Ask Matt: ‘The Flash’ Gets Darker, Plus: ‘Nashville’ and ‘Castle’ Finales, ‘Orphan Black’ and More

The Flash
Dean Buscher/The CW
Pictured: Grant Gustin as The Flash

Welcome to the weekly 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: When The Flash first started, there was a big contrast between the tone of the show (lighter, breezier) compared to Arrow. In Season 2, though, things got much grimmer, with the Zoom storyline dragging out the whole season. And in the Season 2 finale (spoiler alert), I could not help but groan as Barry went back in time, did a complete 360 from the Season 1 finale and appeared to erase the entire first two seasons by saving his mother. I don’t know why the writers felt the need to rehash the same storyline that was so well executed in the Season 1 finale. Nor do I understand why there was a need to transform Barry into such a broken and dark character like Oliver Queen (one is enough). I miss the Season 1 version of The Flash. I was wondering what your thoughts were on where the show is headed in Season 3 (or where it should be headed instead)? — Brian

Matt Roush: To be frank, this doesn’t feel like the show I signed up for, either. I understand the third season will most likely be an attempt to replicate the “Flashpoint” storyline from the comics, which is why they’re going there. (You should understand that I approach this type of show from a purely TV perspective—I haven’t read comic-book series for eons, though maybe if I had my own alternate timeline I’d be able to fit it in.) But with all this hoohah about Earth-2 and Earth-3 and altered timelines, I’m afraid The Flash is no longer the fun, even charming, escapist lark I initially embraced. I need some shows of this ilk to feel less like homework, and I’m with you that I once enjoyed The Flash for its more hopeful, less gloomy, tone. If that’s missing as the show goes into even more complicated and tortured territory, I may find myself MIA as well.

Why Did Nashville Leave One Plot Hanging?

Question: Considering that Nashville’s writers did not create the finale with the intention of it being a series finale, the result was actually almost as good as we could have hoped for from this utter mess of a season. Scarlett and Gunnar reunited, Will and Kevin reunited (and Will did a great job telling off the bigoted talk show host, too), Maddie reunited with her family, and things were certainly looking up for Juliette and Avery after her statement about Jeff’s death, which was a long time coming and demonstrated real character growth for her. So why did they have to go and include Juliette being in a (possible) plane crash? As soon as I saw Avery on the runway waiting for her, I groaned because I could see where it was going, and it just seemed so crass. I know that they expected the show to continue when they wrote this, and I understand it is being shopped to other networks (I’m not holding my breath), but airing the finale in this state seems downright arrogant on the part of the producers. Especially upon subsequently learning that Lionsgate feels a cliffhanger ending will make the show more attractive to new buyers.

The loyal fans would tune in for a new season whether there is a cliffhanger to resolve or not, and leaving Juliette possibly dead leaves issues to mop up at the start of a new season. No one can make me believe that airing a happy ending to the finale would have been detrimental to the show’s successful continuation. Even if they had reunited happily, Juliette and Avery’s strained relationship wouldn’t have magically fixed itself in 30 seconds, so there would still have been drama to explore next year, if it had one. And picking up Season 5 from a non-cliffhanger standpoint would have actually given the new producers a semi-fresh start/”soft reboot” for their new vision of the show. What a disservice to the fans. Your thoughts? — Jake

Matt Roush: Agreed on all points. I was surprised that the episode happily resolved so much of the season’s angst: the unnecessary tension between Scarlett and Gunnar, and especially the tiresome story of Maddie’s estrangement from her loved ones. (Having her need to be rescued from an old lecher was like something from a really bad soap opera, which Nashville too often resembled in what I now believe were its last gasps.) My first reaction to the contrived Juliette cliffhanger was: Serves the idiot right for skipping the Oscars. Then: What were they thinking? What a needlessly grim way to end an otherwise satisfying episode. The most critical observation here is that the showrunners were leaving this damaged product in someone else’s hands, should Nashville actually continue (which does seem a long shot, but let’s see how it plays out). And it would have been much more honorable and professional to give the new writer/producer team a fresh starting point without the “Is Juliette alive?” melodrama that feels more suitable to a show like Grey’s Anatomy. (Which for all I know is what they were aiming for.)

Orphan Black

Maslany in one of her many Orphan aliases

Why is Tatiana Maslany a Buzz Orphan?

