Posted by: A. | April 13, 2014

South Park Review S2E3: “Chickenlover”

“Only by fucking chickens could I get Officer Barbrady to become literate.”

-Book Mobile Driver, South Park S2E3: “Chickenlover”

Brief Synopsis: When a criminal is going around town having sex with chickens and leaving notes, Officer Barbrady quits the force and goes back to school to learn to read in order to catch the culprit.

Title significance: The episode is about the mystery of the “Chickenlover.” There is someone in South Park going around, engaging in sex acts with innocent chickens. Hence the name “Chickenlover.” These actions spark the events of the episode, causing Officer Barbrady to quit and go back to elementary school to learn to read.

“Chickenlover” is initially called “Chickenfucker” by the adults of South Park. They then decide that word is too graphic and begin referring to the perpetrator as “Chickenlover.” Changing the name does not change the crime. It’s just a word, and changing it doesn’t magically make the content okay for children. I think this is a nice little point.

Social commentary: It was such a small bit of the episode, but I thought it was really funny and it was a great way to end the episode on. Officer Barbrady decides he’s never going to read again after having read Ayn Rand because he hated it that much. However you feel about Ayn Rand, I thought this was hilarious (though maybe I’m a bit biased as Ayn Rand has been a subject of much hilarity for me since witnessing my college bestie’s roommate tearfully yell at her boyfriend that she wanted to break up because he reads Ayn Rand).

Most of the episode just seemed to function as a satire of children’s shows like Blue’s Clues where there’s a mystery to be solved with inexplicably easy clues left behind so only a child would have any sort of issue solving the crime. It’s taking that very concept and putting it in a situation where an adult police officer is having difficulty with the clues.

Success of Social Commentary: Not overly exciting this episode.

What “Chickenlover” does right:

  • Mystery – This episode really did capture the feel of a children’s mystery. Someone is committing crimes, and the protagonist must learn a basic skill in order to stop them. I think this episode captured this concept and the ridiculousness of it brilliantly. It felt very familiar, and fit really well with Officer Barbrady’s character.
  • Cops – Oh my goodness. The dialogue of both Cartman and Officer Barbrady during their stints on Cops is priceless, and by far the funniest part of the episode. I don’t even know what else to say about beside it was hilarious. It had the perfect amount of self-important cliche phrases, and was a wonderful parody.
  • Mayoral Aides – More and more I think the Mayor’s aides are my favorite characters (after Ms. Crabtree). They seem to some of the more intelligent adult characters in South Park (and I think the show sometimes needs a bit more of that), and I find their attempts to be intimidating and dramatic amusing.

What “Chickenlover” could have done better:

  • The kids – Besides Cartman, the kids really didn’t do much this episode., besides occasionally exclaim how much reading sucks. It kinda makes me wish their roles in this episode were reduced even more. There wasn’t much need for them and what they did do didn’t really add to anything.
  • No continued chaos – After Officer Barbrady quits, the town of South Park instantly descends into chaos. And then . . . nothing. It’s as though this plot was completely forgotten about for the rest of the episode. If they didn’t want to make it important to the episode, they could have just used it as a running joke, with riots randomly running through the classroom or something. It just seems like a big thing to put in, then drop without any mention.
  • Overrated – This is one of the first episodes of South Park I ever heard quoted (Cartman’s “Respect my authoritah.”). It’s an episode most people seem to really like, and to be honest, I just don’t get it. For the most part, I was pretty bored throughout the episode. There were some parts that were a bit funny, but I struggled to come up with pros for this episode.

Overall: I really wasn’t all that impressed by this episode.

“No, no, wait a minute. If- If she’s my dad . . . who’s my mom?”

-Eric Cartman, South Park S2E2: “Cartman’s Mom is Still a Dirty Slut”

Brief Synopsis: Right before Mephisto reveals the identity of Cartman’s father, he is shot and must be rushed to the hospital. A huge blizzard snows in a film crew with some of South Park’s residents.

Title significance: This episode deals with the identity of Eric Cartman’s father. The title comes from the very fact that Liane Cartman hooked up with so many different men the night that Cartman was conceived that no one has any idea who his father is, except for Dr. Mephisto.

This is a continuation of last season’s finale: “Cartman’s Mom is a Dirty Slut.” The addition of the word “Still” in the title not only is a reminder of how long the audience had to wait to get this conclusion. It also reads very much like the title of a sequel (You know, the kind where they have the “still” drawn into the title with a little carat?), which is pretty cute.

