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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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Sherlock: “The Six Thatchers” Review **SPOILERS**

Sherlock: “The Six Thatchers” Review **SPOILERS**

 

I’ll get right to it here: I did not really like “The Six Thatchers” or the big death at the conclusion of the episode. It’s not that it wasn’t thrilling or mysterious enough, or that it was covering non-compelling material; I was just simply frustrated, confused, and rather bored with everything that was going on.

Sherlock‘s been around for about six years now, spending most of its time on the air establishing its main character and the personal relationships he shares – often to remarkably impressive degree. But here, in an attempt to shift the narrative stylings in the form of a “Skyfall meets Cowboy Bebop” conundrum of spy hijinks and secondary emotional ties, the show follows its newfound ambitions all over the world (and quite literally here, I might add) but leaves its heart somewhere at the conclusion of season three’s “His Last Vow”.

The biggest slip up amongst all of this was the decision to put John on the sidelines, and put Mary at the center of the main plot. By fast-cutting through Mary’s pregnancy, we practically lose out on the underpinnings of her relationship to Watson (why she refers this safer lifestyle, how far her love for him stretches out, etc.) and give way to a montage of self-indulging comedy that, while funny, undercuts the potential emotional weight that the new baby could’ve had. Baby Watson exists in “The Six Thatchers” for no other reason than to be cute and assume the responsibility of irritating Sherlock  for once. Moreover, this new shift in dynamic convinces Mary to brush back her new family when one of her old “A.G.R.A.” squadmates resurfaces and seeks revenge. Although the flashbacks do a serviceable job of acquainting us with Mary’s past, it’s one lacking of interest and any defining bit of substance. Once  the episode ended, I couldn’t help but think of how inconsequential Ajay’s drive would have been had Sherlock decided to leave the missing Thatcher statue alone and just focused on solving the bland murdering that led him into Mary’s mess in the first place.

And yes, I say this having acknowledged the role that Mycroft’s deceitful secretary wound up playing: another plot point in “The Six Thatchers” that falls terribly flat. Her grand reveal comes without suspense, doesn’t expose enough interesting information about either A.G.R.A. or the “Ammo” acronym that’s whispered across the episode’s running time, and leads to the fatal shooting and killing of Mary conveniently right before Watson shows up to the scene.

Speaking of Watson, he spends a good portion of the episode simply reacting to what’s going on without playing an integral enough role. He begins to pursue a puzzling affair with a lady he meets on a train, but that boils down to little more than another mystery for the show to tackle later on. (Side Note: why John neglected to dish this out to Mary after discovering her ties to A.G.R.A. is beyond me.) Elsewhere, he’s either noticeably distanced from Sherlock’s detective work, or the last person of importance to stumble upon the big reveals. It’s too convenient to have him project his anger at Sherlock, having arrived to the Aquarium moments after Mary leaps in front of his partner and takes a bullet for him; Sherlock’s vow to protect John’s wife may be broken, but it’s not his fault that Mary sacrificed herself. Had the episode spent more time with John acclimating himself with childbirth and the effects his marriage may have been having with his investigative partnership, I’d actually care quite a bit more about Mary’s passing and how it may drag him down going forward. Unfortunately, his woeful hatred over Sherlock is splashed on us in the blink of an eye, and a central dynamic developed over years of solid writing becomes shifted in utter contrivance.

The only thing that truly worked in “The Six Thatchers” was Sherlock himself, but even his own personal arc is mishandled. I appreciated the valiant effort he took to look after John’s wife in the advancements of keeping his vow, and Sherlock’s newfound empathy resonated all throughout the show’s cast of characters. Compared to the arrogant brainchild that commanded the screen in Sherlock’s pilot episode, this version of the famed detective speaks volumes of the level of maturity he’s collected since he first teamed up with Watson.

Unfortunately, the rest of what makes Mr. Holmes so fascinating – his incessant obsession with Moriarty, the drug influences that were hinted at last season and in the Victorian-era special – either takes a curious backseat, or is used in an ill-advised attempt to further Mary’s plight in the episode. I wish there was a deeper element in play that surfaced from Mary’s death – even if it didn’t directly consist of an impending return for Moriarty – but there isn’t, and even when the show briefly focuses on Sherlock’s psychological standing, it glosses over it and covers his tracks. Why exactly does Mycroft find it fair to ignore the fact that his brother killed a man in cold blood and nip the whole Magnussen affair in the bud? What kind of approach will he or someone else take in ensuring that Sherlock’s not actually losing his mind? I don’t know myself, and the show makes no attempt at acknowledging it here. Absolutely ridiculous.

 

 

The Verdict:

“The Six Thatchers” is a mess of an episode that fails to succeed in a shifted narrative. By ditching the more investigative aspects of the series, we are denied of the key elements that make the show so great, while being treated to an avalanche of flashbacks and exposition that hardly resonate on any level. Yet even on its worst day, Sherlock manages to be passively entertaining. Benedict Cumberbatch and the rest of this amazing cast do splendid work as always, and there are a few visual sights to behold in “The Six Thatchers” (specifically Sherlock’s one-on-one fisticuffs with Ajay) that keep the whole thing from becoming a total loss. Mary’s death also suggests that both the Holmes-Watson dynamic may once again become the center of attention, and that Holmes’s obsession with (posthumous?) Moriarty may finally lead to something worth waiting three whole years for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RATING: 6

+ Sherlock’s determined efforts to protect Mary shown true character growth

+ Some fun moments, including that crazy fight scene between Sherlock and Ajay

– Watson’s severely underused, and his emotional ties to Sherlock and Mary are barely explored

– Focus on Mary’s past generally uninteresting

– (Very) weak reveal at the end

– Events from “His Last Vow” are glossed over like nothing

 

 

 

 

 

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Westworld: Series Premiere Review **SPOILERS**

Westworld: Series Premiere Review **SPOILERS**

Disclaimer: I have never seen the original Westworld film from 1973, and neither do I intend to draw many conclusions from or references to it in my reviews of the television series on HBO. In other words, expect my Westworld reviews to exclusively cover the material in the television series – whether I decide to eventually watch Michael Cricthon’s original film or not. 

