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Mr. Robot: Hello, Elliot (2019)
Season 4, Episode 13
An Emotionally and Narratively Satisfying Conclusion
23 December 2019
Wow. Sam Esmail has proved time and time again that he's a genius storyteller, but this might just take the cake. This episode hits the trifecta of things required for a truly perfect series finale; it's emotionally satisfying, narratively satisfying, and surprising. It's tremendously difficult to make something that you don't see coming but makes perfect sense; if it's perfectly logical, why wouldn't it occur to the viewer?

In recent years, many writers have become obsessed with the need to surprise the audience (after all, it's boring if there are no surprises, right?) and have decided to prioritize it over crafting a good ending. Narratives such as this can be fun in the moment, but often leave the viewer feeling shortchanged. The much harder path, the path this show opts for, is to create something that makes sense and then obscure it through clever misdirection, so the viewer never catches on but feels like they should have been able to once all is laid bare.

It's risky; too subtle, and it doesn't feel foreshadowed. Too blatant, and the viewer figures it out before the show reveals it (like when Reddit predicted season 2's big twist after one episode). This episode reveals the show's big final twist, and Esmail has been riding the line perfectly this whole time; all the way up to last episode, nothing made sense to me. But when the reveal happened in this episode, everything clicked AND it led to a fantastic farewell.

It's been an amazing journey; I reviewed the first episode on this site the day it came out, and I've reviewed every episode since. The show has helped me through some hard times, serving as the one constant in a sea of variables. Ever since IMDb removed the lower limit on the length of reviews, I've pretty much stopped writing them - but I had to finish this show out. Now that it's over, you may never hear from me again. If this is the last we meet, then all I can say is...

Goodbye, friend.
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Mr. Robot: whoami (2019)
Season 4, Episode 12
I can feel the seconds ticking down, and I still have no idea where we're going
23 December 2019
To be clear, this is just a review of part 1. I have not yet watched part 2, and I will be reviewing it separately. It's taking all the willpower I have not to play it right this second, but I have to finish my review of this episode first.

This is probably the most frustrating episode of Mr. Robot since season 2 episode 11... mostly in a good way. Similar to that episode, we get little plot progression, and what we do get is incredibly obtuse. Most of the episode is spent filling in the other side of the final sequence from 411; we see what our Elliot was up to in the time between our arrival in this parallel world (if that is what it is) and the meeting of the two. As such, there is a sense that we aren't getting anywhere; we've basically seen this already. Still, despite the inevitable sensation of treading water, we do get some nostalgic thrills similar to last episode. And once we finally catch up to where we left off last time, in the last 10 minutes or so, the episode becomes amazing and crazy and dark and mindblowing.

Ultimately, my opinion of this episode rests entirely on how the next one goes; Sam has more to answer for than ever, and only a short time in which to do it. I have utter faith in that man, but lord how he vexes me.
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Mr. Robot: eXit (2019)
Season 4, Episode 11
Mindblowing doesn't even begin to cover it
16 December 2019
This episode is the missing piece that will finally allow Mr. Robot to eclipse Twin Peaks as my favourite show of all time. For three seasons, Sam Esmail has been taking out narrative cheques; mystery after mystery, intoxicating and frustrating at the same time. Now, in this fourth and final season, he's finally cashing them.

Perhaps the most unknowable question the show has presented us with up to this point is Whiterose's mysterious project in the Washington Township Nuclear Power Plant - and that's what this episode is all about. Up until now, everything we've heard about it has been vague and surreal; a mythical science fiction construct seemingly detached from the type of story we are telling. In this episode, however, we finally find out EXACTLY what it is and what it's supposed to do. Then, we get a crazy twist that I definitely can't talk about.

If this episode is any indication, we are in for one of the greatest finales ever made. I don't want it to be over, but I'm so excited to see how it ends.
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Mr. Robot: 410 Gone (2019)
Season 4, Episode 10
A refreshing change of pace
9 December 2019
For at least the last five episodes, Esmail has been leaning hard on the gas; we've been rocketing through the plot with episode after episode of dark, intense, edge-of-your-seat action. Now, for the first time since "404 Not Found", we get a slower, more character-driven episode. If this had been located anywhere else in the season, it might have been really frustrating, but coming down off the high of 409 with another 3 to go after it, the episode feels perfectly placed.