Social commentary: You know, I think this episode was a little bit weak in the social commentary department. The biggest portion is probably about America’s Most Wanted, and how the network is all about just making entertaining television and the mayor only cares about her image, all behind a ruse of trying to find a killer.

It really does show how shallow and self-serving people can be, and how they must be conscious of it because they try to justify it. The same theme is in the cannibal portion of the episode, where they justify eating their fellow human beings after going less than a day without food.

Success of Social Commentary: Meh.

What “Cartman’s Mom is Still a Dirty Slut” does right:

  • “Come Sail Away” – This is my most quoted bit from South Park. I thought it was hilarious. I still think it’s hilarious. It’s my favorite bit in this episode, if not the entire series. I don’t quite know why that is. Maybe it’s because it’s something that’s just cute, no gross-out humor, no political commentary, just something that straight-up makes me smile.
  •  Kenny – Here’s an example where predictability works well. We know what is being set up by having just Kenny in charge of turning on the back-up generator. It is this knowledge that makes the rest of it so amusing, as the doctor tells Kenny just what to do while “Team A” watches TV and drinks cocoa. There’s new twist this time as well, as Kenny chooses to die in order to save those in the hospital. I like this new take, and I like the extra bit of character it gives Kenny.
  • The reveal – I really like the decision to make Mrs. Cartman Eric’s father. It’s the most satisfactory ending I think they could have given. It had to be something ridiculous, and this really fits the bill. It’s a great twist, one I’m sure most people did not see coming. It also leaves another mystery open: who is Cartman’s mom?

What “Cartman’s Mom is Still a Dirty Slut” could have done better:

  • Cannibalism – I know South Park loves to go for shock value, and while I think it’s sometimes a good thing, I think it also sometimes makes the show predictable. The cannibalism portion of the show was very predictable, and I think that really hurt it in terms of being amusing and even interesting. The fact that South Park tries so hard to be shocking actually sometimes makes things like this less shocking, and if scenes like this are predictable, they lose their value.
  • Overplayed – The first several times it happened, I thought it was hilarious. Then it became mildly amusing. By the end of the episode, every time the announcer said: “Who did such-and-such? Is it so-and-so? So-and-so?”, I wanted to bang my head again something. I know sometimes South Park does things that are annoying on purpose to make a statement, but we just had an episode-long moment the last episode. That one was clever, this one is just a ruined joke.
  •  Abortion laws – So, Mrs. Cartman decides she wants to put Eric up for adoption. Except she keeps calling it abortion. It’s a fairly stupid plotline that doesn’t add much, and in retrospect, the confusion doesn’t even make sense, given things she says, such as how she doesn’t think it’s right to bring a child into an already overpopulated world. This doesn’t make sense if she meant adoption.

Overall: Parts of it, I really liked.

Posted by: A. | March 24, 2014

Reaper Review S1E18: “Cancun”

“Your parents didn’t make a deal for your soul; they made a deal to bear the child of Lucifer!”

-Tony, Reaper S1E18: “Cancun”

Brief synopsis:Tony decides to kill Sam, who he has decided is the son of the Devil, as a blow to Lucifer. Sam thinks he’s been seeing Steve showing up. Sock decides to sacrifice years of his life to kiss a succubus.

Title significance: “Cancun” is the reason that Sam is alive at the end of the episode. Steve appears to him and tells him to ask Tony about Cancun, and when he does so, Tony ends up saving Sam. Cancan had a huge amount of significance for Steve and Tony; they took their first vacation there, and they called it “Heaven.”

The fact that Steve uses Cancun as a codeword is very significant as it’s what clues Tony into the fact that Steve made it to Heaven. This is a huge moment, and we’ll talk about it more later. Let’s suffice it to say that this gives both the characters and the viewers hope that souls can return to Heaven after belonging to the Devil.

Theology: This episode, we’re going to discuss the lottery! Just kidding, we’re going to talk about forgiveness and Steve going to Heaven. Tony seems pretty damn convinced that God’s infinite capacity for forgiveness does not extend to demons. So, when Steve shows up glowing and happy, speaking of making it into Heaven, it’s a radical difference from his beliefs.

This tells us something huge about the world of Reaper. Someone can earn their way back into Heaven through remorse and by genuinely trying to change their ways. Steve spearheaded the movement of kindness, and opposed the more violent actions of his brethren. He was the one who came the closest to truly defeating the Devil, and he earned Heaven for that.

Success of theology: Really great this episode.

