Sunday, February 14, 2010

Richie’s TV Roundup: Week of Feb 4–10

Because I watch way too much TV (Spoilers ahead)

Fringe (Fox) Feb 4 “Jacksonville”

So, Fringe and I have something of a love-hate relationship. I adore the characters — stars Anna Torv (Olivia), Joshua Jackson (Peter) and John Noble (Walter) are all phenomenal — and any moments in which those characters are given some development really shine. But the series is often weighed down by the pseudoscientific monsters that seem to threaten mankind (or, at least, the United States) almost every week. “Jacksonville,” the season 2 finale, was not like that. The cold opening takes place in the New York of the alternate universe that has been the subject of much of the series’ intrigue as of late. Through a pseudoscientific manipulation of the time-space continuum (or something like that), the mysterious villain succeeds in opening a door between the two universes that results in the fatal merging of two versions of a building in New York City (along with everyone inside it). The gravity of this latest incident leads the team to Walter’s old lab in Jacksonville, where Olivia subjects herself to Walter’s experimentation in the hope that it will awaken her psychic abilities and allow her to prevent another trans-dimensional act of terrorism. The plot gets a bit complex, as you can probably tell, but fans of Fringe will be used to this and there’s enough action (and even a little romance) so that any viewer will be entertained. A finale is never a good time to jump onboard a new series, but for anyone who’s seen a couple of episodes of this season should definitely watch “Jacksonville”.

Smallville (CW)

Feb 5 “Absolute Justice”

Smallville is in its ninth season now, and it’s really grown up in the past decade. Gone is the nervous high school kid with superpowers who once headed this series about the origin of DC’s Superman. Clark is now an adult, and the characters and plotlines have matured accordingly. Last week’s two-hour special episode, “Absolute Justice” was a great example, with a hero-killer storyline that was reminiscent of Watchmen. The episode, in which Clark and company have to help the Justice Society of America when one of the team’s old enemies resurfaces, also shows how the overall direction of the series has changed in recent years. With an older Clark, well on his way to becoming the Superman he is destined to be, Smallville has positioned itself firmly in the world of DC comics. Super-humans (or “metahumans”) are all over, as are shady government organizations dedicated to controlling them. The episode used its longer time frame well, introducing new concepts and characters that will likely leave a lasting impression on Clark and company. Entering a nine-season-old series may seem intimidating, but Smallville is the kind of show that often recaps previous events in dialogue and “Absolute Justice” has enough elements of a standalone movie that anyone with basic knowledge of Superman could follow it (though they wouldn’t benefit from the episode’s many shout-outs to Superman and other DC franchises). I’d advise anyone who’s enjoyed Smallville in the past to check this one out.

Caprica (Syfy)

Feb 5 “Reins of a Waterfall”

Caprica is a prequel to Syfy’s award-winning (and totally frakking awesome) Battlestar Galactica, which was a significantly altered “reimagining” of the corny 1970s sci-fi show of the same name. The series can stand alone from Battlestar Galactica, but it certainly helps to be familiar with some of the universe’s terms and concepts. Now Caprica is definitely a science-fiction series, but don’t let that scare you off; the heart of this show is not the futuristic technology, but the character drama. In the first episode, Zoe Graystone, Tamara Adama, and numerous others are killed in a terrorist attack. Throughout the following episodes, the girls’ friends and families attempt to deal with their deaths. Meanwhile, Zoe’s technological breakthrough in artificial intelligence allowed her to create a virtual copy of her mind, which her father uploaded to a robot body. This thinking machine will become the first of the Cylons, the artificial humanoids Battlestar Galactica fans will remember as sworn enemies of the human race. The show revolves around these grand subjects but it doesn’t spend much time philosophizing over them. The core of show truly is the ways in which the characters react to major changes in their lives, their personal trials and tribulations. The show is new enough that you can still catch up and jump right in, so I don’t want to give too much away, but the last episode “Reins of a Waterfall” deals primarily with the Graystones’ plight after publicly revealing that their daughter may have been responsible for the terrorist attack in which she died.

Heroes (NBC)

Feb 8 “Brave New World”

You remember Heroes, right? It was that show about a bunch of random, ordinary people who suddenly found that they had extraordinary abilities. And it had that awesome first season that everyone loved … and then it just sort of disappeared. Well, though Heroes may have left its invisibility power turned on for the past few seasons (or “volumes,” as the prosaic producers like to call them), it came back with a couple of amazing episodes this season. The season’s penultimate episode, “The Wall” (broadcast Feb. 1), gave us some superb acting from Milo Ventimiglia (Peter) and Zachary Quinto (Sylar) and took major steps in moving the central story forward, setting us up for the season finale “Brave New World” (Feb. 8). But, as much of a Heroes fan as I am, the finale let me down a little. This season’s storyline about the carnival of super-humans was convoluted and hard to follow. The main villain, Samuel, had vague motives and even vaguer goals, not to mention a two-dimensional “bad guy” personality. The finale brought us back to New York City (which seems to be the series’ go-to spot for climactic events) where our heroes caught Samuel just in time to stop him from … doing something evil. It was never made entirely clear what Samuel planned to do, only that he would be revealing the existence of specials to the world. The real kicker was the last couple of minutes of the episode, when Claire jumps off a Ferris wheel and regenerates in front of a horde of press cameras, outing herself as a special and, ostensibly, ushering humanity into the “Brave New World” to which the episode’s title refers. It’s certainly a brave move on the part of the writers and I’m curious as to where they plan to go next, but Heroes’ ratings have been disappointing this season and, frankly, I’m sot sure that finale helped. If the series gets renewed I’ll definitely watch it, but I won’t be surprised if this is the end of Heroes.

The Rodeo (Richie’s Roundup Recap)

Because you don’t have time to read all of my comments

Syfy Channel’s Caprica deals with everything from artificial intelligence to racial discrimination and teen angst and is my favorite new show. It just started, all the episodes are available on Syfy’s website, and it’s frakking awesome, so you have no excuse not to start watching it.

Smallville (CW) gave us a two-hour special episode that was as mature as the actors have gotten over the series’ nine-season run. Check it out if you’ve enjoyed the show in the past.

Fringe (Fox) had recently fallen back on its old freak-of-the-week formula, but broke out of that with a season finale that finally tied up some of the series’ myriad loose threads. If you’ve watched a few episodes of this season, go watch the finale.

Heroes (NBC) had high highs and low lows this season. A few of the last episodes were really good, but they came too late to turn the season around; the finale felt rushed and I found it wholly unsatisfying.

--Richard Gadsden


Monika said...

I was a viewer of this program but a long interval has gone through. I will try to make the habit again in my Dish Network .

Clifford said...

Great reviews, appreciate the updates. Now I won't feel so lost when I tune in again