Ask Matt: ‘The Walking Dead’ Romance, Plus ‘Big Bang Theory’s Baby, ‘The X-Files’ Finale, ‘Scandal’ and More
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 unless it’s 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.
Question: What did you think of the romantic pairing of Rick and Michonne on the recent episode of The Walking Dead? I personally loved that they finally got together, since there were a bit of hints throughout the recent seasons of TWD of them having romantic chemistry together, and the way Michonne has been a maternal figure to Rick’s son Carl after Lori died. “Richonne” definitely needed to finally have some time to get some lovin’ (before Jesus interrupted them) after all the horrific events from the previous episode! — Chris
Matt Roush: It’s important for these moments to happen in a show that’s otherwise so intense and often soul-crushing. This pairing is especially satisfying, because they’re both warriors and, as you noted, Michonne’s nurturing of Carl in recent seasons already makes her part of the family. It just felt so natural to see the three of them in a morning rhythm at the start of the episode, so when things got romantic, it didn’t feel as forced or contrived as “shipper” storylines often do. More, please.
Big Bang‘s Bundle of No Joy?
Question: Back when Murphy Brown was a fixture on CBS, TV Guide Magazine had an article called “Will Diapers Dampen TV’s Adult Sitcoms?” I was of the opinion they would, and now that Howard and Bernadette of The Big Bang Theory are going to be parents, I feel that the series should call it quits while it’s ahead at the end of the 2016-17 season. The last thing I want from BBT is for the plot to consist of a 4-year-old Wolowitz kid caught messing around with Sheldon’s (or someone else’s) scientific stuff and getting chewed out for it by the guys and gals in the cast. It’s for reasons like this that I haven’t been a regular viewer of an ABC sitcom since the short-lived Super Fun Night and have no intent to bother with Fuller House. Please, Chuck Lorre, pull the plug on BBT in May 2017 while the Wolowitz baby is still a baby. – David J
Matt Roush: I get your point, but that’s some serious family-phobia you have going on there. (Honestly, you could do far worse than watch shows like The Middle, Fresh Off the Boat and black-ish to name some pretty terrific variations on the classic family sitcom. But I’m with you on Fuller House.) I’d agree with you that Big Bang doesn’t really need a baby on board, but one of the pleasures of this show has been watching its universe expand as new characters arrive and relationships develop, with lives changing through marriage and other milestones. As long as the show isn’t completely domesticated, I’ll give it a shot and the benefit of the doubt.
The X-Philes Speak Up
Question: TV Therapist, please talk me down off this ledge. While watching the finale of The X-Files, I was well aware that there was no way for the story to conclude by the end of the hour. Of course I wasn’t prepared for the lack of any resolution and promptly screamed at my TV using colorful language. Seriously, WHAT THE HECK DID CHRIS CARTER DO THAT FOR? Is it all a ploy by the Cigarette Smoking Man to make sure there are more episodes? — Still Screaming At My TV
Matt Roush: Hope this extensive interview with Chris Carter addresses some of your concerns and gives you a respite from the screaming. Although I get it. As I saw the clock winding down on the finale, and Scully still hadn’t made it to Mulder’s side—really, what were they thinking keeping them apart so long, this isn’t Castle, after all—I figured we were going to be left hanging, though maybe not to this extreme. The upside being that those who want more of The X-Files are surely going to get it, although who can say when. And maybe next time they won’t bite off more than they can satisfyingly chew. Which brings us to another reaction…
Question: I really enjoyed some of the new X-Files episodes, but honestly, the stuff that bugged me about the earlier seasons is the same stuff that irritated me now. For example, the mythology of the show is entirely too convoluted and murky for its own good. What’s the deal with that all-powerful, threatening alien race again? Why is the entire show about a conspiracy among a bunch of human power brokers? What is it they want, and why is that worth doing? (How could that possibly be more entertaining than actual aliens?) Why is hoodwinking and discrediting a few FBI agents such an obsession among such supposedly powerful people? (Why not just smush them and move on? Therein lies a tale.) Why the endless teases, with no payoff? Why haven’t the actual aliens come back to do something else? If the humans of this world are so obsessed with each other, wouldn’t that mean they’re distracting themselves from being vigilant about protecting humanity (and the planet itself) from alien domination/exploitation? I guess I was looking to be mystified and creeped out, and didn’t really wind up with much of either.
Did I enjoy the show overall? Well, yeah, I enjoyed revisiting these characters, and I’m genuinely impressed that the new episodes capture so much of the tone and style of the older seasons. Stylistically, it worked really well. (And in retrospect, having reviewed most of the earliest seasons, some of them seem a bit dated in fashion and production values.) They definitely get a good grade for being so consistent, but as admirable as that is, I didn’t tune in for more of the same old, same old that helped them wear out their welcome the first time. For what it’s worth, I seem to have most enjoyed the older X-Files episodes that stood apart from all the mythology. Lightning in a bottle, one episode at a time? Guess it’s hard to build a successful series around that kind of thing. — Anna
Matt Roush: My biggest problem with the mythology bookends to this season was how rushed they were, especially the last hour. (And the dreadful miscasting of Joel McHale, but that’s another story.) When Agent Einstein turns to Scully after the doc somehow instantly divines that one soldier’s anthrax exposure is indicative of a national plague, and remarks, “You can’t just say these things,” I felt much the same way. It was both too much, and not enough. I also agree the whole CSM power trip doesn’t really make sense, because why again would they want to wipe out most of humanity with a tainted smallpox virus? Maybe the alien ship (or whatever it is) in the final reel is coming to reboot everything so we can go back to simpler, scarier times. I like that The X-Files tried once again, even within this limited time frame, to balance a mythology arc with stand-alone episodes—the brilliantly whimsical third episode, by Darin Morgan, was reason enough for me to revisit the show—but it reinforced my belief that The X-Files was at its best when concocting either spooky or funny-spooky short stories than when getting lost in the weeds with the big picture.
Can There Be Too Much Papa Pope?
Question: I just saw that Scandal has promoted Joe Morton to series regular. While this only makes sense because they have been using him a lot, and probably wanted to avoid him doing another pilot like he did with Proof for TNT last year, I really question why we need to have Rowan around so much. I’m not nearly as interested in the B613 spy stuff that Rowan represents as the show is, and they’ve been running in circles with that story for two or three seasons now. Morton is a fine actor, and he has had several memorable moments on the show, but he seems to be more effective in smaller doses, and that’s not what they’re doing now. — Jake
Matt Roush: I tend to agree, but he’s an Emmy-winning (as guest actor) asset and they obviously love writing those operatic rants for him. The problem being, as you suggest, that his character is most often involved in my least favorite aspect of Scandal: the conspiratorial spy-thriller MacGuffins like B613 (which always sounded to me like a rust remover) or Lazarus or whatever clandestine eye-rolling nonsense he and Jake are involved in.
Has Murder Gone Completely Off the Rails?
Question: Is How to Get Away With Murder collapsing already? At the end of its first season, I was already weary of the convoluted plot, but given the show is part of Shonda Rhimes’ world, I gave it a second chance. The first batch of the second season was a complete disaster, the twists are so ridiculous that my head hurts just by trying to keep up with who murdered who and who is blackmailing who. This show certainly is not the same quality as both Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal, and not even Viola Davis’s performance is capable of saving this car crash. If midseason replacement The Catch succeeds, do you think that both Shonda and ABC should cut its losses and cancel HTGAWM before it becomes a joke of a show (as happened with Castle)? Or is it too late already? – David
Matt Roush: I’m afraid that ship has sailed, or in this case sunk. Murder is now looking like a very bad joke, and the more hysterical Annalise becomes, the more I hope for Viola Davis’s sake that they free her soon from this overheated nonsense. I can accept a show where most of the characters are unlikable, but this year they’re downright unpleasant, and the story is so much less engaging than last year’s mystery that not only aren’t I rooting for anyone, I don’t care about what any of them are freaking out about on any given week. Watching this show is murder.
Question: I really like Billions, and I am a fan of both leads. But I have a problem or two with the show. It seems the creators like to show things just because they can. The third episode was particularly guilty of this with its references to crap and ATM (don’t ask). I get that it is a premium channel show, but just because you can show something doesn’t mean you have to. That said, I quite enjoyed Maggie Siff dressed up for the home games. Also, everyone in this show is on top of everything, and nobody has something going on that someone else doesn’t know about. I am all for the characters being smart, but they all seem too good at knowing everything that is going on. Do you think this show enjoys their “look what we can do” capability too much? — George
Matt Roush: Let me quote from my Billions review: “There’s nothing subtle about Billions, which wallows in kink and filthy language just because it can.” So yes, we’re pretty much on the same page where that’s concerned. And while some of the boardroom confrontations and financial shenanigans are fun to behold, and it seems I’ll watch Damian Lewis in just about anything, in many ways the show is just as ludicrous (while enjoyable as a guilty pleasure) as one of those aforementioned Shonda Rhimes melodramas on ABC. Best not to take it very seriously. And I’ll just cover my eyes again the next time they put Paul Giamatti in an S&M situation.
That’s all for now. And I’ll be away next week, so there will be no new Ask Matt columns until the week of March 7. We’ll pick up the conversation then, but I can’t do this without your participation, so send questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Or submit your question via the handy form below: