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, The Grand Tour and the season finale of You’re the Worst!
Joe Stando is watching…
Season 3, Episode 6, “Shade”
One thing I feel like this season of The Flash has proved pretty conclusively is that the show is only as good as its villain(s). Season 1 had the mystery of Reverse-Flash. Season 2 introduced us to Earth-2 and Zoom. Season 3 has… Doctor Alchemy, who feels like a third-rate Darth Vader impersonator. We’ve had villains of the week too, but they’re all pretty uninspired, from the doofy-looking Rival to the bog-standard take on Mirror Master. This week, the villain was mostly a non-issue, a take on the Shade so boring that he only warranted one line and a quick fight.
AND THEN SAVITAR SHOWED UP. God, we’ve only seen him twice now, but I’m so into this version of Savitar. What’s his deal? He’s some sort of supernatural being, a speedster so fast that even Barry can only see him as flashes of light until he chooses to reveal himself. Is he part of that rock? Is he a revealed version of Doctor Alchemy? How does he tie in to Flashpoint? This kind of excitement and curiosity is what’s been missing from this season of The Flash.
That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the rest so far. The stuff with Caitlin is interesting, and Tom Felton’s character Julian is revealing a bit more shading. The Barry/Iris stuff is also a bit less cringey this week, as they introduce real points of conflict between the two of them besides the weird backstory. But a strong bad guy to drive the arc forward was sorely lacking, and the reveal of this new, monstrous speedster is just what the doctor (Alchemy) ordered.
Episode Highlight: Aside from the Savitar reveal at the end, I really enjoyed all the H.R. Wells stuff this week, from the Harry Potter levels of plot device involved in letting him walk around outside to him totally stealing Joe’s date. Tom Cavanaugh is a talented, versatile actor, and I’m glad they’re coming up with increasingly absurd ways to keep him around. I’m sure H.R. will die in a heroic sacrifice soon, but I’m excited to see Cavanaugh have fun with whatever he’s given.
Chuck Winters is watching…
The Grand Tour
Season 1, Episode 1, “The Holy Trinity”
Do you want to see three old white conservative British men drive amazing cars you’ll never own and constantly roast each other’s nuts along the way?
You might not want to, but I gotta be honest, that kind of thing is entirely my shit. So I ask for your forgiveness as I enjoy The Grand Tour and overlook the fact that Jeremy Clarkson is a massive prick. Or, on second thought, I won’t overlook it, I’ll just assume all three co-hosts are turds. The show opens up with Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May introducing themselves by rattling off all the places they were fired from (except Clarkson, who has “technically never been fired from anywhere,” playfully alluding to the BBC not renewing his contract after he punched a PA who wouldn’t bring him a steak dinner). If you’re in your 50s and 60s and you’re priding yourself on the multiple places you’ve been fired from, you’re probably kind of a dick anyway.
But that’s okay, because the chemistry of the three presenters predicates itself on them being dicks. For those who never saw these three on Top Gear: Clarkson, Hammond, and May are three middle-aged presenters and gearheads who profile cars by putting them through absurd tests. In these tests, they frequently put themselves into positions where they end up eating shit, and because they’re dicks, it’s all the more satisfying to watch. And when they’re not eating shit, they’re producing such high quality car porn that even a complete neophyte like myself can’t help but appreciate it. (The best Top Gear moments tend to be their episode-long races, such as their Vietnam bike rally, but for shorter bites, check out Clarkson’s epic Ford Fiesta test and his profile of the Reliant Robin. And if you’ve got 45 minutes, for the love of God, watch Top Ground Gear Force.)
If you are familiar with Top Gear, then you know what you’re getting here, and this first episode is really just about establishing how The Grand Tour will be the same, but different. Most of it works, some of it doesn’t; the new test track, “The Eboladrome,” is effectively sold as a nasty little track that can challenge the best cars. “The Stig” is now “The American,” and he’s identified as NASCAR driver Mike Skinner, trading in casual mysteriousness for a sort of brash American Exceptionalist personality. It’s a nice contrast with Clarkson’s British Exceptionalist personality, but it feels a little thin. There’s no more Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, but it’s been replaced by Celebrity Brain Crash, which measures the mental acuity of their guests. It seems promising, if a bit off brand, but the jury’s still out on it.
The biggest change, and the key to the Grand Tour gimmick, is that the studio is mobile, allowing each episode’s studio segments to be filmed in a different part of the world with a culturally unique audience. This week, they’re in the California desert. Next week, they’ll be in Johannesburg, South Africa. At the moment, though, the gimmick is just cool; there’s no effort to link the studio’s location of the week to the episode’s featured challenge (which was filmed in Portugal). That’s not to say they don’t find some fun stuff to do with the gimmick (more on this later), but it all ends up feeling a bit pointless on balance.
Still, the stuff that always worked best is the stuff that changed the least. Clarkson, Hammond, and May have incredible chemistry together, and this episode’s challenge — which focuses on eco-friendly hypercars — is particularly fascinating, given Clarkson’s regressive views on environmental protection and how it’s affecting car manufacturing. Watching him love the shit out of these hypercars is gratifying television, particularly if you know that this is the same guy who was mourning the death of the supercar because of global warming. Most of all, these guys, possibly even more than ever, understand the joy of power as well as the hubris that comes from one’s obsession with it, and they still know how to play to both for maximum effect. And of course, the cinematography is as gorgeous as ever.
The Grand Tour, though not quite what it could be, is off to a promising start nonetheless. All it has to do is tweak a few things to make it feel more connected … or, barring that, at least have some high-quality steaks ready to cook after a late night of filming.
Episode Highlight: Clarkson gives the show a brilliant opportunity to demonstrate its cheeky sense of humor, as well as the advantage it has with its semi-traveling roadshow format, with an offhand remark about the Royal Air Force being the greatest air force in the world. The quick edits as the American crowd turns against him and his friends, gradually beating him down (perhaps literally) to “The Royal Air Force is quite good,” is unexpected and hilarious.
You’re the Worst
Season 3, Episodes 12 & 13, “You Knew It Was a Snake / No Longer Just Us”
Perfect season. Book it. It was occasionally unfocused, sometimes impossible to watch except through the cracks between your fingers, but when a show nails an ending as thoroughly as this one did, none of that shit seems to matter.
The first half of this double episode is all about the fallout from the elopement party, with all three couples having an episode-long running fight about their situations. Dorothy started the episode with, perhaps, the mother of all dick moves on this show — suggesting that Doug Benson’s hiring of Edgar was racially motivated. Edgar, God bless him, takes precisely none of that shit, and when he gets Dorothy to admit that she feels like a failure, I thought there might be some hope for them after all. This hope was snuffed out the moment Edgar lied about getting a full-time job writing for Doug Benson’s sketch comedy show; Dorothy has decided that her dream isn’t working for her, and knowing that her boyfriend pities her just confirms that it’s time for her to leave LA. I’m going to miss Collette Wolfe in this role, but her exit puts a strong flourish on what turned out to be a very strong guest arc.
Meanwhile, Lindsey and Paul throw down in a way they’ve been building toward for three years, with Paul calling Lindsey out for every horrible thing she’s ever done to him, while Lindsey flatly reminds him, per the first episode’s title, “You knew I was a snake.” Paul is flat-out guilty of the same obsession with attachment that Lindsey had; as we saw from his time in the woods. Without a partner in his life, he has nothing, and it’s enabled all of Lindsey’s worst impulses. Paul acknowledges this, and offers some kind, parting words of encouragement, which has Lindsey feeling confident about asking Paul to throw away his pre-nup. This prompts, by far, the line of the fucking year:
“You stabbed me, cuckolded me, and ruined my life … better lawyer up, bitch.”
That strange, distant howling sound you heard last week was me reacting to that. Paul may have brought a lot of this on himself as much as Lindsey did, but it was no less satisfying to see him take some measure of revenge after the way she treated him. Of course, the flipside to this is that he’s lost any connection he had with Lindsey’s extended family, particularly his friendship with Vernon, but nobody said divorce was easy, and as it turns out, it’s just the thing Lindsey might need. It’s a hell of a magic trick to make me feel anything positive for Lindsey after everything she’s done, but to see her at peace in Dorothy’s crappy apartment with the freedoms she always wanted? That felt good.
But of course, it’s Jimmy and Gretchen who are the stars of the show, and boy oh boy did they get some meat to close this one out. Maybe I should have known this wouldn’t end well when “You Knew I Was a Snake” ended with Gretchen admitting that their arguing hadn’t resolved anything, but maybe it had in a weird way. Jimmy’s always had a slightly better handle on what this thing was than Gretchen did, and just because he’s prone to expressing it through ostentatious speechifying doesn’t make him any less insightful. (It just makes him a dick, which is, of course, part of the show’s point.) Jimmy can’t help but acknowledge that despite the both of them claiming they could leave at any point, neither of them had, even when they were being miserable to each other. And he observes, “The vast majority of all human effort, however great or minuscule, ends in failure! So what are your options? You just admit pre-defeat because the odds are that you’re gonna be right, or you do it anyway! Maybe we’re a success, regardless of the outcome, because we tried!” And then it leads him to realize that the inspiration for the key relationship in his book has been his relationship with Gretchen — two people drawn together not in spite of being doomed, but because they’re doomed.
It’s a point he elaborates on a bit in his proposal to Gretchen, overlooking Los Angeles and the Hollywood Bowl. “Together, we transcend the … mundanity down there! Separate, it shall eventually consume us and turn us as mundane as them, and to allow THAT to happen simply because we were SCARED would be a criminal act!” This proposal is powerful because we’ve seen Jimmy propose to Becca, and while he may have meant the words he said to her at the time, they didn’t have the fire of THIS proposal. Jimmy’s proposal to Becca was the proposal of a man who thinks he’s in love with his partner. His proposal to Gretchen is the proposal of a man who knows he can’t survive without that partner.
“We’re a family,” she said. “That’s pretty cool, right?”
The magic god damned words.
This whole season has revolved around the concept of family, and for Jimmy’s part, his experiences with the term haven’t been good. Jimmy’s family fucking sucked; they’ve brought him nothing but pain, misery, horror. With his father’s death, he wanted so badly to escape the bonds of that awful goddamn word, to rebuild his life in his own image, on his own terms. Just when he thinks he’s got a handle on it, Gretchen reminds him that he’s starting a family of his own, either because she forgets what that word means to him, or she — innocently, justifiably — thinks his proposal means he’s somehow made peace with the term, and that what they’re about to build together will erase whatever negative associations are left. It’s enough to make you wonder if the reasoning behind Jimmy’s refusal to take back his admission that he can’t see himself having kids with Gretchen — “You’ve dropped 8 iPhones in the last year!” — was a cover to keep him from the possibility of associating someone he loved as much as Gretchen with something he hated as much as the concept of family.
Whatever was going on in his head, his reaction is horrible and completely predictable, going to the car presumably to get a hoodie for he and Gretchen to lie down on while they bone, only to get in that car and drive away, stranding her. When Wendy Stanzler cuts to the split screen this time, there is no symmetry. Gretchen, with Hollywood Bowl fireworks going off behind her, is hurt, confused, and devastated. And Jimmy? Jimmy is just completely broken.
Jimmy finally got a scene of traditional dramatic grief.
Episode Highlight: Justina Jordan turned out to be a perfect therapeutic foil for Gretchen, and she gets a great sendoff here, revealing that Gretchen’s abuse has become kind of an in-joke to her friends. Having Gretchen’s insults and threats elicit laughter from Justina’s inner circle at her going away party was an inspired bit of comeuppance, and her assertion of the progress Gretchen had made was incredibly satisfying.