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*TV REVIEW* The Deuce finds that seeing is believing in “Show and Prove” 

*TV REVIEW* The Deuce finds that seeing is believing in “Show and Prove” 

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             SPOILERS FOLLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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So, contrary to what we were led to believe in the pilot, Vincent’s deep dive into the dirty intricacies of the mob business is far from over. After slick-haired, sharp-dressed mob capo Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli) cordially invites him into a profitable business venture requiring the efforts of brother-in-law Bobby (Chris Bauer), the fair-mannered Martino brother starts to see the bigger picture behind his recent success story down by the “wrong side of the river”. Rudy wins him over by metaphorically splashing said big picture right in his face during a walk down The Deuce. “Human garbage”, as Rudy so plainly calls it, is everywhere, along with a dreary lack of progress and livelihood; their walk about town manifests into a grand tour of all these things, thanks to Ernest Dickerson’s carefully structured, widely-framed directing. With some time and an increased assortment of resources, Vinnie could very well be on the cusp of something greater than pulling $700 a week at a restaurant he doesn’t even own.

That sort of broad sell is the driving force behind what keeps the cast of The Deucestanding afloat amidst the intangible, stagnant pool of water that pollutes its crowded setting; it’s also the thesis to this week’s episode. In “Show and Prove” the exposition means nothing if the sell carries no weight. Vincent’s won over because Rudy’s artificial sentiment jives with the feeling of stagnation and scumminess he’s just recently escaped from (which, in a way, is one half logical and one half ironic, considering the new set of circumstances he finds himself in). Although we as viewers can already dissect the illegitimacy of Rudy’s stern remarks on West 42nd, Vinnie’s trending upward as a manager seeking opportunities to garner a position worthy of his capabilities. Eventually, you’d imagine that he’ll come to his senses, but for right now he’s got Bobby working the construction chain like a fiddle, and the money’s good.

Others like Ashley are literally selling their bodies to achieve their own desired levels of personal gain. A somewhat heartbreaking arc in the pilot episode, her ambitious attempts to satisfy both herself and C.C. spills over into a network of multiple storylines here. After bearing it all for potential film suitors to see in a provocative photoshoot (one that Shay suggests she shouldn’t have paid for in the first place), she returns to both Shay and Darlene about it, which prompts Darlene to confront Fat Mooney at his bookshop over rightful compensation. Right in line with that sense of worth she was looking for with Louis last week, she (literally) gets her money‘s worth at Fat Mooney’s, confiscating the remaining tapes of her video “sex”capade and later reporting them to Larry.

Ashley’s preferred solution is so simple it’s not even glanced at for the remainder of the episode; those chomping at the bit to find out if Bernie Wolf’s underground film producers are interested in her will have to wait patiently until at least next weekend. Darlene’s situation, however, goes beyond what Larry wants and what Darlene needs to keep him happy. Their exchange at the diner once again highlights the leverage and the power represented in the pimps that run The Deuce, and unfortunately for Darlene Larry’s vigorous clutch on her self-worth means her frustration-fueled search for satisfaction won’t get any answers anytime soon.

There is, however, some light at the end of the tunnel for her in “Show and Prove”, when she ventures off to the library to read and check out books. Later on, we see her distance herself from the busy trappings of the bar she’s in, taking a break from whetting the sexual appetites of empty suits with every flip of the page from whatever novel she picked out. Obviously, Larry could give less of a shit, and it’s difficult to imagine that his aggressiveness towards Darlene has ceased to intensify. We continue to watch her try to learn and grow for her own benefit, but what sucks for her so far is that she’s trapped in a relationship designed to dumb her down to a dispensable commodity.

Eileen’s self-worth is also without question, but unlike Darlene it’s also without restraint; far be it for any one of those pimps down at the diner to try and scoop her up. As a result, her arc goes in a completely different direction. Eager to demonstrate a progressive display of independence, she considers Fat Mooney’s monetary exploitation on a trip to the Bronx, filling in for a fellow prostitute on the set of a homemade porno. Her fascination at the shrewd set design and film antics (the Campbell’s soup trick at the end of the production is as interesting as it is hilarious) prompts her to steal some of the pornographers’ work – she’s on to something here.

Before we get there, though, we are once again reminded of the family dynamic she’s involved with back home: an honest one that paints an arresting picture of the type of relationship a woman in her position would have with an exuberant, miss-informed son and a loving – albeit disapproving – mother. And again, Maggie Gyllenhaal is incredible throughout. As the daughter seeking a stable source of contribution for her family, she exhibits an enthusiastic drive that makes me root for her even despite the knowledge that she’s simply going back out to fuck for cash. At the porno scene up in the Bronx, she gives us a calculating, analytic version of Eileen that practically transports us into her thoughts. Without saying a word, she tells us everything she’s thinking when she glances away to the side after being showered with fake jizz; an instance that transitions into a healthy dose of inquisitiveness when Naomi provides her with a clearer understanding of all the materials on set.

