Television

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e02 – Meet the Legends

Good “Legends” is both bad and obvious, and obvious. When the show hits the right notes, it keeps ringing the bell through the end of the episode. Once an episode of “Legends” clicks, it stays in that higher gear.

This first post-Crisis episode means there can be all sorts of new changes in addition to Shayan Sobhian being the new guy on the team only no one knows it because before they messed up time last season, Sobhian was Tala Ashe (who’d really gotten good on the show, even with the absurdity of her romance with hero bro Nick Zano) before. They keep the same powers. Sobhian’s likable—you can be middling on “Legends” but you can’t be unlikable. You’ve got to enjoy watching “Legends,” they work for it.

Anyway, it means there are changes to be watching for. But there’re also the first real episode of the season changes to be watching for. And then the show’s in a fake documentary form; Jes Macallan has to prove the Legends’ worth to the U.S. government so they want a documentary. The Legends are famous after saving the world least season, which is a bit of a blur. It didn’t end well. Starting with the documentary bit seems like a cop-out. Except they stop the format—the team fights a resurrected Rasputin (Michael Eklund) this episode; it’s fun. Eklund’s… a likable villain. Rasputin tries to become an influencer. It’s works just well enough. Throw in some good fight scenes for Caity Lotz, the right amount of Brandon Routh’s adorkable, occasionally Matt Ryan appearances (with Adam Tsekhman as his sidekick), and it works out well. Ramona Young becoming Dominic Purcell’s sidekick, however, is an unexpected delight. They give Young more than she tended to get last year and better material and she kills it; Macallan’s gotten funnier with being so serious, which is really nice because Zano’s only fun around Routh really, but Young’s the biggest success.

So bummer when she bows out for some of the season. A few of the other cast members go off on side missions so they can keep the casting budget down. But “Legends”’s budget constraints sometimes work out for it and having characters recur instead of loiter in the background… I’m going to be really bummed if Young’s not back soon. Like. No. They’re making Young’s not simple part—a superhero fangirl becoming a werewolf—work and they need to stick with it.

All Rise (2019) s01e13 – What the Bailiff Saw

So it looks like Peter MacNicol is going to be a regular guest star, which is fine. He exudes a lovable, not too problematic old white guy energy as Simone Missick’s new judge pal. He shows up for a single scene, to talk to her about the case she’s got going, then disappears again. I didn’t pay attention to his credit in the titles, unfortunately. “All Rise” could use MacNicol around more, especially as this episode seems to imply the initial overarching stories are winding down.

For example, the first time we get to see Tony Denison lash out at son Wilson Bethel might be the last—no spoilers. Denison’s mad Bethel thinks Denison is a murderer, with Lindsey Gort (who’s rather bad this episode as Denison’s lawyer) tries to calm things. But there are some big signs Denison’s time on the show is coming to a close. Similarly, the show’s pushing off Missick’s absentee husband (Todd Williams) for the rest of the season at least. He’s taking a job in DC to make Trump’s FBI more Black-friendly. Him taking the job comes after he introduces Missick to his white FBI lawyer friends, who are all impressed she stood up to ICE… even though they’d be defending ICE in court. And I’m not sure “All Rise” can really sell a fantasy land where Trump-BI is looking to hire Black agents who want to make justice equitable.

Besides, Williams isn’t very good. He’s bland and he and Missick always seem forced together. They really should’ve casted his part better. A modicum of chemistry would make a big difference.

The trial this episode involves Jessica Camacho defending a teen gang member (Luca Oriel) accused of murder and the D.A. bugs the room where defense attorneys meet with their clients. It kicks up a bunch of dust, including an impassioned scene from Lindsay Mendez about how gang members are people too (the show’s humanist take on it is… well, it doesn’t make up for the FBI absurdities and Mendez’s monologue isn’t great but it is a risky position, especially on CBS) and then J. Alex Brison coming down on the wrong side of the issue for girlfriend Camacho.

Not one of the show’s better episodes, but the promise of less Gore and maybe no Williams gives me hope for the future. Though I’m going to miss Denison, even if the show never utilized him well.

Becker (1998) s01e15 – Activate Your Choices

David Isaacs wrote this episode, which brings some immediate pluses. The jokes are funnier. Sometimes they’re a lot cheaper, but they’re always funny. And Saverio Guerra’s in the episode. Isaacs doesn’t give him much to do except be hilariously annoying, but it’s basically enough. If only they’d cast someone better to play Ted Danson’s ex-wife, the episode would probably have been in the black.

Instead, they got Alice Krige. Who’s got no chemistry with Danson. They can’t resist one another; while they were married, they had an open relationship… he just didn’t know about it being open. But Krige never stopped wanting Danson. Her intro is she’s written a self-help book and a lot of it is about being married to “The Angry Man” (Danson), once she’s in the episode it’s about Danson trying to resist her and not.

Krige’s got a crap character and doesn’t bring anything performance-wise to transcend it; the episode sets itself up to fail. Not making Krige at all sympathetic… it’s like the show can’t decide how misanthropic it really wants to be. Even with the problems, the Isaacs script is sturdy.

He introduces some actually interesting character details for Shawnee Smith, like her being able to speak fluent Mandarin. Otherwise, no one in the supporting cast gets anything to do. Arguably, Alex Desért and Terry Farrell get even less because the show’s brought in Guerra for the guaranteed laughs.

As I recall, the arrival of Isaacs is when “Becker” starts turning around, but I can’t trust my memory of its better days. I didn’t remember it being this middling so I’m not sure if the improvement is going to be substantial.

Maybe I’m just so nonplussed by the episode’s wastes—Guerra and then blowing a possibly good recurring ex-wife with Krige. Plus, Danson’s a really big dick to worried mom Jenny Gago during an appointment scene and, combined with Krige’s adulterous ex, it feels like the show’s saying something icky; unintentionally, maybe, but still saying it.

Evil (2019) s01e12 – Justice x 2

There’s a lot going on in this episode of “Evil” but the only important thing—the only truly important thing—is it guest stars Gbenga Akinnagbe. It utterly wastes him in a “let’s not examine this too hard” plot about him being a radio comic in nineties Rwanda who encouraged the genocide. Emayatzy Corinealdi plays a Tutsi woman who tracks him down twenty-five years later to exact her revenge. It wouldn’t be so weird if the show didn’t turn it into a commentary on 2019 America, with phrases like “punching up” thrown around. There are optics to it. And to the way the episode does exposition about the Rwandan genocide. It’s not even a lukewarm take because the show’s not actually controversial (just manipulative) and it wastes Akinnagbe and Corinealdi in what ought to be an easy to do, albeit exploitative, tense talking heads standoff. She’s got him taped to a chair in a basement, after all; it’s not like there aren’t movies to guide the writers.

The show’s big addition? Mike Colter tied up in the room too; he went to see Corinealdi because she called the Catholic Church to report… her walls telling her to avenge herself upon Akinnagbe. It’s not a good main plot, but the episode doesn’t really have strong subplots either. Katja Herbers is standing off with Michael Emerson in court, with the bad guy from the pilot back. We get some big reveals on Emerson, but then the show’s got its biggest “reveal” at the end when—spoiler but because one must—Emerson’s having his therapy session with Baphomet. Not a bad Baphomet as far as network TV goes. But if Baphomet’s imaginary, it’s just stupid and if Baphomet’s not imaginary, it’s going to have to get stupider in a different way. Just because Baphomet can look good on TV in 2020 doesn’t mean he should.

Though Emerson fits the sad old posturing incel a lot better than the seventies Bond villain with kinks for religious symbolism and too many sweaters. Will he get less tiresome? Will the family get less tiresome as dad Patrick Brammall, now getting subplots instead of Aasif Mandvi, goes away for a bit then comes back, having now been the real parent when the sick kid needs an emergency procedure to add some child in danger drama and working mom Herbers isn’t taking the call. No. No, they’ll be even more tiresome.

Then there’s Brammall’s whole Buddhist subplot where the show equates him meditating to Herbers getting back with the child rapists at the Church. Religious pluralism, big shrug. He gets some ominous foreshadowing this episode too. Not just with the possibly dying child and Herbers not having told him any information about the possible medical procedures because she’s too hot for Colter to remember.

Also a religious judges are going to be the literal death of us all moment.

It’s amazing with all the stuff “Evil” has got and has had going on they’ve never actually delivered. I’m surprised they wasted Gbenga Akinnagbe, but I really shouldn’t have been.

Grantchester (2014) s05e02

I consider myself fairly capable with British Isles accents; it’s always been undubbed Trainspotting or Full Monty for me; I figured out Ulysses on my own; I could watch “Monty Python” and understand them; but “Sinjin” actually being “St. John?” Whatever. I mean, I knew it had to be weird because “Sinjin” seemed too much like an Indian import but the only thing the British seem proud of taking from India is their foodstuffs.

Anyway, St. John is Dominic Mafham. He’s Tom Brittney’s mom’s new boyfriend and, shocker, he’s a total dick because it’s 1955 or whatever and she’s just trying to get along since Brittney won’t quit the Church for her. Jemma Redgrave plays the mom.

The mystery this episode is an intentional hit and run. Brittney and Al Weaver are walking by when they see it, which leads Brittney and Robson Green to an unknown street in Grantchester (because before Google Maps, you could have unknown streets in the town where you’re a copper, I guess). The unknown street thing is short but does give Tessa Peake-Jones a nice opportunity to figure into the main plot. Otherwise she’s just around to be an obstacle for Weaver to hang out with boyfriend Oliver Dimsdale. Though there’s also the new TV in the vicarage (so Weaver and Dimsdale can chill, which is adorable) and Peake-Jones has a lot of thoughts on it. Her “idiot’s lantern” rant is excellent.

There’s a house on the unknown street with two older brothers who figure into the case. It’s an okay enough mystery, involving fraud, infidelity, and PTSD. The PTSD bit gives Green a couple excellent scenes. He’s busy with his home stuff—he brought in mother-in-law Paula Wilcox to tend to the house since wife Kacey Ainsworth got a union position at work.

“Grantchester” has settled pretty nicely since losing its protagonist last season. Though at some point someone needs to acknowledge Brittney isn’t very good at questioning suspects yet. The show’s also taking it slow with Brittney’s new love interest, Lauren Carse, which is fine; if James Norton’s Sidney were still around with Carse as a love interest, they’d probably have had at least one pregnancy scare by now.

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s06e01 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Five

Given how much work these Arrowverse crossover events make for the show’s creative teams—just imagine if they had to bother with good writing, better direction (though this episode isn’t too bad), and good guest stars—you’d think they wouldn’t have wasted twenty-percent of Crisis on Infinite Earths with this utterly superfluous episode. Outside the big bad guy not being gone for real and coming back so the heroes have to team up, again, to take him down (though with a lot less heroes than in previous episodes)… not much gets done. Except everyone’s on the same Earth so crossovers could be easier but probably won’t be? Because the characters existing in alternate dimensions isn’t the problem.

The episode opens with Supergirl Melissa Benoist discovering everything is back to normal but has changed. Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer in way too short of a cameo) is now a good guy and Benoist is now buddies again with (not seen) Katie McGrath—tune into “Supergirl” to see how this move saved their butts dramatically but don’t because it’s too late for “Supergirl.” Benoist soon runs into Grant Gustin, who also is realizing their Earths have combined, but there’s no “Flash” supporting cast so we don’t even know what’s up with Gustin and wife Candice Patton. Tune into “The Flash” for that reunion? Or don’t.

There’s a Marv Wolfman cameo where everyone pretends he cared a lot about Supergirl and the Flash? I mean, he killed them off in Crisis on Infinite Earths the comic book and there’s a moment where it seems like Benoist is toast but… nope. Because this episode’s narratively pointless. Yes, it provides the first ever live action Sargon the Sorcerer (a DC Comics character since 1941 who did have something to do with the Crisis comic but not this crappy crossover event) and (sort of) a coda for Brandon Routh’s Superman Returns but eh. There’s a Beebo cameo for people who actually watch “Legends of Tomorrow,” which is at this point the only Arrowverse show worth watching (though I’m seasons behind on “Black Lightning,” which is now an Arrowverse show). Pointless fights, badly directed ones (okay, maybe the direction isn’t okay), bad writing. There’s a new President in the Arrowverse and, no spoilers, but they didn’t get anyone famous for it.

There’s a “Super Friends” ending, which they’re way too excited about doing, especially since it’s in an empty warehouse. It’s lifeless stuff.

There are two lengthy sequences dedicated to Stephen Amell, with various people providing eulogies, and you have to wonder if Amell made them put those scenes in because they’re poorly written, performed, directed, and everything else. No one who liked “Arrow” so much they needed emotional closure on the series ending cares if Benoist and Gustin moon over Amell.

I forced myself to make it to Crisis on Infinite Earths this season to give myself a good jumping off point for the shows (not “Legends”) but I really wished I’d jumped before these last two episodes. The universes combining without any of the regular cast members from the shows taking part? Who cares. It’s got the dramatic resonance of… well, a bad Arrowverse show. A really bad one.

Arrow (2012) s08e08 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Four

So.

Confession time.

During the harder-than-normal sci-fi opening to part the fourth of Crisis on Infinite Earths, I thought the crossover might have a chance. I thought if they split the first three into the one arc, then the second two into another… I thought it might work. For a few seconds in the cold open, featuring LaMonica Garrett opening a portal to the dawn of time and somehow unleashing the antimatter universe or something… I thought it had a chance. Then Garrett proved to be just as bad in the cold open as usual and, poof, so much for that possibility.

But wait, then regular human guy Osric Chau (who’s totally becoming the Atom later this year on “Legends of Tomorrow” but whatever) journals—to his dead wife—about all the sad superheroes outside time and space trying to kill time before the plot contrives a way for them to save the universe and it seems like it might get okay, since it’s centering around Chau and his regular guy take on the situation.

And, nope, the journaling stops once Grant Gustin reappears after being missing (during the hiatus between parts three and four, not like, in the present action of the episode or anything). Bummer?

The deus ex machina to get the heroes back in action is Stephen Lobo (who’s in one scene and is so terrible he deserves a callout) training Stephen Amell to be “The Spectre.” Amell’s voice gets disguised, which sort of helps with his performance. Once he’s ready to go, he visits his friends and gets the final battle under way.

Not.

Instead, the episode becomes a low rent Avengers: Endgame with Gustin flashing between moments in Amell’s “Arrow” history to collect the other heroes, who are stranded in the events. Except Chau, Melissa Benoist, and Jon Cryer, who are on a mission on the forest moon of Endor. But a low rent Endor. Cryer’s hilariously fun as Lex Luthor, but Benoist is an utter killjoy as depressed Supergirl. And Chau’s beard looks fake.

But they do get an “asshole” past standards and practices, so… win?

Once Endgame is over—the “highpoint” is Gustin bantering with super surprise guest star Ezra Miller (whose career mustn’t be in great shape as he waits for his years delayed Flash solo movie)—in case you’re wondering, Gustin’s so much better than Miller, it’s not even funny, but it’s still better than anything else because it’s at least fun. Anyway, once Endgame is over, the heroes all go to fight CGI monsters in a rock quarry while Amell fights Garrett (the evil, anti-Garrett) for the fate of the universe.

You’d think since it’s “Arrow,” one of the last episodes of “Arrow,” and Amell’s last stand, there’d be a big fight scene between the two.

Nope. They shoot CGI force lighting at each other. It’s terrible.

I suppose at least they aren’t spouting off goony expository statements about themselves as they fight, which the regular heroes do. The script, by Crisis comics writer Marv Wolfman and “Arrowverse” prime mover Marc Guggenheim, is truly godawful.

I can’t believe I thought they might save it. They somehow made it worse; the desperation of aping Endgame manages not to even be the worst thing in the episode, which is something because it’s super desperate.

Grantchester (2014) s05e01

It’s nice to have “Grantchester” back, especially since Robson Green doesn’t appear to have a complete jackass arc for this season. Though it’s arguably too soon to tell and he does bring in his mother-in-law (Paula Wilcox, I think) without consulting wife Kacey Ainsworth to help out around the house since they’re both so busy with work now. Green thinks he’s being helpful, sort of bringing in free labor instead of helping himself. Because it’s the mid-fifties and Green’s having some trouble adjusting to the new paradigms. All of them. But mostly lovably so.

But Ainsworth doesn’t show up until well into the episode—and their kids get nothing so far—with the episode otherwise more focused on Al Weaver’s subplot about getting back from a week in Marrakesh; he and boyfriend Oliver Dimsdale got to be out (well, more out) and now Weaver’s not just shoved back into the local closet, he can’t even tell housekeeper Tessa Peake-Jones where he’s really been. “Granchester”’s got this unpleasant reality situation where it’s not like Peake-Jones or Green are going to be able to get woke. Arguably it’s hard to believe dreamboat vicar Tom Brittney can be as woke (though he’s less woke than previous dreamboat vicar James Norton) in the mid-1950s and not be, you know, a practicing atheist all things considered. It’s a rough arc for Weaver but well-executed.

Brittney’s subplot involves rich, newly widowed mom Jemma Redgrave and her adjustments. It’s fine. Not too much heavy lifting for Brittney, though the show does seem to be setting up local reporter Lauren Carse as his love interest.

The mystery involves a progressive, proto-feminist women’s college run by Siobhan Redmond and one of her students turning up dead after a big dance. I can’t remember if the universities (one for the boys, one for the girls) have ever been in Grantchester before or maybe they’re just nearby….

It’s an okay mystery. They get to the solution a little too conveniently but “Grantchester”’s not about the the solutions, it’s about the characters and they’re in good shape. The show’s got a very nice balance between the cast and the mystery this episode. Some rather good direction from Gordon Anderson throughout too.

Evil (2019) s01e11 – Room 320

I resent how affecting this episode of “Evil” gets because it doesn’t deserve to be. The stuff about Katja Herbers and Aasif Mandvi discovering how the guy who attacked Mike Colter before hiatus is the same guy who posed as a creepy little girl in AR to stalk Herbers’s kid early on in the series… not affecting. It’s all connected in “Evil” just gets an eye-roll because it’s so contrived. Terrorizing its viewers about technology and the possible demonic influence—blah.

But Colter trapped in a hospital bed where a racist nurse (Tara Summers) is apparently killing off all the Black patients? Effective. Affecting. Even though Peter Sollet’s horror direction is lousy and the episode’s never as scary as it ought to be. It’s always manipulating, which just happens to work out because Summers is so unstoppably evil (because her white colleagues don’t care about the Black patients enough to check on them) and Colter’s so sympathetic.

There’s also a reveal on the pre-history of the show, with Herbers just now finding out she’s not Colter’s first psychiatrist sidekick. Previously he had Megan Ketch, who has longer hair than Herbers and no kids (or husband) but otherwise looks the same. No explanation of why no one mentioned Ketch’s existence to Herbers before—it’s almost like Mandvi didn’t work as steadily with Colter before Herbers came along either. Ketch teams up with them to try to catch the bad guy. The one who put Colter in the hospital, not the bad guy in the hospital.

There are all sorts of question marks and plot holes due to Colter being constantly overprescribed painkillers and unable to discern what’s real and what’s not. It’s also not clear if he’s in a Catholic hospital… seems like… no. But then yes. But then no. I guess it doesn’t end up mattering given the conclusion, which is in the open-minded “Evil” so we can find out later on Summers was really inspired by Michael Emerson (blissfully not present this episode) to kill her Black patients and get away with it because the hospital doesn’t notice all of her Black patients dying on a daily basis when in the hospital for routine things.

Maybe the scariest thing about “Evil” is how reasonable it seems Summers could get away with it.

Is it a good forty-two minutes of television… no. But it’s an effective forty-two minutes of television, which is something given how silly it gets when it’s trying to be scary.

Watchmen (2019) s01e09 – See How They Fly

I’ve been trying to gin up enthusiasm to write about this “Watchmen” finale all day. Though, if I think hard enough, I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with a compliment. Something like… thanks to “Watchmen: The Series,” Robert Wisdom’s most… unappreciative recent casting is no longer “The Alienist.” Wisdom shows up in this episode as the newspaper vendor who gets to do a newspaper vendor stand-in for the end of the world (again), though this time he gets paired with Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons).

And, I guess if I’m continuing on the qualified compliments… Irons is a lot better this episode than expected. Sure, it’s because Hong Chau is not, but it’s not like Chau is James Wolk or something. Wolk is truly godawful. Chau’s just disappointing.

Jolie Hoang-Rappaport’s still good as Chau’s assistant though. “Watchmen: The HBO Event Mini-Series”’s successes are few and few between. Cherish them. Even if they don’t make the viewing experience any less ponderous. Though, yeah, if you’re willing to let “Watchmen” get away with a lousy Clair de Lune accompaniment, maybe you’re going to let it get away with a 2001 rip-off. I mean, after the Schindler’s List thing, doing an obvious 2001 callback… well, no, the former is just an excruciatingly cynical eye-roll, the latter is actually comically godawful.

But if you’re willing to cut “Watchmen” that amount of slack already… who cares if the ending is an intentional cop-out, but before that cop-out lazy and trite. I mean, at least the original score functions like an old John Carpenter score again?

I do like how little respect the show has for its audience, when it draws attention to things and tells the viewer to pay attention, then does a flashback anyway because it doesn’t trust them to pay attention. Just like Watchmen the comic. As well as short-changing the entire cast. Because Watchmen the comic did the… oops, no. No, it did not.

The show uses some cheap tricks to get things done in the episode, which “corrects” the ending of the original series. Or something.

If Damon Lindelof had any gumption, he would’ve done a show about trying to adapt Watchmen and why everyone fails at it and sequelizing it. Or do something about how DC and Warner Bros. screwed Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, lying to them for years. Not to mention propping up the Watchmen trade sales while waiting for Hollywood to figure out how to exploit the property.

But he doesn’t. Because Lindelof’s got no gumption. No spoilers but he’s a lot more Return of the Jedi-era George Lucas than anything else… which makes him perfect for a “Disney Star Wars” show.

I think the most disappointing thing is I really thought the show was going to give Lou Gossett Jr. a great mainstream role.

It does not. But it gives him even less of one than expected. And expectations have been dwindling for a while.

As for Regina King… she doesn’t make it worth watching, which is a travesty. It wastes her. Completely.

Back when the Watchmen movie came out a friend who I don’t think had read the comic said it (the movie) proved you could do a different kind of superhero narrative, even if Watchmen didn’t do it successfully. The TV show doesn’t even reach that level; it doesn’t prove its conceptual case, much less do it successfully. It really does make me wonder how people experience reading the comic book, because clearly they’re getting something very different from it than I ever do.

All that said, I really hope I remember not to get roped into Season Two in a few years after they say they’re not doing another season then do another season a little later than expected; maybe an HBO Max exclusive.

A sellout’s adaptation of Watchmen needs the sellout Alan Moore and Damon Lindelof is not the sellout Alan Moore. I mean, have you ever read a Damon Lindelof comic book? They’re terrible. Like his TV shows. Sellouts can make good sellout product, which Lindelof utterly fails at doing here.

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