All posts by Heather

Emmy Predictions 2017

It’s Emmy night! It’s a time for celebrating when beloved favorites win and yelling at the television in irritation when they don’t. While I never manage to quite get over my disappointment that some of my own favorites were snubbed, it doesn’t stop me from becoming invested in those who were. Below are my hopes and predictions for tonight’s awards and for more prediction fun, check out Katie’s thoughts over on Nerdy Girl Notes.

Outstanding Drama Series

Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
Westworld (HBO)

My Pick: The Handmaid’s Tale. This is easily my favorite in the category for it’s gorgeous production and the way it produced such a visceral reaction in me. It’s as haunting as it should have been and the acting is uniformly strong and draws you into the lives of these characters.
Prediction: This Is Us. I suspect this will go one of three ways. The Handmaid’s Tale has a very good chance for being both buzzy and politically resonant, This Is Us is the kind of big broadcast breakout hit that has seemed to connect with a wide range of people, and The Crown is beautifully produced and the sort of upper-class British spotlight that won Downton Abbey so much Emmy love. I think its broad appeal will give This Is Us the edge tonight.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson (This is Us)
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford (Westworld)
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill (Better Call Saul)
Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings (The Americans)
Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan (Ray Donovan)
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood (House of Cards)
Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson (This Is Us)

My Pick: Sterling K. Brown. I just love him a lot. He’s one of the best actors on television right now and I always want to shower him in awards and praise.
Prediction: Sterling K. Brown. After his win for People vs. OJ last year and the great work he’s doing on This Is Us, I think Brown has his second Emmy all but guaranteed tonight.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

Viola Davis as Annalise Keating (How to Get Away with Murder)
Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II (The Crown)
Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne/Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings (The Americans)
Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy (Westworld)
Robin Wright as Claire Underwood (House of Cards)

My Pick: Elisabeth Moss. This is one of the roles of the year that I won’t forget and that is entirely due to Moss’s abilities. She conveys so much in her face and it’s incredible to watch.
Prediction: Elisabeth Moss. I think the acting categories are where The Handmaid’s Tale will shine the brightest tonight and that includes its leading actress in one of her strongest roles.

Continue reading Emmy Predictions 2017

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100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Six

It is a tale as old as time. Two people, who meet under less than ideal circumstances and each with misconceptions about the other, embark on a journey together that reveals their truest selves. This journey changes them and forces them to reevaluate what they once believed about the world. It takes them from antagonists to allies to friendship and love that is based on mutual respect and trust.

It’s a ship type that I will never get enough of and for me, there is not a better example than Jaime and Brienne. Where there was once contempt and insults, there is now the highest regard and belief in the other’s honor. They have come a long way from their initial meeting and the early part of the journey to King’s Landing and each of their reunions has only served to reinforce their bond. 

Just as a side note, while I have loved these two since I read the books, it’s also been a very long time since I have read them and as they’ve taken rather different paths, I largely opted to stick with the show for this piece. 

Throughout the Seven Kingdoms, Jaime Lannister’s name was synonymous with betrayal. He was the Kingslayer – the member of the Kingsguard who murdered Aerys Targaryen. It’s an identity he took on as a shield, turning himself into the cruel, honorless person everyone assumed him to be. He openly scoffed at the idea that vows could mean anything, after all, they would only inevitably conflict with each other. Keeping them was impossible, so why bother trying. He was cynical and fatalistic in his beliefs and no longer believed in idealistic notions like honor and loyalty.

Brienne is looked upon with similar disregard and distrust. Women in Westeros, especially the daughter of a Lord, weren’t supposed to be fighters. They weren’t supposed to feel more comfortable in armor than in dresses and more at ease with a sword in their hand instead of a polite smile on their face. They were supposed to grow up wanting to be princesses and ladies, not knights. Brienne’s physical appearance and interests made her an outcast, someone to be mocked and sneered at. She dedicated her service to Renly Baratheon, becoming a member of his Rainbow Guard. He was kind to her and she loved him for it. When he was murdered, she was the one blamed as she had been the one with him. She failed at her oath. But it didn’t stop her from believing in their power and worthiness. She didn’t stop believing in honor. Even as she pledged her loyalty to Catelyn Stark, it was on the condition that she could one day avenge Renly. She meant to keep her word, even though he was no longer there to hold her to it.

Even if we disregard the fact that Brienne is working with Jaime’s captors, it is natural to see why the two clashed when they met. Jaime stood against everything Brienne believed in. The idea of betraying your king to his death was unfathomable to her, as was the notion of conflicting vows. Brienne was a shining example of everything Jaime had turned his back on. She was true to her sense of self and the values of a knight, despite the mockery of everyone around her. It made her an easy target for him to provoke and for a time, he was more than happy to be the arrogant lion he was raised to be.

Continue reading 100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Six

Dream Emmy Nominees 2017

Next week, the nominees for the 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards will be announced and while I am preparing myself for my typical levels of resignation about the sameness of the nominees year-to-year, I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate the shows, actors, and writing from the past year that I have loved. As usual, this is a list made from the shows I have seen at least half a season of over the past year and I am leaving out a lot of likely and worthy nominees that I don’t watch. If you’d like to play along, the official Emmy ballots are located here then head to the comment section to tell me about the things you’d like to see recognized!

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
  • The Good Place
  • Jane the Virgin
  • Master of None
  • One Day at a Time
  • Speechless

This category is all kinds of ridiculous. Even leaving out favorites like Veep and Atlanta, my original list had 14 potential options and narrowing them down was extremely difficult. This is an excellent time to be a comedy fan. Whether you prefer more traditional network sitcoms or inventive cable and streaming series, there are people doing a lot of very good work in their chosen areas.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • The Americans
  • The Crown
  • Halt and Catch Fire
  • Queen Sugar
  • Rectify
  • Sweet/Vicious
  • The Handmaid’s Tale

I’ll be honest, I don’t watch a lot of acclaimed drama series. Those I love, I love dearly, but as a whole, “prestige dramas” for lack of a better term are failing to catch my attention. I would love for Rectify to be recognized for an outstanding final season and I know that Sweet/Vicious is truly the longest of long-shots but while I don’t expect them to be nominated, I’d be remiss in not pointing out the excellent work being done by both.

Continue reading Dream Emmy Nominees 2017

What to Watch (and Read): Summer Recommendations 2017

Now that summer has started (at least in terms of TV seasons), it’s the perfect opportunity to start the shows you missed out on over the year or already canceled shows you’ve been meaning to get to but don’t have time to watch over the regular season. It’s also an excellent time to catch up on some reading and discover new favorites. I started these posts last year as a way to share some of my own favorites with you (and I stand by all of those recs if none of these appeal) but this year, it’s also given me a chance to examine what it is that I’m looking for from my fiction right now.

To put it simply, all of these shows make me feel hopeful in some way. Many of these stories involve people fighting back against oppressive or unjust systems. Many involve characters figuring out who they are and learning to love that person. All of them show that we’re better with others, that vulnerability and connection are our best strengths. Those are the messages I want to hear. I want to remember that we can all make a difference and leave the world and people around us better because we’ve been there. I hope you all can find something to enjoy and potentially try in this list, and if you do, I’m always here for discussions about them either in the comment section or via Twitter.

Shows

Sweet/Vicious You could isolate a lot of the different components that make up this show and it would still be good. Jules and Ophelia being paired together as roommates or lab partners who become friends would still have been an entertaining show. The concept of women teaming up to be vigilantes who target men who assault women is still appealing even if the only focus was the job and not on their friendship. The story of a young woman recovering and beginning to heal from her own sexual assault would still have been powerful and compelling on its own. To combine all of those elements into the same show and to blend them so well is nothing short of masterful. It was a show that could make you laugh, make you cry, and make you angry (at the characters, not the writing) all in one episode and it is better for it. It tackles rape culture head on and does so through these compelling characters and their relationships with each other. It was a special show and deserved more than one season but it achieved a lot in only ten episodes. It will be a show that stays in my head for a long time to come.

