Thursday, October 28, 2010
I think what Undercovers is lacking is some emotional depth in its characters. On both Alias and Fringe, even if certain episodes didn't work, we had protagonists who were immediately fascinating and likable. Even Fringe, despite almost its entire cast of characters at first being pretty generic and dull, at least had Walter, intriguing and endearing right from the get-go. So far, the cast of Undercovers haven't entirely won me over. I don't feel as if I necessarily know these people, let alone explicitly care about them. Sure, Leo and Hoyt are both pretty amusing, and I guess Sam and Steven are fine to watch every week, but I don't particularly care about them so far.
Nip/Tuck in its later years was never averse to entirely retconning the personalities of its protagonists to fit a particular storyline. Hell, it seems to be a trademark of Ryan Murphy and Co., his one major flaw as a writer. I guess it's a soap tradition. The crazy situations are the main area of importance, and characters are obviously secondary. It's disappointing, but it begins to affect this show around this episode. Liz's decision to undergo plastic surgery to become, in her new girlfriend's eyes, 'a more physically attractive woman' was ridiculous, and the show didn't grant Roma Maffia the emotionally-driven material the story needed to work.
I've always though Mrs Grubman was a great recurring character. Vain, plastic, and ultimately pretty sad, she was a perfect representation of this show's message: that no matter what you fix on the outside, you're still the same deep down. Plus, she was always a great foil for Christian. Ruth Williamson was really spectacular here, and she got to finally display her Broadway musical pipes with her rendition of This Girl's in Love alongside Mr Burt Bacharach himself. I guess it's not original that such a grand, arrogant society woman like Grubby turns out to have little of the social circle she claimed she did, but it was pretty darn touching regardless.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
731, one of season three's various mythology episodes, played around with the idea of the fantastical elements of the series being a vast, unbelievable lie engineered to cover up real evil perpetrated by humans. Paper Hearts, one of the series' greatest episodes so far, covers similar ground to far greater effect, combining the best elements of traditional standalone episodes with the one over-arching mystery this show hasn't systematically destroyed yet (though they've definitely tried)...
It's disappointing that so much of Terma is annoyingly complex and ridiculous, since the whole "alien rock from Mars" idea is pretty fun. And no matter how illogical the writers appear to be making it, the black oil (or, now, 'the black cancer' - way cooler) is still a great plot device. And while I wouldn't say Terma is any more annoying than a lot of the other more recent conspiracy episodes, more than ever it seems to be more convoluted junk folded in on itself.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
There were some ham-fisted attempts at discussing weighty issues this episode. This is most evident in Helena at first distancing herself from her fellow meta-humans, and her eventual turnaround mid-way through the episode. The issue isn't explored as greatly as it could have been, but there's the potential there for some decent exploration into ideas of self-hatred and being part of a minority group in a city where you're considered public enemy one. Of course, this being a gimmicky WB show, the weight to the story never really develops. But the 'idea' is there, which is something.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I admit that I've reached the point where I'm not ecstatic whenever I realize another conspiracy episode is right around the corner. This is especially true of the Tunguska/Terma two-parter, which I had only heard bad things about. At the center of this episode at least is the resurfacing of Alex Krycek, a character whose purpose eludes me. He's always seemed like somebody written in to the show purely for fan service, being largely vague and angry all of the time. I guess the homoerotic banter and physicality between him and Mulder is fun, but it's clearly the show grasping at straws here.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
A lot of people have complained about how breezy this show is, and while I have to agree that it's been pretty lightweight so far, it's important to remember that it's only just premiered. As TV viewers, we've come to a point where an immediate hook is necessary to capture an audience, and waiting around for a couple of weeks to see a TV series eventually grow and evolve is just too damn long. One of my favorite shows on the air right now, the similarly J.J. Abrams-produced Fringe, took seemingly forever to hit the jackpot, eventually stumbling into stunning science-fiction towards the back-end of its first season. So while Undercovers isn't mind-blowing at this point, it's reliable, sufficient escapism. I'm hoping that it will at some point evolve to loftier, more complicated heights but so far I'm actually enjoying watching the series unfold.
This is undoubtedly a strong episode. It's also one that works on a variety of different levels, subverting expectations at repeated junctures, advancing the scope of the show's tone and of the history of the world our protagonists occupy, as well as raising some fun questions about the show as a whole: conspiracies within conspiracies, and the elusive truth that hides somewhere between fact and fiction. The Cigarette-Smoking Man's elaborate history, detailed here, is by turns shocking and pretty ridiculous, creating an episode that is pretty darn spectacular in what it wants to achieve.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
An element of the show I didn't touch upon last review was the presence of Dr. Harleen "Harley Quinn" Quinzel, professional deranged megalomaniac and The Joker's right-hand woman. She's one of my favorite comic book characters and a huge reminder of my childhood (she regularly stole the show on Batman: The Animated Series and the Mad Love graphic novel is ridiculously awesome), but she's one of those comic book characters that just can't work outside of the page. A character so outlandish needs that rare actor who can make the insanity believable. Mark Hamill has got the voice down pat, while Heath Ledger was, of course, remarkable. But Mia Sara just can't pull that off.
A pretty good episode which utilizes the majority of the cast extremely well. The only downside is that the Landau's are still dragging this season down. Just like last week, I liked that a lot of the subplots folded into one another. Matt's stupid decisions are once again revealed to be a result of his libido, while at the same time Christian accuses Michelle of attempting to kill Burt. As a result, Michelle gets mad, Christian manipulates Kimber into bed before dumping her, and Kimber hooks up with Matt in revenge. It's a big web of craziness, this show.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Women have it rough. Especially in the entertainment industry. I remember reading years ago that the box office under-performance of Jodie Foster's vigilante thriller The Brave One meant the studio behind the movie immediately black-balled female-led projects. Supposedly "they didn't sell". This kind of sexism also seemingly occurred as a result of the WB's short-lived Birds of Prey, a flawed comic book adaptation picked up to series following the success of the network's Superman re-working Smallville. The show flatlined quickly after it premiered, and was quietly canceled after thirteen episodes. Its failure, knowing the industry, probably sealed the fate for any other comic book-adaptations based on female characters. So no Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, non-appalling Catwoman, nor any consistent update of the Birds of Prey themselves. Bummer.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Plastic surgery is intrinsically horrifying. Just the names of the procedures represented here (liposuction, face peel) sound pretty gross. Pair this with the at-the-time growing popularity of such procedures, and it's unsurprising that the show would explore this area of medical science, if only to exploit it for all of its grotesque qualities. So, we're audience to face meltings, face suckage, explosions of blood, and pentagram leeches. The latter is clearly a band-name in the making. It's a little disappointing, however, that Sanguinarium is lacking in the substance department. Sure, it's insanely gross, but pretty light everywhere else.
I have always struggled with this episode. I remember watching it years ago and coming away from it tired, unmoved and a little frustrated that I had just spent an hour watching something so boring. Before watching it again, I assumed that it must have been something wrong with me, and not the episode. It's Morgan & Wong, surely it's gotta be pretty great. In the end, while this episode isn't as bad as I remembered, I'm still not sure it's executed well at all.
Despite opening with an arresting dream sequence featuring Sean and Christian as gay lovers (shame the show caved to network pressure, forcing them to cut an actual kiss), Faith Wolper, Ph.D suffers from being weighed down by two of this season's worst story arcs. The Landau storyline unexpectedly blurs together with Brooke Shields' nutty shrink, a turn of events which briefly gives the Burt subplot some life. Faith herself is exposed as being completely wacko, and I loved her sadomasochistic tattoos. However, the Landau arc doesn't interest.