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: How to Get Away with Murder, The League, Rick and Morty, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine!
Dylan Roth is Watching…
How to Get Away with Murder
Season 2, Episode 1: “It’s Time to Move On”
Thursdays at 10/9c on ABC
I’ll admit that I harbor some prejudice against network TV dramas. Too often they’re formulaic, predictable, and gutless. But while How to Get Away with Murder certainly has a consistent rhythm and structure to each episode, it’s a show that has proven time and time again that absolutely anything can and will happen. Now that the first season’s primary mystery has been solved, prickly amoral lawyer Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) and her team of impulsive and rightly confused students have new challenges ahead that promise to be as twisty and shocking.
An example of HTGAWM at its best, “It’s Time to Move On” spun my head around over and over again. Every act break felt like the episode cliffhanger, and I was continually amazed when the episode kept on going, and upping the ante, at that. One lingering mystery from last season is resolved surprisingly quickly, only for several more to spring up in its place. This was an extremely eventful episode, even by HTGAWM standards, and while I don’t expect every chapter this season to be stacked so high, the premiere has started off the new year with some serious momentum.
Episode Highlight: As always, Viola Davis absolutely wows with her portrayal of the infinitely complex Annalise Keating, who in the space of forty minutes can be sympathetic, terrifying, inspiring, sickening, and a thousand other things. Davis has some new sparring partners this episode, including Famke Jansson (whose role in the season I dare not spoil here) and Stephen Culp (who’s carved out a niche as TV’s go-to instantly hateable smarmy white dude), but it’s her relationship with student Wes Gibbons (Alfred Enoch) that might be the most fascinating—it’s clearly only a matter of time between these two end up in bed together, and the show’s not afraid to make this student/teacher Electra dynamic a little creepy and a little adorable. Nothing is ever simple or black-and-white on this show, and it’s Viola Davis’ world-class acting that makes it all work.
David Lebovitz is Watching…
Season 7, Episode 3: “The Blind Spot”
Wednesdays at 10/9c on FXX
Here we are: it’s officially The League’s final season. How are they handling their farewell tour? By not changing a thing and letting the show run its course—which, in the case of The League, is the correct way to handle it.
“The Blind Spot” might as well serve as a checklist for what we’ve come to expect from the series. Everyone visits Andre’s new stylish but unpleasant new apartment? Check. Taco Corp finds new ways to build on the EBDB? Check. Ruxin trying to circumvent Sofia’s limitations for him only to have it blow up in his face? Check. Kevin and Jenny finding a way to make things weird around their daughter? Check. It’s the characters we know and love to hate doing what they do best. As a bonus, we come tantalizingly close to learning Taco’s real name.
This episode also had a few moments of underexplored stories or poor payoffs. The bit about “slot shaming” Jenny felt like an attempt to introduce a new term, but it didn’t lead to much. Pete’s obsession with refereeing may pay off in future episodes, but now it feels a little forced. Throwing a commercial for Draft Kings into the episode drove me insane, even if they were making fun of it, entirely because I’d pay money to never hear those ads again in any context.
Even so, this is still exactly what we expect from The League. No lessons are learned, no characters are developed, and no one walks away looking good, which is as it should be.
Episode Highlight: Pete explaining to Jenny the concept of dick chicken. The phrase “helmet to helmet” contact was used later in the episode. Yes, those two things are related, what did you expect?
Joe Stando is Watching…
Rick and Morty
Season 2, Episode 9: “Look Who’s Purging Now”
Sundays at 11:30/10:30c on Adult Swim
Rick and Morty is easily the best show on Adult Swim right now. It’s relentlessly daring, with a mix of high concept premises and goofy, improvised dialogue, and it’s generally only gotten better in its second season. So when they run a weak episode, it stands out, and this week was the weakest episode of the season, and maybe of the entire show.
“Look Who’s Purging Now” finds Rick and Morty stranded on a planet of cat-people who live in an Amish-style community free of crime or conflict, because they annually hold a festival in which murder is legal, explicitly similar to The Purge. R&M has done some clever movie homages in the past, but those always brought out either new elements of the characters, or looked at their premises in new and interesting ways. This was just a slog, reiterating the same cynicism as Morty’s attempts to do right backfire that we saw in the superior “Mortynight Run.” Lots of over-the-top violence, lots of ultimately hollow nihilism, but not a ton of good gags or new ideas. Every show is gonna have off weeks and Rick and Morty is still appointment television for me, but this isn’t an episode I see myself revisiting anytime soon.
Episode Highlight: One of the most reliable elements of humor in Rick and Morty is the semi-improvisational dialogue, filled with stutters and burps and weird turns of phrase. This was a lot of what got me through the episode, from Morty sitting through the lighthouse keeper’s terrible screenplay to the old man’s “oh, I get up to some pretty bad stuff!” to Morty’s chitchat about cell phones. Even that last bit, though, felt like a poor imitation of a similar bit from “The Ricks Must Be Crazy.” It was cool seeing Rick and Morty in the Mega Man/Robocop suits from the theme song, I guess?
Season 3, Episode 1, “New Captain”
Sundays at 8:30 on FOX
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back, with some changes. Jake and Amy’s will they-won’t they romance has finally blossomed, Captain Holt is exiled to the P.R. department, and Bill Hader guest stars as new captain Seth Dozerman, albeit briefly. All in all, it was a pretty funny outing, even if the captain-related shakeups will almost certainly be wrapped up in an episode or two. The Peralta-Santiago attraction is one the show has sharked from the very first episode, and three seasons in, it’s probably a good enough time to go full throttle with it. There’s plenty of material to work with even here, from Jake and Amy’s nervousness to Boyle’s excitement to Rosa’s smirking teasing. The rest of the episode didn’t click quite as well for me, though Holt ending up wearing the police pigeon mascot outfit was pretty good. Mainly, Hader felt a little wasted here, as he spent most of his scenes yelling in a semi-Pacino voice. It’s a smaller scale version of the Deangelo Vickers problem on The Office, where the writing staff just threw a bunch of weird bits at an SNL superstar and hoped they’d make it work. I love seeing Hader get work, but this wasn’t his finest hour.
Episode Highlight: I’m a sucker for payoffs to romantic tension, so any bits with Jake and Amy were catnip for me. Samberg and Fumero have great, believable chemistry as friends, and they sold the nervousness and fear they had about pursuing a relationship beautifully. Joke-wise, nothing topped Terry addressing the message from the “Dozerpad” as an “electric ghost.”