Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ringer: If You Ever Want a French Lesson... (1.3)

This didn't have the most auspicious of openings, with Bridget using her own bizarre logic to assume that Andrew hired the hit on her, since he owns the same holiday-snap that the hitman had on his person. Was this another sign of 'Ringer: Contrivance is thy middle name?' Luckily I stuck around for longer than the opening couple of minutes, since If You Ever Want a French Lesson was undoubtedly the strongest episode so far. Gone were the annoying Hitchcock throwbacks and bland characterization, instead we got a doozy of awesomeness.

Charmed: Muse to My Ears (4.9)

Despite my disdain for most episodes centered on some kind of magical mystical creature, Muse to My Ears isn't half-bad. Its central idea, that a demon is pursuing muses, is appropriately silly; but the show cleverly utilizes the story as a means to create humor. Some of the episode's funniest moments involve annoying Melody's influence on the sisters. I especially enjoyed Phoebe's sudden need to turn every sentence she says into rhyming couplets, due to being in close proximity with her muse.

Charmed: Black as Cole (4.8)

He's spent most of season four whining about 'bounty hunters', so it's only fair the show actually utilize Julian McMahon for a change. Black as Cole sees the series attempting to dive head-first into moral ambiguity once more, and it's an effective hour all about Cole's history. Finally we have somebody out there who wants Belthazor to pay for his crimes, and this time it's cleverly not another demon but in fact another human, whose husband Belthazor killed.

Pan Am: Pilot (1.1)

Of the numerous themes and plot strands thrown at us during the pilot for ABC's big '60s melodrama, the one that stuck with me was the representation of gender. One of the last scenes in the episode sees two pilots talking stewardesses over drinks, one of them telling the other how the Pan Am ladies are 'above' ordinary women, like goddesses of the skies. So much so that it looks like its every little girls dream to become a stewardess when they grow up. But through the pilot we see how 'regular' most of these women are, all experiencing the same struggles and personal entanglements that everybody else experiences, even in 2011. Okay, maybe not the secret intelligence stuff, but same difference.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Angel: Parting Gifts (1.10)

It must have been so disorienting at the time to see Wesley suddenly join the cast, with Doyle casually dismissed and killed off only last week. Even more so because Wesley's characterization here is exactly the same as it was on Buffy. He's bumbling, sort of moronic and a major pain in the butt to most people around him. It almost stinks of a one-joke character who'll be quickly run into the ground. Obviously, that doesn't turn out to be the case at all, but if I had no knowledge of what was to come, I could imagine being majorly irritated.

Buffy: Hush (4.10)

Hush is probably Buffy's grand statement piece. There are other episodes that are similarly groundbreaking and gorgeous, but Hush is truly the pinnacle of this show's creativity and ambition. At its heart is the concept of communication, how sometimes words radically over-complicate what should be entirely simple. It's a theme that radiates throughout the episode. What's also important is that Hush is ridiculously, awesomely terrifying; as well as one of the finest comedy episodes I've ever seen, of any show. It pulls together every varying theme that made Buffy the greatest show ever made, and does it beautifully.

Angel: Hero (1.9)

Unlike Buffy, where the cast chemistry was pretty much instant, it took what seemed like a while for the Angel cast to reach that working dynamic. The problem probably lay with the fact that there wasn't as much of a groundwork on Angel as there was on Buffy, Buffy's groundwork being Sunnydale High, which practically forced the ensemble together. Here, there's definitely that feeling that Angel, Cordelia and Doyle were working together because the script demanded it, not so much because of reasons that were organic or particularly believable. However, over time, the dynamic shifted, Cordelia and Doyle were better fleshed-out (helped by the reduction in screentime for the at-one-point ubiquitous Kate) and you could actually understand why the three of them shacked up together. The show still has some issues with storytelling (most of season one's episode are generally pretty 'blah'), but the chemistry is absolutely keeping the series afloat.

Buffy: Something Blue (4.9)

This works as both a character piece and as a ridiculously entertaining slice of comedic silliness. Willow is still understandably angsty over Oz's departure, a feeling exaggerated when she discovers that he has secretly sent for his things behind her back, presumably confirming his long-term departure in the process. So, instead of facing up to what has happened, Willow decides to blame everybody else around her: a common error that so many of us make when we're confronted with something shitty.

A Gifted Man: Pilot (1.1)

Patrick Wilson is one of the most underrated actors currently working. Throughout his career on film, stage and television, he has exuded a strength and charisma in varying different genres, but so far he hasn't found that project that pushes him into the big leagues. Therefore, he's landed on a Friday night CBS drama. A Gifted Man serves Wilson incredibly well, giving him a fully-realized character with flaws and neuroses who suddenly finds himself in extraordinary circumstances via the sudden appearance of his dead ex-wife. It's an intriguing premise, though not exactly a sure-fire one. After watching the pilot, I'm still a little unsure of where the series is going.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Charlie's Angels: Angel with a Broken Wing (1.1)

I hate to be one of those guys that perpetuate the horrible notion that actresses on female-driven shows all hate each other behind the scenes, but the new Charlie's Angels really hate each other. I saw them last weekend on E!'s coverage of the Emmy's red carpet, and I have literally never seen such cold women who clearly can't stand the sight of one another. Poor Rachael Taylor is trying to sell the thing in a way that could come across as wildly overbearing, a stern Minka Kelly is all passive-aggression and anger, and Annie Ilonzeh is quiet and pretty. It was such a weird spectacle, three ladies who weren't even attempting to put across some kind of friendship or chemistry. Then again, all three are terrible actresses. So what do you expect?

The X-Files: Arcadia (6.15)

This is an X-Files version of 'creepy suburbia', planting Mulder and Scully into a picturesque gated community full of white picket fences and flawless driveways inhabited by a group of frantic families who secretly sit and judge and conform until their hearts give out. Oh, and there's also a huge trash monster killing folks. Arcadia actually works better as a dissection of cultural conformity than it does a horror episode, while the Mulder and Scully undercover hijinks are crazy fun.

Nip/Tuck: Hiro Yoshimura (6.19)

One of the most notable complaints leveled at Nip/Tuck's series finale was that it just wasn't zany enough. For a show that pride itself on its elaborate plot twists and boundary-pushing absurdity, Hiro Yoshimura remains a somber affair. It puts character ahead of action, and for somebody who often criticized the show in its later years for wrapping its ensemble up in increasingly deranged storylines, I welcomed the tone of this episode. Sure, it would have probably been more interesting if Ryan Murphy managed to strike that middle ground between both extremes... but this is Ryan Murphy, a man who clearly doesn't believe in the existence of a middle ground.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Revenge: Pilot (1.1)

There's an art to creating strong primetime soap operas. You can go so far into left-field that there's no break from the zany absurdity, and wind up with a Titans or the depressing later years of Nip/Tuck. Or you can get stuck playing things straight, making potentially juicy scenarios pretty weak. You then wind up with Ringer. Judging from the extensive ad campaign ABC launched for its newest night-time soap Revenge, I assumed that executive producer Mike Kelley had hit that tricky spot between both camps. Based on this pilot, he totally succeeded with it. As a result, we get some straight moral ambiguity, as well as a bad girl in a bad wig lacing soup with poison. Revenge is a sudsy guilty pleasure that has an irresistible hook and some ridiculously strong lead characters.

Charmed: Brain Drain (4.7)

Brain Drain takes a formulaic fantasy series plot device and runs with it, creating something that has considerable power. At the heart of the episode is a now familiar idea, Piper once again wishing for some kind of ordinary life. But miraculously the writers stumble down an avenue which doesn't entirely blow, Piper's neurosis manipulated by the Source and sending her flying into a vivid illusion where she's a patient in a mental hospital.

