Saturday, February 28, 2009

TV This Week: LOST, BSG, 24, Dollhouse

[I usually put this up on Friday afternoons, which is dumb since both Dollhouse and BSG are on Friday nights -- I end up reviewing BSG six days after I watched it, and by the time people read it they have already seen the episode past the one I reviewed. That said, I still have not seen Dollhouse, but I do not like that show (although I will watch the first six).]

LOST 5.7: The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham. Last week I said Lost finally got its groove back, which is to say I felt the show generally returned to the quality level I thought it should have. This episode was better than that -- this will probably join my list of favorite Lost episodes along with The Constant and the opening of season two, for that scene between Ben and Locke alone, and the opening and closing beats -- "I remember dying" and "that's the man who killed me" -- were spot on. Locke visits everyone and just bluntly tells them they should go back and they refuse -- that is not the most interesting thing in the world but it is not supposed to be. Locke is a believer in destiny, he believes he is the instrument by which the island will get these people back -- and he is right -- but his having no effect only serves to make him feel like he is not special, as Jack tells him. It moves him closer to suicide which is figured as being the natural result of his sense of destiny taken away, but it also the destiny that was foretold for him. It is great how it works on two levels like that. The cold open was also good -- last week I said this would return us to some of the things that made season one great but everything would movie faster, and indeed it does as the new folks have already found a Dharma station. And you have to love Frank for landing that plan on the runway from season 3. That was a nice understated call back to him being an awesome pilot, and the bit in season four when Miles says "where did you crash the helicopter" and Miles says "what do you mean? I landed it safely right over there." It is weird to think that there are as many episodes left in the fifth season of Lost now as there were of BSG total in January. Shorter seasons was an awesome idea.

BSG: Deadlock (4.5.6) AND Someone to Watch Over Me (4.5.7). The miscarriage of Six's baby was one of the dumbest things I have seen on TV in a while -- I do not watch Mexican soap operas but I imagine that they have scenes where the split second the husband wavers in his love for his pregnant wife she looses the baby, because they have literalized the idea that babies need love to survive. Love and procreation for the robots have always been a thing on this show from season one when Helo and whats-her-8 had sex on that planet they got stranded on. And it makes sense because you have to explain why the robots don't just make rape camps or something like that facility that Kara found -- you want the stories to have a human side. But the miscarriage was just painfully literal, and it also felt like -- as with the Chief's baby -- the writers found themselves in a corner and just wanted to get the hell out -- Tigh knocks up Six is a great story beat but they do not actually want to follow up on it in a show where the Cylons and Humans need each other. Not to mention that actual love between Tigh and Six was not very well established -- it just sort of arose suddenly. That said, the interactions between the Final Five Cylon family were awesome, and Ellen's horror at the quasi incest Tigh committed and her manipulation of him and six was amazing and we handled by all the actors. It was especially important because it felt like when Ellen came back she was this super-scientist and not Ellen anymore. But the best part of the episode was dealing with how much Tigh loves Bill, including realizing that Liam is derived from William (Bill) which was something I never noticed before. THe scene between them at the end when Tigh tells him they lost the baby - that is what BSG has always been about -- powerful acting and surprisingly moving scenes. I have not seen love between two older men handled so well since Jed and Leo on West Wing. I have been reading a book that argues that female homosocial relationships are on a continuum with female homosexual relationships but that between men there is this massive break in that continuum. This episode was a counter-example to that thesis I think. Oh, and I said this in my twitter feed but I am saying it again here: Baltar has no character arc, he just plays this unconnected roles at the whims of the writers: Judas, scientist, president, communist dissident, Jesus, Bin Ladin. I do not know who he is at all at this point.

The more recent episode promised to tell us about the secret of Kara and the trial, for treason, of Boomer. I thought the former looked interesting while the second looked dumb but I had that backwards. This show always reminds us that the mythology comes second. The Kara plot seems straightforward -- It is pretty easy to tell that dude is a ghost or whatever from the moment you see him, and it seems like we are heading into something like Kara is the daughter of that deleted artist Cylon (#7) or something. I am glad to see the music coming back, and I should not have expected to see big reveals about her here. The Boomer plot on the other hand was the best kind of film noir -- the snake in the grass woman who worms her way in, convinces this guy who loves her to kill for her and break her out, at which point she has sex with someone else's husband while the wife is forced to watch tied up and bleeding, then steals her baby and leaves while fucking up where they live and in the end the guy confronts the empty illusion that caused him to betray everyone. That was straight up awesome. This show seems a little wonky in these final episodes but that might just be because the show has failed to tell me about a drive toward a final goal -- if I did not know there were only three episodes left I would assume we were very much still in the middle of things, perhaps at the very beginning of the last season. So a lot of my odd feelings will ride on how well they stick the landing.

