By Matt Ern, Columnist
Justified- "Loose Ends"
Limehouse might be my favorite villain on TV right now. The way he continues to play both sides of the Quarles/Boyd conflict while giving a huge "Screw you!" to Raylan is just awesome. Also, I would watch a spin-off show where he menaces people while butchering meat for an hour, because he's apparently very good at it.
The election of Harlan's next sheriff is beginning to creep to center stage as Boyd gives Raylan the idea to spring him from jail in exchange for a lead on Tanner, Quarles' main hit-man in Harlan, by casting him as the most probable suspect for blowing up Sheriff Napier's car.
Now that he's free, Boyd can make yet another convincing speech to the community about how Shelby should be sheriff because he was screwed over by Black Pike like so many of the other working men in Harlan. I'm not sure why anyone is still listening to Boyd after he's been convicted for blowing things up so many times, but he sure is fun to watch.
Raylan's pursuit of Tanner culminates in a well-orchestrated landmine standoff that leaves Tanner dead before Raylan can get any real information out of him. But Raylan manages to put two and two together and finds Limehouse's connection to Tanner and, by extension, Quarles. I cannot overstate how excited I am for Limehouse to become the focus of the next couple of episodes (hopefully).
As we move into the back half of the season, it seems as though the powder keg that is Harlan County is about to explode now that Boyd is out of prison again and Quarles and Raylan are making open declarations to shoot each other in the streets.
30 Rock- "Standards and Practices"
"Standards and Practices" saw a return to the 30 Rock we've come to know and love. It was one of the strongest episodes this season, managing to be both laugh-out-loud funny and also present compelling stories with meaningful conclusions.
The funniest bits of the episode came from Jack, who had to square off against his teenage nemesis Kaylie, played by Chloe Moretz. Moretz's return to the show was definitely welcome as I can't imagine another actress that could come across threatening enough for us to believe a teenage girl posed an actual threat to Jack.
Kenneth is promoted in his standards and practices job and ends up being in charge of TGS. He quickly tries to limit what Liz can say on the air, which leads to a fight and Liz suggesting to Tracey to go off-script and do his stand-up routine on the show. Later, Liz overhears Kenneth crying because his so-called friend Liz doesn't respect him, so she gives in and supports Kenneth. Unfortunately this may come too late since Tracey is about to perform his routine, so Kenneth has to "live-bleep" the show, which was another particularly funny segment.
Jenna attempts to humanize herself by tracking down children born from her donated eggs, but the kids are as blonde and vain as Jenna herself and they quickly turn on her. Jenna appears to learn a lesson that feels surprisingly heartfelt, as does Liz and Kenneth's resolution.
30 Rock is at its best when it can pull off episodes this funny that also include nice character moments, which have been few and far between recently.
I think "Smash" is getting better as it creeps towards the workshop and Ivy's inevitable breaking point. But "Chemistry" mostly teases us with the buildup. Ivy loses her voice and Derek forces her to take Prednisone to get better, which results in mild hallucinations and a lackluster musical number to accompany them.
When Smash works best it's revolving around the musical and the various obstacles that Julia, Tom, Derek, etc. need to overcome to make their workshop a success and sell the show. Unfortunately, this week most of the action is happening elsewhere. Karen's storyline keeps her pretty far removed from the drama of the musical, other than a few text messages Tom sends her about possibly filling in for Ivy. Nothing comes of them at this point and we're left waiting another week for Ivy's breakdown.
The Julia and Michael love storyline seems like it was just thrown in randomly to add more conflict and intrigue to these characters' lives, but I think the show would be fine sticking to the conflict directly dealing with the musical. Sure, Michael and Julia's affair could have devastating impacts on the production, but right now it's more of a self-contained conflict within Julia's family -- a conflict that's only slightly less annoying than their adoption storyline.
I like Derek's presence on the show and I still like the songs being written for the musical, but I can do without all the extra mash-ups and covers. I think Tom is an interesting and likeable character, but his storyline is cut short this week for him to go help comfort Ivy. I wish we got to see more of his date.
Eileen playing Big Buck Hunter and drinking $7 martinis was a welcome sight though. There's still a lot of fun things going on in "Smash," but they're few and far between.