Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Delivers a Stellar 100th Outing in “The Real Deal”

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I’ve had some version of a “Hey, you should come back to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” post in my drafts for awhile now, at least since the second half of last season, when the show delivered my favorite run of episodes from any of my shows that year. At the beginning of this season (which started in December), they did another pod of episodes that I completely adored. And finally, last night, they offered a stellar 100th episode that was emblematic of everything I love about this show, even when it breaks my heart. It was dark and gritty and emotional and twisty, but still found time for levity and one of their most romantic moments to date. So, I’m saying it now: it’s time to give S.H.I.E.L.D. another go.

The main reason I’ve stayed with this show for the past five seasons is that I absolutely love the characters and relationships. They’re believable, grounded, and unbearably human in the midst of aliens and time travel and whatever other insanity befalls the team. Throughout the show’s run, even if I wasn’t loving a particular storyline, the characters were always there for me to enjoy. Last night’s episode was fairly light on plot, fairly heavy on great moments between characters, particularly Phil Coulson and the members of his team.

Phil is undoubtedly the heart of this show, a character so great it was built on his ridiculously unbelievable, even by Marvel’s standards, resurrection. Coulson—and Clark Gregg—is a huge part of why this show works. The minute you stop believing the stakes is the minute it falls apart, and Clark Gregg has been selling those stakes for the past five seasons. He had a great moment with Fitz, making him promise to finally seal the deal with lady love Jemma. He had a lovely scene with May that showed exactly how much he cares about her, even when it’s to his detriment. The fact that she wasn’t angrier about what he kept from her showed in a beautiful, very May way how much she cares about him, too. And he had a couple of absolutely heart-wrenching moments with Daisy, the closest person he has to a daughter.

Anchored by Chloe Bennet’s wonderful performance, we saw how much Coulson trusts Daisy to take over S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as how much her love for the organization is actually a love for its members, with Coulson at the top of the list. This was one of those great full-circle moments from the pilot; Coulson recruited Daisy himself, believed in her, and in turn gave her something to believe in. Even though I obviously don’t want Coulson to die, it would be very, very cool to see Daisy step into his shoes by the end of the series.

This episode also showed how progressively gritty the show’s gotten. And truthfully, the darker it gets, the better the show becomes. Case in point, Daisy’s speech about how debilitated the team is now: May, once their trainer and prizefighter, may never be the same. Yo-Yo literally doesn’t have arms. And there was a particularly cutting comment about this not being Hydra, Leopold because, of course, sweet Fitz legitimately thought he was a Hydra agent at one point. Gone are the days of S.H.I.E.L.D. operating in the light, saving the day in a sleek, souped-up plane. Though they did make an appearance this episode, Coulson hasn’t had a reason to wear his trademark aviators in a long time.

Another impressive thing about this hour was that it paid homage to the show’s past without getting bogged down by excessive Easter eggs and big returns. Because truthfully, when you’re taking it all the way back to Phil Coulson dying on the table in The Avengers, when you’re taking it all the way back to Mike Peterson, the very first S.H.I.E.L.D. case ever, then you don’t really need to show, say, Ward, especially when he just popped up in the framework. Instead, there were tastes of past villains and monsters, but far more meaningfully, they focused on the monster that is Coulson’s fear of losing his family.

This aspect was done so well and fit together so believably, that for at least thirty seconds I thought: “Would they really be that ballsy? Would they really say that this whole thing was a dream?” That’s a credit to the writing, and again, to Clark Cregg’s fantastic performance, as well as the effective flickers of flashbacks that put you inside Coulson’s head; in real life, he would have only had time to remember slivers, after all.

This episode was dark and emotional in many ways, but S.H.I.E.L.D. has always used levity beautifully, and a long, long-awaited wedding is about the best form of levity there is. When I heard there was a big ‘shipper moment this episode, I assumed it would be the similarly long-awaited non-LMD Coulson/May kiss. We did get that great conversation between them, but the biggest moment was saved for FitzSimmons. I like May and Coulson together, but this felt more appropriate as the big 100th episode event. FitzSimmons are the show’s longest romantic relationship, going all the way back to season one, the finale of which found them at the bottom of the ocean, a trauma they barely survived. In the last few seasons, they’ve spent more time apart than together. At one point, they were literally on separate planets. They’re a true against-all-odds, even when the universe hates us love story and the relationship that’s most representative of the show and the spirit of S.H.I.E.L.D.

