Saturday, 29 October 2011

TV Week in Review: 23rd – 27th October

Looking back on this week in TV...
Boardwalk Empire: “Gimcrack and Bunkum”; Season Two, Episode Five [A-]
This episode was a mighty eccentric one, filled with significant moments and yet another entry in the show’s superb second season. I’m becoming and more inclined to think that the show is, at its heart, a story of a tragic hero as embodied by James Darmody and that moment at the Memorial Service seems like a fine beginning for all the hijinks which the episode sees. Eli and Richard get important moments this episode, the former committing murder and the latter almost committing suicide. True, the episode most forceful moment was the cataclysmic fight between Eli and Nucky in the conservatory (of all places, really). It once again casts doubt on Nucky’s personality, and Whigham is so phenomenal throughout the episode I’m inclined to give more than a half of dozen of the actors on this show Emmy nominations. Jimmy’s dilemma, though, affects me more if only because Pitt constantly reveals himself to be an excellent actor – to me, at least. As bizarre as his relationship with his mother is, the two are fantastic together and for all his emotional stiltedness, and as terrible as it is leading Richard down a violent path, the scene at the dinner table between the two was just powerful. If I have any complaints, it’s that since episode three Margaret’s inclinations remain puzzling and her blind faith in Nucky has become somewhat troubling.
[Writing: A-; Directing: A/A-]

Homeland: “Semper I”; Season One, Episode Four [B+/A-]
This show continues as the most pleasant surprise of the season, completely off my radar until it wasn’t anymore. As is the case in most shows which deal with the political and public spheres, I’m most intrigued when things turn personal and as Kerry’s character continues to develop beautifully the show continues to deliver. I’m still the slightest bit miffed that Mandy Patinkin is being underused, but the issues of Kerry and David surely make for some interesting developments, without being overly precise which considering the fastidiousness (albeit, goodness) of the first episode I didn’t anticipate. Brody and Jessica relationship will, perhaps, be up in the air for the remainder of the season and even though it’s a bit rudimentary the potential love triangle there is being handled with deftness, and kudos to Baccarin for turning in good work. The couple apparently functioning as Abu Nazeer’s allies are titillating, but surely that final scene was a more than brilliant capper for the entire episode. Kerry’s motives are cloudy enough for us to be worried for everyone, her included and yet Danes is such a phenomenal actor that we’re coerced into identifying with her so that even as her vigilante excursions are a bit grotesque we can’t quite root against her. Assuming that the Brody arc isn’t a one season one-off, having him run for office would certainly be interesting.
Writing: B+/A-; Directing: B+/A-]

Dexter: “A Horse of a Different Color”; Season Six, Episode Four [B+]
I will admit that in its sixth, Dexter has reached the lowest level of emotional gravitas. The stakes, emotionally, are much lower. That doesn’t make a poor show; it’s still good, just different. Which, I suspect, is why the concept of a religious fanatic serial murderer was chosen as this season’s big bad. There’s something distressing about people killing so systemically in the name of fate, and it’s why the most profound moments of the episode are not Dexter’s wrestling with Harrison’s sickness or Deb adapting to her new role but those final ten minutes which are doubtlessly some of the best ten minutes of television this season. I’m somewhat anxious, hoping that the writers manage to sustain the intensity of the murderous plot this season. As the show changes, the supporting cast develops and I’m still hoping that Maria’s inclinations in helping Deb are completely evil, it’d be a real shame to waste Veleez’s talent on something so base.
[Writing: B+; Directing: A-]

The Good Wife: “Marthas and Caitlins”; Season Three, Episode Five [B+]
There’s something vaguely, vaguely unnerving about the way that the show seems to opening up more and more inviting more eclectic characters somewhat to the detriment of more core characters. The always appreciated Dylan Baker turns up to play his wife killer once more, and it’s a bit striking how excellent the first half of the episode in in contrast to the latter half which is only good. The issue of Grace’s tutor still seems like a too incidental way to show Alicia’s turmoil as a working mother, and even though the revelation of the Martha/Caitlin scenario was significant at the end it seems vaguely unnecessary especially in the wake of an episode which significant eschews Diane and Kalinda save for brief scenes, and still seems intent on presenting Cary as a flat character only for the purposes of movie plot-points forward. But, such a statement suggests that the episode isn’t good – which is untrue, because the overall development is quite good. It’s the tautest of episodes this season, and mounting tensions continue to abound. I want the show to make better use of Noth, but then with such a growing cast I can’t have all my favourites being given plum moments. There’s something especially melancholy about Celeste and Alicia’s bar conversation especially when done after a scene like Kalinda’s not insignificant glance over to Alicia’s office after turning down Eli’s chance to work for Peter. The thing is, tensions keep rising but there’s still no contact yet. And, perhaps that’s the vague thing unnerving me. Too much cerebral and not enough visceral, which of course means that when things DO get visceral it won’t be pretty.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Once Upon a Time…: “Pilot”; Season One, Episode One [B/B+]
With an already full slate of television shows I’m staying loyal to, I was wary about making a new adaptation and ultimately it was the presence of Ginnifer Goodwin which pushed me to check out ABC’s new fantasy drama. It’s an interesting premise of storybook characters inhabiting the human world which is not at all magical and the pilot functions well in setting up the issues to be resolved. Like most shows of this nature with a clear endpoint in sight (ultimate,y good must predominate over evil) I wonder about the longevity of the show because it goes on too long all that will matter is the end result and not the journey and I’m immediately worried as to how the creators – and whomever they hand the mantle over to – will manage to keep the audience interested in the now, without always peering for the future. As far as precocious television sprites go, Jared S. Gilmore is a breath of fresh air and even though there’s something overly obvious about our protagonist as played by Jennifer Morrison she’s still fun to watch. Goodwin delivers, as I’d presumed she was managing like she did so excellently on Big Love to make simple graciousness come across as eclectic on screen. I’m curious, too, to see how our Evil Queen and comatose Prince will develop, both give surprisingly deep performance. I want to say I’m not sure I’ll be back for the second instalment, but once I start these things I don’t like to quit them. So, I suppose I’m in for the long haul.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Gossip Girl: “The Fasting and the Furious”; Season Five, Episode Five [C+]
What the hell is Louis up to, I wonder? If they’re turning him into a villain in an effort to eventually expel him from the show, I’m more than down with that. Almost everything surround him and his family is boring me, which by extension that Blair is boring me because most of her scenes are with or about them which is terrible because Leighton Meester needs something better to do. Serena and her issues don’t exactly rivet me, but I have to give props to the arc and the delivery of it as I must to the indications that Diana’s appearance in New York is not incidental, she’s got a history. Still, the episode is just okay, really. Plot development for Chuck seems imminent, which fun and maybe we’ll soon find out that Louis is not the father of Blair’s child which will be a good thing. Still, the show seems to be just existing and not thriving.
[Writing: C+; Directing: C+]

Revenge: “Intrigue”; Season One, Episode Six [B+]
There’s that love triangle hanging over the show between the rich boy, the poor boy and our anti-heroine and on a lesser show it would be wrought with angst and more than a little saccharine and transparent. It’s a credit to this smart show that each of the three players is sympathetic enough so that it doesn’t all come off as annoying. And, this is just in indication of how well the arcs on the show are unfolding. I’m still not completely sold on having Daniel work at The Stowaway, but it shall be interesting to see where it leads. And even knowing that he eventually meets a violent death and that perhaps he is not the “right” one for Emily still doesn’t prevent us from rooting for him a little bit. The fact that Lydia is only in a coma makes me hope against hope that she’ll turn up – perhaps in a next season – thrill us. There’s still no specific indication of just what Tyler is out to do with Daniel, and it looks like I might have been right about my homoerotic guess (pumps fist) which I think would be a great addition. This show sure does know how to take the campy and make it a whole lot of fun. What shall become of that sinister bodyguard, and what does he intend to do? Who knows? Still, this show just continues to impress.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

American Horror Story: “Halloween I”; Season One, Episode Four [B+]
It is, perhaps, not lacking in irony that the finest episode of this show thus far happens to be the one which takes place on Halloween. It’s an especially solid forty minutes even as the show’s persisting lack of subtlety is a bit jarring at times – probably deliberately. Zachary Quinto as a victim of the house plays his gay character with a high sense of camp that manages to work quite well. Of course, he’s not on the level of Jessica Lange campiness – but who is? Speaking of which, the arc of Adelaide and Constance this episode was just beautifully addressed. One of the fine things about the show is that – thus far – there is a legitimate lack of predictability and there’s no telling how things will unfold. Even the ostensibly generic teen subplot works excellently, particularly because Peters and Farmiga are such good actors. I’m not overly enthused by the machinations of our major couple this season, and I will say that even though I like him generally I wish Denis O’Hare would be expelled from the show. His character remains as the only one who seems overwhelmingly disjointed in relation to the narrative.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+/A-]

Community: “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps”; Season Three, Episode Five [B+]
It’s another strategically placed chance for the group to get into their own machinations, and it’s a whole load of fun once again because the main group is all that’s necessary for the show to be good. Britta is her typical kooky self in this episode leading to a string of some terrible stories which served as a nice backdrop for all the fun in this episode. Community doesn’t work for me as a standard show because it doesn’t thrive on any semblance of realistic character development, so I’m fine with the fact that the episode really reveals next to nothing about the characters’ inclinations – except for the fun end gag. In the race for best story, Annie’s obviously tops it all both for the twist and the sheer ridiculousness of everything before it.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

