Ask Matt: That Walking Dead Finale, Deaths on Arrow and Sleepy Hollow, Plus Scandal, The Catch 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: Did you find The Walking Dead season finale as disappointing as did a lot of fans who've been voicing their displeasure with it? Yes, we met Negan, who was every bit as scary and charismatic as promised, and Morgan finally is forced to modify his "no kill" philosophy that really has no place in this new world. However, until Negan's entrance in the final 10 minutes, every segment seemed like a Groundhog Day-style repeat: encounter roadblock, exchange words/threats/gunfire with nameless Saviors, turn the RV around, map a new route and drive until hitting the next roadblock. Wash, rinse, repeat. After allowing themselves to become mercenaries and assassins, what should have been a karmic punishment with tangible consequences for the Alexandrians (as well as we viewers who side with them and accept who they are and what they do unconditionally) becomes instead a "tune in next season" promotional stunt. Somebody obviously paid a price, but that seems trivialized and overshadowed by the show's cynical attempt to turn this scene into an updated Moldavian wedding massacre/Ewing house fire/President Bartlet assassination attempt or any other "who's dead?" season finale cliffhanger one cares to remember. Let the speculation regarding contract negotiations commence. Losing a beloved character would be bad, but after Dale, T-Dogg, Hershel, Beth and Tyrese (and plenty of others), we can accept that easier than cynical manipulations undoubtedly born in meetings between producers and AMC executives. At least Carol still lives, so maybe the way is clear for her and Morgan to remind each other how to be the alpha survivors they used to be rather than the wet blankets they've become. — Mike
Matt Roush: Frustrated might be a better description than disappointed. I felt Jeffrey Dean Morgan nailed it (so to speak) in his introductory scene as Negan, so that was almost worth the buildup, though I agree that much of the journey to get to that final showdown was too drawn-out and too familiar (and that maudlin farewell to Eugene, who's not exactly one of my favorites, is best forgotten). But once Negan started yammering, and it became clear that this was going to be one long tease, it really did feel like a cheap trick unworthy of this heretofore-unsparing series. I'd rather we'd been left between seasons with a wrenching sense of loss than the tedious parlor game of who's-the-next-victim.
Question: Am I the only one that liked The Walking Dead's finale? I thought Jeffrey Dean Morgan was spectacular as Negan. I am a horror buff, so I'm pretty desensitized. It takes quite a bit to creep me out. But it worked. I was on the edge of my seat! It seems as though there's a lot of comic-book people who are mad because they didn't show who Negan killed and left too much of a cliffhanger. I guess they're too young to remember who shot J.R. — Marlene
Matt Roush: It's because we do remember the "Who Shot J.R." phenomenon, and the many such cliffhangers that have followed over the years (to diminishing effect in most cases), that has left so many feeling put off by The Walking Dead choosing to play this same tired game. But did it actually jump the shark this time? Hardly, though the next correspondent may disagree.
Question: I have a feeling that you're probably receiving a lot of mail about the season finale of The Walking Dead. Possibly my reaction is not common, but I think I'm finally finished with that show, which in my opinion suffers from the fact that it has now become like all the other shows. What's with their sudden penchant for cliffhangers? Are we back to the days of "Who Shot J.R.?" First the bungling of the apparent death of Glenn early in the season, which they then revealed was only a hoax a few episodes later, then the apparent killing of Daryl at the end of the penultimate episode, and then in the finale they gave us a row of zombies which were supposed to look as if they were Daryl and Michonne, and then that silly cliffhanger ending. I had always felt as if the showrunners had a healthy respect for their viewers and just told straightforward stories, but this descent into the stuff of cheap dime novels is disturbing, and I really think I'll give the show a miss from now on.
