Television Tuesdays: Pitch

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Premise

Pitch centers on Ginny Baker, the first woman to ever become a Major League Baseball player. She’s called up from the minor leagues to pitch for the San Diego Padres. Suddenly, she’s thrust into the spotlight as she garners attention from her new teammates, fans, and critics alike. Pitch airs Thursdays, at 8:59 EST on Fox.

Overview

Pitch is, of course, about baseball. Or rather, it exists in the world of baseball, but it’s about personal goals and the struggles and sacrifices that must be made to live the dream. Ginny isn’t just a celebrity, she’s a new celebrity and a professional athlete and must therefore learn to carefully navigate the sometimes-thin line between her public and private self. News reporters want her comment and  young girls clamor for her autograph, leaving Ginny to learn how to be in demand.

Not all of her time is spent surrounded by adoring fans and curious media. Her new teammates are, at best, skeptical. At their worst they are sexist and chauvinistic, forcing Ginny to raise her hackles and fight extra hard to prove herself. She gets to practice early and puts in extra training while balancing media requests and being the sole player on her team asked to give public comments about difficult topics, like the rape of collegiate female athlete.

I’ve been told by friends who know professional baseball better than myself that the MLB games portrayed on Pitch accurately reflect reality. For baseball fans tuning in, that may be an important factor, but even people who don’t follow baseball or even care about sports can find something to root for in Pitch. The show is full of heart and humor. I’m insanely happy to see a professional female athlete being portrayed on TV. Not only that, but we have a woman of color leading the show. This representation is a step in the right direction, but there are some limitations: male characters still significantly outnumber the female. This is, to an extent, expected in a show about professional baseball and the female characters we’ve met so far seem to be fully realized with their own ambitions and personalities.

Pitch is one of the rare shows that makes me genuinely happy to watch. It has dramatic moments and an interesting plot, but what really keeps me invested in shows are the characters. I like Ginny Baker. I, like the fans in the show, cheer for her. Her attempts to forge genuine connections with her teammates is relatable. And, let’s not forget, the show has Zack Morris. Zack Morris was my first TV crush and Mark-Paul Gosselaar is just as captivating and fun to watch on Pitch as he was on Saved By The Bell.

Relationships

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Ginny and Mark – Ginny’s closest teammate is her captain and catcher, Mike Lawson. From the start, they struggle to find footing with one another–Mark is about to age out of the game, he has to keep Ginny positive and his teammates in line, and Ginny idolized him as a child (but sure doesn’t want him to know that). It certainly feels as though the pair will maintain a will they/won’t they sexual chemistry, but honestly Mark is an amazing mentor for Ginny. It’s heartening to watch him come to grips with the fact that this girl who’s shaking up the game he’s devoted his life to will be his legacy.

Blip and Evelyn (and Ginny)-  Ginny came up through the minor leagues with Blip and they remain genuine friends. With Blip comes his truly wonderful wife, Evelyn. Evelyn provides a necessary balance for Ginny, a rare female friend that doesn’t work for her. Ginny’s home-away-from-home is in the folds of Blip and Evelyn’s family, from acting big-sister to their 7-year-old twin boys to or little sister to Evelyn. Evelyn genuinely cares about both Blip, Ginny, and the game. Their marriage is something to root for.

Ginny and Amelia – Before becoming Ginny’s agent, Amelia worked as a high-powered Hollywood agent to the stars. She sought out Ginny and forms a fiercely protective way of championing Ginny.

There are plenty more combinations of characters that form relationships of varying importance. The Padres don’t quite know how to incorporate her into their ranks, from the players on through to the team manager. Through flashbacks we learn about Ginny’s fraught relationship with her parents, transient friends and boyfriends she had as she grew up in the world of baseball. They are all interesting and thoughtfully portrayed and serve Ginny’s characterization well.

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Television Tuesdays: The 100

Here, have some deceptively light-hearted gifs before the show rips out your soul.

The second of The 100 is wrapping up (Wednesdays, 9pm EST, the CW) and I’m not ready. I only started watching this show over Thanksgiving break, but I caught up, I caught up fast, and I fell hard. I honestly don’t know what I was doing with my life before I started watching The 100 because it’s everything I never knew I needed.

Overview

Roughly 97 years in the future, Earth’s remaining humans are living in a giant space station, like in Zenon. Except with a lot less lycra and a lot more “oh god, our oxygen supply is running low.” A space station where committing a crime, any crime, is grounds for being jettisoned into space unless you’re lucky enough to be a minor.

Except for 100 of those criminal minors who are put on a rinky-dink escape pod and sent to Earth to see if, a century after a nuclear apocalypse, the radiation levels have gone down enough to support human life once again.

Good news! It has. But apparently not all of humanity died out and there are factions not so happy to have the ‘Sky People’ raining down hellfire and the like. Wars start, factions are formed, and, oh yeah, those parents who jettisoned their kids down to the planet’s surface? Eventually they come down to join them.

Basically, each week is an hour’s worth of chaos, bloodshed, and beautiful, beautiful politics and pretty much everyone in charge is a woman.

Hey Ladies

Clarke and Abby Griffin: Clarke Griffin is one of the 100 teenagers sent to Earth to see if it’s habitable. Her mother, Abby, sits on the council that made the decision to jettison the kids. Their relationship is a little fraught because of it. Abby’s worked her way up to being Chancellor of the Sky People in their political system. Clarke, meanwhile, has evolved from Princess to HBIC of the 100 and each week we get to witness her growing into her leadership.

Raven Reyes. Raven’s a teenager, but not one of the initial 100. Her first season arc deals with a love triangle I didn’t have the energy for, but turned out better than I could have anticipated. Instead of Raven and Clarke fighting over a dumb boy, they became friends and allies. Raven is an electrical engineer and manufactured her own ankle brace when she became disabled. Raven Reyes is a badass.

Octavia Blake. At first, Octavia seems like a character out of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Among the Hidden book series. She was born in secrecy on the space station (there was a strictly enforced one kid rule) and has lived the first 16 or so years of her life basically in captivity. Because of this, it seemed like a lot of her early interactions with everyone were both a rebellion and a lingering case of Stockholm Syndrome. Now, though, I can’t wait to rewatch the series and pay more attention to her. Sometimes I think I discount her a little because of her whole Great Love Story with Lincoln, who looks like double her age, which kind of threw me off. But over the last two seasons she’s grown from a newly freed girl to a powerhouse of a woman. I love that she’s throwing her lot in with the Grounders and is basically an ambassador. She basically has dual-citizenship with the Sky People and the Grounders. I love that she’s Indra’s second and that she wears the Grounder braided hair style. I love that she’s taken control and plotting and learning their language and I didn’t expect to respect Octavia this much, but I am into it.

Lexa. Terrifyingly brilliant leader of the Grounders, the most Machiavellian character we’ve gotten from any show in ages. Whereas Clarke tends to act (or react) with some immediacy, Lexa is a Big Picture kind of woman. She’s ruthless, and not in a “I don’t have feelings” way, it’s just an “I care so much about my people and their survival I will do whatever it takes” way and she terrifies me, but in a good way. Feared and respected, that one.

Maya. Maya’s one of the people that lives in the Mount Weather complex, a nuclear shelter that allowed some of humanity to escape the radiation of the ground. The people of Mount Weather have realized that the 100’s bone marrow is the key to their finally be able to survive the radiation of the outside world, but their methodology is brutal. Maya’s not here for that. Last week we finally got some back-story on her and while it felt a little weak that explanation necessary. Thank you, show, for at long last giving a fairly important character motivation for doing what she’s done. It couldn’t have lasted much longer. I was kind of wishy-washy on Maya but when she told Jasper that she had no problem dying for them I was like, “Okay, girl. You can stay.”

(Potential spoilers from here on out.)

Politics

Abby & Clarke. I’m so glad that they’re trying to find a balance. I know that Abby’s been looking at Clarke and seeing a monster where her daughter should be. I get that. But Abby actually jettisoned Clarke to Earth, knowing it could be her daughter’s death sentence. You kind of sever your parental rights with that one. Like, maybe the real monster in this scenario is you?

We got a scene last week with Abby and her council-member friend Kane discussing Clarke’s leadership, and I’m glad Kane pointed out that maybe they are the monsters. Clarke is making some heavy decisions, some of them with dire consequences, but Kane points out that where would Clarke have learned this from but Abby? She needed to hear it and if Clarke had said it, Abby would’ve rolled her eyes and been like “ugh, petulant teenagers amirite???”. So it’s nice to see that while Clarke’s not staging an outright coup, Abby’s got to learn to respect her as the leader Clarke made herself among the 100.

It seemed like, with the end of last week’s episode, Abby was realizing that she has to back off a bit from acting like Clarke’s mother and act more like a colleague. Because they’re both leaders in their own right and they both command their own factions of people and (god, that’s so cool) they have to actually respect each other’s decisions. For instance, Abby telling everyone at the missile site to get back to work was spot on and totally called for. She was right. But Clarke is also right to go save her friends [Sidenote: It’s such a subtle thing but such a dig, like what an asshole thing to do, to keep referring the the 47 (of the 100, being held captive in Mount Weather) as Clarke’s ‘friends’ instead of her people. Clarke is their rightful leader, goddammit, Abby.] and Lexa was not necessarily wrong to let the missile strike play out.

If you haven’t seen any of the show, this all seems fairly convoluted, I’m sure. But know that the politics of the show are so masterfully done. Sometimes I don’t realize how amazing all of the interplay between the characters was until I sit down and let it ruminate. I forgot how much I like political theory until I was writing about this show.

Relationships

I love that romance isn’t the forefront of this show. Really, I feel like I could give or take it because there’s so much else happening. Instead, the show fixates on relationships of all kinds, and every single one of them feel super organic (except with Clarke and you-know-who, I don’t buy they were in love, they knew each other, like, 10 days).

