Archive for Season 4

Review: Fringe, Season 4, Episode 7: “Wallflower”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 16, 2012 by Sahar

The last episode before a hiatus is usually known to leave us viewers hanging, wondering if, after the holidays, we are going to find our protagonist with or without his or her reputation/job/life/something else really important or, in the case of Fringe, is still stuck in another timeline, away from the ones he loves.

It really is starting to feel as if Season 4 is, in a way, a study in Peter (Joshua Jackson) more than anything else: how he has changed since Season 1 and how he is going to overcome the adversity this new twist of fate has dealt him with. I love this Peter-centric study, just as much as I love the way we are delving into the alternate timeline. Putting the same Peter we have come to know during the last couple of seasons in an entirely new yet familiar environment is making us understand him in a very unique way. Interestingly enough, Peter is becoming the one constant in this show around which all other alternate universes and timelines are revolving.

No wonder, then, that he feels like he has become a Fringe event himself. But while that is no way to live, most would have a hard time dealing with this situation in any healthy kind of way. Perhaps this is why many fans seem to have a hard time understanding how Peter is managing to remain so, well, mature, seeing the extreme emotional pressure he is under. To be detached and rational to the point of understanding that the Olivia (Anna Torve) Lee (Seth Gabel) is falling in love with is not his is commendable, to say the least.

I am known for making statements that earn me the ire of Fringe fans. I am proud to present to you my latest such statement: I hope that Peter and Lee become friends, all the more that Lee is the only person who is treating Peter like he is normal. I must also admit that I fully understand Peter’s point of view regarding Lee, as well as his opinion regarding Lee dating Olivia. While a lot of Fringe fans hate that this timeline’s Olivia and Lincoln are on their way to become an item, fact is, they do make a cute couple and their personalities mesh very well. Peter belongs with the other Olivia, the one whose life he touched since they were children. And so, once again, I put my life in the hands of irate fans but supporting this timeline’s Lee-Olivia romance, and hope the fact that I want Peter to find a way back home to his (and our) Olivia will earn me a reprieve.

However, I do have a second ire-provoking statement for this review (which might annihilate my chances of being forgiven for my above-mentioned statement): there is a special place in my heart for this timeline’s Lee. He cemented his place in this episode when he shared with Olivia his state of mind, that is, the destruction of the basic rules that previously gave his life structure. Having worked for many years with young people between the ages of 11 to 15, it struck a very familiar chord. These preteens and teens oftentimes shared with me that, as their understanding of what is happening in their own home increases, the basic rules that governed their lives would either be seen in a completely different light or be shattered outright. I also felt a deep empathy to what Lee has been feeling because I, too, both as a preteen and as an adult, regularly felt like the rug was (and, at times, still is) been pulled out from under my feet when certain truths I used to believe in were completely overturned.

This links (quite nicely, actually) to another theme at the heart of Fringe, that of interconnectedness. The emphasis this time is placed on the fact that we all need each other and should not do things on our own – especially the really tough tasks that some of us are given. Of course, I am referring here to Olivia (all of them) and her relationship to Fringe Division (all of them). While Olivia is, in all universes and timelines, pretty amazing on her own, and that, as she puts it in this episode, she can do it – fact is that she does not have to do it alone, as Lee says before helping her open the bottle of migraine pills.

While Olivia’s migraines are intriguing in themselves (especially after the way the introduction to this episode was hinting that they are related to the Cortexiphan trials), the most interesting thing about them is that they show that this Olivia, just like all the others, wants to always be the strong one; Lee’s assertion that she does not have to be is yet another recurring theme, brought forward previously by Peter. I really hope Fringe will delve into the importance of team work, of constant consultation, and on the fact that while one person might have higher capacity and more talent than others to get the job done, the job should not rest on that one person’s shoulder alone.

These themes are all the more important because a current increase in consciousness and empowerment makes more and more people arise to better the world; remembering this important lesson will makes us all the more effective. However many capacities we as an individual might have, fact remains that we are fallible creatures, and cannot hope to permanently solve global problems on our own. In the case of the show, however amazing Olivia may be (and boy, is she amazing!), things are far too complicated and heavy for her to deal with alone. She is going to have to accept her limits, and start walking the path of life with other who can share the load of the burden, however humble their contribution might be.

This is why no person should be a wallflower, which happens to be the title of this episode (shocking, right?). We each have our role to play, and it is only when we all play our role, however small and humble it might be, that humanity can move forward. Our differences – the fact that Eugene is invisible, that Peter is from another timeline or that, most poignantly, Olivia processes things in such a unique way, should not keep us apart.

