Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Americans 2.9: Gimme that Old Time Religion

An unusual and memorable Americans 2.9 tonight in which, though there was plenty of physical violence, the story hinged on psychological violence, and the mental health and self-control of the usually well-grounded Phil.

The trigger is the quick series of deaths Phil metes out at the beginning of the episode on a mission.  As he later tells Elizabeth, such killings on behalf of their work are easier for her than for him.  She takes some exception to this, but we've seen this to be manifestly true.

The accelerant, which nearly pushes Phil over the edge, is daughter Paige's immersion in her new-found religion, and in particular her donation of $600 to her church.  Elizabeth is not at all happy about this, but Phil, upset about his killings, first screams at Paige, and later goes to the church to confront the pastor.   The ensuing scene ended the episode, as was so tightly drawn that I wasn't sure if he was going to kill the pastor right then and there.   The man who doesn't like killing for his beloved Soviet Union was this close to killing the pastor for what he did to Phil's daughter, and maybe because of his infuriating believe in "his" God, too.

Phil manages to walk out of the church, but this interlude shows, like nothing else before on the show, how fine a line Phil walks between his family and his job.  His fury at what Elizabeth has been doing has nothing to do with his job.  It stems from Phil's feelings of protectiveness as a father.   From his and Elizabeth's point of view, Paige's finding religion is a development that goes against every grain of their Soviet being.   But what really makes it hurt is the love they feel for their daughter - a love that, on the one hand, is part of their pretense of being a normal American family, but, on the other hand, is as real as the love that any parent feels for his or her child.

Meanwhile, there are lots of good developments in the spy part of the story. Gaad threatening Arkady was unexpected and bracingly out of character, providing an analog to Phil being so out of character himself.  It will be interesting to see where that goes.   Martha, goaded by Phil's playing the doctored tape to her, has now been positioned to do more serious damage to Stan and Gaad.   And Stan's wife telling him point blank that she was leaving for a weekend tryst was just what he deserved.  Ok, that wasn't part of the spy story per se, but it's certainly part of the life of a spy.

The Americans continues to be original, exceptional television in its second season.

See also The Americans 2.1-2: The Paradox of the Spy's Children ... The Americans 2.3: Family vs. Mission ... The Americans 2.7: Embryonic Internet and Lie Detection

And see also The Americans: True and Deep ... The Americans 1.4: Preventing World War III ... The Americans 1.11:  Elizabeth's Evolution ... The Americans Season 1 Finale: Excellent with One Exception

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Good Wife 5.18: Tying Up Loose Ends

A powerful Good Wife 5.18 Sunday night, which tied up lots of loose ends, and moved the narrative along to new, more stable ground, which will be a good foundation for future developments.

The realization that the NSA had been tapping her phone conversations snapped Alicia out of her depression about Will's death.  This had all kinds of beneficial consequences.   She gave an aggressive defense of Finn, which shut down, at least for now, the dastardly attempt of the new state prosecutor to make Finn the scapegoat for Will's death.  (But it's great to see Michael Cerveris aka the Observer from Fringe play the prosector Castro.)   And Peter's brilliant political maneuvering to get the NSA to back off - after Alicia alerts him to the problem, which afflicts them both - serves as the basis for something a rapprochement between the two.

The NSA story, in general, has been of the high points of this season's The Good Wife, which has easily been its best season so far.   The NSA has been woven in and out of several crucial story lines, and though it's a relief to see this put to rest, I have a feeling we won't be seeing the last of the NSA, if not in this season than the next.

Back at the firm, the big addition of course is Michael J. Fox's Louis Canning as a named partner.  The flirtation with Alicia coming back was good, but only as a bubble quickly burst.  Alicia on her own - that is, with Cary - puts her and the overall narrative in a much better position to make waves, cause trouble, rise to the occasion, and keep The Good Wife on the high-energy level it's been on this season.

CBS has complained that it's not fair that shows like The Good Wife, which perform all year with 20+ episodes, be judged for the Emmys against shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones which air only a third to a half as many episodes.   Hart Hanson, show runner of Bones, has tweeted much the same.   My view: CBS and Hanson are right.  The Emmys should split the dramatic series award into Long and Short forms, just as the Hugos and Nebulas have separate awards for science fiction novels and short stories (and, indeed, for novellas and novelettes).  This should be in addition to the mini-series category, which has been subject to controversies of its own.

See also I Dreamt I Called Will Gardner Last Night

And The Good Wife 5.1: Capital Punishment and Politicians' Daughters ... The Good Wife 5.5: The Villain in this Story ... The Good Wife 5.9: Reddit, Crowd Sourcing, and the First Amendment on Trial ... The Good Wife 5.11: Bowling Bowls and Bogdanovich ... The Good Wife 5.13: NSA on Television ... The Good Wife: 5.15: Stunner!


