Evil s01e06 – Let x = 9

So in addition to Christine Lahti becoming bride to the unclean one through some really good third grade poetry imagery because “Evil” is really condescending to its target audience, the Christians who vote blue, the episode also confronts the whole “child rape” thing with the Catholic Church. Confronts as in lapsed Muslim skeptical charming aloof guy Aasif Mandvi makes a crack about it; a serious crack about it sure but a crack. “Evil” really wants to pretend people haven’t figured out the Catholic Church basically functions the way it does to protect child rapists. Like, when did it start. Was it before the Borgias? After? Because it started hundreds of years ago.

And “Evil” wants you to forget about it because Mandvi is the most successful character on the show and because it’s like “American Horror Story” for your grandma or something. It’s a CBS-ed horror story. With conspiracies and symbolism and blah blah blah.

But it’s also one of the most successful episodes in a while because Katja Herbers gets a bunch to do and she’s awesome at it. The scenes themselves vary, but she’s always good. Until the second half twist—surprise, sexy grandma Lahti’s new stud is none other than decently not sexy grandpa Michael Emerson, who also has kind of been stalking Herbers since the beginning of the show in order to further his life goal of promoting evil in the world. Can Lahti give him up for Herbers and the four adorable granddaughters, who Emerson has drawing secret symbols and singing creepy religious songs? Oops, I spoiled it in the first sentence. But whatever, doesn’t matter. “Evil”’s very deliberately plotted. To the point it supersedes everything else going on in the show; in some ways it feels like a very standard eighties nighttime mystery drama—Herbers and Mike Colter’s workplace romance—and very edgy for the USA Network in 2005. Like if they’d done a “Da Vinci Code: The Series” and it was surprisingly mean-spirited. But with some patronizing exploitation.

Still, the acting can be great. Herbers is great here. Colter is not. But he’s okay, it’s the script. And Mandvi’s awesome. Of course he’s awesome, he gets tapped selling the “eh, it can’t be all priests, right?”

I mean, icky. But also… CBS tame for 2019. Both sides but we’re pretending politics don’t exist.

Also… Emerson basically just seems like he’s doing a Kevin Spacey impression.

Watchmen s01e02 – Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship

As good as “Watchmen” gets at dissecting the comic book, learning from its anatomy, figuring out how to adapt it to live action—though this episode is nowhere near as uncanny as the previous one with composition—the show, pardon my French, fucks with the viewer. Alan Moore comics don’t fuck with the reader, they explore and they reveal (without ever being about the reveals). “Watchmen: The TV Show” is all about narratively cheap but big budget cliffhangers. It’s not exactly frustrating or disappointing—because it’s HBO after all—but means whatever the show creatives learned from the comic… they didn’t learn enough. And “Watchmen: The TV Show” is going to suffer from it. This episode, written by Nick Cuse and show creator Damon Lindelof, is all about surprises, even when they should be obvious to the characters if not the audience.

“Watchmen: The TV Show,” like a TV show, is going all in on the money shot reveals, where it’s stage play Dr. Manhattan’s junk or the clone reveal or… the flashbacks to the cops getting attacked by the white supremacists. Turns out Regina King and husband Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (he’s really the guy from Aquaman, I can’t believe it, he’s good in this show) didn’t adopt some white kids because it’s a better reality but because the kids are her dead partner’s kids. It’s One Good Cop. But without Michael Keaton and Rene Russo.

Makes you wonder how their Batman Forever would’ve been.

Anyway.

The show also reveals—again, the show’s exposition is all about the reveals too, whether it’s DNA tests or tough talking cops—the reparations are for victims of hate crimes or descendants of hate crimes. The show opens with a newsreel about the destruction of Black Wall Street. It’s not clear how Black Wall Street is going to figure in to the Watchmen aspect of the show, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s a good plot device and, actually, completely reasonable for big budget Watchmen fanfic. I don’t think Moore would’ve ever done it because Lindelof’s exploiting the idea whereas Moore never exploits things. So Tulsa because White people in Oklahoma are racist who aren’t ever going to take responsibility for their great-grandparents’ murderous racism so they Klan up to take on the federal government only with Rorschach masks. Kind of a big deal, but also something the show is happy to keep as ground situation, which is concerning. How seriously is “Watchmen” going to take this aspect of the story, which is the whole point of Regina King so don’t end up giving her a shit part.

Like Tim Blake Nelson. He’s maybe going to have a shit part. Or not even enough of a part to have a shit part. Don Johnson’s got some “say it isn’t so” reveals in this episode but you know he’s going to come out of it fine because Don Johnson can do amusing shit-stain.

All of a sudden I really want to watch Tin Cup, which isn’t out on Blu-ray, which is dumb.

Yeah, Nelson… Nelson’s either going to really pay off or he’s going to be a waste. He can be a waste in a few ways, but so far it’s unclear how he could pay off. “Watchmen: The Limited TV Series” is nine episodes; we’re almost a quarter done. There’s only so much time; the longer the show goes on more concerned with turning Easter eggs into plot points… the less it seems likely the show’s going to add up to anything. And there’s a very low bar here. “Watchmen” just has to not screw up its actors’ performances, it just can’t screw up the production design as far as the adaptation, it never actually has to be good. It just can’t be embarrassing. DC and Warner Bros. have been humiliating themselves on Watchmen adaptations for what seems like decades but really has only been eleven years.

King is shouldering the globe, but it’s far from steady.

It also doesn’t hurt, despite not great material, Lou Gossett Jr. is awesome.

All Rise s01e07 – Uncommon Women and Mothers

Tony Denison is finally back. Not for very long in sort of a “let’s defer Tony Denison some more” way, but it’s nice he’s back. It gives second-billed but at least fourth in the show’s heart Wilson Bethel something else to do this episode besides prosecute extremely sympathetic non-binary young adult experiencing homelessness J.J. Hawkins for arson. “All Rise” quadruples down on the pronouns this episode and never makes a joke. It’s got slimy businesspeople respecting pronouns. Though this episode also has Black woman judge Simone Missick telling her mother, Black woman social worker L. Scott Caldwell to trust the system to do the right thing.

Because the system’s fine, it’s the people.

So… ew. Lots of optics here.

Missick also has to be contrite to boss Marg Helgenberger at one point… while reaffirming how much, as a judge, she loves the cops. So… double ew.

Thank goodness the show realizes Ruthie Ann Miles and Lindsay Mendez can be buddies and have hijinks, this time involving them both wanting to be fire warden. I hold the opinion all television programs ever could have their opening titles cut to the “Night Court” theme song, but rarely do I ever hear it so often as when “All Rise” is having its hijinks.

Oh, and assistant assistant D.A. Bethel does get to tell off boss Reggie Lee when Lee’s ranting about the dangerous homeless because before Denison became a bookie to the Russian Mob (based on this episode’s visual indicators), he and Bethel at one point lived out of their car. Though pretty soon Bethel met Missick and found a second, better parent in Caldwell. What’s funny about the show’s schmaltz is how it’s also visually soft and upbeat. If it had any grit or grain, it’d be an interesting contract. Instead, it’s like the show is…

Oh.

Yeah.

It’s wearing its safety pin.

But the cast. But for the cast. Seeing Missick and Bethel doing straight network drama is damned interesting, considering it’s not where their futures lie. At least not in an “All Rise”-type form.

All Rise s01e06 – Fool for Liv

Something about this episode feels like it ran into the show’s budget. Though there’s some location shooting. Kind of a lot of it, but there’s no action at the locations. There’s standing or sitting. And it’s never on the A plot, always B or even C. On the A plot, outside Jere Burns as a terribly written slick defense attorney, everything feels like it’s under serious constraint. Burns is defending a social media star’s assistant, accused of murdering the social media star. All of the assistant’s fans are in the courtroom disrupting the proceedings, making judge Simone Missick look unable to control her courtroom so her job is ostensibly in jeopardy and Burns is being slick instead of actually lawyering and on and on.

But it’s all done cheap. It’s supposed to be lighting up social media only the show never shows how that lighting up affects anything. It’s like the show knows having social media fans dox jurors is bad, but it doesn’t know why it’s bad. Does “All Rise” even employ any legal consultants? It doesn’t seem like it does.

