By: Matt ErnColumnist
Homeland- “Broken Hearts” Grade: B “Homeland” is firing on all cylinders as it goes into the home stretch of episodes this season; the problem is that it might be driving straight into a brick wall. Whether or not it will be as satisfying as last season’s finale is another story. “Broken Hearts” continues where last week left off. They make for exciting, sometimes tense television, but it’s not as grounded as last season. Abu Nazir kidnapping Carrie as leverage against Brody is certainly interesting, but plausibility is another story. Things move rapidly throughout the episode, with Nazir’s new plot to kill Walden remotely introduced and carried out in quick succession. Brody being directly involved in the death of the vice president surely won’t go unnoticed, but it seems that Estes already has him slated for execution anyway. The Quinn twist moves a little further this week, but Estes’ exact motives for wanting Brody dead and Saul detained are still a little murky. Hopefully the last two episodes will deal with Quinn attempting to kill Brody, which is certainly not the direction I expected the show to go in at any point along the way. Of course next week will probably introduce another twist that renders all my predictions for how the rest of the season will play out totally irrelevant, which might not be such a bad thing.
The Walking Dead- “Made to...” Grade: A “Made to Suffer” is intense, disturbing and emotionally raw; everything this show should have been all along. The powder keg that is Woodbury finally exploded, and it was so satisfying to watch. Rick’s team successfully infiltrates the town and rescues Glenna and Maggie, but getting out doesn’t go so well. Woodbury is on high alert and the escape attempt leaves Oscar dead and Daryl captive. But the action lies in Michonne’s confrontation of the Governor. She discovers and kills Penny, the Governor’s daughter-turned-walker, inciting a struggle that ends up destroying the unsettling aquarium of heads the Governor has been collecting. Michonne uses a shard of glass from a broken tank to stab out the Governor’s eye before leaving herself to rejoin Rick. Watching the Governor cry over the dead body of his daughter with a giant piece of glass sticking out of his face and covered in blood and head-tank juice is a disturbing image, to be sure. Meanwhile the prison saw some big developments as well, not be overshadowed by the carnage at Woodbury. Tyreese (“The Wire’s” Chad Coleman) leads a new group of survivors into the prison where they’re helped by Carl, when they’re attacked by walkers. Carl steps up to fill his dad’s leadership role, and pragmatically locks Tyreese and his group into a separate area of the prison to keep his own group safe. The development of Carl this season has been pretty consistent and successful, it’ll be interesting how far the writers take Carl in the second half next spring. Also to look forward to is the Governor turning on Merle and blaming him and Daryl for the “terrorist” attack on Woodbury. “The Walking Dead” has already improved by such leaps and bounds these past eight episodes and I’m very hopeful for what the next bunch will bring.
Parks and Rec - “Pawnee Commons” Grade: B The rivalry between Pawnee and Eagleton is now so ingrained in “Parks” mythology it will surely go down in TV history as a feud on par with Springfield versus Shelbyville on “The Simpsons.” However, the problem with the Eagleton plot is that its residents are so relentlessly derisive to their Pawnee neighbors, and Leslie hates them with such a burning passion, that every episode dealing with Eagleton seems to play out more or less the same way. There’s a little variation here, in the fact that an Eagleton architect has offered to design Pawnee’s next park, and he’s actually sincere about wanting to help. Hopefully the cooperation on this project will mark the beginning of the end of Leslie’s hatred of Eagleton, although it’s not likely. It’s hard to imagine a version of “Parks” where the citizens of Eagleton aren’t bragging about their town being built on a hot spring or poking fun at the paunchy citizens of Pawnee, but it’s a version of the show I long for because the Eagleton episodes never seem to do it for me. Speaking of endings, we may have seen the last of Bert Macklin, Andy’s FBI alter ego. After spending most of the episode in his Macklin persona chasing around “Judy Hitler,” Andy eventually helps a little boy lost in city hall find his mother. April points out that Andy did more good as a security guard than Bert Macklin ever did, and presents him with an “I Was in the FBI” certificate to commemorate Macklin’s discharge. It’ll be sad to see Macklin go, but maybe it’s time for Andy to grow up. After all, that’s what so much of this season has been about. Tom is also, finally, growing up and taking practical steps toward achieving his latest business venture. He enlists the help of the Parks Department and pinches pennies to get his “Rent-a-Swag” business up and running, determined not to repeat the mistakes of Entertainment 720. Chris is growing up and facing his mortality, and Leslie is growing up by making an alliance with an Eagletonian.