Scandal Season 6 Ep. 7 Review

I chose to analyze an episode of the popular Shonda Rhimes series, Scandal. Scandal is a political drama/thriller series set in Washington, D.C. in which Olivia Pope and her team of “gladiators” work to solve serious problems for the government, politicians (including multiple presidents) and the elite, uber wealthy. In this particular episode, Olivia asks her gladiator and professional murderer, Huck, to kill her own father, Ely, (and Huck’s former commander) because she knows that he assassinated president-elect Frankie Vargas. However, Huck knows that Ely only killed Vargas because a group of people told him he had to or they would immediately have Olivia murdered. Huck tells Olivia this because he is convinced there is a “mole” among Olivia’s team, poised to kill her at any time. Olivia doesn’t believe him until Huck presents footage of an exchange among Ely and the group threatening to kill Olivia. Olivia then calls off the operation to kill her father. In a shocking turn of events, the mole among Olivia and her gladiators ends up being Meg, the seemingly innocent young woman who Huck had been seeing. In the final seconds of the episode, Meg murders Huck and reports to the woman threatening to murder Olivia and Abbey, ex-gladiator and current White House Chief of Staff that she has taken care of Huck.

In classic Shonda Rhimes fashion, Scandal places great emphasis on the role and power of female characters. As per usual, Olivia Pope is depicted as being very powerful because she commands a highly trained group of individuals to do whatever she says—in this case, murdering her father. Olivia’s character is also notable because not only is she a woman, but she is also African-American. Rhimes uses Olivia’s character strategically to defy the stereotype of white men having wielding a great deal of power and influence in Washington. In this particular episode, Meg’s character also demonstrates female dominance. She manages to lure Huck, a cold-blooded killer, into falling in love with her by presenting herself as being naïve and generally interested in him. This is a very notable moment because, throughout the whole series, Huck is presented as being cold, introverted, and not apt to fall in love. This is the second time throughout the whole series Huck seems to have genuinely fallen for a woman and it ultimately leads to his death. Immediately following Huck’s murder, Rhimes deliberately cuts to a scene of the three women who had been plotting to kill Huck, and gives the audience the impression that they also intend to kill Olivia. This scene is very powerful because it illustrates women outsmarting Huck, who had been portrayed as a lethal killer.

In addition to the role of women in this episode, Rhimes also utilizes violence to invoke fear and suspense. The violence in this episode is particularly ironic because in the first instance, Huck is threatening Meg. Huck believes Meg may be the “mole” trying to kill Olivia, so he pins her to the wall and threatens to inject her with a tranquilizer. Meg is hysterical and convinces Huck she is innocent so he releases her. The final instance of violence we see is Meg holding a gun to Huck in a hotel room and then murdering him. Once again, Rhimes’s use of violence is incredibly well-placed because, in an attempt to protect Olivia, Huck ends up getting himself killed by his own love interest.

As a whole, this was one of the most thrilling because of Huck’s murder, since he had been such a major character throughout the entire series. As a long time viewer of the show, I found myself shocked and ready to watch the next episode to figure out why, exactly, Huck was murdered. Additionally, Rhimes demonstrates her pro-woman in power view in the characters of Olivia and Meg. For viewers of other Rhimes shows, such as a Grey’s Anatomy, seeing a powerful female lead is nothing new; though, it does draw female viewers to the shows.

Link to episode trailer

Meg seconds before murdering Huck

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Critical Review 1: Californication, Connor McQuarrie

Californication is an American comedy-drama television series. The show follows around Hank Moody, a novelist from New York who recently moved out to California. He is having a hard time writing again. Hank’s drinking, womanizing, and drug-abuse complicates his relationships with his longtime lover, Karen and their daughter, Becca. Hank constantly deals with the consequences of his inability to say no to the temptations of women around him while trying to show his family that he can be a responsible and  caring father to Becca as well as a reliable partner for Karen.

Karen has a planned marriage to Bill, a Los Angeles publisher. Hank spends most of his time drinking instead of writing. One day, Hank picks up a younger girl in a bookstore. After they have sex, he discovers that she is Bill’s sixteen year old daughter, Mia. She uses the threat of an illegal sex charge to extort stories from him that she passes off as her own for her high school creative writing class. The death of Hank’s father sends him on a alcohol binge that leads to a sexual encounter with Karen. After the funeral, Hank stays in New York to finish his new novel. Upon returning to Los Angeles, he believes the original copy was stolen when he was carjacked, but Mia had previously stolen the original copy as she tries to get it published. On Karen and Bill’s wedding day, Hank chooses to accept the situation. As Hank and Becca leave the reception, Karen hops in their car to live her life with them instead of Bill.

