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.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 26


You never know when television is going to be really good. We all expect it, of course, during sweeps week and season premieres. But sometimes a week of television will really surprise you and pull out all of the acting stops. This week in television was pretty astounding, and I'm surprised that we were able to narrow down our choices to one actor per show. Between heartbreaking comedies, emotionally-wrought dramas, and magicians, our MVPs this week rose above all other performers in television to deliver us with some great performances.

(Bonus: Almost all of our MVPs this week are amazing women!)

And as much as I love discussing television, I can't do it justice if I talk about it by myself! Joining me for the series this week are:

Let's begin!

Galavant 2x09 "Battle of the Three Armies" & 2x10 "The One True King (To Unite Them All)" (Thanks for the Love)


"Battle of the Three Armies" & "The One True King (To Unite Them All)"
Original Airdate: January 31, 2016

When Galavant began last season, it was a show about a once-hero who was betrayed by his lady love, Madalena, and turned into a moping, drunk mess. It featured a dastardly king, a gender norm-breaking combat princess, and a squire who just wanted to be appreciated. At the end of its second season, Galavant isn't about any of those things anymore. Not really. Because it's characters have grown and evolved into amazing, fun, interesting characters with personalities and layers. Madalena has gone from the ideal maiden to the best villain with a heart. Gareth has learned how to become vulnerable and emotional and broke the caricature of "henchman" quite well. Sid has found his heroic side, Isabella has transformed from a princess in battle to one in love (and still in battle beside someone). Richard has had the best character development of all, learning to become confident in who he is and a true hero who loves and becomes courageous. Galavant, meanwhile, has learned how to become — in the second season — the man and hero he was always meant to be.

I will, quite honestly, be upset if Galavant doesn't return for a third season. This comedy is one of the most underrated and consistently hilarious on network television and, not only that, but manages to tell consistent, well-rounded stories in short timeframes and episode counts. As our characters ride off into their own real life happy endings, let's recap the final two episodes of the season.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Grimm 5x07 "Eve of Destruction" (Juliette’s Back, Sort of…) [Contributor: Alisa Williams]


“Eve of Destruction”
Original Airdate: January 29, 2016

“I have been bent and broken, but, I hope, into a better shape.” 

I have to admit, though it seems silly, that one of my favorite parts about Grimm are the quotes at the beginning of each episode foreshadowing what is to come within the next 42 or so minutes. Most of the time I can figure out which fairytale the quote comes from and hence, what will occur in the episode. This time, with the quote being, “I have been bent and broken, but, I hope, into a better shape,” I had honestly no idea which fairytale Grimm would be exploring (if any), but it was clear this would be an episode about Juliette’s return and possible redemption. Of course, the previews for this week and quick-glimpse of Juliette at the end of last episode may have helped me come to this conclusion, too.

As expected, Juliette’s return truly freaked everyone out. I mean, she did try to kill everyone in her path last time she was around, and there’s that pesky little thing about her dying in Nick’s arms and all, with only the viewing audience convinced she was still alive. So, with Juliette back, what does that mean for the rest of the characters this week?

TRUBEL AND HER SECRETS

When Nick catches a glimpse of Juliette, his first course of action is to confront Trubel, convinced she knew that Juliette was alive. We’ve known since Trubel arrived back on Nick’s doorstep, battered and barely conscious, that she had some serious secrets she was hiding. And yes, it appears knowing Juliette was still alive and hadn’t actually died when Trubel shot two arrows into her chest is one of those secrets. Apparently, Hadrian’s Wall, the top secret and super shady government organization Trubel’s been involved with these last few months, kidnapped Juliette in the hopes of turning her from an evil hexenbiest into a… warrior hexenbiest? Seeing how she just took out 20 wesen and saved Nick in the process, this plan seems to have worked. 

MONROE AND ROSALEE

Rosalee and Monroe are the epitome of relationship goals. Rosalee turns positively scary (which is basically impossible for her) when she finds out their mutual friend, Xavier, has betrayed Monroe and almost got him killed. The moral of this episode should be, “you do not mess with Rosalee or Rosalee’s man.”

After Xavier spills the beans that the evil Wesen group, Black Claw, is hunting Monroe because of his connections to Nick, Rosalee and Monroe decide to get the Wesen Council involved, which has never worked out great for them in the past so I’m not sure why it’s their go-to solution this time. But despite their less-than-stellar plan, I love that Rosalee and Monroe are so great at talking things out, making decisions together, and saving each other’s lives over and over again.

THE WESEN COUNCIL

Meanwhile, the Wesen Council is in the midst of a meeting to address this very issue of the Black Claw uprising when the Council Chair receives Rosalee’s message. It seems things are really bad everywhere, not just in Portland, as the Chair shows the Council video footage of major cities around the world all under attack. Just as the Council votes that something must be done concerning this matter, a Black Claw member who infiltrated the Council opens fire, killing everyone but Alexander. So, apparently things really are really bad everywhere, and Rosalee’s request for assistance is probably going to go unanswered now that the Council members are all dead or on the run.


NICK AND ADALIND

Nick and Adalind have had this weird non-relationship going on up until this episode. There’s so much history there with really bad things they’ve done to each other and the people they each care about, but now Adalind’s one of the good guys and also the mother of Nick’s child, AND they’re living together, making things, well, complicated. The show’s creators have been slowly building up possible romantic feelings between the two, but it’s all been unspoken and super subtle so far. With Juliette back in the picture, Adalind finally gives voice to what the creators have been hinting and she and Nick have a conversation about their feelings which leads to them sharing a kiss, and then promptly deciding to put the brakes on because things are “super complicated” right now.

I don’t know whether to swoon or be slightly icked out by the kiss. The history these two have makes any budding relationship seem like a very bad idea, especially with Juliette lurking about. Plus, Meisner’s back, too, and it wasn’t that long ago that he saved Adalind’s life and helped deliver her first child. He definitely seems to still be carrying a torch for Adalind and even has a couple flashbacks this episode just to remind us of their almost-coupling. One thing’s for sure: the writers are going to have to tread carefully with what happens next.

HAVE YOU MET EVE?

The episode ends with Nick finally getting to confront Juliette… sort of. Turns out Juliette is now calling herself Eve, and she is definitely not the same person who loved and planned to marry Nick, or the same person who morphed into a hexenbiest and killed Nick’s mother and tried to kill Nick himself. She’s someone, or something, altogether different now. Their meeting ended with three bad guys dead, which seems pretty tame for both of them.

Juliette has been a really troubling character throughout the seasons, and so I am very intrigued to find out where the show is taking her now as the newly formed Eve. I think show creators have been fielding a lot of negativity toward Juliette and her lack of backstory or backbone. In my opinion, she served no real purpose other than to be Nick’s romantic interest, and when she was seemingly killed off, a lot of viewers (including myself) expressed relief not remorse. Turning her into a completely new character now seems like a simplistic way to keep the actress (who seems like a lovely person) but ditch the extremely flawed character of Juliette. As to whether Eve will be an improvement over Juliette or not, only time will tell.

Bonus amusements from this episode:
  • Nick, Hank, and Captain Renard just casually wandered away from 20 dead bodies like they’re not all police officers who have to call this type of thing in to the precinct… 
  • Every time Xavier woges into his blobfish-like state, everyone gets so grossed out and disgusted and it’s hilarious. Poor Xavier. There’s never any love for a Hasenfussige Schnecke.
  • Wu is the only one who seems completely unaffected and unsurprised by Juliette’s return, which seems both odd and totally in character at the same time. 
  • “Juliette’s alive… I mean, her hair’s really blonde, but… yeah.”
  • “Is this another ‘back from the dead thing’ because I’m really not ready to host another Jack the Ripper party.”

Blackish 2x13 "Keeping Up With the Johnsons" (Mo' Money, Mo' Problems) [Contributor: Jen W.]


"Keeping Up With the Johnsons"
Original Airdate: January 20, 2016

The Johnsons are in a bit of pickle financially.

This glorious episode starts out with Dre and Bow opening their credit card statement and balking at the amount of money they’ve spent over the course of a month. They’re confused as to where the money has gone, but then we’re treated to a very telling example of Dre’s sneaker addiction (his latest pair was overnighted from Japan, and have ostrich on them), his (hideous) new reading glasses, and Bow’s exquisite love for her subzero refrigerator and organic hair products.

This episode is a mixture between the absurd and the serious, marrying the two very well as we watch an anxious Bow come to grips with learning how to deal with money, and Dre realizing the limits of his 819 credit score.

Neither Dre nor Bow grew up with money lessons, having to come into on their own which is really exemplary of a particular generation of black folks growing up in this country. I appreciate the fact that it’s touched upon and referenced without being the main focus of the episode.

Dre and Bow challenge one another to let go of the more extravagant parts of their lifestyle, which leaves Bow shopping for hair products at the Dollar Store and Dre shopping for clothes and shoes at a bargain basement store.

In the end, both Dre and Bow come to realize that they need to work together on their money issues and start talking about it rather than ignoring them. There’s a sweet moment at the end of the episode where Dre talks about why he’s so entranced with new shoes and the big house — because it’s what he could never have a child.