Leverage This show was everything I could have asked for in one beautiful package. It was only supposed to be one job. They were hired for a purpose and that was gonna be it. Seventy-seven episodes later (with more cases implied that we never see), Leverage came to an end. There were heists and cons and trying to bring bad guys (often the heads of corporations) to justice. People fell in love and discovered the person they wanted to be. They found acceptance and family and purpose in each other and in the acts they did. It was a remarkably consistent show, even in later seasons as it played around with its general format. As a showrunner, John Rogers understood that people are often there because they’ve become invested in the characters and he rewards that investment. This show doesn’t lose sight of who they are and the emotional payoff is truly wonderful. It is one of my favorite pieces of media I have ever consumed and I would love for everyone else to see and enjoy it too.

Queen Sugar  If a show can make me cry in its first episode, I’m probably gonna be sold and that’s exactly what Queen Sugar did. This show is beautiful, both in its cinematography and its content. After losing their father, the Bordelon siblings come together to save his struggling sugarcane farm. It is a story of perseverance, of rebuilding after varying struggles. It’s about coming to terms with who you are and reclaiming your history and your story. In addition to saving the farm, each member of the family (along with their Aunt Vi) has their own personal journey to undertake. This is a show of incredible empathy that it extends to each of its characters. It understands that people are never just one thing and are more than the mistakes they’ve made and the hurt they’ve caused in the past. They are allowed complexity. They have strengths and flaws and sometimes those are the same thing. While more dramatic (and a little faster paced) than Rectify, it shares a similar core of humanity that touches me deeply.

Superstore Nothing on TV makes me laugh harder than this show. That would be enough for me to recommend it since there are very few shows that actually make me laugh out loud, especially not multiple times an episodes. But it’s merits don’t lie solely in the comedic moments. From the first episode, it’s shown a willingness to wear its heart on its sleeve. It’s those moments of beauty that drew me in but it’s the characters that keep me invested. They can be completely ridiculous, as many comedy characters are, but they are more than just caricatures. They feel lived in and real in a slightly over-the-top way. This is the show you should start if you need more laughter in your life, and really, who doesn’t?

Legend of Korra I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender last year and fell in love with this universe. The beautiful animation, worldbuilding, and wonderful characters have made it a show for both children and adults to love and much of that is continued in Legend of Korra. Though they occupy the same universe and events in Avatar are referenced and certain characters make an appearance, you don’t need to have seen Avatar to watch Korra. The series is quick to catch new viewers up on any important mythology and quickly establishes a tone of its own. The characters in Korra are older, as was the intended audience, and it’s reflected in the topics it takes on (though Avatar didn’t shy away from heavier topics either). It looks at prejudice and oppression throughout the series and spends the best arc of the series looking at healing from trauma and reclaiming your power and identity. This is a female-centric show that shows us so many different types of women all with their own strengths and abilities in a way that few other shows do so if that appeals to you, I would encourage you to try out the show even if you’re not typically a fan of animated shows.

Continue reading What to Watch (and Read): Summer Recommendations 2017

Alive or Dead, the Truth Won’t Rest: A Letter to Georgia Mason

In honor of Galentine’s Day this year, Katie reopened submissions for The Fan Mail Project and reminded us how important it is for us to use our voice and talk about the qualities and values that matter to us. That it’s important for us to tell our stories. So I thought it was time for me to share another one of my own letters, this time to a fictional character I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The Newsflesh series is one of the pieces of fiction that make up the foundation of who I am and who I want to be and Georgia is a big part of that. And while this letter is addressed to George, I also have to thank Seanan McGuire for every word she’s written in this universe. It has meant the world to me.

If you have a fictional character who has shaped your life, I once again ask you to consider participating in this incredible project. Writing these letters is an emotional experience but so worth it.

Dear George,

More than ever, I wish you were real. I wish After the End Times were real. We may not have zombies for Shawn to poke but we need your commitment to truth and inability to stay quiet about the things that are most important. We need your tendency to dig until you get to the root of a story and your ability to make people care. We need your reminder to rise up while we can.

Thank you for valuing truth. The very concept of “post-truth” or “alternative facts” that we seem to be stuck with right now would infuriate you. But it would also motivate you to push harder and to investigate deeper. You’ve never been content to accept the world as others present it to you and I admire that. You’re always looking for the facts independent of the story, not only for yourself, but so you can give them to your readers. You believe that people are smart enough to interpret facts for themselves so long as they are given access. In that, you may be a little idealistic, but I think it comes out of underestimating what makes you extraordinary.

Prioritizing truth the way you do is hard. It’s uncomfortable when the truth isn’t what we’ve been led to believe. It means constantly addressing those underlying beliefs we’re not even aware we possess and reevaluating them in the face of new information. It takes a lot of mental strength to be able to do it at all, let alone to live your life based on that principal. You aren’t scared by the hard truths because you know that it is only in them that we can truly be free and be better than we were. You embrace that discomfort because you recognize that it often means your information is just a little better than it was before and that is always your end goal.

Continue reading Alive or Dead, the Truth Won’t Rest: A Letter to Georgia Mason

100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Five

I really will finish these one day. 100 Days of Fan Favorites is back with a whole lot of feelings about a couple who captured my heart last summer.

In case you do feel like clicking on the links, YouTube and I weren’t getting along this morning and I couldn’t cut clips the way I would have liked and the video they are pulled from is a very long compilation so once the scene changes, feel free to click out of it.  

We’re told a story of destinies and fates growing up. The one we’re supposed to be with will come to us in a big moment that changes the course of our lives. They’ll be the one rescuing us from the monkey bars and our first crush can stay with us forever. It’ll be just like a fairy tale, with the beautiful princess who meets her Prince Charming and they’ll live happily ever after. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

Boy Meets World gave us a story of happily ever after. Yes, we know that Cory and Topanga had their share ups and downs; there was a ski lodge and an art museum and times of doubting it was really right. But early in their lives, they knew they were it for each other. Topanga knew she was in love with Cory Matthews, and most importantly, she wanted to be. He knew their love would survive, even when no one else did. They did end up together and it was beautiful. Loves like theirs happen. It’s been 13.5 years since I started dating my high school sweetheart, the boy I knew I loved with as much certainty as Topanga knew she loved Cory. But they aren’t the only love stories worth telling.

What if the right person isn’t the girl who falls in your lap and changes your world? What if the right person is the one who pushes her?

Welcome to the story of Maya Hart and Lucas Friar. It’s not an easy story and I still firmly believe the show left off in the middle of it, but it’s a story that stole my heart and let me reflect back on my own teenage years and the all too confusing process of trying to figure out what love really was.

Continue reading 100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Five

On the Edge of Something Wonderful: The Power of Passion

There are TV shows that we enjoy watching but don’t give much thought to when they end. Then there are those shows that shape who we are forever. Over the past six months, I’ve fallen in love with Girl Meets World. I fall well outside the target audience for the Disney Channel, as I grew up with Boy Meets World reruns on the network. The lessons that show taught me have stayed with me as I’ve aged and have meant even more when I look back at them. Just as Boy Meets World taught me to do good all those years ago, it’s successor is proving equally valuable for all those growing up with Riley and Maya.

When news of Girl Meets World’s cancellation broke a little over a week ago, fans proved just how much they have taken the message of the show to heart. In “Girl Meets Pluto”, they learned how to hope and hold on to dreams. They learned that it is up to them to decide what is important to them and what will become a part of their own personal histories. In “Girl Meets Creativity”, they learned to fight for the things that matter to them. They learned that it was important to find and hold on to the things that inspire them and to carry those things with them. That is exactly what they have done.

Fan campaigns aren’t uncommon in the world of television. Jericho fans sent peanuts to CBS, Chuck fans consumed a lot of Subway, and CSI fans sent in money and hired planes to do a banner flyover of the studios to convince them to keep Jorja Fox on the show. Hashtags asking networks to save shows pop up every spring before upfronts. In this new media environment, there is more hope than ever than a cancelled favorite will be picked up by another network. Yahoo acquired Community, Hulu got The Mindy Project, Netflix continued Longmire, and CMT gave Nashville a new home. Despite these successes, it’s still a long shot. But these fans didn’t let that stop them.

Continue reading On the Edge of Something Wonderful: The Power of Passion

Best of 2016: Shows

There were 455 scripted TV shows that aired in 2016. No one could watch them all and no one save for critics could watch even a significant fraction of them. We have so many options now and a decent portion of them are really solid choices that are capable of exciting and enchanting us. This is always a hard list for me to make because I watch so much TV and I really love most of what I watch. So in addition to my top 10 that I’ve briefly talked about, I included an additional 10 honorable mentions that I would recommend just as enthusiastically as my actual top 10. Especially since when I finalize these lists, I always feel like I have more to say about my dramas so my comedy favorites get a little neglected.

1. Rectify (Sundance) What a beautiful, special show. Over the course of four seasons, this show has treated its characters with such empathy and grace. It has been a slow and thoughtful journey all leading up to the finale and an important realization. Mistakes of the past can’t always be rectified, but we can still grow and move past them. We can become better. We can heal. Daniel’s imprisonment and subsequent release are moments that will shape not only his life, but the lives of each member of his family and the people drawn into their world. But they do not have to define them any longer. There is room for hope and all the messy emotions that accompany it. There is a place for dreams that take you far outside your comfort zone. There is a place for family and love, for forgiveness and understanding. It is a time for rebirth. This show has been one of the most emotionally satisfying I have ever experienced and I will always be grateful that it existed and went out on its own terms.

2. The Americans (FX) This show just keeps getting better as the seasons go on. It’s in the act of maintaining the tension and the emotional release that I find the show most impressive and it did that better than ever this year. After years of service with little break, the Jennings finally got to step back from their duties and truly be a family. It was a peace that couldn’t last as they still have a job to do, but that small bit of relief made all the difference. This could be a dark and depressing show. It’s full of lies and secrets and pain, inflicted both intentionally and unintentionally. But just as Philip and Elizabeth’s break helped bring them back from their breaking point, this show finds ways to prevent itself from becoming unbearably bleak. It’s a show that loves and honors the connections these characters make, even if those connections ultimately end in heartbreak. It recognizes their value and the way Martha shaped Philip and Young Hee shaped Elizabeth. Just because they started as assets to be manipulated didn’t mean that was their full value. We were encouraged to love them and care for them just as much as the Jennings did even when we knew we shouldn’t. It’s remarkable storytelling and I could never recommend this show enough.

3. American Crime Story: People vs. OJ Simpson (FX) I can’t speak to the authenticity of this series but I do know what it has done to re-contextualize this trial and the people involved in it. The original was such a media spectacle that it seems a perfect fit for a television show like this, especially when combined with a talented cast such as this one. We got to see the role racism and sexism played, the way it became a media circus, and most importantly, we saw a show that never forgot the victims in this case. Yes, the trial was technically centered around OJ Simpson but it never felt like he was the star of the show. It was a battle of the lawyers and we saw how deeply the outcome of this case affected Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. They wanted to win it for the Brown and Goldman families. They may not have won then and they have been mocked for it ever since, but I appreciate what this show has done to make people see how wrong they were to do so and for ending the show with Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, who somehow got lost amongst the madness of this trial.

4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW) This show could have made the list for the music alone, which continues to be fantastic, but even beyond the clever songs, this is one of the most confidently made shows on TV. It always feels like it always knows where it wants to take these characters. It knows when to lean into expectations and when to run the other way from them. The second season has been especially smart in ditching the love triangle in a believable way while focusing on the real relationship of the show, the messy friendship between Rebecca and Paula. The supporting characters round out the cast in the most delightful ways and the show has become even better as more of them are able to be highlighted.