What “Cancun” does right:

  • Sam’s dad – Sam’s dad. He is played so well. It’s so easy to feel a bit sorry for him, especially when he runs up to the demons in an attempt to save his son. You can see how desperate he is to save his son, and how he knows how overpowered he is. It’s a very touching moment. The rest of the episode, he was very sweetly bumbling everything, and it gets easy to care about him.
  • Steve – I was very happy to see Steve again. I always liked his character, and this seemed like such a fitting role for him. It made a huge theological statement (one that I really like both in show and on a personal level), and his actions, trying to save Sam and prevent Tony from falling further into darkness, felt very in character. It added a bit of much needed happiness to the episode.
  • Ending – Towards the end of the show, we see Sam’s dad get buried alive in the cage of Solomon. This is a really cool, unexpected moment, and the fact that it happened because he wanted to save Sam makes it even more tragic. Then we get Mrs. Oliver digging him up, ending with the reveal that he survived. This really calls into question the real reason the pages regarding Sam’s dad have been ripped out, and is a great way to end the season, on a weird, unexpected note.

What “Cancun” could have done better:

  • Better tests – It could have been a bit cool if there were a bit better test before Tony decides that Sam is the son of the Devil. He doesn’t look for alternative explanations. He lives in a world where he knows there are plenty of supernatural creatures. The son of the Devil can’t be the only one who can keep washers from falling on them. It just felt like a really inconclusive test. I would have liked to see something more clever.
  • Succubus – Sock and his goddamn succubus. Another stupid sideplot that doesn’t really do anything besides give Sock something to do for the episode. It wasn’t interesting. It just gave some vague definition about her feeding off years from his actual life. All it really served was to make a parallel to being on drugs, if drugs got offended when you shared them with friends.
  • Mourning – Sam’s dad died this episode for as far as Sam knows. Sam doesn’t really act all that upset about it. Some of that could be attributed to shock. But by the time the episode ends, we still haven’t gotten any emotional input from Sam. This leaves me very unsatisfied with the emotional end of the episode. I shouldn’t be more affected by Sam’s dad’s death then Sam is. It makes Sam suddenly very unrelatable.

Overall: A really good episode, but with some pretty major hiccups.

Posted by: A. | March 19, 2014

Angel Review S1E21: “Blind Date”

“You’re panicking right now. You can’t believe how bad you let things get. That’s not change. You have to make a decision to change.That’s something you do by yourself.”

-Angel, Angel S1E21: “Blind Date”

Brief synopsis: When a blind assassin is contracted to kill some children, a lawyer from Wolfram and Hart helps Angel protect them.

Title significance: A blind date is when a person goes on a date with someone they haven’t seen. This doesn’t have much to do with this episode besides the being able to see portion. The big bad of the episode is a woman who purposely blinded herself in order to heighten her supernatural senses. Also, the children Angel and Lindsay try to save are blind as well.

I think with a “Blind Date,” one of the biggest issues is you don’t know exactly what you’re getting into. The other person is a wild card. Lindsay most definitely fits this description. Lindsay has no idea what he’s going to do next, and Angel Investigations has even less of an idea (the only one who seems to know is Holland). This uncertainty regarding Lindsay is prominent throughout the episode.

Questions of morality: Angel is kind of regretting his stance as a good guy at the moment. Towards the beginning of the episode, he states how much more simple it is to be evil, to be free from guilt and the pressing need to help everyone. He misses the clarity of it. This is a very interesting moment, as we see Angel halfway longing to be Angelus. This makes Angel a bit more dangerous. Is he really as good as he is trying to be?

Then we have Lindsay, the evil lawyer who works for the evil law firm that protects evil-doers. He just reached a point where things were getting a bit too evil for him at Wolfram and Hart, and he wants out. He risks his life to stop evil from killing good. He is not just a mindless drone with no moral compass. He has his reasons for what he does, and I think he ends up being the true hero this episode.

Intrigue of moral ambiguity: Lindsay was an excellent person to bring into the mix with this theme of gray morals.

What “Blind Date” does right:

  • Lindsay – Let’s be honest. Lindsay McDonald makes this episode. The entirety of his character arc was perfect. Reaching out to Angel because his conscience couldn’t quite deal with children being killed by Miss Brewer, his conversations with Lilah and Lee and Holland, his going back to Wolfram and Hart in the end because of what they offered him. It was a great story and it turned him from bad guy number 1 into an interesting character.
  • The Heist – I’m a sucker for a heist, and I think Angel did their heist of Wolfram and Hart’s records very well. The fact that Lindsay was actually caught kept it from seeming too easy. They all played their roles perfectly, and I loved how they got around the vampire sensors. Gunn was hilarious with his rant (though I do think checking the watch should have alerted someone that it was a distraction. For the most part, it was cute and clever and fun to watch.
  • Disability – I feel like sometimes there’s a bit of the pressure now-a-days to always portray those with a disability in a positive light. I like how Angel showcased both the good, with the blind children who will be a great asset for the powers of good, and the bad, with the Vanessa Brewer, the evil assassin. It created a nice mix, and I enjoyed it.

