Archive | February 2020

TV Show Analysis: Charmed and the Trolley Problem

Charmed (the original series) revolved around three powerful, sister-witches known as the Charmed Ones who use their powers to fight against evil.

While Charmed revolves around the sisters and their use of witchcraft to fight against evil, it’s never been purely around magic. It explores sisterhood, life, mortality, morality and even philosophy. In the season 2 penultimate episode, Apocalypse Not, Charmed explores the philosophical thought experiment known as the Trolley Problem.

Apocalypse Not premise:

Good and evil have to join forces when Prue becomes trapped in a vortex with one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The Trolley Problem:

The basic premise of the Trolley Problem is as follows:

“There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance away in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side tracks. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main tracks.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side tracks where it will kill one person.”*

There are many variations of the Trolley Problem. According to Wikipedia, the original dilemma involved a judge faced with rioters demanding that a culprit be found for a certain crime and threatening otherwise to take their own revenge on a particular section of the community. As the culprit is unknown, the only way the judge can prevent this revenge is to frame an innocent person and have them executed. There is also an example where a pilot whose plane is about to crash is deciding whether to land in an uninhabited area.

More well-known variations include the fat man, which involves throwing a fat man standing next to you onto the bridge to stop the trolley, killing him to save the five lives. Another well-known version is a transplant where a surgeon has five patients in need of organs, each of whom will die without that organ and there are no organs available. However, a healthy traveler passing through the city goes to the surgeon for a check-up and discovers he is a match for all five patients. Does the doctor kill the healthy person to save the five patients?

The popular Netflix TV series, The Good Place, dedicated a whole episode to the Trolley Problem, where Chidi, an ethics professor, is teaching the Trolley Problem to the other three main characters, and demon, Michael. Michael argues that the problem is too theoretical and using his magical powers makes the problem literal, forcing Chidi to make a choice. Chidi is unable to make a choice every time, and Michael also explores the problem using the surgeon variation. In a later episode, he determines that self-sacrifice is the solution to the problem.

Apocalypse Not and the Trolley Problem: How it presents itself to the viewer

The Trolley Problem first presents itself in the episode to the viewer at the beginning of the episode, where Phoebe tells her sisters that she bought a book from her sociology professor that is filled with deep profound questions, which could make for a good bar game at P3. One of the questions in the book, which she poses to her sisters, is a variation of the Trolley Problem, “What if a building was on fire? Do you save five strangers or one sibling?” Prue dismisses the question by telling Phoebe that she thought they were supposed to be hard questions and answers “sibling”, as does Piper and Phoebe.

This scene provides an introduction to the Trolley Problem to foreshadow what will happen in the second half of the episode.

While Piper and Leo are on their way out on a date, they are caught in the middle of a street brawl. When she uses her power to freeze to stop a watermelon going through her car windscreen, the supernatural evil or foe presents itself to Leo and Piper, as well as the viewer—a man in a black suit and green tie who doesn’t freeze like everyone else. They chase after him, however he gets on his horse and disappears.

The sisters cannot correctly identify the evil or foe at play, so they make their best guess, the Demon of Anarchy and make a vanquishing potion based on this guess, meanwhile the Four Horsemen set a trap for the sisters. When Piper sees the Horsemen she saw earlier at another riot scene later that evening, the sisters chase after him, Prue in the lead. When Prue catches up to him and sees the other three Horsemen, she is held hostage by another Horseman, War, which Piper and Phoebe discover when they catch up. Both groups cast their respective spells, which leads to Prue and War being sent into the vortex.

Both groups try to figure out what to do while both Prue and War try to reach their respective groups through the astral plane. It is War who tells his fellow Horsemen that they need to cease fire and co-operate with the sisters. Leo informs the sisters that they need to do the same, via the Elders. Both groups reluctantly agree to work together.

 

Apocalypse Not and the Trolley Problem: How it presents itself to the sisters

While the Trolley Problem is initially presented to the sisters via Phoebe’s book at the beginning of the episode, the Problem isn’t presented to them first-hand until Leo identifies the Horsemen.

Throughout the episode, Leo is against the sisters’ methods. He is first against their guess at the identity of the Horsemen, which ultimately leads to the situation they are in. He is then against them working with the Horsemen to rescue Prue. Due to the sisters dismissal of his concerns, he goes to the Horsemen’s headquarters to find out for himself who they really are, and he does. When he reveals their identity to the sisters, that is when the Trolley Problem is presented to them and they are starting to live it.