There is one character that has been something of a wallflower for a little while, someone whose plight I have been bringing to fans’ attention since Season 1, that is, the lack of screen time given to one Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole). Once again it was shown that perhaps our young prodigy is not being given the attention she deserves, that maybe she might be the key to helping Olivia reach balance in her life – and, consequently, reach her peak as an investigator and as a Cortexiphan prodigy. Astrid admits to Olivia in this episode that things do get to her in a way that they do not get to Olivia, and that she has a support network of sorts while the latter does not. Just to cinch my earlier argument about Lee (and, perhaps, a death warrant signed by angry Fringe fans), this is probably why she is doubly attracted to Lee: he is someone she finds physically attractive, but also is someone who knows what she is going through and with whom she can connect in a very unique way.

I also am hoping that being with someone like Lee, who is obviously going through a rough time because of his newly acquired status in Fringe Division and who seems to be the kind of person to accept others as they are (just think of his relationship with Peter), will be able to put Olivia at rest with herself. That is, I hope that Olivia will learn to not think about herself as being abnormal just because she does things differently, namely because she is stronger.  After all, normalcy should not be defined by conformity.

But then again, everyone wants to be loved, and sometimes it feels like it’s only when we are ‘normal’ that we are worthy of love and of being seen. Which leads me to believe that these are the major themes of this the episode, that is, all wants to have a place in the world, and all wants to be seen. Peter is finally seen but he still does not have his place in the world. The invisible man is not seen by anyone and therefore does not have a real place. However, at what cost? Eugene was willing to kill; Massive Dynamic is willing to run horrifying experiments on test subjects and run satellite facilities that are not monitored by headquarters.

And however unlovable the horrible things we might do to be seen make us, it does not change the fact that they are usually done out of a desire to be loved. However, this is not love in the romantic sense only, nor love in the familial sense only. Rather, this is love as “the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the mouvement of the spheres in the celestial realms.“ And it comes to no surprise, as “what a power is love! It is the most wonderful, the greatest o all living powers. Love gives life to the lifeless. Love lights a flame in the heart that is cold. Love brings hope to the hopeless and gladdens the hearts of the sorrowful. In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love. When the heart of man is aglow with the flame of love, he is ready to sacrifice all – even his life. In the Gospel it is said that God is love.”

I have managed to time this perfectly; Fringe is back on Friday evenings, 9:00 p.m. EST on Fox.  Hopefully it will mark the beginning of Peter’s journey home to his (and our) Olivia, while allowing, somehow, for contact between this timeline, which I have grown attached to, and our own, which will of course always be my favourite.

Review: Ugly Betty, Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2

Posted in Ugly Betty with tags , , , on January 5, 2010 by Sahar

I finally caved. After months and months of being harassed (lovingly, thankfully) by some of you guys, I decided I’d start reviewing Ugly Betty episodes again. I did take notes while watching the first half of the season, but I never quite got around to typing them out. And since nine episodes have already aired, I was thinking of reviewing two episodes a week for the next couple of weeks: one old one, and one new one.

We’ll see how that holds up.

Season 4 opened up on a rather interesting note, with Betty dreaming (literally) about the day her braces would come off. Perhaps it heralded what was to come, i.e. Betty’s change in looks – but then again, perhaps it’s only such a normal part of the life of a person with braces to daydream about having them taken off that we couldn’t go another minute in the show without having one.

For a moment though, I really thought that the braces were coming off for good, and it made me very happy – until I realised that it really only was a dream. Actually, it was a nightmare – according to Hiilda, a stress-related nightmare about her promotion to Assistant Features Editor at Mode.

Finally! Betty is moving forward in her career!  Unfortunately, it does mean that Marc, the other contender, is not going to advance (yet) in his career, placing Amanda in the awkward position of being friends with two people who are now enemies. At least, for now; hopefully, the softer and kinder side of Marc, of which we have seen glimpses of throughout the last season, is going to shine through once again, and the three can be friends again.

It would have been nice for Betty to have them as friend, as this latest career move of Betty’s is yet again providing Mode employees with great opportunities to make her the butt of many jokes. Of course things are a little bit easier this time, since Betty has worked at Mode for three years now, but it still came as a shock to our eternally optimistic Betty. It’s sweet, really, and also reassuring to see that although Betty was hoping for the best, her last three years have prepared her to deal with the worse head on. Some viewers might still argue that this is just a cheap way to bring back old anti-Betty jokes rather than write new ones. However, I think it’s a great reflection of a reality we are all bathed in: when we think we are on top, we get dragged right back down.

One simple example: school. You enter elementary school and are the youngest there. When you finally have made your way to the top and are reigning the playground as a 6th grader, you are yanked out and taken to high school, where once again, you are nothing but the little newcomer. And the same cycle repeats for college and then for your first post-undergrad job, then for your graduate degree, then for your first post-graduate job (although admittedly it is a lot easier at this point in time to deal with the transitions).

