Thursday, July 11, 2013

What I'm Watching: Finales

As I’ve stated before, one of the great joys of summer is getting caught up on things.  This last week, for example, I finally managed to get through three different season finales, the final word on the current season of each of the shows.




I’m talking about this one first because I had the farthest to go on this show. When the finale actually aired, I had eight episodes left to watch, out of the back ten.  If it were a great show, I probably could have gotten through it in a week.  And yet, it took me until July to get to the end.


Yeah, that says something.


I’ve been kicking the show back and forth with a buddy of mine.  He finally gave up and deleted all the episodes he hadn’t seen off of his DVR.  He may try to watch the show again next season, when the dust has settled and a few new writers (in particular, Ben Edlund of Angel and Supernatural fame) are in place.


Mostly what I’ve been trying to figure out is what makes the show so very broken.  It has a good budget, and surprising amount of action, and most of the actors are good and a couple are great.


The truth is, you can find problems with just about any show if you look long and hard enough.  But I think the problem with this show was less obvious than critics made it out to be.


Namely: There was a lot of story, but no strategy.


What I mean:


A good piece of entertainment has characters with a plan.  They are going to go here and do this thing, and then there are complications.


The problem is, the people on this show never seemed to have any plans.  At least, not ones that we were privy to.  When they had plans, they were kind of dopey, and when someone tried to beat someone else at their own game, there was never any strategy – they just barged in and had a fist/gun/knife fight.


An example:


Supreme Bad Guy decides he wants to stop Miles, who sort of became the protagonist of the show when they realized that Fake Katniss couldn’t act.  (More on that in a moment.)


So what does he do?  He goes to the city they grew up in, rounds up all the people that live there, and says he’s going to kill them all if Miles doesn’t show up.


So Miles shows up, and much gunplay ensues.


Somewhere in there, they introduce a female character who was in a relationship of sorts with both men.  When Bad Guy has a gun to her head, she confesses that Bad Guy has a son (with her).  Then she gets shot and dies.


Miles saves the town (somehow, sort of) and the episode ends. 


All of this sounds semi-exciting, I guess, but everyone on the show demonstrates a curious case of the stupids.


I think that, right there, is the big issue.  Sci-fi shows, at least ones that last, are smart.  Star Trek put forth moral dilemmas between the fistfights, and generally (generally!) smart answers to questions posed and dangers faced.


Ditto Firefly.  


There are twists and turns on Revolution, and some of them are pretty great.  But in cases like this, they’re revealed in the worst possible way.  And then, largely dropped.  After this episode, the “son” was only mentioned in one other episode that I can recall, and even then it mostly felt like a writer holding up his hand, and going, “See!?  We remembered!”


All of it could have been handled better.  Miles could have put together a special strike team, and gone in with an actual plan.  He could have run off by himself to save his town.  He could have mentioned some hidden component of the city the Bad Guy didn’t know about.  Only, SURPRISE, he did know.  Okay, then you have a gunfight, but at least someone did something smart first.


Even the son thing could have worked.  She could have used it as a negotiating tactic to get the rest of the town free.  Instead, a game-changing revelation was turned into pointless factoid doled out for some cheap “drama” that didn’t work.


The point is, the bits and pieces that could make the show work are there, but they’re being mixed wrong.  It’s like making a cake and frosting and baking the frosting but not the cake.  All the parts are there for it to work, but the proper directions weren’t followed.


There are other issues.


The show is pretty humorless, which makes the characters less than fun to hang around.  This is sad, because when the show IS funny, it’s impressively funny.  Miles firing a very loud gun, giving away their position, and saying, “Maybe no one heard that” isn’t high humor, maybe, but it at least indicated that something had gone very wrong in a fun way.


And then the acting.  Oh, the acting.  Mostly it’s Fake Katniss who, unfortunately, brings almost nothing to the table at this point.  Once upon a time, my wife and I watched a Cleopatra movie where the title character was neither super attractive (which is what Cleopatra was known for) and also lacked any acting chops.  I noted at the time that she could be one or the other, but she couldn’t be both because it just plain sank the production.


They’ve slowly moved Charlie from the center of the show to the far edges, trying to shrink her importance, but this means every scene with her has to land emotionally, and they don’t.  They’ve also taken to dressing her in shirts that show off an inch of tummy, which is strange because everyone is in jackets and appears to be at least a little cold, so whatever eye candy they’re trying to create becomes, “Don’t you need a sweater?”


The Big Bad has also become a problem as well, having mostly been forced to appear a) crazy, b) paranoid, or c) both at the same time no matter what he’s saying.  They’ve tried to give him an emotional core, but the dialogue and story just isn’t up to it, so he mostly looks confused, with large glassy eyes.


Could all this be fixed?


I question that.  They’ve put themselves in an interesting position where they turned the power back on, but the show didn’t really talk about what that MEANS.  There are rockets headed for major cities, but we don’t really know what that MEANS.


Some people are dead, but we don’t really know what that MEANS.


Revolution has been moved to a new, unprotected time slot next year, which means it’s going to need to a) get critics behind it fast and b) get people to watch fast.  This can be done, I’m sure, if they start right off the bat to make the show smarter and more logical, and start working on getting us to actually enjoy hanging out with the characters.


But they’ve got to do it in one episode.  Two, tops.


Otherwise, I suspect the show will run for a half-season next year, and then vanish without a trace.


Best of luck, Kripke.  If things don’t work out, maybe you can go run reason 10 of Supernatural?


The Walking Dead:


Meanwhile, Dead is filming their fourth season, and with their fourth new showrunner.


And I pity that guy, because he’s going to follow the best year the show is going to have, at least as far as the fans are concerned.


I don’t think season 3 was perfect, mind you.  I have issues, minor and major, with the show in general.  It’s still a show with no real logical endpoint outside of “everyone dies.”  The characters aren’t all that fun to hang out with.  And the lack of humor is, quite often, grating.  Grim is cool and all, but a little levity never killed anyone.


The issue we’re facing now is that any new protagonists will, essentially, just get compared to the Governor.  So that’s kind of out.


Alternately, the show becomes “Argument Prison,” a sequel to the Argument Farm of season two.


No one wants that.  At all.


Unfortunately, I think the show only has one major card to play, and if the showrunner is smart, he’ll play it.


It comes in two parts.


First, the rule of the comic is, Rick always lives.  So I’d kill the dude off.


This creates ACTUAL tension, as opposed to fake tension.  Rick is the hero – he isn’t supposed to die.


(Frankly, the real hero, the only character EVERYONE likes is Daryl.  But you can’t kill him.  It’d be like killing The Fonz.  Or Urkel.  It’s a gutsy move, yes, but no one will ever do it because that’s killing the golden goose.)


So take out Rick.  Boom.  Massive power vacuum, everyone is trying to figure out who should lead.


Next, have the zombies pile up outside the prison, which means they need a new home.  They can’t drag everyone (too many elderly and infirm now). So they send out scouts:


Boom Part 2: Daryl on a Motorcycle.  Put him in combination with any other character, and give him a third of every show. 




Granted, that makes season five a train wreck waiting to happen, but most shows start to go off the rails by season five. 


(Of course, they’re already SHOOTING season four, so no one is going to listen to this… even if I wrote it months ago.  But them’s my thoughts.)


A last amusing note.  I had two episodes of the show on the DVR, and put them off for months, and then I watched the first episode… and it was the finale.  The “second” episode was a randomly recorded repeat.


Given the semi-cliffhanger status of the last episode, it was a pretty wobbly season closer. 


Still, best season of the show to date.  Things are going to be interesting, come fall.


Warehouse 13:


This one stings.


So it’s been announced that the next season of Warehouse 13 will be a scant six episodes, and that it will also be the last season of Warehouse 13.


But all accounts this was/is the highest rated show on the SciFi (because I hate that other spelling) channel, and this is how they treat it?


No.  I kid.  The fact is, shows end for a lot of reasons, most of them fiscal.  Given the number of ways they’re desperately trying to horn advertising onto the show (most with cars, oy, the cars and their features) it’s possible they just can’t justify spending the money on the show.


That’s a shame, really, because while I thought there was no way they could pull off a solid end to this season after the steady ramping of the first half of the season, well… Okay, I was mostly right.


But forget being right, in this instance. 


The writers took a few episodes off to save a little money and try to dip into the emotional scope of what’s happened over the course of the season, and they did a nice job of it.  Perhaps with a bit more of a budget they could have rollicked and frolicked more, but I don’t blame them for that.


Then they did a pretty cool buildup over the last two or three episodes, preparing to fling themselves into another massive storyline next season.  They were prepped and ready to do twenty hours of TV.


And now they have… six.


Talk about anticlimactic.


Ultimately, I guess I should be glad we’re getting those six.  A lot of great shows have ended on a question mark, and Warehouse, thankfully, doesn’t have to be one of them.  They’ll cram a lot of story into a little timeline next year, and after six episodes, the show will vanish with a soft poof, and fans like myself will mourn it.


That’ll do, Warehouse.  That’ll do.

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