Saturday, 22 October 2011

TV Week in Review: 16th-20th October

Boardwalk Empire: Season Two, Episode Four; “What the Bee Does” [A/A-]
I’m so pleased to see how excellent the second season of this drama is turning out to be. Whereas on True Blood I’m constantly exasperated with the show’s inability to address each member of its large cast, it’s the opposite with Boardwalk Empire. The machinations of even the most minor characters are interesting enough so that it all makes for a great whole. This episode in particular is one devoted more to the ambience of the ensemble than the lead characters specifically. If there’s any underlying theme to be found it’s the subtle, yet indelible changes, occurring in relationships across the board as we see new sides of some characters. The episode is bookended by Gillian and the commodore, the latter having suffered a debilitating stroke soon after the episode opens. I love Mol’s work on the show, and I’m glad to see her bumped up to series regular. She delivers in each scene, and that relationship shift is truly significant. What will the commodore’s stroke mean for the plan to throttle Nucky? Elsewhere, nerves are frayed as Chalky tries to acclimate back into his family life clearly out of place around his more highbrow family. That’s not even touching on Rothstein being back in the game, Angie reaching out to Richard, Jimmy attempting to take the reins and Margaret’s pilfering of Nucky’s dough (perhaps rightfully). The episode delivers on all fronts.
[Writing: A-; Directing: A-]

Homeland: Season One, Episode Three; “Clear Skin” [A-]
This third instalment of the political thriller does a fine job of making the machinations which set up the first two episodes succeed with an overwhelming amount of emotion. In fact, the episode is grounded in the emotional connection between the characters and it serves as being a fine recipe for the strongest instalment, yet. The amblings at Brody’s home, as standard as they are, are being established with grace and Baccarin and Lewis are both doing especially fine jobs playing opposite each other. Both get key scenes opposite their daughter and then that emotionally charged masturbating scene which was all sorts of awkward for everyone involved, and our voyeur. I'm still feeling as if Patinkin is being underused but he delivers on all fronts despite the short screen time underscoring the shortcomings of Kerry’s character we’ve all begun to notice. It was great watching her deal with the injustice of the way her asset is written off, and with the clock ticking it’s going to make for a forceful next couple of weeks with her and her deadline, and with Brody and his wife.
[Writing: A-; Directing: A-]

Dexter: Season Six, Episode Three; “Smokey and the Bandit” [B/B+]
When Lumen arrived last season she served as a good emotional surrogate for all of Dexter’s issues, so despite being a widower he still had that emotional bond with someone. It’s much difficult, with both women gone, for Harrison to represent that emotional strip and the show is now tentatively trying to establish that. Dexter’s own machinations this week seem slightly shunted by those at the work place as Deb tries to get used to her new job. I’ve always appreciated Velez’s Maria, and for all her abrasiveness I like that she’s good at her job, sort of. The religious arc of the season brews interest, and that final scene and preview did a brilliant job of suggesting the madness to follow for the rest of the season. Dexter’s decision not to kill the “Tooth Fairy” as he planned was a beautiful bit of character development, and the subsequent disarray that occurred to his slides is going to make for some curious repercussions. I have a hunch that next season will be the show’s final one, and I'm curious as to what the endgame will be.
[Writing: A-; Directing: A-]

The Good Wife: Season Three, Episode Four; “Feed the Rat” [B+/A-]
True, there’s still a vague sort of shadow hanging over what is to be the main arc of this season but this episode is a fine entry in the coffers of the show – a fine episode on its own, but significant in moving a number of issues forward. It’s our first truly Diane centred episode as her general altruism rises to the forefront once again. Baranski is lovely, as always and I love how realistically the firm is portrayed, never completely without typical issues monetary issues but always changing its form. The Will/Alicia arc of the show has truly never interested, but Will’s automatic “I love you” this week injected that relationship will a legitimate dose of tension which it had always been missing for me. It’s further proof of how much the characters have developed since the series premiere. The Kalinda/Eli dynamic is still glorious even though just the slightest bit wary that the writers are getting too caught up with the cuteness of the relationship and not giving the enough meat to chew on. I’m glad whenever Cary shows up to get something to do and the new AUSA seems to be an interesting addition. I’m still not ready to believe that Peter Florrick is the devil, so I’m curious as to where that will go.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Gossip Girl: Season Five, Episode Four; “Memoirs of an Invisible Dan” [B-]
This is one of those episodes that underscore the vague bizarre nature of the show’s development where Dan is a successful author. With the revelation that he’s the author of “Inside” he calls a conference with all our Upper Eastsiders to reveal their tacit involvement in the novel. It predictably leads to a fallout with him and everyone else, Lily aside, as they’re all less than enthused with their portrayals. Having read that single page of the novel from a screen-capture during last week’s episode I can say that it really sounds awful, but I digress – it’s mindboggling that Dan even became friends with Blair in the first place, so all that sexual tension is awkward – for me. Naturally Louis and Blair couldn’t be a bed of roses all season, though it’s strange that it’s Dan who’s coming between them. Victoria presence on the show is dubious, but for her definitive position as a villainess. Now that she knows Ivy’s secret there’s no telling how she’ll use that to get the dirt on all the Upper Eastside crew.
[Writing: B-/C+; Directing: B-]

Parenthood: Season Three, Episode Six; “Tales from the Luncheonette” [B/B+]
Good episode after good episode aside, something about this season of Parenthood seems to be lacking drive where the machinations of the characters seem a bit nondescript. Case in point is Seth’s drunken return. With Sarah’s cajoling he decides it’s time for rehab and Zeke is his typical staunch self and Sarah ends up asking Julia. I have to give kudos for all the actors especially Graham who is just beautiful dealing with that issue. And that dinner table confrontation of sorts where Joel tells Zeke to back off was just lovely. One, because really he needs to but even more because Sam Jaegar has had essentially nothing to do this season but have his daughter paint his nails which is cute but undeserving of the man who was the show’s strongest male last season. That arc was the only which completely took my attention this episode. Crosby and Adam’s recording studio issues, even with Ceelo didn’t exactly rivet me. It’s great that they’re working together, of course, but something is missing. The same goes for Haddie and Kristina and their issues. It’s still a good episode overall, but I want more – especially from Katims.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Modern Family: Season Three, Episode Six: “Go, Bullfrogs” [B/B+]
I don’t know what it is, but I’ve not been feeling that same level of goodness from Ty Burrell that I’ve felt for the show’s first two seasons and as much as his arc this episode should have been indicative of him at his zany best, it just felt a little forced. Luckily, the other arcs – even one which was vaguely nauseating – were enough to divert from that. Having Claire wanting Mitchell and Cameron to hook her up with a night on the town with the gays was nice enough. It’s the only time Giles Marini doesn’t seem completely out of place, and even if Claire is still being painted a bit too harshly Bowen is a delight in this episode. Similarly, Cam and Mitchell are great even if they were in a rut. So many of their interactions this season have been golden, and six episodes in Ferguson has been the show’s MVP. The Gloria and Jay arc contained two bits that felt especially tired – the TV show, and Manny’s issues but it ended up feeling somewhat sweet with despite a lack of nicety.
[Writing: B/B+; B/B+]

Revenge: Season One, Episode Five: “Guilt” [B+]
This episode was the first to diverge from the “one act of revenge per episode” theme, and it’s a bit of a slow burn but in that way it ends up being a finely constructed episode and yet another entry in the annals of this show – which is building up to be a superb drama. Lydia’s return was much welcomed, especially since I feel that Amber Valetta has been severely underused so her death does feel the slightest bit premature but it raises some interesting developments. Victoria’s reaction gives us some more much needed insight into her fragilities, and that psycho bodyguard of hers is getting more interesting by the minute. What’s the deal with Daniel’s friend is a whole other story – one I hope we learn soon enough. True, the development of the Declan/Charlotte romance has the vaguest hints of something overly cutesy, but with all the backstabbing abounding it’s a nice breather. I’m not as enthused about Emily’s triangle either, unless they throw Nolan in and make it a quadruple but having the cards somewhat evenly staked is surely making it more interesting.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

American Horror Story: Season One, Episode Three: “Murder House” [B]
Ultimately, I suppose that horror is not quite up my alley and I may not quite be on board with American Horror Story, other than the pedigree which pushed me to watch in the first place. Still, the show’s developing at a legitimately exciting pace. We’ve got some interesting development this episode, and it does make me wonder if the fact that the house seems privy to more than a single fatal debacle won’t end up making it a bit too cluttered. The thing about this slow build to final showing us the revelations, is that the episodes end up seeming a slight bit wandering as the audience is sort of unsure what to retain. Some of the little mysteries work especially well this episode, though, the best of which is easily that of the freakish maid. The relationship between the duo of Constance and Moira is proving to be especially interesting and it’s going to be fun watching it all unfold.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B+]

Grey’s Anatomy: Season Eight, Episode Six: “Poker Face” [B+]
True, this episode isn’t particularly high on dramatic tension but it’s an all-round great entry in the series for me. In some not insignificant ways it evokes the silly humour of some of the middle episodes of the show’s second (and finest) season. April’s attempt to be a good chief resident have managed to retain some humour as Alex – rather meanly, admittedly – tells her that her voice is too annoying to be a good leader and it’s nice seeing that act as some sort of quasi-epiphany leading to her making strident attempts to wield her power. I’m a bit pleased, and yet exasperated, with the breakdown of Meredith’s and Bailey’s relationship. Pleased, because it’s a nice development but exasperated because I don’t think they’re addressing it enough. Still, it’s nice seeing Bailey be especially mean in those moments and it’s good having us remember that bond between Meredith and Richard, and the fact that Meredith is actually a good doctor. I’m a bit torn on the messages in the Cristina and Alex story encouraging them to be more risky surgeons; shouldn’t they err on the side of caution? Still, the overall cadence of the episode pleases on some much needed developments while managing to be enjoyable and not overwrought.
[Writing: B/B+; B/B+]

Random Thought

  • If Brody is a terrorist, his first act of terrorism should be killing his daughter because really that girl is ingratiating.

Standout Performers
Claire Danes in Homeland B+/A-
Damian Lewis in Homeland B+
Christine Baranski in The Good Wife B+
Lauren Graham in Parenthood B+
Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire B+
Gretchen Mol in Boardwalk Empire B+

Julie Bowen in Modern Family B+
Michael Kenneth Williams in Boardwalk Empire B+
Madeleine Stowe in Revenge B+
Michael C. Hall in Dexter B+
Morena Baccarin in Homeland B+
Sofia Vergara in Modern Family B+
Frances Conroy in American Horror Story B+
Mandy Patinkin in Homeland B+
What did you watch this week?

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