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Ask Matt: S.H.I.E.L.D., Helix, Justified, Hannibal and More

Send questions and comments to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com and follow me on Twitter! Question: What do you think of the "Uprising" arc in the second half of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s first season? I think it is miles better than the first half of this season, which was pretty so-so at times. [Spoilers ahead] The tie-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with Hydra infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Garrett being revealed as the Clairvoyant working for Hydra, were very good plot twists, along with Agent Ward being a turncoat to work for Agent Garrett and Hydra — or could Ward be going undercover for Agent Coulson to help S.H.I.E.L.D. bring down Hydra? I really hope this show gets renewed for a second season by ABC, so that it will continue to improve and be a better show that everyone can enjoy to watch! - Chris

Matt Roush
Matt Roush

Send questions and comments to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com and follow me on Twitter!

Question: What do you think of the "Uprising" arc in the second half of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s first season? I think it is miles better than the first half of this season, which was pretty so-so at times. [Spoilers ahead] The tie-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with Hydra infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Garrett being revealed as the Clairvoyant working for Hydra, were very good plot twists, along with Agent Ward being a turncoat to work for Agent Garrett and Hydra — or could Ward be going undercover for Agent Coulson to help S.H.I.E.L.D. bring down Hydra? I really hope this show gets renewed for a second season by ABC, so that it will continue to improve and be a better show that everyone can enjoy to watch! - Chris

Matt Roush: I wouldn't worry about S.H.I.E.L.D.'s chances for renewal. ABC has plenty of more pressing problems than this show's slow build, and there are good corporate if not creative reasons to ensure its survival. But there's no doubt that S.H.I.E.L.D. has stepped up its game with the twists and the action in the ongoing "Uprising" arc and its intersection with the events in the latest Captain America movie — which I haven't seen, and I wasn't all that confused by what was going on last week (which if you missed it will be repeated Tuesday in front of a new episode). The show is certainly more focused and entertaining now — it could hardly have gotten worse (I bailed a few months ago, but came back for the last few episodes) — so if this is the jumpstart the show needed, I'm all for it. Even the wooden Agent Ward is suddenly interesting. I've also been asked if it's wise to tie the mythologies of the Marvel movies and this series so closely, risking alienating those who aren't keeping up (like me), but I don't see any other way for S.H.I.E.L.D. to be relevant to even the casual genre fan.

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Question: I've been severely behind on my shows and have only recently watched the final two episodes of Helix and hope you can clear something up for me. When I first heard about Helix, everything I read gave me the impression it was an anthology series that had different characters and storylines every season. If I didn't misunderstand, then I'm confused about how they ended the season. There was really no resolution to a lot of it and I kinda sat there at the end and had a what-the-hell moment similar to the end of Lost. If the show was coming back next season with the same characters, that would change how I feel about the ending, but if I'm right about the whole anthology thing, then it was pretty stupid. Hopefully you can clarify some things for me. Also, was it just me, or was Peter more interesting when he was a vector than a human? Thanks for any insight you might be able to give! — Maria

Matt Roush: I think your misapprehension stems from the fact that the plan for Helix, as I understand it, was for the locale to change from season to season — the claustrophobic Arctic research facility, as effective and creepy as it was (and probably my favorite aspect of the first season), had been pretty well played out — becoming in effect a new show next year. As the flash-forward at the end of the finale suggests, the story is moving into an entirely new direction, albeit with Alan and Julia presumably continuing as main characters. All things considered, Helix might have been better off as a self-contained horror miniseries, but we'll see how it goes next year.

Question: I just wanted to make a few comments about Justified. First of all, it doesn't get nearly the attention it should, even though it did get some Emmy recognition in the first couple of seasons (the brilliant Margo Martindale with her Emmy for playing Mags Bennett) but since then it seems to have gone unnoticed. This is such a great show, with tremendous writing and of course the performances by all of the cast, especially Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins as Raylan and Boyd, who are exceptional. I enjoyed the way last week's season finale tied up the Crowe clan story line and ended with the meat and potatoes of the show, the Crowders and Raylan. I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the last season. Although Justified is one of those rare shows that probably had its best season in its sophomore year (the above-mentioned Mags Bennett), it certainly has been a joyride of a show in all of its subsequent years. Perhaps next year the Emmy voters will be kinder to our talented clan in Harlan County. — J. Gable

Matt Roush: I have a feeling any justification Justified will get regarding this most recent season won't come from the Emmys. The field is so crowded, and this wasn't the show's best effort. The Crowes just weren't up to snuff as the season's Big Bad, and I found much of the way the finale resolved things a bit too tidy — with the exception of Raylan and his unfinished business with Boyd, which the show is smart to make the focus of the final season. I'm looking forward to it as well, and hope and trust it will be a return to form.

Question: I look forward to your column every week. We have similar but not identical tastes. I often will try out a show based on your recommendation, and even when we disagree, I always appreciate your take on a show. This question is a bit of a follow-up to the Hannibal question in the March 31 column. I did not have issues with the points that were raised, but I am starting to have issues with the show and am finding myself enjoying it less. My biggest issue is that I find myself noticing the writers and producers more, their presence at times pulling me out of the story. I am more than fine with a show having a distinct voice or point of view. Even with its flaws, I enjoyed Awake and watched every episode, appreciating the show's creative chances and choices. That said, there were several times during the March 28 episode of Hannibal especially when I found myself annoyed. For me, at least, I couldn't stay in the moment with the characters. I kept noticing the writers/producers/someone standing in the corner shouting "Look at me, I made this show" rather than letting us/me enjoy the story they were trying to tell. (The closest analogy that comes to mind is the way the music on Grey's Anatomy, both the volume and overuse of it, can be overly distracting.) I like Hannibal. I want to continue to like it, and I will continue to watch. I was just wondering if you had noticed an evermore-present presence on the show or if I am the only one out here distracted. — Alyssa

Matt Roush: In struggling to understand just what your issue is with Hannibal, I'm thinking it may have to do with trying to differentiate between what's artful and merely artsy (as in pretentious, show-offy, full of itself). Hannibal has been so stylized, visually and otherwise, in its macabre obsessions from the very beginning that I can't fathom why that would only now start bothering a viewer. Seeking a recent example to explain my point, I'll turn to HBO's True Detective, which could be just as mesmerizing in its acting and production values, but I often found myself noticing how self-consciously and pretentiously overwritten it was (not to mention under-plotted, not a problem for Hannibal). I still find myself falling under Hannibal's hypnotic spell each time I watch, so I guess my answer is no, I don't find its excesses distracting. Disturbing? Absolutely. And never as annoying as Grey's blaring music.

Question: I'm not interested in spoilers, but bottom-line this for me: If this ends up being the final season of Suburgatory, do you know if the finale provides any kind of closure? If it is a cliffhanger of any kind, I find it's better to know that going in, as it might lessen the annoyance just a bit. ABC should never have left this one on the bench for so long this fall. After messing around with its scheduling last year on behalf of the insufferable The Neighbors, if they end up canceling Suburgatory due to low ratings, it's their own fault. — Jake

Matt Roush: I won't argue that ABC is at fault for its haphazard treatment of Suburgatory and deserves most of the blame should the show be deemed unviable for next season. But should Suburgatory end this season on any sort of never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger — I haven't a clue — the blame for any fan dissatisfaction would fall on the producers, who have known all season how precarious the show's future is and should have planned accordingly. And since Suburgatory is one of the season's most prominent "on the bubble" shows, this next question is particularly well timed.

