10 Shows and Movies That Have Brightened Up Quarantine Life

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

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Jeff/Annie Moments

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

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Jenn’s Pick: The Very Best of a Very Bad Year [Contributor: Jenn]

As we wind down the year, you’re probably feeling a sense of gratitude that at midnight on December 31, you’ll get to bid 2020 goodbye for good. And while this has been a famously bad year, there are still some things in pop culture we can be grateful for. As you prepare to send off this year in the coming month, let’s reflect on some of the best TV shows, movies, and moments this year actually had to offer. 

JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS

I’ve already talked about this show at length in an article this year and also in a bonus episode of our Community Rewatch podcast, but it begs to be stated again: Julie and the Phantoms is just the most delightful serotonin boost in a god-awful year. This Netflix family show stars newcomer Madison Reyes as Julie Molina, a teenager who has stopped singing and performing since the death of her mother a year prior. On the verge of being kicked out of the music program at school, Julie then gets a visit from three ghosts — Alex, Reggie, and Luke — who were a band in the 1990s and died. Soon, Julie realizes that she’s the only person who can see the guys, except when they perform together.

Julie and the Phantoms features an array of talented young actors, incredible music, directing by the legendary Kenny Ortega, male characters dismantling toxic masculinity, and women of color in lead roles. Honestly, why aren’t you watching this show yet?

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT

I know absolutely nothing about chess. After watching The Queen’s Gambit, I don’t know that I learned anything substantial about it but man was I compelled by it. In the show, Anya Taylor-Joy plays a complex woman named Elizabeth Harmon who becomes a renowned chess player. She got addicted to pills as a child and spends her adulthood in brilliance but also spiraling. Elizabeth may be highly intelligent but she doesn’t allow herself to feel emotions, pain, or the traumas of her youth. Watching her excel as a chess player is exciting and the cinematography of the show makes it look so beautiful. The scenes put me on the edge of my seat — and the music was amazing and aided that — but the relationships between Elizabeth and the other characters truly compelled me. 

What I love in a show is a complex female character and Beth is definitely complex. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her struggle and ultimately find redemption and healing. Truly even if you know nothing about chess like me, I recommend The Queen’s Gambit for a compelling and beautiful character study.

THE CAST OF COMMUNITY REUNITING

You all know how much I adore Community. I started a podcast about it. This website was founded on Community reviews. So when the cast of the show decided to reunite this year for a Zoom table read of “Cooperative Polygraphy” with Pedro Pascal stepping into Walton Goggins’ role, I was game. In addition to just reuniting, the table read raised money for World Central Kitchen and COVID-19 relief. It was a joy to watch everyone step easily back into their characters and read through the original script — which contained some differences from the episode that actually aired. Truly, the real highlight though was Pedro Pascal’s inability to make it through certain lines without laughing. 

I’ll always love the Community cast and here’s to hoping that the next reunion we have is on set for a movie!

TEENAGE BOUNTY HUNTERS

Honestly, I didn’t expect much when I saw my friend Allison tweeting about Teenage Bounty Hunters. It seemed like a pretty self-explanatory title that I wondered how much I would enjoy the show. I was pleasantly surprised! The Netflix series (which has since been cancelled, RIP) centered around a set of twins named Sterling and Blair who — as the show’s title would suggest — accidentally become teenage bounty hunters. The show focuses on them pursuing this job secretly, while both trying to grapple with their school and personal lives, especially in a conservative Christian town and school and family.

The show is basically a dark comedy with some genuinely hilarious moments, heartfelt character growth, and strong female characters. It tackles some tough subjects and threads a plot throughout the season of mystery without being too overt. Teenage Bounty Hunters was such a fun romp; I just wish it had stuck around longer to continue to unspool its plot threads.

OUTER BANKS

Both my sister and roommate recommended this show to me with the same selling point: “It gets INSANE.” I didn’t know exactly what to make of that rousing recommendation... until I started watching the show and began to understand exactly what they meant. After a few episodes, every subsequent episode would end with some wild, unexpected cliffhanger and beg me to let Netflix continue to autoplay to the next episode.

I didn’t mean to get hooked, but I definitely did. The show centers on a group of teenagers in the Outer Banks of North Carolina nicknamed “Pogues.” They’re essentially outcasts and are often mocked by the wealthier kids. But there’s a mystery that the Pogues are determined to solve — the disappearance of John B.’s (Chase Stokes) dad. Joining him are Kie (Madison Bailey), JJ (Rudy Pankow), and Pope (Jonathan Daviss) and John B.’s new love interest, Sarah (Madelyn Cline) who is from a wealthy and considered to be part of the “Kooks,” the rich kids on the island.

I won’t spoil the rest for you because literally every episode builds on the previous one. You get smacked in the face repeatedly with twist after twist, genuinely heartbreaking and emotional moments (the storyline with JJ and his dad will probably make your heart ache if you’re like me), and a season finale that left me wondering, “What in the world happens now?!”

Buckle up for the wildest ride, friends, and binge-watch Outer Banks soon!

PSYCH 2: LASSIE COME HOME

I absolutely love Psych. I loved the first movie but obviously something, or someone, was missing: Timothy Omundson. After the actor’s massive stroke, fans were just grateful that he survived and had a brief cameo in the first movie. The second movie, Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, centered around Carlton Lassiter’s identical situation — a stroke — and featured stellar performances by the whole cast, with the standout being Omundson of course.

I will gladly take any opportunity to have Psych back in my life, but this film felt especially poignant; the cast and crew behind the scenes were incredibly supportive of Omudson’s recovery, and so many of the conversations between the characters on screen just felt like the actors talking to each other. It’s clear that this case loves each other immensely, and I want them to have more adventures together.

TED LASSO

Ted Lasso is one of the best things that 2020 had to offer us and I stand by that. Created by Bill Lawrence (a master in making me laugh and then immediately punching me in the feelings), the show follows Ted Lasso — a character created for NBC commercials — who’s played expertly by Jason Sudeikis. Ted is a football coach in Texas and gets hired to coach football (also known as “soccer” to us) in England. He’s set up to fail with a team who doesn’t believe he’s qualified or intelligent enough to lead them. No one, in fact, believes in Ted Lasso besides his friend and coach, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt). Ted, however, will not be dissuaded. He’s constantly optimistic, though not rooted in fantasy as most people suspect.

Ted spends the whole season growing and we get the chance to see that even though he chooses to believe the best in people and fight for goodness, he’s not naïve. He experiences anger and sadness too. But in a dumpster fire year, it was so heartwarming and emotional to watch someone combat pessimism with optimism. Ted Lasso was the character we needed this year and I’m so grateful we’ll get more of this show next year.

THE QUARANTINE EPISODE OF MYTHIC QUEST

I’m allowing exactly one show to have a quarantine episode about COVID-19 and it’s Mythic Quest. In a genius move, the show decided to use their literal quarantine as a plot point for their characters. Since the show is produced by Apple, the company sent all the actors iPhones and AirPods, and everyone learned how to set up their own lighting and cameras. But what makes the Mythic Quest episode work isn’t the savvy tech work (though that is impressive): it’s the heart of the story. 

Quarantine impacted us all differently. Some spent all day in pajamas. Some tried to navigate full-time work while full-time parenting kids at home. And some threw themselves into work to avoid the feeling of emptiness. That last one is exactly what we see Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao) do in the episode. It’s emotional, it’s real, and it hit me hard. Truly if you haven’t yet watched Mythic Quest, make it a priority this month to do so.

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

What could I possibly say about Lovecraft Country that hasn’t already been said far more eloquently? It’s a brilliant combination of character study, science fiction, and so many other genres. I’m constantly blown away by the acting on this show. Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Michael K. Williams, Aunjanue Ellis, and Wunmi Mosaku all deserve awards for their performances.

Ultimately, Lovecraft Country does a really solid job navigating its standalone episodes and creating a season-long story arc and overarching mystery. The show is rooted in our understanding of its characters and its strong writing, incredible twists and turns, and acting prowess compel you to keep watching.

I MAY DESTROY YOU

The best thing I watched in 2020 was the season finale of I May Destroy You. Truly, this HBO series is compelling, surprising, heartwrenching, funny, and surprising in ways I couldn’t have participated. Since it follows a woman who is sexually assaulted, the show may be triggering to victims so I would recommend caution. But for those who may not find it triggering, please watch this incredible show. The story follows Arabella (Michaela Coel), a writer who is struggling to come up with copy for her next book and goes out with friends. While out, she’s assaulted and the remainder of the show is a story about Arabella’s exploration of trauma, grief, healing, and finding her voice as a writer. 

The show features a wonderful supporting cast, is helmed by Michaela Coel who is an absolute brilliant actress and writer, the episodes are inventive, and it’s just incredibly powerful overall. Do yourself a favor and watch this show soon.

THE FINAL SEASON OF SCHITT'S CREEK

When you think of perfect series finales, hopefully Schitt’s Creek makes it into your list. Even though I was incredibly sad to see the Roses leave my screen this year, the way they did was so satisfying (including all of those award wins too!). “Happy Ending” is such a wonderful, emotional, happy series finale. One of the best things about Schitt’s Creek is that they allowed their characters to grow slowly, but organically. When we send them off in their own directions in the finale — David and Patrick staying in town, Alexis off to New York, and Johnny and Moira going to Los Angeles — I know full well as an audience member that these characters will be okay. They’ve become better versions of themselves, they’ve learned to change and love, and they’ve become closer than they ever expected to be. They’re going to be okay.

The final season of Schitt’s Creek did a great job setting up all the departures, continuing to develop the characters, be genuinely funny (why is “The Bachelor Party” so dang good?), and heartwarming at the same time. The entire cast is amazingly talented, and I’m so glad that they each got the chance to shine and got their dues this year at the Emmys.

SELENA + CHEF

New on HBO Max, Selena + Chef is a fun cooking show featuring Selena Gomez and an array of celebrity chefs who teach her how to cook. Selena is the first to admit that she is not a chef and notoriously bad at cooking dishes. And because of the pandemic, Selena gets groceries dropped off at her door and then video calls the chefs who walk her through preparing a full meal. With appearances by her roommates and family, Selena + Chef is such a fun, lighthearted, enjoyable series. Besides the fun, the show also does good in the world: every celebrity chef gets to choose a charity and Selena donates $10,000 to it at the end of each episode.

