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ABC’s Missing: soapy anger and violence

12 Apr

I decided to reserve judgment on ABC’s Missing.  Not because I didn’t like the pilot, I did.  It was slick, compelling and full of clichés, yes, but still, I didn’t get distracted or want to turn it off.  No I was drawn into the screwed up world of Becca Winstone  (Ashley Judd).  Who was this woman?  Why did someone blow up her husband, Paul Winstone (Sean Bean) in Vienna?  Why did her son, Michael (Nick Eversman) get kidnapped in Rome?  Most importantly, when she encounters her first bad guy, how the hell did she learn how to fight like that?  And she only had a clothes hanger for her initial weapon.  We also discover that housewife Becca Winstone isn’t actually a housewife, she’s a retired CIA operative and apparently had a hot affair with Interpol stud, Giancarlo Rossi (Adriano Giannini) and it seems that CIA Paris guy, Dax Miller (Cliff Curtis) has a soft spot for her as well.  They help her throughout the series, when they are not getting in her way.  Strangely, she does get passed between them for the sake of the plot, creating a love triangle without any sex (so far), but it still manages to work.

Gregory Poirier (Creator and Executive Producer) explains how the show got made, “This episode was never conceived as a stand-alone pilot. We already knew we had 10 episodes ordered when we wrote it, which gave us a lot more freedom. “ Poirier and his team were able to get the financing for the 10 episode order by explaining to ABC that it was cost-prohibitive to go shoot the pilot in Prague, then wait and go back and start over again if the show got picked up.  Instead he mapped out the entire 10 episodes for ABC and they green-lighted the project.

This approach allows the show a more organic feel.  The pilot was written knowing how it would be integrated into the next episode, which is usually not the case.  Sure, when pilots are pitched there is a series bible and a proposal about how the season should play out, what the character arc will be and the big plot points but things can change drastically between the shooting of a pilot, its subsequent pickup and the shooting of the rest of a television season.

The first three episodes of the show, the pilot, “Hard Drive” and “Ice Queen” flow seamlessly into each other.  We follow Becca as she bargains with heads of international government organizations, battles bad guys in gun battles and hand to hand combat.  She gets shot, falls into the Seine and still comes out alive.  And she seems to be able to drive anything with a motor.  Expertly.  Between Revenge and Missing, I’m beginning to like ABC’s drama again.  Yes, it is slick soapy drama but it is also network television.  And there is just something cathartic for me watching Ashley Judd kick someone’s ass every week.  She might be a pacifist but I’m not.

Missing airs on ABC, Thursdays at 8/7central

For streaming episodes, click here.

Revenge: “Commitment” episode review

7 Feb

Our commitment to our choices tells us and others who we are.  Ok.  I will buy that.   I always love the ‘profound’ opening thoughts of Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp), philosopher and destroyer of lives.  The big question for Emily is (and this is a spoiler alert):  now that Emily knows Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) is her half-sister, will she alter her plans?  Most likely, no.  But at some point Emily’s humanity will cause her some problems.  I would be willing to bet it will be with Jack (Nick Wechsler).  For now, Emily will try and frame faux Amanda (Margarita Levieva) for burning down Treadwell’s house in the previous episode, while simultaneously using Charlotte as not only a pawn in the divorce between the Graysons but also making sure she can confirm that Charlotte is indeed her half sister.  It’s at times like these the old saying, “you can choose your friends but not your family” comes to mind.  I actually almost feel bad for Charlotte.  She’s going to be screwed.

Sadly for Charlotte, just when things are looking up, they fall apart.  Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny) surprisingly offers to pay for young Declan’s (Connor Paolo) tuition to Charlotte’s school.  This offer is far too good to be true.  What kind of dad would do that?  Apparently not a real dad.  As soon as Conrad learns that Charlotte isn’t his, he not only rescinds the offer of Declan’s tuition, he rejects her and sends her to live with her mother.  Not a very nice move.  In fact, such a crappy move that it makes Conrad even more unlikable than he was before.  Which I didn’t think was possible.  This raises the stakes later in the drama as Grayson is surely being set up at some point to be killed off.  At least that is my guess.  You don’t make a character a terrorist, a ruthless capitalist pig and a bad father without him ending up paying some sort of price as the stakes raise.

Daniel (Joshua Bowman) proposes to Emily, who says yes.  Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) suspects that Amanda burned down Treadwell’s house.  She sends someone to find evidence in Jack’s place that will expose Amanda as the arsonist and thief  who stole the tapes revealing that Charlotte was hers and David Clarke’s (James Tupper).  Jack, however, manages to walk in while the perpetrator retrieves the tapes and ends up getting badly beaten.  Obviously it is dangerous to be a friend or acquaintance of Emily Thorne’s.

In the end though, it seems that it is even more dangerous to be the child of Victoria Grayson.  Especially since she would lie to her own son and claim David Clarke raped her rather than just admit she cheated on his father.    But we all know her lies will catch up soon enough.  And I’m not sure how I feel about this.  My overarching question is:  will Victoria be punished for being a bad mother or a bad person?   It isn’t her being a bad mother that caused so much pain, it is about her being a selfish person.  And while one can be a bad mother and a selfish person, I don’t always believe that one continually informs the other.  Or maybe it does.  I do know that while Conrad Grayson is a bad father we are supposed to consider him an evil person above everything else.  Perhaps it is because with men, they don’t always have a choice about becoming a father, but in at least free, democratic societies with equal rights and proper government funding, women do have the choice whether or not they want to be a mother.

As this episode ends, Daniel stupidly seals his own fate by telling Emily that he’d send her own father to hell for raping his mother if her father weren’t dead already.  So Emily decides to move forward with her plan and marry for revenge.  Is that any worse than marrying for money?  We are about to find out.

Revenge: “Infamy” episode review

24 Jan

Sometimes in a series there are episodes that just don’t grab me.  This one falls into that category.  I had to restart it 7 times.    There is too much and not enough happening at the same time.  Instead of wasting my time, writing about an episode that took me about 3 hours to watch with me continually zoning out, I’m going to give a very short recap.

Conrad (Henry Czerny) gives Daniel (Joshua Bowman) partial access to his trust.  He can have the cash but he can’t have voting shares in the company until he is 30 or married.  Gee, I wonder where that story line is going…

Mason Treadwell (Roger Bart), an author made famous by writing about David Clarke (David Tupper), comes back for a visit.  We get to watch flashbacks in which poor Emily, then still Amanda Clarke, decides to trust Mason Treadwell and sadly believes the lies he ends up writing about her father, having no idea at the time the Conrad and Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) bribed him.  I do like how Emily (Emily VanCamp) decides to get this wanker back though… first she sends faux Amanda (Margarita Levieva) to talk with Treadwell and sets up a contentious meeting between the two, then (SPOILER ALERT),Emily burns down Treadwell’s house while Nolan (Gabriel Mann) pretends to be interested in hiring him to do his biography.  At the same time, Victoria wants Treadwell to find out from faux Amanda why she has returned to the Hamptons.

Amanda is ramping up in every sense of the word.  Kissing girls in the bar, pretending like she’s staring in Coyote Ugly, and getting more jealous by the minute about Jack’s (Nick Wechsler) closeness with Emily.

One thing Emily rescues are the taped interviews with her father and she finds out some news I know I suspected from the start – that Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) is his daughter.  We all know Emily won’t be welcoming her with open arms.  Poor Charlotte is probably really screwed now…

Once Upon A Time: “Desperate Souls” episode review

13 Jan

This is the episode where we learn exactly how Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) turned… evil.  Not that he didn’t have his issues before he was imbued with magic.  And in Storybrooke, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Mr. Gold join in an unlikely alliance for her to become sheriff.  He also gives Emma Sheriff Graham’s old walkie talkies so she and Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) can play together.   A rare moment of kindness on Mr. Gold’s part.

It’s almost disarming to witness Rumplestiltskin as a kind, loving, and protective parent.  His son (I actually thought it was a girl at first oops!), is about to turn 14 and be drafted into the ogre wars (seriously?  ogre wars?).  He’ll do anything to make sure his son doesn’t have to fight including running away.  And this isn’t the first time, apparently, as a young man, he deserted his army and caused many lives to be lost in the ogre wars.  Who knew ogres could move so fast and fight so efficiently?  So now a chief knight has it in for Rumplestiltskin once he and his son are caught but the son shows he has integrity.  He’s willing to be drafted and fight.  And while he gets high on his own testosterone, Rumplestiltskin gets some advice from a beggar (Brad Dourrif) on the side of the forest road:  he should get the dagger that holds the Dark One’s name and then he will have power over the Dark One (at this point we have only seen the Dark One be commanded by the knight and he can do some magic but we don’t know the full extent of his power).  Rumplestiltskin takes his advice and with the help of his son, sets fire to the castle, breaks in and retrieves the dagger.  It turns out the old beggar is really the Dark One and Rumplestiltskin ends up killing him with the dagger and inherits all the magic powers.  Now at least we have some idea about him.

In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold deliberately starts a fire at City Hall and Emma saves Regina (Lana Parrilla).  She becomes a hero but discovers Mr. Gold was the culprit and outs him at the debate for the upcoming Sheriff election.  She stands up to Mr. Gold and Regina then walks away from her political debate resulting in her getting elected as Sheriff.  Later, Mr. Gold reveals that he orchestrated everything because he knew she’d stand up to him and gain the people’s trust.  Either way, now Emma has moved into a better position against Regina.  I’m hoping for a lethal, nasty fight.  Because that’s just the way I am…

Revenge: “Duress” episode review

12 Jan

Before Christmas, Emily Thorne’s plan for revenge was starting to unravel.  Her short hiatus from the ABC broadcast schedule did not allow her time to regroup.  No.  She hasn’t regained control and it doesn’t help when you throw a psychotic misanthrope into the mix.  One of the best descriptions of Tyler (Ashton Holmes) in this episode:  Cold Turkey meets Hot Mess.  I might actually miss him once he implodes completely.

SPOILER ALERT:

Conrad (Henry Czerny) and Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) start divorce negotiations.  Both want Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) and Grayson Manor.  It seems like it might be a long, bitter battle.

Emily (Emily VanCamp) suggests they celebrate Daniel’s (Joshua Bowman) birthday by throwing a clambake.  [Aside: There are tabloid rumors these two were hot and heavy in Paris over New Year’s in real life.]  Victoria knows that’s Emily’s idea even though Daniel pretends it’s his.  And who is catering the affair?  None other than Jack (Nick Wechsler).  Because that won’t be uncomfortable.

Emily apologizes to Nolan (Gabriel Mann) and they rejoin forces.  With his help, she searches Tyler’s belongings and discovers Tyler’s psychotic and off his meds, as well as recovering Nolan’s stolen secret camera.  Later, Emily announces Tyler’s little secret to Daniel and Ashley (Ashley Madekwe).  She can’t really defend a psychotic hustler any more.  Daniel’s disturbed enough to want to take a gun to his clambake.

Tyler lets everyone believe he’s left the area but instead he attacks Nolan, ties him up and goes to the clambake to take his own revenge.  Daniel lets his guard down and puts the gun away.  Stupid move, Daniel.  Tyler appears at the clambake, threatening to divulge all the information he knows.  Conrad doesn’t look pleased.  He’s even more tense since faux Amanda Clarke (Margarita Levieva) is also a guest at the clambake and could learn the truth about her father.  But we all know that information is already common knowledge between Emily and faux Amanda.  Just as Tyler is about to shoot Emily, Nolan and Tyler’s brother appear.  Tyler’s subdued and perhaps now some of Emily’s plans can get back on track…

Once Upon a Time: “The heart is a lonely hunter” episode review

11 Jan

I have had a few female friends who are as deranged as the Evil Queen so this particular episode was particularly intriguing. This is especially true since women, in particular, can sometimes be petty and unforgiving at times. And those women usually don’t stop until they’ve destroyed anyone they think is a threat to them. I guess some people don’t realize it is healthier to let things go and get on with their lives. At least in television drama, I suppose it is better that the deranged people hold onto their grudges. It makes for good drama.

SPOILER ALERT:

Graham (Jamie Dornan) is determined to prove to Emma (Jennifer Morrison) that he is not in love with Regina (Lana Parrilla), nor does he want to be aligned with her any longer. He gets drunk, grabs Emma, kisses her and suddenly flashes back to his life as The Huntsman. He remembers his companion, a wolf, which he starts seeing in Storybrooke.

Graham/The Huntsman was hired by the Evil Queen to assassinate Snow White because apparently she told a secret of the Queen’s which ‘hurt her.’ Since the Evil Queen still possessed all her limbs, I can’t believe she was hurt as badly as she perceived but… who knows, maybe we will all hate Snow White by the time Once Upon a Time is finished with us. The Huntsman discovers he can’t kill Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) because her heart is pure so he lets her go and kills a stag in her place, presenting the Queen with the substitute heart. She isn’t fooled. She gets her revenge by tearing out The Huntsman’s heart and placing it in a box then keeping him her slave for eternity. If he defies or disobeys her then she’ll crush his heart and that will be it for the Huntsman.

Back in Storybrooke, Graham remembers his past as the Huntsman with the help of Henry’s storybook, his old friend the Wolf and Emma. He tries to locate his heart but fails. Regina finds him and Emma searching her father’s mausoleum. Graham dumps Regina, Emma and Regina get into a girl fight and Regina ends up alone at her father’s grave. But she has the last laugh because as Graham is whispering sweet nothings to Emma, or at least telling her how grateful he is to know his past, Regina is crushing his heart until it’s dust and he dies in Emma’s arms. No happily ever after in Storybrooke as yet. Evil Queen 2, Emma 0.

Revenge: “Loyalty” episode review

21 Dec

Loyalty and betrayal.  You can’t have one without the other.  Well, maybe some lucky person can have only loyalty but usually betrayal rears its ugly head at some point in a relationship.  Unfortunately, that is human nature.  And in this episode of Revenge, we get to watch as Emily (Emily VanCamp) loses the loyalty of two allies while simultaneously betraying her own loyalty to one of them.  And yes, obviously we get to see other examples of loyalty and betrayal:  poor Jack (Nick Wechsler) — he, like Sammy the Dog, is probably the most loyal character on the show, believing that he is finally with his true love, Amanda, when it is really Faux Amanda (Margarita Levieva).  So poor Jack is not only betrayed by Faux Amanda by playing a con game of love on him, he is betrayed by Emily, the real Amanda, who secretly loves him, yet can’t bring herself to reveal the truth to him, allowing him to be a pawn in her game, rather than a real player.

Tyler (Ashton Holmes) is betrayed a few times, first by Nolan (Gabriel Mann), although Nolan does try and protect him since he definitely has a…. um…. soft spot for him, but then by Emily when she reveals to Daniel  that Tyler is blackmailing Nolan with a sex tape, and finally, by his friend Daniel (Joshua Bowman) when Daniel reveals to his father the whole sexual blackmail angle.  But really, not only does he deserve it, he thrives on bad turns of events.  We get to see why… he’s psychotic and he’s just run out of his anti-psychotics so things should get very interesting.  Who would have thought that Mr. Ripley’s TV double would be Emily’s biggest problem yet?  But as Tyler gets threatened, he fights back and chooses his weapons carefully.  It should be noted all his ammunition is in the form or information, the same information that Emily received from Nolan.   I guess we will see in the coming episodes who uses the information for a better advantage.

Finally, Daniel, being the mama’s boy that he is, runs home to protect his Mommy, Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) from Tyler.  Because she is such a defenseless woman.  He’s actually done Emily a favor by choosing his mother first.  Her mentor, Satoshi (Hiroyuki Sanada), is correct about him.  He is so disgusted with her lack of focus that he leaves, telling her he can no longer help her.  Yes, Emily, now is probably a smart time to start thinking about your recent choices… If things weren’t bad enough for Emily, first deserted by her boyfriend, then deserted by her mentor, she gets royally dumped by her one ally, Nolan, for betraying his confidence about the sex tape to Daniel.  Because she used a secret of Nolan’s and lied about it to Daniel (how could Tyler be blackmailing him really?  the recording was on Nolan’s portable Dolphin drive, not anything of Tyler’s), so Daniel could take that information and hurt Tyler.  Yes, part of that move was also to punish Nolan for not being completely loyal to Emily, and to get rid of Tyler in her own way, but it was also to help Daniel.  And she just did something anyone in warfare shouldn’t do:  take her eyes off the ball.

In the coming episodes, it seems Emily will have to refocus her efforts.  And get to see her next mark will be Victoria’s new divorce attorney, the man dropped her father’s appeal case.  I am wondering whose help she will employ because right now, she doesn’t even have Sammy, her dog.

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