“Never shall I forget,” before you ask.
One of the first jobs I ever had was working at Party City, selling Halloween masks and scraping shoe polish that said, “BOO! Happy Halloween!” off the windows ALL YEAR LONG. My first day there, I was trained by this guy who was always walking a few steps ahead of me for some reason, jumping from one topic to the next as fast as he could. When we finally made our way to the balloon counter (working at the balloon counter was some sort of Bar Mitzvah-esque rite of passage there) this guy took it upon himself to remind me to always take the customer’s money before handing them their order. Apparently that was the done thing in places of business back then. ”Money talks, bullshit walks,” he said, as if the fortunes of kings and empires pivoted on the work we were doing. I’ve come to the conclusion that Cullen Bohannon is this guy. He charges into a situation, and before he really even knows what’s going on, he gets in everyone’s face and invariably says something stupid, because he needs to look like he’s in charge.
Tonight, we find Bohannon hot on the trail of Harper (looking for this guy is the “someplace” he had to be in last week’s episode), sneaking into a logging camp, gun drawn (per always), and sticking it in the face of the first guy he sees. Now, while we, the viewers, may have many questions, one thing is perfectly clear: there is no reason to believe that any of the information Cullen gets from this guy is going to be reliable. “You’re looking for Harper? And you want to stick that in his face? Uhh… Harper’s gone! Yeah, he went North! To, like, Canada! And he left yesterday, so you better hurry!” And because most people are good, upstanding Christians, Bohannon takes all this at face value and rides off FOR GREAT JUSTICE. Bohannon catches a glimpse of Harper, cresting a hill in the distance, but he doesn’t catch him because let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Back at camp, we find Durant lamenting the loss of his maps, even as he celebrates the return of Lily Bell. “Celebrates” may be the wrong word here. For most of their time together, Durant looks like he’s wondering whether or not to hit on her, and she looks like she’s wondering whether or not to clap sarcastically at everything he says. Durant may be confused at how a woman like Lily could have fallen in love with someone like Robert, who they both mention is at least partially responsible for the work they’re doing on the railroad. Their conversation is about as interesting as Robert himself was, and we realize that we’re forgetting what they’re saying almost as soon as it’s come out of their mouths. When Durant tells Lily that Robert was a starry-eyed dreamer who never would have made anything out of himself without someone like him, Lily almost storms out. That is, until, Durant gets up, pleads with her to stay and finish her dinner of ham hocks and boiled potatoes. He promises that that’s it, no more pontificating. He’ll just sit there and look unsure of what to do with his hands.
We got to see a little more of the relationship we all knew was coming between Elam and Eva, the “tattooed harlot” so eloquently talked about by Irish O’Shaughnessy at the beginning of the episode. Even though — in the combined two minutes we’ve seen her on screen before now — I think she’s an infinitely more interesting character than so many others on this show, I’m kind of glad she ended up with someone like Elam. Because he’s a man who desperately needs something good in his life, and although he’s tried, that something good isn’t going to be a deep and lasting friendship with Bohannon. After that roll in hay denied him in last week’s episode, Elam and Eva gaze deep into each other’s eyes, and even though they don’t say it, you know they’re both thinking, “Finally. Someone who gets me.” When Eva tells Elam that she was worth “three blankets and a horse” to the Indians who held her captive, Elam tells her that her eyes are worth 100 horses alone, which reminded me of the time I watched Johnny Lingo and my Sunday School teacher told us all we were worth 10,000 cows. So I’m having kind of a hard time taking it seriously. But we’ll see where it goes. I’m sure it won’t always seem like two teenagers pawing at each other in the back seat of a car. Will it?
Two things I thought were very interesting about tonight’s episode. One was the Swede, who’s still making snide remarks to Durant about what a shitheel Bohannon is, like if he keeps at it Durant will have no choice but to fire him and proclaim the Swede his favorite. Durant tells him that there’s a wagonload of black powder coming in, and the Swede says he’ll take a small group of men to watch over it. Later, the Swede tells Bohannon that he’ll introduce him to President Jackson if Bohannon looks the other way while the Swede’s men take a few barrels for themselves. THIS IS MY PREDICTION SO LISTEN WELL: As he’s leaving Durant’s boxcar, the Swede hears his boss dictating a telegraph to his stockbroker in… oh, let’s say, Cleveland. Durant says to invest $147,000 in R&R Railroad stock. A few minutes earlier we heard Durant saying that if they couldn’t get money for new surveyors, his railroad was pretty much sunk. I think the powder the Swede and his men are taking is meant to sabotage the R&R Railroad. After the explosion we saw tonight — along with Bohannon saving the guy whose ear he shot off last week because he’s so, ugh, complex — who knows how it’ll all play out. But the Swede’s up to something, you can be sure of that. Interesting moment #2 came when Father Cole found Bohannon stumbling back to his tent, all liquored up. His revelation that he was with John Brown during the whole Bleeding Kansas thing really came out of left field. Mainly because he’s seemed like such an uninteresting character up until this point; someone who didn’t seem like he was playing a part in a period drama at all. So even though you can be a silly little ragdoll, Hell On Wheels, I still have to doff my cap to you. Four episodes in and it does seem like a few things are beginning to come together. And for all the awkward dialogue and Irish brothers the show is lousy with (their big thing tonight was looking at naked women), you are managing to surprise me every now and then.
