Easter Island. El Dorado. The Bermuda Triangle. Greg Daniels. You can officially count The Office writers room among the world’s greatest mysteries, because its willingness to completely phone in some episodes while taking others and turning them into instant classics boggles the mind.
Now that all the dust has settled, I’m kind of at a loss for words over the entire thing. I don’t think the show could have handled Michael’s exit any better. And do note the distinction between “exit” and “lead-up to the exit.” I have to admit that, after most of last season and a good chunk of this one, that was a surprise. Not only a surprise that they pulled it off, but how they pulled it off. Throughout the run of the series we’ve seen Michael drive a car into a lake, ruin a group of kids’ futures, hijack a wedding and hit a woman with his car. So now we’re waiting to see what he’s going to do in his farewell episode. What’s he going to do that’ll make everyone happy he’s leaving? What’s going to drive the comedy (or, as has lately been the case, drive it away)? In the end, there was no grand gesture, no crazy plan. Instead, Michael focused on the office, on the people who had made year after year of working at Dunder-Mifflin as enjoyable as they were. And even though it was never overt, the comedy took care of itself.
With a list of everyone in the office, Michael made the rounds, saying his goodbyes without letting anyone know he was leaving for Colorado a day earlier than he had told them. And for us, the viewers, it was only in the absence of that fanfare that the episode could be as emotionally resonant as it was. Telling everyone goodbye in the middle of his going-away party wouldn’t have packed the same punch as doing it in those quieter moments. And the fact that Jim was the only one who saw it for what it was made those moments all the more poignant. For Michael, this was a deliberate attempt to control the level of emotion — not to mention his own emotions — as he knew that without that control there would come a point at which he just wasn’t able to handle it.
Of course, taking into account the constraints of a slightly extended episode, not everyone can get their own, special moment. But I thought the characters who needed to be serviced were. I enjoyed seeing Michael and Dwight alone in tonight’s cold open. Michael’s always been the show’s lead, but Dwight was his Number Two, and they both needed that time together (the paintball, yes, but the letter of recommendation Michael writes turned out to be particularly touching). The scene with the party planning committee was a bit of a callback to the beginning of the series, and while it showed us that things in Scranton had changed, it showed us that maybe they hadn’t changed all that much.
Michael’s goodbye goodbye used a plot device that I thought particularly effective here, and that was the camera crew that’s been following these people around for seven years. Michael asked the crew to tell him if their documentary ever aired, before handing over his microphone and saying he was glad to finally have that off his chest (a metaphor for the show?). All this before Pam chased him down to give her own goodbye. While the emotion of his exit may have been out of character in certain respects, it still felt right. For all his faults, Michael Scott’s a character we’ve come to love over the years, and this is the exit I’d say most fans of the show wanted to see.
But the episode wasn’t without its laugh-out-loud bits, Michael’s gift to Oscar probably being the highlight. We were also introduced to Toby’s brother, Rory Flenderson, who seems to be a whiter, more boring version of Toby. Some of this felt more like filler than anything else. I’m talking specifically about Gabe and his obsession over Erin, which is only funny because of the mess it’s reduced Gabe to. We also spent some time with Andy and Deangelo tonight, setting things up that’ll be paid off in upcoming episodes. I have to give the writers some credit for half-settling on a personality for Deangelo, but only some credit. It’s obvious that more than anything else, the point of Will Ferrell’s arc on the show has been to come in and Will Ferrell things up. In theory, I’m not opposed to that. I enjoy Will Ferrell, but in the case of the show it’s proved to be a big mistake. He’s not sticking around, so going into it we know he’s going to be a horrible, incompetent boss. And that’s made worse by the fact that the writers haven’t really given him anything interesting to do, or even to say. When you get right down to it, his entire role is meant to distract us from the fact that the show just lost its star.
And it’s in that spirit that we got a special promo after tonight’s episode, previewing the rest of the season. I don’t know if any of you noticed, but NBC seems desperate for all of us to stick around, and pretty much promised to kiss us on the private parts if we’d just keep watching. The problem with this is that these next few episodes are going to be a transition into another transition, coming out of another transition. Michael’s gone, so we’ve got Deangelo, who’s also leaving, so who’s the real boss going to be? Will it be Ricky Gervais or Will Arnett? Could it be JIM CARREY??!! The answer is no, it will be none of these. So we’re just going to have to suffer through the show’s unwanted advances, bite our lip and try to hold back the tears as it paws at us like an oversexed teenager. It’s unpleasant, but it’ll be over soon. At least we hope so, although we’ll have to wait until September to know for sure. But if worse comes to worse and The Office season 8 suffers from a bad case of Scrubs season 9, we’ll always have “Goodbye, Michael,” which was about as fitting an end as we could have asked for.
