Around the Water Cooler: “The Mindy Project” – The Season 2 Finale and Mini Season Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “The Mindy Project” aired on network TV, specifically on FOX, Tuesdays at 9:30 PM during the 2013-2014 season.  It has been renewed for season three.

What: “The Mindy Project,” a situation comedy about a thirtysomething, Indian gynecologist, Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling), who is looking for love and life fulfillment, despite being a unique personality with a curvy body type and despite the fact that she works in an OB/GYN office filled with other unique personalities (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here:http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/mindy_project_the/summary.html).

When: The Season 2 finale aired on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, on FOX at 9:30 PM.

Where: The show is set in New York City (Manhattan specifically), primarily in the OB/GYN office in which Mindy works.

Why: I think Mindy Kaling (formerly Kelly Kapoor on The Office) is one of the funniest contemporary writer/performers.  She’s got a unique sense of humor and line delivery that makes her somewhat easy to relate to and yet awkwardly off-putting all at the same time, and this quality elicits the laughter, at least for this viewer.  Also, this program seems to be the Bridget Jones equivalent of the 20teens, and since I’m America’s answer to Bridget Jones, I had to check it out.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

Of all the season finales this viewer has thus far watched, closing the year for favorite shows from the recently ended TV season, the most well written, acted, and directed finale (so far) has been that of The Mindy Project, which began the season on shaky comedic ground and decided to avoid permanent residence on the ratings “bubble” by going “all in” and throwing in the predictable romantic comedy curve ball in an entirely unpredictable way. Namely, Mindy and Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) are officially an item and a cute one at that!  And unlike Nick and Jess on New Girl, this relationship is one in which each severely flawed member of the coupling improves the other one and allows him or her to be his or her best self.  Not to mention, Dr. Castellano the character (and, by extension, Chris Messina the actor) became truly irresistibly sexy, showing himself to be all man but capable of some sensitivity toward the ever “out there” Dr. Lahiri.  Plus, the dynamic between Mindy and Danny is one of love, albeit rapidly developed love, rather than sex and some feeble attempt at defining their dynamic as a relationship.

This viewer will talk about two key episodes this season in particular: the mid-season finale and the season finale, but first, let’s summarize how far The Mindy Project traveled this year.

After Amanda Setton left the show to be on The Crazy Ones, the practice hired a new doctor, who Dr. Jeremy (Ed Weeks) initially deemed to be Mindy’s replacement when she fled off to Haiti to be with then-fiance Reverend Casey.  First, this replacement came in the form of James Franco.  When his oddness came and went, the doctors agreed that a fourth doctor was necessary to meet the needs of the practice, so along came Dr. Peter Prentice (Adam Pally), a sort of hipster womanizer with one of those off-putting charms that seem to attract women, even though Peter is incapable of anything too sophisticated in the human interaction department.  Peter is the resident “bro dude,” and he serves specific functions for his co-workers: he’s become Mindy’s go-to for advice about the male species and even attempted to help her connect with one or two members of the opposite sex; he’s attempted to teach stuffed shirt Danny to loosen up a bit; and he’s acted as a mirror for Jeremy, who used to be Peter, more or less, but with some semblance of manners and an enjoyable English accent.  Peter also attempted to date Jeremy’s sister, for whom he seems to be madly in love, which is something of a change of pace for him.

Jeremy, in the meantime, started the season off overweight, overcompensating for his own shortcomings – deftly identified by his own emotionally barren father – by emotionally eating.  He eventually shed the weight, and his responsibility streak allowed him to act as supervising doctor over the practice, which was essential because Mindy felt increasingly outvoted by the men, even though her ideas were on the level of “cockamamie.”  Thus, Jeremy began to evolve beyond his womanizing ways and became obsessed with waivers.  He also led the charge against the dastardly midwives, one of whom continues to make a play for Mindy, despite their awkwardly bad rapport.

The midwives’ enduring friend Morgan (Ike Barinholtz), the crazy nurse, continued his antics.  He tried to move in with Mindy for a second and generally pines for the friendship of the other doctors, despite his penchant for coming on too strong and, frankly, like a serial killer. Most importantly for Morgan, he finally hooked up with Nurse Tamra, the long-time object of his affection, after she finally gave her boyfriend Ray-Ron the boot.  Danny was no help in this department, but, fortunately, Morgan has some appeal, at least to the appeal-challenged Tamra.

Finally, we come to Mindy and Danny.

First, Casey released young Mindy into freedom, realizing that his love for God sort of infringed upon his love for her.  Also, they wanted different things.  Casey was okay kicking it in the tropics, living in tree huts, and defecating in forests.  Mindy needed her high rises, taxis, and Starbucks as well as your standard porcelain toilet.  Don’t we all.  So, Casey saw fit to break it off with Mindy, and though Mindy was disappointed, she seemed to recover quickly.  City environs agree with her more than tropical impoverished islands, as if such a revelation was truly a surprise.

For a while, Mindy jumped from guy to guy.  She managed to worm her way into the heart of Seth Meyers’ Cliff, a lawyer on the floor above the practice.  He didn’t know what he wanted between them for sure, though, and an unfortunate mistaken communication paved the way for Cliff to dump Mindy.  This act allowed Danny to surprisingly swoop in, as the previously grumpy Dr. Castellano appeared to be melting a touch for Mindy.

Danny tried to make a go of it with his ex-wife, but they were an unqualified disaster, as they had been in marriage.  More and more, the viewer watched as Danny’s annoyances with Mindy morphed into something closer to adoration.  Danny tried to be there for Mindy as a friend, particularly when she lost Casey and then Cliff.  In fact, in the mid-season finale, after Mindy helped Danny reconnect with his deadbeat father, despite his vocal resistance to the idea, in the back of their airplane flying home, Danny professed his feelings and closed in for one of television’s all-time greatest kisses.  It was passionate like in old movies but seemed so genuine coming from the salt-of-the-earth Danny.

When Mindy and Danny tried to make sense of this new development, however, Danny panicked and ultimately called off his budding relationship with Mindy.  Why he panicked, one can only guess.  This viewer would surmise that his feelings for Mindy were and are more real than even he was ready to admit.

So, Mindy and Danny were awkward in the office, which was particularly suspicious, given that they dallied in secret.  Except, hard on the nose Peter detected their sexual tension and smoked out Mindy’s affections for Danny, and Morgan even began having his suspicions.

Mindy tried to move on; she was hurt but was content to try to remain friends with Danny.  Aiding this dynamic was the fact that Danny, who still had feelings for Mindy despite his bone-headed chickening out of something meaningful between them, attempted to convince Mindy to move into a neighboring apartment/condo that he also owned, mainly for the purpose of keeping an eye on her and keeping tabs on the men she might bring home.  Mindy actually dated the father of one of her underage patients, a police detective played by Tim Daly.  Though they were oil and water, the jealousy spurred by this new development helped Danny get into gear.

In the season finale, Mindy spied an attractive subway passenger during her and Danny’s morning ride to work and made flirty eyes with him.  Danny decided to place a personals ad in a local magazine, posing as this passenger and calling himself “Andy.”  He enticed Mindy to begin flirtatious emails based on his clearly romantic advertisement, despite the presence of the detective in her life.  Morgan also began emailing “Andy” and discovered Danny’s secret via some serendipitous office email chimes.  Danny set up a meeting place at Mindy’s favorite spot, the top of the Empire State Building, so that he could meet Mindy as himself, though dressed like Mindy’s celebrity crush, Bradley Cooper, at the advice of Morgan and Peter.  Yet, when Mindy appeared at Danny’s doorstep with gum in her hair, begging for him to cut it out, she talked at length about how it was good that Danny had called off their budding romance, as she enjoyed being friends and talking with as well as depending on Danny.  This revelation threw a wrench in Danny’s grand gesture, and he stood her up, failing to appear at the top of the legendary skyscraper.

Mindy called off work after catching cold from standing in the rain on top of the Empire State Building, so Danny attempted to assuage his guilt by caring for her during her illness.  When Mindy was ready to return to work, however, she saw the man she thought was Andy on the subway and began to throttle him, when it turns out he was merely a hapless immigrant or visitor, attempting to navigate his way around NYC.  Mindy’s near manslaughter of the so-called Andy prompted the onlooking Danny to confess that he was Andy all along. Mindy, livid and confused by Danny’s change of heart, didn’t trust him, but he promised to be at the top of the Empire State Building that night, waiting for her.  At first, Mindy didn’t want to go, believing that Danny would merely flake out on her again, but an odd intervention by the rest of the office, including Peter’s discovery that Danny kept Mindy’s earrings in his drawer, made her realize that he was truly and genuinely in love with her.  She ran to her skyscraper, while the rest of the office readied for a night of drinks, only to discover Danny in a pizza parlor, downing a slice.  Danny confessed that he waited for an hour, but Mindy never showed; however, Morgan, Peter, and Jeremy, as well as the office ladies, encouraged him to return, as Mindy was on her way to make the appointment, better late than never.

The last few moments would be a loving homage to Sleepless in Seattle, if it didn’t involve Mindy climbing all 102 flights of stairs and collapsing when she reached the top.  Fortunately, though the lobby attendant convinced her that the elevators were broken for the long haul, and she had to literally hoof it to the top, this development provided enough of a stall for Danny to find Mindy, on the ground and heaving, after his uneventful elevator ride to the roof.  Thereafter, they commenced more passionate kisses and immediate talk of their future together.  Also, it ended with this fine song, a perfect choice and one of my personal favorites:

Who’s Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?

In the end, the season finale, no doubt written with an eye to the possibility of cancellation, elevated the show and the writing so much more than if the writers and producers had elongated the process of Mindy and Danny finding each other in the end.  Also, the episode was well directed by adding the charms made famous by When Harry Met Sally or other contemporary Meg Ryan fare, hearkening back to those romantic comedies to which Mindy so often referred, complete with voice-overs by both Danny and Mindy and a time elapsed segment showing Danny and Mindy growing closer again after the alleged Andy had stood her up the first time.  Yet, Ms. Kaling and her team of writers turned that formulaic flow of story on its nose with the final hilarious scenes of Mindy, collapsed on the roof of the Empire State Building, hoping that whoever approached her wouldn’t step on her or vomit on her, and Danny consenting to meet her ground-level, with a few more sensuous kisses.