The Office: “Spooked”; Season Eight, Episode Five [B+]
Erin hasn’t been front and centre in some time, but she’s instrumental in this instalment. The show has settled into an easiness that makes for steadily good comedy, albeit occasionally lacking in innovation – which isn’t a specifically bad thing. It’s nice having Robert turn up in this episode with a decisive role and the entire ridiculous and implausible story he feeds us at the end of the episode sent me into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, both for the story itself and the reactions it prompted. One of the things that keep this show so good, though (yes, good) are the small bits of attention to detail which never dissipate – like Meredith’s crazy, or Angela’s meanness or the general craziness of Kelly. The fun thing about these sorts of episodes is seeing who the lot decide to dress up as and seeing how ridiculous it all seems. The Erin/Andy issue is more than a little awkward, which is of course the point and even though he doesn’t get a big part this episode (like always this season) I love how Jim’s everyman is still the most interesting character to me. With Carrell gone, I really want them to pass the bar to Krasinski and give him more to do.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Parks and Recreation: “Meet 'n' Greet”; Season Four, Episode Five [B+]
Three relationships developed this episode, two that were already established one a bit new and all made me squeal with delight. Or, something akin. Maybe, just maybe you could accuse the writers of not knowing what to do with Ann and Ron at a Halloween party but having them pair is ace and having Ann so happy doing something important is just adorable. The great thing about putting odd cast members together is the fun resultant. Leslie and Tom had a great moment last season with their “Soulmates” episode, and it’s nice seeing the friendship develop more and it’s nice for the continuity of Ben’s predictions actually coming through. Of course, though, it’s the greatness of addressing the living of arrangements of April, Andy and Ben which is the fine point of the episode and it’s great seeing Ben and Andy opposite each other. And, then, there are those additional great moments like seeing Chris ravish Jerry’s daughter, or Donna looking hot in her costume or that silent, creepy guy who continues to freak every one out.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Grey’s Anatomy: “Put Me In, Coach”; Season Eight, Episode Seven [B/B+]
I don’t believe I’m reading into it at all when Meredith’s utterance of “I need to go back to the beginning” seems like a specific indication of where Grey’s Anatomy wants to go and I can applaud that they’re trying to do. What is it about this season, though? The episodes are good, the plot developments are sharp but the actors aren’t giving those big moments to show they’re worth –which is a shame. But the episode is still an especially solid one. One of the great things about shows like these is seeing the working folk in a different environment and having them in the sports arena is fun, but not for the reasons you’d think. Cristina and Meredith’s drunken bonding is absolutely golden and the episode was worth it for those final four minutes seeing the two, Alex and April all drunk for snatches. It’s nice seeing Alex work so hard to help Meredith and Derek, and I wish we’d see less of that affair with Lexie, Jackson and Mark even though I’ll admit it’s handled well this episode with just snatches (and hilarious). It’s nice having Cristina finally reach the place in her career where all is well and the episode is a success, but I want moments like “Lay Your Hands On Me” or “Let the Angels Commit” getting big moments for the cast to prove just how good actors they are.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Random Thoughts

Standout Performers
Claire Danes in Homeland
Jack Huston in Boardwalk Empire
Shea Whigham in Boardwalk Empire
Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire
Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife
Chris Pratt in Parks and Recreation
Joel McHale in Community

Aubrey Plaza inParks and Recreation
Monica Baccarin in Homeland
Aziz Ansari in Parks and Recreation
Michael C. Hall in Dexter
Evan Peters in American Horror Story
Jessica Lange in American Horror Story
Ellie Kempler in The Office
Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation
Danny Pudi in Community
Jessica Capshaw in Dexter
Ginnifer Goodwin in Once Upon a Time
Damian Lewis in Homeland

What did you watch this week?


Squasher88 said...

I thought The Good Wife was quite good this week. Love all the mind games going on. I really loved Celeste in this episode.

Paolo said...

I'm surprised that Chris Pratt still looks good shirtless. On a slightly smarter note, I'm pissed that I'll be working during prime time for both tomorrow and Thursday.

Jose said...

Will I like Homeland even if I think Calire Danes is a stuck up bitch?

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

squasher yeah, but celeste at the expense of kalinda? no.

paolo it is surprising, almost as surprising as how well he transferred from douche on everwood to goofy on parks and rec.

jose hahahha. probably, she is a sort of stuck up bitch here.