Category Archives: Crime

Bones – The Parts in the Sum of the Whole

Spoilers ahead!

This special 100th episode of Bones provides a fun look back at Booth and Brennan’s first case together, but a sad look forward.

I love how the episode provides a logical reason for telling the story in the first place – Dr. Sweets assuming that the pilot episode’s case was their first, and Booth and Brennan correcting him. Since all the other major characters lived through the story (even Cam, in a different job), he was the only one who needed to hear the full story.

My favorite part of this episode was the origin of many things we accept as a natural part of the Bones universe: Booth wearing crazy ties and socks, Hodgins’ experiments, Angela working for the Jeffersonian, why they have the fancy computer-generated scenarios, Brennan working with bodies that haven’t been dead for centuries, and Booth correcting Brennan’s misuse of colloquialisms.

I didn’t like that the flashback case doesn’t match up with the pilot episode’s description of it. Booth says, “The last case we worked, she provided a description of the murder weapon and the murderer, but I didn’t give her much credence. Because she did it by looking at the victim’s autopsy X-rays.” But I like that this version makes their falling-out more personal. And while Cam’s interaction was minimal enough that Brennan wouldn’t remember her years later, the same can’t be said for Caroline Julian’s.

The ending of the episode is heartbreakingly sad. At first, I couldn’t understand Brennan’s reaction. The final episode of season 4 made it clear she’s in love with Booth. Why on earth would she turn him down, when even her most rational side would conclude they would be happy dating? But her telling Booth she doesn’t have his kind of open heart doesn’t mean she’s not in love with him – it means she’s scared. Scared to risk everything on a relationship that might not work out. What they have now – their working relationship and friendship – means everything to her. That’s why she mentions the FBI not letting them work together, and why there’s vulnerability in her eyes when she asks Booth if they can still work together. The closeness they share as partners is all she will let herself risk. It’s more than she’ll share with anyone else, but she knows it’s not enough for Booth. So she’ll keep loving him as much as she feels she can while they work together, and leave him free to find someone who will love him back in a way she believes she never can (though I’m fairly certain she’s wrong about that – she has grown a lot over the past years, and I believe that will continue until she’s able to love Booth back fully).

Wow, I didn’t intend to go all Dr. Sweets on the ending. But that’s far better than me hating the ending because I didn’t understand Brennan’s motivations.

Have you seen this episode? What do you think of it?

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White Collar – Listening to Fans

Season three of White Collar opened with two new aspects – a con driving a wedge of mistrust between Peter and Neal, and new opening credits.

The revelation in the first episode that Mozzie was the one who stole the treasure and faked its destruction makes Neal’s dilemma a bit more believable. He can’t simply “do the right thing” and turn everything over to the Feds – he’d be betraying Mozzie. Yet escaping with millions in art will mean cutting all his ties in New York – Peter, the FBI, Elizabeth, June, Sara.

Some close calls and quick decisions in the first few episodes tabled the issue for a while, and I’m glad that it won’t overtake the entire season. The past two episodes have been fun character portraits.

“Dentist of Detroit” dives into Mozzie’s past, including how he got started in the con business, how he got to be so well-read, and where his name comes from (you don’t think someone that paranoid would tell a fellow con artist his real name, let alone the Feds?). Interesting note – Mozzie’s mentor played Gus’s dad on an episode of Psych.

“Veiled Threat” has Peter going undercover to catch a black widow. We got to see a new side of his relationship with Elizabeth, and my heart broke for her when she had to walk away after Peter was nearly hit by a car. This episode had so many fun aspects as well: Neal doing the painting for Peter. Mozzie as Peter’s valet. Peter tangoing like a pro. Neal bring Diana an awesome meal as a thank you. And the end of the episode was so sweet!

Many fans were disappointed in the new opening credits, myself included. They just don’t fit the tone of the show, especially the new music. It’s hard to believe a network that has been spot on with such credit sequences as Psych and Covert Affairs could get this one so wrong (though I imagine that’s more of a decision for showrunners). But after catching wind of fans’ dislike of the new credits (creator Jeff Eastin tweeted: How are you feeling about the new #WhiteCollar opening? Be honest, I can take it…), USA Network is allowing viewers to vote on keeping the new opening sequence or reverting to the old one.

I think this is a huge step for a show and a network to take, moving toward and flowing with the inevitable changes media is taking. Someday soon I think we’ll see the option for fans to vote for which shows get canceled, what pilots get picked up, and which guest stars make an appearance. But in the meantime, cast your vote here (voting starts today!) and be a part of history. And let me know which side you’re on in the comments below.

What do you think will change in TV during the next few years? I’d love to hear your predictions and thoughts!

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Bones – Chemistry and Crime

The last time I wrote about Bones on this blog, I had only watched two episodes. Now, two and a half months later, I’m on season 5. I think it’s high time I posted an update.

If you did the math and gathered that I’m watching an average of one episode plus a day, you could assume the truth – Bones has lost none of its initial charm. I love this show.

Most fans of crime drama would agree – it’s not the crimes that keep us watching these shows; it’s watching the characters interact as they solve the crimes. If the team has great chemistry, the show will soar.

Dr. Temperance Brennan and FBI Agent Seeley Booth had chemistry from the first five minutes they were together in episode one. Over the years, their relationship has grown and deepened, but it still remains the core of the show.

Brennan’s knowledge of emotions and intuitive leaps is greater than when the show began, but her preference for rational answers still provides much conflict and humor. It took me a while to realize that Emily Deschanel is the sister of Zooey Deschanel, who I’ve seen as the quirky love interest in many movies.

I like David Boreanaz as Seeley Booth far more than him as Angel. The lionhearted protector role suits him best, and far too often on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel he had to play the angst-ridden dark hero hiding in the shadows and brooding. (Pondering this, Booth reminds me a bit of a grown-up Xander, and Brennan and Booth’s head and heart relationship recalls Xander and Anya.)

Another thing I like about this show is how openly faith vs. science is discussed, especially in the first season. It’s not often you see a Christian (Booth is Catholic) portrayed in a good light on network TV.

Initially, I didn’t like the idea of Hodgins and Angela as a couple – they just didn’t seem to fit right. But by their first date I had completely changed my mind. I’m hopeful they’ll get back together, and meanwhile I enjoy Angela in the role of Brennan’s best friend and the person who can still be shocked by decomposing bodies, and Hodgin with his crazy experiments.

It took me a while to warm up to Cam (Dr. Saroyan) after she “replaced” Dr. Goodman, and she still is my least favorite of the main characters. But I really enjoyed a recent episode that focused on her, so it may just be that the writers haven’t given her enough flaws and backstory to make her as easy to relate to as the others.

I have a huge interest in psychology stemming from my love of personality types, so it’s fun to watch Dr. Sweets analyze Booth and Brennan. And John Francis Daley plays an adorable dork perfectly.

With Zack’s abrupt departure at the end of season 3 (from reviews I’ve gathered that many fans were outraged), the show took what I consider a brilliant approach to filling his role. Every episode rotates in a different one of Dr. Brennan’s grad students, each with their quirks. That way, none of them has to “live up” to Zack, and viewers can enjoy everything from Fisher’s gloomy outlook to Nigel-Murray’s compulsive fact-reciting (in a lovable British accent).

As I typed “Dr.” so many times in this post, it reminded me of another aspect I enjoy about this show – its intelligence. Shows about smart people just tend to be better. I’ve never been a fan of Three Stooges-type humor, or shows that try to be as raunchy as possible for laughs. But I love shows where humor arises naturally from the personalities of the characters, or when hyper-intelligence grates against social norms and moderate intelligence (in addition to Temperance Brennan, Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory and Sherlock Holmes on BBC’s Sherlock come to mind).

I’m trying to avoid spoilers as I hurry to catch up before season 7 starts in September. Unfortunately, I already uncovered two big ones accidentally.

(And just as a note, other than House, this is the only Fox show I’ve watched since Dollhouse was cancelled. Plus, there have been a score of Whedonverse guest appearances throughout the seasons of Bones.)

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NCIS – Baltimore

I had no idea what NCIS was when I first did a search for it in January 2009. A friend had it on a short list of favorite shows on Facebook, and I’d never heard of it before (things like that happen when you don’t get any TV channels at your house). Though I prefer to watch shows from the beginning, I didn’t have Netflix then, and Hulu’s options at that point were pretty limited (I tried watching one of the few first seasons they had – My Name is Earl – and could barely make it through each episode). So I watched one of the newly aired episodes of NCIS, “Roadkill,” and fell in love with the show.

