board by telling Evan he’d still be a little kid if he opted to see “Flubber” instead. Because he is, actually, still a pretty young kid, the movie traumatizes Evan. We see later that he is now scared of just about everything. He thinks the events of the movie are going to happen to him, basically. Eddie and Emery end up watching the Macy’s parade on tape later because the actual Thanksgiving is chaotic, and they convince the now afraid of everything Evan to join them. Evan is really enjoying it, and all is well until the Barney balloon is destroyed and goes down. While that traumatized Evan, I’ll admit I found it a bit satisfying!

Bernard does indeed show up for the Huang family Thanksgiving dinner, and he turns out to be incredibly loud and obnoxious. Louis tells Jessica he wants Bernard to leave, but Jessica wants them to tough it out for a few more hours so she can borrow Grandma’s wheelchair. They return to the kitchen, and Grandma tells them that Bernard had to go because “he was too much.” A very happy Louis starts talking shit about Bernard, and then Bernard himself exits the bathroom. It turns out he “ate too much” and vomited. Then he gives the Huang family an “F” for being rude. Grandma is understandably pissed at Louis and Jessica, and she’s venting her frustration by watching the video of the Barney balloon destruction over and over (a woman after my own heart!). Evan asks her about it, and she wisely says that the scene is like life. Sometimes you’re the balloon, and sometimes you’re the knife. Evan decides to “be the knife” this time around, and he blackmails Eddie and Emery into taking him to the teacher supply store for his three-hole punch.

In the aftermath, Louis and Jessica continue to argue over what happened. Did Grandma really have feelings for Bernard, or what she just trying to get a good grade in her ESL class? Jessica eventually goes to talk to Grandma, because Grandma’s ESL homework says her favorite thing is doing nails with Jessica. Grandma says she likes their girl time, because sometimes the boys are too emotional. She reveals that she really was just buttering up Bernard to get an A in the class after all. The two decide to go Black Friday shopping together, even though most of the sales are over by this point. They delight in the idea that they might see someone get trampled.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

iZombie 4.01: “Are You Ready for Some Zombies?”

“One day they decide to put up a wall and seventy-two hours later we’re living in Bagdad.”
- Blaine

We are back for season 4 and it’s a new world, iZombie fans and honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. A part of me is glad that Liv doesn’t have to hide her visions at all anymore but I kind of liked seeing her have to explain to the uninitiated how she came up with information. But, it does present some interesting issues moving forward in terms of the procedural aspect of the show. Aside from the case of the week, we have some interesting developments with Major and Chase Graves and a little bit with Blaine. Basically, Blaine is now Chase’s lap dog. If he wants to keep his businesses open, he has to feed Graves information. He bitches about this to his dad who is still stuck down a well but Daddy eventually gets free and thinks that Blaine’s voice from above the well was God and now he’s going to lead a zombie religious army or something. Honestly, I’m so ready for him to be gone. I’ll admit, I haven’t really liked a character Robert Knepper has ever played, which probably means he’s good at playing the villain. I just don’t think we really need him running around being crazy zombie guy when we have the general social inequality of humans and zombies and Blaine being a grey hat in all of this. We have enough external factors to act as antagonists that we don’t need Angus, too.

Major is tasked with getting some homeless zombie kids off the streets who’ve been kicked out of their homes by their parents. Ultimately, Chase wants to find more soldiers because they’ve apparently instituted a no scratching rule (punishable by death via guillotine). Major ends up having a soft spot for a couple of the kids and so he selects them to join up. I suspect he chose one of the kids because she’s got two younger zombie siblings who are starving and soldiers get extra brain rations and have access to the vending machine with brains in it. I hope we get to see more of these kids and let them develop some more personalities. Oh, and we learn Ravi’s fate. The cure works … mostly. Every few weeks he turns into a zombie for a few days so he’s working on improving the cure. At present, he’s eaten the brain of a professor who was also apparently a nudist. Lovely. It did provide a few laughs along the way but it was a little unnecessary to pull the "let’s hide his junk behind things” gag twice in relatively short succession.

