Finding the right conclusion that plays with the texture to uphold stakes is difficult in any series. Questions always arise. The manipulation from within becomes the true aspect of drama. With the season finale of “Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels” entitled “Day Of The Dead” the paths divergent become a messy train of broken souls but also resolve. Tiago Vega thinks he sees a path both correct and then apart. But then it comes undone. He thinks he knows the path of right and then he realizes that it doesn’t serve the greater good. Sister Molly thinks she knows what happiness could be but it becomes a shadow of reality. The key with this season has always been sketching the melting pot of life within this time in Los Angeles. It could define what it would become, both with its differences and similarities. The question the series brings up becomes who are the people that lose and what is the inherent collateral damage when all is said and done.
Unlike some of the episodes which make the words do alot of the walking, the season finale especially in its latter half lets the silences and the imagery speak. The diametric images especially in the last 10 minutes push the stories in ways that one would not expect. Granted one specific point does not make sense as it might be more metaphorical than literal. The stakes are still present but manufactured or perhaps regrouped in a different way. The joy that was prevalent in the previous episode lurks below the surface but with an element of pain which is what makes the best drama. Again the manipulation of the supernatural is done subtly but the battle of what the Goddess wanted versus her sister relates in very poetic terms. It foreshadows a crossroads that when discussed is both undeniable and yet tragic, poetic yet sad. Series creator John Logan who also wrote “Gladiator” understands the necessity of light and darkness. Lives are not neatly wrapped up. “Day Of The Dead” as a season finale works to highlight that the danger that lingers, lessons learned, actions taken and yet life moves on perhaps with a little more wisdom.
By Tim Wassberg
The intention of the second season of “Harley Quinn” was trying to reveal the true colors of many of the characters. As much as the series is a fun romp, the existential progression of what these people are going through reflects the adult themes that track in the messiness of life. While the idea of what Poison Ivy is going through is understandable in terms of expectation, the truth of Harley’s better nature is what fuels the episode and the season. The aspect of who is good and who is bad is obviously circumspect. The villains are villains more often than not when it serves the needs of the story so the whole archetypal aspect is slightly a kilter in terms of motivation. The adjusted “Thelma & Louise” structure and motif actually plays out quite well and the ending of the episode, without giving anything away, is undeniably cinematic and inventive using different angles and technology not seen in most of the season.
Unlike the big battle sequences which sometimes can be vague, the conclusion here uses exactly what is being seen to push the story and, as a result, gives the ending a much more emotional push. Granted many of the textures are soapy to a point. Clayman’s integration into it is quite telling and funny but it too plays to a trope of what it is. Truth and consequence is a paradoxical progression in this series and especially within this final episode: “The Runaway Bridesmaid” because Harley always leaps before she looks which is something that Ivy has to embrace but is reluctant to do so. Many of the other characters are trying to find their center. Jim Gordon begins a path to more of the dark side but again the stories sometimes shift so much that besides Ivy and Harley and maybe Joker in the last few episodes, the texture of the endgame is unclear. This, of course, doesn’t make the characterizations any less entertaining in their necessity and layers. It is just with understanding where the story needs to end, it is has to have plot connectivity. The season does, for the most part end, strongly but there are jagged spots in an overall view. A bit of control permeates the chaos.
By Tim Wassberg
The repression of “The Blacklist” timeline as with many shows during the pandemic can be tricky. Some like the Chicago shows had enough to structure how to play it out and then just left certain narratives in play for next season. “The Blacklist” maybe at times more than most is so dense on double crosses and plot lines that it can be hard to shift easily that way. The crew in NY was halfway through shooting this episode “The Kazanjian Brothers” when the shutdown hit. Whereas it is not the ideal progression, the production angled in a way to make the episode able to be finished. Although the animation is a bit crude, it was integrated on a timeline so the ability to make it work is undeniably admirable without losing too much of the style of what “The Blacklist” is. One would think that much of the dialogue had to be captured in home correctly which again is tricky. What the thought process falls to, which is an interesting construct, is that possibly the production already uses animatics in a much more base format to plan out an episode, much like people used to do with storyboards.
The trick is making it more cinematic. In some points it works and in others it is a little more crude but it is overall effective. The subtleties of acting sometimes cannot be nuanced in this kind of animation which is less than photo real. However stage direction and internal dialogue here is used sparingly but importantly. Even the use of shadows and especially two beats of music in this season finale episode (now) really gives it a style all its own. The reality is that half of the episode was shot already but, as with most series, the episode is shot out of order depending on location. It is interesting to see what coverage was done and what was not. Surprisingly enough, some of the more dynamic scenes had to be done in animation which added to its graphic novel style. This probably wet to the point of bigger set pieces needing more live action set up. Again, once it is all said and done, it will be lore in “The Blacklist” canon but changes the game up a little while understanding that the audience will roll with the times as long as the creatives are using the possibilities to their advantage especially on a shortened timeline.
By Tim Wassberg