Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bionic Woman: Super empowered

Spoilers for "The Bionic Woman" episode 3 coming up just as soon as I get a pedicure...

Better. Not there yet, but better.

Clearly, any episode with this much concentrated Sarah Corvus is going to be a significant improvement over last week's Sackhoff-lite affair, but there were some other improvements, notably the continued attempts to give Jamie (and, by extension, the show) a sense of humor. The teaser with Jamie having to take five from a sister's day out to babysit a terrorist (or whatever) was a cute little moment, and played out about as well as it should have: first bat your eyelashes, and when that fails, break out the bionic arm. Sackhoff still owns Ryan when they're on screen together, but at least I didn't spend the Jamie-only time checking my watch.

The fight choreography is also a work in progress, though Jae's explanation of how Jamie's fighting instincts work is a nice way to allow for Ryan's real-life progression as a martial artist. She's only got two or three moves down now, but I expect both actress and character to improve and diversify as time goes on. I do wonder, though, about the physics of getting punched or kicked by a bionic arm. Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors were rarely put in positions on the original shows where they were asked to punch at civilians (they mostly put their muscles to use lifting and crushing stuff), but for two super-strong women, Jamie and Sarah's opponents have a disturbing tendency to get back up in a hurry. Just how much badass does $50 million buy, anyway?

The babysitting subplot added little, not even as some kind of parallel to Jamie's relationship with Becca, and much as I want to see Sarah around full-time, Jamie seems pretty gullible to be falling for Sarah's attempts at partnership in this episode. Forget the 14 dead employees for a second, if you want to write that off as her getting hacked; Sarah still killed Jamie's boyfriend and unborn child, and nearly killed Jamie herself. That's not something that should just got handwaved away in the name of bionic solidarity.

Finally, I'm pleased and a bit amused to see that they've ditched all of Mark Sheppard's old man makeup from the pilot. It was necessary back when Will was going to be a regular character, I suppose, since Sheppard's maybe 10 years older (if that) than the actor who played Will, but it looked goofy.

Again, I'm not sold yet, but this one at least suggested that David Eick, like Jamie Summers in a combat simulation, can learn from his mistakes and improve.

What did everybody else think?

21 comments:

BigTed said...

It's interesting how little screen time they're giving to famous late hire Isaiah Washington, and how unnecessary his part seems to be. (Jamie already has a boss/mentor, a trainer, and a probably-still-alive boyfriend/bionicist.) Plus, he was awkward and completely unconvincing in his one fight scene last night. Didn't he say his part was going so well that the producers were thinking of giving him his own spinoff? Maybe that was just a ruse to keep him happy till they can get rid of him.

Anonymous said...

I took it off my Tivo after the horrid 2nd ep and haven't looked back, despite how much I enjoy watching Katee Sackhoff.

jim treacher said...

Yeah, if a super-strong person punched you in the chest, I don't think you'd fly into the wall. If think you'd fall down with a fist-sized hole in your chest.

"Adults are talking!" Sackhoff OWNZ this show.

Did Shepperd have the age makeup on when we first saw him in prison? The only scene I remember noticing it was when they were outside. It was like, "Wow, he got old all of a sudden. Wait, he's that other guy's dad? Okay."

Anonymous said...

Alan,

Though I'm loathe to link to Ain't it Cool News as a source, I was wondering about the verity of this report that Jason Katims is now the de facto showrunner of Bionic Woman. http://www.aintitcool.com/node/34394

If true, I'm curious as to your thoughts on how this will affect FNL (well, and Bionic Woman, though I care much more about FNL).

Thank you for any thoughts you might have.

Steve Pick said...

I may be crazy, and I may change my mind next week, but after this episode, flawed as it was, Bionic Woman seems to be the only new show this year I'm actually looking forward to when I wake up on the day it airs.

Part of that is a testament to the rote aspects of so many other shows - Chuck and Reaper have some elements of life, but are bogged down in routines which simply can't take them anywhere interesting. We know that each week the bad guys will be caught, the girl will still not be had, and the buddy relationship will triumph.

There are stakes at play in Bionic Woman. Yes, the stakes get jumbled up by too many plot lines with too little attention paid to each of them, but come on? Where do the lines between privacy and necessity get drawn in the world posited by this show? How do you juggle a teenage dependent with the dangers of saving the world? What is the difference between personal responsibility and technology? And, how blasted great can Katee Sackhoff be?

I don't know that this show was all that well thought out when it was started, but it's developing into something, and I'm really interested in seeing what will happen next. And, unlike Heroes, for example, I'm pretty much convinced something will happen next.

BF said...

Whoever was responsible for penning the line "I'm about to get analog on your ass" needs to be drawn and quartered. As bad a guy as Isiah Washington is supposed to be, not even he should be subjected to such hack-tastic dialogue.

LA said...

I didn't make it past the first half-hour, the dialogue was causing me to flinch and wince.

Kristin said...

What keeps me coming back are the little bits they are giving us about the fiance having 'recruited' Jamie into the program without her knowledge, how/why Sarah was brought back to life (!) after a gunshot to the head, and, the newest little mystery, how does Jamie's grandmother and her strange genetic condition play into all of this? What happened to her? Why?

I think there is a good story there, but they are not doing a very good job of presenting those bits as important enough to pay attention to/follow.

Katee Sackhoff rocks. I liked the comment about her 'intellectually' understanding how to feel certain emotions. The dialog goes between "Heroes" corny and pretty decent.

PamelaJaye said...

I haven't watched this ep yet. And it may be a few weeks. It's the brother's show, and I don't want to have to watch it twice.

However, I did want to say that I hope you get the chance, Alan, to watch Grey's. Despite Mark and The Chief's gung ho idiocy (shouldn't a chief know better?) I think there may be hope for the show yet.

Alex and Bailey were just great. And Cristina and Mer? Great too.
(how's that for spoiler free - since I'm in the wrong thread?)

I'm trying to drag myself thru ER now, while waitng for Mad Men, which I really want to see tonight. (but pushed till 11 to give the crashing DVR a break)

cgeye said...

I'm plucked how everyone can pretend to negotiate (like if Jaime has so much IT in her brain, won't they throw a switch and make her do what they want, if she truly rebels?), but when push comes to shove, the only pawn anyone has to play with is Jamie's sister. Jaime has made so many bad choices that sooner or later her sister will die, or will be encased in a protective Berkut prison, for her own safety.

If Sommers had the balls a true series hero should, she'd tell them all deals are off, and that she'll live as an amputee. Funny how that option never, ever comes up? It's good enough for our wounded servicepeople, but not good enough for her? If she objects to all the gear given to her without consent, let alone informed consent, then she should be strong enough to do without them.

cgeye said...

And the dead, evil, knocking-up mad bionicist boyfriend? In the vacuum the present cast has created, he's *still* the most interesting character in the series. If better writers existed, (and if unicorns came to me each morning for breakfast), he would have been as compelling as Don Draper -- but, this is the BIONIC WOMAN, and that's crazy talk....

Undercover Asian Man said...

Horribly disappointing so far. Just about none of this show rings true. As Alan already noted, no one forgives the killer of your unborn baby no matter what the circumstances. Jamie's acceptance of her new abilities and situation seemingly overnight rings so false - hell, the two sisters don't even talk about her finance's very recent death, and are already having sing-alongs and girlie shopping moments.

The whole "part-time" bionic woman role is just ridiculous. Anyone with those kinds of powers and that much investment shouldn't be hanging around malls and outdoor restaurants as much as Jamie. The show would do good to jettison the younger sister and just concentrate on the 'hero' aspects.

The fighting scenes do suck. Jamie punches, well, like a girl. And the physics, like everything else, rings false - peoples' heads should be exploding from hyperkinetic kicks.

I think this show makes Ron Moore look like the one and only genius behind Battlestar. This show is such a mess - is it moody and grim like Isiah Washington, the head boss, and the lesbian woman at the secret complex play it, or light fun like the little sister? Jamie's shock about the situation lasted less than a woman with new boob job, let alone bionic implants. And Michele Ryan's acting is really the worst on prime-time TV, adding to the utter unbelievability. Unless they make whole scale changes, this show is going nowhere.

Kristin said...

undercover,

Jamie was only dating the guy for 4 months...and they had just become engaged the night of the accident (mostly due to the fact she had just found out she was pregnant). And she only *just* found out about the pregnancy. Not like she was buying cribs and diapers and could feel it move inside her.

Not like that excuses any 'mourning' over the lost child, but she had only a few days to even think about the pregnancy much less come to terms with it.

Anyway, this is the frickin' Bionic Woman, not some true-to-life program. I never expected completely real emotions and situations from this show. Just give me cool powers, some decent fight scenes, and some season-long mysteries.

As for asking to be an amputee. That would also mean removing all kinds of crap from her brain, which we don't know is even possible. And, personally, I think if I were faced with having no legs, no eye, and a missing arm, I would stick with the bionics...no matter how difficult that life might be.

EssPee said...

It's amazing to me how quickly this show descended from a potentially grim-n-gritty reimagination of the 70s show to unadulterated, so-bad-it's-good camp. (Even more so than the original.) By this point, it's hard for me to imagine any other reason to watch. Even the good bits -- just about every one of which descends from Galactica in some way, shape or form -- are kind of lost in the noise.

barefootjim said...

I also get thrown during the martial arts sequences by the blows that Jamie lands with her left hand. It's obvious that she needs to use it, so that her opponents don't just figure it out and expect the right. Though one would think that if you have a super-powered right hook, you can go ahead and telegraph it.

I agree that Sackhoff made it watchable enough to survive another week on our Season Pass (though they returned to the "adults are talking" joke one time too many), but she was nowhere to be found in the previews.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jason Katims is now the de facto showrunner of Bionic Woman... If true, I'm curious as to your thoughts on how this will affect FNL

Hard to say. Based on the chronology of that AICN story and the fact that FNL went into production early, several episodes of FNL would have been in various stages of completion by the time Katims got seriously involved in Bionic, so you can't blame any creative problems in the new season of FNL on the new job.

I also don't know enough about Katims' showrunning process -- i.e., does he make several passes through each script so that all of them reflect his voice and sensibility (ala Shonda Rhimes or David Milch) or does he delegate? -- to be able to say how much splitting his time will affect either show. That said, very few people can handle two jobs as effectively as they can handle one, and I'd rather he be focused on fixing FNL (or, in his opinion, making it as good as it can be) than trying to fix a show that's probably never going to be that great.

PamelaJaye said...

I didn't make it (mad men). my eyes were closing. Will have to watch tonight (Fridays are boring anyway)

I stand by any comments I made about Grey's though. I have it on the laptop and am watching again before I subject myself to the writers' blog. (I miss Krista!)

BW is on hold till the brother gets back and 30 Rock - I'm going to have to find a way to make up for the eps I missed in which Liz clearly developed a relationship of some sort. Frustrating! Does NBC have *last* season online?
PD is also pending.

Anonymous said...

Alan,

Thanks for your response re Katims and the dual roles. I agree with you; if I had the power of assigning other people their tasks, I would have him focus on making FNL the excellent show that it was last season.

Of course, if he could make Bionic Woman as excellent a show as FNL was last season, I wouldn't complain. . .

Undercover Asain Man said...

Kristin,

I'm all about the suspension of disbelief in a series such as this, but the writers have to set up a consistent world, and then live in it. If the fiance was only a 4 month love-affair and the baby just a pink dot on a pregnancy test, and both are easily forgotten, then why have that twist in the first place? What purpose does it serve other than to set up how much Jamie has lost to become the Bionic Woman? Just jettison the whole thing if she is going to be fine with it immediately - and DON'T have HER bring it up to Sarah if it really doesn't bug her that much (which I find impossible to believe, no-baby-shopping or not).

It is more an indication of lazy writing and inconsistent vision to have the pilot be about a hysterical Jamie and the 2nd and 3rd episode be about how normal life is for the Bionic Woman, with no transition. BTW, the transition is probably the most interesting aspect to the character, and a chance for the viewers to bond with her as she metamorphosizes into the BW. Instead the writers blow right past that so we can have a villain of the week formula ASAP.

I do think a lot of the blame is on Michele Ryan's acting. A better actress could play the singing scene with the sister, but hint that she is only doing it for her sister and hiding sadness and worry behind her eyes. But not one-note Ryan, who can't even convince me she realizes who Sarah Corvus is any time she sees her.

cgeye said...

Kristin,

We left 'practical' a hell of a way back. The point is that Jaime has absolutely no leverage, to negotiate a part-time mercenary status (yes, I said MERCENARY; who else protects an arms-dealer for a private military corporation?), or to protect her sister, unless she can consider a life without bionics, but enough ameliorative surgery to not remain a vegetable.

And if we don't keep those stakes in the forefront, as why she continues to work for Berkut, why should we care why she puts herself and her sister in constant danger? Cause you know and I know the only way Berkut will leave Jaime alone is if she's dead, and they get the chance to cut out their tech, before she is cremated.

And, gee thanks, for illustrating how to be the proper type of hard case about a traumatic miscarriage. How in the hell can a baby-to-be be so important to spur a couple, that knew each other only four months, to plan for marriage, yet so unimportant that the woman who killed both the child and its father can get a pass, just she has charisma the star doesn't? If we don't get plausibility, then at least some emotional consistency be nice.

Sorry, Kristin, but you like this show despite its illogic, its character rape (which is hard to accomplish, in only three shows) and its contempt for grrl power, in how it shows a woman as only being fit as a puppet with mecha add-ons. There is no autonomy worth a damn, in this character, and they explicitly told us the peeping techs use their surveillance as jerk-off material. That ain't empowerment; that's just letting a woman who was supposedly real become a cross between a camgirl and a RPG fembot.

The premise is fucked; Jaime will never be free, as our society is now shaped to the point that Berkut can do anything it wants, as long as it's covered under national security; and any joys we get with her kicking ass are as ephemeral as our forgetting that the traffic light down the street is taking our picture. Her opponents have to be worse than Berkut, and we know, without being activists or leftists, that that's a tall order, indeed.

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