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Life Sentence

Life Sentence – Pilot (1×01)

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Since Chasing Life was taken off the air, I’ve been looking for a show to replace it. (Yes, I’m still mad at Freeform for canceling it.)

I needed a heroine as brave, spunky and full-of-life — even when the cancer is draining her of it — as April.

And I found that in Stella.

When we first meet Stella, she reveals she’s been battling cancer for eight-years, since she was 15-years-old.

During her battle, her family has stood by her side, helping her live out an end-of-life bucket-list, which included falling in love. And she did during her spontaneous trip to Paris. Falling in love in the city of love would be cliche if Wes wasn’t so gosh darn charming and she wasn’t running out of time, quite literally.

Their relationship, although abrupt, was a saving grace for them both; she was afraid to die and he was afraid to live.

They were perfect for each other, so they decided to get married. While marriage is a major decision for most people, for Stella, it was a 6-8 month commitment so she wasn’t too concerned about the hasty decision.

Stella is by every means self-centered, as she should be.

Unfortunately, she didn’t take Wes’ feelings into consideration or think through how he would feel being widowed at such a young age. I guess when you’re dying, it doesn’t really matter.

It’s understandable considering her actions never had any real consequences.

But that all changed one day when the doctor uttered the words: “you’re not dying,” followed by, “Stella, you’re cured.”

That’s really the premise for Life Sentence; a girl spends her whole life thinking she’s dying only to find out that her clinical trial worked and now, she has to come to grips with living.

You’d think the news would be music to Stella’s ears, but in a twisted way, I can understand her sudden disappointment.

A second chance at life when you don’t think think it exists and live carelessly? What do you do? How do you move on?

She was ready to die, she came to terms with it and she did things in her life with that intention. Now that she was going to live, she would have to live with haste decisions, like marriage, and learn how to become an actual person functioning in society.

While her family celebrated, they shared her sentiments; she hadn’t gone to school, she never had a job, she didn’t really know how to do the common things adults do.

She was also shielded from the reality that her parents and siblings lived through every day because the added stress meant she could get sicker.

But no cancer = the truth. And the truth was a mess!

Her parents are divorcing, her mother is bi-sexual and sleeping with her god mom Poppy, her brother is completely useless because the thought of losing her made him stop caring about everyone, and her sister gave up everything to care for her and even sacrificed her career to have children early on in life to provide some joy for the parents.

Yep, that’s a lot to take it all at once.

Not to mention they are broke and forced to sell the house because they cannot afford the mortgage. This is music to her mom’s ears, but everyone else is having a harder time accepting the reality, especially her dad.

Early on, Stella asked ‘what do you do with the rest of your life’ and quickly learned the answer: you make it up to your family, whose lives were also ruined because of this cancer.

She quickly began trying to fix everyone’s problems not only because she owed them, but because she didn’t want to face her own fears about the future.

To help with the financial burden, she gets a job at a coffee shop utilizing her optimism as her core skill; this girl really cannot make a cup of coffee to save her life. No pun intended.

She realizes she doesn’t really know anything about her husband, granted the quickie marriage thing. That didn’t matter before but now that there’s a long future ahead of them, it’s important they really know each other. Wes reveals that he was lying about A LOT of things to keep her happy and living in her fairytale. Realizing that much of what she knew was “false” or sensationalized is difficult on her. Will they still like each other once they truly get to know each other? That’s definitely worth exploring in future episodes.

Then there’s the “thank you party” for her doctor, which turns into a full-on fight between the family.

And to make matters worse, her brother is sleeping with a married woman who he knocked up.

Stella retreats to her safe-space, which oddly enough is her old hospital room.

I guess when you spend so much time somewhere, it begins to feel like home. And with her world-turned-upside-down, even a place filled with pain and death seems more comforting and familiar. It’s all she knows and at least there, everything was certain.

While swigging her wine, she befriends a cancer-stricken little girl named Sadie Carter.

Seeing Carter helps Stella realize that despite everything, she’s still been given a second chance at life.

