Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Blindspot 4x13 Review "Though This Be Madness, Yet There Is Method In't" (De Plane! De Plane!) [Contributor: Jen]


"Though This Be Madness, Yet There Is Method In't"
Original Airdate: February 15, 2019

We've spent 13 episodes on this plane crashing storyline, Blindspot, and it's time to release me from this procedural misery!

CASE OF THE WEEK


We are FINALLY crashing this friggin' plane. Not that I want this plane to crash. I'm not a psychopath. I just want the storyline to be over because it's boring. I appreciate Blindspot trying to throw some variety in their typical "Let's blow up New York" bomb plot, but the plane thing wasn't much better.

Does anyone remember why Madeline was crashing the plane? Do we care? Anyone? Bueller? All right, maybe there's someone. All the characters repeated the reasons about five times. I was starting to feel it was personally directed at me. Madeline wants to crash a Bradley Dynamics plane so she can release documentation that Bradley knew their aeronautics program — code name ARVO — failed major safety tests but they went ahead with it anyway. This will allow Madeline to take out one of her biggest competitors and win a very big contract.

What we discover in "Though This Be Madness, Yet There Is Method In't" is all of that documentation is doctored. The ARVO program passed all the safety tests, which their director can back up with real documentation. Okay, so he's probably not evil. The real humdinger, and one of a few real surprises in this storyline, is that ARVO was installed on a very particular jumbo liner — the new Air Force One.

Now don't get too excited, Blindspotters. It's the new Air Force One, which means it really isn't Air Force One at all because the president isn't on it. It's still just a regular big old plane, but the innocent lives on board are more than enough incentive to save it. However, Blindspot felt like there needed to be more incentive so they put Director Weitz on board. He was being fired by one of the president's top advisers. Yeah, saving Weitz doesn't really add a lot of incentive for me. I was good with the dozen or so other poor souls on board, but do you, Blindspot.

Boston, undercover as Del Toro, has to hack Bradley Dynamics, make it believable to Madeline, but stop short of actually crashing the plane. Dominic Masters pops up again and apparently he has some gumption. He decided Zapata's story about meeting with Del Toro sounded fishy, so he went out and found the real Del Toro. The cartel was paid and they didn't hear any complaining from Madeline, so they were fine taking their money and walking.

But Del Toro wasn't. I think? He says, "Nothing is free in this life, which is why I'm here." First person who can explain what the heck this means gets a cookie. The guy refused to do the job because Zapata was late. Then Del Toro decides to do the job anyway because he was already paid and felt bad about taking the money for zero work. Or something like that?

UGH. It's times like these Blindspot drives me nuts. The only reason they brought the real Del Toro in was so Madeline could foil Zapata and Boston's plan, but the writers can't just say that so they cook up some bizarre moral philosophy for a criminal hacker who works for the deadliest cartel in the world. Just stop trying to logic it, Jen. Life will be so much simpler.

Madeline has also wired the building where Boston is hacking the plane with C4 so all evidence will be destroyed — including Zapata and Boston. But then Madeline finds out about their deceit and sends a goon to kill them while the real Del Toro hacks the plane. Boston takes out the singular goon with a chair and makes a hilarious comment about watching professional wrestling, but they still need to stop the hack and Zapata only has one bullet.

Boston bluffs his way through a distraction with a fake dead man's switch and some C4. Zapata shoots one goon with her last bullet and then throws her gun at the second while taking him out Krav Maga style. It was awesome.

Long story short: Boston is able to unhack the hack, the plane is saved, and Madeline's plans are foiled. Unfortunately, it seems she has bigger fish to fry with a mysterious reference to something called "Helios" which I am sure we'll be finding out more about now that this plan fiasco is finally over.

TEAM BLINDSPOT


There's a lot of back and forth between Boston unhacking the hack and Team Blindspot (namely Rich) trying to kick Del Toro out of the system because they believe he's the hacker in charge. It leads to Zapata telling Boston to leave the building and call the FBI to let them back into the system so they can stop the hack. The trouble is the building is about to blow any minute. Essentially Zapata is offering herself up as the sacrificial lamb to save the plane.

Rich lets Zapata back into the system, she hits enter, and seemingly starts to exit the building, but then the C4 goes off and the building comes down. Boston is convinced Zapata died, which means so is Team Blindspot. Of course, she's not dead and reappears with the coolest "I'm alive line" ever ("Like I said how hard is it to push enter?") Everyone is very relieved she's alive, but particularly Reade.

Hmm, now what did I say in one of my previous reviews? Oh yes... here it is: "He'll fume for a few episodes, Tasha will do something heroic or almost die or something to that effect, Reade will realize he still loves her, and TA-DA! Happy ending."

Dang, I'm good. We're clipping along nicely, aren't we Rapata shippers? Tasha decides almost dying in a collapsed building while saving dozens of lives from a plane crash isn't enough to gain Reade's full trust back. Ummm... why not? When did Edgar Reade become the patron of morality on this show? I must have missed something.

Tasha decides she must go to Zurich, obtain the files Madeline would never destroy, which will lead to her prosecution, and thus clinch Reade's forgiveness and trust. All right, hold up. Why is it every time someone on Blindspot goes undercover for months and months they don't gather any EVIDENCE? All the evidence they need to put the Big Bad away forever is destroyed in the last second, and then the Big Bad gets away to concoct yet another nefarious plan.

Do any of these FBI agents actually know how to be FBI agents? Why didn't Zapata make copies? Why didn't Reade order Madeline's arrest sooner? He was in her office. We couldn't deploy a dozen agents to arrest the woman before she figured out her plan was not going down in flames?  Do they even need paper evidence? Isn't Zapata's testimony as a CIA agent more than enough to put Madeline away? Sweet Moses, this show is ludicrous sometimes. No, scratch that — a lot of times.

And of course... there's someone to beat the crap out of Zapata in a bathroom after she obtains the aforementioned crucial evidence. Sigh. Blindspot has played the "Zapata is dead" card almost as much as they played the "Zapata is evil" card this season and it's all just tired. I just want this plot to be over.

Back to more positive developments: Boston is his usual ray of sunshine in an otherwise dismal plot. These ludicrous plots are only made entertaining by the witty repartee of characters like Boston, Rich, and Patterson. Blindspot can never ever get rid of those three. We'll be lost to gloom and doom of the ridiculous.

What I truly loved was Rich's concern and unwavering loyalty. He was convinced hacking the plane for real is something Boston would never do and made sure everyone at the FBI understood it. Rich may snark about Boston, but he's ride or die. They are so endgame, even though Boston won't be taking a consulting job with the FBI like Rich. He's not a big fan of risking his life every ten seconds, which is absolutely understandable, and casts a nice, subtle heroic light on Rich too.

Boston's appearance at the FBI also puts him face-to-face with Jane again. Remember: Remi was holding a gun to Boston's face the last time these two saw each other. He's freaked out, of course. Jane apologizes for everything she did to Boston and it leads to this hilarious exchange:
Boston: And we're... we're just all cool with her again? 
Kurt: We're all good. 
Rich: It was days ago. 
Boston: Okay. Apology accepted?
I died. Best reaction to good Jane/evil Remi ever.

KURT AND JANE


Kurt and Jane decide to celebrate Jane being alive by going on a vacation to a little cabin in the woods. Has Kurt Weller ever heard of five star hotels? What's up with these two roughing it all the time? They don't get enough grit and gore in the field? I don't care if the cabin owner stocked the fridge, Weller! You're still cooking, which is basically like being home. Book a massage and eat some lobster prepared by a culinary chef like the regular people do, guys.

That said, why are we even talking about a Jeller vacation? It's hilarious these two think they'll actually get away for some "alone time." Honestly, what annoyed me most about this plane crash storyline is that it interrupted Jeller baby-making time. And then we didn't even get that! Things were starting off so nicely: there was wine. Jane was saying things like, "We don't have to go away to be together. I've got everything I need right here." Kurt moved in to nuzzle her neck...

... And then someone slid an envelope under the door. No. Absolutely not. NO MAIL. It probably has a bomb in it or some airborne pathogen. DO NOT OPEN IT WITHOUT AN X-RAY! HAS THE LAST FOUR YEARS TAUGHT YOU BOTH NOTHING?

It's worse than airborne pathogen: it's something from Shepherd's estate lawyer. Well, rip it up or throw it in the fire. But do Kurt and Jane listen to me? Noooo. We could be on our way to twins right now, but Jane needs "closure." You know what I need? BABIES.

Jane opens the envelope, and there's another puzzle to solve. Good grief. Can we be done with the puzzles? The fact I am saying this probably means this show needs to wrap it up. At least it wasn't tattooed all over Jane's body this time. 

Stray Thoughts:

  • "You can do this." "You don't know that. That's just a thing you say!"
  • Reade is popping in to see Madeline on the exact day Zapata is crashing the plane and the evil sorceress is not supposed to get suspicious? Okay, Mr. Assistant Director of the FBI.
  • "Shush, I'm getting scared." This adorable man puppy deserves to be loved up.
  • "I'm alive because of Roman." Aww, I like how we like Roman now even though he was a criminal mastermind and murderer. But he saved Jane's life so everything is square. Even Weller begrudgingly likes him. Looking like Luke Mitchell probably doesn't hurt either.
  • "I thought she was damaged enough to live in the gray. " Me too, Madeline. It would've been way more interesting if she was.
  • Reade called Zapata "Natasha" just before she hung up. He still loves her.
  • The whole time I watched this episode, all I could hear was Tattoo from Fantasy Island yelling, "De Plane! De Plane!" Hence the title.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine 6x05 and 6x06 Recaps: “A Tale of Two Bandits” & “The Crime Scene” (Of Trudy Judy, Rosa's Hair, and a Dope Case) [Contributor: Alisa Williams]


“A Tale of Two Bandits” & “The Crime Scene”
Original Airdates: February 7 and 14, 2019

Craig Robinson guest-starring on Brooklyn Nine-Nine has become an annual occurrence, and I am here for it! He and Andy Samberg are always hilarious together, and this episode was no exception. Terry’s convinced that Doug Judy, the Pontiac Bandit, (played by Robinson) is back because someone has been stealing cars using his exact MO. Jake’s convinced of Doug’s innocence because Doug promised him he was going straight, but Terry doesn’t believe it for a second. When they go to investigate, they find out Doug is dead!

They head to the funeral and meet Doug’s sister, Trudy Judy (played by the hilarious Nicole Byer), who ropes Jake into singing an impromptu song in tribute to Doug. While he’s upfront doing a truly terrible job, Jake spies Doug standing in the back. He’s alive! Doug motions to Jake to meet him in the back room where he tells Jake and Terry that he had to fake his own death because a real bad guy named Stefano Lucas is after him. Lucas thinks Doug stole his vintage Ferrari and put a hit out on Doug. Even though Doug has an alibi for the night of the car theft, Terry isn’t buying that Doug’s really on the straight and narrow now.

Jake convinces Terry that it must be a copycat using Doug’s moves, and that only Doug can help them catch the car thief. Terry remains unconvinced but Jake offers a challenge he can’t refuse: whichever one of them is wrong has to do 100,00 push-ups. Terry agrees to give Doug a chance, and Doug tells them where he thinks the copycat would go to boost cars that evening. Before they head over, they have to make a detour so Doug can sing at a bar mitzvah.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Nine-Nine heads over to their regular bar after a hard day’s work. But it turns out the bar has been taken over by firefighters! The bar the firefighters usually hang out at burned down so they’ve decided to make this their regular spot. The Nine-Nine isn’t having it. They appeal to Holt for help, but he refuses, saying the bar is beneath them anyway, and this is a great opportunity to find a better one. The team then turns to the bartender but he refuses to take sides, saying he just wants to make money. That’s when Boyle has a great idea and says if it’s just about money, they’ll just have a drink-off against the firefighters. Holt refuses to participate and leaves, making it nine firefighters against five Nine-Niners. The odds aren’t great, but the team is confident they can do it.

Back at the bar mitzvah, Terry interrupts Doug’s DJ-ing to tell him and Jake that a car theft just went down exactly where Doug said it would. Terry had sent some plain-clothes officers on ahead to stake the place out and they caught someone red-handed. Jake’s delighted, because this means Doug’s innocent but Terry says not so fast. He’s now convinced that Doug intentionally brought them to the bar mitzvah to establish his alibi while his partner boosted cars. Jake’s dubious until Terry reveals who the car thief is: Trudy Judy! Doug’s sister!

At first, Doug swears his sister is innocent, saying she’s a good girl who’s studying to be a nurse, but she was caught in the car with all the car-boosting devices she needed, so it’s pretty obvious she’s the culprit. Trudy tells them she was falling behind on her student loans and that’s when she discovered Doug’s notebooks about how to steal cars and it was a great way to make money. She swears she was only going to steal enough cars to pay off her loans and then go straight again, and she definitely had no idea she’d stolen the car of big-time criminal Stefano Lucas, who then put a hit out on her brother.

Doug convinces Terry and Jake to take pity on her and reduce the charges if she helps bring in Stefano Lucas, who’s a much bigger criminal than either of them. Doug says he’ll call up Lucas, tell him he’s the one who stole his car and offer to give it back if Lucas will call off the hit. Then, when Lucas comes to get his car, the police will be there waiting. There’s only one problem though: Trudy doesn’t have Lucas’ car anymore; she’s already given it to a fence named Dallas who’s a really creepy dude.

Over at the bar, the team is having trouble of their own. They’ve fallen behind the firefighters. Boyle delivers an inspiring speech to motivate them, but manages to throw up in the middle of it. Hitchcock is the only one who’s left standing, but just then Holt shows up! Apparently Rosa left him a ton of voicemails. In one of them, after she thought she’d hung up but didn’t, she rambled on about how Holt didn’t care about them. That shook him to his core, Holt says, and he had to show up to support his team, even if he does hate the bar. He orders bottle after bottle of the gross, knock-off wine the bartender carries, and seconds before closing time, he manages to scrape ahead of the firefighters! The Nine-Nine is victorious! The firefighters admit defeat and storm out to find a different bar.

Meanwhile, Jake and Terry, along with Doug and Trudy Judy, are staging a meet with the fence, Dallas. Terry pretends to be Trudy’s beefy boyfriend, which spooks Dallas and he runs off. They grab the car and call up Stefano Lucas for the meet. But while they’re waiting, the car blows up! Terry and Jake run to investigate what happened. Terry’s convinced this was the Judys staging a distraction so they could get away, but Doug is still there and reminds them he doesn’t work with fire. That only leaves one person: Trudy! In all of the commotion, she’s disappeared!

Just then she calls Doug and he puts it on speaker phone so Terry and Jake can hear too. It turns out she’d been scamming them all this whole time. She only ever went to one nursing class, she says, and it was boring. She’d actually spent her time running internet scams until she discovered her brother’s notebooks about how to boost cars, and she’s been having a great time doing that. Also, Dallas was never her scary fence — he’s her employee! Even though Jake and Terry had offered to reduce her sentence, a reduced sentence is still a sentence, and she wants to be free. Something tells me this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Trudy Judy.

