by Julian Spivey
The ending of the most recent episode of “SEAL Team” titled “Aces and Eights,” which premiered on Paramount+ on Sunday, Nov. 6 wasn’t a surprise to me because I know what’s going on outside of the fictional world of the series with the cast. It was still a major disappointment.
(Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the episode)
Let me begin by explaining why the tragic ending to “Aces and Eights” was not surprising to me. Max Thieriot, who plays Clay Spenser in “SEAL Team,” is the creator and star of the new CBS drama “Fire Country,” which premiered in early October. When I heard “Fire Country” was picked up to series this past spring I just assumed that would be the end of Thieriot’s run on “SEAL Team.” Very rarely do actors pull double duty on two shows airing concurrently.
So, all season six of “SEAL Team” I’ve expected the character of Clay to say farewell to Bravo Team. The most obvious choice for Clay’s farewell was on the battlefield and it appeared to me – and probably many viewers of the series, especially those who knew about “Fire Country” – that this would occur at the beginning of season six following the bombastic way season five ended in the spring.
Indeed, when season six premiered in September it looked like Clay would be a goner. He was the victim of a direct strike and one of his legs was left mangled. Due to the state of his leg and him vomiting up the antibiotic pill given to him at the scene it appeared he would succumb to infection.
Surprisingly, the series opted not to kill off the character at the beginning of the season. Clay’s leg was amputated and his time operating with Bravo Team was over.
The series decided not to give Clay the heroic battlefield death you would see from many TV shows and movies, and I was fine with that decision. Many warriors come home changed forever by physical or mental wounds and live fulfilling lives. It seemed this was the future “SEAL Team” envisioned for Clay.
I still expected his run on the series to end, but in a positive sendoff, where he and his wife Stella (Alona Tal) and their newborn son ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
Unsurprisingly Clay develops depression as the result of his life changing abruptly and in episode six of the season titled “Watch Your 6” is considering suicide. He walks off into the woods with a rifle planning on ending his life before being talked out of it by his brothers in arms. This wouldn’t have been a satisfying end to Clay by any means, but it would’ve been a realistic one in terms of how lives of many servicemen end.
Again, it felt like the show was going to send off Clay and his family in a positive manner. Things were looking up for the character in episode seven of the season titled “Strange Bedfellows” when Clay helps out a fellow vet struggling with PTSD. It seems Clay has finally found how he wants to spend the rest of his career – helping out those who are like him.
At the end of “Aces and Eights,” Clay receives a phone call from this vet Ben (Joey Pollari), who’s considering suicide and destroying the military sign-up center that he blames for destroying his life. Clay talks Ben out of killing himself and as Ben hands Clay his gun a security guard shows up and shoots Clay dead. The aftermath of Clay’s death both on his Seal Team brothers and his family at home will be seen in the two-part season finale that airs its first episode on Sunday, Nov. 13.
It's certainly a shocking way for Clay to die, though not surprising based on knowing there was a good chance he wasn’t going to outlive this season. I just feel those in charge of the show, led by executive producer Spencer Hudnut, did the audience dirty in the end with the way they chose to bring his storyline to a close.
Hudnut told USA Today this week: “I struggled with it. I love Max and this character, which has been a big part of me for five years. But once it was clear, it became a question of how. We thought about having Clay ride off into the sunset, but that just isn’t the show.”
But … many military veterans do wind up riding into the sunset.
Shows are going to be emotional, especially when we’ve spent more than 100 episodes with these characters, but those in control of the shows shouldn’t intentionally string along the emotions of the audience by constantly putting a beloved character in danger and then having him escape leaving us to believe everything will be alright in the end.
Sure, it’s just a fictional show and character, but the death of Clay Spenser doesn’t seem befitting of the character. Not in this way.
by Julian Spivey
Blockbuster – Netflix – Thursday, November 3
It’s kind of ironic that Netflix, the business that put movie rental stores like Blockbuster out of business, is now debuting a show called “Blockbuster” about employees of the last Blockbuster store in America. As a movie buff, I look forward to the potential of a workplace comedy featuring Blockbuster employees and the series features a talented cast including Melissa Fumero (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) and Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat). It’s probably a good sign the series was created by “Happy Endings” creators David Caspe and Jackie Clarke, and I hope it could be similar in theme to NBC’s former sitcom “Superstore,” which Clarke also helped create.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story – Roku Channel – Friday, November 4
I thought at first “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” would be a straight biopic and I was excited to see the life and career of Yankovic brought to film. Once the trailer debuted I realized this was going to be a much wilder ride than your standard pop culture biopic fare. But why would a movie about a guy who parodies stuff be straightforward in the first place? Daniel Radcliffe stars as the titular Yankovic and Evan Rachel Wood plays pop sensation Madonna, Yankovic’s love interest (yes, you read that correctly). “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” is a big moment for the Roku Channel, but don’t be worried if you’re not a Roku user. I know for a fact you can download the Roku Channel app on an Amazon Fire Stick and I’m sure there will be other options for viewing this film.
The Crown: Season 5 – Netflix – Wednesday, November 9
The fourth season of Netflix’s “The Crown,” which aired in late 2020, was arguably the show’s best season yet (I don’t quite think it was, but it was great) and was definitely the show’s most award recognized as it swept the major Emmy drama categories winning Best Drama, Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress in a drama series. Season five sees the show change cast members for the first time since the beginning of season three as the royal family has aged. Imelda Staunton takes over as Queen Elizabeth II with Jonathan Pryce now playing Prince Philip, Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret, Dominic West as Charles, Prince of Wales and Elizabeth Debicki as Diana, Princess of Wales. The season is sure to feature the downfall of Charles and Diana’s marriage.
The English – Amazon Prime Video – Friday, November 11
Amazon Prime Video’s newest Western drama series “The English” continues the trend of big screen stars taking on the small screen in streaming series with Emily Blunt taking the lead as Cornelia Locke, an Englishwoman who arrives in the American West in 1890 seeking revenge against the man who killed her son. She meets and is helped by a former cavalry scout and member of the Pawnee Nation, played by Chaske Spencer. The trailer makes it seem like an uber-violent, thrilling series.
Fleishman is in Trouble – Hulu – Thursday, November 17
“Fleishman is in Trouble,” is a new Hulu limited series produced by FX Originals, based on the 2019 novel of the same name written by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. The series features the wonderful leads of Jesse Eisenberg and Claire Danes. Eisenberg is a recently divorced fortysomething trying to get his life back on track when his ex-wife (played by Danes) disappears leaving him to look after their children. In the midst of all this, he realizes he’ll only be able to figure out what happened to his wife if he is more honest about how their marriage fell apart. The series will feature a strong supporting cast of Lizzy Caplan, Christian Slater, Adam Brody and Josh Radnor.
Elton John Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium – Disney+ - Sunday, November 20
Elton John’s multiple-year, delayed by Covid Farewell Tour is reaching its American end this month with a final show at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, the sight of one of his most memorable career performances. I believe this will be the first-ever concert live stream via Disney+ and will feature Elton John’s greatest hits as he says so long to American audiences in the three-hour live stream that will start at 9:30 p.m. CST. I saw Elton John on his Farewell Tour toward the beginning of it in Tulsa, Okla. In early 2019 and it was absolutely fantastic. I wouldn’t miss this live stream if you’re a fan.