TV

Early Predictions for ‘This Is Us’

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I was fully expecting not to like this episode. The premiere was a really good bit of television, which is sometimes hard to beat- I gave up Quantico after the second episode, and I think everyone agrees that the Pilot of Glee was an entirely different monster than the 100+ episodes that followed. So I sat down to watch completely expecting that this episode would be just alright and I could go back to having a Tuesday without three hours of sitting on my couch. And while I was mostly right about the episode (What kind of mom visits her son unannounced on a school day at 8 AM? Seriously Rebecca?), the surprise ending managed to pull me in all over again. Where’s present-day Jess Milo Jack? Dang, This Is Us, are you going to throw us a curveball in the last minute of every episode? Are you the new How To Get Away With Murder? With all these questions and more, there’s a lot of directions this show could go in. I’m just going to lay it all out and see where this takes us.

Prediction #1: The Flasbacks Will Always Relate To Present Day

I was expecting and kind of hoping for the stories to follow each other in a linear fashion, with Jack and Rebecca figuring things out as new parents while their kids figured things out as 36 year-olds. But with all these twists still coming, it definitely makes more sense for the flashbacks to jump around in time. Still, there has to be some sort of overlying theme for each episode (it’s a basic cable drama after all), so I’m thinking they’ll stick with a pattern- Kate and Toby will have relationship problems while Jack and Rebecca do, etc.

Prediction #2: Kevin Did Something Awful To Randall

Halfway through this episode I was really wondering when they would reveal that something awful happened between Randall and the twins, because I couldn’t recall them ever referring to him other than The Manny poster in Randall’s daughter’s bedroom. The flashback was about, among other things, how 8 year-old Kevin never stood up for his brother, so I figured they were going to punch up their relationship somehow. In the end we just Kevin admitting “I was never a good brother to you,” which could be innocent enough, but I feel like this could still go totally South with a reveal that something bad happened. Kevin hazed Randall for laughs at a college party! Kevin publicly disowned Randall because he was adopted! Kevin took advantage of Randall because he’s too nice! The opportunities are endless.

Prediction #3: Kevin Is Going To Move In With Randall

Kevin said he wanted to go into theater, so who knows? Maybe he’ll move to the East Coast and hang out with Randall, which will not only interconnect the stories more, but will also help him stop being Kate and Toby’s third wheel.

Prediction #4: Jack Is Dead

This one is kind of obvious. I’m leaning towards ‘dead’ and not ‘divorced,’ because this is a tear-jerker of a show and they want you to weep. Also, Rebecca still had the moon necklace, which either means she’s still in love with Jack and present-day husband Miguel is completely clueless, or she’s allowed to still be in love with Jack because he’s dead. I think we can all agree that’s something Miguel would be okay with.

Prediction #5: Jack Is Dead Because Miguel Killed Him!

Probably not but wouldn’t that be crazy!

Prediction #6: Kate Will Break Up With Toby But DON’T WORRY They’ll Get Back Together

Every show needs a will they/won’t they. I guess it’s not Rebecca and Jack, because of Miguel, and I’m praying it’s not Randall and Beth, because they’re pretty perfect. Somewhere around midseason Kate will cut ties because of the weight thing, but it won’t last. Hopefully.

Prediction #7: William Is Going To Die Tragically

We all agree on this. Moving on.

Prediction #8: William Will Save Randall’s Daughter and Then Die Tragically

Little kid with asthma. Biological grandfather with stomach cancer. TWO scenes of little kid using her inhaler, one with the help of biological grandfather. There’s something there.

Prediction #9: They’re Going To Keep Doing That ‘Big Three’ Chant

And honestly, I’m going to hate it a little bit.

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Books, TV

A Time For Starks

It’s Wednesday of the week between (possibly one of) the greatest episodes of Game of Thrones ever and the finale. So there’s a lot of think-pieces and questions needing answers floating around there. Is Sansa pregnant? Will Jaime kill Cersei? Where is the wildfire?! As much as I need these questions answered, there’s one question that’s more important to ask, and that’s this: why are people hating on the Starks?

Whether they’re your favorite house or not, it’s been set up from the beginning that the Starks are important. We spend most of the entire first episode, and most of the first chapters of A Game of Thrones, in Winterfell. The series starts with the honorable Ned Stark fulfilling his duties of Warden of the North in front of his young sons. Even our first cliffhanger is “is Bran Stark alive?!” He’s a seven year old boy in a series about kings and warriors. Why should that even be important?

And yet it is, partially because we’re not sociopaths who want to see the death of children, and partially because the Starks are crucial to the story. They were the example of goodness and honor in Westeros, where most people didn’t feel the same. They were a cute family who just wanted to be reunited, and over the course of five seasons weaved in and out of each other’s lives, just missing each other so many aggravating times. And now that they’re finally making their way back to each other, people seem to be wanting their story to take a different course. “They’re all back to where they started,” people complain. Yeah. And…? We’ve known from the start that there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, and now we’re finally getting back to it. If you’re like me, noticing that slowly but surely each ‘villain’ is getting picked off one by one, you recognize that the culmination of the series has to be heading toward one big brawl against the White Walker army. Genuinely, who is more important to that story than the Starks? Jon, with his Valyrian steel sword and Night’s Watch knowledge; Bran, with his connection to the Night King and all-seeing wisdom, Benjen, who’s halfway to becoming a White Walker himself; Winterfell, the closest stronghold to the terrors beyond the wall.

All their stories are wrapping up neatly, too. Arya has completed her training and knows where she is- and thank God, because I couldn’t have handled one more section with the Waif. Sansa, who’s been brutally abused as long as we’ve known her, finally got the revenge she needed, and with her first kill and war-time strategies she’s becoming a real player in the game. Jon may not be the best leader, but I’m behind him, and we’re so close to the reveal that he’s half Targaryen I’m sure that Drogon can even feel it. You may not love them, but they’re finally home.

And hell yeah I clapped when Sansa had Ramsay’s face ripped off by dogs. It’s about time the good guys got some wins.

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TV

Why Does The Mindy Project’s Cast Keep Disappearing?

Full disclosure: I’m a few episodes behind on The Mindy Project. Partially because I’m busy; mostly because Mindy and Danny are essentially finished and I’m bitter. This is the problem I had with New Girl (and I regretted it) so I know I’ll be back, but I just… need some time to get over it.

Today it was announced that Chris Messina would no longer be a series regular on the show, but instead would show up in Fall’s season 5 as a “recurring guest star,” whatever that means? As heartbreaking as this news is, I can’t help thinking why this show is dropping more characters left and right than Game of Thrones. Don’t believe me? Please tell me where any of these people are. I’m waiting.

Anna Camp as Gwen, Mindy’s Best Friend: Where you at? Other than preparing to marry Skylar Astin? Gwen’s kid should be BFF’s with Leo. Come on, that would be cute.

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Stephen Tobolowsky as Dr. Marc Shulman: Remember when they had a boss???

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Amanda Setton as Shauna, The Receptionist: She liked Danny, and then got fired? Maybe? Her situation seems a little unethical, though it’s not the worst thing these guys have ever done.  

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Zoe Jarman as Betsy: Literally disappeared into thin air. Can someone check on her? Send out an Amber Alert?

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Adam Pally as Peter Prentice: I mean yeah, he’s still around, but I need a real explanation why he’s no longer in the office. Thanks!

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Now we can add Danny to that list, and that’s just the series regulars! How about the Deslaurier brothers, Mindy’s brother, Danny’s mom and brother, DOT!, plus all the random celebrity cameos that filter in and out for a laugh (#neverforget that Seth Meyers has now appeared twice as two different people). This show has only been on for four seasons and yet it’s already changed its roster more than the Panther/Lion split in Dillon Texas. By the end of its run, it’ll just be Mindy & Morgan hanging out alone, wondering where everyone they used to interact with disappeared to. Actually, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

 

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TV

I’m Glad I Started Watching New Girl Again

Sometime around September 2011, I became obsessed with FOX’s freshman show New Girl. And somewhere around April 2014, I gave up on it. I don’t think I’m alone in this. My mom, sister and our friends stopped watching then, too. This was season 3, around the time that token will they/won’t they pairing Nick & Jess broke up and then went on a couple’s cruise together. Coach had, seemingly weirdly, just returned. Cece and Schmidt weren’t together. Either I was just too busy with schoolwork to put in the effort, or it was just enough overload to give up all together. Season 4 came and went. I saw online that it ended with Cece and Schmidt getting engaged, but the only episode I actually watched was the last 15 minutes of “Spiderhunt” that I sort of left on as background noise before the finale of Parks & Recreation. I remember thinking they’re all just standing around making sauce. Now I know why I stopped watching this, as if I needed to justify why I forgot about the show that gave us panic moonwalking.

And then season 5 was pushed to a January premiere. I have next to no idea how the network executives arrange their schedules, but as a viewer this always feels like a bad sign. Glee‘s final season got a short January release, and so did Parks & Rec (even New Girl creator Liz Meriwether assumed they were going to get canceled). Even though this seemed like a bad omen, the premiere coincided with season 4 going up on Netflix, so out of pure boredom I figured I’d give it another shot.  If New Girl was going to get canceled and the season 5 finale would it be its goodbye, I’d try to catch up and see it get sent off. Turns out it wasn’t canceled, and I did catch up, and thank God.

Now that I’m all caught up and have seen Schmidt’s Long Island speech, I can say with certainty that New Girl isn’t a perfect show, but it feels really close.  My love of sitcoms might cloud my judgement a little bit, but New Girl takes the cliche and the weird and completely commits. It has everything you could ever want on a comedy (weird living arrangements! Two straight dudes who are in love with each other! A guy who’s best friend is a cat!) and yet somehow keeps coming up with ways to punch you in the gut and make you want to move in with a bunch of strangers. Last night’s double header “Wedding Eve”/”Landing Gear” was no exception. “Landing Gear” took the Doucebag Jar that was so perfectly and hilariously introduced way back in episode 1 and smashed it (literally- it was a Jewish wedding, after all) as Cece & Schmidt got married. “Wedding Eve” brought back both Tran, the mute old man who Nick has an inexplicable friendship with, and True American, the greatest game nobody knows how to play. Even Coach- Coach!- came back to celebrate and remind everyone that he really is the best. There was a naked Winston, more Zombie novels and an almost-rekindling of the Nick/Jess romance. There was Peter Gallagher, romantic gestures and classic mixups. It was everything you’d want from a finale in a season of television that gave it all.

And by the way, “Spiderhunt” was one of the best episodes of season 4. New Girl, I love you. Thanks for taking me back.

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Books, TV

Television & Surprise Reveals, AKA the Jon Snow Predicament

How do you pull off a big reveal? Not a hypothetical question, I’m really asking: how do you do it? I can only image how much easier it was back in the Dallas days, where there were no Twitter rumors or grainy iPhone photos from the set that could spoil what you’ve spent months and millions on hiding from your dedicated audience. Poor Kit Harington has been bombarded with questions for close to a full year, and though his lying finally paid off and (spoiler alert) Jon Snow came back to life last night, was it all worth it?

I’ve recently read the A Song Of Ice & Fire series that Game of Thrones is based on, a summer’s worth of train rides intended to tide me over before season 5, since I had binged 1-3 right before season 4 began and was in desperate need for a fix. So it’s all relatively fresh to me (except the Greyjoy stuff, I’m sorry but I skimmed), particularly the cliffhanger ending of Jon Snow being stabbed to death by some choice traitors of the Night’s Watch. Not that anyone would need a refresher on that- if I never see that image of Jon Snow dying in the snow ever again, I’ll be good!- but when the scene concluded season 5 I was less than surprised. I also wasn’t worried at all. Was it because I firmly believe in R+L=J, something that the show couldn’t get away with not revealing eventually? Was it because Harington would be spotted in Belfast more times than anyone could count? Why didn’t I care that one of my favorite characters had just been killed off a show that infamously kills favorite characters? And why does it matter?

I don’t watch The Walking Dead, but I have a feeling they’ll run into a similar issue next season, when it’ll be revealed who Negan brutally murdered at the end of last season. From the internet’s reaction, it was sort of a cop-out to have an entire season leading up to a death that is never seen. Are viewers going to find out who is dead at the beginning of the premiere episode? Mid-season finale? I’m interested in how they’re going to raise the tension for some that everyone’s already expecting- something that Thrones currently has to tackle with The Mountain, a character I’m fairly certain everybody knows has been reincarnated by Qyburn as Cersei’s champion, but hasn’t been explicitly revealed to the audience. What’s the hold up?! At least with Jon, we got some answers. My sister guessed during the episode that they’d make us sweat out Snow’s fate for one more week, and I was thrilled to see that they didn’t. Jon Snow dying was a good cliffhanger, regardless of how much you believed he was really dead, but his resurrection mostly just made me glad that we wouldn’t be heading into another week of “not knowing” if Jon Snow was “really dead.” After a while, all the waiting lends itself to disappointment and wasted time.

It brings to mind similar reveals this television season, specifically The Flash. It’s big-bad reveal this season was sort of a wash- Earth 2’s Jay Garrick wasn’t really Jay Garrick, he was Hunter Zolomon, AKA Zoom! But the audience already knew this, having figured it out weeks before Barry, so the lead-up and discovery of his secret was a little lukewarm (I’m really not going to blame The Flash on that, considering the story was really only bogged down by obligatory network prep for the Legends of Tomorrow spinoff, but I digress-). Maybe the audience is just getting too smart. After all, everything I’m referring to here is based on a pre-existing written series. We can’t expect the source material to be completely re-written just to keep TV audiences on their toes. But at the same time… Can’t we? If Hollywood is going to keep adapting, they’re going to need to not get lazy about the execution. Or maybe just don’t give us an important, beloved character and expect the actor not to cut his hair immediately after dying on screen… You know what, maybe audiences are just asking for a lot these days. Anyways, long live Jon Snow.

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TV

‘It’s Always Sunny’ On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I just finished Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and though that too much longer than it should have, I’m definitely not alone in feeling that this season was a huge improvement from last year- which is saying a lot, considering it’s what gave us Peeno Noir and the world’s catchiest theme song. I didn’t think UKS could get much better, but I should know never to underestimate Tina Fey (and so should Taylor Swift).

There was something really fresh and 30 Rock-ish about the writing this season, especially in Kimmy’s little “what the huh?” and weird gags like Titus putting a mannequin arm up his sleeve so he could hold Mikey’s hand while eating a sandwich. But another thing I found myself realizing as I watched this season was how Kimmy and her friends reminded me of another wacky group living in semi-squalor who are kind of just not good people: the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang. Obviously, the UKS group is not as villainous- they’ve never gotten addicted to crack just to get welfare or tried to pick up girls at an abortion rally. But both shows have put humorous twists on serious topics- racism, sexism, gentrification. Even observing character to character, Kimmy is basically a non-violent Charlie Kelly, right? She’s not quite a sociopath but couldn’t the self-absorbed Jacqueline easily go toe to toe with Dennis Reynolds? And are you not surprised Frank didn’t think of making tenants live in a tug-boat basement before Lillian did?

Let’s look at the facts. This season, Jacqueline gives her son an ADHD drug so they don’t have to spend time together, and then trashes a store with him to give him back his joy. Later, she ruins someone’s Lupus Awareness Awareness benefit by having all the married men meet their mistresses at her benefit, just so she can reclaim her top-dog status. Kimmy and Dong have sex in the back of a cop car, and he gets deported. Titus goes to the funeral of a colleague, where they’re literally dumping the body into the East River. Kimmy watches fellow mole-woman Gretchen do coke with a “junkyard Elmo.” Tina Fey shows up as an alcoholic therapist who drinks on the job. These people are kind of screwed up, and yet it’s funny as hell to watch.

Life’s similar at Paddy’s Pub, where the Philadelphia characters are somehow not in jail after all this time. They’re bad people, and it’s really entertaining because after 12 years they haven’t changed at all. I’m personally not bothered by their craziness (it’s a commentary on society, guyssss) but for some viewers they’re just too mean. You’re not rooting for them, because you hope their schemes don’t work- you don’t want them to get away with tricking the Health Inspector, because it’s disgusting, but you can’t look away either. Life is good for Charlie, Mac, Dennis and Dee, because they’re skating by and fine with it, but it isn’t for everyone else. You’re just left hoping you never run into anyone like them on the street.

On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, life is always sunny, for everyone. Jacqueline trashes a store, but it’s to bond with her son. The benefit she ruins is ultimately so she can raise money for her Native American tribe. That funeral Titus goes to- Ice T and the crew of Law and Order: SVU are there to pay their respects, and Ice T plays the saxophone. Gretchen becomes the leader of her own cult, which ends up being a positive, and Leah Remini joins. Tina Fey’s Dr. Andrea actually does end up helping Kimmy. Even Dong’s deportation ends up being just a minor setback. I’m sure he’ll return somehow, because that’s how life works on Kimmy. Nothing that terrible ever really happens, and it works for the audience, too. We’re rooting for them the whole time.

Tina Fey and Robert Carlock have created a world where bad things happen, and bad things are done, but through Kimmy’s bright-eyed view on the world it all comes across as harmless and in good fun. It’s not one of the darkest shows on TV (though looming ahead for next season is Kimmy’s divorce from the imprisoned Reverend), and of course it draws similarities to other shows, but it gets away with achieving something positive. Talking about serious subjects, while keeping it light, and keeping you laughing is no easy task, but Kimmy pulls it off. It’s the worst, laziest pun I could come up with, but that really is unbreakable.

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TV

Jane The Virgin Has a Michael Problem

If you’re a Jane The Virgin viewer, there’s only one thing on your mind right now: Michael’s going to die. Oh, no? Just me? I’m the only one watching each new episode like it’s season 9 of How I Met Your Mother, a complete waste of time since the wedding they’ve been planning is just going to end up a tragic plot point to the ultimate resolution of having two other characters get together? What?

Dramatic reactions aside, the impending death of “Jane’s perfect man” Michael Cordero is a sore spot for me. #TeamRafael sucked me in from the beginning, but somewhere along the middle of last season I left Rafael and his perfectly colored pants in the dust and joined Team Michael. And I know the point of the show is #TEAMJANE, but c’mon, the show is 100% at it’s best when it’s revolving around the core love-triangle/square/other many-sided shape. Yeah, there’s a crime mystery going on in there as well, but right now all I really know about Mudder is Rafael’s brother wears a lot of scarves. I was thrilled Jane and Michael got engaged, which right now is a problem.

Michael’s death is a widely debated theory right now. I mean, Google doesn’t lie: Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 4.00.33 PMAnd it’s partially because the sly hints they’ve been dropping are just now too damn obvious to ignore. The kicker was the final shot of last night’s “Chapter Forty,” which gives us the revelation that Michael is being stalked. Truthfully this itself isn’t a huge deal- he’s a cop, and when it comes to the criminal angle nothing could be worse than baby Mateo being kidnapped hours after birth. What is a huge deal is that it seems pretty much confirmed that this will be the storyline to carry Michael to his demise. So right now, it feels like the show has the chance to go in two directions:

A) Michael is safe, Jane and Michael marry, Jane The Virgin becomes Jane Not The Virgin, Rafael and Jane co-parent Mateo, there’s unnecessary drama at the Marbella, Jane moves out and visits her mother and grandma when it’s convenient to the plot

B) Michael dies, Jane falls back to Rafael, another potential love interest comes along and messes with the equation, the audience is treated to Michael v. Rafael 2.0 and Mateo has some other random guy he can call “da-da”

I guess there’s a third option, where Michael breaks it off with Jane for other reasons or he gets amnesia or is put into witness protection or some other crazy soap opera plot. I realize I’m being picky here. TV shows are meant to change and considering the amazing story the writers have given us in the past I have faith that they’ll keep entertaining us. But one thing that’s hard to deny is that JTV does an excellent job of making you side with who they want you to side with- Michael is currently being portrayed as Jane’s soulmate, whereas Rafael is back to making bad decisions and being a subpar dad to Elsa & Anna (lol). There are cycles to their responsibility and attractiveness, and we’re totally in a Michael moment right now. If Michael dies, am I supposed to just fall back into Rafael? Or guy #3? Not to mention the fact that Jane is the least deserving person of a dead fiancee, and that’s something that no one is deserving of. Maybe I’m just sad I chose the wrong side of this debate. Maybe I should just accept the dead-fiancee trope is one that would not only work within Jane The Virgin, but would make for some really interesting development moving forward. Maybe I am just looking way too far into a TV show. Whatever the case, we have 4 episodes to see if Jane makes it down the aisle or not. The Michael problem will be hanging over my head until then.

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Movies

‘What If’ RomCom’s Weren’t All That Bad?

If there’s one thing I can remember about being 15 it’s that I became obsessed with romantic comedies. I’m sure I’m not alone in this; it’s like suddenly the thought of buying a PG-13 movie ticket on your own is the single coolest thing to happen, and almost everyone just assumes they’ll be getting a significant other in high school so romcom’s are kind of like a practice-run into relationships, right? What I didn’t remember, and what took my own 15 year-old sister asking for recommendations to make me realize, is that a large amount of romcom’s are not all that great. This isn’t breaking news; people have always been largely unimpressed with the ‘chick flick’ genre (are you as surprised as me to remember Ryan Gosling got a Golden Globe nod for Crazy Stupid Love?). But as a person who has seen (and loved) a lot of romcom’s, it’s depressing that a lot of the most recent movies are incredibly forgettable and so cliche I wonder why I haven’t written and produced one yet. If you just take them for what they are- cute, funny, harmless- romcom’s are great, but now they’ve just gotten a bad rap for people who are watching them over the age of 17 (and the amount of times I’ve said the word “romcom” is furthering this point).

The last romantic comedy I saw in theaters was the guy-oriented That Awkward Moment (which hurt my brain so much I wished I was watching High School Musical 4 instead), so when my sister begged me to take her to see What If, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, I was sort of expecting the worst. I originally thought it would just be another movie with “darn, I’ve been friend-zoned” undertones, though with Radcliffe involved I should have known better. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and I was really interested in seeing him do a completely different role, knowing he would probably be hilarious considering how well he did on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. So I take back what I originally said- I was expecting the worst, but also just really wanted to see Daniel Radcliffe in a romcom.

And I ended up being pleasantly surprised. What If was a fresher look at friendships between men and women. The characters were great; Radcliffe is really charming and Kazan was incredibly sweet and sympathetic. As their best friends, Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis were hilarious (Davis also starred in That Awkward Moment so it was nice to see her here), and Megan Park of The Secret Life of the American Teenager was perfectly cast as Kazan’s crazier sister. Parts of the script admittedly threw me for a loop; in one scene, Kazan’s Chantry gives Radcliffe’s Wallace her number on a sheet of paper and it just might have been so Wallace could dramatically let it fly away in the wind, but it would have felt more appropriate in a movie set a few years back? You will probably guess the ending to this movie, but before you get there there’s a unique script, interesting characters, a couple of twists and moments of real awkwardness and relatable tension. The movie didn’t try to push any agendas, just pose the real question of whether or not you should take a chance on something as life-changing and difficult as love. 

What If was humorous and well-acted, and not in the same league of movies as say, Failure to Launch, except that it is. Maybe all it takes is a few more well-done movies before people can stop knocking the genre for what it is. Granted, first we actually need a few more well-done movies, but What If gave me hope in a world where people think the upcoming romcom’s are going to involve people going on Tinder dates. The day that happens is the day I give up completely and go back to John Hughes.

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TV

I Can’t Stop Thinking About the HIMYM Finale

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that How I Met Your Mother ended this week. And you probably also know that while some hardcore Ted/Robin fans really enjoyed it, most people felt entirely unfulfilled after watching it. I’m one of the latter. I started watching How I Met Your Mother in 2010 because nobody would stop talking about it. I knew half of the recurring jokes before I even started watching, and yet they were still funny to me. HIMYM was a good show I often praised for its excellent continuity and perfect blend of touching and humorous moments.

My one major complaint throughout its nine-season run? Why do they keep making Ted go back to Robin?

To me, the Ted/Robin romance was a complete waste of time. We’ve known since the very first episode that Robin was not the mother. We’d spent the final two seasons building up to a Barney/Robin wedding. The writers were conditioning me to hate the relationship, because it seemed so obvious that Ted would never end up with Robin, no matter what, and the story was getting so played out and repetitive. It was starting to become so boringly redundant, because the show was How I Met Your Mother, not How I Kept Obsessing Over Your Aunt Robin Even Though She Rejected Me Like Five Times.

Regardless of the countless times I rolled my eyes about Ted falling back to Robin, everyone grew up since we’d first seen them in 2005. Marshall and Lily showed us marriage doesn’t get any easier, but its worth it when its with someone you love. Robin was still committed to her career, but was letting someone care about her. Barney was finally acting like an adult. The Barney/Robin relationship was proving that these two could make it together, and could put their selfish pasts behind them and start working towards a real, adult love. We were finally going to meet The Mother, the one this whole story had been leading up to, the true owner of the yellow umbrella and Ted’s soul mate. All of Ted’s efforts were finally going to be worth it, and he was going to get the two kids he wanted and finally spend time with someone who cared about him and who fit in with the gang. The point of the show was always, to me, about how Ted finally did meet the mother and all the roadblocks that every twenty- and thirty-something encounters. And we were finally going to see that.

Enter the finale. All of that development and growth that we’d seen over nine seasons disappeared in an instant. Barney and Robin get divorced. Robin completely stops hanging out with the gang. Barney, after begging his friends “can I please be me?,” has a child with a woman who’s name we never even learn. Marshall and Lily… what do we even get for Marshall and Lily? No mention of Italy, Marshall depressed at his new job, mentions of their third kid and a briefly celebrated moment where Marshall finally gets to become a Judge. The writers may have been shooting for “real life,” which I respect. Lily’s promise that “We’ll always be there for the big moments” felt genuine and you can’t expect or want the group to spend the rest of their lives sitting in MacLarens Pub. But, it felt out of character; I started to really hate Robin throughout the course of the episode, and after the Barney/Robin divorce, an entire season focused around their wedding day felt like an enormous waste. The only saving grace was Ted’s moments with The Mother. She fit in perfectly with the gang, even dropping in on Robots vs. Wrestlers (a nice touch), and being the absolute perfect match to all of Ted’s quirks. I was unhappy with the way every other character was being treated (even Ted- there’s no way he would skip out on a huge, creative proposal and wedding), but The Mother and Ted were perfect for each other. This was the ending I wanted.

And we almost got it. A sweet exchange about how The Mother had Ted’s yellow umbrella, and we even found out her name- Tracy McConnell. And that’s where it should have ended. Call me naive, but after nine years of waiting for Ted to meet this mysterious Mother, I’d be fine with that ending. After all that struggle there was someone out there who cared about Ted and we as viewers could see and respect that.

But no. In a matter of seconds, Ted casually tells of Tracy’s death. No funeral, no tears, just Ted left alone with two kids under the age of nine. With some footage shot back 2005, the kids prepare us for the ending that nobody will forget: “You’re thinking of asking Aunt Robin out.” What? This is neither the story I wanted nor the story I was prepared for. The Mother didn’t get what she deserved, we didn’t get we deserved- Ted certainly didn’t get what he deserved. We see Robin (since when is she settled down in NYC?) coming up in her apartment with her dogs that Ted made her get rid of 25 years earlier. We see Ted, gray hair, two kids sitting at home, outside her window with the classic blue french horn. And as a fan who cried over the line, “I would have stolen you a whole orchestra” after Ted and Robin’s breakup in Season 2, this was just too much. Suddenly, The Mother felt like nothing but a plot device. After all this time, Ted could be with Robin, who he’s been infatuated with since he was 27, AND still have the two kids he always wanted, even though Robin couldn’t have children.

I don’t know what makes anyone think Ted and Robin can make it work this one last time. I don’t know why Marshall and Lily were static throughout the entire episode. I don’t know why Barney and Robin lost any and all development and were reduced to their Season 1 identities. And I don’t know why Ted couldn’t get the one, final happy ending he deserved. It was a great run, HIMYM, but I think I’ll stick with Ted meeting The Mother under their shared umbrella. That’s the ending I wanted.

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Books, Movies

Take Your Little Sibling to See Divergent

ImageDivergent, the latest in dystopian-teen-literature-turned-film-franchise, opened this weekend, and while it’s no Catching Fire, I would highly recommend seeing it and taking every young (and old) girl and boy you know. Set in an ambiguous future where people are separated into factions based on traits (honesty, selflessness, bravery, knowledge and kindness), Divergent focuses on 16 year old Tris, who’s inability to fit into one single faction makes her a threat to the government. Constantly compared to The Hunger Games series, it’s undeniable that the two share a lot in common, probably making a lot of people want to skip out on the Divergent craze entirely. But trust me, if you see the movie and aren’t struck by the intense fight scenes, Shailene Woodley’s performance, or Theo James’ face, you will remember one small but very important scene that I think everyone should see.

Tris, who chooses to join the “brave” faction known as Dauntless, has to pass a series of tests in order to complete initiation and join the Dauntless for life. Without giving too much away, one of these tests involves taking a serum that forces you to combat your fears, and allows the people around you to look inside your mind. Tris’ more insignificant fears involve being attacked by birds and being trapped in a glass case filled with water. But her deepest fear is of intimacy with her new boyfriend Four. Though Four and Tris have a good relationship in real life, she that Four will take advantage of her and force her to go too far without her consent. Under the serum, Tris manages to escape by physically fighting back, and when she awakes she is greeted with applause and Four’s acceptance. Yes, it was just a simulation, but the message is clear: Tris can defend herself against an attacker that she knows and loves, and people will be proud of her. It’s a small scene altogether, but the most important in the film, and will probably be the most important in its following two sequels.

A scene like this is featured in no other film in this genre. It goes without saying that Twilight portrays nearly the exact opposite, with Bella completely helpless around Edward- maybe they were in love, but who wants a heroine who physically can’t control herself around her boyfriend? And I’m completely Team Katniss, but half of The Hunger Games features Katniss forcing herself to get close to Peeta and act out the “star crossed lovers” bit so that she gets sponsors and becomes a fan favorite. It’s a survival tactic, no doubt about it, but when you really think about it, it’s pretty gross that either of them had to experience that. Divergent is a completely new outlook on this situation. Four isn’t a hero for respecting Tris’ wishes, but is just an example for how all boys should act. It’s not revolutionary, and maybe Divergent isn’t the next huge hit, but if it should be remembered for anything, it should be for this. You can be a badass heroine, and get the guy, and still feel safe about it. It’s your choice, and it’s a choice I’m happy to see portrayed on the big screen. Well done.

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