And while this episode does a good job of being teachy without being preachy, it’s not Dre and Bow’s story that pull you in — it’s the kids. Zoey, Junior, Jack, and Diane remain the MVPs of every single episode of Black-ish. In this episode, while Dre and Bow are dealing with their financial dilemma, Diane (have I mentioned how much I adore Diane?), announces to her siblings that the family is in fact broke (“I knew this was too much house”) after she and Jack eavesdropped on their parents.

Zoey declares that since she’s going to college soon it’s more of a “you problem than a we problem.” So the always prepared Junior pulls up on of his many disaster preparedness plans, and he just so happens to have one for financial ruin. And it’s written in Dothraki. I’m telling you, these kids are everything. This plan instructs him, in Dothraki, to start day trading. Yes. Exactly.

His foray into day trading goes about as well as you’d imagine it would go. Junior gets advice from Pops: “Day trading ain’t nothing but gambling. You gotta find yourself an ‘inside guy.’” Junior then takes this advice very literally and starts to call companies like Apple and asks for the insider trading information. Yeah, Junior’s not even close to being a slick operator. Diane even comments, “I love how to change your personality wildly from week to week and expect a different outcome.” She’s my favorite.

Junior, however, does manage to find his “inside guy” in his older, much cooler sister Zoey. Zoey has told us many times before how cool and popular she is, and Junior and Jack decide to start following her around. And it works! Junior and Jack start making money off the various things that Zoey utilizes, like the best and latest apps, the places she shops, and her assorted accessories. When Zoey finds out her brothers have been making money off of her, she asks for a cut, once Diane points out how Junior and Jack are following her around “like pimps.”

Junior refuses to let Zoey have a cut, so Zoey resorts to doing the only thing she knows to do: cut them off at the source. Instead of using her cell phone or hitting up the latest store, Zoey reads the newspaper and calls 411 to find the number to Dress Barn.

Desperate, the boys resort to mining Zoey’s garbage for the latest and greatest to continue to make money off of their sister. Finding an empty X-Gen lipgloss box, Junior and Jack think they have it made, but end up losing their shirts — literally. Even though the kids weren’t the major focus of the episode, they brought the exquisite funny to the very uncomfortable conversation of money. Dre says in the beginning of the episode “we all like to have money, but we don’t like to talk about it,” and that theme really rings true throughout the entire episode...especially as Junior and Jack sit shirtless on the couch at the end of the episode.

Moments of Hilarity:
  • Pop’s “inside guy” at the track is a hot dog vendor. Pops declares he knows everything about every race and every horse, to which Diane replies, “Then why is he still the hot dog guy?”
  • Bow and Dre’s profuse sweating upon talking about uncomfortable things. For Bow, it’s the subject of money. For Dre, it’s the subject of being the main kid wrangler.
  • Dre hired an accountant whose name is James Brown. And he’s the hardest working man in accounting.
  • Dre and James Brown have financial meetings in a diner that doubles at JB’s office.
  • Junior speaking Dothraki
  • One of Junior’s disaster plans is surviving the Zombie Apocalypse and he made a video congratulating himself on surviving. 
  • James Brown to Pops: “You can sew all the pockets of your clothes shut and write off your clothes as a costume.”

'Pretty Little Liars' Rosewood Roundup ("The Gloves Are On") [Contributor: Megan Mann]


"The Gloves are On"
Original Airdate: January 26, 2016

It seems our lovely ladies are back exactly where they were more than five years ago: wondering why one of them lied. Zen music plays softly in the background as Emily, Spencer, and Hanna try to figure out why Aria didn’t meet them to talk about her disappearance (and the security footage proof) the night Charlotte died. Hanna tells them that she deleted the footage but, as the girls never seem to learn their lesson, they fail to check their surroundings and they’re not alone in the spa. When she goes back for her key, Emily sees Sara and wonders how much she heard. Emily asks her a series of questions that culminate in screaming at Sara to answer her, but Sara doesn’t budge. Can she get any creepier?

Down in the lobby, Ashley meets with Lorenzo in regards to the investigation. He implies that the security footage was clearly tampered with as it jumps from midnight to noon the next day. All those years with Caleb and Hanna didn’t pick anything up. Shame. Speaking of Hanna, who does she run into at the brew but Lucas. What significance does he play in this new narrative? He seems to have moved far beyond the reach of Rosewood yet he’s back at a very crucial time.

First Lucas and now Melissa. When the Hastings are in crisis, in she swoops to fix (or attempt to) the situation and get ahead of the bad press for their mom’s campaign. Spencer says that they’re essentially asking her to lie. Caleb offers to make Spencer something to eat before they head out to their next event at Hollis. And because, like the rest of us, Melissa isn’t blind, she asks Spencer what’s going on between them. “I know you like to shop out of other people’s carts.” Spencer denies there’s anything there and Melissa points out that maybe lying isn’t as hard for Spencer as she makes it seem. Good to know she’s consistent in her bluntness.

Still refusing to tell the truth to anyone, Hanna lies to Ashley about tampering with the security footage. Ashley receives a message to report to the precinct for questioning and out of the corner of her eye, Hanna spots Aria and Ezra walking into the bar area. From the look in her eyes, Hanna is suspicious of their meeting.

Aria struggles to bring up the horrifying images Ezra had on his flash drive. He avoids the topic and instead hands her a notebook with the first chapter of his book, though he thinks it’s absolutely terrible. Ashley walks over and informs Ezra that he is not to be served alcohol at the hotel anymore after a previous incident. Poor Ezra. He can’t catch a break.

A bag of medication zips shut as Mrs. Fields screams at Emily not to drive off. A letter from Pepperdine arrived and finally her secret, at least that one, is out. Her mother frantically screams at her and to avoid her eyes, Emily looks off and notices Sara sitting on a bench across the street. She pleads with her mom to have this conversation elsewhere. Over at Hollis, Hanna alerts Spencer that Lorenzo knows that the tapes were erased and that they have the names of everyone who stayed in the hotel that night. It’s only a matter of hours before he calls the girls in for questioning. They need a plan. And fast.

Emily sits down at The Brew with her mother and explains that it wasn’t exactly easy to tell her mother that she was skipping school. She was already so worried about her that it became difficult to tell her the truth. Pain floods her mother’s face and it’s evident that in an attempt to not worry her, she only made it worse, hurting her by her omission. After everything that had happened, you would hope that the girls had better sense than that.

A knock reverberates off Lucas’s door and there stands Hanna asking for his help. She asks if he was in town the night that Charlotte died and if he was, would he lie and say that he came to her room so they could catch up? Hanna is running out of options and immediately knows this was a bad idea. She didn’t really think the plan through and, ever the white knight, Lucas agrees to be her alibi.

Aria reads from Ezra’s notebook and Emily snaps, wondering if the story is about Aria and why they care about the work of someone who possibly killed Charlotte. Aria lashes back saying that if Ezra said he went home, then he went home. “Why won’t Sara Harvey go home?” Emily counters. “Everywhere I go, she shadows me like a dark cloud and I’m afraid she might know something.” When Aria suggests Emily have dinner with her mom, she chooses not to tell her about their fight but rather that she’s staying put. Secrets don’t make friends, ladies. I thought we already knew that.

Spencer goes to Hanna’s to apologize for how she acted earlier. Hanna shrugs it off and mentions Lucas being willing to help. Sensing that now was a good time, Spencer decides to broach the subject of Caleb. As Spencer usually never flounders for words and is usually impossible to read, Hanna can tell through her apprehension that Spencer might have feelings for Caleb. It’s clear that this comes as a shock to Hanna and though she seems hesitant, she tells Spencer to find out if he feels the same way.

While Ezra questions Aria’s praise of both his book and his general character, Spencer approaches the journalist who turned the interview from millennial voters to the dollhouse scandal. Like the lioness she is, she pounces and asks if he was taking a different angle. If not, then why was he in contact with Mona? Turns out Mona is working for the other candidate. Against Mrs. Hastings. When she approached Veronica about working for her campaign, she was shown the door. Spencer is shocked and it shows.

The other three are meeting in Arira’s room before Hanna is questioned. Panic mode has set in as Hanna has resorted to eating orange juice concentrate with a spoon. Liam FaceTimes to tell Aria that if Jillian doesn’t get pages by the next day, they’re dropping Ezra as she thinks him a fraud. Her response is tense with anger and one can only hope that Liam is smart enough to realize that Aria is leaving out a lot of the story. Hanna doesn’t understand why she cares so much about his book when she should be caring about how he might have murdered Charlotte. A ding sounds off from Emily’s phone and she excuses herself to the bathroom where Hanna catches her injecting herself with a needle moments later. Hanna is proving herself to be the most important Liar lately.

As Emily rounds the corner into the living room, she’s stopped by Hanna. She asks if she’s sick and she says, “No, I’m broke.” She sighs with resignation and tells Hanna that she left school, blew through all of the money her dad left her and lied about her job. Left without any money beyond what she makes as a bartender, she decided to sell her eggs and has to take a lot of hormones. But it’s something that feels good about; she gets to help a couple start a family.

Hanna heads over to the precinct for questioning. Lorenzo doesn’t buy her answers right away and calls Lucas in to verify her answers. It’s uncomfortable and tense and Lorenzo is out for answers. It’s obvious he took Ali’s word seriously, that she thought her friends capable of murder. Shouldn’t he be looking at her instead, the biggest liar of them all? The most manipulative?

