Grading the Season Finales 2014: Scandal

TONY GOLDWYN

Title The Price of Free and Fair Election (3.18)

Written By Shonda Rhimes and Mark Wilding

What Happens? Jake tells Fitz about the bomb Maya Pope planted in the church (which Cyrus was still not going to tell him about), prompting an evacuation of the church just as the bomb goes off. As Fitz delivers a speech, Sally is shown helping the wounded among the rubble of the church, and it becomes clear that Fitz is about to lose the election.

Olivia confides in her father that she doesn’t want Fitz to lose and that she was scared Rowan was going to die when her mother stabbed him. With Maya still on the loose and the election all but lost, tensions are running high in the White House. Things only get more complicated when Olivia tells Fitz about his father raping Mellie. Fitz goes to his wife, and both he and Olivia understand that he can’t leave her with this new knowledge. Instead, he and his family make an appearance together, but while Fitz is delivering his speech, his son Jerry collapses and later dies from bacterial meningitis.

Jerry’s death is revealed to be no accident: A vial containing a strain of the disease was stolen, and all signs point to Maya. A grieving Fitz gives Rowan permission to do whatever he has to do to bring her down, which means reinstating himself as Command of B-613.

As Fitz and Mellie mourn together, Olivia and Cyrus contemplate their humanity: Were they always monsters whose first thoughts are winning elections, which they know will happen now with the public support thrown behind Fitz after Jerry’s death? Olivia is confronted with a way to rediscover her humanity when Huck reveals Quinn found his family. While he ultimately decides to see them again, his words about disappearing inspire Olivia to take her father up on his offer of putting her on a plane to disappear forever—and she takes Jake with her.

With Olivia gone just like her father wanted, Harrison puts the pieces together to see that it wasn’t Maya who killed Jerry—it was Rowan. Olivia wanted Fitz to be president, so he made Fitz president, while taking away his son like Fitz took away Rowan’s daughter. Rowan then orders Harrison to be shot, and we see that he’s keeping Maya locked up once again.

As Olivia and Jake fly towards their new life, David receives boxes of files on B-613, and Olivia receives a phone call from the White House. It’s Mellie calling for Fitz, who has broken down under the weight of everything the presidency has cost him just before he’s set to deliver his victory speech. But Olivia chooses not to pick up.

Game-Changing Moment Scandal is famous for packing multiple game-changing moments into each episode—not just its finales. With so many shocking scenes in its short history, it’s rare that a Scandal twist can be genuinely upsetting anymore, but that’s exactly what young Fitzgerald Grant IV’s death was—upsetting. When none of the major characters in the church died in the bombing, I’m sure most people expected someone to die in a different way in this episode, but I’m not sure anyone expected the teenage son of the president to die in such a sudden and brutal manner. Jerry’s death was a horrifying moment, and it’s more even horrifying after discovering why he died. His death led to so many more game-changing moments in this finale: Rowan being reinstated as Command by Fitz; Fitz winning the election; Maya being recaptured; and, ultimately, the reveal that Rowan was the one who set up the boy’s death (which led to Harrison’s possible death as well). This twist also led to many of the episode’s most important moments of character growth: Olivia and Cyrus talking about becoming monsters; Mellie and Fitz softening towards each other in their grief; and Fitz breaking down in the Oval Office. It’s always a risk to kill off a kid (or in this case, a teenager), but Scandal made it a moment of huge importance while grounding it in very realistic grief.

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Grading the Season Finales 2014: Suits

Suits s3 finale

Source: usanetwork.com

Title No Way Out (3.16)

Written By Aaron Korsh and Daniel Arkin

What Happens? When Mike is taken in for questioning concerning the Hessington Oil settlement and the accusations of bribing witnesses, it becomes clear that U.S. Attorney Eric Woodall isn’t interested in Mike at all; he wants to bring down Harvey. Things get tricky for Mike and Harvey when it’s revealed that another attorney was also brought in for questioning: Harold Gunderson. When a meeting between Mike and Harold leads to their arrest, Harvey enlists Louis’s help to keep Harold from cracking under the pressure, while Harvey tells Mike to put all the blame on him.

It seems Harvey has been taking a look in the mirror, and he doesn’t like the man looking back at him. Despite the refrain of “You’re a good man, Harvey” that he keeps hearing, Harvey worries that he’s becoming the opposite of that, and Mike might pay the price for it. Jessica is also contemplating her role in the firm’s questionable practices and their affects on the family she’s built within Pearson Specter. Scottie’s role in that family changes dramatically when she voices her desire to leave. Harvey’s parting gift to her is to let her in on Mike’s secret, with a promise that he’s done lying to the people he loves.

Scottie isn’t the only one moving on from Pearson Specter. Mike is tired of lying and having other people lie to protect his secret. So he decides to take the investment banking job he was offered, making him a client of Pearson Specter and no longer an employee.

Game-Changing Moment I’m not sure it gets more quintessentially game-changing than Mike quitting Pearson Specter to take a job as their client instead. The entire premise of Suits was built around Mike’s secret and his relationships within Pearson Specter, especially his mentor/mentee relationship with Harvey. But it became clear that this premise couldn’t sustain a long-running series without turning the characters into unlikeable people and turning the plot into a predictable circle of people finding out, people almost finding out, and Mike still emerging unscathed. Something had to change. And something finally did. Mike’s exit was quietly powerful in the way it not only fundamentally altered the entire premise of the show but also in the way it highlighted something that doesn’t always happen on television: Actions have consequences. Mike’s secret took a huge emotional toll on him, and I thought Patrick J. Adams displayed that perfectly in this episode. It was time for him to do the right thing, and it was time for Harvey to give him permission to do the right thing. It’s not just the show’s plot that will change with Mike’s departure (although he’ll stay on as a client); Mike and Harvey’s relationship will be forever altered, too. I thought both Adams and Gabriel Macht gave that scene the emotional weight necessary to convey the impact of this decision on both Mike and Harvey. Will the show be able to sustain itself with Mike not being a lawyer anymore? I’m not sure. But it’s an interesting question to hold on to until we see how this all plays out next season.

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TV Time: New Girl 3.21

New-Girl-Big-News

Title Big News

Two-Sentence Summary Jess and Nick each try to make the other believe they’re doing okay the day after their breakup. However, their emotions get the best of them during a celebration of Winston’s acceptance into the police academy.

Favorite Line “Well, this just in: The dress code for Winston’s banquet tonight is…optional.” (Schmidt)

My Thoughts I can’t lie; I’m struggling with New Girl right now. I wanted to enjoy “Big News,” and there were definitely some parts of it that entertained me and charmed me. I loved Cece being a genuinely good friend to Jess when she needed her the most. I loved the entire concept of the “Honey Roast,” including Winston’s white tuxedo. I loved Coach having to greet everyone with a hug, a kiss, and a formal bow because he had to keep Nick and Jess’s secret. Heck, I even loved the realistically awkward morning-after-breakup moments between Nick and Jess.

I applaud the New Girl cast for always selling the hell out whatever they’re given, and this is especially true for Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel. But I’m not sure I can pretend to like what they’re being given right now, and it’s affecting my overall enjoyment of the show in a pretty major way.

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Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “The Lion and the Rose”

The Moment: Cersei meets Brienne

Setting the Scene: At Joffrey’s wedding, Cersei finds time for a moment alone with her brother’s rescuer. When a smiling Brienne reveals that Jaime also rescued her (a fact Cersei wasn’t aware of until that moment), the former Queen Regent makes a quick study of the young woman and comes to a conclusion that Brienne has no answer for: She’s in love with Jaime.

Why It’s Awesome: I know what you’re probably thinking: Joffrey finally meets his end in this episode (and in quite a brutal fashion), and I’m picking a conversation between Cersei and Brienne as the show’s best moment of the week? Let me be clear: Of course I loved seeing Joffrey get his royal comeuppance, and I adored Lena Headey’s performance in those final moments. But I knew it was coming, so it didn’t have quite the same impact for me as I’m sure it did for people who didn’t read the books (because when I read the books I was thrilled in a way that experiencing it again through the show couldn’t replicate). I loved the little bits of foreshadowing throughout the scene, but my favorite moments on Game of Thrones tend to be ones that surpass my experience while reading or surprise me entirely, and Joffrey’s death, while executed perfectly, didn’t make my jaw drop—not like Cersei preying on Brienne’s open heart did.

