Ask Matt: Debating 'Americans' Finale, 'Killing Eve,' 'FTWD;' Plus: 'Elementary,' Marginalized Fantasy on TV
Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their "TV therapist") Matt Roush, who'll address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today's vast TV landscape. One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won't be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it's already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter. Look for Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.
Taking Issue With Americans, Eve, Fear the Walking Dead
Question: First of all, I am so glad that you are back because I have so much to vent about. [SPOILERS AHEAD] First, I felt absolutely B-O-R-E-D for the last episode of The Americans even though you and every other critic seemed to adore it. After all the violence and intrigue of past seasons, I fully expected a more slam-bang ending—boy, was I disappointed.
Secondly, I thoroughly enjoyed the first three episodes of Killing Eve, but to me it took a turn for the worst when Eve became more infatuated with the killer instead of avenging the loss of her mentor.
Thirdly, now that Fear the Walking Dead has decided to kill its original lead—Kim Dickens—I believe this was done as a cost-cutting move since they hired Lennie James, Garret Dillahunt and Jenna Elfman in the off season and disguised it as being excellent plotting: Oh Please. I believe that now that Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) departure and at least a limited role for Maggie on The Walking Dead is imminent, that it is time for both series to go. Now we can see how bad a decision killing Carl was. Finally, Into the Badlands aired its final episode Sunday, but I thought it was renewed for 16 episodes. Is it coming back later this year or has AMC decided to only have 8 more episodes and end? — JV
Matt Roush: Happy to be back. I’m always eager to entertain opposing points of view in this forum, and we certainly couldn’t be farther apart on most of these topics. (It’s Into the Badlands you have no issues with?) First, The Americans. I’m not surprised there would be some discontent that the series ended on a more sorrowful than explosive note—and I’m sure fans will be studying and debating the final confrontation between Stan and the Jennings family for ages. But while there were many suspenseful and violent moments throughout the series, “slam-bang” is not how I’d describe The Americans as a whole. It’s the difference, say, between John le Carré and Robert Ludlum. I’m much more haunted by where the show left us than if they’d ended up in a puddle of blood, or even in prison. And regarding Killing Eve, it’s precisely because of the mutual obsession between Eve and Villanelle that this spy thriller stands apart and above. (How excited was I at the show’s many TCA Awards nominations?)
On to The Walking Dead and its evolving spinoff. I can’t quite explain why I haven’t broken up with these series yet, but the time is coming, especially with the original. I’ll see how Season 9 progresses with Rick’s now-apparently-confirmed departure—Maggie was barely a regular last season, so that’s less of a surprise—but outside of Darryl and especially Carol, I’m not invested in much of anyone after those tiresome Negan battles. On the other hand, Fear became much more interesting to me when the new characters played by Maggie Grace, Garret Dillahunt and Jenna Elfman helped shift the focus away from Madison and her horrible family—Alicia excluded, even after her inexcusable shooting of Dillahunt’s John Dorie. I am an admirer of Kim Dickens, and appreciate the uproar over a genre show killing one of the few female series leads, but for me, the character was irredeemable after seasons of bad choices leading to so much destruction among anyone she ever met. They gave her a noble death, which is as much as anyone could hope for, and I do believe that Fear is making these choices for creative reasons that will ultimately benefit the franchise.
Is Elementary Still on the Bubble?
Question: I'm one of the people disturbed by the non-renewal of several shows—Quantico, Code Black, Designated Survivor—and think it's ironic that the first two have been especially enjoyable lately, as if to say "see what you're missing." I was wishy-washy about the return of Elementary UNTIL I decided to regretfully tune in and now I can't wait for each week's episode, because this season I'm excited, confused and delighted by the story arc and think it's so much better than it's been, as if it, too, is asking "what do you think of me now." What do YOU think of this show now and do you think it has any chance of continuing? I knew that the network might "possibly" keep it on because of its international sales, and wonder if that could still help keep it around, especially if it keeps to its current level of story delivery. I don't know whether the ratings have increased, but I know a lot of my friends are now more interested in this series than they'd been in the past, and I'd really like to know your thoughts on this. — Dorothy
Matt Roush: I know it can be confusing with so many series playing out their final runs during these summer weeks, but even though CBS kept Elementary off the air for most of the traditional TV season—and once again hasn’t scheduled it for a fall time slot—it is still a go for a seventh season. Just when and where it will show up on the CBS network remains to be seen, but as you noted, the series does well in international and syndication sales, so even though it may underperform on CBS (which the network’s scheduling can take some blame for), it’s still a keeper for now. (Can’t really speak to the show’s quality this season, as I’ve been away for several weeks and haven’t kept up.)
