Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Reaper, "Greg, Schmeg": Play your card right

"Reaper" spoilers coming up just as soon as I dine at my local hospital cafeteria...

The upswing continues, and I may have been premature in throwing dirt on the show's renewal chances last week. Now it looks like the CW might renew it to be part of a minimal repeats Thursday skiffy rotation with "Supernatural" and the final season of "Smallville."

And once again, the "Reaper" creative team gave us an episode that was eminently renewal-worthy. The demon rebellion arc took a powder for the night, but we had Sam hunting (and being hunted by) an enemy with a personal connection to him, we got more married-Ben comedy, we got more Ray Wise evil, more glimpses of the secret lives of demons-on-earth with Gladys taking the boys to the storage facility, and best of all, we got Sam finally sticking it to the Devil, even a little. He understood that the Get Out of Hell Free card would never work for him, so he took pity on poor, stupid Greg while finding a way to fix his relationship with Andi. If the show wants to have a long life, its hero needs to be less of a sap, and this was a step in the right direction.

That said, they need to do some work building up Andi as a character. Yes, Missy Peregrym is very pretty, but other than those early-season glimpses of Andi's creative goofing-off (the stolen shopping carts, the secret clubhouse under the TV boxes), she has no discernible personality. Letting her in on the Satan secret seemed like a prime opportunity to do something interesting with her. Sock and Ben have learned to take all this demon-hunting stuff at face value, and I was looking forward to the writers having Andi look at it with fresh eyes, to question how and why it all works the way it does, etc. Maybe we'll get some of that down the road, but last night we just got her asking Sam about the scariest soul he ever caught.

Still, feeling good and kudos to the casting people for getting Jeff Kober (Dodger from "China Beach") as the demon with the cache of bootleg vessels. The guy's got plenty of demons and other hellspawn roles on his resume, and he fit right in here.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I had dropped the show after a couple episodes because of the overcrowding on my DVR, and it wasn't really holding my interest. I noticed that you'd started reviewing it again lately and figured it must have improved post-strike.

The episode was definitely entertaining -- I love Lucy Davis, by the way. I agree that they need to give Andi something to do. I realize she's the Love Interest, but that doesn't mean she can't have her own story.

The chainsaw killer thing was slightly scary but mostly over-the-top hilarious.

Mo Ryan said...

I thought the Lucy Davis part was the weakest part of the show. Sam already had one psycho girlfriend, who they thankfully got rid of, but now they give a psycho pseudo love interest to poor Ben? Ugh. The last scene kind of worked, but mainly because I loved Kandyse McClure's look of disgust when the dweeby boss suggested a 4-way exploration of 'the Lifestyle.'

I do think that boss has comic potential, btw. I just think they need to drop the green-card wife angle. It's not funny and it's not fleshing out Ben in any interesting ways.

Andi's definitely the weak link on the show (why is it that a show created by women has had such weak female characters? Go figure).

But overall I thought it was one of the strongest Reapers ever. They changed up the formula and did give Sam some stones. Now if they could just resurrect Michael Ian Black's character, things would really looking good.

Mo Ryan said...

Btw, I think they should make Kandyse/Dualla a regular. She's been more fun in two episodes than Andi has been all season.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I do think that boss has comic potential, btw.

Meh. I still think they'd be much better off firing Ted and promoting the Curtis Armstrong character to manager.

Matty said...

As much as I love Lucy Davis, that plot is the one aspect of Reaper annoying me right now. At least she's funny in the role. It's just unnecessary.

Anyone else notice that the Devil called Sam "my son" at one point?

Anonymous said...

Was I watching the same episode as the rest of you?

Of all the characters to bring back, they choose Greg? I vaguely remember Andi having a boyfriend for all of two episdodes early in the season, but he was utterly forgettable. Maye the two of them belong together, since Andi is such a blank, too.

I did like that they brought back a line from the pilot that I thought had the most potential for laughs (and they never used it again). "Any place that seems like Hell on Earth, is Hell on Earth." Sam could drop the vessel at any of these places, but the DMV was just the first he was shown. That said, a storage facility? Really? Are those that bad?

Nice to see the Get out of Hell Free card come back into play, but it was a pretty lame way to continue the show's mythology. That was it? It was almost literally a "return everything to the way it was at the start of the episode" button. How about some mention of the Demon Rebellion? Or the contract? Have we even seen Sam's dad since he burned that page?

Mo Ryan said...

interesting about that "my son" comment. Hmmmm.

Oh, and Alan, I totally agree that the storage-place guy should come back as the dude who shows Sam how to get over on the Devil. He'd be a good recurring character.

Agreed that Curtis Armstrong definitely needs to come back as well.

As for Andi's ex, he was just a device. It didn't matter that he made no real impression, he was just there to be the dual soul/problem of the week, and as such, I thought the soul/problem of the week was more creative than most of the stuff they've come up with.