The case of the week involves a diehard Seattle Seahawks super fan being murdered by being ground up in a giant mixing bowl at the newly established brain packing plant. Because, of course they now have a brain packing plant. Liv eats his brain and becomes nauseatingly annoying with sports and smack talk. She and Clive pay a visit to the widow (and son) and it’s clear that everyone knows that Liv’s hair and pale complexion mean she’s one of the undead. And they aren’t overly excited by that fact. But, the wife points to a guy at work whom her husband had a fierce sports rivalry with that resulted in damaging each other’s cars. They bring the guy in and he’s seen going back to work on security footage even though he said he was at home. He says that someone put brain tubes in his bag and he was going back to return them because the punishment is severe if they’re caught.

Eventually, Liv has a vision of two Filmore Graves soldiers talking about selling brain tubes on the black market. The one guy she could get a sketch of is ID’d by Major but he’s not much use in answering questions because he’s on Shakespearean actor blue brain. We also learn that Blaine is operating a restaurant and he’s also clearly pining after Peyton. Who is now dating a lawyer guy named Derek who seems rather bland. I’d honestly prefer her with either Ravi or Blaine if I had to choose. Liv is super in the zone watching a game (she’s done up in ridiculously elaborate face paint and wig and everything) when Peyton gets home and Peyton has to drag Liv out into the hallway to show her that people are spray painting Z on suspected zombie doors. God, this just brings up images of Nazi Germany … and probably isn’t far from what some people in this country would like to do to their fellow man. But, it gives Liv a breakthrough and they go back to the victim’s house. They discover that there’s a suspected zombie living there and it turns out to be the son. Liv has a vision of the victim finding out (he was super against zombies) and throwing him out. The wife ultimately confesses that her husband made her choose between her husband or her son and so she killed him and framed the guy he had sports beef with. As motives for crimes, it’s relatable. I do find it interesting that the courts have had to consider whether zombie visions are admissible in court and when you have to tell someone you’ve eaten their loved one’s brain and had said vision.

As I said, I have mixed feelings about this episode. Part of me wants to like some of the new dynamics and the openness on the force about working with humans and zombies. But the parts that are the darker side of society are hitting a little too close to reality right now. I’m interested to see how Ravi progresses with the zombie cure and how that effects the story overall. I also am looking forward to seeing Clive and Bozzio work out their relationship now that she is a zombie, too.

This Is Us 2.16: “Vegas, Baby”

“Everyone thinks it was always Kevin and Kate. But the year after Dad died it was Kate and Randall eating hot pockets and watching Mom pretending to be okay.”
- Kate

After the weight of the last few episodes, having a relatively lighter one was nice. I mean, there was still some deep, emotional stuff happening in the present-day storyline but on the whole the premise of the episode was lighter because Kate and Toby were having their bachelor/bachelorette parties in Vegas. But, not everyone was excited to be going, namely Randall. Before we jet off to Vegas, we see that Deja stopped by to ask for money to pay the overdue heating bill in her apartment. This cranks Randall’s anxiety level up to 11 because he’s worrying about what to do if she needs them while they are away.

I was honestly a little worried about Kevin’s sobriety in Sin City and it seemed he was a little as well. He gets to the hotel and asks the housekeeper to do him a favor: the next day when she comes in to clean, she should count the 27 bottles of booze in the mini bar and if they are all still there, she gets a big tip. I like that he’s trying to find ways to keep himself accountable. But as he and the guys go out to dinner to celebrate Toby, things take a turn. He sees one of his movie co-starts who tells him that she was completely cut from the movie. This leads to Kevin spiraling a bit about whether he’s been cut out, too. He begs off the rest of the night and Randall soon bails as well when he gets a call from Deja. She’s just checking up on him but he’s still worried.