As I said, this show is a lot darker than it used to be, both metaphorically and literally, but here, for this big, wonderful moment between two of its characters, everyone got to be in the light, something that lent specialness to the occasion and gave all of the characters a much-deserved break. Least of all Deke, who, because of course this show had to give us one of its patented twists in a landmark episode, just watched his grandparents get married.

What did you think of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s 100th outing? Hit the comments, and let me know!


2017 in Review: TV That Made Me Happy

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I don’t think anyone will call 2017 the greatest year on record. Because of that, I found myself drawn to good, escapist TV even more than usual this year, seeking shows and stories that would make me happy above all else. With the generally horrific state of our country, TV was both a refuge and frankly, a reason to get up in the morning, making me especially grateful for its existence. Here are are some TV things that made me happy this year:

The idealism of Madam Secretary

There’s a lot I love about Madam Secretary: it’s feminist, it lets its characters be happy, and it features what’s currently my favorite marriage on television. And, impressively, it’s politically relevant while still feeling escapist. M Sec takes place a few years in the future, which allows it to comment on current happenings—fake news, for instance—but with a happier outcome. The promise of what could be gave me some much, much-needed fuel this year.

Supergirl‘s Lena Luthor

I think everyone has a handful of fictional characters they just flat-out love, even if they can’t quite explain why. This year, Lena became one of mine. It’s not that I relate to her necessarily; she’s got a tragic backstory, her best friend is Supergirl, and someone tries to kill her at least once a week. It’s more that she’s such a fully realized character—thanks in no small part to Katie McGrath’s performance—that I can’t help but both root for and admire her. Plus, she’s just a fun character to watch: fierce, funny, self-deprecating, and insanely good at her job.

Heartfelt comedy

The same way I like my TV escapist, I like my comedy heartfelt, and that was especially true this year. I certainly enjoy the occasional piece of cynical comedy, but Parks and Rec isn’t my favorite show of all time for nothing. Luckily, 2017 offered a whole host of shows that would make Leslie and Co. proud: the wonderfully specific Speechless, the consistently warm  Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the already sweetly hopeful The Mayor.

The fierce females of Legends of Tomorrow

I love the term “badass lady,” but its meaning is often reduced to “literally kicks a lot of ass.” The ladies of Legends, Sara, Amaya, and Zari, do that—and man is it fun to watch—but they’re also leaders and strategists, as well as empathetic and caring people. There are various types of badass-ness, and I took just as much pleasure in watching Sara captain the Waverider as I did her honest conversation with Alex Danvers about lost loves.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I maintain that AOS is one of the best shows no one’s watching—not even one of the best superhero shows, just one of the best shows. Last season’s third “pod” of episodes, which found Team S.H.I.E.L.D. trapped in a computer simulation, was one of the tensest, most heart-wrenching series of episodes from any of my shows last year. What’s more, this season’s first few episodes have somehow kicked it up a notch, with a truly great premiere episode reveal that left the gang in a terrifying dystopia on…well, I won’t spoil it.

A genuinely lighter Grey’s Anatomy 

I’ll admit I was very skeptical when the creatives at Grey’s promised this season would hearken back to the show’s slightly less angsty, significantly more fun glory days, but I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. This fall, the show wrapped up relationship drama that had long grown stale, hit character beats I’ve been waiting forever for, and delivered a beautifully nostalgic 300th episode that reminded me exactly why this show is still on the air.

Late night comedy

I don’t know that this made me happy, per say, but it did make me feel understood and because of that was even more essential to my sanity this year than last. This was a mind-numbingly sad year in a lot of ways, but watching the likes of Meyers, Colbert, Bee, Oliver, and even Kimmel shake their heads in disbelief reminded me that this isn’t normal, and we can’t let it become so. Gallows humor also played a big role in 2017; sometimes you have to laugh for a second before you can pick yourself up and do something.

A creative resurgence for The Flash

Like with Grey’s, my hopes weren’t high that The Flash would actually be able to rediscover the fun of its excellent first season, but this season has struck the perfect balance of hilarious and high stakes. As their first non-speedster villain, The Thinker has proven to be an original and formidable opponent for Team Flash, and the show’s epic fall finale cliffhanger has me counting down the days ’til its return.

Shows that take risks

My two favorite shows on the air right now are Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and The Good Place, two shows that couldn’t be further from one other in regards to plot, setting, tone, etc. However, they both have one thing in common: they surprise me at every turn. I don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t watched, but The Good Place has redefined itself countless times in its first two seasons, supremely confident that its viewers could make the leaps required. Meanwhile, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend offers smart, funny, genre-defying storytelling week after week while also meditating on mental illness and the female experience. As a student of TV, watching these shows take risks no one else is taking has been an unmitigated delight.

A bloodless May

Every TV fan has a love/hate relationship with the month of May: sweeps are awesome, but May brings with it the possible renewals and dreaded cancellations of your favorite shows. However, this May, for the first time ever, every single one of my shows got renewed. I’m unfortunately drawn to shows consistently on the bubble, so I’m not expecting it to happen again anytime soon, but it certainly made me happy this year.

A truly great Once Upon a Time “requel”

With more than half of its cast leaving last season, I went into this seventh season of OUAT completely expecting to be disappointed. Imagine my surprise when I actually loved the first half of this season. I genuinely like the new characters, the storytelling has been familiar but refreshing, and, most impressively, the writers found a way to keep Emma and Killian happy despite Jennifer Morrison’s departure. Plus, though not part of this season’s “requel,” last season’s wedding/musical extravaganza and truly lovely finale managed to hit all the right notes, giving my favorite past characters the perfect sendoff.


The first ten episodes of this show were pure joy: fizzy, feminist, and funny, it offered nuanced portrayals of a whole host of female characters, all badasses in their own way. Each episode flew by, a crackerjack of a story that fed into a smartly plotted and wholly entertaining first season. This was one of the most confident introductions to a show in recent memory, and binging it was one of my favorite TV experiences of all time, not just in 2017.

Your turn! What TV things made you happy this year? Hit the comments, and let me know!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review: The Squad Celebrates Their 99th Episode

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I really, really love milestone episodes of TV shows, especially because everyone has a different way of approaching them. Some go the big event route, with a wedding or some other momentous occasion. Others take the approach Nine-Nine did this week, with a relatively low key storyline that nonetheless represented everything I love about the show. I tend to prefer the latter approach, especially when it’s done as well as it was here.

Of course, instead of celebrating the traditional 100th episode, B99 made their 99th outing the big one. And even though it technically did include an event—the funeral of the squad’s former C.O.—that was more the jumping off point for the episode than the focus.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t feel special, though. It took the entire team outside of Brooklyn, something we’re only occasionally treated to. It kept the squad together for a single storyline, which always lets the fantastic cast play off each other for maximum hilarity. It also gave every single character a moment to shine. So like I said, completely representative of everything great about this show.

For Amy, the funeral pictures made her amusingly aware of her Type A tendencies, sending her on a quest to be more laid back. As hilarious as it was watching her try to be chill as things went further and further off the rails, even better was her return to glory at the end, coming up with an epic plan to get Holt back to New York in time for his interview.

As he has time and time again in recent seasons, Jake got a chance to show how far he’s come since the pilot, enacting numerous plans before handing the reins to Amy, discovering Holt’s sabotage, and sharing a really wonderful moment with his Captain where he expressed the impact Holt’s had on his life. Most importantly, though, Jake finally learned how to do the worm. Priorities, guys!

Other characters got their time as well, with Boyle’s Texas cousins making an appearance—I died at his “Nice to meet you.” after saying “I love you.” Terry showed off his undying love of luxury as well as his inherent kindness, offering Holt his prized first class mint just before his interview. Hitchcock and Scully were, well, appropriately Hitchcock and Scully, with their claims to fame this episode involving stinking up the RV bathroom and trying to avoid responsibility.

Holt, meanwhile, not only orchestrated nearly every event in the episode in a truly spectacular montage, but also showed the best thing about this show in an episode that honored its many strengths: its sense of family. For Holt, it meant sabotaging his biggest dream—becoming police commissioner—because he’d compromised himself by saving Jake and Rosa. There was a lot to love about that reveal, from Amy figuring out that Holt hadn’t turned down the mob boss’s offer to Jake and Rosa’s instant gratitude. The sweetest, though, was the squad convincing Holt to go after the commissioner job anyway, saying his debt was everyone’s responsibility now. Appropriately, that later led to one of their patented “Nine-Nine!” cheers, without a doubt my favorite way to close an episode of this excellent show.

Other thoughts on “99”:

-When Holt accepted the offer in the premiere, I worried it would hang over the show, negatively affecting its goofy tone. Truthfully, I forgot about it at some point near the start of the season, so that clearly didn’t happen.

-I missed Gina a whole lot here. I know Chelsea Peretti couldn’t have very well ended her maternity leave early for one episode, but I wish they’d paid homage to Gina in some way, especially in such a monumental episode.

-I had to give this its own section because it was so, so wonderful: Rosa’s—I’m not going to say revelation, but rather—confirmation that she’s bi. This was handled beautifully, and Charles made for the perfect confidant, not asking her questions about her sexuality, but instead pestering her about her girlfriend in exactly the same way he has her boyfriends. Stephanie Beatriz was very, very good this episode, and I highly recommend this extremely thoughtful interview with her.

What did you think of Brooklyn‘s 99th outing? Hit the comments, and let me know!


The Mindy Project Review: Mindy Says Goodbye in “It Had to Be You”

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The Mindy Project is a show that I’ve consistently liked and often loved throughout its six-season run. The last couple of seasons haven’t been quite as sharp as the first few; much as it pains me to say, it was never quite the same once Chris Messina departed as a series regular. Mindy was at her best when she had a great foil, romantic or otherwise, and they never found one quite as good as Danny. Weirdly though, even though it led to a bit of a decline in the show’s quality, I was happy when, and am still happy that, Mindy broke up with Danny. At that point, he’d become insufferable, shown that he wasn’t the dream guy or even a good guy at that time in his life. More importantly, Mindy making that heartbreaking choice was her biggest piece of character development in the entire series.

That was a defining moment for The Mindy Project as well; it showed that, while the show loved romcoms, it didn’t have to be one. They deconstructed but never mocked the genre and proved that, even if Mindy Lahiri adored the idea of a romcom-worthy romance, she knew she was the heroine of her story, not the co-lead. She could want but didn’t need a man to be happy.

Impressively, though, she never gave up on the fantasy of love or became disillusioned with it. After all the romantic lows in her life: the breakups, the failed engagements, the recent divorce, in this series finale, Mindy was still a woman who believed in love as much as she did at the start of the series, a woman who ran across New York City to prove it.

Romcoms are all about the endings: the romantic gestures, the declarations of love, the “I run to you”s, moments so big they almost make you forget everything that came before. Our favorite movies are known for one unforgettable scene: a kiss in the rain, a proposal in broken Portuguese, countless sprints through airports. But this was about a woman discovering that perhaps the messy middle of a romcom is more satisfying than the fairytale ending. In a show that both deconstructed and paid homage to the genre, how appropriate that it subverted it with its ending: a quiet moment of Mindy watching TV with the father of her child, a man she loves not because he’s perfect but because he’s trying.

For me, the best shows are the ones where you can’t predict the outcome of the series finale while you’re watching the pilot because the characters have grown and changed and evolved so much throughout the course of the show’s run. Watching the first episode of The Mindy Project, I never would have predicted that this simple, everyday ending is what would make Mindy happiest. And I’m so, so glad that’s the case.

What did you think of The Mindy Project‘s series finale? Let me know in comments!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review: “Bad Beat”

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Thanks to the World Series, it’s been a couple weeks since we’ve had a new episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Much as I missed the show, the timing of the break worked out nicely. “HalloVeen” was a big, eventful episode, and it was fun to bask in Jake and Amy’s proposal a bit instead of returning to business as usual the next week.

This week, we got a nice engagement reference in the cold open, with Jake asking Boyle to be his best man—sorry, BM—, but it definitely seems like Jake and Amy’s new relationship status isn’t going to shake up the show too much.

The A-story was a great example of Nine-Nine taking a storyline with a high degree of difficulty and making it look easy. Here, they revealed Holt’s gambling addiction, had him both fall off the wagon and get back on it again, and somehow made the entire thing funny and fairly believable. I always enjoy it when Holt takes a break from being the morally superior one because not only does Andre Braugher get to add layers to an already nuanced character, it also lets other people, usually Jake, do the same thing. In this case, he proved he’s no grammar slouch. Amy would be proud!

The B-stories were pretty effective, too, with Boyle and Amy teaming up for a food truck business, of all things. When they started talking about their new venture, it seemed nonsensical, but then I remembered Boyle’s longtime food obsession. I actually really liked the sentiment that one of his passions could turn into something profitable. It was also nice that Amy supported him in it, even if she did, rightfully so, have a few concerns along the way. I like Boyle and Amy storylines because it’s fun to be reminded that the two most important people in Jake’s life are so different. Sidebar for those of you who watch Once Upon a Time, but how random that both shows had a food-truck-used-in-a-crime-scene plot this week?

The other B story, which arguably got the least amount of screentime, was actually my favorite, with Rosa, Hitchcock, and Scully competing to see who could stay sitting the longest. In the past, storylines with these three have largely involved Rosa—like pretty much everyone else in the precinct—mocking Hitchcock and Scully, even if they usually end with a nice moment of some kind. This storyline, though, was pure fun, with Rosa commiserating with the guys throughout the day, coming up with the idea to slide their chairs all the way to the hot dog cart—”The only thing holding us back is society!”—, and ending the competition legitimately respecting them. I love me some stone-cold Rosa Diaz, but it’s also a whole heck of a lot of fun to see her let loose; her genuine grin when riding down the elevator in her chair was adorable.

What did you guys think of “Bad Beat”? Let me know in comments!

Once Upon a Time Review: “The Garden of Forking Paths”

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This third episode of season seven was the most quintessentially Once of the three we’ve seen so far, switching easily between past adventures in the forest and present-day ones in Hyperion Heights. The first two episodes did that as well, but here the stories in both places had the similar thread of Cinderella/Jacinda learning something and Regina/Roni helping her get there. This sort of mirroring was done a lot in the first season especially, and it felt pleasantly familiar here, much like the references to the past in the first two episodes did.

The interactions between Cinderella and Regina worked the best for me. Regina quickly adopted a sort of mothering presence with her, which was both sweet and logical considering Cinderella will one day become Henry’s true love. However, I also got the sense that Regina saw Cinderella as an equal, an independent woman she instantly respected, regardless of the choice she made in this episode.

Their conversations also had the most direct connection to the past, with Regina telling Cinderella that she needs to forgive herself first and that “Believe me, I’ve done a lot worse.” Regina has always made a habit of reminding people of her past deeds whenever possible, almost as if in penance for what she put her family and friends through. It’s a pretty defining part of her character at this point, so it was nice to see that in play here. TV is my favorite storytelling medium largely because of how easily it allows for character development, so it’s extremely satisfying to see Regina go from the Evil Queen terrorizing everyone to a key part of another kingdom’s resistance.

The Henry/Lucy scenes also worked well and did a lot to further establish that relationship. It’s tough because there can only be so many scenes of Lucy begging Henry to believe before it becomes exactly what Emma and Henry’s relationship was in the first season, but I think they’ve done a decent job of differentiating it so far. Even though, as Lucy said, their storyline here was very similar to Henry looking in the mines, I appreciated that they acknowledged that similarity. Plus, it makes total sense that Lucy would use Henry’s book as research of sorts.

Three episodes in, certain new characters are starting to pop for me, like Cinderella and Tiana, while others, like Victoria, aren’t. Until that last scene, Victoria felt like a dime a dozen villain to me, both in the forest and in Hyperion Heights. The mystery prisoner, however, feels like she could be a very interesting villain, or at least play a role in making Victoria a more interesting villain herself. I’m also glad we found out exactly what Lady Tremaine/Victoria’s motivation is. It’s pretty dark for this show but enjoyably so, and I’m sure that information will help make her a more specific villain as well.

