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, March 31, 2015

6x04 "Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing" (Chang, Chang, Chang)


"Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing"
Original Airdate: March 31, 2015

We don't like being vulnerable with each other. It's a fact of life, really, because being vulnerable means that you need to let people in and when people are let into your life, you cannot control how they respond to you or what they think of you or what they say or do to you. Being vulnerable is terrifying, really, because it means letting a person understand what makes you inherently you and when you do that, there's a chance that they will be horrified at what they see. There's a chance they'll bail. There's a very good chance that they won't understand. So to protect ourselves, we construct these lies about our life: we call them "walls" or "boundaries." We only let people up to a line that we draw in the sand and not any further than that. Walls protect us. They also keep other people away -- away from seeing our insecurities and the depth of our problems and our confusion.

But walls are dangerous. And we weren't meant to live behind them. We build walls emotionally every day because we are afraid. But when we allow other people into our messy, weird, broken lives, sometimes they run away, yes, but sometimes people will stay and will sit with you in your brokenness and will understand you because they're broken, too. That's the real definition of a relationship, actually: being unafraid to be broken with people who are broken just as badly as you are. Community has always been a show that has centered on the idea that broken people need each other if they have any hope of becoming better. That's the series' goal in a nutshell. And Greendale has always been this zany place where the weirdest loners find a home and where the young and irreparably broken sink into love. .... Wait, no, that's a line from The Fault In Our Stars... 

Nevertheless, Greendale is home to a lot of weirdos. And they're the best kind of weirdos. They're the weirdos who care. This week in "Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing" we examined three different stories of three different weirdos and their journeys, so let's talk about them, shall we? 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Once Upon A Time 4x16 "Best Laid Plans" (We Were Brave, But We Weren't Kind)


"Best Laid Plans"
Original Airdate: March 29, 2015

Does it really matter how you get to your happy ending or how you rescue someone or how you accomplish a task? Do the ends ever justify the means? Some might say that they do -- some might say that the accomplishment of a task or fulfillment of a goal is more important than how you get there. In "Best Laid Plans," we're asked this question. Or, more specifically, the Charmings are asked this question in the flashbacks as they try to determine a way to save their daughter's heart and ensure its purity. But the things that they do to get there... well, they're not heroic. They're actually pretty exemplary of what villains would do. And in the present-day, Charming and Snow are very close to toeing that line again: the line between lies and truth and between villainy and heroism.

Hook says something in "Best Laid Plans" that hits a bit too close to home for Charming and Snow's liking. With all the talk of darkness, Emma tells him that she won't go dark. And Hook's reply is that darkness is a funny thing because it sneaks up in you. He's not wrong, as we saw last week: it's easy to let the person you once were back inside. It's comfortable and it's familiar. But what's so interesting is that this episode chooses to focus on what happens when the heroes of the fairytales aren't as good and noble and valiant as their stories make them out to be. And it tells us what happens when you let the ends justify the means.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 6


May sweeps are rapidly approaching (can you believe it's almost May already? ) which means that a majority of television shows are plowing full-speed ahead in terms of plot and twists and character arcs. While a lot of shows are beginning the stretch into their season finales, a lot of others aired their own finales this week. Since there was a lot of great television, especially dramatically, this week, let's hop to it and talk about some stellar performances.

Joining me in my quest this week are:

  • Friend, writer, lover of all animals cute and cuddly, and first mate on the SS Ray Palmer Is A Jerk: Laura Schinner
  • Weekly contributor, live-tweeter extraordinarre, and fellow Arrow lover, Constance Gibbs
  • Soul sister, name twin, love of my life, and sunflower personified: Jen

Friday, March 27, 2015

Supernatural 10x16 "Paint It Black" [Contributor: Deena Edwards]


"Paint It Black"
Original Airdate: March 26, 2015

This week, the brothers are investigating a grisly string of deaths, mostly suicides, by people who were all members of the same Catholic church. Their ends are quite brutal -- disembowelment, slow and painful. But they’re not the only ones suffering.

In Hell, Rowena seems to have switched permanently to tantrum-mode over things with Crowley, the Winchesters, and the Grand Coven, making things a living... well, you know, for everyone around her. Eventually, Crowley succumbs to his mother’s wishes -- mostly to stop her whining -- bringing the leader of the coven, Olivette, to her, so that Rowena can plead her case and be allowed to practice magic freely once more. She soon finds out, however, the coven is no longer what it used to be, thanks to the Men of Letters, who over the years were responsible for the deaths of many of its members and the taking of their spells and secrets. Because of this, they’re no longer all-powerful. Olivette continues by mentioning that there are still two surviving Men of Letters -- Sam and Dean. How Rowena is going to use this information is unclear, but we all know by the way she backs down all too easily when Crowley tells her to let it be, it’s not going to be good.

Now, let’s dive right into the main plot of the episode.

After a woman brutally stabs her unfaithful husband to death, Sam and Dean go to the church and speak to the Father, who tells them all the victims had recently been to confession shortly before their deaths. While Sam steps aside to take a look around with the EMF meter, Dean speaks to a Sister Mathias, his curiosity kicking in as he asks her why she joined the convent -- how she was able to quit one life for another. She replies that her life before felt hopeless, and she needed to find something larger than herself to focus on. “A kind of mission.” She laughs it off, afterward, deciding that he must have no clue what she’s talking about, but the words have struck a chord with him. He, of all people, knows this feeling more than anyone.

The last place we ever would expect Dean Winchester to be is confession at a church, but seeing as the fact every victim had gone to confession before their deaths is too much to ignore, and so he goes, because it just might draw the ghost to them. You don’t think it’s something he’ll take seriously--- it’s all light at first, his tone almost humorous as he reminisces on about his ways with women, but it quickly grows more serious.
- “What if I said I didn’t wanna die… yet? You know, that I wasn’t ready?”- “Are you expecting to?”- “Always. You know, the life I live, the work I do… I pretty much just figured that that was all there was to me, you know? Tear around and jam the key in the ignition and haul ass until I ran out of gas. I guess I just thought sooner or later, I’d go out the same way I lived. Pedal to the metal and that would be it. But now? …I’m just starting to think maybe there’s more to it all than I thought.”
Faith has always been a tricky subject with Dean. At the very beginning of the series, the thought of angels and a God existing was almost laughable to him. Of course, over time, things changed, the introduction to actual angels being one of them. Still, he always came off as skeptical, not being able to get behind the concept of a God because of all the terrible things that happen in their world. But now, he openly admits to believing in one, though, he claims, he doesn’t quite think He believes in them anymore. It was such a heartbreaking scene, reminding us all that even when they don’t show it and seem to have other things on their minds, they’re still dealing with the same inner struggles that most everyone else wonders about, too. He always puts up a strong front, especially lately, in his decision to stop looking for a cure to the Mark, pretending to be ready for that happens. But he’s not ready.

The subplot in this episode is pretty interesting, as it switches from now to 1520 in Italy, a conversation in present day between Sister Mathias and another nun, Isabella, telling a “love” story about herself and a painter named Piero. As deep as her feelings were for him, they weren’t returned the same way, and she only found this out after cutting off part of her finger to allow him to use as pigment of his painting (gives a WHOLE new meaning to the term “finger painting”). Afterward, she was so distraught that her parents sent her to join the convent, though some time after she snuck out, finding Piero in bed with another woman. In a fit of rage, she murders him, and is sentenced to death herself, burned at the stake because the death was so brutal they accused her of witchcraft. The betrayal by Piero is her reason behind the murders -- killing unfaithful man who she sees are deserving of it.

After Dean’s confession, Sister Mathias reads Isabella’s journal, realizing that she was behind the deaths all along. She immediately tells Sam and Dean, also admitting that she’s always been comfortable around ghosts. Seeing as the Church was built over underground burials, she’d met many spirits in her time there, most the completely harmless sort. Dean figures, among the rest of her belongings that were sent to the church, the journal is what’s keeping her tethered there, but Sam’s doubtful, and sure enough, after reading the portion in the journal about the flesh and bone of her finger being used as pigment in the painting, he realizes that that is what’s keeping her there, burning it only moments before Isabella can kill Dean (possessing Sister Mathias’ body).

Afterward, on the drive out of town, Sam reminds Dean that he’s there for him, and he’s not giving up. Not on him, not on getting rid of the Mark. “I don’t buy for one second that the Mark is a terminal diagnosis.” Dean, having realized earlier on in the episode how actually terrified he is that his end is near, doesn’t argue. It seems maybe at this point, Dean is ready to face the facts. Sam isn’t going to give up on his brother, he’s not going to let Dean give up on himself, and Dean, well… Dean might finally be realizing that -he- doesn’t want to give up, either.

