Thursday, October 9, 2014

ARROW: "The Calm" and After You Get What You Want... You Don't Want It

Sometimes dreams do come true. And sometimes, maybe they shouldn't. 

On the season 3 premiere of ARROW, the dream that became a reality could've turned into a nightmare. But thankfully the episode "woke up" before that dream reached it's "happily ever after" moment.

Of course I'm talking about the unexpected (but longed for) Felicity/Oliver romance. I say unexpected, not because it came out of left field, or didn't feel right. It just seemed a little rushed.

And even though the Felicity/Oliver romance is something I'd wished for, it left me feeling like this:

Not that I'm completely against the idea of a Felicity/Oliver romance now that it's happened. I've said before that Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) is the only woman for Oliver (Stephen Amell) -- given the baggage that comes with the Lance ladies. 

And I still fully believe that.

And I even believe that it's perfect timing in season 3 to start exploring the possibilities between them. 

I'm also on board with Oliver's preempting of their relationship and Felicity's reaction.

However, I do think this episode missed a few subtle beats in the unfolding that could potentially derail the season if they're not handled right in the future.

Let's look at where this premiere was on target, and the few moments where it missed the mark...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

SCORPION: "Pilot" and Stopping the Ticking Clock...

I went into the SCORPION pilot with trepidation, given that what little I'd read about the upcoming series was negative with biases against the concept, the performance of Katharine McPhee, etc. 

Not expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this pilot appeared to be hitting all the right marks as it began. 

The character introductions were well-done -- not too fast, not completely trite.

The episode plot was fresh enough and structured well -- although it wasn't completely believable. 

And the conclusion was open-ended enough to allow for all sorts of story possibilities -- a refreshing change, given all the murder-solving drama series currently on the air.

Unfortunately, the episode revealed two major, interrelated storytelling issues that (if not corrected in future episodes) will destroy this fledgling series.

And both of these issues are directly related to the stopping of the ticking clock that should be driving the drama.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

LEGENDS: "Pilot" -- Story vs. Character

There's a reason my personal tagline as a writer is: "Write Time. Write Place. Write Story." These days many of the TV and filmmakers in Hollywood become so lost making sure their scenes are action-packed that they neglect to tell a story worth watching.

With the new Sean Bean starrer, LEGENDS, I've spotted a new problem -- one in which story takes precedence over all... including character development. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

WALKING DEAD: "The Grove" So Close... Yet Far

Peaceful, well-stocked and secluded. The remote farmhouse in the woods discovered by Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), Carol (Melissa McBride), Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino), Mika (Kyla Kenedy) and baby Judith in season 4 episode 14, "The Grove," should've been a safe and welcome respite from the relentless, struggle-plagued journey to find safety.

Unfortunately, their safe haven was quickly destroyed, but not by walkers or villainous humans this time. This time security was destroyed by the truth.

But before delving in to the depths of the episode, I think it important to pay homage to the stellar storytelling that's gone on in these last episodes.

Not only have the plots arced well, the episodes have arced in theme, character development and timeline layering.

That plume of black, then white smoke served as tonight's timeline link between episodes, as we can assume it came from the cabin fire set by Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Beth (Emily Kinney) in episode 12, "Still."

Present in every episode since the prison's demise, that small symbol of how close the survivors are to one another makes the isolation each small faction feels all the more poignant. 

We watchers know how close they are to finding each other, and hopefully another home, but the characters remain lost in the dark, with their hope for a reunion dwindling like a smothered flame.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

WALKING DEAD: "Alone" -- Coupling Up

It's impressive how the show gave such importance to intimacy, given that this episode of The Walking Dead is entitled, "Alone."

As a matter of fact, it's downright mind-blowing the care they put into structuring the intricate levels of this show, interlacing clues throughout each episode, many of which only become significant several shows down the road. 

I mean, given all the grotesque zombies and unexpected scares, the series could've simply relied on the tropes of the genre and made a standard horror show. 

Thankfully, those involved in making the show appear devoted to reaching far beyond the expected to make important statements about the human condition... all while embracing their zombie/horror genre.

I suppose that's why The Walking Dead appeals to so many, including me. (I am far from a devotee of the zombie/horror genre, although I once had a friend who taught me to appreciate vintage Italian horror...but that's another story.)

In "Alone," the series continued building on this season's subtle theme of "living, not just surviving."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

ARROW: "The Promise" and the Destruction of Becoming a Better Man

It's a thing of beauty when a story manages to be both infinitely clear and intriguingly mysterious at the same time.

Arrow's season 2 episode 15, "The Promise," accomplished just that.

As promised (wordplay intended), this episode served to be a definite game-changer. 

Finally, we see Oliver (Stephen Amell) transform into a full-fledged hero for the first time on the island(kinks and all). Plus, there's a new twist in his journey, in that his presence in the city he returned to save has now attracted an enemy poised to destroy it.

That twist comes with a whole host of unexpected layers that suggest the rest of this season will be spectacular.

And perhaps the most intriguing outcome of all is that we now know why Oliver is so internally conflicted...

It's because the qualities he's learned on the island that have made him a better man are primed to lead to his ultimate destruction.

And just how might that be, you ask?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

THE FOLLOWING: "Sacrifice" -- A Case of Too Many Villains

Joe, Emma, Lily, Mark/Luke, Giselle, this episode's chock-full cult, (not to mention all the unnamed followers and those already dead this season and last...) -- since its inception, The Following has fought a losing battle with its own concept.

They've paid so much attention to the followers that they've weakened the power and effectiveness of the leader and main villain, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy).

This season, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), our hero has made it clear that he has one mission, and one mission only: Kill. Joe.


A much more concise and intriguing concept than season one in which the followers of Joe the supposed mastermind pretty much did whatever violent act they felt like albeit supposedly in his name. 

In fact, all season 1, the action of what should've been a constantly-twisting, anxiety-filled cat-and-mouse game between Joe and Ryan was pretty much non-existent. 

As were Ryan's investigative skills.

Just how many times did we have to watch him writhe in anguish over yet another failure to even get close Joe? (Let alone anticipate his next move...)

Thankfully, in season 2, Ryan's mission and his skills are so much sharper.

The storytelling seemed much improved, too. At least for the first few episodes... 

Lately the series has lost its way again. With episode 7, "Sacrifice," being the worst offender yet.

Just what made this episode nearly unwatchable? Let me count the ways...

Monday, March 3, 2014

WALKING DEAD: "Still" -- Survive vs. Thrive and the Money Metaphor

An entire hour of The Walking Dead devoted to developing the mysterious character of Darryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). This is the kind of episode I live for.

Not just because it's a full hour of Reedus (which might be reason enough for some), but because it's a full hour spent on just one storyline. It allows for deeper character exploration and more intricately layered scenes than those episodes that jump between multiple stories.

While this alone would be entertaining enough, what made "Still" so impactful is how the emotional evolution of both Darryl and Beth Greene (Emily Kinney) was written as a commentary on how the outlook of the future has shifted for the entire show.

Up until now, the series and its characters have been focused on survival. However, these episodes after the destruction of their prison sanctuary have shifted into a new kind of hope. One that looks beyond simply surviving amongst the zombie hordes, towards defeating them in order to build a new world.

And no episode better delineates the mental shift each character will need to make in order to accomplish this lofty goal, than "Still."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

ELEMENTARY: "The One Percent Solution" and the Symbolic Cocks

It's finally happened. Let it be known that in Season 2, episode 16 entitled "The One Percent Solution," Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) are talking birds and bees together. 

Okay, so the bees are just the ones Sherlock keeps on the roof and the birds are a pair of angry roosters he's rescued from a cockfighting ring. But still, all the cock talk was exciting.

Sure, at first glance, the cocks just seem like a comic bit -- as Joan sidesteps saying "the c word" and Sherlock humorously sets one outside Watson's door as a living alarm clock.

But on a deeper level, those cocks are symbolic.

Friday, February 28, 2014

ARROW: "Time of Death" -- Hit and Miss

Just one look... can ruin a relationship.

And that's exactly what happened in the last 30 seconds of Arrow's "Time of Death" episode when, as Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) babbled adorably about being his girl (but not his "girl-girl"), Oliver (Stephen Amell)gave her a pitying look. 

With that look, Felicity was transformed from an unsteadily sexy computer wiz with moxie (and a puppy-love crush on her hero boss) into a piteous creature.

Now, before anyone gets all up in arms that I seem to be criticizing the talented Amell (and he is, him and Rickards, and David Ramsey and the rest of the cast, and crew, and writers etc. are why I watch the show -- I'm not normally big on comic-inspired shows), let me assure you that I'm not. That look was right for the scene as written, it's just that the Felicity-Oliver story arc went awry halfway through the episode.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. That moment wasn't the only misfire in the episode. 

Defining "Better Television" (And Blanket Spoiler Alert!)

Reality shows, over-the-top comedies, on-the-nose dramas -- there's little subtlety in television today.

Well, except for shows like "Mad Men," "The Walking Dead," "Suits," "Downton Abbey," "Luther," "Game of Thrones," "Orphan Black," "The Americans..."

The list could go on -- possibly endlessly if one chose to include shows recently or long ago off the air, like "Friends," "X-Files," "Gilmore Girls," "All in the Family," "The Shield," "The Sopranos" etc.

That got me thinking -- what makes some television shows so much better than others? The hook? Dynamic characters? Interesting story lines? Yes. Yes. And Yes.

But it's so much more than that.