Lost: There’s No Place Like Home
May 16, 2008

ABC, Thursdays at 10:00PM

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama

Conceit: The Thinking Man’s “Gilligan’s Island”.

There was this moment while I watched “Greatest Hits” last episode, where I started getting inexplicably excited.  Maybe its not inexplicable.  That episode really started moving stuff into place for the finale.  And Charlie’s life was or wasn’t going to end.  And it was all racing towards the end.  That’s exactly how I feel during hour one of this three hour finale.  

Jack and Sawyer.  Cyclops and Wolverine.  One is the only one who can lead.  The other is the only one you’d ever want in a fight.  Both men reached the helicopter and were one step away from just taking it back and saving the world.  Except one thing: Hurley is with Ben.  Ever since the first episode this season, we’ve been trying to figure out what Hurley meant when he told Jack he was sorry he went with Locke.  Is this it?  Is this the decision that changes everything?

I guarantee that you could not have guessed who it was doubling back on Kate and Sayid’s trail.  And when Nestor Carbonell walked through the leaves, all you thought was “that’s the missing piece; that’s what we need to make sense of this.”  Meanwhile, back on the tanker, we may be setting out for quite possibly the most tragic finale Lost has had yet.

Our flash forward went only a couple days into the future as the Oceanic 6 finally touch down in civilization.  Jack finds himself finally burying his “dad” and giving a very touching eulogy, only to be blindsided moments later with the revelation that he left his half-sister behind and he’s staring at his nephew.  Kate returned to the real world to remember that no one loves her except Claire’s baby, who she’s claimed as her own.  Hurley cannot escape the numbers, no matter how far from the island he gets.  His psychosis is just around the corner.  Sun shows that she has inherited her father’s ruthlessness.  And Sayid finally gets the girl.  I said before that Desmond and Penny are the “under the radar awesome couple”.  Sayid and Nadia are 2nd place for that award.  

I know this is only hour one of what was probably meant to be a three hour, one-shot finale, but I’m facing two realities.  First, I will be miserable waiting one week for the next episode.  Second, I will be beyond words, waiting for 8 to 9 months for the next episode.

Final Grade: A


Smallville: Arctic
May 15, 2008

CW, Thursdays at 8:00PM

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama

Conceit: Superboy Meets World.

Supergirl was always an iffy concept, even in the comic books.  It was basically a girl Superman, who was more immature.  Not terribly compelling.  In Smallville, Kara Zor-El was suspect because Laura Vandervoort is not much of an actress.  From her introduction in the beginning of the season, it was obviously that Vandervoort was cast more for her looks than for any acting ability that she may have.  But give the girl some edge and she’s actually interesting to watch.  Flying out of exploding planes, double dealing Lex, this is a Kara I can get with.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t Kara, was it?  It was Milton Fine, Brainiac.  Kara was sent to the Negative Zone  Brainiac.  He has been the villain of choice this season.  I know that Brainiac is an important character in the Superman universe, but I’ve been terribly bored by him this entire season.  Which is why I took so much personal satisfaction in Clark’s slow motion punching him in the face.  I also took personal satisfaction in Clark killing Brainiac.  This has always been central to the Superman mythos: when it means more than who he is, can Clark break his own moral code?

And Lana is gone.  Man, what a lame way to get rid of her.  I mean, I know that Kristen Kreuk wanted off the show, and I know the reality is that Lana and Clark don’t end up together, and I even know that Clark and Chloe are more entertaining that Clark and Lana ever were, but that was a weak send off.  Here’s hoping for the occasional guest appearance.  

We finally got the face off we’ve waited seven years for.  Lex finally knows.  No gimmicks.  No memory wipes (yet).  Michael Rosenbaum shows why he knows the character of Lex Luthor so well.  An even balance between a desire to do the right thing and flat out narcissism.  To “save” the world, Lex needs to control Clark.  And so the fortress collapses in on itself, in this less spectacular special effects.  And that’s it. 

I know that season finales are supposed to be cliff hangers, but that was just…meh.  I mean, the show faded to black with no real pay off.  With nothing to wonder about.  Sure, Kara’s in the negative zone.  Yawn.  Chloe’s been arrested.  Ok semi-interesting.  Black Lex cradling Clark in a dying Fortress.  Lame.  Here’s hoping that next season (which I’m pretty sure is the last season) finds a workable path and sticks to it.

