Friday, May 31, 2013
Last Week in TV #36
With Revolution running out its string for the season, we've got a chance to catch up on some shows on which I've fallen behind.
Revolution: Clue/Children of Men
Once again things are moving at a breakneck pace, and while that works for a penultimate episode like "Children of Men", the speed at which events move undermines "Clue". A locked-room mystery could be interesting, if done well, especially since so many of the characters in question have legitimate, non-forced reasons to be suspects, but it's clear this show has no interest in slowing down enough to do it justice nor a deft enough hand when it comes to characterization. And so Hudson gets killed off for fairly arbitrary reasons, and the entire cast goes from "not at the Tower" to "banging on its door" within an episode.
"Children of Men", then, gets things in motion for the finale, and while the brisker pace suits the more action-oriented episode fine, once again things happen for no good reason than because the plot demands it: no one runs out of bullets until Neville and Jason need to be cutoff and stranded from Miles and company, everyone in Monroe's party gets killed quickly and efficiently except, of course, Monroe and Rachel. That kind of stuff happens all the time in genre shows, especially the kind of action-orientated one this show has become, but usually, the seams don't show as bad. Heck, at times, this show doesn't even seem like they're trying to hide the seams.
When Monroe was torturing Nora for information, why did he even think she would know where Miles was? I mean, she'd been a captive for three weeks; surely he would have moved to somewhere unknown to her by then.
When that scientist guy took Nora to Atlanta, shouldn't all those people he drove past be freaking out about the fact that he had a working car, or is the fact that Monroe has limited access to power just numbed everyone to the idea of living in a world without power?
I'm not at all surprised that Rachel's attempt to grenade herself and Monroe to death didn't work; the way that scenario played out I doubted whether she'd have killed anyone even if she had just detonated it the moment she walked into the tent.
While the subsequent scenes between Monroe and Rachel in the bunker were well-played and enjoyable, it's still kind of a bummer that Rachel is letting him off the hook just to save Charlie. I mean, I get it, but still...
Who the heck was the dead woman Charlie worried was her mom? I don't remember anyone (besides Rachel) who looked like that in Monroe's party.
Was that seriously the end of Randall? What a sudden and hapless end for a character who, at one point, seemed poised to be one of the Big Bad's of the show.
The idea of Neville leading an overthrow of the Monroe Republic isn't exactly shocking, but it is entertaining, as is the idea of Monroe coming out of the Tower only to discover that he lost his country while he was underground.
Was that the first time that Monroe and Charlie met, face-to-face? It felt like a charged moment, as the show's main antagonist and its ostensible protagonist finally meet, but even if it's not, Monroe's cool, "Hello Charlotte. A thank you would be nice" was one of the character's best moments on the show.
Shortly before that, Aaron got arguably his best moment yet on the show, responding to Neville's, "can you get inside there?" with "with this book I can, you dick."
The leader of the people guarding the Tower is played by Glenn Morshower, who kicked all kinds of ass as Secret Service Agent Pierce on 24, making him another vet of that show to appear on this one.
So there's a chance that turning the power back on could set the world on fire (presumably, they're being metaphoric, and the idea is that shutting down the nanomachines risks blowing them all up or something), which, fine, whatever - but remember that woman who gave Rachel her journal, all about the Tower, and argued against turning on the power because it would kill all the people being kept alive by the nanobots? Shouldn't she have mentioned this additional risk? I get that Rachel may be willing to risk it, but it seems like something a person in the know, who specifically wants to leave the power off, would mention.
What in the world was the point of the two brief flashback scenes in "Children of Men"?
Glee: Guilty Pleasures
This was a thoroughly average episode. Which, for most shows, isn't all that notable. Seasons of most shows (even consistently good ones) are littered with average episodes, but it's odd thing for a Glee, a show which usually ends up laughably bad or toe-tappingly triumphant (oftentimes in the same episode). This episode then, is what a "normal" episode of Glee looks like: a strong central premise, some interesting character moments, a mix of fun and questionable musical numbers, nothing earth-shaking on either end of the spectrum. Because this show so rarely hits this middle ground of enjoyable consistency, "average" becomes noteworthy.
The "Blaine has a crush on Sam" subplot was probably handled as well as it could be on this show (certainly better than the "Tina has a crush on Blaine" subplot was). I appreciated that, in the end, it didn't turn into a whole big thing.
Similarly, the whole "Jake defending Chris Brown" bit was remarkably well-handled (for this show), making a valid point (separating the artist from the art) without sugarcoating anything or coming across as willfully-ignorant.
I still can't buy this whole turn to the light side for Kitty; I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop (and I still want her to get some comeuppance for what she did to Marley).
Favorite Song: I love me some Phil Collins, and Blaine really nailed his performance of "Against All Odds", but I can't deny I don't also have a soft spot for "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", which was tons of fun.
Blaine: Hunger is a problem in this country. So is obesity, which is confusing.
This then, is the "regular" kind of Glee episode I was talking about, at times terribly effective and other times just terrible, all in one episode. The scenes of the kids in the choir room, quietly freaking out, were absolutely effective and affecting. The declarations of love, the filmed goodbyes, Sam going nuts about Brittany and having to be physically restrained from leaving by Will and Bieste - I've (thankfully) never been involved in a shooting incident, but those scenes felt very genuine. And the cuts to Brittany, standing scared on a toilet, the soft plunking of her tears hitting the water below, jeez, that just gets to you.
But it's everything else around those scenes that is so disconcerting. That this show did a school shooting episode is not at all surprising - one out of every three episodes, roughly, is a thinly-veiled PSA about something - nor entirely wrongheaded. There are teachable moments and moments of catharsis in a story like this. What's disconcerting is the way the episode led up to the shooting. Going in, this was advertised as a school shooting episode (and that's fine as far as getting people to watch and also warning them of what they may see when they do), but the episode was constructed in such a way prior to the shooting to suggest that it too knew what was coming, and thus the end result felt like a suspense thriller.
The cycling-down-a-barrel shots (that turned out to be Brittany's "telescope"), the long shot of Will walking down the halls, alone at night, Ryder's freakout and subsequent disappearance, these were all things designed to ratchet up suspense in the audience, because the audience knew a shooting was going to occur at some point. In doing so, it sensationalized the PSA (beyond the inherent sensationalism of this being a dramatized event on a TV show), made it about the drama of the shooting instead of the lesson. And that's unfortunate.
It was pretty obvious that Sue was covering for someone, and I had the sneaking suspicion it would be Becky, both for her earlier conversation with Brittany and for her being the only student Sue would cover for like that. I'm not sure how I feel about Becky's involvement yet: it'll depend on how it plays out in the end, but I worry that the show isn't capable of handling that kind of storyline.
I'm also still a little unclear as to why Becky brought the gun to school (the connection between doing that and her fear of the world outside school didn't quite mesh), which doesn't help the storyline.
I've had my issues with the direction (redirection, and misdirection) of Sue's character through the years, but Jane Lynch really knocked it out of the park this episode. Her goodbye to Will, and the seemingly-casual but weighted request for him to keep an eye on Becky, were marvelously played.
I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but it didn't escape notice that Tina was the one member of the glee outside the school when the shooting happened. Once again left out of the significant storyline...
Why did Will leave the room to rescue Brittany (and those other kids) after stopping Sam from doing the same? The reasons he cited to stop Sam equally applied to him. Once again, it feels like little more than an attempt to ratchet up the suspense, making us worry that the shooter was in the bathroom with Brittany.
In non-shooting stories, Ryder is seemingly getting catfished, which seems like it would be hard to do considering the person in question goes to his school, he has their phone number, and they are apparently a member of glee club, but whatever.
The whole Will/Bieste thing was weird, but I'm glad Will at least mentioned a failure to inform Bieste of his reunion with Emma.
I guess I finally got the payoff to the "Kitty tricks Marley into bulimia" plotline. Not nearly enough comeuppance for my taste, but at least she admitted it herself and wasn't found out.
Words can't describe how thankful I am that no one was actually shot or killed in the course of the shooting storyline, because I don't think even this show could survive the overwhelming trite-ness and marginalization of a serious issue that would have come from having the glee club sing at some heretofore unseen students' memorial service.
Favorite Song: A light episode for songs, I'll go with "More than Words", all the better because it was a serenade to Lord Tubbington.
Community: Intro to Felt Surrogacy
This wasn't the funny episode ever, but the best Community genre-mashup episode are more concerned with honoring the tone/sensibilities of the genre than cramming in a ton of jokes, and this one definitely worked hard (and succeeded) at nailing that childhood puppet show aesthetic. Like the Claymation Christmas episode, it was also an episode that explored some dark material while remaining sincere, without becoming overly-sacchrine. Definitely a highlight of the season.
The Dean providing the puppets (which he just happened to have fashioned in the likeness of the study group) continued a strong turn for the character this season. I also appreciated that his puppets looked more likely to be handmade, while the puppets in the flashbacks were clearly of a higher quality.
Great songs throughout, too. Sara Bareilles (who played the balloon guide) and Adam Levine wrote them.
I appreciated the shoutout to Professor Duncan's (who was a pretty big part of the show early on) long absence.
I'm not the world's biggest fan of Jason Alexander, but his appearance here worked well.
Apparently Chevy Chase recorded his dialogue for this episode as part of the deal he cut to leave the show (it was the last episode produced for the season).
Intro to Knots
Maybe it was just the fact that I was watching a Christmas episode while it was bright and sunny outside (well, not really, it was cloudy and rainy, because our weather has been abysmal lately), but this was an episode I appreciated intellectually more than emotionally. There were some funny bits (Abed's realization that things were unfolding in real time was entirely worth the real time gimmick) and I appreciated the attempt to film the episode in (mostly) one take, with the events unfolding (mostly) in real time, and hey, Malcolm McDowell is always welcome, but I walked away from the whole thing appreciating the idea of a one take, real time, Christmas episode more than I appreciated the episode itself. Maybe I just don't have the Christmas spirit.
The internet tells me the real time, one take approach is an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, a film I've never seen but I've added to my Amazon Watch List because I'm always on the lookout for a good unheralded Hitchcock film.
This was another episode produced after Chevy Chase left, hence his (remarked upon) absence.
Parks and Recreation: Jerry's Retirement
For an episode ostensibly about Jerry, this was really about teaching Leslie that it's possible to live a fulfilling life outside of work, and that for some people, that life is more than enough. Not that it's surprising that the episode functioned to teach Leslie a lesson, given that this is essentially her show, and there was still plenty of wonderful Jerry antics (I pretty much lost it when he was having a heart to heart with the former mayor's headstone, and of course everything with the Gergich family was outstanding).
Keeping Jerry around as an intern was pretty clever: he doesn't need to be around in every office scene, but when he is, we just know that it's his day in the office.
Watching Leslie's love of breakfast fight with her dislike of Jerry was fantastic.
Ann and Chris getting back together was pretty much expected, given the whole "having a baby plotline", but I still felt like it was a long time coming, mainly because it just makes so much sense for the characters.
While there was still plenty to enjoy, this was a bit of a dud episode. The central plot once again pitted the Libertarian Ron against the government-happy Leslie over the fate of a local business, and as a result, felt almost beat for beat like a retread of "Bailout", only four episodes earlier. It also doesn't help that Jamm, a character I can appreciate as a minor antagonist who works best in small doses, was a central part of the episode as well.
The two subplots worked much better, with Tom enlisting Ann's help to break up with Mona Lisa a good use of the characters' history together (this plotline was let down somewhat by the continued grating presence of Mona Lisa herself), while Andy realizing he's been kicked out of his own band was a nice beat in the ongoing "Andy becoming a real boy" storyline (I especially liked his incredulousness at the idea of melting the cheese on his nachos).