What “Blind Date” could have done better:

  • Kids – So, these kids had the potential to be really interesting. Together they can see people’s hearts or something kinda cool like that. When we finally get to meet them, they’re a nice array of ethnicities, but . . . nothing. We get nothing from them. We get some generic reaction shots, but wouldn’t it have been cool if their reactions were based more on the heart or intentions of the people they meet? I would have loved to see their take on Angel and Lindsay. It felt like a missed opportunity.
  • Angel - Angel was such a dick to Lindsay and it was so unnecessary. That would have been like him telling his story to someone, and they pretended to fall asleep, then said, “Did we get to the part where you’re a vampire?” At pretty much all points in this episode, Angel was being cruel to Lindsay, and I understand his frustration, but redemption is part of his schtick. Why offer it to Faith, to himself, to anyone willing to change, but not to Lindsay?
  • Blind abilities – The supernatural gifts of the blind, the heightening of the ofter sense in response to the loss of sight, is a story we’ve all heard before. I wasn’t especially keen on hearing Angel retell it. They played with it somewhat, by having Vanessa be able to sense motion, and not be able to sense Angel when he wasn’t moving, but I wish they had expanded on this somewhat and made sure to make it a bit more unique.

Overall: A pretty good episode.

“The clubhouse turn. Juan Carlos gets hit by something. This was just like the spitball incident with Jimmy. I was so focused on the stretch that I never looked anywhere else.”

-Shawn Spencer, Psych S2E5: “And Down the Stretch Comes Murder”

Brief synopsis: A man who bullied Shawn and Gus in elementary school is now a jockey and wants their help to figure out why he’s losing races. Things turn south when another jockey dies during a race.

Title significance: “And Down the Stretch Comes Murder” is an obvious reference to how the episode takes place at the track and focuses a lot on horse races and the related culture. It’s utilizing a phrase that race announcer’s often say, replacing the name of the horse with the word “Murder.”

The fact that the title is taken from a phrase used to narrate the race is especially significant as the announcer in the episode ends up giving them an important clue as he automatically says the wrong thing during the fateful race where one of the jockeys dies. It’s a huge hint in addition to being a wink at the races.

Tribute/Talking point: I don’t see much this episode that really fits in with horse racing movies. One interesting thing, that not very much attention was called to, is the David and Goliath trope that one often sees in sports movies, including ones involving horses. This episode involves drugging the favorite horse so it would lose, so even though it didn’t really get examined, this episode involved a David beating a Goliath.

There were other bits of being at the races that were incorporated at the episode: Henry’s horrible Hawaiian shirts, the importance of the announcer, the importance of luck. It gives the episode a very distinctive flavor that’s based on the idea of the race tracks and the horse derbys.

Success of tribute: I wish there had been a bit more.

What “And Down the Stretch Comes Murder” does right:

  • Lassiter – Lassiter wanted a pony when he was a kid. That is absolutely adorable, and it was a really sweet piece of characterization. I felt like it made sense with his character (he seems like the type of person who would either love or hate horses, and now we know), and that, combined with his agreement with Shawn that the victim was poisoned, gave him a bit more range this episode.
  • 80′s – I love the way the 80′s was incorporated into this episode. Shawn’s Kangaroo shoes, the song “I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls. Even the lunch menu sounded so late 80′s, early 90′s (do they still serve sloppy Joes and tater tots at schools? Or is it all healthy like . . . quinoa and kale?). It really created a scene for me, and put me right into the time period.
  • Ending – It’s fairly rare that Gus pulls one over on Shawn, so I really liked the reveal at the end of the episode that it was Gus who actually shot the spitball that got Jimmy expelled. Gus is so very proud of himself that Shawn didn’t figure it out. It was a very cute moment, and I think it was the perfect way to end the episode.

