Tag Archives: season finale

Masters of Sex 3.12 “Full Ten Count” Review: Save Yourself

28 Sep

The strongest episode of Masters of Sex to date is still “Fight” and this messy third season ends with a nod to this magnificent two-hander offering some semblance of hope despite the many missteps. It is far from a perfect finale and suffers from the weight of storylines that have come before it, but it finally feels like there is some forward momentum instead of entertaining the same back and forth dance we are accustomed to.

Due to other work and travel commitments I haven’t reviewed MoS for a few weeks now and my general view of those episodes is the strong (mostly Betty) moments have been overshadowed by the repetitive nature of Bill and Virginia’s disagreements; it’s not only Virginia that feels like she is suffocating.

Masters of Sex 3.12 BillBill is controlling and single minded and his recent behavior, particularly during the dinner sequence last week has been hard to justify or even tolerate. Virginia’s decision to flee is one that is easy to understand and yet I can’t help but feel the pull of Bill when he lays it all out to her in his last ditch move to get her to stay. His first attempt comes when Bill tells Virginia he is dropping the MD so they will be equals and this gets a brief consideration before the swirl of everything else going on takes center. Not the reaction Bill was expecting, but the drama levels at the clinic are probably far higher than he was anticipating. This idea of telling Virginia how he really feels came from Virginia’s other suitor and this romantic dilemma is part of what has been bugging me this season; Virginia has essentially become the center point of a love triangle and her role in the work has taken a backseat position.

The love story has always been part of Masters of Sex and I am so here for a good romance and yet it feels like Virginia has been reduced to the love prize between a man who is far too good to be true and the man with many flaws. Charming Dan is in part so charming thanks to the person playing him and Josh Charles has been selling the shit out of the perfume man and yet I can’t trust a character that is this good; Dan is the guy who makes bold gestures and then follows through. When he says he will leave his wife (the always amazing Judy Greer) for Virginia he does leave his wife for Virginia.

He can’t quite compromise with her work situation, but luckily for him everything is imploding and this is the ideal time to sweep Virginia off her feet, but how long can this perfect man act keep up? And if it isn’t just an act, how long will Virginia feel complete? I believe her when she tells Bill that happiness outside of the work is her goal, but her constant checking over her shoulder for Bill at the airport is a telling sign that this is still not enough.

Masters of Sex 3.12 Virginia and DanPieces of Virginia’s past have given further insight into her psyche from her contentious relationship with her mother to the impact of her long ago broken heart which was first alluded to in “Fight.” Dan is the chance to do things right while going against her mother’s desire to see her with Bill and if we’re breaking everything down into their base components then both Virginia and Bill’s behavior goes back to their parents. Bill’s father is the person who informs his desire to rail against authority no matter who else gets hurt in the process. As the not so subtle dream sequence shows at the start of this finale, Bill is incapable of staying down because he doesn’t want to be seen as weak. However weakness can be the inability to admit when a situation has spiraled out of control as this one has.

There are times to fight and times to fall and Bill ends up choosing the latter instead of running through the airport and catching Virginia just in time. Masters of Sex has already done the big rom-com ending back in season 1 when Bill showed up on Virginia’s doorstep in the rain and it is Bill’s decision to stop which gives me hope that this show is not a lost cause. If Bill had made it to the airport and won Virginia’s heart with a flowery speech then the cycle would just be repeating, now there is a chance they can build on the ruins Virginia has left behind. Okay so we don’t see Virginia get on the plane, but every time she looks back it acts as a warning sign to Dan that their union might be less than perfect and it wouldn’t be a shocker if she ditched the Mexico plan.

Masters of Sex 3.12 Libby MastersThe status quo has been altered in another much bigger way and the conversation between Libby and Bill is the one which truly excites me because now Bill knows that Libby knows and has known for a very long time. It is scenes like this one which draw me back into MoS and it must be said that for all the bumps and missteps this season, this cast has been doing some incredible things with what they have been given. Caitlin Fitzgerald’s reaction as Bill vomits out his ‘big secret’ is amazing from uncontrollable laughter to her taking no shit as this really is not the time to unburden his soul and feel better in the process. Libby was so close to finding happiness (for a second time) and instead she chose her family (again) and not just because of some ideal image she has cooked up in her mind. Libby is so much more than this and her anger at Bill after he points out how awful this must have been for her and how she deserves something better is justified; “You don’t get to decide.”

Bill is shocked not only in finding out that Libby has known for years, but that Virginia has been in on it. This is where Libby gets to twist the knife telling Bill they have a pact conjuring up images of kitchen table plotting of Virginia agreeing to never taking Bill away from his family. It is all too much for Bill to take in and Libby gets to sashay away leaving him stuck in jail without his bond paid. And she does so in a fabulous camel coat and pants which shows how far Lib has come from pastel dress wearing housewife. See also these sunglasses from earlier in the episode which make her look fierce and like she is on a glamorous mission, even though this is far from the case.

Masters of Sex 3.12 LibbyLibby’s reason for breaking things up with Paul last week also go a long way in showing why she is so adamant at keeping her family together; she doesn’t want the cycle of bad father/son relationships to continue forever on but by the end of this finale her usually resolute spirit has been broken. It is like the Virginia secret is the very frayed string that was keeping everything together and she doesn’t even lock the bathroom door to hide her tearful breakdown, which Johnny of course walks in on.

Bill is not a mirror of his father, but he has been so afraid of repeating this pattern that he is not a presence at all; even if they did split up it probably wouldn’t be that different really. I hope next season sticks to this separation because it will allow the show to explore so many more possibilities beyond Poor Libby and this character does deserve more; so does the audience when it comes to seeing this same old storyline on repeat.

Plenty of characters who have hovered on the sidelines are complicit in Bill’s current fate and when Bill threatened Dennis earlier this season he mentioned that everyone trusts doctors, which as it turns out is not always the case. Bill has been backed into a corner by not only Dennis’ mother, but also Nora who is working with religious fanatic and lobby loiter Ronald Sturgis (another person Bill has threatened). Bill has been somewhat naive in both cases and both have come back to destroy his career. He plays the kind card with Libby and instead of telling him what he wants to hear, Libby instead points out that this is indicative of his controlling and reckless behavior.

Early in the episode Ronald tells Virginia to save herself acting as an early warning about what is to come. The only warning Bill gets is rather abstract pointing to the broken nature of things as his suspender snaps and he has to wear Lester’s belt. Bill is very anti-belts which once again goes back to his father and his choice of weapon against him. I don’t know if we needed the beating flashback even if it underscored that it is not a fashion related decision. Virginia gets a sermon from Nora and in return she smacks her with a box. Nora is a character who is clearly deeply troubled, but she definitely deserved that from Virginia and I maybe (okay definitely) cheered.

Masters of Sex 3.12 Barton and JonathanIn happier romance news Barton and Jonathan (Richard from Felicity!) have acted on their feelings and got over their disagreements regarding how they want to present themselves – with a lot of help from magical advice unicorn Betty – and have a romantic birthday meal out. Well it is romantic and then Bill’s in jail predicament briefly interrupts things. When Jonathan mentions he isn’t getting younger it is hard to not picture him in college because he pretty much looks the same as he did almost 15 years ago.

Betty has been a strong presence throughout this season even when she is only there to dish out the advice and it would be remiss if I didn’t mention her conversation with Barton from “Through a Glass, Darkly” when she tells him about her relationship with Helen and how “it makes a difference” to be loved like that. Betty is often used as comic relief, but she is also important when getting to the heart of the emotional moments and I hope there will be far more for her to do next season even if she is very good at running interference. Betty also had another fantastic Twiggy inspired dress and wide tie costume moment this week.

Masters of Sex 3.12 BettyAnd this look also works when hiding out smoking in a dark office.Masters of Sex 3.12 Betty smokingTroubled teen plots were absent from this finale and Tessa has been one of the many issues this season and I have gone from a position of defending this story to rolling my eyes at how they have made the teen an irritating obstacle. I don’t think they need to be done with Tessa necessarily, but there has to be a way of exploring Virginia’s relationship with her daughter without this many teen cliches particularly when dealing with the work Virginia does.

Masters of Sex works best when it is Masters and Johnson; this is not to say there shouldn’t be conflict but the writers do need to go beyond the same push/pull we have seen for three seasons and hopefully the actions of Bill, Virginia and Libby in this finale will lead a revitalized show that leads to a return to form.