5. Person of Interest (CBS) I would have loved a longer final season but there were so many outstanding episodes in the one we got. This season gave us a look into Shaw’s mind and the depth of her love for Root. No matter what happened, in any scenario Samaritan could dream up, Root was her constant. Her touchstone. She is her safe place and the only thing on the planet she would die to protect. I think the writers would have loved to give these two more time, but maternity leave made that impossible, so we were given this beautiful gift and I’m grateful. We got some truly lovely moments of Team Machine coming together to protect The Machine and Finch. We saw to see the people the Machine had saved and later recruited to her cause come together to save the people who originally saved them. We saw this family come together to save each other and save the world. However unrealistic, I would have loved if they could have done it all without any losses. But I know that was never in the cards. John’s death was always coming and I’m sure he’s in the Machine listening to Root call him a big lug and having all those conversations with Joss they never got to have while she was alive. These characters will live on and the memory of this show will live on in the hearts of the fans and create new ones as people discover it through Netflix.

Continue reading Best of 2016: Shows

Best of 2016: Episodes

It’s been another outstanding year for television. With so many truly great and memorable episodes to choose from, I had to find some sort of logical way to whittle down this list to my top 10. This year it seems, I really loved episodes that wanted to be about something. I want my TV to take a hard look at topics that can be uncomfortable and shine a different light on them. I don’t want them to gloss over the uglier or more painful sides to humanity in service of a story. At the same time, I don’t want that ever be the whole focus. The best episodes are the ones that show a light ahead and connections being made between people even in the bleakest of times. The idea of connection and focus on relationships is so prevalent on this list, in both the top 10 and the honorable mentions. I love that this is the direction television seems to be going after the age of the solitary antihero and look forward to more fantastic episodes in 2017.

1. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia (American Crime Story: People v. OJ Simpson) This show tried to address a lot of things, many of which are found in this episode and all of which I find fascinating. But when I look at this episode in isolation and not part of the larger whole it is contained it, one thing stands out most in my mind. I remember Marcia Clark (as I should, given the episode title). I remember the sexism that surrounded her during this trial that manifested in ways large and small. While also prosecuting the biggest trial of her life, Clark was facing another battle. She was in the middle of custody and child support disputes. She wasn’t a good enough mother to her children because she wasn’t there enough. She wasn’t sufficiently attractive and well-dressed enough to win the public’s approval. And when she tried to change it, she didn’t do a good enough job there either. She dared to have her husband (at the time) take photographs of her naked on a beach, where they were presumably alone, and his decision to profit from their release became another flaw in her character. She failed to uphold traditional gender ideals and was punished for it. Yes, as a prosecutor, she and Chris Darden failed to convict OJ Simpson for a variety of reasons. But it would be foolish to act as though her gender didn’t hurt the way she was perceived in the years that follow. Sarah Paulson is simply incredible here in the way she portrays the toll things like this take on a person’s psyche. Her haircut made her feel confident. She was asked to care about it so she made a change and she felt beautiful. That confidence was quickly burst by the reactions of everyone in the courtroom, save for Darden. It was humiliating and hurt but she couldn’t show it because it would have made her weak. It would be yet another example of her failure to compose herself and be somehow unfit. So she blinked back those tears and pressed forward, knowing that the room and the world were now laughing at her. During all of this, she even had the pleasure of interacting with a store clerk who is so awful that I thought he was made up for the show. He wasn’t. Of almost everything she faces in this episode, all of which is gross and unfair, the period joke made by the cashier makes me the most mad. It is so intrusive and reiterates the idea that hormones and emotions make women unstable for a quarter of their lives from around the age of 13 until they hit menopause. The idea that you would make such a comment to a stranger as a joke is appalling to me, even more so because I know it’s not an isolated attitude. But even in the midst of all the awfulness, all is not dark. In the hardest times in our lives, sometimes we’re lucky enough to find someone who will hold us up when the burden in too much. In this episode, we see how much Darden was that person for Clark. He supports her, encourages her, and makes her laugh at a time she felt most alone. That connection is something special and beautiful and important and I love that it was highlighted here as well.

2. Twenty-Two (You’re the Worst) This episode is the best that You’re the Worst has and possibly will ever create. It’s episodes like this that make me love the show so fiercely, even when Gretchen and Jimmy are being nearly unbearably awful. In 25 minutes, Stephen Falk’s directing and Desmin Borges’s acting give us the most visceral example of PTSD that I can remember seeing on television. We not only see what Edgar is going through with the action onscreen, but we are put in his shoes with the ringing in his ears that never quite goes away and the lack of focus. We feel how broken down and exhausted he is by trying to survive day to day in a world where everything around him feels threatening and takes him back to his days in the military. Despite the heaviness of this episode, all hope isn’t lost. Just when Edgar is at his lowest point, he finds something that gives him a reason to hold on. It leads him back to his car, which is in the process of being towed, and he finally finds someone who is willing to listen to him and who can truly understand what he’s going through because he’s been there before. It’s a moment of pure connection that brought tears to my eyes. On a character level, I love that this moment made Edgar feel like he had the power to make changes for himself. It’s scary to know that you’re the one who is ultimately responsible for changing your life. But it’s scarier to believe that it’s entirely out of your hands. We can’t always fix the broken systems that surround us but we can do what we can to make a better life for ourselves despite their limitations. It was the message Edgar needed to hear. He was hoping that there would be a magical fix that could make him feel alive again because it’s exhausting to exist as he does. But letting go of that idea and committing to fixing yourself as best as possible is the only way to get the power back to truly start living. On a larger scale, I love the compassion that this episode has for veterans and the systems that may be well-intentioned but fail them anyway. It never loses sight of the twenty-two veterans who commit suicide daily and give this episode its name. It extends empathy for their struggles and shines a light on what they face after returning from war. It’s not always comfortable for civilians to think about and their struggles often get overlooked once they’re home. In an ideal world, it shouldn’t take episodes of television to make us care about real world issues like mental illness or police violence. But to deny the power of this medium to make abstract struggles personal and understandable to people without direct experiences with them would be a mistake and it is my hope that this episode made people think and feel and care just a little more than they did before.

3. The Threshold (Halt and Catch Fire) What a magnificent episode. As is not at all atypical for me, this one’s a tough one to watch and I love it. It hurts to see these characters implode. It hurts to see the relationships these characters have formed explode. I will admit to not being much of a Joe McMillan fan. I am aware that he has a story line in this episode but for me, it pales in comparison to what happens at Mutiny. No matter what combination you put them in, the actors were magnificent. We saw the entangled weave of personal and professional connections among the core four of Mutiny and how that became their undoing. We saw relationships solidify or come back together only to be destroyed in the end. In the hands of lesser actors or writing, it could have felt manipulative. For Halt and Catch Fire, it felt right. The characters all made the decisions that made the most sense for them and their development. Had it strictly been a business dispute or a personal fight, it would not have had nearly the same impact. No one exemplifies the lack of separation between business and personal than Cameron Howe. She was Mutiny. It was her. She had a vision of what the company could be and she poured her entire being into making that vision come to life. It didn’t always make business sense. She was terrible at delegating and there was no way to create what she wanted in the time frame she was given. So to reject that vision instead of a deal that seemed to make more business sense was to reject her and what she had given to the company. And when everyone voted against her, she felt that loss on a personal level. She lost a partner, a mentor, and a friend. All she had left was her husband, who she spontaneously married during a time of emotional distress. While the relationship wasn’t terrible, it lacked the foundation she had with Donna and Bos. Donna tried to keep things separate at first. She thought she could have Cameron’s friendship and also her own vision for the company, knowing it conflicted with Cameron’s. But when the disagreement about the business became heated, the attacks quickly became personal. The choices made in that room on that day broke what they once shared. When no compromise could be found, all that was left was destruction. It took out Cameron and Bos’s recently repaired relationship and what was becoming a sweet friendship between Cameron and Gordon with it, but at the end of the day, those severed bonds were only casualties of the rift between Cameron and Donna. It’s tense, painful and brilliantly constructed and acted.  

