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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Halt and Catch Fire 3x01 & 3x02 Reviews: “Valley of the Heart’s Delight” & “One Way or Another” (Welcome to the Jungle) [Guest Poster: Amir]


“Valley of the Heart’s Delight” & “One Way or Another” 
Original Airdate: August 23, 2016

At some point in the two-hour season three premiere of AMC’s criminally underwatched series Halt and Catch Fire, something snapped in me and made me smile. This happened relatively early on in the episode, as Donna and Cameron are seated together discussing their latest creation at Munity. They never look at each other, just at the screens, speaking and typing without missing a beat, as if the rocky road to them being business partners has led them to this. It was refreshing, and for some reason filled a hole that had been missing for a while. It’s nice to see Munity again, and better than ever. Following the journey of Munity, Cameron and Donna’s little tech outfit, throughout season two was rife with excitement, anxiousness, heartbreak, and revitalized energy. It was a dynamic change for the series, that initially started with its hyper focus on mysterious main player Joe MacMillan. The problem wasn’t that AMC couldn’t tell a great story about computers and the people who have a hand in them in the 80s. But with Mad Men on the way out at the time, much pressure was placed on Halt and Catch Fire to fill the gaping void that would be left in Mad Men's absence. Then something amazing happened; they pulled focus from Joe to Cameron and Donna, who — during season one — seemed to only revolve around Joe and Gordon as opposed to being in their world. Now we’re in Cameron and Donna’s world, and what a wonderful world it is.

Still, it wouldn’t be Munity unless something was going haywire at an inopportune time. That’s where we pick up on our merry band of misfits, commemorating their 100,000 users and their newfound independence. Munity has come a long way from a large group of people occupying a house that was seemingly falling apart and barely able to handle the most minor set of issues. The new Munity has gotten an upgrade, and with it, also gained some new faces. But no worries — all the familiar faces you grew to love in season two return as well.

One of those new faces happens to be Ryan, a very intelligent, yet socially awkward member who, after the very first moments of meeting him, we can already tell will cross his paths with Joe MacMillan. His ideas are great, but he’s been relegated to sprite duties and is hungry to do bigger and better things. What’s interesting about this dynamic is that not only does it mirror Joe’s desire to do bigger and better things, but it also mirrors Cameron’s desire to expand and exact new and innovative ideas. When Ryan does meet Joe for the first time later on in the episode, one can see Joe looking unto him as his next protégé, but also as someone full of youth that Joe doesn’t have anymore. Maybe it’d be a possible passing of the torch, but it certainly opens up an interesting dynamic. It doesn’t help that upon Ryan leaving Mutiny, he tells Gordon to his face that he’s leaving to work for Joe. That has got to sting.

Mutiny not only gets an upgrade this season, but the dynamics between characters are much more fluid and less stiff. Season two was a great step in building this world of computers and tech geeks, and season three progresses this further by showing our coders and creators having a strong sense of unity. They goof off, make the occasional fart joke, and by the end of the first episode, seem to have taken in Gordon as an easy to mock, but easy to respect, authority figure. After a long overnight session of coding, Gordon gives a speech about the true nature of Joe MacMillan, and how evil he really can be. Props to Scoot McNairy for delivering one of the most powerful scenes in the series, and in the first episode no less!

In a scene between Gordon and Bosworth, the latter drops what may be the most essential line of this new season; in reference to Cameron and Donna, “I find it wise not to interfere with the brain trust. They run the place; I just work here.” A rather telling statement considering how far Bosworth has come from owning his own business to now just being a part of another. This season really pushes Cameron and Donna so far into the forefront that the first time we even get a glimpse of Joe is from a phone call with Bosworth about his new grandchild. Joe always has been an omnipotent character in Halt and Catch Fire, and this season decides to prove no different. When we finally see Joe, he’s giving his own press conference for his own business, alone in a small theatre. He makes a surprise appearance during Gordon’s deposition to offer him a portion of his company, asking him to be his partner again. It’s no surprise that Joe has already jumped ahead in making his own business plans, but what’s so surprising is how singular it all feels. He, at times, feels away from the cast, and yet a part of it at the same time. I imagine that’s how Joe should have been during season, and yet it’s here where the writers of the show finally manage to make it all work out. No longer the focus of the show, he’s allowed more freedom to drift in and out of the lives of those he’s seemingly ruined, and we see Joe moving right along as if nothing’s happened.

By the time we get to the second hour of the premiere, we’ve already been reacquainted with Mutiny, so now it’s time to follow Cameron and Donna on their quest for investors. This is where the episode shines the most. Watching Cameron and Donna working together as business partners was akin to watching The Odd Couple back in season two. Now, Cameron seems way more comfortable, less abrasive, less a sore thumb at these conferences than before, and it’s a testament to the chemistry of Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishe. They play off of each other so well, taking in what the other has to offer and how different they are, while at the same time respecting them all the same. Last season, we got to see how much pushback these two ladies got just trying to get anything done, and this season raises the stakes even higher by making their gender more pointed.

In arguably the best scene in the episode (and of the week, maybe even month) Cameron and Donna are seated at a dinner with potential investors. It starts out benign enough, but as the conversation continues, it becomes more lecherous to the point of being downright uncomfortable. It becomes apparent that these men only invited these women out to have a good time and once that realization hits Cam and Donna, the fear comes out. “This is how we do things out here,” says one of them, while the other drops this: “But nobody wears that shade of lipstick unless they’ve come to play.” It’s a remarkable scene, well directed, and most of all impeccably acted by Davis and Bishe. Where Donna is more vocal about their outrage, it’s Cameron’s facial expressions that sell it. When Cameron, who usually is the hothead of the two, has to pull Donna away from a fight, that’s when you’ve got something great.

