Back when Alias first began, the relationship between Sydney and Jack was one of its most important sources of conflict. The writing ensured that their estrangement was uncomfortable yet relatable, while the chemistry between Jennifer Garner and Victor Garber made sure that, in spite of Syd's outward hostility towards her dad, the two of them were always sort of crying out for a real bond once again. But like so many of Alias' major stories, it's a conflict that's become a little directionless over recent seasons, the writers bombarding us with ill-conceived plot twists or a general lack of interest when it comes to the character's actual emotions.
Friday, July 5, 2013
Alias season four was a victim of major scheduling changes, episodes aired out of order, the year front-loaded with standalone hours in an attempt to attract new eyeballs. I bring this up because it's easy to assume that A Clean Conscience is an episode intended for earlier in the season, forgotten about for months, and randomly dropped in at this point when somebody on the crew remembered it existed, it being a huge filler episode that feels entirely out-of-place considering the hours that came before it. Only it's actually not the victim of a switcheroo at all. While last week ended with Sloane beating a man to death in front of a horrified Nadia, an event crying out for some kind of follow-through, the incident is entirely overlooked here, APO all distracted by the same old stuff as always.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Every year I put together a brief summation of the television I enjoyed or alternatively didn't during the previous twelve months. My 2013 commentary is a little different, all confined to a single post and occasionally lacking the detail I've given previous round-ups. My television viewing has changed, though, along with my own aspirations as a writer. Anyway, television. No real spoilers this year.
Don Draper exists in a state of perpetual control. Gotta be the top dog, the one holding the power, sharing the pie if and as he pleases. But something has changed this season, as if the people he surrounds himself with have experienced those trademark maneuvers one too many times, and they're not going to take it anymore. On a grander level, the world is going to hell. People in the greatest positions of power and respect are being murdered, and it makes a lot of sense for mere mortals, the bystanders, to try and hold onto the few aspects of their lives that they have control over. Man with a Plan is about that struggle, that determination to take ownership of something in a world where power is constantly out of your grasp. For Don himself, however, it's domination that he seeks, a hideously cruel distortion of a universal truth.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
The end mostly justifies the means in Spooked, probably the weakest episode so far and generally an exercise in repetition. Because Felicity isn't actually in a relationship with Ben, the writers have to source material from her perpetual longing. And that's fine, since the show has already done such a successful job of having Ben mostly exist through Felicity's gaze, the guy constantly photographed in slow-motion, the unattainable dreamboat. But part of the problem with an episode like Spooked is that it mostly revolves around their actual interaction, and so far the show is relying on the same narrative trajectory whenever they commit to a real conversation.
There's rarely a time correlation between a relationship falling apart and a relationship actually ending, both parties usually dragging it out far longer than is reasonably healthy. Because relationships naturally inspire self-doubt, the worry that you're not giving enough, or that it's your fault if something isn't working. Both Hannah and Marnie are at that crossroads this week, wondering if they can continue in their respective relationships, or if they're even strong enough to make actual change. Hard Being Easy features some characteristically strong Hannah material, but it's Marnie, unusually, who is the greatest recipient of character growth.
Monday, June 24, 2013
And things grow ever murkier. Alias has gone in this direction countless times over the years, so much that the words "Sloane's allegiances" are enough to break me out in hives. But we keep coming back, regardless of the plot holes or dropped storylines. There's a moment here in which one of Sloane's contacts brings up his short-lived venture as a globe-trotting philanthropist, and what that whole thing was supposed to be, whether his interest in genetic experimentation went anywhere interesting, and just what kind of game he's been playing. Sloane deflects the question, naturally, but it works well as a metaphor for the show itself, how the writers frequently bypass logic or continuity in pursuit of the story they want to tell at any given time.
Despite the plot twists and surprises that seem to make up so much of Alias as a series, it's rare to hit a point where everybody at home is constantly several steps behind the characters on the show. Whenever we've been put in that position before, it's usually because we're echoing the shock and surprise of the protagonists themselves. See Sydney and the Rambaldi manuscript in season one, and how we were supposed to mirror her own reaction, feeling just as taken aback as she was by the strange plot detour she'd encountered. But in Pandora we're repeatedly left flailing around in ambiguity, a whole bunch of scenes ending with characters being clued into something, or experiencing some grand epiphany, that we're all still in the dark about.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
When you've made a name for yourself in television with a hit show, one that captured the attention of critics and audiences alike (how long that acclaim actually lasted being irrelevant), you're pretty much allowed free reign when it comes to your follow-up. In the case of Marc Cherry, hot off the eight-year run of Desperate Housewives, the familiarity of his new nighttime soap is perplexing but understandable. With Devious Maids, Cherry cribs the murder, the opulence and the female friendship from his ABC predecessor, only forgetting most of the parts that made Housewives such a runaway success back in 2004. But I guess if it ain't broke...
For Immediate Release sees Don's internal conflict clashing with the collective togetherness of the people he works with, Joan outraged that his actions make her sacrifice last season ultimately fruitless, Pete once again driven to rage at the thought that he's getting phased out of the company. It's important to remember that Don himself wasn't aware of the public offering engineered by the others, but that their group anger was more a product of his many arguably selfish choices over the years, and not only this specific incident. It's another indication of long-standing tensions surfacing, Don once again growing ever alone.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I don't know anything about Felicity's future. I don't know who Felicity herself chooses, I don't know what roads the show will ultimately go down, or if the series' general quality will be easily maintained over its four seasons. But Boggled brought to mind how, regardless of where his shows end up going, J.J. Abrams can develop incredible opening years. Like Alias later on, there's an undeniable focus that's evident from this early into the show's existence, every plot detour meticulously thought out and pre-planned, every character stinging with relatable angst and drive. There's little drifting, and while the pacing is glacial at times, it's clear that you're watching a show that's arrived fully-formed. Growing pains don't exist in the Abrams universe. Things have a tendency to fall apart eventually, but those debut seasons are things of beauty.
Monday, June 10, 2013
Alias has been many things over the years, but 1970s-style conspiracy thriller isn't one of them. Until now, anyway. Nightingale is more about the tease than anything else, events building to a variety of cliffhangers instead of anything concrete or defined, but it's an episode heavily reminiscent of espionage dramas of the past -- conflict created via characters going in over their heads, all the while unaware that people they know are secretly orchestrating their own dueling agendas. It's a different kind of episode, but one that feels welcome after a season of smaller, albeit entertaining, stories.
Tuesday is an episode split right down the middle, one half more pulpy and interesting than the other, the latter half casually fun but lacking in comparison to prior detours into Marshallville. It's also an incredibly popular episode, which makes sense on certain levels, but one that I've never had a huge affinity for. The first twenty-five minutes of the hour are almost unbearably tense, heavy on the Kill Bill riffs with Sydney getting buried alive while out in the field and contrivance ensuring that Marshall is the only APO spy able to rescue her. It's unsurprisingly exhausting to watch, capitalizing on a universal nightmare scenario (seriously, does anybody not consider premature burial a fate worse than anything else?) and featuring an uncomfortably helpless performance from Jennifer Garner... but the episode sputters out soon after.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Mad Men's sixth season is still coming off like a series of disparate elements, the only real link between each character's personal story being that they themselves just happen to work with or operate in the world of the other characters on the show. It feels more and more like a season built upon a cut-up technique, random bits of story tossed together here and there, small insights into lives formed with the smallest of actual arcs. That doesn't necessarily mean The Flood is another underwhelming episode, however. In truth, it's probably the strongest hour since the premiere, even if it maintains the drifting, unspecific structure that made the previous couple of episodes so troubling.
When we talk about first times, it's usually associated with what society deems to be major turning points. Like sex for the first time, or our first kiss, or first house. But then there are the smaller turning points, the ones that don't get talked about as much, but are equally as intimidating and scary as their more popularized counterparts. Felicity talks a lot about those 'firsts' this week, the mix of fear and excitement as she prepares for her first college party, or the way she's realizing that she could now actually embark on a real relationship with somebody. I've talked a lot already about how low-key this show is, but J.J. Abrams is doing such a spectacular job of exploring those small, usually unspoken emotions that it bears repeating over and over again just how rewarding it is to see them at all. Most of real life is small, and it's rare to see a TV show reflect that so well.
Like Seinfeld before it, Girls could also be described as a show about nothing. Nobody actually seems to do anything on Girls. Characters are usually slumped in front of a TV set, or taking personal calls at work, or dissecting their sexual histories instead of getting a damn job, all of which results in the show effectively becoming Procrastination: The Series. Usually when we talk about delaying tactics in regards to TV, it's related to the narrative itself, the writers of the show staggering events to fill time, or fulfill the series order. But here it's the characters themselves in delaying mode, determined to do anything other than the things they ought to do.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
The clashing between past and present is an important subject here, Nadia struggling to align the woman she is today with the girl she used to be, an issue already present for her throughout a lot of this season, but even more pronounced with the arrival of a crooked old flame. Alias has frequently driven home the similarities between Sydney and Nadia, but The Orphan exploits how their respective differences sent them briefly down vastly alternating paths. Both women spent years under the tutelage of organizations they believed to be heroic, only to discover they were being lied to all along. And while their backgrounds are in parallel, it's the shock revelations themselves that set both women apart.
Something that initially separated Alias from its contemporaries was its thematic interest in duality and double lives, Sydney flying around the world in the middle of all kinds of international espionage, before coming home and hanging out with her friends. Season four seems to be constantly returning to the show's old characteristics, that sense of normalcy having been excised from the show with the departure of Will and Francie, and The Road Home gets a lot of mileage out of dropping Jason Segel's clueless everyman into an environment of guns and hitmen and robotic helicopter weapons. It ought to work in theory, but the execution isn't great.
Monday, June 3, 2013
It feels sort of funny to say that a season with twenty-eight episodes ended up a little rushed, but that's always the feeling I get at the end of another year of In Treatment. Stories build, characters grow in complexity, and the finales are always pulled together with a half-dozen smaller ideas left scattered to the wind. And, once again, just like every year, I come back around and realize that it's life itself in a nutshell -- a commentary on the fact that we're never truly 'done', and that actual individuals don't have season finales.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
If we're to take the title of this week's episode literally, then there's a huge difference between actually having something and merely holding onto it. It's always been a major factor in Mad Men, much of what we have being the mere illusion of a 'thing', truth under the surface being vastly different. I feel like I've repeated that mantra so often in these reviews that it's effectively this show's mission statement. But Joan's recent arc has been one of the more literal variations on that theme. She has a title, and a position, but it's ultimately fruitless. And she only got it through controversial means. The fact that it's constantly thrust in her face, consciously or not, just keeps drawing out the underlying tragedy of her character.
Mad Men is, at its heart, a soap opera. It's heavily serialized, is primarily driven by relationships and the emotions of its protagonists, and generally restricts its characters to three or four prime locations. What it's never truly done, however, is become "soapy" -- its writing static or strained, or overly reliant on contrivance. Its something that sets Collaborators apart from so much ordinary Mad Men, since it sometimes descends into ham-fisted plotting in order to push the narrative forward. Annoying as it is to preface 'average' episodes of this show with an elaborate 'in defense of Mad Men' thing, it's only because of the show's natural finesse that an episode like this one feels off-key in comparison. And so forth.
Whenever teenage characters up sticks and head to college, little time is granted to the adults left behind, forced to suddenly cope with the empty bedroom upstairs, or the lack of noise at the dinner table. Felicity is already approaching college life from a unique perspective, its protagonists high school graduates just as we're getting to know them, but it's welcome and affecting to see so much of The Last Stand distracted by the parental concern of Felicity's mom and dad. They're initially painted as sort of neurotic and frustrating, disappointed that their daughter isn't pursuing their dreams for her, before eventually becoming somber and sympathetic as individuals. It's a neat bait and switch.
There's a really interesting theme running through a lot of this weeks episode related to how people should be, or whether or not we should buy into the expectations that society thrusts upon us, even if they're expectations that are generally considered positive. Most of this also relates heavily to gender, which is becoming a major point of contention on this show. Girls is successful enough on its own as a comedy drama about young New Yorkers, but it also has a real eagerness to comment on how we collectively exist. I'm assuming it'll be a show that sometimes falls apart in this regard, or struggles to say something outside of its somewhat myopic viewpoint, but Vagina Panic worked far better as a statement piece than last week's pilot.
On the heels of the Sark/Anna return, here's another episode influenced by the Alias of old. As a series, Alias has always been heavily reliant on the same bag of tricks over and over again, be it familial complexity, double-crosses, secret agendas or prolonged scenes of characters breaking in and out of various international locations, but only recently has it felt like the writers have been looking more to the past to recreate the success stories of vintage Alias, instead of merely replicating old ideas because it feels at all authentic.
Running just thirty-eight minutes, and featuring a nearly three minute long "Previously on..." sequence, you'd be correct in thinking there was something a little long-winded about A Man of His Word. Where Echoes built over time, A Man of His Word feels like a slow stumble downhill, at least when it comes to events of great consequence. As it is, this is an episode that feels like greater fan-service than its predecessor, single-handedly built around a brief partnership between Sark and Anna, but lacking in the character-centric drama that last week's episode seemed to be building toward.
Something that's always impressed me about In Treatment is that it's never exactly been a ringing endorsement for therapy. There have been obvious success stories along the way, patients coming into their own and recognizing and fixing their problems, but there's frequently an open ending to most of these people's stories: the promise that things will get better, even if there's little tangible evidence that things actually are. This week frequently came back to the idea of therapy as a subject and whether or not it's at all useful, Paul insisting that his sessions with Sunil are greatly improving his well-being, something other characters respectfully disagree with, followed by Jesse wondering if his sessions have at all benefited him. It's a curious position for the show to take, but something that feeds into Paul's general drifting -- he's always seemed to wonder if he's doing any real good.
While I've enjoyed every season of In Treatment, I still don't think I've been more enamored with the show than I was during season one, which exploited the 'one room, many stories' motif to a heavier degree than anything in recent years. But one of my complaints mid-season involved the dramatic leaps and hurdles the writers had to employ to overcome the obvious limitations of the show's premise. Like the suicidal girl overdosing in Paul's bathroom, to keep the drama contained to his base of operations. Season three has fused both extremes together, maintaining the 'one-room' drama that quickly became this show's trademark, but also creating a ton of soapy, detached drama along the way, something that feels uncertain at times, but proves generally entertaining. I'm not sure it entirely meshes with In Treatment's basic sensibility just yet, but I'm eager to see where it's all headed.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
As much as you try, as much as you work at your life, your surroundings, or your sense of self, we eventually all just spin around to the exact same patterns time and time again. Mad Men has often been distracted by the impossibility of change, that trying to break a repetitive cycle is a futile activity, one that only ever leads to disappointment -- the crushing inevitability that life always seems to bring. Like so much of season five, The Doorway is heavily indebted to themes of death and futility, an array of characters working to break down a cycle, only for truth to ultimately smack them square in the chest.
Felicity is probably the one series in the history of television more famous for its hair than anything else. For modern audiences going in blind, including myself, it's the one strange point of reference that has kept the show somewhat relevant to this day. That and the fact that it's regarded as "that old J.J. Abrams show", or the one that he got so bored of that he came up with the anti-Felicity in the form of the college-gal spy series Alias. But going into it with these scant preconceptions ("Hair? Seriously?") actually makes this pilot a genuine surprise -- a tender, small-scale drama about a girl going to the big city and growing up.
Girls is inherently kind of gross. Gross people, gross morals, gross everything. It's a show that expertly dissects themes of youthful entitlement and a very generational type of arrogance, made worse because we're collectively existing in a time of financial strain and little opportunity. It doesn't help that seemingly everyone working on this show is somehow descended from money and power, understandably leaving you with a bitter taste in your mouth at the very thought of this show existing in the first place.
As a writer, something I've always wondered is whether there's much of a gulf between somebody who sits at a desk and creates acts of horrifying murder on the page, and those who actually commit acts of violent atrocity in the real world. Obviously there's a huge jump there, but isn't the creative mindset pretty similar? That to fathom some heinous act of violence when throwing together a new script for, I don't know, Criminal Minds or whatever, is similar in thinking to an actual serial killer wanting to commit a truly horrible murder? There's definitely a psychological correlation there, a desire to push the boundaries of taste and decency, only one outlet for it being far less harmful (though, arguably, no less damaging to society) than the other.
In some ways, Alias' recent detour to standalone city has only made episodes like this one a lot punchier. With Nadia in particular, the last seven episodes have slowly formed the groundwork of her relationship with Sydney, both as agents as well as sisters. Through Weiss, too, Nadia has become a more integral member of the Alias cast, somebody important enough to have her own love interest, along with all the screwy familial intrigue that truly makes you a legit part of the ensemble. Echoes is a neat reminder of the Alias of yesteryear, not only because it marks the return of two major antagonists from seasons past, but also because it seems to grant validation to much of this season's storytelling, things finally coming to a head just when everybody seems sort of happy.
Something that Alias has always bounced back to is that feeling of wanting something in spite of the complications it could bring. Think back to Sydney in early season one, desperate to reconcile with her absent father despite being outwardly hostile towards him. Then there was her relationship with Irina in the second season, mending fences and forging a bond regardless of the fact that it could potentially destroy her long-term. Even Vaughn last year, in love with his wife and sure of her innocence despite the growing evidence mounting against her. In Detente, it is Nadia who similarly experiences that want, growing close with her dad even in the face of a sister who tells her what a monster he is.
Every episode this season has opened up with a small vignette about Paul's personal life, usually involving Parkinson's, but recently revolving around his interactions with son Max. What was made pretty clear this week is that Paul is trying to unravel the mystery behind being an absent parent, and whether you can ever leave your footprint on your child's maturation when they barely see you. It's already effective on its own, but it also ties Paul closer to Jesse, who was discussing similar problems in his session this week. Genetics always bleed through whether you like it or not, but little is greater than the family actively present in our lives.
They say first impressions matter the most, and that it takes a lot to have those perceptions change. It's probably different with television characters, since it's rare to have a ton of literal attachment to a bunch of people moving around on your TV set. But, three weeks in, those perceptions you have about Paul's patients are rapidly changed, characters that seemed troubled but generally pleasant suddenly ugly, all exhibiting nastier qualities. Even Sunil, arguably the nicest new character, received added depth this week that made you question what you thought you knew about him, his actions now creepy and less guided by his supposed naivety.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
This is probably the right time to ask why Alias isn't sucking right now. Because there's something inherently funny about how standalone the show has become, each episode resolving with Sloane announcing that their latest mini-crisis has been steadily averted and that APO should never hear from these pesky villains again. Especially this week, with everybody looking on in glassy-eyed glee at the off-screen dismantling of the Nocturne project, the whole thing strains credibility to the highest degree. And yet Alias remains absorbing as a series, in spite of the plotholes and recent lightweight quality to everything on offer.
It's always interesting to spot when a freshman writer comes to a long-running series with merely a cool idea, regardless of it actually fitting into the show's sensibilities. This marks the Alias debut of Drew Goddard, a Buffy/Angel vet who has since gone on to a host of acclaimed genre features, from Cloverfield to The Cabin in the Woods, and he lands on this show with impressive ingenuity. True to form, this guy. He's clearly arrived with a bag of intriguing concepts, this one meshing together Cold War paranoia with picture-perfect suburbia intrigue, and while there's little in Welcome to Liberty Village that rises above 'cool' territory, it's a fun standalone episode nonetheless.
True to form, these early weeks feature patients entering therapy with what they believe to be a clear understanding of their problems. In some cases, it's more about other people's opinions, but there's still a general semblance of understanding. What Paul is starting to do, like always, is try and pick at those who have turned to him for guidance, forcing them to confront the true issues that are lurking beneath the surface traumas. It takes aggressive coaxing at times, but we're just about able to spot the specific sources of the various issues on offer this year, including with Paul himself.
It's always tricky to review the very first week of In Treatment. Like life, it's hard to get a complete handle on people after only knowing them for twenty minutes. You can obviously get a sense of what makes them tick and what their general personalities are like, but it's only ever surface. So the first week is naturally a little vague, a rough draft of a bunch of new characters rife with dramatic potential. Like always, though, there's a lot to love so far, the surface of these people already rich and intriguing, played by actors that immediately jump off the screen with intensity and anguish.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Throughout the last-minute media blitz designed to save this show from impending cancellation, there's been a sense of doom projected by Mike White, being overwhelmingly pessimistic when it comes to the show's future and expressing sadness over his belief that Enlightened could be the best thing he's ever done. It's a feeling that's been reflected through a lot of season two, that sense of quiet danger lurking beyond every corner, like you're just waiting for a hole to appear and swallow up everybody in the cast. Whether it was the LA Times expose, or Amy's frayed relationships with essentially everyone around her, Enlightened's second season has been frequently unnerving, unexpected considering how quiet and soothing a lot of the show generally is. All of this makes Agent of Change a beautiful surprise, a finale that feels like the end, but which sparkles with enough hope and integrity to make the possible future, whether we end up seeing it or not, a comfortable place to be.
Because it'd be all kinds of obvious if I were to trash everything Lazarus does, instead I'm going to be talking about what might have been, if the show had lived past its abridged first season. If anything, 666 Park Avenue at least ends with a final scene that proves to be the most interesting thing the show ever did -- a gothic, morally complex epilogue that leaves enough up in the air to distract your mind for a good half-hour post-show. That probably didn't read like a compliment, but I promise it is. There was always a darker underbelly to this series, as if a coiled, conniving dragon was struggling to get out and breathe fire all over the place, only for it to be buried under standards and practices and annoying network notes. Lazarus goes there, eventually, but it's all too little too late.
666 Park Avenue has suddenly become a hard show to write about. Due to circumstances outside of the writers' control, it's a series that, in its last gasps of life, greater resembles a mass info-dump than anything else. By rapidly speeding up what we can assume is the entire first season's worth of plot into just two or three hours, the show has sacrificed whatever threadbare characterization may have existed in the first place, leaving The Elysian Fields an episode in which people do things that don't make a ton of sense, while being told about other things by drab third parties.
Friday, March 1, 2013
I had my own Joey. Or my own Dawson, depending on which one you think is the bigger tool. Heh. It was one of those things that started off young, was founded in a real friendship, and occasionally went deeper. And because you're young and you're trying to understand love and emotion, you naturally fall into a sort of romance. Because isn't that just what people do when they like each other? But no matter how far each 'blip' went, it always ended with hurt feelings or disillusionment. We still hung out as friends a lot, even if there was always that undercurrent of 'maybe', or 'what if...?'; but, in the end, as much as we always thought that the problem was that little hint of sexual chemistry, it turned out to be something far less romantic that pushed us apart. In essence, those teenage years are always the turning point, the years where you evolve the most and rapidly become the person you want to be as an adult, and with those mutual changes came differences between us as people. The person I knew, and the person she saw in me, became alien and different and unappealing, and that longing to remain friends despite our shared history sort of dissipated. So we were done.
I can't help but groan a little whenever a TV show jumps into the future, since it so often feels unearned and somewhat unnecessary -- more an attempt to hook new viewers or promote a derivative 'game-changer' that has little effect long-term. But it actually sort of works for this show's series finale. As a show, Dawson's Creek has been almost unbearably suffocating at times, characters so consumed with emotional longing and repeatedly reminiscing about shared histories and romantic false-starts that it all got a little nuts a long time ago. But what All Good Things... does so well is create a necessary bridge in time for the show's ensemble, allowing them all to have grown up and moved on in the five years since we last saw them. As a result, the emotions that would ordinarily feel angsty and irritating feel slightly less frantic -- feelings smoothed out over time instead of being fresh and impulsive. There's a maturity here that carries the episode, and it's one of the more successful uses of a now-standard TV gimmick.
It's funny how much of this episode feels like a TV show, particularly whenever the writers explore Dawson and Pacey's friendship, or lack thereof. One of the key missions here is to get the two of them back on speaking terms, talking about their recent lack of communication and the way their friendship flew off the rails right around the time Pacey shacked up with Joey and how it's never truly recovered. But what really sticks out at you is that the show positions that friendship as something worth saving, or at least worthy of considerable attention. Because isn't it true that most people wind up losing contact with those you knew in high school? Even the people you were closest to? People evolve, circumstances change, communication drifts. And despite the ridiculousness of so much of this show in general, it's the way these kids are so fixated with the past that most easily throws you off.
I guess it's only right to end Dawson's Creek with Dawson acting like a horrendous jackass once again. There seemed to be real attempts over seasons four and five to make him sort of relatable and endearing, but the way he's been removed so heavily from season six probably ensured that nobody on set was particularly invested in making him a good person anymore. I gather that Dawson's absences this year were at James Van Der Beek's own request, but it has this unforeseen consequence wherein you don't care a whole lot about his movie or all the money he's lost. He just comes off like a ghost from the past, somebody who sits in the background assuming things will fall into his lap and becoming aggressive if they don't. Snore.
In its final week, In Treatment once again promotes how different it is to everything else on television. Like last season, anxiety and introspection has been slowly building session by session, presumably about to spill over in this final week. But here is where, traditionally, the show's dedication to naturalism clashes with the narrative's desperation for closure. As a result, you can look at this week of episodes as slightly underwhelming. If you're looking for resolutions and a true ending to the stories of Paul and his various patients, then it's probably not the greatest collection of episodes. But in exposing those small victories, the ones that suddenly grant you the ability to move on to that next phase of life, it's unsurprisingly a home run.
I'm a sucker for a tender moment played over a Mazzy Star track. It's only natural, right? Ice is pretty much built entirely around that wonderful scene towards the tail-end of the episode, Vaughn meeting in a bar with the enchanting Kelly MacDonald and comparing notes on guilt and retribution and how far they've both gone when inspired by other, more dangerous people. Both arrive with a ton of emotional baggage this week, Lauren on Vaughn's mind and his memory unsurprisingly tainted by all those feelings of bloody rage he experienced at the end of last season. MacDonald's Kiera MacLaine is in a similar boat, reduced to clandestine evilness by her shady mad scientist brother.
The Awful Truth represents the 'new' Alias: episodes driven by standalone missions, with some subtle character work as a backdrop to it all. It's disappointing in some ways, but feels somewhat more palatable considering this is the show's fourth season. If Alias premiered with episodes like this one, involving Sydney going undercover inside the home of a wife-killing arms dealer, then it would probably struggle to define itself as anything special or particularly innovative. But what saves the season's initial reliance on this format are the characters we know and love.