Last year I had a similar reaction to The Good Wife after that horrible fake meeting of Alicia and Kalinda, and I admit that I decided to go ahead and watch this season (and am glad I did), but it's actually going to be much easier to leave the Dead. As it happens, my cable provider, Google Fiber, refuses to carry AMC, and furthermore refuses to discuss its reasons. Thus I have been paying a streaming service in order to watch Dead. I expect that it will be an easy decision not to pay for it next fall. On a related topic, I wonder whether you know why Google Fiber would refuse to carry AMC. Google is rapidly expanding its service areas, so this will affect more and more people as time goes on. I'm missing most of AMC's shows, as well as those on Sundance, IFC, etc., which Google also refuses to carry. The only ones I have actually paid a service to stream to me are The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul (which is easily one of my favorite shows right now). — Paul
Matt Roush: The fake-out with Glenn bothered me a lot more than this contrived who-did-Negan-kill cliffhanger. Both incidents, though, seem to violate The Walking Dead's initial approach in forcing us to accept death among a core of relatable characters as something that is sudden, frequent, random, unfair (think Denise) and inviolable. By delaying the impact of the reveal of Negan's actions, it both heightens and cheapens this particular tragedy, making it into something of a spectator sport. It's not enough to make me bail just yet, but that is as always a personal choice. Regarding your carrier not being able to negotiate a deal to carry the AMC networks: that's a financial business matter, hardly my area of expertise. But surely this isn't the only carrier you have access to. If not having AMC is a deal-breaker, sign up elsewhere.
No RIP With Arrow, Sleepy Hollow Deaths
Question: Spoiler alert for those not keeping up! Your thoughts on the killings of Black Canary on Arrow and Abbie Mills on Sleepy Hollow? While I understand Arrow's desire to create its own universe, the decision to kill a character that has been intertwined with Green Arrow for almost 50 years for "shock value" is a significant misstep. Personally I would have preferred to see Lian Yu flashbacks in the grave. They are grossly overused and have no point. I miss Season 1. Yes, they have other strong women on Arrow—so what. Comic book Green Arrow works with many strong women in the JLA. As for Abbie Mills, it just seems the showrunners are utterly tone deaf. First Katrina, now this. Are they uncomfortable with interracial friendship? Attraction? — Sharon
Matt Roush: Filing under "there's no pleasing everybody," we gripe when The Walking Dead doesn't kill somebody fast enough, and we're not happy when shows pull the trigger for real. These are pretty significant character deaths, of course, and any time a major player is written out violently, there will be backlash and unhappiness. Of course, keep in mind that death is a relative term on shows like these, but if we're to believe the showrunners of Arrow and Sleepy Hollow in their respective post-mortem interviews, they are most sincerely dead, for now. With Laurel, this is a reveal that has been in the works all season, and as someone who has no grounding (or, honestly, interest) in the dense comic-book mythology, I’m OK with this loss because of its potential for drama on so many levels, but I'm most curious what this means for the legend of Black Canary in the Arrow-verse.
With Abbie on Sleepy Hollow, that's an entirely different matter. While some may see it as a game-changer, I see it as a game-ender. There's a slim possibility Fox might renew Sleepy—though once it was programmed on Fridays, it seemed doomed, and now that Lucifer has been picked up, hard to imagine both returning—but Abbie's sacrifice feels more like the sort of closure that allows us to close the book on Sleepy Hollow once and for all (which I did midway through last season anyway). Reading any racial squeamishness into this, though, is almost certainly bogus.
Dishing on The Catch and Scandal
Question: As a Grey's Anatomy and Scandal fan, I was thrilled with the idea of ABC's The Catch, as I thought that Shonda Rhimes was going to be able to deliver yet another entertaining, soapy, sexy drama, not to mention that The Catch would have served as the perfect excuse to put How to Get Away With Murder out of its misery. Unfortunately, there is something missing with this latest Shondaland drama and I can't put my finger on what is it exactly. I have been a fan of Peter Krause since his days on Six Feet Under, and I thought he was the perfect addition to the cast. Mireille Enos is a great talent, however I'm unsure if she is believable as top-notch investigator Alice Vaughan. Also not sure if I am buying the leads' chemistry. If compared to either Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey or Kerry Washington and any of her male counterparts, I think Enos and Krause's attraction portrays a bit cold. I find the premise quite promising as it reminds me of The Thomas Crown affair, but execution-wise it has resulted in a predictable cat-and-mouse game where you can see the twists coming from miles away before they happen, not to mention that the flashbacks are boring and bring the whole pace down. In any case, I am unsure what the real reason is for this once-promising drama delivering such an underwhelming outcome; would love to hear your thoughts on this. Whatever the reason may be, another question that I have is whether or not this drama can be saved? Scandal's first season was not good, but the network stuck with it and its second season made it a bona fide hit. ABC has something good with The Catch and there is potential, so would hate to see it canceled. Also, I'd rather watch this than another season of the preposterous HTGAWM. - David
Matt Roush: I was a bit ambivalent and skeptical in my own initial reaction to the pilot (all that ABC screened in advance), and the two successive episodes haven't swayed me yet to either praise or condemn it. The Catch is pure formula, Shonda Rhimes variety, for better and worse. It's slick and enjoyable enough as mind and eye candy, but the stakes don't feel all that high just yet, and it feels awfully forced. The supporting cast of characters in her agency and his circle of thieves is beyond generic, and of the leads, while I'm enjoying Mireille Enos giving glamour a whirl, I've concluded that Peter Krause (who I've liked on many a show, most notably Parenthood) may simply be miscast in a role that requires a cosmopolitan sophistication and seductive sense of danger that even a modern-day Cary Grant might find hard to live up to. He's a bit ordinary for the core of such a heightened melodrama. But would I rather watch this than a third season of the nonsense that How to Get Away With Murder has become? Probably. But ABC has already decided to bring Murder back, so that's a moot issue. And it's still early days for The Catch, so I'll give it a little longer leash to see where they take it. ABC is likely to do the same, given their deep investment in the Shondaland brand.