Question: I have recently started watching Orphan Black and I am mesmerized. It is an incredible show, well written and the acting is superb. My question: Why is Tatiana Maslany not more acknowledged? She is outstanding, extraordinary in the role, and until a friend recommended the show, I had never her of it or her. How can this gem not be on everyone’s watch list? – Marci

Matt Roush: The fact that it took you four seasons to pick up on the buzz around Tatiana Maslany’s incredibly versatile work on Orphan Black says a lot about how difficult it is for certain types of cult TV to reach a mass audience anymore and get the recognition they deserve, regardless of word of mouth and media acclaim. We beat the drums for Orphan and its tremendous star, especially during the first two seasons. And Maslany has finally emerged as a contender at major awards shows, with an Emmy nod last year and a Golden Globe nomination in 2014. We’ll see if that continues now that she’s broken through. But to be honest, some of the frenzy has dimmed as the show has become denser, harder to follow and, for some, less enjoyable.

To illustrate, here’s a recent comment from Brian: “On Orphan Black, for the past two seasons I frankly can’t comprehend or care about the ‘A’ plots with the Castor and Leda clones, or the current Neolutionist story. Yet I love the fun comedy/drama that surrounds the suburban characters. I’d love to have a show that just centered on Alison, Donnie, Felix, Helena, their life in suburbia and the riotous ways they resolve their kooky problems. Even when Alison and Donnie get involved in the ‘A’ plot, it’s been incredibly funny.”

Matt again: This is what happens when a show that started out as wonderfully character-driven, enhanced by the multiplicity and variety of clones played by Maslany, becomes too plot-driven as the show’s creators try to amp up the conspiracy and mythology. (Call it the X-Files syndrome.) I always enjoyed the set pieces in the earlier seasons as one clone had to masquerade as another in what amounted to a bizarre dark comedy of manners, often in Alison’s domestic-goddess world. I got derailed midway through Season 3—a function of too much TV, too little time and waning interest—so while I miss many of the characters, I don’t miss that queasy feeling of having to do research after every episode to try to figure out what I just saw.


Castle spinoff, anyone?

Life After Castle (But No Afterlife?)

Question: Now that Castle is officially over, any chance that ABC will take advantage of the contracts that Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas already signed (or agreed to sign, should it have been renewed) to make a Ryan and Esposito buddy-cop dramedy? Huertas and Dever have such amazing chemistry, and it seems such a waste to lose those characters. — Dylan

Matt Roush: Seems like a bit of a pipe dream at this point, but for what it’s worth, they made for a very appealing sidekick team, and among the producers’ many missteps in this last year was not taking an opportunity to give them a stand-alone episode to see if there was “backdoor pilot” potential.

Question: Any chance that Castle could be picked up by another network or is that it? Over, kaput, done with? And what about Castle’s novels? Will they continue as if the show never ended, but Rick Castle kept writing novels for his fans of both Nikki Heat and Derrick Storm? — No Name

Matt Roush: The show is definitely kaput. As for the books: That’ll be a decision for Disney to make. They were always seen as a brand extension, and without a brand to extend, I’m not sure there’s a point. Unless they continue to sell, in which case the bottom line could rule. But a quick search revealed no announcement of unpublished titles in the series, so they may be history as well.

Question: Couldn’t we take Castle‘s series finale as that the characters from Castle’s books died and not the “real” Beckett and Castle? At least that is how we in my household took it. – Laura

Matt Roush: Whatever helps you sleep at night. Although with that reasoning, where do you separate the “real” characters from the ones in Castle’s imagination? That’s approaching Twilight Zone territory, and such things could keep me up at night.

Question: I love Nathan Fillion and Castle, so I was devastated by the cancellation! Why couldn’t they use the Castle PI theme and turn it into its own show? I really liked the dynamics between Castle and Hayley!! At least I still have the quirky Lucifer to look forward to. I was surprised but very glad to hear our favorite devil will walk amongst us at least another season – Mary Jo

Matt Roush: Letting Castle fly solo was obviously the intent of the cliffhanger (minus the tacked-on ending), given what we already knew about who was expected to return if there had been a ninth season. But I’m in the camp that feels it was time to let the show go, rather than continue in an even more diminished state. I’m a Nathan Fillion fan, too, and expect there will be another great TV role for him on the horizon. If he gets booked as a guest star on Lucifer next season, I expect to hear from you again. (And kudos for finding at least one silver cloud amid the cancellation doom and gloom.)

