**SPOILER ALERT: THERE IS ONE NATIONALLY DISCUSSED, HUUUUGE SPOILER BELOW, ONE YOU PROBABLY KNOW BY NOW. BUT, IF NOT, BE WARNED**
Silicon Valley – B-
One of the funniest moments in “Two in the Box” is also one of the most problematic. When the sales team takes Richard’s sarcasm at face value and creates a video heralding private “boxes” protecting business ideas, they use Dinesh — the original Pied Piper-ite who’s bought in the most to the new Jack Barker order — the “foreigner” as one of its stock photo bogeymen. It’s the ridiculous sort of pointed surreal comedy Mike Judge proved adept at with Idiocracy. However, part of what’s made Silicon Valley thrive is that while it revels in tech company insanity, it’s always in the realm of reality, making the craziness all the more poignant; this moment fits more into Better Off Ted territory — a classic, criminally underrated show, but one that lived in a whole different Strangelove-esque universe.
At least the episode’s most unsettling moment, graphic horse sex, made sense and gave you more of a peek into Jack Barker’s particular brand of madness. It’s fitting that Barker would hire a sales force first as he crows that he owes his success to a ludicrously simple four sided box metric. When he sells his snake oil to Richard with a story comparing the standard tech excesses he’s bringing to Pied Piper to Google’s early days, he mucks it up by revealing that it’s Google with his first sentence, spoiling his grand reveal. Does he stutter or apologize? Of course not, like all good leaders, he carries on as if he meant to do that. And can Stephen Tobolowsky sell that folksy smarm. He’s a welcome addition, even if I’m a bit wary of where this season is going. Similarly, as silly and slightly off-tone the sales meeting may be, Richard getting more and more agitated as every new sales hire, by rote, announces their name — and Jan “the Man” is especially memorable — and tears out one more aspect of his product to appease business nervousness. “Two in the Box” is a complicated episode which is a bit worrisome for future episodes, but I can’t entirely dismiss some genuinely funny Silicon Valley moments.
– Jason Thurston
Fear the Walking Dead – A-
While there have been moments of cruelty and senseless violence between the uninfected on Fear the Walking Dead, this is the first episode where we truly sense the chaos and social Darwinism that permeates its parent show. Jack moves from kindly disembodied voice wooing Alicia over the wire to ruthless modern pirate overtaking the Abigail. The mop-topped assailant and his two proto-hipster henchmen hop on the vessel under guise of one of the latter’s ruse of injury — aided by her real pregnancy — and overtake Chris and the rest of our still somewhat compassionate group. There’s a big moment of WD philosophy in Chris’ hesitancy to shoot strangers — which Jack coldly laughs at, braying “‘should I shoot them?’ ha, if you have to ask, someone should probably already be dead.” It’s a hint of the heavy handed, mean-ass nihilism that often bogs down the franchise.
However, “Blood in the Streets” is more about giving a backstory to the show’s pre-eminent conflicted antihero Strand. We get a glimpse into his pre-apocalypse life as part con-man, part business genius as he mixes business and pleasure with his nemesis-turned-associate Tom. FtWD is wise to leave his actual schemes blurry, and focus on Strand’s growing relationship (in every possible manner) with his powerful ally. When Strand is apparently shot while fleeing the new enemies boarding his ship, you know that he’s not nearly done — although the episode does leave him him floating in the ocean.
Meanwhile, Nick meets Strand’s childhood pal Tim on the mainland, in what first seems to be an impulsive trip borne of curiosity, but turns out to be a Strand-dictated mission. The show leaves it purposely ambiguous whether Strand planned to ditch all his new colleagues as Tim repeatedly stresses that he’s only ferrying one passenger; as cold as Strand has been portrayed at time, that seems heartless even for him. While Tim and Nick successfully overtake the White Stripes of hijackers, it sets up complications as the mysterious leader Connor has absconded with Travis and Alicia, and Strand is floating somewhere on the ocean, and they’re going to need the help of the one surviving attacker (of course, Alicia’s double-crossing paramour of sorts, Jack), setting up a classic game of choice and chance for next week’s installment.
– Jason Thurston
Game of Thrones – B
The biggest is-he-or-isn’t-he question in popular culture — at least since Glenn hid under a dumpster — has been answered! Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is back! This has been the moment we have all been waiting for so it’s almost easy to look over all the rest of what had happened in the episode. Tyrion (Peter DInklage) gets drunk (typical) and makes friends with dragons (not typical but definitely brave). Bran goes on a vision quest and learns that Hodor could talk — at least as a child. A woman and infant get eaten alive. (damn you Ramsay, you are worse than Joffrey!) Rumors are circulating that GoT is wrapping up in the next few seasons and it’s mesmerizing watching the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place. Fans of both the show and novels know that no one is safe, but the writing and directing teams never let that tension cease. This episode is no different. Welcome back, Jon!
– Brad Filicky
Veep – A-
“Nev-AD-a” exists mostly as a bridge episode, moving the Veep family players from the day after the tied election smoothly onto the Nevada recount — or, given the show’s spirit, awkwardly and tripping over its own feet. Characters flit by, Mike chugs his weird cleanse, Dan and Amy hustle for votes while not flirting with the usual vulgarity, Selena has an affair with a financier (John Slattery at his charming best) and so on. However, while nothing dramatic really happens, it’s deliriously fun to watch their silly dance. Gary Cole’s Kent is particularly on point in his dry flyby semi-sequitirs (“little known fact about the Nazis, their polling numbers within Germany, through the roof, unbelievable numbers…though, also…tragic”). Sam Richardson is also in his glory as the brilliant, but delightfully oblivious Richard chimes in observations to media and canvasses for re-votes with his two other modern stooges in tow, causing way more damage than help. While “Nev-AD-a” barely rises above the meaningfulness of a clip show, it is one heck of a ride.
– Jason Thurston