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: Better Call Saul, 12 Monkeys, and The Voice!
Dylan Roth is watching…
12 Monkeys, SyFy
Season 1, Episode 8: “Yesterday”
Fridays at 9/8c
12 Monkeys, SyFy’s ongoing TV drama based on the Terry Gilliam film, continues to be just good enough to keep me watching while not quite good enough for me to truly invest in it emotionally. It’s the story of Cole (Aaron Stanford, Pyro of the X-Men films), a time-traveler from a plague-ravaged future, and Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), a virologist in the present day who may be the only person who stands a chance at preventing the end of the world. The premise is intriguing on paper, but the show becomes frustrating when you realize that A) the show has no consistent time travel rules or logic, and B) the protagonists must constantly fail to truly complete their week-to-week missions, because once they do, there’s no more show.
The show’s narrative is split between two settings: In the world we know in 2015, Cole, Dr. Railly, and her ex(?)-boyfriend Aaron (Noah Bean) track down the mysterious Army of the 12 Monkeys, whom history says is responsible for the outbreak; in the burned-out post-apocalypse of 2043, Cole gets his missions from not-quite-mad scientist Dr. Katrina Jones (Barbara Sukowa) and protects their facility from baddies with his pal Jose Ramse (Kirk Acevedo). Cole, being a rare individual who can survive Dr. Jones’ time machine, is the only character who can jump back and forth between the two worlds. Most episodes focus strongly on one of the two settings, with the other becoming the “B” plot.
Initially, I didn’t care at all about the generic Bad Future of the show, but this episode really turned me around. While Cole spends the episode trapped under a support beam in the 2010s, Katrina and Ramse gets some genuine character development when the power core they need to fuel the Splinter Device (their time machine) is damaged and they must try to convince a rival camp to give them theirs. Katrina is one of our heroes, but this episode shows the dark side of her single-mindedness when her refusal to compromise puts everyone’s lives at risk. Ramse, a sad lonely guy who hides behind humor, discovers that he might actually have something to live for, and that changing the past to erase the past might not really be what he wants. It’s texture like this that makes this episode, which features practically no time travel, easily the best chapter so far.
Episode Highlight: You’ve seen chronic guest actor Xander Berkeley play a million smug, crooked assholes on every show from The X-Files to 24, but his Colonel John Foster, introduced in this episode, is a calm, somber, deeply hurt person who inspires great sympathy despite being our villain this week. It was really nice to see him cast as someone other than his usual stock douchebag.
Joe Stando is watching…
Better Call Saul
Episode 5, “Alpine Mountain Boy”
Mondays at 10/9c on AMC
One of the most interesting aspects of Better Call Saul is how thoroughly it has confounded expectations. From its rock-solid premiere to the surprising mix of darkness and laughs, it’s a hard show to predict. For example, I expected (and worried) that this episode would be devoted to Jimmy’s handwringing over institutionalizing his brother, well-written and played but hard to stomach. Instead, that plot point was wrapped up (for now) relatively quickly, allowing us to split time between Jimmy’s other pursuits, from conning clients to attempting to woo Kim. Jimmy McGill’s transformation into Saul Goodman probably won’t be as incremental or drastic as Walter White’s to Heisenberg, but it’s been a hoot seeing him try to reinvent himself with different focuses, like elder law. This episode felt less like moving pieces around for a greater arc and more like a lot of chances for character work, but that’s fine by me. I always love being surprised by shows, and Better Call Saul has been surprising in all the best ways.
Episode Highlight: The entire toilet gag was some of the best and undeniably bluest humor I’ve seen on TV this year, so that’s gotta be up there. But generally, I really liked that this episode provided a spotlight for two of the cast’s strongest actors: Michael McKean was great the whole way through, bringing Chuck his characteristic balance of wit, wisdom and instability even more than usual, and Jonathan Banks fit a season’s worth of pathos into the mostly silent final portion of the episode. We know a fair amount of Mike’s backstory from Breaking Bad, but it’s still much more affecting to see the life described there play out. BCS never shies away from a gag, but it never drops the ball on depth in favor of easy laughs, either.
Haley Winters is Watching…
Season 8, Episodes 3, 4, and 5
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, More Days at 8/7c on NBC
It’s been a weird week in TV-watching for me. On the one hand, I just underwent knee surgery, so I’ve been plopped on the sofa and left to rot in front of the boob tube 24/7. On the other hand, the immense amount of prescription narcotics pumping through my blood won’t allow me to remain alert and focused on more than a commercial break’s worth of narrative television. Luckily for me and the other couch-zombies across America, we have The Voice, which managed to air a staggering six hours of fluffy nonsense between Monday and Wednesday.
The Voice defies all laws of television convention as well as the basic laws of time and gravity (see: Christina Aguilera). With eight seasons in just under four years, it is an impressively proficient machine. How a fairly basic singing competition show which hasn’t managed to produce a single charting hit, let alone a bona fide star, has become such a weekday night giant is a mystery as unsettling as one of Pharrell’s cryptic platitudes. (This week: “I want your spirit to roam around so I can become immersed in your soul.”) While The Voice is undeniably a gazillion times better than ye old standby American Idol, the bar isn’t super high, and being so much manufactured bullshit, it can be hard to take seriously.
So fuck it, let’s not take it seriously. Forget the tear-jerker background stories, forget the completely insufferable for-the-cameras feud between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton (seriously, NO ONE CARES) (also, TEAM BLAKE), if you like watching talented singers get their chance in the spotlight (like the adorable Jacob Rummell, above) and roleplaying your own judge chair from the comfort of your couch-prison, The Voice is a great diversion. Just make sure you watch it off the DVR, ‘cause you’re gonna need that fast forward button.
Episode Highlight: Hours four through six were a highlight recap of hours one through four. Everything is terrible and global warming will soon destroy us all.