Danger escalates within season two’s first three episodes as inter-state highways are closed off and travel becomes heavily regulated. The constant sound of sirens and gunfire mixed with panicked voices in the background serves as a relentless reminder of how quickly humans are succumbing to The Master’s plan.
Hell on Wheels started as one man’s single-minded journey to avenge the death of his family. As the series enters its final season, though, it has been transformed into a deeply meditative look at a changing world, an intricate retelling of a brutal time in American history and powerful examination of the characters that helped create it.
Louie returns Thursday for a fifth season of life lessons and awkward experiences. The loosely structured yet acclaimed FX comedy, given free reign by the network, comes back true to form while still finding the ability to surprise its audience anew. After a Season Four filled with some mini-arcs that missed the mark Season Five returns to the episode model of earlier years, deploying episodes and through lines in a seemingly random order that still finds a way to make perfect sense. The show doesn’t go as far as completely abandoning the abbreviated story arcs CK has come to rely on, but after a stretch of almost looking like a more traditional half hour cringe comedy Louie is back to its old ways.
In many ways a direct continuation of its strong third season, Girls’ season four premiere picks up shortly after the events of last year’s finale, with Hannah preparing to leave for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Marnie continuing her musical and romantic partnership with guitarist Desi, Jessa newly unemployed, and Shoshanna freshly graduated. This is a change of pace for the series, which has previously taken advantage of the season breaks to jump its characters forward in time, with significant developments occurring offscreen (the start of Hannah’s relationship with Sandy, Jessa checking herself into rehab, Charlie leaving Marnie). Fun as it may have been to jump right into Hannah’s fish-out-of-water adventure in Iowa, it’s nice to get one more episode with the leads together, reestablishing their bonds before they’re tested.
Parenthood begins its final season by picking up almost exactly where season five left off. “Vegas” may take place months after “The Pontiac” but for the most part, everyone is in the same place. Amber is indeed pregnant, with Ryan still out of the picture, Kristina is launching her school, and Zeek and Camille are happy in their new home. The only surprise Katims and co. throw the audience is Julia’s new office fling, which may become something more. It’s a surprising move given where the last season ended, but a not unwelcome one.
Season one of Agents of SHIELD ends with Fitz recovering from nearly drowning, Coulson taking on the task of rebuilding SHIELD, and the remaining agents loyal to SHIELD on the run from the over-zealous Brigadier General Glenn Talbot. It only stands to reason that season two would open in Austria, 1945, with Agent Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos taking out the final Hydra base. The scene is an obvious tie-in with the upcoming Agent Carter, but it also acts as a solid connecting story thread between the two shows. All of these artifacts that Peggy helped bring in will be in play, adding a potential Warehouse 13 element to the show that fans of that show would really love. Plus a World War II-era Hydra leader, who is still alive and inexplicably young in present day, is set up as a season-long villain for Agents of SHIELD. The Agent Carter opening seems a bit gimmicky at first, but by the end of the premiere, it is actually a smart tie-in.
There’s a very strong argument to be made that along with Hannibal, AMC’s Hell on Wheels is one of the most underrated dramas on television right now. Over the course of three seasons, the show has moved from a historical drama to a deeply moving and fascinating character study that just happens to be set during the building of one of America’s greatest accomplishments, the building of the Union Pacific Railroad. Its muddy and vicious camp is inhabited by rich and thrilling characters, the storylines continue to capture the viewer’s attention, and our lead, a man often struggling with a dark world and the darkness within himself, is an endlessly fascinating and evolving character.
With so much time between seasons it’s easy to forget how stunningly brilliant Endeavour is. “Home”, the show’s first season finale, was one of the most devastating and perfectly constructed hours of television in 2013. Shaun Evans, given the daunting task of making a legendary character his own, consistently turned in a powerful, entertaining and lived in performance that is always affecting.
Orphan Black is back, and before diving into an analysis of the season premiere, it feels right to take a moment to enjoy that statement. This series exploded onto genre fans’ radar last year, putting together a fantastic first season that embraced its heightened world while grounding itself with relatable, recognizable characters and one hell of a central performance from Tatiana Maslany. It was one of this reviewer’s picks for the best TV shows of the first half of 2013, it stood out as having one of the best episodes of all of 2013, and at the end of the year, the SoS writers collectively voted it the #15 TV series of 2013, among incredibly heavy competition. Orphan Black season one was fresh, exciting, and perhaps most importantly, it was fun. Thankfully, if this premiere is any indication, we’re in for more of the same in season two.
Bates Motel is back – and disappointingly, insists on being the same mediocre show it was in its freshman season.
The Following had an interesting first season. With an intriguing central premise and good actors at the helm (seriously- how deliciously fun was James Purefoy?), everything should have worked out perfectly. Instead the show stumbled while balancing a heavy dose of camp and sometimes unnecessary twists. After the first few episodes it slipped into procedure and had trouble finding its footing. At its best though, The Following season one was frequently compelling, shockingly violent, and even darkly fun.
Community makes its triumphant return this week for its fifth season (and given NBC’s current comedy slate, we may actually get a sixth- who would’ve predicted that four years ago?). After the uneven, Dan Harmon-less fourth season, fans are understandably excited for not just the show to be back, but the creator as well.
Survivor 27.1, “Blood is Thicker than Anything”: Family twists pay off in weirdly satisfying premiere
When the many twists was announced for the new Survivor season, it felt like the producers were over compensating for a flimsy premise. Besides having a silly name, the Blood vs. Water concept introduced elements that didn’t mesh with the formula. How could family members vote each other out and truly compete for a million dollars? The challenge is selling that concept without making it feel cheap. When it’s added to Redemption Island and its related twists, the danger grows larger.
Fringe Review, Season 4, Episode 1: “Neither Here Nor There” Written by Jeff Pinkner & J. H. Wyman & Akiva Goldsman Directed by Joe Chappelle Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on Fox This week, on Fringe: Even with Peter out of the equation, Olivia doesn’t like Fauxlivia, Walter is worried about Walternate, and Lincoln Lee …