TV Time: The Americans 5.01

Welcome back to our weekly discussion of the best show on television, comrades! I can’t wait to spend this season talking about mothers, grain supplies, my deep love for Paige Jennings, and wigs with all of you!



Title: Amber Waves

Episode M.V.P.: The hole
You didn’t think I was going to discuss this episode without singling out the hole, did you? Everything about that scene was made for digging into deep analysis (pun intended), and it set up the season in such a revelatory way that I’ve found myself unable to think of much else when I look back on this episode. “Amber Waves” didn’t spend a lot of time with one character or actor, which made it difficult for me to pick an actor for M.V.P., but it did spend a lot of time with the hole—so much time, in fact, that I could see why it might have bothered other people. Devoting the final 10 or so minutes of your penultimate season’s premiere to a mostly wordless scene involving digging in the darkness is something no other show on television today would even attempt. The scene called for a mixture of storytelling patience, actors who can convey huge amounts of thoughts and emotions without words, and an audience comfortable with long periods of silence—and The Americans has proven that it has all three of those things in spades.

The scene also called for an incredible amount of confidence from the writers and director—confidence in both the moment they were creating and confidence in their audience to appreciate it. The entire scene was a ballsy move, especially in a season premiere, and the risk paid off. It showed the relative monotony of realistic spy work while still leaving viewers on edge, and then it reminded us brutally that no one is safe in this world and that we can never let ourselves be lulled into a false sense of security by the show’s moments of silence and methodical spycraft.

Yes, the scene was gutsy in its monotony and shocking in its conclusion, but that’s not why I think it was the most valuable part of the episode. It was the way it set up what appears to be some of this season’s major themes that made me believe it’s going to be one of the most valuable scenes of the entire season when all is said and done. Philip and Elizabeth keep digging themselves in deeper; that’s a metaphor that was hard to miss. They’ve been digging a hole for years that could very well be their grave. But it was Hans’s fate in the hole they dug that struck me the most in terms of what it means for the future of this show. Philip and Elizabeth made it out of the hole they dug, but Hans didn’t—sweet, idealistic, young Hans who trusted them (especially Elizabeth) almost as parental figures; this was especially evident in the way Elizabeth reassured him in a motherly tone that things were going to be okay before she shot him. Literally one misstep was all it took for Hans to fall into the hole they dug and become exposed to something deadly and dangerous. And once he was exposed to it, there was no way out; there was only one way for his story to end. Elizabeth being the one to shoot Hans was the perfect choice; for her, practicality has always come before emotional ties. But the look she and Philip shared afterward showed that these kinds of choices and sacrifices aren’t easy for either of them.

Philip and Elizabeth were aware of the risks they faced in that hole, but Hans was supposed to be relatively safe from his place above it. It reminded both of them—and us as viewers—that even simply being around the hole Philip and Elizabeth have dug and the deadly possibility at the center of it is dangerous.

If you just read all of that and somehow managed to not be terrified for Paige and Henry (especially Paige), you must have nerves of steel. This season seems to be about children (both real and stand-in) and their parents, and ending the premiere with the image of Elizabeth and Philip’s wide eyes after she shot the agent who was like a spy son to her seems to point to dark and dangerous moments and difficult choices ahead for Philip, Elizabeth, and their children.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.01

Welcome back, fellow Oncers! I can’t wait to spend another season discussing all the fairytale fun and feelings with you, so don’t hesitate to jump in and start a conversation in the comments. Just remember, we like to keep things as positive and respectful as we can here at NGN!



Title The Savior

Two-Sentence Summary As Hyde and the others from the Land of Untold Stories arrive in Storybrooke, Emma struggles with side effects of being a Savior, including visions of her death. Meanwhile, Rumplestiltskin attempts to wake Belle, and Regina tries to work through her grief after losing Robin.

Favorite Line “I choose to believe that this story will have a better ending.” (Regina)

My Thoughts If Once Upon a Time has taught us anything, it’s this: We have the power to choose how our stories end. We have the power to push back against the forces that try to tell us what our story will be. And that power comes from belief—belief in our own strength, belief in those who love us and want to help us, and belief that light and love is stronger than fear and darkness.

In “The Savior,” that lesson—that the only way we can get a happy ending is by believing we can have a happy ending—was at the center of its three main storylines: Rumplestiltskin’s quest to wake Belle, Regina’s difficulty working through her grief, and Emma’s discovery of her decidedly unhappy fate.