Dollhouse (1.2) I am sticking with this for six episodes, whatever happens. This episode was better but still not great. Whedon learned from Lost the value of a flashback, and the Alpha material was great and scary. But the second that guy took out his bow I said "He just wants to hunt The Most Dangerous Game of All" and I was totally right. Ironically the thing that bothers me most about the show is that I do not buy Dushku as the dumb doll in the house -- the acting there just seems off, like a kid pretending to be dumb, rather than like a kid, which is what it should be I think.

24. 24 got better this week. It is still dumb, but at least knows where you expect it to go (they loose the only lead to a mole in the building) and go somewhere else -- conspiracy over, Dubaku, genuinely in love with the girl, out of the picture. Of course we have more obvious terrorism coming but you have to admire at least the speed of this episode.


Andrew said...

Geoff: could you tell me the name of that book on the homosocial/homosexual continuums?

Also, I agree with your BSG reviews completely, but I'm a little concerned by the push in the last few episodes to sketch out clear villains (and that a noir temptress would, of course, be the most vile of all) when the rest of the show has been committed to troubling that category. It's like we're being asked to forget that the cylons committed genocide because Boomer stole a baby.

I can't say for sure where it will go, but it risks being both oversimplified and incredibly sexist (which isn't exactly a new problem for the show).

Madd_Hadder said...

Eliza Dushku said in an interview that episode 6 is where Dollhouse is supposed to really take off. Apparently the first 5 are a lot more self contained. Episode six will be written by Joss, as well. Don't know if that means the Whedon dialog will come with it, or if the mythology episodes will be any good.

I know I should be over 24 at this point, but I just love watching Keifer as Jack Bauer. I think I would him play Bauer on Bauer's day off. he is just so good at it.

Brian said...

Dollhouse: After watching the next episode, I bet you'll reconsider your decision to watch the first six, it's THAT bad. I too was a little bit more impressed with the second episode, but the third is just atrocious, and Joss is billed as a co-writer so I've lost all hope in the series.

LOST:I'm gonna have to disagree with your assessment that this episode is on par with "The Constant," I felt like this episode had a lot of great parts which you mention, but I was a bit irked by the inconsistencies with what has been previously established. Damon and Carlton just failed to convey any passage of time with Jeremy Bentham talking to the Oceanic 6. In the season 4 flash forwards everyone kept referring to Locke as his Bentham alias but based on this group of 5 minute conversations that doesn't seem to make sense. He doesn't even mention his alter ego to Walt, and yet, when Walt visits Hurley in Season 4 he doesn't call him Locke.
Also, in the Season 4 open when we see beard Jack on the plane, we're led to believe that he's been riding planes with his golden ticket for quite sometime and he is just at that moment seeing that Locke has died. But in this episode we see that he only met with Locke maybe a day or so before that happened. I guess these flaws don't completely diminish the episodes integrity, but they stood out to me.

BSG: I love Baltar, simply for the fact that I think he's hilarious. He's just a sniveling bastard that first and foremost cares about his own self preservation. I can see your argument about the writers just making him into whatever they want, and while I can't really discount your criticism, I just don't really see it as a major flaw in the character. He's usually just attempting to become something like a politician, war criminal, or religious leader because of what others(Or head Six) encourage him to be and he just ends up going along with it, but he always has that wonderful look in his eye like he has no clue what he's doing. He also has a fantastic capability to believe his own bullshit.
I love, during the trial of Baltar, when he convinces himself that he's a wrongful political prisoner and he begins constantly asking for a pen to write down his thoughts for his memoirs. Or when head Six convinced him he was an instrument of God. Others egg him on and he's so self centered he starts to believe whatever is thrown his way.
Again, I haven't really provided a counter to your criticism, I just don't mind it as much for this particular character.

ba said...

Dude, the third ep of dollhouse was awful. It doesn't help that only 1 out of 3 (and 1 out of the next 3) were actually written by whedon. If he wants his show to survive, maybe he should actually put some work into it.

It also doesn't help that the sidekick active and the scarred doctor are both hotter than the star of the show.

Geoff Klock said...

Andrew: the book is called Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Erin said...

curious: i thought the third episode of dollhouse fantastic compared to 1&2.

*the supporting cast was way better. The chick singer was particularly good: if not life-like, than wattage-y, and convincingly fucked-up. Dude hunter man in episode 2 made me ill- terrible one note acting (god I hate it when a distinctive gesture is the sum total of characterization And motive- 'shoulder to the wheel dad', my ass) and in 2009 I don't need big bad wolves with sexual issues chasing girls awkwardly through scant woods, licking their chops, unless there's some mention of the fact that it's all a bit much.

*there wasn't too much clever twaddle from not-as-funny-as-he-ought-to-be science snark man and interesting multiple possible interpretations to much of the dialogue.

*plus what's going to happen to the sienna/echo tabula not so rasa dynamic?

I think the show will really get busy if it starts mining 1) cat and mouse double dealing everywhere, as with the russian hood being an operative and the real hoods being in the dollhouse at the end (wtf?), and 2) if it starts playing with the Who Are You themes: if they keep shoving the scraped slate translation into every episode it stands to reason that they have something to say about nature v nurture.