What “And Down the Stretch Comes Murder” could have done better:

  • Juliet – Where Lassiter’s characterization of wanting a pony as a kid was charming and gave him depth, Juliet’s dislike of little people due to once dating a short man is stupid, especially in comparison. Next to the charm of Lassie’s secret, Juliet is weird and makes me like her a bit less. She’s not being asked to date the jockeys, she’s being asked to do her job, and being “creeped out” by them makes me wonder if she’s still in high school. I think that’s just it. Lassiter showed his inner child, while Juliet was a silly high school girl.
  • All-knowing Mr. Saunder – This was a really weird moment for me. It was a small moment, easily explained away, but every time I see this episode, it bothers me, so I’m going to throw it on here. Mr. Saunder knew what Shawn and Gus meant by TBW. How would he be able to figure it out. Even if he could figure it out, why would he bother, and why would he talk to them about it? He clearly was not enjoying any of the conversation.
  • Everyone is involved – There was a whole gang working on fixing the races, resulting inadvertently in Juan Carols’s death. In fact every single person we met was part of the plot, and they were the entirety of the plot. There was no one else involved that we didn’t meet, and we didn’t meet anyone who wasn’t involved. That felt too convenient.

Overall: A cute little episode. Wasn’t too exciting.

“So, you have a large favor, and I have to do it. Does it involve food or the mistress?”

-Jack Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential S1E11: “An Affair to Remember”

Brief Synopsis: Jack sleeps with the woman upstairs, only to find out later that she’s Pinot’s mistress. When she shows up at a party for Pinot’s wife, Pinot puts him in charge of handling it. Steven, Seth, and Teddy try to get Jim laid.

Title Significance: This title brings up the word “affair,” which is often used as a term for romantic interactions with someone when you’re in a committed relationship with someone else. This episode, we get to meet Pinot’s mistress. He then instructs Jack to keep hidden from his wife while the two of them are at the same party. The mistress herself is less than faithful as she sleeps with Jack to get back at Pinot.

An affair is also another term for an event, just like the party Pinot is throwing for his wife. The party where Jack is panicking about Pinot finding out about him and Gia, Pinot is annoyed that Gia is at his wife’s party, Mimi gets promoted, and Jim gets laid. It’s a pretty eventful party, and the show pretty much focuses around the events that occur there.

Restaurant Business: So, I feel like we don’t get very many real glimpses into the restaurant business this episode. Most of the drama occurs in everyone’s personal lives outside the restaurant, though I suppose Jim’s plotline stems from the belief that his food lacks flavor because he’s a virgin. I don’t know if that’s an actual superstition.

The one thing that does happen at the restaurant is the party. Apparently restaurants hate having parties, but this one is specifically for the boss, so they don’t have much choice. However, we still don’t get to see much about why parties are so horrible or what’s going on in the kitchen. Everything’s happening out on the floor.

Interest of Restaurant Business: Not too big this episode.

What “An Affair to Remember” does right:

  • Pinot – Pinot is perfect. He is perfectly intimidating. I love as he calmly pours himself a glass of wine, then asks Jack for a small favor (which is actually a big favor and he has no choice but to say yes). He isn’t quite a villain, but he is dangerous and well aware of the fact, and that makes him very fun to watch.
  • Helping Jim – Even though it was misguided and eventually turned self-serving, the fact that the guys banded together to try and get Jim laid was actually very sweet. I like that they were taking Jim under their wing. It shows how he’s gradually growing to be a part of this group, and I always love just watching people be friends.
  • Change – I’m so happy that something has happened that changes up the status quo a little bit, even though it means more Mimi, who is my second least favorite character after Seth. I do, however, like that it mixes things up a bit. It sets the stage for more drama, and gives the show a much-needed feel of progression.

What “An Affair to Remember” could have done better:

  • Idiocy – Well, Gia is made out to be an angry, sexually insatiable idiot. You know, when I first met her, I actually kind of liked Gia. I thought she could be really interesting, a strong female character in the vein of Becky, but more Italian. Instead, she turned out to be really quite uninteresting, even boring, just there to serve the plot.
  • Set-up – Everything seems to happen at once. I mean I wish Gia had made an appearance prior to this episode as the cursing Italian lady upstairs. We didn’t even need to see her. Just having her be a thing prior to this would have made the entire episode feel so much more natural. As is, we are introduced to Gia and have everything about her resolved in 20 minutes. I want a greater feel of continuity to the show.
  • Pacing- So, Jack happens to meet Gia just as Pinot hosting a party in honor of his wife being in town. He happens to not notice her boyfriend is Pinot, and has sex with her, not realizing until he has to jump out the window when Pinot arrives that morning. Parts of it make sense (Gia’s anger at Pinot having his wife just below her apartment). It all seems to be happening very quickly, and this makes it feel very rushed.

Overall: A decent episode that would have been a lot better with some set-up.

“I just imaged that my best work would be more complicated, you know? More intricate, important, and just more, you know, more!”

-Shawn Spencer, Psych S2E4: “Zero to Murder in Sixty Seconds”

Brief synopsis: When Lassiter’s car is stolen, Shawn quickly solves the case, but he’s left with the feeling that the case was a bit too easy.

Title significance: “Zero to Murder is 60 Seconds” is an allusion to the acceleration of racing cars. The 60 seconds portion likely comes from Gone in 60 Seconds, a movie about car theft. Obviously this comes from the fact that most of the episode is focused on car related crime such as chop shops.

I think in some ways it also foreshadows Wally’s involvement in the darker crime that’s going on. He was just a frontman for the chop shop. Next thing you know, he’s masterminded a murder and taken over the victim’s drug smuggling racket. He pretty quickly went from a zero to a murderer.

Tribute/Talking point: Something that tends to pop up in car movies like The Fast and the Furious are car modifications, such as custom paint jobs. We definitely see that as Shawn gets yellows flames painted on Gus’s car as well as getting a gigantic hood ornament and new speakers. Though Gus’s car looks nothing like the cars in the movies, it’s still a playful wink. The trope is called “pimped out car.” We also see something similar in the bike race at the beginning. Shawn has his bike tricked out in reflectors and gadgets.

The car community, as portrayed in these types of movies, is essentially a subculture. We see that reflected in this episode as the car guys use unfamiliar slang and have fairly intricate hand shakes. I think this really gives the culture a sense of community as well as speaks to the stereotypical untrustworthiness of mechanics by pretending to be a friend to and include someone who is not a part of their world (like Gus).

Success of tribute: I would have liked to see more.

What “Zero to Murder in Sixty Seconds” does right:

  • Wally – Wally is hilarious. I love how he speaks, even when I can’t quite understand him. He definitely has character. He’s memorable, and it’s almost a bit disappointing when he turns out to be the big bad of the episode because I want to like him. It works though, and he makes the episode very fun to watch.
  • Gus and Henry – It was brief, but I really liked the bonding between Gus and Henry about the stress that Shawn being in their life has caused. These are the two people with whom Shawn is the closest, and Shawn being who he is, that has to take some sort of toll on the people around him. It must be exhausting. I also love that Henry was concerned with Shawn taking the wrong lesson home.
  • CSI – I love how excited Juliet and Lassie were about the new technology and how their audience was less than impressed. The disconnect is perfect, and I like the little dig at CSI and how it doesn’t really show a realistic depiction of what police can do. It was an amusing scene, and I enjoyed how it played out.

What “Zero to Murder in Sixty Seconds” could have done better:

  • Negating emotions – I thought the emotions Shawn was having, about his best case being too easy, were really interesting. The fact that he was right, that it was actually a bigger case than he thought, actually kinda negating these feelings, and I found that disappointing. I wanted to Shawn genuinely struggle with these emotions based solely on the fact that he wanted more flash and bang rather than just him being intuitive.
  • The woman – So, Shawn goes on a date with Chelsea that ends disastrously. Okay. I’m not seeing any reason why I should care. It wasn’t relevant to the episode, it didn’t have any lasting impact, it was just two short scenes that could have been done in a much more interesting manner. Yeah, Shawn’s a womanizer. We get it. It just feels really odd to have this scene when we don’t even get an emotional response or really even see Shawn do something interesting. Why should we care about this date?
  • Girls and cars – I know Psych was just being silly as it is wont to do. Gus thinking that the girl’s reaction is genuine just doesn’t make sense (neither does the girls actually showing interest). That car is not a chick magnet. It’s just silly. And then they did the whole joke about rubbing down “Little Shawn,” and I was completely unimpressed.

Overall: I wasn’t overly excited about this episode.

Posted by: A. | March 1, 2014

Angel Review S1E20: “War Zone”

“Everybody dies. Just trying to make sure that when we die, we stay dead.”

-Charles Gunn, Angel S1E20: “War Zone”

Brief synopsis: Angel helps a millionaire with a blackmailing case, and winds up in the middle of a war between a nest of vampires and a group of street kids fighting for their lives.

Title significance: The meat of this episode occurs once Angel wanders into the midst of a battle between Gunn’s crew and a nest of local vampires. If he hadn’t have happened to come around that location, he would have never discovered what’s happening. As Wesley said, twenty minutes away from the rich and famous, no one would have imagined these kids were fighting for their lives. The location, the “War Zone,” is therefore a huge part of the episode’s theme.

It literally is a war. There’s tactics being used, inspirational speeches, casualties, weapons. The kids are hiding in a warehouse, digging in like a foxhole, eating stolen rations, dealing with cold, hunger, and a very real threat. They are only children, and they are in the midst of a war with a powerful foe.