Tonight’s episode of 30 Rock was all about coming to terms with one’s inability to control their own destiny. Liz dealt with this in a metaphoric sense, driving herself crazy trying to get a plastic bag out of the tree in front of her apartment, while Jack dealt with it in a more literal sense, finding himself powerless to get Avery out of North Korea after she was kidnapped by Kim Jong-il.
For Liz, most of this was well-tread ground, although confronting her own mortality was something new thrown into the mix. And who better to tell you you’re going to die than an anthropomorphized plastic bag, who lets Liz know that he’ll be there to watch the EMTs drag her out of her apartment stuffed inside his cousin — a body bag. Liz is determined not to let the bag get the best of her, and when an appeal to that bastion of red tape and bureaucracy — city hall — goes unheeded, Liz resorts to getting the bag out of the tree herself. She succeeds, but the victory is short-lived, when at the end of the episode a delivery man drops an armful of plastic bags which all float up and get stuck in the tree.
It isn’t any sort of stretch to take this as an illustration of Liz’s own one-step-forward, two-steps-back lifestyle. In the end, things always have a way of going sideways for her. This is sometimes a result of something Liz has done, sometimes it’s a result of something being done to her. Take her relationship with Carol as an example. In many ways, he was everything Liz wanted in a man. But, in “Double-Edged Sword,” she sees how cranky and stubborn he can be when he keeps her and a planeload of passengers stuck for hours on a runway. Because of Liz’s own desire to strike out against the man, she fights back, and they break up. To find a situation in which Liz is having something done to her, look no further than the show’s countless C-stories involving Tracy or Jenna.
What exactly are we supposed to take away from all of this? In a discussion on Steve Carell’s departure from The Office, Alan Sepinwall and Dan Feinberg discuss how Michael Scott was never allowed to have too much of an arc on the show, because the writers would always need him to be the bumbling boss, offensive and crude. But after seven seasons, we did see some growth with the character. It could be that in that comedy power-couple, Liz Lemon is the character who’s had less of an arc, and in many ways shows an almost Tony Soprano-like unwillingness to change. Unfortunately for her, that may mean that when the EMTs drag her out of her apartment, the plastic will still be there, stuck in the tree. If not the original, then another one, perhaps stuck because of something Liz herself has done.
In these regards, Jack is Liz’s polar opposite. He sees something that needs doing and he sets out to do it. Rarely does he find himself taking backseat to anyone. Such was not the case tonight, when he had to go ask his ex-girlfriend, Condoleezza Rice, for help in getting Avery out of North Korea. And even then, he was too late to stop Avery’s communist reeducation. I have to admit I was a little surprised to see his reaction to Avery’s marriage to Kim Jong-il’s son the way he did. Upset, but accepting. Liz, on the other hand, ended as she so often does, shaking her fists at the Heaven’s. Maybe Jack knows when he’s beat — although I’m interested to see how the show deals with this plot twist going forward. Not so with Liz. She’ll find herself in the same situation a thousand times, but she’ll keep fighting that inevitable outcome.
You have to hand it to the show. It’s one thing to get guest stars like Michael Keaton or Jon Hamm, but I always thought getting people like Al Gore or Condoleezza Rice was a cut above, even though they’re not great actors and watching them can be a little awkward sometimes. Still, good on them. And while one of 30 Rock’s strengths is how well it can craft a joke, just amping up the silly is good, too. Props to Margaret Cho on her portrayal of the North Korean dictator. I know, I know. I was surprised to hear Margaret Cho was still alive, too.
Like the song says, it’s been a long time coming. Tonight’s episode of The Office marks Steve Carell’s departure from the show. And while its profitability and NBC’s inability to get its act together ensures that The Office will continue for many years to come, it can only hope to be a pale imitation of its former self. A shambling zombie, vicious, mindless, and looking to tear out the brains of viewers who continue to tune in week after week. But it’s important to remember the good times, right? And it’s in that spirit that Public Access presents to you, the Constant Reader, our Top 10 Michael Moments!** Enjoy!
1. “Diversity Day”
“That would have really showed him up, wouldn’t it, if I brought in some burritos, or colored greens…”
The Office detoured from its British progenitor after the first episode. But while Michael would slowly evolve into a character we could sympathize with, “Diversity Day” topped us off with cringe-worthy comedy worthy of Larry David.
2. “The Client”
“Chili’s is the new golf course. It’s where business happens. Small Businessman Magazine.”
The Office couldn’t have worked if we didn’t see Michael win one every now and then. And with how offensive and bumbling as he could be, the show also had to justify him keeping his job as manager. Michael’s meeting with Tim Meadows showed what a great salesman he really was, and he gets extra props for making the Baby Back Ribs song relevant again.
3. “Gay Witch Hunt”
“You don’t call retarded people ‘retards.’ It’s bad taste. You call you’re friends ‘retards’ when they’re acting retarded. And I consider Oscar a friend.”
