Monday, September 21, 2015

Geeky TV commentary - Gotham 2.1, Minority Report 1.1, Blindspot 1.1

What a good night of TV! And it kept getting better with each episode!

Gotham airs at 8pm on Fox Monday nights.

We're back and some stuff has changed, and as per usual, Jim (poor Jim) is the least interesting part of the show, though they're trying. He's busted down to traffic cop, which means he's the one who is there when a loopy guy in a purple suit starts shooting the place up and talking about taking everything over, so he's the one who take the guy down. During that, though, he gets into a fight with another cop and loses his badge all together. Lee is happy about it; Jim takes up with Penguin and has to basically rob a place and accidentally kills a guy.

This is...out of character? What happened to him over the break? Is he gonna come back around after a year or three as a vigilante, and rededicate himself to being a good cop, and that's why he's so likely to not think Batman is a problem later? (Aside from how he knows Bruce from an early age like this anyway)

Meanwhile, Harvey is clean and working as a bartender and is happy--so that's probably gonna go down in flames, just not this episode.

Penguin is king of the world, and he's strong-arming the weaselly little commissioner that Jim has already promised to take down.

Selina is catting around Penguin's house.

Bruce can't figure out the code to his dad's Batcave, so he decides to blow it up, and he and Alfred are far too cute building a bomb out of stuff around the house. They do manage to get in to find a letter in the smouldering wreckage from Papa Bats who tells him that the code is his name--and it's great that Bruce wasn't so self-involved that he figured that out. He also tells him that he can't have truth and happiness, that he has to choose, and he hope Bruce chooses happiness for whatever family he has. The whole letter makes it sound like he knew he was going to die, and like he was maybe speaking from experience, the kind that comes from maybe wearing a black suit and fighting crime?

And then there's also the villains. In prison, Barbara is almost immediately queen of the block, even though she's the only girl in a with a lot of criminally insane murderers. The kid who is probably the Joker takes to her immediately, and Deacon from 12 Monkeys* is her bodyguard. Until the cleaner from last season's Orphan Black** comes in. He's some important guy, but is also apparently in the market for some criminals, and he comes with a lady who kills Deacon from 12 Monkeys when he disagrees with what Cleaner is saying. He got at them all by having a time-release knock-out gas hidden inside the street-shooter they picked up earlier, and he breaks them out after.

Barbara also, earlier than that, tried to convince Jim that Lee was the crazy one, and then immediately called Lee and threatened her life, and can we all just stop terrorizing Lee for a while?

And Nygma! He's super-divided now. Literally--he sees his reflection in the middle as a separate, much more suave and bold but also more sociopathic version of himself. One that wants to make a move on Miss Kringle.

It was an episode full of fun dialog, and some really great early scenes where there wasn't a lot of talking, but there was a cinematic sort of re-establishment of where everyone was and what they were doing. Jim is still a sort of stick in the mud in the middle of all this gleeful lunacy, but maybe this trip to the dark side will teach him to loosen up and go with the flow a little. There was not nearly enough Jim-Harvey time, but he did semi-drunkenly forehead-bump him, which was unexpected in the middle of a bar.

Penguin is still the most fun ever. It would still be very much a gift if we got an episode that didn't have anyone but him and who he talks to in it.

And the best thing is that the writers seemed to have caught onto how much the villains steal the show and are, at least for a while, handing the show to them to see what happens, and that's enough to get this reviewer back on board after the way last season sort of fell apart and got annoying.

Minority Report airs at 9pm on Fox Monday nights.

Premier of a new show! Yay! And it's cool and interesting and seems tight and sharp! Yay! And it's on Fox. Boo! If that channel wants to regain viewer trust, they're gonna have to start leaving shows alone and letting them happen, and this looks like a good option for starting to do that.

Vega is a cop who can't seem to get ahead of crime. Dash is one of the three precogs from the movie Minority Report, and sees crimes happening, but doesn't get names or locations, only images, and that's slowing him down too much to stop them. He's recently off the island they all went to at the end of the movie, and he's adorably socially awkward and wide-eyed and really just wants to save people because even without the program, he's still seeing murders all the time.

Together, they fight crime!

But seriously, they do fight crime, though that's not all of the story. The current thing Dash is seeing is the wife of an important man dying in the man's arms, and they figure out with the help of their former-handler's home-made tech that it's a mass attack on the guy who was in charge of pre-crime division. The perp is one of the guys they sent away, who was damaged by those stasis prisons from the movie. His daughter is helping him out. They blame this guy for losing everything. Dash and Vega take him down, of course, and prove they're an effective team, but pre-crime is not a thing anymore so he can't be her official partner.

Which leaves us with the question, How long can they keep claiming he's just a useful informant or liaison? And maybe that's wrapped up in the bigger story that's just starting to unfold. See, precogs can't see their own futures, but they can see each other's, and his brother (who gets names and places) and his sister Agatha (the one Tom Cruise saved in the movie), can see his, and they both know that something he does with Vega or the cops leads to them being captured and taken away again--but they haven't told him. So he doesn't know that he needs to be careful, and he already trusts her.

It was a good pilot. It set up the characters nicely--including how isolated Dash has been, how he has big gaps in his memory and his experience because of what was done to him, and how Vega is sort of a mess in her personal life, but not in any big ways, just in a I've-focused-on-my-job-a-long-time sort of way. The worldbuilding is amazing. It looks something like Almost Human, which sort of makes the argument I had that that's actually the same world look more real, but also makes me nervous since it's the same channel that barely gave Almost Human a chance. Most of the tech that's there is there for a purpose--it's big-tech, but it's all useful.

There's also a little of a feel of Continuum when Vega is looking at crime scenes and has her heads-up-display running, and that's also okay.

There's callbacks to the movie, but not so much that you have to have seen the movie to understand the show--just nods, like them being the same characters, and the stasis prison, and that face-melting disguise. It's great that there's also all these consequences of the movie: most of the people who were caught by the precogs and put in stasis are now entirely insane or otherwise damaged by the experience, and at least a few of the ones who aren't entirely incapable of returning to citizenry are really ticked off about it. And also, the isolation that Dash has grown up in is directly to blame on how the program went down, and how they don't want to get taken and used again.

The first case we see is Dash trying to save a little girl who turns out to be a precog, too, because he didn't want to let her get what they got.

It was really good. It was tense, it was charming, it was smart enough, it balanced the whole setting-up-the-world thing with the whole let's-imply-there's-more-going-on thing. The two mains have a believable reason to want to work together, and she gets that he's a little off and figures out how to work with that instead of getting mad at him or frustrated--she handles him with caring that he's probably rarely gotten. And, as said before, he's adorable. There's a good cast of supporting characters that should be interesting to get to know. There's some mysteries outside of the murders they're trying to stop.

And everyone has something going on.

It's a keeper, and Fox had better keep it!

Blindspot airs at 10pm on NBC Monday nights.

I wonder how long it'll be before fans start getting these tattoos?

This was probably the best one of the night. The stuff we all knew from the adds--woman with no memory and a hundred brand new tattoos needs to solve crimes--is only the start of it. Jane is also a kickass soldier of some sort with all sorts of special-ops-style muscle-memory training that lets her more than defend herself, but she's entirely lacking in the confidence that comes from knowing who you are and what you can do, because she has no memory at all. That means she can fight with the best people on the planet--which these guys aren't--but she has no context for what she can do and it scares her. At the same time, she wants to save people, to stop that lady getting beat by her husband, to stop the terrorist one of her tattoos leads them to before he can blow up the Statue of Liberty, to work with the FBI people who just want to hold her and keep her safe rather than letting her get involved.

The first tattoo they handle is the one that says the name of a social agent who they hoped would know who she is, but who has no idea of anything about her. But he stays on her case, and he's the one who lets her work with them, and the one who believes she can take that shot when the terrorist is holding a knife to his throat, and he's the one who holds her when the emotional stress becomes too much--even though he doesn't want to and it looks like it hurts him or reminds him of something emotional he doesn't want to think about.

They're gonna be a hard-core ship if it keeps going like that, I can tell. When she was trying to see if she remembered him, and she held his hand and touched his face? When he caught her fighting with that wifebeater and took her bloody hands in his? When he cradled her after that first memory knocked her out and hugged her when she didn't know what to do with all her feels? That hits right in the middle of a shipper's squishy heart and it's only the first episode.

And that memory! She remembered running a gun training course with a guy in a beard, and it didn't look like military training since neither of them looked military-groomed and there were no other people around. And then that same guy kills the terrorist! There's definitely a much bigger story here, and this is barely scratching the surface--and that's amazing, because it's exactly the sort of story that needs a bigger picture like that.

There were echoes of, maybe, Long Kiss Goodnight, with the amnesiac killer. There was a little of Bourne Identity, too, but mostly it feels fresh and new and smart. Jane is someone who is very hard but doesn't know what to do with it, and she spends the whole episode just on the edge of a breakdown without once coming across as irrational or ridiculous, and it's perfect. Weller is closed off, but not so much that he doesn't know when someone needs comfort and support, and there's definitely something there that made him that reserved. The people around them are distinct characters and at least some of them have secrets, too, and it's going to be so interesting seeing how that unfolds.

The pacing was very good; the beginning was slow, but it was slow to establish the scene, and there was enough of how out of it and how shaking and scared Jane was to set her up as someone who has no idea what's going on. And the transition between that and someone who is taking a stand and demanding to be treated as a human being without being shrill or hysterical is perfect. The growing trust between her and Weller is rich and believable, and the way he is staying cautious but can't keep his distance no matter how much he wants to is believable, too.

That's the one I wanted to skip to next week to see the next episode of.

What did you guys think of these four episodes? Did you watch something else? How was it? Share your questions or comments here or on Twitter! (small cash gifts go in the sidebar!)

*Todd Stashwick, who is great, with his cheekbones and his sass.
**James Frain, who has now, I believe, played a bad guy on like 2/3 all the shows I've watched since True Blood.^
^And who would have thought that Gotham would be the place where 12 Monkeys and Orphan Black overlapped? It was so awesome watching the two of them chewing the scenery at each other for a few minutes, though!
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