Robot Television Roundup Feb 1st-7th 2013 [Spoilers]
Welcome to the Robot Television Roundup. Sometimes there’s just too much television to cover, but the Robot Television Roundup is here to help. Inside you’ll find quick thoughts about episodes of our favorite television series that we just weren’t able to review.
The Americans – The Clock
Billy: If you’ve read Jim’s review of the pilot, I pretty much agree with most of what he said (though I think the first episode was not served well by being 97 minutes long, it felt like it had more endings than Return of the King). I’m glad that the intrigue of the pilot could continue on through to the second episode. This was more of a standalone fare, though moves made by both sides are certainly setting the table for confrontation. Our favorite KGB sleeper agents use poison to force the secretary of state’s maid to plant a bug in his office, and our friendly neighborhood FBI agents turn a Soviet asset inside the embassy to the U.S.. It was great seeing the two opposing sides using similar tactics to achieve their goals, at least insofar as the use of violence is concerned. But the one thing that has me completely agog about this show is the way that they are able to make us empathize with enemies of the state. These people don’t want to do things like poison a woman’s son, or break her brothers arm — they have to do it because of their loyalty to their home country. But, you can see the cracks forming, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these two end up working for America as double agents (or would that be triple agents?) if the show lasts for a long time, and I certainly hope it does.
Spartacus – Wolves at the Gate
Jacob: Friday’s episode of Spartacus, the second of this final season, was important for a number of reasons in my estimation. The first, and most obvious, is that it served as our introduction to Julius Caesar. Caesar, along with Marcus Crassus, will serve as one of Spartacus’ chief antagonists, so his introduction is important to the narrative of the season as a whole. I thought that did a pretty good job of setting up his character. He’s penniless but extremely powerful politically, he’s an excellent military man, and he has a thing for blood-letting in his nether-regions (which is quite odd, in my opinion). The second important detail of this episode is that it gave us a firsthand look at the army that Spartacus is leading. More specifically, it lets us see how chaotic and aggressive they are. Historical accuracy is not one of Spartacus’ chief goals, but I think this was a situation where it is important. With all of our protagonists coming from this army of slaves it is also important to keep in mind that groups this big and this angry leave a path of destruction in their wake, even if their aims are just. Spartacus’ aggression towards the town leader’s wife was one example of this, as was the death of the mother and daughter Spartacus had interacted with earlier in the episode. All in all I’m quite enjoying the new direction the series is taking — from small gladiatorial battles to conflicts much larger in scope. I hope Steven DeKnight and company are able to keep up the quality as they march towards to finish line.
Jim: House of Cards is a landmark show and would be regardless of the quality. The first original television series of this production quality to debut on Netflix Instant streaming — all 13 episodes were made available on February 1st. On a side note, there was a time when I could just pound through the thirteen episodes in a day, basically getting older and more responsible stinks sometimes.The first three episodes certainly do a good job introducing characters and the rather unique style of Kevin Spacey’s Representative Frank Underwood repeatedly breaking the fourth wall as Ian Richardson did in the BBC serial. And like its predecessor, House of Cards doesn’t go in for much subtlety, while I was glad to see the quality didn’t drop off after the first two episodes which were directed by David Fincher.
Billy: I’m slowly making my way through House of Cards, like Jim I can’t really sit through a whole season of a single TV show in a day any longer (though my reason is more that I like to digest knew programs a little bit more than gorge myself on them). And, while I agree that it is a landmark show (certainly not the first original that Netflix has produced, but Kevin Spacey is certainly a bigger draw than Lillyhammer’s Steven Van Zandt), I’m just not so sure how I feel about it. The strange Ferris Bueller-esque fourth wall breaking moments are sometimes clever, but they seem so forced and hokey in this narrative. Not to mention how out of place they feel when we start following the personal stories of other characters. Still, it’s interesting enough to keep me watching even if it does at times feel like The West Wing took a dark turn and cast a bunch of assholes.
Jacob: Although I’m having problems with this season of The Vampire Diaries as a whole, I do appreciate that last week’s episode took a step forward in killing Cole. The fact that Klaus was right there to see it and address/threaten Elena and Jeremy was just icing on the cake. The Elena/Cole scenes took up a large chunk of the episode, but the story line that I have been the most invested in is the Rebekah/Stefan plot. I know that a lot of my sympathy for Rebekah likely comes from the fact that she is gorgeous (but that’s often the case for villainous females), but can we all agree that at this point she kind of deserves to kill everyone? The character as written is kind of a tragic figure who keeps falling in love with, and giving her loyalty to, people who use that “weakness” to screw her over left and right. It is understandable (kind of) that she would lash out. I think that the writing of her and Stefan’s scenes this episode were really good with him overtly manipulating her and her realizing it, but kind of enjoying the playacting of the whole thing — even if it hurts her feelings. The fact that The CW seems hell-bent on pushing Klaus and his siblings off to their own show has me interested to see how this season wraps things up so I’ll be moving forward with cautious optimism.
Jim: The second season of Girls has gotten better each week. After last week focused on Hannah and Elijah’s crazy night out, we got to catch up with some great stories for numerous other couples. One of two terrible dinners on this week’s episode has Jessa and Thomas John fall apart in fantastic fashion — leading to the break-up we’ve been waiting for since their first scene together. Lena Dunham wrote a great scene that started out funny and somehow became incredibly real the second Thomas John actually called his new wife a whore. In another big relationship showdown, what could have been the fight that ended Soshanna and Ray instead turned into a big step forward after discovering at Hannah’s disaster of a dinner party that they were in fact living together. Who knew? Zosia Mamet and Alex Karpovsky both nailed the “I f*%$ing love you so much” lines. There might not have been anything as flat out funny as the rave scene from last week, but this is a strong episode that was better at highlighting the entire cast. Also, please have an entire episode of Hannah singing Oasis in the bathtub. Okay? Thanks.