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!

Lucifer 3.14: “My Brother’s Keeper”

“You put this mark on me. Now you’re gonna help me get rid of it.”
- Cain

A lot happened in this episode and yet it only moved the plot along the tiniest of fractions. We did get to learn a little more about Ella’s family along the way, though which played into Lucifer’s present drama with his own family. He and Cain are still on their quest to find a way to kill Cain and Lucifer thinks Amenediel may be able to help, seeing as he’s the brainy one. But Amenediel refuses to help. Even when Cain shows up at Lux with a gun, Amenediel insists he can’t help the guys out. See, Amenediel put the brand on Cain for God and believes the punishment is deserved. This leads to a pretty crazy knockdown, drag out fight at the bar. Obviously, neither is really the victor but it was a pretty awesome action sequence to watch and well filmed. I will admit it didn’t top the fight from the last episode but it was pretty good. At the end of things, Amenediel commits to standing in Lucifer and Cain’s way on this crazy journey because he’s trying to protect his little brother.

Before we dive into the case of the week—which is kind of interesting—we have to touch on Linda and Charlotte and the PTSD going on there. Charlotte has gone to see Linda to get some therapy and help dealing with the whole near death/going to hell situation. Linda can just sit there staring in horror at the woman who nearly killed her. Obviously, Charlotte has no memory of that and it wasn’t in fact Charlotte that did those things (as Lucifer points out). Linda eventually gets over her initial fear and she agrees to work with Charlotte so that they can both start to heal.

The main case this week involves Ella’s oldest brother Jay. We first see him meeting with a guy who has a bunch of diamonds. Then, Ella’s phone call ruins everything goes sideways. The next morning, Ella is worried and she drops by to hire Maze to hunt down her brother. Maze and Ella together is a really odd combination and I have to admit it made me kind of uncomfortable. They are just so different. But, Maze does end up leading them to the diamond guy who has been shot. Ella calls Chloe and Lucifer but quickly proclaims her brother’s innocence, primarily because there’s a powder burn on a lampshade and the only way that could happen at the right angle is if the shooter was left-handed. Jay is a rightie. Chloe insists that they follow both avenues (that there’s a second shooter and that Jay’s the culprit) while Ella and Maze run off to find Jay and prove his innocence.

Maze finds Jay in a rundown hotel. He swears up and down that he’s innocent and of course Ella believes him. She even lies when Chloe calls to ask if Ella’s found anything. While Ella and Maze have been off looking for Jay, Chloe, Dan and Lucifer have done a little digging on their own. The dead guy was a diamond merchant and at least one of the diamonds found in his office were stolen. So Chloe and Lucifer use the old “engaged looking for a ring” rouse to get past the clerk to the owner of the jewelry store where the diamond had been stolen from. It turns out the owner was in on the theft and they were going to just get the insurance money. Apparently, millennials were ruining business with trying to be socially and ethically conscious about the stone they purchased.

Chloe and Lucifer suspect that Ella is lying when she tells them she hasn’t found her brother yet. So they try to figure out where she would take him and they finally determine she’d take him back to the scene of the crime so that she could prove his innocence. And damn, they’re right. Jay tells Ella he saw the shooter from the bathroom and that the killer had red wing-tipped shoes. Ella quickly figures out that her brother couldn’t have been in the bathroom (the angle was all wrong). Maze finds the stash room (with equipment used to change serial numbers on diamonds to clean them. Jay takes off with a gun when Chloe and Lucifer arrive and Ella is devastated. But, Chloe finds a video camera which shows that Jay could have been telling the truth if he’d been hiding in the stash room. Now, they have to find him before things wrong with the actual killer. Who, of course, is the insurance adjuster that Chloe and Dan met earlier in the episode. Ella is told to stay with the car when they go to confront the insurance man but he’s already taken the gun from Jay is walking him out of the building out a side entrance to clean the diamonds when Ella sees him. Thanks to Maze, they all get away okay (well the insurance guy is dead but whatever). Ella seems so relieved that her brother is okay and Lucifer wants to keep her faith in her big brother intact since her faith is so important to her. He finds Jay trying to pocket the missing diamonds but tells Jay he’s not going to tell Ella (and Jay doesn’t have to either) because Lucifer doesn’t want to see Ella hurt. I hadn’t realized how much Lucifer actually cared about Ella until he threatened Jay (if he ever disappointed Ella again, Lucifer would go all Devil on him). As I said, it didn’t move the overall plot along very much but it did give us some little character insights. I liked seeing more of Ella’s background and I really was pleased to see that Lucifer cares about someone other than himself (or Chloe). In a way, he was almost acting like a big brother to Ella. We have to hope now that the next episode (post Olympics) moves things along a lot more.