Michael showed just how far he was willing to go to patch things up with Oscar after outing him to the rest of the office. One of the best things about this scene is that the kiss was entirely unscripted.
4. “The Convict”
“Do you really expect me not to push you up against the wall, beeyotch?”
I’m not sure which is worse, sharing a prison cell with the guys from Oz, or sharing a cell with Prison Mike and the Dementors. In any case, Prison Mike’s story of life on the inside is both touching and insightful.
5. “Did I Stutter?”
“‘Hey, um, you’re poor.’ ‘Well hey, your mama’s dead.’ That’s what friends do.”
This is a personal thing, but it always really got to me when people in the office treated Michael like a complete joke. Granted, he can be an idiot, but he’s generally well-meaning. So I enjoyed it when he finally stood up for himself in front of Stanley.
6. “Goodbye Toby”
“Who do you think you are?”
The three constants in life are death, taxes, and Michael’s hate of Toby Flenderson. There are so many great Michael/Toby moments that you can’t really pick one to rule them all, you can only pick a good ambassador to represent them. Michael’s exit interview with Toby is worth the price of admission alone, and the song’s the icing on top.
7. “The Injury”
“Get Ryan. He needs to lift me, and he needs to clean me up a little bit. Bring a wet towel.”
Yes, he cooked his foot in a Foreman Grill, but you have to feel for Michael just a little bit. All he wants is for the office to treat him just like they would a family member who’d undergone some sort of serious physical trauma.
8. “Sexual Harassment”
“I am King of Forwards. It’s how I like to do business. Everybody joking around. We’re like Friends. I’m Chandler and Joey, and Pam is Rachel. And Dwight… is Kramer.”
Like Tina Fey said, Steve Carell owns “that’s what she said.” What’s sad is that, even though the joke’s been made a million times, we all still have that one friend who posts it after someone else says something like, “Happy Birthday.”
9. “Dinner Party”
“You have no idea the physical toll three vasectomies have on a person!”
Michael and Jan had a real Jack and Diane things going for them. Unfortunately, a neon beer sign, some scented candles and a $200 plasma screen TV brought the whole thing crashing down.
10. “Garage Sale”
“This is where Toby announced that he was going to Costa Rica. It was the happiest day of my life. Until the day that you came to replace him.”
We’ve seen Michael strike out with the women in his life over and over again. So it’s only fitting that as he rides off into the sunset, he takes the girl he loves with him. He’s offensive. He’s bipolar. But he deserves Holly, and his proposal at the end of “Garage Sale” was one of the most touching moments we’ve seen on the show.
And that’s the ballgame, folks. Michael is leaving us, but because NBC is still jittery as to how the show will do without its leading man, the rest of the season is going to be an orgy of guest stars and cameos. But what of next year? We don’t know what season 8 will bring us. Maybe we don’t want to know. But of one thing we can be sure. Whether the show is great or crashes and burns, we’ll be there, because we’re too curious not to watch. So maybe the joke’s on us.
In the meantime, let us doff our caps to Steve Carell, and bid farewell to one of the greatest characters ever to grace our TV screens. So long, Michael, and thanks for all the memories.
**Thanks to a poll of government officials, the science community, area schools, and the Teamsters Local 415, we can confirm that these are, in fact, THE Top 10 Michael Moments.
It’s almost a rule of thumb that a TV show is going to take four or five episodes before things really start coming together. The Sopranos really found its voice with “College.” Boardwalk Empire picked up with “Nights in Ballygran.” And I think The Killing may have jumped one or two hurdles with “Super 8.”
Two storylines, when measured up against everything else we’re seeing in the show, have gotten considerable play. And those are Darren Richmond’s campaign for mayor and Stan and Mitch Larsen dealing with the death of their daughter. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I don’t enjoy all the campaign stuff, but after a while my attention starts to wander, and I’m wondering how it’s all connected to Rosie’s murder. Last night’s episode didn’t offer up any hard answers, but it did link the two. Which was good, because up until that last minute reveal, the campaign and the investigation were feeling more separate than they had up until that point. We saw Richmond with his arm around Bennet in his campaign commercial. And while I’m not entirely convinced that Bennet’s the murderer, if for no other reason than we’re still early in the season, there are some pretty damning signs pointing his way. He’s lying to Linden and Holder about sending his wife away because he was redoing their floors. He’s lying about the flooring company canceling their appointment. And when Rosie’s tox-screens come back, they’ve found traces of chemicals on her body that Bennet has lying around his house. Of course there’s more here than meets the eye, but when a school teacher who’s gotten a little too chummy with one of his students has to saying something like, “I know what this looks like,” you know something’s not on the up-and-up.
