Television: Limitless, "Side Effects May Include..."

So Brian's immunity shot is wearing off and he's starting to suffer side effects from the NZT. Sands tells him to get his next shot he'll have to get Harris arrested and sent to prison. Of course Brian refuses, suffers for a while, and then Senator Morra (gotta milk the Bradley Cooper stuff) turns up and congratulates Brian on being a person of "character."

I think it's interesting, though, at Morra particularly notes that Brian is not like Sands, someone who follows orders without question. No integrity, really, in Sands.

So Brian is fine and Harris is fine except not really because she nearly gets fired anyway.

But let's go back a little first. Brian showed Harris the files about her dad and his NZT thing, and now Harris feels weird working for Naz because Naz has committed the sin of omission in not telling her about the file and her dad, etc. Which is just when Naz decides to pick Harris for an important FBI exercise in which they will be the "Red Team" setting up some kind of terrible event so the "Blue Team" can neutralize it. War games stuff. Naz even gets Harris a meeting with the Director of the FBI, but Harris is so busy dealing with (a) Brian being sick, and (b) hunting down info about her dad's NZT use that she blows the meeting off.


Naz isn't so easily fooled, of course; she didn't get where she is by being a dummy. And she has a great line, muttered to herself as Harris walks away at one point: "Would you tell me if he was?" She's talking about Brian, and she sounds like a mother whose daughter is hooked on a new boyfriend.

So yeah, Naz confronts Harris about having seen the file, and explains she'd been trying to push Harris up the ladder so that she'd have the clearance to read the file—legally. She's not the bad guy here; she's just trying to work within the system.

Well, whether that's good or bad is sort of a gray area, right?

Anyway, as for Harris' father, well, there was a rehab center in which it seems some addicts were being given NZT as almost a drug trial kind of thing. Brian hunts down the guy (supposedly dead, but not really!) who'd been handling said trial, and he said he'd been given a chemical formula, no idea where it came from, etc. But the NZT seemed to be helping the patients, like the way Harris' dad had gone back to his painting and was more productive than ever. And then all the NZT trial patients began disappearing, dying . . .

The episode ends with Sands disguised as a delivery truck driver dropping a bomb (literally) at the guy's house. So ends that line of inquiry.

Continues to be a good show, and so far they're doing a decent job of building the mythology and central mystery.


Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "4,722 Hours"

I was marking math tests while watching, and it totally did not impact my ability to follow the story because this episode was really just waiting around waiting for Simmons to get rescued.

The titular hours are the amount of time she spent on the forlorn planet the monolith sucked her to. She was alone for a few weeks and then she met an astronaut who'd been stuck there for, like, 42 years or something. So Simmons went to stay in his shelter (well, okay, at first he kidnapped her and then they made nice), and she kept working on ways to get back, but none of them worked. And there were requisite moments of peril, and a few moments of hopelessness, and some kissing, and then Fitz sent up that flare and saved Simmons.

But astronaut dude got left behind. (He totally had a name. Steve or something? I dunno. I didn't care that much.)

Which is why Simmons says they have to go back. Obvs.

And Fitz will help her.

The end.

In some ways it was nice not to have an episode that bounced around with twenty different characters. But in some ways this didn't need a whole hour to itself either. So it's kind of a wash.

I mean, we didn't really need to explore Simmons' character; she's pretty well established. And the astronaut guy . . . ::shrug:: Maybe they'll bring him back and it'll be a complex love triangle thing? And then I'm not into survival stories, so that stuff just kind of dragged on. It's the kind of thing that works better in prose than on screen.

But whatever. Next week we're apparently back to our game of Everybody Hates Ward. Which can be fun but also has the potential to drag on too long as well. We'll see.


Television: Scorpion, "Tech, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll"

This was an extra-long episode, starting later than usual thanks to the Supergirl premiere but adding an extra half hour to boot. And it was an intense episode, too, with lots of people in danger, seemingly from carelessness on Walter's part.

Wait, what?

We're supposed to believe Walter was careless?

The car thing last year notwithstanding, they haven't built Walter's character to fit this notion at all. And also, since the team is never (in the end) at fault, we know going in that Walter can't really be to blame for these bad things are happening.

Let me rewind a bit. Walter is at a tech conference. He meets a pretty woman in a bar, has a Long Island iced tea, and being a lightweight goes kind of crazy. This makes him late for a big reveal of a fancy new building that he's helped design. A "smart building" of sorts, I guess. And then the building goes all wrong, and it appears to be Walter's fault.

Okay, so we maybe can believe a girl in a bar would find Walter cute and unassuming. And we can believe that he might succumb to alcohol, letting his uptight self run loose. But on the night before such a big event? Walter is usually very cognizant of his reputation, though . . . Yes, maybe his arrogance could lead him to believe it'll be fine. One drink, pretty girl, no big deal.

As for the building going haywire, it turns out there is a worm in the system. So the careless aspect comes in that Walter let himself be taken in by this woman. He left his computer unattended or whatever. Though I'm pretty sure his computer would be, like, impossible to break into, right?

Also, didn't they do a trial run of this building prior to the big day? I would think you would.

Whatever. Cabe and Paige go hunting for the girl while Walter puts Happy, Sylvester, and children in jeopardy as he tries to fix things. Stuff is on fire, doors won't open, the usual. And again, I'm pretty sure a building like this would never pass safety inspection. No fire extinguisher in case the sprinklers don't go off? Um, nope. Doors locking automatically with no manual override? Nope. Don't think they could get away with that.

So Happy is in a burning room, and Toby ends up stuck in an elevator and then stuck in a room in which the oxygen is being pumped out (hello, Star Trek III), and Sylvester and a bunch of children are stuck in a room that is rapidly filling with smoke because the ventilation system is also really poorly designed. And there's some Jurassic Park, "Let's reboot the whole system!" stuff, which we know won't work because raptors.