Question: You probably can't unequivocally answer this question for me since you don't work for ABC's programming department, but I'm going to ask it anyway. I've noticed over recent years that ABC is always the last network to announce their renewals and cancellations. Why? It's really annoying, especially since all the other networks — both big and small, network and cable — have made 90-100 percent of their announcements at this point (April) in the season! No one really waits until the end of May any more — except ABC apparently. Why? I could understand a network like CBS, whose cup runneth over with hits, needing to take longer nailing down what to keep and what to toss, since most of their "borderline" or "bubble" shows would be considered huge successes on any other network, but even they have made the majority of their announcements already. What is the deal with ABC? Is it really that difficult to get all their ducks in a row — or should I say mice since it's Disney? For the bean counters, the writing is pretty clear on the wall by the end of March, so what gives? Do they just like a flare for the dramatic? Do they get some sort of perverse pleasure in having the last word while fans of certain shows wait on tenterhooks? Some insight please. — Grey

Matt Roush: Your notion that ABC is conducting this sort of business worrying about the fans' state of mind is rather quaint. But as one who longs for the days when there was still a bit of surprise and showmanship in the announcements of Upfront week in May, I guess I don't see where the aggravation is coming from. But I will agree it's a puzzlement why ABC doesn't just give early definitive renewals to no-brainers like Scandal, Grey's Anatomy and other long-running staples includingthe hit Wednesday comedies — and even the midseason success Resurrection, which on many other networks would probably have been given an instant pick-up just so they could crow about it. But in the bigger picture, it seems to me that when a network is struggling in prime time as ABC is, and at a time in the industry when it's cloudier than ever for a network to gauge what's working and what isn't, caution is not such a bad thing. I would like to think ABC is weighing its options with many of its "bubble" shows until it has a firm grasp on how well the development of new pilots has turned out. But honestly, there aren't that many question marks on the ABC lineup, mostly among the comedies: the aforementioned Suburgatory, Trophy Wife, maybe the Friday sitcoms. The others are either instant duds or pretty safe bets.

Question: Love and respect you, but 100 [aka a perfect 10 in the magazine] for HBO's Silicon Valley? I know you got to see the first five episodes, but I saw stereotypes and no plot. — Kevin (via Twitter)

Question: Was real disappointed with Silicon Valley. Does it get better? — Paul

Matt Roush: As always, I'm willing to agree to disagree, but honestly, can't you let a guy show some unabashed enthusiasm for something before raining on the parade? (Another way of saying: Leave my Fargo alone. Not brooking debate on that one come Tuesday.) I suppose HBO might have been better off premiering back-to-back episodes of Silicon Valley to give a better sense of where it's heading. But I liked it from the get-go — though I will also say, to answer Paul's question: It does get better. I can see where people might see the characters as geek stereotypes, but there's a lot of variety among them, and I love how Thomas Middleditch (in the lead role of Richard) balances sheepishness and ambition as the bidding war escalates, and he's never funnier than when he actually tries to assert himself. It took me a lot longer to warm up to T.J. Miller's boorish Erlich, but stick around for the episode in which he tries to come up with a logo for Richard's baby. It's a scream. And to Kevin's gripe that there's no plot, that's just wrong. One of the best things about Silicon Valley is that it's telling a very strong and satirical story that gets more complicated as it goes. Humor is subjective, of course, and it's possible some people just won't like this one for whatever reason, but I found it engaging and laugh-out-loud funny and was sorry when I had to stop at five episodes. This and Veep make for one of the strongest hours of HBO comedy in some time, and I have no qualms in recommending them.

Question: My wife and I were avid followers of the summer series King & Maxwell last year and were crushed to learn it was canceled. The characters on TV were real-life representations of David Baldacci's characters in his books. We were extremely disappointed when they said it had been canceled. Any chance of a revival, considering a lot of the trash they have on during the summer? — Ron & Emilie

Matt Roush: Nope. The actors have moved on: Jon Tenney currently appearing on Scandal and Rebecca Romijn returning to TNT (looks like no hard feelings) in a series version of the Librarian TV-movie franchise. Despite the popularity of the books, this appears to have been one ampersand pairing too many for TNT. And while there will be plenty of trash to avoid this summer, I'm actually encouraged by TNT's plans for this summer. Haven't seen The Last Ship or Legends yet, but they're not the same-old, same-old.

Question: Jimmy/Steve lives! As a fan of Justin Chatwin and of Shameless, I was thrilled to see his cameo at the end of last Sunday's finale. (Although I do hope they give him something to do with his life in the next season and don't spend all of it on him trying to get Fiona back. We already went through that once in Season 2, and watching him be a bored, frustrated, domestic housewife in Season 3 wasn't much better.) I did read a TV Guide article last year when the show-runner said that Jimmy/Steve was definitely dead. I guess my question to you is this: Is that OK to do? Is it common for the powers that be to blatantly lie to the audience? If it was done to keep the secret and get a bigger reaction from fans, it was certainly effective. Because I read that article, I believed that the character was for-sure dead and was that much more thrilled to see him again. And if I hadn't "known" he was dead, I might have enjoyed this season less due to wondering if and when he'd be back. So I suppose I can't really complain. And I'm sure it's possible that John Wells believed what he said at the time, and that the situation simply changed.  But it does feel weird to be clearly told that he was killed, and then to have him come back. What's your take on this false statement? — Lena

Matt Roush: Rule of thumb in the world of TV: If you don't see the character's actual death scene (and depending on the show, sometimes even if you do), file the eulogy under "maybe." This same cheap trick recently occurred on The Following with Natalie Zea's character, and I was even less surprised about that one, given the high melodrama of that ridiculous thriller. I'm afraid I tend to look at these sorts of twists as cheap stunts that exhausted their shock value long ago (maybe around the time of Kimberly Shaw's resurrection on the original Melrose Place), and the dishonesty of the Shameless producer in addressing the situation at the time helps justify my own decision to have bailed on this show a long while ago. (I like Fiona and her siblings, but the world around them and the show as a whole otherwise never rang true to me.)

Question: Thank you for your comments on the How I Met Your Mother finale last week. I think that the real error the creators made (especially given that they claim to have had this finale in mind from the beginning) was getting Ted and Robin together for a while in the earlier seasons. If it had never gotten past that first date and the regrets, then the finale would have made a lot more sense. Ted was the romantic trying to be sensible, who got his great romance in spite of himself (he was ready to go be sensible in Chicago), and now, with no pressure, can pursue Robin. Robin was the sensible person who desperately wanted to be a romantic but never actually managed to get herself there, and is now ready to give romance a chance. But with them being "exes," well, it does make it a bit icky. — Arturo

Matt Roush: Another fair point. Been there, wooed that (among other things). As time goes on, I think I'm still most bothered by the kids reacting to this series-long narrative by basically going, "Mother, schmother, go get Aunt Robin."

Question: I'm always bothered when people say (as one of your correspondents did in your latest column) that they disliked the Lost finale, when what they really mean is they disliked the episode before the finale that gave the origin of the smoke monster. It didn't help that after dissecting every detail of the show for years, the story was more straightforward than many thought. But the finale itself was full of wonderful moments when the characters remembered their lives on the island, had the interesting revelation that they were already dead in the changed timeline, and featured an exciting battle between Jack and Locke/The Dark Man (I'll give you the impact of moving the rock in the cave wasn't that great). But I really think it was the flashback episode that turned the tide against the show. — Brian

Matt Roush: Probably best not to assume what other people liked and/or didn't like about one of TV's most controversial endings. I'm not about to open that old wound again, and as someone who didn't really have a problem with the way Lost ended (on an emotional if not literal basis, because there's no way the mysteries were going to be resolved in a way to satisfy everyone or maybe anyone), I'd bet many fans were just as upset by the they're-all-dead reveal as they were about the way the Smoke Monster was explained.

That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!

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