Feelin’ TV: October 9-15, 2017

The biggest news in my TV watching world this week is that the CW’s Arrowverse kicked back into action after the summer layoff. These aren’t the best shows that I watch every week, but they’re probably the ones that I most look forward to. Each of them went through spells where they were uninspired and drab, but they’ve also had some impressively high highs. If you haven’t watched before and you like properties based on comic books, I’d suggest giving them a shot. But if you just want to jump right in, the next few paragraphs will give you a bit of where we’ve been and a quick note or two on where the season premieres seem to say that we’re going.

Supergirl ended its second season overall (and first season in the Arrowverse on The CW) in gut-wrenching fashion. In order to save National City and the world from the invasion of the Daxamites, Team Supergirl was forced to take measures that meant the love of Kara’s life, Mon-El the Daxamite, wouldn’t be able to live in the earth’s atmosphere anymore. Our season premiere picks up a few months after that decision with Kara still unable to handle her feelings. She throws herself into her life as Supergirl and neglects her responsibilities as Kara like her job, to her friends and her family. She’s facing an interesting question: If she’s going to continue to have to give up the things that make Kara happy for the greater good, then what is the point of the altar-ego in the first place. It isn’t the first time this line of thinking has been explored in the superhero genre, but it’s handled well because of a predictably great performance by Melissa Benoist. She has the ability to give Supergirl vulnerability without it coming off as weakness that is just a joy to watch every week. Season three brings a few new faces that will be familiar to longtime fans of super-hero TV about as well.  Adrian Pasdar (of Heroes and Agents of SHIELD fame) appears to be taking up the mantle as this season’s baddie Morgan Edge and Erica Durance (Smallville’s Lois Lane, taking Laura Benanti’s role) slides in to a supporting role as Supergirl’s Kryptonian mother, alive only in dreams and holograms, Alura Zor-El. If there’s one thing I didn’t love about the episode, its’s the way that everything gets set back to the status quo by the end of the premiere rather than letting things linger. These are complex issues that Kara is dealing with, so it would be nice to see it take a bit of time to resolve. It’s something that the Arrowverse does pretty often, and this season appears to be no different. It will be a recurring theme this week.

Speaking of a refusal to let things linger, The Flash returned this week as well. At the end of last season, Barry successfully thwarted Zoom’s plot to kill Iris West, but had to exile himself to the Speed Force Prison to keep the universe from being destroyed (it was a whole thing, I’m not sure I could explain it). If I’m being honest, it was kind of a dumb way to get Barry removed from the equation, but I was looking forward to seeing Team Flash in action for a few episodes this season until Barry’s inevitable return, provided the writers had the guts to keep him away for a while. But they did not.  Of course a villain came to town that promised to destroy Central City unless the real Flash faced him. Of course Sisco had been working on a way to bring him back that was just about done (it’s as if the writers totally forgot that the show tried to sell Barry’s banishment as permanent). Of course it worked, admittedly with some side effects. And of course, the side effects were a-okay by the end of the episode. It was an unfortunate development even though I’m a big fan of Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen and I like having him around. But when the consequences of a character’s decisions last for less than an hour in TV runtime, it’s pretty hard to believe that any of the stakes are very high. All of that being said, most of last season (and the season before that) was pretty mediocre to poor, so if hitting the reset button a little too quickly gets us to the fun Flash of season one as the writers are promising, then I’ll eat crow. We’ll need some more context to see if that’s the case.

At least The Flash took a whole episode to press reset. Legends of Tomorrow did it before the first commercial break. When we last left the Legends, they had returned to the present day only to see that time had gone crazy. There were dinosaurs in the streets for crying out loud! But not a minute after the “Previously on” segment, Rip Hunter shows up with his new team of time fixers, who take care of everything effectively and efficiently, and disbands the Legends. Each of our heroes find themselves in the middle of a mundane existence that they can hardly stand (one that looks a lot like yours and mine), but they’re given a reason to regroup when Mick Rory runs into Julius Caesar on his vacation in Aruba. The group proceeds to attempt to take him back to his time, make a mess of things, and then clean it up again. Legends is one show where I don’t mind the quick reset. Each season so far has seemed like its own thing to the show’s credit. It isn’t a show that asks the deep questions. It’s a show about a bunch of heroes that travel through time and screw stuff up. It’s not going to win any Emmy’s, but it might just be the most enjoyable show that I watch every week. Having a season by season arc rather than carrying past seasons worth of baggage keeps the show light and fun.

Arrow returned after an explosive (pun intended because, let’s admit it, all puns are intended) finale that saw Oliver watching in horror as an island with all of Team Arrow blew up before his very eyes. The finale gave us little in the way of hope that anyone other than Ollie survived. But, hey, this is Arrow not Game of Thrones, so season three quickly assures us that everyone is okay (well, Oliver’s son William’s mom died, but we didn’t know her really and Thea is in a coma, but still). That didn’t make me upset because there’s no one on Team Arrow that I don’t like, but again, like The Flash, it keeps the stakes pretty low. The rest of the episode was really solid though with Bad Laurel back from the dead to wreak havoc on Star City’s police department and someone finally outs Oliver as Green Arrow on the news for all to see. Now unless the Legends of Tomorrow show up and use their Men In Black style flashy-thingy on the whole city, things are going to get pretty difficult for Ollie. Throw on the added difficulty that he’s experiencing as a new single father, and you have the makings of a pretty good arc for Arrow’s sixth season. While Arrow has had its issues, I believe that season five really put the show back on track. The biggest difference has been Oliver Queen’s growth as a character. He seems to be in a position to grow even further this year.

Previous seasons for all four shows in the Arrow universe can be streamed on Netflix. Episodes from the current season can be found on The CW app. 

Channel Surfing:

  • Riverdale also returned to The CW this week in a premiere that picks up literally minutes after the finale left off. Riverdale was last season’s most surprising show in that from the outside looking in it appeared to be just another CW drama in a long line of CW dramas that I had no interest in. But by grounding the story in the rich world of the Archie comics and presenting a solid mystery with great performances from a young cast, it completely surpassed my expectations. I’m interested to see if the tension can be sustained now that last season’s arc is complete. The questions about the identity of Fred Andrews’ killer and whether or not Jughead joins the Serpents don’t grab me nearly as much as the mystery surrounding the disappearance and death of Jason Blossom. We’ll see if they can bring in a little more intrigue here in the next few weeks. Mark Consuelos’ addition to the cast as the slimy Hiram Lodge is a good start. The first season of Riverdale can be found streaming on Netflix and the season premiere is now available on the CW app.
  • Halt and Catch Fire ended this past weekend with a solid 2 hour finale. I hesitated to mention it here because I plan on writing more on it later, but it was too perfect not to mention. In the beginning of the episode, Lee Pace’s Joe McMillan recalls a time when he told Scoot McNairy’s now deceased Gordon Clark that the advent of the personal computer wasn’t “the thing” but that it was “the thing that gets you to the thing.” In the context of his speech, “the thing” is the internet. But the finale shows how that idea of “the thing that gets you to the thing” has been weaved throughout the tapestry of the show from the very beginning. In the end we see that the thing at the end isn’t nearly as satisfying as the thing that got you there. In the case of Halt and Catch Fire, that thing is the relationships between the five core characters. While Joe, Cam, Donna, Gordon and Boz have experienced love and hate and everything in between over the course of almost 15 years, they’ve also been constant in each others’ lives, spurring each other on towards growth and maturity. The characters in the finale would be nearly unrecognizable to the characters in the series premiere. But that isn’t the case because of poor writing that isn’t true to the characters, it’s the case because each of them has experienced tremendous growth. It’s not often that I get sad when a show ends because there are so many out there that I keep up with, but I’m going to miss Halt and Catch Fire. Seasons 1-3 of Halt and Catch Fire can be viewed on Netflix and season 4 can be streamed on the AMC app with your cable subscription.

That’s all for this week. That was a long one! Next week, The Walking Dead is back and we’re less than two weeks away from Stranger Things 2! If you’re an Arrowverse fan, come talk about the shows in our weekly Facebook Arrowverse thread. As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. I really do listen! I didn’t start watching Halt and Catch Fire until I heard about it from someone in the group, so keep those suggestions coming.

Feelin’ TV: September 25-October 1

I don’t really care about the Emmy’s. Every year the Oscar’s give me a few movies to add to my watchlist, but the Emmy’s very rarely move the needle for me as far as my viewing habits. I could be wrong, but it always seems to me like once a show or an actor gets honored with the award, they’re continuously honored in perpetuity until the show ends its run while other deserving shows are ignored. And if I’m being honest, I’m a little bitter that Parks & Recreation went 0-16 at the Emmys during its seven seasons. But this year, as I was hearing all of the buzz after the ceremony for Big Little Lies, I looked at the dynamite cast and the well-regarded show runner and decided to give it a try. In doing so, I may have started to care about the Emmy’s.

Big Little Lies, the adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel of the same name, tells the story about a death at an elementary school fundraiser in Monterey, California. The story is presented on two fronts. The primary way is through the main narrative that follows Madeline, Jane, Celeste and Renata (Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern, respectively) from student orientation day at Pirriwee Public School all the way up to the fateful night of the murder. The secondary narrative is what we hear from ancillary characters describing the escalating tension between our four main characters over the time periods in their statements to the police. What makes Big Little Lies stand out from other murder mysteries is that not only is the audience unaware who the killer is, we’re also kept in the dark as to who the victim is. It’s great storytelling technique pulled off with near perfection by one of the most impressive casts I’ve seen in a television series. The four leads are fantastic. They’re confident, catty and delightfully willing to speak their minds to each other. The drama between the women always feels like the kind of actual real-world problems that mothers deal with every day. Make no mistake, these are women who are well-off living in paradise, but their issues are abuse, bullying and work life balance. As a parent, this helped me buy in immediately because I’ve dealt with the pain of a child being hurt in a manner that leaves those in charge of keeping him/her safe without any clue as to who caused the harm. I’ve gone the wrong way in the drop-off line and felt the condemning stares. I’ve seen little issues between parents become big issues because of the wrong thing said at the wrong time. Now no one is getting murdered at the fundraisers I attend, but I get the stakes. This isn’t your average network TV drama where every conflict could be solved if the characters involved took the time to have a 2-minute conversation.

The main cast, as you’d expect with names like Witherspoon, Kidman and Dern, is spectacular. Witherspoon’s Madeline stands out and reminds me of a grown-up Tracy Flick. She’s smart, dedicated, and she’ll play dirty if you cross her. Dern shines as Renata who is put in the unenviable position of being the villain of the story, at least where the interpersonal relationships are concerned. The men in the cast are great as well with stand-out performances by Adam Scott and Alexander Skarsgard. It’s also important to point out how solid Zoe Kravitz performs in a small but vital role as Bonnie, the young wife to Madeline’s ex-husband.

I don’t want to get into too many spoilers in this space because I’d rather you just watch the show. But my favorite thing about the series is the way shines a light on the strength of women. From little hiccups to giant problems, these are women who are more than capable to handle what life puts in their way. When the men in their lives attempt to fix these delicate issues like a man does, they serve to escalate things further. The men suffer from the classic dilemma of treating every problem like a nail because their only tool is a hammer. This show celebrates strong women and their ability to protect each other and get stuff done. It’s a phenomenal series that deserves every bit of praise it has received. Big Little Lies is currently streaming on the HBO GO and HBO NOW apps.

Channel Surfing:

  • Halt and Catch Fire had a devastating episode this week that absolutely wrecked me. No matter how much time is left in a series (H&CF has only 3 episodes left until its series finale) it takes some guts to make a move that totally changes the direction of your show and that’s what creators Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers did this week. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,  is the best show that you’re not watching. These next three weeks promise to be can’t miss TV. Past seasons of Halt and Catch Fire can be seen on Netflix and the current season can be streamed on the AMC app.
  • Speaking of shows that are unafraid to throw a wrench into the machine that totally changes the show, The Good Place did just that for the third time in its last three episodes. My favorite new show from last season is quickly becoming my favorite show on TV. If you haven’t watched it yet, I can’t express how much you’re missing out. Catch up on season one on Netflix and season two is streaming on Hulu and NBC.com.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine has occasionally ended their season by upsetting the apple cart, but typically they get everything back to the status quo by the end of the next season’s premiere. This season though, it appears that they’re willing to play with the Peralta and Diaz in prison storyline for a little while. And the show is the better for it. The season five premiere was among the best episodes the show has ever produced. Look, Jake and Rosa aren’t guilty and they’re not going to stay there forever, but with the amount of fun that Dan Goor and his writers were able to have with those scenes in particular, I hope it ends later rather than sooner. Brooklyn Nine-Nine can be seen on Hulu or at FOX.com
  • For all you Trekkies out there, we’d be remiss not to mention that Star Trek: Discovery launched last week with a two-part premiere. In the opening episodes we are introduced to Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), First Office Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the  USS Shenzhou. Life in the Federation is pretty chill until the Klingons show back up and chaos ensues. These first two episodes serve as a great primer to the world we will be seeing in Discovery, and though I didn’t particularly love them, they made me curious enough to stick around for episode #3. In this week’s episode the show begins to reveal more of what the episodic storytelling nature may be going forward. This is an intense Star Trek, with a mysterious Captain in Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), horror-like moments reminiscent of the video game Doom 3, and an intriguing crew with vastly different personalities. It was great to finally be aboard the USS Discovery, as well, and see some of the interesting technology of this universe. I came away from the third episode fully onboard with the show and am now quite excited about where it goes from here. – Aaron  Star Trek: Discovery can be streamed through CBS All-Access

As always, if there’s anything you’d like to see covered that we’re not yet covering, let me know in the comments or on the Feelin’ Film discussion group. Thanks for reading!

Feelin’ TV: August 14-20

In the current entertainment landscape, super heroes rule the world. Quietly, as the critical world lamented the comic book film’s overtaking of the box office, Marvel and DC were busy taking over the small screen as well. There are over a dozen programs based on comic books or graphic novels currently airing today. There are no fewer than nine new properties that will debut during the 2017-2018 television season. Netflix’s Defenders, which dropped this past Friday, arrives on this landscape having the advantage of a solid foundation of two years and five seasons of television worth of developed characters and a fully realized setting. For the most part, it serves that foundation well.

Defenders follows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist as they team up to fight a mysterious group known as The Hand. The Hand existed quietly behind the scenes in the first season of Daredevil, took a step forward in season two, and was the primary antagonist of Iron Fist. It’s an ancient organization that exists to keep existing, or something. When their continued existence is threatened, their leader, a chilling Sigourney Weaver, enlists the help of the Black Sky to ensure their survival. For some reason that was never entirely clear to me, the plan involves levelling New York, which our heroes cannot abide.

The best parts of Defenders coincide with the strongest parts of its established universe. Matt Murdock and Jessica Jones are a match made in heaven. Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter play off of each other well and seem to be having a lot of fun with their roles. Mike Coulter as Luke Cage is good as well, providing the moral center of the team. Danny Rand is as annoying as he was in Iron Fist earlier this year, but I think that’s a writing problem, and not necessarily Finn Jones’ problem. It takes a while for the crew to get together, but I think that’s a strength. Matt Murdock and Finn Jones’ story lines already intersect heavily with The Hand, but Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s narratives need time to connect to that universe. I wouldn’t change a thing about how they find each other, but my main complaint is that the rest of the story feels rushed. The main quibble that people have had with Netflix’s shows in the past is that they tend to be 2-3 episodes too long. All of the previous seasons in this universe have been 13 episodes, but each could’ve been pared down to 10 without sacrificing story. Defenders has the opposite problem. The season is only 8 episodes long, but would probably be better served with at least 2 more. I guess if I was a producer, I wouldn’t be too upset if people’s main complaint is that they wanted to spend more time in your story, so I’m still pretty excited about the franchise. Next up is the Daredevil spin-off The Punisher, which drops in November. Defenders can be streamed on Netflix.

