Just a quick note on the Walking Dead episodes: I made a point to watch them separately and write about the first before watching the second, so my reactions wouldn't be colored by the finale.
The Simpsons: Them, Robot
An episode featuring killer robots voiced by Mr. Data doesn't have to work very hard to win me over, so not surprisingly, this episode was a lot of fun.They was some satire about the current state of the economy built into it as well, but it was largely toothless. As the episode seemed to focus mainly on the robots, so too will I, and the result was decent and entertaining episode.
Homer: Thank God it’s T.G.I.F.
Robot: The designated hitter corrupts the purity of an otherwise elegant game. Illogical. Illogical.
Robot: We cannot take the inferior one.
Milhouse: My heart makes up for my shortcomings, like Rudy!
Robot: Rudy was only put in at the end of a meaningless game. We will notify you if this game becomes meaningless.
Burns: Ah, the solarium. We’ll be safely cornered in this glass room with one door.
Bob's Burgers: Bob Day Afternoon
Bob's Burgers continues to come out of the gate strong, with a second episode that is even better than the excellent first one. While I'm a much bigger fan of The Goonies than Dog Day Afternoon (I've never actually seen the latter), this episode was crammed full of rapid fire jokes. Though Bob took center stage, everyone got a moment to shine, just as in the last episode, from Louise's paper to Gene's visions of robot college ("oh oh oh oh oh!") to Tina's money to Linda's sexual favors. There's a manic energy to this show that everyone shares, and this episode used it to great effect. It was one joke after another, but you never knew who was going to drop the next one. Every character on this show can be funny, and that's one of its greatest strengths.
Family Guy: Forget-Me-Not
This isn't the first high concept episode Family Guy has done this season, but thankfully, it was relatively more funny than most of the previous efforts (excepting "Back to the Pilot"). The "group of characters wakes up with amnesia" plot is pretty much a cliche at this point, but this episode managed to put Family Guy's own unique spin on it, such as Quagmire deciding he must be named ShirtPants, and Joe believing he's a stripper because of the cop uniform in his closet. We also got the old "two character believe themselves to be closer than they really are"bit , with Brian believing Quagmire to be his owner, allowing us the several great moments as Quagmire's disdain for Brian's pretentiousness shone through. For a show like this, the end result of these episodes rarely matters much beyond how funny it was, and this one was pretty funny.
Other bits I enjoyed: the closing gag featuring the women attacking each other three minutes after waking up with no memories, Quagmire confirming he's not a secret assassin, and Peter and Brian "sneaking" out of the house at the beginning.
While still not quite 100%accurate, the depiction of laser tag in this episode is probably the closest to reality I've ever seen on TV.
American Dad: Stan's Best Friend
Rarely does American Dad go for all-out sentiment, but this episode suggest that it could do it more often, managing to be touching without losing its comedic punch. It's not the funniest episode of the season, but the jokes are there, and do a nice job of defusing the emotion built up by Stan dealing with his grief over lost dogs. Or to put it another way: it's sad when Kisses gets grievously injured, but funny when it's caused by a hot air balloon full of pirate cats. We even got a decent Jeff/Haley story (their first since getting married), and the idea that Roger creeps out Jeff is one I hope the show returns to again.
Francine: Five years ago you got Steve an old dog that peed dust and you killed it. We also had another dog named Fuzzy that you didn't like, or something.
Stan: Francine, those were obviously dreams. I refuse to discuss your dreams in the daytime.
Jeff: I think the dude who lives in your parents’ attic has a crush on me. Makes me uncomfortable.
Once Upon a Time: Heart of Darkness
No big overarching thoughts on this one, so let's do some quick hits.
This episode featured some much-needed forward momentum on both the ongoing Storybrooke plot and the Snow/Charming FTL story (that world's only true ongoing narrative), with Emma given more reason to believe Henry and David briefly crossing over into FTL, while in FTL the whole "Snow forgets Charming" twist is put to bed.
Opening the FTL with Red using her new-to-us wolf abilities to buy Charming time was a nice use of the show's unfolding narrative and episodic nature, giving us a plot point that couldn't have occurred earlier in the season but seems to have been part of the plan all along.
The compare/contrast between Storybrooke and FTL was strong again, with Mary Margaret trying to convince everyone she's not evil while Snow did her best to convince everyone of the opposite. The two narratives got a nice boost when David briefly channeled Charming at a most inopportune time (which suggest all kinds of crazy questions about whether or not FTL is unfolding at the same time as Storybrooke, even though it can't, because Emma came about after the events of FTL, but then again, it could, because magic). That Snow is redeemed because Charming wouldn't give up on her while Mary Margaret is stuck alone because David is a cad is a striking comparison.
That said, the frame-up on Mary Margaret is laughably obvious, even for the idiots of Storybrooke. I know there's nothing Emma can do without proof, but seriously people, she'd have to be the stupidest killer in the world based on the evidence.
Of course Mr. Gold is a lawyer. Also, I appreciated the follow-up to the "Mr. Gold was arrested" plot.
Mysteriouis Sexy Writer also seems to believe that Henry's book is real. Anything that suggests forward momentum on that plot is a-ok in my book.
The Walking Dead: Better Angels
As much I've been yearning for Shane's death for a while now, partially because his character's been stuck in a rut (either become a villain or do something redemptive; quit straddling the fence) and partially because he's annoying, I never expected the show to actually go ahead and kill him off. As much as Shane didn't become an outright villain (at least until this episode) he's been positioned as the show's antagonist, at least this season, and it seemed unlikely that the show would eliminate it's best source of intra-group tension. More troubling, as much as Shane and his approach to things has always struck me as wrong (once you've tried to rape someone, you kinda lose the moral high ground), at times the show itself seemed to suggest that Shane's approach to life in a zombie-poc wasn't necessarily wrong. It's one thing for Rick to placate Andrea by telling her Shane's heart is in the right place even if his methods for communicating it are poor, and another thing for the show itself to suggest the same. And for a good chunk of this season, it seemed like they were.
So I figured Shane was safe, and was pleasantly surprised when he was killed off, not only because it removes an increasingly-annoying character off the board, but because it seems to be a repudiation of his perspective on the part of the show: Shane was wrong, and Rick had to put him down for the safety of the group.
While characters like T-Dog (who got a few more lines in this episode) remain underdeveloped, that's almost better than a character like Lori, who is maddeningly inconsistent. Two episode ago she's Lady Macbething Rick into killing Shane, now she's cozying up to him again. Blegh.
Goddamn it, Carl, stay put! Also, it's impressive that he was able shoot Zombie Shane in the head, at that distance, in the dark, with a gun he's never fired before, but that's TV, I suppose.
So, Zombie Shane (and Randall). That makes it pretty clear that everyone is infected, and you come back whether a zombie got you or not (and I'm pretty sure that's what Jenner told Rick back at the CDC, since Rick made a point to shoot those guys in the bar in the head). Can anyone think of any cases where someone died without being shot in the head and didn't come back? Cuz I can't.
Beside the Dying Fire
In its short history Walking Dead has already earned a reputation for strong finales, with both season one and mid-season two ending strong, and this episode definitely continues the trend, essentially blowing up the farm and changing the group dynamic, effectively setting the stage for the next season. While the centerpiece of the episode was the zombie attack on the farm, the stuff that's triggered the most reaction has been the fallout from Rick coming clean with the group about Jenner and Shane. He confirmed that Jenner told him everyone was infected, and later admits to killing Shane, leaving the group aghast. On the former, I can understand their reaction (though it was perhaps a bit too extreme). Glen compared it to the walkers in the barn, and while there's some risk involved in Rick keeping it a secret (in case someone killed a non-zombie), the threat doesn't seem as immediate as the barn walkers did (on the other hand, I'm not entirely sure why Rick kept it a secret. I mean, it doesn't fundamentally change anyone's situation, other than making sure you head-shoot any non-zombies you kill).
Regarding the latter, I have to remind myself that not everyone in the group is as aware of Shane's psychoses as the audience, and thus, Rick admitting to killing him would come as more of a shock. Still, considering only three episodes ago Lori was trying to get Rick to kill Shane, her revulsion at Rick's confession felt contrived and forced. More importantly, after being assuaged in the last episode that the show wasn't trying to present Shane's viewpoint as valid, the group's horror at Shane's death and Rick's declaration of authority once again has me thinking that maybe the show is trying to say that Shane's way is the right way. It will, of course, all depend on how it plays out, but the beginning of the "Rick-tatorship" is unsettling, not because it's a bad creative choice but because I'm uncomfortable with what it says about the show's view of its hero.
So the helicopter at the beginning was obviously the same one that Rick saw in the second episode of the series. At first, I wondered if the show was trying to suggest the copter led the zombie horde to the farm, but then accepted it was just trying to show us how the horde got started/moving in that direction.
The structure of this episode was interesting, in that everything that occurred after farm was abandoned (Rick and Hershel's discussion, the various groups coming together, Rick spilling the beans and setting the stage for the new group dynamic) all felt very much like season premiere material (showing the aftermath of the barn burning "finale" and establishing the conflict of the new season). It's not a bad choice, but one worth mentioning.
So I assume the chick with the swords who saved Andrea is Michonne, one of those characters from the comics I've heard about despite having not read the comics. Those of you in the know, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong (I don't consider that much of a spoiler).