Bullets on the Bulletin Board:

  • “No one likes hip-hop more than a 13-year-old boy.”
  • “1,000 push-ups? That’s a lot to you? Make it 100,000 and I’m in.”
  • “I never throw up. I just tell my stomach to deal with it. My body is terrified of me.”
  • “You guys, we don’t have time to figure out what suspenders are for.”
  • “Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all make poor choices when we’re younger. I was once in a flash mob.” “Ew.” 



“The Crime Scene”
Original Airdate: February 14, 2019

In this episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Rosa and Jake are at a mysterious crime scene. An investigative reporter who was doing a story about a poultry farm was murdered in his apartment, but the doors were locked from the inside and his security system was still on. Jake’s super excited to be investigating a “dope” case that’s full of intrigue. His excitement is dampened by the arrival of CSI Franco McCoy, whose arrogance rubs them the wrong way. Things go from bad to worse when the victim’s mom shows up and demands that they promise her they’ll find her son’s killer. Rosa refuses but Jake caves because he says she reminds him of his own mom. He then ends up promising a bunch of other friends and family members of the victim that he’ll find the killer. Rosa’s furious because Jake broke the number one rule of investigations, but Jake’s even more determined to make good on his promise.

Unfortunately, finding the killer means working with Franco McCoy, who is becoming more unbearable by the day. He lets them know the victim was stabbed 30 times. He also finds the delivery guy who brought food to the apartment the evening of the murder. They know from the security camera that the delivery guy was the only one who went near the apartment around the time of the murder, but he never went inside, so he definitely didn’t do it. When they talk to him, they realize that the person who answered the door and took the food must have been the murderer and the victim was already dead. Unfortunately, the delivery guy is always high and so he’s not much help. He keeps starting over with the sketch artist and the end result is that they’re looking for someone who resembles Bilbo Baggins, Winona Rider, or Seth Meyers.

By day four on the case, Major Crimes is gunning to take over, and Holt comes down to the crime scene to find out how Rosa and Jake are doing. Jake begs Holt for more time and admits he promised the victim’s mom he’d solve it. Holt tells him that’s a rookie mistake, but even so, he agrees to get them more time. By day 21, Jake has resorted to blaming Harry Potter. By day 36, Jake is seeing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the blood spatter, and by day 50 Jake is convinced the amount of tax charged on the delivered food is somehow connected. Recognizing Jake is in way too deep to be useful, Rosa agrees to give the case over to Major Crimes.

But Jake hasn’t given up yet. He recreates the crime scene in the precinct, using Boyle slathered in ketchup as the victim. Jake is spiraling out of control, and though the rest of the team tries to talk him down, he can’t let this go until he solves it.

Next, Amy wakes up covered in red Post-Its with Jake hovering over her. Naturally, she punches him in the face when he startles her from sleep, but things go from bad to worse when it turns out Franco McCoy is there too, and has agreed to help Jake. Amy yells at them to get out, so Jake moves to the bar and next recreates the scene with mozzarella sticks and olive stick people. Rosa shows up and convinces Jake that he needs to just come clean to the victim’s mother and admit that they’ve exhausted every lead, and he won’t be able to find the killer after all.

Rosa and Jake sit down with the mother, who takes the news well, albeit tearfully. She says she understands they did everything they could, and she mostly just feels guilty because she and her son had a big falling out shortly before he died and she never got the chance to make amends. This has a huge effect on Rosa, who hasn’t spoken to her own mom since coming out as bi, and next thing Jake knows, Rosa is promising to find the killer. Looks like they’re back on the case!

It’s day 55 and Major Crimes has already labeled it a cold case, but that’s not going to stop Rosa. They head back to the crime scene but the place has been scrubbed clean now that Major Crimes has released the case. But while they’re standing there trying to decide what to do next, Jake and Rosa hear a rattling noise. It’s coming from the AC vent! Despite having spent hours and hours in this room over the past couple of months, Franco had never let them turn on the AC for fear the air would disrupt the evidence. They take off the vent cover and discover a ton of water bottles and food wrappers inside. It looks like the murderer was hiding out in the vent until the body was discovered and then snuck out sometime after. Then, Rosa remembers that Jake counted 15 hazmat guys on the scene, even though Franco insisted he only had 14 team members. The murderer must have snuck out in a hazmat suit!

On day 56, the case is reopened thanks to Jake and Rosa. They review the video footage with Franco and spot someone in a hazmat suit who isn’t wearing the booties the real CSI people do. They find footage of the guy removing the suit outside the apartment building, and it turns out he’s a hitman who was hired by the owner of the poultry farm the victim was investigating. The owner was bribing the FDA and the victim was about to publish an expose about it, so the owner hired a hitman to take the reporter out.

Jake relays the news to the victim’s mother and promises (again) to make sure the poultry farm owner is brought to justice. Even though Rosa’s annoyed that Jake made another promise, she understands where he’s coming from. In fact, Rosa’s called her own mom and is doing lunch with her later that day.

Bullets on the Bulletin Board:

  • “You look like Edna from The Incredibles.” “My girlfriend’s in cosmetology school and she’s been trying a bunch of different hairstyles on me.” “Is she... passing?” 
  • “This guy ordered his dinner from House of Lettuce. There’s no way he knew he was gonna die. No one orders lettuce as their last meal.”
  • “Just so you know Franco, we’re not responding well to you as a person.”

The Flash 5x14 Review: "Cause and XS" (If At First You Don’t Succeed) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"Cause and XS"
Original Airdate: February 12, 2019 

Who’s ready for a Groundhog Day episode? And if you’re not ready, just wait a bit and maybe some seemingly inconsequential thing in your day will change, thereby making you ready the next loop.

This week, Nora’s playing with time (she learns nothing from the sins of her father) so she can save members of Team Flash from getting killed by Cicada. What would normally be just a typical time loop episode is uplifted by a ramping sense of desperation on Nora’s part — kudos to Jessica Parker Kennedy for being stellar at emotionally losing it, again — and a heavy emphasis on character moments for both Nora and, surprisingly, Cisco.

TRY, TRY (x52) AGAIN


The episode opens on Cisco in the arctic black ops site, cyber-stalking the bartender he met a couple weeks ago. Oh, and doing metahuman cure science stuff, too. Before he has a chance to breach home for his date with Kamilla and the announcement of the metahuman cure, he gets some news on his computer that stops him in his tracks. Turns out, the cure won’t synthesize for another month — so that’s a month of Cicada continuing to kill metas. After he breaks this news to the team, Sherloque gets the idea of sending the cure into the Speed Force to, er, speed things up. Cisco likens it to “nuking” the cure in a “pan-dimensional microwave,” and it’d take the month-long wait down to about an hour.

So, cool. That’s a plan. Barry volunteers himself for hanging out in the Speed Force for an hour (I sure hope the Speed Force isn’t still angry at him) but Nora isn’t happy to see him go. She’s worried about having to handle things on her own, and Barry reassures her that everything will be fine and anything he can do, she can do. Oh how right you are, Bartholomew! Nora’s a chip off the old block, at least where blatant disregard for the laws of time and physics is concerned.

Once Barry is tucked away into the Speed Force for an episode, Nora runs into Ralph in the hall on the way back to the lab. Ralph has plans to “help” Cisco with his upcoming date by using the Book of Ralph, the same “guide” he used to help Cisco get over Cynthia. Cisco wants nothing to do with Ralph’s misguided assistance and that sentiment is shared by the rest of the team, who all flee: Caitlin leaves to develop the delivery method of the metahuman cure (Sherloque tags along with her, confused), Iris goes to her office to write an article for her blog/paper, and Nora has no idea what’s going on so the help she can offer Cisco is limited to just telling him he’ll be late for his date. Ralph does manage to get inside Cisco’s head by mentioning the types of guys Kamilla usually dated, though, which makes Cisco show up to his date with a wildly different personality in order to impress her. It does not go over well.

I mention all these moments that I would normally gloss over in a review because they’re critical elements of the time loop — they’re the little things that change, or don’t change, depending on what iteration of the loop Nora instigates. Where everyone goes after that moment in the hallway where Nora runs into Ralph (the farthest she’s capable of going back, for reasons unexplained) is important to who ends up alive or dead by the end of the timeline. The loop also affects how Cisco dresses for his date, either making himself into a slick businessman, a fitness enthusiast, or a… hipster, I guess? And the dates with Kamilla are what eventually clue Cisco into the whole time loop fiasco, since he repeatedly gets a sense of déjà vu.

In the first loop, Caitlin/Killer Frost dies. Loop number two kills off Ralph. The third loop gets Cisco. The fourth loop goes beyond Team Flash’s main players and Cicada kills Cecile, who isn’t even a meta (as far as he knows) so I don’t get how he can justify that within his narrow serial killer justifications. Nora relives the same hour 52 times before finally being found out and confronted by Team Flash, although it’s not really clear how they figured it all out. Nora confesses that she keeps going back, but someone — sometimes multiple someones — always dies with Cicada’s dagger in their back.

This revelation is followed by a nice little scene between Cisco and Nora, and as-yet-unseen combination of characters that work surprisingly well together. I don’t recall if Nora ever mentioned Cisco being a part of her upbringing — did she only know about Team Flash through the museum in the future? If so, I wonder what happens to deteriorate the team’s relationship so completely. And I bring this all up because Cisco does a really good job playing the role of a wise “Uncle Cisco” character to Nora, sharing the self-doubts that led to his repeated failed attempts to be someone other than himself on his date. It’s basically a lesson on psyching yourself out, accepting yourself as you are, and so on. Nora learns she should lean on the rest of the team for the answers to her time loop problem, and they all devise a plan: if someone has to get stabbed by the dagger, why can’t it be Cicada himself?

Cicada ends up back on the roof, but Iris is there waiting for him. He throws his dagger and the rest of the team arrives, but Nora uses her time-warping speed to make sure the only person in the dagger’s path is Cicada. He gets stabbed in the glowy wound (I guess Iris’s epiphany at the end of last episode was the existence of that weak spot? Still not exactly groundbreaking, though) but doesn’t die. Let me just say: if this episode had actually ended with the rest of the team officially defeating Cicada while Barry was chilling in the Speed Force for an hour, “Cause and XS” would have earned an immediate place in my list of top five episodes of the series. That would have been absolutely genius.

Though wounded, Cicada does leap away in the end. Later, Iris basically says he’s disappeared, which is par for the course where Cicada injuries are concerned. The team encourages Cisco to go on his date as himself and, since Cisco is amazing, it goes over much better. Barry returns, having missed all the action, and lectures his daughter on playing with time travel. Kinda pointless, Barry — her existence is time travel! Just spending time with you guys means she’s messing up the timeline!

Of course, Barry doesn’t know that Nora is messing up the timeline even more than her mere existence implies. She zips forward to 2049 to confront Eobard Thawne about the mess she’s likely making of the timeline, but even though he yells at her like a crazy person, she still seems to be on his side.

Other Things:

  • So, that metahuman cure — is that tiny vial Barry took with him all the team has? Because that seems like a fine amount for Cicada, but literally no one else. Also, having extras of your solution serum? Probably a good idea, guys.
  • Nora learns that Eobard Thawne is responsible for the death of yet another person close to her (Cisco), albeit only in an alternate timeline. Seriously, Nora, what else do you need to realize that dude is bad news and you shouldn’t be partnered with him?
  • When The Flash comes back in March: KING SHARK VS. GORILLA GRODD!

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Flash 5x13 Review: "Goldfaced" (All That Glitters Is Not...) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"Goldfaced"
Original Airdate: February 5, 2019 

I wrote the outline of this review all of five minutes after watching the episode, and I’m seriously struggling to remember a huge chunk of what happened. Barry and Ralph went looking for a... thing? Barry wore a necklace and all black and acted like a tough supervillain. Um... Cisco wasn’t in the episode again, that was a bummer. Iris should really invest in a cross-body purse for when her investigative journalism career leads her to break into the houses of suspected serial killers. Nora is being manipulative on top of lying to everyone around her, all because she trusts Eobard Thawne for reasons yet to be clarified.

And that’s it. The rest of the episode is a hazy mess of confusion, which should make writing this review super fun!

SHINING, SHIMMERING, NOT-SO-SPLENDID


Okay, first off: the villain of the week is named Goldface. Gold. Face. There’s problem number one. Problem number two is they named the episode after that ludicrously named villain, a move I can only hope was done ironically. Yeah, yeah, I know Goldface is a pre-existing comic character, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find the guy’s name absolutely ridiculous. To its credit, the show does seem to lean into the silliness a bit — not with any explicit jokes or anything, but just by making the whole Goldface plotline as over-the-top as possible. It has undercover work! It has dramatic for-your-own-good betrayal! It has a mid-2000s sub-par action movie gunfight!

Goldface is an arms dealer and general black market... negotiator? Mayor? I don’t really know what one calls a person who hosts a black market, but whatever that title is, Goldface has it. Barry and Ralph have to go undercover to get a piece of tech that will help Caitlin in creating her metahuman cure, but it take a lot of finagling and a lot of lying to gain the trust of the criminals at the market. Barry adopts the moniker “The Chemist” and claims a bunch of high-profile crimes as his doing, while Ralph, well, Ralph was already in a shifty sort of business before joining up with Team Flash, so he’s just playing himself.

To add to the difficulty, everyone at the market gets cuffed with anti-meta cuffs. I don’t know how they got that technology since I’m pretty sure it was developed by Team Flash and only distributed to CCPD, but whatever. Hey, side note: if Team Flash could develop power-dampening cuffs and containment fields, why is finding a metahuman cure so difficult? Clearly, suppressing meta ability is not outside of their scope, so why is it such a struggle to adapt the same technology on an organic, vaccine-like level? Just wondering.

Before Barry and Ralph can even get near the tech Caitlin wants, Goldface orders them to help his people steal a 3D printer from a hospital. I don’t remember why this 3D printer at the hospital is so special they have to steal it, but either way, it must be stolen. Barry is full of guilt over stealing from a hospital helping sick kids, so Ralph self-sacrifices his morals by locking Barry up and going to steal it alone. Except he doesn’t, because he has also caught the guilt. An action scene breaks out, complete with industrial metal music. All it was missing was some strobe effects.

Nothing is stolen on this day! Barry and Ralph defeat Goldface and he melts but is somehow still alive, the hospital gets to keep their 3D printer (does it print body parts? I don’t feel like rewatching to find out, but let’s say it prints body parts), but Barry and Ralph have failed in their mission to steal that thing Caitlin needed.

Ah, well. Can’t win ‘em all, kids.

AND THE OTHER STORIES


The B-story that should have been the A-story because it was a thousand times more tense and exciting than Barry and Ralph pretending to be gangsters: Iris being an investigative journalist and straight-up breaking into Cicada’s house. Well, I don’t think she knew it was Cicada’s house when she broke into it; she was under the impression that it still belonged to one of Orlin’s relatives, but Orlin surprised her by, like, living in it.

I know it would never be possible, but I think I could’ve been happy with a full thriller-inspired episode of Iris trying to sneak around Cicada’s house and, like the actual episode, trying to interview him when she gets caught. Which, yeah. She gets caught. First, when Orlin catches her at the door and she pretends to be investigating lead poisoning the water supply in his neighborhood, and then for realsies when Orlin notices she left her purse in the hall and didn’t have one when she was at the door. Iris, you really gotta leave your accessories at home while investigating.