Like most Once Upon a Time season premieres, this one spent a fair amount of time setting up conflicts for this season. However, it also featured a surprising number of emotional moments for a season premiere, especially for a show that tends to favor plot over prolonged character beats. The return to a Storybrooke setting certainly helped: Less world building means more time can be spent on the characters and relationships we already know and love. And it seems that this season is going to explore the benefits of characters actually dealing with what has happened to them in a healthy way, which is a wonderfully realistic approach to emotional health for a story about fairytale characters.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/18 – 9/25)

The fall 2016 television season kicked into high gear this week, starting with Sunday’s Emmy Awards, which featured some nice surprises (Tatiana Maslany) and beautifully sincere speeches (Jeffrey Tambor, Sterling K. Brown, Sarah Paulson, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus). On Monday, Dancing with the Stars gave us “TV Night,” and little did we all know how empty our lives had been before we saw Laurie Hernandez dancing to the theme from DuckTales. Also on Monday (and Thursday), The Good Place proved to be the smart, funny, and emotionally engaging comedy I was hoping it would be. On Tuesday, Brooklyn Nine-Nine returned with a hilarious look at Jake and Captain Holt’s life in the Witness Protection Program; New Girl reminded me why I fell in love with the show years ago, thanks to a stellar season premiere; and the pilot of This Is Us lived up to every expectation I had for it. Wednesday’s ABC comedies were all excellent, with a perfect Breakfast Club tribute on The Goldbergs; a fantastic pilot episode of Speechless; an entertaining return for Modern Family; and a fun Walt Disney World trip on black-ish. On Thursday, the pilot of Pitch showed enough heart, style, and substance to hook me from the start. And Friday’s episode of Girl Meets World reminded us all of a very important lesson: You can’t control every aspect of your life; you can only control how you react to what happens in your life.

Overall, this was the best week of television I’ve watched in a very long time. I wasn’t disappointed with anything I watched, which is impressive because I often have unrealistically high expectations for premieres and pilots. I enjoyed every minute of television I watched this week, and I watched many minutes of television.

Grouped together, I loved the three big twists that new shows served up this week, which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone given how much I love when television shows can still pleasantly surprise me.


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What Are You Watching? Fall 2016 Edition

To me, fall has always felt like a season of new beginnings—from first days of school to season premieres of favorite television shows. The long hiatuses are finally over, and we can finally reconnect with our favorite stories and characters as if they were friends from school we’d missed during summer break. And there’s always the hope that a new show will come in to steal your heart just like a cute new kid walking in to your homeroom on the first day of class.

This is now my fifth of breaking down my list of must-watch season and series premieres to share with all of you, and it has continued to bring me joy year after year. This is NGN’s longest running feature, and I think it’s had staying power because it’s filled with the one thing that has kept this site going since the beginning: excitement. It’s been fun to see how this list has changed (and grown!) over the years, with shows that are now some of my favorites showing up as pilots I wanted to check out back when I first started this list. This year—with many of my favorite shows saying their goodbyes in the last couple of years and others not starting until the winter—I have a large number of new pilots I want to watch, and I’m hopeful that at least one of those will join the ranks of Nashville, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and black-ish as shows that started as possibilities on this list and have since stuck around on it for years.

To kick off our fifth TV season at NGN, here are the shows I’ll be watching this year, along with their season or series premiere dates. This doesn’t include reality TV shows like Dancing with the Stars or variety shows like Saturday Night Live. New pilots I’ll be checking out will be highlighted in pink. And don’t forget to share what you’ll be watching this season in the comments!

Jane the Virgin (9 p.m. on The CW)
This show was one of my TV happy places last season. It always felt like coming home when I spent an hour with the Villanueva family. No matter what kind of crazy drama was happening, I always found myself laughing, crying, and often doing both in the same hour. After the intense cliffhanger that ended last season’s finale, I’ve been waiting all summer to see what’s next for Jane, Michael, Petra, and the rest of this amazing cast of characters.
Season Premiere October 17

Conviction (10 p.m. on ABC)
Part of me wants to be angry with this show, since the day it was announced was the day I knew Agent Carter was a goner, but once I saw the trailer, it was love at first sight. Shows featuring complex female characters who learn to let themselves care and become a part of something bigger than themselves are my ultimate weakness, and that’s exactly what this show seems to be about. Add in the fact that its supporting cast includes Merrin Dungey (who I’ve been a fan of for more than a decade) and it stars one of my favorite actors on television (Hayley Atwell), and there is no doubt that this is one of the new shows I’m most looking forward to adding to my viewing schedule.
Series Premiere October 3

Timeless (10 p.m. on NBC)
I have a soft spot for time travel, and the trailer for this show hooked me immediately by including World War II-era scenes, which has always been one of my favorite historical periods. This show seems like it could strike a great balance between action, drama, science fiction, and romance, and that is a winning combination in my book. Also, if the success of this show means the excellent Abigail Spencer won’t show up on Suits anymore to ruin my Donna/Harvery shipper dreams, then that’s even more of a reason to watch it.
Series Premiere October 3

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TV Time: The Americans 4.01

the americans 401


Welcome back (or welcome to any newcomers!) to our weekly discussions of The Americans here at NGN! I can’t wait to write about another season of this incredible show and to discuss it with all of you. After you finish reading, remember to share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Title: Glanders

Episode M.V.P.: Alison Wright
“Glanders” was an episode that arranged the chessboard for the season to come, but in the middle of all the plot setup, there were still moments of startling emotion. I didn’t expect to cry during this season premiere. But two little words from Martha, delivered multiple times with such devastating grief and panic from Alison Wright, sent my tear ducts into overdrive.

“Oh no…”

While Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell deserve every word of praise sent their way (Rhys, in particular, was outstanding in this episode—a portrait of a rubber band pulled so tightly that it could snap at any moment.), Wright has become this show’s secret weapon. Martha is one of its most tragic characters, and so much of that comes from how realistic Wright has made her feel. And in the moment Philip revealed to Martha that he killed her coworker to protect her, I felt Martha’s fear and loss so acutely it was almost oppressive. Wright was at the center of a storm of emotions in that scene, and she grounded them all in a sincere vulnerability that was best reflected in that broken refrain of “Oh no…”

In that scene, I also felt Martha’s guilt, as she asked “What have I done?” with such heartbreaking horror. “Glanders” spent a lot of time dealing with characters wondering what their choices say about who they really are. Many of its main players were wracked with guilt, but perhaps none more than Martha in that moment. However, the most heartbreaking part of “Glanders” wasn’t Martha wondering what she’d done; it was Martha making the choice to continue doing it—to continue helping Philip despite knowing what he’s done. Wright broke me with her breakdown earlier in the episode, but what’s still haunting me today was her stoic acceptance of her continued role as Philip’s link to the FBI (which I’m sure was connected to the gut-wrenching gratitude she showed him when he opened up to her in such a small way about his past).

For so long, I wondered if Martha was going to have to die, but this—choosing to keep helping Philip even with the knowledge that he killed her coworker—might be worse. It’s like watching someone lose their soul in an effort to keep a relationship that’s not even real, and Wright is making every moment of that tragedy resonate with me on a visceral level.

Favorite Scene: Paige can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance
It’s not easy being a teenage girl and trying to carve out your own identity. It’s even harder when you’re a teenage girl who found out her entire life—and her parents’ lives as she knew them—is a lie. Just as Philip and Elizabeth’s story addresses universal questions about marriage and parenthood, Paige’s story addresses questions we all have as we grow up: Who am I? How am I different from my parents? What do I really care about? And it’s so heartbreakingly clear that Paige doesn’t know the answers to any of those questions anymore, which is such a change from the girl who was so strong in her convictions and her sense of self until she learned the truth about her parents last season.

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Agent Carter Life Lesson of the Week: The Lady of the Lake/A View in the Dark

Welcome, fellow Peggy Carter fans, to the first of my weekly Agent Carter posts for this season! Instead of doing a traditional episode review/analysis, I’m going to take a different path with these posts. Each week, I’m going to focus on something I learned from Peggy (or any of these fantastic characters) and explain how that lesson manifested itself throughout the episode (or pair of episodes, in this week’s case). I can’t wait to discuss what looks to be an excellent second season of this wonderful show with all of you, so don’t be shy—dive right into the comments section as soon as you’re done reading! And if you’re looking for more thoughts on this show, I highly recommend checking out MGcircles

Agent Carter s2

Kindness is power.

The Marvel Universe is filled with so many powerful people that it’s easy for us to focus only on the flashiest powers and stereotypically strongest people. But, in doing that, we lose sight of the beauty that comes from finding strength and power in unexpected places and people. There are so many different ways a person can be strong, and perhaps one of the most underappreciated powers a person can possess is the power to openly show kindness toward another human being. Agent Carter has always taken great pains to show strength in all its many forms, and that continued in this second season premiere with poignant examples of the value of kindness and the power of those who offer it to others.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/27 – 10/4)

This week in television brought us more returns of beloved shows, which started on Sunday night, with Once Upon a Time‘s season premiere jumping right into the quest to save Emma from the darkness; Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s season premiere giving us a look at Jake and Amy’s new dynamic after their game-changing kiss; and Quantico‘s pilot providing us with plenty of questions to keep us coming back next week. Monday’s Dancing with the Stars honored classic TV theme songs, and it was followed by a controversial episode of Castle that shook things up for the show’s central marriage. On Tuesday, The Muppets introduced a new love interest for Miss Piggy (Josh Groban), and The Mindy Project tackled the topic of new parenthood. Wednesday’s Nashville was filled with heartbreaking drama—from Juliette’s deteriorating mental state and Luke’s decision to cut Will from his label to its fatal final moments. Finally, Saturday gave us the return of Saturday Night Live, which will be remembered for Hillary Clinton’s impression of Donald Trump and her sing-along with Kate McKinnon.

In a week filled with captivating moments, none made me hold my breath like the climactic scene in Once Upon a Time‘s season premiere in which Emma’s loved ones reached her just as she was about to crush Merida’s heart. There were plenty of reasons to love that scene: Jennifer Morrison’s brilliant performance, Colin O’Donoghue’s ability to emotionally destroy us all with his sincerity, the way the scene made Emma’s inner darkness feel visceral and exhausting and real rather than some overly dramatic struggle against evil…

But the thing I loved most about this scene was that it was all about Emma’s ability to save herself. As Hook said, fighting the darkness has to be Emma’s choice. Only she can save herself, but that doesn’t mean she has to do it alone. Watching Hook get through to Emma and support her ability to choose to overcome the darkness in her was beautiful, and it seemed like a great piece of foreshadowing for how this whole arc could play out. Hook didn’t force Emma to do anything; he simply reminded her that everyone has demons that can be overcome, and she’s strong enough to overcome hers. The decision to put Merida’s heart back was Emma’s; she saved herself in that moment, with the support of someone who loves her helping her find the strength to save herself. That’s something I hope we see play out as this arc reaches what we all hope will be a happy conclusion. That scene (including the fact that the darkness seemed to disappear when Emma hugged Hook and Henry) gave me so much hope for the rest of the season, and that’s exactly what I needed in what was a very heavy and sad week for a lot of the other shows I watch.

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

TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.01

Welcome (or welcome back) to our weekly Once Upon a Time discussions here at NGN! I can’t wait to watch this season unfold, and I especially can’t wait to talk about it with all of you! And remember, if you’re interested, this would be a great time to start writing a letter to Emma, Regina, Snow, and any other favorite female characters for my book!

Title The Dark Swan

Two-Sentence Summary As Emma struggles with fighting against the darkness she’s continually tempted by after becoming the Dark One, her loved ones search for the best way to get to her. However, even after they find her, it appears their mission to save her didn’t go as planned, since six weeks later, Emma is the only one who can remember what happened in Camelot—and whatever it was that led to her fully embracing the darkness.

Favorite Line “It has to be her choice.” (Hook)

My Thoughts Once Upon a Time has always been a show about belief. On the surface, it’s a show about believing in fairytales and magic. But it’s really about the power of knowing someone believes in you and how that helps you believe in yourself. From the pilot through this Season Five premiere, Once Upon a Time has showed us that belief is power and love is strength. Those themes have woven themselves through every storyline and every character’s journey, and they were at the heart of “The Dark Swan.” By taking the core themes of the show and bringing them to light in a fresh way, “The Dark Swan” became my favorite Once Upon a Time season premiere since the show’s pilot episode.

Fighting to be your best self when you feel like no one cares about you is exhausting. It’s easier to just give in to your darker impulses, and sometimes we just want to do what’s easy instead of what’s right. I think that’s been something Emma’s struggled with at different times in her life. It was something we saw right from this episode’s first moments—with little Emma (How is the casting department so good at casting younger versions of the show’s actors?) stealing the woman’s candy bar because it was easy. Emma has always had those darker impulses; she spent a formative portion of her life as a thief, and she never had anyone to encourage her to make better choices when she was younger. (She had Neal, who was also a thief.)

Emma has also struggled at times with doing wrong things for the right reasons. (Changing the timeline by bringing “Marian” back from the past is a prime example.) And in the opening flashback, we saw one person give Emma a very important bit of advice about the choices she’ll make in the future concerning this idea. I don’t know how many of you follow casting spoilers, but the shots to the movie screen while the usher was talking pretty much gave it away anyway: He’s Merlin, and he knew Emma was going to be tempted at some point to do something wrong for the right reason. I’m intrigued by the prophecy that she’ll want to pull Excalibur from the stone, because for all we know Excalibur is now with Arthur. However, he could be talking about the dagger as part of Excalibur and “pulling it from the stone” as willingly taking on its power. No matter what comes of this prophecy and advice he gave young Emma, it’s clear Merlin knew of her importance long before our present timeline. I liked the idea that the Apprentice went to see Lily and Merlin went to see Emma when they were young, because I was upset last season that the Apprentice never sought out Emma to help her as a child. That small flashback set up what I’m sure will be an interesting dynamic in the future between Merlin and Emma, and it further emphasized the idea that choice is going to play a huge role in this Dark Swan arc.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/20 – 9/27)

This was the week Fall TV really kicked into high gear, and it was as fun and exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I already covered Sunday’s Emmys in last week’s Best Thing on TV post, but I’ll say that I’m still re-watching Viola Davis’s speech a week later. On Monday, Dancing with the Stars showcased the hometowns of its celebrities, and that was followed by a bold season premiere of Castle. Tuesday gave us a charming series premiere of The Muppets, a hilarious return for Fresh Off the Boat, and another strong episode of Dancing with the Stars—this time focusing on the stories behind its professional dancers. Tuesday also featured an episode of The Mindy Project that introduced an adorable new character and made me fall in love with Danny all over again. On Wednesday, Black-ish tackled a controversial topic in a great way, and Nashville balanced hope (Rayna and Deacon’s continuing love story) and heartbreak (all things Juliette) in its season premiere.

There were so many great moments on the scripted shows I watched this week—from Danny helping Mindy through her contractions to the introduction of the “three men and a baby” story on Nashville. However, my favorite moment of the week came from the world of reality television, and that was Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess’s foxtrot on Dancing with the Stars.

I love nothing more on television than good partnerships, and that’s what this dance was all about. During what was clearly an emotional dance for Sharna (She was dancing for her father and grandmother, who can’t ever travel to see her dance because of health concerns.), Nick was there for her every step of the way. From Nick’s little nod at the beginning to the solid, strong way he partnered Sharna throughout the routine, it was clear he was dancing this for her, and it elevated his dancing to new heights. It’s not often that a dance on this show genuinely moves me this early into the competition, but that’s exactly what this one did.

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

Five Reasons “XY” Gave Me Hope for Castle’s Future



Hello, fellow Castle fans! While I won’t be writing about every episode of the show this season here at NGN, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on important episodes and moments as they present themselves, and this premiere seemed like the perfect place to start.

I’ll admit it: After Castle’s spectacular Season Seven finale, I was skeptical about Season Eight’s premiere. How could any episode follow “Hollander’s Woods,” which was written as a potential (and, had it been necessary, satisfying) series finale? How would the show survive without Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller at the helm? How would it bounce back after a season with a handful of strong episodes but far more mediocre ones?

“XY” was the answer to all those questions, and what a confident answer it was. With Rob Bowman directing and new show-runners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter penning the script, “XY” was an episode with a point to prove—that this show could still be exciting, engaging, and surprising in its eight season. And the way it chose to prove that point made me wonder why I ever thought the show might have been better off ending with “Hollander’s Woods.” There’s still plenty of story left to tell, and if this is how the show is going to tell it, then I’m more than happy to keep watching until the final chapter is written.

Here are five reasons why this season premiere made me feel confident that this show still has a lot of life left in it and has found the right people to bring that life out of it.

1. It went back to the show’s storytelling roots.
I know that Season Six’s “Veritas” felt like the perfect ending to the Johanna Beckett murder arc that drove much of the show’s drama in its early days. However, after the 3XK plot was wrapped up last season, the show was missing something without a familiar dramatic arc to push these characters to new places emotionally in ways that still made us care. Castle’s disappearance never quite became the new dramatic arc I think it was supposed to be, so I found myself eternally grateful that this episode’s intensity was rooted in a familiar conflict: Kate Beckett vs. Senator Bracken—as well as Rick Castle vs. the secrets Beckett keeps when dealing with Bracken. Those conflicts have produced some of the best episodes in the show’s history, and they’ve always allowed us to explore deep things about Beckett. I loved that this episode was driven by the idea that Beckett’s obsession with Bracken and all he’s done wouldn’t just automatically stop once he ended up in prison. He’s the root of so much emotional trauma in her life, and it makes sense for her to be unable to put that behind her. Bringing Bracken back also allowed us to see Jack Coleman in all his twisted, evil glory once again. It’s good to have a familiar foe to root against, and I liked seeing these writers embrace that familiarity with a new twist that kept things exciting.

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