The Race: October 2014 “Oldies vs. Newbies”

Pumpkins, pretty leaves, and premieres – doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Fall is upon us, and for network TV fans, excitement is in the air. New shows are prancing onto the scene left and right, trying to wow viewers with sizzling storylines and compelling characters. Meanwhile, veteran dramas are pouring on a fresh layer of intrigue, twists, and even character deaths, hoping to keep established audiences riveted. And me, well, I’ve got the easy job – sit back, relax, and enjoy the shows. 🙂

The Oldies:

Monday

Castle (10pm, ABC): How do you spell awesome? C-A-S-T-L-E! So far, this one’s really bringing it in a BIG way. They had a huge finale last season, and they fearlessly picked right up where they left off. Beckett reaching for the door handle of the burning car was so beautifully shot and performed. The emotion gushed from the screen. The mystery of Castle’s disappearance (and reappearance) is huge, complex, and more than a little bit scary. He didn’t want to remember? And what the heck happened to Castle when he was a little boy? My imagination will be having a field day until all truths are revealed. This is a great arc just overflowing with possibilities – they could easily take it all season, and I hope they do. In the meantime, I’m happy to watch Castle and Beckett get back into their mind-melding rhythm while chasing super creepy cyber-stalkers and invisible (pardon me, “cloaked”) murderers. (Side note: is this show starting to go more sci-fi recently? If so, I approve!) 🙂

Castle Score: 9

Tuesday

Supernatural (9pm, CW): Off to a rocky start, but getting better. The first two eps, at least, did not live up to my hopes. Of course, I did have insanely high expectations, so the chances of the writers living up to them were slim. The first ep seemed rushed and confusing. Too much was skipped over without explanation, and I spent the whole ep just basically trying to figure out the timeline and what was going on.

Dean as a demon wasn’t as much fun as I’d hoped, either. There were so many COOL storyline possibilities for Demon!Dean, but alas, he was a bit wishy-washy. The show seemed confused about which direction to take him in. He seemed basically human – but with a big old nasty streak – in the opener. He didn’t want to rescue Sam, but vowed to kill the guy who had Sam hostage. He also left Sam that note to “let me go.” So, some level of brotherly loyalty appeared to be intact. Also, Dean didn’t seem to know he was a demon. Crowley: “The Blade needs to be sated, otherwise…” Dean: “I know, I know, I’ll turn into a demon…” This was the most interesting thing about the opener – that Dean didn’t know he was a demon.

Then, as if that line had never been spoken, Episode Two came along. And here we have a full-on EVIL Dean, killing for sport, talking about ripping Sam’s throat out, flashing his black eyes at people and openly stating that he is a demon. Me: What the…????? So, some HUGE inconsistencies in the writing between the first two eps. Ep Three continued to embrace the horribly evil Demon!Dean from Ep Two, portrayed with devilish delight by Jensen. It was hard to watch, but Sam’s love and loyalty, along with some old Winchester family photos and emotional Season One music, kept me going til the end, when we finally got our Dean back. At this point, I’m just glad the demon storyline is over, Cass is temporarily mended, and things are back to semi-normal.

Last night’s ep, “Paper Moon,” continued the upward trend, with some nice brother moments and a good parallel storyline about two werewolf sisters. I didn’t love the episode “Bitten,” (see my review), but “Paper Moon” was pretty darn decent.

Supernatural Score: 7.5

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (9pm (<-yes that is an issue), ABC): I might be able to forgive this show for the Ward mess…eventually. Not all caught up on my tapes yet, but loving Jemma as a spy, tortured!Ward in prison, Skye being trained by May, Fitz trying to recover, and Coulson, as always, holding them all together. Good stuffs.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Score: 7

Chicago Fire (10pm, NBC): Wow, they just took away a good fifty percent of this show’s appeal by killing off one character. Yikes. I was SO looking forward to the premiere, and then they had to go and do THAT. Killing off Shay was a major no-no. Not only was she one of the few lesbian characters on network TV, but her relationship with Severide was so darn SPECIAL. Even if the actress wanted to be written off, I still, as a writer on that show, would not have killed her. I would not have burned that bridge, because there’ll never be another one like it. Platonic male/female relationships are a rare gem, both on TV and in real life. I’ll never forget watching an X-Files special and hearing Sheila Larken, the actress who played Scully’s mother, talk about the then-platonic relationship between Mulder and Scully. She said, “They are best friends beyond what lovers could be.” That always stuck with me. There is a different, and possibly deeper, form of love that runs between best friends than there could ever be between romantic partners. Boyfriends come and go, but best friends are forever. Remember when Severide was missing for like 24 hours, and Shay was the only one who bothered to look for him, or even really noticed he was gone? Remember when he said to her, “I don’t trust anybody in this world, except you”? Now he has no one, and my heart is smushed. Mourning the Shayveride…:(

Chicago Fire Score: 6.5

Wednesday

Chicago PD (10pm, NBC): Still an excellent police procedural that doesn’t shy away from embracing its dark side. First couple eps were a bit shaky, with too many twists and turns, too many suspects, making it easy to lose interest. Then things got better, with more personal storylines tied to the main characters, including Jay’s friend getting shot in the bar and Voight’s grandchild being threatened by some serious baddies. Kudos to this show for keeping Voight’s character just as twisted and borderline immoral as he was on CF. This is a guy who will maim or kill people, purely out of vengeance. This is definitely the same guy who tried to have Matt killed at one point. Sometimes you root for him, sometimes you cringe and turn away from the screen. Either way, it’s very consistent writing.

Chicago PD Score: 6.8

Friday

Grimm (9pm, NBC): Woo hoo! It’s finally back! This one came back swinging, just like Castle. An exciting first installment with lots of mixed emotions. Juliette is kind of happy about Nick’s condition. Can’t really blame her, but I hope she eventually comes to see that being a Grimm is a part of who Nick is, and a part of why she loves him. Monroe and Rosalie get major loyalty points for skipping their honeymoon to help their friends. Not at all surprising, but it still gave me the warm fuzzies. The octopus thing was pretty freaky. Anything with tentacles…**shiver** The big “oh no” moment came at the end, though. Please tell me they didn’t just kill off Sean. Seriously, someone please say that to me right now. Voice from corner: “They did not just kill off Sean.” Thanks, I feel better 🙂

Grimm Score: 7.6

Brand-Spankin’ Newbies:

Monday

Gotham (8pm (WAY too early for such a dark show), FOX): Growing up, I never really liked Batman. To me, the movies were very twisted and creepy. Too many shadows, too many bats, too gothic, too gory. As an adult, I feel pretty much the same. I will take Superman over Batman any day of the week, month, or year. I’ve never seen any of the newer Batman movies like Batman Begins or even (try not to gasp) The Dark Knight. Really the only thing that got me to tune in for the premiere was the fact that this is Bruno Heller’s (AKA The Mentalist creator’s) new show.

Watching Gotham, I have to say: I still don’t like Batman very much. Gotham has all the same shadows, gore, corruption and creepiness that make Batman such a turn-off for me. And yet…I’m still watching. Why? I like Jim Gordon. I like the actor. I like the character’s goodness, his determination to single-handedly turn around a dirty police department in an even dirtier city. And I really like the partnership between Jim and Harvey. Jim is as wholesome as they come, and Harvey is as close to morally bankrupt as you can get. They’re the odd couple, and it works, because you can see Jim rubbing off on Harvey, little by little. It’s a satisfying, often humorous, and occasionally downright touching thing to watch.

Gotham Score: 7.4

Tuesday

Forever (10pm (<- Oh noes! Timeslot conflicts galore!), ABC): Yay! Favorite new show! I liked it from the very beginning, but the moment that really threw me head-over-heels was when they revealed Abe as the baby Henry and Abigail had rescued from the concentration camp. When Henry kissed grown-up Abe’s head, something in my heart just ripped open and gushed. The relationship between the two men is part bromance, part father-son (with Henry as the father who raised Abe), and part son-father (with Abe, who seems older, as the father/caretaker worried about what will happen to Henry down the line). Super complex, unique, and utterly endearing. Henry’s flint-spark chemistry with his new partner doesn’t hurt the show, either. Nor do the hilarious worker in the ME’s office, the great premise which is just brimming with awesome storyline possibilities, and the fact that when Henry smiles, I do, too! This show is a WIN!

Forever Score: 8

Wednesday

Red Band Society (9pm, FOX): Liking this one. It’s very positive and hopeful, with some nice teen drama mixed in. I enjoy shows that shine a light on people helping one another, doing good things, making the world a little better. A lot of the lines make me laugh, and there are tearjerker moments, too. The most recent ep, focusing on Charlie’s story (with a nice side adventure between Kara and Dash), was my favorite so far. Getting very attached to the characters. The only problem with getting attached to a show on FOX is that the channel is very iffy here. One night I might sit down to watch RBS, and find a blue box waiting for me that reads: “No signal. Unable to tune to channel. Check antenna or try rescanning.” Nooooooooo!

Red Band Society Score: 7.5

Stalker (10pm, CBS): This one’s still waiting for me on tape, but I’m excited. I hope I love it. I want to love it. I already love Maggie Q – and Dylan McD – so why not?

September/October Winner: Castle

Runner-up: Forever

Way to go, Alphabet Network! 🙂

Still MIA:

Elementary (Coming back tomorrow night. Woo hoo!)

The Mentalist (Will return in January for a tragically short 13 ep final season…)

BATB (Is this a summer show now? Speaking of summer shows, how much did Unforgettable rock this year? Personal cases, emotional depth, adorable chemistry between Carrie and Al – I didn’t want it to end! So glad they revamped this and gave it another chance…)

Overall, I’m pretty psyched about this premiere season. I’ve never gotten into so many new shows at once. Can’t wait for more eps to gush/lament about! 🙂

Next up: Come back on Friday for a special Halloween treat – zombie stories! 🙂

 

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The Race: The Results! (Finally!)

At long last, I’ve finished catching up on my tapes, and am ready to declare the winners of this year’s season-long battle for my fangirly heart. Some of my shows let me down this year. Others rose to the occasion. And a rare few delivered action, emotion, and surprises in ways that blew my mis-matched kitty cat socks right off my feet. (Now my toes are cold…)

And so, without further ado, this year’s top winner is…

Supernatural! Yay! It was a surprise to me, because despite a strong season, I just didn’t see this one taking the top spot. The favorites were Castle and Grimm, no question. I definitely felt more excited about those two, leading up to the finales. And then Supernatural just delivered this KILLER, shocker of a season finale, and it totally warped my mind – in a good way.

There are three elements that factor into a show’s final score for the season: 1.) Overall quality of the season, 2.) Surprise factor, and, most importantly, 3.) How badly I want to tune in next season.

Supernatural’s Season Nine was the strongest season since Kripke left. Current showrunner Jeremy Carver seems to have learned from his Season Eight mistakes (e.g. the unrealistic storyline of Sam not searching for Dean), while keeping up an intense season-long mythology. Frankly, I really liked the mytharc in S8, and just thought Carver needed to do better on the brothers’ relationship – which he totally did. Kudos to Carver for listening to fan feedback and incorporating it into his plan for S9. Well done!

Now, let’s talk a little bit about that finale…Whoa. Okay, in the beginning, it was pretty much like a normal ep. A good ep, but not spectacular. The real “wow” factor came in the last few minutes of the episode, as the fight between Dean and Metatron heated up on Earth, coinciding with Castiel’s search for the tablet in Heaven. The way the scene was building, you just knew how it was going to go. Dean had the pulp royally beaten out of him, but he was looking at the First Blade, and it was going to fly into his hand, and at the very last moment, when all hope seemed lost, Cass would destroy the tablet and Dean would stab Metatron DEAD. So, I’m sitting there, all nestled in the couch, entertained but not enthralled, waiting for expected things to come to pass…And then Dean takes an ANGEL BLADE right through the middle of his chest!! What the…???

THAT made me sit up. My eyes got huge and I think I actually said, “Whoa.” So, that was Big Shocker #1. That whole part was great television, building the scene one way, and then veering in a drastically different direction. My attention was riveted in place from that moment onward, because I had no idea how they were going to get out of this – Dean’s injury was clearly fatal. Then Metatron escaped. Fortunately, Castiel took care of him with a clever trap set in Heaven. However, down on Earth, the boys were left in a very dire situation, brightened only by the following exchange:

Dean: “What happened to you being okay with [me dying]?”

Sam: “I lied.”

Aw, Sam – that’s all we needed to hear. That’s all Dean ever needed to hear. I had no problem with Sam and Dean’s relationship this year, because no matter what jerky things they said to each other with words, it was clear all along from their actions that the bond was just as strong as ever. So this exchange, at the end, was just icing for me – sweet satisfaction on top of an already yummy cake.

And then something not-so-yummy happened: Dean died. And I don’t care that they’ve both died about ten thousand times by now, or that it’s obviously not going to be permanent – somehow, these actors still make me care that it’s happening. Their performances keep me in the moment, and bring a little tear to the corner of my eye. 😦

So, Sam takes Dean home, and, predictably, sets about summoning Crowley. Deal time. I settled back into the couch. But then, Crowley was already there, sitting next to Dean’s body. Hmmm. Crowley actually seemed sorry about what had happened, but also strangely excited. As he began to talk to Dean about Cain, I started to sit forward again. The writers had cleverly reminded us, at the beginning of the ep, that Cain was a demon. So as Crowley reached the end of his monologue, the anticipation built to a climax, and I’m betting about 80% of fans, myself included, knew that not only would Dean’s eyes open, but that they would open to reveal pools of jet black.

So, Big Shocker #2: Dean was resurrected as a DEMON. Now, I’ve heard some fans call the end of this episode predictable. I even said myself in the previous paragraph that I knew his peepers would be black when he opened ‘em, and many others likely did, too. So, how is that really a shocker? Because if you’d asked me at the beginning of the episode what would happen, neither dead!Dean nor demon!Dean would be on my list. Because if you’d asked me at the beginning of Crowley’s speech what was about to happen, I still couldn’t have told you that Dean was about to morph into something demonic. I only knew in the seconds before it happened, right when the writers wanted me to know, and not an instant before. That, my friends, is great writing.

And, as with all great finales, we were left with questions that have burned all summer long, filling the air like the sweet scent of barbeque smoke, making our stomachs growl for a taste of Season Ten: How will Castiel survive? Is it possible for him to reclaim his own stolen grace? (Anna did, but hers wasn’t used in a spell). Is Dean a regular demon, or a Knight of Hell? Will he have more loyalty to Sam or Crowley? When and how will Sam find out the truth? Will he be able to cure Dean, or would that be a death sentence, considering the mortally-wounded state of Dean’s body? (Demons can live in dead/dying bodies, e.g. Meg in Season One, but once the demon is out, nature kind of takes its course…) How much human emotion will Dean retain? After all, we’ve seen demons in love (demons in “Sin City,” Cain) and also cases of very loyal demons, like Ruby, demons who have parent-like affection for others (Azazel), and even a demon with a crush on an angel, so the possibilities are wide-open. And I, for one, can’t wait to see where they go with this!

Supernatural Final Score: 9

All right, now that I’ve got the gushing out of my system, let’s look at how the other shows finished out their seasons:

The Mentalist and Castle tied for second place, with Castle leading most of the way, and TM sticking its nose out at the last instant for a photo-finish. Both shows had strong seasons, with The Mentalist’s total creative reboot and Castle churning out one epic episode after another. As Castle drew to a close, we had the emotional arrest of Senator Bracken, the icky politician responsible for murdering Beckett’s mother, and the build-up to the much-anticipated Castle/Beckett nuptials. The Mentalist finished its run with a poignant human trafficking storyline and a hard-core, not-even-a-little-bit subtle push towards a Jane/Lisbon romantic relationship.

While many viewers were probably celebrating this last item on the list, I spent most of the final few eps of TM in Mixed Feelings-ville. It’s not that I don’t like Jane and Lisbon together – I’ve been reading shipper fic since I started watching the show. It’s just…I don’t know whether the writers like Jane and Lisbon together. The nature of the Jane/Lisbon relationship has varied wildly from season to season: gently flirtatious in Season One, strictly friendship in Season Two, platonic but very close in S3, occasional shippy hints in S4 and S5, and finally an aggressive and blatantly shippy S6. Is anyone else’s head spinning?

Castle may have sometimes overbaked its Castle/Beckett UST moments in the past, made the attraction a little too in-your-face obvious, but at least there was never any doubt that these two characters were, indeed, attracted to one another. On The Mentalist, for me, there was doubt. The writing was inconsistent. Rare moments like the “I love you” in the S4 finale were dropped like hot spoons and never picked up again. There was no apparent jealousy on Lisbon’s part when Jane dated Kristina, and as for Lisbon/Mashburn, it was never revealed if Jane even found out, much less got jealous over it. Fanficcers were left to explore these issues on their own. Actors and writers on The Mentalist suggested in post-Season One interviews that the Jane/Lisbon relationship was more brother/sister than romantic, a definite contrast to the Season One interview in which Tunney said that Lisbon probably bought a new pair of shoes for work when Jane started his job at the CBI.