My DVR description of last night’s episode said, “Mitch still grieves heavily over Rosie’s death.” The first thought that comes to mind is, “The plot thickens!” But it turns out Mitch did get a little more to do last night than take a nap/bath and look distant. She went to the store, did a little grocery shopping, so she’s at least trying to get back into some sort of routine. The Larsen boys also got a little bit of play this week that went past the usual bother/brother bickering. I forget their names, but when the older boy tells his brother not to eat Rosie’s cereal, that he’s going to tell his mom and dad, his brother replies, “They don’t care about us anymore.” It was interesting, the scenes with the boys shopping for cereal, sneaking out to throw away their soiled (gross) sheets, all while their parents are off in this other world. The show’s not getting too involved with them, but it’s a nice reminder of, “hey, we’re still here,” and to see things on their side. The show needs more of this. If all we’re going to be seeing is more scenes of Stan and Mitch breaking down, like Stan did tonight in the gas station bathroom, things are going to get old quick.
I’d be interested to see the cases Linden has thrown herself into in the past. Rick seems to know enough about it, and gets onto Linden as they’re walking out to his car about putting pictures from Rosie’s film up on her wall, which we see a whole mess of later as everything’s wrapping up. There’s obviously an obsessive-compulsive bent there, but at this point it still seems as if she’s just going through the motions of the investigation. Get things far enough along so that she can hand them off to Holder and get down to Sonoma.
Before the episode ends we get our weekly drive-by of all the characters and what they’re up to. We see Stan ask his friend to find out what’s going on with the investigation. This is the friend who, earlier in the episode, said that a friend of his who works at Rosie’s school told him the cops were still looking around over there. This surprised me a little bit because this is only day five. Meaning the investigation’s only been going on for four days. Is it really that odd for the police to be looking around Rosie’s school four days after she was killed? Because we’re only watching an episode a week, it seems like the investigation has been going on a lot longer. And if the cops were still poking around the school after a month, that might be weird, but four days seems pretty reasonable. I see that as one of the problems of timeline-dependent shows like this, or 24 (which… I guess are the only two). You can never be completely faithful to the premise. Anyway, four days is alright. But if Linden and Holder are still at that school on Day 5, the show’s officially jumped the shark.
Game of Thrones is a show with a lot of moving pieces to keep track of, so using its opening credit sequence as a way to orient viewers in the world — and what we’ll be seeing in the upcoming episode — was a smart move. But while the enormity of Westeros was evident right from the start, last week’s premiere still felt like we weren’t moving around too much. We split our time between the Starks in Winterfell and the Targaryens in Essos. This week, however, saw all the major players, spreading out across the map. But even for an episode that may best be described as transitional, there’s a lot going on, and more being set up.
I’m a big fan of world-building, so I can forgive the big, unwieldy chunks of exposition shows like this like to throw at us. And between Ned, Robert, Tyrion and Jon Snow, we got our fair share from tonight’s episode. On their way to King’s Landing, Robert tells Ned that the Targaryens are planning on returning to the Seven Kingdoms with the Dothraki to back up Viserys’ claim to the throne, and he’s worried that if and when he shows up, more than a few people will be glad to see him returned. Ned and Robert are two characters who work very well together onscreen, and I like watching how Robert switches between Ned’s friend and Ned’s king throughout the episode. When Arya is dragged up in front of him after her run-in with Joffrey, it’s almost as if Robert’s telling Ned they need to handle the situation like two dads, rather than the most important men in the kingdom. But this only goes so far. Robert’s still got to set an example, not to mention please his wife. So when Ned makes a subtle yet obvious plea for Sansa’s direwolf, Robert just walks away, because women, ‘ya know?
And speaking of direwolves, one thing tonight’s episode taught us was that, if you ever find yourself involved in any sort of sinister sh*t, a direwolf jumping out of nowhere and maiming your ass is pretty much a sure thing. Joffrey being attacked and having Arya throw his sword in the river was probably worse than the little bastard getting killed, because he’s the kind of person who never forgets. He remembers the kid in second grade who spilled milk on him them told everyone at recess that Joffrey was wearing his “pee pants.” Now that Arya and Sansa have seen the him cry, he’ll have it out for them. Now, if you don’t mind, a moment of silence for Lady, and let us choose to believe that that little bastard Joffrey is going to get his.
Children seemed to play an important role in tonight’s episode. Prince Joffrey we already touched on, but I think we also got a good look at Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister. Because Jon doesn’t share a mother with the other Stark children, he’s always going to be living on the fringes of their world, and because of that he feels like he’s got something to prove. Hence, traveling to the Wall to join the Night’s Watch. To a certain extent, Tyrion’s in the same boat. He’s got the Lannister’s last name, but his size will always ensure that people don’t take him seriously. The thing is, Tyrion doesn’t care. He knows what people think, but he also knows that he’s smarter than most, so if people are going to treat him like a joke, let them. He’s happy to drink, whore around and read books. He’ll best the others when he comes up against them. Jon is trying to prove something to the outside world. Everything that Tyrion does, he does for himself.
Across the Narrow Sea we find Daenarys Targaryen retreating deeper inside herself as she’s continually subjected to her new husband’s… appetites. Because each episode is covering a long stretch of time, I’m not sure how long the two have been married at this point. But however long it’s been, it’s long enough for her to start thinking of how to gain the advantage, not necessarily over Khal Drogo, but her brother, who’s responsible for her current situation. And just like a woman, she uses that most dangerous of weapons, her
body mind. Viserys’ plan for regaining the throne depends on Daenarys sitting still and doing as she’s told, but how are things going to work once Drogo and the other Dothraki are backing her?
So it turns out that Bran isn’t dead, and all the Lannisters can do is sit and wait for him to wake up and start telling people what happened to him. That, or send in someone to kill him before that happens (but remember what we said about the direwolves?). The thing about all of this that has me wondering is, is Bran really the biggest threat to the Lannisters right now? You get an awfully strong sense that Tyrion knows what Jaime and Cersei have been up to, and what hand they may have had in Bran’s “fall.”
While last week we saw Walt come about as close as he could to being the Cousins’ next victim, this week we find that even they have a master to serve, although that master isn’t sure exactly how much control he has over them.
It turns out that the Cousins are in fact the literal cousins of the late Tuco, who met his end early in season two. It also turns out that Tuco’s uncle is Don Salamanca, who ran one of the Mexican cartels before age forced him to hand the reigns over to his nephew. Now he and the Cousins are looking for retribution, but have run up against a roadblock in the form of Gus Frings, who’s told the cartel that he has business with Walter and they’re to keep their hands off him until that business is concluded. Two things to keep in mind: One. Gus already approached Walter about working for him, and Walt declined. So it looks like Gus hasn’t given up on him just yet. Two. Gus’ role in this is much bigger than we previously thought. His meeting with the Cousins, Don Salamanca and Panama Jack make it look like he’s bringing product to the entire American Southwest. So he’s probably not the guy you want to be saying no to.
So Gus declares Walt off-limits, and Panama Jack tells him that he can’t guarantee the Cousins will listen. He calls them different, which I suppose several thing can be read into. Maybe he means that they’re part of the new breed, and don’t play the game like the old-timers did. Or maybe he means that they’re just really effed up. In any case, they’re not going to be content just sitting on the sidelines for very long. Panama Jack also tells Gus that meddling in cartel affairs might affect his good standing with them, so it’s not inconceivable that Gus could find himself on the business end of that axe the Cousins keep in their trunk.
So far this season (and doesn’t it seem like we’ve seen more than three episodes?) it’s been interesting to compare where Walt and Jesse are in relation to each other. While Walt’s been able to rationalize his actions, Jesse’s coming to terms with his role as the “bad guy.” When Walt left his big bag of money in the hall for Skyler to see, it felt like he was finally being honest with himself. Yes, he got himself into this game with the best of intentions, but like he said, to earn that money he had to do terrible things. He told Skyler that if she didn’t accept the money, everything he had done — the people who had died, their failed marriage — would all have been done in vain. For a second, I thought Walt might say that if Skyler would take the money, he’d give her the divorce she wanted and leave the family alone. But no, when she got home the next day there he was, making dinner, telling her that he felt really good about the conversation they had had. “Honesty is good,” he said. It’s like now that he’s come clean, there’s nothing left for her to do but forgive him. He still doesn’t get it, and I don’t think Skyler’s confession that she got down and dirty with Ted is going to help things.
Jesse, on the other hand, is still torn up over Jane’s death, spending his time alone in the house he bought back from his parents, listening to her voicemail message over and over again. Him alone in a big, empty house is a good metaphor for where he’s at emotionally right now. But still, we see him beginning to pick up the pieces. When Saul drops by and asks again if Jesse would get in touch with Walt, he says yes. And by the end of episode we see him back in the RV, getting ready to cook. He’s found his path and he’s moving on, where Walt is still running up against a brick wall, trying to travel a road now closed to him.
Just a few notes on our other characters. Hank is obviously still suffering from the panic attacks we saw in season two. I can only guess that he picked the fight in the bar in an attempt to gain some control over the way he’s feeling. Whether or not this will keep him from going back to El Paso remains to be seen. Skyler looks like she’s ready to throw all caution to the wind. It was only a matter of time before her feelings for Ted bubbled up to the surface, and her conversation with Walt seems to have pushed her over the edge. I’m wondering if the fact that she’s just had hundreds of thousands of dollars thrown at her feet has anything to do with this. If she accepts the money, she’s made in the shade. That has to be liberating, and if Skyler feels like she no longer has to worry about providing for her family, what else might she feel like she doesn’t have to worry about? Or if she believes that her unwillingness to take Walt to the police will somehow force her to accept him back into her life, this may be her own way of getting back at him.