Other than a tiny bit of Elliot near the start, this episode is focussed entirely on Dom and Darlene, and their relationship. We also get cameos from two ex-Dark Army operatives. For the most part, this is a pretty lighthearted episode, but it definitely has some heavier moments as Dom and Darlene unpack their baggage. The ending is both hilarious and frustrating.

I find it really interesting how the two slowest episodes of this season are both road trip episodes centered around a popular gay ship in the fandom - "404 Not Found" with Tyrelliot, and "410 Gone" with Domlene. If the episode hadn't been released during finals week, when I'm super busy and didn't have time to actively anticipate it, maybe I would have felt more unsatisfied. As it was, I found it to be a tasty appetizer for the fast-approaching conclusion.
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Mr. Robot: 409 Conflict (2019)
Season 4, Episode 9
The showdown we've been waiting for since the pilot
2 December 2019
Going all the way back to the opening lines of the pilot, the characters in this show have had one very clear goal; to take down the top 1% of the top 1% - the ones in control, the ones who play god without permission. That's what the 5/9 hack in season 1 was supposed to do, but Fsociety's agenda was co-opted by the very people they were trying to fight. Since then, the series has focussed more on a scramble to survive The Dark Army and Elliot's internal conflict with Mr. Robot. This season, however, with the reveal of the Deus Group and Elliot's recruitment of Phillip Price, we have finally been presented with hope that our heroes might complete this goal - and this is the episode where it all comes to a head.

One of my favourite dynamics in the show is that between Phillip Price and Whiterose, and we get a lot of them this episode. I just love it when you have two intelligent schemers exchanging snide remarks - Littlefinger and Varys from Game of Thrones come to mind. Their verbal repartee in this episode serves as a microcosm of the Fsociety v Deus Group conflict, and plays to the strengths of both actors. Michael Cristofer is particularly delightful as Price, coasting through nearly the entire episode with a smug sense of satisfaction that drives Whiterose up the walls.

If it hasn't already been made clear by the monumental events that have occurred so far in season 4, this episode should remove any doubt that we are in the endgame of the series. We only have 4 episodes left, and while there is still a lot to address, I feel increasingly sure that the end of this show will leave me completely and utterly satisfied.
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Mr. Robot: 408 Request Timeout (2019)
Season 4, Episode 8
They set everything up so perfectly...
25 November 2019
One of my favourite things about this show is the way events get recontextualized over the course of the show. After every season (hell, every episode), you can rewatch all the previous episodes and they'll take on a completely different meaning - while still making just as much (and often more) sense. Every detail is so intricately and fully planned in advance - the experience is like zooming out of a painting. As you see more and more of the big picture, all the tiny incongruous details jump into place until everything finally fits. Time and again I am made to marvel at the exceptional planning behind this show, never more so than in this episode.

Request Timeout focusses on two storylines; Elliot dealing with the fallout of last week's revelations, and Darlene and Dom pleading with Janice. With the former, the big reveal has already happened and now we are picking up the pieces, as it were. We get a lot of great character development and we fill in some gaps created by last week's twist. In the latter storyline, we also get a twist, which has been set up very subtly throughout this season and which is incredibly satisfying to see unfold.

Incredible episodes are pretty much par for the course this season on Mr. Robot - we are racing towards the finish line - but however obvious it is, it still must be said that Sam Esmail really knows what the hell he's doing, and he has all along.
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A riveting stageplay, presented in five acts
18 November 2019
Man, what an incredible episode. This is what's known as a bottle episode; that is, an episode which uses as few characters and locations as possible. Usually they're done for budgetary reasons, but sometimes a more artsy show like this one will do one for effect. The intended effect in this case is claustrophobia; we're trapped in this apartment with these characters for an hour, with no commercial breaks and no scene changes to allow us a reprieve.

And yet, while the limited setting undoubtedly creates a sense of claustrophobia, it also weirdly lends a grandiosity to things. The episode feels very much like a stageplay, a feeling which is reinforced by a series of intertitles throughout the episode proclaiming the beginning of five different acts. This structure gives a strong feeling that the episode is building towards something, and it most certainly is; near the end we get one of the biggest and most devastating twists of the series.

