Tube Talk: The Strain: The Third Rail

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The show this week gets really good, but also really, really stupid.

SPOILERS!

The Strain: Season 1: Episode 11: The Third Rail: GRADE: B-

This week we once again have the ongoing battle to stop The Master and his plan and Gus.

Yeah once again he’s here and I have to say again, I do not care for him. Much like last week with Kelly, we’re suppose to feel for a character suddenly that we haven’t had any proper development of at all. Kelly was just Eph’s ex-wife and Gus honestly was just the person needed to help further get the plot moving in action. I’d been fine with Gus if that’s all his role is, but there’s nothing much to him

He’s sprung out and comes home to find brother and mother turned into vampires. Him and his whole family have been severely underdeveloped and we’re suppose to have this strong emotional reaction to him having to kill his brother and his landlord, which by the way big sidenote to Justin Britt-Gibson and Chuck Hogan who wrote the episode, the landlord killing moment? That was not as cool or cheerworthy as you think. He’s not an important character but only there to show how tough and serious Gus was and all he said the last time we seen him was that he made a simple request of a tenant to make living in his building and that rent be on time. Why the build up for that? Unless we seen him kicking puppies or punch kids randomly out on the street or being a corrupt landlord, then that moment is earned. Here? Not at all earned.

Also Gus is a piece of shit for NOT killing his mother. He can do it to his brother no problem but when the time comes to axe off old momma, he can’t do it. Gus, you’re an asshole. You just allowed for her to go out when the sun drops and turn more and more people into fellow vampires. You could have saved plenty of more people, but you can’t do the right thing. She’s dead anyway when The Master bites it, so its pointless that whole scene, as pointless as this whole subplot for the episode was. I haven’t read any of the books or comics, so maybe Gus is as important a character as the show seems to think he is, but man I kinda hope he’s not around next season or at best, think of something else for him to do.

Also Eph’s son goes to get Nora’s mom some cigarettes while coming across people looting and almost becomes vampire chow because he dropped Kelly’s iPhone and doesn’t want to lose the last bit of his mother he has left and leads them to be vampires while coming across Gus. Much shorter and had somewhat of a more emotional connection to the centralized character of that

The Strain - Episode 1.11 - The Third Rail - Promotional Photo

Alright now let’s get to talking about something that matters into the damn plot of this show!

Eph is a flawed character and at points not the best guy. He prides himself on his knowledge and intelligence, even just has to have the last word. Like when he and Vasiliy get into in the subway tunnel. He’s asked how it feels to have a pawnbroker and a rat killer know more about him after Eph tries to humiliate Vasiliy about being wrong on a skill of his. He even doesn’t believe things have fully changed as evident by the dialogue from his first scene with Nora in the episode, still can’t believe this insanity is around him that the world is upside down, but he’ll totally buy into the notion that killing The Master is the cure all to vampires. That’s a slight inconsistency that would bother me, but since I’m really enjoying Corey Stoll’s performance here on the show and he’s giving this role his all, I can buy into wanting to follow this character as the hero of the story.

He isn’t the single highlight here as he, Setrakian, Nora, and Vasiliy go to take down The Master and the tension, build up, and conclusion to this, is great. Obviously they don’t get the job done but what is seen is exciting. Especially when Setrakian and Vasiliy each get stuck in a very tight space trying to get The Master and they are just stranded there ready to be vampire bait, the pacing, shots, and editing tighten it up so well I kinda was fearing for them, even know I know they are gonna make it out of that situation.

We see The Master in full light again and its still amazing. He and Eph have a memorable confrontation having lured Eph to him by using Kelly to toy with him. Its nicely done. I loved just everything about this section, it almost makes up for how stupid everything involving Gus was. Keyword: almost.

We do get a very cool strobe UV light bomb out of it. Yay new weapons!

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Two episodes left in the season and it loos like things are heating up, but the show really, REALLY needs to know where to put the majority of tis focus.

Tube Talk: Masters of Sex: One for the Money, Two for the Show

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We reach the PENULTIMATE(!) chapter of the second season as Bill and Virginia get camera ready!

SPOILERS!

Masters of Sex: Season 2: Episode 11: One for the Money, Two for the Show: GRADE: A-

This week we deal with reality. Ah reality, what a concept! Also we deal with artifice. The artificial idea we project onto ourselves and what others project about someone. Bill and Virginia’s presentation of the study, Libby’s role in life, Virginia’s motherhood, and even Austen and Flo get in on the theme this week. Everything connect’s together this week and also obviously help set the stage for the finale next week which brings me to my only slight problem is that I worry about how all this will be wrapped up for the season next week, even though some could carry over into the third season, which hey it got renewed, yay. There’s a hefty sum of things going on for this season that its gonna have to keep its plates spinning. Also how fast and loose they seemed to have played with the historical events brought up in the episode, but more on that later.

