TV Superlatives: March, April, May – 2020

Well. All is chaos right now, and it’s an absurd time to be talking about TV Superlatives. Regardless, that’s what we’ll be doing here today because at MGB, we believe that when people could use a moment’s break or distraction, what they really want is 5000+ words about cartoons, Chinese dramas, and CW shows.

Still. Before we get to any of that, let me list a few of the many places you can donate to help protestors and support Black Lives Matter:

Black Lives Matter

Campaign Zero

Black Visions Collective

Know Your Rights Camp

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

National Bail Fund (with a Directory of Community Bail Funds)

Please feel free to comment with links to any other related organizations or crowdfunding campaigns that you think need attention/donations. Please do not comment to say “blue lives matter” or any other inane bullshit. Save that crap for your Facebook page that nobody wants to read.

And now for the main event: our Spring TV Superlatives!

A quick reminder for how these work: I will bestow whatever TV shows I’ve recently been watching (whether they’re currently airing or not) with awards like Most Adorable, Best Kiss, Most Unintentionally Hilarious Moment, etc. As always, any awards with spoilers will be very clearly marked.

As a reference point, here are the shows I’ve been watching for the past few months:

The Untamed
Altered Carbon (Season 2)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 7)
Star Trek: Picard
Nancy Drew
Legends of Tomorrow (Season 5)
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness
Nailed It (Season 4)
Harley Quinn (Season 2)
Kingdom (Season 2)
Medical Examiner: Dr. Qin (Season 1)
Village Survival: The Eight (Season 1)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Season 5)

Let’s get to it, shall we?

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“Say Goodbye To Classical Reality.”

I have something of a hit-and-miss relationship with John Carpenter’s work. I adore The Thing. I like Big Trouble in Little China. Escape from New York is enjoyable enough, but ultimately, I liked Snake Plissken more than the actual movie itself. Halloween is a classic that I don’t love nearly as much as I’m supposed to, and The Fog, unfortunately, really didn’t much for me. All I remember about Vampires is that it was goddamn dreadful.

Today–as my first reward essay for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon–we’ll be discussing John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, which, I can tell you right now, is not destined to be one of my favorites. But there are aspects of this movie that I find really intriguing.

Let’s talk about them, shall we?

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Season Finale Round-Up: April 4th-14th

It’s that time again. We have some finales to discuss: some of them good, some of them bad, most of them with zombies. SPOILERS abound.

iZombie

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All in all, both “Dead Beat” and “Salivation Army” were pretty damn awesome. I struggled at the beginning of this season with Major’s “Chaos Killer” storyline, but by the end, the show really managed to sell me on it, and it’s impressive just how much iZombie managed to pack into two hours, especially since the CW cut its initial episode order from 22 to 19.

There were exciting reveals and developments all over the place. Liv telling Clive that she was a zombie was great. I really loved both his reaction to her seeming-crazy and her no-nonsense approach when he (quite naturally) didn’t believe her. (I hate it when people insist on trying to verbally explain the supernatural when visuals are both faster and far more effective.) The mass zombie outbreak at the concert was great too; also, Rob Thomas. My inner 13-year-old Matchbox 20 fan weeps at his demise. My inner amateur TV critic figured he’d be eaten by zombies since hearing the casting announcement and is still cracking up about it. Also, as a huge Ravi fan, I really loved the scene where he accidentally kills the mercenary dude in self-defense, and particularly how shaken he is afterwards. You know, as one might be. I suspect the show will never go back to this again, but they really should. More Ravi in Season 3!

I do have some problems with the second hour of the finale, though, mostly in how Peyton, Blaine, and Ravi’s story felt way out of balance to me with all the exciting zombie stuff going on at Max Rager. Over there, all sorts of things were happening: Vaughn died, Gilda/Rita died, Liv was forced to kill Drake in order to save Clive, and we found out that there are zombies in charge who are looking to make Seattle Zombie City. Meanwhile, Peyton was pretty much only kidnapped so that Blaine could rescue her and we could initiate a love triangle between them and Ravi? Nope, not interested, not even a little bit interested. Both Ravi and Peyton deserve to have bigger storylines than some BS love triangle with the Charming Antichrist. (I mean, I love Blaine. David Anders is freaking amazing . . . but come on. Does anyone actually want to see this nonsense?)

And Blaine, himself, really threw me this episode too. There’s been a lot of back and forth on whether or not he’s faking the amnesia, and the way he’s been portraying it for the last few episodes, all Helpless Baby Duck, I really could have gone either way. But in this last hour he seemed wildly different to me in how he interacted with others, particularly Ravi, so I automatically assumed he’d either regained his memories or was just dropping the act entirely . . . but then neither of those things happened, and there was zero resolution on the efficacy of the cure, much less the fact that Major hasn’t taken it yet. It felt off.

Still, I had a great time with these last two episodes. I’ve been kind of bummed lately about my disappointment in shows and movies that used to be jam, but I am SO into iZombie right now. It’s funny as hell, doing some really exciting stuff, and only improving with time. I cannot wait until it comes back next season.

FINALE GRADE: A-
SEASON GRADE: A

Hap & Leonard

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This one was interesting. Episode 5 ended on a cliffhanger when Trudy drove away, leaving Hap and Leonard to die at the hands of Soldier. I suspected that Trudy would go back for them and die for it (though wasn’t sure, because she dies differently in the novel), but I thought the shoot-out would take the majority of the episode. Surprisingly, though, both Soldier and the previously-assumed dead Angel were taken out much earlier than I’d anticipated, and the rest of the finale was all about the emotional fallout. It was unusual, but I didn’t mind it. Actually, I mostly enjoyed it. The only thing I didn’t like was the vision/dream/hallucination of Hippie Trudy going into the Light. That kind of thing can be done well, but here it just felt like a boring cliche.

Still, I enjoyed this. James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams are a lot of fun to watch. I was happy that we finally got to see the full flashback of what happened to their fathers, and I was definitely interested in the tease of next season’s mystery, assuming the show comes back for a second season. I hope it does. I don’t love Hap & Leonard with all my geek heart (and sometimes it’s definitely uncomfortable to watch, like the flashback to the blackface comedy show Hap and his father were watching, God), but I do enjoy it and I’m curious to see where they go next.

FINALE GRADE: B+
SEASON GRADE: B

The Walking Dead

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So, I wasn’t a fan of this. At all. I wasn’t nearly as angry about the cliffhanger as other people were, but I suspect that has more to do with the fact that I’m just not that invested in the show anymore than because people are overreacting. I absolutely agree with them: the cliffhanger is bad.

Cliffhangers can be really effective when handled right, but this isn’t the way to do it. The show’s been pretty much teasing all season that one of our heroes is gonna die and gonna die badly. This is especially true if you follow any news about the show, know anything about the comic, or listen to interviews with the actors, who repeatedly promised the episode’s heartbreak and gruesome cruelty . . . only to not deliver on it in the slightest. Cliffhangers work best, I think, when you’re not expecting them at all, when you don’t know anyone’s going to die, much less who. But here we all already knew that someone was going to be murdered and that Negan would be the one to do it. So instead of hooking fans, The Walking Dead mostly just pissed them off because it didn’t feel shocking. It felt like a broken promise.

Negan, himself, was pretty great, though. Jeffrey Dean Morgan sure seemed like he was having a good time; perhaps he, too, was hoping to appear earlier in the season and was just like, “Sweet Jesus, FINALLY!” And for however much I haven’t bought Rick’s insane faith and overconfidence that his people can survive anything, I will say that Andrew Lincoln acts the holy hell out of that last scene. The despair and terror is all over his face, the knowledge that he was completely and utterly wrong. This death is going to break him. I just wish I cared.

But I don’t really. I am bored of Rick’s wildly swinging morality pendulum. I’m bored that the show can’t seem to figure out how to tell a new story. I was so happy when we first discovered Hilltop because I thought the whole world of The Walking Dead was opening up, and that was HUGE. Instead, the show just went back to same, tired ground, eschewing exciting world building in favor of the same old morality play, only now nearly everyone was acting like a complete moron purely to serve the plot. The conveniences in this season are ridiculous. Between the very abrupt food shortage, the decision to murder a bunch of dangerous people without doing adequate research, Carol abandoning the group because she can’t kill anymore (even though she pretty much immediately kills people after leaving), Denise’s sudden reckless streak, Daryl’s abrupt quest for revenge, and Maggie’s incredibly sudden miscarriage/pregnancy sickness . . . it all just feels really, really contrived to me. And I like Maggie, I do, but maybe we shouldn’t send ALL the best remaining warriors out with her in the RV, leaving the entire community in the hands of Father Fucking Gabriel? (Come on, show. It’s cool if you want to make him a redemptive character, but, like, you have to actually spend some time redeeming him first. The season premiere is not nearly strong enough to do that. In what world does Crazy Ass Rick trust Baby Judith and all his people to Father Gabriel’s protection?) Maybe they’ll all be dead when the show returns because of Rick’s poor decision making. Enid will, anyway, although that one’s because of Carl’s poor decision making. Carl, you’re an awful human being. I hope someone decides to protect you by locking you in a closet without food, water, or telling anyone what you’ve done.

ALSO, Carol and Morgan’s stuff felt disjointed and broke up the tension of the group trying to get to Hilltop. I think it would have worked better in its own episode. I certainly don’t think the finale needed to be 90-minutes long.

I’ve had problems with The Walking Dead all season and have been very much teetering on the edge of giving up the show entirely. This episode, unfortunately, did not convince me that I should continue. My friend Marisa plans to browbeat me into doing so, and I may attempt some sort of negotiation (recently, we traded shows: I made her watch the first season of Orphan Black, and she made me watch the first season of Girls), but . . . I don’t know. It’s been a while since I actively looked forward to watching The Walking Dead. The only person I’m particularly interested in seeing die is Rick, but unfortunately, he and Future Serial Killer Carl are the only ones who are safe. If Glenn dies, I walk. If Daryl, Maggie, or Michonne dies, I’m incredibly bummed and consider walking . . . because when you’re already not feeling a show, you kind of need every character you enjoy to live. Then again if anyone else dies, I just don’t care. (Actually, I’d feel bad for Rosita, too, but that’s mostly because they’ve yet to give the actress anything to do, other than react to Abraham’s needlessly brutal breakup.) While I’m incredibly relieved that Carol, at least, won’t die this way (because I was prepared to have serious problems with a past victim of domestic abuse dying from being beaten to death with a baseball bat), I just don’t know what the show could possibly do to win me back at this point.

FINALE GRADE: C
SEASON GRADE: C

“Impossibility is a Kiss Away From Reality.”

I first heard about Sense8 a couple of weeks before it aired on Netflix. Instantly, I was intrigued: a story about eight different people, all over the world, who become psychically linked in some way, who can share thoughts and abilities and even their own bodies with one another, eight people who are also somehow one. I thought it sounded fascinating.

Then reviews started to trickle in and they were . . . mixed, at best. Critics didn’t seem to like it at all, complaining that the show was slow, muddled, and confusing. At the same time, my Twitter feed was blowing up with mad love for Sense8, praising their in-depth, complex characters, particularly their multiple queer characters.

I figured, Well, there’s only one way to find out for yourself.

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Overall, I agree more with the Twitter folks than the critics.

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“So, It’s You and a Syringe Against the Capitol? See, This is Why No One Lets You Make the Plans.”

Hunger Games: Catching Fire came out in November. I finally saw it last weekend . . . with about forty other slackers who randomly decided to also watch the film months after it opened. Bastards. One of these days I’m going to go see a movie with no one else in the theater but me and my friends. Alas, last Saturday was not that day.

Katniss6

On the positive side, I really enjoyed the hell out of Catching Fire.

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