Over with the women, Beth is letting loose, complete with going up on stage at Magic Mike Live. Of course, as Randall is wandering the casino, he see the show and he and Beth get into a huge blowout fight that started when they arrived in Vegas and Randall basically told Beth she has no heart because she’s so detached from the whole Deja situation. As painful as it was to see them go at each other (although they even fight kind of polite which is adorable), it is a nice reminder that while their marriage is strong, they still have struggles. I did feel a little bad for Kate whose party they were ruining but as all the yelling is going on, she blurts out that she thinks that Randall chose his own family and wife over his sibling lately. This leads to a nice heart to heart with Randall and Kate where she says that she loved spending time with him as a kid, especially after Jack died and they binged Sex and the City. And she also reminds Randall that Toby just wanted to hang with his brothers-in-law. So Randall and Kevin head back to grab Toby and take him to the seedy part of Vegas like he wanted and they all have a heart to heart where Toby reveals that he has a younger brother (as in 10 years younger) who clearly didn’t want to spend time with him because he didn’t come to the party. If we do get a wedding in the final two episodes I hope we get to meet Toby’s family. But he manages to get Randall and Beth back on track and Kevin finds out that the movie was restricted but he’s still in it because it’s all about the father/son dynamic he and Sylvester Stallone had. We also get probably our first Kate and Beth scene, too where Kate admits she was intimidated by Beth because she was so successful and had her life together when Kate was a mess. It was a nice scene between the two of them and it also gave us a little more insight into how both women tick. And in the end, it seems Randall’s anxiety was justified because when he and Beth get back home, they go to check on Deja and find that she and her mother are no longer living in the apartment and as they leave, they spot them sleeping in their car. My heart broke in that instant because as much as I want Deja back with the Pearson clan (and I suspect she will be) it really shows that her mother just isn’t capable of providing the stability and environment that Deja needs. She may love her daughter but she doesn’t have her best interests at heart.

In the past, we get a peek at Jack and Rebecca’s first and fourth wedding anniversaries which are equally sweet and involve grand gestures on Jack’s part. Because of course that’s Jack. But they’ve now been married for probably nine or ten years based on the kids’ ages and they just want a quiet year and to do nothing in the gift giving department. As Jack makes breakfast, Kevin asks why Jack isn’t doing anything and then the kids decide that they want to throw their parents an anniversary party. And Kevin’s going to cook Cornish hens. Or at least he’s going to try but Jack’s inattentiveness thwarts the endeavor because the oven wasn’t turned on. It was also nice to see young Kate and Randall bonding, too. It seems that Kevin’s meltdown over the uncooked hens was related to his fear his parents were getting divorced since they didn’t want to celebrate their anniversary. Whether that’s true or whether we are seeing the beginning of his acting chops (he does calm down really fast), it’s kind of hard to tell. But, in the end the kids give their parents a nice night on the roof watching a meteor shower. And of course, Jack can make looking at falling space rocks romantic as hell. He says meteors are always out there and you just have to look for them. And that he sees Rebecca every day. God, can the man get any sweeter honestly?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lucifer 3.15: “High School Poppycock”

“Making people tell the truth is kinda my job.”
- Maze

I have to admit, the case of the week storyline this week wasn’t my favorite, although we did get to see a few interactions between characters that were kind of funny. The victim is a popular novelist who had just finished the last book in the series after 5 years of writers’ block. Her editor finds her (I’m pretty sure editors don’t make house calls in the real world but whatever). I will admit, I liked the cover art for the books. I know they are fake but whoever designed them did a great job sticking to the genre! Lucifer—after paying a visit to Linda to try and break his mental block on finding a way to remove Cain’s curse and finally help him shuffle off the mortal coil—badgers the editor on how the writer was so successful in getting past her block. This is a running theme for the episode and its rather ridiculous (especially when he tries and fails to use the improv technique of “yes and”). There’s also the subplot of investigating a super fan who got into online with the author. But he comes clean and says he shouldn’t have pushed her to be faster in writing. And he even got to help her out with the last book thanks his massive amounts of fanfiction. Yeah, I’m fairly certain most authors don’t want to read fanfiction. But hey, what do I know. The fan does say that the author didn’t want to use what he’d written but he did say she thought what he’d done helped her get back to the story she wanted to tell.

When the gang figures out that the author’s characters and situations are based on her real high school classmates, they begin to put together their suspect list. And the best part is they are all in town for the class reunion. Some undercover work is required and they pick a loner guy who no one liked that went to college abroad. However, he’s actually RSVP’d so they sic Maze on him so that Lucifer can impersonate him. And boy do things get weird. See, Linda and Amenediel are still sneaking around with their relationship and Maze decides (with some advice from Trixie) to get the truth out of them, even though we as the viewers already know that she knows they are together. So, she sets Linda up on a blind date with the real guy who RSVP’d and lures Amenediel there as her own date. She just gets all up in Amenediel’s space and licks him at one point. This is enough for Linda to come clean but Maze still gets angry and storms off. Ultimately, Linda realizes lying to her friend and hurting her just aren’t who Linda is. So, she and Amenediel break up. I’m kind of sad to see them break up. I get why Maze is hurt (and she is still new to human emotion) but they were a nice pairing. It also gave Amenediel something to do other than traipse after Lucifer trying to clean up his messes. He hasn’t really had much to do this season.

As preparation for the reunion, Chloe reads all of the authors books and she gets super into them, even staying up all night. She didn’t really have a high school experience as she was stuck with tutors on film sets most of her childhood. So, she is really digging into all the drama and gossip. It’s kind of funny to see her pointing all the people at the reunion and acting as if they are the characters. Lucifer has to actually be the mature one at the reunion. I mean, sure, he’s still desperately trying to figure out how to break his block but he’s less inclined to get all sappy over the people that are their suspects. It quickly becomes clear that none of the group are the killer because they all snuck into the school pool on the night of the murder to party. And they didn’t invite the loner guy. It was amusing to see Lucifer and Chloe try to get that alibi out of them before Lucifer deduces their whereabouts. This, obviously makes them suspect that he is the killer. He admits to being with the victim but denies he’s the killer. He was going to be the hero of the last book and everyone was going to get along. I have to agree, for a sci-fi story, having it all wrap up so nicely and everyone is happy and getting along seems both boring and lame. At least for the genre. It seems that the editor thought so as well. Chloe and Lucifer manage to catch him trying to kill the super fan (he apparently wrote a crazy robot overlord ending that would have done better). Lucifer gets really angry when the editor doesn’t give him anything helpful to break through his block. But hey, they’ve got the guy, even if the manuscript will never see the light of day again (yeah, she wrote on an old-school typewriter).

By episode’s end, Lucifer has asked Chloe to stop by Lux and he gives her the prom she never had (even though she admits she likes being the responsible adult type). They share a sweet dance and she asks him to tell her what his problem is and so he does. Of course, she doesn’t believe him but she does suggest that he needs to look to the future, no the past. But, that trigger an idea in our devil. He’s going to undo what happened to bring about the curse in the first placed. I’m not sure how he’s going to manage to resurrect Abel, seeing how crazy the Mom situation was but I’m sure he’s going to give it a go. I wonder how Cain is going to react to this suggestion of seeing his brother again after all these millennia?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Mayor 1.08: "Grey Christmas"

“Fort Grey does not have a slush fund. If they did, I’d be skiing right now.”
-Ed Gunt

It turned out, unfortunately, that the first holiday episode of “The Mayor” was also the series finale. I will definitely miss the show. It wasn’t perfect, and it was still finding its footing, but it had heart, and as a public administrator myself, it always made me think. The holidays provided the perfect backdrop for the types of stories the “Mayor” creative team likes to do. Courtney wants to do right by his city, and he eventually succeeds, although he stumbles a bit on the way. All of this takes place as part of an homage to Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” It’s not an event-for-event remake, but it is definitely inspired by the Dickens novel. I love “A Christmas Carol,” although I do think the tributes can be kind of played out. Overall, though, if the show had to end so soon, this was a sweet note to end on.

The episode opens with a funny cold open, where Courtney and Dina are putting up their Christmas tree at their apartment. TK and Jermaine arrive on the scene, and they’re a bit upset that the tree has been mostly decorated without them. There’s still the star to put on the top of the tree, though, and there’s a funny bit where the tree falls down as Courtney is placing the star. Although, as someone who has had more than one Christmas tree fall on them (I was the designated Christmas tree decorator when I was growing up), maybe it wasn’t all that funny thinking about it!

Courtney goes to a holiday event at the local homeless shelter. He has fond memories of volunteering there as a kid, and he’s dismayed to see that the party has devolved to a fake Christmas tree, pizza, and nothing but toothbrushes for presents. Courtney makes one of his trademark big speeches and promises everyone at the shelter that he will figure out how to give them a Christmas they’ll never forget. Val likes the idea, but she doesn’t think the City can afford it. She suggests they try to get an advance on the 2018 budget, but the City Council President needs to approve it. Getting an advance on the next year’s budget seems like an odd concept to me (I guess we’d probably just have the agency book it as an unprovided for at close-out, then introduce a deficiency appropriation to pay for it the next year), but it brings in Ed Gunt, so I’m good with it. Gunt, of course, refuses to authorize the advance. To rub salt in the wound, he also says that Courtney hasn’t actually done much as Mayor so far. There aren’t scores of new jobs, for instance. Courtney starts to believe Gunt, and he wonders if maybe he hasn’t been hard enough on himself.

Despondent and wondering if his work thus far has really made a difference, Courtney falls asleep in the rain while sitting on one of his covered bus benches. When he wakes up, however, the cover is gone. Dina pulls up in a mail truck that is all decorated, and she’s wearing an angel outfit. She says she’s from the Department of Salvation, and she’s here to show Courtney what Fort Grey would be like if he hadn’t been elected. Mayor. So the episode is really kind of an “It’s a Wonderful Life”/ “A Christmas Carol” mash-up homage. In addition to uncovered bus benches, the bus driver strike is still going on. It’s been going on for months and shows no sign of ending. Ed Gunt is Mayor, of course, and he’s being super devious. He managed to create a slush fund for himself in the City budget, and he hurt himself on a ski trip paid for by said slush fund. Val works for him too, of course, and to say he doesn’t bring out the best in her would be an understatement. She’s deep into a gerrymandering plan so that Gunt will be guanranteed reelection.

On the more personal side of things, TK and Jermaine are not doing well without Courtney as a more constant presence in their lives. They started a pay phone business which is, shocker, not going well. TK has been forced to sell his car. The reason Courtney hasn’t been around much is because he’s been on tour. His whole plan to capitalize on the publicity from the election has actually been kind of working. Chatting with TK and Jermaine, our Courtney learns that in addition to the bus strike, there’s also a garbage strike, and there is also no school music program. Thanks to Gunt owning a paving company, though, the city roads are fantastic. Worst of all, the homeless shelter is closed, and families have nowhere to go for Christmas. Dina points out to Courtney that he always wants what’s best for the city, and he inspires people. Courtney has his epiphany, so Dina considers her job done and drives off.

Courtney wakes up, and he’s super excited about his bus bench cover being back. He’s so happy that he’s yelling – pretty much like Scrooge post- Ghost of Christmas Future. He goes on a news broadcast to tell everyone how happy he is. He promises that he’s going to give the homeless shelter a good Christmas after all. And then he’s going to fix all the potholes. Courtney’s staff shows up at the shelter, prepared to make snowflake decorations. Dina shows up with the Rose family Christmas tree to replace the fake one. Then a bunch of other people start showing up with presents and food. Even Gunt shows up. He’s injured in this timeline, too, but it’s because of falling down the stairs, not a City-funded ski trip. Everyone sings Joy to the World together, and it’s all warm fuzzies. And of course, because it’s Lea Michele, and she hasn’t gotten to sing on this show yet, Val has a kick-ass solo in the middle of the song.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

This Is Us 2.15: “The Car”

“I know in my bones today’s not the day the world gives us bad news. Today, this beautiful perfect day, is the day that my beautiful, perfect wife finds out that she’s okay.”
- Jack

Much like “Moon Shadow”, this episode took place exclusively in the past (although at different points in the past). The “present” storyline you could say was the family preparing for and attending Jack’s funeral. The through line of this episode (as one might guess by the title) is the family’s car. When the Big Three are eight or nine, we see the family go and buy the car. The kids are all obsessed with it but Jack and Rebecca know that it’s a bit out of their price range. But, Jack being Jack, behind closed doors manages to convince the salesman to help them out so they can get the car.

The day of the funeral, we see Rebecca waiting for the kids in the car. She’s insisting on getting to the cemetery early to be there when Jack’s urn arrives. She’s very protective of it and we later learn the reason for that. I found it interesting that at the funeral, Miguel gave the eulogy and Randall said a few words. Kevin and Kate are both out of sorts for different reasons. I think Kate is feeling guilty about the dog and Kevin is just pissed at the fact he wasn’t there. Kevin loses it even more when he sees that Randall is wearing Jack’s watch. The boys start arguing and Kate has to break then up. In another flashback, we see Jack teaching Randall how to drive. Kevin’s in the back seat and yet again the boys start arguing. So, Jack makes them walk home. When they get back, he marvels at how they can’t get along like he and his brother did. They both seem surprised by the reference because Jack doesn’t talk about him much. My hunch was confirmed that Nickie died in Vietnam (and it also sounds like we are going to get more of that story before the season’s out!). It was nice to see Jack open up to his boys a little bit about the pain from his past, even if it was just a cursory summation of his life pre-Rebecca.

As Rebecca goes to get some air, we see Kate asking her how Jack died and we also see the beginning of Kate constantly blaming herself for Jack’s death because he went back into the house. We also get a glimpse of teenage Kate and Jack. She’s snuck out of school to try and get to a record shop where Alanis Morsette is signing. Jack picks her up off the side of the road and they go together. They even bond over Bruce Springsteen music! Jack also urges Kate not to give up on writing music. From last week, we know that his death totally stopped her from pursuing this dream which is very sad. I like to hear Kate sing. And at an unspecified time (but likely when the Big Three are teenagers given Jack’s facial hair) we learn that Rebecca had a health scare where she thought she might have a brain tumor and Jack brought her to his favorite tree (which became his favorite when they got the good news that she was fine). He’s just so sweet and he seems to know that she’s going to be okay (and that the car was going to see the family through a lot of ups and downs and memories made).

The one interaction in the “present” that we all knew was coming and I was looking forward to, was Dr. K and his new wife paying their respects. We learned that back when the kids were young, Jack would just show up at Dr. K’s office unannounced looking for advice and help because he had no clue what he was doing and Dr. K was so wise. I liked that we (and Rebecca) got a glimpse of that part of Jack. But it totally fits with who Jack is (and was). It was also lovely to see Dr. K and Rebecca share some private moments together, where he reminds her that she made a really sweet pitcher of lemonade out of everything she’d been given but that she was going to be okay. I’m so happy with how much he’s managed to stay involved in their lives, even though it’s totally random. I also like that we get to see that he’s moved on with his life. I’d almost forgotten that he’d found a new love in his life in a previous episode.

And as the episode comes to a close, Rebecca takes the kids to Jack’s favorite tree and they reminisce a little and spread some of Jack’s ashes. Rebecca promises that they are going to be okay and that she wants the kids to just be kids. And hey, Jack had bought them all Bruce Springsteen tickets for that night and so they go as a family to the concert to celebrate and honor Jack. I kind of wish we’d gotten to see a little of the concert but that would have been super expensive to try and get Springsteen there (and to make him look age appropriate for the 90s).

I did cry a few times this episode but not nearly as much as the previous episode. I felt like we got closure on the loss of Jack and it leaves us open for all kinds of new adventures into his past and the lives of the rest of the Pearson clan. I’m sad we are going on a little hiatus before the final three episodes of the season (damn you, Olympics!) but it gives us some time to get over our loss and get ready for all that’s to come. Besides, we’ve got Deja back with Beth and Randall and Kevin and Kate have to have some new and exciting stuff coming down the line!