Sunday, October 15, 2017

REVIEW: NBC's 'Menendez Murders,' 'Chicago PD,' 'Superstore' and 'Chicago Fire' (October 8-14)

Various reviews from NBC shows for October 8-14, 2017:

NBC's Law & Order: True Crime - The Menendez Murders - Episode 1.03 "Episode 3"
NBC's Chicago P.D. - Episode 5.03 "Promise"
NBC's Superstore - Episode 3.03 "Part-Time Hires"
NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 6.03 "An Even Bigger Surprise"

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 shows that aired new episodes on NBC from October 8-14, 2017. Enjoy!

Law & Order: True Crime - The Menendez Murders - "Episode 3"
With Lyle and Erik in custody for suspicion of murder, Leslie works tirelessly alongside Jill Lansing to understand the motive that could drive two young men to commit such a heinous crime. The prosecution puts Judalon Smyth on the stand to make a case for releasing Dr. Oziel's audio notes and tapes from his sessions with Lyle and Erik, despite standard doctor-patient privilege. The ensuing media circus - fueled by leaks from the District Attorney's office - creates further complications for the defense and places the extended Menendez family at odds with one another. Written by Gina Gionfriddo and directed by Holly Dale

This show believes it is telling the audience stunning new information that will completely reconceptualize our understanding of the Menendez case. And yet, it's trying to stuff as many details into these episodes as possible. Everything feels cramped. As such, none of these details are allowed to linger and have a lasting impact on our minds. The narrative remains very scattered. It should have a new focus now that the story has moved to the courtroom drama. Leslie is now representing the brothers. She has a strong team led by three other women. Those visuals are powerful but basically go unnoticed. This hour is so fascinated by how the portrayal of the brothers in the media affected their trial. The big networks are all running specials about the crime. It's tearing the family apart as they opinions and beliefs change. But it all just feels like plot beats the show is hitting in order to give the perception of importance. None of it has the time to properly explore the consequences. So much of the details are just rapidly introduced and swiftly dealt with near moments later. That's basically everything that Oziel and Judalon do throughout this episode. It's established why they are unreliable on the stand and abusive to the brothers. But that's still allowed to happen. The show doesn't provide any context as to why though. It's just stated a couple of times that the case is still thin. And yet, how do the networks have enough material to air a comprehensive special that changes perception of the case? How do the various people interviewed enjoy their 15 minutes of fame? These are important questions that go unanswered. And then, the show just drops the huge bombshell at the end of the episode detailing the sexual abuse the brothers endured. It's played as a huge, pivotal moment in this case. And yet, the show treats every plot development that way. So there is no context to make this one seem any more life-changing than the previous ones or be explored in more detail. That's a significant problem. C+

Chicago P.D. - "Promise"
When a young Latina woman is brutally murdered, Intelligence suspects she may have been working as a drug mule. With Antonio leading the case, the team's investigation takes them into the grim world of meat processing, and the discovery that there may be a different motive behind her death. Written by Timothy J. Sexton and directed by John Whitesell

Antonio is back this season. And now, the show has quickly moved to re-establish the dynamic he has had with Voight for a long time. That seemed inevitable. It's early on in the season and Voight is coming across as more unlikable than ever before. He hasn't always been the most compelling or interesting lead character. His problems can often sink the show. At least in this episode, it doesn't seem like the show is glorifying or supporting his actions. It wants to live in the murkier area of Antonio being upset that Voight gave details about the case to the victim's family who seek out their own justice while also enjoying the clarity that this serial killer won't strike again. But it's also played as a huge betrayal. Why is this a work environment Antonio is happy to rejoin given this is the outcome of the first case he has lead up upon his return? It's a mystery. The show needs this tension between the two characters. Antonio is noble and righteous while Voight is corrupt and effective. It's a fascinating dynamic that has had some nuance over the years. The show is just now defining how it will work in this new era of the series with Antonio back and a new showrunner in charge. And in the end, it does seem like Antonio has made peace with what has happened and gives his daughter an easy resolution to the case. The show is asking the audience to accept it as well. It's morally compromising in an interesting way though. Hopefully, the cases will have more of an impact on the characters this season. This should linger with Antonio just like last week's case has lingered with Burgess. B

Superstore - "Part-Time Hires"
When Amy's daughter gets a job at Cloud 9, Amy turns to Jonah for advice on how to balance her parenting. Garrett and Dina argue over who broke up with whom. Cheyenne tries to convince Mateo that the cute construction worker might just be flirting with him for store perks. Written by Josh Malmuth and directed by Todd Biermann

This season of Superstore has gotten off to a fine start. There are a number of ongoing stories that I'm very intrigued by - Dina going to therapy and Emma working at the store part-time. Those are fascinating ideas that could have a huge impact on the various stories. Everything seems a little too predictable over the course of this specific episode though. That's what allows the punchline to Dina and Garrett's story land so hard. They are fighting over who technically broke up with whom. Dina wanting to get back together just to break up with him and have that clarity is just a great joke. Meanwhile, so much of the Emma story feels inappropriate - from Glenn revealing he copies the employee's pictures to Jonah yelling at Emma to Amy allowing Emma to leave the floor wet and wanting a customer to yell at her daughter. It's all very weird and stressful. It's cringe comedy. The show has embraced that quality before. But it's less successful here because it's building to the inevitable realization that Emma is now a teenager and will lash out at her parents no matter what. Of course, Glenn calling Amy stupid is a surprising moment. Meanwhile, I just didn't care for the Mateo-Cheyenne story at all. It feels like this season doesn't totally know what to do with the two of them just yet. But their story of flirting with a construction worker is just too silly. And finally, it's great to get a new employee in Kelli who seems like she'll be an important addition to the season because she's given her own subplot here. But it also feels like a story the show can already tell with Sandra. So, it's not abundantly clear what new value Kelli brings to this workplace. B

Chicago Fire - "An Even Bigger Surprise"
Casey gets off on the wrong foot with Sam Mullins, a temporary chief who is filling in for Boden for the morning. When Casey later makes a risky move in an attempt to save a distraught man from jumping off a building, Mullins has a surprise that Casey does not expect. Mouch flies in Cruz's brother Leon as a birthday surprise, but the rest of the squad struggles to keep it a secret. Brett is caught off guard when she learns new information about her hometown friend Hope. Written by Jill Weinberger and directed by Sanford Bookstaver

This season has already featured one significant bait-and-switch with Casey. We thought he was dead after the cliffhanger fire only to be revealed as alive later on. And now, the season has done another bait-and-switch with Casey. It's less infuriating here. It just plays to the audience's expectations of how new administrative people coming into Firehouse 51 are often these broad, one note characters who stand against what the firehouse represents. Mullins isn't a new character type for the show to employ. In fact, him butting heads with Casey is a story that has been told before. So, the show needed a new spin on it. So, Casey being rewarded with his heroism with a promotion to chief should be very fascinating. Is it the show setting up Boden's exit? It's possible. He takes half a shift off in order to teach at the academy and did enjoy his time there. It could be fascinating to see Casey in charge of the firehouse and needing to call the shots outside of the dangerous situations instead of going into the danger. That could be a fun and dramatic direction for the season to pursue. Of course, that's all complete speculation. Right now, it's just amusing that Mouch struggles to keep his big surprise for Cruz's birthday a secret. It was a big deal previously that Leon had to leave the city. And now, it just magically disappears. That's lame and lackluster. But this story is still pretty amusing. And finally, something was clearly going on with Hope the moment she arrived this season. So, it's great that that mystery isn't being dragged out any longer. Of course, it's a little foolish of her to get a job at the firehouse if she knew that her previous boss thought she stole a ton of money. It's a precarious note to end on. I can't immediately tell what the show is hoping to do with this information though. Hope hasn't been a great addition to this season because she's just been so over the place and not really acting like a normal human being. B