Media Consumed, Day 32: 06/08/10

Glee, Season 1, Episode 22 “Journey”

Fact: I’m one of the biggest Journey fans you know, so it’s easy to see why I appreciate Glee’s love affair with Steve Perry and Co. The pilot’s use of multiple Journey hits (among them the criminally underused “Separate Ways”) hooked me early, and the season one finale had me nearly frothing at the mouth by using the band’s name as the title of the episode. But I must say - even with the medley during Regionals, I was slightly disappointed with the lack of Journey songs. [Note - my disappointment stems from a selfish wish to see the group tackle a 45 minute Journey concert with no regard for standard storytelling practices, so take this mini-review with a grain of salt.]

While the series has taken a bit of a dive recently with the Gaga-infused “Theatricality” and the uninspired “Funk” airing last week (one of the season’s low points, in my opinion), “Journey” returned the series to its soaring highs and reminded us - and capitalizing on every opportunity to go over the top - how much fun this show can be when it loses all inhibitions and just goes for it.

I was as surprised as anyone when the Regionals performance came 12 minutes into the episode, as I naturally expected it to come near the end. “Faithfully” was great - boy, that Lea Michele has got some freakin’ pipes - but the rest of the mashup (“Any Way You Want It,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” “Don’t Stop Believin’”) didn’t match the intensity of the initial performance and left me a little unaffected. It was fun to rock out to some Journey, but I think they wasted an opportunity to explore some stuff that we haven’t heard yet (“Be Good to Yourself” seemed like the obvious choice). Finn and Rachel’s reconciliation was fitting with the finale nature of the show. Of course we all expected something like that to happen (ditto with Will and Emma), so I don’t feel the need to discuss those aspects further.

But the structure of this episode was well-conceived, allowing for the borderline brilliant piece of television that featured the birth of Quinn’s child edited against Vocal Adrenaline’s rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I call it “borderline” because I think it walked that line a bit too tightly and tipped over into some iffy territory at some parts, which - naturally - I’ll spell out for you now.

[Quick note: during the Journey medley, I told my friend that if I were a judge, I would preemptively award New Directions first prize based on song choice alone, and tell everyone else to go home without performing. I quickly amended that statement with, “unless, of course, one of the groups did a Queen medley, in which case I’d listen to it, and then award New Directions first prize anyway.” As you’re well aware by now, this exact situation almost came to pass, so I just thought it was funny and semi-prophetic.]

My problems with the “Bohemian Rhapsody” piece are with more than the drawn-out and uninteresting choreography of Vocal Adrenaline: I feel like the introduction of Quinn’s mom (who we haven’t seen in FOREVER) was included exclusively so the cutting back and forth would make sense with Quinn shouting “Mama!” along with the song lyrics. These types of touches are typically kind of cute in this show, but this one was a bit overkill for me. The editing was pretty great for the first half of this performance/birth, but at some point near the halfway mark, it lost its mojo and became too cliche for its own good. This is the balance that the show itself strikes on a weekly basis - it’s so cheesy that sometimes it heads into after-school special territory, but can occasionally turn out a great episode that feels confident and coherent.

Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester’s one liners were a thing of beauty this week, comprising some of the best writing for the character in the series so far. Her confidence in New Directions has been hinted at for a long time now, and for those who claim the first place vote for the Glee club was out of character, the writers came up with a creative way to answer those cries: have Sue be mistreated by the other “celebrity” judges, and play on her self-esteem and spitefulness. Personally, these were my least favorite sequences in the episode; I assume this is partly because of my utter indifference toward Josh Groban and my disgust with Olivia Newton-John and her general demeanor. Also: how is the news anchor any more of a celebrity than Sue Sylvester? At least Sue has won multiple national titles and is a known personality in her niche; Newton-John neglected to mention the anchor would also “stay in Ohio” after the performance was over, undercutting the entire point of her argument.

I’ve also decided that Principal Figgins is one of the most inept characters in the history of television. Blackmail or not, the guy never does anything but sit and listen to Will and Sue argue week after week. Get him out of the picture - he’s useless.

And considering this show’s propensity for breakneck pacing, I’m surprised and pleased that the writers chose to show a bit of restraint in this season finale. I worried that the epic nature of a finale meant they might amp it up and “out-Glee” themselves, but the showrunners wisely took the opposite approach: relationships were left unfixed (or at least, un-finalized; see: Will & Emma, Finn & Rachel), and they didn’t bother going through every character in depth to get a sense of resolve from each of them. Instead, they focused on the major character relationships that have been brewing all season and relegated the others to a series of small montage moments, a move that I found discouraging at first (since I generally like the secondary characters more than the main ones) but have since realized was probably a smart move. Artie, Mercedes, Kurt, and Tina have all had their moments throughout the season, so there’s no need to hurriedly revisit them and marginalize their characters even further.

And, gay as it may be, I enjoyed Will and Puck’s acoustic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to close the episode. I can see many worse situations - most of them literal - in which the show could have chosen to employ that song, but this one was unoffensive and fit well with the quietly triumphant tone that wrapped up an interesting first season of television.

At least, that’s the way I “C” it.

Justified, Season 1, Episode 13 “Bulletville”

If you somehow missed Justified this season, I implore you to go back and catch up on all thirteen episodes this summer. After worrying me in the beginning with some one-off episodes that didn’t matter to the overarching storyline, the serialized nature of the show returned in full force in the form of Boyd Crowder, one of the most interesting characters on any TV show that I currently watch. Walton Goggins does tremendous work playing that character, and tonight was a coming out party for him.

We finally got to see Boyd singled out in the woods, away from other characters and completely on his own in his element. Up until this point, the audience has been unsure as to Boyd’s true motivations: since Raylan is suspicious of Boyd’s conversion, the audience mirrors those concerns. We haven’t seen Boyd alone with himself since his conversion, so there was always the chance that he was putting on a show for people to hide some underlying scheme. But tonight we see that wasn’t the case - barring some epic “old Chinese guy with the fishbowl from The Prestige” reveal, it appears that Boyd truly practiced what he preached after he emerged from prison a changed man.

This was an excellent finale - Olyphant was phenomenal as usual, the episode was action packed, and everyone stayed true to their characters. The shootout in the woods was more tense than it would have been in other episodes since major characters were dying off left and right, so the threat of danger and consequence felt very real. It also raises some interesting questions about next season: what happens with the cartel comes to collect on their investment? Will Raylan hook back up with Winona, or Ava? (For the record, I prefer Winona - both personally and for Raylan.) Is Bo Crowder really dead? Consider me hyped for next season.

[They can’t kill Bo, right? He’s such a great character, and M.C. Gainey does a fantastic job portraying him. It’d be a shame to only have him for one season.]

Media Consumed, Day 28: 05/11/10

LOST, Season 6, Episode 15 “Across the Sea”

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I thought this was the weakest episode in LOST’s history. Half of the episode was devoted to the Man in Black (still no name?!?!) and Jacob as children, asking obnoxious questions to a mysterious mother figure who is actually a murderer. And as she says, “every question you ask will only lead to more questions.” That may be the case, but I really don’t think we’re at a point in the series where that is an acceptable cop out anymore.

Besides being disappointed that there was not a single cut to the current timeline, I kind of hated this episode because we aren’t nearly as invested in the MiB and Jacob as we are in “our” characters - the ones we’ve spent six years with, learning the ins and outs of their personalities and watching them grow and evolve. Throwing us in with Jacob and MiB - especially these characters at varying ages in a single episode - is jarring and feels out of place for the show, considering the important fact that “Across the Sea” really didn’t answer any big questions for us. Look, I’m not a guy who HAS to have every answer, and I’m totally cool with being left in the dark on some things. But this late in the game, and in an episode that was heralded as a game changer? This was weak sauce.

There was an allusion to the frozen donkey wheel, but we don’t know how MiB figured out the science behind it (as if we could comprehend the science of turning a wheel and ending up in the Tunisian desert, but you know what I mean). And the Adam and Eve question was answered, but I didn’t really understand that whole reveal. If MiB is dead in a cave next to his mother, who was talking with Jacob on the beach in the Season 5 finale? Who’s been inhabiting Locke’s body this whole time? I suppose there is some sort of disembodied MiB soul floating around somewhere, latching onto bodies and such, but that still doesn’t answer the question of how MiB looked like, uh, himself while he was talking with Jacob on the beach the first time we saw him. Any thoughts? Please share in the comments section.

The only way I’ll be pleased with this episode is in a retroactive sense, and that’s only if A) this episode is referenced again in flashback and it’s revealed (as suggested by Myles) that a time-travelling Daniel Faraday suggests the Donkey Wheel to the MiB or B) this episode is referenced again and it’s revealed to take place AFTER the events of the show as we know it. Like, all of our characters’ stories come to an end, and parts of this episode are replayed as some of the final scenes in the series, implying that the entire cycle is about to start over again. I don’t know, even that sounds kind of lame. I’m disappointed in Cuse and Lindelof, but still hopeful for next week’s episode (which I’ll see Thursday night at LOST Live - thanks Amy!) and the finale.

Glee, Season 1, Episode 18 “Laryngitis”

Coming off of what I thought was a terrible episode last week, Glee turned it around with “Laryngitis” both musically and in terms of storytelling. Granted, there are the drastic shifts in tone (re: Finn’s paralyzed friend) that this show is known for, but I almost welcome those kinds of decisions if they’re supported by music that fits my personal tastes. Seeing Mark Salling’s Puck sliding across the floor singing Sammy Davis Jr. was a blast, and Santana and Mercedes’ rendition of Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy is Mine” brought me back to the good old days. (I once bought Monica’s album solely for that song, so I was unabashedly singing along tonight.)

If you know me at all, you’ll easily be able to guess my favorite song of the night: Finn’s rendition of “Jessie’s Girl.” The song seemed to fit well in Cory Monteith’s vocal range, and that song is so damn fun it’s impossible not to like. Lyrically, it was perfect considering Rachel’s relationship with Jessie St. James of Vocal Adrenaline, and in the fallout of last week’s “Run, Joey, Run fiasco” it’s clear the show wants us to start hoping for Finn and Rachel to get back together. This kind of posturing reminds me of what Community has been doing with Jeff and Britta over the past few episodes of that series, presenting more scenes with just the two of them interacting and putting their chemistry front and center.

Revisiting the whole “Kurt getting jealous because his Dad’s spending too much time with Finn” scenario seems a bit premature, especially considering they just devoted an entire episode to this topic not too long ago. I think they should have come up with another Artie story and pushed this one to Season 2. Puck and Mercedes’ relationship was almost completely useless, and essentially only served as a way to A) address the fact that Puck shaved his head and B) get Mercedes out of the Cheerios.

It’s strange that we get an episode with so little Sue Sylvester and not even a cameo from Emma, but you know what? I’ll take it. Emma and Will’s storyline always feels secondary to me anyway, so it’s nice to take a week off from that every once in a while. And I CAN’T FREAKING WAIT for next week’s episode (directed by Joss Whedon), featuring Neil Patrick Harris and Matthew Morrison singing Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” 

Justified, Season 1, Episode 9 “Hatless”

I’ve never heard of Jere Burns before, but I’m taking extreme notice after tonight’s episode of Justified. Burns plays the sadistic Wynn Duffy, a guy who absolutely looks like a malevolent maniac ready to snap you in half at any second. He brings such a scary presence to that role…I’m really hoping that Duffy sticks around for at least a full season or two.

As for the rest of the episode, it was interesting seeing Raylan in a different light. I was just talking to my friend Joe today about this show, and he said he stopped watching because Raylan felt invincible and there were never any consequences for his actions. This episode was seemingly a direct response to those criticisms. Raylan, suspended from duty at the Marshal service, didn’t have the swagger that he usually has in spades. He got his ass kicked outside of a bar, (he was wearing a Florida Gators shirt, so all is right with the world), his hat was stolen, and he was essentially acting alone trying to put together the pieces of this mystery and protect Winona from her husband’s boneheaded decision to get involved with the Dixie Mafia. That being said, of course things come to a conclusion that benefits our hero, but at least there was a true sense of danger in this episode (again, thanks to Burns’ performance) and a feeling of punishment from Raylan’s superiors hovering over the events that transpired tonight.

I also thought the T Bone storyline was incredibly effective, and I felt like I’ve known that character from the beginning of this series. The man’s willingness to help a friend in need, and his ability to withstand the brutal consequences was admirable and made for some truly empathetic TV.

Media Consumed, Day 23: 04/13/10

LOST, Season Six, Episode 12 “Everybody Loves Hugo”

This was something I thought we’d never see on LOST: a continuation/semi-wrap-up to the Libby storyline. I’d heard rumors that Cynthia Watros, the actress who plays Libby, was not going to return to the show again, but this episode obviously proves those rumors false. I’m glad, too - seeing Libby in that mental hospital all those years ago was something I was hoping to get an explanation for, and while - in typical LOST fashion - we didn’t get the whole story here, we got enough to satisfy my particular interest in that loose thread.

As predicted, Desmond’s involvement has seemingly sparked a revolution among 815 passengers and their loved ones - moving on from Daniel/Charlotte and Charlie/Claire last week to Hurley/Libby this week. It seems the two worlds are converging as our friends in the Flash Sideways get flashes before their eyes of their lives in the Real Timeline. And after Ben Linus disapproving speaks with Desmond (it’s funny because he thinks Desmond is a pedophile), our favorite Scotsman freaking runs Locke over with his car. I honestly didn’t anticipate that, although it’s fairly clear Desmond is simply trying to incite the same “realization” in John that he, Charlie, Libby, and now Hurley have seen.

Speaking of Ben Linus, I thought Michael Emerson was effective with his very minor role in this episode. The exploding Ilana (I DID see that one coming, after they reminded us of the dynamite’s volatility) got some good lines out of the former Henry Gale, and that guy is just fun to watch regardless of how long he’s in an episode.

I’ve always kind of liked Michael (Harold Perrineau), even though he did some nasty things toward the end of his run. I thought he was one of the more sympathetic characters in the early seasons, so I liked seeing him back where I feel he belongs on LOST. He had a nice bit of explanation regarding the creepy whispers (they’re the voices of dead people who can’t move on), so give this episode some points in the “answering questions” column. Side note - I also really enjoyed Jack’s speech to Hurley about letting go. This is the Jack I’ve been waiting for since Season 4.

And I’m not worried one bit about the on-island Desmond being tossed into that well by SmokeLocke. They can’t possibly kill him off in the “real world,” so I’m sure he’s just a little wet right now, treading water to pass the time.

And how about the promo for next week!? That’s the best use of the insane Willy Wonka voice over since it was used in the actual film.

Justified, Season One, Episode 5 “The Lord of War and Thunder”

While it’s going to be hard to top last week’s great episode, Justified put out another solid entry this week. I’m digging this show - it has straddled the line between procedural and serial well so far, and I’m excited about its potential. I don’t think we’ll ever see a bad performance from Olyphant in this role, and he was great again this week as the wandering Marshal with an attitude. The father/son stuff was handled about as I expected, but the show is laying a foundation for future episodes where I’m sure we’ll see Raylan and his dad facing off on opposite sides of the law. Again, Raylan’s sidekicks and boss are almost non-factors, but that totally works for me - we have no reason to care about them yet, so let us focus on Raylan and his story until the writers finally figure out the team dynamic.

Next week’s episode looks good too, and we got a hint of the danger Ava might be in from Raylan’s old baseball buddy so we have that to look forward to in the next few episodes. If you’re not watching this show, you really should give it a shot. Just jump right in and check it out next week - at least you’ll get an idea of the vibe of the show, and then you can go back and catch up if you want.

Glee, Season One, Episode 14 “Hell-O”

Listen, I realize this show is really gay. But I like it, so deal with it. I was actually in this episode (you can see me briefly in the crowd during Finn’s basketball game - I’m the only one wearing a blue and black long sleeved shirt), so take that as you will.

I should have written about this episode immediately after watching it, but since I watched Justified before writing this I’ve already forgotten some of the things I wanted to talk about. Some things I do remember: this show has never been one for subtlety, and that was especially evident in the song choices tonight. Not a big fan (and for the record, I probably won’t like next week’s either since I don’t like Madonna). So far in it’s early run (remember, this is still the first season!), Glee has sped through plotlines at breakneck speed. Seriously - some of the things covered in the first half of this season would take other shows YEARS to flesh out. I’m not saying that Glee fully develops these plotlines, but they sure do use ‘em up and spit ‘em out.

This episode is a great microcosm of that very point. In it, A) Rachel and Finn’s relationship is established, broken apart, Rachel sings with the Jessie St. James (male lead of Vocal Adrenaline), falls for him, confronts him about him playing her, believes his lie, and Finn attempts to win Rachel back - twice. B) Will and Emma’s relationship is established, broken apart, Will makes out with the adult leader of Vocal Adrenaline, and Emma tells him to take time for himself. C) Sue Sylvester is re-established as Cheerleading Coach [an idiotic move that, when watched in DVD format later, will make NO SENSE. Yes, we as an audience have waited for months for the show’s return, but no time has elapsed in the storyline itself.], blackmails the principal, and regains the trust of Brittany and Santana, enlisting their help in her plot to annihilate the Glee Club (and again shattering continuity, after the dim-witted duo had pretty clearly given up on Sue’s dastardly plans and effectively joined our little band of heroes). This all happened in ONE EPISODE.

Regardless of pacing issues, overall insanity, or the fact that this is a show essentially about musical theater, I’m still glad the show is back from hiatus; I enjoyed the episode to some degree and will almost certainly continue to enjoy this series in the future. Although, I will say that a Journey-themed episode akin to the pilot will do wonders for my personal interests (hint, hint, Ryan Murphy).

And I’m not even going to talk about how weird that Sue Sylvester “Vogue” song was at the end. That was borderline frightening.

Media Consumed, Day 22: 04/06/10

LOST, Season Six, Episode 11, “Happily Ever After”

"I’ve seen something real. I’ve seen the truth." - Charlie Pace

Among the many things I absolutely loved about this episode (as if you didn’t know I would dig it - it’s a Desmond episode, come on!) are these words from Charlie to Desmond in the bar across from the police station. Not only do they describe Charlie’s only reason for existence in the Flash Sideways timeline (heroin isn’t enough anymore), but they are also our first indication about just how this whole “dueling worlds” situation might play out. We know Flash Sideways Desmond is having brief flashbacks to events that were never supposed to happen to that version of the character (ex: seeing Charlie underwater with “Not Penny’s Boat” written on his hand), but I assumed this might be a matter specific to the character: after all, Desmond has always been “special.” But hearing Charlie speak about his vision (in which we assume he was referring to Claire), it appears that Desmond isn’t the only one enduring some crossover experiences. Couple this with the fantastic Return of Daniel Faraday (now Daniel Widmore) and his explanation to Desmond regarding what he may have done to set the world off course (one of my favorite LOST scenes in years), and we finally begin to get a blurry glimpse into the writers’ plans for bringing the alternate realities together.

The on-island story didn’t do much for me here, considering only about a quarter of the episode took place there. The opening was solid, and since Desmond’s love for Penny is a huge part of his life, I think it makes sense that he would be down for helping Widmore at the end of the episode after awakening from the energy experiment. [That being said, I do have one issue with this. The Desmond we know is obviously in love with Penny, they have a kid, etc. But in the alternate timeline, they seemed to hit it off pretty well at the stadium where Desmond met Jack for the first time. He seems to have Penny’s attention in both worlds; perhaps this explains his willingness to go with Sayid at the episode’s end.]

This will go down as one of my favorite episodes of the season, and probably in my Top 10 in the history of the series. A spectacular hour of TV, heightened (as always) by the phenomenal work of Michael Giacchino. His musical choices are not praised enough on this site, but this show would not be nearly as effective without his contributions.

Random observations:

  • Will we ever find out why Liam (Charlie’s brother) was looking for Charlie, as seen in the Sawyer-centric “Recon”? Was that just a throwaway reference, or will it play into the larger story at hand?
  • Did you notice the painting in Widmore’s office? Scales filled with black and white rocks, as seen in SmokeLocke’s cave.
  • This episode could have been about almost anything, and as long as it had Desmond and Daniel in it, I would have been happy with it.
  • That creepy old Eloise: she knows way too much about what’s going on.

Justified, Season One, Episode 4 “Long in the Tooth”

LOST is a tough act to follow on Tuesday nights, but Justified is such a drastically different show that I can appreciate it on an incredibly different level. Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens is consistently badass, and the show’s procedural quality is highlighted with a love for atmosphere that is rarely seen on normal “cop shows” these days.

"Long in the Tooth" was my favorite episode of this series since the outstanding pilot. Aiding in my appreciation was the appearance of Alan Ruck, aka Cameron Frye from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in a supporting role as man-on-the-run Roland Pike. I dug the structure of this particular story - since there was no serialized main storyline we had to follow in this episode, we got the full range and history of Pike’s character all in one hour, and it didn’t feel rushed or forced. Pike was a great character that we could all relate to: the good guy put in a bad situation. Sure, he took things a little too far, but he’s one of the best original characters I’ve seen on TV in a good while.

Raylan got to put his shooting skills on display in the 2-on-1 shootout in the desert, a great scene that will stay in my head for a long time. The abandoned bus set piece was cool, and Pike’s sacrifice to save Mindy and Raylan was an honorable end for an essentially good dude. I don’t quite know how I feel about Raylan’s U.S. Marshal sidekicks in this show; this episode seemed like they wanted to give us a closer look at Rachel, but ended up giving Raylan all of the cool scenes by himself. Either way, I’m hoping these characters (there’s a dude that he works with back in Kentucky whose name escapes me) will eventually either be better fleshed out or die quickly so I don’t have to deal with them.

Overall, “Long in the Tooth” was a great episode of Justified that left me satisfied and was a good indication of how this show can easily stretch its central conceit into multiple seasons of entertaining TV.

Favorite Character in this Episode: The crazy guy who lost a leg to diabetes and ended up with Pike’s car. His refusal to play ball with the Marshals was admirable. That dude had some moxie.