Does anyone remember Michael saying that he had hoped his last Dundies would wrap things up in a satisfying way, but instead had turned out to be a little disappointing? Well, that’s turning out to be a pretty good summary of his last few episodes on the show, because they haven’t been particularly good.
We’ve known for quite a while now that this was going to be Carell’s last season on the show, but the show itself has acted as if it only found out a month or two ago. With Michael’s time left being numbered in only a handful of episodes, it’s obvious there are a few jokes the writers want to revisit before he makes his exit. And if they had set that ball rolling in the beginning of the season, it probably would have worked a lot better (“Threat Level Midnight” is a good example of this). But now, with Michael on his way out, it seems like there are jokes the writers remember as being a lot funnier than they actually were that they’re trying to shoehorn into these episodes, alongside Michael’s actual exit from the show, alongside all the other characters that they still have to address.
What you get in the end is a bunch of half-baked jokes that just don’t hit. And in this episode, it’s really from top to bottom. Michael bringing someone in to co-host the Dundies could have been pretty funny, although I think the Dundies are a little worn out as a comedy device. At this point they’re just a stand-in for whatever plot device the writers need for Michael to be completely over-the-top crazy, or to have him make fun of people. But maybe bringing in a co-host will shake that formula up just a little bit. Sure. Okay. Except that the writers still don’t have a handle on Deangelo, so he really can’t hold up his side of the bit. He’s a bad public speaker, so he talks loud and throws up. Not exactly blazing new territory.
And any momentum the episode is trying to build is brought to a halt by the revelation that Erin doesn’t like Gabe and wants to break up with him. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t go anywhere, it feels like it was thrown in only because the show had space that needed filling up, and they were going to have to get Erin together with Andy eventually, so they might as well get that started here. So we’ve got this break where Erin delivers the bad news, but the episode really wastes no time dawdling on it. Gabe has just enought time to respond, but then it’s back to your regularly scheduled program, with Michael getting the entire group kicked out of the restaurant for being too loud. But instead of calling it a night, everyone’s able to get Michael back to the office where they sing a riff on Rent’s, “Seasons of Love.” I’ll be honest, I thought this was a touching moment. You could tell the tears on Carell’s face were real tears. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make this a touching episode.
I can’t be too harsh. There were things I liked about the episode. The song, Michael’s swipe at Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes, and Will Ferrell’s comment that Meredith’s house reminded him of Katrina. The small beats were pretty good. But the big stuff, the Dundies, Deangelo, Erin and Gabe, Dwight being pissed off at Michael, the stuff the story actually revolves around, there’s precious little there that actually lands. Which at this stage of the game is unfortunate, but I can’t say that it’s entirely unexpected.
30 Rock premiered in 2006, up against Studio 60, NBC’s other show set behind the scenes at a faux SNL. Expectations were high for the show, which marked Aaron Sorkin’s return to network television (NBC, even!) after leaving The West Wing in 2003. Well, it turns out that Studio 60 really kind of sucked and was hemorrhaging viewers week after week. It quickly became obvious that it wouldn’t be coming back for a second season, and for some reason people began to believe the same about 30 Rock.
Luckily for us, 30 Rock did get picked up for a second season (and a third, fourth, fifth and sixth), but I sometimes think about all the hilarious sh*t we would have missed out on had the show been absent from the airwaves these past four years. Devon Banks, Jenna as werewolf lawyer Corky Monroe, Kidney Now! With the exception of a few rough patches, the show’s had a great run. I look at other comedies like Parks and Recreation, Louie and Archer and feel that for some reason I should hold these shows in higher esteem, maybe because they come across as more edgy, poignant, or artsy. But no other show on TV has me laughing as long and loud as 30 Rock. And tonight’s 100th episode, appropriately titled, “100,” was a nice way to bring the show full circle.
When Hank Hooper tells Jack that he’s decided to cancel TGS, Jack goes out on a limb for Liz and asks him to give the show one more chance. Liz, who’s finally brought Tracy back into the fold, has to scramble to put together their 100th episode, all while a busted pipe is leaking deadly gas into the studio. All of this was handled by Michael Keaton as studio handyman Tom, in one of the most nonchalant and hilarious guest spots the show has done in a while. All I’m gonna say about that is, “I’m too old for this shh-sound that comes from this gas pipe.” And this is something I just remembered, but Michael Keaton and Alec Baldwin both starred in Beetlejuice. That makes it funnier for some reason.
As the gas begins screwing with people’s heads, Liz thinks maybe she should give it another go with Dennis, Jenna decides getting pregnant would really help her career, Tracy becomes more paranoid that people are taking him too seriously, and Jack is visited by the ghosts of Jack past, future and sideways. While everything was broken up by the usual Tracy/Jenna craziness, tonight’s episode was really a study of Jack and Liz’s relationship, and explained why the two of them need each other. In short, they each save each other from themselves. Without Jack as a mentor, Liz would barely be able to function as a contributing member of society. And without Liz, Jack’s ambition would send him flying off the rails as some sort of über alpha-male. In the beginning, the two of them hurling these facts at each other after TGS is granted one last reprieve sends them both back to their respective corners, stewing in the knowledge that the other is right, at least to some degree.
Oddly enough, in a situation where both have valid points, it’s Jack who once again saves Liz from going back to Dennis and convinces Tracy that going back to network television will keep anyone from taking him seriously, no matter what movies he’s done or awards he’s won in the past. I found it a little ironic that this was coming from Alec Baldwin, and I think there’s also something to be said about, if you’re on a popular network TV show, people will be much more forgiving of the mistakes you make in public. After all, Baldwin came under some heavy fire after leaving a pretty harsh message on his daughter’s phone a couple of years back — he even offered to leave 30 Rock as some sort of penance for the whole thing — which lasted all of ten minutes. And I think a large part of that had to do with the fact that Alec Baldwin is Jack Donaghy, and people like Jack Donaghy.
By the end of the episode Liz realizes that because the writers have been huffing gas all day, they still don’t have a show to put on. So she goes back up to the utility room, busts open the pipe, and pumps more gas into the studio so that the audience — Hank Hooper included — thinks that what they’re seeing is the best episode TGS has ever aired. And boom, Hank renews the show for a million episodes. Still a little high off of gas fumes, Jack and Liz tell each other what we’ve known all along: they need each other. And the show doing it this way is a nice reminder that these two will never end up romantically involved, which is as it should be. As Jack says, 100 episodes down, and here’s to 100 more. The Office may be able to live on without Michael Scott, but take away Liz or Jack, and there’s no more 30 Rock.
Tonight’s episode threw a few unexpected curves our way, and a few expected ones. As much as I would have liked for Kris and Jasper to have turned into the case’s two main suspects, mostly because of how annoying and stupid the two of them are, it just didn’t pan out. It wasn’t going to work out any other way, when you think about it. It’s still early days, so I’d expect a few more suspects to be thrown at us and just as quickly be thrown out before anything solid materializes.
One thing I wasn’t expecting was that, rather than Rosie being the girl on the tape roughed up and done wrong by the aforementioned idiot teenagers, it was actually Sterling, her “best” friend. Although I’m not sure how they could remain such good friends when Rosie made Sterling feel so bad that she would debase herself like that. But then again, teenagers are funny people, and who can really know what’s going on inside their heads. Maybe we don’t want to know. In any case, Sterling, Kris and Jasper have played big enough roles in the series thus far that I wouldn’t count on them being tossed aside just yet. Especially in light of Sterling’s reference to how much Rosie had changed. You mean changed like she got into jam bands like Phish? No, I’m guessing it was some much more sinister s**t. We’ve got Holder riding a bus Rosie used to take, and being just lucky enough to follow the right out-of-place-looking black guy to a boy’s club where it turns out she had been seen with her teacher, Mr. Bennet. The stars really aligned on that one, and that sort of thing always takes you out of the story for a bit, but alas, such is television. You’ve got to expect those sorts of things every now and then.
I’m not if Bennet-as-a-lead is really going to go anywhere ultimately. I’m still convinced that Rosie’s fate is inextricably linked to the Richmond campaign. And although the political side of the show isn’t as interesting as the investigation side, I’m still enjoying it. Richmond and Jamie working together to position him next to Mayor Adams was an unexpected twist. And while it’s possible Gwen is the mole in Richmond’s campaign, because wouldn’t that be so effed up, the woman he’s sleeping with is screwing him, in more ways than one(!) seems way too obvious. And besides, if she were the mole, I’m not sure she’d be going through such lengths to set Richmond up with her dad to get more donor money, especially when he’s so busy setting up plane wreckage and dead bodies at the bottom of the ocean.
There’s still a lot of bickering between Linden and Holder and while it’s not turning me off to the show in any way, there’s that part of me that only wishes after happy endings for everyone that would like to see them working together a little more. I’ve said before that I think their strengths as investigators really compliment each other and I think they’d make a lot more headway if they put some of their petty crap aside. We did learn a few new things tonight that I think are worth mentioning, though. According to Kris, Holder’s also got the junky itch, which is a little more evident once you know it’s there. So maybe flirting with underage girls and being super creepy are things Holder’s had experience with in the past. And while I guess you really can’t call this something that we learned, we did see Linden smiling a lot more tonight and showing more emotion in general. I’m not sure I like it. I think she works much better as the cop robot, always getting too involved with the cases she’s working and the ghosts she’s chasing. From her conversation with Rick, it seems like that’s the Linden he’s used to. So we’ll see if she reverts back to that once the case drags on a little longer and she’s forced to stick around.
The Larsens seems to be doing a little better this week. At least Mitch isn’t completely paralyzed with grief. Although I have to say it’s amazing that she’s getting along so well, what with doing things like buying Rosie’s casket. And then there was that really powerful scene of her and Stan seeing the pictures of Rosie’s body at the police station. It seems like they make a little bit of progress, only to have the scab torn off all over again. As for learning new things, we found out that Stan used to have some sort of tie to organized crime, if we’re inferring what we should be inferring from the guy who spends all his time in the cafe reading the paper and handing out hundred dollar bills when he sees people in need. It’s been hinted at that Stan used to be wrapped up in some shady stuff, tonight’s episode confirmed it. Whoever the guy is, he and Stan obviously had a rocky past, but not to the point that Stan would refuse the stack of money the guy put in front of him. I have a hard time believing any of the stuff the we’re seeing at this point is insignificant, so I think this has yet to play itself out. The wheels turn slowly, but they turn.
Welcome, newcomer, to Game of Thrones! The newest series from HBO that does for fantasy what The Sopranos, Dexter, Deadwood, Mad Men and The Wire did for their respective genres, whatever those are. Most of the reviews you’ve read already have surely made mention of what an incredibly sprawling world Game of Thrones encompasses, and let me be the first (and I AM the first) to say, they aren’t lying.
Author George R.R. Martin has said that once all is said and done, his Song of Ice and Fire series, of which A Game of Thrones is the first, will be seven books long. Four of those are out already, with the fifth due out this summer. Each books runs in the neighborhood of a thousand pages and includes in-depth appendices listing the literally hundreds of characters who populate this world. So, piss on you, casual television viewer who’s just looking for a quiet way to waste a Sunday evening. You jump into this thing with both feet or you jump the hell out.
But maybe it’s not as bad as all that. When I sat down to watch the premiere, I was ready to be confused. It took me a while to get a hold on who was who on The Wire, and I expected Game of Thrones to be no different. But by the time it was over, I had a pretty good grasp on who the major players were and what they were doing. In any case, it was easier than what the internet had led me to believe.
One thing to keep in mind is that everyone is connected. Sometimes that connection is through allegiance, such as Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, who’s just accepted the job as the king’s right hand-man. Sometimes the connection is through blood, as is the case with Viserys Targaryen, an exiled prince who marries his sister off to the chief of a tribe of nomadic horsemen in order to raise an army that’ll put him back on the throne. Another thing to remember is that almost everyone has some sort of ulterior motive. Eddard’s accepted the job as Hand of the King because Jon Arryn, who formerly held the position, was killed, but is later suspected to have been murdered. Eddard, whose relationship with the king goes back to their childhood, is compelled to investigate and if necessary, protect his old friend. And protecting him is going to be a full time job, as the Targaryens across the sea aren’t the only ones looking to claim the throne for themselves.
Once you start digging into the nitty-gritty of the story, you get the feeling that you’re watching a soap opera instead of a fantasy epic. It isn’t Lord of the Rings, in any case. And that’s okay. A well done soap opera is going to be every bit as captivating as Boardwalk Empire or Mad Men, which have their own soapy elements. But it is fantasy, and as overloaded with baggage as that word — and most of the work the genre produces — is, the show manages to present it to us in a way that feels different. Or at least not what we were expecting. Reference is made to dragons and magic, but these things haven’t been seen in ages, and most aren’t sure if they even still exist. But even absent these, there are still dangers lurking which may possibly pose a more immediate threat to Westeros. On the kingdom’s northern border lies The Wall, which, much as the name suggests, is a giant wall of ice, 700 ft. tall and 300 miles long, dividing Westeros from the North. The Wall was built thousands of years ago to protect the kingdom from a shadowy force we only barely glimpse in the pilot. A force that’s been quiet for a very long time, but may now be reawakening.
All of these things together give the viewer the sense that this is a world on the brink of chaos. This is England in 1939. This is Saddam Hussein flying those planes into the Twin Towers. This is the day before Rebecca Black brought an unsuspecting nation to its knees. Everything’s about to hit the fan, the characters just don’t know it yet.
If you’ve ever heard of the internet then you know what huge buzz Game of Thrones has been getting these past few months. So far the show’s gotten great reviews and all I can really add to that it’s safe to believe the hype. I never would have thought a fantasy could turn into a flagship series for HBO, but that’s exactly what the show’s poised to turn into. It’s gorgeously shot, and despite its huge cast and history that’s as complex as anything you’d learn in school, surprisingly easy to do jump into. And even more than that, it’s fun. This is the next Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men. This is the next big show all the uppity TV-types are going to be talking about Monday morning, so don’t be afraid to get into the mix. It’s been a long time coming, but winter is finally hell. Here! I mean winter is here.