Iris, because she’s awesome, fights off Orlin and stabs him in his glowy Cicada-wound with what looks like a fancy pen? It’s genuinely difficult to tell. This encounter gives Iris an idea for defeating Cicada, but I really have no idea what her idea is. Using his blood, maybe?

And the C-story of the episode is Nora trying to distract Sherloque from investigating her. She gets help from Eobard Thawne, who uses the excuse of wearing a Harrison Wells face (still not explained, by the way) to tell her he knows how to get into Sherloque’s head. I mean, the whole point of the multiverse Wells characters is that they’re all different so that makes zero sense, but fine. Thawne tells Nora she has to make Sherloque fall in love.

Nora organizes a meet-cute with a woman Sherloque has already married in seven other universes. Sticking with the Sherlock Holmes theme, the woman’s last name is Adler (and I suppose my rant against romantic Holmes/Adler relationships would be too off topic for me to go into in a The Flash review, so we’ll just say this is a cute reference and move on). After some stumbles, Nora eventually succeeds in her goal. Sherloque is smitten and, after realizing that Renee Adler is a meta, pushes aside his Nora investigation to ensure she’s never targeted by Cicada.

Other Things:

  • Eobard Thawne straight-up calls love a weakness and that raises no red flags for Nora?
  • "Hey, anonymous criminal colleague." Ralph actually being funny is still weird to me.
  • "Goldface, huh? More like Fool's Gold." It’s sad how serious Barry was when he said that line.
  • Upcoming episode: “Next Tuesday, Next Tuesday, Next Tuesday” And by that I mean we’re going through a time loop!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Blindspot 4x12 Review: "The Tale of the Book of Secrets" (The Rock) [Contributor: Jen]


"The Tale of the Book of Secrets"
Original Airdate: February 8, 2019

It's time to cure Jane, and Blindspot sends their best to Peru to get the job done.

TEAM BLINDSPOT


Jane is the Case of the Week again, so I'm going straight to teamwork because it was on full display in "The Tale of the Book of Secrets." Seriously, Jane has been the Case of the Week for like four episodes. Who is ready to cure her?


I'm not quite sure how it happened, but Team Blindspot has split into thirds. Teams within teams:

  • Team #1: Kurt and Jane (of course)
  • Team #2: Patterson and Rich
  • Team #3: Reade and Zapata

And then we have Boston who is a floater and goes where he's needed. I've stated many times the addition of Rich Dotcom to the team and promotion of Ennis Esmer to series regular is the smartest decision Martin Gero has made. Second only to marrying Kurt and Jane in season three, of course.

Esmer has chemistry with everyone, just like Ashley Johnson, but there's something special when the two share scenes together. So nearly an entire hour of a Patterson Dotcom team-up is the stuff dreams are made of.

What I particularly admire about Rich's addition is the writers are able to utilize his skills without usurping Patterson's. Female characters who are strong STEM examples are a rarity in television. Blindspot doesn't dumb Patterson down or have her act out-of-character just so Rich has something to do, unlike other television shows who have introduced technologically-talented male counterparts to partner with their established and beloved technologically-talented female character. *cough*Arrow*cough*

Patterson is clearly in charge and runs the lab, while Rich is her right-hand wing man. The two bring out the best in each other, and their abilities are blended into an unstoppable and hilarious duo. They are master puzzle solvers and if Kurt Weller is going to put his wife's life in anyone's hands, then Patterson and Rich are his best bet.

As I said, there would be impossible to find stem cells that Team Blindspot would find in the nick of time. Ken Lee, a billionaire hypochondriac, has his very own stash should he ever need it. Who needs their own private stash of stem cells? I can think of so many better uses for a billion dollars like... a big house with a pool. Yeah, okay, I'm not saying I would be the most creative billionaire, but I still think Jesus should give me the chance to prove myself.

Ken isn't giving up his stem cells to some rando in the FBI. Fair. Also, mean. Patterson offers Rich's white wale  the "Book of Secrets" — as a trade for the stem cells. The problem is Rich and Patterson don't have the Book of Secrets. A small snag in an otherwise brilliant plan.

I am not going to review every puzzle Rich and Patterson have to solve because there's a dozen of them. These are Roman hoops only Rich and Patterson can jump through. I get tired even thinking about it. Honestly, you'd think Roman would make it slightly easier to save his sister. He was very busy planning world domination. How did he plan all these freaking puzzles?

Anyway, Patterson and Rich's first solve leads them to the country where the Book of Secrets supposedly resides  Peru. In Rich's defense he did always say it was in one of the Americas. We go from cherimoya seeds, to the Cusco Cathedral, to a bed and breakfast with a snake on the wall, then a hidey hole near the Cristo del Pacifico, and probably a dozen other steps I've missed. But it all ends with Rich and his trowel digging up the Book of Secrets while Patterson keeps watch.

One of the best moments is when Rich and Patterson need Jane's help. Yup, deathbed Jane is still sleuthing with her hot husband. I STAN A CRIME SOLVING KING AND QUEEN. There's a file on Roman's final cache that Patterson could never open because she couldn't break the password. The clue is an image of what looks like an antelope in front a shield, but Jane realizes it's really a springbok — a gazelle found in South Africa and the shield is really a the South African seal. Jane is blind, she is struggling to breathe, and her brain will eventually be mush from seizures but she knows that image anywhere. It's Roman and Remi's coin. The password is, "I got you something," and y'all, I was verklempt.

Ken Lee tries to double cross them, but Kurt alerts Reade who calls in the Peruvian police, which gives Patterson another chance to barter with Lee. The Book of Secrets is pretty much worthless from a medical perspective, but an important piece of Peru's history. Patterson being Patterson doesn't want to give it to a jerk billionaire who tried to kill them. Instead, they negotiate his release and in return, Lee gives Patterson and Rich the stem cells Jane so desperately requires.

RICH AND PATTERSON FOR THE WIN! Honestly, seeing the tears in Rich and Patterson's eyes as a healthy Jane thanks them for saving her life was the cherry on top of an already great team up. I could watch a show just of Rich and Patterson hitting the road and solving crime around the world. SPIN-OFF IDEA!

Zapata and Reade bring Boston, our designated floater, off the bench and ask him to go undercover with Tasha by pretending to be the hacker Del Toro. They offer to expunge his record and Boston immediately signs on, despite danger not really being his thing. It's kind of funny how they've made such a massive deal about this Del Toro guy and his abilities because they are seemingly easy to replicate. I buy that Patterson, Rich, and Boston are all super hackers in various forms, but could the Blindspot writers stop acting like Del Toro is unique?

Moving on... the real test for Boston is fooling Madeleine. Zapata has control issues, which is understandable given they could all die if this goes wrong. But the magic of people like Rich and Boston is they are well... magic. You gotta let them do their thing. Boston throws a pitch perfect hissy fit when Madeleine discovers his identity and questions if he's really Del Toro.

Madeleine says: "You are either brave or very stupid," and Zapata replies, "Why can't he be both?"

HA! Loved it. But also didn't Zapata figure Madeleine would discover who Boston is? I feel like Tasha should have been more prepared rather than worrying about Boston's preparation. Unfortunately, they aren't given anytime to loop back to Reade; Madeleine demands their phones and instructs Boston to hack and crash the plane today.

This feels like a safe place. I don't remember why Madeleine is crashing the plane anymore. And I don't care.

KURT AND JANE


Here's the upside of Blindspot killing Jane: They are not killing Jane, but we still get all the sappy, super emotional, deathbed love declarations shippers go nuts for without having to deal with the very unpleasant consequence of the writers killing our fave.

