Sunday, January 2, 2022

Chesapeake Shores Season 5: First Impressions (Episodes 1, 2, and 3)

Chesapeake Shores Season 5: First Impressions (Episodes 1, 2, and 3)

Warning: The following list will contain spoilers for the first three episodes of Chesapeake Shores's fifth season: "A Kiss Is Still a Kiss," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," and "Are the Stars Out Tonight." If you wish to stay clear of important plot points in these three episodes, please exit the tab and join me once you've watched them. Or you can take that warning with a grain of salt and read on. Whatever floats your boat.

With that said:

Chesapeake Shores was a big part of early quarantine for me. When I decided to try out Hallmark Movies Now, I figured the best way to break it in (once I watched all four Darrow & Darrow movies) would be to start a series once school let out for the summer. I was most familiar with this show, seeing as I caught it advertised on a couple Hallmark DVDs and on the channel proper before Season 4 premiered. Once I started Season 1, I liked it enough to move on to Season 2, then Season 3 a month later, and the cherry on top, Season 4 the month after that in two days. Did it lead to some Hallmark burnout for the first time in my life? Yes. Am I unhappy about that? Looking back, absolutely not.

For my first Hallmark show, I can see why this has a passionate fanbase. Abby and Trace's dynamic was engrossing in the way high school sweethearts grown apart could be, the O'Brien family had good arcs every season (even with Diane Ladd's questionable Irish accent and some of the romantic angst present), the writers who stepped in for a season gave depth to the show in ways the main staff didn't always replicate, and British Columbia's scenery is beautifully captured by the directors and filming crew. Cedar Cove's first two seasons do a better job at balancing its subplots for a bigger ensemble piece, but there will be a soft spot in my heart for the O'Brien kids' hostility left over from when they were growing up, introducing me to a couple Canadian actors who have joined the BC Faves, and making me laugh when I think back to Anny Anna, formerly of CutPasteFilm, wondering why the actors wore long sleeves in the middle of Maryland summer.

Pre-production for Season 5 started with a big change: Jesse Metcalfe announced he was leaving the show. Many Hallmark fans were shocked by this, myself included. Abby and Trace were the couple that started it all in Sherryl Woods' book series. A rumor was afloat that Metcalfe wasn't happy when he discovered the production team wanted to go in a different direction. Considering their romance was at the forefront of every season, I can understand why. They tried multiple times to rekindle their teenage fling, but opportunities outside of home ended in distance. But that kiss at the end of Season 4 left room for hope. Would these two find their way back to each other?

The answer is no. Either Phoef Sutton becoming the new showrunner made a big impact, or Crown Media felt the storyline was getting old and wanted something new post pandemic. Either way, I don't think it's hurt the show much. Sutton and Nancey Silvers, an executive producer and writer since the show's beginning, resolve that plotline in a dramatic and effective way. It didn't feel unnatural to me minus the fact they filmed that beach argument scene about two years following the first one. That lighting and Meghan Ory's hair extensions/wig didn't fool me. Abby even mentions the relationship feeling unhealthy, which thinking back on it, does make sense. One last montage with a cover of "Already Gone" swooning in the background, Abby comes to terms with the past she's lost. However, there's plenty in the future she has to look forward to, including new romance and hair (with bangs!).

This season also brings in seasoned cinematographer Kamal Derkaoui to replace Brian Johnson. While Johnson's work post pilot looked polished and uniform regardless of setting (never a bad thing), Derkaoui's always had a knack for bringing out warm colors (like orange and yellow) to make intimate scenes look cozy and blue sky pop regardless of the season. I've gotten to know Derkaoui's work through a few Hallmark movies and Cedar Cove, and it's a good fit for Chesapeake Shores. It brings brightness into a season fans were hesitant into getting into because of the Big Change. It also gives the show new perspective that helps accentuate the developments going on in the characters' lives that have gotten equal screen time and have been equally investing for me. There may have been a lot introduced in the third episode, but it's making me excited to see where the subplots go as we wind towards the mid season climax: David and Jess's wedding.

But I'm turning my attention towards Bree's incoming love triangle. She's been my favorite character to follow throughout the show with writer woes and getting over her piece of shit ex Martin (whose actor is actually married to Emilie Ullerup in real life). The arc with her writing a novel that some of her family found too personal in Season 3 helped steer her in a direction to try new things, like writing a play and going to London. Back in Chesapeake Shores, she'll be a professor/playwright in residence at the local university, working with her "high school nemesis," Jerry Trask. She's surprised to find he isn't as stuck-up as he seemed to be in high school. Part of that's because they're past the teen gauntlet, but it's also thanks to the power of BOOKS. Literature's the connection that binds the two together, and seeing the two struggle to navigate this new connection between them caught my attention and made me fanboy. This is a good old-fashioned love triangle where both parties look like solid matches. Who knew?

Knowing who's getting the higher billing (and Stephen Huzar being a staple TV movie lead), it's clear Luke Tatum is going to be the prime contender. A high school classmate of the O'Briens, Luke starts Episode 1 off working at a gas station before a recommendation from Kevin steers him towards The Bridge. He doesn't start off as the most talkative person. I guessed it was because of something that happened once he graduated high school. It turned out my guess was correct, although not in the way I expected. Luke got arrested after he beat up a bar patron who was sexually harassing a waitress. The latter almost died. This led Luke to be charged with assault and battery and having to start his life over after he was released. He was worried if Mick found out, he wouldn't want to hire him. However, the other man notices the electrical skills Luke has and is touched the latter came clean. 

I'm intrigued to see where this partnership goes. Given how Mick and Trace's went ping pong match back and forth as the latter debated his music career, I can see Mick and Luke being more compatible. It helps that the former has full control over The Bridge now that Trace is out of town. The staff did an excellent job wrapping that subplot up and having the two men make up given their visions for the place never seemed to sync. I'm sure Trace in his travels will be happy to know Mick's following his vision. The Bridge is becoming exactly what he wanted: A performance space where up and coming artists can make a name for themselves and a new town hangout. Although Mick tried to change that, I feel like he realized Trace had a great business model and it shouldn't have been tampered with in the first place.

Another important partnership for Mick going forward is with his daughter, Abby. He pegged she would come to work for him the moment she was six years old and passing out business cards with their names on them. In traditional TV movie fashion, Abby started off this series working for a company out of New York. Transferring to the Baltimore division after realizing she wanted to be a more active maternal figure in her daughters' lives, she was suspended after exposing a potential business partner's Ponzi scheme in Season 4. This was the subplot I was the least interested in going into this season since I didn't know what to expect. How was Abby going to fit in with her father's former business partner turned enemy Dilpher? Surprisingly, fairly well. 

Former lead writer Nancey Silvers had Abby delivering a speech defending her father when two former clients decided to back out of working with Mick. It made me take another look at this new partnership. It was produced after a couple seasons where production has worked through some of the wounds the O'Brien children have taken into adulthood as their parents became less involved in their lives. Some are still present, but as everyone moves forward, I feel Abby and Mick will be able to get the boll rolling on their biggest project post the Dilpher scandal.

This is being headed by Evan Kincaid, billionaire extraordinaire and Abby's main love interest outside of a teacher at her daughters' school (played by Greyston Holt who gew his hair out in between Cross Country Christmas and this). Despite Jay and Abby's growing chemistry and their platonic friendship making more sense for me as a viewer than Trace and Emma's (not sure what was going on with that, TBH), Robert Buckley was cast to be essentially Jesse Metcalfe's replacement. As such, it wouldn't surprise me if Abby's current confusion about him turns into attraction. 

Evan is difficult in a different way than her ex-husband, Wes. To me, Evan is what Paul Campbell's Will Holt was in Christmas by Starlight. He's childish, impulsive, and doesn't seem that concerned with flashing his wealth for everyone to see. When Abby and Mick first meet the "eccentric billionaire" in person, he comes up on a hoverboard that he eventually passes to his assistant, dubbing it only a toy. Evan isn't the type to stew in making decisions. He's more comfortable with coming up with ideas on the fly. Abby has a pretty interesting foil to contend with. Like his past Hallmark performances, it's clear Buckley will play the character well.

Jumping back to Mick, he and Meg are rekindling their relationship after years of tension. This tension could fly back in like a chain-bound tire swing if the Dilpher case proves challenging. Based on hints from press statements and its presence in Connor's work place, it likely will. For now, the two O'Brien parents have had a couple cute moments together. This was another subplot I wasn't sure about when they shared a kiss in Season 4, but now, with time away from the show and seeing it play out in action in this season, it's another way for the showrunners to display how the O'Briens has grown from where they started. Promising futures are in store, but they're not going to come through smooth sailing. This is a drama series, after all.

One of the ways this has been apparent is the Arthur Driscoll subplot. The writers have referenced this artist before, especially in connection to Nell, Mick's mother, with hints to her past sprinkled throughout Season 2. Although she hasn't physically appeared yet (and I have no clue when she'll first show up; Diane Ladd's back on set by at least Episode 7), I've heard whispers about a romantic subplot between these two. Arthur has turned his back on his painting career, acting curt and stubborn when Meg has both called him and shown up on his doorstep. What made him turn away from art? I'm glad the developers decided to give this part of Nell focus and give Ladd something to do other than being a guide when Abby was contemplating taking a break from Trace before his band went on an international tour at the end of Season 3 (which he ended up abandoning). It's a subtlety viewers may have forgotten, but for some reason, it ended up sticking with me after I turned to other media following my 2020 summer.

What I'm also interested in seeing is Connor's growth working under Linda Nelson and how that will change given the fact she's working with Dilpher as his lawyer in the case against the former's father. After starting the show as the most reckless of the O'Brien siblings, he's now settling in at Nelson's law firm and getting material he feels passionate about. Crown Media would not have had the balls to even skirt the topic of sexism in 2019, so seeing it be dropped in Episode 3 (by the writer who wrote for Disney, no less) was a big surprise. 

He's also gaining a new love interest in Margaret Keller, another new hire of Nelson's and Chesapeake Shores' first interracial romance. Like his siblings, Connor did have a love interest in seasons past (played by Britt Irvin. Given Francis and Irvin's voice over work, if I found out they played a couple at eighteen, I would have shit myself from geeking out), but they broke up last season due to their conflicting views on family. This felt contrived, especially since it seemed like Danielle was the only one doing things wrong in their relationship, but I can't deny there's immediate sparks with Margaret. She's also the middle child, has the same views on family as Connor does, and is self-confident in a way Danielle didn't seem to be. The writing team's going to let this relationship build throughout the season, and though I'm not as familiar with Raylene Harewood's TV work (outside of at least one Hallmark movie), she's doing a great job so far.

When I return to Chesapeake Shores, Jess and David are getting married! I'll be taking a look on how they've developed as a couple this season (along with their past) and what could be in store for Kevin and Sarah, my favorite relationship of the series. I'll also be keeping track of the developing subplots, if Nell will make her grand reentrance, and the cute cold opens that continue to display the O'Brien family coming back together in a charming way. Stay tuned!