18 October, 2013

The Plopper Reviews - COVERT AFFAIRS 4.11: 'Dead'


Hey we’re back!!  It’s been exactly a month.  Has everyone had time to take a deep breath?

Ahh.  Well.  In prep for ep 4.11, I’ve had to attempt a bit of a level-setting effort for myself with this show.  You may recall that my 4.10 review involved enough frustration with this season that one commenter actually dubbed me as the “Queen of Anti.”  I had 6 straight weeks of good episode reviews for season 4, but then, after 4 subsequent bad reviews in a row, it was to be expected that a few readers would be as frustrated with my negative reviews as I was with the show itself.

With many of the TV shows I love the most, I often eventually reach a point where I realize that I love the show more for what I imagine it *could be*, than for what it actually IS in its current state.  I love the characters with all my fangirl heart, but I don’t necessarily love what the writers are doing with them on my TV screen each week.  The last four eps of the summer season (4.07-10) put me into that place with Covert Affairs, which was unexpected, because I genuinely enjoyed the first 6.  In the grand scheme of things, 4 eps in a row isn’t a huge number, but they were 4 critical episodes for the trajectory of season 4 as a whole.  So  I can’t then reasonably expect 4.11 to magically erase every problem I have with how we got here.  Especially since the writers & producers probably thought those eps were just fine and dandy.  Hence, I went into "Dead" with the assumption that we’d be getting more of the same.

When we last saw Annie, Auggie and our Covert peeps, Annie had faked her death, gone “dark” and given up her entire life and identity to chase down Henry Wilcox.  I didn’t feel that the show came anywhere *close* to adequately presenting Annie’s decision-making process for doing something so drastic/extreme in the previous eps, but we’re here now, so all I can do is try to force myself to pretend that it makes sense.  And like I said in my 4.10 review, Annie going dark SHOULD be absolutely badass.  There’s no reason in the world why it should be anything other than that.  Plus, Henry Wilcox’s character has caused such a clusterf$%# of insanity for this show lately that I’m practically willing to fake my OWN death to make this asshole disappear at this point.  Annie’s motivations (and Henry’s, and Calder’s for that matter) may still be hazy to me, but my own are extremely clear.  And hell, setting Annie off all on her own could literally FORCE the writers to fiiiinnnnally give some desperately needed focus to their lead character ... right??

Well now that I’ve seen "Dead", I can say ... yes??  Kind of??  I mean ... I feel pleasantly surprised right now.  There are still things that made me scream at the TV ... but I also see several *major* improvements in this ep as opposed to the previous 4.  First off, the time was taken to actually tell a full story here.  I am laughing that I even had to type that right now, because it is such a basic and obvious thing.  But sadly, literally EVERY major story told in eps 4.07-10 was half-baked.  Not even one story was fleshed out properly.  The writers shoved so many plotlines into those episodes that they couldn’t even tell ONE of them all the way through.  They were all high level fuzzy sketches rather than properly fleshed-out stories, and the result felt chaotic and unconvincing.  But with 4.11, they seem to have suddenly returned to some semblance of sanity.  I’m starting to wonder if a tornado hit L.A. while 4.07-10 were written, and by the time 4.11 was started, it was gone.  Because this ep actually felt coherent, focused, properly paced and well-fleshed out.

And guess what?  Literally for the first time since 4.06, I felt engaged by it again.  I had moments where I actually was surprised by the story.  I said “OH SHIT!” when Annie recognized Henry’s henchman in the conference room.  I laughed (in a good way) when she tackled him in the hall.  I was surprised when Sana suddenly ran out of the bedroom right at the end there in the apartment and the power cut out.  I was actually, kind of, a little stressed wondering what might happen during the struggle in the dark.  Go figure!!  It felt extremely refreshing to be somewhat engaged again, because I was not engaged at ALL by the previous 4 eps.  Well, the very few moments of engagement I had in those eps felt extremely false and manipulative even upon first viewing (the Eyal scene, the A&A break-up scene, the A&A get back together scene, the Danielle postcard).

Can we please stick to this trend of taking the time to fully tell the stories, writers??  Focusing on a reasonable number of plotlines and fleshing them out?  Please??  It really, seriously, makes a world of difference to the viewer.

Here’s another thing I appreciated about this ep: Calder.  For once, I didn’t hate him.  Well I should say, for the first time since like, ep 4.03.  The B story with him and Auggie working to manipulate Henry was somewhat interesting and made me view him as an actual human person again.  I still think it’s complete bullshit that we’ll never find out WHAT went into his decision-making process to risk his entire career to help Annie fake her death ... But at the very least, he’s a character who could potentially be interesting again.

Now let’s get back to the question of whether writers actually managed to focus on their lead character here.  The answer is: mostly yes-ish, to a somewhat reasonable extent.  Fully fleshing out Annie’s mission to turn Henry’s ex was helpful, and they did it in a way that thankfully was much different than the “Teo Braga Saga” ep (4.08).  4.08 was essentially an episode about Teo, with Annie simply having concerned reactions in the background.  4.11, thank GOD, rather than being the “Sana Saga” (uggh that would’ve been the worst), was focused on Annie’s effort and struggle to try to turn her.  And hey, this episode SEEMS to indicate that the show is going for a theme in the back 6 eps of Annie’s struggle to figure out who she is as both a spy and a human being as she treads deeper and deeper in the the morally murky world of espionage.  Good news: THAT is a show I’m interested in watching. 

Bad news: The Covert writers have not shown a great track record in the past couple seasons of being interested in fully fleshing out these types of themes.  Their focus shifts a lot.  Like in season 3 ... after the Simon/Lena/Russia debacle, I think most viewers assumed they’d continue that theme to fully explore the impact that horrible/stressful events like this would have on a person.  That would have been super interesting to me.  But nope ... they didn’t, really at all.  Annie just moved onto the next mission.  And while she clearly had moments of being bummed out, none of those were explored very much.  It was just a flash or two here and there, with the focus mostly on Megan and Khalid.  Then season 4 (summer season) was all about A&A and Henry (and Arthur and Teo and Calder and secrets and Joan’s baby and I don’t even know).  And now in the back 6, we’re back to kind of exploring Annie’s evolution again... ?  Maybe??  I don’t even know at this point because I never really know when the writers are going to change the channel on us.

All I can say is ... IF that’s where we’re going ... I’m interested.  I just have no clue what to expect from this show anymore.  I know what *I* want the show to be, but I’m not entirely convinced that the showrunners know what they want it to be.  I also often worry that the writers confuse making Annie behave like a badass with actually making her interesting.  This episode made me hopeful that they genuinely are planning to put effort into the latter (especially with scenes like the one where "Andrew" taunted Annie throughout his entire torture process because he saw right through her “badass” exterior – that was awesome) ... but that is literally the first time I’ve had that feeling since like ep 3.12 or something crazy long ago like that.  Which is the exact reason why I am both hopeful and yet completely untrusting of the writers’ intentions.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice ... you know the saying.

Anyway here’s my other random observations before I get to the grade:

  • Omg, SUCH a dick move on Annie’s part to force poor Auggie to have to tell her SISTER SHE’S DEAD.  WTF, Annie!?  Yet another reason it frustrates me beyond belief that we spent virtually ZERO time on her decision-making process to fuck everyone over like this.  And of course, we got no Danielle on the other end of that phone call.  Yet another tease.
  • Two eps in a row now where they’ve used two of my favorite bands to trick me into thinking everything was awesome.  In 4.10 it was Radiohead PLUS EYAL to try to pull the wool over my eyes, and in 4.11, it was the Pixies “Where is my Mind” trying to hypnotize me.
  • Did Sana give birth to Jai when she was like 15??
  • Joan’s new job: Hahahahah ... I'm confused by it.  But it looks lame.
  • “My name is Jessica and I lost my brother ... THEO.”  ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME, GUYS!!??  This was the one time I screamed at the TV in rage during this ep.  Given what I mentioned earlier about the complete LACK of exploration of how Simon’s death or even JAI’S death affected Annie ... TEO is the one she uses for the grief support group!!?  The relationship that we spent by far the *least* amount of time fleshing out??  And the tears were fake anyway to manipulate Sana!!  UGGH.  NO.  INCORRECT.  I was almost ready to throw in the towel with this entire episode at that point.  I’m pissed off again just thinking about it.
  • The ease with which Annie lifted "Andrew" into the trunk of his car cracked me up.
  • “Jai was my friend.  I lost him too.”  Well you wouldn’t know it based on how little time we’ve ever spent on Annie ever being very broken up about it!!
  • Henry attempting to win back Sana is the very first explanation of his actions this season that has actually made any sense to me.
  • Seriously though ... "Andrew" taunting Annie while she tortured him ... that’s probably the key thing that made this ep for me.  It’s what really turned me back to being hopeful for this show again.  My cousin Katie though, is still not convinced.  She thinks I’m being too optimistic.  She’s probably right.

Now for the grade ...

GRADE: 80

While I actually feel that this ep was a huge improvement on 4.10 (which I gave a 75 and that was probably still too generous) ... There’s no way I can give 4.11 any higher than an 80 at this point.  I have no reason to trust anything right now about where this show is headed.  I’ve been totally burned by 4 out of the past 5 eps.  I hope, I pray to the TV gods that this ep is an indicator of better things to come, but I won’t even come close to believing that until I see it.

What did you guys think of the ep?  I’m in the unusual position right now of actually enjoying this ep more than (weekly commenter and Twitter BFF) Shelby did.  Shelby’s reaction was very “meh.”  Which is partly why I am pleasantly surprised by the ep.  What do you guys think?  “Meh” or thumbs up?  Tell me in the comments.

Queen of Anti ... err ...

The Plopper

17 comments:

  1. Hollywood writers have to be the laziest people on the planet...

    "We need him to escape and she has to need to kill him, because she wouldn't otherwise. Oh! I know! Let's have the other lady come in and disrupt the interrogation and then the wire! And water! And power goes out! And he's loose! OMG SO COOL!!!"

    And lazy.

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    1. HAHAH yeah I know, I'm so used to this type of thing that I don't even bat an eye anymore. I think about it when it's happening but I'm always just like, "whatever, this is what they do on TV" hahaha.

      And I dunno if this show will ever have the balls to let Annie kill someone in even a *semi* controversial way. They give her convenient "outs" every single time. The first one was the guy trying to shoot Danielle, which was fine, since it was the first time. Then I guess it was Lena in Russia, which played out *extremely* conveniently right after Lena gave her that lecture about how she'd never look at herself the same after killing for malice. But then conveniently, Lena went for her gun and oopsie, it was self defense. Then with Seth, again, self defense and a total accident to boot. And now this one ... whoops, it's all Sana's fault. I kinda want them to eventually let Annie just go fuckin' ballistic on someone once and do something questionable hahaha. Let's spice it up, people.

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    2. But it doesn't HAVE TO BE what they do on TV. Just write something believable and shoot that. It's not that difficult. But they seem to aim for the dumbest plot devices.

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    3. Hahah agreed. The funny thing is, I actually liked that Sana broke out of the bedroom and went ballistic because a) I didn't expect it and b) extra elements like that in such a dicey situation would *have* to cause some unexpected trouble. But of course I quickly saw that it was a plot device for the convenient way to rid themselves of the "Andrew" problem. If the situation starts out messy, it's more interesting and realistic if that messy-ness continues and compounds itself rather than quickly resolving both itself AND another huge problem with it hahhaa. "That was easy!!" :-P

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    4. He had to die. How could he live, and she stay fake-dead?

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  2. God, I've missed your reviews as much as (most definitely more than) I missed the show. And just like always I can count on you to put coherent sentences to my flailing emotions. In total agreement with freaking everything that you said. I was a little bothered last night at my lack of any real feels for this episode but then I realized that maybe that's kind of the point....Annie's been left in a rather dark and empty spot, right? Let's be honest, I would've been horribly pissed off if this had become the warm fuzzy Walkerson filled episode my heart desires, so I think this must mean that maybe...maybe....maybe (oh sweet Baby Theo Huxtable Puma Campbell Jesus) the writers got this one almost pretty close to right?

    I gotta rewatch for sure and I'm sure that once I dissect it further I'll have my typical gripes and groans but until now I'm just gonna go with the fact that I'm happy it didn't suck.

    Here are some thoughts:

    Barber's lack of beardage threw me completely off my game totally.
    Joan is working inside a "crate" now? Crate-ology? tha fuck?
    Calder is more in love with Auggie than ever before.
    Arthur is the new Neal Caffrey.
    Nobody plays angsty better than Chris Gorham.
    Danielle almost existed again.
    And all the hand to hand combat training finally paid off for Annie.
    Annessica can make best frenz in .0089 nanoseconds.

    Lulz.

    I remain cautiously optimistic for next week....where Calder and Wilcox will continue their mad death dance tango....we will see how many friends Auggie really has (duhhh like 100 million) and Helesa reappears to make us all throw up simultaneously.

    Until then....
    DUN DUN DUN.............

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    1. I sort of how that next week's twist is that all of Auggie's friend are afraid to help him. Except Barber, maybe. I love that Barber got his job.

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    2. "Baby Theo Huxtable Puma Campbell Jesus" HAHAH How did I read your comment earlier today and miss this amazing gem?? Shows how tired and distracted by meetings I was hahhaa.

      "Danielle almost existed again." HA I know it's like she's stuck in some sort of weird purgatory right now where she *sort of* exists, but not entirely. Poor Danielle.

      I meant to call out Barber in this ep. He was the beating heart of both this ep and 4.07 hahah. Barber, holding down the fort of normal people who actually care about stuff.

      Helesa's return is 100% guaranteed to suck the life out of everything ... to make doves cry and kittens die ... to make the world grey and meaningless ... and to make us all set our TVs on fire.

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    3. Bless. Barber sitting there all beardless in Auggie's office with his rebellious black ribbon. Poor guy has been angling for that job for so long. Now he can't even bring himself to put one single thing of his own in his/Auggie's office. Just him and a screen. Bless.

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  3. I'm with Shelby. Men.
    It's the new, darker Annie, yet she slips right into a desk job where she wears the same old suits.
    And they cut the scene with Auggie in his new office.

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    1. Er. Instead of "men" I meant "meh" which autocorrect just tried to change, again, but this time to "meg"

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  4. I'm pretty meh about this one too. As you can read fully in my review. This episode felt like "Covert Affairs reboot" and I hope they take it somewhere, I really do. Also, sorry, but the "we divorced over twenty years ago and I've never gotten over you" does not fly with me. Come on writers.

    I would say more, but I'm at work. Till later. :)

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    1. I'm wondering if some of MY "meh" feeling came from the complete disconnect between Annie and Auggie in this episode. The only other ep where thy didn't actually talk had Auggie talking to Eyal who reported back to here. Here Annie was totally disconnected from him in every respect and somehow it made the whole episode feel ungrounded for me. Surprised me because I'm not necessarily a shipper of the two (like them romantically attached but it's not make-or-break for me) but it appears that (to me at least) communication between the two of them somehow forms the bedrock of the show and without it I feel something very big is missing. Promo seems to indicate that next week a communication channel re-opens. I'm interested to see (if it DOES actually happen) how much that will "de-meh" things for me.

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  5. The one thing I am wondering is how long can Annie stay fake dead. Just because I think either they will do the smart thing and let it last longer then an episode or they are going to screw it up and she will re surfs and they will fix the Henry problem.

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    1. The TV rule of 3-episodes-before-everything-has-to-go-back-to-normal likely applies here.

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    2. You maybe right but only time will tell.

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  6. "But sadly, literally EVERY major story told in eps 4.07-10 was half-baked. Not even one story was fleshed out properly."

    Actually this statement I made is not entirely true. I was forgetting that the Teo Braga Saga (with Teo's cute ALC buddy) in 4.08 was fairly fleshed out. But the problem in that ep was that it was at the detriment of all the storylines going on with our *main* characters. i.e. the people we actually care about. And what little progression was made in the overall S4 story arc as a result didn't seem at all worth spending an entire episode on.

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