The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: One Last Moment of Beauty on Superstore

“You know, most jobs suck 99 percent of the time, so you really … You really gotta enjoy those moments that don’t. Those bits of fun you have during downtime. Or an interesting conversation with a coworker. Or something happens that you can laugh about later. Or you do something that you’re actually proud of. If you’re lucky, maybe you even get to be friends with a coworker or two along the way. Not sure what else you could want at a job…”

Series finales are tricky things to get right, but for me as a viewer, the most important thing is always that the show honors the journey it’s been on—not just with its characters but also with its fans. The relationship between TV fans and the minds behind the shows they flock to is always a tenuous one, but a series finale represents one last chance to leave a fanbase feeling satisfied, respected, and like their emotional investment was all worth it in the end.

Some TV shows (looking at you, Game of Thrones) run away from that idea in the end—choosing shock and subverted expectations instead of satisfying storytelling. And I’ll admit it—maybe I’m still dealing with a bit of fangirl PTSD from that finale because I was nervous going into the Superstore series finale on Thursday night. I hadn’t loved this last season like I’d hoped I would. I didn’t think they handled America Ferrera’s exit in a satisfying way. And I was afraid that this finale would be similarly ambiguous or bittersweet rather than the kind of warm, hopeful happiness I need in my series finales right now.

I have never been happier to be wrong.

Every bit of that last hour was a love letter to these characters, their relationships with each other, and the fans who’ve loved spending time at Cloud 9 over the years. It was one last chance to watch Sandra be a badass, to see Glenn take care of Mateo (and make me cry in the process), to have Jonah voice the frustrations of so many Americans working at jobs like the ones these characters have, to have Dina make me laugh (her “because I’m a racist” line had me in tears from laughing so hard), and to have Jonah and Amy find their way back to each other with humor, heart, and some help from The Americans.

And in the end, this finale also provided one last chance for us all to think about what it means to be a part of a workplace family. Because yes, sometimes companies say their employees are a family when they want people to have no lives outside of work. But sometimes workplace families form all on their own—through common enemies, small victories (and sometimes big ones), inside jokes, and years of sharing both the memorable and the mundane with the same group of people.

That’s what Garrett’s final monologue was all about. It wasn’t some glorification of work. That’s not what Superstore has ever been about. No, it was an honest admission of the fact that work is usually terrible. But then, every so often, it’s not. Every so often, you get what this show memorably called a moment of beauty.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: BTS, The GRAMMYs, and That Fangirl Feeling

Every fangirl knows that feeling.

You’re watching a TV show and two characters share a look, and you know they’re going to be the next fictional couple to keep you up at night writing fanfic in your head. You’re scrolling through Tumblr, and you see a GIF of an actor, and you know that you’re going to be looking up their entire filmography on IMDb. You’re watching a movie trailer, and you know this is going to be the only movie you want to talk about for the next 6 months.

You’re watching a band perform at the GRAMMYs, and you know that you’re going to be headed down a YouTube rabbit hole of every version of that song and every staging of that choreography.

Before Sunday night, it had been a long time since I’d felt that feeling. It’s that little spark in your fangirl soul that a lifetime of bouncing from one obsession to another tells you is going to grow into a fire that’s bright and warm and all-consuming. And I’d started to genuinely worry that I’d lost the ability to feel that spark—that this year had taken away the part of me that can throw herself into a new fandom with reckless abandon, happy tears, and lots of capslock.

I feel the most like me when I’m deep in that feeling (and usually when I’m dragging other people into it with me—or enabling the ones already there), and without it, I didn’t feel like me anymore.

Who knew all it would take to bring back the best version of me was 7 guys from Korea dancing on top of a building in snazzy suits?

Hi, my name is Katie, and I’m obsessed with BTS.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: Acceptance, Truth, and the Dream of Being Seen on WandaVision

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Source: Vulture

“I just wanted to see you clearly.”

That’s all most of us want, isn’t it? To be seen clearly. To have someone turn a light on when we want to hide our pain in the dark and make us feel like it’s okay for us to exist in that moment exactly as we are.

To have someone see us—really see us—and choose to keep looking until death do us part.

That’s what Vision gives Wanda at the end of “The Series Finale” of WandaVision. And that’s what Vision always gave her—someone who saw her for exactly who she was. Not a hero, not a villain.

Just Wanda.

And that was enough.

Losing that—the one person who accepted her for everything she was—turned Wanda into the worst version of herself. In her inability to sit with her grief and make peace with it, she lashed out and let her emotions control her. She hurt people—without meaning to initially, but that doesn’t make the pain she caused any less damaging. And in “The Series Finale,” Wanda had to face that truth and choose what to do with it.

In the end, she chooses acceptance.

WandaVision is a journey through the stages of grief, so it makes sense that it ends with acceptance—of Vision’s death, of what he’d meant to Wanda, and of what losing him had done to her. But the end of this part of Wanda’s journey wasn’t just about accepting that the Vision she’d loved was never coming back.

It was also about accepting that part of herself was never coming back either.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: The Power of Love Persevering on WandaVision

“I’m sorry … I’m just so tired … It’s just like this wave washing over me again and again. It knocks me down, and when I try to stand up, it just comes for me again … It’s just gonna drown me.”

WandaVision is a show about grief. It’s never pretended to be about anything else, and “Previously On” made it clear that even now—with only one episode left before the end of this story—it’s going to bravely and boldly stay true to what it is: a story of a woman’s journey through depression, trauma, and grief that’s so strong her body literally cannot contain it.

As such, the most important moment in this episode wasn’t the mid-credits teaser or Agatha’s long-awaited delivery of Wanda’s superhero name or even the moment Wanda created Vision and the entire new reality that took over the town of Westview.

All of those moments mattered—because every moment of Wanda’s journey has mattered. However, the moment that encapsulated the whole series in all its character-centric, emotionally-driven glory came when Wanda revisits a quiet moment between her and Vision in the Avengers compound soon after she came to America following the death of her brother.

In this moment, Wanda looks small and lonely and achingly human—sitting cross-legged on her bed, watching Malcolm in the Middle because sitcoms have given her comfort in some of her life’s worst moments. She’s not a superhero here. And she’s not a villain either. She’s a woman.

And she’s exhausted.

Grief is exhausting. And the way Elizabeth Olsen plays that bone-deep exhaustion as she explains to Vision what it feels like to live a life defined by loss—a life where you constantly fear the next wave that you know is coming—is so uncomfortably real that it feels difficult to watch because not a single adult alive hasn’t felt that at some point. To be human is to know loss. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the loss of a place that mattered to us, the loss of a relationship, or the loss of a version of ourselves we’d finally learned to love—we’ve all known grief in some form.

Because we’ve all known love in some form.

And as Vision says, “But what is grief, if not love persevering?”

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: The Bravery of Jackson West on The Rookie

“The honor and bravery you’ve shown is an example to all of us … I’m so damn proud of you.”

Praise is hard to come by in the world of The Rookie, so when it happens, it matters.

And it’s never mattered more than those words from Sergeant Wade Grey to Officer Jackson West at the end of last Sunday’ episode, “Lockdown.”

Jackson’s storyline throughout this third season has been nothing short of revelatory—for both the character and the actor playing him (Titus Makin Jr.). He’s the eyes through which The Rookie has taken its most direct look at police violence and systemic racism in policing, and it all led up to the moment in this episode when, after confronting his racist training officer, Doug Stanton, about his behavior, Doug leaves him at the mercy of a group of criminals.

Watching Jackson get viciously attacked while Doug hid on the sidelines was brutal to watch, but it wasn’t all for nothing—Jackson knew his training officer fed him to the wolves, and by exposing that on Doug’s body cam, he got a bad cop off the streets. (Although it’s almost certainly not forever.)

Jackson knew he was risking his career and even his life by working to call attention to the truth of who Doug was and the racism fueling his actions. But he also believed it was worth the risk. Even laying in his hospital bed—with broken ribs, loose teeth, eyes swollen shut, and a painful hoarseness in his voice (kudos to both the makeup department and Makin for painting an uncomfortably believable picture of a man in incredible pain)—he told Sergeant Grey as much.

And Grey’s response was one every decent human being watching most likely had:

“You shouldn’t have to risk your life to get a bad cop fired.”

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: Randall Reaches Out on This Is Us

This has been a lonely year. For so many of us, the human experience of 2020 and now 2021 has been defined by isolation—even when we know people care and love us and want to be with us, we often still can’t help but feel alone.

And because This Is Us is a show that works hard to reflect the human experience back to us through the lens of the Pearson Family, it showed us the physical manifestation of that isolation in this week’s episode, “There.”

It was Madison, laying in her hospital bed, ready to deliver her babies alone. She knows Kevin wants to be there; she knows she’s loved and supported and cared for. But in that moment, her reality is one of loneliness—of isolation.

However, all it took was one phone call to change that.

And it wasn’t Kevin on the other line.

It wasn’t even Kate.

It was Randall (and Beth!) reaching out to Madison after Kevin told them she was in labor. It was Randall (and Beth!) checking in and volunteering to send her food and anything else she might need.

And it was Randall (and Beth!) who realized in the smallest pause that what Madison really needed was to feel like someone was there.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: The Power of Grief, Anger, and Empathy on WandaVision

WandaVision is a marvel (pun obviously intended). It’s a thrill-a-minute mystery, a possible (probable?) key to opening the Marvel Multiverse, an homage to classic sitcoms, and the wildest and weirdest ride on television right now.

But it’s also a story about grief.

It’s a story about the way we try to escape grief in other realities (especially happy, televised ones). It’s a story about control and the desperate ways we try to reclaim control by holding on to things long past when we should let them go. It’s a story about the anger that naturally comes along with the grieving process and what carrying that anger around does to us and those around us.

And even more specifically, it’s about how all of those things are seen through a different lens when it’s a woman experiencing them.

Female grief. Female rage.

That’s what Wanda represents. She’s the embodiment of the rage that burns inside women who’ve lived through trauma and loss. And she’s the embodiment of the way the world doesn’t know what to do with the women who wear their rage on their sleeve—who grieve in a way that’s not pretty or soft or quiet.

Wanda is an angry woman—and when you look at her life, you see that she has every reason to be. Even if she’s handling it poorly, even if she’s doing the wrong things—the motivation behind them is clear, understandable, and relatable.

She’s not a hero. But she’s not a villain, either.

She’s a woman in pain.

And the only other character who’s able to see that is another woman who’s in pain.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: Listening and Learning on The Rookie

“I’m proud of you.”

When Lucy Chen said those four little words to her Training Officer, Tim Bradford, on the latest episode of The Rookie, it felt like something big—for these characters, for their relationship, and for this show as a whole. And it’s not just because Tim Bradford seems like the kind of guy who is more familiar with a dad who would “tune him up on the regular” than someone telling him they’re proud of him.

Big things are happening on The Rookie this season, and it’s time we talked about them.

The Rookie is a police procedural, and it’s a police procedural filmed with a lot of help from the LAPD. It’s often claimed that it’s different from other police procedurals because it’s committed to accurately and honestly depicting what life is really like for patrol officers. But for its first two seasons, those claims of accuracy and honesty never felt fully realized because the show never dared to take a long, hard look at police brutality and violence, racial profiling, abuses of power, the ways police departments close ranks, and the other ugly truths about the relationships between law enforcement and communities of color, especially Black communities.

