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Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e02 – New Eden

This episode certainly doesn’t do anything to “solve” the Anson Mount problem—i.e. Mount’s leagues ahead of anyone else on “Discovery,” past and present, as far as commanding the show. He’s a TV show lead. It’s almost depressing to see Sonequa Martin-Green in scenes with him because she’s already had the indignity of being the first potential Black female captain on a “Star Trek” and now she’s just second-fiddle to Mount. Mount’s so good you’re tricked into thinking “Inhumans” might be all right, just because he’s so good on “Discovery.” No wonder people want a Mount-led spin-off.

New Eden feels like “Star Trek” for more reasons than White male captain; it’s got Jonathan Frakes directing, it gives the bridge crew something to do besides look at each other when Martin-Green pisses someone off, it’s got a very “Star Trek” main plot and a very “Star Trek” B plot. The A plot is about the ship finding this far-flung planet in the Beta Quadrant (I used to know everything about “Star Trek” quadrants; not any more) and on this far-flung planet is a human settlement. Now, it’s far enough away from Earth they can’t be settled, but there they are, complete with a church. It feels like a budget conscious “TOS” episode, where they find a civilization dressed in leftover frontier costumes Paramount had laying around. Throw in Mount and Martin-Green gently arguing about whether or not the Prime Directive applies to the people and some religiosity stuff and it’s like a mix of “TOS” and “TNG.” Very cool.

The B plot has Tilly (Mary Wiseman) figuring out a way to save the planet from an impending… asteroid swarm. Something. Lots of tense action, which Frakes does all right with but not exceptional. It’s all about the human adventure for Frakes and he does well with it. It’s taken seventeen episodes but Doug Jones’s Saru finally has a non-obnoxious scene. There might have been one in the first season but I think I’d remember it. Though then there’s the whole thing about alien Saru getting a lot less obnoxious because he’s second-fiddle, rank-wise, to Mount.

Okay stuff for Anthony Rapp—seriously, the show is wasting him so far—and the mysterious “Red Angel” C plot, which is going to bring in Spock and tie everything together. The Red Angel stuff seems a wee contrived for a “Star Trek” show and I really hope it ends with the introduction of Sybok and a trip to the center of the galaxy but I’m not hopeful.

“Discovery”’s much better, two in, this season than last. Though the “up next” teaser at the end threatens the Klingons; they’re always good for dragging the show down.

Also Sheila McCarthy shows up for a bit on the planet. She’s awesome as ever.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e01 – Brother

There’s a lot going on with the season premiere of “Discovery.” And not just the multiple teases related to the original series. “Discovery” gets out of addressing the time, technology, and costuming discrepancies with the original series and the reboot movies by bringing Captain Pike into the mix. Pike was the captain on the original “Star Trek” pilot, which later got recycled into a two-parter in the regular run. Though he, like Sarek, appeared in the reboot movies. There’s no big “Discovery” deal about recasting supporting players.

So Pike’s a thing for a couple big reasons. First, the show does a bait and switch with Pike bringing his science officer (who is Spock) and his first officer (who was on the original show, played by Majel Barrett) only to have the transporter reveal a couple glorified red shirts. Even if their time doesn’t come this episode, they’re still just disposable stock Starfleet officers. Except the science officer guy; he’s a complete dick because White male privilege is still a thing in “Discovery”’s future. But the more important thing with Pike, played by Anson Mount, is he’s just what the show needs. He’s a fun, caring, White captain guy. More old(er) man Chris Pine than mid-sixties Jeffrey Hunter (who played Pike on the original “Trek” pilot, but not the two-parter). He makes the crew all feel good, which is important since their last White captain guy turned out to be an inter dimensional mass murderer.

The way the season opener deals with last season’s plot threads is… not good. There’s some follow-up with it, but then everything gives way to the new adventure—Pike’s taking over the Discovery because there are these seven flares or something. A message from V’Ger; who knows. But they’re investigating. So instead of worrying about the “regular” cast, “Discovery” becomes Mount’s show, which is fine. It’s kind of shitty for Sonequa Martin-Green because it’s supposed to be her show; instead she gets the subplot fretting over her relationship with so far unseen foster brother Spock only to discover he’s maybe tracking the galactic disturbance too. But on a sabbatical, because it’s “Discovery” and “Discovery” loves its reveals, surprises, and twists. It’s about all the show cares about.

Though this episode has at least two huge sci-fi action set pieces. Both of them are kind of lousy, but they’re huge set pieces.

We’ll see what happens but if it’s just Mount becomes the dynamic lead the show always needed and Martin-Green gets big subplots and lousy material… well, it’d be on par for “Discovery,” which is still an utterly pointless gesture.

Mindhunter (2017) s02e09 – Episode 9

Is Anna Torv leaving the show? Because she might want to leave the show after this episode; she's pointlessly shoehorned in for a brief scene to remind the audience they haven't missed her.

The boss comes back too in a similarly pointless move. A reminder of what came before and there's no need to remind because “Mindhunter” has got nothing left to prove. They're able to drop in a two-part “based on a true story” serial killer procedural and have it succeed. It's a qualified success, mostly because of the race stuff and Jonathan Groff.

See, Groff’s character arc this season is he wants to be a White savior and bureaucracy won't let him. He feels guilty about it but what more can he do… he's too much of a narcissist to actually do anything.

Poor hotel clerk girl gets it worst this episode. She gets to ring Groff’s doorbell to blather at him to set up his pseudo-subplot. Did they not realize how the season was going to go when they hired their recurring cast. Nobody matters once the serial killer procedural takes over. It's just Groff, Hoyt McCallany, the black guy and the suspect.

Suitably great performance from suspect as the suspect they can't quite get.

Some excellent but uncomfortable music choices, strong direction and editing.

When the episode comes to an end—I don't think the show has been renewed for a third season—it's with a nice sense of closure. Lots is still open, but it's open mostly because of the future of serial killer investigation. It's a great subject for a TV show… it's never going to get boring.

Unless Torv keeps dating next season or Joe Tuttle, you know, talks.

Mindhunter (2017) s02e08 – Episode 8

Do you know why Anna Torv got a girlfriend story arc this season? Why we’ve been getting to know Lauren Glazier since the first episode? Is it to give Torv some character development? Because… there isn’t any. I mean, not enough—given how all of the characters function when they’re at work—so not enough to matter. Not enough you couldn’t have removed Glazier’s scenes from every episode and it wouldn’t be any different in the end. The end being as “Mindhunter” intensifies the Atlanta Child Murder case; see, Hoyt McCallany and Jonathan Groff are really doing the first on the ground BSU consult. It’s “Criminal Minds: Year Zero.” And, you know, actually good. And also historical, which is its own thing.

There’s time in the episode for McCallany to go home and check in on wife Stacey Roca, who’s amazing this episode, and son Zachary Scott Ross, who speaks for the first time in what seems like seven episodes. There’s a nice bit of bonding between McCallany and Ross, maybe the first fatherly bit from workaholic McCallany; hopefully it’ll lead to more someday. It works well.

And Groff gets to check in with fetching Black girl Sierra Aylina McClain, possibly sending her the signals but who knows because Groff’s so weird. The most impressive thing about “Mindhunter,” this episode anyway, is how awesome a serial killer investigation movie they make. A “true” one. But it’s very interesting how they’ve kept Groff weird but also backed up the narrative distance on him; he doesn’t get to express his internal life this season. It’s weird. And they foreshadowed it in the second episode.

Maybe it’ll be part of the inevitable season-ending cliffhanger… just one left, after all.

It’s a fantastic hour of television, even if it does turn the second season of “Mindhunter” into a preamble for an awesome serial killer two-parter.

Mindhunter (2017) s02e07 – Episode 7

I mean, it’s well-acted but this episode’s pretty blah for a “Mindhunter.” Nothing happens. We get more hints at character development for Jonathan Groff and Anna Torv but no actual character development. Meanwhile Holt McCallany spends the episode getting later and later from home to work and back again. Stacey Roca instead gets all the things to do on that subplot, one more suburban nightmare after another. Roca’s real good.

And at least Roca gets some attention while being good. June Carryl’s awesome as one of the victims’ moms and director Carl Franklin seemingly refuses to showcase her, whether it’s in a scene with Groff or a public speaking scene or in a big potential reaction shot. It’s very, very strange, especially since the script suggests she’s going to be the focus of that public speaking scene and then Franklin does whatever he can to minimize her. Literally; through long shot.

See, Groff’s come up with this great plan and he’s got to get Carryl’s buy-in on it. Except the great plan isn’t something the FBI is used to doing so there’s a bunch of bureaucracy and the episode skips through that bureaucracy, like it’s started skipping Friday evenings through Sundays—when McCallany is away from Groff—and catching up Monday morning.

With McCallany late, of course.

So McCallany’s character development is he’s late because like’s getting really busy lately. It doesn’t seem like a worthwhile subplot, but it’s a little more engaging than Torv’s ongoing problems with girlfriend Lauren Glazier. Torv’s approaching too strange for Glazier to deal with, which is too bad because their romance hasn’t been bad at all. They—writers, Franklin, Torv—just haven’t figured a way to make her still be likable when she’s being difficult. Not likable to the audience, but likable to Glazier. Torv should’ve already been dumped by now, given her behavior.

Mindhunter (2017) s02e06 – Episode 6

It’s back to Atlanta again for sure this time. And almost some Jonathan Groff stuff… but also some “is this ‘Mindhunter’ or a slasher movie prologue” stuff with Holt McCallany's home life.

There's also another interview for Anna Torv and Joe Tuttle, with Torv once again having to lead the interview. Morgan Kelly plays the interviewee and basically looks just like Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest) from Waiting for Guffman. It's a little disconcerting, but Kelly does a fine job so it doesn't really matter. And I suppose Tuttle's wet rag performance is fine–I was actually a lot more positive about Tuttle before they started giving him more to do. Juxtaposed against Albert Jones's performance as the Atlanta-based sidekick… Tuttle's just… a wet rag.

As for Atlanta, the scenes consist mostly of Groff telling everyone they're wrong about whatever lead they're following and everyone ignoring Groff and telling him they're going to follow every lead even if it wastes time. How the procedures of a police procedural affect Groff would be a thing if anything made a real dent in Groff's psyche but we're still waiting to see if he's actually going to have any character development.

The closest this episode is when he runs into Sierra McClain again. She was the pretty Black woman who Groff thought was seducing him but was actually introducing him to the mothers of the dead kids. McClain was really good and all, but she's just back to give Groff something to do besides argue with people. The show really needs to commit to not wanting to spend time with Groff while he's not working, which is definitely not ideal given Groff's top-billed, but… he's far more effective as the profiler, far less interesting as the privileged, naive White guy.

Mindhunter (2017) s02e05 – Episode 5

Not only does this episode bring back Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton who deserves all the Emmys) from Season One, who we haven’t seen since he gave Jonathan Groff a hug and sent Groff into a panic attack… it also brings in “Mindhunter”’s Charles Manson, played by Damon Herriman (who also plays Manson in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). They’ve been talking about Manson all season—it was actually part of the deal to get Holden (Groff) to play ball with the new FBI boss. And “Mindhunter,” unsurprisingly and inspiredly, nails the interview.

Maybe more than any other of the interviews—this season and last—the Manson one feels like “Mindhunter” flexing its muscles. It’s an assured sequence, tied into the problems in Holt McCallany’s home life. It also plays up Groff being a Manson fanboy. It also feels like a bit of a history lesson, what the country’s reaction to Manson was like back in the those days, when he was still an active celebrity. And with Groff then going on to interview one of the “Family,” in comes additional historical context, something “Mindhunter” usually only provides through the leads’ exposition.

THere’s also more of McCallany and Anna Torv playing responsible Mom and Dad to irresponsible kid Groff. McCallany and Torv are cute together—far cuter than McCallany and his wife Stacey Roca or Torv and girlfriend Lauren Glazier; no knocks to Roca or Glazier, however. It’s just McCallany and Torv minding Groff has talent the place of Groff’s love life, which almost feels missing this episode when Groff gets home to a sparsely furnished apartment and you realize the show hasn’t spent any time with him and then you realize it isn’t lacking for it. Giving McCallany and Torv the personal subplots is working out.

All around, a home run episode of “Mindhunter.” Real good.

Mindhunter (2017) s02e04 – Episode 4

It’s back to Atlanta for Holden (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany); there’s been a kidnapping from someone with the same MO as the as yet unnamed Atlanta Child Killer and they’re calling in the FBI. So our leads are going to be in the background until they can prove (or at least convince someone) there’s a link to the other cases. It’s great; everyone’s very excited, except Anna Torv and office drone Joe Tuttle. They’ve been doing the actually work—interview prep—and don’t like the idea Groff and McCallany are going off to prevent murders instead of talking to convicted murderers.

Which is real shitty, when you think about it.

But it does give Torv and Tuttle the opportunity to go out into the field themselves and do an interview, which ends up going quite well because Torv opens up to the interviewee about being gay. Of course Tuttle’s such a Ned Flanders-type he thinks she’s lying about it to manipulate the interviewee. It doesn’t go quite as well as one would have hoped, scene-wise. Tuttle and Torv have been thrown into a close orbit this season and they’re not really clicking. It doesn’t help Albert Jones is back this episode as the Atlanta FBI guy who Tench wanted to hire but Holden didn’t hire. Jones’s character isn’t just better than Tuttle’s, Jones’s performance is a lot better than Tuttle’s.

Tench’s home life subplot has a horrifying development this episode and Groff once again shows he’s too much of a white liberal for his own good. Will he learn from his mistakes this episode and improve? Will he at least be honest? Well, the episode ends before we get to see if there’s any such development for Groff.

The episode’s something of a loop; concerning given there’s such a limited number this season.

Mindhunter (2017) s02e03 – Episode 3

It’s a little weird to see “Mindhunter” doing race stuff—and this episode does a lot, not just with it turning out Albert Jones’s Black Southern FBI agent gets on better with other Southerners—Black and White—than Jonathan Groff’s preppy White liberal—but also with Groff thinking he’s getting picked up by the beautiful (Black) hotel clerk only to find she’s bringing him to talk to three (Black) mothers of dead children. I’d heard “Mindhunter” was doing the Atlanta Child Murders this season, so I was expecting all of it, but expecting it didn’t make the scenes any less effective. Especially since Jones barely gets any close-ups—David Fincher, directing again (so three hours of “Mindhunter” so far this season; no wonder he hasn’t been directing features?) usually goes with Groff and the interviewee for the two interview scenes. Jones is sitting in with Groff because Holt McCallany is dealing with a murder in his town (and lying to both Groff and Anna Torv about it).

So the ostensible A plot is Groff going to Atlanta to do the interviews, only the obvious soon-to-be A plot is the dead children, McCallany’s the B plot, with Torv going and asking out the lady bartender the decided C plot. Though Torv gets the best music in the episode (The Pretenders), even though here’s a weird cut at the end with the song volume.

Both of the serial killer interviewees are fine, but other than the white one looking so much like Jeremy Irons I kind of hope they CG’ed him young and it really is Jeremy Irons playing a hillbilly serial killer. Nate Corddry is back again—he first appeared last episode—and he’s got a couple good moments. The episode’s definitely not an actors’ showcase, however. McCallany gets less to do this episode than in either of the previous two, Groff gets overshadowed by everyone (it’s fine but it’s a thing), and Torv’s got two and a half scenes. It’s interesting to see Corddry in such a dramatic part—overwhelmed small town detective on a terrible case. It’s nice to see Corddry again.

“Mindhunter” is being real careful with the race stuff—Groff hasn’t quite grokked the reality for the Black people living in the South yet, especially not in the burgeoning Atlanta metropolis (which comes up). I’m just hoping they can handle it all. It’ll be interesting to see how “Mindhunter” scales, as it’s apparently about to go full procedural.

Mindhunter (2017) s02e02 – Episode 2

Now this episode feels like “Mindhunter.” It opens with Holt McCallany going to Wichita, with some great “period” Wichita shots, and consulting on the BTK case. There’s a bunch with him and the other cop, a rather nauseating sequence where they walk the crime scene—“Mindhunter,” at its core, is basically just ‘What if “Criminal Minds” didn’t suck,’ after all—and then a great scene where McCallany interviews one of the survivors. David Fincher directs this episode too (he directed the previous one) and he definitely works a little more at the real-life horror and terror aspect of it.

And it’s only an extended teaser basically. A B plot. The A plot has McCallany bringing back the information from Kansas and having a brainstorming session with Jonathan Groff—again, it feels like “Mindhunter” all of a sudden, even with my far from complete recollection of the first season—and it turns out they’re going to need to go talk to David Berkowitz. Even though Anna Torv doesn’t think Berkowitz fits the profile of the serial killers the team is supposed to be interviewing. The first episode of the season had a lot of talk about where the B.S.U. (Behavioral Sciences Unit, you know it from “Criminal Minds,” right?) is going in the future but not a lot of what they would actually be doing as the season unfolds. This episode gives a little bit better of an emphasis on how the unit is actually functioning.

It’s the procedural.

And it’s a great one.

And then comes Oliver Cooper as David Berkowitz.

And then it really feels like “Mindhunter,” because slowly but surely there’s the fantastic interview sequence where Cooper gets to be phenomenal and Groff gets to show off his brains and McCallany gets to think, hey, maybe interviewing these guys is a good idea.

There’s character stuff with Torv and a little with McCallany (and family)—it appears Groff is losing some of his lead stature after last season’s girlfriend debacle (or so I remember it being)—and it’s good, but it’s nothing compared to the Cooper scene.

The episode plays a lot more like the season opener than the actual season opener plays, which isn’t not problematic, but it’s so good it doesn’t really matter. It’s focused. Last episode—same writer, same director—wasn’t anywhere near as focused. It felt perfunctory; this episode feels exploratory.

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