Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Let's Talk About...the Series Finale of "Revenge"

Opening the pilot episode of ABC’s primetime drama was the Confucius quote: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” It’s pretty apparent to whose graves he is referring; the avenger and the revenged. Not the father of said avenger dying due to cancer and being let out to enjoy the rest of his days with his daughter after committing a cold blooded murder. Going in, it was rather obvious that the series finale would play out with Amanda and her father coming out on top, them doing so completely unscathed from any collateral damage was not as foreseeable.

If you tuned in to the self-righteous indignation of Amanda and her allies, their victory was a beyond bitter pill to swallow. Simply put, Amanda did not deserve a happy ending. For 4 seasons she sought justice for a man who didn’t deserve any and left countless lives obliterated in her wake. She was no better than her arch nemesis. Her brag that she’d never killed anyone was a major oversight. Her activities had led to the deaths of many. While she might not have pulled the trigger personally, she was every bit as responsible for their demise.

Victoria’s plight was far more sympathetic than the so-called heroine of the series. She’d been forced to frame David to save her son’s life and her backstory was just as hellish as Amanda Clarke’s. Even in the finale one last dagger was thrown at her, when it was revealed that in her teenage quest to get payback on her mother, she’d inadvertently seduced her biological father, producing her beloved son, Patrick. Everything in this woman’s life backfired on her and the cruelty her mother showed her was just as, if not more, sadistic than anything Amanda was made to suffer.

The biggest flaw going into the finale was the blatant fact that all Amanda had suffered came at the hands of her father. He’d begun this entire saga by sleeping with his best friend’s wife. When “The Initiative” forced the Grayson’s to do the frame and send him to prison, he had only himself to blame. Had he been keeping his hands to himself it would’ve been highly doubtful he would’ve ever wound up on their radar. He put his wants and needs above his daughter’s. His behavior was detestable and no one ever called him out for it, the way he deserved. He knew he was poking a bear when he betrayed Conrad and there would undoubtedly be retribution. Still, he attempted to run away with the man’s wife and conspired to kidnap his son in the process. How was David Clarke pure in any of this?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Summer TV's Best New & Returning Bets: From the Debut of "Wayward Pines" to the Return of "True Detective"

Wayward Pines | M. Night Shyamalan’s first foray into television is this 10-episode event series led by Matt Dillon, who is accompanied by a slew of recognizable faces from Terrence Howard to Melissa Leo. “Wayward Pines” is a mystery thriller in the vein of “Twin Peaks” and follows a Secret Service Agent’s (Dillon) investigation into the mysterious disappearance of two federal agents in small town Idaho. Shyamalan serves as an executive producer on the series and directs the first episode. The possible influence of his slow burn pacing should be a strong fit for this story and television as a whole. After a series of backlashes for his theatrical work, this could be the project that puts Shyamalan back on the map. That in mind, as the ill-fated ABC series “Happy Town” learned, it’s not easy to successfully reproduce the success of “Twin Peaks”. Premiere Date: May 14 (FOX)

Aquarius | David Duchovny stars in this mystery series set in 1967 Los Angeles. One of the big buzz terms in network television right now is the "event series". Like the aforementioned "Wayward Pines", "Aquarius" is currently billed as one. The concept allows a network to test run a series without making a full commitment to continue. If the series' finds ratings success, more seasons would follow and if it were to fail, the story is wrapped up within its original episode order. The upside for the network is they don't have to invest in an entire season before having to relent and pull the plug. It also works to the advantage of viewers, who can invest in a low-rated show without having to worry about being left in limbo after an ill-timed cancellation. The trend towards "event series" mirrors the ever growing popularity of cable and streaming service's setup of annual 10-13 episode runs. In a bid to directly compete with the streaming craze surrounding "binge watching" NBC will make the entire season of "Aquarius" available online following its network premiere.

The series marks Duchovny’s first foray back to television, since the end of his long-running Showtime series, “Californication”. In the new NBC drama he plays a police sergeant investigating a series of missing persons cases with the aid of an undercover officer (Grey Damon) posing as a hippie during the crest of Hait-Ashbury’s subculture wave. “The Originals” and “Vampire Diaries” fan favorite Claire Holt co-stars. Premiere Date: May 28 (NBC)

Mr. Robinson | After a few behind-the-scenes shakeups, NBC’s half-hour comedy is slated to debut in late summer. Craig Robinson (“The Office”, “This Is the End”) stars as a musician turned middle school music teacher who trades in the bright lights of the stage for the florescent ambiance of the classroom. After recasting the key role of the school’s principal (Jean Smart was replaced by “Frasier” star Peri Gilpin) and changing the sitcom setup from single to multi-camera, things are on track for a nicely put together end product. NBC’s slate of high profile Fall comedies; “Bad Judge” and “A to Z” were quickly cancelled. With NBC taking their time to finesse “Mr. Robinson”; it seems poised to fare better. Premiere Date: August 5 (NBC)

Best Returning Bet (Anthology) | True Detective | Catching a brief glimpse of the first season wasn't enough to entice a full season of personal viewing, this despite starring two incredible leading actors in Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The slow pacing and drawn out pauses just didn't draw me in. A year later, HBO's anthological series will kick off its second season with the same Showrunner and a totally different cast of characters, actors, story and location. Last year, rabid reporting of the latest casting rumors to circulate the internet grabbed headlines as a veritable casting war broke out for the female lead (the role ultimately went to Rachel McAdams). Whether it can live up to all of the frenzied excitement surrounding its return will be interesting.

It has certainly amassed a credible cast. An interesting aspect at play is that cast. Every member of the ensemble has something to prove with this high-profile police drama. Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch have all starred on the silver screen and experienced its varying turbulence. For Farrell and McAdams it's a chance to play the gritty and multidimensional roles the television renaissance has become known for. If they secure enough buzz, the silver screen could beckon for them again and with juicier roles than were possibly offered beforehand. For Kitsch, who's highly publicized film career met with the eviscerating scrutiny of a relentless media hounding, it's a chance to remind everyone why he was given the opportunities he was to begin with. He has major talent and his career making turn on "Friday Night Lights" was no fluke. Knowing what's at stake for its talent, it's a show you can't help but root for. Premiere Date: June 21 (HBO)

Best Returning Bet (Series) | Tyrant | FX's lavish, edgy and exotic drama featured a complex story about love, loyalty, betrayal and family. Breakout turns by Adam Rayner, Ashraf Barhom and Moran Atias made this freshman series a must-see. Adding to the anticipation of its return is the resolution surrounding that nail-biting cliffhanger, which left viewers on the edge of their seats and anxious for more. Return Date: June 16 (FX)

Hot Picks Premiere Dates:
"Beauty & the Beast" (CW) - May 21
"Pretty Little Liars" (ABC Family) - June 2
"Under the Dome" (CBS) - June 25
"Teen Wolf" (MTV) - June 29
"Scream" (MTV) - June 30 (Premiere)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

TV Rundown: April 7 | Mary Crosses the Battle Lines on "Reign" & A White Wedding Turns Red on "Vampire Diaries"

Reign: “The Siege” | Conde laid siege to the castle and demanded Francis hand over his crown, before Mary went behind enemy lines to drop a bombshell. As the royal family prepared to leave the castle for their own safety, Catherine stayed behind to support her son and wreak a little havoc on Narcisse. The big question looming over the hour was whose side Mary was really on, her (quasi)ex-lover or her husband’s. The lead up to the last-minute reveal shocker tipped its hand a little early, as small anvils swung with subtle discretion. Mary’s reasoning in the tent as to why she was making her chosen move was a contradiction of Francis’ character and her own. There’s no way he wouldn’t shelter her, even in the face of her latest back stab. While, she’s been relentless in her betrayal of Francis this season, what she was suggesting to Conde went beyond the bounds of redemption. If this is indeed true and her plea is legitimate, there would be no saving this character.

Catherine’s crafty and beyond wicked vengeance on Narcisse was surprisingly malicious, even by her standards. She did get her message across though: no more Lola. Hearing of his tender goodbye with Lola had sent the Queen Mother into an unapologetic frenzy and if anyone thinks her retribution on Narcisse was harsh, wait until she gets her hands on Mary. The current Queen should be very anxious about Catherine, especially when she believes she’s crossed her son. It can only end badly for Mary.