Continue reading Best of 2016: Episodes

Best of 2016: Moments

This is my fourth list of the year and the first one I’ve really had a difficult time ranking. Even more so than favorite characters or relationships, this list feels like a reflection of who I am and what I love about television. The specific moments and events that resonate with people are so individual and don’t always have the same effect out of context. Some stand on their own, but others are only pieces (often culminations) of a character’s journey over seasons or entire series. No matter how many of these moments you are familiar with, I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts about them and share some of your own favorites in the comments below.

1. Lorelai’s best memory of Richard (Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life) I’m not sure that Lauren Graham has ever been better than she was in this scene. Though time has passed since his death, Lorelai still hadn’t managed to fully process the realities of her father’s death. There was a loss in the general sense but the full force of her emotions had yet to hit her until she stood and looked at the wilderness. While Lorelai had a complicated relationship with her parents, she loved Richard. He was distant and not as involved as she might have needed, but he loved her and tried to show it as best he could. Teenage heartbreak is kind of the worst. Without any perspective, all you have is the fact that it hurts and is humiliating and makes you question everything. Richard knew where to find Lorelai and knew what would help ease the pain. He knew she wanted the pretzel and knew what kind of movie she would want to see. He knew she didn’t need a lecture, just some love and compassion. He knew she needed this to be a secret from Emily, who wouldn’t have understood either of their actions at the time. On that day, Richard gave Lorelai exactly what she needed. She needed to feel as though someone saw her and understood her just as she was. It wasn’t a feeling she got often in her childhood. Richard never intended to hurt his daughter or push her away. He loved her deeply even if he couldn’t always demonstrate it in a way Lorelai needed. But he left her with this memory, this secret between just the two of them. And by letting Emily in on the secret, by showing her that Lorelai was missing her father just as much as Emily was missing her husband, he helped repair the rift between them just enough to keep a relationship possible.

2. I’m gonna miss her (The Americans) For a scene with so few words, so much is said and expressed. For the first time in Elizabeth’s adult life, she had a friend. Though it started as an assignment and though Elizabeth could never be fully honest with her, she genuinely enjoyed Young Hee’s company. The laughter and friendship was real, even if it’s origins weren’t. I wish that there could have been another way, that Elizabeth could have kept this. The fact that she even tried speaks volumes about what this relationship meant to her. But there wasn’t, so after doing her duty for her country, she came home and let herself be vulnerable and comforted by her husband. She’s honest here, in a way she can only be with Philip. He’s the only one who gets to see this side of her, the fragile side. He can’t make it better but he can sit there with her so she doesn’t have to be any more alone than she already feels like she is.

3. It’ll always be yours (Game of Thrones) I stopped watching this show last season but this relationship is something that they are getting exactly right and that is all thanks to Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. They love these characters and their dynamic so much and it shines through in every scene they share. Every interaction is so layered and full of unspoken truths each are unable to give voice to. By allegiance, they are on opposing sides of this war. Jaime is loyal to his family and Brienne continues to honor her oath pledged to Catelyn and now Sansa Stark. That fact hangs heavy over their reunion. They recognize that there may come a day when they are asked to fight against each other and Jaime is doing is best not to think about that fact. Brienne tries to deal with it head on and essentially tells him that despite her love for him, her pledge comes first. It’s always the things that are unsaid that are most important with these two, especially when it comes to Oathkeeper. We know it symbolizes their relationship. It’s their unwavering faith in each other’s word and honor. They know it too and you see that in the scene where Brienne tries to return it. She’s terrified of what loving this man might mean and how she can reconcile that with her duties. She’s afraid to lose him but also afraid to have him. Jaime on the other hand, is more sure of his love, but not ready to face the consequences that love will bring. There is a tenderness in the way he says “it’ll always be yours” that leaves little doubt as to what he is actually talking about, a fact not missed by Brienne judging by her face. Every time Coster-Waldau and Christie share a scene together, I’m left in awe of their ability to convey so much in a look or change of tone. I may not care about much else on the show, but these two will always bring me back.

Continue reading Best of 2016: Moments