‘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.
Like Stephen Colbert before him, the 'Late Night' host scores love from Ben & Jerry's
'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.”
After granting ABC an "exclusive," Sheen dashes talk TV etiquette by doing an interview with NBC, too
The survivors of ‘Double Deuce’ take a backseat to a brilliant new character
Accepted sitcom wisdom says that when you introduce a baby to the mix, the show goes downhill from there. This axiom was (debatably) applied to “Mad About You” and “Friends”, among many others. Leave it to “Archer” to take that idea and casually, disgustingly, and hilariously eradicate it with inspired use of Wee Baby Seamus.
The key is apparently to carry the baby around by the scruff of his neck like a puppy and let him eat/drink/play with whatever he wants. A short list of these items include: Bloody Mary, shaving cream, straight razor, martini olive, martini, napkin soaked in booze, and ice soaked in booze. Finally, Wee Baby Seamus manages to save the day, by being used as a distraction and a human shield. It’s an unorthodox, but clever solution.
We get more of Woodhouse’s (homoerotically charged and blood drenched) back-story, and learn he is not quite the servile wretch he pretends to be. And the peons at ISIS start their own tontine, or as Sterling puts it “Idiots doing idiot things because they’re idiots.” Just business as usual.
- “Did someone finally out the queen? Right? This baby knows what I’m talking about.”
- “You are going to eat SO many spiderwebs.”
- “I can do baby, or I can do geezer murder mystery, but I can’t do both.”
- “The secret is negative reinforcement.” “Yeah, I’m, uh, just getting that.”
- What was Carol/Cheryl drinking? Glue?
- “Reggie survived the crash somehow.” (“I’ve survived the crash somehow.”)
- “That’s a lot of scalps!”
- “Please! I just killed a man and I think my water just broke, so I could really really use a drink!”
- Reginald is a little too gay. As opposed to Malory.
- “You want me to take a baby to a murder?”
- “I have no more love to give today.” “Yeah, what is it, like, 2:30”?
- “It’s like Steve McQueen and John Woo had a baby, and that baby was you. Baby.”
‘Indianapolis’ puts an end to one relationship while advancing another
It makes complete (if slightly wacky) sense that Chris’ break-up speech would be so infused by his unstoppable positivity that Ann would fail to interpret it as such, and also that this would be the first time “sweet and beautiful” Ann would have been dumped. And it was also believable that Leslie would blow off accepting her commendation at the state capitol in order to drive her friend home and comfort her with her own break-up horror stories (“Skywriting isn’t always positive.”) The Leslie Knope of the first few episodes of season one wouldn’t necessarily have done that good deed, but the Leslie Knope that we all know and love now definitely would.
Meanwhile, back in Pawnee, Tom (“Am I wearing an ascot? I didn’t notice.”) Haverford is throwing a party at the Snake Hole for exotically named Dennis Feinstein, who is launching his new fragrance Allergic (not Antihistamine, mind you). Although Ben is resisting getting close to the P&R staff, since he is only temporarily visiting, he eventually succumbs to Tom’s insistence that he attend. By bucking up Tom when he fails to pitch his own fragrance (“Tommy Fresh”) to Feinstein, and realizing the gang really does regard him as a friend, he moves ever closer to becoming an adorable romantic foil for Leslie.
Speaking of adorable, how cute was watching Andy (“We could watch TV at Best Buy”) Dwyer and April (“I don’t like labels. Go away!”) Ludgate run around the Snake Hole scoring free stuff? The writers always veer away with the easy Three’s Company-type misunderstanding route, such as having Andy tie himself in knots to try to fool April into thinking he has the cash to take her out. Instead, he is immediately up front with her, she responds that she doesn’t care, and they start having a ridiculous amount of fun. Best of all, they give all the money back to the wait staff. But keep the toilet paper. Naturally.
- Rob Lowe is still a regular on the series, so we can only hope he will be back in some way, if only to keep tormenting Ron with Portobello mushrooms in place of his beloved steak.
- Speaking of Ron Swanson, I can’t decide on the funniest moment of the running gag about Ron and his Mulligan’s Steakhouse obsession. Stating he eats bits of meat off of his mustache for a month following his meal? Possibly eating all of the bacon and eggs in Indianapolis?
- “In high school, they used to call me Angela Lansbury. But that was because of my haircut.”
- Feinstein’s prior fragrance creations: Attack, Yearning, Thickening, Itch, Coma, Sideboob.
- “I got these from a waiter; I told him I had a pork deficiency.”
- Leslie’s ideas for Ron’s dilemma: A 24-hour diner, or kidnapping a cow and making their own steaks.
- “My dad owns this place. I’m Janet. Janet Snakehole.”
- What might Chinese food in a birdcage smell like? Or a teriyaki hairpiece? (Those are totally rhetorical questions).
- “It’s called a Tommy-tini; it’s just vodka and a bunch of cinnamon.”
Jeff and Annie butt heads and make up in ‘Intro to Political Science’
Community college student governments (and politics in general) are pretty easy targets for satire. Although it didn’t have much to say that was new, “Community” came up with a good showcase for the disparate personalities of Jeff and Annie, and an original and very funny subplot for Abed.
Annie embraces an earnest and idealistic attitude towards her candidacy, while Jeff joins the race for student body president to prove that politics is all about “ego, popularity and parlor tricks.” The episode doesn’t make a big deal out of the fact that he turns out to be right, as Annie only defeats him after exposing his 1997 George Michael-tastic audition tape for “The Real World”. Instead, it allows these two friends to admit they were both pursuing power (such as it is) because of their own issues of competitiveness and control, both with themselves and each other. Their hesitant romantic coupling seems to be evolving into a big brother/little sister relationship, which is more appropriate for a “young idealistic kid” and whatever Jeff is acting like these days.
Equally sweet and even more amusing, Abed starts a tentative and decidedly weird “romance” with Robin, one of the Secret Service agents assigned to scout out Greendale prior to Vice President Biden’s visit. They bond immediately, as fellow “observers” and outsiders unable to connect with many other individuals (as well both of them being confused by the concept of the children’s game Duck Duck Goose). Abed’s undefined Asperger’s-like issues make it very hard to put him in a realistic romantic pairing, but this one was somehow believable while being satisfyingly odd and silly.
There was plenty of room for the other members of the group, as well as tertiary characters and random extras to have the spotlight, from Britta’s annoyingly anarchistic speeches (“I believe that humankind need not be governed!” being met with radio silence by the crowd) to Troy “Buttsoup” Barnes offering pointless news commentary on Greendale Campus Television (Garrett: “That guy’s just a mess. It’s like God spilled a person.” Vicki: “Yellow shirt. Hat. Girl.”) Best of all, Dean Pelton wore a ladies Uncle Sam suit with slivery short shorts and a headband hat for almost all of the running time. You really can’t go wrong with that.
- Thankfully there was very little Pierce in this episode, who is inexplicably accepted back into the study group (“I assume”). Still his “candidacy” was good for a few chuckles. (“My platform will be one high enough to push Vicki off to her death.”)
- “I’m more of a silverback gorilla with the claws of a lion, the teeth of a shark and the quiet dignity of a tortoise.”
- Annie is “easily vexed”. Sounds about right.
- “It’s a real guy. He owns a mattress store downtown. You can look it up.”
- Best moment of Jeff’s insincere speeches? His Spanish-flavored pronunciation of Maria, Latina, Nicaragua, and cafeteria.
- “We don’t even know how to do “margins of error”; we talked to two people at a vending machine.”