TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.16



Title Best Laid Plans

Two-Sentence Summary When Rumplestiltkin’s plan to turn Emma’s heart dark is revealed, Snow and Charming realize they have to tell their daughter the truth about what they did to ensure she would be born a hero: stealing Maleficent’s child to transfer any of Emma’s future darkness onto the baby, who was then sent into a portal and grew up to be Emma’s childhood friend Lily. With her emotions running high, Emma decides to let the Author out of the book to question him, even though August told her this Author was the only one of the many throughout history who started manipulating events, which led to his imprisonment in the book.

Favorite Line “No one—not Rumplestiltskin or some Author—gets to decide who I am.” (Emma)

My Thoughts “Best Laid Plans” was an episode about free will and the importance of it—but also the uncertainty that it causes. There’s a beautiful freedom in knowing someone can choose to be whoever they want to be, but there’s also a fear of making the wrong choice. What helps abate that fear? Hope. As such, “Best Laid Plans” was also an episode about what happens when we lose hope—in ourselves, in the people we love, and in the ability for good to always defeat evil. On Once Upon a Time, hopelessness often leads to desperation, and desperate people do terrible things. Even good people do dark things when they lose hope, and that was the message at the very heart of “Best Laid Plans.”

It seems desperation is the driving force for Rumplestiltskin’s quest to get his happy ending, and I’m very intrigued by what his conversation with (unconscious) Belle implied about his future. While it made me uncomfortable to see him kiss her hand without her consent (especially knowing she’d never give him that consent at this point had she been awake), it was interesting to see that he needed to confess to someone about his motives and chose her—even if I wish he could be brave enough to tell her while she was awake. His statement that things must happen quickly raised the idea that he feels he’s running out of time. Is he dying? Did his resurrection have a time limit no one knew about? Or was he simply talking about Belle moving on? Whatever is actually going on, this much seems clear now: Rumplestiltskin has become that desperate soul he used to be so good at exploiting. And that makes his increasing darkness feel like it’s coming from a more believable place.

Regina is another character whose desperation for her happy ending has her seeking out the Author to get him to change her fate. However, while her desperation might still be blinding her to the idea of simply changing her fate by her own choices, it’s not pushing her toward darkness the way it’s done to Rumplestiltskin. However, Rumplestiltskin apparently has something up his sleeve that he believes will make her desperate enough to give in to her darkness again. (I’m guessing Robin is in danger, and Rumplestiltskin knows it.)

I have a feeling, though, that Rumplestiltskin is underestimating Regina’s growth. She’s not the same woman who craved darkness after losing the hope of getting Daniel back. Instead, she has people around her who want to keep her from becoming completely hopeless, and at the center of that support system is Henry. I loved the way those two characters were able to read each other in the scene in which Henry gave Regina the fake page. Their relationship has changed so much from its earliest days. And so much of that growth came from Regina letting go of her need to control her son. Regina kept Henry in the dark about everything for so much of his life, but instead of letting that define him and drive him to darkness, he forgave her and grew into a resourceful and genuinely good young man (who actually had some important stuff to do in this episode!). I know that the situations aren’t exactly the same, but if Henry can forgive Regina for making him feel crazy, then it’s not impossible to believe Emma will be able to forgive her parents eventually for their attempt to take away her agency before she was born.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (3/22 – 3/29)

This week in television started off with a look into Ursula and Hook’s past on Once Upon a Time. Also on Sunday, we made it through Election Day along with all the characters on The Good Wife. On Monday, Castle gave us another great Ryan-centric episode, and Tuesday was season finale night for The Mindy Project. Wednesday featured a Nashville concert special and an episode of The Americans that highlighted the complexity of Elizabeth Jennings and the brilliance of the actress who brings her to life. And this entire week was filled with plenty of March Madness fun for basketball fans.

