Oh this goddamn show. I just don't even ... I was SO into this ep for the first 40 minutes. Like fully, 100% on board and having fun. Well alright fine 100% is an exaggeration. I was annoyed about Caitlyn being the obvious culprit, but let's say I was still 90% on board. And then it got ... AGGH. I need to collect my thoughts for a hot minute so that this doesn't turn into one long rant.
It's the weirdest thing, because I was SO ready to declare this last chunk of season 5 eps (5.07-10) as a major improvement over 4.07-10 ... and I do think it has been, overall. But it's almost like this show did the complete inverse this season of what they did in S4. Last season, ep 4.07 was arguably a TV abomination of the highest order, and 4.08, 9 and 10 were largely incoherent mediocre episodes that didn't even really focus on their lead character. But then in the very last scene, when Annie was jolted back "alive" again in that van with Eyal and then she walked off into the "dark" (cheesy pun not intended but there you go), it suddenly got intriguing again. Like, practically everything leading up to that point was an illogical garbled mess, but at least they stuck *a* landing that really hooked you in for the back 6.
5.07-10, on the other hand, has taken the exact opposite path - For my money (or lack thereof) 5.07 was one of the best episodes of this series, and then 5.08, 9, and the first 40 mins of ep 10 were, if somewhat predictable, at least they were coherent and engaging and very focused on their lead character. Annie's mission became personal with McQuaid being framed, which kept us much more engaged in it. The writers also pulled all the rest of the main characters into the fold, after having spent too many early episodes this season with them doing random annoying and seemingly unrelated things. It was all coming together quite well. But then in the last 20 minutes of "Sensitive Euro Man", it felt like it suddenly started to fall apart at the seams. Which in a sense is almost MORE annoying than what happened in S4, because this time I felt like I was completely built up to a point of high expectations, just to be let down.
What the hell happened?? Let me start with Caitlyn, who we actually knew within the first 20 mins of this ep was indeed the culprit. Yep, just like I predicted last week, and just like ALL of us predicted since the moment she stepped foot onto our TV screens. Look, if we're comparing this with season 4, let's first remember that season 4 was just as predictable. We knew Helesa was gonna be alive the second we heard about her existence, and we knew Annie was gonna go dark the second we found out about Helesa going dark. I'm trying to sit here and remind myself how much more obnoxious the Helesa stuff was than any of this, but I'm still annoyed. Because honestly, did Caitlyn ACTUALLY scream "You'll never stop us!!!" right before she got shot!? Really?? Seriously. Really? Remember last week when I positioned her as a Scooby Doo villain? Never in my wildest TV nightmares did I expect that to be even close to as true as it was in this moment. Come ON, guys!! What ... just what??
Sigh. If Caitlyn had been the only problem with the way this all turned out, I could still forgive it. Because ultimately what I always put as a higher priority is the character stories, and if those are humming along, I can forgive other plot issues more easily. But frustratingly, even the character stories suddenly went a very odd direction tonight by the ep's end. Let's look at everyone's arcs in this ep as they relate to Annie's actions, since that was kind of the main focus in this ep, character-wise. There was a moment in McQuaid's safe house: post-sex (may the PUMAS IN HEAVEN REJOICE Sister Annie finally got laid and McWalker happened, this ep does win points for that), right before Caitlyn's baddies were about to break in, and A&M were preparing to fight them off. Oh and after Auggie had totally defended Annie to Hayley, when we all knew Hayley was 100% spot ON with her Annie assessment. At that moment, I felt like Annie was in the absolute perfect(ly appropriate) state of being in terms of where she should be in her character arc right now. She was the embodiment of the Great Honey Badger. Like, "I know what I gotta be doing right now - Fuck the world, fuck the law, fuck ALL y'alls, cause I'm gettin' my shit handled." Ever since she went dark last season, they've been evolving her down a path of breaking just a little bit bad, and that scene felt like the perfect culmination of that.
I watched that scene thinking, YES. THIS is where we should be right now. Some viewers are gonna be pissed as hell at Annie for letting Auggie down, but that's what makes it all the more interesting. Hayley was absolutely on point with her observation that Auggie kinda doesn't know Annie like he used to. And this all resulted in Auggie bitching Annie out and telling her he was finally done putting himself on the line for her. Again, the right progression for this story. Good stuff. So then what did the writers do with all this? Oh, they reversed ALL of it by the end of the episode. I didn't have any problem at all with Hayley helping Annie out when Annie gave her the terrorist plot intel, because she couldn't risk the possibility of letting a potential bombing happen. It's that last scene with Auggie and Hayley that was the issue - Hayley tells Auggie "Oh I'm so sorry Auggie you were right all along about Annie!!" And Auggie, "Oh I know Hayley thanks, Annie is so perfect!!" WTF!? They just effectively erased everything they just had just built up!! Why in god's name would you do that, especially going into the back 6 when we're supposed to want to see how this all plays out? What a weird, confusing move here. Like they want to challenge their characters, but in the end, they don't have the balls to really go through with it. Kid gloves.
And then we have the final scene of the episode ... which, I just feel like it's never a good idea to devote the final frame of a season finale, even a mid-season finale, to a brand new character that no one gives a shit about yet. You didn't build the character up that impressively in this ep, and then you left the entire thing hanging on him, and you're expecting that to totally pump us up for the back 6? At the very least, they could have ended it on Annie's angry "I will get my revenge" face a la Katniss in the hovercraft in ... o.k. I won't spoil that for any last schmucks ... err ... stragglers who haven't seen it. Just watch Catching Fire if you want to know how to end a goddamn episode.
And this brings me to one last rant about the odd choices made in the last 20 minutes of this ep - the whole thing with McQuaid getting shot. It's not that I don't understand why they did it; obviously they want to give Annie a reason to be extra pissed off and revenge-motivated in the back 6. I get it. But they devoted such a short amount of time to the fact that his life was in danger at all that we're left not even knowing what the hell kind of injury he had. Like, at least TELL us how badly hurt the guy was! I'm left being not even the least bit worried about him because it was barely even a plot point at all. And plus, hasn't this shit been done before?? Umm yep, it has, actually, to a T, in the season 1 finale with Ben. It's stale and was so glossed over (just like w/Ben) that it felt like nothing more than a cheap ploy to hook us into the back 6.
I'm bummed out right now because the absolute last thing I planned for this review was to spend the entire thing ranting about the last 20 mins of the episode. My plan was to talk about season 5 as a whole so far. Because up until now, I had really thoroughly been enjoying it. Like, shockingly so. Significantly more than summer season 4. In season 4, the writers seemed to completely forget that they needed to give their lead character both focus and depth. I saw zero sign of any focus at all in that direction until Annie went dark, and then season 5 not only continued that path, but stepped it up substantially by giving her personal struggles she's never had to deal with before. It yielded impressive results at several points this season. There have been other major improvements too, like Annie & Auggie finally starting to argue their shit out rather than walking around in a maybe-Prozac-induced daze in the latter half of season 4. The show has also seemed to get its feet back on the ground in terms of a reasonable level of coherence and logic in their storytelling ... most of the time.
This is all stuff that has made me very, very happy this season, and I expected it all to come together in this episode in a more substantial way than it did. Case in point: A&A started to suddenly feel like they're not necessarily making any progress at all in dealing with their issues, but instead are simply on a continuous loop of Annie going rogue, Auggie getting pissed, and then Auggie forgiving Annie, and then rinsing and repeating. I hope this progresses in the back 6, but for the first time this season, I'm starting to wonder if the loop will just continue on repeat into eternity.
And then we have Annie's S5 story arc, which, as it pertains to McQuaid, yes, thankfully, it culminated. It culminated exactly how I was hoping there and I don't want to gloss over the fact that I am ecstatic about that. But what the frak of the goddamn heart condition?? What the hell was the point of all that? Are we just done with that now? Was it simply an excuse to get her canned from the CIA and working with McQuaid, and to build her relationship with him? And now we just change the channel to catching this new bad guy in the back 6 and Annie's heart just keeps chugging along? I just, I don't even know anymore. But what these guys do with this storyline will have a monumental impact on how I view this season as a whole, because this will either end up being legitimate character development (my hope), or just another cheap plot device (extremely disappointing).
And a related note on this: For those of you who missed it, Piper clarified in an interview last Thursday that Annie’s heart condition IS indeed caused by scar tissue from her GSWs in season 3. The interview confirms exactly what I had feared: The writers actually thought that one quick confusing vague mumbly comment by Eyal in ep 5.04 was a sufficient level of explanation and focus on this crucial S5 plot point. Which is utterly baffling to me, because shouldn’t the fact that this heart condition was caused by Annie’s job be a huge part of this story? Isn’t that story a HELL of a lot more compelling than the alternative scenario where she got the myocarditis from a dirty hot tub in Orlando a la Bennett on OITNB? There is SO much material they could mine from this, especially since so many major related threads were left hanging in fall of S3, post-Russia. But … nope. I don’t get it. So much potential, just left dangling out there, untapped. Why, Covert writers, why?? Do you not want to tell a meaningful story from this? The story of the threat it puts on Annie’s career and her all-consuming compulsion to be in the field was outstanding in the first 8 eps, which is why I hadn't harped much on the other bit. But this summer finale leaves me wondering if this thing was never meant to be a meaningful story to begin with.
This review is already crazy long so lemme just throw out my last few points and then summarize:
- Barber & Annie's relationship just gets cuter and cuter this season.
- Sydney ... of course, has finally tied into the Chicago bombing storyline. It's about damn time.
- Is it just me or have the fight scenes all been very weirdly choreographed and filmed this season?? What is going on here ... Annie barely touches people and they get knocked out, and I come out of most of the scenes wondering what the hell just happened.
- Do you think McQuaid's dearly departed wife is a zombie too?
- Why the hell was Annie dumb enough to bring her cell phone into the National Arboretum to meet McQuaid?
- Holy shit!! Tamara Becher, the writer of this ep, who is kinda sorta the Ali Adler of Covert Affairs (not entirely but sorta) put none other than the oft-mentioned-in-these-reviews Shelby's name in this ep as an easter egg!! Should I add an extra point to the grade just for that?
I have no clue right now what everyone else thinks of this one; I haven't even looked at Twitter. I'm going to just try to remember the McWalker hookup and then pretend the show ended at like minute 42 or whatever it was. Try to selectively erase my memory in the comments.
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