Posted by: A. | August 2, 2014

South Park Review S2E4: “Ike’s Wee Wee”

“You shouldn’t do drugs, mmmkay? Drugs are bad.”

-Mr. Mackey, South Park S2E4: “Ike’s Wee Wee”

Brief Synopsis: Mr. Mackey gets fired from his job and begins doing drugs. Kyle decides to save Ike from his circumcision.

Title significance: The main plotline of the episode was Kyle worrying that Ike is going to have his “wee wee” cut off for his bris. This led to the revelation that Ike is not related to him by blood. It’s finally his decision to protect Ike when the moment comes that brings the brothers back together.

I think it’s interesting that the use the word “wee wee.” It’s a very childish name, something only a very young kid would call it. It’s a reminder that Ike is so little, and the other kids aren’t really all that much older. Cartman calls it a “fireman.” They are so young and they don’t know what’s going on, which causes the problems in the episode.

Social commentary: There’s a lot of commentary this episode about drugs. I’m a child of the 90’s and went through the DARE program, so I’m aware of the lies we were told about drugs. At the end of the episode, the rehab center forces Mr. Mackey back into a life they think he should have, ignoring the fact that he hasn’t done drugs in weeks. The best moment is when they blame drugs for him losing his job, when in reality, losing his job made him turn to drugs. In the end, he can’t say why drugs are bad, just that they are badIt really questions the cause and effect of drug use.

Another great bit of social commentary is the fact that Chef tells these kids everything. Kyle’s parents should have told him what a bris was, just as they should have spoken to him about countless other things in previous episodes. Chef ends up being the one to tell him about circumcision, and that ends in a huge misunderstanding because his parents didn’t do it.

Success of Social Commentary: For the most part, very well done.

What “Ike’s Wee Wee” does right:

  •  Ike – Ike is so adorable. Even though the viewer knows that his “wee wee” isn’t in any actual danger, we care because he’s just so darn cute. When Kyle decides to ignore him because he isn’t his real brother, Ike’s saddened face, bringing the photo album, and running to his brother to save him all combine to create this very precious moment. We care about their relationship. We care because Ike brings so much heart to the show.
  • Mr. Mackey – I loved Mr. Mackey this episode. They did a very good job making us care about him and his emotional journey. We see him hit the bottom of the heap, and we feel bad for him. Then twist at the end, that he hadn’t done drugs for weeks, that he just really turned his life around, is easy to miss, but I think it really works to give this plotline the emotional depth needed to make it a tragedy. It’s also a cute touch to have him sitting in the child’s chair in the principal’s office.
  • Chef – Chef isn’t really in this episode all that much, but the moment he is works perfectly. He sets off the entire plot by being the one to explain a bris to Kyle and co. instead of their parents, and I think that makes such a statement, and it really drives home how this role has been played by Chef in most of the episodes prior to this as well.

What “Ike’s Wee Wee” could have done better:

  •  The drugs – Eh. I wasn’t really all that interested in how the drugs physically affected Mr. Mackey, and I think it was done in an inconsistent manner with parts of it showing that drugs aren’t as bad as they say, and others showing an exaggerated version of the drugs like the programs say. The biggest example of this is Mr. Mackey getting high after one little puff of pot. I think it took away from the story.
  • Hippies – Eh. I wasn’t all that interested in the people Mr. Mackey comes across in his journey as a drug user. There were the school drop-outs, who were proving a point about how people treat drug users being the actual problem, but they just didn’t really speak to me. It would have been more interesting if they showed more of an array of people as drug users instead of just the homeless and hippies.
  • Not real brother – This portion of the episode didn’t really speak to me (besides Ike being adorable to win Kyle back). It happens too fast, and I think this lessens the potential emotional impact. I would have liked to see a wider range of emotions from Kyle regarding this revelation. As is, it just sort of happens and doesn’t add all the much to the episode.

Overall: I enjoyed this episode a lot.

“You can’t come home to a place where you’ve got no family waiting for you.”

-Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist S1E17: “House of the Waiting Family”

Brief synopsis: Ed and Al return to Resembool to get repaired.

Title significance: There is something very ghostly about this title, and I think that fits well into the theme of Al and Ed returning to their childhood home. They haven’t been there since they left to join the military, leaving their home to burn. The ruins of their old house has been left empty, awaiting their return.

Then there’s the bit more cheerful connection to the title. Ed and Al spend most of the episode acting as though they have no home. But Grandma Pinako and Winry have made clear that they have a place to come to, that even if they no longer have a home, they have a family who waits for them to come back. They have people who miss them when they are gone.

Morality of alchemy: We didn’t really get into the morality of alchemy much this episode. All we saw was a touching scene where Ed is able to repair his brother. We see the life that it brings and how it sprung from brotherly love, as Armstrong so tearfully announced.

But the darker side is lurking just below the surface like the inscription inside Ed’s watch. Their old home is a burned wreck. There is a grave for their mother. All recall another alchemical attempt that turned ill. It was done out of love, yes, but what resulted was something evil.

Success of morality: Lurking beneath the surface this episode.

What “House of the Waiting Family” does right:

  • Winry – Winry is probably one of those characters that divides the fanbase. I personally like her (partially because she reminds me of Gadget), and I think this episode really shows why. She’s very talented. She clearly has feelings for Ed, but doesn’t let it make her starry-eyed. She obviously cares about both of the brothers and their safety. She has a passion outside of the boys though. She’s a great tomboy character, and I think she works really well. I also love her character design.
  •  Armstrong – Louis Armstrong is the perfect comic relief. I love everything about him. I generally hate physical comedy, but Armstrong makes me love it. I don’t know why.Maybe it’s the sparkles. They have a life of their own. Maybe it’s because he is such a large character, and it’s a bit unexpected.
  • The watch – I love the fact that Winry discovers the secret inside Ed’s watch. It makes sense for her to look, as into mechanisms and how things work as she is. While I didn’t find what was written to be exactly interesting or compelling, I thought it was a very cool visual.

What “House of the Waiting Family” could have done better:

  •  Lantern – Firstly, I am not a fan of how heavy-handed this symbolism was. It really decreased my enjoyment of the episode. I also don’t like how we heard the story, then two second later, we saw Winry do the thing with the lantern they had described. The entire thing was very clumsy.
  • Al – We get this big emotional scene where Ed visits his mother’s grave by himself. Al does not go with him. For all we know, Al never goes to visit their mother’s grave. I find this so weird. Are they implying that Al was not affected by their mother’s death? Like, they made such a big deal about Ed doing it, that it just felt weird that no one seems to think Al should be given the same opportunity.
  • Resolution of having a home – This episode just wasn’t all that interesting. I know it was trying to be heartwarming and make a point about how Ed and Al do still have a home, do still have more they could lose, and to make us care more about Winry and her grandmother, but it felt very manipulated to me, and that really decreased their desired effect.

Overall: A pretty poor episode.

Posted by: A. | July 19, 2014

Firefly Review S1E13: “Heart of Gold”

“The family she made, the strength of her love for them, it’s what kept them together. When you live with that kind of strength, you get tied to it. You can’t break away, and you never want to.”

-Inara Serra, Firefly S1E13: “Heart of Gold”

Brief synopsis: Mal and company sign on to protect one of Inara’s friends and her whorehouse from the man that owns their moon, knowing it will likely be a losing battle.

Title significance: “Heart of Gold” is the name of the little whorehouse that Mal and his crew go to defend on behalf of Inara’s friend, Nandi. The episode revolves around Nandi, the owner of the whorehouse, and how her life and death affects both Mal and Inara.

“Heart of Gold” is also a reference to the saying “a prostitute with a heart of gold.” The idea is essentially someone who has had a rough life, someone people look down upon, who unexpectedly is the nicest person there is. Though it’s not really unexpected from Nandi, she fits this trope.

Family: In this episode, we get a look at another family that has been thrown together by necessity and stays together out of love. Nandi obviously loves her girls and boys, and will do anything to protect them and her home, much like Mal. We see how she refuses to run, because this place and these people are important to her.

We also see the perversion of the idea of family. Ranse Burgess believes he has a right to Petaline’s child just because of his DNA. But from what we see of him, Ranse is cruel, hard-hearted, misogynistic, and treats his wife, the family he does have, as well as Petaline, the mother of his child, like crap. He believes that Jonah belongs to him, but what he wants is just a shadow of true family.

Success of family: I like how we get to see a parallel family as well as a perversion of family.

What “Heart of Gold” does right:

  • Nandi – I liked Nandi. The show did a good job of making me care about her and her little whorehouse in the brief time we knew her. Her interactions with Mal are spot on. I bought the chemistry between them, and I also saw the similarities between them. They were kindred spirits in a way, and when Nandi died we felt the pain of both Mal and Inara.
  • Inara – I never connected with Inara much. This episode is a huge exception of that. That moment after Inara discovers that Mal and Nandi slept together, when she retreats to a corner and crouches, bawling, she suddenly becomes someone who shares something with me. I have had those exact types of moments, and every time I see this scene, I can feel those emotions again. This is my favorite scene of the episode.
  • Emotions – I feel like this episode really made great use of the characters. Mal and Inara were obviously the stars, and their emotional stories shone brilliantly. But we also had Kaylee’s desire to feel pretty, Zoe and Wash’s discussion about having a baby, and Book’s awkward, yet kind, interactions with some of the girls, Jayne training his favorite prostitute for battle. They were all very elegantly done, and I very much enjoyed it.