But let’s worry more about that next week, right now let’s focus about how Bill breaks under pressure. Again. As shown last week, P.R. man Shep (Adam Arkin) wants to help present the study for television, but not the way Bill and Virginia would like it. In reality now, we’d have no problem, but we’re still in the 1960s. Most people were predisposed to just missionary back then and people were a bit uppity as it were. CBS won’t allow the use of the words “masturbation” (cause they don’t wanna imply solo acts) and of course, “orgasm”. Bill begins to feel as if this isn’t truly him. He has to promote the study without selling himself out completely but his actions this episode lead Lester to being the voice of reason this week about Bill and the access CBS is having to the study as to presenting it on television. It really makes for a great scene about the ends justifying the means. Mean while Lester and Bill come together in the problem of how much more artificial the study presentation will feel when CBS tries to hire a fake couple for an intake interview. To both of them, more so Lester, they might as well have stabbed him right in the heart. Bill still wants the main focus of the study to stay in tact: change how the world looks at sexual behavior.

Its really compelling in that way to see how much more differently people might react to the public acknowledgement of the study like when Bill presented it at the college last season. Of course the acting does help it work as Michael Sheen does am expert job of perfectly fitting into Bill outside the study and how stiff and insecure and slightly machine like Bill seems when on camera talking about the study, except when truly getting into it, then he’s a little more animated, also when butting heads with Shep and the director about what to present and say. Virginia is obviously more camera friendly. Seems the beauty and the beast assessment isn’t too far off after all.

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Speaking of Virginia and the study, her artificial belief that she and Bill were off to the hotel in the name of the study wasn’t exactly the best mother to her children. She’s artificially a wonderful mother in that case, even though at times she has proven to be a great mother, but reality comes to smack her right in the face when her ex-husband gets a great offer to go on a six week tour around Europe and he and his wife want the kids to join. He does bring up how often she isn’t there. When she isn’t at the hotel with Bill, she’ll still be working non-stop on the study. The kids’ babysitter gets more attention from her as evident when they come to have dinner with her at office. The shock really hits her when asked who will giver her Christmas presents when they’re in Europe. Her own children have been neglected for the work.

Libby finally faces reality that she is the number two woman in Bill’s life whereas Virginia is number one. She’s artificially still believed to be important around people who matter but when the cameras come to the office she feels misplaced again, instead when near Robert and the CORE office. She finally strips away the last bit of artificiality to herself and let’s her walls down and realize she loves Robert. When they finally get together is shot very excellently and told even better with Michael Penn’s perfect score that is ever present in the episode. It fills the scenes where’s its most effective, here and when Virginia is still in shock of the presents question, it just makes the scene work so much more. The music becomes its own character itself there.

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Austen and Flo are back and they actually do tie in well to the theme this week much better than they did last time. Flo has always been enamored with Clark Gable since he made her weak in the knees when seeing Gone With the Wind, which Austen has never seen. Having heard of the actor’s heart attack. She loved how he just took Scarlett and the fact that’s what she’s doing to Austen now clearly isn’t lost on me. That’s a weak point as to how sort of obvious that feels, but the acting from Teddy Sears and Artemis Pebdani. she has to hold his hand during their little Gone With the Wind fantasy. As she accurately points out, “Kind of ruins it when I have to tell you what to do every second.”

Though I was more engaged by the pillow talk afterwards where it showed how this detailed ordeal allowed them both to further open up to each other, like Austen nothing that Flo has this desire to defy anyone that’s ignored her. Really damn good stuff.

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I think this image above best summed up how the episode went as far as its theme did.

Even when playing fast and loose with historical facts:

  • Nixon and Kennedy’s debate was in September 1960
  • The arrest of Martin Luther King Jr. happened on October 19 in 1961
  • Clark Gable’s heart attack was on November 6

Also, I can’t come up with evidence that Bill and Virginia ever went on TV to present their evidence before their first major publication of the study in the late 60s, we’re still in 1961 here people.

But while those are little hinderances that slightly took me out of it, also admitting I’m spoiler on historical accuracy now thanks to Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, its still a strong episode and a perfect set up for the finale next week.

Batman Eternal #24

SPOILER ALERT: Stephanie Brown is goddamn awesome! Batman Eternal #24 coming right at you!

