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Saturday, October 25, 2014

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Escapes the "Wolfhouse"

Article first published as MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Review Season 2 Episode 5 A Hen in the Wolfhouse on Seat42F.

ELIZABETH HENDSTRIDGE, IAIN DE CAESTECKER

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. pumps up the fan base with last night’s episode, “A Hen in the Wolfhouse.” In the exciting installment, much comes together as several of our central cast are imperiled or find their secrets dragged out into the open. Relationships are paid off and the danger level is heightened, which is probably what viewers of the superhero film spin-off have been hoping for.

To start with, Simmons’ (Elizabeth Henstridge) position within Hydra is compromised at the worst possible time, just after the evil new security chief, Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki, Friday Night Lights, About a Boy) shows up to hunt down a mole. Corned by Bobbi, things look dire for Simmons, and one can imagine this poor women being tortured. Simmons isn’t built for torture.

Then, lo and behold, Bobbi is secretly S.H.I.E.L.D., too, sent by Coulson (Clark Gregg) to protect Simmons! This not only shows us that Coulson still does are deeply about his people and makes backup plans for them, something in doubt in his new role as he distances himself, but also leads to some really great action sequences as Bobbi gets them away from Hydra. Not to mention, Hydra has been beating on the good guys, and “A Hen in the Wolfhouse” shows S.H.I.E.L.D. winning a hand. It’s gratifying all around.

Bobbi is a fun character, tough and caring, totally badass. Most of the team quickly takes to her when Coulson announces she’s joining them. The exception is Hunter (Nick Blood). Bobbi, it turns out, is the awful ex-wife Hunter constantly moans about. Is Hunter’s bitterness justifiable? We aren’t yet privy to the details of their union. It seems like Bobbi doesn’t hold the same grudge, since she is the reason Coulson recruited Hunter in the first place. Still, it’s great to see entertaining conflict between the two characters.

Another clash comes as Skye (Chloe Bennet) continues to push Coulson to reveal where the symbols she’s working on are coming from. Coulson is defensive, even after May (Ming-Na Wen) recommends he come clean, a real sign as to how much May has warmed to Skye. Eventually, Coulson has no choice because Skye is smart enough to figure things out, and soon she’s in the loop.

I like the tension between Coulson and Skye. Coulson is a good father figure to the young agent, whose own father (Kyle MacLachlan) hasn’t been around. Skye is angry that Coulson shuts her out, as she should be, but Coulson has his reasons. I see why May wants Coulson to bring Skye into his confidence, as she can help, but I also see why he resists, not just to cover his own butt, but to keep a needed hierarchy in place in the organization. It’s a complex situation, one MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. handles well, from the fall out to the confirmation that the fighting doesn’t destroy their underlying bond.

Another mystery opens up with this development, though: Skye has taken the same drug Coulson took, so why isn’t she scratching symbols? Skye’s backstory has been a long-running mystery on the show, one in which we only get small pieces at a time. By relating this now, and having her psychotic villain dad looking for her, the show is signaling a deeper delve into things. Given her father’s powers and Skye’s immunity to the chemicals, might she be of alien origin? That would be really cool! And there isn’t another conceivable explanation offered as of yet.

Unlike the rocky stuff above, Simmons and Fitz’s (Iain De Caestecker) reunion is a happy one, mostly. Fans have been longing for the two to get back together. However, what comes after the pair being in the same place again remains to be seen. Will this screw up Fitz’s budding friendship with guys in the group? How will the real Simmons being there impact Fitz’s hallucinations of her? Will Fitz stay upset about Simmons abandoning him? Did Simmons have a choice about leaving? They come together too late in “A Hen in the Wolfhouse” to begin exploring this yet.

All of these characters are handled extremely well this well, authentic to who they are, but also moving them forward. The same goes for recurring players like Raina (Ruth Negga), trapped between Whitehall (Reed Diamond) and Skye’s dad, who both wouldn’t mind seeing her dead. Coulson might be inclined to help her, but only if she brings some benefit to him, since she hasn’t done anything to earn Coulson’s trust in the past; quite the opposite.

Every hour of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t be as intense as “A Hen in the Wolfhouse.” Sometimes, the story needs to move slower so it can explain things. But overall, this is a very good show, and having episodes like this one pays off the patient fans who have been following along in a big way. It’s appreciated.

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"F-" NEWSREADERS

Article first published as NEWSREADERS Review Season 2 on Seat42F.

Newsreaders Season 2 Adult Swim

NEWSREADERS is back on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim this week for a second run! For those unfamiliar with the series, a semi-spin-off of Childrens Hospital, the name tells you pretty much exactly what it is. It’s a parody of a 60 Minutes-style news magazine, but delivered with tongue-in-cheek humor, sort of like The Onion. Basically, it’s very funny, so you should check it out.

The first episode back is called “F- Dancing, Are You Decent?” and is divided into several segments, despite its roughly ten-minute running time. In the first part, Amir LaRussa (Kumail Nanjiana, Portlandia, Franklin & Bash) examines a new trend sweeping teen pop culture of people actually having sex while dancing. In the second, a correspondent (Lost’s Harold Perrineau) proves people are racist, and when those walking by don’t reveal that ugly side of themselves right away, goes to extremes until they have a reaction that he can pervert into classifying as racism. There’s also a commentary from popular ‘old man’ Skip Reming (Ray Wise).

These segments are much the same as fans of the first season have come to expect. They go after a topic like a normal news reporter would, but then skew it far to the extreme, often with a weird twist few would think of, and milk it for it’s worth. All of the participants are in on the game; this isn’t just a ‘gotcha’ hidden camera show or a Daily Show-esque interview that some people could mistake as real. Instead, it’s completely scripted for maximum effect, and it lands.

The most obvious change in season two is that host Louis La Fonda (Mather Zikel) is sadly gone, though his replacement, Reagan Biscayne (Alan Tudyk, Suburgatory, Firefly), is a worthy successor. Reagan may not share Louis’ Kate Walsh obsession, but he does a fine job keeping the train on the tracks, introducing the various parts of the episode.

A level of social commentary pervades NEWSREADERS. When looking at “F- Dancing,” the trend is not all that far off from the way teenagers actually act. This lends an authenticity that allows the audience to relate to the joke, even if the particular way things are presented would never happen. They then take it a step further, showing what happens when the older generation joins in, and extending the commentary.

Now, the racism stuff is more poking fun at the way CNN and other news networks treat their reporting on racism, not actually pushing forth a political viewpoint as to whether racism is over or not. NEWSREADERS is clearly meant to make people laugh, not to effect change in our culture. It avoids judging anyone or anything real, setting itself in a crazy, fictional world.

The quality of the writing is apparent, and the talent attracted to this project further lends it gravity. Besides those listed above, Reno 911’s Tom Lennon and others appear in the first episode, with a rotating cast over the weeks, allowing many familiar faces to pop in for a spell. The way NEWSREADERS is shot allows a flexibility to include people who might not otherwise be available, given busy work schedules.

It’s difficult to evaluate a single episode of NEWSREADERS on its own. Perhaps if a bad one were ever aired, it would stick out, but instead, the program is consistent and full of small bits, not delivering a cohesive story, but not needing one. “F- Dancing, Are You Decent?” is as good as other installments I have seen.

The premiere episode of NEWSREADERS is available now on Adult Swim’s website, and fresh installments will be airing Thursday nights / Friday mornings at midnight on Cartoon Network.

No "Weeping" For SLEEPY HOLLOW

Article first published as SLEEPY HOLLOW Review Season 2 Episode 5 The Lady Weeping on Seat42F.

Sleepy Hollow 2x05 09

After last week’s disappointing go-round, it’s gratifying to witness SLEEPY HOLLOW’s return to form in tonight’s “The Weeping Lady.” A haunting figure from Ichabod’s (Tom Mison) past begins threatening the women he cares about. It’s not a creature-of-the-week story, though, as the plot ties into a number of threads for various characters, making the struggle matter to the much bigger picture.

“The Weeping Lady” opens with Ichabod hanging out with Caroline (Laura Spencer), who, as viewers may remember from last year’s season finale, is involved in historic re-enactments. The two have become friends, and this bond survives even after Caroline (justifiably) mistakes Ichabod for a single man with whom she could have a romantic entanglement. Sadly, this marks Caroline to be The Weeping Lady, Mary’s (Heather Lind, Turn: Washington’s Spies), first victim, and she’s soon dead.

It’s a shame Caroline bites it. I know Spencer is super busy these days, with roles on The Big Bang Theory and Bones, but she lets us see a side of Ichabod that no one else does. Their involvement in her hobby, which allows Ichabod to nostalgically revisit his own time, is sweet and moving. It’s also a break from the monsters and mayhem. I hope SLEEPY HOLLOW finds someone else to take Caroline’s place in the near future, even if the show risks repeating itself in developing characters.

After Caroline, Mary goes after Abbie (Nicole Beharie), of course, but Abbie survives. It doesn’t make a ton of sense that Abbie escapes what Caroline cannot, but that’s just one of those things viewers have to accept to enjoy a television show. Main characters usually survive; guest stars, not so much. Besides, we don’t really want to lose Abbie.

Finally, Mary learns of Katrina’s (Katia Winter) existence, and the spirit is no match for the witch, who manages to stop her once and for all. Katrina is a formidable foe for anyone, and no one else stands a chance at Ichabod’s heart while she is around.

Is that still true, though, after “The Weeping Lady?” Katrina reveals that she covered up Mary’s death in the past, and this is a final straw for Ichabod, who reams her out for all of the deceptions she has committed. Before the couple can work things out, Katrina goes home with Abraham (Neil Jackson) to protect her cover, further alienating Ichabod. Ichabod is too good a man to just end his marriage, but it’s something he should consider since Katrina is proving to be less than trustworthy and is certainly not around much. Her excuses make sense, but they are excuses, and there’s far too many of them.

While Ichabod’s relationship falls apart, Abbie’s is kicking off, her flirtation with Holly (Matt Barr) heating up. Or is it? Unfortunately, what Abbie doesn’t know is that Holly and her sister, Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood), have an existing physical relationship. Holly definitely prefers Abbie and rejects Jenny’s advances, but that won’t stop some major drama when the siblings learn that they have their eye on the same guy.

Henry (John Noble) slides into the episode because he brings Mary forth in an effort to thwart Katrina. He is subsequently chewed out royally by Moloch (D.J. Mifflin) for endangering Katrina because she’s an important part of his plan. This really starts to fill in some blanks in the overall mythology of SLEEPY HOLLOW and it’s very interesting to see where Henry fits in the villain hierarchy, perhaps a little lower than some might have thought.

The way all of these various character are interwoven, though, is by far the best part of “The Weeping Lady.” There’s a little bit for each of these players, complete with Revolution-era flashbacks, and they all seem to fit together like a well-made puzzle, interlocking, sometimes in unexpected ways, but all part of a singular vision. It really takes a team of brilliant minds to make a show this cohesive, and while not every episode of SLEEPY HOLLOW is perfect (last week’s stinker, for example), this is a fine example of the program at its best.

SLEEPY HOLLOW airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

ONCE UPON A TIME Might Want to "Apprentice" Itself to a Storyteller

Article first published as ONCE UPON A TIME Review Season 4 Episode 4 The Apprentice on Seat42F.

COLIN O'DONOGHUE, JENNIFER MORRISON

This week’s installment of ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME is called “The Apprentice.” Rumple (Robert Carlyle) tries to steal a magical box from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Timothy Webber, Men in Trees, Arctic Air) that would allow him to keep the Dark One’s powers, but without the limitations. Meanwhile, Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) have their first date, a thief plagues the town, and Elsa (Georgina Haig) searches the town census for signs of her missing sister.

I need to start this paragraph by saying I STRONGLY disapprove over the spoiling of Rumple’s character this year and last spring, negating his growth arc from the first couple of seasons. Still, at least “The Apprentice” finally offers a plausible explanation as to why Rumple cannot have a happy ending, mentioning that villains cannot find their bliss because that’s not how the storybook works. It would be nice if this were established before now, but still, at least it’s offered now. In Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) quest to end up with true love for herself, might she also show Rumple a way to finally, once and for all, get back to who he should be?

This week’s ONCE UPON A TIME doesn’t give us any positive signs in Rumple. His quest to get the box from the Apprentice is something every Dark One has attempted, as we see in a Zoso (Brad Dourif) flashback, and it is only done for evil purposes. Rumple is tricking Belle (Emilie de Ravin), the woman he supposedly loves, and taking out innocent men to get what he wants. These are not good signs.

Hook lets his inner villain out, too. It’s one thing for him to get his hand back (which, by the way, the fact that the hand is not really cursed is totally predictable), but it’s another for him to engage in a game of mutual blackmailing and lying with Rumple. True, Hook has never had that catalyst moment, as Rumple did, where he turns over a new leaf and truly proves himself, but fans of ONCE UPON A TIME don’t expect him to behave this badly. It’s a bit inconsistent for the character, and not a welcome development.

Henry’s (Jared Gilmore) actions also don’t make sense. Isn’t Rumple suspicious when his only grandchild, whom Rumple has strangely ignored for awhile despite Henry’s connection to Rumple’s beloved son, suddenly wants to spend time with him? Rumple is too bright to be fooled by the kid unless love blinds him, and there is no hint of that. Their family connection also should have been explored more fully before now, and that’s glaringly obvious when it is approach at this juncture.

The Frozen arc takes a sharp left turn this week when Anna (Elizabeth Leil) accomplishes her task of figuring out why her parents went to the Enchanted Forest and she returns home. One does not expect this, given Elsa’s efforts to find Anna, so there’s definitely more story in their land to tell. I like when the writers surprise me, which doesn’t happen every week on ONCE UPON A TIME, and that kicks this episode up a couple of notches.

Less enticing is the Snow Queen’s (Elizabeth Mitchell) behavior. She appears only briefly in “The Apprentice” to taunt Emma. It’s fine if the show is taking the slow-reveal approach and only giving us bits of the Queen’s motivation at a time. But it’s weird to get so much of her last week, and then just a brief look at her this one that has her behaving strangely with no discernable reason as to why she is doing so. That needs to sort itself out.

I’m sorry if this review has leaned negative, as I mostly liked it. There is just a lot more to say about the complaints than the impressive bits. There are lots of good things to say about “The Apprentice,” too, though. I love how Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas) make too big a deal over Emma’s date, the Lady and the Tramp reference at the restaurant, the hints about Will Scarlet’s (Michael Socha) true mission in Storybrooke, which has to be to find the Red Queen again, and the meta references where the characters basically acknowledge their storybook roots. This style of humor is exactly what the show should strive for more of, as it works extremely well for the premise and makes for entertaining dialogue.

“The Apprentice” isn’t a bad episode, but it’s not a great one either. It is very Rumple heavy, and I like his Dark One stories, but his behavior in Storybrooke is troubling, as is Hook’s. If the characters and tone were a little more consistent, that would improve the overall presentation a lot.

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

THE GOOD WIFE Remains "Shiny"

Article first published as THE GOOD WIFE Review Season 6 Episode 5 Shiny Objects on Seat42F.

Shiny Objects

CBS’s THE GOOD WIFE has a very intriguing recurring character in Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston), one they cannot resist bringing out on a fairly regular basis, thankfully. This week’s episode gives us a peek at the genius who is easily distracted by “Shiny Objects,” letting her take the opening of the hour, and showing glimpses of the way her brain works throughout. It is a fascinating.

Unfortunately, Elsbeth is not the focus of most of the hour. Don’t get me wrong; I really like “Shiny Objects” as an episode. It has some wonderful moments, exciting legal battles, and the type of compelling drama that THE GOOD WIFE is known for. The story is interesting and the characters are well-developed. It’s just, with the Elsbeth-centric opening, I was looking forward to more of the quirky lawyer, and am disappointed she is only in a few scenes, in a relatively minor capacity. Even her love interest, Josh (Kyle MacLachlan), showing up is barely a quick blip. She should get more.

It’s hard to point to one main plot for this week’s episode because there are several. Obviously, there’s the case where Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Dean (Taye Diggs) face Elsbeth in court is important. Then, there’s Kalinda’s (Archie Panjabi) reunion with Lana (Jill Flint), an FBI agent, which is connected to the tale of the law firm’s computer data being held for ransom and the search for the blackmailer. This also leads to Diane (Christine Baranski) having to face David Lee (Zach Grenier). And Alicia has to plan the important announcement of her candidacy. It’s a pretty full hour.

If pressed to pick a favorite subplot of “Shiny Objects,” other than the Elsbeth stuff, I’d have to go with the Diane vs. David Lee showdown. David Lee has an email that Diane needs. Diane still controls the lease for the office space David Lee uses. In recent struggles, Diane has been losing, but now she has a much bigger hand to play. She finally gets one over on him, getting him to give up the email in exchange for her consideration of transferring the lease, not a promise to do so, proving how much more important the lease is than the email. That should wipe the smirk of his smarmy face for an afternoon.

I have to say, though, I’ll be disappointed if Florrick, Agos, & Lockhart moves right back into the old Lockhart/Gardner building. Admittedly, the new space has plenty of flaws, but it’s been nice to get some fresh sets. I assume the former place would undergo some kind of makeover, if for no other reason than to provide three main spaces for the three named partners. But part of THE GOOD WIFE’s strength is that it keeps moving forward, and returning to Lockhart/Gardner would an uncharacteristic step back.

One thing that is not a step back, though it some ways it may appear to be, is the recreation of that famous Alicia / Peter (Chris Noth) press photo on stage. Now, it’s Alicia running for office and Peter supporting her, rather than The Good Wife standing by her cheating man. It’s not repetitive because the power dynamic has shifted so much, even though Peter still needs her more than she needs him, and Alicia has come quite far. It highlights Alicia’s arc and growth more than anything.

Unfortunately, this may also be the end of Alicia and Peter as a couple. They’ve never been all that solid, throughout the course of THE GOOD WIFE, but after Will’s death last year, things have been even more tense between them. When Alicia refuses to give in to Peter’s demand that Finn (Matthew Goode) not introduce her, it almost ends their arrangement, Peter being furious and not used to having to give in to Alicia. It shows us just how far apart the two have become, and makes any type of reconciliation, which is a long-shot before this anyway, totally unrealistic. I hope there are no shippers for the two of them left.

Speaking of shippers, Kalinda / Cary fans will be let down when Kalinda falls back into bed with Lana in “Shiny Objects.” Kalinda definitely cares much more for Cary and sees Lana as a tool she needs to use, and yes, sex is part of that. But I doubt Cary will understand if he confirms what he already suspects about the girls. And any hope that Kalinda could just pick up with Lana after losing Cary disappears when Kalinda finally feels something for Lana, but for the wrong reasons, driving Lana away.

Kalinda has, arguably, the messiest love life of any character on THE GOOD WIFE. Cary is her chance at stability, but (SPOILER ALERT!) since the actress is leaving the series at the end of the year, there’s virtually no chance of them ending up together. I feel like Kalinda only seems put together, and knows what she wants least of anyone. I’m rooting for her to find meaning by the time of her departure, as she deserves it.

“Shiny Objects” is not a “big event” episode (we’ll probably get one of those soon for November sweeps), but it is a fine hour of television, something THE GOOD WIFE manages to pull off most weeks, one of the few broadcast shows to do so. As long as they keep up this level of quality, I’ll watch them forever.

THE GOOD WIFE airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET. (or so, depending on football run-overs) on CBS.

New "Strangers" Among THE WALKING DEAD

Article first published as THE WALKING DEAD Review Season 5 Episode 2 Strangers on Seat42F.

The Walking Dead 5x02 2

AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD has conditioned us to be wary of any new face, as the group has been burned so often by “Strangers” in this post-apocalyptic landscape. That’s why, even as our group comes together more solidly, viewers are likely be nervous around the new cast member introduced this week, Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam, The Wire, Teen Wolf).

Fans of the comic book already know who Father Gabriel is, but that may not help them. While never yet introducing a comic villain as a hero or vice versa on TV, it’s bound to happen sooner or later, given the huge license the television writers take with the source material. Last night’s episode, “Strangers,” does a fine job of both introducing Father Gabriel, and making fans and characters alike suspicious of his intentions and back story. Could he really survive alone in the woods all this time? Why are there strange words written on the wall of the building? The car with the cross that kidnapped Beth (Emily Kinney) seems like it could easily be connected to him. These questions are not answered fully this week, but Gilliam already makes a strong impression with his memorable take on the character.

It’s pretty neat that our heroes still rescue Father Gabriel, despite what they’ve been through. Rick ignores a man Carl (Chandler Riggs) wants to help at the end of last season. Granted, that man is already being torn to bits and they likely couldn’t save him. But even after recently being badly betrayed by Terminus, they take a chance on this new guy, which is a sign their humanity remains intact, if skewed.

Rick’s “three question” test is usually a pretty good way to judge a person’s character, checking their attitude towards others. It doesn’t work on Father Gabriel. If he’s telling the truth, he hasn’t killed anyone, human or Walker. This makes him a very, very rare exception in a world where everyone kills to survive. Thus, he remains an enigma, which is an interesting new take for the story.

As Father Gabriel helps our people find food, the episode spends a lot of time smoothing out the dynamics of the group. The cast has spent quite awhile splintered, and only at the end of last week’s premiere, have they come back together again. This means no one knows that Carol (Melissa McBride) killed a girl. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) banished Carol previously; is that still a factor between them? Some may wonder why Tara (Alanna Masterson), who is seen with the Governor’s people, has joined them. Some characters have motivations that could pull them away from the rest. These are all burning questions that demand an answer.

“Strangers” starts giving us those answers, thankfully not making us wait weeks to deal with them. Rick and Carol have a lovely scene where Rick asks if they can all join Carol on the road. He doesn’t exactly apologize, but that is in the subtext of his words, and it’s obvious that he bears no grudge towards her. Can she get over the past and say the same? Well, the episode doesn’t tell us if Carol is mad or just no longer feels like part of the ensemble (it hints the latter), but she does try to sneak off on her own, so she isn’t fully integrated back in, at least not yet. Hopefully she will be soon.

Carol could be worried about what the others will think if they learn that she murdered a child. The only one that knows is Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), who seems to have forgiven her, and has no desire to remember it, nor tell anyone. Carol’s guilt would be the only thing blocking her here, but that just might be enough to do her in, as she’s, at heart, a good person.

So Carol tries to flee, and of course it’s Daryl (Norman Reedus) that goes after her. They are besties, if not more, and it would suck to see them separated again. Daryl won’t be willing to leave the others behind, even for her, but he also isn’t going to let her go without a fight. Their side trip to rescue Beth when they see the cross car only forestalls this confrontation, but whether Carol chooses to stay or go, at least we can look forward to at least one more adventure together for the two of them.

Tara’s path is smoothed by the fact that she saves Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) life and he vouches for her. Everyone likes Glenn, so if he says she’s good people, they’ll accept her. End of story.

What’s weird is the love triangle that seems to be brewing between Tara, Glenn, and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), considering Tara likes girls but she’s eyeing Glenn. I guess maybe sexuality gets a little more fluid when the choices are so limited, and saving one’s life creates a bond that defies gender? Still, I can’t help but feel that this dynamic may end up like the version of Carol in the comics – a young woman who wants to insert herself into a couple (it was Rick and Lori on the page) just so she isn’t alone in the scary reality, which is an understandable emotion, but not one Maggie and Glenn are likely to be willing to help Tara satisfy (as Rick and Lori refused Carol).

Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) has a different problem than the others. He is accepted well enough, but he has a mission to complete: get Eugene (Josh McDermitt) to Washington D.C. to save the world. Most of the group is sympathetic, but now that they have in Rick the leader they’d always hoped for, they all defer to him and will stand by him. Thus, Abraham only has to convince one man, albeit a man who isn’t very optimistic about their outlook, making it a hard sell. Abraham is right to bide his time, waiting for a moment where Rick will be willing to consider it, and by doing so, Abraham gets what he wants. He’s a smart cookie.

Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) is the one with the cheery outlook on life in “Strangers.” He keeps spinning things positively, and always wants one more kiss from Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). As a fan of THE WALKING DEAD, this signals his demise to me. He isn’t killed this week, but when he’s captured and his leg is amputated by The Hunters (Gareth (Andrew J. West) and his fellow Terminus survivors finally being confirmed to be this group), it’s not a surprise. No one is allowed to be so happy on this show. Bob’s cheeriness is his undoing.

There is a twist hinted at in “Strangers” concerning Bob. Remember, he leaves the church on his own volition and is crying when they find him. I think he was bitten in the basement, which I kept expecting to be revealed, but never was. What happens to people who eat the flesh of a man turning into a Walker? I think we’ll soon find out.

So much unfolds in one short hour, and so much of it is rich, character-driven stuff. THE WALKING DEAD is an excellent show because it can balance these dramatic moments with the action scenes, and by doing this well, “Strangers” is an excellent entry for the series.

THE WALKING DEAD airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

THE 100 Bats Far Above "The 48"


TV Review: ‘The 100′ – ‘The 48′

Article first published as TV Review: 'The 100' - 'The 48' on Blogcritics.

Warning: The following contains some spoilers from the season premiere of The 100.

CW’s The 100 is back for a second season this week. As the premiere episode opens, our cast remains scattered after the chaos of the season-ending battle last spring. Clarke (Eliza Taylor) and forty-seven others have been taken below ground by a group of survivors trying to live much the same way people used to on Earth, hence the title of the hour, “The 48.” Octavia (Maria Avgeropoulos) lies dying from the poison arrow she is shot with, Raven (Lindsey Morgan) is stuck with an unexpected companion, and Bellamy (Bob Morley) tracks a captured Finn (Thomas McDonell) through the forest.

Clarke’s subplot gets the biggest focus, as one might expect, since she is the main protagonist. She wakes up in a white room, confused, not knowing where she is or how she got there. The 100 does a good job of communicating the terror of being in an unfamiliar environment, letting the audience see things through Clarke’s eyes, and only after a bit of action do we find out what’s going on.

Clarke soon meets Dante (Raymond J. Barry, Justified), the leader of the so-called Mountain Men. He and his people are generous, offering the ‘rescued’ teenagers clean clothing and good food. Much of the group is very happy to be there, but Clarke is suspicious, believing the whole thing is too good to be true. “The 48″ doesn’t tell us whether or not Clarke is right, as most smartly-written dramas keep us guessing, letting things unfold in such a way that Dante could be a hero, a villain, or something in between. It will be interesting to see how things with him play out.

Clarke’s story is intriguing, but The 100 is smart to divide its cast because it allows for other avenues to be explored at the same time. Various combinations of personalities can be tossed together, played with for awhile, then remixed to keep the story interesting. For example, Murphy (Richard Harmon) winds up spending time with one of our main group. No one likes him, but by constructing the story in such a way that a beloved cast member is forced to spend time with him, it allows the conflict needed for drama and keeps things moving along. Thankfully, “The 48″ doesn’t end this pairing in a predictable way, either.

What many viewers will be wondering throughout this initial installment is, where are those that fell to the ground from space? Abigail (Paige Turco) and Marcus (Henry Ian Cusick) do show up about two-thirds of the way through the episode. I won’t spoil where they enter or what they do, but one thing is definitely clear: their presence marks a shift in the balance of power. The kids, despite having been back on the planet for only a short time, have their own hierarchy and rules now. Does anyone really think their parents and elders will just join that framework? Of course not. Which makes for another thread I’m anxious to see more of.

Finally, there is one main character who appears to be done in last year’s season finale but is definitely not. I was quite surprised to see this person pop up in “The 48″ and I’m not sure exactly why the writers have decided to keep them. Yet, like most of the other story lines, this one is mysterious enough to draw one in, and I definitely look forward to seeing how the writers get this person out of the corner they’ve written them into.

I’ve striven to tease without revealing, but I found The 100‘s season premiere quite good. It picks back up nicely from where it leaves off, and it begins a number of new plots that should serve the show well.

The 100 airs Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. ET on the CW.