Ted Lasso, Rom-Coms, and Emotional Vulnerability

Why is it important that a show about men who play soccer did a rom-com homage?

Dickinson Behind-the-Scenes: An Interview With the Artisans

Meet the artists who brought the Apple TV+ series to life!

If You Like This, Watch That

Looking for a new TV series to watch? We recommend them based on your preference for musicals, ensemble shows, mysteries, and more!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Arrow 3x21 "Al Sah-Him" (Why Are You?)

"Al Sah-Him"
Original Airdate: April 29, 2015

What happens when a person you love becomes a person you don't know anymore?

I've had friends and relationships that have fallen out over the years because I've recognized the fact that the people I once knew changed -- morphed, really -- into different people. Circumstances change people. Experiences change people. Time often changes people. And it's hard to reconcile the idea of the person you once knew -- the memories of them, their personality, etc. -- with a new or different version of them. In Arrow, the theme of identity permeates nearly every crevice of every single episode. It's a series that, this year particularly, asks the question: "Who are you?" and then follows it up with: "Why are you?"

We focus a lot on the first question and it's important, don't get me wrong, to understand who you are. But there's the second question that we often overlook. When someone changes in personality or when a layer of them is unearthed that blindsides you, we often stand back, mouth agape and wonder who, exactly this person is. They're not our loving spouse anymore. They've morphed into someone bitter and calloused. They're not our best friend anymore. They turned around and betrayed us. They're not our sweet, innocent sister anymore. They've become jaded by the world and darkened by its influences. The question of identity isn't just contained to the "who," but extends to the "why." Knowing WHY someone is the way that they are is more important than understanding who they are. Because, in fact, you'll understand far more about the "who" once you understand the "why."

Is this deep enough and thought-provoking enough for you yet? No? Good, because we are just getting started. In Arrow's most recent episode titled "Al Sah-Him," Oliver Queen disappears, not just physically (getting a haircut and taking on a new wardrobe) but mentally and emotionally. Ra's essentially drugs Oliver (gee, I wonder where Malcolm acquired his magical herbs of doom to drug Thea) and brainwashes him in order to ensure that he's forgotten all about his past self and can fully embrace The Arrow and the League. And it's in this transition that we begin to wonder whether Oliver Queen is lost for good -- whether he's gone and unable to return -- or whether there's still hope, still some shred of Oliver left in Al Sah-Him.

(I'm not going to lie to you: it appears very bleak. VERY bleak.)

New Girl 4x21 "Panty Gate" (The Love Doctor Is In)

"Panty Gate"
Original Airdate: April 28, 2015

There are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who are good at giving advice and the ones who think they're good at giving advice. Jessica Day usually falls into the latter category but surprisingly in "Panty Gate" -- the penultimate episode of New Girl's stellar fourth season -- Jess is actually right about a lot of people and a lot of their feelings except, maybe, it's revealed at the end, her own. Jess has always been a planner and a fixer. We see that clearly in "Parents," where she desperately tries to get her mother and father to reconcile. She believes the best in people, sometimes to a fault, and as a result she wants everyone around her to be happy and thriving. She believes that she can read people and relationships -- that she knows when someone is lying and knows exactly what they need in order to feel a sense of fulfillment.

In "Panty Gate," Jess tries to take her personal knowledge of relationships and apply her advice to Coach/May, as well as Cece. In the end, it's the combination of Jess's powers with Nick's powers (they're always better together, aren't they?) that really aid Coach and May as they navigate a new adventure in their lives. So let's talk about these stories for a bit, shall we?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

6x08 "Intro to Recycled Cinema" (Nodus Tollens)

Community: Intro to Recycled Cinema (2015) - Backdrops & Stills ...

"Intro to Recycled Cinema"
Original Airdate: April 28, 2015

There comes a point in time in your life where you realize that you're standing still and other people are moving on around you. Your friends are moving into houses and you're paying rent on your apartment. You keep getting invitations to wedding after wedding and you haven't found a decent person to date. Your friends are starting families of their own and you're still trying to avoid spending time with yours. No one tells you this, when you become an adult. No one tells you that eventually you're going to feel like you're stuck in life, wading through quicksand that just keeps feeling harder and harder to trudge through. There was a Buzzfeed article that I read yesterday featuring "a compendium of invented words" that are used to describe emotions you never realized anyone else actually felt too. Here's one of my favorites that ties in directly with what I stated above and also the theme of this week's Community:

In "Intro to Recycled Cinema," we learn a little bit more about Jeff Winger than we did before. Realizations that occur between Jeff and Abed are usually more poignant than most and this episode was no exception. So let's talk a little bit more about science-fiction, Chris Pratt, and Annie's boobs (not the monkey), shall we?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 10

This week in television, we venture into sweeps with some fantastic finales, unexpected losses, and fantastic acting performances from some wonderful dramas on television. (This is actually the second week in a row that we've all chosen to focus on dramatic work and not comedic work. That wasn't on purpose, I promise!) As always, standing beside me to talk about television this week are some of my favorite human beings:

  • Human ray of sunshine, lover of bows and good television: Constance Gibbs!
  • Soul sister, name twin, light of my life, and fellow Arrow reviewer: Jen!
We're in the first week of double digits for our TV MVP Series (ten weeks of amazing television, whaaaaaat!), so let's get to it, then, shall we?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

In Which Jenn Goes to MegaCon! (Part 2)

You can locate the first part of my MegaCon coverage here.


Seriously, these two were AMAZING.

MegaCon drew to a close on Sunday afternoon, with not nearly as many people in the convention center as Saturday. Laura and I arrived at the convention relatively early that morning, as I was headed to a Firefly panel at 11 AM and she was off to her photo op afternoon with David Ramsey and Karen Gillan. When we split up, I was determined to get a decent seat at the Firefly panel and also take as many pictures Sunday as I possibly could on the floor of the amazing cosplayers. I got a lot of great shots and was so excited to see all the creativity displayed. Also impressive about conventions: girls (and some guys) who wear heels and heavy make-up and big costumes around for eight hours every day? You all are my heroes. Seriously.

I arrived at the Firefly panel early, found a seat, and immediately bonded with the girl behind me who was wearing a Karen Hallion t-shirt, too. (As an aside, you should totally check out her designs. They're amazing.) Also behind me a few rows was an amazing War Doctor cosplay. It was his first convention ever and he came because of his daughter and his daughter's fiance encouraging him to. I seriously did a double-take because I thought it really WAS John Hurt behind me!

John Hurt... I mean, super nice cosplayer!

The Firefly panel kicked off with audience questions and honestly, I laughed harder at this panel than I think I have laughed at anything that weekend. For starters, Alan Tudyk came out while the sizzle reel was airing and sat in the front row, intently watching the screen. It was hilarious. At the panel were: Alan Tudyk (Wash), Summer Glau (River Tam), and Adam Baldwin (Jayne). A special guest also appeared at the panel -- Nathan Fillion's head printed out and cut out. It sat on the table and was absolutely perfect.

The lovely panelists!

Here are some things we learned at the Firefly panel:
  • Alan Tudyk literally gave every single person who asked a question something signed -- either a comic, a pack of gum (he started running out of things), shirts, etc. Some lucky person got Nathan Fillion's head signed, which was fantastic. "Here, come get some sh*t," was his refrain every time the panel finished answering a question. It was great.
  • One of the questions asked was if any of the cast could be cast in The Avengers, how they would convince Joss Whedon to let them and what kind of superhero they would be. Tudyk joked that he would be The Spazz or Deadweight. "Deadweight wouldn't slow down time, he would just slow YOU down."
  • Adam Baldwin on what's important in life: "The three G's: God, guns, golf."
  • "Who are you gonna give Nathan away to?" "CBS."
  • Alan Tudyk gave an amazing soundbite: "I think everybody's crazy and the sooner we embrace that, the better off we are."
  • Though the panelists were asked questions about Firefly, they were also asked about their other projects. Summer Glau was asked about her role in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. A fan essentially said that Summer was extremely believable as a robot, stoic and very precise. She said that she actually was able to play the character because she found a way to relate to her and to her experiences.
  • What was really cool, too, to learn about Summer Glau was that she began her career in dance and she still feels like that's how she really connects to her roles and the characters that she plays. The idea of movement was really compelling to her and I thought it was really cool to learn that she still considers that such a huge part of her life and of her acting.
  • When asked how the actors deal with directors who view their characters differently than they do, as actors, Adam Baldwin said: "You always have to be a problem-solver, not a complainer." I thought that was great advice for pretty much everything in life. The actors agreed and noted that if you have problems with the way a scene is going or the direction, you need to not complain about it but propose alternate solutions.
  • Out of all the things the cast is surprised about that have become iconic from Firefly, Adam Baldwin is most surprised that the Jayne hat took off as much as it did.
  • Someone asked Summer Glau a question related to Arrow. They wondered whether her training from Firefly and Terminator aided her in her role on Arrow. She noted that they did and that she was excited to read the script and be able to do stuntwork.
  • The final question that a fan asked was: "What question do you most want to be asked at panels?" For that question, she received a signed comic book by the entire cast of Firefly and Joss Wedon. She started crying, understandably, and it was a perfect way to end the panel.
After the panel ended, I headed downstairs to the floor to locate Laura and meander through the stalls. There, I had the chance to catch up with a lot of cool cosplayers, including the following people:

Oh no big deal -- just a casual run-in with the mother of dragons.

"Exterminate! Exterminate!"

An awesome Bob's Burgers cosplay group. They were adorable.

Okay, this guy really committed to the Gilderoy Lockhart cosplay. But I suppose you would have to be, really.

Hospital Beth Greene from The Walking Dead. Awww.


Oh hello there, Arsenal.

LEGENDS OF THE HIDDEN TEMPLE. This made me SO unbelievably happy.

While Laura and I meandered around the convention, I realized one of my favorite things about conventions -- groups of friends who dress up together, but are in different fandoms. I ran into a group of cosplayers consisting of a Tenth Doctor, a Captain Jack Harkness... and a Bellatrix Lestrange. It was wonderful. Laura had texted me while I was meandering and noted that Danielle Panabaker and Robbie Amell had virtually nonexistent lines at their booths. In fact, for $20, you could get a selfie with Robbie. Obviously, this was a must for me and Laura and we sidled up to the booth to meet him.

Robbie Amell is super nice. Like, genuinely and truly nice. I thought he was a lot taller than me but actually he wasn't (and that's what surprised me most of all, I think). Laura and I told him that thanks to his panel the night before, he became one of our favorite people. We then told him: "You're our new favorite Amell. Don't tell Stephen." And Robbie replied, gleefully, with: "Oh, I WILL." We then complimented the success of The Flash and talked about how we both loved it. We snapped our photos and were gone.

Those Amell genes though, let me tell you.

After our photo, we headed back upstairs toward the giant ballroom where our final panel of the weekend would be held: the second Doctor Who panel featuring just Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston. I had the opportunity to actually ask Alex and Karen a question (and got cheers for a mention of Selfie -- Karen's delighted little clap at that and the cheers for Arrow for Alex were adorable and thank you Laura, for filming it!) at this panel which was really cool. They're awesome ladies, truly. Here's what else we learned at the panel:

Lovely, talented, hilarious, well-rounded ladies!
  • Someone asked a question about whether or not Alex and Karen abide by the "five second rule" of eating things that have dropped off the floor. Karen took this opportunity to mention that she has eaten a hotdog that was left in a nightclub before. True story.
  • A fan asked if Alex and Karen could only take one album with them on a desert island, which would they choose? Alex decided upon Carmina Burana. Karen was really torn but probably would choose something by Elvis.
  • If Karen could be in any movie in the present or the past that she wasn't in, she would choose Jumanji because she absolutely loved that movie growing up.
  • Karen had the chance to talk a bit about what it was like to film the goodbyes on Doctor Who, and noted that filming the graveyard scene was really emotional because Matt Smith was sitting on a gravestone while they weren't filming, listening to "Close to You" by The Carpenters.
  • When a little girl stepped up to the mic, she asked what Alex and Karen's catchphrases were. (She wanted them to say their ones from the show.) Karen asked: "In life?" And the little girl hilariously replied: "NOOOOOOO." After that, Alex mimicked her River catchphrases and Karen admitted that Amy doesn't really have a catchphrase but if she did, it would probably just be her yelling: "DOCTOR!" (She then requested the Internet to splice together a video of every time she did that on the show. Get on it, YouTubers!)
  • One of the weirdest things the ladies have ever had to do on Doctor Who was pretend to fly/fall around in the TARDIS. They both said that since the set is obviously not really moving, you have to pretend it is and they both always felt really silly while doing it. Additionally, Karen talked about filming her falling scenes with Arthur Darvill upside down. Apparently, all the blood vessels burst in her face because she was hanging upside down for so long so she had little dots all over.
  • A question was asked about Karen being on the new The Flash/Arrow spin-off since Arthur Darvill was on there, and the moderator replied: "I'm assuming they'll rename it Doctor Arrow" in reference to how many of the Doctor Who cast members are on Arrow/the spin-off.
  • Karen excitedly noted that she would love to visit the spin-off since Arthur is on it and told Alex that she should join, considering she's already on Arrow. They could even drag John Barrowman along, too. Karen then also revealed that Arthur is taking karate lessons for the spin-off.
  • An audience member asked about whether Matt Smith was a good kisser, which caused the following conversation to occur between Karen and Alex: "You kissed Matt." "You kissed him too." "You kissed him MORE!"
  • Alex and Karen talked about how they each memorize scripts which was really fascinating. Alex uses a lot of mnemonic devices to help and also likes to be in certain places -- she'll remember a line because she'll remember reading it in her living room or by a window. Karen records herself reading the other lines in her scripts and fills in the blanks.
  • Someone asked a question about Selfie to Karen, and the woman said that she would love to return to comedy. She really loved working on the show because they shot on the same lot that they shot Friends on and Karen grew up on American sitcoms.
  • When asked about what lessons Alex and Karen have taken away from Doctor Who, both replied: "Don't blink." More seriously, Alex added that the real lesson she learned was: "Make sure you're always there for your friends."
Favorite ladies are a favorite.

And that was it for MegaCon 2015! Laura and I had a blast and we really loved being able to attend an array of panels and meet a lot of fun, interesting people. I stand by the fact that conventions are the best place to bond with complete strangers because everyone there is so lovely and they all adore the same things you do. All in all, I had such a fun time in my hometown and am excited to do it again next year. :)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Supernatural 10x19 "The Werther Project" [Contributor: Deena Edwards]

"The Werther Project"
Original Airdate: April 22, 2015

Sam needs to save his brother. Rowena wants her son dead. Working together with a witch (not to mention one who has tried to kill both you and your brother) is just begging for trouble, but it’s seemingly the only hope Sam has left.

While Dean has taken off solo to get rid of a vamp nest, Sam and Rowena meet up to discuss terms. The witch agrees to help him translate the spellbook which could possibly hold the cure to the Mark of Cain, but in return, she needs him to kill Crowley. Desperate, Sam doesn’t hesitate to agree, and she informs him that in order for her to be able to translate the spells, she needs another book -- a codex that belonged to Nadya, one of the witches from the Grand Coven. Nadya was killed long ago, by none other than a Man of Letters. Rowena advises him that he should start looking at home, and so he does, but not before rushing to meet back up with Dean, hoping to reach him before the eldest brother does something stupid. But don’t they always?

