“You’ve Changed, Man” rumbles through a whole lot of ideas in quick succession. The newly zen Chidi, who shall now be referred to as Zen Chidi, pulls out his trusty blackboard and writes out several new, better versions of the afterlife to try out.
Zen Chidi is great. He is a totally different man – he’s confident, smooth, good at making decisions – but Zen Chidi doesn’t feel like a falsity. Our Chidi is definitely still in there, as we see his face light up when he does spins on his roller skates, and talking philosophy still gets his engine running.
On the way to appeal to the judge, the crew jumps from location to location, not doing much more than talking, and the episode does meander a bit. I find it tempting to criticize it for that, since by the end of the episode all of the initial ideas presented by the humans to save the afterlife essentially become meaningless, but if the crew had found an answer right away, I would be criticizing it for making the solution too simple.
I suppose this is a lose-lose situation in that regard, and if I had to lean towards a side, I’d choose the version where we see them constantly pitch different afterlives because it helps the episodes on two levels.
One, the search for the perfect afterlife is a good parallel to Judge Gen’s search for the Earth reset button; our crew journeys across the afterlife to propose different afterlife styles, and Gen journeys through the Janets for the button. The journey through the Janets is a ton of fun. Despite being revealed very recently, Disco Janet fits right into this world, and I 100% believe Gen would get distracted by Disco Janet’s rad void. Gen has always been a bit flighty and casual, so instead of feeling like a stretch to extend her search, this diversion just feels like a natural extension of her personality. (Somehow, neutral Janet’s was still my favorite void, though.)
The other reason I don’t criticize the meandering A-Plot is that I think it’s important to see the process of creating a new afterlife because it makes their final solution feel more earned.
The show has earned this moment as well, as the plan for the afterlife is one that reflects one of the greatest lessons of the show so far; learning. Instead of being punished forever for their sins, Zen Chidi and the gang suggest that every human should be placed within a particular test to see if they can overcome their shortcomings, and if they fail, they’ll be rebooted over and over again until they can get it right.
I love this idea, and I love the message that it sends to viewers. Try over and over again to improve, and eventually, you will. When Judge Gen and Timothy Olyphant question the validity of this process, Jason accurately points out that it’s already worked. (More than once, of course, if we count good ol’ Brent as well).
Gen isn’t the only one who needs to be convinced to reboot the afterlife instead of Earth, though. Head demon Shawn also has a vote (so do the Good Place Committee, but they’ll say yes to anything), and unlike Gen, Shawn is not impartial. One would assume this would make him harder to convince, but instead, it becomes the key to winning him over.
Shawn has always enjoyed torture and has always been shown as a demon who runs his office with a hammer. He despises Michael for betraying him and constantly reminds him of how successful “good old fashioned torture” is.
With these traits, I was quite nervous during the final proposal that he’d disagree. He has been so opposed to everything the humans do I thought that he would say no to any idea that didn’t have him coming out on top, so the way the show hinted at his change of heart didn’t ring true to me.
To my initial relief, he didn’t agree, but soon Michael is back at it convincing him. This time it works, and for a moment I felt the character of Shawn had been slightly betrayed.
Then Michael says one very important line, “You wouldn’t have let me try the original experiment if you knew things were working.”
I always had found it a little odd that Shawn green-lit the original experiment and allowed a reboot, and then became an immediate antagonist who was against the neighborhood. I passed it off as a slight character adjustment as the show developed, but now it seems (even if just by luck) that his characterization has been more consistent than I had given credit for.
Shawn himself was getting bored with normal torture, so he agreed to allow Michael to try something new. When it failed he refused to accept any part of the failure and put it all on Michael, and found a new joy in tormenting them. Michael realizes this and uses it to his advantage, first by getting Shawn to admit that he’ll be bored once he can’t torment Michael anymore. Then he tells Shawn that this time, instead of just watching the new experiment, Shawn can be part of it.
There is no reasoning the judge will listen to, but Shawn, because of his personal investment in not just torture, but keeping his life engaging, decides to try something new. He comes full circle here, completing an arc that happened under his human suit all series, and displays true character growth by admitting these feelings and shortcomings to Michael.
Was this character arc for Shawn preplanned? Maybe. I have a suspicion they just found a way to make it all work here at the end -and it does work.
But ya know what? Right now, everything on this show is working.
- Loved our quick spread of philosophy this episode. There are a lot of fascinating concepts and ideas to dive into, but if you do so, don’t forget to strap on some roller-skates.
- I got a bit nervous the series was going to take us to a place where the humans come up with an afterlife that still sent people to be punished for eternity, and I am so glad they come up with something better and more in line with the show’s messages.
- Disco Ball marble is A+ writing.
- A puppy cannon is so wrong. I love it.
- Timothy Olyphant is a great stand-in for the audience asking all the questions at the New Afterlife Proposal. They could have just had Gen ask all of these, but it is more fun bringing in a fresh face for a moment instead (and in a way natural to the show).
- Chidi is just the idea guy.
Doom Patrol Review – ‘Who You Gonna Call?’ Sex Busters? (2×04)
After a hide-and-seek game gone awry between Dorothy and her imaginary friends in the last episode, Danny the Street (or rather the brick that’s left of them) is accidentally broken in half.
The Doom Patrol along with the help of the Dannyzens throw a party to help heal Danny back to its old self, but Rita and Flex Mentallo accidentally summon a sinister sex demon, named Shadowy Mr. Evans, who nearly causes another apocalypse.
Good thing the SeX Men (a shockingly real comic-book team, by the way) are on watch and swoop in to help save the day.
If that doesn’t sound bizarre enough to get hooked, I don’t know what will.
Despite the goofy and outrageous theme around sex in the episode, each character from the main cast has their moment to shine, which still gives viewers that signature heart within the chaos charm that Doom Patrol typically delivers.
The impetus that drives the narrative is the relationship between Niles and Dorothy – as she’s ridden with guilt at the beginning of the episode because she hurt her friend Danny.
When she’s exposed to the realities of being a 100-year old girl trapped in an 11-year old body, however, Dorothy begins to question the authority of not only her father Niles but also the nature of Danny shielding her from the world.
Her rebellious outbursts are met with empathy by Danny but prompt a firm authoritative albeit misguided reaction from Niles, and the hints of Dorothy’s powers potentially causing catastrophe is accented by her emotional reactions toward Niles, Danny, and the rest of her new friends.
She is equally innocent and a menacing threat at the same time, which is bad news especially to Niles.
In contrast, Dorothy shines in sweet and tender moments in this episode, particularly during shared scenes with Rita who puts lipstick on her for the first time, and Flex Mentallo who gives her confidence by gently urging her to help however she can in preparing for Danny’s party.
Though the most heartfelt scene she shares in the episode is definitely when Niles plays the piano to the tune of “Pure Imagination” by Gene Wilder as Dorothy sings to kickstart the party in front of everyone in attendance.
— DC Universe (@TheDCUniverse) June 28, 2020
Cliff / Robotman provides comedic breath to the situation per usual but is still rooted in emotional distress.
After wallowing in despair from his disappointing visit with his daughter in Florida, Niles –surprisingly, of all people– inputs Cliff’s nutrient tank with methylenedioxymethamphetamine, AKA ecstacy, so he can get out of his depressed state and enjoy the party.
Cliff, sure enough, has the time of his life as he danced and hugged with friends and strangers alike through the night. In one hilarious scene, he even dances with the shadow of the sex demon that almost destroyed the world.
Meanwhile, Larry sort of takes a backseat in this episode as he reluctantly maneuvers his way to the party, wanting to participate at first, but ultimately isolating himself due to fear of being intimate, and accidentally killing someone. The way Larry awkwardly flirts at the party is something most people can relate to, and it’s easy to sympathize and root for him because of all he’s suffered in the name of love.
The same goes for Cyborg, who understandably, has an understated appearance in this episode as he has a heart to heart talk with Maura Lee Karupt regarding his encounter with Roni.
But then he becomes the undeserved target of Jane’s Scarlet Harlot persona flirting with him, then ditching him right away for the party.
Jane, in the meantime, shuffles from different personas throughout the episode as several of them seek to be the primary, but Jane seizes her spot again as her heroic side comes through to save the day.
The main crux of the episode, however, involves Rita and Flex Mentallo when they seclude themselves from the party.
Rita, seeing Flex’s proficient ability to control the muscles of his body at will, seeks advice in hopes of controlling her own powers.
Flex agrees and they have an impromptu training session in Rita’s room where she asks Flex to sexually stimulate her via a special muscle flex first seen in season 1 to comedic effect, so she can “empty her mind” during the exercise.
(Above YouTube video is the aforementioned scene during Season 1 Episode 14 “Penultimate Patrol.”)
It works, and Rita discovers a traumatic mental block that’s been limiting her self-control, and comes to terms with it.
The unfortunate side-effect soon becomes apparent though as Rita’s magnitude of sexual pleasure attracts Shadowy Mr. Evans who crashes the party and summons “sex ghosts” that haunt Doom Manor as he summons the vaguely defined “erotic apocalypse.”
The demon is thwarted with the appearance of the Ghostbuster-like team of the SeX Men – consisting of Kiss, Torture, and Cuddles (guest star Michael Shenefelt) – who clumsily assist the Doom Patrol in stopping Shadowy Mr. Evans.
The MVP award goes to Jane in the end, as she steps up in the last minute to literally shove an apocalypse-inducing baby back into the (uhmm) let’s just say… “nether regions” of the sex demon.
Capping off an episode that truly takes a wondrously perverted, yet somehow simultaneously heart-warming story.
Though the team is accustomed to dealing with apocalyptic events at this point, this particular instance is quite bizarre yet humorous in tone. One never feels that the stakes are actually high, but the outrageous premise of the situation amidst a celebration of sexuality and LGBTQ undertones increases the overall appeal of this installment. It may be off-putting at times, but the topic of sex is never an easy one to handle, but Doom Patrol does a decent job at balancing crude humor within a story that tugs at the core of human struggles.
The Bold Type Review – Sutton and Richard Disagree on the Future, Kat Learns Ava’s Secret (4×14)
Embracing your truth — no matter how difficult — is important.
The ladies of The Bold Type made some necessary discoveries about themselves on “The Truth Will Set You Free,” some for the better, others for the worst, but none of them all that surprising.
There was nothing shocking about Kat’s attraction towards foe-turned-friend-and-possibly-more, Ava. They didn’t get off on the right foot, but there was palpable chemistry between the two of them through every brief interaction leading up to Ava’s reveal that she’s a lesbian. Simply putting that out there made Kat more aware of her attraction to Ava, and in a weird way, as she was pursuing her for the podcast, she was also pursuing her romantically.
Kat’s realization was ill-timed as she uttered Ava’s name during a romantic moment with her current partner, but at least she admitted what she was subconsciously feeling. The truth shall set you free.
While I’m not a huge fan of Ava, I do like that she challenges Kat to see the other side of things. Kat is an outspoken liberal who sees things through her own perspective and lens, but Ava is the opposite of everything Kat believes a Republican is. And while they may disagree on many issues, it opens up an honest, purposeful conversation that is much-needed in our current political climate.
Are Sutton and Richard over? They are the couple I truly believe in wholeheartedly, but this is one situation where suggesting a compromise is unfair to both parties. The miscarriage made Richard want children even more, while Sutton realized she doesn’t want them at all. There is no middle ground, no gray area, it’s black and white. Richard shouldn’t have to give up his wants and desires and neither should Sutton.
So many things have been pulling Richard and Sutton in different directions — their age, society, and their career goals — but they managed to make it through because of their love for one another. But if they love each other, they know that the only thing to do is to go their separate ways if neither person is willing to give up something so important to them.
And while I don’t want them to break-up, I kind of love that Sutton didn’t agree to a middle ground and followed her heart and her gut. So often in society, women are told that they should want kids and they should be happy when it happens. Some women just know they want them, and that’s great, more power to you. Others know they want them in the future but they aren’t ready right now, and that’s okay too. But Sutton knew she wasn’t going to change her mind. This wasn’t a phase, and it wasn’t something that would change five-years down the line, and that’s just as valid as the woman who instinctively knows she was meant to be a mom.
The Bold Type always pushes the envelope and embraces the hard conversations because it’s important to give everyone a voice. Sutton didn’t waver even though she knew it could cost her everything that she loved about her current life.
Hopefully, Richard and Sutton will be as brave as she was when it comes to deciding what their next steps should be.
Jane continued to struggle with her post-mastectomy body. I don’t necessarily agree with her assessment that she was “feeling sorry for herself” because again, she was struggling with her identity; she wasn’t feeling like herself and she didn’t know how to get out of her funk, for lack of a better term. However, she didn’t just sit around and mope either. She was proactive about overcoming the resentment and anxiety by going on a date with her boobs, taking them on a night on the town, and sure, those things didn’t work, but it proves Jane’s resilience. She isn’t the kind of person that’s going to give up and wallow around in self-pity.
Turns out, all she needed to do was a good old-fashioned chat with her dad. Nothing worked because Jane needed to change her perspective. She wasn’t looking at the procedure as a blessing but rather a curse. When her father came to town, he reminded her that because she made this brave choice and put herself first, she had time to find herself.
She made a decision that saved her life — the same privileges were not given to her late mother.
While its understandable Jane will continue to struggle a bit, it’s important that she realizes just how lucky she is and learns that she deserves to embrace and enjoy her life. And most importantly, that she doesn’t waste this second chance.
Regardless of what we’re going through in life, I think that’s an important reminder we could all use on some level.
The ladies owned their truth and relied on each other when times got tough, so even though it was predictable for Kat to fall for Ava, Sutton to realize she doesn’t want children, and Jane to finally accept her new boobs, seeing them work through it and bravely choices that reflected their truth was a joy.
This is one TV friendship I don’t take for granted.
What did you think of the episode? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Twilight Zone Season 2 Review – Revival is a Strange Mixed Bag
The Twilight Zone has a long history of revivals trying to capture the spirit of the original series. These have usually been a mixed bag when it comes to quality and the latest attempt is no different. The original tapped into cold war fears including the threat of nuclear annihilation looming large in people’s minds. Despite airing over sixty years ago, many of the stories are familiar to people who have never even watched the show. Such is the legacy of the Twilight Zone and while there are some worthwhile attempts to reach it, the new season of the reboot is a mixed bag with some intriguing ideas that sometimes fails in its execution.
A typical episode of the original Twilight Zone involves being plopped into a new world and slowly discovering what’s strange about it along with the protagonists. There’s usually a big twist that changes the dynamic and the characters are left to deal with the fallout and somewhere in there is a morality lesson. The reboot doesn’t stray far from this formula although there are some clever and some not so clever attempts at putting their own spin on things.
Starting with the positives, these episodes look great which is to be expected from a show executive produced by Jordan Peele. The production design throughout the season is stellar and each episode has its own distinctive feel. The worlds feel both alien and familiar, and take place in an indeterminate futuristic society.
There are some fun visual nods to fifties Sci-Fi throughout the season such as Downtime which features a large orb floating in the sky that could be straight out of Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. The season finale has Kanamits that are identical to the originals from the famous To Serve Man from the original series.
The highpoint is 8 which takes place in an underwater substation and features a computer-generated octopus terrorizing the crew. The set looks straight out of The Thing and the scene where the octopus rips out a crewmember’s eye is visually disturbing and plays nicely with its B-movie horror aesthetic.
The direction is also oftentimes excellent. In Ovation, the new series’ nod to the Monkey’s Paw, the camera flourishes take us on the protagonist’s journey of confusion. In my favorite episode, Try, Try, there’s a sense of dread that oozes throughout the episode. There’s nothing overtly supernatural, just two people having a meet-cute. The dialogue is sharp and there’s a puzzle element to the proceedings as we slowly uncover what’s off about this interaction. Once Topher Grace’s character lets Kylie Bunbury’s character in on his secret, the rom-com elements masterfully fade into a horror version of Groundhog’s Day
There are downsides too, the biggest being the runtime. Many of the episodes simply feel bloated. The biggest culprit of this is The Who of You. The main hook, that a thespian has the power to switch bodies in the greatest acting performance of his life, is solid but after the sixth or seventh swap, there’s not much to be gained and there is a plot point featuring Billy Porter that could easily be cut without losing anything. In other episodes, you sit too long with the concept that it starts to bring up unflattering questions about why characters act in certain ways and how unlikely some plot points are.
The worst offender is A Human Face, which features Christopher Meloni and Jenna Elfman dealing with an alien that takes the form of their dead daughter. Most of the episode sputters after the alien takes its human form and characters talk in circles about whether they should accept it or not. The most interesting part of the episode, that this scenario is happening in homes all over the world, is saved for the final shot and would have made for a better episode if this was the focus.
The dialogue is also a weak point in many episodes. Characters will drop loads of exposition that beats you over the head with what the episode is trying to say. It’s understandable that each episode only has so much time to establish its premise but many times this is done with hammy and over the top speech. This is a weakness shared by the original Twilight Zone which had a similar problem where the characters were often just mouthpieces for whatever lesson the writers are trying to impart.
Even at its worst moments, the show is still eminently watchable. There are some fun concepts that are explored and the best episodes manage to capture some of the essence of the original. All ten episodes of the second season released at once on CBS Access and it is perfect for binging. Any of the negatives are easy to ignore as soon as the next episode pops up. Overall, season two of The Twilight Zone is enjoyable but a bit uneven in terms of quality.
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