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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Suits 4x15 "Intent" (The One You Love Most)

Original Airdate: February 25, 2015

Lately on my favorite television shows, there seems to be one central question being asked: how far would you go to protect the person who means the most to you? In Arrow, it's clear that Oliver would do anything for the person he loves most (his baby sister, Thea). In Suits' penultimate episode of this season, it's extremely evident that Harvey Specter would do anything  in the world to protect Donna and make sure that she is safe. In a lot of ways, Oliver and Harvey are similar -- they're both stubborn, unconventional in their methods, and have difficulty verbally expressing how they feel. That's why Oliver lost Felicity the first time: he couldn't tell her how he felt. He couldn't tell her that she meant so much to him. In "Intent," the same thing almost happens to Harvey. He almost turns around and walks out of Donna's apartment doing the same thing he always does: masking his feelings behind insinuations. Instead, this episode marked a turning point in Harvey and Donna's relationship because I think that the threat of actually losing her hit way too close for comfort this time around.

Matters of the heart don't just fall on Harvey and Donna in "Intent," though. As we know from last week's episode, Jeff broke it off with Jessica, rather angrily. And he did so because she lied to him. Because she's spent their entire relationship lying to him and it doesn't seem to affect her. So in "Intent," Jessica decides to do what she should have done years ago: open herself up. Harvey and Jessica are a lot alike and the parallels in this episode are very subtle but important in terms of their respective relationships.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Arrow 3x15 "Nanda Parbat" (Do You Want Justice or Vengeance?)

"Nanda Parbat"
Original Airdate: February 25, 2015

I'm a word nerd.

I said that once this week already, but it's true. I chalk it up to the English degree and the fact that I'm just wired to be curious about what words mean the way scientists are curious about how cells look under a microscope. The English language fascinates me and it always intrigues me that we assign meaning to certain separate words and yet use those words interchangeably. The words "justice" and "vengeance" are thrown around in this episode so if you'll allow me, I'd like to explore each word's definition and hopefully that will help us identify what exactly is happening in this week's Arrow episode titled "Nanda Parbat."

Justice, as defined my Merriam-Webster is: "the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals." Vengeance, meanwhile, is defined as "the act of doing something to hurt someone else because that person did something that hurt you or someone else." Man, I love words, don't you? Nyssa tells Oliver in "Nanda Parbat" that justice IS vengeance, essentially equating the two. What I think is so interesting is the introduction of complex themes and questions into Arrow's third season. This has been a year that is fueled by the idea of identity -- what you do defines who you are, essentially, and what you don't do also defines who you are. I think that's the problem that Team Arrow is having with Oliver recently (and everything that happens with Malcolm throughout this episode and the episodes prior is a pretty great callback to how Oliver treated the man in "The Magician" much to the disbelief of everyone else). What he isn't doing angers Nyssa and Laurel and Diggle and Roy and Thea and Felicity just as much as what he is doing. If you'll notice in the definitions above, vengeance is the definition that focuses on the first-person pronoun "you." Vengeance is selfish, by its very definition because it is all about YOU. It's all about what has been done to you and what you feel is deserved because of that. Justice, meanwhile, if you'll notice is not defined that way. Justice isn't focused on a pronoun at all, first or third person. Justice is focused on a process and on a series of decisions. Vengeance is one act of doing something to hurt someone else because they hurt you first.

So the big question of "Nanda Parbat" really is this: are our characters seeking justice for Malcolm Merlyn or are they seeking vengeance for what he did to them? There's a pretty thin line that I think a lot of the characters walk and it's interesting to watch unfold. So let's explore it a bit, shall we?

New Girl 4x17 "Spiderhunt" (#TheStruggleIsReal)

Original Airdate: February 24, 2015

When there is a spider (or a cockroach because I live in Florida, remember) in my apartment, I have the tendency to... freak out. Just a bit. I do exactly what Schmidt does in this episode -- aptly titled "Spiderhunt" -- and I prowl around looking for the bug and I hunt it down because I don't want to let the fear of the bug prevent me from enjoying my dinner or going to sleep. Fear is kind of a powerful motivator for a lot of things, if you think about it. It can cause us to be braver than we ever thought we could be. It can also cause us to cower in the corner with a rolled up newspaper and a jar. This week's New Girl wasn't plot-heavy, but it was shenanigan-heavy. And it exemplified something that I think is important (and that New Girl always does when it is at its best): it showed us that the show works best when everyone is together.

Sleepy Hollow had problems this season (and, admittedly, I stopped watching a few episodes into the new season) because it spent a lot of time focusing on characters no one cared about and relationships no one wanted to see explored. The audience yearned for the core team of Ichabod and Abbie to be the focus and when it wasn't, a lot of the audience abandoned the show. New Girl knows that it is always at its best when it explores the dynamic between these six really weird, really wonderful individuals. It's a fact, actually, stated by Schmidt at the end of the episode. The series has been firing on all cylinders this year because it is taking its time focusing on shenanigans and friendship and gleaning heart from every situation.

New Girl is essentially working because every week, the gang is going on a spiderhunt together.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Parks and Recreation 7x10 ("The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show") & 7x11 ("Two Funerals") [Contributor: Jaime]

"The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show" & "Two Funerals"

As you’ll recall, last week in my Parks recap, I talked about how difficult it was going to be to say goodbye to the show when this season has been so wonderful and such a consistent showcase for all of the things that make this show so great.  Now, I always knew that it was going to be hard to say goodbye…but after “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show,” holy crap.  I honestly don’t think I’m going to be able to survive in a world without Parks and Recreation.

"The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show"

Because seriously, any show capable of producing an episode like “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” is a show worthy of being remembered as a classic.  The episode was strange, meta, heartfelt, hilarious – and, mot obviously, a huge change in format.  If this episode had happened at any other point during the show’s run, it would have absolutely changed the show and what limitations it set on its storytelling.  But the thing is, this episode absolutely could not have happened before season seven.  It’s too much of a departure from the usual format that it just wouldn’t have worked – but more importantly, this episode was meant to function as a goodbye.  Coupled with last week’s episodes, which focused on April and her relationships with Leslie and Ron, it seems pretty obvious that “Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington,” “Pie-Mary,” “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show,” and “Two Funerals” were meant to direct our focus to particular characters and let them shine one last time.  I mentioned last week how those two episodes were probably the climax to April’s story; she’s still going to be around on the show, but her particular season-long arc came to an end.  Therefore, her presence in these two episodes, as well as next week’s finale, probably aren’t going to be particularly stressful; she can just be the April we know and love, so we’re able (but certainly not willing) to say goodbye to her.

Similarly, this episode was our goodbye to Andy.  Unlike the other main characters, Andy hasn’t really had a season-long arc.  April had her job search, Tom has Lucy, Leslie and Ben have their various political storylines…But Andy hasn’t really had that.  Instead, he’s kind of been a supporting player in everyone else’s storylines.  He supported Leslie in her National Parks campaign for the Newport land, he inspired Tom to go after Lucy, he’s helped April in her search for her dream job…And finally, thanks to Johnny Karate, I realized what Andy’s arc this season has been.  He’s there to support people, just as he always has.  He’s there to help his friends in whatever way they need, without a second thought, without reservation.  So for this episode, the last time we get a spotlight on Andy Dwyer, of course it’s going to be about his friends are there for him.  Of course the climax to Andy’s story is going to be watching his friends support him as enthusiastically as he’s supported them.

The entire episode is filmed, and shown to us, as an episode of Andy’s show.  In fact, it’s the last episode of the show, since Andy and April are moving to Washington, D.C., in a few weeks.  See?  Didn’t I tell you it was meta?  But instead of doing something special, Andy treats it like a regular episode (something I suspect Parks’ series finale next week will also do).  So first, he goes to sing his welcome song – but he can’t, because someone’s stolen his guitar.  But never fear: Burt Macklin is on the case, ready to kick crime’s butt.  The chief of police (played by Donna) find a piece of cloth near where the guitar is kept that points them toward the thief.  Since he needs the guitar to play the goodbye song, Burt swears that he’ll find the culprit by the end of the episode, and put them in the Funky Monkey Dunk Tank.