Emotions affecting the Trolley Problem in Apocalypse Not:

As mentioned earlier, there are many variations of the Trolley Problem, which include whether the person pulling the lever knows the one person on the second set of tracks. Apocalypse Not explores this variation when Piper and Phoebe make it clear that they will still work with the Horsemen to get Prue back, even after Leo informs them of their identity and intentions. Leo points out that they are thinking like mortal sisters and they need to think like the Charmed Ones and of their duty to the world. He also points out that when the sisters travelled to the future in an earlier episode, they learnt that sometimes there are more important things than saving your sister. Despite Leo’s valid points, the sisters go ahead with the plan.

Phoebe choosing to save five strangers:

Although Leo does his best to point out the stakes of saving Prue over protecting the greater good, it isn’t until the sisters are made aware of the consequences of choosing that one person on the second set of tracks over the other five people  that the Trolley Problem in Apocalypse Not plays out and is resolved.

When Phoebe shakes Strife’s hand, she has a premonition of the impending apocalypse. She knows exactly what will happen and how this Trolley Problem will play out. Although she starts to go through with hers and Piper’s plan, she eventually abandons it. When Piper questions her, she tells her Leo is right, that they can’t rescue Prue and War, and be selfish. Piper reluctantly agrees and stops casting the spell to re-open the vortex. Moments later, the Source of All Evil opens the vortex, using it to vanquish the Horsemen. While this happening, Phoebe and Piper finish casting the spell to hopefully pull Prue out, which they successfully do.

The solution to the Trolley Problem in Apocalypse Not:

As mentioned earlier, The Good Place dedicated a whole episode to the Trolley Problem, with Michael eventually coming up with the solution of self-sacrifice. Apocalypse Not implements the same solution as Piper and Phoebe make the choice not to rescue Prue to save the greater good, and the Source makes the choice to vanquish or sacrifice the Horsemen, as their mission can’t be completed due to the sisters’ self-sacrifice.

What the sisters learnt after their first-hand experience with the Trolley Problem:

The episode ends with the sisters hanging out at P3 and Leo coming to see them after a meeting with the Elders. He tells the sisters that their selflessness stopped the Source’s plan from going forward and that there was too much good in the world for the apocalypse to be successful. Prue has an emotional reaction to this news and the fact that the sisters had to sacrifice her for everything to work out, however she accepts that Piper and Phoebe were doing their jobs.

The final moments of the episode have one of P3’s bartenders bringing Phoebe’s book back to her and asking them the same question Phoebe posed to her sisters at the start of the episode. This time, the sisters answer in unison, “five strangers”. These bookends perfectly illustrates that they have learnt from their own personal Trolley Problem experience that the greater good must come first, by changing their initial answer to a hypothetical and seemingly simple Trolley Problem posed to them at the beginning of the episode.

 

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

 

New Blog Category: TV Shows—Analysis

Although I write my reviews of TV Shows in great detail, I’ve decided to add another category to this blog: TV Shows—Analysis.

As a writer, especially a character rather than plot driven writer, I’ve always loved analysing fiction, especially characters and themes. As I watch TV shows, both the ones I review and the ones I don’t, I notice themes that come up from time to time, so I’ve decided to write blog posts analysing characters and themes of TV shows as I come across them and as I see fit.

My inspiration for this new addition to this blog not only comes from being a writer and my love for analysis, but also by similar analysis of TV shows and movies undertaken by others. I’ve especially fallen in love with The Take’s videos on various themes, plots and characters of TV shows and movies. You can view some of their videos below, as well as on their YouTube channel.

 

 

 

Stay tuned!

 

Doctor Doctor–Season 4, Episode 4 (A House Divided)

This episode was all about playing dirty.

Ajax, Meryl, Hayley and Betty—Ajax and Meryl upped the ante with their election campaigns, which kicked off with them going on about their slogans on trucks, running into each other and causing a traffic jam, later culminating in Meryl revealing Ajax didn’t finish high school and Ajax almost revealing Meryl faked a heart attack.

Throughout the subplot, Hayley is stuck in the middle and struggling with her loyalties, when she asks for guidance from God, Betty ultimately plays dirty by having Hayley admit the truth by swearing on a “Bible” (which turned out to be The Da Vinci Code). However it doesn’t pay off as Ajax decides not to reveal to the community that Meryl faked the heart attack.

The election outcome is finally revealed and Meryl wins. She starts to make a grand speech, only to stop herself and simply say thank you. She goes to see Ajax and he tells her that exposing the truth about her “heart attack” would make him no better than her and he doesn’t want to be like her. Moments later he makes up with Hayley and asks her to support him by moving out and getting their own place, an idea she clearly isn’t happy with. Meryl and Betty also made up at the end of the episode.

