“It’s Like Jamais Vu All Over Again”
August 6th, 2009
Alan Sepinwall has often talked about how, with TBS’ My Boys, the season finale cliffhangers are almost always of a nature where he as a critic doesn’t actually care about them. TBS asks critics not to talk about the result of the latest love triangle, or such trifling things, whereas Alan (and myself) watch the show for the sense of camaraderie, the sharp dialogue, etc.
I feel very much the same way about Royal Pains, a show that in its first half season has made quite a ratings splash but has failed to really connect with me on an individual level. It isn’t that the show is by any means bad, but rather that there is nothing standing out for me. I was going to start this review by complaining that they, like My Boys, chose one of the least interesting parts of the show on which to hang their hat when it came time to focus on a “Cliffhanger” (loose definition, I assure you), but then I realized something: I don’t know if there’s actually an interesting part.
I don’t think that’s a condemnation of the show, but it is the kind of thing which keeps an episode like “It’s Like Jamais Vu All Over Again” from feeling all that, well, interesting. It’s not that the case itself is that poorly drawn, or that the various interpersonal elements weren’t up to par. Instead, it is simply an example of a show where the focus seems to be on the element of the show, the love triangles and the like, that really does absolutely nothing for me, leaving me to wonder if the rest of the show will ever remain as in focus as I’d like it to.
Only time, and the new few weeks, will tell.
“Follow the Leader”
May 6th, 2009
There is something very jarring about “Follow the Leader,” which isn’t really that surprising. As, essentially, the season’s penultimate episode before next week’s two-hour finale, it was bound to be a transition episode, but in the second half of this season it felt like a more substantial transition than we’re used to. The show has been doing a lot more traditional episodes in the back end: Sayid, Ben, Miles and to a certain extent Faraday all had quite simple episodes that relied on the show’s old flashback structure to deliver character pieces for their individual focuses.
This week’s episode didn’t do anything even close to this, in many ways proving one of the least connective episodes in quite some time. The episode was almost entirely without a key theme, and ended with a cliffhanger that was less a huge shock than it was a subtle ramping up of tension. Episodes that only move pieces around are not that uncommon in this series or any other serial drama, but this one in particular felt really vague and distant: this isn’t to say that it was a bad episode, but rather that the big picture never really became any more focused as time went on.
If I had to draw attention to one element of the episode that perhaps explains this, I’ll point to Richard Alpert, who was the source of almost every cut between past and present. It’s no coincidence that this character unaffected by the flow of time would be the one constant in these two stories, and the one man who has always remained an unsolvable enigma that, even with a few clues dropped here and there, has never become more focused in his own right. He also sits in a unique position as it relates to the episode’s title: he’s never actually been the leader, always remaining nothing but the advisor, and it raises important questions about his role in this legacy.
And yet it doesn’t answer any of them, or really any of the questions we have: rather, it puts all the pieces into place for a finale that might get around to some of those pesky questions.
“Dead is Dead”
April 8th, 2009
Forgiveness is a really interesting emotion, primarily because of how subjective it is. There is a great moment in “Dead is Dead” where Locke suggests that he and Ben discuss the elephant in the room, being the fact that Ben, you know, murdered him, and Ben immediately heads into a long and rambling explanation of how he had to do it, how it was the only way, how he knew he couldn’t leave it to him, etc. Locke, meanwhile, just shrugs: “I was just looking for an apology.”
Locke, of course, has a very different value of forgiveness, having been through so much, and in his new resurrected form Locke is more sure of himself than ever; he forgives Ben because he’s now alive, and he now has purpose, so who is he to really complain?
The problem with the episode is really not a problem at all: Benjamin Linus’ flashbacks are designed specifically to show us those moments where his empathetic nature emerges, some sign of the young boy who went into that Temple returning as part of this new individual. However, in the present day, we see that Ben is still just as much a monster as before, and I think there’s something inherently problematic in the way he treats these situations with such moral dichotomy.
But it’s supposed to be problematic, and Michael Emerson delivers another knockout performance, and “Dead is Dead” succeeds based on the show’s emphasis on his duality.
“Love is a Weapon of Choice”
February 22nd, 2009
After last week was, without question, my favourite episode of Flight of the Conchords’ second season, “Love is a Weapon of Choice” has a lot to live up to. Not only did last week’s “Unnatural Love” give us two of the season’s better songs, but it also delved into the wonderful Australia/New Zealand feud that has often underscored the series. It was vintage Conchords, directed by Michel Gondry, so expecting another episode to compare to it is probably unfair.
As a result, it is with tempered expectations that “Love is a Weapon of Choice” succeeds, if not overwhelmingly. Kristen Wiig proves that she fits well into this universe, something that we could have called based on her great work on Saturday Night Live, and while none of the three songs in the episode prove especially groundbreaking they fit into musical genres the show hasn’t often delved into, and were connected well enough to the romantic hijinx of the episode that I’ll forgive the lack of outright quality.
It’s not one that we’re going to remember, but it’s at least one that get a few laughs, a few catchy lyrics, and a commendation for some cleverness.
January 28th, 2009
There are some who believe, and who boasted ahead of the episode airing, that “Jughead” is one of the strongest episodes in Lost’s five season run.
I’m inclined to disagree, although not out of malice towards the episode or its intentions.
I liked “Jughead,” a lot, but it felt like a much more purposeful attempt to confuse and overwhelm the viewer than some of the show’s past mythology episodes. There is no doubt that, compared to the premiere, this episode is far more revealing: the island’s pit stop in the 1950s introduces us to some key individuals and ideas which seem to fit together numerous pieces of our puzzle, whether it be Richard Alpert’s reasoning for entering into the life of John Locke or the various details that explain the current condition of Daniel Faraday.
Abandoning the Oceanic Six entirely, the episode is all about trying to piece things together in ways that seem at first unorthodox but then, over time, become more focused if not more clear. My reservations about placing the episode into the show’s upper echelon is that it, as an entity, did not feel like a story in its own right: while we approached some major revelations for Daniel Faraday in particular, the episode never felt like it really had time to apply those to his character and demonstrate those effects.
But no one can claim that there are not now some much larger questions, and certainly the fog is beginning to clear on, at the very least, a few very important things. So that makes “Jughead” an entertaining and momentum-building episode for the show, if not the television revelation that some had sold it as.