The sense of contrivance initially undercutting the dynamic between Mindy and Danny faded somewhat as they allowed themselves to explore their friendship genuinely, with two brutally honest characters able to reach each other in ways that other characters were unable to reach each of them.  The Mindy Project may be the Bridget Jones’ Diary of the 2010s, but the fact that Mindy is nothing short of a mess when closely observed and analyzed, and Danny is a character just a bit less messy makes for some truly funny comedy.  The formula is there, but it doesn’t feel as formulaic as it could have or, to wit, as it started to seem, particularly when it devotes such deft nods to the films that inform Mindy’s love life choices.

Ultimately, Mindy and Danny are a fun twosome to watch, and the supporting cast remains so zany, and the dialogue, supplied primarily by Kaling herself, is so rapid-fire and witty, that The Mindy Project is filled with laughs.  Despite a slow start, the show’s sophomore season capitalized on funny moments and continued to push the envelope, finding a stride that truly works and avoiding the dreaded sophomore season slump.

Of course, the biggest question remains: what do Mindy and Danny’s future look like now that they’ve connected on this level?  From what we know of these characters, it definitely won’t be smooth and easy sailing – after all, there might not be a show otherwise.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) Mindy and Casey in a long distance engagement?  Yeah, that’ll work.  How much time will pass before Danny becomes a factor, since his affection for Mindy is really starting to show?

Answer: While Danny did not affect Mindy and Casey, as their relationship fell apart circa second episode of the season, Danny as a presence and romantic possibility for Mindy took about half a season to truly take form.

2) Dr. Jeremy getting “fat” feels like a nonsensical story line.  Especially since he still doesn’t look that fat. Frankly, he and his English glibness are too underutilized.  Fix it!

Answer: Fixed!  Once Jeremy was skinny again and became the by-the-book practice supervisor, things got a little less nonsensical.

3) James Franco has a recurring guest role as Dr. L, the second, Mindy’s replacement in the practice.  His character is already extremely off-putting in an unfunny way.  I hope it’s over sooner rather than later.

Answer: It was.  Sorry, Franco.  You’re weird in everything you do.

4) Bring back the shady midwives!

Answer: Oh, they’re never far – and they’re always trying to snake away the practice’s business!

5) The collapse of Danny’s short-lived rekindling of his romance with his ex-wife (played by Chloe Sevigny) was really rushed.  Of course, so was most of this romance/engagement/flying off to Haiti/wedding piece.  I hope some light is shed on it all.

Answer: Light is a loose term, but, really, Danny and his ex-wife were bad chemistry, and she could see that Danny’s affections seemed to be pointed elsewhere, even if he wasn’t yet sure where they were pointed.  Once she and Casey were out of the picture, the show developed a nice rhythm.

New Questions

1) The biggest of all – what’s going to happen when the new season starts with Danny and Mindy?  How are they going to navigate their new relationship?  And will the show stay funny?

2) Should we care about any of the other characters?  So far, I don’t.

PARTING SHOTS

The Mindy Project continues to be a funny show and probably appeals the most to thirtysomething women still finding their footing in the world (of which this author would fall into such a category). Despite a shaky season start, the program found a stride with good chemistry and evolved dynamics between the members of its ensemble cast of characters.  Mindy (the actress, writer, and character) steadied the ship and kept it sailing straight, aiding in the portrayal of a very genuine, very heartwarming romantic development between her character and Messina’s Dr. Castellano.  As a result, The Mindy Project maintains its unique balance between funny/absurd to ridiculous/stupid. Let’s hope the show holds onto and improves this momentum going into season three.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Mindy Project was renewed for season 3 and is set to premiere on FOX on Tuesday, September 16, 2014.  Until then!

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Around the Water Cooler: “New Girl” – The Season 3 Finale and Mini Season Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “New Girl” aired on network TV, specifically on FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00 PM during the 2013-2014 season.  It has been renewed for season four.

What: “New Girl,” a situation comedy about goofy but lovable teacher (some have described her as ‘adorkable’) Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel), who, after finding out that her boyfriend cheated on her, answers a Craig’s List ad and ends up living in a loft with three others guys, including metrosexual, yuppie womanizer Schmidt (Max Greenfield); grumpy but down-to-earth bartender Nick (Jake Johnson); and eccentric but loyal radio producer Winston (Lamorne Morris).  Also interwoven into this mix is Jess’ childhood friend CeCe (Hannah Simone), a deadpan model who has more street smarts than Jess but tends to make poorer choices, such as becoming involved with Schmidt (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/new_girl/summary.html).

When: The Season 3 finale aired on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, on FOX at 9:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in Los Angeles, California, primarily in the loft itself.

Why: I caught up with this show on Netflix instant.  I had some interest in it when it was first advertised because I love Zooey Deschanel, but for some reason, I wasn’t able to catch it when it was on.  So many people, both trusted friends and critics alike, have said it was funny; once it became available on Netflix, I binge watched both seasons.  It is now one of my favorite sitcoms ever…for now. It is, in fact, quite hilarious, and I laugh out loud at least once per episode I see.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

My, my, my…our lofty loft residents have participated in – or flat out instigated – a ton of ridiculous situations this year and have straddled the pendulum as it swung from one end of the relationship spectrum to the other in the short space of 23 episodes.  Sadly, however, season three has been, overall, less hilarious than the first two season. Oh, don’t get me wrong. New Girl is still funny and more so than most other situation comedies currently on the air. This viewer laughs at least once or twice every episode, and usually at Coach or Nick, since they seem prone to the most outlandish or demonstrative behavior.  For some reason, however, the show got a little weird, a little sad, and a little off track this year.  Like Winston. Winston seems to perpetually be a little off track (and sad and weird).  Poor Winston.

I digress.  In some ways, it feels as if the writers were caught in a tailspin, having caved to the chemistry between Nick and Jess so early on in the storytelling process.  It’s almost as if they did not know where to go next once they forced these two square pegs together, which worked to some point, given that our characters are the sort of lovable goofballs that spend most of their lives lost in the ozone.  Yet, there were clear points when the writing felt forced and, therefore, so did the laughs.  After all, it’s not implausible that one female would be living with four dudes.  What is implausible is that she would continue to live with these dudes when one of them is her ex-boyfriend without even making an attempt at moving out.  Why can’t she go live with CeCe, for example?  Well, we wouldn’t have a show, of course, but the strain on realism undercut the credibility of this already quirky and sometimes incredible comedy.

Allow this viewer to cover some of the highlights (and low-lights) of the season by character.

First, let’s start with the triumphant return of Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), who began with the show and appeared in its pilot before being, more or less, replaced by Winston after Wayans Jr’s other show, Happy Endings, was picked up to series.  Given the cancellation of the latter program, however, Coach is back to stay – in fact, Wayans Jr. has been promoted to series regular for season four – but his reintegration into the loft was a bit tricky and, dare I say, bumpy.  He found it difficult to relate to the awkward and yet insistent Jess; he momentarily hooked up with CeCe, though without any real chemistry and, therefore, success; he took over Schmidt’s room when Schmidt declared his independence and moved into the loft down the hall; and he continued to uphold what was, apparently, a historic and traditional competitive element between him and Winston.  When Coach struck out with CeCe, he more or less became Winston’s sidekick, or, more aptly, Winston became his sidekick.  What is certain is that Coach didn’t seem to have much of a dynamic with Nick this year, so maybe that’s saying something.

In other news, Jess got Coach a job as a gym teacher at her new school.  We are also learned that Coach is afraid of boats, and water, and boats on the water, and that he loves the ladies, but he also loves the children. Not in the creepy way – he just really enjoys teaching, just like Jess, who volunteered to be vice principal of her school, working for Curtis Armstrong’s weak willed principal.

About Winston: he had a rough year.  Between becoming scarily attached to his cat Mr. Ferguson, which he more or less usurped from a lady that dumped him, and dating some scary, often old, women, Winston struggled to make sense of his career.  His latest pursuit centered on joining the police academy, except that he failed the entrance test and alienated the sponsoring officer, as he often alienates other human beings. Nick and Coach eventually helped him to pass, but it was a rough road to hoe, and Winston was plagued by self-doubt.  In addition, he and Coach liked to use Schmidt’s new loft as a meeting pad for sexy dates.  Until it became weird, and Schmidt moved back into the loft proper.

Schmidt, meantime, blew it with both CeCe and Elizabeth in the beginning of the season, as they found out about each other.  He spent the entire year pining after CeCe, even as she started seeing other men.  He tried to see other women, including Jess’ sister Abby (Linda Cardellini, Freaks and Geeks), but, ultimately, his loyalties remained attached to CeCe.  In the season finale, when Jess and Nick dragged the others along to a cruise they bought when they were still together, Schmidt planned to give CeCe a class ring he custom ordered after tutoring her to help her earn her GED, in the hopes that she might get back together with him, but for the fact that Winston tickled Schmidt, and the latter tossed the ring overboard.  Schmidt never gave CeCe the ring, but a news photo taken of the group after they had been locked in their room for three days, stranded aboard the cruise ship, showed CeCe focused on Schmidt and not the camera, checking him out.

CeCe, after all, tried and possibly failed to get over Schmidt by dating Coach and a bunch of other guys that crossed her path.  Her current boyfriend, Buster, is aged 20, so she’s been teased for robbing the cradle, even though Buster is a sophisticated 20 with an adorable Aussie accent and a myriad of amazing talents. CeCe also faced the fact that her modeling career was stalling, as she is getting older and also growing tired of the never-ending demands instigated by the profession.  CeCe, in the end, decided to get her GED, as she never graduated from high school due to her job, and Schmidt helped to tutor her.  She also got a job bar-tending with Nick, though it’s safe to say she doesn’t have the knack for it.

Then, there’s the adorkable twosome Nick and Jess.  When the season began, Nick and Jess gave into their passion and escaped to Mexico in a fit of reckless abandon.  They spent a large part of the season navigating their particular idiosyncrasies, given that Nick is essentially suffering from Peter Pan syndrome coupled with lazy slob mentality, while Jess maintains her champion awkward streak with all men.  At first, they ran hot and fiery, which left Schmidt threatened over Jess’ intrusion into time with his best friend Nick and sent Winston into a state of ongoing analysis over the dynamic of the loft.

Yet, try as they might, and despite their deep feelings for each other, Nick and Jess couldn’t make it work. Two nails sealed the coffin shut.  The first was the arrival of Jess’ sister Abby, whose free spirited demeanor first disrupted the delicate balance of the lofty friends’ vibe by engaging in a bold, sexy escapade with Schmidt but also caused Nick and Jess to fight profusely over how to deal with Abby’s antics, some of which affected them, mainly due to Abby’s uncanny talent for pointing out what she saw as flaws in their relationship.  The second centered on when Nick and Jess decided to “move in” together by sharing a bedroom.  When they began sleeping with each other daily, they soon realized that they were too different and wanted different things, including the old chestnut of Jess wanting to know if there was a future to their relationship, and Nick resisting, as he does with all things, the idea of putting any sort of definition on that future. In the end, Nick and Jess called it a day, less than a season after they hooked up, and the loft was faced with the ensuing awkwardness that their breakup spawned, culminating in the aforementioned cruise. For now, thanks to an overly honest intervention spurred on by CeCe, Winston, Coach, and Schmidt, Nick and Jess have decided to remain friends, though the dalliance created by the the Romance package aboard the cruise had them flirting with the idea of hooking up again.

After everyone arrived home, Schmidt offered to put bunk beds in his room, Nick’s old room (after he moved back into the loft).  Nick and Jess were still sharing a room, despite their breakup.  Jess wholeheartedly agreed to this plan, and at the end of the season, Nick decided to move in with Schmidt (“just like college”), while Schmidt and CeCe’s feelings for each other still smoldered. What will happen next year, now that Jess and Nick have experienced the rapid progression of friends to lovers to awkward friends again?  Speaking of Friends, as in the other television show about friends sharing living spaces in their twenties and thirties, have Nick and Jess become the new Ross and Rachel?  Are they on a break?  Or, are they over for good?

And for the love of God: SOMEONE FIND WINSTON A LADY FRIEND.  Poor Winston is evolving from weird to creepy – which pretty much means he’s devolving.  Someone help him.  He’s painful to watch, and he’s an attractive guy with lofty ambitions.  Maybe Coach will settle his more competitive urges and help a brother out.

In sum, season three suffered from a lethargy created by the vacuum of Nick and Jess’ relationship, but now that it’s apparently over for the time being, will the friends be able to resume their wily and wacky interpersonal dynamics depicted in the time before Nick and Jess crossed that boundary into lovers and couple-hood?  Will the show be able to find the same sense of freshness and hilarity that characterized the first two seasons?  Hopefully, it will and will have to, or the show’s potential lifespan might shorten considerably.  Don’t lose viewers, New Girl.  It’s not your time yet.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) How is the whole dynamic between Nick and Jess going to play out?

Answer: They dated.  They shared a bedroom.  They broke up.  To be fair, they fought quite a bit, because Nick’s world view is a bit skewed, and Jess finds it difficult to relate to the male gender.

2) Will Schmidt escape with his life after failing to make a choice between CeCe and Elizabeth?  Should he and CeCe really end up together?

Answer: He escaped with his life but lost both women in the process.  As to the latter question, the answer is probably yes, because these two clearly care for each other. Schmidt still has a bunch of growing up to do, though.  Maybe not as much as Nick, but a bunch.  And CeCe must finally zone in on what she wants for herself.

3) For the love of God, really, Winston needs a woman.

Answer: Word.  Fix it, writers.  Cut the guy some slack.

New Questions

1) How will the loft survive in the post Nick/Jess coupling era?

2) Will CeCe and Schmidt reconnect?

3) Will Coach find a lady friend?

4) SOMEONE HELP WINSTON.

PARTING SHOTS

New Girl remains a refreshingly contemporary and relevant situation comedy that finds a few atypical character archetypes and mixes them together into a wildly flavorful (and crunchy) salad of laughs. Unfortunately, the lettuce wilted a bit in season three, as the story toyed with coupling Jess and Nick for such an ultimately short-lived and unsatisfying period.  The writers and executive producers have the uphill task of keeping the show fresh in season four, now that the landscape has definitely changed, as they warned that it would.  In fact, some subtle signs of staleness and boredom from repetitive and routine storytelling are already creeping in; the mission of these writers is to give this talented cast of performers and the characters they portray something more intelligent to do in the coming season, or New Girl will be guilty of, more or less, airing the same episode every week, mired in its own admittedly quirky formula, unable to attain the energy it sustained in the beginning seasons, which propelled it to be the successful sitcom that it is.

LOOKING AHEAD:

New Girl was renewed for season 4 and is set to premiere on FOX on Tuesday, September 16, 2014.  Until then!

Around the Water Cooler: “The Tomorrow People” – Officially Canceled + Winter/Spring and Finale Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who:  “The Tomorrow People,” aired on network TV during the 2013-2014 season, specifically on the CW.  It ended its run in the Monday at 9:00 PM time slot.

What: “The Tomorrow People,” a science fiction teen drama about humans, most of whom are teenagers, who have evolved to have powers of teleportation, telekinesis, telepathy and possible other abilities, and the government organization named “Ultra” that seeks them out to neutralize them.  The action is centered on Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell), a young high school student who begins to exhibit these abilities and so much more and who is being sought out by an organized band of “superior” humans as well as by Ultra for not only his abilities but also his family connections.

SYNOPSIS

Stephen (Amell) has been struggling for a year with strange occurrences, not the least of which include him waking up in foreign surroundings as if after sleepwalking, such as another couple’s bed (in another couple’s house).  Believed to have inherited an inexplicable psychosis from his father, Stephen has been undergoing psychological therapy and is taking strong anti-psychotic medication, which is often stolen by a school bully.  His friendships are strained, and he is frustrated by what seems to be a deteriorating mental state, until he is contacted by Cara (Peyton List) telepathically.  Cara and her boyfriend John Young (Luke Mitchell) introduce Stephen to the “Tomorrow People,” a ragtag group of teens who have enhanced abilities. Stephen also finds out that his father abandoned his family, including his mother (Sarah Clarke, 24) and younger brother, because he also had abilities for which he is being hunted for study, and it is believed that Stephen can help locate his father, to the extent he has any interest in doing so.  Meanwhile, Ultra tracks the Tomorrow teens and is headed by Jedikiah (Pellegrino), Stephen’s uncle, his father’s brother, and an evolutionary biologist who seeks to minimize the threat and risk that these evolved humans in such formative years potentially pose to worldwide society.

When: The series finale aired on the CW, Monday, May 5, 2014, at 9:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in New York City (they finally talked about the Burroughs in the finale).

Why: I enjoy science fiction as a genre. The premise seemed pretty interesting (if a little derivative of the X-Men, though it is based on an English television show from the 70s).  The series features Mark Pellegrino (Jacob on Lost, Satan on Supernatural, a Monroe militia man on Revolution), who is one of my favorite character television actors of today, as the primary antagonistic force.  Also, one of the executive producers is Julie Plec, who is also the executive producer and head writer for The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.  All in all, I felt this program had a decent chance of being quite good.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

As the primary TV viewing season came to a close and new season schedules were announced by the networks, sweeping and swift final decisions regarding what stays and what goes, i.e. what is renewed for another season and what is canceled, were made.  Because the purpose of this blog is to be more editorial about particular shows this viewer watches rather than a major entertainment news outlet to report scoops, spoilers, and other television-related sound bytes (for now), this blogger is reporting the cancellations and reviews as I have time to write about them.

The CW, in May 2014, canceled The Tomorrow People, among other series. This viewer awarded this program’s pilot a 4 out of 5 star rating, meaning I enjoyed the show but saw potential pitfalls in the premise.  The review of the pilot can be read here.  A recap of the first half of the season can be read here.

This viewer initially rated the pilot of The Tomorrow People 4 stars – there were flaws in premise and execution, some of which persisted through the series finale.  As I noted in previous entries, the biggest flaw of the series is its almost shameless borrowing from, if not plagiarizing of, other science fiction vehicles, drawing from sources like the X-Men and Star Wars in story arcs that have presumably evolved beyond the constructs of the original version of the show from the 70s.  Did this flaw propagate the program’s declining ratings and cancellation? Perhaps, but this viewer theorizes that the show did not gain viewers because it didn’t offer many likable characters in addition to a couple of polarizing ones, including List’s Cara.

The story itself was engaging enough, but the middling performances of especially the younger actors in the ensemble, particularly List, sometimes rendered the execution of the plot devices and dialogue cheesy.  In addition, the love triangle trope between Stephen, Cara, and John was played to saccharine, predictable, and formulaic effect, at least until John lost his powers late in the season and began flirting with Astrid, and Stephen and his Ultra partner Hillary dallied until Hillary stopped playing the double agent and went after the Founder.  Cara remained this viewer’s least favorite character and became even more off-putting when she was elected the new leader of the “Lair” of the Tomorrow People.  Many of even the faithful viewers in the free-for-all forums of websites covering the show seemed to agree.  Her back story, her dalliance with Stephen while longing for John, and her struggle to “prove herself” as leader rendered her the most unsympathetic character, short of the Founder himself.  She seemed like a cross between a spoiled brat and a lost puppy who thought everything was a crisis.

Let’s talk about the Founder (Simon Merrells).  This character emerged in the back half of the season as the ubiquitous head of Ultra to which Jedikiah reported.  His motives were unclear for a long time and then became painfully clear, as he began twirling proverbial mustaches and plotting the extinction of “homo sapiens” in favor of “homo superiors.”   His Founder was, at times, truly menacing, but at other times, it seemed as if he was too formidable a foe for a ragtag bunch of adolescents, considering that he possessed the same paranormal abilities as they did and seemed to, inexplicably, be much stronger than those adolescents to boot.  Also, while it worked out given that the series was canceled, his story line was wrapped up a bit too neatly and in too much of a contrived manner for all the problems he caused.  The conclusion to his arc was simply not as satisfying as it could have been.

The show continued to barrel through story lines in the second half of the season at a breakneck pace, some more successfully executed than others.  Since the first half of the season was covered in the previous entry, this final entry will recap some of the revelations from the second half of the season, following the mid-season break.

1. Though we were led to believe that John murdered Stephen’s father, Roger (Jeffrey Pierce), it became evident that Roger was not allowed to die completely.  Jedikiah revealed that he hid the dying but not dead Roger away from the Founder, in a secret building and in suspended animation, waiting for the right time to revive him.

Through flashback in one of the second half episodes, the viewer learns that Roger and Jed were actually very close.  Though Jedikiah clearly felt some acute envy over the fact that Roger had abilities, and he didn’t, Jed poured his lack of abilities in helping Roger to understand his from a scientific standpoint.  Yet, they were approached by the man known as the Founder, who sensed Roger telepathically.  The Founder had grand designs for creating an organization – the foundation of what would become ULTRA – that would allow Roger and Jed to help new “breakouts” understand their abilities.  It was there that the idea of “The Tomorrow People” was born – and how people like John came to be involved with Jed in the first place.  Roger trained them to control their abilities and to learn how to fight, while Jed researched different applications and procedures arising from the paranormal abilities these people exhibited.

The Founder, however, had other plans.  Through his and Jed’s joint efforts, they developed a Machine.  The purpose of this Machine is unclear as far as what Roger and Jed understood it to be initially, but this viewer can say for certain that Roger, as the most powerful paranormal other than the Founder and, eventually, his son, was able to power this Machine when others couldn’t. Furthermore, the Machine had the effect of stopping time, an ability Stephen inherited from his father, and rendering humans inert. The Founder’s grand mission was to bring about the extinction of the human race while allowing paranormals/Tomorrow People to roam the earth freely.

Roger and Jed both disagreed with the Founder at a fundamental level, but they also disagreed with each other as to how to push back.  Roger wanted to fight; Jed wanted to work covertly.  Thus, the schism that led to the “Tomorrow People” and “ULTRA” was born and carried over into ULTRA’s consistent tracking of Tomorrow People at Jed’s behest: he was following the orders of the Founder, bringing cooperative paranormal breakouts into the ULTRA fold (like Hillary) and draining combative Tomorrow People of their abilities with a solution created in one of Jed’s research laboratories.

The only problem is, Jed, at some point, was ordered by the Founder to take out Roger when Roger refused to participate in powering the Machine.  But Jed couldn’t kill his own brother.  And since one of the arms of his research was to see if he could augment and/or disrupt the block that prevents paranormal beings from harming others, and since he successfully instilled it in John, John eventually enacted the order.  He shot Roger and believed him to be dead – which is what caused his break with Jedikiah, who was like a father to him.

It was not until Stephen started to suspect that Jed wasn’t telling him everything, and confronted him about it, that Jed finally showed Stephen, and John as well, the glowing box containing Roger’s body.  This was after Stephen successfully reach his father in “limbo,” by stopping time as he lost brain function and experienced death, in order that he may connect to his father’s soul, preserved by their powerful abilities.

2. When Stephen awoke at the end of the mid-season finale, he proclaimed that in order to find his father, they had to find his body, while John looked on in disbelief, reminding all that he personally murdered the guy that he convinced Stephen to join his little rebellion and to help find in the first place.

Stephen was beyond livid at his uncle, but once Roger’s body was located, Jed had it moved to the Lair.  Stephen also brought in his mother to help.  John, meanwhile, who had idolized Roger as much as he loved Jed, looked on in dread, until Roger was revived and ultimately forgave him.

A key piece of information that we learn is that Stephen is a “synergist,” i.e. the offspring of two Tomorrow People.  Stephen discovered that his mother Marla (Sarah Clarke) also had abilities when agents of ULTRA attempted to murder Astrid, after it was discovered that Astrid had become aware of Stephen’s paranormal abilities.  Synergists are rare enough, but Stephen is exceptionally powerful, inheriting enhanced telepathic abilities from his mother and the ability to stop time from his father.  We didn’t meet other synergists, except that it is heavily implied that the Founder might be one.

In any event, ULTRA, on Jed’s orders, went after Astrid and her family at the cafe they own, but as gunshots were fired, Stephen’s mom telekinetically stopped the bullets, in front of Stephen, Astrid, and her family.  We later learned that Roger met Marla when she was a breakout and fell in love, but he left her when the Founder’s pressure and grand visions placed him and his family in danger.

Marla is also a nurse, however, and Stephen brought her and brother Luca to the Lair when Roger’s last breaths of life hung in the balance, to reunite with their lost loved one but also for their protection, as the Founder’s efforts to secure Roger for the Machine intensified.  She and Jed worked together to revive him, though Stephen ultimately placed himself in danger by entering ULTRA and accessing the Machine, so that he might reach Roger’s mind or soul or both, which remained in limbo.

Roger forgave John, even as John struggled to forgive himself.  Jed and John also worked to repair their relationship, which is very father/son in dynamic, though John was upset with Jed for not telling him that there was a chance to save Roger.

In addition, Luca learned of the abilities of his brother and eventually his parents.  He struggled to make sense of it at first, being the only Jameson without powers (so far), but Stephen asked Astrid to help, and the reappearance of his dad seemed to help.

3. The love triangle became a love pentagon, and Cara was elected leader over John.

Once upon a time, at the beginning of this series, Astrid loved Stephen; after all, she was the stalwart girl-next-door/best friend who stuck by him when it looked like he was going crazy because his powers were manifesting.  Stephen, however, had Astrid in the friend zone, locked and loaded with no chance to escape. Stephen was just not that into her, though he loved her as all best friends do.

Then along came Cara with her piercing doe eyes and her enhanced telepathic abilities.  She was able to communicate telepathically with Stephen and he with her like no other pair.  Stephen fell for Cara.

Yet, Cara was with John, who saved her from herself and her good-for-nothing, layabout, con artist ex-boyfriend who enjoyed exploiting her abilities, after discovering her lost, lonely, and homeless when she was kicked out of her parents’ house.  She was loyal to John, but then she gave into her connection with Stephen and loved him for a bit – or maybe all along, though some viewers struggled to care.  She also slept with him.  Because: feelings.

John was hurt but not devastated, and Cara’s dalliance with Stephen was further influenced by the secret John kept from Cara concerning his involvement with shooting Roger, Stephen’s father. John distanced himself from Cara, leaving Cara lost and confused and abandoned again, unable to reach John in his self-imposed isolation despite her pleas, and, thus, willing to seek solace in the arms of Stephen.  When Cara learned what John was holding back, however, Cara reconnected with John, no regrets and no apologies, and told him to share more, please.

Stephen, however, was playing double agent, acting as a mole within ULTRA while he curried favor with his Uncle Jed and reporting their goings-on to the Tomorrow People in the Lair.  Stephen was eventually teamed up with a senior agent and paranormal named Hillary, who hated Stephen’s guts at first, believing (rightly so) that Stephen curried favoritism from his boss, his uncle.  When Jedikiah’s secret agenda involving his brother came to the forefront, Hillary, in her ambition and admitted attempts at self-preservation, agreed to act as a double agent for the Founder, promising to get close to him, all the while exchanging information learned from the Lair and from Stephen about his father and his uncle.  Hillary, however, came to her senses and saw that Stephen’s aim was true, and that he was a good guy.  She fell in love with him, and he with her.  This love eventually caused Hillary to turn against the Founder when the Founder went after first Stephen and the newly revived Roger to power up the Machine.  She marched into the Founder’s office and tried to suicide bomb his extinction.  Sadly, he survived, but Hillary didn’t.

In the meantime, Stephen asked John to protect Astrid when ULTRA agents hunted her down for her knowledge of Stephen’s abilities.  In one sticky situation, John caught a bullet.  Astrid was able to save his life with a few convenient resources on hand.  Later, John was captured by a Founder-run ULTRA.  When he wouldn’t agree to give up the Lair and/or Roger and/or Jed and/or Stephen, the Founder used Jed’s magic solution and sucked his powers dry.  John was a human for a handful of the final episodes, and he sought solace with the best human he knows: Astrid.  These two fell for each other. Cara acquiesced.  Stephen was happy for them both.

4. But wait…there’s more…

At the end of the series, however, in the tag of the finale episode, we learn that Jedikiah had figured out how to trigger abilities in humans (even though they were biologically incapable of accepting them) and had done so for himself in hopes that he could save Roger from the Machine.  The Founder was able to negotiate with the duplicitous Tomorrow Person Natalie and Russell, who blindly followed her anger, in a misguided attempt to keep the peace, at the fact that Roger did not provide instant access to the “Refuge,” as they had been promised all along.  Natalie and Russell agreed to turn Roger over to the Founder in exchange for a truce between the Founder’s ULTRA and the Tomorrow People, some of whom wanted to realize the Founder’s future of an Earth with only evolved persons roaming it as the potential Refuge for which they so hunger.  Yet, others saw the moral implications of effectively killing the human race (besides, what if some of them hadn’t broken out yet?).  Roger agreed to go in lieu of violence and was immediately placed in the Machine, his abilities powering it naturally.

Jed breaks into ULTRA with his new found stolen powers, which he extracted from the DNA of a particularly geeky Tomorrow Person, but is unable to sustain them.  When he enters into the Machine room, after taking out some of the guards/agents, Roger begs Jed to kill him.  Jed, overcome with emotion at the thought of shooting his own brother, agrees that he has no other choice, as Roger seems incapable of separating himself from the Machine.  Jed shoots Roger, just as Stephen arrives on the scene.  Roger encourages Stephen to save everyone, saying he believes in him and his strength.  As the Founder walks in and explains that Roger’s DNA effectively serviced the Machine enough that it could run on just that fuel, Roger exerts the last of his strength to teleport Jed to safety.  He dies in Jed’s arms.

In the footnote of the finale episode, after Stephen and the others hatch a successful plan to stymie the effects of the Machine, Jed finds John on the subway, canoodling with Astrid, and asks him to come with him.  Jed shows John that he made a solution that would imbue John with powers again, specifically derived from Roger’s DNA, in the procedure he used to imbue himself with another’s DNA (ordinary humans reject paranormal abilities, though).  John, willing to please his (surrogate?) father, agrees to undergo the procedure.  Apparently, however, this procedure wipes John’s memory, and John becomes a “super soldier” for Jed, able to harm/kill at will but with enhanced abilities and absolutely no memory of Stephen, Cara, or Astrid.  Poor Astrid.

Meanwhile, Stephen, seeking revenge for his father’s death, attempts to take out the Founder himself but is no match for him.  As the Machine is still powered up, he meets Cara, Astrid, and John in an empty diner.  They agree to attack ULTRA by themselves in an aggressive distraction, long enough for Stephen to get in and to attempt to destroy the Machine before its purpose manifests and stops time for anyone who is not paranormal.  Russell shows up to this conference too; though Stephen blames Russell for his part in the sequence of events leading to Roger’s death, Cara vouches for Russell, after Natalie led ULTRA agents with abilities, in addition to the removal of the block that prevents them from harming others into the Lair, for the purpose of killing or capturing Cara and the remainder of the ragtag group.  Even though Cara wants John to take Astrid and his now human self far away from New York City for their own safety, John and Astrid stubbornly refuse to leave, insisting that they wish to fight and to help their friends.

Thus, Cara and Russell create a distraction by baiting a group of the ULTRA super soldiers to the headquarters’ front plaza.  When things get a bit hairy for them, John acts as a sniper from a nearby rooftop, with Astrid calling out locations of assaulting soldiers from behind binoculars.  Stephen makes his way into the building and to the Machine room.  He interacts with the Machine telekinetically by attempting to draw out its power source, apparently knowing where it is after his own time hooked up to the Machine when he reached his dad in limbo, before he was revived by mother Marla.  The Founder appears again, and they have an all-out power battle, but Stephen, the synergist, discovers a way to augment his power with whatever the Machine is retaining from his now deceased father.  This causes the Machine to collapse in on itself, just as it starts to freeze Manhattan (John and Astrid are temporarily stuck in a passionate but fearful kiss).  A strange vortex is created: the Founder is sucked in and is no more.

The interactions between Stephen and the Machine apparently caused side effects: not only was the time freezing mechanism reversed, but a projection of the Machine’s power led to an abnormal number of breakouts, who appear at the Lair, telepathically linked to Stephen and able to find him like a beacon.  There is some question as to whether the Machine cause breakouts to break out early, or whether the Machine sped up the evolutionary chronology for ordinary humans, augmented by Stephen’s interfacing with it.  In any event, an underground tunnel beneath a subway line could no longer accommodate the hundreds of new recruits, so Stephen, who Cara elected to be the leader even though Stephen preferred to share the leadership role with Cara, decided to move into the empty offices at ULTRA.  After all – what else was it being used for?  And what an ironic location for the this little rebellion.

Cara also reveals that she knew Stephen would be the one to save the Tomorrow People and not Roger.  She suggests that she had visions about Stephen bringing the Tomorrow People to the much sought after Refuge, not Roger as originally hypothesized.

5. As of December’s mid-season finale, John’s family background had not been explored.  This is still true as of the finale.  Who are his parents?  

A flashback revealed that Jedikiah discovered John masking his breakout abilities as he became the ultimate con artist on the streets, hoodwinking victims with secret telekinetic actions that guaranteed his wins.  Jed was fascinated with John from the start, who was very young when Jed brought him into the ULTRA fold.  Their attachment grew.  Why did Jed take such a shine to John? Powers weren’t new to him, because Roger had them first.  Why did Jed make John his guinea pig for procedures like that which removed the paranormals’ instinctual inhibitions from harming others?  Why did Jed seek to imbue John with powers again?  Jed made the remark that he was proud of John for fighting when others ran, despite the fact that he had no powers.  “It’s what every father would want for his son,” i.e. to be a good man.  Something tells this viewer that John is really Jed’s biological son.  How, when, why…I can’t say.  The explanation for their particular relationship was never satisfactorily offered, beyond Jed taking John in and doting on him as his prodigal golden boy and eventual weapon when John was living on the streets, nearly starved and homeless: all good explanations for why and how their relationship started but not for the directions this dynamic eventually traveled.

6. Jedikiah loved a Tomorrow Person – the Founder wanted her dead.  Jed saved her and hid her with Stephen and the rest of the Tomorrow People at the Lair.  Cara found out that this woman (I can’t remember her name…maybe Morgan) is pregnant.

Unfortunately, they dropped this story line before the end of the season, when issues with the Founder really heated up.  Jedikiah’s first attempt at a truce with his nephew was for the good of his erstwhile lady love.  What Jed didn’t realize, however, was that she had a bun in the oven; she did attempt to find him again as a ruse to distract him from the Tomorrow People’s doings, but Jed sniffed out her plans.  I think Cara informed him later, but many distractions, like his brother coming back to life, floated to the forefront of the story.  In fact, Jed dropped all of his pretenses when the need to save and revive his brother became tantamount to anything else.  Jed’s loyalties were always 1) Roger; 2) his science; 3) John; and 4) his ladylove.  Stephen and his family were just cogs in Jed’s somewhat perverted wheels, turned by scientific exploration, ambition, and envy over his brother’s “specialness.”

7. Stephen was furious with Jed for keeping the secret that he had Roger safely tucked away, in suspended animation.  Stephen tricking Jed into believing that he had taken Cara’s powers with the magic solution was no longer an issue.

As long as Roger, who Jed was ultimately devoted to above else, could be brought back to life, Stephen’s little ruse to save Cara didn’t seem to bother Jed again, at least until he ordered John, in the last seconds of the finale, with his amnesia brought on by the infusion of Roger’s DNA, to seek Stephen and Cara out as his next targets.  To what purpose?  Viewers will never know: that was the unresolved cliffhanger of the series.

In the end…

This viewer believes that The Tomorrow People suffered from overuse of deus ex machina methods for getting the characters out of tight spots. Stephen conveniently manifested new strengths and abilities when stressful situations arose, and while his being a “synergist” implied that he had strength and abilities that others didn’t, the new powers tended to appear randomly when he was in danger and needed just such an ability or use of some device predicated upon his genetic code, despite the fact that his other abilities manifested “normally,” when he was asleep or going about his life.

The conceit around the Machine plot line was shaky at best.  What it was and how it worked were never satisfactorily explained.  The viewer knew only that a) it’s scary; b) it would freeze humans permanently in time; c) the Founder really wanted it working so that he could create his utopia of paranormal residents only (ordinary humans not allowed).  Why could only Roger, and by extension Stephen as Roger’s son, work the Machine?  Who even thought to build it?  Where did the Founder come from anyway?  This story was never properly flushed out, and may have served to perpetuate already low ratings by not enticing new viewers to the fold – or helping to retain those already watching – since it was such a key plot device for the back half of the season.

Polarizing characters included Cara, who adopted a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to leading her charges and to even her relationships with Stephen and John.  Seriously, even though Hillary started off as the average, overly ambitious overachiever, when she relaxed, her relationship with Stephen was somewhat touching, and John and Astrid as a pair was a brilliant idea on the writers’ part, given that John had never been with a normal human before.  Cara became an overly used, unnecessarily wrench in the cog of this particular machine (not Machine), and List’s acting choices in portraying her didn’t help her cause.

Russell was a character added for comic relief, a young man who never took anything too seriously, until he had no choice but to accept that things were serious when they were beyond serious.  Still, his manner of speech and idiosyncrasies were not always funny – unless he was calling out Cara and Hillary when she was at her most annoying.

Astrid was, more or less, a two-dimensional character, kept in the story for the purpose of reminding  the viewer that Stephen had a human/normal life outside of his superhero existence with the Tomorrow People.  That is, until she met John, at which point she became infinitely more interesting and even somewhat wise, being more worldly about the world than her paranormal compatriots.  This viewer’s opinion is that Astrid should have been given such an opportunity to grow as a character earlier.

Natalie came out of absolutely nowhere, suddenly irked about Roger’s less than speedy move toward the alleged Refuge.  There was also a story line in which John and Stephen helped to rescue some Tomorrow People who were being held captive by ULTRA for experimentation from laboratory jails in which they were being held, somewhere deep within the recesses of the oppressive organization.  One of their rescues turned out to be the Founder’s daughter, the Founder’s self-proclaimed “sacrifice” in the name of the greater good.  Yet, her story line was nearly irrelevant, except to show how far the Founder might go to achieve his aims and to establish how long his proverbial evil mustache truly was.  Also, she was played by an actress named Serinda Swan – who looks startlingly like Lindsay Lohan.

In the end, the most interesting characters were Stephen, John, and Jedikiah – and by extension Stephen’s family.  Yet, even the revelation that Marla was a Tomorrow Person lacked gravitas – after all, it was Marla who initially treated Stephen as if he was crazy and who took him to see psychiatrists, who prescribed him psychotropic medications, when his abilities started to manifest at the beginning of the series.  Their reconciliation over this startling new development was trite and unsatisfying, though Sarah Clarke’s Marla was stoic and showed very little depth of emotion.

Ultimately, the writers, and even some of the actors and episode directors, did not execute this story well, and it was a story with so much potential.  As a science fiction/fantasy tale, it hit all the right notes but with a finish more like boxed wine than a nice chilled Chianti.  Since the show hovered around a level of mediocrity that was likely self-evident to the choosy television viewer of today, The Tomorrow People never improved upon its ratings slumps, and the program got the ax.

As for this viewer, I enjoyed watching it at a minimal level, but I was never excited to watch it or yearned really to know what happened next.  I never sat back in my chair with my jaw to the floor and frequently puzzled over how and why things occurred or were depicted in the manner they were depicted, and I absolutely detested Cara.  The most impressive part of this show was probably the special effects utilized to depict teleportation and telekinesis.  Other than that, it was a pleasant, if somewhat bland, story – a vegetarian delicacy of science fiction fare, since it lacked some real meat.  Well, maybe there were some fishy aspects to the tale – in any event, I’m not sad that it was canceled.

Also, I must be hungry.

Questions Answered?

1) What is the implication of having to find Stephen’s father’s body?  Are we talking about reuniting a soul and a presumably long-dead corpse?  Is this a thing that Tomorrow People – or, more specifically, Stephen – can do?

Answer: Yes, we are talking about reuniting Roger’s soul with his body, and Stephen was able to achieve it, but the show implied heavily that only Stephen could do it, because only Stephen was strong enough and had enough similarity to his father genetically that he could interact with the powerful Machine at ULTRA and achieve such an astounding metaphysical result.  Stephen was the key, not the other Tomorrow People.

2) To that end, why is Stephen so much more advanced than the other Tomorrow People? (I have an inkling, thanks to my rudimentary searches…it will be interesting to see how information is revealed).

Answer: Stephen is a synergist, the offspring of two Tomorrow People, including an exceptionally powerful one (Roger) as well as Marla.

3) Why has Stephen permanently friend-zoned Astrid?  We have a bona-fide Les Miserables-style love triangle (I happen to be spending my time involved with that show) – Stephen is Marius, the clueless; Astrid is Eponine, the obsessed; and Cara is Cosette, the annoyingly uninteresting.  But seriously, why he is not looking at the stalwart friend by his side?  Is it because she’s too available? This is my primary question about friend zones.

Answer: Stephen never explained why he couldn’t return Astrid’s feelings, but it’s ok. Unlike Eponine in Les Miserables, Astrid found love elsewhere with John, and that’s a much better match in this viewer’s opinion – at least until John lost his memory in the end.

4) Why does any one trust John anymore?  He’s lied to them all the whole time!  What consequences will he face?  Why wouldn’t they banish him for a time?  How can they trust him ever again?

Answer: Cara temporarily banished John, but it didn’t last.  Instead, with efforts spearheaded by Russell, Cara was elected the new leader of the Tomorrow People, and John earned trust again with individuals one at a time rather than with the group at large.  Stephen was the first to trust him again, which, given John’s role in Roger’s saga, helped to go a long way with the others. 

5) Really, what is Jedikiah’s endgame?  On the one hand, he seems threatened by the abilities of his brother and nephew, and yet he finds them oddly comforting enough to become romantically entangled with someone who has them?  He almost appears to be an Aunt Petunia from Harry Potter equivalent – jealous that he doesn’t have the abilities, willing to condemn them to mask her abject jealousy, and yet sympathetic to them due to the love for his family members…

Answer: Jedikiah sought primarily to save Roger, by any means necessary.  All his actions, he said, were to save his brother, though he is clearly jealous of what Roger and Stephen are able to do that he cannot.  Yet, as the end sequences show with Jed ordering John to target Stephen, Cara, and others, Jed may still be threatened by the fact of the Tomorrow People and what they can do – in other words, his front for the Founder as the supervisor of ULTRA operations may not have been totally a front, ideologically speaking.

6) Then, there is the Founder.  Why is he trying to eradicate and control his own half of the human race?  Ultimate power?  Is he the Emperor Palpatine of this outfit, killing all the Jedi, i.e the Tomorrow People, to have the ultimate and only control of the Force, i.e. the teleportation/telekinesis/telepathy triplicate of powers?  What is his purpose?

Answer: On the contrary, he was only killing Tomorrow People who did not subscribe to his grand vision, i.e. a utopia of a world with only paranormal humans living in it.  Of course, he placed himself at the head of this utopia, so Ultimate Power probably had something to do with it.

7) Who is Stephen’s father, really?  Why is he so advanced and the mystical savior in the end?

Answer: The show seems to be suggesting that Roger was not the mystical savior after all; Stephen may be the Messiah of this new species.  The show also never really explained how Roger came by his power or why he was so much stronger than others.

Other questions might have surfaced, but the show has been canceled, so there is no use wondering at what might have been…and no use asking the questions.

PARTING SHOTS

The CW granted The Tomorrow People a decent shot: a full season of 22 episodes and the chance to establish itself beyond adolescent angst and competent, if not stellar, performances and writing. Unfortunately, the show’s creators were unable to capitalize on this opportunity, failing to add dimension to this amalgam of recycled, simplistic, science fiction story tropes and more complicated questions involving the mysterious backgrounds of its key characters.  Sometimes, this program was sort of hard to watch, even as each episode tantalized with new questions about Stephen and his cohorts’ larger purpose as evolved members of the human species.  The ending of the series clinched it, however; despite the questions, the answers were never very satisfying – and the lack of answers, therefore, could not have sustained the story for a term longer than just one season.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:

Canceled!  The entire series, produced to the tune of 22 episodes, aired fully and ended in May 2014.  This show can be watched and enjoyed on the strength of its one and only season, given the way it concluded, should it crop up on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, but “strength” is a relative term, depending upon how well you believe the cast and production team told their story.  The Tomorrow People is marginally recommendable to several cross-sections of viewers: science fiction fans, comic book (and ensuing adaptation) fans, the CW’s target audience, and so on. The execution of the, at times, basic and, at times, nuanced premise is definitely shaky, with far fewer surprises, but there are some decent elements that may be worth a binge watch, completely with mitigated expectations, later down the line.  RIP Tomorrow People.

Around the Water Cooler: “24: Live Another Day,” the Limited Series Season Premiere (MINOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “24: Live Another Day” airs on network TV, specifically on Fox, spring/summer Mondays at 9:00 PM.

What: “24: Live Another Day,”a limited run event series exploring what has happened to Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), and to some extent Chloe Sullivan (Mary Lynn Rajskub), following the finale of parent series 24.  As Jack’s voice-over introduction to start each hour indicates, events in each episode occur in real time.  Thus, each one-hour episode is one hour’s worth of events in the story.

When: The series/ninth season premiere aired on Monday, May 5, 2014, at 9:00 PM (I am behind).

Where: The event series appears to be set in London, England, United Kingdom, though having watched only one episode, I’m not sure yet if it leaps to other locales.

Why: Why?!  Because as I stated here, I watched 24 and really enjoyed it and because I want to know what happened to Jack!  I love Kiefer Sutherland, particularly in this role, and I think this could be a novel approach to revisiting popular series in the future, without demeaning or cheapening the ends of worthy series.  Jack is back!  Will he ever get a happy ending?  Or, at least, a less than tragic one?  More to the point, should it be considered a happy ending if he merely doesn’t get himself killed? Discuss.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

Ah, that ticking clock…  this viewer has missed 24.  Don’t get me wrong, when 24 ended its long run in 2010, it was the right time to go.  After all, how many terrible crises can one man and/or one agency endure?  Are threats to national security of the type depicted on that program really so common?  It makes one shudder to think of it.

Seriously, though, Jack Bauer had a good run the first time through, but then, the writers/producers decided to leave the series somewhat open ended.  Jack, exiled for actions that he took to ultimately save America but which were not exactly on the up and up, escaped into the world unknown, hiding away from authorities. He became an outlaw, and loyal friend and former fellow CTU agent Chloe Sullivan followed suit, vilified for their roles in these events (I’m trying to be deliberately vague here, in case readers have not seen 24 the first time out).

Live Another Day picks up the story four years later, present day and in London. Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) is running a satellite office of some spy-related agency (is it CTU?  That wasn’t made clear in the premiere). Kate Morgan, a field agent, is resigning and heading back to the United States.  It seems her husband, possibly another agent, was a mole, and she never saw it coming.  He’s gone now, and her abilities and competence have now been called into question.  She is leaving, judged as she is by her boss and her peers, who covet her position.

Yet, while finishing up her work and tracking the patterns of some possible terrorist suspects, video surveillance footage is discovered that contains a recognizable face – Jack Bauer has emerged from hiding. What’s more, after an exciting standoff between him and a dispatched team, he lets himself be caught.  Kate, her instincts firing on all cylinders, realizes this before her co-workers and patronizing boss do.  After all – Jack has been out of reach for four years.  Why would he let himself be caught so easily?

Even though Jack is interrogated by Steve, he doesn’t break and maintains an impressive silence.  Why would he talk?  He’s interrogated and tortured countless suspects – he knows all of the procedures and protocols and knows how to beat the system.  In fact, he practically created the system himself.  What the viewer learns, however, is that Chloe is being held in a top secret wing of this agency that utilizes torture as part of its interrogation arsenal, and Jack is on a mission to rescue her.  We don’t know why Chloe is in this mess: she’s sporting leather and a haircut that renders her quite goth, though, which will no doubt help her to look even grumpier once she recovers from the after effects of the torture.  We just know that loyal Jack is there to save his friend. Does he manage it?  If you know know Jack and 24: what do you think?

In the meantime, President Heller (William Devane), now a second term president, is in London to meet with officials and to give a speech. It seems that the president is struggling with his memory, and when his Chief of Staff asks him about an easy mistake he made in a briefing, confusing the Presidents Roosevelt, Heller admits to the Chief’s wife, his daughter Audrey (Kim Raver), that “it’s getting worse.”  It’s a safe assumption that “it” refers to Alzheimer’s, but that also has not yet been made clear.

In addition, the Chief learns of Jack Bauer’s capture, which he decides to keep to himself, away from the President’s and Audrey’s ears.  After all, Audrey was in love with Jack and he with her during the primary run of 24, but events confused and destroyed their relationship.  This Chief of Staff, however, is apparently smart enough to know that the feelings were real.

Ultimately, the first hour of Live Another Day, summarized above, was rather slow.  The premiere served to set an entirely new stage, to remind us of our players, and to check in with Jack and Chloe, who have been off the grid for four years.  So many questions crop up immediately, and we don’t know just yet what the stakes are, other than that Jack and Chloe’s capture would result in them going to prison.

To wit, this was a very soft start for an “event series,” but I will keep watching.  After all, I want to know why Jack and Chloe are risking exposure now, after so many years.  One can bet that America is in danger again…or America’s president…or London…or some combination thereof.  One can also bet that Jack will save the day.  Jack always saves the day!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

1) Why is Chloe goth?  What has she got herself into?

2) What’s wrong with President Heller?

3) Will Audrey and Jack meet again?

4) Why do we care about Kate Morgan?  She seems to be an integral piece to this puzzle.

5) Has Jack been keeping tabs on Kim?  Steve tells him that Kim had another baby.  Grandpa Jack hasn’t been around much.

6) Can Jack save the day and clear his name?  My bet’s on yes…let’s find out!

PARTING SHOTS:

Watching 24: Live Another Day is like reuniting with an old friend, though the first episode was slow to start. This viewer imagines that the intensity will only build, since that’s what this program is famous for – I hope it gets better, though most of the feedback from those who have been watching it appears to indicate that viewers are pleased.  How can they not be?  Jack Bauer is a great character, and he and Chloe are two heroes for which to root on a weekly basis.  This viewer is excited to see what the future has in store for them, even if the future is the past for many viewers who have been staying current.

LOOKING AHEAD:

24: Live Another Day was ordered for a limited run series of thirteen episodes, the finale of which will be airing tomorrow, July 14, 2014, at 9:00 AM.  There is no word yet on whether or not Fox plans to order additional seasons.  Because it was ordered as a limited run series, there is an option for renewal, but the series of thirteen episodes should also be able to stand alone in its own right.  The ratings for the series have generally been very good, and critic reception has been favorable/warm, even if some critics don’t enjoy the sense of “sameness” or familiarity of some of the 24 trademarks.  If there is a renewal, it may be announced in the next couple of weeks.  This viewer will keep an eye on the relevant sites and report the outcome of any possible decision when I finish watching the instant series.  Until then!

The Best Written TV #71 & Looking Back (without re-watch): 24

THE SPECS:

Who: The first run series – not the current event series “24: Live Another Day” (yet) – is available to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime, either via rental or purchase.

What: “24,” the program, featuring the efforts of a fictional agency called the Counter Terrorism Unit or “CTU” and its conflicted, talented senior agent, sometime agency head, sometime pariah Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland, in what has been his defining role) in attempting to stop terrorist attacks on American soil, most often with potential of devastating losses of lives.  As Jack’s voice-over introduction to start each hour indicates, events in each episode occur in real time.  Thus, each one-hour episode is one hour’s worth of events in the story, and each season of the primary run was 24 episodes long.

When: The primary show aired in its entirety for eight seasons, from 2001-2010, on Fox.

Where: The show was most frequently set in Los Angeles, California, though it did venture to other locales, including New York City and Washington DC.

Why: This show was recommended to me by my most favorite boss ever, who still works for the same employer but in a different division now.  He told me about this intense show with Kiefer Sutherland that he couldn’t miss; plus, the buzz at the time was overwhelming.  I think the advent of 9/11 and the quality of writing, at least until the infamous cougar, was so novel at the time that audiences grew based on word of mouth.  I remember having to wait until F/X offered a marathon airing to catch up on season one because one simply cannot enter into one of the seasons without starting at the beginning – one would be lost trying to pick up the story at any other point.

How – as in How Was It?  

This viewer would rate this show 4.5 out of 5 stars (****1/2).  The earlier seasons were better.  The first season was phenomenal.  No other program has been like it, before or since.  The “real time” conceit rendered the show so intense, and the writers demonstrated an impeccable talent for “holy shit” twists and turns. Plus, Kiefer Sutherland simply is/was Jack Bauer, a character dealt countless blows to his home life and personal happiness as he continued to put it all on the line and fight against enemies from foreign powers, or those aligned with foreign powers, aiming to attack America for whatever the reason.  The most patriotic of citizens who can deal with a healthy dose of violence and the discussion of terrorist endeavors, including bombs, bio-weapons, and other frightening fare, would love this show.

SYNOPSIS

Each season covered 24 hours in a day during which CTU, and by extension Jack, fought to stymie a new terrorist plot, while the show also focused on Jack’s personal life and family as well as, to some extent, the lives and families of some of the supporting characters. Several actors became famous (or more famous) apart from Sutherland, who had a career prior to this show, as a result of their time on 24: Elisha Cuthbert played Jack’s daughter Kim, who displayed an uncanny knack for getting herself into trouble, though she also worked at CTU in later years; Kim Raver (who has resurfaced on Live Another Day, among other television shows) played his most popular love interest, Audrey; Sarah Clarke, who was recently on The Tomorrow People, played Jack’s nemesis Nina Myers; Dennis Haysbert, i.e. Mr. Allstate, played the first black US President on TV long before President Obama made history in real life; and Mary Lynn Rajskub played loyal friend and fellow tech agent Chloe Sullivan, in one of the best depicted platonic relationships between man and woman on television, ever. Chloe has also returned for the event series.

Each season also focused on new styles of weaponry and new and old enemies.  Seriously, throughout the seasons, there were all sorts of countries plotting to crush America, aligned with other governments, privately or publicly, using American mercenaries or relying on their own countrymen to infiltrate and destroy the US of A in the name of some offense.  Middle Eastern countries and/or citizens and/or descendants were most often the culprits (thanks – or no thanks – again to 9/11), but Jack fought against Asian, European, South American, Mexican, and even other American threats, assassination attempts, plots to undermine infrastructure including nuclear power plants, and all sorts of horrific and intense situations. In the meantime, Jack lost his first wife, attempted to find love apart from his work but nearly always failing to sustain it, attempted to protect his strong but otherwise clueless daughter (and eventually son-in-law and grandchild), tussled with his own father, and eventually accepted exile as a fugitive, blamed for actions in which he was involved or for which he was responsible but undertook to save his country.  All throughout the process, Kiefer Sutherland played Jack as the ultimate patriot and humanist, though his body count was ultimately very high.  Also, his favorite phrase is “Damn it!”  If the phrase wasn’t such a common exclamation, it would probably be the official catchphrase of 24 and a signature/trademark along with that ticking clock.

THOUGHTS

24 instantly engages the viewer because each season turns a day into a nightmare for the characters and particularly for Jack, who was most often the smartest and/or forthright of those around him.  He could sniff out moles like Nina or bad seeds like his own dad (played by James Cromwell of all people) while still finding time to save unlucky bystanders from random nuclear explosions in the greater Los Angeles area. He is a man’s man, with uncanny aim with a weapon and a MacGyver like sense of resourcefulness.

Each hour is intense.  In order to focus the action on the players in movement in each episode, one of the trademarks of the series was to show side-by-side panels, with different camera angles of the same scene. Thus, the viewer would be able to see Jack from behind a structure, his gun aimed and ready to take a shot, while the viewer would also see his intended target, looking back at him with whatever the appropriate reaction or response or a gun similarly poised. Sometimes, three and four panels would crop up for the largest scenes, if several players were on the board, or to snapshot, in summary, all of the relevant players at the end of each episode.  Shooting the series this way delivered a level of urgency that similar shows just haven’t been able to achieve, before or since. Add the ticking clock that appeared in and out of commercial breaks and at the end of episodes, and whenever time truly was a factor, one couldn’t help but wonder, on occasion, how certain objectives would be achieved, particularly when enemies permitted ‘x’ number of hours to produce money or weapons or to save a hostage’s life.

These touches and trademarks certainly help bolster the idea that 24 is one of the best written series ever. In addition, the dialogue was always sharp and delivered with intensity.  CTU agents were skilled interrogators; some of them employed torture.  Yet, never did the show feel as if it was pandering to the audience, explaining intelligence lexicon and techniques in order to set stages.  The words were intelligent, but the actors played the emotions.  Jack is such an enduring hero because he is a man of intense passion and loyalty to his country and to his loved ones.

The writers also had the exciting task of creating all new threats each season in an effort to top the last crazy nightmare from which Jack and his CTU compatriots, with various levels of drive and passion for their work, were tasked to save their fellow Americans.  Some stories were more successful than others: the first season was excellent, but the second season endeavored to place Kim in danger by being lost in the desert and chased by a prowling cougar, for example.  Yet, overall, each season was carefully mapped out.  What happened in between these long days was relevant to Jack and would be covered in the first few episodes, even if years had passed.  The rest of the season would explore the crisis at hand and end with an episode or two leaking some plot details to set up the next longest day.

And speaking of the nightmares themselves: assassination attempts on presidential candidates, nuclear explosions in the greater Los Angeles area, bio-warfare, bomb threats, aggressive computer hacking to undermine the worldwide network… the writers dreamed it all up.  Sure, some of the scenarios seemed implausible, but that’s why 24 was so exciting.  Could these crazy events really happen, even those that seemed too horrible to contemplate?  The writers created enough suspension of disbelief via a well depicted CTU nucleus and riveting characters like Jack to allow the viewer to believe, at least for a moment, that it was all scarily possible.

24, thus, is an intense watch – so intense that I chose not to convince myself to re-watch the series a second time.  I remember quite a bit of it anyway, but, also, I think this series is most successful on first viewing only, when the viewer would not able to see the twists coming or know for certain that Jack or any of the people for which he cares are going to be alright (or won’t be, in some circumstances).  The key ingredients to 24 are Jack Bauer, the intensity of the situations affecting the characters, and the level of unforeseen danger confronting our heroes.  This viewer could see much of the excitement undercut by taking the sense of the unknown out of the equation, but the intensity of the show also dissuaded me from watching the whole series again, because the viewing of each episode is the equivalent of watching a short action/thriller film for 24 episodes and eight seasons…  This viewer is satisfied with 24 being a one-time viewing experience; I would even warn against binge-watching it, or serious recovery time may be required.

24 is a series with a specific niche and mainstream appeal.  It captured the imagination because 9/11 and ongoing conflicts left our world more scary and dangerous than ever before, and the series spoke to that fear and to the sense of rallying together to stave off unseen enemies.  It also spoke to the need for heroes and patriots to confront that fear, to answer the call of country and men, and that’s where Jack Bauer comes in, as a character and man willing to sacrifice it all to keep people safe.  The series is well written, if not perfect; well performed; and one of the classics of television history.

In fact, 24 carved out such an esteemed slot in the viewing public’s heart, talk of shooting a film, which was supposed to tie off some of the loose threads left by Jack’s actions in the series finale but which was never produced and/or enjoyed a green light to production, ran rampant for several years.  Because the film idea never saw the light of day, Fox and the producers/writers of 24 saw fit to bring Jack, Chloe, Audrey, and others back for a limited run series of thirteen episodes for 24: Live Another Day, another long day for Jack but the first televised long day in four years.  This “Looking Back” entry was written in anticipation of the return of 24.  Stay tuned for the review of the first episode of the new season in Jack’s rather complicated life.

RECOMMENDATION

24 is recommended to anyone who loves Kiefer Sutherland, action-heavy drama, spy-related stories, stories about defending America in all its patriotic glory, and anyone who wants intensity and the unexpected to be part of their television diet.  The show is not for the faint of heart – there is a heavy dose of gun violence, torture, and casualties from explosions and other spy warfare collateral damage.  One must also like political thrillers, for the show examines the intelligence community from field-level agencies like CTU to the role of the President of the United States in such matters.  What can be said, however, is that if you, gentle viewer, have not seen the original run of 24 and decide to give it a try, you won’t be able to stop watching.  That’s why it’s so exciting that Jack is back!  Will his return be triumphant, or will it fizzle after such a long delay?  The next post will examine the success of the premiere of Live Another Day.  Until then…

Around the Water Cooler: “Witches of East End,” the Season 2 Premiere (SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Witches of East End,” airs on cable TV, specifically on Lifetime, Summer Sundays at 9:00 PM.

What: “Witches of East End,” a supernatural drama about a family of immortal witches.  Julia Ormond (Legends of the Fall; Sabrina) plays the matriarch, who is cursed to bear two daughters and watch them die over several lifetimes while her younger sister is cursed to die and be reborn as a cat with nine lives to live. In this current life cycle, the two daughters, Ingrid and Freya, are not aware (as of yet) that they are witches.

SYNOPSIS

Ingrid is a feminist, a librarian, and characterizes herself as a rationalist.  Freya is a romantic and is engaged to the wealthy son of a local family after a whirlwind romance.  Both girls are oblivious to the fact that they are immortal witches, daughters of mother Joanna (Ormond), who was cursed at the Salem Witch Trials to watch them die and to give birth to them all over again over countless centuries. Their mother decided to offer them a chance at normal lives, unaware of magic; however, past lives and odd occurrences are catching up with them, and now Ingrid and Freya are in danger – both of being exposed for who they are and for their lives in this current cycle.

When: The season 2 premiere aired on Lifetime, Sunday, July 6, 2014, at 9:00 PM.

Where: The show is set on Long Island, New York.

Why: My love of supernatural and fantasy stories made me curious, and I did love Charmed.  Normally, the fact that the show airs on Lifetime would be a deterrent, but my curiosity got the better of me.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

The new TV season starts early (aside from the usual summer runs) with the premiere of Witches of East End last night on Lifetime.  If you need to catch up or a refresher of what was, read this blog’s review/recap of the first season here.

This viewer’s initial impression is that there seems to be a disjointedness to the start of the second season. Apparently, Joanna (Julia Ormond) was poisoned when the door to Asgard was opened by key Ingrid (Rachel Boston) in the first season finale, which was not clear in that episode. Maybe Penelope did it when they tousled prior to Penelope’s incineration in the boiler room of her own mansion. The second season premiere episode begins with Victor, Joanna’s former lover and the father of her children, attempting to nurse the poison out of her by tying her to her bed and applying parasites to suck the poison from her blood. It’s clear that she doesn’t have much longer to live, and the girls are worried about her.  Freya (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) also brews a potion that allows, when coupled with the proper chant, the three other women to delve into their memories, as the opening of the door to Asgard left them with selective amnesia regarding what came through the door.  They remember the door and a shadowy figure emerging from it but not much else.

In the meantime, Wendy (Madchen Amick) has been prowling the woods in cat form and saw a shadowy form that she felt was evil and dark.  This form alarms her.  The mystery of Asgard heightens with what or who might have entered this realm from that one.  She also encounters a flirtatious man in the library who also happens to work as a paramedic; he tries to steal her library book and brazenly argues with her.  We see him in the woods a few times too, so it’s clear that he may know who or what Wendy is, but we have not yet learned of his purpose.

Ingrid, meanwhile, struggles with being the reliable, less than fearless daughter and with her emerging powers as a witch.  Also, somehow, she has forgiven her father in the wake of her mother’s sickness, though it would have been nice to have seen that, because she was still angry with him for “abandoning” them at the end of the first season.  Her major plot thread in the premiere centers on her application for a position to study the history of witchcraft on the island, for which only doctoral candidates are eligible.  In order to receive an interview, she lies to the professor in charge of the study by saying she has a doctorate – when she has not yet even finished her dissertation – and then is late to the interview, given her involvement in the memory spell using Freya’s potion.  Having failed to make a good impression enough to convince her hiring manager that she would be the most qualified candidate for the job, she is convinced by her sister and a library coworker to cast a spell.  She agrees, and it works, though she gets drunk and falls off a bar stool (or maybe the bar itself) in the process.  Wendy, when checking on Ingrid, sees the brazen paramedic who tried to steal her library book, even though there was a second copy.  The show appears to be setting Wendy and this stranger up with some possible sexual tension, but his timely appearance on the scene may not have been coincidence.

Freya is concerned because she has not heard from Killian (Daniel DiTomasso) after calling off her wedding to Killian’s brother Dash (Eric Winter) and fears for his safety, believing she would have heard from him at least once, even if he was angry, though Killian left Freya in the first season finale, believing that she intended to go through with her wedding to Dash.  She has a vision when looking in a mirror that signifies that he is alive but in danger. She asks her aunt Wendy to help her interpret the vision; Wendy reads the tarot and notes that he is safe, but that the “owl” (must be a new sort of tarot) is a harbinger of someone bringing him to safety but possibly for duplicitous reasons.

Later, we learn that Killian is, in fact, alive, having washed up in the Caribbean somewhere.  He is winning an endless supply of money playing cards, and he tells a mysterious woman who enters his room that it’s as if he can read others’ minds and tell what they’re thinking.  Remember: at the end of the first season, Killian’s mother Penelope, aka Athena, admitted to Joanna that she “borrowed” the magical abilities of her sons, which they would have inherited from their grandfather, in order to augment her own for her revenge against the Beauchamps.  When she died, it seems magical abilities returned to the Gardiner boys. Killian doesn’t realize it yet and appears to forget that brother Dash tele-kinetically tossed him into a boat, leaving him unconscious and for dead, in the first season finale. Either way, he admits his uncanny card-playing ability to a mysterious woman, a friend who apparently saved his life.  She coyly asks if he will be returning home; he indicates that there is “nothing” for him there, so he does not plan to do so.  They then kiss, and the camera reveals an owl tattoo on her back.

Dash, on the other hand, is struggling with feelings of darkness and rage following his breakup from Freya. He enjoys coming into the Bent Elbow tavern where Freya works and glowering at her and/or telling her to stay away from him (men).  Mostly, he has been attempting to use his new powers of his own free will; he caught on more quickly to the idea that he possesses some magical power after his altercation with Killian on the docks.  In addition, a strange patient has come into the hospital with a symbol carved into his chest, raving about dark entities that are “coming.”  The patient is treated as a psychiatric patient, but Dash is unconvinced, given the surprise and incredible existence of his magical abilities.  He orders some tests and is informed that the results are anomalous to humans, and that the only other person with similar results ever to be discovered at the hospital came from Ingrid (when and where…I don’t know or remember).

The most interesting development in this episode is that, while Victor goes off to South America in search of a rare plant that might be able to cure Joanna, their son Frederick appears at Joanna’s doorstep, newly emerged from the door to Asgard.  What we know as viewers is that Frederick was left behind by Joanna, mostly involuntarily, after he “sided with their father,” i.e. Frederick, Ingrid, and Freya’s grandfather. Frederick appears and doesn’t remember much, though he is able to find his mother.  Wendy doesn’t trust her nephew, given the past and the fact that it was due to their father’s machinations that Joanna and Wendy and the girls left Asgard to begin with, but Frederick identifies Joanna as being ill due to poison and magically absorbs the poison from her body, which he indicates will not affect him because he has been building up an immunity to it (this viewer forgets the name of that poison).  In any event, Wendy still finds it difficult to trust him, even as Joanna is ecstatic that Frederick is here, and that her life has been spared.  The camera then cuts to Frederick sitting on his bed, listening to the conversation from an upper floor with enhanced hearing and with the same marking on his shoulder that appeared on the patient admitted to the hospital and under Dash’s care.

The tone of this premiere was a bit different than the tone of the entire season preceding it.  The advertising for the show’s new season repeatedly suggests that “darkness is coming,” but this first episode was a bit clunky in its attempts to establish the new antagonists this year, though this viewer predicts that the “darkness” in question is Joanna and Wendy’s father, vague though the darkness may be at this point.  Still, time will tell, and the soul-connection love between Freya and Killian in addition to the appearance of Frederick certainly offers some tantalizing tidbits of story to follow as the season progresses.  Mostly, the mystery of Asgard looms – what drove the Beauchamps to this realm, and why are they sought so voraciously by beings from that one, including their father?  And, really, when did Ingrid forgive her own father? So little time appears to have passed between first season finale and second season premiere, and yet, a few important details have been glossed over – hopefully, this show doesn’t suffer from a sophomore season slump.

One thing is for certain: the dialogue remains cheesy, and the performances of Boston and Dewan-Tatum still ring a bit melodramatic.  Oh well – Witches of East End is the guiltiest of pleasures, after all.  The story is fun, and the adult women, particularly Ormond, lend some credibility to the proceedings, though this viewer finds that I will miss Virginia Madsen (the erstwihle Penelope).  She played the two-faced Penelope very well.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Questions Following the First Season

1) What is Asgard, really?  Why did it burn Mike up when the portal opened upon Ingrid’s touch?  Why did the Beauchamps leave to begin with?  What will happen now that the portal is open?

These are the biggest questions so far, though Mike is gone for good.  No answers yet.

2) Is Killian dead?  He can’t be!  First of all, he is all kinds of deliciousness.  Seriously, Mr. DiTomasso is a gorgeous man.  Second, after all that soul-mate realization, I hope Freya is able to save him.

Answer: No, of course not.  He and all of his gorgeousness are alive, but not thanks to Freya.  He is in the Caribbean, kicking it with some new woman with an owl tattoo, and is determined to stay far away from home, believing that Freya married Dash, and that Dash wants him dead.

3) Why is Ingrid the key to the portal?  Why does she seem to be the most magically powerful after her mother?

This is still a question. Hopefully, we’ll get an answer this season.

4) Why did Joanna and Victor ultimately split up?

Also, is Victor sticking around?

5) What’s going to happen as Dash (and possibly Killian) discover their magical abilities?  Is it significant that these two men, so connected to Freya, also have these abilities?

The premiere percolated some possibilities for these brothers.  I believe this season will explore these questions heavily.

6) Was Archibald from Asgard?  How did the Gardiners come by these abilities?

Good questions!  Still applicable!

7) Wendy’s on her last life: how much time does she have?

However little time she has left, she is well aware that she is on her last life and is frequently warned by Joanna to tread carefully. Wendy may be a casualty before long.

New Questions

1) Why is Frederick here?  Is he after his mother and aunt for whatever deeds offended their father?  Or, is he really trying to get away from his grandfather, as he repeatedly suggested (I’m with Wendy, though…I don’t believe it).

2) What is the symbolic tattoo/scar indicative of?  Why did the random patient and Frederick both have it? Does Wendy’s mysterious paramedic have it too?

3) How are Killian and Freya going to be reunited – are they going to be reunited at all?  Who is the girl with the owl tattoo, and is she there by chance or with a purpose?

4) Why was Dash learning about Ingrid’s blood results significant?  Will he make the connection that the Beauchamps are witches also?  If he does: what then?

Items That Interest Me Less

1) Wendy’s new stranger – unless he is Asgardian.  I feel as if he was introduced just to give Wendy more to do other than be the free spirit that is endlessly protective, though sometimes flippant, about the safety of her sister and nieces.

2) Ingrid’s new job, though I enjoy the presence of Tom Lenk, otherwise known as Andrew from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Does this mean she is leaving the library?  Either way, unless it ties into the larger story: yawn.

PARTING SHOTS:

The second season premiere of the Witches of East End was far more inconsistent, slower, and less interesting than the season preceding it.  The first season was so addicting, most likely due to the love triangle between Freya, Dash, and Killian; the novelty of the Beauchamps’ magic; and the exploration of past lives, particularly Ingrid’s.  In order for this Asgard angle to entice and be as riveting, the writers and producers are going to have to step up their game a bit to compensate for the loss of these interesting past story lines, since Freya chose Killian.  It would be wonderful if the show implements some flashbacks of Asgard and mete out more of that back story, which has not been discussed at length as of yet on the show. Also, who is the real villain this year?  Penelope emerged early in season one – is Dash becoming his mother, or are we really focused on the unspecified “darkness” looming in the woods near the portal to Asgard? Hopefully, this program won’t succumb to that second season slump after such a riveting and well written (if not necessarily well performed) first season, though the impression this viewer has is that the show is less comfortable with its new direction; perhaps, the producers were only expecting one season.  Let’s hope they can rise to the challenge of an ongoing story.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Witches of East End was automatically ordered for a full second season of thirteen episodes.  Renewal information will likely not be available until the fall.  This blog will review the show again at the end of the second season; however, discussion on the episodes is welcome.  If you have any thoughts or feelings about this or any of the other second season episodes, comment below!  A discussion forum for interested parties may be created if there is a lot of interest.  Absent that, enjoy the second season of Witches of East End!