Two Steps Forward, Few Looks Back in “To Shanshu in L.A.”
July 11th, 2010
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“To Shanshu in L.A.” is no “Prophecy Girl.”
I can’t resist the comparison, as both episodes find their respective series still searching for their identity while closing their first season, looking for a source of momentum. Don’t get me wrong, I like “To Shanshu in L.A.” just fine, but what felt so natural for Buffy (a final showdown with the season’s “Big Bad,” a first glimpse at the evil which sits underneath Sunnydale) feels comparatively contrived when it happens to Angel. While Wolfram & Hart have been built up all season, and there is some really successful subtle serialization in the episodes leading up to the finale, the finale leaves nothing to the imagination beyond the mysteries of “What Does the Prophecy Mean?” and “Who’s in the Box,” which really won’t matter until next season. The resolutions to these mysteries are exciting, and I very much like where the show is heading in terms of its plot, but the episode plants its thematic flag at base camp instead of trying for the summit.
If a great season finale wraps up the season’s storylines while looking forward to what happens next, “To Shanshu in L.A.” is only really successful with the latter, although that’s by design: the show is clearly not done with a majority of the elements introduced this season, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t feel like “Prophecy Girl.” Yes, I’d argue that the episode reflects some of the ways in which Angel lacks the momentum inherent to the conclusion of Buffy’s first season, but it’s yet another example of the show charting its own course, and even with some of my concerns about the way the episode is designed I’ve very excited by the world it has created and its potential moving forward.
September 28th, 2009
I love when episode titles aren’t what you’d expect. As a television critic, it means that I’m taking notes after I’ve looked to see what the title of the episode is (so you can more easily find this post), so I went into this one expecting the show to take advantage of their newfound pairing in order to provide some sitcom-style double date antics.
I should have known, of course, that How I Met Your Mother isn’t that kind of show. The “Double Date” at the center of the episode was a clever sort of “instant mythology,” where Ted relives a previous blind date all over again seven years later, which allows the show to do what it does best. We get healthy doses of both the show’s time-twisty structure as well as its heart within the storyline, while the other (also double-themed) story with Marshall and Barney helps to provide some levity while both work in tandem to create a whole new element of the HIMYM Lexicon.
On the whole, it’s a clever and well-executed episode that further cements the show’s strong sense of narrative, and one which provides a pretty darn good showcase for a somewhat maligned character.
May 14th, 2009
When The Office ended its six-episode first season, it really didn’t have anything to wrap up or even celebrate: “Hot Girl,” the season finale, was noteworthy for its first real sense of Pam’s jealousy of Jim dating anyone, but it was just another episode of the series in a lot of ways. Since Parks and Recreation is not only from the same creative minds but is also getting exactly the same six-episode first season leading into a normal second one, it’s hard not to compare “Rock Show” to the finale that came before it.
I’d say that Greg Daniels and Michael Schur have learned some lessons since then, as this is without question a more suitable finale, but intelligently not one that pretends this was a normal season or that we really know these characters. While the party at the center of the episode was successful in its efforts to display some humorous sides to the show’s funniest characters, and the various musical interludes let us enjoy the hilarity of Chris Pratt’s Andy, for the most part the episode shed some light on the three people who are probably the closest to being real characters, giving them each an added touch of humanity that will serve the series really well as it moves forward.
It may have taken six episodes to get there, but I think we’re to the point where Parks and Recreation has put its cards on the table, and earned its spot in NBC’s fall schedule on its own merit as opposed to that of its big brother.