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: Westworld, Timeless and You’re the Worst!
Andrew Niemann is watching…
Season 1, Episode 2 “Chestnut”
“This is the new world. You can be whoever the fuck you want.”
There’s so much to talk about in Westworld’s second episode that I’m not sure if it can be fully done in a short review, but I’ll certainly touch on the things that stand out the most. This episode works to bring the audience in closer by emulating the start of the original 1973 film, centering on two human tourists, Logan (Ben Barnes) and William (Jimmi Simpson). Logan is a long time visitor who’s essentially completed most of the quests and has had sex with most of the attractions (men and women), whereas William is too timid to even sleep with the welcoming tutorial android (Talulah Riley). Through these two, we get to see an outsider view on what it is like to experience Westworld as a customer for the first time, which also showcases much of the dark humor lost in the pilot.
Quite a lot happens within the hour, including Ford (Anthony Hopkins) going on a spirit quest with a small robot representing his child self, the Man in Black (Harris) on a self-serving quest to find a mysterious maze, as well as a very uncomfortable, humorous behind-the-scenes conference where Ford shuts down one designer’s ambitious DLC pitch (full of racist Native American characters) and something he calls a “Whorebouros.” But the real crux of the episode focuses on Maeve (Thandie Newton), who is somehow “infected” by Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) newfound self-awareness. The moment she wakes up on an operating table is horrific, and only builds as she grabs a knife and attempts to escape through the backstage area. From her perspective, we see the underbelly of the park as a monstrous body farm, even if said bodies are completely fake. However, as we get to know both the human and android characters, the lines between what is real emotion and what is simulated will certainly become fuzzy.
Episode Highlight: The Man in Black’s shootout in the Spanish town with the banditos followed by cryptic info for a quest given by a small child gave me so many sci-fi fantasy vibes that I instantly fell in love with the show right then and there.
Joe Stando is watching…
Season 1, Episode 2, “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln”
This shouldn’t be so hard. Networks have been ripping each other off since the beginning of television, and especially now, a good, broad idea can work almost anywhere. With SyFy running 12 Monkeys and The CW sticking with time-travel stories in Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, as well as their new series Frequency, no one’s got the monopoly on time machines and the butterfly effect. But Timeless is so toothless, so focus group-driven, so classically NBC, that it almost defies belief. It takes a lot to wring all the fun and engaging elements out of this kind of story, but they may have pulled it off.
The second episode doesn’t waste quite as much time with setup as the pilot did, but it’s still not hugely compelling or engaging on any level. The costumes are nice, the premise is interesting in theory, but there’s just no hook. 12 Monkeys wisely ran a slow-burn variant on the film version’s premise before going all in, while Legends of Tomorrow immediately went for comic book insanity. Timeless splits the difference, with sanitized, boring leads, too much tech talk, and no clear hook. Budget constraints are something I try to be forgiving on, but this show is a classic case of “our heroes wander around a county fair” level set design and visual flair.
There’s just nothing here. For all the hints that characters are informing on one another and there’s a bigger picture, it’s frightfully dull. Matt Lanter’s Wyatt is the closest we get to a wild card, and he comes up lacking. Even the ripple effect stuff is a less believable version of what we’ve already seen so far on The Flash. A show like this could be a lot of things: zany and referential, intricate and sinister, even a surprisingly grounded character study in the midst of a fantastic premise. But Timeless is so formulaic and risk-averse, it’s just white noise.
Episode Highlight: Honestly, I don’t find the cast to be especially bad. Lanter, Abigail Spencer and Malcolm Barrett are watchable enough, and occasionally their tame jokes and banter make me smile. There isn’t a ton of chemistry and charisma between the three of them. If I’m taking inventory, I’d lay most of the blame at the feet of the writers for boring, charmless characters. I’d bet at least two of the three would fare pretty well in a sharper version of this show.
Chuck Winters is watching…
You’re the Worst
Season 3, Episode 6, “The Last Sunday Funday”
On the very first Sunday Funday episode, probably before Stephen Falk ever realized that Sunday Funday could catch on, Edgar took the gang to what he thought was The Most Obscure Taco Stand in L.A., only to find that it wasn’t so obscure anymore. One of the key features of You’re the Worst has been its satirical depiction of Southland Hipsterism and its constant quest to be ahead of the curve. True to that world Falk has created, now that Sunday Funday has gone some version of mainstream, or at the very least is something that’s expected of the show, it can’t continue.
It’s Gretchen who realizes this first, noticing all the people hanging around their usual mimosa spot, ready to start their own Sunday Funday. However, while Jimmy doesn’t seem to care either way, Lindsey and Edgar don’t want to give it up at all: Lindsey wants any reason to be away from Paul, and Edgar appreciates the distraction it creates in the midst of the rough patch he’s going through. Gretchen has one idea to keep Sunday Funday weird, as it were: There’s a legend of a secret speakeasy—of course it’s a speakeasy, it can’t just be a bar—that can only be found via scavenger hunt.
If you’re gonna title your episode in a way that suggests the end of what appeared to be a seasonal tradition, there’s an expectation that you go big. Stephen Falk (who pens this episode) was always good about using Sunday Funday episodes to explore the ways the main cast related to each other. In this case, though, Jimmy hasn’t really dealt with his father’s death, Lindsey is actively avoiding the father of her incoming child (which is starting to actively piss Gretchen off), and Edgar still has no plan to deal with his PTSD now that he’s off his meds.
Falk’s able to provide a strong narrative spine through the gleefully insane scavenger hunt. The sheer intricacy of the clues, the constant assurances that the crew is being watched, the way Stanzler directs it like a paranoid thriller while letting the characters express just how much they’re loving this shit, all of that is impressive on its own, and the punchline (which I’ll get to in a minute) puts it over the top. With the spine in place, Falk builds some impressive character moments that give the whole thing a real Stand By Me feel. True, Jimmy being disdainful of a stupid hipster thing like “a scavenger hunt to find a secret speakeasy in LA” only to get super into it is classic Jimmy, even though Chris Geere makes it so much fun to watch. But with Jimmy playing the comic relief, the rest of the cast is able to tap into some truly emotional material. It doesn’t matter that they all lead to disastrous decisions: the best thing you can say about the possibility of Edgar self-medicating with pot is that it’s probably not as stupid as Lindsey pushing Paul into literal cuckoldry because neither of them sack up and admit that they just do not work as a couple, despite the baby they’re about to have. But you can see why they made those dumbass decisions, how this epic Sunday Funday journey guides Edgar into a place of comfort with himself or forces Lindsey into a moment of truth with Paul.
And it really is about the journey. When the gang finds the speakeasy, they find that the drinks are stupidly overpriced (of course they are, how else could they pay for that scavenger hunt), and it really doesn’t offer anything but a specific kind of ambiance. Jimmy’s vindicated, but he doesn’t care; he had too much fun, and he knows just how to cheer Gretchen up — by hijacking the band and dedicating a cheesy ragtime song, the one that served as a key clue to finding the bar, to her.
And that’s when Gretchen and Edgar come to the only possible conclusion after a night as big as this one. Sunday Funday comes to an end not because it’s no longer hip, but because no Sunday Funday will ever feel the same after this one.
Episode Highlight: The direction of the show has always been outstanding across the board, but for the second week in a row, You’re the Worst has pulled off a cinematically perfect scene. Stoned Edgar facing his PTSD-induced fear of loud noises by having the gang shoot multiple bottle rockets past him was a beautiful piece of filmmaking, its comic pivot expertly timed, and the choice of music for it (The Rentals, “It’s Time to Come Home”) was superb. Tremendous. Phenomenal. Every superlative you can think of applies here. Game ball goes to Stanzler for her brilliant execution.
That’s what we’ve been watching this week. What are you tuned into? Let us know in the comments, post on our Facebook page, or tweet us @DeadshirtDotNet!