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Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x09 "How to Lose a Mom in 10 Days" [Contributor: Ann]

"How to Lose a Mom in 10 Days"
Original Airdate: November 25, 2014

Have you seen the extended NYC footage from “Danny and Mindy”? Currently it is here on Vimeo.
I bring that up as I prepare to write this review because I want you to watch that two minute video, which (unless my audio is selectively wonky?) does not have sound. I want you to watch it however you wish; for me, it was accompanied by “Midnight City,” my favorite Danny-and-Mindy song. But maybe you are OK with watching it in silence.

When you are done watching it, watch “How to Lose a Mom in Ten Days.” And you will maybe understand why it was so hard for me to write this review, why it has been hard for me to write these reviews all season.

I love Jenn so, so much for giving me this incredible opportunity to write reviews for The Mindy Project. I love The Mindy Project. And so I hate that it is so hard for me to do the thing I love (writing) about the thing I love (The Mindy Project) because the thing I love (The Mindy Project) is breaking my heart. And nothing makes me more aware of the heartbreak than reflecting on the past and wondering how the hell we got here.

[Jenn's Note: If anyone has read my Community reviews on this site, you know that I didn't like season five -- at all -- and it was difficult for me to spin anything positive about it. I was disappointed, really, in the show and in its writing. But that, dear readers and friends/fans of Ann, is what makes a reviewer critical. Anyone can fangirl over a series. Anyone can pretend that a show is faultless and swoon over Chris Messina -- who is very swoon-worthy. But it takes a writer, a real and critical writer, to be brave enough to voice their opinion about a show that is flawed. Not everyone agreed with my Community reviews to this day, because they just didn't want to see the show in the same light that I did. But I admire those people, like Ann, who are willing to take a hard look at the things they love and be brave and bold enough to admit those flaws. It's why I brought her to this team and even if you don't agree with her analyses, I hope you respect the time and effort and courage it took for her to post them. /end diatribe]

"But," you insist, "the show couldn’t be the same. Dragging out the will-they-won’t-they would have made the show worse.” And I agree with you! I truly agree, and have to applaud the writers, at least, for their bravery (perhaps aided by cancellation forecasts) to get Mindy and Danny together when the time felt right rather than when sweeps came along.

While we are reflecting on the past, though, I’d like to refer you to something I wrote before the third season premiere of The Mindy Project—what I hoped would come from this season:
Real moments between Mindy and Danny. What we’ve heard about the show’s season three is that it is wildly sexual and perverted. That’s great. We also know that we have a lot of strings to play with this season—at this point, with a re-calibrated focus (no longer about a girl who wants to find love, according to Ike, but about a girl who has found love with someone who drives her crazy) that could potentially go on forever, that is necessary. 
However, Mindy and Danny’s appeal to me is that they grow with and truly do appreciate each other. My favorite moments between Mindy and Danny are not the comedic ones, really; they’re the ones that demonstrate the writers’ understanding of the 46-episode foundation they’ve built the relationship on. I cannot wait to see their love deepen. I do not want to see it coast—I want to see it develop, because I know that the show still has the potential to do that, post-credits.
 THAT is the problem. THAT is the disappointment.

"But," you insist, "there was a plot in "How to Lose a Mom in Ten Days"! How could you say that the show has disappointed you when both Mindy and Danny underwent some growth in the 22-minute time?"

I look back at the Vimeo video, which is now replaying for the millionth time. And then I say: “But what was the point of this episode?”

I have said—more than once—that the second season of The Mindy Project is practically a Jenga puzzle. If you take out one episode, the arc becomes less coherent, makes less sense. For example, if you didn’t have "Bro Club for Dudes", you would have barely any precedent for Mindy having feelings for Danny. If you didn’t have "Think Like a Peter" you wouldn’t have enough evidence for how much Danny was hurting without Mindy. Maybe the steps were so small they could be shuffled around a little, but when you look at the arc of the second season, I think you see pretty fluid emotional development between Danny and Mindy—especially in the back seven, where the hiatus actually really helped.

Fluid emotional development has been a problem for this season, and in this episode you see my past concerns mirrored: the conflict that anchors this plot is, as many plots this season have been, related to Danny’s relationship with his parents. It may be new information that Danny’s mom didn’t date anyone after Danny’s dad left, but does it affect the story at all? Does it matter? It doesn’t develop Danny’s character—he has always been a mama’s boy and he’s always had daddy issues. Reiterating that point gets him nowhere.

What about Mindy this episode? I am serious—I don’t understand her role in the story, and I’ve been rolling it over in my head. If I had to answer, I would have to say that what makes this episode different than literally every other episode in the series is that the A-plot is not Mindy’s, nor is the B-plot. Mindy does not learn any major lesson—she just moves the action along to get Danny (and Morgan) to their respective inane and overdone conclusions.

I don’t like that Annette has so much of a role. This is not a slam on Rhea Perlman, who is a brilliant choice of casting. This is a slam on how The Mindy Project has used who should be a recurring character.

A character like Annette does not fit into the halfway “workplace ensemble” that the show has constructed. She detracts from it, as her plot takes up the majority of the episode. A character like Annette—and characters like Sam, Casey, Josh, etc—are not at all important to stand alone. Their action should in some way reflect on the central conflict between Mindy and Danny, because unless Annette is hired at Shulman and Associates, she is not a part of the main cast and is instead an uncomfortable half-presence on the show. I mean, think about it—the episode closest to this sensation is “Music Festival,” and even that is less about Casey and more about Mindy’s relationship with and to him.

This idea might also explain why I am so annoyed by the use of Tamra and Morgan. I cannot believe the show got away with how absolutely stupid and throwaway this B-plot was, definitely due to a lack of time. Why do they break up? Why does she want to get back together? I know Mindy Kaling wants this to mirror Kelly and Ryan, but Tamra is not Kelly and Morgan is not Ryan, and—given that we know so little about Tamra or Morgan—their relationship isn’t funny or romantic to me. It’s a waste of time that has never made sense.

And Morgan and Mindy, I’m sorry, will also never make sense. Again Mindy Kaling has compared this to The Office, through Michael and Dwight. What makes that comparison faulty is that Mindy has always been shown as being smarter than Morgan, where the punchline is “man this guy is so weird/poor/from jail/less than me!” It has actually come to the point where Morgan’s worship of Mindy — coupled with Mindy’s dismissiveness — annoys me; what gives Mindy the right to treat anyone like that, and why do the writers think this gag is so funny again and again?

Maybe this episode was supposed to inject some real heart into the relationship, but if you are going to take the easy way out on Morgan and Mindy for the first two seasons and the majority of the third (that is: milk it for punchlines rather than heart), you cannot just change your mind and expect to anchor your story on an underdeveloped relationship.

So what are we left with this episode? We are left with no stakes, because Mindy and Danny will always begin an episode and end an episode together. Any impending tension that “Diary” introduced was not hinted at during this episode. No tension was hinted at in this episode, because no tension occurred in this episode. This was an episode about nothing in the worst possible way, an episode that highlighted characters that shouldn’t be highlighted at the expense of real development for the characters that should. Where is the deepening?

I cannot express how much I hate writing negative reviews and, even though this episode was a solid C for me, I want this show to be better. I will always want this show to be better. I know I said I would calm down, or try to watch the show from a different angle, but watch the Vimeo video and understand I can’t just pretend everything’s okay when it was at one point glorious. Because let’s face it—that soundless two minute clip made me feel more happiness and excitement for Mindy and Danny than I have felt for the majority of season 3.

Stray Notes:
  • Did I talk about the events of the episode at all? Not really. A part of that is that I am sleepy, writing recklessly, not double checking my word vomit to make sure my argument is fullproof. While it’s definitely not, another reason I was so vague on the episode’s specifics is that I do not remember them. The episode was boring.
  • The problem with Morgan—and with Jeremy—is that they have not been given the star treatment that Peter has been given re: character development. The problem with Morgan is that, unlike Jeremy, he is a type of crazy that needs to be dished out in bits and pieces (advice that the writers don’t really follow, because they love writing that character).
  • Jeremy is always good, though. Do you tire of me saying that? I think there is something so dark inside of Jeremy and I want to learn what it is.
  • This is the second Tracey Wigfield episode I’ve bashed this season. I normally love her, but I think the problem is that she’s been stuck with Annette-heavy episodes and those tend to clog up the plot, given that Annette is not one of the main characters. Both episodes also had a B-plot of Tamra and Morgan, which is not the strongest leg to stand on.
  • Oh, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stop making characters like Annette and Danny say “____ city” or “randos”! Know your character’s voice!
  • Oh, I know there will be objections. This is a negative review, after all. But I’m serious—if you doubt the conviction of my words, or doubt my dedication as a fan, watch “French Me, You Idiot” and then put on “How to Lose a Mom in Ten Days” and know there is no way I could pretend “Mom” was better than it was based on the precedent of the past.
  • Other things I asked for in my pregame: Better stunt casting (which has been very successful this year—Rhea is being overused, yeah, but she’s no Kevin Smith, Dana White, or James Franco), Yes-and characterization (not successful—there is no “and”), essential episodes and a stable arc (HMMMMM), and stability (mostly successful—the B-plots have almost always been strong this season, in one case being more interesting to me than the A-plot, which has never happened before on this show)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Girl 4x09 "Thanksgiving IV" (Uninhibited for the Holidays)

"Thanksgiving IV"
Original Airdate: November 25, 2014

My friends -- my really good friends -- are the kind of people who will do just about anything to protect you and make you happy if you're a part of their circle. I love them for that. I love that we have holiday parties and three-hour deep conversations about life and occasionally do things like hang out on New Year's Eve and make goofy videos while watching 90's cartoons. I love my friends because I know them and they know me so well that when I'm having a rough day, they know how to best approach me. When I'm struggling to make a decision, they know why and they know exactly what to say in order to help. But even my best friends get it wrong sometimes. In "Thanksgiving IV," Schmidt gets it wrong. He thinks that what everyone in the loft needs to find a bed buddy in order to be happy (and be happy for the holidays). His intentions are great, honestly. Occasionally Schmidt can act like a lovable, self-centered douchebag, but in this episode, he honestly just wants everyone in the loft to have a good and happy holiday and the best way to do so is to find each friend a partner that they are compatible with.

New Girl holiday episodes have always been heavy on the shenanigans and have typically introduced outsiders into the group's dynamic (Paul, Jess's parents, etc.). This is always especially welcome and hilarious because it reminds us that these six individuals are weird. Like, really weird. Like, collectively-adjourn-to-the-roof-and-leave-their-dates-awkwardly-downstairs weird. And while this series has been quick to remind us that Jess is awkward when she tries to be sexy and that Winston is awkward with small talk and Coach is insecure and Nick and Schmidt are just awkward sometimes, it has been even quicker to remind us that they are also real people who want to find happiness and are having a difficult time doing so because life has a way of messing with your best laid plans.

"Thanksgiving IV" was a stellar episode written by Dave Feeney (who also penned "Coach" as well as "Prince" with Rob Rosell) because it was New Girl at its best: a show about a weird group of friends trying to find  happiness with other people and encouraging each other to do so while encountering obstacles along the way. The final montage in the episode may be one of the best the show has ever done (though I am really partial to the dance montage at the end of "See Ya," too) and more than just garnering a lot of laughter from me, this holiday episode drove home some pretty stellar heart between -- you guessed it -- the heart of the show: Nick and Jess.

Let's talk about turkeys and Bangsgiving (which sounds like something Barney Stinson would have penned, right?) below the cut, shall we?

In Defense of Rafael Solano [Contributor: Ann]

It is 1:30 in the morning as I’m writing this, and I kind of feel like an enamored teenager writing about an unrequited love. Like in my diary or something. “Dear Diary, Rafael is sooooo great. I don’t understand why Mommy and Daddy don’t like him!”

But here’s the thing—I am a frickin’ goofball when it comes to TV, but I am also someone who watches TV very critically (critical in the sense of “attentive analysis” but probably also in my nebbiness). Surprisingly I have a hard time doing that with Jane the Virgin, because SO MUCH HAPPENS that I am literally just trying to stay afloat in the plot.

However, I wanted to write this because I wanted to express how frickin’ much I love Rafael. There, I said it. In a show where most of the characters are scheming, conniving, or selfish, Rafael is one of the few moral centers—so it kind of surprises me, really, that so many people distrust him.

I am in a weird minority when it comes to Rafael; supporters tend to think he is MEANT TO BE with Jane and dissenters think that the MEANT TO BE ideology is dangerous. For me, somehow, both of those are true, but Rafael ends up on top anyway.

Let me dissect what I mean one point at a time. First off: “Why Rafael is Better Candidate for Jane than Michael.”
  1. Rafael is honest with Jane — think of the Latin Lover Narrator. Where he is describing Michael as “the man [Jane] thought she knew so well,” he is describing Rafael’s wrongdoings as having occurred in the past, rather than the present. We are given no reason to distrust Rafael because, like Jane, he puts his cards forward (the state of his marriage, his feelings for her) when it’s not the easiest thing to do.
  2. Rafael puts Jane’s best interests at stake — Michael was going to send the baby over to Rafael and Petra just because he didn’t want to deal with it, and when she asked him (repeatedly) to be honest with her he didn’t reveal much about himself. (Also, I feel like there is so much we do not know about Michael…) Rafael, on the other hand, omits information about his company’s financial entanglement with Luisa because he thinks Jane, for her best interests, should sue. Which is selfless!
  3. Rafael and Jane have more than a spark —I think what bothers me about Team Michael is the idea that Rafael and Jane’s relationship is built entirely on the Meant to Be idea. Which isn’t true—their first night together (in episode seven) was them talking, which is my favorite trope of all time, ever. I mean, in so many romantic comedies (Twilight Twilight Twilight—is this a romantic comedy? Whatever. Jenn's Note: It's most definitely a comedy. There's no reason you can include the line "Hold on tight, spidermonkey" and not actually be a comedy), the two leads hardly talk and when they do talk it’s about the love they have for each other. I’m not saying Michael lacks this quality, but Jane and Rafael’s conversation is comprehensive and demonstrates that Rafael really wants to get to know her, not just get in her pants.
  4. Rafael has changed! — Really, he has! That is why he and Petra are not compatible anymore. They began seeing each other when he was at his worst. Again, there is sympathy for Petra here, and I do buy her speech that she never stopped loving Rafael, but there has come a time —I don't know, sometime before she faked assault — where it is just obvious that it is not in Petra or Rafael’s best interests to continue seeing each other. While she is continuing to do reprehensible things (sleep with his best friend, for instance, or SECRETLY BE NAMED NATALIA), he is trying to reform—he wants the kid as more than a power play. He wants the kid, he wants to settle down, and in order for him to pursue that change to its fullest potential, he has to ditch the dead weight. 
  5. Jane has changed too! — Think of the youth-friendly pastor—commitment is a long road, and there are bumps in the road. What makes a relationship lasting is the willingness on both sides to commit to how hard marriage can be. And while the pregnancy certainly isn’t Michael’s fault, how he has handled it, in between his apologies to Jane, is pretty awful, or at least not compatible with how she handled it. He tells Jane in the most recent episode that she is not who he thinks she is. He is right! Neither of them are who the other thinks they are, which is why I am AMPED for Jane to find out about Michael and Nadine.
  6. But the thing is, Jane and Rafael have changed in a way that suits each other! — It’s been five years, and Jane and Rafael are still having the deep conversations they had the first time they really connected. Even when Rafael was a playboy, he was drawn into conversation, real conversation, with Jane. That his first meeting with her mirrors the first night they spend together in episode seven proves that while circumstances can change, an enduring love can get through pretty much anything.
  7. Rafael is the only person who calls Jane a writer (!!!) — Which is a huge deal, because writing is such a part of her identity. Writing is her dream, and Rafael’s acceptance of her dreams is incredibly important.
With all that in mind, how can the IT’S MEANT TO BE idea be dangerous…in a good way?
  1. Rafael and Jane need to grow!
This is the only reason. I mean, these two hooked up in episode six—I love that there is something inherently wrong with their understanding of what a true, deep relationship is. It’s what I’ve always wanted to see a TV show do. I think so many TV shows focus on the “getting together” part of a relationship that they don’t devote enough time to how different one month in a relationship is than five months in it. In other shows, that difference would be “the sex isn’t good anymore!” or something like that.

With this show, it’s about growing up. It’s about confronting your fears that the ideal fairy tale doesn’t exist, and that’s not the foundation love is actually built on. That’s why — for how cinematic the kiss between Rafael and Jane was — it was not my favorite scene. (Though I did love it, obviously.) My favorite scene of them is when they are talking—about pretty much anything, you know? They have a chemistry that isn’t purely sexual, though to be honest Gina Rodriguez has chemistry with everyone else on the show. The dialogue just feels so natural. They have fun talking to each other, and when (inevitably) their vision of romance and the “perfect family” crumbles, they will grow from it and find each other again.

In so many romantic comedies, what divides the man and the woman is a dumb understanding—think How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or 27 Dresses. If Jane the Virgin does what I think it’s going to do, it will actually indicate that these characters DEVELOP from each other. That they fight for real reasons instead of contrived ones (which the series has done really, really well).

Look. I love every character on Jane the Virgin, and I admit—I love so much the scene in the dress shop with Michael and Jane. And I will admit I think that Rafael and Jane are rushing into things. But at the end of the day, I have to defend him. He is a character who is looking to change and looking to grow, he’s not perfect, but he’s irresistible in his acknowledgement of that fact and in how he manifests that mission in acts of kindness towards others, especially Jane. And I love Jane and Rafael together. Maybe not now, because it doesn’t make the most sense, and it is so dangerous to hang so much on the “meant to be” idea—but just because they are not meant to be doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be. It just means that they will have to work at it first. And given what I know of Rafael and of Jane, that shouldn’t be a problem.

(Also — like, Nadine and Michael was super hot, right?)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x08 "Diary of a Mad Indian Woman" [Contributor: Ann]

"Diary of a Mad Indian Woman"
Original Airdate: November 18, 2014

Before I begin—my deepest, deepest apologies for my lateness. This past week has been CRAMMED with paper-writing; unfortunately, while I will soon go home for Thanksgiving (!!!), I am only 2 weeks away from finals, which also have the potential to affect my posting schedule. This apology is especially for Jenn, who has been so accommodating of this stressful period in my life. Thank you very much for having me (as always).

[Jenn's Note: Thank YOU, Ann, for being a part of my team. It may be late, but you're always worth the wait. /cheeseball]

Whew. That kind of sounded like a diary entry, didn’t it? Which leads me to this episode, “Diary of a Mad Indian Woman,” one of the best and most ambitious episodes of this season.

"Ambitious" has not been a word I've used to describe this season very much. What makes the episode ambitious, and why is that quality so important in my enjoyment of a TV show?

Quick summary of the episode (because by this point it has been a week since it aired): the A-plot involved Mindy teaching the students at the hospital, a welcome foray into her professional life (and the introduction of Candace and TJ), and the B-plot involved Danny finding the titular diary, reading it, and other shenanigans.

Ambitious point number one: the seamless introduction and integration of St. Brendan’s. If my memory serves me, there has not been a "professional life" plot involving the politics of the hospital. There have been plots involving the midwives and plots about the politics of Schulman and Associates and plots about the dynamic between Jean and Schulman and Associates—but this episode's plot mostly took place in St. Brendan’s and focused on the operations of St. Brendan’s.

We’ve had St. Brendan’s since the pilot, and to see a little more of Mindy’s professional life was refreshing to me. In the recent SAG conversation with The Mindy Project cast, Adam Pally pointed out the breadth of the universe Mindy had created, how really any character could walk in, walk out, and then walk in again. While I wish the show would stick to this—make the A/B plots Mindy and Danny instead of trying to warm me to ensemble characters who won’t last—this plot makes me see the best in this sort of format. The same conversation compared Mindy’s use of this to The Simpsons, which I love for two reasons: these characters on the fringe are not static, and these characters on the fringe can often be used for insight for the two main characters (see: Danny in almost every episode this year).

TJ and Candace were awesome because they taught Mindy something. I don’t need to care about them, and if I do, I only need to care about them enough so that I can believe they would have any impact on Mindy. The strong personalities of Candace and TJ make them instantly endearing to the audience—as is the case with so many recurring roles—so that when TJ teaches Mindy something, it expands the universe while adding depth to the core of the show. Ambitious.

While on the subject of the show’s universe, this episode FINALLY injected stakes into the relationship of Mindy and Danny. I am curious to see what happens on Christmas, and it has been a while since this show has made me curious.

These aren’t just real stakes—they are real stakes that have been foreshadowed at for some time. Danny being anxious about going into marriage may seem to counter his “all in” remarks on top of the Empire State Building, but I don’t think they are the same battle. Just because Danny is “all in” with his heart doesn’t necessarily mean he has forgotten the past; you can see the difference between these two ideas in his conversation with Annette. This 40-year-old man literally needs his mom’s advice, but when his mom suggests he break it off with Mindy if he is so afraid, he doesn’t consider that option for a second. Same with the episode’s (brilliant) ending. Danny’s afraid enough to want to leave, but in love enough that he wants to stay. The fact that dichotomy has not reached a resolution—yet—makes Christmas all the more interesting. Will he suck it up and move forward (instead of sideways), or will his fear make him hesitate—and then it’s too late?

And Mindy, sweet Mindy. While I don’t think the writers’ treatment of Mindy’s feelings towards Danny is a quarter as good as their treatment of Danny’s feelings towards Mindy, I understand completely where Mindy is coming from. She didn’t want to rush the first relationship because she didn’t want to mess things up. Now, in this all-in relationship, she’s been equally patient, but she cannot wait forever for Danny. All her favorite romantic comedies end with the wedding, and Mindy is not wrong to ask for something more, because Danny is not being fully open with her. Marriage is so much more than an institution; it is a symbol of commitment, trust, companionship. Though it’s obvious they love each other, Danny and Mindy have had trust issues in this season, and Danny’s reluctance to propose hints at the larger problem: the cold and icy exterior might have melted, but Mindy has not yet attained the whole of Danny’s heart, because he’s so shackled to the past. Ambitious.

While we’re on the subject of Mindy’s character, I want to laud the show for doing such a great job this episode. I don’t know if I have ever liked Mindy more, and I wish we could see this side of her more often. In this episode, Mindy was as dramatic, narcissistic, offensive, and pop-culture crazed as she has always been—but she was also shown being a hard worker and a teacher. She was genuinely exasperated (her treatment of Candace), genuinely exhausted (when was the last time Mindy Lahiri didn’t sleep for two days because of work?), and genuinely heartbroken (by Danny’s fauxposal). This is how you write Mindy Lahiri—she deserves to be written as well as Danny. Danny and Mindy are alike in that they both have outrageous personality traits: Danny’s red glasses or the bomber jacket, or Mindy’s thinking “sexist” was actually “sexy.” I know that. But whereas Danny’s character has always been fleshed out with his tragic backstory, Mindy has always lagged. It has always been easier to talk about Danny’s emotional turmoil because Mindy’s has never been fleshed out enough.
I expressed my frustration at Mindy Kaling calling Mindy Lahiri a Michael Scott character because it felt like a lie. The frustration behind Mindy Lahiri isn’t in her offensive comments, because to me the line “Have you seen Black-ish? I think you’d like it” would be just as funny coming out of her mouth as it would out of Michael’s. The frustration is that Michael Scott, for all his (hilarious) flaws, had a tragic and beautiful heart. He was wrong so often, but you wanted him to find love. Mindy Lahiri is too often a mouthpiece for funny one-liners than she is a multifaceted character, and this episode showed me that the writers and Mindy Kaling (who has become an incredible actress!) have the capabilities to make that happen. For the first time, the treatment of Mindy Lahiri was ambitious, and I want to see more of that, both in her professional and personal life.

I have one quip about the episode, and it is that the diary—other than being a MacGuffin for Christmas—was not really interesting. With so much of the episode doing A+ work on the character of Mindy Lahiri, it shouldn’t bother me that the diary was mostly filled with things we already knew. I’m sure there were killer time constraints on this episode. However, I wish that the diary gave us some real insight into Mindy’s feelings prior to the kiss, and I wish that the diary’s contents were given more time (in place, possibly, of the wine spilling on the diary, which really only was needed so we could spend time with our ensemble*.)

Otherwise, though, this episode was great, and demonstrated how much potential this show has when it’s at its best, whether that’s through the revolving-door cast and universe or the two characters at the center of it all. Let’s hope it builds on this momentum and continues to deliver.

* If Jeremy, Peter, or Morgan’s involvement is important in the Christmas episode, I would like to revise my comments to include this:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Other Notes:
  • I liked the bangs, but whatever.
  • Beverly was aces, and I am so happy the show has found out what to do with her.
  • "She gone, Danny! And I think Ben Affleck did it."
  • Again, aces on the final scene. So much palpable emotion and subtext in that scene. Every episode this season, if I’m not mistaken, has ended with Mindy and Danny at one of their houses, and this is the only one—with the half-exception of the first episode’s fire escape talk (if you remembered it over the striptease)—where things were not goofy or butterflies and roses.
  • I said this in the review, but I will say it again: Mindy Kaling has become an actress on par with Chris Messina. These two can do so much if given the chance!
  • Re: Adam Pally’s impending departure. Maybe this will teach the writers to stop having boring B-plots that the audience invests in for really no good reason?
  • Watch the SAG conversation if you haven’t yet. It’s fascinating once you hear past Ike and Adam.
  • I don’t even care—I loved TJ. Candace was way too unprofessional in her final scene of the epi. I’m sorry, if you’re not paying attention anywhere, you deserve to get berated.
  • I am also loving Niecy Nash’s role in the show. I love when two characters don’t get along (conflict brings out the best in characters) and I love that she challenges Mindy and forces Mindy to grow up a little bit.
  • Happy Turkey Day! Remember how sexy potatoes are.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Jenn's Pick: Top 10 TV Characters I'm Thankful for in 2014

Gobble gobble, lovely readers! 

Grab your pregnancy pants because it's getting close to that time of year. You know the one -- where you gather around the table with turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and piles of pies in order to celebrate being blessed and fortunate. As it's approaching Thanksgiving, I thought I would dedicate another blog post to some television characters I'm thankful for in 2014! Last year I made a post about some television characters I was thankful for, so you should check it out if you're inclined. I'm resurrecting the tradition (and will hopefully continue it for years to come).

I've been really blessed this year with my health, my friends, my family, my job (even if it's not what I want to be doing, it's still a job that pays me money), my accomplishments, my church, my living situation, etc. etc. Sometimes I think we take our blessings for granted -- I know that I have the tendency to do this and complain about things that are privileges, rather than rights -- and I'm so glad that we get to spend this time of year together thinking about all of the things we can be thankful for.

It may seem trivial and silly, but I'm thankful for this blog. I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to express myself in words -- something I've always loved doing -- and that so many amazing, thoughtful, and smart people have been dropped into my life because of it. You guys are, quite simply, the best. And I'm thankful for you! I'm also thankful for television because without it, I wouldn't have this job. ;)

So let's talk about some of the television characters I'm most thankful exist this year! Drop your own suggestions and comments below and keep adding to the list.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Arrow 3x07 "Draw Back Your Bow" (Love Is A Dangerous Game)

"Draw Back Your Bow"
Original Airdate: November 19, 2014


Isn't it interesting that a four-letter word has such an impact on us as individuals? Love means something different to every single person on this planet; it looks different to every person, too. There are different categories of love and different scales. We say that we love cheese fries but then we also say that we love our husbands or our families or a television show. It's the same word, though, each time. The fact of the matter is that we love to love and we love to be loved and gosh darnit, we just love the IDEA of love so much that it infiltrates every piece of our lives whether we recognize it or not.

I'm not a stranger to unrequited love, by any means. In fact, unrequited love and I are kind of BFFs. In high school, I was in love with a guy for four years. The moment I finally got over him, we ended up slow-dancing at prom together (to Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" because the universe is cruel and ironic) and then BAM. I was hit again with those feelings. You know the ones: nervousness and giddiness and fear. I was in love with him for so many years and he never saw me the same way. I eventually moved forward with my life and now I look back on that love as a nostalgic twenty-five year old woman. But it sucks, let's be honest, to feel something for someone so deeply and know that they don't feel the same about you. Unrequited love can make us self-conscious. It can fuel depression or anxiety. Conversely, it can motivate us to be stronger, more self-aware, more confident.

Or, in the case of Carrie Cutter, it can cause us to do some crazy things. I think love is one of the most powerful weapons we've been given -- it can do so much good or bad in the world; people do some crazy things in the name of it, after all. But I don't think there's any love quite as dangerous as the unrequited kind. Oliver and Team Arrow learn this in "Draw Back Your Bow" when The Arrow's number one fan shows up. She's head-over-heels in love with him and she has a great way of showing it (that was inflection: she shows it by killing people). Love is as much of a theme in this week's episode as guilt was in last week's, so let's talk about that little four letter word as it pertains to Oliver, Ray, Felicity, and Cupid, shall we?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

New Girl 4x08 "Teachers" (This Far, No Further)

Original Airdate: November 18, 2014

I've always been a rule-follower. I blame it on my birth order, as I'm the oldest of my siblings and was always terrified of disappointing my parents. But it wasn't just at home that I followed the rules. I was a goody two-shoes at school, too. I never talked out of turn. I always turned in my homework on time. I never goofed off. I was (and still am, even as I approach my twenty-sixth year of life) a "good girl." Being a rule-follower doesn't seem like it would present any actual drawbacks, but in the case of Jessica Day, it does. "Teachers" finds our favorite vice principal struggling to avoid spending any quality or alone time with Ryan (who she has a crush on) during a retreat because her principal forbids any romantic relationships between administration and teachers. Jess has always self-identified as a rule-follower and a "good girl." And we have always known this to be true of her. She has a very healthy fear of authority and a commitment to both her job and to the promises she makes to others. What is so great about this episode though was that we got the opportunity to see Jess take a risk and not a reckless one. Not really, anyway. We, instead, see her take a very bold and brave risk not against her boss but FOR herself and for her heart. Season four of New Girl finds Jess back in the dating game, but more importantly, it finds her back in the realm of possibilities -- it finds her in an exhilarating and scary place. And Jess is not the type of woman who openly embraces those places. She's more likely to run away from her feelings than run toward them. But in "Teachers," we find Jessica Day learning what it truly means to be vulnerable with someone again. And it was lovely.

Elsewhere in the episode, the theme of identity is also prominent. With Coach and Jess out of town on a retreat, Winston, Schmidt, and Nick are left at home to have a boys weekend (which hilariously goes slightly awry) where they have the opportunity to teach each other things and really be vulnerable with one another too. This story wasn't just hilarious; it was also extremely insightful and really touching. Meanwhile, at the retreat, we learn more about Coach's fears and insecurities as a teacher (wow, the theme of identity and vulnerability really WAS prominent, wasn't it?) and though a lot of the story is played for laughs, as is typical with New Girl, nothing is ever quite as shallow or cut-and-dry as it seems.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Once Upon A Time 4x08 "Smash the Mirror" (And Scatter the Wreckage)

"Smash the Mirror"
Original Airdate: November 16, 2014

I've always been ordinary. And ordinary is pretty good, actually. I've always been smart, but never too smart. I wasn't valedictorian or a high-scorer on standardized tests. I've always been talented, but never exceptionally so. I've had my poems published in journals but I've never been nationally recognized or seen my work in The New Yorker (yet). I'm ordinary and ordinary is, actually, what most people are. There are a few people who become extraordinary in their lifetimes -- a few Hollywood success stories for the thousands that graduate with degrees in theatre; a few recording contracts for those who spend their lives making YouTube videos and singing their hearts out; a few million dollar book and movie deals for the countless others that spend their lives trying to get their work accepted by a publisher.

Emma Swan has -- up until very recently -- been rather ordinary. Even when she first entered Storybrooke and became the savior of the town, she was still an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, dealing with the seemingly impossible. But then Emma's powers came into play and suddenly, she's on par with Regina and Rumple in town. Everyone else is a fairytale character, right? They've done the impossible: fought giants and survived, battled magical creatures, traveled to exotic locations and seen amazing sights. But they've never had the kind of power that Emma currently possesses in Once Upon A Time. And when Emma can harness that light magic within her, amazing things happen.

But when she cannot -- when she begins to lose control of her emotions and herself -- people, people she loved and trust, begin to fear her. "Smash the Mirror" is a huge, two-hour episode that deals with a lot of themes (ordinary vs. extraordinary; hope vs. hopelessness; predestination vs. free will; seclusion vs. invitation; lies vs. truth; love vs. self-love, etc.) and I'll try to tackle the most important ones as they relate to our characters throughout this episode. So let's begin, shall we?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x07 "We Need to Talk About Annette" [Contributor: Ann]

"We Need To Talk About Annette"
Original Airdate: November 11, 2014

Why did I like this episode more than others this season?

Like those other episodes, this episode featured a Mindy and Danny A-plot, and a Peter plot related—albeit indirectly—to Lauren and Jeremy. Both had similar rhythms, similar plot structures, and recurring jokes (Morgan is dirt poor; Dot is a frank and sassy BFF). Why do I like this one, penned by Alina Mankin, especially so? A part of it is definitely subjective. Week-by-week I struggle with how to watch this show; I pride myself on being analytical but sometimes let my expectations impede on my assessment of an episode’s quality. So maybe you’ve just caught me on a good week, when I appreciate this show for what it’s doing right—it’s becoming tighter by the week, and is still very funny—rather than harping on it for what it could do better.

But this episode’s merit exists outside of my subjective opinion, obviously. It is technically sound. Its characterizations are consistent with what we know—Danny’s not calling himself “Daddy,” for instance—but also ambitious, teaching us more about these characters (and their relationships with each other) without threatening their fundamental self.

Maybe it’s that this is Annette and Dot’s second time up to the plate, but this butting-heads with Mindy was much stronger because so much less time was spent on introductions and exposition. Now that we know who these people are, they can be fleshed out. What makes this interesting to me is what we learn about Mindy and Danny in the process. One method of characterization is seeing how a character interacts with someone else; in the past, that “someone else” was generally an ex.

Now it’s Annette. For Annette, we get a new adversary for Mindy to charm—in many ways filling a role that her son filled in the past two seasons. Where Danny and Mindy are equals professionally, Mindy and Annette are equals in their love of Danny; where Danny and Mindy are dysfunctional in a complementary way (they fulfill each other in specific ways), Annette and Mindy are complementary in their relationship with Danny (that is, they fulfill Danny in specific ways). They are, after all, his two favorite girls.

While this theme has been introduced in previous episodes, “long-term Mindy” is so well-executed here. Mindy and Danny are all in, and the way she interacts with Annette indicates this; an opportunity for the two to connect is equally anticipated by Mindy and Annette, and their banter—such as Annette’s passive-aggressive prayer—is not a “it’s either me or you” fight. It’s the type of fight you have with family. Which Mindy certainly has realized when she helps Annette escape from the store. Throughout the episode, she oscillates between taking the higher road and confronting Annette—she’s torn between what she must do to make people happy and what she must do, period. Neither option is absolutely right or absolutely wrong; what the episode concludes is that Mindy is growing up and Mindy is sticking around. More than “Annette Castellano Is My Nemesis,” (though probably from the foundation set by that episode) this episode proves that Mindy is not like other girlfriends. She is family, and it feels real, earned.

What we learn about Annette’s relationship with Danny is a little less overt, but what I loved about this episode was that it challenged me to think within these implications to reach a conclusion about Danny’s characterization now.

I complained in the last episode that Danny’s “Ghostbuster” anecdote didn’t do it for me because it was too on-the-nose; it was a story we’d never heard about that became the vehicle for the entire episode. (P.S., your comments on the last episode were so smart, and I did soften on this issue considerably based on the connection you all made between this anecdote and Danny at the Empire State Building; upon further consideration I think I would have liked how everything tied together if Danny had recounted his dad leaving rather than his dad leaving him at a movie—that’s the “on-the-nose” part I’m talking about.)

In this episode, we’re not really asked to reconsider Danny’s character in inventive ways; his “sometimes breaking rules can be fun” is a theme of “The Devil Wears Lands’ End,” and almost every episode (if not every episode) inevitably ends with Danny admitting he was wrong about something or another. Maybe it is the subtlety that hides behind the loud “Danger Zone” gag that I love so much; for how reliably funny Danny’s enthusiasm was, the entire thing connects to his childhood in a reasonable way. That he wanted the bomber jacket and is so excited about it now indicates many, many things: he used to use a garbage bag (and therefore always wanted to rise above his financial circumstances); he is so openly enthusiastic about it in the office (demonstrating how Mindy has helped him open up considerably from his rough childhood); how it is not “all the same” to him that Annette shoplifted it (that she thinks she’s a burden when all he wants to do is prove himself to her and, by extension, to himself—that it is not necessary for her to do this); and that family comes first.

A little bit more on the last one. In a previous episode, Mindy and Danny used one of my favorite tropes, which is to casually discuss BIG DEAL FUTURE EVENTS (“Annette Castellano is My Nemesis”). In that episode, though, it was mostly written off as a joke: Danny doesn’t understand Mindy’s religion, LOL.

Here, Mindy’s “what will you do if our son gets in a bar fight in the Hamptons” means so much more. Yes, it’s funny—and it made me imagine a Mindy-Danny son, who so would get into a bar fight based on his parents’ temperaments. But it also reminds us that Danny’s father didn’t save him in any circumstance, that his leaving made Danny into the person he was in the pilot: someone arrogant and cold and aloof not because he wanted to be, but because being otherwise would result in too much pain.

Mindy’s “what if” scenario is for both Danny and the audience a reminder of HOW FAR HE HAS COME and of WHERE HE HAS COME FROM. Danny was always a stickler for rules, but I have always felt the most fundamental part of Danny’s character is his capacity to love, which is why it was so great that those two are being put into contention in this episode in a way that is relevant to the rest of the series. (“Crimes and Misdemeanors,” in contrast, had a revelation from Danny that felt more tacked-on, a necessity to wrap the episode up neatly).

Again, this episode doesn’t do anything that previous episodes hadn’t, but it benefits from using what has previously been established to maximum effect.  The result? This episode made me think. This episode made me analyze! And what else makes a good episode of The Mindy Project than that it makes everyone the very best version of themselves?

(And, of course, that it is funny as hell. But that often is the case with this show.)

Stray Observations:
  • I didn’t mention the B-plot because I talked so much, but here’s what I have to say about it: technically competent, definitely. I wish that Peter’s epiphany would have come from a “I miss Lauren” than from the job he’s been doing for forever. Abby’s episode-to-episode characterization is a little jarring (she changes from someone who is lowering her high standards to someone who is inherently low-maintenance?) but I loved her character and am really sad to see her go.
  • Morgan is perfectly utilized, and I thought he and Tamra played really well off of each other this episode.
  • Jeremy is not perfectly utilized. Jeremy deserves so much more, as I continually say, because there is no delivery given to Ed Weeks that he doesn’t fucking demolish. “Aren’t we dreadful?” This season belongs to you.
  • Rhea Perlman is capable of making the most terrifying, intimidating face in existence. She has made it in both episodes when Mindy contests her, and I am so happy Mindy Lahiri is fictional because my sympathies would be endless otherwise.
  • Nitpick: Where is a good make-out between these two? It’s been too long.
  • "Goose, it’s Maverick. Wanna have sex tonight?"
  • Also MVP to the store clerk, who aces the “You get a fun birthday e-mail” line. And the other store clerk, who threatens the wrath of Gary. At least it’s not Jen from Appleton.
  • I think episodes succeed to me when I know characters are capable of being silly but also mature. Mindy was especially toned-down this week, which I loved. So was Danny—I mean, look at his face when Mindy talks about their son in the Hamptons.
  • P.S. - Mindy Kaling also deserves gold stars for this week. With the exception of the highly emotional episodes (“Be Cool,” “The Desert”) she has never nailed acting quite this way. Her deliveries were so good. My favorite is her “Thank you, thank you” and sip of wine when Annette concedes she stole the jacket.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Arrow 3x06 "Guilty" (Playing Judge And Jury)

Original Airdate: November 12, 2014

One of my favorite movies in recent memory is Inception. I love how beautiful and dark and mysterious it is, but mostly I love that it involves dreams. Dreams are such intriguing things. In the film, Dom says: "Dreams feel real when we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." I have very vivid dreams and remember them a vast majority of the time. I had a dream this week that James Spader sat and told me a monologue about his dying dog. I'm pretty sure I woke up in tears. I've had dreams about work and school, family and weddings and friends. The scariest part about dreams -- especially when they're bad dreams -- is that a part of your brain knows it's not real. But Dom is right; everything feels real when you're in a dream. And this week on Arrow, dreams play heavily into our plot. Dreams reveal bits and pieces of our subconscious -- they contain the last things we think about before we fall asleep or that conversation we had earlier in the day or that feeling that unsettled us at work. Dreams feel real because parts of them ARE real.

"The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" ended with the revelation that Roy believes he killed Sara. He's been dreaming about it recently and it's terrifying him because it feels more like he's remembering something and less like he's just making it up in his sleeping state. Because remember: Felicity never told Roy that he killed someone while under the influence of Mirakuru. Roy is fearful of what he's capable of because of flickering memories of how he felt; he has no idea what he did while under the influence. And in "Guilty," Roy believes that he killed Sara and the evidence is pretty convincing, but the feeling is more convincing to our young vigilante, which causes tensions to rise in the foundry as a result and difficult choices to be made.

So let's talk about Roy, about Team Arrow, and about Ted/Laurel, shall we?

New Girl 4x07 "Goldmine" (It's More Zany Than Sexy)

Original Airdate: November 11, 2014

My roommate eats pizza with a fork and a knife.

The only reason that she knows it's weird is because the first time I saw her do that, I stared -- bewildered -- and then asked her about it. As it turns out, she's always eaten her pizza this way. She's also always used raw honey on her breakouts. That's normal to her. To me, of course, it's weird. It's foreign. The thing is, you never know that what you do or believe or how you pronounce certain words is weird until someone points it out to you. Because the way you live life is -- obviously -- natural and normal. I have no doubt that Nick and Jess think their living situation is a tad weird, but quite frankly, I think they've accepted it as a baseline for normal. They lived together while they dated and now that they're broken up, they still live together. It's not uncomfortable for them; it's just a new kind of normal.

But Nick and Jess begin to realize exactly how weird their current situation is and how uncomfortable it can make others when they start seeing other people who... well, are not them. That's what "Goldmine" is about, at its core: how our baselines for "normal" behavior are subjective and how it's only when we introduce other moving parts into those scenarios that we realize how weird we actually might be.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to Ruin A Female Character in One Easy Step

I love and staunchly defend female characters in my favorite television series. Why? Because they need defending, quite frankly. There are a lot of male writers and a lot of female writers who try to do justice to characters -- who portray women as layered, vastly complex, and intensely passionate. I love those writers. But there are a lot of writers who write the women in their television shows or movies more like archetypes than actual human beings. They write the mean cheerleaders and the nerdy girls and the "sluts," and the overachievers and if you line up these women from these movies and television shows side-by-side, you'll find that a lot of them look fairly identical. There is nothing that distinguishes one of them from another. That's when I get upset and frustrated and just plain sad.

Doctor Who has always had an array of strong female characters. There was Rose Tyler, a seemingly unassuming girl who worked in a shop and loved to eat chips, but who eventually became the defender of Earth. Then there was Martha Jones, brilliant and beautiful scientist who didn't abandon The Doctor in his time of need but ended up being brave enough to walk away from him. Donna Noble was loud and wonderful -- a woman who wanted to be something more than a failure in the eyes of her mother and who ended up saving the entire world and never remembering how remarkable and integral she was. Then there was Amy Pond, the girl with the dreams and her Raggedy Doctor; a woman who learned how to better love Rory and herself. And we had River Song, the kick-butt action hero of the group who also was vulnerable and cheeky. Then there was Clara Oswald, the souffle girl and the enigma and the sassy (tiny) woman who challenged and fascinated The Doctor. Now, none of those women was perfect. I'm not here to argue that Doctor Who always does a perfect job at portraying women -- sometimes it fails rather spectacularly, sometimes women are portrayed as just okay, and sometimes the female portrayal is awesome. But since the show is pretty vast, it DOES do a great job at incorporating an array of women at least.

Clara was in the running for my favorite companion (Rose Tyler will always, probably, be my favorite), and if you read that sentence again, you'll notice that I use the past tense. That -- as you also probably gathered from the title -- is because this season of Doctor Who ruined Clara Oswald for me (and my extremely intelligent best friend and co-Who viewing partner, Simi, who will be referenced quite frequently in this post). So below, I'm going to talk a LOT about Doctor Who, a lot about Clara, and a lot about the writing of this season. After all, series eight definitely followed a how-to book in the writing room: How to Ruin A Female Character in One Easy Step.

So how do you accomplish that? Let's begin!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Once Upon A Time 4x07 "The Snow Queen" (Psychological Warfare and Self-Constructed Prisons)

"The Snow Queen"
Original Airdate: November 9, 2014

Did you ever go away to summer camp as a child? I did. I went to multiple camps throughout my youth and would return home after a week away to find that my friends had... well, actually been doing things without me. They hadn't paused their lives just because I had been away. It was weird to return to that -- weird that my friends had inside jokes that I didn't have with them; weird that suddenly they were closer to other people than they were to me. It's an odd sensation when people begin to see you differently than they had before. It's strange to know that the people you were once close to suddenly see you as someone else -- as a stranger, almost.

Emma Swan has often felt alone and estranged from people. She gave her son up for adoption. She never knew her own parents. She bounced back and forth from "family" to "family" without ever having a true sense of what that word meant. In last season's finale, Emma finally embraced Storybrooke as the place where her family lived -- the place where she was home. But "The Snow Queen" finds Ingrid utilizing the most powerful weapon in her arsenal against Emma: doubt. 

Doubt is like a mustard seed: it's often small, seemingly unharmful, but when dwelt upon or given power can turn into the most damaging weapon ever. Ingrid utilizes psychological warfare against Emma which is much different from the way any of our other villains (Pan, Zelena, etc.) have operated in the past. Ingrid doesn't have to hurt Emma physically in order to do damage; all she has to do is plant one small seed of doubt and Emma's mind will do the rest of the work for her.

So let's talk more about this psychological warfare and the Emma/Ingrid/Elsa parallels in "The Snow Queen," shall we?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Selfie 1x04 ("Nugget of Wisdom"), 1x05 ("Even Hell Has Two Bars") & 1x06 ("Never Block Cookies") Reviews [Contributor: Ann]

There is so much to say about Selfie and I don’t know if I have it in me to say all of it. It’s obvious that I adore this show and think that John Cho and Karen Gillan are perfect in their roles as Henry and Eliza.

These are less reviews as they are me going off for as long as Jenn will have me (Jenn's note: I'm keeping Ann forever, by the way and will force her to write any and everything for me), and I have been threatening to write about Selfie for so long, and I have so much to write about now that we had a double feature Tuesday! So let’s begin.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Arrow 3x05 "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" (You Are A Light In The Darkness)

"The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak"
Original Airdate: November 5, 2014

Have you ever met someone who -- because of their circumstances, their pasts, or their limitations -- has really and genuinely surprised you with their optimism? I'm usually a pretty optimistic person. I see the good in people, even to a fault sometimes. I see the potential. I think about happy things. And though I have a lot of personal anxiety that I deal with that very few people actually see, I try to approach people and situations with good intentions and a positive attitude. Felicity Meghan Smoak is the light of Arrow and that's really no surprise to anyone who has watched even a few moments of any episode she's been in. Felicity, as a character, brings something to the show that no one else does: she brings hope. She brings goodness. She brings optimism. And we'd presume that since she is this kind of character -- the one who can joke and smile, who sees the best in people and always fights for a happy ending -- that her life has been good. (I wonder why we always assume that about people, honestly, as if somehow their attitude toward life is directly proportional to the good things that have happened to them.)

As we've seen glimpses of in past episodes and grow to see more in-depth in "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak," the blonde's life has not, in fact, been easy at all. It hasn't been pretty. Her family is wildly dysfunctional. She was rebellious in her youth. She has every right -- this IT girl who works with a vigilante, whose friends have died and who has been pushed aside by the man she loves -- to be bitter. She has every right to be angry. She has every right to look at the world through a cynical lens and pinpoint all the ways she has been hurt and all of the ways that life isn't fair.

But she doesn't. Felicity Smoak, instead of looking at the world -- HER world -- and seeing all of the darkness, is able to extract the little bits of light and happiness and joy and magnify them in order to spread them to others. That's amazing. That's not just amazing, though: that's strong. It takes the strongest kind of person to wade through the darkness in their life and emerge on the other side of it not with a smile, but with a purpose. With a fight. It was in my character appreciation post of Felicity that I said this:
[Felicity] believes in good things and happy things and she’s willing to fight for them.
That is who Felicity Smoak is, in essence. She's a young woman whose life has been difficult, but who has not allowed those dark circumstances or rough patches to color her view of herself or the world. She's, instead, taken everything that has happened to her -- good and bad -- and saved it in her arsenal. She uses her resilience and her hopefulness and her goodness and her optimism and her joy to affect every single person who enters her life. People fall in love with Felicity Smoak when they meet her and there's a reason for that. And it's not because she's perfect. And it's not because she's exactly what they want. It's because Felicity is always what people need. And boy, is she desperately needed by everyone in her life.

"The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" introduced us to some amazing backstory about our favorite blonde (who, as it turns out, used to not be blonde -- remember, she dyes it). In addition to learning about Felicity's past, we see some of it begin to resurface in the forms of her college boyfriend and her mother, Charlotte Ross. Additionally in this episode, we get the opportunity to witness some Ray/Felicity action, some Oliver/Felicity, some Ted/Laurel, and even a nice little housewarming Oliver/Thea story. So, if you're ready, grab your nearest (giant) bag of popcorn and let's discuss the episode!

The Mindy Project 3x06 "Caramel Princess Time" [Contributor: Ann]

"Caramel Princess Time"
Original Airdate: November 4, 2014

When you come across criticism of the third season of The Mindy Project, you will generally find a consensus of praise in three aspects: one, that the will-they-won’t-they romance has not hindered the show;  two, that the guest stars are surprisingly effective; and three, that the show has never been more confident and streamlined. I agree with all three of these strongly. In the past, The Mindy Project has felt incomplete, and I can’t really say that anymore. With “Caramel Princess Time” it’s obvious The Mindy Project knows what type of show it is. It has an identity, a flavor.

But I still came out of this episode a little frustrated. Why? Because while these three statements are true, the fact remains that they could be truer, that there are very obvious steps this show could take and for some inexplicable reason are not. I have lately been having a hard time writing about this show because I feel as if I am being tugged in two different directions, a feeling I have discussed before in the past. Is it possible to still watch The Mindy Project in the same way I did before? Is it as enjoyable watching it one way versus another? As I view these three defining characteristics of season 3, this divergence is so clear to me.

New Girl 4x06 "Background Check" (Doubts, Lies, and Aquarium Rocks)

"Background Check"
Original Airdate: November 4, 2014

In June of 2013, I went out to dinner with my parents, sister, and brother. We were eating at The Cheesecake Factory in celebration of my sister's birthday. And I was celebrating telling them all about my decision to run the Walt Disney World Princess Half-Marathon in February of the following year. Let me preface this by saying that at the time, I was athletic. Not excessively athletic, mind you, but I worked out a few times a week (I had a gym membership!) and enjoyed jogging. I'll never forget the silence that followed my conversation with them. They smiled and ate their food and then the conversation turned.

"You DO know how far a half-marathon is, right?" "You're going to have to really train for this." "Are you sure you don't want to start with something smaller?" "How long is it going to take you to train?" "Jenn, it's thirteen miles. What's the furthest you've ever run?"

I remember going home that night and talking to my roommate, feeling both extremely discouraged and extremely stubborn. I was determined to prove my parents and siblings wrong. I was going to run that half-marathon and I was going to train hard to do it and I was going to show everyone -- including myself -- that I had what it took to commit to a goal and not quit. (Spoiler alert: I ran my first ever half-marathon in 2:41:55, only ten minutes from my initial goal time and I'm going to be running my second half-marathon a month from now!)

Doubt is the kind of thing that can either motivate you or defeat you because it's the kind of thing that reveals who you really are. When people tell you the word "no" or the word "can't," do you accept that as reality? Or do you fight their expectations and perceptions to prove them wrong? There's this thread of doubt that weaves its way through the most recent episode of New Girl and it's doubt in Winston and his potential. Everyone in the loft feels it -- they doubt that Winston has what it takes to become a cop. They still see him as their goofy, weird, random roommate. They don't see him in a uniform and they don't expect him to succeed. And it's sad, because Winston has JUST started to believe in himself throughout his police academy training. He's finally found something that excites him and gets him out of bed in the morning. He's found a purpose and a calling.

But what happens when the people who are supposed to support you only look at you and see a joke or a failure? That's part of what "Background Check" addresses, amidst its hilarious shenanigans and piles of lies (and "meth"... or aquarium rocks).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Once Upon A Time 4x06 "Family Business" (Sometimes The Answer Isn't What You'd Want)

"Family Business"
Original Airdate: November 2, 2014

Have you ever waited for something for so long -- be it a toy when you were a child, a boyfriend when you were a teenager, or a job when you were an adult, etc. -- that this thing you waited for didn't live up to your expectations? Sometimes the waiting is the most frustrating part but it's also the most exhilarating part because we idealize and romanticize everything so much as human beings. It's part of our nature. While we hate uncertainty, we also weirdly revel in that feeling because we know the in-between parts of our journeys are also the only parts that are solely OURS. Once we get what we're waiting for, there's always the potential for disappointment. Maybe the toy breaks. Maybe the boyfriend hates your favorite band. Maybe the job is perfect but the boss and co-workers are not. 

"Sometimes the answer isn't what you'd want."

Sometimes living in the daydream is better than living in the reality; sometimes not knowing is better than knowing and being disappointed at best and distraught at worst. Our characters in this week's Once Upon A Time learn that pretty clearly and no one more so than Belle when Anna speaks the words above to her. Because answers, like magic, always come at a price. In "Family Business," we learn a lot more about Belle and the kind of woman she once was and still is; we learn a lot about The Snow Queen (Ingrid, as I'll refer to her from now on though I was quite partial to The Dairy Queen) and Emma's relationship, and we also get a tiny glimpse into how this theme applies to Robin Hood/Regina. So let's discuss what makes a hero or a heroine, shall we?