This Is Us — This is the first episode I’ve seen in two months because I wanted to be ready for the Super Bowl episode, and I’ll give it this much: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show combine Super Bowl promotion and sobs better than this. That is a hell of a formula, and I guarantee that the Super Bowl episode of This Is Us is going to be the highest-rated scripted episode of television in 2018, even if the writers are monsters. I also guarantee that, unless the writers quickly find a hook as compelling as the mystery surrounding Jack’s death, that ratings will take a nosedive after this episode.
Shameless — A decent but not earth-shattering season finale. I love the evolution of Lip this year, but beyond him and Liam, there wasn’t a lot of character advancement this season. I do feel bad that Shameless has decided to make Carl the Frank Jr. of the show. I had some hope for him when he got into military school, but it looks like he’ll ultimately repeat the cycle of Frank. Also, Chet Haze!
Waco — The premiere was OK, and I thought that Taylor Kitsch acquitted himself well as David Koresh. However, through one episode, I am much more interested in the FBI’s handling of Waco in the wake of Ruby Ridge than I am with Koresh’s cult. That might be because it’s a more interesting story, or it might be because of Michael Shannon and Shea Wigham, who plays characters that are a lot more interesting than a guy who impregnates all of his friends’ wives.
The Detour — It’s so good to have The Detour back, and I love that the family has shacked up in an Alaska town where everyone is on the lam. We barely talk about it — there’s not much of a hook to hang a piece on — but this is genuinely one of my favorite comedies on television.
Great News — I apologize for leaving this off of last week’s list. We do need to get it in here for the season — and possibly series — finale. I’ll be bummed if they don’t bring it back. Not only is Briga Pajiba 10 Worthy, but the entire cast is fantastic (except for the British love interest. I could do without him. Bring back Dan from Veep!)
Counterpart — So, this is going to be a heavy show, huh? I mean, I liked the second episode a lot, but I wouldn’t object to an occasional dose of levity, and in J.K. Simmons, we’ve got a guy who can deliver a wry line or two on occasion. I am excited to see more Olivia Williams, and even more excited to get heavy doses of Nazanin Boniadi in future episodes. Oh, and I’m glad they cleared up that issue with the premise that was bugging me, namely how the characters could share the same childhood memories but diverge so wildly from there. It’s because the alternate dimension split off from our own 30 years ago, so up until then, the characters from the two dimensions were the same. That’s going to make it much easier for this show going forward.
9-1-1 — I had to quickly turn this episode off every time my wife walked into the room because she was taking a flight the next morning and I didn’t want to freak her out. It didn’t prevent me from freaking out, though. Harrowing installment, and four episodes in, it’s still a great series, even more so now that we’re getting to know Peter Krause’s character. Honestly, it’s weird how much I look forward to this show every week. I’m not sure that I respect that part of me that enjoys 9-1-1 so much.
X-Files — Best episode since the revival. Hands down.
Good Place — Maya Rudolph is confounding. I don’t really like her in sketch comedy, and I really didn’t like that variety show of hers. But in the right role, she is fantastic. This was the perfect role. Mike Schur doesn’t know how to create bad roles. The man is a gift to actors. Has anyone ever left a Schur show less beloved than when they came in? Mike Schur made me like Andy Samberg, for God’s sake, and I’ve liked him for so long now on Brooklyn 99 that I forgot that he used to annoy the hell out of me. Anyway, great episode and, as always, I have no idea where this show is going with the next episode, much less the next season.
Black Lightning — I didn’t get to this show until this week (I watched the first two episodes), because — though I appreciate that the CW finally gave a superhero show to a person of color — I wasn’t that interested in getting invested in another Greg Berlanti superhero show. I mean, they’re fine, and I liked The Flash and Arrow enough to watch them for a few seasons. But in their own way, they’re like superhero procedurals — cases of the week bookended by a season-long arc that spins its wheels for most of the season.
I was wrong about Black Lightning, though. There’s definitely some Berlanti elements here, but it is easily the most thematically interesting of the CW crop of superhero shows, and it is brilliantly antagonistic to authority. Black Lightning is not your run-of-the-mill vigilante superhero that cops dislike because he’s taking the law into his own hands. They also don’t like him because he’s Black, but he’s also dealing with inner-city crime that the police are ignoring. So, he’s the only guy who cares enough to save the city, but he’s also divided between loyalties to his family. There are a lot of tension points here. It’s a surprisingly complex superhero series for Berlanti, and as long as it continues to traffic in heavier thematic material, I guess I’m getting invested in another Greg Berlanti superhero show.