Monday, February 5, 2018

This Is Us 2.14: “Super Bowl Sunday”

“Maybe I see what I want to see or what I need to see, but every year your father finds a way to send me some laugh.”
- Rebecca

It’s finally happening Pearson Clan; we finally get the answer to how our beloved patriarch met his end. Normally, I blog the show as I watch it but this episode needed some time to breathe and I needed a minute to process it. As always, it had its happy and sad moments. I suppose, we might as well just dive in to the sad part. Jack wakes in the night to see smoke coming into the bedroom and when he opens the door, the house is definitely on fire. He rallies Rebecca, Kate and Randall and quite heroically gets them all to safety (lowering them from the roof with a harness made from a bed sheet. He’s about to come down when Kate starts screaming about the dog (and we hear it bark inside). Jack, being the good dad that he is, goes back into the house just as the fire erupts in the bedroom. We and the rest of the family is left to watch helplessly until the front door opens and Jack comes out carrying the dog and a pillowcase full of mementos, including a photo album, Rebecca’s moon necklace and Kate’s audition tape.

We of course hope that all is going to be okay when Jack gets his burns tended to and he even gets checked out at the hospital. But, as medical staff repeatedly tells us and them, Jack has a lot of smoke inhalation. He gets to have a sweet joking moment with Rebecca (after they’ve dropped the kids with Miguel) but as Rebecca is trying to get a hotel room and a candy bar from the vending machine, the worst happens. And god, it’s heartbreaking to see Rebecca failing to process the news; much like Jack did in the pilot when they lost Kyle. Rebecca, still not believing the doctor, marches into the room expecting her husband to be alive and well. But he’s not and she loses it. Hard. But she’s got to pull herself together enough to tell the kids. And then Kate—we get why she blames herself now—has to go find Kevin and bring him into the family grief.

In the present, the Pearsons are marking the 20th anniversary of Jack’s passing. Randall is throwing an elaborate Super Bowl party for a bunch of prepubescent girls (who don’t care about the game) while Kate wallows by watching the video tape of her audition. Kevin, meanwhile plans to avoid the day per usual. Rebecca remarks to Kevin that every year, she makes Jack’s favorite lasagna and that Jack always finds a way to make her laugh. Kevin ends up at the tree where Jack is buried or at least part of him given that Kate has the ashes) and having the heart to heart with his dad that he never got to have. He regrets having argued with dad the last time they spoke and it’s been a really hard couple of decades for Kevin carrying around that guilt and not being the man his father had hoped he would be. And now with Kevin going through recovery much like Jack had, Kevin vows to be a better man and make Jack proud, even if it takes another couple of decades. And he even gets Rebecca to laugh when he admits he’s not sure he’s at the right tree.

Kate’s wallowing takes on a level of panic when the VCR tries to eat the tape. But Toby manages to find a guy to fix it and also upload it to the cloud so that she won’t ever have to worry about losing it again. And Kate has to explain some things to Toby that probably should have been obvious. She blames herself because Jack couldn’t bear to disappoint her and thus went back for the dog. And she’s not ready to not beat up on herself that one day a year. But, as they watch the video together later, she remembers how Jack used to always fix this leaky window her room and that Toby has filled that void for her in a way she wasn’t expecting. It is sad that Toby never got to meet Jack. They would have gotten on quite well.

And then there’s Randall. Poor, overcompensating Randall. Tess has been acting kind of teenager-ish and moody but it isn’t until Beth accidentally steps on Annie’s new pet lizard that things get a little crazy. Randall starts doing a eulogy for the lizard and then he ends up sharing that losing someone unexpectedly hurts in all kinds of different ways, equating it to toothache pain he had once. Beth manages to stop him before he gets too dark. Still, Tess kind of storms off and he ends up talking to her. She feels like he wants a new life with all the changes he’s been going through. He doesn’t entirely reassure her that it isn’t the case but he promises that she’s his number one priority, no matter what happens. Throughout the episode, we see a little boy getting ready to meet his new foster family. Just as Randall and Tess are chatting, Beth gets a call and we think the boy is going to be their new child but in a twist I honestly wasn’t expecting yet I loved, the boy is going to a family in the future and the social worker is a grown up Tess! We’ve only seen a flash forward one time before and it wasn’t that far (only to see Randall packing up William’s things after he died). Everything time I think this show can’t surprise me, it does. I love that we get to see the seeds of Tess’s interest in the foster system being planted now in the present. Oh, and that phone call Beth got? Deja is on their front steps so that’s going to be an interesting development come the next episode.