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All posts for the month June, 2014

Photo Credit: Blake Tyers/AMC

Photo Credit: Blake Tyers/AMC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

Episode five of AMC series “Halt And Catch Fire,” opened with a study in contrasts as we watch Joe MacMillan and Cameron Howe, wake up and prepare for their work-day at Cardiff Electric. MacMillan wakens still feeling pain in his torso, from the beat-down he got from some Texas police officers in the previous episode, although the bruises on his face have mostly healed. Cameron wakes up in a hotel bed and she is in far better spirits than she was waking up in her basement work-station at Cardiff. She takes a shower, washes her hair, gets dressed and then calls a taxi to take her to work.

Joe however, is grimacing with every move he makes, even having difficulty buttoning his shirt and putting on his tie. After he finishes getting dressed, he grabs his baseball bat and tries to attempt to swing it, but the pain he experiences in his first two attempts, prevents him from completing the task. Finally in his third attempt, MacMillan is able to swing through the pain and repeats the process a few more times.

Gordon Clark arrives home from Cardiff just as his wife Donna is cooking breakfast. He tells her he is just home long enough to change and grab a cup of coffee and we see the disappointment in Donna’s face. It is her father’s birthday and both her mother and dad are at the house, Donna had thought that her husband had come home to wish his father-in-law a happy birthday. At that point both of Donna’s parents walk into the kitchen and engage Gordon in conversation. Clark and his father-in-law walk into the dining room where Gordon’s two daughters are sitting at the table, entranced with the electronic gadget they are playing with. Clark assumes they have a calculator, but in fact it is a TV set the size of a wrist watch, his father-in-law Gary, tells him it is the latest hot item from Japan and he will be selling it in his next catalog.

We head to Cardiff Electric and see Sales Manager John Bosworth, holding a presentation for a bunch of prospective buyers for their upcoming personal computer, while Joe stands in the back of the room with his back against the glass and remaining silent. Bosworth is playing his “Good Ol’ Boy,” persona for all it’s worth, telling the various company executives, that because their new computer will be so light and portable, they can take their secretaries for some “Afternoon Delight,” and tote the computer with them, so they’ll never miss a memo.

The group laugh heartily at Bosworth’s joke, but then start asking him technical questions that he is not knowledgeable enough to answer. He looks to MacMillan at the back of the room and Joe tells his boss that he’s just some carpetbagger from New York and the group would have no interest in what he has to say. Bosworth realizing he’s trapped, tells his potential clients that they can look up the answers to their questions in the packages in front of them. After getting his fill of John squirming, he started talking to the group and soon had their undivided attention.

Joe MacMillan maybe a man without any redeeming qualities, however he is a superb orator and even better at sizing up a situation, to say exactly the right thing at the most opportune time. That is what makes him an extraordinary salesman, a natural shark always looking for his next kill. MacMillan could steal your watch off of your wrist and then sell it back to you, making you feel that he gave you a bargain. First he provided the answer for the new computer’s speed that had stumped Bosworth, but then he proceeded to reel his audience in. Joe told the men that Cardiff’s new machine’s designed for their “third-shelf,” with IBM occupying the first shelf and already established manufacturers taking the space on the second one.

Joe then told him that the personal computer that Cardiff would put on the market would become the new industry standard; that once the public got the chance to see the new machines, they would embrace them. Instead of concerns about something being IBM-Compatible, consumers will want Cardiff Electric-Compatible products and if they convince the CEO of each of their companies to buy the new machine, in a year each of the men in the room would be their company’s new CEO. He stopped talking and each excited executive in the room had questions to ask him.

Cameron  traveled to Cincinnati at the request of MacMillan, for an apparent company project and when she arrives at Cardiff she’s overwhelmed with the changes that went on in her absence. The company hired a slew of new young programmers as well as a new software director named Steve, that Cameron takes an instant dislike to. We can sense from their first meeting, that Steve will attempt to break Cameron’s spirit and show her whose the boss.

Cameron walks into Joe’s office interrogating him on why he hired Steve instead of putting her in charge. He responds that her lack of people skills, management experience as well as her demeanor, would make her a liability in that position. He then tells her that “the thing” they have going on, doesn’t provide her more privilege at Cardiff. She then reaches into his front pants pocket, taking the key to his apartment to take all her stuff out of there.

Cameron does become friendly with two of the new programmers, a guy named Lev with horn-rimmed glasses (in an era, that they were not close to being stylish in) and a heavy-set long-haired guy, whose nickname is Yo-Yo as he always has one in his hand. Howe tells the guys that she is going to download a computer game onto the main-frame, so that everyone in the office will be able to access it from their terminal.

Gordon and his team are ready to test the chip with the new BIOS that Cameron designed and are debating names for the BIOS, when she walks into the “Kill-Room.” She announces to the group that she designed the BIOS and will name it as well and her choice is Lovelace, which make the crew giggle like a gang of high school kids. She then tells them, it’s not for porn-star Linda Lovelace but instead for a woman instrumental in the first computer, Ada Lovelace. All the men agree that it’s a fitting name for the program.

With the name decided, they test the chip and it turns on the machine. Although the crew’s excited at their accomplishment, MacMillan comes in to rain on their parade. He tells the group that what they have designed is still far too bulky to fit his concept. As he walks out Gordon thinks he has found a solution to their problem, a LCD screen which the Japanese have used to great success. One of the group say it will be far too costly, but Gordon counters that with a “connection” it might be affordable.

Joe heads back to his office and his secretary tells him that his father called, he has a layover in Dallas and wants to see his son. Joe tells his secretary to set up a 1:00 pm meeting with his father at the hotel’s bar. We have yet to meet MacMillan’s father, but we realize that the kindest way to describe their relationship is “It’s Complicated.” We are well aware that Joe’s issues with his father were most likely a factor in his leaving IBM.

He drives to the hotel and instead of walking into the bar, he looks into the establishment through the window. He sees his father sitting there waiting in a chair for his arrival. However, for what ever reason Joe heads back to his car and drives away.

The scene shifts to a golf-course and we soon see that Gordon and his father-in-law Gary are in the midst of a game. Gordon’s not a regular golfer, but Gary tells him this is the perfect time for them to play as the course is empty so they can play at a leisurely pace. Clark thanks his father-in-law for the gift for his daughters and that prompts Gary to boast about his relationship with the Japanese. That was exactly what Gordon was hoping for, as it gave him a way to discuss what’s on his mind, Gary setting up a meeting with his friends in the Far East so Gordon and Joe can talk with them about them building LCD screens for the new Cardiff Electric computer. Gary’s opposed to the idea at first but eventually gives in and will set up the meeting.

We head to Texas Instruments and it appears that Donna is once again in trouble with her former high school classmate, now her boss Hunt as he can’t find the report he assigned her to complete. Donna looks through the folders he’s holding and gives him the one he wanted. Instead of apologizing he tells her to make sure the most important folder is on top from that point forward.

Things aren’t going smoothly for Gordon at Cardiff either, as MacMillan is at first non-receptive to the meeting Clark has arranged with the Japanese manufacturers. Gordon then blows up at Joe, telling him that he has asked for the moon and now that Clark has provided a way to access it, MacMillan wants to turn it down. Gordon’s logic overcomes Joe’s stubbornness, but MacMillan tells him to change the dinner meeting to a steakhouse to appeal to their visitors. He then congratulates Gordon on setting up the connection.

Cameron heads to Joe’s apartment and gets startled when she finds his father (John Getz) inside and she has no idea who he is. He introduces himself as Joe MacMillan, but Howe tells him that she knows Joe. He responds that he’s indeed Joe senior, the father of the man she knows and asks her if she knows where his son is. She tells him she doesn’t then asks him how he got into the apartment. He replied that he showed the superintendent his license and then tells Cameron that if “you say something with the right authority, you generally get what you want.”

Cameron gathers her stuff and is about to leave the apartment when the senior MacMillan says goodbye to her he asks her what her name is and she responds Cameron. At that point his eyes get large and he asks her if she is Cameron Howe and she confirms that. He tells her that his people at IBM came back to New York praising her to the heavens, which of course makes her far more comfortable. He chastises her for not taking the offer that Big Blue extended to her and she replies, that she could be a central figure at Cardiff Electric, but just another nameless employee at IBM. He then apologizes for his misplaced anger and tells her it is his son he is angry at.

Joe and Gordon meet the two Japanese manufacturers and Joe thanks them for agreeing to the meeting and one of the men tell him they would do anything for Gary’s son-in-law. Clark then tells the men that he is the son-in-law and both men bow in his direction. As the dinner goes on Gordon proceeds to get blotto as he attempts to match the visitors drink-for-drink. They discuss the design of the screen they would need and Gordon suggests improving the image quality by adding another layer to the display. The manufacturer responds that would be more costly, when Joe proposes a deal that would have the Japanese company get less money up-front, but would get a share of the profits, which could work out as a far more favorable deal for the manufacturers. The manufacturers agree to the deal.

Back at Cardiff a bunch of the young programmers are still at their desks addicted to the computer game “Adventure” that Cameron had downloaded onto the mainframe. Bosworth comes out of his office and walks over to Yo-Yo’s cubicle and tells him to come with him, when the programmer questions why John needs him, the Sales Manager asks all the programmers into his office. When they get there, Bosworth asks them how to escape from the cave he’s trapped in as he’s also playing the game.

Gordon’s drunkenness jeopardizes the deal when he insults his father-in-law to one of the manufacturers in the rest room. He tells the man that Gary’s catalog’s filled with schlock and disgusts the man from the Far East for the lack of respect Clark has displays for his father-in-law. We move to the parking lot and Joe is screaming at Gordon that he ruined the deal by insulting Gary, to men from a culture that have great respect for their elders. He then tells Clark that he will save the deal in the morning, before the men return to Japan.

The conversation continues at Joe’s apartment between his father and Cameron. She tells the elder MacMillan that she thinks his son is wrong about his father and he seems like a good guy, but in reality she is bating him to start insulting his son. He falls for her ruse and starts verbally tearing his son apart of what he believes is an empathetic audience. She soon however tells him that he is just as bad if not worse than his son and leaves the apartment.

Gordon calls Donna from a phone-booth to confess how he ruined the deal and says that Gary will hate him forever. Donna tells her husband to come home and they will talk, she is in the middle of baking some peach pies and hangs up the receiver. Seconds later it rings again and Donna assumes its Gordon however it’s Hunt, who says he called to compliment her on her work on the project and then apologizes for snapping at her in the previous episode. He asks if he has called at a bad time and she responds that she is just baking peach pies. Hunt tells her that he loves peach pie and says if there’s any leftover he’d gladly accept it.

We head to Gary’s house as Donna’s mother Susan is talking to her son-in-law whose standing on the front door step and begs to speak to Gary. She gets her husband and stage whispers that their son-in-law’s intoxicated. He looks at Clark and asks what’s wrong and the scene ends as Gordon attempts to collect his thoughts and beg for Gary’s forgiveness and help.

The next morning as the two Japanese manufacturers are ready to leave from their hotel, Joe pulls up and apologizes for Gordon as well as himself for the lack of etiquette displayed by Clark. He then tells the men that Gordon was too ashamed to come to the hotel, but he wanted Joe to convey his sorrow as well as the respect he has for Gary. Joe then starts praising his own father as the man that turned him into the success he has attained, that his father is his biggest supporter and how much MacMillan treasures him in return.

About 300-yards away, MacMillan senior is sitting in the lobby of the same hotel, reading about his son in Wall Street Quarterly. When he walks to the front of the hotel, the two Japanese men are still there but his son has already left, missing each other by seconds.

Back at Cardiff the crew in the “Kill-Room” are toasting Gordon for the deal with the Japanese when Joe enters the room. He asks Clark if he got his message and Gordon affirmed that he had. MacMillan then asked if he deserved a thank-you from Clark and Gordon told him he didn’t. Joe morphed into his “Bully Mode” and started to insult Gordon in front of the crew and boasting he saved the deal. Gordon stopped him dead in his tracks when he tells Joe the reason the deal is back in effect, was Clark groveled and begged Gary to salvage the deal, MacMillan’s  conversation that morning was not a factor.

Joe and Cameron meet in the office and she asks him if he is going to the company function that evening. He responds that he was not planning to and asks if she intends to go. She tells him that she may as some of the new programmers are heading there. Joe tells her that he noticed she removed her belongings from his apartment, but he wants back the copy of the Wall Street Quarterly he thinks she took. Howe tells him that his father was in his apartment when she arrived and he must have taken it.

The Cardiff Electric employees are having fun at what looks like a County Fair. There is a car that anyone can hit with a sledgehammer if they pay to swing the tool. Bosworth gives the attendant some money and takes a couple of swings. MacMillan shows up at that point and gives the attendant a one hundred-dollar bill and the episode concludes as Joe is trying to work off all his anger and frustration by beating that car.

The story will pick up again next Sunday night on “AMC

 

Photo Credit: BBCAmerica.com

Photo Credit: BBCAmerica.com

 Warning: Spoiler Alert

I’d like to mention a few things before we get started pertaining to The Musketeers. First and foremost, I really like what BBC America is trying to do here. It is a far cry from putting it in the Sherlock fandom realm, but so far so good. I enjoy the slight tweaks and creative license they’ve taken towards arguably the most re-done story ever told in cinema and television. Specifically in regards to the casting.

Anything old, we tend to type cast with stereotypical British actors. As if British accents are present everywhere throughout history. Or in the case of the 1993 theatrical release, use headliners or up and comers. Consider the 1993 version: Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt, Chris O’Donnell, Tim Curry, Gabrielle Anwar, Rebecca De Mornay. This is the version for me (my affection for television/movies was born in the 1980s and 1990s), is the basis for comparison. Not because it’s a great version, I’m sure a traditionalist, historian or even movie buff might argue that it is indeed anything but great.

This version is illicitly American. Charlie Harper as the religious and romantically charismatic Aramis. Jack Bauer as the conflicted yet mature Athos. Jimmy King as the lovable irresponsible Porthos. And Dick Grayson (Robin) as the idealistic yet helplessly lame D’Artagnan. Twenty years ago, this is how we saw this story. BBCA has taken a better, deeper, more nuanced approach to this story and that is refreshing.

In this version (thus far), my favorite character is Porthos. Generally considered the third wheel/comic relief, has been elevated to a character I look forward to seeing and hearing. Porthos is not a fat guy to be made fun of as in the case of Gerard Depardieu from Man in the Iron Mask, pardon my nerdom but this Porthos is more like the Panthro of the Thundercats. Big yes, but very much the smart ass fighter we hope a Musketeer to be. Secondly and ironically, is D’Artagnan. Usually portrayed as a wuss in over his head. I watched Luke Pasqualino as D’Artagnan for almost a full 5 minutes in episode 1 before even considering the idea that he was D’Artagnan. I told my wife, “you’ll never believe this, D’Artagnan is not a wimp in this version”.

The other tidbits are direction and tone. The direction seems to be filled with layers, I hope. A few times already this show has surprised me story wise. I zigged when they zagged, which makes for a great story. I like that this is not a series telling Dumas’ story. It’s a series using Dumas’ story as the backdrop or even the universe in which to tell a different story. And tone, whether you realize it or not, tone is important to telling a story that’s already been told. It’s not light-hearted or cheeky. Its dark at times and brutally realistic to the area and time. Very important to a period piece like this, even if it’s fictional.

This week Musketeers starts out with Aramis, Athos, and Porthos coaching and cautioning D’Artagnan on the duel he is about to partake in. Something that is outlawed. Shortly in, the authorities come charging in and eventually arrest D’Artagnan. This seems out of character for the group. And my suspicions were immediately raised when Porthos said, “he knows the code of the Musketeers, every man for himself”.

After a quick scolding, we find the Musketeers addressed in a much more cordial tone. The arrest of D’Artagnan was intentional. Not only that but the arrest had to be “sold” and believable. My interest is even more peaked with this revelation as it seems to be the first significant deviation from the original story. Look, the pilot was very solid. But the pilot was by most criteria, a 43 minute telling of the important details from any movie about this story you’ve ever seen. Musketeers doing what they do. A young kid comes to avenge his dead father. The Cardinal has a problem with the Musketeers. The King complies with the Cardinal’s wishes. Athos’ former love interest reveals herself. We’ve all seen it before, but it had to be said. And now we start a new path.

A quick but intriguing scene follows with D’Artagnan in jail with another man. This man is familiar. The rule of small character/big name should send off alarms in your head. Most of the actors in this show I am unfamiliar with. So when I spot one I’ve seen before, it’s not to be taken lightly. If you’re wondering his name is Jason Fleming.  I am most familiar with his work as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in A League of Extraordinary Men.  I’d like to think this is an important detail.  Like he will be a long running character.  However, I think it is too early in the series for such a character introduction.

The Musketeers three continue on selling the exaggeration of the truth about D’Artagnan. Getting Aramis slapped in the process.

Aramis: I love that in a woman…
Athos: What?
Porthos: Passion
Aramis: Violence

During a periodic attempt to pardon some prisoners, D’Artagnan’s new friend and cell mate Vadim, has a different idea. A jailbreak with the Queen as armor. Once the Queen is secured, with Aramis stuck in a romantic gaze with her, D’Artagnan and his new friend escape free and clear. Athos and Treville are left to watch and wonder what exactly their newest recruit is up to. “D’Artagnan  is proving he was the right man for the job.”-Athos.

Later in the Cardinal’s study, after Treville and Athos leave with the information that D’Artagnan may be in more danger than he knows, “Milady” emerges. She may just be the sultry vixen pulling the strings. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. She even takes a moment to illustrate just how easy it would be to win back D’Artagnan to the Cardinal. A skill that works on the Cardinal almost immediately.