The show has an array of aesthetically pleasing qualities. I feel as if the people behind the show definitely want to give off a west coast vibe. The people with money who live these crazy LA lifestyles that go to the wildest parties and have the craziest experiences. Hank Moody exemplifies the man whore lifestyle, he gets himself in situations that would completely go against how Karen and Becca want him to act. This causes a lot of family conflict which I was able to relate to in my own way so that was something that reeled me and made want to watch more. The music is pretty catchy, they have a theme song that plays at the beginning of every episode. It dives into an LA montage of people and parties which plays into the cool California vibe. The dialogue is incredibly hilarious to me. The content in the conversations is incredibly sexual and raunchy. Hank is obviously the ring leader of this dirty dialogue, constantly setting people straight in certain social situations.

Karen knows that Hank sleeps around all the time, but the one thing that she hasn’t found out yet is that Hank had a sexual encounter with Mia. Hank and Karen have their ups and downs, the downs happen when Hank sleeps with all of Los Angeles and then gets caught red handed. They fight and argue over what is best for them and Becca all the time. There is a constant battle over this since Hank always messes up and Karen always takes him back because she loves him. The episode I reviewed happened to be the finale of season three. Everything seems to be going good with Hank and Karen, they are planning to move back to New York as a family. Mia comes along to say bye and invites them to meet a guy she is serious with and Karen graciously accepts the offer. The man Mia is seeing is much older, Mia has told him everything and he actually wants Hank to come clean and say that Mia’s book is his. He thinks they could benefit financially from this. Mia’s man makes some snobby comments about Hank’s parenting and Hank ends up beating him up pretty good. He calls the cops as Hank leaves. Hank goes home and tells Karen the truth about Mia before the cops come. The episode ends with Hank being put in a cop car as Becca is trying to say bye to him.

Hank satisfies the needs of a lot of women going through their own sexual struggles. At the same time, he is disrespecting his Karen and Becca so it makes for a lot of interesting conflict throughout the seasons. I’m on season four right now and I’m hooked, there are seven seasons total so there is a good pace of conflict throughout the series.

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Critical Essay 1

2013_0821_Parks_and_Recreation_640x320_Mdot.jpgParks and Recreation is an American comedy TV show that was created by Greg Daniels and aired from April 9, 2009 to February 2015. Parks and Recreation had 125 episodes over seven seasons. The show takes place in Pawnee, Indiana staring Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, a mid-level bureaucrat in the Parks and Recreation Department in Indiana who tries to better her town by helping Ann Perkins, a local nurse that demands the construction pit next to her house be filled due to previous accidents. The two work together to turn the construction site into a park. Leslie is determined to turn the pit into a park, despite the resistance from the parks director Ron Swanson, an anti-government Libertarian. Mark Brendanawicz, the city planner insists that the project is too unrealistic due to the government red tape, but secretly convinces Ron to approve the project to move forward. 

I focused on Season 2, Episode 2, “The Stakeout”. In this episode, Leslie sets up a stakeout to try and find out who is growing marijuana in the garden she has in the pit, during this she also finds the opportunity to scout out Ann and Mark’s first date. Throughout, the show is filmed very loosely, which I believe adds to the humor and disorganization of the events that happen throughout the show. This “loose” filming would be better described as quick zoom in and zoom outs, sloppy cuts and the camera itself seems to be handheld throughout the entire episode. The dialog is very short, with a lot of quick back and forth conversations which is the style of humor the show follows, short and dry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkJJd7If0Aw. Parks and Recreation is very similar to aesthetic qualities that The Office portrays, a documentary crew filming everyone. There is not too much change of scenery, it goes from the office to the park and not much more in between. Both The Office and Parks and Recreation have short interview narrations with the characters discussing what happened during the day, or just a short 20 second comment about something that just happened in that scene which stands out as a different quality.

In this episode, there is not much voice over, or music it is based mainly off dialog. The story is told by the interview narrations, every so often during each episode the characters will be filled sitting in a room alone looking at the camera and talking about what is happening in the episode https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3j64lbavsY. The characters give their opinion on what is going on and this gives the audience a good idea of each characters personality. This is a good and humorous way to keep the plot organized by having the characters discuss the conflicts and solutions going on in each scene. I would say that this episode in particular, shows values of leadership. Leslie is the head of the project and throughout the episode, the plot is following Leslie’s order and the characters all look at Leslie for direction. I also think that the value of accomplishment and accountability play a role in this episode. This episode focuses on trying to keep the project in order and keep their approval to make the park without getting in trouble with the county.

Critical Review 1: The Office

The Office is a comedy sitcom that makes a mockery of the office style job life that people live in the real world. The long lasting series shows many scenarios that are supposed to portray the basic and uneventful lifestyle men and women in a paper selling business undergo. There are many employees in the office: they include the main character, Michael Scott who is the office boss, Pam and Jim who show the love interest between each other and serve as the more “normal” employees, and Dwight who causes many issues in the office by being involved in others business. The show consists of many more characters that play important roles throughout the office while showing the audience work place relationships and different lifestyles, while all making jokes about a bland career as a paper salesmen and women.

This episode shows how the office employees act with each other in a more out of work environment. The employees all partake in an award ceremony where they gather at a restaurant and are granted sarcastic awards from Michael for things they have done while working. Pam who is engaged to another employee has notoriously received the “longest engagement” award, which makes her reluctant to attend the award ceremony along with all the other employees who go simply to show their support for the company. Jim who goes out of his way to show Pam he cares about her, goes to Michael and asks him not to grant her the same award she has been receiving for years. Michael seems to ignore the request later in the show as Pam is shown receiving another award for “whitest shoes.” The ceremony refereed to as the “Dundies” continues throughout the show with many employees receiving unwanted awards and while other outside members of the restaurant mock Michael for his hosting techniques. The employees show their support for their boss by motivating him to continue on with the awards however.

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There are not many aspects of this show that appear to be overwhelming with aesthetic pleasures, but it is mostly due to the feel the director is trying to give his audience. The office is does not have the pleasures of an upscale business building due to the fact it is solely a paper company which fits the role for many for the characters. The cinematography did not seem like a strong point of interest for the director largely to portray the simple lifestyle the employees live on an every day basis, but the writing and sarcastic humor fit in perfectly with the bland environment of the workplace. This show is not meant to be visually appealing but mainly to capture the comedy sitcom style they are looking for. The Office uses a single camera documentary style while also staying away from background laughing from the audience many sitcoms include. The workplace environment is the main example of the basic strategies this show uses in order to establish their comedy.

In addition, as being told only though dialogue of the characters, it includes documentary aspects, which take a character out of their interactions and shows them only talking to the camera as an individual. This part of the show gives you the inside ideas on what the character is thinking for themselves when they are away from their fellow employees and also gives inside views on jokes or pranks being done as some employees might not know about. This is used when Michael is individually talking to the camera about the awards he was granting to some members of his office before the awards were actually given. The conflicts of this story are told by simple harmless acts such as Pam’s husband-to-be leaving the awards early before all the employees receive their accolades. Pam returns to the awards individually, this time sitting next to Jim while awaiting her award to be called. She intoxicates herself with alcohol while expecting to receive the same award as she has for years, only to finally be awarded a different one, which throws her into a world of excitement as she accepts as if it was an academy award.

This episode focuses on values such as loyalty, friendship and accomplishments as well. The office employees represent many people who go to work in order to just clock in and clock out while not establishing any real relationships along the way. Although many of the employees do not express fond feelings for one another, they all seem to show a certain amount of friendship towards each other by attending the “Dundies” as a group. Although many of them seem distant while in their workplace environment, they still socialize with one another in the restaurant even thought the show portrays a more individual attitude from its characters. There is also a sense of loyalty shown throughout this episode. When customers at the restaurant begin to harass Michael about his poor hosting job of the ceremony, his employees make him feel better by showing their support and influencing him to continue on with the show. Pam also expresses her loyalty by returning to the “Dundies” after her boyfriend leaves prematurely. Although many members of the office are reluctant to even attend the awards, they all stay to the end no matter how painful it is to them.

Additionally, this episode shows hints of accomplishment as well, even though the awards are made to add to the sarcastic comedy it is centered around. Although some employees receive awards that are jokes, some also receive awards for their work efforts as well. These awards are still used to add to the comedy aspects, but they also show how the company strives above the other branches. The award ceremony has become a tradition for the company and after having another positive year with it, Michael makes sure his employees know there will be another “Dundies” to come.

The Office is a simple comedy that expresses exactly what the show is trying to encapture through their bland comedy and the unappealing lifestyles of their characters. It contains great screen writing while having the feel of a comedy sitcom, but not including many normal aspects such as a studio audience or laugh track. The documentary portion of the show also adds certain additional aspects that are not usually used as well, but allow their audience to gain a greater connection with the characters. This show, although may not be appealing to everyone’s humor, captures the clichés of the nine to five workers and provides an easy to follow fun comedy.

