Saturday, April 29, 2017

DRAMA ROUNDUP: 'iZombie,' 'The 100,' 'Designated Survivor,' 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Riverdale' (April 23-28)

Some brief reviews for various dramas from April 23-28:

The CW's iZombie - Episode 3.04 "Wag the Tongue Slowly"
The CW's The 100 - Episode 4.09 "DNR"
ABC's Designated Survivor - Episode 1.18 "Lazarus"
ABC's Grey's Anatomy - Episode 13.21 "Don't Stop Me Now"
The CW's Riverdale - Episode 1.11 "Chapter Eleven: To Riverdale and Back Again"

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.

iZombie - "Wag the Tongue Slowly"
Clive's patience is tested when Liv consumes the brain of a murder victim who had the reputation of being the ultimate office gossip. Blaine and Peyton continue to grow closer as they wait to see if Ravi is able to reverse the effects of the cure. Major is one step away from fulfilling a promise. Written by Kit Boss and directed by Viet Nguyen

Well, iZombie has hit its first brain dud for the season. Sometimes this show can really go broad with the brains taking over Liv's personality. They can be so fixated on one detail. So, this brain makes her a gossip and that's it. That makes it very difficult for others to be around her. It's an annoyance that gets old very quickly. It's understandable why multiple people would want to hurt someone like that. The final reveal in the murder investigation is elaborate but perhaps too elaborate for what was intended to be a simple prank (that ultimately went awry). Meanwhile, it's about time something happened with Major's investigation into what happened to Natalie. That's had importance this season even though it's been hard to engage with as a story. Major's been chasing after a girl who didn't really make a lasting impression last season. She's been forgettable. So, it's difficult to care. The Blaine-Peyton situation is very complicated. It's startling to see how quickly Peyton is willing to forget everything that Blaine did simply because he's no longer that person. It's weird and largely just propping up this new love triangle. B-

The 100 - "DNR"
Jasper and Bellamy go on a quest. Clarke struggles to keep the peace after word of Jaha's discovery spreads. Written by Miranda Kwok and directed by Mairzee Almas

This season of The 100 has been wildly uneven. It has been a step up from Season 3 because none of the stories are inherently awful. Some things are easier to care about than others. It's building to a really interesting and engaging final stretch of episodes. I hope that the show doesn't find a way to save Raven. I love the character. She's probably my favorite on the show. And yet, her scenes here pack a powerful emotional punch. It seems destined for her to die. It's her choice and it's easy for the audience to understand why. That's what makes it so beautiful and devastating. Meanwhile, Jasper and Harper's decisions to stop fighting are just lackluster. It's the show giving more power to that group of characters even though their motives are a little lame and one-note. In Polis, it's not surprising that Clarke tries to become the Commander now that she's a nightblood. That had the potential to be a compelling story. And yet, the show takes a turn that is equally engaging. It brings war to the focus once more. It also creates an uncertain future where all the hope for survival rests on Octavia. And she'll probably have to face off with Indra and Roan in order to win this conclave. That's an exciting premise for the next episode. A-

Designated Survivor - "Lazarus"
As President Kirkman considers candidates for Vice President, Kimble Hookstraten finds herself embroiled in scandal. Agent Wells and Jason return from North Dakota with a critical new lead while Abe's investigation takes an unexpected turn. Written by Jennifer Johnson and directed by Chris Grismer

There's a shocking lack of genuine tension on the show at the moment. Everything has the illusion of being intense and surprising. But none of the big moments are really landing in the way the show would want. There just isn't a compelling or villainous face to the conspiracy that makes anything happening there all that engaging. It's largely just a filler episode for Agent Wells as she learns how Lazaro is still alive and meets another suspicious individual. But it's all just waiting until the final moment of her being kidnapped (though not killed despite how close she's getting to exposing the conspiracy). Meanwhile, Abe is getting too much attention as of late despite largely just being an elaborate pawn for the conspiracy. He's mainly just re-litigating everything that has already happened on the show. And finally, a scandal around Hookstraten that could get a younger House to vote her out as Speaker sounds like an interesting premise. The execution is just so weird because there's very little doubt that anything will come out of any of this. She'll become Kirkman's Vice President because it makes for a good and idealistic story. So, it's the threat of scandal and chaos without the desire to actually do anything with it. C

Grey's Anatomy - "Don't Stop Me Now"
Bailey and April work to fix things between Richard and Catherine. One of Alex's previous patients returns to Grey Sloan. Written by Andy Reaser and directed by Louis Venosta

Maggie learning about Meredith and Nathan's relationship has been a long time coming. There's still not a whole lot to actually say about the two of them as a couple. But the longer this was dragged out, the bigger deal it would become. Meredith knows that and tries to keep Maggie from pushing her away. And yet, something just feels off with this story. Maggie comes across as too annoying - especially since her crush on Nathan hasn't been important in a long time. Everything isn't immediately fixed in the end. But the show sure wants things back to normal as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the story with Alex's returning patient is absolutely devastating. It took me a couple of scenes to remember them from earlier this season. But the story worked as a self-contained thing here as well with a very heartbreaking ending. It landed so well because of the unexpected and simple reaction that Amelia had to it. That was very effective - especially in a season where she's been so annoying. And finally, the case with the worms was very gross. It made me glad I wasn't eating while watching this hour. Plus, it may finally bring Richard and Catherine back together. That's been a long time coming as well. B

Riverdale - "Chapter Eleven: To Riverdale and Back Again"
Betty is slammed overseeing Homecoming and Reunion weekend, but Alice wants her to help with the Jason Blossom investigation. Alice turns to Archie and Veronica for help, but when Betty discovers they are working with her mom, she is not happy. After seeing his father FP start to clean up his act, Jughead wonders if it's the right time to give him another chance. Cheryl and Polly have both decided to go to Homecoming in Jason's honor, until a revelation waylays their plans. Fred and Mary attend the Homecoming dance, leaving Fred to possibly reconsider the divorce. Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Kevin Sullivan

The wig on Clifford Blossom's head is actually a plot point! That's just so delightful though it probably comes a few episodes too late. It continues to show that the picture of Riverdale is just one big facade created by the people in power. That's a core theme of the show. These big things are happening that disrupt the natural energy of this small town. It's ways are being destroyed and corrupting the youth. Of course, it's much easier to engage with the personal friendships amongst the main characters than the mystery of "Who killed Jason Blossom?" F.P. being arrested for the murder isn't all that surprising or shocking. It's a cliffhanger for this hour. But it's much more important to see everyone try to justify their actions to investigate F.P. without Jughead getting hurt in the process. It ultimately backfires and everything comes out in the open. It's absolutely devastating. These friends truly care about each other and don't want to hurt anyone. But they also need to know just how dark and sinister their family secrets may be. They don't trust what's been told to them their entire lives. They need to take action. Those actions may just hurt the people they love the most. Also, there are way too many adults at that Homecoming dance. B+