Scattered Thoughts: The Blacklist, 911, This Is Us and More

The Blacklist

I was so excited by the direction The Blacklist appeared to take in the season premiere. It looked like we were going to get a season of the dashing, fun Reddington we got in the first few seasons. Instead, we got the odyssey of killing Tom Keane. Great, that was a nice arc. But in like two episodes Reddington had all his money and cars and houses and suits back. WTF? We’e seen the Aida Turturro character what, two times?

Tom’s death was well done, and I enjoyed how the storyline played out. Less so the second half of the season with Liz trying to find his killer. Yawn. So let me offer an alternative arc:

  • The first half of the season is Reddington rebuilding his network. Starting from the hotel in the premiere and ending with him regaining his status at the mid-season finale.
  • The second half of the season is Tom’s death. Maybe Tom did something to help Reddington that led to someone wanting him dead. Maybe Reddington’s re-ascension came at Tom’s expense. Who knows.

I think this would have been a better path than such a quick return to the same The Blacklist that had grown so stale in previous seasons.

What I finally settled on as The Blacklist’s real issue is this: It has two main characters. Is it about Liz or is it about Raymond? Their relationship is the center of the show, but I think it also means the show is quick to bore.

Blindspot

Blindspot gets a little ridiculous sometimes when they’re putting together clues from Jane’s tats. Run these numbers through a random code, combine them with these numbers put in a circle, multiply them by pi—BAM!—found a bad guy. It’s a little much, but still fun. I’m glad they shipped Weller’s kid off to Denver.

I love Patterson. TV is too quick to make its technophiles into absurd caricatures (looking you, NCIS and Criminal Minds). Blindspot didn’t. Patterson is an integral part of the show and the FBI team. The show deserves credit for treating her like a brilliant professional. I loved the style and content of the Patterson-focused episode this past week.

But she should have died. As much as I like the character, I was surprised to find myself wishing she would walk into the elevator. It would have been a wonderful ending to a character that the show has given so much heartbreak.

Blindspot has handled itself very well in its third season. It’s not easy for shows to pivot away from their main storyline. The Ronan character is strong enough to be the main thorn in Jane’s side, and I expect that storyline will get most of the visibility for the rest of the season. It should be a good one.

This Is Us

I strayed a little from my “Don’t analyze this show” mantra after the over-done trilogy ended the first half of the season. It’s been dynamite since it came back. Except for last week. I don’t know what made anyone think we want a whole episode about Deja. But I do agree with the producer that NBC deserves credit for not intervening when the second-to-last episode of the season left out two-thirds of the main cast.

Remember last year when the penultimate episode was soooooo great and the finale was sooooo meh? Hoping for the opposite this year.

Y&R

When did Sharon enclose the porch on the ranch house? And come to think of it, why is Sharon still living in her ex-husband’s house on her ex-husband/ex-father-in-law’s property?

Goodbye, Chelsea. You were great with Adam but unfortunately the show let you die on the vine until you weren’t much more than someone who smiles at Nick.

Nick, you’re a brat. If they made posters of spoiled rotten rich kids, you’d be in them. You hate your father, but you love his money. Oh no wait you gave away all your money. Now you’re doing low-income housing. Sorry, that’s Randall and Beth Pearson’s gig. And your bar burned down. TWICE. My god you’re pathetic at adulthood.

I root harder for Nick & Sharon than I do for myself.

Ashby kids, you’re annoying. If my DVR had AI capabilities it would learn that I fast-forward through all your scenes.

Noah, sorry you were only good for being bad at having girlfriends. I wish they’d have done more with you, you could be a nice conflict between your father and grandfather.

I don’t care about The Hillary Hour. At all.

Nikki, that was kinda hot when you ran off with Nick’s contractor. You go!

9-1-1

It’s gotta be pretty bad for a show set in L.A. to not get my enduring affection. But 911 achieved it. Wow was this show bad. I quit after the plane crash episode. Not because the plane crash was poorly done (it wasn’t). But because this show has nothing other than emergency porn to keep your interest. The guy with rebar through his head? Come on.

The only thing worth watching about this show was the phone relationship between Connie Britton and the horny firefighter. That was awesome, but not awesome enough to keep watching. Peter Krause is terrible. Angela Bassett is terrible. So bad.

SWAT

Hey there, Shemar Moore. I’m sure SWAT is a totally unrealistic portrayal of an actual SWAT team. But it’s an entertaining hour nonetheless. The relationship between Shemar and his boss is a little forced, and the show’s attempt at addressing societal controversies is not quite ambitious enough to cram into one episode the way it tries to do.

The best character is probably the hot-headed young kid. It’s fun to watch him mature. I also really like the way they handled the story with him hitting on his co-worker who turned out to be bisexual. A show with no merit (hello, 9-1-1) would have drawn this out and probably given us at least one steamy sex scene. So kudos.

Jeopardy

Lee is a titan. If he qualifies for the Tournament of Champions, lookout. The dude was rarely wrong. Rachel also deserves credit for out-slugging him to start her run. She went on to benefit, I think, from some weak competition. This little banker twerp was pretty good, too.

Roseanne

I generally lament TV remakes (SWAT included, in this respect) because they make me afraid this great era of TV is running out of steam. So why am I curiously interested in watching Roseanne?

Africa’s Great Civilizations

This has been airing on the PBS lately. It’s pretty good.

Penn & Teller: Fool Us

More to come on this show. 😉

The Man In The High Castle

WHEN IS SEASON THREE HAPPENING FINALLY?

Bosch

Season four due out in April. Bosch isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s a solid and enjoyable show. Doesn’t hurt to have Man in Black, Matthew Abadon and a house with the most gorgeous view imaginable.

House of Cards

The more time goes on, the less interested I am in the upcoming season. What if the show just ends with President Claire declaring that it’s her turn? I think that would be fine, and also somewhat fitting. Kevin Spacey’s character is deposed, out of the power he’s enjoyed for decades. Replaced by the woman he manipulated for so long.

I normally don’t like it when TV pierces the screen to mirror real life events. But that would have been perfect.

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House of Cards Season 5: The Underwood split begins

 

I’ve always thought House of Cards was about relationships. Frank and Claire, Frank and Doug, Frank and Catherine, and on and on. But Frank and Claire above everyone else. After watching season five during baseball’s All-Star break I still think this is true, but I have a more refined view of what it means. The story isn’t simple about relationships. It’s about dominance in relationships.

Frank dominated Claire in the early seasons. She thought they were equals, and he willingly let her think so. That caught up with him through seasons three and four and it nearly broke their marriage. It wasn’t until Claire orchestrated a race scandal to damage his primary campaign that Frank truly viewed and treated her as an equal partner in their marriage. Claire got on the presidential ticket, and their marriage was restored.

For a while.

Dominant Frank returned in season five, asserting his own will and making decisions that contradicted or ignored Claire’s input. His ultimate show of dominance came, ironically, when he resigned the presidency and demanded – without consulting her first – a full pardon from his wife-turned-president. Claire hesitated and vocalized her obvious realization to Frank that he left her no choice. In that conversion she revealed, however subtly or not, that she knows the equal partnership is over.

Season five ended with the new President Underwood ignoring Frank’s calls and declaring to an empty Oval Office, “My turn.” In season six I hope we’ll see the complete and final sundering of the Underwood marriage.

What would that look like?

We know what we get from House of Cards at this point. Frank and Claire never really resolve any of their problems. They just get past them by creating a new, more chaotic problem. When that fails, they kill people. Witness Zoe Barnes, Peter Russo, Tom Yates and (possibly) LeAnn Harvey. So expect the same rolling cavalcade of chaos as we’ve seen for five seasons, with each decision leaving trace elements of explosives that will go off at the wrong time in the future, forcing still more wild decisions that force them farther apart.

House of Cards has always been a show devoid of any happiness within its characters. I hope and expect that to continue. I don’t see a fitting end with Claire – or Frank – reclining behind the Resolute desk in comfortable power. Both are almost certain to fall with their lies and misdeeds exposed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if either ends up dead.

Let’s get to something I didn’t like about this season: The introductions of Mark Usher and Jane Davis. Both characters are “fixers” orchestrating things outside of what we see in each episode. Mark feels slightly more two-faced than Jane for the way he turned on Will Conway. Does anyone really think Frank would let someone so close to him who so easily broke his candidate’s trust? Unless Frank had Mark in place from day one for exactly that purpose, I highly doubt it. The contrast between Usher and Doug Stamper is enormous.

But both Usher and Davis strike me as too convenient in a show that needs to avoid convenience as much as possible to maintain its credibility. Jane knows exactly the right foreign player at exactly the right time and Mark’s loyalties shift in the right direction at the right moment. I think there’s a lot to yet learn about both of them (how did Jane get LeAnn’s gun?) and I hope they explore it more in season six. If they’re both working for Frank – entirely possible – I could accept it but I would have to be really thrown for a loop to buy into anything else.

This is a minor quibble. There’s plenty the show still does right. I enjoy the way it jumps ahead of scenes and events so we don’t have to sit through inevitabilities. Catherine falling down the steps is a good example. There’s no need to show us Frank feigning dismay when security crews get there. We know he’s a liar. Skipping the second election day is another one. I also loved the way it split season five basically in half between the election and the aftermath, using the former to lay the groundwork or the later.

I think it ultimately laid the groundwork for season six, making season five a transition season. This whole story has been the odyssey of the Underwood’s pursuit of incrementally more power. Now that they both achieved the most powerful office in the world, there’s only one type of power left for conquest: Power over the other.

House of Cards Season 4: Quick Review

The first episode stunk, let’s move on to the next. Here are my unedited notes from watching season four of House of Cards.

Chapter 41
I have a hard time believing a president would announce and then back a Congressional candidate in his state of the union speech. That’s not has bad as announcing the vote count in Claire’s confirmation vote backwards, at least not for this former political stooge. Pretty up yours move by Frank though – the kind of stuff that made the first two seasons enjoyable.

All of Frank’s machinations needed the people he was playing to be too dumb to fight at his level. Maybe this fight with Claire will give him an opponent who isn’t a dimwit.

She never did drink the whiskey.

That is some awfully smooth peanut butter!

Grab us a little bit of Clintons, a little bit of Putin. Inspiration is all around us!

Claire is an awful person. But for murder she might be worse than Frank.

Chapter 42
I’ve never thought about this but I suppose when you go into witness protection you can’t just do the same work you always did.

Where do I recognize the Congresswoman’s daughter from? South Carolinian? I would say South Carolinan.

I’ve never slept in anything with lapels.

This isn’t Seth’s fault, Doug. Get a grip.

I don’t have much faith in voters but I do like to think they wouldn’t hold a son at fault for his dad’s sins.

Whoa that’s what she just said! I should write for Hollywood.

What responsible campaign aide would put this guy in front of their candidate???

And then she said the same thing! Sending my resume to Hollywood now…

A re-enactor? Oh come on. This is absurd.

Meechum had a threesome with them. You don’t just betray that bond.

“You don’t get second chances in elections.” Boy ain’t that the truth.

Is she gonna suggest herself as VP?

Ahahahaha. That’s awesome.

Oh-ho score for Claire!

Chapter 43
Back on board with this show.

I feel something is going to go wrong with the Russian guy.

I was just thinking what Claire’s ultimate trump card could be. I feel stupid for not seeing it. This reminds me of a Djokovic-Nadal tennis match, two competitors battling it out from the baseline.

Aww Charlie Gibson. This is an excellent presentation. The foreshadowing here, again should have been obvious.

Wait until it gets out that Dunbar met with the guy and talked to the AG about him.

This guy is a 24 president! That is to say he’s a terrible president.

It’s so dry in my house. I need to run the humidifier. This has nothing to do with the show.

Hahahaha. This guy. Claire is redeeming herself after being such a bore last year.

Chapter 44
Oh that’ll be public Doug.

I wonder what it’s like, to sit across from the president and know he’s a complete idiot.

My opinion is they shouldn’t wait a day to divulge the news about the president. They can’t risk the Soviets leaking it. Would be a disaster.

Do we know why Remy left?

I love Doug. From “What the f*ck are you doing?” to wait what you can help me in the blink of an eye. Like I’ve always said: Hypocrisy is a virtue.

Do we really go on TV and pray for a healthy liver to make its way soon?

Oh now you’re pissing of Hammerschmidt! Hesch will find you!

This speech is so far out of line.

I don’t like Seth’s chances.

Almost. Dang it.

The look on Doug’s face when she said Tusk was here. I love acting.

I love this so now it’s Claire vs the administration and Claire has all the cards.

This reminds me of when Tony Soprano was in the hospital, only not quite as confounding.

Chapter 45
Is it just me or do all the sets for this series seem slightly cheap? Not a criticism. It seems like there’s one layer missing compared to other shows. Something to look into. And those green screens. Or maybe it’s the lighting. It’s always been flat on this show.

You know better than this, Doug. You’ll be tainting the whole rest of his life. Come on, man.

As Frank sits her convulsing I notice I feel like the show can go on without him.

What is this search engine thing?

What the? Where did that come from? Or was that tied to the search thing?

Dunbar just said it doesn’t matter if the president lives or dies. That’ll come back to bite her. She also sounds just as unhinged as what’s his name. Total disaster.

Is Petrov being human here or is he acting? He’s also treating Claire as far more of an equal than he ever did Frank.

He kinda looks like Russell Crowe with this white hair.

Chapter 46
Who are these people?

They need to do a better job of indicating how much time is passing. Now Frank is up making breakfast?

This reminds of how 24 would shift its storyline halfway through the season. Russia is gone, now we’re onto terrorists. I like it a lot, it keeps stories from dragging on too long.

Oh, he’s the opponent. What happened to the senator guy?

Goodness me this is a terrible character. I’ll put in my cover letter to Hollywood that I can write Republican characters.

Yes, we noticed he stopped before the Clinton portrait.

I knew she would be back. She’s source zero.

This livecast is a terrible idea. The guy is going online to say he’s running a mini-NSA. This will scare the sh*t out of people, they’ll transfer this guy giving up his privacy to them all losing theirs.

Are they hitting all these visitors with cookies for regathering and custom audiences?

Oh man that’s gonna do him in.

Chapter 47
You see how stupid these two guys are. That’s what I meant about Claire being on Frank’s level. She’s manipulating them now.

What the hell is going on here?

Two military guys on the ticket?

I’ll let you take it from here. Reading over them now, it’s neat to see my evolution toward becoming totally engrossed in this show again. What I enjoyed most about the first two seasons of House of Cards is that while it seemed to be about politics it was really about Frank and Claire’s marriage. More accurately, about Frank manipulating Claire into thinking they were equals. We all knew someday she would see through him, and that led to the sour memory of season three: Claire’s torturous path to realizing how Frank really saw her.

Season four gave us Claire’s elevation, and it was told expertly. The first half of the season showed her going round after round with him and not giving an inch. Then – and only then – could she make a believable ascent to being Frank’s equal. That’s what they are after his recovery: Equals. For the first time in the series, and maybe the first time in their marriage, they are co-dependent.

And they are more terrible than ever.