Saturday, March 11, 2017

DRAMA ROUNDUP: '24: Legacy,' 'This Is Us,' 'Switched at Birth,' 'Chicago Med' and 'Riverdale' (March 6-10)

Some brief reviews for various dramas from March 6-10:

FOX's 24: Legacy - Episode 1.06 "5:00 PM - 6:00 PM"
NBC's This Is Us - Episode 1.17 "What Now?"
Freeform's Switched at Birth - Episode 5.06 "Four Ages in Life"
NBC's Chicago Med - Episode 2.16 "Prisoner's Dilemma"
The CW's Riverdale - Episode 1.07 "Chapter Seven: In a Lonely Place"

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.

24: Legacy - "5:00 PM - 6:00PM"
Using a lead, Carter and CTU narrow in on an enemy's location. Amira come to a crossroads as her plan nears completion. Written by David Fury and directed by Jon Cassar

The Amira story has never been great. It always felt like a familiar 24 plot that was important in the premiere of a new season but would quickly be wrapped up in just a few episodes. Enough to complicate the day but not enough to truly define it. So, it's surprising that she has lasted to the halfway point of the season (this year has 12 episodes). Plus, it builds to the devastating conclusion of her being successful in her mission and blowing up the George Washington Bridge. And yet, it still feels like the show wasted too much time on her. Perhaps it would have been better not to see her at all until the terrorists sent out the activation code. The end result would have been exactly the same. That's also true of Nicole and Isaac. Their stories so far have just been giving them something to do. It was simply buying time until the terrorists could kidnap them. The show apparently didn't want to do that in Episode 1 because the parallels to the first season of 24 would be too striking. And yet, that's still true now once it actually happens. Plus, it continues the frustrating formula of this show where one episode Carter is a rogue agent and the next he is a part of a cohesive team at CTU. It's a lot of whiplash that still hardly means anything. Plus, are the terrorists coming across as impossibly smart? They escape their base of operations without any detection and they abduct Nicole and Isaac with relative ease. Both of which happen for plot reasons and not any logical thought whatsoever. C+

This Is Us - "What Now?"
The entire Pearson family gathers at Randall's for an unusual party. Kevin and Sophie's relationship deepens on the night of his play's premiere. Kate struggles to open up to Toby about her father's death. Tensions are high between Jack and Rebecca as she leaves on tour with her band. Written by K.J. Steinberg & Vera Herbert and directed by Wendey Stanzler

"Memphis" was a standout episode of This Is Us. "What Now?" maintains the emotional resonance of that hour while also returning to the normal structure. So, it's less effective just because Kate and Kevin are of importance again. But the emotional highs of this hour are still really strong. Whenever two characters come together and talk about life and death or the choices of the past, it is absolutely wonderful to watch. As is often the case, it's the most unexpected reactions to death from unexpected characters that hit the hardest. Many were probably expecting Randall to have the big emotional scene. But instead that honor goes to Beth, Rebecca and Kate who react to William's death in surprising ways. In fact, all of the stuff with Beth is terrific. She was with William as well and he seemingly left nothing for her. That's a lot for her to process - even though it's not ultimately true. Plus, it's great that Rebecca and Randal finally mend fences after the reveal of her big secret at Thanksgiving. And on course, Kate's reaction is more calculating and manipulative on the show's part because it opens the door to Jack's own death. The last few minutes of this episode don't completely work. It's setting the episode up for a certain expectation. Kate pushed her parents to get back together. Jack had a few drinks and maybe died in an accident while driving to see Rebecca. That's what this story is seemingly setting up. It could be a massive misdirection which would be very manipulative on the show's part. So, it's hard to totally invest in this story because it's unclear if the show is actually being truthful. B

Switched at Birth - "Four Ages in Life"
Daphne takes a volunteer job at a clinic for extra credit and comes face-to-face with her old mentor, Dr. Jackson. While eager to mend fences with him, she grows alarmed when it becomes obvious he's having trouble treating his patients. Mingo leads the annual "Kangaroo Krawl," but Daphne sees his foolhardy behavior as a reaction to the regretful costume party incident. Bay finds Noelle is plagiarizing her work and uses the discovery to negotiate her own chair. John and Kathryn make an effort to rekindle their romance. Regina is put in a precarious situation when she decides to expand her business. Written by Terrence Coli & Lenn K. Rosenfeld and directed by Janice Cooke

There is a certain throwback quality to "Four Age in Life." That's largely because of the numerous references to Angelo and Daphne once again working at a clinic under the expertise of Dr. Jackson. Of course, it all has a purpose as well. It shows how much Daphne has grown since she lost that job at the previous clinic. Plus, it sets up that wonderful reveal at the end with the college student who received Angelo's heart after he died. That's a great moment that makes sure he has a presence in this final season as well. Moreover, this episode has a fine reflection on what it means to age. That's played for comedic effect with John, Kathryn and their changing sex drives. It forces Regina to re-examine her relationship because of some serious concerns Luca's father points out. But mostly it's just great to see Bay, Daphne and Toby as the young adults they've become. They've changed so much over the course of the series. They still find themselves in precarious situations all of the time unsure of what to do. But now, they've experienced enough to know what's necessary in any given situation. Plus, they can always count on each other which is so special. However, the stuff between Mingo and Daphne is a little too odd and forced. They had such a simple and fun romance last season. But now, too much has changed for them to be seen as a good and healthy couple. Mingo is just a mess here. He needs to clean up his act before ever being good enough for Daphne. B

Chicago Med - "Prisoner's Dilemma"
Dr. Reese is contacted for help by a troubled teen in a psychiatric facility. Dr. Manning tries to help parents make a decision about their comatose daughter's surprise pregnancy. April begins to deal with repercussions from her personal life. Dr. Choi and Dr. Rhodes work to save both a young girl from Ecuador who collapsed mid-flight, as well as her mother, who made great sacrifices for her daughter. Written by Joseph Sousa and directed by Laura Belsey

Chicago Med
 has always thrived on extreme medical cases. It's the form of storytelling it has grown accustomed too - with just a little bit of personal stories added on the side. Most of the time, it's about the doctors and nurses examining the tough choices they have to make on this job. "Prisoner's Dilemma" features four extreme cases. At times, it's a little bit too much. It's not always clear where the show is planning to go. That could be thrilling because of its unpredictability. But it's also different from the norm. Natalie's case works because of the miracle ending. She fought for something she believed she saw and she was right. That was wonderful despite the tragedy of the case. Meanwhile, Sarah's case was perhaps too conventional with the expected twists happening but not really adding any depth. And then, it was fascinating to see what the effects of April and Dr. Latham's recent life changes have on their jobs. April is struggling after losing the baby. That's understandable and the grief is genuine. With Dr. Latham, he's seeing more in the world than ever before but that has now compromised his ability to be a great surgeon. So basically, his entire story this season is about forming that friendship with Connor while also growing to be content with his condition and not trying to change it. B-

Riverdale - "Chapter Seven: In a Lonely Place"
When a major piece of evidence is mysteriously destroyed, new rumors begin to swirl as to who was really behind Jason's murder. Tensions build when Jughead's father returns to the fray and it's revealed that he and Fred have some unresolved issues. Veronica takes matters into her own hands after her fight with Hermione. Cheryl approaches Betty with an unexpected proposal that leaves Betty torn. Written by Aaron Allen and directed by Allison Anders

This episode thrives on the friendships between the characters. That's such a good quality too that hasn't always been apparent in the past - especially with Archie and his simple view of the world. The other characters have purposefully kept him out of the murder mystery. And yet, Archie's compulsive need to do the right thing is really admirable and important here. It's great that he is there for Jughead as he deals with his father and homelessness. Jughead's whole story with his father is particularly impressive and gives this hour a nice emotional hook. This show can be over-the-top ridiculous and campy a lot of the time. That's a style that it has earned and executes wonderfully most of the time. This episode has a stylized opening sequence with Jughead envisioning a happy and normal family life. It also has dueling search parties for Polly. Those are delightful and really fun moments. But this hour also examines the influence parents have on their children. The parents on this show aren't that great as people. They are selfish and controlling. Fred and Hermione are great but they have difficult dynamics with their kids as well. Meanwhile, the actions of the parents force the kids into feeling less-than-perfect or unloved. It's grueling to see Jughead accept that his dad will try to get clean and bring the family back together while also knowing that it's unlikely to actually happen. It's emotional to see Cheryl's parents care more about Polly and her baby than they have ever loved her. These actions from the parents bring the kids closer together as friends. That bond is really powerful and helps all of them get through these difficult times. Of course, a killer is still out there and that mystery could still suck the life out of all of them one by one. A-