Taking out the Mark’s hunger on monsters seems to be the only thing able to take the edge off, which is why Dean doesn’t even wait for Sam before tearing into the vampire nest, managing to take down six of the fanged creatures all on his own before his brother even arrives. Dean shrugs it off. What’s done is done. But it’s obvious that Sam is bothered by it. Sure, Dean is all grown up, and he can take care of himself, but with the dangers of the Mark still looming, one slip-up could put all of Sam’s work to save Dean to a quick, violent end.

When they return to the bunker, Sam immediately buries himself back into Men of Letters files, stumbling on a recording of one of their old sessions that reveals the codex has been hidden in something called a Werther Box. It was an invention created by one of the members, armed with a deadly “alarm” system which causes hallucinations that drive whoever is under its influence to suicide. It still resides in a Missouri home, where it was buried, responsible for the death of an entire family that lived there many decades ago. All members of the family killed themselves, except for the daughter, Suzie. She continued to live in the home after their deaths, raised by her aunt there until she also met her unfortunate end with the box. Suzie lives there to this day, which Sam finds out the hard way when his attempt to break into the home ends with him immediately returning to his car after the woman points a gun through the mail slot down at… well, at a place one doesn’t want a gun being pointed at.

No sooner than Sam climbs back into the vehicle, Dean shows up, having tracked Sam down by taking a etching off of Sam’s notepad. He admits what he’d done before was reckless, apologizing for it and saying that Sam doesn’t have to do this case alone, whatever this case is. Sam doesn’t come completely clean, only telling his brother about the Werther Box and leaving out the tidbits of information about what’s inside of it and why he needs it. While Dean pretends to be part of the neighborhood watch in order to gain access inside the house and distract Suzie as best he can, Sam works on breaking inside through the back door, venturing down into the basement where he attempts to disenchant the box. It doesn’t work, of course, and he ends up setting the “alarm” off, releasing a strange cloud of green smoke out into the rest of the house and into Dean and Suzie. The woman immediately begins to hallucinate her dead family, who goade her into taking her own life a few minutes later. Sam tries to run to her aid, but he’s too late. Rowena appears to help just as the hallucination of Suzie is attempting to do the same to Sam. Once she’s dispelled, the two take off to the basement, reading the inscription on the box. To break the curse on it, it requires blood. Men of Letters blood.

Meanwhile, Dean finds himself in a very familiar place, with an old friend. Wandering through a hallucination of Purgatory with Benny, he walks in circles trying to find a way out. He wants to leave, wants to stop fighting, but the Mark has other plans. It wants a fight. Purgatory, as terrible of a place as it is, is some form of a “happy place” for Dean, as Benny puts it. It’s not exactly Disneyland, of course, but it’s a place where he doesn’t have to go looking for a fight -- the fights come to him, and he can kill without consequence. Benny points out that there’s also another option, which Dean immediately dismisses. Despite that, you can tell that it is something that’s crossed Dean’s mind once before. This is Dean Winchester, after all. Self-sacrifice goes hand in hand with the lying and the self-loathing, and with all they have gone through and continue to go through, it isn’t entirely difficult to imagine them looking for another way out of it all at one point or another. He admits that if it came down to it -- taking his own life so that Sam would not have to -- he would do it, but it wasn’t going to be today. He was going to keep fighting, after all. “Killing” Benny, he breaks out of the hallucination, rushing down to the basement.

As it turns out, the Rowena there is just yet another hallucination, pushing Sam to the point of draining himself nearly to death. Dean shows up just in time, giving the box the rest of the blood it requires in order to open it.

The codex now in his hands, Sam returns to Rowena, handing it over to her. Though this time, though, it seems he’s smart enough to at least have thought things through. He shackles her wrists together, chaining her to the room that she’s in. What, did she really think he was going to set a centuries old witch free with both dangerously important books and just hope for the best? She’s definitely not going to be happy about this, and neither is Dean when he finds out.

Memorable Moments/Quotes
  • “Looking at me like that.” “Like what?” “Like I’m some sort of a -- a diseased killer puppy.” 
  • “I’m over 300 years old. Beauty sleep isn’t optional.”
  • “Tall, white fella… pretty hair.” His hair was nice this episode.
  • “We had an agreement, giant!”
  • “That says something, doesn’t it? Werther splits us up in there. Within an hour we’re both on the brink of death? … The universe is trying to tell us something we both should already know. We’re stronger together than apart.” You guys should start actually listening to the universe every now and again.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Arrow 3x20 "The Fallen" (Come To The Water)

"The Fallen"
Original Airdate: April 22, 2015

Come to the water, stand by my side 
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied 
I felt every tear drop, when in darkness you cried 

Have you ever gone away to summer camp? I have. And I still remember it vividly, actually -- there was a camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania where I used to live called Victory Valley. That was the summer camp where I learned archery and how to develop photographs in a dark room. It's the year I remember falling asleep in a giant treehouse, snuggled up in a sleeping bag, to the sound of my counselor singing to us. It's the summer that the boys and girls had a giant water-balloon fight. Summer camp is an amazing experience in the life of a child, but summer camps end. And then you return home to your friends who live down the street from you and you realize that while your life changed, theirs did too. They hung out with new friends or classmates who weren't you. And suddenly you were plopped back into your own world, having changed, and feeling a bit lost because the people you were close to three weeks prior had new inside jokes and new experiences and new friends.

When you leave and return from somewhere -- anywhere -- you have to anticipate change on both your part and the part of the people you left behind. I went away to college for two years and came back to friends who were still my friends, but now had experiences and memories that I wasn't a part of. In "The Fallen," Thea Queen dies (they never explicitly say but it appears she was brain-dead) and she comes back but she returns as a totally different person. I imagine that death changes you, but the circumstances of her death change her more than anything. As Ra's reminds us, birth and re-birth are violent processes. It only makes sense that Thea Queen would not return as the sweet young Speedy that Oliver once knew. Themes of Arrow -- sacrifice, heroism, identity, etc. -- always seem to come back to one giant symbol: light. Darkness and light are huge components of this series because darkness, by definition, is the absence of light. And directors on this show play with shadows and darkness and colors and scattered rays of light a lot. Why? Because there's a constant dichotomy there -- there's a constant push-and-pull within most of our characters' minds and hearts: they can choose the darkness or they can choose the light. (And then you have names like the Black Canary and symbols like Felicity and a fern that "thrives on low light" and morally depraved character like Malcolm Merlyn and the vibrant red seen throughout Nanda Parbat, shrouded in darkness and low light, etc. etc. as giant, glaring symbols.)

Arrow is a show that constantly tackles issues of morality and heroism and whether or not people are too far gone to ever harness light again. When Sara was alive (R.I.P.), she told Oliver that he needed to find someone to harness the light inside of him and that she couldn't be that person. When Oliver and Felicity kissed, it was in a darkened hallway punctuated by a giant burst of light from a window. When Oliver told Barry he was too far gone, The Flash's alter ego told him that he was a hero and he could only be that way if there was some light left in him. Arrow is a show about darkness and light and "The Fallen" is just another episode that emphasizes those symbols through its characters and their journeys.

A lot of stuff happens in "The Fallen" -- a LOT of stuff -- so let's dive into it, shall we?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

6x07 "Advanced Safety Features" (Six Seasons And One More Dance) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

Community" Advanced Safety Features (TV Episode 2015) - IMDb

"Advanced Safety Features"
Original Airdate: April 21, 2015

First off: it's really bizarre that this episode with a running plot line about liking each other came right after the episode where we questioned why these guys liked each other. No mention of last week's episode was made and none of the characters seemed to think the reason why some members of the group might not like other members could be because of the massive invasion of privacy that happened a week ago.

Is it possible that this episode was actually meant to air before "Basic Email Security"? Nope. That's very unlikely, since even the production codes line up one after the other.

So the only logical explanation here is that "Basic Email Security" took place in an alternate reality where our lovable misfit characters are all awful to each other. Ta-da! Mystery solved. Moving on to this week's Prime Reality episode, entitled “Advanced Security Features”.


I was going to try and make a Romeo and Juliet prologue parody here, but it's 9:00 in the morning and my Shakespeare parody powers don't kick in until at least noon. Just acknowledge that the tale of Rick and Britta is a tale of star-crossed lovers, torn asunder by the addictive high of selling stuff to people who don't need it. It started with Subway (although I guess people occasionally need a sandwich?) and now Rick is doing guerilla marketing for Honda, Community's other very forgiving, very in-on-the-joke sponsor. Britta is less than happy about this, not only because Britta's anti-capitalist, but also because it means that she can't be with Rick. Again. Like I said: star-crossed lovers.

This episode is kind of a revisit of the last time Britta and Rick wanted to be together but couldn’t be ("Digital Exploration of Interior Design"), but I think I like this one because it shows a growth – especially in Britta’s character. She actually takes Rick to see her parents, repeatedly mentions that she wants a real relationship and not just sex in the back seat of a Honda CRV, and even joins Rick in guerilla marketing for Honda even though she considers herself morally against it. Maybe Rick grew as well, but no one except Britta can figure out which parts of Rick’s personality are carefully chosen affectations meant to sell products and which are genuine, so Rick’s character growth will remain a mystery.

I do love that this is another episode that proves that Britta isn't completely incompetent at everything she tries. We learned in season three that she’s excellent at design – especially for weddings – and now we learn that she's actually pretty good at selling stuff to people, which is a valuable quality in a bartender as well as a guerilla marketer. I’ve always had this theory that Britta is incredibly perceptive and that means stuff like planning weddings (because being perceptive visually is still being perceptive) and selling people what they might want or need would definitely come easy to her. It’s only when her own ego gets in the way that she messes up, like whenever she attempts psychology/therapy and ends up insulting her patients in some way. But egoless Britta? Or a Britta that isn’t wholly invested in what she’s doing? Naturally skilled and very wonderful.

Jeff + Elroy

Here’s where the storyline about liking people comes in, and I guess it’s a good one even though it’s short and barely-there, because it does at least show a growth in Jeff over the course of the episode. Now if the show could just expand that whole “character growth” thing a bit and make it happen over the course of the season (or the series), that’s be nice.

Jeff starts his story when Annie and Abed find him in his office, drinking and playing on his phone (Bejeweled? Texting mysterious people we never see? Who knows!) and tell him that they’re going to play a game with Elroy in order to get him to like them more. Jeff, because he can’t show he cares about anything, ever, without fearing that his coolness will come into question, dismisses this as lame. Of course he does. His theory is that showing aloofness = people thinking you’re cool and liking you. Annie makes fun of this theory, because of course she does – for Annie, caring about people is about as cool as you can get.

When Jeff realizes that Elroy likes the group just fine, but might not like him, he starts freaking out and trying to find ways to win Elroy over. At first this B-plot seems like another case of Jeff simply not liking when people don’t like him [Jenn's Note: or don't like him as much as they like others ("Beginner Pottery," "Asian Population Studies," etc.)], but it turns out in the end that Jeff is upset because he does like Elroy and wants to be his friend and never knew that Elroy disliked him. It’s not the fact that he’s disliked that’s the problem; it’s the idea that Jeff is disliked by someone he respects and thinks of as a friend.

Jeff’s original plan of aloofness in order to gain likability flies out the window when he gives in to Annie and Abed’s advice to just be vulnerable for a change and flat-out tells Elroy he likes him. When Elroy calls him a good guy and says they’re going to be friends, though, Jeff weakly attempts to go back to his aloofness and responds, “Yeah, fine, whatever.”

Yeah, I said Jeff grew, not that he changed. The way things are going, Jeff will always be the sort of person who tries not to care, or at least tries to look like he doesn’t care. The fact that he attempted to push away his instincts and opened up this episode, though, at least shows that he’s capable of moving past them just a bit. Should Jeff be more evolved than this at this point in the series? I definitely think so, but I also think there’s a comfort in falling into old habits for some people and I just suppose Jeff is one of those people.

It looks like the writers of the show also seem to be those people, since these characters haven’t been changing much over the years. This is unfortunate because falling into the comfort of old habits is as true to humanity as it is bad for storytelling.

Other Stuff:
  • Greendale’s having another dance! [Jenn's Note: How many actually is this? Can someone count? I feel like we're up to seven or eight dances already, but maybe I'm making that up.]
  • “Do you believe half your own politics?” “Yeeeeeeeah(?) …Yeah!” A+ delivery, Gillian Jacobs.
  • I agree with Abed’s theory on DJs and have expressed this to my brother, who listens to music with DJs, on several occasions. He does not take it well.
  • Jeff’s off-screen response to Abed on the topic of guerilla marketing was PERFECT. Is it weird that that one little joke was my highlight of the episode? I just really appreciate the editing choice of having Jeff’s line off-screen.
  • “I’m just gonna give this school’s assets a quick freezy-weezy.”
  • What was so special about Troy, Frankie? LITERALLY EVERYTHING. HE WAS THE HEART AND SOUL OF THE GROUP AND I MISS HIM MORE WITH EACH PASSING DAY. [Jenn's Note: What Deb said.]
  • Was Jeff’s “Troy was very gifted at steel drums” line ADR’d? I think he actually said… kettledrums? Could they not get a kettledrum?
  • Annie cares enough about Britta to warn her about Rick being in the parking lot! These little moments of care between Annie and Britta are great, now DO A WHOLE EPISODE OF THEM.
  • “Now, I have one more class, but if you can wait forty minutes, I will meet you – NUH UH!” A+ delivery, Alison Brie.
  • Annie and Abed trying out new handshakes is great, but I think they should go back to that one they did in the first season finale as Annie was leaving with Vaughn.
  • Okay, maybe Annie and Jeff going “MNEEEH!” at each other is the highlight of the episode for me. That was adorable. [Jenn's Note: So adorable that it deserves inclusion into this post.]

  • I found little things like Jeff saying “Hey, party people” and calling Annie and Abed “goofs” to be charming and indicative of Jeff’s affection for his friends, which I really needed after last week’s trip into that alternate reality where everyone’s awful.
  • “Would you say that I’m Level 7 Susceptible?” “No, because why would I? Because that’s moon man talk.” A+ delivery, Paget Brewster. Wow, the ladies are owning the line delivery this episode.
  • Frankie and the Dean had a funny little plot but it wasn’t really big enough to include in the main review. I loved Frankie’s inability to comfort the Dean without calling him an idiot (and variations thereof) though.
  • “It’s Elroy’s favorite band, too. I once hallucinated one of their music videos in his RV!”
  • “’Fine!’ That’s you. That’s my impression of you. Jaded hipster a-hole.”
  • Did Elroy start singing some “I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)” at the end there? Yay! I love you, I love you, I love you, etc.
  • The running gag of the Honda guy trying to disappear mysteriously was fun, especially when Britta just humored him at the end.
What did you all think of Community's half-way point this season? Did you miss Subway... er, Rick? Let us know what you think in the comments below. Jenn will be back next week for the review of "Intro to Recycled Cinema." Until then! :)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 9

Here we go, friends! It's another week of television and another week of our TV MVP series. I've been saying this the past few weeks, but it bears repeating: as we head toward May sweeps, the performances on television are only getting better and better. This week was no exception and we had the opportunity to witness amazing dramatic work on television. Joining me in our weekly conquest is the following group of ladies:

  • Writer, cat-lover, and friend Laura Schinner
  • Avid TV-watcher, analyzing queen and writer Constance Gibbs
  • Name twin, soul sister, and writer extraordinaire, Jen
  • Best friend, partner-in-crime, and light of my life, Jaime Poland
Let's get to it then, my darlings!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

In Which Jenn Goes to MegaCon! (Part 1)

I went to my first convention last year as press and it was a small convention hosted at the Orlando Orange County Convention Center, called LeakyCon (now renamed GeekyCon). That convention was a blast. I had the opportunity to interview an amazing cast of the web series Emma Approved. I got to listen to hilarious panels featuring young adult authors John Green, Maureen Johnson, Gayle Foreman, and Rainbow Rowell, among others. I got to listen to creative teams like Starkid and women like Amber Benson speak at panels. I had the chance to meet up with two of my Twitter friends. It was wonderful and it was a wonderful introduction to what conventions are supposed to be about -- a sense of community, of shared interest, of shared fandoms.

So when the opportunity arose for me to apply for MegaCon as press, I leapt at the chance and was approved. Last weekend, the convention (the second-largest convention in the entire United States right behind San Diego Comic Con, can you believe that?) was held at the Orange County Convention Center in my lovely home of Orlando, Florida. My friend and Just About Write contributor Laura Schinner flew in for the convention and we had the opportunity to hang out together, meet some amazing people, listen to some stellar panels, and walk away from the weekend with a hug from our new favorite Amell.

If you're ready, let's take a journey through my weekend!

* I'm breaking this up into two parts to make it easier to read/follow/I don't exceed a posting limit. ;)

Supernatural 10x18 "Book of the Damned" [Contributor: Deena Edwards]

"Book of the Damned"
Original Airdate: April 15, 2015

When something seems too good to be true, especially when that something is a cure to a centuries old curse, it probably is.

Our favorite redheaded hunter has finally found The Book of the Damned she set out to look for a few episodes ago, a powerful book of magic that supposedly holds a spell to remove the Mark of Cain. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one that’s been after it. A man named Jacob Styne has been tracking the book as well, going as far as to shoot Charlie in an attempt to get the book back in his family’s possession. The attempt fails (FORTUNATELY -- honestly, if Charlie ever dies, I probably will riot), and she calls up Sam and Dean, laying low at one of Bobby’s cabins while she waits for them to meet her there.

The book seems to hold some sort of power over Dean from the moment he holds it. He immediately tells the others it’s not a good idea for him to touch it, and when not being used, they keep the book locked away in a box covered in protective sigils, as to prevent it from being tracked by Jacob. Sam and Charlie get to work translating it, only to find out it’s also written in code, but Dean believes they can crack it.

It’s only as he deeper he digs into the history of the book and the Styne family, Dean quickly realizes using any spell from that book isn’t a good idea. It’s dark magic, and with every spell comes a price, a negative reaction of Biblical proportions. Ever since he laid eyes on the book, there has been a connection between it and him due to him bearing the Mark. He explains it’s almost as if the book is alive, and it’s been calling out to him, and the only thing they should do with it is get rid of it. It’s not safe in the hands of anyone, least of all him.

Meanwhile, Castiel and Metatron are on a road trip to retrieve Castiel’s grace, though there are some bumps along the way as they find themselves facing off with an angry Cupid in a diner’s back alley. Metatron saves the angel’s life, but Castiel assures him it “changes nothing,” which, as someone who hates the former Scribe of God just as much as anyone else, I can definitely agree with him there. I’m so ready for someone to put Metatron in his place, as long as his place is six feet under.

“What? I thought we were having a moment? Can’t we be besties?” “No, because you killed my friend.” “Oh, pfffft. Dean is fine. Mostly.”

The two finally reach the library where Castiel’s grace is hidden, stashed away in one of the books, but the only way to find it is by answering a riddle to figure out the next book. Despite his better judgement, Castiel uncuffs Metatron, allowing him to venture through the aisles of shelves to help look for the book the clue leads them to. But of course, Metatron being who he is, has had a plan all along. Painting sigils with his blood along the spines of books, he casts a spell that encumbers the angel while he steals the demon tablet from another book in the library.

Hardly able to move, Castiel still manages to push forward and figure out what the riddle is -- it’s a quote. Pulling out a Don Quixote book, he finds the vial of grace inside the hollowed out pages, returning his powers to himself, but not before Metatron escapes.

After leaving the cabin to go for a drive to clear his head and pick up Charlie’s snacks, Dean happens upon Jacob and one of his men in a gas station. After a struggle, he manages to take down one of them -- but it takes a full clip of bullets in order to do so. He rushes back to the cabin to warn the others that the Stynes are on their way. They kill them, and Sam burns the book (though, we find out at the end of the episode, it wasn’t the book after all), and the four of them (Dean, Sam, Charlie, and Cas) enjoy a nice evening of beers and pizzas together. Both Castiel and Sam are lying to the others, Cas about Metatron being out on the loose with the demon tablet, and Sam about his ulterior motives with the book, but it’s still a sweet family moment between all of them nonetheless, one that nearly brought tears to my eyes, because let’s face it. How often do evenings like that come along for them?

As for Sam’s choice in deciding not to burn the book, I don’t agree with it, but I do understand where he’s coming from. The brothers have never been good at letting the other go without a fight, because they care, even if they’ve said harsh words that seemed to prove otherwise. Sam desperately wants to cure Dean, even if that means dealing with disastrous consequences afterwards. Seeing his brother become a monster isn’t something he wants to relive, or have his brother go through again. Lying and going behind his back with the real book to Rowena seems like a terrible thing to do, I know. I see so much hate regarding Sam and his decisions, not just about this, but about everything else over the past ten seasons, but I don’t think those people really stop and THINK that that is the Winchester way. As predictable as it is, it’s what they both do, and will continue to do probably until the very end. It’s in their blood. Sam going behind Dean’s back is not the smartest route, I will admit, but if the roles were reversed, Dean would be doing the exact same thing, and neither of them are terrible people in doing so. They’re just brothers, doing stupid things to keep the other brother alive.

"This is my life. I love it. But I can’t do it without my brother. I don’t want to do it without my brother."

Memorable Moments/Quotes:
  • Metatron - “Really? That song is a classic!” re: Castiel turning off Alanis Morissette’s "Ironic" on the radio.
  • “Creepy… and yet… arousing.”
  • “Can I just kill him now?” “You know I can hear you, right?”
  • “I’m in a phone booth. A PHONE BOOTH! I didn’t know these things existed outside of ‘Bill and Ted’s.’”
  • “Did you know dental floss works great on stitches? I only passed out twice, and I’m pretty sure my wound is now minty fresh.”
  • “When was the last time either one of us was on a beach?” “Never?” “Never.” Let’s have a moment to remember that Sam and Dean never had a normal childhood with family trips to the beach. They’ve traveled back and forth across the states hundreds of times, and yet they’ve still never actually seen the ocean. Excuse me while I cry.
  • “You used to be human. Don’t you miss all this?” “No. I don’t miss digestion. I don’t miss indigestion.”
  • “We’re kinda like a buddy comedy, but without the comedy.” “Or the buddies.”
  • Charlie and Cas’s hug at the end of the episode is probably the cutest thing to happen on the show so far. I need more scenes of those two together. Spin-off, anyone?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Arrow 3x19 "Broken Arrow" (The Essence of Heroism)

"Broken Arrow"
Original Airdate: April 15, 2015

"The essence of heroism is to die so that others can live."

In last night's episode of The Flash, I talked about why Cisco Ramon was willing to sacrifice himself for Ray Palmer, a person he barely knew:
We can choose how we respond to a crisis. We can choose to either run or to fight -- to flee or to protect. What we do in that moment reveals who we truly are. And there's something about Cisco Ramon that we should know by now and that's extremely evident in this episode: he will do anything to protect people. He's a good person. He's a person who tries to always do the right thing. And he's a person who will face his fears and possible death for a near-stranger because THAT is how Cisco proves his loyalty to you. He is the true definition of a "ride-or-die" friend. If he is on your team, he is ALWAYS on your team. [...] He will fight for you. He will face his fears for you. He will lay down his life for you. If Cisco believes in you, that's all you need.
Sacrifice is such a huge component of both The Flash and Arrow. The question of what it means to be a hero and what it means to lay down your life or parts of yourself in order to protect the people you care about is a prevalent and recurring thread. Sacrifice doesn't just mean putting your life on the line, really. I think a lot of people believe that in order to sacrifice yourself, you have to literally die. But that's not true. Your life -- your physical being -- is just one part of who you are. Sacrifice requires a lot more than just putting your physical self on the line. It requires giving of your time. It requires emotionally giving all you have. It requires throwing all you are in front of someone else in order to protect them. I quoted Oliver above, when he (morbidly) noted last season that in order to become a hero, you must die so that others can live. I don't think that death, in any sacrifice, is always necessarily literal.

For example, Oliver Queen has to die to himself -- to his identity, to his person and adopt the identity of Ra's al Ghul -- in order for the people that he loves and the city that he loves -- to live. Roy must die to his own identity, too, in order for Oliver to live. (And Roy is so wonderful and brilliant in this episode that I'll talk a lot about him momentarily.) Sacrifice requires more than just your physical life -- it requires dying to your self and everything that means and encompasses: your pride and ego, your ideas, your freedom, etc. Since sacrifice is such a huge component of "Broken Arrow," we'll spend a great deal of time talking about what it looks like to live and die by sacrifice.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Flash 1x18 "All Star Team Up" (To Lie or To Fly)

"All Star Team Up"
Original Airdate: April 14, 2015

We do stupid things sometimes to protect people. It's weird because there's this duality within us -- this desire to save ourselves and the desire to sacrifice our wishes in order to save someone else. And we're constantly torn between these fight or flight instincts. So we either throw ourselves in front of a bullet (or a bee) in order to protect the people we care most about, or we run away to save ourselves. We don't often think about the consequences of our actions or the long-term repercussions. We often just do first and think later. But what often happens, especially in the superhero realm, when we want to protect the people we care about is that we lie to them. We lie because we want to spare their feelings. We lie because we think we know what's best. But mostly, we lie because we are scared about what would happen if we didn't.

Barry Allen has been struggling for a while with telling Iris the truth about his identity. And now that others have joined his crusade (... wait, wrong show...), everyone is finding it difficult to learn how to navigate the blurry lines between the truth and lies. In fact, "All Star Team Up" is really focused on the idea of lying to the people we care about. Is it right to keep secrets? If we keep something from someone we care about, does that make us a terrible person? Does it make us RIGHT? Barry is keeping a secret from Caitlin and Cisco. Felicity, apparently, is keeping something from Ray. Eddie and Joe are keeping a secret from Iris (and Barry is keeping that same secret, too). But throughout this episode, the characters are forced to decide whether they will continue to hold onto those secrets or let the people they care about in, risks and all.

So let's talk more about those decisions, shall we?

6x06 "Basic Email Security" (What A Hack)

"Basic Email Security"
Original Airdate: April 14, 2015

Do you ever look back on some of your friendships -- be it a year ago, two years, or ten -- and think: "Why was I ever friends with them in the first place?" I know that I do. In high school, you think that your friends and your cliques are the most important things in the world. And you treat them like they are: like people are irreplaceable and you'll be friends forever. And sometimes you will. My best friend of nearly thirteen years is the person who sat next to me on the bus in middle school. But a lot of friendships don't last and the majority of people I went to high school with, apart from a handful, are now strangers to me. So when I look back on my time there, sometimes I wonder why I wasted so much of my time and energy trying to please people who -- eight years down the road -- I would never really stay friends with. I think that the goal of friendship is to be united by something other than a similar circumstance or a similar, but temporary, situation in life. My best friend isn't my best friend because we spent five years together in chorus classes or because we lived in the same neighborhood.

No, my best friend is my best friend because she's been beside me through every season of my life, the good and the bad. She's watched me move away to college and saw me move back home. She's been beside me when I've lost people really close to me. She's been there for all of the inside jokes. She's been there for the break-ups. But I've been there for her, too: for the times she's felt uncertain about her future, the times she's needed someone to cheer her up, the times she's just needed someone to vent to. Friendship is all about reciprocation and a deeper level of understanding. I have a lot of acquaintances on social media, but not a lot of friends. Friendship means a deeper level of connection than just live-tweeting the same show or retweeting a funny post. So yes, it's easy to look back on people we used to be friends with and think: "How was I ever friends with them?" And the reason why we do that is because we've grown and evolved and changed and the other person hasn't. Or we realize that our "friendship" was based on superficial things to begin with. Friendships like those don't last. They can't.

Which is why "Basic Email Security" rubs me the absolute wrong way. Deborah talked last week about how she struggled to find a common thread or a theme between the A and B-stories in the episode. This week, the show did the work for us and told us -- flat-out -- that there was no real lesson to be learned.

 I had a lot of problems with this episode and more than just problems, I had a lot of confusion and anger. But the one question that bubbled to the forefront of my mind after the episode ended was this: "WHY are these people still friends with each other?"

Monday, April 13, 2015

Once Upon A Time 4x17 "Heart of Gold" (Healing Hearts...ish) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

This episode is called “Heart of Gold” and ugh, you guys, it has so much Rumple in it and I just do not have the patience for this character anymore. I used to really like him as an interesting character with thought-provoking motivations and a complex past, but… well, remember back when I wrote a review about how all these characters have good and evil in them? Rumple's evil has fully overtaken his good, and nothing makes a character more boring than turning them one-dimensional. Who even does that, anyway? Characters are supposed to grow as time goes on, not devolve. Rumple’s gone from being a compelling character whose romance and redemption I rooted for to a mustache-twirling villain who monologues way too much and never seems to understand how being evil does not lead to good things.

Anyway, this episode does also look at what's been going on with Robin and his family after leaving Storybrooke to save Marian's life. It’s unfortunately not a huge part of the episode and only really serves to weave in a reveal that most of the fandom apparently already saw coming, but we do get some good backstory on Robin/Marian and how they used to live back in the Enchanted Forest (Or is it the Sherwood Forest? Nottingham? Loxley? Does it matter?)

Here’s the setup for the main timeline plot:

Robin, Marian, and their son move into the New York apartment that belonged to Neal. They expect to be confused by the new world they’ve found themselves in, and they expect to never see any of the people from Storybrooke ever again. They really don't expect Rumple of all people to show up shortly after them and question what they’re doing in his son’s old home. They should know better. I'm pretty sure that's like, the only apartment Storybrooke people have access to in the real world so of course everyone's going to show up there. By the way - who's paying for that thing? Whose name is on the lease? Does anyone in Neal's life as a normal non-magical person know he's dead? I have so many questions, and I'm asking most of them just to avoid talking about the amount of time wasted in this episode on Rumple's story and motivations.

Rumple's Story and Motivations

Gosh darn it.

So, it turns out Rumplestiltskin met up with Robin back before Robin was Robin Hood and got him to steal something for him. The thing was called the Elixir of the Wounded Heart, and Robin had travel to Oz to get it because the elixir was owned by the Wicked Witch, AKA Zelena, AKA I Thought We Finished That Storyline Ages Ago. The elixir does exactly what it says it does: it heals hearts.

The reason why we get an Enchanted Forest introduction to the Elixir of the Wounded Heart is because we’re revisiting it in New York. Rumple has a heart attack while confronting Robin in Neal's old apartment and Robin, being the honorable man that he is, figures out how to either call an ambulance or get Rumple to a hospital in time instead of letting him die in his living room. Because nothing on this show seems to ever hurt anyone in a normal, non-magical way, it's determined that Rumple's heart attack was caused by EVIL and Rumple needs Robin to go fetch the old elixir he'd stolen a long time ago from a Wizard of Oz, whose residence is conveniently located in New York now. Robin does as he’s asked because he feels obligated to help people in need, even if people in need include Rumplestiltskin.

The problem is that the elixir doesn’t work on Rumple – because it’s not the elixir. The real elixir is in Zelena’s possession because, as it turns out, Zelena never died! She just turned into “life force,” followed Emma into that episode where she and Hook danced in a ballroom and looked pretty, and then took over Marian's appearance in order to sneak back into Storybrooke. Marian was never even alive – she's been Zelena this whole time and the Robin/Regina conflict was just a devious plan executed by Zelena in order to ruin Regina's happiness and… stuff?

Since Zelena has the elixir that would cure Rumple’s case of Evil in the Heart, she has the leverage necessary to get him to do what she wants, and she wants him to get the Author to write her a happy ending. Come on, Zelena – that’s the motivation for pretty much everyone these days. Be more original!

This explains Rumple’s weird sketchiness since the beginning of this half of season 4, but if this is supposed to keep him open for redemption because “Zelena’s making him do it,” it’s not going to work. Rumple didn’t suddenly start being unlikeable because Zelena forced him into it; he’s been steadily working towards being irritatingly evil for the last season. Giving him motivation for this bout of villainy doesn’t explain why he did the things that made Belle banish him in the first place, and it does nothing to add any layers to his character or save him as a character. His little speech toward the end doesn’t do much to endear me to him again either because Rumple knowing what he did wrong doesn’t solve the problem of him repeatedly doing similar wrong things again and again.

Robin Hood

This episode also reveals the origin of Robin Hood, though it’s overshadowed by the Rumple plot – not in time, exactly, but in significance. Viewers aren’t meant to remember the details of Robin’s flashback because it’s just there to set up two things: the elixir he has to steal twice and a final line from past-Marian that, when recalled, convinces Robin to stay by Fake-Marian’s side instead of returning to Regina.

I can only assume that they gave us Robin’s story as the antithesis of Rumple/Gold’s motivations. Robin steals for the sake of others and wants to do good, while Rumple is strictly self-serving. Rumple even says at the beginning of the episode that he doesn’t want Regina to find her happiness “at [his] expense.” This is a contrast to Robin, who uprooted his own happiness with Regina in order to keep Marian alive and safe.

Throughout the New York timeline, Robin is struggling with his new life with Marian and leaving Regina behind. He almost calls Regina a couple times and the fact that Regina is on his phone causes Fake-Marian to confront him about his feelings for the woman he left behind. But Robin remembers what Marian said in the Enchanted Forest and decides he wants to stay by her side, and Regina's number is deleted from his phone.

The episode ends with Regina from the present timeline finding out about Robin and Zelena/Marian and realizing that she's trapped into helping Rumple not only with the Author, but also with turning Emma to the side of darkness. With both of them working on turning Regina, I’m sure we’ll see that development pretty soon - which should be interesting!

Other stuff:
  • Will Scarlet was also in this episode. He keeps ending up as a brief mention in the footnotes of my reviews, doesn't he?
  • This plot was a convolution of convenience. Really think about all the things that had to happen in order for Zelena’s plan to unfold how she wanted it to unfold. Then realize that the writers do not want viewers to think that much about continuity, because it makes it so much harder to retcon.
  • I still wonder why they never tried just dipping Marian past the Storybrooke barrier and then pulling her back in. I’m sure the writers would have found a way around that working, but it just seems like a logical thing to try before sending the ‘of Loxley’ family out into an unknown world.
  • “I want you to break into the vault and steal the Elixir of the Wounded Heart.” “That’s a ridiculously self-explanatory name.” It’s great when the show calls itself out for its cheesiness.
  • "She'd never be with you." "I can speak for myself... I'd never be with you." Marian before Zelena stole her face was great!
  • "You made me a monster, but I won't let you do the same to Emma." I'm here for Regina & Emma: Magical BFFs.
  • I don't understand how Zelena avoided mirrors and reflective surfaces her entire time as Marian.
  • Regina wasn't in the episode much, but she was great in what screen time she got and the ending was particularly heartbreaking.
Many thanks to Deb for covering Once Upon A Time for me this week in my absence! Hit up the comments below and let us know what you thought of the episode. Until then, folks! :)

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 8

As we head toward the summer, television series are trying their hardest to pull out all the stops -- all the explosions, big reveals, pregnancies, weddings, break-ups, and hook-ups. They do this because they want us to keep talking about their show over the summer. They want us to discuss with our friends, to gain new viewers for next season. So as we head into the final stretch of most television shows, the performances are becoming more and more impressive. This week, we're focusing on some amazing women and men whose performances were worth calling out. Joining me this week is my name twin, soul sister, and queen of the Arrow fandom: Jen!

Let's get to it, then!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New Girl 4x20 "Par 5" (Own Who You Are)

"Par 5"
Original Airdate: April 7, 2015

Have you ever felt like you've had to change everything about yourself in order to fit in? I feel like in middle school, that's how I was. I would laugh at jokes I didn't understand and nod along, pretending I understood references to movies that my parents would have never let me watch. When you're that young, you like what you like and you say what you say in order to fit in. We think that when we become adults, this will change -- that people will accept us just as we are and won't care about our quirks or habits. We think we will stop wanting to fit in with the cool kids or change the way we talk to accommodate those around us. But we don't. Not really. That desire to fit in and to become part of a group or to just become someone that someone else needs doesn't ever really dissipate just because we become an adult.

In this week's episode of New Girl, titled "Par 5," we see that quite clearly. We get three very different stories that don't really intersect with each other but that all focus on the same theme: the idea of changing something about yourself in order to get what you want. In the adult world, the term "networking" is tossed around a lot. As someone who is in the career force, my parents tell me all the time that I need to be networking myself in order to look for job opportunities. "It's all about who you know," they claim. And they're not wrong. It really is all about who you know.

But it's also about who you ARE. Jessica Day has never been the person who can schmooze and who can lie and who can sell herself. She got to where she is in her career because she worked her way to the top, not because she talked herself there. Fawn Moscato... well, Fawn is not that way. At all. And we learn a lot more about both of them in this episode. Also in the episode, our B and C-stories are focused on the idea of changing who you are to be liked by people of the opposite sex. "Par 5" finds Winston lying about being a cop in order to go on a date with a cute woman. It also finds Schmidt trying to change his appearance in order to be accepted by his girlfriend, Fawn. Both stories end with honesty (actually, all three stories in the episode do) and it's really refreshing and wonderful. So let's talk more about it, shall we?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Rise of Female-Led Sitcoms: A Dialogue Between Jenn and Jaime

Jaime Poland and I have been friends for a long time. Because we've been friends for a long time, we often have in-depth conversations about our favorite television shows. Jaime was a Creative Writing major in college with a minor in film so I think that her opinion is always valid whenever criticisms or discussions of pop culture are on the table. She's smart and she has a lot of great opinions. And she's also one of my favorite people in the entire world. So when I asked if she would sit down with me via Google Hangout (which took both of us -- grown, adult women with college degrees -- an absurd amount of time to figure out) and discuss the rise of female-led sitcoms and female-led television series in the past few years, she was more than happy to oblige. (As if she had a choice in the matter, let's be honest.)

So below, we discuss some of the most recent television developments in terms of feminism and comedy. We talk about why, exactly, the female-led sitcom is on the rise and what makes these series so appealing and intriguing to the masses. We also discuss what can be gleaned from a female-led series that is missing from a male-driven show. Enjoy!

6x05 "Laws of Robotics & Party Rights" (All Hail Annie) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Laws of Robotics & Party Rights"
Original Airdate: April 7, 2015

There are some things that I really liked about this episode and nothing I totally hated, but I was struggling to write this because there was nothing big I could actually grab a hold of and use to fuel a whole review. There were themes, but not broad ones or ones I think are meant to carry on throughout the rest of the season. The A and B stories only seemed to relate to each other in terms of two characters learning lessons at the end of them, and that's not exactly breaking new ground as far as sitcoms go.