Spencer isn’t even in the door two seconds before Melissa explains the fiasco at Hollis with the journalist. He left to take a call and when he came back, the questions had changed. His notepad referenced a tape and Melissa, unaware of the hotel footage, thinks it’s the tape from the night Ali went missing. She storms up the stairs and Spencer frantically texts Aria saying someone saw the tapes. Ezra needs to talk. Aria grabs her bag and flies out the door.

Emily storms across the bar and demands Sara give her answers. If Charlotte was so horrible, why did she stay for the funeral? Was her admission to the judge all an act so she could walk out a victim? She says she was lucky to get out alive at all and offers to take her gloves off. Emily reminds her that there was nothing any of them could do. “Who are you trying to convince? Me or you?”

Aria gets to Ezra before the other girls can. Halfway to tears, Aria says that no matter what kind of place he’s in, she’s willing to lie for him no matter what. The other girls barge in screaming at Ezra to admit to what he did, to say that it was in self-defense. Shock and confusion shakes Ezra and he asks the girls to go, but they want the truth. He can’t believe they would be so quick to assume he was capable of killing someone. He’s not sorry that she’s dead, but he also doesn’t agree or disagree with their conclusion.

Spencer hangs her head as she walks into the barn and asks Caleb where his mind went when he found out Charlotte was killed. It seems like Hanna was leaving out information about what happened that night at Radley. After Emily punched Sara, she caught herself on a set of wires that had gotten wet and Sara was electrocuted causing the burns on her hands. Caleb assures her that they were in an impossible situation, but Spencer isn’t sure. What if they let it happen because all the years of torture had hardened them?

Emily returns home to find her mother sitting on the porch with a glass of wine. Her mood has softened since their fight and she wants Emily to know that she can come to her with anything, that whatever she’s going through, they can help share the burden. Again, she chose not to tell her about the selling of her eggs. Is she worried that her mother will be ashamed?

Hanna thanks Lucas for his help, but he gets right to the point and asks if she had anything to do with Charlotte’s death. For the first time, Hanna admits how hard it is to be back in this situation, in this place, in her old room. Lucas offers her the keys to his place as a way to ease the myriad feelings she’s having. At least he’s stayed constant in his sweetness.

Aria’s phone rings and Liam tells her that the chapters she had sent over were incredible. Jillian was blown away by Ezra’s work, but was it really Ezra’s work? Did Aria find notes or an outline in that notebook? Is that why she was hunched over her tablet wildly typing? If she was pretending to be Ezra to save him, I think Aria is in some career trouble now.

A dark, twisted version of “Ring of Fire” fills the fire-lit room as Spencer and Caleb finally admit to and act on their feelings for one another. Emily dumps the wine her mom offered her and her face grows wary as she checks her phone. Hanna’s phone trills with a text as her face matches Emily’s. Aria continues to type as her phone follows suit. She grabs it and sees a text: “You know who did it and I’m going to make you talk,” complete with a devil symbol.

A doll perches lopsided next to a turntable as a record spins. Next to it is a clear, plastic box with the famous Ali mask. The camera spins and A’s greatest, creepiest clues, all wrapped in plastic, stare back at us. A pair of pliers snaps a zip tie, opening the container to reveal A’s infamous black hoodie. It’s tossed into the trash as our new Big Bad searches for uniforms.

And you thought your lives were all right again. Think again, ladies. This is Rosewood and you’re never safe.

Friday, January 29, 2016

DC's Legends of Tomorrow 1x02 "Pilot, Part 2" (Time Changes, People Don’t) [Contributor: Lizzie]


"Pilot, Part 2"
Original Airdate: January 28, 2016

Well, that was certainly not what I expected. In fact, that was so far from what I expected that I’ve lost sight of my expectations. I wonder where those went. It’s not that I miss them, but it’s very rare that a show manages to catch me completely off-guard. In a good way. At least, I think in a good way.

Two-part pilots are tricky to say the least, especially when they air on different nights. Pilots are supposed to do two things and two things only: introduce you to the characters, and hook you. Part one of the pilot did the first effectively (with a lot of help from Arrow and The Flash) but, until the last few minutes of part two, I wasn’t quite sure the second hour had done enough to get me invested.
Color me surprised. And, okay, maybe intrigued. Not convinced yet, but I’m here. I’m willing.

So, join me as we recap a wildly-entertaining though still rather messy episode of Legends of Tomorrow, and speculate on what, exactly, needs to happen next.


TIME WANTS TO HAPPEN?


The whole time-travel thing is a mess. And when I say a mess, I mean a BIG mess. I’m an X-Files fan, so I can tell you about messes. The X-Files conspiracy? Mess. THIS? Even bigger mess.

Basically, I don’t understand anything regarding time-travel rules in this universe. I have a vague idea of them, but no concrete evidence if my guesses are right, because Rip Hunter never actually explains anything. And I love me some sass, but how can he expect these eight people he dragged on a journey through time to NOT mess up if he doesn’t ever explain how time travel actually works? What can they do? What’s unacceptable? Just tell them, Rip. And tell us, while you’re at it.

Far be it for me to ask for more exposition on a show that’s already having problems balancing exposition, but some explanations you need and others you don’t. This is vital. You’re the expert, Rip. Set some ground rules. Fast.


TWO SIDES OF A COIN


The premise of this show promised us a wealth of disparate interactions. These people had nothing in common, after all, and they were being forced to spend a lot of time together in a confined space. The whole thing was (is) a gold mine. But I have to admit, even in my wildest moments, I didn’t see Snart/Ray coming. I mean, the two of them being forced to work together? Okay. Me liking their interactions, and wanting to see more of them? Nope, never in a million years would I have guessed that.

In a way, we’ve already been here with Snart. Ray is just playing the role of Barry in the “you’re smarter than this” game. Because Snart IS smarter than this, and I don’t even mean smarter than being a criminal, I mean smarter than a guy who resorts to this because he can’t do anything else. Ray is just a painful reminder of what he could have been had his life turned out differently.

And in this, the show finally does exactly what it promised — it makes these very different people confront other sides of themselves, other possibilities. It’s not character growth quite yet, but it’s only episode two. I’m willing to give this particular element some time.

(And by “some time,” I mean like three or four more episodes.)

DESTINY


Our “feathered friends” Kendra and Carter have been underwhelming, to say the least. We were told they were great warriors, and yet never really saw it. We were told they were in love, and yeah, not buying that either. And that’s the problem. We were told many, many things, but the two actors playing these characters were projecting nothing.

Well, nothing good, at least.

OTPs these days are not predetermined things that you package and sell to fans. Most of the times, it’s the other way around. When the chemistry is there, the fans will demand it. And Kendra/Carter? No one was buying that. No one was selling that. In fact, most people didn’t even care.

I’m going to go on a limb and say the problem was mostly with Carter. He was a jerk, who acted like he knew absolutely everything (even though he clearly didn’t — past child and all), had an attitude about the fact that Kendra didn’t remember their lives together, and just expected her to fall in love with him even though he wasn’t doing anything to make it happen. He clearly cared for her, and maybe, from his point of view, this was all inevitable (207th time and all) anyway. But his attitude didn’t exactly make him all that lovable.

Oh, yeah, and I use the past tense because...

GOODBYE HAWKMAN


We hardly knew ye! And I, for one, won’t miss you one bit. Especially because, this being a time-travel show with questionable rules, you’ll be back eventually. But mostly because, your departure frees up Kendra to become the badass woman she’s destined to be.

Rebelling against destiny is one thing when destiny is right there in front of you to fall back on if things get scary. But this is a whole new world for Kendra now. Sure, she might have resisted destiny, but destiny was there. Now there’s nothing. Now she makes her own destiny.

And that’s both awesome and the scariest thing anyone can ever tell you.

LOVE OR DESIRE?


Vandal Savage told Kendra he loved her just as he stabbed her. And, look, I’m all for crazy villain having a convoluted idea of romance, but let’s dispense with this notion right away. Vandal Savage is not in love with Chay-Ara. Not then. Certainly not now. He’s a kid with a toy. Wait, no, not even that. He’s like a kid who wanted a toy, couldn’t get it, lashed out, and had the toy taken from him, and so he comes back time after time, obsessed with destroying the toy, because if he doesn’t get to have it, no one else can. Does that sound like love to you?

It sounds like obsession to me. Vandal Savage is obsessed with the power he has over Chay-Ara. He’s obsessed with the idea of getting revenge on her for not wanting him. He’s basically an abusive prick who can’t accept that a woman might want someone else. And I’m not under any delusions that people might ever empathize with Savage, but there’s a tendency to “romanticize” the idea that he’s doing all of this because he loves her, and that’s just true.

Carter loved Chay-Ara. Sure, he was a jerk, and he handled it all wrong. But he didn’t go around killing her two hundred and six times either. Because the whole stabbing thing? Not love, people. Not love.

WHAT NEXT?


Anything? Everything? Hopefully with some actual rules thrown in for a change? The death of Carter gives this “team” a new and better reason to become a team, but there’s still a long way to go before these people are actually believable as one. What this show needs, in the meantime, is stay fun, travel to different eras so we can at least get some cool costumes, allow Ray to interact with absolutely everyone and use his big-kid eyes to look into their soul, and just let things develop. Chemistry will show itself.

With some luck, the show will find its footing. This episode at least served as proof that they’re willing to shake things up if needed. Now, they better not kill anyone else. At least not until we actually care.

Other things:
  • Since Carter essentially died “out of his time” does that mean he doesn’t get to reincarnate until Kendra dies? Is he in limbo? Will anyone ever answer all my questions?
  • Kendra remembering how she felt about Carter after she lost him was a good touch, and the first time I felt any emotion regarding Carter ever since he was introduced. 
  • I love that Damien Darhk got some screen-time, I really do. But when you bring in Neil McDonough and put him beside Casper Crump, I can’t help but think that one of them is a scary villain and the other one is... well, Vandal Savage. 
  • Brandon Routh has chemistry with absolutely everyone. It’s possible he might have chemistry with inanimate objects. I’ve loved him with Sara, Snart and Stein. Now I kind of want him to interact with Kendra.
  • I’m going to refer to Hawgirl and Hawkman as our “feathered friends” from now on, okay?
  • Normally, I’m willing to give shows a wide berth when it comes to villains and their reasoning, and I can accept that Vandal Savage thinks he loves Kendra, but I’m going to need the show to stop selling this, stat. This man doesn’t love anyone. 
  • Two episodes in, Leonard Snart is BY FAR my favorite. Sara and Ray come second, and only because I feel like I know them better. All my love for Stein comes from the fact that I love Victor Garber. I’m meh about the rest. 
  • Now that Carter’s (hopefully) gone for good, I’ve got hopes for Kendra, though.
  • If Ray can be both Oliver’s foil and Snart’s foil does that mean he can potentially be EVERYONE’S foil? 
  • SERIOUSLY, LEGENDS? Seriously? A big RED BUTTON? Are we five, or what?
  • Good for Young!Stein and Clarissa, I mean, kudos. Now, can you explain why, if you love your wife so much, you didn’t even TELL HER you were coming on this ridiculous mission? 
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays at 8/7c on the CW.

Vanderpump Rules 4x12 "Leis, Liquor, and Lies" [Contributors: Jaime Poland and Megan Mann]


"Leis, Liquor, and Lies"
Original Airdate: January 18th, 2016

When it comes down to it, one of the most popular conversations people have about TV is something along the lines of, “I can’t believe you’re not watching this!” For as many high quality, entertaining shows somebody makes time for, there’s just no possible way to watch absolutely everything on television worth watching. I understand that, and that’s why I’m not judging anybody who hasn’t started watching Vanderpump Rules, even though it clearly is the best show on TV.

For anyone not indoctrinated into the cult of Pump, let me explain. Vanderpump Rules airs on Bravo, and it’s a spinoff of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. One of the housewives, Lisa Vanderpump, owns a restaurant called Sur, which is the main setting for the show. Since the show premiered, she’s opened another bar/restaurant called Pump right down the street from Sur. There’s some tension between the employees of Sur and Pump over Lisa’s affection. Don’t ask.

Every week, we get to see Sur’s employees (and some significant non-employees) and all the drama that’s currently engulfing them. Romantic strife, huge blowouts between friends — we all know how reality shows work by now. It’s not reinventing the wheel here, but it’s such a compelling, entertaining hour of television. I’m a relatively recent convert to the show, and as things started getting crazier and crazier, Megan and I knew we had to team up to start discussing what happens on the show. Appropriately, we decided to kick off our episode breakdowns with the first part of the gang’s trip to Hawaii for Jax and Tom Sandoval’s birthdays.

JAIME: I'm still so, so conflicted on how I feel about Lala. I think she has a strong sense of morality and where her boundaries are, it's just that her own lines are way past what other people would consider acceptable? She strikes me as one of those people who feels totally justified in everything they do, and will cite whatever logical reasoning they have, but can't understand that sometimes you need to tone it down to accommodate other people. Like, getting mad at Katie when Katie dared to suggest that Lala didn't need to take her top off in front of Schwartz. That's not unreasonable at all, and also, why would you want to take your top off in front of a bunch of people you don't know that well anyway?  But then I think telling Brittany the truth and owning up to flirting with Jax was the right thing to do. But also, why would you ever expect Jax to tell the truth, come on.

MEGAN: Okay, yes. I totally agree. She respects boundaries, but her idea of them are totally skewed. Like, Jax is a known liar and she had to have had some sort of idea that he was LIKELY lying to her, but she just kept pushing anyway. Plus, that's great if you're okay in your sexuality and who you are, but if it's making OTHERS uncomfortable that you're taking your top off in front of their significant others/fiances/spouses, you should probably just understand where they're coming from. It has nothing to do with "not my fault if your man cheats;" it's a comfort thing, so I see where Katie and Scheana are coming from. God, the spelling of her name is annoying and it irks me. ANYWAY.

RIGHT. That's what I was telling my friend. I actually, in the end, feel bad for Lala because she isn't that well integrated at this point and instead of doing what's right, Jax is totally throwing her under the bus and making her look like a complete ass, which isn't cool at all. She was trying to do the right thing and everyone was pushing up against her and it made me sad.

So, on the one hand, you're right. She doesn't understand when she needs to tone it down and can easily justify her way out of or into anything; but on the other, her honesty is her redeeming quality and it's somehow screwing her over.

Exactly! I even remember her saying things along the lines of, "Well, I know about Brittany, but if Jax isn't concerned, then neither am I." Wellllll... okay, sure, if he's gonna cheat then he's gonna cheat, but she doesn't have to involve herself in a situation she knows is shady. And I think she knew at that point Brittany was moving to LA, so basically, on some level Lala knew Jax was lying to Brittany, and thus to Lala about Brittany. Why would she ever think that Jax would ever have her back if the situation blew up?

RIGHT. If you understand that he's likely lying, so you just roll with that, aren't you just adding to the situation? If you respect relationships so much, why are you allowing men to potentially cheat with you when you're 50/50 on his status? Especially knowing that he's a dirty liar and has been proven to be so.

Her whole argument with Katie was so ridiculously missing the point. Sure, #FreeTheNipple, great. Except this isn't Instagram. And sure, Ariana was okay with it  because she was there and could gauge the situation for herself. Of COURSE Katie's going to be upset when she hears some girl she doesn't know that well took her top off in front of her fiance. And NO, it's not Lala's fault if somebody cheats, but you're responsible for your behavior if you're acting inappropriately around people and making things weird that otherwise weren't weird. Like... she's creating the situations where, potentially, someone might wind up cheating. But yeah sure okay Lala, you're not to blame at all.

But all that said, she definitely is in a really bad position with the whole Jax thing. Because like you said, she's the outsider here, and while for whatever reason Brittany is totally trusting every single word Jax says (which, all right, if you ask your boyfriend if he was flirting with someone else, what answer are you expecting other than no?), for Scheana to say that nothing happened, that's going to mean a lot more than whatever Lala says.  

So, I'm conflicted on Lala. And I'm worried that her anger over this whole thing is going to send her right into James' arms. Just, ugh. Ugh.

I agree. She missed the point entirely and I'm not sure if it's a thing that has to do with age (as James as proven time and again that his 22 years makes for some seriously poor justification in literally any situation) or what, but she clearly didn't understand that it's making more than one person uncomfortable and she should understand that and apologize for any discomfort, you know?

But she was right in telling the truth. I was appalled that this was the instance in which Scheana decided she wanted to exhibit the friendship code and essentially help Jax lie. She was there, she knew what was happening TWO FEET ACROSS THE TABLE FROM HER as she remarked on it at the table that night. I do understand her being the outsider and whatnot, but if you want Jax to change so badly, you would have backed Lala up, you know? If Scheana is all about living the truth, as she showed in the texts with Ariana's mom and to them when confronted about it, then why is she helping him lie?

You know, I want to argue that age is a factor here, especially when everyone else is 30 and up, but I'm 22 and I think James and Lala are absolutely ridiculous. And, you know, it's not like the people in their thirties are particularly calm, reasonable people either. I think maybe the biggest relevance the age differences have is in solidifying Lala as an outsider — they've all worked together for years, they're all older, and those areas where they all connect with each other that she can just never overcome. But you're totally right; there's a difference between doing something unapologetically but still being sensitive to others, and at the very least, I don't think it's unreasonable to apologize for making people uncomfortable while still feeling justified in your actions.

I was surprised that Scheana supported Jax, especially since when they were talking about it at the gym she seemed like she was about to tell the truth at any second. Like, what even was her justification? She likes Brittany and wants to keep her around? Okay, so the way to do that is to keep Brittany in a relationship with a guy who was willing to cheat on her?

Yes! It's totally one thing to be who you are but still be respectful of others, but it's another thing altogether to just say. "This is me and screw you if you don't like it" when you're hearing it's making others uncomfortable. It's a total lack of consideration in a way, if that makes sense.

And you are exactly right. That was her only justification; that she really liked Brittany and didn't want to throw Jax under the bus. Well, okay. You just threw Lala under the bus in a really crappy way by pretending none of what happened had happened, that what you saw and heard wasn't real. If you're such an honest person all of the sudden, why not show Brittany what she's dealing with?

This whole Ariana thing, okay. This is where the show gets really frustrating for me because none of these people can communicate. Most of the time I can understand their arguments but they just never argue them in a way that makes sense. So I get what Scheana's saying, but oh my God, she can't just say "well this is what happened, get over it"? Of course Tom and Ariana aren't going to accept "well, but this is true" as a justification, especially when they're already pissed. Talk about things calmly!  It's not hard!

That's the biggest problem with the show and why I sometimes have to pause it for a few minutes before I can get back to it. They can't just sit down with each other "as adults" like they're ALWAYS SAYING IN CONFESSIONALS and talk about something. Why does everything have to turn into massive blowouts that don't solve anything but pretty much just cause more tension?

Though, to be fair, I think that Ariana has been handling a lot of stuff poorly. Like, she needs to let go of a lot of stuff. What annoyed me the most this season was when she was mad she wasn't invited on a boys’ trip. Why can't they have fun without their significant others? I love Broadway, but I'm not going to force my boyfriend to go just to make sure he's not off having fun without me. She's really bothered me this season and it's annoying because I've always really liked her.

I know, I've been so torn on Ariana lately. It's like I said before: I understand how they feel, but the way they talk about it loses me. Like, the boys' trip, all right, I get that it sucks that there's a trip she's excluded from right after her birthday. But it seems like people are going on trips every week on this show; it's okay that that trip wasn't for everyone, because here they all are in Hawaii. I feel like her default lately has just been to agree with people when they call her negative, as if saying "right, you finally figured out who I am" is a good defense for her actions. Uhhhh, if people you've known for however long are telling you that you've changed, it's a lot more complex than "good, you're finally seeing who I really am." Obviously there's more going on, and I'm getting tired of Ariana acting like she's so much better than everyone. I mean, yeah, she is one of the better people on this show but sometimes she seems to forget that these people are her friends.  She's the one who chooses to be around them, and she's kind of been treating them (especially Scheana) terribly in the name of victimizing herself.

Right. Like, if these people have been your friends for years and they're seeing a change in you, and if it's not just ONE person, I feel like it's not who you really are. That's a cop-out. It's very confusing and I feel like she's been getting really super defensive about literally everything. And Scheana was right — she and Tom do act like they're better than everyone else and that they should be held to a higher standard, even though they're sitting there doing the exact same thing everyone else is. Like, okay, you two live together. Katie and Schwartz have been together for six years and are engaged. Scheana and Shay ARE MARRIED. How does the two of you living together and buying a couch make you better than everyone else? Because you claim not to fight? Like, what?! That's so confusing to me. Just claiming you're better because you two don't fight doesn't actually make you better. It makes you annoying to say that to everyone and claim that they're in terrible relationships because they disagree. And it really irks me that because they're being honest with her, she's like, "I can't believe I have to be around these people that I USED to call my friends." Well, what the eff. Are they or not? It's not a half-in, half-out thing.

And when essentially the same person, or group of people, is coming to them with the same couple issues, wouldn't they start listening?  Like, Ariana can't just say "this is happening because Scheana's petty and fake" when Scheana's not telling Katie's mom that she's changed since she got engaged, or telling Schwartz that he needs to be okay with Kristen being around (because Schwartz IS okay with it, and seeing as he lived with them and is Sandoval's best friend, don't you think he'd say something if he felt like Kristen being brought back in is truly unreasonable?).  When all of these issues are centered around Ariana, and they keep cropping up, it doesn't mean that Scheana's right but it at least means she's worth listening to.

MY POINT! It's not JUST one person that's saying this to them; it's all of them. She refuses to take any sort of responsibility for her actions or behavior and that's what's bothering me. It feels like she has an excuse for everything lately and places blame on everyone else. "Well, it's because they're being mean" or "Maybe if Tom hadn't planned a trip without me..." And for being people that are "really good at letting things go," they can't seem to let literally anything go. It's been like, two years. Let's learn to move on. She's not acting like James and just inserting himself into situations where he shouldn't be. Kristen is at least being respectful and they refuse to acknowledge that.

What do you think, fellow Pump fans? Are we being too harsh on Ariana? Is Jax and Brittany’s relationship doomed to fail? Let us know what you think, and check back soon for more Vanderpump discussion. Coming up is part two of the Hawaii trip, and the highly anticipated return of Stassi. See you then!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Suits 5x11 "Blowback" (Pearson Specter Litt and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day)


"Blowback"
Original Airdate: January 27, 2016

The most fascinating thing to me about Suits is how much it mirrors its former comedic USA counterpart, Psych. When Shawn Spencer — someone who spent the series lying to people and faking being a psychic for the Santa Barbara Police Department — is caught by his girlfriend Juliet and confronted, he justifies his lies and his crimes, noting that for all of the lies he’s told, hundreds of really bad people have been put behind bars. He’s helped families and rescued innocent people. And he’s put away the real criminals. Does it really matter HOW he did it, then?

We’re so used to seeing characters on television who are cut-and-dry heroes, especially if they’re the protagonists of the show. But what happens when these same characters do bad things in the name of good? What happens when Mike Ross gets arrested because of fraud, but he’s spent the past five years helping people and making their lives better? Mike, surprisingly enough, doesn’t try to really justify his actions in “Blowback.” When it all comes down to it, HARVEY is the one telling Mike that all of his lying has helped people. Mike, on the other hand, isn’t so sure.

And with Mike’s future on the line, everyone at Pearson Specter Litt is caught in the crosshairs.


THREE LAWYERS* WALK INTO A JAIL...


If you’ll recall from the end of “Faith,” Harvey agreed to resign so that Charles Forstman would stop backing Daniel Hardman. It was a move that Jessica vehemently disagrees with but one that Harvey made all the same. Moreover, his decision has really convoluted consequences in “Blowback,” as he has to try to appear like a practicing attorney for Anita Gibbs but can’t be at the firm because of Forstman. Normally, this situation wouldn’t be as much of an issue as it is, but with Mike arrested for conspiracy to commit fraud, Harvey has difficulty figuring out how to best help Mike and himself.

I really liked the version of Harvey Specter that we saw in this episode. He wasn’t completely and totally unhinged, like when Donna was threatened with a jail sentence. But he was kind of scrambling throughout most of the episode and not at the top of his game. The reason, of course, is that Harvey had to plan each move he made extremely carefully, so as to not alert either Anita or Forstman. But what I found to be most compelling of all was Harvey’s insistence that Mike Ross was a real lawyer. I know that he had to commit to this in order to ensure that everything looked legitimate and there was no cause for doubt about being a co-conspirator, but I think that Harvey’s hope here is that the more he repeats that to himself, the more he will start to believe it is truth. If you tell a lie to yourself over and over again, you start to believe it. Trust me, I’ve done it.

And Harvey wants to believe that Mike is in the right — that they ALL are — while Mike isn’t as certain. He tells Harvey that what he did was wrong. He knows his actions have consequences and now he’s watching the people around him pay. While Harvey waxes poetic, Mike vocalizes the truth: he is a fraud. He never went to Harvard and he never passed the bar, and he’s going to be found out. No amount of sugar-coating can erase the fact that he isn’t an actual lawyer.

Rachel, meanwhile, is spiraling pretty hard at the news of Mike being arrested. And so, she enlists her father to become his attorney. It’s clear from the first encounter in that jail cell that Robert Zane is anything but pleased to represent Mike and Mike isn’t too keen on seeing him either. Because he knows that he’ll have to confess what he’s done and Robert will not take that very well.

Spoiler alert: he doesn’t take it well!

In fact, Robert Zane pretty much says that unless Mike turns on Harvey, he won’t help him out. And the kicker, of course, is that Robert is actually glad Mike will be in jail — he would have threatened for Mike to stay away from Rachel if he wasn’t. But just as Robert’s conversation doesn’t go well with Mike, so too, he finds, it does not go well with Rachel either.

Rachel is adamant that she is staying by Mike’s side. She’s not throwing away her future with him, and Robert doesn’t understand why. He believes that she is better than this, but he also believes that whatever mistakes he has made in his past are less offensive than the fraud Mike is committing in the present. In spite of all of her fears and misgivings, Rachel tells her father she is going to be with Mike, whether he likes it or not. And Robert says that he can’t help her anymore as a result.

I’ve never been entirely sold on the idea of Mike and Rachel romantically. They’re okay in the best circumstances and sometimes just downright dumb together in the worst (come on, that cheating storyline was the living worst and you all know it). Rachel’s conversation with her father sounded more like a petulant teenager trying to defend her “bad” boyfriend to a parent than anything else. Rachel’s naiveté is the very stuff that Claire warned about before. I guess, honestly, I don’t really understand WHY Rachel is sticking with Mike. Yes, she loves him but she certainly wouldn’t be the first person to ever walk away from someone she loved in order to protect her own best interests. Though I don’t agree with Robert Zane’s approach, he makes a pretty good point.

A point, in fact, that is echoed in a lot of “Blowback”: at what point do you stop protecting someone else and start trying to protect yourself first? Jessica’s main job is to protect her firm and the people within it. But sometimes, that means protecting the firm first and people second. She knows that she cannot get her hands dirty with Mike Ross’ problems because she’s putting other people — HER people — on the line if she does. And her people are on the line, so is she.

And Jessica already has enough of her own problems, with Jack Solaff trying to vote her out during a time of transition in the firm. So Jessica enlists the help of Louis to solve that particular problem.

