Quantico: Clear – Melt Down (Review)

Quantico: Clear has the voice on the cell putting Alex, and Natalie, in the right spot to get information that the terrorists want.

PRIYANKA CHOPRA, LENNY PLATT

Quantico: Clear has the voice on the cell putting Alex, and Natalie, in the right spot to get information that the terrorists want. Parrish runs hard to catch the unknown assailant but her mission ends in a melt down when one friend is killed and another threatened.

This episode has the best backstory relationship with the current events in the series thus far.  With the flashback sequences of the NAT’s going through their new integrated training program new alliances are forged and the training itself is pertinent to the current episode.

Not all the Quantico training sequences were so clear cut.  With the emphasis on “turning” someone to become an informant, along with the “Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator” the trainees learn about how to influence a target. Trust, vulnerability and the fact that both sides want control make this quite appropriate while still maintaining a level of mystery.

Alex starts back at the bureau, but in a greatly reduced capacity as the new leader to the anti-terrorism group is Ryan Booth’s ex Hannah Wyland who has no love for Parrish.  Natalie and Alex are in the building when the latter gets a phone call from the terrorist as she  talks to Hannah (Eliza Coupe). The terrorist   tells Alex  to get a information from an internal server.

Sidenote: Fair enough, this is television and the medium moves quickly with a lot of set up done daily but…The scene where Alex gets Hannah’s thumbprint felt a little too “Shades of Blue” in the area of camera gaffes. The “thumbprint” left on the phone, had either already been “dusted” or Hannah Wyland’s hands are filthy…No wonder Booth left her.

The new class and Alex’s group are “bonding” very slowly back at Quantico and the message is that they need to learn about each other and work as a team; “leave the animosity behind.” Caleb and Shelby are working the “half-sister” scam and Iris Chang (Li Jun Li) pays attention and learns about the issue. Later, she will step in and offer Wyatt (Johanna Braddy) assistance. 

At Quantico, the upper class has introduced an eclectic group of “newbies” to the plot. Chang, Drew Perales (Lenny Platt), former pro football player and the somewhat odd, Will Olsen (Jay Armstrong Johnson) who, as one other trainee pointed out, has more in common with Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man than an FBI agent, are the most visible. 

Sidenote: Olsen is clearly either autistic or at the very least almost consumed with OCD type tendencies. Both these would make it seem that as an agent in the field Olsen would be a poor fit. It is interesting to note that the actor bears more than a passing resemblance to “Star Trek” actor Anton Yelchin, who plays the uber intelligent Chekov in the “reboot” of the franchise. Olsen even talks a little like Chekov sans the “w-ariable” Russian accent…

ANABELLE ACOSTA, STEPHEN TRACEY

The training sequences reveal that new allegiances are being formed and that Vasquez gets released from training to fight for custody of her daughter.  Apart from adding an emotional tag to the character, setting the viewer up for her upsetting death later in the episode, it serves as a reminder of the Alex v. Natalie competition that began in the early days of training.

In the present, Alex and Natalie team up to get the information and Vasquez inserts a worm that will track the terrorist and release her from the bomb strapped around her waist. Back at Quantico both Alex and Chang officially fail the “turning” exercise. The “targets” at the bar were all FBI agents who were there to “turn” the NATS.

Back at present day Natalie and Alex follow the signal to catch the terrorist and the two find a laptop with the information sent by the two agents earlier. Parrish’s phone starts to ring and then stops, this happens a few times and she moves outside the building to get a better signal.

As Alex answers her phone, the laptop flashes the same message  that she receives via her cell:

“You didn’t listen.”

The laptop explodes and Natalie Vasquez dies after shouting a warning to Alex.

During  the final flashback, where Miranda warns the NATs that those closest to them can hurt them the most, Natalie and Alex have a fond exchange before the former goes to get her daughter:

Vasquez to Alex: “You should know that no matter where I am,  I’ll  always be better than you.”

Alex: “I’ll catch up one day.”

Vasquez: “We’ll see.”

It is after this flashback that we see Parrish frantically banging on Ryan Booth’s door. In tears and hysterical, the newly re-instated agent is giving up. As Booth calls it in, Alex gets an image sent to her cell and it is of her and Booth in the apartment. She rushes out in the street to beg that her friends not be hurt.

There are several things brought to light in Quantico: Clear. Will Olsen (Chekov) clearly has  personal agenda. The rift between the twins Raina and Nimah has widened and it appears that at least one is not what she claims to be.  It also appears that trust is not something that Alex gives easily as she is seen checking Perales’ story online.

Show creator Joshua Safran has added an odd Saw-like quality to the plot as the unknown terrorist puts Alex through her paces.  One really does expect to see the ugly puppet on the  red trike at any moment.  

The body count is rising, as Safran has promised, and another colleague of Parrish’s is gone. Perhaps instead of Saw, Quantico borrowing a page from Scream and Alex is the Sidney Prescott of this piece. All her friends are dying while she survives.

It looks as though the terrorists  on the other end of the phone may be a man and a woman. The voice changer fluctuates between male and female in tone, although this could be an effect by the show’s makers to confuse the issue.

Quantico: Clear has managed to not just push Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) off her throne as one of the best FBI agents in the bureau but to hurl her off the top spot, crying and shaken to the core.

The series airs Sundays on ABC.  This is becoming an addictive experience and on one last note.  Would it not be interesting to learn that the “Adam and Eve” dark web team are the terrorists?  Just a thought…

 

Gotham: A Dead Man Feels No Cold – Strange Takes Over (recap/review)

Gotham: A Dead Man Feels No Cold takes up where Mr Freeze ended, with Victor heading out to save Nora and Strange overseeing the rehabilitation of Penguin.

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Gotham: A Dead Man Feels No Cold takes up where Mr Freeze ended, with Victor heading out to save Nora and Strange overseeing the rehabilitation of Penguin. Ms Peabody, personally applies the treatment and despite Cobblepot’s threats, enjoys torturing the former king of Gotham.

Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) has returned to Wayne Manor,and Gotham, after his Alfred imposed break from the city.  An enforced rest period spent in a Swiss Chalet (“Castle in France” sniffs Selena Kyle later in the episode) and afterward  Bruce talks with Lee about his state of mind. 

Disturbingly, or perhaps prophetically, young Wayne is exhibiting the duality of nature, aka split personality, that enables him to become Batman when he grows up.  Another sign of Bruce’s future abilities appear when Kyle attempts to sneak up on Wayne and he tells her,  “I felt the air move when you came in the window.”

Kyle (Camren Bicondova) is annoyed that Bruce caught her out and she get more upset when Wayne asks her to get him a gun later. Also annoyed is Captain Barnes who rages about Mr. Freeze demanding his wife be released after he froze five cops to death. Barnes swears he will “Free his foot up Victor’s frozen a**.”

Barnes demands that Nora be sent to Arkham for her own safety and Lee (Morena Baccarin) accompanies the dying woman.  Meanwhile Oswald’s treatment turns him into a confused and eager to please inmate, briefly. 

He confronts Jim Gordon in the Arkham grounds and asks for help, his “friend” refuses and Penguin starts yelling that the future commissioner killed Galavan and that he, Cobblepot, lied. This exchange is observed by Hugo Strange (BD Wong) via CCTV.

Ironically, Nora is put in the same ward as Barbara Kean. Alfred brings Bruce the file on M. Malone and the two have a brief moment where the butler makes his charge agree that Alfred will kill the man who killed Bruce’s parents when they catch him.

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Victor removing Nora, and Lee, from Arkham

Victor frees Nora and brings Lee along. Gordon is put in a closet unharmed. Strange facilitates Fries’ entry into Arkham and sets up an escape vehicle and exit after Victor leaves some of his cryogenic solution for the doctor.

Fries takes his wife back home to freeze her and place her body in an container.  Nora (Kristen Hager) swaps the solution canister so that when Victor shoots her, it kills her. Consumed by grief, Fries uses the same solution on himself.

Lee confronts Jim about lying, she knows he killed Galavan and Penguin is strapped in that chair again for anther treatment. Ms. Peabody opines that he may be incurable and Strange disagrees.

Victor Fries wakes up in a frozen room, Hugo tells the man that he survived due to a cellular acceptance of the formula.  As Strange explains to the “dead man” about death only being the beginning the camera leaves the room.  It pans down to another section of Indian Hill and we see Theo Galavan and what appears to be the back of Jerome “The Joker” Valeska’s head.

These dead villains floating in glass containers full of fluid make it seem a certainty that as well as Galavan and the Joker returning to Gotham  Fish Mooney may also make a dramatic reappearance. All that remains to be seen is whether Oswald Cobblepot will be able to recognize her.

It should be noted that during the mid-season break, David Mazouz has shot up in height and lost some of that roundness of face from last year. As teenagers are wont to do  the actor has had a bit of a growth spurt. Since Bruce Wayne was not in last week’s episode, the change only became apparent in this week’s installment.

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Bruce Wayne, taller and leaner…

Gotham airs Mondays on FOX and while this semi-touching episode was  a little slow, the next episode should pick up pace as Bruce looks for a gun.

Castle: And Justice for All – Shifting Alexis Out? (Review)

Castle: And Justice for All was, in many ways, cleverly done; but the plot was flawed in that the killer was easily guessed in the first act. However, leaving all that aside one cannot help but feel that Castle is shifting Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) out.

KARAN OBEROI, NATHAN FILLION

Castle: And Justice for All was, in many ways, cleverly done;  borrowing bits from Good Morning Vietnam, Hot Fuzz and Oldboy, and The Equalizer but the plot was flawed in that the killer was easily guessed in the first act. However, leaving all that aside one cannot help but feel that  Castle is shifting Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) out.

In this episode, a group of “English as a second language” students are being extorted and one of them, Eddie; a former El Salvadoran “corrupt cop,” is murdered.  Rick is suffering from writer’s block, since he cannot openly consort with his muse, Kate.  Eddie, the Equalizer of the English class is murdered savagely at the zoo and his body put in with the poisonous snakes.

Castle goes to his P.I. office for inspiration and while complaining that the cases Hayley Vargas and Alexis are working equals boring, he sees the news item on Eddie’s murder.  Rick wants to get involved and learns, to his surprise, that Perlmutter really does not like him.

Ryan and Javi go to speak to the fellow students of the murdered man, one of whom sent him a threatening text, with garbled syntax, using the school’s wireless network. None of the students will speak with the police, due to corruption issues in their home countries, and Rick goes undercover.

Ryan and Javi’s entrance to the classroom sets up the Good Morning Vietnam reference where the students all repeat, by rote, the two cops’ opening statements to the teacher.  Later, Hot Fuzz was given a nod and a wink with the “Geordie” translation scene  where  Toks Olagundoye‘s Hayley Vargas translates the Newcastle enforcers almost incomprehensible accent.

Sidenote I: While the whole thing was funny, it really made no practical sense for a Geordie to be taking an English class, never mind that the chap was a enforcer from England…

While the “Geordie” accent, which featured quite a lot of mumbled “street” slang on top of the  Newcastle patter,  was a bit “dodgy” the Rick Castle Canadian-French accent was a kissing cousin in terms of “not quite there.” Still, for comic effect alone, it worked.

The next film to be referenced was Oldboy (although to be fair, it was done very well) where Rick eats a bite of kimchee noodles and has a highly visual flashback to some of his “missing time.” Granted, the food ingested is not dim-sum or even a Korean version of it but the reference is clear. All the more so when he tries to replicate the sensation by trying a plethora of Korean kimchee noodles, a’ la Dae-su Oh.

Sidenote II: Anyone remember the missing time bit? That was pushed to the back burner with Kate’s mission, and own disappearance, re: LokSat.  This episode’s plot devices feel a little “kitchen-sink-ish.” N’est-ce pas? (And for the record, Rick does not say “J’accuse” despite his excitement at the prospect.)

During the investigation, Javi and Ryan go to a bus station locker after finding a key to said locker in a suspect’s wallet. The two are arrested by the FBI after Ryan says he really cannot take any further excitement after such a busy day. The bus station locker and the FBI connection could be seen as a nod to Get Shorty, but honestly this scenario has been done so often that is surpasses cliche status.

The ruthless FBI agent blusters and threatens initially but finally, after a great little scene where the English class members, Castle and Vargas attempt to get information from a  judge the Feds want to bust, gives in to make it a joint NYPD and FBI operation.

In all honesty, the scene with the judge, where the FBI agents tailing the suspect are repeatedly interfered with by the students felt maddeningly familiar.  Anyone with suggestions as to what film that may be “homaging” please feel free to share.

The episode continues with a false lead, corruption uncovered in high places and a Kate’s LokSat partner Vikram Singh (Sunkrish Bala) gets to have a moment…or two.  Beckett’s case is solved, once again with the help of Rick Castle, and another sub-plot dredged back up. 

Rick now realizes that the kimchee flashback revealed that he was in Korea Town in Los Angeles and not the actual country and he feels the need to investigate.

This ending was the kitchen-sink icing on the cake for this episode and it is a great way to tie back into the previous subplot from earlier. However, what may be the most important part of the whole segment was neatly and,  almost unobtrusively, slipped into the English class party scene.

After the class learn that their teacher was  arrested for Eddie’s murder they query who the new instructor may be. One of the students reveals that the electronic ledger for the class says “Castle.”  Rick goes on to say there must be some mistake and Hayley interrupts to say that it is another Castle; Alexis, who will be teaching the class.

When season eight began, Molly C. Quinn had moved up in terms of plot involvement and screen time. As the season progressed, however, Alexis has spent less time on the show, as has Susan Sullivan. Is the move of Alexis to English teacher for immigrants a shift to move her character out of the show?

Certainly there has been less father/daughter time, and father/mother time,  while Rick and Kate go through their pretend separation for his safety. There are three episodes left in season eight. The final one, the finale, is titled Heartbreaker.

Could this be a sign that a major character will be signing off?

In the meantime, Castle airs Mondays on ABC. Fans of Firefly and Serenity should tune in to see an old friend of Nathan Fillion’s turn up in an upcoming episode.

 

SNL Review: Melissa McCarthy & Kanye West – Leslie Jones Rocks

SNL: Melissa McCarthy and Kanye West (musical guest and participant in one skit with Kyle Mooney) were the honorees on the February 13, and 13th episode of the 41st season of the long running comedy show.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41

SNL: Melissa McCarthy and Kanye West (musical guest and participant in one skit with Kyle Mooney) were the honorees on February 13, and, coincidentally,  the 13th episode of the 41st season of the long running comedy show. The opening sequence where an invisible Hilary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) tries her best to woo some voters away from Bernie Sanders, set the tone of the evening.

This open was oddly eclectic but spot-on as Clinton was in the news for earning as much as Bernie in the polls after he won New Hampshire by a landslide.

McCarthy was the host, obviously, because the new gender-changed Ghostbusters is out this year; premiering in July and just as obviously, Leslie Jones was given a bit more to do since she is a co-star in the upcoming re-imagining of the 80s classic.

Jones was on fire in this episode. Ruling Weekend Update with her diatribe about her perfect man for Valentine’s Day.  Possibly the best bit had to be wanting a man who can:

“cook a steak but not have to cut into it and see if it’s cooked like a little b*tch.”

This said while looking pointedly at Colin Jost…

Keeping on the Jones “fan train” a bit longer, the entire sketch about Pick Up Lines, was funny with McCarthy playing a psychotic single. As great as Melissa was with her “my uncle is a serial killer” she was not nearly as funny as Jones who kept losing it throughout the skit.

Leslie Jones specializes in playing over the top and in your face type characters that are hysterically funny. The performer’s demeanor always seems to be focussed on the performance at hand, yet McCarthy had her Ghostbusters co-star almost continuously corpsing.

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Leslie Jones corpsing added a lot to the sketch…

Before any of the show’s skits started, Melissa came out and did a “glove under the seat” gag and then began celebrating her “fifth” time hosting until Keenan Thompson, dressed as a number 5, tells her that she has only hosted 4 and 1/16th time.

The highlight of Lorne Michaels and his writers continuing the show’s black awareness crusade, that began with the Oscars tempest in an award’s program (started by the Smiths…), was the fake film trailer for “The Day Beyonce Turned Black.”

This was hysterically funny and Keenan Thompson gets the best verbal joke out of the entire skit,  with Aidy Bryant  getting the best visual (a take-off on The Others),  when telling Kate McKinnon’s character that in the Pink Panther movie:

“Okay, yeah, she (Beyonce)  was white in that…”

Although McKinnon goes on to get the best “homage” moment when she replicates the “pillow” moment in The Babadook.

Up next was an excellent parody of those audience reaction promos for horror films, in this case “The Cul-De-Sac” (a horror film, obviously) and the audience have a chance to view their reactions to the movie before signing their release forms. McCarthy is beyond funny with her character’s OTT reactions that get more extreme with each event.

For the record: McCarthy vomits, pees herself, attacks other audience members and rushes out the emergency exit.

Peter Davidson was funny in the “watching a sex scene with your parents” gag.  McCarthy played the “hand’s on” mom and Bobby Moynihan the father and all three gave great “voice-over” as their character’s inner thoughts got increasingly desperate.

Next up was Kanye West’s first performance, obviously West was on to promote his new album The Life of Pablo that dropped on Saturday.

Weekend Update featured not just a winning performance from Jones but allowed Vanessa Bayer to rock it with her Rachel from Friends impression.  The next sketch was the Pick Up Lines one with McCarthy just killing Jones through the entire routine.

Not content with just singing twice on SNL. Kanye appears in a pre-taped segment where Kyle Mooney does a “mockumentary” about his true ambition; to be a hip-hop artist and rapper who will beat out Kanye West in a battle.

Interestingly shot and crafted well, the moment that Mooney meets with Kanye backstage and begins to awkwardly “bring it,” the whole thing comes together with the snap of a bear trap springing shut. West leaps into the “we miss the old Kanye” and slaughter’s Mooney and the wannabe rapper ends the sequence convinced that he won.

In honor of Jones and McCarthy’s teaming in the upcoming Ghostbusters film, they get to work together in a bus sketch where Melissa’s character rambles on about Roots and increasingly annoys Jones’ character.  As the type of person one wishes to avoid on public transport, McCarthy does her bit to help race relations…not.

The skit ends on a “Speed” note. Afterward the second, overly-long, Kanye number is performed; backed by Young Thugs. The final skit had McKinnon as the cat-lady with McCarthy as her partner.  Line of the night, which is the second reference to O.J. Simpson since the Weekend Update segment, goes to McKinnon:

“We call this cat O.J. because he’s orange like the juice and a murderer like the athlete.”

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
O.J. in the Valentine’s Cat Giveaway.

All in all a good show but not one where McCarthy actually killed it her fourth (and one sixteenth) time hosting.  The performer still seems to be channelling her inner Tammyalbeit a more svelte version.

SNL with its 13th episode of season 41 had a few outstanding moments and allowed Leslie Jones to rock it.  There was at least one mystery in the show and that was the T-Shirt that Kanye was sporting at the end of the show.