The Wish List: Delphine’s Return to Prints on Orphan Black

22 Jun

It was the season 3 finale of Orphan Black on Saturday and as per the standard Clone Club crazy there were plenty of twists and all the feelings moments. In this world it is hard to trust anyone who doesn’t have Tatiana Maslany’s face and the core group of regulars make up what is actually a rather small cast when you take away Maslany out of the equation. One character who has always been on the outside is Delphine and her loyalty is hard to gauge as while her love for Cosima is undeniable her overall agenda and position is less certain. In season 3 she took on the Rachel role at Dyad putting her in direct conflict with Cosima and her sisters pushing her even further away from the women she loves.

Over this year Delphine’s costuming has shifted from patterns to streamlined style where the only flourishes have been the slightly harsher details of fur and leather and the only sartorial aspect she now shares with her ex is an excellent collection of outerwear. In the first episode Delphine shows up in a Michael Kors fur panel coat and a sleek monochromatic look in a leather trim Helmut Lang blazer. An instant entry into #LadySuitWatch2015.

Orphan Black 3.01 Delphine fur Orphan Black 3.01 DelphineCut to the Orphan Black season finale (spoilers ahead) and Delphine’s return to pattern as she makes some tough choices which lead to an almost certain grave end. It is not a definitive goodbye, but it sure doesn’t look good for our favorite French scientist especially as there’s an emotionally charged Cosima scene which feels like a farewell of sorts and plays out before the parking garage confrontation with an unseen assailant. *sob*

Delphine’s costuming has been rather straight forward this year sticking to dark colors and white; all very no nonsense corporate attire. In the season finale she deviates from this in a patterned Zara blouse which nods to who she was before she took this position of power. Her top button is still done up giving off an executive air, but this print is Delphine revealing her old style as she attempts to make things right for Cosima and her sisters.

Orphan Black 3.10 DelphineDefiance is etched all over her face and this is still keeping with the black and white color palette that Delphine has always favored; this Twitter back and forth between Tatiana Maslany and Evelyne Brochu includes this photo of Delphine and Cosima’s first official meeting (cue more sobs) which shows Delphine’s penchant for the black and white.

Orphan Black S1If only her motivations had been so clearly defined as her wardrobe color palette. But she definitely had Cosima’s back and if this indeed the end for Delphine they have lost one ally who was in a position of some influence; her maybe last words emphasize her true love infused agenda “What will happen to her?” 

She also had a pretty fabulous chair spin down:

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So goodbye for now Delphine and hopefully this is not the end.

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TV Rewind: Felicity, “Felicity Interrupted” & “Back to the Future”

18 Jun

Felicity, Episodes 4.21 & 4.22
“Felicity Interrupted” & “Back to the Future”
Original Air Date: May 22, 2002

Felicity 4.22 FelicityJulie: Having watched the Felicity finale (again), I feel like I can say with much certainty that clip show finales stink. I am not a fan. I think back in the day when DVDs and then streaming weren’t available, when your only hope of seeing old episodes was if the show made it into syndication, clip shows were great. I remember actually liking them quite a bit in my younger days. But now, it’s just lazy. And to pull out the clip show trope in a series finale? A slap in the face to everyone who has stuck by your show for its entire run.

Maybe if the clips had come during the penultimate episode I wouldn’t have been so upset, but I don’t know. It’s all very cheap to me.

I guess at least we did have that second-to-last hour with all new stuff, and it was somewhat compelling. Felicity, having confessed that she’s from the future, gets committed by Noel and Ben who are (rightly) concerned about the state of her mental health. I love that they used Ben’s dad’s illness as the way to convince Ben that Felicity is for real. I was wondering if that HUGE plot line would make an appearance, and it did, in a really clever way.

The other plot line from the past that comes into play here is the fire in the building that for some reason housed both the career counselors and the art department. This time, Felicity isn’t trapped inside the art studio, but Noel is still there working in his office. He ends up dying, which is grim, and not the intended result of Felicity’s time travel. This spurs her to get back to the future, and she (with the help of Meghan) finds Dr. Korsakov, whom Felicity helps realize that his time travel spells do work.

I’m assuming that this is one of those time travel-y situations where Felicity came from the future to help him realize that he needed to publish his book, that it worked. It reminds me of the time travel stuff in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (right?) where Harry thinks he sees his dad conjuring a patronus, but really it’s himself doing it in the future or whatever. Anyway. This time travel talk is confusing.

Let’s talk about this: How the heck is Elena now alive in the future at Noel’s wedding and also how is she with Tracy?

And how nice was it that the show ended with a Sarah McLachlin song?

Felicity 4.22 groupEmma: What the clip show?! Honestly I was so mad as soon as I realized what they were going for as this is not the kind of thing you use for the finale and in a way it would have been so much better if they had flipped the episodes because “Felicity Interrupted” was really great making this finale choice even more disappointing. I’d never considered that a clip show acts as a way for an audience to see best of moments before we had instant access to everything, but yeah don’t go all in on this for your finale. I’m trying to think when shows did away with this format. Part of it was to do with the amount of episodes they had to produce, right? As it gave the writers a chance to catch up/have a break. I feel like I have read that somewhere. But it did feel very dialled in and just a meh way to go out after the amount of fun from the 4 previous time travel episodes.

So I did a little research in that I watched this clip and it reveals just why they did this time travel arc. Long story short they were repeatedly told they would have 17 episodes for the final season which is why episode 17 feels like the series finale with Felicity graduating and then ending with Ben coming to her. Then they got a surprise 5 episode order so they pretty much went fuck it and went with the path untravelled with Felicity choosing Noel instead. So pretty much what we figured. They wanted her to end up with Ben but at the same time they needed a reason to explore the other version so time travel! This brings me back to my original issue with the whole thing because while I LOVE the whole time travel arc I still hate the catalyst because I still don’t think Ben would do that. Or if he did cheat he wouldn’t do it in the way it occurred and it just makes her final decision at the end to just forgive him seem a little hollow and a disservice to both Felicity and Ben. The Team Noel fans must have been fuming.

And yes the Elena thing because if Elena is alive then surely the whole reason Ben cheats disappears as well. Speaking of which YouTube also gives an explanation as to how she is alive and it will also make you mad about how much time they wasted on SCENES WE HAVE ALREADY SEEN and cut out an actual important plot point. Elena is alive because Felicity made her promise to go to Duke instead of Columbia and I’m shaking my head so hard that they cut this out and instead showed us a history of Felicity and her friends. We know all of this stuff so why get rid of something that might confuse/piss people off?! I figured something like this had probably happened but this was a case of show not make us guess what the fuck happened. I watched this episode a week ago and I’m still mad it would seem (the photo below is an accurate representation of my reaction).

Felicity 4.21 FelicityIt was nice seeing all these moments again, but not at the expense of a good finale. Instead it just comes across as super sentimental and empty all at once. I was going to rematch the pilot but it turns out I don’t need to do that.

I have more to say about the finale, but first I want to discuss the penultimate episode and in my internet hunt for a song that was used (this site has all the Felicity tracks – I love how early 00s it looks) I just noticed that they aired both these last two episodes back to back which would have maybe cushioned my clip show rage if I had been watching it live when it first aired. And you’re so spot on about how great a final track that is for this show.

The way they blend in the actual past with Felicity’s current predicament is great and it makes sense that out of the two Ben would be the one who ends up believing her. It also led to one final Ben and Noel team up and while these have been far and few between it still made me so happy to see them working together in this way. From the research on the computer – got to love internet diagnosis practices – to when they show up at Felicity’s with their broadest/fakest smiles. For all their animosity while these two will never be besties they do work well together even if Ben goes and ruins it by believing Felicity. A call from Lauren sparks this as Felicity has both mentioned her and his father’s illness; I really love the scene where Ben wakes Noel up to tell him he believes Felicity because Scott Foley does sleepy dopiness so well. And because I want them to snuggle. I did think it was interesting at no point did Felicity tell Ben about sleeping with Lauren or the son he now has. What did you make of this?

Did you enjoy the Ben/Noel team-up as much as I did? Also did you get Alias vibes when Ben broke Felicity out of the psychiatric hospital? Because I definitely did, from the way it was shot to the general look of it. I think you can tell the two shows shared offices.Felicity 4.21 Felicity, Ben and NoelJulie: Wow. Good on you with the research. That’s all very interesting. It makes sense that episode seventeen was meant to be the finale. The stuff afterwards really does feel tacked on (even if it was, for the most part, very cool). Like you, I do wish they had shown the Elena scene because COME ON she’s alive in the final scene (with Tracy, no less) and they give no explanation for it. I guess we can also assume that before she tries to return to the future she tells Ben not to sleep with Lauren and tells Meghan and Sean to get back together?

I also loved the team-up of Ben and Noel. They do make a good, if odd, pair. Maybe now that everything has been figured out, that Ben and Felicity are now good (and, yeah, presumably he doesn’t cheat on her now that Elena’s alive?) and Noel is married, maybe now they can be friends?

