Review BBC America’s Orphan Black: “Entangled Bank” (Season 1, Episode 8)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

Is Orphan Black the greatest show plot-wise? Not necessarily (the occasional flip over to Beth’s boyfriend, Paul, or to the police’s investigation* drags), but that’s not why I continue to tune in. I watch for Tatiana Maslany’s demanding, skilled performances portraying the show’s various clones. It’s a demonstration of her talent, how often I forget and have to remind myself that this is the same actress taking on different guises, because that realization isn’t even considered while watching. One is simply too swept away in the story’s sci-fi basis to notice.
 
From a technical standpoint, as well, the seamless filming of Alison and Sarah, or Alison and Helena, on screen at the same time must be credited for not standing out as having been tampered with,** but instead drawing no attention to its smooth combinations of images that would be impossible without editing.
 
*Viewers surpass the cops so much in information that watching them investigate only creates pointless backtracking

** As logically it must have been, different takes snipped or shots blended together so two different characters played by the same person can share the same film space.
 

Seeing Double

Seeing DoubleSeeing Double

How the Clones Rate

  • Cosima is probably the least interesting, mostly because she is the clone most separated from the rest, a distance that corresponds with the fact that most of her conversations with her “sister” clones take place over the phone. She is also, despite her intelligence, turning out to be the least cautious one, falling for the person she believes is her monitor (spoiler: her suspicions are true). That is just setting herself (and every other clone whose protection depends on their united front of silence) up, knowingly being stupid and feigning ignorance to the gravity of her actions. Love can make you blind but the price of that blindness could be deadly, with other clones already being killed of without much reason, except perhaps that their meeting and investigating as a team is causing enough of a stir that one of the them had to be convinced to go rogue [see Helena]. The one perk of Cosima’s storyline is that it has opened up a spot for the great actor, Matt Frewer (Eureka, Alice), to step in as Doctor Leekie, leader of “Neolution,” where humans need not wait for evolution and adaptations to occur naturally but take charge with science.
  • When we first meet Alison, she clashed with fellow clone Sarah over their differences in lifestyle (stay at home mom juggling the paradigm “soccer mom” role vs. trying to run away from a shady past with a daughter previously left behind). Still, it seems their shared anger and stubbornness has broken through that initial dissidence, and it couldn’t be better timing for conciliation. While Sarah has been better able to cope and deal with these unexpected turns of events (used to things not going according to plan), Alison has been reacting to her fears without thinking, landing herself in a mess of a breakdown this episode that is far from private. Falling off the deep end with alcohol and paranoia of her husband or neighbor being her monitor, she’s making decisions she would have never made sober***. She could truly use an ally, as she recalls her transgressions and seeks Sarah’s aid (or more specifically an offer to stay at Sarah’s foster mom, Mrs. S’, home, completely embarrassed and wanting to hide from her kids and friends, who would make her address and take responsibility for her recent bouts of crazy).
  • Helena with Sarah's daughter, KieraIf it was “judge a book by its cover” time, I would say I do not like Helena‘s look at all. It is the most dramatically different from the rest of the clones, with blown out, dyed blonde hair. This reflects the obvious, that she is the most extremely different and mentally damaged of them all, but having her stand out takes away from the more nuanced variations in dress and hair that the other clones have. Then again, Helena is also becoming the most fascinating of the clones, with her conflicted feelings about who to trust and who to listen to. When she cut off that guy’s tail in episode seven, “Parts Developed in an Unusual Manner,” and then followed that up with some sick dancing at a club, tail in hand, I knew she was someone to watch. Maslany seems to have been allowed or directed to go nuts as Helena, and does so with a relish both insane and packed with energy. And now, since her interactions with Sarah and Sarah’s daughter, Kira****, Helena has become a bit of an anti-hero, because she’s starting to hesitate about following her mission. As the “original prototype” from which the other clones were replicated*****, she been told by some “cloaked in shadows” higher ups to destroy all of her replicates, but Sarah’s not dead.
  • Sarah, the likable, rebellious clone who takes on the main perspective from which viewers follow the story.****** Until the tragic conclusion, however, she took more of a back seat this episode to allow the other clones to split the spotlight.

 
*** To follow up hot glue torturing her husband in episode six, “Variations Under Domestication”, here she smokes pot and sleeps with her neighbor’s husband.

****As a detail, I thought it was interesting that Sarah’s daughter, Kira, recognized Allison right away when she pretended to be Sarah and wanted nothing to do with her fake mother yet listens to and feels a sympathy for Helena. This difference in response gives legitimacy to Helena’s claim that there is something different about her and Sarah, something that bridges between them and makes them “connected.”

***** At least that’s what she’s been made to believe. There’s no corroborating evidence yet, outside of her saying it to be so.

****** Unlike the other clones, who were already acquainted and knew what they were when she meets them, Sarah, like the viewer, is new to cloning. By needing to have things explained to her, the viewers are able to learn all the explication stuff by proxy in a manner that’s plausible (Sarah doesn’t know what’s going on so it makes sense that there would be long dialogues discussing the matter).
 

~ SIDENOTE ~

I have a soft spot for sibling relationships and Sarah’s foster brother, Felix (played by Jordan Gavaris), continues to light up the screen as the sibling trapped in Sarah’s mad situation, her only link to the outside world who she trusts completely, and the only friend she can count on to do every crazy thing she tells him to do with little convincing or complaint (impromptu bartending, babysitting, lying, etc.). He doesn’t even have to think long about her requests, which can often be ridiculous (putting together her fake funeral) or cause him to be brought to the attention of the police/her violent ex-boyfriend Vic. She’s his sister and without a doubt he has her back. This exists the other way around, too, in that she would do anything for him. It’s just a lot of “do for her” right now.

Foster Siblings Rock

Foster Siblings Rock


 

The Conclusion

This episode ends on the harsh note of seeing Sarah’s young daughter, Kira, getting hit by a car, a disturbing sight that doesn’t get softened for the awareness that this is a staged scene on a television show, where no children were actually harmed. Truthfully, knowing a child had been struck by a vehicle would have been emotionally impactful enough. The camera not cutting away from the haunting image felt slightly extreme, for shock factor’s sake more than story necessity.

And yes, probably this cliffhanger will lead to the discovery of some medical abnormalities, where doctors are in awe at how Kira was able to survive in spite of her injuries (because she will survive). And surely the question “how did a clone have a child in the first place?” will come up. But that image of that little girl… that image will never be forgotten
 
 
 
So while I’m a little frustrated by some of the directions this show is taking, I find I remain invested in the fate of the clones (and Felix) to be sure to tune in for tonight’s new episode, “Unconscious Selection.” But I’m curious how others felt about the episode. Any clone preferences? Share your likes and dislikes about Orphan Black in the comments below (and please, no future episode spoilers).

Orphan Black screencaps from here

 

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Review BBC America’s Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor” (Season 7 Finale)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

The problem with ClaraClara and the Doctor

My first Doctor and companion (before going back and catching up on every  episode since the show’s 2005 rebirth) were Matt Smith’s 11 and Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond, so for the approaching transition to Clara being the new companion, I expected and planned for a difficult adjustment period. Trouble is, here the season has ended and I continue to have mixed feelings about Clara and the show’s storyline itself (since Amy and Rory’s departure). Which is a really strange reaction to have towards Doctor Who, particularly the Steven Moffat era, of which I am generally a strong proponent for.

