Archive | May 2017

Love Child–Season 4, Episode 4

This episode took an unexpectedly dark turn.

While the promos had been indicating that something horrible would happen to baby Laura, I know from previous experiences that the promos have been misleading and what you think is going to happen almost never happens. This was one of the rare times where what I thought was going to happen actually happened.

The A story of Laura’s failing health and eventual death was played out incredibly well with the right combination of concise writing and spectacular acting. I felt that this plot drew out the best performances from Jessica Marais (Joan), Sophie Hensser-Bloom (Viv), Miranda Tapsell (Martha), Dan Hammill (Dr Patterson) and Andrew Ryan (Simon). What I thought was the best part of their performances was that they complemented each other as the actors clearly worked as a team. I also enjoyed the bittersweet moments of Viv and Martha looking after Joan, showing that the relationship between the three of them had come full circle with the former being the nurturers now rather than the latter.

While I did enjoy the International Women’s Day March scenes and the subsequent consequences, I felt that this plot was undermined and cut short by the Laura story. The presence of International Women’s Day in itself presents a huge continuity problem, which I was hugely disappointed in (Laura was born on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June, International Women’s Day is in March). I also loved the brief reference to the legendary song ‘I Am Woman’ in the first few minutes, which I felt perfectly summed up the premise of the episode.

I felt that Matron’s behaviour was simultaneously in and out of character. Matron’s choice to keep her mistake a secret even after Laura died from the hospital was true to her manipulative nature, however I felt that her confession to Father Ross (Matt Day) was out of character. Although Matron would naturally confess at some point, I felt that the confession coming out at this specific moment in time was only to add drama to the already heart wrenching and dramatic plot. While there is nothing wrong with this, I felt it was cliche and a little forced. On a smaller note, I didn’t see the subtle reveal of Father Ross being a board member coming.

One character development of Matron that I’m enjoying is her lashing out at the new Stanton House girls only for Debbie to call her out on it every time. Speaking of Debbie, I really felt for her during her interaction with her older and married lover who is clearly never going to be with her. It’s also a shame that Elena, Debbie and Rita were pushed into the background, however the moments that they were in the spotlight were fantastic, especially during their interactions with Joan and Elena trying Vegemite.

Overall I felt that this episode served as a mid-season finale of sorts. Laura’s death and Rita’s observation of Matron burning files will kick off the ramifications of Matron’s mistake, and Martha and Simon’s conflicting desires of having a family still haven’t been explored and I believe will be a great story arc for the remainder of the season.

This episode was spectacular, however I feel that the season so far has taken a dark turn with two deaths and a melodramatic story arc being set up all in the space of four episodes. While any TV show needs to grow and develop as it progresses, I personally feel that this season of Love Child has gone off too quickly in another direction with no real transition to prepare the viewers.

That being said I’m looking forward to reviewing the second half of the season.

 

 

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Speechless-Season 1, Episode 12 (H-E-R–Hero)

This episode explored not so much another layer of the family but did answer a question that the viewers would have in their minds–what would happen if JJ’s motorised wheelchair ever broke? The reason why the chair broke and who was responsible was a hilarious reveal, however the answer was obvious, he would be given a replacement by the insurance company albeit a questionable second hand one, which kicks off the rest of the episode.

Maya trying to butter up her “insurance connection” only to find out that he would be of no use to her and having to win over a “tough nut to crack”, was a cliche. What was also a cliche was both Maya and Janet finding a way for Maya to get what she wants, through means of negotiation that was really only just short of blackmail. The fact that it was asking Dylan to throw a race was interesting and kind of balances out the cliche elements of the whole situation.

The B story was also a cliche, but I think it explored an issue that needed to be addressed. Although the exploration of JJ as a person who is more than his disability has been constant throughout the series, this is the first episode that explores this issue explicitly through the essay contest and in turn through Donald’s speech. A stranger trying to milk JJ’s disability and the apparent inspiration that comes from him for their own gain was bound to explored at one point, and I liked that we are given a red herring from Ray trying to do it first.