Side Notes/Burning Questions: Claude and Leith have the makings for a truly entertaining pairing. How deranged is Bash’s new girlfriend? How did Kenna not sniff the crazy wafting off this girl? She’s always seemed more perceptive than that. Will Francis survive the season finale? Will Conde ever leave the show? Mary's costume in this episode was absolutely exquisite. The team of costume designers for this series deserves Emmy recognition.

The Vampire Diaries: “I’ll Wed You in the Golden Summertime” | Stefan and Elena cooked up one ridiculous hypothetical reason after another to convince Damon not to turn back into a human. Among the many poor excuses offered were that Elena would be too busy to have time for Damon, thus leading to a divorce. Damon would be drunk and depressed all the time so their spark would fade and my personal favorite, financial duress would make them turn against each other to the point of ending their relationship. When all of that didn’t work, Stefan brought out the big guns, Elena dying and Damon being left all alone as a human. Dun-Dun-Dun! Well none of it worked and Damon stayed the course. 

Interestingly in none of these hypothetical lives, were Damon and Elena ever happy nor did they have any kids, which was one of the top items on Elena’s to-do list. So that was either wishfully omitted thinking on Stefan’s part or left out by the writers to avoid giving Delena shippers a vision of any happiness for the pair. Remember when Stefan and Elena cooked up their life together and it was all rainbows, kids and butterflies? What happened to that when it was Damon’s turn? Oh well. At least Damon and Elena had one last roll in the hay, literally.

By episode’s end, Elena appeared to have been impaled by a chandelier and her life hung in the balance. As fans know the season finale will be the exit episode of series star Nina Dobrev. As annoying as Elena has sometimes been through the years, it’s hard to imagine the show without her. Nina Dobrev’s growth as an actress over the last 6 years has been amazing to watch and she has surmounted any storyline that’s been thrown her way. Whatever becomes of Elena, without her and Dobrev, the show will never be the same.

Side Notes/Burning Questions: Will Jo live? Will Elena die? Will Elena regret her decision to become human when she realizes she only got to be one again for 48 hours? Was it really worth it? Every character on the show props being human but what has their mortality ever gotten them? Will Alaric ever be allowed happiness for more than a few episodes? Is the show basically saying that if Damon weren’t a vampire he’d be an alcoholic? Quite frankly, he pretty much is one currently. This brings to mind another question, why does Damon continually drink when he can’t feel the effects? Since when do the Salvatores need to worry about money? Stefan laid low earlier this season and had no trouble making ends meet. It’s called a trust fund.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

TV Rundown: April 6 - 7 | Oliver's Real Agenda is Revealed on "Arrow" as "The Blacklist" Gets Down to the Wire!

Arrow: “This is Your Sword” | This episode could’ve been titled “Yee of Little Faith” and it would’ve been an accurate description of Team Arrow’s bungling loyalty. It’s been brought up before in this column that Team Arrow has a bad habit of losing faith in their supposed leader at the drop of a hat and they continued that pattern in “This Is Your Sword”. Yes, Oliver has definitely done enough to warrant a few concerns over the state of his fealty, however he’s only been exposed to Ra’s’ indoctrinations for two weeks. Expecting that he’s suffered a complete break from his former life in such a brief period of time is a bit outlandish.

Felicity held out longer than the others, though she eventually succumbed to believing Oliver had betrayed them as the fumes of a fake out poison rendered her unconscious. As valid as Diggle’s anger over Oliver’s use of Lyla in his scheme to convince Ra’s of his loyalty was, he should have at least heard his old friend out. Oliver has been backed into a corner. Not to mention; Felicity, Roy and Diggle all went behind Oliver’s back, not even two episodes ago to fake Roy’s death. There’s a little hypocrisy lying beneath the surface of the team’s latest indignation. Despite his solid plan, Oliver apparently made the wrong choice in trusting Malcolm to have his back in all of this. Why he chose Malcolm of all people to serve as his accomplice, might be an indication that his mind isn’t exactly operating at 100% yet.

Side Notes/Burning Questions: Where was John Hiatt’s rousing anthem “Have a Little Faith in Me” when Oliver needed it? Roy acted with great chivalry by letting Thea go so she wouldn’t be burdened with a life on the run. Why can’t Malcolm act in a courageous or honorable manner for at least one entire episode? Isn’t it obvious that Oliver switched out the vile to something that would just knock the gang out as opposed to killing them? Will the flashbacks on “Arrow” ever end? What will it take for them to finally be over?

The Blacklist: “Karakurt” | The penultimate episode of the NBC drama, followed the FBI on their hunt for Russia’s most lethal assassin, Karakurt. During their search, collateral information about Liz’s mother came to light as doubt was cast as to whether the woman she was identified to be, ever really existed. This episode pretty much laid the groundwork for the season finale, complete with a last minute cliffhanger that served up a potential game changer. A season’s worth of plot points are coming to an exciting boil and while the series has suffered a sophomore slump, it’s been showing signs of recovery, gaining significant traction as it heads into its last leg.

The preview for the season finale teased that Liz’s long repressed memories would finally surface. Whether that means her true ties to Red will surface along with them, is the million dollar question. It feels like a long shot though. Lastly, a TV Rundown on “The Blacklist” would not be complete without a Tom/Liz reconciliation update. Tom/Jacob suggested a “Love Affair” type arrangement that would allow them to learn where they stand with each other. Unfortunately Liz was too busy saving the world to show and stood Tom up. Why she couldn’t send him a quick text to let him know she wished she could be there (if she did) is anyone’s guess.

Side Notes/Burning Questions: Will Liz figure out that Red is her father? How long will she be on the run? In the episode “Leonard Caul (No.62)” Liz asked Tom to tell her everything he knew about Red. What did he share? Red should be powerful enough to get Harold the medical assistance he needs so he doesn’t have to rely on the shady “Cabal”.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

TV Rundown: April 5 | "The Flash" is Out of the Bag

The Flash: “Grodd Lives” | After putting together that Barry was The Flash towards the end of last week’s episode, Iris went on the confrontation war path first with Barry and then with Joe. Hurt that she was kept in the dark, she wasn’t moved by either her father or best friend’s explanations for leaving her out of the loop. The weirdest part is that in her quest to have it out with Barry, she strolled into Star Labs with no security problem whatsoever and seemed to know the exact level he would be working on. If it was this easy for her to find out what he was up to, why didn’t she just tail him earlier? 

With Iris now in the know, there are no main characters left on the show that aren’t aware Barry and The Flash are one in the same. In all honesty, it just seems a little premature to go there. The clandestine aspect of a superhero’s identity is one of the most essential components of comic lore and it’s a key factor in a lot of the story’s overall tension. It’s called a secret identity for a reason and with every character from Iris to Captain Cold knowing The Flash is Barry Allen; it seems futile for him to even bother wearing a disguise. 

Departing from the secret identity angle seems to be the popular way to go in the current wave of comic adaptations. It was great when Tony Stark did it in the first “Iron Man”. Firstly because it hadn’t been done before and secondly because it was Tony Stark and given the personality of his character, it was a natural move for him to make. There’s no way a showboat like Stark would be able to keep his status a secret. Private characters like Oliver Queen, Barry Allen or Peter Parker feeling as comfortable with such a reveal, doesn’t ring as true.

Personally, “Smallville” is still the gold standard when it comes to superhero television series and it didn’t become the longest running series of its kind without a reason. The knowledge of Clark’s abilities seeped out slowly and those who learned about them, found out at a time when the reveal would have the most impact. So much of the Clark/Lana relationship revolved around him keeping his powers a secret from her. It was a push and pull that was believable. If Iris is Barry’s Lana then she’s found out way too soon. 

Side Notes/Burning Questions: Why didn’t the Reverse Flash change the locks to Star Labs so Barry and company couldn’t have access to all of the technology that would make it possible for them to take him down? Cisco and Caitlin hilariously eavesdropping on Iris and Barry’s conversation was a comedic highlight for the episode. Cisco’s movie references were another one. Will Barry go back in time again and erase Iris’ newfound knowledge of his identity?