Question: What the hell happened to the fun, smart show with snappy dialogue dealing with putting a good spin on bad things that happened to celebrities, mainly politicians? I am talking about Scandal! Yes, Jon Tenney gave an outstanding performance on last week's episode, but come on, Abby making that big of a change overnight? I am also getting sick of how shocked Olivia seems to be by everything. This is what she does for a living, she can't be that shocked anymore by what happens. I understand that the actors are very talented, in particular Kerry Washington and Bellamy Young, they have kept me watching, but I think my time with this show is over. Thanks for letting me vent. — Gary
Matt Roush: The problem with shows like Scandal is their desire, or need, to keep topping themselves, which ultimately proves exhausting to everyone, not the least of which is the viewer. I'm still hanging in for now—Mellie's my best excuse—but I get it.
What's the Maine Problem with The Family?
Question: The Family on ABC is driving me crazy (not just because of the melodrama and slow story). Although it is supposed to be set in Maine, the writers/producers/director made no effort to make it seem that way. It doesn't look like Maine, the neighbor confesses to killing Adam to avoid the death penalty—but Maine has no death penalty. At the same time, not one character has a Maine accent, and the father used the term "bagel and schmear," said no Mainer ever. Shouldn't they have made more effort? P.S. I think I only continue to watch for Zach Gilford #MattSaracenForever —Melissa
Matt Roush: Fair point. (If you'd asked me, I'd have guessed this family was from someplace like Connecticut.) I do think The Family has picked up some steam the last few weeks, following the reveal about Adam and the complicity of Willa in the subterfuge. (My favorite character, though, is Andrew McCarthy's aggrieved, formerly accused neighbor Hank.) I'm intrigued enough to keep an eye on this for the rest of the season, but is there really a hook here for a second? That's my main (not Maine) problem with the show.
Grimm Tidings in the Bay Area
Question: Has Grimm been canceled? In the San Francisco area, NBC has preempted Grimm since late March to air, at first, pre-season Giants baseball games and now regular-season games with no replacement broadcast time for Grimm. Other networks, when they pre-empt a prime-time show for a special, they broadcast it on a sister station or late at night but not NBC. May we assume that Grimm is gone and we should just give up on the series? - Richard
Matt Roush: The good news is that NBC renewed Grimm last week for a sixth season. The bad news is that your issue with sports pre-emptions is a local one, and it's the affiliate's call (not NBC's) on when and whether to reschedule an episode bumped for regional conflicts like these. If your local station doesn't find another slot for Grimm, your best option is to watch episodes online on nbc.com or On Demand if you're able (or on Hulu if you're a subscriber). Otherwise, take your gripe, which is a fair one, to the local station manager.
NBC Playing Games
Question: I would like to know what happened to Hollywood Game Night? It was on Sunday nights at 10/9c and now it has disappeared. Love that show. — S. Berger
Matt Roush: NBC tends to use this show (which I also enjoy) as a utility player, coming on and off the schedule seemingly randomly to fill holes when needed. Currently, it's in between cycles, and the latest NBC line-up I've seen going through May 1 doesn't show it airing at all for the next few weeks. This has been a popular summer staple since its 2013 premiere, and I wouldn't be surprised if it isn’t back on the lineup once the regular season ends.
That's all for now. We'll pick up the conversation again soon, but 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). Or submit your question via the handy form below: