Monday, November 29, 2010

Birds of Prey: Lady Shiva (1.8)

It's not exactly a challenge, but Barbara is clearly the most interesting character on the show, as she has the most potential for psychological depth. She's confined to a wheelchair after a life of fighting crime, is locked up in a tower all day, and has the burden of playing den mother to two annoying females. There's a lot of regret and pent-up anger within her, and the show finally exploited that in what was probably the best episode so far. I was just a little disappointed that we actually had resolution to all of this at the end. When Barbara told Alfred that she doesn't feel sad about giving up her Batgirl cowl, it felt like a major wasted opportunity. An interesting character-driven storyline about what she has experienced? Nope, we'll just wrap it all up in forty minutes...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Undercovers: Assassin (1.7)

They always say that you can correctly guess who the killer is on Law & Order as soon as the famous guest star appears. It's that guy! So when David Anders, aka Alias' Mr. Sark, showed up in the teaser sequence, introduced himself as a flirtatious photographer, and then left... well, it wasn't totally surprising when he turned out to be the villain of the episode. It was a little disappointing, however, that the same executive producer who blessed Anders with one of the last decade's finest TV villains failed to give him anything to work with here. Go figure.

Charmed: Something Wicca This Way Comes (1.1)

Charmed is the definition of 'guilty pleasure television'. It's a show I'd never confess in public to enjoying. It's also a show that I've tuned into more times than I'd like to admit. Throughout its shockingly long run, it was fun, energetic, dumb and frequently appalling. But through most of it, it maintained its heart. The chemistry between its three leads (both sets of them) was always palpable, and while the show regularly aimed for the lowest common denominator in terms of storylines, character growth, antagonists and love interests, once in a blue moon it came up with something that had considerable power. Seriously.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nip/Tuck: Diana Lubey (4.12)

Maybe it's the accent, or the seemingly everlasting beauty, but French women just have this classy, glamorous way about them, and Catherine Deneuve displayed all those things in her guest spot. Seriously, how the hell did this show land her? The Diana Lubey story was really moving, even with the mistress twist near the end. On paper the whole "ashes in implants" idea may seem silly, but the show portrayed it in such a poignant, beautiful way that you can completely understand why Diana would want the surgery. I also loved how she managed to get through to Sean, and her farewell kiss was awesome.

The X-Files: Kaddish (4.15)

Kaddish is a slow-burner episode, one which takes a while to get going but once it does proves to be a surprising improvement on similarly plotted X-Files hours. We're pretty used to both minority group exploration and revenge tales on this show, and both types have been done with varying success in the past. Kaddish goes a little deeper than similar hours, with an interesting script that is by turns horror movie, cultural expose and love story.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Undercovers: Xerxes (1.6)

This was probably the first episode in which the mission overshadowed the flawed character plots. I mention this because pretty much every episode so far has featured some pretty woeful espionage stories. There's always a MacGuffin of some sort or a person to find, and while Xerxes doesn't totally see a turnaround in plot devices, it does feature some strong guest stars and some decent twists along the way. If only the show's protagonists could equally get out of the rut the writers have stuck them in.

Nip/Tuck: Conor McNamara, 2026 (4.11)

It's interesting to view this episode after the series has ended, as it's not totally as show-destroying as everybody perceived it to be when it first aired. I remember a lot of anger over the show's decision to basically reveal everybody's future (bar Liz and Kimber, who don't appear), and it wasn't helped by Ryan Murphy commenting that everything seen here is real. I don't know what happened between then and the end of season five, but the episode was eventually retconned. However, even with that complaint proven irrelevant, the episode is still pretty weak.

Birds of Prey: Split (1.7)

As annoying as most aspects of the show are, this is arguably the strongest episode so far, principally because it featured a Metahuman storyline played mostly straight, featured some decent performances and a faint stab at handling the touchy subject of mental illness. Yes, viewers, I am still talking about Birds of Prey. The Crawler/Darkstrike story worked pretty well, if only because there was some mystery to it and decent execution of the whole 'serial killer' motif. The twist was signposted from the beginning, albeit the whole thing was mildly entertaining. At least compared to every other Metahuman story so far.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The X-Files: Memento Mori (4.14)

The conspiracy episodes are now at a point where they're not merely creating even more problems and conspiracies within existing conspiracies, but are just revisiting past events. Several of the reveals here (the clones, CSM once again holding power over something or someone) are mere remakes of old episodes, and it's disappointing to see a story that could be pretty huge get reduced to the same ol', same ol'. Memento Mori is all over the place, but the conviction of Gillian Anderson's performance undoubtedly saves it from disaster.

Undercovers: Not Without My Daughter (1.5)

I've noticed that every review I've written for Undercovers thus far has mentioned other, far greater shows. No matter the quality of the episode I'm reviewing, I'm constantly reminded of certain plot strands or ideas that are executed in far better ways on other series. Why is this? Has the well of espionage spy drama been run dry? Or maybe it's the fact that, five episodes in, Undercovers doesn't yet have much of an identity. It's just there. I'm waiting for the show to grow a little, or become just that little bit more intriguing or generally likable, but so far it's not happening.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The X-Files: Never Again (4.13)

Cancer equals a death sentence. That's what we all presume, anyway. There's the fighting, the therapy, the potential overcoming of such a hideous ailment, but at the end of everything it still in all our heads equals death. Scully, here, is lost in that place. Her cancer hasn't been confirmed, but it is all she can think about. Cancer is the elephant in the room. It's never uttered, but it's all over this episode, as Scully abandons her duties and embarks on a voyage of self-discovery, utilizing her sexuality and experiencing both pleasure and pain.

Birds of Prey: Primal Scream (1.6)

Subtlety isn't this show's friend. Primal Scream explores two character-driven plotlines, one being Helena's fondness for 'being bad' (potentially inherited from her mother), and the other Dinah's guilt and anger over her own mom's death last episode. But, since this show assumes its audience are folk who think Smallville and Charmed are "a little too heavy" for them, the episode goes out of its way to project these feelings so brutally that it almost becomes pretty damn hilarious.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The X-Files: Leonard Betts (4.12)

One of the issues that is stopping me from completely loving The X-Files is the way the show's two protagonists are written. They're great characters and performed impeccably, but they're written so relentlessly dour and miserable all the time that they frequently lose their humanity. They may as well be two sharp-suited cyborgs most of the time; they're so unemotional and bleak. I mention this because Leonard Betts feels like the first episode in a long while where they're written as human. They exhibit human characteristics and emotions, and it helps that the rest of the hour is equally as awesome.

Birds of Prey: Sins of the Mother (1.5)

Once again, an intriguing superhero-related issue is sidestepped in favor of dumb action sequences and whining, in another installment of the little show that could (but didn't). The arrival of Black Canary, here depicted as Dinah's mother, should have opened the door to insight into what it's like trying to juggle life as both a crime-fighter and a mother. Yes, the show had a couple of moments this episode where it explored that, but unsurprisingly it wasn't given the weight it deserved.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Undercovers: Jailbreak (1.4)

Once again we have The Agents Bloom attempting to intercept a device of some sort which, if released and/or sold, could have insanely heinous repercussions for some giant corporation. Is there too much of this, already? Four episodes in, and the show seems to be stuck in a familiar rut. We have the infiltration of various buildings, some undercover action, a kidnap victim, a twist midway through. A series like this lives or dies on its own sense of wonderment and high-stakes espionage, and so far it's not totally delivering.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nip/Tuck: Merrill Bobolit (4.10)

I've never been as big a fan of Escobar Gallardo as pretty much everybody else, but his presence does admittedly create unrivaled fear and a sense of complete unpredictability. However, I'm not sure his re-appearance here was particularly wise. Season four has already been driven by so many varying plot strands and its various villains (some storylines having already been quietly dropped or forgotten about) that adding in yet another feels unnecessary. I guess his storyline here is pretty entertaining, even if it is held together by some clumsy exposition and equally contrived plot twists, but the real star of the show is Bobolit.

The X-Files: El Mundo Gira (4.11)

I'm always a little ambivalent about X-Files episodes centered on minority groups, since so often the show bathes in stereotypes and cultural clich├ęs instead of exploring actual issues. El Mundo Gira doesn't necessarily avoid these trappings (it makes a decent attempt at reflecting cultural 'issues', I'll give the show that), but it is still pretty awful. I'm informed that the title translates to 'as the world turns' in Spanish, implying spoofery on Mexican telenovelas and their melodramatic ridiculousness. However, in the hands of the show's worst writer, any self-conscious awfulness instead only reads as completely unintentional.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Birds of Prey: Three Birds and a Baby (1.4)

There's no comedy stand-by more deplorable than the one involving single women saddled with the new found responsibility of having a baby handed to them unexpectedly. Wackiness inevitably ensues, there are complaints about diaper-changing, whining over constant crying, rinse, repeat. While Birds of Prey didn't completely bleed that familiar sack of awfulness dry, it didn't save the episode from being yet another flat and campy superhero mess.