Saturday, April 1, 2017

DRAMA ROUNDUP: '24: Legacy,' 'The Fosters,' 'Switched at Birth,' 'The 100,' 'Designated Survivor' and 'Riverdale' (March 26-30)

Some brief reviews for various dramas from March 26-30:

FOX's 24: Legacy - Episode 1.09 "8:00 PM - 9:00 PM"
Freeform's The Fosters - Episode 4.18 "Dirty Laundry"
Freeform's Switched at Birth - Episode 5.08 "Left in Charge"
The CW's The 100 - Episode 4.08 "God Complex"
ABC's Designated Survivor - Episode 1.14 "Commander-in-Chief"
The CW's Riverdale - Episode 1.08 "Chapter Eight: The Outsiders"

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 - "8:00 PM - 9:00 PM"
A threat forces CTU to go on lockdown. Carter finds himself in a tense situation. John reaches out to Rebecca when he faces a big decision in his campaign. Written by Nikki Toscano & Zakiyyah Alexander and directed by Bronwen Hughes

It wouldn't be a season of 24 if CTU wasn't compromised at some point. It's this show once again just copying a narrative trick from the original series. It's lame and uninspired. Plus, it's not even one of the regular characters who gets manipulated into working with the terrorists. Instead, it's just some security guard who hasn't been seen before. Yes, it does allow Rebecca to be more central to the action. This show started with it seeming like a two-lead series instead of a Jack Bauer repeat. The subsequent episodes haven't really followed that though because Carter's the one always chasing after the terrorists. But now, the tables have been turned. Rebecca's loved one is now the one kidnapped by the terrorists. John is now the spouse who needs to be rescued before they can carry out a nefarious attack. This hour builds to that tense ending. But all of the stories that happen up to that point are very lame - especially Carter disarming a bomb on a random woman who doesn't listen to him. C-

The Fosters - "Dirty Laundry"
As Stef works longer hours in her new position, Lena feels overwhelmed trying to keep up with the complicated lives of their five teenagers in addition to the pressures of her own job. Jude, fed up with being bullied at school, resorts to bullying tactics of his own. Callie heads to Los Angeles with Aaron to visit his parents, who are struggling with Aaron being transgender. Written by Megan Lynn & Wade Solomon and directed by Laura Nisbet Peters

All of the kids have been getting into tons of trouble this season. And yet, this episode actually presents their problems as typical teenage stuff that annoys their parents. It's fascinating to see Lena get so overwhelmed by all of the kids coming to her with requests and having to make the big decisions by herself. She essentially says yes to everything which makes for a really interesting dynamic at the house. The sex talk with Jesus and Emma is appropriately awkward. However, Jesus not taking his pills is a really frustrating development while Stef discovering Emma's note is very promising. It sure does make Brandon seem like the worst once again though. He can't buy groceries or hide a note properly. Those aren't difficult things to do and yet he struggles with both. Meanwhile, Callie meeting Aaron's family is a very powerful and emotional story. It's a nice distraction from everything she's doing right now with the murder investigation, upcoming trial and breakup with AJ. It's just simply the show getting back to its roots of showing a family unit needing to adapt to something new. Yes, Callie still makes selfish choices. But she comes out of this trip with more respect for Aaron too and that feels genuine and earned. B+

Switched at Birth - "Left in Charge"
Bay and Daphne throw a party at their apartment but things go awry when Toby overhears two students making disability jokes. Toby and Bay's high school frenemy Simone turns up looking glamorous and successful, igniting insecurities and competitive behavior. As Daphne and Chris get to know each other better, she starts to suspect that he's hiding a big secret. Kathryn and Regina do some old-school snooping on Luca after Regina sees a questionable text on his phone. Written by Liz Sczudlo and directed by Dawn Wilkinson

The show has certainly used its final season to bring back a number of characters from the past. It was nice to see Angelo and Mary Beth again while Tank was a part of an interesting and complex story. However, Simone's return here is a little too lackluster. She was a major character on the show in the first season. But her presence here shows that Bay, Daphne and Toby are still capable of acting impulsively despite how much they've grown. There was a predictable quality to the overall story. Meanwhile, there wasn't a whole lot of suspense and mystery in Daphne's worries about Chris. The "Previously on..." segment even reminded the audience of his run-in with the cops that hurt his shoulder. It should be fascinating to see if this becomes an even bigger story moving forward. Kathryn and John are now aware of potential drug use on the team. That could have major complications moving forward. But it's still a little unclear just how serious the audience should take this as one of the final stories with these characters. B-

The 100 - "God Complex"
After a disappointing discovery, Clarke and Abby question how far they're willing to go. Jaha finds a lead to the mysterious Second Dawn. Written by Lauren Muir and directed by Omar Madha

There are two parallel stories happening right now with characters trying to find a way to survive the impending apocalypse. One succeeds because it embraces hope and surprise while the other suffers for feeling too familiar to past stories. This show always finds a way to present moral quandaries for Clarke as she has to choose between two bad options. That's what she has to do yet again in regards to testing the nightblood cure on Emori. Her injecting herself feels like a great personal moment of sacrifice. But it's quickly undercut by Abby lashing out and destroying the radiation chamber. It's weird that everyone seems cool with that just because she had a vision. Elsewhere, Kane and Jaha's search for the bunker succeeds because it's the two of them trying to prove themselves as good leaders. Jaha is looking for redemption while Kane is still looking for peace and understanding. The discovery of the bunker at the end of the hour is a great moment because it allows hope into the narrative. It represents a world of possibilities for the characters. And finally, the Bellamy-Jasper story is just awkward. It just gives them something to do this week. But it's pretty lame compared to the other stories. B

Designated Survivor - "Commander-in-Chief"
Turmoil in an African country forces President Kirkman to rely on an unlikely ally for help. Hannah's investigation into the Capitol bombing takes an unexpected turn. Emily settles into her new role as chief of staff. Aaron has to make a difficult choice. Written by Michael Russell Gunn and directed by Frederick E.O. Toye

This episode presents a fascinating examination of the actual job of President of the United States. It's something many in politics aspire to while also being the worst job because it comes with so many pressures and responsibilities. It's fun to see a former President come in and be honest about how Tom is doing in the job. It's a nice, frank conversation. Kiefer Sutherland and Geoff Pierson work well together. Plus, it allows the show to tell a more political story. The conspiracy is fine. It's a nice part of the show. The season needed to investigate the action that led to Tom becoming president. But it's also important for Tom to be a leader with policy and not just reacting to a bunch of crazy stuff happening in the narrative. It's also great that the show just finally reveals whether Aaron is good or bad. He's cleared from being involved with the conspiracy. But he also resigns as Chief of Staff. That's a surprising twist in a story that I wasn't sure could have a surprising conclusion. It should be fascinating to see how he still fits in the show moving forward if he's not working in the White House though. B+

Riverdale - "Chapter Eight: The Outsiders"
As Fred and his crew are about to start construction he loses his crew, which could put his livelihood in jeopardy. Wanting to help his dad, Archie and his friends pitch in to help but after one of them is attacked, the gang comes up with a plan that lands them in Southside Serpent territory. With Jughead's secret revealed, he is worried about how his friends will react. Veronica and Betty suggest throwing Polly a baby shower to make her feel better, but Polly is hesitant knowing how everyone feels. Written by Julia Cohen and directed by David Katzenberg

Ugh, Archie is just the absolute worst. His simplistic view of the world and his insistence on acting impulsively on half-baked ideas is really annoying throughout this episode. Yes, he and Jughead have a nice moment calling each other brother at the end of the hour. But getting to that point takes a whole lot of patience as Archie does a number of foolish things that highlight his immaturity. It's no wonder that everyone wants to keep him out of the loop. Plus, it should be fascinating to see if Archie and Jughead follow the same trajectory as their parents. Fred and F.P. were friends. They still care about each other but things are very tense now. Plus, all of the construction stuff is boring. Elsewhere, this is the most human Alice Cooper has been as a character all season long. She's allowed to feel genuine and accepting of Polly and her baby. And yet, it's tragic because that's still not good enough. Things will end horribly for Polly at the Blossoms. Plus, Alice is taking the appropriate steps to create a loving household - after she kicks Hal out for wanting Polly to get an abortion (a word the show suspiciously avoids using). But will it be good enough? That remains unclear. B-