A Week in TV - May 2012

A Week in TV: 14th May – 20th May 2012 – PART TWO.

How can there be two of these posts over two days I hear you say? Don’t worry, you haven’t suddenly taken a trip in the Tardis. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this week’s (or last week’s) TV was full of season finales, making it extremely busy. So busy that splitting last week’s post into two was necessary, unless I wanted to be typing until smoke started billowing from my fingers.

Anyway, as promised, here is part two.

SCANDAL – GRANT:FOR THE PEOPLE

What a gem this show has turned out to be. I didn’t begin watching this new show until a week ago and although it started off showing promise but not much else, it’s grown into a compelling and exciting show oozing with tension and conspiracy. Its finale, unsurprisingly, threw all of its balls into the air and now they’re all floating there until the second season begins later on.

In case anyone is unfamiliar with the show, Scandal revolves around a team of ex-lawyers, ex-cops etc. who work to get rid of a ‘scandal’ before it hits the newspapers, or help somebody out of an impossibly tricky situation. Olivia has a self-proclaimed talent for sniffing out the liars among the truthful, although it doesn’t always help her as much as she’d like.

The finale centres around several stories, one of which being reporter Gideon’s brutal murder last week by Billy Campbell, the Vice President’s aide and major player in the conspiracy surrounding Amanda Tanner’s game of deceit and subsequent murder. He confesses to his participation in said conspiracy on live television, whilst also revealing the President’s sexual wrong-doings in the process and knocking down his house of cards. In comes Olivia Pope to bring back the administration from the brink of collapse and it succeeds, though not without the help of the first lady, who demands that Olivia discontinue her relationship with her husband in return for her well-woven lies to save his presidency. 

The obligatory cliffhanger we’re left with is the real identity of new recruit Quinn, though to be honest, this sudden mystery surrounding her identity has literally appeared out of nowhere and therefore has little impact as far as I’m concerned. We’re also treated to the tantalizing, if somewhat expected, reveal that the President’s chief of staff, Cyrus, was behind Amanda Tanner’s murder, not Campbell.

There have only been seven episodes in Scandal’s debut season but they’ve shown just how much this show is capable of. The continuing story arc is utterly fascinating, with plot twists everywhere you look and layered characters to ride along it. The shorter episode-count, despite being irritating with a show as good as this, makes for an increased narrative flow, eliminating the need of  ‘case of the week’ stories to fill up the gaps between story arc episodes. Season two has already been announced but I hope the episode count remains at around 13 rather than a full season order. This show works the best when we’re focusing on the story arc, as opposed to weekly outings concentrating on getting another scandal quashed before it grows,  and I wouldn’t want that to change.

Another commendable aspect of Scandal is its cast and how they work so well together. For a start, they all have backgrounds that occasionally get mentioned but with only seven episodes this season, we’ve not had much of a chance to delve into them besides Olivia and Huck. Getting further peeks into their history is something I’m looking forward to with the next season.

Also, let’s not forget the leading lady herself; Kerry Washington not only looks remarkably beautiful but plays her character with a wonderful balance of strength and power, pre-requisites of her job, whilst also having her own set of emotional difficulties to contend with underneath that steely exterior. Scandal’s ‘tag line’ seems to be ‘gladiators in suits’ and whilst that may be slightly cheesy, Olivia is just that. There are almost two personalities to the character: one that takes over when on a job and the other that emerges outside of the office environment. Occasionally, they come together into one and it’s these moments that truly stand out, largely in part to Kerry Washington’s talents.

In all, Scandal has had an extremely strong first season, albeit short but sweet. The stories are there, the cast is there and it has a leading actress who can play her role as effortlessly as humanly possible. These things are all there and so will I come the start of season two. Damn fine work all around! 

Oh, and you know I said it’d be great to have Henry Ian Cusick back on my screen on a regular basis? Well yeah, it’s just as good as I hoped it would be.

NIKITA – HOMECOMING

A typical episode of Nikita normally features high-octane, edge-of-your-seat material that forces you to take breathes of air, lest you suddenly start gasping for breath when your automatic reflexes fail. As such, the season finale was sure to provide enough tension and excitement to rip you in two and it did not disappoint. Whilst I am luckily not sitting on a morgue table with my torso separated from my waist, I’m still recovering from what is a game-changer in the world of Nikita. The table’s haven’t been turned – they’ve been crushed and replaced with new.

The finale picks up directly after the events of last week’s penultimate offering, with Michael and Nikita still in the belly of the beast, aka Division, and facing an extremely difficult battle to get back out. Percy still holds the controls of his satellite/particle beam weapon(or so we think) that can cause nuclear facilities to meltdown without breaking a sweat. Nikita eventually faces off with Percy but eventually has to escort him safely out of Division, as his death will trigger an alert to Roan, his handy-man, who will detonate plutonium inside a nuclear facility that sits right in the heart of a well-populated area. She gets him safely out, before he turns on her and gets thrown to his death as a consequence. Alex and Sean manage to prevent Roan from detonating the device and all’s happy in the world, especially as Nikita and Ryan officially take over Division, but Amanda is still lurking out there, as well as the mysterious group Percy wanted to be a member of.

As I said before, Nikita’s second season finale has essentially flipped everything on its head. The entire show to date has focused on Nikita being a rogue agent working to overthrow the villainy of Division. That element is now gone. Nikita runs Division, she’s no longer a secret to anybody and she’s accomplished what she set out to do. The dynamics have changed and whilst it remains to be seen how good, or bad, of a thing this is, a show that isn’t afraid to switch up everything familiar to it, especially with ratings that aren’t brilliant, is a rare existence. There are still bad guys out there to apprehend and stop but Nikita’s role as a rogue agent has ceased, fundamentally altering a huge part of the show’s foundations.

We were teased about the death of a ‘fan favourite’ before this finale and I didn’t expect it to be Percy, but the time had come for it to happen. Percy’s a devious and clever man but every time Nikita foiled one of his plots, or he failed to stop her, his presence as a villainous overlord diminished each time. There are only so many times a villain can fail in their plots to kill the protagonist before the audience begins to see them as weakened and less worthy of that title. Percy died at the right time, before he became synonymous with failure. He was a great character who’s given Nikita plenty of trouble over the two seasons, and I’ll definitely miss him, but the time has to move on.

Nikita’s second season began slow and as though even it wasn’t aware of where it was heading but the pace quickened and the events gradually began to unfold, leading to this conclusion. In some ways, Nikita has always been heading for the position she currently finds herself in – running Division the way it was created to run, not the poisoned version Percy took dominion of. Where season three goes is a complete mystery but to say I’m glad that a third season is happening would be a gigantic understatement. How anybody is expected to survive the wait for season three without exhausting the world’s supply of Valium is beyond me but we’ll have to, won’t we?

GRIMM – WOMAN IN BLACK

Cliffhangers. Such a concept is a part of every TV show in existence these days, with the juicier ones left for season finales to keep us on our toes until the next, or to make the wait between episodes as unbearable as possible. However, use them too much and you don’t make the wait frustrating, you make the viewer annoyed. Grimm’s finale chose to leave us with several cliffhangers, all introduced in break-neck speed, and as a result, wasn’t as good or compelling as it could have been.

The finale focuses on the last remaining killer of Nick’s parents coming to town in pursuit of the coins of Zakynthos, the three gold pieces introduced earlier in the season that influence their holder with considerable power. He’s torturing anybody that could possibly give him the information he wants, and he’s gradually working his way up to Nick and his cohorts. Eventually, he and our resident Grimm have a vicious encounter , before they’re interrupted by a woman dressed in black who royally kicks both of their asses and then unveils herself as Nick’s supposedly dead mother, and as our customary season-ending cliffhanger.

Elsewhere, we also have Hank slowly coming to terms with witnessing the strange events he saw last week, and it looks as though he’s thinking himself to be going crazy. Not only that, Nick’s fiance, Juliet, is attacked by a cat that belongs to Adelind and considering she’s a witch, the results were never going to be good. Nick finally tries to tell her everything that’s been going on, from his Grimm heritage to the beasts that roam the world, but she doesn’t believe him and right before Monroe is about to show his true self as proof of Nick’s claims, she collapses in typically convenient fashion.

Herein lies the problem with this finale: too many cliffhangers, all left hanging as quickly as they were introduced. This is a season finale so of course cliffhangers were to be expected but there are simply so many of them here: will Hank believe what he saw? Will Monroe and Rosalee manage to de-witchify the cat that attacked Juliet? Will Juliet regain consciousness? How is Nick’s mother alive? Those are just the ones I can think of at the top of my head. Leave too many strands hanging and the frustration meter increases. Not only that, these cliffhangers didn’t really feel like they belonged in a season finale; they felt more like the sort of endings you’d get on a regular episode. Plus, the majority of them happened to secondary characters, such as Hank and Juliet, who are not nearly as interesting as the show would have us believe.

As a show, Grimm is a mixed bag. On some weeks, it can be great to watch whereas on others, it can be utterly tedious. The last few episodes have broken through into darker territory but I do wish they’d focus less on the bore of the police procedural elements of the show. Nick is a Grimm – he should be out there beheading monsters and slicing through anything that causes trouble, not sitting at a desk for most of the time. I understand the police environment provides access to knowledge of these creatures but it’s easily the least exciting aspect of the show. Ditch this, or just focus on it less, and Grimm would immediately increase in quality, at least for me.

NBC has had somewhat of an unexpected success with Grimm, especially in the ratings and success. A lot of it is deserved but there are things weighing it down unnecessarily, as mentioned above. I look forward to season two but I can’t say the wait will be unbearable, even with the countless cliffhangers thrown in for the sake of being thrown in. The finale could have been better, that’s for sure. I can, however, take comfort from knowing that David Giuntoli’s extremely handsome face will continue to grace my TV screen. 

So, that’s it for this/last week. It’s sure been a busy one. As I stated in the previous post, I shall be putting these weekly posts into hibernation until September, when the TV season returns. There’s little point in keeping them running over Summer when there’s much fewer content to discuss.

Speaking of discussion: you know how much I welcome your comments and opinions on anything I write. I would be interested in hearing your views on Grimm. I surely cannot be the only one who disliked the excessive use of cliffhangers, right? Nevertheless, we have another week of finales ahead, from the series finale of House and season finales of Revenge and SVU, possibly Touch as well.

In the words of Nikita this week – “Here we go again”.

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