We’re Retiring!

stock-footage-tv-static-with-stereo-white-noiseWe’re incredibly sad to announce that, as of today, Pond Hopping Girls is going on indefinite hiatus.

We’ve been struggling for a while, now, to juggle real life, PHG and our rapidly dwindling social lives. Something had to give. Regretfully, that something is PHG. As we became more and more busy, and as the list of reviews we were late on piled up, we became more guilty and more stressed. We know that, hard as it may be, leaving PHG behind is the only way we can find that work-life balance we hear people talk about so much. And, possibly, the only way for us to retain the last vestiges of our sanity.

But all is not lost, faithful viewers. The sites (pondhoppinggirls.com and pondhoppinggirls.tumblr.com) will remain active in the hopes that, one day, someone will be willing to pay us to review TV and we can quit our day jobs. Our social media sites (Facebook, Twitter) will also stay up and they may actually see some action – we know that, retirement or not, sometimes we’re just not going to be able to restrain ourselves.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who tuned in to our stuff. Thank you to everyone who commented, followed, liked, shared, retweeted… you name it. And thank you to our regular (and irregular) contributors, J(ohn Carey), Eoghan Dalton and Bridget O’Flynn. It’s been special, guys.

Until next time… – K

“Under Fire” – Castle

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 14.03.31We really need to stop beginning reviews with this particular idiomatic pun, but Castle certainly returned from hiatus with a bang! A great episode, and a great choice as first out of the Castle gates in 2014.

The plot was neither here nor there. A serial arsonist shouldn’t be (and wasn’t) particularly thrilling. The beauty of this episode came in its human collateral – Ryan and Espo. We can’t remember the last time we were so emotional after watching Castle. The last 10 minutes of “Under Fire” were tense, edge-of-your-seat, make-your-way-through-a-box-of-Kleenex scenes.

There was just so much emotion to get through – Beckett and Castle on the scene, Jenny going into labor and having to give birth without Ryan, the goodbye phonecall, the fact that Lanie didn’t get to say goodbye to Espo (not that she needed to, in the end, but still), the happy and tearful reunion… we’re wrecks.

If we had one complaint (and we do), it would be that Continue reading

“Get a Clue” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 5.55.54 PMThis episode was quite disappointing after the fantastic one we got last week. We’re not sure we’ve ever come across a series where the Halloween episode is actually less ‘out there’ than the usual fare. And I suppose this one wasn’t, either, but it was less out there than last week’s episode, “Time Will Tell”, and that was kinda unforgiveable. You can’t follow genuine doubt about time travel with a hackneyed and predictable treasure hunt. You just can’t. Not if you’re hoping for people to get excited.

Castle has, in the past, come out with thoroughly enjoyable Halloween-themed episodes – the one with the vampires, the one with the haunted house, the one where Castle dressed up as Nathan Fillion’s other well-known character, Mal Reynolds – but this was not one of them. This felt derivative, playing off Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code without ever reaching the heights of either (which is saying a lot [none of it flattering] when you consider that second one). Even worse, it felt derivative of Castle itself, reminding us more than a little of Season 2 episode “A Deadly Game”. Replace spies with secret medieval symbols, and one story is not wholly unlike the other. A few neat red herrings prevented the episode from being a complete wash, but we were still hoping for more.

The only aspect of the episode that was at all worth watching was Continue reading

“I Don’t Wanna Talk About it Now” – Nashville

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 1.27.09 PMThis week’s Nashville was a bit of a disappointment. Not because of it’s content, which was pretty good, really (though, admittedly, not great), but because of its closing scene. Because of Juliette. We’re not disappointed in the show, we’re disappointed in her. But we’ll get to that later.

The episode, one could say, revolved around Edgehill’s big Stockholders Showcase. There were offshoots – divorce, Teddy and Peggy (but still no Lamar) – but, by and large, everything had some thread running back to this concert. The concert itself was largely uneventful, other than that it deepened the ever-widening rift between Jeff and Rayna while pushing Gunnar and Zoey together. It was those offshoots, those arcs that played around the edges of the concert, that provided the majority of the week’s drama.

Teddy and Peggy, first. With the exception of Juliette’s, this arc exhibited perhaps the most drastic change from beginning to end. Starting out with a distant Teddy doing the ‘honorable’ thing by supporting Peggy, financially, it ended with Continue reading

“The Asset” – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 1.25.57 PMIt feels as though Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is hitting its stride already. Safely out of the ‘plot set-up’ zone, the show can now focus on the most important thing – entertainment. (But with all that good shit, too, like plot and character development.) The entertainment factor in this episode was fairly high. Think explosions and jumping out of windows into pools and gun battles and gravity machines. Think devious twists and romance and humor. Think everything good.

“The Asset” focused on the rescue of Dr Franklin Hall (Ian Hart, RogueLuck), a S.H.I.E.L.D. asset. But, surrounding that rescue, we got a lot of what makes us know we’re gonna love this show in the long run – a lot of character. After last week’s review, we got a message from a reader (again, thanks for reading!) saying that we’ve been giving Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a free pass. The reader’s biggest concern was that the characters were one-dimensional and that we didn’t seem to care. We responded by saying that, yeah, maybe they weren’t exactly deep just yet, but that we had faith. This week, that faith paid off. We’re beginning to see these characters turn from mere sketches into portraits. To parse the words of Donkey (from Shrek), these characters are a bit like onions. They have a lot of layers. And those layers are being peeled back week by week. Slowly, yes, but surely. No show can paint a fully three-dimensional character from the offset. Sometimes these things take time. And, seeing this week’s offering – a bit of Ward’s miserable childhood, a bit of Skye’s – we’re happy to wait.

The episode also touched on the Coulson mystery, just a little bit. Given May’s reluctance to see combat, Coulson Continue reading

“Need to Know” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 1.12.26 PMOkay then. Castle. “Need to Know”. Uhm… we got nothing. This was one of those exceptionally rare episodes that is almost impossible to review. Or, at least, impossible to start reviewing (and that’s a big part of why you’re getting this review today instead of four or five days ago).

The episode gave us what we’ve been hoping for since the premiere (even though we liked the DC/New York split) – the old team back together. Sort of. It felt a little forced. Castle deciding he had to work a case at the exact same moment that the AG’s team improbably got called to New York for the same case? It made us happy, but it also didn’t feel entirely believable. Not that we cared too much. Caskett back on screen wasn’t exactly an overly exciting occurrence. They haven’t been apart since the season’s return. But having Caskett reunited with Ryan and Esposito? That was welcome. As, surprisingly, was having grouchy Gates back in the team’s corner. We even liked new detective Grant Sullivan (Joshua Bitton, The Pacific). Yeah, he took Beckett’s place, but he’s an enjoyable character. We did start wondering, though… where’s Lanie?

The case itself was surprising, which was a blessing. The one predictable thing – that the jogger who discovered the body was involved in the murder (predictable because that same jogger was Supernatural’s Dick Roman [James Patrick Stuart, 90210, Pretty Woman]) – was only predictable up to a point, and still surprised. We appreciate Continue reading

“Everybody’s Crying Mercy” – Grey’s Anatomy

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 5.09.17 PMAnother disappointing episode from Grey’s Anatomy, and Season 10 isn’t off to a great start.

The main focus of “Everybody’s Crying Mercy” was Richard’s recovery, and that was something we could be glad of. It meant we didn’t have to focus too much on Callie and Arizona’s bitter separation, Derek and Meredith’s exhaustion or Alex and Wilson’s sex life. Though these were all touched on, it was blessedly sparing. Enough to let us know that certain storylines are continuing. What more do you need?

The real disappointment came in Shane’s arc. Though he had a few nice interactions with Bailey and Meredith, and one fantastic scene (and monologue) with Richard, we felt that this was overlooking the most important takeaway from the double-episode season opener – it is his fault that Brooks is dead. He is wracked with guilt. Why didn’t we see that this week? We saw him, yes, a little more serious than normal, and a little less inclined to crack a smile. But Continue reading

“Never No More” – Nashville

Screen Shot 2013-10-05 at 7.39.34 PM“Never No More”, the second episode of Nashville’s second season, is more what we had come to expect from the ABC hit. Given space, a little at least, from Rayna and Deacon drama, the show once again flourished. This episode allowed us, now that Rayna is well(ish) and Deacon is out of prison, to really explore what the rest of the season could offer us.