Brienne of Tarth is my favorite character in the A Song of Ice and Fire series for so many reasons: her subversion of stereotypes about physically imposing, unglamorous women; her innocence; her open heart; and her belief in honor even after a life of being treated cruelly by almost all she meets. It’s interesting to note that nearly all of those reasons make her a direct foil for Cersei Lannister. Ever since Brienne and Jaime returned to King’s Landing before they did in the book, I’ve been waiting for these two formidable women to meet on the show, and I was so happy that it turned out even better than my expectations—perhaps because it was written by George R.R. Martin himself.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 3.17

COLIN O'DONOGHUE

Title The Jolly Roger

Two-Sentence Summary In Storybrooke, Hook is enlisted to help Ariel reunite with Prince Eric, but the captain is carrying a dark secret about the prince’s fate and his own quest to return to a pirate’s life during the lost year in the Enchanted Forest. When Ariel is revealed to be a shape-shifted Zelena, Hook is cursed to remove Emma’s magic if he ever kisses her.

Favorite Line “Killian, whatever happened this past year—whatever it is you’re not telling me—I don’t care. I’m tired of living in the past.” (Emma)

My Thoughts “True love isn’t easy,” Prince Charming once said (in Season One’s “What Happened to Frederick,” which was coincidentally written by David H. Goodman, who also penned “The Jolly Roger”). The same can be said of becoming a better person, embracing your true self, and learning to let go of your past. But when has anything easy ever been worthwhile to watch when it comes to character arcs?

Let’s not bury the lead here: This episode hurt. I’m still sad about it more than twelve hours later. But I love that I’m this broken-up about it because it means the writers and the actors did their jobs. If it’s done correctly, I love angst. And by “correctly,” I mean, “brought about with believable choices made by characters acting consistently to what we know about their pasts and their current motivations.” And “The Jolly Roger” was nothing if not consistent in terms of its characterization. I understood every choice made in this episode by its featured players, and that’s all I ask for.

The central theme of this episode tied into what is appearing to be the overarching theme of this half of Season Three: You can’t go back. Zelena wants to literally change the past. Charming wanted to go back to being the “cool grandpa” he was when he taught Henry to swordfight and ride horses. Emma wants to return to the life she and Henry led in New York City. And Hook learned the hard way that you can’t run from the pain of the present by desperately trying to rekindle the past.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (4/6 – 4/13)

This week in television started off on Sunday with a trip into Zelena’s past on Once Upon a Time and the triumphant return of Game of Thrones. Monday’s episode of Dancing with the Stars shook up the show’s partnerships with varying degrees of success, and Tuesday’s hour of The Mindy Project broke all of our hearts but may have featured the comedy’s finest acting to date. And Thursday provided a trifecta of excellent episodes: A new addition to the Knope-Wyatt family was revealed on Parks and Recreation; the Suits season finale saw the end of both Scottie and Mike’s time as Pearson-Specter lawyers; and the lives of multiple important characters are hanging in the balance after Scandal‘s penultimate episode of the season.

I was going to choose Mindy and Danny’s terribly realistic breakup scene as the best moment of the week because Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina were just so good in it. However, it’s time I chose something uplifting again—and I am so thankful for Parks and Rec‘s happy pregnancy reveal, which took what could have been an ordinary episode and elevated it to one of the show’s turning points. Leslie revealing her pregnancy to Ben (just by saying she had good news for him) was the perfect showcase for Amy Poehler and Adam Scott’s warm chemistry and underrated talent for handling emotional moments with realism and sincerity. The subtlety, love, and genuine happiness in that scene was like comfort food for the soul after so many weeks of depressing television.

Because NBC doesn’t like to let me share their videos, relive the joy again by watching this scene over at EW.com! 

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

Grading the Series Finales: Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

ouatiw finale

Today, Leah is back to share her thoughts on the finale of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and the series as whole.

Title And They Lived… (1.13)

Written By Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, and Zack Estrin

What Happened? Jafar and Amara finish casting the spell that breaks the laws of magic, which they then both use for various means. Cyrus and Amara head to the Well of Wonders to return the water, while Alice heads off with an army towards Jafar’s castle, prepared to strike. However, their plans are interrupted when Jafar’s new army captures Alice. Jafar threatens to use his magic to change Alice’s past in an attempt to get Alice to reveal Amara’s location, but before he has to use that plan, members of his army arrive with reports of seeing Amara and Cyrus by two red doors, which the love-curse-stricken Anastasia tells Jafar is the Well of Wonders.

While Jafar chases Amara, Will talks to Anastasia and makes her doubt the validity of her love for Jafar enough to get her close enough for him to reach out and kiss her. The kiss is true love’s kiss and thus breaks the spell Anastasia is under. Upon coming back to herself, she immediately helps Will and Alice out of their various confinements.

Jafar interrupts Cyrus and Amara’s attempt to give the water back to the Well of Wonders and kills Amara, which turns her back into the water that gave her life so many years ago. Alice appears—disrupting Jafar for a moment—but he freezes her with his magic before she can really do anything. As Cyrus attempts to put the water back into the well, Jafar takes it for himself, gaining the wrath of the well’s guardian, Nyx, and bringing about his own punishment as a genie. This undoes all of what Jafar’s magic had recently done, and it stopped the effects of Cyrus stealing the water so many years earlier, freeing Cyrus’s brothers and Will from being genies and undoing Jafar’s revival of Anastasia.

Alice and Cyrus arrive with water from Nyx to bring Anastasia back because it was not her time to die. Back in England, the Rabbit marries Alice and Cyrus ,with Alice’s family, Will, and Anastasia all present to witness their happy day. The last scene of the series shows us Alice telling her daughter the stories of Wonderland, while Cyrus brings them more treats for their teatime setup as the Rabbit looks on from afar.

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TV Time: Parks and Recreation 6.19

Source: tvguide.com

Source: tvguide.com

Title Flu Season 2

Two-Sentence Summary Tom attends a sommelier competition to find someone to hire for his restaurant, only to discover that Craig is a great—and very enthusiastic—sommelier. Meanwhile, Ben’s frustration over his parents selling their lake house leads him to the discover that he wants to start a family with Leslie now, which coincides with Leslie discovering that her nausea might not be a flu symptom after all.

Favorite Lines
Ben: I want to start our family. I mean—I know things are crazy. But there’s no “good” time, and I want to do it now.
Leslie: Well buddy, I’ve got some good news for you…

My Thoughts A lot of fun things happened in “Flu Season 2.” Andy thought karate could be used as first aid. Bo Burnham showed up as a 17-year-old country singer with the worst attitude imaginable. Craig tried to bring it down a thousand notches. April pretended to be a sommelier. And Ben got drunk on blueberry wine and went to one Ron (the Pawnee version) to another (the Eagleton version) for advice.

But in the middle of all of the hilarity and hijinks, something momentous happened. LESLIE KNOPE IS PREGNANT. THERE IS GOING TO BE A LITTLE KNOPE-WYATT BABY IN THE FUTURE. BEN AND LESLIE ARE GOING TO BE PARENTS.

(Sorry about the caps—some things just need to be virtually screamed from the rooftops, and your favorite TV couple having a baby is one of those things!)

My favorite thing about “Flu Season 2” was the way it played with expectations, subverting them from the moment we learned the episode’s title through its blissful conclusion. I thought this was going to be another episode where a flu epidemic was used to create excellent moments of comedy, much like its predecessor, “Flu Season,” was back in Season Three. So imagine my surprise when it became clear that Leslie didn’t actually have the flu. The scene at the drugstore where the revelation dawned on Leslie was so great because it dawned on the audience at the same time. By allowing us to go into the episode thinking it was going to be about the flu, the writers kept us (and Leslie) from immediately putting together the oldest cliché in the book: woman + throwing up = pregnancy.

While the title may have led us to believe that this episode was going to be about something else, I shouldn’t have been surprised that it ended up featuring a huge step forward in the progression of Ben and Leslie’s story. The original “Flu Season” used the flu as a vehicle for Ben to see just how special Leslie is and for Leslie to see how much Ben had come to care about her. I’ve always believed that was the episode when Ben went from being intrigued by and maybe attracted to Leslie to starting to really fall in love with her. So it makes perfect sense to me that “Flu Season 2” ended up also being about something a heck of a lot deeper and more meaningful than the flu.

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Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “Two Swords”

Game of Thrones is back, and I think we all need a place to talk about it. My inability to always watch the episodes in a timely manner would get in the way of writing full reviews of each episode, but I definitely wanted to start a Game of Thrones weekly feature over here. So feel free to comment about the moments I choose throughout the season, but the comments are open to discussion of every aspect of these episodes! And just as a fair warning: I read the series last year, so if I accidentally spoil anything by talking about foreshadowing or by not remembering how far along the show is compared to the books, I apologize. (Short story: Possible spoilers ahead!)

The Moment: Tyrion meets Oberyn Martell

two swords oberyn martell

Setting the Scene: The bad blood between the Lannisters and Martells is shown in no subtle way by “second son” Oberyn Martell’s stabbing of a Lannister in a King’s Landing brothel. Following this show of force, Oberyn reminds Tyrion that his sister, Princess Elia of Dorne, was once married to Rhaegar Targaryen before he ran off with Lyanna Stark and started a war, which resulted in the deaths of Oberyn’s niece and nephew as well as the rape and murder of Elia at the hand of Gregor Clegane. As a parting word, Oberyn tells Tyrion to inform his father that “the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.”

Why It’s Awesome: I think one of the character introductions that A Song of Ice and Fire readers have been anticipating the most is the Red Viper of Dorne, and this exceeded my high hopes by creating a fully-realized character from his first scene. Pedro Pascal is an excellent casting choice for Oberyn. The way he delivered his monologue about Elia’s fate left me breathless, and I wanted to cheer at his perfect parting words. The controlled grief and fury laying just below the surface of his words were chilling in the best possible way. You know this man means business, and you know from the start that it’s not a good thing for the Lannisters that he’s the Dornish prince in town for Joffrey’s wedding. Oberyn Martell is one of the most charismatic and compelling characters in the whole series, and his introduction left me hanging on his every word—even when I knew what they would be. Once again, this casting department did an excellent job, and this scene left me so excited for all that’s to come with Oberyn this season.

Honorable Mentions: Brienne confronts Jaime over the fate of the Stark girls, Joffrey mocks Jaime’s blank space in the White Book, Jon Snow talks about Robb, and Arya is reunited with Needle

TV Time: Once Upon a Time 3.16

OUAT-Its-not-easy-being-green

Title It’s Not Easy Being Green

Two-Sentence Summary In Storyrbooke, Zelena’s connection to Regina is revealed, and the half-sisters face one another in a “wicked versus evil” showdown. The roots of Zelena’s envy are shown in flashbacks to her life in Oz, which she left behind when the Wizard helped her get to the Enchanted Forest to train with Rumplestiltskin.

Favorite Line “Didn’t anyone tell you? Black is my color.” (Regina)

My Thoughts Once Upon a Time is at its best when the heroes of the show are united against a compelling, charismatic villain. The second half of Season Two struggled because, let’s face it, Greg and Tamara were anything but compelling villains. The introduction of Robbie Kay’s deliciously devious take on Peter Pan injected some much-needed energy into the start of Season Three, and one of the most pleasant surprises of this half of the third season has been how fabulously fun Rebecca Mader’s Zelena has been.

It’s no secret that some of the show’s best moments feature its villains (or anti-heroes or whatever they would like to be known as) sharing scenes together, chewing the scenery in a way that is both perfectly campy and utterly captivating. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the combinations of Zelena and Rumplestiltskin and Zelena and Regina drove this episode. It’s always fun watching Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle have so much fun with their characters, and I can now say the same for Mader.

The Wicked Witch’s origin story wasn’t sympathetic enough to make me want happiness for her despite her wickedness, and I’m happy for that. I understood her, but I still think her envy is rooted in something more pathological than a sympathetic backstory can explain. And that’s okay. I don’t think we’re supposed to feel a lot of sympathy for Zelena. Yes, she had an alcoholic adoptive father and was abandoned by her real mother, but she seemed to live a life of love until her adoptive mother died. Whereas Regina lived with an abusive, literally heartless mother and a father who never seemed to defend her from Cora’s wrath. I know we have the benefit of knowing all the facts Zelena’s envy has blinded her from seeing, but I think Regina is the one who got the worse end of that deal.

What interested me the most about Zelena in this episode was how much more like Cora she was than Regina ever was, despite Regina being the one to grow up with their mother. Both Zelena and Cora grew up poor, and that gave both women a sense of envy and lust for a better life that Regina never had (which is a nice twist on the idea that the original Evil Queen in the Snow White story was driven by her envy of Snow White, and that was never the case on this show). Zelena had more control over her magic than Regina, and I think much of that difference can be attributed to the fact that Regina saw the evil in her mother’s magic and wanted no part of it for many years, while Zelena never had that exposure to dark magic being used to hurt her.

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