Overall I enjoyed this subplot as it exposed elements in Betty that we have never seen before and it truly showed what kind of people Ajax and Meryl are.

Hugh and Penny—This episode also dealt with Hugh and Penny’s suppressed feelings for each other with Penny’s impending wedding. Betty and Ken are the first to ask Hugh whether he is still in love with Penny and he denies it, only to lie to her about the need to quarantine the hospital when a sick patient comes in, to prevent her wedding from going ahead.

While they are in lockdown, Penny finds out about Jarrod’s fertility test, which she didn’t know about, contrary to what Jarrod stated in the previous episode. She reveals to Hugh she doesn’t want any more kids and assumed that they were on the same page about it.

Meanwhile Penny’s sister, Celia (Ella Scott Lynch) returns to Whyhope for the wedding. While Hugh and Penny are in lockdown, Celia gets everything ready for Penny, however it’s not what Penny wants. When Penny goes to The Brewery and sees Celia’s over-the-top reception decorations, her and Hugh have shots and he kisses her. She storms off, in denial of her own feelings and overwhelmed from Celia’s “help” and suggests to Jarrod that they elope, which they do that night.

Just as Hugh finally admits to himself, after a heart-to-heart with Charlie, how he feels about Penny and tells her not to marry Jarrod, she reveals he’s too late.

Overall I found their subplot to be a little all over the place. At the beginning of the episode they are in denial, Penny’s reaction to discovering Jarrod had a fertility test (freaking out than seemingly forgetting about it) was unrealistic, as was the eloping, and Hugh rushing to her door to beg her not to get married was a cliché. However I’m looking forward to seeing how the marriage changes the love triangle dynamic.

Matt, April and Charlie—The love triangle between Matt, April and Charlie continues to intensify as Matt struggles to keep Charlie sticking around and writing at her desk a secret from April.

At the start of the episode we see Charlie wandering around her and Matt’s house, putting the framed photo of Matt and April down and stealing a detailed box, which was later revealed to be the box that Matt presented her engagement ring in when he proposed. The tension escalates when Charlie joins the family for dinner, sitting next to April at the dining table.

Ultimately and unsurprisingly, April discovers Charlie in the house and angrily tells her to leave not only the house but Whyhope. When April asks where Charlie got the house key, she covers for Matt by saying she still had a spare. When Matt agrees with April that Charlie needs to leave, she is shocked and he tells her April was right and she needs to leave, and they need to move on.

Charlie still hasn’t left Whyhope by the end of the episode, so it will be interesting to see where the love triangle goes from here. Overall I found their subplot to be a little predictable.

Dinah and Meryl—The focus on them was minor but I have a feeling the tension between them will play out in later episodes. Dinah is caught by Meryl snooping around the Homestead, which leads to Meryl “firing” her, which Hugh finds out about when Dinah comes to see him during the hospital lockdown.  At the end of the episode, Dinah tells Meryl she’s staying, much to Meryl’s chagrin. I’m looking forward to seeing how their tension and dynamic plays out.

 

Overall this was a solid episode, however I felt the Hugh and Penny subplot wasn’t well executed.

 

Stray Observations:

-An explanation for Floyd’s absence is finally provided when Penny tells Celia he is still at boarding school.

-What Rod did to get a restraining order placed on him from Meryl was finally revealed: he stood on her front lawn with a boom box in his underpants.

 

Best one liners and interactions:

  • “We ran out of books at book club, the last three weeks have been about you.” (Ken to Hugh regarding his and Penny’s suppressed feelings for each other)
  • “I thought you liked Jarrod?” “We do, more than you.” (Hugh-Ken)
  • “I have big ideas for your entrance; can you ride side-saddle?” (Celia to Penny)
  • “Nothing says occasion like riding in on a Shetland!” (Celia to Penny)
  • “Can I paint a moustache on it?” “That’s not how we’re going to win this.” (Ajax-Betty on Meryl’s campaign poster)
  • “What’s happening? Did somebody throw a punch?” (Hugh on the phone to the family)
  • “You can’t get married now, I’m wearing ugg boots!” (Celia to Penny)
  • “Did somebody call for a witness?” (Ken to Penny and Jarrod)

 

Doctor Doctor—Season 4, Episode 3 (Self-Fulfilling Prophecies)

This episode was a breath of fresh air as Hugh didn’t go on a bender and the focus started to shift to the other characters.

Dinah—I thought I’d start this episode’s review by focusing on the newest arrival in Whyhope, Dinah, Harriet’s mother and Eliza’s grandmother. Dinah offers to babysit Eliza while Hugh is working, much to his relief as he is struggling with single fatherhood and finding day care for Eliza. However Dinah eventually but mostly unintentionally causes trouble for Hugh, Meryl and Ajax.

