‘Tragical History’ tells a fairly dull story about the fairly dull Cyril
The problem with a streak of hilarious episodes is that eventually there's a dud. Of course, we are talking “Archer” here, so even if the show is disappointing overall, it still has more than its share of quotable one-liners and clever references (including computer pioneer Alan Turing, and Elisha Otis, the inventor of the elevator). But most of “Tragical History” felt more flat and lifeless than we’ve come to expect from a show that normally lives in the “Danger Zone”.
Perhaps the problems with the story came from it revolving entirely around Cyril Figgis, who has always been more of a foil for the outrageousness of all the other ISIS folks. This is not a knock on the great voice work from Chris “Dr. Spacemen” Parnell; but Cyril has never really taken the insane flights of insanity that we’ve seen from Pam, Kreiger or Cheryl/Carol. Having him get sucked into acting as the stooge for the sabotage attempts of George Spelvin, and finally saving the day by shooting out the server while Archer is trapped by the sexy Asian twins, actually seemed somehow out of character.
Still, there were plenty of weird and wacky stuff going on at the margins, from Gillette channeling Ed Harris in “Apollo 13” to Pam getting sucked into enjoying the pirate virus’ little ditty (“What what!”). Even if it didn’t surround a very strong core story, I do always find plenty to enjoy. Do you not?
- “Bag with which one douches.”
- “Suck it, women!”
- Speaking of great voice acting, Judy Greer just kills as Cheryl/Carol. (“OhmyGodIhatehimsomuch!”)
- “Render the salad unto Caesar.”
- “Way to go, Chokely Carmichael.”
- “Cyril, go do whatever it is you do!” “Like suck at stuff?” “And leave this to people who are more qualified.” “At not sucking at stuff.”
- “Most secret agents don’t tell every harlot from here to Hanoi that they are secret agents!”
- “Look at that thing – it’s like it’s made out of Wolverine’s bones.”
- “Did that sound a lot better in your head?”
- “Oh, I thought we were putting all our eggs in the battery shut-down basket.”
- “Well, then I should definitely get my turtleneck.”
- “You have a shoemaker?” “Do you not?”
- “Fifty million dollars in real bearer bonds. Which are, um, real.”
- “Ninjas are sexy!” “Right?” “I mean, I think so!”
- “What am I? Counts Bullets..Ula? Come back to me, I can do better.”
- “After all that, you want to take a bath?” “Do you not?”
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‘For Blood or Money’ puts the focus on Rachel for a fast-paced episode
“Are you blackmailing me?” – Emmitt Arnett
“No, this is just good old-fashioned leverage.” – Raylan Givens
As compelling as all the serialized arcs are to the assured style of “Justified”, the series also excels at cases-of-the-week that don’t rely on shallow thrills. Instead, those “one and done” stories deepen our understanding of the regular supporting characters and provide opportunities for increasingly droll and quirky guest stars. “For Blood or Money”, ably directed by noir veteran John Dahl, gave the audience extensive background on Rachel, pulls Boyd deeper into a return to crime, and still made time for an drug-dealer/aspiring magician.
The main driver of the action in the episode was Rachel’s pursuit of her brother-in-law Clinton and it was terrific at doling out information from each character about her family, as well as keeping us guessing about how far Clinton would go in order to see his son. Even the smallest details were enjoyable, from the aforementioned Criss Angel-wannabe Flex discussing his new career (“Learning all the basics on YouTube”) to Raylan’s amused expression as he picks up a baby picture of Rachel off her mother’s shelf. Of course, it all led to the wry, bourbon-soaked conversation amongst the marshals about their various dysfunctional family backgrounds. When Tim expresses envy towards Raylan that “at least you got to shoot your father”, he responds, “You didn’t miss much. I thought it was gonna be way more fun than it was.” What makes a good federal marshal? According to the “Justified” universe, it takes focus, patience, steely courage, love of bourbon, and an overwhelming desire to shoot one or more of your family members.
Meanwhile, in the delightfully bucolic hamlet of Harlan, Boyd is (perhaps) contemplating a return to bank robbery. Walton Goggins keeps bringing layers to his performance that can seem sinister or sincere, sometimes in the same sentence. Although his relationship with Ava has turned out to be purely platonic, a tentative connection seems to be growing. Their easygoing conversation on the porch about wig styling and rock stars was truly charming. Of course, she did shoot his brother dead, so there’s that obstacle to romance.
There were only a few brief moments with the Bennetts, but they were moments to savor, with Raylan’s supreme confidence playing sharply off of Mags’ gimlet-eyed villainy. It was also revealed that the Hatfield/McCoy bad blood between their families was the cause of Dickie’s limp. That sounds like a juicy story, and it is clear that Dickie and Coovey (aka Redneck Dimwits on Parade) can only be contained by their mother and older brother for so long. Stay tuned.
- As I mentioned last week, Raylan had previously dealt with the Dixie Mafia through the real estate mess involving Winona’s hopefully soon to be ex-husband Gary. Just the thought of seeing Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy again has me giddy.
- “Yeah. Well. That.” Doyle Bennett – king of the understatement.
- Boyd Crowder listens to Drive-By Truckers. One more point in the good guy ledger.
- “Are you wearing pants?” “I like to maintain my creases. Stay sharp.”
- Even the waitress had a funny moment or two (“Mr. Crankypants wants a chocolate bar.”)
- “How the hell am I supposed to do magic with this hand now?”
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‘Head Games’ brings in a new trainer with a new attitude
Remember, “Lights Out” was written and wrapped up well before “The Fighter” opened in theaters. But it still covers some of the same storylines, which have really been around since the movies learned to talk (and probably before). However, it consistently brings a fluidity and grace to the more obligatory plots, and when necessary, throws in a wild card like Ed Romeo (played by the formidable and fascinating Eamonn Walker).
An outsider dropping mad wisdom on Lights about his family is refreshing, since he has been slowly choking underneath their suffocating love for so long he can’t even tell he’s not breathing anymore. Romeo’s (preternatural) insight into Lights’ relationship with his father and his siblings (“Damn, Lights. How many titties you got?”) and his blunt instructions to “cut them off” causes the Leary clan to circle the wagons with a vengeance. Pops does a swift about-face on his decision that he can’t be both a trainer and a father, Johnny worries that there isn’t enough time for Lights to change his fighting style completely, and Margaret….well, Margaret seems peeved that he didn’t eat his steak. But Lights absorbs at least some of Romeo’s wisdom, and decides to stick with Reynolds’ old trainer.
But the most interesting thing about Romeo is that it is not at all clear that this is a good decision. The gravel-voiced giant is clearly troubled, if not actually disturbed, and the shocking suicide scars on his arms, inflicted when Reynolds fired him after his first big win, strongly hint at some deeper issues. Still, for the time being, our former heavyweight champ is on his way to some form of enlightenment, hard-sought and hard-fought though it may be.
- Oh yeah, Ava went to the prom and she doesn’t want to be a doctor. I’m not sure of the point of this plot, other than their eldest getting into some kind of trouble eventually or perhaps just showing that Theresa is as much of a control freak with her kids as with her husband.
- Ava will be going to London for a month, thus setting up the next Leary Daughter Disappearance. Maybe she can go work with all the apparently abandoned boy fighters on Romeo’s farm.
- It is really great how much Pops has developed as character since the beginning of the show; his conflicting emotions and motivations are surprising, but always believable.
- Reg E. Cathay livens up every scene he is in (“And they call ME a diva.”)
- Reynolds didn’t even call when Romeo’s wife died, the woman who apparently raised him as a child? That is some stone-cold stuff right there (or maybe a hint of the darker aspects of Romeo’s personality).
- For me, the jury’s still out on whether Morales threw the fight last week. Feel free to disagree.
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'Cabrini-Green': A clunky stand-alone story doesn’t get in the way of skillful plot developments
“Today is a great day. Today is the first day of a better Chicago” – Ronin Gibbons
It is easy to get impatient with these types of good-but-not-great network police dramas. You can see the deeper and more complicated character studies and narratives peeking through the tiresome or hackneyed stories, and you want to follow the better stuff all the way down the line. With this much talent both behind and in front of the cameras, the expectations are high all around, and the parts that don’t work are thrown into sharp relief next to the ones that work.
For the most part, the central development in the serialized plot was potent as hell, due in no small part to the magnetic power of Delroy Lindo’s performance as Gibbons. His bittersweet memories of growing up in the notorious Cabrini-Green projects, and his triumph at being instrumental in their destruction, clearly drive his more sincere motivations to help his local community. And it is clear his interest in young Blakey goes beyond the practical considerations of finding out who it was that placed the hit on him. But his greed and thirst for power have superseded any of the more righteous inspirations that put him into political office. When he hears that the black gang leader Little Monster wants the same protection as the Irish gangsters, his burst of derisive laughter puts a chilling button on the scene (and Little Monster’s life).
Still, even here there were moments that were artificially rushed; Blakey’s mother went from screaming at Gibbons to a tearful embrace in literally two minutes. And the shaky Weather Underground/Bill Ayers Cliff Notes plot suffered from this in particular. We are always expected to accept that Wysocki and Evers are smarter and more intuitive than your average cop, but the brainpower on display in this episode was even more incredible than usual. Wysocki identified the bombs’ signature in-between breakfast and lunch, Evers figures out the third targeted building by looking around the corner of a subway station, and the entire Chicago PD is able to set up a heavily guarded phone conversation with a convicted murderer and her explosives-wielding son in a matter of minutes. Even given the necessity of a fast-moving network hour, just one of these shortcuts would have been hard to swallow. At least, the location shooting continues to be dazzling (Billy Goat Tavern!) and the action sequences (particularly the razzle-dazzle opening bomb set-piece) exceptional.
- “Not to worry – the kid will live to get shot another day.” Any bets on when Kelly decides to come over to Colvin’s side? He has to at least figure out soon that he is out of the loop completely.
- The smaller roles are fun; like Popadiak and his bomb robot (and his eyebrows).
- Nice use of actual documentary footage (I assume) of the projects, voting booths, etc.
- There hasn’t been any voice over background from Caleb yet, has there?
- “Well, that just warms the cockles of my still-beating heart.”