The highlight of the episode for me was the use of integrity in both the A and B story and how it eventually tied both stories together. Dylan volunteering to throw the race for JJ only for Maya and Jimmy to encourage her to win, which she does, and Ray telling the truth about JJ being a jerk sometimes, was fantastic as these moments both lead to realistic outcomes. These realistic outcomes of course being Janet refusing to help Maya and Donald winning the contest with his essay on JJ anyway, shows an unfair reality of life–sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t mean anything. However I enjoyed the fact that Donald’s speech led to Janet being won over and willing to help out, as the lack of integrity from both characters fed into each other and paid off for Maya and JJ in the end.

While the episode was well written and explored interesting issues, I didn’t feel that it was the strongest episode as there wasn’t a hell of a lot in the way of character development and there were too many cliche elements, it felt more like a filler to me.

Love Child–Season 4, Episode 3

After Patty’s death and the subsequent fallout being explored in the previous two episodes, it was nice for this episode to be on the lighter side.

I liked the choice by the writers to break the episode up with three smaller stories–A, B, and C. The A story focusing on Joan’s struggles in trying to return to work, the B story focusing on Elena discovering who her arranged future husband is, and the C story focusing on Viv’s desire to explore a nude beach.

Last week’s episode briefly touched on Joan’s desire to return to work, however in this episode we actually see it happen. I felt that the struggles that Joan felt as a new working mother and the sexual harassment that women would have been subjected to in that era, were portrayed realistically without banging it over the viewers’ heads which I appreciated. I’m glad that Lance got his comeuppance and that Andrew put him in his place, but what I found most interesting was Andrew’s choice to hire Simon over Joan. I honestly couldn’t call it and I would love to know the logic behind his choice, whether he chose Simon because he is an old chauvinist beneath his progressive exterior or whether Simon really is better for the job. On a smaller note, I did enjoy baby Laura’s attempt at baptism and Joan’s subsequent DIY baptism as bookends for both the A story and the episode.

I felt that the B story would have been just as strong as the A story, if Joan wasn’t the focus of the A story. While we have been witness to several scenes of the new Stanton House girls, this is the first episode of the season that spends quality time focusing on and developing them. I loved the interactions between Debbie, Rita and Elena, especially in the car, as it shows their progressing friendship. I liked the brief moment of Debbie’s vulnerability on display with her love letter and although I found the outcome of their search for Elena’s future husband obvious, there was enough heart in both Paolos that I can give it a pass. Also, Rita’s pain was a nice bit of deception for the viewers and provided the perfect opportunity for Lance to receive his comeuppance.

The C story of Viv’s desire to explore a nude beach was minor in comparison to the other two, however I have a feeling that this will be addressed in later episodes. However I did like that Viv made a new friend outside of the main girls, or what are left of them–Annie’s and Shirley’s absence or departure still hasn’t been addressed, I hope the writers won’t go down the path of House Husbands‘ writers and pretend that they never existed.

On a smaller note, Simon’s car was a subtle and strong thread between the three stories. I also like the writers’ choice to subtly insert Simon and Martha’s conflicting thoughts on having children in the background of the episode, which will obviously be explored later. I also enjoyed Chloe Bayliss’ (of Doctor Doctor fame) cameo and it was great to see her in another fantastic Aussie drama

Overall I enjoyed this episode, while I at first thought that there were too many things going on, now that I think about it, with Patty’s death having to be addressed and its dark subject matter taking up two episodes, lost time for lighter plots needed to be made up and the three stories was the perfect way to do it.

 

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 11 (R-O–Road T-R–Trip)

Like last week’s episode, ‘R-O–Road T-R–Trip’ didn’t focus on exploring another layer of the DiMeo family and their lives with a special needs family member. Instead this episode focused on the DiMeo family dynamic.

Considering how much planning would be involved in every aspect of their lives due to JJ’s disability, it was nice to see a spontaneous side to the family, especially with Maya. It didn’t surprise me that Ray would be against it, due to his uptight nature. I personally felt that the Dylan and Zoltar subplot with the predictions coming true was weak and cheesy, as well as Jimmy and JJ’s idea to sell their stuff. Not to mention neither of these subplots added anything to the episode.

The twist of Ray planning their spontaneous vacation without the rest of the family realising it, and the eventual reveal of how he did it, was writing genius. Making a plot twist simultaneously clever and subtle isn’t an easy feat and this twist was pulled off perfectly. What added to the perfection was the irony of Ray coming down with appendicitis–Ray’s body spontaneously letting him down caused the vacation to spontaneously end. I enjoyed the bonding between Maya and Ray both before and after his surgery, especially after, as it showed that Maya is not only the best mother for JJ but for Ray as well.

The B story of Kenneth discovering he doesn’t really fit in at the school without JJ was solid and a story that needed to be told. We’ve heard of Kenneth’s life outside of work, however until now, we were yet to see it, not to mention that this is the first time we see Kenneth without JJ. I enjoyed the start of his friendship with Dr Miller, the pair of outsiders that don’t fit in the school’s hierarchy. The Kenneth–Dr Miller subplot hasn’t been addressed or closed, so hopefully the writers haven’t forgotten this and it will continue to be explored.

Overall this episode was solid but not spectacular. The writing was great, however there was a little lack of necessary action. This episode felt more like a filler.

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 10 (C-H-O-Choir)

Interestingly this episode didn’t focus on an aspect of being a special needs family like the previous episodes have.

This episode focused on Christmas, specifically Christmas spirit. Surprisingly it was Maya, usually the most cynical, that was full of the Christmas spirit and tried to spread it to her family. I loved the gag of Maya throwing groceries, presents and Dylan into her car as she had no time. Maya’s Christmas spirit being completely diminished was predictable, however I didn’t see the reason for it coming. The subsequent consequences of things going wrong for Maya and Jimmy when they were trying to make things right was predictable.

The subplot of Ray joining the school choir as an extra curricular activity was pretty weak on its own, with strength only being injected into it when JJ and Kenneth were brought into it. The twist of the choir teacher retiring and being replaced by Miss Bloom (Julianne Hough), and subsequently all the boys in school wanting to join choir, was predictable but funny. While Julianne Hough is a good actress, singer and dancer, I didn’t feel that her acting in this episode was all that memorable, however I loved her references to her judging techniques from DWTS and her duet with JJ. The fact that JJ got a solo even though Kenneth was the person singing was a bit of political correctness gone mad, however it is believable as Kenneth is technically JJ’s voice.

Maya’s Christmas spirit being diminished to the point where she became a Grinch, only to find out that the families from the school had donated money to them so she can buy a new van for JJ, was cliche.

The simultaneous reveal of the new van and the fact that the old van was never actually stolen was funny and well done, however it was also predictable and cliche–things going right for characters would be boring, something needs to go wrong or ruin their happiness.

I also enjoyed the credits scene of Kenneth doing a dance audition on behalf of JJ. This is the first time that Speechless have had a credit scene and I hope it won’t be the last.

Overall this was a nice episode, however I felt it was a little cheesy and cliche.

Love Child–Season 4, Episode 2

Inevitably this episode was going to deal with the fallout of Patty’s death.

I liked how the episode focused on the unanswered questions of Patty’s death rather than the emotions. While the emotional reactions and grief were addressed, it was done with subtlety. With Martha feeling guilty, Viv feeling sadness and disbelief, Matron lashing out in anger, and Joan feeling a subdued sadness, all of the emotions associated with grief were perfectly balanced out.