SPOILERS!

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Batman Eternal #24
Written by Ray Fawkes; Drawn by Andy Clarke

Oh Stephanie, well you came and kicked ass, but DC sent you away, oh Stephanie, then came back and kicked more ass and I’m glad you’re back oh Stephanie!

Stephanie Brown is the main focus of this issue and she goes deeper into ruining the plan of her father’s and his group hired by Hush to cause mass riots in Gotham. She of course goes to further spoil things but daddy is waiting for her, telling her they could have been in on this together, partners! but we get Stephanie kicking his ass, leading him on a motorcycle chase, and sets him up to be arrested, not by the GCPD, but state police since she lead him six miles out the city.

Again I made no bones about how much I love this character and Fawkes this issue really does get the character right, from her wit to her heroism to just overall charm that makes her so damn great to watch and read about. She’s far from done as she states she’s just getting started at the end of the issue, and I’m excited about what more is to come from her. I don’t even mind she’s The Spoiler again, but then again Barbara is still Batgirl so logic and all that good stuff. The action is excellently well paced and goes fast and furious with it, thanks in part to Andy Clarke’s art who I enjoy here once again for his style and looks so good.

Also since Fawkes is writing this issue, maybe we should you know somewhat catch up with what the hell is going on at Arkham? Well we do…sort of. Batman goes to an art gallery where Dr. Ecks (formerly Double X in non-New 52 continuity for those wondering why he’s important to name) and he deals with the ghostly figure there with Nth metal and decides to call into Batwing, but no answer is given. So that happened and we’re moving on.

We get a whole lot of one thing, sprinkle of another, seems like standard protocol here for the Batman weekly series but next up in a spotlight (again), Julia Pennyworth!

RATING: 4.5/5

Tube Talk: Masters of Sex: Below the Belt

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Masters of Sex puts it gloves up tonight in the latest review.

SPOILERS!

Masters of Sex: Season 2: Episode 10: Below the Belt: GRADE: B

So somewhere during this episode I think the show just said, “Fuck it. Bill Masters is a self-destructive asshole!”

That seems to be the behavior of the night for old Bill here, sure he’s shown that in the past, but not as full force as tonight. This week our centralized theme is more or less the same as last week of truth, lies, and demons, with Bill right in the center of it. Most notably with Frank.

Bill feels that Frank is completely delusional about what life at home was like after he left. That father really didn’t beat him the way he beat Bill. Bill just can’t conceive that, Frank was the loved one, doted upon, and respected. Their mother in the episode says,“Everyone has their own version of everything that’s ever happened”. Bill and Frank try to reconcile their versions of their upbringings, but the more Frank reveals the more it does dawn on Bill that Frank was beaten too. Though Frank’s use of impotence also might have helped set Bill off in a furry that leads to them fighting. Frank wants Bill to write his own ending to his story just as Frank is doing with his. Bill’s torment from his father is what’s channeling him to be a better man, to succeed as a man and professional in the his father didn’t. Yet still afraid he’s gonna be the rage-fueled monster his father was. Frank wants to heal things further with him, but Bill doesn’t seem to want to.

They have a chance for the study to be further noticed and expanded upon with a chance to be on TV, but he doesn’t want his dignity or the studies reputation mocked, and he won’t let other businesses rent out spaces on his floor cause he wants his work to shine bright most of all. Michael Sheen makes this work. Yes Bill is full on asshole for the most part of this episode but his performance is great and very detailed in manners as it has been from the start.

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Part of the season has been an examination about Bill and his upbringing when brought up back in Fight to his impotence which he and Virginia begin tackling. They are back to being together as part of the study and Virginia takes initiative in commanding over Bill, dominating him. He starts to enjoy it and is aroused as Virginia feels an erection grows but loses it once she goes to further it into straight sex. Its all about emotional connection as they are exploring to help cure one’s impotence, which Lester has with Barbara as they meet for the first time and from they way they meet and their diner scene, they will fall in love and be the answer to each other’s problems. I have no problem with that given the performance of the characters are great. They are each other’s bastions of hope for their dysfunctions.

Virginia also contemplates she’s still deceiving herself about herself and Bill, which is what the therapist implies after she comes clean to him (by the way that’s two Star Trek alums this season with John Billingsley joining the previously guest stared René Auberjonois). She fears she’s still hurting his marriage and while what they are doing is in the name of the study again, she might know its not right.

We do see Austen is settling in nicely to his new job with Cal-O-Metrics and Flo which takes a weird turn as she basically makes him sleep with her in order to keep his job. This kinda doesn’t make much sense to me given she would have this much leverage over him to make it happen. Sure she’s top dog but losing this gig wouldn’t hurt Austen too much. I mean he’s still a doctor, right? Its a bit unsure if he’s doing both jobs, but given the schedule she laid out its slightly implied he quit being a doctor for this, but if not, he still would have the job back at the hospital, being well paid.

Also Betty’s here this week. That’s all on her part.

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We also have Libby and Robert’s parts at the CORE office with their not-quite flirting. It seems obvious here as well that they well be together because Libby just wants someone to appreciate her and see her as someone valuable which she obviously isn’t getting from Bill. This feels more tied to Bill’s story than Austen’s bit and I get we need subplots, I’m a writer myself and studied all there is about scripting, though it still feels disconnected. Libby is having an arc where Austen is simply just going by.

The episode feels a bit uneven, but at its center still progresses the season in a fantastic way. What works works well for the story, what doesn’t feels disjointed and doesn’t add too much, but this is still one of TV’s best offerings.

Tube Talk: The Strain: Loved Ones

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Well things slow down this week on The Strain they may have picked the worst time to do so.

SPOILERS!

The Strain: Season 1: Episode 10: Loved Ones: GRADE: C+

The Strain takes a break from its pace and slows down this week, but does the show really need to slow down right now? We’re very close on the end and any show like this with the overarching story it has, sure it Creatures of the Night was, while also adding a big part to the story and being a game changer for the season. Right now, momentum needs to be ratcheted up and keep going at a breakneck speed while not be too confusing to make the viewers lost. What we don’t need a whole episode devoted to Kelly.

Yes Eph’s put upon ex-wife play by Natalie Brown really hasn’t had much to work with and really has been a peripheral character, there to help advance Eph’s arc. That’s how she’s honestly been. We see in flashbacks, which all her parts take part in, that she gets hit with a worm when attacking vampire Matt and is later turned. We see that she loses her phone, which kick starts the story when Zach finds her signal and leads Eph and the search for her. She also kills Diane and her child then just kinda wanders around a bit for the rest of her part of the episode until she’s called to upon from The Master as a faithful servant. That could provide some interesting results, her being his puppet. I would like to see more of where that goes.

Natalie Brown’s acting certainly hasn’t been her problem, its just her writing because, when I come into a show about vampire infestation epidemic, custody battles are in my mind! Alright that’s honestly a stupid thing to say, its there to help further build up Eph’s character and show his drive and determination and give him further motivation to stop this as to not se his son and ex-wife harmed cause as he said last week, she’s the mother of his child. Though romance is out the picture, they are all about Zach’s well-being. But that storyline is hindered on an emotional connection. Such a connection that I never rally felt from it. I was stone cold at the end of the ending where Zach watches the birthday video on Kelly’s phone where she got him a bike. I get the desired emotions from this storyline, I just never felt them is what I’m saying.

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The fight of humans against vampires was and still is far more engaging which brings us to Dutch. She plans to undo the unintentional part she had in Stoneheart’s plan with Vasiliy in tow. This is honestly where the episode is really good thanks to how good the chemistry between them are. See the majority of the episode is centered on Kelly and her story, with Nora, Setrakian, Eichhorst, almost everyone sidelined besides her, Dutch, and Vasiliy. They meet up with Palmer who gives a villain speech, which sounds so over-the-top its great given the delivery of it from Jonathan Hyde. We also see that Palmer’s right hand Fitzwilliams (Roger Cross) is having second thoughts of Palmer’s quest for immortality by teaming up with a psycho vampire in Eichhorst. That’s a development that could easily have been a better focus for the episode.

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That’s really all there is to the episode. Not enough of a good storyline, too much of an uninteresting one, when we need to be gearing up for the big showdown. I have enough faith the show can bounce back fast from this.

Batman Eternal #23

Things keep moving into place and Gotham’s about to get a lot worse, believe it or not in the latest issue of the weekly series!

SPOILERS!

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Batman Eternal #23
Written by Tim Seeley; Drawn by Dustin Nguyen

Well this issue gives a big development for the returning Catwoman as we get closer to where she was back in Batman #28 and where she’ll be when the new creative team takes over her book in October. Its revealed that Selina’s father is Rex “The Lion” Calabrese and he wants her to unite the families of Gotham, become the new kingpin. The scenes involving the both of them are damn good character drama. Seeley gets right into it with them and its wonderful to see. He doesn’t make it overly dramatic, he lets it play out as it would naturally happen. Selina wants nothing to do with her dad but he wants the natural order of crime in Gotham to stay intact. He wants no chaos. Seeing where this will be heading has me interested and of course excited for the new creative team on Catwoman, also meaning I can start reading that book again.

He gets the deeper side of Selina and writes a true character, but also doesn’t skip out on the fun aspect of her as she’s going to rob an underground dog fight where a snow leopard is about to be served up, but is shot by Tiger Shark. Its the best part of the book next to the follow up of Batman discovering Hush is behind this all. He continues the fight with The Architect demanding answers before he flies away as an earthquake suddenly happens, but not so as Hush hired Architect to create one to bring Beacon Tower down. Well much to his dismay, it still standing up tall.

That helps perfectly counterbalance the Catwoman stuff and also allowed a variety of Dustin Nguyen’s great art for the issue who just kills it here again. He should have an ongoing, just saying DC. He brings action out wonderfully and makes the expressions in the dialogue scenes really come out and fit the tone of the writing.

Such as when Bard tells Mayor Hady its time to call in the Governor and military and declare martial law on Gotham. Oh and random sidebar to Killer Croc in the sewer doing things. Its slightly back to the juggling storylines issues here but things can get interesting next week as it teased a spoiler alert. Following up Catwoman with Stephanie Brown? YES!

RATING: 4.5/5

Tube Talk: Masters of Sex: Story of My Life

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Well the story of my life right now is at a chapter where I review for you, the latest episode of Masters of Sex.

SPOILERS!

Masters of Sex: Season 2: Episode 9: Story of My Life: GRADE: B+

Truth, lies, and demons comes back into our episode as the themes, yes themes, but it wasn’t until after and before writing I came to that because I wasn’t thinking much about the theme of the episode as I was focusing on what the episode it self was this week with its great performances, excellently scored music, and brilliant direction.

Frank reveals reasons for his drinking and tells Bill that facing the truth about his alcoholism healed him and has made him a better person and saved his marriage and Barbara coming to the truth of her incident with her brother only further devastates her and her demons keep coming to the forefront of her mind.

Whereas lying is what Virginia and Libby do for most of the episode with Virginia still lying to the therapist, poorly, and nearly getting caught in an equally poor effort attempt to get Barbara psych help. Libby lies about what she saw last week as to possibly save her from not being involved in the case where it might risk her life.

Though Virginia’s own truth discovery is from her lying in realizing what her pageant-pushing mother did to her and how that what she and Bill are doing isn’t just for research but his own personal gain and how devastated Libby will be if she finds out. That’s what kept Virginia going is that it was all in the name of the study, and this leads Bill to reveal the truth of his impotence to Virginia. The reason he seems to take a sudden interest in sexual dysfunction lately.

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This comes from realizing that after setting Lester up with Miss Kitty, a former co-worker of Betty’s, to help him with his own impotence in hopes he’ll figure out his own without admitting it cause well Bill has too much pride to admit it. He find that the truth is he must discover it with Virginia because Lester’s session lacked an emotional connection that one would need to get over such a problem. We know it can be mental as well but emotion can play a huge part. The recent season opener of The League dealt with this as Jenny’s constant flaunting for her Shiva victory still loomed over Kevin, and of course some of Kevin’s prematurity and dominance issues, for months where he can’t perform with her in bed until she bonds with him over his draft picks. Though this episode doesn’t have sex at a funeral or JJ Watt.

Bill’s admittance of the problem is shot very well and is a great showcase, another one, for Michael Sheen. He’s absolutely great in this role and has owned it since the beginning of the show.

Speaking of showcase from the Masters, Christian Borle in his AA speech was fantastic. This subplot of the episode made up for how disjointed and meh Libby’s subplot is which leads her to go to work for the CORE offices. Frank’s speech showed him opening up with the truth about his demons that lead him to want to drink and the lies he told himself that it helped him vanish. This makes a good case for the Guest Drama Actor Emmy in his name next year.

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Betsy Brandt makes a good case for Guest Actress as she continues to blow me away. She as mentioned confronts her demons in her brother and the realization that she may have wanted to experiment just kills her even more. She still doesn’t know what Virginia is doing and actually causing further pain to Barb by going to the therapist. The emotion she has here, she’s quickly becoming the best thing about the show besides Bill and Virginia.

This week gets things going a little further and does show how much the truth can be uplifting and how much it can hurt, that lying won’t simply help, and that hitting your demons head on is maybe the best thing to do in some situations. We must find our way.