Overall, I got the strong impression that the show had no intentions of ever putting Jane/Lisbon together, and was just throwing occasional bones to the shippers in a sometimes-unsuccessful attempt to make them happy (I know of at least one shipper who bailed early in S2 – she seemed to feel what I did: a complete removal of the flirtation/romantic hints we saw in S1).

And then along came S6. It was clear from early on that the writers were going to “go there.” Which would have been fine, if they took their time and made it natural. I am happy to go anywhere my shows take me, as long as it’s done right. This, however, felt very rushed. And forced – more like a desperate attempt to save the show than something the writers really wanted to do. If they had intended to put Jane/Lisbon together from the beginning, they would have laid a strong and consistent foundation all along. Instead, they thrust Lisbon headlong into a serious relationship with some guy the audience didn’t know (or care about), for the sole and transparent purpose of creating a jealousy storyline for Jane. I felt physically uncomfortable watching Lisbon interact with Pike – I love Lisbon, and here she was, this person I care deeply about, kissing and making plans with a total stranger – not just a stranger to the audience, but a stranger to her. Yikes.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad – we had those gemstone moments in private between Jane/Lisbon, those gut-twisting, all-show-and-no-tell scenes where both characters grappled with her new relationship and the possibility of her leaving. Their dialogue was sparse and simple, leaving emotion to overflow from between the lines. Awesome, powerhouse stuff.

And in the end, with the finale, that’s what won me over. The writing for that last episode was brilliant, and the performances were somewhere in the stratosphere. I’m still not completely comfortable with it, and I’m not sure the writers are, either, but they gave it 100% – everything Jane and Lisbon did in that last S6 ep was in character, from Jane’s trickery to Lisbon’s hurt to Jane’s painful and liberating confession of love. Very sweet, very romantic, very Jane and Lisbon.

The freeze-frame at the end definitely scared me – I mean, it was a nice image and all, but I thought it might very well be the last image of TM I’d ever see. I’m sure the writers were thinking it, too, and were trying to make the ending as happy as possible for a large (but not necessarily the largest) part of the fandom – the shippers. Needless to say, I breathed a long happy sigh when I found out TM was coming back for a Season 7. With all the bold moves the writers made this year – killing Red John, bringing aboard a whole new team, putting J/L together – they deserved a chance to show what they can do with a new year and a totally fresh start.

For me, I’ve never cared so much about how a couple gets together as I do about how their relationship is once they are together. Therefore, I’m way more stoked about seeing how Jane and Lisbon will navigate their new romance than I was about this whole jealousy/engagement thing. I truly can’t wait for next season, and I’m SO GLAD there is a next season. As long as the writers keep it in character, this relationship is going to be SO MUCH FUN!

The Mentalist Final Score: 8.5

Okay, now let’s talk about Castle for a quick sec. Yes, just a quick sec, because I honestly have no complaints here. The resolution to the Bracken storyline was wonderful, emotional, epic. The finale was full of humor, woe, genuine scares, and a flaming shocker of an ending that leaves me wondering who was in the car following Castle, what they did to him, when and how Beckett will find out the truth (he’s obviously not in the fiery wreckage, as she currently believes), and where it will all go from here. Castle is the perfect example other shows should look at when trying to decide whether the main couple should get together, or whether that would ruin the show. The answer: it can ruin the show – or it can make the show stronger, funnier, more romantic, and more exciting than ever! In Castle’s case, it’s the latter, and I’ve never loved the show more than I did this season. I even recently poked my nose into some Castlefic for the first time ever – and was not at all disappointed.

Castle Final Score: 8.5

With a last-minute tie for second, front-runner Grimm ended up coming in third. I loved the end-of-season addition of the new character “Trubel,” a young Grimm with brains, attitude, and some serious fighting skills – she fits right in with our gang without taking away from anyone’s screen time. The storylines all season long were excellent – it’s the perfect popcorn show, and I thought for SURE it would either win the race or at the very least come in a close second. But then something happened. Not something horrible that made me hate the show or anything like that – but just something that made me shave a few points off the final score: the finale.

Was it enjoyable? Yes. Exciting? Totally. But surprising? Not at all. Maybe the blame should fall on the person who put together the commercials for the finale, and not the episode itself, but there was nothing that happened in this episode that you couldn’t predict from the previews. We knew Adalind would replace Juliette. We knew Sean would get shot (still was totally traumatic – he’s one of my favs). We knew Monroe and Rosalie would tie the knot, and it was strongly implied that Nick would lose his powers. Really, the only thing we didn’t know was that Nick and Adalind would actually sleep together – and I don’t count that so much as a surprise moment as I do an “ew” moment. Ew.

Moving forward, I couldn’t be more excited – I seriously cannot wait to find out if Sean survives (he’d better – he’s one of the most complex, intriguing characters on the show), how Nick fares without his powers (wouldn’t that be terrifying, to know these things are out there, and not be able to see them anymore?), whether Juliette and Nick can weather the Adalind storm, and how newlywed life agrees (or doesn’t) with our favorite lovebirds (love-wesens?), Monroe and Rosalie. Also, what’ll Hank be up to next year (me-thinks powerless Nick will need his partner more than ever)?

Despite the predictability of the final ep, it was still a great ride that left me aching to see what’ll happen next. If Grimm keeps up this level of awesome, we may just have a new winner next year.

Grimm Final Score: 8.3

Chicago Fire finished its strong second season in a respectable fourth place. “Reliably lovable” is how I like to think about this one – I sit down, and I know I’ll be entertained. I’ll laugh, I’ll jump, and I might even cry (see “Best Tearjerker Moment” below). The storylines surprise me and make me think – every single time. The characters make me care – every single time. The two-night CF/CPD crossover event was a thing of beauty. Finally, NBC actually delivered something that was both a “crossover” and a “two-night event,” just as advertised. Bravo, Peacock Network!!! I’m so glad it was a two-nighter, too, because I couldn’t have waited a whole week to find out if Shay was okay! And major kudos to Amanda Righetti, because not once did I look at her and think “Van Pelt.” She was a totally new character, and I loved it. They almost had enough storylines with the hospital staff to make a third show: Chicago Medical. Hey, I’d watch it! 😉

The only downside to the two-night event was that it was SO wonderful and SO epic, that the finales for both shows were a little weaker by comparison. I did love that the CF finale focused on Severide, his guilt at overlooking a victim inside a burning building. That was pretty dark, actually, but the Chief’s wedding added some humor and light to balance it out. And of course we had the obligatory cliffie at the end. But overall, it did feel like a regular ep – not the final ep of a pretty dang awesome season!

Chicago Fire Final Score: 8.2

CPD falls just a hair behind its older sister. For whatever reason, CF owns a little bigger slice of my heart. Maybe because I’ve known the characters longer, or maybe just because while cops are out there firing guns and trying to catch bad guys, firefighters are simply trying to save people. There’s an innocence to that, an uncomplicated core of “goodness” we can all relate to. CPD is a great show, but it’s just a little darker, a little meaner, a little less pure than CF. The gruesome death of Jin in the finale showcases this. Antonio’s wife leaving him added yet another shadow to an already pretty bleak season-ender.

Nonetheless, I love the characters, and I’m compelled by the show, especially when it gives me delicious treats like the budding Lindsay/Severide romance. I wanted that so bad, but didn’t let myself hope. It seemed like they were pairing her with Jay, and I figured doing a cross-show romance would just be too daunting for the writers. And then they went there! And my fangirly heart jumped over the moon, landed on the sun, burned to a blackened crisp and was joyfully reborn from the ashes. I ship Lindsay/Severide!! Looking forward to many more scenes between them on both shows…assuming Severide made it out of that explosion…:/

Chicago PD Final Score: 8.1

Honestly, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should have ranked higher than sixth place. It is an action movie, a comedy, and a sci-fi masterpiece all rolled up together in a hotdog bun. And I can sum up, in one word, why this show fell so far behind in my race: Ward. I’ve just never liked it when shows take a character you really care about and turn him or her “bad” as a way to shock the audience. It always feels like something that was just done on a whim to shake things up. Now, I do recognize Joss Whedon’s a genius, and I can give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he DID plan to have Ward be evil all along. But that doesn’t make the twist any more palatable to me. I feel like I wasted my time getting invested in something that wasn’t real. And that’s probably what I was supposed to feel, because that’s how Coulson and his team felt. The problem is, it didn’t make me like the show more. It made me like the show LESS. Like, a lot less. I missed parts of most of the last few eps, and honestly didn’t care that much. It’s still a great show, but not quite AS great. There’s an emptiness to it, now – a reluctance on my part to become overly attached to characters who might suddenly be revealed as evil to boost ratings.

I do give the writers credit for making Ward a complex shade of gray, rather than a cut-and-dried Prince of Darkness. And yes, the performances were excellent, and the finale did make me laugh out loud when Coulson broke out that huge gun, shot Garrett’s head off, and was all, “Guys, I found it!” Classic Whedon humor. All in all, this show is still very much worth watching, I just hope they don’t make me regret it…again.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Final Score: 7.5

Oddly enough, S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t the only show to turn one of its good guys not-so-good last year. Maybe it was something icky in the water? Whatever it was, Beauty and the Beast drank some, too. (Probably didn’t taste very good!) I know I didn’t like the flavor of evil!Gabe after a season of loving him! Yeah, yeah, I know he started out as a bad guy, but still, I thought he’d redeemed himself, and the return of Gabe The Murderer and, ultimately, Gabe The Murdering Beast just didn’t quite sit right in my stomach. Seemed too easy, too uncomplicated: Gabe is bad, and Cat and Vincent are meant to be. End of story. I would’ve liked more layers. I would’ve liked Gabe not to be a total psycho! It didn’t help that I apparently missed an episode. I have no freaking idea how, either – all I know is, Cat got kidnapped and Gabe was still a good guy, and I couldn’t wait to tune in the next week. When I tuned in the next week (or so I thought), Cat was no longer kidnapped, and Gabe was completely evil. WTH???? Not the smoothest transition for this viewer.

Maybe I got abducted by aliens. There was certainly missing time involved – like, a whole week of it. Whatever the case, I shook off my disorientation and tried to enjoy the remaining episodes. Thanks to the charming cast and funny writers, this wasn’t so difficult. I am thrilled X 1,000 that JT wasn’t killed off, and super-pumped about the potentially X-Files-y type supernatural investigations that Cat and Vincent may plunge into next year. Which we will thankfully get to see, since BATB got renewed! Yay!

Beauty and the Beast Final Score: 7.4

And in last place, we have Elementary. Which sounds bad, but considering that I only watch truly awesome shows, even last place isn’t such a terrible spot! When this show decides to bring it, they bring it like crazy. Problem is, they don’t always decide to bring it, and I think we had a bit of a sophomore slump going on last season. Certain moments and individual episodes really sparkled: Bell’s shooting and its aftermath, Gregson’s marital issues, Watson’s kidnapping, Moriarty’s return, Mycroft’s MI6 storyline. But then, in between those moments, we had some dry, unappetizing filler that didn’t seem to have any real direction or taste (other than cardboard).

My RX for next season: More Mycroft! My mom is always complaining about him getting together with Joan, how they have no chemistry. To which I reply: WHO CARES? Honestly, what does it matter if Mycroft has chemistry with Joan? He has chemistry with SHERLOCK. When those two brothers are onscreen, there is a crackle-fire intensity the likes of which I rarely see on TV. The emotions are all tangled up and crazy – the rivalry, the resentment, the jealousy, and yes, deep down, the LOVE. Mycroft returned to MI6 to save Sherlock from prison time. Baffled, Sherlock asks, “Why? You didn’t owe me anything.” Mycroft: “We’re brothers.” Oooh, watch out Sam and Dean – your spot as Top TV Bros may just be in jeopardy…

Elementary Final Score: 7.3

Miscellaneous Mini-Winners (FYI: I just spelled ‘miscellaneous’ correctly on the first try! Go me!):

Favorite Night of TV: Tuesday, cuz it’s got three in a row – S.H.I.E.L.D., Supernatural, CF!!

Best Tearjerker Moment: Tie: Chicago Fire’s heartfelt reunion between a disabled, alcoholic fire chief and the firefighters who once hated him for saving their lives and Elementary’s episode-closing scene between Sherlock and his dead friend, Alistair (Why did they have to kill him off??? And why did they have to write the ep so beautifully??? **sob**)

Here’s hoping for many more memorable moments from all of my shows next season!

May this fall bring on the best race ever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Race: Midseason Musings

(Okay, when I wrote this post, it was actually a lot closer to midseason than it is now. Nonetheless, the scores still stand!)

So, time’s been winging its way along like a carrier pigeon, and here we are, over halfway through the TV season. Well, the network TV season, at any rate. This is the time when I’m starting to ask myself some important questions, like:

“Which shows am I looking forward to the most?”

“Is there a breakout star in the pack?”

And the real biggie:

“Which shows do I want to start reading fanfiction about?”

Right now, the shows fall into three categories:

Old Favorites – the ones I already read (and even write) fanfiction about

The Mentalist and Supernatural both land firmly in this category. They’re both having strong seasons this year, although The Mentalist has been hurt recently by a super-long hiatus. Thankfully, the drought finally ended with the first new eps in what feels like months. We got to see a playful Jane, fulfilling the secret childhood wishes of his coworkers (it bothered me at first that he didn’t get anything for Lisbon, then I realized he already fulfilled her secret childhood wish when he got her the pony – no way he could ever top that!). We also got to see Jane’s new, er…vehicle. Yeah, I guess you can call it that. Personally I was a fan of the Citroen. This silver thing will take some getting used to. What’ll take more getting used to, however, is the show minus one of its most interesting and unique characters. Why did they have to kill JJ off? WHY? I so was not in the mood for the cheerful preview that aired moments after his death scene. Couldn’t we have had more than a commercial break to mourn him?

Midseason Score: 8

Fortunately, Supernatural only had a short hiatus before kicking out brand new content for us to snuggle with. There was just one bad egg in the new batch of eps – the ep with Crowley and Dean hunting together and Sam and Castiel working to remove Gadreel’s grace from Sam’s body. I liked that Dean got the Mark of Cain (Dean-girls always get a thrill when he’s part of the mythology) and I love the actor who played Cain, but there was just something missing in this ep. Maybe it was the disappointing PB&J storyline with Cass (He may have recently experienced being human for the first time, but he’s had humanity – and morality – for years. Even back in Season Five, Cass refused to kill Sam to stop the apocalypse).

Anyhoo, I’ll forgive one dud ep, seeing as most of this season has been above, beyond, and just plain better than the last three combined. The Garth-as-a-werewolf ep was entertaining (who doesn’t love Garth?) but I DID mind that they messed with the werewolf “rules” on the show. Apparently, now werewolves can change at will – not just when the full moon beckons – and can control their behavior if they “try hard enough.” This means Madison in the episode “Heart” could have been saved. Which detracts from the episode “Heart.” Nothing should detract from that ep, dang it!!

Other than that, though, the Garth ep was cool. The first really AWESOME ep of the new batch was the one where Sam and Dean went undercover at a health spa to hunt a Peruvian (?) Fat Sucker. Really cool storyline that went back to basics, but also had some cool new twists. The episode with Kevin’s ghost and Tiger Mommy (YESSSSSSSSS!!!!) was just plain sublime, and revisiting the Ghostfacers was fun and sad at the same time. Also of note: “#Thinman” was probably the scariest episode we’ve had to date this season. So, kudos. All in all, this season is a bulging container of awesome, ready to explode all over the place.

Oh, and for those people who might be worried about the strife between the bros? For me, it’s only adding to the pleasure. Because I’m hoping – really, really hoping – that Sam’s going to eventually prove himself wrong. That he really would go to the same lengths to keep Dean as Dean went to in order to keep Sam. And seriously, for a guy who “doesn’t want to be brothers,” Sam sure does run fast whenever Dean calls for him. 🙂

Midseason Score: 8.5

Rising Stars – the ones I don’t read fanfiction about, but am starting to get tempted

These two were a bit of a surprise. But when I asked myself which shows I look forward to watching the most, which ones I think about when they’re not on, which ones are really starting to get my fire going the answer was pretty simple: Castle and Grimm.

For some reason, these two are just working. Grimm has never been more entertaining. The cast is just overflowing with great characters, and the writers seem to be on the literary equivalent of a runner’s high, churning out great story after great story. Getting to meet Monroe’s parents for the first time was cool and painful at the same time. The parallels to real-life racism are all too real as the show continues to explore “mixed” marriages and friendships. We all knew Wesen weren’t supposed to hang out with Grimms, but who knew a Blutbad couldn’t get engaged to a Fuchsbau without severing family ties? The writers have also unleashed a slew of new baddies for Nick and Co. to fight, resulting in high-octane action and super-creepy monster moments. Those hair-wearing warriors were the ultimate Big Bads, while that Aswang thing that attacked the pregnant lady was just plain EW. And Adalind’s Hexenbiest baby, though perhaps not technically a villain, might be the scariest of all with those freaky, glowing eyes.

Midseason Score: 8

Equally on fire is Castle, which continues to find new and interesting ways to explore Castle and Beckett’s relationship without allowing it to grow stale. From intense episodes like Beckett undercover as an assassin, to more lighthearted installments like the ones featuring Carrie-like telekinetic powers or a Miley Cyrus-ish pop star gone dark, I am always Velcroed to my seat when this one is on. It makes me laugh, it keeps me guessing, and it makes me awful happy Caskett are a couple right now. Only the best shows have elements of comedy, drama, mystery and romance. This one has it all.

Midseason Score: 8

Dark Horses – the ones I love to watch, but I don’t see the relationship developing into full-on fangirl obsession anytime soon (though there can always be surprises – that’s why they’re called dark horses 🙂 )

The majority of my shows fall here, including Elementary, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Beauty and the Beast, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and even some I watch but don’t review, like Tomorrow People, The Good Wife, and Blue Bloods.

Make no mistake – these all are Must-See TV with a capital M. Chicago Fire has been just as amazing this season as it was last year. Katie’s attack, Benny’s revenge, Matt’s memory problems, Gabby’s struggle to become a firefighter, and Jones’ floundering as she tries to fit in at the firehouse are just a few little morsels in a non-stop chocolate chip conveyer belt of great stories. You just love the characters – even as they add more and more, it never feels too crowded. I was bummed when Rafferty and Katie left the show – I hope they will be back, because even after a short time, I had already grown attached.

Midseason Score: 7.5

Same goes for Chicago PD. A big pile of likeable, loveable, and even just plain interesting characters. Couple that with wonderful acting and stellar writing, and this show is a big, fat WIN, just like its big brother, CF. From drug mules to street justice to covering up a family member’s involvement in a murder, the storylines just get stronger and stronger. The crossovers between the two shows are a bonus treat for people who watch both – which, hopefully, is everyone.

The only crossover disappointment was the “2-hour SVU/Chicago PD Crossover Event.” Once again, we have NBC doing the false advertising thing. In no way was that a “2-hour crossover event.” I watched an entire episode of SVU, thinking that the storyline was going to in some way relate to the Chicago PD episode that was airing next. I spent almost fifty-five minutes waiting for CPD characters to show up at any moment, only to have a brief cameo by Erin in the final five minutes of SVU. I can’t believe I missed Tomorrow People to watch the first hour of something that couldn’t even loosely be construed as a “2-hour event.” The sad thing is, NBC has a great line-up right now – they don’t need to lie about their programming. Hopefully, they haven’t hurt themselves too much with this crying wolf business.

CPD Midseason Score: 7

Over on Elementary, the writers have continued adding emotional depth to this season by having Sherlock serve as a sponsor to a recovering young addict, and by revisiting old Scotland Yard friend/foe Lestrade for a two-episode arc. Throw in a couple of reformed roosters and a couple of ears grown on the back of a lady who faked her own kidnapping, and you’ve got a pretty darn entertaining show.

Midseason Score: 6.5

Speaking of entertaining, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is a total powerhouse, delivering action, emotion, great characters and butt-kickingly awesome special effects. I am super-glued to the screen for the duration of this super show. Even a healthy splash of nailpolish remover couldn’t unstick me from the couch while SHIELD is on. When Skye got shot, I felt like I was the one who couldn’t breathe. I liked how they went back and showed the different timelines for each character, showing how each ended up where they finally ended up when Skye was wounded. The battle to find the Guest House and the miracle drug needed to save her life was riveting. Who wants to see these characters in the next Avengers movie? **Raises hand and waves it exuberantly** Me! Me! Me!

Midseason Score: 7.8

One show that has upped its game – and its entertainment value – this season is Beauty and the Beast. I am loving the humor this season, from Vincent and Cat stuck in a crashed car together, to Vincent appearing on an episode of The View, I have laughed out loud so many times while watching this show, and that is a good thing. All great dramas need to be able to pull off the comedy, too. Another good thing: really cool beast mythology episodes. Beast skeletons? Shackles? Dungeons? A mysterious gemstone? Count me intrigued! But, of course, it wouldn’t be B&B without the love triangles, and Gabe/Cat/Vincent has me hooked like a small-mouth bass. Wish they hadn’t killed off Tori so soon, but maybe they’ll have another she-beast in the near future. Why should guys get to have all the fang-snapping fun? Only major quibble this season: did they have to make the gemstone green? Between that and Kristen, I’m having Smallville flashbacks here…

Midseason Score: 6.8

 

 

The Race: Week 16

The Race: Week 16

Monday

Beauty and the Beast (9/8c, CW) – Missed it! Drat! I thought I could make it home in time, but I didn’t, so I only caught the last five minutes, but dang, it looked like Vincent was about to go public with…everything. So, holy crap! This obviously was not the one to miss. SCORE: Withheld.

Castle (10/9c, ABC) – Spy games! I love it! The return of Castle’s daddy added an extra thrill as the show’s most mysterious character enjoyed a reunion with his one-night-stand and the son who resulted from the tryst. Castle was realistically, heart-twistingly torn between his love of Kate and his loyalty to a father he’s only met once before, and I couldn’t get enough. Whenever Daddy Dearest is involved, you know it’s gonna be one heck of a ride. For the record, judging by the look on his face as he watched them in the window, I believe that Castle’s father genuinely does care for him. And for Martha. SCORE: 8/10

Tuesday

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (8/7c, ABC) – Wow. So many cool elements in this one – pun intended, of course! We finally learned Skye’s amazing and totally unexpected history – SHE’S an object of unknown origin? What the…? Coulson shared the truth, and both he and Skye found some peace. Great stuff. Also, we got to see a different side of Fitz-Simmons (THEY’RE the cool kids where they come from? Seriously?), we got our first look at the SHIELD Academy (wish we’d had a Boiler Room on MY college campus!), and a super-villian was born. Not bad for 52 minutes of network TV. Bonus points awarded for Lola getting to fly again. She should fly more often. SCORE: 8/10

Supernatural (9/8c, CW) – It was nine o’clock on Tuesday night. And all was not well. My TV screen, which should have been showing three of the handsomest hunks on television, displayed only two words: “no signal.” I tell you, people, my heart almost stopped. I think I did actually have a mini panic attack. Then I pulled myself together, did some fancy finagling with the rabbit ears, and soon enough two of the three hunks – Dean and Castiel – popped into view. I did have to stand with my hand hovering over the TV for about ten minutes, but it was totally worth it. I had waited for weeks, and I wasn’t going to miss this ep due to a crappy signal. This was probably the most anticipated comeback for me, and I have to tell you, it did not disappoint. From demons planted inside the NSA, to a Crowley vs. Gadreel showdown inside Sam’s BRAIN, this episode was everything I wanted and more. I LOVE it when Cass is all helpful and sweet, and I love it when Crowley fights for the good side instead of the bad. Abaddon was her usual awesome butt-kicking self, and Crowley had me howling several different times. Best of all: Sam finally got that THING out of him, and got to rejoin the world. Questions: Why DOES Cass need a car, and why couldn’t he immediately come flying over when Dean called, and bring Kevin back to life? Maybe there’s still a way. ‘Cause I really need Kevin back to life…Please? SCORE: 9/10

Chicago Fire (10/9c, NBC) – Matt’s violent episodes are scary. Realistic, but scary. He needs some help. I don’t know what to make of that chick at the firefighter academy. Sometimes I like her, sometimes I hate her. I’m glad she helped Gabby, but cheating – whatever the reason – is not cool. Neither is using your connections to stay in the academy after an instructor kicks you out (though, to be fair, that WAS a little harsh on Severide’s part). I hope Gabby lets the cheating go and doesn’t tattle, but it sucks. This thing with Severide’s sister and Otis is too hilarious, which is good, considering most of the storylines are very serious. Severide is the king of subtle threatening looks and his use of the chainsaw had me giggling. Poor Otis – he is really making you work for it, isn’t he? LOL. Shay’s inheritance storyline was both touching and disturbing – how sick is it that the dude’s own brother was stealing his military pension? Thankfully, the money ended up in good hands, helping honest people – not crappy thieves. Also, I’m digging the gradual bonding between Shay and the new Paramedic In Charge. SCORE: 7.5/10

Wednesday

Chicago PD (10/9c, NBC) – Gritty and intense. The rookie made a bold call, rushing that suspect. Stupid, but bold. Fallout from the cop’s death in the pilot was respectfully, realistically handled. Whenever a kid’s life is on the line, everything turns up a notch, and this episode delivered that high-stakes tension flawlessly. The team pushed themselves to the brink, and Antonio’s son came home safe. This is definitely a show I could get hooked on. Bonus points for continuing to bring on familiar faces from sister show, Chicago Fire. SCORE: 7/10

Friday

Grimm (9/8c, NBC) – MANTICORES RULE!!! Part lion, part scorpion – what’s not to love? I enjoyed this twisty-turny tale about getting justice for a soldier who’d been viciously assaulted. The whole “military vs. soldiers for hire” angle – something I first learned about on The Good Wife – added welcome complexity to the case. The reunion between Rosalie and her estranged family was emotional, realistic, and ultimately cleansing. I’m so happy that everything got out in the open, and Rosalie made peace with her mom and sister – with Monroe’s help, of course. Bonus points added for the coolest Wesen we’ve seen to date, and the snarling “don’t you hurt my little sister” scene between Monroe and his soon-to-be sister-in-law. SCORE: 8/10

And the winner is…Supernatural! The anticipation was at critically high levels, and the wait was totally worth it. Another A+ ep for one of my favorite shows. Vote Crowley!

Obligatory Fangirl Squealing

First off, before I start, a MASSIVE fangirly “Thank you” goes out to my big brother and his family for loaning me their seldom-used VCR. Because of their generosity, I was not forced to choose between new episodes of Grimm and the final six episodes of Nikita, a decision that would have wounded my poor heart.

Now, on to business:

Soooo, a few interesting things have happened on TV since I last posted. And by “a few” I actually mean “a lot.” And by “interesting” I actually mean “OMG, is this the best season of television ever????”

Castle continues to rock Castle and Beckett’s relationship with style, always finding new issues to explore between the two of them so that things never get stale. The death penalty episode was intense, and the 3XK ep with the dead Esposito and Lanie look-a-likes was downright chilling. My favorite of the bunch, though, was the one about a dying man who staggers into a church and hands over an adorable baby before collapsing. Castle and Beckett changing a diaper together? Consider my heart officially captured.

Over on Beauty and the Beast, the conflict rose to new heights when a very pretty female beast entered the picture. The addition of Tori was a great way to keep things fresh and add a little more girl power to the show. Vincent is bugging the crap out of me right now with this whole beasts vs. humans shtick, making Gabe look more and more attractive (not that Gabe really needs help in that department). Gabe’s continued honesty and devotion to Cat – not to mention his knock-a-girl-to-the-floor handsomeness – are making it awfully hard not to root for a Gabe/Cat hookup. And speaking of hook-ups, did JT and Tess really lock lips? Interesting. Not sure yet if there’s chemistry, but it was definitely a cute moment between two unlucky-in-love characters. Can’t wait to see how the group’s dynamics change now that Cat’s father has officially gone down and Cat actually – gasp – shot Vincent in the process…

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD had great fun with one of its special box office tie-in eps, an exciting romp about humans with objects they shouldn’t have, and a non-violent Asgardian on Earth. (I love that actor, too, so I’m super-glad they didn’t kill him off). The surprising May-Ward hook-up at the end was just one example of the wild curve balls this show likes to throw. We had some laugh-out-loud male bonding scenes in the ep where Fitz and Ward infiltrate enemy lines together, and numerous jaw-dropping, holy crap! moments in the thrilling mid-season finale. I still can’t believe the Centipede people took Coulson! And right after that, pretty much everybody and everything exploded! Talk about the mother of all cliffhangers… 🙂 No, actually, I’ll save that distinction for Supernatural’s winter finale.

Speaking of which: OMG. Seriously – O.M.G. That is the only way I can describe the most recent ep of Supernatural. It left me lying on the floor with my guts scooped out. Cannot believe they actually killed Kevin. Sweet, beloved Kevin. That final image of him is burned into my head in the worst way, proving that this show is once again at its very best. Metatron, an angel I still liked, even after he deceived Castiel, is now numero uno on my hit list. He will suffer and die for killing the prophet he was supposed to protect. Gadreel will die, too, but he doesn’t need to suffer quite so much – he seems like one of those lower-intelligence, easily manipulated angels. I still blame him for his appalling actions, but not as much as I blame Old Meta-Evil.

Shame that the highlights of this show usually tend to be the must soul-wrenching moments. It’s not always true, though, and before we had the wonderful awfulness of the winter finale, we got some true gems in the form of a born-again virgin episode with Sheriff Mills, and my absolute hands-down favorite episode of the season so far – an emotional, flash-back peppered ep about Dean’s stay at a boys home when he was fifteen. That ep, more than any other, will give me the strength to keep watching through the painful aftermath of Kevin’s death.

Chicago Fire is a good show to watch after Supernatural, because all the action and drama are a nice distraction from having your heart torn out. CF hasn’t had a single dip in quality yet, and I expect more of the same when it returns in January. The network’s continued faith in this “little show that turned big” makes me smile. They’re even giving it a spin-off now, focusing on the police side of the story. Way to go, NBC! 🙂 Lots of excitement in November and the first part of December, from political drama to roommate dilemmas to long-lost sisters, racial tensions, and rekindled romances. This show knows how to bring it in every way possible, and I am so totally hooked. The fact that they had a wonderful Severide-centered episode was chocolate frosting on an already delicious cake. I am a Severide girl, through and through, and watching him work so hard and long – by himself – to save that boy was enough to make this fangirl’s heart sprout wings and lift off into the sky.

Coming back down to Earth, I have to admit I haven’t been loving Elementary quite so much this season. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s still must-see TV and everything, but it just felt like something was missing. Sure we got some stellar eps here and there, including a gem focusing on Captain Gregson (adore him) and his troubled marriage. Overall, though, it just didn’t have the same feel as Season One, and I didn’t know why until the recent, gripping episode which detailed the events leading up to Detective Bell’s shooting.

And it dawned on me – that’s what’s been missing: an arc. Something to string the episodes together into a cohesive whole. Something to prevent Season Two from being a mish-mash of barely-related to totally-unrelated stand-alone stories. Sherlock’s road to recovery, and the Moriarty storyline, did this for Season One. And now we have the much-needed arc for Season Two: the fallout from Bell’s shooting. Sherlock’s guilt. Bell’s struggle for recovery. Gregson and Watson caught in the middle between these two characters. This storyline made me sit up straight and take notice. It made me excited to see what happens in the next episode. It gave new breath and life to Season Two, and I’m happily falling back in love with one of my favorite shows.

If there’s one show you can’t accuse of not having an arc, it’s good old Grimm. Try multiple season-long arcs, intricately interwoven. Nick’s still rocking the zombie powers, Hank has happily ditched the crutches and is back knee-deep in the action, and Monroe and Rosalie are so cute it should almost be outlawed. Having Juliette and Nick back together this season is also a bonus that adds a big old dose of happy to my Friday nights. Couple that with a delightfully different episode featuring mer-people, a really bad-@$$ old lady on neighborhood watch patrol, and a freaky exorcism, and, to quote several McDonald’s commercials, I’m loving it. 🙂

To make my Friday nights even more awesome, one of my all-time favorite shows, Nikita, returned on November 22nd with both fists swinging. As I sit there watching movie-quality explosions, quiet moments of unresolved feelings between Nikita and Michael, sparks flying between Alex and Sam, and a whole slew of girls kicking butt, I can’t help but wonder – for the millionth time and counting – why the CW is canceling one of the most stellar shows on TV. Seriously, what brain-sucking amoeba infected the top dogs at that network and made them say, “Hey, let’s cancel Nikita?” It’s one of those sad cases where a brilliant show is dumped in the world’s most heinous time-slot, and then left there to rot. Most people don’t know that Nikita even exists, never mind that they’re missing out on something spectacular by not watching it. **Sigh** But at least we got six final episodes, and so far, I’m the exact opposite of disappointed. I long for Nikita and Michael to find their way back to each other, for Sam to be redeemed, for Amanda to get what’s coming to her, and for all of our heroes to get the happy endings they deserve. Only two eps remain for all this to happen, and my fingers are crossed like pretzels.

And now we come to The Mentalist. Which, if I’m being honest, is probably the one most worth talking about, simply because of the dramatic changes taking place all across the board. Since I last posted, Patrick Jane identified Red John, murdered him, and fled the country. The CBI closed down, and two YEARS passed. (Time jumps – especially unexpected ones – always throw me like a football). Jane spent the time on an island with tough extradition laws, Lisbon became a small town Sheriff, Cho joined the FBI (which is cool, because it goes with a fic I’m posting), and Rigspelt started their own investigative software (????) company. (That’s just a guess – all I know is it had something to do with law enforcement and computers.)

In any case, it was a lot to digest in a few short weeks. It hurt seeing FBI goons dragging Jane’s brown couch away, and watching his favorite blue teacup smash to the floor. I think I knew then that nothing would ever be the same again. Change is hard, but in this case I think it was necessary. The Red John storyline had dragged on for too long, and it was pulling the rest of the show down with it. The future of The Mentalist depended on a fresh start, and the showrunners boldly wiped the slate squeaky clean.

But before they could do so, they had to wrap up Red John, as quickly and satisfyingly as possible. I like that Red John was not Bertram, who had an odd pleasantness about him that did not quite fit a serial killer. The Sheriff had a little bit of that manic gleam in his eyes that went a long way to convincing me that he could, in fact, be a homicidal maniac. I like that Red John’s death was slower and more drawn-out than the mall shooting. I like that he said he was sorry for killing Jane’s family, and that he was also afraid to die. I like the moments of genuine fear I felt when RJ ran right through a home with a family inside, and a yard where a little girl was playing. I like that Jane said he felt a little bit disappointed, because the writers knew the audience would feel that way, too.

After all those years of build-up, how could the moment ever live up to our expectations? For me, the only real letdown was that Red John did not seem to have any special connection to Jane, or any attachment to him. I did not get a sense of their relationship – Red John has saved Jane’s life numerous times, and also killed for Jane on several occasions, yet I felt none of that twisted “bond” when they finally met face-to-face.

Like I said, though, it never could have lived up to everyone’s expectations. I’m pretty happy with what we got, especially the emotionality of Simon’s performance in those final moments, almost turning the gun on himself, and then making the decision to live and be free. Amazing stuff.

And now we have The Mentalist: A New Beginning. Honestly, I felt so much more excited about the previews for the “New Beginning” eps than I did for the “Red John: Final Chapter” eps, and that alone told me how much I was ready for Red John to be over. I feel like the show can finally breathe. It was crippled and tied down, and now, at last, it can spread its wings.

Some people will probably hate the show’s new direction, but I, for one, can’t wait to see how far it will fly.

Up Next: The Race: Week Twelve – with most shows in reruns, the few left standing battle it out for the top spot!

And also: Great Reads, Volume One: Superhero Stories. As the title suggests, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite superhero tales – whether you’re a lover of original short stories or a fanfic-aholic, you’ll leave a satisfied customer.

The Race: Week Five

THE RACE: WEEK FIVE (October 21st-27th)

Monday

Beauty and the Beast (9/8c, CW) – Much to my dismay, I missed most of this ep due to a scheduling conflict. Lacking the help of my trusty VCR, I had to rely on the last 15 minutes to piece together what I’d missed, and it looks like I missed A LOT. Vincent apparently physically assaulted Cat, and she covered it up. Cat took a lie detector test and used extreme measures (antiperspirant on her FOREHEAD???) to protect Vincent. He returned the favor by faking a memory of the two of them and taking advantage of Cat’s excitement over said memory to weasel information out of her for his own agenda. Vincent rescuing Cat from atop the elevator while having a REAL flashback of their past was a powerful, breathtaking moment – but his end-of-ep sincerity was too little, too late. Considering everything he’s been putting her through lately, Cat was right to close the door – er – window on him. SCORE: Withheld until I can see the whole ep.

Castle (10/9c, ABC) – Best episode of Castle EVER? Maybe not, but it came darn close! I love, love, love (imagine fifty more “love”s tossed in there) time travel stories, and this one was sublime. I was riveted the whole episode, cherishing each new thrilling development, while simultaneously dreading the end of the ep, when the mundane “rational” explanation for everything would be revealed. But Castle outdid itself in a way I never expected – they left the ending OPEN. They let us believe that maybe these guys WERE time-travelers. They allowed – even encouraged! – us keep believing in wonky futuristic scanners, twisty-turny timelines, and Castle and Beckett married one day with three kids. It was dramatic, exciting, fun, and yes, a little bit chilling, too (when Beckett spilled the coffee at the end…**shiver**). This ep was a ride, and I didn’t want to get off. SCORE: 9/10

Tuesday

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (8/7c, ABC) – Scheduling conflict strikes again! Missed the first half, and apparently some majorly important stuff happened in those thirty minutes. This really is a show you can’t afford to miss a moment of – not if you want to have a clue what’s happening – and I found that out the hard way. As to what I DID see: Skye’s betrayal of the group hurt, but it seems she was betrayed, too. Scorch was a blast (literally) and the stuff about naming him earned several chuckles. The ending with Skye and Coulson was powerful and emotional, and I could only imagine how much more gripping it would have been if I’d seen the whole ep and knew the full context. As it was, I can only guess that this was one of the best episodes yet. SCORE: Withheld until I can see the ep in its entirety.

Supernatural (9/8c, CW) – Oh, poor Cass! Poor, poor, POOR Cass! Supernatural has always been a show that exemplifies the “show, don’t tell” storytelling technique, and this ep was a prime example. Every moment of Castiel’s homeless, cold, hungry, desperate misery was documented onscreen in painful detail, until I was shivering in the rain right along with him. Castiel’s relief at finally having a safe place to stay with food and friends filled me with warmth, as though I’d just eaten a hearty bowl of soup after spending hours out in the bitter wind. Dean kicking Cass out at the end was so utterly brutal. I wanted to cry. I can only hope the show understands that not allowing Castiel to stay at the batcave does NOT have to equal abandoning him. I was shouting at the screen in those last moments: “Give him your car, Dean! Give him some money, give him some food, give him keys to a hunting cabin somewhere! Call Garth to come protect him!” Bonus points given for pure emotionality, Cass getting “deflowered,” the sheer CREEPINESS of Sam unknowingly being inhabited by another creature, Jared rocking dual performances as Sam and Zeke, clever use of a TV evangelist character, and Zeke bringing Cass back to life. Points deducted for: continuing last year’s trend of making a class of once-mysterious and elusive creatures (Reapers) fully corporeal and dreadfully ordinary. They were SO much cooler when you had to be dead/dying/out-of-body to even see them. SCORE: 8.75/10

Chicago Fire (10/9c, NBC) – And the firehouse drama continues. My heart shatters every time I look at Shay. I give the show major credit for not quickly wrapping up the fallout from her devastating experience in the previous episode. I’m so glad New Guy (sorry, I haven’t learned his name yet) gave Shay some much-needed advice, but I’m not sure she’ll take it to heart. I don’t trust the photographer-lady Shay is hooking up with, and I have a feeling that camera will come back to haunt her. As far as Zoya’s green-card issues go – can’t blame a girl for trying! Who could resist falling for Severide? (Not me!) Matt’s doing great with the boys (kudos to the show for writing some realistic bonding scenes), and Mills’ Freudian slip made me cringe and cover my face. The Chief’s health news was very unexpected, and I couldn’t help but wonder how much of a role it played in his decision to retire. Also: Benny Severide as the new chief??? Can we say “BAD IDEA”? I await his reign with equal parts anticipation and dread. How is it possible to be charismatic and slimy at the same time? Somehow, Benny pulls it off. SCORE: 7/10

Thursday

Elementary (10/9c, CBS) – When Sherlock’s bored, you know there’s bound to be trouble! Loved him and Watson fishing for potential murder victims at the morgue. The platypus skull was cute, and Sherlock being the one who slept with Joan’s friend was downright HILARIOUS. Definitely my favorite twist of the episode. The case portion of the ep was a fun road trip with lots of dead ends and u-turns, but I am and always will be a “character girl,” so, as usual, Joan and Sherlock’s personal stories were what held my attention. SCORE: 6.5/10

Friday

Grimm (9/8c, NBC) – The end of last season was very slightly re-written – and for good reason. Last year’s finale basically had all of Nick’s friends diving into a car and ditching him to the tune of, “Nick’s a Grimm, he can take care of himself!” I thought that was pretty lame, so I’m happy the show chose a different route – even if it meant fudging the writing a bit. Here we had Nick’s buddies use the car as a means of searching the container yard. Rather than ditching Nick, they were trying to find him (while mowing down a few zombies in the process). As usual, this ep included several laugh-out-loud moments courtesy of Monroe, some hard-core action (do NOT mess with zombie-Nick), and the show’s trademark gross-out gore (dismembered hands and feet, anyone?). All in all, a fun one. They almost always are. 🙂 SCORE: 7/10

Sunday

The Mentalist (10/9c, CBS) – Welcome back, Creepy Ray! Welcome back, Visualize! The case of the empty-room struggle and the stretchy-band murder weapon disposal were cool, but they took a back seat to the more intriguing story of Cho’s love-interest-turned-stalker-turned-spy-turned-Red John-victim. (Try saying that three times fast). That lady definitely kept me guessing until the end. I’m sorry she got murdered, but at least she was able to convey some useful info. I don’t know how the team can assume that RJ was actually the one who hired the girl, though. He could have sent a minion to hire (and kill) her. Also, did anyone else think she was just repeatedly pointing to the location of the tattoo, rather than attempting to draw the actual image in blood? Then again, Jane’s instincts are better than mine, so the tatt probably IS three dots. Ray’s warning near the end seemed very dire – I thought he might be dead before the end of the ep, but it didn’t happen. Bonus points given for: Cho and Rigsby’s cute little fruitbowl scene, several satisfyingly complex mysteries, and a heart-pounding, edge-of-the-seat ending. Points deducted for: Cho’s sloppy questioning of the PI Lady. When’s my favorite interrogator going to learn to stop feeding information to the people he’s questioning??? You don’t say, “Who hired you? Visualize?” You just say, “Tell me who hired you. NOW.” Grrrrrr. SCORE: 7.5/10

And the winner is…Castle, for an exquisitely-delivered time-travel roller-coaster that made my fangirl heart swoon. Supernatural noses into a close second for continuing to deliver the kind of sharp, Kripke-quality eps that made me fall in love with this show in the first place. Kudos!

The Race: Week Four

THE RACE: WEEK 4 (October 14-20)

Monday

Beauty and the Beast (9/8c, CW) – Poor Cat! Vincent unties her, sleeps with her, and then ties her back up! How insulting. I don’t think she should’ve done the horizontal tango with him – at this point, they are essentially strangers. She must be REALLY desperate to jog his memory. Too bad it backfired on her. Vincent – if it’s even really him – seems attentive to Cat at times, yet completely indifferent to her at others. Huh. His violent freak-out at the end was well-done. I felt genuinely scared for Cat. I like how Vincent’s mission this time was to save someone, rather than commit another murder. Keeping the focus on Vincent (and whatever he’s up to each episode) is working well, and deleting the case-of-the-week element has definitely helped tighten up the show. Not sure what to make of Gabe right now. He appears to be sincere in his desire to help both Cat and Vincent, but I don’t think I can ever completely trust him. Looking forward to seeing how this new alliance works out. SCORE: 7/10

Castle (10/9c, ABC) – Castle as a hostage negotiator = awesome. This one had a good storyline. The stakes were high – especially whenever Castle was with the gunwoman – yet the trademark humor was present as well (“Cheeseburgers!”). The guest star was engaging and sympathetic. I fully bought her performance as a troubled, desperate woman, and I’m glad Castle and Co. were able to clear her name. As an added bonus, Beckett got her job back at the end of the ep. I just hope the show keeps up that sparkly-fresh feeling it established in the opening eps, and doesn’t fall back into a rut now that Beckett’s got her old position back. SCORE: 7.5/10

Tuesday

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (8/7c, ABC) – That eyeball thingy was bad-@$$!  During the surgery scene, I actually had to turn away from the screen – multiple times. Ewwwwww! But the good kind of “ew.” Like Sam’s eye getting scooped out on Supernatural. Great stuff. Aside from the heart-pumping action, we once again got to look deeper at Coulson and Skye, as well as some new characters. Bonus points given for the creepy dudes in red masks. A highly entertaining, well-balanced ep. SCORE: 8/10

Supernatural (9/8c, CW) – Cool restoration of Abaddon’s body! Also, I like her plan to have demons inhabiting soldiers and behaving like warriors. Seems like a smart move on her part. In contrast, bringing Crowley back to the Bat Cave seemed like a stupid move, especially given that Kevin is staying there. Wouldn’t one of Bobby or Rufus’ remote cabins have been more appropriate? If those weren’t viable, then at least Sam and Dean should have made sure Kev could not access Crowley. The King of Hell was able to play with Kevin far too easily. Also, Sam and Dean didn’t seem well enough prepared for walking into a demon trap – I fully expected Ezekiel to pop out and save the day, and sure enough, he did. Major points given, though, for how ragged Zeke’s wings looked when he emerged, Jared’s utterly convincing performance a the angel in Sam’s body, and Dean’s long-overdue speech to Kevin (just wish I knew if Dean really meant it…). Points deducted for Dean not even asking about their hunter friend who got killed, and no one making any attempt to bury/pay respects to the guy’s body. The whole group just sort of drove off in a happy mood, like the guy never even existed. This is not like Sam and Dean at all. Also, Tiger Mommy might be alive, and no one’s going to look for her? Shame on you, Dean! SCORE: 7.5/10

Chicago Fire (10/9c, NBC) – Talk about a raw and gripping episode. The show took brutally painful subject matter, and did it justice. My heart broke for Shay. I wished for her to confide in Severide, rather than letting the guilt eat her alive. Great exploration of how small, seemingly innocent gestures from one person can have a huge impact on another. I also like how Severide’s and Shay’s storylines paralleled one another, with each character trying to talk someone down, and neither one succeeding. The conclusion of the arsonist arc paled a little in comparison to the power of Shay and Dawson’s story. The contrast in how the two women handled the trauma was well-done and believable (though I kinda hate the way Dawson basically laid the blame on Leslie). Hated to see them fighting, when they normally get along so well. Loved the twist of Dawson’s scummy date actually being an undercover cop. SCORE: 8.5/10

Thursday

Elementary (10/9c, CBS) – Verrrry interesting storyline. Great glimpse into Sean – ahem – Sherlock’s boarding school days. The well-crafted plot-twists took a backseat to the emotional tales of three people who had suffered terrible abuse. Young Sherlock found his calling through correspondence with a killer, who eventually found her redemption by protecting another killer. Wildly complex, yet very satisfying. Bonus points for Sherlock’s warning to the murderer at the end, the scene where Sherlock confided in Watson, and Watson’s super-sleuthing with regards to the tattoo. SCORE: 8/10

Sunday

The Mentalist (10/9c, CBS) – Okay, my bad – the FBI guy’s name is Reed(e) Smith, not Agent Reid (guess I had Criminal Minds on the brain last week). I vaguely remember him from early Season Five. I think he was going to have a bigger role last year – possibly some type of romance with Lisbon? – but I guess the writers dropped that storyline. They dropped Cho’s rapid-response team/Tamsen romance storyline last year, too (or at least woefully underused it). Anyway, for the most part I had forgotten all about Agent Smith, until he popped up as one of the Red John suspects. I’m digging him now, though – he does clueless well, and evil even better. Tyger, tyger! Great to finally know Kirkland’s backstory, even if it meant losing the character. I’m assuming his twin was identical, and that’s why he kept asking suspects, “Do you know who I am? Have you ever seen me before?” Not sure why he killed the guy in the hospital last year, though – couldn’t Kirkland have used that guy to find Red John? Also, why did Kirkland assume his brother died? Red John has given people new identities before…In any case, this ep was exciting, informative, and all the better for not being bogged down by an unrelated case-of-the-week. Bonus points awarded for: Jane and Lisbon’s contrasting views on whether the fake suspects should be protected (when she said, “That’s the difference between you and me,” and Jane just smiled…so cute!), Rigs and Van Pelt’s newlywed subplot, concrete confirmation of Red John’s law enforcement network, a Minelli mention (yay!), and the return of Hightower (double yay!). Points deducted for: severe Cho neglect. SCORE: 8/10

And the winner is…

Chicago Fire, for a shocking, painful, and – above all – memorable episode.