The Week in Television

Kings

I’ve decided that I am going to view this show as a miniseries. It actually makes total sense as a miniseries, and that way I won’t feel so terrible when NBC announces that they are not picking it up for another season. Allegedly, Kings is really expensive to produce, although I don’t really see why that would be, and this paired with the show’s poor ratings is pretty much a death sentence. If anyone’s in doubt, moving the show to the summer schedule is a pretty sure sign that it’s over.

Speaking of which, how about “Judgment Day.” An interesting intertwining of stories of justice and the legal system, eh? We’re starting to see little pieces of the puzzle coming together, including the infamous absent nephew, and we got to see David faced with some hard choices, ultimately deciding to go for what was right, rather than trying to work the system, which I find rather quaint and admirable.

Given that the show is basically a retelling of the Biblical story of David, it’s interesting to see how they interpret the story and the characters. There have already been some fairly significant modifications, evidently in the interest of making better television, such as radically changing Jonathan’s character. (Far from being a supporter of David, he’s actively working against him, although I note that they kept the whiff of homosexuality.)

It’s kind of interesting to imagine a modern absolute monarchy in North America, which is clearly the setting of Kings even if they don’t admit it. The idea of warring monarchs seems very logical, given that the continent is so huge, and it seems unlikely that a single king could possibly control it all. I think of monarchies as antique-type things, so it’s very jarring to see the tools of the modern world employed by the monarch. (Yes, I know that there are monarchies and even absolute monarchies elsewhere in the world, people.) What would the vicious battles in the Bible have been like with tanks? Or nuclear weapons?

Chuck

A suspicious number of loose ends were tied up in “Chuck Versus the Colonel,” like enough loose ends to make me think that NBC made it clear that the second season would be Chuck’s last. Morgan went out in a blaze of glory, the Intersect was removed from Chuck, Ellie and Awesome are finally getting married in the next episode, Chuck’s father has been revealed and found…I suspect that this is the end.

The flashy budget, what with all the new sets and explosions, was also a pretty big tip off. I guess it’s better to wrap a show up well than to leave it hanging with all of its guts dangling out. The ratings have been falling steeply, which makes it hard to justify continuing to air it, although to be fair I think that being under the threat of the axe tends to depress ratings, because people tune out, since they know that things are coming to an end.

Which I suppose is ok, because you can only drag a show out so long before it gets tedious. And maybe, there wasn’t much more to milk in Chuck, although it would have been interesting to see where the show went. Chuck joining the CIA officially? Moving to Hawaii with Morgan? Who knows. I suspect that we never will.

Numb3rs

Ok, so Numb3rs partially redeemed itself after the fiasco of “Animal Rights” with this week’s episode, in which one of the characters takes a strong stance against the abuse of prisoners in FBI custody, going against “the way things are done” to stress that it’s important to do thing right. I personally really appreciated that, because it allowed us to develop doubts about Don, one of the main characters, and we got to see David standing up for himself, and showing how different his leadership style would be.

I think it also highlighted the moral shift which is going on in American law enforcement right now in response to the torture debacle. If Colby and David’s scene mirrors real life in any way, I find it heartening to think that people are starting to reject the way that things have always been done in the interest of treating people properly and with respect. And I think it’s important to occasionally force viewers to see their heroes in a new light.

Dollhouse

Creepiness upon creepiness! After a week’s hiatus, I would say that “Ghost” was a strong episode out of the gateĀ  to build up to the final two of the season. (Season, not series, if Fox is good to us.)

I find it very interesting that we have seen Adelle utilize and s0rt of abuse the services of the Dollhouse twice now, and I can’t help but wonder how her higher ups would feel about this. Using Victor might have been marginally ok, but loading her dead friend’s mind into Echo? That has to be against some sort of policy. However, it did allow us to explore the idea of immortality through the Dollhouse. Boyd was right to feel deeply uncomfortable with it, because it was uncomfortable.

The idea of the Actives being used temporarily to achieve various means is unsavory enough, but to think that their real personalities could be permanently erased and replaced with another person? That is scary. Really, really scary. It’s akin to the science fiction idea of raising people to use for organs. In fact, it basically is exactly the same, except that instead of being cannibalized for organs, the body is being stripped of its mind so that someone with wealth and power can have a new body. I can’t honestly say that I had thought about that potential use of the Dollhouse until it was presented to me, and when it was, it was very sobering.

I also found it interesting to see Topher sort of, uhm, using the services of the Dollhouse as well. One thing I would really like to see is how the Houses in other cities are run, to see whether Adelle has her house in order. It seems like a lot of extreme irregularities are going on here, even given the fact that the Dollhouse is already highly irregular.

Speaking of which, no Dr. Saunders? And where was Echo’s handler? I’m curious to see how that dynamic plays out.

Another facet of “Ghost” which really disturbed me was the ongoing relationship between Mellie/November and Ballard. Ballard is obviously extremely uncomfortable with this whole situation, and Mellie’s speech in which she basically said “do whatever you want with me” was very chilling, because that’s essentially what she agreed to when she became an Active. All the more uncomfortable to see her saying that, and have Ballard follow it up with very intense, somewhat violent sex. Which makes him feel so dirty that he needs to stand in the shower the next morning to try and wash it all away.

Dollhouse is continually challenging us as viewers and forcing us to confront very unpleasant situations and moral quandries. Ballard has to keep using Mellie, because if he doesn’t, he may be killed, but does that make it right? Is it abuse when he’s using someone’s body, divorced from her mind? Do the potential benefits, such as shutting down the Dollhouse, outweigh the sliminess of what’s going on?

And, as we learn, Dollhouse employees are not just complicit in what’s going on. They’re actively taking part in it. We could take the scene between Topher and Sierra as sweet and endearing, as someone who is deeply lonely and socially inept reaches out and finds a friend, but it is also extremely disturbing, because he had to program that friend. And, I note, his friend was clearly not concerned with the moral issues in the Dollhouse, referring to the Actives as “sleepies” and suggesting that they be used, literally, like toys.

Joss is taking us into a very bad and very dark place, and I am loving every minute of it.

My one complaint about this episode is one which stands for pretty much the whole series thus far: Eliza Dushku just does not have the range. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Other actors have demonstrated that they do, and it makes it all the more glaring that all of Eliza’s characters move and speak in exactly the same way. It makes it hard for me to buy into the premise, because it basically just feels like Faith (Dushku’s character on Buffy/Angel, for those of you who for some reason have not watched those shows) every freakin’ week.