Gotham: Viper

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GOTHAM: 1.05 “Viper”

Oh, Gordon, Gordon, Gordon. What have you gotten yourself into?

Well, let’s just say that Gordon is certainly in the thick of it now. Not only does he have to pretend that he’s in line with Falcone and Fish, now he’s going to be controlled by Maroni. This is what you get for keeping the moral high ground and not killing a weasel. (Though, to be fair, I don’t think I’d want to see him kill a weasel anyway.)

This pull and tug should be an interesting one to watch Gordon maneuver. How he’ll be able to successfully play both sides while still staying true to his moral code should be…well…frankly impossible. But I’m sure it’ll be something he can do at least for a while.

What I found interesting as a slight side note in this vein was Bullock’s reaction when Gordon returned after his “lunch” with Maroni. There was his usual off-the-cuff comments about Gordon’s behavior, only to be followed up with genuine interest and care about what kind of personal matter would have held Gordon up mid-case: “Is it Barbara?” Could it be that Bullock is starting to actually care for Gordon, beyond the general “let’s not get killed” attitude? Interesting development.

Meanwhile, the case this week was just disgusting. It’s a good thing I watched Fringe all those years, so I could be warned about some gruesome deaths. Watching these people’s bones just crumble beneath them (starting with their skulls and jawbones), was just awful. I guess, based on the last few episodes, we better get used to some brutality in Gotham. It may be at an 8:00 time slot, but it’s not holding anything back. (And next week’s Halloween episode looks suitably creepy.)

Once again, though, the bad guy wasn’t necessarily trying to be a bad guy. I mean, he was because he was trying to kill people. But like the Balloonman a couple weeks ago, he was just trying to do good by exposing the bad. He wanted to stop people from making the drug; they wouldn’t so he took matters into his own hand. I’m not quite sure yet how Bruce Wayne Enterprises would have funded such a project — I suppose that corruptness has yet to be discovered, and our new “middle manager” is holding the secret to that.

Speaking of the Waynes, Bruce actually had a role this episode. I’m a little nervous about Bruce’s role in the series, actually. I don’t mind his scenes, but I just don’t think that there’s any room to grow. Or actually, there’s a ton of room — years before he becomes Batman. The only problem is that the series will try to speed up the process to avoid his becoming boring, and that could prove problematic. (If it were my pick, I would have started the series a season or two before the Waynes were killed, so we could really get to know this empire — and then the deaths would have had that much more impact, and Bruce’s determination would have aligned with our own.)

As for Fish…eh. In the first scene with Fish, I could tell she was training her little girl to be Falcone’s new dish, so she has a mole and, potentially, a way to kill him. So I found the last scene to be no surprise. Well, except for maybe her transformation. She looked stunning with her new makeover. Kudos to the costume, hair, and makeup department. A classic beauty. So classic it reminded me of an earlier era — probably the one in which Falcone’s mother lived.

*Photo by FOX

What’s on Tonight: ‘Big Driver’ on Lifetime

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You know me. I’m a sucker for new Lifetime movies on a Saturday night. And tonight, Lifetime combined two of my guilty pleasures: TV movie thrillers and Stephen King.

If you don’t know the story of Big Driver, which is based on a novella by King, here’s a quick summary:

Top Chef: Boston, Episode 1

TOP CHEF: 12.01: “Sudden Death”

As I mentioned the other day, I’m very happy to see Top Chef return to the tube, not only because it’s my favorite reality show (albeit, perhaps also the only one I watch), and not because I’ve been watching it since the second (or third, I forget) season, but also because this year it’s set in the Boston area, the region that I currently call home.

It was exciting to see places I’ve been on the show, even if they didn’t throw in too much local color in the first episode. The most we saw, really, was the Whole Foods (which I think is in the Fenway?) and the “Top Chef Food Festival” at the Museum of Science; we didn’t even see the house the chefs will be staying in yet. But I’ll say, the guest list at the Museum was pretty impressive, full of Boston culinary superstars like Barbara Lynch, Ming Tsai, Jasper White, Jamie Bissonnette, Todd English, and others.

This early in the competition, it’s tough to get a sense of all the chefs because the field is so big. Right now, I’ll be rooting for the Boston girl (I forget her name, but she’s from Regal Beagle in Brookline; unfortunately, I think I moved out of that neighborhood before it opened so I’ve never been). I have to feel for George, who got eliminated in the new-look Elimination Quickfire (which I’m not sure I like; it seems too abrupt), and who seemed like an earnest and likeable sort of guy. I also like Joy, who’s pretty humble and self-effacing, but who I suspect has some serious skills regardless, at least judging by the response to her food in the elimination. She didn’t make it in the top, but her simple grits, greens, and crispy chicken skin looked really good. Least likeable is Adam, who not only comes off as incredibly arrogant but also disgustingly retrograde when he refers to Keriann as a “beautiful blonde thoroughbred”; sure, she’s good looking, but comparing her to a race horse is thoughtless at best and misogynistic at worst and immediately left a bad taste in my mouth. Also in the running for early villain is Aaron (I think that’s his name), who comes across as completely full of himself and totally dismissive of his competition, despite the fact that he serves such a fatty piece of pork to Padma that she spits it out in front of him and tells him to get his shit together, though in a slightly nicer tone; he tends to wear a black hat (appropriate) in his face-to-face interviews, so I think I’ll be calling him DoucheHat from now on. Katsuji has an interesting backstory (Japanese, Kosher, and Mexican all together?) but his “petroleum shrimp” looked bizarre, and based on the reactions of the judges, it probably tasted bizarre too; I’d avoid adding the word “petroleum” to anything edible. Katie’s broccoli dish sounded like a bad idea from the start, and it was. Too simple, and ugly to look at.

When it gets down to judging, it looks like this year all the chefs are going to be called into the same room at once, and they’ll all get to hear who succeed, who failed, and why. I like this approach a lot better than last year, when they simply piped the judge deliberations into the waiting room via TV. Mei wins, for making some kind of traditional rice porridge, and Michael goes home for putting fish eggs in a cold soup (eww). I have to say, I love that two-time former contestant and one-time winner Richard Blais is back as a judge. I hope he’s around for most of the season; he was my favorite competitor in both of the seasons he was in, and I like seeing him on the other side of the table. He gave some pointed criticisms to a few folks (in particular he was critical of some of the molecular gastronomy approaches that he was known for during his time on the show), but I wonder if he went a little easier on the chefs in general, since he’s been there before and knows what it’s like.

Anyway, it’s great that the show is back, and I can’t wait to see more locations around Boston. As I said above, it’s a bit too early to get a sense of the strongest and weakest links, and all the personalities, but I’m looking forward to trying to figure it all out in the upcoming episodes.

Marry Me: The Pilot

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MARRY ME: 1.01 “The Pilot”

There weren’t many shows I was really interested in seeing going into this new fall season. One was Gotham, which has piqued my interest and kept me coming back for more. Another was A to Z, mainly because of the cast; that one’s doing alright in my book but needs to grow into itself.

The last was Marry Me, solely because of who was in it and who created it. Ken Marino was great in Party Down, and both Casey Wilson and her off-screen hubby David Caspe won me over with Happy Endings (Wilson acted, Caspe created — just like they do in Marry Me). I didn’t know much more about the series, other than that it was about a recently engaged couple, and I suppose that after the pilot, we don’t know much more than that now either.

That being said, I enjoyed not knowing. The episode certainly had its ups and downs. Marino’s Jake was pushed very early on into a supporting role to Wilson’s antics as Annie. While I still expect Marino to hold the title of “straight man” to Wilson’s humor, I do think he is going to grow so that this engagement — and show — becomes a 50/50 partnership.

There’s also a little work to be done elsewhere. A few of the jokes were predictable (of course, Annie’s proposal would have some devastating ending, and of course Annie and Jake ended up at the same place afterward), and the characters were oddly introduced before we actually saw them. As someone new to the series, I didn’t hang on to every word of Annie’s rant, so while I got that she insulted all her friends and family, I was playing a little catchup to remember what she said about whom.

But, it’s clear that Jake and Annie have chemistry, and that’s going to be keeping me coming back. Marino and Wilson do a great job playing off each other when they can be their fast-talking, reactive selves (think of their off-shoots of conversation during the last, real proposal). And without some complicated reason for the show’s being (think A to Z‘s “story” of Andrew and Zelda or the horrible narration in Manhattan Love Story), it doesn’t have any issues with becoming another likable comedy that can define itself into whatever role it wants.

So I’m saying “yes” to Marry Me — at least tentatively. If it took three proposals to get Jake and Annie right, I think I should at least give it that many tries too for a solid commitment.

*Photo by NBC/Greg Gaynes

Top Chef: Boston

It’s important to note that Top Chef, my favorite reality show (or really, the only one I watch), will be returning tonight at 10 pm on Bravo. Even more exciting, it (finally) takes place in Boston, the area that Raked has collectively called home for almost a decade.

This is exciting! We are, collectively, swimming in a large swimming pool of excitement over here! The metro Boston area has become a great place for food, especially in the last few years when it has seemed like dozens of interesting restaurants open up each month and more and more young chefs from the area earn national plaudits. I hope to see some familiar sights, and I hope this provincial little “town” acquits itself well on the national stage. I’ll also echo Devra First, the Boston Globe‘s wonderful restaurant critic, and hope the show doesn’t lean on the cliches too much; please, try to avoid saying Beantown! No one actually says that here!

But anyway, we’ll be checking in again as the season progresses.

Until tonight, check out this preview.

Gotham: Arkham

GOTHAM: 1.04 “Arkham”

I made a bit of a mistake while watching this week’s Gotham. I only half watched the episode while multitasking. For many shows, this isn’t an issue. Actually, for most shows, this isn’t an issue. But there are a handful that require your full attention (Switched at Birth, for one, given the subtitles). While I’m not convinced Gotham is one of these shows, apparently this episode did require more attention than I gave it.

I’m sorry, Gotham. And readers.

The reason I bring this up in all its TV-reviewing shame is because, since I didn’t give it my full attention, all the politics around Arkham (including the Waynes’ roles in it) got a little confusing for me. Too many plans. Too many turf wars. Too many people involved claiming to be on one side or another. In the end, we got a mobster compromise, which is disappointing for the moral folks still around — which, from what I can tell, is only Gordon and Bruce, and probably Alfred and Barbara. (Ok, that’s not fair. Bullock has morals; they’re just a little looser than most.)

Despite this, I enjoyed the episode. Ben McKenzie continues to shine in this role. While it was such a small part of the episode, his scene with Barbara was incredibly well done. The ugly murders continue to be ugly and horrifying, just as they should be.

And while I had originally been nervous about Cobblepot’s role in the show, I really like where they’re taking him now. It seems to be rather advantageous that “nobody looks for a dead man.” I like that he’s with the other mob team now, and he has something to hang over Gordon’s head — which has yet to be seen whether this is a good or bad thing.

Considering that the show is still taking a very episodic approach to the season, as opposed to an overall story arc, they’re doing very well with it. It’s certainly one of my favorite new shows of the season.

The Vampire Diaries: Yellow Ledbetter

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THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: 6.02 “Yellow Ledbetter”

Let’s be honest. All we really care about in this episode is Damon and Bonnie. So…I’m going to wait until the end of the post because I probably have the most to say about it.

We’ll start with Jeremy’s new gal pal Sarah. I have little interest in her, but clearly her father must be someone huge — maybe our new volunteer cop/vampire killer — because otherwise, why would she bring it up? So really, that’s about all there is to say about her and Matt’s new boss…so I’ll move on.

Caroline and Enzo’s trip to see Stefan was a wee bit boring, but there was one great thing that came out of it: Enzo. I loved Enzo in this, and I loved his declaration at the end of the episode, that he planned to make Stefan’s life hell if he didn’t do everything in his power to bring Damon back. Stefan, to me, is still dull as wood. Somehow forcing him to interact with Enzo, who he originally killed, is fantastic. I’m excited to see how this progresses.

I was sad they killed off his little girlfriend, though. This show could use some new folks who don’t know the ins and outs of the supernatural. She was cute. I suppose she did cause a roadblock, though, with Stefan and Caroline. But hey, they’ve got to drag that out anyway, don’t they?

Then there was Elena and Ric. I was personally surprised he was so eager to jump in and help her forget her love for Damon. Considering that he was Damon’s best friend and seems to be rather responsible, I would have thought he’d try to convince her otherwise — at least take an episode before trying. But there we were, reliving all the wonderful moments between Elena and Damon. While usually flashbacks bore me — either they don’t have the same effect the second time around or they’re just time-wasters — I thought the writers did a great job with this. By flipping back to these huge moments, we got to remember every moment the ‘shippers salivated over — and what a big deal it will be when Elena forgets him. We were left just as sad.

Now, it will only be a matter of time before Damon comes back and Elena hates him because she doesn’t remember she loved him. And we all know that will have to happen.

We just don’t know how. Damon and Bonnie are stuck on May 10, 1994, the same day as a solar eclipse. They’re in an empty town with no magic. Or at least it appears. Bonnie thinks she can relearn her magic. And after the final scene where a crossword puzzle was mysteriously completed, the town may not be so empty.

Of course, I’m desperately trying to figure out how they’re going to get out. It must have something to do with the eclipse — when day meets night (I’ve watched way too many series and movies with riddles and prophesies that include references to eclipses). But what else they’ll need to do — or who else they’ll need involved — is up in the air. Plus, according to Bonnie, this place was made for one. Would two people even get out?

There are more questions than answers at this point, but in the meantime, I’m loving seeing Bonnie and Damon interact, and I just adore the 1990 callbacks. The music. The clothes. It’s great. And Damon making pancakes, that’s just hilarious.

So good episode, but where are we going from here? There’s a lot to do but not much going on at this point — at least for those in the present day. What do they have to do while Bonnie and Damon have their hidden timewarp hideaway? Let’s get to Thursday already and find out.

*Photo by The CW/Richard Ducree