Questions of morality: I don’t think this episode really deals with questions of morality on the level that we’re used to. I think the morality questioning this episode comes mostly from Gunn, who is forced to question Angel’s morality as a vampire who saved his sister’s life and who tries to protect his crew. Gunn repays these actions not through trust, but through mercy.

Then comes the true test. Alonna, his beloved little sister that he swore to protect, comes to him as a vampire. She still acts like herself, she tells him memories and stories only the two of them would know. She offers to turn him, so that the two of them could always be together, so that he can rid himself of the guilt. In the end, he chooses the hard thing, and kills his little sister again.

Intrigue of moral ambiguity: It’s nice to see outside characters experiencing the moral conundrum that is Angel.

What “War Zone” does right:

  • Introduction of Gunn – I love the introduction of Gunn. It’s set up to make the first-time viewer expect Angel. Instead, we get Gunn, with a big sword and a long coat. It screams badass. It gets me excited to know more about him. His interactions with others throughout the episode, especially the scene where he tells Alonna that she bugs him most. He’s likeable, badass, and frustrating at the same time when he won’t let Angel help him.
  • David Nabbit – David Nabbit was absolutely adorable. I found his awkwardness and fish-out-water attitude to be believable, and it made his portion of the episode quite charming despite being related to demon brothels. His excitement at having someone be kind to him was actually rather touching as well.
  • Alonna’s death – Alonna’s death is fantastic. We see how much the entire scene pains Gunn, and the first time viewing, one may wonder if she will convince Gunn to let her turn him. She plays on his memories, his love for her, his hatred, his guilt. It’s an incredibly beautiful, emotional scene (up until the very end).

What “War Zone” could have done better:

  • Alonna – Watching Alonna alone in the van with the vampires destroy her was not nearly as emotional as it should have been. There wasn’t the initial joy at seeing her alive as there should have been either. The emotional heart came entirely from Gunn, but I felt like in a plot like this, there should have been more from Alonna.
  • Disconnect – I felt like the two different plots of the episode felt very disconnected. The quest to stop the man blackmailing David Nabbit and Gunn’s fight against the vampires just didn’t really compliment each other very well (I know, I complain when things are two connected, I complain when things aren’t connected enough. I’m just a malcontent). They try to connect it with the idea that Gunn is starving so close to where Nabbit is living the life of a millionaire, but that just served to make it more awkward and feel forced.
  • Brothel – You know, I found both of the women Angel encountered at the brothel were both so stereotypical. The no-nonsense business woman as the owner and the flirty, sassy demoness who worked there didn’t do anything new, and it made the scene quite boring and predictable.

Overall: A cute episode that I liked better than I remember liking.

Posted by: A. | February 25, 2014

Greek Review S1E14: “War and Peace”

“Forgiveness is the supreme act of sisterhood. You asked me what you could do to regain your independence. This is it. Heal ZBZ’s most painful internal wound.”

-Lizzi, Greek S1E14: “War and Peace”

Brief synopsis: KT and Omega Chi have prank war that escalates, and Lizzi tells Casey that in order to get rid of her, she needs to reinstate Frannie.

Title significance: This episode is all about war: the war between KT and Omega Chi and the war between Casey and Frannie. As the episode progresses, we see the toll this war takes on the houses, as ZBZ suffers through Lizzi’s regime, and Calvin’s and Rusty’s friendship is put to the test.

However, the episode is called “War and Peace,” and at the end of the episode we see Cappie and Evan call a truce, and Casey come to terms with a decision to let Frannie back into ZBZ. It’s interesting to note that War and Peace is the name of a classic Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy, and much of this episode is based on another classic novel, George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Greek life: Rivalries between houses is something that this show definitely focuses on when it comes to Greek life. The war between Kappa Tau and Omega Chi has escalated to the point where they’re breaking into each other’s houses, stealing things and causing mayhem and abusing each other’s pledges. The most interesting part is the that there’s an agreement between the Greek to not tattle to campus police.

On the sorority side of things, we get the Diamond Ceremony, where in order to reinitiate Frannie back into the house, Frannie must light each sister’s candle and they must accept her back into ZBZ. The decision has to be unanimous. It’s a great display of the ritual that is so important to Greek life, as well as the importance of forging a familial bond (every single girl has to accept Frannie into their heart).

Nods to Greek Life: I found the Diamond Ceremony to be interesting.

