Yes, we’re still on our modified schedule of talking about the Best TV Shows on TV on Monday instead of Friday. With a raft of season finales coming up, we should be back on our regular schedule in a week or two. But for now, there’s too much to watch and we need the weekend to catch up.
And catch up, we did. So let’s get to it!
Bob’s Burgers – There are so many little things we love about Bob’s Burgers, from the weekly exterminator pun in the opening to Zeke’s weird areas of expertise. One of those things is the annual trilogy episodes. Thanks to The Simpsons‘ annual “Treehouse of Horror”, every animated series seems to do an episode every season consisting of three out of continuity shorts. And often, there’s minimal justification. “Treehouse” used to have a framing sequence but that went away more than twenty years ago. Futurama used the What If Machine before moving on to doing an annual episode in three different animation styles. But Bob sets these up so deftly – every year it turns into each of the tree kids telling a story, but the opening minutes of the episode don’t tip that off. They all seem like the start of a regular episode with a plot and everything. This time around, Linda missed the school’s Mother’s Day program when she was sick and Bob’s ancient camcorder crapped out on him. So each of the kids talked about what their class did and you don’t even know you’re in a trilogy episode until it happens.
The stories were great – they were all highly exaggerated but were still staged like a school play. Like, no school could put on such an elaborate production, but even in their retellings the buildings were plywood facades and flying deities and aliens hung suspended from wires. It was a clever approach that added a lot to these loony stories. Louise presented a mom-themed Western, Gene had a bizarre mishmash of mythologies, and Tina’s story was a fantastic mishmash of Aliens and Freaky Friday. It was great fun all around!
Better Call Saul – After Jimmy spent a couple of episodes taking a back seat in his own show to Mike and Gus, he took center stage this time for an outing focuses entirely on his hearing. Most of the time was given over to Kim and the McGills in court before the State Bar. And boy, was it satisfying. Obviously, Jimmy was the underdog going in, since he altered the Mesa Verde documents and them admitted to Chuck, on tape, that he did exactly that. And over an hour of seeming dead ends and false starts, Kim and Jimmy served Chuck a humiliating and devastating loss.
It opened with a flashback where Jimmy helped Chuck put together an elaborate dinner for his ex-wife. Chuck hadn’t seen Rebecca since the divorce and was going to try and keep his electromagnetic allergy a secret. And so, he had to have his house modified into something a normal person could live in, only without the electrical current. He told her that the electric company screwed up his billing and a neighbor with a similar address was behind on payments. (Those inverted addresses are always going to be a problem for him…) And it mostly worked until she took a call on her cell phone and Chuck decided to scream at her for rudeness rather than admit his condition.
Back in the present (well, still the past but the present in terms of the show), Kim tried to pick away at Howard in court, establishing that Chuck had been sabotaging Jimmy’s career for years. Jimmy invited Rebecca to court claiming he was worried about Chuck, but it was just part of his strategy to rattle him. When Chuck took the stand, Jimmy presented those pictures Mike took of Chuck’s house, pictures that certainly threw doubt on his competency and let Jimmy establish that he was worried about Chuck’s mental state so he took the blame for Chuck’s clerical error. And then Jimmy went nuclear and questioned Chuck about his disease, at first subtly framing it as a mental condition and then going all out and surprising Chuck with a cell phone in his proximity that he didn’t “feel”. Now, Jimmy’s never been anything but supportive of Chuck whether his disease is real or not. But then he surprised everybody by revealing that a witness had planted a fully charged battery in Chuck’s breast pocket before the hearing began. It should have been causing him agony if he had a physical ailment and not a mental one. This set Chuck off on a rant that was mostly accurate but sounded crazy and put his competency into question forever. Jimmy destroyed his brother, which sure seems like something Saul Goodman would do.
It was an excellent episode, and we loved that the guy who planted the battery was Breaking Bad‘s Huell (Lavell Crawford). Jimmy is going to have a lot of use for that guy in the future. And in real life, Crawford has lost 130 pounds since Breaking Bad, which makes him look like a younger version of the guy he played years ago. We’re happy to see him and hope he’s got more Saul appearances coming up.
The Last Man on Earth – First, the important news. This week, FOX renewed Last Man for a fourth season! It hadn’t been renewed when the season finale aired, so it was a very stressful time for all of us. In the two episodes that aired on Sunday, Erica finally delivered her baby and the whole gang had to pull together to make it happen. That included a terrified Carol who was worried about her own impending labor, but it did not include Tandy who just got underfoot and was exiled to keep Jasper company. But not before he tried to help by wearing a cutout of the other Phil Miller’s face and promising he forgave Gail for letting him die. It was the most horribly awkward thing since Michael Scott had to tell all those kids he couldn’t really pay their college tuition.
And while the way everybody worked together to deliver Baby Dawn was sweet and funny, things took a turn when Tandy and Jasper spotted a huge fire in the distance. After a little investigation, it turned out to be… a nuclear power plant. With a catastrophic meltdown looming, everybody had to abandon their home and move on. When a Geiger counter put the kibosh on their first plan to head to Mexico (all of the power plants would eventually melt down so they had to get far away), they decided to go back to Malibu and get away on a boat. It would probably be safe because it’s a big city and even if Pat was still alive and waiting, there’s not much chance they’d cross paths. Except that Tandy accidentally set fire to Carol’s tiny house and their RV dragged a freaking bonfire for miles, establishing a clear trail. Sure enough, they got to a boat but Pat ambushed them. It looked bad, right up until he head exploded – a pistol-wielding Pamela came to their rescue! Is Kristen Wiig going to join the group full-time? Where do they go from here? Thankfully, we’ll actually get answers to those questions. Bring on Season Four!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Speaking of renewals, guess who’s coming back for a fifth season? The Nine-Nine! That is a load off our minds. We got two episodes this week, the first of which took the crew to the annual law enforcement convention – Cop Con! Holt was pushing for a seat on the Board and needed everybody to be on their best behavior. Of course they were going to have a party. We all know it. It’s always fun to see the Nine-Nine get into trouble, so we’ll just note some of the real standouts from the episode. First off, spunkyfave Andy Daly appeared as Holt’s nemesis, Jeffrey Bouche. Holt assured us he was the worst person alive, but he was Andy in full nice guy mode. We eventually learned the truth but, man, we would love to see Daly pop up again. Then there was the subplot where Scully meets a female version of himself and falls in love. She was even impressed by his giraffe heart! And then there were the flat-out silly bits including Boyle’s jealously when Jake made friends with a robot and the crowd dispersal tech that blasted a sound only people under thirty-five could hear. (“Ow! My young ears! That is not tubular!”)
The second episode had Amy disappearing just before she was scheduled to take the sergeant’s exam. Jake and Rosa tried to find her, and we got a nice twist on the expected “character freaks out and bails before a big moment” story. Plus, we got to meet Amy’s only friend (played by the great Sarah Baker) who will never forgive Jake for his poor performance at pub trivia. There was also a golden subplot about Holt and Terry putting together a train set for any kids who have to come to the station, and they disagreed strongly on the acceptable amount of whimsy. We got to see Holt as a kid for what we think was the first time, and it was everything we could have wanted. And Amy totally aced that exam, but you knew she would.
American Gods – Rightfully so, the scene everybody is talking about was the opener that had Orlando Jones as trickster god Anansi showing up on a slave ship in 1697 to tell a group of slaves about what awaits them in America. Not only once they reach its shores, but for three hundred years after that. He motivates them to rebel, setting fire to the ship and burning to death alongside their captors. It’s an incredible performance and an amazing setpiece.
The rest of the episode had some nice moments but it’s eighty percent atmosphere and twenty percent plot at this point. And, to be honest, you know that’s what you’re getting with Bryan Fuller so complaints are futile. There’s some beautiful work here as the basic premise of the series gradually unfolds – basically, it’s about Mr. Wednesday trying to gather the Old Gods (from all mythologies) to confront the New Gods (Not the Jack Kirby version, so maybe let’s call them something else). The New ones include last week’s Technology Boy and this week’s new introduction, Gillian Anderson as Media. She appears to shadow in the form of Lucille Ball on a series of TV screens, which is pretty clever and pulled off nicely. (Didn’t even flag her as being Anderson until the very end.)
Their journey leads them to Chicago, where Wednesday wants to get his hammer. (You get who he’s supposed to be, right?) Wednesday has to go see Zorya (played by Cloris Leachman and Martha Kelly) and Czernobog (Peter Stormaire). (Let’s just agree not to have to spell out the backstory of every mythological figure. None of us would enjoy that.) There’s a lot of bad blood between Wednesday and the ‘bog, and that means we got to watch Ian McShane and Peter Stormaire just be awesome together. Eventually, ‘bog agreed to return the hammer, but only if Shadow could beat him in a game of checkers. If Shadow lost, come morning, Czernobog would knock his brains out with the hammer instead. And in what must be TV’s first real-time checkers round, Shadow lost. And somehow, a very long checkers scene was compelling. It’s the Fuller way! This is TV that you luxuriate in more than you watch.
Archer – Picking up right where last week’s episode left off (Dreamland is really compressed – only a couple of days have passed since the season premiere), Mother nearly had Archer killed for not returning with a million dollars. Instead, she sent him to get the money back from Figgis and Poovey before they delivered it to Trexler. Meanwhile, Lana ran into the prostitute Archer tossed out of his car and we learned that this world’s Lane is an undercover federal agent. Specifically, she works for the IRS and she’s investigating Trexler. So when Cecil VanderTunt drove by and gave them a ride, we had everybody headed to Trexler’s mansion.
(Speaking of Cecil, how great has it been having Eugene Mirman as a regular this season? Every line he says is hilarious!)
A pill-addled Archer, the cops, and Lana’s group converged on the mansion to find an actual bloodbath. It took them a while to put their differences aside (the differences are significant) and find a captive Trexler in the midst of a grotesque Last Supper tableau of mangled bodies. And waiting for them was the man who did it all – Barry. Now there’s a cliffhanger!
Also, it took us a while to notice, but every episode of Dreamland includes the phrase “So, are we just jumping right into this?” (And sometimes “So, are we just jumping right in this? Or what’s the deal?”)
Fargo – The opening of this week’s episode took us back to elementary school with the audio introduction of the Peter and the Wolf filmstrip that we watched a million times. You know, the one where the friendly narrator tells you what character all of the instruments represent. Those elements recur throughout the episode, which was nicely done.
Ray posed as Emmit to get into his safe deposit box, thinking the stamp was in there. Instead, he found the cremains of a beloved family pet. But he still managed to sponge $10,000 from Emmit’s account. Nikki wanted him to take it all, but Ray managed to restrain himself. Later, Gloria visited his office to continue her investigation into Ennis’ murder and found it significant that the killer’s parole officer had the same last name as the victim. Then, his relationship with Nikki came to light and he lost his job rather than end it. And so Ray ended up getting drunk in a spiral of self-pity rather than joining Nikki to meet with a potential sponsor for their competitive bridge run.
An increasingly marginalized Gloria made a friend on the force, an officer named Winnie. Winnie’s introduction was fantastic, as she gave Gloria way too much personal information. And interestingly, she’s trying to get pregnant which follows in the Fargo tradition of pregnant female cops. Their meeting also continued the theme where automated systems don’t recognize Gloria – not even the faucet in the ladies’ room.
Winnie went to the Stussy offices to check on a complaint. When Sy smashed Ray’s car, he also clipped that of an innocent bystander who was much more interested in pressing charges. This should have been a small matter, but Varga’s goons were hanging around, watching him talk to a cop. They already threw an old man off a building for using Google, so Sy was uncooperative and got her out as quickly as possible.
Varga showed up at Emmit’s house, demanding dinner with his family. And even though he was pleasant enough to the people who don’t know he’s a monster, he was still a monster and made it clear that he’s going to exploit Emmit’s business until he picks it clean. (Also? Seems Varga has some digestive issues.)
Finally, Winnie and Gloria put their heads together after they each dealt with a Stussy and put together the chain that just might connect the E. Stussy of Eden Prairie to the E. Stussy of Eden Valley. Oh, Gloria is this much closer to meeting Varga and that will be either awesome or devastating.
OK, that’s all we have time for this week, so we’ll just note that The Americans and Veep were great and HBO’s presentation of the one-man show Chris Gethard: Career Suicide is fantastic and you should check it out. Also, hit up CBS’s website to see Stephen Colbert’s Daily Show reunion. Everybody got it? See you soon!