What “Heart of Gold” could have done better:

  • Girls/Guys - Besides Nandi, the girls and boys of “Heart of Gold” didn’t really have much personality. There was the spy, the two interested in religion, Petaline, and Jayne’s girl, and that’s as much as they got into it. I think we could have cared much more about the house and what was going on if some of these characters were developed a bit more and felt like real people as opposed to props.
  • Lying – At the beginning of the episode, Nandi tells Ranse that Petaline has left the moon. Less than a second later, his men emerge from the house with Petaline. Why even bother lying if the girl is right there? Aren’t there any nooks and crannies where she could have hid? Like, it took them so little time to find her, she must have been standing right by the door. It seems like such a stupid lie when she knew they were going to find her in a second.
  • Ranse – Ranse was so ridiculous as a villain. It made him very one-dimensional. I know it was likely done so we would agree that Nandi was completely in the right to oppose him having any claim on Petaline’s baby, but I think it would have been cool to have some moral gray area there (kinda like we had with the guy in “Trash”). He just didn’t make for a very interesting villain. Too heavy-handed what with making his ally kneel before him because she was a woman . . .

Overall: For the most part really good, but could have been much better with more effort placed in guest characters.

Posted by: A. | July 12, 2014

Lost Review S1E20: “The Greater Good”

 “I didn’t know Boone very well, and for that I am sorry. On our sixth day here, a woman named Joanna died. She drowned. And Boone was the first one into the water. I didn’t know him, but I remember his courage.”

-Sayid Jarrah, Lost S1E20: “The Greater Good”

Brief synopsis: Shannon asks Sayid to kill Locke for killing her brother. Jack’s body starts failing on him. In the flashbacks, Sayid betrays a friend in order to get Nadia’s location.

Title significance: “The Greater Good” usually references the sacrifice of the one for the many. In this episode, we see how the CIA and the Australians manipulate Sayid in order to get the location of a ton of C4 that had been stolen. Even though one of the terrorists wants to come clean, they tell Sayid to convince him to go through with it. They are willing to sacrifice this man to get the location of the explosives. This is for “The Greater Good.”

This sacrifice also calls to mind the death of Boone, the aftermath of which we are still dealing with this episode. Locke tells the rest of the survivors how Boone died, how he found a working radio and didn’t leave the plane because he was trying to get a hold of the outside world and secure a rescue. Boone chose to take that risk for “The Greater Good.”

Mystery: Did we get any new mysteries really this episode? You know, I don’t really think there is, besides how the heck Shannon knew the location of the case with the guns. At some point, Lost just begins introducing mystery after mystery, and I guess we’re not yet to that point. I like it better this way.

In fact, a mystery is even solved. Locke confesses to Sayid this episode that he was the one who knocked Sayid out in order to keep him from triangulating the signal of Rousseau’s message. I guess we do get more of a mystery through this reveal. Was Lock really concerned about the safety of venturing towards the signal, or does he just have an obsession with the island and his newfound ability to walk?

Success of mystery: I like that we’re not really getting new mysteries bombarding us.

What “The Greater Good” does right:

  •  Sayid – Sayid’s interrogation of Lock was really well done. I believed that due to Sayid’s history in the Republican Guard, he could tell when Locke was telling the truth. It was done subtly, and it made Sayid just seem really cool and competent. It was really fun watching the two of them dance around each other.
  • Jack – I like that Jack is finally paying the toll for the things he’s been putting his body through. It’s believable, especially given Jack’s character, with the combination of pushing himself too hard, not taking care of his body’s needs like rest and hydration, and being in a sour mood all the time. It heightens the tension as Jack is so valuable to the survivors, and I think it makes for some really great moments where Jak is struggling against his own body.
  • Aaron – I really enjoyed this little subplot. It didn’t really advance the plot at all, but I think Lost is at its best when it’s just characters interacting. Everyone acts like idiots when they’re trying to entertain a baby, and we see that here. It makes us connect with these characters, it makes us smile, and it brings the characters together.

What “The Greater Good” could have done better:

  • Information – There are ways of giving us information without having people announce things they wouldn’t normally say. The CIA agent mentions that Sayid has spent 18 hours in a holding cell. She doesn’t say this for Sayid’s benefit; she says it for the audience’s benefit. Things like this really bring me out a story. It breaks the fourth wall for me.
  • Flashbacks – I wasn’t overly enamored with the flashbacks. I thought they didn’t add anything to the episode. In fact, I think they actually made Sayid’s character a bit worse. He just went through this horrible ordeal where his actions led to his friend, Essam’s, death. His plane crashed on his way to finally find Nadia. I didn’t see any of this affecting him in the previous episodes as he’s on the island. This makes his torture of Sawyer make even less sense than it already did.
  •  Shannon – In some ways, I really do like this storyline. It has a bit of a Lord of the Flies feel to it. However, I just am not emotionally connecting to it in a way I would like to. Her silent and sullen demeanor at the funeral felt in character for Shannon. But then she talks to Locke, as though she understands, is offended by something, then decides to kill him because Jack said he lied. It felt like it suddenly took the complexity out of the situation. I go from seeing her as a person to going: “Oh. Okay. I guess.”

Overall: Wasn’t all that into this episode.

Posted by: A. | July 5, 2014

Greek Review S1E15: “Freshman Daze”

 “From the moment I saw you, I knew you were the girl I wanted as my little sis. I see you at my med school graduation, I see you at my wedding. And I just know we’ll still be talking when we’re ninety.”

-Frannie Morgan, Greek S1E15: “Freshman Daze”

Brief synopsis: We see in flashbacks the events that caused Casey to break up with Cappie. Frannie tries to extend the olive branch to Casey.

Title significance: This episode is mostly flashbacks to when Cappie, Evan, and Casey were freshman. It depicts the events surrounding Cappie and Evan’s falling out, Casey breaking up with Cappie for Evan, and how the three of them got to their respective houses.

So that’s where the “Freshman” portion comes in. I have no idea why they decided to go for “Daze” instead of “Days.” This is actually done a lot without any real purpose for it, and I find it to be a bit cliched. It has been used so much that it has ceased to be clever, especially in this instance where it refers to nothing.

Greek life: This episode introduces the All Greek Ball (or the Testicle as Cappie calls it). Apparently it’s an annual tradition that allows all the Greeks to get together for what amounts to a Prom Part 2. It’s not an overly interesting look at Greek life. It doesn’t really have any interesting traditions surrounding it or anything.

We also get a look at the pledge process of ZBZ back in the day. There was a super judgmental donut test (which really does kind of demonstrate what sort of house Zeta Beta is). On the other hand, we also got a very sweet Big Sis naming ceremony, which seemed heavily steeped in ritual with the candles and not being able to see your sis beforehand. It really showed how the ritual sucks you in to really make the connection feel special.

Nods to Greek Life: The big little ceremony was pretty adorable.

What “Freshman Daze” does right:

  • Present Frannie – Present Frannie is supportive of Casey to the point of being ridiculously comical. I found it hilarious, and I thought it was a much better direction than making Frannie an openly bitchy rival once again. It adds more depth, and the audience wonders, just like Casey, how much of it we can truly believe. I thought it was a great way of lightening up this episode.
  •  Past Frannie – I loved past Frannie. Her absolute disgust at Cappie, Egyptian Joe, and Beaver was so lovely. I think it’s fantastic that they can take a character I don’t like, have her chew out one of my favorite characters, and have me cheering her on for it.
  • Cappie and Bex – I know I’m probably the only fan of the show that ships this couple and hates Cappie and Casey together. Be that as it may, I thought this episode demonstrated how much Cappie has matured (or how much more he loves Rebecca) by the contrast with how he treated Casey in the past and how he treats Rebecca now. He even obviously put effort into his clothes. This was the real message we got out of this episode. Cappie has grown up a bit.

What “Freshman Daze” could have done better:

  •  Laundry room pitch – I don’t think Frannie pitch in the laundry room was all that well thought out. Like . . . is a laundry room at a dorm really the best location? One, you’re making your pitch for the benefit of only two girls. Two, the excuse she used was the laundry at the house was broken. The doesn’t sound like a very nice house, having to lug their laundry around. It was just a bit silly.
  • Rusty – Rusty’s role in this episode is so worthless. He’s just trying to figure out what happened at the Ball two years ago. We’re already seeing the flashbacks, so his sleuthing isn’t adding anything to our knowledge. We see one newspaper clipping from Rusty and that’s it. It’s very unimpressive and really superfluous.
  • Stereotypical – I found the reason Casey and Cappie broke up to be pretty boring. Same with the reason Evan and Cappie are no longer friends. I just didn’t find the backstory to be all that interesting. I suppose it’s supposed to be a shock that Evan originally wanted to be in KT, but it didn’t really feel like one. It felt like the obvious way to go.

Overall: A pretty decent episode, if only for how awesome Frannie was for the entire thing.

“I just had a vision, okay? A vision of the rest of my life. It takes place in this same outfit behind the same desk in the same store.”

-Chuck Bartowski, Chuck S2E1: “Chuck vs. the First Date”

Brief synopsis: Chuck tries to ensure the cypher that will allow him to lead a normal life gets into the government’s hands, not realizing that doing so would mean his death sentence.

Title significance: This episode doesn’t have Chuck and Sarah’s first date. It has Chuck and Sarah’s first real date. This is their first date where they are just themselves, enjoying a meal together. Of course, this first date also turns into a spy mission when they are attacked by a group of men looking for the cypher.

This date really demonstrates the difficulties of Sarah and Chuck having a real relationship. As Beckman points out to Casey, Chuck cannot have a normal life now that he’s been the Intersect, even if a second Intersect comes online. And Sarah is already a secret agent, so once she’s done with Chuck she will need to disappear somewhere far away.

Covert Ops: Sarah didn’t bring a gun along to their date. She knows there’s someone out there trying to obtain the cypher, someone who has seen both her and Chuck’s faces. Why the heck didn’t she bring a gun along? Wasn’t she taught how to be prepared in CIA training? Casey was most certainly prepared with his needle and the safety shower.

We also get that bit where Chuck is able to fool the baddies (I know they had a name, but I’m not interested in looking it up right now) by reciting Morgan’s specs, then calling Morgan and having him recite the exact same specs. It was a cute bit of deception, showed a lot of cleverness, and while it was unbelievable, it was so cute, I didn’t care.

Intrigue of covert ops: Some parts make no sense.

What “Chuck vs. the First Date” does right:

  •  Casey – The fact that Casey has come to care about Chuck is fucking adorable. It gives him heart, while also showing how steadfast his loyalty to his country is. He is willing to kill Chuck, someone he cares about, because it would be the best thing for his country. This really defines Casey as a character.
  • Impossibility of a normal life – I love how this show makes it so obvious that even once the other Intersect goes online, there is no way Chuck would be able to have a normal life. As long as he has those secrets in his head, he is in danger, and even if they were removed, the fact that he once had them still leaves him and his family in danger. The bad guys use his job against him, his date with Sarah is interrupted. Even though he and Sarah don’t know it, it’s impossible.
  • Longing for something else – Chuck wants to go somewhere with his life. He’s no longer happy just working at the Buy More, even with the opportunity for the assistant manager position. This longing, especially at the end of the episode when he speaks to Morgan, feels very real and relatable, and it makes me hurt for Chuck’s sake.

What “Chuck vs. the First Date” could have done better:

  •  Oversharing – So, Casey isn’t all that enthusiastic about killing Chuck. Great. But just in case you didn’t get it from everything else in the episode, like Casey asking if it’s necessary, acting upset, not being able to shoot Chuck’s picture in his homemade shooting range, he cocks his gun and says, “I used to like the sound of that.” This felt weird and out of character, and a bit condescending, like they didn’t think the audience would realize that Casey is reluctant to kill Chuck. There was absolutely no reason for it, and honestly there isn’t much need for being unable to shoot Chuck’s picture either.
  • Stupid decisions – Why are the bad guys wearing recognizable emblems? Why did Sarah not bring her gun on her date? Why did Chuck not realize everyone in the restaurant was a bad guy until too late and all at once? Why was it so easy to get the cypher from Casey? Shouldn’t they have a lot more code phrases than one word? Why. Why why why.
  • Chuck as a superspy – This show sometimes likes to present Chuck as a natural spy. This show also liked to present Chuck as completely out of his depth in the spy game. We see that this episode as the bad guy calls Chuck Casey’s boss and calls him good. It’s just a ridiculous juxtaposition, and doesn’t work very well.

Overall: Not the greatest season premiere, but there were some nice moments.

Posted by: A. | June 14, 2014

Castle Review S2E7: “Famous Last Words”

“It’s the lyrics that really get me. So many layers. It took me a few listens to get to the bottom of them.”

-Richard Castle, Castle S2E7: “Famous Last Words”

Brief synopsis: A famous singer is found dead. The rest is standard Castle fare.

Title significance: Famous last words is a phrase used on the last sentence or two a person said before they died when there is something significant about them. They are often considered ironic or coincidental, though this is not always the case. The “Famous Last Words” in this episode is Hayley Blue’s famous final song.

In fact, it’s Hayley’s final song that leads Castle and Beckett to the true killer by helping them determine what happened between her and her producer and father figure, Ian Busch. She actually laid the whole story out for anyone to discover if they listened carefully to her song.

Homelife and the Case: The victim this episode happens to be one of Alexis’s favorite singers, leaving her quite distraught. Alexis is intensely interested in the case because of this, even coming down to the station and letting the team know about Hayley’s stint in rehab and the significance of the music video. She later spurs Castle to look more deeply into the case as she listens to Hayley’s final song and analyzes it a bit.

I think it’s pretty natural for Alexis to want to be involved in the case, and the information she gives is stuff the detectives would have easily figured out without her, which I like. It makes the situation more believable and was merely a more interesting way for the police to get the information. The lyrics, I’m less in love with, as I’ll talk about a bit below.

Success of homelife parallelism: It worked really well.

What “Famous Last Words” does right:

  • Alexis – Alexis has a little bit of her father in her. Her desire to skip school in order to help the police solve the cases was something that she definitely got from him (and her mother, most likely). It was nice to see a bit of a wild streak in her, especially as it still felt in character.
  •  Sky – While the fact that her name is Sky Blue bugs the hell out of me, I really liked the subplot of Hayley’s troubled sister deciding to follow in her sister’s footsteps and get clean. It gave the episode some heart, and made the ending much more satisfying than it might have been. The moment Sky appears on screen, I found her fascinating. I loved her interactions with Beckett, especially when they first meet. It was a great addition to the episode.
  • Ending – The ending was very sweet. Seeing Sky, looking like she’s doing much better, singing her sister’s song while Castle, Beckett, Alexis, and Martha stood there with their candles in vigil was touching and added a nice bit of closure to the episode.

What “Famous Last Words” could have done better:

  •  Lyrics – I hate that the only reason they actually solved the crime is because they listened to the lyrics from Hayley’s last song and took them as a literal clue. I hate that no one seemed to acknowledge that was a stretch. The whole thing seemed pretty stupid to me, and I didn’t really take it seriously as a clue.
  • Cruelty – So, Ian Busch’s wife is innocent and unaware in the entire affair. That certainly doesn’t stop Castle and Beckett from breaking it to her in the cruelest way possible that her husband raped the girl they took in, then murdered the victim, then was willing to let her take the fall for him. The whole scene was very painful, and I just thought it was quite cruel to do that to her.
  • The culprit – I found the conclusion to the whole murder to be pretty meh. We’ve seen similar situations on Castle, and nothing really happened to make this one stand out. This combined with the magical lyrical clue makes the actual conclusion and Ian Busch as the culprit just not very exciting.

Overall: This episode, while fine, doesn’t really stand out.

“Somehow, some way, this soul beat the Devil. He got out of a deal with him. And all I have to do is figure out how he did it, and then I can get out of my deal too.”

-Sam Oliver, Reaper S2E1: “Episode IV: A New Hope”

Brief synopsis: Andi is questioning her relationship with Sam due to the danger he’s always in as a reaper. Sock crushes on his new stepsister, and Sam needs to capture 40 souls with a vessel that needs recharging.

Title significance: Let’s talk about the idea of hope. When the episode begins, Sam has been running from his problems. The man he knew as his father is dead, he’s still working for the Devil, he’s jobless, homeless, and Andi is pretty pissed at him. He’s stuck with a crappy vessel and a ton of dangerous souls. He is in a bad place. But then, he meets a soul who was able to beat the Devil, and suddenly, he’s in a great mood. He’s found a new hope.

Another interesting thing about this title is how it’s taken from the first Star Wars film to premiere. The famous twist (that doesn’t occur in A New Hope, but whatevs) is that Darth Vader, the antagonist, is the protagonist’s father. This goes along with how Sam has discovered that the Devil is likely his dad.

Theology: For some reason, the ambiguity of last season is gone, and the Devil is giving Sam a talk as though he is his son. Now, the Devil is the great Liar, so I don’t take this to be definitive. However, we do get some other interesting theological tidbit through his discussion with Sam.

First is the revelation that he has a ton of children. Even if Sam is the Devil’s son, that doesn’t really make him unique or special. This makes sense. There’s myths about angels mating with humans, and the Devil as a philanderer, leaving a pregnant girl high and dry, certainly seems in character. There’s also the fact that he is hoping for one of them to show some promise when it come to bringing about Hell on Earth, and apparently none of them have. I wonder why that is.

Success of theology: We’re getting some more detail that really opens up the world and characters we may meet.

What “Episode IV: A New Hope” does right:

  • The Vessel – I love when the vessel adds a new and interesting twist to the capture of souls. The cattleprod that can only catch one soul at a time, needs recharging between each use, and needs to be used on 40 souls, was exactly that. It required creative thinking and problem-solving, and allowed the boys to absolutely ridiculous.
  • Friendship – You now, I love the friendship between Sam, Sock, and Ben (though sometimes they forget about poor Ben’s problems). They montage of them having a “cram session,” which was essentially sitting around, getting drunk, and becoming steadily more ridiculous, was great. It’s nice to just see them have fun together. I also like how the three of them stuck together, first moving into the Work Bench, then moving into Sock’s mom’s house together.
  • Ending – I love the ending. First, it gives the season focus. They’re going to try to track down this soul to get the info on how to get out of the deal with the Devil. I like a season with focus. It also creates a great interaction between the Devil and Sam at the end, where the Devil is weirded out by new, hopeful Sam. It combines the Devil’s usual amusing schtick with a deeper emotion. It was a great moment. Also, the moment where the soul excitedly proclaims that he’s free was unexpected which just added to the positives of the moment.

What “Episode IV: A New Hope” could have done better:

  • Stepsister – You know, I think she’s pretty awesome. The plotline given to her? Not so awesome. I like plotlines that really delve into a person’s character. This is just silly. We’re not going to learn anything about Sock we don’t already know. It’s easy humor, and honestly, something I didn’t really find all that funny. I ould have been so much more interested in Sock’s relationship with a new sister if he wasn’t lusting after her. Wouldn’t that have so much more potential as more than just a stupid joke?
  • Continuity – So, maybe I missed something. But Sam gives a soul a vessel, the soul announces how gullible he is, then knocks him out. I was under the impression that the soul kept the vessel, and I kept waiting for it to be a thing. But it never happened. I assume the soul just dropped the vessel down on top of him after knocking him out, but it still felt really weird that we didn’t see that, and I just felt like something was wrong the rest of the episode.
  • Inconsistency – So, Sock is able to break down the door to the Work Bench with ease, but later when he’s trying to break into his own house, he suddenly doesn’t know how to bust down a door. There is inconsistency when it comes to Sock’s ability to bust down doors, and I don’t like it!

Overall: A really fun episode to come back to.

Posted by: A. | May 24, 2014

Glee Review S1E19: “Dream On”

“I’m going to guess that a lot of your dreams involve show biz. Well, let me tell you, show biz dreams are the most unrealistic of them all.”

-Brian Ryan, Glee S1E19: “Dream On”

Brief synopsis: An old classmate of Will’s shows up, determined to shut glee club down because he feels it gave him unrealistic expectations. Jesse helps Rachel search for clues to her mom’s identity. Tina encourages Artie in his dream of walking and even dancing one day.

Title significance: “Dream On” is the name of the Aerosmith song featured in this episode. The scene in which Will and Brian Ryan sing the song encapsulates the main conflict of the episode. Will and Brian Ryan are both feeling like they haven’t succeeded in achieving their dreams, and it comes through as they vie for the lead in Les Mis.

It also speaks to the main point of the episode. Even though it is very unlikely that anyone in that choir room will achieve their dreams (if this show were realistic), Will wants to encourage them to not give up on their dreams, Tina wants to encourage Artie to not give up on walking someday, Jesse wants to encourage Rachel to achieve her dream of finding her mother. They want each other to “Dream On.”

Songs: The songs featured this episode are “Dream On” by Aerosmith, “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, and “Dream a Little Dream” by Ozzie Nelson. Obviously there is a dream theme going on this episode, with three of the four songs being about dreams.

I loved “Dream On” because NPH performed it, which automatically makes it the best song Glee has ever done. “I Dreamed a Dream” is extremely touching with Rachel and her mother singing together. The flash mob “Safety Dance” performance is cute. “Dream a Little Dream” is definitely the most forgettable of the bunch. The other three stuck with me since I last watched the episode several years ago when it aired, which I think really makes this episode stand out music wise.

Success of song choices: Mostly very good and memorable.

What “Dream On” does right:

  • Artie – Parts of this plotline really annoyed me, but I’ll get into that below. There’s something truly heartbreaking about Artie’s desire to walk, and one of the big things that makes it so heartbreaking is how he doesn’t really talk about it much. Though he’s expressed a desire to connect with someone who understands having a disability, this is the first time we’ve really experienced how much he dreams about being able to use his body like a “normal” person. I think this brings an extra bit of tragedy to the scenes.
  • Brian Ryan – While I think the writing for the character isn’t spectacular, I think he’s right (both when he’s for glee club and when he’s against it). Working in the arts is not a particularly realistic dreams to have, but it’s still a great way to stimulate your mind. People can strive to meet their dreams, but it’s still a good idea to have some sort of back-up plan. There’s a happy medium, and who knows, maybe some of these kids might actually make it.
  • Rachel’s mom – We discover the identity of Rachel’s mom this episode, which okay. Fine. However, I think the image of how much they yearn for each other, as they sing a far-away duet, is very moving. It sets up a plotline with the potential for some great emotion, and I think it gives Rachel a bit more of a complex character.

What “Dream On” could have done better:

