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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Using It: Pain, Purpose, and a Year in a Pandemic

I knew it would be hard.

But I had no idea it would be this hard.

Exactly one year ago today, I sat down at my dining room table to work from home because COVID-19 was spreading into my part of New York State.

I thought it would be for a couple of weeks. Once we flatten the curve, it’ll all go back to normal, I told myself.

Then two weeks went by. Once summer comes, it’ll start to get better, I told myself.

Then summer came and went.

I stopped telling myself anything.

This pandemic has taken so much from so many. And I’m luckier than most—a year later, I still have my job, my health, and my family.

But no one escaped this year without losing something. A graduation. A wedding. A vacation. A concert. A movie’s opening night surrounded by friends and fellow fans. The sound of laughter in a classroom before a teacher says to quiet down. The feeling of hugging your best friend. The sight of a stranger smiling when you compliment their shoes while you wait in a long line for coffee.

The version of you that you used to be. The version of you that you were becoming.

Exactly one year ago, I knew who I was. It had taken me 31 years to get there, but I felt confident and content in a way that I’m not sure I’ve felt since I was a kid. I knew what made me happy—what made me feel the most like me.

Planning trips. Flying to new places by myself. Saturday afternoons in a darkened movie theater. Sitting with my team at work and helping them through problems and giving them advice. People-watching at the mall. Making little kids laugh. Walking into a crowded restaurant or hotel lobby or airport in my high heels, finding the friend I’m supposed to meet, and hugging them like my life depends on it.

I thought I’d just be giving up those things for a few weeks.

Then, I thought I’d just be giving up those things for a season.

Now, one year later, I’m still trying to figure out who I am—what makes me happy and what makes me feel the most like me—without those things.

It’s like the last year slowly, painfully dug these deep holes in my sense of self, and there’s a whole lot of nothing where my plans, dreams, and extroverted energy used to be.

I know I’m not the only one with those holes. I know we all have them to some degree. But I also know so many resilient people who’ve worked to fill those holes with something new—who forged new fandom connections, picked up new hobbies, and learned new things.

I admire these people so much.

I envy these people so much.

I don’t want to feel like I wasted a year of my life.

I don’t want to look back on this year and realize I came out of it a worse person than I was before.

I don’t want these holes in me to turn into scars.

But maybe they already have.

And maybe that has to be okay.

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Understanding My Power: WandaVision as a Journey of Feelings and Forgiveness

wandavision-westview-hostage-torture

Source: TVLine

When I was 17 years old, I had a breakdown inside the Electric Umbrella restaurant in EPCOT.

Looking back on it, it’s easy to see what caused it. It was my last family vacation as a high school student, before I “grew up.” It was also my last family vacation with my grandfather—my Disney trip buddy for my entire life up to that point. He was getting older and slowing down, and we didn’t know it then, but we’d lose him about 6 months later.

But in the moment, I didn’t know what was happening to me. I couldn’t name it. All I knew is that whatever I was feeling was too much. So I cried into my Disney World french fries—not quiet, gentle tears, but ugly, loud, scary sobs that felt like they were never going to end.

I didn’t even feel like a person. I just felt a vessel for feelings that I couldn’t control.

And all I really remember were the looks on people’s faces. Confusion from my grandfather. Fear from my little sister. Embarrassment from my parents. Concern from the strangers around me.

In that moment, my feelings weren’t just mine anymore. They overwhelmed not just me but everyone in my path. And I couldn’t stop it.

Sometimes I still can’t stop it.

I have big feelings. I feel things deeply and express my feelings openly. And there’s power in that. It makes me a better writer, it helps me forge deeper and more honest connections with people, and it often makes me a bright light to be around—because when those big feelings are enthusiastic and warm and good, they’re infectious; they spread positivity and encourage others to embrace their own vulnerability.

But when those big feelings are dark and difficult and bad, that power isn’t used to help people. It makes me more impatient and melodramatic, it causes me to lash out or cut people off, and it can make me a hard person to be around—projecting my pain onto others just so I don’t have to carry it anymore and making myself the main character in everyone else’s stories because my pain feels more pressing than theirs.

Sound familiar?

Wanda Maximoff’s journey through WandaVision meant so many different things to so many different people. Some people empathized with her path through grief. Some people connected with her story of self-acceptance.

And for me, I learned a lot about myself through Wanda’s struggle with her powers and how deeply they’re tied to her feelings.

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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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Right in the Feels: The Derry Girls Dance

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many Right in the Feels posts here at NGN! This feature will break down some of my favorite emotional moments from TV shows, movies, books, etc., so feel free to share some moments you’d like to see me cover in the comments or on Twitter!

Oh, my life is changing every day
In every possible way
And oh, my dreams
It’s never quite as it seems
(Never quite as it seems)

There’s no better song to capture the spirit of Derry Girls—a show about teenagers growing up in Northern Ireland in the 1990s as the Troubles surround them with sectarian violence—than “Dreams” by The Cranberries.

This is a show about the universal life changes all teenagers deal with, but like the song says, it’s never quite as it seems.

Growing up in the middle of a traumatic historical event changes things.

And never was that dichotomy between ordinary teenage life and extraordinarily violent times made more explicit—or more moving—than at the end of the show’s Season One finale.

As Orla performs her step aerobics routine at the school talent show, she becomes the target of snickering and jeering before her cousin Erin and the rest of her friends (Michelle, Clare, and James) stand up for her and join her onstage. It’s a pitch-perfect moment of friendship that would have been enough on its own to end the season on a moving note, but it’s what comes after that takes this scene from an uplifting celebration to something far more bittersweet—and more beautiful.

As the teens dance, Erin’s family is shown watching a news report of a bombing that left at least 12 people dead. As the adults take in this traumatic event, the background music from Orla’s routine cuts out, allowing the tension to make its presence felt in a visceral way.

But then, the music starts again, and this time, it’s The Cranberries singing about life changing every day.

The episode ends with intercut moments of triumph and tragedy—life and loss. The teens continue to dance and laugh, blissfully unaware of what’s happening, while the adults stare right at the carnage on their TV screen. It’s a perfect visual representation of innocence in a world that is anything but innocent. They’re not dancing while the world around them burns because they don’t care; they’re doing it because they don’t know. Because they’re kids. And kids shouldn’t have to know.

But in the same breath, they’re not really kids anymore, either. Teenagers occupy a strange space between being too young to ignore the horrible parts of life and being too old to fully understand and accept them. So we know that once they get off the stage and get home, their worlds will get a little scarier; they’ll grow up a little bit more. Some part of the carefree light that surrounded them on that stage is going to dim.

But we also know it’s not going to go out completely.

Because they have each other.

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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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TV Time: The Rookie 3.06

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be weekly episode discussion posts about The Rookie here at Nerdy Girl Notes! I’ve wanted to write about this show in this way for a long time, and this week’s episode convinced me that it was finally time for me to fully dive into the fabulous things the writers, actors, and all involved are doing this season. If you’re new to NGN, we love starting fun conversations about our favorite characters, moments, ships, theories, and more in the comments (as long as it’s done in a respectful way, of course!), so please don’t hesitate to join in!

harper 3.06

Source: TV Line

Title: Revelations

Episode M.V.P.: Eric Winter
This episode put Tim Bradford through the emotional wringer. He had to relive the most traumatic parts of his marriage, make impossible ethical choices that will only add to the mountain of guilt he already carries on his shoulders, and watch the only rookie he’s ever come to care for—a woman he sees as honest, optimistic, and genuinely good—be drawn to a life that he associates with lies, addiction, and pain. His eyes were the ones that showed us the other side of undercover work—not the adrenaline, success, and camaraderie found in Lucy’s storyline, but the lost souls and broken families that seem to be just as much a part of the job as big arrests and interesting aliases. And those eyes told one hell of a heartbreaking story.

It’s all because the man playing him has one of the best pairs of eyes in the business. And I don’t mean because they’re dreamy (I mean—they are, but that’s beside the point). It’s because Eric Winter knows exactly how to show just enough truth—just enough pain and guilt and love—in those eyes to let the audience in without letting go of the fact that Tim guards his emotions carefully; he controls his feelings with the same iron fist he once used to control all his rookies (before Lucy, of course).

Winter’s performance in this episode was a masterclass of nuanced character building. Every facet of who Tim is was brought to light with the same level of attention and care, and what impressed me the most was the way Winter was able to believably convey the storm of emotions in this character with the most subtle shifts in his expressions and tone of voice. Those subtle shifts were evidenced right away—as he transitioned from the easy confidence that seemed to radiate from his pores when Mack first jumped out of the car to the tension that settled over his entire body when he confronted Mack moments later about him being high. They continued when he softened immediately after Mack came to following his overdose—the gentle, protective side of Tim Bradford rising to the surface in the tone of voice he used when assuring Mack that he and Beth were there. In that moment, you could see the ghosts of Isabel in every word he spoke and move he made—so much so that when he locked eyes with Lucy, nothing needed to be said to show that she got it too. And those subtle shifts in emotion allowed us to ride the tidal wave of repressed trauma along with him as he forced Mack to think about what he was doing to his family. Watching his eyes fill with tears as he almost certainly replayed a conversation he knew by heart like a bad sitcom rerun crushed me in a way that only a great actor—one who really understands the character he’s playing—can do.

This was an episode that could have seen Tim put his walls back up and shut down into a defensive posture—and in some ways, it did give us that. Winter’s entire body language after Tim learned Lucy was going undercover was closed off, rigid, and angry. But right under the surface was that humanity—that deep and frustrating ability to care—that he can’t shut down entirely. So when Nolan calls him out for being worried about Lucy, there’s the familiar bark, but it’s accompanied by a concerned expression that gives the game away. And when he “arrests” Lucy, there’s none of the frustration that marked their earlier scene in the briefing room when he told her she was being used. Instead, everything about him softens just a fraction—noticeable to the audience but believably subtle enough to not be noticed by the criminals. The way he leans in closer to gently ask if she’s ok, the way his hand never leaves her shoulder, the fact that this typically tough cop doesn’t drag Lucy to the car like Nolan with Harper—each physical action speaks to the way he can’t turn off caring about Lucy and wanting to keep her safe, which is going to be a big problem (in the best way for us as audience members) if this episode is setting up a future undercover career for her.

And then there’s the moment the dam finally breaks in the restrained but meaningful way Winter does best. When Tim looks back at Lucy and tells her, “You did good,” that same transition from hard to soft—fleeting but all the more impactful for its brevity—tells us all we need to know about the man Tim Bradford is. He knows Lucy needs to hear that from him. He knows that she values his opinion; she told him so herself. And he knows that she deserves his support and not to be the recipient of all his anger about undercover work. It’s not easy, and Winter lets us see that struggle. But he fights through his own pain to be there for Lucy because that’s what he does—that’s who he is.

Tim Bradford is a man who doesn’t want to care but cares deeply (as is shown even more painfully in that final scene with Beth), and it takes a strong actor who’s great at subtlety to make that kind of character work. Luckily, Winter is exactly that kind of actor. What he’s done with this character through 3 seasons has been nothing short of captivating, and I hope the drama and soul-searching set up in this episode continue, because I can’t wait to see more.

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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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