Frasier, Season 10 | The Adventure Zone: Balance, "The Suffering Game"
Suffering for entirely different reasons.
TV REVIEW /// Frasier, Season 10
Season summary: Picking up where the previous season ended, Daphne and Niles travel to Reno, Nevada to be married. Shortly afterwards, Daphne and Niles face their first obstacle as a married couple after Niles is diagnosed with a serious heart condition that requires surgery. In other events, Frasier meets Julia Wilcox, with whom he begins to have a brief affair with (much to Roz’s chagrin). (Frasier Wiki)
From previous watches, I was expecting this tenth season of Frasier to be the least enjoyable of the lot and that turned out just as expected. I will point out that 'least enjoyable' are the best words to use, as the quality of the show is such that even it's worst season is still not actually bad. I will admit that there aren't quite as many memorable moments from this decade-completing outing for the cast and characters.
First off, Daphne's mum is pretty much a regular and remains just as terrible a character as she was when first introduced. To this day, I have no idea what the creative teams behind the show saw in Gertrude or why they wanted to make her so prominent - even if they were worried about the main characters getting a little long in the tooth, surely they could've come up with something better than what we got?
Then there's Daphne's final development into a fairly stereotypical 'sitcom wife', playing the straight role to Niles' comedic efforts for the most part. I don't know if it was a deliberate effort on the part of the show or Jane Leeves, but while you can definitely say that the character changed and evolved over the years as you'd hope, it again feels like Frasier should've done better than this given the overall quality of the show.
Or, to continue the show's new-found love of negative female characters, there's Julia Wilcox - played by Felicity Huffman - who has an adversarial relationship with Frasier from the start that slowly morphs into... something else. I really like Huffman as a performer and I do genuinely believe that Julia could've been a great character if she wasn't ultimately used as a plot device...
And that plot device is to create a wedge between Frasier and Roz, because... reasons? I get that Roz and Julia start out on the wrong foot entirely, but they do develop into 'frenemies' that - again - could've become much more, as that's almost the same path that Roz and Niles previously went down.
To see Roz suddenly turn into a jealously possessive character who wants Frasier and Julia apart because the writers decided to chuck away that development only serves to illustrate how badly handled the women are in this season. Roz is one of my favourite characters in the show and yet ends this season in an almost completely unrecognisable manner - not helped by Frasier acting out of character to make things worse.
So this is definitely the show's nadir, with only the highlight of the three-part story surrounding Niles' heart issues standing out as a consistent run of quality. Yes, there are a fair number of genuinely laugh out loud moments, but far, far fewer than any previous season - Frasier still has its charms, but its age is starting to show a little at this point.
Frasier's tenth season is easily its worst, although - this being Frasier, after all - it's hardly unenjoyable, although it certainly doesn't have the warmth of previous seasons. This could be attributed to how old the show is by this point, but it's not helped by making the majority of the female characters highly unlikable, while not giving much long-term for the likes of Martin to be involved with either.
[5/10 - Average]
PODCAST REVIEW /// The Adventure Zone: Balance, "The Suffering Game"
Story summary: After a summer spent tirelessly training, our heroes are finally prepared to take on their next, harrowing mission. What horrors — or fortunes — await them in Wonderland? I mean, this arc is literally titled “The Suffering Game,” so you can probably piece it together yourself. (The Adventure Zone)
"The Suffering Game" almost feels like a direct response to how loosely-plotted "The Eleventh Hour" was considering how narrow the focus is for this particular adventure. It's very much appreciated though, as this arc allows the audience - and the McElroys to be fair - to see just how far the main characters have come since they started their adventure.
Part of that is in how they fare in combat, with Merle (Clint) really stepping up his game and proving vital to victory on more than one occasion, and Taako's (Justin) out-of-the-box thinking making Griffin groan more than once as his carefully-laid plans get not just thrown out of the window, but are then stomped in the ground to make sure they're well and truly destroyed.
As for Magnus (Travis)? He might not get to shine in the fighting as much as he'd like, but the quasi-revelation about his identity at the end of "The Eleventh Hour" and subsequent Lunar Interlude carries through here, leading to an unexpected turn in his character development during the final battle with the liches in charge of "The Suffering Game" of Wonderland.
Magnus also gets the most poignant moment too, with an emotional sacrifice that he has to make after asking the others to take up a personal quest for revenge in his stead. And these sacrifices provide another highlight to the adventure, as we don't just learn more about what's important to the characters, but how much they've grown since "Here There Be Gerblins".
Part of that does come from how the podcast has changed, with a far more serious, story-telling approach at this point compared to the joke-filled chaos of how it all began, but you can really tell just how much Travis, Clint and Justin have grown attached to the characters, and how well Griffin knows them too - family and characters alike - and just how to hurt them in a way that feels meaningful.
"The Suffering Game" isn't exactly what you'd call fun, and is probably the least humorous adventure so far, but it's interesting to see just how far the Tres Horny Boys have come with their abilities since they started the adventure, and how far the characters have come considering the sacrifices they're asked to make. Match all that up to a laser-focused plot and a story-shaking conclusion and this becomes something special.