Felicity 4.21 Felicity and the boys

Speaking of the Ben cheating thing, nothing’s really solved here, is it? I mean, he knows she was mad at him for cheating on her, but I feel like they could still run into the same issue again if Felicity finds herself sad or stressed about something again. She’s the one who learned the lessons here, not Ben. I also wonder about his reaction to her telling him about Lauren and the baby. Was any part of him like, wistful that if he doesn’t hook up with Lauren, his baby won’t be born? That’s a pretty big butterfly effect, and would’ve been a much more interesting thing to see, writers, instead of clips from freshman year.

Actually, yeah, that would’ve been great. They should’ve showed us what happened between the time where she decides to go back to the future and before the actually does. What does she tell people? What advice does she give? Does she set herself or her friends up with some good stock tips? Wasted opportunity.

What would you have told Felicity’s friends if you had been her?

Felicity 4.21 Ben and NoelEmma: This is the ultimate problem with time travel stories as we’re now left with all the ‘but if this happened then that wouldn’t have and then we wouldn’t be here in the first place.’ Or the time travel paradox in its more concise form. They do the whole it was just a dream thing because Felicity had a crazy fever and it looks like this is the case, except Elena is alive. And Ben utters the same declaration which is all full of flowery and meaningful words that won’t mean anything if he does it again. And I love that all it takes is for Ben to promise he won’t cheat for Felicity to be all okay with the whole getting back together thing. I mean I guess he did break her out of an asylum and believe her when no one else would, that’s got to earn some points.

I got a whole lot of Eternal Sunshine feelings from Felicity and Ben’s bedtime chat as they talk about whether she will remember any of this and that she will find a way to remember. I maybe whispered ‘Meet me in Montauk‘ at the screen. Because whatever Felicity does the end result is the same; Ben is who she ends up with.

The one clip that made the most sense to remind us of is the one where Ben refers to the movie canister as a time machine, but they could have done away with all the other ones. This one reinforces not only Ben and Felicity as a couple but is also a fortuitous piece of writing from season two that nicely links into this ‘oh shit we have five extra episodes so let’s do time travel’ thing they’ve got going on.

Also scoring on the ‘huh this ties in nicely’ is Zoe in the psychiatric hospital as they have already laid the groundwork for this and it not only gives Felicity hope that she isn’t going through some kind of psychosis but it also links back to the present day with Noel’s wedding. Felicity also tells Zoe about Noel and now I want to see the wedding toast to see if anyone mentions how Noel first met Zoe. Maybe this is why everyone is laughing so heartily during the final montage.

Felicity 4.22 fake laughingThe lack of Lauren/baby mention feels very Friday Night Lights season 2 in that if they don’t acknowledge it this means it didn’t happen. Other advice I think Felicity needs to give people before coming back includes telling Julie to not be such a terrible friend and to quit it with the awful pink tops already. I also want her to tell Meghan not to get back with Sean because I just can’t with their bickering – her project presentation did make me laugh a lot mostly because of all the facial expressions.

Felicity 4.21 Meghan presentationSpeaking of facial expressions this was another great Keri Russell showcase including all of her exasperated looks at the Ben/Noel brain trust. They are right to be concerned but could they get her committed like this? I know I’m questioning the validity of this whole thing in a time travel plot but it does seem far too easy in how she ends up in hospital. I guess she complies to it all and it isn’t entirely against her will. As soon as Ben asked to see her it was clear that she would end up with him because the trust level despite the whole cheating thing is much higher. Plus as Noel pointed out there is a connection between Ben and Felicity that runs far deeper than any of her other relationships.

I have been firmly on Team Ben for since season 2 (I’m such a team switcher) and I know you have been less sold on Mr Covington at times so do you think Felicity ended up with the right person? And would you feel differently if it had ended at episode 17? Also in the name of fairness here are Buzzfeed lists selling the merits of both Ben and Noel.

felicity 4.21 BenJulie: I feel like, in general, there wasn’t a lot of thought put into research for these episodes. They seemed to have winged it with the time travel conceit and with the logistics of getting someone committed. I mean, would they really go from girl on the street not hurting anyone to padded cell in, like, a minute? That seems quick. Also, it’s a little scary if someone can diagnose you from WebMD and then get you locked up in a psych ward like it’s nothing. But it works for the narrative, I guess, so whatever.

That kind of sums up all my feelings about this finale: Whatever.

I’ve been a bit wishy-washy about my team allegiances. I know I’ve been a Noel apologist, which angered some people I don’t know why. I do love Noel. He, specifically, first season Noel, is exactly my jam. He’s dorky, smart, and sweet. Ben is a little too aloof in the early goings, and, while he ends up being a decent guy, I still think he has growing up to do. As does Felicity. So, as far as who I think she should’ve ended up with, the answer is: Herself. She should’ve pulled a Kelly Taylor. She should’ve chosen “me.” It’s what she did basically back in the faux finale, and I like how that ended. She chose herself and then Ben came to her, which is right. I really could’ve done without the back-tracking, honestly. They could’ve ended it right there, with everyone still alive and in love and happy, and it would’ve been fine.

Though we would’ve missed out on all the good frantic Keri Russell acting. She (and Speedman) were great in these final episodes.

Now that the show is done, what were some of your favorite moments from the four seasons?

Felicity 4.21 hugEmma: Once again Scott Speedman shows off his exceptional hug skills and these last five episodes really did showcase the best of the chemistry between Speedman and Keri Russell.

Season 1 Noel is also my jam which is why I was Team Noel in the early days and then things shifted for me maybe because Ben did sort of change, but yeah the dude does still have a lot to do in terms of growing up. He definitely needs to quit the hero act – I love that Meghan mentioned this quality when Julie looked all sad about Ben going after Felicity rather than sticking with her. It was bitchy but delicious. The graduation episode really was the perfect ending and I wonder if Scott Foley got to direct as a sort of second place prize for not getting the girl. But I did really enjoy the time travel episodes for the most part so I don’t mind the WB fucking them around too much.

Okay favorite moments time!

One relationship I really enjoyed seeing develop and grow is between Meghan and Felicity which went from pure animosity to full on BFFs. Those final moments in the last episode as they nuzzle into each other is just as important as any of the many Felicity/Ben hugs which I’ve mooned over. Lady friendships on teen shows are often contentious for obvious reasons like dudes but they started out disliking each other for the simple fact that they were so different to each other and they had been thrust into each other’s world through a simple room assignment. As you know I also really dig that they are besties in real life too. I would also like to see Amanda Foreman in more stuff please.

Felicity 4.22 Meghan and FelicityThe sexual health stuff was generally a high point and Felicity’s contraceptive pill campaign is just as significant now as it was then. This was also the episode where Ben and Noel got drunk, played video games and hit each other so it was general all around good stuff (except for Felicity kissing that Greg dude, he sucked). The same goes for how they Julie rape storyline was handled, also still depressingly relevant even if certain actors involved with said storyline disagree. There were maybe a few too many pregnancy scares and actual pregnancies for my liking and it is a convenient way of adding extra drama.

I also appreciate that Felicity was far from perfect and that she fucked up on multiple occasions whether it was getting blackout drunk and not knowing if she had slept with that frat bro or the time she lost her virginity to the MPDG, she made mistakes and had regrets but they were still hers to have. She isn’t just this sweater wearing A grade perfect student. The time she copied that dissertation was not good storytelling. That was one fuck up too far in that there were no real consequences.

Holiday themed episodes were also pretty great from the first season Halloween where Felicity threw up in Noel’s lap to the first Thanksgiving where she frantically smooched Noel in the bathroom. It’s not holiday themed but the mid-term episode in season 1 which introduced us to Noel’s beets reaction is also a high point.

The randomness of the Twilight Zone inspired episode and attention to detail of the homage makes that one really special. Considering it was one of the only things I knew about the show before I came in it could have been a huge let down but instead it was what I hoped it would be and more.

I have more to add including costume favorites but I will pass it over to you before I write an entire essay entitled “What I Love about Felicity.

Felicity 4.21 Meghan and ElenaJulie: One thing that kept me from watching Felicity when it originally aired (aside from the fact that I was in college myself at the time), was that I assumed Felicity was going to be this perfect, no mistakes, cool girl. I was very wrong. She is not that. She’s awkward and confused and she sometimes makes horrible decisions (including sartorial ones). She’s very earnest and socially conscious, which could’ve gotten old, but the people around her bring her back down to Earth. I love how real and flawed she is, and the writers kept her that way for the duration of the show.

My top favorite moment is the Thanksgiving kiss with Noel during freshman year. For me, that is one of the top five kisses of all time on television. It’s just so…college. It happens in a women’s bathroom, for goodness’s sake. (This show could’ve used more bathroom drama, all told.)

