Quick Impressions, TV Catch-Up 10/16

Another week gone by already? The Fall TV Line-Up has rolled out most of its shows (I’m still waiting for Constantine. Yeah, I’m a little excited for that one.) and the drama is ramping up. The pile of new shows keeps growing–this week saw the premiere of The Walking Dead and I caught up on the opener for Arrow’s season 3. So let’s run down some of the best and worst of the week.

Best: The Walking Dead. Any surprise there? ‘Bout the only people I’ve heard not liking this show are the ones who aren’t into horror or zombies. I’m not typically into the zombie genre, but this one’s infected me. Season opener took us right back to where we finished last time and we finally got what’s left of our crew back together–excepting Beth. The show gave just enough worry–were they or weren’t they going to bash Glen’s head in?, was Tyreese going to be able to handle the Walkers and that fucker in the shed?, would Carol get to stay with the group?–and yet gave us the full impression that the characters have developed into survivors. The characters proved to be clever, resourceful, and a cohesive team. We can easily reach the same conclusion Sgt. Ford did: this isn’t just a group anymore, it’s a unit, and these are the guys you want escorting you over a long distance. To top off the fantastic story, the camera work on TWD is amazing. They don’t stay tight on actor’s faces unless they’re gauging a reaction–and usually they stick to showing multiple character reactions to a situation at a time. They work at showing you all the details that the crews put into the sets, makeup, costuming. For horror, setting plays a huge role, and TWD not only acknowledges that, but puts their sets and shots to work at that angle. I can’t wait for Sunday’s next episode.

Worst: Once Upon a Time. Gah with this whole season already. Despite having a largely female cast, this show does not help out feminism in the least. The representation is poor with a side of shitty. White after white after white after white, and heteronormative so bad I feel like gagging. “Happily Ever After” on this show always boils down to “man and woman marry.” This season they bring in Elsa from Frozen who has to search for her sister Anna because apparently Anna fucked off on some quest and got lost. Looks like Elsa won’t be our Big Bad this season (or at least the front half of the season), but the antics going on in this season are annoying. Regina’s trying to do something about Marian (who conveniently is in a frozen state and Regina has gotten her heart?) so she can get Robin, but her way is to go to find the writer of Henry’s fairy tale book and make them rewrite the book. Never mind that we established at the end of last season that the book would only replicate events as they happened–that was like the point of the season 3 finale–she’s out to find who made her a villain and demand a rewrite. Maybe she’ll find the script writers and we’ll get a better show. (While Regina’s at it, could she do something about Hook? As neat as the pirate concept was for two seconds, his constant need to follow Emma around until she’s ready to love him makes me want to throttle him. Also, why the hell has Hook been able to shake the ‘bad guy’ persona, why has Gold been able to toss off most of it, and yet Regina’s still wallowing about on the point?)

C’mon!: How to Get Away with Murder. Still an awesome show, hence the mention two weeks in a row. Once again, the characters are the real draw here. The part-“present”, part-“past” way of telling the plot is a bit aggravating, but the format quickly becomes the norm. However, this last week, the show decided to include a subplot (I’m guessing at this point that it will become multi-episode) that lowers my respect just a smidge. Apparently, one of the character’s fiancé had a thing with a member of the same sex back at boarding school. The argument between the character and fiancé turned into a heated “well, that was back in school. It was a boarding school in the middle of nowhere. These things happen. You know I love you.” –An easier solution would have been to have the fiancé say, “Hey honey, I’m bi. We’ve never talked about our ex’s. You’re who I’m with now. Don’t give a shit about what that asshole says. He’s just trying to rile you up. That’s what he’s always done.” I’m hoping I’m wrong, but something about how they skirted the word bisexual grates on my nerves. Either they avoided the word to avoid the word, or they want to wind up testing the relationship with having the ex teasing and pushing the characters. (And there I showed a bias. I acknowledge that… but I think I could count the amount of LGBTQA+ characters as less than 10 between the 15-ish shows I’m keeping up with, and intersectionality is running slimmer.)

Best?: Selfie. I don’t typically go for comedies and I was honestly going to pass on this one until I saw that John Cho was the one costarring with Karen Gillian. Selfie is an update of Pygmalion –only a little attention shows through the veneer. The update put in some interesting twists though. While Henry is still advising Eliza, they both work at the same company and they seem to be at least near equals in their work environment. Instead, the show focuses on how each character totally sucks at communication with practically everyone in their lives. Eliza is a stereotypical young adult obsessed with social media and Henry is a stick-in-the-mud “traditional” sort of guy. For the sake of comedy, their tropes are pushed to extremes. The first two episodes were only all right, but the show has begun to hit a stride by having minor character development. Both characters are sick of being lonely and both acknowledge that they can’t change without a little influence. The major downside of the show is the unlikelihood that they can maintain the premise. Internet culture is constantly changing. The characters are going to have to grow and change too, or the show will become too dull and flat. Where will the show go when the culture and characters change? I’m not entirely sure, but for now, I’ll keep up with this one. The leads play too fantastically together to pass.

Working on Best: Arrow. Anyone who started season 1 with show should give themselves a small pat on the back. In comparison, the first season of Arrow was leaps and bounds better than other CW shows–probably what helped make it such a big hit for the network. However, the early acting of the show could grate the nerves to an unbearable degree–and all those flashbacks to what happened on the island were a wandering drag for a while. By the end of season 1, the flashbacks had more obvious tie-ins with the present plot and the actors learned more of the craft. The Arrow production team has always strived to improve and their efforts show. Starting out in season 3, the entire acting troupe has stepped up their game and the writers continue to work on fleshing out characters–even though they don’t quite seem to know what to do with Diggle. (I wish they’d make a summer mini-series out of Suicide Squad. That would be cool.) All said, though, the best part of the show has always been the characters facing the consequences of actions. You aren’t likely to see a character repeat a mistake on this show (ten imaginative points to the show for having a distressed Laurel acknowledge her recovering alcoholism with a “All I know is a bar is the last place I should be right now.”) because the characters have been there, done that, and ready to move on. With two seasons under their belt, Arrow has a lot of decisions made and a lot more to make as the season continues. Can’t wait to see where this season goes.

I’m still hoping that Forever will flesh out it’s minor characters, Supernatural still fails to impress, and American Horror Story: Freak Show definitely delivers on its early promises (although what is with dragging songs from the future into the 1950’s?) That’s going to cover it for Quick Impressions this week. Here’s hoping that the exciting shows this fall continue to impress and that some of these others will get their act together.

Quick Impressions, TV Catch-Up, 10/9

A couple weeks back, I posted about several shows that I planned on watching this fall. Not all of those have started yet (still waiting on Constantine, for example), but a few of them have got a couple of episodes in and a couple started just this week. On top of all the ones I mentioned before, I’ve added a few more–Gotham, American Horror Story: Freak Show, Selfie, Gracepoint, Forever, and How to get Away with Murder. I’ll highlight through some of the best, worst, and what the hell’s?.

Best: How to get Away with Murder. Okay, yet another procedural, but at least this one has a different angle. This time, we follow a defense team and how they get their clients off on (so far) murder cases. A lot of the classic tropes make an appearance–the girl willing to do anything to get ahead, the naive kid who doesn’t always understand what’s going on, the shy girl, the guy willing to do illegal things, the somewhat morally vague defense attorney and her staff. None of that’s surprising, and yet, the show delivers. The actors excel at their jobs and the script avoids making the tropes into terrible cliches. Each character has their strengths and their weaknesses. In a surprise for a television show, this one delivers almost a dozen full-bodied characters. Each character has the potential for change, and the potential to ignore that potential for change. Anything could happen, and whatever does is bound to be at least interesting.

Best/Worst: Gotham. This is a case of “A rose by any other name, would probably smell a hell of a lot sweeter.” (I know, changed up the metaphor). I like that they’ve got a little bit of range (couple of kids, couple of cops, couple of PoC, even a past woman/woman relationship getting referenced a lot). Here’s my huge beef though: We know Gordon loses. We know he doesn’t find the Waynes’ killer, we know he doesn’t bring down the corrupt enterprise that is the Gotham underground. At best, he and other GCPD might have a chance at bringing down Falcone, or having to survive the gang war that’s inevitable, but in the end, the premise becomes completely dull after a couple of episodes. Are we really expected to go week after week in another cop procedural where technically nothing can change? Jim Gordon’s already a good man, he’s already a great detective in so many ways. He’s already made a bad promise to a good kid–who’s already becoming the vigilante detective we know so well. What could have been way more interesting would be seeing Gotham City more like Batman Beyond. After the retirement of Batman, nearing the retirement of Commissioner Gordon, that’s where a potential story could take place that not everyone knows. At least, so far, they’ve left the Joker out of the mix. Then we really would have nothing to wait around for.

