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: Two and a Half Men, Agent Carter, The Flash, and Gotham.
Joe Stando is watching…
Two and a Half Men, CBS
Season 12, Episodes 15/16 (Finale) “Of Course He’s Dead”
Well, a half decade after anyone still gives a shit, Two and a Half Men is over. The popular sitcom was fraught with various changes ever since the highly public feud between Charlie Sheen and producer Chuck Lorre caused the former to leave the show. Sheen moved on to Anger Management, where he does the same shtick over at FX with an airtight syndication deal, and Lorre doesn’t seem to have moved on at all. The finale is a bitter, dragging hate letter to Charlie Sheen, and just one idiotic set piece after another.
The premise, such as it is, is that Sheen’s character did not die unceremoniously in a train accident in Paris, but was kidnapped by his “bitches be crazy” wife Rose (Melanie Lynskey) and kept in the basement in a tired Silence of the Lambs parody. He escapes, and then sets out to kill his brother Alan (Jon Cryer, looking tired as hell) for “going on without him” and Alan’s roommate Walden (Ashton Kutcher) for “replacing him.” That’s right, it’s a meta episode, folks! We’re treated to an unending stream of fourth wall-breaking jokes and references to “this is going on too long” and “it’s crazy people can get so rich off such bad jokes.” There are guest stars aplenty, from nearly every love interest either character has had, to Arnold Schwarzenegger as a police captain (has he appeared before? I haven’t watched this show in a good seven or so years), to the half man himself, Jake (Angus T. Young), looking like Kurt Cobain and only onscreen for about five minutes to deliver a couple terrible puns.
Another issue is that, surprise surprise, Sheen declined to return for this episode, so it’s sort of like the characters are being menaced by Niles Crane’s wife Maris or Bob Sacamano. They work around this to some extent with a truly abysmal animated flashback, as well as a lookalike in the very final scheme, where a helicopter carrying a grand piano drops it on Charlie for no reason but spite. The whole thing has a very weird, pathetic air, simultaneously laughing about how terrible the show is and acting like it deserved better from the start. The meta jokes make Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever look subtle and nuanced, and at the end of the day, nobody cares, Chuck. You’ve got two other shows on TV right now, Mom and The Big Bang Theory, the latter of which is the biggest comedy on TV and will run until its stars are in the grave. Give it up. Sheen isn’t gonna get jealous of all the fun you’re having.
I will admit it’s pretty impressive, seeing someone so willing to throw their entire series under the bus, rather than bring it to a dignified conclusion. How I Met Your Mother’s finale suffered a lot for its creators’ unwillingness to deviate from their intended conclusion, even as the show itself moved in a different direction. This is the exact opposite problem. Characters with a decade of history are written out on terrible gags, and the world of the show feels more flat than ever. It’s a great episode for a museum, or maybe a class on screenwriting, but it’s the worst episode of a comedy show I’ve seen in a long time.
Episode Highlight: Aw gee, I only get to pick one? In all seriousness, the only reason this show works at all by this point is because of how damn charismatic Ashton Kutcher is. He was a brilliant replacement for Sheen because his easy, dopey friendliness lets him get away with the same kind of womanizing shtick. He’s still putting in a lot of effort here, and I’m glad he’s free from this gulag and can hopefully move on to projects that value him more.
Max Robinson is Watching…
Marvel’s Agent Carter
Season 1, Episode 7: “Snafu”
Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC
The penultimate episode of the first (only? I hope not) season of Agent Carter was like watching a really gruesome car crash happen in slow motion. The inevitability of what unfolds in “Snafu” is unnerving, as we watch Leviathan’s plans finally come to fruition. Carter’s righteous anger at her fellow agents has been boiling under the surface for a while now, and Haley Atwell brings that to the forefront perfectly in her interrogation scenes. Dooley, Sousa, and Thompson’s own (not unfair) feelings of betrayal toward Carter add an extra dimension to these bits, with Thompson and Sousa struggling to make sense of things. There’s even some great payoff in Thompson’s threatened assault of a handcuffed Carter, something we’ve watched him do to more than one interogatee.
“Snafu” also gave us a good look at Dr. Ivchenko, who comics readers will recognize as the Marvel Cinematic Universe counterpart to evil hypnotist Dr. Faustus. The visualization of Ivchenko’s powers was well done, and the reveal of what exactly he and “Dottie” stole from Howard Stark was appropriately creepy. (Highlight for SPOILERS: The death of SSR boss-man Dooley (Shea Whigham) was a great downer note to end the episode on.) The inability of the SSR’s male agents to handle their own emotional baggage has been an interesting plot thread, and the episode’s cutting-the-Gordian-Knot solution to the proto-Iron Man suit deathtrap was a great character moment.
Agent Carter is a show I went into with fairly high expectations, and still I think ABC has delivered a legitimately great pulp drama. Not being hamstrung by Marvel’s upcoming movie release slate and keeping the episode count at a tight eight means we’ve gotten a laser-focused, emotionally resonant, super-stylish hour in the world Captain America left behind.
Episode Highlight (for SPOILERS:) I can’t believe the guy from Boardwalk Empire heroically threw himself out a window and then exploded.
Adam Pelta-Pauls is Watching…
Season 1, Episode 14: “Fallout”
Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW
I really love how boldly this show is tackling the weirdest part of the Firestorm mythos: that he’s almost always two people in one body. Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) and Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) don’t have to do the Fusion Dance or sing the Spice Girls’ “2 Become 1” to do it, but they must merge forms in order to access the powers of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man. This episode mostly serves as an extended explanation of that fact, further setup for the possible Firestorm spinoff that’s being thrown around the rumormills at the moment. Although, what audiences are really waiting for is the Firestorm spinoff spinoff, featuring Victor Garber’s adventures while he’s merged with a fire elemental and flying around space like this.
Garber, in his role as Professor Stein, is a gem in this episode, bringing the already strong ensemble’s acting up another notch. His Martin Stein is as endearing as he is hassled by his new connection to the twenty-something Raymond. The pizza scene especially stands out in the episode, as it showcases Garber’s chops while letting him be playful on camera.
Speaking of the pizza scene, this episode also took some bold steps into dealing with The Flash and his time-traveling adventures. As the mystery of Barry’s mother’s murder deepens, Joe shows Barry that adult Barry’s blood is present at the 15-year-old crime scene. Which, hopefully, means we are one step closer to the (Highlight for possible SPOILERS) Cosmic Treadmill!
Episode Highlight: Some fun meta-aware banter between Team Flash, including “Impossible is just another Tuesday for us,” but the best line of the episode comes at the very end: (Highlight for SPOILER) “Not God, GRODD.”
Kayleigh Hearn is Watching…
Season 1, Episode 16: “The Blind Fortune Teller”
Mondays at 8/7c on Fox
The circus comes to Gotham City, and you know what that means—The Flying Graysons! Clown fights! A python tracking down a corpse! A creepy fortune teller and a little boy in a raccoon-skin cap! Oh, and a little supervillain you may have heard of named the Joker. (Or, maybe not.)
“The Blind Fortune Teller” cements Gotham as television’s most batshit insane police procedural. While at the circus with his new girlfriend Leslie Thompkins, Jim Gordon stops a skirmish between performers that leads to the discovery of a murdered snake handler. The episode still would have been enjoyable if it was only about Gordon trying to quell the Capulets and Montagues-like feud among the circus folk (with young John Grayson and Mary as Romeo and Juliet, naturally). The presence of the circus brings some colorful surrealism into the episode, and the first appearance of the titular blind fortune teller is almost Lynchian in its absurdity. But the Graysons are soon overshadowed by the introduction of another new character: the snake handler’s son Jerome, who may grow up to be the Joker.
It’s been hard to miss the Gotham commercials and billboards emblazoned with Jerome’s smiling face, so it’s not a surprise when he turns out to be the culprit. Waiting for the episode to uncover Jerome’s madness is like waiting for Itchy and Scratchy to get to the Fireworks Factory—or rather, waiting for the Joker to get to the Acid Factory. Jerome has the creepy laugh and cartoonishly angular features, but is he really THE Joker? Showrunner Bruno Heller has said that Gotham will feature multiple candidates for the Clown Prince of Crime, so perhaps Jerome is only a red-haired red herring.
Morena Baccarin’s Leslie Thompkins continues to be a good partner for Gordon, personally and professionally. She’s charming and proactive, and challenges him in a positive way, such as pointing out his casually sexist double standards. Leslie is a stark contrast to the stale breadstick of a character that is Barbara Keane. Barbara goes from saying “screw [Jim]” to trying on slinky dresses to win him back over the course of the episode, without any explanation for her change in mood. The show has been able to do interesting things with Selina Kyle, Fish Mooney, and Leslie Thompkins, so it’s baffling that Barbara is still so wretched sixteen episodes in. Gotham is a colorful, entertaining ride—at least until Barbara sucks the life out of it.
Episode Highlight: Cameron Monaghan chews some fabulous scenery as Jerome, shifting from tragic circus orphan to ghoulishly giggling murderer with scary ease. He feels like the Joker without imitating the previous actors who have played the character, and any other proto-Jokers coming after him will have big clown shoes to fill.