If there was a version of Reaper with Gladys, Ken Marino, Curtis Armstrong, storage locker guy -- oh, and a more idiosyncratic version of Sam's crew too (plus Dualla, minus Andi) -- and the writing was on par with or ideally better than what we saw this week, well, i'd say things were going in the right direction.

Eric said...

I almost think that this episode was originally written to take place earlier in the season, then pushed back and resurrected after the Writers' strike.

Either way, it seems to me that Sam is going to regret using the Get Out of Hell Free card on Greg. Isn't it inevitable that Sock is going to screw up and wind up damned one way or another?

The preview for next week makes it look like they've been listening to us: More Gladys!

SMM said...

This show does some things right-- the casting and the dialogue-- but so many things drive me crazy that only strike scheduling is keeping it on my DVR.

First, this episode. When was it obvious that the chainsaw murderer was Andi's ex? Scene one, cuz I'd seen the preview. When did it get revealed to the characters? The 45 minute mark.

The vessel. Somehow Buffy could have exciting fight scenes with a stake-- something that never breaks and doesn't change. But this show has the weapon break EVERY SINGLE TIME. And this one didn't make sense! Why couldn't he reload? Why didn't they take it to the ex's house?! So the solution was to hit him in the head really hard? Seriously? Unfortunately, practically every fight scene ends like a Hitchcock movie.

Finally, I have never watched a show before and thought, "don't they know how to do an act break?" What is going on in the writers' room? Why are they setting up plots with a vessel that disappears after one scene? Why are the characters dumber than the audience? From the last episode, why would Sam make an unspecified promise TO THE DEVIL?! To whom his parents sold his soul!

Ted rules though, and as far as I know, "The Lifestyle" is what swingers call it. That was nicely done.

Shawn Anderson said...

Like some others above, I kind of wish we had even a passing reference to any of the overarching plot (rebellion, contract, etc.) but there was still a lot to appreciate.

Loved the Terminator 2: Judgement Day reference: "Come with me, if you want to live"

Sock moments: his bit on love "...see, 'cause I love these shoes..." and pulling out the juice box.

Did anyone recognize folks on Hell's Most Wanted list besides Al Capone and Abraham Lincoln(!)? I suspect the first two shown were just producers/crew?

Mo Ryan said...

I cracked up when I saw the Lincoln photo. One of several small but fun jokes in the ep (I also appreciated the juice box moment).

It's fun to be reminded that Reaper can be funny. What a concept.

Shawn Anderson said...

Here's the Hollywood Reporter piece on rumored renewals/cancellations, in which it mentions Reaper getting renewed.

K J Gillenwater said...

Sock always makes me laugh. Always. I love him. The part at the beginning about the Cadillac. Oh, and the line about bringing the ex-boyfriend a roll of plastic. He just does great line delivery every time.

I liked this one again...because they are just moving the bigger stories along...rather than just concentrate on Demon of the Week. Glad Gladys gets some more time to show what she does in her free time.

I like the addition of psycho fake wife for Ben. Lucy Davis is very good in the role. And who knows who the father of the baby *really* is? I have a feeling it will be something more interesting than the Cirque du Soleil guy. Just a thought.

Glad to see this show is most likely renewed! Yay!

Anonymous said...

Kristin: I'm with you on the Cirque du Soleil guy. It didn't sound quite real, sounded like her own little fantasy. On the other hand, it struck me that his name is Esteban, and of all the men at the Bench she chose a Hispanic to be her fake husband. Perhaps her intent was to get someone who looked like the baby's father?

I really like the scene where Sam and the guys go to confront Greg, and we see Sam's understanding of the devil come into play. Love the authoritative way he explains, "The devil isn't on anyone's side; the devil's on the devil's side." In general, we see how much Sam has grown in this episode. He's very take-charge in trying to get Greg to calm down when the chainsaw persona is attacking them (OK, yeah, it takes Sock hitting him with a trophy to actually stop him...) And the way he stands up to the devil at the end is amazing.

Love Ben holding Cassidy's hand with the hand that has his marriage ring clearly visible, and then Sara doing the same, holding Cassidy's other hand with Sara's marriage ring hand, ring clearly visible. The way they're both holding Cassidy's hand makes it seem like both Ben and Sara are involved with Cassidy, instead of Ben involved with both of the women. And Cassidy's reaction to the idea of "turning a triangle into a square" is priceless.

And am I the only one who noticed that Gladys is a cat lady, like Christine Willes's character, Delores Herbig in Dead Like Me? I love Gladys; I missed her during that revolution arc.

FYI: The devil doesn't call Sam "my son"; he says "my little boy's becoming a man." Still, a very fatherly thing to say. I'm definitely in the "Sam is the devil's son" camp for this show, and yes, I think the line supports the theory.