Fall TV 2012: Week Two/Three – Returning Drama

Most dramas these days like to end a season with some kind of climax or cliffhanger. While I can’t say that I spent the summer waiting with bated breath for any epic conclusions, it was nice to see some of those story threads tied up; and to see what kinds of lasting changes might have been made to the series.

Hawaii Five-O

In the final second of the last season, McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) comes face to face with the mysterious Shelburne and learns that it’s his long-lost mother. That was a great cliffhanger when they did it back on Alias (and that probably wasn’t the first time either), but after a somewhat irrelevant quest for Shelburne all season, this seemed like no big whoop. Now in the season premiere, she is played by Christine Lahti (which is a great choice except that she doesn’t really do much) and I still don’t see the point of this character except to fuel a continuation of McGarrett’s ongoing story arc. Despite the waste of a perfectly good reveal, the episode was action-packed and adrenaline-pumping (as this series has become): Kono (Grace Park) was bound and thrown into the ocean, and Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) was removed from police custody in a spectacular helicopter rescue (… ooo, the Claw….). I think there wasn’t enough made of Chin-Ho (Daniel Dae Kim) losing his wife, but they are apparently going to deal with that over the next few episodes (happily it looks like they aren’t going to do the hard-drinking, rock-bottom widower cliché – thank you for that!). By the second episode, they appear to be getting back to their old routines (which is great) though they seem to be moving beyond merely being a weekly procedural; and they’ve made McGarrett’s navy girlfriend into a regular cast member (yay for Michelle Borth!).

Castle

Uh-oh! Season ending hook-up of Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Beckett (Stana Katic) took place, and now things are going to get awkward, right? (Cue the Moonlighting comparisons…) This show has some great rhythms, so they’d better not mess with that. So far things are pretty much back to normal (though I am looking forward to the big reveal to all their friends – it was so much fun when they did it on Friends). I’m also glad that they resolved a few more of the remaining loose threads surrounding the murder of Beckett’s mother in the premiere. Again, I don’t like these ongoing story arcs in non-serialized dramas. I think they tend to be a little contrived, confusing, and draggy. I am looking forward to a few more geek themed episodes, though.

Revenge

I love how they’re sticking to their season one format in this premiere by again flashing forward to the end of the summer and showing Jack’s (Nick Wechsler’s) boat submerged (with God knows how many casualties). It’s not nearly as compelling as the tragic, bloody engagement beach party from last season, but I’m still intrigued. I’m also glad that they didn’t wait too long to reveal Victoria’s (Madeline Stowe’s) fate. I had heard last year that this season would focus more on Victoria’s revenge rather than Emily’s. That’s a pity because without a clear enemy, Emily has lost a lot of her steam and she was really the only character whose story I was interested in, so I feel like some of the show’s momentum has been taken away. For some reason they included scenes of Emily going back to Takeda’s (recast as Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s) “dojo” for more revenge training. I find that element of the show bizarre. Why are Japanese martial arts involved here? On a funner note, Nolan (Gabriel Mann) has moved into Emily’s house and they make the best odd-couple partners in crime.

The Good Wife

Now that Peter (Chris Noth) is running for governor (surprising that a state would consider a philandering ex-con for that office, but whatevs) it’s nice to see him on the show more. Will (Josh Charles) is back with the practicing of law, but sadly their firm is in dire financial straits. Enter the court-appointed trustee, Nathan Lane! Droll as ever, I like having him there as a tonic for the rest of the cast — and a great foil for Eli (Alan Cummings). Kalinda (Archie Panjabi), on the other hand, spent the end of last season waiting gun-in-hand for the arrival of her potentially psychotic, estranged husband to show up at her door. Well, colour us all surprised when he ends up showing up at  Lockhart Gardner instead as their newest sketchy client. He and the missus have a hot and hostile reunion (Kalinda sure has a way with the fellas!) and I still do not understand her character (though that’s not required in order to enjoy her). I’m glad that Cary (Matt Czuchry) is working at the firm and no longer gunning for Alicia — in fact it was nice to see her calling on his aid to help with Zach (Graham Phillips) and his silly arrest — I still don`t like his character, but was duly impressed by his resourcefulness. This show has not slipped in quality at all since day one and I am expecting no less from this season.

Person Of Interest

I am loving this show more and more after the first two episodes. For a while last season I was afraid it was going down the road to gangland, but I am really happy that they brought that to an end and focused back on the premise of the Machine and how Harold (Michael Emerson) and Finch (James Caviezel) are its champions. After last season`s finale where Harold was taken captive by the hacker named Root (played so wonderfully by Amy Acker — I love it when she plays the villain) it`s great that they didn`t resolve that storyline right away. In his absence, it was fun to see Finch take control (like the Batman that he is) and have Detectives Fusco (Kevin Chapman) and Carter (Taraji P. Henson) working with him as a team to find and rescue Harold. He is showing himself to be a good strategist, an a clever investigator. I hope this will lead to more such stories in the future. In the second episode (which I thought was even better than the premiere) we dive deeper into Root`s story and that was especially cool (I am a sucker for a villain origin story). They have set an excellent tone for this upcoming season and I am looking forward to every episode with renewed gusto.

Fringe

Of the remaining genre shows, Fringe is probably the one with its foot furthest in the supernatural realm. As we all knew they would, this season is a continuation of the episode last season that took us to the year 2036 where the Earth has become “Observer world“ after the bald, fedora`d chappies came and took us all over. The Fringe Division is now a small band of rebels that Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia`s (Anna Torv`s) daughter has released from amber and they — with Walter (John Noble) and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) — are the planet`s last hope. This is a shortened season which will just be a continuing story about their little rebellion and will no longer be about cases of the week. So far they do seem to find a quest each episode, and certain obstacles stand in their way, but I hope that won`t be the new episodic formula for the show (I don`t want a formula to take hold). After they restored a piece of Walter`s brain last season, I like that he`s more lucid and a bit less daffy (unfortunately that also makes him less funny). Peter is more take-charge now and Olivia is even more grim, but I hope their personalities will also even out as the season continues. So far they`ve been featuring this one Observer who seems to be a super-villain, but I hope that he won`t be their ongoing nemesis. From a show like Fringe, I expect sci-fi that is better thought-out and complex. I don`t want the Observers to be generic baddies who all lead up to a big bad. If they`ve taken over the world, they must be quite formidable. They need to pose a significant (and fresh new) challenge to our main characters. If all the scripts are already in the can, I hope that the writers and producers were a bit creative with them.

Once Upon a Time

I really don`t understand the direction that this show is taking. Not only did the first season end with Mr. Gold (Robert Carlysle) breaking the spell that held everyone in Storybrooke oblivious to their true identities, he brought magic to the normal world. The logical thing that would happen next is that everyone would need to cope with all their memories and be overwhelmed by identity crises. Instead they form a lynch mob and go after evil queen Regina (Lana Parrilla)? They should probably be trying to get back home (despite the fact that she told them that their home was destroyed). Meanwhile, we are given glimpses of the fairytale universe where Mulan and Sleeping Beauty are part of the same love triangle… oh boy… They are making their Disney connection way too obvious now. On top of that, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is not only confused and coping poorly with everything (though she of all people should be more prepared for this all to be true, having spent so much time with Henry) she`s not being much help to anyone else. All I want to know now is what her role is after she`s freed everyone in the town. This show seems to have lost all of its forward momentum and I don`t know what to expect from this coming season or how they expect to get it back.

Supernatural

Dean (Jensen Ackles) came back from Purgatory (as if you had any doubt), Castiel (Misha Collins) is still missing, Bobby (Jim Beaver) is still dead and not a ghost, and Sam (Jared Padalecki) is going through stuff that he doesn`t want to talk about. Crawley (Mark Sheppard) is their nemesis again, but there is a surprising bright spot in the Winchesters` interactions with Kevin (Osric Chou) the prophet are pretty fun (and they dispel the tension that once again seems to be hovering between the two brothers). Otherwise, this road seems to have been taken so many times by this show. If they don`t breathe new life into this series with some big changes, they probably should have ended it a couple of seasons back when Sam and the Devil went to Hell together. As it is now, we all seem to be in a bit of Purgatory.

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