“The Pandorica Opens”
June 19th, 2010
As a newcomer to Doctor Who, one of the challenges I’ve had to face in terms of writing about the series is what to do with its two-part episodes. In particular, there’s a distinct challenge with writing about the first part of those episodes, as Doctor Who tends to quite literally split narratives in half as opposed to telling two connected stories. As a result, the first half tends to be fairly heavy on exposition and setup before the second half brings it all to a resolution: while this means that there is plenty to speculate on about the first episode, it’s tough to offer a critical opinion when so much of the two-parter’s effectiveness depends on how it concludes.
[Note: this seems as good a time as any to link to Scott Tobias and Noel Murray’s fantastic conversation about the challenges of writing about television at The A.V. Club – I’d add “two-parters” to their list of confounding situations for television critics who write about television on a weekly schedule, although they are not particularly common in this day and age.]
I’ve gotten away with it so far this season by either writing about episodes from previous series (catching up with the Weeping Angels and River Song in my review of “The Time of Angels”) or catching up on previous episodes in this series (lumping reviews of “Vampires of Venice” and “Amy’s Choice” in with “The Hungry Earth”), but with “The Pandorica Opens” (the first part of the series finale) I knew that there was no such cheat available, which meant that the episode was either going to lend itself to instant analysis or it wasn’t.
There are times when I write about episodes of television because I feel I have something to say, or because I want to start or continue a conversation, but there are other times when I simply feel as if I need to write about something so as to be able to even come close to being able to wrap my head around it. “The Pandorica Opens” is one such episode, a first-part which wastes no time drawing a clear (and quite ingenious) connection between this story and the ongoing series narrative and in the process leaves me enormously confused in the best possible way.
Talking Lost with TV on the Internet and The /Filmcast
May 29th, 2010
I’ve written a lot about Lost this week, but if you’re still interested in hearing more discussion about the series finale and the series as a whole I took part in a couple of podcasts on Thursday that might make for some nice weekend listening for those so inclined.
First, I was one of many guests on TV on the Internet’s special Lost episode, which collected a bunch of people who write and tweet about Lost to discuss the finale (including hosts Todd VanDerWerff and Libby Hill, Jason Mittell, Zack Handlen, Daniel T. Walters, Chris Dole, and myself). For the most part, we all liked it, which means that the episode was more of a discussion of the finale and the series as a whole than it was a deconstruction or a dissection. It was a podcast with some really intelligent voices, and it resulted in some cogent discussion on the final season, the characters and their journeys, as well as the cultural impact of the series on both television in general and in our own lives.
TV on the Internet, Episode 37: Lost [Media Elites]
I think both discussions are equally interesting, but the special /Filmcast bonus Lost episode is definitely a bit more dynamic due to both its free-for-all format and the presence of more diverse opinions relating to the finale and the series as a whole. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the episode an outright debate, but /Filmcast hosts Devindra Hardawar and Adam Quigley raise some legitimate concerns with the series which Katey Rich and I work to reconcile with our own enjoyment of the series. The result, at least for me, is an honest and frank discussion which in its confrontation gets to the heart of the ways in which viewers experienced Lost and its finale, and I think anyone listening would find some part of their voice within the arguments being made.
The /Filmcast Bonus Ep. – Lost Series Finale and Wrap-up [/Film]
I want to thank Todd and Devindra for both inviting me to the respective parties and doing a fantastic job in their capacities as moderator/host/whatever you’d choose to call it, and I truly recommend that those who are still contending with their feelings over the Lost finale give these shows a listen (although perhaps spread out a bit, since both are about two hours long and I can speak from experience that four hours of Lost podcasts in a single day is a bit overwhelming).
Lost the Morning After: Critics face “The End”
May 24th, 2010
Writing about the end of a television show is a lot like writing about the end of a war. When a war comes to a close, people want to know the facts of how it came to an end, and they want to understand the legacy that it will leave behind, and the same goes for a television show: people want to “understand” the ending, and they want to see the “big picture” in order to evaluate the series as a whole.
However, for critics who have been reviewing the series episode-by-episode, this is a greater challenge than I think people realize. It isn’t that we don’t have opinions about “The End” in terms of where it fits into Lost’s big picture or how its ending concludes the series’ long-term storylines, but rather that we have been in the trenches, so to speak, for years of our lives. Noel Murray likened writing about Lost weekly to “reports from the field…recording immediate impressions,” but now we’re forced to combine the immediacy of our response to the finale with this desire for closure, both within the viewing audience and within our own expectations. These critics are the embedded reporters, people who have dedicated so much of their time to cataloging their immediate responses that channeling that energy towards the end of the series seems like a different and in some cases counter-intuitive experience.
