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.