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, May 31, 2017

Prison Break 5x09 Recap: “Behind the Eyes” (What Goes Around) [Guest Poster: Rebecca]


“Behind the Eyes” 
Original Airdate: May 30, 2017

Last episode left us reeling with questions. Whose blood was splattered all over the door? Would Lincoln survive? Where was Sara? How would T-Bag navigate the strange waters of fatherhood? Would Michael’s four-year plan to get his family back work out? In typical Prison Break fashion, the answers to all these questions (and more) came together neatly in this season five finale.

“Behind the Eyes” is clearly a reference to Michael’s tattoos, which cover his hands — most prominently, a pair of eyes. Those eyes played a huge role in my favorite scene of the season, which I’ll dive into later.

“YOU DON’T LOVE ME. YOUR EGO IS TOO BIG.”


The episode begins six minutes before where “Progeny” left off. We see Mike coloring in the living room and A&W fake-tied up with her brown wig and a gun. This time though, we are taken down to the lake house basement, where Jacob and Van Gogh have actually tied up Sara. Jacob claims he still loves his wife and hoped his lies would die with time, but Sara hates him for sending Michael to Yemen to die and using their son as bait to bring him back. She drops a bombshell on Van Gogh: Michael didn’t kill Harlan Gaines — Jacob did. This information clearly makes Van Gogh uneasy, and he starts to second-guess who he’s actually working for.

Jacob leaves, and now we’re back in real-time. Michael enters the house, Mike reveals he didn’t draw the treasure map, Michael realizes he’s been tricked by Jacob, and A&W reveals herself. Meanwhile, Van Gogh’s conscious is getting the better of him, and he leaves Sara and heads upstairs to try to talk some sense into his partner. He tries to explain to A&W that they should take a step back, slow down, and ask Michael some questions to make sure they’re getting the right guy. He thinks they should just turn Michael in and disappear.

“THERE’S NO LEAVING 21 VOID.”


A&W realizes her partner has become a liability and shoots Van Gogh.

Michael uses the distraction to flee and tells Mike to go outside and look for his uncle. Sara, who freed herself when Van Gogh went upstairs, comes up behind A&W and knocks her out, giving her and Michael a chance to escape. They come outside just in time to see Jacob speeding off with Mike. They find Lincoln slumped over in his car, wounded badly from his run-in with Luca.

Once Sara and Michael take Lincoln to a hospital, they meet up with Whip and T-Bag, who have had a nice little father-son bonding session in the car ride over from Chicago. T-Bag had shown Whip the original letter sent to him when he was released from Fox River: the photo of Michael in Ogygia and the cryptic message at the bottom. T-Bag had thought the message had something to do with religion, but realizes the “progeny” mentioned meant his own son — Whip. When they meet up with Sara and Michael, Michael reveals Jacob was controlling his communication with family, friends, and allies, but not with people he “despised,” so he had to reach out to T-Bag. Michael says no one can be free until T-Bag kills Jacob.

Meanwhile, Jacob meets with Theroux, his computer-hacker. Theroux is still analyzing Michael’s tattoos and has found an even bigger, more complicated code has been encrypted into the eyes. Jacob dismisses Theroux and goes back to Mike, telling him Theroux was a detective and that Sara is dead. He takes Mike to his secret office at the university and crafts some tale about how he’s a secret agent and people are after him. He shows Mike the “wanted” posters of Kaniel Outis and says Michael is lying about being his real father. During this explanation, Jacob gets a phone call from Michael, and tracks the phone to the zoo.

Back at the rendezvous, Michael is assigning everyone their final roles: Sara is to take care of Lincoln, Whip and T-Bag are to collect a wildcard, and Michael is headed back to the place “where everything started.”

“I HAD TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE MAN WHO WORE HIS PLANS ON HIS SKIN.”


Jacob arrives at the zoo while Theroux continues working on decoding the message from the screengrab of Michael’s tattoos. He finally makes out a phrase and sends it to Jacob: “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake,” a quote from Napoleon. Jacob realizes that Michael’s a step ahead of him — again. As this is happening, we see Michael enter the university and head to Jacob’s secret office. In a totally epic motion, one that I rewound about four times to watch again, Michael brings his hands in front of his face, and his tattoos reveal a perfect replica of Jacob’s face, eyes and all, giving him access to the office. Once inside, he calls Jacob and they arrange to meet at a shipyard.

Sara arrives at the hospital, but the nurse says Lincoln checked himself out. A doctor asks if she knows what happened up in the Finger Lakes region, as another person came in shortly after Lincoln with a gunshot wound. Sara knows this person is Van Gogh, so she tracks down his room and gets him to write down where her son is.

While Sara meets with Van Gogh, Lincoln has found Luca. He gets a few punches in before the police roll up and take Luca into custody.

“ATTENTION TO DETAIL LIKE THAT WILL DRIVE A MAN CRAZY.”


Fulfilling Michael’s orders, T-Bag and Whip roll up to Blue Hawaii’s house, who we learn is the wildcard. Blue Hawaii reveals Michael broke him out of a South American prison. He’s an artist who specializes in recreating real-life events; right now, he’s working on a model of the JFK assassination. The three of them meet back up with Sara and the brothers, and Michael prepares to put their final plan into action.

Michael and Jacob meet at the shipyard and argue over who is holding the cards (Jacob foolishly thinks he has the upper hand). Michael has all of Jacob’s communications and secret files that reveal everything he’s done, including killing Harlan Gaines, but Jacob reminds Michael he’s got his son — and the FBI is on their way, after receiving an “anonymous” tip about Kaniel Outis. Michael (very uncharacteristically) pulls out a gun and points it at Jacob, but A&W swoops in and takes the gun, giving it to Jacob. Whip and T-Bag come out of hiding and Whip pulls a gun on A&W, much to Michael’s displeasure, as this wasn’t part of the plan.

Whip’s temper gets the best of him, and he gets into a fight with A&W, who ends up shooting him. He dies in his father’s arms (☹), and T-Bag breaks A&W’s neck. The FBI comes in and arrests T-Bag... again.

Michael leads Jacob to the place where he’s hidden the hard drive when he gets a call from Sara saying she and Lincoln have retrieved Mike. The FBI gets closer, and Michael makes a run for it, swapping jackets as he runs. Jacob follows Michael through a door and shoots him; Michael falls, but is okay: the gun was loaded with blanks. Michael knew Jacob would take his gun. It’s revealed the pair are in the back of Blue Hawaii’s semi truck, which he has decorated to look exactly like the cabin where Jacob killed Gaines, complete with cameras and fake snow — and that jacket Michael changed into? Gaines’.

“THE TRUTH IS WHATEVER YOU TELL PEOPLE IT IS.”


Jacob drags Michael back into the warehouse and they fight until the FBI arrive and arrest Michael. Jacob makes up lie after lie to the police and finally asks to go home, but some CIA agents come in and tell him he’s under arrest for the murder of Harlan Gaines. They found the victim’s blood in his office, an office only Jacob has access to, and we see a flashback of Michael taking the container of blood retrieved by Whip and painting it onto Jacob’s belongings.

Michael meets with the CIA director and gives him the missing frames of the video showing Jacob killing Gaines and forcing Michael to move the body. The CIA director says they’ve arrested Jacob’s partner, Andrew Nelson (Theroux), and he admitted to everything: Jacob killing Gaines, 21 Void wanting to frame Michael, and all the steps they took to destroy his identity. The CIA director tells Michael he’s free to go, but Michael asks if he can call in a favor.

“STRANGE, BEING ALIVE AGAIN.”


Sara, Sheba, Mike, and the brothers sit at a park. The brothers exchange “I love you”s, and Lincoln joins the girls and Mike on a picnic blanket as Michael looks on, a smile on his face.

Cut to Fox River Penitentiary. A guard escorts Jacob to a cell, who learns his cellmate is none other than T-Bag. The episode ends with T-Bag taking Jacob by the throat, riling up the other prisoners.

THE VERDICT


I can’t believe it — we made it. I’m torn up about Whip, still bummed about Sid, vaguely disappointed about Kellerman, and strangely upset by Van Gogh. But for the most part, our favorites survived. Michael and Lincoln get their happy endings, and Jacob gets his comeuppance. The ending left me satisfied, which is all I wanted from this revival.

Last week, I voiced my concern that I had a feeling Whip might meet his demise, and I have never been so heartbroken to prove myself right. He was the best addition to the show and I’m sad to see him go. Unfortunately, I don’t think a gunshot to the abdomen can be faked, and I don’t think we’ll see him come back for future revivals.

Overall, I absolutely adored this revival. Of course, it didn’t have the same punch of the first two seasons of the show, but this season still packed enough humor, nostalgia, and shock value into its episodes and plot that I thoroughly enjoyed it. They somehow made the plotline of Michael coming back to life far-fetched but believable. I loved the new characters, especially Whip and Sheba. My only qualm is that we did not get nearly enough Sucre. Especially with his name in the opening credits, I thought for sure we’d see a lot more of him than we actually did. But I loved that we got to see him, Kellerman, and C-Note; they were good injections of past seasons who reminded us just how timeless Prison Break is.

Part of me hopes for a season six, and part of me would be satisfied if this is the last time we see Michael and Lincoln. I’m not sure how many more times Michael can break people out of prisons before it becomes contrived, but I’ll happily watch any more revivals that may come in the future.

Thank you Prison Break for the laughter, the tears, and the anxiety. It’s been a great five seasons.

Honorable Events Worth Mentioning:
  • “Is this blood freaking you out like it's freaking me out?” T-Bag and Whip’s attempts to bond with each other were somehow simultaneously cringeworthy, sweet, and hilarious.
  • Mike calling Jacob “dad”... did anyone else’s heart just completely break?
  • Did the CIA director really think Michael would accept a job with them?!
  • Van Gogh writing “let me die” on the notepad was heartbreaking. I get that he’s a killer, but it was still so sad to see him on life support. With Van Gogh, we saw just how much Jacob manipulated those who worked for him.
  • “Killin’ ain’t right.” “Yeah, I read the Bible.” Listening to T-Bag try to give a lesson on morality to Whip felt like I was in The Twilight Zone.
  • “Go easy, son.” The temper that Whip inherited from his father is what led to his death.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Veep 6x07 Recap: "Blurb" (Shut It Down) [Contributor: Erin Allen]

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“Blurb”
Original Airdate: May 28, 2017

The sub-plots (with the exception of Dan’s) were the highlight of this episode of Veep.

Selina says, “At least Jonah wasn’t here” about her portrait unveiling. I say thank goodness he was in this episode — converting to Judaism and shutting down the government were hilarious storylines.

This idiot that cost Selina the presidency continues to be a thorn in her side and in the sides of every American. Angry about not being invited to the unveiling (in which he doesn’t even know what is being unveiled), Jonah decides to shut down the government. Gee, sound like anyone we know in office today? This episode is perfect for the game, "Who Said It: Jonah Ryan or Donald Trump?" Let me tell you, there would be some stumpers.

Tantrum Jonah is a scary thing. Even Bent couldn’t rein him in, nor could Furlong’s insanely specific insults. “Maybe you were too busy biting James Bond’s cable car wire to realize, but if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, America’s financial system is going to go belly up.” Jonah replies, “Maybe the government needs to be shut down because it is broken. And when something is broken, you shut it down and turn it back on again, like a router.” All of this over not being included in something he knows nothing about. Is it any wonder he wasn’t invited in the first place or why everyone laughed hysterically at Richard’s suggestion to invite him?

Kent and Ben might bail on him soon. They were pretty peeved that he went rogue. Surprisingly, Shawnee is still tolerating him. He is converting to Judaism since she informed him that they were engaged on “Qatar.”  Even though it is hard to believe anybody is this dumb, Jonah’s ignorance about the religion is pretty funny.
Jonah: This hat is too small for my head. 
Shawnee: Yarmulke. 
Jonah: Fine, this stupid hat is too small for my yarmulke. 
Rabbi: Conversion to Judaism is about commitment to the Jewish lifestyle. 
Jonah: Oh good, because all this learning is giving me a yarmulke-ache.
The other funny sub-plot was the Catherine/Marjorie/Richard pregnancy, although it was too quick. Unlike Selina I would like more of the “Brooklyn-based artisanal chocolate bar” thing that they got going on. Richard is taking doula lessons, and they are already being considerate about the baby’s pronouns. I could watch Selina and team react to this stuff all day.
Marjorie: She/he will decide her/his ideal gender when she/he is/are ready. 
Selina: Okay, is that how we’re talking now, Marjorie, like some sort of bi-curious Porky Pig? *imitates stuttering* I’m not doing that.  
Mike: I had an aunt who transitioned. Twice. She was trapped inside a man, and then that man was trapped inside another woman. 
Richard: Oh, like a turducken. 
Catherine: Mom, it’s not that big of a deal. We have baby names picked out either way.  
Marjorie: Leslie or Dana if it’s a boy. 
Catherine: And for a girl we like Linus. 
Gary: That feels like child abuse.
Okay, I realize that’s most of the scene, but it’s just so frickin’ funny. I had to relive it.

Dan is still trapped in CBS This Morning. Well, he’s enjoying it. I, on the other hand, am not. I hate these morning shows so much that even making fun of them is growing tiresome. I know I sound like a broken record, but I want Dan back in the mix with the other characters.

The bulk of the episode revolves around Selina and Tom James. Selina decides to include their tryst in her book. She gives him a heads up in person. Tom apologizes for how he acted during the vote, and then begs her not to put it in her book. I could see his disingenuity a mile away. How can one snake in the grass not see the other? She still intends to use it in her book (even though she tells him she won’t), but now he knows and can beat her to the punch. He does that in an interview with Dan.

Selina confronts Tom about it at her sad “fiesta.” Their confrontation is odd. It’s humorous when Selina points out the angry sexual tension they have when things get heated, but I’m not sure what the point of it is at the end. Is Tom in love with her? Is, or was, she in love with him? Who has the upper hand at the end of the conversation? At least they didn’t hook up again. I don’t think Gary could’ve handled it.

Stray Observations:
  • “Montez is actually going to say that at my portrait unveiling, in English?
  • According to Jonah, Moses led his people to the land of Hanukkah.
  • “Why is there Coke Zero behind us?”
  • “Look at my neck. I have pardoned turkeys with fewer wattles.”

4 Reasons Why Animal Kingdom Needs a Spot on Your Summer Watch List [Contributor: Megan Mann]


I know what you’re thinking: Do I really need another TV show to watch, Megan? And you’re right. The amount of TV we are presented with between cable, premium channels, apps, streaming services and YouTube is so daunting that it’s almost exhausting. I myself am weary of taking on new shows.

But I urge you to go with me on this one.

Last year, TNT launched a serial version of the 2010 Australian film Animal Kingdom — a film that was criminally underrated despite Jackie Weaver sweeping up every nomination possible for her role as the matriarch of the Cody family. The film is a story about a teenage boy whose mother overdosed, forcing him to go live with a family he hardly knows anymore.

However, this is no ordinary family. He hasn’t seen his grandmother or uncles in years as his mother refused to allow him to partake in their less than legal activities. But the teenager, J, has no other option; it’s this family he barely knows or staying with a friend of his mother’s. He makes the choice to live with Smurf, his grandmother, and discovers every reason his mother wanted him to stay away from them.

Here are four reasons that this show needs to be on your radar. Like, ASAP.

THE FAMILY DYNAMIC


Generally speaking, we’re used to the idea of a dysfunctional family on TV. More often than not, it’s the type of family we’re shown to make television seem more realistic. But the Cody family is something else. Smurf — the matriarch, played brilliantly by Ellen Barkin — has raised her sons to be criminals. She has taught them how to rob banks, steal from everyone around them, and how to not get caught.

Talk about a different sort of upbringing, right?

Instead of raising her children to be upstanding citizens, she teaches them that the best way to make money is to steal it from those who least suspect it. And she’s the one pulling the purse strings. If she doesn’t like what they did, they’re not getting their cut. It’s fantastic.

 
THE WRITING


There are a lot of characters who have to work within this family dynamic while also dealing with their own stories. They have to find out who they are, where they fit in, and ultimately how that affects their lives outside of the family. They don’t agree with the plan or they want to stand up to another member of the family. One doesn’t want to talk about his sexual orientation for fear it will have him ostracized, and one is just so bizarre that you wonder if he’s even okay in the head.

The writers have the overall narrative, but they also depict the uniqueness of each and every character  — all while creating amazing stories each week. To take what was great about the film, draw it out and make it better is quite the feat that they pull of beautifully.

IT'S DIFFERENT


I love my TV shows. I really do. I watch too many and sometimes I get burnt out on them piling up on my DVR. Then sometimes a show comes along that has me wondering how I’m supposed to wait a week for the next episode. Animal Kingdom is that type of show.

It’s not your run-of-the-mill family drama. The show has so much depth and a myriad of bizarre ways to relate to the family. When you watch a show like Sons of Anarchy (my favorite show of all time), you know that Jax was bred for that life — it is all he’s ever known. But the Cody family is singular in its criminal activities and doesn’t utilize anyone outside of their family. There’s no club, no mafia, no gang. It’s just their family and that makes the criminal element that much more sinister in a way. It was a mother looking at her children and thinking, “We can do big things if we just don’t get caught.”

How many shows are like that?

THE CAST


This cast is incredible. While only having two relatively known names — Ellen Barkin and Scott Speedman of Felicity fame — it allows the rest of the cast to be filled out with relative unknowns.

But they grip you. Every week you wonder why you haven’t seen these actors in much else. The acting is so impressive that you get upset when the episode ends because you feel like you’ve just been invited into this bizarre family and you kind of want to be friends with them. (But you probably shouldn’t because it seems like a bad idea. Even though you really want to.)

Also, the dudes are just super hot. It’s so annoying. And they have so many shirtless scenes — since they’re adventurous California surfers.

Animal Kingdom is an impressive stand-out during a peak time for television. It’s dark and gritty, but has heart and depth. They are not bold for boldness' sake, nor is the show a cheesy family drama that toes the line of being too unrealistic. It strikes the perfect balance between action, drama, suspense, and intrigue. You’re missing out if this isn’t on your summer watch list!

Animal Kingdom returns to TNT tonight at 9 PM EST. Set your DVRs, catch up on season one, and get in with the Cody family. You certainly won’t regret it.

Class 1x07 Recap: “The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did” (The Longest Day Ever) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]


“The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did”
Original Airdate: May 27, 2017

It’s been no secret that the character who has most piqued my interest on Class is Ms. Quill. The freedom fighter/terrorist (depending who you ask) turned slave/servant has routinely been more surprising, complex, and mysterious than her teenage charges. And that’s saying something, because they’re all richly written characters themselves. Getting an entire episode focused on Quill is a fabulous gift as we near the end of Class’ first season and it will certainly complicate things beyond what we’d even theorized.

HEART, HANDS, BLOOD


After chucking the kids into detention, Quill stomps off to meet Ames for her Arn extraction procedure. It’s going to be nearly impossible, undoubtedly painful, and most likely will result in Quill dead. She still agrees. First order of business is adding a shape-shifting alien named Ballon to their crew because he can perform the surgery. He’s also a prisoner of the Governess, so it’s easy to get him to cooperate.

Ames uses a kind of cheap and nasty time travel device to “fuzz” from place to place or, more accurately, heaven to heaven. Any version of the Doctor would surely sneer at this device as primitive and crude and Quill would tend to agree. But there are essentials that need to be gathered for the procedure. They need a real live Arn and their first landing point is what the Arn believe is their version of heaven. To attract the creature, Quill is made to recall some of her first memories, which are her mother dying and she and her siblings eating her. Hey, it’s archaic and unnecessary but it’s their way.

With a dead Arn in hand, the crew jumps to the hell of Ballon’s people. The alien’s hands are frozen in his human form, which means they’re no use in performing surgery or extracting any blood from the devil. Ballon needs the blood to make his hands work, meaning Quill also needs that blood. Unable to wield weapons herself, she has Ballon take the knife, grabs ahold of his arm, and together they succeed against the devil. The experience brings the two soldiers closer together. Quill starts believing her freedom might be within reach but she must keep that hope checked, because if the Arn catches on, it’ll kill her.

IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN


The final stop is the Quills’ heaven, where they need the brain of a goddess. When she emerges as the stories say, Quill attacks her for all of the suffering her people endured while their supposed goddess did nothing to save them. Just as the deity is about to say something in response, Ballon beheads her. Despite her frustration with his timing, Quill accepts Ballon did the right thing. In a moment of quiet, he confesses he killed a human family not because they discovered him on Earth, but because they were beating him; it was self-defense. In turn, Quill confesses the man she loved was killed in the civil war on Rhodia.

With all their pieces acquired, the trio jump back to Coal Hill for the procedure. Ames leaves to inform the Governess while Ballon sets to work. He’s able to remove the Arn and kill it. Doing so also means taking Quill’s left eye, which makes me almost pass out because there’s a brief shot of the new hole in Quill’s head and it’s disgusting. Using the blood of his god, Ballon restores the eye, though a long scar remains. Quill doesn’t mind. She’s so amped up by their success she kisses Ballon fiercely. Then they pause a moment and decide, yep they really do like each other and want to hook up in the Coal Hill music room.

HEAVEN ISN’T WHAT IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE


It’s actually rather sweet when Quill wakes up first and examines the scars on Ballon’s face, then feels her own. Which makes things all the more wretched when they realize they aren’t actually at Coal Hill. They’re in the Cabinet of Souls. A hologram of Ames explains there’s only enough power to get one of them back to Earth. She’s left Quill’s gun to help them decide. When they both refuse to kill the other, Ames tells Ballon his niece is on Earth.

It might be a trick, but he can’t take that risk. He and Quill fight and he gets the upper hand. She forgives him before he pulls the trigger but the gun backfires and kills him instead. Why not one of you leave and find a way to get the other out? I guess that leaves the same question of who gets to leave and who stays behind but then at least maybe you’d both survive.

Quill buries him and rages at the Rhodian souls who appear around her. She grabs one and she ages an indeterminate amount in that moment, noticeable by her suddenly longer hair. An exit appears and she climbs out of the cabinet, returns to Coal Hill, and saves Charlie’s life for maybe the last time. After tossing him the Arn, as we saw at the end of the previous episode, Quill passes out and Charlie, Matteusz, and we see she’s pregnant.

Final Thoughts:
  • How do you die in another species projected afterlife? For that matter, how do you get pregnant there either? 
  • Quill told us in this episode that giving birth is the last act of a Quill. It’s interesting then that she isn’t so standoffish about falling in love or having sex considering getting pregnant kind of seems like signing her own death certificate. And she definitely seems to value her life. 
  • “Where are we, O wise head teacher and mistress of nauseating space travel?”
  • “Where are we? Who is this Little Lord Growls-A-Lot and why are we all so bothered that he just killed a kitten?”
  • “An unfree life isn't a life.”
  • Quill: “I can't use knives, remember? That is the whole point of this trip!” Ames: “Oh. Oh, dear, that was an oversight.”

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: “Monster Theory” and On-Screen Zombies [Guest Poster: Kelly]


Zombies seem to be all over the place lately. On screens, at least. You know what the typical zombie threat looks like: a mindless, brain-addicted horde, bent on your destruction. Zombies can do only two things: destroy you, or, in failing to do so, make you one of them.

This is the kind of zombie portrayed in The Walking Dead, a show so popular it spawned a franchise, complete with a spin-off and a Universal Studios theme park attraction. Zombies are particularly compelling because they make it possible to see a monster in something that was once human. Safety in zombie narratives depends on dehumanizing the zombies. That torso crawling toward you with bloody fingernails? Maybe it had a girlfriend. Maybe it used to like pizza and romantic comedies and farmer’s market peaches. But you’re sure not going to stop to think about that. Humanizing zombies can literally get you killed. And the ones making the fatal mistake in zombie narratives are the hesitaters, the sentimental ones, the ones who can’t shoot that zombie just because it was their mom like THIRTY SECONDS AGO, OKAY? From the perspective of the humans, the survivors, zombie narratives prioritize cold unsentimentality, efficiency and lack of empathy.

In some ways, zombies (traditional zombies, at least) are a fantasy — a fantasy that we can see the people who might harm us, that their threat will be easily legible. The dude with the gray pallor and half an arm missing? Zombie. Clearly. Better shoot it fast. In a zombie movie, you know what to look out for, and you know what you’re fighting. In order to stay safe, you have to draw clear lines: what counts as human and what doesn’t.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, in a paper titled “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)” believes the monsters that show up in a culture can give us a lot of information about what that culture fears and prioritizes: “The monster’s body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy... the monster signifies something other than itself.”

So for instance, early vampires — as aristocratic blood suckers in spooky castles — might teach us something about what people thought of the aristocracy back then. Cybermen, who started assimilating people on Doctor Who in the sixties, might have had something to do with the spread of communism, and the way that made Brits fearful and uncomfortable. But it’s not just fantastical monsters; groups of people can be made monstrous too. Cohen points to portrayals of Native Americans as “unredeemable savages,” a tactic that enabled and legitimized westward expansion into Native American lands.

In the last few years though, zombie narratives are changing. Now there’s a new type of zombie, seen in shows and movies like iZombie, The Santa Clarita Diet, and Warm Bodies. These zombies aren’t quite all gone. They have personalities, ideals, and humanity. They have close friends and girlfriends and husbands who are human. In these zombie stories, the zombies are protagonists. They fight crime, tell jokes, and sell real estate. They kind of act just like people. That’s new. What to make of these new monsters?

These monsters resist categorization. In iZombie, some of the zombies are evil and some are good. Blaine, a drug-dealing (and brain-dealing) zombie is pretty clearly a bad guy, but he’s not bad because he’s a zombie. He sucked even when he was a human. The zombies in these stories act more or less just like humans, while the true monsters in these stories are something else. In iZombie, the monsters might be the murderers in the crimes Liv helps solve every week, or maybe the corporate tycoons who knowingly let zombie-ism spread to preserve their profits. In The Santa Clarita Diet, maybe it’s that guy that won’t take no for an answer (until Drew Barrymore eats him).

Even in The Walking Dead, although the zombies seem to be inhuman and irredeemable, they act more as a plot device than a monster. The really scary threats come from other people, like the Governor or Negan. The villains might use zombies as tools to wreak havoc, but the people are the ones that are really scary. In this way, zombie stories seem to have taken a turn. Monsters are made human and humans are made monstrous.

So what should we make of this shift? What do these monsters we’ve made tell us about our culture? Maybe we’re starting to understand that our enemies are more complex than we think. Maybe that the people we once made into monsters are still human, after all. That sometimes people who look different or monstrous are just like us, just trying to get by and do the best they can. That our shared humanity is somehow fundamental and hard to stamp out. You can’t always tell a threat at first sight and maybe that’s scary, but it’s nice to think that underneath it all, monsters are just people after all. They can be reasoned with. They can be trusted.

Sometimes, at least.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return 3x02 Recap: "Part 2: The Stars Turn And A Time Presents Itself" (That Arm Tree, Though) [Contributor: Erin Allen]

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"Part 2: The Stars Turn And A Time Presents Itself"
Original Airdate: May 21, 2017

Personally, I think Parts 1 & 2 are best viewed back to back as a two-hour film, but for recap purposes I will break them up into each part. Part 2 begins where Part 1 left off with Bill in jail. So much happens in this episode. More new characters are introduced, and old ones return. The Black Lodge gets even weirder than I thought was possible, and I am still giddy about all of it. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

The episode opens on Bill worrying about his fate in his jail cell. His wife, Phyllis, comes to see him, and they have an intense scene. It’s played almost entirely in a profile two-shot, and both actors are just incredible. Cornelia Guest is great as Phyllis. The character is reminiscent of Catherine Martell with her ruthlessness and unsympathetic manner. Like I said in my recap of Part 1, Matthew Lillard is playing Bill very ambiguously which is intriguing. Who was he having an affair with? Ruth? Betty? Both? He says that he was never at Ruth’s apartment, but he had a dream that he was there. Was it really a dream or do we have another BOB possession going on here. Can BOB inhabit two people at once? Are these storylines even happening along the same timeline? Is Phyllis setting him up? So many questions, and a lot of these questions spawn from Lillard’s gripping performance. Both Bill and Phyllis show such a palpable hatred toward each other which played really well here.

Phyllis leaves, running into their lawyer, George, on the way out. Phyllis and George are having an affair, and she tells him to meet her back at her place later. Bill is still reeling after their heated exchange as the camera dollies past the other jail cells. The one next to Bill’s is vacant, BUT the one next to that has a blackened dude — totally charred, suit, skin, hair, everything — sitting frozen. There seems to be the slightest movement until the image of the man fades away. Before the image is gone, though, the head kind of floats up like an errant balloon. WHAT EVEN? I thought the thing that appeared in the glass box was going to give me nightmares. I was sorely mistaken. It is this dude. BOB from the original run haunted me for years. And now it is this creature who was on screen for about 15 seconds.

I heard a theory that this is a CGI image of Frank Silva who played BOB. Silva, who has since passed away, is credited as BOB for this episode, but a flashback of BOB appears later. I’m not really subscribing to this theory, although it kind of works if Bill was inhabited by BOB when he killed Ruth. I don’t see David Lynch using CGI to bring back Frank Silva/BOB in this way. Maybe it will all be revealed later, maybe it won’t, but speculation about Twin Peaks is always fun, and the mystery is never lacking.

Phyllis arrives back at home to find BOB/Cooper waiting for her. “You did good. You follow human nature perfectly.” He then shoots her in the eye (similar to Ruth’s gunshot wound) with George’s gun, and leaves like it’s no biggie. Ah man, I liked Phyllis.

We leave Buckhorn and head to Las Vegas. A man, Mr. Todd, gives another man, Roger, two stacks of cash. “Tell her she has the job,” he says, cryptically. Roger is concerned about something, and he asks Mr. Todd, “Why do you let him make you do these things?” Mr. Todd implies that he is very dangerous. Are they talking about the billionaire who owns the glass box? We don’t find out in this episode, that’s for sure.

BOB/Cooper is at a diner with Ray, Darya, and a fella named Jack. Ray apparently is the only one that can get some information that BOB/Cooper wants — wants, not needs, which he makes abundantly clear that there’s a difference. Ray’s contact is Hasting’s secretary. Betty?

Back in Twin Peaks, Hawk is in the woods. The Log Lady calls him on his cell, and they have another beautiful exchange. Catherine Coulson, once again, gives a moving performance in just a few meticulous lines of dialogue over the phone. “The stars turn and a time presents itself.”

Hawk reaches the circle of sycamore trees in Glastonbury Grove. There’s a whooshing sound and the red curtains of The Black Lodge appear and disappear and reappear under Hawk’s flashlight beam. It’s unclear whether or not he sees the curtains.

We go back to The Red Room for the first time since the flashback began Part 1. This time it is Older Cooper. He is having a conversation with MIKE, the one-armed man. “Is it future or is it past?” I DON’T KNOW, MIKE! He vanishes, and in walks Older Laura Palmer. Laura freakin’ Palmer, you guys! Her movements are backwards, like the language she speaks, and it looks super cool, especially the blinking. She tells Cooper “You can go out now,” and then they have the same exchange they had in Cooper’s dream in the third episode of season one.
Cooper: Are you Laura Palmer? 
Laura: I feel like I know her, but sometimes my arms bend back.
Then she tells him “I am dead… yet I live,” and I am like, same, girlfriend. This scene is simultaneously killing me and giving me life. Laura then opens her face (yep, you read that right) which reveals a bright light inside. Then she kisses Cooper and whispers in his ear just like in that episode. They both look up, Laura starts to convulse, and she is hurtled up into the air, screaming. “She is filled with secrets.” Is The Black Lodge mad about what she whispered to Cooper? Is she being banished from existence?

It only gets weirder from here, folks.

The curtains blow away, and the white horse that Sarah Palmer saw in her vision appears. Then, MIKE is back with his question that no one has the answer to, maybe not even David Lynch. Both MIKE and Cooper leave the waiting room and enter another room with a strobe tree with a pulsating wad of bubble gum head. This tree is The Arm. On the original series, The Arm was played by Michael Anderson. He was also referred to as the Man From Another Place. He told Cooper in the second season finale, “When you see me again it won’t be me.” This reincarnation of The Arm is so wild and out there. I absolutely love it. The Arm reminds Cooper of his doppelganger, and tells him, “He must come back in before you can go out.”

Back in Buckhorn, BOB/Cooper gives Jack a long and awkward cheek massage.

Darya quickly gets off the phone when BOB/Cooper comes into their motel room. She says she was talking to Jack when BOB/Cooper questions her. He tells her that Ray never showed, and then gets in bed for some cuddle time. Cuddle time with evil Mr. C is no cute and snuggly experience. He tells her that Jack is dead (Did the face massage kill him?). He plays back her whole phone conversation with Ray so they both can hear her deception. Ray says he got another call from Jeffries. Agent Phillip Jeffries? This is blowing my mind.

BOB/Cooper unsurprisingly kills Darya in a pretty brutal manner after telling her that he is scheduled to return to The Black Lodge, but doesn’t plan on going back. He is unable to get Ray’s information that he wanted which were coordinates of some kind. He then shows her a sinister looking playing card. It is an ace of spades with a black blob with ears drawn on it and some scratch marks. How Lynch got a playing card to be so scary, I don’t know, but he managed. Darya seems like she might have seen this before because she turns her head away from it.

He opens a briefcase with radio equipment in it and a transmission comes through. Is it Phillip Jeffries or Phillip Gerard?
Man: I missed you in New York, but I see you’re still in Buckhorn. 
BOB/Cooper: And you’re still nowhere, is that correct? 
Man: You met with Major Garland Briggs. 
BOB/Cooper: How did you know that? Phillip? 
Man: Actually I just called to say goodbye. 
BOB/Cooper: This is Phillip Jeffries, right? 
Man: You’re going back in tomorrow, and I will be with BOB again. 
BOB/Cooper: Who is this?
Holy moly! Now Major Briggs is mentioned? This is insane! So, this is not Phillip Jeffries, then? Is it MIKE?

BOB/Cooper seems unsettled by this conversation. He logs onto an FBI site, and downloads some data. He then goes to another motel room where Chantal, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, waits for him. He tells her to clean up the other room, and that he needs her and her husband, Hutch, to be in a certain area in a few days.

Back in The Black Lodge, Cooper is listening to The Arm which is hissing a bunch of what, to me, seems like nonsense, but I am so transfixed that it doesn’t matter. After telling us another mysterious number (253) to add to our list of clues, The Arm tells Cooper, “Go now! Go now!” Cooper goes running around The Black Lodge in rooms that lead back into themselves. He finds Leland Palmer sitting in one of the waiting rooms. Leland looks petrified, and tells Cooper to find Laura. This is interesting because Laura was whisked away from the room after whispering to Cooper. He exits the room in a different way than he has before. Electricity sounds crackle, and the room undulates around him. MIKE is back with his arm tree thing, looking alarmed. “Something’s wrong.” There are a couple of slo-mo push-ins to the white marble statue, and a whooshing sound.

Cooper pushes the red curtain back, and instead of being an exit or entrance to another room, it’s a lookout over a stretch of highway. BOB/Cooper is in a car on that highway heading straight under The Black Lodge. As he passes under, all hell breaks loose. The Arm freaks out, its chewed wad of gum head turns into a toasted marshmallow looking thing, and it screams “non-exist-ent!” The zig zag floor under Cooper breaks apart and he falls into black water (or the scorched engine oil) and then through a black galactic space.

He lands on a piece of glass with a thud. The glass box! He melts through the surface into the box and floats inside. No one is watching the box, but the cameras are on and the bonsai is there. We cut to the lobby to the same scene from Part 1 where the guard is gone and Tracey asks Sam to go in the back.

The glass box with Cooper inside begins to expand and contract, and then he’s falling through starry space (or lying on a black carpet with a lot of lint, I’m not sure). The ominous sounds come to a crescendo, and there is a sharp cut to a night establishing shot of the Palmer house. Sarah, surrounded by tons of cigarette butts and smoking, is watching a horrifically graphic nature show.

Then we cut to The Roadhouse, also known as The Bang Bang Bar. On the stage, bathed in blue lights, is a blonde singer with an ethereal voice reminiscent of Julee Cruise, The Roadhouse mainstay during the original series. The band is Chromatics performing “Shadow.” There is a big, hipster crowd, much different from the patrons of the bar in the 90s. Shelly is there with a group of girlfriends, and James Hurley walks in with a young British fellow.

Shelly mentions that her daughter, Becky, is with the wrong guy. James makes googly eyes at one of the girls sitting with Shelly. Her friend says that there’s something wrong with him, and Shelly is quick to defend him. He was in a motorcycle accident because of course he was. Then she says one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a long time: “James is still cool. He’s always been cool.” That’s not even remotely true. James was anything but cool. This is such an odd statement for Shelly, of all people, to say with such conviction. Are we sure she wasn’t in a motorcycle accident? It’s like the show is trying to trick the new audience into thinking James is cool. But, they will know. Oh, they will know. I say the show just embraces his douchiness. Maybe it’s David Lynch and/or Mark Frost trolling us because they like the character of James Hurley.

Shelly makes eye contact with a gentleman at the bar. They share a moment of silent flirtation across the room, and the credits roll over the Chromatics on stage.

Stray Observations:
  • The guy that plays Mr. Todd had a small, but really memorable role in Mulholland Drive which I love. 
  • Twin Peaks has such an observant fandom. I didn’t notice during the episode, but a fan pointed out that BOB/Cooper is eating creamed corn at the diner. Garmonbozia, which is pain and suffering, has the appearance of creamed corn. BOB feeds on it, so it makes sense that BOB/Cooper is eating it here.
  • “I’m too weak to go with you, but stop by. I have coffee and pie for you.” Margaret bringing the FEELS!
  • The bartender behind the man that Shelly is looking at looks an awful lot like Jacques Renault. The credits confirm that it is the same actor, Walter Olkewicz, but his character name is Jean-Michel Renault. Another Renault brother?!
  • Al Strobel who plays MIKE, the one-armed man, is in the credits as Phillip Gerard, his earthly human name.
  • It’s really sad to hear the name of the character that David Bowie played knowing that he died before he could film his scenes. RIP.

Series: This Week’s TV MVPs -- Week 62

Image result for summertime gif

Welcome back to the final installment of our TV MVP Series this year! In a few weeks, we'll be kicking off our Summer Lovin' Series again, where we will have the opportunity to talk about all of the things we're loving this summer — blockbusters, books, and binge-watching included.

But for now, let's pay tribute to some of the best performers on television this week. Joining me are:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

American Gods 1x05 Review: "Lemon Scented You" (I Demand A Better Future) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"Lemon Scented You"
Original Airdate: May 28, 2017

[Warning: The following review contains spoilers.]

This supernatural road trip show took an appreciated detour last week to explore the character of Laura Moon, Shadow’s dead and very complicated ex-wife, but we’re back on the main thoroughfare with this week’s “Lemon Scented You.” Back to Old Gods and New Gods, super-zombie wives, angry leprechauns, and Mr. Wednesday’s cryptic knowledge about what’s happening to poor Shadow’s life.

COMING TO AMERICA


The Coming to America story this episode is a 3D animation, perhaps because it’s the oldest story we’ve gotten so far and it needed that storybook touch. It’s dated at about 14,000 B.C., a tale of ancient Siberians crossing a land bridge to escape deadly cold and, as this story generally goes, discovering that the food and riches promised to them are absent. The shaman of the tribe seeks advice about finding food from their god, Nunyunnini, but the price is too high to pay and the tribe chooses to abandon their god rather than heed it.

Unlike previous Coming to America vignettes, where gods are pulled from their lands in the hearts of the people traveling to the New World and kept there with storytelling or prayers, the tale of Nunyunnini is one of a god forgotten who, once forgotten, dies. It highlights the necessity of humans in the life cycle of gods — the main idea of American Gods’ mythology — and proves that gods can die just as well as they can live.

SHADOW AND LAURA


Shadow arrives in his hotel room to find his dead wife sitting on his bed and honestly, bless Ricky Whittle because the way he plays Shadow’s shocked, subtle freak-out is so, so brilliant. The writing is pretty brilliant, too, but Whittle just sells every micro-expression. Like, I don’t actually know how the average person going through a crisis of reality would react to finding their dead spouse looking lively, well-dressed, and waiting for them in a hotel room, but throwing a pillow at the face of the undead manifestation to make sure it’s real seems like the right move to me.

The Moons have some things to discuss. Shadow’s first topic: Laura cheating on him. While Laura seems more focused on the fact that she’s having a posthumous chat with her husband, wives rising from their graves is old news to Shadow (“Don’t think that anything you got to say or do, including dying, is going to distract from the subject at hand.”) and he’s more interested in her activities while alive. As Laura begins to explain herself, it’s even more clear now than it was in “Git Gone” that death hasn’t changed her much. She has the same no-nonsense, objective way of looking at life as she did when she sat Shadow down and told him she wanted him to rob a bank for her.

When she’s done talking apathetically about cheating on Shadow and then dying (she was “very blah about the whole thing”) Laura asks Shadow to get her some cigarettes. Somehow, this show manages to make a trip to the cigarette machine look beautiful and emotive, helped along by the lights around the “Starbrite Hotel” — another hotel with a significant name, this time reflecting on the golden glow that surrounds Shadow every time we see him from Laura’s perspective.

While Laura soaks her dead flesh in a warm bath to keep herself warm to the touch, Shadow finally recognizes that his wife coming back from the dead is weird. He tells Laura that he had a feeling she was going to die when they spoke while he was in prison, and Laura tells Shadow that she doesn’t really feel anything. Until she kisses him, and then we get a glowy image of her dead heart beating once in her chest.

The scenes between Laura and Shadow are strange and sometimes strangely sweet, especially when Laura says that she’s looking out for Shadow and thanks him for the “present” of the lucky leprechaun coin he “gave” her. Laura is more animated and smiles more frequently while dead than she did over the entire course of “Git Gone,” thanks to the glow that surrounds Shadow whenever she looks at him. Sense comes to Shadow quickly, though, and he makes it clear that he’s not her “Puppy” anymore. He can’t be, ever again.

Mr. Wednesday interrupts the Moons’ conversation with a knock on the door, inviting Shadow out for “five, six drinks” to help them forget the trials of the day. Shadow rejects the offer, but interruptions abound! The police show up to arrest them both for the bank robbery they pulled off a couple episodes ago. Laura, back in her warm bath, notices Shadow’s golden light fading as he’s driven away.


THE NEW GODS


We see Technical Boy, the douchiest of the New Gods, getting snatched up by the same weird device that transported Shadow to his limo in episode one. Waiting for him in the limousine is Media, wonderfully dressed as David Bowie from his 1973 “Life On Mars?” promotional video, right down to Bowie’s iconic mismatched eyes. She has some advice to give Technical Boy on his brand and image, how the world — and Mr. World — sees him, and criticizing how he dealt with Shadow. She does most of her talking in David Bowie song lyrics, which I absolutely adore, quoting, in order: “Oh! You Pretty Things,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Space Oddity,” “Life on Mars?,” “Under Pressure,” “Cat People (Putting Out Fire),” and “Starman.” This is the quality TV content I live for.

On behalf of Mr. World, Media orders Technical Boy to apologize to Shadow and Wednesday. We don’t yet know who this Mr. World is, but it’s evident that the New Gods see him as a leader — and one not to be messed with or ignored. Media explains that keeping Wednesday calm is critical, because all he needs is “just enough” belief to take them down.

TROUBLE


After being apprehended by the police, Shadow and Wednesday are separated and interrogated. Shadow won’t say much more than “lawyer,” but Wednesday has adopted the confused old man persona that got him a seat in first class in the premiere. Whether intentionally or not, Wednesday has pinned the whole thing on Shadow, saying that the Shadow stole him from a retirement home.

The officer interviewing Shadow theorizes something close to the truth, but lines up a more realistic sequence of events: Shadow meets an old grifter and signs on to learn the trade. The officer interviewing Wednesday gets the actual truth but doesn’t believe it because, honestly, who would? However, Shadow’s officer can tell that there’s something bigger going on than a simple grifting partnership — the tip they got on their whereabouts was specific and high tech, which means Shadow and Wednesday must have some powerful enemies and it’d be interesting to know who those enemies are.

When the officer allows Shadow into the same room as Wednesday, Shadow confronts his employer about who’s after them. Meanwhile, a spider (Hi, Mr. Nancy!) unlocks their cuffs and they hear a ruckus going on in the police station. Before they can escape, Media shows up wearing the guise of Marilyn Monroe and, once again, Ricky Whittle’s reaction to stuff as Shadow is just the best. When he realizes that Media is floating down the hall, he’s more shocked by that than he was about his undead wife.

Before Shadow can have another breakdown, they hear footsteps in the hall. Enter: Mr. World. Probably the most enigmatic of the New Gods, Mr. World doesn’t have an obvious association with anything like Media or Technical Boy do. The closest I can get to pinning him down is as a representation of knowledge, specifically “secret knowledge” in the vein of conspiracy theories and ominous world enterprises that manipulate society.

Mr. World calls Technical Boy in to deliver an apology. Technical Boy does, but his wide-eyed stare and cavalier way of describing how in “poor taste” lynching Shadow had been, what with America’s current state of racial tension, makes him seem insincere. Mr. World senses the insincerity and offers Technical Boy up for Shadow to punch a bit as compensation. Shadow rejects the offer, and Mr. World absolves Technical Boy of his sins. Mr. World is really odd, and I can’t tell if that’s the character or if it’s because he’s played by Crispin Glover.

The New Gods have a deal for Wednesday and his kind: a merger. An upgrade to, as Media puts it in her most commercial way, “a brand-new, lemon-scented you.” Media presents Wednesday with a shiny possible future that includes a rocket named after him hitting North Korea, so everyone would know his name — something that is, of course, critical to a god’s survival. Also, there are rainbows and unicorns.

Wednesday rejects the plan on principle or pride. He states that the New Gods distract and simply occupy people’s time — the Old Gods gave people meaning. “Then give it to them again,” says Mr. World. Then he leaves, but Technical Boy ruins his departure “on a good line” by questioning him about letting Wednesday go. To shut him up, Media knocks Technical Boy’s two front teeth out by blowing him a kiss. The New Gods are bizarre.

THE ESCAPE


Earlier in the episode, just after Shadow left his hotel in a police car, Laura was paid a visit by Mad Sweeney. Sweeney still wants his lucky coin back, but Laura has a feeling that the coin is the reason why she can currently walk, talk, and knock a leprechaun into the wall with a flick of her finger. So she’s not giving it back, and Mad Sweeney can’t take it — but he can wait. Laura Moon is still dead, no matter how much her afterlife makes her feel alive, and she will rot like any other dead body. Especially if she keeps trying to mimic living flesh by soaking in warm water.

Mad Sweeney shoves Laura under the water of her bath just as police arrive and they arrest him for killing her. Laura is sent to the morgue while Mad Sweeney is carted off to jail, where his officers encounter the bloodbath the New Gods left behind in the police station. The police are dead, the whole place is a lights-flickering mess, and Shadow is nearly killed by the grasping branches that haunt and antagonize him in his dream of the bone orchard.

Wednesday and Shadow run away. Mad Sweeney runs away. Laura wakes in a morgue and keeps on not living.

Afterthoughts:

  • Ian McShane talking to a raven is a scene I didn’t know I wanted to see on a TV show until American Gods delivered it to me.
  • “I got a fax. On a machine that hasn’t been turned on in — I don’t know, since fax machines.”
  • Wednesday is officially named as Odin in this episode! I’ll still be calling him Wednesday, though.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Arrow 5x23 Review: "Lian Yu" (Back to the Place Where Our Story Begins) [Contributor: Jenn]


"Lian Yu"
Original Airdate: May 24, 2017

The most satisfying thing as a storyteller is when every loose thread comes full circle. I love watching characters complete their journeys and come full circle. Dan Harmon's story circle puts it best: they return to their familiar situation, having changed. The thing about Arrow is that it's a show that often endlessly chases rabbit trails, only to realize — too late — that they've strayed far from the path and have lost the interest or attention of their viewers. The show's proclivity for doing this has not been lost on me throughout season five. At its best, this year had some interesting moments. But at its worst, it was boring and often downright baffling. I'm not in the business of telling people that one great episode can redeem an entire season of not-great ones, but if any episode was going to try and do that successfully, it would be "Lian Yu."

Oddly enough, the season five finale feels like it could — and should — be a series finale for the show. The way that Oliver came full circle in his journey to and off of the island was one of the main points of focus. There were blatant parallels (Arrow is not known for their subtlety, but in this case I think it actually worked to their benefit) between the Oliver Queen we met five years ago and the one who refuses to kill Adrian Chase in the present-day. In spite of the fact that the show threw a "cliffhanger" that wasn't really a cliffhanger, I still found myself emotionally invested in the episode and its characters.

Let's dive into what "Lian Yu" did well and why it might be a good jumping point for season six.

HIS NAME IS OLIVER QUEEN


It's no surprise to anyone that I've zoned out of the flashbacks for years now. Thankfully, the final Bratva-related flashback for this season was simple enough to follow: Constantine and Oliver duked it out because only one of them was getting off that island alive. (Spoiler alert: it was Oliver.) What's so significant about the parallelism here though is that Oliver did whatever it took to get himself off Lian Yu. He wanted to avenge his father's death and he did everything necessary to ensure his survival. At the beginning of the series, a lot — if not all — of Oliver's behavior is centered on this idea of self-preservation. He did things alone because he needed to be alone. He lashed out to protect himself. He was traumatized by everything that happened to him — all of the torture and the loss. The Oliver Queen we know in the pilot episode is driven by nature, not nurture.

And then there's the Oliver Queen in "Lian Yu."

Adrian Chase is kind of poetic. Okay, he's really poetic: he sends everyone Oliver loves to Lian Yu — to purgatory — and demands that Oliver kill him. In doing so, Chase hopes to prove that Oliver hasn't really changed and is still the same heartless killer who left Lian Yu five years prior. In order to see who Oliver truly is, Chase traps him in purgatory. If you're spiritual and believe in the idea of purgatory, it's always been likened to a waiting room. Either you are deemed worthy of heaven or your sins outweigh the good things you've done and you're sent to hell. What will happen to Oliver's soul at the end of the episode? That depends on what he believes to be true of himself and his soul going into this mission.

Oliver has spent this season trying to figure out the kind of legacy he'll leave behind. "Lian Yu" focuses pretty heavily on the idea that parents leave behind legacies for their children — some of those legacies involve how the parent has lived and acted their entire life; some of those legacies are based on one decision. But what is so significant is that these people have changed: Oliver, Slade, Malcolm, etc. Everyone who makes a major decision in this episode, save for Adrian Chase, has been changed; they're not the same people they were when they first landed on the island. Oliver has decided that his legacy is going to be one of a passionate, caring, self-sacrificing father. There are some really incredible parallels here between Robert and Oliver's relationship.

For starters, Robert Queen killed himself to atone for what he did but also give Oliver the chance at life. At the episode's end, Oliver makes a sacrifice for William — he chooses saving his son over saving his friends and family who are still trapped on the island. But what was really poignant to me was the parallelism between the suicide of Robert Queen and the suicide of Adrian Chase. In the end, Adrian knows that Oliver won't break — he's been changed by the love of his friends and family, and he refuses to kill him because of that. So in order to execute his master plan of taking away everything Oliver loves, Adrian takes his own life. Oliver had to watch Robert die out of love; he had to watch Adrian Chase die because of evil.

The one complaint that I have in regards to the whole Oliver/William storyline was that we never got the chance to really explore what Oliver was like as a father. We had one scene of Oliver playing with his son, but that's about it. So it's kind of problematic that the entire emotional poignancy of the scene at the end was carried by Oliver's relationship with William. He seems affectionate enough around the kid, but until he mentions him by name, sometimes I legitimately forget that Oliver even HAS a son. I guess that the problem is so many of us took issue with the baby mama drama plot that it lost any and all of its potential. Nevertheless, I bought was Stephen Amell was selling because his desperation to save his son was palpable.

Interestingly enough, while we spend a lot of time with Oliver in this week's finale, we don't actually spend a lot of time ON him. Thankfully (or not-so-thankfully) Arrow chose to spend an inordinate amount of time this season with heavy-handed dialogue and symbolism about identity and darkness, so by the time we got to "Lian Yu," there was nothing much left to say. Disappointingly though, this also led to less screentime for Slade Wilson than I would have liked. Even so, I appreciated the parallels between the two characters in the present-day with their history.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE A VILLAIN


Slade Wilson will always be the best villain in Arrow for me. And it's not just because he's sassy or clearly on Team Oliver and Felicity Need to Bone Again Soon, but because he's genuinely complex as a character. He's not purely evil, and not even evil for the sake of being evil. He acknowledges, when Oliver approaches him, that he killed Moira. The right thing for Oliver to do would be to kill him. But Oliver has taken to look at everyone recently through redemption-colored glasses, and instead of seeing all of the pain that Slade caused him, Oliver sees all of the potential. Ultimately, Slade's downfall as a villain was that he cared too much. I know, that sounds like one of those things you say in a job interview when they ask about your weaknesses. But it's true. Slade loved people and because he lost them, he snapped. That's not like Damien, who just wanted to watch the world burn or Ra's, who... I don't know, wanted to rule the world with a sword and misogyny? I'm still trying to figure out his deal. Slade's passion tuned in one direction is admirable — it's love and fire. Tuned the opposite way, it's dangerous — it's rage and vengeance. 

Oliver is desperate and even though he knows Slade has done horrible things, especially to him, he also knows that there's no one else better suited to take on Lian Yu with than Slade Wilson. And our villain rises to the challenge, pretending to double-cross Oliver in order to take down Adrian Chase and staying behind to protect Team Arrow. Slade Wilson isn't a good dude, but he also isn't heartless. You can see during the conversations Oliver has about his son that Slade understands and empathizes. 

There's something special about the bond between Slade and Oliver (and insanely complex) that can never really be replicated in another relationship on the show. Their friendship was tumultuous and the aftermath of it — and Slade's rise as Deathstroke — is as well. Slade is both Oliver's greatest enemy and also his greatest asset. Like I said, it's extremely complex. But that's what makes it so GOOD. And that's why I was so excited about Slade joining the team during the season finale. Again, I wish I would have seen even more of Slade but given Manu's apparent dislike for working on the show, I'm afraid this might be the last we see of his character. 

Hell tends to bond you close to the people in your life. But so does purgatory. Speaking of purgatory and spiritual allegories, let's talk about atonement, shall we?

THE BAD DAD CLUB


Don't you sometimes forget that Felicity and Thea were almost sisters-in-law? Arrow does too, don't worry. Thankfully they seem to find time to squeeze in a few scenes for us Thea/Felicity friendship fans, and "Lian Yu" was one of those times. Malcolm Merlyn  again, I just love that Malcolm got recruited to join Team Arrow — is tasked with getting Curtis, Baby Mama (blegh, fine, Samantha), Thea, and Felicity off the island. Things don't quite go as planned, mostly because the third villain in this trifecta, Digger Harkness, has decided to turn on Oliver and work for Adrian Chase.

With Digger and his cronies on the team's tail, the group is a little bit distracted. And as we all know on Lian Yu, there are traps. Thea unfortunately falls into one when she accidentally steps on a land mine. Don't worry, Thea, Felicity has done this too. You're not the first one. Understandably freaked out, Thea panics and before she's given enough time to process her impending death, Malcolm shoves her out of the way and takes her place on the mine.

Thea is distraught but with Digger quickly approaching, the team has to leave Malcolm behind to his inevitable death. John Barrowman posted on his Instagram this week that he is, indeed, not returning to the show but that he had a blast (no pun intended) playing Malcolm Merlyn all of these years. And I've had so much fun watching him chew scenery on this show, it's unbelievable.

Thea doesn't know how to process the fact that Malcolm sacrificed himself for her. In spite of all of the horrible things he did (and Thea pretty much makes a verbal laundry list of them), he was still her father. And in the end, he still did something completely selfless to ensure her safety and survival. Felicity empathizes because she, too, has a villain for a father. It's hard for the women to be able to understand how to love the men in their lives who were evil and hurt them so much. Thea also notes that she is going to miss Malcolm because she knew the dad that he had the potential to be — not necessarily the dad he was. It's a really sweet scene that reminds us exactly why Thea and Felicity need to share more scenes together next season. (Provided they've survived the explosions on Lian Yu, of course.)

Malcolm was incredible and he was terrible, all at the same time. I love John Barrowman and will miss him tremendously, especially for all of the fun and dry wit that his character brought to the show. He went out in the best and most redemptive way that he possibly could — protecting the woman he loved most in the world; and perhaps the only person left in the world he really did love.

AN EXPLOSIVE ENDING


Adrian Chase has a failproof plan to kill Oliver's friends — if he dies, a detonator will set off explosive devices that are scattered all across Lian Yu. Either way, Oliver was always screwed. But when Adrian makes Oliver choose — either save William, or save his friends and family on the island — Oliver makes the decision to save his son. Adrian Chase always struck me as an interesting villain. He's the kind of person Oliver could have become if he had totally given into the darkness. It's almost like Adrian is the physical manifestation of Oliver's darkness: self-sabotaging, selfish, purely dark. Oliver also lost his father, but Robert's death was a sacrifice. Adrian's father died because he was evil (I mean, Robert Queen was no saint but he did love his family). Adrian's crusade was based on the death of his father, and so was Oliver's. Both men have suffered and both men have to ponder what kind of legacies their fathers left for them. It's easy to see the result of those decisions: Adrian chose hatred and evil and revenge, while Oliver sought redemption and continues to seek redemption for his dad and even his own actions.

Funnily enough, Adrian seems touched by the fact that Oliver and William will have each other. Or he's just crazy and is mocking them. Either way, the story ends the same: Adrian kills himself in front of Oliver and William (it's okay though, because apparently Adrian said he won't remember this all anyway. Uhhhh, I tend to disagree but sure.), and explosives ignite all along the island presumably killing everyone in the Arrow cast.

Honestly, I could have done without the dramatic ending. We all know that most if not all of the characters (with the exception of minor characters) will survive into season six. In spite of the fact that the cliffhanger was anticlimactic and doesn't lend me to think that the entire cast of the show is dead, it was a pretty interesting way to end the season.

This year, Arrow was a season containing some good and great episodes in a sea of mediocre ones. The writers weren't sure how to balance a new Big Bad with a new team and a similar theme that we've seen across the years. Add to that even more flashbacks and you have a recipe for mediocrity. With the show renewed for a sixth season, I'm interested to see where the writers will take the characters and their journeys from here. I'm hoping it's better than what we had to endure this year, but maybe that's the optimist in me talking.

See you back on Lian Yu next season, all!

And now, bonus points:
  • Stephen Amell slayed this episode and remains the MVP.
  • "You and me, kid. Like old times."
  • Whyyyyyyyyy was Baby Mama even there? I get that William was kidnapped but I honestly could not care less about her. And the show tried desperately to make me like her by having her share a scene with Felicity. Spoiler alert, writers: one scene with the two women together doesn't erase the craptastic storyline you wrote for both women. I did not appreciate the scene at all because it was a clear attempt at baiting us into liking Samantha since she's apparently Team Olicity. Blegh. I'd rather we just forget Samantha even exists and move forward without having to dredge up that horrid story ever again.
  • "I see you haven't lost your feistiness, Ms. Smoak."
  • "Feels like a lifetime ago." "For Shado, it was." OH SNAP.
  • I did quite enjoy the Talia vs. Nyssa showdown but it was still too short.
  • Two Canary Cries was interesting. I still don't care for that particular element of either Black Siren or Black Canary. However I did enjoy Lance hitting Black Siren over the head.
  • I didn't get a chance to talk about it above, but that scene with Moira Queen broke me. She was such an interesting and complex character, and the phone call between her and Oliver broke my heart and made me cry. 
What did you all think of the finale? Sound off in the comments below!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return 3x01 Recap: "Part 1: My Log Has A Message For You" (What’s In The Box?) [Contributor: Erin Allen]

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"Part 1: My Log Has A Message For You"
Original Airdate: May 21, 2017

The return of Twin Peaks is everything I could’ve dreamed of and a billion times more. This is pure, unfiltered Lynch. I could not be more thrilled to be a fan at this time and to recap it for Just About Write. Join me while I attempt to unpack all the weirdness of the first installment of this 18-hour movie.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The beginning is really the end of the original run. We see footage of Twin Peaks with Special Agent Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer in The Black Lodge where she says, “I’ll see you in 25 years.” Did they plan this all along? Amazing. Cut to some more original establishing shots of the high school and a push into Laura Palmer’s prom picture. Angelo Badalamenti’s romantic yet haunting theme music begins while the shortened opening credits roll in that familiar font.

I cried.

The credits end on the zig-zag floor of The Black Lodge spinning in frame. It is dizzying. Much like what you will see in the next hour. It definitely sets up a disorienting feeling, so we know we are right on track. What we don’t know is where the next scene takes place. It seems like The Black Lodge, but not quite. In awesome looking black and white, Older Cooper sits across from The Giant. However, it is not The Giant. The actor that plays him is credited as ???????.

Yep, those are seven question marks. Cooper and Question Mark Man have a conversation where QMM speaks in the backwards language of The Black Lodge and Cooper responds normally saying he understands. Well, good for you, buddy, because I’m lost already. QMM gives us some clues — a number (430) and two names. “Richard and Linda” begin a long list of names to try to remember. Cooper blinks away like an old television set turning off.

Next is a very brief scene that reunites us with Dr. Lawrence Jacoby. He’s living in a trailer in the woods. He’s still sporting those rad glasses with the colored lenses, but his eclectic Hawaiian threads have been replaced with coveralls. A truck delivers a bunch of shovels and that is that. It’s odd to see the quirky psychiatrist living this way. It looks like he’s starting some project, so it will be intriguing to come back and see what those shovels are for.

We go from a box of shovels to a mysterious glass box in New York City. It is surrounded by cameras and a man sits and stares at it. He is told via intercom to go to Camera 3 where he exchanges the card and files it away in a vault. This scene has such major Mulholland Drive feels. The set design, the slow pacing, and the Kafkaesque intrigue instantly brought that Lynch film to my mind.

The box keeper goes out to the lobby for a delivery which is Madeline Zima as Tracey bringing him coffee. They ambiguously flirt in front of the security guard, but both men shut down her interest in what’s beyond the lobby. “Ooh, now I’m so curious. You’re driving me crazy.” Zima is amazing casting. I love everything about how she plays this role. Tracey is as intrigued and inquisitive as a Twin Peaks fan.

Back in Twin Peaks at The Great Northern Hotel, Benjamin Horne discusses some hotel business with his secretary, Beverly, played by Ashley Judd. Jerry Horne interrupts them raving about some food, which is the best way to be reintroduced to his character. “Sweet and sour, salty, crunchy!” Jerry is now a total hippie with a lucrative marijuana edibles business. This makes sense. I like it. This scene between the brothers ends with Ben asking Jerry “Is that mother’s hat?” I don’t know why, but that cracked me up.

The reacquaintance with familiar characters continues as we see Lucy — now with her name placard reading Lucy Brennan — working the front desk at the sheriff station. A man, possibly an insurance salesman, comes in asking for Sheriff Truman. Lucy informs him that there are two Sheriff Trumans and that he will have to be more specific. He is unable to, so he gives Lucy his card and leaves. I also noted that Lucy is playing solitaire at her desk. I don’t know if this means anything, but that is what this friggin’ show does to me. I am constantly in investigative mode.

The next scene begins with headlights on a dark road. This is a signature Lynch shot. Some really cool metal music plays which Shazam informs me is “American Woman (David Lynch Remix)” by Muddy Magnolias. I’m gonna need the Twin Peaks: The Return soundtrack tout suite! Not only is this song super rad, but it introduces us to Cooper’s evil doppleganger. I’m not sure what to call this person who is inhabited by the demon, BOB. Combos of their names (I played around with CooBOBber and Booper) sound too silly for this savage and terrifying character. I will refer to him as BOB/Cooper.

Well, this BOB/Cooper is one mean dude you do not want to mess with. He’s got long hair, and wears leather and a snakeskin print shirt. He effortlessly takes out the guy with a gun guarding some shack out in the woods. BOB/Cooper is there to pick up two associates. There is all sort of weirdness going on in this cabin. Otis looks like he is drinking moonshine, there is a little person in a wheelchair (which also reminds me of Mulholland Drive), and a woman named Buella says, “It’s a world of truck drivers.” Alright then.

BOB/Cooper leaves with Ray and Darya and we cut back to NYC. The box keeper (whose name I learned from the credits is Sam Colby) is still cataloging the camera chips. He hears the elevator in the lobby, but no announcement this time. Tracey is back with coffee, and the guard is gone. “Weird,” Sam says. Since there is no one to stop them, Sam takes Tracey back to the mysterious room with the box. He tells her that some anonymous billionaire owns the place, and that his job is to watch the box to see if anything appears. He hasn’t seen anything yet, but the guy he replaced saw something, but wasn’t allowed to talk about it. They sit with their coffees and watch the box for a minute before making out. The kissing progresses, and as they go at it, something appears in the box. This totally fits the horror movie formula, and what takes place is Lynch’s version of a horror movie. The being that appears in the box crashes through the glass and brutally beats the couple. Whoa.

I try to pick my jaw up off the floor as we head to Buckhorn, South Dakota. A woman enters an apartment building, and her dog, Armstrong, smells something at her neighbor’s door. She calls the police. They show up and have a heck of a time trying to get into the apartment. There are multiple conversations where they talk in circles and rattle off a bunch of names to the point where my head is spinning.

Turns out the woman with the dog who is friendly, but spacey, had a key the whole time. They enter the apartment of one Ruth Davenport. Ruth is in bed, dead with her eye shot out. Well, it’s Ruth’s head. Under the covers is what looks like a man’s headless body posed under Ruth’s head.

Before we can wrap our brains around that, we go back to Twin Peaks and Margaret, The Log Lady. The Log Lady is one of my favorite characters from the original. Catherine Coulson was able to film some scenes for The Return before her death in 2015. With the nostalgia and the sadness of the actor’s passing, this scene is really emotional. Coulson plays it full of emotion, too. She calls Deputy Chief Hawk. She holds the phone at a distance from her ear and cradles her log lovingly.
The Log Lady: My log has a message for you. 
Hawk: Okay. 
The Log Lady: Something is missing and you have to find it. It has to do with Special Agent Dale Cooper.  
Hawk: Dale Cooper? What is it? 
The Log Lady: The way you will find it has something to do with your heritage. This is the message from the log.  
Hawk: Okay, Margaret. Thank you. 
The Log Lady: Good night, Hawk. 
Hawk: Good night, Margaret.
Oh my God. My heart.

Back in Buckhorn, the police have matched fingerprints found in Ruth’s apartment to local school principal, Bill Hastings. The cops go to Bill’s house and arrest him, much to his wife, Phyllis’ chagrin. “But the Morgans are coming to dinner!” Why do I love this line and her delivery so much?

Hawk begins to decipher the log’s message. He tells Andy (Andy!) and Lucy to get the files pertaining to Agent Cooper. Andy and Lucy are confused, and then proceed to bring up some random facts about their 24-year old son, Wally. “He was born on the same day as Marlon Brando.”

Detective Dave Macklay questions Bill about Ruth. I have never been a big fan of Matthew Lillard, but his turn as Bill is changing my attitude. He’s always been a goofy, frat boy kind of character, but he does this serious role exceptionally well. I can’t get a read on whether he’s guilty or not. He’s playing it right on the line where it could go either way.

The cops get a warrant to search Bill’s house, and once again Phyllis brings up the Morgans. I love it. Phyllis looks really shifty as they look around. Detective Macklay and state police Detective Don Harrison check out Bill’s car. In the trunk under a cooler is... I don’t know what it is. A piece of a body part? Det. Macklay’s flashlight is broken and blinks on and off. This is a callback to the pilot when Agent Cooper looks under Laura’s fingernail. The fluorescent light was broken and flickering. Flashing lights came to be of some significance throughout the series.

This part rolls the end credits over the gramophone at whatever realm Question Mark Man was in from the beginning.

Stray Observations:
  • Is Ben Horne no longer a womanizer? “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect. She’s a beautiful soul and she’s married.” Jerry’s response is gold (“Gold, Jerry, gold.” Sorry, the Seinfeldian inside me couldn’t resist.): “That never stopped you before. Sock it to me. Sock it to me. Sock it to me. Sock it to me.”  
  • There is a bonsai in the room with the glass box. Windom Earle bugged the sheriff’s office with a bonsai plant in the original run. If Windom Earle is the anonymous billionaire, I will freak out. There’s another theory that I like even more, though, and that is that the billionaire is Audrey Horne.
  • Hawk tells Andy and Lucy “I’ll bring the coffee and the donuts,” and it is the most comforting thing!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Brooklyn Nine-Nine 4x21 and 4x22 Recap: “The Bank Job” & “Crime & Punishment” (Time to Get Dirty) [Contributor: Alisa Williams]


“The Bank Job” & “Crime & Punishment”
Original Airdate: May 23, 2017

Another pair of back-to-back episodes this week close out season four of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s been a wild season that started us off in Florida with Captain Holt and Jake undercover, saw the whole team assigned to the dreaded night shift, the precinct almost closed down, and now a dirty lieutenant is wreaking havoc for Rosa and Jake. Let’s see what cliffhangers the final two episodes have in store for us, shall we?

In the first episode of the night, Jake and Rosa go straight to Captain Holt with their suspicions about Lieutenant Hawkins being the secret leader of the bank robbing ring. Holt says because Hawkins is one of the most respected officers in the city, they’re going to need hard evidence before they take what they know to Internal Affairs. So, they head back to Hawkins’ HQ to find out what they can.

They have no luck, however, and Holt surmises it’s because Hawkins knows they’re good cops so she’s not going to let them anywhere near her plans. They decide their only option is to recruit a super sketchy dude to help them out. The natural choice is cop-turned-PI and Rosa’s fiancĂ©, Adrian Pimento, who I for one hoped to never see again. They come up with a plan: Jake and Rosa will beat up Adrian (who is super excited about this) in front of Hawkins, which will convince her they’re dirty, and then they’ll be let into her inner circle.

The plan works perfectly. They beat him up in a room they pretend didn’t know had a camera. When they ask Hawkins to delete the footage for them so there’s no evidence of them beating up a suspect, she says she already did and then invites them out for drinks with the rest of her team. She even tells them to bring some cocaine with them to make it a true party.

Back at the precinct, the team has some suspicions of their own — about Gina. She’s had three doctor’s appointments in one week and Terry, Amy, and Boyle are convinced she’s pregnant. They’re sure of it when they find a file on her computer labeled “Baby Names.”

Boyle’s super excited and wants to confront Gina right away but Terry and Amy tell him to respect her privacy and let her make the announcement when she’s ready. This lasts about two seconds until Boyle sees Gina drinking coffee and runs to smack it out of her hand and lecture her about caffeine intake while pregnant.

Gina admits to them that she is indeed pregnant but she refuses to reveal who the father is, saying that she signed a nondisclosure agreement because he’s really famous. They’re super impressed but now they want to know who it is more than ever.

At lunchtime, she tells them she’s off to meet up with the father for a fancy lunch, so of course they follow her. But they find her sitting alone on a sidewalk bench eating a greasy pizza.

When they confront her about what they saw she finally admits that the father is one of Boyle’s cousins. Boyle is beyond excited about this. After a bit of sleuthing, Boyle figures out which cousin it is. He confides to Terry and Amy that the cousin is Milton — the worst of the Boyle cousins. Apparently, Milton is a “troll” and a loser. Just then, he shows up at the precinct and by anyone else’s standards, Milton (played by Ryan Phillipe) is quite a catch and doesn’t look anything like the rest of Boyle’s family. And he’s perfect for Gina. They’re both super weird in all the same ways.

Later that day, Holt manages to get a bag of cocaine out of evidence for Rosa and Jake. Pimento even offers to show them how to fake snort it but only manages to actually snort it three times. Rosa says they’ll just give the real bag to Hawkins and have a different bag for themselves of fake cocaine made out of Vitamin B powder.

Hawkins wasn’t kidding about partying hard. She confiscates everyone’s phones and then they party all night with whiskey and cocaine. Bright and early the next morning, Hawkins wakes them up (they crashed at the bar) and announces they’re officially in the inner circle and they’re going to rob a bank. Right now. Jake and Rosa try to make an excuse so they can zip back to the precinct and tell Holt, but there’s no time. Fortunately, Rosa was able to sneak Jake’s phone back and he sends a text to Holt about the bank job.

Holt and the team suit up and head out. Just as they arrive at the bank, Pimento shows up too. He’s still high and races into the bank ahead of them. When Holt and the team rush in, it’s the wrong bank. Jake and Rosa are in a completely different bank when all of a sudden a different team rushes in and arrests them. They try to explain they’re working an undercover job but just then Hawkins shows up and accuses them of being the “Golden Gang,” who her team has been tracking for months. When the masks are pulled off the other robbers in custody, instead of being members of her undercover team, they’re two guys Jake and Rosa have never seen before. As Hawkins is leading Jake away she laughs and whispers to him that she can’t believe he thought he could take her down.

In the season finale, we fast forward two months and it’s time for Rosa and Jake’s trial for the bank robbery. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted but are out on bond at the moment. Melanie Hawkins is being heralded as a hero by the city. The night before the trial, the team gathers, along with Sam, the lawyer. The case against Jake and Rosa is super strong, especially since they were working off the books to take down Hawkins so there’s no official paper trail, only Holt’s word and theirs. But the prosecution has Hawkins, the city’s most esteemed detective and airtight alibis for all of her team.

The good thing is, there is absolutely no evidence to tie Jake and Rosa to any of the other robberies and they have airtight alibis for all those dates. Additionally, there’s absolutely nothing tying Jake or Rosa to the missing millions in stolen money. So, they’ll just have to convince the jury that being caught red-handed at this one was a big misunderstanding.

Amy wants to talk to Jake about what happens if he’s found guilty but Jake refuses, saying they will win for sure. Boyle is not taking the stress well. All his hair has turned white (all of it, he tells Terry) and then his back gives out the morning of the trial (because he was trying to dye his pubes) so he’s wheelchair bound.

The trial does not get off to a great start. Eye-witnesses can identify Jake and Rosa as the “ring leaders” at the scene. And as for the previous three robberies, well, the other two bank robbers who Jake and Rosa had never seen before that day say that was all part of the plan. Rosa and Jake weren’t at the first three so they could establish their alibis and sent two other robbers in their place to make up the team of four. This guy says he think they probably killed the other two robbers to prevent them from testifying and, despite the lawyer’s objections, the jury seems to buy it. Things are not going well.

Then they get worse. Hawkins takes the stand and says that just that morning her team uncovered bank accounts in the Cayman Islands in Jake and Rosa’s names containing $26 million. Uh oh. She even has signed paperwork from the bank and says the bank manager will positively ID them.

Holt isn’t giving up yet. He says all they have to do is prove Hawkins opened the accounts in their names and then they can take her down. They’ll need a hacker to break into the bank’s system and fortunately Boyle knows just the guy. His name is Pandemic and he sets to work. After five hours, he hasn’t gotten very far so he calls in another hacker — her name is Nightmare. After a few more hours, they call in a nameless third hacker.

Jake is feeling a little more hopeful as well. He’s tracked down a Detective Matthew Langdon, who seems to have had a falling out with Hawkins 14 years ago and then disappeared. He thinks Langdon might have some info to share. Rosa isn’t doing as well with everything. Holt can’t get ahold of her so he stops by her apartment and finds she’s about to run. Pimento has a place in Argentina and that’s where she’s headed. He tries to reason with her but it doesn’t work and she heads out. He follows her to the bus and tries to convince her again but it doesn’t work. He says her family (the Nine-Nine) will miss her and then walks away.

Jake and Amy find Langdon and he hesitantly agrees to talk to them about what he knows. Apparently, he caught her taking payments from a drug dealer and she threatened to kill him or his wife if he didn’t disappear and leave his wife behind. He still fears for his wife’s life so he refuses to help them. Just as they’re about to head back to the city, however, Langdon says he’ll come with them and testify.

Back in the courtroom the next morning, everyone’s there except Jake and Rosa. Jake texts Holt to say he’s just a few minutes away. Holt tries to make an excuse for Rosa but just then she walks in and tells Holt she couldn’t leave her family. The judge comes in next and asks where Jake is, just as he barges into the courtroom with Amy and Langdon.

Meanwhile, the hackers have finally got something. They don’t have a name but they do have the shell corporation the money really came from — Flaxton Hill Holdings. Terry and Boyle haven’t heard of it but they text it to Amy in the courthouse to see if any of the other team members have. Amy flashes back to the farm they found Langdon at and remembers seeing that the name of the farm was “Flaxton Hill.” It’s a set up! But Langdon’s already on the stand testifying and just as Amy tells Jake that Langdon’s dirty too, he tells the jury Hawkins was the most honorable cop he ever knew. Furthermore, he says Jake offered him $300,000 to lie and say Hawkins was dirty. Unsurprisingly, the jury finds both Jake and Rosa guilty on all charges. And it’s the end of season four!

Bullets on the Bulletin Board:
  • “Why is this so hard for me? Do I even have quads?”
  • “Where’s Gina going? That’s like the third time she’s taken off this week.” “She has a doctor’s appointment.” “You know what that’s code for: she’s taking a nap in the furnace room.” “Is that what you do? Because you really should go to the doctor. When you breathe it sounds like someone’s shaking a bag of quarters.” 
  • “I’m trying to read your womb vibe.” “Exactly. Knock it off.” “The daddy’s a Property Brother, isn’t he? It’s a property baby!”
  • “He works for a snow apparel company that donates snow to the poor.” “Water.” 
  • “How you feeling?” “Good. Good. I was just working on my innocent face. Check it out: I’m a nice boy.” “Oh no. I don’t think that’s doing what you want it to at all.” “Oh. Okay. Well, it doesn’t matter because my normal face is my innocent face because I’m innocent.” 
  • “You questioning my abilities? Watch this. What’s your name?” “Why do you need my—” “Terrence Vincent Jeffords.” “Wait. What’s happening?” “You’re getting hacked bro, that’s what’s happening.” “No, don’t do that!” “I’m in your home computer…” “You are?! Get out!” “You got a lot of songs by Natalie Imbruglia.” “I bought those back in the 90s.” “Nope. Downloaded on Thursday.”