Grading the 2014-15 Television Season: Shows We Loved, Hated and Side-Eyed

Empire

It took me exactly two episodes to get hooked on the show and about five seconds to fall in love with Cookie. This character is everything I never knew I wanted on my TV. As fiercely loving and loyal as she is over the top and sassy, there’s nothing Cookie can’t or won’t do, especially if it’s to protect her sons. Empire embraces its soapy roots, which can lead to predictable stories, but that doesn’t matter as long as they’re fun to watch. Aside from Cookie, my favorite part of the show was the three brothers and their complicated relationships with each other and their parents. I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the elevator scene; quiet, powerful and packed with emotion. The great music is just a cherry on top of a fun drama, but I have to agree with my fellow staffers: I’m nervous about season two. The sophomore slump has ruined too many promising shows and the season one finale managed to feel both rushed and like not enough happened the hour. Season 1 Overall Grade: A

theflashThe Flash

This gets my vote for the best new show of the season. The Flash burst out of big brother Arrow’s shadow right off the bat by being fun and brightly colored (literally – compare Star Labs to the Arrow Cave) instead of drowning all the characters in darkness. That didn’t mean there weren’t heavy moments; anything involving Barry and his parents felt like a knife in the heart. But the pain drove the story and made the character stronger and more compelling. Grant Gustin deserves all the praise in the world for his flawless portrayal of Barry Allen. The supporting and guest casts all brought their A-games and aside from the tired ‘Don’t tell Iris’ plot that dragged out way too long, the storylines moved at what often felt like an accelerated pace, but it worked. So many episodes felt like a season finale and each new twist managed to be greater than the last. I haven’t been this excited about a new show since TVD premiered. After the season finale, I cannot wait to see what season two brings. Season 1 Overall Grade: A+

Once Upon A Time

It pains me to say that this wins my ‘most disappointing show’ award. I LOVED season three, but season four started off messy and just kept sliding deeper. The idea of bringing on the Frozen characters seemed like a good one and it did give the show a ratings boost, but our main cast suffered because of it. While Emma benefitted from plenty of excellent character development, Regina, Hook, Snow, Charming, etc. were left by the wayside in 4A. Plots were started and dropped and there were a few too many retcons to shoehorn the new characters into play. That trend continued into 4B when the Queens of Darkness came on the scene and we learned Snow and Charming accidentally stole a baby. The two-hour season finale was the light at the end of the tunnel and the season’s saving grace. Emma being the new Dark One opens up a great deal of possibility and maybe season five will finally be character-focused instead of plot driven. 4A Grade: C / 4B Grade: B-

x04The Originals

The first 13 episodes of season two were nearly flawless. The show tied up loose ends in the premiere and then jumped right into what would be the season’s major arc: family members returning from the dead/centuries of sleep to ruin Klaus’ life and/or steal his baby. We got to see the siblings banding together to stop Finn and Esther only to be torn apart after Kol’s (second) death as Freya appeared on the scene and Klaus grew increasingly paranoid at the threat Dahlia posed. Some of the show’s supporting characters like Marcel and Cami ended up on the back burner for too long and Hayley lost most of her agency as the guest stars heavily dominated several episodes leading up to the finale. But this show has always been centered on Klaus and every single thing that happened this season shaped his character. From the personal growth he showed when he forgave Elijah for killing Tatia, to his selfish choices to punish his siblings when he felt slighted, Klaus was all over the map in the best possible way and it was a joy to watch. Now can we please get a Klamille kiss, writers? Episodes 1-13 and 22 Grade: A+ / Episodes 14-21 Grade: B

The Vampire Diaries

After two bumpy seasons, the show went back to the basics this year and focused on the characters instead of loading the audience down with heavy, often confusing mythology. In doing so, the writers breathed fresh life into the characters and their relationships and the show returned to being emotional, exciting, must-see TV. The slow introduction of the Gemini Coven proved to be brilliant as we came to care about the individual characters before we learned of their connections to each other and ultimately, Mama Salvatore. Chris Wood gets the guest star MVP, but as much as I loved (and loved to hate) Kai, I applaud the writers for keeping him an irredeemable villain and giving him what he deserved in the finale. I also appreciate how the writers subtly moved Caroline and Bonnie front and center in stories throughout the season and further explored their bonds with Stefan and Damon, but still managed to give Elena a sendoff fitting for a main character. For me, Stefan and Damon have always been the true heart of the show and I’m excited to see what their next chapter will look like. Season 6 Overall Grade: A+

-Mandy Treccia

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