What “War and Peace” does right:

  • Rusty and Calvin – Things have gotten a bit awkward between Rusty and Calvin since Calvin decided to go back to Omega Chi, and it’s palpable. Both want to remain friends, but they’re still a little unsure of each other. By the end of the episode, they’re both feeling betrayed because they expect the other to put them before the house and neither did. It was very well done. The tension makes sense and it was time it was really addressed.
  • Casey’s struggle – Casey really struggles this episode with the idea of letting Frannie back into ZBZ after she nearly ruined the house and did ruin Casey’s relationship with Evan. She not only betrayed the house by being psycho, she betrayed her friend, like she had been doing most of the season. Casey’s struggle with this, especially when the rest of the house wants Frannie back to get rid of Lizzi, feels very real and very emotional.
  • Ashleigh – Ashleigh really proves herself to be a better person than Casey as she points out that as president, she should really be taking the sisters’s opinions into account when making decisions. We also see her own flaws as she gets into a relationship with an emotionally dismissive, condescending boyfriend like her last one. Ashleigh initially seemed like she would just be the best friend/comic relief, but she’s really becoming her own character.

What “War and Peace” could have done better:

  • Ending the war – Cappie lets a bunch of farm animals into the Omega Chi house, which causes them a ton of problems. It’s at this point that he proposes a truce to Evan, and Evan accepts for some reason. I could understand Evan pretending to accept, but this is played out as though he actually does, and I see absolutely no reason for Evan to actually call a truce, especially right after KT beat him in the prank war, and he’s still mad about waking up to a cow in his room. It makes no sense.
  • Lizzi – At the end of the episode, Casey suddenly decides Lizzi is a hero because she had given her the rule book and told her to reread it. No, Lizzi was a psychopath. She treated Casey like crap when she was going through a heartbreak, she rubs it in by making Casey become friends again with the cause of that heartbreak (who is obviously just being manipulative and will be bad for the house again). A rulebook doesn’t change that.
  • Farm animals – It’s cute, and I get that it’s a reference to Animal Farm, but really? How did they get all those animals inside Kappa Tau without anyone waking up? It just doesn’t make sense. Where did they even get them from? Did they steal them from a farm? How are they not actually getting in trouble for this?

Overall: Okay. Not my favorite.

Posted by: A. | February 20, 2014

Trigun Review S1E13: “Vash the Stampede”

“So those scars are the price you paid for dealing with your opponents without killing them.”

-Meryl Strife, Trigun S1E13: “Vash the Stampede”

Brief synopsis: Meryl writes a report that involves a lot of flashbacks. She and Millie discover that Vash is covered in scars. *Note: This will be a shorter review as there was only about five minutes of new content.

Title Significance: Most of this episode is just flashbacks to previous episodes as Meryl writes her report and tries to reason out who Vash the Stampede actually is. The flashbacks and her conversation with Meryl all focus on him, making “Vash the Stampede” quite an appropriate title.

There is also a huge revelation about Vash at the end of the episode. The glimpse of the scars beneath his coat tell a story of a man who has been hurt and betrayed quite often, and yet still refuses to take a life. This glimpse gives us more insight into who Vash the Stampede is than anything else we see in this episode.

Love and Peace: The one little bit of new information we get this episode was Vash’s scars. This is a result of his pacifism. Vash has enough talent that he would be able to get out of most of these situations unscathed if he was willing to kill someone or even allow someone to die. But he is not willing, and the scars tell that tale.

Love and peace is what defines Vash the Stampede. It’s who he is as a person and it even has marked his body. All the situations he got into because of the bounty on his head, or because he felt the need to try and save someone, everything done in the name of love and peace has left it’s mark.

Success of love and peace: It’s really a great example how much love and peace has actually hurt him.

What “Vash the Stampede” does right:

  • Vash’s body – At the end of the episode, we get to see what’s under Vash’s red coat. We see a body with deep scars and wounds that will never truly heal. We see the result of his refusal to kill anyone. It’s a very powerful moment and it makes a huge statement about Vash and his pacifism.

What “Vash the Stampede” could have done better:

  • Flashbacks – There is no reason for a clip show episode. Clip show episodes are so worthless, and even though I liked the part about Vash’s body, they tacked it onto the end of the episode, so I can’t just skip it. Fifteen minutes of stuff I’ve already seen and random insurance girl yammering, then two minutes of plot. I hate that so much.
  • Insurance girls – Not only are we stuck with a clip episode, it is a flashback told through the eyes of the insurance girls. It just takes an episode that I care very little about and makes it even more annoying. If we got more information about their travels or how they got into this position, I would be much more forgiving, but as is, it’s absolutely worthless.

Overall: God, I hate  clip shows.

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