With Hugh, she decides to take Eliza for a walk in the bush, only to get lost and call him for help. This leads to Jarrod going down a ditch to rescue her, only to get a groin injury. She then causes trouble for Meryl as she suggests to her and Hayley to find a dummy candidate to increase her chances of winning the election. This leads to Meryl and Hayley picking Ajax, but they don’t tell him he’s a dummy candidate, which only makes the situation worse when he does find out and leads to unintended consequences (which I’ll get to).

Dinah doesn’t leave Whyhope at the end of the episode, so I’m assuming she’ll be around for a while. It’ll be interesting to see what other trouble she causes.

Meryl, Hayley, Ajax and Betty—As mentioned earlier, Dinah gives Meryl and Hayley the idea to have a dummy candidate run in the local election, they choose Ajax, convincing him to run, after discovering Eddie is running for Annie’s seat. Throughout the episode, Ajax plays along, letting Hayley speak for him in an interview and basically doing what Meryl and Hayley tell him to do, however this all changes when he discovers the truth, taking it as Meryl thinking he is dumb. He proves that he is not only intelligent but a solid and good candidate for Council, when he reveals his knowledge of the area, and his ideas are original and beneficial for the community. Ajax gets a note from someone to meet up at the cemetery, the mystery person is Betty, who convinces him to work with her to get revenge on Meryl, for her contribution to her and Darren’s break up. He agrees and they announce that he is a serious contender and Betty will be managing his campaign. Eddie withdraws from the election and ends up endorsing Ajax.

Overall I enjoyed this subplot, it shows once again there is more to Ajax than meets the eye, and the twist of Betty wanting revenge was a nice touch and I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Matt, Charlie and April—Their subplot was relatively minor however was crucial in their overall story arc. April spends most of the episode out of town at a wedding expo, which leaves him alone with Charlie and struggling to deal with his feelings for her. The first sign of this struggle is his obvious jealously of the chemistry between her and Val. This leads him to snap at Val over his international chicken schnitzel idea for The Brewery, which leads to Val quitting, convinced by Charlie to do so. Matt tries to get him to come back, but he refuses.

This leaves Matt and Charlie having to cook the international schnitzels for the candidate forum by themselves, where their feelings for each other and sexual tension are demonstrated further. At the end of the day, they decide to have drinks and it appears that they have slept together, especially when Matt greets Charlie the next morning with a “good morning, babe” and a kiss, however Charlie reveals they didn’t. Charlie tells Matt that sitting at her desk has enabled her to write again and wants to stick around longer than promised.

Matt’s struggle is illustrated further when April is FaceTiming him throughout the episode, constantly passive-aggressively suggesting that they get married. I can’t help but feel this is due to Matt and Charlie’s obvious feelings and chemistry, which she can sense and therefore feels the issue will be fixed or go away if they get married.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this love triangle will go.

Hugh and Tara—They didn’t spend much time together until the second half of the episode when Tara has to deal with a pregnant patient who is experiencing complications. Tara is seen having panic attacks and gets Hugh to help her at the eleventh hour. Hugh calls her out and the dangers her anxiety posed, which leads to her revealing to Hugh where her anxiety originated—a pregnant patient with complications who died giving birth to her baby, who also died due to said complications. She also reveals that she hasn’t had counselling to deal with her anxiety and begs Hugh not to tell Penny about it. The episode ends with Hugh and Tara having a one night stand.

Overall I enjoyed the character development with Tara, however I felt the one night stand outcome was inevitable and predictable. It will be interesting to see if Tara’s anxiety has other unintended consequences throughout the season.

Penny and Jarrod—This episode was actually a little “Penny lite”, however we did find out from Jarrod that they are considering having a child together, with Jarrod choosing to get his sperm tested. Penny and Jarrod’s plans are almost blown when Jarrod slips while rescuing Dinah and injures his testicles, but Hugh manages to treat the injury.

At the end of the episode, Penny suggests that they get married on Sunday.

Overall this subplot didn’t really add anything to the episode other than the fact that Jarrod is aware of Hugh’s suppressed feelings for Penny.

Betty and Eddie—Throughout the episode, Betty is interacting with Tara’s pregnant patient. After talking to her, it is revealed that Eddie is the father of her child. At the end of the candidate forum, Betty tells Eddie everything by whispering in his ear. The fate of the patient and Eddie’s relationship is left unknown at the end of the episode, however this minor subplot was a nice twist on Eddie’s character.

 

Overall I enjoyed this episode and it is the most interesting one of the season to date.