LET’S TALK ABOUT LOUIS


Louis Litt is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever watched on television. He’s shrewd and ruthless, but also a giant teddy bear. He’s played the victim and the villain and the hero and the damaged soldier. He’s been the most sympathetic character and the most feared one. And often times, he’s betrayed the people he cares about for fear that they don’t care about him back. Louis does things to get attention and he’s not above using and manipulating in order to do that.

But in “Blowback,” Louis realizes the true meaning of sacrifice. Jessica assumes that Louis is going to try to undermine her during her time of weakness, but she is sorely mistaken (though not wrong to assume that if Louis asked to be managing partner, it would be for good reason). No, the most important thing regarding Louis that happens in this episode is the fact that he willingly lets Donna go back to Harvey. And she understands the sacrifice and love it takes for him to do that. He doesn’t want to lose her. At all.

And yet, Louis knows how the one thing Harvey needs to be at the very top of his game is still missing. So he sends Donna back, and he mourns having to let her go. But throughout the episode one thing is clear — Louis wants to protect Donna at all costs. He knows that he will probably be implicated in some way, shape, or form if Mike is convicted. And he can’t prevent that from happening. But he CAN tell Donna to stay out of Mike and Harvey’s business so that she doesn’t doom herself, too.

Louis realizes that family protects one another. And yet, at the same time, he also realizes that sometimes you have to put yourself first. Rachel and Donna, though, can’t do that. They won’t walk away and let the people they love suffer. That’s just not who they are. Donna knows though that Louis’ sacrifices are genuine and not self-serving. She conveys her deep appreciation for him. I love the parallelism in how Donna left Harvey because she knew that she deserved better; and in the end, Louis let Donna go because he knew where she needed to be.

   

“YOU SAYIN’ YOU’RE COMING BACK TO ME?”


Before I proceed, let’s all dwell for a moment on the reaction Harvey had to Donna coming back to him. His face was full of such subdued joy and I think everything within him was holding back from hugging Donna in that moment. It’s not Suits without Harvey and Donna together. And, in spite of the fact that I really appreciate what the story did for each of their characters, I am glad they’ve returned to “normal.”

When you fight battles, you need to fight them alongside people you love and trust. There is no way Harvey can ever be at his absolute best without Donna beside him — the woman who challenges him, inspires him, motivates him, and grounds him when he allows his ego or anger to cloud his judgement. Throughout the first part of season five, we watched these two grow and face some of their problems without one another. I think that was absolutely necessary. Donna needed space to be reminded that she is her own person — without Harvey — and that she can do real good beside Louis. Working for him allowed her to have a voice and it really changed the way Louis acted as a person and how he saw others. Without her guidance, he would have been lost. Harvey’s Donna-less existence allowed him the chance to explore some of the deeper issues that have held him back for so long. The only way he could do that is if he was in the most emotionally vulnerable place. And he was. When Donna left him, Harvey was broken (almost beyond functionality), and he knew that he had to deal with his problems. He couldn’t run or hide anymore.

After therapy, Harvey actually learned to value Donna as a person. He thanked her for her loyalty to her, and set aside his bitterness and pain long enough to see her for who she was — his partner, constantly being emotionally distanced because of his fears. When Harvey’s walls came down, it allowed him to become a better person and set the stage for a Harvey/Donna reconciliation. Though all of their problems are not solved and they still need to work through their issues, the fact remains that they had to be apart so they could be the best versions of themselves when they got back together.

When Harvey realizes that Donna is returning to him, it’s clear that there is a sense of relief. She’s his port in the chaos, and he needs her (yes, remember, he did say this a few seasons ago) to be the best he can be for Mike. The resolution of this scene is pretty lovely, too, with no more words necessary than “good” from each (and them fighting the biggest grins because SERIOUSLY YOU TWO, BE MORE IN LOVE).

At the end of “Blowback,” everything is not resolved, but everything is right. And that’s the most you can hope for when it comes to a Suits episode.

And now, bonus points:
  • “You’re gonna let HER go down there?” My thoughts exactly though, Harvey.
  • Donna’s emotional response and fear over thinking that something happened to Harvey was so heartbreaking. Since Louis told her to sit down, the first thing she thought of was Harvey.
  • Mike’s photographic memory has become more and more of a plot point recently. I appreciate that since this whole series was kind of founded on that concept.
  • Ugh, Scottie returned.
  • Any episode that features Gabriel Macht boxing is a good episode.
  • “You sayin’ you’re coming back to me?” “Yes I am.” “Good.” “Good.”
  • “Get the... YOU READ LORD OF THE RINGS?!”
  • I hope this show never stops referencing Louis’ mudding.
What did you all think of the Suits winter premiere? Hit up the comments below and let me know!

New Girl 5x04 "No Girl" (Classic Cece and Winston Mess Around)


"No Girl"
Original Airdate: January 26, 2016

When New Girl first began, Jessica Day was a little cartoonish. The show wasn’t sure how “wacky” they should write the titular character, so she ended up being some sort of awkwardly singing, bright-color wearing, voice-creating roommate that no one in real life would ever want to be friends with. She brought false teeth to a wedding to wear, and she didn’t seem to easily pick up social cues. I think that the writers must have been fully aware of this fatal flaw, because quite quickly, the show transitioned Jess from some goofy, aloof woman to a fully-realized, though slightly quirky one. And the best thing that the show did was allow the other characters within the loft to become a bit sillier, too. The show wasn’t funny when it was about Jess being the odd woman in a loft full of completely normal, rational, sane men. It became funny when it realized that Nick, Winston, Schmidt (and Coach when he returned) were really weird, too. The show leveled the playing field which made Jess’ oddities seem less crazy and allowed the other characters to shine, comedically.

Over the years, New Girl has evolved from a show about a woman who moves in with guys she met on Craigslist because of a bad break-up to a show about a group of friends who are just trying to figure out how to deal with life in their 30s. It’s become a true ensemble, with Jess still at the center, but not always the focus. This week’s episode titled “No Girl” was the first without Jess physically present and honestly? It was a fantastic episode because it allowed the other characters to shine (and also because the show reminded us of Jess’ absence in a good, plot and character-progressing way).

So let’s talk about the episode, shall we?

CLASSIC CECE AND WINSTON MESS-AROUND


I’m going to spend the majority of the time talking about two characters who generally get less screentime than the others: Cece and Winston. In the absence of Jess (and Coach, since his departure at the end of last season), these two get the opportunity to have a story together. And it is SO great. Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris have this amazingly underrated comedy whenever they’re together. Winston’s exuberance paired with Cece’s sarcasm always proves to be a hilarious combination and this week was no exception. When Winston is convinced that KC is cheating on him because she posted a photo of herself with a cute guy from work, he doesn’t know what to do. And here is where the crux of the story is found — Winston would go to Jess with all of his girl problems. With her gone, he’s not exactly sure what he should do.

And Cece decides that she can totally fill in and be a Jess substitute. Which... Winston and I had the same reaction to. Because Cece is not Jess, and that’s what makes her so hilarious. It’s also why she and Jess have been best friends for as long as they have. Jess is nurturing and Cece is more hardened and bold and stoic. Jess can be wishy-washy, and Cece toughens her up. Similarly, sometimes Cece needs to be told that what she’s doing is wrong (“Cece Crashes”) or hurtful (“Models”) and Jess is the one who can do that because she is sweet and caring. Cece is a model-turned-student-slash-bartender and Jess is a teacher-turned-vice-principal. They have two separate personalities, but Cece insists on trying to play Jess. She’s really, REALLY bad at it.

Because — as I said above — the best part about Cece is that she is not Jess. But she also cannot be completely and totally Cece in this situation either. When she does that (and tells Winston to get back at KC by taking photos with her and posting them), Winston’s girlfriend breaks up with him. Okay, and can I just pause here to say that in 2016, I would really like Winston to meet a nice girl who doesn’t cheat on him. Because I would really love that. I think that the insight though that we gain into Winston’s character in this episode is just as important as the insight we gain into Cece.

Winston is soft. He’s sweet and he’s good and he’s often very naïve. And people take advantage of him because of that — because he doesn’t say everything he feels and he’s not blunt. Though Jess is a good friend and a supportive one, it actually is beneficial that she’s absent. Because Jess has the tendency to coddle people and talk about feelings and wax poetic about how they’ll eventually find the right person. Winston didn’t need Jess in this episode. He needed Cece.

Funnily though, Cece trying to play Jess and not herself is what hurts Winston the most. She is only able to help him when she stops trying to be Jess and tries to be herself. Unfortunately for Cece, Winston misunderstands what she means and decides that he needs to go make KC cry the way that he did. In true Cece and Winston fashion, the plan involves Cece telling KC that Winston died. She’s very non-committal in her delivery of this “news,” until she realizes that KC was cheating on Winston. Because for as much as she tries to be the uncaring, brash member of the loft crew, Cece cares deeply about those around her and she protects them. And when she realizes that KC really did hurt Winston, she wants to hurt her right back.

Cece and Winston had this brilliantly-executed story and they bonded in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to, had Jess been around. I’m hopeful that we will see more of this in the future, too.

NICK MILLER: HOTEL MASTER


In our B-story (although it might have been the A-story — honestly, the two were paced really well so I genuinely don’t know which story had more screentime, though I suspect it was Nick/Schmidt), Nick is trying to plan Schmidt’s bachelor(s) party, and wants to do something special for his best friend that involves the guys flying to Japan. There’s only one slight hiccup, and that’s the fact that Nick is really, REALLY poor. But he has the perfect plan in place in order to earn the money: renting out the rooms in the loft.

This, of course, spectacularly backfires on him when the people he rents out rooms too are horrible. There’s a struggling “writer” (played by Fred Armisen), as well as a couple and their daughter, and an Asian woman (with whom Nick cultivates a brief physical relationship). If you think that Schmidt is horrified by this, you would be correct. And the reason that he’s horrified is because the bachelor(s) party would be easily funded — if only the two men let their horrible friend Todd plan and pay for the Vegas bachelor(s) party he had wanted to do.

Nick is adamant that they don’t succumb to Todd’s party, and it’s a lovely little storyline about how Nick wants to be the best man and friend for Schmidt that he can be. Unfortunately for Nick, he feels like he’s constantly coming up short in that department — Schmidt is the one who plans grand things in their friendship (“Tinfinity”) and Nick often struggles to try and reciprocate. Though Schmidt is often self-absorbed and into things, the best part about him as a character is that when it comes down to it, he would rather be with people he cares about and have a low-key party than be around someone he despises and have an awesome one. I love that Schmidt has grown over the years and his constant caring about Nick is one of the foundations of this show.

Though this story was good, I felt like New Girl leans a lot on Nick and Schmidt stories to carry episodes because they’re fail-safes. Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield have a hilarious repartee and it’s easy for the show to write stories with just the two of them because they always work. I would love to see more variety in the stories in Jess’ absence though (we haven’t had a strictly Winston/Schmidt story in a while, have we?).

Still, that is the most minor of critiques of a really solid episode. New Girl has proven through “No Girl” that although Jess is absent, she’s not really gone, and the loft members can — and will — be fine in her absence.

Additional de-lovely aspects about this episode include:
  • I love that the show let us see Jess in the beginning without us actually seeing her. That courtroom sketch of her annoying the other jurors is hilarious because OF COURSE SHE WOULD.
  • Nick constantly referring to it as a “bachelors party” is so great.
  • “How does anybody pay for anything?” “... But seriously, how are we paying for this?” #gpoy
  • Fred Armisen was SO great.
  • “Are you insane?” “... I don’t think so, no.”
  • Liz Meriwether directed this episode! She did a great job.
  • “How do you drive your car and not hit people?!” The entire gag of Nick getting distracted by something shiny and finding a spoon in his room was so understated and so perfect.
  • Let’s talk about how Lamorne Morris’ wailing had me laughing so hard that I literally snorted.
  • “WATER AND LEAVES. WATER AND LEEEEEEEAVES.” I don’t know why, but the fact that Cece doesn’t know how to make tea is hilariously in-character for her.
  • “You beak-handed moron!”
  • “We’re gonna make a girl cry today!”
What did you all think of “No Girl”? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Flash 2x11 "The Reverse-Flash Returns" (Poor Decisions and Paradoxes) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]



"The Reverse-Flash Returns"
Original Airdate: January 26, 2015

This week on The Flash: Eobard Thawne, He of the Stupid Name, is back. Barry's a complete idiot. Patty feels like a complete idiot. Candice Patton proves she really should get more to do on this show. Cisco's in danger and, surprisingly, ParaWells seems to care.

I really wish Barry would go back to his effervescent Labradoodle self. There's a reason why I don't review Arrow and that reason is because Jenn does a much better job of it, but also because I would have to spend the whole review finding new ways to complain about the brooding hero and I don't want to do that. I liked The Flash because, for a blessed change, we had a hero who seemed to be having fun with the whole saving people gig. Barry cracked jokes and grinned and zoomed around Central City, leaving wind-ruffled pedestrians and broken windows in his wake without a care in the world. I called him a puppy, and he was a puppy. He's not really a puppy anymore, though, and I find this new lack of puppy-like attributes emotionally draining to watch.

I understand that Barry's been through a lot of stuff and it would be poor writing if they didn't have him react to it, but... is it a delayed reaction? Because he seemed to be back to his old self at the end of the season premiere, when you would have thought he'd be in prime brooding mode. His emotional state after his defeat at the hands of Zoom also dipped, then almost immediately picked back up again. So I guess it's all just piling on him now: Zoom, the frustration with his speed, the constant push from ParaWells to be better, the breakup with Patty — is Barry cracking under the pressure of it all? If so, how long is the show going to draw this out before we get our beloved, puppy-like hero back?

BARRY IS AN IDIOT


Surprise! Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash is back — because they needed to tie up the whole "How did Thawne know about Barry and Harrison Wells and S.T.A.R Labs?" plot thread — and most of the episode is focused on stopping him or capturing him or whatever. Thawne has kidnapped Dr. McGee in order to get her to build him something that uses tachyons for time travel, so that he can get home.

Thawne still really hates The Flash, for reasons that are stupid (summary: he's super jealous of how great The Flash is and how much people like him, so instead of trying to be a hero he decides to be a villain) and his trip to the modern day has allowed him to figure out what time period The Flash is from, a an accomplishment that he brags about several times but I can't actually figure out why. He's just messing with Barry, right? He doesn't want Barry dead — there are far easier, far simpler ways to kill people when you have time travel — so what's his motivation, really? From what I can gather, it's just a power trip. Much like Zoom's desire to be the fastest and best speedster, Thawne just wants to prove that he's "better" than The Flash.


But about Barry being an idiot: when Thawne is captured and locked up, Barry gets rather full of himself and decides to mock him from afar. Without a mask on. Barry is shrouded in shadows, yes, but not enough shadow that he's totally invisible. And the bragging? Not helpful to anything, Barry, and a great way to give your time traveling arch-nemesis all kinds of creative ideas for destroying your life when he escapes. Which he inevitably does, thanks to a time travel paradox situation that nearly leads to Cisco's death/complete erasure from existence.

Hey, Barry? Fantastic job. You get the Hero of the Week award, buddy.

I will say that bringing back Thawne — a Thawne that still thinks he's The Flash's greatest opposition — is amusing when we know about Zoom. Thawne's going on and on about how he's "the one thing [Barry] cannot stop" and ha! Already been stopped, and replaced by someone much more impressive!
 

PATTY FEELS LIKE AN IDIOT


…and Patty doesn't deserve to feel like an idiot.

Look, I knew as soon as Patty showed up that the Patty/Barry relationship wasn't going to be a long-term one. It's very clear that Iris and Barry are supposed to end up together, but Barry needed to separate himself from what could be argued as a very deep crush or a "puppy love" infatuation lingering from their teenage years and Iris couldn't bounce back into the dating world after losing her fiance and have such a rebound be taken seriously. So, the writers pulled in a new character for Barry to date and fall in love with and that new character was as cutely awkward, smart, and caring as Barry himself was. They were a nice little match. Still, I knew they were going to break up. I was okay with it.

What I am not okay with is how the actual breakup played out: Patty figures out that Barry is The Flash, confronts him about it, and — here goes that classic superhero story staple — Barry lies to her face and says he's not The Flash because he doesn't want to put her in danger by letting her in on his secret identity. Now, I've already gone into great detail in my last review on why the "keep the secret to protect your loved ones" trope is a stupid, senseless cliche that needs to die a quick death, so let's move on to the fact that this plot line harpooned the ethics of The Flash's titular character by making him lie directly to a person he claimed to love, even though she already knew the truth.


Once that thought's settled in nice and comfy, let's talk about Patty's role in all of this, and how some fans seem to be painting her — and the way she confirmed her knowledge of Barry being The Flash — as in the wrong, for some reason. Patty figures out who Barry is by looking through old case files, with a certain context in mind, and then connecting the dots. The way Joe acts when she tells him about her theory basically confirms it (for real, Joe's strengths do not dwell in the realm of subterfuge) but she wants to hear it from Barry — she begs for him to just treat her like an intelligent human being and tell her the truth, but he keeps lying. So, at the end of the episode, she calls Barry and pretends there's an attack on the train she's riding... and The Flash shows up.

Tell me, if she hadn't figured it out, if she'd called Barry during a real attack and The Flash showed up and she figured it out then, would people still think she was the bad guy? Probably not. I suppose it's the act of tricking Barry that has put her in the wrong for some viewers, but that's ignoring a significant point: Patty did figure out Barry's identity naturally. She did use her own intelligence and detective skills to connect the dots, and when she calmly, nicely approached Barry to get him to confirm, he lied to her. Horribly. It was an insult to their relationship — whether the romantic sort or the friendship they had — as well as to her intelligence, and I don't blame her at all for doing what she did to get the truth.

IRIS WEST, LIGHT OF THIS EPISODE



Hey, you wanna hear about the positives of "The Reverse-Flash Returns"? The first one is named "Iris West" and she's wonderful even though she isn't around nearly as much as I'd like her to be. Iris is kind of like a shooting star these days: rarely seen but brilliant, and I've heard a rumor that if you make a wish while she's on screen it'll come true. Not sure about that last one, though, since the wish I usually make when she's on screen is something along the lines of, "Boy, I wish Iris were on screen more often."

