Becker s01e12 – Love! Lies! Bleeding!

Either I made the comment you knew “Becker” was troubled when not even a solid sitcom director like Andy Ackerman could make an episode work or I meant to make that comment. This episode has Ackerman back and, this time, he’s able to compensate for some of writer Michael Markowitz’s stumbles. Not the misogynist stuff with Alex Désert but there are only so many miracles one can work. So, this episode’s the Valentine’s Day episode and Ted Danson hates Valentine’s Day. He has a rant about its suspect history, which doesn’t seem—based on a Wikipedia glance—to be accurate. If Danson’s going to rant about something, he’s got to be right. Otherwise he’s just a blowhard. The point is he’s right, not he’s a blowhard. Or at least when it works.

But it doesn’t work with Désert or Terry Farrell this episode. Danson implies Désert’s girlfriend is ugly and Désert freaks out, the unspoken joke (for a while) Désert’s blind so what does he care. He cares because he’s a misogynist and so’s Danson. Joy. When Danson later comforts a female patient, it takes a moment before he’s obviously sincere. For a second, you’re expecting him to dig in and humiliate her because… it’s a laugh somehow? At least in Markowitz’s mind.

The episode is Danson running into different kinds of Valentine’s Day goings on, but not specific to the holiday, just romance in general. There’s the girlfriend who stabs the cheating boyfriend, there’s the teenager who wants a vasectomy so he can have unsafe sex, there’s the female patient, who’s allergic to roses. Curmudgeon Danson just can’t get away from signs of love, not even at the office where Shawnee Smith has a whole relationship in one day over the phone (minus the consummating, which might be for the best but also maybe not) and Hattie Winston gets to… talk about her offscreen plans and shake her head at Smith and Danson. Not a great episode for Winston. Or Smith. But Smith at least gets material.

The episode’s got some successful moments, including the return of Saverio Guerra, whose every moment is fantastic. He’s back to torment Farrell and probably a little worse of a guy than Danson and Désert, but not much.

The show’s bottom is higher than before, which is good.

Watchmen s01e03 – She Was Killed by Space Junk

So the first couple episodes of “Watchmen” have only hinted at having an actual Watchmen character in it; it took until this episode for the show to confirm, in fact, Jeremy Irons is playing architect of the end of the world and therefor its savior, Ozymandias. He even puts on the costume. And, you know what, he’s not great. He gives a very standard Jeremy Irons performance. You get a little Claus von Bülow in there, maybe a little Simon Gruber, but you don’t get anything special. Some of it’s the part, which is juxtaposed like a subplot but really just escalating asides. What could he be building? Will it be interesting? Blah. Nope. Because you can only get away not being a Republic Serial villain once and “Watchmen” is devoted to its faithful sequel status.

Then the A plot is Jean Smart as Laurie Blake, formerly Laurie Juspeczyk but has since taken rapist dad’s name because… anti-mask pride, also formerly Silk Spectre but now FBI agent, and formerly Dr. Manhattan’s squeeze but now he’s on Mars and she sends him voice mail messages because everyone hopes the god cares but she knows he doesn’t. She’s also got a Dr. Manhattan dildo because

Damon Lindelof does, in fact, suck. Even if “Watchmen: The TV Show” ends up being all right, it could have been better. And it’s a long way from home plate at this point and Smart’s not a good sign. She’s good, but her part’s real thin. There’s some implied subplot about Laurie’s rebound from Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl, being in prison and presidential candidate James Wolk saying he’ll pardon him out if Smart will go to Tulsa and look into the situation there.

Once she’s in Tulsa, she starts butting heads with ostensible series regulars Tim Blake Nelson and, thought-she-was-the-lead, Regina King. Smart and King’s big blowout scene is good for King, not for Smart, worse for the narrative so therefor not a win for King. King has to suffer through the scene, while Smart’s resignedly all in on her character. “Watchmen: The TV Show”’s Achilles heel is, no surprise, Watchmen. No wonder the first two episodes were Lindelof telling Alan Moore to “fuck off;” because when it actually comes to sequel fan fic, Lindelof’s just as uninspired, obvious, and insipid as everyone else. You can lie all you want Dave Gibbons or Len Wein making Watchmen; the fundamental point of spinning off or sequeling Watchmen is it means Alan Moore doesn’t think you got it.