It’s also a reminder that while going forward is a normal part of evolution, it does however mean leaving everything behind. This means not only the bad things, but also (unfortunately) the good things. Betty might finally be working as an editor and advancing in her career, but it does mean that some major changes have happened. From her deteriorating relationship with Mark, whom she was chosen over, and the fact that Amanda has to now hide their friendship from him, to the tension with Matt, whom has yet forgiven her for her indiscretion, to the simple fact that she isn’t working with Daniel, now her closest friend, not everything about her promotion is roses.

It must be especially hard for Betty to go forward and let go of the good things she had before her promotion when it becomes clear that the other associate editors are not going to make it easier on her. One in particular is Meegan, who lost her old position to Matt – which gives yet another person a legitimate reason to dislike Betty. And unfortunately, this is also the time when Betty finds out about ‘Betty Daily Distasters’, a blog chronicling every outfit she has ever worn at Mode, which of course doesn’t make her feel any better about anything.

Which makes me wonder: is it possible for Betty to win easily, just once?

In any case, she is given some advice by a surprising and unwilling source:  Wilhelmina, who doesn’t mince with words. In her opinion, if Betty is to survive as Assistant Features Editor, she needs to find herself some allies and know her enemies (does that sound like a novel strategy, coming from Wilhelmina? Nope, didn’t think so). But while she tries as hard as she can, Betty (unsurprisingly) has a hard time winning her coworkers over, even with (or because of?) her low fat, low sugar, low carb. High in antioxidant muffins.

However there is one ally Betty does have: Claire Meade, who takes the time to listen to Betty and to give her a little advice of her own. And with Daniel’s help, she does manage to help our Meegan in a big way. Unfortunately that also kind of backfires just a little bit, as a paranoid Meegan can’t seem to wrap her brain around the fact that Betty just wants to help, and doesn’t want anything back, especially not to steal her story. Fortunately Meegan comes to realise that whatever she might think of Betty’s office decoration and fashion sense, she takes the position of Assistant Features Editor very seriously, thus earning her (grudging) respect.

As if this slice of heaven could last. Remember, Betty can’t have it easy!

And the source of her problem comes, quite surprisingly, from Daniel. After an absence to go spread Molly’s ashes in Tibet, he returns to New York in time to hear about the tough time Betty’s been having at mode lately. And although Daniel is Betty’s ally and would do anything to help her, his concern for her backfires, as he sets up Betty to being accused of favouritism (kind of like the teacher’s pet in high school, remember that?). Needless to say, it causes more harm than good – which includes a setback in the grudging respect Betty had started earning.

Daniel’s unfortunate bad effect on Betty’s career is only the tip of the iceberg; the anger and resentment that has been building up since Molly’s death don’t seem to have been expunged while in Tibet. The drop that made him crack: a bus stop ad for a trip to Tahiti, the destination he and Molly would have been headed to had Molly not passed away.

Unfortunately, Daniel’s breakdown comes at the worst possible moment for Betty, whose photoshoot has to be done with only a day’s notice. And unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst, and then another turn towards even worst, as Betty doesn’t manage to separate her personal life from her professional life, and as Matt is intent on making her life miserable rather than act in a mature, professional way.

Betty’s visit to Olivia Guillemette was, of course, a thinly veiled metaphor for the very same transformation Betty has already begun going through this season and, if certain leaked pictures are any indication, is going to continue throughout the year. There is of course some actual reasons for this metaphor; as mentioned previously, both her promotion as Assistant Features Editor and the upcoming removal of her braces. It’s going to be interesting to see how much more Betty is going to be changing. Already at the end of the first two episodes, she changed her glasses and let her bangs grow out (really fast, by the way). She also wears an outfit that is quite tame, by Betty standards. I find it a little sad; is Betty changing for the better, or is Mode finally having an effect on her? And if so, how far will Mode go into changing Betty?

Another character going through a lot of changes this season – and, as you faithful readers know, one of my favourites on the show – is Betty’s nephew Justin. Having just entered High School, Justin pretty quickly finds out that things are not going to get any easier on him, as a band of bullies start picking from the get go. I don’t think any viewers were surprised that Justin didn’t immediately turn to his family for help; after all, how could they understand what he is going through? Hilda keeps talking about just how popular she was in High School, and although Betty was tormented through her years in High School, she, well, how can I put this nicely… She was a nerd, the ones that are typically bullied. Well dressed and confident kids like Justin usually aren’t. There is also the small fact that, however nice a person Hilda is, she is pretty wrapped up in her own things. Had she not been, she herself would have been able to see what was best for Justin: to talk to someone who could truly understand what he is going through.

And although Justin does know one person who has been through the same thing (Marc), Hilda catches wind of what is going on and unhappy that her son isn’t confiding in her (hello, immaturity), puts her foot down. And so,  under threats à la Hilda (which seem quite scary), Mark is forced to avoid Justin, thus cutting him off from the one source of support he does have.

That is, of course, until things get figured out. Hilda manages to start thinking about Justin, rather than thinking about how she feels about Justin, going through the same process her father and every other parent in the world has to go through: admitting that they can’t solve every problem their offspring is going through and allowing them to start figuring it out on their own. And so Justin is able to once again come hang out at Mode with Marc, which obviously makes me very happy.

We still don’t know, as of the beginning of the episode, the identity of the person who surprised Wilhelmina, costing her a glass, and whom she is now hiding in her apartment. And of course Mark can’t stand not knowing and is trying to nose his way into her business, especially when she asks him not to answer her cell phone. And so Mark does what he just has to do: he goes to Wilhelmina’s apartment without her permission – not quite breaking in, since he does have the keys, and he finally discovers what Wilhelmina has been keeping from him – or rather, who.

It’s not, as we and Mark suspected, Connor, but rather Nico. It was rather curious that Wilhelmina would hide Nico’s presence from Mark – or from anyone, for that matter – and it made me wonder, right from the get go, what was going on.

Nico’s presence might not seem like reason enough for Wilhelmina to hide her presence for everyone including Marc, until we find out that Nico killed her boyfriend. Granted, it was self-defence, but what she did after – dump the body in the water – makes it seem rather suspicious. Having nowhere to go, Nico heads for her mother’s place. Unsurprisingly, Wilhelmina promises to take care of everything. And things do seem to be under control, until we find out that Wilhelmina and Nico didn’t quite clean the boat where the manslaughter happened quite as thoroughly as they had thought they did.

I have to admit that I found this storyline a little on the ludicrous side. Nico had clear bruise marks on her arms that night – and rather nasty ones, too. Self-defence seemed like a clear motive for her boyfriend’s accidental murder. So why did Wilhelmina go through so much trouble to clean up after her daughter? Is her faith in our justice system that shaky, or does she simply not want to go through the hassle – and pay the money (since she doesn’t have any)?

Matt’s ongoing grudge over Betty’s kissing Henry is on the one hand interesting, but right from the beginning, I was a little worried about how far the writers are going to take it. After all, the action in Ugly Betty episodes has been going down and there were a couple of things they milked out in Season 3 – perhaps not as much as usual shows do, but uncharacteristically so for this show. Although I have to admit, it does bode well for well-placed barbs such as: “Some of you I know, some of you I don’t, some of you I thought I knew but apparently I didn’t”, “It’s all about communication, people. (Looks at Betty) Some of you are going to have to work on that”, and “So he thought he was signing up to something long term and ended up with something short term.  I can relate.”

Since Matt avoids Betty at work, she has to stalk him down at Central park during his jog, but unfortunately, that doesn’t go well either. Which is an interesting situation, as both parties are now at fault. First, of course, is Betty. Kissing Henry was wrong; she shouldn’t have done it, and Matt has every reason to be hurt. However, for him to lower himself to hurting Betty back in such a petty manner made me lose all compassion for him. That is no way for a gentleman to act, however unladylike the lady acted.

But it’s obvious that it’s only because Matt is, well, quite the immature young man who still has feelings for Betty and doesn’t know quite how to handle himself in this situation. It’s going to be interesting to watch this relationship unfold in the next couple of weeks.

Amanda makes a new friend, as Daniel’s new temp happens to be an older version of her. Kristen Johnston makes a special appearance and – big surprise – is totally awesome in the role of Helen, the replacement temp. This role was apparently supposed to go to Paula Abdul, but because of some ridiculous demands she was making, it got offered to Kristen instead. I know, how sad that these things don’t only happen on TV.

Helen is, basically, Amanda in ten years, down to the tight dresses and joy at being groped by the doorman of a hip club. She manages to do something quite impressive: Helen rings the bell of reality for Amanda, that however beautiful she is, if she is to be the fact of an industry that sells beauty, and if the idea of beauty that is sold is that of youthful beauty, her days as Mode’s receptionist are numbered. Amanda realises that this is not enough; she has always wanted more.

Who knows: perhaps Betty isn’t the only one who is going to undergo some major changes this season.

Speaking of Amanda, she was, as usual, in the midst of one of the best moments in this episode:

Mark: Mandy, you’re brilliant.
Amanda (horrified): You take that back. I’m beautiful.

But this definitely wasn’t the only great moment. There are too many to list here exhaustively, so I’ll leave you with this one:

Mark: Ah, Betty’s younger sister.
Hilda: Thank you for the part that’s complimenting me. But watch it for the part that slams my sister.

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