The most enthralling half of “Show and Prove”, however, is the one that illustrates the day-to-day workings of the average escort. Police officers Flanagan and Alston from the pilot return to inject more of that nonchalant communal interaction from last week, cheating a street-cleaning system within their precinct by shuttling prostitutes and raiding bookshops with hidden porn tapes. While the latter is relatively straightforward, the true nuance of their excursions this week lie within the former. By treating the ladies they rack up on street corners to Chinese food and harmless conversation (and then later sending them right back out when the coast is clear from fellow lieutenants), they collect a better understanding of the personnel they’re exploiting – while also covering the fact that homicides are occurring at a rapid rate elsewhere. I liked that we got to see Alston sympathize for them and even try to talk some sense into Loretta, and the overall procedure of it all is intriguing in the sense that the police back then seem to have exerted their creativity in all the wrong places.

After this week, C.C. and Lori’s relationship easily springs forward as the most engaging dynamic thus far. The bedroom scene, shown in two separate shots, portrays a gripping accrual of affection as C.C. prides Lori over her appearance before he opens up about his personal insecurities. I can’t help but feel like his “lonely pimp” monologue is straight bullshit – particularly because, you know, he is still a pimp – but the show has already established his work philosophy so it succeeds as a sort of dramatic irony. The man’s sell is so convincing that Lori practically feeds off his rage when she refers to her former pimps back in Minnesota (“I hear you, Daddy”). That level of dominance has her eating up his every word in the movie theater, and later when she’s rescued from an escort gone (horribly) bad.

But even still: what’s Lori really thinking after C.C. stabbed that fake cop? There’s a certain level of shock there that keeps her quiet when she passes by Ruby and Shay; as if the fantasy and the dreams her pimp provided are fading. She had a rough night, a night that could’ve reached a fatal conclusion, but the man who expects to bred a family with her simply shrugs it off as procedure and trots her back out into the street. Unlike Vincent’s involvement with Rudy, Lori is clearly struggling with the lifestyle presented to her. Sometimes, drinking the kool-aid isn’t as easy as experiencing an educational night around the town.

Before I conclude, here are some extra notes from this week’s episode:

  • Predictably, Abbey dropped out of college this week and moved into a new living space with a bunch of unidentified individuals. Drugs and booze (and possibly some sex) will probably be slung around like candy in the weeks ahead.
  • I highly doubt that Bobby’s role in the construction business is coincidental, considering Chris Bauer played Frank Sobotka in The Wire and that character wrestled with managing the docks and handling the mob that he conspired with.
  • Unfortunately for detective Grossman, his argument for Mike Epstein and his remarkable 1969 season doesn’t quite hold up in retrospect. Despite his culturally-driven impact being compared to Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays here, Epstein managed to only play five more seasons in the Major Leagues, amassing just 78 homeruns in that span (although he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004).
  • “Careful with those meat hooks. I’m delicate like a teacup.”
  • Who else got serious The Wire vibes by the roundups that bookended the episode, and Rizzi’s roll-call?
  • I forgot to also mention that Vinnie is Rudy’s latest tenant, and that Rudy has already offered him a dried up gay bar called “Penny Lane”. Besides the lightning-fast rate at which Vinnie’s character arc is moving, I found the fact that I picked up the Beatles reference at the same time Tommy Longo did to be the most standout part of this episode.
  • Sandra, the anthropologist who acknowledges Darlene at the bar, is most likely going to expose the sex trade in Times Square someway, somehow. I just don’t know when or how she’ll manage to do so yet.
  • Also, screw Larry for breaking Sandra down to tears. Man, these pimps are assholes.
  • The shot at the movie theater where C.C. and Lori are centered and the man in the far right corner is openly receiving oral just about sums up the directional quality of the entire installment (which is a very good thing, in case you were wondering).
  • I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing more of Paul very soon; I guarantee it.


THE VERDICT:

“Show and Prove” wasn’t as much about moving the needle as it was about digging deeper and deeper into the constructs of its setting and character themes, but it definitely proved that the show’s glacial storytelling pace could be much more engaging than you’d think. Between C.C. showing Lori the ins and outs of daily prostitution, to Rudy and Vincent coming up with a promising business agreement, The Deuce picked up right where its pilot left off with a flurry of strong scenes, great performances, and brilliant direction.RATING: 9

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Sherlock: “The Lying Detective” Review **SPOILERS**

Sherlock: “The Lying Detective” Review **SPOILERS**

I had acknowledged in my review of “The Six Thatchers” that Mary’s death could be good for Sherlock in the sense that Holmes and Watson’s relationship could once again become the focal point. It’s a shared character arc with a relevant history; one that we, as fans, have greatly appreciated since the moment they took on their first case together. Considering the separate instabilities of both gentlemen (Holmes and his drug problem, Watson and the loss of his beloved wife), it’s only appropriate that the show hone in on their woes, and “The Lying Detective” does that with impeccable craftsmanship.

There were many defining moments in “The Lying Detective” that convinced me of Sherlock‘s return to glory, but those mean nothing without the episode’s mesmerizing first thirty minutes. The way Sherlock mentally undresses the state of his latest client, “Faith”, and then quickly becomes keen of her suicidal disposition is wonderfully presented with the visual of his heroin usage hindering his thinking process. The casual stroll down the streets of London is book-ended with a pair of fantastic scenes where Sherlock continues to peel off more underlying factors in his client’s life while she acknowledges his growing empathy for her. Sherlock visually deciphering the dimensions of her apartment in-between all that is a marvel for the eyes to behold, especially when considering the heightened presence his drugs have started to take. The twist at the conclusion of this act, with Mrs. Hudson apprehending Mr. Holmes and interrupting Watson’s therapy session, brings every element the episode initially touches on together. From this point on, I was virtually at the edge of my seat in a way Sherlock hasn’t demanded in quite some time.

For pretty much the entirety of this week’s episode, everything seemed to just…click. Even if you took out the discovery that “Faith” the client was actually Sherlock’s secret sister, Eurus, I’d still love the way she quietly encouraged Sherlock’s explicit curiosities and suppositions. Seeing Sherlock both remain on the Mount Olympus of deductive reasoning and establish his genuine care for her well-being, even in his relatively unstable state, was remarkably effective. Ditto for Holmes’s elaborate scheme revolved around Watson, which would have been pretty darn enthralling even without the exposition of Mary’s “Miss Me?” DVD. His uncanny ability to both surmise Culverton Smith as a serial killer and manufacture a proud display of media-crazed contempt against him perfectly aligns with the fractured condition of his friendship to John.

The brilliance in this specific series of events was hiding in plain sight, but Sherlock makes it work in cohesive bliss by playing off of tired tropes. Toby Jones’s gradual descent into revolting maliciousness makes it far too easy to bet on Smith’s wicked turn against Sherlock at the end – yet that’s the point all along. Holmes drags John up, down and around Culverton’s hospital to milk every ounce of festering vile the foul-toothed gentlemen possesses, knowing that his immense wealth and social stature will retract all of the detective’s hostile accusations. Watson is little more than a witness to the increasingly intense animosity between Holmes and Smith, yet that’s exactly what Sherlock wants.

 

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The drug-infused disposition coupled with the publicized baffling Sherlock generally experiences during this sequence is the perfect fuel for John’s eventual lashing out, and the show gets there at the height of his anger. The residual effects of watching Culverton do stuff like proudly advocate a discussion about serial killers in front of innocent, young children still lingers with Watson. However, the moment where he punches his longtime partner in the face is produced from an exclusive outlet of emotions; this couldn’t be more personal. Here, Watson truly realizes what it’s like to be in a position to make a difference, and decides to act on that impulse. Mary is dead in part because he didn’t do enough to protect her, but Sherlock – regardless of his efforts – shares some of that responsibility, yet here he stands wasting his genius and making a mockery of himself. For Sherlock, that feeling, that perception, is the expectation of weeks’ worth of planning; for John, that’s the reality. (Side note: Having re-watched this episode, it’s really impressive how layered [and how much more enjoyable the second time around] Sherlock’s plan is.)

Mary’s overall involvement in all of this is very polarizing, but I can’t help but be amongst the minority who are neither pleased nor bothered by her hallucinogenic appearance. I kinda see what Sherlock was after by giving Watson a voice in his head that he could see, but this is such an overused technique that it became frustrating to have at all. Personally, I don’t think Mary was around long enough to be a convincing figure in this light, and I felt that both the therapy sessions and the reluctant team-up with Holmes carried enough emotional ties to Watson’s plight; there’s not much else we could’ve possibly gotten from seeing him mentally wrestle with a ghost. This is a complaint that’s pretty much cancelled out, however, by Watson’s reveal that he merely cheated on Mary by simply texting the girl on the bus, and that he is prepared to be the man Mary “thought he was”; a gripping little instance that hits home thanks to Martin Freeman’s touching delivery.

That and Benedict Cumberbatch’s predictably brilliant performance headline an extraordinary tabling of acting in “The Lying Detective” that elevates the rest of the episode’s shifting plates. Sian Brooke faces no easy task as the secret Holmes sister, but she champions the role with a gravitating, deceptively commanding approach to the script. Whether she’s parading around glaring vulnerabilities to Sherlock as Faith, or slowly taking over an innocent-turned-tense therapy session right before Watson’s eyes, Brooke quickly leads us to determine that Eurus is quite the compelling individual.  The aforementioned Toby Jones comes off a bit stale at first, but once the script grants him more flexibility later on he absolutely takes off with the character’s malevolence. We even got Una Stubbs stepping out of the Baker Street residence and into an Aston Martin(!), showing us a more refined side to Mrs. Hudson (“You’re not my first smackhead, Sherlock Holmes!”) and flaunting that endearing chemistry she’s always shared with the main cast.

 

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Few episodes in this entire series could top the highs displayed here, and part of that has to do with the excellent way it closes out. Sherlock and Watson’s hug not only resurfaces their relationship back on solid ground, but gives it an added depth: by seeing the worst in each other, they’ve emerged more enlightened than they once were, and are more emotionally entangled. To snatch that away so suddenly with Eurus murdering Watson would be a stretch – even for a show of this caliber – but I love the volatility behind the cliffhanger. We have to question the note and the tiny living space in which it presided, as well as the former lover Eurus once had – all of which could factor in the season finale in a huge way. There’s an open-endedness to those final seconds that should have many heads spinning, because if nothing else Eurus could be synonymous with far more variables than we could imagine.