I’m not even clear if Clara herself is the problem, (Jenna-Louise Coleman, who plays her, is certainly spunky and keeps up well with the fast dialogue) but she is the major component that’s changed, and her dynamic with the Doctor has never fully solidified. Having it start out as flirtatious during her second appearance on the show in the Christmas Special didn’t help. All I could think of was the Doctor’s married now. This should not be happening. Even if his marriage, to the always marvelous River Song, never really sat right,* there was still no excuse for his starting to make eyes at the new girl, whether in jest or not.
 
* How could it, when his motivation for suddenly (quickly) tying the knot wasn’t fully motivated by feelings of love but saving the world (season six’s “The Wedding of River Song”)?
 

River sets things straight (to a point)

Goodbye, River

Goodbye, River

This is where concretely knowing River had died, her and the Doctor’s timelines officially done crossing, would have come in handy, to make me less irritated by behavior I saw as on the brink of the Doctor cheating on her. River clears  the air, though, with her return and final visit with the Doctor, a meeting marked as their last by her retelling of the events of season four’s “Forest of the Dead.” While I hate to know Alex Kingston probably won’t be coming back again soon (or ever), having there be an end (even one masked as an “I’ll be seeing you again soon” to avoid acknowledging the finality of the moment) made me really want to go back and rewatch all of her episodes, which I believe means that her last scenes were quite effective.

Nonetheless, this clarification of the Doctor’s actions was held back for too long, and stands as one of the reasons why I believe this finale would have better fit as Clara’s second episode (as companion), so I didn’t have to have that reason for dislike sabotage my opinion of Clara’s relationship with the Doctor all season.
 

Why the “The Name of the Doctor” should not have been the finale…

Another reason I have for this episode not being finale material, but better suited for airing earlier in the season, is the sudden producing of an explanation for Clara, “the impossible girl” at its end. This didn’t feel like a conclusion but the story finally being allowed to start. Finally one could move on from this mystery and get the real season started. But that wasn’t the reality of the situation. After having viewers hold their breath not knowing how Clara was reappearing (in slightly different forms) throughout the season, despite dying multiple times,  the truth was kind of anti-climatic (she sacrified herself to prevent the Great Intelligence**, from reversing all of the Doctor’s good deeds by sending out copies of herself to every place and time the Doctor has ever been to save him from these direct attacks, the real Clara dying in the process).

I feared events might be lackluster after seeing the penultimate, Cybermen episode, “Nightmare in Silver.” While actually was one of the best episodes of the season [see SIDENOTE for the real best], it didn’t provide a strong lead-in to what the finale would be about***. There was no heavy inclination of what was going to happen next, no big battle or enemy confrontation which the course of the season had built-up to, no investment in solving the puzzle of who Clara was. No tension, no anything.

Only the previews offered up the news of the episode’s location being Trenzalore, the final resting spot of the Doctor. A great set, both in name, look, significance, and background story, I only wish there had been more time to focus on the magnitude of the Doctor visiting his own grave. The attention on Clara stole the thunder and attention away from his being there.
 
** I know the Great Intelligence is a villain carried over from classic Who but haven’t quite comprehended who he is yet, which could account for his defeat meaning little to me.

***Actually, “Nightmare in Silver” had a clever lead-in from the conclusion of its preceding episode, “The Crimson Horror.” The two children Clara babysat found out about her time traveling and blackmailed her to take them with her on one of her adventures, under the threat of telling their parents if she didn’t. Why couldn’t something as simple but entertaining as that have been placed at the end of “Nightmare in Silver” to set-up the finale?
 

…and why Clara should not have been rescued

Once it did become clear Clara was going to sacrifice herself, I admit I was set to have this be her last episode. It gave her existence a purpose, left her as a likable character (who wasn’t given enough time or didn’t have enough time utilized on her behalf to make viewers attached to her), and allowed for the show to move on, to try the old style again of having a companion only stick around for one season. I was content. Then the Doctor had to declare his intention to safe her and what would have been a more quiet finale but a creative standalone episode ended with a confusing and unnecessary rescue effort.

Turns out Clara was not dead (evidenced by the subtle detail of River still being around, her mental connection with Clara from the conference call earlier in the episode allowing her, or the ghost of herself, to remain at the tomb) but albeit that after saying multiple times how going into his own time line would create a huge paradox, the Doctor does it anyway. Why?!?

And then there’s the last second introduction of John Hurt as the Doctor, another character we have no clue about only minutes post-gaining resolution on the other character we couldn’t understand (Clara). If this had been episode two, then that secret breaking shadow person might have acted as a season initiative, but to be tagged onto the finale made not for an intriguing mystery but confusion. I know the show wants to create this intense 50th anniversary special in November, and John Hurt probably has a major role in those antics, but it just didn’t feel right, or at least was too much to be added onto an already complex episode which will not have any resolution for months.
 

~ SIDENOTE ~

Props to Mark Gattis for penning the two best episodes of the season, “Cold War” (with the first appearance of the Ice Warriors in Doctor Who since 1974) and “The Crimson Horror”).

For “Cold War,” the great historical backdrop of the trigger-close standoff between the US and USSR in the eighties greatly reflected the predicament the Doctor and Clara found themselves in, stuck on a sinking submarine with an explosion on the precipice of detonating and destroying the planet. The episode also included a military-minded alien, which I have found in the past to always be a good fit on Doctor Who, from the Sontorans to the Judoon.

Power Trio

Power Trio

The “Crimson Horror,” to its credit, included some great guest turns from real life mother and daughter actresses Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling, as well as the return of  Jenny, Strax and Madame Vastra. Having grown fond of this character trio, since their less celebrated random introduction in season six’s “A Good Man Goes to War,” as being friends of the Doctor who we had never seen or heard of before, I have since grown to view them as more fun companions than Clara. Occasionally popping up this season, each had their own unique individual personality, as well as a comedic team rapport, and as our knowledge about them expanded, so did my positive reception of them. Contrarily, Clara has yet to stick with an initial personality so such gathering of details about her has been impossible.

Other highlights in this episode: the Doctor’s flattering bowler hat, and the great scene filmed to mimic the old fashioned, black and white, grainy film shorts of old, making for a nice, whimsical change of pace.
 
 
 
Are you happy that it seems Clara’s going to remain as the Doctor’s companion? What about River? Will she ever return, in the style of previous Doctor love interest, Rose Tyler, who somehow always finds a way back on the show despite living on a parallel universe that’s supposed to prevent her from doing so? Jot down your theories in the comments below.
 

Doctor Who screencaps from here

 

Review FOX’s New Girl: “Elaine’s Big Day” (Season 2 Finale)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

In regards to last Tuesday’s New Girl, one need only ask two questions straight from the lyrics of a song made for fist pumping to:

  1. Where did you come from?
  2. Where did you go?

“Where did you go?” is an easy one. Television’s summer break has arrived (even though it’s technically still spring), and current seasons of programs across television networks are being capped off, not to return for a few months.