Except we don't get anything as exciting as raptors, just a worm that won't die.

And of course it turns out the woman drugged Walter's drink, was paid to do it by someone who wanted the building to fail. Because Walter is never wrong. He makes bad decisions, but in the end there is always someone worse, or some excuse for the poor choices, or whatever. He's flawed, but not that flawed, I guess.

Um . . . Okay, so it was a pretty good episode, if more than a little overwrought. Paige's reactions to the idea Walter had a one-night stand were a bit much. Happy, too, in the way she behaved when Toby was in danger . . . Like, the women in this episode were unnecessarily hysterical (not as in funny, either). Usually that award goes to Sylvester.

But I do just take issue with the "save" in that Walter isn't really to blame for any of it aside from, you know, taking advantage of someone showing interest in him, I guess? At least hang him from the flagpole for the design of this building. I mean, seriously. But of course they won't. Walter can't lose. Though I wish for once he would, and that the rest of the team would then rally and succeed without him. Just for a change.


Television: Doctor Who, "The Woman Who Lived"

The, er, side effects of immortality have been pretty thoroughly (and well) explored by Highlander, so this episode just left me feeling like it was simultaneously too much and not enough. That is, they tried to cram too much in, but at the same time made it all too simple.

Maisie Williams is back as the girl the Doctor saved by making her immortal last week. She's lived a long time and has forgotten a lot of it, apparently, though she somehow remembers the Doctor pretty clearly, and Clara. Are we supposed to think this is what she held on to when everything else spun away? Lives, centuries . . . I feel like they didn't quite make that point, but it's what I infer.

And the years have made her hard, unsympathetic to her fellow humans, and generally unlikable.

The Doctor turns up looking for an amulet that Maisie (her name in this episode seems to be in question; the Doctor calls her by her Viking name, which she disdains, only referring to herself as "Me," so I'll stick with Maisie) is also searching for. She's teamed up with what appears to be Ron Perlman's Beast, who comes from a planet of anthropomorphic lions, I guess? He's promised to take her away to new worlds, but he needs the amulet to open a portal or something.

The episode boils down to: Immortality is cool so long as you have wheels.

And by "wheels" I mean transportation in general. The flip side being, immortality is not fun if you're stuck in one place. (Living chronologically may also lose its luster after the first few centuries.)

The amulet is found. Maisie asks the Doctor, repeatedly, to take her with him. She's his first choice; Lion King dude, originally her only option, becomes Plan B. But of course the Doctor refuses her, so Maisie and the Beast must go to a hanging and capture, I dunno, the death of the condemned or something.

Of course the Lion King has no intention of taking Maisie anywhere, and the portal that opens actually is intended to, what? Open the way for an invasive army? Rather like The Avengers?

Maisie has an abrupt change of heart in this moment, and not (one is meant to believe) simply because she's been lied to by Sir Roars-a-Lot. "I do care!" she shouts, meaning she actually does care about the people in the world . . . ? It's actually not at all believable in terms of character development. It's too sudden and not earned.

She and the Doctor are able to reverse the amulet and close the portal by using the second Immortality thingy on the dying man. I guess now he's immortal too? (Truthfully, he was the best part of the episode, a highwayman named Sam Swift, played to the hilt by Rufus Hound—just fabulous.)

Later, the Doctor explains to Maisie that she can't be his companion because two immortals together lose touch; they need to see through the eyes of mortals to tether them to humanity, etc. Though one has to wonder that the Doctor always chooses a human companion, and one from our current era besides. He could surely choose, well, anyone from any place or time, right? Why must he be "humanized" rather than "Some-other-planet-ized"?

The Doctor tells Maisie he'll be watching out for her. She tells him she'll be watching out for his companions, the people he leaves behind, broken in his wake. And then we get a lame moment of Clara showing the Doctor a selfie (that wasn't really a selfie because someone else clearly took the photo) just so we can see Maisie in the background. Ugh. So cliché.

I guess the point is to leave the door open for more Maisie Williams if/when they have use for her. But her character really would fit better in Highlander than Doctor Who.


Movies: Everything or Nothing

So this is a little documentary that details the history of the James Bond franchise. The guys on James Bonding (podcast) reference it so often, I felt the need to see it myself.

It's pretty interesting, or really, it's pretty impressive who they were able to interview for the film. People they couldn't get (Connery) they at least had audio clips of from earlier interviews. And there was a lot of archive footage of "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and various others.

The story itself—Bond from book to screen—is maybe not the most compelling thing ever. But there is drama. When isn't there in the film industry? They manufacture drama because they get bored so easily. In the case of Bond, it's a lot of feuding. Connery hating on Cubby, Cubby and Harry falling out, that whole McClory thing. Also, I learned a lot about Ian Fleming, and he doesn't sound like a very nice person. Even when people in the documentary were trying to be diplomatic and sympathetic, he sounded kind of like an asshole. But I'm sure I can't take my entire education about Fleming from a few snippets of a Bond documentary. If I really want to know, I guess I'd go read a biography. Or at least his Wikipedia page.

But anyway. I think this documentary is, at least, impressively edited. I don't know if I'd say the narrative is very entertaining, but it is informative, and they make up for it with the visuals. I'm glad I watched it, but I wish it would maybe have gone deeper. I'm not sure in what way, exactly, but despite the wealth of information given, it still felt a bit superficial. Still, on the whole a good primer.


Bond at 50: The Connery Films (& Lazenby)

So I've finally gone back to watching all these James Bond DVDs. I had started with the Bonds I knew from when I was a kid: Dalton, Brosnan, and now Craig. Then decided to go back to the original incarnation.

Note that I've never read any of the books, so I only know Bond as a film icon.

While Dalton's Bond was the first I ever saw in the cinema, I actually knew Connery's Bond first because my mother is a big Sean Connery fan. (Mom's family is Scottish.) So I do remember seeing all these movies when they would show on Sunday afternoons on television. I never really understood what was going on in them, though. I knew Bond was the good guy, and that he would win because there were a lot of movies with him in it, so clearly he didn't ever die. And I think I would sit and watch a bit to try and see if I could understand why my parents liked these movies so much, but then I would eventually wander off because I couldn't understand it and it's boring to watch nonsense.

Fast forward to now, and it was sort of like having weird flashbacks whenever I'd see a scene that I remembered seeing as a kid. "Oh, wait, I remember this!" The films made a bit more sense, too, but only a bit. A lot of it is still really over the top, but that's something Bond has always been, in any form.

What surprised me is that I like Connery as Bond. Craig is still my favorite, but Connery is very cool. I like his attitude in these films. He's smooth when he needs to be and rough when the situation requires. And his dry humor is spot on.

And then there was that little insert of Lazenby. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is maybe one of my favorites as far as plot goes, and I think Lazenby does a fair job. But I don't like his chin. Is that weird? (I don't like Dalton's chin, either.) And it's so clear he's a model first and an actor second. There seems to be a lot of mugging and posing.

Anyway, I'm glad I revisited these. And now I'm two in with Roger Moore, so I'll update you as soon as I get through them all. But as a preview: I don't love Moore's Bond. But I can't decide if it's the scripts or the acting I'm having a problem with. We'll see how it goes.


Television: Limitless, "Personality Crisis"

So "smart" Brian has started leaving video messages for "dumb" Brian. Apparently he has time to film and edit all this at some point before the NZT wears off. So I have to wonder how long this NZT lasts? Because Brian was worried about being dumb for a 9:00 date in one episode. And he gets off of work at what? 5:00 or 6:00? Yet we've seen him sit up at night and be brilliant in online chatrooms?

Is there an accumulation effect at all? The more he takes the longer it stays in his system?

And if he's so brilliant and can figure out ALL THE THINGS, why can't he see a way out of his own predicament?

I know, I'm thinking too much. And it's a fun show, so I'm willing to forgive a lot. But this episode was kind of lackluster for me, maybe because they were hitting the character button a bit too hard. Brian wants to be a good person but advises himself to be a badass, which backfires spectacularly when a kid he wants to help ends up dead.

Then again, being a good person wasn't doing much for him either. He actually thought Sands might help him get information to Harris about her dad's use of NZT. Wow. He may be brilliant when on drugs, but he's a terrible judge of character. I mean, is there anything about Sands that reads as "helpful"?

As for the central episodic plot, it was something about misguided youths as would-be terrorists. Yawn.

The episode ends with Brian going against his own advice (better judgement?) and turning up at Harris' apartment to tell her about her dad. This can, as they say, only end in tears.


Television: Fargo, "Before the Law"

I noticed while watching this episode how long some of the scenes are. It's unusual these days to have scenes go on for so long because the prevailing school of thought is to keep things moving, have lots of cuts and jumps, make it all look dynamic. But part of what makes Fargo is the stasis. The frozen Midwest, the town where nothing ever happens. There's deadliness in the quiet. And when things do happen, it's shattering.

We start with Dodd champing to be the new boss while his mother puts the offer on the table from the corporation thinking to take over the Gerhardt operations. Lines are drawn as some back Momma as the new head of the family. And Rye is, of course, missing, so there's a drive to find him.

Little Molly gets a trip to a crime scene! And does a better job than her old man in finding evidence (namely a Get Well balloon).

Ed Blomquist takes the day off work to clean up the blood and mess that was Rye, then goes to the butcher shop after hours to do the really dirty work of getting rid of the body. Lou Solverson stops by for late-night bacon and nearly fingers Ed for murder. Har.

Peggy, meanwhile, steals toilet paper from the salon she works at? Also, was that woman hitting on her?

Fargo continues to manage great tension; it is the master of the slow build. Slow but never dull.

Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Devils You Know"

Okay, so I found it difficult to concentrate on this episode. And I have to say, Porcupine Guy (Lash?) doesn't really strike me as all that impressive as a baddie. (He's an IT guy using his skills to find other Inhumans and send them emails. Like, an Inhuman spammer, basically, or the Inhuman equivalent of that weirdo on Craigslist that will lure you to someplace secluded and kill you.)

A lot of the episode was about navigating the new collaboration between Coulson and Dana Rosalind. Which is interesting only in small bites; it becomes tedious, like watching long political speeches, when drawn out for very long. Yes, we get that Coulson and Rosalind have a tit-for-tat thing going on, a jockeying for control that's meant to make you wonder who would be on top in bed. Except I'm not feeling a lot of chemistry between the actors, so . . . Maybe it's just me, but I'm not sparked.

And then Hunter and May confront Ward, but Ward has already moved in on Andrew. Hunter hates Ward enough to sacrifice Andrew, but of course Ward still isn't dead.

And Bobbi and Fitz have awkwardness because she won't tell him what Simmons said, and he finds Simmons' notes about the monolith and wonders what's up with that.

I dunno. It just all fell kinda flat. I'm hoping there's more to interest me next week.


Television: The Leftovers (Season 2 so far)

So we're three episodes in and what do we think?

Well, I really enjoyed the first two episodes of the season, thought they were really strong. I know a lot of people didn't like that the second episode went over a lot of the same ground as the first, but I found it interesting to come at the story from both sides. Of course, the plot didn't advance at all. It's been mostly seed planting and character development thus far.

And then Episode 3 . . . Sigh. Again, I know a lot of people liked it, but I didn't. I don't like Laurie, even when she's trying to help people, and maybe I'm not supposed to. But I just couldn't care much about her situation. And then Tom being a new healer or whatever . . . I get that in the end the people leaving the GR are now just swapping one cult for another, and that the idea is they need something, and this is better than that. I dunno. It's all about plugging holes in the soul, I guess, which is an interesting topic, but the episode felt like a long way to go to that one end.

