Saturday, February 18, 2017

REVIEW: 'Timeless,' 'This Is Us,' 'The Fosters,' 'Switched at Birth' and 'The 100' (February 13-16)

Some brief reviews for various dramas from February 13-16:

NBC's Timeless - Episode 1.15 "Public Enemy No. 1"
NBC's This Is Us - Episode 1.15 "Jack Pearson's Son"
Freeform's The Fosters - Episode 4.13 "Cruel and Unusual"
Freeform's Switched at Birth - Episode 5.03 "Surprise"
The CW's The 100 - Episode 4.03 "The Four Horseman"

Due to the demands of Peak TV, it is becoming more and more difficult for this website to devote the time to full length episodic reviews. And yet, there are still thoughts to be had about the ongoing adventures on a number of series. So I thought it would be good to still write down a couple of brief thoughts about each episode on a weekly basis. Of course, you can still probably expect full reviews for premieres and finales. If the networks should make screeners available, those episodes would get detailed analysis as well. But for now, this will be the way to continue to provide content for these shows while also being a lighter workload for me.

Timeless - "Public Enemy No. 1"
Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus decide to take matters into their own hands, but are caught off guard when Flynn lands in 1931 Chicago to call in a favor from notorious gangster Al Capone. Hot on Flynn's trail, our heroes try to enlist the help of famed lawman, Elliot Ness, in pursuit of Al Capone after Flynn aids him in avoiding justice. A clue leads the team to a crucial revelation about Rittenhouse. Written by Matt Whitney & Anslem Richardson and directed by Guy Ferland

This episode suffers from being almost pure setup for the season finale. The trip back to the 1920s is largely just so Flynn can get the crucial information he needs for his biggest mission yet. Meanwhile, the actual story details that Wyatt, Rufus and Lucy get caught up in follow basically the same formula as previous installments. They land in the time period after Flynn, who has already messed things up somehow. Then, they meet an influential person of the time only for their interactions to mess up the timeline further. In this case, that person is Elliot Ness who is killed long before he is suppose to. Yes, the reveal that Al Capone had a brother who was a federal agent is great. It's twists like that that show just how in depth the show is about these historical events. But it ultimately follows a predictable pattern. Sure, it's intense heading into the finale because Rufus got shot by Al Capone. That shows that Flynn has learned something after all these encounters this season. He knows taking out the pilot of the lifeboat would leave the time travel team stranded. That's exactly the kind of distraction he needs to get the jump on them once again. But that on top of everything else going on at Mason Industries with the team stealing the lifeboat, Jiya crashing the system and Connor Mason's nefarious plans for the future makes it seem like the show may be juggling too much plot. How in the world is it going to address all of this and have it mean something in the finale? B

This Is Us - "Jack Pearson's Son"
As Kevin stresses about the premiere of his play, he receives support from an unexpected source. Randall struggles under the pressure of both his work and ailing father. Rebecca and Jack's Valentine's Day doesn't go as planned. Toby and Kate decide to dig deep and get to know each other's biggest secrets. Written by Isaac Aptaker & Elizabeth Berger and directed by Ken Olin

Throughout this first season, This Is Us has chosen to dig deep on a number of stories while leaving others as one-note and broad as possible. This episode tries to go deeper with the characters that are still struggling. Kate's story works better than it has for the last few episodes. It's once again about her relationship with Toby and not her weight. It's great that the show just ditches the fat camp story because that was truly horrible. Plus, Kate and Toby needed to discuss things because their relationship hasn't really been stable this season. Of course, there is an emotional disconnect to their story as well because there was no way the show was going to reveal how Jack died at this moment in time. The audience is still just getting pieces of that story. That includes Jack having a big fight with Rebecca on Valentine's Day as he voices his disapproval of the tour and her lying to him about her past with Ben. It's a divide that could turn into tragedy if this is how they left things before Jack died. He takes a drink again which could be the start of his downward spiral. But that's still a concern for the future. Meanwhile, Kevin's story just continued amplifying his insecurities. Yes, it did a good job in showing Miguel as a good guy in the present day. But it also highlighted Kevin making a selfish decision to go be with his brother instead of performing his play on opening night. The audience is suppose to go along with that moment because it's Kevin finally being there for Randall like his father always wanted. But it's still Kevin making an impulsive decision that will have a number of consequences for him later on. B

The Fosters - "Cruel and Unusual"
Callie tries to keep to herself and focus on getting out of juvie, but when she refuses a guard's propositions, she ends up making an enemy. As Stef and Lena work to get Callie out of juvie, her biological father Robert turns up, angry for being kept in the dark. Brandon's questioning of a situation has consequences for Mariana. Jude gets a second chance with Noah. Mike makes several life-changing decisions. Written by Anne Meredith and directed by Norman Buckley

"Cruel and Unusual" is all about getting the Adams-Foster family all under the same roof again. It's something meant to be celebrated too. With Callie, her return should feel good because she's in a loving and safe environment once more. Of course, her legal problems are only getting worse. She may be home but she's now being tried as an adult. It's mostly just a relief that she's out of juvie because that story with the guard was just way too broad and over-the-top. Meanwhile, Jesus' return home seems like a major mistake. Again, the show wants the audience to feel great that the family is reunited and their love can conquer any problem. But with Jesus, it seems like the family is way out of their depth. They won't know how to be good influences on his rehab. They'll push him to be back to normal as quickly as possible. That won't be good at all. It would make sense if he returned home because the family couldn't afford the rehab facility. The show has taken a serious look at the family's finances before. But here, it's mostly just waved away with Jesus coming home because he'll be loved there and Lena able to take a leave of absence from her job. It's a move suppose to make the audience feel good. However, it mostly just feels too contrived to make things as dramatic and personal moving forward. And if that wasn't enough, there's now the suspicion that Emma might be pregnant. That's another twist on a narrative that already has too many of them right now. B-

Switched at Birth - "Surprise"
Returning from London for a visit, Toby and Lily reveal their plans to get married in the Kennish backyard. But a fight before the wedding may tear them apart before they can say "I do." Regina must decide whether to reveal her relationship with Luca to the family. When she least expects it, Bay runs into Tank again. Written by Terrence Coli & Colin Waite and directed by Stephen Tolkin

"Surprise" is all about relationship drama amongst the core family. It largely leaves the race relations on campus story on the sidelines. That's odd considering how important it is. But it also makes sense considering Toby and Lily appear for the first time this season and need more screen time for their story. The show perhaps does a little bit too much with them - with the struggles of raising a special needs child, Toby's gambling problems returning, the return to the Kennish house and a wedding. It's a lot. But it's still so rewarding to see them own up to their mistakes and talk things out in the end. That shows that they've grown a lot as a couple despite all of this. Meanwhile, it's interesting to see Tank return to the narrative. That was a very complicated and messy story for Bay. And now, Mary Beth is dating him. This hour addresses the divide in their friendship and amplifies it even more. But it too gets to a really honest and open place with the two talking things out but not knowing how to move forward. And finally, Daphne having trauma because of Bay almost dying in China feels a little sudden. Luca does a nice job explaining why she's having nightmares again. He really does appear to be this perfect guy. When are some of his flaws going to come out? But more importantly, this story is about Daphne and Bay telling their parents what happened and coping with it themselves and not just believing everything is okay again when it's not. B

The 100 - "The Four Horsemen"
Jaha leads Clarke and Bellamy down a road to possible salvation while tensions rise in Arkadia and Polis. Written by Heidi Cole McAdams and directed by P.J. Pesce

The most frustrating aspect of this episode has to come from the intended purpose of the Abby-Raven story. It seems like the show wants the audience to sympathize with Abby and Murphy for stealing the radiation medicine to try and save Luna's people. Abby gets a big moment yelling at Raven for condemning these people to death. And yet, Raven is absolutely in the right. She seems to be the only one who truly understands what this world is about to become. The show has always been about life-and-death choices. Raven understands that tough decisions will need to be made. So much has to be done and they can't save everyone. They have more than enough to do just to get the Ark ready. She's in the right but it doesn't feel like the show wants us to think that. That is so strange and off-putting. Yes, it's a big deal in the end when it's revealed Luna's nightblood is saving her from radiation poisoning. That's an exciting tease for the future. The same can also be said of the reveal that Indra has a daughter who has stolen the flame. That's a nice escalation of tension in Polis. But it also feels very introductory in this hour. And then, there's just the hourlong waste of time that Clarke, Bellamy and Jaha are on. This search for another bunker to save more people better have some larger purpose in the grand scheme of things. Right now, it just feels like the wake up call Clarke needs to take things as seriously as Raven does. But again, did the show really need to devote a whole story to that? Especially considering it's done similar stories and thematic material for the past three seasons? B-