Some weeks, it’s incredibly difficult for me to choose my favorite TV moment of the week. And then some weeks, I know from the minute I watch a particular scene that it’s going to be nearly impossible to beat. This week was an example of the latter. There were a lot of strong moments to pick from, but none made me happier than Hook telling Emma she’s his happy ending on this week’s Once Upon a Time.

Sometimes you just want to feel good when you watch television, and that’s what this moment was all about. It was a moment of deep, almost unbelievable joy for two characters who spent so much of their lives believing that kind of happiness would never be theirs to have. Throughout the episode’s flashbacks, we were reminded that Hook spent three lifetimes in darkness and despair. But in that scene with Emma, he told her in no uncertain terms that she makes him happy enough to believe he’s living out his happy ending just by being with her. And Emma spent so much of her life believing she was never enough to make the people she loved happy just by being herself. But in that moment, she finally had someone look at her and tell her that she’s enough exactly as she is to make someone she loves happy forever.

That scene was powerful on its own merit, but was even more powerful because of who we know these characters to be and how long we know they’ve struggled to find the kind of love shown in that moment. Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison did such a fantastic job of conveying how monumental this was for both characters without ever making it feel heavy-handed. It was the first moment of this half-season of Once Upon a Time to make me cry, and it came by those emotions honestly.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

Grading the Season Finales 2015: The Mindy Project



Before we start talking about last night’s finale, I just wanted to say a quick thanks to all of you who’ve joined us here at NGN to talk about The Mindy Project this season. It’s been a true pleasure writing about this season and discussing it with all of you!

Title Best Man (3.21)

Written By Mindy Kaling

What Happens? Mindy invites Danny to meet her parents at a going-away party before they spend a year in India. However, when Danny gets stuck at the hospital for longer than he expected, he decides to stay in New York instead of making the effort to get to Boston. Mindy then takes this as a sign that she was right not to tell her parents about Danny. With his commitment issues and her history of failed relationships, she didn’t want to introduce them to someone who wasn’t going to stick around.

Mindy reveals all of this to Peter while he’s in town to pick a new best man for his wedding. She explains to him that her parents think that the father of her baby is just an ex-boyfriend she’s no longer dating anymore. Naturally, Morgan overhears this part of the conversation and believes there are now questions about the paternity of Mindy’s child.

During a surprise baby shower at Annette’s house, Morgan has a surprise of his own for Mindy: a lineup of her former boyfriends whom he believes could have fathered her child. Forced to confront the fact that she kept information about Danny from her parents, Mindy reveals that she was scared because—as the lineup of men Morgan found proves—she hasn’t been great at picking guys who stick around. As truths start to come out, Danny has one of his own: He doesn’t think he wants to get married again.

While Mindy and Danny discuss their different stances on marriage, they realize they’re on opposite ends of a debate in which there’s really no middle ground. Mindy doesn’t think it’s crazy to want to get married, but Danny thinks the institution is meaningless. After Mindy leaves, a conversation between Annette and Danny allows Danny to open up about why his parents’ divorce and his first divorce left him so scared of getting married again: He doesn’t want to end up hating Mindy. However, Annette reminds Danny that maybe the problem both of them had was that they married people who weren’t deserving of everything good about marriage.

While Mindy stays home from Peter’s wedding due to her preeclampsia (and tries to write to her parents about the real father of her baby), Danny appears to be on a plane to Austin. However, when Mindy gets a call from Morgan, he tells her that Jeremy took Mindy’s place as Peter’s best man, and Danny isn’t at the wedding. Instead, Danny flew to India, where he introduces himself to Mindy’s parents and tells them he’s in love with their daughter.