Still, this is one of the best things on television (that I'm watching, anyway). I only hope it hangs together now that we're beyond the source material.

Television: Scorpion, "Super Fun Guys"

Sylvester is put on the spot when Megan asks him to (a) be there when she comes out of surgery, and (b) not to tell Walter she's having surgery. Which means Sylvester has to refuse to go to Kazakhstan on a "super fun" mission to find a nuclear weapon before it falls into the wrong hands. They Argo it and go posing as part of a film crew and immediately blow it because, smart as they are, they don't know anything about what film crews do. Or aren't good at playing pretend. Or something.

While it was a fun setup that allowed for awkward costumes, the episode fell short of its full potential. I just wasn't as amused or engaged as I felt I should have been.

But the Megan/Sylvester thing was handled well (they're almost painfully cute as a couple, but in the best possible way), and it was nice to see Toby shaking off Happy and focusing on his boxing. Now, of course, Happy is piqued by the change; she's used to him trying, used to playing defense, so what happens when there's nothing to defend against?

And Ray (aka Marshall) . . . I'm still not sold on his addition to the cast. He does seem always to be able to help in mundane ways, though. But I can't quite warm to him.

In short, a fair episode in which the minutia was better than the larger plot.


Television: Doctor Who, "The Girl Who Died"

Aaaand . . . we're back to stuff that loses my interest almost immediately.

I dunno, the episode started with what? Clara in space and the Doctor having to rescue her? And then there were Vikings and an alien on testosterone therapy or something. And the whole thing became How to Train Your Viking + Look Who's Talking. At least that's what I gleaned from glancing at the screen every seven to ten minutes.

Oh, and that chick (Maisie Williams) from Game of Thrones was there. They had to use her special storytelling powers to defeat the bad guys. I think? I really wasn't interested enough to follow the plot very closely. She saved the Vikings, but she died and the Doctor put something inside her to repair her and bring her back to life, making her sort of immortal because the thing will keep repairing her so that she continues to live indefinitely. Unless, I dunno, her head gets blown off? I don't know how they'd fix that. Make a new head? I don't really know the limitations of these things.

The Doctor leaves her with another repair thing, too, so she can find someone to make immortal and keep her company. Sort of like Claudia and Madeline in Interview with the Vampire. Which leads me to another question: Does she not age now because she died?

And it looks like this character comes back next week to hang out with the Doctor some more. Because . . . why not? Maybe Maisie just wanted to do something, anything that didn't require GoT wardrobe choices. So, you know, highway bandits it is. Yay?


Television: AHS: Hotel, "Chutes and Ladders"

The vampire stuff in this show is just dumb. I want to say that flat out. It's overwrought and trite at the same time, which is almost impressive. In a bad way. But maybe that's what they were going for? Dunno.

The music cues especially. Ugh.

Everything else, though, is pretty interesting.

This episode gives us the backstory on the hotel's original owner, Mr. March, whose particular pleasure was bloody murder.

Meanwhile, Wes Bentley (because I really can't think of him as anyone but Wes Bentley) brings his daughter to the hotel for a fashion show, and she sneaks off with that other kid . . . I have to say, after his son disappearing you'd think Wes would be watching his daughter like a hawk. But no. He's kind of a lousy father.

But anyway, the daughter discovers her brother isn't dead and hasn't aged. She tries to get him to go home but he says he IS home, that he likes the hotel, and she can just visit whenever she wants.

And vampire stuff. Sigh. Um . . . Lady Gaga decides she wants a new boyfriend, basically, and evicts the one who was Kathy Bates' son in favor of a coked-up runway model. Whatever. I'm pretty sure she was the wife of Mr. March, too, way back when. Was probably the one to call the police on him when she was tired of him.

And Sarah Paulson's just sort of there. Still. I'm sure we'll get her whole story eventually.

It's pretty bad, perhaps, when you've given up on character names and are just calling the characters by their actors. It's not that I'm not enjoying it, though. I'm not blissed out on it either. I'm curious to see where it goes but worried this show has lost the ability to surprise or amaze me. We have come to expect the shock factor, so . . . ::shrug:: We're no longer shocked. Or wowed. And maybe we don't have to be. So long as the story itself is good, the show shouldn't need to up the ante every season. But we've come to the point where now it feels like it might be trying too hard. And that's never good.

Television: Limitless, "Page 44"

Sands demands that Brian steal FBI files regarding NZT. Brian tries to fool Sands (and Morra) by making up some documents. It doesn't work, and in retaliation Brian's dad ends up back in the hospital. So Brian goes ahead and steals the real documents and turns them over.

Meanwhile there's something about a Chinese spy. A plot designed to show us the slippery slope of a good person making bad decisions, which is exactly the slope Brian is on.

Oh, and Harris' dead father left behind some paintings. Harris tells the art dealer she can go ahead and sell them, sight unseen. But of course then Harris is compelled to attend the gallery showing and sees one of the paintings is of her. Of course. Because we all saw that coming a bazillion miles away.

There's also something about an immortal mouse. Well, okay, not immortal. But Brian helps a scientist via an online chatroom, and the scientist makes it so a mouse can live longer than usual. Then when the mouse is stolen and the scientist is framed for murder, Brian helps him. This plot is designed to remind us Brian really is a good person, even though he steals secret files. He's just is a really bad situation is what the writers are trying to tell us. Or, rather, beat us over the head with. WE GET IT.

It's still a good show, though. Despite the clichés and overkill.


Television: Limitless, "The Legend of Marcos Ramos"

Yeah, I'm a week behind on this show. Sorry. Have a lot of real life going on at the moment.

I had this one figured out from the moment the boss FBI agent said, "Let's get the task force on this." But the show was still a good one, and Brian's situation continues to be entertainingly complicated. But boy are they milking the Bradley Cooper footage! Also, Brian is an idiot for not realizing Harris really likes him.

Boys are dumb.

In this episode, Brian, Harris et al. go in search of an assassin who may have picked off a retired FBI agent who'd gone into consulting work. The threads led to this Marcos Ramos, and given the name you know it's a whole drug cartel thing. I won't bother with the details or give the game away, but it was all relatively basic.

The B plot involved Brian running into an ex-girlfriend about whom he'd been very serious. She notices he's "different" and they light things up again only to have Brian walk away because his life is, as before mentioned, very complicated at the moment and he has too many secrets.

And then the episode ends with Mr. Sands turning up. He works for Senator Morra and will be giving Brian tasks of some kind. The complication factor now goes up.

I continue to enjoy the show, which is a nice balance of funny and dramatic. It has heavy moments but feels lighter than a lot of my other fare. While The Leftovers and Fargo are brilliant, they are also very dark, so Limitless ends up being a buoy.


Television: Fargo, "Waiting for Dutch"

So a few years back, I think it was, I remember reading a news story about a person hitting a homeless man with their car. The homeless man got stuck in the windshield, and the driver took the car home and put it in their garage and left the man stuck until he died. Or something like that. I may have the details a bit wrong, but that was the chief idea, and that story was brought back to me forcibly when I watched this episode.

But first, some background.

This season of Fargo is set in 1979 and covers the "Sioux Falls" incident Molly's father Lou mentioned years later—something that happened when he was a police officer. So now we have a young Lou (Patrick Wilson) and an even younger Molly, and his wife who is going through chemotherapy.

We also have the Gerhardts. A sort of crime family. Father Otto, Mother Floyd, and three sons: Dodd (Jeffery Donovan, who I remember from The Pretender), Bear (I think his name was?), and Rye (Kieran Culkin). Rye is a weasel who doesn't want to pull his weight and "has ambitions" in the way of being a typewriter distributor. Seriously. But in order to get into that particular business, he has to convince a judge to release some funds. And the way he goes about that gets very messy, involving killing multiple people at a Waffle Hut—and lands him in the windshield of Peggy Blomquist's car.

This is where you came in.

Peggy and her husband Ed also have ambitions. Ed wants a family (though Peggy seems to be evasive on this), and he plans to take over the butcher shop when his boss retires. He's the sensible sort and wants to go right to the police when he realizes his wife has hit a man with her car and then brought him home and left him to die. Still, he's forced to kill Rye outright when Rye attacks. And Peggy convinces Ed they'll just both end up in prison and no family or butcher shop for them, so Rye's body instead goes into the big chest freezer.

All this, and Otto has had a stroke, and there is another group planning to "acquire" the Gerhardt "business." Really, the show is all about plans and how they don't work out.

So we're set up for a lot of conflict, and really the show is just so well written and well done overall it's quite fun to watch. Can be very tense because you really never know what might happen or who might die. Nothing seems to be a given. Well, I guess we know Lou and Molly make it. Everyone else, though, is up for grabs. And that's what makes it fun.

Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Purpose in the Machine" and "A Wanted (Inhu)man"

I could have sworn I'd written about last week's episode, but evidently not. So I'm piling two in one here.

Um . . . So last week we got Simmons back from the monolith thing. We had Peter MacNicol! Who has a vested interest in shutting portals between Earth and Wherever, one of which the monolith is. There was a secret society in England (shades of Strange and Norrell maybe), etc. And a big machine that was used to open the monolith via certain frequencies, and when the machine breaks Skye Daisy has to use her powers to do it instead, and Fitz goes in and grabs Simmons seconds before the monolith breaks apart and the portal is closed down for good. We assume.

And then there was some stuff about May hanging out with her father and refusing to go back to work, but Hunter comes along and convinces her to help him find Ward and kick his ass.

And Ward was busy playing the whole "screwed up kid needs a father figure" card that worked so well on him when he was recruited into Hydra. In this case, Ward lands a dead Hydra member's wealthy son. People are tools to Ward, after all.

Okay, so then this week we had Simmon suffering PTSD and Fitz trying to make her feel better by taking her out for that belated dinner. We had Hunter and May working some of Hunter's old contacts as they try to get closer to Ward. At least, I think that was what was going on; the ultimate result was Hunter getting his ass kicked in an underground fighting ring. We had Coulson and Dana Rosalind (seriously, she's always going to be Dana from Entourage to me) making verbal negotiations that wreak havoc on everyone else, the end result of that being Coulson agreeing to work for/with Rosalind's people. And Lincoln running away again when they were very close to bringing him back in and winning his trust.

I think I'm supposed to care about the Lincoln thing, and Daisy, but I don't really. I'm kind of over all that. So much focus has been on Skye/Daisy that I just can't care any more. I also kind of don't care about Ward and Hunter and Bobbi and all that stuff either. I do find Coulson and Rosalind interesting, and the situation with Fitz and Simmons—I should probably mention that Simmons pulls a Lost at the end of the episode and insists they must go back to wherever that place was the portal took her. Hmm.

What I most appreciate about this season is the streamlining. The coherence. Things feel like they're moving again, and while there's a lot going on (and still way too many characters), at least I can follow the story and it all kind of makes sense. So good on them for pulling it in a bit and regrouping. The show seriously needed it, and I'm enjoying this season way more than the last one. So far.


Television: Scorpion, "Fish Filet" & "Robots"

Been trying to catch up with my DVR, so last night was a double dose of Scorpion. Which is getting its mojo back. Really, the show does better with less Walter and more everybody else. Though I'll admit I'm getting tired of the Toby-Happy thing.

In "Fish Filet" they send Sylvester into prison to try and determine the three judges who are being targeted for murder by an incarcerated mob boss. Why Sylvester? Because there's a code involved and they need Sly's particular skill set. And then, of course, the warden who set Sylvester up ends up attacked and in a coma—this reminded me of that Alfred Hitchcock where the man is breaking out of prison in a coffin and someone is supposed to dig him up, but then the escapee discovers the man who was supposed to help him is the dead guy in the coffin with him. Was that an Alfred Hitchcock or a Twilight Zone? It was something. Maybe I just made it up, but I don't think so.

Anyway, of course they manage to get the info and get Sylvester out. With Scorpion there's never really a question of whether they'll succeed. There wasn't with MacGyver, either. It's more about how they do it.

And then "Robots" was about being stuck in a nuclear submarine at the bottom of the ocean floor with limited oxygen. Although one has to wonder whether they ever fixed that undersea cable? Did we just drop that part?

Additions to the series include Kevin Weisman as Ray, but I'm probably just going to call him Marshall (his character on Alias). Sorry. Marshall Ray is a weirdo that Walter has to do community service with (after a reckless driving conviction from last season's finale). Paige made the mistake of encouraging Walter to become friends with Ray, and now Ray hangs around a lot. He's been helpful, though, in that he had a connection in the prison where Sly was doing time.

And Peri Gilpin (you'll remember her as Roz on Frasier) is a new handler for the Scorpion team. She stepped in when Cabe and Molina had a falling out.

Both episodes were relatively solid, and as I mentioned, they benefitted from less Walter angst. The show does best when spreading things around over the characters.


Television: Doctor Who, "Before the Flood"

Why would you call an episode "Part 1" and then not have a Part 2?

This is hardly an important matter, I'm just wondering.

"Before the Flood" has the Doctor and two other characters from last week back in 1980 as they try to figure out what's going on with the ghosts "Under the Lake (Part 1)." It ends up being a fairly straight forward situation involving a not-as-dead-as-previously-thought alien trying to broadcast his whereabouts so his fellows can come conquer Earth. He kills people in order to turn them into ghostly signal boosters.

Eh, whatever.

It's a good story, anyway. And there continues to be a subtle drilling down of the Doctor's (this incarnation's at least) character, his motivations and moral tipping points. Is he really kind of fine with using random people as test subjects if it means saving Clara? What does he put first, the good of the many or the salvation of one in particular? Is one just a happy byproduct of the other?

A bit off putting, though, to start the episode with the Doctor breaking the fourth wall in order to explain the bootstrap paradox. Since when? Usually, if something needs to be made clear to the audience, the Doctor will explain it to his companion or whomever they're dealing with. Why suddenly have him address the viewers? I don't mind it as a rule, just found it weird.

The Fisher King, too . . . Looked like something left over from the Lord of the Rings films. Wonder if we'll see more of these guys at some point. Are they Doctor Who's Borg?

But really, overall, this two parter was one of the better stories. I only hope it wasn't an anomaly and that the show continues to be at least this good if not better. I'd come so close to not caring any more, but these last two episodes actually had me paying attention instead of playing with my iPhone. These days, that's saying something.

Television: AHS: Hotel, "Checking In"

I expected something creepier, actually. Or less cliché. I mean, vampires and creepy kids and dead things in mattresses . . . Maybe I'm jaded, but none of this wows me.

Though I will say I'm pretty curious about whatever is going on with Wes Bentley.

And I do have a weird "Hotel California" story, but I won't go into that here. Plus my play "Warm Bodies" was about a haunted hotel room, so, you know, I dig the subject matter in general.

Oh, if you're wondering, this season is about, well, a hotel. Owned by a vampire (Lady Gaga, natch). Except the building is being sold, and that puts the bizarre workings of the hotel in jeopardy. By which I mean Kathy Bates having to procure victims for said vampire, and Sarah Paulson as, um, an undead hooker? I might have some of that wrong; my mind wandered a bit.

Maybe it's just a slow start. Maybe it will build. I'll watch it anyway, or at least leave it on while I play 1010 on my iPhone.

Television: Shows I've Dropped

So these shows have been tried and discarded so far this season:

Minority Report
Gotham (just didn't care any more)
The Muppets
The Grinder

Shows I'm currently watching:

Scorpion (but it's on the bubble)
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Scream Queens
AHS: Hotel
Doctor Who
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
The Leftovers
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Looking forward to the return of:


Television: Limitless, "Badge! Gun!"

You know what it is about this show? It's that the main character Brian reminds me of Andy on Parks and Rec. Like, if Andy took this drug and got to live out his Burt Macklin fantasy? That would be this show.

And I like it.

This episode shows Brian (switch a couple letters and you've got "Brain" right?) helping the FBI track down a biological weapon designed to give distant descendants of Genghis Kahn a stroke. All has to do with an upcoming vote, yada yada, but the writers do a really nice job of balancing plot-of-the-week with character. Brian is only just starting to struggle with having to lie to pretty much everyone, and there is a sense the noose will only get tighter—especially when the nurse meant to give him his shots to keep him from dying from NZT turns up as his dad's at-home nurse as well.

So for, for me, Limitless is one of the best new shows this season. It's one I really enjoy without it being too heavy or dark. Just well done all around.


Podcasts: Invisibilia

I've only listened to a couple of these, but they're pretty interesting if you like, say, psychology. Basically this podcast focuses on how invisible things like thoughts and expectations impact our lives. Do we control them or do they control us? It's a chicken/egg dichotomy, but the cases they use to illustrate the topics are definitely thought-provoking.

For example, if (and when) you have bad thoughts . . . Does that automatically make you a bad person? Are you a dangerous individual if you are plagued by thoughts of murder and violence? Instinctively, one might answer: Yes! But the cases in the first episode of this podcast series suggest the answer is more like: Not necessarily. Of course, everyone is different. So you can't lump everyone who has ever had a malicious thought together into one whole. It's whether the person acts on the thoughts that matters, and that's an issue of a different kind.

Another episode—the one I'm currently listening to—discusses how people live up to expectations . . . Or down to them. Learned helplessness, in a sense. The episode talks about how amazed people are by a blind man who can ride a bike because "blind people can't." The argument being that if we didn't assume blind people couldn't do so many things, maybe they'd do more.

Well, and as a mother of three, I've been told again and again that kids shouldn't be coddled. That they'll reach higher if you expect more of them. Isn't that also the litany of so many of those little online quotes married to atmospheric images: self-limiting beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies? Whether you believe you can or you can't, etc.?

Anyway, there are only six episodes of this podcast for now. I don't know if they plan to do more. I'm not sure how many little bits of invisibilia they can collect to examine. I mean, on the one hand it would seem something like that should be infinite, but on the other it all starts to be kind of the same thing. Still, for as long as there are interesting case studies to cover, I'm sure they can continue to find things to say.


Theatre: Dracula by LATW

I can't seem to escape Hamlet these days (not that I especially want to, but still). This being Dracula, there was a lot of Hamlet in it.

But anyway.

This was an interesting production. The characters dressed the part but performed at microphones while foley artists provided sound effects and a screen projected atmospheric background images. Sort of like watching a radio performance, really, though there were some acted bits to give a good sense of what was going on.

And it was all exceptionally well done.

In particular, Alexis Jacknow as Mina, Nicholas Hormann as Van Helsing, and Patrick Wenk-Wolff as the titular Count did stand-out work, but honestly, everyone was fabulous. It was a real treat to watch.

I brought my 9-year-old son, too, and yes, he got a bit freaked out at times. The wolves howling, and Summer Spiro's (Lucy) ear-piercing screams . . . But at the end of it all, he professed to liking it. "It was cool," he said, which is high praise from the likes of a jaded pre-teen. Still and all, if you have squeamish kids (mine likes scary stuff), this probably isn't the show for them. And mine is still just young enough to have the sexual overtones go over his head. But only just; it's a sultry story and this production doesn't gloss it.

The show is roughly two hours, no intermission. An evening well spent.


Television: Scorpion, "Cuba Libre"

Okay, so this was better than the season premiere. Though of course the frank argument about logic versus emotion was a bit like being beat over the head with a blunt instrument.

In this episode, a woman named Sonia comes to ask the team to help catch a known Serbian war criminal who killed her parents and destroyed her town. Cabe was actually the one to get Sonia adopted into a nice, stable family, but Sonia herself is far from stable. She's consumed with a desire for revenge.

So of course the team agrees to help her.

Said criminal is living in Cuba now, and what's more he has a list (it's always a list) of where the other war criminals are, too. Cuz someone has to keep the roster for their monthly Skype chats or whatever, I guess.

There are the usual hoops to jump through, the usual complications. And Sonia makes things worse by being all emotional and acting impulsively. Which gives Walter a reason to lecture and say that people who use their reason and shut off their emotions don't make mistakes.

Whatever, Walter. Your schtick is getting old, and you doth protest too much anyway.

And then in the end they catch the guy and get the list and get out of Cuba. Just as you would expect. But at least it was a more engaging plot than the premiere. Wins it a reprieve from my own list—the list of shows I'm cutting from my viewing schedule. (Gotham, Minority Report . . .)


Television: Doctor Who, "Under the Lake (Part 1)"

Well, it's the best episode so far this season, though that's not saying much since we're only three in. But I've always been fascinated by stories of submerged towns. You know the ones: a town nestled in a valley and then a dam breaks and the town is covered. I spent a fair number of days imagining those waterlogged structures . . . Of course, logically I knew they would long have rotted away or whatever, but what an image: the pristine spire of a white-washed church, the little red schoolhouse, etc.

So what's the story here? A petroleum company funding some underwater mining for oil in the area of one of these flooded towns. And then an alien ship is discovered, and ghosts start happening, and the ghosts kill people and turn them into ghosts. It's a pretty good story, actually.

Remember Sphere? Was I the only person who liked that movie?

Anyway, by the end of it, the Doctor must pop out and "brb," except based on the previews for Part 2, he'll be a ghost, too, at some point. Doesn't really worry us much because it's his show, but it will possibly be interesting to find out how it happens and how he gets out of it.

It was funny how excited he was about the ghosts, though. Like, he's traveled the universe and all, but this simple thing—the revelation of ghosts—amazes and delights him. In all this time he hasn't met any? I go between thinking he must be pretty jaded and feel like he's seen everything (hence his excitement at something "new" like ghosts) and thinking he must see something new, like, almost every day, right? Which is it? After a while, the very novelty of novelty must wear off; nothing surprises him. But these ghosts do, boy howdy.

I hope more of the season is like this. I could actually start enjoying the show again.


Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Laws of Nature"

It seems like the team managing this show decided they'd better start Season 3 with clear issues rather than the utter muddle of last season. The result is a season premiere that at least makes some kind of sense and establishes stakes.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is looking for more "Inhumans," those who carry the alien gene and are affected by whatever has been unleashed into the environment (namely the oceanic environment, meaning people who take fish oil supplements are at risk if they harbor the gene).

Fitz is still trying to figure out the monolith so he can save Simmons. Everyone keeps telling him to channel his inner Elsa (that is, let it go), but he refuses.

Bobbi and Hunter are . . . whatever. Flirting but not really or something.

And Coulson has been tracking a mercenary black ops group that seems also to be targeting Inhumans. The result is a meeting with Rosalind (you recognize her from Entourage), leader of said group. After "cagey" discussions, the two of them realize there is a third something-or-other hunting Inhumans . . . and killing them. We get a glimpse of this thing, which is sort of like an alien porcupine? ::shrug::

Meanwhile, out in the world, presidents and other leaders are trying to determine how to handle this influx of Mutants Inhumans. (Let's not pretend this isn't the exact same fight as from X-Men, okay? Regulate them? Kill them? Embrace them? Send them to a special school? When does Patrick Stewart show up?)

Oh, and we get a glimpse of Simmons in . . . some other world? Is the monolith a doorway to an alien planet?

We do still have Ward to contend with at some point, which seems to be Bobbi and Hunter's key focus: revenge. But this premiere had enough to be getting on with, and as I mentioned, at least they set things up relatively clearly, giving me hopes this season will be better than the last.

Television: Limitless, "Pilot"

I tried to watch the movie but couldn't make it through, so I wasn't sure I'd like the series either. But everyone said it was so good, I had to try it. And I'm glad I did.

Limitless the TV series is about Brian, a wanna-be musician who has done nothing much with his life and sustains himself by temping. To be fair, it seems Brian is at least dedicated to his music. But he admits to a friend he hasn't written a song in over a year, so maybe he's burnt out, or maybe being constantly pressured by family to grow up and get on with his life has squelched his creativity. In any case, when an ex-fellow musician offers Brian a drug, to Brian's credit he resists. But friend (Eli) insists it will help, and Brian is just desperate enough to succumb to peer pressure.

The drug is, of course, NZT, the same thing from the movie—it enhances brain function or whatever, temporarily rendering the user brilliant. Well, really it allows the user to access all the information his brain has stored. All that stuff you learned in school but forgot, it's in there somewhere, and NZT lets you grab it and use it as necessary. So . . . I guess if you never learned anything ever, NZT could not help you. But the assumption is everyone knows stuff, even if they don't know they know it?

Brian is motivated to help his dad, who is very sick but the doctor's can't figure out what is wrong with him. Brian solves that while on NZT then needs another hit when he discovers he needs to figure out how to get his dad a new liver. He goes to see Eli only to discover his friend has been murdered. And of course Brian is found by the FBI at the scene. But having taken Eli's last "secret stash" pill, Brian escapes.

Okay, but who called the FBI, I wonder? Like, if it were someone in the building calling the police because of a gunshot (though I believe a silencer was used), but . . . The FBI? What brought them in? Why aren't the police there first?

Whatever, the show is too good to quibble much over these points.

Long story short (too late!), Brian gets FBI agent Rebecca Harris on his side. She trusts him, though she's not sure why. But in the end they figure out who killed Eli and another NZT-taking colleague, and Brian gets recruited by the FBI as a consultant. Because it turns out he's immune to the usually fatal side effects of NZT.

Except that's not quite the whole story. Bradley Cooper shows up as Senator Eddie Morra in this episode to also recruit Brian. And he (Morra) is the reason Brian is immune; there is a special shot Brian can take to keep the side effects from occurring? Though it's not clear yet (or I missed) what Morra gets from having Brian dependent on him. Is Brian supposed to report to Morra about the FBI? ::shrug::

It's a really well-done show. The characters are interesting and likable. They're complex and feel fleshed out. And the situation promises eventual tension as Brian's loyalty is tested from every side. I look forward to watching more.


Concerts: Richard Marx (Again)

You can visit this post if you want to know about the last time I saw Marx play, which was also the first time. Last night I saw him again, at the same venue. It was just as much fun, and this time I took my 7-year-old daughter with me.

He played his hits—acoustically. Which meant some of the songs I love like "That Was Lulu" were not included. (Was that one ever even a hit?) He played a new one, too, that hasn't been recorded yet. It's called "Not In Love," and was a great piano number.

What's fun about seeing Marx live is that he's really funny as well as talented. He has good patter. And "How Can I Miss You (When You Won't Go Away)?" remains a favorite of mine.

I tried to explain to my daughter how Marx has had this impressive career, and how he was my first musician crush (I'd had TV and movie star crushes but Marx was my first rock star crush), and how this and that song meant a lot to me at various times in my life. I think it was too much for her to absorb, though. Instead she more or less walked away understanding that this singer was important to me, and that I was excited to see him play, and that meant more to her than anything. Well, and when Marx said something like, "Thanks for coming to hear these songs I made up," my daughter turned to me with wide eyes and said, "He made them up all by himself?!"

Yes, dear, he did.


Television: Quantico, "Run"

This show about a bunch of would-be FBI agents in training and how one of them is framed for a major act of terrorism is roughly hewn rather than neatly constructed. The characters—and there are so many I almost can't be bothered to keep track—are broad and blunt, not deep in any way. The writers seem to have confused backstory with depth, as each character has some complicated history that becomes the focus of the pilot when the trainees are told to dig up dirt on and then interrogate one another. Priyanka Chopra as Alex Parrish (the one eventually accused of terrorism) walks around with the same glazed look on her face as Katherine Heigl did in Grey's Anatomy. That was all I could think every time the camera zeroed in on her face. Which was often.

And this is like Grey's Anatomy, in a way. A collection of students, more or less, involved in life-or-death situations and lots of soapy drama. So if you like that kind of thing, with a little conspiracy theory added, then Quantico may be for you. Alas, because I'm the type to put character above plot, it may not be for me; I simply can't get over how unrefined the character development is here. Count Quantico as the kid dressed in black at the back of the school cafeteria who thinks everyone is wondering about him, thinking he's deep, when really no one has even noticed nor do they care.

Television: The Grinder, "Pilot"

Here we have Rob Lowe playing, more or less, Chris Traeger from Parks and Rec—same enthusiasm and optimism and go-getter-ism (if that's a thing). And we have Fred Savage playing straight man while everyone else buys into Lowe's effusive personality.

The setup is that Lowe plays Dean Sanderson, a television actor whose legal drama series The Grinder has come to an end. Savage plays Dean's brother Stewart, an actual lawyer. William Devane plays their dad, also a lawyer.

You can see where this is going.

Dean comes home to enjoy his series finale with his family and stays on to become a for real lawyer. Because Stewart knows all the stuff, but Dean has the panache. They'll make a great team, right?

Overall, I found this one cute but not amazing. Pretty standard fare, really. It's fun to watch Lowe do the slick stuff he does so well, and it's fun to watch Savage bungle a bit, but it's also difficult to imagine this won't get tired fast. If I could find better comedy somewhere, this one wouldn't be a contender, but as things stand, I'll probably give it another episode or two.