Elsewhere, D’Artagnan faces the accusation that he may be more than he claims, a wanted man on the run. After looking into his eyes with the intent to harm, Vadim feels that he can trust D’Artagnan. The plan is to create a new France by eliminating both the King and Queen. Two actions that a Musketeer or an aspiring Musketeer would have a distinct problem with. Unless we’re talking about John Malkovich, he was just starved for revenge.
Gratuitous Aramis flirting with the wrong woman scene.

“She’s not a woman, she’s the Queen. Set your sights a little lower. For all our sakes.”-Porthos.

In a swift move, D’Artagnan is able to convince the third wheel that he was not out spying on the escaped cell mate, but visiting his “mistress”. Forced to prove they are acquainted, he kisses Constance while simultaneously conveys to her to send for Aramis. Then informs the miscreant that he will “need some time” (wink wink). All as a clever ploy to report what he knows about the plan to kill the King and Queen. And just like that, D’Artagnan goes from danger to safety back to danger again.

Milady emerges to do what she has planned to. Persuade him to side with the Cardinal and not the Musketeers. No decision is made before the Musketeers arrive. Back at the hideout, there is the unresolved issue of whether or not the bad guys can trust D’Artagnan. This is a lovely, yet typical, undercover story wearing the cloak of a 17th century France.

A plan is devised to remove the King and Queen from a public obligation. A plan that the King and Queen immediately rejected. Always smart that the royal family reject security precautions in favor of not appearing cowardly. Instead Treville and Athos spend time interviewing those on the grounds to get a better sense of Vadim (the cell mate) who consequently used to work for the royal family. Vadim has become quite taken with D’Artagnan. A miscalculation I assume he will pay for shortly.

Upon his departure, D’Artagnan passes along the map and plans for the assassination to Porthos waiting in the alley. Very Mission Impossible-esque. While the Musketeers debate the merits of striking early, there is a meeting inside. Lead by Vadim and marking the celebration of what is to come. Prior to the celebration kicking off, Vadim channels his inner Jesus, “Every man here, I trust like a brother. All except one. We have a traitor in our midst. Surprisingly they did not pull the typical move.

The typical move is the lead the viewer to someone who is actually loyal sparing our would be hero and mole. Creating a horrible reveal to the villain later. This time they root out the mole from the jump.
The Musketeers it seems, may have made the correct choice to strike early. However, if Vadim knew of D’Artagnan’s treachery, he probably gave him the wrong plan. Musketeers behind the eight ball again. Following the break, D’Artagnan discovers that he is tied to the massive amount of gun powder our Musketeers have been searching for the entire time.

At the King and Queen’s side during the public event, Vadim’s plan begins. A commotion is created and the Musketeers jump into action. Which is visually nice, but remember Vadim’s first scene. “The thing with any good trick is to get them to look the wrong way”. This is not a straight forward assassination attempt.

D’Artagnan escapes the gunpowder room but not cleanly. Right about the time the Musketeers close in on Vadim, the room blows. Catching all but Vadim off guard, who has clearly planned this out in every way. Vadim’s mistress is taken out by ‘Milady’ shortly after discovering that the stolen diamond was in her possession the whole time. Vadim crosses his own men killing one of them. And in a lovely ‘house of mirrors’ approach, D’Artagnan defeats Vadim in a sword fight by firelight. Wounded Vadim escapes momentarily just as the Musketeers catch up. Shortly thereafter the criminal is apprehended just before dying.

I think it is fair to assume that D’Artagnan has proven himself worthy of the Musketeers, and I imagine a formal induction should be on the horizon. Not to say all is well that ends well. The Cardinal still has plans to involve D’Artagnan. However, the decision will be his. Naturally, we already know which way he will side, which creates more story lines to follow. What is unseen is the presence through two episodes of any such over-arching storyline. Today was saving the King and Queen while stopping a criminal from a big score. But what is the big picture issue? If this is an episodic detective drama disguised in the appearance of a 17th century French period piece, if it is I will be more than significantly disappointed. We shall see.

Photo Courtesy Of HBO

Photo Courtesy Of HBO

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Most likely you have read one of the omnipresent articles in the last few weeks about the début of the new HBO Original Series “The Leftovers” that debuted Sunday night. The new show had a fine pedigree, being televised on a Network that has set the standard for TV Drama, over the last couple of decades. The series was co-created by author Tom Perrotta, who wrote the novel the show’s based on and Damon Lindelof, one of the two men behind the highly acclaimed former ABC series “LOST.”  In most of his interviews promoting his new show, he opened up about how shaken he was by the fan reaction to the final episode of his earlier series.

The conclusion to the series that had captivated its fans for six years, did not tie up all the loose ends that had intrigued viewers during the life of the show and the ones they did explain, left many audience members unsatisfied. Although he professed that many fans failing to embrace the finale hurt him, it has not stopped him from introducing one of the most puzzling premieres ever on the small screen.

The title of the series fits perfectly, as we are dealing with the results of two percent of the planet’s population simply vanishing on October 14, three years earlier. We do watch the event unfold from the point of view of a young mother with her infant son Sam, in tow as she tries to rectify the results of a bad day at a Laundromat. Through a series of phone-calls, we realize that one of her family’s toilets backed up and flooded her entire first floor. Sam is just as unhappy about the situation as is his mother and he proceeds to let her know with a sustained wail.

She takes Sam and her laundry out to her car still talking on the phone with the infant crying even louder as she puts him into his car-seat in the back of her vehicle. She is talking about formula for Sam, when suddenly we realize the crying in the car has stopped, the mother does as well and looks to find her infant has disappeared. Not wanting to believe her eyes she frantically searches the backseat for her son, then exits the car and looks outside screaming his name. A little boy starts to frantically call for his father who seconds before was pushing a grocery-cart right next to his son. The mother screams for someone to contact 911 and we hear a series of calls to the service about people disappearing.

We jump to the present which is almost three-years exactly after the incident occurred. We meet main character Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), Chief of Police for the town of Mapleton, we aren’t informed what state, however it looks like a cold weather city. Garvey is out for his morning jog when he meets a stray dog; then the man and  the animal approach each other warily. The Chief and the dog start to bond when a pickup truck pulls up about 100 yards away and the driver gets out of his vehicle with a rifle and shoots the dog dead. After recovering from the shock, Garvey attempts to chase the vehicle on foot, but soon gives up the effort. He puts the dog’s body in the trunk of his car and proceeds to drive to the home listed on the hound’s tags.

When he gets there he encounters the woman that had owned the dog and told her it had died. The woman responded brusquely that the dog had run away from home the day of the incident and had never returned in the three ensuing years. She tells the Chief that it was her husband’s dog  who had vanished and Garvey offered her condolences for her loss. She sarcastically responds, is that what it is; and shuts the door.

The officer gets back in his car and calls his subordinate Dennis Luckey (Frank Harts), to find out if the other cop has any information on the man who shot the dog. Luckey asks his superior if he got a plate number for the vehicle and Garvey chastises him for asking the question. He then tells the junior officer that since he’s got time before his meeting with the mayor he will head to animal control. Luckey replies that the meeting is taking place momentarily and that the other participants are waiting for him.

Mapleton Mayor Lucy Warburton (Amanda Warren),  is reminiscent of former Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice, in appearance, dress and manner, an intelligent, articulate woman who wants to maintain control. She welcomes Garvey when he arrives late to the meeting and the Chief responds that the fault lies with her office staff, who had scheduled the meeting for noon. She had gathered the Chief and other town officials to talk about the inaugural celebration of “Heroes Day,” the following morning, the third anniversary of the departure. One of the men at the meeting ask why folks refer to the departed  as Heroes, when his brother-in-law disappeared and he was a bum. The Mayor responds because Americans admire Heroes and not bums.

Warburton is doing her best to sell the concept of the next day’s celebration as a great idea, something that her constituents need, to turn the page and move on with their lives. She tells the officials that people are ready to have fun again, but Garvey totally disagrees with her position. He counters that people would rather explode than to have fun and warns the Mayor that a group he refers to as the “Remnants,” will attend and cause a fight to break out. Warburton asks her Police Chief if he wants her to cancel the events and he replies that he does, but the Mayor tells him that will not happen.

The next scene gives us our first look at the “Remnants,” and their lifestyle. These people have taken a vow of silence and their motto is “We Are Living Reminders.” Their entire existence seems to revolve around constantly reminding their fellow citizens of the departed. Our first view is a room filled with women sleeping on mattresses, all dressed in white and there is a clothing rack in the room that’s filled with nothing but white shirts and pants. The camera focuses on a woman in her early to mid-forties (Amy Brenneman),  as she wakes up, gets ready in the bathroom and then joins the others, both male and female who are undertaking tasks, while chain-smoking cigarettes. We see ashtrays overflowing with butts while people are puffing on cigarettes, with their next one tucked behind their ears. There is a purpose behind that as well as a sign proclaims “We Don’t Smoke For Enjoyment, We Smoke To Proclaim Our Faith.”

