Season premiere – Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


After being mostly destroyed at the end of Season 1, SHIELD fought itself through most of Season 2, at least when it wasn’t dealing with external threats to its existence. The season ended with things relatively back together, although people still think SHIELD is dead. So, with new inhumans cropping up around the globe (mainly the U.S. now), the US govt has created a new group, the ATC to deal with the threat. SHIELD thinks ATC is snatching inhumans, ATC thinks SHIELD is killing them, and since Hydra is dormant, who the heck is involved?

Skye is now going by her original name, Daisy, and her dad had his memory wiped so that’s off the table. The Cavalry has gone on extended walkabout. Coulson’s dealing with a new robotic hand, the team is trying to help new inhumans transition, and oh yeah, Fitz is trying to find out if Simmons is dead at the hands of the monolith or somehow trapped inside. Just another day in the life of SHIELD.

The episode was okay, although it isn’t clear to me if SHIELD is recruiting stormtroopers at this point, or they’re happy just relying on Daisy and friends. Mutant X / X-Men this isn’t and there’s no school for the gifted. Alien DNA is becoming activated in the general population, and expectation is worldwide contamination in 17 months. Every potential will be reality. A nice way to set the mood for the year.

It was a pretty light episode, more laying ground markers for the rest of the season I suppose. However, it was nice to see Lincoln on the show still. Hope he doesn’t get killed anytime soon. But I need the Cavalry back too.


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Season premiere – The Blacklist


The Blacklist was the giant hit of two seasons ago, introducing James Spader as Raymond Reddington, riveting as he turned himself into the FBI with the words, “I will speak only to Elizabeth Keen”. The mystery, the bad guy of the week, the ones who lived off the radar of any government agency but nevertheless were the baddest of the bad. Ghosts, whispers, and Raymond was willing to deliver them, one at at time, while delivering on his own mysterious and hidden agenda. Why Keen? Why these people? What was he doing? And why KEEN!!!!????

Season 1 revealed the secret that he was in a deadly deal with a hidden cabal of international power brokers. They wanted him dead, but he had a deadman switch in the form of a file called the Fulcrum that had info on their entire operation — kill him, and the info goes public.

Season 2 revealed some of Keen’s past, and how her and Reddington were linked. Why he needed her, in part, and why he wanted to be with her. But the cabal called his bluff, everything went to hell in a handbasket, and now it is time for the collateral damage to start hurting.

Season 3 opens where season 2 ended — Keen had just killed a very corrupt Attorney General after being used as a weapon to kill someone else. Framed as a spy, she felt she had no way out. And so she killed the AG and started on the run with Reddington by her side. So, the chase begins. Dressler is in charge, and has locked the city down, no way out. Reddington has a place to hide for a week or two until things calm down, but that gets blown out by coincidence more than anything else. So they go to Plan B, which was the same as Plan A, but without the waiting.

I’m happy to see Cooper in the episode, Dressler, Arum, and the Mossad agent too. Dengbe is running around with the Cabal figuring out how to use him to get to Reddington, but it’s not clear to me really why he’s not involved in helping them. Maybe that was in the last episode and I’ve just blocked it out.

I liked the episode, but I just felt it was too drawn out. Also, the Fulcrum is in play after the end of the last episode, and yet the Cabal is barely affected it seems. An embarrassment, no governments are falling. Heck, even the DCS at the CIA is still in his job.Plus the giant reveal, the giant technique at the end, it was just smoke with no fire at all. It totally fizzled for all the time and effort the script put into showing it might/could/should be amazing. Welcome back, but don’t drag this out like the start of last season. Get to catching the blacklisters again.


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Season premiere – Sleepy Hollow


When we last saw Sleepy Hollow, Molloch was vanquished, and with him went Ichabod’s love of his life, Katrina. Sure, her soul had been corrupted, but nevertheless, they were ill-fated lovers across time and space, without the TARDIS to help. The portal was closed, the danger had passed, so what now, brown cow?

Well, apparently the writers were looking for some change. So, they dumped the Sheriff’s Office, sent Abby to Quantico, made her a field agent, and now she works for the FBI, albeit still in Sleepy Hollow. Better digs, some kick ass science to back them up, some federal resources to access, a better badge. Cool. Of course, Abby did all this because it was time to get on with her life and back on the path she was on before she became one of the two witnesses from the Bible prophecies. And it was easy to do, because Ichabod went on a walkabout.

He went to England, and Scotland, in search of his ancestral roots. For nine months. With nary a postcard. Abby’s a bit like the lost high school sweetheart who got left behind while the hero went off to see the bright lights of the big city. Well, good old Ichabod is back and anticipating demons. He thinks their role as witnesses is not yet complete — rather, they have seen just the first of the seven tribulations.

As a viewer, you know already that he is right. A woman appeared out of a lightning strike, and basically singlehandedly turned the horseman of war / Abraham into mist, dissipated him into a box, and released a demon of fear instead. She’s obviously a very beautiful and powerful witch. And it isn’t until the very end of the episode that you find out who she is. I have a suspicion there will be another twist along the way about her identity and who she was in the past as well, but for now, her identity is known to the viewers, but not really to the witnesses.

Jenny was in the episode too, but everyone and everything else is changed. The archives have to be relocated, they have a new office for Abby to work in, and most of the non-demon stuff seems brighter, shinier even. The demon solution was rather simple and easy, followed by a ridiculous reunion scene for the witnesses while they comfort each other, totally ignoring the fact that moments earlier, JENNY WAS STRUCK DOWN BY THE DEMON and they have no idea if she’s lying dead or dying, but yes, indeed, let’s hug it out before we check on her.

But I’m glad the show is back, I’ve missed it. Mostly because the network has screwed around with the number of episodes (18 last year instead of standard 22-26) and timing (the show wrapped pretty early, February or March?), not to mention a long hiatus over Xmas. You’d swear they were trying to kill the show. I hope not, I’ve missed you too, Ichabod and Abby. Jenny? Not so much.


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Season premiere – Benders


I gave the new show called Benders a try tonight. The premise is four guys on a recreational hockey team, and what happens in their lives around it. The initial premise of this show, at least according to the description, is that the four are really devoted to their team and playing hockey, and it messes with the rest of their life. More or less. It sounded like it could be interesting, not sure it’s a strong enough premise for a full series, but hey, I thought I would give it a go. For those reading this blog, you probably already know I don’t watch many comedies (basically only one at this point, The Big Bang Theory).

And I have to confess two things for this show. First, it is really well done. It reminds me a lot of the original series from the UK called Couples (not the US remake version). Take the show, take a premise for the episode and just run with it. It feels in part like a giant improv sketch as the main character is thinking the rest will think it is all nuts, but they go with the premise leaving the main guy completely discombobulated. So, this show does that, and does it in spades. In the opener, Paul goes to visit his grandfather. Grandpa says, “Life sucks, I’m old, please kill me.” Except it isn’t a metaphor, he’s really asking him to kill him. Which his three friends think he should totally do, so the rest of the episode is him visiting some mobsters, etc. It’s really well done, and if you like that surreal type of WTF moments as they negotiate whether or not to shove grenades up Grandpa’s butt, this show’s for you.

My second confession? It didn’t work for me. I know, I know, I just said it was really well done. And it is. But it is just a bridge too far for me to go with the suspension of disbelief. I lasted a whole two thirds of the first episode, and that was as far as I could go. Maybe it’s amazing, maybe it picks up, but the personal spark wasn’t there. I don’t think it will win any awards or anything, but it’s unique.


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Season premiere – Grinder


I wanted to like The Grinder. First of all, it stars Rob Lowe. Some of the best moments in West Wing’s run were with Lowe in the episode, tilting at windwills. Second, he’s playing a lawyer. I like law shows, I like when Lowe plays a lawyer. Perfect. Third, he’s not really a lawyer, he’s pretending to be a lawyer without going to law school. Hey, I like Suits, could be good. Fourth, it’s a comedy. Umm, wait…what?

Well, not exactly a comedy, more like a dramatic comedy or a comedic drama, or something it just can’t figure out what it is. It’s not satire, it’s not really comedy, but it is self-aware comedy. With Ben Savage as the brother. He had the Wonder Years, they’re over. The first episode had so many bad cliches, it felt like spoof. The whole episode felt like I was watching an Airplane-inspired remake of A Few Good Men, without the military. Okay, bad image. But better than anything in the show.

William Devane plays the father, and I thought, hmm, he is okay in cameos and on Stargate. Kind of enjoyed him back on Early Edition. And they gave him such inspiring lines as “I like where this is going.” Really? That’s it? There is no reason for him to be excited about any of what’s going on, but he is. Totally undeveloped.

Now, it IS a comedy. It’s only 22 minutes. How much character development can there be, and still have a plot to deliver? That’s basically why I don’t watch many comedies. And this will be another one that I am not watching. Pass.


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Season premiere – Heroes: Reborn


So about a month ago, I reviewed what I thought was a leaked copy of the series premiere of Heroes: Reborn (Six 2015-16 TV premieres: Supergirl, Minority Report, Blindspot, Public Morals, Heroes: Reborn, Hand of God). It turned out however that what I was actually reviewing was a prequel of webisodes online to give a bit of transitional backstory between the old show and the new. Oops, my bad.

But that experience lowered my expectations too. It was pretty far from the mystery of Season 1 of the original Heroes, where the “Save the cheerleader, save the world” mantra kept me tuning in each week. No, the webisodes were slightly better than season 2 or 3 of the old show as it tanked, but not a slam dunk.

The actual series premiere however? Over the top, slam dunk, no word of a lie, absolutely awesome. I am hooked big time. I rarely gush about a show, perhaps jaded by the number of times I’ve seen a strong premise totally tank a few episodes later, but I have to gush about this one. Like the original, there are multiple storylines running concurrently, weaving, bobbing, intersecting.

Noah Bennett is back, having learned that something big and bad is coming and he wants to find out what he has forgotten. And his daughter Clare-bear? She might not have died in Odessa during the terrorist attack. She might still be alive. Noah has teamed up with the nutjob truther from the webisodes,

There’s a Mexican wrestler super hero with super strength who is helping Evos (evolved humans) with an underground railway, and his brother might have to take his place.

There’s a kid, young, compelling, with a naive innocent girlfriend, who is a teleporter. With an evo named Casper Abraham following him around (remember Laroche from The Mentalist? Pruitt Taylor Vince is his real name, doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but yeah, that guy).

There’s a girl in Japan, who can enter into video games, and is searching for her father (also trapped in a game), with a young gamer helping her.

And finally there’s a husband and wife out for revenge against all Evos because their son was killed.

At least four of those stories are completely compelling.

I am so in for the duration, it is ridiculous.


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Grief is a fickle mistress


Grief is one of the strangest emotional processes that I have ever experienced. I never knew my grandparents really, so their loss was quite minor to me. Equally, I wasn’t super close with aunts and uncles, so when they passed, it was relatively unaffecting. My first brush with death was when I was in about grade 3 and one of the kids in our school drowned in a winter creek. I wasn’t close to him, didn’t know him that well, but kind of in line with some of the emotions you see in the movie Stand By Me, there was some sort of effect.

Fast-forward to age 28, and I lost my father. The exact cause wasn’t determined, we didn’t do an autopsy, but he had been a heavy smoker and he had had several heart attacks over the years. In the end, he was having blood clots and the bypasses were only partial remedies. He deteriorated over the course of a year, always bouncing back but never quite as high. So, while it was to be “expected”, it was a shock when he was gone. The big strong man in my life suddenly felled by time and nature. I went through most of my grief alone. It wasn’t something I talked about with people, and for most of the first six months, I shunted it aside to help my mother. But you can only push that aside for so long before it no longer budges.

Looking back, I know I was depressed around age 29 to about age 31, although I didn’t recognize it as such at the time, and am frequently curious looking back to see if it was general depression or simply unaddressed grief, or a combination of the two. I wasn’t happy with my life, and it eventually catapulted me into a difficult five years of self-reflection — what I call my tadpole years — and allowed me to come out the other side with a re-integrated psyche, for the most part at least, and a much greater acceptance of who I am and what I wanted out of life.

Fast-forward again to age 44, and my mother’s passing. She too deteriorated over the course of a year, and very obviously downward in the last 8 weeks as ring-cell cancer ravaged her body. The blessing was that she was without pain throughout that time; the hell was that she was in palliative care and basically not eating anything so that her body would eventually fail. Almost 7 weeks in palliative care. Which gave us time to mentally prepare. Except there is no real preparation I suppose. We talk about it like it will be easier, but who knows? She was 83 years old, she died relatively at peace with her life, loved ones by her side. There are worse ways to go.

Yet the grief hit me far more profoundly and more visibly than it did with my father. I have a better support network now — including my wife, son, my wife’s family, some of my siblings. It’s a different world that I live in now than when I was 27. Yet the grief knocked me on my ass for almost 2 years. The first year was dealing with all the estate stuff. The second year was dealing with emotional stuff.

For me, grief was like a heavy blanket thrown over everything. I was sluggish in all things. My normal senses for detecting problems were dulled, my reasoning flawed. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t quite tell what. I am pretty good at figuring out what’s bothering me…I call it the “sore tooth approach”. Kind of like touching your tongue on various teeth, probing to see which one is sore, I do the same thing with emotional issues. I “probe” my psyche…am I worried about money? No. Is it an issue with work? No. Is it this, is it that? And usually I can gauge my response to see if I get a disproportionate level of feedback from my psyche to tell me, “Ah-hah, you’re upset with x or y”. But with grief, I probed my senses to see if it was grief, and got no feedback. Which I interrupted as being “Okay, so it’s not grief.” Yet I kept probing and couldn’t figure it out. I went to see a social worker / therapist through a referral from our work’s Employee Assistance Program, and working through some of the classic signs, we were able to narrow it down from depression or a specific cause to more general dampening from grief.

For me, as I said, it dampens everything. I feel listless. I lose interest in things I normally enjoy, I just don’t get the positive output / feelings from them. I distance myself from others. I feel even less extroverted than normal. The energy required for social settings is a greater tax than normal on my system. I need longer recovery time afterwards to want to be around people again.

So why am I writing about grief? Because it’s hitting me again this week, and from what I would have thought before was an unlikely cause.

A coworker at work lost her husband last week. He was 55, in good health, and the death was both sudden and unexpected. He has two daughters, was training for a marathon, etc. There is very little in his profile, or even my teammate’s, that I can identify with…I don’t know her well, although we work together regularly. We’re not social outside of work. I have a vague recollection of maybe meeting her husband in passing once, but that is all. There’s nothing in this relatively distant event that should trigger grief in me. Sympathy, sure. Compassion, sure. Empathy, maybe, although again, hard to draw a lot of links between loss of a parent and loss of a spouse, so more imagined than from experience.

Yet grief is kicking up its heels over the last week. I feel less patient with delays at work. Things that regularly wash over me with no effect are pissing me off with wild abandon. I feel the urge to tilt at windmills and say, “Seriously? This is your idea of a high-performing organization? THIS is what you waste your time on creating?”. I’m a corporate planner — I drink the kool-aid for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it goes with the job. Hell, I even have to make it and serve it regularly to others. But my tolerance level is down. I almost blew off dinner with Jacob and Andrea last night as I didn’t want to be around people. Or more specifically, around people I have to interact with. I’d prefer to be faceless in a small crowd, like at a sports bar for wings. I’ll likely go Thursday night.

But planning for the funeral this week has been odd. I often find the dance around visitations and funerals confusing. Generally, my view is that if you didn’t know the people socially, or didn’t work directly with them, your connection is too tenuous to attend the visitation or funeral. While the grieving might find it supportive, I find it too intrusive, almost like an imposition. Some people treat it like a social occasion, to catch up with old friends, but for me, funerals and visitations are about three things only:

  1. Saying goodbye to the deceased;
  2. Paying your respects to both the family and the deceased; and,
  3. Supporting the family through a difficult time.

Nowhere in there is there anything about socializing. If you are close to the family, the order probably reverses; if you are farther away, maybe that is the order. I also generally feel like visitations are for extended family and friends, whereas the funeral is more intimate, more personal, more for family and immediate friends.

So, like most coworkers, you do the dance. My parents would have never had to think about it…there were certain norms they were used to, it was obvious to them whether they went or not, and to which. I never cracked the code, but it was obvious to them. Not so obvious to me. So I debated whether or not to attend the visitation or the funeral, or both. “Neither” wasn’t an option, I obviously feel a strong enough connection to my teammate that I would go, but to what? Similarly at work. I did some in-person notifications, and sent out a nice note to the directorate with the details. We avoided the “group card” where everyone scribbles in corners with something that I thought was potentially weird and turned out quite well — I bought some simple blanks cards and envelopes, pretty much just folded construction paper really, and people are writing notes on them to put in a box for now. We’ll collect them at the end of the week and pass them along. I haven’t written mine yet, will do so likely tomorrow. But it’s going well and giving people an outlet to move forward.

It didn’t, however, solve my question about which event to go to. And then, my wife shared a little phrase that I am sure I heard my mother say a 1000 times and that never really registered with me. “Visitations are for people who can’t make it to the funeral.” Maybe it’s a Peterborough thing, but that resonated with me strongly. And I realized some of my hesitation.

At the visitation, I would feel incredibly awkward trying to comfort the daughters I have never met, or pay respects to the deceased who I also barely met. I would feel like I was intruding in what should be, if not private, at least reservedly intimate or personal. I would feel like a looky-loo at a traffic accident. Whereas the funeral, by contrast perhaps, is more manageable. Part of a large group, no need to intrude into their personal space, their personal grief, their experience of saying goodbye to their husband and father.

And with that decision, my body has released some of its tension. I have been close to tears several times in the last few days, with thoughts of my mom and dad, but never so close as right now writing this. If anyone asks, I’ll swear it’s allergies. :) I found it difficult even talking to people last week — I told about 5 people and that was my limit. I was starting to lose it. Talking about the death of someone I barely knew.

Grief is a fickle mistress who comes into your life, uses you up, and discards you at her whim. But at least I have a way forward. I will attend the funeral. Odd that a simple cliche is what is comforting me today. I should ask my wife for her advice more often. :) Just don’t tell her she sounded like my mom.


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Season premiere – Quantico


I don’t know who was watching How To Get Away With Murder last year, but they took pretty solid notes. Freshman class. Check. Female authority figure in charge of class telling them it is not like anywhere else. Check. Some big criminal event in the future, class members involved, flashing back to tell the story of how they got there. Check.

Except instead of it being law school leading to murder, it’s enrolment in the fresh class at the FBI’s Quantico Academy leading to a terrorist attack in NYC. Yet, where I found HTGAWM boring, I find Quantico strangely compelling. Let’s look at the class and see if I can figure out why. All of them have secrets, some we’ll find out sooner rather than later. Warning, definite spoilers ahead.

The main agent-in-training Alex Parrish is played by Priyanka Chopra, an Indian bombshell. Exotic, sexy, presence. Her big secret is that her mother shot her father; her bigger secret is that SHE shot her father, and then found his Special Agent credentials. Fast forward to the terrorist attack, and she is the only one on scene, unhurt, and the prime suspect with lots of evidence to tie her to the plot.

Next up we have Ryan Booth. He seems to be just another agent, but he’s actually undercover to get close to Alex. Decent character, decent actor.

Next is Nimah, the Muslim who should be the prime suspect, right? Except she has an interesting secret. She’s one half of a twin, and they’re both hiding in the same room doing the work.

Shelby Wyatt is the blonde bimbo who came from money. Her first secret is that her parents were killed in a plane on 9/11. I’m sure there are more secrets to come, but that is where she starts. She’s played pretty well by Johanna Brady — I don’t know any of her work, but with 48 credits in 10 years, she’s been working. A lot.

Simon Asher is the resident gay character. Except he’s a virgin, all his ex-bfs say so. And his “current” boyfriend is imaginary — he got a stranger to take a picture with him, smooch included. So is he really gay? And if not, why is he pretending to be? His other secret is some sort of ties to Palestine, but the FBI already knows about that.

Moving on, we have Graham Rogers as Caleb Haas. Caleb is the worst recruit ever — fails just about everything. But his parents are agents, so he has squeaked his way in. Not sure what his secret is yet, but it’s building.

Last we have the most disappointing development of all — Brian J. Smith as trainee Eric Packer. I loved Smith in Stargate: Universe. So why am I disappointed he’s in this? Because — SPOILER ALERT — he dies in the first episode. What a waste of an opportunity, he would have been awesome.

So there are two other characters running around, the academy staff — the woman in charge, Aunjanue Ellis playing Deputy administrator Miranda Shaw, and Josh Hopkins as head-instructor Liam O’Connor. Both of them have their secrets and could be easily involved more so than a recruit. Ellis has been good on NCIS: LA, and I even liked her back in the day on The Mentalist. She even gave a good performance way back in an one-season show called E-ring. But she is good in support, not sure she’ll be able to handle running some of the plot. Hopkins is a good short-term character actor, and I’ve liked him in those roles ever since I first saw him way back on Cold Case when he was romancing Lilly. But like Ellis, he doesn’t have the gravitas to drive the plot forward. Almost every scene with him was lightweight.

But the show looks like it will rise or fall based on Chopra’s talents, and while she is awesome at the Academy, her time as FBI agent/lead suspect seemed false, too much like bad play acting. I think the show has a lot of buzz and budget behind it, so it will play out for the season. Only the ratings will tell if it comes back for Round 2 next year, although rumour is that next year it would be a new batch of recruits and a new storyline, not the same ones continuing. I’ll stick around for awhile.


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Season premiere – Rosewood


One of the new shows premiering this year is a quirky Miami show called Rosewood. It’s the name of the lead character, Dr. Beaumont Rosewood, Jr., who runs — wait for it — a private pathology consulting firm. Apparently in some jurisdictions, it’s a real thing. And it makes for an interesting hook…rather than a consultant who works with the police or with a medical examiner, he IS the consultant/medical examiner/forensics guy. And he works on contract with the police. Cool.

The lead is played by Morris Chestnut, who looks like a slicker version of Taye Diggs, and I’d swear I’ve seen him in other shows, and his impressive resume goes back 20 years, but none of the shows were ones I regularly watched. No idea who he is, but he had presence in the first episode. His gimmick is that he has a bunch of medical issues going on from birth, and he grabs life and seizes every breath he can take. So he’s a ray of sunshine all through the episode, but somehow avoids being smarmy. He is consummate charm, with just enough self-deprecation and gravitas to avoid being a used-car salesman. Most of his moves are on the new latina detective, Villa, played by Jaina Lee Ortiz. Her resume has a lot fewer credits, but she does a decent job.

Working with Rosewood is his sister and her lesbian lover (ooh, we can get the Latina, black and LGBT demographics, cool!), both lightweights, but his mother? Lorraine Toussaint. I liked her in Forever last year, and even more back on Saving Grace. or even way back to Crossing Jordan. I even like her when she pops up as cameos in various other series over the years. I have no idea what they’re going to do with her in this show, but I suspect basically waste her. There’s very little role for the mother of the investigator, I don’t think, even if she brings the case in the first episode (an old student, dead in a driving accident, except she didn’t like to drive, never would speed, and didn’t drive while impaired, and not at night either).

Another odd one was another detective at the precinct — Anthony Michael Hall. Really? They have him as fourth banana? Talk about bench strength. Let’s hope they upgrade him at some point. His character is basically a doofus though, so they would have to give him something better to do too.

Soooo, where does that leave me? The show was okay, a quirky premise. There was no chemistry between the two leads though, so if they are hoping for a romantic spark, it wasn’t there. I’m willing to watch, but I doubt it will make it past 5 episodes. However, I have no clue how they count demographics, and they were throwing out a lot of feelers to various communities. Maybe it will take.


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Season premiere – NCIS: New Orleans


Of the three NCIS shows, this is the one that I like the least for plots and acting, but the most for a few of the actors. I like Scott Bakula, and I really like Zoe McLellan in the series. Most of the rest I could take or leave, but those two bring something to the screen. Yet oddly enough, zero chemistry between them. I like the fact that they have few scenes together where it’s just the two of them as they do better with other supporting cast members.

Last season got a little bogged down with a conspiracy over several episodes, and none of the episodes were particularly compelling. They did, more or less, wrap it up at the end of the season. So the season premiere kicked off with a regular bad-guy-of-the-week premise. They made it interesting — lots of different militia types from around the U.S. united against the government, all working together. Would never happen, their basic zeitgeist prevents cooperation with others, but it was interesting at least. I’m more interested in seeing where Brody’s personal case goes over the season — someone is sending her photos from high school except she’s been photoshopped into them, she wasn’t there for the events, her sister was. Along with a musician guy who died around that time. Could be interesting, at least as long as they follow one of Gibbs’ rules — your case, your lead.

I’ve changed my watching setup for this year, and NCIS:NO is a perfect candidate for binge watching — it is not must-see TV any week, and the season premiere didn’t change that.


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