Saturday, 17 December 2011

TV Week in Review: 12th-14th December

We get one devastating season finale, and some other fine episodes...on with the shows...

Boardwalk Empire: “To the Lost”; [SEASON FINALE]; Season Two, Episode Twelve [A-]

There are so many ways to approach this season finale because it is not an overstatement of fact or a conceit to call it a game-changer of the most significant kind. Since my time watching the machinations of the Atlantic City crew I’ve expressed that, for me, it’s a dual narrative of the old against the young and in the battle of Buscemi vs Pitt I always found the latter to be the more nuanced performer. Buscemi does fine work as Nucky Thompson, but he always lacks a certain degree of greatness which oftentimes eludes me so the loss of Jimmy hit me foremost as a significant blow to the show than as significant plot development. I’m almost moved to give up on the show, not because I think it will not be excellent but because I’m unwilling to accept an Atlantic City without James Darmody – it would just feel illicit and sacrilegious. I might be overreacting – as is my wont – but I think I actually went through the stages of grief when he got shot, because at first I denied the reality of the occurrences. I just couldn’t believe that it could happen, and it’s a step in discrediting Nucky as a character. Alone, I wonder how Buscemi could ground the show and with Nucky proving how merciless he could be it sets up some disturbing conceits. It’s why I’m happy that Margaret gave away his land. It’s not a Margaret overcome religious fervour, but coming to realise her new husband’s ruthlessness it was a brash act of rebellion, which I hope does not lead to her destruction too. Clearly, the show isn’t scared about offing its main characters, and clearly Nucky isn’t incapable of killing those who betray him, despite their ties. For now, I can’t manage an actual review. I have nine months to come to grips with Michael Pitt leaving the show, and I hope that the Emmy voters recognising his indelible contribution to the show. And, at least Winter and Van Patten gave him a send-off worthy of his genius. RIP James Darmody. You will be missed. (Allow me the mourning in pictures.)
[Writing: A-; Directing: A-]

Homeland: “The Vest”; Season One, Episode Eleven [A-]
I’ve fêted the excellence of Claire Danes on this space before and this week she turns in her finest performance of the season in a near perfect instalment of this show that came out firing on all cylinders. Carrie’s excellence at her job has been suggested throughout the season and this episode we get affirmative evidence of this. And, it’s an excellent decision to have her brilliance be complemented by her breakdown. The relationship with Saul and Carrie has always intrigued, even if I’ve always thought that it wasn’t as deftly handled as I’d hope and it doesn’t get quite the attention in screen-time this episode but it still lands resoundingly. I must confess that the machinations of Brody and brood only served to make me antsy for Carrie and Saul at first, but then it got more unsettling and then the final straw was Brody’s very deliberate move to derail Carrie’s career. It’s going to something watching how this wraps up, and even in an hour and a half I can’t imagine all the stands being tied which should make for a similarly explosive second season. If there’s anything that’s a potential quagmire it’s the suggestion the suggestion that Carrie might be in love with Brody, she did think he was a terrorist for months so it feels the slightest bit disingenuous.
[Writing: A/A-; Directing: A/A-]

Dexter: “Talk to the Hand”’; Season Six, Episode Eleven [B+/A-]
Last season’s penultimate episode was arguably the finest of the season. Last season, though was an excellent one while this season is simply good. It holds on the natural order of things, though, where Dexter makes a play for but misses the big bad and Travis’ descent into lunacy, though admittedly a little off still, is making for interesting ramifications. The near-genocide on the police was deftly handled but I’m not sure what I make of it leading Debra’s shrink to observe a potential romantic affiliation between Debra and Dexter. I will say, considering how they’re relationship has been prickly this season it doesn’t shock me but it feels insincere when Debra immediately starts having dreams about it but I’m not ready to write it off completely, yet. Then there’s Masuka’s obviously demented intern (but how, I don’t quite now). I suppose that I shall eventually have to cast off any allegiance for LaGuerta who continuously turns up to show how much a devilish woman she is; it does increase the potential for drama in the upcoming season. Of course, Dexter will get rid of Travis next week but I’m more antsy when I think of what will happen in his personal life.
[Writing: B+/A-; Directing: A-]

The Good Wife: “What Went Wrong”; Season Three, Episode Eleven [A-]
And, the Kings’ send off the show for its midseason finale with a bang. Things are making strides in moving the season along to a definite climax with developments of all kinds. It’s nice that we don’t have to wait long for Alicia to find out how Kalinda got Grace back home and the tentative standoff the two had in the car was a nice movement forward in that relationship. Elsewhere, though, Kalinda continues to have a thorny relationship with Cary (and by de facto Dana) and I do wonder what shall become of that threesome. Having Cary actually sign off on jailing Kalinda is especially remiss of him. Alicia must now get acclimated to life without Will, and though I’d have hoped that she’d turn to Kalinda it’s nice to see her and Diane forge a bond – woman to woman picking up an arc that has been hinted at since the pilot episode. Alicia falls easily back into maintaining a rapport with Peter in the quest of moving their children back to a private school. I’m always game for more Chris Noth. Of course, though, the crux of the episode was the revelation that Wendy Scott-Carr is a cold, stone fox who’s actually trying to bring Peter down. It’s a nice way to tie all the potentially loose strands together, and it shall be interesting seeing how that develops and what part (if any) Will shall play in it all.
[Writing: A-; Directing: A-]

Once Upon a Time: “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”; Season One, Episode Seven [B/B-]
It does suck that just when turned into an interesting character that the town’s Sherriff gets killed. It’s unfortunate because the show is sorely lacking in male characters, interesting or otherwise. Still, it’s about time that Regina/Evil Queen do more than pontificate angrily and it’s proof that she clearly is cognisant of her former life and supremely dangerous even if the performance turned in by Lana Parilla continues to be horribly one-note and not the least bit charismatic. The thing is, though, having Regina kill Graham raises more issues about the apparent silliness of the show. Why doesn’t Regina just not kill everyone in the town and exact her revenge. Because, by having them suffer in normalcy without even knowing that they’re suffering is hardly punishment. A diverting, credible episode but in the long run the show still hasn’t proven that it’s worth my undivided attention.
[Writing: B/B-; Directing: B/B-]

The Closer: “Relative Matters”; Season One, Episode Thirteen [B]
It’s another Christmas themed episode, though the Christmas nature is more subtly handled. It’s also another episode without Captain Raydor which is something of a downer because I do miss Mary McDonnell. The case this week seemed destined for greatness but ended up being a little bit limp, but there were other issues to deal with the most important being Brenda’s parents dropping by to tell her that her father has cancer. Because of its nature the show doesn’t milk that opportunity for as much “acting” as you’d expect which is both a good and a bad thing. Still, as incidental as they come off the moments with Brenda and her parents are nice to watch especially when Fritz is included in the lot. Watching Brenda and Fritz on opposing ends, as occasionally happens, is also a nice if bland arc and it does make for a fairly good episode, I just wished with so few episodes left they’d try for better than good.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Glee: “Extraordinary Merry Christmas”; Season Three, Episode Nine [C+]
Well, yay I guess for Glee keeping up the level if the level of easy quasi-mediocrity with the Christmas episode. I still feel a connection to the show, in theory, but my interest has sort of waned and this episode does little to significantly change it. It’s too easy to watch, like last week’s episode, to be completely offensive but that’s the problem really. I’m averse to Christmas specials on the whole they don’t fit into the fabric of some shows and last year’s Special actual depended on plots that had more to do than trying to shoehorn the “spirit” Christmas into every characters’ lives. True, it does lead to a fairly good black-and-white portion, but I wasn’t as bowled over as most seemed to be and I don’t doubt because the Christmas “spirit” is a bit of an annoyance to me. The show is still having severe issues dealing with characters and their inclinations. Sue appears now at opportune moments and it’s often difficult to coalesce her actions from one episode to the next. Sam’s moving back to Lima seems particularly broad and uneven. Otherwise, it’s the simple lack of character development (that ending doesn’t count) that doesn’t work or the very fact that as vaguely interesting it is it just isn’t that good, alas. Bah, humbug.
[Writing: B-/C+; Directing: B-/C+]

American Horror Story: “Birth”; Season One, Episode Eleven [B+]
With only one episode left to go the Murphy/Falchuck team delivers a typically bizarre mind-fuck of an episode. We have to face the fact that the house and its machinations are still new to us, so it’s difficult to criticise the show for lack of believability – the only tactical error I can call them out on this part is the reaction of both Constance and Dr. Harmon to Violet’s death, the latter in particular. In a packed forty minutes I suppose there wasn’t much time to make it a bigger issue, but still. Now that Constance has given birth to two babies, one a stillborn (neither of which we saw) it’s left to the final episode to tell us who…or perhaps, what…Tate gave birth. Call them out on their lack of continuity, but Nip/Tuck was a fine show in its day, and I assume that the devil-like creature who showed up at the beginning of the episode to Tate wasn’t just incidental. I continue to wrestle with my feelings on Tate because Evan Peters keeps turning in such a fine performance, and though it’s about time that Violet wises up I still end up feeling bad for him when she banishes. Still, I’m confused – how can she banish him if she is a spirit as he? And has he gone from the house, or will she just not be able to see him anymore? Ugh, confusion.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+/A-]

  • Oh, Wendy Scott Carr you despicable harridan. I did not see that coming, and on that note – can we start Anika Noni Rose on an Emmy Campaign?
  • In an episode overflowing with tension, how great was the levity of Eli’s response to Nucky’s “Es tu, Eli?”
  • From Jimmy and Gillian to Dexter and Debra, are incestuous overtones making a comeback?
  • Other than enjoying him briefly in “The First Time” I find Blaine, and his singing to be excessively forced and corny.

Standout Performers
Claire Danes in Homeland A/A-
Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire A-
Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire B+/A-
Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife B+/A-
Mandy Patinkin in Homeland B+
Kelly MacDonald in Boardwalk Empire B+
Evan Peters in American Horror Story B+

Jessica Lange in American Horror Story B+
Jennifer Carpenter in Dexter B+
Archie Panjabi in The Good Wife B+
Michael C. Hall in Dexter
Sherriff in Once Upon a Time B+
Christine Baranski in The Good Wife B+
Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer B+
Damian Lewis in Homeland B+
Chris Noth in The Good Wife B+
Lea Michele in Glee B+
What did you watch this week?


Ryan T. said...

For me, it's been a relatively subpar season of Dexter with the exception of Deb/Dexter's relationship. Perhaps it's because I'm so impressed the actors are really selling their scenes despite the real life history they have.

Already told you what I thought of the Good Wife. So happy Kalinda and Alicia are on the road to recovery. Peter and Wendy were great in the episode too.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

ryan it was a bit if a subpar, on a scale. i mean, it was a good season but a significant drop in the quality we're usually served up. having not seen the finale yet, this episode and the premiere are the only truly outstanding ones of the seasons. tis a shame.

Paolo said...

That's a quasi-merciful judgement. I've heard mixed stuff on the internet. I'm on the positive side because I haven't endured seasons worth of the show. Chris Colfer and his college roommate were the best part of the episode and wish the black and white portion never ended. (But where was it gonna go, I guess?)

Squasher88 said...

This was a frickin awesome episode of The Good Wife.