A man walks into the room and puts a clipboard upon the white dry-erase board that occupies a wall, it contains a list with the names of the “Remnants,” assigned to attend the “Heroes Day,” events in Mapleton the following morning. The woman that we’re focused on does not see her name on the list and goes to an office where another woman (Ann Dowd),  is working. She writes to the second woman that her name is not on the list and she wants to attend. The other woman writes okay and the matter’s settled. We see on a TV monitor in her office that a Senate hearing is taking place on C-Span, as they interview a scientist on possible causes for the incident three-years before. A Senator then tells the scientist that religious leaders have stated that God was not the force that took away 160 million people from the planet, so they are hoping that science can provide a reason. However the scientific community has not come close to coming up with the cause of the incident.

A man in his fifties drives into a parking lot, gets out of his car and into the pickup truck of a much younger man, who is the Police Chief’s son Tom Garvey (Chris Zylka.) He refers to his new companion as Congressman and tells him that he will need to wear a blindfold to make the last leg of the journey. After some huffing and puffing the older man complies and then asks his driver if the man he is taking him to see is the real deal? Young Garvey, responds that he is and that soon his companion will no longer feel burdened. The Congressman asks Tom if he says that to every person he drives to see Wayne and the young man replies that most times he says abandoned.

The pair get stopped at the check-post outside Wayne’s residence and then they get cleared to proceed. An elderly woman greets the Congressman and then takes him to meet Wayne (Paterson Joseph), a black man wearing an open caller dress shirt and a beatific smile. Tom then heads to another part of the house where a group of young attractive women are sitting poolside. He heads over to one young woman and gives her a bag of candy and they share some flirtatious banter.

We shift to Mapleton’s high-school as the school day begins in the classroom of Jill Garvey (Margaret Qualley), the Chief’s daughter. We hear announcements emanating from the intercom, then the principle asks for the students rise and recite the pledge of allegiance which nobody does. He then says that it is time for those students that would like to pray to do so and almost all the class stands and begins praying. Jill abstains and she catches the eye of a boy she likes in the front of the class who is also seated and pantomimes shooting himself in the head. She responds by pretending to tie a noose around her neck, but perhaps she is a bit too dramatic as the boy looks away.

The next scene is Jill and her BFF smoking weed outside of the school, when the boy she likes and another young man ask them if they are going to a party that evening and the girls respond that they may. Jill’s friend then teases her that this will be her big chance to hook up with the boy. They head to Jill’s house for dinner and the friend asks Kevin, if Jill and she can borrow his car to attend a party on the other side of town. After being reassured his daughter won’t drink, he gives the girls permission.

We head back to the “Remnants,” house where the woman and another heavier woman with glasses are given a picture of a woman that they have been chosen to stalk. The heavier woman writes a note saying that the woman in the picture is pretty. We meet the woman Meg Abbott (Liv Tyler) and her fiancée in the next scene and we can see she is distraught over their upcoming wedding. As they head out of their home and into the their car they see the two members of the “Remnants,” are standing outside their house like wraiths. The couple does their best to ignore them and drives to a restaurant for dinner. In the middle of the meal the women show up outside the restaurant and just stare at the woman, her fiancée tries to reason with them and they leave. However when they arrive back home they encounter the pair again. This time Meg can no longer control her emotions and hits the first “Remnant” that we met.

Back at Wayne’s house the Congressman is laughing and having a grand old-time, Tom notices the change in his mood and the older man proclaims that he’s been unburdened. Tom is ready to drive the Congressman back to his car, when the older woman tells him that Wayne would like to talk with him and that he will be staying the night, while another employee will chauffeur the guest. Tom asks if there’s a problem, but the woman ends the conversation saying Wayne will talk to him later.

We head to the party that Jill’s at and we watch as all in attendance are in the process of getting high, or engaged in playing a game in the center of the room. The game is an advanced version of “Spin The Bottle” using a cellphone that tells the couple what deed they will engage in. Jill’s evening comes to a crashing halt, when the guy she’s interested in gets her friend and they’re told to have sex. Jill’s friend says that if she minds that she will say no, but Jill plays the brave soldier and tells her friend it’s fine with her. Jill is then picked soon after to have some groping with another guy and she participates but is crying as she does.

The next scene is later that evening at Wayne’s as he walks into the room that Tom is in and finds him sleeping. He wakes up his employee and starts talking to him about the young woman Tom had given candy to. The young man tries to act as if he barely knows her, but Wayne busts him, telling him he is well aware of his bringing the girl candy and talking with her. He tells the Chief’s son that the woman is very important, that it is Tom’s job to protect her, but even more importantly to keep his hands off her. Wayne then tells Garvey about a dream he has had repeatedly. He sees his son in the dream who had vanished the day of the incident, with a message that things will get quite ugly on the third anniversary of the incident, the following day. He then closes his eyes and touches his forehead to Tom’s.

Kevin is driving back to his house when his car’s radio starts acting up and then suddenly his windshield cracks for no apparent reason. He gets out of his car and hears the squeals of an animal under the front of the vehicle, but then everything disappears and he is on his bedroom floor woken by the sound of the phone. Dennis Luckey is on the other end telling his boss that the celebration’s set to start in five minutes. As Garvey goes downstairs to leave his house he realizes their kitchen is in ruins as it looks as if a wild animal had gone amok in there.

When the Chief arrives downtown he sees the man that shot the dog early in the episode. He tries to stop the man from driving away by pulling out his service revolver, but it falls to the ground. He yells to the man that he can’t go around shooting “our dogs.”

He arrives at the ceremony as Mayor Warburton is addressing the crowd from a podium. Two grade-school girls read the names of the departed, then the Mayor introduces Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), a resident that lost her husband and two young children three-years earlier. She tells the audience that she had the best day of her life shortly before the incident. The family was at the beach and her son and daughter were building a sand-castle and she and her husband were in total bliss. She then recounts a story of about a year before that when the family was sick with the flu and huddled together in her bed. She told the audience that she really thought she was going to die from being sick and could feel the heat emanating from the bodies of her children. She then said that she was not greedy, she would settle for having her family reunited as sick as they were that day.

Whether she had finished talking or not, that would be the last thing she would say as the residents saw that the “Remnants,” had arrived and were holding up placards that spelled out “Stop Wasting Your Breath!” As Garvey had predicted, the residents had finally had their fill of the “Remnants,” and started attacking them. The Chief and his officers tried to form a restraining line between the two groups, but there was a lot of fighting before they got the scene under control.

The next scene Kevin pulls up in the cull de sac that the “Remnants,” reside in. He knocks on a door and tells the man that answers the door, that he realizes he won’t speak, but he wants to find Laurie and asks the man to point to the house she lives in, which he does When Garvey walks over to that house, he’s confronted by a stocky man that tries to keep the Chief away, but he subdues the man. He then starts calling for Laurie and we realize she is the first member of the “Remnants,” that we met. We soon realize that she also is Laurie Garvey, Kevin’s wife and mother of Tom and Jill. Garvey pleads for his wife to return home with him, but we see the conflict on her face. At that point, the man that tried to stop Kevin earlier gets behind him and slams his face repeatedly into the hood of his car. He then drives off without his wife. Seconds later a taxicab pulls up and out steps Meg Abbott. She asks the woman that has her own office if she can stay with them for a couple of nights. We hear the woman speak for the first time as she tells Meg she can stay as long as she wants and tells her, that her name is Patti. She then tells Meg that this will be the final conversation between the two of them.

Garvey is finally heading home when he stops his car when a buck’s standing in the middle of the road. He asks the animal if he had been in his house the night before when a pack of wild dogs appear out of nowhere and start attacking the buck. Shortly there after the man (Michael Gaston), who shot the first dog arrives with shotgun in hand. He then says to Garvey they’re not ours and Kevin asks the man what he means. The man says that the dogs are no longer theirs, that the incident had changed them forever and starts shooting the dogs. Garvey asks the man if he’s really awake and the man responds that now he is, as the Chief starts shooting the dogs as well.

I had great hopes about this series heading into the première, but the pilot left me rather bothered and bewildered. I have enough faith in the show’s creators that I am willing to give the show time to develop. However if it stays as confusing and disjointed as it was in the first episode, it may lose me as a viewer before this season has completed.

The story will pick up again next Sunday night on HBO

Photo Credit: TNTDrama.com

Photo Credit: TNTDrama.com

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Last week we got to know those aboard the USS Nathan James, the Last Ship. We began to get a feel for her Captain and the XO and the potential difference of opinion between the two. We’ve become familiar with some of the crew. I’d love to say, we are becoming familiar with our doctor and her assistant, however it would be foolish of me to assume we know much of anything about either. And after the way the last episode concluded, we haven’t even scratched the surface on Dr. Quincy Tophet.

Following the episode one reset, we witness the conclusion of Tophet’s phone call. “Stall”. Clearly there is some party who wishes for the Nathan James to make port, what follows is less clear. What is made abundantly clear is that the ship is under a new or at least very different protocol. New security measures, new machinery concerns, and a different morale than the one the series started with.

Let me take a moment to interject something that may or may not go over well. Television (and cinema for that matter) utilize a number of ‘devices’. Devices that work for dialogue, cinematography, character development, etc. One of my favorites deals with the concept of what is unseen but clearly assumed. For example, a man points a gun at another man. The camera shows the armed man. Shows him pull the trigger. Does not show what the bullet has done to the other man. Gunman walks away. you can assume the unarmed man is dead. Early in this episode, the creators of the Last Ship chose to not go that route.

We have a scene on the deck, where seamen are sharing their ‘thoughts and prayers’. I accept that the show makers and probably the studio/network want to create a “pull on their heart-strings” moment. Have the moment. But when Midshipmen Miller shares the concern for his mother, they should have cut to commercial. It may seem cold, but I don’t need to hear the remaining stories. I don’t need Capt Chandler to say a word. His mere presence says all it needs to. There is an artistry to shooting television. Just my personal opinion, but I think they dropped to ball slightly by forcing me to sit through it. To be honest, if I were just watching this for my own enjoyment, I would have fast forwarded through it.

Before we rejoin the recap already in progress, did I just see Agent Sitwell? The last thing this ship needs is for Agent Sitwell (S.H.I.E.L.D. agent working for Hydra) to be on board. A little TV fanatic joke there…back to the recap.

We find the command structure meeting in seclusion so that Dr. Scott can essentially break down the pertinent information regarding the virus and what exactly to look for. Most of the room responds in a manner that seems normal and acceptable. XO Slattery and Lt. Green are less, shall we say cordial. Nothing overt, but harboring a sense of discontent. After a few insulting and challenge driven questions by Slattery, Chandler escorts Slattery to his quarters. This leads us into another great Capt Chandler moment.

While Slattery continues to do the manly equivalent of whining about what has happened, what could’ve happened instead, and asserting that the doctor will have to “earn his trust”, Chandler responds in a way that at this point is all but expected.

Slattery: She’s got a long way to go before she earns my trust, that’s all…
Chandler: What about me? There’s no Navy. No infrastructure. No food or fuel supplies. We don’t know what we’re going to find wherever we go. We’re going to have to improvise every step of the way. Now I’m going to need my XO to–
Slattery: Fall in line?
Chandler: To execute. Whether or not he agrees with my decisions. Now I’m going to ask you one time and one time only, are you with me?
Slattery: I took an oath and I still respect the chain of command.
Chandler: That wasn’t my question.
Slattery (sternly): I’m with you.
(Slattery begins to leave, his body language less than convincing)
Slattery: You really think she can do this?
Chandler: She the only hope we’ve got.

If there is any question as to why Eric Dane chose to take this role, that should be some indication. He is playing the military officer hero. If you were to design a Naval Capt in a difficult scenario making decisions to impact his crew and the world at large, Eric Dane’s character is it to the letter.

Arriving at ‘Guitmo’ via helicopter, it is a relative ghost town as I’m sure 100% of the viewing audience expected it to be. Three teams for three strategic targets on this base. Fuel depot, food warehouse, and hospital. And did I just here a “stay frosty” reference? Meanwhile, Dr. Tophet is trying diligently to do whatever he can to “stall”, whatever that means at this point. Scott and Tophet argue over who is going off ship, just to have Capt Chandler inform them that neither will be leaving. As risk increases so does precaution. It’s becoming clear that Dr. Scott no longer has veto control of any kind.

While our three teams descend upon Guitmo like a special forces on a raid, Dr. Tophet is still trying to exercise a plan to “stall”. Agent Sitwell, or Lt. Ruiz on this show, stops him. Fueling has begun with minimal delays. The hospital is proving to be fruitful, with supplies not the carnage of death. As our food team moves its way through the exterior of the base, we see a body dangling out of a car. Naturally a sign that masks would be helpful. Just then a man running with his assault rifle above his head with both arms up comes screaming, “I’m an American, get back!!!”

Following a very typical military style overreaction or standard reaction, whichever you choose, we discover that the crazy running armed man is a guard. He’s not alone. Al Qaeda is involved. And there is a “low down”. Unknowingly, our team has ventured out into what essentially has become a strategically laid out mine field of Al Qaeda (if I have that right) set on taking them out. If you’re starting to question the direction of things at this point, you’re not alone. Sometimes a story can be too much and the believability is lost. Let’s hope that is not the case here. Big explosions killing would be Al Qaeda does help.

Another interjection. I love the military realism. Or at least the idea of it. I enjoy the premise thus far and I even expect some cheese along the way. However, the writing staff may want to pump the brakes on the John Wayne/John McClane style one liners.

Chandler: Revenge is a dish best served cold…
Guard: Let’s eat.

After the Nathan James targets a group of hostiles and blow them and the adjacent building to smithereens, the real concern sets in. Our hospital team has pushed their oxygen levels the limits and have been locked in the hospital. Presumably by the Al Qaeda who we assume are also the ones shooting into the hospital. Meanwhile the ‘guard’ is leading our food team in to said food warehouse with the huge suspicion that they will be met by resistance…resistance found.

Lt. Green, thinking outside the box-as military soldiers are expected to do in fiction, devises a great plan to get his team out of harm’s way. Or the infested hospital with no oxygen supply of their own. Said plan includes repelling and using a depleted oxygen mask as a small explosion and shooting his way out. Very satisfying scene. Just as it seems our team is getting out of harm’s way, literally, a man is shot. Dr. Scott convinces XO Slattery to allow her to use her medical experience to aid the shot man. Attempt one at restoring trust, I assume.

After our guard friend has proven his metal time and time again in a short amount of time, he is escorted by the enemy and marched in front of Capt Chandler. The game is on. Like the chiseled while military vet that our Capt Chandler is expected to be, he navigates a lovely solution to the stand-off. Using the communication with the ship, he’s able to relay cryptic orders to Slattery which works beautifully. Again though, the moment loses a little of its gravitas by the inclusion of another one of those cheesy one liners. “One thing still holds true today, we don’t negotiate with terrorists”. Ka-Boom.

With Tex (the guard) safely removed from the focus of no less than three enemy weapons, Capt Chandler cordially invites him to help along the way and eventually get home. I’d love to say this feels ideal. However, we are introducing a foreign element into the mix. The USS Nathan James is filled with naval personnel that all come from the same training. The doctor and her assistant are a variable, the assistant more so than the doctor. And now Tex. I genuinely hope that Tex is a guy we will grow to like unconditionally, but for the moment I’m skeptical.

With most accounted for (but not including the doctor at this point) we hit yet another snag. Tophet ‘claims’ someone knocked over something and the machines need to be re-calibrated. Spidey-sense note. This entire episode Tophet has been attempting to ‘stall’. To what ends, we can’t be sure of yet. We finally get supplies and personnel back safely. And an unidentified vessel approaches. The voice communicating with Capt Chandler is or at least feels British. The people Tophet spoke to on the phone sounded Russian. So if with 4 minutes left in the episode, you’re not expecting all kinds of trouble, then you need to pay closer attention.

Under the assumption that what Tophet has reported is true, Chandler sees no harm in welcoming the incoming vessel since they can’t leave for a few hours anyway. Before that, time for another device. We find Lt. Green, Dr. Scott, Tex, two injured but alive personnel, and Capt Chandler. Dr. Scott has clearly won over Lt. Green and by no direct fault of her own is winning over Tex. To be honest, I’m with Tex. Scott (Rhona Mitra) could read me the telephone book and I’d be attentive. Outside the quarters, Chandler speaks to Scott and informs her that she has nothing to prove. Trust by granting trust.

There is no question at this juncture that the creators of The Last Ship factored in appealing to the humanity and the sympathy of the viewers by way of relating to what is otherwise an impossible scenario. Chaos and strategy broken up by suspicion and heart-felt moments.

The most predictable line of the episode. “It’s the Russians.” Oh stop the presses! I’ll be honest, in this moment I’m beginning to question the placement of the Russians. The whole world no longer confined to physical borders, rule of law or even governments. We are all in the pursuit of a cure to heal the world. Yet we have specifically chosen to introduce Al Qaeda and the Russians. Arguably the two most iconic real life villains in American culture during the last 50 years. So basically anyone alive, watching this can identify with Al Qaeda and the Russians as “enemies”. It just seems a little too simple.

When was the last time we vilified the French? Or maybe the Swiss finally lost it and denounced their neutrality. Maybe it could have been pirates or the Canadians. Al Qaeda and the Russians seems either obviously simple or a decoy. Either way, this story is just starting to unfold. We will be back here next week to find out if the doctor is safe? Can someone please kill Dr. Tophet? Are the Russians the big bad or just one of many to come? And just how bad ass is Capt Chandler?

Photo Courtesy Of USA Network

Photo Courtesy Of USA Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Mike Warren’s Task-Force made progress in the third episode of this season’s edition of “Graceland,” however it came with great cost, including one member of the house moving on, one member seriously wounded and a third member coming close to getting shot to death. It also featured a lot of frayed tempers and hurt feelings, as some of the housemates personal demons come to the surface. However by the end of the episode, they confirmed they had found the bus-line that Warren had searched in vain for months, the one that smuggles large quantities of heroin from Mexico into the United States.

The episode opens the morning after Jakes learns from his former lover Cassie, that she has decided against the Federal Agent having a relationship with their son Daniel. Jakes has done his best to climb inside a bottle of alcohol, but has had to settle for pouring its contents down his throat. He is back at the house, trying to pour himself another drink when he pushes a bottle off of the cart and it smashes on the floor. After he fills a glass, he mutters to himself and pushes the drink away.

He then heads upstairs and tries to get into his room, only to find that the door’s locked. The agent had moved out to an apartment in the previous episode and the new guy Wayne Zelanski (Deniz Akdeniz)  aka “Bates” got his room, but of course Jakes was unaware. He’s banging on the door and yelling, until Johnny comes out into the hall surprised to see him and realizes his friend’s loaded. He explains that since he moved out, Zelanski took over the room, which gets Jakes more frustrated. He yells for the new guy to vacate his room and “Bates” responds that he’s armed and ready.

Johnny asks Jakes if everything went alright with Daniel and the agent head butts Johnny in the nose and screams to him to never utter his name again. Johnny is ready to throw down when Charlie comes out of her room and tries to calm things down, Paige comes out of her room in an effort to keep the two guys from fighting. Briggs shows up next and convinces them to take it downstairs which they do, Paul tells Zelanski all is clear and he walks out of his room carrying a service revolver. Briggs asks Paige why she thinks Mike didn’t join them and she shrugs off the question, as he had spent the night in her room.

Warren joins the group downstairs and Jakes explains that he is going to ask for his transfer to desk-duty be stopped and he wants to remain on his beat and in the house. After a bunch of back and forth discussion, Paige announces that it is Mike’s decision since he heads the Task-Force. Mike decides that since Jakes’ status is in limbo, that Zelanski temporarily gets the room and a permanent decision will come down when everything shakes out. Jakes never hears the ruling as he has passed out in a chair. Briggs and Warren set up three office chairs with wheels in a row and deposit the sleeping Jakes on the chairs.

Mike walks into Charlie’s room and asks how her meet with Carlito Solano the night before and Charlie tells him it never took place. Warren’s shocked and asked what happened and she replies that Johnny has some ideas but that he and Zelanski are out of the house right then.  Johnny and Wayne soon enter the house carrying a box and talking about how they don’t want Warren to find out about it, but Mike overhears them and asks what’s in the box. Zelanski tries to lie his way out of it by saying its a backgammon set, then Warren asks Johnny whom he realizes can’t lie.

Johnny opens the box and reveals two antique dueling pistols and tells Mike that he had contacted Carlito’s right-hand man instead of Charlie and found out that Salana is a big fan of antique Mexican pistols. He then tells him and Charlie that he has a meet set up for the next day with Carlito, when he will present the pistols as a gift. Charlie points out a flaw in his plan, the pistols are not from Mexico, but France.

Mike heads downstairs and encounters Paige wearing a very sultry white dress. They have some flirtatious banter and are about to kiss when Briggs walks in the front door, calling Paige by one of her undercover aliases, “The Lady In White.” She is heading to score some cocaine from a dealer they believe works for Salana, known as Li’l Top or Top. Warren tells Paige he wants her to try to buy more than the dealer has on hand, such as a kilo, so they can determine when the shipment arrives by the bus-line. Paige tells Mike that it would scare the dealer off as she always buys just a gram or two. However Mike suggests that Briggs goes with her along with a huge bankroll.

Mike wakes Jakes from his drunken stupor and tells him he has work for him. He has a box of VHS tapes that contain surveillance footage from Cal-Coast bus-lines, the line owned by the Solano family and the line they believe smuggles heroin over the border. He tells Jakes he needs to watch all the tapes and look out for suspicious activity.

Paige and Paul arrive at Top’s house, he’s pleased to see “The Lady In White,” but suspicious of Briggs. Paul tries to win his trust by making up a story that his parents are from the Dominican Republic and although he was born in the States, his family would spend winters in their native land. They come inside the house and start talking with the dealer, Paige then tells Top that Briggs had recently won a pick-five lottery and won an enormous amount of money.

Briggs then asks the dealer if he can buy a kilo from him and Top gets suspicious when Paul pulls out the bankroll. Paige tells the dealer if he has problems they will go elsewhere and grabs for the money, but the dealer pins her hand to the table as he stuck a knife right through it. He then pulls out a pistol and points it at Briggs and asks him what was the name of the lake that his family stayed at in the Dominican. Paul comes up with a satisfactory answer so Top puts down his gun and pulls the blade from Paige’s hand. He tells the pair that he can’t acquire a kilo until Sunday, but he will hold onto their money for safe keeping.

Back at the house Mike is on the phone with his East-Coast squeeze Jess checking in with him on how the case has progressed. Johnny walks into his room, telling Warren he has an idea about the pistols, but Mike tells him he is on the phone and will speak with him later. Second later there’s another knock at the door and he screams to Johnny he is on the phone, only to find Paige standing there with her hand heavily bandaged. He tells Jess he has to go and asks Paige if she is okay, she puts on a brave face but did get a delivery day of Sunday from Top. Mike’s pumped when he hears the information as now they can estimate a time-line for the buses to arrive.

Warren walks into Wayne’s room and sees the new guy is packing his belongings, as he has figured out Mike was going to stay loyal to Jakes. He tells Mike that he is fine with the decision but asks Warren not to tell Johnny until after his meeting with Carlito, as it will be an unneeded distraction .

We head down to a surveillance van that Johnny, Mike and another agent are in. Mike goes over the code word with Johnny if he needs the backup team. He stresses how much he needs Johnny to come through and the other agent becomes defensive, telling Warren that he has watched Briggs talk his way out of trouble enough times that he’ll be fine. Warren then tells Johnny that he isn’t Briggs and Johnny responds in kind.

Johnny’s ushered into the Solano residence by Carlito’s right-hand man, who tells him to stay there as he talks to his boss. Lucia Solano, Carlito’s sister walks into the room and tells Johnny that he can leave his gift for her brother and vacate the premises. Johnny tries to explain what is going on when Carlito’s aide tells Lucia, that he is a guest of Carlito and she walks away. Johnny sits down in a chair across from Carlito and offers his gift which he tells his host are from the Mexican Revolution. However Solano’s far too knowledgeable and tells Johnny that the guns are French made and belonged to Napoleon. That’s when the agent tells his host his concocted story, that the guns were the property of Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother who attempted to become King of Mexico and gave the guns to the country as a gift, but it failed as Joseph never became King. Whether Carlito believes the tale or is just amused by it, he lets Johnny off the hook.

Johnny then shows his host how to load the pistols and then Carlito challenges him to a duel. The agent tells him he wants no part of it, but Solano responds that he can either shoot Johnny at point-blank range or they can duel. Carlito and Johnny stand back-to-back and Solano tells him eight paces, turn and fire. Carlito cheats and turns around quickly, but Lucia walks into the room and yells at her brother to stop. She then orders everybody else out of the house, leaving Carlito, his aide, Lucia and Johnny. She then chastises her brother for attempting to shoot his friend in their home, when Carlito tells her he does not know Johnny, which upsets her even more and she swears at her brother in Spanish. The aide laughs and Carlito shoots him in the side of the neck.

Johnny rips off his shirt and tries to stem the bleeding using it as a tourniquet, he yells to the Solanos to call an ambulance. Lucia responds that if they call an ambulance it means cops, so she will have one of their van drivers take the wounded man away. Johnny replies that the man can survive but they have to get him to a hospital, even if they just dump him out front. Lucia takes over putting pressure on the wound and tells Johnny to go home. Carlito asks what his name is and then tells him he will call him. A very angry Johnny goes back into the surveillance van and tells Mike that he didn’t blow it.

Back at the house, Paige and Warren ask Jakes if he found anything on the tapes and he asks them if they would like to see the “Tinker Bells.” He then rolls tape of a bunch of different white young women, all wearing the same Tinker Bell backpack an odd choice for women of that age. Paige immediately concludes the girls are drug mules but Jakes disagrees. Mike then tells the pair to head to the Cal-Coast terminal and see if they can find some evidence.