Jeff and the Dean (and My Confusion)

The A-plot involves a bunch of convicts attending Greendale via remote devices that look like tablets on wheels called telepresence robots (actual things that exist by the way), and Jeff is initially very pro-convicts because if the school accepts them, it gets $300,000. The Dean fights him on it for about three seconds before caving, and then the convicts arrive. One of them, Willy, is in Jeff's Fundamentals of Law class and doesn't seem to enjoy the way Jeff teaches. That is to say, Jeff doesn't teach at all: he puts on a video and makes jokes about his life and how he ended up a teacher at Greendale, and how he's not that much different from a convict like Willy – other than the fact that Jeff's never murdered anyone, of course.

But then Willy tries to murder Jeff by nudging him down the stairs in the parking garage and when Jeff goes to the Dean, the Dean sides with Willy over Jeff. This sends Jeff into a spiral of irritation and anger because he's right and Willy is wrong but no one's listening to him. Jeff hates people not listening to him, and he hates that he loses control over his class because he lets Willy get under his skin. Because even though Jeff never cared about his class before, he did care about them thinking he was cool and funny and Willy ruins that.

This story was thematically all over the place. What was the arcing motivation/idea? Was it about Jeff's inability to cope with his feelings? (Jeff says to Willy: "I hear you have to have strong feelings for someone you kill. I try to reserve that stuff for myself," and that gets paid off later when his feelings of anger cause him to throw Willy's telepresence robot down a flight of stairs, thus "killing" him.) Was it another revisit of one of Jeff's key character traits: his hatred of being on the "losing side" of anything, especially other people's opinions of him? The way the story ends implies that it was about Jeff's friendship with the Dean and Jeff accepting that, yes, he considers himself the Dean's friend – but that's literally just the end of the storyline. The only instance of that particular theme creeping in is when the Dean sides with Willy over Jeff and Jeff gets mad about it.

One thing that isn't really dealt with in this plot is the thing that kind of started it in the first place: Jeff is a really bad teacher. Willy doesn't like that Jeff's a really bad teacher. It could be argued that Willy would have tried to murder Jeff even if he had been a decent teacher, but he wouldn't have had anything to hold over him and discredit him when he went to the Dean if Jeff had tried a little harder.

The way the narrative of the plot progresses gives the impression that Jeff's halfhearted methods of teaching Greendale students instigated Willy's murder attempt, and a logical conclusion would have been Jeff actually trying to teach the class about law because he's learned that caring about something is important and it is possible for him to care about things that aren’t himself. But that doesn't happen. We don't get a follow-up with Jeff actually teaching a class instead of putting on a video of Planet Earth and playing on his phone the entire time, and I think the storyline is missing something because of that.

Britta and Annie (And Abed)

The other story we're dealing with in "Laws of Robotics & Party Rights" involves Britta wanting to throw a post-midterms party in the apartment she shares with Annie and Abed. The problem: there's an established rule against parties with more than eight people in attendance, and Britta doesn't think eight people is much of a party.

So Britta convinces Abed to let her throw the party as a "movie" about partying like there's no tomorrow and Abed, of course, approaches this with extreme seriousness. He continues trying to get good partying footage well after the actual party Britta wanted is over, and it's implied that he'd probably keep trying forever and deprive Britta of sleep the entire time. Because Britta sleeps on the couch. In the living room, where parties happen.

Annie had predicted this would blow up in Britta's face as soon as the plot was laid out before her, because Annie knows Abed and she knows that rules exist for a very good reason and that skirting around them only ends in everything blowing up in your face (this episode lacks a cohesive connection between the two plots, but "skirting around the rules will end in everything blowing up in your face" could be considered a good running theme in Community overall). She tells Britta that she's going to regret manipulating Abed later, and she's right.

Annie's a real badass in this episode and Britta's likable and foolish rather than an over-the-top screw-up and these are both excellent things. The B-story ends with Annie getting Britta to confess to Abed about her scheming and Abed likely going on to make Britta’s life hell for a good long while.

Annie and Britta’s story in this episode concludes with a weird handshake and another fake show title card, this one reading "Female Friends!" (accompanied by a cheerful little music sting), which is charming but almost as misleading as Britta's party movie script because the friendship between the two women is still shaky at best and always has been, and maybe the ship has sailed on it ever being anything but shaky. That's incredibly unfortunate because this is a show about very different people finding a way to fit into a family with each other, and I don't think Annie and Britta have ever fit as well together – in different ways – as, say, Jeff and Annie, or Britta and Jeff, or Annie and Shirley (when the show wasn't ridiculously revisiting their brief season one rivalry, of course).

We got a brief mention of them shopping together a long, long time ago but nothing since then, and no other hints that they spend time with each other off-screen. Even on screen, we don't get many stories with Annie and Britta together or about their friendship and when we do they're usually at odds with each other in some way. There never seems to be much of a long-term resolution to their relationship, or an implication that they might one day become closer or could be considered “close” now, even after six years of knowing each other. Sticking a fake title card for a fake TV show about their friendship up on screen doesn't solve the basic problem of the writers repeatedly pitting them against each other for some inexplicable reason.

Aaaand, that's pretty much all I have to say about the episode, which was funny - don't get me wrong. I liked it, but it was a struggle to figure out what it was trying to say and what these things all mean in the long-term. Will a future episode have Jeff actually teaching his class because he learned his lesson in this episode even though that plot thread wasn't resolved within this episode? Will Annie and Britta have more stories together, or develop their friendship in some way? I have no idea. I'm thinking probably not - but Community has surprised me many times before.

Other things:
  • "I have a brain the size of Jupiter, I'm nobody's fourth Ghostbuster." I could quote pretty much anything Elroy says in the cold open. He's fitting in with the group incredibly well and I love it.
  • "If I see any race gangs forming, I'll have no choice but to adjust the contrast on your screens until you all look the same."
  • Jeff is a teacher! You guys - the show remembered that Jeff is a teacher! I think I'm more excited by this than I should be.
  • Aw, a brief cameo from Fake Troy's arm. I miss real Troy's arm. And his face. I miss Troy. [Jenn's note: After re-watching a bunch of seasons 1-3 this weekend, I wholeheartedly agree. There's something missing without him and no one can convince me otherwise.]
  • Now, I definitely wouldn't throw anyone down a flight of stairs, but - if I had a professor as careless and lazy as Jeff, I'd be pretty pissed too. Try harder, Jeff. Just think about Annie’s disappointed face every time you decide to put a movie on instead of actually teach.
  • If Britta's script was just that one page Annie read out loud, what were the other thirty or so pages? Party plans?
  • "When this is over, you'll beg for my forgiveness." All hail Annie!
  • Was I the only one amused by Jeff’s repeated use of the word “murder” instead of, say, “kill”?
  • I like Britta the Therapist Bartender so, so much more than Britta the cartoonish idiot. Like, she's still a bit silly because she's Britta and she doesn't know what a petard is, but she's a good kind of silly and she doesn't steal children's tricycles or poop her pants.
  • Jeff attempting to “party like there’s no tomorrow” for Abed’s movie is a very simple, brief example of how Jeff has grown. An earlier version of Jeff would have given Abed an unamused look and walked away. [Jenn's note: It's also a hilarious example of how Joel McHale, much like Jake Johnson, cannot dance and the shows they're on both insist on forcing them.]
  • "Don't question rules. Rules are good. I'm bad. All hail Annie." Jenn says "All hail Annie" should be the new mantra. And I agree. [Jenn's note: It's so true that I made it the subtitle for this review. Don't underestimate the Edison.]
  • Why did Jeff steal an overhead projector, though? What is he doing with it? The roll of carpet, I get - rolls of carpet are very useful - but an overhead projector?
Did you all enjoy "Laws of Robotics & Party Rights"? Let us know what you thought of the episode in the comments. Jenn will be back next week with a very meta episode titled "Basic Email Security." Until next time, folks! :)