At one point during the episode, Donna runs into Diane, a character introduced to us when her daughter has a fight with Donna’s daughter. She’s getting dressed up in soccer gear, a brief exchange is had, and then Diane says this, “I like it, that we’re both raising girls who are fighters, don’t you?” Donna doesn’t really have much of a response to that. But in her own way, Donna is raising fighters. Her evolution from dutiful housewife to company owner fighting to keep it afloat would make her a fighter, and in a meta sense, any girl that would come across this series while growing up could find themselves inspired by these characters. Halt and Catch Fire has a lot of weight to carry with a lot to say, but with these episodes, I don’t think it’ll be a problem here on out.

Mr. Robot 2x07 & 2x08 Review: “eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme” & “eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12” (Above All, Trust...) [Guest Poster: Amir]



“eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme”

Original Airdate: August 17, 2016

When we first met Elliot in season one, he seems well adjusted enough to be able to take down a pedophile who owns a chain of coffee shops. Yet there was just enough margin for something to be off on a much deeper level. In a sense, that’s how one can look at Mr. Robot as a whole. Throughout season one of Mr. Robot, the concept that Elliot being an unreliable narrator has been on the minds of many viewers, and yet the reveal of who Mr. Robot is (and Darlene for that matter) sent waves throughout the narrative. Even those jaded by the Fight Club references couldn’t help but find the twist to be a very potent one for the series. Not only did we find out Mr. Robot was Elliot’s father, but that Elliot was making him up in his head the entire time. With such a strong reveal out of the way, many people felt that there was no real way to top that reveal, but season two has proven to be a different beast entirely. This season of Mr. Robot has done a wonderful job of depicting the deteriorating mental state of Elliot while keeping us engaged in his regiment, but it’s “h4ndshake” where Sam Esmail decides to finally pull the rug over us in a spectacular fashion, giving us a dynamic episode, despite using well-worn tricks.

First things first: Elliot killed Tyrell? It’s a statement that makes sense for the episode, but how can we trust it? It does come from Mr. Robot as opposed to Elliot, and we never see it happen. It’s certainly possible that he did do it, but can we trust his word? We haven’t been able to trust him at all throughout this series (and he hasn’t been able to trust us either). But Elliot has more pressing matters to deal with, like being in deep trouble with Ray. Elliot finding out that the quiet and personable Ray runs a .tor site filled with hitman contracts, sex trafficking, and drugs was not only a shocking twist, but it was also a wonderful callback to the first episode of this series. Even Mr. Robot himself makes a reference to it, in an effort to make Elliot realize this isn’t the same thing.

Comparatively, season one seems incredibly tame to the out of the control spiral of season two, but that comes with the territory when you wreck a global economy. The callback isn’t just a reminder of simpler times for Elliot — the episode feels like something we’d see from season one. Elliot using his intelligence to get his way back to Ray’s computer not only to get in contact with the Dark Army, but to also tip the feds off to Ray’s site, felt like a logical progression for Elliot’s brand of vigilante justice. When Elliot and Ray share their final chess game and Ray reveals the true origins of the site, that’s where the progression shows. Before, Elliot did all the talking, leaving his first mark flabbergasted. This time out, Ray does all the talking and elicits probably the most endearing moment of the show to date, which Craig Robinson pulls off with such sincerity and vulnerability that it’ll be hard not to look out for him come award time. It’s not long before the police swarm the place, and Ray is arrested. It was nice knowing you.

Even better, Elliot has come to terms to who he is and Mr. Robot’s role in his life. A father in life and in death, their scene together shows what Elliot has been running away from: being a leader. Throughout this series, we’ve been led to believe that it was Mr. Robot’s doing that led to the major hacks of season one, even with the knowledge that Elliot is Mr. Robot. It’s not until this scene that Elliot admits to himself — through Mr. Robot — that it was him the entire time, and that he’s got the capacity to lead people into a new revolution because he was the one that led them in the first place. Elliot has the power to do it; he just doesn’t believe in himself any more than he believes in us.

That all changes when he finally confesses the biggest twist of the series to date; Elliot’s been in prison this entire time. The reveal itself isn’t so shocking in a series filled with shocking turns, but it’s Sam Esmail’s ability to reveal the twist itself that is something worth noting. But it’s Elliot’s line that from here on out he’s choosing to tell the truth. Whatever the truth is in his mind is completely up to him, and we’re now at the mercy of him and not the other way around.




“eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12” 
Original Airdate: August 24, 2016

By comparison, “succ3ss0r” is filled just as many twists, as we shift to the fsociety crew. This episode is rife with many 70s paranoia government films, as we follow Darlene, Mobley, Trenton, and Cisco as they hack into the FBI. The group begins to splinter off in different opinions as they soon find out that they are in fact being watched by the FBI (albeit illegally). It’s a very relevant topic considering it wasn’t so far off that NSA and Snowden was a talking point in the American landscape. The group decides to drop the information that the FBI has been illegally tapping networks and phones, which manages to get some of the heat off of them. That is, until the house they’ve been vacating up until now has been compromised when the original owner comes back.

This episode, while a great one, feels slightly off for many reasons. Filler doesn’t seem to be the right word to describe this episode, but it certainly gives off a bottle episode vibe, even though we move around a lot, focusing on Angela and FBI agent Dom. But throughout the episode our attention tied to the question of how on earth these people will get out of their crazy shenanigan. It’s an episode that, at points, is excellent at showing how differently people are responding to the situation they are in — not just with their hostage, but with fsociety in general. Mobley is already wanting out after feeling the heat while Trenton is stays on, albeit with reservations all her own. Cisco and Darlene appear to be on the same page about this, finding new ways to get themselves out the situation they're in. But it’s Darlene in particular, who seems to be going off the deep end in her own mind, taking the title of radical to new heights. Carly Chaikin, who plays Darlene, has taken a character to a whole new level. Her portrayal in this episode makes us question what reasoning she may have had in doing this to begin with. Was she in it to destroy E-Corp, or deep down was this out of revenge? It’s hard to say, but once she kills Susan Jacobs in an act of defiance to all preconceived notions, it strikes a chord. There’s was no going back before, but now Darlene has sealed everyone’s fate entirely. Can Elliot save them all? Who knows. But one thing has been made clear by the end of the episode — the Dark Army has been keeping tabs on all of them, and it won’t end well for anyone involved in this.

These two episodes work as showing two sides of the same coin. Elliot and Darlene are both leading through their own methods and means. Darlene clearly is losing control of what’s going on and where fsociety should be going, while Elliot is slowly growing into the idea that he’s the leader that they all need him to be. It’s a fitting comparison to make between the two of them — the idea of leadership. It makes sense too considering they are siblings, have lost the very thing that sets them off onto their crusade, and what will inevitably bring them together and apart.

Now that Elliot may be getting out earlier than expected, it’s only a matter of time before the major players get together and finally see what will be of fsociety. One can hope for the best, but when has that ever worked out?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Beauty & the Beast 4x11 Recap: “Meet the New Beast” (Say Goodbye) [Guest Poster: Bibi]


“Meet the New Beast”
Original Airdate: August 25, 2016

This week on Beauty & the Beast, everyone basically says their goodbyes. We start with Vincent and J.T. who are having a secret breakfast where Vincent continues to try and convince J.T. to help him and Cat escape. J.T. comes with the most ridiculous fake I.D. I have ever seen, and Vincent urges him to take this whole escape plan seriously. While not a fan of the aforementioned plan, J.T. realizes that Graydal has basically backed them into a corner. For now, it really looks like prison is their only other option.

We then cut to Cat filling Heather in on the new beast lurking around, and you can tell that she is stressed. At this point Cat basically has no job or credibility, so she needs Tess’s help on the inside. Cat begs Tess to show her any evidence that she has so they can hopefully find this new beast and exonerate Vincent. So, as it turns out, Graydal has a connection to the man that bought Muirfield. Cat tells Vincent that it seems like Muirfield is back, and he loses it. He finds the owner of Muirfield dead, apparently killed by the new beast. The plan to turn themselves into DHS with hopes that they won’t go to prison becomes increasingly more complicated with this death.

Elsewhere, Kyle is worried about Heather and prematurely asks her to move in. Their relationship is built on lies, and yet he still stays, convincing her to move forward. Oh, yeah, and he is generally still creepy. Now, however, he’s also working for DHS. So add another layer of complexity to their relationship! I really wouldn’t be surprised if he was the beast that they are looking for. Heather helps J.T. with tasks that — little does she know — will aid in her sister and Vincent’s escape.

Cat and Vincent follow the last known associate of the dead millionaire via his cell phone and try to trap him in a set-up. He flees and, of course, now assumes that Vincent is the beast after him. With their only lead gone, emotions are high. Cat tries to ease Heather’s mind that they will always be sisters, even after she flees the country and they will keep in touch.

My favorite part of the episode was the heart-to-heart that occurred between Tess and Vincent. I don’t think that the writers have managed to develop their relationship as much as I would’ve liked, considering the fact that these two people are the very anchors in which Cat stays grounded. Hearing Vincent say that he knows Tess won’t miss him is a moment of great transparency. And hearing Tess say she loves and admires the way Vincent cares for and protects her friend, and will miss the man (but not the beast), is a moment of honesty.

J.T. and Vincent have one last spy mission as best friends, and this allow Cat and Tess time to say their goodbyes. Cat and Tess are my favorite part of the show, by far. They’ve grown so much, have been through so much, and are truly a wonderful display of what dynamic female friendships and work partners look like.

During the mission, J.T. and Vincent get caught and trapped by the man who eluded capture from Cat and Vincent earlier. Apparently the grand plan was to try and enhance the Muirfield beasts, not just replicate them. The beast in question has put the fear into this associate, and Vincent tries to convince him to let him protect him.

Meanwhile, Heather shows up to tell her sketchy boyfriend Kyle that she wants to move in, but really just steals the files of two deceased patients in order to help Cat and Vincent with their plan to flee the country.

We find out that apparently this Muirfield contact is an evil genius slash scientist and created a super beast that basically is unstoppable. The state department approved this super soldier, and Braxton took the fall for everyone. The doctor admits his flaws, but now we don’t know if all of the subjects are actually dead. New beast feature: invisibility!

Warning: Everyone may die in the finale with an invisible super beast on the prowl.

In the heat of the moment, Vincent slashes the evil genius’ arm and tries to use him as bait. Tess, meanwhile, meets with DHS and tries to convince them to exonerate Vincent if her lead pans out. Apparently, the Secretary of Homeland Security will not forgive Vincent for killing one of their own though. So even if they find and capture the real beast, Vincent — and anyone who has helped him — will not be exonerated.

The doctor gets a text and leaves custody… and gets killed by the beast, right under Cat and Vincent’s noses. But the beast keeps them alive. Why? Everyone gathers at J.T.’s place, and Tess breaks the news that DHS will never make a deal with them; they must leave. It is hard, but necessary.

Kyle, the troublemaker, professes his love for Heather. Oh, and he also confesses that he called DHS on Cat and Vincent, once he figured out that Heather stole the death certificates to help them escape. Cat and Vincent arrive at the airport and DHS is right there to arrest them.

So what will happen next? Who is this other beast, and what does he want? Why did he spare Cat and Vincent? Also, did Tess and J.T. just sort of, kind of, get back together? Vincent’s greatest wish is that they get back together and I think more than anything, he really just wants the two best friends in their lives to have happiness once they leave.

I, for one, am hoping we see who this beast is soon. Share your thoughts below!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Series: Summer Lovin' -- Week 20

Image result for summer gif high school musical

Can you guys believe that it's almost September?! Where did the summer go? As we begin to wind down our Summer Lovin' Series for another year, we're still excited to be celebrating the best of television, film, and books. Megan is the lone writer joining me as we discuss the pop culture that impacted and influenced us this week.

Let's get started, shall we?

Jenn's Pick: 5 Reasons You Should Be Watching The A Word

Image result for the a word

Sometimes, you see commercials for a television show or film so often that it compels you to actually watch the content being promoted. Repetition truly is the easiest way to condition an audience, after all. So when I began to see commercials for The A Word while watching USA, SyFy, and Bravo shows on my cable provider's On Demand channel, I thought I would give the show a chance. The only name and face I recognized was that of former Doctor Who star, Christopher Eccleston. Still, I was in the market for a new drama series and this one seemed like it would be just what I needed.

As it turns out, The A Word really was just what I needed, and it's probably just what you need too. Family dramas have been few and far between since NBC's Parenthood ended. And there's something to be said about the quiet intensity and complexity of a show focused around a group of normal (albeit broken) individuals. I love superhero dramas, and I love post-apocalyptic dramas, and I love dramas that are intense and incorporate science-fiction elements into them. But I really love watching television shows with flawed, human characters focused on families that could very well be any of ours.

So here are five reasons why you should binge-watch BBC/Sundance TV's The A Word before the summer officially ends!

Catch Your Breath: Don't Breathe (Mostly) Fires On All Cylinders [Contributor: Melanie]


This review contains spoilers for Don't Breathe. Read at your own risk.

Jump scares are my #1 pet peeve when it comes to horror movies. They’re quick, they’re simple, and they don’t require any real analytic thought. In short, they’re a gimmick. If you’re worried your movie isn’t going to scare, you throw in some loud bangs, quick cuts, a few people popping out a little too quickly, and you’ll get some kind of reaction out of the audience, even though said reaction is simply your amygdala reacting to startle stimuli.

Don’t Breathe, however, is the first film to take this worn gimmick and use it for its intended purpose. It’s a film with a very familiar concept: home invasion. Only this time, the roles are reversed. When a group of teenagers looking for quick cash to flee their dead-end lives in Detroit decide to rob a blind man rumored to have $300,000 locked away in his house from a cash settlement after the vehicular death of his daughter, they find themselves hunted by the more-than-capable, would-be victim.

After I went to see Crimson Peak last year, I talked about the difference between horror and terror. Horror is an umbrella term for a lot very different types of media. Shirley Jackson, famous for The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery, very academically laid out the difference between the emotion of horror and that of terror. And her two most famous works are likely the best examples of that: Hill House is a work of terror because it suggests the presence of ghosts and danger without ever truly showing the monster, while The Lottery shows you the danger and then forces you to engage with an emotional response as the woman is cornered by her neighbors and stoned to death.

And even more relevant example, perhaps, is director Fede Alvarez’s remake of Evil Dead, which was a total Hellraiser-level gore-fest complete with blood rain, graphic injuries, and pretty terrifying looking demons (if you saw those YouTube ads, you got a taste of what I mean). That’s pure horror. And that was the biggest criticism of that film: too much gore, too much shock factor, too many visceral distractions. So Alvarez set out to prove he could make a horror movie without the crutch of gore by relying on another crutch: suspense.

Don’t Breathe is Alvarez’s terror answer to the complaints of his most recent horror film. And it works extremely well. Not unlike what Paranormal Activity wanted to achieve with the static camera on a sleeping couple, this film forces the audience out of a passive participant role. This is the literal definition of “edge of your seat.” The excellent use of sound, a night vision sequence to rival Silence of the Lambs, and an expert use of tracking shots all work in tandem to make an experience that’s truly an assault on the senses. And that’s what terror is all about.

It’s not simply written off as a thriller because thriller relies on a sustained adrenaline rush. Action. This film relies on the potential. And the pay off is given in small bursts and waves as the burglars are picked off and the Blind Man gains more ground in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Much of the movie is made up of our protagonists carefully moving through the house, watching the Blind Man, barely dodging attacks. But, at a certain point, the tension will have to break completely and that also, non-coincidentally, is where the weakest part of the movie lies.

Showing the monster is the #1 way to remove the scare factor from a film. The Phantom is only terrifying because you don’t know what’s under the mask. The first Paranormal Activity works because you never see what’s terrorizing Katie and Micah. Halloween is so ironically scary because the Shape has no name and no face. It Follows came very near to scoring a 10 in this event, with the slow-walking, shape-shifting proverbial “it” never getting a face or identity. But it was ruined when we were granted a glimpse of it murdering a victim, taking away your imagination’s ability to concoct some terrifying manner of death for the victims who turn up mutilated after it gets a hold of them.

Don’t Breathe has a similar pitfall. The Blind Man goes lineless for most of the movie, simply giving out a series of grunts and yells as his hulking presence, more akin to a vengeful spirit than a man, stalks around the house. We find out that the true secret of the house is not the money, but that the girl who hit the Blind Man’s daughter with her car locked up in the basement. Things dissipate completely when the Blind Man starts talking about 60% of the way through the movie. He monologues about his vengeance against the girl who bought her freedom out of a vehicular manslaughter charge and talks about how he is keeping her prisoner and forcibly impregnating her via artificial insemination, believing she owes him a child.

Yeah.

He gets a lot less scary at that point. Sure, that’s completely demented and the scene where he intends to perform the same process to Rocky, one of the burglars he captured, is totally disturbing. But the biggest thing this guy/villain had going for him is gone. When he was a voiceless shape of violence and brutality in the dark, he was petrifying. When he’s talking about a bizarre punishment with barely justifiable motives, not so much. We’ve seen him. They’ve shown the monster. And suddenly I’m a lot less on the edge of my seat during the last act of the film. Imagination is a powerful thing. It was easy to see who the woman locked in the basement was and why she was there, but giving advanced explanation with weird details only detracted from the effect. I’d rather keep the man beneath the monster a mystery.

Or, if you wanted to suggest some human evil, at least make his crimes a little less... weird.

But that narrative misfire was only a blip on the overall effectiveness of the movie. It’s entertaining, the characters are worthy of your sympathy, and all comes to an earned ending free of any suggestions of a sequel. The fare in horror has been mild this year with only The Witch standing out as a truly great release. But don’t worry, that Blair Witch sequel/reboot we all totally wanted is coming in September. Yay.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Suits 6x07 Review: "Shake the Trees" (And They All Came Tumbling Down)


"Shake the Trees"
Original Airdate: August 24, 2016

In life, timing is everything. Whether we're trying to determine exactly when we should change careers, pursue a relationship, or start a family, making the right decision at the right time is crucial. But the truth is that timing is just as important in writing and television as it is in real life. For Suits, timing has always been imperative. The writers had to determine when everyone would find out Mike's secret, and the fallout from the secret reveal has been unraveling for years. But now, the writers have another difficult timing situation to work out — the timing and pacing of Mike's imprisonment. Suits follows a pretty linear format, and the only time jumps they include are their iconic flashback episodes each season. In this week's episode, however, it appeared (for a brief moment) that maybe — just maybe — Mike Ross would make it out of prison and the show would have to figure out a way to incorporate him back into the lives of everyone else at Pearson Specter Litt.

... Okay, who are we kidding? We all knew that Mike couldn't get out of prison this early. It's not the mid-season finale yet! And though I feel like for the most part this prison vs. law firm separation of characters has worked in the show's favor, "Shake the Trees" was another misstep in terms of arc and characterization for Mike Ross. While the show tries to keep Mike in prison because it's not the right time to let him out, they're stretching their plot pretty thin in order to stick to their timeline. The result is an episode that was just okay, if a bit frustrating in terms of Mike's story.

SECRETS AND LIES AND LOYALTIES


I have to confess to something — I know that Mike's relentless loyalty is supposed to be endearing, but in "Shake the Trees," it's just annoying. When Mike has the opportunity to get out of prison, but it means that Kevin's wife will be prosecuted and in jail, he gives it up (or stalls at least) and pretty much begs Harvey to find another way to get him out of jail AND not put Kevin's wife in jail. At this point in time, I'm kind of baffled by Mike's attitude. He wants Harvey to be jumping through every possible hoop -- get Gallo out of his hair, prevent Kevin's wife from being imprisoned, find evidence to prosecute Sutter without revealing Kevin's wife to Cahill, and... oh yeah, get HIM out of jail. Harvey Specter is a lot of things, but miracle-worker isn't one of them. His ability to try and do everything Mike asks will result in his inability to do one thing. And that one thing is the only thing Harvey cares about.

Harvey cares deeply about Mike, and his primary goal is getting him out of prison. That's why he teamed up with Sean Cahill in the first place. While Cahill wants justice to be served, and rightfully so, he has no real emotional stake in Mike's future. He cares, don't get me wrong  but he just doesn't care as much as Harvey. He can't. And he won't, ever. So while it was amazing to get the chance to watch Harvey and Cahill team up, it made sense in the end that Cahill tried and fought but lost Mike's deal. He just couldn't risk letting Sutter go in order to save Mike. And I don't blame him at all. Cahill has his own reasons for putting Sutter away (equally, if not more, valid and emotional reasons). So when Harvey breaks down at the end of the episode, I felt for him. But also, I have to wonder exactly why Mike keeps delaying his freedom. (I mean, I KNOW why — it's because the writers want to keep him in prison longer because that's where the story is this season.)

Honestly, I'm hopeful that Cahill will have some sort of involvement throughout the rest of the episodes leading up to the mid-season finale, because having Neal McDonough back on my screen is perfect. Cahill's banter and relationship with Harvey has been a saving grace of this season -- Harvey is at his most likable when he's being challenged, but also when he's getting stuff done. The real (and fake) arguments between the two have provided some levity, but also some really good character growth for Cahill, who was the show's one-note villain a few seasons ago. It's good to see Harvey and Cahill challenge one another and ultimately emerge better people and lawyers because of it.

But Mike, unfortunately, has become one of the most irritating — if not the most irritating — aspect of Suits this season. His entitlement, his demand for everyone to provide every whim for him, and his delusional expectations are wearing my patience thin. But since we've already discussed how annoying Mike is for longer than I would prefer, let's talk about characters who aren't annoying!


#LADIESSUPPORTINGLADIES


When I heard that Jessica and Rachel would be getting a story together this season, I was — admittedly — apprehensive, given the fact that the last we saw of Rachel in season five, she was like Mike: delusional, entitled, and self-absorbed. But Rachel Zane 2.0 is none of those things. She's still uncertain in her authority and her position at Pearson Specter Litt in a lot of ways. And she DOES have Jessica as her back-up when she has to tell Leonard that his execution date has been set. But what really impresses me about Rachel these days is her unwavering strength and faith in herself. If someone tells her to do something she knows is a good idea, she does it. Rachel Zane of seasons past would have argues and continued arguing until she got her way.

But now, without Mike there to distract her, Rachel is becoming a fully-realized character who is finding strength within herself and confidence in a job. What was especially impressive this week was Rachel handling the father of a murder victim (who believes Leonard killed his daughter). While being yelled at and accosted, Rachel is clearly shaken up and is saved by an enraged Gretchen (GOD BLESS GRETCHEN). But she stands her ground and keeps her composure in the face of a really horrible experience. And earlier in the episode, at the prison, she also manages to keep her composure even when Leonard is yelling in her face. Rachel Zane has always been someone who is extremely headstrong, but this year, she's managed to turn that quality into something even more powerful — resilience.

Rachel is not about to give up. She's not blaming people around her for her problems. She's genuinely listening to Jessica, even when her boss' opinion contradicts her own. And what I really love is that Jessica is learning from Rachel, too. She's able to see growth and she's able to see Rachel's hard work and persistence. Now that there is no one in Pearson Specter Litt, Rachel is able to shine in Jessica's eyes. This week, perhaps one of the most important lessons Rachel learned was that asking for help does not make you childish; it makes you smart. It's understandable that Rachel feels like a child asking her father for help, but Jessica and Harvey ask people for help and favors all the time. It's not a sign of weakness, but rather an invitation into a relationship. Now that Rachel's father has helped her out, there will come a time in which she will need to help him out. It's really great and important to see Rachel learning the value of reciprocal relationships in law.

I'm proud of Rachel Zane. Truly, I am. She's becoming a stronger and better person because of all that she's facing and the interest she's taken in the Innocence Project. For the first time in a very long time, Rachel has something that she feels complete and total ownership of. And she's doing a kick-butt job at it.

Suits wasn't great this week, and I can see the show slowly slipping back into its old habits if it is not careful. While separating the characters and their stories still seems like the best plan of action, I fear that Mike will only grow more insufferable and lose the very qualities that are supposed to be redeeming him and his arc in prison. I guess only time will tell.

And now, bonus points:
  • No, I didn't mention it above but yes, there was another pointless story about Louis' love life this week that Donna was shoehorned into. And yes, props to you, Suits, for at least acknowledging in-show that Donna has been doing nothing but serve as Louis' personal assistant for the first half of this season. That still doesn't make up for her lack of a story either, or the shoddy (also) shoehorning in of a man apparently Donna was dating. While Rick Hoffman and Sarah Rafferty have incredible chemistry as Louis and Donna and I believe that Louis loves and appreciates her, I just wish Donna would have her own story this season. Sigh.
  • I love Neal McDonough as Sean Cahill. Have I mentioned that?
  • Harvey and Louis' relationship is great in this season. I love that they're actually managing to work together.
  • All of the women having to do the work because the men can't handle it: Suits, a summary.
  • "I'm Donna. And I'm awesome." Seriously, that moment was one of the greatest moments in the show's recent history. Bow down, y'all. The queen isn't going anywhere.
  • THERE ARE NEW LITT UP MUGS AND I WANT ONE.
  • Harvey smiles are my favorite smiles.
  • Gallo is not as dumb as he initially appears -- he managed to figure out what Harvey and Mike were up to and is now using that to get what he wants.
What did you all think of "Shake the Trees"? Sound off in the comments below!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bachelor in Paradise 3x06 & 3x07 Roundtables: It All Falls Down [Contributors: Patti, Alisa, Rae, Rebecca]


It's getting real on Bachelor in Paradise, which pretty much means everything is falling apart. Rock-solid couple Vinny and Izzy are kaputs, and cracks are starting to show in Lace and Grant's relationship. But the biggest mess of all is Ashley I., Caila, and Jared's woeful love triangle. See what Alisa, Rae, Rebecca, and special guest Patti Murin had to say about this week's episodes.

Literally what is going on with Caila and Ashley I.?


Patti: Neither are amazing in my book, but Caila ekes out a win because she at least seems slightly more rational than Ashley I. Also, I love the fact that we are still calling her “Ashley I.” even when she’s the only Ashley. Does anyone remember the other Ashley?

I feel for Ashley because she is heartbroken, but when she starts to talk crap about Caila and (seemingly, editing could be in play here) sabotages her intentions, it makes me prickle. That’s just being a mean girl. The whole “Caila deciding whether or not to go on a date with Brett” thing was hilarious and ridiculously difficult, but at least her heart is in the right place and she’s obviously taking this whole thing seriously. Ashley I. is just there to ruin people’s lives for her own gain.

Alisa: I’m pretty convinced that Ashley I. has been tasked with being the female villain of the show and is loving every minute of that role. I have to cling to that because otherwise she’s just a seriously disturbed woman who shouldn’t be allowed to interact with people, and should have gone the way of The Chad a long time ago.

I like Caila; she seems like a sweetheart. Granted, watching her take indecisiveness to the extreme and then declare “emotions are hard” was pretty irritating, but I have to give her props for being honest about her feelings, owning the right to explore her options, and not falling madly in love with Jared after two seconds in Paradise. She comes across as a genuinely sincere and kind person, and is honestly way too good for Jared.

Jared and Ashley’s relationship is seriously unhealthy and if he’s not going to date Ashley, then he really needs to cut all ties with her because he is just feeding into her psychosis and enabling her awful behavior. Plus, he’s ruining his relationship with Caila who, let’s be honest, is the best thing that ever happened to him.

Rae: Ashley I. is definitely not treating anybody right here, including herself, and I am not that enthused about continuing to watch her spiral. But I have been in Ashley I.’s shoes — only turned down about 20 notches — and I really feel like a lot of the blame falls on Jared, the biggest dummy of them all. (Seriously, who turns around and tells the person they are trying to woo all the bad stuff someone said about them?!)

I am sure he loves having a hot young virgin follow him around tell him how special he is, and how hot he is, and that she’s willing to make out with him at any second. He does not at all seem to be in a rush to tell Ashley I. to mind her own business and lay off Caila. He is being the worst and couching it in the appearance of a nice guy who wants to be friends with people. But you can’t be friends with someone who is in love with you. It takes two people to be friends, and it takes only one to turn a relationship into an emotional black hole of despair. You have to cut Ashley I. loose, Jared. Stop worrying about looking so nice and be kind to her instead.

Ashley is losing her mind, I can’t deny that. But the things she is saying about Caila — that she wants a happy ending more than a real relationship — is exactly the vibe I got from Caila on Ben’s season. I’m sorry! I know she seems sweet, especially compared to Ashley. But everything Caila says seems like she’s talking about a fairytale in her head instead of reality. She’s just so, I don’t know, eager? Like a little bambi? Or something?

Rebecca: I think Ashley I. is absolutely delusional, but part of that is because Jared just keeps leading her on, which is so frustrating to watch! She’s obsessed with him, there’s no other way to put it, and to us, he’s CLEARLY not interested... yet, it’s not clear to Ashley I. This episode was the first time he’s told her directly he’s not interested, and he needs to follow through with that. I agree with what’s been said — he needs to completely cut her off. Don’t talk to her, don’t hang out with her, don’t enable her. She’s going to be stuck in this fantasy until he completely cuts her off.

As far as Caila, I do like her. I liked her on The Bachelor and I like her now. She seems so kind and warm and genuine, and although I found her indecisiveness annoying, it’s real and it’s honest. (I’m sure my frustration stemmed from the show’s editing.) Ashley I. is so mean to her for no reason. I get that Ashley I. is jealous (I’ve been there), but tearing down the love of your life’s girlfriend is no way to “win him back” or whatever she thinks she’s doing. I hope things work out for Caila.


What do you think of Vinny’s departure?


Patti: SO SAD, but the most mature thing I’ve ever seen occur in Paradise. He was hurt and needed to remove himself from the narrative. Also, excellent play to be the next Bachelor.

Alisa: Totally agree with Patti. Incredibly mature on his part — and we all know what a rare occurrence maturity is on this show. Izzy did him wrong and instead of staying around to milk that 15 minutes of fame, or moping, or sabotaging any possible relationship between Izzy and Brett, he just left. Good on him for that. I hope he finds an amazing girl out here in the real world.

Rae: Who knew Vinny would turn out to be the best guy on the show! He was great and handled this in a way that makes him seem like a human person with feelings who tries to treat people with respect. I admire that he left because it was the best thing for him, rather than sticking around trying to stir up drama or date someone he knew he wouldn’t be interested in. I hope good things come his way.

Rebecca: I agree with everything that’s been said. I’ve mentioned before that I had no clue who he was on The Bachelorette, but I’ll never forget him now. I commend Izzy for being open about her feelings, but to give up on someone you have a connection with for a “lust at first sight” type of thing seems really unfair and cruel, and I feel so terrible for Vinny. I think Vinny made a really smart move, and I wish him the best of luck finding someone. He truly, truly deserves it.

Which couples are you loving? ... And hating?


Patti: Woof. None of them? Amanda and Josh — Josh is a toolface. Grant and Lace — we already know she’s gonna screw with him. Evan and Carly — I guess they’re cute and stuff, but I just can’t subscribe to it. Nick and Jen — NOPE. Who is Jen?!? Really afraid that no one else new is coming (except Wells, as we know from previews), and this is what we’ve got. Oh wait, Brett and Carl. WHO????

Alisa: Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel with these contestants. I remember the days when the Bachelor Pad/Bachelor In Paradise season was made up of the “most beloved” and the “most controversial” contestants “EVER” and it created some pretty good television. But between Jen, Brett, Carl, Izzy, and was it Brandon (???), the only entertainment this season is trying to figure out if these people were ever actually Bachelor contestants or if they’re just randos the Bachelor Interns pulled off the street.

So, I can’t say I’m really loving any of the couples because it’s hard to be invested in someone when you can’t even remember their existence from week to week. Also, Evan is gross, Josh is scary, and Jared is stupid, so I can’t get behind them being allowed to date anyone.

Rebecca: Once again, these ladies are taking the words right out of my mouth. I do have to admit though: I LOVE Carl and...which twin was it? I can’t remember. I want to say Emily, but I’m not sure. But let’s go with Emily. Anyway, Carl is hot, Emily is hot, and I think they look great together. They seem to me like that couple who are the life of the party, the one everyone likes to be around and are friends with everyone but they aren’t really that serious and won’t last very long. I doubt they’ll make it out of Paradise, but I’m going to enjoy looking at them until them.

The only other couples I can even tolerate are Jared/Caila and Evan/Carly because I like the ladies so much. Who else is rooting for Caila and Carly to get together?

Rae: Rebecca, I love the twins! (What I don’t love is the show’s treatment of the twins.) I think they are smart and funny, and I would want to be friends with them. It weirds me out when guys in their mid-30s go after someone in their early 20s, but you’re right — they seem to be on the same wavelength. Other that, I sort of hate everyone. I could get behind Jared and Caila maybe, but I dislike Evan so much I can’t stand to watch him with Carly.

Carly, if you don’t know if you like someone, that means you don’t like them!

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Beauty & the Beast 4x10 Recap: “Means to an End” (Everything is Not What it Seems) [Guest Poster: Bibi]


“Means to an End”
Original Airdate: August 11, 2016

In this week’s Beauty & the Beast, Cat and Tess’s relationship is on the fritz. Since Tess decided to keep her job and stop straddling the line of justice, they haven't been as close. Naturally, Cat leans more into Heather. She convinces her that they finally have a plan, and there is no need to worry. Meanwhile, Vincent is stuck at Graydal. Braxton is holding him hostage and pushing his beast limits. Braxton finally lets him go, but lets Vincent know he’ll continue to put him through a series of tests.

Heather, meanwhile, is tired of lying to her boyfriend. But at this stage, what other choice does she have? So once Vincent meets up with the team, he lets them know that he's not entirely sure why he was released. Eventually, he finds out — when Braxton charges him with stealing evidence from Tess’s precinct. This is a really a test for both Cat and Vincent because Braxton knows Cat used to work there. Cat uses her former position as leverage to convince a fellow officer to let her check out evidence. She almost gets caught... by Tess. Cat covers by claiming that she misses Tess, and walk out with the evidence.

Vincent is then instructed to meet at a location, and ends up letting the criminal that the evidence was incriminating go free. Someone is watching this all happen, takes photos, and then delivers them to Cat’s boss at DHS. Cat’s boss visit Tess, forcing Tess to make good on her promise to arrest Cat if necessary. Obviously though, she is shocked that she is being arrested. But as an officer Tess has to Cat her go, because she knows something bigger is happening.

Meanwhile, J.T. devises a plan to break into Graydal and get additional information that they need. He recruits Heather to pretend to be his wife, and interrupts her dinner date with her sketchy boyfriend. They tell him not to follow, but when does anyone actually listen when people tell them that? So sketchy boyfriend follows their “story” and ends up in Cat’s office. He soon realizes it's a DHS storefront and finds out his girlfriend has been lying and is “married” to J.T.

Heather and J.T. aren't too convincing in their cover and end up captured by Braxton. Vincent and Cat find them, and eventually corner Braxton into confessing... with J.T. filming the entire thing. Right before he is taken in, Braxton warns Vincent that there is another beast out there and that unless he fights him and kills him, his life will never be the normal he hopes for it to be.

At Graydal, DHS informs Tess that even though they have the confession from Braxton, they are still going after Vincent. If it's not one thing, it's always another with them. In the end, Vincent and Cat think that they have made it and can breathe a sigh of relief. That is, until Tess shows up to their apartment. She takes them to the morgue and shows them Braxton’s dead body. It looks like he was attacked by a beast and wasn't lying after all. There definitely is some beast out there and Vincent may be the only one who can stop it.

So what will happen next? Who is this other beast? What does he/she want? I'm hoping this show ends as strong as it began in season one. Fingers crossed.

Share your thoughts below!

Monday, August 22, 2016

2nd Annual #GoldenTrioAwards -- SPECIAL CATEGORY NOMINEES



Welcome to the SPECIAL CATEGORY nominees for the second annual Just About Write Golden Trio Awards! 

We hope you enjoy our selections and root for your favorites by voting them into our #Top3 winners next week!

Below, you'll find photo collages with the nominees and then the polls below the photos. You can vote multiple times and we encourage you to cheer on your favorites on social media with the hashtag #GoldenTrioAwards. Tweet, Tumble, and Facebook them into the spots they deserve!

And be sure to check out the COMEDY and DRAMA nominees when you're done, too!

HAPPY VOTING, Y'ALL.

OTP OF THE YEAR



OTP of the Year

Ethan/Vanessa, Penny Dreadful
Jamie/Claire, Outlander
Haught/Waverly, Wynonna Earp
Ross/Demelza, Poldark
Walter/Paige, Scorpion
Harvey/Donna, Suits
free poll maker

GUILT-LESS TV PLEASURE



Guilt-less TV Pleasure

The Bachelor franchise
Chopped
Girl Meets World
Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Pretty Little Liars
The Real Housewives franchise
Quiz Maker

OUTSTANDING LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW



Outstanding Late Night Talk Show

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The Late Late Show with James Corden
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Do Quizzes

FRIEND-TP OF THE YEAR



Friend-tp of the Year

Rachel/Quinn, UnReal
Abbi/Ilana, Broad City
Brian/Rebecca, Limitless
Wynonna/Waverly, Wynonna Earp
Gretchen/Lindsay, You're the Worst
Jessica/Trish, Jessica Jones
Sage Quotes

VILLAIN OF THE YEAR



Villain of the Year

The Beast, The Magicians
Chad, The Bachelorette
Damien Darhk, Arrow
Kilgrave, Jessica Jones
Punisher, Daredevil
Sin Rostro, Jane the Virgin
online survey software

BEST NEW SHOW



Best New Show

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Master of None
Stranger Things
Quantico
UnReal
Wynonna Earp
Survey Maker

OUTSTANDING VARIETY/SKETCH SHOW



Outstanding Variety/Sketch Show

@midnight
Drunk History
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Inside Amy Schumer
Key & Peele
Saturday Night Live
My IQ Test

MOST BINGE-ABLE SHOW



Most Binge-able Show

Fuller House
Making a Murderer
Orange is the New Black
Orphan Black
The Great British Baking Show
UnReal
Quiz Maker

MOST TRAGICALLY CANCELLED SHOW



Most Tragically Cancelled Show

Agent Carter
Faking It
Galavant
Limitless
Penny Dreadful
The Grinder
Do Riddles

MOST ANTICIPATED NEW SHOW



Most Anticipated New Show

American Gods
Designated Survivor
Luke Cage
Powerless
This Is Us
Timeless
Sage Quotes


And don't forget to vote your favorites in the COMEDY and DRAMA nominees too!