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The Blacklist 1.19: Leveling the Scales?

The Blacklist 1.19 was back with an excellent episode on Monday night - and a significant, maybe game-changing development in Lizzi's relationship with Red.

It all hinges on what Tom says to Lizzie at the end of her interrogation:  "I'm one of the good guys. Reddington is not who he seems to be, and I can prove it."

Let's unpack this.  Have we seen Tom do things that are not good?  Let's take lying to Lizzie off the table, since Tom is apparently saying that his years-along intimate deception was for her own good. But we've also seen Tom do things to other people that are not good - like killing Jolene.   Was that also for Lizzie's own good?  Possibly, but it seems more likely that Tom killed Jolen for Tom's own good - because he didn't want that loose cannon out there, compromising whatever he had going on with Lizzie.

Tom's "proof" that he's a good guy and Reddington is not is in a bank box, he says, for which he gives Lizzie a key.  The last scene and the coming attractions for next week show that Lizzie is indeed disturbed by what she sees.   This does not necessarily prove that Tom is a good guy, but it does strongly suggest that Red is indeed not who he says he is.   My guess is that both are true:  Red has indeed deceived Lizzie about something very important, but Tom's deception was not done in the interest of helping or protecting Lizzie.  The differential diagnosis is that Tom set up whatever was in the bank box as a failsafe to incriminate Red and disqualify him in Lizzie's mind as her protector.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the episodes ahead, and whether we'll get any final closure on the Tom story this season.

One other point about episode 1.19.  Lizzie understandably expresses how outraged she is about Tom wanting her to adopt a baby.  But think about how much more powerful this story line would have been had Tom made Lizzie pregnant.   I wonder if this occurred to the writers, but the limitations of network television obliged them to go in a tamer direction.

See also The Blacklist Debuts: Alias Meets Jay Z ... The Blacklist 1.2: Mysteries ... The Blacklist 1.3: Construction Site Heights ... The Blacklist 1.6: Truth and Enigma ... The Blacklist 1.7: Natural Immunity ... The Blacklist 1.8: The Father and the Husband ... The Blacklist 1.9: Field Transfusion ... The Blacklist 1.10: Those Words ... The Blacklist 1.11: Red's Retribution ... The Blacklist 1.12: The DNA Meister ...  The Blacklist 1.13: Red Writ Large ... The Blacklist 1.15: The Husband's Other Shoe ... The Blacklist 1.16: True Colors

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bones 9.22: Promotion

Well, Bones didn't keep us hanging on too long about the fingernail aka ghost serial killer this season. The case was broken open and solved in tonight's solid episode 9.22.

Along the way, we get some more good shots not only at the mega-rich, but against the government that all too easily marches to their tune.   Bones does take place in Washington, DC, and episodes that involve politicians are always welcome.

Our central characters all performed to good effect, too.   Sweets and Caroline are always at their best when they stand up to authority, and it was especially good to see Caroline with Booth's help make an uncooperative Federal agency back down.   Cam started out with her officious attitude, all too prominent in the past few episodes, but quickly saw the light about the need for Bones to be on the case even if it did go against some rules.  And Edison's commitment to Bones that he wouldn't rest until the killer was nabbed was one of the best scenes ever between Bones and an intern, even though Edison is no longer an intern.

But the most important part of the episode was the progress Booth was making - whether he fully wanted it or not - in his selection by the FBI to head up that new task force.  There has been a lot of speculation all over the web about what Bones and Booth would do if Booth was offered the job.  I've thought, as soon as the job possibility was raised, that there would be some unexpected twists and turns, but nothing that would put a wedge between the two.   Tonight we learn that Bones wrote her heart out in support of Booth for this position, and that Booth has indeed been offered it.

What this will do to the narrative of the series is anyone's guess.  But I'm thinking it's a safe bet that it will make Booth and Bones' relationship even stronger.

See also Bones 9.1: The Sweet Misery of Love ... Bones 9.2: Bobcat, Identity Theft, and Sweets ... Bones 9.3 and NCIS 11.2: Sweets and Ziva ... Bones 9.4: Metaphysics of Death in a Television Series ... Bones 9.5: Val and Deep Blue ... Bones 9.6: The Wedding ... Bones 9.7: Watch Out, Buenos Aires ...Bones 9.8: The Bug in the Neck ... Bones 9.9: Friday Night Bones in the Courtroom ... Bones 9.10: Horse Pucky ... Bones 9.11: Angels in Equations ... Bones 9.12: Fingernails ... Bones 9.13: Meets Nashville, and Wendell ... Bones 9.14: "You Cannot Drink Your Glass Away" ... Bones 9.15: Hodgins' Brother and the Ripped Off Toe ... Bones 9.16: Lampreys, Professors, and Insurance Companies ... Bones 9.17: Spartacus in the Kitchen ... Bones 9.18: Meets Day of the Triffids ... Bones 9.19: The Cornucopic Urn ... Bones 9.20: Above the Law ... Bones 9.21: Freezing and Thawing

And see also Bones 8.1: Walk Like an Egyptian ... Bones 8.2 of Contention ... Bones 8.3: Not Rotting Behind a Desk  ... Bones 8.4: Slashing Tiger and Donald Trump ... Bones 8.5: Applesauce on Election Eve ... Bones 8.6: Election Day ... Bones 8.7: Dollops in the Sky with Diamonds ...Bones 8.8: The Talking Remains ... Bones 8.9: I Am A Camera ... Bones 8.10-11: Double Bones ...Bones 8.12: Face of Enigmatic Evil ... Bones 8.13: Two for the Price of One ... Bones 8.14: Real Life ... Bones 8.15: The Magic Bullet and the Be-Spontaneous Paradox ... Bones 8.16: Bitter-Sweet Sweets and Honest Finn ... Bones 8.17: "Not Time Share, Time Travel" ... Bones 8.18: Couples ... Bones 8.19: The Head in the Toilet ... Bones 8.20: On Camera ... Bones 8.21: Christine, Hot Sauce, and the Judge ... Bones 8.22: Musical-Chair Parents ... Bones 8.23: The Bluff ... Bones Season 8 Finale: Can't Buy the Last Few Minutes

And see also Bones 7.1: Almost Home Sweet Home ... Bones 7.2: The New Kid and the Fluke ...Bones 7.3: Lance Bond and Prince Charmington ... Bones 7.4: The Tush on the Xerox ... Bones 7.5: Sexy Vehicle ... Bones 7.6: The Reassembler ... Bones 7.7: Baby! ... Bones 7.8: Parents ...Bones 7.9: Tabitha's Salon ... Bones 7.10: Mobile ... Bones 7.11: Truffles and Max ... Bones 7.12: The Corpse is Hanson ... Bones Season 7 Finale: Suspect Bones

And see also Bones 6.1: The Linchpin ... Bones 6.2: Hannah and her Prospects ... Bones 6.3 at the Jersey Shore, Yo, and Plymouth Rock ... Bones 6.4 Sans Hannah ... Bones 6.5: Shot and Pretty ... Bones 6.6: Accidental Relations ... Bones 6.7:  Newman and "Death by Chocolate" ...Bones 6.8: Melted Bones ... Bones 6.9: Adelbert Ames, Jr. ... Bones 6.10: Reflections ... Bones 6.11: The End and the Beginning of a Mystery ... Bones 6.12 Meets Big Love ... Bones 6.13: The Marrying Kind ... Bones 6.14: Bones' Acting Ability ... Bones 6.15: "Lunch for the Palin Family" ...Bones 6.16: Stuck in an Elevator, Stuck in Times ... Bones 6.17: The 8th Pair of Feet ... Bones 6.18: The Wile E. Chupacabra ... Bones 6.19 Test Runs The Finder ... Bones 6.20: This Very Statement is a Lie ... Bones 6.21: Sensitive Bones ... Bones 6.22: Phoenix Love ... Bones Season 6 Finale: Beautiful

And see also Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love? and 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes and 5.3: Bones in Amish Country and 5.4: Bones Meets Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives and Ancient Bones 5.5 and Bones 5.6: A Chicken in Every Viewer's Pot and Psychological Bones 5.7 and Bones 5.8: Booth's "Pops" and Bones 5.9 Meets Avatar and Videogamers ... Bad Santa, Heart-Warming Bones 5.10 ... Bones 5.11: Of UFOs, Bloggers, and Triangles ... Bones 5.12: A Famous Skeleton and Angela's Baby ... Love with Teeth on Bones 5.13 ... Faith vs. Science vs. Psychology in Bones 5.14 ... Page 187 in Bones 5.15 ...Bones 100: Two Deep Kisses and One Wild Relationship ... Bones 5.17: The Deadly Stars ...Bones Under Water in 5.18 ... Bones 5.19: Ergo Together ...  Bones 5.20: Ergo Together ... Bones 5.21: The Rarity of Happy Endings ... Bones Season 5 Finale: Eye and Evolution

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The Following 2.14: Twists and Deaths

Well, you have to hand it to The Following: they packed this season with so many characters, good and bad, that there's always room for a shocking death of a major player, and a bad guy somewhere getting an upper hand.

Last week, we saw Lilly killed.   But her twin sons are still alive and deadly kicking, and in tonight's episode 2.14, they get the drop on Claire, who has against all odds managed to survive a confrontation with Emma.

Indeed, Claire has killed Emma, and with her death, The Following loses one of its big-time sicko villains.  As Emma reminds Claire and us before she dies, Claire had been Joey's nanny for two years, becoming a de facto crucial part of Claire's family.  So it was only poetic justice that Claire offs Emma, as Emma tries to kill Claire.

But that's not the most shocking death in tonight's episode - assuming it was a death, and not a swift-of-hand misdirection.  The screen goes to black with Mike presumably shot by Joe, and, in the coming attractions for next week's season finale, we see no sign of Mike.   Of course, the shot ringing out could have come from Ryan, aiming at Joe (but not apparently hitting him), or anyone else.  Or, the shot could have been from Joe, but over Mike's head, or wounding Mike, or nowhere near Mike, for whatever reason.

I certainly hope it's one of those Mike-not-dead things.   Mike is usually my favorite character, the most human in many ways.  Yeah, I get that he in some way self-destructed when he gave into his impulse and killed Lilly.  But it would be mawkish, obvious television to punish him now with a fatal bullet from Joe.

So we'll see what happened to Mike next week, with the psycho twins and Claire converging on the cathedral with Joe and Ryan and the whole world looking via live streaming in the narrative, and millions looking at the narrative via television and web and however we watch our screens at 9pm on a Monday night these days.

See also The Following Is Back for Its Second Season ... The Following 2.2: Rediscovering Oneself ... The Following 2.3: Coalescing ... The Following 2.4: Psycho Families and Trains ... The Following 2.5: Turning Tides ... The Following 2.8: Coalescing? ... The Following 2.9: The Book Signing ... The Following 2.11: Lily not Joe ... The Following 2.13: The Downfall of Mike

And see also The Following Begins ... The Following 1.2: Joe, Poe, and the Plan ... The Following 1.3: Bug in the Sun ... The Following 1.4: Off the Leash ... The Following 1.5:  The Lawyer and the Swap ... The Following 1.7: At Large ... The Following 1.9: All in a Name, Or, Metaphor in the Service of Murder ... The Following 1.13: At Last Something of a Day for the Good Guys ... The Following Season 1 Finale: Doing Dead

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Game of Thrones 4.3: Who Will Save Tyrion?

Well, it looks as if  Little Finger, who had diminished to almost no role in last season's action, was behind the murder of King Joffrey last week.   His saving Sansa, which also suits his own goals of making someone other than him look like the killer, certainly supports the view that he was responsible for the poison.

Not that other major characters are not without powerful motive.  As Tyrion aptly says, everyone other than Cersei, who if nothing else loves her children, is suspect.  Certainly Stannis Baratheon is well served by Joffrey's demise, and, who knows, maybe that worm he consigned to the flames had some magical effect.   And Olenna articulated the benefits of Joffrey's death to her granddaughter - though we learn that because she didn't consummate her marriage with Joffrey, she's not really a full-fledged queen.

The most interesting developments continue to be in King's Landing, though we got some good scenes with Daenerys and in two places up North.   But Tywin's prepping of Joffrey's young brother for kingship, Jaime and Cersei, and most of all the progression of Tyrion for trial were all primo.

Again, I haven't read beyond the first novel, and the television series has shown us there's no telling about what might occur, so we have to assume that Tyrion is in real danger, even though he's the best character in the narrative.   Will Tywin let his son be put to death - much as his son's an embarrassment - and even though Tywin, savvy as he his, must know that it wasn't Tyrion who did the deed? Probably not, but I wouldn't bet on it.  Jaime wouldn't ordinarily let his brother be killed either - and he stands up for Tyrion to Cersei - but he's pretty much indicated in the past that he'd do anything for Cersei.  Has he changed so much that his devotion now has limits?   Also hard to say, and he does certainly still desire Cersei.

Season 4 is shaping up as the best season so far, with riveting story lines in the center and all the peripheries.

See also Games of Thrones Season 4 Premiere: Salient Points ... Game of Thrones 4.2: Whodunnit?


And see also Game of Thrones Back in Play for Season 2 ... Game of Thrones 2.2: Cersei vs. Tyrion

And see also A Game of Thrones: My 1996 Review of the First Novel ... Game of Thrones Begins Greatly on HBO ... Game of Thrones 1.2: Prince, Wolf, Bastard, Dwarf ... Games of Thrones 1.3: Genuine Demons ... Game of Thrones 1.4: Broken Things  ... Game of Thrones 1.5: Ned Under Seige ... Game of Thrones 1.6: Molten Ever After ... Games of Thrones 1.7: Swiveling Pieces ... Game of Thrones 1.8: Star Wars of the Realms ... Game of Thrones 1.9: Is Ned Really Dead? ... Game of Thrones 1.10 Meets True Blood

And here's a Spanish article in Semana, the leading news magazine in Colombia, in which I'm quoted about explicit sex on television, including on Game of Thrones.

And see "'Game of Thrones': Why the Buzz is So Big" article in The Christian Science Monitor, 8 April 2014, with my quotes.

 

"I was here, in Carthage, three months from now." 

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