Critical Review #1: EMF 140 – Koontz

The-Big-Bang-Theory-1-ppcornThe Big Bang Theory is a sitcom about young adults who live in Pasadena, California and know each other primarily through working together at California Institute of Technology. There are seven primary characters on the show but the main character in which the show is primarily focused around is Sheldon Cooper.  Sheldon is a physicist who has difficulty expressing normal social skills and judging how to act in situations. The other main characters on the show are Leonard Hofstadter, who is Sheldon’s roommate and also a physicist, Penny, a waitress who is Leonard’s primary love interest, Howard Wolowitz, an aerospace engineer and Raj Koothrappali, an astrophysicist. Later in the series, two supporting characters are introduced: Bernadette Rostenkowski, a microbiologist who is Howard’s primary love interest and Amy Farrah Fowler, a neuroscientist who is Sheldon’s primary love interest. The show is a comedy and the writers of Sheldon’s role do a fabulous job.

This episode is about Christmas. Sheldon is uncomfortable with gift giving. He feels that he has to provide a gift of the same value for the perceived gift he will receive. This is too hard to him to deal with, so he declares that he will give no gifts. But even this solution is fraught with anxiety, so he decides to get his girlfriend a gift so she will be uncomfortable because she will not have a reciprocating gift. He spends agonizing time finding something to reinforce the notion that gift-giving is not a productive exercise. At the ensuing Christmas party, he joyfully gives his girlfriend his gift so she will be uncomfortable. However, she unknowingly has baked him cookies from his grandmother’s recipe and he is overwhelmed with the spirit of Christmas after all.

The aesthetic qualities of the show are good considering it premiered in 2007. Colors are vivid and framing is comparable to the type of cinematography used today. The show does not overuse sound effects such as laughter after jokes. When music is played, it is not contrastingly high as compared to the dialogue. The sets reinforce the idea that the characters are nerds and have a love of science and all that it entails–especially Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment. On the walls, they have many comic books and figurines which depict immaturity. The writing of the show is clearly the main focus of the show, and the sets emphasize the importance of the dialogue and the characters’ actions. Camera angles are good for the most part. There have only been one or two episodes where the angles were odd and it was usually at a secondary set. Overall, the production value would be considered good.

The story is told through humor. Often the character comments to each other seem cruel. The key for making the show so successful is how well the actors were cast. Sheldon plays his role so believably and his body language complements all the quirky things that he says. As the love interests enter the show in later seasons, there is more angst created with each individual couple’s storyline. The most humorous of course are Sheldon and Amy. Their main angst is created with Sheldon not understanding communication and how to interact with others. Each of their apartment sets help create the background for the character who lives there and helps display their personalities through the furnishings. When there is conflict, the characters help make their anger obvious with body language in addition to the dialogue.

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The show is clearly written primarily for comedy and values of the characters are typical of modern day society. Accomplishment is certainly emphasized on the show as they are constantly competing with each other and comparing their successful careers. As mentioned above, some of the character comments to each other seem cruel and offensive. Their friendships are not without conflict, but when they do have an argument, they overcome it. They also look out for each other’s best interests and try to guide each other, especially Sheldon, through emotional situations. They are loyal to each other. They respect each other’s wishes such as Sheldon’s claimed seat on the couch. Sheldon is constantly holding Leonard accountable for breaking their roommate agreement which is drafted like a legal document with signatures.

Overall, The Big Bang Theory is a great and also educational show. It is intelligently written, satirical, vivid, interesting, enjoyable and comical. It is one that can be watched many times and still cause viewers to laugh.

Critical review: House of Cards Season 5 Episode 3 (2017)

House of cards is a drama Netflix series that revolves around two protagonists; Frank and Claire Underwood, a congressman and environmental activist. The married couple is two manipulative and intelligent partners who seek to take what they want with an iron fist but gentle in outward appearance, the couple is very honest with each other and very secretive to others. The series shows the type of corruption, deceit, and greed that takes place in American politics and small examples for other nations politics. The Underwoods plan to take revenge on all those that have done them wrong and from there carry out their desires. House of Cards primarily takes place in the United States forefront for politics, Washington D.C.

Tension, stress, and anxiety are at an all-time high in this episode as the 2016 presidential election is less than 24 hours away. A stressed Frank Underwood continues to campaign although his health is questionable. Due to Frank’s transplant, the country has already been quite skeptical on whether his fitness would be able to sustain him through 4 years of presidency and with him coming down with what looks like from the episode, a cough, skepticism rises, within his campaign team and outside it.

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Frank, a man who displays power and strength refuses to allow the negativity get to him and wants to press forward. This power that Frank displays also damages him, for example in this episode when Secretary of Defense Cathy Durant recommends plans to Frank he lashes out at her, and from viewing the show you can easily tell by Cathy’s expression that she is upset and this worsens their relationship, due to Frank’s attitude those who should be serving him with loyalty and integrity seem to be undermining him and proving to be loose allies, with all the chaos happening around him Frank tries to stay composed as election day is almost here.

Meanwhile, his opponent in the race Will Conway, the Republican nominee who uses social media to his advantage with his better looks and appeal in age by being much young, holds a live questionnaire with the nation to ring the hearts of more citizens onto his side by showing his honest and will answer any question given. But tension arises in the air on his side as well when citizens start to ask him specific questions about his days in the army which seems to be an alarmingly sensitive topic for him. As election day is soon upon them, the confident candidates have a lot on their plates, both going in with high hopes leaving no room for doubt or lack of faith.

The aesthetic qualities of the episode and show, in general, are professional and sharp, as one would expect from a top rated show on Netflix in its latest 2017 season. The show emits real life scenarios with superb editing and production, utilizing news network like CNN, CBS and their stars like Wolf Blitzer and John King. House of Cards primarily communicates with dialogue and also breaks the fourth wall usually at least once every episode, but this concept of utterance is restricted to Frank Underwood only. Whenever Frank is up to something, lying, angry, upset, joyous or simply wants to talk, regardless of the situation he’ll turn to the fourth wall (the audience) and have a few words or so.

Frank and Claire have quite a complex marriage, Claire has an affair with Tom Yates, a novelist who now works for the couple, although an affair Frank has full knowledge of how the two have sex and sleep together in another room just about every night, Claire is a strong woman who gets just about anything she wants and stops at nothing (sometimes bad) to get it, including marital happiness which is something she felt she wasn’t getting from Frank and instead felt this happiness and love from Tom so she accepted it with open arms.

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House of Cards is an impactful show that gives a sense of the corruption and underlying truths in the government, it may not be 100% accurate but as members of everyday society and not the government one may never fully know. The series has an immense sense of courage and individuality and also shows a journey of those aiming for power.

Critical Reading

Breaking Bad is a TV series about a 50 year old high school chemistry teacher who is trapped in the a life without respect, money or passion. He is married to Skylar who is ten years younger. Together, they have a handicapped son, also named Walter, who attends the same high school where Walter teaches. Skylar manages the home and bills, yet contributes only a minor income by selling on Ebay. She is pregnant in this episode and nags Walter to get things done around the house in preparation for a baby that Walter knows they can not afford. The show focuses on Walter and his anger and frustration with his life without money and respect. His inability to provide for his family reflects in his lack of confidence, allowing himself to be bullied by not only his students, but family members and work colleagues as well.

The first episode begins with Walter driving an RV like a maniac in the desert. The RV runs off the road with Walter spilling out wearing only his underwear. As Walter stands in the middle of the road waiting for the police to arrive, he prepares himself to commit suicide. The sirens get closer and Walter puts the pistol to his chin. When he presses the trigger, the gun fails to fire. Frustrated by his inability to even kill himself, the gun topples out of his hand and fires. In that moment, he realizes that suicide is not the answer.

The show’s capability of developing Walter’s character with little words or background is impressive. He drives a small, old car with tires that don’t match, his students laugh at him in class and take photos of him at his second job, his wife questions him about charging $18 at an office store on the wrong credit card. His own family pokes fun of how weak he is and little he provides. When he collapses at the car wash, he tells the ambulance driver he doesn’t have good insurance and should not be taken to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor tells Walter that he has lung cancer and it is inoperable. Walter arrives home for his surprise 50th birthday party. At the party, his brother in law turns on the TV where he, a DEA agent, is getting interviewed about the latest bust. The news explains that the bust recovers over $700,000 in cash.

This information, prompts Walter to go on a ride along with his brother in law. He discovers an old drop out student is making more money than him by making and selling methamphetamine. Like a light switch getting pushed to “on”, Walter decides that his chemistry background and his ex-students connections can make them both a lot of money. The crazy idea that a nerdy teacher can hook up with a Meth dealer seems impossible, however, the writers make it work, leaving the viewers wanting more.

The storyline and filming makes an unlikely match intriguing.