The Expanse: Season Finale – Wholesale Carnage (Review)

The last few episodes of The Expanse, including the two episode season finale of Critical Mass/Leviathan Wakes featured an amped up amount of wholesale carnage.

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The last few episodes of The Expanse, including the two episode season finale of Critical Mass/Leviathan Wakes featured an amped up amount of wholesale carnage.  Unlike the start of the series, where death came in small doses, against a squalid and bleak background of suppression and racism, the end of season one offered up death in economy sized quantities.

A few questions are answered amidst all this morbidity.  Not least of which being who was behind the destruction of the Cant and the Martian vessel (Donnager)  that Holden and his small crew escaped from by the skin of their teeth. The horrific death of Julie Mao is also revealed as is the connection between the Earther who became an honorary Belter and Anderson Dawes.

The pacing of the show increased as Holden and his survivors discover the Anubis with its deadly cargo from Phoebe (in the episode Salvage). They also learn of the existence of Lionel Polanski (Mao) and that the lone crew member to escape the Anubis was headed to Eros; the place where the U.N.N. plans that James Holden (Steven Straitwill die.

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Julie Mao, aka Lionel Polanski

The Expanse may not manage to top that huge shoot-em-up aboard the Donnager, where the entire crew of the Martian vessel fought ferociously for Holden and his crew  to escape the stealth fighters attacking the ship, but it comes close in the final three episodes. In terms of death count, the carnage may not be as bloody or spectacular but the body count, in the season finale,  is massive.

After Mao’s body is found, lying on the floor with the Phoebe organism infused throughout her corpse, the dead girl’s father gives his scientist (Dresden) the go ahead to infect all of Eros while irradiating the entire populace as well.  In Salvage,  Miller (Thomas Jane)  teamed up with Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos in the middle of the tech shootout set up by the Tycho spy, who gets away before the battle starts.

This new team stick together and once the Dresden experiment begins, where the population are herded into shelters for infection and death,  Holden and Miller scramble to escape Eros as Namoi and the rest head to the Roci.

As the finale moves to its conclusion, the former cop and the Earther team up to learn what is happening in the shelters and receive fatal doses of radiation for their trouble While  Naomi, Alex and Amos, along with Semi, head toward the Roci,  The two dying men fight their way to the ship hoping to get there before Naomi takes off.

They have three hours.

Amid all the carnage on Eros, quite a lot of it actually; with denizens killed wholesale in shelters, criminal gangs killing those who refuse to go into the areas, Holden, Miller and Naomi killing off a number of baddies and the Phoebe organism consuming everyone else, there is a moment for poignancy and a chance to consider poor Julie Mao.

The Expanse reveals the lonely death of Lionel Polanski (Florence Faivreand it is horrific as it is tragic. As this world moves toward war, players in this drama are scrambling to stay safe. Christen Avasarala decides to hide in plain sight while everything unravels around her.

Some questions are answered about the less important curiosities in the series. For instance Miller’s hat has a backstory (turns out to be Semi’s hat and not Miller’s at all) and a small slice of the ex cop’s childhood is revealed.  (A brilliant scene that takes place in a pachinko parlor.)

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Miller got backstory…

By the end of the season finale, The Expanse sets things up for its second season with finesse.  Miller has joined forces with Holden, Amos has shown he follows Naomi without question when it counts and that Julie Mao’s father may have shed a tear when she died, but her death will not stop his plans to exploit the Phoebe organism.

The cast have all performed impeccably in terms of fleshing out their characters and making them memorable. Kudos to Cas AnvarWes ChathamDominique Tipper and Shohreh Aghdashloo who gave their roles moments of splendid truth. 

SyFy have approved the series for a second season and one can only hope that it entertains as thoroughly as this one.

The Grinder: The Olyphant in the Room (Recap & Review)

The Grinder makes a triumphant return after a mid-season break with its first episode of 2016 in The Olyphant in the Room.

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The Grinder makes a triumphant return after a mid-season break with its  first episode of 2016 in The Olyphant in the Room.  After the standard opening where Stew does not get yet another plot line behind a Grinder episode, the real lawyer reveals that a reporter will be doing an article about him and the family law firm he runs.

After his kids express amazement that the reporter will not be writing about Dean,  the former “Grinder” star finds Timothy Olyphant kissing Claire in his, Dean’s, parking spot at the law firm.  It also transpires that his TV replacement is staying with the object of Dean’s devotion at the weekends.

As with other episodes, Dean uses the premise of the clip shown at the start of the episode, to “help” Stewart on his latest case.  Stew begins trying to bring the focus back on real law versus the type that Dean practices.  Of course the ulterior motive behind Dean’s offer of help, is to pry Claire away from the new “Grinder” Olyphant.

The reporter, Neal (Rob Yang) follows Stew (Fred Savage) everywhere but writes mainly, it seems, about Dean (Rob Lowe). Debbie learns that Neal is actually writing a “smear” piece about the famous brother. Stewart then tries to practice some damage control to protect his somewhat delusional sibling.

Dean, in keeping with his lack of real focus, decides that Olyphant is the one throwing bricks through SUV windshields at Boise dealerships. He plans to stake out the only dealership not hit by the brick thrower and asks Claire to participate in order to keep her away from Olyphant. (Getting Claire away from Timothy is the real reason behind Dean suspecting his replacement as the brick thrower.)

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Dean going all “Grinder” on Timothy Olyphant…

As part of his master plan, Dean pulls in a favor from Jimmy Kimmel  (who plays himself, as does Olyphant) and while on the ABC talkshow, Dean asks Jimmy if Timothy has ever been a guest. When Kimmel replies no, Claire proves that she does not just let the air out of Dean Sanderson by digging at Olyphant when he protests about the Kimmel remark.

Meanwhile, the “delusional” side of Dean is made apparent when he “calls out” the Boise brick throwing vandal on national television.  Claire takes Timothy on the “stakeout” with her, foiling Dean’s plan. Stewart tells Neal he knows what the reporter is really doing and after standing up for his brother, he instructs the Neal to write what he wants and to get out of the SUV.

By the end of the episode, Stewart is made to look very good and Dean made to look completely delusional.  Olyphant is shown to be just as “ungrounded” as Sanderson, but that the actor will not be leaving anytime soon.

Sidenote: Jimmy Kimmel has been busy lately. With his (very funny) cameo upcoming on ABC’s The Real O’Neals and now playing himself yet again on FOX’s The Grinder, Kimmel is delightfully spreading his wings and becoming even more of a household name. 

It bears mentioning that Timothy Olyphant is very adept at;  a) comedy and b) making fun of his image and profession. As a “long term” guest star, or late addition to the main cast, Olyphant is keeping his presence alive on television  after the end of Justified (Another FOX production).

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Olyphant “grinding” it in…

Sadly, there was little of the two “kids” on show this week with Hana Hayes and Konnor Kalopsis (who play Stew and Debbie’s offspring Lizzie and Ethan) only there to promote their hero worship of Uncle Dean. (Although Lizzie does seem a little less enamored of the famous former TV lawyer…)  Mary Elizabeth Ellis as wife Debbie is used as a major plot device, she finds out about Neal’s nefarious plans to smear Dean, and William Devane maintains his usual level of  presence. 

As the season progresses, all  of the ensemble cast have settled into their roles with ease.   Apart from the Sanderson family, the law firm’s members have hit their stride as well.  Natalie Morales, as Claire, is brilliant as the “down to earth” lawyer who, despite being attracted to, and having a fling with, Timothy Olyphant is not above shoving a pin in his ego as well.

Steve Little, as Todd, has established that his character is the sycophantic hero-worshipping dullard who may mean well, but does not have the capability to do so.

FOX have a truly funny sitcom in The Grinder, along with the perfect double act with Savage and Lowe as the “Brothers Sanderson.” In fact the entire cast fit their parts like  well tailored  gloves and all help to bring the laughs to an appreciative audience.

Thus far, FOX have greenlit a “back nine” set of episodes to round out the first season of The Grinder. Pulling in around 2.2 million [sic] viewers for each episode the show may not be a shoe-in for a second season, but if there is any justice in TV land, it will be back after this one ends.

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Stew and Debbie, the perfect couple…

The Grinder airs Tuesdays on FOX. Tune and and enjoy the fun.

 

Scream Queens: Thanksgiving – Bring Me the Head of Gigi Caldwell (Review)

The Scream Queens Thanksgiving episode should have been titled Bring Me the Head of Gigi Caldwell. While the whole Thanksgiving Agatha Christie reveal scene at the Kappa Kappa Tau meal felt like one long buildup for the diners to see that Gigi lost her head to the remaining red devil killer.

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The Scream Queens: Thanksgiving episode  should have been titled Bring Me the Head of Gigi Caldwell. While  the whole Thanksgiving Agatha Christie reveal scene at the Kappa Kappa Tau meal felt like one long buildup for the diners to see that Gigi lost her head to the remaining red devil killer.

It has to be said that only this series could blend the kid’s game Duck, Duck Goose into a Miss Marple/Hercule Poirot “the killer is” dinner scene so seamlessly. After Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtisdelivers her evidence to prove the Chanel # 3 (Billie Lourd) is her prime suspect, the dean pats the sorority sister on the head saying “Goose.”  Then, following the rules of the children’s game, # 3 gives her evidence (being “it”) that Munsch is the killer. 

The Thanksgiving scream queens, plus one,  at the house then do a round robin as various protagonists point the accusatory finger at their choice suspect. Note: The idea of naming the killer was Dean Munsch’s brainchild.  Episode 110 of Scream Queens has the various sorority sisters heading out to attend celebrations away from the house only to return. The girls  then partake in the “mystery dinner party” reveal game suggested by the dean.

Hester (Lea Michele) pops up alive and well at the Radwell family feast, after being pushed down the stairs last week by Chanel Oberlin  in the sorority house. The Radwell family tree is chock full of various versions of Chad, in other words the entire clan turn out to be snobby, snotty and downright nasty.

*Sidenote* Did anyone else notice that Julia Duffy (Newhart, Shameless) who played mommy Radwell,  looked an awful lot like Brit entertainer Jennifer Saunders‘ character in Shrek 2?

Standout moment:

Grace’s dad Wes (Oliver Hudson) confessing  that he was in the meat locker because of his new diet.

“Paleo diet. It works.”

“Paleo.”

Standout Moment Deux:

The brilliantly vicious and tacky Pictionary game at Chateau Radwell:

“Snore, uh, uh, um, um, whore! Neck brace whore! ”

(Radwell family cheers)

“Neck brace whore!”

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Neck brace whore (Lea Michele) Chad (Glen Powell) and Chanel # 1 (Emma Roberts)

Of course the episode’s crowning moment (See what we did there?), which allows all the participants at the Kappa Kappa Tau Thanksgiving dinner to scream in horror,  is the appearance of Gigi Caldwell’s decapitated head in place of the “pardoned’ Tiburon.

Missed Opportunity:

Pete’s list of evidence, which actually revealed that Grace’s dad, is the father of the recently deceased Boone, was not done in his “Matthew McConaughey” voice. Would have been perfect guys, and you missed the chance to bring Diego Boneta all the way home. 

Coulda, shoulda, woulda…eh fellas?

Near Miss:

Chanel # 3 and her Thanksgiving meal of Swinson’s TV dinners.  This gag was a “close but no cigar” joke that did not quite work.  There was the sound of gears meshing in thin air as the whole thing felt like a near miss instead of the spot on humor this series is known for.

Scream Queens: Thanksgiving was, overall, humorous well paced and a little annoying.  If felt like that long, and massively irritating, “Little Bunny Foo Foo” joke.  All build up and too long a wait for the punch line.

At the start of the episode, where Gigi hands the electric carving knife to the remaining red devil killer, the audience know that this grown up sorority sister has goofed.  It was, from the moment that the costumed serial killer “revved” the blade, fait accompli that Caldwell’s severed head was going to turn up.

Unfortunately, by the time that Gigi’s “John the Baptist” entrance is made the viewer has almost forgotten the buzzing carving knife.

Scream Queens does still deliver in the comedy department though.  Curtis’ vitriolic and acid tongued college kid hating dean is still brilliant and continues to amuse:

Chanel # 3: “Then Dean Munsch.”

Munsch:  “Than. Not thenThan. Have you ever even cracked open a book? Or attended a class? (snorting) God. I hate you people.”

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“Then Dean Munsch…” (Billie Lourd)

As the list of suspects dwindles;  both Gigi and Boone are now dead,  the last red devil killer is still at large. However, as the late Ms Caldwell stated in an earlier episode, her team of serial killers are not the only homicidal maniacs haunting the college grounds and eliminating sorority sisters.

Scream Queens airs Tuesdays on FOX. Tune in to see who the next victim will be.

 

Blindspot Mid-Season Finale: Turning Into Total Recall (Review)

After making his move last week, CIA baddie Carter finally gets his hands on Jane in Blindspot and the mid-season finale, after a number of twists and turns, suddenly turns into Total Recall.

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After making his move last week, CIA baddie Carter finally gets his hands on Jane in Blindspot and the mid-season finale, after a number of twists and turns, suddenly turns into Total Recall. Granted, the series could also be said to have turned into a modern version of Memento (2000) a film that also dealt with a  protagonist with memory problems who leaves messages for himself.

This episode, overall, was chock full of some great plot threads. Patterson (Ashley Johnson) personally going after the murderers of her former boyfriend David, the Russian sleeper angle, and Carter getting his mitts on Jane Doe and using torture to learn what she really knows. Added to these splendid storylines is the reveal that Jane has done all this to herself.

Cue the Total Recall moment.

Fans of the first “TR” (the Arnold Schwarzenegger film that was a bit more faithful to the Philip K. Dick source) will remember Wade (Arnold) watching a video of himself explaining who he really is. The opening moment of Wade’s video has Arnold saying, “Howdy, stranger! This is Hauser. If things have gone wrong, I’m talking to myself and you don’t have a wet towel around your head.”

In Blindspot, right after Carter is shot, the man with the tree tattooed on his forearm, shows Jane a smartphone video where Jane tells “herself” that:

“If you’re watching this, the mission is going as planned.”

Of course this opening, while evocative of the Total Recall scene, has a different punch line, unlike Wade, Jane is not someone else, but she is the one who did all this. The tattoos, the memory wipe, calling the FBI, everything was done by her, not some mysterious entity. The man with the tattoo is Oscar and Jane learns that he can A) be trusted and B) he is there to help.

Overall, Evil Handmade Instrument is a “Mary Poppins” episode, (practically perfect in every way) there are enough interwoven plot points to keep things interesting, the reveal at the end of the episode is surprising and Jaimie Alexander continues to do her fight scenes with a  staunch realism that impresses.

However…

There are a few issues.  The Russian sleeper cell uncovered by Patterson, who are responsible for David’s death, feels a bit too John le Carré,  in other words too cold war.  That said, with real world Russian leader Putin,  the cold war, as such, may become a new reality.

Another problem is the Patterson storyline where the forensic expert manages to perfectly bluff the Russian female agent into spilling her guts.  Part of the charm of Johnson’s character has been her awkward interaction with other people, for the character to suddenly be able to function coldly and cooly enough to trap the agent does beggar belief somewhat.

On the plus side, Michael Gaston proves that he can play real stinkers with an impressive aplomb.  Carter shows that nothing is beneath him when it comes to Jane Doe and it is obvious that the “black hole” he promises to send Doe to is, in fact,  a hole six feet deep.  The only complaint about the scene,  where he switches from waterboarding to a power drill to interrogate Jane in the deserted building, comes from the rather quiet gunshots that dispatch the CIA baddie with extreme prejudice.

In that enclosed area, the sound should have been deafening, not the little popping noises on offer.

Kudos to Heidi Germaine Schnappauf who, as  stunt performer, has followed the time honored tradition of switching to actor and acquitted herself quite well. Despite there being a minimal amount of dialogue for her character Heidi not only makes the fight sequence look very real, but she also rocks it as the redheaded Russian cell member.

In terms of series bad guy, mad props go  to Gaston as Carter. This actor knows how to be a proper villain.

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Carter having some last words with Mayfair…

Anther complaint has to do with Jane’s sneaking off to meet with Weller, and giving him  some serious after dark PDA while she is there. Granted, the storyline is about appreciating the one you have feelings for before losing them, but overall, it was one of those “too convenient” moments. Of course if she did not sneak away from her security detail Carter could not have caught her…

Patterson’s speech to Jane was tear inducing and much more believable than her sudden interrogation expertise.  Ashley Johnson is a brilliant actress and this scene proves it; chops to the Nth degree and a delivery that is flawless.

Blindspot ends on the note that Jane now “knows” that she has orchestrated the events leading to the present. It is a “mission” and it is going to plan.  Now all the remains is for the series to return in the new year and reveal what that plan is.

The sudden change of the series into Total Recall may be  trifle annoying, but hey, this is television with some great twists, turns, and sudden surprises. Show creator Marcos Siega has given us a series with a great storyline that challenges and keeps the viewer guessing.  For fans of  Blindspot, January 2016 cannot get here quick enough. 

Heroes Reborn: 11:53 to Odessa (Review)

Heroes Reborn: 11:53 to Odessa springs forward to both the post apocalyptic future and to Erica Kravid’s utopian city Gateway. Nathan/Tommy has replaced Hiro Nakamura.

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Heroes Reborn: 11:53 to Odessa springs forward to both the post apocalyptic future and to Erica Kravid’s utopian city Gateway. Nathan/Tommy  has replaced Hiro Nakamura as the master of time and space, although Hiro is still around as he is powering the time bridge.

Miko returns to save Tommy and evades Kravid. Afterward Noah is apparently also saved by Tommy, although it is not clear whose time-traveling hand grabbed Bennet and kept him from being smashed flat by a flying car.

The Haitian and Taylor Kravid take on Sunstone Manor and Matt Parkman and the first cracks appear in Phoebe and Quentin’s relationship.  Another “butterfly” appears in that Hachiro Otomo’s real life daughter is not dead but being held by Erica Kravid.  Harris Prime appears to have hundreds of clones of himself and Malina joins up with Luke Collins while believing that her grandfather is dead.

Parkman (Greg Grunberg) turns out to be a nasty bit of work who screams at a  captive Farah Nazan (Nazneen Contractorwhile pointing a gun at Carlos’ head, “This is easy for me.” It appears that Matt is so paranoid that he will get left behind by Kravid that he will do anything to ensure his survival.

Ren Shimosawa (Toru Uchikado) is approached by the “digital” version of Hachiro Otomo (Hiro Kanagawa) and sent to help Miko (Kiki Sukezane) he must travel the time bridge to arrive in the future. Malina stops the mega storm that “kills” Noah and she has to flee the scene with Luke when the normals threatens to kill the powerful evo.

Erica manages to turn Tommy/Nathan to her plan, but Katana Girl rescues the teenager when an overconfident Kravid believes that the boy will follow her lies.  Another interesting twist as Miko saves the master of time (Nathan) and not Hiro, whom she rescued the first time around.

Farah and Carlos escape and meet up with Taylor and all the Hero Truther group have to flee from what looks to be hundreds of Harris Primes. Also fleeing are Luke Collins (Zachary Levi) and Malina (Danika Yarosh) as well as Nathan and Miko, who apparently stop by to save Noah from the car.

Things are confusing by the time the end credits roll. Noah, Nathan and Miko are missing and it appears that Ren will be joining the future world of “Gateway” only to find that Katana Girl is not there.  The Japanese gamer may be the one who frees Hiro, again, and it is not certain just yet were The Haitian fits in the scheme of things although he is part of the Hero Truther group.

A grown up Micah Saunders  (played by the same actor who portrayed Saunders as a child in the first iteration of Tim Kring’s Heroes Noah Gray-Cabey) is approached by Matt and it seems the adult version of Micah is just as  powerful.

This is the mid-season finale, or “fall finale” and with three episodes left in the first season and with no news of NBC approving the show for a second outing, there may be  a lot left to resolve when the series returns in January 2016. With only three more episodes to finish the story, Kring will have to amp up the storytelling and weave the many conflicting threads that bit faster.

As NBC has not been overly supportive of its other new show, The Player (just cancelled) Heroes Reborn may not return to resolve outstanding plot points and grey areas yet to be addressed.