From there, she’s honest with Wes and this time when they have sex, it’s mindblowing and completely different to what they’re used to.

She encourages her sister to write, promises to be there for her brother, and for the first time, is truly happy to be alive.

One thing is evident — this show will be an unbiased look at the hardships of life while being uplifting and reminding us all that the greatest gift in the midst of any problem is that we’re alive to experience said problem.

At times though, it almost seems too alive. There is conflict, but it’s nothing compared to almost dying.

What will keep this narrative moving forward and not meeting it’s shelf-life expiration date?

Still, solid pilot and solid acting from Hale, who has proven that she is much more than her Pretty Little Liars character Aria Montgomery. Although, Aria will always be our favorite. Sorry, Stella!

Thoughts on Life Sentence? Have you been hooked?


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Lizzy Buczak is the founder of CraveYouTV. What started off as a silly blog in her sophomore year at Columbia College Chicago turned her passion for watching TV into an opportunity! She has been in charge of CraveYou since 2011, writing reviews and news content for a wide variety of shows. Lizzy is a Music Business and Journalism major who has written for RADIO.COM, TV Fanatic, Time Out Chicago, Innerview, Pop’stache and Family Time.

Life Sentence

Life Sentence – Then and Now (1×13)

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Life Sentence Then and Now Series finale

There was no better way for Life Sentence to end than with Stella finally choosing herself.

At the core of the series, the one thing continuously pestering the protagonist and causing her issues was that she didn’t know who she was or what made her happy.

She spent most of her teenage life in a hospital trying to cure her cancer so she didn’t exactly get to experiment when all of her peers were. And because of that cancer, she didn’t expect to live long into her adult life.

She married Wes on a limb out of fear that she would never have this experience. All of this was understandable and fair.

However, when the narrative changed, she kept living the same life she had set up for herself when she thought her time was limited.

It wasn’t fair to her nor was it fair to Wes and to the family that fought so persistently for her.

And that’s why she subconsciously sought out Dr. Grant.

She had two really incredible guys who wanted to give her the world but realistically, she’d never be fulfilled because she didn’t know what the world she wanted looked like.

She barely ventured out of her hometown or further from the hospital which when you think about it, is despairing. The one time she did, she met Wes, the love of her life. Imagine what else she could experience and find out about herself by doing something other than trying to make a marriage work at such a young age.

Second chances are never guaranteed so it was important she came to this realization. But it was even more important that Wes did too because that made being selfish easier on her. It was as if she’d gotten his blessing and could, without any guilt, explore who she truly was.

And you know, they say that if it’s meant to be, it’ll come back to you.

That final scene, with Wes and Stella celebrating their wedding, felt like an “up to your own interpretation” moment. I know it wasn’t because she was recording the video for him, but in the context, following the scene where she chooses to go hiking, I felt like Stella focused on herself, experienced everything she needed too and eventually, returned to him.

And together, they walked into the sunset. Or maybe that’s just what I wanted to believe because I’m a sucker for romance.

Regardless of what happened at the end, when they made the decision to call it quits, everything came full circle. Their marriage had an eight-month shelf life and although they tried to extend it, it had already served its purpose — to save Stella and Wes from themselves… and cancer. Neither of them had done anything wrong, it had just run its course.

If you think about it, even Stella asking Aiden to take care of Wes after she passed actually came to fruition with their joint business venture.

This kept Wes around the Abbotts which only meant that he was still sticking around in hopes of one day reuniting with Stella. After all, he promised to love her forever even if she wasn’t around to see it.

There was a poetry about their relationship and their promises to each other that you just don’t see on many shows and with many couples lately.

Stella’s ending with Dr. Grant was also fitting because much like Wes, he served a much greater purpose in her life than just being a love interest.

He helped Stella realize that despite being alive again, she wasn’t really living. And what’s the point of all of it if you aren’t actually happy? Though he hoped to gain much more from this, he pushed her out of her comfort zone and in return, she pieced together his broken heart by also reminding him to go live.

Admittedly, I did hope for a goodbye kiss between the two, but I’ll settle for the one outside of the bar where sparks quite literally flew.

I thought that I was going to be Team Dr. Grant in the end, however, it dawned on me that he would have just been a really good fling. Wes was always the real deal and he proved that by sacrificing so much to make Stella happy even for a short while. He’s the real MVP.

Even mom and dad got their happy ending or their own version of it. Marriage didn’t exactly work for them but the love was still there and both of them felt it. Peter proposed to her again and though she turned it down, she did agree to go on a date. It’s safe to say, they are back together.

But with Stella’s romantic triangle out of the way, you realize that Life Sentence really never had much substance. We figured that out during the first episode — there was too much fluff and happiness — and by the thirteenth one, not much had been added. Don’t get me wrong, as a one-season show, it was an enjoyable escape, and I’ll look back fondly on my time with the Abbott’s. But it never stood a chance for anything more meaningful.

We cared about Lizzie and Diego because they were Stella’s siblings but what did we really know about them? We never even found out what Gina called him about after Peter broke up with her! Did she fire Diego? And was she mad that she spent all this time visiting him in the hospital just to be “second best?”

Aiden never saw his “true love” again so we’ll just assume he’s still the womanizer we met in the first episode. Maybe he’ll have a thing with Finley, the bar’s new silent investor?

Will Sadie survive her clinical trial? Will she be just as lucky as Stella? That girl had so much spunk and character but she was sorely unutilized serving as just a crutch to keep some kind of connection between Grant and Sella. It’s unfortunate because every time she shared a scene with Lucy Hale, there was a type of magic on screen.

I almost feel like I would have wanted a flashforward to at least get some of these answers and to see that Stella decided to become a doctor herself.

On a positive note, it doesn’t seem like Wes will go back to Pippa so at least he’s aware of the “going backward and trying to force something to happen” isn’t the solution for success.

Overall, it was a solid finale that tied up the major stories but the minor once deserved some TLC before the curtain’s closed too.

What did you think of the finale of Life Sentence? Should Stella have made a choice? Was choosing herself the bravest and most sincere thing she could have done?


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Life Sentence

Life Sentence – Love Factually (1×12)

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Life Sentence Love factually

I’m actually a bit disappointed that Life Sentence never got a second chance at The CW. It was just getting interesting.

All of the Abbott family secrets are finally catching up with them, just in time for the series finale.

The episode kicked off with all the Wes vs. Dr. Grant drama but it was sidelined by Peter, who suffered a heart attack after his cheating ways weighed down on him.

Peter was definitely onto something when he told Wes that there were too many people in his marriage with Stella but he failed to realize that he was pulled into that “too many” category.

His intentions were in the right place — a father still trying to protect his baby girl in the only way he knows how — however, Stella is no longer that hopeless little girl. She’s not sick, and she’s perfectly capable of making her own decisions and solving her own problems.

But the worst part is that he was being very hypocritical and directing the anger he had for himself at everyone else.

You can’t cheat on your girlfriend with your almost ex-wife and then go around telling everybody they need to be more faithful. It just doesn’t work like that Peter.

Seeing him so invested in Stella’s broken marriage proved that he was feeling very guilty for what he did to Gina. To be honest, I feel kind of terrible for him. He went through hell and back when Ida split with him and revealed she was bi. Then, he finally found happiness and got roped back in on a drunk night.

And Ida isn’t making it easier on him because she doesn’t know what she wants either. She didn’t want this marriage but the minute it was almost over, she couldn’t give it up.

There’s even more confusion because after Peter is rushed to the ER, she tells Gina about the one-night affair and then offers to share her husband with her. “He’d want you to be here when he wakes up,” she tells Gina. On one hand, you want the ex-wife to accept you but on the other hand, the bi ex-wife who still wants her husband allowing you to stick around is questionable on many levels.

One of the best parts of this plot is that Stella got to see what it was like in the “waiting room.”For as long as we’ve known her, she’s always been the patient — the sick one. Now, she’s on the other side of it and realizing that it was never easy for her family.

They never knew when her last goodbye would but her father was always there for her regardless.

It was time for her to return that favor.

In terms of relationships on this show, Stella and Peter’s has always been the strongest and most genuine.

Wes and Stella’s marriage was already strained going into this episode. She woke up concerned that he didn’t come home after the bar opening. When he finally did, she admitted that Dr. Grant kissed her, but Wes already knew. And before they could even acknowledge it, he rushed off to the bar because it was leaking. I guess they never got it inspected before they bought it.

To make matters worse, Pippa showed up at the hospital and blurted out that she spent the night with Wes and although it didn’t lead to anything, there was an unexpected kiss.

Talk about too many people in this relationship, right?

My take on this is simple — both of them have feelings for other people. That doesn’t necessarily mean they should pull the plug on their marriage, but it is a huge indication that there is no solid foundation underneath them and lasting 30-years like Stella’s parents did isn’t going to be easy.

Maybe they should consider exploring different relationships if their paths keep being split. The thought of “if it’s meant to be, it’ll find it’s way back,” keeps popping into my head. And it could be applied in different ways; either Stella and Wes will find their way back to each other one day or Wes and Pippa and Stella and Dr. Grant keep finding their way back to each other.

All I know for certain is that you cannot move on with a happy marriage knowing you have a safety net; another man who loves you. That isn’t fair to anyone.

It didn’t help that Dr. Grant was directly responsible for saving Peter’s life by offering up a second opinion which was riskier but more long-term. I can’t blame Wes for hating the guy.

I can blame Wes for encouraging Pippa’s behavior. Stella has obvious feelings for Dr. Grant and keeps letting him be her “support system,” but she’s nowhere as bad as Wes is when it comes to his ex. He’s enabling her even as he knows full well what her intentions are. She made them perfectly clear to Stella; she wants her to let Wes go and she vows to be there for him when it happens. That was brazen of her, you have to admit.

Wes continues to let Pippa in on a deeper level. Not to mention Dr. Grant kissed Stella and she pulled away, but Wes pursued that kiss with Pippa.

It’s also frustrating because at no point do Wes and Stella have an honest conversation. They are so preoccupied with family hysterics and Stella’s non-salary job that they don’t even acknowledge what’s best for them. Not necessarily what they want, because I know they want to make this work. But what’s best.

I really thought that Dr. Grant telling Stella that he’s been temporarily suspended would mean that he was finally removing himself from the situation and going to do something other than ruining someone’s marriage. I say that passively because, at this point, I’m more involved with Stella and Grant’s connection than I am with her and Wes’.

Instead, Grant took it one step further and professed his LOVE to Stella via a writing on her car window. Admittedly, it was so juvenile, I couldn’t help but giggle in the same way elementary school girls used to when they got the “do you like me” note from a crush.

But again, is this appropriate for a married woman? Is this grounds for taking a break from your marriage? Is it okay to end something that was never meant to be permanent anyway? Only Stella knows that answer and she has ONE episode to make the right call and figure out what is worth the fight.

Part of me also feels for Pippa. She’s trying so hard to stay relevant in Wes’ life by trying to become a partner in the bar.

She knows she messed up when she ditched their wedding — she could have been his wife at this very moment. But that’s no reason to come destroy what he’s built up.

I was so proud of Aiden for sticking up to her, choosing Stella’s happiness and also, not giving into temptation and not drinking while still bound by his ankle monitor.

 


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Life Sentence

Life Sentence – Our Father The Hero (1×07)

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Life Sentence Our Father The Hero

Is anyone on Life Sentence actually living in reality?

We’re now on the seventh episode of the season and with each passing episode, it feels more and more like Stella and friends live in “La La Land” even more than when she was going through a battle with cancer.

There is nothing realistic about how the Abbot family handles issues especially ones that involve their son and felony drug charges.

The sunny disposition even when things look grim is starting to wear thin.

For starters, it was obvious that Peter was the one who tipped off the police about his son’s side hustle because he wanted to “set his straight.”

As a professor, you’d think he’d consider all the repercussions of his actions before pulling the trigger but nope, because in “la la land” he thought the cops would rough him up a bit, give him a scare and magically, Aiden would transform into a new, logical and morally sound human being. Come on!

Then, when the guilt began to settle in, he decided to feed Aiden to the sharks by turning down a pretty lenient plea deal in exchange for a trial which would likely land his son with the 3-year punishment. Yes, he thought it was helping him but again, how could he not think it through thoroughly?

Don’t worry, it gets worse. After Stella told Aiden the truth about what his father did, Aiden decided to run away because it didn’t occur to him that it was an admission of guilt.

And worst of all, Peter threw caution to the wind and barged into the judge’s office to tell her all about his failings as a father.

This isn’t how life works. This isn’t how any of this works.

There are fictional shows all the time and they aren’t always realistic but they’re relatable to the audience. Life Sentence definitely has the potential, the family drama but they don’t keep coasting on the surface hoping to resonate. 

This is actually one of the first episodes where an issue lingers for longer than half an hour.

Aiden’s drug bust doesn’t fade away like his baby momma or Peter’s rebound girlfriend did.  Yet, I can’t say that any of it gave it more meaning. 

In fact, I was more angered by the tone-deaf representation of a family. Aiden is a spoiled, entitled kid who has never had to face any consequences in his life because his parents have always covered for him. And even when he does get a sentencing, it’s still lenient enough not to have him actually pay. 

Even the love triangle is mediocre at best. Stella isn’t exactly torn between Wes and Dr. Hottie since there’s about zero chemistry with either of them. 

The only thing that has ever transpired between her and Dr. Will Grant aside from the one-sided sex dream is her telling him that he “understands her” better than Wes which on the surface may seem bad but if you put jealousy aside, it really does make sense.  

Wes has never even come off as the jealous type nor has he ever been confrontational so it is a bit strange that they decided to go the typical route. Out of all the problems two people who rushed into marriage because one was on the brink of dying, this should be closer to the bottom of the list.

The worst part is, Stella doesn’t even know if she’s pining or not. She doesn’t even understand her feelings, she only has them because he planted the seed in her head. And if it was that easy for him to get into her head when she’s “in love” than maybe Stella really should take a step back and rethink her marriage.

Wes could have been Mr. Right for her limited time on Earth but now that’s she’s gotten an extension. Maybe he’s not Mr. Right Now.

When Wes sneered, “of course he’s in a band,” I could understand the level of annoyance in his voice because it’s all so predictable. Of course, he is. Of course this was the bar he’s playing at. Of course Stella would stand there all piny and of course Wes would catch on.

In fact, she should probably just step back and re-evaluate her life. Since she’s been cured, all she has done was run around like a goose with her head cut off trying to solve everyone’s problems. What is her life plan? How is she utilizing her second chance?

No one with an understanding of life actually goes and spends a whole week working for free to get their job at a quirky coffee shop back. No one.

It’s so unrealistic. There are bills to pay and rent that comes knocking each month but again, this is just further proof that Stella is not living in the real world. Which means she’s in no way equipped to help anyone else figure out their lives or give advice.

Sometimes, Stella’s actions are so questionable, I feel like maybe this whole show is a dream. At least that would give it some character. It would definitely explain the quirkiness. 

Picture it – Stella’s cancer is getting worse and to cope, she dreams of this life she could have if she was just cured. Bad things still happen in this life but they resolve themselves within an episode’s time, there are no real consequences and everyone still loves each other no matter what.

Elizabeth’s character is cliche in every sense of the word and her plight about whether or not to split up the twins and hold one back in kindergarten served no purpose. 

In fact, the most interesting thing that happened in this episode was that Peter and Ida hooked up after bonding about their dysfunctional son. And even that hastily ended because Peter confessed to being a horrible father. 

The writers have something good here if they just spent a bit more time fleshing it out instead of feeding us a sugary, fluffy, cookie-cutter confection of sentimental.

But until then, I’m going to say that our time with the Abbotts is going to be a one-season kind of deal. It’s not you Lucy Hale, trust us. 


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