Top 5 Community Concept Episodes

by Amy Yen

Community Concept Episodes

I am not sure if casual TV watchers can ever truly understand what it was like to be a fan of NBC’s Community last year. People who still watch How I Met Your Mother or Homeland would. These are all examples of shows that have experienced what Slate Magazine recently referred to as Total Quality Collapse (in reference to Downton Abbey, which I agree about to a lesser extent). Community’s season 4 downfall post the forced ousting of volatile, controversial creator Dan Harmon, however, is my most painful example—not just because the show became bad, but because it became generic.

Community in seasons 1-3 was at times one of the most creatively brave shows on the air. Who else would dare to do an entire episode in the style of a Ken Burns documentary or as an 8-bit video game? The season 4 showrunners meant well, but made the mistake of trying to imitate the most flashy parts of Community, the concept episodes, while forgetting that, in the middle of all the musical, zombie & bottle episodes, Harmon had been building a core group of characters that had backstories & relationships, who cared about each other, who were relatable & who were real.

The most disappointing thing about season 4 wasn’t that Guarascio & Port failed to do a truly great Hunger Games parody or a fourth paintball episode, it was that Annie spent an episode indulgently pretending to be Jeff’s wife, when Annie as a character outgrew that kind of thing two seasons ago. Or that Troy & Britta got together, but not in any sort of meaningful way, but rather only as a contrivance to have hilarious (spoiler alert: they were not hilarious) sitcom-y scenarios like Britta having to sneak out so Abed wouldn’t see her. Or that Jeff ended every episode with a heartwarming speech about how much he loved everyone, when Jeff was always reluctant at best to ever admit even to himself, let alone out loud, that he had feelings of any kind for these people.

Looking back on it, it would have been a borderline miracle for a show whose creative vision was so intrinsically tied to its showrunner to be able to continue like nothing had changed, but I truly believe there was a way for season 4 to be different, but still Community. Instead, it became the very worst version of itself that it could possibly be, so much so that at upfronts last year, I was actively rooting for NBC to put it out of its misery.

But then something amazing happened. Not only did NBC order a season 5, it brought Dan Harmon back. And the early reviews of the first three episodes are, despite considerable odds, pretty great. So, in honor of this delightful & unlikely turn of events, I wanted to look back on my top 5 Community concept episodes. There are many, many great ones—it truly pains me to leave out the fake clip show episode, made up entirely of new clips…I mean, who thinks of that?—but there a few tentpoles here too significant not to include.

Honorable Mentions: Digital Exploration of Interior Design / Pillows and Blankets (3.13 /14, The Ken Burns Documentary Episode), Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design (2.9, The Conspiracy Theory Episode), Digital Estate Planning (3.20, The 8-Bit Video Game Episode), Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2.14, The Dungeons & Dragons Episode), Regional Holiday Music (3.10, The Musical Episode), Paradigms of Human Memory (2.21, The [Fake] Clip Show Episode)

5) Basic Lupine Urology (3.17)
AKA: The Law & Order Episode
Perhaps the most successful execution of a beginning-to-end concept parody Community’s ever done, this Law & Order send-up really could not be more perfect. From the cold open, in which unsuspecting janitors come across our crime-of-the week (in this case, the study group’s smashed yams), to the witnesses who refuse to stop doing their jobs even while being questioned by “detectives,” to the post-verdict drink the “lawyers” have in the “judge’s chambers,” every detail is exactly like every Law & Order episode you’ve ever seen, down to the “chung chung!” sounders setting each scene, the dialogue & the camera angles. But unlike season 4’s parodies, amazingly, even as our characters operate within the structure of a different show, they remain true to who we know them to be. Even the title is amazing, “Lupine Urology”…Dick Wolf. Get it?

4) Cooperative Calligraphy (2.8)
AKA: The Bottle Episode
Community’s version of a bottle episode (for those of you non-TV nerds, that’s an episode limited to just the core cast & set entirely on one of the show’s existing pre-built sets in order to save budget) does what all great bottle episodes do: without the crutch of guest stars, different locations or big ideas to parody, the show puts its core group of characters in their most familiar setting, the study room, & have them do nothing but banter & delve into each other’s psyches. This results in some surprisingly personal insights (like some of the group’s judgement over Shirley’s relationship with her ex-husband following the revelation of her pregnancy) & even more interesting than usual group dynamics. It’s another episode about the group becoming a family…the idea that if they can’t find Annie’s pen, they may never be able to fully trust one another because they’ll always suspect one of them allowed them to have to go through all of this (& miss the puppy parade!) is an absurd one. But as Annie says, “It’s not just a pen, it’s a principle!”

3) Epidemiology (2.6)
AKA: The Zombie Apocalypse Episode
As tends to happen in a Halloween episode, the costumes provide an endless source of hilarity, from Pierce’s Captain Kirk outfit reaching new levels of authenticity to Troy’s sexy Dracula to Chang’s Peggy Flemming (“You’ve just been proven racist, by the racist prover!”). Even the extras are great (“You punched a lady bee!”). Meanwhile, Troy and Abed’s mini bromance crisis creates some genuine character moments. This is the best possible example of just how fun it is to see our characters go through a situation outside of what the premise of the show should allow…as a viewer, I know they aren’t going to kill off all of the characters, but as I was watching this episode for the first time, there’s some actual suspense as to how they were going to get out of this. That’s pretty neat storytelling for a silly cult comedy set at a community college. As a bonus, the entire zombie apocalypse is set to ABBA music.

2) Remedial Chaos Theory (3.3)
AKA: The Parallel Timelines Episode
Often considered the best episode of Community ever, we see seven different versions of Troy & Abed’s housewarming party, each with one member of the group missing. Both hilarious (this episode also introduces us to the Darkest Timeline, where Pierce is killed & Jeff loses an arm & Evil Abed is born) & heartwarming, this episode is a fascinating examination of each character’s part of the group’s dynamic. It’s endlessly interesting that the timeline where Jeff is gone is the best version of events, where the group can have fun & be free (this isn’t the first time where he is cut out of the group, but unlike the chicken finger/Godfather episode, the group does not come crawling back to him…they’ve grown from that). It’s also interesting to think about which is actually the darkest timeline—when Troy is gone & the apartment burns? Or when Abed is gone & everyone devolves into hating each other? The story also somehow has time to explore a couple of other character themes, like Jeff & Annie’s slightly icky relationship, Troy & Britta’s genuine, yet not quite grown-up connection, Pierce’s loneliness & Troy’s desire to earn Jeff’s respect.

1) Modern Warfare (1.23)
AKA: The Paintball Episode (Action movies)
What else could be number 1 but the original paintball episode…the one that put Community’s concept episodes on the map. With references from everything from Terminator (“Come with me if you don’t want paint on your clothes.”) to John Woo, this is true commitment to the bit. They even got a big time action director (Justin Lin of the Fast and Furious franchise) to create some legitimately impressive set pieces. From the not-so-subtle pokes at Glee (“I’m all for winning, but let’s not resort to cheap plots,” says Jeff, immediately before removing his shirt) to the absurdity of the prize the school tears itself apart fighting over (priority registration!), Modern Warfare is not only one of the most fun & funny episodes of a comedy that year, but one of the best half hours of television in recent history.

Community season 5 returns tonight, January 2 at 9/8 central on NBC. #sixseasonsandamovie


Best of 11: Top Five Episodes of the Matt Smith Era of Doctor Who


by Amy Yen

I’m not sure if I am a very common Whovian. My impression is, most people have “their” Doctor & that’s it. And granted, I have only been with the series since New Who launched in 2005. But I remember feeling–even as David Tennant’s farewell tour grew outlandishly long & I was ready to just see the new guy already–that surely, Ten was the Doctor when I feel in love with Doctor Who, so Tennant would be “my” Doctor forever.

But now, as Matt Smith’s tenure draws to an end, I’m really not that sure. I have many, many, many problems with the show during his time on it (mostly dealing with showrunner Steven Moffat & his approach to mythology, character development & writing women—this isn’t the time to go into all that, but do check out this article in The Atlantic that details the problem with Moffat’s plot-over-heart writing style quite well), but Matt Smith was never one of them. In fact, he was what kept it great. I enjoy Smith’s Doctor so much, I’m willing to slog through any tired companion-slash-mystery Moffat surrounds him with in order to watch him. If you were to press me on it today & I had to make a choice, I think I would say Smith was “my” Doctor.

Now this has to do with more than just Smith over Tennant…I was never much of a Rose fan & the “specialness” of Rose was never all that interesting to me, which really colors my enjoyment of Tennant’s era since the shadow of Rose falls over almost his entire run. On the flip side, I found Amy & Rory endlessly interesting companions & a lot of what I appreciate about Eleven’s run deals with the bizarre little family unit they formed with the Doctor & River and all of the various relationships between all of them.

Additionally, while there were just as many frustratingly pointless “fun romp” type episodes as ever (pirates in space? dinosaurs in space?), Eleven’s era did feature some of the most jaw-droppingly wonderful stories in New Who. So, with Matt Smith about to hang up his bow tie, I thought I’d reminisce about my favorites. Caveat: I am going to try to pick stories with my favorite Matt Smith moments, not just overall great episodes. This significantly downgrades certain episodes, like The Girl Who Waited, which is, as I said before, one of my very favorite New Who stories, but which is ultimately more about Amy & Rory than it is about the Doctor. This list is really all about saying goodbye one last time to Eleven, Matt Smith, his bow tie & his fez, before Peter Capaldi makes his presence known.

Honorable Mentions: A Christmas Carol, The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon, The God Complex, The Angels Take Manhattan, The Girl Who Waited

5) The Day of the Doctor (50th Anniversary special)
I thought it was probably fitting that in a special within the Matt Smith era, even one anticipated so much for the return of David Tennant, that Eleven should get perhaps the more clever moments. Not that Ten or even John Hurt’s War Doctor were just on the sidelines–their banter, especially between Ten and Eleven, was the highlight of the episode–but it’s still Matt Smith’s show right now and he makes the most of it. It was also the most personal of stories, one that did a particularly good job of explaining the Doctor’s continuously youthful-trending regenerations, which also serves to highlight one of Matt Smith’s more interesting strengths: the ability to play both so young and so old at the exact same time.

4) The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone (5.4-5)
Eleven’s first meeting with River Song has its problems–Moffat’s most famous monsters, the Weeping Angels, are much less interesting in this incarnation; Moffat also reuses a plot device from his Library 2-parter in having the Angels speak to the Doctor through poor Dead Bob–but Eleven’s early interactions with River are delightful & his moment in the forest with Amy (later revealed to be a future version of the Doctor rewinding & trying to save himself from being erased from time) was devastating on a number of levels. The first episode ends on the Doctor’s famous “One Thing You Don’t Put in a Trap” speech that was featured heavily in the series 5 trailer. And if there’s one thing Matt Smith can do, it’s perform a Moffat speech.

3) The Eleventh Hour (5.1)
The Doctor says he’s not done cooking in The Eleventh Hour, but the truth is Matt Smith is so convincingly The Doctor almost immediately, it’s remarkable. In fact, it’s so much fun watching the Eleventh Doctor find himself (& watching Matt Smith find his Doctor), you almost miss the rather terrible thing that the Doctor does in this episode–that is, completely mess with a little girl’s childhood (it’s not the last time he will do this). Moffat includes a pretty fantastic tribute to the ten Doctors before this one at the climax of the monster-of-the-week portion of this episode, and Matt Smith doesn’t look at all out of place stepping out from behind David Tennant’s rather sizable shadow.

2) The Doctor’s Wife (6.4)
The Doctor goes through such a range of emotions in this episode, from devastating hope that there might be another time lord still alive to righteous anger when he finds out the truth to unbridled joy at realizing what Idris really is. But the best is the moment he realizes he’s about to lose the TARDIS & Amy & Rory along with it. “I…really don’t know what to do,” he says. But then, even in the middle of his panic, he takes a second to bask. “That’s a new feeling.” That moment is so very Doctor Who. The other moment I love is at the end, when Amy & Rory are safely in their new room & the Doctor can dare to say aloud the question he’s dying to ask. “Are you there?” And yes, the TARDIS is always there & the music swells & the Doctor dances around the console & it will always be him & her, long after everyone else is gone.

1) The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang (5.12-13)
The best thing about Matt Smith in this story is that he gets to do it all. He is clearly having a blast with Moffat’s timey-wimey-est plot since Blink. He takes another tiny step forward with River. He gets to make his greatest, most bad-ass Moffat speech ever (“Remember every black day I ever stopped you!”). And he gets the quiet moment, so clever without us even realizing, telling a bedtime story to little Amelia Pond. “You’ll dream about that box. It’ll never leave you. Big and little at the same time. Brand new and ancient. And the bluest. Blue. Ever.” Matt Smith is great through all of it. He’s mesmerizing & he makes you believe. At the end of his first series, he’s The Doctor so completely, it’s hard to remember he was ever anyone else.

Of course, I’m sure in a few years, we’ll be saying the same thing about Peter Capaldi. Matt Smith’s final Doctor Who, The Time of the Doctor, airs Christmas Day, Wednesday, December 25 at 9pm ET on BBC America.

Thoughts on the Fringe Series Finale – Liberty / An Enemy of Fate

by Amy Yen

fringe finale

Of course.

I mean, of course it was a white tulip. The moment you saw it–the last image of Fringe ever–you knew it could never have been anything else. (It’s kind of like Lost in that way.) There were a lot of things wrong with “Liberty” & “An Enemy of Fate,” the series finale of Fringe, but Joel Wyman got the last moment exactly, perfectly right.

I’ve watched every episode of Fringe and consider it one of my favorite shows ever. To me, it wasn’t a perfect finale, but it got enough of it right that I can say goodbye the way I wanted to. I think it’s all we can ask for.

What I loved about the episode was all of the last hurrahs for the staples we’ve loved about the show for five years. One last crazy trip across universes. One last gruff but well-meaning Broyles exchange. One last Walter & Astrid moment in the lab. One last bad-ass Olivia sequence. One last Walter & Peter father & son moment.

“The time we had together, we stole. I cheated fate to be with you. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.” Isn’t this what it comes down to? The original sin of the entire show was Walter tearing a hole in a universe to take a son that wasn’t his. Now that he knows the damage he caused, if he had it to do all over again, would he?

How could he not? Maybe that’s what Walter is actually asking forgiveness for. Not that he did this horrible thing. That he would do it again. Without question.


So what does the white tulip mean? September took it from the original timeline to give Walter strength. Walter sends it to Peter when he knows he will disappear from the timeline. I think it can be interpreted a number of ways, but I took it to mean he’s found his forgiveness, his peace with what he’s done & what he will do, because one led to the stolen time he got to have with his son and the other to the time his son will get with his daughter. That’s an ending to these characters I can live with.

In the end, I stand by my admiration for this show because of its fearlessness to completely disrupt the status quo, even when maybe it didn’t need to be disrupted. To tell the story it wanted to tell, and never mind anyone else. There’s probably not ever going to be anything else like it.

If nothing else, it definitely had the highest average number of acid trips shown on screen per season ever. I’m willing to bet on it.

One last thing. It’s clear that the writers went out of their way to include callbacks this season, like little gifts for long-time viewers. But while many of them have felt simply like inconsequential Easter eggs, I thought the attack on the Observer headquarters was fantastic: a lovingly assembled greatest hits of the show’s grossest of the gross. So fitting because Fringe was about many things–identity & humanity & fathers & sons & love & loss–but it was also about showing the weirdest & most disgusting images you could possibly get away with on network TV, & doing so in the most entertaining, gleeful way possible.

I really am going to miss the hell out of this show.

More random thoughts on “Liberty” & “An Enemy of Fate”:

  • My God. How did they get through these two episodes without a single major character getting killed? (Unless you count September?) Not even Astrid! And I was terrified that Fauxlivia or Lincoln were going to end up as collateral damage.
  • Speaking of whom, it was so great to see the red-verse again! I really have missed them. I’m so glad to see Fauxlivia & Lincoln getting their completely adorable bad-ass Fringe agents happily ever after.
  • “You deserve all the happiness that you got.” So great to see Seth Gabel back, however briefly. That little moment when he first sees Olivia again & lets out that little breath, it’s so terrific. I like that there’s still that awkwardness between them, after all this time. And I like the moment between them where she tells him it’s okay that he got to be happy. Like their own white tulip moment. Lincoln was always one of my favorites.
  • I also loved the easiness between the two Olivias, which is remarkable when you remember all they’ve been through. Even if you discount the original season 3 timeline, remember just how much they hated each other at the beginning of season 4? Now they’re like old friends.
  • I think that overall, the scavenger hunt nature of this final season didn’t really pay off. I wish the different pieces of the puzzle came together in a more clever way, instead of just being random components. As it is, the pieces could have been anything.
  • What is it about “this era” that makes the Observers–all of them, as it turns out–develop emotions? If it’s being among our humanity that causes it, couldn’t it have happened in any era?
  • “It’s a beautiful name.” “What is?” “Astrid.” So wonderful. It’s funny, all these years, they never ran out of awesome names for Walter to call Astrid. It’s such a nice moment for a character that meant way more than her development ever gave her any right to be.
  • Also lovely to see Gene the cow one last time. I found it to be a way more emotional moment than I ever thought any moment involving a cow could be.
  • “Because it’s cool.” Nice moment of levity. Also another cool callback to another standalone Fringe case (“Os” from season 3).
  • “It’s not about fate, Walter. Yours or mine. It’s about changing fate. It’s about hope and protecting our children.” You know, while I like the nice parallels between Walter & September, I kind of see September’s & the Observers’ expanded role this season like the Jacob/Man in Black stuff in season 6 of Lost. It’s just a little too disconnected from the rest of the series, where it doesn’t quite feel like this was the inevitable endgame. But I do like this moment between two fathers.
  • Nice parallel imagery of Walter holding hands with Michael, walking into the wormhole, calling back to him walking with Peter through the door back to the blue-verse, back when this whole thing began.
  • Lovely Tilton score through the entire 2015 sequence.
  • Did you catch the bloody handprint on the wall during the attack sequence? It had six fingers like the glyph. Nice touch.
  • Among the callbacks in the attack sequence: the orifice-sealing bio-toxin from “Ability,” the giant cold germ from “Bound,” the killer imaginary butterflies from “The Dreamscape,” the exploded head from “The Box,” the bone-disintegrating powder from “Concentrate & Ask Again” & possibly the grossest of them all, the horrible tentacle worm parasite thing from “Snakehead.” Bravo, Fringe, you’ve really made me regret eating dinner quite a lot in the last five years.
  • Can’t go without saying the performances were, as usual, outstanding. I mean, hey, why not, one more John Noble Emmy moment for the road.
  • PS: If you’re a total Fringe geek like me, be sure to check out TVGuide’s oral history of the show, EW’s extensive podcast about its history and of course, my mythology episode guide & standalone episode picks, should you be so inclined.

One last time, thank you cast & crew of Fringe. It’s been an amazing ride.

J.H. Wyman, Anna Torv, Lance Reddick, Jasika Nicole, John Noble, Joshua Jackson

Thoughts on the Doctor Who 2012 Christmas Special – The Snowmen

by Amy Yen

“I never know why. I only know who.”

Can’t it ever just be a companion anymore? Right girl at the right time with the right amount of clever & the right amount of spunk & just enough crazy to drop everything & go travel time & space with a stranger in a police box?

I suppose after Amy, after River, that would be all too boring for Steven Moffat, so until we switch showrunners again, I guess every companion is destined for be just another mystery for the Doctor to solve. I won’t complain too much, the mystery that is Clara Oswin Oswald is by far the most interesting thing about “The Snowmen,” the 2012 Christmas special. It certainly wasn’t the Snowmen themselves, or the sinister Dr. Simeon, who is like a less interesting, less memorable version of Michael Gambon’s Kazran Sardick from “A Christmas Carol,” the best of Eleven’s Christmas adventures. I found the Snowmen plot utterly confusing & the way everything was magically solved by tears utterly lame, in the same way everything being magically solved by everyone chanting “Doctor” in “The Last of the Time Lords” was lame.

But anyway, back to Clara, or Oswin, or whoever. Despite the gratuitous kiss (at this point, it’s almost like Moffat’s just getting it out of the way, although I did feel a little indignant for River…hey Doctor, aren’t you married?), I found her charming & likable. She’s got the signature companion qualities, listed above, plus that irresistible  mystery (she’s impossible, like Amy) the Doctor will chase because he won’t be able to help himself. And at this point, I’m going to tolerate it, because hey. Whatever gets us back to the adventure.

More random thoughts on “The Snowmen”:

  • This was definitely the most I’ve liked Vastra & Jenny & Strax, all of whom were randomly introduced in “A Good Man Goes to War” in a way that was supposed to make us care about them immediately but didn’t. This episode, they finally earn it, especially Strax, even if he is now inexplicably alive again. “When you find something brand new in the world, what’s the next thing you look for?” “A grenade!”
  • New credits! I like them quite a bit.
  • The memory worm bit was both funny (again because of Strax) & vaguely uncomfortable, in that it seems a little too unethical a device for the Doctor to be using, either on Clara or the villain. I guess chalk it up to the Oncoming Storm & grief?
  • Speaking of grief, while I understand the Doctor’s over losing Amy & Rory, it did seem especially petulant &  bit out of character for him to be refusing to help. I would expect him to do his usual thing where he travels alone for a while, believing he is a danger to anyone he takes with him while not learning his lesson that he needs someone with him. But to sit in his box & flat out refuse to help when his friends call? Is that the Doctor?
  • Totally missed at first that the Doctor was wearing Amy’s glasses. Lovely touch.
  • Besides the great Strax one-liners, the one time I really sat up & said, “Now, that‘s clever,” was the one-word test Vastra & Jenny give Clara. Her one word message is “Pond,” because of course it is. What’s clever is that it’s perfectly set up, right under our noses, which is the sign of real clever writing, as opposed to the mess that is the conclusion of the Snowmen plot.
  • The new TARDIS is interesting. It feels a little less organic, a little more sterile (I understand it’s more similar to some of the ones from the classic series), which makes sense considering the Doctor’s frame of mind before this story.
  • What was the point of Clara having two jobs? Why couldn’t she just be the children’s governess? Again with the unnecessary mystery.
  • Speaking of unnecessary, sorry, that was a pretty lame Sherlock meta tie-in, IMO. If you’re going to have Sherlock exist in this universe, have him exist for real & have the Doctor have an adventure with him.
  • Does anyone else feel like the Doctor is just passing TARDIS keys out like candy these days? Remember how Martha didn’t get a key until like the fourth time she saves the Doctor’s life? When he pulls one out almost immediately upon Clara stepping in the TARDIS, I literally said out loud, “Seriously? Did she earn that?” Ah well. I’m sure she will.
  • I just want to mention again how disappointing the Snowmen were as a villain, just because they had so much potential. The Snowmen design, with the eyes & teeth, were actually quite scary (although there is no payoff to that initial scene where the Snowmen eat a bunch of people) & the idea of “snow that learns” is ominous in that wonderful Doctor Who way.
  • “Winter is coming.” Man, I miss Game of Thrones.

PS: New trailer! Enjoy:

Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 7 Mid-Series Finale: The Angels Take Manhattan

by Amy Yen

Best. Companion send-off. Ever.

I read that on Twitter after I watched the mid-series finale of Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the much anticipated (and dreaded) goodbye for Mr. and Mrs. Pond, & I can’t disagree. It wasn’t a perfect story, but it was a perfect ending for them. Even if the Doctor can’t see it right now.

I have to say, I’m so relieved Moffat did these characters justice. It’s been, let’s just say, not my favorite series, & the main reason is that, for a series that has been leading up to their inevitable departure, I’ve felt like the first four episodes were the least effective use of the Ponds yet. Not one of those stories even came close to featuring them as well as something like “The Girl Who Waited,” or “Amy’s Choice.” Luckily, when it came down to it, Moffat went back to the one thing that was always consistent about Amy & Rory: they will always, always choose each other.

The two choices that were made in this episode — Rory & Amy choosing to jump off the building in blind hope that the paradox would erase Rory’s fate of a life without Amy, and Amy choosing to let the Angel zap her back in time in blind hope that it would save her from a life without Rory — were consistent with every other choice we’ve seen them make. Amy choosing the frozen TARDIS timeline when she realized she would lose Rory in the Leadworth timeline. Rory choosing to stay by the Pandorica to guard Amy. Amy choosing to let her older self die so her younger self could grow old with Rory. In the end, when the Angel took Rory and Amy had to choose between trying to be with him or staying with the Doctor, it never was a choice at all.

The Doctor does not take it so well. It’s interesting, the Doctor hates endings & he’s desperately afraid of losing Amy. That’s why he dropped her & Rory off after “The God Complex.” He’s “saving” them, so says Amy. But he can’t give them up any more than they can give him up, so he keeps coming back (as if to keep making up for not showing up the first time). Here, he is selfish. He tells Amy he doesn’t know if the Angel will send her back to the same time as Rory, when he does full well that it does. That’s why Billy Shipton winds up in the same time as Ten & Martha. He begs Amy not to do this, not to leave him, asks her to “come along, Pond” when he knows it would mean she wouldn’t see Rory again. It’s all very human of him.

What the Doctor can’t see in his grief, in this moment, is this is really the best possible outcome for Amy & Rory. Maybe they didn’t quite go out on their own terms, but they went out together & they lived. And considering how often each of them has died (especially Rory, who, hilariously, died again this episode…one more for the road, yes?), this is a borderline miraculous ending.

More random thoughts on ‘The Angels Take Manhattan”:

  • “To save you, I could do anything.” Don’t doubt it. He’s got two thousand years to back it up. Rory Williams truly is among the most romantic figures in recent pop culture. And to Amy, for Amy, he’s every bit the hero the Doctor is.
  • It’s fitting this episode read like a book, considering Amy Pond’s story has always had a little bit of fairy tale to it.
  • The Weeping Angels really hold up. They’re still every bit as terrifying as they were in “Blink,” & I like that we see them in their original flavor here. I always thought the zapping-people-back-in-time thing was way more interesting than what they did in “Time of Angels.”
  • So. The Statue of Liberty is a Weeping Angel huh? Of course she is.
  • Look, I really liked this episode, so I’m going to choose to ignore a bunch of plot holes here, like why the hell the Doctor wouldn’t take the TARDIS to go to the hotel instead of stealing a car, or where the hell the Angel went after it zapped Amy at the end, since neither the Doctor or River were looking at it, or since when could the Doctor just heal injuries with regeneration energy?
  • “Just you wait when my husband gets home.” While I don’t know that River was really essential to this story, it’s appropriate she’s here, since it is her parents & all. Plus, it made for a whole lot of awesome flirting between her & the Doctor. Especially loved the Doctor checking his breath & straightening his bow tie before seeing her. Aw.
  • Speaking of River, it’s nice that she was pardoned for that murder she didn’t actually commit (which I’m still kind of appalled by, so hopefully this is the last we’ll hear of it). Yet another convenient side effect of the continuing Doctor-erased-from-everything sub-plot. And there’s that pesky Question again. Hidden in plain sight.
  • I thought for a while, when Amy & Rory were on the ledge about to jump, the Doctor would end up saving them in the TARDIS, like he’s done with River a few times. But I like that the Doctor was so powerless in this episode, that he couldn’t save them & they had to save themselves. This story isn’t about the Doctor.
  • So lovely to see little Amelia Pond again. A lovely touch to end where it began. Amelia, unlike Amy, will never grow old.
  • I’m so not a fan of these split seasons. These series are not long enough to split…there’s barely any momentum & it’s over again. Now we have to wait all the way until Christmas to meet Oswin or Clara or whoever she is.
  • I can’t go without saying, Matt Smith & Arthur Darvill & especially Karen Gillan were all terrific this episode. “Raggedy man, goodbye.” Argh! Just heartbreaking.
  • Did you notice the newspaper Amy is reading in the park at the beginning of the episode? The headline reads “Detroit Lions Win Super Bowl.” And if that wasn’t an indication they were in some bizarre, Fringe-like alternate timeline, I don’t know what is.

Thoughts on Fringe’s Final Season Premiere: Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11

by Amy Yen

There are a lot of ways you could describe what kind of show Fringe is. It’s really well acted. It has a rich & terribly complex mythology. It’s got a lot of ludicrous science that doesn’t make any sense. It can be, in the same hour, terrifying, thrilling, hilarious & heartbreaking.

It’s incredibly brave.

Whether you thought the Peter disappearing arc really paid off or not, or whether you think they really told all the story there was to tell in the red-verse before closing it off, or whether you think it’s the best choice to set the final 13 episodes in 2036, you have to admit, Fringe doesn’t do safe storytelling. That may mean it can go off the rails a little, but you have to admire it for trying it in the first place.

Fortunately, based off of “Transilience Thought Unifer Model-11,” this final leap may pay off yet. I found 2036 this time around completely engaging. It was smart to bring the entire core team forward, so that we haven’t actually missed very much of their story. And Etta — perfectly cast Etta (who, looking at her now, I can’t believe we went through “Letters of Transit” without knowing who she was, because it is so very obvious) — Etta is exactly right, exactly who a daughter of Peter & Olivia would be. A wonderful performance from Georgina Haig, highlighted by the scene reuniting her with Olivia. 

Really, every performance was pretty much amazing in this episode, although it would be a crime, which should be punishable by horrible Observer mind-probing, to post this without saying that John Noble was, for the millionth time, incredible. And although I found the scene between Peter & Olivia, where they explain to us, but mostly to each other for some reason, what happened to them after they lost Etta, clunky & unnecessary, I did think Joshua Jackson did an admirable job selling it. I just don’t really see why it was necessary to break them up again. (It reminds me of Amy & Rory’s break-up in this year’s Doctor Who premiere. Is it just that the writers think it’s more interesting when they’re a little star-crossed? In both cases, I just feel like the characters have developed beyond that.)

Anyway, overall, I found the whole thing reason to hope, like a single dandelion growing on scorched earth, that this final season, which we are lucky to have regardless of what it turns out being, is going to give this story the ending it deserves.

More random thoughts on “Transilience Thought Unifer Model-11”:

  • I thought the callbacks to the some of the familiar little things we know about these characters, like Walter trying to eat egg sticks like licorice (“What a miserable future.”) and calling Astrid “Afro,” were used really well. Not only did it bring a little humor, but it was kind of subtly sad, calling back on something that was lost in this future.
  • “You seem much more interesting as a human being than a vegetable. But, all things being equal, I don’t mind which one you end up.” They’ve done a great job of making the Observers straight-up terrifying.
  • If Peter & Olivia lost Etta when the Observers invaded when she was three, how does she know who she is? And what exactly happened to her?
  • The carbon monoxide thing was a nice touch. If you think about it, the air is only going to get more polluted in the future, where the Observers came from, so it makes sense they’d adapted to it. And ironically, by polluting the air on purpose now, they may be speeding up the ruining of the world that eventually leads them to go back in time in the first place.
  • I did think during the scenes at the resistance headquarters that those bits would have been so much more interesting with Simon still around. Stupid Scandal, ruining everything. (I don’t mean that, I actually quite like Scandal.) Now that Henry Ian Cusick’s available, I really hope they find a way to bring him back. With the way the bit of dialogue referencing Simon was written, I have to assume we will.
  • I wonder what happened to Ella, Olivia’s niece, in this version of the future. If you remember, in the “The Day We Died” future, she ended up a Fringe agent.
  • It’s kind of nice to see Markham again, even if him using amber-ized Olivia as a coffee table is really messed up. I have the feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot of familiar faces on the farewell tour this year.

Ad Post: Google Chrome – The Web is What You Make of It

by Amy Yen

Google Chrome 1:00 spot
Agency: Google Creative Lab/Bartle Bogle Hegarty

The latest from Google’s “The Web is What You Make of It” series promoting their Chrome browser, “Jess Time” is every bit as captivating & lump-in-the-throat inducing as their first spot, “Dear Sophie,” which remains one of my very favorite pieces of creative from 2011.

Both ads tell such touching, relatable stories — capturing the moments as you watch your child grow up, staying close to your kids when they go off to college (I thought there was also such a beautiful underlying sadness to the “Jess Time” spot, with saying without saying it that this is also a family in mourning) — it’s remarkable that both spots also somehow manage to demonstrate the features of the product in such an inspirational way. I love that it actually inspires imagination, without any sense of manipulation. Isn’t that what really great creative is supposed to do?

Google is notably new to traditional advertising, and has put a lot of promotion into Chrome, which finally overtook Internet Explorer (who themselves have a solid, if not as emotionally resonant spot in rotation) in the browser wars earlier this year. In addition to “Sophie” & “Jess,” the Chrome campaign includes spots with Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber & “It Gets Better,” a chronicle of the movement that began with Dan Savage’s inspirational video message, which is an especially wonderful in that it’s a true life example of how technology can change lives.