Memorable Moments/Quotes:
  • “And yes, one expects to suffer in Hell.”
  • “After all I’ve done for you…” “And what exactly would that be?” “I gave you life.” Nobody guilt-trips quite as hard as the King of Hell’s Mama.
  • “Tell me you didn’t think that nun was hot. I think she had a little thing for me, too.” “Dean, she was married to Jesus.”
  • “Sammy, how long’s it been since my last confession?” “You’ve never been to confession.”  “Well that’s too long.”
  • “What was that one for?” “Emphasis.” EMPHASIS! Y’know, if you weren’t an evil witch, Rowena, you and Josh from Drake & Josh might actually get along. You both like to do/say things twice for emphasis. (I’m such a nerd.)
  • “You know how it is. The sex, the lasagna…” 
  • “AGAIN with the Winchesters. Perpetually, the Winchesters.”
  • Rowena turning Olivette into a hamster. Just another reason why I love her.

The Mindy Project 3x21 "Best Man" [Contributor: Ann]


"Best Man"
Original Airdate: March 24, 2015

There’s something about a Mindy Kaling episode that just works.

Obviously nobody understands the vision of The Mindy Project more than its creator, but I think what makes Mindy Kaling episodes better* than other episodes is that Mindy Kaling, more than the rest of her writers, cares about balancing the romance and the comedy—the emotional moments and the funny ones. That’s not to say that other writers didn’t stick the landing on emotional moments ("Christmas," I think, was especially sentimental and was a Grandy-penned episode)— just that Mindy is especially good at it. You can just tell when she is writing because the show feels more confident.

Anyway, I bring this up because this episode was truthfully like every other episode this season. In our e-mail correspondence (also featuring the lovely Jamie) Jenn provided this extremely apt sequence of events:
  • Danny and Mindy have a conflict of personality/belief/etc.
  • Instead of dealing with it, they lie
  • The lies come out
  • Danny walks away from/dismisses/hurts Mindy
  • Mindy vocalizes how hurt she is
  • Danny makes a ~big romantic gesture~ to apologize
  • Rinse and repeat 18 more times
And that’s true here! Mindy and Danny disagree on marriage/major commitment (meeting the parents), they lie, etc, etc.

But I loved this episode. You guys. This episode was my favorite episode of the season despite following this pattern. Call it the Kaling touch.

Maybe it was that the difference of belief made sense to me and felt legitimate on both ends. Mindy obviously believes in the fairytale; Danny obviously doesn’t; and both have seasons’ worth of character history to support how they are feeling. Even Danny’s tried-and-true excuse for his frequent misbehavior—daddy issues, ex-wife issues—felt important and weighty here, where in other episodes it felt like a cop-out (see: “Caramel Princess Time.”) The obligatory talk—Jenn forgot to add it to the list but what would a third season Mindy Project episode be without a third party telling Danny he is wrong?—felt earned, reasonable, legitimate, and emotional.

Mindy Kaling said that the last ten minutes weren’t that funny, and that depended a lot on the leads. She was wise in that decision and in the decision to give Chris Messina silences. This? This is The Mindy Project I missed—the show that appreciated the silences and respected the characters enough to let them say how they felt without a punchline.

Of course, when I last wrote, I heard that I was a sucker for the romance and that was why I didn’t like the season. I thought about that a lot this week and I think that if I am a sucker for anything, if I look for anything in a show like this, it is moments of earned conflict—moments where The National could be playing, or Jimmy Durante. I look for conflict because conflict makes characters interesting. Romance gets pulled into it because romance breeds conflict, but it really is just that I like to see characters tested and grow and become finely developed.

In this episode, I felt development! I felt real stakes. I felt everything that a Mindy Kaling-penned episode normally makes me feel. It was the first time all season, with half-exceptions to the first episode and the Christmas episode, where afterwards I could not focus on my work because I just wanted to talk about the show with someone!

Allow me to think of some examples of where this episode excelled. (As I'm writing this, it is currently 4:30 in the morning so I am a little off my game, but let’s see.) I think it was one of the best-paced episodes all season — I was worried beforehand that it would be congested, what with the baby shower and the (2!) doctors’ appointments and the wedding, but it didn’t. I think this episode was better paced than “Danny and Mindy,” honestly. I also loved the B-plot and felt that it tied up Peter’s arc, if this is it for Peter, in the best way possible. I loved, loved, loved Rhea Perlman’s performance, as well as Mindy’s and Chris’s. They brought their A-game for this episode in every respect. This includes Chris’s scruff.

I loved to see the boyfriends again and honestly, even though the idea that any of Mindy’s exes would believe Morgan was absurd, I didn’t care that much. It was worth it. I loved Dot and Annette’s reversible vests. I loved Santigold at the end of the episode so much. Oh, the “Boys Are Back In Town” dance was perfect.

I just felt like I was watching the characters from before, in a lot of ways. And in that happy post-finale glow I could see, a little bit, that this season did have an arc, and it did have a build-up to this point.

I could see it... and then I started thinking about these things:
  • How the eff could Danny not tell Mindy about his marriage thing before? How could he read her diary and not make some comment?
  • So what was the point of proposing to her at Christmas, then? The shame proposal post-pregnancy, Okay, I get it. But was he really going to get into this commitment because he almost screwed up her fellowship?
  • Why did nobody yell at Mindy for not telling her parents about Danny? They’ve been dating for at least 8 months, right? How could she not prep Danny on that before the dinner that he would have to make a big first impression? Just so she could say “It shouldn’t have to come to that” when Danny said he would have come if she’d said something?
  • Where was Richie this season? WTF?
  • What was the point of Danny going to India? Yeah, I get it, I get it—he was going to properly meet the parents. But Mindy Kaling has said that they intentionally didn’t have Danny ask Mr. and Mrs. Lahiri for their daughter’s hand in marriage because he would “change his mind but not his behavior.” Or maybe it was the other way around—you get the picture. 
  • The Mindy Project twitter posted that picture of Danny at the end with the caption, “Finally.” Finally what? Finally Danny went to meet the parents? We’ve been anticipating that event for only, like, 20 minutes. Finally Danny professed his love to Mindy? He’s already done that, a million times. 
I know there are more reasons. I’m so tired so please forgive me if you think these questions are easy to answer.

The biggest thing that got in my way from this episode being the rectifier for all past episodes that I’d complained about in the past was that Danny’s action doesn’t mean that much when you consider the past. He has done the romantic gesture, like, every episode. And I know I’ve said this, but it has been a really long time since we’ve gotten any plausible reason why Danny loves Mindy so much. Not because of her "confidence," because based on his behavior (laughing at her, telling her to stop talking, etc) he is working on fixing that about her. But when was the last instance where she told a joke and he laughed? When was the last time they talked without bickering? Or without some conflict between them? Or without the need to apologize for something? When was the last time Danny was nice to Mindy just because he loved her, not because he owed her?

So the “I love yous” this season felt increasingly hollow as the season progressed. This episode gave them meaning and weight—again, this episode was awesome.

But it just sucks that the majority of this season hasn’t done this episode the service it deserves. This episode has made the process of forgive-and-forget so tiresome that when an episode like this comes by, it takes a while to realize that what is going on actually means something.

And what was really something—more exciting than the final shot, though not quite as artful and cinematic (because wow on the ending)—was that Mindy broke the cycle of passively forgiving Danny. She did not send the email that would justify his behavior as: “We’re figuring this out, and that’s okay with me.” I don’t doubt all her words are true, but… still. I hope this is a problem that is not fixed within the first episode; I hope this is a problem that helps the fourth season get off on the right foot. Mindy doesn’t trust Danny’s ability to commit. Who the hell knows if Danny will change or not?

Do these people still make each other better, or would they be better off apart?