Bellamy & Octavia Blake Bellamy and Octavia have the distinction on being the only siblings we get on the show because of that pesky one-child rule. Their dynamic in the first season is really ruled by the way that Octavia was forced to stay hidden, and Bellamy’s protectiveness of her. The flashbacks we got of them growing up were wonderful. I think my favorite thing about them has been watching Bellamy kind of see Octavia as an adult, and watching her grow into herself.

Bellamy & Clarke Okay, endgame for me is Bellamy x Clarke. She will be queen and he will be her knight. I need it. But they started out with Bellamy trying to lead The 100 and Clarke just trying to keep them alive. The slow, subtle shift in their power dynamic from feuding pseudo-leaders to allies and respected co-leaders has been beautiful. Bellamy defers to Clarke now. They’ve stopped fighting and the chemistry is simmering. I’m happy to back-burner any romance between these two to see a really strong, solid foundation of trust and respect. So far, so good.

Clarke & Raven When we first saw Clarke & Raven interact I was a bit worried we were going to get a trite love triangle. I kind of find love triangles exhausting unless they’re executed really well, and I just didn’t care about Finn enough for that to be possible. But we didn’t. We got friendship. We Clarke telling Raven, “I’d pick you first.” And every time they fight it is justified, I understand why, and they only end up raising the other up. They make each other stronger and it’s beautiful to watch.

Clarke & Lexa Clarke and Lexa, my reigning queens. At first I wanted them to just be allies and decimate the awful people in Mount Weather and stop the Grounders and Sky People from waging war but… like two weeks ago their chemistry was so strong that I found myself yelling “MAKE OUT” at the screen. I’m not sure what I want from these two, but I want to see them together all the time.

Jasper & Monty If nothing else, these two are fun to watch together. Their friendship is so strong and so clearly evident (that dumb high-five they have!) that they’re fun to watch no matter what. Every week I’m torn between enjoying their brOTP and shipping them, and that’s kind of fun. Either way, please don’t kill Jasper and/or Monty!

Morality

When Abby and Kane are discussing Clarke as a leader, it’s wonderful to see that Kane gets it. He totally sees where Clarke’s coming from in allowing the missile strike to play out. He and Clarke have been forced to live in a moral grey area and Abby’s futilely trying to cling to black & white.

Despite the (at times) multi-front war they’re fighting, I think rather than everyone letting go of their morals, they’re clinging to them even more. The 100 and the Sky People (and even the Grounders) are fighting the Mountain People because of the Mountain’s complete disregard of humanity. They’re not treating the 47 like people. And when Clarke lashes out or fights the hardest it’s because someone is acting out of line with her moral code.

Clarke (spoiler) abided and aided Finn’s death because he was morally compromised. When Bellamy killed that kid’s dad he did it out of survival and then still felt supremely guilty about it. The 100 are still morally stringent characters, they’re just living in a very grey world and responding accordingly. They don’t lash out preemptively or vindictively, really. Clarke wasn’t flooded with relief when she killed the sniper last week, but she doesn’t regret it either.

Violence

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The number of times I shout expletives at the screen during any given episode of The 100 is truly kind of astounding. People are dying every week in this show and it’s kind of amazing. Don’t get me wrong, some of the deaths have been heartbreaking. Others, though, have left me feeling vindicated.

It’s an interesting balance the show manages to strike, between shots fired that feel justified and yet having so much of the violence seem senseless while still making the audience understand exactly why it’s occurring.

There’s a great scene in the first season when Bellamy Blake (be still, my heart) and Clarke find a weapons cache. Bellamy teaches Clarke to shoot and the scene is kind of mesmerizing. At first I wanted to cringe because handing a bunch of bitter teenagers automatic weapons sounds like an awful idea, but so does leaving themselves unprotected. A season later and I’m honestly not sure if I’m more in love with Bellamy or Clarke, especially after witnessing Clarke kill a man by shooting through a hostage’s shoulder. Just, Clarke Griffin’s shooting skills… I’ll be in my bunk.

In Mount Weather, Jasper has had to become a leader in his own right. In the first season all he really cared about were Monty and Octavia. Now, though, we have a Jasper with a manic glint in his eye. He is 1000% done with the hand he’s been dealt – seeing his friends be detained, experimented on, murdered. Now, at the end of the second season, we have a new Jasper. An angry Jasper, fucking shit up, getting blood spatter on his face like he’s Dexter. The entire scene when the 47 fight back against their captors felt like the Cornucopia at the Hunger Games but EVEN BLOODIER. How a network show can get away with that slaughter but an actual blockbuster movie couldn’t is fascinating to me. Jasper led the 47 (more like 41 at this point, but whatever) in a battle that made the uniformed, riot gear-ed, gun-wielding thugs retreat. It was terrifying and amazing and chilling and wonderful.

Out of all of the remaining 100 (except perhaps Murphy), Jasper is the one who is, while not necessarily the least moral, the closest to it. He’s clearly reached the end of his rope when it comes to living every day in fear. I don’t think he’ll snap like Finn or Murphy did, but he’s at his wit’s end and I can’t wait for him to exact his revenge.

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