Thursday, September 25, 2014
The "Nashville" Season 3 premiere was so full of emotional tears, we're surprised the episode did not float right off our TV screen. Rayna was torn between two men, Juliette was having Meltdown 5,673 over Avery, and Scarlett ended up on a soul-searching road trip home with two unexpected companions. With all the plot twists that happened on our fave musical melodrama, we're left with five burning questions...
1. Will Scarlett ever become likeable again? At the start of "Nashville," we loved Scarlett in all her airy-fairy-lacy-dressed adorableness. There was the earnest Dolly-esque accent and the endless good cheer and the ridiculously beautiful music she made with Gunnar. And then...it all went horribly wrong.
Last season Scarlett gave Juliette a run for her money in the hot mess department, with intense pressure from sudden fame, unclear life goals, and a wackadoodle mother making her completely unhinged. What was most upsetting was Scarlett had previously been the character that had more brains than most, and suddenly she made 700 horrible decisions and became an irritating, blubbering, oh-woe-is-me catastrophe.
In our "Nashville" Season 3 premiere, Avery hitches a ride out of town with Scarlett, and Gunnar's "I won't get out of the car until you agree to stay" plan turns into what he refers to as a kidnapping. No one seems too busted up about the threesome road trip, and thankfully there's not much exploration of the relationship tree to see how they've all intertwined with each other and others over the last two years.
The end result is, Scarlett realizes her problems will follow her everywhere. And sometimes being a nutcase amongst other celeb nutcases is the safest, most understanding place to be. And that Nashville maybe really is her home after all. If this leads to a kinder, gentler, less hysterical Scarlett pursuing her music in perhaps a newer, less stressful way, then I am totally on board. Give us our sweet and shiny Scarlett back, please!
2. How long will Will and Layla be able to fake it? We knew those creepy bedroom cams were going to come into play at just the wrong time. Not having a lifetime of sexuality deception in her skill set, Layla decides she wants to pull the plug on her sham of a marriage. Will agrees, but when they try to opt out of their reality show--oops, there's some blackmail on film right there. Time to pretend to be the happy couple for a year so the network can make its money.
Here's a tip for future reality stars--if there's something you don't want on camera, LEAVE THE BUILDING. Go to a lake and go skinny-dipping to remove any chance you've been secretly miked. Seriously. Be paranoid, people. Learn from Will and Layla.
3. Is there room in Maddie's life for two dads she's speaking to? Teddy makes a killer-asteroid-sized effort to be Cool Dad and tries to get his daughter to open up about her teenage angst. He's not thrilled about the whole "I want Mom to marry Deacon" information, but he takes the confession in the sharing spirit it was given. He even takes his two girls to see Deacon perform at the Bluebird, earning himself more brownie points.
We gotta wonder with Teddy possibly being back on the good list, how long will it be before Maddie finds something wrong with Deacon. Especially if Rayna really doesn't choose him after all. And how much will Teddy be laughing on the inside if Rayna ditches Deacon AGAIN for the "better" guy?
4. Is the world ready for a pregnant and hormonal Juliette? I don't even care if Glenn is the father at this point, I think the question is how much self-destructive behavior Juliette will escalate to when facing impending motherhood? Considering they only had her hack off her split ends in a desperate "breakdown" scene, I'm guessing "Nashville" is leaving her room to build up to something spectacular.
Or will Avery come back to save her sanity, along with a role-of-a-lifetime as Patsy Cline? Can Juliette have it all? Will she want it? Will it ever be enough?
5. Did Rayna make the right choice in picking Luke over Deacon? This is the biggie. It was an interesting flashback to hers and Deacon's past...all the good and bad we've seen before on "Nashville," but this time we saw that Luke was there for her when Deacon was not. Other than him being what seems like a totally jealous control freak, we gotta admit Luke seems like the more sensible choice in that context.
Which is where it causes us angst. After all, Teddy was the smart choice, too, and look how that turned out. We can't help feeling a marriage proposal should be met with an enthusiastic "YES!" rather than, "Well, there's this other guy I have history with, but with you I can make a fresh start, so yeah, that seems better." Um, consider us underwhelmed by your outpouring of love.
What do you all think, "Nashville" fans? Here's a peek at next week's episode...
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
I gotta be honest, the majority of my investment in "Gotham" came from lead actor Ben McKenzie's soulful-eyed trustworthy-guy face in the promos. The "Southland" vet has Dutch, English, and Scottish ancestry, the blend giving him the perfect blond, tough, noble bearing for those good Irish cop roles he's well-suited for. The thought of watching Gordon as a young detective, with his pure soul shining out in the dark and creepy Batman universe, suddenly seemed appealing.
And yet the premiere of "Gotham" seems to disregard its greatest asset, giving Gordon a lot rougher edges, murky motives, and moral compromises right from the get-go. He's sort of pre-jaded, and while he's definitely painted as a good and (mostly) honest guy, he lacks the warmth as yet that would make him a truly appealing central character.
Not helping that appeal is Gordon's girlfriend Barbara (Erin Richards), who has the helium voice and demeanor of a Playboy model and of course had a possible relationship with Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena), a major crimes cop. A bit of sexual diversity is nice, but this feels more like comic book geek guys going, "Heheheheh, two hot chicks doin' it! And the guy might get a threesome!"
"Gotham" is presented as a noir crime drama, and pairs Gordon with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, taking a little side-step over from his role on "Copper"), a veteran detective who lives in all the gray areas of police corruption and mob control of the city. Jada Pinkett Smith is a bright spot in the pilot, playing her head-cracking "legit businesswoman" role of Fish Mooney with just the right amount of flash and relish.
Like many pilots, in its effort to make an impression, "Gotham" threw as much paint on the canvas as possible. For a 7-pm-Central show that is going to get family viewers, there was a lot of emphasis on the "noir," which the show interpreted as dimly lit scenery and vivid blood, blood, blood. Let's see Bruce Wayne's parents actually getting shot, let's see blood on Bruce's hands, let's see a guy getting beaten with a baseball bat, then another guy beaten bloody, and another guy shot, and on and on. It felt a lot less noir and a lot more "gratuitously violent monotony".
We also got the usual "look how many comic characters we can throw into an episode!" issue, because the Gordon/Bruce intro wasn't enough for 45 minutes. We also had to have a young Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler, and Poison Ivy, and probably more that aficionados will pick up on. For all the dark and soulless feel of "Gotham," though, young Selina (Camren Bicondova) lurking around the edges of Bruce's life with large, sympathetic eyes inspired a few welcome notes of emotion.
"Gotham" also isn't quite sure of its tone or style yet. While largely sticking with a traditional cinematic look, the pilot suddenly interjected a few odd close-up perspective shots of Gordon during a chase scene. While you could imagine these views as frames in a comic book, they stuck out oddly in a show that hadn't really used any stylized shots beforehand.
All-in-all "Gotham" fell flat when presenting its first impression. But shows like "Arrow" and timeslot follower "Sleepy Hollow" were a bit slow out of the gate, as well, so it's possible that "Gotham" will hit its stride as the season progresses. There is plenty of opportunity for juicy character arcs here, with the intertwining lives of future heroes and villains, and a chance to see those well-worn stories get tweaked in new directions.
The key will be for Gordon to be more engaging and likable, someone we can both identify with and cheer for amidst all of the chaos and crookedness around him. Maybe I'm crazy to wish for a smooshy moral center in a dystopian nightmare tornado, but a gal likes to have something good to hold onto in a show she invests in weekly.
"Gotham" airs Mondays at 8/7c on FOX.
PHOTOS: 2014 "Gotham" pilot screencaps, IGN promo video, 2014, fair use.