If you’re looking for some cooking inspiration but are worried because you’re a novice, don’t be! If Selena can do it, so can you. 

NEVER HAVE I EVER

If you’re looking for a coming-of-age show about teenagers that is both hilarious and genuinely emotional, look no further than Mindy Kaling’s Netflix show, Never Have I Ever. The series stars newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, a 15-year old Indian-American girl who’s trying to make her life better after dealing with the loss of her father, which left her in a wheelchair, the year prior. The show is a genuinely wonderful look into a complex teenager — we don’t always root for Devi, and we’re not supposed to which is refreshing — and her relationships with her friends, her love interests, her cousin, and her mother. The latter is the most emotional, deep relationship that gets explored throughout the first season and the highs and lows will leave you in tears by the final episode, I promise you.

Never Have I Ever got lost in the shuffle of shows for a lot of people because it came out in April, at the very beginning of a very bad pandemic, but I highly recommend that you go back and watch it before the show’s second season!

THE OLD GUARD

I had heard a lot of buzz about The Old Guard but was hesitant to check it out because I’m notoriously squeamish. But I was pleasantly surprised that there were only one or two moments in the film that made me avert my eyes. The Old Guard is a brilliant movie that’s based on a comic book and is fully grounded in its complex characters. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood is at the helm and she, I think, is a large part of what makes this film so special — especially because it features two prominent female characters that never feel like they’re being portrayed as tropes, rivals for men’s affections, or one-dimensional characters.

The Old Guard is more than “just” a comic book movie. It’s a dramatic, romantic, dark comedy that dives so deep into all of its characters. The plot is fairly simple: a group of immortal mercenaries realize that someone is onto their secret and they spend the movie trying to figure out who. If you haven’t yet watched this movie, I highly recommend that you do. It has wonderful representation, complex female characters, incredible action sequences, and an ending that leaves you wanting more.

What very good things in TV or film got you through this very bad year? Sound off in the comments below!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Grey’s Anatomy 17x01 and 17x02 Recaps: “All Tomorrow’s Parties” & “The Center Won’t Hold” (Welcome to the New World) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


"All Tomorrow's Parties" & "The Center Won't Hold"
Original Airdate: November 12, 2020

It’s been seven long months (or has it been years?) since the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy aired but it was absolutely worth the wait! Even though the show is tackling the coronavirus pandemic for the foreseeable future, there’s plenty of joy and hope to go around and distract you from the harsher parts of our new reality. The premiere also delivers on the promo’s promise of something truly unexpected happening that has made fans around the globe incredibly happy. With a stuffed two-hour season premiere, and the small crossover in sister series Station 19’s return, there’s a lot of catching up to do with our favorite TV doctors. 

FILLING IN THE BLANKS


Since season 16 was forced to shut down production a few episodes before the planned season finale in the spring, the season 17 premiere helps to answer the lingering questions left by the impromptu finale and what would have happened in the now never-to-be-seen episodes, mainly via flashbacks. When we last saw the staff of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, lots of stories were up in the air. What did Link and Amelia name their baby boy? What happens now that DeLuca admits he is bipolar and needs help? Will Meredith and Hayes get to go out for drinks? Can Richard find a way to forgive and reconcile with Catherine? Is Jo going to survive Alex leaving her? And most importantly, is there any way that Teddy and Owen’s relationship can be saved? The good news is that most of those questions do get answered, at least in part. 

The flashbacks are scattered throughout both episodes and show what happened between the finale and the days leading up to the pandemic shutdown in mid-March while the present-day/main plots occur in early April. DeLuca arguably has the biggest flashback storylines. The first flashback shows that he went into manic depression following Richard’s surgery at the end of the season 16 finale. In the next, DeLuca is holed up in an on-call room and unable to work. Carina tries to comfort him when Bailey finds them and asks DeLuca if he is up for seeing a former patient, the girl that no one believed was a victim of human trafficking. Bailey informs DeLuca that he was correct about her situation, which makes DeLuca come alive.

The girl tells DeLuca her story and how she was held captive for two years. Bailey instructs Helm to alert the police and help find the girl’s family. Meredith and Bailey perform the girl’s needed abdominal surgery, and Bailey is beside herself that she didn’t believe DeLuca and sent the patient home when he first brought up trafficking. The girl’s sister arrives ahead of their parents and the reunion ends the story on a happy note. DeLuca’s last flashback is a poignant intervention scene. Bailey, Carina, Richard, and Meredith hold an intervention and tell DeLuca how there is no shame in having a mental illness. Each doctor has only nice words for him, but DeLuca feels he has failed at his one life goal of not ending up like his dad. Giacomo Gianniotti gives one of his best performances to date when DeLuca has a complete breakdown over knowing that he’s not okay and not knowing what to do. Carina tells her brother that now is the time to listen to the people who do know what to do, which convinces him to agree to treatment.

Jackson also has some very important flashback scenes. The first is with his ex-girlfriend Victoria Hughes from Station 19, who shows up at his door with nothing on under her coat. Normally, Jackson wouldn’t mind being flashed by his girlfriend, but little Harriet is in his arms! To make things more awkward, this is the first time Vic meets Harriet and Vic thinks things are moving too fast. Jackson’s awkward female encounters don’t end there. In his next flashback sequence, Jackson is given a proposition from Jo. She finds him in an imaging room and asks for a one-night stand to get over Alex. Jo doesn’t know how to be or feel single again and is tired of being a sad sack. Since she trusts him, Jo feels Jackson is her best option, and he nicely agrees to the arrangement. 

Jo shows up at his place later that night drinking from a bottle in a brown bag with only a long shirt on and no pants, and Jackson has the place set up for a candlelight dinner date which made me think that he might actually be into her. Of course, sort-of drunken Jo mocks Jackson for the “date” and his wealth, which makes things quite uncomfortable. She approaches Jackson, starts making out with him, and stops about three seconds later when she bursts into tears. Jo starts bawling and insists that she wants to keep going in between sobs. Like the good man he is, Jackson tells her to stop and that they can try another time. Jackson really looked like he wanted it to happen in that moment, so it should be interesting to see if some sort of connection develops here.

Jackson also has to contend with a healing, post-cobalt Richard via flashbacks. He finds Richard somberly watching a video of his conference meltdown presentation and announces that he has gone viral. Jackson quickly says that they can spin the video into good PR about the signs and symptoms of cobalt poisoning to help people. Unfortunately, Richard is in a dark place because he knows that telling Maggie to operate on her cousin and spending time with another woman were not caused by the cobalt poisoning and feels there is no one to blame but himself. In a flashback afterward, Jackson gives Richard a big speech about how difficult it is to live with his mother, how deeply she loves, and how much that is ultimately worth. He makes an excellent attempt to get Richard to see the truth and actually tells his step-dad to get over his pride and call Catherine because he’s not going to get over her or fix himself until they talk. The scene ends on a touching note when Richard tells Jackson that he always wanted a son, and Jackson says he has one.

BABY MAKES THREE


There are more flashbacks of Amelia and Link enjoying the first few days of parenthood and being stumped over what to name their son. Auntie Mer is surprised that her nephew doesn’t have a name when she visits for the first time, but the new parents can’t agree on one. Link really wants to name him Scout, as a fun nod to his To Kill a Mockingbird-inspired first name, Atticus. Amelia thinks Scout would be better as a nickname, so they spend a great deal of time hilariously trying to think of a better name. In one great moment, Link tries to let the baby pick his own name by saying random names and watching for any reaction. Amelia gets into it too, until they realize how dumb it is. Their next baby naming session involves an article Amelia finds on the internet that suggests picking a name for your baby inspired by your last dream. Of course, that also doesn’t work and we have to wait until the end of the next episode to learn the baby’s name.

In the show’s new present, all stories take place in early April 2020, right in the thick of the early days of the pandemic. Amelia and Link are on leave with a house full of small children. Not only do they have their own three-week old son to take care of, but they are also the current guardians to Meredith’s three children. Meredith and Maggie are staying in separate hotels and are not going home in order to keep Amelia, Link, and the kids safe from COVID; so Amelia and Link went from no kids to four kids in the blink of an eye. 

The first time we see the new parents in the present is also the first time we see the Grey/Shepherd/Pierce backyard. Amelia scrolls through social media on her phone and realizes that it is Link’s birthday and that she totally forgot. Link also forgot it was his birthday and found out when his mom called him to wish him a happy birthday. Amelia feels bad, so she decides to throw him a small birthday celebration the next day. As Link is drowning in laundry, Amelia finishes supervising virtual school and gets Mer’s kids to all watch a movie together, which gives the couple some much needed alone time. They run upstairs to enjoy the quiet while it lasts, and we get to see a little of their fun until the baby cries and puts a stop to it. Later on, Amelia gives Link a stack of donuts with a candle on it since she couldn’t get a cake. The moment is complete by Link finally revealing the name of their son: Scout Derek Shepherd-Lincoln!

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE


Back at Grey Sloan Memorial, a lot has changed in three weeks. Richard has completed his hip rehab and is back to normal. Bailey is surprised to see him in the parking lot walking toward the hospital and even more surprised to hear that he is ready to get back to work and help out. She begrudgingly allows him to stay and insists on giving him a personal tour of the newly-restructured hospital, since everything has changed. Bailey and Ben have decided to stay apart during the pandemic and also live at separate hotels. Ben’s sister is staying at their house with the kids, and the couple sees each other twice a day when the entire Station 19 crew shows up outside the hospital to clap out the doctors and nurses at the shift changes, social-distancing style. 

As the tour starts, Richard asks Bailey if he can see DeLuca and Bailey ominously replies that DeLuca is no longer a resident at Grey Sloan Memorial, but more on that later. The first stop is the outdoor triage tents that have been set up in the parking lots. The ER has been moved outside since the entire hospital has been converted into a COVID-only center. Traumas and any other non-COVID cases are sent to other hospitals. Bailey and Richard witness an awkward moment between Teddy and Owen in the triage tent, which makes Richard remember that the whole OR heard the now infamous voicemail of Teddy and Koracick having sex. Bailey assures him that it actually happened and the two laugh before heading inside the hospital.

Bailey explains that the East Wing has been converted into the COVID ward. The hospital currently has enough ventilators, but they are running out of PPE and need to reuse all PPE over and over. When they get to the main isolated COVID treatment area, Bailey explains that not every doctor is allowed in. Certain doctors have been assigned to the sickest of the COVID patients, and they are only allowed inside if they are in head-to-toe PPE. Naturally, the first doctor we see in this area is Meredith, who is incredibly frustrated. She acknowledges her visitors by shouting about how her patients are fine one hour then dead the next. Mer has just lost her fourth patient of the day and isn’t happy that everyone is dying alone. She then angrily welcomes Richard back before stomping off to help another patient.

The next stop on the tour is to the OR floor. The hospital is only allowing emergency surgeries, and Richard isn’t the only one that thinks it’s weird to see an empty OR schedule. Bailey brings a moment of levity when she shows Richard the hospital’s biggest acquisition: UV lamps that they are using to disinfect rooms in minutes. With the tour complete, Bailey tasks Richard with committing every word of the new safety manual to memory before he is allowed to treat patients. Of course, that gets derailed pretty quickly.

TURNING UP THE HEAT


Before we get to how Richard gets interrupted, we need to get to the backstory of the main medical cases of the episodes. The only purpose of the “crossover” with Station 19 was to introduce some victims of a car fire turned wildfire that were brought to Grey Sloan because their injuries were too severe to bring anywhere else. Other than that, the crossover was pretty lacking.

Owen gets the first patient from the ambulance and brings him into the ER. Jackson comes to help their teenage burn victim, who has deep head-to-toe burns. Jo shows up to provide an extra set of hands, and things are clearly still awkward between Jo and Jackson from their non-hookup.

Jackson and Jo take the kid to the OR, which leads into the flashback of their not-so-sexy encounter. Meanwhile, Schmitt has been assigned to another tent in the parking lot that is acting as an outdoor waiting room for the families of patients. The parents of two teens from the fire have shown up, and they are not getting along at all. Schmitt can’t control the situation and calls in Bailey for backup. Before she can get there, the mom of the kid with head-to-toe burns sneaks into the hospital to see her son. She peeks into Richard’s office, and Richard immediately hops up and asks her why she is in the hospital when they have a zero visitor policy. The mother tells him how worried she is about her son, and Richard actually agrees to help her. 

Even though Richard breaks protocol by allowing the mother in the hospital, this is such a Richard move. He once again showcases how caring he is by finding the son’s ICU room. The teen is out of surgery, but isn’t in great shape. Jackson is shocked to see the mother outside the room. Richard allows her to stay for a bit and even redeems himself by showing Bailey a fantastic solution to the hospital’s PPE supply problem. He draped everyone’s masks on racks and put the UV light on them so they can be safely disinfected without causing structural damage, which was a problem with the previously used antibacterial wipes. Bailey is incredibly moved by the idea but says that Richard has earned the right to stay home and stay safe, especially since he is high risk. Richard replies that he won’t find peace if he has to leave the hospital, which finally makes Bailey realize he’s not going anywhere.

At the same time, Jo checks up on Jackson and their burn patient. She decides to clear the air because she is mortified every time she is around him. Jackson knows Jo asked for a favor that she wasn’t ready for and says that they are all good. Bailey goes to check on the rising tensions in the waiting room tent and shows up in time to see the two fathers of the fire patients start fighting. One dad punches the other, who then falls on top of Bailey, spraining her ankle. A little while later, Jackson realizes his patient’s burns are even deeper than he first thought and needs to get back to the OR immediately. He pages the cardio team to the OR, as the burns are all the way through to the teen’s lungs. Teddy and Maggie show up to help but they unfortunately lose the patient during surgery.

START OF SOMETHING NEW


The beginning of the first episode reveals that Maggie and former colleague Winston, who she reunited with at last season’s medical conference in Los Angeles, are now in a long-distance relationship. They FaceTime several times a day, and the first of these calls that the audience gets to see startles Maggie. Winston is hurried off the call when he is paged into surgery and quickly blurts out an “I love you” before hanging up on a stunned Maggie. Of course, Jackson overhears the conversation and playfully taunts her about it being a bit too soon for that phrase. A little while later, Winston calls back and explains that he was telling a colleague that he loved them as a morale boost. Apparently this is something that the staff at his hospital in Boston does. Maggie is relieved and admits that she was only a little freaked out, so all is well again. The relationship then gets put on the backburner until the end of the second episode when Winston buys a tent and has Link set it up in the backyard of the house, that way Maggie can see and stay with her family safely. We are all counting down the days until Winston shows up in Seattle!

The second episode has Maggie working with Catherine for the day. The pair has taken over a conference room to work on finding the money for more PPE and where to get said PPE, as everything is in such short supply. Catherine gets frustrated immediately and starts yelling about how much she hates the state of the world and how much PPE costs. Maggie joins in, and they both talk about how much they hate not being able to save people. Catherine ends their stress relief session by saying that she hates that her husband hasn’t come back to her, and Maggie seconds that thought. 

Koracick and Teddy are thrilled to get a massive shipment of PPE outside. Koracick has roped off the boxes and asks the staff to protect them. Teddy is so excited about the shipment that she suggests they rip open all the boxes and start handing out new masks inside the hospital like Santa Claus. As the boxes are opened, everyone quickly realizes that all the boxes only contain booties for the OR and nothing else that Koracick ordered. They now have $100,000 of booties and not the masks, gowns, and gloves that they desperately need. Koracick gets so upset that he smashes the boxes with a golf club before breaking down in tears. Things are so bad for Koracick that he actually asks Richard if he is on good enough terms with Catherine that he can take credit for the UV lamp disinfectant mask idea just to get a win. Richard naturally won’t let Koracick take credit for his idea, so Koracick opts for hiding from Catherine instead.

Catherine and Bailey then discuss Koracick’s $100,000 blunder and are interrupted by Maggie, who has found the courage to speak her mind. Maggie exclaims that she understands that Richard humiliated Catherine by throwing her out after his hip surgery and that she humiliated him by allowing Bailey to fire him. She practically begs Catherine to be the bigger person, make up with Richard, and let him help her with the hospital situation. Catherine gets the message loud and clear and pages both Koracick and Richard to the conference room. She has decided that Koracick needs to resign as chief of chiefs and that he will be allowed to stay on as a neurosurgery attending at Grey Sloan. Koracick would rather find another hospital to work at, but Catherine says his reputation is shot and essentially blackmails him into staying. He angrily leaves the room but agrees to stay. Catherine immediately offers Koracick’s job to Richard, who is a bit surprised. Then Catherine actually apologizes for everything she has done to hurt Richard. A shocked Richard accepts the job, takes his rightful place in running Grey Sloan Memorial again, and reconciles with Catherine.

THE HARD TRUTH


It’s finally time to discuss what is going on in the rockiest relationship on the show: Owen and Teddy. Their season premiere plot is a bit easier to talk about in the order it happens, so let’s dig in. Things unfold when Teddy and Owen are waiting in the ambulance bay for an impaled teenager from the car fire/wildfire incident. It’s apparent that they have barely spoken since what was supposed to be their wedding day. Owen would finally like to talk to Teddy after work if possible and, with a smile on her face, she says that she wants that. As the ambulance arrives, we see a flashback to the day after their non-wedding. Teddy finds Owen in the hospital and he lies to her about getting called into an emergency surgery the night before. He tries to avoid the topic by mentioning Link and Amelia’s baby, but Teddy isn’t interested in changing topics. She wants to know if the wedding is off, and Owen assures her that it is just delayed and that he doesn’t want to cancel the wedding. It is amazing Teddy can’t see the word “liar” written on his forehead.

A little later in the present, Teddy finds Owen taking a break outside and asks to talk. Owen says he hasn’t had much time to think lately, but when he does, he thinks about their future. He has looked over his medical directives and will and realized that they haven’t made a plan for what to do with Leo in the event that Owen dies. If Teddy isn’t willing to take care of Leo, then Owen wants to know if she would agree to Amelia and Link. Teddy doesn’t want to split up Allison and Leo. She’s also not okay with the idea of Owen dying, but she’s paged to the OR for the ill-fated burned teenager’s surgery, so the conversation is put on hold.

Before we can hear the rest of that conversation, the flashback we have all been waiting for happens. After a surgery, Teddy asks Owen what is wrong and what’s been going on. He denies that anything is wrong and asks her if there’s anything that she isn’t telling him. Owen lays it on thick by saying that he loves Teddy, trusts her, and reaffirms that she is his best friend. He corners her by saying, “If there’s something you need to tell me, now is the time.” Unfortunately, Teddy doesn’t know that Owen knows about her rendezvous with Koracick, so she says she’s not hiding anything. Owen pulls out his phone and plays the voicemail in full to a stunned Teddy. As she sobs, Owen says, “So much for love. So much for friendship. So much for trust. So much for us.” He storms out without another word, leaving Teddy to cry and reflect on her own.

Teddy is hanging out in a lounge after losing the burned teen and is joined by Jo. Teddy is thinking about Owen and feels that everyone in the hospital is on Owen’s side. In fairness, Teddy needs to realize that it makes sense that everyone is supporting Owen. Jo gives her some tough love about blowing up her life and how humiliating the whole ordeal has been for Owen. Teddy tells Jo that she tried to sabotage her own happiness because she doesn’t know how to be happy and that what she did is unbearable. Jo consoles Teddy and says that she needs to try hard to tell Owen that and make him understand how sorry she is. 

After work, Teddy approaches Owen, who is not in the mood to hear her apologize. She tries to get everything out at once and says a jumbled mess about how much she loves Owen, how sorry she is, that she will do anything to fix them, and that she doesn’t want to lose their family. Owen asks her what he did to make her hate him so much that she cheated on him because he can’t figure it out. Teddy replies that she made a stupid mistake and that’s all it was. In a really great move, Owen then brings up the fact that Teddy never says that she didn’t want to run away with Koracick in the voicemail. Owen has listened to the tape almost 100 times, and Teddy never said no to Koracick’s idea. Teddy doesn’t know how to reply, so she repeats that she wants to be with Owen and loves him and their family. He says he can’t do this, gets in his car, and drives away. It doesn’t seem like there’s much hope for these two, but I’m sure this will continue to play out in epic fashion.

YOU CAN'T FIX THE UNFIXABLE


Meredith’s story of the two-episode premiere isn’t always at the forefront, but it turns out to be the most important in terms of setting up the rest of the season. The first scene of the first episode shows Meredith alone on a beach. It seems out of place until the final seconds of the second episode, but more on that later. In the present, Meredith spends every minute of every day fighting COVID, and she isn’t handling the stress very well. She has Schmitt running point in the waiting room tent, which means he has to give the bad news to all the families. Like the good doctor she is, Meredith even gets some of the loved ones to call to say goodbye right before the patient dies. In between patients, she texts DeLuca to see how he’s doing, and we see DeLuca passed out on a couch with at least 70 missed calls on his phone. 

As the pressure of the pandemic mounts, Meredith goes into a supply closet, breaks down, and throws a bunch of supplies around to let off some steam. The door opens and in walks DeLuca wearing dark blue scrubs. Turns out that DeLuca has been promoted to attending somewhere in the last three weeks, but this doesn’t get mentioned at all in either episode. What’s even odder is the fact that less than three weeks ago, DeLuca was having a breakdown and is now doing great, is seeing a therapist, has gotten a promotion, and is working with COVID patients. This news is enough to make anyone’s head spin, especially since it goes unexplained. Mer wants to know where DeLuca was, and he explains that he was sleeping at home. He asks how the patients are doing, and Mer says that everyone has died. DeLuca apologizes for not being there. Who is this new DeLuca?! Mer is glad that DeLuca is okay and reminds him that he needs to make sure people know where he is at all times.

Over in the waiting room tent, Nico finds Schmitt, who hopes his ex is doing okay. Schmitt tells Nico how he has had to tell 100 families that their loved one is dead and that he isn’t doing well with his new role. He still cares about Nico and thought he might want to know how he’s doing, but Nico is ice cold and says he’s fine before walking away. We then see Mer and Jackson taking a break outside to get some air. She is jealous that he got some OR time, which she hasn’t had in two weeks since she is only running COVID codes. Jackson explains surgery wasn’t much fun since it was 98 degrees in the room and he had to be in full PPE. He leaves, and Mer sees Hayes sleeping against the side of the building. She decides to wake him up and sees that his mask is falling apart. Hayes swapped his perfect mask with a nurse earlier in the day. If this doesn’t prove that this man is perfect, then I don’t know what will. He goes back inside and leaves Mer by herself.

Later on, Mer gets paged by Hayes to scrub in for surgery for the impaled kid from the wildfire. Mer is giddy to get back into surgery and save the impaled kidney that Hayes had transplanted only weeks earlier. They both look happy to have some time together, and the chemistry in the OR is effortless. Mer has apparently been reciting surgical steps while getting into her PPE each day because she’s claustrophobic. I don’t recall Mer ever being claustrophobic, so maybe this is a pandemic thing? The two surgeons have a nice chat until things start to go south. Though they had to remove part of the transplanted kidney, they manage to save their patient and he will make a full recovery.

At the end of the night, Mer falls asleep sitting up at a nurse’s station and misses a text from Hayes asking if she wants to meet him in his office for a drink. Right after the text arrives, Mer is woken up by DeLuca, who tags her out for the night. Mer wants to stay but DeLuca tells her that she needs to take care of herself and let him take care of the patients. She agrees to go home. This new and improved DeLuca is amazing, and I have a bad feeling things might come crashing back down for him. Elsewhere, Nico finds a frosty Schmitt in a supply closet. Nico knows he was a terrible boyfriend and proposes that they become sex buddies for stress relief. Schmitt is taken back, and they start their new arrangement in the supply closet.

Mer didn’t see Hayes’ text, so their long-awaited drink will have to wait for another day. Hayes leaves the hospital for the night and sees someone lying in the parking lot. He runs over and finds Meredith passed out, unresponsive. Hayes shouts for help and switches into emergency mode. This development isn’t even the most shocking thing to happen. In the final seconds, we return to Meredith on the beach, and it is now clear that we are seeing another one of Meredith’s near-death dream states. She faintly hears someone calling her name, and the camera pans down the beach to show Derek standing on the beach waving at her. Meredith and the audience are equally stunned to see the return of Derek. Of course, this is where the episode abruptly ends but the teaser for the third episode shows that Derek will be back and will talk to Meredith. 

Just like the rest of the world, I am absolutely shocked that Patrick Dempsey agreed to come back and that ABC managed to keep his appearance a secret. The happiness we all feel about his return is a little bittersweet given that Meredith isn’t in good condition, but Grey’s Anatomy has always been at its best when Meredith is on the brink of death. This situation harkens back to the season three arc of Meredith drowning, being dead for a bit, and seeing dead friends in her dream-like state. No matter what happens next, the third episode is poised to be excellent.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Jenn's Pick: 5 Reasons You Should Be Watching Julie and the Phantoms [Contributor: Jenn]

When you think back on 2020, you probably don’t remember much fondly. It’s hard to recall January, when we were all hopeful and naïve about what the year would bring. And since the beginning of the year, so much media has come out that you might find yourself paralyzed by what to watch. If you’re anything like me, starting a new show in a dumpster fire year may feel daunting. You’ve likely returned over and over again to shows that bring you comfort, choosing to wrap yourself up in their predictability rather than risk watching something new.

While I highly recommend a lot of new shows this year (such as I May Destroy You, Lovecraft Country, Ted Lasso, Never Have I Ever, Little Fires Everywhere, etc.), the one I’m going to focus on is easy to miss because it’s branded as a teen show — Julie and the Phantoms.

You may have seen the trailer and thought, “There’s no way a show about teenagers in 2020 is good.” It is, and you don’t need to be a teenager to appreciate or engage with the content. But the series is more than just good: it’s a hopeful, sweet, endearing piece of media that we need to end this year.

It deals with relevant subject matter in thoughtful ways.

Since Julie and the Phantoms is branded with a teenage audience in mind and its central character, Julie Molina (Madison Reyes), is a high-school student, we see a lot of her life through that lens. Apart from boy drama and high-school classes, the majority of the show’s subject matter centers around the idea of grief and healing.

Julie’s a talented singer and songwriter but when we meet her in the pilot, “Wake Up,” she’s stopped playing music after the death of her mother. She’s on the verge of getting kicked out of her school’s music program because she still can’t play without getting emotional. The fact that grief paralyzes us in various ways is something critical for a younger generation to understand. Grief doesn’t always look like crying (though Julie and other characters express grief in that way too); sometimes grief looks like numbness. Julie lets the thing she loves slip away because the person she loved is gone.

But then three ghosts are introduced into Julie’s life and she begins to play again; soon she’s not just living to get through each day — she’s coming alive again. Grief and healing are really tricky subjects for any of us to navigate because no two people handle pain the exact same way. We see Julie break down, but we also see her happy. We see her talk about getting counseling after the death of her mother, and I think that’s a really important thing for everyone to hear: seeking professional help is okay when dealing with a loss. And it’s okay no matter if you’re struggling with loss or not.

One of the ghosts, Alex (Owen Joyner) talks about how he struggles with anxiety, which is also something really important to see represented on television. He visibly fidgets, panics, and also learns how to cope with his feelings in healthy, productive ways.

Emotions are an integral part of who we are, and it’s important that we learn how to process and deal with them in helpful ways. I’m glad that Julie and the Phantoms doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff and instead embraces it.

Serotonin-boosting media is a necessity for 2020.

Julie and the Phantoms will just make you feel good (I’d bring tissues for “Unsaid Emily” though, just a fair warning), and in this really difficult year, it’s important for us to remind ourselves of hope and joy. The stories in the nine episodes — yes, it’s only nine episodes so you’ll be done with this pretty quickly — are funny, heartwarming, and lead to some lovely character growth.

The fact that Julie is the only person who can see the ghost guys when they’re not performing leads to some early-on hilarity and panic. The boys have their own senses of humor and quirks. And the fact that they died in 1995 means that they missed a lot — leading to one of the funniest exchanges where Reggie (Jeremy Shada) learns that they made way more Star Wars movies than he’s comfortable learning about.

If you need something that will fill you with joy, silly and sometimes cheesy humor, genuinely heartwarming moments, and character growth... this might be the show for you.

The entire cast is adorable, endearing, and incredibly talented.

I talked about her briefly above, but there would be no Julie and the Phantoms without Julie herself, played by newcomer Madison Reyes. When I tell you that this girl knocks it out of the park for being so young, I mean it. The characters tell her that she’s a star, but she really is. What impresses me most about Madison is the amount of space she occupies for being so young — she fills absolutely every scene she’s in. She owns the stage when she steps onto it. There’s nothing about her that shrinks back; she is the lead of this show and her presence is absolutely lovely.

Julie’s ghost band is absolutely wonderful too. And the reason why Julie and the Phantoms as a band have so much chemistry is because they truly were cast as a band. When you watch the behind-the-scenes process, you witness the chemistry unfolding. They were put through the wringer — not just being asked to play and sing together, but doing improv and acting together. The band boot camp truly brought this group together, because the show wouldn’t work if it didn’t feel true and earned.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the boys. Charlie Gillespie who plays Luke Patterson, the lead singer of the band, is immensely talented. I was consistently fascinated by him as an actor throughout the series but never more so than in “Unsaid Emily.” Not only does he absolutely bring the “lead singer of a 90s band” vibe fully to life, but he also has the ability to communicate Luke’s own softness, grief, and regrets clearly on screen. When he cries, I cry. 

Not only that, but Charlie has the whole “leading man in a rom-com” thing down already for only being 22. You just feel things when Luke looks at Julie. And it’s clear that he understands his character, can communicate the complex emotions of romantic longing and sadness and pride all without missing a beat... or a note. I’m just ready for his career to take off as much as Zac Efron’s did post-High School Musical. He deserves every good thing, and his chemistry with everyone — a wonderful in-show joke — is off the charts, but his gentle understanding of Luke and Julie’s relationship makes the show so watchable.

Owen Joyner as Alex is just absolute perfection too. Alex is a bit anxious and the only one of the band who’s seeming to experience such complicated feelings about being dead. His relationship with Willie (Booboo Stewart) is so pure and sweet, but Owen’s ability to truly feel Alex’s pain, longing, anxiety, and joy is what makes him so wonderful to watch. He is sensitive while also still being grounded in reality. His comedic timing and sarcastic wit are absolute perfection (I relate hardest to his personality, let’s be real here), and it’s what makes Alex so special, relatable, and funny. He has a big and good heart, and he only wants the best for the people he loves.

Plus I dare you not to burst into the biggest grin when Owen Joyner joins the stage to dance during “All Eyes on Me.” I DARE you.

But I also have to mention, yet again, Jeremy Shada as Reggie. Because Luke and Alex have romantic interests in Julie and Willie respectively that are focal points of the first season, we often lose Reggie in the discourse about the Phantoms, but he’s an absolute delight. While not often the brightest, Reggie’s heart and earnestness are what make him so special. He cares a lot about others, and his vulnerability and willingness to just BE with others can often get overlooked. But it’s important that Reggie so sweet and concerned about others. His storyline with Julie’s dad, Ray (Carlos Ponce), is so wonderful and heartfelt. I love Reggie because his comedy is so silly but his heart is so big.

Rounding out the cast is the aforementioned Ray. Carlos Ponce doesn’t always have a lot to do in the show, but that’s okay: his acting is so great that we get the sense of who he is in the scenes between him and Julie; we understand who Ray is not only as a father (incredibly supportive, concerned and loving), but also as a person. He’s grieving the loss of his wife, and he visits the music studio often to talk with her. If the show is renewed for a season two, I need more of him and also Carlos (Sonny Bustamante), Julie’s younger brother. They are both so supportive and sweet.

Flynn (Jadah Marie) is Julie’s best friend and if you’ve ever had a friend who’s been with you since you were young, you’ll feel transported back to your high-school days with these two. From the moment she appears on screen, it’s evident that she and Julie have a supportive-but-also-make-fun-of-each-other bond; I know I was reminded of the fact that my best friend and I have known each other since we were about Julie and Flynn’s age!

Flynn is more than just a ride-or-die friend though; she’s part of the Molina family. Ray asks her to look out for Julie and to tell him if something seems off. She’s like the unofficial third Molina child, and I love that. Flynn tells Julie hard truths and helps before she’s even asked to help. That’s a best friend! Plus, Jadah Marie has such great comedic timing and facial expressions. I need more of her next season!

Most of the cast are virtual unknowns (pause, because I have to briefly mention the one cast member I knew going into the show: Cheyenne Jackson, who has a stellar voice and plays a fabulous villain). But it’s clear that these talented individuals are going places. And I can’t wait to point at my television or movie screens and say: “I knew them when they were in Julie and the Phantoms!” (And I swear, I will write Charlie Gillespie a leading role in a rom-com if Netflix pays me money to do so. This is just a shameless plug for you, Netflix. Hire me.)

The music is incredibly catchy and the choreography is lovely.

Whenever you see the name “Kenny Ortega” associated with a project, you can expect quality and that’s exactly what you get in Julie and the Phantoms. Not only is the choreography so great because of its homages to his past projects like High School Musical, Dirty Dancing, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it’s just all genuinely realistic. Everything about the musical performances in the show feels so natural. I also think it’s incredibly important that Kenny Ortega is part of this project because his history with younger actors proves that he doesn’t see their inexperience when he looks at their performance — he sees potential.

Charlie Gillespie and Madison Reyes actually wrote one of the songs in the show, “Perfect Harmony,” for their characters during their down-time on set. Kenny is an incredibly seasoned director and a number of other directors might have said and/or thought: “Cute... but stay in your lane, kids” but Kenny didn’t; he put the song in the show. He encourages his actors to understand their characters, to improvise, to learn and grow and to not be afraid of that.

How do I know that? You can see that spirit shine in the final product of the show. It seems clear that the atmosphere behind-the-scenes was collaborative and supportive — an important space to help younger actors, and seasoned ones alike, thrive.

I dare you to watch/listen to “Edge of Great” without immediately bouncing in your seat. I adore “Wow,” which is performed by Dirty Candy in the show, a teenage band fronted by Carrie (Savannah May), former friend-turned-enemy of Julie and Flynn. That band’s songs feel so Katy Perry-esque, but the show never sets up Dirty Candy vs. Julie and the Phantoms to be an argument of which is the better genre: it just points out that both are valid musical genres, and both can be celebrated!

I doubt you can listen to “Unsaid Emily” without crying, I hope you all experience the joy of rocking out to “Now or Never,” and feel all the emotions well up inside of you during “Stand Tall.”

Representation matters.

In the behind-the-scenes video that Netflix did when the actors were in the casting process, Madison Reyes mentioned that the role models she had to look up to were usually all Caucasian. I know we’ve heard that before, but keep in mind that Madison is only 16 years old — that in the past decade or so, we still haven’t really progressed to the point where teenagers now can remember a time they saw themselves represented on film or television.

Julie Molina and Madison Reyes are proudly Puerto Rican, and that matters. It matters for young women who will see Julie — the lead singer of a band — and recognize themselves. The world of Julie and the Phantoms feels very much like it’s representing the world today. There are characters of color and it’s normal. There’s LGBTQ+ representation (and among POC too!), and it’s normalized. Alex’s storyline, for the most part, is a joyful one; it’s a chance for queer kids to see that happiness is possible (and yes, shh, I know both Alex and Willie are technically ghosts but it is still important). 

It’s important for people to be able to see themselves in the media they consume, and it’s extremely important for them to see the world they live in reflected in television and film. The world isn’t filled with only Caucasian people or straight people or upper-class people. It’s filled with all kinds of people from all backgrounds, and I love that Julie and the Phantoms is making a conscious effort to reflect that.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to head over to Netflix after you’ve finished reading this to watch Julie and the Phantoms. And Netflix... where’s that season two renewal? Until then, I’ll be bopping along to the songs from this charming show. Sound off in the comments below if you’ve watched the series and let me know your thoughts!

Sunday, August 30, 2020

TV Characters Who Brought Me Joy in This Dumpster Year [Contributor: Jenn]

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2020 has been a nightmare. 

It’s hard to say it any other way than that because it’s true. Between a global pandemic and continued rampant racism (as well as presidential narcissism and incompetence), it might be difficult for you to see anything positive in the last few months. And I totally get that. But while quarantine has afforded me some new normals I never really wanted, it’s also given me a new appreciation for well-written television. What else were we going to do inside for all this time, after all? 

So hopefully to cheer you up, here are a few television characters, pairings, and families who have made this dumpster year a bit more bearable. I ended up choosing shows that were new or currently airing between 2019 and 2020, but just know that essentially anyone from New Girl, Community, Parks and Recreation, and The Office also are included in this list.

Ted Lasso (Ted Lasso)

I first heard about Ted Lasso while listening to “Fake Doctors, Real Friends.” When I decided to start watching it, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would Ted be presented as a Michael Scott-esque character: often offensive and incompetent at his job, but with a heart of gold? As it turns out, Ted Lasso — the character — is not that at all. The plot of the show is this: Ted, an American football coach, is recruited to coach an English football (American soccer) team that’s been struggling for years. Ted has no experience with soccer and he’s seen as a joke when he arrives in England.

But Ted is not deterred. He’s an optimistic, kind, generous person who sees the team’s overlooked “kit boy” from the team as just as important as the team’s star player. Jason Sudeikis plays Ted with such a sweet earnestness that it’s so easy to root for him. Honestly as a show overall, Ted Lasso is the kind of comedy we need this year. It was developed in part by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougartown) so you know that it’ll contain the right balance of silliness and heart. Watch this show on Apple TV when you can. You truly won’t regret it. You’ll be rooting for Ted Lasso in no time.

Poppy Li (Mythic Quest)

Speaking of Apple TV, if you haven’t yet watched Mythic Quest, I’ve already explained in detail why you need to (but most of the reasoning is that Megan Ganz is a co-showrunner). And one of the primary reasons is how absolutely delightful Poppy Li is as one of the show’s main characters. She’s smart, passionate, and cares deeply for the people she works with. She’s not afraid to stand up to Ian and make her value known, and it pays off in spades throughout the series. 

I love how Poppy learns to be vulnerable throughout the course of her character arc as well. She’s in a field that’s dominated by men but she doesn’t let that stop her from pushing her ideas and voice through. And she’s a genuinely compassionate and empathetic person. I love Poppy. Please watch Mythic Quest so you can love her too.

Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

In the first, but not last, of the pairings on this list, I chose Jake and Amy from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. These two gave me so much joy this year separately, but they gave me the most joy when they were together this season. Over the years, Jake and Amy have grown as individual characters. But few things are more satisfying to me on television than seeing writers allow couples to grow and change as well. This season introduced us to Jake and Amy as a couple trying to have a baby. The way the show dealt with their storyline of struggling to conceive and then finally having their baby was so heartwarming and sweet. It’s incredible to see how Jake has evolved from a lax, careless cop into a mature (but still silly), loving husband and father. Amy’s progress has been impressive too, not just because of her development into a mother but also because of her career advance.

These two brought so much joy into a rather bleak year, and when the show returns again (hopefully sometime in 2021 as we’ve heard recently) I can’t wait to see these two grow even more.

Darby Carter (Love Life)

Darby was such an interesting character in Love Life. While I struggled to connect with the HBO Max show in the beginning, once it found its footing it truly picked up steam thanks to Anna Kendrick’s impressive comedic and dramatic performances. The reason that Darby added some light to my life is because she was believable, and I genuinely rooted for her to find love — not just romantic love, but a deep self-love too. We watch her journey unfold over time and as she makes mistakes, struggles in her career highs and lows, and tries to find “the one,” we get to see more and more of who she was as a child and how that informed who she became as an adult.

Love Life is a good show for you to binge during quarantine if you haven’t already, and Anna Kendrick is so magnetic as an actress that it’s hard not to get invested in Darby Carter’s quest to find love.

Klaus and Allison Hargreeves (The Umbrella Academy)

It had been so long since the first season of The Umbrella Academy that I actually needed the plot recap when I watched season two. And honestly, I think I enjoyed the second season more than the first. Even though the Hargreeves siblings are split up in the beginning of the second season, their individual arcs are compelling enough to make you invested — especially Allison’s. I loved Allison in the first season (Emmy Raver-Lampman is just so good at playing a woman whose success and superiority are ways to mask some deep trauma) and this season gave her some deep and dramatic work as Allison finds herself in a very segregated 1960s Dallas, Texas. There’s a ferocity to Allison that gets muted — literally, since Vanya injured her in the first season — for a time in season two, but when she finds her voice, the audience gets the chance to watch her soar. And I love that Allison gets a non-Luther love interest too.

Additionally, Klaus was probably the highlight of season one for me (his comedy definitely balances out the occasionally campy and/or bleak moments in the show), and he doesn’t disappoint in this season either. Not only is he totally, unrelentingly Klaus in season two (he starts a cult, because of course he does) but he also has some great, heartbreaking moments when he tries to save the guy he loves from enlisting in the Army. And he and Allison have an incredibly heartwarming reunion and bond throughout season two, making them my two favorite Hargreeves.

The Pogues (Outer Banks)

When my roommate told me that I should watch Outer Banks because it got bonkers and nearly every episode ended on a cliffhanger, I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect. And then I watched the show and found out that she was 100% correct in her assessment. The show IS a wild ride from start to finish, and I found myself on the edge of my seat. What truly is compelling though and makes the show work are its characters. This “found family” of outcast kids calls themselves “The Pogues”: John B. is the leader, JJ is the young man with a really traumatic and abusive relationship with his dad, Kiara’s family comes from wealth but she rejects it, and Pope is incredibly smart and torn between doing right by his friends and doing well in the world. The chemistry between them as friends and the way that they support each other and love one another so deeply is absolutely beautiful.

I love these kids. And I’m so excited to see them thrive in season two.

Courntey Whitmore (Stargirl)

I gave up on superhero shows a long time ago, but when I discovered that Joel McHale was going to be in a new show on The CW, I decided that I needed to check it out. And I found myself absolutely delighted by the new superhero, Stargirl. One of the hardest things to deal with when watching superhero shows is the whole “brooding vigilante” stereotype. These are typically grown, adult men who keep pushing away the people they love in order to protect them and ultimately end up sulking when things go wrong. 

The good thing about Stargirl as a show and Courtney as a character is that she’s a teenager. Her actions become a little bit easier to justify — after all, we wouldn’t expect her to act the same way an adult would. Still, what makes Courtney such a joy is that she’s genuinely compassionate, kind, and empathetic. She isn’t a jaded adult yet and believes that the world is able to be saved. She’s been through a lot in her life already but she hasn’t let that make her cold.

She’s such a fun, lively character and I can’t wait to see her grow.

The Child (The Mandalorian)

Baby Yoda is life. Honestly I can’t even say more than that, but I will. The Mandalorian is an incredible, engaging show but The Child is one of its highlights. His cuteness alone brought us all so much joy this year, but his special powers and abilities as well as the way that he brings other characters together continues to put a smile on my face.

There’s not much more I can say apart from the fact that Baby Yoda united us all this past year, and I love it.

Blair and Sterling (Teenage Bounty Hunters)

I wasn’t sure what to think about Teenage Bounty Hunters when I watched the trailer. And then I watched the show itself and was immediately charmed by the relationship between twin sisters, Blair and Sterling. They’re each so different: Blair has a darker and sarcastic sense of humor (she’s the rebel) while Sterling is the titular rule-following Christian sister, sweet and unsuspecting. But these two are so much more than their stereotypes.

The show itself is laugh-out-loud funny and often paired with some darker storylines as well as twists and turns. But Blair and Sterling’s relationship is by far the highlight of the series. They can read each other's minds — in a storytelling device that works so well on many levels — and are each other’s confidante. Of course, because this is a show about teenagers and their secrets, you know that Blair and Sterling’s relationship will be put to the test. And it is.

Teenage Bounty Hunters is a really fun binge and I highly recommend that you check it out. Come for Blair and Sterling’s relationship and stay for the wild twists and turns!

Issa (Insecure)

I spent a portion of 2020 binge-watching Insecure, and Issa Rae is a comedic genius. Her character, also named Issa, has grown so much over the years on the show and her growth specifically this season was really great (even if her friendship with Molly hit an incredibly rough patch). I love that Issa talks to herself and that her mirror-self responds. I love that she struggles but picks herself up. I love that she makes mistakes but ultimately owns up to them. She brings me immense joy and I can’t wait to see more of her growth in the next season.

Shawn, Jules, Gus, and Lassie (Psych 2: Lassie Come Home)

I’m so grateful that 2020 brought the Santa Barbara gang back into our lives. Psych 2: Lassie Come Home was such a joy from start to finish, and it was a pleasure to see Timothy Omundson back on my screen specifically. Whenever Psych returns — whether in the movie or its sequel — it feels like no time has passed at all. Not only was this sequel a return to the capers and silliness that colors Psych as a franchise, but it was also a joy to watch the characters grow and step into the next chapters of their lives. Shawn and Gus have grown up so much, especially in this movie, and all of the callback jokes and silly meta references

I feel like whenever I see these characters, they become better versions of themselves, while still enjoying the same jokes and bits they’ve done for 10+ years. Honestly, I’d be happy to watch five more movies about these characters. And I hope they create them!

Graham, Sophie, Emma and Amy, and Rory (Single Parents)

I am still not over the fact that this year cancelled Single Parents. This ABC gem focused on single parents raising their children in a “found family” group of friends. Not only did the show have an array of talented adults, but it had such a great cast of kid actors. And those kids brought me so much joy this past year. They each had their own comedic quirks and tics, and were genuinely as talented as their adult counterparts. It makes me sad to know that Single Parents won’t be around for us to see what happens to the kids, to Will and Angie, to Miggy, and to Douglas and Poppy. But I’m grateful that these charming, fun, sweet kids were part of our lives for the two seasons of Single Parents.

Arabella and Terry (I May Destroy You)

I May Destroy You is one of the most compelling new shows of 2020. It unfortunately wasn’t eligible for awards this season but I have no doubt it’ll be nominated for so many in 2021. Arabella and Terry’s friendship is so pure, even in its complexities. They are truly there for each other through thick and thin, and their mantra (“Your birth is my birth; your death is my death”) is so pure and powerful. I May Destroy You contains so much heaviness and dark material that it can be often difficult to watch, especially when it comes to sexual assault. But Arabella and Terry’s friendship is one of the things that grounds the show and provides levity and emotional heart to the hard stuff. If you haven’t checked it out, you truly need to.

Alexis Rose (Schitt’s Creek)

I could honestly choose any of the Schitt’s Creek characters for this category, but I specifically wanted to highlight Alexis Rose. She had some of the actual best character growth in the series, from a selfish, spoiled rich girl to a self-possessed and sacrificial true entrepreneur. I’m so proud of all she accomplished and the hard choices she made to get there. Her relationship with David grew so much as the show went on, and it was absolutely heartwarming to see them truly learn to love each other as siblings.

Alexis Rose may just be one of the fictional lights of my life. She’s hilarious (I dare you not to laugh at “A Little Bit Alexis”), charming, fun, and there are moments in the final season that legitimately broke my heart. But I’m so proud of her and I hope that Schitt’s Creek also brought you joy in this dumpster fire year.

The Kims (Kim’s Convenience)

I couldn’t choose just one member of the Kim family from Kim’s Convenience to highlight, so I want to mention all of them. If you haven’t yet binge-watched this show on Netflix, I highly recommend you do so immediately. Just like another Canadian show, Schitt’s Creek, Kim’s Convenience focuses its comedy on a family and their lives and dysfunction. Appa and Umma are incredibly sweet, endearing, quirky and the wonderful heads of this family. Janet is the daughter who’s just trying to figure out what she’s doing with her life and I love that she has such a close relationship to her parents (also helped by the fact that she works at the convenience store). Jung is the outcast son of the family, but it’s so wonderful to see his growth and how the family begins to repair itself throughout the seasons.

The comedy and joy in the show comes from so many ordinary, fun, recurring jokes and side characters. It’s legitimately heartwarming and made me a little emotional to see the character growth in each of the Kims. Please watch this charming comedy.

Who were some of the characters who brought you joy in 2020? Sound off in the comments below!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Blindspot 5x11 Review: "Iunne Ennui" (Ambiguity) [Contributor: Jen]


"Iunne Ennui"
Original Airdate: July 23, 2020

Blindspot's
series finale "Iunne Ennui" delivers a predictable but nostalgic walk down memory lane (pun intended). At least until the very end. Jane's story concludes with a shocking, yet frustrating, curveball which sours the last episode for this viewer.  Get comfortable because we have a lot to discuss.

WHAT I LOVED


I am changing up the format, since there is a clear delineation between good and bad for me. Let's begin with the things I enjoyed since I am a glass half full kind of girl.

Jane awakes from her zipping and surprise, surprise: her memory is intact. Patterson administered the antidote she keeps on hand. However, Jane has developed a tolerance for the cure because she's been zipped so much. I appreciate the wink and nod moment from the writers. Even they know this particular plotline has been overused.

That said, Zip is the perfect way to conclude the series because: a) it was the reason Jane lost all her memories, and b) it allows the writers to bring back a slew of guest stars. The series already established hallucinations are a symptom of Zip poisoning. Since Patterson's cure is not working, Jane hallucinates a full cast of characters from past episodes as she struggles to figure out where Ivy has placed the final Zip bombs.

Oh yeah, there are some Zip bombs the team has missed. Oops! However, they are not FBI agents anymore. The new director offers them full immunity but they can never work for a government agency again. This is an incredibly fair deal. Let's not forget that Team Blindspot has committed an innumerable amount of shady deeds. Some were flat-out criminal. So the loss of employment at the FBI is their comeuppance.


Their freedom is their reward for always putting the country first. Team Blindspot are heroes. They've done far more good than bad. Is it honestly so terrible they can no longer work for the government? Pfft. No. Their jobs destroyed their lives many times. Now they can be whatever they want without the pressure of saving New York City every week. I say it's time for the Bahamas!


Jane says: "Well, Allie and Bethany are finally back in Colorado. We could go there and work on growing our little family," to which Kurt replies: "That doesn't sound like work to me."

YES, KURT AND JANE. LIVE IN COLORADO AND GIVE ME ALL THE BABIES.


They aren't the only ones dreaming of their futures either. Rich asks Patterson to join him in a treasure hunt to find a hidden/missing device that turns lead into gold. Rich Dotcom and Patterson traveling the world solving puzzles? Yes, please give me this show.

Unfortunately, they have to stop Ivy first. Kurt insists they are the only team who has the knowledge to stop her and insists the new director put them back in the field one last time. Sigh. Kurt Weller, why do you have to be so Kurt Weller all the time? The bags were packed. Tickets were purchased. The champagne was ready. The beach awaited. Then a life in Colorado. You frustrate me, sir.

In an interesting twist, Jane's hallucinations seem to be guiding her to where Ivy has hid the bomb. I love that it is primarily all the villains Jane has stopped over the years who are helping her stop Blindspot's final villain.
Roman: Your new boss, your team... they don't know what it's like to be zipped. We do. We need to fix this. Since when do you sit on the sidelines waiting for permission? You're Alice Kruger, Remi Briggs, Jane Doe. You're the only one who can stop them. You're always the only one.
I won't go through every return guest star, but my favorite was Roman.


I've made no secret about loving his character over the years. Luke Mitchell is a gift to acting and he made innumerable contributions to Blindspot bringing Roman Briggs to life. Frankly, I'd be anxiously waiting for a spin-off if they hadn't killed him.
Reade: No matter what those other guys say, me dying wasn't your fault.
Reade and Jane were never the best of friends and he's a lot nicer to her in this hallucination than he was for most of the show. However, a lot of what Jane is stressing about these final episodes is being a force of destruction in people's lives no matter who she is. The missing piece of the Blindspot family puzzle returns to give Jane much needed reassurance.

The appearance of Reade is extremely important because up until this point Jane has only been hallucinating bad guys. It's pretty tough to trust a hallucination and homicidal maniacs. Jane's hesitation is understandable, but Reade tells her to trust her instincts.

The hallucinations aren't all doom and gloom either. The Blindspot writers have some fun with it as Jane sees four couples getting married.




Roman/Blake, Patterson/David, and Reade/Zapata fulfill my wistful desire for happier endings for these couples. (Also, hello Martin Gero! He's officiating Patterson and David's wedding.) But what the heck? Tasha and Patterson? Did I miss a ship all these years? You guys gotta tell me this stuff. 

The Zip is poisoning Jane and it will kill her if she doesn't get a higher dose of Patterson's antidote. It is when she hallucinates Borden that Jane makes a critical, and potentially deadly, decision. She needs the hallucinations to find Ivy's bomb location, so she stops taking the antidote.

Jane's hallucination with Borden dives into the philosophical questions Blindspot has examined the past five years. This is an aspect of the show I've always enjoyed. What is the essence of morality? What makes someone good or bad? Borden debates with Jane over who the real terrorist is — the United States or Sandstorm.
Borden: The U.S. government almost killed you in an unlawful drone attack. I saved you — a decision which ended up getting my wife killed. We both agreed something drastic needed to be done, that real change needed to be made.
Jane: You mean vengeance carried out.

Borden: That was never the central tenet. People got hurt, yes. But that was merely a byproduct. Our methods were severe, but our goals were just.
Uhh... hold up. I reject the notion that real change can only be brought about by violence. I also believe Borden is rewriting history here. Sandstorm's violence was not merely a byproduct. Sandstorm made the violence, death, and destruction happen. You cannot argue that violence is the only method for real change and then pretend the violent consequences just happen. Roman said: "There are no bad guys, no good guys. Just different perspectives."

Were there corrupt people at the FBI and other government agencies? You bet. Did a bunch of people have to die so the corrupt would lose their jobs? No. There are plenty of other ways to fix that problem that doesn't require violence. Sandstorm doesn't get to subvert the rule of the people by blowing up the democratically elected administration with a rocket and replace it with people Shepherd hand picked. So how about we don't rationalize terrorism, Borden? Cool? Cool.
Crawford: How many people have you killed in the name of justice? A badge doesn't make your actions moral. It just makes them legal.
All right, I concede that's a really good line. And Hank Crawford is right: wearing a badge doesn't magically make someone a moral person. These government agencies hold a great deal of power and require rigorous oversight. We should always question those in power because people are imperfect. They make mistakes. Even worse — evil finds its way into jobs with authority all the time and those people use their authority to do evil things to others.

Borden said: "We need to stop demonizing our adversaries. If we listen to them perhaps we can learn from them." However, we don't have to do bad things to stop bad people. This is where Borden and I agree. The demonization needs to stop. Talking and, in particular listening, is one of the best ways to enact change. Sandstorm had a valid point. There was corruption in the government. They simply went about solving it the wrong way. People often choose violence when they feel unheard. It doesn't make the violence okay, but the path is clear for how to avoid it. We need to hear people even if we disagree with them.

We can also achieve justice by toeing a moral line and following the laws and ideals of this country. Simply because so many in the United States fail to uphold our laws and ideals doesn't mean they are without merit and we should stop pursuing them. In fact, those beliefs are the best way to fight the very evil that tries to destroy them.

This is essentially the argument characters like Team Blindspot make. They are all great examples of human imperfection. They've made mistakes. They've lied and done shady (and sometimes criminal things). However, they hold themselves to a higher standard and strive to be better. They try to make amends. They fight to be worthy of the badge they carry. Team Blindspot helped more people than they hurt. They want to save lives. Simply because people are inherently flawed doesn't mean we have to  to the lowest common denominator of morality.

Team Blindspot is a stark contrast to the villains Blindspot has portrayed for a reason. Neither side is entirely good or bad. This show lives in a moral grey, but intent matters. Actions matter. Accountability matters. The rest is for God to decide.

Maybe the writers agree with my argument. Maybe they don't. Blindspot has always left plenty of room for viewer interpretation when it came to the philosophical questions. Will there be people who disagree with me? Yes and that's fine, but I'm good with where I line up.

Blindspot finishes where it began. Jane and company track down the Zip bomb in Times Square. Jane and Weller share a perfect kiss before diffusing the bomb. Come on, they always diffuse the bomb. You knew that was gonna happen. The kiss was a nice touch though. Jeller would totally blow 15 seconds of time to make out. They like to live on the edge.

Source: annciabvl

I really appreciated Grigoryan and the rest of the FBI agents taking the time to say goodbye and thank Team Blindspot for their service. These guys sacrificed a lot for their country and put their lives on the line every week. A thank you was the minimum of what they deserved.
Patterson: I would'nt have survived if it wasn't for you two.

Tasha: Same.

Rich: I would've been okay.
I'm gonna miss you, Rich Dotcom. We arrive at the place where the cast starts to lose it. Every finale there is a moment where acting crosses the line into reality. Patterson, Zapata, and Rich tell each other how much they love one another. But it really feels like Ashley, Audrey, and Ennis are the ones saying goodbye.


Kurt said: "In Times Square, you said to me, the last time you tried to lead a quiet life. Our life can be whatever we want. It's time to go make some new memories. Some happier ones." Kurt finds Jane where they first met, where their love story began — the interrogation room. Kurt Weller was the first place Jane looked for her memory.


What she didn't know at the time was there were no memories to find. Kurt Weller wasn't Jane's past.


Kurt was Jane's future. A future he promises they will fill with many new wonderful and happy memories. A promise he seals with one last kiss. This is the full circle arc I live to see. Kurt and Jane's relationship was far from perfect, but they were always perfect for each other. Their love story was the central piece holding the Blindspot puzzle together. I will always love them.


We cut to Jane and Kurt's house in Colorado. Everyone they love is there celebrating. And boy is there a bevy of guest stars.


Patterson's dad, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Allie, Bethany, Boston, Avery, Sarah and Sawyer. (Hey! Remember Jane had a daughter and Kurt had a sister and nephew? The writers forgot about them until now, so I understand if you did too.)

Kurt and Jane are also apparently fostering a bunch of kids and I DIED. I love it so much. Patterson and Rich are treasure hunting as promised. They also may be in a polyamorous marriage with Boston and to that I say bravo. Zapata is a private detective and a mommy. She had a baby girl. We don't get to know the name, which I am high-key annoyed about.

Kurt and Jane drink the scene in and marvel at how lucky they are. I've invested a lot of time and love into these characters. This is the ending I always hoped they would have.


WHAT I HATED


... OR IS IT? Martin Gero is not satisfied leaving us with a perfect happily ever after. If you adored the finale then this is probably the time to stop reading this review. I'm pretty ticked off.


Kurt said: "One wrong turn, cutting one wrong wire. Could've gone bad. So many ways. So many times. There's some world somewhere where this diner never happened."

What the frack are you rambling about? Well, we find out in two seconds as Jane flashes back to the bomb and Times Square. Kurt and Jane diffuse it, like always, but this time they are too late to stop the Zip poisoning. Jane has gone too long without the antidote and she dies. Kurt and Zapata are beside themselves with grief. The final image is of Jane being zipped into a black body bag.


Then we flash back to the dinner scene.
Kurt: Jane? You okay?

Jane: Yeah... I'm good.
Jane has this weird, faraway, wistful, slightly crazed, happy/sad smile on her face and that's it. Show over.


We don't know which ending is real. 

If you are confused, then here are the possible scenarios:

1. Jane dies in Time Square. The dinner scene with all her loved ones is either some final hallucination moments before her death or Jane is in the afterlife realizing she's dead.

2. Jane survived, is living happily with all her loved ones, and the death scene in Times Square is an alternate universe or Jane imagining how it all could have gone wrong, like Kurt said.

Guess what, guys? You get to pick which one!


Martin Gero has given multiple interviews and stated Blindspot's ending is up to the viewer's interpretation. I HATE IT. I haaaaaaaaaaaaate it SO MUCH. Of all the things a writer can do for their final episode, ambiguous endings are by far the trope/gimmick I despise most of all.

I was thinking back to the series finale I truly hated — How I Met Your Mother. I won't get into all the reasons I despised it, but suffice it to say I felt the finale made sense if it aired immediately after the pilot. The finale doesn't make any sense when there's nine years of show in between.

I hated the decisions Craig Thomas and Carter Bays made, but at least they picked an ending and stuck with it. They had a vision and saw it through. I respect them for that.

I can't respect Martin Gero for this. This is chicken writing. He's straddling two lines of polar opposite endings and refuses to choose. It's like Kelly choosing herself instead of Brandon or Dylan on Beverly Hills 90210. Total cop out. It gets worse when I read his remarks.
Interviewer: Is there a finite answer though?

Gero: Yes. And, not that this is the type of show that merits it, there are hints in the text of the throughout the season that make it pretty clear. Even in this episode [there are things] that make it pretty clear what's going on. But both interpretations are totally valid and are intended to be totally valid.
So there is a finite — AND CORRECT — answer. But both interpretations are valid. Talk about your nonsequitur. Martin Gero's ending is one of these two options but he's simply NOT GOING TO TELL US.


Seemingly because Blindspot is not the type of show that requires a definitive answer, even though one exists.


I'm sure many are wondering, "Hey Jen. You just spent five whole paragraphs interpreting morality and whatnot. So why can't you just interpret the ending?" And sure, I could approach this as Blindspot's final puzzle. I am sure there are plenty who LOVE this ending because they enjoyed the mystery aspect of the show.

I always hated it. You guys know "Case of the Week" is my least favorite aspect of the show. I drop it like a hot potato in the reviews any chance I get. I don't enjoy puzzling out the tattoos and cases. I enjoy examining symbolism and debating moral philosophies. But this isn't I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings or Snow Falling On Cedars or The Things They Carried (All excellent stories ripe with beautiful and meaningful symbolism for a reader to interpret. Enjoy.)

This is Blindspot. The episode titles have answers. The tattoos have answers. There's literally a bird singing in a cage when it comes to this show. The puzzle is always solved in the end. This isn't a philosophical debate over Jane's actions: this is a concrete choice between two endings. It's either/or. There is an answer. The writers are copping out of answering Blindspot's biggest puzzle at the last minute. It's maddening.


This show is not The X-Files, Fringe, or 12 Monkeys. I expect those shows to end ambiguously because they've always been pretty freaking ambiguous. Maybe that's the kind of show Martin Gero wants Blindspot to be like, but I don't think it is. So let's be honest about what kind of show Blindspot is. It is a cop procedural.  The tattoos are clues Jane and friends use to stop attacks on New York City every week and every week that attack is a bomb. With some occasional plot variation.


One plus one always equals two on Blindsopt and just to be sure you arrive at the correct answer, the writers do the math for you by calculating it and then filling in the answer. They hold our hand through the whole thing and connect all the dots. We are the horse, the show is the trough, and the writers lead us to the water every single week. Blindspot doesn't trust their audience to remember what happened one episode prior, or even five minutes prior, without shoving a flashback in our face. They did it in the finale. They showed flashback scenes of what happened in 5x10 while the characters were narrating what happened in 5x10! This show is a neon sign blinking "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED" at all times.

Now Gero has confidence in his audience all of sudden? There's implicit trust and we can chart our own course? We get to decide what happens?


Why is Kurt even talking about other worlds? They've never introduced alternate universes, but Gero expects us to pretend there's an Earth-2 with Jane and Kurt doppelgangers. We are supposed to pretend this is the Arrowverse or something from a throwaway line inserted so creator doesn't have to pick an ending.


No, I won't. Absolutely not. I've put up with a lot of ridiculousness on this show but this takes cake. This is far beyond my tolerance level. I don't even really care at this point what the ending is. Just pick one. If Martin Gero thought the team living happily ever after was too perfect and not edgy enough, then kill Jane. If he thought killing Jane would upset too many viewers and didn't have the guts to take the heat, then give Jane a happy ending.

The point is to conclude the story he started. We tune in every week to his vision. This isn't a Choose Your Own Adventure book. We deserve to know the ending Martin Gero chose for his show. He doesn't get to avoid this responsibility and the audience reaction to it (either positive or negative) and call it some altruistic endeavor for audience interpretation. 


I'll even concede that ambiguity is a choice. No ending is an ending. Two endings are an ending, I guess. But it feels lazy. I think we deserve more.

I am tired, y'all. Every week I log into Twitter waiting to see an Armageddon tweet about our world. I'm seriously questioning whether I'll ever set foot on a plane again. Do I send my kid to school or keep her home? Is the economy going to tank back to the Dark Ages? These are all the thoughts I think. I am also fairly preoccupied with avoiding a deadly virus that has killed thousands in this country. As are the rest of you, I'm sure.

Is it too much to ask for the show to give a concrete answer? Just tell me if Jane lives or dies, Martin.  I have a whole list of things I'm waiting to sit down and talk with Jesus about, so he can explain what in the he was thinking. (I'm also Catholic. My entire religious belief system is based on the Trinity and no one can really explain how one God in three divine persons actually works. I live in ambiguity and I am mostly okay with this.) But when I turn on NBC, to watch a show that has done the math for me 99 episodes prior, I expect them to finish the equation in the final episode.


Even if I choose an ending based on my interpretation, I will always be left with the nagging doubt the other ending was real. This leaves both options wildly unsatisfying, which is actually more maddening than if the writers just flat-out killed Jane. To some this may sound crazy, but for me a real answer is better than no answer or "both interpretations are equally valid."

MY INTERPRETATION


There's a very big part of me that refuses to interpret jack. If the creator and writers feel they don't they owe me an answer then I don't owe them any kind of interpretation.


However, I realize there are many who have read these reviews over the years and will be curious to know what I think. To those people - thank you. I appreciate you sharing your precious free time with me.

The shipper in me, sunshine and rainbows Jen, very much wants to discard the death scene and believe Jane was merely imagining this potentially horrific outcome. Sort of like a really depressing game of "What If?" After all, they don't end on Times Square. It switches back to the dinner. We end the show with Jane surrounded by all the people she loves. So, clearly the Times Square scene is the one that is not real.

My instinct however, my gut reaction, is Jane is dead.


Martin Gero mentioned in an interview he had an ending in mind when he pitched the show: Jane coming out of a body bag in the premiere and going into a body bag in the finale is just the kind of pitch an executive producer would make to a network. It's beautiful symmetry, almost poetic in a way, and I could see how that vision is the one that remained unchanged as the years went on. It's a pretty bold and tragic end to Jane's story. It could explain why Gero is hiding behind the ambivalence of two scenes as way to avoid viewers' heartbroken reactions.

But telling people it's fine to believe she lives because the world is a garbage pile right now is not the same as Jane actually being alive. In fact, we could argue Gero is avoiding the truth because he didn't want to pile on. If it's a happy ending then why wouldn't he just say so? You'll find very few Blindspot fans who would be displeased with happily ever after.

Let's ignore the interviews and look at the show. One common theme this season is the shady characters achieving redemption through death. I personally think this is a tired trope and not an entirely healthy message to send to people. You do bad things and therefore the only way to prove you're a good person and make up for it is to die? Eh, it's troubling. That said, television and movie writers love this trope. They can't get enough of it.

Weitz died. Keaton died. Reade, who is the most moral character of this season's dearly departed, died. Roman died. Borden died. All the villains are dead or at a CIA blacksite. As Shepherd said, the Zip was all Remi's idea. She erased her own memories. The infiltration of the FBI was Remi's plan. And anyone who had anything to do with Sandstorm is dead.

I'm not saying Jane deserves to die or this is the ending I want — quite the opposite. She has more than earned her happy life with Kurt in Colorado. She doesn't need to die in order to be redeemed. She already is redeemed. However, nothing says that Jane is a hero more than sacrificing her happiness to save the very city she was intent on attacking as Remi Briggs.

There is a key scene in the episode that potentially supports the "Jane is dead" theory.
Borden: There are more things in heaven and earth, Jane than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
This line is from Hamlet. I groaned when I heard it. Writers love Hamlet and draw from it all the time, but it's not a story of hope and love. Hamlet is the classic tragic hero and when writers use Shakespeare's play in their own work, it is seldom a harbinger of good news.

Here's a brief summary of Hamlet. Hamlet is haunted by his dead father's ghost, who asks his son to  avenge his death by killing the new king, Hamlet's uncle. The uncle fears for his life and plots a plan to kill Hamlet. Hamlet pretends to go crazy with revenge, but then really does go crazy. The play ends in a duel. The King, Queen, Laertes and Hamlet are all killed.

Basically everybody dies.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet is explaining to Horatio that human knowledge is limited. We cannot explain everything because we don't know everything. Science does not hold all the answers. Just because an experience exists outside your conscious awareness or your perceived reality doesn't mean the experience is not real. Particularly when we are dealing with the spiritual world.

Borden is telling Jane just because her hallucinations aren't the norm doesn't mean they aren't real. Essentially, these hallucinations are outside of Jane's limited knowledge. Borden is rationalizing Jane's hallucinations the same way Hamlet rationalized his ghost.

In the play, the dead king was a harbinger of Hamlet's death. Perhaps Jane's ghosts mean the same. Maybe they aren't hallucinations. They could be ghosts leading her toward the afterlife. Technically, she is slowly dying from Zip the entire episode. These ghosts challenge her conceptions of right and wrong and who she is until she makes the ultimate sacrifice. Jane is reunited with her loved ones in heaven and realizes she's dead, but at peace.

That's my detailed explanation. The simple one is Hamlet = Jane. Tragic hero meets tragic hero. Hamlet is dead, so Jane is dead.

There's also the title of the episode "Innue Ennui." Yes, I am going to solve a Blindspot puzzle for the first time ever. Iunne Ennui is a perfect palindrome, as I am sure many have noticed. It's so obvious even I could figure it out. The meaning? The beginning is the same as the ending.

We start in Times Square in a bag.


We end in Times Square in a bag.


Here's the sliver of hope for those incredibly depressed by this ending: in the pilot, Kurt promised Jane she would be okay, but she didn't know what "okay" felt like. In the finale, Kurt asks Jane if she's okay and she answers, "Yeah. I'm good."

The ending is technically the same no matter which one you choose. Jane is okay. She's more than okay. She's good. Even better she learned what "okay" feels like because of her relationships with Kurt and the team. So even if you believe Jane is dead, therein lies sunshine and rainbows. Wherever she is, Jane is good and we can let her go.


Could I be wrong? Is Jane is alive? Sure, she could be. Do I hope I am wrong? You bet. What stinks is we'll never know for sure, which makes for a frustrating end.

Lastly, thanks to everyone who has read these reviews! Thank you especially to Jenn for giving my Blindspot thoughts a home these past five years. It was a wild ride and I had lots of fun!