Game of Thrones delivered another action packed episode with a lot of forward momentum on Sunday, but there are some issues with the pacing that are getting much too big to ignore. Listen, I’m not a scientist. I don’t know how fast ravens fly. I don’t know how fast dragons fly. But the turnaround from being hopelessly stranded north of the wall to being rescued by dragons was pretty unbelievable, even for a show with zombies and Three-Eyed Ravens. It started out as a nitpick, but it has become a serious storytelling issue. I should be talking about ice dragons and warring sisters and the return of Benjen Stark, but instead I only remember Gendry running several 4 minute miles in sub-zero temperatures and birds that apparently fly with the speed of modern day jets. I’m trying to ignore that and just enjoy the ride, but that’s getting a little harder every week. Game of Thrones can be streamed on the HBO NOW and HBO GO platforms.

Briefly, I wanted to mention that AMC’s stellar but criminally underwatched Halt and Catch Fire returned this week for its fourth and final season. It’s the fictional story of four tech pioneers set among the backdrop of the 80’s and early 90’s technology boom. If you’re looking for a show to watch while you wait for the 2017-2018 seasons to debut in mid to late September, I’d suggest catching up with it on Netflix. Seasons 1-3 of Halt and Catch Fire on Netflix and the premiere of season 4 is available to watch at AMC.com and on the AMC app.

That’s all for now. If there’s anything you’d like to see covered, as always, let me know. Happy Thrones Finale Week!

Feelin’ TV: June 12-18

The 2nd season episode, “The Injury,” is a favorite of many fans of NBC’s The Office. The laughs produced as Jim and Michael accompany Dwight to the hospital to be checked and eventually treated for a concussion are some of the show’s best. Among the memorable moments crammed into the episode’s 22 minutes are Michael wrapping his foot in bubble wrap after burning it on a George Foreman Grill, one of the all-time most awkward conference room meetings as Michael invites the handicapped building manager to speak when he feels he isn’t getting enough sympathy for his injury, Jim using a spray-bottle to keep Michael and Dwight under control in Meredith’s mini-van, Michael getting angry as Dwight gets off one of the show’s best “that’s what she said” jokes and the closing seconds when Michael trying to sneak his foot into Dwight’s CT scan. It’s a tight episode with a lot of laughs and character moments.

But none of those are the moments that stand out most to me. There’s a small conversation between Toby and Ryan after the former witnesses the latter biting his string cheese that I think about quite often. “Wow, you just dive right in!” says Toby. Ryan replies, “You know, around age 12 I just started going for it.” It’s the kind of moment that isn’t at all funny or interesting, but I think it’s what endears the show to a certain segment of its fan base. It captures the kind of meaningless chatter that someone who works in a cube experiences every single day. Person one says something because they can’t handle silence. Person two responds with the most benign and mildly amusing comment they can muster because it would be rude not to respond. Both persons laugh to be polite. I may not think scenes like this are funny and at times, they even get on my nerves, but it’s where I live. We may visit The Office for Michael Scott’s incompetence and the high jinks of Jim, Pam and Dwight, but it’s these little interactions that make us feel like we already work there. The Office is currently streaming in its entirety on Netflix.

Something that tends to surprise people who know my viewing habits is that my wife doesn’t really like to watch TV. There aren’t any TV dramas or sit-coms that I’ve been able to find that interest her. The one exception to this rule has been that we both enjoy the Food Network and we both absolutely love Food Network Star. Chef Bobby Flay (my #1 celebrity crush) and Giada De Laurentis host this show where 13 finalists compete to get their own Food Network show.  Bobby and Giada eliminate one contestant every week until one winner is crowned. It’s a perfect summer show. It’s fun, interesting, and ultimately as mindless as a beach novel. My favorite thing about the show are the guest judges that show up every week. As a connoisseur of Food Network shows, it warms my heart to no end to see folks like Robert Irvine, Anne Burrell, Alex Guarnaschelli (my #6 celebrity crush), Ted Allen, etc., have a seat at the judges table from week to week to critique the competitors who vary in their skill levels from TV ready to grossly incompetent. There are still 9 competitors left this season, so it’s not too late to jump in. Food Network Star airs on Sunday nights on Food Network. Prior episodes can be streamed on the Food Network app with cable subscription info.

