Okay, lot's to talk about. It's a big week in entertainment. February sweeps are here, the Oscar nominations have been announced, and LOST premiered last night, kicking off its long-awaited final season. If you're just here for the LOST review, scroll down a bit. First off, though ...
TWENTY BY-GUM FOUR (24):
- So, call me crazy, but I really dug Monday night's episode of 24. I saw that The AV Club only gave it a C, and I saw that a lot of the commentators over there thought the ep was awful. Hmm ... did we watch the same episode? I actually thought this was the best episode of the season so far.
To me, this one was just dripping with pulpy atmosphere and slow-burn intensity. It had a very Season 1-ish vibe - nothing too grandiose going on, just Jack and Renee in the dark corners of the city at night, dealing with treacherous lowlifes. The episode was grim, gritty, and it even had an awesomely atmospheric musical score. I loved all the Russian gangster stuff - we got some really nice scenes of Vlad just being a sleazy, volatile prick. Renee being forced to cozy up to him was pretty uncomfortable to watch, at times, but it also ratcheted up the intensity. You could tell that Jack was steaming in his car, and it was nice and catharctic to see GLASSES JACK take out Vlad's entire crew with the help of Freddie Prinze Jr.
The Dana Walsh stuff is still pretty bad, but in a weird way it's almost crossed the line from bad to just plain comic relief. I mean, how can you not love her ex-boyfriend's sadsack buddy who just hangs out on the couch eating Doritos? So ridiculous that it's back to being funny.
Seriously though, I thought this was a really cool little episode. Nothing earth-shattering happened, but a lot of tension was built up, and the upcoming confrontation between Jack and Vlad is going to be badass.
My Grade: A-
- CHUCK had perhaps its best overall episode (at least so far) of the season on Monday, with a nice storyline that showed what could happen if Chuck had been a tad more embittered, choosing to use his powers for evil rather than good. A nerdy computer geek was introduced as a sort of Anti-Chuck, except that he wasn't necessarilly a bad guy, just misguided and lonely. Chuck's mission was to use him as a mark - to befriend him in order to get to the bottom of his plans (involving selling his weapons tech - a portable version of the Intersect - to the highest bidder, very likely The Ring). It was fun watching Chuck's awkward attempts at connecting with his fellow geek - I especially enjoyed the mutual admiration society that formed around Y: The Last Man (yep, I agree with Chuck - greatest work of fiction of our time!). Adam Baldwin as Casey was particularly on fire in this ep as well, with a number of well-timed quips. And hey, who doesn't love Walker in a "What the Frak" t-shirt. Yikes. I also enjoyed Morgan and Ellie slowly growing suspicious of Chuck's mysterious lifestyle. It will definitely be interesting to see where that goes. There's the potential for a jump the shark moment of sorts, but still, part of me wants to see Chuck and Morgan as the geekiest spy duo ever.
My Grade: A-
FOX SUNDAY NIGHT Reviews:
- Ugh, THE SIMPSONS was just plain mediocre on Sunday. A handful of funny gags couldn't save the episode, which was built around a nonsensical plotline: Homer wins the lottery, but doesn't want to tell Marge because he bought his ticket while he should have been with her at a wedding. Wow, yet another episode where Homer screws up, tries in vain to compensate for the error of his ways, than ultimately wins back Marge with some grand gesture that proves his love. ENOUGH! Also, the subplot about a Nintendo Wii stand-in becoming popular at the senior center went, well, nowhere. I thought there'd be some sort of satire involved (like a few years back when The Simpsons took some clever jabs at Apple and the iPod), but, no. The subplot was basically just an observation (old people enjoy the Wii) without an actual joke. Lame.
My Grade: C-
- FAMILY GUY was kind of fun, as it actually gave Meg a proper storyline, for once. Still, I get annoyed when so many FG episodes these days lazily rely on shock value rather than well-written humor to get by. But, amidst the usual shock tactics, there was a somewhat fun storyline here. I enjoyed seeing Meg actually defend herself and dish out some abuse rather than take it for once, and that one scene, where she slowly fileld a sack with soda cans and then proceeded to clobber her mean classmates ... well, it was pretty hilarious.
My Grade: B
- I also want to mention last night's MODERN FAMILY episode, which I thought was absolutely hilarious. I feel like MF is not as densely packed with hilarity as, say, 30 Rock, but at the same time, there are always a couple of moments per episode that just make me laugh. And overall it just has a snappy, feel-good vibe that makes it fun to watch. The characters are all great, and it's fun just seeing them interact in various combinations. Case in point: the hilarious subplot last night involving Jay and Cameron, who had scheduled a racquetball match against each other. Jay was paranoid that his usual locker room humor would be stifled by his new and very gay playing partner. And holy lord, when Jay and Cameron accidentally collided in the locker room, aka had a "moonlanding," I just about lost it. I also love mustache-Phil caught in the porto-potty, Sophia's horrible driving exposed, and Luke's discovery of jagermeister. Good stuff.
My Grade: A-
And now, wait for it ...
LOST - Final Season Premiere Review:
- Well, this is it ... the final season of LOST. I've been onboard since the first episode, and it's been an amazing ride. There have been a lot of ups and downs. The show kicked off with one of the most amazing pilot episodes ever aired, and went on to enjoy an acclaimed and much buzzed-about first season. Season 2 faltered with the introduction of the "tailies", but soon enough, things got back on track. And for the past few years, Lost has been one of television's most creative, thought-provoking, and cinematic series. It can be frustrating to watch at times - the show has piled on mystery after mystery over the years, and there are dozens of unanswered questions going into this final season, many of which likely will never be directly addressed. But still, longtime Lost viewers know that it doesn't usually pay off to dwell too much on the show's past. Instead, you sort of have to just go along for the ride, and let yourself be surprised with the twists and turns the show throws at you.
I will say this - the Season Premiere didn't blow me away, but it did its job in that it has me suitably intrigued to see where the season and the series goes from here. Clearly, the show's creative team decided to have their cake and eat it too. If you read interviews with Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindeloff, you will hear them talk about the question of whether to keep the story on the island going, or to reset the timeline and present a version of reality in which Oceanic Flight 815 never crashed on the island in the first place. Rather than choose one or the other, the writers and producers of Lost decided to do both. Apparently, a divergent timeline was created when the bomb known as Jughead was detonated by Juliet, and in one reality, all of the castaways are back in the present day, but still on the island. Meanwhile, in an alternate version of the timestream, Jack, Kate, Locke, Sawyer, etc. are on Oceanic Flight 815 ... and they make it safely back to LA without ever having crashed. From the looks of things, we'll be following both parallel realities, potentially for the entirety of the season. How they relate, whether there's crossover between them, and whether actions in one timeline affect the other - all that remains to be seen. There was certainly no big "aha!" moment as there was in the season finale from two season ago, where we found out that what we thought were flashbacks were actually *flashforwards.* We still have a ways to go before we get to the bottom of this riddle. Already, there are obvious red flags: why was Desmond on the plane, for example?
You have to wonder whether the show can keep the momentum going as they balance what is now essentially two separate storylines. The timeline sans crash is going to have to have some really jaw-dropping twists and revelations in order to keep our interest. It will be cool at first just to see the "normal" interactions between the likes of Jack and Locke and such, but where do you go from there - what's the overarching plot point that's driving the action forward in that reality? In the old flashforwards, it was the need to get back to the island. This time, the action back on the island seems much more urgent and relevant.
And I really dug a lot of the island action, especially in the immediate aftermath of the detonation. In particular, the tension between Sawyer and Jack was awesome and a lot of fun to watch. Sawyer was rightfully pissed at Jack's seemingly failed plan, and it was entertaining to see that tension reach its boiling point, with Sawyer going so far as to want to kill Jack for what he'd done, for a plan that resulted in Juliette's death.
Later though, things got a bit hokey. When the castaways journeyed to The Temple to try to heal the critically injured Sayid, the episode began to feel a bit like a cut scene from Mortal Kombat: The Movie. It's basically a given at this point that the characters never really pause to just plainly question what the hell is going on ... and yet, it felt awkward having everyone just blindly packing up and heading down to a mysterious temple to heal their friend, then barely questioning anything as they met up with a whole new group of "Others'. And if these guys had some magical healing ability, why not bring Juliette to them as well, just for the hell of it?
I've already heard theories that Jacob, now "dead" (whatever that means for an immortal), somehow possessed the body of Sayid, much as the Man In Black did with Locke. Or, maybe, we'll see Juliette resurface in a similar fashion. You do have to wonder though - how did Juliette know that "it worked?" Her final words to Sawyer were going to be confirmation that Jack's plan to alter the timeline was successful - but, how did she know? Did she have a moment of clarity in which she caught a glimpse of the alternate timeline? Does dying in one timeline somehow affect how events unfold in the other one? Hmm ...
I'm also curious what fake-Locke meant when he said he wanted to go "home." Where is home for him? Hell? Outer space? Some uber-dimension that exists outside the confines of the multiverse? Okay, I just blew my own mind. Too many comic books, I guess.
In any case, I'm cautiously optimistic about where this is all going. I don't think there will likely be any moment of mind-blowing revelation - no one episode, or season, is going to be able to tie up everything that's come so far with a neatly-wrapped bow. But Lost has been consistently exciting and entertaining - and smart and generally well-written - for the last few years now. It's going to be an exciting ride. Still, I wouldn't mind a couple more genuine, classic episodes, not to mention a few more "holy-$#&%" moments, before all is said and done.
My Grade: B+
- Okay, lots more to talk about - check back soon!