Lindelof didn’t get it. What’s a shock is how much potential the non-Watchmen: 30 Years Later has going, mostly thanks to King. But also that music, which is excellent again this episode. But mostly King, who gets wasted this episode.

Oh, and Lindelof’s attempt at the Moore-esque anecdote interspersed with the present action?

Well-acted (by Smart) but an utter writing and emphasis fail. Stephen Williams’s direction is not on par with the other two episodes.

With this episode, “Watchmen: The TV Show” shows its hand, potential-wise, which is good for establishing expectations but also disappointing because they could’ve just skipped it and not lost the King, Don Johnson, Nelson momentum.

Eh.

Batwoman s01e07 – Tell Me the Truth

Oh, good, just what “Batwoman” needs, a whole episode dedicated to the acting stylings of Meagan Tandy.

Sadly, I’m being facetious.

This episode gets into Tandy’s knowledge of Batwoman’s identity and her not entirely forthcoming marriage to Greyston Holt (she neglected to every tell him she had a three year romantic relationship with a woman). As a sniper takes out the creators of a gun able to kill Batman (or Batwoman), Ruby Rose tries to deal with the Tandy knowing her secret identity thing while Tandy finally decides to tell Holt what’s up.

But there’s still one more secret from Tandy, whose relationship with Dougray Scott is a little more complicated than previously revealed. In fact, when away on a mission Scott leaves a message for his “kid,” you can’t believe he’s talking so warmly or openly to Rose. Though maybe it’s Nicole Kang. Even though Kang and Scott haven’t had many (any?) scenes together, she’s broken up about the impending family dissolution. Scott’s divorcing Kang’s mom, Elizabeth Anweis, because Anweis lied to him about his daughter being dead so he’d stop looking and marry her, something Rose and King never discuss in the episode because addressing big family problems isn’t “Batwoman”’s thing.

The sniper stuff gets resolved too quick—without any solid Batwoman action scenes either—but guest star Christina Wolfe brings some life to it as Alfred the butler’s secret agent daughter. She’s got a history with both Camrus Johnson (they’re pals) and Rose (back when Rose got drummed out of military school for coming out of the closet, Batman sent Wolfe to keep tabs on Rose; Wolfe ended up seducing her, then telling her she was a babysitter).

Rose’s getting better, but every time she’s got a scene with Tandy it throws the progress back. But at least the end of the episode implies they’ve got an idea of where to take Rose without that tedious subplot. Unless it’s yet another two episode arc for her, like the last girlfriend.

Rachel Skarsten has a few scenes and she’s good as always. Sam Littlefield shows up in at least one of them. He’s bad as always.

Seven episodes in and “Batwoman” still feels way too unsure.

Evil s01e07 – Vatican III

This week’s “Evil” is a sixty-forty split between “why Catholics don’t get the mental health care they need” and “how to make an incel.” There’s more to both, obviously. The main plot is about possessed Annaleigh Ashford (who should sue her agent for malpractice) confessing to a triple homicide of Hispanic tween boys. She gives the Scooby Gang (clinical psychiatrist and lapsed Catholic Katja Herbers, true believer, priest-in-training, and hallucinogen abuser Mike Colter, and lapsed Muslim professional skeptic Aasif Mandvi) the location of the bodies and so they sit on that information instead of investigating for themselves, despite having the full power of the Catholic Church at their disposal.

I mean, they can hack into ICE and get surveillance camera footage, which might be international espionage given Vatican City and all, but they can’t take the time to go see if maybe Ashford buried the bodies where she said.

Meanwhile, nebbish Kevin Spacey impersonator and apparent sex god Michael Emerson recruits another disillusioned young white man, this time—through implication—a young white Jewish man—to the incel lifestyle. Noah Robbins goes from getting turned down by his barista to giving her a dead animal to plotting to mass murder women in the span of forty minutes, with a couple “therapy” sessions from Emerson to egg him on.

