Welcome to another week of television viewing pleasure. I’d really like to see what other people think about some of the shows (or other shows for that matter), just to see if we’re on the same page. I have decided to add a new feature to the weekly TV Thursday roundup, at the bottom I’m going to add a “best of the week” and “worst of the week” episode, one single show that I think did exceptionally well or ridiculously poorly each week. I’ve also decided that I’m not going to be reviewing non-dramas. Last week I threw in an episode of Toy Hunter, but honestly, these things don’t have plots, there’s not much to review so I won’t bother. It just seems silly to put in Mythbusters and say “I liked the way the car exploded this week!”
Arrow #1×01 – “Pilot” – I’ve been worried about Arrow, the newest DC television venture. It was originally billed as a spinoff from Smallville, a show so horrible, at least at the end, that I never wanted to see anything similar. The same team put together the abysmal pilot for Aquaman so I was seriously thinking about just skipping this outing entirely. Then I heard it wasn’t going to be like Smallville. In fact, after a while in development hell, it was supposed to be nothing like Smallville. So I gave it a shot and you know something? It’s actually pretty good! It’s much darker than the Smallville Green Arrow, but darker in a good way. It tells the story of Oliver Queen, billionaire party animal, who was stranded on a deserted island alone for 5 years and forced to learn to survive on his own. When he is finally rescued, he comes home changed, to find the city he left overrun by crime. He discovers that his father was involved in much of the criminal enterprise in the city and sets out to right all the wrongs that his father helped foster. He adopts a green-hooded persona that is not afraid to kill with his titular arrows, unlike the angst-ridden nonsense that we see, both in the comics and in Smallville. Here, Green Arrow is an anti-hero, who ultimately does good, using methods that most would term evil. From what I’ve seen so far, no one in the series is what they seem, everyone has a dark side. I really like that, people aren’t happy, shiny individuals, they’re layered in shades of gray. One thing I really enjoyed is realizing that Oliver’s ex-girlfriend will, hopefully soon, become Black Canary. That was a fantastic move. So long as it keeps this tone, I’m in for the long haul. Highly recommended for comic fans.
Bones #8×04 – “The Tiger in the Tale” – The team investigates a homeless transient who gets involved in the illegal animal trafficking trade and ends up dead. Bones seems to think she’d make a good Presidential candidate (she’s wrong) and Sweets and Daisy break up. Okay, let’s look at the worthwhile part first, the actual case. It wasn’t bad per se, I just didn’t buy into a lot of the overly emotional displays from Bones, especially when she found out the trafficker had killed the Siberian tiger. A little over the top there. Where the episode didn’t impress was Bones and her whole candidate thing, which was largely a waste, and worst of all, Sweets and Daisy. I’ll be honest, I hate Daisy with a burning passion. She’s an annoying pain in the ass and I’ve hated her since the first episode she ever appeared in. But, while I wouldn’t mind someone dumping her in a river wearing cement overshoes, the problem here was Sweets. What an asshole. The idea that Mr. Psychiatry doesn’t understand that moving in with someone is a big deal is idiotic. It’s one of the things I really hate about the ultra-liberal side of some of the characters on Bones. These aren’t people I have any interest whatsoever in spending time with. Maybe we ought to make cement overshoes for two.
Castle #5×03 – “Secret’s Safe with Me” – When a murder victim leaves a message scrawled in her own blood, Castle and Beckett are led to an auctioned storage locker, convinced the secret must be inside. Ultimately, it leads to high society and a butler hiding from a crime he had committed 20 years before. Decent episode but all too predictable or absurd. The message in blood turned out to be upside down, the number of the storage locker. Why would she write upside down? No explanation. The secret is hidden inside an expensive doll that Castle presented to the captain that hates him, thus smoothing out ruffled feathers. When he realizes where it is, he doesn’t go and carefully remove it, since clearly it must have been put into the doll somehow, he just goes into the captain’s office and starts throwing things around. And when he realizes he’s made a mistake, multi-millionaire Richard Castle doesn’t offer to replace the dolls and rectify his error, he shrugs and walks away. Oh well, she hates him again! Blatantly stupid.
Castle #5×04 – “Murder, He Wrote” – A couple of shows, Castle and Bones in particular, have been difficult because they show at a time during the week where sometimes I see the episode before Thursday and sometimes I don’t. As such, I’ve usually been a week behind. Since Bones is now going on hiatus until November, I might as well get back on schedule by reviewing two episodes of Castle this week. This time, Castle and Beckett plan a romantic getaway at his place in the Hamptons, when a dead man literally falls into his pool and they’re off on a case, unofficially, to help the understaffed and underequipped Hampton police department. Meanwhile, Ryan and Esposito go on a hunt to figure out who Beckett is dating. In the end, a drug war, an affair and a man who can’t tie a knot get involved in this vacation mystery. Ryan actually does discover that Beckett and Castle are together but opts to keep it quiet, knowing the trouble they’ll get in if it comes to light. This was a fun episode. It was great for Beckett and Castle to finally get some time alone, or at least desperately trying to be alone, in the midst of the murder mystery. I really hope this whole “we have to hide our relationship” thing goes away soon, it is pretty ridiculous when they’re just walking through the station talking about it loudly and nobody overhears. Let them be together and get back to solving murders.
Fringe #5×03 – “The Recordist” – Last week, we discovered that Walter left a number of video tapes explaining the previously thought lost plan. They had to discover the tapes, in order, to discover how to rid the planet of the Observers. At the beginning of this episode, Walter and Astrid are burning through the amber again to retrieve one of the tapes in the lab. Okay, wait a minute. Walter said he hid these tapes so nobody could find them, then he leaves one sitting 10 feet away? A little sense here please? But, as I pointed out last week, that isn’t really the biggest problem, he hid these tapes but gives no inkling of where he might have left them. The first tape they watched didn’t say where the rest were or give any clue where to start looking. This tape, the third in the series, again gives no idea where to find the next tape in the series. If Walter has no clue where to look and he left himself no clues, how is he supposed to find them? You might say that the clues appear on another part of the tape that isn’t shown on TV, but one of the hallmarks of good writing is “always show, don’t tell”. If they don’t actually explain in the show how this is happening, then the audience has no reason to think it actually is. Anyhow, on to the episode, where the third tape sends them out into the middle of nowhere, where they find a tribe of historians who are infected with some strange bark-like skin condition. The source of this infection is an old gold mine where the Walter of 21 years previous had hidden a special substance that is crucial to the plan. After the leader of the infected historians sacrifices himself to retrieve the red rocks, the Fringe team makes good their escape, eluding the closely pursuing Observers. I’ve already said how absurd the whole tape thing is, especially given the “we hid the plan in Walter’s brain so nobody can get it, but there is an easily accessible backup…” They’re starting to turn the Observers into magical beings who can read minds and do miracles when they were only supposed to be advanced humans from the future who wanted to escape their fate. 10 more episodes and this crap is over. Thank goodness.
Haven #3×04 – “Over My Head” – When a swim teacher is attacked by a shark in a swimming pool, Audrey, Nathan and Duke, who is just hanging around to piss off Nathan, are on the hunt for another troubled person. However, when a seemingly random string of people start dying in water-related calamities, they have to put the pieces together and figure out who is responsible and how it’s happening. In the B-story, Nathan discovers that there is a centuries-old group operating in Haven called the “Guards” and discovers that one is working at a local cafe. He works to get into their organization to find out more. There was nothing especially good or bad about this episode, it was pretty middle-of-the-road as far as Haven goes. After the last couple of episodes where the nature of Duke was in question, it’s nice to see that he’s really still playing on the side of good and that Nathan was wrong to doubt his intentions.
The Mentalist #5×03 – “Not One Red Cent” – Not really sure what to make of this, it was a pretty run-of-the-mill episode all-told. Jane is getting his shoes repaired when a bank robbery breaks out across the street. In the robbery, a bank vice president is brutally murdered, something that hadn’t happened in previous robberies by the same gang. Jane and Lisbon find that the vice-president wasn’t killed by the robbers, but by someone who worked in the bank, using the robbery as cover. The mystery really comes off as pretty contrived and the wrap-up at the end rather silly with Jane doing a hot reading of bank employees to figure out who done it. Mentalist episodes tend to be pretty hit or miss, they’re either really good or… meh. I don’t think there have been many that were really bad. This one just felt more like a filler.
Walking Dead #3×01 – “Seed” – After the last season, when they clearly had 6 episodes of plot and 13 episodes of show, I was quite worried about the first episode of the new 16-episode season. They kept the pace glacially slow last season, to the point that a lot of people just bailed out on the series. I had a lot of fear that we might be in for more of the same, in a show that I really want to like. Luckily, in the first episode where everyone was looking forward to the prison and the official introduction of Michone, they did mostly fine. As I said, they get to the prison, mow down a yard-full of zombies and get inside. Once inside, low on ammo, they go hand-to-hand with more walking dead until they are in control of a cell-block where they set up camp. They restock their ammo and head out to reach the cafeteria and armory, but run into a few more zombies. Um, guys? You have ammo now. Shoot them? But no, they run away and get separated, ending up with Hershel getting bitten in the leg. Rick, instead of remembering that every time they’ve hacked off bitten body parts before, it hasn’t made a bit of difference, whacks off Hershel’s leg. Why? Why not. The one thing that bugs me about most of this “no ammo” stuff is that Daryl clearly has a quiver-full of arrows. You can shoot them all day long and retrieve them from the dead zombies. So why doesn’t he use them? There’s no reason to get close to any of these zombies and anyone who has lived in a zombie-filled world would never have done what Hershel did that got him bit. Finally, this whole thing between Rick and Lori is just obnoxious. They went through a whole winter together and they’re still pissed off at each other? Grow the hell up already. All in all, it’s a promising start and I’ll try to be optimistic from here on out.
Top Pick of the Week: The pilot episode of Arrow. To go from something I was really dreading to something I absolutely enjoyed, the award can go nowhere else. It isn’t particularly comic-accurate to say the least, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve always been of the mind that comics are their own thing, movies are their own thing and TV is it’s own thing, none of them should be, or even can be, identical. Some things TV does well, some things the big screen does well and some things, the printed page does well. To expect them to be equivalent is absurd.
Bottom Pick of the Week: I have a feeling Fringe is going to spend all it’s time here, this just isn’t the fantastic show it started out as, I don’t think they had a clue what to do with the series after it got picked up for a second season and from there, every decision, particularly when dealing with the show’s mythology, has been wrong. It went from a show that everyone talked about to one that I think even the most enthusiastic fans just want to be done with. These aren’t the characters we cared about, the world we cared about, the series we cared about. Sort of like Heroes, it was great for a short time, then it totally lost focus and devolved into inanity.