Stray Obso’s:
  • Speaking of apart—I am pretty sure this is one of only two episodes where Mindy and Danny do not end an episode sitting on a couch/bed together or having a cutesy moment. Don’t quote me on that, but still.
  • Peter’s marriage to Lauren is totally gonna fall apart, right? I mean, the pre-nup comment, the stalking comments, etc.? I don’t understand what the joke is about stalking, by the way—is it that he “wore Lauren down”? If so, ick.
  • I love that this episode brought Tamra and Morgan together but didn’t have them hook up. Trying to shove that in would have made the episode unnecessarily jampacked, and I would like to visit that in the fourth season.
  • 20 bucks that the fourth season opens with Danny at the wrong door and Mindy’s parents are down the hall? Hereeee’s hoping!
  • One disappointment of this season is that we didn’t get to see more of Stanford. I loved that Mindy got to do a lot of career-forwarding things this season and would have liked to see her ride out Stanford without Danny flying over there every episode.
  • Mindys Lahiri and Kaling win the MVP for the season. I say it every time, but Mindy Kaling has become such a great actress, and Mindy Lahiri has grown so much. Last season I was a Danny apologist in a major way; now I don’t know why he deserves her.
  • Was Mindy ever the one “in the wrong” for an episode? Dead serious about this question. Follow-up: if so, was Danny also presented as being “in the wrong,” too (a la "Caramel Princess Time")? 
  • “It’s just a sitcom” is something I got in the comments last time, too, and something I have also thought a lot about. Why do I care so much about a sitcom, or why do I judge it so harshly? The answer is in the changing standards and expectations. This is a rom-com, not a buddy comedy (a la It’s Always Sunny), so it’s harder for me to get behind excessive shenanigans.
  • Okay, so all the boyfriends were great. Max Greenfield made me wonder if I should give New Girl another try, he was so good. Anders Holm on hotness alone makes me wonder if I should watch Workaholics but his delivery of every single line is so A+ that now I think I must. Josh is one of my all time faves and I think he is one of the funniest characters this show has ever created. BJ is quite controversial (hee hee) but I loved his little aside with Morgan.
  • My four boyfriends I’d bring back: Casey, Josh, Josh Meyers, Tim Olyphant. Please tell me yours!
  • Fave episodes this season - Cathoholic, Christmas, Haters, Dinner, Lands’ End. Fave guest star - Colbert. Dark horse fave - Neepa.
  • You guys were really great last time in the comments about telling me why you disagreed with me, and I loved that! Please tell me why you disagree with me, because I love talking about TV with people. (I would especially love that now because now it is 5 AM and I am very tired and I am sure I didn’t form my argument as strongly as I could have, so by talking to me about what you agree/disagree with I can maybe do a better job clarifying tomorrow).
  • I’m not saying what I wrote is trash, obviously. I’m a consummate professional, you goonie. I am mostly saying that because Jenn and Jamie had so many good points to say about this season and this episode (weirdly, I seemed to like it more than a lot of people, including these two) and I am afraid I’m not giving them justice.
  • But FYI - for those who think I (or Jenn or whoever’s review you may vehemently disagree with in the future) am a buzzkill, hata, waka flocka, whatever — each one of these reviews is over 1,000 words long. This one is 2,000 words long. These take me about 1-2 hours to do. I have written enough in my 2 years of Mindy for a novel. If you (general “you,” obv) feel any urge or tendency to be rude (which is not the same thing as disagreeing with me), remember that a) I am a human person, an angel without wings, even and b) I may be a hater, but I’m a hater who puts a lot of time and work into these things and ultimately loves to do this and loves to write. [Jenn's note: PREACH IT, ANN. Ann spends a LOT of time working on her reviews as does everyone who writes for this site. On average, an Arrow review will be ~4,000 words, a Community one ~2,000, a Once Upon A Time one ~1,000, etc. People work hard to write these and carve a lot of time out of their days to do so. Disagreement is one thing -- we totally and completely open well-articulated criticisms and comments here, because not everyone watches television the same way and that's amazing. But please don't bring hate to this site. Especially to people who work hard for what they love.]
  • Speaking of “love” — THANK YOU TO JENN FOR THIS AWESOME OPPORTUNITY. I have been slacking lately, but you have been so accommodating. You are knowledgeable and understanding and generous and this has been so much fun for me. You are the best! [Jenn's note: UGH, I LOVE YOU. Thank you for being my Mindy guru/rom-com guru/general TV guru & being so awesome. AND for managing to write and be in school at the same time, plus being a part of a sorority and like, running 26 miles. I don't know how you do it.]
  • And hey, if you made it this far—THANK YOU FOR READING MY REVIEWS THIS SEASON, if you stuck around. I’m sorry if you disagreed with me for much of what I wrote. I am sorry that I didn’t love the season more. I think I will like it more while binge-watching it, but I stick by what I’ve written. I also really want to write for Jenn this summer (and hopefully a little more before then) so stay tuned! 
* Other episodes of note Mindy has written: “Pilot,” “Take Me With You,” “All My Problems,” “You’ve Got Sext,” “The Desert,” (co-written) “Danny and Mindy,” “We’re a Couple Now,” “Caramel Princess Time.” Her only missteps were “LA” and “Danny Castellano Is My Nutritionist,” but on the other hand she helped write The Office’s “The Injury” (hilarious) and “Niagara” (very romantic) so let’s call it even.

Mindians - I WILL SEE YOU NEXT SEASON! SEASON FOUR BABAYYYYY.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Arrow 3x17 "Suicidal Tendencies" (So It's Gonna Be Forever Or It's Gonna Go Down In Flames)


"Suicidal Tendencies"
Original Airdate: March 25, 2015

I'm not married, but I'm old enough to have seen a great number of my friends and classmates tie the knot. Ironically enough, I'm also old enough that I've seen a fraction of those same couples separate and divorce. Love is weird. It's weird and it's painful and it's wonderful and it's what makes the world spin on its axis. But anyone who's married will tell you that love is difficult. It's work. It doesn't come naturally to us. Naturally, we want to be selfish. We want to think of the best thing for us. We don't want to think of other people or their wants or their needs. And when you get married, you have to. And when you have a family, you have to. You have to consciously shut down the part of you that wants to be only about you in order to compromise, sacrifice, and live for another person. Love is work but in my experience, it's always worth it.

They always say that you should marry your best friend, and I think that's true. I think you should marry (again, take this advice with a grain of salt because I'm still single) someone who is your partner and your equal -- someone who will share your burdens with you, not make you carry the weight of the world by yourself. You should marry someone who fights for you, day after day. You should marry someone who you can take on the world together with. Diggle and Lyla have that, in "Suicidal Tendencies." They don't agree on everything. They don't often agree on how a situation should be handled or what tactic or strategy is best. But the reason that they work as a couple and the reason they survive in the Arrow-verse where everyone is angst-ridden and brooding is because they count on each other and always have each others' backs. Oh, sure, they argue and they fight. But Lyla knows John -- she knows who he is and what he should do, even when he can't admit it. And John Diggle would do anything to protect Lyla. They'll constantly defend each other even when they don't understand each other because that's just what love is.

"Suicidal Tendencies" is a jam-packed episode of Arrow, so let's discuss more Diggle/Lyla stuff as well as some Oliver/Ray/Felicity shenanigans (see: drama) below!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

6x03 "Basic Crisis Room Decorum" (The Annie Of It All) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"Basic Crisis Room Decorum"
Original Airdate: March 24, 2015

There are two plots happening in the blessedly tame 100th episode of Community, "Basic Crisis Room Decorum." The A-Plot is about Annie and the rest of the group trying to stop City College from running a commercial about how Greendale once gave a degree to a dog named Ruffles. The B-Plot is that the Dean has been texting a student in Japan, thinking he’s actually texting Jeff Winger. I’m going to talk way more about the former than the latter in this review.

I liked the A-plot of this episode, not only because it revolved around Annie and I love Annie, but also because I think it was a pretty good reflection of the show itself and that’s really good, since this is Community’s 100th episode and all. A hundred episodes is a huge milestone for a TV show, especially one that seems to live perpetually on the bubble of cancellation like the series has during its entire run.

Community has always been a show about hope to me. The series was birthed during a time when cynicism was the key to “good comedy” and even though this show is sharp and jagged sometimes, even though it dips briefly into moments of despair, it always seems to float back up again.

One of my favorite episodes – if not my very favorite episode – is “Mixology Certification,” which is generally considered a “dark” episode by viewers and critics because there aren’t very many jokes and wacky hijinks throughout it. It’s an episode that touches one of those aforementioned moments of despair as all our characters get drunk in a bar and realize they’re unhappy with who they are and what the world has in store for them. They yell at each other, they lie to strangers to make themselves feel better, they get drinks thrown on them and they get trapped, separated and alone, in a bar entryway. It isn’t a good day.

But at the end of the episode, when Troy is driving his friends home after what seems to be a terrible 21st birthday meant to celebrate him becoming a man, Troy smiles. Because he still loves his friends, he still has hope, and the future is brighter than one bad day.

That’s what Community is about. It’s about a world of broken people who still manage to make a loving family and find joy in each other in spite of all their faults and strangeness and bad days. For the most part, it’s a show that says, no – you don’t have to reject love in order to be cool, or funny, or smart. You don’t have to stoop to lower levels to win. You don’t have to give in to the hipster notion that liking things and loving people means you’re less than the people who don’t like things and don’t love people. Liking things, loving people – that’s how you show the world around you that you’re alive and paying attention.

I don’t know if I can say that Community has absolutely stuck with what I believe to be its core concept through all its ups and downs as a show, but Annie’s role in “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” and the resolution of its story makes me think it’s still trying. I hope it continues to try.


“Basic Crisis Room Decorum”

In the case of Annie's story, this episode looks like a rehash of the season two's episode "Basic Rocket Science," in which Annie threatens to transfer to City College because she's ashamed of Greendale and its apathetic, ridiculous students.

The difference between the two episodes is that, in "Basic Rocket Science," Annie is ashamed of how Greendale makes her look.

In "Basic Crisis Room Decorum," Annie is ashamed of how Greendale makes her feel.

In season two, Annie couldn't stand that Greendale was a place that accepted and flew a butt flag. Greendale was a joke, and she didn't want a joke of a school to be on her resumé. She had too much self-respect and pride to stick around.

By season six, Annie's moved past the idea that maybe Greendale doesn't look so great on a resumé. She's accepted the school and its quirks and still takes pride in her success, her good grades, and her ability to run the "Save Greendale" campaign in spite of how Greendale looks on paper because, up until this episode, Annie's always believed that whatever problems she might encounter can be conquered with hard work, dedication, and the help of her friends. That's why she calls them in to help her stop City College's attack ad, only to end up horrified by their methods of doing so.

A fundamental trait in Annie Edison is that she wants the people around her to be the best people they can possibly be. She likes highlighting the good in others and trying to get them to see it in themselves, because Annie always sees it. But what if she stops seeing it? What if she starts only seeing the underhanded, manipulative, defeatist parts of the people she's spent all this effort trying to lift up? What if the people she's trying to help flat-out tell her that there's no reason to try and be good and that hope is pointless?

I'm sure that Annie is sick and tired of being the optimist in a sea of pessimism. After all: what's the point? Her friends apparently haven't grown in the six years she's known them, and even the new people in the group seem eternally fatalistic.

Annie thought she had an ally in Frankie, had another person with an A-Type personality and go-getter attitude to help inspire the people around her and bring Greendale out of whatever new darkness it might find itself in. Then she hears Frankie's declaration that she gave up hope a long time ago and was better for it, and Annie realizes that even Frankie is just the same as everyone else, just as pessimistic and just as content with her apathy and cynicism. If Frankie, a woman I'm sure Annie saw a lot of herself in, couldn't even keep herself from nose-diving into hopelessness, what chance does Annie have? If she's in a school full of people who have no drive, no ambition, and don't feel like they need to change anything – how long will it take before Annie is just like them?

So Annie wants out. She claims she wants to go to a place where her grades matter (and I'm sure that's a part of it), but the real motivation in her decision to bail on Greendale is watching her friends use dirty political tactics to fudge the truth instead of owning up to that truth and being better than it. She doesn't like seeing proof that her belief in the people around her was ill-founded and pointless, that maybe the goodness she saw in all of them was just an illusion brought about by the pointless trait of "hope." She cleans out her locker and thinks that, just maybe, things will be different at City College.

But then Abed brings Annie the new campaign commercial for Greendale, where a happy Dean Pelton is sitting with Ruffles the dog and promoting Greendale not as a place so terrible it give degrees to dogs, but as a place so full of hope and the possibility for improvement that it gives degrees to dogs. Annie is overjoyed; even when Jeff tells her the commercial was just a good tactical move. She doesn't care, because it finally looks like hope wins. Her belief in the people around her didn't let her down in the end, which means that she can keep on believing in people. She can keep being an optimist in that sea of pessimism and, just maybe, she might be able to make a difference.

She hopes.

Other stuff:

  • I was pretty happy with Chang in the previous two episodes, but he really fell flat in this one. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that works and doesn’t work about his character anymore.
  • The Dean/Jeff plot fell flat, too, and I think too much time was dedicated to it. It might have been better as a one-time joke, but they kept revisiting it and it wore reeeeally thin.
  • I think I felt more for Britta during the brief moment where she tells Elroy about how everyone treats her like a joke than I did during the entire previous episode. Because, let’s face it, the previous episode… treated her like a joke.
  • “Could you guys be bigger nerds?” “No, most of us have achieved our maximum potential.”
  • I’m so glad that they don’t seem to be trying to do Annie vs. Frankie in any real way. I just wanted to say that, because there was a lot of buzz about Annie vs. Frankie pre-season six and it made me really nervous.
  • "I assume Chang thinks I sound like distant explosions and crying babies."
  • We get a slow, sad reprise of "If I Die Before You" as Annie's packing up her stuff to leave. Because "Greendale Is Where I Belong" wouldn't really fit, would it?
  • Hello there, confirmed birthday for Annie! 12/19/1990. I can't believe I'm older than Annie. [Jenn's note: Geez, I can't believe I'm older than Annie, too]
  • “Yes, Jeff, don’t worry. I promise I’ll never mistake you for having a heart.” Oh, please, Annie, you know very well that Jeff has a heart. YOU’RE IN IT.
What did you all think of "Basic Crisis Room Decorum"? Did you enjoy the A-plot? Also, be sure to hit up the comments below and welcome Deb as my weekly co-reviewer this season for Community! (Also welcome her because she'll be sticking around to review Sleepy Hollow next season. I basically hold my writers captive, is what I'm saying.)
Until then, folks! :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Once Upon A Time 4x15 "Poor Unfortunate Soul" (So Much For Our Happy Ending)


"Poor Unfortunate Soul"
Original Airdate: March 22, 2015

Do you deserve what you get because of who you are or who you've been?

That's a fundamental question this season in Once Upon A Time where the complex ideas of predestination vs. free will vs. good vs. evil seem to be constantly at play. For instance, does Ursula deserve a happy ending even though she's been a villain? Does Regina deserve to be happy, too, given all that she's done? And can Hook keep his own happy ending when -- once upon a time -- he, too, was a dastardly pirate, content to value revenge over doing the right thing? At the end of "Poor Unfortunate Soul," our favorite pirate seems concerned that his story is only destined to end one way: with him losing his happy ending. Because he was once a villain, he doesn't deserve the good things that come with being a hero. It's funny, though, because the heroes themselves are harboring darkness and secrets: Snow and Charming are both keeping something that happened years ago from Emma. So the question then is this: is your happy ending determined by what you were "written" as? Or should it be determined by who you become, in spite of your origin? Because though Snow and Charming were written as heroes, they still did very un-heroic things and manage to procure a happy ending for themselves, while characters like Regina (those who were once villainous and turned from evil in order to fight for the good) struggle every day to obtain even little glimmers of happiness and love.

(I told you this season of Once Upon A Time was complex.)

The layer of complexity and depth this season is because of The Author -- a mysterious figure, trapped in a book, who wrote everyone's stories. The villains and the heroes both want the same thing: they want him to change the ending of their stories. And if the villains get there first? Well, they're going to ensure that they triumph over the heroes. All the heroes want, meanwhile, is the opportunity for grace and redemption -- for everyone's endings to be deserved, not predetermined. There's a lot that is revealed, especially by Ursula, in "Poor Unfortunate Soul," so let's discuss, shall we?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 5


Can you believe we've been doing this series for five weeks already? We've already featured some amazing performers over the past few weeks and I'm so excited to have a great team who's dedicated to naming some of the most outstanding performances from actors and actresses each week. This week, some of the best work on television was some of the most heart-breaking. My companion this week is my name twin, my soul sister, and my other (better) half in the Arrow fandom: Jen!
So let's get to it, then!

'The Mindy Project' x 4 (Or: Pre-Gaming for the Finale) [Contributor: Ann]


I have been gone for four weeks now from writing reviews for Jenn here at Just About Write. My excuses are the same: I have been (insanely!) busy with school and with my sorority and it has been hard to carve time to construct a review that I think adds anything of value. While those are certainly true, here is a new excuse for you — not even an excuse, because it doesn’t “excuse” me of anything. An explanation, I guess.