Charmed: A Knight to Remember (4.6)

I'm so used to assuming that all of Charmed's 'fairy tale' episodes were the televisual equivilant of an Anthrax attack that I incorrectly assumed A Knight to Remember was a heinous disaster. While it is pretty stupid, there's at least a ridiculous charm to the whole Evil Enchantress story, with Rose McGowan doing her campy, vampy thing and 'Ben is Glory?' being reliably vacant.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ringer: She's Ruining Everything (1.2)

Judging from episode two, the main thrust of the series will be Bridget slowly attempting to fix the lives of people that Siobhan presumably took for granted. She cheats on her husband, who seems like a good man kept at a distance by his icy wife. She betrays her best friend, who's clearly vulnerable and erratic. And she seemingly trashes her catty stepdaughter at every opportunity, instead of offering the guidance and support that she seems to be crying out for. Bridget improved as a character here, too. She's still frustratingly vacant at points, but I like that she decided to stick around and try and make a positive difference. There was no way that wasn't going to happen, but whatever.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Playboy Club: Pilot (1.1)

It's really hard to not talk about Mad Men when reviewing this show. The Playboy Club, along with ABC's upcoming Pan Am, are both set in the externally glamorous vintage '60s, using the time period as a back-drop for exploring cultural and economic shifts and oppression of gender, sexuality and race. What instantly makes itself clear with this pilot is that The Playboy Club is in no way Mad Men. While Mad Men takes its time exposing the hypocrisy of the period and the flawed, fascinating characters at its center, The Playboy Club has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face, with a script so annoying it's almost comedic.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Angel: I Will Remember You (1.8)

In some ways I Will Remember You is nothing but fan-service, an expected 'what if?' episode that gives the legions of Bangel fans exactly what they always wanted to see. But regardless of the pessimism, it's a remarkably epic-feeling episode, hitting you with wall after wall of varying emotions, from the cold, angry reunion at the very beginning to the dizzy romantic highs of their first non-evil inducing sex scene, to that final implosion of sadness as the day winds to a close. Both David and Sarah are spectacular, perfectly capturing the feel of a relationship that was quickly terminated, as well as the sense that you can't really believe what is happening.

Buffy: Pangs (4.8)

Sarah Michelle Gellar is a truly gifted comedic actress. Her performance throughout Pangs is flawless, as Buffy tries to put together the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. The scrunching up of her face, the urgent speediness of her delivery, the frequent asides to others about basting or how much brandy to use. She's really, really fantastic here, displaying the same versatility and sense of cutesy nuttiness that she explores whenever Buffy is overwhelmingly distracted by something (like in Living Conditions, for instance).

Angel: The Bachelor Party (1.7)

Doyle finally gets some needed character development, The Bachelor Party revealing him to be a sensitive and almost tragic guy who has never come to terms with his own identity. He has hidden depths outside of the quippery and eagerness to have fun, and it suddenly makes him a strong and memorable character. I never quite understood the Doyle love in general, but this episode goes some way in exploring his psyche, and Glenn Quinn is wonderfully natural here. He's been great every week, but the number of varying levels he adds to his performance throughout this episode is really spectacular.

Buffy: The Initiative (4.7)

Spike is exactly what the show needed at this point. With Oz gone, Giles way on the periphery of things and Anya only appearing intermittently, Buffy needed a big dose of funny, and that came in the unexpected form of 'neutered puppy' Spike. It's a little dramatically lazy, but Spike's chip creates some genius characterization, especially here. His big moment with Willow, an elaborate erectile dysfunction gag, is insanely awesome, capped by that brilliant moment when Willow snaps out of being a complete sucker and bashes a table-lamp over his head.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The X-Files: Monday (6.14)

I adore time-loop episodes out of principal, so this unsurprisingly worked well for me. The fun in episodes like this is in the gradual differences that pile up on every additional visit to the same moment in time, and that concept ended up fitting beautifully into the rest of the hour. Writers Vince Gilligan and John Shiban also add a level of heart to their script, creating an episode that opens as a fun and interesting experiment episode, before becoming something that's affecting and emotional towards the end.

Nip/Tuck: Walter and Edith Krieger (6.18)

Ava Moore always represented the long-lasting message of the series. No matter how much you alter your physical appearance, it can't fix your inner self. Ava at one point believed that becoming a woman would help correct her sadness and anger, only to find herself wrapped up in incestuous, abusive horror post-surgery. As a character, Ava was the feminine doppelganger to Sean and Christian: all characters who occupied that moral gray area and were just as sympathetic as they were repulsive. Ava is damaged, ruthless, horrible, calculating and cruel, but at the same time badass. Famke Janssen has always been consistently strong as this character, and the show was correct in bringing her back for the final two episodes. They spent so long trying to replicate Ava's femme fatale evilness with other recurring characters that it wouldn't have been right to not acknowledge how influential she was.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Charmed: Size Matters (4.5)

Paige drives the episode here, attempting to prove her worth by highlighting how a creepy old house she walks past every day naturally gives her the wig. Genre legend Robert Englund works well as Gammill, and the story unfolds pretty nicely, with Phoebe and eventually Piper and Paige being trapped in the house and shrunk to miniature stature. Finn's presence could have been improved a little (his death, too, is pretty unsatisfying), but in general the A-plot works.

Charmed: Enter the Demon (4.4)

Body swaps in genre television work best when both actors take on the 'quirks' of each other's performances, showcasing their awareness of their co-star's skills, and replicating them in an absorbing way. Body swaps also work in exploring some kind of psychological trauma, the idea of a character wanting to 'become' somebody else in order to cover up their own shortcomings. Charmed's version, in which Phoebe and Paige swap bodies, is a little weak not only because their relationship hasn't reached that point where it's actually interesting to see them inhabit each other's bodies, but also because Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan aren't great performers. Alyssa plays Paige with the same ridiculous baby voice she used in Once Upon a Time last season, while Rose displays the same tics and gestures she always has, even when playing a completely different character. Ugh. A story like this needs some extra attention from the actors, and they kind of failed entirely here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ringer: Pilot (1.1)

It's almost fitting that a show all about identity and duplicity has some of its own identity issues. Pilot episodes are rarely flawless, but I was a little surprised at how Ringer's series premiere was more than a little frayed around the edges. Whether they like it or not, the specter of Buffy the Vampire Slayer hangs over the show. Not so much in trying to keep up with that show's immediate impression, but in the character Sarah Michelle Gellar has chosen for her return to primetime. I was shocked that what seemed to be the main premise of this series wasn't as omnipresent as I had presumed. Bridget and Siobhan are only thinly sketched so far, and despite playing two roles, series creators Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder don't give Gellar a whole lot to work with.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Angel: Sense and Sensitivity (1.6)

This is another weak season one episode. It takes an idea that is ripe for exploration (in this case the annoying sense of self-involvement and navel-gazing that has infected so many of us), but goes nowhere with it, creating humor that comes off more than a little phony and embarrassing. It also once again thrusts Kate Lockley center stage, something arguably ill-conceived when you consider how Cordelia and Doyle, even Angel himself, are ripe for their own development.

Buffy: Wild at Heart (4.6)

This understandably feels like a major story arc condensed into one episode, since it was intended to be a story that lasted most of the season. With that in mind, you can almost forgive the show for Veruca's shabby characterization, her iffy motives for wanting to murder Willow, and Oz's eagerness to leave. It feels remarkably fast, and takes away from what should have been a far heavier story. However, the show still manages to make us feel Willow's pain and sense of betrayal. In that regard, the rapid storytelling is almost spookily helpful. Oz's departure comes out of nowhere, and you can totally see that reflected on-screen.

Angel: Rm w/a Vu (1.5)

This isn't an episode about a ghost haunting an apartment. This is an episode about Cordelia Chase, and how she fits into the Angel universe. She brought the funny in the past four episodes, the required compliment to Angel's broodiness. But, up to this point, there was little to her character beyond her dialogue and her shabby L.A. apartment. Here, Cordelia is revealed to be on a similar journey of redemption to Angel, becoming as aware of her past mistakes as her boss is, and sharing the belief that somehow she doesn't deserve anything positive due to how she treated people in the past.

Buffy: Beer Bad (4.5)

This is absolute monkey shit. For the first time in the history of the series, a Buffy episode spectacularly fails on almost every level. Beer Bad is pretty much universally reviled, and for good reason. While hours like I, Robot - You, Jane and Go Fish could at least be interpreted as decent ideas that just didn't work in execution, Beer Bad is one of those extremely rare Buffy episodes that make you really wonder what the hell the writers were thinking.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The X-Files: Agua Mala (6.13)

You can understand why a new writer would want to throw everything into the pot as he starts out on a major show. With Agua Mala, David Amann tries to create one of those 'trapped in a small area and attacked by monsters' episodes, something this show only did well right back in its first season. The script also throws in another appearance by Darren McGavin's vintage FBI agent. But, making this episode's failings even clearer, having missed McGavin's name in the opening credits, I entirely missed that this was the same character from Travelers. He's so tossed in and unnecessary that it's an easy mistake to make.

Nip/Tuck: Christian Troy II (6.17)

'The death of plastic surgery' isn't a groundbreaking concept to explore in Nip/Tuck's final season, but it's something that works for me. When you think about Hollywood right now, few actors are undergoing the full Joan Rivers. It's all about the fillers and the Botox and the injectables. Face lifts and surgery feel dated already, and Sean and Christian are being left out in the cold. Being this show, the story was handled with the subtlety of a sledgehammer with the old patients demanding reversal surgery, the contrived lady-doctor, and the annoying YouTube comments at the end.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Charmed: Hell Hath No Fury (4.3)

The characterization here follows an overly familiar path, with the fallout from Prue's death taking some expected turns here. Piper, the person affected the most by her death, is swimming in a river of denial, evident by the gung-ho demon-vanquishing bender she's embarked on. The story unfolds in as predictable a way as possible, finally ending in the unsurprising 'breakdown at Prue's grave' closer that was inevitable. But Holly Marie Combs is undeniably great in these moments, and that final scene where she visits Paige at work and offers an olive branch of sorts was beautifully performed. She knows it's the right thing to do, opening up to her newfound sister, even though part of her is still holding back after recent events.

Charmed: Charmed Again Part 2 (4.2)

It feels a lot like the writers stretched the season premiere to two hours because they thought it should be two hours based on the subject matter, not because they had a story that needed to be two hours. Charmed Again Part 2 has a couple of interesting moments, but in general it's pretty badly paced, too much time spent on stories that feel kind of silly. The most obvious is the idea of a forty eight-hour 'window' after a witch discovers her abilities, where she supposedly can choose between good and evil. It feels a lot like something casually pulled out of Brad Kern's butt to create some conflict, and it's never truly realized and has little effect.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Angel: I Fall to Pieces (1.4)

This feels like the first episode which successfully employs the season one-Angel-blueprint of 'vampire detective show'. It has a squicky supernatural mystery at its heart, a helpless young woman for Angel Investigations to save, and utilizes the main cast really well. While Angel is still on his lonesome while investigating the Meltzer case, the gang seem to gel a whole lot better than they did in the previous two episodes. Doyle and Cordelia, in particular, are very funny here; bonding over their differences from Angel instead of avoiding the subject all-together.

Buffy: Fear, Itself (4.4)

This episode is seemingly hated by a lot of fans, something I've never totally understood. Fear, Itself, while not remarkable in any way, is exactly what it's supposed to be. It's a Buffy spin on a haunted house horror movie, with the Scooby Gang trapped inside a frat party on Halloween night, getting split up and forced to endure their worst fears. It's not particularly ambitious, but there's a goofy charm to the episode that makes it work. It also has so many memorable 'moments' that, while not totally linked to the episode's story, are a lot of fun.

Angel: In the Dark (1.3)

What I loved about Spike was that both series managed to casually depict him as both an aggressive, violent and dangerous vampire, as well as a complete moron whose evil plans are always spoiled by his own stupidity. Both sides are evident in this, the first crossover episode with Buffy, and James Marsters crashes into the show with some genius dialogue and wonderful sequences which exploit his great chemistry with David Boreanaz. Angel and Spike outwardly despise one another, but it's a relationship with so many levels of festering resentment, jealousy, disgust and... latent attraction. Heh.

Buffy: The Harsh Light of Day (4.3)

This felt like a big reunion episode, with Spike, Harmony and Anya all coming back into the fold. Whoever decided to bring Harmony back as a vampire deserves some major kudos. It's surprising though watching the previous three seasons that she was barely on the show. Then she gets vamped and suddenly becomes a major recurring character. The Spike/Harmony relationship is hilarious, not only because of their love/hate kinky/abusive chemistry, but also due to the hysterical reactions from the Scoobies.

The X-Files: One Son (6.12)

There seems to be a concerted effort this season to bring The X-Files back to basics. The number of conspiracy episodes has been reduced, standalones are a lot more accessible and humorous. And with One Son, we appear to be getting something that previously felt impossible. We actually got some damn answers. While the show continued its tradition of showcasing some revelations while simultaneously setting up some new questions, this episode was another impressive mythology hour, the only weak element being some messy characterization.

Nip/Tuck: Dr. Griffin (6.16)

Watching this episode for the second time was an interesting experience. I loved Dr. Griffin the first time I saw it, and believed it was one of the most absorbing and intriguing Nip/Tuck hours in a long while, exploring the psychosis of Sean and Christian and laying bare their long-held bitterness and anger against each other. While I still enjoyed Dr. Griffin the second time around, I couldn't help but notice, once again, that artificial quality that has made parts of season six so jarring. Here, several moments felt pulled straight out of left-field, while shock plot developments were clumsily dropped in with zero build-up. The concept of this story was well-intentioned, but the devil is in the details, and the details weren't that great.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Charmed: Charmed Again Part 1 (4.1)

This was always going to be a challenge. Not only does it have to reboot the series, it also has to deal with the death of Prue Halliwell, an event made harder since she was played by an actress who, for whatever reason, was scrubbed from the show's history. Even trickier was the fact that season three ended on two explosive cliffhangers, both of which have to be wrapped-up off-screen since Shannen Doherty had, over the summer hiatus, become the Woman That Shall Not Be Named, an awkward after-effect of behind-the-scenes catfights and tensions. Her absence is definitely felt, the two cliffhangers wrapped up clumsily via some awkward dialogue about Cole saving Phoebe from the underworld and Leo only having time to save one sister after both Prue and Piper were flung through the Wall of Doom. But, generally, Charmed Again Part 1 successfully resurrects the series with its intriguing new star, while insisting on a surprising level of humanity: Prue not casually dismissed and the show declining to 'Cousin Oliver' in a young and hot long-lost sister.

Charmed: All Hell Breaks Loose (3.22)

All Hell Breaks Loose is the finest episode this show ever did. It's an effectively chilling hour chronicling a real end-of-the-world scenario, at least in regards to the sisters. It perfectly captures what could likely happen if the sisters were exposed, and how the media would react if the secret got out. We at first witness the unfolding of the 'hero' narrative, the media casting the Halliwells as protectors of the innocent as they save the world every week. But inevitably, in their quest for ratings, the media turns on the sisters, treating them like villains and otherworldly menaces. As the hour unfolds, it becomes more clear that it's not just the media who target the women, but also the police and potentially the CIA. It's a sinister depiction of what could happen, and it's wonderfully played all round.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Angel: Lonely Hearts (1.2)

One of the greatest achievements Angel has made so far has been with its depiction of Los Angeles as a city of loneliness. Just like Tina in the pilot, the lost souls depicted throughout Lonely Hearts beautifully reflect a world of isolated individuals desperate for some form of connection and release. Angel fits into this metaphor, but unlike so many of the guest stars here, he's happy to be alone and withdrawn from the world. It's where he feels at home.

Buffy: Living Conditions (4.2)

Part of me loves this episode, and part of me doesn't. There's obviously a lot of funny dialogue, and anybody who's had a roommate can relate to some of the more obvious 'issues' Buffy had with Kathy (the noise, the food, the obsessive rules and charts), but I always felt that the joke just got tired after a while. That fatigue definitely hit by the time the Scoobies tied Buffy up, thinking she had lost her mind. It was one of those completely out-of-character moments that Buffy rarely did, with characters doing something to service the story, rather than the story being modified to fit the characters.

Angel: City of... (1.1)

This is a relentlessly confident pilot episode, one that exploits David Boreanaz's strengths as an actor, carefully positions him as the hero of his own show, sets up a new mythology for the spin-off as well as relying on imagery and characterization of the past, and generally sucks you in. From the first fifteen minutes, it's patently clear that this is a spin-off series with its own drive and mission statement, and something far more successful than it easily could have been.

Buffy: The Freshman (4.1)

Buffy is lost in the world. The Freshman is the fourth season premiere in a row where Buffy experiences some deep personal crisis. Season one saw her trying to avoid her calling in a new town. Season two saw her alienating her friends via her attitude problem. Season three opened with her on the run. Now, as the series settles into season four, Buffy has hit a wall of sorts while she starts college. Not only does she struggle in battle, unable to hold her own against a group of everyday vamps, but she experiences that expected feeling of being thrust into new, uncomfortable surroundings and finding it hard to handle. It's made worse by how easy Willow and Oz seem to have transitioned, Buffy instead feeling overcome by her current predicament.

The X-Files: Two Fathers (6.11)

Sometimes it does surprise me that The X-Files still manages to get mileage out of what are arguably some of the most tired ideas around. Black oil, the conspiracies, the CSM, Krycek. It's all so routine and predictable now that when an episode comes along that actually wins me over using the exact same elements, it's worthy of considerable attention. Two Fathers is a ridiculously entertaining mythology episode, book-ended by an intriguing framing device, littered with absorbing power play, and featuring some squicky face-ripping antics which everybody should somehow enjoy. Heh.

Nip/Tuck: Virginia Hayes (6.15)

And the show begins to come full-circle. Escobar Gallardo is always a reliable villain, and I enjoyed the power play between his ghost and Sean. There's always been a connection between the two of them, Escobar representing the rationality and aggression that Sean rarely employs in reality. The subplot with his daughter Aurelia was a little heavy-handed (Rosemary's Baby... really?), but I enjoyed the show exploring old stories at this point.

Charmed: Look Who's Barking (3.21)

This episode doesn't have a whole lot of emotional resonance, but it's another fun detour involving the sisters morphing into something supernatural. Where it falters is in the execution of the banshee story. The idea of the demon is that each banshee is a former witch, and that banshees seek out those in great emotional pain. Phoebe unsurprisingly is taken over by the banshee, and it should have been an interesting idea to build an episode around. However, the emotional ramifications of the story aren't exploited enough, and it's disappointing that all Phoebe can learn from the episode is that Cole is, deep down, a good guy. Meh.

Charmed: Exit Strategy (3.20)

Way more successful than its preceding part, if only because all the annoying corporate-takeover shenanigans hilariously vanish. Seriously, that whole element of the plot is entirely removed. Obviously everybody involved thought it was a bunch of ass. Exit Strategy is pretty fine, but it's again frustrating that the sisters (notably Prue) are background players to Cole and his demon drama. Cole is a great character, but the flat villains he's usually paired with are all so 'blah'.