 

Westworld is a thinking man’s television show: the kind of sixty-minute endeavor that’s recommended to be seen with one’s attention fixated in every line of dialogue, every thought-provoking facial expression, and every course of on-screen action. You simply can’t watch or enjoy it any other way, because its cast, its world and its message are impressively sprawling. Game of Thrones currently holds the reputation of being the king of “every moment counts” kind of TV over on HBO (which is quite amusing considering how Westworld‘s Sunday premiere already has people drawing comparisons to it), but with only two more seasons under its belt the network appears desperate for a successor. With its heavy science-fiction trappings and cerebral character themes, Westworld very well could be the light at the end of its “predecessor’s” dragon-clad tunnel.

But in order for this new series to help HBO succeed in its goal, it can’t just be entertaining; it needs to be relentlessly engrossing. It must be large in scope, yet ripe in detail; firm in the rules of its world, yet unceasing in its level of ethics and morals; deep in strong casting, and rich in Emmy-worthy performances. Suffix to say – and I’m proud to say this myself, as an avid Game of Thrones fan – that Westworld is all of these things, and more.

Set in a western-infused, Jurrasic Park-style theme park, Westworld questions the limits and nuances of artificial intelligence, peeling off philosophies and curiosities for the viewer to ponder through the stories of “Westworld”‘s hosts: the technologically-advanced robots that inhabit this fictional amusement world. Of which we are first introduced to Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), a scripted”daddy’s little girl”/damsel-in-distress that also holds the label as the theme park’s longest-running host. Her Westworld story parlays with Teddy’s (James Marsden), the cowboy with a heart of gold whose role is to fall in love with Dolores, leave town (either on his own accord or “by blood”), return, and do it all over again. We see one of their stories be violently interrupted by “The Man in Black” (Ed Harris) right around the same time the park’s science department decides to update a portion of its hosts, which calls into question the sudden off-script tendencies that they’ve recently been addressing.

 

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It’s initially hidden and eventually proven that Dolores’s presence, being the oldest robot in the park, stands for practically every theme and story thread the show wishes to pursue, as her sanctioned conversations with the host creators bookend the episode, filling us in on the roles these hosts play while giving us a sense of Dolores’s own understanding. Through Teddy, she questions the viability of her existence, as she witnesses his murder at the hands of the same guest who drags her into her family barn shortly before raping her. That moment is played off as a nightmare: a bad dream that is actually an erased memory that enables Dolores to continue playing her everyday role. But Dolores lingers on her recollections, and regardless of what her programmers tell her she’s past the point of blind complacence. If there is one instance that goes beyond proving my point here, it would have to be her conversation with Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), where she basically lies about always telling the truth just to save face. Another reason why I consider Dolores as such a focal point in Westworld is because we see how these little outliers in her stories have affected her throughout the episode, and considering her pedigree with the programmers it’s only fitting that she’d be the one thing standing in between a revolution and a never-ending theme park atmosphere.

There are two other perspectives to follow in Westworld, with one of them being behind the scenes. Jeffery Wright’s Bernard Lowe is the lead host programmer, and because of his enthusiastic direction we are provided with an internal conflict that falls sternly into a matter of interpretation. Unlike his colleagues, Lowe is intrigued with the possibility of advanced hosts with heightened emotions and expressions; others, like Simon Quarterman’s Lee Sizemore, prefer to leave things as is for the benefit of the guests. Bernard is enamored in the upward trajectory these robots could take, while everyone else besides Anthony Hopkins’s Dr. Ford is content with make an easy buck off the rich and eliminating any potential risk the hosts may carry going forward. In turn, the internal contrast between Lowe and his workmates ignites debate amongst the viewers at home. Knowing what we know about Dolores and The Man in Black, should Lowe be given the keys to furthering the evolution of his hosts? Or is allowing the guests to roam freely within the park alongside the hosts currently on display a more feasible move?

This argument undoubtedly carries over to the third perspective: the relationship between the guests and the hosts. Already firmly established here in “The Original”, the actual living human beings who visit the park feed off of their Western fetishes, but like The Man in Black helps prove a number of times in the episode, their behavior could be counter-intuitive to the hosts remaining emotionally tied to the roles and stories they were assigned to. Of course, this will eventually lead to the hosts garnering enough influence to act on their own free will, but who’s to say that’s a bad thing just yet? Peter’s conversation with Anthony Hopkins’s Dr. Ford teases the idea that the robots were created under more than a simple pre-determined image, and hints that there are supposed skeletons in the closet that we don’t know about right now. And on top of that, any host that was forced to go off-script at any point in the episode did so in a humane matter without contentiousness. Whether the hosts’ reactions vary depending on the robot remains to be seen, but the uncertainty sparks intrigue for future episodes.

 

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Lastly, the performances all around are absolutely fantastic, but there are still some noteworthy standouts. Evan Rachel Wood juggles the circus act of a humanized robot with pathos, while Wright and Hopkins truly draw you into the human side of the story as Bernard and Dr. Robert. Wright is especially impressive, but for those who’ve seen him in other works like Boardwalk Empire his brilliance here shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Other standouts include Sidse Babbett Knudsen, who’s refreshingly sharp-tongued as the realist Theresa Cullen, and Louis Herthum as Peter. Unfortunately for the latter, his shelf life on Westworld is woefully limited after the events in this episode, but at least we got that one chilling scene between him and Ford over that picture.

 

The Verdict:

It’s only been this one episode so far, but Westworld has already got me hooked. There’s appeal dripping from its pores, and once the allure of its cinematography wears off we’re left with a swarm of theories, twists and individual instances to write home and talk about. So much that this series initially has to offer is working like clockwork, and even with just a 10-episode season order I feel like it has only scratched the surface of what it has in store for those who choose to follow along. Whether you view it as the Sci-Fi drama that it is, or the multi-layered study into the ethics of artificial intelligence that’s underlined by the western standoffs and the brief spurts of prostitution – you owe it to yourself to hop on the bandwagon and see where this imaginative piece of television could take you.

 

 

 

 

 

RATING: 9.2

 

+ The hosts, and the ethics and emotions they’re programmed with/slowly learning

+ The programmers and the argument behind advancing the hosts

+ Guest/host integration, theme park atmosphere, and The Man in Black

+ Standout scenes (Dolores’s “dream”, Peter’s freakout against Ford, etc.) that constantly question the viewer, encourage philosophical analysis

 

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Shameless: “Hiraeth” Review **SPOILERS**

Shameless: “Hiraeth” Review **SPOILERS**

If I didn’t know any better, Shameless peaked quite a long time ago – about around the end of season four, to be exact. For a series just now approaching its seventh season, it’s gotten much too comfortable with the basic traits of its central cast, allowing the Gallagher clan to fall down, pick themselves up and repeat over and over again – all without much in the way of tangible character development. It’s a sad reality because, at the conclusion of season four, we saw this family gear up and strive for great change in their lives; it just never materialized at all these last couple of years.

“Hiraeth” finds the new season at just about the same place every other season has started at, and for better or worse that very tone is what sets up Shameless‘s latest tabling of episodes. As expected, we see the Gallaghers moving on with what they have (Debbie and her baby, Franny; Carl’s latest relationship with Dominique; Ian and his own relationship with Caleb) and what they have lost (Fiona after her wedding fiasco; Lip after his ordeal with Helene, Frank after being Frank for another season). And as expected, we spend the entire hour catching up with where they’re at, with the results varying on the show’s ability to expunge compelling story arcs for upcoming installments, and the average viewer’s remaining interest in the characters themselves.

Where this premiere episode succeeds is in giving us a whiff of what keeping the promise this series made three years ago looks like in practice: that great change season four’s conclusion hinted at. Lip’s experiencing his change through rehab, and the habits he’s picked up since returning home leave his future as a pertinent topic of discussion. Like last season, his excess drinking and screwing around left many (myself included) with the impression that he is heading down the same road as Frank, and despite moderating his alcohol intake with rehab chips and physically testing himself on the street, he’s still micro-managing in the same sort of ways his dirtbag father did not so long ago. Lip’s post-rehab plan is obviously going to spiral out of control, but the significance of that potentially colossal forest fire is ever-present. On top of that, his unusually calm demeanor and eagerness to make a living without a college education speaks to the years of settling for less that he’s been content with; an especially sad truth that the character has expressed since the show’s very first episode. With all this put into consideration, is it truly possible for Lip to find true happiness for the rest of his life? He seems certain of it, but all we see as viewers is pure regression: the already planted seeds growing modestly into something far less than expected.

Fiona’s change revolves squarely around independence, and it’ll be very interesting to see just how long she could go about her business without the influence of sex or intimate relationships with men. Like Lip (somewhat), I’m both very glad and very heartbroken to see her settle for the cards she’s recently been dealt with. As much as she hates managing the diner in the wake of Sean’s falling out, she lacks the experience or the knowledge to appeal for either a better position or a wage that’s higher than an extra dollar an hour. Fiona prefers to return to setting up tables and serving the customers, but doesn’t think to consider how that would only stump her career path even more than it has been. Even still, I like her new “warrior” mentality, if only because it could make her more focused on achieving her own happiness going forward. It would have been nice to have gotten a clearer understanding of what kind of hold she has on the house and the rest of the Gallaghers, however.

 

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Debbie and Carl’s respective story arcs are already off to better starts this season than they were a year ago, and there’s a fair bit of social commentary to collect from them as well. Debbie’s illegal money-making activities and spending habits vividly remind us of the expansive intelligence she has that was missing throughout most of season six, while also poking fun at the recklessness in decision-making that comes with underaged individuals who carry large sums of money (or, in this case, credit cards) in hostile living environments. Of all the Gallaghers, Debbie is definitely making the most of her new lifestyle – but that’s mostly because she’s literally profiting off of it. Carl, on the other hand, is blinded by love – and instant gratification, and he’s making the least out of his new lifestyle by needlessly investing in his sex drive. (The social commentary here is firmer and more necessary, since plenty of minors in this day and age are more susceptible to – and aware of – the vices of lust and intimacy than those of previous generations.) It appears as though Carl still has plenty to learn about growing up, but what I like so much about his situation here is that it’s a way more plausible storyline for him than his drug/gangster phase from last season; Carl’s social background shamelessly invites and promotes sex, and he’s at a stage in his life where he should be overly curious about his body.

Ian’s suspicions over Caleb and Frank’s return from the dead mark the low points of “Hiraeth”, as both storylines might as well live and die on a different show entirely. Ian has been done such a terrible disservice since Mickey was written off that any indication of a future breakup with his new boyfriend would be a victory for fans of the character – so, in a sense, Caleb cheating on him (with a woman, no less) might lead to better things for him later on in the season. Unfortunately, this is probably going to drag for a few more episodes; just like Frank barging back into his children’s lives. I think it’s amusing how every Gallagher (including little Liam!) walks over him and pays him no mind at all, but that’s just about the most enjoyment I collect out of his presence nowadays. I honestly wished the show would’ve let him drown in that ocean of water they dumped him in last season.

 

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Here are some extra notes from this week’s season premiere:

 

  • Don’t think for a second that I forgot about the “throuple” of Kev, Veronica, and Svetlana. I still love how insanely efficient their joint marriage is, on top of Kev’s heightened enthusiasm (“Family Meeting? What, is that what we’re calling sex now?”). It’s also no surprise that Svetlana opened Kev and V’s eyes to the long list financial shortcomings they’ve accrued over the years.
  • Things we need to see more of: dialogue between Lip and Fiona, Fiona throwing Frank out of the house, and Kev complaining about breastfeeding the babies.
  • Professor Youens is a class act for staying by Lip’s side through thick and thin, and I continue to enjoy their father/son dynamic. It’s heartbreaking, though, that Lip still views him as nothing more than an enabler of jobs.
  • Fiona fixing Debbie’s room just to leave it the same way she saw it is one of my proudest moments as a longtime fan of this series. I love that it reassures us of how much Fiona still remains in disgust over Debbie going through with the pregnancy.

 

 

 

The Verdict:

More setup than anything else, “Hiraeth” is a promising start to Shameless‘s seventh season, as we see the Gallaghers be more like themselves for the first time in quite a while. It’s also a refreshing look into the future of this family, with everyone branching out into different paths that are thematically tied in ways that speak more to who they are as individuals, and less to what the writers want them to become. This absolutely needs to be the year that the change these Gallaghers yearn for come into fruition, and for the moment Shamless‘s heart (and direction) is firmly in the right place.

 

 

 

RATING: 8

+ Lip post-rehab

+ Fiona post-men

+ Debbie and Carl given much stronger, true-to-character material

– Frank just existing at this point

– Ian/Caleb story arc

 

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Pitch: “The Interim” Review **SPOILERS**

Pitch: “The Interim” Review **SPOILERS**

What concerned me in the pilot for Pitch is that the series appeared limited in scope. We can follow Ginny around all season long and watch her ascent to fame and stardom, but there didn’t seem to be much else to keep most viewers invested. The clubhouse struggles and the now-inevitable firing of Al are decent enough story arcs to have co-exist with the meteoric impact the team’s new female teammate was having throughout the sports world, but a large portion of the cast just seems to be along for the ride, playing their roles without the allure of any compelling characteristics or personalities. Thankfully, “The Interim” addresses this problem head-on, relying heavily on backstory, interlocking episode themes and strong character moments to flesh out the cast. The result is a much better sophomore outing that instantly becomes a more gravitating watch than the pilot.

Ginny’s backstory continues to shed light on her family history, as we got to spend some quality time between her and big brother Will (B.J. Britt). Their feel-good flashback scenes together were a welcome change of pace from the intensifying media and clubhouse atmospheres, but they also did a solid job showing us exactly how Amelia convinced Ginny to market herself. Through Will, Ginny sees the importance and the disadvantage of working with family: he’s a great brother who looks out for her and guides her down the right path, but as a college dropout with minimal agent expertise he’s incapable of opening new doors.

Even though Amelia checked out as a legitimate sports and entertainment agent at the time, her hold on Ginny has never went beyond becoming a walking, talking brand. So, some of the episode’s strongest material comes from watching their dynamic materialize in the flashbacks, and be reinstated by Ginny in the present time. Amelia prefers being in control, yet Ginny still holds the power to speak her mind and lay down ground rules. Both factors play a big part in Ginny’s Jimmy Kimmel interview, where she decides to go completely off-script to protect her manager (more on him later) and speak out over a rape scandal that was wrongfully dropped on her conscious by a female news reporter. This particular instant speaks to the character we were introduced to in episode one, and it also perpetuates the kind of work relationship she and Amelia currently have.

 

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A whole lot went down internally with the Padres in “The Interim”, as the players continued to lose gracelessly while an inappropriate tabling of words from Al in an old interview resurfaced. Obviously, Ginny’s presence in the locker room remains the primary source of the players’ recent struggles, but Pitch finds a neat way of spinning the issue in a number of different directions. For one, Al simply cannot manage this team; it’s very apparent now. He definitely has no control over his players, and the comments he made about Ginny while she was in the Minors confirms that he’s also too old-school to acknowledge the rules of interviewing that today’s managers must abide by. (In other words, he should know better than to outright say she’s hot in front of a camera.) I think Dan Lauria deserves some serious credit here, because even despite the alarming lack of sensitivity regarding Al’s handling of his resurfaced interview, he still portrays the San Diego manager with a sort of nuance that makes it hard to condemn him for his behavior.

