Category Archives: Action

Daredevil: Marvel Comes to Netflix

I finally caught up on Marvel’s Daredevil, a show I’ve been aching to finish for months (my sister didn’t really connect with the characters and we were watching together). By turns I loved it, I hated it, I was amazed by it, I was bored by it, and ultimately, I cannot wait to see what happens in season two.

In case you’ve been living under a rock or tend to block out all superhero news (this show is more crime/vigilante noir than a standard superhero tale), here’s a brief summary: Matt Murdock was blinded as a child, but the accident enhanced his other senses. By day, he’s a lawyer fighting injustice with his best friend Foggy Nelson and their first client/new assistant Karen. By night, he keeps the streets of Hell’s Kitchen safe by beating up criminals and rescuing victims. But the mysterious head of a group of organized criminals, Fisk, has a different plan for Hell’s Kitchen.

Being as I’m a pessimist, I’m going to nitpick about the things I disliked first before I gush about all the things I loved. Spoilers for the full first season below!

The gore. While I really liked the way the show made you feel every blow Matt took, there were way too many bits that were over the top. At least most were telegraphed well enough so I could look away. Still, it’s annoying to have to add a warning to friends every time I mention the show.

The subtitles. I get that they’re trying to show how diverse New York City is. And it’s great that they include a bunch of different nationalities as part of the show. But I hate subtitles with a passion. One thing I love about conversations in TV shows is getting to see the emotions on characters’ faces as they talk, but with having to read the subtitles (since I don’t speak Russian, Chinese, Japanese, or Spanish), my eyes are constantly darting from words to faces and it pulls me out of the story.  Side note: A similar thing happens when the closed captioning is turned on, one reason I also hate that. I can’t ignore the words since I communicate best with printed words so my eyes are naturally drawn to them. But since I read so quickly, I also generally read the words before the character says, which often strips conversations of emotional impact and humor (like a person blurting out the punch line of a joke too early).

The under use of the “world on fire” view. I get that they don’t want Matt’s enhanced sense-informed “sight” to be a gimmick, but there were several times it should have been used. Most notably when Matt was trying to meditate but kept remembering the Nobu and Fisk fight. If they are his memories, they should be the way he sees them, not the way the camera did (which we already saw the first time).

The slow build. While a 13-episode season has more breathing room than a 2-hour movie, I fear the measured pace failed to capture many viewers. I myself was always going to watch the show because Marvel, but even I wasn’t completely hooked until episode 4.

The predicable end. I foresaw many of the twists in the final few episodes. Leland being behind the poisoning. Ben dying. Fisk escaping. Daredevil beating him in his shiny new suit (which just seems off for some reason, but could have been much worse). The three friends coming back together felt awkward, as did their scene together outside their office. The opera music over the arrests was annoying and didn’t mesh with the scenes – I feel like it would have felt more powerful if a different selection had been used, even a different opera selection. I also think it would have been an interesting twist to have Fisk go after Ben’s wife instead of Ben himself (not to mention that we would still have Ben for season two!).

Now for the stuff I loved!

Matt Murdock. Charlie Cox was the perfect choice for this role. I was most familiar with his acting from his lead role in Stardust (one of my favorite fantasy movies), and his talents have only grown. He does an amazing job of helping viewers feel everything that Matt feels – every blaze of pain, every glimmer of hope, every moment of panic. When he is let down (again) by Stick, when he has to admit his lies and secrets to Foggy, you ache with him. And I’m not ashamed to admit I now have a bit of a crush on him! (Sorry, Thor/Chris Hemsworth, you’ve been downgraded.)

The rest of the casting choices. Elden Henson as Foggy played off Matt’s serious demeanor expertly, bringing a much-needed ray of lightheartedness, but also had plenty of serious character moments (I loved when he told off his ex!). Vincent D’Onofrio transformed completely as Fisk (especially contrasted with his character on Jurassic World) and made you want to give the villain a happy ending (well, until the first head rolled at least). Rosario Dawson, Deborah Ann Woll, Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis-Hall – the list goes on.

The religious debates. God and superheroes don’t normally mix (aside from Captain America’s brief mentions). If anything, it’s the villains who tend to be religious fanatics who twist scripture and abuse faith toward their own ends. Having the hero be a strong Catholic trying to come to terms with what he believes and what he feels he has to do adds much to the story.

The law practice. I like that the day jobs aren’t completely forgotten or nonexistent in this superhero story. While the job does get pushed aside at times, their limited client list makes this acceptable. (What happens if they get busy next season? Matt is never going to sleep.)

The limited scope. Matt isn’t trying to save the galaxy, or the world, or the country. He’s trying to save one victim at a time, or at most, one neighborhood in New York City. That, along with Matt’s not-as-flashy powers, gives the show a much more grounded, human feel.

The humor. While this is a very serious show, the humor that is there is often in the wry sense that I like. Hopefully next season has more hilarious moments as the trio of friends becomes more comfortable with each other.

The lack of a singular love interest. While Fisk beats a speedy path from first conversation to proposal with Vanessa, the rest of the romantic relationships are left very much in flux. Yet there is no overt love triangle or meant-to-be couple (in the show itself, I haven’t read the comics). It’s a refreshing change and one well suited to a show that should last for years.

The action sequences. I don’t know much about the technical aspects, so I’ll just say they were amazing.

Have you watched Daredevil? What do you think about the show?

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Fall TV 2013 – Part One

Fall TV season has begun, and I have returned to blogging about it! Right now we’re halfway through premiere week (with Fox getting a jump on other broadcast channels by premiering most of its shows a week early), so I thought it would be a great time to see how the fall season is shaping up so far. Besides, Wednesdays are my “light” TV night, so I have a bit of time to catch up and share!

Solid Start

One of the most-talked about new shows is Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and the pilot did not disappoint! To be honest, I love all of Whedon’s TV shows, so the only thing I was a bit nervous about going in was the cast, since most of them are newbies. Still not sold on Chloe Bennet, who plays Skye, and Brett Dalton has a difficult job getting people to relate to his stoic character, Ward (though the Granny bit helped – wish they’d had time to show more of that scene). I think the show unveiling of characters will make the show better, I just hope people won’t get impatient and tune out. For me, as soon as the truth serum shot happened, I knew this was my show.

Disappointing Beginning

Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s promo bumped it to my “will watch” list and made it one of my top 3 anticipated comedies of the season, which made the fact that the first two episodes weren’t funny at all that much more disappointing. I could forgive the pilot, since the promo gave away all of the episode, but the second episode was even less funny. I may give the show one more episode to win me over, since it has so much potential, but otherwise, farewell.

Creepy Commencement

Sleepy Hollow was on my to-try list, but recommendations from friends and a high premiere rating made me make checking out the pilot a high priority. So glad I did! After catching up on Grimm, I was in the mood for another spooky/cop show, and I love stories about the American Revolution. Tom Mison is pitch-perfect as the fish-out-of-water Crane, and I’m quickly warming up to the rest of the cast.

As well as marathoning through Grimm, I recently caught up Bones, Castle, The Neighbors, and Suburgatory to prepare for their next seasons. Unfortunately, that meant that I was spoiled about many events in season finales, but at least I don’t have to wait as long for resolution to the cliffhangers.

For shows that have already returned, here’s a few quick thoughts: How I Met Your Mother is poised to deliver an amazing final season, with a likeable and perfect-for-Ted mother. Can’t imagine what NCIS will be like without Ziva, and hated that half of her farewell didn’t even include her. Liking what Bones is doing with the new season, not sure about Castle. New Girl and The Mindy Project feel a touch off, waiting to see what the continued fall out is from major events. NCIS: Los Angeles seems to be back to normal, excluding Deeks, and Person of Interest looks like it will be a ton of fun this year.

What are your thoughts on this season of TV so far?

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Arrow – Muse of Fire

After a week without Arrow, it was great having the show back, though the previews and sneak peaks and rumors did build “Muse of Fire” up a little too much in my mind. I loved the episode, though, and it included some great reveals and character moments, as well as awesome fighting scenes. Plus this week, apart from the intro, there were no flashbacks to the island (if memory serves me right, this is the first episode without them).

Spoilers ahead!

That omission gave the episode extra time to introduce a new character and love interest for Arrow. The Huntress was announced early this fall, and finding out her backstory (mob boss’s daughter trying to take down the organization) nullified any surprise reveals. I did like that she was the one informing on her dad to the FBI, not her fiance, who the dad had killed for the crime – at least she tried to take down her dad through proper channels before resorting to being a vigilante.

Her current methods leave something to be desired, especially since her aim isn’t that great. Shooting a guy in broad daylight and almost killing Oliver’s mom? Not good. I’m surprised Oliver seemed to forget all about that once he realized the shooter was Helena (I wonder how long it will take before I don’t think of H.G. Wells from Warehouse 13 every time I hear her name?), but I can see how he’d want someone to be himself with. Yeah, he has Diggle, but most of the time Dig disapproves of every move Oliver makes (I keep wanting to call him “Judge-y,” like Damon does Bonnie in The Vampire Diaries). Helena seems to lead too far in the other direction, but maybe she’ll wake Oliver up to his own moral values – if she doesn’t pull him down along with her.

I really enjoyed Tommy’s story this episode. Arriving at the same time as the pizza guy was great. I also liked him telling Oliver about going on a date with Laurel (and thankfully they didn’t do that cliche both-couples-end-up-at-same-restaurant thing) and Oliver’s response: “If you hurt her, I will snap your neck.” Pause. “Just kidding.” And Tommy saying he wished he could start over again with Laurel was sweet. I like the two of them together. I’m guessing Oliver and Laurel will eventually end up together, but I imagine that’s many seasons down the road.

And then there was the big reveal of the episode: John Barrowman’s mysteriously evil guy is none other than – Tommy’s father! I did not see that coming, though I did recognize his voice before he took his fencing mask off. No wonder he had no qualms about coming right into the Queen house and letting Thea see him – their families have been friends for decades. Now I can only hope that the senior Merlyn is enough of a bad guy to be the comic book villain, while Tommy can be more of a redeemable character.

Thea is still being a very uneven character. I loved her telling Oliver about his lunch plans and him teasing her for being like their mother. But her anger at him for leaving Moira after the shooting to chase down the shooter felt forced. Yeah, it’s not what Thea would have done, but she should have understood her brother’s need to catch the person who did it. It did lead to a nice mother-daughter talk, and Thea apologized to Oliver later. I just wish Thea would settle on a role toward Oliver, staunch supporter or disappointed sister. Maybe the writers are figuring that the drugs and alcohol have given her violent mood swings?

This episode also showed Moira in a better light – more soft and vulnerable. Mr. Merlyn coming into her room like that when she was hurt was creepy. I’m so glad Walter’s back, though. And does that mean we’ll see more Felicity? I hope so.

We did get one unexpected visit from a reoccurring character this week – China White! Sounds like a war is brewing between the mob and the Triads. And Laurel’s dad visited Oliver to begrudgingly warn him about Helena – though if I were him, I’d still be a little suspicious about Oliver being at the same place where Arrow fought not much later. I felt bad for the restaurant owners – they seemed like a sweet couple – and I was glad both Arrow and the Huntress showed up to defend them (though of course, they got a little too preoccupied with fighting each other instead).

And Tahmoh Penikett was on this episode! Though he really needs to find a gig where he isn’t the villain, getting killed off within an episode or two. He was awesome as Paul Ballard on Dollhouse.

Oh, and bonus points? This episode exactly matched the 18-49 ratings from the premiere! I love that the viewership for this show is so solid – hopefully it will be around for many seasons!

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Arrow – Legacies

Maybe it was just the fact that the video kept stuttering as I tried to watch this episode, but “Legacies” didn’t pull me into the world of Arrow as easily as the other episodes did.

Our time on the island was pretty limited this week, and almost all of it was a hallucination/dream Oliver had of his father while trapped in the cave. I wish we could have seen more of Mr. Queen before the shipwreck, to see the father/son connection that is driving Oliver so strongly to fulfill his father’s dying wish. The one real thing we got from the flashback was Oliver figuring out that the blank book wasn’t really blank.

This week, it was Diggle who picked the bad guys to take down – the bank-robbing Royal Flush Gang, who just shot a cop during their latest heist. Oliver was a bit reluctant to deveate from his father’s list, but once he found out (with Felicity’s help – I can’t wait until she becomes a full-fledged member of Oliver’s inner circle) that his father’s decision to close a plant caused the family of four to turn to crime, he was determined to make things right. I recognized the father/leader (Currie Graham) from his guest appearances on NCIS: Los Angeles, Grimm, and Castle, but the hotheaded son (Kyle Schmid) was even more familiar, having played Henry on the North American Being Human; he also stars in Copper.

I enjoyed the steps that Oliver took to reconnect with his mother, even though they were a bit cliche – always being pulled away at the worst time, and rich folks slumming it at a burger joint. I did love Oliver and Thea’s reaction to the visit of the “perfect kid” from their growing up years – and it was cool to see Alphas’ Warren Christie again.

We finally got to see more Tommy in this episode, and two things were tackled head-on: he’s going to do his best to be worthy of Laurel, and Thea has a huge crush on him, while he only views her as a kid sister. Though I really like Tommy and Thea together, I can’t help feeling she needs someone a bit more steady to help tame her wild ways, like Diggle. I do love how all of the characters seem to come to Thea for relationship advice.

In all, I’m enjoying how the show is settling in, and I look forward to Oliver’s progression from vigilante to hero.

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Arrow – An Innocent Man

Wow. With this week’s episode, I was shocked once again by how fast things are progressing on Arrow. I love that the writers are letting this show’s characters be intelligent, and are using that to drive the plot. A procedural drama this is not.

Spoilers below!

I’ll admit that a few moments of this episode made me wince. The opening had both an extended intro and previously on section that felt way too long (though that is a good way for anyone who hadn’t seen the first three episodes to get caught up – I just hope they don’t feel the need to do that every episode). A few too-grandiose statements are made by both Oliver and Laurel that don’t fit the scenes or the characters. Laurel seems to buy Arrow as a good guy way too fast (and then change her mind just as suddenly).

During the scene where Arrow drops off the info about the supervisor lying, and Laurel is making another cringe-worthy statement, I checked to see how much time I had left – and realized the episode was only halfway through. And therein lies this show’s brilliance. They were making me think the whole point of the episode was to get Laurel to appreciate Arrow, when that was only the setup for the real meat of the episode – how killing changes you, and changes others’ perception of you.

I loved that Laurel got some scenes with Oliver-as-Arrow in “An Innocent Man.” I was ready for her to recognize him at any moment, though I knew it wasn’t likely for another character to find out who he was so soon after the reveal to Diggle. Even so, when her eyes widened in shock after stopping him from killing the man who had attacked her, I thought for sure she realized it was Oliver. Instead, she’d only seen the coldness in his eyes, ruining whatever good opinion of him she’d previously had.

The main plot of this episode was a little tenuous, but took some cool turns. Oliver seemed to believe Peter Declan’s innocence a little too quickly. Not every person working for a corporation with an evil CEO who dies under suspicious circumstances was killed by order of the evil CEO (no matter how often it happens on TV shows). But with the time crunch, maybe Oliver just went with his gut.

I truly thought the judge would stay the execution after the new evidence showed up, but perhaps it was too peripheral, or the evil CEO bribed the judge. Staging a prison riot was an interesting way of getting rid an annoying lawyer. A guard uniform and a ski mask were almost laughable with the bow and arrows, but at least Oliver didn’t have to keep turning his head to keep Laurel from seeing his face.

In addition to the main plot of saving Peter’s life (and later Laurel’s too), there were tons of other things going on in this episode. Thea was actually likable after being such a brat last episode (seems switch back and forth in every episode with her). I love her directness with her brother, the fact that he took her advice, and her glee over him actually smiling. Plus, her saying, “I got mad relationship skills, bro” was just about perfect. She’s shaping up to be this show’s Claudia (Warehouse 13).

Mama Queen is still being evil, meeting with one of her cohorts, who is played by John Barrowman (I haven’t seen Torchwood, but fans seemed pretty excited about this, so I figured I’d mention it!). He’s figured out that Arrow is taking down everyone on the list. Meanwhile, Walter is suspicious of missing millions in an account and Moira’s explanation for it, so he asks Felicity to look into it (she hilariously believes she’s getting fired) and that leads him to a warehouse hiding the destroyed yacht.

Diggle reacts to Oliver’s reveal of himself as Arrow by attacking the man who just saved his life. Oliver tries to explain what he’s doing, but Dig calls him a criminal and a murderer (and in the next scene, Laurel yells at him too. Not Oliver’s best day). He resigns as Oliver’s bodyguard, but Oliver shows up at his sister-in-law’s restaurant to share a few more details: the list his father gave him, the fact that his father shot himself to keep Oliver alive, and that he just took out his brother’s murderer. (Bonus: the replacement bodyguard is humorously inept.) Dig decides to join Oliver on his mission, but not as a sidekick, more of a moral compass and support (perhaps the Tuck to Ollie’s Robin Hood?).

Quentin Lance didn’t get many scenes in this episode, but they’re doozies. He gives Laurel some details about the case, and when one of those details is used by Arrow for the first attempt at delaying the execution, he confronts Laurel about helping a criminal. After Laurel gets out of the prison, she shares with her dad the lack of remorse she saw in Arrow’s eyes, and how it confirmed what her dad had been trying to tell her: the hooded vigilante isn’t a do-gooder, but a stone cold killer. Oliver’s face as he heard the conversation from a nearby roof almost made me cry.

Laurel mentions the new getup Arrow was sporting, and that gives Quentin an idea. He combs through the footage of last episode’s shooting, looking not just for Arrow, but anything out of the ordinary – and spots Oliver Queen running up stairs and grabbing stuff out of a trash can. Just as Dig joins Oliver’s cause, the police arrive and arrest the castaway on suspicion of being Arrow.

That ending completely blew me away. I have no idea how Oliver’s going to get out of this mess, but it’s brilliant that the show plans to deal with Oliver and Arrow showing up at the same time right away. It lets the police seem smart, but Oliver gets to show that he’s even smarter. Plus the previews for next week look amazing!

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Arrow – Lone Gunmen

I’ll admit, I braced myself a bit for this episode. Arrow couldn’t keep being this awesome three weeks a row, right? Wrong. This episode was just as good as the first two, and maybe even a little better. One distinctive way the show is improving: the voiceover didn’t annoy me. Not once.

Spoilers below!

In addition to our villain of the week, Deadshot, we get a new reoccurring character, Felicity Smoak (pictured above), played by Emily Bett Rickards. She’s an IT whiz whom IMDb says will be in at least 4 more episodes this year. Smart, funny, and a compulsive babbler? I approve.

Deadshot is a methodical sniper who poisons his bullets and tattoos the names of his victims onto his body. We get a glimpse of the name “Andrew Diggle” on his body and find out later in the episode that Dig’s brother is dead. Doubt that’s a coincidence. Also, that makes him less likely to be a one-episode villain, so did Oliver’s arrow actually kill him? We saw it go through his monocle-like scope, but could that have slowed the arrow down enough so it only would destroy his eye, not kill him?

Okay, Thea spilling the beans about Tommy and Laurel to get back at Oliver was not cool. And she didn’t even apologize later (was she so wasted she didn’t remember?)! And right after that sucker punch, Oliver comes across the club owner (who hates him) and gets actually punched. I love that Tommy stood up to the bouncers in defense of Oliver even though he knew he didn’t stand a chance. And Laurel coming to their rescue with her “self-defense class” moves (yeah, right) was priceless. I also liked how she knew Oliver well enough to figure out he already knew about her and Tommy. Much as I like Oliver and Laurel together, in this episode I preferred the Laurel/Tommy pairing.

We get some more island flashbacks in this episode, where the hooded man who shot Oliver cares for him and insists he only shot him to save him. Oliver isn’t buying that, of course, and runs when he gets the opportunity, only to be caught in a trap. The hooded man cuts him down, and later we see heavily-armed men checking out the trap. So far, aside from Oliver’s rescue off the island, the flashback clips seem to be relatively chronological – I’m wondering if that will continue.

I think Oliver’s idea to build a club over his lair is the perfect cover – but he’d better make it really hard to get into the basement. Because anyone who sees blueprints for the building is going to know there is a basement down there. I also loved that Quentin Lance actually took Arrow’s advice about Deadshot’s planned attack. Yes, it made sense that other auction bidders would be targeted, but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction toward a begrudging partnership between the detective and the vigilante.

And wow, the ending! Dig runs after Oliver (after seeing his mom and little sister to safety as requested), only to get hit by a stray bullet as the archer and hit man fight. Arrow takes him back to his lair to get the herbs that he’d already used as an antidote when he’d been the one struck by a poisoned bullet early in the episode. When Diggle wakes up, Oliver is standing there in full Arrow gear, sans hood. He greets his bodyguard with a simple, “Hey,” and the episode ends.

While it’s surprising that Oliver revealed his vigilante alter-ego so early in the show, I think it’s more of a testament to Dig’s skills and keen eye. Oliver wasn’t going to be able to keep his secret for much longer with how well Dig did his job. So rather than make Dig seem unintelligent, the writers have set things up for him to be a valuable ally.

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Arrow – Honor Thy Father

Okay, this is the Arrow I’ve been waiting for! This second episode was awesome, and I enjoyed it even more than the pilot (which had gotten spoiled a bit, but still). Cool action scenes, great character moments, nonstop tension, and season-building intrigue!

Spoilers below!

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Arrow – Pilot

This isn’t going to be a full review – just some initial impressions and comments on one of the most anticipated premieres of the fall season – Arrow!

For starters, if the numbers hold, this is going to be the CW’s most watched airing of any show, on any night, in nearly three years, best rated telecast of any CW show in 2 years, and most watched premiere since The Vampire Diaries in 2009. It even gave Supernatural a ratings boost for its second episode (ratings tend to go down after a series/season premiere, with Arrow as a lead-in, Supernatural actually went up two tenths!). Update: the numbers did hold – 1.3 18-49 rating, 4.14 million viewers.

My expectations were high for this show. I enjoyed the pilot, but I wasn’t blown away. It’s partly because so much of the plot had been revealed in promos and sneak peeks. I’d seen most of the kidnapping scene (though I thought it was pretty neat that they’d hidden the fact that his friend Tommy, played by Colin Donnell, had been taken with him), and heard rumors about who was behind it. Similarly, Oliver Queen’s skills as Arrow and the plan to take down a corrupt businessman had been fully revealed by previews for the show.

I wasn’t expecting Tommy to be dating Oliver’s ex-girlfriend, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) – but I felt like I should have seen that coming. I wasn’t expecting Oliver’s father to sacrifice himself for his son in such a violent way. I wasn’t expecting Tommy to figure out things so quickly.

I liked the dynamic between Oliver and his new “bodyguard,” John Diggle (David Ramsey). One of my favorite scenes of the pilot was Oliver jumping out of the moving car and Dig being flummoxed at where he went. Oliver’s sister Thea (Willa Holland) being into drugs seemed a little cliché, but I think the show can do interesting things with it, especially with Oliver having to keep up his playboy persona – he can’t set a good example for little sis even though he wants to. I wish Quentin Lance (Laurel’s father and a police detective) got a little more screen time – Paul Blackthorne seems to fit the role very well.

In some comments on other sites, I’ve read some complaints that there isn’t much chemistry between Oliver and Laurel, but after seeing joint interviews with Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy, I think that will be quickly remedied in future episodes.

Out of the drama pilots I’ve seen this fall, I rank Arrow third – not quite as good as Elementary, but far better than Revolution.

Did you watch Arrow? What do you think of it?

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Last Resort – Pilot

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’ve been rooting for Last Resort since pilot season. The premise was intriguing – a US sub disobeys orders to fire nuclear missiles and sets up its own government on a small  tropical island – but the cast really got my attention. I especially looked forward to seeing Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse) and Autumn Reeser (No Ordinary Family) back on my TV screen.

An excellent promo only whet my appetite, so when ABC offered an online pilot preview, I dived right in. And was blown away.

Two reasons I enjoyed it much more than the other new high-concept ensemble drama I plan to watch (Revolution): it had many twists and turns the promo didn’t give away, and more potential/untold history with the characters.

Spoilers below!

The action starts immediately with the sub picking up a group of Navy SEALs (one of whom is badly injured) in hostile territory. There’s a bit of a breather then, where you get a glimpse at how the crew interacts – the mutual respect between Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and his XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), the difficulties Lieutenant Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts) faces as the daughter of an admiral, and some tension between the COB Joseph Prosser (Robert Patrick) and the other officers, as well as between the SEALs and the officers.

But just as the crew is celebrating crossing the equator, the ominous message comes in from a secondary command post (in Antarctica!): the Colorado is ordered to fire nuclear missiles at Pakistan. Chaplin and Kendal follow procedure until the last step, when they both acknowledge that something doesn’t feel right. The secondary post is only supposed to be used when Washington is under attack or similar circumstances, but according to D.C. television stations, everything’s fine. Chaplin calls in and asks to speak with someone whose authority he recognizes, or at least to receive the command via normal channels before he wipes out millions of people in a country the US isn’t even at war with.

He gets a call back and is relieved of his command. He passes the phone to Kendal, now acting captain, who also asks that the order come through normal channels. Shortly afterwards, an incoming missile is detected, and the sub dives, but is still hit and damaged before it crashes to the bottom of the ocean. There are several casualties, including one of the SEALs.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser) shares techy details about the Colorado as she romances a senator’s aide, trying to get her device (which cloaks the Colorado’s unique signature) onto other subs with his senator’s help (all the geek-speak reminded me of Autumn’s role on No Ordinary Family, but Kylie acts more confidant and sexy than Katie did). A cryptic text sends her rushing to confront Admiral Shepard with what she figured out – the missile that hit the Colorado wasn’t from Pakistan, like the media claims. It was from another US submarine. “You killed your own daughter,” she accuses, but his shocked reaction convinces her he has no idea what’s really going on. Also, uniformed officers show up at the door of Kendal’s wife, Christine (played by Jessy Schram – Once Upon a Time’s Cinderella).

Chaplin, with Kendal’s support and despite open defiance from the COB and others, comes up with a plan. With some of their command equipment damaged, they head to a small nearly island with a NATO station and take it over. There they find out that the attack was from a US sub, and that someone else followed orders and fired nukes into Pakistan. Chaplin calls Admiral Shepard and gives the phone to Grace so she can assure her father that she’s alive, and Kendal is able to call his wife.

One of the SEALs, James King (Daniel Lissing), connects with island barkeep Tani Tumrenjack (Dichen Lachman, who gets little screen time in this episode, but I hope that will change!) as he requests storage for his fallen comrade’s body and alcohol to drink his sorrow away. He’s soon challenged by the self-proclaimed “mayor” of the island, Julian Serrat (Michael Sahr Ngaujah) and his goons. After stating in detail how he will kill each one of them if they don’t quit keeping him from his drink, they leave (don’t mess with Navy SEALs!). However, they only retreat to take a more aggressive approach toward these unwelcome “tourists,” later kidnapping two members of the crew.

Since now the US knows the Colorado survived (thanks to the phone calls and a betrayal from the COB and several crew who aligned with him – Lt. Shepard was forced to shoot one of them before he executed Kendal), two bombers head toward the island. Knowing they’ll bomb the island even if the sub dives to avoid the attack, Chaplin issues an ultimatum – turn them back or he fires a nuke at Washington. They retreat at the last minute, and the nuke lands in the Atlantic. Chaplin declares a 200-mile no man’s land around the island, and threatens to nuke anyone who breaches it.

And the final twist? The injured SEAL ranting about how they had the wrong intel, that they killed the wrong people, and the one at the bar, sobbing at the attack footage and saying all this is his fault. The latter scene had added shock because of how unflappable King had been until that moment.

It’s hard to think of something I didn’t like about this pilot episode. The action kept things moving, the actors fit their roles, for all the drama there were moments with the right touch of humor, and the whole episode felt as polished as a summer blockbuster.

But unlike most summer blockbusters (no matter how many unwanted sequels get made), what hit me most was the potential for future storytelling in these characters. You don’t get to spend much time with most of them, but just about every character leaves you wanting to know more about their story.

Since the initial setting is a Navy sub, it did have a bit of an NCIS feel, especially those episodes that have taken place on a ship/sub. Caplin reminded me a little of Battlestar Galactica’s Adama – protective, but not afraid to be ruthless.

If Last Resort keeps up this quality, I will be watching every episode of the show. It has a rough time slot at 8PM on Thursday, especially against The Big Bang Theory, The X Factor, 30 Rock, and The Vampire Diaries. ABC hasn’t had a new show succeed in that time slot since Ugly Betty. But Last Resort has the mettle to stick around, so I hope viewers will give it a chance. You’ll be glad you did.

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Covert Affairs – Speed of Life

I loved this episode of Covert Affairs, heartbreaking as it was. Now in its 3rd season, this feel-good USA spy drama has really started to grow up.

(And no, I’m not referring to how this and other 10PM USA shows are starting to embrace the full parameters of their TV14 rating – I’m kind of annoyed by that, as I’d still like there to be some excellent shows I can enjoy watching with my younger siblings. It’s not bad so far, but I’d really rather not have USA pushing the envelope becoming a regular thing. Sorry, rant over.)

Spoilers below!

The first season of Covert Affairs was more of a guilty pleasure – frothy and fun, with a slightly annoying, slightly two-dimensional protagonist. Plus I wasn’t a big fan of the whole Ben storyline. Auggie was what kept me around, and he’s still the best part of the show. The character, the acting, the dialog – all meshed for Auggie right away while the others took a bit to catch up – and in this season you’re started to see that pan out more and more. Jai’s death and Lena’s recklessness are also adding a darker edge, and there are more unknown factors (instead of characters just keeping secrets from each other, most of the time we viewers are in the dark now, too).

Considering how much of a favorite Auggie is, it made Parker walking out on him especially mean. While it did feel a little out of character for her (though we do hardly know her), having her destroy Auggie like that completely closed the door on her as a likeable person. I felt like it was just as cruel as disappearing on Auggie in the middle of the night. (And now I’m picturing him waking up with her gone, fumbling around, calling her name, finding the ring. Should be a heartrending alternate scene option on the DVD set.) Gorham played Auggie’s emotions perfectly in those final two scenes with Parker.

So why did Parker ditch him anyway? You could see the hesitation in her eyes when they made up at the end of the last episode, but with however much time skipped over between that episode and this, it’s possible there were other signs. Of course Auggie seemed to be oblivious to all the warnings, but who knows how much was due to his physical blindness, and how much due to his emotional. In a sad way, there was sort of a symmetry to the lack of information shared between them. Parker didn’t voice her doubts, therefore hiding them from Auggie just as effectively as he hid his CIA involvement from her.

As much as I like Auggie and Annie together, I can see why she’s starting to fall for Simon. British accent, bad boy with a romantic side, hidden motives (yeah, basically this show’s version of Spike – lol). How much of her trying to prevent the meet was wanting to save the operation, and how much was wanting to save the guy? I’m curious how the final twist will impact the rest of the season, but I’m super glad Annie’s back at the DPD, even if she had to blow a mission and get “fired” by Lena to do so.

At least, amid all the downs of this episode, Annie got the chance to say goodbye to her sister. Their scenes in this episode had an extra emotional punch for me, as I just found out one of my closest friends is moving 5 1/2 hours away. The ice cream scene put the perfect finishing touch on their arc – a callback to early episodes coupled with the ridiculousness of using a spatula to eat.

With Jai and now Danielle gone, I’m wondering if the writers plan to bring in more reoccurring roles (like Lena and Simon), and perhaps add one or two to the regular cast by next season? Who’s a character you’d like to see return? If you could pick any actor you want to guest star or join the show later on this season, who would it be, and what would you have him/her do on the show?

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USA Network Invites ‘Burn Notice’ Fans To Vote On The New Main Title Sequence For Season Six – Ratings | TVbytheNumbers

I guess USA Network has learned their lesson about messing with show intros without getting fan input! (Fans were upset when White Collar changed their opening titles without warning to cheesy art gallery-style pictures with completely different music that didn’t match the theme of the show. USA let fans vote on reverting to the old intro with adding cast or keeping the new one; fans chose the old.)

It’s hard for me to imagine Burn Notice without “My name is Michael Westen, I used to be a spy, until . . .” I hope at least one of the options still incorporates part of that, though “regular” credits would be nice, too.

The voting starts May 9, and will be open for two weeks. You can vote on the show’s Facebook page or a special site, as well as through USA’s Character Chatter. The winning intro will debut when Burn Notice returns on June 14. Full press release linked below.

USA Network Invites ‘Burn Notice’ Fans To Vote On The New Main Title Sequence For Season Six – Ratings | TVbytheNumbers.

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Person of Interest – Preventing Crimes

Hearing that Jim Caviezel was starring in this show was enough to make me try it out. The only thing I’ve seen him in before is The Count of Monte Cristo, but his performance helps make that one of my favorite movies. I haven’t seen Lost (tell me, should I add that to the list of shows I must try out? If so, why?), so Michael Emerson’s acting is new to me, and the “rest” of the cast is unfamiliar as well. (I’ll come back to the reason that’s in quotation marks.)

Person of Interest has an intriguing premise: After 9/11, the government had Harold Finch (Emerson) build a machine that could sift through all the data from cell phones, computers, and security cameras to predict future acts of terrorism. Finch found it could predict other premeditated violent crimes, but the government only was interested in crimes involving large numbers of people, so Finch built a back door into the system. The machine periodically sends him the social security number of a person who will be involved in a violent crime.

Finch hires John Reese (Caviezel), a presumed-dead ex-spy, to help him prevent these crimes before they happen. Their job is hampered by the fact that they don’t know whether the “person of interest” is the victim or the perpetrator, or when the crime will occur. A NYPD detective is also trying to track down Reese, though Reese is able to blackmail a dirty cop into helping keep her off his scent.

One of the drawbacks to the show is that I’ve mentioned the entire cast already. Both Finch and Reese are guarded characters who keep their pasts a secret and their emotions locked down 95% of the time. It fits who the characters are, but that makes it hard for the show to connect with its audience on an emotional level. Even though the individual missions tend to be highly emotional (teen girl hiding from her parents’ killer, war vet trying to do right by his dead buddy’s family, kidnapped child), they don’t compel viewers to watch the next episode.

Detective Carter, and the dirty cop Detective Fusco, are only minor characters, but don’t add much emotionally either way. I’m missing the camaraderie, passion, and humor of similar mission-based shows like Leverage and Burn Notice. There’s no funny sidekick or romantic interest (though the latest episode hints at the latter).

Yet in spite of these drawbacks, Person of Interest is still a great show. The episodes keep you guessing, and there have been some fun guest stars, such as Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Captain Montgomery from Castle) and Dan Hedaya (Rookie of the Year, Clueless). Because of the show’s emotional restraint, when the characters do show emotion, it’s vivid and poignant.

Person of Interest has recently been given a full season order, which is nice, since it will now be going up against not only The Office and Grey’s Anatomy, but Bones as well. And if you know me at all, you know what I’ll be watching Thursdays at 9.

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Nikita – Game Change

My favorite new show from the 2010-2011 season has returned! Yes, Nikita beat out the renewed Blue Bloods and the North American version of Being Human, plus the cancelled Detroit 1-8-7, No Ordinary Family, Outsourced, and The Cape as my most exciting discovery of the regular season. The CW kept me on pins and needles, finally renewing Nikita in mid-May, well after I’d learned the fate of the other shows I watched.

Spoilers ahead!

Last season ended with a huge blow-out episode. Percy (Xander Berkeley) found out Michael was working with Nikita (Maggie Q). Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) was reeling after finding out Nikita killed her parents. Amanda took over Division from Percy with the help of Oversight. Birkhoff helped Michael escape with a decrypted black box.

As this season opens, Nikita and Michael are on the run and trying to set right the wrongs listed on the black box – without “starting World War III.” They’re unaware that Amanda is now in charge of Division, Percy is locked up, and Alex is working with Amanda as an independent contractor. But they know they have to now bring down Oversight (a group of six highly-connected individuals who are responsible for Division) as well as Division.

Oversight sends in a liaison to keep tabs on Division, Sean, played by Dillon Casey (I’m only familiar with the actor from his appearance on the Warehouse 13 pilot). He butts heads with Alex immediately, but you can tell that the sparks between them aren’t just angry ones. With Thom and Jaden dead, Nathan out of the picture, and recruitment on hold, the show really needed someone else for Alex to interact with her own age, and Sean fits that slot. Whether he’ll end up being a good guy or a bad guy remains to be seen.

At the beginning of the episode, Alex doesn’t really seem out to get Nikita. At least intellectually, she understands that Nikita was only following orders, and the real villain is the man who ordered her parents’ deaths. But to get to him, she has to help out Division, so she’s out to retrieve the black box.

Nikita and Michael both get a chance to show off their fighting skills in this episode – Nikita with taking out Russians who laundered money for Division (her tease about breaking up with her boyfriend was so mean – but it made it all that much cooler when Shane West came barging in on his motorcycle), and Michael with helping a prisoner unwillingly escape from jail.

The prisoner had been investigating a Division money heist, so Percy had him framed and then threatened his son if he ever spoke up. Nikita and Michael are about to go get the son when Alex calls Nikita, claiming to be in trouble and back on drugs. But Alex’s ploy to get Nikita out of the way fails when a Division team zooms in. Badly outgunned, all looks lost for Michael and Nikita when fighter drones fly in, take out the Division team, and knock out the two and the prisoner. They wake up in a lavish house to discover the brains behind their rescue – Birkhoff!

I absolutely love that they brought Birkhoff back for season two. And apparently, this season is going to have more humor than the previous one (that and some awesome guest stars were really the only things that were lacking in season one), and Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford) will be a huge part of that. It was hilarious when, after instructing Michael to tell Division they’re not working together (and thus get Division off his back), he steps in front of Michael during a video chat with Division to taunt their techs. Afterwards, Michael deadpans, “By the way, Birkhoff is not working with us.”

I mentioned in my first post about this show, that despite many similarities to Dollhouse, the only significant (meaning more than Shane West’s few lines in one Buffy episode) Whedonverse connection was Melinda Clarke (Amanda), but I’ve found another since then. Marc David Alpert worked on many episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even getting his name in several cemetery scenes, and he also produces Nikita.

The climax of the episode is the big fight scene between Nikita and Alex. Nikita tried to talk Alex out of fighting her several times, even dropping her weapon while Alex still has her gun pointed at her, but Alex stubbornly keeps attacking. In the end, Nikita breaks her arm and shoots her in the leg, saying. “I’m doing this because I care” and “Get out while you’re still alive.”

I’d be more worried about this making them mortal enemies forever if Nikita hadn’t shot Michael in the shoulder last season – look where he is now. But its certain to fuel Alex’s anger in the short-term, at least. Looking forward to the next episode!

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Burn Notice – Better Halves

As a follow up to the show’s two-part reunion for The Pretender (Jeffrey Donovan has his own roots on the show, and then Patrick Bauchau was on “Eye for an Eye” and Michael T. Weiss was on “Army of One,” plus the Suits episode airing the same night featured Andrea Parker), tonight’s episode also had a prominent guest star. Charisma Carpenter, best known for playing Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (and a reoccurring role on Veronica Mars), plays the trophy wife of a physicist working for the Russians.

Charisma’s not the first connection Burn Notice has to Buffy and Angel. The show’s Coby Bell briefly appeared on Buffy, and the actors who played Whistler and the potential Rona also showed up on Burn Notice. Navi Rawat plays both a psychotic slayer on Angel and an only slightly less psychotic assassin on Burn Notice.

The episode’s entitled “Better Halves,” in reference to Michael and Fiona having to go undercover as husband and wife to extract another couple from a luxury resort. But it also hints at the episode’s split story – Michael and Fiona are doing one mission while Sam and Jesse have another. It’s a shame that the episode doesn’t have the whole team working together (or at least the trio) like they do so well.

Fiona is still in a bit of a whiny stage, but in this episode it’s clear that Michael is far too content with the way things are between them. At least as the episode ended they seemed at a better place with each other – I was hoping the writers weren’t going to steer toward a breakup for the cliffhanger. The tango was fun, but I wish Michael’s voiceovers hadn’t ruined the mood of it. And I love Michael going back for Fiona and their shoot-out in the abandoned building.

Charisma had a tough role – making an unhappy trophy wife be manipulative but still likeable. And the show even put in some Cordy-like lines for her. But you don’t get a true sense of how messed-up her marriage is until her husband wants to cut his losses and leave her to die. At that point, it doesn’t matter how manipulative or needy Nicki can be, you’re rooting for her.

When Max’s killer says he has answers to questions Michael doesn’t even have yet, he could be bluffing, but I’m pretty sure he’s not. After all, the show was renewed for two seasons, so Michael can’t just go back to the CIA with a season and a half left (at least). There have to be more layers of conspiracy to uncover.

The cliffhanger scene startled me a bit at the last minute, since I would have guessed it was new information the killer brought to light. But I’d been expecting Pearce would catch onto Michael, and I knew it would probably happen in the summer finale. Really, though – an agent coming alone with one gun? She’s no match for Michael, even armed, and Fiona is right outside. Either she has serious doubts about Michael being the killer (and thus reasoning that he won’t kill her), or she’s just plain stupid. And even if she was smart enough to have a backup team, they’re at least a few minutes away or Michael would have spotted them.

However that scene plays out, I think it’s safe to say Michael won’t exactly be in the CIA’s good graces anymore. And while that’s a bad thing for him, I think it’ll be a good thing for the show.

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Burn Notice – Eye for an Eye

This week’s episode of Burn Notice was chock full of extraordinary guest stars. To start off, there was Patrick Bauchau (pictured above), probably best known as Sydney on The Pretender (Jeffrey Donovan also was on several episodes of The Pretender, as Jared’s brother, Kyle). I watched about two seasons of that show with my family, until I started a full-time job and fell behind. I’d still like to finish it someday.

Spoilers ahead!

Though they showed a picture of Lucien Dobos, the watchmaker/bomb maker/war criminal Bauchau plays, last week, it wasn’t until Michael and Sam met him in person that I recognized the actor. That’s probably because his most distinctive quality is his accent. I love his accent! He should really do some voice work. At times in this episode, I was almost rooting for him as he matched wits against Michael. Too bad he was killed off at the end of the episode – I would have loved him as a reoccurring character. At least he and Michael ended up on the same side for the last few seconds of his life, just long enough for Michael to get another leave on Max’s killer.

James Frain, who I’ve seen on The Count of Monte Cristo and more recently on the short-lived superhero drama, The Cape, shows up as one of Jesse’s clients. And yes, he’s a villain in all of them. In a fun twist, his background seems ripped right from The Count of Monte Cristo, with Frain playing Fernand Mondego’s role. He left his business partner to rot in a Cuban jail, then stole his work and his wife. When the wife suspects someone is breaking into the house, Jesse and Fiona come in, only to discover the partner is simply trying to get his work back. They agree to help him, and what following includes a bunch of elaborate ruses, including Michael playing a crazy stalker.

The wife, Sadie, is played by the third guest star, Darby Stanchfield. She took me a bit longer to place, but she plays Shannon Gibbs on NCIS.

With all that going on in one episode, it’s not surprising that Madeline doesn’t make an appearance, nor Agent Pearce, Michael’s CIA handler. And is it just me, or is Fiona getting annoying in this season? Yes, we get it that preoccupied ex-spies typically don’t make good boyfriends. We know Michael would die for Fiona in a heartbeat, but must we stress in every episode how bad he is at the little stuff? It just makes Fiona seem whiny and selfish. But at least their being couple doesn’t ruin the awesome chemistry the team has together.

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