However, they’re also the people who offer a valuable glimpse into the series’ run as a whole, both in their wide-reaching commentary and in their specific analysis of “The End” and its various mysteries and reveals. Their “reports from the field” may be over, but the final transmission will serve as a wonderful starting point for the larger discussion, so let’s take a closer look at their analysis and see how the process of historicizing Lost’s impact begins.
Lost Finale Countdown
May 23rd, 2010
I don’t know if I’m ready for tonight’s Lost finale: an afternoon of flying through galaxies as a moustached-plumber who rides dinosaurs (while playing Super Mario Galaxy 2, just so it’s clear) may not be the most apt way to prepare for an epic dramatic television event, but it was darn fun and I guess that’s fitting. I’m looking to have fun with tonight’s finale more than anything else, less desperate for answers than I am desperate to see just how Lindelof and Cuse are going to end this thing.
However, I will probably be revisiting some of my thoughts from earlier this season as well as my other articles from this weekend, so I figured I’d throw up some links for new and veteran blog readers alike.
Reflections on Reviewing Lost [May 22nd, 2010]
In Defence of “Expose” [May 21st, 2010]
Lost in Lost’s Critical Culture: A Response to the New York Times [May 20th, 2010]
Why Lost Owes Us Nothing [January 28th, 2010]
“Happily Ever After”
“Across the Sea”
“What They Died For”
Lost the Morning After Critics’ Roundups
Across the Sea
What They Died For
In Defence of “Exposé”
May 21st, 2010
As we come to the end of Lost’s run, people like to write lists: most of these lists will feature “Favourite” characters, episodes or scenes over the past six seasons, but there’s a chance that many of them will focus on the “Worst” of the same. I don’t know if I’m really up for making lists of my own (especially since I put together my own list of important episodes before Season 6 began), but I do want to say one thing:
If I see “Exposé” on a single “Worst Episode” list [like this one, which is even more despicable since it uses “Pointless”], I am going to be incredibly angry.
I may not have loved the episode initially (my “review” from three years ago is a little all over the map), so I can’t say I’ve always held this belief, but over time I have become part of the minority who feel that “Exposé” was an intriguing episode which successfully made lemons out of lemonade. While there are bad episodes of Lost (see: “Stranger in a Strange Land”) which in their failures elucidate some of the show’s growing pains at various points within its narrative, “Exposé” is precisely the opposite: it is a confident hour of television, entirely sure of its function of bringing to a close an intriguing, if failed, experiment in the series’ narrative in a meaningful and memorable fashion.
As Lost has continued, and we’ve learned more about the island and the central themes to the series, I’ve become convinced that there is no way anyone could argue that “Exposé” is not a pivotal episode in the series’ development. Whether you choose to view it as hidden foreshadowing or (more likely) as successful retroactive storytelling, the episode captures in a single episode the complex morality plays which have been unfolding for six seasons, crafting a compelling standalone narrative that we can now see as a microcosm for the series’ larger conflicts.
In other words, I’m tired of the haters, and I’m here to tell you why.
March 17th, 2010
This is the third time that I have written a review wherein I believe myself to be writing about the final episode of Scrubs, which is sort of bizarre when you really sit down and think about it. However, this whole season of Scrubs has been bizarre: just months after the show went out with an emotional final episode (the great “My Finale”), it came back in a form that was sort of like Zombie scrubs: it looked familiar in some ways, as certain characters stuck around to provide continuity and the stories were ripped out of the first few seasons when things were still fairly fresh, but other characters were different, and the shift of first-person focus was enough to throw the show off its axis. Zombie Scrubs, or “Scrubs Med School” if we’re being a little less facetious, was met with fairly tepid responses from fans and viewers in general, being written off as a failure even before it went on a lengthy hiatus leading up to last week’s sudden return.
But while I will agree that there were some execution problems early on that rendered Scrubs Med School a bit of a failure, I think that we need to separate expectation from reality. If you expected this show to continue the Scrubs legacy from Season Eight (which I personally found a substantial improvement on the last few NBC seasons), then you would be disappointed; however, if you expected what Bill Lawrence was interested in creating, a new show featuring familiar characters that dealt with med students and the struggles they face, I would actually suggest that “My Thanks” caps off a pretty successful “first season.”
I don’t think that it’s possible to forget what the show was before, and I don’t think that Lawrence made the right decisions along the way, but I want to see more of the show that “My Thanks” represents, regardless of the Scrubs name and the endless finales that the show has endured over the years. That’s not enough to save the show, perhaps, but I need to at least tip my hat to Lawrence for managing to make this Zombified show work at the end of the day.