Tag Archives: Season Two

From Backlash to Beirut: Homeland Season Two [Review]

Review: Homeland Season Two

September 30th, 2012

When I saw the finale of Homeland’s first season, a season I oddly never wrote about it any capacity, I was quite impressed. As far as I was concerned, the finale was stuck in a situation where an anti-climax was inevitable: I did not believe they would ever actually kill Brody, and therefore I did not imagine a scenario wherein he would go through with his attack. That belief was something I carried into the episode, and so the fact that they still created a stellar finale with this fact hanging over their heads was quite an achievement.

It worked because it forced both Carrie and Brody to go through the emotional climaxes of their respective arcs without giving them the expected result. Brody presses the button but it doesn’t go off, while Carrie pieces together the plan only to have Brody’s malfunction and change of heart turn her into a liar. Both of them were so sure that they were doing the right thing, that they were doing what was in the best interest of their country, and yet in the end both were forced to move on with their lives wondering if they had just dodged a bullet or made a mistake that will change their lives forever.

I was fascinated, however, to see some substantial backlash toward this conclusion, although this backlash took two different forms. For one group of people, the very idea of Brody not going through with his plan was itself a disappointment, and a betrayal of the show they believed they were watching. For others, meanwhile, the deus ex amnesia ending with Carrie was a copout, an easy way of undoing Carrie’s revelation regarding Isa and delaying any real confrontation until some undetermined point in future seasons. Whereas I had expected the first development based on the logic of television development—which suggests you don’t kill your male lead—and found the latter cheap but also satisfying in its cheapness, there were others who were actively turned against the show in the process, comparing it to The Killing and vowing never to watch again.

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Sheltered by Speculation: How Smash Could Become a Different Show

How Smash Could Become a Different Show

April 17th, 2012

On the one hand, my opinion of Smash remains unchanged since the last time I dropped in on it: this is still a show that does not have a clear grasp on what it wants to accomplish, unable to move beyond the bounds of the musical with any confidence. While Uma Thurman’s arrival as Rebecca DuVall has helped flesh out the musical narrative, building on the detente between Ivy and Karen which makes them both more viable as characters, the show doesn’t know when to quit when it’s ahead: just as Julia’s personal life finishes imploding, Karen’s boyfriend Dev is elevated to a full-blown liability for both Karen and the narrative as a whole.

And yet I continue to watch. Part of me is simply riveted by the tone deafness of the series to its own creative struggles, and wonders how they believe this story should be resolved at the end of the season. However, more prominently, I am legitimately fascinated to see what this show looks like in a second season. Rarely has there been a case where that much hype has turned into this much vitriol, the squandered potential almost overbearing in our reception of the season’s final act (perhaps unfairly, even). And yet, despite all of this, the show has earned a second season since the last time I checked in on it, and so I find myself watching every episode wondering how much of this show, this near-complete mess of a show, will actually remain when it returns next season – the show, as the title suggests, survives on my DVR through its creative rough patches because it is sheltered by this anticipation for what might be to come.

Without entirely jumping the gun, given that the season isn’t yet over, I did want to offer a few thoughts on how the current model might need adjustment in the future, and why I’d argue this puts the show in a far more compelling place moving forward than its narrative alone would suggest.

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Season Finale: Fringe – “There’s More Than One of Everything”

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“There’s More Than One of Everything”

May 12th, 2009

I wrote a piece a while back about the ways in which Fringe sits between the procedural and the serial, with episodes that feel heavily formulaic and others that are heavily serialized and almost feel like a different show. “There’s More Than One of Everything,” as a finale, sits as the latter, an engaging with huge ideas, long-gestating character reveals, and the central “reality” that the show has been dealing with.

But what makes this episode work is that it didn’t come after a string of your run of the mill procedural episodes: by spending more or less the entirety of the post-hiatus period, which I haven’t been blogging about as I’ve been forced to play catchup more than once, balancing these two elements more effectively than in the first part of the season, the show has found its footing and was capable of delivering this finale without feeling as if this was an out of the blue burst of serialized interest to a show that too often falls on its procedural elements.

So when the scene eventually arrives when all of the individual cases suddenly tie together to help Olivia solve the true motivations of the infamous Mr. Jones, it doesn’t feel like the hackneyed scene it could have. The show doesn’t quite feel as natural as, say, Lost within this particular environment of the big event episode, but the show quite adequately and quite subtlely put itself into position for this finale over the past few weeks, and it was much more effective as a result.

As for whether it’s right up there with Abrams’ other shows in terms of finales, well, that’s a different story…but not an unpleasant one for the creator.

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Season Finale: Chuck – “Chuck vs. the Ring”

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“Chuck vs. the Ring”

April 27th, 2009

“Go with your heart, buddy – our brains only screw things up.”

Wow.

In considering “Chuck vs. the Ring,” a title with two very different meanings, I think it’s important that we acknowledge just how amazing the accomplishment of the Chuck staff is when it comes to pulling off some of the most expansive material for a dramedy of this nature.

