At this point, I’ve lost whatever hope I may have had that Falling Skies would live up to other sci-fi shows. Your Battlestar Galacticas, your Star Treks (yes, even the contemptible Enterprise *shudder*). The show is determined to tell its story in as broad of strokes as possible. And that’s okay. Television is a big tent, and there’s room for everything. But because Falling Skies doesn’t do nuance, I’m forced to gauge its performance, and how much I’m enjoying it, based purely on emotion. The show really enjoys hitting those homespun, “think about the CHILDREN!” beats, and while those don’t really resonate with me, I do occasionally buy into some of the fist-pump moments the show offers up. And I suppose that’s got to count for something.
Most of the reviews I’ve read place “Sanctuary, pt. 1″ above this week’s “Pt. 2,” but overall I found the second to be stronger than the first, even though they both had their strengths and weaknesses. “Pt. 1″ suffered from the same problem as “Silent Kill” (if you can call it a problem), which was that the most interesting thing about the episode had nothing to do with the characters or performances, but the narrative curveball we were thrown in the closing scene. The revelation that Terry Clayton and the surviving members of the 7th Mass. are trading kids to the Skitters in exchange for being left alone showed us — maybe for the first time — just how desperate things had become for people post-invasion. Still, you have to look at this as BSG-lite. Yes, things are clearly desperate, but I never felt like we got the emotional punch we were meant to.
Forget the fact that Clayton’s deal is incredibly stupid. The show’s still playing a little coy as to what the Skitter’s true purpose is. They’re using kids as slave labor, so they probably want something built. But then they’re sitting on top of the kids while they sleep and caressing their cheeks and losing themselves in their eyes and all sorts of freaky stuff, so who knows where it’s all going to end up. Anyway, they’re bigger and stronger than we are. They’ve got better weapons and a big alien mothership sitting in the middle of downtown Boston, so their deal with Clayton is all about expediency, and it won’t last. So he and his merry band of Christians can set up shop and pretend they’re the Waltons, but they need to keep their eyes on that big, ticking clock hanging over their heads. Because it’s big, and it’s ticking.
But like I said, forget how stupid the deal is. Because for a group of people who are so completely at the end of their rope that they would begin giving away people’s kids, they all look so incredibly clean. Not only are Clayton and the rest of the soldiers at peace with the bargain they’ve struck — and I can believe that these people would be, what with their “we’re at WAR!” way of thinking — but so are their kids. They don’t seem to have any moral qualms at all. They pick vegetables from their Victory Garden and have big group dinners every night. And when they get a hankering to play soccer, everyone scoots on out to the backyard to watch. While the show itself is trying so hard to show us society on the brink, I feel like if I were to walk up behind any of these characters, tap them on the shoulder, and actually have them explain their surroundings and what they’re doing to them, the response I’d get would be, “Oh, yeah. I guess you’re right.”
And this antiseptic feeling extends to Tom and the 2nd Mass. as well. Since being rescued, Ben has done his best to fit in with the group and others his age. So of course we’re seeing a vocal minority of “we’re just gonna let THEM walk around?” everymen pop up. Case in point, Jimmy, who wants nothing to do with Ben. But who, by the end of the episode, is all soccer balls and high fives, now that Ben’s proved he’s as red-blooded an American as anyone else. Yes, the ending comes off as expected and a little trite, but it’s the buildup to it that’s the problem. What the audience is treated to is a few snide remarks and pensive staring, and we’re told this is conflict, when it looks and sounds more like lip service than anything else.
We saw the same thing at the beginning of “Pt. 1,” when Anne is held-up and robbed. She gets head-butted or whatever, and later we see her snap when one of her patients (the name escapes me) gets too close to the door of her clinic. She’s, like, totally traumatized now. What a journey we’ve taken together. Made all the more meaningful by the fact that after going out with Margaret and squeezing off a few shots, we hear absolutely nothing else about it. And similarly, the rest of the episode goes out with a fizzle. Tom, who can feel that something just isn’t right, heads out and runs into Ben, who lets him in on what Clayton’s up to. Tom gets himself taken prisoner to save the other kids, and when they take them all back to the camp, Weaver’s waiting there for them. The best part is that none of it was planned. Weaver being there was a total coincidence. So really, the episode robbed us of even a half-assed resolution. You can chalk it all up to fate. They sure were lucky.
But I suppose I can’t complain too much. Falling Skies sets a mediocre bar for itself and does not go above it. So in a way it’s strangely honest with its viewers, which I guess I can respect. But anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah. Emotion. Because structurally there were so many problems with these episodes, I ask myself, how did they make me feel? Well, I did a little fist pump when Tom shot Clayton. That was a nice little moment. And, hey, we got Pope back. That’s got to count for something, right?
Boardwalk Empire is growing up. Gone are the days of short pants and resting on its pedigree. It’s hit puberty head on. It’s grown one of those disgusting half-mustaches and giving us montages delivered over catchy music. As soon as I saw Eli’s wife rubbing her husband’s back while he puked his dinner into the toilet — all to the tune of the Irish folk song Carrickfergus — I was ready to hand the show a bag of Emmys.
I didn’t really spot a common theme uniting this week’s various and sundry storylines, but they all seemed to hang together much better than they have in episodes past. Did I mention the whole Anastasia thing? I can’t remember. Anyway, before starting his day, we see Nucky taking the time to enjoy some tea with his brother. The two of them sitting down didn’t bear much relevance to the rest of the episode (although it set up resentment in Eli that becomes an issue later in the season), but I appreciated the picture it painted. Nucky rules Atlantic City and Eli’s his number one, and the two of them together before the day began painted a very militaristic picture of things. If I was better read, I’d have some spiffy literary parallel to trot out in front of you. But I’m not, so… bababooey.
I can’t say I ever considered Steve Buscemi to be any sort of romantic lead, but his relationship with Margaret has to be one of the most interesting things the show is doing right now. After his birthday party, Margaret obviously thinks there’s some sort of unspoken bond between the two of them, but Nucky ain’t no busta and shuts that down when he runs into Margaret as he’s leaving the hotel. She’s not quite heartbroken, but obviously upset about Nucky’s disinterest in her soda bread (what?). And that’s when things get plucky. Margaret gets a little petulant when she and the head of the Temperance League meet with Nucky later in the episode, and hints that he may know more about the city’s alcohol trade than he lets on. Never one to be one-upped, Nucky lets slip that Margaret was at his birthday party, cutting a mean rug in the middle of all that booze.
Yes, getting sloshed in AC (I should stop calling it that) is alive and well, Prohibition be damned. And it turns out that the garage right behind Margaret’s house is a storage depot for a special batch of green hooch Nucky’s had delivered for St. Patrick’s Day. Margaret, our woman scorned, marches to the post office where Agent Van Alden has set up shop and asks him to take the place down.
Now, Kelly Macdonald is an attractive woman. I could definitely think of worse things than being stranded with her on a deserted island, but I do not understand the Santeria voodoo magic spell she’s cast over Van Alden. He doesn’t have the resources to take down 10% of the city’s illegal booze outlets, but he’ll take down this one, and then crash Nucky’s St. Patty’s Day bash to arrest the owner of the place. That whole scene may have been the episode’s best. We had belligerent Irishmen, midgets dressed up as leprechauns, and Van Alden’s Untouchables act topping the whole thing off. The dichotomy between his “do no evil” religiosity and his desire to take his own brand of justice to AC’s mean streets is kind of fascinating. And those half smiles we see him sneak when he thinks no one’s looking show he definitely takes pleasure in his mean streak.
So Jimmy’s in Chicago, and eventually that’ll go somewhere. Just not this week. We saw the fallout from Pearl’s assault and watched as she slowly transformed into this show’s Alma Garrett. Or she would have if she hadn’t of killed herself by the end of the episode. It was heartbreaking and a horrible thing that she — faced with being disfigured for the rest of her life — would be driven to suicide, but for the purposes of the story, it had to happen. Remember that Jimmy walked out on his (almost) wife and son to go to Chicago and play gangster with Al Capone, and playing Pearl’s white knight, making her glasses of opium-laced orange juice and telling her happy stories from his childhood was never going to be a permanent thing.
That’s obvious, but what may not be is that the way in which Pearl was taken from him kind of idealizes her in Jimmy’s mind. She was his romance. She was the hooker with a heart of gold who was only working in a brothel so she could
put herself through law school head out west and star in movies. And while Jimmy’s so far managed to be the voice of reason in Johnny Torrio’s expansion, now all he’s gonna want to do is go out and hurt some people. And others (not others, just Al Capone), are going to be more than happy to lend him a hand. For Jimmy, that could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. But it’s only good news for us at home. That’s mostly because we’re all dirty Philistines who get a rush every time we see people on TV get shot up.
It’s a good thing that Spartacus offers up a genuinely good story. Otherwise, we’d be forced to watch it for the blood and boobs alone!
In season 2, Spartacus and his band of rebels vow that “shackles will be struck from every slave on their path.” This sounds a lot more exciting than the inevitable season where they’re all killed by the Romans. Watch for Spartacus: Vengeance on Starz in January 2012.
Earlier this week, Modern Family co-executive producer Danny Zuker tweeted, “There’s NOTHING that can’t be joked about. But if u choose to joke about a tragedy u better make sure it is REALLY funny.” Sunday’s Curb didn’t joke about a specific tragedy per se, but it really took that whole “there’s NOTHING that can’t be joked about” sentiment and ran with it.
Curb Your Enthusiasm is the most Jewish show I’ve ever seen. Larry’s Jewish. Most of his friends are Jewish. Temple, seders and rabbis all regularly pop up in Curb episodes. But it wasn’t until last night that I realized Larry doesn’t particularly care for the religion. Maybe I realized it all along, it’s just that “Palestinian Chicken” actually made me think about it. And how could I not, with Larry’s insane, blasphemous sex echoing through the house while Marty Funkhouser waited patiently in his foyer?
Still, regardless of how clueless I may be, I didn’t really buy Larry’s conundrum at the end of the episode: having to choose between standing with his friends and protesting the new Al Abbas or throwing his lot in with Shara and the promise of sex with her and her sister. If Larry had no problem with Shara saying that she was going to f**k the Jew out of him, he’s already made his choice. And the funniest thing about it is, Larry didn’t sell out his religious convictions for Shara, he did it for the episode’s titular Palestinian chicken. He even becomes something of a hero in the process when he knocks off Marty’s “Jew cap” when he tries wearing it inside the restaurant. Still, this side of the episode didn’t resonate with me as much as Jeff identifying Larry as a social assassin did. But I do respect what it was doing. Telling a story about a man willing to betray his identity for chicken and sex. And I don’t think any show could have done it the way Curb did and gotten away with it. Or maybe I’m full of s**t and should stop reading so much into things. Maybe I should just laugh at the jokes and quote the Soup Nazi.
Anyway, I thought Sammie and Ron trying to use Larry’s social quirks to their advantage to be much funnier, and strangely overdue, considering the fact that the show’s in its eighth season. Like Ron tells Larry, he’s the one who says the things we all wish we could say, but never do. Why hasn’t anyone else had to idea to enlist Larry help like this before? And Larry relishes the entire thing. For once, people are complimenting him, rather than calling him a prick. Well, Sammie called him a prick. Still, she did it after asking for his help.
Larry as the hero is short-lived, sadly. Susie and Eileen know that Larry says all sorts of crazy crap, but not that he would single out their “verbal texting” and annoying lip smacking. Eddie’s affair with Eileen is outed, Larry’s golf team is torn apart, and that’s the ballgame. Larry’s days as a social assassin are over. At least professionally.
These brought the funny:
- “If Rabin can break bread with Arafat, I can have chicken at this anti-Semitic shithole.”
- “LOL. It’s cute, huh?”
- “He has no balls. I have a solid, single ball.”
- “I like you.” “What’s not to like?” “You’re a Jew.”
- Scott Aukerman cameo! Can you spot him?
As Dana Scully might say, “There are hits and there are misses. And then there are misses.” You have to feel sorry for Walt. Just a little bit. There are times when he’s got things so completely figured out. He makes a plan and sees it through. The drug dealers. Gale. Then there are times like tonight, where he buys a gun, puts on his Heisenberg hat and, well, can’t get anything right.
You can’t fault him for trying, though. What he told Jesse at the end of last week’s premiere is exactly the truth. They’ve bought themselves some time, but eventually Gus will kill them. So Walt has to make his move first. I love how methodical he is. When Lawson (played by Deadwood’s Jim Beaver) tells him that he may want to practice that draw, Walt does exactly that, setting two chairs across from each other and drawing again and again until he’s got it right. But later, when Walt expects to see Gus in the lab, he instead gets Mike, who tells him that he’ll never see Gus again. Not sure what it was about that line, but it gave me goosebumps. Maybe it’s what we heard underneath it. The sound of a door slamming shut and Walt and Jesse being left out in the cold. Whatever it is, Walt figures his time is even shorter than he originally thought, so he goes to Gus’ house to do what he has to there. Instead, he gets Mike again, calling him on his cell phone and telling him to go home.
So if Gus won’t come to him and he can’t go to Gus, Walt has no other choice but to get Mike on his side. After watching Victor get his throat cut right in front of him, Mike’s got to figure that he’s got just as much to lose as anyone else. Maybe he’ll be Gus’ next object lesson and end up dead and stuffed inside a barrel. A very real possibility, which makes his response to Walt’s proposition — that he get him in a room with Gus — all the more confusing. Maybe it was fear causing him to lash out, to punch Walt in the face and kick him in the stomach. Fear that, if he was tailing Walt, there may be someone tailing him. Maybe it’s a fear of Walt causing him to keep his distance. If things can never be the same between Walt and Gus, can they ever be the same between Walt and Mike? And certainly Mike recognizes a certain reckless streak beginning to show itself in Walt. And if Mike doesn’t then we should. Last season Walt got caught up in the grind of his separation from Skyler and his work with Gus. Now, Walt’s Walt, but you see Heisenberg sitting just below the surface. And he’s not going away the way he did in season 3. In light of that, Mike may consider walling himself off from everyone around him — as far as his co-workers are concerned — his best option.
I’m still trying to figure out where Jesse’s headed in all of this. At the end of last week’s episode, he seemed like he was almost relieved, like he had recovered from the shock of what he had done to Gale, maybe recognized the necessity of the act, had maybe come to an uneasy truce with it, at least. This week, he seems to be doing everything he can to keep from confronting it. He gets Pete and Badger over and goes all House Party on them. Booze, drugs, girls, whatever it takes to keep the party going. And when things finally fizzle out, he’s left alone in his house with his expensive sound system, and it’s all he can do to just keep from breaking down.
I was a little surprised by what we saw of Hank and Marie’s situation this week. When all we saw in “Box Cutter” was the two of them alone, it seemed like Hank had retreated into his me-against-the-world pissy mood. He didn’t want to be around people. He didn’t want to work his therapy. He just wanted to surf eBay and spend money on
rocks minerals. But this week we actually saw him smiling. He’s making progress! He’s excited! He high-fives his nurse! But when Marie jumps in, tries getting a piece of the action, Hank boxes her out. When she complains about his late night shenanigans keeping her up, he tells her she’s welcome to sleep somewhere else. It’s like it’s not so much the world he wants nothing to do with, but his wife. Being bedridden, they’re spending all their time together. So maybe Hank sees her as some walking, talking representation of his accident. Whatever the case, bless her for being so tight-lipped. Eventually there’s going to be a fight that’ll be a lot of fun to watch. Or it could be incredibly painful and split them up. That would be considerably less fun.
We talk a lot about Walt and Jesse and the path they’re going down. How much darker they’re characters are becoming. But we shouldn’t forget Skyler, who’s slowly moving deeper into Walt’s business, and all by herself, at that. This week, she makes an offer on Bogdan’s car wash, who’s insulted that Walt would send “his woman” to do his dirty work for him. Insulted also that after trashing his air fresheners and grabbing himself before walking out on the job, he’d try to buy him out. If Walt wants the car wash, the price is 20 million dollars. I’m interested to see how they skirt that one. The rest of the show is skewing darker, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t here, too. Walt’s got some experience now, and if he really wants that car wash, I imagine he can do a lot more than throw air fresheners around and grab himself.
We got a lot of action in this week’s True Blood, but a lot of it was really dark – not as much of the over-the-top funny tongue-in-cheekiness that has been central to this season so far. Not that I’m complaining. It was just tough to watch Tommy kill his parents – regardless of how horrible they are, and his clear remorse gave me another bit of (probably false) hope that we’ll eventually see Tommy’s redemption. It was also hard to watch Godric rip into Eric about being evil, damned, etc. (though I was just waiting with bated breath for the eventual Tara-Eric confrontation, and it was every bit as awesome as I expected).
I guess it might get old after awhile, but right now, I just can’t get enough of innocent, doe-eyed Eric. Loved watching him bond with Sookie after his bad dream. Who called it after episode two that they would flip the dynamic between Sookie and Eric to make their relationship believable? Go ahead… scroll down. I’ll wait. That’s right. It was me. Boom.
Who also called the irony of sex-crazed Jason being gang-raped? (Hint: It was also me) It was great to see him reflect on and own up to his past philandering ways. I can’t get a good read on what his messed up Hoyt-Jessica dream meant (or means); perhaps it’s related to his imminent transformation?
And in other horrifying sexual relationship news, I was glad Bill glamoured Portia out of love with him because her pro-incest stance was not convincing me at all – call me short-sighted, narrow-minded or whatever, but that whole situation gave me a serious case of ick.
What I really loved about this episode, though, were the few moments that were so relatable for those of us trying to understand what constitutes “reasonable” behavior in a world of witches, vampires, werewolves and shape-shifters. It’s all too common, especially in horror/suspense, that for the sake of plot, the characters choose the most complicated or convoluted path to their eventual demise or escape. It’s the girl who runs upstairs when the killer is at the back door instead of out the front door and to the neighbor’s house. I’m not saying for one second that True Blood doesn’t take its fair share of convenient plot turns, but I was right there with Jesus, Lafayette and Tara when they decided to GTFO of Bon Temps. Plus, the whole time Tommy was freaking out about Sheriff Bellefleur pulling him and Sam over, I was thinking “shift into a dog, a fly, a mouse, whatever – this is a solvable problem!!!” So, it’s always nice, especially when they have supernatural means at their disposal, for the characters to make a logical decision.
Speaking of utilizing supernatural powers, I had actually forgotten that Sookie could read minds… I’m sure that would’ve been useful in any number of ways over the past dozen or so episodes when it was conveniently ignored, but whatever.
I felt like we got a solid background on the relationship between witchcraft and vampirism, and it was interesting to see Sookie confront Marnie and Holly… there’s clearly more to this story that will be revealed over time – like what threat Marnie poses, exactly, since we discovered through Bill’s interrogation that she legitimately has no conscious idea how she is performing the spells – but I was satisfied with what we learned this week. And as usual, learning more about how vampires have infiltrated major social, political, religious and business influencers (Google? Of course) is always a fun glimpse into this messed up world.
Random “loved it” scenes from this week:
Numero uno (in honor of our new friend the goat-killing Mexican shaman): Seeing Lettie Mae “Mrs. Daniels” again. She’s a crazy old broad, and I loved that since Terry and Arlene don’t have a demon, the sage will work for ghosts too.
Numero dos: Bill suggesting a “cosmetic solution” to Pam’s problem. “Maybe some extra lipstick.”
Numero tres: And oooohhhhh shhhhiiiiiitttt… Pam accidentally revealed the she knew what happened to Eric and where he was, and now Bill is en route to catch Sookie and Eric getting’ tender. Next week is going to be good!
I’ve read that in an alternate cut of this week’s episode, the producers actually had a giant, neon sign floating over Margaret’s head that said ANASTASIA with an arrow pointing down at her. They ended up cutting it because they felt it wasn’t obvious enough.
And just like Anna Anderson and the Russian royalty, Margaret is finding Nucky’s world of expensive clothes, important people and lavish parties to be something of a fairy tale (GET IT?). And surprisingly enough, rather than wander around, staring at everything with doe-eyed innocence, she finds that she fits in. When Nucky introduces her to Senator Edge, she’s quick on her feet when the subject of women’s suffrage comes up. And moments later her trepidation at dancing with Nucky quickly dissolves when she sees the way people are looking at them. But alas, Margaret’s carriage turns back into a pumpkin, and she’s forced to go back to waiting in dressing rooms and Madame Jeunet. Of course, coming back down after being given a glimpse of Nucky’s world is no easy thing, and the next night, after seeing Nucky and poor, stupid Lucy walking out of the hotel hand in hand, Margaret steals some fancy women’s panties as she’s leaving. She’s getting the junkie itch, and can’t completely wall herself from this world as soon as she clock’s out for the day.
Out in Chicago, Jimmy’s in the same boat (And I guess an Anastasia himself. You’ve got layers, Boardwalk Empire.). Now that Nucky’s kicked him out of AC, he’s set up shop with Johnny Torrio and Al Capone, helping to consolidate territory now that Big Jim Colosimo is out of the picture. And he’s having moderate success, although he’s still trying to get a feel for working just behind the curtain, corralling Al, who’s got a temper which causes him to fly off the handle and make stupid decisions. At a sit-down with the Irish mob, Capone pushes them around instead of taking Jimmy’s advice and negotiating for the territory they want a piece at a time, and as retaliation one of them takes a knife to Jimmy’s new girlfriend’s face.
Jimmy knew something was coming, he just didn’t know what. Moving forward it’ll be interesting to see where he’s forced to go to work with someone who’s method is so different from his own. You can already see the resentment brewing in him when Capone compares his experience in the war to Jimmy’s, and now with Pearl compounding that, the two are going to butt heads eventually. If we’re comparing Margaret and Jimmy, both trying to fit into worlds not their own, I buy Margaret living in Nucky’s more than I buy Jimmy living in Capone’s. At heart he’s a family man, he’s not flashy or over the top and I’m not sure he has the stomach to do the things being a gangster will require of him. He seems much more comfortable making things happen behind the scenes.
Badassery, thy name is Chalky White. While Boardwalk Empire is definitely one of the best shows of this last season (yes, even better than Blue Bloods), I feel like it still hasn’t quite reached that level of greatness that shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad live on. Yes, I know. Those shows have had years to develop their stories and characters. And “Anastasia” gave us a glimpse of what the show could potentially be like once it’s had a chance to do the same. Eli arresting the head of the Klan’s AC chapter was a great scene, and surprisingly funny, too, with a room full of Klansmen pointing up at the podium when asked who was in charge. Chalky’s monologue about his dad and his untimely death may be one of the greatest things the show has shown us so far, and felt like it brought some of episode up with it. Nucky arguing with Senator Edge about road appropriation money isn’t the most interesting thing in the world, but I can deal with it, as long as it’s balanced out by a healthy dose of Chalky White.
Chalky’s relationship with Nucky is an interesting one. Like Nucky said, Chalky tells the black community in AC how to vote, but there’s a limit to what he can sell them. Nucky draws the line at a lynching, but where does Chalky draw it? After all, Chalky’s only achieved his status because of what Nucky’s done for him, so how far is he really willing to go for his principles? Is there a point when he won’t be able to serve Nucky and the black community? I guess, when you think about it, Chalky’s an Anastasia, too. Dammit, Boardwalk Empire, you did it again.
You’d think that after seven seasons Larry David would run out of ways to stick his foot in his mouth, but “The Safe House” gave us one of the funniest instances of that yet when Larry discovers that a battered-women’s shelter has moved in a few doors down. He learns this when the house mother drops by, asking Larry to come over and apologize to a few of the women he’s had unfortunate run-ins with; one who was blocking a freezer full of Chubby Hubby at the grocery store, and the other who was caught letting her dog crap all over Larry’s lawn (a scene which, by the way, gave us the line that may encapsulate all of Curb Your Enthusiasm, maybe even Larry David’s life: “I’m yelling for society!”).
Larry’s always been kind of a f**k-up, but I think there’s a difference between the Larry who’s just misunderstood and the Larry we saw in “The Safe House,” who enjoys pushing boundaries and making people just a little uncomfortable. Larry may have been able to pick his battles with Cheryl and Susie, but in a room full of women who already have a negative view of the men in their lives, there’s just no way he’s coming out on top. Backed into a corner, he comes out swinging, as smarmy as he ever was.
And, hey, it’s really funny. Of course, you feel bad for laughing at a group of battered women, but you know that any time Larry spends on top, heaping scorn on those around him is always going to be short-lived. And it isn’t long before one of the women almost takes a swing at him when Larry says that he just can’t imagine anyone taking a woman like her – “She runs the show?” – down.
“The Safe House” also introduced us to Richard Lewis’ new girlfriend, an ample-bosomed burlesque dancer named Stella (played by Jan Anderson). Now that Larry’s divorced, he seems set on ruining the relationships of everyone around him. In last week’s premiere he pushed Nan Funkhouser into going on vacation with Marty when all he wanted was time to himself. And now, after noticing a mole on Stella’s breast that she “might want to get checked out,” Larry has Stella convinced that she needs to have the breast-reduction surgery she’s always wanted but never gone through with. Of course, this upsets Richard Lewis, who loves Stella for her mind and generosity but isn’t one to turn his back on all that other stuff. I love seeing him make these high-minded arguments for why he loves the women in his life and then being exposed as just as vain as the rest of us.
The way in which the episode tied itself together, with Dale almost hitting Larry and Larry being forced to explain his black eye to the doctor as being the result of falling down was really clever, even though it wasn’t as funny as Larry’s conversation with the women at the shelter, or any of his scenes with Leon. I’m still laughing at all that.
These had me rolling:
- “It’s very hard to apologize to a dog because they’re a stupid animal.”
- “Inspirational speaker? What the f**k is she talking about?”
- “How about the marm? Huh? How about this marm?”
- “I do. I do know what you’re saying. Why do you keep asking me that?
Dark! Oppressive! We’re all going to die! These are just a few of the things that ran through my head while watching the season premiere of Breaking Bad, which has finally returned after a THIRTEEN MONTH HIATUS. I imagine that after having waited similar amounts of time for new seasons of Lost and Battlestar Galactica, I’ll wake up one day to find all my friends and family dead, my youth and vitality gone, and wonder what exactly I did with my life. But I digress…
When it became clear to Mike and Victor that Walt was planning on killing Gale, Walt’s only explanation was, “Your boss is gonna need me.” While it set up a few of the plot threads we’ll be exploring this season, “Box Cutter” really spent its time answering that one question. Does Gus need Walt? Well, for the time being, it looks like he does. Although Gus keeping them around is a very calculated risk. The facts are these: First, Walt kills the two drug dealers Gus explicitly told him to leave alone. Now, he kills Gale. Where does it stop? Does it stop? Walt tells Gus that he’d do it all over again, that if the choice was between him and Gale, Gale would lose every time. So we’ve got Walt, the proverbial Rick James, with his muddy boots kicking the s**t out of Gus’ (who, yes, is Charlie Murphy in this scenario) couch, and yelling, “F**k ‘yo couch, nigga!” Gus has no choice but to bring the hammer down, which he does in the most unexpected way possible, by slitting Victor’s throat with the episode’s titular box cutter. And, holy hell, how far we have come from the dad from Malcolm in the Middle running around the desert in his underwear.
Let’s take a moment to look at that. The scene with Gus clocks in at ten minutes. Yes, ten minutes doesn’t sound that long. But in a cable drama that runs an average of 45 minutes, that’s almost a fourth of your show. And that’s a testament to how much Breaking Bad has grown in a relatively short amount of time. It’s a show that knows itself so completely, knows its strengths and what to do to keep its audience on the hook. And the whole thing couldn’t have come off any better. I mean, one minute these guys are cleaning up a dead body and the next they’re eating breakfast in matching white jeans and Kenny Rogers t-shirts! It’s effing brilliant!
The premiere set a few things up that I might normally feel a bit iffy with, but again, this is Breaking Bad, and I have no choice but to trust the show. First is the trajectory Gale’s murder has set Jesse on. For the first half of the episode, he’s in a complete stupor. Almost as if what he’s done has left him unable to function. He doesn’t snap out of it until Victor bites it and after that he seems completely at peace. Like he tells Walt, at least they know where they stand with Gus now. I’ve always enjoyed the dynamic between Walt and Jesse, especially when they’re working together. When you look back at the show, they haven’t had too many chances to do that. Whether it was Jesse’s drug use, or Jane’s death, there’s been plenty keeping the two out of each other’s good graces, so I’ll be interested to see how this season treats their relationship. Conflict breeds drama blah blah blah, can’t we all just be friends? Next is Hank. Watching him bidding on
rocks minerals while ignoring his physical therapy and being pissed off at Marie made me flash back to fat Lee on Battlestar. Apollo was a character the show never really knew what to do with, so you had him in different roles from season to season. I’m hoping we don’t see the same fate befall Hank. I can only hope these minerals will eventually lead back to his search for Heisenberg.
So where are we now? Walt and Jesse have been put on notice. But, as we’ve learned — as Gale’s learned — Walt and Jesse are wiley, and do crazy shit when backed into a corner. I laughed when Mike asked if they were sure hydochloric acid would get rid of Victor’s body and Jesse shot back with, “Trust us.” These are guys who were doing bad things long before Gale showed up. But then there was still the we-do-what-we-have-to-to-survive argument, which is simultaneously still there and thrown completely out the window. Yes, if they hadn’t of gone after Gale, they’d probably both be dead by now. But these two could have cut and run and long time ago. They’ve both got the money to set up far, far away. But they didn’t. They’re the bad guys now. Maybe a degree or two less bad than Gus, but bad nonetheless. There’s nothing left to do but accept it and go out for pancakes. In matching Kenny Rogers t-shirts, of course.
“You drank the whole faerie, and you’re going to your room!”
This week’s opening scene was pretty good – it’s so much fun to have characters that have always been rather one-dimensional suddenly (even by witchcraft) take on a whole new personality, and we’ve actually had a lot of that this season. Eric, obviously – his swimming scene was just hysterical. Bill with his newfound power, no longer mooning over Sookie. Even Pam has been a bit transformed emotionally as she desperately tries to protect her maker, and as we see at the end of the episode, physically as well. Nan Flanagan hasn’t changed, though –she’s still a ball-busting, badass bitch, and I love her for it.
Jason’s also undergone a change – several, in fact. I was so glad Jason finally escaped, but I did find it curious that he didn’t even try to take that girl with him. Since we’re being fed Jason as the noble hero right now, I’ll chalk that up to the fever. It was an interesting turn to see the former man slut of Bon Temps touting the benefits of appropriate courtship and “make the first time special” lovemaking.
I’m getting more and more curious about the witchcraft angle. I think they’re weaving it nicely this season, even laying the foundation last season, as opposed to just throwing another mystical creature into the mix. I like that there’s a pre-existing knowledge and relationship between witches and vampires, and I can’t wait to see how that all ties together.
That said, I found this episode pretty underwhelming as a whole; we still seem to be in build-up mode. There’s clearly some unresolved tension between Sookie and Alcide, so I’m interested to see how that plays out. And as much of a dick as Tommy Mickens is, I was heartbroken to see him back under Joe Lee’s control. Sam’s a decent guy and good with kids – big surprise.
Oh, what WAS good was the parlor scene with Portia’s grandmother (Bill’s, great, great, great granddaughter) played by – was that Mona Katherine Helmond? I loved seeing Bill play the southern gentleman and charm the Bellefleur matriarch. I guess, though, I’m surprised that as much sex as these vampires seem to have, and given that Bill is living in the same town where he lived when he was alive, that this whole ancestry issue hasn’t come up before – I mean, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t distantly related to Sookie, too.
I guess credit where it’s due – True Blood is an equal opportunity offender. They’ll go “there” with gore, violence, sex and everything else taboo including a rape train and incest. But still… ick.
I also feel like the demon baby storyline is being forced a little. I’m not sure if I’m glad it’s getting a little build up every week or if I think it needs to pay off so we can all move on. Jury’s still out, but I guess it was good this week to see incontrovertible evidence that, to quote Hank Hill, “that boy ain’t right.”
As for the final scene, I’m still not quite sure how much of the witchcraft is coming from Marnie and how much is coming from Antonia – there’s clearly some possession going on, but I think Marnie has something to hide, too. Either way, I was devastated to see Pam all zombified; so much of her badassery comes from the fact that she’s smoking hot.
Question of the night: I wonder what happens when a newly infected-but-not-yet-completely-transformed panther-ghost-daddy-whatever gets vampire blood in his system?
Line of the night: “They don’t make necromancers like they used to, Bill.” – My girl Nan