Photo: The CW [ "Iris West/Season Zero/Volume 1": The Flash.Wikia ]

Monday, May 11, 2015

TV Rundown: April 4 | Tensions Reach a Fever Pitch on "Bates Motel"

Bates Motel: “Crazy” | The penultimate episode of A&E’s exhilarating drama sailed into its final hours with a return, a goodbye, a hellacious scuffle and two close calls of intimacy. After a huge fight, Caleb was able to collect the money owed to him and Dylan by Chick. Caleb decided to clear out of town to let the dust settle and said his goodbyes to Dylan and Norma. In his farewell to his sister, he warned of Norman’s fragmenting mental state and foretold that someone would wind up getting caught in the crosshairs of his illness. Norma seemed to heed his warning and after clearing out Norman’s taxidermy paraphernalia earlier in the episode, she seemed poised to take her most significant action yet.

The romances that have been heating up the season each took very different turns, one mysterious, one dark and the other heartfelt. After discovering Norma rummaging through his home in search of the flash drive, she and Romero shared an explosive confrontation that boiled over into a physically fraught altercation between the two. The acting between Vera Farmiga and Nestor Carbonell was nothing short of sensational, Farmiga honing in on Norma’s visceral exhaustion and Carbonell expertly conveying Romero’s pent up frustration with the neurotic woman who’s enlivened his existence. Together their performances created a firestorm of underlying passion that continued to ramp up the anticipation for an eventual Nomero pairing.

Elsewhere, Dylan valiantly gave Emma’s dad the money for her transplant and asked that his donation be kept a secret from her. During his visit to her house, Emma compassionately disclosed that she knew of Dylan’s parentage and the revelation brought them closer together. Why Emma didn’t mention her newly single status, was oddly omitted from their conversation. Something “Bates Motel” excels at more than other shows is the slow build of its pairings, spending more time on what draws two people together than the drama of what happens when they actually get together.

The return of Bradley saw Norman’s romantic senses tingling again as he took her on a “welcome home” tour of sorts. Unfortunately for Bradley, the realization that everyone had moved on without her, led her to decide to leave White Pine Bay in her rearview mirror again. The ongoing question that preoccupied their interaction was whether or not Bradley was actually there or a figment of Norman’s imagination. Whether flesh or fantasy, her presence definitely had an effect on him and left him hurdling towards a life altering decision as the episode came to a close.

Side Notes/Burning Questions: One aspect lending credence to the theory that Bradley isn’t real is that she only reached out to Norman. When she left she seemed to be quite taken with Dylan and he was the one who saw her off at the bus stop. It seems strange that she wouldn’t at least ask what he was up to. If she’s a manifestation of Norman’s psyche it would be understandable he’d leave that part out. Will Norma and Romero or Dylan and Emma ever get together? What will happen in the finale?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

TV Rundown: April 30: Pt. 2 | Liz Hits the Mother Lode on "The Blacklist"

The Blacklist: Quon Zhang (No.87) | Liz inched closer to the truth about her ties to Red, finally getting some big answers. He confirmed her mother was the woman in the photographs that Liz is a Russian (named Masha) and her mom was a KGB agent. Red tried to throw her off by saying her “parents” were agents. Liz accused him of being in love with her mother and killing her father so he could be with her. He didn’t really respond to her accusation and the curious thing about all of this is why she is so convinced Red isn’t her father anymore. What did she learn that has made her so confident that possibility is off the table? As has been stated numerous times in this column, what other logical reason is there for him to do all that he has for her? Because he had a crush on her mom back in the day? The only explanation for Lizzie’s train of thought is denial. Since her and Red’s relationship has taken a hit, her opinion of him has deteriorated. Maybe she is too horrified at the thought of being related to him to accept it. Choosing to deny there is a part of her that is capable of Red’s less attractive traits.

Liz wasn’t the only one unearthing secrets. Harold found himself opening the lid on the shadowy new world conspiracy that’s been pulling the strings on his healthcare. After being threatened to leak a story or face the return of his illness, he was determined not to give in. Unfortunately his wife went behind his back and did their bidding on his behalf. Who can really blame her though? She loves her husband and wants him to live. Her motives were absolutely pure. The question is how did she have access to the information that required leaking? Harold should have a tight grip on all incendiary material and he’s always been rather meticulous about his work.

Side Notes/Burning Questions: If Liz was trying to test Tom’s love for her by making him step out into the rain to console her, he passed with flying colors. These two belong together. It’s nice to see them rebuilding their trust and friendship slowly. It’s a strong foundation for a reunion.