“Where did you come from?” is a tougher question because where does a consistently funny comedy like New Girl originate? Pre-FOX’s Adorkable commercial campaign to entice viewers to tune in last year, pre-all of the complimentary receptions the show received from critics early in the game, I was sold on New Girl because of its leading lady, Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer, the “she” of musical duo She and Him). Zooey did not make New Girl a hit wonder on her own, however. It is an ensemble piece, one that’s laugh-out-loud funny every week* and has a brag-worthy rate of successful jokes, in wording and delivery, because of everyone who takes part in its creation. I came in only knowing a few names attached to the project, but have come out learning them all. With that in mind, the show’s season two finale is no exception to its track record of genius.
 

Nick & Jess are back

Note the pink purse Credited FOX

Note the pink purse
Credited FOX


 
Moments post-calling their relationship, Nick and Jess became an uncalled couple once more, and considering the disappointment that would have persisted during the summer if the “called” status had stayed in place, I feel this was a great move. I also think it wouldn’t have been half as great a finale if Jess hadn’t been the one to make the first apologies and genuine pleas for them to get back together. After all, Nick deserved the confidence booster, considering the tearing down he’d been receiving from others who made  their opinions of him quite clear in that they considered him not good enough for Jess, an eventual saboteur of his relationship with her, etc. [see SIDENOTE].

This backlash occurs while he is trying so hard to step up for this relationship, from suit wearing to purse carrying (and granted, I’m biased because, besides allowing Winston to be in a situation where a badger could be released in the air ducts of his girlfriend’s best friend’s wedding, I have basically thought Nick could do no wrong since season 1’s “Fancyman Part 1,” but I think anyone would agree that the barrage of verbal attacks against Nick’s person are too strong for their intended target). Yet, despite this, Jess, after phase one of  Schmidt and Winston’s scheme to sabotage Cece’s wedding goes off,  refuses to believe Nick wasn’t a participant in the prank. Nick Miller may be said to have made some mistakes, but he’s never been known to lie**. She should have believed him and not jumped the gun by immediately viewing her (false) accusation as a sign that they wouldn’t work as a long term couple. Indeed, what both have to recognize (and Nick is at fault here too, with his low self-confidence and knack for destroying his own happiness) is the basic adage that all relationships can fall apart. All relationships stand on the constant brink of implosion.

Nevertheless, in their case they care about each other, enjoy each other’s company, have lived together (as roommates), played the friends card first so they already know a lot about each other (including factoids that mark a person as close buddy versus casual acquaintance), have come to each other’s aid multiple times, proven to have each other’s backs, share great chemistry, and make each other laugh. They also, it has to be acknowledged, in a creative medium packed with first kiss scenes, stand out for having one of the best, in the game changing episode, “Cooler.” That’s a lot of positive groundwork from which to grow a solid, meaningful relationship off of, and while they will fight, they’ve always bickered. They’ve also always made a habit of apologizing to each other. If they don’t get scared away first, and if they drop the unrealistic belief that if they come across an obstacle, their love is doomed to fail,*** they can pull off this couple thing and pull it off well.

 

* Because there are hilarious comedies, and then there are the ones that force you to verbalize your hysterics. This is one where you verbalize.

** Nick is always considered the half of the couple that stands to be a potential problem. Similar situations have occurred on other shows I’ve loved, with other male halves of couples I’ve loved. Jess Mariano was forever seen as the bad boy to Rory Gilmore’s good girl on Gilmore Girls. Logan Echolls was viewed as the spoiled rich mess for Veronica Mars to clean up after on Veronica Mars. Nick Miller is a money-stretched, well-meaning guy and he still gets branded as the immature bar tender Jessica Day should keep as a friend only. Now, none of these guys are without flaws, yet neither are their leading ladies. The flack simply doesn’t fly at the females equally. The men can do so many kind, thoughtful things, but at the smallest error they are jumped upon (and errors, as human beings, are inevitable). I trust New Girl will correct this present gender disproportion.

*** Exact l- word hasn’t been said yet, but it will happen.

 

~ SIDENOTE ~

Group photo attempt mid-falling apart
Credited FOX

Uncool Jess’ father, played by guest star Rob Reiner, for treating Nick so poorly this episode. Manipulating him out of a group picture when he was being completely cooperative (admittedly, Jess left smiling solo at the end for the photo, daddy’s precious little girl, was hilarious). Disparaging his daughter’s choice of boyfriend in front of Jess, Nick, and their friends. It’s not classy, and while Nick, to his own detriment, was a little too forefront with Mr. Day about how he and Jess hadn’t defined their new relationship yet since sleeping together, he also included in that honesty the importance and care he placed on his real feelings towards Jess. This is a guy who really likes the girl, wants it to work out between them , and, by willingly sharing details one should never share with one’s boyfriend/girlfriend’s father, he , if nothing else, proves his sincerity. Any father has the right to be (over)protective of his daughter and there will always be reasons for parental concern (potentially more so in an only child situation as it is with the Days) but before he passes judgment on Nick he should take into account and recognize for a moment how happy his daughter is, how not terrible a choice Nick is, before planting the seeds of doubt in them that almost derail the relationship before it fully starts. Nick may not offer financial security, he may still be figuring out his life, but he isn’t a jerk, and I would place more worth on the latter, even if money does make the world go round.

 

It’s Schmidt’s Move

Team Elizabeth Credited FOX

Team Elizabeth
Credited FOX


 
I was behind Schmidt reuniting with CeCe back when he “White Fanged” (broke up with) her in the season one finale. I enjoyed when he and Cece’s other ex-boyfriend, Robbie, stalked her on dates. I was deflated by Schmidt’s expression in season two’s, “TinFinity,” when Shivrang proposed to CeCe and she accepted. Meeting his (former) ex-girlfriend Elizabeth while he scrambled to find a plus one for Cece’s wedding has made me reevaluate the situation.

It is not that I no longer enjoy the pairing of Schmidt and CeCe (and I imagine that eventually, despite my change in opinion, she will come out the winner in this affair of the heart) but Elizabeth, who had dated Schmidt in college while he was obese, could care less about what people think of her. She doesn’t change herself for the sake of others, has no inhibitions about society’s opinions of her, and can dance. She is her wonderful self 24/7, and is therefore a wonderful influence on Schmidt who, since his weight loss, cares to the extreme about appearances and giving off a society-defined air of coolness.