Season 3 of Netflix’s The Ranch dropped last week, and like the other two seasons, it’s a lot of fun. Former That 70’s Show cast-mates Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson, as Colt and Rooster Bennett, anchor this sitcom about brothers living and working on the family ranch that delivers on the laughs you’d expect while also showing a surprising amount of heart. Elisha Cuthbert is delightful as Abby, Colt’s on again, off again love interest. Every episode is stolen by Sam Elliott who plays the patriarch of the Bennett family. His deep voice and old school cowboy personality is comic gold when paired with Kutcher’s goofiness and Masterson’s sarcasm. Debra Winger rounds off the cast as Maggie Bennett, the matriarch of the clan who resides in an Airstream outside of the bar she owns in town. She’s the only part of the show I’m not a big fan of. There’s a lack of comedic timing and chemistry with the rest of the cast that makes her stick out a bit, but it’s a minor quibble. It’s well worth the watch. The Ranch is currently streaming on Netflix.

Last week upon a recommendation from Patrick Hicks (if the guy that runs the site you write for recommends something, is it really a recommendation?), I worked my way through three seasons of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. The series takes a look at the advent and boom of the home computer through the eyes of fictional characters Joe McMillan (Lee Pace), Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), Gordon’s wife Donna (Kerry Bishe) and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis). The first season has its pacing issues, but it’s never less than interesting as the dialogue and chemistry among the cast is always on point. It really hits its stride in second and third seasons as our characters go their different ways and occasionally find their way back to each other again. The genius of the show is the use of fictional characters put in a real-world setting. We get to feel the urgency put upon entrepreneurs to innovate without the revisionist history that would most likely come with the territory of using historical figures. That’s not to say that there aren’t any similarities between our characters and historical people. I’ll let you figure out who those people are. The fourth and final season hits AMC in August, so there’s plenty of time left to get caught up. The first three seasons of Halt and Catch Fire is currently streaming on Netflix.

That’s all for this week! But remember if you have a show you’d like to have covered that we haven’t, let us know in the Facebook group or in the comments. Next week we’ll talk about the season finales to both Fargo and Better Call Saul!

Feelin’ TV: May 29-June 4

Expiration dates can be a good thing. If cows didn’t gently whisper the use by date of their milk into the ears of dairy farmers, we’d regularly be pouring chunky liquid onto our Frosted Flakes. We’d never know when to throw out sour cream. We’d neglect to change the oil in our cars and destroy our engines. We’d have human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria…but I digress. While television dramas that adhere to the old school case of the week style story structure can continue in perpetuity, some dramas need expiration dates. Dexter is my go to example of this. Much of seasons 1-4 were as good as anything on television. But it was getting less and less plausible that Dexter wouldn’t be caught every minute of every episode. Had the show-runners and the network agreed that Dexter would end after season five or season six, it might have a place in the conversation about best TV shows of the 00’s. Instead, because of viewership numbers, Showtime squeezed every last bit of creative juice from Dexter’s orange and just kept squeezing until they had four more seasons of utter garbage that spoiled the first four seasons by association. In contrast, well thought of shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men set expiration dates for themselves, allowing the creators to focus their storytelling on their eventual end game. The Leftovers and The Americans have done this and produced some of their best episodes since. While it makes me sad to think that there’s only one episode of The Leftovers and one season of The Americans to go, I appreciate the decision knowing that I’ll see quality storytelling written with the end in mind.

House of Cards needs an expiration date. Don’t get me wrong. I love House of Cards. This has been said a lot about a lot of different actors, but I would actually pay money to sit and watch Kevin Spacey read the phone book in character as Frank Underwood. Robin Wright is bone-chilling as the cold and calculating Claire. Michael Kelly is creepy as hell as the ruthlessly loyal Doug Stamper. Season five, which dropped on Netflix last week, even adds Campbell Scott and Patricia Clarkson to the mix as a pair of DC power-brokers with ambiguous motives, and predictably, they’re fantastic. There’s a lot about season five that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, so much of the narrative feels meandering and aimless. Thankfully, the final two episodes snap the story into focus and give me hope for a possible season six, but I can’t imagine that the Underwood’s story has much more than one season left in them if they want to remain interesting. The first three seasons of the show were so riveting as Frank and Claire schemed and lied and bribed and murdered their way into the White House that the last two, while still fun, paled in comparison. If you haven’t gotten to it yet, I’m not at all saying that season five was bad. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I just don’t know how much I’ll continue to enjoy it in the future if subsequent seasons don’t have the end in mind.

