The Season Ends…

…except for Lost.

Aliens in America (The CW) — The CW may have killed it, but they ended on a high note. I sure hope they release a DVD because, while it didn’t end with crystal-clear finality, it also didn’t have the feel of tossing a bunch of balls in the air without having the chance to catch them. (Other canceled-before-their-time series like My So-Called Life and Undeclared ended with frustrating cliffhangers.) The writers didn’t try to raise any new storyline potential, they didn’t go over-the-top with “let’s cram everything in because this is our last chance!” hijinks. In fact, this is probably the most earnest, sincere episode they’ve done, which makes it a good note to end on.

As for the content of the episode, Raja gets a girlfriend…sort of. The writers deconstruct the difference between traditional Muslim courtships (with the parents of both couples sitting across from each other, engaging in awkward conversation), traditional American courtships (Claire making out with a guy who doesn’t speak English), and…less traditional American courtships (Justin agreeing to date an obnoxious girl just so he won’t feel like a loser). Despite meeting the show’s usual high standards for comedy, the story had an air of melancholy — I don’t know if this came from the downbeat endings of each romantic story, or if it came from the cast and crew’s knowledge that this was their last episode; whatever it was, it worked.

Bones (Fox) — I could knock this episode for not giving any legitimate fallout from last week’s crazy stalker and for staging a manipulative, obviously-fake-or-a-dream-sequence funeral at the start, but the rest of the episode went so well, I’ll let the nitpicks go.

First: it’s great that the fake funeral allowed for some more depth on Booth and Brennan, but especially Sweets, who uses the opportunity to “experiment” on the duo’s mental reactions to the emotion. This, in itself, underscored a surprisingly psychology-heavy theme as Sweets attempts to profile the “Gormagon” apprentice now that they know it’s an inside job. I was disappointed, because I thought they’d make him Sweets. He’s the new kid on the block, young, clinical and rational, all this Gormagon stuff started up when he hit the scene — the show wisely both raised and dismissed my concerns…

…then switched it up by making the Gormagon apprentice Zack. Seriously — Zack?! I didn’t see it coming at all, yet…it makes a surprising amount of sense. This is not the traditional left-field “Remember how last week I was just a regular guy? Turns out, I’ve been a double-agent for the Chinese the whole time” kind of plot twist most procedurals trot out and then ignore. First, Zack’s not coming back from this — he did it, he explained why, he helped them find the killer, and he’ll (apparently) spend the rest of his life in an insane asylum. But man, it’s an emotional toll that will continue to impact these characters for years, I’m sure.

I’m holding out judgment until Lost next week, but this surprised me by being a great season finale — the best of any this season, excluding The Wire.

Everybody Hates Chris (The CW) — Now they’re just toying with me. A few weeks ago, it seemed like Chris would have his first happy ending — after a series of bad decisions, he finally gets to dance with his date. Fade to black. Aww. Wait — what? Fade in on Chris being treated like crap by the date on Monday. Damn you, show!

This week had a similar ending, but about 100 times worse. I sure hope they aren’t getting rid of Greg, because after spending the whole episode leading us to assume Chris would get into the Bronx Science Academy, everything got screwed up and now they’re going to different schools. It was a real downer, well played by Tyler James Williams and Vincent Martella. And, you know, I’m all for ending on a joke (it is a sitcom, after all), but I wish they hadn’t pulled back from the emotion of that ending. If there was ever a time to end on a sincere, bleak note, this was it.

House (Fox) — This was a pretty good episode, but it left me feeling more than a little bummed out and disappointed. Besides the emotional content of the episode — which featured fine work by Robert Sean Leonard and Anne Dudek — I’m concerned about next season. I’ve said more than once (okay, almost every week) that the best part of this show is the House-Wilson banter. If they’re switching up their friendship for something more hateful, the change won’t thrill me. I wish they’d just stick to the damn formula — every time they try to make a big change, it bombs creatively and they end up hitting the big reset button.

Well, except for the new folks, who again fail to make their mark. The A story with House, Wilson, and Amber worked fine. I can’t pretend to care about Thirteen’s struggle with possible (now confirmed) Huntington’s. Kutner’s attempt at character development was nice and well-delivered by Kal Penn, but again, I’m not really feeling the new team.

This is a writing problem, not an acting problem. They developed these characters early in the season — Kutner is the carefree risk-taker, Taub is the sleazy plastic surgeon overcompensating for his inadequacies by pretending he’s better than everyone, and Thirteen is…basically useless, and I still don’t understand why he picked her. Since the competition ended, it seems the writers have forgotten these distinct traits and just turned them into Foreman/Cameron/Chase redux. Hopefully, the writers will work on this for next season.

King of the Hill (Fox) — The writers made Tom Petty’s Lucky more interesting by giving him the episode’s central conflict. Luanne’s father (a surprisingly good guest voice from Jackass creator/star Johnny Knoxville) shows up from prison and falls back into his old criminal ways, unknown to Luanne (who thought he’s been on an oil rig all these years). It’s interesting the way this show can get across the idea of a silent understanding better than most live-action shows. Lucky and Hoyt Platter are basically cut from the same cloth — Lucky knows what Hoyt’s up to, and when push comes to shove, he’s willing to take the rap so Luanne won’t think less of her father. Of course, Hank and Peggy come in to save the day, but that doesn’t make Lucky’s gesture any less surprising or sweet.

Reaper (The CW) — Reaper has undergone the season’s best quality transformation — from fun and forgettable to legitimate, must-watch sci-fi. I still wonder if this would have happened without the strike. Did the writers’ forced breathing room give them perspective they wouldn’t have otherwise had, or did they always have a Master Plan?

The finale itself dared to ask some of the big questions — sorta — while laying groundwork for its second season. The biggest questions revolve around Sam’s parents, who I’ve complained for weeks are underused (or, more accurately, unused). This week, they came back with a vengeance, setting the stage for a better integration into the series. We didn’t get much in the way of answers; instead, the writers dropped a bunch of hints that Sam’s parents aren’t quite as innocent as they act. I want to see this pay off next season, and I don’t want to have to wait until next year’s finale for this to happen.

Meanwhile, Tony initially believed that Sam’s the son of the Devil, but a surprised reappearance by Steve convinced him that it’s a sham. A small part of me believes that Steve is a fraudulent manifestation by the Devil, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. If it’s really Steve, I guess that’s an important hint that Sam is vital to Tony’s cause. Ben’s off to jail — temporarily — while Sock decides he’s going to get it on with a demon whose kisses steal a year from a person’s life (but give Sock the best high he’s ever received).

The only one who didn’t get a huge amount of face-time in this episode was Andi, and I have to say, that’s not an awful thing. Don’t get me wrong — I like Andi, and I was more tolerant of the will-they-or-won’t-they subplot than most, but now that they’re together and she’s aware of his reaping shenanigans, it’s nice to see they’re willing to stick her in the background rather than shoehorning her into plots where she doesn’t belong.

Posted by D. B. Bates on May 25, 2008 12:00 AM