Welcome to the first edition of Tommy's DVR pertaining to the programs I'm tuning into - sometimes religiously - for the week of September 20th, 2015. For this week, I'm only reviewing two television shows, but next week's edition will include Once Upon a Time and, starting October 7th, the fifth season of American Horror Story (which I'm really kind of on the fence about... please check out one of my previous articles to discover why HERE).
Personally speaking, I genuinely dislike reviews that basically write everything as it happens word-for-word. I will be including spoilers here (so fair warning) but I have no intention of basically re-writing an entire script for you to peruse through, that's no fun for either of us. Instead, I'm going to give you my "honest-to-goodness" reactions and tell you my opinion on what worked for the episode being viewed... and what didn't.
So let's get started...
GOTHAM, EPISODE 2X01: DAMNED IF YOU DO
As a devoted fan of all things Batman, I have been foaming at the mouth for the return of FOX's Gotham. Sadly, we'll be without Jada Pinkett Smith this season (or so she claims, I have a feeling we'll be seeing the return of Fish Mooney before season's end), but this show - straight-out-of-the-gate - makes up for that by living up to the hype that this season would be all about the "rise of the villains."
When the episode opened, I breathed a sigh of relief when they showed Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) investigating the sealed door to the alleged "Batcave." Why did I breathe a sigh of relief? Because, I was happy to see them pick right back up where they left off and said to myself and my roommate/younger sister, "I'm so used to all of my shows doing a time-jump after each season, this is refreshing."
Then I slammed my head back on the couch in frustration as the camera flashed: "One Month Later." Of course, me and my fat mouth!
In the aftermath of season one and the war for Gotham between the dueling mob families - which saw The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) rise to power - Jim Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie) has been demoted to traffic cop by the corrupt Commissioner Loeb (Peter Scolari), whose face I just cannot stand, while Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) has left the force altogether to work as a bartender.
Despite disarming a nutjob calling himself Zaardon the Soul Reaper - who wields firearms and a sword - Gordon is fired by Loeb, causing the ever-resilient Gordon to go to The Penguin for help in getting his job back and getting Loeb unseated as Commissioner. Penguin complies, but only after Gordon retrieves payment from another mobster who refuses to pay Penguin what he is owed (citing that his debt is with the retired Falcone, not Penguin). The exchange doesn't go down easily as Gordon kills the mobster in a stand-off in the parking garage. Afterwards though, Penguin keeps his promise and Loeb retires against his will, with Captain Essen (Zabryna Guevara) taking his place, which I loved seeing as I enjoy her character (although I keep wondering if she and Jim will eventually get together as they did in the comics).
Meanwhile, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) suddenly has a purpose on this show and struts her way into Arkham Asylum. Seriously, everything is on fleek with this broad right down to her black-and-white striped asylum attire and demeanor... she's suddenly interesting as a spoiled, psychotic bitch rather than being locked in the clock-tower as Gordon's conscience or Detective Montoya's playtoy. Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) returns as the future Joker and is one of the six inmates (alongside Barbara and Richard "Black Mask #1" Sionis) to escape Arkham when Zaardon shows up and croaks on one of the recreation tables, emitting a foul blue smoke from his mouth that knocks out all the prisoners around him, enabling the leather-clad Tabitha "Tigress" Galavan (Jessica Lucas) to break in and kidnap the prisoners.
That's where things get really interesting as it sets up for what is bound to be the overall story arc of this season. While last season revolved around the power struggle between Penguin, Fish, Falcone, and Maroni, this season looks like it's going to slowly build up to a clash between Penguin's crew (which includes Victor Zsasz, Butch, and Selina Kyle) and Tigress and the inmates of Arkham, led by Tigress' brother Theo Galavan (James Frain) who is described as a philanthropist, a scientist, and a businessman (so... Batman?).
Theo's endgame isn't made entirely clear, all he really divulges is that his mission has nothing to do with money (which Sionis offers him) and that he had them kidnapped essentially to create a team of diverse individuals with unique gifts who want power... or something-something-grumble-evil-plan. Theo, naturally, takes a shine to Nutty Babs and Sionis doesn't approve (as he has a thing for Barbara now after smuggling her an old-ass rotary telephone so she can call and harass Leslie Thompkins). When Sionis is given the chance to walk away, he - of course - is killed by Tigress as soon as he turns his back... Theo's not-so-subtle way of keeping his minions in check (not that he really has to, considering they seemed to enjoy watching Sionis die brutally).
You might be wondering who the other three inmates are that escaped Arkham and truth be told I don't think we're even told their names and I don't remember seeing them last season either... I call Babs' musclehead bodyguard "Despicable Me" because that's who he reminds me of, then there's Crazy Jack Black, and then the guy who kind of looks like an ostrich. I'm sure we'll get some backstory on them sooner or later, but at this stage of the game, I'm rooting for Penguin's team considering how much personality Zsasz packs in this episode alone (he and Penguin have great chemistry as henchman and bossman respectively and both are hilarious in their scene with Commissioner Loeb).
While I enjoyed this episode and took into great account that it was basically going to be setting up the entire season, there were some things I just couldn't stand and scratched my head in regards to. One of these things was Bruce Wayne. I liked him last season and throughout this whole episode all I wished for was for Alfred to backhand him. When Gordon explains his situation to Bruce (having to be an errand boy for Penguin, essentially), Bruce gets all pious about Gordon not wanting to sacrifice his integrity/pride for the greater good. Because, you know, Bruce Wayne knows all about that... right? What I didn't understand was, Bruce... you have millions of dollars, why not just, like, you know... give Gordon the money that Penguin wants and pretend it came from the mobster. Problem solved. No one dies and everyone wins.
Another thing that had me giving some serious side-eye was that it took Bruce an entire month to devise a plan to build a bomb (when he could have just hired someone to come out and take that door down or bought ready-made explosives with his millions of dollars) to blow up the door to his father's "Batcave." Even more astonishing is that when he finally gets inside, he finds a note from his dad that states the password to the door is "BRUCE."
Are you f***ing kidding me!?! A whole month went by and you didn't try that as a password? You know, for someone who is supposed to grow up to be the World's Greatest Detective and actually did a good job last season figuring out that Wayne Enterprises is acting super shady, you kind of suck at this Bruce.
Everything Bruce-related aside, I'm also angry we didn't get more Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) this episode as it's becoming apparent that he's slowly descending into madness... but we have plenty of time to explore that (and I cannot wait).
GRADE: A-... a great episode that was kept from being a solid A+ because of unreasonably bitchy Bruce and not getting to find out more about the other inmates that will be working for Theo.
MVP OF THE NIGHT: Barbara Kean... how did I go from hating her all of last season to loving her during this episode? My favorite scene of the entire episode was when she gets on the phone and leaves a message for Lee on her answering machine, gleefully chirping: "I hope you die screaming, bitch. Bye!" Short, effective, and delightfully creepy.
GO AWAY AND DON'T COME BACK: Commissioner Loeb. I was going to say Bruce Wayne, but I'm hoping that the next episode will make me change my mind, so for now, I'm so glad that it seems as if we've seen the last of Loeb and his shriveled face.
Next up on the DVR...
SCREAM QUEENS, PILOT EPISODE & EPISODE 1X02: HELL WEEK
My first thought when I looked at the DVR: "Oh Jesus, this is a two-episode premiere!?!" I viewed this episode so jaded and bitter as a longtime viewer of Ryan Murphy's work that I honestly felt like I didn't give it a fair chance.
Part of the reason this review took so damn long was because I had to re-watch it - this time with one of my best friends, Marissa - and made sure I was well-rested and happily full of food.
I found that my original assessment of this show didn't change at all. As passionate as I am about being a Batman fan, I am an even bigger fan of the horror genre; slasher films in particular. So I take more offense that Ryan Murphy and Co. tries to pass this off as horror-comedy rather than taking offense to the blatant racism and sexism splattered throughout.
The show opens up with a flashback to 1995, I was nine at that time, and Kappa Kappa Tau is having a huge party at their sorority house when some nameless chick gives birth to a baby (unaware that she was pregnant) in a bathtub and then bleeds to death in said bathtub. Cut to 2015, and Kappa Kappa Tau is now under the control of Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) and her minions, all of whom have real names that Chanel refuses to learn and instead labels them Chanel #2 (Ariana Grande), Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd), and Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin). There was a Chanel #4 (who we never see) who contracted Meningitis and returned home and "died" according to Chanel, which I found clever and one of very few lines of Chanel's that I liked.
With the new school year starting, KKT is in the midst of accepting pledges for their sorority, but Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) makes it her personal mission to make life hell for Chanel and makes it mandatory that KKT must accept every pledge no matter what... this includes characters labeled as "Neckbrace" (aka Hester, played by Lea Michele in a role that Ryan Murphy claimed would be her equivalent to Charlize Theron's role in Monster... yeah, not even close), "Deaf Taylor Swift" and "Predatory Lez." There is a pledge named Jennifer who is a "candle vlogger" who does reviews on candles and also eats candle wax and the only two truly likable characters in the whole show, the designated "Final Girl," Grace (Skyler Samuels) and her roommate Zayday (Keke Palmer).
In an effort to scare the unwanted pledges away, Chanel accidentally fries off the face of the house maid, Ms. Bean. From there, all the girls hide the body, then the body goes missing, and suddenly people start dropping like flies at the hands of a killer dressed in a highly non-functional red devil costume. No, seriously, ditch the cape dude... you're just going to hurt yourself. As the show progresses, Grace and her love interest Pete (who she is suddenly all into halfway through the second episode, Hell Week) start wondering if the killer is quite possibly the baby seen in the flashback in the beginning of the episode. After finding the killer's costume in Pete's closet (turns out it's the mascot costume and ta-dah, Pete just happens to be the mascot), Grace finds out his age and accuses him of being the killer.
There are other filler points throughout this episode such as chauvinistic (but highly charismatic) Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) and GiGi Caldwell, the National President (and attorney) for KKT who dresses as if she's still in the 90s (which is apparently the new 80s, which makes me feel so old) and says her therapist claims she suffered a traumatic event in the 90s that caused a part of her psyche to remain in that time period, which she revels in. She's a delightfully fun character played by Nasim Pedrad and I am calling it right now that she's probably the innocent sorority sister seen in the flashback that discovered the dying KKT sister postpartum. Powell's portrayal of hunky frat boy Chad (who gets turned on by corpses and openly admits to cheating on Chanel all the time) is also extremely fun to watch and, for some reason, much more likable than 70% of the cast despite his blatant douchbaggery.
And that's where the problem lies with this show: nearly all of the characters are horrible under the guise of being "campy" and instead of making real characters that people can relate to, the writers have blatantly created "oddball" characters seemingly to use Emma Roberts as a vehicle to deliver their hate-filled vitriol about, well, everyone/thing. It's nothing new from what Ryan Murphy did with Glee, and frankly, it gets super-tiresome in the 120 minutes I had to sit and watch Scream Queens.
The oddball characters are also written so unlikable that I was actually happy to see "Deaf Taylor Swift" get her head chopped off by a lawnmower because she irritated me so much the way she was written. I really hope "Predatory Lez" goes next because it is so obvious that she's written as an obnoxious commentary on how Ryan Murphy views lesbians and feminism. In all honesty, it feels as if Zayday and Gracie wandered in from an entirely different show altogether with how differently they are written and/or portrayed.
Nick Jonas is also part of the cast playing closet case Boone, best friend of Chad. I like Nick Jonas... but when I heard he was on the show, I knew that Ryan Murphy would serve Jonas up with a big helping of homo-eroticism, and sure enough... that's what we get. What really pissed me off, however, was that Boone supposedly dies at the hands of the Red Devil but then it's revealed at the end of the second episode that he faked his death and is in league with the killer!
First off, wouldn't the medical staff be aware that his fatal wound was a fake? Wouldn't they find a pulse? Also, how did the killer - in full, elaborate, non-functional costume - sneak into the county morgue undetected to pull Boone from the locker? It made my head hurt so much and frustrated me on so many levels. I never thought it was possible to jump the shark in your own season one premiere, but Ryan Murphy accomplishes that!
The only part of this show where I genuinely laughed out loud was during Ariana Grande's big scene with the killer. Proving that she is the only Chanel with a brain, Chanel #2 ditches her sisters during a crappy ritualistic blood oath (where she intelligently questions the safety of doing a blood oath by bringing up STD's) and vows to go home. While packing, the killer strikes and the two engage in a text conversation a mere foot away from each other which... has to be seen to be appreciated...
That scene alone generated more interest and laughs from me than the million-or-so lines from Emma Roberts slamming ethnics or calling Ms. Bean "white mammy." There's an entire exchange where Chanel Oberlin gets Ms. Bean to say "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies" - referring to Ms. Bean as a "house slave" - which has nothing to do with the story and makes absolutely no sense at all, as I find it highly unlikely this shallow twit (Chanel Oberlin) has actually watched Gone With the Wind, I'm THIRTY and even I haven't watched Gone With the Wind and only know what I know about that movie from True Blood, Golden Girls, and RuPaul's Drag Race.
I can only suspend my disbelief for so long, ya'll.
Alas, I will continue to watch this show, if only to see how much more messed up this show can become... but I will say this, if Ryan Murphy dares to tarnish TLC or Waterfalls ever again after this show, in the words of Zayday, "I will litigate."
FINAL GRADE: D... I'm not easily offended at all, so jokes or politically-incorrect humor don't bother me. What does bother me is when a show "reaches around its ass to get to its elbow" just to deliver an offensive remark that has nothing to do with or adds nothing to anything. Also, I could care less who dies now because most of these characters are horrible or annoying people.
MVP OF THE EPISODE: Chanel #2... that death scene was amazing and I actually liked the voice Ariana Grande used for her character.
GO AWAY AND DON'T COME BACK: Anyone but Dean Munsch, Grace, Zayday, Chad, and GiGi. I really don't care.
Check back next week for another edition of Tommy's DVR, and let us hope that maybe the quality of Scream Queens picks up! Until then, join the open discussion, did you feel the same about Gotham, Scream Queens? Let me know your own opinion of the shows presented!