Saturday, May 16, 2009

A very long post about TV

For me, this was the last week of the regulation TV season, in the sense that all of my regular shows are officially over until the fall (Mad Men and maybe Parks and Recreation, then, must be the playoffs?). The following thoughts on this week's finales (I'm skipping shows that are already done, like Chuck and Friday Night Lights) were originally written for a slightly different forum, but then I thought, hey. Some of you watch the same shows I do. Maybe you'd like to talk about them. If, you know, you like talking about TV with somebody who thinks about these things entirely too much.

Warning: All of these discussions include spoilers. Don't say I didn't warn you. See? It even says "warning."

Ready? Okay.

Lost: "The Incident"

So, it appears that I totally missed the entire plot and/or significance of this episode the first time around. This is why I need Jeff Jensen in my life: to explain everything to me.

Jack vs. Everybody Else vs. Jughead, I got. I are good with the linear storytelling.

Jacob and the Man in Black? Not so much. So let me get this straight: the Locke we've been hanging with all not Locke. He's the Man in Black masquerading as Locke, as he has apparently masqueraded/manifested as others over the years, in an attempt to kill Jacob. Or, to be specific, to get somebody else to kill Jacob. See, I totally didn't catch ANY of that, and even now I'm not sure about Jacob and who he is, exactly, or what his exact nature is (or what happens when he--whatever he is--is stabbed in the chest by a cranky, deceitful non-leader), but I'm hoping that I'm not alone in that part? We're not supposed to know all of this. Correct?


So, holy catharsis, Sawyer! I've never been all that interested in examining the Jack/Sawyer rivalry--partly because I wasn't sure it would be kind to my former Jack/Kate fan (who, it must be said, died a sudden and unexplained death this season at the hands of my inner Sawyer/Juliet fangirl), and partly because I just didn't think it would be all that interesting--but I loved the contrast between Sawyer's sudden maturity and Jack's total lack of growth since...well, maybe ever, but certainly since he got off the island. All packaged as a good beating, of course. Also, Jack claiming that he came back because of Kate rings false to me, which may be because it IS false, or because it's mushy storytelling (file it along with "Kate loves Aaron!," which I also never bought). Hard to say at this point.

I also thought Juliet's break-up with Sawyer was weak, but that really WAS on purpose, apparently, so...fine. I'm bummed but not surprised by Juliet's death--I figured that, with all the effort they put into making us love her and Sawyer together, one of them had to go, and it sure wasn't going to be him. And he just loved her so much, and all that crying and That was SAD. I think I'm going to miss you and your unreadability, Elizabeth Mitchell, which is progress for us. (But I hear you're in the V TV show, along with Alan Tudyk and Morena Baccarin and some other folks, so good on you.)

And then, of course, the screen goes white, and we just don't know. Rebooted? What does this mean for next January (ack, JANUARY)? Jensen points out that Lost has a symmetrical structure: seasons three and four mirror each other; so do seasons two and five; therefore, season six should match up nicely with season one--which means...flashbacks? A relatively closed storyline? I also very much like one of Jensen's predictions for the final season (basically, everybody's rebooted back to the moment at which Jacob touched them--because he DID touch each of them, physically, in the flashbacks--but with their current consciousness, so that they have the option of changing the future), though it leaves quite a few things unaddressed (Hurley will have already crashed on the island; what about Desmond and Penny?; what about Charles and Ellie?; did Daniel's research serve any purpose for us beside informing the constant vs. variable question?). I don't even know. But I loved this season--I love the Dharmas!--and I'll be ready to come back for the final stretch.

Bones: "The End in the Beginning"

Okay, just to start out: if you have rage over the ending of this episode, I know. I KNOW. It was a cop-out. It was an abuse of an important moment. This should have been a mid-season episode. I get it.

But: I loved it, at least the first 40 minutes or so, and I'm not totally sure I have much of a problem with the last two, either. Does anybody truly think that we're going to spend all of season five with Amnesiac!Booth? First of all: We're not. I'm going with Glenna when I say, two episodes, tops. Second of all: This is Bones! After hiatus, will they even remember that they gave the guy amnesia? I'm calling odds of 50/50.

I think that, in a lot of ways, this was the Bonesiest episode of Bones ever. It was a lot of them doing what they do best: wacky ensemble crime-solving comedy, supplemented by, I believe, surprisingly astute meta on the individuals and dynamics of the Bones universe. The things it didn't do well--say, failing to embrace a key moment in the Booth/Brennan relationship in favor of a lame soap-opera-style plot twist--well, they were pure (Bones showrunner) Hart Hanson, too. Did it make a ton of sense (seriously: nightclub owners)? It did not. Was it pure crack? Only of the whitest, rockiest variety. But, again: Bones. Nonsensical is how they roll. (Which is not to say that we shouldn't have high expectations for our shows, or that showrunners shouldn't be accountable for crappy things they pull; heaven knows I support the smartifying of TV. But, really, we watch this show every week. We know how it is.)

(Also, I would like to point out the history of Bones's season finales, which is to say that season one's "The Woman in Limbo" is really the only truly non-infuriating one. "The Stargazer in a Puddle," from season two is the lamest finale EVER, in my opinion, and last season's "The Pain in the Heart"...well, I actually love it, but we all know how it ends. I'm just saying.)

As far as the Booth/Bones relationship goes, the line that most stuck out for me in this episode wasn't even about Booth, but I think it sums up what they were trying to do: I think the key here is when Alternate Brennan says to Alternate Booth that their nightclub staff is lying to the police because they (the staff/squints) love them (Mr. and Mrs. B)--this is a summing-up of the lab dynamic that has, I think, never occurred to the real Brennan, though that doesn't make it less true. This season has been about Brennan considering love and its place in her life, and I think this episode--this whole novelization of her fake life--is her working out what it would mean for her to love and be loved unconditionally. So it's hyperstylized, and she's different, and it glosses over the many issues we know Brennan has over the idea of entanglement with other people--it's a thought experiment, I think, even more than a straight-up fantasy. And at the end, she's made her conclusion (though she erases the document, which is interesting). And yeah, amnesia; dumb move, etc. But the amnesia doesn't change her decision, or who she is, and so I don't know that it's such a huge setback. In short, if Brennan is indeed the struggler, as pointed out by Gordon Gordon Wyatt a few weeks back, the struggle is over.

(Incidentally, I know at least one person who thinks the love scene at the beginning is, in fact, real--that it's the future of Booth and Brennan, and that we'll see it again in the relatively near future. She has circumstantial evidence--the episode title, for one, but also a few details of the way that scene is filmed and narrated--but...I don't know. Food for thought.)

A few thoughts on the alternate universe itself:

- I buy Married Booth and Brennan, mostly. I thought their chemistry was spot-on: different than crush-y Booth/Brennan, but appropriate for who they might be if they shared a life 100% (as they did here--I loved the implicit trust between them). On the other hand, I'm not sure about the implication of who Alternate Brennan is--can Brennan only be happy, as Alternate Brennan is happy, if she's able to connect with people naturally? I do think that Brennan is capable of sharing her life with Booth, and of opening up to him in the way that a long-term relationship requires, but I'm not sure Alternate Brennan's generalized ease with people worked--unless it was Brennan's idea of who she would become, were she surrounded by people who love and get her. And, you know what, now I'm not even making sense anymore.

- So, somebody must be paying at least a modicum of attention, to get all of those supporting characters together at once. I didn't even catch that Clark's brother, the gang-banger was Angela's ex.

- Subpoint: CLARK! I love him. SO MUCH. Also, he's so cute.

- OH WENDELL. I laughed out loud (LOLed, as I believe the kids call it) when he wouldn't talk to the police. At all. I love that guy.

- I think that if I watched this season chronologically, Booth's relationship with Jared would make more sense. As it is, I have a hard time seeing it as an arc.

- That yellow pencil skirt on Brennan? KILLER. Also, I often object to Brennan's dress-up clothes, but I thought she looked fantastic in her black-with-green-accessories get-up. Cute, cute.

- Is it possible for John Francis Daley (Sweets) to be any more awesome, or to be more graceful about the ridiculous things they make him do on this show? I do not think it is. Also, nice voice, dude. (He really is like twelve, though. Or, maybe, 24. For boys, same thing.)

- Hee, Hodgins is a drunk pulp novelist with a fake Irish accent. OBVIOUSLY. That was awesome.

Okay. Until September, Bones.

The Office: "Company Picnic"

OH. OH. That was so good. I have permanent warm fuzzies on account of this episode.

(...which is probably not a good thing. My main complaint about this season is the loss of their grasp of the tiny heartbreaks of being human--I think the humor has suffered mainly because the little human dramas have suffered. But I'm going to forget that for now and just say !!!!)

Holly Flax, I love you, and I love what you do to Michael Scott, and I love who you are together. And I love it when you rap. And when you do impressions together and crack each other up. And when you are gently sad about each other, but also happy to see each other, and when you make Michael say awesome things like how he thinks you two have a long story (even though you are designing a house with your [very cute] boyfriend in New Hampshire). Holly Flax, please come back, someday, a long time from now, and finish that long story.

And then...well. Jim wore a baseball cap, and scooped Pam up like she weighs twelve pounds (which, of course, she probably does), and then he smiled and hugged and smiled and hugged some more, because: BABY! When the nurse said to Pam, "and there's no chance you could be pregnant?" I was all, "...did they just show us the gun AND have it go off, all in the same act? Sneaky!"

I think that, if any show on the entire planet can make a baby plot work, it's The Office. Also, this means Jim and Pam are sort of going to have a shotgun wedding, in the least shotgunny way possible, and they don't even need to write what Michael's going to say about it, because it's already happening in my head. Also, they were so, so happy, and that makes ME happy.

So: silence. We have not had this kind of silence since "Booze Cruise," back in season two, and it was brilliant, both between Holly and Michael and between Jim and Pam. Well played, Jennifer Celotta and Paul Lieberstein. Silence is hard, and I like you for using it so beautifully.

Um, where was Kelly? OH RIGHT. Off signing her seven-figure development deal with NBC, so that she can take over the world. Mindy, I have these really cute business cards now. Can I please send you one? They have typewriters on them, and they are, in fact, a Thing I've Bought That I Love.

I do not know what to do with the loveliness of this episode, except maybe watch it a lot over the summer.

So that's it. What did you all think?

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