IR TV Review: DIRTY JOHN – THE BETTY BRODERICK STORY – EPISODE 6 (“The Twelfth Of Never”) [USA]

The rabbit hole that “Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story” continues to go down is a slippery slope. With Episode 6: “The Twelfth Of Never” one would think that Betty (as played by Amanda Peet) has reached her lowest point but the episode shows her resolve and redemptive ways to a point. But unlike her ex-husband, she tries to play fair whereas he doesn’t. Why a husband would treat the mother of his children so recklessly even if he remarried is beyond reprehensible. Again this is a dramatization though so parts of the story might not have the full fact represented at certain points. However what is undeniable is the sacrifice that Betty endured to get Dan (played by Christian Slater) where he is but he does not see it that way. There are some bright points that indicate Betty’s potential but also many wrong decisions or perceptions. There are two possibilities for light at the end of the tunnel but the situations don’t quite play out as one hopes or Betty hopes they would. It is about wordplay and coming to bear. The system is stacked against Betty at her best points to gain ground, mostly shrouded in the smugness of the boys’ club and legal jargon. Slater plays the character with an inherent smugness of course but his character ends up being very two dimensional which likely is by design. Giving away too much more would reveal how the descent happens. Either way the path will always end darkly. The issue is that seeing the destruction of such a positive soul, whatever her perceived shortcomings may be, is a tale in unnecessary tragedy.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: AMERICAN DAD – EPISODE 10 (“American Data?”) [TBS-S17]

The compounding of identity filters into this week’s episode of “American Dad”. Episode 10 entitled “American Data” has Stan’s son Steve and some of his friends wanting to get calf implants because they think this will make them look cool at school. The story of the episode devolves into Roger as an arcane professor conducting experiments on the notion of prisoner and guard psychology through a test lab at Steve’s school. When his initial tests go awry, he brings in real convicts to up the stakes. It just turns out Steve is a follower at heart. He makes the inmates food and sings songs. Yet he could be in “Goodfellas”…he adjusts his behavior to what his captors want to see. When he finally gets out, his friends finally see his true colors. Meanwhile Stan is going into catatonia over the loss of a colleague per se that he reflects in the tone of a leaf blower. As with some episodes, the more esoteric imagery tends to have a bigger metaphor masked in its grotesque outlay. Roger in his own alien way keeps talking about binders like it is the end of the world though both he and Steve have their own safe rooms that exist inside their heads. The question ultimately is what does Steve want versus Roger? Acceptance. Love. Life? Steve is the true trooper here and yet his final resolution places him in the same space he was before. And if he has learned anything, he has learned nothing.

C

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PENNY DREADFUL – CITY OF ANGELS – EPISODE 10 (“Day Of The Dead”) [Showtime]

Finding the right conclusion that plays with the texture to uphold stakes is difficult in any series. Questions always arise. The manipulation from within becomes the true aspect of drama. With the season finale of “Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels” entitled “Day Of The Dead” the paths divergent become a messy train of broken souls but also resolve. Tiago Vega thinks he sees a path both correct and then apart. But then it comes undone. He thinks he knows the path of right and then he realizes that it doesn’t serve the greater good. Sister Molly thinks she knows what happiness could be but it becomes a shadow of reality. The key with this season has always been sketching the melting pot of life within this time in Los Angeles. It could define what it would become, both with its differences and similarities. The question the series brings up becomes who are the people that lose and what is the inherent collateral damage when all is said and done.

Unlike some of the episodes which make the words do alot of the walking, the season finale especially in its latter half lets the silences and the imagery speak. The diametric images especially in the last 10 minutes push the stories in ways that one would not expect. Granted one specific point does not make sense as it might be more metaphorical than literal. The stakes are still present but manufactured or perhaps regrouped in a different way. The joy that was prevalent in the previous episode lurks below the surface but with an element of pain which is what makes the best drama. Again the manipulation of the supernatural is done subtly but the battle of what the Goddess wanted versus her sister relates in very poetic terms. It foreshadows a crossroads that when discussed is both undeniable and yet tragic, poetic yet sad. Series creator John Logan who also wrote “Gladiator” understands the necessity of light and darkness. Lives are not neatly wrapped up. “Day Of The Dead” as a season finale works to highlight that the danger that lingers, lessons learned, actions taken and yet life moves on perhaps with a little more wisdom.

A-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: THE CHI – EPISODE 2 (“Brewfurd”) [Showtime-S3]

The personification of masks both for professional and personal gain take on a sense of irony in Episode 2 of the 3rd season of “the Chi” entitled “Brewfurd”. Running in the background is the disappearance of a daughter of a couple at the end of the last episode. The interweaving story lines play in an interrelated form jumping in the matter of slice of life. One moves in getting ahead even in a neighborhood that seems focused on cutting through dreams. Another idea that keeps revolving is what necessitates the greater good despite question decisions or perceptions. A would-be businessman has dreams but is fronting a business that he has no talent for beyond the dream of it…but he has the ambition. He tries to recruit talent because he believes that this will make his business thrive and grow. He doesn’t understand that people see through his front. On the other side, his mother is too honest and in being her true self makes him front again when he should learn from her example. This essence of a hypocritical nature shows him on a path of burning brought but maybe losing all of what is behind him including his family.

On the other end is a man who has come back home to save his baby half-brother from what he got away from. What is interestingly unbalanced and well perceived is his own relationship which walks the boundary of identity, love and masks. He sees the line and can’t help what he feels but can’t come to terms with it in a real way beyond the surface. Unlike some of his peers, he is not a violent man but might be pushed to that level. The silent tome running in the background shows a man who is homeless and has a simmering facade compounded with rage that speaks to a darkness that has been seen before. “The Chi” is always effective in creating a pressure cooker situation where the characters are just trying to live their lives. Some of it is just coming of age. Others are matters of life and death. Whereas the last episode was anchored by a funeral, “Brewfurd” is about living life, whatever problems it might throw against the characters. The results are a matter of choice and consequence, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

B-

By Tim Wassberg