The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/11 – 9/18)

Welcome back, fellow TV addicts; I hope you had a wonderful summer! Now that the fall television season is upon us, it’s time for the return of our weekly breakdown of the best television moments! 

This was a warmup week in the world of television before things return to normal in the coming days (and weeks). However, even with a short list of shows airing new episodes, there were still some standout moments. Sunday saw the return of NFL games for most teams, which is either the best news ever or cause for another year of disappointment. (Can you tell I’m a Buffalo Bills fan?) On Monday, the new season of Dancing with the Stars premiered with some unexpected drama (protestors charging at Ryan Lochte on live TV) and some fantastic dancing. (Let’s just give Laurie Hernandez the Mirror Ball trophy now; she’s that good—and that much fun to watch.) Wednesday’s season finale of Suits was one of the show’s best episodes in recent memory, reminding us all why Jessica Pearson (and Gina Torres, by extension) is the queen of all she surveys only the break our hearts with her departure in its closing moments. Finally, Friday’s new episode of Girl Meets World touched on some incredibly deep and painful topics (the Holocaust, slavery) while never losing sight of the good in the world as shown through friendship, the diversity that makes America beautiful, and the belief that human connection—being part of something—is something to treasure and respect.

This is a week earlier than I’d planned to bring these posts back, but as soon as I watched the Suits finale, I knew I had to write about it. In a season where I found myself bored more often than usual (I actually missed a few episodes and discovered I didn’t really miss anything plot-wise.), Jessica was still a highlight every time she was on screen. And this finale—with its tight focus on Jessica and her backstory—was the finest episode of the season and one of my favorite episodes of the whole series. Watching Jessica own a courtroom was something I’d always wanted to see, and when Torres was given the chance to show this side of her character, she didn’t disappoint. But it was the way show peeled back Jessica’s layers to reveal her motivation behind what she did in that courtroom that really resonated with me.

Jessica Pearson’s father sacrificed his family at the altar of his career, but he believed he was doing something for the greater good. And even though Jessica chose a different career path (law instead of medicine), she did so as a young woman believing she would also serve the greater good. She became a lawyer to help people, but somewhere along the way, the relentless pursuit of power and prestige blinded her to the reason why she became a lawyer in the first place.Like her father before her, she chose her career over personal relationships, but her career choices didn’t offer her much comfort in the end. She’d stopped helping people who needed help and instead became so focused on protecting her firm that she lost her way. And that’s easy to do as a woman in a position of power (and probably even easier as a woman of color in that position, but that’s an experience I can’t personally speak to). You have to work so hard for the smallest victories that it becomes easy to lose yourself and your ideals in the fight to protect what you’ve earned.

But this death row case helped Jessica find herself again. It allowed her to reconnect with the young woman she once was, and in doing so, she learned a scary truth: She didn’t want to keep living the life she’d been living. She wanted to be better; she wanted to be happy. It was clear in the scene in which she told Harvey and Louis she was leaving: Jessica couldn’t keep fighting these battles to protect the firm; it was crushing her spirit. She’d fought for so long, but what was it all for? And as such, she chose to walk away from the firm she’d sacrificed so many things to protect.

I was shocked by her decision (I know Torres has a new pilot deal with ABC, but I’d honestly forgotten about it about until this episode aired.), and I love when TV shows can still surprise me. And I was moved to tears by the sincere emotion Torres and Gabriel Macht put into their interactions as Jessica told Harvey and Louis what she was doing. Torres has always had a powerful presence unlike anyone else on television, and seeing her hold her head high even while admitting she was scared of this new path reminded me what true bravery looks like. It takes real guts to realize when you’re not living your best life and to make changes to find the path you belong on, and that’s what Jessica’s final moment was all about. I’ve always said Jessica Pearson is a personal hero of mine, and now I feel that more strongly than ever. I’ll miss her confidence, I’ll miss her gorgeous clothes, and I’ll miss the regal carriage and unexpected complexity Torres brought to this role. But if I had to watch one of my favorite female characters on television leave, this is exactly how I’d want her to go—on her own terms, walking in to a future that is full of possibility and hope (and in the arms of the man she loves).

Jessica wasn’t the only one walking into an uncertain but beautiful future at the end of that episode. Mike and Rachel are free to continue to plan their life together whether or not Mike takes Harvey up on his job offer. Louis proposed to Tara, choosing love and happiness over doubt and fear. And then there was Harvey—a man pathologically afraid of change. This is where his therapy arc really paid off. After facing his abandonment issues, he could deal with his mentor leaving him with empathy and he could believably tell Donna that he was going to be okay. Unlike other times, Harvey didn’t get angry or close himself off after someone he loved told him she was leaving. Instead, he reached out to Donna, telling her he didn’t want to be alone.

The staging of those final moments between Donna and Harvey were perfect. I loved the fact that they were both facing the window, looking out into the New York City night and into a future that neither of them are sure of anymore. But then their hands found each other, and Macht showed the slightest hint of a smile cross Harvey’s face. They may be facing an uncertain future, but they have a hand to hold as they step into a new world.

Sometimes, watching a fictional couple hold hands feels like watching your team score a touchdown in a playoff game. This was one of those times. As soon as it happened, I jumped off my couch, and tears sprung to my eyes. I lament the lack of momentum for this couple often, but it’s hard to deny that slow-burn “ships” are special for moments like this one—moments when the sight of two adults holding hands on a television show turns you into an incoherent mess.

I love when season finales end with hope, and that’s what this finale was all about. Each character is facing a new world, but each character is also facing it with someone they love by their side. On a show where its cool tone often feels more important than creating warm moments, ending a season on such an unashamedly romantic note was the kind of pleasant surprise that I needed to make me excited for what comes next.

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

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3 thoughts on “The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/11 – 9/18)

  1. I am going to miss Jessica Pearson. Gina Torres always rocks — I’ve been a fan since Anna Espinosa — and the writers gave her some great material to work with. I’m curious to see how the show will use this void going forward.

  2. I’m so glad these posts are back!

    I still don’t think I’m 100% awake so this might be all over the place but I had new shows to watch this past week, therefore I had an abundance of feelings that I had to share with you.

    First up this week was Halt and Catch Fire. This show got so much better when they started focusing on the friendship between Donna and Cameron and the way two ladies started a company and broke into the computer industry in the 80s. Cameron isn’t someone who lets her guard down easily and who doesn’t always cope well with change and uncertainty. The company is a piece of her and she felt like she was losing it so she literally ran away and hid from everything and stopped communicating with her partner. They fought when she came back but came around to reaffirming their partnership and the fact that they have each other’s backs with Cameron also being vulnerable and confessing all the things she uses for coping skills that maybe aren’t great but it’s all she knows. It’s a lovely scene but it also makes everything so much more terrible because Donna is lying to her and didn’t have her back in a very key way that Cameron doesn’t know yet. Cameron finds out the secret at the end of the episode and completely curls up into herself and wraps her arms around herself like she’s physically trying to hold herself together after feeling betrayed by one of the relationships that keeps her strong and able to function at all. Mackenzie Davis does such a brilliant job with this scene and it makes my heart ache for Cameron. I adore my HBIC Donna but I’m so protective of Cameron when she gets vulnerable like she was in this episode and want to awkwardly hug her forever.

    Next was Queen Sugar, a new show that I am really loving right now. The Bordelon siblings, Charley, Nova, and Ralph Angel, spent the episode deciding what to do with the struggling farm their father left them in his will and have been at odds for most of the episode because they are very different people with very different lives. A predatory farmer put in an undervalued offer on the land and it looked like there was a chance they would take it (but then there would be no show so it wasn’t a huge possibility) but in the scene where Nova and Charley tell Ralph Angel that they want him and his son to take over the primary farming duties like he’s been asking to do all episode, they are all finally united in a way to honor their father’s memory and it’s beautiful. They are all contributing their own strengths and giving their legacy a chance to flourish like their father wanted. Then we get to see business queen Charley turn down the offer from the other farmer who was smarmy and villan-y about it and she completely shut him down and it was glorious. The women on this show are so strong and smart in really different ways and I love them for it so much.

    And finally, there is Girl Meets World which was my primary thing I wanted to talk about. This group of friendship is truly one of the most wonderful things on television right now. There was Riley telling Maya that they’ll go to Ireland together one day and just generally being adorable cuties 100% of the time and Riley trying to apologize to Zay’s grandmother and just making everything worse. But the stars of the week were Farkle and Zay. Zay innately understood what Farkle was feeling and was the first to remind him that he wasn’t alone. It was this truly wonderful display of support and meant so much to Farkle. It’s these kinds of moments that make the show so incredibly special and that leave me in tears every week.

    And along those lines, I need to yell about how much I adore Zay. He functions a lot as the “let me make this subtext explicit” person of the group, a lot of time for comedic effect. See his narration of Lucas’s very loud desire for Maya to be happy and to keep her art classes. It’s a really intense emotional moment for those two characters but he kept it from being too heavy for a Disney show about a group of teenagers. Then again with is need to blurt things out with his “Blonde Beauty” comment and telling unprompted stories about Lucas to anyone who will listen. He provides a lot of exposition and we learn a lot through him. It’s useful and it gives younger viewers an easy access point to the characters and what they are feeling. But as a character on his own and not as a exposition device, he acts the way he does because he’s incredibly intuitive. He observes things and is able to make them make sense really easily. He knows his friends and the way they react to the world around them and so is able to readily offer them what they need. There was his support of Maya so she didn’t feel like a third wheel around Riley and Lucas the episode previously and now his connecting the dots faster than anyone else about Farkle’s grandfather. Neither one of them was able to articulate their feelings in that moment, but Zay let them feel heard and understood. I love that this role went to one of the boys in the group because that sort of reliance on intuition and the emotional labor role of it all is so often reserved for women. I need more Zay interacting with these other characters and being an integral part of the emotional core of the group because it is everything.

    And I’m gonna be trash for a second because that’s who I am. I really need his take on the triangle and the actual feelings of everyone involved rather than the feelings we were clumsily told that everyone had. I know Farkle was on the side that Maya didn’t really like Lucas but I don’t think we ever really got Zay’s opinion on the matter. I’m still fine with the choice that was made, but I want someone on the show to acknowledge that the way they went about resolving it was a cop-out and the story’s actually not done yet with those three.

  3. Pingback: NGN’s Best of 2016: TV Moments, Episodes, and Shows | Nerdy Girl Notes

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