Was S.H.I.E.L.D. Worth Saving?
Question: I'm sort of conflicted regarding Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s last-minute stay of execution and the decision to air the next half-season in summer 2019. Reaction A: Summer 2019 means we don't have to deal with the immediate aftermath of Thanos on the big screen before we see how it resolves. (I'm keeping this spoiler free even though I'm 99% sure anyone who watches this show saw this movie opening weekend)
Reaction B: How many people will forget the show exists with a year between episodes? What is your take on this series of events, great TV therapist? (Side note, I thought the season finale was amazing, and if it had to be the series finale, I would have been happy. It was one heck of an emotional gut-punch, though.) — Veronica
Matt Roush: Given the show’s diminished circumstances upon its move to Fridays, its continued survival is mostly a testament to ABC’s desire to keep some aspect of the Marvel brand on the schedule, given parent company Disney’s ownership of the brand. What I hear from fans of the show echoes your own satisfaction with the way this season played out, and I doubt that a year’s absence will diminish their appetite for another season. What’s most obvious, though, is that ABC no longer believes there’s much growth potential for the franchise, or it would have more visibility. (Good riddance, though, to Inhumans, which to this casual observer was a complete and insipid mess.)
Midnight in Exile on Fridays?
Question: According to the NBC Upfronts from last month, Midnight, Texas has been placed on the fall schedule on Friday nights at 9/8c following Blindspot—which now me kind of nervous, because Taken this past TV season did not do well in that time slot, and was banished to Saturday nights and quickly cancelled after two seasons. I’m worried that Midnight, Texas will decline in the ratings on that night in its second season (unless NBC factors in time-shifted viewers in its ratings). I really hope the show does well on Friday nights, and does not get canceled because of declining ratings. Ratings on Friday nights across the board have rapidly declined for all the broadcast networks this past TV season! — Chris B
Matt Roush: With the exception of CBS, whose broad-based procedurals tend to thrive on Fridays (most notably Blue Bloods), the night has long been designated a graveyard where marginal shows go to play out their run and do the least damage to the rest of the lineup. (Taken is a classic example of this.) Although in this case, I think there’s some cause for optimism, because NBC has a history of nurturing supernatural-themed series in this time period. Case in point: Grimm, which eked out six seasons, most of them on Fridays, and I’m betting NBC sees some potential for Midnight, Texas to attract that same sort of cult audience. It’s even being scheduled much like Grimm, with its season premiere set right before Halloween on Oct. 26.
A Toast to Mrs. Maisel
Matt Roush: Glad you enjoyed. I recommend this delightful season to everyone. I’m excited that it was able to earn three TCA Awards nominations for its first season, and I’m hoping the Emmys will show it some love when those nominations are announced July 12. Amazon is promoting it pretty aggressively, and with Veep and Master of None (both Best Comedy nominees a year ago) not in the running this year, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s passion project stands a good chance of at least being recognized, if not winning.
Clock’s Still Ticking for Timeless
Question: Why is NBC torturing Timeless fans? We’re still waiting for the renewal. Why the delay? — Stan
Matt Roush: One of the more FAQ in my mailbag these days, and I wish I had an answer. The longer this sort of limbo endures, the less likely it is that the news will be good. But given that Timeless got a reprieve after cancellation last year, and the Sony TV studio’s reputation for fighting to keep its shows alive, there may yet be hope for some kind of deal to be made. Still seems a long shot, though. [Editor's Note: After this was posted, NBC made it official Friday that Timeless won't be returning for a third season. Best hope, though at this point just wishful thinking: a two-hour movie wrap-up.]
From the TV Vaults
Question: On the old 77 Sunset Strip, did Robert Wagner appear under the name Robert Logan? I watch it on MeTV. — Sydney
Matt Roush: Ah, nostalgia. If I had but time … The answer is no, these are two separate (though very handsome) actors, and while 77 Sunset Strip was airing in the late 1950s and early ’60s (when Robert Logan assumed the role of J.R. Hale), Robert Wagner was already well established on the big screen. He didn’t turn to TV until 1968 with It Takes a Thief.
That’s all for now. Thanks as always for reading, and remember that I can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below.