Reviewing the Finales

This is the much-anticipated week when the five networks announce their fall schedules and we lament the cancelled (Sarah Connor) and mourn the lack of clever, fresh, and original ideas. After the quirky and original Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies and Kings all crashed and burned this season, the networks seem poised to retrench.

But, several returning series have also offered up some rather fun season finales and we’ve been catching up the last week or so. As a result, let’s review…

Grey’s Anatomy

While the whole Denny thing dragged out before it was clear she was ill, her work with the interns to determine what was the actual diagnosis was very nicely handled. The finale, wrapping up numerous plot lines, was two-hours reminding me that this series remains one of the best constructed series on prime time. Derek and Meredith sort of got married, moving their relationship to the next level. Alex and Izzy fought over treatment options as husband and wife, not doctors, while everyone planned George’s intervention. Throughout, most of the doctors worked on a John Doe patient until the final minutes when we watched them learn it was actually George. And as the screen went to black, Izzy and George were both coding and we’re left hanging – in a good way. We’ve remained emotionally invested in the characters and will fret over their fates until September.

Chuck

I was not thrilled with the revelation that Chuck’s dad invented the Intersect but it actually dovetailed nicely with information Bruce shared with Chuck in the finale.  Chevy Chase fit in well as the bad guy, with just enough menace to be taken seriously but light enough to fit in with the show’s tone. Everyone had a moment and the core of family remained front and center. Chuck taking his money to pay for a replacement wedding was perfect, along with the hilarious Adam Baldwin directing the SEALS in decorating. That Chuck willingly absorbed the new Intersect was obvious and I sort of saw the next generation upgrades coming but it certainly is the right kind of game-changer. With its third season now assured (even with just a 13 episode order), I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Heroes

I contributed some thoughts to Sci-Fi Wire prior to the season finale airing, and was right. There are too many threads to tie up and the finale tied up only some of them. Characters acted in the service of the plot rather than their characters and watching everyone drift away from the bonfire without another word made little sense. Suresh should have been looking into Hiro’s newfound health issues. The whole Sylar is now Nathan thread is clever but tough to buy. Sylar should die and new threats should be introduced but they love him too much (no offense to Zachary Quinto who made the character so popular). Already they’re showing that Sylar will influence Nathan’s action while HRG running the Company feels like a reset. Perhaps the fifth volume will be stronger with Bryan Fuller involved from the beginning.

Lost

We watched the final hour before the two-hour finale back-to-back which I think helped a lot. All the time traveling and potential time loops are nicely addressed. The seeding of Jacob throughout the castaways’ lives tells us some more about what the Island wants and his relation to the island. Deb wisely called Jacob’s murderous companion Esau and then suspected he was the living Locke. The ever-changing alliances between Jack, Sawyer, Juliet and Kate were somewhat bewildering but nicely performed. Watching Juliet fall was surprising and nicely elongated to milk the moment. Ending the season with a literal bang has us already checking the calendar for 2010 and the final 16 episodes. Knowing there’s an end date helps tremendously and they have 16 hours to tie it all up. My big question has to be, “What is the Smoke Monster?”

Fringe

On the one hand, Olivia began finding the links between all the cases throughout the season and on the other, after visiting a parallel world in the penultimate episode, she was awfully thick in the finale. In fact, there was nothing in the finale to refer to that episode which is a damn shame. The finale, though, brought everything together very well and confirmed the existence of parallel universes (well, duh) but the threat that required the building of an army of super-powered adults remains unrevealed. Also, Olivia entered a hotel, took the elevator and then wound up in the parallel universe. Fine. But how on Earth did she shift from the hotel to the World Trade Center? Also, ending the season with Bell introducing himself felt anticlimactic. We knew we’d see him, we knew it was Nimoy so there should have been something more. Apparently John Wells called Peter Bishop being the Earth-2 vision some time earlier, but Deb called it last night before the reveal so kudos to them.

Dollhouse

After spending all season seeking the Dollhouse, Paul finds it, helps them confront Alpha, and then he just willingly signs on as a “consultant”? Uh huh. The entire thread of people working within the Dollhouse to help Paul also vanished without resolution. Caroline/Echo’s returning memories also seems to have gone unnoticed by the staff that seems to notice everything else. The show really never gelled while many of the actual assignments were interesting. The surprising second season renewal also comes with the promise of a revised status quo which I hope is better thought-through and more sustainable than what we have so far. We’ll stick with it, given the cast and crew, but it really needs to get stronger.

I haven’t seen Smallville’s season ended yet, but from what I gather, the sprawling cast has been trimmed a bit, which was long overdue and maybe the next season will build on this stronger eighth season (compared with the clueless seventh).

Thoughts?

2 comments

  • As always, Bob, you’re right on the money with much of what you say. For my money, Chuck has become the obvious inheritor to Get Smart, and as humorous as it is, the show also remains logically consistent within its own world. I am delighted that they renewed it, as I really want to see where they go from here.

    Heroes had a strong first season, then unravelled over the next two. As you note, with Bryan Fuller back on the creative team, maybe they can make it worth watching again. But I am a little wary of the setup they gave us at the end of the third season.

    Lost is brilliant.

    Dollhouse – I’m kind of disappointed that they renewed it, as now I have to keep watching it. 🙂

    As for Smallville, the show really isn’t Smallville anymore, and it would be nice if they could give it a name change or a spinoff. But the strong season we just got was marred by a lackluster finale.

  • Ben Dills

    I love that Chuck was renewed, with one concern. Are they going to keep using a body-double whenever Zachary Levi needs to do anything cool? I agree that the finale was awesome, particularly the Marines decorating for the wedding, and the awkward body-double kung-fu scene was the only unsatisfying part.

    And I had the opposite impression of Dollhouse. I always found the missions shallow, with one episode never being enough time to delve into the characters or nuances of them to make them engrossing.

    The back story and universe, particularly the personalities of the Dollhouse itself, were always the most entertaining parts of the show for me, even in the first few episodes. I prefer longer, more involved story arcs and settings to self-contained episodes, but I might just be a product of my generation. Thanks to DVDs and Hulu, I usually watch episodes a couple of times to catch all the details, and will sometimes watch two or three episodes in a row to follow the longer arcs.

    I agree that Paul’s joining the house was too abrupt, and they needed to develop it more to make it feel genuine. I hope they explore that in the next season, because there’s a potential goldmine there if they pursue it. Maybe Paul decided that with no credibility or friends besides Loomis, his friend at the FBI, he could do the most good inside the Dollhouse? Maybe Boyd’s blossoming buddy cop friendship with Paul will conflict with DeWitt’s mistrusting him, driving a wedge between her and Boyd? Maybe everyone is thinking “better to keep your enemies closer”? There’s a lot they can do there.

    (Oh and the person in the dollhouse helping Paul was Dominic, so that arc has effectively been concluded. At least until Paul finds out about the Attic.)

    I do think it’s strange that Chuck and Dollhouse were both renewed considering their low ratings and the fact that neither is likely to break-out into mainstream popularity. Maybe the network thinks those shows give them respectability in a small but relatively trendsetting demographic?

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