10 Shows and Movies That Have Brightened Up Quarantine Life

As we navigate a global pandemic, here are 10 shows and movies that might bring some much-needed joy into the mundane.

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.

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Jeff/Annie Moments

In 2013, Jenn put together a list of the 15 best Jeff/Annie moments. Revisit and discover those memories!

Monday, April 19, 2021

Julie and the Phantoms 1x07 Review: “Edge of Great” (Falling Slowly) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Edge of Great”
Original Airdate: September 10, 2020

One of my favorite rom-com tropes is when a couple doesn’t realize they’re in love with each other and have it pointed out to them by their friends. Julie and the Phantoms has slowly built the chemistry and feelings between Luke and Julie and “Edge of Great” is where we get the most blatant discussion of feelings on both of the characters’ ends. While Luke is gushing about Julie and trying to deny his feelings (a classic trope), Julie is daydreaming about him during dance rehearsal. But that’s not all that happens, so let’s break down the episode!

CHEMISTRY: HE HAS IT WITH EVERYONE

For the record, I fully do believe that Charlie Gillespie has chemistry with everyone he shares scenes with. The hilarious little moment with Reggie and Luke proves that. He’s like a younger, male Alison Brie in that regard. But I really love “Edge of Great” because it sets the stage for a deeper, more emotional Luke/Julie storyline we’ll see in the next episode, “Unsaid Emily.” Still, Luke denies his feelings for a reason: their relationship is far too complicated for even him to figure out. Julie and Flynn have an almost identical conversation when Julie confesses that even though Nick likes her, she’s a bit smitten with Luke.

Flynn is honest. A lot of times our best friends tell us the things we want to hear. And it would’ve been easy for Flynn to root Julie on and tell her to pursue Luke. But the truth is deeper than that. Both Flynn and Luke assert something about Julie in this episode: she’s suffered a lot of loss. Luke doesn’t want to tell Julie about the group getting zapped (possibly out of “existence”) because he doesn’t want her to have to mourn anymore loss. And Flynn doesn’t encourage Julie to pursue Luke for the same reason; she knows that her best friend has suffered so much pain already and that going after any sort of relationship with Luke is doomed to end in heartbreak one way or another. 

What I love though about the Luke/Julie story on Julie and the Phantoms is that while other characters assert the idea that relationships, no matter if they’re complex or not, involve pain the show also reminds us that we should pursue pain-free love. The truth is that we aren’t guaranteed a heartbreak-free life. The show admits that a Luke/Julie romance is complicated while also not undercutting the depth of the two characters’ feelings for each other in the process. It’s like it’s giving us permission to feel, and for a show aimed at a younger audience I think that’s an important message. We should allow ourselves the chance to deeply and truly feel love and loss. No, it might not be the smartest decision to pursue love with a ghost but it also doesn’t make Julie less of a person for having those romantic feelings. The show points out that Luke’s feelings for Julie and hers for him are valid and real. They’ve created a deep relationship rooted in their songwriting and connection to both music and grief. That’s significant, and while Nick is the more practical choice for Julie in this show, she recognizes that pursuing him would be unfair to both of them in the end since, practical or not, her heart is not in it. 

I love that we’re going to see how Julie unwaveringly supports Luke in the next episode and Charlie Gillespie will do some MVP acting during “Unsaid Emily” not only in terms of the depth of emotion, but also in the sheer awe he has over Julie as a person who helped him get closure with his parents. And I love the Luke/Julie relationship because it’s built on trust, support, and respect. It’s so important for everyone to remember that heart eyes and flirting and physical attraction are fun and all, but when a relationship has as many practical hurdles as Luke and Julie’s does, the foundation needs to be something solid. And it is. These two characters would do anything for each other; Luke will give up control and leadership of a band. Julie will give up what is most comfortable and practical. They will be there for each other and when they are not, they will always find their way back to each other. What a lovely and deep relationship, right?

(For the record, Madison Reyes is really lovely in this episode as she navigates a girl torn between two worlds, while also allowing herself the freedom to feel in “Perfect Harmony.” The joy expressed in that song is so lovely, even if it’s only existing in her own mind. You can sense her weightlessness and happiness when she’s with Luke. Ugh, I love it.)

A WRINKLE IN THE PLAN

The biggest plot-related thing to take from “Edge of Great” is that Willie tells Luke, Alex, and Reggie about the stamp Caleb put on them. If they don’t submit to him and join his ghost band, they’re eventually going to just cease to exist. The zaps will get more and more powerful and will eventually blip them out of existence. But there’s good news, even if Willie has to deliver it somberly: If the boys can figure out what their unfinished business is, they can cross over.

Of course there’s a hitch in either plan: Julie. The boys are bound to leave her, whichever option they choose. Either they’ll be stuck with Caleb for eternity or will be whisked away to the afterlife. So instead of telling Julie this conundrum, the boys decide they’ll figure out their unfinished business themselves. And their first guess? Playing at the Orpheum. So that’s what we’re building toward: a grand performance that’ll help the boys cross over.

Or so they think.

Hitting the right notes:

  • This episode has it all, everyone: “Edge of Great” (which is wonderful and has an epic guitar solo that was improvised by Charlie Gillespie) and “Perfect Harmony” (which is the perfect successor to “Can I Have This Dance?”).
  • I like Luke’s “Perfect Harmony” hair. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am not ashamed of it.
  • “You can make all the music you want with Luke, but he’ll always be a phantom.”
  • “The key is to avoid those big, beautiful... dead eyes.”
  • The chemistry scene is one of the greatest things I’ll ever witness.
  • “Girls, am I right?” “Yeah.” “No.” Will I ever be over the fact that this was improvised? Nope.
  • Do we all adore how Luke is so sad when he’s ignored, like a forgotten puppy? I sure do. But I really love how Reggie and Julie got some jam time together during the song!
  • Booboo Stewart does some lovely acting work when he tells Alex he cares about him and apologizes for bringing them to the club.

Honestly, “Edge of Great” may be my favorite episode of Julie and the Phantoms. What about you all? Sound off in the comments below and grab tissues for my next episode review: “Unsaid Emily”!

Grey’s Anatomy 17x12 Recap: “Sign O’ the Times” (History in the Making) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Sign O’ the Times”
Original Airdate: April 15, 2021

Grey’s Anatomy has done a great job of bringing the real world to scripted television this season, and they have proven that going big and bold with hot button topics is the way to go. That statement rings true in the latest episode of the show, which beautifully incorporates two massively important parts of the last year. The on-going conversations of race and anger take center stage in this powerful episode. 

THE GOOD FIGHT

The hour opens with Jackson on a morning run through the streets of downtown Seattle the day after George Floyd’s death. He is taken aback when he sees a group of protestors on a street corner and briefly pauses his run to observe before continuing his routine. We then get a quick flash of Hayes and his kids in the backyard of their house making signs to go join in the local protests before the scene goes to the sister house. Maggie is staying at the house while Winston takes a quick trip to Boston to tie up his loose ends and move his belongings to Seattle. She is very worried about her fiancé traveling after what happened in Minneapolis the previous day. They have also gotten a message from Richard to the entire staff of the hospital stating that anyone can take time off and protest if they need or want to, but that doesn’t help Maggie’s state of mind.

Over at the hospital, Bailey gives Richard an update on cancelling all elective surgeries in preparation for any emergencies that come in related to the protests. Richard is happy with Bailey’s decision and prep work and asks how she is feeling about everything. Bailey wants to stay in the hospital and distract herself by doing something that she is good at (i.e. saving lives) and is surprised when Richard tells her that he is going to join the protestors. He explains that he doesn’t want to miss the moment, which his protégé understands. Richard also has one of the most poignant lines of the episode when he says, “These moments save lives too,” before heading out the door.

Next, Jackson and Catherine are walking into work together, and Catherine is grateful her son has shown up. He assures her that he isn’t going to protest because she hounded him with enough texts that he felt he couldn’t ignore how much the hospital needed him. Jackson asks Catherine if she has had a chance to read the proposal that he sent her for free COVID testing for low income residents. Catherine wants to pump the brakes on the proposal until the foundation has more revenue, which annoys Jackson. His mother doesn’t want to hear about the amount of time and effort he and intern Alma Ortiz put into the proposal and promptly walks away. Jackson doesn’t get any time to process the conversation he just had because Hayes and his kids walk up to him asking for help. Hayes removes a shirt tied to his head and reveals a huge gash across his scalp.

A quick break in the action shows a video call between Winston and Maggie, who is relieved to hear from him. Winston discusses the three days it took for him to drive to Boston and is glad to be on his way back to Seattle. He wants to buy a house for them to live in once he’s back and has even sent some listings to Maggie, who hasn’t looked at any of them. Maggie ends the call by begging Winston to be extra careful, which is the first of two back-to-back steaming bowls of foreshadowing. Another short scene shows Bailey and Teddy checking up on Meredith. Teddy reveals that Mer is in stable condition, but is very weak and sleeping most of the time. They are doing daily hypobaric chamber treatments to try to increase her healing and are planning to let Schmitt handle the treatment today because it’s something that no one can screw up. 

In the ER, Jackson stitches up Hayes’ head wound and asks how the injury happened. Hayes recalls how a Neo-Nazi anti-protestor came at his boys, so he jumped in front of his kids to protect them. He is justifiably shaken up by the whole ordeal and wants to get back to work for the distraction when Jackson is done. Hayes also tells Jackson that he sent his kids home and told them that they won’t be allowed to protest again until they are eighteen after what happened.

The audience barely gets to process the horrors of what Hayes describes because Richard flies into the ER and grabs Jackson to come help him with another patient outside. Hayes jumps off his bed and follows them outside as an older lady named Nell is being helped out of a car. Richard explains that she was hit by a tear gas canister at the protest, which is lodged in her left shoulder. The trio of doctors brings Nell into a trauma room and decides that they need to make sure the canister didn’t hit any major blood vessels in her neck before they can remove it in the OR.

Outside, Owen is running a triage tent in the parking lot, and Maggie, Helm, and Sara Ortiz are helping out. They see an ambulance pull up and run over to help the new patient. A young man named Guy is unloaded, and the paramedics inform the doctors that he was shot by a rubber bullet in the chest at a protest, which stopped his heart. Maggie tells the others that she wants to get a chest X-ray immediately as they wheel him inside.

A PILE OF PROBLEMS

Schmitt brings a sleeping Meredith into the hypobaric chamber for her oxygen treatment and is not happy when intern James Chee wheels in his post-op patient into the chamber behind them. Chee explains to a disgruntled Schmitt that the schedule for the chamber is packed, so they need to double up patients inside to get everyone their treatments. Schmitt begrudgingly accepts that he and Mer will have company and asks Chee to try to keep the stress levels low, which probably won’t happen with double the amount of people inside the chamber.

Back in the ER, Jo and Hayes chat while they both gather supplies for their respective patients. The small scenes each episode with Jo and Hayes have become my favorite part of the show because their repertoire is very enjoyable to watch. Case in point this week: Hayes is coughing as an after effect of tear gas, and Jo mocks him about not coughing around people as they will think he has COVID. She is also surprised at Hayes for letting his kids go to a protest and for making them stop protesting. She understands both sides of it, but Hayes says he has buried too many members of his family to see anyone’s side other than his own. 

Elsewhere in Grey Sloan Memorial, Bailey and second year resident Mabel Tseng are treating a disrespectful man who had trouble breathing while jogging. He treats both doctors terribly and refuses to keep his mask on despite Bailey’s numerous commands. Bailey is afraid that the patient, Chad, may have COVID, but Chad thinks it’s his asthma acting up since his inhaler ran out. In the same breath, Chad reveals that he doesn’t believe in COVID and thinks it is a scam created by the government. The dumb-struck look on Bailey’s face says it all, but more on Chad later.

Richard and Jackson are awaiting the results of Nell’s CT angiogram to see what damage the tear gas canister has caused. Jackson asks Richard what the protest was like, so the older doc explains how they were marching peacefully. He describes the protest as organized and beautiful at first, until it turned messy and scary. He says that there was a feeling in the air, which Jackson can’t comprehend since he wasn’t there, and that the protest was good trouble. As Richard finishes his recollection, the scans pop up on the computer and show no signs of vascular damage. The canister has only caused a tear in Nell’s trapezius muscle, so the canister can be safely and easily removed. 

Back in the ER, Maggie doesn’t see any fluid around Guy’s heart on the X-ray or echocardiogram. She determines that the rubber bullet hit him at the exact moment his heart beat, which disrupted his normal heart rhythm. Maggie wants to admit Guy for bloodwork and observation to be cautious. Her phone rings and it’s Winston calling, so she steps out of the room to talk. Winston is on the road and wants to know if Maggie got around to looking at the listing he sent her. Maggie isn’t sure she likes the house in the listing, but Winston says that the landlord told him if he wanted the house that he would have to put an offer in today. Winston goes on to reveal that he told the landlord that he will take the house because he wants a place to call his own even though Maggie isn’t necessarily thrilled at the news. A police car then pulls up behind Winston as he’s driving, turns on its lights, and pulls him over. Both Winston and Maggie start to freak out over him getting pulled over, and Maggie tells him not to hang up the phone and turn on the camera if possible.

Over in the hypobaric chamber, Chee asks Schmitt if Mer is mean, as that is what he has heard from other doctors at the hospital. He has also heard that Mer is the best. Chee didn’t get a chance to meet her before she got COVID and doesn’t know if what he has heard is true. Schmitt tells Chee that Mer taught him everything. He hears Mer’s voice cheering him on in his head with each win he has and describes Mer as the most influential teacher he’s ever had, even when she’s asleep. Schmitt admits that Mer can be tough sometimes, but that she always has a reason for being tough. Chee likes what he hears and says that he hopes he gets to operate with Mer one day. 

The scene then cuts back to Winston as he puts his hands on the steering wheel of his now-parked car while watching two cops and a police dog approach his vehicle. The one cop asks Winston for his license and registration, and Winston asks why he was pulled over. He says he was doing 40 mph in a 45 mph zone, so he doesn’t know why he would be stopped. The cop doesn’t answer and instead asks Winston to turn off his phone when he hears Maggie pitch in. Winston explains that that is his fiancée on the phone and politely asks the officer if he can leave the phone on. The cop asks Winston if he is failing to comply, which freaks Winston out. He quickly disconnects the call to avoid further trouble, which makes Maggie panic. She immediately tries to call him back, but Winston doesn’t answer.

OUT OF CONTROL

Things stabilize momentarily as we watch Nell’s surgery. Jackson and Richard remove the tear gas canister from her shoulder, and Jackson asks Richard if his mom has mentioned getting an email from him while they operate. Richard sort of skirts the real issue at hand and says that he could never do Catherine’s job. Jackson believes that Catherine ignores people with good ideas, so Richard tells him to give her time and that after a week she will be more open to his proposal. Catherine said a similar line to Jackson earlier in the episode, which made me wonder what was happening in a week’s time that would magically change her opinion. Unfortunately, we don’t get an answer to that, so maybe we will find out what the cryptic responses mean in the next episode. Richard promptly tries to change the subject by discussing how thankful he is that the damage Nell sustained wasn’t worse. He talks about the protest again and says how there is power in gathering like that. He feels the truth brings people together, but Jackson doesn’t understand because he has never been to a protest. Jackson feels he has always had a reason not to protest and thought writing a check was a good substitute, but his thoughts are quickly changing on that front.

Things then go from bad to worse as Maggie still can’t get a hold of Winston and her patient starts to code. She passes her phone to Sara Ortiz and asks the intern to keep calling Winston until he picks up because he was pulled over by the police. Sara completely understands and agrees to help as Maggie runs back into Guy’s room to help resuscitate him. In another room, Bailey checks in on Chad, who has taken his mask off again. Bailey gives him the bad news that he has tested positive for COVID. The virus has already started destroying his lungs and he has COVID toe. Chad laughs at Bailey and doesn’t buy any of what she is saying. She also informs him that he has a clot in his leg that needs to be treated immediately, which is another side effect of COVID. Chad denies that he has a clot because runners don’t get blood clots. 

Chad rips his mask off again and goes into a full blown conspiracy theory rant about the pandemic. He thinks the government is trying to control people and that the doctors are personally given money by the government for each positive COVID diagnosis. He also believes that the hospitals are getting money based on the number of COVID diagnoses and thinks the whole thing is a joke. Bailey can’t comprehend that Chad doesn’t think COVID is real, so she excuses herself from the room for a moment to do some anger management yelling in a nearby stairwell. Once she calms herself down, Bailey goes back to Chad’s room to try again. Chad still refuses to put his mask on, so Bailey tries to explain his medical problems in another light to make him understand the danger he is in. Chad still thinks it’s a joke, and Bailey promises his problems won’t go away on their own. She wants to admit him and give him the treatment he needs because his symptoms could be fatal. He denies treatment and asks for a new inhaler so he can leave.

Owen and Maggie desperately try to save Guy through CPR and shocking him with a defibrillator. Maggie thinks the rubber bullet bruised his heart. They get a normal heart rhythm back and go to move him to the cardiac care unit when he codes again. They successfully shock him again, but Maggie is very concerned that the damage to Guy’s heart has caused a closed loop of irregular rhythms. Maggie tells Sara Ortiz to page Richard to meet her in the cardiac suite and that it’s urgent, as Guy needs an ablation. Maggie is still trying to get Winston on the phone when they get Guy upstairs. Richard finds her and Maggie tells him all about Winston’s current situation and her patient. She needs someone to find Winston right now, so Richard agrees to help while she saves her patient. Richard takes Maggie’s phone and tells her that he will give Winston a little more time to call. If he doesn’t hear from Winston soon, he promises to get in his own car and go find Winston himself.

Back in the hypobaric chamber, Chee explains his patient’s forklift injury to Schmitt as the patient starts to come out of his sedation. Schmitt urges Chee to give him more sedation quickly, but the patient’s stitches pop and his whole abdomen opens up before Chee can do anything. The poor guy’s intestines are popping out of his abdomen, so Schmitt jumps into action to help. He hears Mer’s voice in his head, which helps him figure out what steps he needs to take to save the patient. He tells Chee to page for anyone to come to the chamber and depressurize it so they can get to the OR. In the meantime, Schmitt puts the patient under more sedation in order to start operating on him in the chamber and control the situation while they can.

PAYING THE PRICE

In the cath lab, Owen and Helm help Maggie with the ablation. Richard is able to get Winston on the phone and knocks on the window to let Maggie know. Owen tells her to go since Guy is now stable. Maggie is beyond relieved to hear Winston’s voice, and he is clearly very shaken by what happened. He explains that he is fine and that the police let him go after doing a DUI test on him. They also checked his trunk and whole car and made him unpack everything that was inside. The camera pulls back to show all of Winston’s possessions strewn out across the desert floor. He goes on to say that the police dog went through all his stuff and sniffed him too. After the dog found nothing out of the ordinary, the police let him go. The cops told Winston that the bike rack on his trunk obscured his license plate, and Winston adds that once they saw the color of his skin, they pulled him over. He admits that he is not okay and needs some time to breathe before getting back in the car and continuing his journey. Maggie sympathetically tells him that she will remain on the line with him as long as he needs and reminds him that he is safe and will be okay.

The small sighs of relief continue in the hypobaric chamber as Chee and Schmitt pack the patient’s abdomen. Schmitt asks Chee for saline so the bowels don’t dry out. He also doesn’t want two emergencies on his hands, so he tells Chee to constantly monitor Mer’s stats to make sure she stays in stable condition. As he is working on the post-op patient, Schmitt hears Mer tell him that he did a nice job in his head. After her surgery, Nell is doing considerably well, and Richard and Jackson give her the good news that she will make a full recovery after a potential second surgery and physical therapy. Hayes walks into the room to check up on her too, and Nell tells them that she has never felt better. She recounts her many injuries from past protests and trades protest stories with Richard. Jackson is in awe when Nell says that she was at the March on Washington at age 11 and goes on to recount what she remembers about that day. She even remembered Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice and how it felt like possibility was in the air when he spoke, which inspires Jackson.

Bailey and Teddy watch Schmitt wheel Mer back into her room as Bailey tells Teddy about Chad’s COVID conspiracy theories. Teddy doesn’t understand how Chad thinks COVID is a hoax, but does find it quite amusing that he believes the government is paying off every doctor. They joke about it until Bailey gets a page and goes running off. Teddy follows her outside, where they find Chad collapsed on the pavement. Someone explains that he signed himself out of the hospital against medical advice and passed out as soon as he walked out. They start CPR as Bailey yells for a crash cart. The next thing we see is Bailey and Teddy pulling a sheet over Chad’s dead body on a gurney inside the hospital. Bailey can’t believe that he walked away after he was offered live-saving treatment. Both Bailey and Teddy are somber, and Bailey is sad that she couldn’t fix someone who was offered help and chose to walk away. She wants to believe that they will be over the brutal COVID hill soon, but she’s not as optimistic anymore.

Later on, Maggie checks in on Guy and finds Owen examining him. Owen gives her the good news that the ablation worked. He asks how Winston is, and Maggie says that her fiancé is back on the road and should be in Seattle within the next two hours. Guy’s phone starts to go off, and they see that he has seventeen missed calls from his mom. Maggie decides to pick up the phone and explain the situation to Guy’s mom, as she probably has no idea what has happened to her son.

Jackson takes his newfound inspiration to Catherine, who is working in a conference room. She tells Jackson that she heard all about Nell from Richard and wants to meet her. Jackson ignores her comments and asks why they never protested. He wants to know why he was taught to always work and fix things from the inside instead of making real change happen. Catherine tries to respond, but Jackson doesn’t want to hear her pep talk. He believes that the foundation fights the good fight; however, nothing has gotten better. He doesn’t understand why he and Catherine aren’t in the streets fighting and asks why they don’t have scars. Catherine starts her rebuttal by informing her son that she has decades of scars and that things have changed. She mentions that there are many Black doctors working in hospitals now thanks to the many battles that she fought to make it happen. 

That’s not good enough for Jackson, who wants to do something about his ideas instead of just talking about them. He feels that there are so many things that they could do to make the world a better place. Catherine says that the world works one battle at a time, but Jackson doesn’t want to play a role in a world that is broken. Catherine tells Jackson that he sounds like his father, and he doesn’t think that’s such a bad thing. The comment hurts Catherine, who doesn’t let Jackson apologize.

We get a little levity when Hayes arrives home and finds his kids playing outside. He tells them that he was wrong about forcing them to stay at home when this is their country and that there is a moment happening right now. He will allow them to fight and protest only during daylight hours and when he is with them. The kids agree and ask to go to another protest tomorrow as long as it’s not too soon, considering his injury. Hayes has completely forgotten he had his head split open that morning and agrees to go to the protest the next day. The family bonds by playing together outside in a sweet moment.

Back at the hospital, Richard runs into Jackson as they both go to leave for the night. Richard offers Jackson a ride home, but Jackson wants to walk. Sensing what he is thinking, Richard tells Jackson that he can always march tomorrow because the day is practically over. Jackson says he can still hear the protests, so he will join in tonight and not wait any longer. Over at Mer’s room, Jo finds Schmitt and congratulates him for saving the patient in the hypobaric chamber – after ribbing him for causing the disaster first. Jo is happy to see that Mer is stable and doing well, even if she has slept the whole day away again. Schmitt tells his roommate about how there is always a voice in his head asking, “What would Meredith Grey do?” Jo admits that she hears that voice in her own head too and advises him to keep listening to it. She says that she listened to the voice and is going to start a new residency in OBGYN.

The episode ends with Winston pulling up to the sister house late at night. Maggie and Amelia were waiting on the porch for him, and Maggie runs to Winston as soon as he gets out of the car. They hug and kiss in a passionate reunion. Winston whispers to her that he did whatever it took to get home for her, which is sure to melt every viewer’s heart. We then see Jackson get in his car and punch in an address into his GPS, which says his destination is eleven hours away. The show ends before we know where Jackson is headed, but the best guess is that he is going to visit his father. Tune in next week to find out!

WandaVision 1x04 Review: “We Interrupt This Program” (Monica Takes Center Stage) [Guest Poster: Hannah E.]


“We Interrupt This Program”
Original Airdate: January 29, 2021

WandaVision takes a break from sitcoms and flashes back to catch us up on life outside of Westview.

The opening scene of “We Interrupt This Program” is breathtaking. The camera follows Monica Rambeau as she reforms from dust — one of the billions lost to Thanos’ snap in Infinity War — and makes her way through chaos inside the hospital, desperately searching for her mom only to learn she’s been dead for years. Spiderman: Far From Home is the only other Marvel property to take place after the Blip, and the tone of that series required the Blip be used mostly as a funny joke. WandaVision is the first time the MCU has acknowledged how utterly terrifying the experience must have been for everyone involved. A hospital was perfectly fine one moment and overrun the next. Monica’s mom was alive one moment and dead the next.

The whole first half of this episode really shines by letting Monica’s story take center stage. Losing her mom wasn’t the only thing she lost in the Snap; when she tries to go back to work, the staff doesn’t even recognize her. Her security pass hasn’t been reinstated, and protocols put in place for disappearing SWORD agents means that she’s not allowed to return to space. Instead she’s stuck running errands for the new director, Tyler Hayward, who not only replaced her mom but also got the promotion that should’ve been hers.

The particular errand Hayward asks her to run is our gateway into Westview. The FBI has a witness that’s gone missing and need a drone to help them scout the town. Quickly upon arriving, Monica realizes this is no ordinary case. The whole scene of her encountering the Hex for the first time is so well done. Unlike Jimmy Woo, she doesn’t have the feeling that Westview wants her to leave; instead, it calls to her. Monica almost can’t help but put her hand against the boundary. Wanda’s subconscious created Westview as a way to ease her grief and the town reaches out to that same impulse in Monica who is currently grieving the loss of her mother. 

The second half of the episode pivots to introduce us to the recurring set of the SWORD base outside of Westview. Jimmy and Darcy become our windows into each new discovery as the show replays events inside Westview that we’ve already seen, but this time from a new angle. We learn it was Monica’s drone that turned into the toy helicopter, Jimmy’s voice in the radio, and the beekeeper from “Don’t Touch That Dial” was a SWORD agent in a hazmat suit. We also learn that the WandaVision we’ve been watching also exists as a show called WandaVision within this universe. Not only is Wanda creating a sitcom world around her, she’s airing (and censoring) a broadcast. 

The framing of this part of the episode is crucial. A lot of people have a problem with how Monica was used at the end of the finale because they view her as a stand-in character for the audience — meaning whatever she feels is code for how the writers want us to feel. But I don’t think that’s true. The writers deliberately create Darcy as the audience stand-in. They do it in a really subtle and sneaky way — literally having her become an audience member watching WandaVision and saying all the things we’ve been thinking during the first three episodes. She’s so engrossed in the show that she calls the townspeople “characters” and has to be reminded by Jimmy that they’re real people. 

Structuring plot reveals around Darcy and Jimmy at the SWORD base is also a pretty clever way for the show to dump tons of exposition on the audience. The writers of the show were definitely more focused on character than plot, but at some point they were always going to have to do a lot of plot-related heavy lifting. Giving us two characters in Darcy and Jimmy — who are as in the dark as we are and therefore ask the same questions — gives the show a shortcut to get the information across. Some of the exposition is a little clunky at points, as the show holds the audience’s hand for a lot of it, but that’s a side effect of Marvel trying to appeal to such a broad age range.  

BACK IN WESTVIEW

We only get one new scene inside Westview, but it absolutely delivers. Wanda censors the broadcast so Darcy and Jimmy can’t see, but we finally get to see a Westview not under Wanda’s control. It picks up right where last week’s Wanda and Monica scene cut off, after Monica (still as Geraldine) says that Pietro was killed by Ultron. Wanda’s reaction is downright sinister; she slowly stalks Monica across the room, demanding answers. When Monica can’t give them, Wanda sends her flying through the wall, all the way across town and out of Westview.

When they cast Elizabeth Olsen to play Wanda, they were sitting on a powder keg of talent. The movies have given her a couple decent set pieces to chew on, but she’s mostly been a minor character tossed around like a plot device to drive action for more important Avengers. This is the first scene in the MCU that’s really let Olsen use her full range as she switches from the hammy style of the 1970s to the quiet sadness of remembering Pietro to the anger of realizing Monica is really a SWORD agent. Finally, the subtle terror on Wanda’s face as she stares at her hands, stunned at what she’s done. She quickly repairs the wall, covering any evidence that Monica was ever there.

When Vision comes back inside, for just a moment Wanda sees the version of him from the end of Infinity War — lifeless and drained of all color, gaping hole in his head where Thanos ripped the stone from his forehead. Showrunner Jac Schaeffer said her goal was for that moment to feel as impactful to the audience as the big CGI battles at the end of Marvel movies, and she more than succeeded. You really feel Wanda’s horror as she looks upon the face of her dead husband. 

The horror of that moment carries forward to Wanda and Vision’s conversation. Vision says they could leave Westview and go wherever they want. But Wanda knows they can’t; this is their home now because it has to be their home. There is literally no life for them outside of this town. Then the cutaway to Monica lying on the ground outside of the Hex, saying: “It’s Wanda. It’s all Wanda” is downright ominous.

"Voodoo Child" by Jimi Hendrix kicks in over the episode’s last shot of Wanda and Vision sitting down on the couch to watch TV. The aspect ratio switches back to 4:3, letting us know Wanda is back in control of the situation. That suddenly seems like a terrifying prospect.

Odds and Ends:

  • In case it wasn’t obvious already, I am a huge Elizabeth Olsen fan. If you haven’t seen her in the movie Martha Marcy May Marlene or the TV show Sorry For Your Loss (the best TV show no one knows exists), go watch those right now.
  • So much of this show’s interpretation of Wanda comes down to what Elizabeth Olsen was bringing to the performance because it definitely was not in the scripts of Age of Ultron, Civil War, or Infinity War. One of the few moments that feels truly unique to Wanda in the movies is her reaction to being blipped out of existence. Every other character we see is terrified, struggling to hang on; but as Wanda turns to dust, she just looks relieved. That moment was not in the script — Elizabeth Olsen made that choice on set because she felt like that’s how the character would feel. During a Comic Con panel, Olsen said the Russos basically let her and Paul Bettany have control over their characters because the Russos figured they knew them best. That speaks to both the movie’s complete disinterest in Wanda and Vision, but also the tremendous talent and commitment Olsen and Bettany were bringing to rather thankless roles. 
  • SWORD stands for “Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division” which is a slight change from the comic’s acronym of “Sentient World Observation Response Division.”
  • I love Monica’s story in this episode, but unfortunately it kind of goes downhill from here. I think it’s pretty clear Jac Schaeffer was most interested in telling the story of Wanda and Vision, and Marvel saddled her with the introduction of two other new superheroes — one of those being Monica. You can just tell the writers’ hearts weren’t in that part of the show, which is unfortunate. 
  • I’ve been on a crash course of all things MCU in the past two months watching WandaVision, but I have not seen the first two Thor or Ant-Man movies, so Darcy and Jimmy Woo are brand new characters to me.
  • I have seen Captain Marvel, and it was a nice choice to play audio from that film over the opening scene, to really make it clear that Monica is the same character we saw as a child in 1995.
  • A lot of people expected Jimmy’s missing person to become a plot point, but in hindsight it’s clear that was just a plot device. People in Witness Protection have to check in with their handlers, and of course no one can check in with their real life under Wanda’s mind control. Unfortunate for Wanda that this sleepy little town of 3,000 also happened to be fostering an FBI hideaway. In an interview, Jac Schaeffer said she was not allowed to answer questions about it though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the FBI informant is somehow introduced in a later show or movie.
  • When Monica touches it, we get to see the fabric of Wanda’s boundary. The visual design is meant to mimic the look of TV static through the ages, which is a really nice touch. The set design for this show went many, many steps above and beyond.
  • We see Monica break through three walls before finally breaking through the Hex itself, meaning she broke the fourth wall to get back to reality. Wink, wink. 
  • Wanda kicking Monica out of the Hex marks her progress from denial to anger as she makes her way through the five stages of grief.
  • This show has a really thoughtful take on feminism, but there was definitely a blind spot in the writer’s room when it came to race. I don’t think anyone realized the racial implications of a white woman calling a Black woman an “outsider” and kicking her out of her home, currently designed to look like the 1970s. There’s one other scene of a similar nature that takes place in the finale. I don’t think anyone had malicious intent in their portrayal of Monica, but they end up sidelining one of the show’s (and the MCU’s) only Black superheroes while also not writing her identity into the character. 

The Flash 7x07 Review: "Growing Pains" (Everyone Just Chill) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Growing Pains”
Original Airdate: April 13, 2021

Our themes for this week’s The Flash include awkwardness, independence, and learning to accept the things you cannot change or something like that. I don’t know. A lot happens and I’m sure most of it was important, but I have to say this episode wasn’t nearly as fun and engaging as the one starring Cisco and Chester we got last week. Cisco isn’t even in this one at all! Chester is, and that’s nice, but still.

FROST ON A MISSION

The main plot of “Growing Pains” is actually focused on Frost, which is odd because I’m pretty sure the title references what’s going on with Barry and the Speed Force and how awkward that relationship is. At the start of the episode, Barry finds that the Speed Force has made breakfast for everyone, right down to that classic “what do you mean we can’t get drunk before noon?” brunch drink, the mimosa. Gritting his teeth in obvious discomfort regarding the Speed Force’s presence, Barry grabs the mimosa pitcher and his speed goes on the fritz, ending in a lot of shattered glass and spilled orange juice.

Things don’t get less awkward after breakfast, either. Barry gets called to a crime scene and has to make up some excuse to stop the Speed Force from following him. By the way, the Speed Force is called “Nora” by everyone except Barry and I’m sure it’s supposed to signify Barry being unfair to her or something, but it actually is pretty weird she’s just... adopting the identity of Barry’s dead mom. Taking that form is one thing — it was, after all, the last form she took before dying — but taking the name too? It’s weird. I’ll probably start calling her Nora when I get sick of typing “the Speed Force” all the time, but I’m definitely not blaming Barry for sticking to it for as long as he does. Especially since I don’t think the Speed Force ever told everyone they could call her Nora.

At the scene of the crime, a van that had been carrying now-stolen tech is partially frozen and the driver of said van is more than partially dead. When the investigator lady whose name I keep forgetting (it’s Kramer — I got it now) sees the ice on the van, she immediately blames Frost for the crime despite having zero evidence to support that and, in fact, getting hit with some evidence that directly refutes it. According to her, ice equals Killer Frost — you know, despite the fact that we’ve encountered like half a dozen speedsters, more than two psychic/emotion-manipulation metas, two mirror metas, and even more than one giant killer gorilla. Sure, no chance there’s more than one meta out there with ice powers.

Kramer’s poor investigation instincts aside, the icy murder is indeed a mystery. One that Frost decides she’s going to solve herself, even though she’s currently wanted by the governor and Kramer has announced to the world that she’s being blamed for the murder on top of everything else. I really hate it when characters on shows make stupid decisions just because, without said stupid decisions, nothing would actually happen. Creating drama for the sake of having drama is never a good look on a show.

So Frost goes to the bar she used to work at, where all the criminals hang out. She asks the new bartender about any ice metas rolling into town and, just as their conversation is wrapping up, Kramer announces on the news that there’s a $100,000 reward for Frost’s capture. This is a great incentive for all the people in the bar to start a bar fight, ending in the new attractive bartender saving Frost with a beer bottle to her attacker’s head. Then he takes off his shirt to “Hot in Herre” by Nelly, giving us the funniest music moment this show has had since it introduced legit songs on the soundtrack.

Frost continues what Chester calls “going The Fugitive” as Team Flash tries to figure out their own stuff. Mostly, Barry is struggling to deal with the Speed Force being a walking, talking, looks-like-his-mom-ing person and not the otherworldly metaphysical being he’s familiar with. Iris has a heart-to-heart with her husband and relates the new awkwardness in Barry and New Nora’s relationship with how it felt after she moved out of the house and then visited her dad again. I guess the metaphor here is that the Speed Force is the new adult learning to be a person and Barry is the parent? Or maybe the Speed Force is the parent and Barry’s been struggling with trying to prove that he can do what needs to be done?

The whole plot with Barry and the Speed Force has been muddled since she showed up. It might have been predictable, but I kind of wish the show had gone the more obvious route of Barry being weirded out by the Speed Force looking like his deceased mom. As it is, it really seems like Barry was a jerk to her for no clear reason, got called out on it by Iris, and was suddenly fine and now there will be no conflict between them moving forward.

Anyway, Caitlin gets arrested for being Killer Frost based on the fact that she looks exactly like Killer Frost except for general pigmentation. Frost wants to bust Caitlin out of a CCPD interrogation room but she’s talked down by Caitlin and Cecile because Kramer has absolutely nothing to hold her on with Frost and Caitlin no longer sharing a body. The fact that Caitlin was arrested in the first place, though, is a sign that the real icy killer knew that body-sharing deal was a thing — and that, plus knowledge that the meta attack wasn’t necessarily a meta, gives Frost an idea of who the real killer is.

It’s the bartender! You know, the only other character introduced this episode and therefore the only likely suspect? Yeah, that guy. He’s obsessed with ice and thinks Frost doesn’t use her powers to their full potential or something. His motivation is lame. He stole the tech from the van to build fancy ice wristbands and scanned Frost to replicate her powers, and they have a fight that ends with Frost blindfolded with ice and Bartender Man (believe me, his actual villain name is somehow worse than the glib one I’ve bestowed upon him) getting stabbed with an icicle.

Barry and Allegra arrive in time to lend some first aid to the stabbed villain of the week. Allegra uses her UV powers to melt away Frost’s ice blindfold without leaving any water behind, because that’s not ice works. It’s a job well done for Team Flash! But the celebration is interrupted by Kramer announcing on a bullhorn that she has the place surrounded and she wants Frost to come out with her hands up. After some debate, Frost decides to turn herself in: she really did break the law, and if she wants to turn over a new leaf she’s going to have to be punished for the things she did. Frost hugs Allegra and Barry goodbye (it’s really funny how bad she is at hugs, by the way) and exits the building to be cuffed and hauled away until her post-break trial episode on May 4.

Other Things:

  • All the great lines belong to Chester this episode, including, “Cool, but scary!” when the Speed Force suddenly appears and “Anyone else taste pennies? It tastes like there’s 78 cents in my mouth,” when Barry’s speed goes on the fritz and he fries the room they’re standing in.
  • The bartender’s name is actually Mark Blaine and he goes by “Chillblaine,” which I think takes the cake for worst villain name. It sounds like the nickname a dudebro gives one of his broskies while on Spring Break. Cisco would be ashamed.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Never Have I Ever 1x06 Review: “... been the loneliest boy in the world” (A New Perspective) [Contributor: Jenn]


“... been the loneliest boy in the world”
Original Airdate: April 27, 2020

Television shows often present one-dimensional villains, especially when it comes to high-school students. You have the “mean girl” or the “jerk,” and they’re usually incredibly popular and horrible to the show’s protagonist for seemingly no reason. Eventually these characters get their comeuppance and all is seemingly well.

But what I appreciate about Never Have I Ever is that the show never presents Devi as a faultless hero. In fact, I would argue that more often than not, the show reminds us that she’s a teenager who can be selfish and fixated on her own issues rather than the issues of those around her. She’s so focused on getting with Paxton that she abandons her best friends Fabiola and Eleanor, both of whom had a lot to talk to her about. So it’d be easy to have the show present Devi’s nemesis, Ben Gross, as someone with a one-track mind of meanness.

And while Ben does and says things early on in this show to Devi that are pretty bad, “... been the loneliest boy in the world” is not the show’s attempt to excuse his actions. Rather, it’s an inventive way to demonstrate that everyone walks through stories that they don’t share with others.

THE LONELIEST BOY

Ben has everything — the best grades, a lot of money, a popular girlfriend — so we’re primed to not feel too bad for him when he makes fun of Devi or her friends. He’s privileged, after all. But I like that this episode doesn’t excuse Ben’s behavior, but that it reminds us that all the money in the world can’t solve the problem of loneliness. Ben’s parents expect him to achieve; his mom is happy when he tells her that he got an A. Ben’s dad expects him to bend; he abandons Ben for work and Ben doesn’t push back in anger but resigns himself to being alone. Ben’s girlfriend expects him to be accommodating; he’s there when she needs him but she’s not there when he needs her.

Ben’s housekeeper, Patty, is the only one who actively reaches out to Ben consistently and tries to forge a real, personal connection. But all of this abandonment doesn’t lead Ben to becoming bitter — instead he pretends his life is good and that nothing is wrong. It’s almost worse that way sometimes. I have the tendency to sweep my disappointments under a rug and pretend that they don’t bother me. But Ben hits a breaking point when Devi’s mom mentions that she and her family have family dinners together every night. Ben can’t even remember the last time he and his parents sat down to a meal together. No amount of money or achievement can prevent you from being alone.

And it’s something Ben really wrestles with in this episode. What’s the point of being the best and achieving the most if his parents still won’t love and support him? 

The one thing to really note about Ben in this episode is that I believe his loneliness has made him more perceptive to the feelings of others, especially Devi. But we also see his selflessness in his relationship with Patty. When his father abandons taking him to a basketball game, Ben pretends to hide his disappointment and tells Patty that he has work to do anyway. He then tells her that she should go to the game and take her kids. She thanks him and when Ben sees her on television, he smiles. He’s not the self-absorbed rich kid stereotype we’re used to seeing in teen shows who doesn’t care about people. He knows a lot about Patty and it’s clear she’s the one constant in his life.

But Ben also notices Devi on the bus ride back from the Model U.N. He notes her moment of fear when she sees the ambulance, he notices her talking to Paxton at school, and he genuinely tries to ask her what he did wrong. He’s not being manipulative or mean in those moments (even if sometimes he is being a bit smug); he’s genuinely trying to figure out why or how he hurt Devi.

All of these feelings overflow when Ben hears about the Vishwakumar family dinners. So Nalini invites Ben to dinner where he has the chance to rat out Devi for what she did at Model U.N. — but he doesn’t. He’s nice to her in that moment and in the sweet ones after, the two actually have an emotionally vulnerable conversation about loneliness. In fact, Devi admits her secret to Ben: that she and Paxton aren’t a couple and she lied, which is why Paxton is so upset with her. It’s the first time we really get to see both of these characters express vulnerabilities, but it won’t be the last.

“... been the loneliest boy in the world” is such a fun departure from our traditionally Devi-centric episodes, but honestly it was necessary in order for us to understand Ben more and to set up the future Ben/Devi stuff we’re going to see!

Favorite things:

  • Okay, it’ll forever be perfect that Andy Samberg narrates this episode. Forever.
  • I love that Angela Kinsey makes an appearance in the show as Ben’s mom! She’s so great. Also I want the dress that she’s wearing the first time we see her.
  • “Why don’t we build a pillow fort and watch a scary movie like Shrek?”
  • “Please lower the spice level accordingly.”
  • “He’s nice and smart and he could never buy drugs because he looks like a narc!”
  • If you don’t ship Ben and Devi after this episode, I can’t help you.

What did you all think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below!

Friday, April 16, 2021

Grey’s Anatomy 17x11 Recap: “Sorry Doesn’t Always Make it Right” (Wake Up Call) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Sorry Doesn’t Always Make it Right”
Original Airdate: April 8, 2021

Calling all Grey’s Anatomy fans! The moment you’ve all been waiting for finally happens in the latest episode of the medical drama. Plus, the show gets back to its roots and presents a more typical Grey’s Anatomy feel than the rest of the season has. Knowing that Giacomo Gianniotti, who played the late Andrew DeLuca, made his directorial debut makes the episode that much sweeter.

WORST WEDDING DAY EVER

In typical Grey’s Anatomy fashion, the latest episode has many moving parts and covers several storylines at once. Let’s talk about the plots from most to least medically relevant. The main medical cases and drama started on Station 19 and transferred to Grey’s Anatomy. A couple, Shayne and Karissa, who had gotten married hours earlier crashed their car inside a truck and needed immediate medical attention. As the firefighters attempt to stabilize them and cut them out of the car and truck, Karissa screams that she wants to be saved first because she has more to live for. Her rant about wanting to be put before Shayne, who was in pretty bad condition, was incredibly shocking. Of course, the firefighters do not listen to Karissa’s demands and pull Shayne free first. Both are sent to Grey Sloan Memorial via ambulance, and their story on Grey’s Anatomy begins when their ambulances arrive at the hospital.

Before they arrive, we see Jo and Bailey visiting baby Luna in the NICU, and they think she is starting to respond to her name. Hayes pops in and disagrees before chasing them out so he can do his rounds. Jo meets up with Schmitt in a hallway and practices what she wants to say to Meredith about changing specialties when she wakes up. The fact that Jo is scared of Mer and needs to practice is comical, but she gets paged for a trauma before she can finish. Owen, Bailey, and Jo wait for the newlyweds to arrive in the ambulance bay. Shayne arrives moments before Karissa and is presenting with crush injuries. Karissa won’t stop talking when she’s wheeled out of her ambulance and sincerely wants to apologize to Shayne for her misconstrued words. Shayne wants nothing to do with his bride and even mentions that he never wants to talk to her again. I bet Bailey didn’t think her first day back from her break would be this interesting!

Jo takes Karissa to a trauma room to evaluate her lacerations and headache. Koracick joins Jo right as Karissa launches into a detailed exposé of what went wrong and everything she said. Karissa asks Jo if an update could be passed along to Shayne that she is fine, so naturally Jo complies. In the other trauma bay, Bailey and Owen examine Shayne, who’s repeating the same story that Karissa just told. It’s actually quite comical to see them both telling the story at the exact same time with slightly varied perspectives. The doctors determine Shayne has a fractured pelvis and will need surgery immediately. At the same time, Jo walks in to give Shayne the update on Karissa. He is so furious that he tells Jo that he doesn’t want his wife to be given any updates on his condition or be told any medical information. Jo is shocked at his reaction and that she will have to comply by HIPAA rules per his request.

While that exchange was happening, Koracick brought Karissa upstairs for an MRI. Jo walks in to see how things are going and doesn’t realize the mic is on. Karissa overhears Jo mention that Shayne doesn’t want the doctors to tell her anything and is quite annoyed with her husband. The scans reveal that she has a small brain bleed that will need to be monitored overnight. At least she’s luckier than Shayne and avoids surgery. Karissa isn’t even fazed by the good news, as she’s very caught up on how sorry she is for what she said to Shayne and wants to properly apologize to him.

A little while later, a struggling Jo goes to visit Mer, who has not woken up since being taken off the ventilator at the end of last episode. Jo tells her mentor all about Shayne and Karissa and how frustrating it is to not be able to give her patient updates on her husband. She then pivots by saying that treating adults isn’t fun for her anymore and that OBGYN is happier because she gets to help others achieve their dreams. Jo continues to say that her house isn’t the happiest place since Alex left, so she wants work to be her happy place. She believes Mer will understand that, and she makes sure to say how grateful she is for Mer believing in her. Jo ends her chat by telling Mer that she will say it all again when she’s awake. She then asks Mer to please wake up and be well soon because she can’t take any more bad days.

In the OR, Owen and Bailey operate on Shayne. Bailey decides to talk about how horrible Shayne and Karissa’s wedding day is, but quickly stops when she sees the look on Owen’s face. It’s quite tough to decide if he or Shayne had the more miserable wedding day. Owen actually thinks that Shayne is lucky to have figured out who his wife is right from the start instead of being blindsided down the road. Bailey tries to twist the topic by asking Owen how Teddy is doing, but Owen doesn’t want to talk about his personal life.

Shayne’s surgery is a success, and the doctors tell him that he will need a few months of rehab after he wakes up. Bailey is surprised to hear that Shayne plans on doing the rehab by himself and is giving up on Karissa. She tries to convince him that Karissa is still the same loving woman no matter what she said while she was terrified. Bailey urges Shayne to give Karissa a chance to prove that she will still be the same person he married before throwing it away. Shayne decides that Bailey is right and asks to see his wife. Owen warms up a bit and smiles at the progress while Bailey runs off to get a tablet to set up a video call with Karissa.

Shayne and Karissa start their video call, and you can feel the hope in the air as Karissa profusely apologizes. When she eventually stops, Shayne announces that he wants an annulment. Bailey is stunned as Shayne tells Karissa that he doesn’t think she has changed, but that she has always been like this. Owen smirks and shakes his head in agreement as Shayne describes how nothing is different and that he thought he could overlook the selfish parts of her. He wants to be done with it and hangs up on her. Owen and Bailey can’t believe what they are watching... and especially that Shayne actually thanks them for helping him come to this realization.

While that might be the last we see of Shayne and Karissa, the impact of their breakup follows through to that same night. Owen shows up at his/Teddy’s house and looks at a picture of him and Teddy when they were in the military. Teddy walks into the room he is in after putting the kids to sleep and is surprised to see Owen, as she didn’t know he would be coming by. Owen explains that he came to see her and launches into the speech most of us have probably been waiting to hear. He knows that he reacted awfully to Teddy revealing the truth about her relationship with Allison. Owen apologizes for his poor attitude and for not being there for her when she’s always been there for him. Teddy tries to apologize again, but Owen cuts her off by saying he knows how sorry she is. 

He continues to talk about how they were friends first and how he should have known that Teddy was going through something and needed a friend when she did something so out of character like sabotage their wedding day. Owen wants to be friends if Teddy wants to, but isn’t sure he can get back to being more than that. He says being friends will be a start and that he wants to hear all about Allison if she wants to tell him. Teddy can barely hold back tears of joy when she smiles and asks Owen if he would like some tea, which is her way of accepting his invitation. She turns away to go make some tea and the happiness overpowers her will as tears roll down her face. It’s a nice, cathartic moment as Teddy and Owen are finally reconciling their differences, and it should be interesting to see where they go from here.

PULLING OFF A MIRACLE

The second major medical storyline follows Hayes as he tries to find a solution for his infant patient. Baby Arthur has holes in his heart and needs a heart transplant. He’s been waiting for a new heart for two weeks and might not hold on much longer. Arthur’s father, Chris, is struggling with his son’s condition. He confides in Hayes about Arthur’s mom, who is so depressed by the situation that she can’t get out of bed, visit him in the hospital, or go to work. Chris is frustrated that they were so careful with COVID and that it didn’t matter because being careful didn’t stop Arthur from having a heart condition. He knows that they need a miracle, which he feels will help him get his whole family back. However, Chris acknowledges that he can’t get a miracle without someone else’s family getting shattered in the process. It’s a double-edged sword, but Chris begs Hayes to find a way to save Arthur anyways.

Hayes pages Maggie for help with Arthur’s case and tries bouncing some ideas off her. Maggie isn’t sure Arthur can even withstand a transplant in his condition at this point. Hayes refuses to believe her or give up, but Maggie thinks they have done everything that they can. She would rather let the family move on than prolong their suffering. That doesn’t sit well with Hayes, who continues to try and find another viable solution other than a transplant. He spends some time in the NICU for inspiration and is almost glad to have someone to talk to when Jo comes in to visit Luna again. He tells her about his situation and that he is sad he might have to talk to Chris about taking Arthur off life support. Jo tries to make him feel better by talking about how she had a hard time letting go of anger because it hurt to cut away the crusty, black parts of her heart. Hayes has a lightbulb moment spurred by Jo’s words, and he excitedly thanks her for the idea. 

He goes to discuss his thoughts with Maggie, who is skeptical at first. Hayes believes that they can make space for an artificial heart pump to fit in Arthur’s chest cavity if they cut out the parts of his heart that aren’t working. It’s an idea that is crazy enough to potentially work, so they go tell Chris about how they want to remove both ventricles of Arthur’s heart and put in an artificial pump to buy more time. Chris isn’t happy that they want to cut half his son’s heart out and that neither doctor has done the procedure before. Hayes assures Chris that this is Arthur’s only option and will give him the best chance to survive. He seals the deal by reminding Chris that his instructions were to save his son.

 The doctors bring the baby to the OR for the surgery, and Maggie tells Hayes that she thinks the plan will work before they begin. They start removing parts of Arthur’s heart, then they set up the artificial pump. The moment of truth arrives when they take Arthur off bypass. They are thrilled to see the pump work and that the surgery is a success. Maggie is beyond excited that they pulled it off and congratulates Hayes on his accomplishment. The story concludes with Chris visiting Arthur after the surgery and video calling his wife, who is on the mend herself upon seeing that her son will be okay. This plot also allowed Maggie to get her surgical groove back and give a much-needed confidence boost to Hayes following his sister-in-law’s health scare in the previous episode.

WAKE UP

There are also two COVID storylines in this episode that get fairly equal screen time. First and foremost, Meredith is off the ventilator, but has yet to wake up. Richard orders an MRI of Mer’s brain, which comes back clean. He is actually mad at the good scan because that means Mer is too weak to wake up.  Close to the end of the episode, Mer finally wakes up with Richard by her side. Her first words are “I’m sorry,” which puzzles Richard. She apologizes for him having to put her on a vent and making the call to do so. Richard says he would do it again if he had to and hopes he doesn’t. Mer is glad that she chose him to be her medical proxy, and in the next breath she exclaims that they need to talk about Jo. Of course, Richard has no idea what she’s talking about, and it’s nice to get confirmation that Mer has in fact heard and internalized everything while she was unconscious. 

Richard catches Jo and Schmitt as they are about to leave the hospital and asks Jo to talk for a minute. He wants to discuss her quitting surgery, and Schmitt quickly leaves in case things get tense. Richard would like to know if Jo is serious about changing specialties because he will support her no matter what. With that, Jo starts to tell Richard about what she wants her future to look like, but we don’t get to hear the conversation from there. After that, Richard goes back to Mer’s room and finds her asleep. Maggie and Bailey join him outside of the room to get an update on Mer. Richard informs them that she is mostly sleeping, but she’s listening to what everyone says. Whether Mer will snap out of COVID or not remains to be seen in future episodes. 

The other COVID-centric plot follows Jackson throughout his day. He has pulled the residents assigned to the ER to help perform free COVID tests to the public in the tents outside. Jackson is in charge of the testing and reveals to Schmitt that he had to spend 20 hours on video calls to secure more testing kits from the Catherine Fox Foundation. Schmitt doesn’t get why he didn’t just ask his mom instead of going through the trouble of the meetings. The pair winds up diagnosing a young man with COVID, but he doesn’t want to go back to his crowded home and infect his family and can’t afford a hotel room. Schmitt wants to admit him to help, but Jackson pushes back because the man isn’t sick enough to stay at the hospital. Jackson decides to pull out his credit card and tells Schmitt to book the patient a hotel room on him. In fact, Schmitt is given instructions to do the same for any COVID positive patients who need financial assistance. 

Jackson’s generosity winds up paying for 18 rooms in a short amount of time. Schmitt even quips that they might need to rent out a whole floor of a hotel at this rate. However, not everyone is pleased with Jackson’s spending spree. Intern Alma Ortiz goes off on him for booking hotel rooms because community organizations that provide low-income people with hotel rooms can’t book the rooms if he does. She explains that the organizations can get special low rates and are helping COVID positive people too, but he might be inhibiting that. Jackson understands her point and apologizes since he didn’t know about those programs. 

Later on, Jackson finds Ortiz and gives her the good news that no one will be thrown out of their hotel because of him. He is going to sponsor rooms through the organizations instead of getting in their way. Ortiz reminds him that she was a social worker before becoming a doctor, so she understands how flawed the system is. She’s mad at the system because no matter how much people try to help, they can never get to the root of the problem. Near the end of the episode, Jackson pages Ortiz to a conference room inside the hospital. She apologizes for her outbursts earlier, but Jackson has asked her there because he has been inspired by her. He wants to help people who have been ignored. He knows that she has ideas and wants to hear them all. Jackson says that she has the understanding and he has the money and desire to help. He wants to change things together, and a new partnership is formed.

STATUS CHECK

The only real non-medicine story of the week focuses on Amelia and Link’s relationship status. It’s early in the morning, and Amelia is annoyed that Link brings her another basket of laundry when she is already doing a mountain of clothes. She wants a break from laundry and the kids. Out of nowhere, a camper pulls into the driveway, so everyone goes outside to see who has arrived. It’s none other than Link’s parents, who show up unexpectedly. Link is annoyed, but they insist that they have quarantined and have been safe. They really want to meet Scout and also would like to take all the kids to Mount Rainier for the day. The Lincolns want to help and Amelia quickly agrees. The kids are excited to spend a day with their pseudo-grandparents, who they apparently video call often. Before they leave, Mrs. Lincoln refers to Amelia as her daughter-in-law and tells the couple that she doesn’t know why they aren’t married yet. Zola agrees.

Link and Amelia go back inside the now-quiet house. Link finds the lack of sound weird, but Amelia is happy with the silence. He suggests that they get naked, so Amelia starts to go upstairs. Link stops her while pulling off his shirt and reminds her that they can be loud and do it anywhere. Amelia randomly plops down on the steps and bursts into tears. Link thinks she must be upset by his mom and Zola’s comments, so he gets down on one knee to propose. Amelia is horrified and shouts, “No! Get up!” Link is confused and doesn’t know why she’s upset if it’s not about their marital status. Amelia assures him that that isn’t the case but that she needed a good cry. He awkwardly tries to comfort her. 

After she starts to settle down, Link makes Amelia some tea. Amelia explains that it just hit her that it’s been months since she’s been able to feel whatever she wants without hurting the kids. They then have a conversation about whether they want to get married or not. Link, who has been staunchly anti-marriage in the past, has been thinking about getting married and changing his stance. He loves Amelia, Scout, and their family, so why not make it official? Amelia replies that she was a terrible wife, which had nothing to do with her brain tumor. She reveals that she’s been having trouble because she has constantly been thinking about getting high. Link listens to her confession and then promptly falls asleep on the couch.

When he wakes up, Amelia informs him that he always falls asleep when he is emotionally overwhelmed. He cheekily replies by saying he doesn’t avoid feelings, he just processes them better when he’s unconscious. He gets more serious and wants to figure out what is going on with Amelia. Link asks if she wants to go to a meeting, but she says she doesn’t want to. Amelia explains that the pandemic makes it extremely challenging for addicts to stay sober because it encompasses all the triggers. She hasn’t been craving pills as much as she wants to buy some weed. Link asks if that’s allowed, which causes Amelia to laugh. She explains weed isn’t suggested. She feels if she smoked it, she would wind up forgetting to not do heroin. 

Instead of diving into her comment, Link replies with, “For the record, I would marry you in a hot minute.” Amelia wants to know why, so Link explains that most addicts crave drugs just for doing drugs, but she doesn’t. He thinks she is the opposite of self-destructive. He gets down on one knee again, and Amelia promptly freaks out. Again. The random proposal attempts are actually quite funny and bring a lot of levity to the otherwise dark topics of conversation. 

That evening, the couple spends some time together in front of the fireplace. Amelia ponders what their wedding would even look like. Link has been envisioning a spring wedding in New Orleans, and Amelia likes the idea. She also thinks the kids would love it. She goes on to say that marriage seems obvious because of how much she loves him, but she isn’t sure that he is sure about changing his mind. 

They reach a deal and finally are about to get that adult alone time in when the camper pulls back into the driveway. After they get the kids to bed, Link and Amelia go out on the porch to talk with baby Scout in tow. Link’s parents are going to stay in their camper on the driveway, so it should be fun to see them in future episodes. Link and Amelia reach another deal to check in with each other every few weeks on whether or not to get married. I think it’s safe to say they will wind up engaged by the end of the season. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Flash 7x06 Review: "The One with the Nineties" (Remember When) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“The One with the Nineties”
Original Airdate: April 6, 2021

I hope everyone has their rollerblades strapped on tight and their no-skip CD player loaded up with whatever bubblegum pop strikes their fancy, because some time travel shenanigans mean that Cisco and Chester P. Runk are taking us back to 1998! Well, technically a new “Force” — i.e., the godlike beings similar to the Speed Force — is taking us back to 1998, but Cisco and Chester will be our guides. I’m going to have to ask everyone to please put your Tamagotchis in sleep mode for the duration of this review.

Oh, hey, you know the funny thing about this episode of The Flash is that it takes place in a time that a good percentage of the viewers will have no memory of. And by “funny” I mean “existentially terrifying for me, personally.”

A BLAST INTO THE PAST

The first hint of Time Shenanigans comes at the episode’s opening scene, where a woman on her phone is briefly confused by a man dressed as a Roman soldier and then way-more-than-confused by an actual T-rex. But wait! This is just the show skipping ahead of itself a bit, as we go back about a day and see Team Flash (minus the Flash, who’s recuperating in a cryo-pod all episode) discussing what’s up with the new, powerful villains Fuerza and Psych. Cisco and Chester come up with a sensor that should be able to alert the team whenever one of the new Forces is near, but they have to go a ways out of town to test it.

Out testing their new sensor, Cisco and Chester are hit by a wave of green light. They’re unharmed, but notice that their cell phones and the van with all their equipment are gone, and Cisco figures out that they’ve been trapped inside a forcefield dome. They head into a nearby town, where they’re shocked to see a Blockbuster store advertising that copies of Space Jam are back in stock. Considering that Cisco and Chester are in 1998 and Space Jam came out in 1996, I think the people of this town either need to find a new movie to love or just buy their own copies.

Initially, Cisco and Chester absolutely love being in 1998 and I can’t say I blame them. I’d certainly like to go back to an era when I didn’t have to do taxes. But it can’t all be fun and games and both of them agree they need to find a way back to the future. They figure this time travel business must be the work of a new Force, and decide that Force might be at the local high school. Cue Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It,” a wardrobe change into suitably hideous 90s clothing, and a montage of interviewing teens while surreptitiously scanning them for Time Godliness.

While interviewing a phenomenally stupid kid, they’re interrupted by a jock with a new boxy, 90s cell phone and another kid, getting a spike on their sensor. They follow the other kid and trip him up with a reference to The Matrix, which hasn’t come out yet. Another wave of green hits, resetting Cisco and Chester in the town — and resetting Cisco, mentally, back to the age he was in 1998. Chester can only pull Cisco back to his real age by getting him to remember Game of Thrones, making me wonder if the show ended a lot better in The Flash’s universe than it did in ours, because if that were me I’d probably just regress further out of shame and anger.

Adding a little Groundhog Day onto their Back to the Future, Cisco and Chester realize they’re stuck in a time loop. As entertaining as this episode is, a lot of the elements in it aren’t really explored to their full potential and the time loop situation is one of those, since we don’t really get the full effect of a “time loop plot.” No repeatedly trying things only to have efforts undone at the end of the day, no eventual spiral into desperation... I have to wonder why they bothered to add this aspect at all.

Since their sensor was fried in the last green time blast, Cisco and Chester go shopping for parts at the electronics store Chester passed up earlier in favor of dumpster diving. In the store, Cisco mentions that the last power converter they need was bought by a guy who turns out to be Chester’s dad, who Chester says is destined to die the next day. Chester’s memories of his father are complicated, as the man was an inventor who traveled around to sell his inventions and never spent time with his son.

This gives us the emotional arc of the episode: Chester goes to his father to ask for the part they need and learns that his father is a much more complicated, much more loving man than the one Chester remembers. He refuses to give Chester the part, instead throwing it in the garbage for young Chester to find later, thus indirectly teaching Chester the value of perseverance, ingenuity, and finding worth in what other people might see as trash. Then he and Chester build the part they need together, allowing Chester to really spend a day with his father for the first time in 23 years — maybe even his whole life. It’s touching and wonderful and nice to see a different side of happy-go-lucky Chester P. Runk.

Later, Chester takes what he learned from his new experience with his father and tries to use it to talk down the time-controlling Force that sent them back to 1998, who turns out to be the jock with a 90s cell phone we saw earlier in the episode. While the jock, Deon, is obsessed with his past because his future didn’t go the way he wanted, Chester implores him to stop letting one moment define his whole life and start looking forward. Deon’s anger starts affecting things beyond the town and into Central City, sending Team Flash into styles of decades past (Joe: 1940s and cool, Frost: 1960s and groovy, Iris: 1970s and far out, Caitlin: 1980s and... no one looked good in the 80s) and potentially risking people getting thrown into the Stone Age.

Chester’s words get through to Deon and he calms down, but then he seems to imply that he’ll start changing everyone’s futures instead of just trying to change his own path. Way to villain it up, bro! The time warps stop and Cisco and Chester return to the present day and S.T.A.R. Labs, but there’s one more Force out there planning who-knows-what and Team Flash remains wholly unprepared to deal with this batch of godlike beings.

... AND EVERYTHING ELSE

So, this was a really fun episode but I find myself at something of a quandary regarding everything that happened outside of the main storyline: Iris and the Speed Force bond over their love of Barry, and Frost deals with being an independent being. Both these storylines would get at least a passing mention in my reviews under normal circumstances, but the A-plot of this episode is packed with so much stuff (time travel, time loop, a time god, mental age regression, learning more about Chester, a very good emotional thread for Chester) that just couldn’t find a place to squeeze them in. 

I also couldn’t simply throw the plot mentions down into the bullet points below because I think the fact that these supporting plots even exist in this episode is what prevents “The One with the Nineties” from being a truly excellent “filler” episode (quotes around “filler” because something dealing with the season arc technically can’t be, but the main character isn’t a focus so... hard to see how this one fits in). I feel like if they pruned back everything not revolving around Chester and Cisco, this episode would’ve seemed much less haphazard and I would have liked it a lot more — but as it is, it’s still pretty good... Fly? All that and a bag of chips? I’m not up on my 90s slang, I don’t know how to put a bow on this one.

Other Things:

  • I’m so glad the Cisco/Chester duo has a name: “Team Chesco.”
  • “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1998?” Dang it, Chester. That was going to be the subtitle of this review!
  • “We are 17. We love The Real World. We like Beanie Babies and The Matrix.”
  • Anyway, I’m a year older than Cisco and being older than characters on the TV I watch is really weird.
  • Brandon McKnight, who plays Chester, is FANTASTIC in this episode and I really hope he gets to do more on the show as the season progresses.
  • Chester’s incognito name when he goes to buy the power converter from his dad? John Boyega.
  • I don’t fully understand how Deon is, well, Deon, but also the Still Force. Are the Forces possessing people? The Speed Force isn’t possessing anyone. How does this work?