Yes, the crimes were interesting to solve, but what I loved most about the show was the team. Charming DiNozzo with his annoying pranks and hidden depth. Probie McGee with his mad computer skills and tenacity. Mysterious Ziva with her killer reflexes and unfamiliarity with American idioms. Wise Ducky with his keen insights and longwinded stories. Energetic Abby with her Goth looks and thirst for Caf-Pow. And the glue who held everyone together – Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

I went looking for more episodes of NCIS. Never have I watched a show more out of order than this one. CBS had all of the currently airing season 6 up on their website, so I continued watching new episodes as well as watching the start of season 6. Youtube had dozens of episodes uploaded, so I found clumps of consecutive episodes and began watching season 4. And season 1. I eventually bought seasons 1-5 and filled in the final missing pieces, finishing every episode by watching the end of season 3 in mid-September 2009, less than one week before season 7 began.

The latest episode of season 8, “Baltimore,” dives into the past for the previously untold story of how Gibbs and DiNozzo met, and how Tony went from being a Baltimore homicide detective to being an NCIS agent. The flashbacks add relevance to the current investigation into the murder of DiNozzo’s old partner.

While the episode had many treasures, from the origins of Tony’s Mighty Mouse stapler to Gibbs giving him his first head slap, and while it also brought to light not just one, but two “new” Gibbs’ rules, one thing didn’t ring quite true. I couldn’t quite see what it was about DiNozzo that caused Gibbs to invite him to NCIS. With Kate, McGee, and Ziva, it was much more clear why Gibbs wanted them on his team. They were gifted. Outstanding. Motivated.

Anthony DiNozzo, however, seems to play the role of everyman and jokester in the show (not unlike the role Xander plays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, come to think of it). He’s not the “best” at anything – unless you count movie references – and seems to spend a good portion of his time goofing off. Yet he’s unflinchingly loyal, and his unorthodox methods often give results when others fail. As Tony himself puts it in “Truth or Consequences” (season 7, episode 1), “I’m the wildcard. I’m the guy who looks at the reality in front of him and refuses to accept it.”

Yet these things that make DiNozzo such a great member of the team aren’t very evident in the flashbacks of “Baltimore.” You see his unique interrogation style (and it doesn’t show if Gibbs even sees that) and his ability to read people. That void in the story, plus my added anticipation for this episode, meant that it didn’t wow me. It was good, but not one of NCIS’s best episodes (the aforementioned “Truth or Consequences” is one of the best episodes, and a great introduction if you’re new to the show).

On another note, the latest NCIS: Los Angeles episode, “Plan B,” did impress me (to be fair, my expectations for NCIS are much higher than they are for NCIS: LA). Deeks is really starting to overtake Callen as the star of the show. And I sincerely hope the rumors about Hetty not returning for season 3 are false. Hetty is to NCIS: LA what Abby is to NCIS – the heart of the show.

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Detroit 1-8-7 – Tribute to a City

I remember being distinctively unimpressed with the promos for Detroit 1-8-7, especially the pictures of cast members with brief quotes from the pilot. There weren’t any well-liked actors to pull me toward watching the show (I figured out several episodes in that Lt. Mason had been in a few episodes of Dollhouse, but that was it). Location was one of the few unique pulls the show had, since most crime dramas tend to be set in NYC, DC, or LA.

For some reason, I decided to give the show a shot and watched the pilot. It didn’t wow me, but I enjoyed the realistic slant and some of the characters. It became a back-burner show, one to watch when I had time.

Detective Fitch and his distinctive personality was one of the things that kept me watching. I enjoyed the slow unraveling of the mystery behind his departure from New York and the hints of romance.

But the main aspect of the show that I loved was how the Motor City permeated every episode. There was a weighty sense of place and history throughout. As the season finished, I felt like I’d gotten to know and respect Detroit, yet at the same time there seemed to be so much left to learn. This is most clearly felt in the tenth episode, “Shelter,” which delves into Detroit’s past.

It’s uncertain whether Detroit 1-8-7 will be picked up for a second season, but the first season wraps up most loose threads for a satisfying conclusion, whether it returns or not.

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Bones vs. Smallville – Initial Thoughts

I know two episodes isn’t always enough to find out whether you’ll like a show, but since pilots often differ from typical episodes, I think most shows should be given at least two chances to hook a viewer’s interest (of course, some shows are so terrible they don’t deserve even one full episode, but I’m more talking about a “meh” reaction to a pilot). I know I wish I’d given Buffy more episodes to grow on me, though the fact that I sought out other Joss Whedon shows right afterward hints that it simply was vampires creeping me out.

With my supernaturally-inclined shows all over for good or for the season (The Cape, Merlin, V, No Ordinary Family, and Being Human), and having finished my Buffy/Angel marathon, it seemed like a good time to try out Smallville. So I watched the first two episodes. And yawned.

To be fair, it probably wasn’t a good idea to watch Smallville so soon after falling in love with the Buffyverse. Smallville had big shoes to fill, and true to its name, it didn’t measure up. It didn’t have humor. Or suspense. The dialog was stilted and predictable. Good characters had no flaws and bad ones, no virtues. The country setting didn’t appeal to me either.

Since I’d watched one Superman movie, I was able to pick up on the hints of mythic origin, and thought they were rather well done – until they decided to paint them bolder as if screaming “Get it?” at me. And since I didn’t really care about the elements that would make up Superman’s future (unlike the elements in the Star Wars prequels that made me enjoy them – R2D2, C-3PO, Palpatine’s rise to power, meeting Lars and Beru), I lacked a sense of wonder at their arrival.

I liked the music. Lex and Chloe seemed like they could become interesting characters. But that was it. I may try to make it to a third episode, if only for the fact that James Marsters (aka Spike) will eventually show up on the show. But considering that won’t happen until season 5, and he’s only in there for 14 episodes, I doubt it. Maybe if I’m really, really bored.

To make up for the disappointment of Smallville, I decided to try watching Bones instead. Yes, I already was watching eight other crime dramas, but only one of them focused on the FBI. I’d heard Bones was good several times. It starred David Boreanaz (aka Angel). And Netflix had every past season on watch instantly.

A few minutes into the pilot, I knew I had found a gem. The chemistry and arguments between Brennan and Booth reminded me of Castle and Beckett. The humor and camaraderie of Brennan’s team made me think of NCIS. (And Castle and NCIS just happen to be my two favorite crime dramas.) I watched the second episode just to make sure this show wasn’t too good to be true.

Already, with her brilliance, beauty, and social awkwardness, Dr. Temperance Brennan seems to have so many layers waiting to be uncovered. I love her “I don’t know what that means” line. And she’s a writer!

Seeing David Boreanaz in a different role is nice (since as Angel he tended to live in a perpetual state of angst, with brief periods of dorkiness and pure evil). Many shows tend to paint FBI agents as “by the book,” so it’s refreshing to have the cop being the one who goes by gut instinct.

Four episodes. Two shows. One clear winner.

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NCIS: Los Angeles – Kensi and Deeks

Since I’m a huge fan of NCIS, it was only natural that I’d try out its spin-off show, NCIS: Los Angeles. The two-part “Legend” intro on NCIS held a lot of promise, but an additional nudge toward the show was that it starred Chris O’Donnell. I’d really enjoyed his acting in movies like The Three Musketeers and The Bachelor.

The show got off to a bit of a rough start. Oh, sure, the acting was decent, the plots had plenty of twists, and there were lots of “cool” extras like high-end equipment, action scenes, and undercover gigs. But the chemistry between team members felt awkward and forced, and backstory details seemed invented specifically for each episode instead of building on each other to create full characters.

Now that the show is wrapping up its second season, both individual characters and the team as a whole seem more unified and realistic. And through some casting changes there have been some pleasant surprises, one of whom is the character of Marty Deeks.

Deeks, played by Eric Christian Olsen (who I recognized instantly as Vaughn from Community), entered the show late in season one and eventually became Kensi Blye’s partner. Pairing the two of them up was brilliant. The contrast of strong, confident woman who gets the job done and doesn’t put up with shenanigans with the playful, annoying, yet always has her back guy reminds me of other crime show partners,  most notably Tony and Kate from the early days of NCIS, and Castle and Beckett from Castle.

A few recent episodes underscore how the two of them are growing together as a team. “Personal” showed it in an overt way, with life-threatening obstacles. “The Job,” while containing danger as well, focused more on the underlying emotional stress of the work done, and how partners can and should support each through that.

Oh, and I can’t post about NCIS: LA without mentioning Hetty. She is the heart of the show, and I hope rumors about her being replaced aren’t true. I loved the episode in season one (“Brimstone”) where she quotes The Three Musketeers as the credits begin to roll: “Go home, find a wench, raise fat babies, live a good long life.”

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White Collar – Con Man vs. Lawman

I don’t remember what first perked my interest in the show White Collar. I likely heard something about it while watching another USA network show such as Psych or Burn Notice. And generally, if a show is on USA, I usually don’t need to hear anything else to try it out, or at least watch a few promos and uncover the premise.

If I wasn’t hooked already, the first five minutes of the pilot episode would have been enough to do so. It opens in a prison, where an inmate shaves his beard, changes into a guard’s uniform, swipes a forged key card, and proceeds to walk out the front door. That is our first introduction to Neal Caffrey, con artist extraordinaire.

FBI agent Peter Burke, the only man who’s ever been able to catch Caffrey, is called in. He deduces the reason Neal would escape with only a few months left on his four-year sentence, and brings him back in with four more years added to his sentence.

But con artists know how other con artists work, and Neal is able to strike a deal with the FBI – serve out the remaining years while working to catch other criminals for the FBI’s white collar crime division, under the supervision of Agent Burke.

Peter’s solidness and by-the-book methods contrast with Neal’s charm and out-of-the-box thinking, and the two gradually come to trust each other. Since the show focuses on white-collar crimes, it’s a refreshing change from most crime dramas’ “murder of the week” scenarios. It also keeps the show free from most gruesome images, sensual scenes, and crude language.

Neal is played by Matt Bomer, who had a reoccurring role in Chuck as Brice Larkin. And I can’t write about White Collar without mentioning Neal’s friend, Mozzie, an OCD conspiracy theorist who doesn’t trust Feds (or as he calls them, suits. Peter is the Suit, his wife Elizabeth is Mrs. Suit, and FBI agent Diana is Lady Suit).

White Collar just finished season two, ending a major plot arch and adding a final twist for the cliffhanger. I must admit, though, it wasn’t nearly as powerful of an ending as the previous 3 (season one ending and the two mid-season breaks). In a way, I’m grateful, as those 3 made me nearly go crazy waiting to find out what happened. This one has far less emotional ties.

I’m still ambivalent about White Collar adding Sara Ellis as a permanent member of the cast for season three. I didn’t feel much chemistry between her and Neal these last few episodes, though I think they had some earlier this season.

Even though the season didn’t end as strongly as I hoped, much of season two was excellent, particularly the third episode from the end, “Payback,” the mid-season finale “Point Blank,” and the retrospective “Forging Bonds.”

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Castle – Lotto Cash, Lotto Suspects

Castle is one of those rare shows I fell in love with before the first episode ended.

Of course, the premise was chock-full of things to make me fall in love with it.

Genre? Check. I love crime dramas. I’m currently watching about 8 different ones that are still running.

Actor? Check. I’ve been a fan of Nathan Fillion since the first episode of Firefly.

Setting? Check. New York City is awesome.

And then they threw in the clincher – the show is about a writer. And not just any kind of writer, but a novelist.

I didn’t need to watch it to love it.

But on top of all that promise, they added other great actors (especially the lovely Stana Katic), beautiful visuals, and a stellar script.

I think it was destined to become one of my favorite shows.

After last week’s intense episode, I was looking forward how Castle would return to a “typical” episode this week without being boring. They succeeded. From Castle’s insistence that the butler did it to the rapping brothers, this episode had hairpin turns, humor, and heart. The only thing that seemed lacking was that Ryan and Esposito’s conversation about Lanie was a bit too short.

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Blue Bloods – Family Crimefighting

Blue Bloods, CBS’s new crime drama, is one of the few shows I picked up this fall season. Too be honest, I wasn’t sure that I needed one more crime drama on my plate, but I’d enjoyed Donnie Wahlberg in Rizzoli & Isles over the summer, so I decided to watch a few episodes before I made up my mind.

The show surprised me. The great acting and sleek presentation reminded me of ABC’s Castle (which is currently tied with NCIS for my top crime drama, and is also set in New York City). But instead of Castle’s humor and writing references, Blue Bloods chooses one distinctive quality to make it stand out from the crowd – family.

It’s a quality that works extremely well, making the character-driven aspects of the show strong. It has also made the show thrive in the usually dead zone of Friday nights. While Blue Bloods has many elements that appeal to TV’s prime viewing target range (18-34-year-olds), the family dynamic lets the show reach the heart of the people who are more likely to be home on a Friday night – namely, families.

Tonight’s episode had a special treat – guest star Gloria Votsis, who plays Alex in the show White Collar.

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