I'd be lying if I said that I went into the episode without expectations, given the way the network has been hyping it up, but it blew me away regardless. If you haven't watched it yet, avoid the internet like a plague until you have. It's a big one.
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Mr. Robot: Mr. Robot: Virtual Reality Experience - 360° (2016)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
A simple story, told in revolutionary fashion
14 November 2019
A lot of networks have made gimmicky 360 VR videos related to their hit shows, and originally this was planned as nothing more than that; something that would transport the viewer into a hack for a minute or two, just for the thrill of it. But when Sam Esmail was brought in, he said "if we're going to do this, we may as well do this properly", and what was only supposed to be a tech demo turned into a full-fledged 13 minute episode of the show.

The episode was released in the middle of season 2, but it takes place a little earlier, probably between episodes 6 and 7 of season 1. It focusses on Elliot reliving a painful memory of a date with his girlfriend Shayla. If you have watched the show, this is a heartbreaking story, but even if you haven't you can probably get some enjoyment out of the episode since it does not rely heavily on the lore of the show and it is told in such an interesting way.

As I have mentioned, the episode is a 360 VR video, meaning that it captures the entire spherical view of what is around the camera, and the viewer can look around as though they were actually in the space with the characters. Most demos I have seen with this technology take place in a single shot, and even if there are cuts they come out of necessity and not as a method of stringing together a narrative. This is the first instance I have ever seen of a filmmaker taking the technology and actually using it to make a film that tells a story. I'm sure there have been others, but the point is that this is way ahead of its time, ridiculously impressive, and very cool to watch.

All in all, this is a stunning little mini-episode of Mr. Robot. It's a must-watch for anyone who is a fan of the show or just interested in the technology.
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Mr. Robot: 406 Not Acceptable (2019)
Season 4, Episode 6
Three deeply uncomfortable vignettes
11 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This season has been pretty trigger-happy so far, killing major characters nearly every episode, so when this one decided to focus on three separate stories of people in apartments threatening each other with violence, I got pretty worried somebody wasn't going to make it out alive. As always, Esmail does a fantastic job keeping the tension at a fever pitch the whole hour. I spent the entire time guessing, and second-guessing, and still finding myself wrong.

Every episode this season has kept me on the edge of my seat, but this one added an extra layer to it; discomfort. The characters say some truly painful things to each other, and it's very tough to sit through. It's like watching a car crash in slow motion; you know it's inevitable. but you keep looking for ways out.

My only complaint about this episode is that it ends. That's not a joke, I'm legitimately complaining. I wish I had the strength of will to wait for the whole season to be out so I could watch it at a non-maddening pace, but Sam did too good a job and I get irrationally angry at him sometimes because of it.
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Mr. Robot: 405 Method Not Allowed (2019)
Season 4, Episode 5
A near-silent, edge-of-your-seat heist thriller
4 November 2019
This episode is very reminiscent of season three's "eps3.4_runtime-err0r.r00". Both episodes take a ground-level, tension-heavy focus on a hack that needs to get done in a very short window of time, and both episodes are structured around an impressive stylistic gimmick. Where the former episode tells its entire story in one continuous shot, this episode is almost entirely without dialogue. Once you pick up on what the episode is doing, it's fun to catch all the clever ways the writers work maintain the silence.

Yet as fun as it is to watch the episode, with all of its stylistic flourishes, the filmmaking never undercuts the tension. Quite the opposite, really. Aside from a couple brief scenes focussing on side characters, the action is sufficiently fast-paced and intense that idle chit-chat would just break things up unnaturally. Instead, you get a 49-minute unrelenting edge-of-your-seat experience. There were points in the episode where I was getting faint because I wasn't breathing enough.

This is a stellar episode of Mr. Robot, one of the best in the show's impressive resume. Where last week's episode was slow and dialogue-heavy, this one is lightning-fast and almost totally silent.
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Mr. Robot: 404 Not Found (2019)
Season 4, Episode 4
A very strange episode indeed
28 October 2019
Most of this episode feels like a road-trip buddy comedy, then towards the end it gets very melancholy and meditative, and then the final scene is just bizarre. I'm really not sure what to make of it. It's a pretty slow episode overall, but it's gorgeous to look at and has some fantastic character development.

