Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mid-Season Finales (contains spoilers)

It's early December, which means that most of my favorite shows are already on hiatus for the next couple of months. It's going to be a long winter without my stories. This year there was a lot of emphasis on having winter/midseason finales with some sort of payoff or cliffhanger. Were the networks as good as their word? Let's examine this further.

Lost: This was the earliest finale, and Lost will apparently have the longest hiatus of all the big series. As usual, I was not impressed with this Kate-centric episode. Kate has always been the most disappointing character to me, and she has some decent competition--hello, Locke! With her criminal past, she has the greatest potential for an exciting backstory, but her flasbacks always leave something to be desired. I get it, writers: Kate can't settle down, she likes to run away, and, like virtually every Lost character, has Daddy issues. On a side note, can't some of the blame be shifted to the characters' mothers? A cranky aunt? Anyway, the only interesting thing about the episode was that Jack finally grew a pair and threatened to kill Ben, aka "the artist formerly known as Henry Gale." Of course, he used his leverage for something pointless like saving Kate, but it was still fairly entertaining to watch. The Kate-Sawyer cage sex seemed like more of a ratings ploy than a significant storyline, and made no contribution to the episode. I really wish that the writers would provide a more exciting gimmick, like maybe in every 12th episode they could actually answer some questions! Grade: C-

Jericho: I know, this show is on CBS and it is scientifically inaccurate, but Wednesdays are slow now that Dancing with the Stars has waltzed out of my life. The writers of Jericho have clearly learned a thing or two from Lost's mistakes and give a little bit of payoff when it counts. You'd think a post-nuclear attack show would have a little more death, and it finally came to Jericho's suspiciously wet streets. Two, count 'em, two murders. A crowd of survivors walk into Jericho like backup dancers in the Thriller video, one of whom is Emily's fiance, Roger. Dun. Dun. Dun. I could have done without the nonexistent chemistry between Skeet Ulrich and Ashley Scott during their Sinead O'Connor dance of forbidden love, but that's a minor detail. Plus it was nice to see that Hawkins is in some trouble with his secret apocalypse buddies. That final message on the monitor, "See you soon," was eerie enough to keep me intrigued until after the hiatus. Hawkins definitely needs more screen time, as does Stanley's bare chest. Grade: B+

Veronica Mars: It's been an inconsistent season in terms of quality, but I thought this finale was a good way to wrap up the Hearst rapist mystery. Mercer and Moe as the villains actually made logical sense, and viewers can go back to previous episodes and see that the clues were there all along. Even though I love Veronica and Logan, I had been waiting for their inevitable breakup for some time, and it was tastefully done. Nothing against our girl, but V is kind of a sucky girlfriend. Don't get me wrong--I think she and Logan could make it work if Veronica could learn to trust and appreciate him a bit more. We got to see more of Mac, and she was wearing a hilarious "Ask my about my STD" t-shirt. Hopefully Tina Majorino, Chris Lowell, Percy Daggs, and Julie Gonzalo will get more attention after the break, especially now that the Logan-Veronica relationship of doom arc is done for the time being. With such fun actors, ensemble is totally the way to go. Finally, the show featured some of my favorite things: the music of Fatboy Slim, bad dancing, and a guy's leg being stabbed with a toy unicorn horn. Ed Begley, Jr., will be missed, but I look forward to seeing how his murderer gets caught in the next arc. Grade: B+

Ugly Betty: Another outstanding episode from the cast and writers. This holiday special had it all--huge laughs, tender romantic voiceovers, and a little bit of soapy drama. Betty and Henry could not be cuter, and I was devastated when it turned out that whinypants Walter, not Henry, gave Betty those thoughtful gifts. When it's not right, it's not right, and more than one character learned that lesson the hard way. Amanda's discovery of the engagement rings let her know that she and Daniel were not to be. I thought the old "ring stuck on the finger" bit had been done to death, but that's my only nitpick for this episode. Daniel is finally able to commit to one woman, but I still don't trust this relationship. It seems like Sofia is doing a Down With Love-style exposé on taming playboys or something. There's no way this ends well, especially since Sofia is taking Betty away, thus eliminating the whole concept of the show. Evil Marc had too many perfectly hilarious lines to mention, and I loved the music. "Mambo Santa Mambo" by the Enchanters is now on my iPod for the long haul, even after Christmas is over. Fake snow for everyone! Grade: A

Heroes: The much-hyped finale of Heroes aired, and the big death was not quite as shocking as I expected. Eden was never that compelling, although she's still a step up from the Niki/Jessica snoozefest. Did Sylar's powers work because Silent Haitian hottie wasn't present? If so, isn't that kind of dangerous? I love how the writers keep making HRG Bennet more complex. After last week, I thought he was just a nice teddy bear of a Dad, but he went back to being bastardish after erasing the memories of Claire's brother and her only friend in the world. At least the Silent Haitian guy screwed him over and let Claire keep her memory. By the way--I laughed when the Haitian told Claire that he'd wiped Mrs. Bennet's memory many times, because...well, it explains a lot. You have to wonder how he handled the dog, though. As always, the episode needed more Hiro and Ando. Those guys should have their own late-night talk show where they talk about sci-fi and other geeky stuff. That future-painting of Hiro and the T-Rex is very promising, as was Peter's dream that he was the exploding man. How is that going to happen? What is making Peter so sick? Since this isn't Lost, there is actually a chance in hell that these questions will be answered. I look forward to next year's episodes. Grade: A

The Wire: This is a season finale that I saw early on HBO OnDemand, but The Wire's "Final Grades" episode was heartbreaking in a way that I've never seen on television. It hasn't aired yet, so I won't give too much away, but wow. David Simon has to be the biggest pessimist of all time. Out of the 4 schoolkids, only a couple of them turned out the way I thought, and only one ended up with a decent future. It was incredibly difficult to watch these children take on the same bleak existences that the adult characters have. The final montage set to music was a little mainstream for this show, as was the "don't miss the first five minutes" moment in the opener, but as a whole the episode was beautiful and brutally real. If you have HBO, try to watch it this Sunday night. Grade: A+