New Fall Shows 2015: What Are You Watching?

It’s getting closer to a new season of television! It’s always an exciting time of year to discover new shows and fall back in love with some old ones too. We’re still nearly two months out, so if you need something to fill your time, check out my most recent batch of show recommendations. If you’re looking to plan your viewing schedule, I recommend TVLine’s day-by-day grid or something like EpisodeCalendar or TraktTV. If all you want to know is the premiere dates of the new network shows, then this is the post for you. I’ve listed all of the new shows below with links to the trailer and a description if you haven’t had the time to check them out yet. This post will be stickied until we get midseason/spring premiere dates and will be updated with links to pilot episodes and reviews from me as they become available. Happy planning!
Continue reading New Fall Shows 2015: What Are You Watching?

Be a Force of Nature: A Letter to Cristina Yang

For those of you who don’t know, my friend Katie (creator of Nerdy Girl Notes) is writing a book! She believes, as I do, in the power of the media to shape us and positively impact our lives. So she created The Fan Mail Project as a way for us as fans to say thank you so some of the fictional characters who have meant the most to our personal development and to highlight all of the good that comes from having diverse, positive examples of female representation in the media. The submission deadline for letters is 3 weeks away, so there is plenty of time to contribute yourself or spread the word. If you need somewhere to start, here’s a few suggestions of characters who aren’t yet represented in the book but are often cited as making a difference. Or if you’d like to see more examples of letters, Katie’s can all be found online as can the contributions of other fans

Dear Cristina,

I’ve always believed that there are some people who come into our lives exactly when we need them. These are the people who fill a piece of your heart and never really leave us. This is who you are to me. I met you a year ago. I was nicely settled in at work, doing a job I enjoy, but am not particularly passionate about. You were a first year resident and already sure you were taking the right path. You were a little off-putting at first, with your confidence and lack of interest in sugarcoating your thoughts. But you quickly revealed a deeper inner life and drive and in you, I found myself.

I didn’t find myself in all of your many positive attributes. I admire your unwavering sense of purpose and your dedication to all things related to cardiothoracic surgery. I cheered at your many successes in the operating room and with your research. But I don’t share that soul-deep certainty that I have found what I want to do with my life. You give me hope that one day I will and that I can approach it with the same tenacity and devotion so thank you for pursuing your dreams without hesitation.

Instead, it’s been in your weaknesses that I am most drawn to you. When you had your ectopic pregnancy and tried to push through like everything was fine, I recognized that impulse. I recognized the need to be strong and not show that you were hurting because in your mind, there was no reason to be. You didn’t want the pregnancy, so you weren’t grieving over a child in the same way you could have been. So life and work continued on and you probably even thought you were fine for a while. But as you and I both know, emotions aren’t that convenient and logical, as much as we wish for them to be at times. When we finally give in and allow ourselves to breakdown, we do it in a big way. Thank you for being so much like me in that moment. Thank you for making me feel less alone in my somewhat ineffective way at handling events and feelings that are beyond my control.

Continue reading Be a Force of Nature: A Letter to Cristina Yang

The 100 Episode Discussion: Ye Who Enter Here

I’m always a little amazed at the amount of plot The 100 packs into each episode while also maintaining a strong focus on the characters affected by that plot. This week was no exception, with the addition of Skaikru to Lexa’s coalition of Grounders, the destruction of Mount Weather, and what looked to the breaking of that same coalition. All while giving us a better look at Polis, a glimpse into Raven’s vulnerabilities, and a promise between Lexa and Clarke.

Before I get to the many things I enjoyed about the episode, there is one storyline that I’m having problems with that I would like to address. I don’t like that Gina was killed in Mount Weather. One of the most frequent ways in which I praise this show is its commitment to its characters and their growth and development. Killing Gina went against all of that. Her character could have been so much more than she was able to be. We saw a few brief moments between her and Bellamy though we missed any sort of development there that would have gotten us truly invested in her as a character. We saw that she and Raven clearly had a history together that could have deepened each of their backstories. But ultimately, she existed to be killed. She was killed for shock value and to propel the stories of other characters forward. Yes, other love interests in the show have been killed. But we were given the opportunity to care about Maya and understand Finn’s journey. Their deaths meant something to us as viewers, not just to the characters onscreen. Gina’s death means relatively little to viewers, other than the loss of potential storylines and relationships. It was an lazy, contrived plot choice and I have come to expect better from this show.

Continue reading The 100 Episode Discussion: Ye Who Enter Here

The 100 Episode Discussion: Wanheda, Parts One and Two

Welcome to a new season of The 100! The format of these posts will likely change as the season demands but I am excited to have a space to discuss this show with other fans. 

Where We Left Off: Everything was terrible. Lexa broke the Grounder’s alliance with the Sky People. Clarke, Bellamy, and Monty murdered all of the Mountain Men. Raven was hurt, again. Clarke couldn’t live with what she had done and left Camp Jaha.

Where We Came Back: Things are a little better. The Sky People and Grounders have come to a tenuous truce and Lincoln is working with Abby and Kane in an attempt to bring about a more lasting peace. Bellamy and Monty have developed a good partnership and look like they are becoming integral members of Arkadia (the new name for Camp Jaha). Monty was reunited with his mom. Both Nyko and Indra seem to be on friendly terms with the Sky People. On the bad side of things, the Ice Nation Queen wants to kill Clarke (though she’s now reasonably safe under Lexa’s protection). Jasper is struggling to deal with losing Maya at Mount Weather. Abby is having a hard time balancing her multiple, often conflicting, responsibilities. Octavia doesn’t like being with the Sky People or Lincoln’s increased role in their society. Pike, a newly-found member of Farm Station, hates all Grounders and is largely unwilling to budge on that issue. Finally, in a plot nearly entirely to himself, Jaha has undertaken ALIE’s plan to save everyone by bringing them to the City of Light and Murphy is having no part of it.

Where We’re Going: There are three major conflicts that look like they are going to define this season. For the Sky People, Pike and his refusal to cooperate with the Grounders doesn’t mesh with the peace that has formed. To him, they are all evil killers and nothing seems likely to change his mind. That sort of rigid thinking may have worked on the Ark but as we’ve seen time and time again, it doesn’t work on the ground. In order for the remaining people on the ground, both Sky Person and Grounder, to find some sort of lasting peace and cooperation, each side has to put aside their preconceived notions of the other group as a whole and begin treating them as individuals. It’s a lot easier to demonize groups of people when they are an abstract concept and Pike seems content to do just that. If he can gain a following, just keeping their own people in line will be an uphill battle for Abby and Kane.

For the Grounders, a war is brewing between the 11 tribes under Lexa’s command and Azgeda (Ice Nation), who refuse to bow to her. In order to do that, the Azgeda queen is searching for Wanheda (the Commander of Death) to kill for her power. That is clearly opposed to Lexa’s goals. Politically, she needs the unification of the tribes to maintain her power. If one opposes her, how long will it before others follow suit? As Heda, she’s performed something unheard of by bringing all of the tribes under her leadership and in doing so, has created a relative peace between them that she is now desperately trying to hold on to.

To complicate issues, she genuinely cares for Clarke and doesn’t want to lose someone else to her enemies. For as much as I may personally disagree with the statement, Lexa wasn’t wrong when she told Clarke that love was a weakness. Love gives your enemies a place to strike. It makes you vulnerable. And while personally, that is a good thing and allows that love to change you and enrich your life, it’s a dangerous position for a leader to be in. Love makes you make bad strategic decisions because your priorities are split between making the safest decision for the people you command and the safest decision for the person you love. As Heda, Lexa simply can’t afford that. She needs Clarke to be both a person and a symbol and the conflict between those two needs is going to be fascinating to watch this season.

Then there is Jaha and the City of Light. This is not a hugely popular storyline. It’s currently occupying a very different space than the other two stories and it looks and feels like it’s coming out of an entirely different show. Jaha’s vision of the City of Light makes me feel like I’m standing in Gaius Baltar’s house waiting for the destruction of everything. Now, I love Battlestar Galactica and I’m more than a little intrigued by the similarities between Jaha’s visions and the AI world Daniel Greystone created in Caprica. But at the moment, this feels like the weakest storyline. I’m holding off judgement until we see how it will eventually interest with the other two stories but after two episodes, I’m more interested in uncovering ALIE’s goal and why she’s manipulating Jaha and the others and less interested in more of Jaha’s savior complex.

Continue reading The 100 Episode Discussion: Wanheda, Parts One and Two

100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day One

There is joy in talking about the things we love deeply, as I found when I did my Month of Love in July 2014. The ladies at MGcircles wanted to do something similar so they started 100 Days of Fan Favorites as a challenge to bloggers, artists, and anyone in fandom who would like to participate to celebrate the things we love instead of focusing on the things we don’t. This will be an ongoing project for me with things posted sporadically but I am thrilled to be taking part.

I didn’t see Clarke and Bellamy coming. I knew people loved the idea of them together and so was primed for it but I was so invested in the non-romantic aspects of the show that it wasn’t something I thought a lot about. Then this scene happened and I was done.

Clarke and Bellamy started the series as opponents, each advocating for a fundamentally different approach to leading. At the beginning of the series, Bellamy thought of Clarke as a spoiled princess. As one of the two members of the Ark’s ruling class on the ground, Clarke represented everything about the Ark that Bellamy hated. She was the rule that led to his mother’s death. The rule that led to Octavia’s imprisonment. And the rule that led to him attempting to kill a man for the chance to look out for his sister again. Bellamy was the person making Clarke’s life incredibly difficult. He was the one standing in the way of every decision she was trying to make to keep The 100 alive when they were more interested in partying than finding food. He was the one encouraging the “whatever the hell we want” philosophy that would lead to the death of everyone on the Ark. Neither thought much of the other. Neither was willing to back down.

Then Atom was caught in the acid fog and Bellamy had to make some hard realizations about both himself and Clarke. She was able to do what he couldn’t and in doing so, forced him to see her as more than the spoiled princess he wanted to believe she was. While he still doesn’t like her, he begins to respect her. This moment also marks the first time that Clarke realizes that Bellamy’s attitude is nothing more than a facade. It may be an irritating facade but Clarke sees that there is a good person (or at least someone not quite as comfortable with violence as he led people to believe) underneath. In this moment, things change. That change starts as subtle but by the end of the next episode, they are the official co-leaders of the camp. They still don’t really like each other but there is a respect and an understanding present between them that wasn’t there before.

Continue reading 100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day One

Best of 2015: Shows

Happy New Year, everyone! I was enjoying a much-needed vacation and now that I am back, it’s time to talk about my favorite shows of last year. My contenders for this list turned into a monster that grew entirely out of control. There was a lot of TV made in 2015, as was been noted, and there was a lot of it that was good. I love the transition to a greater quantity of TV that will appeal to a smaller number of people. Not every show can or should be Empire but all have the ability to resonate deeply with people and that is what this list is to me. These are the 10 shows that resonated with me the most in 2015 (and another 15 honorable mentions just because I love TV and want to see it celebrated).

For even more Best of 2015 fun, check out MGCircles and Nerdy Girl Notes if you haven’t already for their takes on the best TV had to offer last year.

Parks and Recreation All anyone really wants from a final season of a show is for it to honor the investment they have put into it. That means different things to different people and looks a little different for character-based vs. mythology-based shows, but it all boils down to us wanting the things we love to end strongly, if they have to end at all. I would have happily watched another several seasons of Parks and Recreation but since that wasn’t an option, I can’t have chosen a better final season. It was everything I could have asked for as it closed this chapter of the story for these characters while allowing me to see a future in which they are all still close. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it gave me even more of Leslie Knope to be inspired by and that’s really the show in a nutshell. It was a show that made me feel good and believe that people can and want to do good for others and be rewarded for that goodness. It was a show about friendship and the joy that comes from watching your friends succeed. It was a show about believing in yourself and never giving up on your dreams. It was a special show and I’m glad it got the ending it deserved.

The Americans What a brilliantly crafted season. It was gripping and tense from start to finish all while allowing for some quiet moments of intimacy and grounding that prevented things from feeling oppressively bleak. This show isn’t a typical spy show, it’s a character study about faith and allegiances and family. This season highlighted the similarities between Paige and Elizabeth and the wholehearted way they embrace their beliefs and how those beliefs help to provide a structure to their lives. Elizabeth may not understand why Paige believes what she does but the underlying desire to be a part of something greater is the same for both of them. Philip, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same grounding faith as his wife and daughter and he was adrift for much of the season, caught between trying to be a loyal agent and the man he wants to believe himself to be. Seeing the growing divide between Philip and Elizabeth was painful to watch but Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell continue to be captivating screen partners and the work Holly Taylor and Alison Wright did as Paige and Martha was simply incredible. Taylor and Wright in particular took two characters who could have been stereotypes and far less fleshed out and made them into characters we want to root for and protect from the life the KGB thrust upon them.

Jane the Virgin This is one of the best crafted shows on the air right now. The writing is sharp, clever, and incredibly self-aware all while also being funny and emotional. The care that goes into crafting this show and balancing its numerous elements is evident in every scene and I will never think it gets enough credit for the wonderful job it is doing. It is easy for many to dismiss the quality of the show because it doesn’t doesn’t hit the various markers of “prestige TV” but those who do are doing themselves a disservice. Shows don’t have to be dark or constantly serious in order to be well-made. They can be full of warmth and love and joy and be every bit as good as anything else on the air if a person is willing to put down their preconceived notions of what the show is and instead embrace the amount of respect and love everyone associated with this show has for its telenovela roots and how they have played with its genre to create something wholly their own. I love these characters, so I’m already inclined to enjoy the show but at least once an episode, something will happen that makes me pause and marvel at how well-done the show is. Anyone who is a fan of high quality TV should check this show out and enjoy what this incredible cast and crew has to offer.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Shows

Best of 2015: Episodes

Choosing the best episodes of the year is always tough because it can be tricky to compare against many different types of shows. Ultimately, as always, I opted to discuss the ones that touched me the most. Whether it was for a standout moment, a departure from the ordinary, the relationships showcased or saying goodbye to a show, these are the episodes I could watch again and again. They were executed well and made me feel and there isn’t a better qualification, in my opinion.

One Last Ride (Parks and Recreation) To close out seven seasons of the show, Parks and Recreation chose to spend their final episode by reflecting on these characters and how they have been changed by knowing Leslie Knope. For a character whose dreams always included the happiness of her friends, I can think of no better ending. The unique structure allowed us to peek into the future and know that these characters had bright lives ahead of them. We got to say goodbye to each of them individually before we got to celebrate one final moment of them working together to make a difference in a small, rather unappreciated way. We got one more chance to celebrate the friendship between this intense, occasional steamroller of a woman and her beautiful tropical fish (and cry many tears at their reunion). We got one more look at the unconditional support and belief that Ben Wyatt has in his wife and got to see Leslie accomplish everything she had ever wanted. We even had time for one last library joke. Nobody does anything alone. Leslie taught us that has she achieved all of her goals with the people of the Parks and Recreation department of Pawnee, Indiana by her side. It is a beautiful message and the only real way to say goodbye to this beautiful show.

Stingers (The Americans) A single scene and its fallout elevate this episode into one of the best of the year and the best thing The Americans did in an incredible season. This scene wasn’t loud or splashy, but instead was quiet and almost painfully tense. For the first time in her life, Paige’s parents decided to be honest about who they were. It was a question she had every right to ask because no one can pretend that their life is perfectly normal. It was also a question whose answer she was in no way prepared for. Her parents were similarly unprepared to tell her the truth though I’m glad they did. They understood what they were asking of Paige even if I think they overestimated what a teenage girl could reasonably be expected to bear. And so they told her with as much compassion and love as they could muster because despite their history and everything they have been asked to fake, they’ve never needed to fake their love for their children. This scene was so affecting because you could feel Philip and Elizabeth’s need for Paige to understand and accept what they were saying just as much as we felt how overwhelming all of this information was to Paige in this moment and for the rest of the episode. Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, and Holly Taylor are all so talented and made this a scene and an episode I won’t forget.

Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television (Community) There was no other way for Community to end. The final episode needed Jeff to come to terms with himself and be wonderfully meta about the role television plays in our lives. This episode was Dan Harmon’s thank you letter to his fans. It was an acknowledgement of the show’s ups and downs and a statement of his vision and everything he put into creating such a weird little show that never found mass success but inspired a dedicated following. It was his frustration of the way the show was received by fans and an admission that it’s hard to create a TV show that is everything each viewer needs and wants it to be. Saying goodbye is hard, whether it’s to a show you love or to your best friends as they go off and start new chapters in their lives. But things can’t stay the same, in television or in life. Change is needed. People need to move on and grow so they don’t end up in a permanent stasis that isn’t true to who they are. This episode was about welcoming that change and by making it as much about TV and the viewers as it did about the characters, Community gave us a fitting end so we would be ready for whatever the future held for the show.

