Saturday, February 4, 2017

REVIEW: 'Jane the Virgin,' 'Timeless,' 'Superstore' and 'Mom' (January 30-February 2)

Some brief reviews for various shows from January 30-February 3:

The CW's Jane the Virgin - Episode 3.09 "Chapter Fifty-Three"
NBC's Timeless - Episode 1.13 "Karma Chameleon"
NBC's Superstore - Episode 2.12 "Ladies' Lunch"
CBS' Mom - Episode 4.12 "Wind Chimes and a Bottomless Pit of Sadness"

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 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.

Jane the Virgin - "Chapter Fifty-Three"
Jane and Michael are both feeling the pressure - Jane with turning in the perfect novel and Michael with passing his upcoming test. Jane and Rafael become concerned over Mateo's development when they learn that other children his age are more advanced. Rogelio invites everyone to the last day of filming for his telenovela, but he is not pleased with the ending. After watching Xo and Rogelio's interaction, Darci begins to question her and Rogelio's potential relationship. Rafael is upset when he learns what Petra is up to, but she explains that she is protecting him once again. Written by Chantelle M. Wells and directed by Gina Lamar

This episode of Jane the Virgin got to some real issues and concerns about stress management. Everything largely makes sense for the characters. Just some moments and plot beats felt like trying to stretch things out for an hourlong episode. When it comes to Jane's novel, the big moment should be Alba reading it and giving it her approval. That happens halfway through the story and it's a great scene. But then, why exactly does Jane stress out about changing everything about it? She got validation from her grandmother that she's an excellent writer. Plus, she has many more things to worry about. That just felt like hijinks for the sake of hijinks - though I'm not too worried about her novel. Plus, it's a little suspicious that Jane and Michael don't have a better system for when they are fighting and stressed. Again, the motivation makes sense. Michael feels the pressure with his legal ambitions while Jane has Mateo and her novel to worry about. It's largely just a feel-good moment in the end when they come together again while camping and celebrate Mateo adding to his vocabulary. Elsewhere, it's great that Petra and Catalina meet up and become friendly. That's a character pairing with lots of potential. But they also suffer from similar problems of the plot going back-and-forth of whether their actions are good or bad. It's already outed that Petra was spying on Rafael. Her breakdown in the end seems genuine. It's just a sudden move from the last big shift with her. And then, there's Rogelio and Darci's relationship which is becoming more real. Justina Machado just fits into this world so well. She's great and this character pairing is great too especially because they have similar personalities. B+

Timeless - "Karma Chameleon"
Wyatt convinces Rufus to steal the Lifeboat for an unauthorized mission to prevent his wife's killer from ever being born. Lucy must cover for them in the present. As Agent Christopher discovers the ship is missing, Anthony Bruhl makes an alarming confession. Written by Anne Cofell Saunders and directed by Greg Beeman

From the very beginning, both Wyatt and Lucy have had personal reasons to use the time machine. She was fighting to get her sister back after she was erased from existence while he wanted to stop his wife from being killed. Most of the time the show functions as a historical adventure with the main team rollicking through a key piece of history. The show has had a lot of fun with that format. This episode breaks that formula which is very good for character growth. The trip to the 1980s is the most recent trip in time so far. Of course, it had very serious stakes to it. It was literally life-or-death over stopping two people from having sex. It's devastating that it leads to murder and Jessica not ultimately being restored to the timeline. So, Wyatt risked it all for nothing and is taken into custody. It's a powerful ending but will make it difficult for the show to explain him rejoining the team in the future. Elsewhere, it's not surprising that Flynn gets rid of Anthony after getting a new pilot in Emma. She has more information about Rittenhouse and is a much stronger ally for Flynn than Anthony. He's willing to betray them and reach out to Lucy just to end all of this. Of course, it doesn't go his way. He's killed too which largely just feels like the show ramping up tension late in the season in an easy way. It makes sense. It's just a little formulaic. B-

Superstore - "Ladies' Lunch"
During the morning meeting, Glenn accidentally tells the employees the real reason Amy has been late to work lately. Dina tries to cheer Amy up by kidnapping her for a "ladies' lunch." Jonah and Garrett invent a game to pass the time, tricking Glenn and Mateo in the process. Cheyenne helps Amy take a fearless step with a dramatic new look. Written by Vanessa Ramos and directed by Todd Biermann

A lot of Superstore's DNA comes from The Office. Series creator Justin Spitzer wrote on the NBC comedy for years. Plus, Superstore is set in a similar environment with similar dynamics between the characters. Of course, things are different. Superstore relies way less on cringe humor. But the DNA is still present. "Ladies' Lunch" feels that way especially. It's all about the will-they/won't-they of Jonah and Amy. That's a dynamic that doesn't always work for me. The two of them work wonderfully well together. But whenever it becomes more about a romantic connection, it just feels too forced and contrived. And yet, that's just one part of this episode. It defines most of Jonah's personal story arc. So that means the guy's game at the store is the less successful one of the two stories. But there's also a lot of fun to be had about everyone at the store getting caught up in this game. Plus, the escalation to Glenn collapsing into a glass display case is one memorable visual. But that pales in comparison to what the female characters are up to. Their ladies' lunch is just a fantastic story with so many great throwaway bits. The pan in shot on Sandra as she describes an intimate evening with Jeff (even though it didn't happen) is wonderful. Sandra bonding with a new guy over The Vampire Diaries is sweet. Amy reluctantly going along with all of this to help Dina makes sense. Plus, it's fun when everyone gets too drunk to fully understand what's going on. Dina and Garret's hookup finally comes out. And yet, no one believes it. When the gang returns to the store, Dina and Glenn pretend everything is normal despite what has happened to them today. And Amy making such a drastic change in her life in the end could go horribly awry. But it's also a key turning point for her as she sees if she really wants a change in her life. B+

Mom - "Wind Chimes and a Bottomless Pit of Sadness"
Christy, Bonnie, Jill and Wendy get high after accidentally eating cookies filled with pot. Directed by James Widdoes with story by Gemma Baker & Sheldon Bull and teleplay by Adam Chase, Alissa Neubauer & Britté Anchor

Across four seasons now, the audience has become invested in the characters' sobriety. So, it's just a little weird watching Christy, Bonnie, Jill and Wendy unknowingly get high off of pot cookies for the first half of the episode. The audience is let in on the joke right away. Christy and Bonnie can taste that there is something special in them. But it being marijuana just doesn't cross their minds at all. So, it's odd to be laughing at the moments where the show is trying to make the audience laugh. And yet, it handles the subject matter very well. It has a lot of fun with the characters being high - even though this isn't as serious as past relapses have been. It still gets to a serious and necessary moment in the end. But it's also just a ton of fun watching Bonnie and Christy grow close over their beautiful skin and soothing voices. It's great that Christy can't skip and Bonnie needs to teach her. Of course, it's surprising that no one in the meeting thinks the two of them might be high considering how different they are acting. But again, that may just come from the audience being let in on the secret. Plus, things are still funny when everyone is spiraling after they learn the truth. It's great seeing Christy, Jill and Wendy take it out on Bonnie and Adam. But Marjorie is the one who ultimately gets all of them to settle down. This was just an accident. They'll attend meetings and work through it. But it doesn't mean they have to start all over with their sobriety. That's good because it seems like the show is getting ready for a major change in Bonnie and Adam's relationship as well. She's not mad at him for having the pot cookies in the first place. Instead, the two have marriage on their minds after Bonnie mentions it while high. That could be an interesting complication to the dynamics of the show worth pursuing in the future. A-