Kurt "I've Never Refused An Assignment" Weller sends Rich and Patterson to Peru. ALONE. It's amazing. The absolute last thing I want to see is Kurt Weller running around the Americas while Jane tries to remember how to breathe. Yeah, sure, he'd be out searching for the cure but that's what his entire team of FBI agents are for. Kurt belongs by Jane's side and the glorious miracle of his character is he knows that.

Jane calls him on the decision. She believes Kurt is only staying put because he believes Jane is going to die. Kurt has been unwavering in his belief that Jane will be all right. It's clear he watches Blindspot regularly. But if Kurt thinks Jane is dying, then it must mean she really is and that's terrifying for her.

Kurt winces when Jane says "die" because even giving the word causes him physical pain. We know Kurt is afraid. He broke down with Patterson last week and the guy is just trying to keep it together for Jane. Both Sullivan Stapleton and Jaimie Alexander give tour de force performances. But Kurt can't really admit it yet to Jane because he doesn't want to scare her more than she already is. So he offers the simplest and most honest explanation: "I want to be here because I'm your husband first and an agent second."

Nothing quite prioritizes your life like death does. It's an unpleasant way to go about it. I'd advise you simply head my and Kurt Weller's advice — put your marriage first. Your spouse should always be number one. Both Kurt and Jane have put up very strong fronts; they are soldiers. Warriors. Strong to the Wellers is not breaking. You face adversity with an iron will and stone face. And sure, when you are stopping bombs from going off in New York City, that's a really good resolve to have. But Jane's Zip poisoning isn't that; it is something different.

One of the great joys of marriage is not having to be on top of everything. You can fall down and know someone will be there to catch you. Life can be overwhelming — particularly when faced with your own mortality. I speak from experience.

Sometimes the only thing left to do is to succumb to the fear. Jane has been trying very hard to fight through her symptoms and act like everything is okay, but the truth is her body is failing her. The lack of control over your own body is deeply frightening. It's like being on a sinking ship and you are without a life raft. The boat is going down and you are going with it. All your choices are taken away. You must accept your powerlessness.

Jane admits she is scared.

Jane Doe finally cracks and when she does she lets Kurt all the way in. You find a deeper love with your spouse inside those cracks. Jane has felt fear before as Remi and Alice. Her life has been in danger. She's nearly died. Her parents were murdered. She lost her child. Jane's life has been marked deeply by suffering. Yet, the one thing missing from all of those events in her life was someone she could rely on. Jane never had anyone she could be scared with. Not even Roman. She was the big sister. It was her job to protect him, and not the other way around.

Jane has found her rock in Kurt. Her waves of fear, grief and anger can crash upon him and he won't break. He will be there, wave after wave, holding on and never letting go. I always think of that wonderful line from Glee in moments like this, when Rachel says, "This is what a man looks like. This is how a man loves."

Kurt affirms: "I know. I am too." Jane voicing her fear also gives Kurt permission too as well. Breaking means running away, hiding, or refusing to be there for someone. Kurt Weller is none of those things. Admitting fear is not breaking. Being willing to enter that space with your spouse, admit your fears together, and live in that moment is the strongest thing you can do as a couple. Fear is incredibly lonely and knowing the person you love most not only shares your fears, but is willing to face them with you, is a powerful antidote to the loneliness.

The beauty of letting go, allowing the fear to rush in, is that there's a peace that comes with it— clarity. You know, without a doubt, what truly matters in life. You seize it without hesitation, holding on for as long as you can.
Jane: "I love you. You know that, right?"
Kurt: "Don't say it like that."
Jane: "Like what?"
Kurt: "Like it's the last time."
Jane: "I love you and I always will."
Kurt: "I love you too."
If I thought for even a microsecond that Blindspot was really killing Jane, I would have been hysterical. But I don't so I kept my emotions to a low sob. Also, Kurt said, "Sweet dreams, baby," and I thought I would die. HE CALLED HER BABY. WHAT IS LIFE? We've milked this storyline for all it's worth. I am checking deathbed love declaration off my shipper list. Now it's time to cure Jane once and for all, which Rich and Patterson graciously do just in time — as predicted.

Jane says, "Apparently this hospital doesn't believe in a recovery period and they've got me doing laps in the hall already." This is the most real thing Jane doe has ever said. Listen, I've been in the hospitals a lot in my life and they constantly want you walking when all you want to do is sleep. It sucks. I feel Jane on a spiritual level.

The real joy of "The Tale of the Book of Secrets" other than the shipper goodness is that you no longer have to fear the writers will kill Jane or Kurt at the end of the series. There's no more emotion to mine from that plot. YOU SURVIVED, BLINDSPOTTERS! Now it's time to make some babies.

Have at it, kids.

Stray Thoughts:

  • When Rich pointed to the humongous Jesus, I thought, "Wait a second. That's Jesus?" I had no idea who that statue was and I AM CATHOLIC. Yeah, sometimes I'm unworldly and dumb.
  • Roman Briggs for Remi Briggs made me super emotional.
  • "Every time we do the thing of finishing each other's sentences, I get a little turned on." "You are completely alone in that." Rich and Patterson have about of 5% chance of happening as a romantic couple, but the writers are leaving their options mildly open with lines like this.
  • "Suck on that, NASA." I'm still laughing over this Rich Dotcom line.
  • "Would I lie to you?" YES YOU WOULD, KURT, but at least there's been character growth in that area.
  • "... that sexy crooked smile." Let's do a thing where Jane and Kurt talk about one another's best physical characteristics for 45 minutes. Annnnnd GO!
  • The final file to Roman's cache was called "Full Circle." If this show gets renewed for another season, I will fall off my chair.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Grey’s Anatomy 15x12 Review: “Girlfriend in a Coma” (Recovery) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Girlfriend in a Coma”
Original Airdate: February 7, 2019

This week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy showcases the doctors’ relationships through a passage of time. Using a patient’s care and treatment as a lens for bringing the show into present time works well for the most part. The patient’s recovery is just as important as the main characters’ as they recover from their own various issues.


PASSING THE TIME


The patient of the episode is Natasha, the woman who fell off a balcony on her wedding day from a few episodes ago. The episode covers a few months — from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day — to show Natasha’s progress and decline. She is in a coma for the first month or so after Meredith, Jo, Link, Nico, and DeLuca operated on her. After she wakes up, she is in pretty good shape and continues to improve for a bit. By the end of January, Natasha’s condition takes a turn for the worse, and the surgeons have to remove a part of her bowel that died and put her back on the ventilator.

By her side the whole time is her loyal fiancé, who is unsure of how to keep on living if Natasha doesn’t make it. Natasha continues to go downhill, making recovery seem impossible. On Valentine’s Day, Natasha and her fiancé decide to take her off the ventilator and let her pass away peacefully. They both know that they have fought as hard as they could and that Natasha has been given the best possible care. Her injuries were too severe, and they are happy for the time that they have had.

After taking the patient off the ventilator, Alex has an idea to make Natasha’s dream come true: all of the main and recurring doctors gather in Natasha’s room for an impromptu wedding. They all hold up their phones and tablets with pictures of the stars to give Natasha the wedding under the stars she had dreamed of. The happiness of the wedding doesn’t last long, as Natasha takes her last breaths mere moments after the ceremony ends. Natasha’s story is very moving and mirrors the ups and downs that many of the other doctors face in this episode.

TWO FAMILIES


The passage of time also lets us finally see a very pregnant Teddy! Owen and Teddy’s relationship continues to be strained and awkward, whether it’s a holiday or a regular neonatal exam. They clearly haven’t figured out their new dynamic yet, even though Owen promises that they will make their own traditions with their baby. Owen tries a few times to reach Teddy in this episode, but she shuts him down. At least they are happy when they find out that they are having a baby girl! Tom Koracick is still romancing Teddy over the few month span of the episode too. I like whatever is happening between the two of them, and their characters could be good for each other. Tom clearly cares about Teddy, since he takes her to a spa for manicures and pedicures for Valentine’s Day.

Owen’s struggles continue as he tries to balance his emerging family life with Teddy and his current dysfunctional family. Amelia and Owen seem to be going strong and are a united front when it comes to Betty and Leo. Betty has been in rehab for several months and drops some big bombshells on Amelia and Owen during a visit: she tells them that she is starting to go through the twelve steps of recovery and has gotten to the step where she tells the truth and apologizes for her wrongdoings. Well, she has a lot to apologize for because it turns out her name is not Betty (it’s actually Brittany), her parents have no idea that she was pregnant and has a son, and she ran away from home when she got pregnant so she didn’t have to face her parents. Oh, and she really misses drugs.

Owen and Amelia are shocked to hear Betty’s, uh... Brittany’s, truths. It seems that this family is living a soap opera. Brittany is reluctant to the idea of reaching out to her parents and telling them where she has been and what she has been going through over the past year and a half or so, which Owen and Amelia aren’t happy with. Owen struggles with the truth about Brittany because he wants to do the right thing and contact her parents, but he doesn’t want them to potentially take Leo away from him. Good news: Brittany’s parents are coming to town in the next episode, so Owen won’t have to agonize about it for too long.

PUTTING THE PIECES BACK TOGETHER


The episode also features our first look at Catherine’s long road to recovery. Now at home and taking it easy, Catherine is having a difficult time adjusting to being a patient. She refuses to accept help from anyone, much to Richard’s annoyance. Catherine’s recovery is especially tough for Jackson, as he is unsure of how to react and what to do. Thankfully, Maggie becomes his rock by explaining that she knows exactly what he is going through. It’s nice to see Maggie put Jackson before herself and help him get through hard times. Catherine has a few ups and downs throughout the few months post-surgery, but by the end of the episode, she has taken physical, emotional, and mental turns for the better.

Bailey is also trying to put her life back together, and is in a healthier place. She spends the three months pleading Ben to come back home and be with her, but Ben isn’t quite as eager as his wife. Ben tells Bailey that she broke his heart and just because she is ready to get back together, it doesn’t mean that he is. Bailey fails at explaining to Ben why she was struggling and wanted a break in the first place, and finally admits to him that she is seeking help for her anxiety. After a while, Ben has a change of heart and shows up on Valentine’s Day to build Bailey the treehouse that he promised her after her heart attack. Bailey is very moved by the gesture and agrees that their relationship is forever. It’s nice that Bailey and Ben have finally let bygones be bygones and get back together.

LOVE TRIANGLE?


The final story of the episode is a giant game of cat and mouse being played by Meredith, Link, and DeLuca. Meredith has been teasing Link and DeLuca for far too long, and both men have pretty much had enough of her games. Surprisingly, Meredith acts like a little kid and constantly blows off the men after making plans with them. DeLuca constantly calls her out on her rude actions, and his bitterness and desperation make Meredith sink even lower. On Valentine’s Day, Meredith asks Link to dinner in front of DeLuca. After Natasha dies, DeLuca pulls Meredith up to the roof for a surprise dinner, which she wants to leave so she doesn’t stand up Link. DeLuca convinces her to stay, and the two finally have their long-awaited first kiss.

Link is pretty mad that he got stood up by Meredith and appears to be over her for now. Grey’s Anatomy seems to be wasting two opportunities here. They have been teasing a love triangle for months, and this episode doesn’t pay off. Granted, Meredith rarely makes up her mind quickly, so I’m sure we will see more of the love triangle. There is also a new episode of the show airing on Valentine’s Day next week, so it’s odd that they wasted the chance at having a real holiday episode.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

What Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is Doing Right During Its Swan Song [Contributor: Jenn]


It’s been a busy few months for me, which means that I’ve slacked a bit on the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reviews. Apologies, readers! I thought I’d talk about the past few episodes though in this post, because it summarizes my feelings about the show’s final season better than a single review could. A lot has happened this year already in West Covina, and the fact that I’m not sure where the series is going to land in its finale actually makes me rather excited at this point. We’ve watched Rebecca grow and then backslide (in an incredibly realistic way), and we’ve gotten the chance to see other characters’ personal and professional journeys unfold. We’ve left some reunions up in the air, and we’ve seen certain characters gain closure. There have been insanely fun musical numbers and an entire episode dedicated to romantic comedies.

So let’s dive into what’s really working this season on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, shall we?

LET’S START AT THE END


Instead of starting with earlier episodes, I want to begin with what I feel was the strongest story Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has done recently — realistic backsliding in terms of mental illness. As we know from last season, Rebecca was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (or BPD, as I’ll refer to it throughout). After her diagnosis — which came on the heels of her suicide attempt — Dr. Shin, a licensed psychiatrist, recommended group therapy and medication to cope with her disorder. Rebecca, having been on medication for a lot of her life, is resistant to the recommendation of pills. It’s understandable, honestly. I know family members who refuse to be put on medication for their mental illness because they watched a loved one suffer under different medication. She doesn’t believe they will help her and honestly? She’s afraid of what she’ll turn into if she’s on them.

So Rebecca refuses the medication, but faithfully attends group therapy and continues her one-on-one sessions with Dr. Akopian. For a while. But things start to go awry in the most recent episode, “I Need a Break.” What we haven’t seen recently this season is more important than what we have, it turns out. We haven’t seen Rebecca in therapy. We haven’t seen her reading or journaling or processing her BPD. What we have seen is her relationship with Greg rekindle.

And the moment something begins to go wrong, Rebecca spirals. It’s easy to distract ourselves from our personal baggage when we’re in relationships. In fact, it’s why a lot of people use dating as a coping mechanism. It’s why people rebound after a serious relationship fails — if they’re focused on someone else, they don’t have to look inward at the mess that is eating away at them. They don’t have to fix what’s broken. They can convince themselves that they’re fine, really. Happy. Better.

When Rebecca is happy, she can throw all of her emotions and energy into whatever is seemingly sustaining her. When it’s a relationship though, it’s dangerous. Rebecca does what many of us do: assume relationships and happiness and love with fix all that’s broken within us. While she is happy, she feels better. And therefore, she doesn’t feel the need for therapy.

But that’s not true healing: it’s distraction. And it can only last for so long before we slip down and hit the darkness again.


Dr. Akopian warns Rebecca of this when she visits her. Rebecca is exasperated at her therapist’s response — why can’t Dr. Akopian just be happy for her and her relationship with Greg? Why does she even need group therapy anymore? She’s fine! Rebecca says that she’s fine. She’s happier than she’s ever been, and she’s got her BPD under control.

What Rebecca doesn’t realize (or does, but fails to acknowledge) is that we can only keep our baggage and darkness at bay for so long when we don’t really deal with it. When we avoid our pain, eventually, it resurfaces. And when it does, it does so at such a rate that we can’t shove it back down quick enough before it begins to hurt us and others. We spiral. We sink. We try every coping mechanism we know is harmful for us. But we don’t care. We need to do anything and everything to keep ourselves from feeling shame, sadness, disappointment, or discomfort.

So when Greg and Rebecca get into a fight because she’s not truly dealing with her stuff, Greg walks away to give his girlfriend some space. He’s worried about her, too, it turns out. He’s a recovering alcoholic and he knows that even when you’re happy, you need to go to meetings. It’s often when we’re seemingly the happiest (the times where it’s easier to ignore our issues) that the pains of our past bubble up again. Instead of taking the time to self-reflect and pause, Rebecca crashes and burns pretty hard. She binge-drinks. She tries to hook up with Nathaniel (who turns her away) and Josh (who also turns her away). Both men are concerned for her safety and well-being, but Rebecca can’t see the forest for the trees. She ends up ashamed, alone, and sleeping on a bench outside of Dr. Shin’s office.

And Dr. Shin recommends medication. Rebecca is still resistant, citing that her previous medicines made her feel like a zombie. She doesn’t want to live that way because the last time she was on medicine, she nearly died. But Dr. Shin assures Rebecca that he and Dr. Akopian have worked together and they both have determined medication that will be helpful for her.

At the end of “I Need a Break,” Rebecca takes one of her pills. It’s a brand-new era for her, and I’m interested to see how the rest of this story plays out. One thing I will say that’s consistently been encouraging in this show’s final season is Rebecca’s willingness to own her mistakes. If we don’t acknowledge what’s broken within us, we can’t grow. True vulnerability requires honesty — not just with ourselves, but with others. Rebecca’s been honest with herself (for the most part, this episode aside) about what’s right and wrong. She’s admitted her misdeeds and she’s made amends. She’s used her internal growth to further external healing.

That’s incredibly encouraging, isn’t it? If we can acknowledge where we’ve fallen short and admit it to ourselves and others, we invite healing. When we keep our baggage buried, constantly shoveling more dirt into the graves of our past mistakes, it doesn’t get resolved; it just seeps into every part of our lives. Rebecca’s willingness to even own what she did at the end of this episode is huge progress. She doesn’t know if Greg will forgive her, but that’s a moot point anyway. She knows she needs to be honest or else she’ll just keep getting sicker.

And speaking of people getting sicker...

POOR PAULA


Paula hasn’t had a huge storyline this season, and I lamented the fact that she was fairly underutilized last season too. But what we do get the chance to see (through flashbacks in the opening sequence of “I Need a Break”) is that Paula has been doing a LOT in the last few years. Not only has she carried her own family’s baggage, but she’s carried the firm in Rebecca and Nathaniel and Darryl’s absences, and she’s carried herself through law school and she’s carried her friends through crises. It’s exhausting. She hasn’t slowed down and it’s beginning to affect her physically.

We don’t know what’s causing Paula’s illness in the most recent episode until close to the end — she’s having a heart attack. First off, kudos to the show for portraying symptoms of female heart attacks. They’re a lot different than the symptoms men endure. Second, poor Paula. She’s been living at a breakneck pace for so long that it was bound to catch up with her. In a series where the running joke is that no one really does any work, Paula has been keeping the firm and her family afloat. Admittedly, some of her storylines have been weaker in the last season than others, but this year finally seemed to be looking up! She celebrated her law school graduation with friends (in an episode where we got to see Josh and Nathaniel compete and understand why Valencia and Hector are rivals), and Rebecca’s finally at a place where she seems stable enough that Paula doesn’t have to constantly give advice (I said “seems,” of course).

Moving forward, we don’t know what this will mean for Paula’s career or her relationships, but we do know one thing — she has really good friends who have, unfortunately, taken her for granted somewhere along the way. I know I have. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of her story shapes up.

LIFE IS NOT A ROMANTIC COMEDY, BUT IT COULD BE


Falling into the “character growth” column of the checklist this season are the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend leading men: Greg, Josh, and Nathaniel.

Greg returned (played expertly now by Skylar Astin who adopted some mannerisms of Santino Fontana and his classic sarcasm), a better and healthier individual. Truly, even though he’s still a guy who hates nearly everything, he’s grown. He’s acknowledged his shortcomings and is actively trying to be better. He continues to attend meetings and he’s stayed sober. He hasn’t punched any walls, and he was self-aware enough to recognize that Rebecca was spiraling before she did. He’s grown a lot and that’s what “I Can Work With You” focused on for both Greg and Rebecca — Rebecca acknowledged that they’re different people than they were. Greg came over to tell Rebecca how he felt about her while she was babysitting Hebecca, and that showed growth. Moreover, he was able to practice forgiveness instead of anger — even when Rebecca deserved condemnation. I really love the fact that Greg is the same person with the same quirks, but evolved. That’s how we all should strive to be.

Even Josh has become a better version of himself! He moved out of Hector’s mom’s house and in with Rebecca. In spite of some initial awkwardness on Rebecca’s part (because she’s attracted to nice guys now), the two managed to make their roommate-ship work. And Josh has grown up a bit, choosing to be a thoughtful roommate who just tries to help. I’d compare him to a well-meaning Jason Mendoza (The Good Place) at this point — a dude who tries to help, even if it goes horribly awry in the eyes of others. He even rebuffs Rebecca’s advances, knowing that she’s not in a good place and they’re not a good idea. He went to the grocery store to buy her embarrassing healthcare items in “I Need Some Balance” (an episode where the commitment to symbolism was mad impressive, if highly underwhelming plot-wise). Josh is a nice guy.

And now Nathaniel is a nice guy too.

He’s come a long way from the self-centered, smarmy dude who Rebecca dated to make Josh jealous. He’s thoughtful and trying his hardest to unlearn patterns of behavior. But he genuinely cares about Rebecca’s growth — something I thought was important growth from last season’s finale, where he seemed to not care about what she did or who she was, just that they were together. Rebuffing her advances the week after he resolved to let her go was a good indicator of how he’s growing.

And speaking of the rom-com episode, “I’m Almost Over You” was so good. It was easily the most seamless homage-style episode I’ve seen in a while (R.I.P. to the kings of homage episodes: Psych and Community). Since Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in itself is a romantic comedy, having a rom-com within a rom-com wasn’t just great for the meta jokes (Why IS there always a karaoke scene with cameras spinning? Why is there no logic in makeover montages? Why is there always a vague BIG PRESENTATION?), but also for the point it needed to make: Nathaniel had to let Rebecca go.

Most of “I’m Almost Over You” is spent with Nathaniel dreaming himself to be the lead in a rom-com, where Greg and Rebecca are still together and he’s trying to win her back. To do so, he recruits Maya (who’s made a return) to fake a relationship with him because she’s trying to make another girl jealous. The result is every classic rom-com trope in the book, and it’s beautiful in its twist — rom-com Nathaniel ends up predictably falling for rom-com Maya but within the dream, Maya changes into Rebecca, who gently pleads with Nathaniel to let her go and let her be happy.

One person who doesn’t get enough credit on this show is Scott Michael Foster. I’ve adored him since he was the slacker, lovable Cappy in Greek and he’s brought such a wonderful layer of tension, comedy, and fun to this role. He hasn’t always been a part of the series and sometimes I forget that because he fits so well into the show’s structure. In the rare moments we get to see Nathaniel’s vulnerabilities, it’s a treat to watch Foster’s acting. But the end of “I’m Almost Over You” was even more poignant, as Nathaniel — in tears — doesn’t want to let Rebecca go but knows he must.

How many of us have been in the same place at one point in our lives or another? When Nathaniel wakes up from his dream, it seems to be the catharsis he needed to truly move forward.

WHERE WE GO FROM HERE


We only have a few episodes left of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a show that brought hilarity, songs, and incredible storytelling to our screens over the past few years. There’s still a bit of story left to tell and threads left dangling. What about Valencia, Heather, White Josh, Darryl, and Hector? How will their stories conclude? Plus, now that Rebecca is on medication, how will it impact her and her relationships? Will the series end with Rebecca single or in a relationship? What about Paula’s future, and the future of the firm?

Because Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna are brilliant, I know that they have something silly, heartwarming, and poignant up their sleeves for the final season. And, much like going down a slide at Raging Waters backwards, I can’t wait to enjoy the rest of the ride.