Ladies & gentlemen, months ago I announced that we would no longer be doing TV episode reviews on this blog. And then Sony hired Dan Harmon back and I had to keep my word (that I would review any episode of a Dan Harmon run COMMUNITY). So TV reviews are back! And we kick it off with a guest review from The Plopper (aka maryploppins). Enjoy. Comment below if you want her to write more. If you don't, then don't comment below. I'll know by the total lack of comments that you hated it. --HGF
I figure it’s only fitting for me to write a guest review of the Covert Affairs season 4 premiere at GeekFurious, since it was HGF’s review of ep 302 last year that made me finally pay attention to this show. I fell completely in love with the first 11 eps of S3 … and then liked, but had issues with, the last 5 (312-16), which was most of the fall season. The writers squeezed a new major story arc (Khalid/Megan/Mossad) into those last 5 eps, which, IMO, made them very plot dense (a plot which I wasn’t entirely in love with), and light on character focus, at a time when I thought we needed that more than ever. One of the many things that made the first 11 eps of S3 so great, other than the very engaging long arc with Simon and Lena, was that the pacing allowed for enough character moments and interactions along the way to really draw you in, and to allow you the viewer to better understand the characters and their motivations. 312-16, however, felt a bit jumbled (main story arc included), and these character moments were few and far between. So I’ve been a bit nervous to find out whether season 4 will more closely resemble those first 11 of season 3 that I loved, or the mixed bag of the last 5.
So what’s the preliminary verdict, based on ep 401, “Vamos”? I give it a thumbs up, for the most part, but I would say that in certain ways it felt quite similar to the S3 finale. I thought the finale was the best of the last third of S3, but it still had that dense and slightly cluttered feel of many plot points being tied up (and/or kicked off to set up S4) all at once. Likewise with “Vamos,” it felt a bit like the writers were in a contest to squeeze in as many S4 set-up plot points and bombshells as possible. We got three major new character introductions, several huge bombshells/plot twists (including a long lost son, a flash forward to Annie and Calder shooting at each other, a surprise pregnancy, and an extramarital affair), a trip to Colombia with a full (rogue) mission for Annie/Auggie, hints at even more bombshells to come, and the intro of A&A as a couple. That is a LOT to take in, in just one hour of television. Many of these seem like promising storylines, but of course only future episodes will tell. What I can say is that they certainly kept me quite entertained throughout this ep, at least. The fact that a full hour went by in the blink of an eye to me says a lot for how immersed I was in it. Hill Harper and Manolo Cardona both did excellent jobs of introducing us to the characters of Calder Michaels and Teo Braga, and I’m excited to see what they’ll bring to the rest of the season.
Now let’s talk about Annie & Auggie for a sec, shall we? First off, I gotta say, one of the things I really like about Covert Affairs is that it has managed to spend 3 seasons keeping us engaged in the A&A friendship without putting so much focus on it that the entire series revolves around it. Many shows wind up becoming almost solely focused around the main ‘ship, even when they never necessarily planned to do that at the outset of the series. I love that CA has spent 3 seasons allowing both of these characters to have their own romantic lives completely separate from one another, while still building their friendship into something that you eventually want to see moved to the next level.
And overall, I like how they handled this new romantic relationship in “Vamos.” I reeaally hope they don’t shy away from the sexy sex scenes now that A&A are together, which seems to be a pattern with many other shows (I’m looking at you, Chuck and Castle). And thankfully we got some of those sexy times in the opening sequence. But somewhat surprisingly, the scene I enjoyed much more than the opener was A&A in the hotel room while Annie stitches up Auggie’s shoulder. Why? Because not only was it pretty physical and sexy, but A&A actually talked as well!! One of my huge frustrations of the last 5 of S3 was that A&A did not converse about anything significant in those eps, like, nearly at ALL. And this was at a time when they had a LOT to talk about. Without scenes like this, it's extremely difficult to have a clue what is going through these character’s heads. So in a sense, this hotel room scene felt like something long overdue from the last third of season 3.
The hotel room scene gave us intriguing thoughts from these characters such as Auggie feeling emasculated because of Annie's need to “protect” him on their mission (similar to 302 “Sound and Vision”). We also got an observation from Auggie about what Annie’s true motivations are in wanting to continue chasing down leads/clues in Colombia – that she gets personal satisfaction in attempting to outwit Henry Wilcox. Myles McNutt makes a fantastic point about this exchange in his AV Club review, which gave me a bit of an “ah ha!” moment in piecing together my own frustrations with the last third of season 3. He says: “The show has gotten better, and Piper Perabo has done some solid work in the role, but who is Annie other than a vessel of the series’ narrative?” It’s not that the show hasn’t explored this - it has - it’s just that I’ve seen very little of it since Annie returned from Russia. I spent much of those last five S3 eps wondering WHAT the hell was going through her head, as I felt like the audience was almost entirely shut out. I really, really hope Auggie’s observation about Annie in the hotel scene is an indication that we’ll get more character focus like this in S4. I’m the type of person who needs to get into the characters' heads a bit, to understand and relate to them, in order for the show to fully suck me in (it’s the primary reason I’ve had trouble completely immersing myself in The Americans, even though it’s a very good show).
A few last points:
- Each season of CA uses episode titles based on song titles from one particular band. For S4, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that the writers are using a Pixies theme. But if there’s not an ep somewhere in S4 called “Wave of Mutilation,” I’m gonna be kinda bummed. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up.
- Is Arthur’s story about his extramarital affair real or is it just a cover for something else he’s is hiding behind closed doors?
- Kari Matchett just had a baby (congrats to her!) and was pregnant when filming the first few eps of S4, so her pregnancy was written into the show. Not shockingly, that story felt fairly tacked on in this ep, and I wonder if it’ll eventually be developed into something that gels better with the rest of the storylines.
- I know the flash-forward at the beginning of the ep is an overused storytelling device at this point, but I was intrigued by it. Stylistically it felt a little funky at the point where the elevator opens and the shooting begins, but I can’t tell if that’s just because I was watching it in shitty low def on this hotel TV with horrible picture and sound quality (I'm on vacay at the moment). In any event, I am very interested to see how we get back to this scene in real time.
- There is one other exchange in the Colombia hotel room scene between A&A that intrigued me as well: Annie apologizes for her “janky” stitch-up job on Auggie’s shoulder, mentions that it’ll cause a scar, and Auggie says, “Well, scars are sexy.” Annie responds with, “Depends on how you get them.” What does she mean by this? Is there an obvious meaning or reference here that I’m missing or forgetting? I do find it kind of an ironic statement considering the mystical powers she seems to have that allow her to have zero visible scars from taking two slugs to the chest last season & having surgery to open her chest as a result. She’s like Claire from Heroes or some shit.
- I think I may already be in love with Teo Braga. That was quick.
- Did you notice the theme song was gone from this episode? I saw a tweet from Chris Gorham that seems to indicate that this may be permanent. If so, I'm fine with it. The peppy tone of the title sequence fits much better with the lighter seasons 1 & 2, than it does the significantly darker seasons 3 and 4.
Overall, I would give “Vamos” a grade of:
I toyed with giving it a B, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt for now that what we saw in this ep will pay off further as the season continues. Fingers crossed.