This episode leaves Schmidt with a choice. He messes Cece’s wedding up enough for her to have an out to say she doesn’t want to marry Shivrang, but now has to decide between continuing his re-developing relationship with Elizabeth or breaking it off to restart his old one with Cece. His response to this choice is to make a break for it, but he will have to face the women eventually, and I for one hope Elizabeth gets to stick around and am glad the answer was kept up in the air for now. Even as an Elizabeth fan, either choice will produce some disappointment. It would be a shame after all Schmidt’s attempts to win Cece back that she would finally admit he’s the guy for her just to get shot down. It would seem too cruel to drop Elizabeth, who has done nothing wrong and was hesitant about rekindling their romance in the first place, probably because she knew there was a great risk that she’d get hurt (and that thin Schmidt can be a douche, with the running gag of his cash-filled “Douche Jar”). Schmidt recognizes he has tough decision in front of him and that realization was enough for the finale, and allowed Jess and Nick’s triumphant reunion to not get overshadowed by the difficult choice’s outcome.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————
 
 
It’s personal anecdote time: One crappy day this year, I could not cheer myself up. There had been a gradually increasing panic over some since forgotten issue and nothing could distract me from it. Then, while in a Chick-Fil-A takeout line, I started talking about the latest New Girl,  and suddenly I realized I was calming down. It sounds ridiculous, exaggerated, but this happened, and every Tuesday night I couldn’t wait to see and hear the latest misadventures of these marvelously drawn out characters because no matter what had past in my day, everything would appear a little bit brighter after 9:30. With a season finale that included one cliffhanger and one pleasant drive off to the destination of “wherever we came from” by Nick and Jess, I eagerly await the season three premiere, and if I could communicate with my eyes (a skill that, according to Schmidt, he and CeCe possess) mine would be saying, “Thanks, New Girl. Thanks.”
 
 

Did you enjoy Cece’s wedding (before it was permanently called)? What one-liner made you laugh the most? Team CeCe or Team Elizabeth? Pick sides (or run away so you don’t have to answer) in the comments below.

 

Review ABC’s Once Upon A Time: “And Straight on Till Morning” (Season 2 Finale)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

Season two of Once Upon a Time started off with the major shift of magic returning to Storybrooke, courtesy of Rumplestiltskin, as the curse was broken and everyone remembered their forgotten Fairy Tale Land identities. Come season three, Emma and her core team of family members/enemies won’t even be in Storybrooke. Here are some of my thoughts on the finale and its set-up for future changes yet to come this fall, which will inevitably include endings, but not necessarily of the “happily ever after” variety.

 

Likes:

Hook/Baelfire Connection Flashbacks

Hook and Baelfire

Hook and Baelfire sailing the “Jolly Roger”

  • I’m not yet sold on Neverland and Peter Pan, the villain, (more because Peter Pan’s “never grow up” mantra always had a certain appeal to me). Still, I guess it’s the price of allowing Hook to be heroic over pure villainous. You need that counterbalance between good and evil, and with Colin O’Donoghue being so brilliantly cast (which was clearly recognized fast since he was given the designation of full cast member before the season even started), it’s not a terrible cost, losing Pan to the ranks of evil. Playing the part with swashbuckling relish, Hook started off the season seeking revenge on Rumplestiltskin for killing the women he loved (who also happened to be Rumple’s runaway wife, Milah). Then he fell under the company of Evil Queen Regina’s eviler mother, Cora, and was overshadowed by her, acting as an errand boy of sorts, only to disappear for some episodes*. The finale allowed him to be back in his element, both sailing his ship and triggering a buried conscience due to his soft spot for my favorite male character**, Bae/Neal.*** After all, while the term “loner” is thrown at Hook a lot it’s clear that he also knows how to be a group player, and, occasionally, might be motivated to play his part for more reason than survival and duplicity.
Neal, pre-falling through portal to Fairy Tale Land

Neal, pre-falling through portal to Fairy Tale Land

While at the end of the episode he claims his search for revenge against Rumple has been dropped, I don’t believe his transformation has gone that far or drastic quite yet. He will not be able to forgive Rumple for what he did to Milah, and his revenge would more properly be declared as “on hold” or “standby,” for the sake of cooperating towards a shared goal of rescuing Bae’s son, Henry, who’s been kidnapped by Tamara and Greg and taken to Peter Pan in Neverland. That, or his “connection” with Henry’s mom, Emma,**** has weakened him…

  • As for Neal/Bae, it turns out he had a complicated childhood, one that never gave him the chance to settle down in one place for very long. We already knew Bae was Rumplestiltskin’s son, and that when he tried to convince his father to give up magic so they could be together, he ended up falling through a portal alone, Rumple for  the first time breaking one of his infamous unbreakable deals in not going with Bae as promised (season 1’s “The Return”). We then found out Bae and Neal were the same person in this season’s, “Manhattan,” a reveal ruined by the previews for the episode that inferred he would be the face behind the hoodie-wearing guy Emma was chasing in New York. Now we know that the original portal Bae fell into as a child dropped him off with the Darlings in London, and in saving Wendy Darling’s brother from he ended up stranded on Captain Hook’s pirate ship (where Hook made his own discovery of Bae being the son of his enemy and his love). Bae, in turn, angrily realizes Hook is his family’s home-wrecker and Hook responds rashly by relinquishing him to the Lost Boys. The Lost Boys deliver him to Peter Pan, but as it turns out he was not the boy Pan was searching for (the real target is Bae/Neal’s son, Henry, for reasons unknown) and now it’s unclear how Neal got from Neverland to America, where he eventually runs into Emma to become Henry’s father in the first place. Basically, Neal’s time line is not only pleasantly packed with surprises, but still unfinished, with mysteries left to solve that were not created out of gaining information at an agonizingly slow pace, but because there is apparently much to tell. For example, at the end of the penultimate episode of this season, “Second Star to the Right,” Neal is shot by (assumedly) ex-fiancée, Tamara and there’s no means for Emma to help him because he fell through yet another portal away from Storybrooke and back to Fairy Tale Land. The fellow can’t win (and hopefully he can’t die either).

 

Regina gets her chance to be the hero (and others witness it)

Regina saying “good-bye” to adopted son, Henry

  • In contrast to Neal’s growing difficulties, Regina may have made some progress towards renovating her public image. She keeps trying to be good, for adopted son Henry’s sake and her own, having never perceived herself as the “Evil Queen” but misunderstood. Her season goal to redemption, however, has been laced with pitfalls and reversions to her renowned reputation as pure bad. Here she gets her moment of glory, and no one can deny it of her. Was the trigger device that she was attempting to prevent from blowing up Storybrooke hers? Yes. Did she destroy all the portal-forming magic beans, giving evil humans Tamara and Greg all the power when they stole the last remaining beans from her? Yes. But she reveals a willingness to sacrifice her life to safe everyone else in town, and that’s an act most truly evil people aren’t willing to commit. She made mistakes, is acknowledging them, and trying to make up for them (only on a life-or-death scale, which is usually the way in fairy tale adventures).

 

Belle gets her memory back (FINALLY)

Belle and Rumple, Temporarily Reunited Credited ABC

Belle and Rumple, Temporarily Reunited

  • So long, Lacey. We barely knew ya and that’s alright. Memory loss is always a shaky addition to a show, a plot contrivance whose true nature of being a contrivance can be difficult to pull off as anything else. Because Belle was such a well-formed character on her own, I hated this unnecessary back tracking, where she forgot who she was only to have Regina provide her with the replacement personality of Lacey, who loved when Rumple beat guys up and was bored when he was kind. Reflective of how the curse’s Storybrooke personas were the antithesis of their Fairy Tale matches, such polar opposite mannerisms were alright when everyone wasn’t acting like themselves, but unnecessary when only one person suffers from forgetfulness and false identity, especially a person as spunky and sweet as Belle was.

 

* Have since read O’Donoghue broke his leg, so I’m not sure if that affected his number of appearances on the show or if all was according to plan

Ruby

** Ruby/Little Red Riding Hood gets the favorite female award but that unfortunately doesn’t help her get much story this season, except brief camera shots reminding us she still lives in the town. During season one the show included more one-off episodes that focused on single fairy tale characters, even those not part of the core hero/villain teams, and provided their back story (with a twist). This was fun for multiple reasons:

  1. You often weren’t positive of the Storybrooke character’s alter-Fairy Tale character ego
  2. Learning their dual personalities added to the multi-layer, big picture nature of the story, to show who these characters interacted with before the curse and how those relationships differed and carried on in Storybrooke
  3. Their origin stories created some fun mash-ups (like Red being close friends with Snow, two literary characters that live in separate worlds and never meet in their actual tales).

Dr. Whale/Frankenstein (played by David Anders, who was so slick when he was on Alias but comes off dweeby in this role) and August/Pinocchio got that focused treatment this year, but there’s little return back to the spotlight for others, like Red and the Dwarfs (specifically Grumpy) who shone when given the time to stand out earlier in the series run. Granted, season two’s twenty-two episodes were a great continuation on the first’s twenty-two, and I can’t say any time was wasted (I wouldn’t have wanted to drop any of the new tidbits we gained about the big name characters, like Regina/Evil Queen and Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin, either) but it’s just a shame that viewers can’t have it all.

*** He first appears in the flashback episode earlier this season, “Tallahassee,” which remains my favorite episode of the series overall.

**** About that connection: On the one hand, they do have on screen chemistry. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s difficult for Hook to have on screen chemistry with any actress. And there’s the whole Neal, father of Emma’s child and first love thing, which some fans seem to have moved on from. I loved Neal and Emma’s good-bye sequence, though. Correction: I didn’t like Neal falling through the portal and ending up in the no-longer-safe Fairy Tale Land with Mulan, Aurora, and Prince Philip (who I forgot turned out to be alive, so congratulations, Phil), but before he fell the couple admitted they still loved each other, and I like the whole vocalizing of affection. I know they didn’t really have to put their feelings into words, but it doesn’t hurt to, either. It takes away any doubts, comes off as a sweet moment, and, since he fell into the portal, the writers can keep them apart and not feel like their allowing fans to have their happy coupling too quickly, since complications seem to be the preferred state for television relationships (the “Moonlighting excuse”, as I like to call it).

 

~ SIDENOTE ~

  • Spin-off series Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, has officially been picked up by ABC. The bright side is the idea has been thrown around that the show would could air during Once Upon A Time’s hiatuses, time periods when most of regular television chooses to offer little in new content at the same time. As filler for some of that emptiness, this show is definitely one to look forward to. The catch is there’s no guarantee that Sebastian Stan (who played Jefferson/The Mad Hatter) will be part of it. Rather, “his busy schedule” has been thrown around a lot, and that’s fine, but then don’t make a spin-off series. Recasting is lame and to not include the Mad Hatter would be to not include one of the most colorful personalities in a naturally colorful land. Plus, this didn’t have to be a spin-off series but could have remained part of the original show, instead of evidently replacing Wonderland with Neverland… which gave us Hook so let’s keep Neverland ,but drop the evil Peter Pan plot, please!

Indeed, it’s just not right, seeing Neverland and its children inhabitants getting such dark connotations. How can they fly without happy thoughts? Will the kidnapped, Henry, separated from his parents, fare well doing something other than defend his mother (Emma’s) or adopted mother (Regina’s) decisions of the week? Is Peter Pan only a shadow now, or is there a boy behind the shadow who we haven’t met yet? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but it’s my belief that I would much rather have spent time learning who rules over Wonderland in Cora/The Queen of Heart’s stead, now that she’s been killed, over following this new storyline.

 

Dislikes:

Question about their original plan to stop the trigger device by throwing it into a portal

  • If evading the trigger device’s detonation in this way had prevented Storybrooke from being destroyed, wouldn’t another world have gotten blown up instead, the one that the device is sent to, forming a moral issue not fitting the usual “moral issue free” style of Team Good? Or is this a place-specific explosion?

 

Too many obvious details that our intelligent, clever characters inexplicably miss

Hook stole the magic beanHook and the Magic Bean

Am I wrong, but I saw this coming as soon as he willingly handed over the pouch that once contained the bean to Emma? And she’s supposed to have the super power of knowing when a person is lying!

 

Regina doesn’t have to stop Storybrooke, and everyone in it, from being destroyed alone

Emma’s magical abilities has already been acknowledged on the show, so why is it that no one thinks of her giving Regina a hand until the last minute, when Regina’s already exhausted and everyone’s under the impression that they’re about to die. Is this some kind of prejudice for Regina being the Evil Queen, because I thought we were supposed to put our biases aside in times of crisis?

 

If Charming and Snow stopped hugging for a moment, maybe they would have noticed Tamara and Greg kidnapping Henry

You know you’re being a bit obnoxious when you can’t even sail a ship into a portal to safe your grandson without holding onto a rope together, wrapped in each other’s comforting embrace.

Snow and Charming Hugging and Sailing the "Jolly Roger"
Snow and Charming hugging AND sailing the “Jolly Roger”

Truthfully, the fact that Tamara and Greg have been able to get away with all their plotting against these magic-wielding folks seems a tad absurd. I guess it would be an empowering “go humans”, “two people can make a difference”, sentiment, if these particular two people weren’t so despicable and unworthy of their success at evading consequence, but as is its baffling. And why is the same duo that claims they want to put a stop to magic willing to travel to Neverland? Either Henry was their end game all along, the magic-hating an act, or these two are very confused and conflicted about what they seek to accomplish in Storybrooke. There’s also the chance they have gone power mad like Rumple did when he first encountered magic as The Dark One, and are deciding their moves as they make them. If so, and they’re not following a well-thought out plan or a boss’ instructions, as claimed, then maybe they’ll make a mistake.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
 
 
As it stands, Emma, Snow, Charming, Hook, Rumple, and Regina are sailing to Neverland to rescue Henry from Pan and his Lost Boys. Neal (who may be dead or dying from his gunshot wound) is in Fairy Tale Land, and I’m curious to see where he ends up next. Belle is left behind in Storybrooke (under the pretense of having to cast a cloaking spell over the town to protect them from Tamara/Greg copycats), and while she should have been allowed to go with her just reunited with boyfriend, Rumple (having always shown a willingness and enthusiasm for adventure), the main cast being in Neverland should enable her and the more background characters to gain some attention again in season three. These are all intriguing developments, and it can never be said about Once Upon a Time season finales that they are unwilling to shake things up.
 

– screencaps from the web-site, Once Upon A Fan

 
 

Watch “And Straight on Till Morning”

 


 
Which character and/or land do you like best? Do you feel satisfied with the finale? What are your questions for the future? Post them in the comments below.
 

Review Sundance’s Rectify: “Drip, Drip” (Season 1, Episode 5)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

“The goat man told me it’s the beauty, not the ugly, that hurts the most.”
-Daniel Holden

Rectify is, to use the adjective main character, Daniel, coined, “fantastical”, and in attempting to write a review about the show there’s a difficulty forming sentences because the only phrase you can think of to write is, “This show is fantastical.” Granted, that’s an appropriate description, but after seeing Monday’s episode I thought I’d finally try to muster a few more words about writer/executive producer/show creator extraordinaire, Ray McKinnon‘s*, television masterpiece. The organization of my thoughts remains a smidge haphazard, but I can at least account for the enthusiasm towards the content, which runs strong.
 

