AGENTS OF SHIELD 1.5: “Girl in the Flower Dress”

BRETT DALTON, MING-NA WENOne of the things I find most interesting about MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. is the way episodes hinge on decisions that Agent Coulson has to make, as opposed to a shoot-out or some other action set piece. Whether it’s choosing to let Skye tag along with his team from the pilot or a life-or-death decision about the person his team was chasing. And he makes these choices on the spot, and rather coldly and without sentiment. I like that he takes his job seriously and is willing to make the tough calls.

Those of you keeping score at home know Coulson sometimes gives the prey the benefit of the doubt — Skye and Akela   — but sometimes doesn’t — just ask Dr. Franklin. I find that the most interesting aspect of this show, which isn’t always all that interesting. After all the action and chases and hand-to-hand combat, Coulson usually has a split-second to weigh the life of a bad or dangerous person against the lives of his team (or the safety of the world), and he doesn’t let sentimentality get in the way. (Or would Akela disagree, even though she benefitted from it?)
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THE WALKING DEAD 4.2: “Infected”

TWD40203Not even a week after I expressed my disdain for “contagion” storylines (while discussing SLEEPY HOLLOW) what does THE WALKING DEAD do? It plays the contagion card. And worse, it looks like this will be a major plot thread for the foreseeable future.

I just don’t buy into the inevitable course of infections in these storylines — the path of the disease is clearly dictated by storytelling needs. Somebody once said that we are much more forgiving of amazing coincidences in real life than we are in fiction, so it’s best to not put any coincidences in your story, but if you must, keep it to just one. And it’s always the most dramatically interesting people who get infected in these stories. It happens too often to be coincidence.
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AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN 3.2: “Boy Parts”

AHSC1The Pretty Little Witches take a page out of Mary Shelley by way of The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Delphine LaLaurie is set loose in the modern, integrated Big Easy; and Fiona gets the most sinister haircut since Keri Russell chopped off her locks and got FELICITY canceled — and it’s all in a week’s work for AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN.

The story features three different kinds of immortality: Delphine and Marie Laveau living agelessly, Kyle being revived after death by a mixture of science and magic, and Misty Day resurrecting herself. How ironic that practically everyone around Fiona is immortal when she’s searching for the key to eternal life.
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AGENTS OF SHIELD 1.4: “Eye Spy”

shield1The fourth bombastic episode of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. saw our heroes pitted against a… diamond thief? Er, um… a really good diamond thief. One who stole a whole bunch of diamonds. From guys wearing red masks. On a subway. In Stockholm. Yeah, the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division took on a jewel thief.

I know the show has a few mandates and guidelines to follow in order to air at 8 p.m. on ABC (curbs on violence, etc.), but I think the show’s producers are aiming a little too low. For a while it was hinted that the thief might have super powers, but no, she just had a camera (and a bomb) installed in her eye.
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SLEEPY HOLLOW 1.5: “John Doe”

SHdoe02I normally do not like “infection” stories because they’re always so predictable: Our heroes encounter a strange disease, one of them gets infected and lies on the verge of death until a miracle antidote cures everyone at the last second. Can you think of an example where that doesn’t happen?

Well, that’s pretty much what we got from SLEEPY HOLLOW this week — a paint-by-numbers contagion story. But it was filtered through the show’s own particularly madcap mythos, so I didn’t really mind it all that much.
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THE WALKING DEAD 4.1: “30 Days Without an Accident”

TWD41About six or seven months have passed when the season four premiere reintroduces us to Rick and the denizens of the prison. In that time, the original tiny group has integrated the survivors from Woodbury and formed a quaint little farming town with a ruling council, organized work forces, lots of plants in buckets — and an army of the undead itching to get inside and eat everyone.

A lot of this introductory episode is devoted to establishing the new status quo and updating viewers on where all the regulars stand. Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) are still a couple — and no, she’s not pregnant — while Daryl (Norman Reedus) has become a celebrity around camp and possibly Carol’s (Melissa McBride) official boyfriend. Beth (Emily Kinney) does have a boyfriend — a new guy named Zack (Kyle Gallner). Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin) have settled in as important members of the team.
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AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN 3.1: “Bitchcraft”

coven1It may be an odd thing to say, but the premiere of the new cycle of AMERICAN HORROR STORY, dubbed COVEN, seemed… relatively restrained. Not counting the bloody bull’s head used to make a minotaur, of course, or the girl who kills with her vagina.

Yes, AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN is about witches, but witches who seem more like the characters in superhero comics because they each are gifted with one specialized ability; they don’t perform magic per se — reciting spells over bubbling cauldrons, etc. — but rather use their “mutant” abilities, like telekinesis and clairvoyance. It’s an interesting way to go, but makes the series seem envious of the X-Men movies.
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AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.3: “The Asset”

DAVID CONRAD, CHLOE BENNETFrom all appearances, this episode of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. was meant to be a run-of-the-mill, this-is-how-we-do-it story of a regular SHIELD (it’s too much trouble to type all those periods) mission — and thus, it was a bit on the dull side. Solving a kidnapping was just the McGuffin to push Skye into fieldwork before she’s ready — and before anybody, including SHIELD, knows she can be trusted.

It also served to start sketching in a background for Mr. Stuffed Shirt, aka Agent Ward, and pushing the two most conventionally attractive people in the cast together, just as everybody watching expects. But where “The Asset” worked best was in laying the groundwork for SHIELD’s first super-powered adversary.
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SLEEPY HOLLOW 1.4: “The Lesser Key of Solomon”

SHkey1SLEEPY HOLLOW is really starting to pick up steam! This week’s bombastic installment gave us a great (hopefully recurring) ally in Abbie’s kick-ass sister Jenny, exposed a Hessian sleeper cell operating in town, uncovered the real reason (and name) for the Boston Tea Party — and revealed the name of the Big Bad: Moloch, the god of child sacrifice.

The story began with a reenactment of the Boston Tea Party — depicted as a diversionary tactic dreamed up by Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Samuel Adams to distract the redcoats while Ichabod and a strike team board a British ship to steal a mysterious box. However, it is guarded by a Hessian who blows himself up rather than hand over the box. Nevertheless, Ichabod gets his hands on it and sends the cargo off to Gen. George Washington. In the present day, Abbie (Nicole Beharie) discovers that her sister has escaped from the asylum.
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SLEEPY HOLLOW 1.3: “For the Triumph of Evil…”

SH01If you went into last night’s SLEEPY HOLLOW expecting to see Neil Gaiman’s version of the Sandman… well, no, that’s just silly; nobody was expecting that. But what we got at least featured a well-designed baddie — and a terrific gross-out effect that had me hooting at the TV!

It looks like the prophetic dream sequence might be a staple of this series, but it could get old fast; we might start assuming that the opening tease is always a dream sequence. But then again, the-powers-that-be could use that against us and slip in a “real world” opening.
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