Final Grade: C

House: House’s Head
May 12, 2008

FOX, Mondays at 9:00PM

Genre: Drama

Conceit: Who Needs Bedside Manners?

Every season, an episode begins with House, as oppose to a hapless individual who’s one ridiculous moment away from being House’s patient.  Those tend to be the best episodes in the season.  One such episode, the season two finale, was one of the best in the series.  Tonight’s episode started with House and ends with a bang.

House finds himself at a strip club, with no idea how he got there or how long he’s been there.  After realizing he has a concussion (based on his open head wound), he stumbles into the street to find that he had initially stumbled away from a bad car crash.  And try as he might he can’t piece together what happened.  More importantly to House, he can’t piece together what he’s sure was the medical problem that caused the crash.

House lets Chase put him under hypnosis to see if he can reach into his brain and remember what happens.  I’m not sure how medically accurate real this is, but I’m willing to bite.  And yes, that was Fred Durst playing the bartender.  The hypnosis ends up taking a back seat to increase Vicodin usage, which allows House to hallucinate back to the bus.  When that wears off, he drops himself into a sensory deprivation tank.  Lisa Edelstein, way to keep in shape.  They have such great chemistry.  Part of me wishes the show would get it over with and put them together.  The other part of me knows that the second they’re together, the chemistry is diminished.  Anyways, lesson learned: sensory deprivation may be good for the soul, but its not good for the body.  Though House gets it done, as he always does, not everything is as it seems.  A mystery woman keeps popping up into his visions.  A woman who wasn’t in the crash.  But a woman who keeps pointing to something bigger that he’s missing.  And so the entire cast…er, staff…finds themselves sitting on a bus as house drugs his brain into overdrive.  And when he realizes who the woman is, things go crazy.

Final Grade: A+

Law & Order: Strike
May 7, 2008

NBC, Wednesdays at 10:00PM

Genre: Drama

Conceit: The CSI of Procedural Shows.

I figured I would give Anthony Anderson a week to settle in without review.  Everyone deserves at least that much when they’re replacing a favorite co-worker.  Well, for starters, he delivered quite possibly the worst “Boy, is it hot our here” line i’ve ever heard.  Other than that, Det. Bernard didn’t do much in terms of investigation.  However, he did find himself at odds with the district attorneys office.  Still, even then, it wasn’t much.

No, this episode was ADA Rubirosa’s time to shine.  The defendant, Ted Sanderson, was a county employee, who was recently exonerated of his wife’s murder.  Lups and Bernard were after him for having run over and killed a public defender who was on strike.  In classic L&O, the murder seems to have been a “wrong place wrong time” kind of thing. But, as always, things are not what they seem.  Turns out the victim had an affair with Sanderson’s wife right before she died.  As Legal Aid was on strike and he couldn’t afford a lawyer, the Judge asked Rubirosa to step across the aisle and handle only the bail hearing.  But of course it wouldn’t only be for the bail hearing.  Sanderson successfully moved to have Rubirosa made her attorney for the case.  It is sweeps after all (well, sweeps in this abbreviated season anyways).  Things go the way they should.  It turns out this guy is innocent.  The episode wouldn’t have worked if he wasn’t.  And in classic fashion, Rubirosa chars bridges trying to defend him.  Unfortunately, she tries to play both sides of the field, when she uses her district attorney badge to get evidence she wouldn’t have otherwise.  This completely backfires as the evidence not only implicates Sanderson, but it makes Rubirosa look bad.  No wait, Sanderson is guilty.  But apparently Rubirosa feels his wrongful conviction earns him a shot.  And so she returns to bridge charring.  And she gets him a deal.  But wait, he’s even more guilty than she thought.  Classic.  The one thing I didn’t like about this episode was, for the sake of making Rubirosa seem stronger, ADA Cutter was uncharacteristically inept.  This is usually how these episodes go.  To make a supporting cast member a star, the stars seem dumber.  And they have to constantly compliment the supporting cast member.

I’ll be honest: I never really thought anyone could take Sam Waterston’s place as executive ADA, but Linus Roache does a pretty good job of it.  He’s just a little more aggressive than Jack McCoy, but it works.  McCoy, meanwhile, finds comfort in getting to add a cynical quip here and there when he gets the chance.  Unfortunately, the producers make him grandstand for a scene, which is very not Jack McCoy.  He also wanders around the office more than Adam Schiff or even Arthur Branch ever would.  However, he does redeem himself with Adam Schiff advice at the end.  Its not the perfect formula, but its as good as it can be if we want Jack McCoy as Manhattan’s DA.  And we definitely want that.

Final Grade: B

Smallville: Sleeper
April 25, 2008

CW, Thursdays at 8:00PM

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama

Conceit: Superboy Meets World

It really was spy vs. spy tonight as Jimmy Olsen was hired by the Department of Domestic Security to investigate possible terroristic activities by his lady love, Chloe Sullivan.  And did Jimmy spy it up, in true James Bond style.  Was any of this even the slightest bit believable?  Not really.  Even if we buy that someone from the DDS handed Jimmy a briefcase filled with cool gadgets, his kung fu fighting and cat like agility seemed to appear out of nowhere.

But who cares?

Aaron Ashmore could easily be one of the better people to inhabit the Jimmy Olsen persona in a long while.  He’s got the goofy charm and yet the heroic ambitions down pat.  And he’s just fun to watch.  And while I’ll always be on the “Clark and Chloe” train, I have to admit that Jimmy and Chloe have some serious chemistry.  They were nothing less than a delight to watch this episode.  The episode was just escapist fun.

Lex, meanwhile, continues on his master of the universe path.  He flies to Sweden to find a safe deposit box that Veritas was keeping.  In a scene reminiscent of “The DaVinci Code”, Lex finds what I assume is a historic compass which points somewhere.  This will surely point to The Fortress, if I know my Smallville.

The oddest part of this week’s episode had to be that Clark was barely around.  And the episode was still solid.  This will always be Tom Welling’s show, but it was nice to see that in his absence, the show still works well.  However, he did reappear at the end to set up what I’m sure is going to be a huge episode in the series next week.

Final Grade: B+

Smallville: Descent
April 20, 2008

CW, Thursday at 8:00PM

Genre: Sci-FDrama

Conceit: Superboy Meets World

Y’know, even though the show “Smallville” exists outside of DC comic continuity, and so the producers can pretty much do what they want (except, apparently, put Lois and Clark together), there are certain things that the show gets right.  Chloe, though she isn’t an actual character from the comics, is one example.  But a more pertinent example of the show getting something right is Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor.  Even when the show has taken the bizarre liberty of making Clark and Lex friends for years, it still gets the character right.  Lex is a villain, for sure.  But he’s not a villain in the classic sense.  Lex suffers from thinking he knows best, and so he will force his “best” on the world for its own sake.  In the last couple of seasons, Lex has gradually taken steps from well intentioned young man to the megalomaniac he is destined to become.  In this episode, when he pushed his father to his death, Lex may have sealed the deal.  In classic Lex form, the decision “to do what it takes” haunts him.  And in classic Lex form, he brushes past it to accomplish what he needs to.

Meanwhile, in a nod to things to come, Lois and Jimmy engaged in some Daily Planet quality investigative journalism when Jimmy finds out that he has a picture which may show that Lionel’s suicide was in fact a murder.  And Lois got shot.  In pretty comic fashion.  The one downside of this episode was that yet another person discovered Clark’s secret.  Which surely means that person is going to die in an episode or two.  Oh wait.  Nope, in this episode itself.  This device is getting kind of old.

Clark and Lionel have had a truly odd relationship.  For the last three seasons, Lionel has wavered between full-on protector, to slight of hand enemy.  In his death, he showed that he trying to keep two keys which, when combined, would allow the possessor control Clark from falling into the wrong hands.  He was caring for Clark as if he were his own son.  This show has always been about fathers and sons.

This revelation lead to a face off with Lex which could be considered one of the finer moments in the season.  Both Lex and Clark uttered words which embody who both characters are meant to be and why both characters were destined to be at odds with each other.

Before this episode, I really believed that this show was at least a half season past its prime.  With key actors departing at the end of the season, I figured this was as good a time as any to take a bow.  However, this episode really opened up brand new possibilities.  This episode alone may have justified a new season of “Smallville”.

Final Grade: B+