Monday, January 7, 2008

2007 Recap: Travis Yanan's Favorite Episodes (40-31)

40. Bones, "The Widow's Son in the Windshield" (originally aired September 25, 2007). This episode, the third-season premiere, was a turning point between me and Bones. I'd always enjoyed the show, its romantic tension, the comedy elements... but it was so damned and strictly procedural (outside of brief interludes into Brennan's family). There was a hint at a serial killer case in the second season when Brennan and Hodgins are buried alive. But now, good lord, there's a full blown cannibal serial killer linked to wild conspiracy theories. This episode transformed Bones from a "record and watch it over the weekend" show to "you damn well better watch on the night it airs". Bravo, show. Bravo.

39. Heroes, "Cautionary Tales" (originally aired November 19, 2007). So, Heroes can still build to something satisfying (and then take the rug out form under you). This episode loses points for reviving HRG and, in doing so, eliminating "death" as a consequence in the Heroes-verse. It loses points for taking so much time to show Hiro seeing the man who killed his father because the audience was 17 steps ahead of him. It loses points for being heavy-handed with its fatherhood theme. But you know what? Ultimately none of that matters because the episode worked on a level the show didn't work the entire second season. I still don't trust this show the way I trust Lost to lay story pipe and pay it off, but I'm not entirely convinced Heroes can't be fixed from its slump. In a way, this episode tries to repeat "Company Man" from season one by being about saving Claire Bennet. Like that (superior) episode, this one incorporates a storyline we've been following separately into how events play out (again, Parkman's). "Company Man" was more focused, though, which is when Heroes is/was at its best. This go-around, we get the Hiro plotline that was thematically parallel but otherwise unconnected.

38. Brothers & Sisters, "An American Family" (originally aired October 7, 2007). Despite opening with an overly-manipulative funeral, the show did not kill off Dave Annable's Justin off-screen in Iraq. And thank God. I think this is the only show on television that I completely let my guard down for and allow it to pull my emotional heartstrings in every which way. Sure, the show can get extremely sappy... but whatever. You get moments like Sarah telling Rebecca (who has just admitted her part in Sarah's husband kissing her) that her confession is the height of selfishness (but thanks for playing!) You get attempts at politics (The West Wing, it isn't, but at least it tries to pretend that it's not the gayest, most liberal show on television). And you get pain. That may be the only time I use bold in this entire list. There is just so much pain to be felt, to be dealt, and to be discussed in the plotline of an injured son returning from war. And damn if this show doesn't bring it (as we'll see, in spades).

37. Desperate Housewives, "If There's Anything I Can't Stand" (originally aired October 21, 2007). Took them long enough! This was the episode that really proved to me that Desperate Housewives was going to be all right. I lot of people thought so right away from the fourth-season premiere, but I was wary after the third-season started so magnificently then trickled down to near Applewhite levels of bad. In any case, the gay neighbors (Bob and Lee) moved in and Susan stuck her foot right where it usually is... in her mouth. Hilarity ensues. Over and over again. Kevin Rahm plays an excellent bitchy queen (the scene where he tells Susan off about the basket of baked goods that she poses as homemade but then doesn't know what's in them and he has a food allergy is just pitch perfect... or should that read bitch perfect). Not to mention the brief return of the magnificent Shirley Knight as Bree's ex-mother-in-law, Phyllis. And not to mention the continuation of twisting whatever (still unexplained) dark, evil past is behind Katherine and Dylan. This episode also featured Felicity Huffman in wigs and costumes trying to make the Scavos' sex life more existent, as well as the best use of a cater waiter as plot device this side of Scotty on Brothers & Sisters. Crab cake, anyone?

36. 24, "Day 6: 10:00 PM - 11:00 PM" (originally aired , 2007). I'm not going to try and justify this one in light of my "the only things Day 6 did well were suck and eventually end" attitude. I just remember watching Jack's take down of Abu Fayed and the entire contingent of his stock-villain-terrorists alone and cheering (and echoing Mike Doyle's "Damn, Jack" sentiment). Who cares that Jack's been running on fumes non-stop for 17 hours... before which he was on a boat in Chinese custody which means he's been recently starved, tortured, etc. Who the bloody hell cares. Also Audrey is alive, which was not as shocking a moment as it could have been (given the "she went to China to find you and disappeared" bit). But... damn, Jack.

35. Family Guy, "Blue Harvest" (originally aired September 23, 2007). Family Guy is often cited for its hilarious cutaways and pop culture references (not necessarily current pop culture. What it's never praised for is narrative structure. The Simpsons and South Park and Futurama beat the crap out of Family Guy in that department in almost every episode. So when Family Guy got the a-okay to do a Star Wars parody using the original (Episode IV!) plot... the result was hilarious and structured. I can't wait for Episode V's parody. Surprisingly, even Family Guy's cutaway jokes didn't provide the most laugh-0ut-loud Star Wars parody moment of 2007. That honor is strictly reserved for Robot Chicken's Admiral Ackbar Cereal sketch ("Your tongues can't repel flavor of that magnitude!")

34. Veronica Mars, "The Bitch is Back" (originally aired May 22, 2007). What can really be said about this series, this season, this episode that hasn't been said already? It was too soon for the show to go the way of the Dodo. The third season was uneven at best, especially the last four episodes of stand-alone mysteries as a whole (it's always been my argument that Veronica Mars would've been a much bigger hit if she were solving murders of the week instead of "there's a missing monkey, oh no" mysteries). But the series finale didn't back off the noir themes that were a staple of the show... in fact it brought many of them back into the light (can you do that with noir themes?) after losing them for some of the third season (what can I say, college was just a brighter, shinier, happier place... so clearly didn't belong in Veronica-land). Keith sacrificing himself to save Veronica (not his mortal life for hers, but the principle's the same)... that father-daughter relationship is ultimately what the show was about, and you'll be hard-pressed to find another like it on TV. The final shot of Veronica walking out of the election polling place, in the rain, away from camera, as the outcome in her father's bid for sheriff is more uncertain than ever... end series. Stay cool, soda pop.

33. Grey's Anatomy, "Drowning on Dry Land" (originally aired February 15, 2007). I've separated the now-infamous three-part Ferry Crash plot arc for purposes of this list. Which is sort of holding it to a different standard than other multi-parters (I kept South Park's "Imaginationland" to a single ranking, as I did with the Family Guy two-parter, and will do with another Grey's Anatomy two-parter that aired in 2007). I did this because I think this episode is, perhaps, the last great episode of Grey's Anatomy (note: as of posting, I have not seen the hyped-up "Bailey narrates" episode that airs on Janaury 10, 2008). While I didn't really mind "Some Kind of Miracle" (the three-parter's finale) the way a lot of fans did, I recognize that it didn't fit in the universe of Grey's Anatomy. The fact that, during "Drowning on Dry Land", we all knew that the show wouldn't kill off Meredith didn't take away the drama for me. But what came after was, well... misguided to put it nicely. Anyway, let's talk briefly about it episode and about how much of a freaking rock star Izzie is. Because she is. And you have no choice but to beam along with Izzie when she comes back to Seattle Grace with her confidence reinvigorated after drilling holes into a man's skull with a power tool instead of a surgical instrument. That she gets to tell Cristina about her rock star status was all the sweeter (because Cristina is supposed to be the rock star, d'uh). Heigl is awesome. We here at Travis Yanan Industries think she's great and despite a tepid-at-best script are almost tempted to watch 27 Dresses because of her. For me, this season was about identity. Shonda went on record saying that this season was about showing the women of Grey's that they couldn't have it all. I don't buy it. Just as last season was all about the heart, weak, broken, etc (and brought to light through anvil-y metaphor in Denny), this season was about identity as seen through Jane Doe/Ava/Rebecca (which we're introduced to here). It speaks on so many levels about these characters. Addison loses herself so much through the season that she goes all spin-off-y (*gag*). Izzie has no idea who she is, then reclaims it (and, um, proceeds to lose it again...) Cristina is losing herself to this bride-to-be person, while Izzie is drilling holes in a man's head she's stuck on stitch detail. Even Meredith has her journey of identity thanks to her mother's death... and what it means for her to live without that weight hanging on her. And all of that, that entire season-worth of plot is so delicately summed up in this episode's plots. George's desperate search in the hospital in this episode. He promises a patient going into surgery that her son is alive and okay, but has no idea, then he finds a dead boy in the morgue, but it turns out the kid Callie is operating on is the mother's child. Alex's determination to discover the idenity of Jane Doe. It just all worked for me in this episode. It clicked. And it was the beginning of the end.

32. House, "Games" (originally aired November 27, 2007). I'm still waiting to find out exactly what it means for Chase and Cameron, and to some extent Foreman, that House has a new team. Those three characters (and their actors) were heavily sidelined this season in the wake of their various resignations and firings at the end of the third. I was uneasy about the development, but House's reality TV-esque method of picking his new team turned out to be incredibly engaging. The "mystery illnesses of the week" almost (almost) took a backseat to this serialized plot, and I'll be damned if (but for one episode) I could care less about what the illnesses were or about the patients. This plotline was about the candidates and I will severely, severely miss Cutthroat Bitch, who was the final candidate eliminated in this episode. We even get a bittersweet moment after her firing, in which she reveals the chewy emotional center beneath her hard, candy-coated exterior. Brava, Anne Dudek. I hope you come back in some capacity. And, of course, cheers to the writers for naming the episode "Games" and showing us the brilliant way House played Cuddy to get exactly what he wanted. I'd love to see Dr. House versus Jack Bristow in a game theory match. And, for the record, I don't understand the hiring of either Kutner (besides the fact that he's played by Kal Penn) or Ministud, but I do understand House's rationale for why Cutthroat Bitch couldn't be on his team.

31. Friday Night Lights, "The Confession" (originally aired December 7, 2007). A surprisingly satisfying end to a murder plotline that could've, and did, have fans of the show screaming "jump the shark". Even if it was a round hole of a plotline to try and shove square peg Landry into, the way the character went about his confession, ultimately, is what this show really is. Decent. Honest. Real. Oh, and Julie and Tami made up which was like "finally!" and Tim moved out of the meth lab house and all of this other stuff that was like waking from a bad dream happened.

1 comment:

Piper said...

So far so good with the list. Glad to see some respect for Veronica Mars and FNL. I am too scared to post over at pifeedback (what the hell is wrong with pisher?) but I read over there often, and the animosity makes it seem like no one there even likes anything on tv (although you and a handful of others are the exception).

Seems like FNL is getting back on track (tho I laughed out loud at the hunting scene between Riggins and meth-roommate), but I still miss Veronica. Just too soon for her time I guess.