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T.V. That Matters: 10/20 Dexter, Up All Night, The Walking Dead and Community

By Matt Ern, Columnist

Dexter - "Smokey and the Bandit"

Grade: B

This season of Dexter is puttering along with unrelated plots that probably won't be tied together in any satisfactory way by the end of the season. 

 

Travis (Colin Hanks), presumably this season's big bad, is torturing a man until he repents his sins.  Based on the end of the episode, it looks like Travis has committed another gruesome murder for Miami Metro to look into next week.  This season is almost worth watching just to see all the strange crime scenes Travis and his mentor are creating in the name of their twisted religion.

 

 The Brother Sam storyline took a back seat this week, but we're still reminded that he exists and is seemingly a devoutly religious man who has put his past behind him.  I think Brother Sam has some demons in him, otherwise what's the point of having him stick around past last week's episode?

 

I really can't be bothered to care about Deb's promotion or relationship with Quinn.  The one intriguing moment at Miami Metro this week was when Masuka's lab assistant Ryan, who's eerily into the Ice Truck Killer, steals the prosthetic hand from evidence at the end of the episode.  This storyline may wrap up with her getting caught and learning a lesson, but I think it'd be more fascinating if they take it in a different direction. 

 

I have to wonder what any of these vastly different storylines have to do with each other.  Dexter is busy this week tracking a retired serial killer in a nursing home, but I'm waiting for him to start mixing it up with Travis.  Hopefully, after next week Dexter's interest will be piqued once he sees that bizarre crime scene.

 

Up All Night-"Mr. Bob's Toddle Kaleidoscope"

Grade: C+

When Up All Night started I thought it had a lot of potential, but it hasn't lived up to my expectations.  I love Will Arnett and really wanted this to be a success, but I think it's doomed to just trudge along in mediocrity. 

 

The show isn't awful, and there were a few things that clicked in this particular episode, but it needs to pick up the pace.  The show could improve as it goes on, but as of now each episode has just been more of the same. 

 

Reagan is finding it difficult to balance work and being a new mother, a cliché plotline, which creates a conflict with Ava.  When Reagan leaves their girls-night out early, Ava starts giving her less responsibility at work.

 

Chris is really excelling in their baby class and has formed a somewhat creepy bond with the instructor Mr. Bob.  When Reagan's parenting is called into question by another mom in the class her competitive side comes out.  Just when it looks like her new Itsy Bitsy Spider verse is winning Mr. Bob's favor; Reagan is thrown out of the class for fighting with another mom.  

 

There are a few funny moments for Chris and Ava (especially their exchange by the car) but the plot is mind numbingly dull.  The plot point of Ava's jealousy over Reagan spending time with the baby has become painfully redundant.  Modern Family did a much better baby class episode in its first season.  Although the actors are talented, they have no substantial material to go off of.      

 

The Walking Dead- "What Lies Ahead"

Grade: B

"What Lies Ahead" opens with a first act as tense and horrifying as you could hope to get in a zombie show.   The survivors' RV broke down in a long line of dead cars on the highway, so they decided to split up and search for useful parts and supplies. 

 

A large group of walkers showed up and ambled through the traffic to where our heroes were scavenging.  Everyone tried to hide under the cars, where the walkers shuffled past dangerously close, resulting in a scene of chaos.

 

Andrea was alone in the RV when the walkers showed up and after one climbed inside she found herself trapped in the bathroom.  Andrea's plight was cut with T-Dog's, whose arm was cut and bleeding badly while he struggled to find a hiding place.  I'll admit I thought one of them was going to die there. 

 

The little girl Sophia is chased from her hiding spot by walkers, and runs off into the woods where Rick follows her to try and protect her.  Being stuck under a car while zombies crawl after you is one of the most terrifying situations I can imagine.  But then the episode toke a turn for the boring. 

 

For the next hour of the episode we're treated to various characters wandering in the woods looking for Sophia.  There is a string of events that have no real bearing on the overall plot, like cutting open a walker to see if Sophia is inside, discovering an abandoned campsite, and then discovering a church.  None of the action helped propel the plot forward.

 

There's minimal character development during this time.  Shane and Andrea express secret desires to leave the group, because they feel like outsiders.  This comes up about halfway through the episode, and then is just repeated.  

 

If the episode had kept up its tension, it would have made for compelling TV. But instead it's very uneven and suffers from some pacing problems that result in a mediocre episode of TV.

 

Community- "Remedial Chaos Theory"

Grade: A

Community has set the new standard for what a half-hour television comedy is capable of.  "Remedial Chaos Theory" is not just one of the best episodes of Community, but it's one of the best episodes of anything ever. 

 

The premise is simple: the study group goes to Troy and Abed's new apartment for a housewarming party.  When the pizza guy gets there they decide to roll a die to see who has to go down and answer the door.  In typical Abed fashion, he remarks that by letting the die decide who goes they've created six different timelines.  The rest of the episode plays out the same basic events seven times and we see what changes when each person goes to answer the door. 

 

The execution of this premise is flawless. 

 

Episodes of TV with "here's another way it could have happened" moments usually drive me crazy, but Community pulls it off effortlessly.  Each timeline remains funny and interesting even though by the end of the episode you've seen basically the same thing seven times.

 

 And each timeline offers insight into the various characters' roles in the group by showing what things are like when they aren't around.  Interestingly the only time things go well is when Jeff leaves.  He's not there to stop Britta from singing "Roxanne," so the whole group joins in.  That kept them from hurting each other both verbally and physically. 

 

The episode's multiple timelines made it easy to subtly examine characters while still being overtly funny.  The Troy timeline is possibly the most hilarious thing I've ever seen on TV.  It ends with Pierce shot in the leg, his blood spraying on Shirley, and Britta burning down the apartment when she drops her lit joint into a puddle of Serbian rum that was spilled on the floor. 

 

There are so many layers of insanity, yet nothing is confusing.  It's an incredibly creative half hour of TV that was laugh out loud funny, something that's not at all easy to pull off.  

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