Saturday, April 8, 2017

DRAMA ROUNDUP: '24: Legacy,' 'The Fosters,' 'Switched at Birth,' 'iZombie,' 'Designated Survivor' and 'Riverdale' (April 2-6)

Some brief reviews for various dramas from April 2-6:

FOX's 24: Legacy - Episode 1.10 "9:00 PM - 10:00 PM"
Freeform's The Fosters - Episode 4.19 "Who Knows"
Freeform's Switched at Birth - Episode 5.09 "The Wolf is Waiting"
The CW's iZombie - Episode 3.01 "Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother"
ABC's Designated Survivor - Episode 1.15 "One Hundred Days"
The CW's Riverdale - Episode 1.09 "Chapter Nine: La Grande Illusion"

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 - "9:00 PM - 10:00 PM"
Rebecca's personal and work life collide when she gets a phone call that forces her to make an important decision. Nicole confronts Carter about his commitment to their relationship and his future with the CTU. Written by Manny Coto & Gabriella Goodman and directed by Stephen Hopkins

The action of this week's episode at least happens to characters who have been important for most of the season. That makes it a solid improvement over the previous hour. Of course, I still don't ultimately care what happens to any of these people. But Carter and Rebecca do make an interesting pairing. They are both cut from the same cloth with Rebecca having more experience. Carter doesn't want to admit that he enjoys this work, which is a frustrating detail when it comes to anything related to his wife. The main action once again concerns someone sacrificing themselves to save a loved one. This encounter actually leads to Jadalla's death though. That's been a long time coming. And yet, the twist that his father is actually alive is laughable. It makes the Army rangers and CTU seem like they are horrible at their jobs. It's just one more ludicrous twist on a season full of plot contrivances and zero character work. Though there was some interesting action and stunt work in that final sequence with the fire. C+

The Fosters - "Who Knows"
It seems just about everyone in the Adams Foster household has a secret, but unfortunately for each of them, they all start spilling out. With Callie's court date inching closer, Robert's attorneys present a defense strategy that Callie vehemently opposes. Monte and Lena join forces to stop Drew's underhanded dealings. Stef works to bust Diamond's pimp. Jesus asks Gabe to keep a secret from his moms. Written by Joanna Johnson and directed by Joanna Johnson

Stories on The Fosters right now are being hindered a little bit solely because I've also been watching 13 Reasons Why and American Crime lately. All three shows aspired to different things. And yet, there's a fair amount of story crossover too. All of the stuff with Diamond feels like a lesser version of a story being told on American Crime right now. While The Foster's attempts to show how damaging secrets can be on a group of people fails in comparison to what 13 Reasons Why did. All of this is unfair criticism. It's unlikely that most people watch all three shows. It's just a problem for me. But that's important too. This episode still has some solid moments but it's all starting to feel predictable as well. Of course, Jesus going off his meds would have major repercussions. Of course, Callie would be upset with her lawyers strategy for court. Of course, Mariana's Twitter feed would come back to hurt the people she loves. There's not enough surprise on the show at the moment. But also, there aren't many details I actually care about. I respect how the show continues to handle Emma's pregnancy. But that's about it. B-

Switched at Birth - "The Wolf is Waiting"
Travis and Bay have dinner with his birth mom, but the reunion dredges up painful memories of his childhood assault. Daphne contemplates helping Chris cheat on a test. Regina gets paid an unexpected visit. Written by Terrence Coli & William H. Brown and directed by Jill D'Agnenica

This final season of Switched at Birth has been a little uneven. Some stories have worked better than others. And yet, this show is still capable of telling an emotionally devastating story in some profound and fascinating ways. Travis being molested when he was younger was heartbreaking to listen to when it was first revealed. But now, it's even more complicated and difficult to watch because he wants to be close to his real family again. He wants to move forward with a real relationship with his mom. But he's still holding onto so much pain. Rightfully so as well. It's difficult for him to face this. But it's also empowering and emotional to see him do it with Bay at his side not further complicating it all. It's just a really successful and earned story. Meanwhile, the Chris-Daphne dynamic continues to feel a little forced. I don't fully support what Daphne does in this episode for Chris. It's her potentially ruining her future career for a guy she barely knows. It doesn't feel all that earned. He made a mistake and should face consequences. It doesn't become romantic between the two in the end. But that's largely all that he has to deal with. B

iZombie - "Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother"
Liv has discovered there are more zombies living in Seattle than she previously believed. In fact, there's a private military contractor employing a small zombie army, and that army is preparing for the day humans learn of their existence. Major was exonerated for the crimes of the Chaos Killer, but is still considered a pariah. He manages to land a job with the one and only place that will hire him. Blaine is accused of lying. Written by Rob Thomas and directed by Dan Etheridge

This premiere is largely in "clean up the mess from last season and set up the main themes of this season" mode. And yet, this show excels at doing both of those things. This season starts differently from the other two. It's now focusing on the zombie world-at-large and how humanity will react once they learn the truth. It's a change of pace from the original narrative of how being a zombie affects Liv's day-to-day life. It expands this world even further. It may be the show trying to do too much by focusing on the macro. But it's able to handle all of it pretty well in this opening episode. It helps that Andrea Savage is so great as Vivian Stoll. The premiere only just teases if she's a friend or foe. But it's a fascinating change from the typical big bad story structure. It also continues to be great to see Clive know about zombies. Him being let in on the secret opens him up to new possibilities in this world. Plus, he's quickly given an emotional connection to this story which really helps him feel important in a way he never has before. And finally, the premiere even finds a new dimension with amnesia Blaine. The question still persists if the amnesia is real or not. But the show has found a new way to make it complicated for several characters. B+

Designated Survivor - "One Hundred Days"
As President Kirkman releases an agenda to reset his presidency, Alex makes a controversial public statement that threatens to derail it. Agent Wells unknowingly finds herself in the center of a dangerous trap while getting closer to the truth. Written by Dana Ledoux and directed by Kenneth Fink

This show definitely has an optimism about it in regards to politics and journalism. It wants to believe in the ability to improve lives and find solutions that make everyone happy. It's not presenting easy solutions to complex problems. It's aware of how difficult all of these topical issues are. But it wants to believe in the goodness of people. It's a nice quality that is highlighted well throughout this hour. It feels like a small and less chaotic hour than the previous ones following the return from hiatus. It's about Kirkman trying to find his way as leader with a bold agenda for the future. And of course, he and Alex learn how difficult all of this is going to be. It should be fascinating to see how this aspect of the show continues to balance with the conspiracy elements. Those have gotten a lot of attention as of late. Things are still tense there as well with Hannah tracking down the mysterious woman but ultimately killing her before she can reveal anything. That seems like progress even though it's not. It just confirms that more attacks are coming. The show could easily get lost in the conspiracy of it all and make the characters unable to move out of fear of these devastating attacks. And yet, the balance of tone in this hour really works well. It allows the show to be optimism while still telling a conspiracy-based mystery. B+

Riverdale - "Chapter Nine: La Grande Illusion"
Archie reluctantly agrees to escort Cheryl to her family's official start of maple syrup tapping because he gets an offer that could help his future. Archie starts to become skeptical of the real reason the Blossoms are so eager to help him, but he gets some helpful information for Betty about her sister. Veronica is trying to be nice and unbeknownst to her, befriends a classmate that her father's illegal doings has hurt. Hermoine is conflicted about telling Fred the truth. Alice is ready to get revenge on the Blossoms once and for all with the help of her two daughters. Written by James DeWille and directed by Lee Rose

The show feels like it's spinning its wheels a little bit in this episode. Once again, it's clear that Cheryl improves any story she is a major part of. Her going all Revenge with the red sharpie in the end is a thrilling tease for her future as well. And yet, this is also the latest episode that shows how dim Archie is. It's been a consistent part of the show. However, he really hasn't evolved in a meaningful way this season like so many of the other characters have. Everyone is right to point out to him that he is being manipulated by the Blossoms. It's great that that behavior isn't rewarded with him keeping Val as a girlfriend. But it also just plays as yet another tease for who may somehow be connected to Jason's murder. Now, the investigation turns to Veronica's dad who is in prison but whose presence is still being felt in this community. Again, it's a way to show that all of these characters are connected even though Veronica and Hermoine only recently showed up in town. Plus, Alice working for the school newspaper is a weird move that the show wants to play seriously. When it comes to Jughead supporting Betty as her family breaks apart, it's a strong story. When it comes to the ridiculous nature of the core mystery, it's really starting to lose focus. B