In some ways the episode is very reminiscent of "Pine Barrens" from The Sopranos; the plots are quite similar and they both derail the main narrative for a grumpy buddy-adventure in the woods. However, where "Pine Barrens" is very much a comedic episode, "404 Not Found" is much more serious and introspective. While there's definitely a lot of comedy here, most of it arises almost unintentionally from the characters; we laugh, but then feel guilty and wonder if we were supposed to.

All in all, this is not one of my favourite episodes of Mr. Robot, but it's one that I'll remember; it's very different from the rest and it has an absolutely gorgeous aesthetic. I mean, Sam Esmail always directs the hell out of this show, but this one is particularly pretty.
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Mr. Robot: 403 Forbidden (2019)
Season 4, Episode 3
Fantastic tension and surprising emotional resonance.
21 October 2019
There are so many pieces in play this season that it would be easy for it to become messy structurally and to lose track of the characters in all the shuffle - but it doesn't. Sam Esmail is an absolute genius at juggling it all, and it's particularly impressive in this episode. Not only do we have all of our main characters each acting individually (sometimes incongruously) to resist the Dark Army, but on top of it all Vera is back in town, which throws another wrench into things.

There's a palpable sense of tension hanging over this whole episode; you feel like a shot is coming, but you don't know where it's gonna come from or who it's gonna hit. And yet, as I said, the episode never loses track of the characters, delivering some of the most powerful emotional moments in the series, including a backstory for Whiterose and an out-of-nowhere incredible monologue from a new character introduced in this episode.

This season has been on a hot streak so far, and this episode does not let it down. I feel like it has the potential to surpass season 3, which is not something I expected going in. I'm already eagerly awaiting next week.
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Mr. Robot: 402 Payment Required (2019)
Season 4, Episode 2
Feels like a season 2 episode
14 October 2019
This episode stands in sharp contrast to the premiere; where that was exciting, fast-paced and straightforward, this episode is character-driven, slow and perplexing. It reminded me a lot of the second season's tone and style. For some this may be a bad thing, but I enjoyed the second season very much, and I'm happy that this season's high stakes and seven-day timespan won't stop it from having quieter episodes like this one. That being said, the transition from the premiere to this one undeniably gave me a strong feeling of whiplash.

Aside from the beginning, which is a somewhat cool, somewhat clunky exposition dump, and the ending, which mysteriously hints at a massive twist, the episode focusses on the grieving process, largely filtered through the lens of Elliot and Darlene's relationship. The premiere seemed to drive a wedge between the two of them, so I was glad this episode gave us something closer in line with their relationship of seasons past.

Ultimately, this episode did not satiate my craving for more Mr. Robot in quite the same way the premiere did, but I believe it will stand as a very strong part of the whole once all is said and done.
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Mr. Robot: 401 Unauthorized (2019)
Season 4, Episode 1
7 October 2019
I thought I was ready for this episode. I really did. I rewatched the whole series in preparation, and I've spent months poring over the trailers and considering every possible direction this could go. But man... this episode is crazy. It's violent, meta, shocking, and melancholic.

The ending and the beginning both blur the line between what is part the show and what isn't; similar to eps2.7, there is a seamless transition from the recap into the show, so that it's started before you've even realized it. And then, pretty much straight out of the gate, Sam presents us with a shocking scene that leaves you reeling for most of the rest of the episode. Luckily, the middle portion of the episode isn't too crazy; it has some fun stylistic flourishes, but for the most part it's a pretty straightforward depiction of Elliot's war against the Dark Army. There's some great tension and a few surprises, but by the end of the episode the viewer has mostly recovered - so Esmail rips the rug out from under us yet again.

I adore this show, and this has to be one of my favorite episodes. It's definitely my favorite season premiere; usually the episodes of this caliber are reserved for a little further down the line. I can't wait to find out what other gifts Sam has got in store for us.
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Homecoming (2018– )
Stylish, enthralling, and paranoia-inducing; a true noir thriller.
8 September 2018
I've just got back from a screening of the first four episodes of Homecoming at TIFF, and I must say that I am impressed. I was initially a little off-put by the show's strange pacing (it is a drama series with half-hour long episodes), but by the third episode I was really digging it. Although the story moves at a slow pace, it is thoroughly engrossing and packed full of spine-tingling moments.

I have not listened to the podcast this is based on, as I wanted to go in blind, but I'm a massive fan of Mr. Robot and was very excited to see what Sam Esmail would do with a pure noir. I was not disappointed. The directing of the series is ridiculously strong, including some familiar Esmail-isms (top-down shots, unusual framing, etc) and a lot of steady-cam and long shots. The third episode in particular had a number of images that took my breath away.

Outside of the directing, the acting is probably the strongest element of the show. Julia Roberts and Stephan James bring impressive depth and emotion to the two lead roles, while the other characters are more defined by their quirks and are often used comedically. Shea Wigham in particular stands out because of all the subtle little mannerisms he employs to define his character. Bobby Cannavale is also very good, although his character is quite mysterious at this stage.

Overall, I am really loving Homecoming so far, and would recommend it to anybody who likes a good mystery, although it might be a good idea to wait until the whole season is out so it can be watched in hour-long chunks.
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Westworld: Les Écorchés (2018)
Season 2, Episode 7
One of the most intense hours of television I've seen.
4 June 2018
While this season of Westworld has certainly had a few exhilarating moments, for the most part it has been fairly slow. That is, until this episode. It's pretty much non-stop action from start to finish, with several twists and no character safe. I was genuinely surprised at some of the people they killed off in this episode, which is a very rare thing for me. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I breathed a sigh of relief when the episode ended.

The episode also brings Anthony Hopkins back to the show in full force, and going into the episode I thought that it would just be a one-off appearance that would elate me in the moment but ultimately leave me unsatisfied and hungry for more (i.e. Kilgrave in JJ S2). Luckily, it seems he'll be in the show for at least a few more episodes, maybe even more. How they kept his involvement secret is beyond me.

If the remaining three episodes are anywhere near this great, the setup of the first six will have been more than worth it.
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Westworld: Journey into Night (2018)
Season 2, Episode 1
An instantly gripping return, full of promising new storylines
23 April 2018
Westworld is finally back, and it continues to be a model of fantastic storytelling. The year and a half gap between seasons was definitely worth it, as it resulted in a more polished final product. Despite a mysterious opening and a cryptic, non-chronological nature of storytelling, the premiere is instantly engaging and tense and remains so for all 70 minutes. Although the episode serves largely as setup, the mere reveal of the new storylines (and evolutions of old storylines) is incredibly exciting due to the high quality of the writing and acting. I found the scenes between Sizemore and Maeve and the scenes between Bernard and Charlotte to be especially compelling. The characters play off of each other extremely well, and they are in very interesting positions right now.

All in all, this is a very strong premiere. It gets the season off to a running start with an engaging new network of plot-lines and character dynamics. I'm really looking forward to seeing more.
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Legion: Chapter 11 (2018)
Season 2, Episode 3
Just because someone has a different opinion from you does not mean that they are lying.
19 April 2018
I love weird shows. I just do. I know that many find confusion and bewilderment frustrating, but for me they are viscerally satisfying emotions, regardless of whether or not they are followed by clarity. It is perfectly fine to dislike a show like Legion or Twin Peaks for having an abstract style of storytelling. People can like different things, and just because you enjoy different things than I do does not mean that you are less intelligent than me, it just means that we have different tastes. What I cannot stand are people who think that anybody who likes something that they don't is either pretentious or a liar. I'm not pretending to like things just to seem smart. I haven't been paid to review things positively. I just like different things from you. I don't get why it's so hard for some people to grasp the concept that people can have differing opinions without a hidden agenda. This isn't just a one-way issue, either. Fans of shows like this have long been guilty of accusing naysayers of just being "too dumb to get it". This is an equally closed-minded and damaging way of looking at the world, and extremely condescending.

I hope that people will eventually learn to accept that others can have different tastes, and to respect their decisions about what is and isn't for them. Somehow, I doubt it. As Oliver said in episode 4 of season 1, "We are the root of all our problems; our confusion, our anger, our fear of things we don't understand. Violence, in other words, is ignorance."
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Jessica Jones: AKA Playland (2018)
Season 2, Episode 13
A stunningly well executed conclusion to a somewhat shaky season.
26 March 2018
I went into this episode with little to no expectations, given the low IMDb rating and the quality of season 2 up to this point. While none of it is downright bad, and some of it is very good (such as the flashback episode), it feels like the writers spent most of their time trying and failing to find things for the side characters to do. They also never came up with anything as compelling as the Kilgrave storyline... at least, until this episode.

I really, really love this conclusion. It pulls together what felt like questionable decisions for the directions of the characters from previous episodes and justifies them with rich, gripping storytelling and a truly powerful conclusion. I was absolutely stunned by how dark and powerful the conclusion of the main storyline is. The ending of the episode is smart and satisfying.

In some ways, season 2 is the exact inverse of season 1. The first season was one of the most insanely gripping pieces of storytelling I've ever seen, but the last 3 episodes really lost the thread, from the convoluted Simpson storyline to the gratifying but ultimately anticlimactic and dissapointingly final conclusion to the Kilgrave storyline. Season 2, on the other hand, feels somewhat aimless and underbaked throughout a lot of it, but ends in a way that is very satisfying and justifies a lot of the decisions made throughout the season.
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Mr. Robot: shutdown -r (2017)
Season 3, Episode 10
Terrifying, satisfying, and utterly unpredictable; a beyond phenomenal finale.
14 December 2017
I have never been more scared for the fate of characters than I was in the first two-thirds of this episode. Season three has already shown the Dark Army brutally and remorselessly murdering two beloved characters, not to mention thousands of unnamed e-corp employees, so when this episode put three of our main characters in the line of fire, I was completely convinced that some of them were going to die.

It's such a rare thing to find a show that manages to give everyone a compelling arc without giving anyone plot armour, yet that's what this episode does so effortlessly. I did not see a single part of this conclusion coming, but in retrospect it all connects and makes perfect sense. This is the sort of television that only comes around once in a very long while, and I'm so glad I was here to witness it.

It is important to note, while it takes up most the runtime, the harrowingly tense and completely unpredictable sequence I've been talking about is by no means the only part worth discussing. The episode has several big reveals (each of which I saw coming, but were no less satisfying for it), some beautiful interplay between Elliot and Mr. Robot, and another fantastic post-credits scene.

This is the first time that I've come out of a Mr. Robot finale elated and deeply satisfied rather than angry and confused. For once, things were left in a way where I feel okay leaving them for a year.
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The Crown: Mystery Man (2017)
Season 2, Episode 10
The subtle, poignant send-off to an outstanding cast.
12 December 2017
I know this isn't the end of the show, but it sure feels like it. The Crown is planned to last six seasons, but the entire cast will be changed up every second season. That means this is the last episode for Claire Foy, Matt Smith, and all the other actors. I'm sure the new cast will be equally fantastic, but for me so much of the atmosphere comes from these specific performances that it will undoubtedly feel like a completely different show. In certain ways, this episode even feels like a series finale (albeit a quiet and low-key one).

The main plot of the episode is a scandal that I frankly didn't understand, which has something to do with Phillip, a chiropractor, and a communist lady spy. I feel the episode could have done a much better job of explaining the situation, though it ultimately didn't matter that I was unable to follow the minutiae, as it was only really there to set up the final confrontation between Elizabeth and Phillip. Of all the actors in the show's first two seasons, they will be the most sorely missed. Their final scene together in this episode serves as a beautiful and surprising button to their time on the show.

On the whole, while this episode isn't all that eventful, it serves as a very fitting and bitter-sweet way of saying goodbye to a fantastic cast, with a particularly poignant final outing from Claire Foy and Matt Smith.
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The Crown: Paterfamilias (2017)
Season 2, Episode 9
A tough topic, handled well.
12 December 2017
In this episode, Phillip sends his son Charles to the same boarding school he attended as a child. Charles' experience is horrible, and it would be easy to hate Phillip for it, but the episode does a good job of also showing things from his perspective so that we are not sure how to feel. Only at the very end does the episode appear to pick a side, and it's one I agree with.

Up to this point, the royal children have been little more than props, with no distinguishing traits and very few appearances. Given the span of time this series is set to cover, they're going to have to start treating them as characters eventually. I was expecting this to be the episode in which that happens, but it isn't really. We do learn a little bit about Charles, but the episode's primary focus is on Phillip.

Over half of the episode consists of flashbacks to Phillip's time at the boarding school. The actor who plays Young Phillip is fantastic, and his character arc is very emotional, but I would have preferred to have spent a little less time in the past and a little more time in present day developing Charles.

In conclusion, his episode tackles a tough topic (boarding schools) with pathos for all involved and a very emotional but perhaps overly dominant flashback plot.
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The Crown: Dear Mrs. Kennedy (2017)
Season 2, Episode 8
The meeting of two of the greatest women of the twentieth century.
10 December 2017
This episode portrays the (brief) relationship between Elizabeth and the Kennedys. I've been waiting all season for this episode, because I've been very much looking forward to seeing Michael C. Hall's portrayal of JFK. As it turns out, his role amounts to little more than a cameo, with the real focus being on his wife Jackie, and her tumultuous relationship with Elizabeth. As two of the most famous, powerful, and influential women of the twentieth century, it's interesting to see what their interactions may have been like.

It's clear that some time has passed between the end of the last episode and the beginning of this one, and one major theme that we begin to explore is Elizabeth feeling old. It's no surprise then that she feels threatened by Jackie; the bright, young, and beloved socialite. As the Queen questions her own strengths, the episode's b-plot (socialist leanings in Ghana) comes to a head, and she is forced to deal with a precarious diplomatic situation. Ultimately, her sense of competition with Jackie leads her to an unorthodox but extremely effective solution in the best scene of the episode.

I enjoyed the portrayal of the Kennedys in this episode, but I thought their story-line seemed a little truncated. I feel like it might have been a little more effective had they let it play out over the course of a couple episodes. Jodi Balfour is fantastic as Jackie Kennedy, managing to make her sympathetic despite her main role as a foil for Elizabeth. Michael C. Hall did a good job portraying the darker side of JFK that many adaptions shy away from.

In short, this was a thrilling meet-up of two great minds that was a little hampered by the short amount of time it had to flourish, but nonetheless ranks among the more interesting depictions of the Kennedy family.
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The Crown: Matrimonium (2017)
Season 2, Episode 7
Margaret's plans get interrupted... again.
10 December 2017
This episode tracks Margaret's engagement to her photographer boyfriend, and the obstacles that lie in her way. In my opinion, it is definitely the weakest episode of the season so far. It lacks a driving conflict for the entire first half, and when it finally does develop one, it's so similar to Margaret's story in season one (which was frustrating and repetitive in its own right) that it is neither compelling nor interesting. The entire episode, I couldn't help but feel like I had seen it all before. However, the ending is quite different, which gives me hope that we won't have to see this same plot repeated again and will instead explore new stories and sides of Margaret.

For me, the most compelling part of the episode is the party scene in which Elizabeth is forced to interact with the photographer's friends. It's interesting and uncomfortable to see royalty forced to interact with disrespectful modern people, and I wish the episode had explored this dynamic even further. I also enjoyed the scenes between Elizabeth and Margaret, in spite of how repetitive they were, thanks to the fantastic performances from Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby.

All in all, I found this episode to be a little too similar to previous episodes, but I am excited to see what happens next because of the way the ending finally breaks free from the loop Margaret has been on for quite some time.
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The Crown: Vergangenheit (2017)
Season 2, Episode 6
The return of a great character, and a glimpse into his dark past.
9 December 2017
For the first half of this episode, I thought that it was following two unrelated plots; the uncovering of damning documents from the Second World War and the return of David the exiled former king as he searches for work. However, midway through the episode it becomes clear that David is linked to the documents, and that their fallout will determine whether or not he is successful. As a result, what initially seemed like an episode of odds and ends actually dovetails neatly into a single conflict, and a powerful dilemma for Elizabeth.

David was one of the more interesting characters of the first season. Though he may not always be likable, he is certainly complex and fun to watch. He's had scenes of cowardice, disdain, wisdom, and warmth. In this episode, he continues to demonstrate many different sides, though by the end we are left with a resounding disgust for him and his actions that may well herald the end of his role on the show.

David was not the only returning character this episode, though he did play the largest role. In a flashback, we see both Winston Churchill and King George again. John Lithgow and Jared Harris are arguably the two greatest actors to have been on the show, so it was great to see them again (though I wish they had a more substantial role in the episode). And though Tommy Lascelles has been in this season, this episode gave him his first really big scene to chew on.

All in all, this is a fantastic dive into (and seeming sendoff for) a great, multi-layered character who will be remembered as one of the show's best.
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