Grimm, Season 6 (Part One of the CPU! Goodbye to Grimm, MAJOR SPOILERS)

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A new podcast episode of Couch Potatoes Unite!, which is based on a blog of the same name hosted at couchpotatoesunite.wordpress.com. In this episode, recorded in May 2017, our panel of CPU! supernatural and fairy tale enthusiasts – including moderator Kylie, Kristen, Nick, and Jen – is Around the Water Cooler and discussing Season 6, the final season, of Grimm, in the first part of a two-part miniseries in which CPU! says goodbye to this long-running, procedural, fantasy-horror series.  If you have not watched any of Grimm, be aware that there are MAJOR SPOILERS! Tell us what you think in the comments below and check out the blog and YouTube for other TV related discussions, in both podcast and blog format. Also, if there are other shows you’re interested in the blog covering, sound off below! Tell us what you like or don’t like. Keep the discussion going!

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PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: “Grimm” – The Goodbye Series, Part 1: The Season Six Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

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Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who: “Grimm” aired on network TV, specifically on NBC, for six seasons, from 2011-2017.

What: “Grimm,” a supernatural/fantasy drama, wherein supernatural forces, the stuff of nightmarish fairy tales and legends, are disguised as human beings, and only those descended from the original Brothers Grimm, can see – and fight – those beings and their true natures (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/grimm/summary.html).

When: Season Six aired from January 6, 2017, to March 31, 2017, on NBC.

Where: The show is set in Portland, Oregon.

Why:  The premise of this show has always been intriguing: Grimms are not weavers of fairy tales but are humanity’s last line of defense against the beasts and monsters that haunt our nightmares. This generation’s Grimm is a police detective who stumbles into his family legacy by accident and must adjust what is his mostly normal life to these new abnormalities.  The mythology in this show is steep, meaning it will always be a cult TV show at best, but cult TV tends to appeal to this group of CPU! panelists more than mainstream/non-cult TV, and none of us have been disappointed by Grimm so far…and we continue to be drawn into its mythical and magical world, as the show only gets better in the process.

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

CPU! last covered Grimm in January of this year, quickly catching loyal potatoes up on three seasons of the program after a hiatus from covering the cult favorite on the blog. To refresh, give a read or take a listen to our prior coverage:

The Season Three Premiere Recap

Seasons 3, 4, and 5 Reflections and Recap

In this entry, our Grimm panel, featuring frequent CPU! panelists Kristen, Nick, and Jen, engages in part one of a two-part CPU! series in which Couch Potatoes Unite! says our own protracted goodbye to this procedural fantasy horror drama about monsters and monster-hunters based upon the stories by the Brothers Grimm.  In the first part of this miniseries, our panelists delve deep into recapping Grimm’s final season, in which our characters battle “The Destroyer,” solve the mystery of the healing Grimm stick, and find relative happiness ever after by the end of the series.  In the second part, which will publish next week, CPU!’s Grimm panel will engage in one of our “Looking Back” discussions, during which we will reflect upon Grimm as a whole and whether we think this series will hold up over time or whether it was but a precious, fleeting moment in the annals of TV’s Friday fright nights.

In season six, Nick (David Giuntoli) faces his grimmest foe yet; squares off against Sean Renard (Sasha Roiz), still reaching for some type of power; and sorts through feelings for Eve, formerly known as Juliette (Elizabeth “Bitsie” Tulloch), while raising his son with current love and former enemy Adalind (Claire Coffee).  In the meantime, Nick, as he always has, battles the wesen that go bump in the night with the help of his police partner Hank (Russell Hornsby), Lt. Wu (Reggie Lee), and wesen power couple Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Rosalee (Bree Turner).  Thus, in this chapter “Around the Water Cooler,” our Grimm panel examines each of the main characters and discusses how we feel about the show’s swansong season, including the all-too-brief “20 Years Later” epilogue tag of the series finale and the touching, multilingual goodbye to fans.

This first part of our two-part Grimm goodbye was recorded in May 2017, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of the sixth and final season.  In fact, our panel’s devotion to Grimm is as steadfastly loyal as it is to other genre shows that CPU! coversbased upon the program’s roots to the Brothers Grimm and to the history of monster stories throughout the ages.  Give the new episode a listen, see if you agree or disagree with our thoughts, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Next week, we publish the second part of this two-part goodbye series, in which our Grimm panel looks back at the show as a whole in one last chat, for this particular panel and for this particular show, around the water cooler. Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Final Considerations

Old Questions

1) Will the Royals return in the sixth season?  If they do, what will be their aim?  Are they behind the wesen uprising organization known as “Black Claw?” Who is the ultimate head of “Black Claw?” Is Sean head of both now?  Why?

ANSWER: The Royals did not return; in fact, they seem rather extinct – a forgotten plot arc from this six-season series.  What’s more, the writers and producers never explained who founded Black Claw and whether or not those founders are/were connected to the Royals.  The show only served to confirm, via a convenient off-screen investigation by Trubel (Jacqueline Toboni), that Black Claw was officially defunct as of the season premiere or shortly thereafter.

2) What is the stick that Nick found in the Grimm treasure chest, and what part will it have to play in the coming episodes?  Does it only work when he touches it?  Is it meant for him or for any Grimm?  Is it divine in origin?  Where was it found?  Why do the Grimms have it? Can wesen use it?  Does it heal but also take life away?  So many questions have been raised!

ANSWER: The stick, with the magical healing powers, turns out to play a critical part in the final season.  What we learn is that the stick is a shard of a larger whole: a staff, in possession of a demon called Zerstorer (which is German for “The Destroyer”).  Zerstorer resides in a world beyond mirrors, a heaven or hell for wesen, in which they are voged all the time, though humans also exist in this looking glass dimension.  Zerstorer possesses the staff now, but Monroe pieces together that the staff has been passed around through the ages; in fact, whether it began with or was merely possessed by him, the staff at one point belonged to the biblical Moses, who carried commandments and parted seas.  The staff seems only to respond to Zerstorer, to Nick (or, perhaps, a Grimm), and to Diana, Adalind and Sean’s daughter.  The shard/staff plays a larger part in a prophecy foretelling the end of times, should Zerstorer obtain the shard, make the staff whole, and also marry his destined child bride, the all-powerful Diana.  

The show did not explain outright that the staff/shard is divine in origin, but as the staff is connected to Moses and to other biblical figures, like the David who slew Goliath, I think it is safe to assume that the power of the stick is, in fact, divine.  The show, however, does not explain how the staff came to appear, where Zerstorer came from, or how he came upon the staff himself.  We do know that the Grimms who fought in the Crusades found the shard stick and hid it in the Black Forest in Germany, accessible by the Grimm keys.  Wesen can use it, if the wesen in question is Diana, who is three quarters hexenbiest.  The shard can also destroy, particularly if arming the staff of Zerstorer.

Despite all the questions, the show and its writers did see fit to answer all of the questions (or most) pertaining to the series’ overarching mythology, though the ending sort of confused matters.  Listen to the podcast episode for details.

3) Will young Diana, who has grown at an alarming rate, be the “Big Bad” of the final season, with her bratty child demeanor and potent magical ability?  How will Adalind (and Sean) keep her in check?

ANSWER: Diana, fortunately, is not the Big Bad but is connected to said Big Bad by prophecy.  In fact, she figures into the proceedings like something of an Antichrist, Grimm-style: if she marries/mates with Zerstorer, the world this side of the mirror will end.  To her credit, Diana responds dutifully to Adalind and Sean, though they handle her with proverbial kid gloves.  After all, when set off, their daughter proves to be quite the little murderer.

4) Is Juliette still a hexenbiest? Will she be more Juliette-like since coming into contact with the magical Grimm healing stick?

ANSWER: Juliette, now Eve, remains a hexenbiest as of the final closing credits of the series, but as far as whether contact with the Grimm stick brought out her inner Juliette – undetermined.  Juliette/Eve seems to experience remnants of former emotions and memories of her love for Nick, but these fleeting feelings never last. In fact, at the last, she is willing to die for Nick, having no regrets about the paths their lives have taken.  Unfortunately, the epilogue fails to discuss how Juliette/Eve fares twenty years into the future.

5) Will there be a war between wesen and humans?  Did Black Claw and the resistance organization Hadrian’s Wall effectively incite one?  Are humans more aware of wesen now?

ANSWER: The short answer is no.  Apparently, Sean’s swift, marionette-like murder (courtesy of his daughter) of Bonaparte effectively ends anything to do with Black Claw, Hadrian’s Wall, or the potential war among wesen. Humans, at least those in Portland, further remain blissfully unaware of the innately monstrous inner qualities of their wesen neighbors.  If it smells like an abandoned plot line, it most likely is an abandoned plot line, or so the panel surmises in this podcast episode.

6) Will Nick end up with Juliette or will he be with Adalind, who he now also loves and who has custody of their son, Kelly (listen to the podcast for details)?  Will Adalind be able to return to Nick?

ANSWER: Survey says – Nick and Adalind!  Juliette/Eve, feeling no regret about the trajectory of her life and her split personality, does not pursue anything with former flame, Grimm Nick.  In fact, Adalind is swiftly able to return to Nick after Bonaparte’s death, and, following the ending events of the series finale, it is presumed by the panel that she and Nick raise their son Kelly to be a Grimm fighter like his father.

7) Does Sean really subscribe to Black Claw’s philosophies?  What will he do that he is now mayor, owing to the fact that he “got in bed” with Black Claw, who aims for wesen to live free as the creatures they are?  Who will be promoted to Captain of the South Precinct? Will Hank (Russell Hornsby)?  Will Wu (Reggie Lee)?  Will Nick?

ANSWER: In a complicated shuffling of allegiances and character motivations, we learn that, apparently, Sean bought in to that whole Black Claw mantra and is drunk on potential mayoral power, declaring Nick a fugitive and ordering his fellow police officers to search for, arrest, and detain Nick as the season begins. Nick, though, is a wily Grimm with a willing group of friends ready to help, and through the same hexenbiest ritual that led to Adalind’s pregnancy, Nick breathes through the Sorting Hat to take on the visage of one Captain/Mayor Sean Renard.  It is a risky venture, though, as Nick’s inherent Grimm-ness puts Nick in jeopardy of being Sean’s double permanently, but while playing doppelganger, he is able to stage a press conference, where Nick-as-Sean renounces his public office and abdicates as mayor as well as declares Nick free and clear of all criminal charges, thus leaving Sean to continue in his capacity as captain and to seethe at Nick from a much-too-close afar.

8) Is there a cure for Wu’s lycanthrope condition?  Rosalee said there wasn’t one, but she’s pretty resourceful with spices and teas.  What will happen to him?  What is he, really?

ANSWER: Apparently, there really is no cure, or none found within the six seasons of Grimm. As of the final moments of the series, Wu remains a lycanthrope – who, as panelist Jen pointed out, looks vaguely (and more) like a caveman rather than a werewolf.  And since the show fails to mention Wu’s fate in the epilogue, we presume he lives happily ever after – lycanthrope and all.

9) Rosalee is pregnant.  Will the baby be half blutbaten, half fuchsbau, or one or the other? Will she be able to have it, since wesen mixing is uncommon?

ANSWER: Well, it’s not so much the baby as the babies. Rosalee and Monroe make triplets, as it turns out, though what mixture of wesen they might be remains a mystery and one unsolved by the show’s writers.

10) Will baby Kelly be half hexenbiest (or zauberbiest), half Grimm, or one of the other?

ANSWER: We know Kelly grows up to be a Grimm like his dad; whether he has magical ability or not like his mom, the show did not say.

11) Will Hank finally find a woman or fall in love with one who doesn’t leave him or physically threaten his life in some way?

ANSWER: As of the series’ final moments, Hank is not romantically linked to anyone, but we think it’s safe to say that Hank is able to achieve some much needed self-love and appreciation during a farcical run-in with this show’s version of Cupid.  A little venomous spit, a little champagne, a mirror, and some Marvin Gaye will go a long way, am I right?!

12) What is at the end of the tunnels underneath Nick’s secret bunker apartment? Why did we spend so much time worrying about those tunnels, except to set up the other characters’ escape from Black Claw and Sean while Nick stayed behind to fight them when they descended upon the loft?

ANSWER: The tunnels are nothing more than a way out and to the surface above ground when the plot calls for such a convenience, a place to lay low when the characters need to hide (like Nick and Eve), and a place in which Eve can magically carve mysterious symbols on the underground walls as a result of her contact with the Grimm shard.  Lucky the tunnels were there, then, we guess.

13) What will Sean do to Nick, since Nick took out all of the Black Claw that came to kill him?

ANSWER: Sean tries to have Nick arrested and/or killed as the season starts and as described above, but when Nick pulls his magical body switcheroo and solves all of the ruckus and ado, Sean and Nick reach an uneasy detente, at least until they are forced to work together to protect their children from Zerstorer.

14) What will Nick do to Sean, since Adalind was coerced into leaving Nick with Kelly to be Sean’s political trophy wife and Diana’s caretaker with the promise that Adalind could be reunited with Diana?

ANSWER: Nick gets a few licks in while wearing Sean’s looks but ultimately chooses to keep his distance after the hullaballoo, for the sake of their precinct and their children.

15) Will baby Kelly grow as fast as Diana?  Or, was Diana augmented by the spell that Adalind underwent in season three to regain her hexenbiest abilities?  Will these young but presumably magical siblings have to duke it out somehow?  Will Kelly grow at an alarming rate?  Or, will the show time jump during the final season?

ANSWER: There are no answers to most of these questions.  The show did time jump in the epilogue, so we see Kelly first as a baby and then as a 20 year old man, in a trailer not unlike Aunt Marie’s trailer, previously torched by Juliette when she first assumes her hexenbiest abilities.  We don’t know how or why Diana came to be so powerful (except by prophecy), and the epilogue tells us that brother and sister get along fairly well in their grown up years.

16) How will the show end?  Will there be a “happily ever after” for our characters?  Will we lose someone this season?  How will these thirteen episodes shape up?

ANSWER: Zerstorer ends up killing everyone that Nick loves in succession, beginning in the penultimate episode with Wu and Hank at the precinct, followed by Juliette/Eve at the Spice Shop and Sean, Adalind, Monroe, Rosalee, and Trubel at the cabin where Nick first met/worked with Monroe in the pilot and where Nick, Adalind, and Sean are hiding the children from Zerstorer.  Zerstorer facilitates this carnage to entice Nick to give him the shard stick to complete the broken Staff, which Zerstorer needs whole in order to fulfill the prophecy of his world domination and creepy wedding to Diana.  Nick momentarily contemplates willingly volunteering the shard to Zerstorer’s reaching claw in order to bring back all who have died, after Zerstorer revives Trubel to show Nick that it is possible to have everyone back and alive with the Staff’s power.  Trubel resolves to stop Nick, and they get into a drag-out fight, Grimm versus Grimm.  Nick bests Trubel but meets the (spirit? embodiment? walking dead?) personages of his mom Kelly (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and his Aunt Marie (Kate Burton), who not only convince him to do what’s right but go into battle with him, fighting alongside Nick and Trubel.  They defeat Zerstorer; Trubel doesn’t see Nick’s family, but powerful Diana does, as do Nick and Zerstorer.  The spirits of his family disappear as Nick resolves to revive everyone with the staff Zerstorer left behind (now whole with the shard). After Nick removes the cursed engagement ring from Adalind’s cold finger, ready to revive her, a portal opens instead, and Nick is drawn back to this world at a time when everyone is alive, at the point where Zerstorer originally came through the mirror before all the dying happened and without the Destroyer himself.  Only Diana knows what really happened, while Nick feels gratitude and relief that everyone is saved, though Monroe finds the staff, a new anomaly to this new present.  Also, Adalind wears no ring when Nick returns to this world.  It is a tearful moment, ringing of a cast goodbye.  Eve, who was temporarily not a hexenbiest after emerging from the mirror portal a first time without her wesen side, is restored.  Nick and Adalind remain forever together.  

In the Epilogue, we see Kelly Jr. writing in the Grimm books, telling the tale of his Dad’s heroic saving of the world (he also tells us how Trubel is related to Nick, in that she is his third cousin on his mother’s side).  Diana comes in and informs him that Dad-Nick, Mom-Adalind, and “the Triplets” are on the trail of a wesen.  They are clearly nice siblings to each other.  Diana magically closes the Grimm book.
The End.

17) Are Nick and Trubel related after all?  What does the ancient Grimm registry reveal?

ANSWER: We don’t get to see any glimpse of the registry, but Kelly Jr., in the Epilogue, confirms that Trubel is Nick’s third cousin on his mother’s side.

18) Will any of the characters end up dying?  The podcast panelists feel that Wu, Monroe, Rosalee, and Adalind are particularly susceptible to possible collateral self-sacrifice because of their histories (Wu has the strange lycanthrope disorder, Monroe and Rosalee constantly run into danger for Nick, and Adalind does the same for her children and may do something self-sacrificing for Nick or even for Juliette, as she has sometimes done in the past).

ANSWER: All of the characters survive, thanks to the magical, possibly divine, Grimm stick/shard/staff.  Monroe and Rosalee have the triplets, and everyone keeps on fighting wesen, at least for another twenty years… In other words, They Live Happily Ever After.  The End.  Again.

Lingering Questions

1.) Who were the Royals really, other than Sean’s biological family, and why were we forced to care about them for so many seasons if they were only going to be forgotten in the end?

2) What sorts of beings are Monroe and Rosalee’s triplets, and why did the show not bother to speculate upon this important detail?

3) Where are Hank, Wu, and Juliette/Eve in the epilogue?  They’re not worth a mention after all that?

4) How about a spin-off, Grimmsters?

PARTING SHOTS

Grimm became appointment television for our devout panelists, whether on Friday fright night or via Saturday morning Hulu doses.  Though never a perfect program or more than a cult favorite because of its steep mythological aspects and show-specific jargon, the fan base it cultivated in six years became tenacious, voracious, and loyal.

The entire panel recommends Grimm to anyone who likes anything about the fantasy or horror genres and advises that such genre nerds consider giving it a chance – or a second chance if the first chance didn’t quite sell the stable. Apart from some shaky continuity and several abandoned story threads – in fact, the most consistent continuity arises from how regularly the show abandoned some plot arcs without offering a deeper meaning to the overall narrative or a neat resolution to leave our panelists satisfied – Grimm remains well written and worth the look, with a decent, good-not-great, and ultimately satisfying denouement. Grimm goes out on a high note and no doubt earns at least one nostalgic re-watch, somewhere down the line.  Also: David Giuntoli is a handsome leading man, if those kinds of details matter to discerning viewers like you. 😉

LOOKING AHEAD

Grimm has officially ended, but the CPU! Grimm podcast panel is not quite finished!  We will publish a second part to this mini podcast series saying goodbye to Grimm, in which we will Look Back at the series as a whole, next week! Stay tuned, subscribe, like, and follow to keep abreast of that publication, and tell us what you think in the comment forums.  What’s more, review us on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, or YouTube, and check out our other podcast episodes related to a growing array of TV shows! Until next week!

Pilots and Premieres and First Looks: “Constantine” (Officially Canceled by NBC, now on CW Seed; SPOILERS)

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Reviewed by: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Constantine,” which aired on NBC during the 2014-2015 season.

What: “Constantine” is based on the DC Comics property Hellblazer and features Matt Ryan as John Constantine, the title character, a British exorcist and occult detective who hunts supernatural entities.

When: The series aired from October 24, 2014, to February 13, 2015, over thirteen episodes. On May 8, 2015, NBC canceled Constantine after only one season due to poor ratings.

Where: The action is set anywhere in the world, though predominantly in the United States within the series, and anywhere with supernatural “hot spots” that hearken to Constantine via various signs and methods of foretelling.

Why: During the annual Fall TV Preview for the 2014-2015 season, CPU! Chief Kylie picked up this show for viewing, though it was canceled before I could ever get around to it, weighed down as it was by sagging ratings.  When I picked it up, I said:

Based on a DC comic (“Hellblazer”), this has all the trappings of being a great Friday fright night entry, mixing elements of The Exorcist, Supernatural, and, of course, the film of the same name (which starred Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz – and wasn’t very good) and based on the same comics. I’ll probably be watching this on the internet, mostly, but it sounds like a great possibility for television, and the fantasy/horror angle is very much my cup of tea.

Unfortunately, because someone who writes about (and podcasts about) TV is perpetually behind, I prioritized it lower on my TV watch list.  If I had viewed it in real time, it might not have mattered anyway because, sadly, though John Constantine remains one of my favorite DC comic characters, his development for this TV show, though better than for the Keanu Reeves vehicle, sputtered into the “too little/too late” category, despite the extremely charismatic and, really, best portrayal of him by Matt Ryan.  Read on.

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

Constantine = ***1/2 by the end of the available thirteen episodes.  If I were to rate it following the pilot alone, it would have been three stars.

SYNOPSIS

John Constantine (Ryan), a demon hunter and dabbling master of the occult, must struggle with his past sins while protecting the innocent from the converging supernatural threats that constantly break through to our world due to the “Rising Darkness.” Balancing his actions upon the line of good and evil, Constantine uses his skills and a supernatural scry map to journey across the nation with the intent of sending these terrors back to their own world, all for the hope of redeeming his soul from eternal torment.

THOUGHTS

I chose to press forward with viewing this series for two primary reasons.  First, the character of Constantine appeared in the fourth season of Arrow, which I’m now caught up on and a big fan of, owing to CPU!’s DCTU podcast panel.  Since everything is so interconnected within the Arrowverse, I like the crossover finesse that comes with this universe and the many shared appearances of the characters of its constituent shows.

Second, because of Constantine’s past appearance on Arrow, and the tease of possible future appearances, the CW made the show available on the CW Seed.  Availability and efforts to get caught up on the DC Television Universe shows kept this doomed entry on the CPU! viewing list (and this viewer’s radar) despite its cancellation, and so I finally watched it before viewing the fourth season of Arrow.

Ultimately, this viewer’s perception is that Constantine’s cancellation is utterly unsurprising, but the cancellation itself is unfortunate because whatever was transpiring behind the scenes of the show, there was obvious course correcting that was starting to gain some story traction and engagement, but such course correction inevitably came too late.  If the flawed and teetery pilot did not outright lose viewers, the first six episodes probably achieved that effect handily; after the first six episodes, the show got better but also fatally presumed that a loyal audience had been following the program all along, when in fact, ratings show that viewers were disappearing from an already risky Friday night time slot in droves.

So, why the low ratings and why the after life?  Constantine was a complicated, unsteady mix of stuff, like a house of supernatural cards, but its foundations were good.  There were aspects to the show that were really quite promising, highlighted by a predictable but tantalizing twist at the now end of series that will never see satisfactory resolution in a television medium.  Unfortunately, the show was also plagued by some rather blatant problems that were never really solved.  Even if the show had survived into a second season, it would not have survived much longer because a middling genre show is a lot riskier for a major network to produce than a middling sitcom or a middling one-hour procedural drama.

Below, your friendly neighborhood couch potato (i.e. me) attempts to reason through the enigma that is Constantine – what was good, what was not so good, and what really should have been abandoned from the jump.  Then, per usual, I will make a recommendation – but I warn you, it’s going to be one of those unsatisfying recommendations that will probably not successfully convey a sincere recommendation to anyone.

I’m really selling it, aren’t I?

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Let me start off with some disclaimers.  First, I’m a DC fan girl.  While I haven’t read a ton of comic books, I have more than a passing familiarity with many members of the DC legions of heroes (or antiheroes) and villains.  The Hellblazer comic premise and the character of Constantine have always been story possibilities about which I’ve wanted to read and explore, about which I’ve always been intrigued, and about which I have more than a passing knowledge, but there has never been a live action vehicle that has done the premise or the character justice.  I was hoping beyond hope that this TV show would buck that trend.

Second, this genre is my genre: fantasy/horror/supernatural and so on is where it’s at for me. Supernatural, which no doubt draws much of its inspiration from this comic book property (or, so say better experts than me), remains one of my all time favorite shows, and I generally get into things that involve magic, the spooky, the divine, and the extraordinary.  So, I walked in hopeful but, because I sat down to watch this program post-cancellation, with tempered hope.

Third, I watch a lot of TV.  I mean, obviously.  I also watch a lot of genre television.  If we are talking about science fiction, fantasy, light horror, or superhero, I will probably show up to watch it.  Thus, you will probably think me more lenient than the average critic. That’s fine.  Still, I am trying to be fair – and to be fair, Constantine was on the struggle bus from episode one.  Being on the struggle bus does not mean that it was all bad, however, and that’s the lens through which to focus your analysis of this review.

What Was Good

Matt Ryan is, by far, the best part of this program and is its most redeeming quality. The show would likely have been canceled much earlier, without additional episode order(s), if not for his dead-on, somewhat campy, but always charismatic portrayal of devil-may-care Constantine. This is the Constantine of the Hellblazer comics: he’s brash, he’s direct, he’s kind of a wanker, but he’s always sincere in his desire to save the world from forces unseen.  Ryan brought a bravado to the role that was always engaging, and he was the standout performer from the offing.  Unfortunately, none of the other performances matched his particular earnestness, leaving him to do literally all of the heavy lifting, from serious as a heart attack to comic relief emoting, while the rest of the ensemble tended to crowd around him woodenly.

The only other performance with any sort of likability factor belonged to Charles Halford as Chas Chandler, one of Constantine’s sidekicks.  Though he served as the deadpan half of this dynamic duo and, sometimes, the straight man to Constantine’s more extravagant antics, Halford was given some dialogue and a character arc that allowed him to explore both dramatic and comedic bends.  Plus, he was given an interesting backstory, where a bit of magic left him with more than the normal one life allowed to any being.  He was sort of immortal as a result, coming back to life when he should otherwise be dead and allowing himself to be a shield to Constantine and his other sidekick, Zed (Angelica Celeya), in the face of supernatural dangers.  Yet, he also left a life behind that involved a wife and a child, and these stories were flushed out, in some ways more than they were for the title character, giving Halford a chance to stretch his performance beyond repeated resurrections and being the bemused Constantine caretaker.

Also, the special effects were more than decent for a Friday night entry into NBC’s foundering schedule.  The Peacock network has been struggling to find mainstays on most nights and has been lagging behind the other networks, apart from days airing The Voice, so it was a surprise to see that all of the magical and the spooky on this program were rendered convincingly and sometimes amazingly.  This viewer particularly enjoyed the opening titles and theme music.  They really set the stage and tone for the show – that is, of course, until the tone was squandered by the goings-on of the episode that followed, at least for the first six episodes that aired.

What Was Bad

In the performance category, no one felt more miscast than Harold Perrineau as the angel Manny.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have enjoyed Mr. Perrineau in nearly all other projects in which I have seen him, including Oz, Lost, and The Matrix trilogy.  I am not sure if Manny’s portrayal was a conscious performance choice by the actor, the suggestion of a director, or a combination of the two.  In hindsight, particularly given the series-ending twist, the choice(s) may have been geared toward adding an element of mystery to Manny, encouraging the viewer to avoid forming any set opinion about him.  The problem is, the lack of back story and the inconsistency in quality of the writing and story progression (more on that in a minute) effectively created that mystery without Perrineau’s stilted line deliveries and contact-augmented stares.  What is hard to articulate, perhaps, is that if Manny was supposed to be an angel or being devoid of emotion, Perrineau failed to convey that because he is an expressive actor, both in facial features and in vocal inflection. If the intent was to hide Manny’s true nature through something affected, the affected-ness distracted from his performance.  It was hard to suspend disbelief and subconsciously subscribe to the idea that Perrineau was Manny, likely due to the dichotomy of wondering who Manny was coupled with a decidedly human (if clipped) portrayal that undermined the gravity and presumed formidable nature of Constantine’s alleged adviser from the heavens.

In addition, the pilot originally featured Lucy Griffiths as Liv Aberdeen, one of the mainstays from the comic mythology.  Sadly, she was also incredibly out of her depth in the role, and it was recast in the form of Celeya as Zed.  While she eventually won me over, the Zed character’s particular agenda, to search for the meaning behind her telepathic powers – she has visions that steer Constantine, particularly when she touches objects or visits places – was rooted, again, in a muddled character profile that was not helped by the writing or the performance.  Celeya seemed more consistent and believable than Perrineau, but it was difficult to like her or to come to realize why the viewer should care about her and if that eventuality was the actress’ fault or the fault of the writing.  This viewer believes that there’s blame to go around, though, ultimately, I believe she shoulders less of that burden.

What Was Ugly

Which brings me to the ugliness of the Rising Darkness that is the Constantine cancellation. A fellow podcast panelist suggested that network intervention gummed up the works here. Potentially, but I would argue, in simply how the story behaved and in the fact that publicly, the show-runners admitted to wanting to take the show in a “different direction” after the pilot, that it was not the network that failed this show in the end but the writers themselves.

The show creators and producers presumed, from the jump, for example, that anyone walking into this program knew who Constantine is: what his back story looks like, why he was hellbent on saving the world from the “Rising Darkness,” what his character quirks were.  There were mentions of Constantine’s past made at strategic points throughout the series; otherwise, the show just bypassed this piece altogether.  If the show-runners ever had a hope of maintaining a larger audience for the longer term, this lack of character foundation and the assumption that the average viewer entering into the series would know the source material was a grievous misstep on the part of the head writers.  Not everyone knows the Hellblazer comics, and the Constantine movie starring Keanu Reeves provided no good foundation for the story either, as it was its own middling adaptation. Which means, the writers and producers were banking on the formula they originally chose, and the natural charisma of Ryan, to sell the show’s premise.  This was a gamble that did not pay off.  Without a solid story foundation, Ryan was simply playing a charming Liverpudlian bloke with a lot of bad habits, a censored biography, and a few magic tricks.  His purpose and fit in the world – a world that was never flushed out completely in the thirteen episodes either, apart from episodic demon banishing and Zed’s vague visions – could have used some stage setting before jumping into the episodic storytelling format.  While such a layout may be formulaic and by rote, it might have also steadied this rocking ship earlier than it did; without such a foundation, viewers had to buy what the show was selling on the situations in which Constantine and his cohorts found themselves more than what motivated them to be in the supernatural fighting game to begin with.

Speaking of episodic storytelling, curiously, the tone did not change from pilot to regular season.  Matt Ryan’s performance did not change nor did Halford’s nor Perrineau’s.  The pilot intimated at something that was more serial in nature, rooted in Constantine’s back story.  Yet, with the elimination of the Liv character and the apparent retooling of the show, the plot was meted out more conservatively beginning in episode two. Sure, all of Constantine’s efforts were directed toward the defeat of the “Rising Darkness,” but this was a vague allusion, conveniently mentioned at ends of episodes, at least for the first half of the series.  The episodes themselves were more centered on a “monster of the week” format, which, frankly, has been done before in this genre, ad nauseum.  Supernatural, The X-Files, and several comic book inspired shows follow the same format.  Telling this story in this format felt half-hearted, noncommittal, and was also unlikely to entice the long-term viewer not already invested in the source material or the story.

Of course, another course correction around episode seven belied the fact that the writers likely realized that the larger story did have to be flushed out somehow.  Suddenly, the episodes seemed to be driving toward something more definite and more sinister, largely because the idea that there might be a heaven at work against the forces of hell had to be brought back into the fold somehow beyond the quixotic appearances of Manny, the grumpy guardian angel.  It was around episode seven when more tidbits of the characters’ back stories were introduced and in a more purposeful manner, no doubt due to the fact that the show’s ratings survival was precariously hanging in the balance at that point.  The pacing on the season, so uneven and disengaging to start, definitely lurched forward with the seventh episode, featuring a preacher with the power to heal his congregation, having obtained the feather of a fallen angel named Imogen, her wings damaged by the loss of the feather, who turns out to be something she does not seem to be. Plus, in subsequent episodes, between the nun who was once a love interest and fellow magic dabbler of Constantine’s, to an episode where the lurking evil threatens Chas’ daughter, to the riveting season finale, Constantine clearly found its groove at long last – but, by then, it was too late.  A wing and a prayer and a groundswell of some loyal followers convinced the network to order thirteen episodes but no more.

Apparently, though, the show’s creators thought this new resurgence of faith was enough to guarantee season renewal. The first and only season ends on a doozy of a cliffhanger following a twist that, in hindsight, one should really see coming from episode 7.  Yet, the implications of such a twist and what it might have meant for our main characters, including the less engaging ones, will never now be known.  At least, not unless some network more forgiving than NBC finds a reason to give it a chance, and, as time passes, such a possibility becomes less and less likely.

Personally, I think if John Constantine can meet Oliver Queen and the Green Arrow over on the CW in a season featuring the villain Damien Dahrk, I don’t see why some resolution for the story lines of the ill-fated Constantine solo series can’t be drummed up somewhere within the Arrowverse.  Unfortunately, however, said solo series was the result of some spectacular decision-making fumbles in writing and in series direction that, at least in this viewer’s perspective, pretty much guaranteed cancellation from the get-go.  Perhaps, if Greg Berlanti and the folks behind Arrow and The Flash could have taken some interest in it early on, things might not have ended the way they did, but The Flash premiered in the same season as Constantine and quickly became a juggernaut mainstay for the CW, particularly since the property is more well known overall than the Hellblazer story.  It’s possible that Constantine was, thereby, a victim to timing more than anything else, and though it might be tempting to blame network interference for its demise, the question becomes at which point could the network possibly have interfered in a way that doomed this series beyond what was already dooming it inherent within its presentation?  With such a rocky pilot and a clear struggle to find sure footing for the stellar character work of Matt Ryan, network interference seems to this viewer to be nothing more than a scapegoat for larger problems, the biggest being a lack of focus and a cohesive vision for the show itself. Maybe the network ordered the show sight unseen pilot-wise.  Maybe NBC was desperate enough to gamble on Constantine when the pilot offered little guarantee of success.  Either way, it’s hard to blame the network when the creators didn’t seem to have their ducks in a row, which makes Constantine luckier than most shows of similar quality, particularly on a cancel-happy network like the Peacock.

RECOMMENDATION

In the end, it’s hard to recommend Constantine to anyone other than fans of DC Comics, particularly of the Hellblazer comic itself.  I think longtime readers of John Constantine’s quirky antics will delight in Matt Ryan’s performance and probably be happily brought along for the ride, but anyone unfamiliar with the property, even genre fans, particularly those less forgiving than me, will be frustrated by Constantine. It doesn’t help that the show ends on a cliffhanger without resolution, especially when reaching that cliffhanger takes some work and devotion in watching episodes of considerably lesser quality in the first half of the show’s only season.  If one does want to watch the show, my advice is to proceed with caution and armed with all the facts.  You won’t be satisfied, but, at least, you can enjoy thirteen episodes of Ryan’s John Constantine, the cheekiest devil to get the live action comic book treatment.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW

Canceled!  Constantine was canceled after one season by NBC, though it enjoys a streaming afterlife on the CW’s “CW Seed” platform, an app or channel for streaming devices, which carries older shows, such as the 1990s version of The Flash, old episodes of Whose Line is it Anyway?, the web series Vixen, and other gems.  As above, proceed with caution if you choose to watch Constantine and enjoy it for what it is: an adaptation of uneven quality but a brilliant depiction of the title character as well as background for the character’s crossover appearances on Arrow.

Pilots, Premieres, and First Looks: “Telenovela” (Officially Canceled; MAJOR SPOILERS)

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Reviewed by: Eddie

THE SPECS:

Who: “Telenovela” is a sitcom that aired on Winter Mondays during the 2015-2016 season on NBC.

What: “Telenovela,” a comedic behind-the-scenes look at a fictional telenovela (Spanish soap opera) shot in Miami, Florida, which follows the daily life of the show’s star (Eva Longoria) who does not speak Spanish, despite being the center of attention from the co-stars and crew.

When: The first season aired from December 7, 2015, to February 22, 2016, on NBC.  The finale was the program’s series finale, as the show was canceled after one season.

Where: The fictional show within the show is filmed in Miami, Florida.

Why: I missed seeing Eva Longoria on TV; Desperate Housewives is my favorite show!

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING. HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing. I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens. There are things I like, and things I don’t. We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes. Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together. No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys. It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

Telenovela = *

SYNOPSIS

Longoria’s Ana Sofia, the titular star of the long-running Las Leyes de Pasion, is thrown a curve ball when the network’s new boss (Chuck‘s Zachary Levi) casts her ex-husband as her male lead — without so much as a word of warning. Despite support from her costume-designer best friend Mimi (Diana Maria Riva) and insecure gay cast mate Gael (Jose Moreno Brooks), Ana Sofia starts spiraling, flashing back to a breakup that left her in a bathtub filled with tissues, listening to “All By Myself,” and eventually throwing a trashcan-overturning tantrum in front of a wall of autograph-seeking fans.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

Telenovela brings back long time television star Eva Longoria to the small screen; she plays Ana Sofia Calderon, a lead actress on a telenovela. The premise is immediately interesting: Ana is a beautiful, sexy, and stubborn Latino who cannot speak Spanish; thus, being on a telenovela, or Spanish soap opera, proves difficult for her. With the help of her friend Mimi (Riva), Ana is able to do the job, but it becomes apparent that she is lucky she has good looks.

Ana starts the season in the middle of a major divorce from not only her husband in real life (outside of the show within the show) but also from her TV husband, Xavier Castillo (Jencarlos Canela), who returns to the telenovela.  Drama predictably ensues. Other friends try to teach Ana to sing and dance and to perform as she should on such a program. Outside of the telenovela, Ana’s other major best friend, her gay pal Gael Garnica (Brooks), attempts to make Ana realize that her real-life actions and choices are not always the best, though he is ironically worried about being fired from the telenovela because his abs do not pass muster. I mean, I think he has some nice abs, but he seems pretty worried about them throughout the season.

I was enticed to watch this show based on the fact that I miss seeing Eva Longoria on TV. My favorite show, and my love, is Desperate Housewives. Yet, I feel as though NBC tried to capitalize upon Eva’s fan love from Housewives so as to justify ordering Telenovela to pilot. Telenovela lacked in several elements, however. In fact, it lacked so much in all aspects that I fear writing a review explaining what it lacked could take hours to write.

Let’s focus upon the positive aspects of the show for now. Telenovela is a comedy at heart. Every episode made me laugh, which is good, but any show, even a sitcom, needs a defined and concrete plot, and an underlying plot thread was missing from this program. Every episode seemed to rehash what we already knew about the characters without giving them a story or evolution to advance forward. What made Telenovela awful in the end was that it offered no plot, and the characters we loved, like Mimi and Gael, were given no story arcs. Every episode offered a comedic situation that made sense, but in the end, none of the episodes connected.

Another simple but major issue that I had with the show: I did not like Ana. Eva Longoria’s character was funny, but she was not the breakout or most entertaining character on the show; she was clearly meant to be the star, but she did not lead the cast in entertainment value. When I watched, I wanted to see more of Gael and Mimi.  They stole the show; these characters lent purpose to the situations being depicted, and their story lines were overall better. Ana’s story line recycled tropes centered around divorced women struggling; they lacked originality.

In addition, I do not believe that many people know what a true telenovela is unless you LOVE TV, which I do, or unless you have a Latino grandmother who watches telenovelas still and cries every day because she fears that her fantasy lover may die. NBC, the writers, or the producers should have introduced a comedy that was fundamentally much more like a traditional telenovela; this sitcom version watered down the telenovela concept, and it got lost in translation, if you will. The creators’ or network’s approach seemed to be focused upon making a simple comedy without developing the angle of the comedy that made it unique, and though the show made me laugh, it was not executed well.

Overall, I feel that Telenovela offers little more than a quick Eva Longoria fix. I enjoyed the show, but I am not shocked that it was canceled.  I rated the show 1 star, but I would give it zero stars if I could because I thought that Mimi and Gael were the funniest part of the show, and that they should be given their own show instead. The rest of the show was lackluster or outright poor.  Honestly, in the end, the shirtless men proved to be the only reason I could get through this show.

RECOMMENDATION

I would not recommend this show to any TV lover like me, unless you hanker for poor plot lines that offer no connection or unless you want to stare at half naked men for a half hour at a time.  Like I said – the half naked men was the only reason I made it to the end of this poorly conceived, poorly executed sitcom.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW

Canceled!  Due to low ratings, NBC canceled Telenovela in May 2016.  Season One, comprising the entire series, is currently available to stream on Hulu; do so at your own risk, though!

iTunes PODCAST – Broadchurch (Series 1-2) and Gracepoint (Season 1, MAJOR SPOILERS)

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A new episode of Couch Potatoes Unite!, which is based on a blog of the same name hosted at couchpotatoesunite.wordpress.com. In this episode, recorded on May 22, 2016, our panel of familiar voices – including Moderator Kylie, Kristen, Nick, Hilary, Kyle, and Krista – are Around the Water Cooler and discussing series one and two of British mystery/crime drama Broadchurch and the one-season American remake, Gracepoint, which was canceled. If you have not watched either show, be aware that there are MAJOR SPOILERS! Tell us what you think in the comments below and check out the blog and YouTube for other TV related discussions, in both podcast and blog format. Also, if there are other shows you’re interested in the blog covering, sound off below! Tell us what you like or don’t like. Keep the discussion going!

PODCAST! – Pilots, Premieres, and First Looks; Recommended by Viewers Like You; and Around the Water Cooler: “Broadchurch,” Recapping Series One and Two, and “Gracepoint,” Reviewing Season One of the Officially Canceled American Version of “Broadchurch” (MAJOR SPOILERS)

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Moderated by: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Broadchurch” is a British television crime drama, which is currently on hiatus, having aired two seasons on iTV in the United Kingdom and on BBC America in the United States.  “Gracepoint” is the American remake of the same program, and it has the same story and character types as well as the same male lead, namely David Tennant.  “Gracepoint” aired on the Fox network before the show was officially canceled after one season.

What: “Broadchurch” and “Gracepoint” were both created and written by Chris Chibnall and focus, at least initially, on the death of an 11-year-old boy and the impact of grief, mutual suspicion, and media attention on the surrounding town.

When: There are conflicting reports about when the two series of Broadchurch aired; series one originally aired on iTV in Great Britain and on BBC America in the United States in 2013, while series two aired in early 2015 on both stations.  Gracepoint aired as an “event series” on Fox from October 2, 2014, to December 11, 2014.

Where: In Broadchurch, the action takes place primarily in the fictional town of Broadchurch, in the county of Dorset, in the South of England, on the scenic Jurassic Coast and in surrounding areas, such as the county courthouse, though series two does travel to the fictional town of Sandbrook, as David Tennant’s character, Alec Hardy, investigates a case from his past.  Gracepoint occurs primarily in a fictional town on the northern California coastline called – you guessed it – Gracepoint.

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode via the link below!  Of course, for the female members of the panel (Chief Couch Potato and moderator Kylie included), the primary reason was: David Tennant, David Tennant, David Tennant.  The male members of the panel sighed with moderate contempt and resignation at this revelation.  To them, we said, “Oh well!”  Just look at the man, for heaven’s sake:

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David Tennant as Alec Hardy in “Broadchurch” – the primary reason the female members of the panel got involved with this show

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

Broadchurch (watched by the entire panel): 

Series 1: 4.5, by average of the podcast panel
Series 2: 3.7, by average of the podcast panel

Gracepoint (watched by Hilary, Kyle, and Kylie only): 2.7 on average (Kyle rated it a 2, Kylie rated it a 2.5, and Hilary rated it a 3.5).

SYNOPSIS

Series one focuses on the search for the boy, Danny Latimer’s, murderer by detectives Alec Hardy (Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). The second series primarily focuses on two plot strands: the trial of Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle) and the reopening of the Sandbrook case, a case Hardy failed to properly solve, which brings him unwanted notoriety throughout the investigation of the Broadchurch murder. Tennant, Colman, and most of the cast of series one returned for series two.  Gracepoint mirrors the plot of the first series of Broadchurch almost exactly, changing character names and locations, except for the Millers.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

Several frequent panelists nominated Broadchurch as a candidate for CPU! podcasting purposes.  The familiar voices found on this panel – namely Kristen, Nick, Krista, Hilary, Kyle, and Chief CP Kylie – are all fans of British television, including Doctor Who, and found the series recommended to them at one point or another because of that fact (and/or because of David Tennant, as noted above).  All of the panelists have quite a bit to say about this stirring and intense mystery, which they see as largely successful, despite the fact that the show did not find American audiences quite as readily, at least not until the remake Gracepoint was aired on American television – and even then only marginally, as Gracepoint was canceled by Fox.

We cover Gracepoint in this podcast episode as well, even though half of us only (Hilary, Kyle, and Kylie) watched any part of it.  If it’s not made clear by the above ratings, those who watched Gracepoint strongly recommend the original show, Broadchurch, over the inferior Gracepoint.  Kyle and Kylie, who watched the British version first, were annoyed by the fact that Gracepoint is, pound for pound and dollar for dollar, exactly the same as Broadchurch with American actors playing American versions of the characters, except for Tennant, who plays an Americanized version of his character, accent and all.  Hilary was more forgiving, as she watched Gracepoint first – and the Tennant Force is strong with her – but still cautions that Broadchurch is far better done.

Opinions fluctuate on the second season of Broadchurch, which causes some trepidation for the third season, announced to be the program’s final, which started filming in May 2016. As always, it’s a heady and deeply analytical discussion about the success of the show and the story, as well as the effects each had on each of the panelists.

This particular episode was recorded in May 2016, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of both first and second seasons. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, and/or our Stitcher Radio channel to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Also: we now have Instagram! (@couchpotatoesunite) and a Pinterest (@cpupodcast). Find us there, if these social media platforms rock your respective socks.  We plan to get groovy on the interwebs elsewhere very soon as well – subscribe, follow, like, and review to stay on top of our newest developments.

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, we will at last be publishing the fifth and final (for now) chapter of our X-Files series, when returning panelists Nick, Sarah, Hilary, and Kyle return to discuss the six-episode revival miniseries that aired on Fox in January and February 2016.  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations (Broadchurch only)

1)  Will Joe Miller somehow return to Broadchurch, despite his banishment by the other residents of the town?  Kylie predicts that he will try to come back and to acquit himself in the town’s eyes because he has convinced himself, on the strength of his legal defense, that he is truly innocent.

2) Series/season three is said to be focused around a sexual assault in the town.  Will the perpetrator be one of the characters we already know?  Or, will it be someone totally different?

RECOMMENDATION

Broadchurch is recommended to fans of British television generally, fans of mystery and crime procedural shows, and fans of David Tennant.  Broadchurch is recommended by the panel, strongly, over Gracepoint, unless, as one panelist pointed out, you just want to watch more hours of Tennant.  Broadchurch is moody, tonally dark, and extremely intense, so emotionally preparing oneself to watch this show may be necessary.  The panel also universally agreed that Broadchurch Series One is better than Series Two, though both series are considered by the panel to be better than the American version of the program. In any event, the panel praised Series One highly, noting it to be a well-written, well-performed, and well-directed, self-contained mystery, while Series Two meanders more and splits focus between two plot strands, rendering the execution messier, even if the series ends on a strong note.  Gracepoint is a carbon copy of Broadchurch, and the original did it all better.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW

Gracepoint was officially canceled after the 2014-2015 American television season. Broadchurch is currently on hiatus but was renewed for a third and final season by Britain’s iTV, which is currently being filmed.  A release date has not been announced for either iTV or BBC America.  Series One and Two is available for streaming on Netflix, while Gracepoint can only be purchased or rented via services like Amazon. CPU!’s Broadchurch panel will revisit this program once season three fully airs in the United States.  Like, follow, and/or subscribe to the blog, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher Radio, or our social media accounts to stay abreast of new episodes in the Broadchurch podcast series as well as of new episodes for all of our podcast panels!  And, if you feel so inclined, please leave us a review.  Thank you!:)

Around the Water Cooler: “Resurrection,” The Season Two Review/Recap (Officially Canceled; MAJOR SPOILERS)

Reviewed by: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Resurrection,” aired on network TV, specifically on ABC, from 2014-2015.

What: “Resurrection,” a fantasy drama in which long-deceased individuals find themselves alive again in the small town of Arcadia, Missouri, and watch as their families adjust to this news and, in some cases, try to solve the mystery of how these people received literally new leases on life.

SYNOPSIS

J. Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps), an INS agent, is sent to recover a small boy who has been discovered in a rural province in China.  He is clearly American, has no idea where he is or how he got there, and won’t talk to anyone, though he woke up in marshlands, confused and scared.  After he is shipped back to the US, Martin is able to coax the child into revealing his origins: a small town in Missouri called Arcadia.  In fact, Jacob is able to point out his house.  Martin knocks on the door of Henry and Lucille Langston’s home (Smith/Fisher) to reveal that their son has been found, but they react with disbelief: after all, according to the grief-stricken couple, Jacob has been dead for 32 years, believed to be drowned in a nearby river.  When Lucille espies the perfect carbon copy of her boy in the backseat of Martin’s car, who has not aged a day, she reacts with caution and elation all at once, while her husband recoils in fear and suspicion.  What’s more, Martin is reluctant to turn the boy over to federal custody upon the discovery of this information and convinces his boss to allow him to monitor Jacob and Arcadia, as other long deceased persons start to reappear. Martin, along with key members of the small Missouri town, work together to try to ascertain why this might be happening, while affected loved ones react with a veritable gamut of emotions, ranging from pure joy to unadulterated fear and suspicion at the return of the resurrected.

When: Season Two aired on ABC, Sundays, from September 28, 2014, until January 25, 2015.  Resurrection was canceled in May 2015, resulting in the season two finale airing as the series finale.

Where: The show is set in a small town, specifically Arcadia, Missouri.

Why: The premise for the show was fairly interesting, since some of the revived characters have been dead for decades.  It’s also executive produced by Brad Pitt, among others, and happened to air between Once Upon a Time and Revenge, both of which I watch/ed. Plus, Red Foreman (i.e. Kurtwood Smith) and Rose’s mean mother from Titanic (i.e. Frances Fisher) are two of the featured performers.

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

CPU! previously reviewed the pilot of Resurrection here and recapped season one here.

When last CPU! checked in with Resurrection, the show enjoyed decent ratings and was green-lit for season renewal.  Since that time, ABC aired a thirteen-episode second season that suffered from steadily declining ratings and dropped the cancellation axe a few months after the season finale bowed.  The show’s fate was not surprising; at the same time, the second season finale ended on a cliffhanger, and there were many unanswered questions spurred on by what would become that final episode.  If nothing else, the show’s central mystery was endlessly intriguing, even if needlessly drawn out over the course of its two seasons.

If you read this viewer’s prior reviews, you will note a common theme: Resurrection was painfully slow-paced, and this trend lasted for the life of the show.  Granted, tuning into this drama, one could not possibly expect to see a lot of action or twists–after all, an expected twist is an oxymoron–but the challenge of television, and why CPU! exists as a blog and podcast in the first place, stems from whether or not the storytellers can make their story enticing when meted out over several 30 or 60 minute episodes, over several years, rather than in two to three hour chunks, as in a film or staged play.

Resurrection was based on a novel, which I have never read.  I think the mistake for this show was not the serialized nature of the storytelling, as some TV pundits have posited, but was, in fact, the decision to pace it at a speed similar to that of reading a book.  The show suffered because it became too mired in the emotional reactions of all the characters, at an imbalance to how fast story revelations occurred.  The impulse to hold back revelations is understandable — if they come too fast, a show’s excitement factor can burn out too quickly, and the story itself can equally become boring or lose cohesion after the main story tensions are relaxed or exhausted.  Watching this show, however, left this viewer feeling that such an impulse was observed too strictly and to a fault, particularly when the show’s life was bubble-worthy at best.

After all, it is not without logic that being confronted by the seemingly living, breathing being of a loved one long thought dead might stir up some feelings.  And the first season, in its eight episode exploration of the return of Jacob, Caleb, Rachael, and eventually the influx of Returned in the first season finale, centered on those feelings almost exclusively, without providing true answers, or even clues, as to what might be happening in Arcadia, not until the season finale, that is.  When this viewer previously reviewed the first season and that finale, I was most preoccupied with the last thirty seconds of the finale, particularly the discovery of Martin’s birthmark, which I theorized was most certainly an indicator that he was also a Returned being. When I sat down to watch season two, after the cancellation axe had already been swung, this was the only moment I remembered in any great detail from the first season. I think that’s significant; if the story is going well, I tend to remember quite a bit of the show no matter how much time has passed.  If the show had any other memorable moments, they would have stuck.  Resurrection’s first season had a few significant moments but few that could truly be labeled memorable, beyond that final thirty seconds, a fact that, to this viewer’s line of thinking, prognosticated the show’s demise.

The second season served to reward the viewer a bit more with some answers, and the pacing was a bit better, but the incremental increase in either element was probably not enough to retain viewers.  A television show, even a drama with such a weighty premise, cannot saturate the viewers in emotions, in “feels,” without providing more in the way of intellectual payoffs.  In my previous review, I suggested that the writers and episode directors ought to pick up the storytelling pace to maintain interest, because season one felt entirely like exposition.  I wanted the story to shift into the next gear.  Arguably, the Resurrection production team got to that next gear in season two but did so, again, slowly, in awkward, clumsy lurches, and did not fully achieve that “next level” until near the end of the season.  It is this viewer’s belief that the writers and producers did not reward the audience in the correct way or at the correct pace; therefore, all of those but the most loyal were alienated, and the ratings declined.

That’s not to say that Resurrection’s central mystery did not entice or inspire or puzzle, or that the audience did not get some answers or clues as to what was happening as the second season progressed.  As with all shows of this nature, though, it appeared that as answers were provided, new questions were formed, especially since most provided answers did not satisfy.  The biggest question, why, as in why the Returned ultimately returned, was never answered and will never be answered, which is a shame.  The production team can be forgiven for this unanswered lingering question, particularly if that was the point of the mystery, but some of the other loose plot threads, the strands woven into the story particularly in season two, easily fray the narrative when pulled with minimal effort.  The writers created too many story gaps without planning for the possibility that they might have to end the story ahead of schedule.  The result is reflected in the following recap, which is more true to recap form; however, given the nature of the story of Resurrection, the CPU! recap will particularly focus on story revelations.  After all, this story is a mystery above all, and the mystery, I suspect, is why people watched in the first place.  It’s certainly why this viewer watched it.

WARNING: Major spoilers ahead.

Season Two’s Revelations and Recap

Despite the fact that, when the viewer last saw Martin Bellamy (Epps), he was attempting to flee Arcadia with Jacob (Landon Gimenez) in tow, facing down ominous, hovering helicopters of the military and the national guard, the season premiere opens with Martin, waking alone and in the outskirts of Arcadia. After reading recaps at the time of viewing, it’s notable that Bellamy is surrounded by dead bugs, which, as I sit here typing this, I now believe to be an Easter egg or a foreshadowing symbol; I’ll get to that in a minute. Bellamy remembers being confronted by the military but does not remember how he ended up where he is.  He begins a frantic search for Jacob, only to find the boy nonchalantly hanging out at home.  Henry (Smith) and Lucille (Fisher) Langston inform Martin that he was missing for a week, and that the military let Returned with loved ones in Arcadia stay but shipped the rest off in buses.  We later learn that there is a government facility run by a mysterious woman, who we later learn is named Angela, who has been aware of the Returned phenomenon for some time.

In the premiere, Martin eventually experiences a flashback to his missing week, in which he remembers being shot while in an interrogation room!  This confirms that Martin is at least once Returned; however, events and reveals later in the season confirm he is actually three times Returned!

Also in the premiere, Margaret Langston (Michelle Fairley, Game of Thrones) Returns (the capital R at the beginning of the word shall now represent anyone who used to be dead). She is Henry and Sheriff Fred’s (Matt Craven) mother, and she is all business, a true and extremely off-putting matriarch with a fiery resolve.  She instantly alienates Lucille, bonds with Jacob in a somewhat manipulative way, and obsesses over the fact that the Langston furniture factory in town was allowed to go defunct by Henry, who had no business ambition after the (initial) death of his son. She spends much of the season attempting to force Henry to reopen the factory, and it’s clear that she holds an uncommon control over her sons, though less so over Fred. She also appears to know more than she is letting on about being Returned.

Somewhat early in the season, the Returned start getting sick.  What’s more, those who get sick and deteriorate completely seem to disappear permanently.  What is not clear is how they started becoming sick, and the show presents two possibilities.  In the second episode, Martin and Fred discover a Returned soul in the abandoned Langston factory named Arthur.  While they don’t discover him in great shape, when they take him to see Maggie Langston (Devin Kelley), local doctor extraordinaire and Fred’s daughter (and Margaret’s granddaughter), his progress takes a sharp turn downward after a visit by Margaret, who seems to know him from her previous life. What’s more, this sickness spreads to other Returned, implying that it is contagious, to the point that Martin and Maggie are forced to seek out a vaccine or cure for it.  The show seems to suggest that either a) the sickness is the condition of being Returned and has affected past others who have Returned or b) Margaret, who seems to have greater import and/or knowledge than other Returned, caused the sickness.

Elsewhere in Arcadia, Pastor Tom Hale (Mark Hildreth) is caught between his former wife Rachael (Kathleen Munroe), who is alive again and pregnant with his child as she was before she drowned herself some years earlier, and his new wife Janine (Lori Beth Sikes). At first, the situation is uncomfortable at best, particularly when Tom offers his home to Rachael. Yet, Janine understandably fights for her husband; though he pushes Janine away, unwilling to abandon Rachael to the hard cruel world she reentered, Janine maneuvers her way into makeup sex, so that she can appear, awoken and refreshed for Rachael to see the following morning. Tom, further, is ousted from the church and decides to start his own congregation for those who are Returned or related to the Returned, which is met with support by Janine at first; however, she becomes increasingly scary and disturbing as the season progresses.  Initially, she seems interested in allowing Rachael to stay in her marital home for the purpose of making the best of a bad situation, but it quickly becomes clear that she is interested in Rachael’s baby – in fact, it becomes apparent that she is looking to adopt this baby for herself.  The baby, however, has an unusual effect on the town and the Returned, as described below; it may be that the baby has an unusual effect on everyone, including the living.

Have I mentioned that not only is Margaret extremely unhappy about the closing of the factory (she even slaps Fred at one point and tells Henry to just get over everyone’s death, hers included), she goes to the abandoned factory with Henry, tells him off for letting depression impede his furniture work, and then secretly unearths human bones from deep inside the factory?  Then, more bones are discovered in the river flowing through Arcadia when Pastor Tom baptizes Barbara, Fred’s Returned estranged wife (and Maggie’s mother), for his new church.  Maggie’s expert medical technique dates the bones back to the 1930s, further confirming that Jacob is not the first Returned, and that others have predated him.  Fred’s investigation into these bones leads him via clues back to the Langston factory, where he finds the bones previously dug up by his mother.

In the third episode, we also meet Sheriff Deputy Carl’s older brother, Mikey, who happens to be a sadistic bully that orders Carl around, forces him to make food, and generally humiliates him.  This Carl/Mikey subplot distracts from a few episodes but, altogether, bears little fruit in the plot development department over the whole season.  What we do learn from this subplot is that, when Carl has decided he’s had enough of Mikey’s generally demeaning behavior toward him, Carl shoots Mikey multiple times, only to find Mikey walking through his front door some hours later.  So, the viewer sees that the Returned can re-Return, provided that they don’t get sick.

We also learn that the Returned exist apart from their bodies.  When Martin finds himself unable to deal with his existence as a potentially evolving dead person, he consults Pastor Tom, who tells him that he found comfort in seeking Rachael’s original body.  The problem is, the government is in possession of Martin’s body, and Angela is not willing to cough up the corpse without a little intel in exchange.  Martin, therefore, agrees to act as an informant, which even leads to the government usurping the river bones, in exchange for a glimpse of his body.

Have I also mentioned, as the season progresses, that we learn that Rachael’s baby is growing at twice the rate than a baby normally should?  When Janine softens to Rachael, and even helps her pick out prenatal vitamins at the grocery store, Rachael collapses.  Maggie’s medical checkup discovers that Rachael’s baby is no ordinary baby.  Then again, she was pregnant with said baby when she initially died, so her fetus is Returned as well.

As Martin investigates the bones that were confiscated by the government by using information recorded by Maggie, he further discovers that Arthur likely died in the thirties, when the Langston factory underwent a fire.  Fred asks his mother if she knew Arthur; she lies and says she did not, but Maggie knows for a fact that Margaret visited Arthur in her office and tells her dad what he already suspects: that she’s a great big scary liar.

In the fourth episode, Henry also takes it upon himself to invite Barbara to a family dinner — this would be the Barbara that was married to Fred but cheated on him.  When she Returns in the first season, she starts living with the man with whom she cheated.  Henry believes that inviting Barbara to this ultimately awkward dinner will allow Jacob a chance to apologize for, essentially, luring Barbara to the river, where she drowned trying to save him.  The ensuing tension is palpable.  Though Lucille and Margaret have chafed readily as they vie for matriarchal dominance within the household, they bond over a mutual dislike for Barbara, but the elephant in the room cannot be ignored.  As Lucille descends into wine-induced vitriol, she joins her mother-in-law in bullying Barbara, flatly accusing Barbara of causing Jacob’s death because she was at the river to meet her lover, enticing her nephew toward the river.  The dinner’s aggression causes Barbara to run out into the night; Fred chooses to follow her and seemingly forgives her after the disdain showed to her by the female members of her family.

We also learn in this episode, from the shadier and shadier Margaret as she speaks in story and metaphor to Jacob who is upset by the events of the dinner, that she has been aware of the Returned for some time, and that she and her father (Henry and Fred’s grandfather) used to murder the Returned.  So, Margaret confirms for the viewer that the Returned have been around for some decades.  She also intimates that only she knows how to get rid of the Returned for good, furthering the possibility that she caused the sickness that affects the present-day Arcadia Returned.

The sickness affecting the Returned also affects Rachael and Carl’s brother Mikey.  Carl figures out what is going on and happily allows Mikey to disappear after the sickness consumes him.  Barbara decides to alleviate some of her sorrows by working at the local bar with Elaine (Samaire Armstrong), who is besties with Maggie.  Elaine then entices Maggie to the bar, who is able to capitalize on the opportunity to get to know her mom.  We’re reminded in this interchange that Barbara actually died younger than Maggie currently is, which brings an interesting perspective into the proceedings and reminds the viewer of the weirdness of the whole Returned phenomenon.

This reunion leaves Barbara feeling good enough to seduce her ex-husband Fred, resulting in an awkward morning-after for Maggie, who finds her parents, in their varying age-states, preparing to make chili, but she sees her parents’ happiness and is resigned to it.  Margaret, on the other hand: not so much.  Livid that her precious son should reunite with the woman who stepped out on him, Margaret visits her younger son’s household and entices Barbara out for a nighttime stroll.  Though she starts sickly sweet in that way that signifies she wants something else potentially devious, in the end, she convinces her one-time daughter-in-law to “let go.”  What this means exactly is unclear, but if a Returned can inwardly “let go, without thinking” they seem to disappear forever.  Resurrection seems to imply in this moment that this world is as much a transition to the afterlife as anything, though how or why that is, we may never know.  Barbara, consumed by the manipulative strands of guilt and regret that Margaret expertly feeds her, disappears into the night.

Fred subsequently confesses to Bellamy that the bones in the river washed down from his family’s factory.  In the meantime, Bellamy, who is growing closer to Maggie all the time, confesses that he turned the river bones over to the government faction.  He hesitates, however, to tell her that he is Returned, even as he begs Angela for help for the Returned.  Angela is not willing to play ball, and though Maggie is mad about the reasoning for releasing the bones, she and Bellamy make amends.  The problem is, Bellamy is also affected by the mysterious sickness.

Martin eventually decides, begrudgingly, to seek help from Angela for his new affliction, at which point he learns about a vaccine that suppresses symptoms but does not cure the mysterious sickness.  When her back is turned, he learns a bunch of information from files he snoops though in her office:

  • That he was initially born in 1934 but died at 6 months old.
  • That he was the baby belonging to the African American family, the Thompsons, that he found in the woods in the first season finale.
  • That he Returned first in 1972.
  • That his parents disappeared due to the sickness, but their daughter, his sister, still lived.  In fact, Martin forms a relationship with his sister (Jenny) and promises to take care of her and not to leave her in the government facility.

We also learn that Angela was the victim of a plane crash, and that her research revolves around that plane crash.  This connection implies heavily that Angela is also Returned but is hiding that fact for some reason.

Margaret, when confronted, denies causing Barbara to disappear to everyone (including Elaine, who saw it happen, and Maggie, when Elaine told her what happened) but Jacob.  She also informs Jacob that when it is their time to go, she’ll “help” him through it.

Another plot thread that starts in the sixth episode is Elaine’s brother Ray starting a group called the “True Living,” which is basically the white supremacist version of anti-Returned folks.  This group even commits hate crimes against Pastor Tom’s new church as the season progresses.  Further, Henry talks with investors about buying up and reopening the Langston factory; they have the last name Addison and inspire some strange reactions from Margaret, though she feigns forgetfulness.  It turns out that Mr. Addison is the grandson of one of the factory fire victims, who is seeking revenge against the Langstons, as Margaret’s father was considered a ruthless financier.

Also, Martin supplies the medicine to Maggie and tells her to be in charge of distributing it; however, he continues to not admit his Returned status to her, despite the fact that he, himself, needs the vaccine to survive.  When Rachael’s condition deteriorates, Rachael, sensitive to the pain she is causing Tom and Janine and plagued by fear of what might be with her baby, opts not to take the medicine.  Bellamy is convinced, however, that Rachael’s baby may hold some sort of salvation for the Returned and attempts to apply the medicine over Maggie’s protests.  Only at this time does he admit to Maggie that he is Returned.  Before receiving the medicine, however, Janine visits the unconscious Rachael in a most creepy manner, rubs her belly and talks to the unborn baby inside.  Shortly thereafter, as if by some miracle, Rachael awakes from her slumber and is symptom free.  The takeaway from this is unclear to this day, but Rachael’s improved condition resolves the tension between Maggie and Martin.  Tom, on the other hand, is leery of his wife’s motivations.

In the seventh episode, Ray, the leader of the “True Living,” somehow contracts the virus that heretofore only affected the Returned.  Though Martin appeals to Angela for more of the medicine, she assures him that the medicine does not work on the living, implying that the government was aware that the virus could affect more than just the formerly dead.  This spurs the True Living movement to commit their first mass hate crime: painting upside down red crosses on every Arcadian residence housing a Returned soul.

What’s more, the viewer also learns that Rachael has the ability, as Returned, to enter into the dreams or, even, the memories of other Returned, and her first trip has her witnessing one of Margaret’s memories about her childhood exploits with the Returned.  Margaret hadn’t met Rachael before this encounter and was surprised to learn that she was Returned to Arcadia in the present.  Margaret also goes on a date with the Addison seeking to reopen the factory for the purpose of pumping him for more information, but she learns that his grandfather was one of the factory fire victims and one of the Returned repeatedly murdered by Margaret and her father.  Suddenly, the investment deal does not seem too promising.

Though Lucille tries to make amends with Maggie over the dinner ambush fueled by wine and her dastardly mother-in-law, her niece is reticent but then feels bad for reacting poorly.  While half of the Langstons are dealing with the Barbara aftermath, Henry learns that his mother torpedoed the reopening of the factory.  Further digging leads him to the identity of Addison’s grandpa, William Kirk, and some of the truth Margaret was attempting to hide.  Instead of any violent revenge on either part, however, Henry and Kirk agree to forage ahead with the investment deal, though Henry’s part requires him to refinance his home for the capital.  This is when the viewer learns that he inherited stubbornness from his fiery mother.

Ray’s deterioration causes Fred and Bellamy to sniff out the True Living group, though they are accompanied by Deputy Carl, who is secretly a member after the horrors of living with Mikey.  Confronting this group and their hate spew spurs Martin into confessing to all that he is one of the Returned, which shocks them all, Fred included, to the core.  Bellamy’s confession also incites an unidentified member of the True Living into a change of heart, and he tells Fred in secret that Pastor Tom’s church is a target for the next attack by the group.

Tom, however, is distracted by the miracle recovery of his former wife.  Maggie reasons that Rachael’s recovery could have been augmented by the rapidly developing stem cells of her unborn child and asks permission to extract them for testing.  Janine becomes rapidly more panicked by the idea that she may be excluded from raising the child, as Tom and Rachael have clearly reformed their connection; in fact, Janine ascribes some sort of Rapture/Messiah figure to Rachael and her baby.  As a result, she manipulates Rachael into believing that Tom wants her to move out and to stay at her sister’s; however, Janine keeps her captive there.  In the meantime, Tom finds Janine’s journal, which includes brainstorms for baby names and increasingly cohesion-lacking entries gushing over the impending baby. Rachael senses Janine’s instability and calls Tom for help; Tom realizes, as he stands in his church, that he is only in love with Rachael.  Tear gas then comes through the windows, as the True Living make their move.  In an effort to save those inside, as he agreed to shelter wayward Returned, Tom rushes outside to help clear the gas but meets Deputy Carl’s truck head-on.  Tom’s a goner; the only question left at the end of the eighth episode is whether he will Return.

Subsequently, the use of Rachael’s unborn baby’s stem cells leads to a cure breakthrough, and Ray recovers.  Unfortunately, Maggie is out of the vaccine, and Bellamy now needs it, or he risks succumbing to the sickness.  When they try to contact the shady government agency, they are unable to reach Angela.  Angela implies that the vaccine has run out; however, somehow, Martin concludes that Rachael, like himself, is twice Returned, and that her body is in the government facility (when did she die the second time?  Was it in the first season?).  They beg Angela for stem cells from that Rachael body, as the Rachael in Arcadia is currently kidnapped by Janine.  While Angela explicitly tells them no, she apparently believes in Bellamy’s cause and sneaks a vial of stem cells into Martin’s bag.

Speaking of Rachael, she tells Janine that she wants to return to Arcadia; however, Janine tells Rachael that Tom is dead.  By the way, Janine also confiscates Rachael’s phone and locks her doors.  When Rachael wants to return to Arcadia to mourn with loved ones, Janine starts rubbing her belly and praying/chanting amid tears again.  Rachael, realizing the crazy with which she is cooped up, clocks Janine unawares with a teakettle, though we next find her in a parked car on train tracks, seemingly re-contemplating her initial road to her first death.

Lucille and Margaret have a disagreement about whether to tell Jacob that Tom, who was Jacob’s best friend as a child (that is, when Tom was a child, before Jacob died) had died in the True Living attack.  Margaret wants Jacob to know the truth, but Lucille reminds her mother-in-law that Jacob is only a child.  In the end, Jacob is not given to grief by Tom’s loss, noting that Tom was a grown-up and not the friend he knew, which hits Lucille hard.

In the meantime, Margaret learns that Henry resurrected (ahem) the deal with Addison and Kirk and enlists Fred’s help to stop his older brother’s risky goals.  Though Fred is loathe to help his mother, particularly as she shows and has always shown a sense of preference for Henry, he is able to convince Addison to give Henry his money back.  He’s also able to convince Henry of Margaret’s shady past and of the fact that, basically, she destroyed the Langston family with her machinations.  Henry finally believes his estranged brother and boots Margaret from his house.

Fred’s new backbone doesn’t end there.  When the town holds a memorial for Pastor Tom, and the True Living show up with the aim to “silently protest” the sympathizer of the dead, Fred gets in their faces, having already figured out that Deputy Carl killed Tom and having incarcerated Carl earlier.  Henry intercedes on his brother’s behalf but gets thrown to the ground by a surly True Living member.  Jacob, watching all of this, confesses to Margaret that he believes the Returned have caused all this strife, and that it is time for him to “let go.”  Jacob and Margaret then disappear into the crowd.

Lucille and Henry (along with Martin and Fred), panicked by the disappearance of their son, go in search of Jacob.  At the same time, a mysterious stranger emerges from the Arcadia woods, professing that he is looking for a little boy.  He has a tattoo of a tree on his back.  Henry, Fred, and Martin confront the stranger at Elaine’s bar but decide he is of no help; they instead seek Margaret at a family cabin, which was a good instinct, as she and Jacob are indeed hiding there.  While there, Margaret confesses to her grandson that her father was ordered to murder the Returned by the Langston patriarch, and that her marriage to Mr. Langston was arranged against her wishes, as the Langstons were the wealthiest family in town.  Her sons and Martin find them, remove Jacob (quite involuntarily) from the scene, and then confront their mother.  At this point, she spills that she hated her husband and hates both her children for bearing the name of the family that caused her so much grief.  Fred is unmoved by this confession, feeling that his mother never really loved him, and arranges for her to take a bus trip straight toward the government facility.  She attempts to seek his sympathy.  She also tells Fred how she learned the secret to permanent disappearance of the Returned and acknowledges her role in Barbara’s disappearance.  She also indicates that she intended to comply with Jacob’s wish to let go but couldn’t do so because she loves her grandson (apparently in spite of everything, including his name).  Fred has a change of heart and offers to hide Margaret from the government – possibly still seeking that approval he so craves – but Margaret refuses, deciding her removal from the town may be the best course of action after all.

Martin’s sister Jenny is allowed by Angela and her superiors to come live with him, and she’s apparently able to wrap her head around the fact that Bellamy was her baby brother Robert.  She also knows the mysterious stranger with the tree tattoo as Pastor James (Jim Parrack, True Blood), who was alive when her family originally lived.

We also learn, upon Jacob’s return to Lucille, that Lucille ultimately blames herself for Jacob’s death.  Apparently, Lucille was studying for her master’s degree in biology and fell asleep on the couch, reading her textbooks, at around the same time that Jacob followed his adulterous aunt to the river.  This resurfaced guilt causes her to lash out at Henry, blaming him for allowing Margaret to ruin their lives.  Henry does not react well, so Lucille boots him from their home.  He elects to stay with Fred, as the brothers have bonded over the duplicitousness of their mom.

Pastor James, meanwhile, has an unusual effect on Martin.  They have a shared vision of a swarm of bugs bursting from the earth (remember the bugs that Returned Bellamy awoke in the middle of in the premiere?).  Martin, thereafter, keeps dreaming about the pastor.  After prodding by Maggie, Martin confronts the pastor only to learn that the pastor believes he and Marty have a higher purpose, but one he never clearly defines before the season’s end.  Jenny informs Martin that Pastor James performed “miracles” back in her initial years of being alive, and he and the Langstons see the pastor performing similar miracles in the town square.  It appears that the good pastor was something of a flimflam man, conning money from true believers back in the day.  Martin believes he is up to his old tricks, but the Pastor’s power goes beyond simple cons and tricks.  He is apparently able to awaken Returned souls, though no one can quite bring themselves to believe this at first.  I can, but no one on the show does, I mean.

In the meantime, Fred induces his brother to see the error of his ways and to make amends with Lucille.  Martin is simultaneously lying down for a nap and has a dream vision of Henry, who visits Martin in the dream to thank him for his help with Jacob and then disappears.  Martin awakens shakily and rushes to find Henry.  With Fred, they espy Henry in his car, having died from a heart attack on his way back to his wife.  Though they inform Lucille of this news, she is undeterred; after seeing what she saw in the town square, she believes Pastor James can bring him back.

Pastor James agrees to help Return Henry, for free even, as long as Martin agrees to help.  Spooked but ultimately hoping the pastor has the power, Martin acquiesces and accompanies the pastor to an empty gravesite dug in the middle of a field.  The pastor instructs Martin to shoot him dead into the receiving grave.  He explains that he must be able to go where the dead are in order to bring Henry back.  Martin refuses to pull the trigger, but Fred, riddled with guilt by the ups and downs affecting his relationship with his brother, does the deed.  Though the pastor assured them that he would be back “in an hour,” after some hours of not reappearing, Martin and Fred go in vain search for Henry and Pastor James.  They give up and manage to tell Lucille of their lack of success just as the pastor appears on the Langston doorstep, Henry in tow.  Martin is finally convinced that Pastor James isn’t just a con artist from way back, and Pastor James reveals that he attempted to save Marty, as baby Robert, from drowning, though he failed and died himself in the process.

Rachael, in the meantime, alive and not in suicidal mode (and calling Janine “Crazy Bitch” no less) finds Maggie.  With Elaine’s help, they arrange for Rachael to stay in Elaine’s spare room over the bar; Rachael agrees to wait tables in return for the lodging.  Elaine and Rachael visit Pastor Tom’s grave, but as they walk through the cemetery, Rachael sees Pastor James’ grave and has a subtle but strange reaction to it.

Margaret, not forgotten by this show, shows up to the government facility.  First, she scares the other Returned, as they all believe she will make them disappear without provocation.  Second, she uses her influence to rally them – rights for the Returned!  This only becomes important in the twelfth episode.

In the penultimate episode of the series, Rachael’s baby is born, but not without weirdly associated consequences.  The episode starts with all of the Returned in Arcadia, walking trance-like and parking outside of Elaine’s bar in the middle of the street, staring up at the window where Rachael lies, bedridden.  The crowd outside includes Pastor James, Henry, and Jacob, but Rachael is immune to the trance. She, instead, suffers from severe abdominal pains, while Fred tries to fire a gun to awaken the unshakable mass in the street.  This move works, and those Returned standing in the street are panicked by the loss of control and memory of how they got there.  Jacob tells Pastor James that Margaret knows how to make the Returned disappear – as it turns out, many of the Returned in the government facility have been convinced by Margaret to take that “letting go” road because Angela and her compatriots have been conducting tests on them like lab rats.  James is fascinated by this information and wants to know the secret himself; he wheedles Martin into taking him to the facility, so that he can use his influence to calm the masses.  The viewer, however, knows that James had a vision in Pastor Tom’s old church and called out to his “Lord.”  Who this Lord is, be it God or some other influence, we never find out.

When James arrives with Martin to the government facility, Angela believes his cock and bull story about only being their to administer communion to the Returned in the facility.  He delivers communion wine to the Returned, but the wine is poisoned.  The Returned within the facility die only to reawaken in the Arcadia woods.

James doesn’t stop there.  He tells his legion in the woods that Rachael’s baby is the Antichrist, as the book of Revelations suggests, and that everyone must seek to destroy Rachael and her baby – which the book of Revelations says nothing about, mind you.  Margaret is alarmed by this edict and extricates herself from this force.  She finds her grandson alone in his backyard, who confesses that Rachael is hiding in the Langston home.  This is distressing to him because being around Rachael is causing Jacob pain, specifically severe headaches.  This news alarms Margaret more, so she runs right back over to the Pastor and informs James of Rachael’s whereabouts like the dirty traitor she is.  Martin shows up and tries to arrest James, but his legion is prepared to defend their leader.  The whole thing feels like a cult but a dangerous one, as we don’t know who this Pastor James has been speaking to in his dreams.

Angela also informs Martin that the Mass Returned in Arcadia in the first season finale was not the only larger influx of Returned.  She calculates that significantly larger influxes have occurred throughout the centuries, and that the Earth is due for a colossally global influx any minute.

In what becomes the series finale, the following events happen:

  • Margaret sneaks her way back into her son’s home for the purpose of trying to convince Rachael to “let go,” with the sake of Jacob on her mind.  Fred finds his duplicitous mom and throws her out, so James rejoins his efforts to convince Margaret of sharing the “letting go” secret.
  • James somehow convinces the True Living to overtake the police station to prevent police backup from intervening as he storms the Langston front porch with his army of followers.  How he manages to cajole the hate group into suddenly supporting Returned efforts: unclear.
  • Martin and Maggie kiss.
  • James’ followers breach the Langston threshold, as Martin, Henry, and Fred attempt to defend their not-quite-a-fortress.  James is able to make it to Rachael and attempts to convince her that letting go and reuniting with Tom is the best for her and the baby, though he doesn’t explain his feelings about the child being the Antichrist at the outset.  Martin finds them and shouts that James is a fraud, which he doesn’t bother denying.  He decries the unborn child and attempts to kill Rachael with scissors; Martin shoots him.  The hullabaloo causes Rachael to have her baby and the melee to cease suddenly, without clear cause or explanation other than the birth of Rachael’s child.
  • Everyone in the household crowds around the television, as the news reports say that millions of Returned have cropped up around the globe.

Awkwardly, and possibly because the show’s producers had forewarning that Resurrection would be canceled, a postscript or epilogue is included.  A year later, Martin is the head of the Federal Bureau of the Returned, he and Maggie are a couple, and everyone gathers for a happy dinner without Margaret (who Henry is not speaking to) at the Langston home.  The last scene of the show finds Rachael singing her baby, Nathaniel, to sleep when hundreds of what appear to be locusts self-destruct at her window.

The End of Resurrection

As this viewer alluded to earlier, this program seemed to reach its higher gear but did so in awkward, clumsy lurches via the introduction of story threads and questions that were abandoned by the end of the season.  While the premise for this show likely necessitated an overarching mythology, in this viewer’s opinion, the writers and producers failed to pace this mythology in a way that would entice viewers to keep watching, rather than confuse.  In fact, even as I write this recap, I struggle to understand what Resurrection was all about in the end: was it the emotional turmoil caused by confronting what were thought to be long-deceased loved ones?  Was it something with religious significance, given the references to Revelations, the symbolism and heavy incorporation of church, and the locusts?  Was there something more nefarious at work?

Also, the show sprinkled some seemingly meaty questions into the story in the last relative moments without offering possible clues as to the answers, much less the answers themselves: where did Janine go?  Why was Jacob suffering from headaches near the unborn baby?  Was he still suffering from headaches after the baby was born?  Where was Margaret in the end?  Why did Angela’s plane crash or her possible Returned status not get revisited?  So – there are millions of Returned?  So what?  Is Nathaniel the Antichrist?  What is the significance of the tree on Pastor James’ back, which Martin also saw in his dreams?  Would Pastor James have Returned again?  What is the significance of Bellamy’s birthmark, apart from it being an identifier?

To the writers’ and producers’ credit, risks were taken in the second season; the plot itself was both heady and complicated.  Yet, it may be that the complicated, heady risk-taking created something too big for this team to handle, and the show faltered before the end.  Despite the intrigue, there was also frustration, and the last episodes, particularly the finale, were sloppy in execution.  I remember thinking upon finishing that while I wished I knew what was coming, including the why of all of these events, I was also dissatisfied enough that I would not have been excited by a cliffhanger.  There was relief in the thought that the show had ended, which is never a good sign, at least for this viewer.

In the end, the ratings spoke for themselves, and ABC has a track record of sure ratings successes as of late, so the move to cancel was unsurprising.  Did you watch Resurrection? What did you think?  Would you have kept watching, or did the show lose you along the way?  Because this viewer wanted to know the answers to those lingering questions, I probably would have kept watching, even though the writing and pacing issues barely improved over two seasons.  As such, to do so would have likely been something of a chore, sadly enough.  If network executives were watching, maybe they felt the same way.  In any event, Resurrection has ended, never to Return.

Yup.  I went there.

In the meantime, though CPU! will stop covering this canceled show, we are still blogging and podcasting about other shows.  You may have noticed that, two weeks ago, we released the first part of a two part series in which we say goodbye to Downton Abbey.  The second part will be published in May; in that discussion, we will be looking back at the beloved British series as a whole in one of our Looking Back episodes.  Our next new podcast episode will be released one week from today! Several panelists are (still) undergoing huge life changes: new jobs, having babies, taking trips, but we have a host of new offerings on our plate, including revisits for How to Get Away with Murder and the X-Files miniseries and new panels in the works for Broadchurch, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, and the DC Television Universe. You won’t want to miss them!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, and/or our Stitcher Radio channel to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

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Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!

Questions, Impressions, and Lingering Thoughts

Old Questions with Lingering Questions Included

1) Is Martin a returned deceased person like the hundreds in the finale?!  If he is, what era is he really from?  Who found him?  When was he found?  How did he grow up? Will the other resurrected ones age?  Why didn’t he recognize his mother/father? There are 100 questions around him alone – that birthmark reveal was the money pot for this season.

ANSWER: It was confirmed that Martin is, indeed, one of the Returned and may be one of the first in Arcadia but certainly not in history; he’s also the only one who seems to have both returned and aged to adulthood.  Like his parents, who were, in fact, the African American couple with the little girl that he discovered walking out of the forest, the Thompsons – and Jenny – he is from the segregation-era South.  In fact, we learn that Martin was really their young baby son Robert, who drowned when six months old, which may explain why he didn’t recognize his parents when they first emerged from the woods.  While we never learn who found Martin at first, when he was found, or how he grew up, we do learn that Martin has three times returned, and others have too, such as Rachael and Pastor James, though we never learn exactly how or why; this is one of the lingering questions from the series, never to be answered, given the series cancellation.  The implication is that Martin is somehow special; Pastor James informs him of his higher purpose but never reveals what that purpose is, and Martin shoots James in the series finale.  Why Martin is special we don’t know.  Whether James would have Returned again if the show had been renewed, we also don’t know.

2) Why was Jacob first, and why and how can he sense the others?  Was he really first?  If Martin is another resurrected one, were there others even before him, or at least before Jacob?

ANSWER: Jacob was the first Returned the audience meets, but he was not the first to Return overall; in fact, government agent Angela suggests that the Returned phenomenon has been occurring for centuries.  While Jacob’s sensitivity to other Returned is never fully explained, the audience is able to infer that many of the Returned, especially those we’ve met who are connected to the live residents of Arcadia that we initially meet and follow through the series, have special abilities and sensitivities. Jacob’s ability to sense others may be his gift.  Rachael can enter dreams.  Martin has visions.  Pastor James can call forth the dead to Return.

We are also told in season two, by Angela, that there have been incidents of other Returned in decades past.  In fact, she is hired to mathematically predict when Returned might be expected to appear, but what she informs Martin is that the events in Arcadia herald the most significant influx of Returned in history, though neither she nor anyone else knows why.  In fact, as season two ended, several Returned cropped up all over the globe; we’ll never know why they appear or how they got there.

3) Will we get to meet some of the other Returned from the other time periods?

ANSWER: Other Returned cropped up in Arcadia, but none of them appeared to be from centuries other than the twentieth.

4) What’s the military going to do?

ANSWER: The military was brought in by Sheriff Fred to keep control of Arcadia, as tensions swelled and fear mixed with violence as living Arcadian residents watched the influx of Returned souls with trepidation and horror.  Sheriff Langston was particularly criticized for getting them involved.  When the season opens, the military have disappeared, apparently having forged an agreement with Fred and the town leaders to allow those Returned with loved ones in Arcadia to stay in the town while the other Returned were shipped off to the secret government facility.

5) How is the Sheriff going to fix what he did?  And who is more sympathetic at this point: him or his estranged wife?  She mentioned that he was “cruel,” and his brother made that reference to what their dad used to say about him.  The Sheriff clearly has a dark side, but just how dark are we talking here?  What has he done in the past, and why is he moved to act so harshly against all rather than merely his wife?

ANSWER: Fred worked to seek redemption with each member of his family this season, and by season’s end had achieved forgiveness from everyone, including his domineering mother Margaret.  Arguably, both he and Barbara were sympathetic in the drama around her affair and death; in any event, they reunited shortly before Margaret convinced Barbara to “let go.”  As it turns out, Fred is prone to anger, which he apparently inherited from his father.  I’m not sure the show answered why Barbara was motivated to cheat on Fred, except to imply that he was both controlling and possessive, which mirrored the behaviors of his father.  The whole backstory here is mired in vague assertions and little facts.

6) What happened to the Richards clan?  What happened to Caleb?  Did I miss that?

ANSWER: Caleb apparently disappeared for good.  Did he let go?  Did he get sick?  The show never answered that question, and Caleb did not return or Return in season two.  Elaine helped out her friend Maggie, and Ray joined the True Living supremacy group, until he was affected by the sickness that infected the Returned.  He was cured, though.

7) Most importantly, why is this happening, and what does it all mean?!

ANSWER: Still a question.  We’ll never know.  You may direct your blame and angst toward the show runners and toward the network, as noted above.

PARTING SHOTS

The writers and producers of Resurrection crafted an intriguing albeit slowly unfolding mystery with larger philosophical and certainly emotional undercurrents at play; however, they lost their way, particularly in season two’s final three episodes (though, the pace, at least, was amped up in those episodes).  It’s hard to say whether this viewer could, in all conscience, recommend Resurrection to a casual viewer on the strength of its only two seasons.  I might, but I would caution that the story is sometimes painfully slow and ends with a lot of unanswered questions.  If you don’t mind these types of qualities in your television viewing, by all means…watch at your own risk.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW

Canceled!  ABC canceled Resurrection in spring 2015; thus, CPU!’s coverage of the series ends with this blog entry recap/review.  The full series is available to stream on Hulu Plus.  Again, with the bevy of unanswered questions created by both of the show’s seasons, this viewer cautions watching them at your own risk.