The crux of the episode–finding out what happened to Patty–was well written and spectacularly acted. I liked the slow elimination of suspects from Elena’s brother who was too obvious a suspect for it to actually be him, to the pathological lying Craig, and Mandy’s pimp. The slow elimination of subjects, the possibility of Patty’s death really being accident raised multiple times, and the moments of emotional outbursts by Martha and later Simon, were well balanced and paralleled perfectly.

I felt that the reveal of Patty’s death actually being an accident was both a bit of a let down and the perfect outcome. I felt it was a let down due to the promos and dramatic build up in the previous episode, however I felt it was the perfect outcome as it is more believable for her death to be an accident rather than a vicious murder, especially with Patty’s simultaneously sweet and strong nature.  With this revelation, Martha is finally able to let go and grieve properly, with the moment of her letting go and breaking down performed spectacularly by Tapsell. I’m also relieved at the closure of the subplot, as quick as it was, as Love Child is a period not a crime drama. If Martha spent the whole season investigating Patty’s death it would tire the viewer.

Meanwhile the subplot of Elena’s brother discovering her pregnancy and the shame she felt was also well written and acted, however it would have thrived more if it hadn’t been overshadowed by the Patty plot. I enjoyed the clear character development between Elena and Debbie. Sophia Forrest displayed her acting chops by providing a much needed comedic moment with her Matron imitation, and showing Debbie’s emotional side when she convinced Elena to come down from the ledge (even though the fact that Elena wouldn’t die was obvious–no writers would kill a lead in one episode and a new character in the second).

The baby switching subplot was only touched upon, which suited me just fine as the focus needed to be on finding out what happened to Patty. I’m also looking forward to finding out exactly where Jim has run off to and I’m glad that the writers cleared up whether Joan knew where Jim was.

Overall this episode was never going to match up dramatically to the previous episode, however they came very close with the balanced amount of drama and emotions.

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 9 (S-L-Sled H-O-Hockey)

This episode again pulled back another layer of the ‘onion’ of the aspects of a special needs family. Their special needs child playing competitive sport.

JJ’s desire for the thrill of competition is understandable, even more so when people patronise him and constantly let him win. Jimmy’s own overprotective nature is hinted at when he takes JJ to the ice rink only to show him how to play a dated arcade game, however it was a nice segue to introduce the viewer to the world of sled hockey. I read online that Micah Fowler plays sled hockey in real life and I personally enjoy when writers’ incorporate parts of their ‘real life’ into a show without going over the top.

What I personally enjoy about this A story was the fact that the roles were reversed between Jimmy and Maya. Maya is known to be overprotective and fight for JJ’s rights to have the same experiences as everyone else, it was nice to see that Jimmy play that role for once especially as we haven’t seen him do so overtly. Again another part of this layer of the onion is Maya reminding Jimmy that as their parents they have to encourage JJ more than anyone as the world will try to discourage him, again showing with subtlety another painful reality of a life with a special needs child.

I felt that the two subplots of Maya and Kenneth in the First Aid class, and Dylan and Ray finding a crawlspace in their bedroom were a little weak on their own, however they both filled the episode nicely.

While Episode 2 focused on the development of trust between Maya and Kenneth, this episode showed more development in their relationship with Maya feeling threatened over losing Kenneth. I found Maya’s efforts to relate to Kenneth a little cringeworthy, however it paid off in the end with the sweet moment of Maya giving Kenneth a drawer in the bathroom and allowing him to shower in the house. Maya seeing Kenneth naked in the shower earlier which prompted the drawer-giving and Ray popping his head out of the shower curtain to comment on their bonding, were hilarious comedic moments.

I did enjoy the discovery of the crawlspace by Ray and how he turned it into his sanctuary, Dylan discovering it and wanting it for herself was predictable, however the discovery of her reasons for wanting her private space were believable. While Dylan is a great character, it is very rare we see a softer side to her and more importantly, as a character who has inner struggles, in this case self-consciousness as the only girl who has to share a room with her two older brothers. The ending of this subplot was sweet but predictable.

Overall this was an enjoyable episode, however it felt flat in comparison to the previous episode.