 

 

Here are a few extra notes I’d like to cover before I conclude:

 

  • “And you know why they dropped you, dear? Because they know you.”
  • The scene where Smallwood leaves her private number with Mycroft is obviously an invitation for something more than a few drinks, but I can’t help but think that there’s a deeper intention at play. I have terrible memory with secondary characters, and I haven’t seen “His Last Vow” since the night it originally aired, so I have very little to tack on my suspicions – but surely this potential fling Smallwood is pursuing is for non-intimate reasons, right??
  • I’m still bothered by the severe lack of supervision over Sherlock on Myrcroft’s part. At one point, he says that Sherlock going rogue is a legitimate security concern, yet his little brother is roaming the streets high off of heroin with a roommate who supplies him behind closed doors. I get that Sherlock purposefully used as a part of his grand scheme, but I would think big brother would be on top of keeping him clean above all else.
  • Mrs. Hudson reaches unforeseen levels of badassery this week, and it really doesn’t stop with the car. The way she effortlessly figured out where Sherlock laid out his latest “unsolved problem” was just awesome, and she even had a chance to embarrass Mycroft (“He has no idea what an idiot you are!”)
  • Watson now knows that Irene Adler is still alive, and the first thing he tells Sherlock to do is text her back. This was a proud moment for me, seeing as how John uses the tragedy of his own marriage to give his close friend solid insight. He wants what’s best for Sherlock, and realizes that he may be missing out on the kind of special relationship he had just lost with Mary. If Sherlock could also have that, John would rather he did; stubbornly brushing it aside with occasional texts seems insulting to Watson.

 

 

The Verdict:

 

Sherlock came back in full form this week, placing its attention back on its central dynamic in a dark, riveting ninety minutes of expertly-written entertainment. The use of this week’s latest bad guy lent to the growing conflict between Holmes and Watson in the best possible way, while the eventual resolve was met with a brilliant character reveal and a (potentially) devastating cliffhanger. “The Lying Detective” still consists of a few ill-advised decisions, but I can’t remember the last time I watched Sherlock and was as immersed in what was currently unfolding and excited for what’s to come afterward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RATING: 9

+ Toby Jones as Culverton Smith

+ Sherlock’s grand scheme to get Watson to his boiling point

+ Faith, and then that Eurus reveal!

+ Basically every scene with Mrs. Hudson

– While not a terrible idea, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ghost Mary

– Would like to see Mycroft watch over Sherlock more intently, drugs or no drugs

 

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iZombie: “The Whopper” Review **SPOILERS**

iZombie: “The Whopper” Review **SPOILERS**

No matter how many different story arcs it wishes to tackle, iZombie seems prepared to sew them all together with effortless mastery even before we get a chance to see them materialize. This season in particular has juggled far too many subplots on its own, yet it never seems that way because of the razor-sharp writing and carefully balanced use of the characters.

“The Whopper”, like practically every other installment in the series’s sophomore outing, is enveloped in this beautiful balance. Whether we’re given more insight into Blaine’s motivations via his parents, or watching Liv and Ravi desperately yearn for a reliable zombie cure – the show finds itself well aware of both the comedic and tragic elements it self-created. And because it’s spent its time layering out all of the different conflicts on hand, the various ways those conflicts clash wind up the result of nothing less than the product of brilliant payoff and skillful calculation.

Take Blaine’s reunion with his father, for example. Independent of the week’s latest case, he gets an episode’s worth of material that builds up to a rather poetic encounter with Angus, with the show rightfully utilizing David Anders’s exclusive charm and restrained malice. Some of his best work yet comes from said encounter; a character moment so rich in tangible history and ever-present pathos that it becomes impossible not to at least moderately sympathize with this opium-selling son-of-a-gun. Here, it’s confirmed that Blaine was definitely abused as a young boy, and it appears that the pain his nanny had dished out perpetually scarred him – suggesting that Blaine has supposedly lived his whole life mindful of a childhood that was lost to compulsory obedience. Even worse is the will Angus left in the wake of his eventual passing, yielding a vast majority of his inheritance to that same nanny under strict circumstances.

 

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Therefore, Blaine’s payback – filled with makeup art and a hilarious bullshitting of a fifty-year jump in time and a fake apocalypse – is the episode’s high point, but it wouldn’t have gotten there without the help of a familiar face. This week marks the first time Major crosses paths with Blaine since the indelible Meat Cute showdown from the season one finale – with Blaine the arbitrator on behalf of Don E and Chief catching him lurking around the funeral home. Their character arcs could not have converged at a more convenient time, with Blaine fighting for an inheritance he thinks he deserves and Major trying his best to protect his friends and his self. They satisfy each other’s needs, and the mutual agreement they come to terms with seeks to benefit both ends in the long run.

Unfortunately for Major, that means he’s now adding Blaine to the list of scheming, greedy employers. If you thought he had some corners left to cut before – think again. There’s no way out of his predicament, and the threat level both Blaine and Vaughn Du Clark represent to his friends and family leave him no choice. iZombie has done a terrific job illustrating Major’s struggle to avoid killing while maintaining his reputation with Max Rager, so I’m all aboard for whatever his latest venture with Blaine will lead to down the line.