Now, we’re also finding out Emerson thinks he’s a demon and it’s his job to inspire… incels, basically. And to be a sex god who—unbeknownst to Herbers because, thankfully, her family is off-screen this episode—can make women do whatever he wants. I really hope Christine Lahti gets to play the sex-positive grandma with an appropriately attractive partner after this show. She deserves it. She’s not even in the episode and she’s one of the show’s biggest regrets. Though most of the show is just wishing Herbers, Colter, and Mandvi were on an actually good show and not this “deplorable Catholic men are in the control of wannabe demons” thing.

The politics of the show are still a little hard to discern—the Catholic Church isn’t portrayed bad, just behind the times. Also grossly incompetent (their secret manuscript from 500 years ago somehow has had all its iconography scanned and added to a wikipedia Demonology page. Yet they can hack ICE. Or maybe only because they have lapsed Muslin Mandvi on the payroll, which has optics of its own.

Hey, it’s a CBS show. You just wish it were a better one.

The Mandalorian s02e02 – Chapter Two: The Child

Maybe even more than the first episode, this one’s a commercial for Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. The adorable sight of Boba Fett playing Lone Wolf and Cub with a baby Yoda, what could be more PG+ Disney. Sure, the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) isn’t actually Boba Fett—though it’s unclear if he’s another Fett clone—but he’s better than Boba Fett because he hasn’t gone after our favorite good guys. In fact, he’s protecting an astoundingly adorable baby Yoda. It’s obvious the bounty on the baby Yoda is going to present an ethical dilemma for Pascal, who’s shockingly not bright and kind of whiney, actually. Like his bounty hunter spaceship from the Prequel Trilogy gets stripped by Jawas and he’s surprised. It seems like something he should be prepared to deal with.

Then there’s the Boba Fett versus Jawa Sandcrawler playset slash LEGO Star Wars: Boba Fett level when Pascal, his stunt man, and his CGI stunt animation try to take out the Sandcrawler in order to get back the ship’s missing pieces. During this entire sequence, baby Yoda is left alone in they’re floating pod (going gender neutral for now because, yeah, it seems like “Mandalorian” is going to introduce a female baby Yoda—a Disney Princess Girl Yoda—which is awesome and bring it on but also a tad obvious, which is a much more appropriate middle-name for show creator and writer Jon Favreau than Kolia)—anyway, Pascal isn’t paying any attention even though the episode opens with him fending off other bounty hunters after the baby. He’s not worried about such things when he’s fighting the Sandcrawler.

And the Sandcrawler sequence is impressive. It looks great; 21st century Disney visuals are phenomenal visuals.

Eventually Pascal has to go back to the verbose ugnaught (I finally heard the Nick Nolte in his voice this episode), who informs Pascal he needs to barter with the Jawas. Maybe the most interesting thing about the episode as far as Star Wars universe stuff is the idea Jawas go from planet to planet. Far more interesting than if the desert planet is actually Tatooine and there’s some tie-in to the next Star Wars movie, which is possible but seems kind of bold. Though, I suppose if anyone’s going to get away with it, it’ll be Star Wars. Star Wars got away with Jar Jar Binks and midichlorians.

Will Pascal learn to control his temper enough to work with Nolte to keep his bounty baby safe and so on?

It’s a Disney movie, what do you think. “The Mandalorian” is what the Ewoks TV movies should’ve been.

And now I do want to know if Favreau had a painted Boba Fett figure so it could be a new character.

Or I don’t. I changed my mind. I don’t. Custom action figuring when you’re in your late teens is something one should keep to himself. Bricks, glass houses, etc.

The Mandalorian s01e01 – Chapter One

“The Mandalorian” is either like reading seventeen year-old Jon Favreau fall 1983 post-Return of the Jedi fan fic or it’s like playing his intricate, verbose Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game campaign–oh, wait, SWTRPG didn’t come out until 1987. So, no, it’s more like watching Jon Favreau play with his Jedi toys. A lot. But the toys play into how the story unfolds—Favreau, who wrote the episode in addition to creating the show, reaches into the toy bin, pulls out a figure, somehow makes it fit into the story. There’s a way too articulate ugnaught, a figure from Empire, pointlessly voiced by Nick Nolte. Most of the figures and vehicles are from Jedi. I think one of the guns is from Empire. You could sit with an old Hasbro catalog and check off items in the episode.

Visually, it looks like a bunch of Ralph McQuarrie paintings. Dave Filoni does an okay job with the direction. He tries hard to make it look like Star Wars: The Original Trilogy as far as his composition—outside when you’re pretty sure it’s a direct lift off a McQuarrie concept painting—but there are shot homages to Jedi the most, maybe Star Wars. Watching “The Mandalorian,” Disney has fully put on its big boy pants and figured out how to market to males age four through forty-four. I’m not sure Werner Herzog is going to attract the fifty-four year-olds. But if you grew up with Star Wars, “The Mandalorian” is for you. It’s how you could keep playing with your Boba Fett toys even after he died in Empire.

Oh, all the mythology on the Mandalorian culture? Metallurgy, female Mandalorians—“Mandalorian” is aimed at the OG Empire Boba Fett fanboys. I wonder if they’re going to release special toys.

Is it a good show? It’s not a bad show. It’s technically flawless except the Ludwig Göransson music, which isn’t bad just a bad idea for the show. Quirky Western. Eh. But it looks great. The acting’s… eh. Herzog’s in a scene, he’s quirky. Carl Weathers is in a scene. He’s not quirky. Lead Pedro Pascal is fine but the more he talks the more you realize you’re watching a cartoon turned live action through CGI.

Will I watch more of it? Sure. It’s never going to be challenging, but will always be mildly engaging and look great; besides, I like pointing out the toys I had as a kid too.

Batwoman s01e06 – I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury

“Batwoman” has a Dougray Scott problem. The show keeps giving him material he can’t do or does poorly (versus Ruby Rose, who sometimes doesn’t even try when the material isn’t working with her). It’s getting particularly annoying as Rose is getting better and Scott’s going to screw up her character development.

Some of Rose’s improvement has to do with more Batwoman screen time. Rose’s better at Batwoman than Kate Kane because Kate Kane is still badly written. She just looks at evidence at her dad’s, goes off to cowl-up, bickers a little with Camrus Johnson who ends up with the incredibly odd optics of being the Black man defending white police and prosecutors who get busted falsifying evidence to falsely convict other Black men. She’s got no relationship with anyone besides Scott this episode, which doesn’t go well because Scott’s profoundly not good. He tries really hard and it’s such a fail. Rose doesn’t show any personality until she’s in the cowl, which is great because she’s got to show personality while costumed up, it’s more important to the show’s success given it’s a flipping superhero show. But making it about a mercenary finding his heart and then casting Scott in that role… big fail.

Other big fail this episode? Saddling Nicole Kang once again with Meagan Tandy; Tandy’s so bad she drags Kang down this episode. It’s a real bummer. Kang’s the highlight of “Batwoman,” Tandy’s one of its thorns. Though the script doesn’t help Tandy any. She’s just playing the thin catty villain part as written.

As for series villain Rachel Skarsten… she’s great. Unfortunately her newly revealed sidekick, Sam Littlefield, is not great. In fact, he’s fairly bad. It’s not an easy part, I get it; son of child-murdering and child-kidnapping evil plastic surgeon who revolts to save “sister” Skarsten—not easy stuff. But Skarsten manages to do it well and Littlefield doesn’t. “Batwoman”’s got a lot of casting issues. Yes, filming in Chicago means it looks like Dark Knight and not like Vancouver, but in Vancouver maybe you could’ve afforded better actors.

Or at least actors who patently cannot do the roles they’re in.

Supergirl s05e06 – Confidence Women

Okay, so Steven Bauer is Julie Gonzalo’s dad, who’s been mentioned since the first episode of the season but never seen. It doesn’t appear to be a great part for Bauer but whatever, he’s fine. Though he does act to launder a bit of Gonzalo’s performance. He’s able to make it at least seem legit for a scene. Almost. Because it’s not a good performance—Gonzalo’s—in fact, it’s really, really bad. Because she’s not just the evil new boss at CatCo, she’s also a literal super-assassin who works for a mega-secret evil society, Leviathan (which I thought was from a Grant Morrison Batman but I don’t care enough to look). And she was a bad best friend to Lena (Katie McGrath), even though she and Lena had totally awesome early 2000s adventures together when they went drinking underage and bonded over Titanic. Really. Lots of Titanic remarks. Including one about how Lex Luthor responded to it.

Though, technically, most of Gonzalo and McGrath’s conversations do pass Bechdel, which is more a curiosity than anything else. Because what they’re talking about is dumb. They have this Hardy Girls adventure where they go to South America—because they’re rich—in search of magical treasure. They find it but Gonzalo takes it instead of giving it to McGrath, who wants to use it to save the world from her evil brother. The show’s done in flashbacks set in different eras, which is a terrible idea because Gonzalo is godawful in all the eras and McGrath can’t do anything with her abbreviated flashbacks.

There’s a little in the present day at the end, but really it’s just Lena turning into a porto-supervillain. She’s just going to need a push.

It’s another Arrowverse show where the main cast has very little to do… possibly because they’re shooting something else (Jon Cryer cameos as Lex for a flashback and not for another one of them and he’s in the Crisis). But maybe McGrath isn’t, which seems like a major slight as she’s the one getting all the lousy material. Except the flashback to when she chats with Melissa Benoist and all of a sudden you remember enjoying the characters interact. Seasons ago.

Gonzalo’s indicative of a larger problem with the show and the main female supporting players it introduces. Or the show’s casting. Or both. She drains positive energy from the show, which is runny super-low already.

The Flash s06e05 – Kiss Kiss Breach Breach

How is this show so boring… so much happens yet so much of it

It’s a very strange Cisco episode. Barry and Iris go on vacation before the Crisis crossover (possibly to film the Crisis crossover) while Cisco holds down the front. Now, I can’t remember the last time Carlos Valdes was charming but I think it was two seasons ago. It’ll happen every once in a while now and you can tell it’s not intentional. Somehow Valdes’s original energy gets through, despite finally being a superhero and having a girlfriend. Only now he’s not a superhero and he’s got a different girlfriend (Victoria Park) and he’s unsure of himself. There’s an absurdly bad subplot where Valdes and Park are supposed to be adorable together and they really aren’t. They’re annoying together.

Because even though they get the big story, involving guest star Danny Trejo and a couple big surprises, the most interesting stuff in the episode is the very small subplots with the other cast members. Because they’re also filming Crisis? Who knows. But Danielle Panabaker having another super-quick showdown with season big bad and Venom wannabe Sendhil Ramamurthy is not great drama. Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin being trapped in a collapsed subway tunnel and running out of air could be great drama—a good show would’ve turned it into a full episode—but the show manages to kill it by giving Martin this monologue about faith. Only his faith turns out to be in the upcoming Crisis meaning he can’t die now. He’s got to be around for the crossover. Only really schmaltzy and not meta at all. It’s a bummer.

Valdes eventually gets better and it’s not the worst episode by the finish—the show leverages Hartley Sawyer being a success after what seemed like a questionable start—but if all Valdes’s storylines going forward are going to involve him getting into situations where his stupid powers would save his life or mean he could save others… maybe he shouldn’t have gotten rid of them.

I wish I could remember when this show worked on a regular basis. I wish I could remember back to season two, to when it actually disappointed when it didn’t deliver on its potential. Now it just doesn’t even try to generate potential. It’s distressing how poorly the show utilizes its cast these days.

Also there are no big action set pieces here. Cheap ones only. Maybe the money’s going toward Crisis. Hopefully. This whole season hinges on the big crossover to breath life back into it. Not a great place to be. If a Jesse L. Martin monologue can fail, nothing’s safe anymore.

And Martin’s monologue failed hard.

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