Game-Changing Moment While I think many would (not incorrectly) see Danny showing up in India to introduce himself to Mindy’s parents as the biggest moment in “Best Man,” I think the most important moment was the conversation that led to Danny taking that big step: his conversation with his mother. Danny isn’t good at vulnerability. But with his beloved Ma, he could finally open up about how damaged he is by the failed marriages he’s seen and been a part of. And it’s only through that open confronting of his fears that he could begin to heal in a way that allowed him to get on the plane at the end of the episode. Without his mother’s guidance and support, Danny would never have found the courage to be the man Mindy deserves. As Annette said so perfectly, if Danny doesn’t believe in fairytales, he picked the wrong girl to start a family with. Mindy deserves the things Danny was scared to give her, and Annette helped her son see that. And in giving her son guidance without pushing him, Annette showed us why Danny became the good (if understandably flawed) man he is: He has a Ma who wants nothing more than for him to be happy and to be his best self. Without Annette’s words of wisdom, there’s no big gesture to end the episode, so I’d consider her this finale’s ultimate game-changer.

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TV Time: Broadchurch 2.03

Leah is back with her thoughts on the latest episode of Broadchurch!

Title Episode 3

Two-Sentence Summary Lee continues to cause trouble for Alec, and Ellie gets Claire to tell her what really happened the night the Sandbrook girls disappeared. Meanwhile, Beth gives birth to new baby Lizzie, and the trial continues with Ellie’s testimony.

Favorite Lines “I am sick to the back teeth of taking flack for stuff I haven’t done.” (Ellie)

“Ellie, listen. The world is screwing you over right now. You owe you something.” (Claire)

My Thoughts This episode seemed like one in which not much actually happened, but I was glad to get a bit more information on how all the characters are doing mentally and emotionally. I probably enjoyed this episode more for that reason, though I am still tired of Ellie being the show’s punching bag, and I hope this does not continue through the whole season.

One of the storylines I enjoyed most in this episode was the birth of baby Lizzie. I was glad Ellie stayed with Chloe while Beth was in labor, and their conversation on the stairs was one of my favorite moment, in which Chloe simply asks whether Ellie knew what Joe was doing instead of screaming at her like Beth has been doing. Meanwhile, Mark was absent for hours on end without being reachable on his phone. You would think with a wife who is ready to give birth any day that he’d answer his phone when it rings, but if he was spending time with Tom, then maybe he feels so guilty every time he’s there that he ignores all calls. The most emotional part of this for me was when Mark first held Lizzie. He broke my heart with his teary promises to take good care of her, as well his assurances that she was wanted and loved and that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes this time. Mark clearly still has a lot of guilt over feeling like they failed Danny as parents, and he wants to make sure they don’t fail Lizzie, too. I loved how realistic the emotions from Mark felt in that moment, because the show is showing us how losing your child in the way the Latimers did changes so much about your life, including how you feel about yourself as a parent.

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TV Time: Castle 7.18

Title At Close Range

Two-Sentence Summary Ryan finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation when a philanthropist with political connections is killed at an event where he was working as a member of the security team. Things get even more complicated when Ryan’s brother-in-law, who got him the extra work, becomes a suspect.

Favorite Lines
Castle: Is it One Direction? You’d tell me, right? Are they in town?
Esposito: No, they’re in Hong Kong.

My Thoughts Sadly, non-NGN responsibilities have forced me to be brief with this week’s Castle post. So instead of a full recap, here are Five Fast Takes from “At Close Range,” and I can’t wait to talk about this episode in greater detail with all of you in the comments!

1. Castle and Esposito being One Direction fans was one of the greatest side conversations on this show in a long time. I think I’ve re-watched that one little exchange five times since last night. Nathan Fillion and Jon Huertas had great timing with their line delivery, and sometimes a silly moment like that just lands perfectly, which this one did for me.

2. I love Kevin Ryan. I don’t know if it’s the way he’s written or if it’s the earnestness Seamus Dever brings to him or if it’s some combination of the two (I’m guessing that’s it), but I find Ryan-centric episodes to be some of the show’s finest hours. My favorite thing about Ryan is how deeply he cares about doing the right thing. It makes him an easy character to root for. I also love how perfectly in-character it is for him to be burdened by guilt and a sense of failure when things go wrong on his watch. Ryan has the one-two punch of Irish-Catholic guilt working against him, and that makes his sense of devotion to doing the right thing even more believable.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.15



Title Poor Unfortunate Soul

Two-Sentence Summary As Regina watches the Queens of Darkness and Rumplestiltskin attempt to get information out of August, Hook also tries to get information out of Ursula by giving her the happy ending she lost as a girl because of his selfish pursuit of revenge. As more information about the Author becomes clear, it’s revealed that Rumplestiltskin’s plan involves more than just him (or her): It all hinges on turning Emma dark, so she’ll act as the savior for the villains.

Favorite Lines
Emma: Wait—if you’re afraid of losing your happy ending, that means you’ve found it. What is it?
Hook: Don’t you know, Emma? It’s you.

My Thoughts “Poor Unfortunate Soul” was an extremely well-balanced episode of Once Upon a Time. It moved the plot forward in important ways, but it also connected that forward plot momentum to intensely emotional moments. And all of that development—for both the characters and the plot—was centered around one common theme: happy endings. “Poor Unfortunate Soul” was a thematically cohesive episode, with each moment dealing with the overarching idea of happy endings in some way: how we define happy endings and how that definition can change as we change; the means we take to find and protect our happiness; and what all of those things say about heroism and villainy.

Everything about this episode—and it seems everything about this half-season—was summed up in its final moments. August revealed that he’d kept an important truth from Rumplestiltskin and the Queens of Darkness that he was willing to reveal to Emma, Regina, and Henry: The Author is trapped in the storybook. This powerful person that almost every character on the show seems to be searching for has been right under their noses the whole time, literally in their hands. This was an amazing twist and also a symbolic one. The key to a happy ending is often closer than you think it is; it’s often right under your nose, but sometimes you need help to see that. And people will only help you see it and find it if you act in a way that shows you’re deserving of it. The villains keep trying to get closer to their happy endings via force, but if August’s ability to keep information from them even in the face of torture showed us anything, it’s that force isn’t going to work. Happiness can’t be achieved through dark methods; kindness is the key to happiness.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (3/15 – 3/22)

This week in television started off on Sunday with an exploration of Maleficent and Regina’s past on Once Upon a Time, another entertaining half-hour of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and one step closer to the big election on The Good Wife. Dancing with the Stars started its new season on Monday night, and that was followed by an episode of Castle that gave us some insight into Beckett’s view of her place in the working world. On Tuesday, The Mindy Project introduced us to Tamra’s cousin Sheena, and on Wednesday, The Americans tested Martha and “Clark’s” relationship in ways neither character was anticipating.

As any of you who regularly visit NGN probably know, there are few things in the media I love more than depictions of supportive female friendships and women encouraging other women to believe in themselves. This week, The Mindy Project gave us such a lovely example of this with the introduction of Laverne Cox’s Sheena, who helped Mindy find her confidence again. Sheena’s advice was the perfect mixture of funny and sincere, and it’s advice I hope all women watching took to heart. Talk to yourself like you talk to your friends—with kindness and encouragement rather than negativity. Be nice to yourself. And when all else fails, do your makeup, put on a fierce outfit, and fake it until you make it.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

TV Time: The Americans 3.08

the americans divestment

Title: Divestment

Episode M.V.P.: Matthew Rhys
One of the most underrated aspects of a great performance is how an actor reacts to what’s going on around them. Matthew Rhys isn’t a just a great actor; he’s a great reactor, and that is so important on a show that relies on subtlety and nuance as much as The Americans does. In “Divestment,” Philip was mainly reacting to the situations and people around him—from Reuben’s brutal way of killing to Martha’s living room interrogation. And the way those reactions built from silence to a powerful use of rhetoric allowed Rhys to use every weapon in his acting arsenal.

