“And the worst part is? You’ll never be able to look at yourself the same way again. You’ll know that you killed for malice. And that changes you.” - Lena Smith, to Annie, at the end of “Let’s Dance”.
Is that kinda the sitch we’re in now that Annie has killed Henry? I mean it’s not like she went and killed him just for revenge or anything, BUT she certainly did have a choice in what she did there. It wasn’t self-defense. She didn’t have to kill him; the morally right thing to do would be to bring him back to the U.S. to try him in court (albeit, a much more difficult thing to accomplish in that situation). But she didn’t go for the moral choice on this one. This is the first time she’s killed a person for any reason other than pure self-defense or defense of another person’s life.
First off, let me say, thank GOD she killed him, and thank god he’s dead. If we had come out of this episode with him still alive somehow ... especially if it was via Annie turning him as an asset or something, I would have been groaning from here to eternity. I can think of several characters on shows I’ve watched in the recent past that the showrunners have continually wussed out on killing, and their never-ending storylines inevitably start killing the shows themselves eventually. The fact that Henry’s dead, along with Annie’s fateful choice in that moment, were by far the best things to come out of this episode. And that’s not a bad thing – The primary purpose of the ep was to get us to that point.
But did the ending feel a little too ... I dunno ... upbeat for anyone else, or was it just me? In one sense I think this is another case of Twitter and the internet in general NOT being my friend. Sometimes I feel as if the internet and I are in a very abusive relationship. There are times when its existence in relation to a TV show or movie brings nothing at all to the experience of taking in said show/movie other than to detract from it. That was most definitely the case here, as I recently read several interviews that promised “shocking” reveals of a very specific nature that never materialized here (the DCI thing??), and bombshells and twists galore, even to the “final frames of the ep” that resulted in me sitting there at the end of this episode going, “HUH?? Nothing happened!! Where was the twist?? Where was the shocking reveal?? This is it??”
And the thing is, one of my biggest issues with S4 is that it felt like the twists and bombshells took over. I don’t want the entire focus of the show to simply be on shock factor. I don’t want twists and bombshells so much as I just want a *good freaking story*. But in the case of 4.16, it was a situation where the writers/producers/actors apparently overplayed the shock factor in interviews ahead of time because they felt like that was what they needed to do to pump people up, and it had me picturing certain things in my head that never even came close to materializing. It made me wish I could have just watched this ep cold, with zero outside information clouding my brain.
Even regardless of the internet’s annoying distractions though ... the ending felt a bit too neat. It absolutely makes sense that the characters would all simply be relieved and thrilled at that point that they had finally gotten Henry. They’ve been going insane all season in pursuit of this guy and they had finally accomplished their seemingly impossible goal. I just wish we could’ve gotten more of a sense of the enormous loss involved for these characters in getting to this point. I mean Annie looked slightly broody on the boat, but beyond that it was just ... I worry that the true aftermath of this will be swept under the rug, which is something this show seems to have a great penchant for.
There’s an ep of It’s Always Sunny that aired a few weeks ago in which The Gang comes to the accidental realization that they are all alcoholics. It starts when they quarantine themselves during a flu outbreak, but they all get sick anyway. Eventually they realize that they never had the flu at all, but were actually just going through alcohol withdrawals due to the quarantine. This discussion follows their shocking discovery of their alcoholism:
Charlie: “Well what do we do with THAT information??”
Dennis: “Well what do you do with ANY information?? You just stuff it deep down inside, and ... keep an eye on it.”
Dee: “You keep it!!”
Dennis: “I mean, I’m certainly not gonna stop drinking!”
Mac: “Oh I physically can’t.”
Charlie: “Noooo not at this point. We’re in too deep.”
This scene and dialogue instantly made me think of Covert Affairs. Not the alcohol part obviously, but the information and experience-processing part. If there’s any major theme that has emerged from Covert Affairs for me over 4 seasons, it’s exactly that. You have a bad/traumatic experience, you bury it deep down and move onto the next thing. What happens when you kill a guy for the first time in defense of your sister’s life? Shove it down. What about when your friend/coworker blows up right in front of you, in a car that you were supposed to be inside of? Bury it. What happens when your boss pumps you and your boyfriend full of lead and then frames you for treason? Kill her. Then bury it. Bury it all. Ignore it. Move on. What happens when you decide to fake your death for three months and then your boyfriend cheats on you in the meantime with his ex-dead-wife? Shove it deep down. Don’t worry about it. It’s probably your fault anyway. Forget it. Get back on the Henry mission. What happens when you kill a man you’ve been in pursuit of for a year, and it’s at least partly kinda sorta motivated by anger and desire for revenge? Will this continue to follow the classic CA pattern? That has yet to be seen. I was glad to see that they fully played out the weight of that post-Henry-killing moment for Annie in the scene itself, but beyond that we’ll have to wait and see if the typical pattern continues, or if they can buck that trend.
It bums me out though because what I saw in season 3, and what finally pulled me into the show at that point, was the potential I saw for the show to be deeper than it had been, based on the storylines they were playing out. I want this show to dig deeper, and I love that they are trying to do that, but most of the time for me it feels like they're still just scratching the surface. The show starts digging on something and then it abandons that effort quickly and moves onto something else. There was even a perfect example of this in the finale. Henry says to Annie: "A strange choice, a bold choice to go dark ... you turned your back on something. What are you running from??” What ARE you running from, Annie? I don't get the feeling that we'll ever find out. I love that the writers are focusing on your character development, but I still don't get the feeling that we really KNOW you.
And to that end, I want to take a look at season 4 as a whole, now that it’s all over. I mentioned in my S4 premiere review that while I looooved the first 2/3rds of season 3, I had issues with the last 5 eps. I found those eps to be an exercise in frustration that had very mixed results. How does season 4 compare then, having directly followed those episodes? I would call season 4 a continued exercise in frustration, only with higher highs, and MUCH lower lows. Let’s take a look at the good stuff first:
- Walkerson from 4.01-4.06. When Annie & Auggie kissed in the S3 finale, I still had concerns that she hadn’t dealt with any of the Simon/Lena fallout properly (per usual). But A&A as a couple were so insanely cute together that it was hard not to love them anyway. It is incredibly hard to keep the on screen passion going once a TV couple gets together, but they managed to do it with these two maybe better than I’ve ever seen on any show before. (Didn’t even Chuck & Sarah feel a little too G-rated once they got together or was it just me?) Anyway, the good times didn’t last long.
- Joan and Annie. These two never discuss their issues either of course, but at the very least, this season I have really enjoyed watching them grow more appreciative of each other's friendship and professional relationship. It’s still unspoken but at least it’s there.
- Baby Teo was great until he started to take over the entire show around 4.08. I do wish they had avoided killing him though. Oliver was awesome too. More please. OH and Calder ... he was over the top for a while but I'm glad we can at least like him now, and that he's now a part of the team.
- Sana was actually a really good character too. She tied back in with the history of the show very well and she pushed back on Annie in a FAR more significant and emotional manner than anyone has since probably Danielle.
- Annie’s character progression, mainly in the fall season. Like I said earlier, it still feels more shallow than I'd like, but at least in the fall season, they were able to put the focus back on Annie’s story and her journey through all this craziness. I think if we’re to describe season 4 in an “elevator pitch” type manner, it’s Annie’s journey (to the dark side, heh) that was the primary purpose of the season. I think. I just wish they hadn’t muddled it up with so much extra needless clutter/garbage. But I’ll get to that next.
- I’d say about 12 out of the 16 episodes this season were really fun episodes if taken on their own. It’s when you put them all together to form the overall arc that I have issues.
What was not so good?
- I gave my theory into some of the issues of the Henry arc in last week’s review. Greg Itzin was amazing, but I felt like the Henry arc was a mixed bag.
- Episodes 4.07-10. It’s interesting because this was the strongest stretch of season 3, and it was by far the weakest stretch of season 4. It felt like the writers just wanted to get to the point of Annie being dark, and they cut a LOT of corners on storytelling in 4.07-10 in order to get us there as quickly as possible.
- Predictability. I do think this show actually still does a good job of making the smaller story beats within episodes unpredictable. But when it came to the story beats of the large ongoing arc this season, we could see nearly ALL of the “shocking twists” coming at least a few weeks in advance. We knew the second we found out about Auggie’s “dead” wife that she’d turn out to still be alive. We knew as soon as we found out that Auggie’s ex-dead wife faked her death that Annie would then do the same. We knew the second we knew about Auggie’s fake-dead wife that this would eventually turn into a love triangle. There was a cliché ready and available, and the writers grabbed right at it while I face-palmed, so, VERY hard, months in advance. Not sure the palm has been removed from the face just yet.
- Did they have to wait till ep 12 before they gave us any insight into Henry's motivations?
- Annie and Auggie’s nonsensical break-up. A couple who clearly loves each other this much, and have been through SO much together since they’ve known each other ... and all it takes is some random crazy biznatch showing up out of nowhere, saying “Hey it’s cool to go dark!” and “Having a boyfriend is lame if you’re a spy!!” for them to decide, all of a sudden, to break up? Wha?! I’m sorry but NO dude. Did we suddenly enter a “No One Has a Brain Anymore” Twilight Zone or something? What the hell happened??
- Annie’s motivation for faking her death was not at all convincing. It was not personal enough, and it was frankly very confusing. And in the end, all of maybe 10 seconds was devoted to her decision-making process, if that. There should have been at *least* a full ep or more to focus on how a person would come to a decision to give up their entire life and tell their family they are dead.
- Annie and Auggie got back together five seconds (o.k. exactly one episode) after they broke up. But by the time Auggie cheated on Annie, we’re somehow supposed to believe they were “on a break.” (that is, if you believe Chris & Piper in interviews). The Ross & Rachel sitch was a thousand times more clear than this, and that was intended for comedic purposes. If the way the audience sees something is significantly different than the story you were intending to tell, then something is wrong with the way you told it.
- Cliches of the way-too-soapy variety. Look at the bright side ... at least it didn’t turn out that Helen was a double agent?? That has been done on both Alias AND Chuck. But the nature of the love triangle on Alias was SO similar to this Helen thing that the other day on YouTube I stumbled across an entire angry speech from Sydney to Vaughn that could literally be used word for word to apply to the A&A sitch (but it won’t be, because feelings are buried on Covert Affairs). Just please, people, do something new! Please do not repeat things I’ve seen (and HATED) a thousand times on a thousand other shows. I thought you were better than that. The entire Helesa storyline did nothing but detract from both the show and its characters.
O.k. this review is already waaayy too long so I'm just going to get to my grade. First, my grade of ep 3.16:
Ep 4.16 GRADE: 85/100
Had some issues, but was a pretty solid ep. Next, my grade of the season as a whole:
Season 4 GRADE: 77/100
This was a season of highs and lows. There was some amazing stuff, and there was also stuff that still has me tearing my hair out when I think about it. For season 5, I pray to the TV gods that the Covert writers will take a deep breath and be more realistic about how many story threads they can or should tackle in one season. It somewhat felt in season 4 that literally every bright idea that popped up in the writers’ room was thrown into the mix, as if there was no filter. I hope that they focus on telling a great story more so than dropping bombshells. And lastly I hope that they let their characters properly deal with the aftermath of what happens to them before they just drop it and jump onto the next thing. I hope the characters stop burying everything, and I really hope we can be let into Annie's head. There's still a LOT to be answered about who Covert's lead character really is and just what exactly she IS running from, as Henry asked in the finale.
Tell me I'm a nutjob in the comments below.