The Devil’s Mark (Outlander) In this episode, Claire found out that that she wasn’t the only time-traveler in Scotland and Jaime found that that Claire was from the future. These two events changed Outlander and solidified the bond between Claire and Jaime. From now on, these two are full partners, with the knowledge that they have chosen each other and their life together. When a character is keeping a secret as big as Claire’s, we know as viewers that it can’t last forever. Eventually, someone one has to find out. Often times, it gets revealed for an easy source of drama, but Outlander chose to go a different route. Jaime may not understand how all of this was possible but he listens and he chooses to trust his wife and let her decide how she wanted to move forward. Their separation at the stones was painful because you could see the effect it was having on both. They got married out of necessity but the love between them is real. Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan have incredible chemistry with each other and they sell the epic love story that is Jaime and Claire. Their reunion at the end and the tender kiss they share says what words couldn’t at the moment. Claire no longer wanted to go home. Or rather, she didn’t want to go back to her own time. She did choose to go home but that home was now wherever she and Jaime could be together.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Episodes

Best of 2015: Moments

If you haven’t already, take a look at my choices for Best Shows I Didn’t See, Best Characters, and Best Relationships and share your own choices for these categories. For even more end of the year TV fun, check out Nerdy Girl Note’s best performances of 2015 and MGCircles Media’s best shows of the year

In a year of great television, there will always be moments that stand out to you and that resonate with you just a little more. It is these moments that you will carry with you as you continue to watch more television and it will be these moments that you remember from their respective series. These moments all made me feel deeply and it was truly a pleasure to experience them this year.

Connor and Jude hold pinkies (The Fosters)  I don’t watch very many shows with younger characters so I don’t often get to experience a character’s first love. The Fosters had been slowly moving toward a relationship between Connor and Jude and the process of watching them figure out their feelings toward each other has been incredible. I love this moment for two reasons. First, it perfectly captures the early stages of a crush that could maybe turn into something more. The hesitation, the fear, and the exhilaration were all there on both Connor and Jude’s faces and actions. It feels right and takes me back to those days in my own life. Second, while it has a lot of older fans, The Fosters is geared toward a younger audience. I love Stef and Lena’s relationship and think it’s one that is so important to see on TV but they are older and more sure of who they are. They have already gotten past the early stages in their relationship when they are trying to figure things out. Jude is just now getting to go through that and for younger gay or questioning teens, this is a moment they haven’t gotten to see on TV the way their straight peers have. It is the sort of moment I want to see more of on TV as we allow for stories to be told about a greater variety of people.

Elizabeth kills Betty (The Americans) What a moment of television. The work that Keri Russell and Lois Smith did for this entire episode was brilliant but it was in the moments just prior to Betty’s death that Elizabeth was forced to take a hard look at what she was doing with her life. Betty knew that there was no getting out of the situation. She was going to die that night and nothing she said would change that fact. But she left Elizabeth with a lingering thought. Would killing her, an old woman who happened to be in the building at the wrong time, make the world a better place? Elizabeth has rarely shied away from the difficult aspects of her work as a spy. The cause is a part of her and the things she does are in service to that cause. Even with all she has seen, this price was higher than usual. She gave Betty as gentle of a death as she could but having to do so rattled her more than an ordinary assignment. Betty brought out a moment of vulnerability in Elizabeth as she told the story of her life and her relationship with her husband and for a moment, Elizabeth allowed herself to feel (and us to see) the weight of her actions upon her. She may believe in the cause and she may be a very talented and committed spy, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel the collateral damage her line of work brings.

Clarke leaves Camp Jaha (The 100) This scene hurts. From the haunted look in Clarke’s eyes to the pleading look in Bellamy’s, you can’t help but feel for these characters and everything they’ve been through. These two just made a choice that led to the death of hundreds of people, some of them innocent of the crimes committed against the Sky People. It was the last straw in a series of hard choices that left Clarke broken and questioning who she was. She needed to heal and find herself again but she is also punishing herself by depriving herself of the comfort that people like Bellamy, Monty, and Abby could provide her. She needs to walk away because she doesn’t believe she deserves the forgiveness Bellamy is offering her, the forgiveness she once offered him for his crimes. The callback to Clarke asking Bellamy to stay because she needed him and her own inability to do the same for him is heartbreaking. These two are separating at the time both of them need the comfort of the other and the reminder that they share this burden and can overcome it together. You see it in the way Clarke pulls Bellamy close and the way he holds on like he doesn’t want to let go. And you see it in the way she pulls away and the haunted yet determined look on his face as she does. In their final words, the “may we meet again” isn’t just what Sky People say to each other to say goodbye, it’s a promise that they will see each other again, this isn’t the end of their journey. One way or another, these two will find their way back to each other.

Lily rises (Penny Dreadful) Accent slip aside, Billie Piper is phenomenal in this scene. In life, Brona was a prostitute, an object for men to use and discard. In death, Lily is still an object, dressed up and posed for Victor and Caliban to fight over and possess. She is something they are owed because they find her beautiful and it is because of them she has been brought back from death. For all the lip service Victor gives to Lily being her own person, she could never be anything more than his toy. After remembering what her life had been like and comparing that to her life post-death, in this moment, Lily has had enough. She has had enough of being used. She’d fed up with the lack of agency afforded to her in life or death. She is done with the idea that women in Victorian England exist only for the enjoyment of the men around them. And so she rises, not as Brona the prostitute or Lily the reanimated corpse, but as a villain, furious and terrifying. No longer will she bow and cater to the whims of men. From now on, they will cower in front of her as she takes back all the power she’s never had in life and channels it into a roaring flame within. Piper gave this scene everything she had and it was powerful to see.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Moments

Best of 2015: Relationships

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite individual characters of 2015, it’s time to move on to some of my favorite relationships. Some people watch TV for the plot of a show. I watch for the relationships. Whether that relationship is romantic, platonic, familial or even antagonistic, it’s these relationships that get me invested and keep me coming back for more.

Bellamy and Clarke (The 100) Over the course of two seasons, the relationship between Bellamy and Clarke has grown from enemies to co-leaders to friends. While much of their development happened prior to this year and their time on-screen together was limited, the strength of their bond shone through the distance. We saw the unshakable belief that they would save their people and that the other could do the impossible. We saw the trust they have in each other. We saw Clarke’s concern for Bellamy. We saw that Bellamy would do anything to protect Clarke. We saw them make an awful decision to save their people. We saw them say goodbye. It was basically a year of pain for these two but until the end, they had each other. It has been each of them doing what was best for their people, confident in the knowledge that the other would do the same. Their goodbye may have been sad but in it, you see exactly what these two are to each other. You see the security and the teamwork and the history and the love. That love may not be romantic yet (or ever) but that doesn’t diminish its strength. Bellamy is Clarke’s home and she is his.

Abbi and Ilana (Broad City) I can never get enough of female friendships on TV and while they may not be the most conventional of people, the love they have for each other resonates deeply with me. Thanks in part to Ilana Glazer’s and Abbi Jacobson’s off-screen friendship, the easy dynamic of their on-screen counterparts suggests a long history together. These two accept each other exactly as they are. They have clearly seen each other at their best and worst and at the end of the day, there really isn’t anyone they’d rather spend time with. Ilana is clearly the less inhibited of the two and while that could scare some people away, Abbi appreciates that about her. Sometimes you just need to call your best friend when the guy you’ve been crushing on forever wants you to peg him and sometimes the best response that friend can give is to literally dance in excitement for you. Ilana wants Abbi to experience as much of life as she possibly can and she knows Abbi wants that to but isn’t always brave enough to go for it. She pushes her just far enough outside her comfort zone to try new things all while offering someone supportive to fall back on in case it doesn’t work out. They can be crazy and ridiculous but but they love each other and support each other and that’s what lifelong friends do.

Joe and Barry (The Flash) Of the many wonderful relationships shown on the show, this one continues to be so much of its emotional core. While they aren’t biologically related to each other, these two are father and son. Joe has never tried to diminish Barry’s relationship with his biological father but it’s been clear since episode one that they consider each other family. As his adoptive father, Joe wants what is best for Barry. This was never more clear than their discussion in the season one finale “Fast Enough”. Joe loved Barry enough to give him a chance to grow up with his biological parents, even if it meant losing all the memories and love these two had built. Barry may have missed his parents growing up but all it took was the torn expression on his face to make it clear that this wasn’t an easy decision. It was Joe who got through to Barry as a child to tell him it was OK to grieve and it’s been Joe supporting and loving Barry through his experiences as a superhero. Joe now knows that he does have a biological son but the watch he gave Barry is a reminder that he’s also his son, even if it’s not by blood.

Will and Hannibal (Hannibal) I want to send all of the awards to Bryan Fuller, Mads Mikkelsen, and Hugh Dancy for bringing this beautiful, destructive, and deeply intimate relationship to life. This friendship gave both Hannibal and Will something they had longed for – recognition of who they were. They saw everything about each other and accepted it all. None of the harm they did to each other ultimately mattered because their intersection forever altered their lives. Since their introduction, their worlds have slowly merged as they’ve rotated around each other until there was little space left between them. Where one is, the other is as well. Drawn together by an inescapable force, these two will never be free of the other. They understand each other in a way that no one else in their lives is capable of and while it was not what you would call a healthy relationship, the power they held over each other was strong. It was strong enough for Will to admit that even after everything Hannibal did to him in season two, he would have run off with him. It was strong enough that even after Will betrayed him (in Hannibal’s mind at least) he made it so that Will would come find him. Hannibal was smart enough to live the rest of his life without being caught but then he would have been without Will and he wasn’t able to live with that. Their relationship is intoxicating to them both and absolutely compelling for the viewers.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Relationships

Best of 2015: Characters

Now that I’ve discussed the shows I didn’t get to see, it’s time to start talking about all the things I’ve loved about television this year. I watch TV for the emotional engagement more than any other element of a show and that’s what this list and the other four I will be releasing represent. They represent the characters, relationships, moments, episodes, and shows I have been drawn to the most over the course of this year. Each list has gone through several iterations until I landed on one that felt the most right and authentic to my engagement over the year and I would like to think that in years to come, I will be able to look back on this list and see who I was in 2015 and how that related to the media I connected with. That, even more than recommending new shows to people, is why I enjoy these lists. They are a record for me of what I loved and how I loved them, as I believe they are for everyone else who makes similar lists.

There were a lot of characters that caught my attention this year. Some for their personality, some for the struggles they went though, and some for what they represent and their importance to the larger pop culture landscape. These are the ten that resonated with me the most.

Mariana Foster (The Fosters) This year, Mariana coded a routine for her dance team’s competition and lost her virginity to her sister’s ex-boyfriend. She did amazing things and she made huge mistakes. While that level of complexity from a teenage girl (who isn’t even the main character on her show) shouldn’t be remarkable, it still is in today’s TV environment. She has wholeheartedly embraced the power of “and” by refusing to fit into a convenient mold. She loves both dance and STEM, looking pretty and being valued for her intelligence. She wants it all because she’s been taught she can be both and she will challenge anyone who thinks otherwise. And that is a remarkable thing in any character, let alone one who is only 15. But despite that, she’s not perfect. She’s not immune from society’s messaging. She slept with Wyatt because she was hurt and because she felt like everyone else was having sex so she should be able to as well. She messed up and did something she regretted and caused herself and people around her pain but it never made her less of character. There were consequences but she wasn’t demonized for her choice even though she knew it was the wrong one.

Ilana Wexler (Broad City) This was a fabulous year for messy, flawed women in comedy and Ilana Wexler is their queen. As Lindsay Jillian (You’re the Worst) would say, Ilana “wears her stains on the outside” except Ilana doesn’t even think of them as stains, just another aspect of herself that makes her fabulous. She’s self-absorbed and a terrible employee and is kind of awful to most people she interacts with but you still can’t help admiring her confidence in herself. Ilana has no front, she is exactly who she is at all times. She is entirely controlled by her impulses and makes messes that Abbi ends up cleaning up, but at the end of the day, Abbi doesn’t care because she knows Ilana would do anything for her. Ilana loves Abbi so entirely and it grounds her character. She’s always going to be someone most of us envy at least a little for her ability to do whatever she wants with seemingly few severe consequences but it’s in her love for Abbi that she becomes a full person and not just a chaotic, impulse-driven plot device.

Clarke Griffin (The 100) If anyone needs a hug on TV right now, it’s Clarke. She went through more in 7 episodes than many characters do in an entire season. She has been in so many situations where there is no clear answer and she’s done her best to make the right choice but the weight, pressure, and consequences of those choices have been their toll. Clarke is a good leader because of her love for her people. It’s what drives her to keep them safe and risk everything to get them back. But she knows that alone won’t save them. She needs to be smart and strategic as well. She needs to be pragmatic. She believes herself to be a good person (and I think she’s right about that) but when that belief, her love for her people and her strategy and pragmatism come into competition, how is anyone supposed to hold on to who they are? Especially in the face of a strong leader who is telling her that the love that partly defines her is weakness. The choices she has made have been strategic and worked toward her goal of rescuing her people. But they weren’t without a heavy cost. She was responsible for a lot of pain and death this year and now that the battles have been won, she must learn to face herself and the person she’s become.

Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful) Where season one Vanessa was haunted and more reserved, season two gave us a new side to Vanessa. She’s still haunted, as one could expect of someone being courted by the devil, but she’s no longer alone. She has gathered a group of people around her who care for her and wish to protect her, not out of obligation or to use her for their own ends, but because of who she is. Her rift with Malcolm repaired, her friendships with Ethan and Victor strengthened, and the loyalty of Sembene affirmed, Vanessa is free to experience moments of happiness and something akin to peace. And in those moments, we see the kind soul she possesses underneath the evil power she is capable of wielding. Vanessa can be both the person who saw and loved the poet in a monster and the person who essentially told the devil to go to hell in his own language. She longs for a normal life but knows that as long as she still suffers, it’s not a life she can allow herself to have. She longs for a lasting peace, one in which her thoughts, dreams, and prayers are safe. And as we see her goodness and the care she shows to those who are otherwise outsiders (not a pleasant place to be in Victorian England), we want her to find that peace. We want the struggle to be over so she can live the life in her dream. She couldn’t grasp that vision this season, but you can bet I’ll be tuned into the next one to see her continue to battle her demons.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Characters

Best of 2015: Top 5 Shows I Didn’t Get To See

No matter how much time you have, it’s never enough to actually watch all the shows you want to see. So before I start rolling out my lists of the things on television that I saw and loved next week, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the handful of shows that I didn’t get to try this year that I wish I had.

The Leftovers I tried this show last year and it wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t get into the feel of it all and frankly, I didn’t want another depressing TV show to watch. But then critics’ reviews for s2 started coming out and even people who didn’t like the first season were extolling it’s greatness. What was most striking to me were the ways in which it was being praised. I was hearing more about the feeling of the show than its technical achievements. It still may fail to resonate with me but I value emotion and sincerity in my TV and if that’s what The Leftovers is offering this season, I’ll give it another chance.

Bojack Horseman Bob’s Burgers has opened my eyes to the potential joys of animated shows when I had previously dismissed them. As with The Leftovers, it’s the discussions about the emotional content of Bojack Horseman that makes me want to start it immediately. This show makes people feel and that’s truly all I ask of any of my shows. I also hear that Diane is a pretty great character and I will take all the complex female characters TV wants to give me.

Manhattan One of the first books I read this year was “The Wives of Los Alamos” and since then I’ve been interested in trying out this show and learning more about a place and time I know embarrassingly little about. Even more than the historical knowledge, I want to see a small-screen depiction of the emotions “The Wives of Los Alamos” presented to me. I want an idea of what it felt like to live in Los Alamos at that moment in history and how all those involved reacted to their mission and the results.

Mr. Robot It felt like everybody was talking about this show when it came out and I want to understand why! I’m still not entirely sure that the premise of the show is one that really interests me but I like trying to understand why people are excited about a show almost as much as I like getting excited about one myself. I’m also really looking forward to seeing Carly Chaikin in a role that is very different than her character on Suburgatory.

Better Call Saul I was never a huge Breaking Bad fan but I did like what Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks did with their respective characters of Saul and Mike. Truthfully, this isn’t a show that I expect to really love but I am interested enough in these characters and Vince Gilligan’s abilities to at least try it out.

Have you seen any of these shows? If you have, would you recommend them? If not, what shows were on your to-watch list this year that you never found the time to watch?