A couple of other thoughts on “The Garden of Forking Paths”:

It was a very small moment, but there seemed to be a hint of something between Hook and Tiana. It wasn’t a big enough thing for me to properly gauge how I’d feel about it, but there’s no doubt that seeing Hook with another person might be a little strange, especially at the beginning. Even though he’s not our Killian, it’s been several seasons since we’ve seen him with anyone but Emma Swan.

The Weaver/Rogers storyline fell really flat for me this episode; I just don’t find their dynamic all that compelling yet. They seemed to tread pretty much the same ground they did in the last episode, with Weaver establishing that he also wants to take Victoria down, albeit in a less moral way than Rogers does. I’m assuming I’ll be more interested in Weaver once we find out in next week’s episode exactly what led Rumple there.

What did you think of “The Garden of Forking Paths”? Let me know in the comments!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review: Jake Plans a Heist of His Own in “HalloVeen”

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Well. That’s going to be hard to top next year.

I have a history of loving Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Halloween episodes, mostly because they’re unapologetically fun in a way that’s becoming rare on television. Sure, they make you suspend your disbelief and would probably feel repetitive if you watched them back-to-back, but as the last four seasons of this show have proven, you can’t go wrong with putting this crazy group of characters in an extreme competition and letting them go wild. It also helps that the Halloween episodes 1) let Holt take off his Captain hat and descend into the madness and 2) allow the characters to be both amusingly and unusually mean to one another.

This year’s heist had a lot of specific things working for it, too, including a great cold open that really told a story and an always welcome appearance by Cheddar. Naturally, said appearance was made by Andre Braugher’s delivery of “This bitch? Please!” as well as “You betrayed me. You’ll explain yourself later.” There were also a couple of nice references to Gina that made her feel a part of things; I’m always glad when shows actually acknowledge an actor or actress’ absence instead of hoping the audience won’t notice. Plus, anyone who follows their high school friends on Facebook can appreciate a good pyramid scheme joke.

Of course, there was one very specific thing this episode had going for it and that’s one of Mike Schur’s patented out of the blue relationship moments. If you watched Parks and Rec—and you may want to avert your eyes if you didn’t—then you’ll know that show was pretty well-known for sneak attack proposals and weddings. Ben and Leslie, for example, didn’t get engaged during a sweeps episode or a premiere or finale. Instead, it happened in an otherwise uneventful episodethe show’s Halloween outing, as it were.

I loved this way of approaching big couple moments on Parks, and specifically this way of approaching proposals, because it mirrors the way those moments go in real life. They don’t have to be, but proposals are oftentimes spontaneous and surprising—especially for the person being proposed to—and slipping a TV proposal in at an unexpected time lets the viewer feel the excitement of that.

Ben and Leslie’s is one of my favorite, if not absolute favorite, TV proposals ever. It’s realistic, romantic, both surprising and completely logical, and very, very them. I feel exactly the same way about Jake and Amy’s.

For one, I loved that it happened during a hugely over-the-top competition; competitiveness has always been a big aspect of their relationship, and they both love the Halloween Heist especially. I loved the proposal’s role reversal, with Jake making an elaborate plan in hopes of actually surprising Amy, the planner and predictor of all things. And I loved the proposal itself, with its hilarious and specific references to their relationship, including “title of your sex tape!”, Jake happily calling Amy the best detective, and their eternal disagreement over Die Hard.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Andy Samberg and Melissa Fumero, who made it feel raw and genuine to the point that I started to wonder if any of it was improvised and who have just generally done a fantastic job of making their characters’ relationship feel realistic and well worth rooting for.

What comes after a big moment like a proposal can often feel anti-climatic, but much to my surprise, the last two minutes of the episode packed a sweet punch as well, with Jake’s awesomely feminist way of asking Amy’s dad for permission and his reveal of when he decided to propose: during a wonderfully normal moment where Amy was arguably at her most Amy. I know I already gave him kudos, but Andy Samberg’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reaction there was absolutely perfect.

I’ve buried the lede, though, because we can all agree that Charles, Jake and Amy’s greatest ‘shipper and champion, actually passing out from enthusiasm was the episode’s, nay, season’s greatest moment.

What did you think of “HalloVeen”? Stoked for the Santiago-Peralta union? Hit the comments, and let me know!