Similarly, that's a...prison, in the distance, right? I assume that's where we're headed for the next season (a la Hershel's farm in this season).
After killing off Dale and then Shane, I can't really complain, but I did note that the only two people to die as a result of the zombie horde were Jimmy and Older Farm Woman.
I've seen plenty of cracks online about the seemingly unlimited supply of ammo, especially for Hershel, but I was more distracted by everyone's propensity for headshots despite driving over rough ground in vehicles at night. And ultimately, it's fun to laugh at that kind of stuff, but it's TV, and doesn't bother me that much.
How I Met Your Mother: The Broath
Thanks to an unseasonable thunderstorm rolling in, my viewing of this episode was disrupted by a couple weather alerts and a rare signal loss that cost me the last few minutes of the episode (I gather online that Barney and Quinn tossed around the M word, but that's about all I got). So I'm not entirely qualified to comment on this episode, as the whole thing felt jumbled and incomplete to me.
That said, I'm worried about Quinn and Barney. They're obviously good together, sharing a love of manipulation and crazy schemes, and Barney is certainly right that his friends can be meddlesome and judgmental, and deserve to be put in their place. But for most of the last several seasons, Barney has been maturing, slowly becoming a real boy, and I worry that Quinn is a step in the wrong direction in that regard. They're too much alike, and she's not going to push Barney out of his bad habits. If making that point is where the writers are headed with this story, fine, but I worry they don't see if that way, instead thinking that a Female Barney is the perfect match for the character, when in fact, it's probably the worst. The season finale is very close (five episodes away), and right now, it looks like the show is trying to position Quinn as the woman Barney is marrying, and I don't think that's the best end to this story.
If my friends ever throw me an intervention, puns had better be involved. Marshall's insistence on using the Quinn puns was a bit out of character, given the perceived gravity of the situation, but I still laughed.
Ned, Martin and Millie were also very funny.
Thankfully, I didn't miss out on Barney's depiction of the (attempted) assassination of Julius Caesar. History can always use more ninja stars.
Ted: There’s a working fireplace!
Robin: Patrice is ironing my pants all wrong!
Alcatraz: Clarence Montgomery
More bullet points...
A better-than-average con of the week helped give this episode a lift. Having someone who was wrongly imprisoned on the Rock but a killer in the present was a neat twist, and the conditioning Clarence experienced back in '63 was an interesting piece of the mythology puzzle.
I'm assuming that conditioning will be the explanation for the cons which, after arriving in 2012, seem to be on some kind of mission (and possibly even offer an explanation for their lack of culture shock/questioning their situation). Though the fact that Beauregard was the one doing the conditioning makes me wonder how aware of it Hauser is.
This the first time a 63er was killed, right? Everyone else is in Neo Alcatraz, I believe. Of course, Clarence was wrongly imprisoned, so it's fitting that he's not part of Neo 'Traz.
Madsen's "oh, my God…" response to Doc needing to confirm that Nikki was asking him out and not Madsen was probably the comedic highlight of the show so far.
Were the Warden's efforts to integrate the prison genuine, or was he trying to stir the pot? I can't decide.
Also, the Warden being cryptic does not an episode-ending cliffhanger make.
Community: Contemporary Impressionists
Another strong character-driven episode (though not as all-around great as last week's episode), despite the fact that the premise was clearly designed just to stick the cast in funny costumes and let them do celebrity impressions. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as it was tons of fun seeing the cast's various impressions (as an avid watcher of The Soup, casting Jeff as a taller, more handsome Ryan Seacrest was hilarious on multiple levels). The ending, in which Troy realizes he's going to have to force Abed into reality on occasion, and Abed accepts that he's going to have to allow Troy to do so, was a poignant moment between the two, though I hope Abed's going off alone, failing to respond to their handshake, and the presence of Evil Abed isn't meant to suggest an forthcoming end to their friendship, even though such a thing is, likely, inevitable.
As I mentioned on Twitter, the Dean's reaction to Jeff's aviator sunglasses was perhaps the funniest thing I've seen on any show all season. I'm very hit-or-miss when it comes to Dean Pelton (when it works, it really works, but when it doesn't, it really doesn't), but more and more often lately I've been enjoying him, and Jim Rash is a terrific comic actor, as that scene illustrated.
NBC clearly flipped the episode order between this episode and the previous one, as the gang referenced returning from winter break at the top of this episode. I'm usually bothered by such things, but NBC at least had a good reason for making the switch, as last week's episode was definitely a better choice for a mid-season premiere that should have caught more eyes (and judging by the improved ratings, did).
I'm pretty sure the Moby impersonator/DJ was the same guy whom the HIMYM gang thought was Moby in that show's New Years Eve episode from season one.