This summer, though, it became clear that things needed to change. Between social media and traditional media outlets putting the focus on the problems inherent in “copaganda” movies and TV shows and reservations brought to the creator by at least one of its stars (Titus Makin Jr., who plays rookie officer Jackson West), The Rookie was at a crossroads: It could continue to press on as it had been—ignoring the harsh realities in favor of entertainment—or it could try to be more, to be better.

The powers that be chose the latter, and the show is much better for it.

With a partnership with advocacy group Color of Change and a writers room featuring more diverse voices (in addition to a cast that features all but two main characters played by people of color), The Rookie approached its third season with a clear focus and a new mission: to reflect real systemic problems and to show them in detail rather than in one “special episode.”

Most of the attention surrounding that focus and mission has been given to a storyline involving Makin’s Officer West and his new Training Officer, Doug Stanton. Stanton, with his racial profiling, excessive use of force, threats, and racist beliefs and actions, is an example of the kinds of police officers responsible for the deaths of George Floyd and so many others, as well as the over-policing of Black communities and other systemic issues in the criminal justice system.

But it would be easy to just write this new character off as a “bad guy” who gets taken down by all of our favorite police officers, the ones who’ve always been guided by strong moral compasses.

And taking the easy way out is not the m.o. for this show this season. Instead, it’s committed to showing how men like Doug Stanton can get into positions of power and stay there, even when so many people around them know exactly who they are—and how dangerous that can be.

Enter Tim Bradford.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: “The Hill We Climb”

“For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” — “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate

Words matter.

Words have the power to incite the worst of us. We saw that on January 6. We saw that for the last four years. We saw that throughout our history as Americans and will still sadly see that far into our future.

However, words also have the power to inspire the best in us. We saw that on Wednesday, as President Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day celebrations ushered in a new era for Americans—an era of words that aren’t dripping with vitriol, devoid of empathy, and divorced from the truth. Wednesday was a day filled with words that acknowledged the harsh facts of our current reality, offered healing to those who are hurting, and offered hope for the future.

And those words mattered.

When Lady Gaga sang about the flag still being there only two weeks after Capitol was besieged by insurrectionists, it mattered. When Jennifer Lopez recited part of the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish, it mattered. When President Biden told us, “Don’t tell me things can’t change,” it mattered. When Kamala Harris—the first female, Black, and Asian American Vice President of the United States—took her oath of office with conviction in her voice and a smile on her face, it mattered.

And when Amanda Gorman took the podium to recite “The Hill We Climb”—her poetic testament to “a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished”—it mattered.

Many words will be remembered from that cold January day in Washington, D.C., but none will be remembered more than the words of a 22-year-old young woman who asked us, “Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” and answered with the powerful reminder that the light we seek is all around us—and inside of us.

“If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: Randall Pearson and the Power of Story

“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Our lives are shaped by stories—the stories that inspired us, the stories that changed us.

The stories that made us.

Stories are how we make meaning out of our existence. Our whole lives are a process of creating and understanding our story—the narrative of who we are, where we come from, and what our lives mean.

Some people grow up knowing all the details of how their story began—they know what the day of their birth was like, they know how their parents met and fell in love, they even know the stories of their grandparents and maybe even ancestors who reach deep into the past. They know where they fit in a larger story, but even more importantly, they are often taught that this larger story is a love story—of parents who love them and children borne of love and love that’s been passed on through generations.

But not everyone is that lucky.

Not everyone knows how their story began.

And Randall Pearson was one of those people.

Randall’s journey on This Is Us began with a quest for the truth—for a deeper understanding of his story. By not knowing the truth about his parents, his story felt incomplete. Something was missing—the key to finally feeling like he fully belonged instead of the nagging sense of being an outsider that he felt as a Black young man in a white family. It was hard for him to join the past to the future the way Tim O’Brien said so beautifully without full knowledge of how it all began.

How he began.

As This Is Us has gone on, we’ve watched all the Pearson siblings deal with the most difficult chapters of their stories and move closer to a place of understanding how those chapters influenced all the chapters that have come after. But for Randall, there was still one chapter that was missing.

The story of his mother.

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