 

Best one liners and interactions:

  • “He still hasn’t arranged day care.” “I refuse to change any more nappies, I refuse!” (Penny-Ken on Hugh’s struggles with single fatherhood)
  • “I’m Jarrod, I’m marrying the girl he likes.” (Jarrod introducing himself to Dinah)
  • “Time is testicle!” (Hugh to Jarrod after Jarrod falls and injures himself)
  • “This is like the elephant speech in year 9, only worse.” (Ajax to Meryl and Hayley on speaking at the candidate forum)
  • “You can’t sell people down the river and not have karma sail back up for you Meryl!” (Betty to Meryl on helping Ajax with his election campaign)

 

Doctor Doctor—Season 4, Episode 2 (Don’t Stop Me Now)

The theme for last week’s episode was “back to the way things were/are”. The theme for this week’s episode was “the more things change the more they stay the same.”

Hugh, Penny and Tara—Penny makes the decision to sack Hugh due to the Cardiac Unit deal going south for the Hospital. This leads to Hugh going off to Sydney to find another job, only to find himself constantly rejected as the outcome of the deal has travelled the medical grapevine.  After the constant rejection, Hugh goes on yet another bender, which consists of driving a tractor in the wrong paddock, smoking two joints and getting high with Charlie. While Hugh is on his bender, Penny asks Tara to consider her as a mentor, and shows her the ropes, which includes tending to their hypochondriac patient, Bruno.

Hugh’s bender is abruptly brought to an end when Penny and Tara call for his help after Bruno shocks himself on an electric fence and his chest is impaled by wood. Hugh comes to the Clinic but informs Tara that he’s stoned and gets her to perform the surgery. He manages to successfully guide her through it and Penny asks him to come back to work.

Overall I found this subplot interesting as it provided insight into what Tara is like as a doctor, it showed Hugh is capable of being a brilliant doctor even when stoned, and I appreciated that the subplot involved having Hugh and Penny apart for a while and successfully brought back together when necessary.

Matt, April and Charlie—Their subplot was minor, with the chemistry between Matt & Charlie and April’s fear of it evident. Charlie joins Hugh on his bender, which doesn’t sit well with Matt, even more so after she admits to him that she slept with the Brewery’s new cook, Val. Meanwhile, Hayley reveals to Charlie that Val is the third cook Matt and April have hired in recent months, hinting that the business is experiencing troubles, although the extent of them are not completely laid out to the viewer. Meanwhile, Charlie does a reading of her latest book to the Whyhope locals.

Meryl, Darren and Betty—After the sudden death of Green Annie in an “alpaca incident”, Meryl tries to get her bribe back, only to find the lunchbox empty. When Betty later shows her the commitment ring Darren gave her, Meryl digs a little deeper and discovers Darren stole the bribe money to buy Betty the ring.

Meryl tries to blackmail Darren into giving her back the money multiple times, only for him to point out her own shady behaviour. He eventually tells Betty the truth and she ends up dumping him. Darren gives Meryl the ring. Meryl later goes to see Betty to ask her to give him another chance, only for Betty to also call out her shady behaviour, and say that she’ll get her back. Towards the end of the episode, Meryl makes the decision to run for Council again.

Overall I enjoyed this subplot as Meryl met her match in Darren, and it showed a different side to Betty.

Hayley and Ajax—The focus on them was minor but hilarious and sweet. After Hayley attends Charlie’s reading and listens to her reading out an erotic scene from the book, she discovers she is naïve, sexually. She tries to do the ‘Flying Dutchman’ move with Ajax, only for him to fall asleep before anything begins the first time she brings it up. The second time she brings it up, she tells him they need to try something different, although at first he thinks she’s referring to his pistol skills. She eventually makes things clear to him, giving him Charlie’s book to read and the page number to go to. When he starts reading it, a smile appears on his face.

Overall, despite the numerous good moments, I felt this episode was a little monotonous as it had similar elements to the premiere. It had a similar theme and Hugh going on another bender. Although the interesting thing is, is that Hugh’s benders have happened for a specific reason—the first due to Penny’s engagement and this week’s one was due to being fired. I’m also becoming concerned about Hugh’s benders; the promo for this season was all about Hugh going back to being ‘a bad guy’. I hope there is some bigger purpose for this as it’s beginning to appear that the four years of character development the writers have worked hard on is being thrown away.

Hopefully things will shake up a little next week.

 

Stray Observations:

Dora sighting: In Matt’s yard, in the background, when he and April are talking.

-At the beginning of the episode, Hugh and Glen are taking in Glen’s office. It is here it’s revealed that some sort of ‘misunderstanding’ has happened between Glen and Meryl, which has led to an AVO. However no other details were provided to the viewers. Hopefully, we’ll eventually find out what happened between them.

 

Best one liners and interactions:

  • “I don’t need it!” “I can’t write it!” (Hugh-Penny on the latter giving the former a reference)
  • “Whyhope Hospital and I have parted ways.” “About time.” “They sacked you?” (Hugh-Meryl-Charlie)
  • “I love anything after a large tequila!” (Matt to Charlie)
  • “I’m not taking sides, I’m Sweden.” “Switzerland?” “Wherever!” (Hayley-Charlie-Hayley on the former knowing about the Brewery’s cook issues)

 

Doctor Doctor—Season 4 Premiere (Hugh Am I?)

The job of a season premiere is to establish new story arcs for the season, which could include but not be limited to possible story arcs set up in the previous season’s finale. I felt that this premiere only partially did the job.

As it has been over a year since the season 3 finale aired, I had to re-read my review of it. I felt that the season 3 finale didn’t do its job in wrapping up that season’s story arcs and left a lot of loose ends.

When I re-read my review of the season 3 finale, there were key loose ends that I hoped would be addressed in the season 4 premiere:

    • Whether Hugh and baby Eliza would stay in Whyhope.
    • Who Matt chose to be with, April or Charlie?
    • Is Charlie coming back?
    • Whether the cemetery business would work.
    • Whether Penny and Raph’s relationship would progress.

I’m going to review the premiere character by character.

Hugh and Tara—The premiere kicks off with Tara, the new GP Registrar (portrayed by Kate Jenkinson), rushing to a motel room, looking for Hugh, who is passed out on the floor. The episode than goes back three days earlier to Hugh waking up, talking to Eliza, on her first birthday, revealing that the Doctor Doctor world has moved forward one year in its timeline.

Hugh first meets Tara when she is talking on her phone in his parking spot at the clinic. He tells her to leave and she responds by giving him the finger and calling him a dipshit. Penny later introduces her to him, revealing she is the GP registrar and is on probation, and requests Hugh to supervise her, due to his progression over the years from “Bad Boy” to respected doctor.

Later, Tara goes with Hugh to Eliza’s first birthday party at The Brewery, and is shocked to discover that Hugh is a father and grandfather, and has dated Charlie. That being said, she stays at the party and tries to convince Hugh to do cocaine in one of the bathroom stalls.

After Penny gets engaged (which I’ll get to), Hugh goes on a bender with Tara and the pharmaceutical rep, Kimberley, which ends in the motel room the viewers find him in at the beginning of the episode. Tara manages to wake him up by reminding him of the meeting, and gets him to it.

Hugh and Penny—Tying in with the Tara subplot is the Knight-Cartwright buyout subplot with Hugh and Penny. The Knight-Cartwright Unit is an MRI machine short but nevertheless ready for a buyout, which will mean the unit being upgraded and Hugh becoming a rich man.

The meeting is postponed at first, which scares Penny, but matters are made worse when it’s rescheduled the morning after Hugh’s bender with Kimberley and Tara. Hugh is high on cocaine and alcohol when he tries to get the buyers to increase the payout, otherwise the current deal will be taken off the table. The buyers ask for a break, in which they work things out with Ken. When the buyers leave, Ken comes out of the room to reveal that they still want to purchase the Unit, but relocate it and for Hugh to have nothing to do with it, however as he invested his own money, he will still become a rich man. This angers Penny, which leads her to tell Hugh that she’s glad they have moved on and she’ll never forgive him for the deal going south.

Penny and Jarrod—The premiere reveals that Penny is happy in her relationship with mine manager, Jarrod Powell (portrayed by Dustin Clare). At Eliza’s birthday party, when Jarrod gets on stage, it’s revealed that they have been together for eight months and he proposes to her. Penny is clearly surprised and doesn’t want to marry him, but says yes. When they go out to lunch to celebrate the next day, Penny tells him that he sprung the proposal on her and she felt pressured to accept as it was done in public, and wants their relationship to stay the way it is. He tells her he wants to spend his life with her, but she gives the ring back.

After the disastrous meeting with the buyers and due to her anger towards Hugh, Penny goes to the mine and agrees to marry Jarrod, informing him she wants their wedding to be only just the two of them and she wants to have it as soon as possible.

Matt, Charlie and April—Charlie has returned to Whyhope, to the surprise of everyone, especially Matt and April. Meryl and Hayley are the first to see her as they run into her while in town, with Hayley inviting her to Eliza’s birthday party. Charlie eventually makes her way to The Brewery before the party, saying hello to Matt and April, with all of them finding the situation awkward.

Meryl invites Charlie to stay at the Homestead for a week or two after initially asking her why she’s back, while April tells Matt she wants Charlie to leave and not come back. When Charlie goes to see Matt after having a swim at the dam, she asks Matt if it’s okay that she stays at the Homestead, he says yes. Later, when April finds out that Charlie is staying at the Homestead, she confronts her, making it clear that she wants her to leave. The next day, Charlie admits to Matt she has returned to Whyhope as she wants him back, Matt tells her that he believes they are both at their best apart and he is happy with April, and he does want a divorce.

Meryl—Meryl is once again up to her old tricks as she goes to Council to campaign for the road leading to the cemetery to be sealed. They tell her that she needs the appropriate votes to get the green light, and to do that, she needs to get Councillor Annie Mathis, also known as “Green Annie” on board.

Meryl then goes to see “Green Annie” at her alpaca ranch, where Annie reveals she’s on to her, however Meryl makes it clear she’s willing to bribe her and Annie gives Meryl her price. Meryl gives Annie her bribe by using a lunchbox, however the fate of the road is unseen.

Ajax and Hayley—There wasn’t any real focus on Ajax and Hayley, other than Ajax being seen assisting with a funeral, establishing the cemetery business is going well, and Hayley working on Eliza’s birthday party, with little Jimmy in tow, who is now 18 months old.

Betty—There wasn’t any real focus on Betty either, other than the fact that her and Darren are still together, which is shown when he is waiting for her outside of “Green Annie’s” to take her to work.

Ken—There wasn’t any real focus on Ken either, other than him being depressed over his breakup with Mia as she has gone back to New Zealand.

 

Overall I felt that the premiere was good but not great. Most of the key loose ends I mentioned earlier in this review were addressed—Hugh and Eliza are still in Whyhope, Charlie has returned to Whyhope, Matt has chosen to be with April, but it’s clear that there is a love triangle between him, April and Charlie, which most of the season will revolve around. There wasn’t much focus on the cemetery business, but it’s clearly up and running.

I found the departure of Mia and the introduction of Tara interesting. While I’m disappointed that Mia and Ken’s relationship ended and she has left, I’m looking forward to seeing where Tara takes the series, especially as it’s clear she is the new Hugh or Hugh 2.0.

I’m honestly not that enthused about Penny and Jarrod’s relationship. In the season 3 finale, Penny settled for Raph and there was no mention of him and how their relationship ended in the premiere. As the Doctor Doctor world has moved forward twelve months, and Penny and Jarrod have been dating for eight months, we weren’t introduced to him when they met or at the beginning of their relationship, and we haven’t seen how their relationship has progressed to its current point. Meeting Jarrod at this point in the Doctor Doctor universe is like starting to read a book in the middle, and it’s especially hard to be invested in their relationship as Penny is again settling and it won’t last. It’s also hard to be invested in Jarrod as a character as we know nothing about him, other than the fact that he is Penny’s fiancé and the Whyhope mine manager.

A recurring theme in this episode was ‘back to the way things were/are’. Penny wants her relationship with Jarrod to go back to the way it was prior to the proposal, only for her to change her mind. April confronts Charlie, asking her to leave so her relationship with Matt can go back to the way it is. Not to mention that Tara’s arrival in Whyhope and her habits mirror Hugh’s arrival in Whyhope in the first season. Tara as a character also shows how much Hugh has changed over the years and how far he has come.

Overall this was a good but not great season premiere as it does show some potential for the rest of the season, however while the choice to move the Doctor Doctor world forward twelve months wasn’t a bad one, I feel the time jump would have been better executed if the gaps between the season 3 finale and this premiere were filled properly.

 

Stray Observations:

Dora sighting—Next to the hearse that is stuck in a hole on the road, with the coffin continually falling out of the back, into Ajax’s arms.

-There was no mention of Hugh’s medicinal poppies that were focused on in the season 3 finale.

-Charlie has written and published two books.

-There was no mention or sight of Floyd.

 

Best one liners and interactions:

  • “You’re asking for trouble letting Eliza sleep in the same bed. Given the choice I wouldn’t have you boys in the same house.” (Meryl to Hugh)
  • “We’re all going to use it one day Rod, some of us sooner than others.” (Meryl to Rod on the road to the cemetery and its need to be sealed)
  • “Alright…I mean okay…Yes!” (Penny’s response to Jarrod’s marriage proposal)
  • “How many times do you get engaged in your life? 5, 6, tops!” (Hugh to Penny)
  • “Keep the lunchbox, it will remind you how to vote.” (Meryl to Annie)

 

Playing For Keeps: Sidelines

As well as reviewing the parent series, I decided to review the new web series of Playing For Keeps, Playing For Keeps: Sidelines.