Another way the episode successfully turns the Padres’ woes away from Ginny is in the front office. Frank insisting that Oscar – who worked his way up to GM with Al’s help – find a replacement manager by the end of the season is more justified than it was a week ago, but by learning Oscar’s backstory there is a stark amount of emotional stakes at play now. Oscar feels he owes Al the chance to redeem himself because Al opened doors he never dreamed he had access to. He went from being a middling utility player to helping run an entire Major League franchise, so Oscar’s ties to his supposed mentor extend past the ballclub’s overall performance. In addition, I think it’s pretty impressive that Oscar’s current plight parallels with Ginny’s, as both individuals are in prime positions to speak their minds while harnessing the power to make an impact decision.

 

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PITCH: Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar in the all-new “The Interim” episode of PITCH airing Thursday, Sept. 29 (8:59-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Cr: Ray Mickshaw / FOX. © 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co.

 

The twist where Rachel Patrick (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), the same reporter who cornered Ginny over the rape scandal, was revealed as Mike’s ex-wife manifested into the episode’s best use of backstory. Her presence in Mike’s life affects him even after marriage, as we see him fighting to discover a concrete reason as to why he still plays baseball at his relatively advanced age. She also represents the life – and the happiness – Mike now yearns for. Just by the way he’s carried himself around his teammates, you can tell he’s been hiding something behind his proud exterior – and Pitch boldly uses his damaged relationship as fuel for character development; whether that progression involves him rallying the troops in the clubhouse, or finding himself at a bar with Amelia, another broken heart who experienced her own divorce years ago.

 

 

Here are some extra notes regarding this week’s episode:

  • Although this was a great week for some backstory, the flashbacks weren’t very kind to Amelia. The breakup between her and her husband is an odd, poorly-written scene, and on top of that it does very little to explain exactly what she saw in Ginny that made her quit her old job. Her past remains very murky – so does her presence in Ginny’s life.
  • Ditto for Elliot, who’s still just floating around being awkward.
  • That C-story with Blip and Evelyn is much more necessary than you’d think. Real life baseball players truly believe in rituals of all kinds, so Blip freaking out over the absence of his Funkmaster Flex t-shirt is very believable.
  • Ginny makes a conscious effort to “be one of the guys”, and goes about it in some plausible ways this week. One of which, however, is not with her dance moves.
  • Mike calling Ginny out for shaking him off is the kind of self-awareness this show needs to remain grounded in its source material. First of all, it shows the importance of batteries in the Majors: the best pitcher/catcher duos are always on the same page. Furthermore, it raises questions about Ginny’s pitch arsenal that deserved to be pondered. She knows her fastball sucks, but it truly is up to Mike to convince her that it’s still just as crucial to being successful as any one of her other offerings. A great pitcher understands that each pitch can help the other, and the sooner Mike can get Ginny to mature into that mentality the better.
  • Having the contrasting viewpoints in Colin Cowherd and Katie Nolan’s talk shows overlap each other was the neatest of touches the show has had thus far.
  • The in-game content in this episode was condensed considerably, which sort of helped the transitioning feel more organic. Also, Kevin Burkhardt’s play-by-play commentary, while not revolutionary in any sense, still trumps whatever the hell Joe Buck and John Smoltz were spouting out a week ago.
  • Evelyn joked about Blip not making the All-Star game because of his recent hitless streak, so that gives us a clearer time frame than before. It also omits my belief that the Padres were completely out of the NL West race; they’re just playing shitty baseball right now.

 

 

The Verdict:

 

“The Interim” did no favors for Amelia or her backstory, but was otherwise a very strong follow-up to last week’s pilot. Ginny continues to come into her own as a ballplayer, a teammate, and an supposed ambassador for women in America. Elsewhere, most of the main and supporting cast were fleshed out plenty, with Mike and Oscar in particular facing emotional plights that are compelling enough to come back for in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

 

RATING: 8.5

+ Ginny’s flashbacks with Will, Amelia

+ A number of strong character moments for Ginny and Mike

+ Al’s handling of his comments felt very real 

– Flashbacks do little to flesh out Amelia or explain her move to baseball

 

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Survivor’s Remorse: Season 3 Review (Part 2)

Survivor’s Remorse: Season 3 Review (Part 2)

“The Age of Umbrage”

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We live in a world that is very easily manipulated by whatever the media has to say, and in Cam Calloway’s case this harsh reality (almost) came back to bite him in the rear. In an attempt to promote a foundation in Julius’s memory – and help a “close friend” make waves with his new radio talk show – Cam says a few things that are technically taken out of context in a one-on-one interview and finds himself on the sharp edge of the typically misconstrued media backlash. He faces a bit of a fall from grace, where a world-renowned sports outlet labels him the “Scumbag of the Week” (then, later on, “Scumbag of the Month” and a frontrunner for the annual SportsScummy Award), and a particular mother of a child who was diagnosed with the “fucked up nose syndrome” creates a strong enough case to guide the anger and disgust towards him.

“The Age of Umbrage”, however, doesn’t simply resort to a trial of denial and an eventual apology; Cam’s not even sorry for what he said or the manner in which he said it. As the episode rolls along, we are awoken to the alarming degree of media exploitation that actually occurs far more often in real life than we realize – all the while Cam bands together with both his family and his under-qualified “fixer” to craft a verbal solution that could save his image while clearing up his initial spewing of words.

For the most part, everything plays out like a sensible tug-of-war, with both sides struggling to reach an amenable center surrounded by an audience none too keen to the intricacies of the affliction Cam was discussing in his interview. That latter half is where most of the episode’s satire molds from, and I’m very impressed with how bluntly and aggressively it exposes the underlining negligence of pop culture figures. Cam’s big podium speech at the conclusion, for example, exercises the sum of the parts that got us to the episode’s big finish in hilarious fashion – but does one better by making us question those six-figure personalities and the causes they truly stand/care for. It’s an incredibly risky moment for Cam: by taking the initiative and formulating a proper apology for the whole world to acknowledge, he’s burning potentially crucial bridges with popular individuals by backing them into a corner and making them take a financial endeavor they never planned on pursuing in the first place. However, it correlates with his line of thinking from the beginning of the episode and the level of maturity he’s reached as a multi-million dollar basketball superstar; I cannot imagine a similar scenario where he wouldn’t use his current population and reputation to further a cause he truly believed in.

 

Score: 9.3

 

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“The Photoshoot” 

 

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Not to speak ill of the fascinating line of work that the show has presented up until this point, but I just don’t see Survivor’s Remorse topping itself anytime soon after watching “The Photoshoot”. Clearly my personal favorite/highlight of the season, this episode rides along a wave of social commentary with a fierceness and confidence that the series has never expunged, and elsewhere it’s naturally tying these very real concerns to the characters in play without the disadvantage of feeling one-off or outside the realm of their respective arcs.

There are three sides to this rather linear storyline: Missy, Cam’s latest PR consultant after her all-too important guidance with the media fiasco in the previous episode, has arranged a photoshoot in the interest of marketing Cam, with Reggie quietly lingering in the background and holding everything together. With that comes varying perspectives that manifest throughout the course of said photoshoot. We discover that Missy’s search for a dark-skinned model to complement Cam and his photos is her way of using her newfound power to promote a sort of influx of other dark-skinned talents; a much-too-real problem that has plagued most of the entertainment business throughout history. Cam, on the other hand, simply wants to innocently indulge in a couple hours in front of the camera, hoping that he won’t have to beg for the respect of his auxiliaries in regards to such things as decision-making or any sudden change of plans. Reggie’s role in all of this is the enabler: by quietly lingering in Missy’s shadow (which is primarily meant to allot her full control of the photoshoot), he indirectly forfeits any and all respect he normally has for Cam in regards to such things as decision-making or any sudden change of plans.

Since anything Missy says goes, the entire evening is ruined: the photoshoot is abruptly delayed, the model, who was replacing the darker-skinned female Missy originally demanded, is replaced with another darker-skinned female, and the photgrapher, Family Matters icon Jaleel White (who does splendid work here, might I add), has to scramble in a search for someone who fits Missy’s description. The snowball effect here is cerebral, primarily because she altered an already-occurring event after making a rather tardy arrival to said proceedings (root canal or no root canal), but mostly because she did a good thing far too late. And what I love the most about this is that the episode shows us exactly where, how badly, and why Missy was in the wrong. Her initial planning could’ve stuck had she just been at the studio set in time, but instead her presence exceeds itself while she overlooks the consideration she should’ve had for the original model out of a lifelong frustration against light-skinned women “winning”. The message her photoshoot aims to convey is plausible – the perception that athletes only date light-skinned women is very true – but under this light it becomes counter-intuitive because what’s done is done and since the matter was pushed too far a poor mother simply striving to make ends meet was denied the opportunity over an unfair labeling. All of this is also why I think having her be confronted by the original model was an important way to drive home the problem at the core.

 

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Like I said before, Reggie’s handling of the photoshoot does Cam no favors, but worse yet is how inconsiderate it makes him out to be after the fact. Yes, he eventually faces Missy’s wrath in the wake of sitting idly by – but like Cam alluded to, Missy’s actions bear much greater consequences on his reputation. Perhaps Reggie failed to acknowledge that for himself on account of giving his wife a chance to demonstrate her skills in a field she’s always dreamed of conquering. Unfortunately, this is a three-way work engagement, and Cam’s going to have to answer to most of what transpired here. Hearing it from Cam doesn’t over-perpetuate that, either, because he has every right to express his disappointment; he feels that his saying power means nothing in these sort of executive decisions, and going forward that only stems to disrupt the relationship these two gentlemen share.

Even the B and C storylines in “The Photoshoot” shined, particularly M-Chuck’s college arrangement and Jimmy’s assistance in the matter. Not only are we treated to a delightfully down-to-earth dynamic that’s spurned from humble beginnings (learning the reasoning behind Jimmy’s particular tastes in food was particularly compelling), but, like with the differing perspectives in the photoshoot, are reminded of the character growth both individuals have experienced throughout the series. It would have been enough to watch them converse about school and homemade cuisine, but realizing Jimmy’ genuine warmth and M-Chuck’s yearning for a self-preserved future let us connect with them on a similar – albeit less tangible – way. Very few installments at this point in the series have ever been as enthralling on a personal level.

 

Score: 9.7

 

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Here are a few extra things I’d like to point out about these couple of episodes:

 

  • M-Chuck and Jimmy bear-hugging each other just might be the highlight of this entire season.
  • Cassie and Da Chen Bao’s relationship took its next big step in “The Photoshoot”, and I thought having those sex dolls represent the different mindsets they’ve had over their long-distance troubles was a weirdly effective way to table their problems.
  • Bao is as lovestruck and confused as they come; of course his initial solution would be to compensate sexually with a robot via webcam.
  • Squeeze has never seen Seinfeld before, and after Reggie explains the show to him he winds up thinking the Soup Nazi made noodles out of Jews. Squeeze has: 1) licked too many envelopes, and 2) needs to reset his priorities and familiarize himself with Seinfeld.
  • “There are ten bathrooms in this house. Don’t spit in my sink.”

Cassie speaks for no-nonsense mothers across the world.

  • Cam and Reggie’s dynamic in both episodes is very intriguing. in “The Age of Umbrage”, Cam doesn’t mind considering certain people he knew back in school or in Boston as close friends, even if his association with them was only vague. Meanwhile, Reggie’s just trying to steer the ship from money or attention-hungry fiends who use their prior association with Cam as a way in. As a result, Reggie rejects an interview from an old college friend that Cam quietly accepts. In “The Photoshoot”, however, Cam understands the parameters of his situation and is at peace with it, whereas Reggie goes behind his cousin’s back and flips the script for the advancement of his wife’s wishes. Bottom line is there appears to be a silver lining between them where any thread of trust is closed off, yet considering their pasts and their separate personalities it’s hard not to be surprised by this kind of repeated disagreement.
  • “The ignorant are the last people you want to upset.”

There’s definitely a college student out there somewhere who’s seen this episode all the way through and will be using this quote as a thesis statement for a given essay.

  • “People will not pay to watch an asshole play basketball.”

“People watched Kobe play for years.”

Well said, Cam.

 

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Survivor’s Remorse: Season 3 Review (Part 1)

Survivor’s Remorse: Season 3 Review (Part 1)

“The Night of the Crash” & “The Ritual”

 

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There’s no denying2 the potential staying power of a comedic force as dynamic as Mike Epps, but when Survivor’s Remorse took its darkest, deepest turn a year ago the famed funnyman’s most engaging TV persona yet lost out to an eventual disagreement between star talent and a plea for a pay raise. If you happened to be in the camp that found the emergence of ABC’s latest (but most certainly not its last) single-camera family sitcom Uncle Buck as the straw that broke the camel’s back: sorry to disappoint. Nevertheless, demands were made, and amidst the turmoil that concluded the series’ most recent slate of summertime episodes we were all very much keen to the results of whatever behind-closed-doors affairs amassed when the cameras weren’t rolling.

Clearly Epps and his former superiors have moved on; the former well engaged with his latest television project as the lead role, and the latter saying goodbye in a two-part celebration of a fictional life gone too soon. And in a sense, season three of Survivor’s Remorse will probably always have that big “what if?” lingering in the backburner, because season two looked like it had bigger, better and happier plans for its main cast looming on the horizon. In the series’s one-hour premiere, seeing how much the landscape has changed isn’t difficult – and in a way that drags the proceedings a bit. First of all, there’s little to no tonal consistency within the first fifteen minutes of “The Night of the Crash”. Plenty of little quips and a few sight gags are thrown in to lighten the mood, but besides maybe a couple lines and the flashbacks between Cam and Julius they ultimately fall flat – but even worse is how awkwardly they interrupt the initial grieving. Survivor’s Remorse always kind of tip-toed into its darker reaches, but with season three’s premiere truly embracing them the awkwardness of both the script and the overall feel of Julius’s death’s aftermath suggests that the series works better as a grounded satire of sorts.

 

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Luckily, the episode – and the show itself – is carried sternly by its flavorful, razor-sharp cast. From Jesse T. Usher evoking the unshakable guilt and anguish of Julius’s death as Cam, all the way to Chris Bauer’s absolutely fantastic family consoling as Jimmy, the emotional girth of the Calloway’s latest tragedy is ever-present. Also, the cerebral impact of it is felt in the performances, with some of these individuals’ greatest efforts in this series yet. Perhaps the most impressive feat in “The Night of the Crash” is how it manages to use said performances in non-linear ways – like how Cassie clinging to the perception that Julius became a firm believer in religion eventually molds into a reveal that Julius was anything but (and, in a way, somewhat worse).

Furthermore: along with boosting the importance of the life Julius lived, the character beats at play have a good portion of the main cast reflecting on their own days on Earth.  At the very least, having Cam and M-Chuck evaluate the extent of their contributions makes for some compelling one-off television, especially since we know all about their upbringing and their vastly different levels of success. But what “The Ritual” does – and does exceptionally well – is lingers on the topic and lets it fester, opening up the door for some much-needed character growth. M-Chuck just might fail miserably in her return to college, and Cam may never fully realize how caring and ungrudging he’s been since his basketball dreams came true – but at the very least they’re now both willing to acknowledge the mutual influence surrounding their relationship and use it to benefit themselves.

Lastly: “The Ritual” is simply a demonstration of what this show is like when it hits its sweet spot. Where “The Night of the Crash” largely fails to find a solid balance between brooding drama and dark comedy, part-two floats along as smoothly as a baby’s bottom, furthering the dejection spurn from last season’s finale episode while figuring out clever, amusing ways to lighten the mood. Whether you consider the subtle uplift in tone, or an airtight script that plays to the strengths of its cast far more than the oh-too-common trappings of the usual single-camera family comedy, the “dramedy” that Survivor’s Remorse has yearned to evolve into is in full effect here, and it shines throughout the installment.

 

Score: 8.5

 

 

“The Thank You Note”

 

Survivor’s Remorse Season 3 2016

 

At this stage of  the game, it’s pretty clear that Survivor’s Remorse doesn’t care too much about basketball or the actual theme of surviving in a brand-new environment with lavish material riches. The night following Julius’s death, Cam dropped fifty-one points and his team won by four; you wouldn’t know it weren’t for that brief press conference afterward. Three seasons into the series, and not a single member of the Calloway family has wallowed in debt,  regressed into a high-stakes incident involving civil authorities, or stumbled upon an overwhelming political circumstance that would eventually chase them out of Dodge; They’re smart, self-aware people who’d rather grow their riches together than excessively indulge in what they have now.

In “The Thank You Note”, we see exactly where the show’s ambitions truly lie: getting us enthralled in the characters. For the most part, the central cast has been fleshed out rather comprehensively – yet there are still plenty of skeletons left in the closet, and character arcs to explore. This is where the episode flexes its muscles, and despite another round of impeccably strong performances it’s actually the underlining themes surrounding the episode’s separate story arcs that most impressed me. M-Chuck’s repeated trips to her therapist, for example, table a fantastic diatribe by Erica Ash, but beneath her pent up rage and ever-increasing frustrations is a longing for moral support from Cassie and some form of closure in regards to her absent father; whether it be the discovery of his whereabouts, or the reasoning behind his withdrawal. Judging by the podcast gone wrong and Cassie’s eventual giving in to attending a session with her, this season’s only scratching the surface of what it aims to uncover for M-Chuck.

Reggie and Missy’s mailbox-hopping crusade that inherits the title of this episode also shines for its self-awareness and amazing character beats. I’m truly surprised with the sheer amount of depth behind this B-story, particularly in regards to the actual act of writing the thank-you letter. Seeing this supposed power couple butt heads never gets old, but for the show to expose Reggie’s lack of professional courtesy towards the letter as a character flaw wound up becoming a powerful bit of social commentary. And since we’re keen on Reggie doing what he can to jettison his opportunity to work alongside Cam as a means to expand his business and market his skills, I’m glad that the principle – and the reverence surrounding – the act of writing back to the Freemans is never overlooked.

 

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Even though he only dips in and out of the majority of the episode, Cam’s presence is still felt in a big way here. Between M-Chuck’s yearning for substantive counseling and Cassie’s best efforts to honor her late brother, Cam is the wedge that brings the two Calloway women together. Without his insistence, it’s very likely Cassie would continue to heckle her daughter over the frequent therapist sessions instead of swallowing her pride and attending one with her for a change – which becomes even more necessary for the family as a whole once we learn that Cassie birthed both children from separate fathers. Through Cam,  we see things from both Cassie and M-Chuck’s respective perspectives (say that five times fast) a bit clearer – but most important is how he uses their pasts and their struggles to find an emotional center: a small window that allows the two women to connect and air out without the usual verbal conflict.

And sure, it was just therapy – but Cam actually got his mother there, and convincing Cassie to welcome anyone’s form of premium counseling is a remarkable achievement all its own.

 

 

Score: 9.2

 

 

Here are some extra notes and lines I’d like to cover from these first three episodes of the new season:

  • I couldn’t respect Jimmy more after he gave that inexperienced doctor and her mentor/fellow colleague a piece of his mind. That announcement of Julius’s death to the Calloways was absolutely horrible, and I was quite stunned that it wasn’t Cassie who verbally ripped them apart. Not only did that scene invite us to the fantastic level of self-awareness this series has developed, but it also went far and above at cementing Jimmy as an invaluable piece to both Cam and his family.
  • The morgue scene was another perfect instant in “The Night of the Crash”, although that mostly stemmed from Reggie’s immensely frustrated reaction. It should be impossible to even dream of a hospital staff member considering the possibility of getting a photo with an admired athlete in mourning – let alone act on it.
  • I think it’s safe to say that Robert Wu honorably replaces the void left by Mike Epps – at least in this half of the season. His comedic timing is great, and he carries plenty of endearment as Cassie’s latest lover. Even more surprising is how easily he gels with the rest of the Calloway clan (it does help that Da Chen Bao dishes out his own bit of pop culture insults along with them).
  • “If you make promises you plan on breaking while having sex with people who are not your spouse, you run the risk of bullets entering your skull.”

Sad, but true.

  • Reggie and Cassie’s feud over the arrangements for Julius’s funeral was perhaps the most entertaining aspect of “The Ritual”. What makes it work so well is that it’s incredibly easy to see things from both characters’ points of view, and seeing RonReaco Lee and Tichina Arnold cross swords through dialogue is as visceral and stern as you can imagine.
  • Clay warning Reggie about his wife’s lasagna being veggie lasagna is the funniest thing that no one will remember from “The Ritual”.
  • “So I shouldn’t show any part of my titties?”

“To me? Yes. To the funeral? No.”

Gotta love Da Chen Bao.

  • So, we got to meet a couple of Julius’ old friends from Boston at the funeral, and my reaction was generally lukewarm. Cakebread (Owen H.M. Smith) is just another creepy uncle trope, but Squeeze (Catfish Jean) is the one who’s apparently here to stay for the rest of the season (I’ve seen episodes four and five to confirm such), and I could see him being fun to have around over time. The only thing about the latter character that I’m concerned about is whether or not Julius’s prior relationship with his mother will resurface in conversation.
  • “Duck, please?”

“Where?”

“Nope, as in your head. I do not wish to Dick Cheney you.”

  • “People who say I’m Cam’s sister, when they really should be saying that he’s my brother because I’m older.”

As both an older brother and younger brother in my family, this has actually been a glaring problem that may never find a concrete solution.

  • “They name their kid Diane and they say, ‘You know what, we gotta rich this up. Let’s add a H to it.'”
  • Allison continues to look and feel two steps behind of the entire cast whenever she’s on-screen. Some of this is Meagan Tandy’s fault as an actress (frankly, she lacks chemistry with everyone else), but the show has made no effort to assimilate her; she sort of just floats around in the background most of the time. I’d bet a million internet dollars that she gets written off by the end of the season.
  • “Anyone ever told you ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’?”

“Has anyone ever told you, ‘Go fuck yourself’? Oh, I just did.”

 

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