I have watched all four episodes of The Mindy Project that have aired since “Lahiri Family Values.” They were the first four episodes since “Santa Fe” in 2013 that I did not watch live. When “What to Expect When You’re Expanding”  was expected to air, I reminded my roommates: “Mindy is going to be on.” They said, “We still watch that?”

And so the story unfortunately goes that one year after I was counting down the days—maybe even hours—to the April return of The Mindy Project, I am now apathetic to its departure this Tuesday. What a disappointment.

If you are a supporter of this third season, it is easy to read these reviews and put me in the role of “villain,” the turncoat who would giggle with glee at bad demo numbers. Like there are sides to watching television or, to be more specific, that it really matters whether or not someone likes a show the same that they used to. And I should be clear that I’m not someone who is angry at the show or in disbelief that anyone still watches it. As I have maintained, I owe so much to The Mindy Project: I owe it you guys, after all.

But here is my explanation of why it has taken me so long to write this review, which will be a review of the episodes I’ve missed and the season in whole in preparation for the finale. When I first began writing for Just About Write—an opportunity that thrilled me because I had loved to read Jenn’s New Girl recaps—I was primarily writing to channel my passion for Mindy. Now I don’t really care about Mindy. I care about Jenn, and writing, and all of you guys. I love talking about TV; I love TV as a way to tell stories.

But The Mindy Project has lost my interest. It has let me down. Read anything I wrote before September and know that admitting this isn’t something I expected at all. I worshiped this show (I used to count laps at the track by listing, in order, episodes of The Mindy Project). Now I don’t. Diagnosing this problem shouldn’t start with me, though. I am not wrong when I say this show has changed (and it is only my opinion that claims it’s for the worse). It is not that I am addicted to the will-they-won’t-they.* I’m addicted to the storytelling, the character development, the character consistency that I swore this show once had.

I’ll be pretty succinct in my episode reviews and then summarize this season:

Danny Castellano is My Nutritionist
Of the four episodes, this was my least favorite—and I love the other two “DCIM” episodes! This episode committed so many sins: the unnecessary inclusion of Vanessa Williams as the apparently required thirty-second celebrity cameo, Danny nagging Mindy, Danny being wrong because of a third party, Danny having to apologize, bad editing, vomit, Peter stalking Lauren, and Dr. “Unnecessary and Rude” Bergdahl, who truly does not fit into this show at all. Should I sympathize with the guy who introduces himself so rudely (not to mention so unoriginally—see Morgan and Peter’s hiring?). Parts of this episode were funny, but when the plot leaves such a sour taste in your mouth, there’s no desire to rewatch this.

Fertility Bites
A little better than “DCIMN,” this episode does a convincing job of giving Mindy depth and stakes. That she is starting a fertility clinic and having a baby all seems like a lot of plot points intersecting at once, and it’s nice to have an episode recognize that and have Mindy do something problematic (lie about Danny’s sperm) that is also worthy of sympathy. The B-plot is stupid, though Jeremy kills (as always) when he asserts that Tamra and Morgan can’t hire someone else. Kris Jenner does okay... but is she really necessary? Oh, another thing: the joke about Mindy rejecting a patient for being too old was so cringe-worthy in an ugly way, and really undermines her self-acceptance episode two weeks later.

Confessions of a Catho-holic
Tropey, but funny. So funny. I watched this at home so maybe that contributed to my enjoyment of the episode, and I also love Stephen Colbert so that didn’t hurt either. But I love episodes that have Mindy and Danny team up. I also really loved Mindy this episode (so many great lines, but one of my favorites was in the church when Stephen Colbert said something about how small sins are as quick a path to hell as murder or whatever and Mindy said, “I’m pretty sure it’s not, though.” Also her calling it a shame that he was a virgin, the nun selfie, and the rambling of Saints-turned-Beatles. Probably a million more. I also felt that the obligatory Danny-has-done-something-wrong-and-must-apologize moment was more earned than they often are and was sweet.

What to Expect When You’re Expanding
A lot of people liked this episode for the positive message it sent about body acceptance and self-love. Again, I couldn’t really get past who was delivering that message and would have rather just heard Mindy Kaling say it in an interview than Mindy Lahiri. The way Mindy treats Morgan in this episode is impossible to reconcile with her journey of self-acceptance. It’s reasonable to have a character who is both insecure and rude, but the tonal change in this episode was jarring to me. Not to mention that I didn’t find this episode very funny and was annoyed at the throwaway treatment of Jessica, which (I imagine—Jenn, back me up here) was as unexpected and ill-explained as Ryan Geauxinue’s departure from New Girl. [Jenn's note: I feel like even Ryan was more fleshed out than that. The Mindy Project has this thing they do when they introduce you to a character long enough for you to remember their name and sort-of start to like them and then rip them away from you. Also I "watched" this episode while making muffins so needless to say I forgot half the plot.]


THE GRINCH LIST, OR OPERATION: BUZZKILL, OR HOW MY HOPES AND DREAMS AND EXPECTATIONS WERE DASHED AGAINST THE ROCKS FACING THE ROUGH WATERS OF TV SUCKAGE

Why do I not like this season of The Mindy Project? I read a review once of this show—or maybe someone said this to me?—that conceded that Mindy was as funny as ever, but that the treatment of every other element of the show was so poor that it would just be better as stand-up. I so agree with this statement and here is why:

I don’t recognize my characters anymore. Yes, the rough picture is about the same: Mindy says “How dare you” and Danny has red glasses and Mindy and Danny love each other so, so much. But look closer and see that they have changed. Their characters are exaggerated; Danny gets crazy eyes and buys funeral plots instead of engagement rings, and Mindy … Mount Facemore, man. You can’t relate to them because … okay, imagine that Mindy and Danny are made out of Silly Putty, and with every outrageous joke that the writers create for these distinct voices they have to stretch a little bit to accommodate the absurdity of the statement. And imagine that the writers have done that so many times, and taken so many liberties with the character, that Danny—who hid his emotions but felt them regardless, who was so palpably traumatized by the desertion of his ex-wife and his father that ugly characteristics like arrogance and detachment were made manifest—has become an inexcusable jerk who needs a person to talk him out of every situation he’s ever been in. Or imagine Mindy, who oscillates wildly from the self-assured, realized, flawed character she was meant to be and the hot mess the writers toy with from time to time (think her misreading the flyer for the BASH). And maybe these two piles of amorphous putty can tell a good joke, but they can no longer sell me on emotional intimacy like they once did. I remember saying that what made Danny and Mindy’s relationship so great was that its flavor was so distinct and unique. I didn’t see in Mindy and Danny a relationship I wanted; I saw a relationship I wanted to root for. Now I don’t know what is even left.

Three seasons is more than enough to struggle with the supporting cast. Jeremy is my favorite supporting cast character, and a lot of that is thanks to the charisma of Ed Weeks. It can’t be because Jeremy’s character makes a lot of compelling sense or that his development throughout the series is particularly thought-provoking or interesting. Ed Weeks is a funny guy who is game to do whatever the writers ask of him, and he remains the best part of this season for me (I mean, God, remember his accent?!).

But Tamra and Morgan are pretty shapeless, as is their relationship with each other. Hearing updates on Tamra and Morgan is like having your hairdresser tell you their love story: it’s pleasant enough and helps pass the time, but when you come back six months later** there’s no way you’re going to remember any of it or even really care.

Bergdahl is nonsensical to me, if I haven’t pointed this out before. I agree with Mindy Lahiri that he doesn’t fit into Schulman and Associates, but that’s because I don’t think there’s any clear definition of what Schulman and Associates is that having another unknown variable is exhausting. I have no interest in learning anything about him.

What I do think this season has done well is utilize Beverly appropriately. I never want a Beverly B-plot and am so happy she is around for a reliable one-liner every episode.

Unnecessary celebrity casting. God, there’s so many. Kris Jenner. Vanessa Williams. Shonda Rimes. Cristin Milioti and Laverne Cox, Lee Pace and Chrissy Teigen, John Cho, Allison Tolman. x100000, especially if you count characters with extended recurring roles (Anders Holm, etc). That’s not to say that these actors didn’t nail what they were supposed to do—but I almost feel like this show is so afraid to let me hang out with the people I already know that it insists on introducing a million more randos for a brief appearance and then departure. I mean, will we ever see Niecy Nash again on an episode? Does it matter?

Boring, boring plot structure. I’ve mentioned it before and I will mention it again (taking a page from one of my favorite TV shows): straight up, almost every episode of this season begins, progresses, and then ends the same way. I haven’t been precise and I am not going to check, but I am pretty sure there is only one episode this season that doesn’t end with Mindy and Danny on the couch/bed/whatever, post-reconciliation (and that’s when Mindy is in Stanford). Most episodes make Danny the villain who must apologize, and most have him consulting Peter (the SAGE) or any number of guest stars to teach him how to properly respect his girlfriend/not buy her a brimstone without asking first. It’s all the same, and it sucks to see Danny constantly wronging Mindy. “But that’s what makes him real!” you might argue—and sure, yeah, great, whatever. But when you consider that this is every episode that he must apologize to Mindy, you stop rooting for him and you stop rooting for them.

I am so tired and have been writing this review for some time, so while I could elaborate, I think this is where I think I’ve made my point as best as I ever could. All of the things I mention that make this season worse than last are things that detract from this show’s heart: the jokes overpower the characters, emotional development is nonexistent mostly to make a splash (”We’re not like other shows! Who gives a hoot when Mindy says she loves Danny? It’s, like, so real!”), and characters are often overshadowed by the bright and underdeveloped lines of a superficial comedy.  If you don’t see what I see, that is great—don’t let me stop you. But when you wonder where I have gone, now at least you understand.

Strays

  • * One of the things that pisses me off is when I am accused of disliking this season because I am an addict for the will-they-won’t-they, as if my shows must have a dramatic love story to be good. I do love romance, but the reason why I do is because romance gives characters focus and forces them to confront interesting questions, like: what attracts them? How do they handle jealousy? Whose needs do they prioritize? Does the other person make them better or worse? How do they react when they’re with them, given that they want to impress the person? Do they even want to impress them, or will they push them away? And so on. Making the case of “you need THIS” is so simple, as if I don’t know a million TV couples who I could watch on Youtube to get my fix! Like, have you ever seen Pride and Prejudice’s rain scene? SMH.
  • When a show sucks after the will-they-won’t-they is gone, it’s on the show and not on my preferences. It means that without that narrow focus, the show has nowhere to go. It doesn’t recognize the people grow past when they first get together with someone, and it doesn’t recognize that people can grow from others and also not stay with them forever. (THE WONDER YEARS!) The characters stagnate and go nowhere and that is when I start wanting to jump ship.

** Should I get my hair cut more frequently? 20 bucks for someone to put scissors to my hair in an orderly way seems like a lot for every six weeks. Also, should I get bangs? Short hair? Ahh, wrong time wrong place. I know when to leave, don’t worry

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Supernatural 10x15 "The Things They Carried" [Contributor: Deena Edwards]


"The Things They Carried"
Original Airdate: March 18, 2015

As you’ll probably notice, I decided to change things up a little in this particular review. Since this was a pretty basic monster-of-the-week episode, I thought it would be better to, rather than my usual scene-by-scene recap, focus on the characters and their development this time around.

Let’s start with the returning Cole Trenton. You would think with practically 90% of his interactions with the Winchesters in the show so far being him trying to kill Dean, that I would want him dead. That I would have spent the entire episode rolling my eyes at him and wondering why they brought him back in the first place, but no. As a character, I’m actually warming up to the guy, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s got great chemistry with our boys already. Sure, he’s reckless, stubborn, and he nearly got himself killed going in alone to save his friend, a man who was practically family to him. But in the end... doesn’t that description sound a little bit familiar? A certain pair of brothers who throw themselves into danger nearly every day of their lives, willing to put themselves in harm’s way multiple times just for the chance of saving one life?

Of course, Cole isn’t as smart about it, but that’s only because he’s still new to this whole world. He spent most of his life training to kill, but he’s still innocent in his own way when it comes to what’s really out there. Before he found out the truth, he’d gone his entire life believing that the only ‘monster’ that existed came in the form of Dean Winchester, the very man who killed his father when he was young. As unprepared as he still is now in the supernatural world, he has to go anyway. He has to warn Kit, his friend--- in his mind, that was the right thing to do. He was thinking with his heart, with his emotions, rather than with his head like skilled hunters do, but I can’t entirely blame him for that.

He didn’t embrace the hunter lifestyle, and yet, when he decided to go find his friend, even if it wasn’t exactly the safest thing to do, I felt like he was a hunter in that moment, making a tough decision to keep someone safe. Even if the someone was actually the monster, he wanted to tackle this in a way that no one else got hurt. He wanted to find his friend, and try to fix it, rather than just having the monster and its host killed outright, which is a department our Team Free Will have been faltering in as of late. They were raised to think that if something’s a monster, you put it down. Cole, on the other hand, feels as if there’s a chance to save his buddy without doing that, he wants to at least try.

And then, when he tells Dean that if it goes down “that road”, that if he’s unable to get the Khan worm out of him before it’s too late, to kill him, like he killed his father--- he finally understands the reason behind Dean’s actions. Cole has been nothing if not bitter about it, blaming his father’s death on Dean rather than the monster inside his father, until now. This is wonderful development on his part, and part of me can’t help but hope we get to see him again soon. Though, another part of me hopes that we don’t, that he gets to return to his family and try to put his life back together, rather than having any more part in the supernatural world. He deserves that much.
- “Don’t blame yourself for Kit, man.”
- “I can’t help it, Dean, it feels crappy.”
- “I know it does.”
Like I’ve said once before, Sam and Dean are no strangers to guilt, and in this episode, Sam especially takes his failure to save Cole’s friend really hard. He’s always been the more sympathetic of the two, more vocally emotional when things get rough, and this is no exception. He feels crappy, and he has every right to be. When their job is about saving people, it doesn’t matter how many people they save; if they fail to save one person out of a hundred, they’ll still beat themselves up over it. In this case, Sam’s failure to save Kit has a pretty obvious double meaning, which is obvious when Dean assures him that you can do everything right, and still sometimes “the guy still dies.” You can see the determination in Sam’s eyes the very last second before it cuts to black. He’s not going to let that happen. He’s going to try, and keep trying, however long and however hard it takes, until he saves his brother.

And of course, I’m not going to forget about Dean. Even though this episode focused very little on him and his Mark of Cain problem, there were still very subtle moments within it that shows that he might actually be well on his way onto accepting this whole deal. He’s always referred to himself as not worthy of being saved, and even now that seems to hold true to him. It kills him to see Sam trying so hard, when he himself believes there’s no way back from this, which in turn, kills me. Why can’t our boys have a moment of happiness?!

Memorable Moments/Quotes:
  • The episode took place in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Even though that’s roughly about four hours from where I am, I still felt it was flail-worthy when I saw the ep was in my state.
  • “Dude, it wasn’t porn.” “Okay, ‘erotica,’ whatever.” 
  • “I gotta move on. So I’m gonna keep doing what we do, while I still can, and I’d like you to be there with me.”
  • Two of the characters had the names Rick and Beth. Is this The Walking Dead, or Supernatural?
  • “That was a dumbass move coming in here alone, you know that, right?” “I’m sorry, I should have let the machete brothers cut my buddy’s head off.”
  • “What do you think about rapid dehydration?” “Big fan.”
  • Sammy boy? Dean-o?  Cole, please. I like ya, but you’ve not been around long enough to earn the use of those nicknames.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Arrow 3x16 "The Offer" (Are You Better Off?)


"The Offer"
Original Airdate: March 18, 2015

You know what is really difficult for me? Making a decision. My friends and I joke about how we are all quite indecisive, but there's a nugget -- nay, a boulder -- of truth in our jokes. It took my best friend and me about twenty minutes to decide where to go for dinner one night. We began texting, trying to weigh our options: Well, what were we hungry for? Which places were a good half-way distance between our apartments? What time should we eat? I am a terrible decision-maker. My roommate is not. My roommate will make a decision without too much hesitation or conflict because she would rather have a plan solidified than waste fifteen or twenty minutes contemplating options. I've had to make very few life-altering decisions in my twenty-six years on earth. I've decided where to go to college. I decided to break up with my college boyfriend. I decided when to transfer to another university. I decided when to move out of my parents' home. I decided when I wanted to start looking to buy a house. I decided when I wanted to start searching for other jobs. All of those decisions are good and they're important.

But sometimes, decisions aren't easy. Sometimes offers that we have seem tempting and they seem good and they seem perfect, but they turn out to be something we didn't want. And sometimes, the thing that seems least appealing to us actually becomes more intriguing. There's a common thread there that is really important in decision-making: your circumstances. Where you are physically, mentally, and emotionally when you are preparing to make a decision is often more important than the decision itself because it colors your perception of your circumstances and it colors your decision, too. I'm sure you all know where this is going, but Oliver Queen has a very difficult decision to make in "The Offer" as he contemplates Ra's' offer to become the next Ra's al Ghul. And we look at Oliver's circumstances and think the same thing that Diggle and Felicity think: of course he'll say no. Of course he will. It would be absurd to agree to that. It's not even an option.

There are two simple words that can alter our trajectory and they're two words that Oliver contemplates in this episode: "... and yet." It seems like Oliver would never agree to become Ra's. And yet... has Oliver lost himself so much already that he believes becoming Ra's would be and could be his next logical leap? Would it be better for those he cares about if he wasn't in their lives? Ra's isn't stupid -- he didn't make an offer knowing that Oliver would immediately turn it down. He knows who Oliver Queen is. He knows what he fights for. And Ra's knows that this proposal is attractive to Oliver, which is why he offered it in the first place.

6x01 "Ladders" & 6x02 "Lawnmower Maintenance and Postnatal Care" (Once More Into The Fray)


"Ladders" & "Lawnmower Maintenance and Postnatal Care"
Original Airdate: March 17, 2015

To say that I had a lot of problems with Community's fifth season would be an understatement. In a year that began with promise, the series quickly dove into its stale bag of tricks (Everything is so meta! Look, we did an homage just for the sake of an homage! Why don't we just re-visit Jeff/Britta/Annie again? We haven't done that in a while! When all else fails, have Joel lose his shirt!) and I found myself longing for much more than the show was delivering. I ached for the days when characters shared meaningful scenes together. You remember these people, right? Seven unique individuals with their own backstories and tragedies and quirks who were more than just punchlines or archetypes. Instead of growth, I found that the fifth season displayed stagnation at best and downright regression at worst. With two fewer study group members, I expected stories to focus on Shirley as a character or Annie or maybe even the relationship between the three remaining women. Instead, not a single character grew (well, maybe Abed a bit but even that's a stretch) throughout the year and we were plopped down in the exact same place we began: the study group failing to succeed in the real world, having to save Greendale, and then being forced to essentially stay there forever.

If it sounds like I'm bitter, it's because I am. Community is what started this blog in the first place. And it wasn't flawless when it began, but it WAS focused on a trajectory -- it was centered around growth and development and change and friendship and acceptance. And somehow, along the way, love triangles and homages and over-the-top antics watered down those messages and made them less powerful, less frequent, and -- consequently -- less important. The characters sort of blended into this weird and wild and crazy world of Greendale to the point where the school itself actually became a more important character over the years than anyone in the study group. What should have been a show about people learning to accept others became a show focused on GREENDALE as the star. And that's when the fissures began to occur, really: when the school is more important than the people in it, there are problems.

Now, I know this all sounds like I hate the once-NBC series. I don't. I don't hate Community at all. It's because I love it so much that I'm more hurt at how it's disappointed me over the years. But I genuinely want the show to succeed. I want it to return to the exploration of human nature and friendship and love and -- very appropriately -- community. And that's actually something that you need to do in order to examine television critically: you need to look at where it is flawed and where it is successful and evaluate how the series can grow and develop and what is hindering that development. Oh, sure, I fangirl over things still in the series just like everyone else. But for a long time, whenever I watched a television show I loved, I would gloss over its flaws in favor of squeeing. That's... well, not what I want to do anymore. And that's not what my reviews will be anymore (I can't speak for Deborah who -- in case you didn't know -- I am SUPER pleased to announce will be co-reviewing with me this season!)

So if you would like to find a place that fangirls over Community and worships at the feet of Dan Harmon, I can kindly direct you to a few places. But if you want to have some frank discussions about what works when the show is at its absolute best and what completely and totally does not work (*gasp!*) then this is the place for you this year! 

Because, as Orlando Jones so brilliantly said: "Criticizing something doesn't mean you want it to fail. A passionately engaged audience is better than an indifferent one."

So here we are, six seasons into the series (now airing on Yahoo! TV because why not) and I'm ready to embrace this new year provided it delivers some great character arcs. And given this Debbie Downer introduction, I bet you're just dying to know what I thought of the one-hour return to Greendale Community College, aren't you? Well, let's get to it then and discuss where we are at the beginning of season six and where we could be by the end of it.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Once Upon A Time 4x14 "Enter the Dragon" (Harnessing The Evil Inside)


"Enter the Dragon"
Original Airdate: March 15, 2015

I think that Once Upon A Time had the right idea when it chose to spend this season focusing on the dichotomy between good and evil and how both can be present within an individual's soul: how goodness and heroism and evilness and villainy aren't mutually exclusive. Redemption has also been a theme this year -- a year which has seen some amazing characters do extraordinary things in order to protect those they love. And in this season, we're being asked to contemplate exactly what makes someone a hero or a villain. What we're learning is that it's not as cut-and-dry as we might anticipate.

For example: do malicious decisions in your past make you a villain? We might answer "yes," but then Once Upon A Time directs us to examples like Charming and Snow and Hook and Emma. And then there is Regina, someone who has made horrible decisions in the past. Someone who has chosen vengeance and death and destruction over love and sacrifice and whose current actions come in direct opposition to the way she used to be. If you are once a villain, does this mean you're always a villain? Does it mean that there is always something evil within you, remaining dormant until the day something or someone awakens the -- as it were -- dragon? Or does it mean that you can change and become someone better?

"Enter the Dragon" is an episode that focuses a lot on Regina Mills and her relationship with Maleficent. The two share a complex past and an even more complex present and their entire relationship and dynamic really hinges on the idea that once you have an evil heart, you always have an evil heart. The only thing that can awaken it is the desire for revenge. In the episode, Regina decides to go undercover -- thanks to the prompting of Snow and Charming -- in order to find out what the Queens of Darkness are planning. As she does, we're able to see the parallels to present!Regina (who believes she is in control and can convince the Queens that she really is evil without having to actually compromise herself or hurt anyone) and past!Regina (who spurred Maleficent toward revenge and hurtled herself toward the path to darkness). So let's talk more about this, shall we?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 4


It's still spring hiatus, which means a lot of our favorite shows are taking deserved breaks and probably cleaning their houses and changing their wardrobes from sweaters and scarves to sundresses and shorts. (It's... just go with the imagery.) But that doesn't negate all of the amazing new television there was this week! And boy, there were some fantastic performances, both comedically and dramatically that deserve recognition.

So let's hop to it, then! Joining me this week are some of my favorite people:

  • Just About Write's weekly reviewer of Supernatural, expert live-tweeter, and adorable human being Deena Edwards
  • Fantastic friend, reviewer, and lover of cuddly animals, Laura Schinner
  • The Leslie Knope to my Ann Perkins, and the soprano to my alto: Jaime Poland
  • Super talented New Yorker and expert bow-wearer, Constance Gibbs

Friday, March 13, 2015

Jenn's Pick: My Top 10 Bellamy/Clarke Moments


I became hooked on The 100 pretty quickly. I shouldn't have been surprised at that, really, given my proclivity for obsessing over shows on The CW recently (Arrow, Jane the Virgin, The Flash). When I first began marathoning the series on Netflix -- which took barely any time at all because, you know, hooked -- I compared the show to a Lord of the Flies-esque story of survival. And really, in the beginning, it was just that. The 100 started as a show about teenage delinquents sent to earth who decided to make their own rules, live by their own standards, and survive however they wanted. In those beginnings, I loathed Bellamy Blake because he was a bully and a self-centered, self-appointed leader who cared more about the idea of freedom and doing whatever he wanted than of surviving beyond that day or that week. I loved Clarke Griffin from the moment she appeared on screen, though. I loved how she was this perfect blend of compassion and intellect and sass and leadership. She was always the mother of those on earth. In the drop ship, she tried to warn everyone to stay in their seats, and those who didn't heed her warnings and advice soon found themselves suffering life-altering consequences. Clarke was everything Bellamy was not in those early episodes. She was level-headed, focused more on surviving and protecting everyone than serving her own agenda. The funny thing is that Clarke never stepped into the role as the leader of her people -- she just always was. Leadership and sacrifice have always been such inherent traits in Clarke Griffin. She uses her compassion to make decisions and her strength to stand behind those decisions and convictions. So she clashed with Bellamy a lot when the show began because Clarke could see the kids in the drop ship for what they were -- people. People who needed to be protected, not people who needed -- necessarily -- to be led.

That changed, of course, and so did Bellamy and Clarke's relationship. While Clarke was always a leader, it took a while for Bellamy to accept her as such -- to listen to her ideas and step out of his self-appointed role as leader of the 100 long enough to allow her to step into the role she always possessed. When Bellamy was able to soften and learn to compromise -- when he was humbled -- that is when the two began to trust each other. Moreover, they actually began to rely on one another to make decisions for the good of the group. But even more important than that, Bellamy and Clarke have always reminded each other of their humanity. Bellamy supports Clarke, constantly, and is always there to tell her the things she needs to believe about herself but can't bear because they're too difficult, too heavy. And Clarke has always been this light for Bellamy. She's the one who consistently reminds him that he's not too far gone and that she needs him; that they all do. As these two characters grew closer to one another, I found myself in the position where I find myself a lot in television shows: I found myself warming (rather quickly) to the idea of a Bellamy/Clarke pairing.

And so, below, it's time to detail ten of my favorite Bellamy/Clarke moments throughout the two seasons of The 100. Hopefully this will hold us all over until the series returns again, right?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The 100 2x16 "Blood Must Have Blood, Part 2" [Contributor: Laura Schinner]


"Blood Must Have Blood, Part 2"
Original Airdate: March 11, 2015

Last night marked the season finale of The 100, wrapping up what has been one of the most dramatic, suspenseful, and well-written seasons of television in recent memory. Characters were forced to make decisions that will haunt them for the rest of their lives, as everyone did what they thought they needed to in order to survive. It all culminated in a finale, where stakes were higher than they’d ever been before and there really was no perfect solution.

Clarke and Bellamy

Since the beginning of the show, Clarke and Bellamy have stepped forward as leaders of the Sky People, making the decisions that no one else wanted to make. Because of this, they feel as though they have the most blood on their hands. This season, with Bellamy off fighting to help their people escape Mount Weather, Clarke was left alone to make many of those decisions by herself and this has taken its toll on her. She will forever feel the guilt of abandoning the people at Tondc but she hasn’t had time to dwell on it, having to continue moving forward to save her people.

In the finale, she had possibly the most difficult decision to make yet. With the realization that Cage would never stop trying to use her people for their bone marrow, she had to make the choice to kill hundreds of innocent Mountain Men to get her people out. This time, however, she had Bellamy right there next to her making the decision with her. She had someone to share the burden with, someone who understood how difficult it is to make these kind of decisions. But for her, it was too late.

The scene between Clarke and Bellamy at the end of the episode was great on so many levels. Bellamy is the only other person from the Arc who fully understands everything Clarke has been through and knows what it’s like to have to make decisions that will hurt many so that they can live. In the end scene between them, he offers her the forgiveness that he thinks she needs to stay with the Arc because he knows what it’s like to need that forgiveness. Clarke simply cannot move past it though, no matter how willing Bellamy is to forgive and share the burden with her. She has learned that she must bear this burden so that no one else has to, but she can’t look at the Sky People anymore without feeling the guilt of what she did to get them there. For Clarke, the only option is to walk away from everything.

Along with being an emotional and complex scene, this also set things up nicely for season three, especially if you’re a fan of the Clarke/Bellamy pairing. They both need this time and distance to come to terms with what they’ve done before they can ever be in anything resembling a healthy relationship. From their final scene, it’s clear that they care deeply about each other but neither are at a point that they can be together.

Maya and Jasper

In true finale fashion, a main character had to die last night. They’d been fighting the Mountain Men all season and there was no way that everyone could make it out alive, especially with how few of them there were compared to the enemy. Even if they had all managed to escape, there was one character who simply had no chance of survival. While it was heart-breaking to watch, it was no surprise when Maya died so that the Sky People could live. She had been helping Jasper and the rest for quite a while, not willing to sacrifice them so that her people could see the ground. When Clarke and Bellamy pulled the lever to kill those at Mount Weather who couldn’t handle the radiation, Maya was one of the innocents that had to die.

Jasper and Maya’s relationship through the season has been one of the most interesting to watch develop. Without Clarke or Bellamy there to help, Jasper stepped up into a leadership position and was faced with difficult decisions himself. Maya was right there beside him the whole time, helping him through it. Because of this, their relationship was in a lot of ways accelerated, with the high stake only serving to deepen their connection. They truly did love each other by the end, making their goodbye that much more emotional.

Lincoln

At this point, it would have been satisfying to see almost any character kill Cage. After all, everyone from the Arc has a good reason to want to see him dead. In the end though, if it wasn’t going to be Jasper, it had to be Lincoln. His journey on the show has perhaps been the most exciting to watch, as he’s developed in ways that were unimaginable when we first met him. To see him once and for all put the Grounders behind him was a big moment.  His journey to becoming one of the Sky People has been gradual throughout the season and the Grounders abandoning them was the final push he needed to fully assimilate. While his love for Octavia plays a big role in his choice, I’d argue that he has also come to respect most of the Sky People, more so than his own people.

Lincoln has also had to deal with the effects of a drug the Mountain Men gave him, as they attempted to turn him into a Reaper. When he was a part of the Grounders, he was a warrior but he was completely in control of what he did. As a Reaper, he was simply a murderer, unable to stop himself. He has fought to regain that control he used to have and has struggled with what he did when he was under the influence of the drug. When at long last he confronts Cage, who blows the horn that would normally turn Lincoln back into the murderer he was, Lincoln shows how strong he truly is, resisting the drug and killing Cage. This was a huge moment for Lincoln, as he was able to kill the man who made him the way he is, as well as put that part of his life behind him completely.

Jaha and Murphy

The finale also marked the conclusion of Jaha and Murphy’s journey to the promise land, but not without complications. Jaha has become a man so set on his ultimate goal, that he is unwilling to let anything stop him, even allowing men to die so that he and Murphy can keep going. When Murphy, who admittedly has always had a questionable moral compass, is feeling more guilt about people’s deaths than Jaha, it’s necessary to question how far Jaha is really willing to go. As the former leader of his people, he has always been willing to sacrifice a few for the greater good but at this point, he doesn’t even seem affected by his decision to let people die. He’s become a completely different man, one who is far more unlikeable than he used to be.

Once they reached land, Jaha went so far as to leave an injured Murphy behind so that he could get to what he believed to be the City of Light. Instead, he encounters a mansion with a holographic woman inside, who seemed to be expecting his arrival. This leaves many questions about what will happen to him and Murphy next season and opens the door for some interesting developments.

Theme of The 100

In this episode, two characters made statements that accurately sum up the show. As Maya lay dying, she said to Jasper “none of us is innocent.” Likewise, when Clarke tells her mother that she tried to be the good guy, her mom responds with “maybe there are no good guys.” The point that both are trying to make is that in this fight, there isn’t a single person who could walk away without blood on their hands. Everyone has either killed someone or made a decision that has resulted in another’s death, be it by actively choosing to or standing aside and letting it happen. Because of this, no one can claim to be the ‘good guy.’ Yes, everyone had reasons for what they did, some better than others, but at the end of the day, their goal was to help their own people (which I talked about A LOT in my review of the last episode). This show is morally complex and there is no right answer to anything. All they can do is make the decisions they think are best and then deal with the consequences which is exactly what we’ll see them struggle with in the next season.

Memorable quotes:
  • "We're the good guys here. Not you."
  • "YOUR PROMISED LAND SUCKS!"
  • "You won't do it." "You don't know me very well."
  • "What have I done?"
  • "If you need forgiveness, I'll give that to you. You're forgiven."
That's it for this season of The 100, folks! Look for Laura to recap the series over summer as a part of the traditional #SummerRewatch here at Just About Write where we return to some of our favorite shows over the hiatus and write about them. Until then, hit up the comments with your thoughts about this episode/this season of The 100! What are you hoping for in season three?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 3


It's been a surprisingly TV-lite week (and this week will be more of the same, with many shows gone for hiatus and a number more having already aired their finales), but nevertheless, there were some fantastic performers on our television screens this week and we would like to celebrate them! Apologies that this post is late and therefore technically in a new week of television (vacation messes up your blogging schedule. Who knew?!).

So without any further adieu, let's talk about some great performers in last week's television series. Joining me to discuss this week are: