Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Once Upon A Time', 'The Good Wife', 'Dexter', 'Homeland'...

TV Talk for Sunday, December 11th 2011 - Officially marking the one week anniversary of this column!

Once Upon A Time (ABC, 8pm) - S1, Ep7: "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" - I would just like to start by saying that the promo departments of networks never do any favors by teasing a big death in an episode that is diving into a particular character's backstory. That leaves absolutely no wondering about who could possibly be dying. Thankfully, though, I have come to peace with that fact about television a long time ago, so whether or not the Hottie Sheriff (Jamie Dornan) is actually, permanently dead, or not does not plague me as much as some going into this holiday hiatus. I do admit that it would be far more interesting if he was still alive but all of his new/old memories were gone-- one good squeeze being all he needed to "fall back in line." But what does plague me is how Graham came out of nowhere. Since he has been barely used in previous episodes, I can't help but wonder why he had to kiss Emma (Jennifer Morrison) to trigger the memories-- and if Emma kisses other people in this town, will they have triggers, too? I mean, it's a long shot, and her options are limited for who she can kiss because incest may be trendy on TV right now, but it is not family friendly, but I'm still curious. And if it's the case, I want her to slut it up right fast so the curse can break, and we can see these people dealing with...whatever comes next. Too bad she doesn't have any options. I mean, other than Graham, and you know, her dad, would you kiss anyone in that town!? For a land that deals in so many princes, we really have yet to see enough pretty boys! I was fascinated by the idea that he "needed to feel something" and he did with Emma-- and perhaps with Regina (Lana Parrilla); it reiterated, to me, that everyone in Storybrooke is stuck, not only in place and time, but also in numbness. They're existing there, but as long as they're not "free" to live the lives of who they were meant to be, they are not really living at all. That's why Emma fits in so perfectly; she has built up a wall-- a guard-- to keep herself numb so no one can ever hurt her. None of these characters know what they're missing. And I'll admit that when I saw the pilot, I thought Graham was the wolf that stopped Emma from leaving town, even though I knew that made no logical sense. Everyone in Storybrooke may have had a secret past they could no longer remember, but they were still human, and they certainly weren't morphing from one form to another. It broke my heart to find out that the wolf was his brother-- the love he lost when the curse was enacted. It broke my heart more to learn Dornan was allergic to the wolf and therefore we shouldn't get too attached to seeing them as BFFs again. Knowing for sure that Graham was also the Huntsman (in the fairy-tale world) that failed to kill Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) made so much more sense after seeing his explanation for his kills. The Evil Queen thought he was a ruthless hunter who could and would take out anyone, but an innocent girl goes against his code. Sure, he'd kill animals for food and such, but he'd feel bad about it. When it came to people, well the ones corrupted would deserve it; hell, by that logic the Evil Queen deserved it. So Graham, now that he learned who/what Regina is, should want to put a stop to her, even if her true crimes were "from another life." But a few things still make little sense to me, like if the Evil Queen truly did rip out his heart in the fairy-tale world, why did he exist in Storybrooke at all? I mean, shouldn't dead be dead, even in fiction? Snow's dad doesn't exist here (...or does he!?). I assumed he existed there because Regina/The Evil Queen wanted him to, and in that, I find Regina/The Evil Queen increasingly fascinating. She clearly is a spoiled child inside. When she doesn't get her way she stomps her feet and...squeezes hearts, apparently. But it's nice to finally have solid proof of how much control over the curse she has. And how little control she has when her seemingly very real emotions get involved.

PS Dornan could not remind me more of Emile Hirsch. An accented Emile Hirsch, but every time he was on-screen, I couldn't not see Emile Hirsch.

The Good Wife (CBS, 9pm) - S3, Ep11: "What Went Wrong" - Any Kalinda (Archie Panjabi)-centric episode is a good episode! But sadly, this was not actually a Kalinda-centric episode, the CBS promo department just knew we felt long overdue for that and lied to us. Since it allowed for room for Kurt Fuller (I'd like to jail a few people for syntax, too!) and Wendy Makkena, it could have been worse. Still, I hate to say it, but I don't have much to say about this episode. Or even this show this season. When writing is witty, sharp, and complex, it inspires me to respond to it. To that, I will say a thousand YEAs!!!!! to Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Kalinda going to bat for each other again. Betrayal cuts deep, but technically Kalinda never betrayed; she simply stayed quiet about a past indiscretion. So to see them finally move past it, even if not truly coming to terms with it, was a step in the right direction for me. Those two are the best when putting their heads together; every misstep Alicia has had this year (and believe me, there have been a lot!), I like to think was because she doesn't have Kalinda by her side, the true brains in the operation. Also, I liked watching Wendy Scott-Carr (Anika Noni Rose) get her ass handed to her, but I liked her prepping to hand Peter (Chris Noth)'s ass to him a whole lot better. I don't accept condescending tone or behavior from anyone. Anyone. That goes for characters (Alicia and her instance on that stupid private school included) and my once-favorite shows, too. When writing is terrible, obvious, or repetitive, it screams at me to call it out.
To that, I will say Peter is still the worst. Now for whole new reasons. But Dana (Monica Raymund) is pretty bad, too. Just because something doesn't go her way, she assumes misconduct? Perhaps she should turn the cynical eye inward because just a few moments earlier something that seemed highly unlikely did go her way. Her sense of entitlement worried me because I fear the show itself may be adopting that attitude. When writing is mediocre, I am left shrugging my shoulders, spending only an hour on it, rather than the extra moments it would take to jot down my thoughts. What did inspire a spark in this episode, though, was how Alicia finally came out and said that she was not in love with Will (Josh Charles). It was so damn brief, and it was something that I think has been quite obvious for awhile-- almost immediately since the series returned this season-- but I have been itching for them to actually explore it. What was so amazing about the Alicia/Will relationship last year was the tension that was building. They wanted each other; they danced around each other; they thought they were right for each other. But often the grass is just greener because it's on someone else's lawn-- a lawn that you're not responsible for maintaining-- and now that the itch has been scratched between them, so to speak, they are actually proving to be quite bad for each others' lives. So why isn't the show exploring that? Even if the characters aren't ready to have that conversation, the show should be portraying it subtly, as they have with every other character nuance. I know Alicia won't take the step; she stayed with Peter long after she should have left him because it was "easier." Can Will really be the same way? Afraid of hurting her feelings? Afraid to "give in" to what Diane (Christine Baranski) wants? Perhaps they fear angering the shippers or perhaps they're not yet sure how they want the relationship to fully play out. But I have come to expect more from this show, and interesting cases (and tonight's "snap switch judgement jury" was certainly interesting) are only one piece of the used to be/should be thousand-piece puzzle. Remember that sense of entitlement I talked about a few minutes ago? Will always had it, and I let it slide because Alicia "knew him when" and could vouch that he was cool. But now she has it, too-- and about more than just the school issue. I expected Peter to resort to bribery-- hell, I expected this whole investigation to turn to him eventually-- and though I don't support it, I was not surprised by it. He has always been a man of little character (the show started with him cheating on his wife with a hooker, for crying out-loud!). He can't disappoint me because I don't hold him in high regard. So, sure? Let's not worry about the kids getting taught by irresponsible, potentially unqualified people-- kids, who, by the way, will now include his own, but really, who cares about their welfare when you can just buy their way into an Ivy, too, right, Pete!? Like I said, he's the worst. But with Alicia-- I don't know if I should blame Will this time-- if being with him brings it out in her-- or if her rise to confidence in her professional life contributes, too. I just don't like it. She's not the woman I once wanted to root for. I only hope that when the truth about Will and Peter comes out, Alicia feels ten times more betrayed than she did with Kalinda, and that snaps her out of her current fog.

Plus, another show taking a swipe at bloggers? Pass.

Dexter (SHO, 9pm) - S6, Ep11: "Talk To The Hand" - Today is a beautiful day, or so sayeth Colin Hanks, because today is the beginning of the end. That line perfectly sums up my feelings on this sixth season. Let's just get it over with so we can hopefully move onto bigger and better things. Though if the show goes where Sara Colleton so clearly has wanted it to for at least two seasons and explores a Deb/Dex romance (they're not blood related!)-- even just in Debra (Jennifer Carpenter)'s mind, I'm not even going to entertain the idea of watching another episode, let alone another season. If that's what she wants, she should just be writing fan fiction on the internet like the rest of the crazies. Which I won't discuss or we'll have a much longer rant on our hands. So let's go back to Hero Dexter (Michael C. Hall), because clearly it is the "hero" aspect that I fell in love with, as seemingly, did Deb. As little girls we were programmed to want to be rescued, right? At that's what he has always done before. And that's what he did again here. This time around when Dexter glanced at the woman in the waiting room of Miami Metro Homicide, he didn't have to wait a day or even an hour until it was too late to stop her. She was walking into his sister's office-- because it may be six years later, but Deb still makes the same dumbass mistakes. "Wormwood? How the hell would she know about that?" Well, by all means, welcome her in! Why don't you bake her some cookies while you're at it? I've never been a religious person, but I've always believed that things happen for a reason. I have to believe that Deb was promoted to be the patsy for LaGuerta (Lauren Velez)'s games because if she's seriously the best Miami Metro has, they really are all doomed. She's come a long way but...she had a really low bar to start with. Also, as far as she's come, tonight's episode set her back twenty-fold. Similarly, since I'm not religious, that might explain why I just don't understand Travis (Hanks)'s desperation in needing to believe everything, including Beth (Jordana Spiro)'s "sacrifice" was part of "God's plan." It just sounds like he's grasping at straws so he doesn't have to face what inevitably he knows deep down: HE did all of this; HE is a bad person; HE can't be justified. It's an interesting statement for the show to make, taking swipes at religious zealots in this way, making them seem like unstable nut bags. It's a good thing they have Angel (David Zayas) who so willingly talks about his own faith and Quinn (Desmond Harrington) who wears a flashy gold cross to even the score, huh? They're damaged, but not nearly as severely or sociopathically so you can't prove it's religion's fault. I also don't care about the Matthews storyline-- I don't think it's really necessary or interesting-- and mostly I don't believe it. I kept thinking he was covering for a son or something. If it's not going to go there, don't waste screen time with it. I'd rather see consequences of Dexter's should-be-residual respiratory issues, and an explanation for his idiotic digital message to Travis (that is so easily traceable!), and the Louis (Josh Cooke) of it all. More and more it seems like he may even have a connection to the Dorseys. In addition to, you know, spying on Dexter through that weird search engine onto which he turned him. He should be just a genuine
(albeit weird and not as smart as everyone thinks he is-- a handwritten package? You can easily trace that, too, fingerprints or not) kid trying to connect with the big hero, but this show has taught us no one is genuine; be suspicious of everyone. In Dexter and in life. And I'm increasingly suspicious of the show's expositional dialogue: do the writers and producers think we've gotten dumber? Or have they, unable to keep track of all of the balls they have in the air at this late stage in the game? "How did I get so lost?" Dexter asks to close the episode. Well, I'm left wondering the same thing, show.

Homeland (SHO, 10pm) - S1, Ep11: "The Vest" - Congratulations, Claire Danes; there was Emmy chatter for you before, but this episode clinched it. Spiraling into mental illness? Surefire way to win awards. Well, she already knows that. I've been fascinated with bi-polar disorder since high school when I did my English class thesis on the disease, turning in a draft of a feature independent film script instead of your typical twenty page research paper. I was thrilled to see a show finally decide to take it on and then disappointed when Carrie didn't descend. But that disease is as much a ticking time bomb in her body as the actual bombs in the briefcases, so of course it would go off at the eleventh hour. And it was the single best piece of acting I've seen on television in a long time, let alone better than anything I've ever seen her do. So much of mania comes from paranoia, but this time around Carrie is actually onto something. And that's what is most heartbreaking about her disease; no one takes her seriously when she is in it but she's not wrong. Her brain still remembers her work, even if it's buried deep under some riddles and metaphors. It's too bad she kept her secret from Saul (Mandy Patinkin) this whole time or he could have been working with her to decipher her riddles, and they might stand a chance in this fight. I don't really think he's good enough to just have it all snap into place now; that felt oddly rushed and unrealistic for the old man who can barely type. She can do what she does because of the way things fire in her brain; his brain doesn't work that way. The fact that he could see her pattern was nothing short of a miracle. And okay, maybe the aide of color coding. But anyway, I don't know that I want them to stand a chance now. I love Brody (Damian Lewis). I don't feel he's entirely wrong in his desire for vengeance. Led astray, a bit, sure, especially if he's going along with a plan that will end up hurting other innocent kids like Isa. But if I lost someone I loved like that, it'd be easy to justify violent actions against those who hurt him. I don't have a "fall in line" mentality normally but there'd be no re-programming or brainwashing needed. I don't want him to forget how bad it hurt when Isa was killed, but moving past such grief looks different for everyone. In this episode, he didn't do that; he simply fell back into a cushy American life-- one that drops a veil of complacency over so many of our eyes. Staying here-- staying like that-- for too long will have him forget his mission and his motives and then Abu Nazir will come looking for him. Moments like those, much more than these moments of him merely questioning based on others' reactions to, well, nothing, would give him his "I want an Emmy" episode as he deals with despair of a different kind. If this were a procedural, it would be one of his kids who gets harmed along the road to his big moment-- most likely harmed at his own hand-- and that would get him reevaluating the orders he accepted. This show is smarter, more complex than that. Yet even if it meant dumbing down the writing a bit, I'd be okay with one of his kids becoming a casualty in Brody's new war. Because his kids are the worst. You would think they were the terrorists. The bratty teenage girl? Well, her father was presumed dead for eight years, she finally got him back, and she can't be bothered to peel herself away from her scuzzy boyfriend in order to spend a weekend with him. And then, as right as she was that her dad was being weird, she points it out as if she even knows him-- as if she ever really knew him. She only thinks he's being weird because it serves to help the show's evidence against him. And the boy? He's just dumb. Doesn't know that Philadelphia is in the North? I fear for kids today. You have the internet. You should be better versed than all of us! Maybe if I grew up so savvy, I could have considered the idea that it wouldn't be Walker (Chris Chalk) who ended up working alongside Brody but Carrie herself-- even if inadvertently. That is the way to do converging stories!

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