'Sucker Punch' takes a final swing at the Leary family with the return of Mom.
Nothing happens behind my back – Barry Word
Putting together a serialized television series is tricky. How do you keep each episode fresh while not losing focus on the main storyline? Is it better to stick with the established group of characters and let them deepen over a period of time, or do you bring in new folks to show the hidden or less exposed sides of your protagonist? After the not wholly unexpected news that “Lights Out” will not be coming back for a second season, it made it seem more even more tiresome that we had to spend an extended period of time with Mae, the long-lost Leary matriarch. But it did allow the viewers to get a deeper understanding of the family dynamic, and provided some interesting color, particularly for Margaret.
As the only girl in a family of boxers, Margaret Leary has developed her own pugnacious and tough personality, and her initial reaction to the arrival of her soul-sucking, alcoholic, manipulative mother was both the coldest and (as it turned out) the most sensible. All of the performances were great; Pops fell immediately back into crush mode, Johnny passively-aggressively medicates with whiskey and Patrick – naturally and poignantly – takes on the forgiving caregiver mode. But Margaret stands firm: Mae is “dead to me”, she “robbed me of my life.” The acting by Elizabeth Marvel in the scene at the hospital was wonderful; angry, vulnerable but with an inner strength that shows how she might be the strongest fighter of them all.
In the final build-up to the fight, Hal Brennan is emerging as a possibly greater villain than Barry Word. The timing of the drive-by at the diner (and the expectant expression on Bill Irwin’s face) all seem to point to Johnny’s tossed-off theory that it was Brennan that set up the shooting. It would be a logical part of his plan to set Lights up as a huge long shot, and then collect on those winnings to topple Barry as the kingpin of the boxing world. So Brennan has been working his own agenda all along, and Barry is just starting to realize it perhaps? I don’t see him going down without a fight, that’s for sure.
- OK sports/boxing fans; is that seriously a typical sports talk show set-up? It seemed so ridiculous, but that is probably my ESPN ignorance showing. In spite of that, the most enjoyable part of the episode was the sleazy machinations of Johnny and the reporter.
- Valerie Perrine sounds exactly the same as she did when she was a hot young thing in “Lenny”.
- Only in TV Land: the scheming villain has a highly sensitive and secret phone conversation in the family bedroom.
- “Not a musician; a drummer. It was a lateral move.”
The former 'Bosom Buddies' star heads to '30 Rock'
Sterling Archer is the victim of the ‘Placebo Effect’
To make up my own oxymoron, the more “Archer” is horribly, wonderfully wrong, the more it’s superbly, hilariously right. Every episode is chock-full of colorful adult language (some bleep-worthy, some not), shocking sexual perversions, and gleeful mocking of society’s sacred cows, including every ethnic and racial group known to man. So, it is only fair “Placebo Effect” moved on to Nazis, cancer and the primal joy of a good old-fashioned rampage.
Frankly, it was the rampage part that was the most appalling. After Sterling finds out that his cancer drugs are basically sugar pills and Zima, he goes on a violent mission to find the villains that are replacing the real drugs and killing sweet old Regis Philbin fans like his pharmacy friend Ruth. Although he is hampered a bit by choosing to start an actual chemotherapy and marijuana regime partway through (to his partner Lana: “You were totally right. Not a smart mid-rampage move.”), he still has enough energy to torture and kill the Irish mobsters responsible for the fraud in a gory frenzy of violence. Not even the unarmed old man in the wheelchair is safe; of course, he does make the mistake of being the umpteenth man to brag about bedding Malory Archer.
Back at ISIS headquarters, Cyril makes the alarming discovery that Krieger is a Nazi scientist. Or possibly the offspring of Nazi scientists. Or possibly the genetic clone of Adolf Hitler. Either way, Malory is just fine with that, since the Nazis invented the rockets that sent Neil Armstrong to the moon. Well, you learn something new every day, including the difference between a M-26 and a Mark Two fragmentation grenade.
- There are so many lines I do not feel comfortable quoting.
- “You didn’t think it was weird your chemo drugs were chewable?” “No! Little kids get cancer!” “Aw, they do.”
- “Whatever farm animal of war Lana shut up!”
- “Well, you threatened to shove a knife up his dick hole. Which, again, ick.”
- “I’m just assuming you guys don’t know what actually goes on here. I hope that doesn’t sound racist.”
- Victimless crimes include: Numbers, protection, drugs and prostitution.
- Very Good Irish accents from all the actors (including Glee’s own Darren Criss).
- “And, uh. Scarf”
- “It’s Austin. Duh!”
- “That’s why we...argh…they lost the war.”
- “She’s not gay. She just has big hands.”
- “They look exactly nothing alike!”
- “That’s like comparing apples to Nazi oranges.”
- “I guess I’ve just been..AWWH..getting hotboxed all day in my car..SHIT..which I’m trying to sell but fat chance now. I bet it smells like WEED and RAMPAGE. Damn it, that is classic him. Ooo, do you guys have any snacks?”
- “Okay, Clone Wars.”
- “Seriously, what is cancer?”
A department ‘Camping’ trip creates a bridge to the next big idea.
For Leslie, this is a perfect excuse to drag the entire office staff (including the increasingly smitten Ben, who’s still in town) off on a combination camping/brainstorming session in the woods. The reactions from her co-workers range from hostile (April = “pass”) to grudgingly accepting (Ron = “Why don’t you just tell us what our next project is and I’ll go camping by myself?”). But out of the genuine love and respect they all have for Leslie, off to the campsite they go. We even get tag-alongs in the form of Andy, who is looking forward to lots of making out with his girlfriend, and Ann, whom Leslie is trying to cheer up after the re-appearance of Chris (aka The Bionic Man) who is filling in for the ailing Pawnee City Planner, and who is still sending mixed signals to Ann and her red-streaked hair.
In contrast to Ben’s threadbare camping supplies (a notebook and a sleeping bag), Tom creates a luxury hotel in the wilderness by apparently ordering everything in the SkyMall catalog (including a soft-serve ice cream maker) and brings along your friend and mine, DJ Roomba. He also sucks all of the energy from Ron’s truck to power all of his gadgets, thus stranding everyone in the woods overnight, which is even worse than when Jerry scares away all the fish with his “loud personal stories”. The relationship that is explored in this episode is the one between “the Energizer Bunny of city government” Leslie Knope and phlegmatic Libertarian Ron Swanson. Seeing that Leslie is spiraling out of control, he locks her up in her bedroom at the bed & breakfast (“The Quiet Corn”) where they have all been forced to retreat. And after a marathon seven (!!) hours of sleep, Leslie is bursting with new, big, crazy ideas for using the Harvest Festival money. We wouldn’t have it – or her – any other way.
- “That would be the second most awkward way a man has ever grabbed my breast.”
- I love dorky Ann. (“Well, I salsa your face!”) Too bad she’s moving away. (“Bye, everybody! Bye.”)
- Things April hates: Stars. Fresh Air. Babbling brooks.
- "This is actually a dog couch, but it's super comfortable."
- The sky is beautiful, but probably not worth the asthma.
- Who wants to hear the rest of Ron’s scary campfire stories of government interference in our lives?
- “If that’s a coyote, someone needs to pick me up off the ground now.”
- Great series of pratfalls from Chris Pratt (pun!).
- “You know, I’ve never moved this slow before. It’s almost like being in quicksand.”
- “Chocolate or butterscotch?” “Swirl me!”
- “What the f**k is a German muffin?”
‘Critical Film Studies’ is another ambitious, polarizing, and possibly genius episode.
Of course, there was “Pulp Fiction” in the background, including a glowing briefcase, a 50’s diner, and a gimp. But all of that was regulated to almost less than a “B" plot; the centerpiece was a pair of monologues and some heady exchanges over fine food, with extraordinary performances from Joel McHale and Danny Pudi. They were moments of outright comedy naturally. There was even a bizarre, extended love letter to “Cougar Town” in Abed’s description of his dream about being a background extra (“I said to the director “Can we have one more take?” but they were already moving on. Courteney had nailed it.”). But because both actors have the chops to carry off this kind of serious and more complicated material, the show took the risk of several long stretches that were essentially joke-free. Granted, it was undercut by the reveal that Abed had been setting it all up as an elaborate attempt to “have an unexpectedly enjoyable evening with a weird friend he been avoiding lately.” But that segued into an actual heartfelt conversation between Joel and (the real) Abed, and a slightly melancholy party for the whole gang.
In the end, “Community” cannot be easily divided into “gimmicky” conceptual episodes and ones with more conventional sitcom tropes. What it does best are episodes like this one: a challenging combination of ridiculous and sometimes edgy comedy, with a slightly queasy examination of the pathologies and foibles of group of slightly (maybe severely) damaged people. As “Critical Film Studies” pointed out, just citing pop-culture references isn’t enough; sometimes it’s important to have a real conversation.
- “I saw “Pulp Fiction” on the plane. It's sweet. It’s a thirty-minute film about a group of friends who like cheeseburgers, dancing and the Bible."
- “If you want me to take it seriously, stop saying its name.”
- “After they get frightened by the evening news, many seek the comforting foods and soothing music of a pre-racial America.”
- “Do you know how many fake people are talking about how fake the world is right now?”
- “Baby chickens. Diamond forks. Brand-name sodas.”
- As promised: “Cool. Cool. Cool cool cool.”
- “Ooo, no-no juice.”
- Spock does go without saying, Abed.
- “Take it from someone who just had a meaningless one, sometimes emotional breakthroughs are overrated.”
When Michael Scott finally gets down on one knee, it's sweet -- and funny
‘Save My Love’ ratchets up the tension in a finely tuned episode
It just keeps barreling forward, doesn’t it? Picking up right where we left off last week in “Blaze of Glory”, Winona’s theft of the evidence money escalates into a tense and wonderfully circuitous wild goose chase pretty much confined to the one building. Throw in an intriguing new development for Boyd that draws him in deeper with Raylan and the (sadly, again absent) Bennetts and it made for an incredibly entertaining hour.
It’s true, the obstacles constantly thrown in front of Winona and Raylan as they attempted to put back the money rose to the level of darkly comedic ridiculousness. Extra security because of the high-profile federal case against coal company Black Pike? Check. The return of eccentric, oddball Judge Reardon (the fantastic Stephen Root) and his arbitrary demands? Check. A bomb threat that gets called off JUST as the bag full of stolen bills is about to be discovered? Final check. Still, everything was paced so relentlessly and swiftly that it worked in spite of itself. The fact that it was actually lucky they were NOT able to replace the money in the evidence locker was probably the cleverest twist, but what are the chances Art figured something was up? I’d say very good.
In retrospect, the most unbelievable aspect of Winona’s impulsive and brief life of crime was the fact that she stole only ONE bill out of a huge stack of money. So it was a strange relief to find out she actually took it all, which makes more logical sense if you accept that she took it in the first place. All of the reasons that she was yammering about in the motel room sound fine, but it would be much more interesting if this provided new insights into her character. Is getting involved with her ex-husband making her feel more reckless? Is the constant financial insecurity (due to Gary’s dumbass ideas) pushing her to the edge? And just how does she view Raylan in her life – as the strong cowboy who will rescue her from every predicament? What was going on in her subconscious throughout this whole ordeal?
Just as mysterious in motivation was Boyd Crowder’s new employer Carol Johnson – at least until her bold statement at the end of the episode about Mags Bennett “getting in the way of my plans.” She is a welcome addition to the cast, with a thin veneer of folksy straightforwardness covering a decidedly sinister agenda. By introducing the specter of an all-powerful coal company into the mix of drug dealing and violence, and bringing Boyd into potential confrontations with both Raylan and the Bennetts, “Justified” has raised the stakes considerably for the next half of the season.
- Only a tiny bit of advancement on the Gary sub-plot, but that tiny bit contained a lot of Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy (which in turn caused a lot of delighted squealing in my living room).
- “Watching you slide into decrepitude” Art and Raylan’s banter keeps getting more fun every week.
- Also fun? The running gag about the coffee. (“It was your day.”)
- “So, you’re telling me that you found yourself someone better than that?”
- Charlie, the evidence room guard. Never around when you need him and always around when you don’t.
- “Tall drink of distraction.” Yeah, sounds about right.
- “My. Sounds like a love story.”
Chickens come home to roost in ‘Rainmaker’
“Haven’t had a problem yet that money couldn’t solve.” – Johnny Leary
Charismatic guest stars can be both a boon and a curse to an ongoing series. While it was certainly a shot in the arm to have the compelling Eamonn Walker around as Ed Romeo, it was quite a letdown when he disappeared after only two episodes. Likewise, the always stellar David Morse showed up tonight and brought real gravity to his washed-up ex-champ Jerry “The Rainmaker” Raines. So it was disappointing to realize he was only there to serve as Lights’ deus ex machina with a convenient mental handicap.
Still, David Morse for only one episode was still better than no David Morse. With his perpetually boyish demeanor and great reserves of vulnerability, he packed a lifetime of pitiable sadness into just a few scenes. It’s clear that as Margaret says, “there but for the grace of God” goes Lights, although it is not unlikely that our hero hasn’t already put himself in harm’s way enough to suffer some of those ill effects in the near future. But it was a stark reminder that Patrick will have to deal with the consequences of his chosen profession sooner rather than later.
“Rainmaker” was actually all about the repercussions of events that took place earlier in the series, most importantly Lights’ assault on the indebted dentist and subsequent delivery of a bribe to make the charges disappear. It is important that even a fundamentally decent guy like Lights continues to confront the evidence of his own dark side. Nothing can change the fact that he did break a man’s arm, that he got in bed with a local criminal, and that he sent a mentally impaired man to viciously beat up a corrupt councilman to protect his own interests. All of the things that once meant something to him seem to be falling by the wayside in order to get to the holy grail of the rematch with Reynolds, not the least of which is his own integrity. Will it be worth it? Only two more episodes until we find out.
- The opening sequence, with the whole family reunited around the BBQ for Independence Day, was just horribly off-key and odd, like a dress rehearsal for the actual scene. The stagy silence that fell when Theresa’s family was mentioned was hilariously bad; all that was needed was a “Dun DUN” musical cue.
- On the other hand, Pops Leary has developed into one of the most multi-faceted and interesting characters on the show. His advice to Lights about Brennan and the FBI (“Let ‘em arrest you; at least, you’ll be safe.”) was refreshing and actually intelligent.
- Wow. Lights finally fills Theresa in on the whole story, and suddenly she’s Lady Macbeth? Bet he’s kicking himself for not enlisting her as an accomplice a long time ago.
- “This state. The corruption. It’s bottomless.” Never change, Hal Brennan.
- I’m sure this Gus has been around before as Hal’s bodyguard, but did we know he was a fighter, too?
- “How long have you been carrying this around?” He says “Since March”, but he means “My whole life”.