Saturday, 15 October 2011

TV Week in Review: 9th-13th October

It's been a great week for TV, solid entries, great performances and character development. It's glad to see my obsessive viewership isn't going to waste.

Boardwalk Empire: “A Dangerous Maid”; Season Two, Episode Three [B+]
This episode is curiously low on those gut-reaction thrills but very heavy on the emotional. It seems to be an especially subdued entry in the annals of the series. We didn’t see Van Alden last week, and this week we return to the abject ridiculous nature of his relationship with Lucy. The pathetic nature of their relationship is laughably ostensibly, but digging into their relationship this week it becomes surprisingly poignant despite the silliness. Paz turns in her strongest performance, yet, in the development. Margaret, meanwhile, is dealing with her past and it’s lovely and sad the way she tries to bond with the maids only to come to the realisation at the end that perhaps she shouldn’t. Pitt reminds me why he was my MVP of this last season, and even though he’s continuing what seems to be his trend this season of being overly introspective, it works especially well in this episode. I'm still not completely sold on Jimmy betraying Nucky, and that final moment with Angie underscores the fact that he’s still hesitant. I'm looking forward to how that battle will go down.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Breaking Bad: “Face/Off”; SEASON FINALE; Season Four, Episode Thirteen [B+/A-]
And so, another season ends. I shall never be a complete aficionado of Breaking Bad and at the end of the day I'm quite all right with that. The show ends on a powerful note, setting up – but only subtly – what is sure to be an interesting final season next year. True, it was a bit surprising that both Walt and Jesse seem to escape their horrors unscathed, but then again it’s probably only unscathed in the superficial sense. The typical first half full of smouldering tension and the second half of catastrophic explosions is normal for the series and the dénouement of those final plot points were all beautifully handled. The show’s tendency to overemphasise its serious paid off well for a climax of this sort and even if the overwhelming happenstance of situations like Jesse’s “arrest” or Gus’ stubbornness is difficult to ignore, it makes sense in the show’s universe of overwhelming deliberateness.
[Writing: B+; Directing: A-]

Dexter: “Once upon a time...”; Season Six, Episode Two [B+]
In the way it unfolds Dexter bears closer resemblance to a serial like Damages more than one like Mad Men. (or, yes, Breaking Bad) as the episode to episode machinations unfold we’re learning more about an arc which will become the root for the entire season. Last season’s Lumen mystery was a potently taut one, and with his wife gone and his ties to Lumen gone it’s given the show – and the character – to retain a bit of flippancy as the dark humour returns with full force. In this way, the creation of the season long arc being built Olmos and Hanks seems a bit overly precise – although, I'm sure, it’ll bear much more terror as the season unfolds. It’s the only weak link in an episode of fine developments. Deb as Lieutenant is not an overly attractive development in itself, but it suggests interesting arcs in terms of Batista and Quinn. It’s been done before, but the Quinn’s proposal dilemma was handled nicely and I figure that that relationship can’t be completely over. The appearance of Mos (Def?) works well in sync with Dexter’s own issues, and even though it’s a minor episode it’s a minor one with a purpose.
[Writing: B/B+ ; Directing: B+]

Homeland: “Grace”; Season One, Episode Two [B+]
Two episodes are not enough for me to get an adequate reading of this show and what exactly it hopes to be. I'm still a bit cautious about its overly precise nature in its stories, but it doesn’t work against the show, it’s just weird especially in the context of Kerry. This week [ ]’s gets even more interesting, and watching him coping with his return home and adapting to his family as expected as it is, still makes for good drama. His daughter continues to be annoying in her ridiculous teenage posturing, which isn’t exactly doing much for the show but then it works in the vein of only emphasising the strained nature of the family dynamic. The brief glimpse into more of Kerry’s family life is something I hope we get more acquainted with. The show is excellently organised, and it’s going to be something special watching the mystery unfold.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+/A-]

The Good Wife: “Get a Room”; Season Three, Episode Three [B+]
There’s a scene at the end when the mediator tells Alicia that she played him well, and she’s clearly affronted even though the summation is accurate. It’s a moment I love because even as the show seems to be spending much too much time on the sexual tension of Alicia and Will, I'm appreciative of how this season is allowing Alicia to own up – however reluctantly – her darkness. On that note of owning up, then, it’s nice seeing Cary call Kalinda out (wrongly, perhaps) on her overwhelming use of sexuality. I trust that the writers didn’t just include that moment without hopes to fully address the issues raised later in the season. I tend to forget that Diane and Eli have their own history, so it’s nice seeing them have such good moments opposite each other. The show’s always underused Mary Beth Peil a bit, so it’s an additional reason why the Alicia/Peter switch is a bit unfortunate and there’s a striking sense that Peil’s included just for the hell of it in this episode. I don’t know what on earth to make of that bizarre tutor of Grace. It’s just weird and I find Grace much too shrill to be a satisfying character. It’s another solid episode, even though there’s a strange sort of calmness pervading through the entire season, thus far. Sparks have to start flying some time, right?
[Writing: B+/A-; Directing: B+]

Gossip Girl: “The Jewel of Denial”; Season Five, Episode Three [B]
This episode sort of reminds me of how diverting the silliness of the Upper East Side crew was. Even if the show doesn’t approach its subjects with the same wit of its first two seasons, it’s still supremely entertaining and this is a particularly solid episode. True, Serena continues to precipitate boredom but her and Charlie served to create two good moments, both surrounding Blair – the first Blair’s questioning of Charlie’s presence and the second Blair’s advice to her. I’ll ignore the Lily and Nate issues, not because they’re terrible but with one getting out of jail and the other embarking on criminal activities I'm much more interested in seeing how the two main arcs of the episode play out. Lord knows what is up with Dan’s terrible hair, but bigger things abound like the imminent publishing of his book which should be something interesting. The bombshell, of course, was Blair’s unborn child’s paternity. I'm almost certain she’s lying telling Louis he’s the father, and that scene with her Chuck was just excellence.
[Writing: B/B-; Directing: B-]

Parenthood: “Nora”; Season Three, Episode Five [B/B+]
And, so the baby is born. This episode was a strange one in a way for me, not because of any actual strangeness in its creation, but strange because I’ve been wondering about what keeps me watching this show. I’m never in suspense, but it’s so sweet in its easiness that I keep tuning in. Then, taking into context the arrival of Sarah’s ex-husband Seth to the show again bookending the episodes with what’s sure to become a season long arc only make me wonder where the third season will take us. I still feel that, despite his obvious shortcomings, Crosby is being given the short end of the stick and I especially hate that in the wake of good things everyone forgets about the things that are bothering them – but it’s a nice touch on the show’s part, because it’s not that it’s forgotten but that’s the way that families tend to go. Amber and Max’s odd moments of bonding were handled more impressively than I expected, and Lauren Graham and Jason Ritter continue to be ADORABLE.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B]

Modern Family: “Hit and Run”; Season Three, Episode Five [B]
It’s another fairly good week of The Dunphy/Pritchett clan. It’s clear that the episode’s strongest moments came in the bits towards the end where the entire cast went over to Jay’s house for that bit of family time and regardless of where the storylines take them, it’s nice that the show realises the value of its ensemble working with each other. The writers continue trying to make Claire into something akin to a harpy and Phil into something of a buffoon so once again the Dunhy’s arc is the least satisfying. Jay and Gloria don’t have a particular brilliant arc, either, but it’s sort of sweet the way Gloria is going around trying to give everyone the right answers that they don’t know. Cam and Mitchell’s cinema and then road occurrences were both excellent played out and it’s great how Jesse Tyler Ferguson has been turning in brilliant performance after brilliant performance this season.
[Writing: B; Directing: B]

Revenge: “Duplicity”; Season One, Episode Four [B+/A-]
And, voila, the show delivers a near perfect entry in its cannon. Revenge continues to develop as one of the smartest, yet frothiest, shows on television. But, what makes this episode so intriguing is the way it manages to keep eschewing the more obvious plot points and ending up with some legitimately interesting and surprising developments. Each moment where Stowe and VanCamp face is off is a thing of beauty, and the act of revenge this week was particularly interesting especially considering the collateral damage. I feel bad for mistrusting the show’s inclinations. Both Jack and Grayson, characters who seemed incredibly rote, have managed to take on shades of grey that make them seem more interesting. Grayson’s friend and what seems to be his diabolical plan end up being a nice contrast to Emily’s own inclinations. Is he taking revenge on Grayson? Is it a gay arc in the making? Is he just nutso? I suppose we’ll see. I'm anxious.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

American Horror Story: “Home Invasion”; Season One, Episode Two [B]
I hope that the show doesn’t lose track of coherent plotting for visceral thrills, because something that always irks me about the horror genre is the abounding of loose plot arcs. The cold opening was strange, and it’s just a bit silly how the arc of this episode includes a reconstruction of it but in a way it works. Farmiga is a fine young actor, and Evan Peter is truly interesting to watch. The scene where he, Lange and Conroy converge to dispose of those bodies is something interesting because, of course, it’s making me rather curious to find out what exactly this house seems to be holding. I’m hoping that in lieu of an actually emotionally resonating arc the writers don’t go crazy with Ben’s past with infidelity, and I do hope Violet lets up on the harshness to her parents.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B+]

Community: “Remedial Chaos Theory”; Season Three, Episode Four [B+/A-]
There’s a miniscule part of me that’s a bit reticent about the positive review I'm about to give this episode, if only because the goodness of the episode – for me – is less about the admittedly cool concept of the varying timelines and more about the concept of seeing the group in different registers, all in one place. Abed and Troy have moved into together, and the group turns up to their housewarming and it leads to a slew of potential situations. The way things work out isn’t particularly important, but it’s great watching the way that all the jokes come so organically (unlike Pierce’s airplane story). I will admit that the show sometimes does tend to not address issues like character development (how long will Shirley go on being ignored by the group) but in the context of the show it’s a not a crutch and just another in a long line of idiosyncrasies the show works with so often. And, this showing is an excellent episode.
[Writing: A-; Directing: A-]

The Office: “Garden Party”; Season Seven, Episode Four [B+]
And the show find’s its groove post-Michael Scott in this, the fourth episode. The show really has decided that Andy is Michael’s succession not only in terms of the job, but in terms of him being the de facto lead. I'm not ecstatic about the concept since Jim is my favourite player, but this episode as Andy throws a garden party to impress his parents which in the natural manner of this show is a bust. Yes, I'm the slightest bit peeved that the episodes this season have been constant character development for Andy and none else, but it’s still a nice developed episode and old good things like the Jim/Dwight rivalry as the minor arc was excellent. Jim’s book on “how to throw a garden party” was excellent and even with just the most wan of glances Krasinski is just hilarious. It’s an especially solid episode and it’s great seeing the show falling into such a good groove.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Parks and Recreation: “Pawnee Rangers”; Season Four, Episode Four [A]
And, la de da we get what I consider a perfect episode of television. Readers would know how much of a curmudgeon I am – I don’t give out A’s in any medium easily but this offering of the Pawnee group is just beautifully orchestrated. The main arc of Leslie and Ron’s battling club was a nice precipitant for ridiculously brilliant humour. Everything works excellently, from Ron with children to the mini-Leslie’s, from Andy’s kookiness to Ann’s awkwardness and even April’s minor moments – they all work brilliantly in creating what on its own could have been lovely but we get two more great arcs. True, the Chris/Jerry arc is the slightest bit awkward but there’s something glorious in seeing Jerry as uncomfortable around someone as he makes everyone. And, then, there is the absolute genius idea of having Donna and Tom’s “Treat yourself Day” becoming a chance for them to invite Ben on their trip. It leads to absolute loveliness and caps the episode off with greatness. This show continues to excel, and that ending was just beautiful.
[Writing: A/A-; Directing: A-]

Grey’s Anatomy: “Love, Loss, Legacy”; Season Eight, Episode Five [B/B+]
I hope Debbie Allen gets a Guest Emmy nomination for her work on the show next year. I'm still trying to surrender to the two stowaway Mercy Westers – April and Jackson – the latter in particular and I have to get it off my chest how much he annoys me. So, it’s a bit annoying digging into his past – but it’s a strong episode, questionable in a few instances but not enough to destroy the overall goodness. It’s nice seeing the little bits of character development, like Alex leaving the competition when he gets a page about Zola or Cristina being very comfortable with the baby as Owen looks on obviously conflicted. Derek Shepherd continues to be a terribly annoying presence and I do wonder if his and Meredith’s relationship will truly be able to mend. It’s just a bit weird how from one episode Mark moves from loathing Jackson to being his “mentor” – only further proof of how stodgy the last episode was. And, I hate that Miranda is giving in to the show’s occasional tendencies to allow all the leading men to be jerks wherein she dumps Eli for the annoying Pete. But, I suppose, that that’s Shonda Rhimes for you.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Random Notes
  • I feel as if that Cary/Kalinda moment was orchestrated just for me. Naturally, I loved it.
  • A significant delayed reaction, indeed, but I’ve come to like Harrington’s Quinn.
  • “What’s up with your hair, Humphrey? You look like a Muppet.” Aah, Blair and her witticisms.
  • Not to be a nitpicker, of course, but it’s still unfortunate that at its moments of highest tension Anna Gunn is so shut out. But, I suppose, it’s not her story.
  • Joke after brilliant joke, I have to give the top prize to Ron’s tale: “My first wedding ceremony took 2 hours because after the reverend said ‘repeat after me’, I fell silent.” A classic.

Standout Performers

Adam Scott in Parks and Recreation B+/A-
Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation B+/A-
Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation B+
Damian Lewis in Homeland B+
Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire B+
Madeleine Stowe in Revenge B+

Joel McHale in Community B+
Alan Cumming The Good Wife B+
Claire Danes in Homeland B+
Kelly MacDonald in Boardwalk Empire B+
Christine Baranski in The Good Wife B+
Michael C. Hall in Dexter B+
Retta in Parks and Recreation B+
Ed Helms in The Office B+
John Krasinski in The Office B+
Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad B+
Leighton Meester in Gossip Girl B+

How did this week in TV go for you?


Squasher88 said...

I think Aziz Ansari (Tom Haverford) deserves a special shout-out for being awesome. Glad that they also gave Donna some screen time.

Nick Prigge said...

Soooooooo glad to hear how much you enjoyed that episode of the ever-amazing "Parks and Rec." Several of my friends didn't seem to think it was as good as usual and I couldn't figure that sentiment out. The moment Ben is reduced to tears shows how graceful and honest this show can be in the midst of ludicrousness.