There’s some good stuff with Missick and court clerk Ruthie Ann Miles hanging out, but in a very humorous way not in actual character development way. I’m also not sure but it seems like Missick is having trouble not laughing at some of Miles’s best deliveries. And the stuff with Missick and Burns gets to an all right point, so it’s a shame to episode doesn’t end with it but instead subjects us to more of Jessica Camacho and J. Alex Brinson’s courtship.

So Camacho’s got a case where she’s defending a guy against Wilson Bethel, who’s got nothing to do this episode because he’s not allowed to try cases in front of Missick and instead his boss, Reggie Lee (who’s a regular?), tries it. Bethel and Camacho are trying to work out a plea deal for her client, whatever. The episode makes Bethel seem potentially shady, which he isn’t. “All Rise” is aspirational. Bethel’s a white knight. But Camacho doesn’t seem to trust him, but then she does once Bethel reminds her he’s a white knight. Their plot feels like writer Conway Preston was just trying to pad out the episode. It’s not good. It’s lazy.

Camacho and Brinson’s cutesy courtship is worse though. It’s annoying. They’re now officially obnoxious together, which is too bad because they’re both likable apart. And their relationship used to be cute versus cutesy.

I think this episode’s the equivalent of a bunt, if I’m getting my baseball metaphors right.

Supergirl s05e05 – Dangerous Liaisons

This episode could be a lot worse. It does have some significant lows—like when Azie Tesfai has to pretend to cry, which she’s absurdly bad at doing. Like, it’s uncomfortable. Especially when you realize they went with the best take. Got to be able to cry on “Supergirl,” it’s one of the show’s many go to things.

And Phil LaMarr is terrible as the evil Martian. Him being onscreen does nothing to improve his performance. Lena (Katie McGrath) has him prisoner and is doing experiments on him so she can rid the world of evil thoughts. She’s like a good guy Lex Luthor, driven mad not by Supergirl burning all her hair off but by not telling McGrath her secret identity, partially because McGrath’s from a supervillain family and does crazy stuff.

Like shooting a laser into the Antarctic to cause a global flood—when Martian David Harewood compares it to Noah’s flood is when, basically, I gave on Harewood. He’d been really weird all episode and it certainly seems like having a completely crappy story line has finally felled him. Bummer. Anyway, global flood, good thing there are superheroes like Supergirl, Harewood, and Dreamer. And Chyler Leigh. Can’t forget Chyler Leigh in her super-suit, which she actually gets to use as she saves people on the waterfront, which Tesfai sees, which triggers PTSD and a truly bad crying scene.

But when you get past all the bad stuff, it’s a fairly tightly told thriller. Mostly out of the cape Melissa Benoist and season love interest-to-be Staz Nair are trying to figure out what terrible thing female Mark Zuckerberg Julie Gonzalo is trying to do and it seems like it’s going to be apocalyptic. Once it’s clear it’s not a two-parter and there’s actual stakes… “Supergirl” delivers.

Yes, the villain looks like a bad Robocop cosplayer with some stolen Doc Ock arms but the tension’s still there.

Maybe it’s director Alysse Leite-Rogers, maybe it’s the script. But it’s an engaging hour-long show, which tolerable weak points.

Oh.

And I really, really, really miss Mon-El. Nair’s earnest but quite wanting.

Batwoman s01e05 – Mine Is a Long and a Sad Tale

This episode has no awesome Batwoman action. The only Batwoman action scene is not very good, in fact. It’s all that stealthy Batman Begins type action as Batwoman breaks into estranged sister and supervillain Alice’s base and takes her prisoner, presumably leaving all the thugs unconscious… even though they then wake up and start attacking the dad.

While Ruby Rose doesn’t emote a lot, not even when she finds out she’s been duped or made a terrible decision or really not thought out her plans, which should be a bad thing but somehow isn’t. Like the aloof quality makes all Rose is processing—finding out long dead sister is alive and supervillain, becoming Batwoman, dating life, whatever—seem a lot more reasonable. Because the way the show is handling Rose and Rachel Skarsten (as the supervillain sister) is actually fairly impressive. It helps Skarsten’s good, but the plotting of the reveals and the character development is solid stuff. The show doesn’t shy away from the big twist, instead going further than just embracing it and making it the whole show. “Batwoman” is about Rose and Skarsten. The Bat-branding is adornment.