In other news…

• “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” I’ve already mentioned The Americans briefly above, but I wanted to take a moment to applaud the show on the completion of a tight, concise, riveting and gut-wrenching season. It looked like the Jennings family might be on the way out of the game, but as Phillip and Elizabeth find out, it’s not an easy game to quit. The finale was chock full of nice little character moments that I appreciate the show taking the time to recognize. Paige effectively saying her goodbyes to Pastor Tim, Martha being given the chance for some happiness in her new home, the entire montage set to Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and Phillip’s moment of decision about what to do with the intel that is going to keep him from doing what he wants are all given the time they need to breathe even though there’s a lot of business to get down to. All that was missing was Oleg, whose stories haven’t always interested me but whose situation I’ve found to be quite intriguing this season. As the Jennings’ begin to hear about the cracks in their idealized homeland of 1980’s Soviet Russia, there’s something that resonates with this 2017 American too. We’re seeing with Oleg’s story that as the differences between the living conditions of the rulers and the ruled widens, the ruled are less concerned with the consequences of showing their disdain for the systems that oppress them. In the past year or so, we’ve seen the kind of change that this sort of awakening can produce. As for me though, I much more enjoy watching the Jennings family than I enjoy watching the news. At least when it comes to their homeland, I know how the story ends.

• It was hard for me to think about the series finale of Damon Lindelof’s HBO series The Leftovers without thinking about the finale of his similarly themed show, ABC’s Lost. I was a big fan of Lost until that finale, at which point I became rather annoyed that I had ever watched the show at all. The problem with Lost was that it asked lots of questions and the implication was, both in the show and through interviews with the show’s creators, that it was going to eventually provide the answers to those questions for viewers. What ended up happening was, instead of providing the answers to five seasons of questions, the sixth season simply concerned itself with asking its own questions and answering those, leaving a lot unresolved. Looking back on that finale that aired in May of 2010, it would’ve been nearly impossible to pull off a satisfying conclusion to the story because there was simply too much ground to cover. It’s an interesting contrast to The Leftovers, a show that raised a whole heck of a lot of questions but, to its credit, never promised answers to any of them. Answers were not what the show was about. What The Leftovers turned out to be was a character study about how people cope when there aren’t any answers to be found. While there’s probably plenty of intrigue that could be mined from finding the answers to the questions that would arise if 2% of the world’s population suddenly disappeared, Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (the writer on whose novel the first season was based) chose to take the route of telling smaller, more personal stories of a few of the people who were left behind. There was some really, really weird stuff going on in the post-Great Departure world. It was stuff that if I really thought about it, I’d want to have its purpose explained to me. But people do weird things when they don’t have answers to the tragedies that occur in their lives, and The Leftovers is better for deciding to be concerned with those people and not the circumstances that caused or led to the tragedy. In that way, it would’ve been almost impossible for me to be disappointed with this week’s finale, and indeed I was not. In fact, I’d consider it among the best series finales that I’ve ever seen. From the opening moments with Nora (Carrie Coon) and Matt (Christopher Eccleston) doing Mad Libs (sorry, Matt Libs) by the sea to the final comforting images of two characters assuring each other that in a world where nothing is certain, they can be certain in their belief in each other. Alan Sepinwall wrote a long, detailed and spoiler filled review of the finale and the show itself over at Uproxx. If you’re a fan of the show, I suggest checking it out.

Thanks to the people who have given me a few suggestions about some things to watch while most shows are on hiatus in July and August. I’ve almost gotten through 2 seasons of Luther this week upon the recommendation of Phillip, a loyal reader and regular participant on our Facebook page. Other shows on the docket are The Goldbergs, Halt and Catch Fire and at some point, I’m going to have to catch up with the latest season of Orphan Black that recently became available on Amazon. What am I missing? Give me your suggestions in the comments or on Facebook.

Next week we’ll cover Fargo and Better Call Saul more in depth as both have moved the pieces into place for exciting ends to their seasons.