Monday, January 29, 2018

Lucifer 3.13: “Til Death Do Us Part”

“Your father’s all about mind games and loopholes, remember?”
- Maze

I haven’t laughed so hard at an episode of “Lucifer’ in a really long time. This was a great episode. It gave us some movement on a lot of subplots and it was just a ton of fun and you could tell at least Tom Ellis was having a blast. We open with Lucifer approaching Cain with a chainsaw which the immortal quickly dismisses as having tried everything including jumping into a volcano to die. Lucifer even tries stabbing him with one of Maze’s daggers but not even that works! And she’s kind of stab happy when she brings over some of her other tools.

A short while later, Chloe and Dan land the case of a suburban school teacher found dead in a woodchipper. Lucifer worms his way onto the case as usual when it turns out that the victim had previously died three years earlier. Some easy digging later, they discover she was cooking drugs for a Korean drug syndicate. Lucky for our team, Lucifer knows a guy who deals the stuff and he and Chloe learn who the head of the drug syndicate is. Chloe insists they go through proper channels but Lucifer has other plans. In a spectacular montage we see him taking all kinds of goons at a karaoke bar (it was really well shot and I loved how Lucifer used the weapons from the goons to take out other goons it was so well choreographed) and when next we meet the head of the syndicate, he’s happily confessing to all kinds of felonies for Chloe. But he insists he didn’t kill the victim. While she stole money from him and faked her death, he didn’t kill her because she offered to pay him back with interest. But, she wouldn’t go back to working for him. So, it seems someone in the neighborhood may have killed the victim (especially when a little more investigation reveals she was sells drugs again but this time is was geared towards the suburban market).

This leads to the most amazing sting operation in the show’s history (way better than surfer Dan last week). Lucifer and Cain go undercover in the neighborhood and learn from one couple that there’s a “Watchdog” going around enforcing all kinds of rules. Lucifer being his hilarious self, sets out to get the enforcer’s attention. And it works. It turns out to be the husband of the couple that they previously entertained. The sting isn’t over though because he didn’t write the note to the victim that led to her death. He was her biggest customer for drugs. So, Lucifer and Cain (going by the names Mark and Luke, how appropriate) throw a little party for the neighborhood and insist everyone sign the guest book. What’s even better is they start arguing like a married couple and the things they are arguing about appear to be martial but we as the viewer (and they as the characters) know it’s about their mutual frustration with not finding a way to kill Cain. Lucifer storms out but Chloe give shim quite the rousing speech to get him motivated to go back in and finish the case. He and Cain make up (and make out) and it’s pretty obvious that the killer was the wife of the couple. She thought her husband and the victim were having an affair. It seems even death couldn’t push this couple apart as cheesy and sappy as that is.

Elsewhere in the episode, Charlotte and Dan are continuing to explore their relationship which I’m liking more now that she’s not a celestial being. It’s kind of sweet and a nice distraction from the craziness of the rest of the characters. Or at least, it usually is. This week, Maze starts acting really weird and attracted to Charlotte. She even pops in on their date to offer a three-way because she’s so turned on. But when she confronts Charlotte at the bar, she realizes that the thing that attracted Maze was the lingering scent and effects of Hell on Charlotte. She realizes she doesn’t want her old life back. As bizarre as this whole encounter was, it helped Charlotte realize that her life isn’t as together as she’d hoped. Dan assures her that he can wait for her because she’s worth it! Please let someone on this show have a happy ending!

A happy ending certainly isn’t in Chloe’s future. She invites Cain to drinks with some of the guys but he declines. He straight out tells her nothing romantic can happen between them (at least we can quash that love triangle) and she says she understands but we know she doesn’t. There’s so much we still don’t know about him! He does go pay Lucifer a visit and Lucifer says they both need to be committed to solving the mystery of how to kill Cain. Lucifer posits that Cain wants to die because he’s tired of being alone. While true, Cain points out that Lucifer may be the one who doesn’t want to be alone. I got some serious sexual vibes during this conversation but maybe it was leftover from the sting. Either way, I’m all for them working together (hopefully with some help from Maze and even Amenediel) to solve this riddle. I know we only have a handful of episodes left this season but I’m really enjoying this new plot arc. I’m still waiting for Chloe to wise up to everything around her but I guess I’ll just have to keep hoping on that one. One day the writers reward us with that confrontation/realization and it will be great. For now, we’ll have to settle for all the creative ways Lucifer will try to kill Cain. And if the writers know what they’re doing, they’ll bring some of the humor of this episode into those future interactions because I loved the heightened dynamic the actors were able to deliver.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Fresh off the Boat 4.06: "A League of Her Own"

“God I love this team. I feel like Joe Torre but with better hair!”

This particular episode of “Fresh off the Boat” was all about the warm fuzzies. Louis and Jessica end up coaching opposing softball teams, and while that doesn’t sound obviously warm and fuzzy, we learn about Louis and Jessica in the process and they both learn to be better sports. This also happens to be the episode where Nicole finally comes out to Honey and Marvin. While it’s a bit of a rocky road with Marvin (Honey is supportive from the beginning), Marvin is adorably accepting by the end of the episode. Really, Nicole’s story is responsible for most of the warm fuzzies. It was also fun to see the ladies of the Denim Turtle embrace Nicole. They’ve got “Come to My Window” by Melissa Ethridge queued up in the sound system ready to celebrate and everything. Also Jessica realizing that being a Lesbian is a thing is pretty darn hilarious. She just can’t grasp the concept that someone might not find Denzel hot. Who knew?

The episode opens with Jessica and Honey at the Denim Turtle. Jessica is commenting on how the bar should be trying to attract more business from men, and it’s clear that she doesn’t realize her favorite watering hole is actually a Lesbian bar. Of course, at that moment, Nicole shows up, and both she and her step mom are both understandably surprised to see each other there. Nicole says she’s not there to drink (which is good, considering she’s underage and all). She just wants to join the bar’s softball team. She ends up coming out to Honey. It’s entertaining watching the ladies getting ready to celebrate the coming out. They have options ready for it going well or poorly. Thankfully, the coming out does go well, and Honey gives Nicole a big hug as Melissa Ethridge’s “Come to My Window” blasts on the sound system. This is also when Jessica realizes that being a Lesbian is a thing, and it’s absolutely hilarious. She knew men could be interested in men, but she didn’t know women could be interested in women. She’s not unsupportive, but she can’t comprehend how a woman might not find Denzel hot.

Cattleman’s Ranch is also fielding a softball team, and their first opponent is going to be none other than the Denim Turtle. Matthew Chestnut, the business guy who has been brought in by Kenny Rogers, is not happy about the softball team at all. He thinks the team (uniforms, equipment, etc.) costs way too much. He thinks that if they ever won a game, maybe it could be justified. This leads the and Louis to make a bet. If the Cattleman’s team wins one game, they will be allowed to keep the team. Marvin tries to help Louis out by getting the team a ringer – somebody famous from the Miami Marlins for whom Marvin has done dental work. Jessica doesn’t seem especially supportive of Louis’ efforts. She says she doesn’t have time to manage a softball team, which Louis says is fine, considering he’s the one doing the managing. This turns things into a competition for Jessica, who says she could manage any team to victory. She then shows up at the Denim Turtle with a massive History of Softball book. Deb happily turns the softball team over to her.

Now that Nicole is out to Honey and Jessica, she still struggling with how to come out to Marvin. This gets more complicated because apparently the Cattleman’s and Denim Turtle teams have practice at the same time at the same field, so Marvin and Nicole see each other (Marvin’s helping out with the Cattleman’s team, and when his ringer doesn’t show up, he decides he’s going to play himself – apparently he’s really good at softball). Marvin makes a joke that he hopes the softball team is the only Denim Turtles team Nicole is playing for, and Nicole is mortified. Nicole decides she’s going to come out to Marvin for real at movie night, but she chickens out.

Meanwhile, in much less serious news, Eddie loves his Cattleman’s softball team jersey that says “Bootyman” on the back, and he keeps hiding and such at practices because he doesn’t want to get it dirty. Then he “injures” himself before a game to take the need for jersey cleanliness further.” Chestnut says they’ll have to forfeit, but Louis has another idea. Louis tells Eddie to hand over the Bootyman jersey to Chestnut so he can play. Chestnut turns out to be a horrible, horrible softball player, but he’s incredibly happy that Louis let him play. He felt very left out by not being on the Roasters kickball team, which is why he was so anti-the Cattleman’s softball team. He thought it would just be another opportunity for him to be singled out in a negative way and cut from a sports team.

Before the big game, Jessica accidentally lets slip to Marvin that Nicole is gay. Jessica, in her defense, thought Nicole had already said what she was going to say at movie night. Instead, Nicole complained that she had wanted to play shortstop, but Jessica insisted she had to play first base. That’s what Marvin was trying to talk to Jessica about, not Nicole’s sexual orientation. Marvin then asks Nicole directly if she’s gay, and Nicole tells him the truth. Marvin seems surprised, and he’s kind of a mess for most of the big softball game, throwing things around in a rage. Near the end of the game, though, when Nicole is about to score a run, Marvin cuts in and gives her a big hug. He says he regrets making the joke earlier, and he’s supportive of her. Ultimately, the Denim Turtle team wins the game, but Chestnut says that Cattleman’s can keep their team anyway. And poor Eddie, his Bootyman jersey gets doused in celebratory Gatorade.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

This Is Us 2.13: “That’ll Be The Day”

“I don’t see myself the way you see me and no one else does either. So, you saying it all the time just hurts.”
- Kate

We are almost to the point we’ve been waiting for since we first saw that urn in Kate’s apartment and Kevin shared with a grieving widow that he lost his dad young back in season 1: Jack’s death. Throughout the first part of season 2, we’ve gotten little glimpses of the lead up. We saw the burnt out husk of the house and only last week we saw that Jack and Rebecca forgot to buy batteries for the smoke detector. We pick up in the past on the day of the Super Bowl. Jack and Rebecca are excited for the annual festivities but the 17-year-old Big Three have other things on their minds. While the parents are cautiously considering how to move forward with Big Three Homes (complete with flipping some small properties and going into business as a husband/wife partnership) Kevin is being a total brat about having to apply to community college while Sophie applies to NYU. Randall is primping for his date with the redhead from the mall (whose name we learn is Allison) and Kate is simultaneously excited by the fact she’s in the last round of applicants for Berklee and having to record another song (Jack suggests she do an videotaped audition).

In short order, all of the kids bail on the tradition of watching the Super Bowl as a family. This leaves Jack and Rebecca to share some private time and end up getting a little sexy time in. But we also see some important progress toward why the Big Three feel the way they do (especially Kate and Kevin) about Jack’s death. When Kevin finds out Sophie got into NYU, he lashes out at his parents and then leaves to go spend the night with Sophie and her family. He calls to ap9ologize to Rebecca but doesn’t speak to Jack, thus leaving Kevin with the memory that the last words he spoke to his father were harsh ones. Kate, meanwhile, is upset that Jack keeps telling her that she’s beautiful to him. Her self-image issues are clearly kicking in strong here and even after she watches a videotape Jack surreptitiously made while she was singing, she is still going to have issues. It seems Randall is the only one who is pretty happy right now.

In the present, Kate finds Toby browsing a pet finder website and this prompts her to go to a local shelter and meet the cutest little dog named Audio. He has big sad eyes and is definitely all about the cuddles. She and Toby both acknowledge that having a dog brings up a lot of issues (which lends credence to the theory that Jack dies in the fire trying to save the dog). She is all set to adopt Audio when she backs out due to her fear of what will be dredged up. But, when she gets home later, she’s changed her mind and Kate and Toby welcome their little fur baby to the family.

Across the country, Randall is diving head first into being a landlord. Beth tries to get him to chill out and take things slow but he just blows by her and makes all kinds of promises to the tenants. He starts to deliver on them (Kevin shows up because he’s trying to make amends and like Jack, he needs to keep busy to keep sober). I liked that we got those little parallels with Jack and Rebecca wanting to go into business together and Beth and Randall doing the same and Kevin and Jack trying to keep busy. It’s a nice little tie-in and reminder how connected this family is, even years later. Of course, things don’t go as Randall planned and they find a massive cockroach infestation. So, all of the residents have to be moved to a hotel temporarily. During all of this mayhem, Kevin and Randall share a nice moment where Randall explains that he’s nearly 40 and he can’t picture himself as an old man because Jack died so young and their father has been dead longer than he was in their lives. That’s a pretty sobering thought right now and it made me really teary-eyed to think about. Kevin then comes back that Randal will be a great old man just like his other dad. Nice nod to William there!

And in the past, as Jack wakes to find Randall coming in from his date, we get the lead up we’ve been longing for. Jack bids his son goodnight and sets about cleaning up the kitchen from the food that went uneaten (including chili). He turns the crockpot to ‘off’ but as we see from a brief flashback, it was a re-gift from a former neighbor who warned that you have to fiddle with the switch to make it work). He would have been better off just unplugging the whole thing because after he goes back to bed, the pot turns on, sparks and sets a kitchen towel alight which then starts up the kitchen curtains. I know we have a little ways to go yet (the post-Super Bowl episode promises to answer our questions about Jack’s demise) but just seeing the fire starting to consume the house left me in tears. Yes, I’m ready to know the whole truth about Jack’s death so we can explore other aspects of his life before he passed away but at the same time, I don’t know that I’m emotionally ready to say goodbye. Like with William last season, I know we will still see Jack and he’s basically been dead the whole time in the present but I’m just not ready. I’m hoping it brings a sense of closure to everyone so we can finally understand some of what the Big Three are going through in present day. And I know we still have lots more stories to tell with Jack and the rest of the family but this feels like we are closing a big chapter. See you February 4, 2018 Pearson clan!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Lucifer 3.12: “All About Her”

“I know what you’re doing. You’re helping me so I’ll help you back which is actually worse than not helping me at all, so thanks but no thanks.”
- Chloe

We pick up right where we left off before our little brief hiatus: Lucifer and Cain sharing a drink at Lux (while Cain bleeds through a whole mess of towels). He had Lucifer kidnapped but he swears up and down he didn’t have anything to do with the wings and devil face. Meanwhile, Chloe is mad at Lucifer for going behind her back and doesn’t want him on the case of a murdered surfer. Maze does sort of give Chloe some advice that she needs to just accept that Lucifer is who he is and she’s not going to change him. Elsewhere, Ella is shutting down thanks to Cain yelling at her the day before. It may seem like a strong reaction but it totally fits her personality. She really looked up to the guy and he flipped out on her and she took it super personally. Thanks to Charlotte, though, Ella manages to overcome her feelings and confront Cain later on.

The first suspect is another surfer who was seen on camera threatening the victim but he turns out to be innocent of this murder anyway. He killed a seal on accident (and seemed really broken up about the whole thing). While Chloe and Dan are digging for more clues, Linda tells Lucifer he should think about things from Chloe’s perspective and this leads to him trying to do everything for her so that she’ll help him out later (he wants her to investigate Cain). Lucifer does have a habit of making everything about him and I would have thought that three seasons in he’d be a little less self-centered and self-involved. Linda has her own drama going this episode. She and Amenediel are sneaking around behind Maze’s back which isn’t a good idea. But, Amenediel also seems to have contracted an STD! Maze finds this hilarious (until she spies Linda and Amenediel kissing over dinner…after the news comes in that it was a false positive on the test). She is seriously pissed and if I were the two of them, I would be very scared right now. I’m not entirely sure why the writers decided to go this route with the three of them to be honest. I kind of liked Maze and Amenediel together and I feel like Linda doesn’t need a love interest to be interesting. She’s a strong woman on her own and has enough going on just trying to wrangle Lucifer.

Our team takes another stab at possible suspects by using Dan as an undercover. He loves to surf and he found out that a surfer gang has been hanging out where the victim was found and they tend to rough up other people who encroach on their turf. Chloe gets booted out of the van while Lucifer and Cain have a heart to heart while Dan pisses the gang off and then bonds with them over the victim’s death. They explain that they’d never go to the beach where the victim was found as it’s private property. The surfers (and Dan) have kind of a little memorial for the victim in the water which is kind of nice I guess and helps cement that these guys aren’t the killers either. We also learn that Cain is planning to leave town. He allows Lucifer to use his devil mojo to get Cain to admit he wants to die. He thought that getting close to Chloe would have the same effect she has on Lucifer. That’s why he had Lucifer kidnapped but the whole wing thing ruined everything. It would seem whoever gave Lucifer his wings back didn’t want Cain to be able to succeed. Heck, even with Chloe right beside him, he wasn’t able to die when he got shot a few episodes back. He just healed right up!

Chloe has everything click into place when she finds that Lucifer has organized her desk (in silly colors and ridiculous categories) but it makes her realize the beach that was marked as private isn’t owned by anyone and therefore can’t be private. So, she and Lucifer set aside their differences and get the woman who owned the house to confess to killing the victim. It turned out not to be personal. She just wanted to send a message. Which makes Lucifer realize his father used him to get to Cain! So naturally Lucifer wants to make Cain a deal so they can kill Cain and stick it to God in the meantime! We also got to see Charlotte stick it to Cain a bit (she was actually pretty awesome) and we did get a nice hug and apology between Cain and Ella.

I’m intrigued by what Lucifer and Cain plan to do now to get back at God and actually kill Cain. As we see in the trailer for the next episode, he’s been trying to end his life for quite some time. There clearly has to be an endgame and I do hope we at some point loop Chloe in on the whole celestial gang because as I’ve said before, this is getting ridiculous. And I can’t wait to see what Maze does out of jealousy. She’s not used to feeling human emotions (even if she can sometimes give somewhat decent advice on feelings) and she’s not one to talk things out. She is definitely more of a stab first and ask questions never kinda gal. On a more positive note, I’m liking how they are fitting Charlotte into the team more. I was a little worried when they brought her back as actual Charlotte. I mean, she was great as Mom but they are developing her character nicely and it’s fun to see her play a sort of grey character trying to be good. It reminds me a little of her character on Battlestar Galactica.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

This Is Us 2.12: “Clooney”

“You gotta own your choices, boys. Own them fully. Don’t look back.”
- Jack

We are moving ever closer to what fans have been longing for since we first found out Jack was no longer among the living in present day: his death. We got a little, yet very important clue this week. Back in the 1990s, shortly after Kevin’s knee injury, Kate asks Rebecca to take her dress shopping for the winter formal. Rebecca is thrilled about this mother/daughter outing but it quickly turns into a full-on Pearson family extravaganza. Jack needs a new suit to impress his annoying boss and he decides Kevin needs a new suit to go to the dance (to get his mind off of his injury). And Randall…he’s doctoring Magic 8 balls to try and get a girl (who I want to say was with them when they find out Jack’s dead) to go out with him. And all the while, Rebecca had asked Jack to remind her to buy batteries for their smoke detector. Yep, they forget the batteries in their mall trip, leading me to believe Jack’s death could possibly be prevented.

Kate’s story in the present this week tracks nicely with her angst as a teen over finding a dress that fits. At her weight loss group, Kate explains that she and Toby are tying the knot in the spring and she wants to find a dress. Madison, the woman who Kate has had some animosity with in the past, books them a private appointment at a custom dress shop. It’s nice to see Kate bonding with someone who isn’t related to her (or her fiancé). But things get weird when Madison eats a bunch of snacks and then sneaks off to the bathroom. Kate tries to call her out on the bulimia but Madison flips out. In the past, we see that teenage Kate is able to fit into a size 7 dress but she wants to fit into a size 5. Back in the present, Kate gets a call from Madison who has fainted and hit her head. Kate reveals that around the time we are seeing in the past, she became anorexic to fit into a smaller dress, so Madison’s issues aren’t made up or crazy. I hope we get to see more of her in the future.

Meanwhile, Kevin is out of rehab and he’s staying with Rebecca and Miguel. I guess he thinks it will give him a chance to bond with his mom and maybe repair some of the damage done. Which is a great idea, except Miguel keeps getting in the middle of Kevin trying to have private time with his mother. The tension between them in the present is kind of reflected in the past when Jack and Kevin run into Miguel. Jack launches into one of his great Jack Pearson pep talks when Miguel reveals his ex-wife just got engaged but Kevin buts in and says that they should be able to wallow. So, sodas and wings in the food court it is. Naturally, Kevin whines about his lost football career and when Jack tells Kevin he needs to find the next “football” so to speak, Kevin brushes his dad off. This prompts Miguel to bring up the fact that once upon a time Jack wanted to start his own construction company but gave it up to keep his family happy and healthy. Though now, maybe he might start it up again.

Now, I don’t blame Kevin for having animosity toward Miguel. He’s someone they all knew growing up and now he’s taken the place of his father. In the present, Kevin outright asks Miguel if he was in love with Rebecca when Jack was alive. Miguel denies it, saying Jack and Rebecca were basically one person and so it would have been impossible for Miguel to be in love with her. I’m not sure I believe that but Kevin seems to buy it. He also buys it when Rebecca admits that Miguel makes her happy after having given up on happiness for so long after Jack died. I guess when you are married to such a great guy, it’s hard to see happiness anywhere when you lose them so suddenly.

And Randall may be following his both of his father’s footsteps. He gets a call to pick up a box of stuff from Willian’s apartment and in it he finds a poem written to a “Lady”. Randall, going into obsessive mode as he does, tries to figure out who his father may have been in love with before Jesse. The super of the building urges him to take a peak around William’s place again and Randall finds that the poem was about a Billie Holliday mural. I have to admit Randall’s storyline this week was a little erratic (complete with stray cat montages through the city) but it does come out at an interesting point. Beth is unhappy in her job and Randall isn’t trilled about the job interview he had so he decides they should buy William’s old building and fix it up for the tenants that live there so they can I guess honor William and also give Beth some purpose to her work again. I suppose Jack would be proud of his son for taking the initiative and starting something new at kind of a scary time in his life.

I have to admit, I didn’t get nearly as teary this week as I do most other weeks. It was still a strong episode and I liked we got some emotional growth for some of the characters. I still think there is a lot left to unpack with everything that came out of the therapy session but I have faith in the writers that we’ll get those answers eventually. And based on next week’s preview, we may be that one step closer to solving Jack’s death so that we can finally move on to filling in the big holes in his life like his military service and the whole history with his brother.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Fresh off the Boat 4.05: "Four Funerals and a Wedding"

“I’m sorry. I’m still worked up over the layover in Atlanta. How can you have three Cinnabons, and all of them are closed!”

This episode provided an interesting look at the extended Huang family (well, Jessica’s side of it, at least), and it also used Jessica’s family troubles to take a deeper dive into the relationships between the three Huang brothers. I enjoyed learning more about Jessica’s family, even if some of it was very sad (her relationship with her father is incredibly distant and robotic), and I also enjoyed the boys finding some new respect for each other. They really act like brothers in this episode, and it was nice to see. I found Jessica’s distant relationship with her father interesting, and I thought it explained a lot. The Huang parents grappling with how their relationship with their kids is different from their own relationships with their parents was an interesting direction for the story to take. All in all, there was a lot of good character building stuff in this episode, and I just hope that some of it sticks going forward.

The episode opens with the Huangs in Houston for the funeral of a distant relative of Jessica’s. The relative was named Trina, and she was a triplet. At the funeral, Emery discovers he has a stain on his tie. Grandma Huang tells him to spit out the bad luck of his bad luck year, and Trina will take it with her to the afterlife. Emery was supposed to spit in a handkerchief, but instead he spits in the casket. Grandma is appropriately appalled. Even though this is a funer in Jessica’s family, Jessica’s sister and brother-in-law Connie and Steve aren’t there. Jessica’s father is there, though. Jessica and her father have a very formal, inquiring-about-the-weather type conversation. Neither Eddie nor Evan recognize him and are shocked to learn that they just met their grandfather. Jessica’s father is a diplomat, so he’s always been globetrotting and not around much.

Back home in Orlando, Emery realizes he has lost the stained tie (the tie becomes relevant later, I promise!). Evan, thoughtful from the funeral, decides he wants to change his will because he hasn’t changed it since they moved to Orlando. Honey is currently his executor, and after seeing how she reacted to Princess Di’s death (we get to see a flashback), he thinks she’s too emotional for the job. Out in the kitchen, Louis hears Jessica talking to her psychic on the phone. She says that “maybe there’s another way,” and Louis immediately assumes she’s talking about wanting a closer relationship with her father. Louis talks this over with Marvin, and he tells Marvin that there might be a way to help Jessica. The second of the triplets has now also died, so Louis and Jessica will be making another trip to Houston. Louis wants to use the occasion to encourage Jessica to talk with her dad.

At the funeral, Louis keeps deliberately trying to bring Jessica and her dad together, but it doesn’t work. They either avoid each other or have really surface level exchanges. He can’t even get them to agree to spend Christmas together. Jessica confronts Louis about how weird he’s being, and Louis is forced to reveal that he heard the phone conversation. Jessica clarifies that she was actually talking to the psychic about the possibility of trying barbecue chicken while in Houston. Louis always gets to excited when she tries a new food that she wasn’t sure if it was worth the fuss. Meanwhile back at home, Evan asks Eddie to be the executor of his will. Grandma is offended she wasn’t chosen! Deirdre notarizes Evan’s new will, and she spreads word around the HOA that Evan must be terminally ill. He starts receiving and endless parade of casseroles, which seems cool at first, but then gets annoying. Emery, for his part, is a bit offended he wasn’t chosen as executory. Evan says it’s just because of Emery’s bad luck year. Eddie is just a temporary executor, and when the bad luck year is over, Evan intends to switch over to Emery. Emery, for his part, thinks things are looking up. He has found the missing tie.

Louis is still upset about the distant relationship between Jessica and her dad. He tells Marvin that he thinks Jessica is in denial about the type of relationship she’d really like with her dad. I think Louis needs to back off. The pair go back to Houston, though, this time for a wedding. The remaining triplet is getting married. Louis thinks it would be a genius idea, at the reception, to tell Jessica that her dad is dying. Jessica does make an effort to reach out to her dad, but they are just as awkward as ever. Louis ends up blowing up and revealing his whole plan. Jessica and her dad do have a heart to heart, and Jessica tries inviting him for Christmas. They quickly realize that a close relationship isn’t going to work for them, though, and they back off. Jessica’s dad does make a point of saying, though, that his affairs are in order and he won’t be a burden to Jessica when he dies. Jessica and Louis end up having a deeper conversation, too, and Louis admits that he’s still working through his feelings about his own father’s death. He has regrets about not being closer with his father. Jessica encourages Louis to talk to her psychic about it, of course.

Eddie’s being his usual self and giving an Emery a bit of a hard time, and when it finally gets to be too much, Emery tells Eddie the truth about Evan’s plans for will executor. Eddie doesn’t take this well, naturally, since it implies he’s only good enough to be a temporary solution. Emery asks Grandma if spitting in the casket made his bad luck worse. Grandma reveals that it was actually Eddie who replaced Evan’s missing tie (granted, he did so with an IOU to grandma, but still). Eddie and Emery end up having their own heart to heart. Eddie tells Evan that what he’s experiencing isn’t really a bad luck year. It’s puberty, and it’s going to last more than a year, but at least they’re going through it together. It was really refreshing to see Eddie be such a supportive big brother to Emery. Evan, for his part, is just sick of receiving tuna casseroles because the neighborhood still thinks he’s dying.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

This Is Us 2.11: “The Fifth Wheel”

“You wanted me to talk about Dad. I’m talking about Dad but I can’t say the only reason I’m messed up is because he died.”
- Kevin

Welcome to 2018 Pearson clan! We are finally back with our favorite family. And boy did we leave them in a not great placed at the end of 2017. Kate had lost the baby, Randall and Beth saw Deja go back to her mom and Kevin spiraled into a hot mess in handcuffs! When we next catch up with the Pearson clan, it’s been a month and Kevin is in court-mandated rehab. Kevin has asked the whole family to convene for a group therapy session and things are a bit awkward. Beth is furious with Kevin still but Randall reminds her that his brother was there for him when he really needed him so they’re going to do the same for Kevin. And Kate seems like she’s stress eating and hiding it from Toby. Things are only made worse by Kevin’s therapist when she insists on the session being just Rebecca, Kate and Randall. The spouses need to take a hike. Beth, Miguel and Toby end up at a bar talking about how there are certain “no fly” zones with the Pearson family, chief among them being Jack. Although, Miguel does defend his best pal a bit. It was nice to see them interacting without the rest of the family around though. I liked that Miguel was able to acknowledge that Rebecca and the kids went through something the rest of them can’t understand because they weren’t a part of it. But he’s okay being on the outside. I am starting to warm up to Miguel more and more.

In the past, we find the family when the Big Three are around ten years old. Jack comes home all excited to spend a week in a cabin (which makes me think it’s THE cabin) and Rebecca reluctantly agrees to go. I suspect things are going to be a little rough with the kids as we start to explore Kate’s weight a little more and Randall may face some bullying in school now that he’s wearing glasses. Kevin is a few days late to vacation thanks to being a summer football camp but things are not as happy as everyone hopes. Jack and Rebecca the same argument over Kate’s weight again and Jack promises to try and get her to be more active. This involves trying to get her to play football with Kevin and all Kevin wants is his dad’s attention for a little while. But Jack says the wrong thing that sends Kate running off. And then, out of frustration, Kevin lashes out at Randall. Kevin is really just not in a great mood, telling Rebecca that she sucks when she asks if he took Randall’s glasses. That night, the other kids end up in bed with Rebecca and Jack and Kevin ends up on the floor (even though he doesn’t realize his mom gets on the floor with him too as he sleeps).

In the therapy session, I felt like at the start we got Actor Kevin as he was making his apologies to his family for how he hurt them and for not being there for them when they needed his support. It just felt so disingenuous, like he was saying lines because they were expected of him. And when the therapist says they need to talk about Jack and how he wasn’t so perfect, everyone gets really uncomfortable. Especially Rebecca and Randall. I don’t think Kevin is ready to deal with his feelings about Jack’s death. And if he does, it’s going to be so messy. And messy it is. Kevin rightfully points (at least from his point of view) that Kate and Randall were the favorites for his parents and he was always second best. He says that he tried to fill the void with things and that ultimately led him down a darker path. When Rebecca proclaims that she loves all her kids equally, things get really heated. She tearfully admits that she didn’t tell her kids about the possibility of being more prone to addiction because she didn’t want to color her children’s’ memories of their father. And then Randall lets into his brother about Randall’s perspective on things. Kevin fires about why Tess was in the car. I have to agree with Kevin that Randall brought all these people into his home without consulting his wife and kids and Tess became unimportant. And as Kevin pressed Rebecca to just admit that Randall is her favorite, she breaks down and exclaims that Kevin recoiled from her, was angry for no reason as a teenager and then abandoned her after Jack died. I was not expecting that and my lord did it make me cry.

In the end, all of the tears and emotions seem to be leading to a good place and some healing. Kate is able to admit to Toby that she’s been eating junk food and she acknowledges her weight issues are more complicated than she wanted to believe. Randall apologizes for not being supportive to Kevin and it seems that maybe now, Rebecca and Kevin will have a better relationship. I was a little worried they weren’t going to at least sort of resolve that tension between them after Rebecca’s admission. I want to know more from Kevin’s perspective on why he left when he did. There’s always more I want to know with this show. I am glad that they are still presenting Jack as such a good guy. Yes, he had a problem and he worked to confront it (and maybe he succeeded and maybe he didn’t) but at his core, he was a good man. And while I do want them to reveal how he died so we can all stop speculating, there is so much more I want to know about Papa Pearson. Namely his brother and time in the military. That’s got to be a juicy story there just waiting to come out.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Lucifer 3.11: “City of Angels?”

“You didn’t come here to find the thief, you’re stalling your return to Hell!”
- Amenediel

Before we can get back to Lucifer and Cain sitting at the bar sharing a drink, we have to take a trip back in time to when Lucifer first set foot in LA. When we first find Lucifer, he’s strolling down the street in an Elvis suit. Apparently, the last time he went to Earth that was the fashion. He ends up meeting a woman who introduces him to some other women and he’s in quite the party mood when Amenediel shows up. Lucifer isn’t surprised to see his big brother. Just miffed about his timing. It would appear this isn’t the first time the brothers have done this dance. Lucifer asks for a little time to “say his goodbyes” and Amenediel gives him ten minutes. In retrospect, Amenediel should have dragged Lucifer off kicking and screaming that moment because Amenediel ends up getting shot and the guy makes off with his necklace (which we all now know was part of the key to activating the flaming sword).

While our core group doesn’t realize it, they will all be working the same case. Amenediel tries to go to the police (dealing with Chloe before she earned her detective shield) and I can’t remember laughing so much at a scene from this show in a long while. His outfit, the sketch he made of the shooter, the price of the necklace. It was all just perfect in his naivete in dealing with humans. Oh, it was great. But he ends up getting Lucifer to agree to help him. At first Lucifer is just stalling but after seeing a news report on the other victim, Lucifer actually offers help in return for a blank check. I suspect that means his 5-year stay on Earth before the pilot.

I suspect this may also be the case that gets Chloe that promotion. She’s starting to dig into things and she finds a key fob where Amenediel was shot with some blood. Hopefully it’s the killer’s blood and not angelic blood! She and Dan are also still married and showing some PDA in the field. Well, it’s more Dan than Chloe but that’s fine. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting Dan to have a higher rank than Chloe. It’s kind of nice to see them before they split.

Lucifer drags his brother to a porn shoot because he claims the photo the news used showed a particular set of breasts of a very popular porn star named Misty Canyons. Lucifer is quite excited to chat her up and Amenediel gets himself into yet another funny situation. Lucifer understands the girl’s desire to rebel and I think we are seeing the seeds of him wanting to stay in LA. But after Amenediel botches the scene by blathering on about his necklace and the dead guy, things really start to get interesting. She tells the guys about the fact that the dead guy (who was an MMA fighter) wasn’t the best but he wanted to win fair and square and he turned down a lot of money to throw an upcoming fight. Chloe is on a similar track, visiting the gym where the victim frequented and she gets pointed towards a shady promoter with some less than savory fights (and he also didn’t pay his talent0. This may be where our dynamic duo first crossed paths as everyone convenes at the fight. Unfortunately, it appears I was wrong. Chloe goes after the promoter’s bodyguard while Lucifer and Amenediel go after the promoter. Amenediel ends up training to look like he can fight like a human—well just enough until Lucifer gets the promoter to admit he fixes fights and he offered the victim a ton of money. Chloe has come to the same conclusion but Dan warns that without any concrete proof, they can’t try to make a deal without tipping their hands to the bad guys.

When Amenediel isn’t able to get the promoter to confess the whereabouts of his necklace, he turns to Lucifer’s particular talents. Being the wily Devil he is, he delegates to dear Maze. She gets so excited about torturing the guy, she just jumps him. It’s not a total loss though. The gang decides to use the promoter to rig the fight. All seems to be going well until Amenediel calls Lucifer evil because he’s the Devil. So, Lucifer ends up in the ring opposite his big brother. And if they want to find the thief, Amenediel is going to have let his little brother win. While all of this is going on, Chloe has gone to the promoter’s lawyer, none other than Charlotte Richards (pre-Mom obviously). While I like the character, I’m not sure they really needed her for this episode. It seems a little convenient. Oh, and Chloe manages to exert some leverage over the attorney to get what she wants.

The fight is somewhat cathartic for both brothers but Amenediel yields in the end and the killer turns out to be the owner of the gym where the victim worked out. The brothers get him to admit where he stashed the necklace and then he confesses to the police (a glimpse of Lucifer’s Devil face may have helped). And as I was expecting, Lucifer’s deal with Amenediel is for Lucifer to stay on Earth. We even get to see him and Maze on the beach as she cuts off his wings (in a giant middle finger to God). Overall, I think this was a nice episode to give us some backstory on the characters and I am hoping that we are now through the standalone episodes they filmed at the end of last year that didn’t get to air. They all were a good time but they messed with the continuity and flow of the show a little bit. I want to get back to Lucifer and Cain and what all of this means for the team!

The Mayor 1.08: “Monuments Man”

“When you’re a leader you have to see things from both sides. Consider opposing perspectives.”
- Courtney

As is becoming a pattern on “The Mayor”, we have two storylines that really don’t have that much to do with each other. The B storyline involves Dina taking over as choir director and becoming something of a dictator on what songs she wants to sing and who can be a soloist. It really only serves the larger plot when Courtney needs his jolt of inspiration from his mother to solve the problem posed at the top of the episode and to provide a fun little bit at the very end of the episode. I didn’t really see the point in this storyline, other than the fact that we had a previous arc where Dina was strong armed into joining the choir (that she didn’t really want to join in the first place).

The larger storyline involves a local bar that Courtney started rapping in. Tito’s Ballroom holds quite the place in his heart in terms of remembering his roots and where he came from. It also happens to be where he and the guys (and Dina) hang every Tuesday night. Well, that tradition won’t be going much longer because Tito can’t keep up with the rising costs and rent of the place. He’s going to have to close down. Courtney, obviously, is heartbroken by this notion and decides he is going to find a way to save the bar. His solution: hold a music festival to raise money so that they can keep the bar open. Finding acts is going to prove harder than Courtney thought, especially when he gets asked questions like “is Bono coming?”.

He starts by going on a local talk show to get the message about that he wants to save the bar and help out a friend. Of course, Councilman Ed Gunt is on the warpath because as we know, he just really doesn’t like Courtney. He’s so obnoxious it kind of makes watching the show less fun. I just want to smack him repeatedly fore being such a jerk. He threatens Courtney with corruption charges if he continues to use his position as Mayor to divert public funds to help save Tito’s. Courtney’s first idea to counteract Gunt is to go back on the talk show and find people who will speak at a public hearing on why the place should be saved. He also learns that the bar used to be a meeting place for the Black Panthers back in the 1970s. He thinks that promoting the wider historical relevance of the place will be a way to garner more support. It turns out that it does just the opposite. A man stands up at Courtney’s prompting and admits he didn’t like the place because riots broke out there and caused a lot of people harm and Courtney bringing it up on the radio triggered his PTSD. Yeah, that’s not such a great thing and Gunt ends up blocking Courtney’s measure to have the festival.

Of course, Dina helps Courtney find the right way to approach the problem as she’s ranting about her choir quitting on her. Well, Courtney kind of brings up the concept on his own that he should see the opposition’s perspective but it’s Dina who really gives him the little push he needs. He shares his idea with the gang and they head back to the City Council armed with some Danish pastries based on Gunt’s stint on the radio show. See, he’s got this bakery that he takes his kids to that sell a particular pastry eaten during a Danish celebration. Courtney points out that Gunt would be upset if they tore down the bakery and that is how Courtney feels about Tito’s. So, he is going to work on passing a preservation act that will keep places like Tito’s (and the bakery presumably) in tact even if finances get hit and they can’t actually stay open. So, ultimately, Courtney gets the win he was looking for (and the festival he really wanted). In the episode tag at the end, Val comes in to find the guys putting together a ridiculous list of places to make future monuments in town. Yeah, because that’s a great use of taxpayer money, guys. It was fun to see a rapper on the show other than Courtney (although I do think they have him record some of the tracks that get overlaid on the episode which I think is a fun little touch). I was kind of hoping we’d see Daveed Diggs again but I guess he’s kind of busy doing other things that are Hamilton related.

As much as it’s nice to see him win, it would be more realistic if he didn’t always get his way or solve the problem in a nice little bow. That’s really been my biggest gripe this entire season. Sure, they come to realizations every episode but there doesn’t appear to be sustained growth throughout the season. It’s just very standalone plotlines. Maybe I’d prefer it more if it was an overarching narrative and we really got to see them grow. Sure, they reference things they’ve done before (they did give a little nod to saving the music program at the elementary school from earlier in the season) but that’s about it. And it would be great, if they are going to always have Courtney win and solve the problem of the week, that he comes to it all on his own. Without Dina or Valentina being the catalyst. Here’s hoping that one day we’ll get an episode that either Courtney won’t solve the problem and learn the value in losing sometimes or if he always has to win, he’ll at least come up with the solution himself without the aid of other people in his life. If we don’t get some changes to the format of the episodes, I’m not sure the show will be back next season.

The Mayor 1.07: "Here Comes the Governor"

“Aw man, that figures. I spent my whole life not doing crimes. I had a pardon waiting on me the whole time!”

I’ve got to say, as someone who has been interested in politics for most of my life and works in government, this episode really made me think. It made me think of the summer of 2008 when I attended a meeting at a public housing complex in Baltimore where city officials were giving a presentation to residents about the big redevelopment plans for the nearby State office complex. An elderly resident said something to the effect of “You people always say things are going to change, but they never do.” It’s nine-and-a-half years later, and for a variety of reasons, there has been no redevelopment of the State office complex to date. I’m realizing now that maybe my enthusiasm for government and politics and my belief (up until November 2016, at least) that government can truly be a force for good comes at least somewhat from a place of privilege. I’m a super rule follower who always tries to work the system to make things happen. But for many people, the system is broken and doesn’t work. A politician says they’ll do something and doesn’t follow through, and the people hurt by that decision don’t have a good way at expressing their discontent. (And on a lighter note, can I say how I love that the title of this episode evokes the line “Here comes the General” from “Hamilton.”)

The catalyst for the events of the episode is the Governor of California, Govenor Fillucci, placing a call to Courtney. He wants to visit Fort Grey. Courtney, the boys, and Val are all really excited about this opportunity. Val especially really wants Courtney to go all out with the hobnobbing. Fort Grey doesn’t get much state funding compared to other municipalities, and Courtney sees this as a real chance to advocate for the city and bring those state dollars home. Courtney and the boys put together an itinerary that they really think will show the Governor the true Fort Grey. They want him to see the all-day café famous for its waffles, the “recommissioned” train yard, and the city park where people play chess. Unfortunately, this isn’t what the Governor had in mind. He wants to skeet shoot with Courtney at a fancy sporting club 40 miles north of Fort Grey. TK and Jermaine aren’t thrilled by this, but Courtney thinks it could be worth it if he can get the Governor to help the city. Dina also is unfazed by the change in venue. Her coworker Krystal has been talking incessantly about the photograph she got with the Postmaster General, and Dina wants Courtney to get her a photo with the Governor to compete.

The meeting with the Governor goes surprisingly well. Courtney is game for skeet shooting and does reasonably well at it. The rather stuffy Governor gets to be photographed with a buzzy, Black mayor (who is wearing a “Reelect Fillucci hat none-the-less), and there are no major gaffes. Dina even gets her picture with the Governor. Following the shooting, the Governor invites Courtney up to the club house for a steam. TK and Jermaine seem skeptical, but they figure why not enjoy a little bit of the good life. Things get awkward, however, when the Governor realizes TK and Jermaine are in the steam room and says he’ll come back another time. Seeing his chance to get funding for Fort Grey slipping away, Courtney shoos TK and Jermaine out of the steam room so he and the Governor can get down to sweaty brass tacks. Courtney reminds the Governor of how helpful that photograph will be and asks for something concrete in return. Governor Fillucci promises that Fort Grey will be at the top of the list for an upcoming round of urban renewal grants. Even though he’s a bit of a sell-out, Courtney feels like he’s accomplished something good.

By the time the gang is back at the office however, things have gone south. The local news has found a rap video Courtney and his friends released when they were in high school, the chorus of which starts with “Don’t Vote.” The lyrics are rather harsh, but the boys were basically expressing their frustration and lack of belief in their government. Of course, the Governor gives a press conference right away where he calls on Courtney to officially apologize if Fort Grey is going to get any support from the State. Courtney is read to do just that if it means getting help for Fort Grey, so now TK and Jermaine think he’s a complete sell out. Val (who we learn in this episode is a crazy good marksman and has pink ear protection) of course approves whole heartedly, and I’ll admit, so did I.

TK and Jermaine basically decide to kidnap Courtney to make their point. First they take him to the All Day Café, but they don’t stop for waffles, much to Courtney’s chagrin. Then they head to the chess tables at the park, and Courtney knows what’s up. They guys are trying to give him the tour that they were going to give the Governor to remind him of where he came from. The final stop isn’t the train yard, though. It’s a dilapidated building that has a sign on it saying it is going to be the Fort Grey Resource Center. Back when they made the video, the Resource Center was already way behind schedule, and these several years later, there has still been no progress. There were even lines in the Don’t Vote song about it. This is when I made that connection to my experience in Baltimore ten years ago. Courtney and his friends really did have a legitimate gripe against the political establishment. They were supposed to get a wonderful new resource center that would provide job training, among other things, but it sits there unfinished.

Dina, meanwhile, did indeed get her picture with the Governor, and her coworker, Krystal, is sore about it. She thinks this is just one more way Dina is one-upping her. They do have a nice heart-to-heart about how nobody truly has it all (except maybe Jimmy Kimmel), and Dina has her struggles too. She even encourages Krystal to put her Postmaster General picture back up. For his part, Courtney shows up to the press conference, and everybody thinks he’s going to apologize. Instead he gives a great speech about how he and his friends felt disenfranchised when they wrong their song, and he knows there are still kids in Fort Grey who feel like that today. He doesn’t want to delegitimize their feelings by apologizing for his own past feelings. He wants to be a leader those kids can actually count on. The Governor ends up liking Courtney’s speech, which of course means Val now approves too (although she claims she would have approved even if the Governor didn’t call and say he liked it).