Also good this episode is step-sister Nicole Kang freaking out after she finds out her mom, shady defense contractor Elizabeth Anweis, did something really shady and hurtful. Kang ends up hanging out with Camrus Johnson (while looking for Rose) for much of the episode, annoying him in the most amusing ways. Kang’s the show’s best actor and Johnson’s good at the humor so it’s really fun to see them together. Especially since the other B plot is Meagan Tandy and Dougray Scott trying to find Rose and Skarsten.

Saying Tandy and Scott are utterly charmless is about the most complimentary observation one could make based on this episode. Mostly because they’re so terribly miscast.

But it’s a surprisingly solid episode. Like, impressively so. It proves it doesn’t need good Batwoman action scenes to succeed, not when it knows how to leverage Skarsten and Kang.

Watchmen s01e01 – It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice

The only times “Watchmen” doesn’t feel calculated are when you can’t imagine the shot as a David Gibbons comic panel. Every couple minutes you can feel how the sequence of shots would feel as a Watchmen comic, showing how just because DC Comics could never figure out how to do it without the original creators doesn’t mean episode director Nicole Kassell and show creator Damon Lindelof can’t figure out how to do it while adapting it to another medium. Though, to be fair, the secret might be in adapting it. Especially since the show creators don’t just have decades of comic book adaptation tropes to avoid they’ve also got the actual Watchmen: The Movie as one hell of an example of terrible Watchmen adapting.

The show figures out what the movie couldn’t, primarily in terms of acting (get good actors and then get good performances out of them) and come up with a sound design not focused around selling a soundtrack album. “Watchmen: Episode 1” often sounds a little like an eighties John Carpenter movie, just with less synth. It’s disquieting in all the right ways.

In fact, there’s nothing the show does wrong but only because it’s positioned itself rather securely. Its ambitions are only in delivering itself as a product. “Watchmen” doesn’t allow itself performance anxiety, just a base execution anxiety. The show doesn’t worry about giving stars Regina King and Don Johnson great parts, it just worries about never giving them bad ones. It also gives Johnson Frances Fisher for a wife, which does a lot of immediate character development. Everyone else is background, even Tim Blake Nelson who seems like he’ll be great as the thing progress. So far Yahya Abdul-Mateen II—as King’s homemaker husband—is perfectly fine, which I was initially worried about because he was so bad in Aquaman. But, no, having a director who cares about acting helps.

The only Watchmen comic character to show up so far is probably Jeremy Irons as Ozymandias. Probably because they’re teasing it. “Watchmen: The TV Show” might try to get away with not explaining all the pertinent history. Lindelof has utterly changed the context—the show’s set in 2019 in the Watchmen: The Comic Book universe, some thirty years after the events, with Robert Redford being president for thirty years (vs. Nixon) and having gotten reparations through, which has led to a Rorschach-inspired white supremacist organization. So in “Watchmen: The TV Show” universe it takes actual reparations (and Black people apparently not having to pay taxes) to get white men so steamed up but in reality it only took a Black president, which would make for great, pseudo-intellectual water cooler talk, which is what “Watchmen” is sort of all about.

Lindelof, Kassell, and everyone else do their corporate overlords great service with the show… they’ve finally turned Watchmen into a crossover property, something not a single DC Comics creator could do.

Also, given the Black Wall Street massacre finally getting mainstream coverage… can we stop listening to white centrists from Oklahoma yet?

All Rise s01e05 – Devotees in the Courthouse of Love

Nadia Gray’s back this episode, which is surprisingly distinguishing as Gray doesn’t make much impression other than everyone making fun of her name—Ria’s hard for them—and boyfriend Wilson Bethel’s general eye-rolling at her being a supermodel brand influencer. Of course, Bethel doesn’t really want to be dating her because he and Simone Missick are best friends who complete each other but just can’t get together at least until season two if they rush things, season three if they take their time. But the show’s ready for Gray to go now. The episode takes place on the courthouse’s annual Wedding Day, when there’s a big group wedding or some such thing. Gray’s all soft about getting married, Bethel’s not interested (he can’t even say he likes her because woke white guy still guy); plus he spends the entire episode almost flirting with defense attorney Lindsey Gort.

Over in Missick’s courtroom—the show finally addressed Bethel not being allowed to lawyer in Missick’s courtroom because they’re besties last episode; took them long enough—anyway, Missick’s got a nun trial. I’m not sure if nuns on trial is a lawyer show trope but it certainly seems like a lawyer show trope. Or when nuns show up in the hospital show. It’s a trope. If it’s not a trope now, it used to be a trope, when you kept tripping over Catholics on TV. You know, before the whole “our organization exists to protect and further child rape” thing, which “All Rise” never addresses because—deep down—the show’s not controversial.

And there’s no controversy this episode, other than Missick figuring out how bad the legal system screws poor people in dollars and cents and tries to fix it. Positive change we can all agree on, this week on “All Rise.” See, progressives aren’t going too fast, this week on “All Rise.”

The episode does give Marg Helgenberger an all-right scene—her best in the show so far, even if it passes Bechdel but only because Helgenberger’s queer—and Paul McCrane’s back. They don’t give McCrane much to do except be Judge Rocket Romano but it’s fine. It’s Paul McCrane.

Last episode J. Alex Brinson and Jessica Camacho got their chemistry in sync, this episode it’s Missick and assistant Ruthie Ann Miles. Quick refresh—Miles is the experience clerk who’s supposed to hate new SJW Black lady judge Missick but it turns out they work great together. They’ve been fun to watch since the first episode, but now they’re finally getting their rapport worked out.

“All Rise” isn’t on the most even ground but it’s getting to be solid ground.

Solid, uneven ground. Uneven, solid ground. Whichever means it’s basically all right and the performances carry it.

All Rise s01e04 – A View from the Bus

Todd Williams shows up for the first scene—he’s top-billed Simone Missick’s husband who’s been MIA most episodes—and gets her off to work. They still don’t have much chemistry together. Even if Missick and Wilson Bethel don’t have romantic chemistry together, they’ve got something. Missick and Williams haven’t got anything. They’re kind of ludicrously mismatched. Sure, the show hasn’t hit the guest star casting peaks of the pilot but it hasn’t been bad. Williams isn’t bad, but he’s not an inspired choice.

And him being an FBI agent is just kind of weird. Especially given how willing the show is to get “political,” but apparently the FBI is above reproach. It’s very weird.

The episode does near that inspired guest star casting—not in terms of name or experience, but quality—with defendant Jacob Gibson. He’s the college-going young Black man who still hangs out with his… urban friends and one of them killed someone then had Gibson drive away. The big deal of the first half of the episode is when judge Missick agrees to take the jury to the crime scene. Field trip! Only then there’s an active shooter situation and Missick’s got to worry about whether she prejudiced them because they’re worried it’s Gibson’s friends who were trying to intimidate the jury. Jessica Camacho’s Gibson’s lawyer so of course she’s worrying about it too. Suzanne Cryer’s the shockingly obviously racist district attorney who wants to humiliate Gibson before his conviction. It’s tense stuff, even pasteurized into CBS appropriate milk.

You can tell it doesn’t work right because J. Alex Brinson is hanging around Camacho and Gibson the whole time but he doesn’t actually get to reflect on how white people treat Black men they suspect of being dangerous, even though the episode opens with a “previously on” recapping bailiff Brinson getting cuffed up by the white sheriff deputies.

Meanwhile Bethel’s going up against previously established not corrupt but dirty cop Erin Cummings. He’s suspicious of her evidence and does a full investigation; strangely the show doesn’t bring up Cummings’s “support me because I’m a woman” thing she tried using on Missick a few episodes ago, which might not be standards and practices but the show just showing its lack of self-awareness. But Richard Brooks is back for a scene and it’s awesome to have Brooks back for a scene. It gives Bethel a lot to do and he’s great at it but you’re still sitting there thinking… that’s Bullseye, he can do a lot more.

At least the episode ends on a reassuring montage sequence and not another “let’s work together” speech from Brinson. And he and Camacho are getting cute together. It’s hard to see Brinson as cute, given he’s son of a bitch abusive cop husband Jeff from “Travelers” but it’s starting to work.

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