After telling his audience that this is his last show, he brings April out for her segment, April’s Animal Corner.  She brings in a goliath bird-eating tarantula, but soon realizes that it’s missing from its cage – because Andy was playing with it.  This leads to another one of the show’s segments: Loose Animal in the Studio.

After that, Johnny Karate sings about the five karate moves to success, which make up the structure of each of his episodes: make something, learn something, karate chop something, try something new, and be nice to someone.  So first, he goes to make something with “Carpenter Ron,” which is too adorable to even describe.  Carpenter Ron tells them that they’re going to build a shadowbox frame, and then goes on to thank Andy for everything he’s done for the children of Pawnee.  Andy declares this a Hug Moment, with an accompanying graphic on the screen to confirm it.  Ron does not agree.  It…gets tense.

Then he goes to learn something with Professor Smartbrain (Ben, naturally).  Professor Smartbrain wants to talk about geography, and focuses on how long it would take to travel to Washington, D.C., by train, plane, or car.  Things very quickly get derailed when Andy suggests that teleportation would actually be the fastest way to travel.  I mean, he’s not wrong, but, like, he’s not right, either.

This episode is already proving pretty difficult to recap, because it just doesn’t work the way episodes are supposed to work.  It’s not so much a collection of storylines, but rather, a spotlight on the themes that have always been at the core of Andy Dwyer.  So it’s not particularly important to the plot of the episode that he goes to make something with Carpenter Ron; what’s important is that Ron, and Ben, and everyone else, has a recurring roles on the show.  And we know from previous episodes that Andy is basically making this show himself – he wasn’t getting paid well until Tom took care of his salary negotiations.  So when Andy’s friends appear on the show, it’s solely as a favor to him.  The fact that these segments are so settled, and that different clips of them appear in the show’s opening credits (which, instead of the usual Parks credits, were the Johnny Karate credits with the characters’ names) makes it pretty obvious that Carpenter Ron, Professor Smartbrain, Mailman Barry, etc., have been part of the show since it began – because of course they have.

The other main theme in the episode is Andy’s love for April, because when it comes down to it, that’s his other defining characteristic.  I already talked about how this episode serves as our goodbye to Andy, but it’s just so, so important that instead of saying goodbye through watching him get his dream job, or watching him settle down, it’s through watching him just be himself.  Andy Dwyer has always been this huge bundle of emotion and energy, and more than any other character on the show, comedy and story can be created by dropping him into any situation and watching how he reacts.  So that gave the writers a lot of room in this shortened final season; they could focus on wrapping up the storylines of other characters without worrying that Andy wasn’t getting his due.

And the thing is, Andy’s already working at his dream job.  He’s already settled down with the person he loves.  And for someone who’s so happy and content all the time, it’s not like something that can suddenly come along that’ll make Andy’s life better.  His life has always been great; he knows all he needs for things to be awesomesauce is to be surrounded by the people he loves.

But the problem with having someone in your life like Andy is that it can be so easy to take advantage of that.  People who are affable, who adapt easily to change, who don’t have demands in their own lives that can’t mesh with your own – it can be easy to forget that they have things they enjoy, and things they don’t want to give up.  So while April is excited about her new job in D.C. (and Andy’s thrilled for her), in this episode, she realizes just how much Andy’s giving up by moving to D.C. with her.  After all, he loves doing his show, and the kids who watch the show love him.  After spending the entire episode visibly upset, April finally runs out as Andy’s wrapping things up.  He goes after her and she tells him how horrible she feels that she’s the one keeping him from what he loves.  It’s such a sweet moment, one that feels especially earned given Andy’s constant status as everyone’s support system.  No one’s ever really told Andy he should be free to do what he wants, or even that he should be focusing on improving his life.  The only person who’s said that to him is April.  But the thing is, Andy loves April – that’s the thing that makes him happiest, and that’s what he wants in his life.  He doesn’t care where they live, or what job he has; as long as he and April are together, he’ll be happy.

It’s also so meaningful that after April runs out, Andy immediately goes after her.  He doesn’t acknowledge the audience, doesn’t worry about finding someone to come take his place so the show can go on – he just goes to see what’s wrong with April.  And her overwhelming support of him, and of how much he loves doing the show, is so sweet, and shows just how far they’ve come.  Remember all those years ago when Andy got upset that Mouse Rat wasn’t April’s favorite band?  Well, now, April calls him her favorite TV host, even above Tom Snyder, without hesitation.  Because she knows how much he loves doing it and how happy it makes him – so it makes her happy, too.

After talking to April, Andy checks off the last item on the list of his Five Karate Moves to Success: be nice to someone.  Earlier, he and the children karate chopped something (Mailman Barry, naturally), and tried something new, with the help of Leslie.  Which, okay, the fact that Andy’s friends constantly appear on the show is adorable enough, but the fact that Leslie is in charge of the segment about trying something new, even if it scares you?  That’s just so sweet to think about, especially since in Andy’s song about the five karate moves, he mentions that you need to try something new even if it scares you.  Just imagine Andy sitting down and figuring out how his show was going to work, and coming up with segments that could feature his friends.  It says so much about how he sees them: Ron is capable, Ben is smart, and Leslie is brave.

That’s one of the best things about this episode.  Because The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show is completely shaped by Andy, this episode serves as an uninterrupted look at Andy and how he thinks.  So while it’s already endearing to see the way he views his friends, it’s even sweeter when you think of Andy viewing them in their most basic components.  He might find Ben boring, but he believes that Ben is smart and trusts what he has to say; Ron might not embrace hugs but he’s able to work alongside Andy.  He’s able to look past other aspects of their personalities, that might otherwise be negative or contradictory or just somehow complex, and narrow it down to their most important characteristics: the things that make them valuable people and good friends.

Like I said, when you’re the friendliest friend, the one who’s a constant source of support and affirmation, it can be easy to be overlooked.  It’s not that those people aren’t loved deeply; it can just be easy to forget that sometimes, you need to turn your attention onto them in return.  So for the last episode of The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show, the new thing that Leslie tries is hosting her friend’s TV show.  She takes Andy’s hosting duties away so that, instead of him going to everyone else and putting them in the spotlight, he becomes the guest of honor on his own show.  After all, as Leslie points out, if he hadn’t broken both his legs from falling into the pit (while he was super drunk, as he inappropriately points out in front of the audience of children), she never would have known about its existence, and basically everything that followed in her life wouldn’t have happened.  And it’s true – she wouldn’t have met Ann, and she wouldn’t have developed her first real passion project that got her attention.  The show literally would not – could not – have been the same without Andy, a fact that means even more when you consider that originally, Andy was only supposed to be a recurring character in the first season.

And truly, that’s the mark of a great character.  A show or film can be focused on one central character, but the cast around that central character needs to be there for a reason.  That’s why so many romantic comedies are so flimsy – because the only people who truly need to be there are the two main characters.  Any friends or coworkers they have, more often than not, are just there to flesh out scenes involving those two characters; they don’t actually affect the plot themselves.  But on Parks, every character matters.  Their existence, and what they added to this weird cartoonish world of Pawnee, kept the show from merely being the story of Leslie Knope.  Thanks to Ron, Andy, April, Tom, Donna, and (gag) Jerry, this became the story of a family.

So this is it, the last time we’re going to spend this much time with Andy Dwyer.  And how do we spend it?  Watching him hang out with his friends, support his wife, and having as much fun as he possibly can.

Some other moments from the episode (which focused heavily on jokes over plot, so there are a lot of things to mention here):

  • The kids in the audience and their unrestrained adoration of Andy was just so cute.  Even cuter: the kids dressed as Burt Macklin.  Who would have thought that what started as a one-off joke in, what, season two or three would have led to kids dressing up as Bury Tyrannosaurus Macklin?
  • “You’re the best agent I’ve seen.  And I’ve worked with James Bond.”
  • The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show credits in place of Parks’ regular credits was so great, and along with the fake commercials that aired, made it feel like we were watching a local Pawnee TV station.
  • April Ludgate-Karate-Dwyer!  She’s April Ludgate-Karate-Dwyer!  Is that not the cutest thing you’ve ever heard in your entire life?!  The familiarity she had when she came out for her animal segment was so cute, too, as was Andy constantly gushing over her to the audience.  I’m imagining a world where they stay in Pawnee and cohost the show together and honestly, it’s a world I want to live in.
  • Those fake commercials, though.  That Paunch Burger commercial especially was absolutely something I could see airing on television; I saw a ton of tweets afterwards from people who thought it was a real commercial until Paunch Burger was mentioned.
  • The disclaimer for Loose Animal in the Studio scrolled by too quickly to read it, but a few people have transcribed it or screencapped it.  You can check it out here; it’s definitely worth reading, just for the mention of Greg Pikitis.
  • “I was not going to eat it, Carpenter Ron.  I was going to lick it.  Always remember, kids, when you find something new, you must lick it before you eat it.”
  • The fact that Andy has a boring buzzer for his segment with Ben, and Ben’s exasperation with it.  
  • Throughout the episode, Andy would occasionally roll on the floor as he entered the frame, and it makes me wish this were something that happened throughout Parks’ run.  Up until this episode aired, I wouldn’t have thought that Parks was missing anything, but now I know that it could have been so much more if they let Chris Pratt roll into frame at least once an episode.
  • Pretty early on during the episode, I had a thought that this is what the entire show would have been like if Andy were the main character instead of Leslie.  And please, let’s all just take a few moments to stop, slow down our crazy hectic lives, and just imagine what that show would have been like.
  • I wasn’t the only one who teared up a little when Mailman Barry said he had over five hundred letters from kids asking Andy to stay, right?  We’ve seen Andy interacting with his fans before, and it’s no wonder they love him so much.  If I were a kid growing up in Pawnee, I would be obsessed with Johnny Karate.
  • “Remember, never attack a real postal employee.  We’re allowed to attack Mailman Barry because he volunteered to help us with our karate moves.”
  • “Wamapoke Casino: Slowly taking back our money from white people one quarter at a time.”
  • “’Phenomenon’ means ‘to explore a cave.’”
  • The reappearance of the fourteenth Earl of Cornwall-upon-Thames Sir Edgar Covington was amazingly unexpected, as was his knighting of Andy.
  • But, okay, nothing can top Ben eagerly getting knighted as well, with his pronouncement, “Winter is coming for Ser Ben Lightstorm.”  The way he stared at his hands in the background of the shot after he was knighted might be my favorite bit of background comedy…ever, probably.
  • Andy getting an honorary badge from the Pawnee police department was such a nice touch.  It was a great reminder of what was probably his most long-term and serious storyline, and a sweet moment to show us just how far he’s come – while reminding us how versatile Andy is.  He was so passionate about becoming a police officer and it didn’t work out, but now he’s so happy to be Johnny Karate.  It was okay that he didn’t get to live his dream because he made a new dream – so when he tells April that he’ll be happy in D.C., we know that he means it.
  • The karate uniform dedication to Johnny Karate, with Donna and Ron providing musical accompaniment.  I was slain, you guys.
  • Did anyone else notice that Sir Edgar Covington was singing along to the Johnny Karate goodbye song?  You can’t convince me that he isn’t Johnny Karate’s biggest fan.  I bet he never misses an episode.

That’s it for “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show”!

"Two Funerals"

The second episode, “Two Funerals,” returns to Parks’ usual format, which means I’ll actually be able to talk about, like, plot and whatnot.  And it’s a pretty huge episode – for one thing, Leslie’s promotion is official, so she and Ben need to find a place in D.C.  Of course, we already know that Andy and April are moving there, too, and Donna drops the bomb that she and Joe have bought a house in Seattle.  Oh, and Garry’s retiring, but this is about people who are moving, so no one cares.  Leslie points out that bad news comes in threes, so the fact that all three are leaving must mean that good news is coming soon.  Of course, as soon as she says that, a news report comes on that announces Mayor Gunderson, the mayor of Pawnee, has died.  Stupid Garry jinxed them.  Dammit, Garry.

At Mayor Gunderson’s funeral, Ben asks for April’s help in finding an interim mayor.  See, as city manager, that’s Ben’s responsibility – and since his other responsibilities basically have him running the town as it is, April suggests he just appoint himself interim mayor.  Instantly, he refuses; after all, he’s already been mayor, and look what happened.

I don’t have numbers to back me up here, but it feels like we’ve gotten a lot of references to Ice Town this season, possibly more than we have in any other season.  And it makes sense – this season, we’ve seen Ben more ambitious than ever before, and it’s reasonable that the spectacular failure he was as a mayor is haunting him now that he restarts his political career.  And the thing is, it doesn’t matter how much time passes, or what else he accomplishes.  He can work hard at being a good city manager, a good husband, a good father – but that doesn’t erase the fact that he was a terrible mayor.  So instead of giving himself the chance to prove that he does know how to be a good mayor, he’s positive that he would mess it up again, and instead looks to someone else within Pawnee to take the job: someone over thirty, who somehow serves as the face of the city.  He, April, and Garry meet with a few different candidates – first Bobby Newport, who we have to assume still has never had a real job in his life.  But tragically, Bobby is preparing to go to space, and cannot take on mayoral duties.  After their other options – including Joan Callamezzo and the Douche – don’t work out, April tries again to get Ben to take the job.  This time, she refuses to accept Ice Town as an excuse; he’s the right person for the job, and taking this opportunity would allow him to erase Ice Town.

But right before he signs the paperwork naming him mayor, Ben realizes something: he doesn’t want to erase Ice Town.  Sure, he messed it up, but that mistake is such a huge part of his past.  Without it, he wouldn’t have come to Pawnee, wouldn’t have met Leslie, wouldn’t have the life he has now.

And he’s right: every choice a person makes determines who they are.  Even the life-ruining ones.  Because, after all, if your life is ruined, doesn’t that mean you have to start a new one in the aftermath?  And that’s the thing, the magical thing that happens on any long-running TV show.  We’re going on a journey with these characters, and seeing them change and adapt and grow.  So everything they do, everything that happens to them, we get to see the consequences of that, and see how they react to it.  And that’s kind of what makes this final season so great – we get to see what the next step for everyone is, but everyone’s next steps are things that were on a whole different staircase back in season one.  Everyone’s storylines are ending, but the characters aren’t over – and we were there for their beginning, and have watched them earn their accomplishments and developments every season.

And speaking of earning accomplishments, no one has earned it more than Garry Gergich.  He’s been the butt of everyone’ jokes for years.  Really, the only time he got any respect was when he retired.  So it’s fitting in a lot of ways that in this episode, when he announces his retirement for the second time, everyone once again bands together to celebrate him – not because of his retirement, but because Ben offers him the job of interim mayor.  It’s only for two months until they can hold an emergency election, but you guys, Garry is mayor.  What a crazy, crazy world.

But of course, the mood isn’t completely celebratory.  After all, the town’s long-term mayor has died, and people are moving away.  Leslie’s saddened by all of the endings going on, which just seem so much darker without any new beginnings.  So when Tom tells her that he and Lucy looked at engagement rings, she immediately dedicates herself to helping Tom plan the perfect proposal for Lucy.  After all, life is short, as she’s reminded by Ethel Beavers’ eulogy (where she reveals that she and the mayor had been sleeping together for decades), and it’s pointless not to go after the things you want.

When you combine Leslie’s unwavering enthusiasm and Tom’s never-ending cache of larger-than-life ideas, you get…an interesting proposal.  Tom decides to film it for Lucy, since she’s away in Philadelphia, and stages it like an action movie where, after going to a jewelry store to purchase her ring, he has to fight off a group of criminals (including the love of my life Jean-Ralphio).  It’s all very much something you would expect Tom to concoct.

But the thing is, it’s all about Tom, not about Lucy.  He realizes that when he goes to pick her up from the airport and tells Leslie the whole thing is off – instead, he gives her a list of items and tells her to meet him at the Snakehole Lounge.  There, he reenacts his first date with Lucy and proposes.  Naturally, she says yes.

I realized during “Donna and Joe” that, adorably, every main character (save Tom) is married.  And now, with Tom engaged, all of the characters are officially settled down.  Which, okay, on some shows could come off as very hokey, like marriage or a long-term relationship is the only possible happy ending a character can have.  But on Parks, it just feels…sweet.  The show has always been about love – particularly, the love between a family.  But when that family is makeshift, and has been formed by people bonding and choosing to become family, it just wouldn’t make sense if new members couldn’t be added along the way.

Moreover, having every character in a relationship gives them a life outside of the viewpoint of the show, which can be difficult to achieve on a show centered on a workplace.  And the best part about it is that all of the relationships are handled so, so differently – Leslie and Ben are not April and Andy, who in turn are not Ron and Diane.  These characters have all found their soulmate, their perfect match.  But when the cast on this show is populated by people whose personalities, at least on paper, don’t mesh at all, it makes it even more poignant that they’ve all found someone who complements them.

I’ve talked a lot in my recaps about why this is such a great storyline for Tom.  And if you’ll recall what I was saying earlier, how “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” is our opportunity to say goodbye to Andy, then “Two Funerals” is our opportunity to say goodbye to Tom.  Sure, the episode isn’t as focused on Tom as “Johnny Karate” was on Andy, but we were given the chance to see Tom as part of a mature, stable relationship, and see him making selfless and caring gestures for the woman he loves.  Basically, Tom has become an adult.  Like our trust that Andy could be happy in Washington, D.C., the way Tom has been used this season has allowed us to feel confident that things are going to work between him and Lucy, and that even though he’s still as ridiculous as ever, we don’t have to worry about him.

A huge theme of this season has been change.  Changes in careers, in relationships, in dynamics – there’s been a lot going on, both in the gap from 2014-2017 and even just from within 2017.  And there has to be, right?  It’s like Leslie says – you need a balance of beginnings and endings.  Things start, they happen, they end, and then something else starts.  It’s just how life works.

This, of course, is not how Ron Swanson operates.  He’s a man stuck in his ways, so when he finds out that his barber Salvatore (who famously did Leslie’s hair for the banquet in season one) has died, he’s crushed.  He’s been going to Salvatore for over forty years, getting the same exact haircut, paying the same exact amount, and having the same exact conversations (that is to say, they do not speak to each other).  Ultimately, Donna brings him to her friend Typhoon, whose hatred of Europe and bicycles is appealing to Ron, making him able to accept Typhoon as his new barber.

In a strange way, Ron might be the most accurate audience surrogate this season in terms of his reluctance to accept change.  He doesn’t want April to leave just like we don’t want these characters to grow apart; he doesn’t want a new barber just like we don’t want the show to end.  But endings have to happen; if you’ve been paying attention, we know that endings have to happen so something else can begin.  And remember what Ron said to April last week?  What’s important is that he trusted her.  The important thing in forming any connection is that you were able to connect – that something real and important was created.

Some other great moments from the episode:

  • BILL MURRAY, you guys.  BILL MURRAY IS MAYOR GUNDERSON.  Mike Schur has ben talking about wanting Bill Murray to play Gunderson since season two, and I kind of thought it would never happen.  It’s almost a week later and I’m still freaking out about how great that reveal was.
  • “As per his final wish, his body will lie in state in the city council chambers for a day.  Which is just a real cool thing for a public space.” 
  • “Well, I was a mayor once before.  We all remember how that went.”  “Oh yeah, you completely disgraced yourself and destroyed an entire town.”   “Yeah, I said we all remember.”  I’ll never forget you, Ben/April.
  • Ron collapsing when he hears about Salvatore
  • “Was he killed by a younger, stronger barber?”  I want Andy to be a journalist.  He asks all the hard-hitting questions that everyone is thinking.
  • Ethel Beavers revealing her long-standing affair with Mayor Gunderson was great on its own, but the slow pan over to Gunderson in his coffin was a brilliant punctuation mark on the joke.
  • The name of the banner store: Sign-tologist.  I’m going to miss you so much, Pawnee.
  • Ron putting a $10 in Salvatore’s coffin and then commenting, “As you know, I don’t believe in tipping, so I will collect my change from your wife.”
  • “Look at how raggedy my hair is.  What am I supposed to be, some sort of rock star?”
  • I have been waiting for six weeks to see my beautiful sweet prince Jean-Ralphio.  I was so thrilled to finally see him, and even more thrilled that one of the first words out of his mouth was “Haver-fraud” when his character greeted Tom in the jewelry store.  Bless you, you beautiful idiot.
  • And of course, no Jean-Ralphio appearance is complete without Mona Lisa.  I love watching what happens when Jean-Ralphio and Ben get together, but watching Ben interact with Mona Lisa might even be better.
  • Ron Dunne reappeared!  And Ron Swanson still hates him!
  • “Whenever my hair feels it has completed its journey, it simply sheds itself off.”  “I hate you so much.”  “And I love you, my brother.”
  • April screaming like she was being tortured after Ben announced Garry was going to the be interim mayor.
  • Tom’s little “yay” after Lucy says yes was SO CUTE and so very Tom.
  • “So what’s your story again?  I mean, like, how married are you?  Are you down to clown?”
  • “Why are you like this?”  “PILLS, baby!”
  • Tomegranate Juice is my new favorite nickname.  BRB, going to make a friend named Tom just so I can call him that.
  • “More good news – I finally found someone to be mayor.  Garry.”  “Ugh, I’m so glad we’re leaving.”

And with that, we’re almost at the end.  Parks’ series finale is coming up way too soon; how do you think it will end?  And a bigger question – how many times do you think I’ll cry?  Let me know what you thought of “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” and “Two Funerals,” and how you’re planning on celebrating the finale!

Pawnee: First In Friendship (A Goodbye to 'Parks and Recreation')

I started watching Parks and Recreation because I watched Community. Every week, I would work on my reviews as the show would be airing and every week I thought: "Maybe I should take the time to marathon this entire show." When I finally did decide to marathon the NBC series, I was so enamored with it -- with the comedy and the heart and the spirit of the show. The thing about Parks and Rec was that it has always been a series founded on the idea of optimism and true friendship. I like New Girl a lot. I enjoy The Mindy Project. Community is pretty great and The Office was fantastic and iconic. But none of those comedies perfectly exemplifies the idea of optimism like Parks and Rec does. This is a show that chooses to focus on characters who genuinely and truly love each other, who are good at their jobs, who are passionate and driven (even if their goals are seemingly insignificant like turning a hole into a park). The reason that this show has been successful for so long and the reason it's beloved by critics and fans alike is because it represents the best of humanity. And with everything happening in this world and on television that can be so heavy and so dark and so violent and upsetting, it's always nice to know that you can return to Pawnee, Indiana and feel something hopeful swell in your chest as you watch Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson share a conversation over a plate of breakfast food.

Goodbyes aren't easy, especially in the realm of television. As I was contemplating why it's difficult to say goodbye to Parks and Rec, I realized an apt metaphor: It's like when you're a child and your parents take you to a park to play outside or a community pool to swim. I always loved those days during the summer when you could play pretend and run around or swim laps until your hair turned green and stiff from the chlorine. When the sun began to dip below the horizon and your parents started packing up the chairs and towels, all you wanted was just a few more moments to stay in the world of pretend. I once read on Tumblr that the feeling of finishing a show was sad "because... you just want to stay inside that world for a little bit longer, but you can't."

If we could all stay in Pawnee for another season or two or three, I think we would. And I think the cast would, too. The beauty though of Parks and Rec was that it never ran out of stories to tell, even at the end of its run. Often times, when shows approach their conclusions, plots become thinner (or recycled from previous seasons) and the show you once knew and loved is a shadow of its former self. Not so with this lovely NBC series, though. Arguably the final season of Parks has been stronger than some of its earlier years because it remained true to its characters, focused on relationships and emotional stories, and reminded everyone why they fell in love with Pawnee in the first place.

So below, I decided to say goodbye to the show the only way I know how: through writing thank-you notes to the actors/characters and reminding everyone of what we have learned throughout the last seven years in Pawnee, Indiana.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Suits 4x14 "Derailed" (Superheroes, Humanitarians, and Liars)

Original Airdate: February 18, 2015

I like flawed characters on television, but I also like genuinely good characters, too. I like characters who are driven to help the people around them, no matter the cost. I like characters who want to make the world a better place and not just serve their own agendas. I like characters who sacrifice things for others -- be it time or pride or their own prejudices. I like these people, these people who want to change the world and who often fail, who try to do good and sometimes get frustrated. And so "Derailed" is one of my favorite episodes of Suits this season because of that. In this episode, everyone is trying their best to be the best versions of themselves: Harvey is trying to let Mike have his own case and make his own decisions; Mike is trying to genuinely help someone else; Donna is trying to help Mike; Louis is trying to make amends with Jeff; Jeff is trying to trust Louis; Jessica is trying to be upfront with Jeff.

The beauty of "Derailed" is that so many characters in the episode spend so much of their time trying to be heroes -- they try to do right by the people they care about and put aside their own egos and pride in order to make Pearson Specter Litt better. Unfortunately for a few of these characters, their willingness to protect the people they care about ends up backfiring. So let's talk about that in light of the episode, shall we?

Oscars Fashion 2015: The Good, The Bad, and The Meh

Last year, I noted that the primary reason a majority of people watch The Oscars (or any awards show, really) is because they're enamored with the fashion. I include myself in this list, really, because I may be an avid fan of television and television awards, but I rarely see movies. And honestly, when I do go to the movie theater and spend $10 of my hard-earned money, I see something like Frozen or Into the Woods or a romantic comedy. I was never a film student and I could never pretend to be -- to understand the nuances of filmmaking, what makes a score or a song particularly important, or why, technically, a film should win Best Picture.

(I leave all of the film critiques to people like Chelsea and Jaime who actually know what they're talking about and can articulate why a movie or an actor deserves to win other than: "It/they was/were really good."

So I watch The Oscars because I'm a typical girl and I like shiny things and I like pretty things. So below, let's talk about the 2015 fashion at The Oscars and name some of my best and worst-dressed (along with those who elicited a "meh") shall we?

* all photos credit to hollywoodlife.com

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 1

There is so much good acting on television each week that it's nearly impossible to watch everything -- every show, every scene, every actor or actress. But every week, one actor or actress usually rises above the rest. Be it a standout scene, a stellar episode, or an emotional confrontation, these are the M.V.P.s. They're the ones whose performances leave you speechless, in the best way possible. They're the ones that you tweet praise about, the ones you spend the next day thinking of, re-watching those moments with them again on YoutTube or reblogging every Tumblr GIF set you can find. They're the most valuable actors or actresses in an episode.

And we're going to celebrate them each week.

I know a lot of really smart people who watch television. These are my friends who spend countless hours discussing the merits and pitfalls of television series or character arcs. They understand what makes a compelling episode of television and what makes a bad episode of television. They can articulate WHY something is good. And sure, sometimes they flail and squeal about a ship or an episode, but you're more likely to find them on blogs and reviews intelligently discussing why something is worth watching, rather than just claiming that it is. These are my people. These are my ladies.

Every week, there will be an installment of this new series called "This Week's TV MVPs" where we will get the opportunity to discuss some stand-out performances in television that happened over the course of that week. This week, joining us for the conversation are my distinguished panel of friends:

So if you're ready, let's talk about some television, shall we?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Mindy Project 3x15 ("Dinner at the Castellanos") & 3x16 ("Lahiri Family Values") [Contributor: Ann]

"Dinner at the Castellanos" & "Lahiri Family Values"
Original Airdates: February 10, 2015 & February 17, 2015

I’m so sorry that I am just getting to these reviews now! School has been crazy and unfortunately that means that all of my free time is devoted to napping and worrying. It’s cute, I know.

Luckily for me, these two episodes work well together anyway. “Dinner At the Castellanos” and “Lahiri Family Values” both serve a lot of similar purposes—they move the plot forward (which has been the case pretty much since “Christmas”), they incorporate cool guest stars who I love (John Cho! Dan Hedeya!), they are both about family, and they are both post-pregnancy episodes, a development which in both cases has given the narrative some of the structure that I’ve been waiting for all season. However, the execution of both of these episodes was very different and as a result, I liked one more than the other. Although, spoiler alert: I have liked both of these episodes a lot more than I’ve liked other episodes this season.

Let me just talk about them briefly, if that’s cool—what worked and what didn’t work and what I felt the purpose of each episode was (because, spoiled high-maintenance me loves to identify the purpose of television shows).

"Dinner At The Castellanos"

I loved this episode so much because it was very "Desert"-reminiscent, which is one of my favorite episodes of the show. I wonder why the inclusion of Alan Castellano and Little Danny is so successful; Annette has been hanging around all season but has never clicked so much as she did here. Seeing Danny’s family fully-fleshed (sans Richie but plus Dot!) was very informative to me of Danny’s character, and in an episode that followed the season 3 CLASSIC formula of ‘Danny disagrees with Mindy in a way that is kind of rude,’ at least this time I could understand why he was the way he was. 

Neither Mindy or Danny are totally right, and I love that; you shouldn’t be able to identify a “good guy” and a “bad guy”: you just need to identify the motives behind the characters’ decisions. 

Mindy slapped Danny’s sister, which is highly inappropriate, and she instigated a decades-in-the-making dinner. I don’t blame Danny for being pissed at her for having to unnecessarily confront all of his family drama in a dinner not of his choosing, nor do I think it’s fair to get angry at Danny for treating the mother of his child pretty badly—he doesn’t know she’s pregnant, and I think it’s a lot more justifiable to treat a non-member of your family that way (I like to compartmentalize the people in my life, too, and I have a lot less reason to be that way than the guy with the messed up family). I also think it’s important to note how Danny is compared to his father; Danny isn’t the best of guys, and you can see shades of his father in him (and the effect of his father on him), but what makes Danny important is that he doesn’t run away from the situation. He acknowledges that they are a family at the end of the episode. It took a lot for him to see that, and to me I think it is because he is afraid to see it, especially with Mindy in San Francisco. I hate to write this, but a baby is a binder, and it should prove that Danny has always been committed to Mindy, just unconvinced that he would obtain everything he wanted.

But… Danny is unforgivably selfish in "Dinner At The Castellanos," which makes me so thankful that Annette gives him a rough time. Again, Annette has never been cooler than when she acts as the voice of the audience, verbally bitch-slapping Danny for his “Stockholm Syndrome.” I like that she points out the tragedy behind Danny’s behavior—that he feels stuck as the caregiver of only those he knows will stay with him, his family—but she also makes it very clear that sometimes the tragedy is not enough to erase bad behavior. I mean, he kicked Mindy out! Not cool. His willingness to take in Little D, much like his buying Mindy a house without asking, was equally uncool, and hints that these two have a slew of problems waiting for them.

But what I loved most was Mindy’s behavior. I said that slapping Little Danny was highly inappropriate, but I understood why she resorted to those lengths, and I thought her comfort in disciplining Danny hinted at how much of a hard-ass she’ll be as a mother. I loved that she went all-in on the eel thing, I loved that she was desperate to prove herself—an emotion that is so realistic and so often misrepresented—and I loved that she was mostly the voice of reason, because the way Mindy the character is represented it is sometimes hard to forget why she is the way she is. Maturity is one of my favorite things to see from either of these characters; I’ve mentioned this in every review, but a bunch of jokes is absolutely nothing compared to a realistic, emotional heart behind the show. Mindy and Danny both exhibited that this episode.

The Castellanos helped Mindy and Danny express themselves best. The absence of a B-plot meant the absence of useless (Morgan) or unfleshed (Jeremy) characters and the characters that we were instead stuck with showed Danny at his worst (with Alan) and Mindy at her best (with Annette). Little Danny provided a template of what a parenting situation would look like—Danny being the selfless caregiver and Mindy being the hardass. This was the first episode that took that to task, and I can’t wait to see more situations that indicate the type of parents Mindy and Danny will be and how they will work together. I still think that the show abandoned a lot of interesting plots by knocking Mindy up, but right now I think the pregnancy has helped the show be better. This episode was the start.

"Lahiri Family Values"

Heeeeere’s the thing, though: "Lahiri Family Values" kind of dropped the ball in terms of focus, though I don’t think previous episodes helped it at all. Can you imagine if Mindy went to Stanford earlier? That we got to know Neepa more?… Or Rob, the guy we’re apparently stuck with?

A major strength of this show is that it can construct cool minor characters at the drop of a hat and bring them in and out depending on the guest star’s schedule. John Cho is beloved and Big Murder was a far and away favorite; Rishi, who we haven’t seen since season 1, was equally hilarious.

What I hate about that strength is that I don’t want to sacrifice these guest characters to those in Shulman and Associates. The previous episode also made it clear that a show could be constructed around Mindy, Danny, and the Castellano clan, and in this episode I really could see how the show would be better in San Francisco. Annette, Dot, Alan, Little Danny, Richie, Rishi, Big Murder—hell, Cliff—they are all compelling characters, and they all have more motivation behind what they do than Jeremy, Morgan, Tamra or Beverly. 

The reason this episode lacks focus is because the show refuses to pick a lane on where it wants to go or what it wants to do. Or, to be clearer, this show’s lane is “Shulman and Associates,” and that lane is slowing it down in a major way. The amount of time on the B-plot made it implausible that Mindy would drop Rob, drop Stanford, and rent office space in New York City within twenty minutes’ time, all so that the rest of the practice could figure out Mindy and Danny were expecting a baby? I appreciated that the first episode was streamlined by eliminating the B-plot, and I think this episode would have been better if that same case applied. [Jenn's Note: I was busy in my kitchen unloading the dishwasher and had my bedroom door open so I could sort of still see the episode. I kid you not, I knew exactly what the B-plot was without having to watch most of it or hear any of it. The trope of "Someone tries to tell their friends that they are moving and other characters misinterpret and think Character A is dying" has been done so often that it's eye roll-inducing and I had hoped the show would be better than resorting to that trite well. ANYWAY.]

I know I gave props to Rishi and Big Murder before, and I do love them, but another problem with this episode focus-wise is that they didn’t give me any clarity on Mindy’s situation at all. (I’ve mentioned how supporting characters should actually SUPPORT the mains, right? Or at least be periphery humor? Yes? A million times? Okay!) Rishi was truly only present to provide (half-assed) justification for Mindy’s move back to New York, and I can’t help but think there was a better way to utilize him. And Big Murder might have only been there to give John Cho an excuse to make me miss Selfie and to hit on Mindy. It felt like an unnecessary detour that took up too much time and made the end plot development unearned.

Of course, this episode was funny, as was its predecessor—though I think with this show that is always a given. What I want to see from it is a direction forward. The A-plot-only format really benefited the first episode, as did the inclusion of characters that had a satisfying purpose, whereas the second episode faltered from wearing too many hats. 

I know that both of these reviews are a bit scattered, which is ironic considering what I talk about is focus. Life imitates art, I guess? But I hope that you understand my point, here. I like both of these episodes, and as I mentioned I am loving that they are giving these characters some cool things to do and putting them in the paths of John Chos and Dan Hedayas. I just wish they would be more deliberate and thoughtful about the steps they took forward. Unlike the first half of the season, this half has a lot going on for it: San Fran, a fertility clinic, Little Mindy, a proposal. At the very least, that makes this better than the tired formula of the first eight or so episodes. These characters have decisions. They have opportunities to grow. Don’t get preoccupied by the jokes—this is a show about people. So let them be people!

Stray Observ’s:
  • "It’s only stalking if it doesn’t work! You make her love you" is unfortunately not funny because Peter will literally follow that advice. Why is he stalking her? Wasn’t she into it?
  • P.S. - Peter the Sage makes a guest appearance!
  • Rhea really looked beautiful with blonde hair, and really did win over my heart with her tough love for Mindy. It did feel like a family.
  • I will miss Neepa a lot. I will miss the potential for Stanford a lot. I mean, what was the end sum of Stanford? “Mindy goes, visits New York pretty much every episode since, is apparently bad but becomes SO good she is planning on opening a fertility clinic with her professor.” This is something that should happen at least over a half-season, not a handful of episodes. I WOULD WATCH THE SHOW OF ALL OF THESE PEOPLE! 
  • I sound rough on the B-plot, but for how farcical it was, it was executed fairly well—mostly because I like seeing Jeremy and Danny interact.
  • P.S. - I really, really love when Danny and Mindy are in their own plots, and I think “Lahiri Family Values” is the first episode all season that doesn’t end with them snuggled together. My dream is for a Mindy-Jeremy A plot and a Danny-Tamra B plot. Cross your fingers?
  • Cliff looked hot as hell, as did Big Murder. Did I mention that? I was thinking it!
Does anyone else not like Rob all that much? I don’t see his purpose other than ‘average looking brown-haired white man,’ to fill in the apparent gap left by Adam Pally.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Arrow 3x14 "The Return" (Back to the Place Where Our Story Begins)

"The Return"
Original Airdate: February 18, 2015

What is your greatest fear?

It doesn't matter if it's rational or irrational, really. That part is irrelevant. What are you really afraid of the most in this life? I have a great number of fears, both rational and irrational and some have faded as I've grown up. When I was younger, my grandmother gave me antique dolls, and to preserve them and prevent them from getting dusty, I kept a few in glass cases. I was actually kind of afraid of those dolls (I know, it's absurd) because I thought that they would, one day, get so mad at me for keeping them locked up in glass cages that they would revolt or something.

I'm afraid of drowning. One of my biggest fears is getting pulled under water and knowing that I'm slowly dying but not being able to do anything to save myself. I'm afraid of spiders (only decently-sized ones, not tiny ones) and cockroaches (any Floridian who tells you they aren't afraid of these things is lying) and the dark (hi, I'm twenty-six and still sleep with a night light on) and scary movies and the thought that everything I love could be ripped away from me in an instant. You know what's funny about fears? They can only hurt you until you've conquered them.

Once you learn how to swim and paddle into the ocean, the thought that you could drown may still linger in the back of your head but it's not going to prevent you from getting in the water. Once you stop seeing a spider as a threat and are able to kill it without flinching, you gain something important: strength.

Because once you conquer your fear, you strip it of its power over you.

Once you stop being afraid, you can really start living. It's a lot like what Augustus Waters tells Hazel Grace in The Fault in Our Stars when he places an unlit cigarette between his teeth. He tells her that it's a metaphor, because "you put the killing thing right between your teeth but you don't give it the power to do its killing." That's exactly what we do when we conquer our fears -- we take away their power over us. Because fear IS power. Fear is the very thing that paralyses us. It turns us into anxious creatures who cower and allow our phobias to prevent us from doing or from being. But a conquered fear has no power. It's like that metaphor: you keep it close to you but you never allow it to have power over you anymore.

"The Return" focuses a lot on the idea of our greatest fears and conquering them, as well as what it really means to "conquer" your fears (that's a phrase we tend to throw around a lot, I think, without actually dwelling on its definition or implications). In a way, Oliver never really conquered the island and he never really conquered his fear of Slade. He just... left. And that's the problem with Oliver, really, is that instead of dealing with the consequences of his greatest fears and instead of telling the truth, he buries himself beneath lies under the guise of protecting the people he loves. And he genuinely does want to protect them -- don't get me wrong. But in doing so, he actually harms them. And the person who gets caught in the cross-hairs of fears and lies and secrets this week? Thea Queen.

Supernatural 10x14 "The Executioner's Song" [Contributor: Deena Edwards]

"The Executioner's Song"
Original Airdate: February 17, 2015

Cain is back, and he’s been busy.

After a death row inmate, Tommy, mysteriously vanishes, Sam and Dean head to the prison, their first assumption being tulpa, demon, or something else supernatural. And it is their type of hunt, just not in the way they expected. After a quick look at the security footage, Dean recognizes right away who’s behind it--- our very own Father of Murder.

He’s not the only one who has returned. We find Castiel, who has been busy torturing and killing demons for information regarding Cain, standing over what appears to be a mass graveyard of victims much like the dead inmate, moments before Cain appears. After fighting the Mark’s thirst for blood for so long, he’d gotten the taste back, turning his focus to killing people who carry his “disease.” Entire families, descendants of his---murdered, whether or not they’re killers themselves. He assures Castiel that he’s “living proof” there isn’t a cure for the Mark, disappearing with a promise that he will get to Dean in due time.

At the bunker, Team Free Will has reunited, in research mode to try to find Cain’s next possible victim. They find out the inmate, Tommy, has an estranged son who lives in Ohio. Castiel and Sam both know that bringing Dean anywhere near Cain is probably the worst possible idea, but Dean refuses to stand down and allow an innocent kid to be murdered, even if it means having to kill Cain. It’s a fight that all of them realize Dean may not come out of the same, even if he survives it. This is the Dean we all know and love, willing to throw himself constantly into harms way for the sake of others, knowing deep down that he’ll end up dead, or worse. He’s been doing good so far, fighting the Mark, but using the Blade against Cain himself is sure to throw all that hard work right out the window and end in disaster, possibly bringing him to an even darker place than before.

Back in Hell, Rowena is digging her claws deeper and deeper into her son’s affairs, subtly nudging Crowley around like a chess piece of her own design. He’s suspicious of her sudden usefulness, but he’d not as ignorant as he’s led her to believe, quickly realizing it’s all manipulation, that she’s got other motives. She convinces him to agree to help her get take out the witch from the grand coven who led the charge against her, but when his old pal Dean calls claiming the King is on Cain’s kill-list, he drops the plans with Rowena immediately to bring them the Blade, and she’s not happy about it.

Cain’s plan to kill the boy is foiled almost immediately. The real kid is long gone, and the boy that he stabs is part of an illusion--- set to keep Cain trapped long enough for Dean to prepare himself for the next step: taking the Blade and stepping into that barn for a final face off.

In the moments before Cain is ready to end Dean’s life with the Blade, he drops some major foreshadowing on us (though, at this point, enough of these hints have been dropped over the seasons that it’s pretty hard to ignore it’s likely to be true). “My story began when I killed my brother, and that’s where your story will inevitably will end.” Before Cain can land the finishing blow, Dean pulls another blade out of Cain’s jacket pocket, slicing off the hand holding the Blade. The complete and utter fear in Dean’s eyes is obvious as he stands up, now armed with the weapon, all but begging Cain to assure him he doesn’t have to kill him--- a request he denies shortly before Dean plunges the knife into his back.

With the others, Dean returns to blade to Castiel to put somewhere safe, betraying the promise between himself and Crowley that he would be the one to have it back. He and Sam exchange a hug, and a heartbreaking one at that. When they return to the bunker, Sam tells Dean what he did was incredible, but deep down, he knows something isn’t right, just as they feared.

Dean’s in trouble.

Memorable Moments/Quotes:
  • “It’s called True Crime, Dean, it’s a hobby.” “No, bass fishing, needlepoint--- that’s a hobby, okay? Collecting serial killer stats, that’s an illness.”
  • “Well, you were a very… chunky child, darling.” 
  • “You couldn’t BE more transparent.” “Well DUH.” Okay, but, and I’m being completely serious here--- can we have a Crowley and Rowena spinoff? Can you imagine the sitcom possibilities? Crowley trying to deal with his Hell responsibilities while dealing with his insufferable, witchy mother, laugh tracks, the whole nine yards.
  • I love that Dean’s ID on Crowley’s phone is “Not Moose.” 
  • “You know last week when I said I would go down swinging when the time came? I meant that I was at peace with that. I just didn’t realize the time would come so soon. Like right now. I’m scared, Sam.”
  • “#CainsBeard” was trending for a lot of the episode on Twitter, and I can’t say I’m surprised. Timothy Omundson’s glorious locks pretty much made the episode for me, not gonna lie. On a more serious note, though, he gave me chills on more than one account, his portrayal of Cain probably one of the scariest “bad guys” on the show, even compared to all of the demons and monsters.
  • I was certain I was going to require medical attention during the face off between Cain and Dean. As a matter of fact, it’s possible that I still do.
No more episodes until March 18th, when CW shifts Supernatural over to Wednesday nights, so until then, just try to survive the Hellatus. I’ll be back then!

New Girl 4x16 "Oregon" (Sunshine and Smiles)

Original Airdate: February 17, 2015

I broke up with my college boyfriend when I moved back home from West Palm Beach to Orlando. It's a separation of about three hours, but the gap was significant enough to me that I couldn't fathom sustaining our relationship for that long. Not while he was away, living his own life and I was trying to navigate a new college and new friendships and a new-old normal. So I decided that long-distance just wasn't for me. I need to be around people in order to feel connected to them. I need them to spend time with me, even if it's just an hour for coffee or a quick bite to eat. And when you're dating someone who lives hours away or states away or an entire continent away, you don't have that luxury. You try to make what little time you have together stretch across the lengths of time that you don't. And for some people, Skype dates and once-a-month meet-ups are fine. They're not preferable, but they're fine. For the majority of others, that's not the case.

Jess Day falls into the latter category in "Oregon," an episode that uproots the gang from California and throws them into the rainy hometown of their quirky friend. Jess and Ryan are still together at the beginning of the episode, trying to figure out a way to make their relationship work in spite of the extremely long distance between them. Because that's who Jessica Day is -- she's someone who works for relationships and fights for them, too. She always has. But what happens when the other person isn't willing to fight as hard or at all? "Oregon" is a group-centric episode, as many this season have been, but it's actually another perfect example of how New Girl can structure a story about one character and manage to create growth for others, too. And actually, a lot of this episode doesn't even hinge on Jess: it hinges on Nick Miller and what he's willing to do for a woman that he (I will argue this) still loves.

So let's talk about all of the shenanigans and emotions that made up "Oregon," shall we?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Parks and Recreation 7x08 ("Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington") & 7x09 ("Pie-Mary") [Contributor: Jaime]

"Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington" & "Pie-Mary"
Original Airdate: February 10, 2015

This week, Parks and Rec delivered yet another hour-long installment that made it even harder to accept that, in just two weeks, the show will be over.  Is it just me, or were you a lot more prepared to say goodbye before the season premiered?  Now that I’m seeing just how strong every episode is, and how well it’s servicing the characters and the love the audience has for it, it’s getting so much harder to imagine the idea of not seeing more every week.

But, sadly, the end is coming, and both of this week’s episodes seemed to be huge set-ups for the eventual endgame of the show.  It’s going to be really interesting once the season is over to go back and look at how all of these plotlines have been structured.  Right now, while we’re in the middle of the action, it’s kind of hard to tell what each plot development is doing – for example, in this week’s first episode “Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington,” is this the climax of April’s season-long arc?  Will the last four episodes be resolution?  Since the storylines of Ron and Leslie’s estrangement, and the fight with Gryzzl for the Newport land, were resolved much quicker than I had anticipated, I’ve given up for now on trying to figure out exactly what the structure of the season has been, or what it’s going to be.  Instead, I’m content to just sit back and watch the characters I love and the show that I love fire on all cylinders.

So let’s talk about “Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington”!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Suitx 4x13 "Fork in the Road" (Are You Goin' My Way?)

"Fork in the Road"
Original Airdate: February 11, 2015

I actually don't hate road trips. My brother moved to North Carolina recently, which is about a seven hour drive from where I am in central Florida. My parents and sister drove him up and my mom and sister despised the drive there. They much prefer flying to driving. I think a road trip -- a really great one -- is all about the company you keep. I piled into a minivan with seven other people a few years ago and drove to Atlanta. Along the way, we talked and got to know one another and by the time we arrived in Georgia, we already had inside jokes about our friend Lizzy's GPS.

Road trips are only uncomfortable and awkward if you are with company that makes them that way. Speaking of, that is exactly what happens in "Fork in the Road," an episode that features a forced road trip between the already tense Mike and Louis. And did I mention that Harvey Specter is the one who forced them both into the road trip in the first place? His reasoning for doing so was noble: the only way for Pearson Specter Litt to get back to normal is for Mike and Louis to settle their differences once and for all. Harvey ropes them both into a road trip under the guise (which is actually true) of driving to visit a client. This episode is also Suits' annual flashback episode, so while we witness the animosity between Louis and Mike in the present, we also have the opportunity to watch the dissolution of Harvey and Louis's relationship in the flashback.

Let's talk more about the dynamic between these three men, shall we?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Arrow 3x13 "Canaries" (The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most)

Original Airdate: February 11, 2015

And the grave that you refuse to leave
The refuge that you've built to flee,
The places that you've come to fear the most,
Is the place that you have come to fear the most.

You don't need to be told of your flaws.

Sometimes, when you get into arguments with your parents or your other family members or your friends or your significant others, they'll dig into their arsenal of weapons and they'll brandish a mirror -- they'll tell you all of the things that make you flawed, in the heat of that argument. But most of the time (unless you're so far in denial that you might as well be in Egypt), we don't need to be told of our flaws. We KNOW every single one of our flaws. We know the deep, dark parts of us that we hate. And that's why it hurts so much when others point those parts of us out: because it's one thing to know your weaknesses; it's another for the people you love to know them as well. The weird thing about existence -- about battling those insecurities -- is that we're often our own worst enemy. We're often the thing that we fear the most. We're afraid to be vulnerable with other people. We're afraid to be real. So we construct these prisons that we hold ourselves in and when other people get too close, we shut down or shut them out. It's a method of protection, of self-preservation. Because -- and we're cycling back to the beginning of this post -- we don't want other people to know what we know about ourselves.

Identity is such a strong theme in this season of Arrow that it may as well be the title of every episode ("Next week, on Arrow: 3x14... 'Identity'!"). Up until recently, however, this particular theme has been mostly explored through examining the characters of Arrow and Oliver Queen -- of contrasting and comparing them and trying to determine whether or not the two entities can ever be separated. But in "Canaries," we get to see the theme of identity from the perspective of Laurel Lance, as she suffers from a lethal dose of Vertigo's drug (which, as you'll remember from "The Calm," causes the user to see their worst fear) and hallucinates a duel with Sara. There's one other giant, overarching theme of this season that weaves its way through both Laurel and Oliver/Malcolm's story this episode and it's the theme of lying. Our beloved Arrow characters may be heroes, but they're also ALL liars. So the question of the episode is this: is it okay to lie to the people you care about to protect them? And where is the breaking point? Laurel's been lying to Quentin; Oliver's been lying to Thea. Even though both are under the guise of protecting the people they care about... is it RIGHT to do that? Is it right to not let another person have the chance to grieve? Is it right to force a decision FOR someone rather than with them?

And what kind of person do you turn into once you let one lie take root in your life?

Supernatural 10x13 "Halt & Catch Fire" [Contributor: Deena Edwards]

"Halt & Catch Fire"
Original Airdate: February 10, 2015

We live in a world dependent on technology, obsessed with things like tweets, snaps, Insta-whatevers, and so on. It’s not always a bad thing, of course, unless you’ve somehow managed to land yourself in harms way of a very angry vengeful spirit. In which case, you should probably avoid the electronic devices all together.

Last night’s episode was another throwback, a good old fashioned hunt with a little bit of a twist. Sam and Dean head to a college in Iowa to talk to a girl who claims a possessed truck drove her friend off the end of an unfinished bridge to his death. All signs point to ghost--- cold spots, the nav app, Trini, seemingly having a mind of its own, and of course, the fact that the truck the victim was driving at the time belonged to his dead brother, whom he didn’t get along with at all. Sure enough, when they go to the salvage yard where the truck is--- or what’s left of it, there are traces of ectoplasm and the EMF meter is going crazy. They salt and burn it, but the problem doesn’t stop there.

Not long after, there’s another death, this time a girl named Julie, strangled to death in her sorority house by her own laptop charger after a series of strange messages involving the number “810.” At the crime scene, Sam steals her laptop, hoping to find a clue in it as to how and why a spirit is hopping from one machine to the next.   They find out the number is an address where, nine months prior, Andrew Silver was killed in a car accident. With his body having been cremated, and the victims seemingly having no ties to each other, the brothers wonder exactly how the spirit is sticking around to haunt these victims.

After a third student is killed, his brains turned to jelly by his own speaker system, they finally find out the truth. Delilah, a girl from the college, who also had been caught on several occasions leaving flowers at the spot of the accident, comes clean about that night all those months ago. She and her friends, the previous three victims, were driving (and tweeting, and selfie-ing… come on, guys, really?) when the car veered over into the other lane, causing the other car to swerve and hit a power line, one of the cables snapping loose and electrocuting the car, engulfing it in flames. They drove off, never calling 911.

While Sam heads off to the scene of the accident, coming to the conclusion that the spirit is traveling through the wifi signal in town, Dean is keeping Delilah company. He relates to her situation, telling her,   “I have made more mistakes than I can count. Ones that haunt me day and night.” Much like she’s been plagued by nightmares and guilt from that night, the deaths that have occurred under Dean’s watch have stuck with him, as well.

Before they can get to the routers to turn them off, the power flickers, Andrew’s face appearing in all of the computer, tablet, and phone screens in the room. The two of them take off to the basement, hoping the lack of signal and salt lines at the doors and windows will be enough to ward Andrew off, but he reappears anyway. Dean attempts to reason with him, using his own experiences with the Mark to try to talk him down.  “You can keep killing, and become something that you won’t recognize. Or you can move on, ‘cause that is the only thing that is gonna give you peace.” As good of a speech as it is, ghosts aren’t so easily swayed from their vengeful ways, and it takes a video call from the deceased man’s wife, who tells him it’s time for him to let go, to make him move on.

In the end, Dean decides to follow Andrew’s lead. Peace over pain, and his peace is in working cases, in saving people, rather than killing themselves over a cure for the Mark that may or may not even exist. The answer in controlling the darkness inside of him lies with him and him alone. Of course, things are never that simple, and I’m sure that when an actual lead on a cure comes along, Dean’s mind may change.

Memorable Moments/Quotes:
  • “Go screw yourself.” “You go screw yourself.” I’m sure this will be the future of talking GPS apps, just you wait.
  • “A croissookie.” “A croissookie?”
  • Dean spending the entire episode distracted by college girls and copious amounts of food just brings me way back to season one Dean, and I love it.
  • “Agents Grohl and Cobain.” The fake names just keep getting better.
  • “So Trini and everything else in the truck went all Christine...” “Who’s Christine?” I appreciate your pop culture references, Dean.
  • “If you died and I drove your car, you’d kill me?” “If you stunk her up with tacquitos, probably.” 
  • “I have a photographic memory. Hashtag blessed!” DO THE YOUTHS REALLY TALK LIKE THIS NOW?! HASHTAG PLEASE STOP.
  • “I hit up Julie’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, InstaChat, Snapchat, AIM. Nothing but posts on rush and Fifty Shades of Grey. The movie, not the book.”  “Yeah, I didn’t get half of that.”
  • “Nothing ever really gets deleted from the internet… you knew that, right?”  The look of concern that passed over Dean’s face just then. Makes you wonder what kind of stuff he has posted that’s just floating around out there.
  • “So, you’re like… Ghostbusters?” Yet another Ghostbusters reference of the night. I’m starting to think that maybe Supernatural and Parks and Rec are telepathically connected or something somehow this season.
  • “How do you deal?”  “Whiskey. Denial. I do my best to make things right, whatever that may be.”
  • “Oh yeah, sure, Sammy. We’ll just kill the internet. Wait, can we?”
  • The brother moment at the end physically hurt my soul.

New Girl 4x15 "The Crawl" (The Crawl Is For All)

"The Crawl"
Original Airdate: February 10, 2015

Timing is everything.

This is true of our relationships, our families, our decisions... heck, even our cooking and baking. The problem is that so often in life, our timeline doesn't seem to coincide with our ideals or our desires. In The Wedding Planner, Jennifer Lopez's character named Mary asks another character this question: "Have you ever loved someone but the timing was all off?" I feel like that statement could be used to summarize the majority of the storylines that intersect in "The Crawl," New Girl's most recent (and stellar) episode. The premise of the episode is pretty simple -- the group agrees to accompany recently-dumped Nick on a bar crawl. Everyone knows the reason he's doing this (no one vocalizes it as much as Winston does), of course: he's trying to distract himself from his recent break-up with Kai. But reluctantly, everyone agrees to participate in the crawl. So Nick, Jess, Ryan, (eventually) Schmidt, Cece, Coach, and Winston go bar crawling the night away and encounter issues as they do.

"The Crawl" is structured as almost an entirely group-centric story broken out into smaller pieces. I hesitate to label them as A/B/C/D stories because the episode itself was really self-contained. So instead of structuring the review as I usually do, I'll break out each of the stories these characters had and discuss how the theme of timing played into them in terms or relationships.