This week, the West family is dealing with the new inclusion of Wally (whose stubbornness and mercurial anger is really getting on my nerves) and the impending death of Francine West. Iris goes to her mother's hospital bed and — in a scene marvelously acted by Candice Patton — forgives her for leaving while simultaneously chastising her for staying away. Because, although Iris was angry at her mother and wanted nothing to do with her when she found out about Wally, time and getting to know her brother both worked to soothe that anger into sadness and regret. Regret for the time they can never get back, when they could have been a family if Francine had just returned to them, and regret over all the moments they're going to miss out on when Francine is gone.

Since Iris recognizes what pain regret can bring, she talks to Wally — who, rather than being angry at Joe for not being around has decided to be angry at Francine for not letting Joe be around — and tells him that if he doesn't spend time with their mother while he can, he's going to hate himself for it later. It's another scene done well, as is pretty much every scene Iris is in this episode.

HARRY CARES!


But a final positive I feel like I really must mention is the brief little scene where ParaWells shows he secretly cared about Cisco all along. I'm not sure if it was written this way or if Tom Cavanagh decided himself to play the scene like he did, but when Cisco basically dies and starts fading away due to Time Paradox Disease, ParaWells is so upset that he can barely talk. It's so abruptly emotional when it happens that I didn't even realize what I was seeing until I was seeing it, as ParaWells stutters through the science on how to save Cisco and actually seems more upset by the events than Cisco's close friends. I know that it could be waved away as ParaWells needing Cisco as a tool to get to Zoom but, nah. I'm going the "he secretly cares" route and you can't stop me.

BARRY ALLEN PUPPY GIF OF THE EPISODE:
NOT ACTUALLY A PUPPY. AN UNHAPPY CAT.



Other Things:
  • "Barry needs to get better, stronger, faster." Do you think they have Daft Punk on Earth-2?
  • Cisco slurping his coffee to annoy ParaWells was hilarious.
  • "You better not be pulling a Juliet… That's right, I see plays."
  • I have no idea what ParaWells is planning, why he killed The Turtle, or what's going on with him. Intriguing!
  • "You realize that this Earth is my Earth-2, right?" Good point, Harry.
  • "Hi, Cisco." [HIGH PITCHED SCREAM.]
  • I think Harry's explanation of Thawne's continued existence is a bunch of nonsense but I'm not a scientist, so I'll just go ahead and accept his dry-erase doodles as scientific.
  • Cisco gets his goggles! "Those goggles are getting named, immediately."
  • Jay's Earth-1 doppelgänger is named Hunter Zolomon, by the way. Do with that what you will.
  • Cisco actually does some unintelligent bragging to Thawne, too. It would be unfair to not mention that, just because he's my favorite.
  • "Who are you?" "No one of consequence." See, people, Harry knows the right way to talk to a time-traveling super villain.
  • Yeah I don't get the timey-wimey stuff that happened in this episode. I can usually grasp time travel plots fairly well, but this one... nope.
  • You know that Harry paid for Cisco's two Big Belly Burgers in spite of his request for money. You just know it.

The Bachelor 20x04 Roundtable Discussion: Will You Marry Other People? (Contributors Rae Nudson & Alisa Williams)


Are we only on episode four? I feel like I’ve been watching Ben be polite for 600 years. This week the women show off their talents to Ben when they open a show in Vegas. Some women feel more talented than others, though, and confidence goes up and down more than the fireworks that Ben and JoJo watch on their date. After the dust settles, there is one meltdown, one puppet kiss, and one less twin. Follow along as Rae and Alisa check in on Ben’s love story once again.

What do you think were the best and worst talents in the talent show?


Rae: Jubilee had a very real talent of playing the cello — is there anything this girl can’t do? (Looks like we’ll find out next week.) She was obviously the best, even though it looked like it pained her to stand up and halfheartedly take a bow. The twins also killed it with their dance, though once again I wish they didn’t go on as a pair.

Olivia was... something. I almost felt bad for her until I realized her plan was to cry and get Ben’s attention that way. She did look quite uncomfortable on stage — maybe if she was nice to the other women they would have helped her think of a routine. If you ask me, though, looking good in a red showgirl outfit should count as a talent all on its own.

Alisa: I have to agree with Rae that Jubilee killed it with her cello playing. And though I have mixed feelings about the twins appropriating the dance of my people for that sad excuse of a date, I do have to begrudgingly admit they did a good job.

Clearly the other girls have talents that are not well-expressed in a talent show environment (one can hope that’s the case anyway), but I give them all an "A" for effort and fearlessness. Except Olivia. Her performance actually didn’t bother me all that much. Sure she was awkward and apparently talentless, but so were most of the other women. What bothered me were all the manipulation tactics afterward and the incessant need to apologize to Ben repeatedly for her awful performance. I don’t think he cared nearly as much as she thought he did, but he sure did care that she kept taking up his time beating a dead horse. So, hey, maybe that’s her talent right there. That or practically unhinging her jaw every time she opens her mouth.


Who would you have sent packing this week?


Rae: I am tired of Olivia’s delusional ranting about body language. We all know she’s not going to end up with Ben, the girls know she’s not going to end up with Ben, and Ben knows she’s not going to end up with Ben. Do us all a favor next week and do not give her a rose. Based on the previews, it looks like Olivia’s vile behavior finally comes to light. Wait, maybe Olivia’s talent should have been driving everyone insane because she excels at it.

The twins are finally split up, and I am relieved but still sort of weirded out he kept either of them. Ben, do not get in between two sisters, it’s gross.

There’s a girl named Leah on this show?

Alisa: So, Ben sent a few girls packing who I hadn’t even realized were still contestants. Then he kept some girl named Jennifer who clearly just showed up in the Vegas hotel room one night and was blindly accepted by the other women as one of their own, because I sure don’t remember her existence.

Other than those random girls who weren’t/aren’t going to make it far anyway, obviously Olivia needs to go already. She added some drama to bland Ben’s season, but enough is enough. I cannot believe Ben kept her after all her shenanigans this episode but it wouldn’t be The Bachelor without poor choices all around, now would it. And those twins. Ben keeping one seriously calls into question his decision making abilities. I mean do you really see yourself with one of them, Ben? Do you? It’s highly doubtful you can even tell them apart when you had to ask their mother about their personality traits and used that to make your decision. “Oh, Emily’s the more outgoing one and Haley takes some time to open up? Guess I’ll keep Emily. Thanks, potential mother-in-law!” Ugh.


Who do you think Ben is feeling the most? 


Rae: Ben is so into Lauren B., and Lauren B. could not bore me more if she tried. She was at the top of my list in the beginning of the season, but the more she talks, the less she says. She’s super cute, though, and Ben is very into making out with her.

Ben called Caila a “sex panther,” which is not something he can say convincingly, and then he gives her such a milquetoast compliment it makes me think Ben has never said anything sexy in his life. But Caila seems nice and fun, and I love how she called out Olivia so often during the group date. Get it, girl.

Alisa: Like Rae said, Lauren B. and Caila are definitely at the top of Ben’s list. Or at least his make-out list. Hearing Ben call Caila a “sex panther” made me want to puncture my eardrums. I don’t know if he had more to drink than usual, or if it’s just already that point in the show where emotions and feelings are running high and so things start to move fast, but either way, Ben suddenly turned into a sexual being this episode and I was more than a little caught off guard.

And his seeming obsession with Becca’s virginity was not attractive. (Can everyone just get over that already, seriously?) I got the impression this episode that he’s looking for a girl who’s very forward with her physicality. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but unfortunately it means the girls who are more reserved like Becca and Jubilee are going to get left without roses in the end. And I’m not okay with him just writing off great girls because they’re not as inclined to get super physical with someone they’ve spent a handful of hours with. Maybe I’m jumping ahead of myself and not giving Ben enough credit, but the previews of him going off on Jubilee have me seriously annoyed.

Who are you feeling the most?


Rae: Jojo seems really great, and I’m glad she got more screen time. She seems very normal, and it seems like the producers were trying to get her to play up the story of her last relationship, which sounds... pretty uneventful. They dated for a year and a half, broke up five months ago, and she’s still not over feeling bad about it, which is totally not weird at all for something that happened within this calendar year. She had a really cute dress during the group date and did a great job getting Olivia to confess her love and then making Olivia look crazy for doing it. For real, are we drafting a team here for the passive aggressive Olympics? These women are champions.

I still love Jubilee, but I get the feeling Ben is getting tired of reassuring everyone he is into them. I’m not sure what will happen next week, but it’s not looking good for our girl. Amanda is exceedingly normal and nice, and bless her for it.

Alisa: I agree that it seems there’s some actual normal girls on this show for once, which bodes well for our normal, albeit boring, Ben. Jojo, Amanda, and the remaining Laurens all seem like fairly well-adjusted and decent human beings. Basically, at this point as long as he doesn’t end up with Olivia or the twin left standing, he should be set for a relationship that at least lasts longer than an average Bachelor/Bachelorette coupling.

Bonus question: What would be your talent if you were performing in the talent show?


Rae: If I somehow made it to week four of this circus, the talent show portion is what would definitely get me sent home. I would refuse to participate, not be able to control my expressions around Olivia, and then get caught loudly talking about how the ventriloquist is weird and not that funny and who even is he anyway? It would be a disaster. If I had to produce a talent... I don’t know. I can type really fast?

Alisa: I would correctly place and locate Indiana on a map, and maybe just for show, the rest of the states as well.