Robot Television Roundup Feb 15-21 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.
Downton Abbey — Christmas Special
Jim: When I begin a discussion about Downton Abbey these days, it seems I always start by making allowances for the fact that at it’s heart, it’s maybe not a serious dramatic piece. As the years have gone on, that’s become more and more obvious. Lost and rediscovered heirs, characters being crippled and miracuously healed, and a string of overly dramatized deaths have hammered that point home. And, what could be more in line with a soap opera than our underdog hero, Matthew Crawley, finally meeting his newborn (prematurely of course) son, who represents the much worried over stability to the line of succession that’s been fretted over since the pilot episode, and then Matthew promptly being run off the road and killed on the way home. A lot of fans will have problems with this enormous change to the show and cast (not just that it was a terribly boring episode altogether, highlighted by a tug-of-war contest).
After three angst filled seasons of Matthew and Mary hating one another, figuring out they want to be together, reconsidering it, wanting to be together but divided by a war, then by his fiance, then by her fiance, then his paralysis, then his dying fiance, then his dead fiance, then hers once more, then almost backing out on the wedding night, then fighting over money, then worrying about conceiving, then worrying about an early birth–finally, finally everything is okay–and, then he dies. Honestly, after listing it all out, I’d think if Matthew had a last thought, it would have been relief. Anyone that pays attention to casting news for their television shows knows Dan Stevens absolutely wanted off the series, so none of this was a real surprise. It was just horrendously manipulative and terrible cliched. My biggest problem isn’t that Matthew was killed … by a delivery man, but that it was the last scene, in fact the last shot of the season. Rather than have the other characters react and provide the context for this loss, it’s thrown in for seemingly nothing more than shock value at the very end of the year.
The Walking Dead — Home
Billy: You can read Jim’s full review of this episode here, and I agree with a lot of what he says, but I’m far more pessimistic about this show right now. I started falling out of love with the comic during the prison arc, so there’s precedence for my tepid reception to this season. But, when I think about the comic’s arc I realize that it was leagues better in terms of impact and characterization. Rick’s turn towards crazy was silly in the comic but in the TV show it’s been launched to absurd heights. He’s seeing ghosts and wandering outside of the prison gates doing his best Jack Sheppard impersonation? That’s … uh, that’s one way to handle Rick’s grief … I guess. And, don’t get me started on the exodus Chad Coleman and Tyreese’s group. I’m sure they’ll be back sooner or later, but after spending so much time with them pleading for a place to stay due to the danger outside the prison only for them to just run away with nary a mention in this episode is just bad. I’m sure my favor for comic book Tyreese plays some part in my anger over the disappearance, but it’s also just bad writing–a problem that this series has suffered from for-ev-er. So, the first fifty minutes of the episode were mostly boring and infuriating in the same way Walking Dead always seems to be, but the final ten minutes or so were pretty rad. Ignoring the fact that apparently Rick’s group has the same aim as your common Stormtrooper, the shootout with the Governor was pretty thrilling and even though it was telegraphed from the get-go, it was nice to have Darryl come to Rick’s rescue.
Girls — Boys
Jim: After stumbling last week, this was a big improvement back to the standards I’ve come to expect from Girls. Adam and Ray’s mission to Staten Island was as fun for: exploring how each of them really feels about their respective girl, Adam’s continued ability to throw out exactly what he thinks at all times, and how well it contrasted the personalities of these two guys. As someone that loved Ray and Soshanna, it was amazing how quickly Adam’s interpretation of their relationship’s flaws (he’s too old and dependent, she’s with him just to flaunt having a boyfriend, and neither of them seems to like the other much as a person as for what they get from the relationship) turned me against them altogether. It was great because after being severed from Hanna’s life lately–the reasons Ray and Soshanna don’t work are the reasons Hannah and Adam do (they’re secure with each other emotionally and sexually, they are brutally and utterly true to themselves and one another, and they care more about the other person than any ancillary benefit to the relationship).
Hannah’s e-book might not have much of a chance, but it was still nice to see someone show some enthusiasm for her work until Jenna crapped all over it–bringing all of Hannah’s insecurities about her abilities and this opportunity bubbling to the surface. And Allison Williams was terrific playing a Marnie that just saw everything she thought she wanted out of life only to have it ripped away by Booth Jonathan with the most cruel and brutal (and honestly, probably true) tear down she’s gotten yet. Considering her life’s been a non-stop hellhole since breaking up with Charlie, her doomed attempt to get back together with him will start in 3… 2…
How I Met Your Mother — The Ashtray
Jim: Bringing back the Captain was an iffy choice; I absolutely despised everything to do with the Zoe arc. But on the other hand, Kyle MacLachlan was terrific this week. The device of retelling the same scene from different perspectives is a narrative trick that the show has used freqently, but then the jokes like characters seeing different things, and interpreting another person’s intent differently, are so expected by now that they can’t really surprise or entertain us. And at this point, I shouldn’t really have to comment on how much of the comedy was too big and cartoon-y (i.e. Ted seeing the remote control as a harpoon gun)–although Marshall’s insistence on the previously agreed amount that Lily could offer her body for was funny thanks to a killer delivery by Jason Segal. My favorite flashback was when Lily’s version revealed that Barney was there, which worked well because not even the storyteller realized it until she was actually in the process of telling the story to the audience. It was a great moment where we got to discover something fun with the characters rather than after the fact.
Billy: I was very, very worried when they revealed that The Captain was coming back in this episode. After all, The Captain was a major player in one of the absolute worst periods of How I Met Your Mother. The arc with Ted dating Zoe was grating and awful, and just thinking about it makes me upset. Kyle MacLachlan’s Captain was one of the few things that kind of worked about that storyline, but that doesn’t mean I want to revisit it. Thankfully, my fears were mostly unfounded. I found this episode to be pretty darn funny, and the unreliable narrative structure (something that HIMYM used to rely on much more frequently) really worked here. It allowed for most of the cast to get in on the action as well (the one exception was Marshall who didn’t participate in the zaniness, but Jason Segel did have a great scene with Alyson Hannigan regarding the titular ashtray). I always love the “sandwich” jokes that the series makes, and though I really doubt Ted would mistake a remote for a harpoon gun while hopped up on sandwiches it was a pretty funny bit. Good episode with a classic HIMYM spin.