AnTV: April 22-April 28 Recap

This week was a major step-up in terms of quantity over the last two. Not only did the Fox Sunday night line-up return, all of the CW superhero series also aired new episodes for the first time in three weeks. In addition, a high-profile season premiere and a high-profile season finale aired with Silicon Valley and Feud, respectively. Pretty much everything that aired this week was very, very good as well. Now, on to the list.

Feud: Bette and Joan

Season 1, Episode 8

"You Mean All This Time We Could've Been Friends?"

Grade: A+

Season Grade: A+

It takes a special kind of show to get viewers so invested in the characters that a single hour can be accurately described as "emotionally shattering." That phrase would be the perfect way to describe this season finale of Feud, however. The story of the battle between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford reached its conclusion last weekend, with something of an epilogue story detailing how Joan's life ended and how Bette's continued with almost none of its former glory. In the end, "after the party," so to speak, Joan was reduced to starring in C-movie trash while Bette essentially ended her career mainly as a television actress (which back then did not garner the same kind of respect as it does today). As Joan neared the end of her life, she became a recluse, rarely leaving her apartment in New York City, if ever, and relying on returned housekeeper/confidante Mamacita as her only company. Even though Better remained connected to the world of Hollywood, however low she'd sunk, her life appeared no more fulfilling. The episode explored the effect losing their levels of stardom had on them, psychologically, and how the two women coped with it. One especially emotional scene involved Jessica Lange's Crawford hallucinating a reunion with Jack Warner, Hedda Hopper, and Bette herself; the three of them were dressed in the finest clothes and looked as we had known them at the beginning of the series, in the early 60s. The scene allowed Joan to have the closure with Bette that she didn't get to have in real life; after the collapse of their proposed second film together, the two women reportedly never spoke again before Joan died in 1977. The sequence hurt to watch, as Joan, always desperate to earn the respect of her peers, believed that she and Bette had truly reconciled, when in reality she had just been sitting at a table in her living room alone. The show managed to explore themes of celebrity, Old Hollywood sexism, body image issues, the entertainment press, and the ugly side of human nature, all while delivering a riveting narrative carried by two of the greatest actresses of all time playing two of the greatest actresses of all time. I truly don't know how next year's season will top this one by focusing on Prince Charles and Princiess Diana. Regardless, these eight hours are essential viewing. Bravo.

Silicon Valley

Season 4, Episode 1

"Success Failure"

Grade: A-

When the news broke that Mike Judge, writer/director of Office Space and Idiocracy, was crafting a series based around a group of guys trying to get a tech startup off the ground, the comedic possibilities were essentially endless. Judge has proven to be an unbelievably insightful satirist of modern times, both concerning the mundanity of everyday life (Office Space) and the likely future that will result from the trajectory that the modern world appears to be on (Idiocracy). With Silicon Valley, Judge was able to turn his gaze on the people partially (arguably mainly) responsible for the trajectory that the course of human history appears to be on: those who develop the technology that human beings are so obsessed with. Thomas Middleditch stars as Richard Hendricks, a hopeful young man and brilliant programmer who lives in a house owned by the obnoxious Erlich Bachmann (T.J. Miller) with several other would-be tech pioneers (played by Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, and Josh Brenner). When Richard's app, regrettably named "Pied Piper," exhibits real promise, the rest of the housemates rally around him and help develop the program, which compresses file sizes down to almost nothing without any loss in quality whatsoever. The group is joined by eternal punching bag Jared (Zach Woods), who lends them his prior experience working for tech giant/in-universe Google stand-in Hooli.  Over the course of three seasons, the guys struggle to turn their vision into a reality, between trying to get funded to preparing to showcase the software to the public, to eventually launching it in season 3 at long last.

Season 4 begins where season 3 left off, with Pied Piper having been sold off to Bachmannity, LLC, a company owned by Erlich and Josh Brenner's character, Big Head. Ostensibly independent once more, Richard finds it difficult to cope with the rising popularity of a video chat application created by Dinesh (Nanjiani) utilizing Richard's compression algorithm. In addition, after the events of the previous season, not one single venture capitalist firm in the Valley wants to fund Pied Piper anymore. This all causes Richard to fracture from the group and come to the realization that he may once more be forced to change the course of his life by making an incredibly difficult decision.

Having this show back has been great. The cast is, like fellow HBO series Veep, one of the best in the business. The actors have insanely great chemistry with one another, digging at each other and arguing like brothers but also seeming to genuinely care for one another in their own various ways. The writing remains sharp as well, with the dialogue sounding so natural it may as well be improvised. One thing about this show's writing that I've always respect, as well, was how it never feels like the technical jargon gets in the way of the jokes or of the audience's enjoyment, and that remains true in this premiere as well. The show is also still, as ever, a veritable joke machine with zero signs of slowing down. Where the series goes from here is anyone's guess, the only thing that is certain is that it will be sidesplittingly funny.

Better Call Saul

Season 3, Episode 3

"Sunk Costs"

Grade: A

Back in episode 2 of Better Call Saul's second season, Chuck finally sprung his trap. [SPOILERS] As a result, this episode saw Jimmy having to spend the night in prison, rebuff Kim's attempts to provide him with her legal representation, and try to figure out how to proceed when offered with plea deal which could have resulted in him avoiding a trial and doing no jail time. Unfortunately, the plum plea deal was orchestrated by Chuck to come with a single condition: Jimmy must plead guilty to a felony, which would then be reported to the New Mexico State Bar Association and would result in the loss of his law license.[/SPOILERS] Meanwhile, Mike dealt with the consequences of his attempts to discover who has been tracking him, culminating in the true entry of fan-favorite character Gus Fring to the plot after episode 2's cameo appearance. This was the third episode in a row this season which perfectly demonstrated Mike's ruthless efficiency when presented with a task that needs completion. Again, the Mike portions were mostly dialogue-free, with Jonathan Banks demonstrating his total understanding of the character by using his physicality and facial expressions to convey Mike's thoughts and feelings. Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks truly have become co-leads of this series, even though only one of their characters' names is in the title, and watching how their characters develop into who we know them as in Breaking Bad continues to be a joy.

The Flash

Season 3, Episode 19

"The Once and Future Flash"

Grade: B

Returning from a multi-week hiatus, The Flash dove right back into where the previous episode left off: Caitlin Snow, after being mortally wounded, has once again transformed into Killer Frost and Barry has decided to travel into the future in an attempt to learn the identity of main villain Savitar. [SPOILERS]In the future, Barry comes to learn the consequences Iris' death has on Team Flash, with Barry isolating himself inside a closed-down STAR Labs, Wally catatonic after a confrontation with Savitar, Cisco powerless after losing his hands in a battle with Killer Frost, Julian watching over a captured Killer Frost in her cell day and night, and Joe a shattered shell of his former self. Barry must do everything he can to inspire his future self into donning the scarlet costume once more and reunite the team so that they can stop Mirror Master and The Top from continuing their reign of criminal terror.[/SPOILERS] The episode was mostly fine, although it did have the highly cringe-y element of Future Barry's comically deep voice and greasy emo hair thrown in their for good measure. By the end of the episode, it also sort of felt like the show was spinning its wheels, although it did tease the long-awaited reveal of Savitar's identity in next week's episode. Hopefully the truth does not disappoint.

Great News

Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2

"Pilot"/"Bear Attack"

Grades: B+/B+

Created by former 30 Rock writer Tracey Winfield and co-Executive Produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Great News is very much of a kind with Fey and Carlock's other series, 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The show follows Katherine Wendelson (Briga Heelan), a producer on a cable news show based in Secaucus, NJ. Katherine is struggling to earn the respect of her boss Greg (Adam Campbell), while dealing with her newscasters' (John Michael Higgins and Nicole Richie) over-inflated egos, when her mother (the great Andrea Martin) decides to get an internship with the show. While this setup may initially seem familiar to the point of having been done before (and it has) the talent behind the show elevates it to a level above most other network sitcoms. From the scripts firing off jokes faster than the laughter can keep up, to the actors already imbuing their characters with little details that make them feel lived-in and interesting, to the score by Jeff Richmond (Tina Fey's husband and the composer of 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Great News is a worthy addition to the stable of series with Fey and Carlock's name attached to them. Unfortunately, NBC appears to be trying to burn off the show's ten-episode first season by airing two per week. Hopefully the show is given the chance it deserves however, because it does not deserve to join the ranks of series cancelled by a major network vastly before their time.

What Else Was On???

Bob's Burgers (Grades: B+/A-)

The Last Man on Earth (Grade: B)

Veep (Grade: A)

Supergirl (Grade: B)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Grade: A-)

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (Grade: A-)

Arrow (Grade: B+)

Fargo (Grade: A)

Archer (Grade: A-)

 

What did you think of the shows that aired this week? Anything I didn't cover that stood out? Leave a comment below.