Wednesday, March 21, 2018

REVIEW: FOX's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine,' 'The Last Man on Earth,' 'The X-Files' and '9-1-1' (March 18-23)

Various FOX reviews for March 18-23, 2018:

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 5.12 "Safe House"
The Last Man on Earth - Episode 4.11 "Hamilton/Berg"
The X-Files - Episode 11.10 "My Struggle IV"
9-1-1 - Episode 1.10 "A Whole New You"

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 FOX for March 18-23, 2018. Enjoy!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "Safe House"
Written by Andy Gosche and directed by Nisha Ganatra

On one hand, this is a very familiar episode where Jake spends an extended period of time away from the Nine-Nine precinct. It functions more like a premiere where some outside threat has compromised his regular life. Of course this time, he has volunteered to protect Kevin while Holt works on building a case against Seamus Murphy. Now, Seamus Murphy was a plot device used to help get Jake and Rosa out of prison. He was introduced quickly and then became an ongoing threat. He would call on a favor from Holt at some point. He did that. It didn't go his way. And now, he's out for vengeance. It's an amusing story for an episode. It's good that it isn't dragged out for much longer. There's no real sense that the show could possibly kill off Kevin. But the larger and more genuine threat is to Holt and Kevin's marriage. It's so fantastic to see how serious Holt takes all of the security protocols. It's absolutely ridiculous to see multiple people crawling around the floors of this apartment to avoid being seen. It's also hilarious that the only source of entertainment for Jake and Kevin are Nicholas Cage movies - which comes with a fantastic payoff at the end of the episode. The main plot carries the bulk of this episode. As such, the side stories with the other characters from the precinct don't really seem all that important. It features great undercover accent work from Rosa and Gina. But Scully having to help Amy and Terry with the paper shreds wasn't all that great. It was still nice to see Kevin have his action hero moment after an episode of buildup where Jake and Holt did their best at protect him. It's perhaps to easy a solution to an outside threat who has been recurring this season. But now, it's enticing to think that the rest of the year can just focus on Jake and Amy's wedding and Holt's possible promotion to police commissioner. Both of those are really intriguing stories. B

The Last Man on Earth - "Hamilton/Berg"
Written by Kira Kalush and directed by David Noel

This episode features the conclusion to Karl's arc and the ongoing mystery of Chekhov's rubix cube. Both resolve in the exact way everyone was probably expecting. It's clear that the show really got a kick out of the idea of a cannibal joining the group of survivors. They were able to bring in Fred Armisen for the role who is always a game performer no matter what. But this story arc over the past few episodes wasn't that great. It always had the allure of genuine stakes with Karl potentially killing someone in the group. But it was always treated too tentatively and comedically to believe that anyone was in genuine danger. As such, it was a weird balance that mostly felt distracting. It's become so overwhelming that most everyone has given up the search for Jasper even though they all still agree that he should be found as soon as possible. And so, Karl is found out as a cannibal. The group freaks out and decides to kill him. It's an action that offers the illusion of morality. The group knows that they have to execute this murderer. They tried locking him up in the prison again but he was able to escape from those chains very easily this time around for some reason. But no one wants to pull the trigger and kill Karl. It's super serious when they gather in a group to draw straws - with Carol ultimately getting the short one. It's noble of Tandy to step up to ensure that Carol doesn't have to do it. And yet, it's always abundantly clear to the audience that the rubix cube will be the cause of Karl's death. As such, the show is killing two birds with one stone. It's eliminating both of those ongoing threats. That's good. It ensures that the rest of the season can focus on something else - like the gang learning that Melissa knows exactly where Jasper is and isn't encouraging him to come home. B-

The X-Files - "My Struggle IV"
Written by Chris Carter and directed by Chris Carter

This is such a frustrating ending. Everyone was probably expecting it as such. All of the previous mythology episodes were completely gibberish. The expectation was the same for this one. This season has provided so many potential series finale moments. As such, the audience can easily pick and choose the ending they most want to identify with the show. This certainly plays as an ending that wraps up everything related to the mythology over the course of these two revival seasons. The Cigarette Smoking Man has an alien virus he wants to unleash on the world. Cabals of people are all fighting over William. William has powers from being an experiment. It's a lot of action. Many people die - or appear to die. Things seem pretty definitive with the Cigarette Smoking Man, Reyes and the two new players in the mythology. But William survives a bullet to the head. Plus, there's the ambiguity over whether Skinner is alive underneath that car. And yet, there's just no reason to care about any of this. The show made such an off-putting decision with the twist that the Cigarette Smoking Man is William's true father and that he did this to Scully against her will and knowledge. The show never even allowed Scully to have a reaction to that. It was always a story told from the male perspective. Skinner was the first to find out and has really wanted to tell her all season long. Now, he finally does but it doesn't really connect. But more importantly, it's ultimately up to Mulder to take vengeance on the Cigarette Smoking Man when the time comes for it. He's the one who shoots him multiple times in the chest. All Scully really does in this episode is wander around saying cryptic details about needing to talk with her son. William doesn't want to be found and is making it difficult for everyone. But it mostly feels like chaos in order to keep the tension high. This hour continues to prove that Chris Carter has become a bad writer and director. He seriously thinks that this story needs to be in a million action sequences set to a pulse-pounding score with the characters driving or running every which way and the chaos that follows that. Meanwhile, he genuinely wants to believe in the sincerity of that final moment with Scully noting that they need to give up on William while telling Mulder she's pregnant with his baby. It's such a weird, nonsensical ending. It's bad. But it's about what one expected too. Plus, it doesn't retroactively make the great episodes from this season any worse. C

9-1-1 - "A Whole New You"
Written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk & Tim Minear and directed by Bradley Buecker

This finale mostly plays things for the melodrama instead of the ridiculousness. That's unfortunate because the show is at its best when it's absolutely ridiculous and crazy. Instead, it just wants to offer a summation of everything that has happened to the characters this year while providing some sense of closure to them. There is still some weird and gross things that happen - like Buck realizing his catfish has died and the bloating needs to be drained. That's so disgusting. But the season built up this connection between Buck and Abby. This finale talks about how they are basically living together now without ever really making that decision or having that conversation. And then, it basically blows all of that up because Connie Britton only had a one-year deal with the show. That was news that came out ahead of the finale - with everyone fully expecting her to return as well. But it's easy to see the wheels spinning to ensure that this couple holds strong even though Abby is leaving to go find herself again. It's an awkward story that mostly feels forced - and would only be an okay goodbye should Britton's new deal fall through. Meanwhile, it seems like a somewhat random idea to throw Bobby and Athena together as a potential couple. The firehouse has a lot of fun at Bobby's expense when he decides to put himself back out there. Both Athena and Bobby are rusty at dating because they were in longterm relationships. And yet, it does contradict what Athena said last week about just enjoying being a single woman for a little while. Instead, she is mostly getting emotional about her children not sleeping in the same house as her for the weekend. The two of them finding each other in this way could work. It's definitely something the show will pursue because they are the leads of the show. It's just a little awkward because the season really hasn't been building to this moment. It mostly seems like the writers wanted to give them this moment of happiness after the season of melodrama they had while always reminding the audience of the drama happening in their individual lives. B