Hitchhiking and Instant Rapport

  • I knew in advance that W. Earl Brown (who appeared with Ray McKinnon, on the TV show, Deadwood) would be guesting on the show. Nonetheless, his random hitchhiking encounter with Daniel at the start of the episode led to one of the best re-accounting of an event stories I’ve ever heard when, after his baptism, Daniel  gives his interpretation of what his meeting with Brown, “the goat man,” was all about to ready listener Tawny. It brought me back to Tawny and Daniel’s initial conversation in episode two, “Sexual Peeling,” and reminded me how enlightening and refreshing a feat, for these two individuals who barely know each other to be able to speak so meaningfully and deeply together so quickly**.
"Don't kill him. Let him dance." Credited Sundance

“Don’t kill him. Let him dance.”
Credited Sundance

This differed from my response to their conversation in episode four, “Plato’s Cave,” for while I completely respect Tawny’s faith, appreciating both her insight and opinion, their discussion at the church was a little too heavy-handed on religion. It did get Daniel baptized, though, in this episode, and clearly that was a symbolic, cathartic moment for him that was wonderfully captured on film, with Daniel’s initial hesitation and the singers fading in and out of the background. Naturally, drunken Teddy Jr. had to stomp on the day later in his “say what I really feel” wasted stupor, but that animosity has been building up from the get-go. Considering he already says enough dry and sober to earn him a punch in the face, alcohol doesn’t help Teddy’s case much, and if he’s supposed to have some redeeming characteristic it’s still ambiguous as to what that would be.

 

~ SIDENOTE ~

Another encounter Daniel has in this episode that’s left unexplained is with his friend in prison, Kerwin. Was his appearance in Daniel’s prison cell a hallucination, a dream, or a ghost? Will we see him again, or learn his fate in the finale? Did he have to face the death penalty that DNA evidence allowed Daniel to evade/be exonerated from, or is he still in prison?
 

Family Relations

Credited Sundance

Credited Sundance

  • As an overprotective sister who can finish her mother’s sentences, I identify with Amantha. Therefore, when she showed up at Daniel’s baptism unnoticed, I knew where she was coming from because that’s exactly what I would do. Even if I didn’t completely share or understand my brother’s feelings about something, even if he had yelled at me earlier that day, I would never miss anything that was important to him (as the baptism was for Daniel).
  • It angered me that Daniel was perceived as such a threat, sitting in front of his old high school, that three teachers were needed to ensure he left the premises, but I suppose I wouldn’t want a guy who was recently taken off of death row for allegedly killing his girlfriend while he attended school there to be near students***. Still, if Aden Young**** wasn’t so captivating as lead, with that voice and those earnest gazes, Jake Austen Walker as stepbrother, Jared, would steal the show. You could tell how uncomfortable he was with this arrangement of ensuring Daniel moved away, and, as always, I appreciate how Jared never falters in his sincere, public and private showings of kindness towards the stepbrother he only just met. As a teenager who’s received death text threats from town members furious about Daniel’s release, that consistent response of helpfulness and acknowledgement towards Daniel on his part isn’t to be assumed behavior, but rather makes him a pretty special, awesome kid.

 
* I noticed that the actor who plays Ted Sr. is named Bruce McKinnon, but Google won’t tell me if they’re related, which is a shame because this would be a neat instance of nepotism, especially since Ray McKinnon hasn’t given himself a part or cameo in his show yet.

** Indeed, it is probably the very fact that they are strangers that allows them to be so candid without feeling forced to fall into past behaviors and personality traits. Daniel went through a life-changing, two decades length experience, and Tawny is a caring person who never met him before his arrest. He feels comfortable talking to her because she is an unbiased slate to hear his stories. She is neither set on hating him like awful stepbrother, Ted Jr., or set on defending him like whip-sharp sister, Amantha.

*** Maybe I’m naïve or only wish it to be so. Maybe this is my intuitive connection to Amantha speaking, but Daniel Holden, with all his damage, sweetness, and politeness, is innocent. In my opinion, he did not kill Hanna.

**** Fun Fact: the part of Daniel was originally going to be taken on by frequent collaborator with McKinnon and wonderful actor, Walton Goggins. I could completely see him in this role, but given that he’s already associated himself with some magnificent and memorable parts (Boyd Crowder on Justified, Shane Vendrell on The Shield), I’ll give this one to Young, who is an actor I’m less familiar with but will never forget now having seen him on this show. His portrayal of Daniel is mesmerizing.
 

That Ending

  • The last scene of this episode should be encapsulated as a prime example of how to end an episode of quality television and make viewers crazy waiting to learn what actually happened. In a silence broken only by crickets, it is left unclear whether Daniel goes through with strangling Ted Jr. or if he lets him go. Ted Jr., with his anger-inciting, heartless, backhand comments had a beating coming, but this is a fairly extreme physical counterattack, even against a jerk. What does it mean as a viewer if Daniel kills Ted? It wouldn’t necessarily suggest he killed Hanna, too, but it would demonstrate a capableness for murder that I’ve never believed him to possess. I’ve always pictured Hanna as a nice girl but could she have been cruel, like Teddy, to ignite this level of rage in Daniel? What would it represent for Daniel, to kill only hours after having been cleansed of his sins during a holy sacrament?

 
There’s nothing to be known for sure until next week but even if the season finale doesn’t hold all the answers (which I suspect it won’t), Rectify‘s coming back for a second season. That’s fantastical news.

Credited Sundance

Credited Sundance

…..Pre-order the DVD…..

Are you as impressed by this episode of Rectify, and the show in general, as I am? Do you think Daniel’s guilty? Is Ted dead? Submit your verdict in the comments below (and please, no finale spoilers).
 

Review NBC’s The Office: “A.A.R.M” (Season 9, Episode 22)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

I loved The Office. I love The Office.

the office

Credited NBC

The tricky business of which verb tense to use in reference to this show has been a detail I’ve been pondering over for a while.

What is certain is that The Office is ending and, if you said that to me four seasons ago, I would have been despondent. It was in the middle of NBC’s airing of season four on TV that I bought the DVDs and caught up on what I had missed. Ever since, I have stood by and defended this comedy as one of its very ardent fans. I have dressed up like Pam Beesly, driven to Scranton for one of the city’s “Office Fan Tours”, and have a mug with cast signatures (won in a contest)displayed on my book case (the day I found out I won that mug– priceless).

It was my favorite, most treasured show of all time and now, I’m not sure where it falls on the line-up because it carried on too long. That’s it, plain and simple. The show that could do no wrong didn’t leave on a high that it would have so earned but trudged along for nine seasons. Never terrible but a faint shadow of what it had been, there is a marked difference in quality and laughs, strength of characters, that I’m reminded about when I see old episodes again.

Credited NBC

Credited NBC

I also, terribly, forget those great times occasionally because it’s been a shadow of itself for so long (with some sunny patches in between, but always intermittently), tainting my memory of a program that could only be mentioned in the same sentence as high regard. Episodes from later seasons are provided the benefit of the doubt, a cushion of accounting for their flaws, but were being watched more out of ever-withstanding loyalty than anything else (particularly during James Spader’s stint in season eight; Catherine Tate (Doctor Who‘s Donna Noble) has been a much better celebrity replacement for Steve Carell, even if she may not be as big a name in America).

As we hit these final episodes in the lives of Dunder Mifflin paper company’s employees, some great stuff is being done.

Characters are acting the way they used to when they were beloved, and situations like Dwight actually toning down enough to be able to hold the position of regional manager he’s always dreamed about, plateauing at the level of crazy that made him iconic instead of the enhanced version of crazy that made him a joke these last few years (not the funny kind), are occurring (though not really explained). One looks the other way, however, because he’s back. Angela-loving, constantly-pranked-by-Jim Dwight is back, and even if it doesn’t match his character’s developments lately, who cares because those developments were lousy, turning him into someone cruel and dangerous instead of opinionated and quirky. Last night’s episode took him back to a time and place when he was sympathetic, before the “Sprinkles the cat in the freezer” incident, where everything started falling apart for him. Now he and Angela are engaged, and their finding happiness at last was nice to witness, even if a slightly random, fast, and conveniently timed reunion, considering how long they’ve been separated.

Other Blasts to the Past

  • The bringing in of baby Philip, who has now been officially acknowledged to be Dwight’s child, as a device to allow for some references to his father’s infamous favorite things worked well.
  • Daryll’s dancing with everyone as their last request to mark his departure for a new job, while a slightly more “in your face, this is the end moment” (like Andy’s singing a cover of Sarah McLachlan’s song, “I Will Remember You,” last week, an appropriate, well done, dramatic choice that allowed Ed Helms to show off his banjo skills before he left), was a fun excuse to see the various dance styles unique to each person. Plus, Daryll attempting to adapt to match each style as he made his way around the room was quite amusing and successful (Creed jamming on a fake guitar, or whatever erratic motions he was attempting, may have been the most memorable but there was the sweet Jim/Pam dorky dancing to smile at, too).
"When are we going to get to see some of those famous Beesly dance moves?" Credited NBC

“When are we going to get to see some of those famous Beesly dance moves?” -Jim Halpert
Credited NBC

  • The Assistant Assistant Regional Manager prank (from the title of this episode), was straight out of classic Office and classic Jim. Where classic Jim was hiding during his disagreement with Pam over the job in Philly, when his role was filled by a rude, oblivious husband as opposed to the exceedingly caring one that usually resides, doesn’t really jive with me but again, he’s back.

~ SIDENOTE ~

High five to the writers for making the great callback to one of the most memorable scenes from season two’s Christmas special, “The Christmas Party.” The return of the mystery letter removed from Pam’s teapot present led to some false excitement that, in having it be mentioned again, the actual contents of the card would be revealed. But, like whatever was said between the couple when they found out Pam was pregnant, this will probably never be revealed. It’s ok because the sentiment is clear. Jim has loved Pam for a long time, and Pam loves him back.

The One Criticism

The only part that didn’t belong in this episode was Andy’s storyline, which seemed like something that would have appeared in one of the weaker episodes of late and had nothing to do with the wrapping up of the show that these final hours should be concerned will. Well, I guess it is a follow-up on his choice to quit his job last week and put all his focus on making it big in the music business, but the character of Andy has been taken in so many different directions (anger management to Angela’s fiancée to fighting for Erin’s* love to becoming regional manager to going on a boat ride to returning from the boat a complete jerk) that it’s difficult to define who he is anymore, or care. Last week being his final swan song (literally through song) would have been fine. Continuing his story line here by having him cheat his way onto a fake music competition didn’t do him any favors, and only seemed to be included in order to name drop NBC’s successful ratings accumulator, The Voice.

* Erin actually came out of this ninth season better for it. There were intonations that “Andy and Erin” were supposed to be the new “Jim and Pam,” but dating him only brought out her more erratic side, in reflection of Andy’s own personality. New boyfriend, Pete, on the other hand has really grounded her, and not just because he comes from the same mold as Jim (from his expressions to the camera, to his use of customer complaint cards to build a tower in episode eight, “The Target”).

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————

 
 
In any sense, next Thursday will mark the extended series finale of The Office, a show that has meant so much to me, at times frustrated me, but always been there. Even though I know it’s time for it to conclude (been time), I will still miss it because The Office did, and always shall, play a very important role in my personal television fandom journey, producing a lot of laughs along the way with an hilarious ensemble cast.

Watch “A.A.R.M.”

How do you feel about the show’s send-off so far? Any favorite memories from its nine season run? Share them in the comments below (and please, no finale spoilers).

Review ABC’s Nashville: “Take These Chains from My Heart” (Season 1, Episode 18)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

Credited ABC

Credited ABC

First off, I love Nashville (can’t wait for volume 2 of the show’s soundtrack to come out today) and after it’s too long hiatus, the country drama finally made its return last Wednesday night*. After the first half hour of the episode, however, I was starting to feel a tinge of concern. Not in a “this show is going down” exaggerated way but it felt like there were too many storylines being crammed in, creating plot lines that repeated notes instead of progressing, skimming over surface emotions (because to go deeper would require more time for a scene to develop). As it turned out, I definitely spoke too soon.

 

What has been refreshing about Nashville has been their willingness to act on what they threaten, to build up tension not to have it conveniently dissipate, an unnecessary panic, but to actually have it equate to something**. A prime example of this was when they had Gunner’s brother, Jason, get killed in episode 14, “Dear Brother.” Many shows wouldn’t have taken that route, either having his criminal past go away or only wounding instead of murdering him. The fact that they took the bigger risk gave legitimacy to the danger they had been hinting about all along but you didn’t know how seriously to take it. Turns out this wasn’t a joke but a real issue and while I would have liked to see the sibling relationship continue (since we don’t know too much else about Gunner’s family and it was an interesting dynamic), I have to commend the writers for taking that leap when others would have conveniently forgotten it or downplayed any past unease mentioned.

The second half of “Take These Chains from My Heart,” provided pay off to all the factors I had just commented on to my TV buddy*** only a commercial break before, addressing everything while proving that any doubt on my part was greatly unwarranted.

 
*Unfortunately in the same time slot as the season 1 finale of FX’s The Americans, but such are the tough choices we must make.

** The show’s previews are a completely different story. They tried way too hard to imply that Gunner was going to cheat on Scarlett this week. 

*** Hi, Mom!
 

Problem: Mother’s sponsor (turned daughter’s boyfriend) transforming Juliette into a caricature of herself

  • Now I get that Dante is supposed to be unlikable (most people who trick overly trusting members of the wealthy and famous by stealing their money aren’t prizes) but his presence had no bite and only played up everything that’s unlikable about Juliet, while also making her look like a complete, oblivious idiot. Can Juliette be illogical, rude, and rash on her own? Yes she can, and often is, but there’s a pained side of her, too, that usually works to balance her actions out and allow her to be the entertaining singer/drama queen she is at heart. That balance wasn’t maintained here, as this guy’s Yoko Ono influence made her go beyond blindness into a territory where her actions couldn’t be sympathized with at all. Deacon attempted to make her see some reason, but she tears him down (as accustomed as we viewers are to her vocal disrespect of others, she went beyond the excused amount and it wasn’t fun to watch). Even her music, the one area where she usually is able to keep some perspective, gets thrown aside for Dante, displaying the degree of her naiveté towards this person she barely knows but helped her once get an endorsement deal.
  • Then you brought in her recovering alcoholic mother, Jolene, (who works as a character in increments but can also, even when in the right and trying to make Juliette see that Dante is a fraud, come off as irritating) to make matters even less pleasant. I know her mother has made a lot of mistakes and has not been there for her daughter but she does appear to be sincerely trying to recover (or at least more so than ever before). Nonetheless, Jolene doesn’t let herself keep the moral high ground by taking any excuse possible to whine about her situation. What Juliette did to her was wrong (you don’t date the sponsor) but she isn’t innocent either.

 

Solution: Juliette becomes clever again (too late but with humility)

  •  I thought this was going to be one of those grating situations that dragged out, where the audience knows more than the protagonist for what seems like forever and beyond reasonable logic. Her realizing the truth of the situation by identifying the pills planted on her mother as those her mother is allergic to: very clever and allowed for Juliette to be certain about Dante’s real agenda. She recognizes how stupid she is and even buys the house with the hideous (now broken) mirror as a reminder of her huge error. It’s a positive development for her, and while it will probably make her even less trustful of human beings in the future, caution may also lead to her being able to eventually meet a worthy guy that will last for a little longer than her last few rendezvous.

 

Problem: Scarlett and Gunner- the much-awaited couple who now rarely share any screentime

  • This doesn’t make their being together any less swell, but ever since they took on the “girlfriend/boyfriend” labels they’ve been apart a lot, which kind of puts a damper on any celebration of their relationship’s fruition. Scarlett even convinced Rayna to sign Gunner onto her label yet he turns down the offer, citing wanting to try and find his own signature music style****.
  • I know grief can cause unexpected reactions to occur but their getting together as a response to finding out about Jason’s death probably wasn’t the best timing. Along with Gunner’s pre-existing guilt about his brother’s murder he can now add to that “being happy when my brother is dead and it’s ‘my fault’.” To be around Scarlett, who understands and would lead him towards facing the issue isn’t what he wants right now.

 

Sub-problem: Will 
Will's Bad Influence Continues

Credited ABC

  • Apparently what he does want is to risk his life multiple times racing train crossings, an exercise that according to new buddy, Will, should help him accept the death of his brother. Then during this episode they spend all this quality time together that seems rushed and too close for what should have been the getting to know you moments of their friendship. Instead they come off as strange and clingy, Gunner too quickly idolizing Will to fill the older brother void left empty by Jason.

 

Solution: Will is gay

  • You get that connotation but then think, nope, reading into this, what do I know? The writers are not going to do that. Well, they did, and now I want to know what happens next because they revealed what I didn’t think they would. Gunner is grieving, seeking an escape from his sadness with a new friend who doesn’t know him so he doesn’t have to account for why he’s acting weirdly or differently because new friend wouldn’t know that. Will can offer him guidance on how he should continue his music career like everything is normal and that’s what Gunner wants, normalcy. Still, where their friendship goes from here with this reveal by attempted kiss I don’t know (except that there will probably be some awkwardness, at least initially). No matter what happens though, the racing trains part has to stop, and my hope is that Gunner will have a wake-up call to the fact that he got his dream girl in Scarlett. Maybe their relationship started under bad circumstances but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something special, as he always believed it would be.

 

~ SIDENOTE ~

What’s Avery up to? Well, like Juliette he’s going through the humility phase of his rise from being a complete idiot, a time that lost him his band and Scarlet. Unlike most horrible, jealous (ex)boyfriends, though, Avery isn’t without talent, plus he’s being given the scenes to show his attempts to repent for multiple bad decisions. He’s got some dimension and while I don’t want to see him ever get back together with Scarlett, I actually think he works as a secondary plot*****, and their bumping into each other at the concert and standing on stage together earned him an actually deserved recognition by Scarlett that he was starting to act again like, “The boy I met at school. I liked him.”

 

****…which is really his brother’s. I completely understand him wanting to pay tribute to his Jason, but

a) I wasn’t crazy about his latest song. It traded his unique spin on country for something that sounded more rock, with a focus on appearances and attitude. From the same guy who hit that high note in the song, “If I Didn’t Know Better,” it just didn’t put a spotlight on his capabilities and the talents that make his voice stand out from the rest.

b) He should have told the interested agent that it was his brother’s song. From a viewer’s outlook, it was clear that Jason was the source of this new tune (after telling Scarlett about Jason’s journal containing a lot of his songs only a few scenes before) and his excuse that such an answer would have made for a long story doesn’t exactly work (“Actually it was my brother’s. He passed away recently and I wanted to sing one of his song’s in his memory” would have been effective). Basically, while this was a very sweet, Gunner-ish gesture, his keeping his public homage private by not crediting Jason for his work sort of defeats the purpose of the motion.
 

***** Unlike Teddy and his Peggy angst, both of who in my opinion could disappear with his and Rayna’s divorce.

 

Problem: Three’s Company, Part 2- Liam McGuinnis

  • If Will wasn’t enough of an interrupter into a solid relationship for one episode, Michiel Huisman (who is wonderful on Treme) shows up in his almost thankless role, for no matter how much energy and bad boy edge he gives Liam, he is still the guy who only pops up every once and a while to try and rattle Rayna and Deacon’s on the rocks (yet really still there) romance. In a lot of ways I wish they had kept him purely as manager of Rayna’s new sound and CD, because then his presence could have remained something to look forward to. Since these two will clearly never be a realistic long-term couple (not that they claim to be, either, but Rayna isn’t a fling person), his occasional appearance has become a predictable sequence of acting as a weak temptation for Rayna that she ends up refusing. To think he could have stayed as the “guy who made Juliette crazy by laying down in the middle of her stage.”
  • On the plus side, his being there did lead to a great cover of what we learn was one of Deacon and Rayna’s old numbers, but it also sets off the broken record of the wonderful Deacon telling Rayna he still has feelings for her, and her somehow not jumping up and down with giddiness (yeah, she’s too classy and mature for giddy but this is also Deacon here). I get that they have a long history and in general I appreciate the fact that their interactions come from a close and complicated past, but they are meant to be together so let’s have it happen.

 

Solution: Rayna James ❤ Deacon Claybourne

  • They are together! Finally! And while the network channel’s steamy scene was more of a technical arrangement of close-ups to dramatic music, their declarations of love (“Are you trying to kill me? What are you doing?”) were spot on. Bravo, writers! Bravo Connie Britton and Charles Esten! Bravo cast and crew!

 
Now, those pesky previews again imply that all will not be sunshine and clear skies for any of these people as the show’s first season heads towards its final stretch, but I for one will happily await the next installment, “A Picture from Life’s Other Side”, this Wednesday at 10 PM on ABC, remembering this time that in the end, Nashville always brings its A-game.
 

Watch “Take These Chains from My Heart”

  Were you as satisfied by the ending of this episode as I was? Disappointed? Voice your opinions on this episode or any of the previous ones (please, no future spoilers) in the comments below.