Other things I loved were Ben getting in touch with his feelings on the basketball court, Dr. Pavone, the pre-rape Pink Guy, the MPDG (Even if he was a MPDG. Felicity deserves to have hot sex with hot people.)

I didn’t love almost every storyline involving Julie, what happened with Elena at the end, Javier jumping from being their cool uncle to being their classmate, Meghan and Sean’s breakups, whatever happened with Richard by the end of the run.

This show did have a tough time with character consistency, and the writers never really knew what to do with Felicity, career-wise. They never knew what to do with anyone, career-wise, unless that career was something straightforward like “doctor.” Actually “doctor” was the only career they ever really had a grasp on. What was Megan’s major? Psych? Education? I don’t even know. What about Richard or Javier? For a show about college, they never really explored the whole point of going to college — to learn and prep for a career.

Okay, now I want to hear about your costume highlights and lowlights.

felicity 4.22 photo of NoelEmma: That kiss is spectacular and the level of bathroom shenanigans particularly in the later seasons is depressingly low. All I can really remember is those random girls who moved in and Felicity’s bedroom/en suite sharing debacle. That is not the kind of bathroom action I want from my teen shows. Meghan and Felicity did manage to sneak some good stuff in when they were at the loft on the odd occasion I guess.

Another great kiss moment is Felicity and Ben’s first smooch as it is so playful and flirty. It’s not quite the heights of the Noel kiss but still really good nonetheless.

Yeah character consistency is definitely an issue the show had and while I don’t mind them not necessarily knowing what they want to be/do after college – and I think they nailed the anxiety this causes – it is a shame doctor is the one that sticks for three of these characters. I also would have liked more Felicity and her lady friends time as I don’t think they were terrible at this, but Elena and Meghan definitely got sidelined in favor of whatever boy drama was going on. Basically I wanted more girls’ nights out.

This nicely leads me to costume highlights as one of the worst outfits is also one of my favorites and I’m sure you know which one I’m going to say – yep the double red denim. The dream! Speaking of red and the super sexy dress she wore at the start of season 2 is a killer as is the really cute spaghetti straps super 90s dress at the start of season 1 which she pairs with some Cons and a cardigan. Felicity reminds me how much I still like 90s fashion and how bad the early 00s were for clothes. And she was generally good when it came to party attire that didn’t involve double denim as this sparkly top from the shooting episode (I still can’t believe that is a thing that happened) is very cool. Her sweater collection is like no other with more turtlenecks and chunky knits than any other characters. She even had a summer t-neck collection for when she needed to hide her Noel induced hickey.

What stands out to you clothes wise?

And we can’t talk about the legacy of Felicity without talking about the big hair chopping moment. This was one of the only things I knew about the show going into it and how it supposedly impacted the ratings. In terms of haircuts I think she looks cute with it short but she definitely experienced the awkward growing out stage. I did also enjoy the big wink reference to this haircut in the finale and it is funny how big the reaction was to it. But she was the girl with all the hair so I can understand why this was a BIG DEAL.

Felicity 4.22 Felicity timetravelJulie: Double red denim IS the dream. I’m considering wearing it to all my fancy weddings this year.

I’m bad at remembering specific outfits (I think you mentioned most of my favorites), but I really do love the nostalgia feelings that come with all these clothes. I was in college at the same time that Felicity aired and I definitely had a lot of sweaters in the late ’90s and sparkly tops in the early ’00s. Everything Noel wears feels like it could’ve been lifted from the closet of every guy I knew at the time. The only thing missing, boy-fashion-wise, was some dude with a giant, curly mop on his head. Ben and Noel’s hair situation was always quite attractive, unlike a lot of the guys I knew back in the day.

One of the only good things about the flashbacks in the finale was that it took us on the Felicity hair journey again. I still don’t get all the pearl clutching about the short ‘do. She looked so cute. The growing out phase, however, especially toward the end of season two and the beginning of three, was the real tragedy.

Maybe Felicity should’ve turned back time all the way to the beginning of the second season. Maybe all of her problems would’ve been solved if she had just not gotten that haircut.

Felicity 4.22 weddingEmma: I did wonder if it would have been better if she went right back to the end of season 1 when the first Ben vs. Noel choice was presented. It would save a lot of heartache although she ultimately would end up with Ben (or so the show would like us to believe and I agree with this).

This show made me super nostalgic too and I do wish I had watched it when it was on. I hate the phrase ‘role model’ in this context but I do think Felicity is a pretty great character for all the reasons we have written about. Keri Russell’s performance has been excellent throughout and I barely got any character whiplash when alternating between this and The Americans, which speaks to how she plays these characters. Speaking of which it is funny that she has gone from much talked about haircut to a show where the hair or rather the wigs are a big topic of conversation.

After watching and discussing this show with you for two years now I am feeling rather emotional that we are all done and there is no more. It has been very fun and now we’ve been through TV high school twice we’re now graduating from TV college too.

Julie Hammerle is, according to Klout, an expert in the areas of both Morgan Freeman and glasses. Her writing can be found at chicagonow.com/hammervision and you can holler at her on Twitter as well.

 

Letting it Go on The Good Wife

11 May

In The Good Wife finale Alicia talks about how losing the election finally allowed her the chance to let go of anger, jealousy and not caring about what other people think. The latter is not so set in stone as she spent part of the last episode wearing a hat as a way to go incognito and there are several things this week that point very much in the direction of caring. It is an important sentiment nonetheless as the impact of the election scandal has given Alicia the chance to reassess where she is with her career and how she feels about the scrutiny of being in the public eye.

The Good Wife  6.22 Alicia and PeterThe latter comes into play when Peter tells Alicia he is going to run for president – which is met with laughter from Alicia until she realizes he is being serious – not as a viable candidate for this position, instead vying for the veep spot. The big family conference about this has Zach reacting in the same way, but his chuckles are far friendlier towards his father with Grace taking on a more concerned approach while also asking the big question about this now pretend marriage. The camera lingers on Alicia as she takes in her daughter’s reaction noting how it instantly makes Grace uncomfortable. Peter points out they aren’t pretending as they are still married and yet Alicia is quick to acknowledge the charade.

This prompts her to pull Peter to one side telling him she can see through this whole thing; he has already decided and really this is all pomp and ceremony asking for approval from his wife and children. He claims otherwise so Alicia tells him she doesn’t approve of this run for political office as it is just inviting the press in once again (how many times is this now?) to tear them to shreds and put unnecessary pressure on their kids (and especially Grace).

The Good Wife 6.22 Alicia and KalindaOne thing Alicia does on multiple occasions is tell people how she really feels in a super calm fashion from Peter to Lemond Bishop’s lawyer Lester as he tries to intimidate her – Wallace Shawn is so terrific in this role – and we even get the big chat with Kalinda; in a bar and with the long ago tradition of tequila shots. I spoke about the leather clad elephant in the room last week and it is impossible to talk about this scene without mentioning how something seemed off and by off it has a certain Orphan Black quality in both the wide and over the camera angles. It sucks that a scene as important as this in a relationship that at one point was the heart of the show has come down to this and that behind the scene rumblings mean this whole moment was underscored with external distraction. Please Good Wife oral history fill us in on what really happened. I didn’t want to have to address this stuff again and yet it is impossible when the sight lines don’t quite match up. But I do want to discuss the sentiment of the scene because it is important to who these characters are/were.

Kalinda’s final season storyline has been all over the place with her involvement with Bishop as her exit arc. It has also been clear they have struggled with this character for some time now, dating back to the introduction of her awful ex Nick. Alicia has never really had that many friends as she tends to be pretty closed off and protective of herself. Some of this stems from how those closest to her turned their backs when the whole Peter scandal happened, but there have been some exceptions. These close relationships have included the romantic (Will, maybe Finn), ones that were for political strategizing (looking at you Maura Tierney), others have been hampered by romance (oh hey Amanda Peet) or have been more about work (Diane and Cary). With Kalinda it was different and Alicia let her guard down over shots of tequila in bars and drinking beer in bed; this makes the whole thing all the more bittersweet.

In this bar scene Alicia discusses how it is nice not to care since the scandal and ultimately how she misses spending time in bars with Kalinda. Kalinda also uses this moment to point out how their time together was the best she had and she messed it up. The way this is discussed is like exes coming back together to talk about the good times and where it went wrong; as I have mentioned on several occasions friendship breakups can be more devastating than romantic ones. With Alicia and Kalinda it was a double whammy as it involved a romantic betrayal of sorts and killed two relationships for Alicia. Even though they are sharing the same space I found the previous version of their goodbye to have a greater tear filled impact on me, maybe because there were less distractions present.

The Good Wife 6.22 KalindaSo long Kalinda, you deserved better. But you still look fantastic in leather and sunglasses. Make sure you take a baseball bat with you.

Alicia’s position of not caring about what other people think is put into question in relation to getting sucked back into the political sphere again with Peter’s presidential bid and the memoir commissioned as a way to soften Alicia’s public persona. The concern from Alicia is that she is being remade as a homemaker or rather as ‘the good wife’ and this is far from something she is comfortable or even a little okay with. Alicia is calm and steadfast in how she refuses to give Eli anything that he wants from her or wants her to be setting up one conflict for next season.

Another comes in the form of Alicia’s new firm and after Finn accepts her partnership offer he later recants after they have successfully won their first case together. They make an excellent team in court and over drinks; work is one thing but the sexual tension is too much and Finn can see something bad happening. By bad he means something very good, right? Okay he is being professional and he also happens to be trying things again with his ex-wife so spending this much time with Alicia in bars, alone in her car or at her apartment is maybe not the best way to aid this reconciliation or even start a professional partnership. But it still doesn’t stop me from yelling “KISS HIM” at the screen as he continually makes his excuses to go. I am only human after all. The back and forth between them has been pretty consistent and Finn references this when he explains why they can’t work together; hopefully Matthew Goode will be back next season to explore the notion of “not always do or don’t.”

The Good Wife 6.22 Alicia and FinnAlicia explains that she doesn’t want to work alone and she doesn’t have to as Louis Canning is there at the end to offer partnership; a partnership fueled by anger at Cary, Diane and David Lee because they fired his wife from their firm. Simone got a job by using her maiden name and while Diane is more than fine with her working there both Cary and David Lee raise concerns and their majority wins. In a heartbreaking scene Simone tearfully tries to get Diane to reconsider (she isn’t the issue) with “I did this on my own. This was me.” Simone like Alicia has a surname which comes with preconceived ideas.

In the finale Diane doesn’t really have a great deal to do except purse her lips in frustration at her partners. Hopefully there will be far more for her next year (same goes for Cary), but in the meantime here is one final Diane Lockhart costume parade for the season.

The Good Wife 6.22  Diane and CaryGiving good ‘what?!’ face with Cary in striking white and bold red lip color.

The Good Wife 6.22 DianeThe power necklace offers no support in her argument to keep Simone. Maybe stick to the chunky chain link ones in the future when fighting these kinds of battles.

The Good Wife 6.22 Diane LockhartExcellent lip color and jacket combination but none of this is helping against Louis Canning’s threats to pull this firm apart. I think Diane is regretting her partner choice.

All signs point to Canning teaming up with Alicia and considering how she left the firm she created there is a chance she will get on board with his scheme, except I can’t see her wanting to destroy either Cary or Diane. While this finale isn’t as strong as previous ones (and as the season was so all over the place it would have been very hard to deliver a slam dunk episode) it does do a good job of tying up the loose ends while also setting up conflicts for next year. Now the Kalinda storyline has been wrapped up we might get a more streamlined (maybe final) season as we continue the education of Alicia Florrick.

The Americans 3.13 “March 8, 1983” Review: “Why Are You Here?”

23 Apr

There is no denying that Philip and Elizabeth have done plenty of bad things on The Americans as we have seen them engage in activities which compromise them in a variety of ways. The very idea of good and evil can be rather abstract, particularly when dealing with opposing ideologies so the Reagan rhetoric which plays over this season’s final moments not only shows how precarious relations are at this point in the Cold War, but also taps into the state of mind of the three central players.

The Paige Problem which shifted into the Paige Revelation altered the balance and somehow raised the stakes further; the kitchen scene in “Stingers” is the defining moment not just of this season, but the entire run so far and everything that has come after feels even more fraught. Doubling down on fragile mental states in the Jennings household is Philip who has been teetering on the edge of the abyss and this talk of good/evil is pretty on point when it comes to his current status (‘Philip is feeling broken’).

The Americans 3.13 Philip and ElizabethElizabeth has never really wavered when it comes to duty to country; a few weeks ago Betty, the old woman who Elizabeth pretty much forced to kill herself used the word evil when Elizabeth justified her actions with the usual ‘making things better’ line. While Elizabeth is not simply a stone cold killer allowing herself a few tears shed in the darkness, the ends still justified the means. When it comes to killing for the cause Elizabeth is much better at shutting off her emotions, in the same way she told Philip that she doesn’t think about the sex training she also appears to do the same when it comes to the most brutal acts they commit.

It has been notable that Philip has not actually killed anyone this season, until this episode that is. Yes he could be considered complicit in the death of Annelise and he has certainly been present when someone else has pulled the trigger (or set the fire). Yousaf is the constant reminder of what happened to Annelise and he is under the impression that Philip has no real feelings about this; instead Philip tells him “I feel like shit all the time” and while Philip claims Elizabeth is the person who really knows him he tends to reveal more of himself in moments like this when he is in disguise. Pressure has been piling on Philip from a variety of sources including the relationships he is cultivating all in the name of the cause with Kimmy and Martha. Neither appears in the finale and the absence of Martha looms large after the huge de-wigging moment. About 25 minutes in I did write in huge block letters “WHERE IS MARTHA?” and while it is somewhat disappointing she didn’t make an appearance after such a jaw-dropping reveal, the finale is already overflowing and so it makes sense to imagine her squirreled away somewhere (I’m imagining with Hans) as she tries to process exactly what is going on.

The Americans 3.13 PhilipWhen Philip showed his true face to Martha I figured it was an act of ‘kindness’ before he has to kill her and while I can’t see how Martha is going to make it for yet another season, Philip’s desire to avoid any more collateral damage is strong. Instead he frames Gene, the computer dude and stages his suicide. No need for a forced handwritten note when a computer sits in the center of the room. Philip’s typed words of “I had no choice… I’m sorry” double as his own apology for this and Matthew Rhys giving a masterclass in playing self-loathing and quiet desperation throughout the finale. When he comes home to an empty house towards the end of the episode it is one of the lowest points we have seen him at as he rotates from listening to the radio to lying on his bed in silence. He enthusiastically bounds down the stairs when Elizabeth and Paige get back from their trip reads as an attempt to cover up his melancholy; it is only later on when he is alone with his wife that he tries to explain how he is feeling. I’m pretty sure if Philip started crying he would never stop and so far he has been pretty incredible at only hitting pre-glassy eyes.

EST has played in the background in a seemingly inconsequential manner as a failed attempt for Stan to win back Susan. Instead it has tapped into a part of Philip and he returns to the meetings alone bumping into Susan in the process. These are two characters that have barely spent anytime onscreen together and at first it is jarring seeing them sharing such an intimate discussion. Susan suggests being honesty friends, which would be fine except Philip, can only really share a small part of who he is with her. It is also interesting that Philip has chosen the seminar on sex as his refuge as honesty is such a big part of the EST philosophy and so many of his sexual interactions involve the notion of ‘making it real.’ Sex with Elizabeth is also complicated as while they have a strong intimate bond, Philip has told his wife that in the past he has used this technique with her too. I would very much like to see Elizabeth’s reaction to one of these seminars as I’m pretty sure she would be as open to this as she is to church.

The Americans 3.13 Philip and ElizabethPhilip is looking for an emotional tether in the same way Paige has been when it comes to religion; father and daughter have this in common and by the end of the episode they reach out to the person who they believe they can trust the most. Finding it hard to formulate his feelings, Philip struggles to tell Elizabeth exactly what is going on in his mind. She thinks he isn’t necessarily seeing things clearly and yet she is also distracted by the big Reagan speech playing on their bedroom television. This is Philip really opening up about the emotional toll of all this as he awkwardly explains how he needs to know what he’s doing better. It is not entirely clear what he means by this but with the moral terms being used by Reagan, I think he needs to know that what they are doing is positive and not just destroying multiple lives. Elizabeth doesn’t register his pain, or doesn’t want to acknowledge that yes there are flaws in their organization. It is the same way she brushes off Paige’s discomfort at lying and tells Philip how the trip has been really beneficial.