And that’s going to be a lot. Certain important arcs – Peggy’s fake pregnancy and Lamar’s wife-killing – were left out entirely, perhaps detrimentally. Every time we saw Tandy on screen, we were desperate to know her reaction to what she learned about her father’s past. But it was swept under the rug in favor of exploring Rayna’s present and Juliette’s past.

But that was fine. We actually enjoyed the episode, in spite of those notable absences. Rayna’s recuperation was, blessedly, given little focus. Used solely as a crutch to support a brief pseudo-rekindling of her romance with Teddy, we weren’t subjected to a full arc of her gadding about in pajamas and looking poorly. Instead, she launched right back into work, allowing us to fully relish the season’s new ‘big bad’, Jeff Fordham.

His first episode on screen and he’s already caused all kinds of drama, and given us the shape of the season to come. Treating Juliette as replaceable, stealing Will from Rayna (a strand that should prove interesting moving forward, as Will will now find himself working with his former paramour), telling Rayna he has no faith in Scarlett or Highway 65… he’s already Continue reading

“Dreamworld” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 9.34.37 PMNothing too strange or startling from this week’s Castle. As predicted, he survived. How could he not, we all say. He’s the lead character. So, no, no danger. No drama. No suspense (except the suspense of wondering whether or not we’d have to drag this out into a third episode).

What there was, though in far smaller quantities than one would have hoped, was teary emotion. Martha and Alexis, in their ‘final’ conversation with Castle, made us a little misty eyed, but the emotional punch wasn’t there in the way it usually is. Martha and Alexis didn’t know Castle was dying, so that could go part of the way to explaining the relative calm, but it felt like something more. That feeling was compounded by Beckett, who, we felt, seemed thoroughly unfazed by her fiancé’s imminent demise. I hesitate to lay too much blame at Stana Katic’s feet, but surely some acting compromise between stoic composure and abject despair could have been reached? She didn’t have to just pick one. All in all, it added up to a general sense that the actors, like us, have just had enough of will he/she die or won’t he/she.

The big conspiracy, too, was a little less exciting than usual. Perhaps that can be blamed on the current bi-location format. When in New York, Castle and Beckett play off Ryan and Espo as much as each other and, without that dynamic, the drama felt a little flat.

It was the final moments, however, that Continue reading

“I Fall to Pieces” – Nashville

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 10.06.56 PMStrong return from Nashville, ably upping the drama after last season’s already drama-filled finale. Straight out of the gate, we’re going to deal with those major cliffhangers of last season. “I Fall to Pieces” takes place two weeks after the finale, so everything is more or less settled.

First up, Rayna and Deacon. Last we saw of the pair they had just been in a horrific crash and it wasn’t clear which of them, if either, would survive. We strongly suspected that Rayna would, at least, for obvious, show-related reasons. This first episode back doesn’t kill us with suspense – we learn early on that Rayna is in a medically-induced coma and that Deacon is in jail, charged with driving under the influence and reckless driving. He was mounting absolutely zero defense despite the fact that none of the charges were founded in fact, wanting to punish himself for his role (however indirect) in Rayna’s near death. Rayna’s coma was played to great effect throughout the episode – as a source of guilt for Maddie, as a publicity boost for Juliette, as a kick in the face for Lamar – and Charles Esten impressed with his angry, vitriolic insistence on self-flagellation. We were happy that this storyline wasn’t dragged out ad nauseum, though, with a final moments resolution seeing Rayna wake up and Deacon’s release from prison. Another special mention here for Charles Esten, whose reaction to the news that Rayna was okay was perfection. And neat flashbacks seen during Rayna’s coma gave us a new view of her and Deacon’s relationship, and explained a lot. They also let Rayna off the hook for the Maddie situation – it was Tandy who pushed her not to tell him.

Then there’s that Gunnar/Scarlett proposal. The resolution of this particular cliffhanger left us wondering if ABC have some rule about how they can’t have more than one engagement in any given season. Beckett said yes to Castle, so Scarlett can’t say yes to Gunnar… It’s a pity. We loved these two together. But Continue reading