The pair is sitting in the terminal parking lot, when Jakes tries to drink from a nip-bottle, but Paige grabs it out of his hand, she tells him that if he is going to work this surveillance he has to remain sober. Jakes then recalls a Daffy Duck cartoon, as Daffy is lost in the desert ready to collapse from thirst, when he sees an oasis in the distance. The duck runs to it as fast as he could and starts lapping up the water, only to start coughing and spitting out sand as it’s a mirage. He then tells Paige he knows she feels it to, when the conversation stops as Paige spots a young woman wearing the Tinker Bell backpack. She tells Jakes she has to talk to her and he responds that their mission is the bus she came in on not the girl. Paige disgusted told her housemate that the girl was a human being.

Paige goes into the terminal and spots the young woman, telling her she knows that she’s in trouble but that Paige will help her and then pulls her into the women’s restroom. She finds out the young woman is a refugee from the Ukraine and the people she’s working for promised her American citizenship. She then lapses into her native tongue and displays shock when Paige responds in Ukrainian. She finds out the girl swallowed drug filled balloons in Mexico and she’s supposed to travel on another bus to another town. Paige tells her to follow the instructions, and puts a cell phone into the backpack so she can trace the girl.

Paige and Jakes follow the bus that the girl came in on back to their main terminal, then drops off Jakes and goes in search of the girl. Warren arrives a short while later and finds out this is where they store the bus and likely where they unload the contraband. He asks Jakes where Paige is and he mentions the other town in search of a human being.

The final scene has Paige follow the cellphone signal to a parking lot but sees nobody around. She then calls the cellphone and hears it ringing just feet away. It is still inside the backpack, making Tinker Bell glow with each ring, but the backpack is in a trash can.

Graceland can be seen Wednesday nights on the USA Network.

 

Photo Courtesy Of USA Network

Photo Courtesy Of USA Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Second seasons scare me. Really, second anything. There’s the sophomore curse for musicians, my second pregnancy was a nightmare, and the blank screen for my second article stretches before me like a desolate wasteland, begging me to fill it with words.

But, here we are.

I am putting fingers to keyboard, my third pregnancy gave me the daily hilarity that is my son, Linkin Park’s second album is STILL their best album, and Graceland is back with full force.

First, a quick note on how much I LOVED how they tied in the season finale with the season première. It gives you a better sense of the timeline, and makes for seamless Netflix binge watching when it hits my favorite streaming service.

Let’s talk characters.

Paul Briggs. SOMEONE. BRING. ME. HIS. HEAD. He is pure evil! The way he is just so effortless in his lies speaks to both the writers and Daniel Sunjata’s performance. I don’t remember the last time a TV show made me hate a character as much as I hate Paul Briggs. Usually, I can only get that level of loathing from books because of how deeply I immerse myself (Dolores Umbrige, that evil wench in pink from Harry Potter and Peter Baelish of Game of Thrones, just to name a few). The thing about Briggs is, it’s FUN to hate him. When he meets with the head of the Caza cartel, I took great joy in spewing profanities at my much abused television.

Mike Warren. Oh, Mike Warren. We got him to loosen up a bit last season, but he seems to have shoved that stick firmly back up his hindquarters. He is all business. You can see his insecurities peek through from time to time with how he asks Briggs for advice, but he covers it with a hard edge – i.e. calling the team “burnouts” to Johnny and Briggs. The writers have kept him sympathetic with the scene on the beach with Paige, and the wash of pale white terror that comes over him when Briggs tells him of the hit the cartel has put out.

Which brings me to Paige. I’ve said it before – Paige is my girl. She’s snarky, absolutely freaking gorgeous, and a just a little vulnerable – much like myself. Okay, you can stop laughing now. Her friendship with Mike and their ensuing kiss at the end of last season had me positively drooling for more. In fangirl terminology, I am a hardcore Pike (Paige + Mike) shipper. I have a physical and emotional need for them being together. This being just the start of the season, the implied Paige/Mike hook up caught me off guard. The husband and I were left screaming at the TV at the end of episode two from the shock of it. Michael Warren, you DOG, you.

While we’re on the subject of people sleeping together, how about Charlie and Briggs? For as much as I find Charlie irritating with her hot-headedness and ability to blame herself for everything under the sun, I can see where she fits into the team. She’s necessary. Her relationship with Briggs creates a sort of “mom and dad” dynamic in the house, which I find a little funny. Think about when they fight. I can see Johnny retreating from the living room to walk past Paige muttering “Mommy and Daddy are fighting again.” It only seemed natural for Charlie and Briggs to become a couple, especially after everything they went through last season. Although, I do have that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach for when Charlie finds out about Briggs’ shady shenanigans. All holy hell is going to break loose, it will be delicious, and I cannot wait.

As of now, I can do without Jakes. Don’t get me wrong, Brandon Jay McLaren is doing a phenomenal job, I just don’t see the purpose of this storyline. If I wanted to watch baby mama drama, I would turn on Maury Povich. Yes, it explains his attitude, but frankly, I think the way they’re going with it is beneath the writers. Jakes could be such a deep and complex character, but they’re choosing to go the boring route.

As for Johnny…man. I just do not know. Something happened while we were away, and I so hope they get into it. There is something wrong, and I don’t like it. Sure, he’s cracking his jokes, but there is an underlying sadness. I have a feeling this will make a juicy storyline, but I can’t wait to have my Johnny back to his old self.

There is a new face in the house – Wayne “Bates” Zelanski (Deniz Akdeniz). My first instinct is to like him, but I’ve been burned before. When I like a character this much this soon, they either die or become some awful guy. Please, please, PLEASE keep him a good guy! And alive! Though, I’m not sure of his staying power. The writers haven’t really integrated him as much as I would like. I hope they keep him around. He’s fun.

So where do we go from here? Mike went from complete newbie to big boss man, Jakes moved out, Johnny is a sad panda, MY GRACELAND UNIVERSE HAS BEEN FLIPPED ON IT’S HEAD AND I DON’T KNOW WHICH WAY IS UP!

The bad guys are at least somewhat familiar. The infamous Caza cartel is looking like the big bad of the season, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that they’re the SERIES big bad. But, by that same token, I’d put money on the end of the series coming down to Mike versus Briggs. The big boss battle – Graceland against its former leader!

Just thinking about the relationships this season makes me emotionally exhausted. The whole Charlie/Briggs situation can only end badly. This sends Charlie into a tailspin and she’s going to make life in the house complete hell for everyone, since she is already prone to tantrums. For as much as I want Mike and Paige to ride of into the sunset and make pretty babies together, it’s too soon. It has to go sour and some point, and it’s going to happen quickly. I don’t think they’ll ultimately end up together, but my inner teenage girl is squealing for them to go the way of Josh and Donna from The West Wing and fly off on vacation together at the end of the series.

Two episodes into the second season, and I am gung-ho about it. Going through the terrible twos is never easy. Believe me, I know, my son is two. But when it comes to season two, Graceland has zero to worry about.

Graceland can be seen Wednesday nights on the USA Network

Photo Courtesy Of FX Network

Photo Courtesy Of FX Network

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

As the first episode of the new FX Network series “Tyrant” concluded, this writer felt intrigued, if not yet convinced that this show could live up to the level of two of the Network’s other series; “The Americans” and “Justified.” Although the show uses a very familiar plot device, of a man who left home as a teen to escape his fate, only to return home years later, The presentation unfolds  in a rather unique and topical manner. The home of our protagonist, is a fictional country in the Middle East.

The series begins in the Pasadena bedroom of Barry and Molly Al Fayeed, as Molly (Jennifer Finnigan),  is sound asleep while Barry (Adam Rayner) is awake and clearly agitated. He leaves their bed and he makes a call, receiving the voice-mail of a man speaking in heavily accented English. He leaves a message that he is coming home for the wedding of his nephew and he hopes to see the man while he is there.

Although Barry is a California pediatrician and has a typical American family, he is not a native of the USA. He was born and raised in a fictional Middle-Eastern Country and his real first name is Bassam. His father is the President of their country and his older brother is next in-line to succeed him. We see flashbacks of Barry’s childhood and soon realize, that the grooming of his older brother  to succeed his father began at birth, while Barry is relatively ignored. Barry left his country at the age of 16 and made a new life for himself in California.

The first flashback we see Barry and his older brother in the back of a limousine, with Jamal wearing a uniform that resembles a hybrid of a military uniform and a boy scout uniform, while young Bassam’s dressed in suit and tie. Their father yells at Jamal to button his shirt correctly, that the people will never respect him if he can’t dress properly. The President’s limousine s surrounded by his adoring constituents, smiling and waving flags.

The event is a ribbon cutting ceremony and the President tells his attendant to give the scissors to Jamal. The President starts to speak to his people, praising them for their hard work, when soldiers spot an opposition truck that crashes through the barricades and bent on destruction. The President grabs Jamal and dives off the podium, leaving Bassam to fend for himself. When the truck explodes, the force of the blast throws the boy off the podium, just in time to see his father railing at his enemies that they did not kill him.

The next scene opens later in the morning as Molly and the couple’s two teen-age children, Sammy (Noah Silver) and Emma (Anne Winter), are discussing their upcoming trip. Emma plainly does not want to go, bringing up reports of people rioting in the streets and burning pictures of her grandfather. She asks what will happen if an attack occurs and Sammy replies that their escorts will protect them. He’s excited about going and tells his sister that their grandfather’s considered a king in his country and that they qualify as royalty. Emma responds that their father does not want to go on this trip and either does she.

Barry walks downstairs just in time to hear the tail-end of the conversation and passes Emma as he heads into the kitchen. Molly tells her husband that he’s to blame for his daughter’s attitude, that if he would be more positive about going home to see his family, their daughter would as well. Barry tells his wife that they are not his family, she and their kids are his only family, a line Molly has heard far too often, judging by her facial expression.

We get our first glimpse of Barry’s homeland and meet Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), as an adult while he is the midst of committing a heinous act. He is raping a woman in her bedroom while her husband and children are cowering in fear in their kitchen. Jamal’s cellphone rings and he does not even stop as he takes the call. After he has finished he tells his aides that the call was from his wife, telling him that Barry and his family has landed and they have to head to the airport to greet him. When he leaves, the husband finds his wife in the bathroom washing herself with a look of pained resignation on her face.

We soon realize that Jamal combines all the bad qualities, from all the real despots that have ruled Middle-Eastern countries. He is a man of huge appetites and he is in a position where he can get what ever he wants, with nobody able to stop him. As he gets into his car it becomes apparent that his constituents no longer think kindly of him, as their faces project their fear and disgust for him and his family.

As Barry and family de-plane, Jamal drives up in a red convertible blasting Aerosmith. He embraces his brother in a bear hug, then greets the family, calling Molly Miss America, and Emma his Little Mermaid. He then tells Sammy that he has a new boat, that is the fastest vehicle on water and says he will take his nephew fishing after his son’s wedding.

The family heads to the palace and Sammy’s impressed with the opulence. When they arrive, Jamal’s wife and Barry’s mother are their to welcome them. There is definitely tension between Jamal and his wife and he tells her he was on his way to the airport when she called. Barry then greets his mother who informs him that his father wants to see him and that he is a different man than he was when Barry left.

Barry is respectful but distant when he greets his father Khaled Al Fayeed  (Nasser Faris), the President tells his younger son that he wants to take a walk with him, but first he has a matter to discuss with his brother. When Barry and his mother leave the office Khaled tells his son that he is hearing rumors that a bombing by the country’s opposition forces will take place at the wedding. Jamal suggests having the men involved deported, but his father dismisses that notion due to the protests that will cause. He tells Jamal that he has to talk with the man he pays to keep the terrorists in line and to bring Barry to the meeting.

Barry and his father take their walk in the next scene and the son tells his father he looks well. Khaled responds that times are tough, that as much as he has done for his constituents, they are clamoring for freedom. Barry clearly is uncomfortable talking politics with his father and cuts the conversation short, telling Khaled that they have to check into their hotel.

When the family arrives at their hotel Sammy’s underwhelmed by the facilities. Emma says that she does not want to go to the bachelorette party that night and Sammy asks his father, if that means they are going to a bachelor party. Barry confirms that, but tells his son not to get excited that the evening will consist of a bunch of men hanging out at a sauna. After Barry and Molly head to their room, we learn that Sammy is gay and excited about the evening. Emma reminds him that they are not in America.

After spending a short time at the women’s gathering, we head to the steam-bath where Jamal is entertaining his guests with stories about embarrassing events in Barry’s childhood. A man in a suit enters the doorway of the Sauna and Jamal tells Barry to follow him, they are about to talk to the guy Jamal pays to keep the opposition quiet. As they leave a teenager smiles at Sammy.

When the brothers enter the room, the man tells Jamal that as soon as he heard that the elder Al Fayeed brother wanted to see him, he dropped what he was doing and rushed over. Jamal counters that the reason he is there is because Jamal’s soldiers brought him. He then asks the man if his nephew is planning to bomb the wedding and the man replies that he is ignorant of any such rumors. Jamal asks if the man can guarantee his nephew won’t bomb the wedding and the other man makes excuses instead of promises. Although Jamal’s naked except for a towel around his waist, he starts attacking the man, then strips off the towel and starts kicking him. He then tells his opponent that he will cut off all of his fingers, one at a time and pulls out a knife cutting one of the man’s fingers.

Barry speaks for the first time since the brothers entered the room and tells Jamal that this is not the way to handle the situation, it will only make matters worse. The older brother asks Barry, what is his alternative and the younger brother replies talking. Hearing this Jamal starts mocking his brother, asking if they should discuss things like Oprah does on her TV show. Barry responds that is not his intention at all, that he suggests that Jamal invite the man’s entire family to the wedding and seat at least one of them at every table, guaranteeing that an incident won’t take place. Jamal sees the logic of the move and tells the man that his brother has extended an invitation for the man and his family as his special guests at the wedding. The man accepts the invitation.

We head to the wedding and see that the bride is a beautiful young woman, while Jamal’s son is portly and appears over privileged and soft. He is definitely marrying above him, if he was not a member of the Al Fayeed family, she would be totally out of his league. The scene shifts to after the ceremony, as the men in Muslim Culture dance with only other men. Jamal is the center of attention, relishing the moment and appearing blissfully happy. He sees his brother in the crowd and calls for him to come over, which after some hesitation Barry does. Jamal pulls out a pistol and starts shooting it into the air as celebration, he hands Barry the gun, but after holding it momentarily he hands it back to his brother.

He has another flashback, this time as his father, brother and he arrived as fellow citizens named enemies of the state heading to prison or shot by the soldiers. As one man is heading to the vehicle for the prison, Khaled stops the soldier and calls for Jamal to get out of the car and come over to his father. When the boy arrives, the father tells him that the man is their enemy and he must pay with his life and he wants Jamal to shoot him, pressing the pistol into Jamal’s hand.

Back in the present as Jamal is still dancing, he notices his son’s new bride talking with a good-looking young man, then the camera pans to his son who is dancing with the others. The scene shifts to the bridal room, where Jamal’s new daughter-in-law is freshening up when Jamal walks in and locks the door, asking his son’s wife if she had many suitors before his son. She responds no, but he tells her his son would be heartbroken if she was not pure, then he finds out she was by violating her. He leaves the room with the bride in tears.

When Jamal returns to the wedding, Khaled’s chief advisor tells the family that he had collapsed moments before and rushed to the hospital. The family is in the waiting room when the doctor comes out and tells them that the President had suffered a stroke and asked to see Barry. As he walks to his father’s room the rest of the flashback plays out in his mind, we see that the young Jamal was so scared that he urinated on himself then went and hid in the car after dropping the pistol. As the President yells at Jamal to get out of the car, young Bassam steps out of the car, casually picks up the weapon and shoots two bullets into the prisoner’s chest, showing no emotion. His father hearing the gunshots looked at his younger son in shock.

Barry walks into the room and sees how bad shape his father is in. Although Barry tells the President not to talk, his father ignores him and tells his son that if he heads back to California, the family will fall apart. He then tells his son the words he had longed to hear his entire life, as Khaled tells his son he was wrong, that he should have been the one he trained instead of Jamal. He then tells his son that he wants to see Jamal and their mother.

Jamal exits the room a few minutes later telling his wife and brother that their father has passed. He says he needs to leave, but his wife grabs him and tells him this is his time and he must embrace it like a man. He laughs in her face about her telling him to act like a man when he can’t recall the last time she acted like a woman for him. He then slaps her face and leaves the hospital, he calls the woman he raped when we first saw him and tells her to meet him downstairs. The woman goes into a kitchen drawer and pulls out a bag filled with syringes, one of which she grabs.

Barry looses it when he finds out his father has died and tells Molly and the kids that they are leaving immediately. Molly responds that they don’t even have their passports and Barry replies they will stop by their hotel to get their stuff then they head to the airport and take the next plane to California. Molly asks for an explanation, but Barry refuses to explain his actions.

We find Jamal and the woman in his sports-car as he is driving recklessly on curvy roads while drinking liquor from a bottle. Seeing the fear on the woman’s face, he forces her head down to his crotch and forces him to orally please him. He swerves into the other lane and almost collides head on with a truck. The woman then grabs the syringe and stabs her attacker in the thigh with it. Jamal’s pain is so great, he loses control of the car and they drive over a cliff smashing on the rocks below. Jamal is alive but badly injured.

Barry and family are in their coach seats on the plane to take them back home, when the pilot gets on the speaker and says there will be a delay. He then walks down the aisle and hands his cellphone to Barry, who’s told that with Jamal fighting for his life he has to stay. He looks down on the runway and sees a squad of limousines with his father’s advisers coming out of them. He turns to Molly and says that he told her they should never have come for the wedding.

The story will pick up again next Tuesday on FX.