The Ten Play website states that “a woman’s car is her own personal haven. We make phone calls, we sing along (albeit often off key) to the radio, we check in with ourselves, and most importantly, there’s always a secret stash of snacks and an emergency change of clothes hidden somewhere between the boot and the backseat.”

The website also states that Sidelines will “allow viewers to spend time with each of our fabulous fictional ladies during those familiar and intimate car ride moments we all experience on a daily basis.”

The series is sponsored by Volvo Car Australia, their Marketing Director, Julie Hutchinson, stated to Ten Play that Volvo were excited to be involved in the series and that it offered “a great opportunity to extend our integration into the broadcast series and provide fans with bonus content throughout the season. We were able to tap into the characters natural chemistry, showcasing the cars and their key features in bite-sized comedic chunks.”

There are currently six episodes of Sidelines, each episode is about two minutes long, and was made available to viewers every week after an episode of Playing For Keeps was broadcast.

Episode 1—Birthday Surprise:

This episode appropriately kicked off with Paige approaching a car with balloons and getting in, hiding. The car turns out to be Tahlia’s, which is revealed when she and Jessie get in the car, unaware Paige is hiding in the back and are waiting for her to arrive.

Jessie asks Tahlia how living with Paige is going. Tahlia reveals that it is better than living with Connor, although Paige isn’t perfect—leaving wet towels on her bed and takeaway in the fridge. Paige, having had enough, jumps up, startles them both and points out Tahlia’s flaws, which include stockpiling wine glasses and waking her up at 5am to make smoothies. Paige than wishes her a happy birthday.

Overall I found this episode to be a very funny and sweet start to the web series, especially as it tied in with the parent series by talking about Tahlia and Paige living together.

Episode 2—Pram Ram:

This episode revolves around Jessie and Paige in the car park, leaving a café. While they are getting ready to leave, Jessie realises she left Georgie’s toy bunny in the café and goes to get it, leaving Paige to fold up the pram and put it in the boot of her car.

Paige struggles to fold it up and has to deal with someone in their own car honking at her off screen, much to her anger. The episode ends with Jessie coming back, giving Paige the toy bunny to hold while she effortlessly folds up the pram and puts it in the boot in seconds. Jessie gets in the car, and Paige follows, reminding her not to forget the bunny.

Overall this was a simple episode, with only two of the characters appearing, showcasing an all-too-common frustration that mothers and their childless friends would experience on a daily basis.

Episode 3—Mindfulness:

This episode only features Maddy, starting with her talking to Trav on the phone about how crazy busy she is, and asks him to take care of the kids and that she’ll be home later.

She gets off the phone, playing a mindfulness mediation recording via a phone app and starts eating a pastry. She then tells the Uber driver in the driver’s seat that she won’t be much longer, and starts to relax.

Overall I found this to be a funny episode, which successfully managed to focus on a singular character and even provide an insight into Maddy’s life that hasn’t been looked into before—how she manages to cope with her busy life.

Episode 4—Yogalates:

This episode focuses on Tahlia, Jessie and Paige leaving their yoga class. The three of them talk about how relaxed they are now, with Paige and Jessie admitting they fell asleep and Tahlia rolls her eyes at them. Paige then suggests that they go and get coffees and pastries, which they agree to. Paige and Tahlia then argue over who gave who the keys. Everyone thinks Tahlia has the keys, until Paige discovers she did have them all along. Tahlia is already annoyed at this, only to discover that she got a parking ticket while they were at yoga.

Episode 5—Secret Sound:

This is the first and only episode to feature Kath, with her and Maddy in Kath’s car listening to the radio and trying to guess the ‘secret sound’. Maddy’s guess is rain, Kath’s guess is bacon frying in a pan. They light-heartedly argue about it before finding out that Kath was right and she knew due to her years of frying bacon for Brian and the kids.

Episode 6—Pub Footy:

The last episode features Tahlia and Jessie. Tahlia is dropping Jessie off at a ‘kick around’ session with the female footy players and Jessie tries to convince Tahlia to join her, as she told the girls she would show up. Tahlia is reluctant but agrees. The screen fades to black to symbolise the time jump once the girls get out of the car to go to the session. When they get back in the car, Jessie expresses her surprise at Tahlia’s footy talents, which include kicking multiple goals. Despite this, Tahlia doesn’t agree to go to another session.

 

Overall I enjoyed this web series as it provided funny little extras or moments with the characters. The episodes were well-written, self-contained stories, and even provided an insight into the characters that hasn’t been shown in the parent series. I hope the web series continues if the parent series is renewed.