The first half of this episode is more or less an episode in its own right, one laden with numerous jokes, an amazing appearance by Jeffster, and what feels like a climax in and of itself. What is interesting is that, by the end of the episode, that storyline felt miles away, overshadowed by an amazingly epic conclusion that potentially changed everything. However, simultaneously, it was highly memorable and containing some of the best jokes in the episode. But when those elements would have felt overbearing, such as during that epic conclusion, they faded effortlessly into the background, never feeling separate but also never feeling like they were fighting in the same space.

It’s such an amazing balancing act, and when everyone in the cast is on fire, and when the writing is off the charts, and when Jeffster soundtracks an entire sequence with “Mr. Roboto,” it’s an example of how Chuck may not aim as high as some of the stronger dramas on television, or embrace absurdity as much as some of the biggest comedies, but in doing what it does I don’t feel there is a single other show that is this capable of executing this level of brilliance.

Forget about save Chuck – let’s praise Chuck for a while, and think with our hearts instead of our brains.

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Project Runway Canada Season Two – “Episode Two”

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“Claim to Fame”

February 3rd, 2009

Early in the season’s second episode, Jessica observes that something is beginning to change around these parts: after the first week where everyone was concerned about staying, they enter into one of two modes. They either, like Jessica and a few others, switch from survival mode to awesome mode, or they switch into a mode where all they have is personality-driven drivel. It’s a sad existence for those few, and it is not very surprising that they are amongst those who are almost out the door by episode’s end.

They might be designing a dress for Elisha Cuthbert, but considering that her requests are for a dress for a “night on the town” it’s not like this makes her very special. Instead, it’s a test of the designers’ ability to design a simple dress in a way that isn’t too ugly, and that isn’t too much for them to handle. It isn’t surprising, really, that it is the people who spend more time feuding and ranting during the conception phase are those who can’t put together a dress to save their lives in the end.

But in the end Jessica is right: we don’t get much of a sense of any major design emergences here, instead focusing more on personalities. And considering that they’re dressing a celebrity, I guess it makes sense to focus on some of the people only concerned about trying to become one through the world of reality television.

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Season Premiere: Project Runway Canada Season Two – “Episode One”

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“Fashion is a Battlefield”

January 27th, 2009

[If you're looking to view the episode online, you can do so at Global's website, but only if you're in Canada. If you're outside of Canada, well, be patient!]

My first experience with any sort of Project Runway was, for a brief moment, stumbling upon an episode of Slice’s Project Runway Canada wherein they were making dresses out of umbrellas. I only watched for a few minutes, but it looked intriguing enough. Eventually, I decided on a few recommendations that I should give the show a try, and I ended up going through three seasons of the U.S. edition during the first half of last year. The show is simply a strong reality competition series: there’s a reason it won a Peabody, after all.

But Project Runway Canada, which I went back to and completed as I was waiting for new episodes of the fourth U.S. season to begin, was in itself an entertaining project. Done on a fairly small network but featuring high production values, there were even things about this particular import that I preferred to the original version. It has a supermodel host (Iman, Mrs. David Bowie), it has a mentor who is respected in fashion circles and quite affable (Brian Bailey), and it has judges that, while not particularly famous, still have those kinds of quirks that make them the right people to be judging these contestants. The show at no point felt like a low-rate ripoff of the original, for one, but more than that had its own identity that kept me engaged until, eventually, Biddell walked away the winner.

It’s been a long time since that finale, and Project Runway Canada has made it to the bigtime with a primetime slot on National network Global. The parts are more or less still the same, but the location has been altered (the show moves from Toronto to the nation’s capital in Ottawa), and the new contestants have not yet really emerged with any sort of identities. The show had some lucky casting last time around, and while the jury is still out on that the things that made the show stand out for me remain: this is a no nonsense, straightforward, well-produced and entertaining piece of reality competition programming, Canada or no Canada.

And apparently, it’s also a show that was designed to break people both mentally and physically, as fashion really is a battlefield in the show’s first episode.

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Season Premiere: Damages – “I Lied, Too”

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“I Lied, Too”

January 7th, 2009

Damages is one of the few shows that, despite airing during the period when I began this blog, I have never honestly blogged about the show. The reason is simple: I wasn’t really doing episodic reviews back when the show first emerged, and it took me a few months to get to the final episodes of the season after losing interest in where the show was headed.

More accurately, I lost interest in the fact that the show had no idea where it was headed. The first season of Damages, for me, had two fundamental problems. First and foremost, I felt like the show was constantly battling the fact that its ostensible lead, Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons, was far less interesting than her mentor, the fantastic Glenn Close as Patty Hewes. And secondly, it seemed like the show at its midpoint abandoned the nuances of that relationship for contrived, red herring storylines that never felt like they added up to anything substantial.

For this reason, the verdict on Damages Season Two remains out – the show knows how to start a season, and they know how to end one, but it’s going to be the middle section that causes them the most trouble. But what “The Lies We Tell” gets right has me hopeful that they are at least aware of his to solve their first problem: I never particularly engaged with Byrne in the first season, but here she is up to the challenge to portray a character who is exponentially more interesting.

With one of the most impressive supporting casts on a cable drama at the moment, the show has even opportunity to turn this strong start into a strong season: let’s just hope that there aren’t any contrived stalkers in the show’s future.

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