As for the case-of-the-week on the other side of the spectrum: I’ll be quick to note that I liked it a whole lot more than I should’ve. Despite the irritating incoherence behind the case itself (the short of it being that the body Ravi and Major found in that large crop field wound up having a integral connection to a Boss-sanctioned murder, a hitman hiding in the woods, and the same Drake character who’s dating Liv while doing dirty work for both Boss and Blaine),  I loved how it seamlessly flowed into the overarching story arc of the season. The whole aspect of lying to others and the emotional effects it could have was a brilliant way of linking Liv’s new brain to both her relationship with Drake, and the cloud of secrets held by her and Major. Predictably, the brain itself lent to the pathological lying the victim was notorious for – and also very predictably, Rose McIver ran away with the script with hilarious, occasionally stirring results.

 

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In addition, Drake’s role in all of this was heavily questioned, as we found out just how integral a chess player he’s become on both sides of the board. Like Liv, it’s almost impossible for us not to have doubts over his integrity  – yet more intriguing is the uncertainty over which side of this conflict he’s really on. Even while iZombie continues to answer more and more questions, it somehow finds this magical way of holding back enough for us to inquire upon where the show is headed next.

Here are a few more notes I’d like to cover in regards to this week’s episode:

  • The two scenes that bookend this episode are absolutely fantastic. The intro scene where Major’s listening to that damp Country(?) radio station, while Ravi’s tuned into a Star Wars podcast hilariously pandering Kylo Ren, perfectly demonstrated the harshly different tones the show blends every week. Watching those two work with Liv to dig up that grave to Les Miserables’ “One More Day” at the episode’s final minutes felt profoundly rewarding, given the heightened circumstances surrounding Blaine and Major’s need for a cure – and the fact that these guys deserved a win of some sort.
  • Rob Thomas supposedly wrote this week’s episode, and it shows particularly in Clive’s inquisitiveness. After a season and a half solving cases in tandem with our zombie protagonist, he’s finally started to concern himself with Liv’s constantly shifting behavior. Bozzio’s captured photo of Blaine with Major only makes matters even juicier, and considering how close they were to locking up Blaine a few weeks ago – you can bet your ass they’re going to pursue this latest development until they get some concrete answers.
  • Another sign of Rob Thomas’s work: The brief interview between Clive and Major upon the dead body discovery. There’s definitely some underlining sadness to Major’s insistence on covering up the details of the Meat Cute incident, which would not have been present had he not reminded Clive about the time he wrongfully spent at the mental institution from a season ago. The look on Clive’s face when Major dismisses himself from further questioning tells us that he knows he fucked up, and there’s nothing he can do to erase his prior mistakes.
  • I loved how much fun Don E, Chief and Genie Gal had helping Blaine come up with that elaborate scheme to fool Angus. They’re all very funny, interesting characters to have around, and the dynamic they share with Blaine illustrates the depth of scripting and performances that helps place iZombie above a lot of other series on television right now.

 

The Verdict:

“The Whopper” sings as graciously as the Les Miserables number that concludes it – from the integration of the week’s latest case with the season’s main story arc, to the reunion(s) of familiar character clashes. Like the best this season has had to offer, this episode does nothing but stress the series’ strengths, while cleverly maneuvering around a laundry list of varied subplots. I may have already said this before, but there truly aren’t very many other shows that currently deserve the “Appointment television” staple as badly as iZombie.

 

 

 

 

 

RATING: 9.5

+ Blaine and Major

+ Blaine’s scheme to fight for Angus’s inheritance 

+ Excellent central theme and tie-in with both the case-of-the-week and the season as a whole

+ The uncertainty surrounding Drake

+ The Rob Thomas touch 

– Case-of-the-week got very confusing at times 

 

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iZombie: “Method Head” Review **SPOILERS**

iZombie: “Method Head” Review **SPOILERS**

I’ve been crazy busy so far this week, and I caught up on this episode a day late so I apologize for the tardy post. But alas, in a relatively shorter form: my review.

 

With the first nine episodes of iZombie‘s second season setting a multitude of branching story arcs in motion, I can’t fault it for taking a moment to look back at the series it has become and embrace itself for a change. Of course, it would still feel weird and out of sorts if “Method Head” just decided to ignore the Max Rager situation or the status of Blaine’s brain distribution business (thankfully, it doesn’t), but to its benefit it puts these plots in the back burner, allowing Liv and Clive’s detective work to take center stage in a setting that could not have felt more ironic.

Highly considered a “meta” episode, “Method Head” has so much fun picking at the context of the show’s own trappings that it doesn’t even slip up in the slightest.  This is a beautiful thing because there’s so much personality and material pulled from the fictitious world of “Zombie High”. The zombie extras bicker about their lack of acknowledgement on set in delightful fashion, sex tapes and hidden revelations surrounding the stars of the show are revealed in compelling ways, and on numerous occasions iZombie even circles these components back to itself, mirroring the parameters under which it has featured its current run. Whether we learn about the tax breaks the fake show’s producers are enjoying by filming their “Portland-set” series in Seattle (sound familiar?), or experience Liv and Ravi’s wide contrast in behavior surrounding the show, this “all-in” approach to the episode’s proceedings fully cherishes the adventurous fun of self-parody.

Better yet, the case itself gives this talented cast of main and supporting characters the chance to be more tongue-in-cheek than we’re used to, without winking at the screen or breaking the fourth wall. Ravi, for example, is an utter joy in this more spiteful attitude, calling out the blatant flaws of “Zombie High” in such a disgusted tone it both endears and amuses. Also: Extra points for his apparent excitement for the new Power Rangers film, a discovery that sort of curves the magnitude of the current case in one of the episode’s many hilarious scenes (Side note: upon doing some research, this may have also been the show’s way to paying homage to Rose McIver’s work in Power Rangers R.P.M., which, if true, was a very subtle callback).

Through Clive, we got a welcome payoff to his fleshing out from the earlier portions of Season Two. His child-like fascination over the endless variety of assorted delicacies the studio lunch room had to offer works both by opening up his looser tendencies and by quietly poking at the divide in perks between civil and celebrity work. The gag with him in the sunglasses reciting one of Liv’s lines from earlier in the episode just epitomizes his materialized playfulness. Clive also just seems more on board with Liv’s mood swings and Ravi’s nerdy habits than ever before, and it only strengthens the team’s dynamic as a whole.

These week’s brains offered Rose McIver some of her most prominent work yet, as she literally acted her way out of Liv’s new persona. Those who have watched iZombie from the beginning with love the imaginary apple bit she shares with Ravi back at the lab, and the overwhelming appreciation for both “Zombie High” and the “kill one major character a year” mantra it builds its fan base off of. The rehearsal with Cody has her flexing her muscles the most, while lending to the episode’s lighter tone with some obviously fake crying and a rather soap-y slap in the face for good measure. Suffix to say, no one else was as enthralled in the backdrop behind “Method Head” as Liv herself, and for a ridiculous number of reasons I couldn’t have wanted it any other way.

But here’s where this week’s chapter truly becomes a winner: cohesion with the case, advancement with the overarching plot, and a willingness to push its characters forward. Although it was fairly arbitrary to have Clive open back up to Liv at the end of the episode, I liked how the case helped lead to that conclusion. Liv’s brains not only alter her personality; they give her a distinct talent that plays its way into the very detective work Clive would have to construct on his own (and let’s not forget that Liv is an intelligent crime-solver in her own right). The two bounce off of each other’s advantages so well it’s hard watching them try and figure things out separately, and since “Method Head” realizes this so elegantly their reunion as a “buddy cop” duo is immensely satisfying and earned.

With Major’s zombie hoarding and increasing deceit with Vaughn Du Clark, we are again treated to the inner workings of a subplot that never ceases to compel. His bullshit scheme with Clark is entertaining to watch on a number of levels, and the overall intensity of him being discovered as a bullshit artist continues to mount week to week. In addition, that test with the doctor and a potential information leak threatening to expose Max Rager culminated in an actually really good bait-and-switch, where Clark places Major’s loyalty to the cause on an honorably high pedestal. There’s no way the two aren’t on the same page now, and it’s going to be interesting seeing how far Major is willing to go in his quest to topple his proprietor (especially since his wrist collar gift to Clark is all mic’d up).

Dale’s visit to Blaine’s funeral home is the very definition of short and sweet: It doesn’t interrupt the action over at “Zombie High”, yet it’s so effective in its brevity that the show now has another exciting story layer to build off of. Through their encounter, we finally have virtual proof that Dale can play a bigger role in the following proceedings than simply screwing around with Clive, as her exposing Blaine’s existence to Clive spins the wheels again on the Meat Cute investigation. The potential implications of that blowing up are still extremely severe, and I’m really hoping that Major is pulled back into this particular scenario somehow; connectivity between story arcs is always a good thing.

 

 

The Verdict:

Like the best iZombie has yet to offer, “Method Head” uses setting – this time, that of the “Zombie High” television studio – and thorough execution to bring the episode’s case-of-the-week to life, showcasing a wonderful balance of humor, plot/character development, and rewarding drama presented throughout. Even on the sidelines, Clive’s digging around the violent happenings at Meat Cute from last season, and Major’s involvement with Max Rager, got their brief time to shine. We could’ve done without the Holidays-centric time jump at the start, but otherwise this was just another excellent day at the office for iZombie.

 

 

 

 

 

RATING: 9.2

+ Everything about “Zombie High” and its cast

+ Liv, Ravi, and Clive’s varied reactions to “Zombie High”

+ Awesome callbacks and meta-flavored humor

+ Subplots quietly pushed forward

 

 

 

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Sherlock: “The Abominable Bride” Review **SPOILERS**

Sherlock: “The Abominable Bride” Review **SPOILERS**

Sherlock Holmes is a fascinating anomaly. Deemed the world’s greatest detective, the crime-solving genius enacts countless unorthodox strategies and deductions in the advent of fresh evidence, fresh corpses, and even fresh leads. His conclusions spur more questions than answers, but regardless how outside-the-box his methods and theories appear to be, they culminate to produce the very results we seek to discover, revealed in the form of the truth.

As far as we’re concerned, Sherlock Holmes strictly envelopes himself in the hunt for the truth, tirelessly searching for the reality hidden underneath the absurdity. Nearly four seasons in now, and Sherlock has done its job to reinforce this drive and regurgitate it to fans both casual and hardcore to mostly entertaining effect. Five years since we were first re-introduced to the man behind the storied mind, and we are now -finally – beginning to learn why his eagerness to solve precedes him.

“The Abominable Bride”, set in Victorian-era 19th Century London, is Sherlock‘s supposed visit to the roots that granted the series life in the first place. It happily plants the iconic deerstalker hat over Sherlock’s head, embraces the supernatural elements the show has merely hinted at previously, and invites us to a time where the world’s greatest detective tackled the world’s greatest cases. Most important, however, is that it provides us with pertinent insight surrounding a man we just can’t seem to understand. Early on into the proceedings, Watson proclaims that the events that construe the mystery behind this week’s special push our dear Mr. Holmes to the furthest of psychological extremities. Throughout the viewing experience, we find out how this particular case challenges Sherlock as an investigator, and how it exposes him as a man. No other installment in the generally heralded update to the famous private inspector has been this daring, and, for better or worse, it truly goes all out in execution.

Let’s start with the worse, because as I’m assuming most of you all were as well, I was extremely excited to watch a fresh installment of Sherlock again. This is one of the most unique television series I’ve ever seen, and it’s amazing how high Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have set the bar for future incarnations of our beloved Holmes character. All of which pains me to point out how much of what is presented here didn’t work. First of all, the central mystery revolving around a dead married couple and a “ghost” of a bride never found its footing, and the buildup surrounding it was almost nonexistent. We are (rather neatly) provided a presentation of the incidents and the murder that followed, but in-between that is largely sloppy work. We are too-quickly introduced to the classic alternate versions of Sherlock, Watson, Mary, Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson. Then there’s the matter of a silly bet between Sherlock and Mycroft that not only taints the lightheartedness of the brothers’ kindred competitive spirits (Mycroft literally bets his life on the conditions at play), it ignores the already-established, underlining sadness of their relationship.

Once the gears begin to turn, it becomes difficult to even care about the second wife and her husband, the eventual second victim to the implausible crimes of a living corpse. Granted, the encounter at their mansion led to a few chills, but for the most part I couldn’t wait for the episode to wrap it up and dive into something more indulgent. Unfortunately, the ambiguity of the case just so happened to linger up until the final half hour of the episode, with the reveal predictably highlighting the struggle women experienced in the time period.

Even more disappointing is the context behind it all and the handling of said context. Sherlock obviously neglects the women in his life, but instead of giving an actual reason as to why that is, the show just simply reminds us that that’s what he does. And while doing so, it classifies what Sherlock has seen them as his entire life, which apparently is supposed to have come to us as some sort of surprise. Does the show really think we weren’t aware of this all along? Is this truly the only avenue Sherlock wants to take this matter?

Furthermore, I can’t even begin to describe how frustrated I was seeing practically every woman Sherlock’s wronged throughout the series just show up like they did – even the bridesmaid from “His Last Vow” is one of the members of that convent. Since “The Abominable Bride” tries its absolute hardest to prove the importance of this apparent theme relative to the central plot, seeing it get thrown under the rug as fast as it did before the conclusion of the episode was astoundingly jarring. It’s as if Gatiss and Moffat, who wrote tonight’s special, suddenly realized how dried up their mystery had gotten, attempted to spruce it up with past issues of gender roles in society, and just suddenly forgot that they brought any of that stuff up altogether.

Tonight’s other major crime was the blatant advertisement of Moriarty, wrapped around an ongoing theory from the previous two seasons that Sherlock’s nemesis may still be alive. As much as I love watching Andrew Scott work as the maniacal foil to our central hero, the simple fact that he appeared and re-appeared in dream-like sequences totally spoiled the intrigue in a potential return. This episode does such a poor job hiding the inevitable realization that Moriarty’s really dead, at times I was immediately pulled out of the episode; the initial immersion of the jump back in time falling victim to bizarre clashes in sensibility and fantasy. This rings very true for the second half of “The Abominable Bride”, as it clearly doesn’t know exactly where to go, deciding to find some closure in the story it’s telling at the expense of confusing the living shit out of us.

It’s also not fair that we had to wait this long just for Sherlock to bait-and-switch us like it does here, but that’s exactly what happens. Almost this entire episode, in regards to occurrences, is fallible; the 19th Century draping becomes simply a playground for Sherlock’s cocaine-induced imagination. Although that part works – and I’ll touch on that more in a moment – it still exudes instances during the special that don’t go anywhere. We find out that Sherlock was overdosing on the same plane ride we last saw him at the end of Season Three, and the entire Ricoletti investigation leads him to believe that Moriarty planted one more potentially dangerous red herring for him at the site of the dead wife’s grave. He heads over to dig out the corpse and rid his rival of his latest trap, except…he actually doesn’t – he’s still fighting the effects of the drugs he’s absorbed in the plane while his closest friends aim to help him.

This could’ve been the moment where the episode redeems itself. We could’ve witnessed a man who we once believed had the intelligence of a thousand minds at his undisputed low point, searching for a truth that simply doesn’t exist and proving negligent to the fact that his psyche – and intelligence – is deteriorating. It definitely wouldn’t be the prettiest thing Sherlock has done, but it would’ve damn well been sad to watch – and quite rewarding, too. For a show that’s previously gone out of its way for the advances of pure, quality television, this particular scene being yet another one of our protagonist’s hallucinations is, at the very least, a grave missed opportunity.

As much as I disagreed with what went on in “The Abominable Bride”, there are still plenty of high points here. The flashback setting is nailed to perfection, with a somewhat scaled back camera angle in various scenes that makes the whole experience feel like a play come to life in the form of a Victorian-era graphic novel. Even though much of tonight’s proceedings is directed with the same flair as the rest of the series, there’s a distinct layer of nostalgia to it, and Sherlock makes wonderful work of mixing the best of both modern and classical.

The entire cast still contains the same amount of charm and precision they’ve carried for over five years now, and it’s a real pleasure seeing them ever so marginally fixate their performances based on the time zone their characters are in. Most of the fun I had in “The Abominable Bride” was paying close attention to how the gang interacts back in the 19th Century versus their modern-day encounters, and the general spark of Benedict Cumberbatch’s alarmingly evident chemistry with Martin Freeman. In addition, this was a rather amusing installment, with Mycroft’s “deaf” secretary, Sherlock’s patronizing calculations, and Mary’s often hilarious observations providing pleasant breaks from the action.

Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work will get a real kick out of some of the episode’s references to his short stories, like throwback Mycroft being extremely overweight (which was supposedly hinted at in many of Doyle’s works), the horseback rides through town while Holmes and Watson design their next move, and the physical confrontation between Sherlock and Moriarty. It’ll be up to our imaginations to determine what this special could’ve been had Gatiss and Moffat fully committed to crafting a story set exclusively in the 1800s.

Lastly, there’s Sherlock’s plight, and the curiosity that surrounds his persona is explored brilliantly in “The Abominable Bride”. Where the feminist outlines and handling of the murder mystery stumbled, the discovery of this central character’s vulnerabilities sung. There’s a real, tangible sense of urgency to throwback Holmes, and the reveal of modern Holmes’s overdosing heightens the former’s intent to solve magnificently. Small, tiny fragments of his past with Mycroft are seldom peppered in the episode, providing us with a few worthy answers while retaining the ambiguity that makes their bond as brothers so interesting. Each of these revelations to Sherlock give us a better chance of dissecting him, and even though we still don’t quite have a firm grasp of exactly what encouraged him to live life like he has, it’s impossible not to feel like we can officially relate to him now.

Sherlock Holmes, at least in this televised version, is a distinctly troubled man. Without a doubt, his past has plenty to do with that, but it’s the temptations of the present that have perpetuated his condition. I’m poised to believe that Moriarty’s repeatedly abstract presence has inspired Sherlock to entertain his mind through drugs, filling a missing void left empty from the death of his old enemy. He gets off on the thrill of solving the unsolvable case, and no one was capable of providing a challenge as desirable as Moriarty was. With him gone for quite some time now, Sherlock’s current situation with cocaine would stand to bring that excitement back into his life.

It even raises questions I didn’t consider asking before. For example: What if Magnussen really wasn’t that bad a guy, and his mind palace was a figment of Sherlock’s imagination? How often, since Moriarty’s demise, has Sherlock been conspiring with drugs? Is it possible for Holmes to one day acknowledge the love and care his brother or his closest ally have given him all these years? Deep down, there’s a human being searching for emotions he can’t express right now, trapped by the vices that have chased him all his life. This is the kind of tragedy Sherlock should totally experiment with going forward. The state of his health is only beginning to plummet, and from that the series has an enthralling story arc for which to explore further in Season Four – if it so chooses to expand on its developments.

 
The Verdict:

And there you have it. “The Abominable Bride” is Sherlock at its absolutely most inconsistent. With a slow start, poorly written themes and generally uninteresting case, it’s certainly not among my favorite of the series’ efforts. However, its decision to push the overarching story arc forward through Sherlock himself produces excellent results, and at times you’re instantly reminded why you’ve spent two whole years waiting for him to come back into your life and solve ridiculous mysteries. Since it’s scattered with peaks and valleys, the best way I can describe this special is through cliché: labeling it an 85-minute box of chocolates. You just never knew what you were gonna get, and while that’s a great indication of what Sherlock has to offer most of the time, one has to wonder if that’s always the best approach.

 

 

 

 

Rating: 7.5 

+ A deeper look into and better understanding of Sherlock, the man

+ Performances all around (Especially Cumberbatch and Freeman)

+ Nods to Doyle’s short stories

– Disappointing murder mystery

– Too many themes and plot points thrown around at once

– Moriarty intrigue spoiled

 

 

 

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