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    Masters of Sex, Ep. 1.05: “Catherine” an effective, heartbreaking pivot point

    One of the cornerstones of the Golden Age (or Second or Third or Umpteenth Golden Age – take your pick) of television lies in an individual episode’s ability to convey a thematic throughline without being too on-the-nose about it. Series like Deadwood, The Wire, Mad Men, The Sopranos and many more manage to convey motifs through means other than direct address, whether that involves allusion, visual connectivity, performance tics, or other, less obvious factors. As Masters of Sex continues to find its feet, its ideas about how to form an episode’s thesis continues to evolve, and “Catherine” will likely go down as an important turning point in that evolution. More

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    Masters of Sex, Ep. 1.04: “Thank You For Coming” shifts focus to male self-knowledge

    Despite the wink-wink, nudge-nudge titling, “Thank You For Coming” is likely the gravest episode of Masters of Sex yet, concerned as it is with male abuses of power and privilege (not to mention outright physical abuse). The best thing the series has going for it right now is that it’s able to pursue its themes in multiple directions – even through the spectrum of a single character. More

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    Homeland, Ep. 3.04: “Game On” – How to execute a twist

    Homeland, Season 3: Episode 4 – “Game On” Written by James Yoshimura and Alex Gansa Directed by David Nutter Airs Sunday nights at 9 ET on Showtime For all the grief that Homeland has been getting, “Game On” serves as an excellent turning point for the season and both retroactively elevates the material from the first […] More

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    Masters of Sex, Ep. 1.03: “Standard Deviation” leans into modern sensibilities

    The title “Standard Deviation” more obviously refers to William Masters’s chance encounters with homosexual men, who provide his latest ethical and moral hiccups in pursuing sexuality scientifically, but it also works to demarcate the episode as being the precise point Masters of Sex decides to make a clean break from history and chart a potentially very different path for its characters. I won’t go into too many specifics for fear of potential future-series spoilers, but it’s already clear that Michelle Ashford is setting out to use Masters and Johnson as more of a loose framework to probe big ideas about societal relationships to sexuality than strict historical portraiture. More

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    Homeland, Ep. 3.03: “Tower of David” brings Brody back in style

    With the return of Brody to Homeland, there’s a lot at stake without even addressing how effective his incorporation into “Tower of David” is. If you look elsewhere on TV, you’ll find another series that begins its new season dealing with the temporary absence of an important character – The Governor on The Walking Dead. In both circumstances, these characters were used well last year at certain points, but were also used rather poorly at other points, culminating in season finale departures that raised a lot of questions (such as “Do we buy into this whole Carrie/Brody relationship?” and “Is Brody even a necessary part of this series? Are any of the Brody family members?” and “Is there any point in letting the The Governor live?” and “Was there a point in building up all that conflict between Woodbury and the prison if it was going to remain unresolved?”). More

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    Dark Defender to Lumberjack: ‘Dexter’ in retrospect

    “I just know there’s something dark in me and I hide it. I certainly don’t talk about it, but it’s there always, this…dark passenger. And when he’s driving, I feel alive, half sick with the thrill of complete wrongness. I don’t fight him, I don’t want to. He’s all I’ve got. Nothing else could love […] More

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    Homeland, Ep. 3.02: “Uh… Oh… Ah…” is another exercise in constraint

    All’s well in the world of Homeland: Dana and Jessica are spending quality mother-daughter time with each other, Carrie and Saul share drinks and stories about the good ol’ days as they effortlessly run the short-handed CIA and Peter Quinn skips around Langley with a smile on his face singing Christmas tunes year-round. This is the feel-good season to balance out all the horrific things going on elsewhere in the land of television. Wait, what? More

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    Masters of Sex, Ep. 1.02: “Race to Space” has fun toying with storytelling modes and gender politics

    Part of the fun of watching a first-time showrunner flex their muscles is to see just what narrative strategies they’re prepared to deploy in service of a story. With “Race to Space,” Masers of Sex expands its stylistic/narrative catalog a bit, allowing in daydreams, allegory, and montage, while it hones in on Virginia and her reaction to Dr. Masters’s request that they themselves engage in sex. It’s not all effective, but the willingness to toy around with different storytelling modes bodes well for the series’s future. More

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    Ray Donovan 1.12 “Same Exactly” closes its first season in predictable fashion

    On a narrative level, “Same Exactly” ties up all the necessary loose ends. The three major conflicts that had to be dealt with- the unhinged, still-on-the-loose Sully, Frank and the FBI potentially taking Ray down, and the sudden reveal of Ray’s molestation as a child- are wrapped up with a nice dollop of closure for each. Ray Donovan even manages to reverse one of the more gaping holes in the show’s logic. For an entire season we waited to find out just why Ray wanted his father dead; last week’s reveal pointed the way forward and now “Same Exactly” gives us a genuine, compelling reason. That Ray’s been acting out the revenge fantasy he’s had since childhood makes perfect sense. His motivation never seemed fully-formed, which matches perfectly with the anger a child would have at a neglectful father. More

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    Ray Donovan, Ep 1.11 “Bucky F**n’ Dent” pulls out of a slump with a thrilling bottle episode

    It’s amazing what a few story limitations can do. When Ray Donovan has a whole city at its disposal, with recurring parts and guest stars galore, it gets sidetracked with alarming frequency. Yet force Ray Donovan into a bottle episode, and its rambling nature starts to fade away. The show is able to play far more to its strengths, and delivers a satisfying gut punch with “Bucky F**n’ Dent.” More

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    Dexter Ep 8.11 ‘Monkey in a Box’ inane nonsense defiling the corpse of a great

    There is a somewhat clichéd analogy used in regard to a fiction, in which the piece is compared to a dangerously misbehaving child. This line of thought always ends with the line “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed”. This was applicable a week ago. This week, a more fitting denouement would be a Changeling style scenario where the parent screeches “That’s not my son!” Another potential comparison could be a first for locomotion; having rather lazily drifted off the rails and beyond the point of potential rescue, Dexter is now not even accessible to those craving a suitably entertaining train wreck. More

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    Ray Donovan, Ep. 1.10 “Fite Nite” begins its endgame without a drop of believability

    Few things are more frustrating than seeing a series make the same mistakes, week in and week out. Ray Donovan chugs along towards its eventual conclusion, and what plagued those early episodes continues to plague “Fite Nite.” There’s been no improvements on the weak characterization, poor pacing, poor plotting and the total absence of believable actions taken by these characters. More

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