Saturday, April 16, 2011

Television Breakdown: The Dog Can Still Hunt

Fringe: Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

You know, maybe Fringe isn't the healthiest show for you to watch, seeing as you'll probably lose several hours of sleep thinking of the many potential outcomes. On the other hand, forget that small strain of thought and just bathe in the amazing and unexpected twists and turns this show takes from week to week! This episode took us into a whole new strange universe, Olivia's mind, and gave us a detailed yet subtle look at the character without ever really showing her until the end. Right from the first take, we knew that this was going to be a fast paced and unexpected adventure, with Olivia being put in danger within the first five minutes.

At this point, is it irrational to believe that William Bell might be scheming to put his own nefarious deeds ahead of others? It should be, but thankfully it isn't, as Peter and Broyles still keep an arms length from the famed scientist. Soon Walter and William decided to send themselves and Peter into Olivia's mind to guide her out. Along the way they come into contact with the more nefarious and dark constraints of Olivia's subconscious, mainly the memory of her stepfather. It also takes a strange detour into a cartoon version of all our characters, en route to Jacksonville to find Olivia in hiding.

Before we get into the deeper parts of this episode, may I first state that Peter is hilarious while tripping on LSD! It appears that Walter can handle his shit better than anyone else. His reaction to Broyles as he starts experiencing the effects of the hallucinogenics is priceless, amongst other fun moments. Astrid retorting to Walter's misspelling of her name by calling him "Wally" was such a sweet and hilarious little moment that only fans of the show will truly get. And what's better than Astrid's musings and Peter tripping? Broyles tripping, obviously. Not only did we get the impromptu critique of Walter's love for licorice, but that goofy wide eyed glare just made such a wonderful impact. In the end, it was all in service of the story, as Broyles confided in Astrid emotionally about seeing his own body dead in front of him. I'm glad to see that that plot string hasn't evaporated entirely.

After Peter and Walter rendezvous with an animated version William Bell, becoming animated themselves along the way, they set out on an action packed zeppelin trip to Jacksonville in order to find Olivia. The fact that it's only an animated version doesn't take anything away from it, and in fact heightens the experience. The unique animation style reminiscent of Waltz with Bashir fits this show quite wonderfully, and the cloud of text from Walter's mind is a clever touch. Things get really intense as they're picked off one by one, adding to the intensity of the situation.

It was an opportunity for some real character development amongst our leads, with Walter realizing what William knew all along, that he has the wisdom and humility to handle his intelligence and power wisely. Peter also had a chance to show growth, realizing that the Olivia doppelganger wasn't really Olivia. It's a long leap from earlier this season when he didn't realize that Fauxlivia wasn't his Olivia. The greatest emotional leap was saved for Olivia, who finally faced her deepest darkest fears that she let take control after all the hardship she's been through. Her soul has been fractured for so long, and this episode was meant to be her way of mending it.

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide also served as a second chance to send off the character of William Bell, and the emotionality of the situation really sank in this time around. William is gone, and I think it's for good this time. I know that neither me or Walter can take another painfuly goodbye. However, the strangest of this completely strange episode was the ending. Olivia is acting a great deal like Desmond was in the final season of Lost. It's brilliant, because she has really become a fully actualized version of herself. She has beaten her fears and weaknesses, and is now even braver than her alternate universe counterpart. It'd be great if it weren't for that ending note about the man who tried to kill Peter in Olivia's mind. How do you say "I think he's the man who's gonna kill me", and then just chomp on your toast? In any case, I think we're on a thrilling course towards the season finale. I don't care if it's a reference to Inception here and there, and I can forgive the corny as hell confrontation where young Olivia stood up for herself. It's LSD. It's going to strain the limits of credulity, so why not go all out?

9.8 out of 10

The Killing: Pilot/The Cage/El Diablo

I've held off on commenting on my own thoughts of The Killing, because until the third episode I had no idea what to think of it. The first two episodes were strong, but they were weighed down by something I couldn't quite put my finger on. The first episode was evasive set up, showing us a lot that we pretty much knew already. It introduced us to the characters in the most typical manner it could, and it was pretty much the road to discovering Rosie Larsen's body. The only standout character happened to be Sarah Linden, the main focus of the show. You can see where her character is headed, but that doesn't make the performance any less powerful.

The second episode, The Cage, was where things gained speed, if only slightly. It was a cheesy emotional chapter of the show, where the Larsen family reacted from the initial impact of Rosie's death. The way the parents revealed to their kids that Rosie was dead was realistic, but it wasn't exactly touching. It doesn't speak of anything new, which may just be how the characters are written. Perhaps the father isn't meant to take chances by revealing the true nature of horrible events. We'll have to wait further to see if it pays off. The investigation didn't gain too much speed, with the Richmond campaign flailing under moral expectations as well as political. It was ultimately an unnecessary drain of time.

The third episode, El Diablo, was where we finally got a sense of something great for this show to aspire to. It finally captured the feel and atmosphere of the early Christopher Nolan films like Memento and Insomnia, which is what I was hoping for from the beginning. The discovery of "The Cage" in the previous episode brought to light a new string of possible suspects. Linden and Holder, her partner, go to find the janitor who hold the keys to the basement getaway, who almost immediately jumps out of a third story window to the land on the pavement. Nice to know that reality still applies in this show, so even though he isn't dead, he is pretty badly mangled.

They find out who was actually in the cage with Rosie that night, and we get our first major interesting lead of the series. That should be what pushes the series forward from here to the end of the season, and if we're lucky then all these pieces will actually fit together coherently. All the aspects that didn't quite work in the premiere, the family and the political campaign, finally come to real fruition. Stan Larsen, the father, tries to hold the family together and cope in his own way. He never lets the anyone see how deeply hurt he is feeling, which is one of the stronger pieces of his character that we've seen so far. Mitch, the mother, is even more fascinating emotionally by the leaps she takes to hold onto Rosie's memory, weeping over an answering machine message. It goes to the extreme as she nearly drowns herself in the tub to understand her daughter's suffering. The show is finally becoming all it should have been.

The Richmond campaign is going through an unnecessary hell because of what happened with Rosie Larsen. Somebody leaked the story to the opposing side in order to damage Richmond's chances, and Darren is lead to suspect his oldest friend Jamie. By the end of the episode I knew who had actually leaked it, but the episode did a decent job of clouding the truth with misdirection. In any case, Darren is starting to regain some speed, and the events you'd expect to happen across an entire week happen in just a day. I love the fast pace the show is maintaining, and hope it maintains that for the next 10 episodes.

(In Order) 8.4/8.7/9.4

How I Met Your Mother: The Exploding Meatball Sub

So time seems to be going so slowly as we head towards the end of the season, and I'm surprised that shows like this are taking any breather at all. We look at the leaps and bounds that Fringe is making (Yes, we are going to scale every single show in existence against that masterpiece), and everyone else is just sitting on their storylines. We just got off a brilliant and emotional episode that introduced John Lithgow as Barney's father who had righted his ways. It was just too late for Barney, and there was an emotional well to dig off of. They didn't do that, and instead they effectively and ineffectively made fun of it. I like that Barney was so obsessed with his cruel trick towards Marshall, but I wish it was something less crude and stupid.

In the meantime, Lily and Marshall are swirling towards the gutter financially, and Lily won't do a thing about it. She's just too afraid of hurting Marshall after "the incident". It was the only fun and interesting element of an otherwise droll and predictable episode. Ted, in the meantime, finally got around to how much he disagrees with Zoey about everything, and what did he do about it? Nothing, as he had his "Graduation goggles" on and could only see the things he'd miss. So yeah, things are going to blow up for his relationship, and we're just waiting to see how that happens. I want it to be a catastrophe and something unpredictable, but we can't always get what we want, can we?


Community: Competitive Wine Tasting

Community has always gone on weird ventures that strain credulity and push the emotionality of the show into overly sympathetic areas, but I never thought the show would ever be boring. It looks like I was proven wrong this week with this thoroughly underwhelming episode. The promise of the title seemed to point us towards ridiculous fun, but instead it was a great deal of dull plot dealings. The head of the episode seemed to be Jeff Winger and Pierce Hawthorne quibbling amongst each other once again. That should be great, but it fell down as weak, with absolutely no balls.

I guess it was kind of satisfying to see Jeff setting Pierce up with the Asian woman, saying that they're both manipulative and racist losers. Still, could the road there have been any plainer? The other premises were predictable, with Troy lying about being molested as a child. They just had to get Britta to kiss Troy and to open a new relationship, didn't they? Even Abed proved uneventful, being only slightly clever in his musings against guest star Stephen Tobolowsky. An episode with appearances by both Tobolowsky and Kevin Corrigan should be complete brilliance, but it wasn't. It pains me to criticize a show I love so dearly, but I hope we get back to quality soon.


Parks and Recreation: Fancy Party

So, it looks like the writers over at Fringe aren't the only ones capable of turning my mind three ways till Sunday. I went into this episode unsuspecting of the smaller revelations of last episode, mainly Rob Lowe's return before the hiatus. I'll have to head back to that one, but I'm honestly content at this point from the brilliant twist that April and Andy's dinner party wasn't a dinner party at all. This would be the surprise wedding episode of a lifetime, and the first time they announced that they would be married, I completely freaked out. I was so happy, because they're my absolute favorite couple on any show on television. At the same time, I knew what was happening.

I knew from the first take that there was going to be something that was going to ruin their relationship by the end of the night. I was preparing as Leslie set up road blocks for our characters. And then what happened? They got married, and it wasn't ruined at all! It was one of the most unexpected and happy moments I've seen on television, and at this moment I can't possibly see this going sour. It's such an Andy thing to jokingly propose that, and it's such an April thing to just agree to it. The ceremony was touching, Tom's response to the whole thing was hilarious, and it brought us one step closer to Ben and Leslie getting together. There are, unbelievably so, 7 more episodes this season, and I'm pleased as peach across the entire way.


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