Thursday, March 1, 2018

REVIEW: NBC's 'This Is Us,' 'Chicago Med,' 'Superstore,' 'Will & Grace' and 'Chicago Fire' (February 26-March 2)

Various NBC reviews for February 26-March 2, 2018:

This Is Us - Episode 2.16 "Vegas, Baby"
Chicago Med - Episode 3.10 "Down By Law"
Superstore - Episode 3.13 "Video Game Release"
Will & Grace - Episode 9.12 "Three Wise Men"
Chicago Fire - Episode 6.12 "The F Is For"

In 2018, 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, I'll just be writing some paragraph reviews of the various shows that aired new episodes on NBC from February 26-March 2, 2018. Enjoy!

This Is Us - "Vegas, Baby"
Written by Laura Kenar and directed by Joanna Kerns

This season has produced some really heavy and emotional episodes as of late. Of course, viewers watching it live got a break from all of that because of the Winter Olympics. People binging later on will probably be glad to have an episode that is just fun. It's the show relaxing into being a family drama instead of a puzzle box mystery. Sure, all the stuff happening with Jack and Rebecca in the past is completely filler. It again proves that Jack's story isn't over just because the audience knows every detail of his death. He will still pop up in random episodes like this for stories from the past that are thematically resonant in the present. But is there still purpose to that? There's still so much about the past of this family that is unknown. Most of that comes from the time following Jack's death. So, it feels lackluster when the show goes back in time to when Jack is still alive. The story here is perfectly fine and reaffirms Jack and Rebecca's love. It's tinged with the irony of what happens later on. But it's still sweet. Meanwhile, the stories happening in Las Vegas are very melodramatic and manufactured as well. And yet, it gets the Big Three back together again which is always a good thing. But more important than that, it breaks up the idea of the Big Three. A few episodes ago Toby was lamenting the fact that he was always on the outside looking in with this family. He so desperately wanted to be a part of it - which was mostly a commentary on how unhealthy his relationship with Kate actually was. But now, the show is actually putting in the work to flesh out these dynamics so that people like Toby and Beth fell like a part of the family as well. Of course, being a Pearson shouldn't be the sole thing that defines them. And again, the show is creating a reason to care about Toby's desperation to be accepted by Randall and Kevin out of thin air with his previously unmentioned brother. Plus, Kate's jealousy towards Beth about stealing Randall away just pops up suddenly to give weight to their later bonding session. But this is also just a nice and relaxed episode of the show that doesn't need to rely on big twists and gimmicks in order to entertain. That's a mode this show rarely exists within but does remarkably well. Low stakes stories can still be great. Except now it seems like the show is heading straight towards the big drama again with Randall and Beth discovering Deja and her mother sleeping in a car. B-

Chicago Med - "Down By Law"
Written by Stephen Hootstein & Safura Fadavi and directed by Michael Waxman

It does seem like the show is advancing a couple of plots really quickly this season. That includes Sarah's fear of her patients, Connor's spiral after Robin's departure and the rekindling of romance between Maggie and Barry. Now, Sarah's story has been the most consistently great story all season long. She has made remarkable progress in such a little amount of time. She hit her low and came back up. As such, it's fascinating to see her journey to recovery is much more complicated and difficult than that. She may actually be self-destructive and reckless now. That's an intriguing transition that puts her directly in danger here because she suddenly thinks she's invincible and knows better than Dr. Charles. That's a much more compelling and effective story than Connor's own tragic spiral. The show may be trying to equate the two in saying just how reckless and destructive they are being at the moment. But Connor's spiral has an air of entitlement to it as well with him just buying luxury items and having sex with countless attractive women. It's not all that surprising or original. As such, I have less patience with it. Meanwhile, it's clear the show wanted to give Maggie a more substantial story this season. And yet, this reveal of Barry lying about his identity and being arrested after firing back during a drive-by shooting just feels so sudden and rash. The show hasn't really put in the time and effort to get the audience to care about this relationship. Maggie just made the decision that she still cared about Barry a few scenes before she realizes just how bad a decision that actually was. The twist would have been more effective later on in the season when the audience actually got to visibly see them as a couple. As it is now, it's mostly just a new experience for Maggie to endure some trauma as well. And finally, it was inevitable that Natalie was going to have a concussion. The direction called attention to the fact that she hit her head. The show tried covering up the symptoms by giving her a case where it's easy to side with absolutely everything she is saying. This is a messed up situation that her patient is in. But it's not distracting enough for the audience to be fooled into thinking that everything is alright with Natalie. It was always clear what was going to happen which lessened the effectiveness of it all - and made the patients' final decision to have a hysterectomy seem like a minor note in the end. C+

Superstore - "Video Game Release"
Written by Jackie Clarke and directed by America Ferrera

This feels like a pivotal episode for the will-they?/won't-they? coupling of Amy and Jonah. They have always been teased as such. They shared a kiss last season. Amy got divorced. Then, Jonah started dating Kelly. It features the classic elements of this type of story. And now, Amy finally admits that she may have a crush on Jonah. That's a huge deal that she confesses to Dina. It happening right now means the show is definitely building up to some huge moment between them this season. It should just be interesting to see how Amy acts around Jonah knowing that he's dating Kelly. It's notable here that she admits these feelings in an episode where Kelly doesn't appear at all. As such, she has the appropriate opportunity to admit it after spending the day with Jonah in the back tunnels instead of working. It's an amusing and cute story too. The consequences of which should just be very interesting. Meanwhile, Dina gets in a couple of great dings on the video gaming community and the type of people who crash a store like Cloud 9 whenever a high profile game comes out. The show also does a nice and subtle job in showing the differing opinions we have in regards to nudity and violence. This video game is violent. It features decapitations. People are wandering the store with severed heads on sticks. And yet, that is just treated as completely normal. The big debate comes when a mother just wants to breastfeed her baby in the store. It's an issue that Cloud 9 corporate is actually progressive about it. This time it's the staff that are having issues analyzing what it actually means and how they personally feel about it. It stirs a debate that can't be solved in the matter of a few minutes as well - with it mostly being tossed to the side as soon as Dina confirms to Glenn that she is pregnant with his baby. Of course, it's also clear that the writers decided on Dina being Glenn's surrogate long before they knew that America Ferrera was pregnant in real-life. And speaking of Ferrera, she does a very nice job in directing this episode as well as giving a strong performance. B+

Will & Grace - "Three Wise Men"
Written by Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally and directed by James Burrows

This revival season of Will & Grace has produced a small handful of good to great episodes with the majority being bad or awkward. This episode largely goes straight down the middle. The audience can also get the sense that the writers and actors have all relaxed back into the swing of things as well. They have done their big episodes with reunions and broad hijinks they needed to get out of the way first. And now, they can just enjoy finding new story opportunities for these characters. Once again, it's clear that the show is overly amused by the various sexual situations the characters find themselves in. That appears to be the area the show thrives in the most. As such, it is amusing to see the show slowly reveal that Grace has slept with three generations of men in the same family. The episode description spoils that a little bit. But it's also just a fun reveal as it goes along - especially when they all just randomly show up in her apartment. Plus, the payoff with Jack finally respecting Grace for doing something sexually he hasn't done was great. Meanwhile, the B-story with Will and Karen is light and breezy. They are an interesting pairing because they don't immediately get along. It's fascinating to see Karen so willing to interact with the other characters knowing that they are the closest friends she realistically has. And yet, she also has so much else in this world. She has the opportunity to have a staff and the technology to spy on them and ruin their lives. It's a story that quickly pulls in Will as well. The diversion with Dan Bucatinsky coming in probably wasn't all that necessary. This is definitely a guest star heavy episode. But it never feels too crowded. Plus, it's important for Will and Karen to have a story like this if they are working together now - even though it inevitably doesn't change how they feel about each other. B

Chicago Fire - "The F Is For"
Written by Jill Weinberger and directed by James Hanlon

The last episode ended on a thrilling cliffhanger. Casey and Severide jumped off the roof of a building just as it was about to explode. They planned on jumping into the nearby water. But it was unclear if either would suffer any critical injuries. Of course, it should come as no surprise that the two emerge largely okay. The opening sequence has things pretty tense. Severide is unconscious and needs to be pulled out of the river by Kidd. But ultimately, both are fine. Casey is stiff in one scene and Severide goes through the concussion protocol offscreen. But they are both back to work in a matter of minutes. The show quickly moves past this. And yet, the world at large wants to recognize these heroics. That's portrayed through a photojournalist coming to the firehouse to record a day-in-the-life. It's a story that quickly reveals this guy to be a peeping tom. It plays as the show's attempt to be relevant in what's happening in the culture today while also ensuring the audience that the systems in place do actually work when they are required to. Here, it becomes a problem that is quickly handled. Plus, the main characters get to hold up their ideals once the guy returns and gets hit by a car. The show has always been very proud of the heroism of its characters. That continues here even if Casey has doubts afterwards. Elsewhere, Brett talking so much about Hope gives the sneaking suspicion that that lame character is about to make an unfortunate return. The subplot with Herrmann trying to become a life coach is just so laughable as filler. No one should have taken any of that seriously. And finally, the show just needs to come down one way or the other on Severide and Kidd as a couple. It's been teasing it for a long time now. It feels really uncomfortable because Kidd wants to move out and start seriously dating Zack. Severide and Kidd feel this attraction to each other. But it may just be because of their closeness at all times. The show isn't being all that subtle with this story. As such, it leaves me with very little patience for aimless teasing. I'm basically ready for something big to happen. Again, that doesn't need to be the two of them getting together. That's clearly what Severide wants as he looks at Casey and Gabby with envy. But it may not be something the show has actually earned at this point - again because this has been the sole story defining Severide and Kidd for awhile now. B-