Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: The Flash, Bob’s Burger’s, The Legend of Korra, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine!
Max Robinson is Watching…
The Flash, CW
Episode 9, “The Man in the Yellow Suit”
If you love characters awkwardly saying “the man in the yellow suit” over and over while exchanging meaningful glances, CW’s The Flash is a show weirdly specific to your interests. In all seriousness, this episode functions as a pseudo-midseason finale as the better of The CW’s two super-hero soap operas takes a breather until January 20th. “The Man in the Yellow Suit” is a Christmas episode of sorts, with light goofy scenes of Barry and decorating the family Christmas tree with Adoptive Cop Dad Joe West before bringing his S.T.A.R. Labs science buddies a thermos of eggnog. Good thing, too, because the rest of this episode is pretty grim.
The Flash has been dancing around and teasing the appearance of the titular yellow suit wearer since the opening minutes of the show’s pilot, and here we finally get more than a fleeting glimpse. The CW’s done a decent job with the special effects on The Flash thus far and The R-…Man in the Yellow Suit looks and moves appropriately creepily even on a Network Superhero Show budget. His fights with Barry look good and there’s some pretty cool staging when their initial encounter comes to an end inside a baseball stadium.
I’ve said before that The Flash really feels like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, and there’s almost a 1970s Stan Lee/John Romita Spider-Man vibe to this episode, from the Christmas setting to the new wrinkles in the Barry/Iris West/Eddie Thawne love triangle. Speaking of, this is probably the first time that whole plotline hasn’t come off as amazingly creepy. Barry finally works up the nerve to tell Iris how he feels after prodding from his biological and adoptive fathers (man, this show is weird) just after Iris agrees to move in with Eddie. And props to this show for handling this development with dare I say….restraint. Barry’s left without an answer, Iris is left wondering how she feels, and Eddie is busy wondering why “the man in the yellow suit” (The Reverse Flash, just call him The Reverse Flash, I think we can suspend our belief that much, writers) spared his life. The Flash seems to have a pretty good idea of what kind of show it wants to be at this point, I’m glad it’s willing to embrace the kind of goofiness and melodrama required by the material.
Episode Highlight: Yeah so Firestorm is in this? Like, he calls himself that, his head’s on fire, he can fly, the whole deal. His B-plot with Dr. Snow is fairly forgettable but he shows up at the end to roast The Revers—The Man in the Yellow Suit before peace-ing out. Also, the required post-episode scene of Dr. Wells doing something sinister really paid off this week. It’s a good time.
Kayleigh Hearn is Watching…
Bob’s Burgers, Fox
Season 5, Episode 7: “Tina Tailor Soldier Spy”
As family-centric as most animated sitcoms are, one family dynamic that is often ignored is the one between sisters. (Sure, there’s Lisa and Maggie Simpson, but Maggie being a non-speaking baby tends to cut down on the story potential.) “Tina Tailor Soldier Spy” spotlights Tina and Louise, two fantastic characters on their own—hell, I’d call Tina the animated character of the year—and really shines when it focuses on their relationship as sisters.
Tina quits the Thundergirls, but is quickly pulled back in when she’s told that a mole in the group is giving away their cookie leads to a rival troop. Louise decides to help by infiltrating both Thundergirls troops, but her talent for sowing discord greatly alarms Tina. Part of the charm of Bob’s Burgers is that it takes a problem like “stolen Girl Scout cookie leads” and treats it like a genuine mystery to solve, instead of dismissing it as silly girls’ stuff. The girls’ different methods of detective work is both hilarious and illuminating. Dorky “stick in the mud” Tina wants to protect the camaraderie of the Thundergirls, but Louise is a force of nature that is maybe secretly jealous of the troop taking up her big sister’s time. The supporting characters in the rival troops are also pretty hilarious, including Rachel Dratch as a preteen germaphobe, and a bunch of tough, knife-whittling Thundergirls who will probably grow up to be the girl gang in Switchblade Sisters.
Less interesting is the B-plot in which Linda dyes her hair a new color, but then begins losing herself in the personality of a stereotypically dumb blonde. The subplot has one great gag featuring a misguided attempt at sexy World War II Nurse/Eyeless Soldier roleplay, but otherwise relies on obvious “blondes = dumb, brunettes = smart” clichés without being fresh or subversive. “Tina Tailor Soldier Spy” is a great showcase for the characters of Tina and Louise, so it’s a shame that their mother doesn’t have a better story.
Episode Highlight: Gene goes through the Thundergirls’ trash, and starts wearing dirty, discolored clothes he calls “trashion.” Bob: “We should probably get you a tetanus shot.”
Adam Pelta-Pauls is Watching…
Avatar: The Last Airbender- The Legend of Korra, Nickelodeon
Episode 411: Kuvira’s Gambit
Legend of Korra’s penultimate episode was a highlight in an already strong final season (except for that clip show, what was that?), and not only featured several characters at their most badass, but also a (highlight for SPOILERS) GIANT ROBOT.
Coming off of last week’s successful rescue of the Beifongs (and Zhu Li) by some other Beifongs (and Bolin), Team Avatar reconvenes in Republic City. There, Bolin and Zhu Li recount their ordeal with Kuvira to Korra and the others, and then we get a series of people being BAMFs: Zhu Li gives Varrick the talking-to he’s needed all along, Prince Wu steps up to the plate and rallies his people to evacuate to safety, and Tenzin’s family all volunteer to stay behind and guard the city instead of leaving.
Then they discover, to their dismay, that Kuvira’s Earth Empire army is attacking a week earlier than expected, and with Kuvira herself in the vanguard, piloting a massive mechasuit with the spirit-powered superweapon strapped to its arm.
This is the bit of the episode that had me really grinning. Korra’s staff have really done a great job of taking the world built up in the first Avatar series and pushing it to new and interesting places, and this Final Boss Kuviratron is no exception. It is a masterpiece of fun design concepts, like internal workings that seem to be half-mechanical and half-metalbending in nature, and a plinth in the head that Kuvira basically dances on to get it to move. The result is a truly daunting enemy, and a really neat puzzle for the main characters to solve, whose answer seems to be the flying mechasuits Varrick had been developing. However, the giant remains undefeated at the end of this ep, and the ending leaves us with a massive cliffhanger for next week’s one-hour series finale.
Episode Highlight: The reveal on Kuvira’s twenty-five-story metalbent monstrosity is very good, with it striding out of the mists behind the rest of her army, but the part that stuck out for me in this week’s episode was the way it furthered this season’s lesson about radical nationalism. Kuvira has been the show’s most idealistic and least “just-a-bad-dude” villain so far, and it pays off. This episode’s storyline deals with what can happen when you put personal goals and feelings aside for the sake of an ideal or a figurehead, and the consequences are real and deep. Come for the giant robot fights, stay for the commentary on the dangers of exceptionalism.
Cameron DeOrdio is Watching…
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fox
Season 2, Episode 11, “Stakeout”
For my money, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the best show on television. This week’s episode, “Stakeout,” was an excellent example of why. While much of the fast-paced, sitcom-y humor was a bit frontloaded–I’d say a majority of the one-liners come in the opening awards ceremony and meeting scenes–Nine-Nine brings character development and comedy throughout.
It was great to see notoriously cold Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) pursue someone sexually, and I really enjoyed how they handled Captain Holt’s (Andre Braugher) awkward but eventually mature reaction to discovering Rosa’s interest in his nephew (Nick Cannon). Then, as perennial second-fiddle Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) finally gets fed up with Jake (Andy Samberg) during an eight-day isolated stakeout, he shouts Jake down, standing up for himself in a way we haven’t seen before. Meanwhile, in the episode’s C-plot, Amy (Melissa Fumero) and Gina (Chelsea Peretti) discover Terry (Terry Crews) is writing and drawing a children’s book (continuing a Nine-Nine tradition of subverting stereotypical masculine expectations for the hulking former NFL lineman) whose characters are based on them. Offended by Terry’s portrayals, both women start trying to play against their types, clearly but not unsubtly reinforcing this episode’s core mission: to flesh out the main cast’s characters.
This was a well thought-out entry in a fantastic show, even if Nick Cannon was a bit underused (insert “last decade called” jokes here). Was it the funniest episode yet? No. The most emotionally impactful? Definitely not. But it had great narrative unity, and it reminded us that, while these characters have seemingly defining characteristics, they are more than that: they’re people. That level of writing is what enables the comedic and (less frequently occurring, because the show knows what it is) dramatic moments to land so well.
Episode Highlight: Jake and Boyle’s burgeoning “no-no” lists, which lay out things they cannot say or do while locked in a small, dingy hotel room together. If you pause your screen, you can catch quite a few gems, but my favorite has to be “No Red Weddings.”