The Americans 3.13 PaigeInstead Paige is having her own moral quandary as she lies on her bed sobbing and boy is Holly Taylor destroying my soul in every way possible. Really they should have take that phone out of her room the instant they told her the truth, but they are both convinced she won’t spill their big dark secret. Spill she does and the tension is almost too much to take as we cut between Philip and Elizabeth’s missed connection talk with Stan and Henry happily playing a board game oblivious to what is taking place across the street. Paige can’t take the lying and in her mind her parents are trying to infect her with their lies. Seeing Elizabeth with her mother could have been a bonding moment and in Elizabeth’s mind it was, but she is only seeing it from her own POV. Paige questions how Elizabeth’s mother let her go like that and Elizabeth reassures her that nothing like that will happen to her. I’m not sure this is the answer Paige is seeking as she tries to reconcile everything she knows now. Seeing her mother ‘at work’ as she checks to see if they are being followed is an eye opener and even though nothing comes of it, seeing her mom in full spy mode has got to be unnerving. Paige has not had to live in the moral grey area before; this is all Philip and Elizabeth know and because they see family loyalty as being stronger than Paige’s feelings of what is right and wrong I don’t think they even consider Paige uttering this

“I’ve been having a really hard time and I’m hurting a lot. And I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried praying and it doesn’t help. Please, please help me. I can’t take it, they’re just, they’re liars. They’re liars and they’re trying to turn me into one. They’re not who they say are. They’re not Americans. I’m not supposed to say it, you can’t tell anyone. They’re, they’re Russians.”

And that sound you just heard is my screaming “Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?” at the length of time it is going to be until we find out the resolution of this HOLY SHIT confession. Oh, Paige. That speech is heartbreaking on its own but intercut with Philip’s own attempt at revealing his pain it takes on the level of brutal soul crushing The Americans excels at. Elizabeth is so focused on the cause that she can’t see her husband and child are not exactly feeling it. This is not to say Elizabeth doesn’t feel anything as demonstrated by the scene with her mother and this is some extraordinary stuff from Keri Russell (this review could quite simply be two thousand words on how great all the face parts acting is from Russell, Rhys and Taylor). The Elizabeth we have seen this season has been far more connected to emotions including flashes of jealousy towards Philip’s other women to the tears we saw not just with Lois, but post the very close call early on this year.

The Americans 3.13 ElizabethElizabeth has known her mother has been sick since Gabriel’s return and while their handler has been using this connection to keep Elizabeth on side, Philip has seen it as an opportunity to assert his power. The plan Philip came up with was to get Elizabeth and Paige into West Germany and go from there with Gabriel calling this move childish; Philip said he was going to look out for his family and this is him doing just that. The tension between Philip and Gabriel is far from resolved and it is one of the many storylines which looks set to explode next season with Elizabeth placed in the middle of this rumble. This isn’t about the cause though and Philip was simply trying to do what he could to help his wife see her dying mother, a woman she hasn’t seen in over 20 years. The scene itself is rather brief, but manages to do a lot connecting three generations in this space and time, inviting Paige in but holding her at a distance as she remains standing. As Elizabeth clings onto those last glimpses, Paige is in the bathroom praying once again emphasizing how different Elizabeth and Paige are. Elizabeth can’t bring herself to pray with her daughter, but she does join her in this moment of reflection.

The Americans 3.13 prayingThe use of space in this hotel location helps demonstrate how alone Paige feels whereas for Elizabeth this experience is all about coming together. She gets to see her mother when she didn’t think that was ever going to happen again and if Elizabeth believed in miracles then she would probably call this one. For Paige it simply overwhelms and adds to her feeling of discomfort at who her parents really are. When she asked them for their real names or to speak Russian it was a test to see if they were telling the truth, being in this room in West Germany seeing her real grandmother and hearing Russian spoken so freely is an entirely new level of comprehension. It is also worth noting that Paige is not only wearing her cross, but she is also wearing a t-shirt with footprints in the sand, which has strong religious connotations. Paige is very much holding onto her beliefs.

The Americans 3.13 footprints teeOne person who is through with compromising herself is Nina and she can’t keep buying back her life. Nina isn’t going to get saved by Stan and Oleg’s partnership, a partnership which Stan is using to get leverage so he can flip him or expose his treason (more on this to come) and she also doesn’t want to sell Anton out. Anton is actually doing a lot more work since Nina’s arrival so she might inadvertently get her freedom if he comes through with something. It is all about asserting control where they can and the opportunity to explore this technology through the photos Lisa got is too exciting for Anton to ignore and there is always some hope that one day he will see his son again. Something romantic might take place between this pair, but they share a connection on a much more intimate level as their fates are entwined and they both know what it feels like to be used as a bargaining chip. Nina having some amount of agency makes me very happy and even though this story has been on the periphery it is one of many that I am looking forward to returning to.

The tension at the FBI is ever increasing as Agent Gaad is still smarting from the pen incident so Stan’s off books work means he gets the brunt of Gaad’s frustration and anger. If it was up to Gaad, Stan would be dunzo, but red tape doesn’t stop everything and his work has been recognized from higher up. Getting the go ahead to continue with this operation but without Nina’s freedom as leverage means he is going to have to find a new way to get to Oleg.

What we are left with at the end of this season is a lot of questions and unresolved storylines; this could be considered anti-climatic in one respect, but that doozy of a final sequence coupled with how strong the narrative has been throughout means I am so close to curling up in the fetal position under my desk thankful for a bleak break. Not every plot has been entirely successful this year and at times there has been too much going on with Stan’s marriage/divorce being something that could easily have been trimmed down this year. Overall this has been one incredible season without a single weak episode and even though it is only April it is going to be hard for any other show to top this one for me this year.

Shot(s) of the Week

The Americans 3.13 GabrielDirector Dan Sackheim delivers plenty of amazing shots that could be included (and a lot of them appear in this review) and this scene at Gabriel’s uses space in the way I have discussed further up. There is so much distance between them with Gabriel only coming close to Philip when he wants to lay down some father like words of warning/disappointment.

The Americans 3.13 hotelThe light from the large windows in both shots helps frame those within the room and even though Elizabeth is standing she looks childlike before her mother in her blue nightdress (the blue dress links back to the one Elizabeth mentions to Philip in “Baggage.” Even though we hear about her tough her mother is, there is nothing but love in this scene.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 3.13 Philip disguisePhilip has definitely borrowed one of Elizabeth’s wigs with this blonde number when staging Gene’s suicide. Maybe he thinks he can channel her ability to compartmentalize (he can’t).

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.13 NinaNina’s attire has been a whole lot of beige, grey and brown but her knitwear game is strong. Probably a must for how cold it is where she is.

Mad Men 6.13 “In Care Of” Review: California Dreamin’

24 Jun

At the end of season 1 of Mad Men Don Draper gave one of his best pitches and then returned to an empty house for Thanksgiving; the final episode of this penultimate season also occurred post election (with Nixon as the winner this time) and Don used nostalgia once again to sell a product but spills a little more of his soul in the process. This has been a tumultuous year for these characters and the trauma that the country is experiencing both overseas and at home has impacted the tone. While this season has been a tough slog in places thanks to the darkness that it has tapped into, it has also been highly rewarding even if Don is no longer a character that is easy to defend.

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The Carousel presentation is probably still Don’s most touching pitch as he used nostalgia to sell a product – “the pain from an old wound, it’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.” Don uses a similar tactic for Hershey’s, first telling a made up story about his father buying him a Hershey’s bar and he even has the perfect tagline to accompany this fake tale “Hershey’s is the currency of affection, it’s the childhood symbol of love.” After all the lies Don has told he can’t let the Hershey executives leave without revealing the truth about why he has such strong feelings for this brand of chocolate. This season has had multiple flashbacks to Dick Whitman’s whorehouse living past and while a lot of this has felt superfluous, in this moment it made sense as to why there has been so many. Quite often the flashbacks feel like they should be on a show like Boardwalk Empire and while we probably didn’t need quite as many (the one in this episode only felt necessary because of the final shot) it gives further context as to why Dick became Don.

Don has come across as vulnerable in previous pitches, it’s part of the charm and heartbreak of the Carousel speech and this technique of making it personal is part of the great Don Draper show. This season Don’s work has taken a new direction; imagery of death has been rife and the product they are selling has been absent from the art work on several occasions. Don doesn’t want Hershey’s to even consider advertising so while he doesn’t have a say in his taking leave from work, his heart really isn’t in the game at the moment. This is the most honest we have seen Don at work and the story he tells makes him vulnerable in the eyes of his co-workers and clients. The Hershey executives don’t really know how to respond to Don’s second pitch (they love the first one) and even ask if Don wants them to use that suggestion (this comment caused me to snort laugh, possibly as a reaction to my own horror/wonder at what Don had just revealed – this episode has a lot of hilarious lines underneath the dark overtones).

It has been hard to feel sympathetic towards Don this season as he is the maker of most of his misery, but the meeting on Thanksgiving morning that’s part intervention, part firing might make me retract some of my “Falling Out of Love with Don Draper” statements. It’s an ambush and while it has been a long time coming and he probably deserves it, it is a shame that a rare moment of honesty is what tipped their collective hand; at least when Freddy Rumsen got put on six-month leave he was taken out for a night on the town as part of his send-off. For Don he gets a lot of concerned faces but no follow up, other than an awkward moment with his replacement and Duck (who is clearly relishing this downfall). Where does this leave Don and SC & P? For a start they’re probably happy that they left the D out of the new name. Don has no return date and Peggy looks good in his office (and in an amazing pant suit, is this the first time we have seen Peggy wearing pants in the office?) and once again Mad Men ends a season with the future looking uncertain.

Stan and his magnificent beard came up with the idea of setting up a Californian office, an idea that soon gets taken by Don much to Stan’s dismay. California soon becomes the beacon of new hope as several characters believe it will provide them with a fresh start; Don tells Megan that they’re going and so she quits her job. This looks like it could be place to make their marriage work, much like the hallucination that Don had when he was last in LA. Instead he gives up his chance for sunshine and doesn’t become the monster that Peggy called him as he lets Ted have his spot; Don ruins his marriage to save Ted’s. Don’s marriage has been over for the whole season really and a new climate would probably only act as a band aid for a much larger wound (to borrow a line from Pete Campbell). While it isn’t clear if Megan has left him permanently, she’s finally come to terms with what a sham their relationship is and she’s in the same drifting boat as Don’s children. The main difference here is that Don is with his children at the end of the episode and Megan is nowhere to be seen, so while Megan didn’t meet the violent end that some had predicted she isn’t present in Don’s life in the final shot of the season. I’m a big Megan fan (a sentiment that I know isn’t widely shared) and while I know it’s been hard to work her storyline in this year (mirroring the past issues with getting Betty into episodes), I do hope that this isn’t the last we see of Jessica Paré on Mad Men.

In an earlier episode Sally mentions that she doesn’t know anything about her father, so when he shows his humble beginnings the look that is shared between father and daughter suggests that while their relationship is broken, it isn’t beyond repair. Sally has barely been at her new school for a month and she’s already been suspended for buying beer with a fake ID. While Betty despairs about this, blaming herself Don does a good job of reassuring her that this isn’t her fault. Kiernan Shipka is only in a couple of scenes but shows once again what an exceptional young actress she is; from the disdain in her voice on the phone to her father to that look in the final moment. This is a complicated relationship and one that isn’t going to get fixed instantly by revealing the dilapidated house where he grew up, but it’s a moment of real honesty between Don Draper and his children. It isn’t the first time this has happened; Don took Sally and Bobby to Anna Draper’s house and they asked who Dick was and while he didn’t tell them the whole story he’s beginning to reveal more of who he is. Don’s children are more receptive to this than his colleagues are; this is what unconditional love is and while his revelation leads to what looks like the loss of his job, it might help heal his fractured relationship with his children.

Don Draper 2.0 or Bob Benson as we know him played his hand in a bold manner after Pete confronted him with the news that Manolo might have murdered his mother. Instead of running Bob uses his knowledge of Pete’s shaky driving skills and humiliates Pete in front of the Chevy executives, acting before Pete could ruin Bob. Bob has essentially got the Chevy account to himself and Pete is heading to LA with Ted. Pete isn’t the only person who confronted Bob as Roger also had words concerning Joan and Kevin. Roger only sees the smile and handsome face and doesn’t believe for a second that Bob just wants to be buddies with Joan, but Roger doesn’t get to dictate who Joan spends her time with.

It’s unclear if Manolo is complicit in Pete’s mother’s death, though the evidence suggests that he could have been after the money she doesn’t actually have. Pete is unhappy about his new destination (he is a New Yorker through and through) but Trudy has some wise words for her estranged husband “It’s going to take you a moment to realize where you are.” Trudy tells him that he is now free of everything – of his mother, of that office, of everything. Will a new coast and city be the new start that Pete needs?

“Aren’t you lucky to have decisions” is a line that really cuts through the core of Peggy’s story; while she’s risen to a position of power and responsibility in the office (over at The Cut they have a great clip package of Peggy’s journey), her personal life is still in disarray. Don’t worry this isn’t the start of a “Can Women Have it All?” debate but rather how Ted looked at Don Draper and saw the ghost of Christmas Future and ran to California. Ted isn’t the terrible person that Don has been trying to convince Peggy he is all season, but he’s also not the great man she put on a pedestal either. Ted dreams big and says he’ll leave his wife for Peggy, but deep down that’s never going to happen instead he sees California as his chance of redemption and he needs to put distance between himself and Peggy to quell his desires. While I’ve enjoyed having Ted around, I’m also looking forward to seeing what Peggy can do with her new position of responsibility (plus hey Stan’s still here for late night phone calls and beardy goodness). It should also be remembered that Peggy stepped out on her own at the end of last year to end back at the very office that she had left thanks to a decision that was out of her control.

Other Thoughts

–  While Don has hit rock bottom before, a night in jail after he punches a minister is what motivates Don to make some big life choices.

– If Megan does leave Don and goes to LA without him this might fuel the Sharon Tate theories even further, especially as next season will most likely start in 1969 (there’s only a month of 1968 left). Or they could try and make the bicoastal relationship work, which will still leave her alone in LA.

– Peggy has been the other woman in the past and had an encounter with a very pregnant Trudy Campbell in the bathroom of the office (in “The Suitcase”). Her relationship with Pete was long over by the time this happened so there was no need to play any mind games, with Ted she responds to his wife and kids in the office with a dress that shows off both legs and cleavage and it sends him running to her door (also it’s a nice detail that she makes sure she locks her front door even in the throes of passion, Peggy is still very much afraid of her neighborhood). Was anyone else worried that Ted’s wife would mention Chanel No. 5?

– Bob Benson carving in a pinny. There is nothing left to say about this (until Friday and “Look of the Week”).

– James Wolk is starring in The Crazy Ones on CBS this fall, but there’s nothing to say he can’t pull double duty like Alison Brie has with Community and Mad Men. Hopefully he will be back as Bob Benson has been a season highlight.

– “It’s an opportunity to build one desk into an agency.” Don has been attempting to do this in one form or another since the show started and has done so with SCDP followed by the merger this season, he constantly wants to start at the beginning and turn something into a bigger, better thing. It’s all about reinvention and Don is still not happy with the model, so he wants to start again. What he gets is a different kind of opportunity and I’m so excited about the uncertainty of the final season.

– I’m putting my choice of Mad Men Music Monday in here with the track that closed out the episode (“Moon River” was a very close second as I love this song) and the Judy Collins version of “Both Sides Now.”

Thanks for reading and I will be chatting with Kerensa once again later this week as we breakdown the last third of the season, make sure you stop by for that.

New Girl Season 2 Finale: Making a Choice

15 May

“Where did we come from? Where do we go?”

Life’s big question as perfectly as asked by the song “Cotton-Eye Joe” (and yes I’m having some serious high school dance flashbacks) and one that ended season 2 of New Girl on a high as it rounded out a fantastic year. The strength of the finale and the show is not just about the Nick and Jess pairing, but the group as a whole and this episode highlights why New Girl is so much fun to watch. It’s chaotic and messy but as Jess told a class of kids last week the “messy parts are the best parts.”

NG_ep225_sc1_0074Since “Cooler” there has been a lot of tiptoeing around how Nick and Jess really feel about each other; they are friends and there is a strong sexual attraction. Beyond that they have had problems verbalizing their feelings and after Bob’s disapproving speech last week this put the emphasis on Nick’s lack of self-worth. This is emphasized in the finale when Jess first mentions that her father has referred to Nick as a child. Jess claims that she doesn’t believe this, but then uses this word when she mistakenly thinks that Nick is part of the wedding “sabo” scheme. To prove Jess right Nick joins the terrible badger in the air duct plan, cue the best high pitched screaming you’ve ever heard coming from Nick as Bucky the Badger escapes. Also the badger is not rabid, he’s “just kind of a dick.”

Since an air duct is as good as place as any to have a heart to heart this is the location of one of several Nick and Jess relationship discussions. With each conversation as the episode progresses Nick pushes Jess further and further away; here he gets her to admit that there is a small part of her that thinks that what has occurred between them is a mistake. Jess admits that yes there is and this triggers Nick’s self destruct button, even if it is natural for someone to have doubts about a big change in a personal relationship like this one. This talk is abruptly cut short thanks to the air ducts giving way and they crash directly into the wedding ceremony. A shake of the head from Bob in Nick’s direction is the final straw and Nick thinks they should call it.

NG_ep225-sc5_09C4218Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson produce some of their strongest work in these emotional scenes, first as Jess tries to stop the tears from flowing as she agrees to call it. Both look devastated and don’t want to go through with it, but Nick and Jess have a habit of not saying the thing that they really want to say. We have seen this repeatedly this season, particularly in the incident with Russell and writing down what they mean to each other and then refusing to say. That was the last time they decided to call it and those middle school dance rules didn’t last for long.

The final scene is a romantic comedy at its best and once again both Deschanel and Johnson nail the emotion of the scene; it’s teary (“Before you say no, don’t say no”), super hot ( another all caps KISS) and funny. The laugh that breaks up the kiss is the opposite of the yelling make out session from “Quick Hardening Caulk” and mirrors the post-coital reaction at the end of “Virgins.” As I’ve mentioned previously the friends first aspect is really important with Nick and Jess; it’s refreshing to see an onscreen couple sharing moments like this as love doesn’t have to be tortured and deep all the time, sometimes it can be funny too.

A choice is made then, but not one that is clearly defined and I am happy with this decision by the New Girl writers. Nick and Jess don’t know where they are driving off to, but they are doing it together. One aspect that was surprising is how not bothered Winston and Schmidt are by this romantic development. I guess we have had their attempt at sabotage that ended badly, but showed Winston and Schmidt they have their own bond. Schmidt is disgruntled at Nick, but only because Nick is changing aspects about himself and not helping with the “sabo” plan (and yes Jess’ pink purse goes well with Nick’s suit). Winston is the person that pushes Nick into not taking the running away option, while he is slightly delirious from blood loss and Winston gets the best line of the episode – “Hey bartender! Can you call an ambulance? I’m about to bleed out. Thanks man!”

From this episode it would appear that in terms of the group the loft dynamic might not change all that much. Obviously the sleeping arrangements will be different and how Nick and Jess interact, but as a group they seem pretty solid. One point that has been repeated this season is that Winston is weird at pranks as he goes in way too hard or way too soft. There has also been a strong Winston/Schmidt bond of late and this showed in their teaming up together. Schmidt also had the opportunity to flash his most devious smile and there are some nice moments between Schmidt and Jess (“Was I?”), yes he does deserve to have his precious hair messed up bad.

NG_ep225-sc2_09C4865Schmidt claims that he is trying to ruin the wedding as a friend and it turns out that he did read the look on Cece’s face correctly. The problem of course is that Schmidt is with Elizabeth and they’ve got a good thing going. In a refreshing change from blaming “the other woman” Cece and Elizabeth are fine with each other and look to Schmidt to make a decision. When they don’t go for his listening to a Coldplay bootleg suggestion he goes for the Nick Miller running away option. Before we met Elizabeth I would have said Cece all the way, but Merritt Wever is such a good addition to the cast and what she brings out in Schmidt. It’s a hard choice and I can see why they went with no choice, plus it’s a season finale so you need to have some unresolved conundrums.

The wedding doesn’t go ahead and Shivrang isn’t heartbroken all thanks to guest star Taylor Swift. Swift plays Elaine, Shivrang’s true love and her appearance wasn’t the distraction I thought it could be. There’s also a pretty funny joke about their height difference and how she’s been writing in her journal and painting pictures of Shivrang on her easel.

Overall this was a really satisfying conclusion to this season and showcased all of New Girl’s strengths from how they have handled the “will they/won’t they” to the top notch physical comedy moments (Vulture has an excellent compilation from this season), all while focusing on the overall group dynamic. This finale could have felt overstuffed, but thanks to the pacing and balance between all the different storylines it topped off a fantastic year for New Girl.

 

The Americans Season 1 Finale: Family Matters

2 May

The Americans is currently holding the title of the best new show of this season (with Hannibal currently in a close second) on TV Ate My Wardrobe and it’s not just because of how wonderful the wigs and costumes are. Last night’s season finale showcased everything that has been good about this freshman season; tension, careful plotting, emotion, an excellent soundtrack and of course those fabulous wigs. I’m pretty sure I have no nails left thanks to the sequence that made it look like Elizabeth would get caught, even if it’s too early for either of the Jennings’ to be caught by the FBI. Thanks to how each mission played out it felt like this could be a possibility and this anxiety increased as Paige became suspicious about her mother’s late night laundry folding activity.

The Americans finaleThe first half of the episode had Elizabeth and Philip debating which one of them should go to meet the Colonel as they both figured that this meeting could be a set up. As the audience we are in the privileged position of knowing that this isn’t the assignment they should be concerned about (though if Prince breaks in custody then both missions are going to end up with an arrest). Philip and Elizabeth don’t know this of course and each thinks that the other is who should be responsible for the kids; Elizabeth has had weeks of their resentment after the separation and so she thinks they would be better off with their father, Philip has other thoughts and wants Elizabeth to take them.

Family is essentially at the core of what matters in The Americans and when we saw Philip discuss this with Elizabeth in the pilot, it’s a concept that she doesn’t even want to consider as country is her number one priority. As the season has progressed Elizabeth has remained steadfast to the cause, but she has also changed her perspective of what her family means to her. This started when they were taken by the KGB pretending they were FBI and her family was used as a way to break her (Philip got old fashioned torture) and has continued with their evolving marriage. The back and forth with this marriage plot has frustrated some viewers, but it has felt necessary in terms of developing who these characters really are and where their priorities lie.

One scene that really stands out in the finale is when Elizabeth sits alone in the garage of her family home —the location in the pilot where she found out exactly how far Philip would go for her as he killed the man who raped her — and has a very different experience. Here she is curled up listening to a tape from her mother, perhaps the only physical reminder of her family in Russia, talking about the family that Elizabeth has in America and what has been going on at home. It’s heartbreaking because this is all the contact Elizabeth is going to have with her mother and her mother is all too aware of this fact as she mentions the family photo she has been sent “I know I’ll never meet them, but knowing you have them… that makes me happy. They are my family too…” Keri Russell is superb in this scene as she hugs the tape player as if it is her mother and prepares to leave her family for good too. It’s also worth noting that other items in this safe include guns, wigs, drugs bottles and money; it’s basically a spy emergency getaway kit.

The Americans finale Elizabeth

Elizabeth doesn’t get to go to the meeting with the Colonel as Philip slips away before she can stop him and this inadvertently places her in the line of fire. When Philip realizes this, the fear in his voice is palpable (it’s at this point that there was no hope for whatever fingernails I have left) as he dashes to stop his children from losing their mother. While the separation storyline might have seemed like another obstacle for the Jennings’ marriage it has also given Elizabeth time to see why Philip is so important, to both her and their family. It’s why Elizabeth couldn’t ask him to come home when he got his new apartment, as it really had to mean something and this is achieved when Elizabeth asks him to come home in their native tongue as she lies in recovery after being shot. It would make more sense as a spy for Philip to leave Elizabeth in that warehouse under the watchful eye of Claudia to maintain their cover, rather than leaving the kids with Stan but he is playing the role of the husband here with no pretence. Matthew Rhys gets his own emotionally charged moment here and I hope that this show has a lot of Emmy nominations when they’re announced in July.

It’s also about time that Paige and Henry start questioning exactly what their parents are up to, they are after all the offspring of two master manipulators and so Paige’s venture into the garage makes sense. No she doesn’t find anything, but her instincts are telling her that something is off and this could be a really interesting thread to follow in season 2. So far the children haven’t fallen into the trap of annoying kids and quite often in shows like this (see Homeland and 24) storylines are developed to include the kids that bend plausibility and turn these characters into unnecessary complications. I am tentatively praising The Americans for not falling into this trap and I hope next year will include Paige and Henry in an organic fashion rather than a forced one (no cougars or hit and run stories please).

The Americans Nina and Stan

Family comes in all shapes and sizes in The Americans; the opposing institutions that these characters work for and the loyalty that is required is very much a family dynamic. Nina doesn’t think that Stan can be turned, but she is told that he is “weaker and more vulnerable than he seems.” Nina has become so good at lying recently and she is utterly convincing as she acts saddened by the news that her exfiltration is no longer going ahead. I’m glad that Nina has made it to the end of this season alive as the role she is going to play next season is going to test both Stan and who she is really loyal too.

One person that I will be sad to see go is Claudia if she is shipped back to Moscow (Margo Martindale is doing a sitcom pilot for CBS so this is a possibility). Her interactions with Elizabeth have been fascinating as Elizabeth takes the role of the petulant teenage daughter in their meetings. Claudia might have manipulated Elizabeth into mistrusting Philip, but she has her back with everything work related and is the reason that Elizabeth isn’t ultimately caught.

What about poor Martha? Well her relationship is the fakest of them all; she is an ends to a means and all she will be left with is a ring in a box.

This has been a solid first season and now that Philip and Elizabeth look like they have their personal relationship back on track it means that they can concentrate on outside threats when we return for season 2. The ending with Paige was ominous and suggests that one of these threats will come from within. The FBI are looking for a couple and so they might have to shift their methods of working together and of course there will be more disguises when we return.

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