Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Geeky TV commentary - The Flash 2.4, Agents of SHIELD 3.5, Limitless 1.6

The Flash airs at 8pm on CW Tuesday nights.

This week, Stein was literally going unstable, and they had to find a new compatible that had been affected by the blast wave. They came up with two choices: a former high school quarterback that busted his knee and wound up working in a garage when he was hit, and a physicist who seemed really compatible personality wise, but turned out to be a loon. So, of course, it's the kid, who's good and wants to help, who manages to successfully bond into a new Firestorm and looks awesome doing it.

But there's other issues along the way, because that's how plots work. Caitlyn is lobbying for Hewitt, the scientist, because she's all about the scientists and seems to have some sort of education bias that functions a lot like racism, except that both choices are black.* Ageism? Classism? Some sort of ism. Hewitt is all gung ho, but when they try to bond, they fizzle, and he gets pissed. It triggers his powers but he doesn't have the ability to bond with Stein to stabilize either of them, so he's walking around on fire, breaking things and, bizarrely, stealing power from lights? When did that become part of the power set?

New Firestorm and Flash defeat him pretty easily, and it looks cool, and they put him in the Pipeline, which is so dumb. That place shouldn't be able to function as a jail, and yet they keep using it even after they have a jail to put him in. There's a lot of dumb things on this show, but it seems like there are a few particular dumb things that like to haunt us and it's starting to knock me out of the "heck yeah!" of the rest of the show.

And Iris is dealing with her mom. That whole thing is written sort of like the only experience the writers have with women is watching soap operas. It's nice that Iris isn't 100% on board with this mom that she didn't know who left her, but she was being mean when she's usually the single most forgiving person on the cast--like, to a fault when it comes to Barry and Joe and she should be mad and isn't. And Francine has such a cliched sob story. She's dying. It's because of how she used to be a junkie, she's got less than a year to live. That should have been sad and emotional, but since we don't know her as a character, only as a pile of exposition from others, it's just annoying that it's the same story estranged parents on TV always have when they come back. They should have brought her back, worked to have a relationship, then found out she was dying, if they wanted her to be anything but a contrived angst-and-new-character deliverer. The actress is doing her best, and they did a good job finding someone who looks like she might be her mother, but they didn't give her much to work with.

The whole sub plot there seemed awkward and out of character, and all it did was take Iris out of the action and set up for a new character.

And meanwhile, Barry was thinking about going out with Patty, and drew an explicit parallel between him considering dating someone who was not Iris and Caitlyn stopping being a prejudiced ass and thinking about the kid with the broken knee as a candidate, and it was just...weird? Because a) who his girlfriend is is not equivalent to whether or not she's severely biased, and b) if he's still actually in love with Iris, it's super unfair to Patty--just like it was unfair to Linda. (that was her name, right? the girlfriend who wasn't iris but had the same job?)

So the New Firestorm was cool. It was great that he was this kid that thought his whole life was going to be nothing, but still wanted to help people, and that he had the mental and emotional agility to adapt quickly and find the coolness in what he was doing. This show is best when everyone involved knows that they're not on broody ol' Arrow, and that for them, being a superhero is really neat. But the rest of the plots around that were all weird and didn't sit well with this viewer, and that's sad.

But since he wasn't killed, maybe we can get more Demore Barnes, of 12 Monkeys fame, as a recurring villain here or on Legends of Tomorrow, where Firestorm will probably wind up. Yay Demore!

Agents of SHIELD airs at 9pm on ABC Tuesday nights.

This is probably the best episode I've seen of this show, and it's sort of ticking me off because it doesn't have all but one character through 98% of it and features none of the current plot lines. But it DOES have phenomenal acting on Elizabeth Henstridge's part, piles of feels in multiple different directions, a new character played by an actor I like, and an evil planet that definitely seems to have a purpose and a plan.

This is the story of how Simmons didn't die through the portal.

There's no sunlight on that planet. It's mostly desert. She has to mark time by how many hours she's been there, using her amazing and powerful Fitz-widgeted phone that has a battery life of, like, months. She has to find water and food--the first of which seems to come only from one spring in the middle of all that sand, and the second of which is, for a while, only the fronds of an attack-plant that lives there and tries to eat her. It sounds awful when she bites into it, but it keeps her alive.

And then after more than a month, she falls through a hole, into a cage, and meets Will. He was from a NASA mission through the obelisk, stranded when his crew that he was meant to protect started going mad and dying, and they couldn't figure out how to reopen the portal, or where it would reopen on it's own. He's been there for 14 years and didn't even know it. And he knows the ways of the planet and how to survive it.

And, of course, they fall in love, because they're literally the only people on the planet. This point is...iffy. She could have discovered something that could help them with their current plots, about the Kree or Inhumans, even Thor and his piles of pocket dimensions in the Nine Realms, or something, but if she did, they haven't even hinted at it yet. All their combined brainpower is devoted to figuring out the pattern of the moons that opens the portal and getting home, and it's the failure to make the portal they predict that breaks her and makes her lose hope and give in to the growing attachment to Will. There's no hint that she found anything that could be of use on this side of the portal. Hopefully that'll change as they sift through her memories and knowledge about it, but right now, she's focused on going back--for Will, because he was right behind her, facing the creepy planet-ghost, buying her time.

She doesn't even know if he survived, though we do. And Fitz, too good for this world, too pure, who spent his whole life for months looking for her, doesn't even comment on it, just runs to the lab to help her do it. Ooh, maybe if they get Will home, he'll be the one who knows something about what's going on, the random detail that brings the obelisk into the main plot line--but hopefully, he doesn't know he knows it, and it takes Simmons and her secret SHIELD knowledge to make the connection, so that it's still her story.

It was tense and sad and charming and exciting, and so interesting, and a lot of that, unfortunately, was because the whole Hydra storyline is stale and dragging, and the focus on so many other characters all the time in the usual format of the show is splintering attention and the power of the stories they're telling. As far back as season 1, it seemed like if they went more like Lost-style, where they focused more closely and more completely on one or two or three characters an episode, instead of all of them, the stories would be better, and this episode seems to prove it.

And that's why it's angry-making. Because this episode was so good, and it was in large part because it broke from the pattern. It proves that our gut feeling was right, AND that the writers and actors are capable of doing it better, and that they haven't. The goodness of this episode makes me feel cheated, and the return of Hydra and all that scrambling around doing nothing next episode just depresses me.

How about you?

Limitless airs at 10pm on NBC Tuesday nights.

This episode, a lot of things come to a head, and it's what we didn't even know we were waiting for.

Rebecca knows about the file, and she does what Brian couldn't, because she has a deeper knowledge of how their office works: she comes up with a plan about how they can keep looking for information. It's great, because it unites them, once and for all, on the same goal. For the first time, they're truly partners, acting like partners, protecting each other and working for each other.

So, of course, the second they walk in the office to enact their plan, Brian gets sent off because Naz wants Rebecca on a project to think of hypotheticals the FBI can plan for and defend against. Naz is on the FBI side, which means Rebecca is on the attacker side, and she's really good  at thinking up ways terrorists could destroy America. Like, maybe she missed her calling as a terrorist mastermind, and it's a really good thing that she's so devoted to her job.

All the bosses are impressed, and the head of the FBI wants to talk to her personally, but that's where their plan, and Brian get in the way.

Brian's been investigating the history of NZT and identifying people linked to the studies. He identifies a drug company that has the right people and projects and interests at the right time, and they don't help at all. He finds a scientist on the study that involved Rebecca's father. But Brian's having withdrawal symptoms. He's still taking the pill every morning because he has to for the FBI, for Rebecca, and for himself if he wants to be able to find the answer to all these problems, but the shot is wearing off and he's getting sick. Sweating, red eyes, shaky, emotionally unstable, hallucinations, paranoia, time loss, difficulty understanding what people around him are saying. Rebecca notices and wants to help, but she's thinking too conventionally there, and he ditches the doctors and goes back to his investigations.

But he can't check out that scientist because he's dying. Rebecca calls off her career-advancing meeting to go talk to the guy and finds out almost nothing, worrying about Brian along the way. And Brian passes out on the street.

Just when everything looks like it can't go any worse, everything changes. Brian wakes up on a rooftop, mostly fine, with Morra. He's already given him the shot and he says it was a test, to see what sort of person he was--would he betray his partner to save himself? And he didn't, so now Morra wants him to be the action man, the one who gets things done that Morra himself can't do because he has to work his way through the government so he can make all the real change, and that means that he can't be a free agent behind the scenes.

And Rebecca goes into Naz's office, sure she's going to be fired for calling off that very important meeting, and learn that Naz knows she knows about the file, and that the file was the point of all this. She wanted her to be able to read it legally, which meant that she needed the clearance to do so, which meant she needed to advance, which meant she needed to catch people's attention who could advance her. And that's why she was on that panel.

But the future for both of them, though less desperate at this moment, is still up in the air. What choices will everyone make? And Sands, is he even really working for Morra? Because if he is, and that bomb for the scientist was on his orders, Morra isn't telling the truth--and since there was such a parallel drawn between Brian and Rebecca, can we trust Naz's word that she's telling the truth?

This show is a lot less like Chuck than it seemed in the beginning, and that's good. It's taken its set up and run with it, and it's growing into this great intrigue show that still has all of Brian's mental creativity and that touch of humor, even when Brian is in dire straits, that keeps it from being too heavy. And they're starting to rebel from the power structures that are trying to keep them in control, which is great. Brian is almost the definition of a loose cannon, but his heart is in the right place and he's probably one of the kindest people on TV right now, trying to do what's right without having to give up anyone along the way. And Rebecca is, we now know, a lot more creative and wily than she's been allowed to be up to this point, and maybe she can now start loosening up!

It's so exciting to see this show unfolding.




*It was uncomfortable to watch, actually, because she's usually better than that and it was sort of "where is this coming from now?" whenever she opened her mouth.
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