Feelin’ TV: May 22-28

Traditionally, Americans aren’t fond of waiting. As a group, we’re always looking for faster ways to do the things we need to do each day. In a country where everyone has an app for that, the one area where I don’t believe that this is always the case is in the world of the television drama. Prestige dramas of the 21st century have helped extend our patience as viewers. Shows like Mad Men, The Wire, and The Sopranos allowed fans the opportunity to experience its setting while diving deep into rich, fully realized characters as the plot slowly worked its way toward where it needed to go. The creators of these programs feel no pressure to have an episode stand out on its own but rather have season long stories with episodes that start in the middle and end without resolution. The advent of original programming from streaming services has allowed even further proliferation of this slow burn programming. Over three seasons and 33 episodes, no show has burned slower than Netflix’s Bloodline.

Bloodline’s third and final season dropped on Netflix last Friday. While the first two seasons of the show arguably took too much time to tell their story, no one could argue with the quality on the screen. Kyle Chandler anchors the cast in a role that initially seemed like it might be another chance to play Eric Taylor (his role on the criminally under-watched Friday Night Lights) but this time as a detective in the Florida Keys. That type was turned on its head early on as Chandler’s John Rayburn showed a dark side never seen in Coach Taylor. Sissy Spacek, Sam Shephard and Linda Cardellini were as good as you’d expect them to be in supporting roles and Ben Mendelsohn, who was the breakout star of season one, won an Emmy for his limited role in season two. Almost as impressive as the cast is the setting. You can almost feel the hot southern Florida air while you sit in your living room. Everything about the show feels lived in. This includes the layers of family conflict and drama that feels as real as your own Thanksgiving last fall.  The first two seasons are very good television. Where the story was weak or became more convoluted, as layers of lies were piled on top of each other, the cast propped it up enough to keep me from losing interest.

Season three was a different story. While it’s officially one of the first shows that the service has ever cancelled, it was given the ax prior to filming so the writers had the opportunity to adapt and end the show on their own terms at the end of the season. The show’s creators have claimed that their story was five or six seasons long, so you might assume that this would mean that they move the story along at a quicker pace than seasons one and two. Your assumption would be incorrect. In a move that completely boggles the mind, the show moves along at just as deliberate of a pace as before, and even uses its entire penultimate episode for a disjointed and confusing dream sequence that lands with a resounding thud. Vast amounts of time are spent with an ancillary character (John Leguizamo, doing fine work) whose death is ultimately as confounding as his existence in the narrative in the first place. It isn’t all bad. Sissy Spacek does her best work as the matriarch of the Rayburn Family and Norbert Leo Butz adds layers to the youngest Rayburn son, Kevin, that weren’t there in seasons one and two. However, when it comes to this type of drama, there has to be some sort of a payoff. The long and winding wick has to eventually hit the powder keg. The ending never ends up doing that. It barely ends at all. Unfortunately for Bloodline, its end feels like someone forgot to connect the wick to the payload.

This week in the Arrowverse:

*This week officially wrapped the first season of the full blown four show Arrowverse and you’d be hard pressed to call it anything but a rousing success. Earlier this year, Legends of Tomorrow rebounded from a subpar first season by embracing the cheese in its premise and leaning into the weirder characters and themes of the shared universe. Malcolm Merlyn and Damien Darhk hanging around to feast on the scenery didn’t hurt either. When you throw in the four-part crossover and the Supergirl/Flash musical episode, I’d have to give the universe an A overall for the 2016-2017 season.  With all of the momentum trending up, I’m excited to see that’s in store next season, especially after the season finales of this past week.

*Supergirl ended a stellar sophomore season with a bang. From the beginning fight with a brainwashed Superman through the emotional punch at the end, the final episode was everything a fan could have hoped it would be. Something that Supergirl is able to do better than her other superhero counterparts is to bear the weight of her responsibility without losing Kara’s joy and overall positive outlook on the world around her. If I had one concern heading into next season it’s that the weight of the decision she has to make to defeat Rhea at the end of this week’s episode would cause the writers to push Kara into a darker place. The tone of Supergirl is one of its greatest strengths. Here’s hoping that they can keep that going into season three.

*The Flash reached the finish line of its third season on Tuesday on a high note. While the end to the “Iris is going to die” saga was predictable and involved quite a bit of cheating, it was pulled off in a way that hit all of the necessary emotional beats. The rest of the episode involved tight storytelling and some pretty good action to go with it. My only gripe with the episode was the cliffhanger at the end. I don’t mind a good cliffhanger when it adds to the story. Unfortunately, as has too often been the case with cliffhangers from The Flash, it feels like a cliffhanger for the sake of having a cliffhanger. It’s ok to just let your characters enjoy a victory from time to time. The Flash’s biggest issue in its second and third seasons has been its overall tone. While the first season reveled in the camp and fun behind the characterization of the Flash in the comics, it has become quite dour since then. This show could have definitely benefited from an upbeat ending to carry it into next season.

*If The Flash wanted an example of how to properly execute the end of season cliffhanger, it need look no further than the season finale of its parent show, Arrow. The jaw dropping fade to black at the end of this episode was a perfect end to Adrian Chase’s time on the show while also making sure that his presence will be felt from here on out in the lives of Oliver Queen and his merry men (and women). From talking with other fans of shows like The Flash and Supergirl, it seems pretty common for people to have quit watching Arrow somewhere during seasons 3 and 4, and it’s hard to blame them. Much like The Flash, the show lost its focus during that time and got bogged down under the weight of its titular hero’s guilty conscience. But season five was a really solid rebound for the show overall. Prometheus provided the most formidable foe for Oliver and the gang that we had seen since Deathstroke in season two. Adrian Chase was constantly one step ahead of Oliver, almost to a fault, in his quest to make Oliver pay for the misdeeds of his younger days. The additions to the team added some much-needed levity to the proceedings as well as giving Oliver a larger foundation of people in his life to call him on his guilt and self-pity. I believe we saw more growth in Oliver Queen in season five than we’ve seen in the first four seasons combined. Not only was this hands down Arrow’s best season finale, it was one of the best episodes the show has ever produced. I really can’t take my mind of that last scene. Is it time for the season six premiere yet?

*A couple of shows that, like Bloodline, have mastered the art of the slow burn are AMC’s Better Call Saul and FX’s The Americans. I plan to spend some more time talking about these two shows in the future now that the Arrowverse has begun its summer hiatus. Next week we’ll also talk about the end of HBO’s The Leftovers and season five of Netflix’s House of Cards. If there are other shows that you enjoy that you’d like to see us cover on Feelin’ TV, I’d love to hear your suggestions. There’s a good chance I watch it already and we just haven’t gotten to it yet. If it’s not something I watch, I’ll give you a chance to convince me to give it a shot. Leave some comments below or start a thread on our Facebook page.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Philip says:

    Maybe spotlight some lesser known shows like LUTHER, TOP OF THE LAKE, BROADCHURCH, RIVER, CALL THE MIDWIFE, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, etc?

    Good write up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *