Day 2 of Passover and already longing for bread. I think I have bread withdrawal. Mmm ... bread.
Overall though, it's been a fun Passover so far, and I participated in two fun communal seders on Monday and Tuesday night. Monday night, I went to a big seder put on by the Chai Center. I had attended their seder a few years back, and decided to give it one more go this year. The attendees were certainly an eclectic mix - people of all ages, young and old, and of many varying degrees of religious observance. The highlight of the event was this guy sitting next to my brother and I, who looked and talked like a young Jerry Lewis, except ... even louder and goofier. The guy was a true character, initiating spirited conversations about everything from movies to basketball. Occasionally, he'd react to the rabbi's words with loud exclamations of "praised be Hashem!". And when it was time to chant blessings or sing songs - whoah momma. This guy belted out the melodies with the cartoonish, self-assured wackiness of a Looney Tunes character. And he just kept going. In the interest of time, the Rabbi tried to sing a couple verses each of songs like "Adir Hoo" and "Hagadyah." But this man would not stand for the abbreviated renditions. As soon as the Rabbi paused, seemingly done with one song and ready to move on to the next, the man would counter by plunging full-steam-ahead into yet another verse - "ADIR-HOO! ADIR-HOO! BEEMHEYRAAAA, BEEMHEYRA!" It was quite a sight to behold.
For the second seder, I went to Atid's event at Sinai Temple. Atid caters to young professionals in their 20's and 30's, so it was a younger, very lively crowd. They also get a bit experimental at their events, and this one was no exception. A rockin' house band was jamming out songs and prayers, which I thought was pretty cool. And there were some interesting seder traditions, like throwing onions at each other, which led to a giant food fight in the middle of the proceedings. Overall, a fun event, with a good crowd and a lot of soul.
- Now, despite all of this, I did make time to catch 24 and LOST, both of which are now officially coming to an end in the next several weeks. I'll write a lot more about 24 in the coming days and weeks, but, yeah, the episode-to-episode stakes are definitely higher now that this is confirmed as being the final season. On that note ...
24! 24! 24!
- Man, I just want the producers of 24 to inject a nitro-burst into this season or something. I mean, this is IT. The final season. Of 24. One of the greatest shows of all time, and the show I named as the Best of the Decade. I don't want it to go out with a whimper. But that is where we are right now -- with the once-great 24 just sort of chugging along, giving us the occasional moment of awesomeness, but still desperately grasping to figure out what this season is really all about.
I mean, look, last week I talked about Dana Walsh's reveal as the CTU mole. I wasn't a fan of the execution of that "twist," but agreed that it was probably a necessary evil in order to redeem her character's lameness up to this point, and to use Katee Sackhoff in a way that didn't completely suck. Even if we had to arrive at Dana-as-villain in the most contrived manner possible, at least Dana was now, well, a villain. But holy lord, everything with Dana in this week's ep continued to induce uncontrollable spasms of eye-rolling. Come on 24, can we get A LITTLE realism here? Can we not have Dana leaving her post to be on the phone with her evil terrorist bosses every freaking second? And can we not have her openly conversing with terrorists right in the middle of CTU's hallways? I mean, at my workplace I can hear conversations on the other end of the hall. Could 24 at least make the effort to have Dana look like she MIGHT be trying to be a little covert here? Total laziness.
There were some real highlights in this ep though. We got some great action scenes, as Jack and Renee attempted to protect the Hassan family from a black-ops death squad. I liked the action in this one a lot better than last week's - there was some really intense choreography, and some interesting strategy employed by Jack. While last week's shoot-out just felt repetitive, this week there was a pretty cool scenario at play, with Jack being pursued in the UN's shipping tunnels. Also, Cherry Jones finally got a chance to shine in this ep, with probably her best scene so far this season, in which she delivered a stirring speech about the moral responsibility of the US. Sure, it was typical "USA! USA!" stuff, but hey, it worked.
On the other hand, Aaron Kanen's random heart attack was cheesy as hell. And the "we won't kill him, but we don't have to call an ambulance" angle has been done before on 24, and it's also just sort of lame. I mean, come on, within minutes these guys become heartless bastards who won't help a guy dying of a heart attack?
I think there's still just an overall feeling that everything this season is either rehashed or else somewhat half-hearted. We still don't have a great villain or even a very interesting threat. There are no great supporting characters. Certainly, an overall lack of gravitas. This was another solid episode, but man, knowing that this is the final season, solid ain't good enough - I want to be blown away! I want huge surprises and insane cliffhanger endings. I want Jack to go face to face with some badass mofo's who will give him the fight of his life. I want that feeling that anything can happen at any moment. I want Aaron Pierce to show up and whup some ass. Come on 24 - make these final hours count.
My Grade: B
It's funny, last night's episode wasn't particularly amazing, and I've heard some critics really lay into it after falling all over themselves over last week's Richard Alpert-centric ep. And yet, I sort of liked last night's episode for the simple reason that it felt like there was some actual, forward-momentum for a change. Something I think is almost always true about Lost: the best episodes are almost always the ones where there is enough plot and forward movement to make you forget about any nagging mysteries or questions. Episodes that explicitly exist to fill in gaps are never as compelling as episodes that have their own unique narrative purpose, that aren't tethered to convoluted continuity and backstory. This week, we didn't have to worry about how the statue broke or anything like that - this week, the main focus was escalating the tension between The Man In Black and Charles Widmore - a battle that we've been waiting a long time to see. I liked the scenes between Alan Dale and Terry O'Quinn a lot - two awesome, gravitas-infused actors going head to head. There was a real sense of menace and creeping dread to those scenes. I dug it.
The Jin/Sun flashes were alright, but to me the flash-sideways world still seems pretty boring. I'm sure there will eventually be some huge reveal as to the true nature of those scenes ... but still, for now, they just feel completely tangential to the main, on-island storyline. We didn't really learn anything new about Jin and Sun in this week's flash, and the overarching storyline is just kind of there. I mean, it's fun seeing Keamy again (he's a great villain), but it's hard to shake the feeling that the flashes are a somewhat empty distraction from the main story.
On the island, two twists stuck out to me, one good, one bad. The bad was Sun randomly hitting her head and forgetting English. Even if there turns out to be some mind-blowing reason for this down the line, it's still feels really lame and contrived. This felt like something too cheesy for a show like Lost. On the plus side, the cliffhanger ending was pretty awesome, I thought. DESMOND - finally! I don't know what the writers have in store for him, but Desmond's return is long overdue - he's one of the show's best characters, and Henry Ian Cusick is a great actor who's always been able to sell Lost's over-the-top storylines with wide-eyed wonder. He truly is the show's epic hero, so his return hopefully signals that things are about to get epic.
This episode stumbled a bit in places, but it seemed to be setting the stage for some really fun stuff. We'll see in another week, brother.
My Grade: B+
- Okay, that's all for now. Happy Matzoh-eatin'.