Worst: Supernatural. What the hell was that premiere? Drunk Dean rambling about, Crowley ho-humming and going along, Cas already too sick to operate, trying to fake us out with Sam torturing someone in the first five seconds. The highlight of this episode was the “road so far” intro (somehow managing to make Season Nein seem cool for .02 seconds), Dean’s “Aren’t I adorable, whoops?” shrug, and the cashier reenacting the blood-crazed Dean’s slaughter (that guy in a guest spot managing to give more life in his performance than Padalecki could in any of his scenes…). Other than that, we’re treated to more flat characters, three blonde women I couldn’t tell apart, and Angels needing to slaughter each other for no reason–STILL. The song remains the same in a lot of ways in Supernatural. And I’m really surprised if anyone else manages to get caught off-guard by that. (A friend of mine on Tumblr said it, so I’m going to repeat this little thing all season: If Claire Novak dies, we riot. And if you don’t remember who she is…. well, the writers are probably in the same boat as you, unless they’re finally forced to watch past seasons.)

Best/Worst: Forever. An intelligent immortal man solving crimes. Nothing new about this one–we’ve had at least a dozen shows I can think of that fit most of that criteria–and some of the cast is ‘eh’ at best. Yet… somehow, they manage to breathe a little life into this show with the characterization of some of the characters. Henry, for all his immortality, is still infinitely curious and knowledge seeking. He’s been around a couple hundred years, but he’s still looking for that new, still looking for answers. Most immortals his age wind up being far too jaded to be interesting. Then there’s his son, who technically looks older than him, who has zero resentment for his father’s youthfulness, and often chastises the elder about behavior–because he knows he won’t be around forever and he worries about his father. The assistant ME who talks a bit too much and is socially awkward, the hard-ass captain who has a soft spot for the guy who can close cases, and the detective who picks up on (and trusts) this bizarre ME’s results—well, all of those are a bit hard to swallow still. I’m hoping that as time goes on in this show that we have the chance to see them develop more piece by piece.

What the hell?: Gracepoint. I don’t think they’ve said this enough in their advertisement (if they have at all), but Gracepoint is just Broadchurch rebranded to an American small town. The opening episode is practically word for word copy from the British–maybe a few different idioms sliding in place of others. The costuming is nearly identical too–making each shot almost a weird carbon copy. David Tennant stars in this one as well–with an American accent that shifted a bit too much in the pilot so I don’t know why they made him bother. There’s no shame in having a Brit on the Force here… if you’re going to copy so much else, why make him shift his voice? In the end, I don’t know why Fox felt the need to greenlight this project since it’s literally already been done. And already aired over here too. BBCA had Broadchurch on the air within the last year. Maybe later episodes will see a variance from the original material, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Best?: Flash. Pilots have a lot of ground to cover which is no small task, even if it’s a spin-off starring a character that can run hundreds of miles an hour. With Arrow explaining nearly everything down to science and not to amazing powers (so far at least), Flash was going to have to explain lightning speed. Their science accident seems just this side of pseudo-science, just that side of unbelievable, and yet completely within the groundwork of Arrow. Archtypes and tropes are abound here too, but Barry Allen has that soft strong compassionate heart that Oliver Queen lacks these days. His soft spot is a mile wide and that’s what will keep him interesting in further episodes. Other characters are heavy on their tropes, but that’s the same of their parent show too. What’s made Arrow interesting so far is everyone’s willingness (writers, actors, and production team) to learn more, be more, and do better. It looks like that attitude is very much on the set of Flash, too. Right now, I’m going to cross my fingers and hope so.

Best: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Holy crap. Three episodes in and this one is willing to test every character’s limits. Hydra is still winning (with no signs of that table turning anytime soon), another player is out there on the field unseen, and each S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (and their director) is trying to simultaneously cope with what’s happening in their world now and still recover from the fall of the intelligence agency. The shiny has worn off and their struggles are real this season. They’ve managed to slip a couple new characters our way, and each of them is playing magnificent parts already. This season, the cast finally feels human. I can’t wait to see where the story arcs are going.

All right, that’s a minor rundown on what I’ve been keeping up with lately. Those brief impulses are what sticks out about the different episodes. For now, I still plan on watching all of those programs (along with others listed out before) and seeing what becomes of the storytelling going on in each one. Some, I’ve got a lot of hope for. Others, well, sometimes I just enjoy shouting at the television a little too much.