  • Trading a role for glee club – While I get that Brian Ryan in a egotistical ass who doesn’t care about how he got the role as long as he gets it, but the whole thing felt very weird to me. There was the fact that Will clearly thought so little of Ryan that he made the offer (and it’s not Will’s decision to begin with; it is the director’s). Brian Ryan’s pride was obviously very wounded when he got a background role (I mean, there are plenty other roles he could have been: Marius, Javert, Thernardier, and I find it very odd he didn’t get one of them. How many fantastic actors/singers are there in the Lima area?), and that didn’t come into play, making it a very emotionally unsatisfying scene.
  •  Jesse – So, Jesse came back. There’s no discussion or emotional fallout to what happened when Rachel used him, Puck, and Finn. It would be so much more rewarding if there was something there . . . But he’s back from a spring break which he took with his old school even though he’s still going to McKinley, for some reason. None of this makes any sense.
  • Artie – So Artie’s a smart kid. But he goes ahead and makes an appointment with the school counselor in order to prepare himself for how his life will change once he can walk based on some experimental treatments he’s read about. Obviously, he’s stil a kid and this is something he really wants. But it felt a bit disrespectful to high school students (especially disabled kids) to make it seem like they can’t understand things like experimental treatments taking years or being no guarantee. In fact, a lot of Artie’s scenes seemed purposefully manipulative to make us feel bad for him (like Tina leaving him in the middle of the mall instead of taking him with her). It was just . . . really weird.

Overall: Sadly, since I obviously think Joss Whedon is pretty great, I didn’t really like this episode.

Posted by: A. | May 4, 2014

Lost Review S1E19: “Do No Harm”

“I know you made a promise. I’m letting you off the hook. Let me go, Jack.”

-Boone Carlyle, Lost S1E19: “Do No Harm”

Brief synopsis: Jack and Sun struggle to save Boone’s life. Because Jack is busy, Kate must deliver Claire’s baby. In the flashbacks, Jack gets married.

Title significance: “Do No Harm” is a phrase that comes from the Hippocratic Oath which is historically associated with people in the medical industry like Jack. Jack clearly takes this idea of not doing harm very seriously, to the point where he considers inaction, even when someone is past the point of being saved, to be doing harm.

Jack goes to the extremes to save Boone, and when Boone dies, he is pissed at Locke. Just like he was pissed at his father for putting patients in danger by coming into surgery drunk, just like he was pissed at Sawyer when he thought he was withholding Shannon’s meds. This is what makes Jack tick, what he is afraid of failing at.

Mystery: There isn’t very much going on on the island that’s all that mysterious this episode. Instead, I feel as though we get our mystery from the flashback. Jack was obviously once very in love and married to a beautiful woman whose life he had saved. It seems that he is no longer married. What happened?

This isn’t a supernatural mystery. These things happen very often in real life. But it’s the mystery that has the potential to reveal more about the character. It is not a mystery to him, like the island stuff would be, but it is a mystery to the viewers, which creates an interesting dynamic.

Success of mystery: I really like these sorts of mysteries.

What “Do No Harm” does right:

  • Ending – I love the ending of this episode. Jack making the declaration that Boone didn’t die, he was murdered, followed by saying he was going to go find John Locke, was perfect. I don’t generally like Jack. But at the moment, he was so cool. The fact that we’re gearing up for a showdown between Jack and Locke makes me pretty excited for the next episode. I want to see Jack tear Locke a new one.
  • Sun and Jin – They were both so awesome in their separate ways this episode. Sun acting as a nurse assisting Jack and having the stroke of genius that using a sea urchin was great and went right along with her knowledge of herbal remedies. She was invaluable to Jack, the only one who could hope to keep up with him. Jin figured out the situation with Claire and was able to keep Charlie calm during the birth. His joy at the end was infectious. Plus, they were able to put aside their differences in order to communicate with Jack. Bravo to them both.
  • Jack – I empathized with Jack this episode. He is pushing himself to the limit in order to save Boone, and it seems that no one can do anything for themselves. People are still running to him with everything. I could see his frustration with everyone, and I thought it was perfect for the character. Kudos to Matthew Fox for a brilliant job this episode.

What “Do No Harm” could have done better:

  • Jin’s info – When Jin arrives bearing news that Claire’s baby is coming, Jack interrogates him and somehow Jin has all this information about how far apart the contractions are and how much pain Claire is in. Jin was there with Claire and Kate for less than a minute and he doesn’t speak enough English for them to have given him that information. How does he magically know all about Claire’s contractions? I am baffled and confused.
  • Flashbacks – In any other episode, I think I would have been okay with these flashbacks due to the questions they raise regarding what happened in Jack’s life between then and now. As is, I don’t think they fit very well in the episode. The theme of letting go, of not being afraid of potentially failing didn’t seem to really jive as well as I think it was meant to, especially since these are such different situations. It felt weird to watch Jack pour his life into Boone, juxtaposed with him struggling over writing his own vows.
  • Panic – It would have been pretty cool if someone besides Jack kept their head. Later, Sun and to a lesser extent, Jin and Michael, both stepped up, but when Boone is first brought to the caves, Jack has to constantly repeat specific instructions he gave to specific people, including Sun. I get that some people would react like that, but we get the exact same thing with Kate, with Hurley, and even with Sun, which completely goes against the level-headedness she demonstrates as the episode continues. We get it. He’s hurt. We’re wasting time having this same thing happen three times.

Overall: I really liked this episode. I wish Lost was like this more often.

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