Saturday, April 15, 2017

DRAMA ROUNDUP: '24: Legacy,' 'The Fosters,' 'iZombie,' 'Designated Survivor' and 'Riverdale' (April 9-13)

Some brief reviews for various dramas from April 9-13:

FOX's 24: Legacy - Episode 1.11 "10:00 PM - 11:00 PM"
Freeform's The Fosters - Episode 4.20 "Until Tomorrow"
The CW's iZombie - Episode 3.02 "Zombie Knows Best"
ABC's Designated Survivor - Episode 1.16 "Party Lines"
The CW's Riverdale - Episode 1.10 "Chapter Ten: The Lost Weekend"

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 - "10:00 PM-11:00 PM"
Andy uncovers important information about a high-ranking government official, leading Carter and John to team up and find out more. A reinforcement is brought into CTU to oversee operations. Written by Leigh Dana Jackson and directed by Nelson McCormick

It's very promising to see Carter and John team up in this week's episode. It's a unique character pairing. They know a lot about each other but haven't interacted before. They both understand the same issues despite having different philosophies. They make a fascinating duo. And yet, it's still ultimately about Carter being an action hero and breaking into government facilities to get the information he needs. He's worked his way up from a lowly police precinct to the Pentagon. That's how quickly the stakes of this day have escalated. Plus, it seems like he is doing a lot in this hour. He travels from the burning field to the Pentagon and then a farmhouse for his confrontation with Tony. Meanwhile, the terrorists largely just keep Rebecca alive. That's lame. Plus, it's clear the show is already repeating familiar plot devices. So once again, the director of CTU is knocked out in his office - except this time it's Keith doing the assault. Meanwhile, the final confrontation with Carter and Tony is so frustrating because they don't know each other. They are working towards a common goal but just don't know it. So, it's a false cliffhanger propped up for dramatic purposes. C+

The Fosters - "Until Tomorrow"
Callie faces a life-changing decision to take a plea deal and go to jail for three years, or go to trial and risk an even longer sentence. Even though Callie struggles with her own situation, she tries to help Diamond out of hers which becomes extremely dangerous. With only 24 hours to make a difference in Callie's case, Stef and Mike ramp up their investigation into the Martha Johnson murder bringing in as many leads as possible. Lena confronts Drew about his campaign to make a major change at Anchor Beach. Mariana rallies her fellow students to protest. Jesus starts to put together the pieces about Emma. Written by Bradley Bredeweg & Peter Paige and directed by Peter Paige

This finale just really pissed me off. Not because I have any kind of genuine concern for Callie in the cliffhanger. Instead, it's because the show is just so manipulative getting to that point. It just refuses to evolve past putting Callie into danger to build stakes and tension. The show has done that so many times. There's no longer anything fresh or new about it. This show seemingly only exists to torture Callie. That's lame and uninspired. Plus, it's weird that Stef isn't more forthcoming with Callie about everything she's doing regarding the case during this busy day. Callie only gets in that van with Diamond because she fears she's going to jail. And yet, those fears aren't genuine because Stef and Mike are finally proving Troy's guilty. But they don't talk to Callie for some reason. All of this basically pushes Jesus learning about Emma's abortion to the side. It feels like a small story in this episode when it should be more important. The school going private should be a big deal as well. And yet, that was such a late twist in the season. So, it's hard to be all that invested in it or see Drew as more than a mustache-twirling villain. The debate between private and charter is important and deserves to be talked about. The show just has no subtlety whatsoever. C

iZombie - "Zombie Knows Best"
When Liv, Clive and Ravi arrive at the scene to investigate a fatal car accident, they begin to suspect foul play was involved. Both starving, Liv and Major consume the brains of the accident victims, a well-meaning father and his angsty teenage daughter. When Clive is brought in for questioning about a family that was murdered, he's forced to reveal his past history with them. Major hits a road block in his search for Natalie. Written by Diane Ruggiero-Wright and directed by Jason Bloom

iZombie has had a number of memorable brains across its series run. It's also one of the more inconsistent details of the show. The personalities of the zombies change because of the brains they consume. But it's different in each episode how much they change and how important it is to the story. In this episode, it's very overwhelming. And yet, that's absolutely fantastic to watch because there is simply nothing better than Major on teenage girl brain. That is hilarious. It gives Robert Buckley a nice comedic story that he nails wonderfully. Plus, it should be interesting to see how seriously the show treats the Fillmore Graves workaround with this issue. This hour also provides more backstory for Clive, which is always a good thing. It's so moving to see just how close he got to Wally and his family before they were murdered. The audience should probably keep their eyes on the timing of it all as well. But it's just a solid emotional storyline that does enough to distract Clive while he's working this case without compromising it in the end. That could be a serious concern for the future. But right now, it's simply understanding what these characters meant to him while also having some fun in the details of the main murder case - even though it was still ultimately about statutory rape and murder. A-

Designated Survivor - "Party Lines"
President Kirkman forms an unlikely alliance in the hopes of passing his first bill while Agent Ritter is briefed by FBI Agent Hannah Wells about a new alarming threat to the nation. Written by Jenna Richman and directed by Mike Listo

This episode tells a simple and effective political story. It's the show trying to evolve past the conspiracy thriller. It's the show embracing optimism in a time of darkness. But the stakes of it feel weird too. It never feels as compromising or complicated as it could be. Everyone talks about how bad this bill is drafted. And yet, it's never a major issue because everyone can explain that it will be fixed in the House. That may very well be true and hopefully the show spends time showing the back-and-forth that will change the bill moving forward. But here, it all feels a little inevitable that President Kirkman will get the votes he needs to pass his first piece of legislation. Again, it's the hopeful quality the show embraces so much. Plus, it's still an effective story. It's just a little too simple and predictable compared to some of the other stories the show has done. Meanwhile, Hannah's story largely just confirms that the plans she discovered about additional attacks are for the future. They weren't just discarded ideas because the Capitol bombing was disastrous enough. That's necessary information but doesn't make for the most exciting story this week. B

Riverdale - "Chapter Ten: The Lost Weekend"
When Fred decides to finalize the divorce with Archie's mother, Archie hides his true feelings. Archie tries to win Valerie back with a romantic evening. However, Betty hijacks his plans when she decides to throw Jughead a surprise birthday party. Once Cheryl learns of the party, she decides to make it interesting and things quickly get out of control. Veronica contemplates whether she should participate in the deposition to help get her dad released. Written by Britta Lundin & Brian E. Paterson and directed by Dawn Wilkinson

Betty and Jughead really are the most interesting character pairing on this show. For most of the season, they've been in sync. They've really helped each other through the murder investigation and their respective family issues. But it's also interesting to see some tension in their relationship as well. This episode succeeds because it forces Betty and Jughead to confront their deepest fears and insecurities. Jughead is afraid to open up to people and trust them while Betty struggles with an inner darkness. It's rewarding that they continue to be there for each other in the end as well. Of course, that high school party is pretty compelling to watch too. The secret game is a nice way to get all of the information out in the open so more characters know what's going on in more corners of this universe. Of course, it's also just weird that F.P. is there for the duration of this party. He has no problems with it but it's still odd for an adult to be at a high school party. And then, there is the Archie and Veronica hookup. That happens because they are both feeling down about their parents. It feels natural. But it's odd that the show is still framing it as something that needs to be kept secret from Betty. Oh, and Molly Ringwald shows up as Archie's mom. That's a great and enticing ending. B+