Discontent with The Catch and Grey’s

Question: I’m really finding The Catch to be a huge disappointment. I know this is a plot-driven series, but even so, the characters are flat, underwritten and completely superficial. The only ones that hold my interest are siblings Rhys and Margot. I find them intriguing and their weekly cons entertaining—unlike the PI’s weekly capers, which are boring and predictable. But I think the biggest problem with the series is Peter Krause, who may as well be sleepwalking through this series. He brings no energy to this role, and has zero chemistry with Alice or his fellow con artists. I believe you said you thought he was miscast and I’ve thought that since the pilot, even though I’ve enjoyed some of his past work. I was thinking about how another actor could turn this show around—imagine for instance, if Josh Charles were playing Ben. Or Timothy Olyphant. Heck, Walter Goggins might even make this must-see TV! Any thoughts? — Jan

Matt Roush: In my initial review, I did suggest that Peter Krause was playing against type, but I was otherwise noncommittal, which could (and should) have been read as ambivalence. Ultimately, I agree that what’s really missing in this character (besides chemistry with Mireille Enos) is a sense of danger, sexual and otherwise, that would give this glossy nonentity of a show a boost.

Question: As an original viewer of Grey’s Anatomy, I am very sad to see how far downhill the show has gone. I watch an episode of Grey’s maybe once a year, and tuned in for the Callie/Arizona custody battle because I heard Sara Ramirez might be leaving. It reminded me why I stopped watching the show to begin with: too many extra characters that add nothing to the show. I realize they now just care about keeping their young viewers now and not people like me who started watching from the beginning. But how much longer do you think the show can really go on? Do you think such a big cast will be too cumbersome?

I still care somewhat about a couple of the characters such as Owen and Alex. But I feel like the whole show is missing something. It’s not even about Cristina, Derek, or even George and Izzie being gone, it just seems like they recycle the same characters, just different faces and names. Riggs and Owen are basically a Mark/Derek redux with the missing wife that is bound to show up and wreck havoc with Meredith, Owen and Amelia. Speaking of whom, from the part I did see, I was not surprised but disappointed in the rushed wedding of Owen and Amelia. It’s like the writers are in a hurry to give them everything Cristina and Owen never had, as far as marriage, kids, etc. Meredith was right about some of the things she said in that scene about Amelia. This is another step back for Owen, and the fact that Cristina kept being brought up almost as an unfinished relationship, highlighted the fact that Owen and Amelia are settling for each other. It is almost like he didn’t learn anything from rushing into his first marriage the way he did. I can say two good things about Amelia: She can scream and cry, but is mostly so over the top I can’t even tune in just for Owen. I think she is one of the most ridiculous characters they introduced, just so they could have a Shepard connection for Meredith’s invisible kids. If this is just a way for Owen to get a kid and end up with Cristina later on, then so be it. Just wish they could have written a more interesting character for him to be with. I also see why people would want an Alex/Meredith hook-up but that is crazy even for Grey’s. I would like to see them go out on a high note instead of continuing an endless recycling center of characters and storylines. — M

Matt Roush: All fair points, but I’ll still contend that Grey’s even now is way more watchable than ER was at this stage of its overextended life. Amazingly, it remains a power player for ABC, and I don’t see it ending anytime soon. I’m fairly sure it will outlive Scandal and (ugh) How to Get Away With Murder, which aren’t nearly grounded enough in any sense of emotional reality to last indefinitely. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Murder is gone after Season 3, if it can’t come up with a more coherent or compelling story.) There’s no question that Grey’s current secondary cast can’t hold a candle to most of the original players, and the only character more annoying than Amelia is April (though I was relieved that she and the baby survived the second pregnancy). But I give the show points for even bringing up Cristina during the buildup to the wedding, to acknowledge how life goes on even when you lose your various Persons. And the last bit at the end with Riggs beaming at Meredith, and Maggie misinterpreting the look, left me smiling. Which after all this time spent in this show’s company is refreshing.

Lightning Round

Question: Do you think that another network will pick up Nashville and Person of Interest? — Rick

Matt Roush: No, and no. (Although the production company behind Nashville is making a determined effort, so we’ll see. It might have to slash its budget, though, depending on what if anything happens.)

Question: Houdini & Doyle has become my new favorite show. Will this show last, or is it just a filler for the network? – Abe

Matt Roush: Given the puny ratings and tepid reviews, best to put it in the “filler” column and enjoy while you can.

Question: I thought HBO Films’ All the Way was fantastic, and was wondering if they have any plans to adapt and film the follow-up play The Great Society, also by Robert Schenkkan. — Sarah

Matt Roush: Not that I’m aware. And Bryan Cranston, who starred in All the Way on stage and film but not in the sequel (which didn’t make it to Broadway), has sounded awfully noncommittal when asked if he’d tackle the role of LBJ again. If they can’t get him on board, I doubt HBO would pursue it, though I know I’d watch if he and they did. (Here’s my rave review.)

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. 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: