Monthly Archives: March 2013

Once Someone’s Exposed…

house_of_cards

I try to avoid doing much armchair quarterbacking in these reviews.  For me, focusing on what a story could’ve/should’ve been means missing the point of criticism.  Narratives ought to be examined for what they are, not measured against some hypothetical ideal.  And yet, all that being said, this episode is such a well executed failure that I can’t help but think about how it could’ve succeeded.  Writing, acting, directing, music, pretty much every part of this story ranged from good to great.  Given the stakes involved, this should’ve been the seminal episode for the season.  And yet it falls flat.  Much as I can forgive and forget the ineptitude of the top half of the season, I can’t pretend that it made me care about any of these characters.  The emotional stakes in this episode just don’t feel earned, and that’s a real shame give the quality workmanship on display.  In light of this, I can’t help but deliver a retroactive rewrite for the series thus far. Continue reading

Helping the Helpless, Finding Holtz, and Making Money are our Three Number One Priorities

I just love helping the helpless so much

I just love helping the helpless so much

There’s much to enjoy about “Provider” as a standalone episode, but it feels like a bit of a misstep at this point in Angel’s season arc.  This is one of those times where re-watching is a bit of a hindrance as I know where this story is going (eventually) and I wish they’d just get on with it.  That said, I think this episode’s problems persist even without my impatience.  We’re now over half way through the season and while the birth of Angel’s son and the return of his arch nemesis are both interesting elements, there’s absolutely no indication of what they’ll add up to.  Connor’s birth ought to have kicked the show’s serialized elements into high gear but, instead, it’s mostly been used as the basis for episodes (like this one) where Angel adjusts to his new role.  It’s not bad, but this series really needs to be about more. Continue reading

I Think you’re Seeing Demons Where There’s Just Life

Yeah, this was the best idea ever

Yeah, this was a great idea

So here we are, this season’s entry into the “Worst Episode Ever” file.  Like the other dreadful heavyweights “I Robot, You Jane” and “Beer Bad” before it, “Doublemeat Palace” takes a real issue facing young people and oversimplifies it beyond the point of relevance.  Beyond that, some relentlessly not-funny humour and an utterly muddled central metaphor make this one painful episode to watch. Continue reading

Final Thoughts: Sherlock Series Two

“Ambitious” is the best word to describe Sherlock’s second series.  With the writing, acting, and direction all refined in series one, this show could easily have phoned in a B+ each week and called it a day.  But the creators clearly weren’t willing to settle for “very good” and aimed for greatness, consistently challenging our understanding of what this show could be.  They often fell short of their goals, sometimes due the sheer scope of what they were attempting and sometimes due to their own baffling choices, but they invariably exceeded expectations.  “Awesome” is the second best word to describe this series. Continue reading

Rebellion on all Fronts

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Does this make three decent episodes in a row for House of Cards?  If they’re not careful this thing could actually become worth watching.  Episode ten maintains the streak by continuing to address my main problem with the top half of the season; it now looks like Frank could fail.  There’s still nothing daring going on here and a lot of the subplots continue to fall flat, but it finally feels like there’s a story happening.  I might even go so far as to call it a good story, as the road to failure is a lot clearer than the road to success.  Frank’s still relentlessly executing his plan, but there are finally elements in play which he can’t control and the unknown serves as an ample source of tension. Continue reading

Jumping Judas on a Unicycle

I don't think I'd watch this spinoff

I don’t think I’d watch this spinoff

“Birthday” really should be a better episode.  It’s the culmination of a seasons-spanning character arc, it’s got a decent Elseworld story, and it features Skip.  Sadly, it falls far short of actually being compelling. Cordy’s increasing struggles with the visions may have spanned seasons, but that really seems more the result of inattention than design.  The visions themselves, a lazy plot device to begin with, have become increasingly irrelevant as the writers grew more creative with clients and cases.  Wasn’t the last time we even saw one also an episode about them killing Cordy?  It all adds up to a story that feels more like it’s taking care of loose ends than doing anything that matters. Continue reading

We’re You Arch-nemesises-ses

Evil incarnate

Evil incarnate

“Gone” is a good episode of Buffy, though not a great one.  The Trio, as always, brings the funny, so much so that they kinda steal the spotlight from Buffy’s own out of sight antics.  It’s alright for a subplot to be funnier than the main one, but Buffy’s newfound sense of irresponsibility also lacks dramatic heft.  Beyond enjoying being invisible a little too much, there really aren’t any consequences for Buffy.  Yes, she could to turn to puddling, but we were never meant to take that threat seriously.  Buffy gets exactly what the Trio wanted and while it’s interesting to see her sink to their level of immaturity, it would’ve been much more so had she also adopted part of their sinister streak. Continue reading

I Owe You a Fall

What delusions of grandeur?

What delusions of grandeur?

Much like the first one, Sherlock’s second season finale is a fantastic hour of television that delivers excitement and drama while defying expectations.  Also like the first season finale, “The Reichenbach Fall” makes a frustrating stumble in its final moments.  As usual, I can’t really call this episode a failure, even as it can’t properly execute the most important part of the story; what precedes the climax is just too entertaining.  What’s more, this failure is of the best sort, being a results of reaching too high rather than too low.  Once again, this series painted Sherlock into a seemingly impossible corner and, once again, it did such a good job that there really wasn’t a satisfying way for him to get out of it. Continue reading

Bleeding Hearts Have an Ironic Fear of Their Own Blood

house_of_cards

Episode nine presents us with a very different Frank Underwood, one who can’t perfectly manipulate everyone around him, who can have his pride wounded, who can be small and hateful.  One who, in short, is vulnerable, a fact best summed up in the burn he receives after being blindsided at the top of the episode.  Presenting this version of Frank is effectively a request to forget who he was in the first seven episodes.  In fact, given the seeming irrelevance of the Education Reform Bill, we might as well forget the first seven episodes altogether.  That’s a tall order for any serialized drama but as the exchange seems to be that this promises to become a more interesting series, I’ll do my best. Continue reading

Trying to Imagine Myself as John Wayne in Rio Bravo. You?

Nice doll

Nice doll

“Dad” is a rather straightforward episode of Angel.  It’s not a bad one, though it’s also far from great.  Angel’s adjusting to fatherhood and while the life lesson in sharing responsibility is a good one, it’s also weightless.  All new parents go through a hovering phase, and almost all of us get over it and realize that it’s okay for someone else to hold the baby.  While the conclusion is often foregone when Angel (or any show) tackles a universal truth, things can be interesting along the way.  Or, at least, more interesting than they are here.  The world really is out to get the baby and it takes a village to protect him, but there’s not a whole lot more said about parenthood. Continue reading