Thursday, May 28, 2009
So You Think You Can Dance season 5 is off with a bang with returning favourites. In the grand tradition of Hok and Twitch (who made the top 20 as fan favourites after being cut the previous season), a favourite of mine from last season, Evan Kasprzak is back this year with his brother Ryan to jazz up the competition (literally). Here's hoping they make it all the way this time.
Other returning favourites include the outrageously good contemporary dancers who both just barely missed the season 4 top 20 cut: Brandon Bryant and Natalie Reid (who you may remember from last year as Katee's supportive friend who almost went through in her place).
The season is looking up.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Double that on shows that deal with normal situations, rather than intense competitions. Jon and Kate Plus 8 started as the escapades of a married couple suddenly blessed with eight children dealing with all the child rearing difficulties that people around the world have dealt with since the first baby popped out and started wanting attention. It was at once familiar and fantastic, normal and extreme.
There's a principal in science called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which says basically (and pardon my science, since I'm a film major, not a physics major) that when we start to observe the innermost workings of an atom we inherently change the atom. I think it applies to reality shows as well. Who knows what the life of Jon and Kate and their eight superhumanly adorable children would have been like if Kate hadn't published a book and the family hadn't become a weekly staple on The Discovery Channel and then TLC? But it's undeniably changed their lives. Last season, it often felt like it changed for the better. The kids got to sit front row center at Globetrotters games, and meet Phillies all stars, and the whole family moved into a bigger home with the kind of woods middle class families dream about.
And then the season ended, but their lives didn't. Because outside of cute escapades captured and lovingly edited for broadcast is the unrelenting pressure of being a part of that many people's lives. Having that many people think they not only deserve to see your show, but deserve to know and understand what goes on in between shots. Half of America feels like it owns John and Kate, and inherently wants to dissect them and what makes them work.
This isn't to say it's all our fault and John and Kate are innocent bystanders. They've capitalized on their children and their fame for money and opportunities that most Americans can't even dream of, and there is a price for that sort of luck. But by the time we see Kate unable to take the kids to the store without having to avoid the paparazzi, I'm forced to wonder how big a price this family should have to pay. This scene in particular is absurd. Kate is already being followed by TLC's omnipresent cameras. She's not out at a club, or in a sleazy motel with a bodyguard. She's going to the Party Supplies store. WITH A CAMERA ALREADY FOLLOWING HER. What do the paparazzi hope to capture that isn't already being captured? The invasion of her privacy, therefore, starts to feel like the purpose, rather than an unfortunate side-effect, of their stalking her.
The premier of Jon and Kate Plus 8 is unfathomably colored by the allegations all over the tabloids about the two's disintegrating relationship. "I'm just really, really angry," says Kate blankly to the camera, looking every bit defeated. I was actually shocked by how straight forwardly both John and Kate dealt with the issues. Both deny any allegations of their own infidelity, although Kate seemed pretty convinced that John cheated. But that's hardly my point. Whether or not John cheated, whether or not Kate has been overbearing, whether or not they deserve what they're getting for serving their lives up to the television public in the first place, it's still damn sad to watch two people who once loved each other unable to face each other. And it's even sadder to think of the true tragedy of their adorable eight children scampering around underfoot, unaware for the moment of just how deeply in it they are.
In a way, it feels like John and Kate are held up as a sacrifice on the altar of our morbid obsession into the deconstruction of truth. And believe me, I'm an avid participant. How else would I know things like that the brother of John's supposed mistress is the one who first reported that story, or that Kate is alleged to have gotten a tummy tuck? But at a certain point watching the season premier, I just started to feel indescribably sad. Because this show is being broadcast in something pretty damn close to real time (the season starts on the sextuplets' birthday, May 10th, a mere three week turn around), we're literally watching all this awfulness pour down on the family. It's like watching the snuff film of a marriage. And I wish that the atom of their lives, once observed, could return to its normal rotation, but I know full and well that's probably impossible.
*Sure, the feeling I normally have about this is amusement, but it's a feeling none the less.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
There are few things I hold sacred in this world. I pretty much take most things lightly. But Buffy the Vampire Slayer might be the closest thing I have to a religion. Think about it. You've got it all. Moral Code? Check. Heroes? Check. A strong respect for life and souls? Check. Witty puns? Double check.
So not to fan the internet flame of outrage, but the news that Hollywood wants to remake Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a show that ended a mere six years ago) sans the original cast and, most importantly, sans JOSS THE MAN WHEDON makes my blood boil. It's not just stupid, it's sacrilegious. Why do we need a remake of Buffy so soon after the series ended, and while the comic books are still going strong? And more importantly, why would I want something so brilliantly handled and explored by a talented, inventive man to be remade by the same person who helped to butcher the original cinematic venture?!
I hope this is one of those stupid rumors that never comes to anything but is always flirted with, because let me just go on record: A BTVS movie without Joss Whedon is one I WILL NOT SEE.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Amidst a storm of good news at the recent network upfronts, the sadness of harsh cancellations went unfelt.
Now, with our joy over the renewals of Dollhouse, Chuck, Better Off Ted and Scrubs fully felt, it is time to turn our attention to the heartbreaking cancellations of two of TV's most uplifting shows: Privileged and Samantha Who.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
What if your two favorite, bubble-stuck shows both got renewed?
And what if your other two favorite shows had finales that restored your faith in them AND made you incredibly excited for next season just at the moment when you thought there was nowhere left for them to go?
Yeah. That's right. That's the world I'm living in.
The finales of Gossip Girl and How I Met Your Mother (both of which I've had issues with this season, although GG more so than HIMYM) were on tonight. And despite somewhat rocky moments, both delivered what I needed.
Let's start with Gossip Girl. About halfway through, I literally shouted "UGH!" It was around the ten millionth time Leeighton Meester had to make her way tearily through a declaration of love to an unrelenting Chuck Bass. The moment felt repetitive and manipulative, but most damning of all, it had me bored. I am one hundred and forty percent in favor of a Blair/Chuck hook up, and I found myself tired of all the antics and let down by the writers. Add to that the seeming impossibility of what the show was offering us (Gossip Girl's identity for one, and continued new and interesting antics for two) and I certainly was thinking this finale might be better served as a series finale, if only so that the characters could truly make movements in their character archs.
And then Lily and Rufus got high, and reflected on their long and storied past, and realized just how stupid they were both being. And Georgina got into NYU and decided to try and live with Blair (who would have thought I would one day be happy to have Michelle Trachtenberg invade my favorite show? But god love me, I think I've fallen for G.). And Nate, Vanessa, and Dan had an adorable, witty, well written interaction at the coffee shop that made me think that at least one of these three might have a compelling storyline next year. And most importantly, just after I checked the time on my DVR to make sure there was sufficient space left for this, Blair started walking down the street straight into the arms of a gift-laden Chuck Bass, back from Europe with gifts a plenty to make up for his constant verbal constipation and stupidity, and (TWICE) saying those magical three little words, making Blair squeel with joy. Big props to both Leeighton Meester and Ed Westwick for this one; not only did Ed Westwick early on make Chuck's 1,000 "I don't love you" speech seem at least somewhat different from the 999 before it, but when the time came for the romantic ending, the palpable joy they both expressed here helped to make this moment feel every bit as epic and climatic as it needed to be. Between this, Georgina, and the ticking time bomb of brother boy (who is a total hottie, btb) for Lily and Rufus, I suddenly felt refreshed and energized for a new season of text messaging goodness.
I had a similar moment during this ultimate episode of HIMYM. After last week's severely disappointing episode (which made me feel like all of the week's before hugging-montage, flashback-heavy, Lily-less episode was all a big dupe), about halfway through I was still pissed. Ted was spending all episode trying to draw a hat. Marshall was trying to jump off a roof*. And Barney and Robin? At first, Barney freaking out after Robin said she loved him (and basically negating all the character development we've invested in all damn season) made me unbelievably angry. How dare they take the cheapest way possible out of this story? Even when it was revealed that Robin was just trying to "Mosby" Barney (basically, she told him she loved him so that he would stop loving her because he was so freaked out), I was still pissed.
And then I realized: it's just Gossip Girl again! One of the problem with lovable-bad-boys-who-would-probably-be-awful-to-date-in- real-life-but-who-are-so-damn-endearing-on-television is that it takes them awhile to make the right decision. And as it turned out, giving in to the lust that sits on top of the deeper feelings they're developing during a shouting match in which Robin continually tries to Mosby Barney and Barney keeps having to fight his desire to respond to "Let's get married." with "Let's just be friends", was actually the perfect way for me to (FINALLY) see Barney try on that suit again. It stayed true to Robin, too, which was really the most important part to me. I've been kind of worried all season that we hadn't seen any real development of feelings on Robin's part for Barney (other than occasionally of the lustful variety, such as in "the fight," and I would argue that they did a good job of laying the groundwork for why she would love Barney, just not why she did). So at first when Robin told Barney she was in love with him, I was the bad kind of floored. It makes much more sense that Robin, smart as she is, doesn't really harbor crushes the way that Barney could because she just doesn't really deal with her feelings.
And oh yeah, there was a Ted story too. And it (kind of) fixed all the problems I had with last week's episode (or at least the overall story problems, the individual episode was still kind of filler). Turns out, that hand under the umbrella was a damn big deal, but not because she was the mother or because Stella introduced him to the mother. And it's not something as lame as "well emotional closure with Stella helped me to move on to your mother." No, in fact, it was Tony who Ted needed to meet up with again. Tony got Ted a teaching position, and as the episode capper revealed, it was that job that led to how he met their mother. Oh! And the goat kicked him in the head during an epic death wrestling match. It was kind of cool, actually.
So this week HIMYM stayed crazy true to continuity and to the characters (even more so than I am, since I was all ready for Barney to drop being true to Barney in order to be with Robin, while the much-smarter-than-me writers knew how to do both). And it left me aching for more, with the new Ted job opening up all new storylines, and the Barney/Robin ridiculousness bound to continue.
OH! The show also did another fun nod to the characters pregnancy, when Lily lies and tells Marshall she's pregnant to stop him from jumping, and has cute payoff when he tells her that "well, I noticed you gained some weight lately..." and she tells him she no longer cares if he dies. All in all, every single character was well served by this finale, even if Lily didn't get much screentime, and it was a bit distracting that Robin mysteriously lost weight in between shots.
*Being the continuity buff that I am, I sort of loved this though. In the episode "Three Days of Snow" in which Ted and Barney discuss owning their own bar, Narrator Ted explains the different sets of "five words" that every man must say at one point in their life, and they're almost always a mistake. What follows is a brief montage of those five words. At one point, it cuts to Marshall, wearing the same shirt, on the roof of their building saying, "I can totally jump that." Oh yeah, they're that good!
Monday, May 18, 2009
REMINDER: along the same lines, WATCH THE PILOT OF GLEE!!!!!! The first episode of the incredibly promising (incredibly expensive to produce) new dramedy airs this week after American Idol on Tuesday at 9pm. This type of show is a longshot to survive on any network, not to mention Fox, so it desperately needs viewers to tune in this week. The show is created by the same guy who brought us Popular and Nip/Tuck, and stars Broadway sensations from Spring Awakening and Hairspray (alongside comedy queens Jane Lynch and Jayma Mays) so there's very little chance of it being anything but, well, Glee-full.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Going into this week's fifth season finale, the producers of Lost promised the audience a death that would shake us to the core the way the loss of Charlie did. And, just like almost every promise of grandeur handed down by the Darlton that be, once again this proved to be a bit of a stretch.
Not only does the notorious FOX seem determined to undercut its reputation as the least supportive network for intelligent programming (see their miraculous second season pickup for Dollhouse and the intense promotional power they're putting behind Glee), but the alphabet network (ABC) has granted clemency to some ratings-challenged gems that seemed to be on death row. My favourite pickup so far? The delightfully clever comedy Better Off Ted! Also picked up for another season are Nathan Fillion procedural Castle and the sweet surviving sitcom Scrubs. Scrubs is set to return for a 9th season with Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke appearing for 6 episode arcs to pass the story on to the young up-and-coming interns (I'm particularly fond of both the sunny and the cynical one) while Dr. Turk, Dr. Cox and the Janitor should stick around full time for all the fun of the old days.
It's a good time for TV; I may even begin to recover from the holes the cancellations of Dirty Sexy Money, Pushing Daisies and Eli Stone left in my heart.
DOLLHOUSE IS RENEWED! That's right, the terminally lowly-viewed, network-interfered, high-concept, twisty drama about what makes a human being is going to be back, boys and girls, to fill up your Friday night TIVO (actually, now that I type that, I hope not my Friday night TIVO. If Dollhouse is ever going to come out of the lowly-rated dulldrums then it needs a lead in like Fringe). Not only does this mean AWESOME for getting to see a conclusion to the Alpha storyline, Whiskey storyline, Ballard-in-the-house storyline, but it means that hopefully the show will get a chance to grow into what I know it can be. And it means I'm much more likely to post that final review.
The only "catch" according to Michael Aussielo is that Whedon agreed to a drastically reduced budget, but let's be honest, Buffy was made on a shoestring, and despite the cheesy special effects, we came back for the interpersonal relationships, excellent dialogue, and absurdly engaging storytelling.
Anyway, here's the source article: http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2009/05/random-scooplet.html
We should know by the end of this week about all our favorite shows, and in the meantime Ausiello also has a list going of what each show's chances are, but considering just four days ago he switched Dollhouse to a longshot, take them with a grain of salt.
And speaking of long term love, Jim and Pam. Pam had a great episode to begin with, getting super competitive in volleyball and deciding to stay at the company picnic despite her and Jim's desire to just make the rounds and then escape. But the episode capper, where Pam, attempting to find out about her volleyball injury, instead finds out she's pregnant, was poetry on screen. Kudos, a million times over kudos, to John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer for bringing so much exuberance and joy. Specifically Krasinski, who in a five second phone call to Dwight managed to radiate so much love it was nearly overwhelming. We've spent so long with these two characters, watched them go from awkward flirting to blatant longing to the art-school-phase and now they're one of the most believably happy couples on television (I've said it before, but they're Monica and Chandler where they once seemed like Ross and Rachel, and I argue this makes them all the more epic). This is romantic arcs done right.
All in all, a beautiful capper to an occasionally really sad season.
And check out that moment between Jim and Pam, and the incredibly fine, emmy-worthy acting that accompanied it:
Friday, May 15, 2009
First of all, A FRAKKING DREAM SEQUENCE? THE UBER HYPED SEX SCENE IS A FREAKING DREAMMM?>!!! THIS ISN'T BUFFY* YOU CAN'T JUST SHOW US AN ALTERNATE REALITY AND THINK IT'S ENOUGH. I don't just want to work out the audience's collective Booth/Brennan lust through alternate realities, I've invested four years in these characters and I think they deserve each other and deserve happiness. There was a brief moment at the end, before the big amnesia blah blah blah, that I thought, "Maybe I can forgive this whole episode if it ends with Brennan finally coming to grips with her feelings for Booth and kissing him, promising us that they'll deal with their relationship next season." AND THEN. WOW. It turned absolutely any redeeming value to the rest of the episode into nothing.
The actual storyline, which is revealed to be Brennan's new book that she's reading to Booth as he sits all coma-fied, follows most of those we know and love as a cast of characters within the Night Club Murder Mystery. There's parts where this is kind of cute. Specifically, it really utilized all the crazy interns, who I've suddenly noticed I love. It also made a lot of cute references to the four seasons we've had thus far of the show, such as the bar being named "The Lab" and Sweet's band being Gormogon (and Sweets, in an internet-shout-out, says "Some people think I'm Gormogon. But I'm not.). Also, John Francis Daley was pretty adorable, freed from the confines of Sweet the psychiatrist, and switching over to Sweets the bartender. He giggled so cutely while playing in his band that for a brief moment I got sad that this was such an awful episode.
This episode felt like they just wanted to use the whole cast and didn't know how else to glue everything together, so they threw it all into a ridiculous storyline that definitely didn't belong on a reality-based show like Bones, and then added Motley Crue at the end. And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, they went where Cordelia went on Angel (although hers made, sort of, more sense) and Jack's wife went on 24, and soap opera after soap opera has gone throughout the ages, and gave Booth amnesia just at the moment when Brennan had realized her intense longing for him. AND. WORST OF ALL. THEY SPENT THE WHOLE EPISODE WITH DAVID BOREANAZ DRESSED REALLY, REALLY STUPID. He's way too hot to look that dumb.
I said in one of my reviews of Dollhouse (and the finale episode review is coming, I swear, once I've had time to process) that the thing I love best about watching Joss Whedon shows is knowing, wholeheartedly, that while I don't always agree with the decision he makes, that he's making them for story reasons and that they will eventually come to a satisfying conclusion. But Hart Hanson, the Bones show runner, is a perennial tease, who for the past two seasons has managed to majorly drop the ball on the finales. It's not just that their conclusions are unsatisfying, it's that these episodes barely even feel connected to the procedural every days that are so brilliantly done by Bones. It's hard for me to maintain loyalty to a show that doesn't maintain loyalty to itself.
*Buffy/Angel is one of the only shows in history that I think has successfully done the "satisfaction through alternate reality" plot, a) because it works within the plot devices and b) because they normally have control over the themes that they used in these episodes (think of the beautiful, wonderful Season 2 episode "I Only Have Eyes For You" where all of Buffy and Angels issues worked out over surrogates that also showed our lovers/enemies smooching again). The inside story, besides showing how much Brennan loves her some Booth, didn't really work all that well thematically. Jared's not in love with Brennan, Max isn't trying to kill Booth, etc.
**This photo isn't from last night's episode. I decided to use a better example of the writers actually understanding what to do with their characters to make me happier.
Monday, May 11, 2009
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE. One of the best things about SNL's hosts is getting to see performers you like turn into performers you love thanks to their flexibility and range and intense comedic timing, and there's no case stronger for that than JTim. Thanks to SNL's capacity for showcasing his considerable talent and charisma, he went from being my favorite *NSync'er to one of my all time favorite performers. He's an all singing, all dancing, all hilarious one man spectacular, and this week's hosting gig was no exception. From his opening musical number, that saw him effortlessly ad-libbing with the crowd while parodying himself, to the new Digital Short destined for glory, "Motherlover," Justin Timberlake once again proved why he's the King of Popular Culture today, and why people should really give Southland Tales another shot. Not only does he effortlessly fill out skits and characters already created (often making me forget he's the same teen idol my schoolmates used to have all over their rooms with big fake lipstick kisses on him), but he's steadily building up a repertoire of Justin Timberlake characters that are wholly his and wholly awesome.
Well, stereotypes certainly took a beating this year as the nerdy Asian brains took the prize, the deaf kid made the finals, the short guys triumphed at every physical challenge and the cheerleaders and flight attendants made fewer mental mistakes than the Harvard elite. That said, I'm going to call every school but Harvard a loser on this one since the only racers who knew who Chekhov was were Harvard Law alum Tammy and Victor. But no one seemed to know how to swim, regardless of where they were taught to do everything else, so everybody loses on that front. Despite their moments of inspiration, the finale put Margie and Luke in the loser category as well, revealing them to be patience-less stress balls who may have had terrible challenges to overcome but also had no qualms about reminding everyone of that fact. The spirit of fairness and equality was lost a little in the penultimate leg when Tammy and Victor had an inexcusably big advantage with the Chinese food detour in Beijing, but the equally annoying equalizer of infrequent flights once again took away any lead they had built up, so their win can't really be undermined by that production planning glitch in China. Impatient and rude Jaime and crazy catty Jen were also losers, not looking too pretty after bad behaviour on the race.
Dubbed Disney- the mad editing skills of "Fantachan" make the Random Disney Crap YouTube videos a scream.
Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse)- I'm obsessed.
Justin Chambers (Grey's Anatomy)- I've been obsessed for a while.
Re-watching Alias- It really did have one of the strongest premiere seasons of all time.
MLB Fantasy Baseball League- I'm leading my division with a 4-0 record!
Rules of Engagement- funnier than you think it is.
Understanding why everyone's always loved Sawyer (Lost)- it took me 4.5 seasons but I'm finally on board.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Grey's Anatomy has had its spectacular moments, characters, and story lines. This show, also, has had its dull moments. However, through it all there is one character that keeps me tuning back. She is strong. She is frank. She is caring. She knows what she is doing. This character is Dr. Miranda Bailey. I absolutely love her. She, somehow, manages to ignore all the melodrama that takes place in Seattle Grace to do her job. And, she does her job well. Throughout all of the tedious moments (George and Izzie's hookup), characters (Sadie), and story lines (Denny's ghost) Dr. Bailey stands tall. She keeps me coming back!
Friday, May 08, 2009
And then, sometimes, we have talking cartoon babies. So much of last night's episode, "The Critic in the Cabernet," annoyed the hell out of me. The mystery of the week was fairly standard (in fact, for the first time in recent memory we don't get an actual confirmation of who the killer was) because this episode was not about the mystery, even in so much as any Bones episodes are about the mystery. This was about Booth and Brennan.
In the beginning, the show continued its habit of treating psychology like a magical drug that brings out the truth. That's mostly okay: I can believe that someone like Brennan would only be able to admit the truth to herself when she thinks she's being tricked into it. But this week took this stretch a little far, with Brennan wildly shouting out during a free association exercise that she wanted a baby and she wanted Booth to father it.
Still, I could have easily forgiven that. Brennan is prone to flights of fancy and absurd declarations. But then it took Booth all episode to realize that he couldn't just father Brennan's child and then divorce himself from the operation. It was completely out of character for a man who's made his stand so often on the importance of fatherhood and responsibility, and who, just 9 episodes in "The Salt in the Wound," ended the episode with a long speech to a teenage boy about the importance of, you guessed it, taking responsibility for one's sperm. He didn't need a talking Stewie-baby to tell him that he wanted to be involved.
And let's talk about that all important guest star, Stewie from Family Guy. I've known about this truly idiotic cross over idea for a while, and I guess that the actual cameo wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it was unnecessary. Oh, sure, Booth was having anxiety hallucinations about fathering Brennan's child, and Stewie's a baby, but aside from this tenuous connection with the issue at hand (yes, pun very much so intended), there was no real justification for the inter-network synergy that results in a freaking cartoon character getting to define Booth's emotional arch. It was sloppy, weak writing, made all the worse by the blatant FOX-ification of it.
So yeah, by the time Booth started seeing Stewie in the interrogation room, I was pretty annoyed. There'd been moments I liked during the episode (depressed intern is always a hoot, and everyone's reactions to Booth/Brennan craziness almost made it worth it), but all in all I started pantomiming a shark and Bones jumping over it. They weren't letting the storylines breath. It felt like every big moment was being crammed into this one episode, whereas a well plotted show would have it unfold naturally over a couple of episodes. From Brennan's baby lust to Booth's disease, it felt like they were just dumping all their left over plotlines into the soup of this episode and hoping it came out delicious.
And then, Booth told Brennan what he was hallucinating, and I'm reminded why, even when the writing falls short, I still love Bones. The acting is always freaking fantastic. The look of abject terror and concern that Brennan gave Booth as she insisted she get him to the hospital; the adorable way Booth looked around his hospital room, desperate until he saw Brennan; Sweets freaking out in the hospital room as Angela and Hodgins reconsidered their own relationship. This is the stuff that Bones is made of. It's continually demonstrated its commitment to its characters, and it's that reason why we should invest in the show.
At its heart, Bones is a screwball romantic comedy, and in that vein (and that vein alone) the end of this episode was a rousing success.
*All this being said, I literally tossed a pillow at the television when I saw the preview for next week's episode. Anything advertised as "the wackiest Bones yet!" clearly doesn't get what makes this show so fantastic, and was anyone exactly clamoring for a guest spot from the Motley Crue? On top of that, obsessively advertising B&B's horizontal shenanigans just makes the network a pimp, peddling its leads' flesh, which I suppose is always true, but at least they're normally subtler about it. I hope I'm wrong. I'm hoping that next week's episode manages to deal with B&B in a way that is both true to their character arch and satisfying. The only thing that would annoy me more than the show making too big a deal out of their having sex is the show failing to realize the importance of it; the show having mislead us this far with its promises of B&B sex? I guess that would depend how it's done.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
The structure of this week's HIMYM (where Ted tells us the one thousand things leading up to the moment when a female hand reaches under his stolen Yellow umbrella*) was almost exactly like last year's "The Platinum Rule**" in that nothing really happened, and we got mostly flashbacks and fantasy sequences. And normally I like these episodes, but this week's seemed especially set-up-without-pay-off-y.
There major thread left hanging after this episode is the end of episode reveal of who the woman under the umbrella is. Ted spends all episode telling his kids how important this moment is, and how many little things had to go into the process of this moment happening. So when the woman reaches over, and it's none other than (SPOILER ALERT) Stella, it feels kind of - UGH!
I mean, come on. By the end of the Stella-arch, I hated her. Viscerally. She was often one of the worst stereotypes of female flightiness, on top of which, it seemed pretty damn obvious she wasn't the mother. And I'm fairly certain she still isn't. For one thing, in the episode "Shelter Island," Ted had us flash forward to what kids with Stella would have looked like, and they didn't look anything like the kids in future Ted scenes. For another, it seems like the kids would point out "hey, it must be mom in these scenes, since we have that much older half-sister." Plus, telling the story of mommy leaving you at the altar? Not a real "aww" kind of a moment. Plus Stella was lame. And didn't like Star Wars.
So all that means is that we watched a whole episode that started with my heart literally speeding up when Ted grabbed that yellow umbrella all significantly in the beginning with a reveal that we're going to get to see Stella again. Whoopee. I hope this pays off, and I'm inclined to believe it will. I've recently marathoned season one, two and most of three, and am really excited to rewatch the groundwork laid into the mother story, and am hoping that all of it comes to pass. This is a show that intensely believes in fate and destiny, and I hope that all the disparate mother related threads (from the dating service that tried to hook Ted up with the perfect woman, to the woman he bumped in to at the bar on St. Paddy's Day, straight through to Stella) come together nicely, and that we aren't subjected to a rehash of Ted/Stella gate '08.
That being said, there's another lingering plot thread that I'd like to comment on from this episode. After Robin throws up on air, she jokingly tells Ted and Barney that she's pregnant (which was a cute little nod to the fact that Colbie Smulders, despite still having annoyingly chiseled facial features, is about ready to pop). Ted immediately proposes, although he wants to still have sex with other women, which was a cute throw away to Ted's desire to have kids and yet to how far Robin and Ted have come that he doesn't just want Robin forever. Barney, on the other hand, runs away. I'm fairly certain, because I have faith in the HIMYM showrunners, that this is going to come back. In fact, I pictured him proposing like he did in the background of the episode where Robin was losing her work VISA. If this does come back, it's exactly why I love this show so much. They're capable of implanting a seemingly throw away scene in a seemingly throw away joke that in the future will pay off much bigger than we could have imagined (see also: the really old penny in Season Two, the butterfly tatoo in Season Three, the Slap Bet in all the seasons). If it doesn't pay off, well it was kind of lame. But I think it will pay off, because even the laugh track didn't find Barney's running away funny, and therefore I'm inclined to believe this is going to be the catalyst for the Robin/Barneyness I'm expecting from the finale.
So all in all, not my favorite half hour of HIMYM of all time, and mostly just a place holder for the finale, but assuming the team knows what they're doing, this could all be setting up some pretty fantastic stuff for the finale. Also, all that being said, Marshall's chart obsession could be one of my favorite jokes of all time, and watching Barney struggle to reach 200 with a supermodel was pretty cool, especially as it served to put a possible cap on his previous efforts to just sleep with everything that will have him. And yes, he should probably get tested.
*From last season's episode "No Tomorrow" where a St. Patrick's Day inspired Ted lived a whole night according to the theory that when you do bad things, good things happen, and wakes up embarrassed and hung over and phoneless, only to trek over to the bar he visited the night before (where we learn through narration the mother was also attending) to find said phone and finding instead a lonely, lost, yellow umbrella, which the narration also tells us plays a huge role in the meeting the mother aspect of this story.
** In almost the exact same structure, we spend almost the entire episode in the build up to Ted going on his first date to Stella, while Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney narrate flashbacks. It's also a structure used in "Lucky Penny," which was all about the events that led up to Ted missing an important flight to Chicago to interview for a new job. Both of these episodes were sort of place holders in between major plot developments, although of the three, I think "Lucky Penny" is probably my favorite, because it referenced a lot of other storylines as it tied it all together.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
In this week's episode ("Briar Rose"), Dollhouse finally revealed its true colors and purpose. Dollhouse is about nothing more or less than the essence of humanity and our future as a civilization. All the epic, dark themes that have been presented in the past ten episodes are starting to completely crystallize.
We start with Echo, this week imprinted with a grown up version of a troubled young girl in an attempt to help save said girl from her haunted past. I spent the first half of the episode wondering who the hell would pay for this, but it turns out it's something even bigger than that. We've heard the people who work at the Dollhouse say, repeatedly, that they believe they're helping people. This week, Topher approached something like "pride" thanks to his pro-bono work trying to save this girl. It's a sweet example of how they justify their lives of pimpage and whoreage, but it turns out to be something much, much more: a near perfect metaphor for the undercurrent of the semi-misogynistic saviour complex exhibited by Ballard (and to a perverted extent, Alpha) towards Caroline.
After the fisticuffs, Boyd and Ballard end up back in Dewitt's office. Dewitt seems to prove everything Ballard thinks is wrong with the Dollhouse by threatening to mind wipe him, while Boyd remains his moral self and says that the punishment does not even sort of fit the crime. While they're debating these moral issues, all freaking hell breaks loose.
Okay, I lied. I'm not done warning you. Please. Please. Please. Stop reading right here if you don't know how this episode ended. STOPPPPP.
So Victor, who was injured during the doll-freeing portion of tonight's episode, is found by Dr. Claire Saunders (Amy Acker, for those of you who don't pay attention to character names like me!) and brought into her exam room for fixing up. This leads to one of the semi-patented Victor-in-blank-state line reads of "People were fighting on me." Victor really is the best blank-stater of all the dolls.
Just as Saunders is going all motherly on Victor, Kepler shows up and begins slashing the hell out of Victor's (beautiful) face. Yep, that's right boys and girls, that ain't Kepler we're seeing, and there's a reason why he looks so good in a Doll's t-shirt and why he keeps hiding his face whenever Ballard has to fight his way through Dollhouse staff. Turns out, Tudyk is ALPHA, Dollhouse's boogey man in the closet, who killed the real Kepler and dumped him in Tuscon so that Ballard would help him break into the Dollhouse and set Echo free. He'd previously made somewhat more moderate attempts to break Echo out, including deprogramming her while she's on mission to help her learn to cope while in her blank state and sending a man out to kill her while she's on mission so that she would develop more self-sufficiency. It turns out, Alpha's been training Echo for what's to come.
But why the hell would he do that? Alpha's a self-sufficient psychopath with a killer instinct. Why is he so fixated on little old Echo? Is it the kewpie doll eyes and fantastic butt?
No. We've spent most of this episode thinking about the nature of humanity and salvation. Alpha-as-Kepler has even given us a lot of insight into his fatalistic view of where the human race is heading. If the future of humanity is just like these dolls, to be nothing more or less than a compilation of memories that are interchangeable and can be programmed in to be other things (as reinforced by the creepy subplot this week whereby Dewitt downloaded Dominic inside Victor to help get information out of him), than we're doomed. Or at least that seems to be the logic. But Alpha wasn't just interchangeable; no matter what science did to him, he compiled memories, transcended his programming, proved there's something more than just circuitry going on up there. And that makes him (almost) unique.
Except for Echo. I've purposely referred to the woman who Ballard wants to save as Caroline and the woman who Alpha wants to save as Echo, because I think Paul Ballard would be perfectly happy to download the tree-hugging Caroline back into her pretty old body and send her back out into the streets. Alpha wants to understand the (far more interesting, in my opinion) Echo, with all her compositing, self-protecting, glitching glory. As we can see in the previews for next week, he wants to understand what that means for humanity, to dissect the relationship between memories and personhood. And if along the way, he happens to download some badass chick into Echo (who is that girl!?) and have hot monkey sex with her, so be it.
So where does this leave us? Echo and Alpha escape, Victor's bleeding on the ground, and Dewitt, Boyd and Ballard are going to have to team up to bring down Alpha. Jigga what? Next week brings us the possible last ever episode of Dollhouse, and a whole bunch of questions that need answering. But that's the thing about Joss Whedon shows, I am 100% certain that the answers to those questions will be fulfilling. With nearly every other show I've ever watched, the finding out was almost always a let down. Just see my review of the BSG finale, or that moment on Bones when we find out about Zach or the Serena-killed-someone reveal on Gossip Girl. All shows I loved, but the plotting on a Joss Whedon show is simply without parallel on television. The man knows good story and satisfying conclusions, and although I hope next week's episode is just the conclusion of this particular season, I know it will be a satisfying ending.
- I didn't even really get to talk about how hateful Ballard has become, scorning Mellie to the point of suicide and wanting to leave her unconscious doll self in that pod for all eternity. It's as if the prince from the fairy tale showed up and said, "meh, bitch shouldn't have touched that spindle if she didn't want to end up sleeping for one hundred years."
- Ballard: Eden wasn't a prison.
Kepler/Alpha: Are you kidding? The APPLES were monitored.
- Boyd: Sorry agent, Ballard. You don't get the girl. (and therefore summing up the entire saviour complex of Ballard in one perfectly delivered line)
- Kepler/Alpha: This is like some buddy cop movie where you're the hard nosed FBI agent and I'm a guy who doesn't like buddy cop movies.
- I also didn't really get a chance to get into how intense the Victor/Dominic scene was, and how great Enver Gjokaj (the actor who plays Victor) was in it, or how terrifying/dehumanizing/amazing it was to see Dewitt's response to it.
- Nor did I get to talk about how Topher is officially becoming a character I can root for, and how impressed I am by the slow roll out of it.
- Or how much this week's imprint played into Dushku's skills as an actress. She was guarded, wounded, but ultimately a noble creature. Sound anything like Season 7 Faith to you?
- I've only got one complaint, really, about this week's episode. STOP. HURTING. VICTOR. NOW. I know this is a Joss Whedon show, and that therefore the people I love will probably die in a hazy storm of bullets or debris or sword slashing, but NO. STOP IT RIGHT NOW, JOSS.