I loved what Rhys was able to do with silence once again in this episode. The set of his jaw and the direction of his gaze in the effective close-ups during the brutal fire scene said so much. And the stunning way he was shot in profile as he listened for news from Afghanistan allowed Rhys to show Philip’s overwhelming worry for his son without needing to spell it out for us. And his powerful silence in that scene made the revelation of his son’s name—his real name—feel as important as it needed to feel for Elizabeth’s request to be believable later in the episode. In just a few lines, Rhys and Keri Russell communicated so much to the audience and showed that Elizabeth and Philip can read each other’s reactions so well without any words.

That powerful silence between Elizabeth and Philip contrasted brilliantly with his final scene with Martha. While Elizabeth and Philip often don’t need any words to understand each other because they’ve built up so much trust together, “Clark” often needs to be a smooth-talker with Martha to keep her happy because that same intimacy isn’t there. As Martha finally confronted “Clark,” I loved that Rhys allowed us to see Philip panic for one barely perceptible moment. This was his worst nightmare coming true, and he needed to think on his feet to keep everything from crashing down around him. Rhys does such a brilliant job of showing the wheels turning in Philip’s head without making it seem obvious, and that was put to great use here, as we saw him grasping at straws to say everything he felt he needed to say to appease Martha and save them both.

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TV Time: The Mindy Project 3.20

Title What To Expect When You’re Expanding

Two-Sentence Summary As Mindy struggles with her self-confidence after starting to gain weight due to her pregnancy, she gets some help from Tamra and her cousin Sheena. Meanwhile, Morgan is also struggling with his weight, and Jeremy tries to date again after learning that Peter and Lauren are getting married.

Favorite Lines
Sheena: Mindy, confidence comes from—
Mindy: From within. Yeah, I know.
Sheena: Within? Who the hell told you that? Confidence comes from amazing outfits and perfect makeup.

My Thoughts One of my favorite things about Mindy Lahiri as a character is her confidence. It’s still a rare thing for a female character on television—especially a female character who doesn’t fit the “traditional leading lady” model in terms of her appearance—to be so unashamedly confident in who she is, and that includes how she looks. Mindy makes me feel like it’s okay to look at yourself in the mirror and think you look amazing, and that’s one of the reasons why this character isn’t just entertaining—she’s important.

As this pregnancy storyline has unfolded on The Mindy Project, it’s allowed for deeper explorations of some aspects of Mindy and Danny’s characters that have only been briefly touched on previously, such as Danny’s Catholicism in last week’s episode. In “What To Expect When You’re Expanding,” the focus was put on Mindy’s self-confidence, giving it new layers and depth by showing that underneath Mindy’s healthy sense of self-esteem are some very relatable insecurities.

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TV Time: Castle 7.17

This week’s Castle post is brought to you by one of my favorite fellow Kate Beckett fans, Heather



Title Hong Kong Hustle

Two Sentence Summary At the news of a friend’s promotion, Beckett questions whether she is doing enough to have the life and position she wants at work. A murder that brings the very talented Hong Kong Chief Inspector Zhang together with the NYPD furthers those feelings of failure, until Beckett realizes that her balance now might not look like she’d once imagined it would.

Favorite Line “You cannot leave behind what is always at your side” (Castle)

My Thoughts There are some characters who I just love a little more than all others and feel incredibly protective over. Kate Beckett is one of those characters. She has proven herself to be strong (both physically and mentally), she’s incredibly good at her job, and I honestly can’t think of a character who has looked better in love than she does. She’s also extremely driven and competitive and is therefore prone to moments of doubts and insecurity that make me want to wrap her up in a hug and tell her how amazing I find her.

The case in this episode wasn’t bad. It was a little overly complicated again, and I’m not sure the human trafficking element was entirely necessary. However, this episode was really all about Kate Beckett and who she thinks she should be and what that means for her future. This episode was the perfect example of the way a procedural (which is inherently plot-based) can pull off a character-driven episode if that character has a strong enough foundation.

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