‘Gracepoint’ Finale or Deus ex machina or A Pretty Red Bow Can’t Hide the Crappy Giftwrap

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Last nights episode of Gracepoint was brought to you by the letter D. D stands for Deus Ex Machina. For those of you familiar with the literary term, you’ll recognize this plot device as it was used in exemplary form on Thursday night’s finale. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, deus es machina is an ancient Greek phrase translating to “God as the machine” and was used during early Renaissance theater criticism as reference to the ropes and cranes used to lower angels and Gods down on to the stage and resolve the conflict, quite literally “out of thin air”.

But enough with the metaphors. In fact, what happened last night on Gracepoint could have used some metamorphosis — unfortunately it was too wrapped up in misdirecting viewership and (just one more metaphor here) dropping it’s fallen angel, Joe Miller, on our proverbial heads. What. A. Crock.

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Homeland 4.10 or Hillary Told Us From The Beginning or Carrie-lite is Alright

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Last night’s Homeland was brought to you by the later H. H stands for Hillary. Hillary of “you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them not to bite your neighbors” fame. If you recall, we have heard Clinton deliver this line week after week all season long in the opening credits. You may or may not recall, however, the context in which they were originally spoken: to Pakistani officials in Islamabad in 2011 in relation to their protection of the Haqqani Taliban network which operates on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Sound familiar?

With that in the rear-view mirror, the Benghazi-like events of last night’s episode, entitled “13 Hours in Islamabad” (a direct reference to the book “13 Hours in Benghazi“), should ring even louder bells. Indeed, Homeland must have Dick Wolf on retainer because the “ripped from the headlines” feel of this season is stronger than ever before. Yes, it’s a television show but, these things are happening all the time and Homeland is pulling us cozy first-world civilians into the utter tragedy and helplessness that diplomats, intelligence, military, and third-world citizens have to suffer through in a state of war. And war doesn’t stop for love, and barely long enough for self-reflection. It just keeps going.

Speaking of love — confession: I respect and admire the hell out of this season of Homeland, and yet, week after week, I very secretly hope that in a fit of culpability and rage, Carrie will just bend Quinn over a desk and — well not exactly but you see where I’m going. Maybe I’m a shipper, or just a perv, but deep down it’s killing me that these two haven’t so much as touched one another all season… and yet I understand how very wrong it would be if they had by now. In fact, I’d like to thank the writers for sticking to the plot and not deviating into carnal melodramas. That’s what I have Scandal for.

Sunday night’s episode kept the ball of high-intensity action and drama rolling, and although the season isn’t over, the tragedy and truth to this week’s story should really strike a chord.

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‘The Affair’ 1.08 or Meet Me Hereth, I’ll Be Thereth or DNR

the affair 108Last night’s episode of The Affair was brought to you by the letter G. G stands for Genre. We’re all familiar with the term, but what we are more familiar with are the genres themselves. What genre would you categorize The Affair under? Mystery? Romance? Melodrama? Comedy? There are certainly elements of all these within it but, as Prof. Solloway rightly points out to his high school English class, it is clear when the story shifts in genre, much like “Romeo and Juliet”, and it always always means something. The Affair has shifted from what we believed a series titled The Affair might be about, to something much different: murder in a small town. But is it really about who killed Scotty Lockhart? Or is there much more to be answered?

You’ll have to excuse my personal bias towards American high school English teachers, but I think that among them lie some of the most magical people, possibly because within them lies the story of storytelling. The audiences expectations are part of the effectiveness of the story, I know that, perhaps you knew that, and certainly the writer on this show know that. So are they messing with our expectations? Just as this romance turned into a mystery, will this mystery turn into… something else? I’ve heard a lot of people wonder how long the series will be able to maintain “the affair” at the center of the story for three seasons (that’s how far in creator Sarah Treem has mapped out the series, FYI) without having the audience lose interest. If I had to guess, the answer lies in genre. Just some food for thought.

Oh and one last side note while we are on the subject (and before I get into last night’s episode): has anyone noticed or read any discussion on why Carl Sagan’s science-fiction novel Contact is in the opening credits of The Affair? It’s quick, blurry, and well hidden, but several pages from within that book can be seen (yes, there was lots of pausing and a few quick Google Book searches). I have not read the book but the 1997 film on which it is based is one of my favorites, and it could not be any more different than The Affair. It tells the story of a female scientist who builds machines to communicate with other planets, travels in time, fights religion, embraces technology, then questions it all. It’s a story about a father and daughter, too. Totally random? Or could there be more to this?

Alright, on with the episode after the jump. (And for those still keeping score with me that’s: Noah 7 – Alison 1)

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‘Gracepoint’ 1.09 or Cameo by Max Headroom or ‘What Do You Even Do All Day?’

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Last night’s episode of Gracepoint was brought to you by letter H. H stands for Headroom. Excessive headroom. I thought I would point this out in defense of Gracepoint, since one of my on-going pet peeves with this murder-mystery has been it’s sunny aesthetic disposition, and not in an non-ironic way.  I had previously mentioned lighting and set design as culprits, but never framing because it was pretty standard — all by-the-book mediums and wides. In last night’s Gracepoint, however, the amount of headroom (the space between the top of someone’s head and the top frame of he screen) was out of control, making the characters look and feel small, almost pushed down by the weight of their environment. The episode was darker as well, both in tone and lighting. So, props?

Meh. Too little too late, if you ask me. It’s too bad that we didn’t feel that anxiety or fear or weight sooner but, c’est la vie. All we can hope for now is that this all comes to a fantastic and very well thought out conclusion. My expectations are low but my fingers are crossed. This week was another decent episode of a decent show. It’s not easy to make a decent show so I definitely will look forward to next week’s finale, although I’ll be glad it’s all come to an end.

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‘Homeland’ 4.09 or Mathison’s Law: What Did Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong Again

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Last week’s episode of Homeland was brought to you by the letter C. C stands for Consistency. As in, consistent failure, but constantly kick ass episodes of Homeland.

(As mentioned in my previous post on The Affair, I was out of the country during the Thanksgiving holiday and unable to view/post for the most part last week. Thankfully for me, Showtime has taken a little break as well, and so I’ve taken that breather to ponder on the goings-on from the “explosive” 9th episode from the week prior.)

Yet another heart-wrenching week of didn’t-see-that-coming cliffhangers, and a sign that this season could be the strongest yet . Let’s quickly look back at the shockers from the last four episodes:

  • 4.06: Carrie sends Aayan to Haqqani, and he is killed in cold blood. Haqqani whips out kidnapped Saul from his car. Carrie nearly drops a bomb on them all and Quinn is forced to restrain her from quite literally pushing the button.
  • 4.07: Carrie is drugged, left roaming the streets in hysterics and hallucinating a shooting. She is taken prisoner where she hallucinates Brody and pours her heart out to him. Her hallucination is revealed to be HISIG Khan.
  • 4.08: Saul escapes Haqqani, but the CIA’s extraction plan is made. Saul almost blows his brains out amid the panic, Carrie promises him extraction, but he is recaptured anyway. Khan reveals Dennis as the mole to Carrie.
  • 4:09: Saul nearly ruins the prisoner exchange until Carrie again convinces him to stay alive. Their transportation vehicle is blown up in an ambush, while Haqqani is infiltrating the embassy through the underground tunnels Dennis has given up to Tasneem.

I’d also like to point out that despite those just being the final moments of the episode, the episodes as a whole have been rock solid. It’s old trick to have a so-so episode and just end with a bang creating a kind of narrative-amnesia (ahem, Homeland season 3) but I must say with the way everything has come together this year, I cannot blame the team of that this time around. With the tightly woven stories, and they way they mostly seem to be coming together, you would think we had been in the final stretch of the season, but no. Since the season opener and Sandy’s shocking death we’ve more or less never stopped freaking the hell out now, have we? Even when it slowed down and allowed us into the depths of Quinn’s pain, Saul’s regret, or Carrie’s darkness, you at least hoped that whatever they were going would come return with a vengeance as the season rolled along — and it has.

Saul’s self-doubt about leaving the CIA has certainly come full circle by now, dragging him to the deepest pits of despair, ripping him from his life, and quite literally looking into the eyes of innocence and evil all in one in that young boy. After Carrie’s “faux affair” with Aayan, his death, holding Saul’s life in her hands three times and a catharsis with Khan-as-Brody, it would appear she’s ready to accept that her job isn’t quite as important and benevolent as she tried to convince herself of when she left Franny motherless. Now, as for Quinn, that remains to be seen, and I take it will be fairly soon. For all the attention they put on his character’s state of mind in the earlier part of this season, I hope that his arc and the change in his character will have a large impact on the coming events, particularly since he and Lockhart are now in charge or figuring out what happened during the ambush and of controlling the impending infiltration of the embassy.

Oh and the big question? Could Carrie and/or Saul actually be dead? Seriously and permanently injured?

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‘The Affair’ 1.07 or The Truth Shall Seriously Complicate Things

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**Apologies, for the lateness and subsequent rushing on my part with this post. I’m away on holiday in Peru and my Showtime Anytime was not unavailable out of the country**

Sunday night’s The Affair was brought to you by the letter C. C stands for Confessions. And just like that. Did anyone think that the affair would come out in the open quite so quickly?

While on the topic of confessions, here’s mine: It’s been difficult reviewing this show because I love it so much that I need to watch it twice: once to enjoy the hell out of it, and a second time to really get my thoughts together for the review. It takes a lot more time but is absolutely worth it. For me, this is hands down the best new show of the last two or even three years. I’ve crossed over and can barely find a fault in it. Feel free to call me out on any biases to come. Phew! Glad I got that off my chest.

Yet another week of not knowing if what we are watching is a set of memories or confessions or writings? As I mentioned last week, beware, these narratives should still not be taken as absolute truths. Although there is minimal crossover and much of it is similar, they are not identical, so proceed with caution. I’ll ask again, are they just memories? We saw Detective Jeffries again this week after his absence last week, and he’s certainly on his own investigation so if these are interrogations or confessions of sorts, its not to him. We also returned to Noah first. Per my count of firsts that’s Noah – 6, Alison – 1, and I’m sure this means something.

Nonetheless, so much to discuss this week I barely know where to start, but let’s jump in.

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