Wednesday, October 4, 2017

DRAMA ROUNDUP: 'The Last Ship,' 'Ten Days in the Valley,' 'The Gifted' and 'SEAL Team' (October 1-7)

Various reviews from dramas for October 1-7, 2017:

TNT's The Last Ship - Episode 4.08 "Lazaretto"
ABC's Ten Days in the Valley - Episode 1.01 "Day 1: Fade In"
FOX's The Gifted - Episode 1.01 "eXposed"
CBS' SEAL Team - Episode 1.02 "Other Lives"

In 2017, it's impossible to watch every scripted show out there. There are over 450 of them. It's even more impossible to even provide adequate coverage of some of them. Great shows slip through the cracks. Some shows take awhile to figure themselves out. So as a way for me to provide more coverage of various shows, I'll just be writing some paragraph reviews of the various dramas that aired new episodes from October 1-7, 2017. Enjoy!

The Last Ship - "Lazaretto"
An undercover mission in the land of the dead leads to disturbing revelations about Dr. Vellek's sinister plans. Directed by Paul Holahan with story by Sean Cook and teleplay by Jill Blankenship

Dr. Vellek is becoming more and more of a one-note madman with each passing episode. Things were already incredibly broad with this character and story. And now, things are only continuing to escalate in an extreme way that's just a little too silly. Yes, it's important to note that his drug that pacifies everyone is only temporary is crucial information to have. It means that sooner or later a main character will be injected with it. But this episode just feels very manipulative. The stakes of the Nathan James mission comes entirely out of whether or not the Master Chief's hidden injury will be compromising in a serious way. Of course, it is but no one dies because of it. That's fortunate despite how stupid it is. Meanwhile, the story on Vellek's ship has the sense that it's building to a big death. It's not surprising in the slightest that the fatality is Fletcher because he got too close in this situation and was still trying to fight the good fight by stopping this madman. His death escalates the tension heading into the end game. But even this story is manipulative because it appears like the big, climatic moment is going to happen with Vellek's other son, Christos. He has been a non-entity as a character so far. He has no personality and purpose whatsoever. So, it's not shocking or rewarding when it's revealed he's a figment of Vellek's imagination. That just confirms how crazy he is but in an extremely broad way. It also should force the audience to question why Giorgio and Lucia are still taking orders from him. C

Ten Days in the Valley - "Day 1: Fade In"
Jane Sadler is an overworked television producer and single mother in the middle of a fractious separation. When her young daughter goes missing in the middle of the night, Jane's world - and her controversial police TV show - implodes. Life imitates art: Everything is a mystery, everyone has a secret and no one can be trusted. Written by Tassie Cameron and directed by Carl Franklin

It wouldn't be surprising in the slightest if Ten Days in the Valley turned out to be a one and done series for ABC. The ratings weren't that encouraging. Plus, it seems like it will be a closed-end mystery thriller. And yet, I really enjoyed this premiere. Yes, the plot beats are very familiar. There's a looming sense of dread and mystery that hangs over this world long before Jane's daughter is taken. There's uncertainty that comes from Jane not worrying that her daughter could be with anyone besides her ex-husband. There's the dread that comes from the police having a biased opinion of Jane because of the police shows she writes and how she is an unreliable witness. And yet, it's a gripping narrative because of Kyra Sedgwick's performance. This marks her grand return to series regular television since The Closer ended. It's a strong starring vehicle for her. Jane is such a flawed character. She's not a stereotypical bad mother who gets hit with a reality check once this tragedy occurs. She has a good relationship with her daughter while still dealing with the pressures of a high-profile job. She's struggling to make it all work and is blind to some of the details actually happening in her life. Of course, this premiere also needs to set up a list of suspects who all have cryptic but mysterious interactions with one another. Those backstories will get complicated over this first season. Most of them will probably be revealed as nothing more than red herrings. But this opening hour is smart and specific with the world it's created and the story it's telling. That gives me hope that the following episodes could create a really entertaining and gripping series. B

The Gifted - "eXposed"
A suburban couple's ordinary lives are rocked by the sudden discovery that their teenage children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family seeks help from an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive. Written by Matt Nix and directed by Bryan Singer

There is a lot going on in the premiere of The Gifted. It's presented in a more traditional way for a story about the X-Men. Of course, the show doesn't actually use those words in defining its band of mutants. Instead, it's more of an underground railroad setup where mutants are being hunted by humans who see them as a bunch of terrorists with the abilities to destroy their way of life. It's a strong, overarching hook for the series. It establishes the stakes of this world right away. But it's more important to actually get a sense of the humanity within the mutants. That's presented in a very forced way with the Strucker family. Reed and Caitlin are completely shocked when they learn that Lauren and Andy are mutants. They have to go on the run or risk their family being torn apart for good. It's narratively ironic because Reed is a prosecutor for mutant-related crimes. It's a little forced and not all that natural. And yet, the show doesn't linger on this plot setup for too long. It needs to keep things moving in order for things to be as exciting as possible. The family meets up with this network of mutants and things quickly go awry. It's beneficial that Reed has information about one of their friends, Polaris. It creates personal stakes that are easy to understand from both sides of this relationship. They are forced to work together against the Sentinel Services which aim to capture them. It's a thrilling final sequence that is well directed while seeming like action that is easy to repeat on a network budget. Plus, Reed not being able to make it through the portal with the rest of his family is a shocking and very ominous twist. I'm intrigued to see more of this show and if it can develop into something more engaging and original. B

SEAL Team - "Other Lives"
While on an evidence-collecting mission in Syria, Jason and the SEAL Team find innocent civilians in desperate need of rescue just as enemy forces close in on them. While on the mission, the team debates whether or not to tell Ray that his wife has gone into labor. Written by Benjamin Cavell and directed by Christopher Chulack

I appreciate that this episode doesn't just rush into the main procedural story right away. It's still a crucial aspect of this hour. It's still important for the show to fundamentally focus on the missions that this elite team carries out each week. But those missions only mean something if the characters stand out in an interesting way. As such, the character dynamics need to be at the forefront. Sure, it's predictable what's going to happen with Ray and his pregnant wife. She's going to go into labor while he's on mission and the team keeps it from him. But it doesn't create a whole lot of strife amongst the team. It's an understandable decision. No reason to make it into a whole thing. Meanwhile, Clay's story had a predictable twist to it as well. It happened to help put him in his place a little bit. He shouldn't be as cocky as he feels right now. But it's interesting for the show to feature him as his own separate story as well. It's mostly exposition here but it could turn into something more. And finally, Jason's own struggles of being present on his missions while absent when he's at home are again familiar character traits. But the execution and emotional stakes of the mission allow things to be exciting while still feeling like that ending is earned. I still don't have any feeling for what Toni Trucks or A.J. Buckley bring to this show though. Also, music supervisors should really retire "Sympathy for the Devil." There is no longer any original take on incorporating it in a sequence. C+