Other thoughts (nope, just one)…
- The Swede’s naked! My eyes! The goggles! They do nothing!
There came a point in tonight’s mid-season finale (such a ridiculous concept!) where I looked down at my watch and said, “Only ten minutes left. They better get to some killin’! And quick!” Well, now that the dust has settled I have to say they pulled it out, and turned in what may be the show’s first great episode and definitely the strongest since the pilot.
If anything, this first half of season 2 should remind us that, if this show isn’t handled with care it’s going to get repetitive really quick. And I don’t mean just by spending too much time on Herschel’s farm or wherever else the group finds itself a year or two or three from now. This is a show about zombies, and after a while hiding from zombies and running from zombies and shooting zombies in the face could get really old. “Pretty Much Dead Already,” or at least its last ten minutes, was a great way to show how much emotion the show’s capable of squeezing out of the right material.
Was what we saw incredibly surprising? That’s a tough question to answer. We hadn’t seen Sophia since the season premiere, so I was firmly in Shane’s camp in thinking that they were never going to find her alive. In hindsight, throwing something like this at the audience wasn’t something I was necessarily waiting for, but does seem like one of those things the show would be keeping in its back pocket. But regardless of whether it was expected or not, HOW EFFING INSANE WAS IT?!?! When you find yourself watching TV on the edge of your sofa and eating your hands, there’s a good chance that whatever you’re watching is doing its job.
And the show did its job and then some. After Shane’s run in with Dale, he stomps out of the woods with a look on his face that says I’M GONNA KILL SOMEONE. And we knew he was only looking for an excuse — or waiting for Rick/whoever else to push him over the line — before he dragged those walkers out of the barn and started shooting them in the head. But I was really wondering whether he’d open up on Herschel or anyone else who tried to stop him. That never happened, although I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Herschel have a heart attack at the scene unfolding in front of him. When Shane and the others catch him and Rick trying to herd two walkers they’ve found out of the woods into the barn, Shane snaps and finally draws his line in the sand. People are either going to step up and defend their camp or they’re not. The way he made his point to Herschel, that the walkers are dead and not just sick by shooting one of them in the heart and stomach and asking how it could keep coming at them if it were still alive, was actually pretty smart. And the look on Herschel’s face during it all was of a man whose world was crashing down around him.
So Shane opens up the barn, the walkers come out and the shooting starts. Daryl and Andrea jump in with Shane right away. Others, like Glenn, help out almost despite themselves. These guys doing their thing while the group watches on was some pretty heavy stuff. But almost as soon as it starts, the zombies stop coming and everyone’s got a chance to catch their breath. Then we see Sophia. And watching the group’s reaction to that was kind of heartbreaking. Keeping up the search for her like they were was I think more a symbolic gesture than anything else. Rick would probably have kept it up another month if something like this hadn’t of happened, regardless of what he really knew must have happened to her in his head. But while the group has had the past couple of weeks of fruitless search to mentally prepare themselves for the possibility that they were never going to find her, seeing her like this opened those wounds up all over again. And while everyone is standing there, wide-eyed and in shock, it’s Rick who steps out and puts her down. Rick, who Shane had just described as “not built for this world.” In the past, Rick has complained about the group singling him out as their leader, saying it’s something he never asked for. And while I’ve never seen him take any steps to distance himself from it, maybe there’s something about him, and his willingness to make those hard decisions, that naturally sets him up in that role.
Despite all of this, the show is still struggling in other areas. Namely, giving characters consistent motivation for the things they do. Sometimes these are deep-rooted problems, like Dale’s whole thing with Shane. We know Dale caught him aiming at Rick down the barrel of his shotgun last season, we know he caught wind of Shane’s plan to leave the group. But I’m still trying to figure out how this translates into as deep-seated a mistrust as it obviously is, and why Dale’s picked this moment to confront him, or why he’s taking the guns, when there’s just as much chance that Rick’s going to ask for them as Shane. And how the hell does he know about what Shane did to Otis?
Sometimes these problems come right out of left field, like everything we saw tonight between Daryl and Carol (and please don’t let these two end up together). When Daryl’s saddling up again to go out and look for Sophia, Carol tells him he needs to rest, that there’s a good chance they’re going to lose her, and she couldn’t stand to lose him, too. So, Daryl does what you’d expect, also known as the opposite of what you’d expect: he calls her a bitch and stomps out of the stable. The next time we see them, they’re looking at flowers and reflecting on how lucky they are to have found each other. I understand these are emotional times, and when someone like Daryl has really got nothing to live for, it’d be easy to latch on to something like this, looking for Sophia. But I still didn’t think that justified his outburst. And let’s not forget Shane. Poor, crazy Shane. Who, after learning that Lori’s pregnant — and hearing her insist that the baby is Rick’s and not his, regardless of who the father is — may have been pushed right over the edge. I think his response to all of this is much more understandable than Daryl’s, but we want to make sure that he doesn’t turn into a caricature of himself.
I’m also hoping that the group leaves Herschel’s farm behind when the back half of the season starts up in February. I haven’t gotten as tired with this arc as I know some others have, but especially now I think it’s about time to move on. Whatever’s coming between Rick and Shane needs to come, and then we should start chapter 3 of this thing.
So, the show’s still working some things out. But overall I’ve felt these seven episodes to be such a jump in quality from what we saw in season 1 that I can easily overlook them (well, mostly). And if the show can give us more like what we saw tonight, Dale, Daryl and Shane can do all the crazy crap they want.
Things are not looking good for poor Nucky Thompson. Sure, his trip to Ireland was a success. He returned to the Motherland with 10,000 cases of Irish whiskey, has flooded the market and sent Jimmy’s business into the crapper. But does any of that matter when the man is staring a prison sentence in the face? Actually, yes. Nucky’s lawyer tells him he’ll probably be sentenced to five years but would only serve around two. So having a nice chunk of change to come home to would be nice. That is, of course, assuming Nucky could get someone to watch over his affairs while he was away. Someone he could trust who wouldn’t spend the entire time trying to push him into a corner, turn him into the next Commodore.
So everything’s relative. Especially when you consider how bad things are going for Jimmy, who rapidly seems to be losing the confidence of almost everyone around him. From the Commodore** and his political cronies to Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. Now that Nucky’s got the town flush with hooch — and not the bathtub gin pee water stuff they’re cutting with what they got from George Remus — Jimmy finds himself sitting on another warehouse full of booze. Nucky’s still running around doing knows what (well, we know but Jimmy doesn’t). Chalky’s labor strike is still going strong, and unless Jimmy can deliver the Klan boys who shot up his warehouse, he’s got no plans to call it off. And on top of all that, Manny Horvitz is out, looking for some payback. But one thing at a time. Right now, Jimmy needs to concentrate on selling all this booze. Lansky says they should all take a piece back to their own cities and sell it there. But Atlantic City’s already stocked, and Philadelphia is Manny’s town, so Jimmy’s forced to pack things up and head back to Princeton, his old alma mater. Wait. Princeton?! Muhaauahaaaa…
(**So I guess the Commodore’s on the road to recovery? I didn’t think we’d ever see him out of that wheelchair. Oh well. He definitely had the funniest scene of the night. After a few false starts, finally telling Jimmy to hike up his dress and show everybody his… ahem… you know. That. Down there. Thaaat’s right. That.)
One thing Boardwalk Empire has taught us is that when it rains, it pours. And crap continues to rain down on Margaret. Emily’s polio is just as bad as she feared, so of course it’s because of her greed, selfishness and willingness to stand by silent while Nucky goes through with all of his nefarious shit. After talking with her priest, she gets the idea in her head that she can buy her way back into God’s good graces, and maybe do something for Emily’s condition, too. So she donates a pile of her jewelry and the money she’s been taking from Nucky to the church, and receives a big pile of disappointment for her troubles. I guess that if anything could make a person reconsider a life of crime, it would be their child contracting polio, but I’ve seen these past few episodes as such a step backward for the character. Wrestling with a tough decision — in this case, supporting Nucky and his life of crime — is a good thing. Wrestling with it for years and years, or season after season, gets a little old.
UNLESS (and this is kind of a big unless), this struggling is going to lead to bigger things plotwise later on. If Margaret finds Nucky’s misdeeds just too much to shoulder, she could testify against him, and the ramifications of that decision could lead to all sorts of chicanery in season 3. That sort of struggling I’m okay with. Struggling for the sake of troubled looks and staring off into the middle distance… what does that bring to the table?
But while we’re talking about poorly handled character development that’ll turn out to have big consequences later, let’s talk about Angela, BECAUSE WHO SAW THAT COMING?? Shows with casts as big as this one often lose characters in the shuffle, so we all kind of smiled politely when we saw Angela do things like screw around with the photographer and his wife, cut her hair, and go to what’s her name’s big gay beach party, knowing that all of it would amount to nothing much. But now she’s head. Shot in the head on top of her dead lover, which Jimmy’s going to find and have to explain away. And how big of a question is it going to be that this was Manny’s doing? Jimmy already knows that Nucky would never touch Angela, so who else could have done it? And what’s his response going to be? We saw him flop around like a dying fish when Capone and the boys brought up the possibility of killing Nucky so we know that playing hardcore offense isn’t really Jimmy’s thing. So what’s he going to do? Are there such things as horse socks? Is anyone listening to me?
When things get this tough, look this bleak, it’s important to take a breath and try to single out the good things in life. Find that silver lining. And in this week’s episode that silver lining is… Agent Van Alden’s divorce? Yes. As it turns out, Rose’s petition for divorce and note to her husband, kindly asking him to “please attend to this as soon as your activities allow,” may be the most cheerful thing the show has given its viewers to glom onto this week. Hopefully things will get downright cheery next week when Nelson’s Dutch nanny runs off with his kid, or Deputy Halloran has a brain aneurysm and dies.
Here’s hoping everyone has a happy Thanksgiving! While you’re eating yourself stupid and trying not to make eye contact with that one uncle who hugs you for just a second too long, enjoy this video of the Masters of the Universe float from the 1985 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Anyone else excited about learning who the man in black (leather sex gear) is? My money is on one of Constance’s gentleman callers… she seems like the kind to be a lady on the street and a freak in the sheets.
OMG! EWWW! It’s Tate! That is so messed up (which just seems redundant when talking about this show.) So, I was wrong – Tate is the incubus who seems to be capable of spawning potential devil children, and it turns out the most recent owners bought the latex black body suit as part of their relationship drama.
We also got a little more insight into the relationships between all the spirits in the house – seems Tate is acting out some of his mother issues by being the perfect “son” for the house’s original owner, Mrs. Montgomery – specifically, working to secure her a new baby to replace the one dismembered and reassembled by her huffing husband. But what will happen when her interests conflict with those of Tate’s new love, Violet?
New girl on the block Hayden is confrontational with the original lady of the house as well as Moira, who calls Hayden “cheap and horrible and not half the lady Madam is.” Madam, in this case, is referring to Mrs. Harmon. But Hayden has some insights – the house’s power holds her here, holds Mrs. Montgomery here and holds other innocent souls, which presumably includes Constance’s other child, as well as those who are “in on the game,” which I’m thinking refers to Tate and Moira – the only spirits who seem to have overcome certain conditions of their death. It’s unclear where Constance fits in – maybe she’s alive and well (since we’ve seen her off the property) and just in tune with the spirits thanks to her medium friend.
So Hayden tells us that she and the other spirits can make themselves known or unknown to the house’s living inhabitants. She also says “we’re supposed to fix our issues, but we never can – it doesn’t stick.” Perhaps hauntings in the AHS universe are common, and the house’s unique property is that it doesn’t allow for its dead residents to eventually resolve their issues and move on. The re-emergence of the school shooting victims on Halloween would support this theory.
Each week, we’re getting a more complete peek behind the curtain of this universe, but the inconsistencies still need to be ironed out – like Tate’s, um… potency and Moira’s aging issues. And why doesn’t Mrs. Montgomery know she’s dead? Or remember the circumstances of her death?
But in the short term, we know the mission: Hayden is going to drive Vivien crazy and take the babies (can she do that?) for herself and Mrs. Montgomery. This is at least the second time Tate has tried to “secure” a child from Mrs. Montgomery – he killed the most recent owners – the gay couple, when they started having relationships problems and were no longer going to adopt a child.
So why haven’t their ghosts been more active in the house since Halloween? Clearly the guest stars have been available for the flashback sequences – did these characters not have issues to work out before moving on? Is Moira making progress with hers by confiding in Vivien? She seems to have taken a shine to her and advises Vivien to leave, which, to her credit (and the writers’) she does, but not before Moira makes this potentially significant observation: “That’s what men do. They make you think you’re crazy so they can have their fun.”
But, of course, Vivien can’t actually leave; she’s confronted in her car by the intruders from a few weeks ago, and Tate appears to be trapped by the house – unable to pursue Violet. But if that’s the case, how can the intruders get into the car? I would think their range would be the same as Tate’s, right? We saw Tate off the property during Halloween – and also when he had his off-site session with Ben. Gah! What does it all mean!?!?!
And now that he’s slept with Violet – is that because he loves her or is he making another baby back-up? He told Violet that he would “always be here… as long as you want me here.” There seems to be some underlying significance to the wording of that statement. But seconds later, he acknowledges to Violet that the “others” can hurt her (um, Violet – this would be a good time to ask about that first trip down to the basement) but warns her not to tell her mother for fear that she (Violet) will be labeled as crazy.
I’m thinking about this show too hard. Here’s a funny line from Vivien’s confrontation with Ben (who is becoming less sympathetic as a character with each episode):
“If you are about to diagnose me with post-traumatic stress syndrome, I’m going to bash your fucking face in!”
In the final scenes, we learn that Tate is tired of hurting people, which we an assume he’s been doing on behalf of the ladies of the house. Hayden calls him out on this compulsive behavior and says he has “mommy issues,” to which he replies, of course, “know a good therapist?” Ba dum sum psh! Thank you ladies and gentlemen – I’ll be here all week. Tip your wait staff!
So much cheese in this show, but at least we get a good story pace in each episode and across the series as a whole because by the end of the episode, Hayden has gotten her way – Tate’s second rape attempt prompts Vivien to accidentally shoot Ben. “I wasn’t shooting you; I was shooting the rapist in the rubber suit.” If that’s not a quick pass to the asylum, I don’t know what is.
Luke (aka hot chocolate rent-a-cop) has some very astute observations about the suspicious nature of Ben’s relationship with Vivien, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. She’s hauled off to the looney bin, and she’s okay with it. “At least I’ll be out of this house.”
I guess it was only a matter of time before we got an episode reminding us that these characters are doing much more than building a railroad. They’re chasing the American dream! And so long as they’re white and have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior, I have a feeling things are going to work out juuust fine for them.
For the McGinnis brothers, the railroad represents a new beginning and a chance at prosperity. Being a part of the camp gives them a chance to live and work alongside giants of industry, like Durant, who they’ve heard so much about. All that’s easy enough to understand, but my question is, does anyone really care? And not necessarily about these guys’ story — because there are a million other characters spread across TV shows and movies and books with the same one — but these two in particular? I understand putting uninteresting characters next to even more uninteresting characters to make them interesting by comparison, but Hell On Wheels is putting the McGinnes brothers not only next to interesting characters, but what are arguably the series best characters: Durant, the Swede, and now this woman, Eva, who we see working at the whorehouse and learn has made some bad decisions involving several Indians in the territory. Anyway, I’m not sure it’s doing much to endear these guys to viewers.
What was I talking about? Right. For others, like Elam, the railroad represents a chance for a former slave to be taken as equal among his former masters. But for now, it looks like Elam’s going to be going to bed one sad son of a bitch. The show’s obviously trying to establish some sort of connection between him and Bohannon, if for no other reason than to have their run-ins every week seem somewhat plausible. And you’d think building that bridge wouldn’t be too hard. Of all the ex-slaves we see running together, Elam seems to have a pretty good head on his shoulders; he’s a reasonably smart guy and seems like the one best-equipped to approach Bohannon as an equal. But this week, we saw Elam walking around like racism was a thing of the past and he was just one of the boys. And this is after telling Bohannon that morning not to worry about the Swede taking half his crew to go look for Lily Bell. He and his guys could do their own work and then some. The implication being that he knows he’s got something to prove and is up to the challenge. So it’s a little ironic, watching him and the other ex-slaves head into the whorehouse to spend some hard-earned money, same as everyone else, and thinking no one was going to have a problem with it. Especially with the ‘tude he’s been walking around with these past couple of weeks.
For Bohannon — who I guess is supposed to be the hero of our story — the railroad represents a different kind of opportunity. This is the opportunity to find those who killed his wife and kill them, and also deliver to audience bits of exposition in silent, overdramatic flashbacks. Bohannon did not have a very good week. There’s a moment there, out in the woods when he’s talking to Joseph Black Moon about his plans to throw Lily Bell over his horse and take her back to camp. Bohannon says, “You haven’t thought this through, have you?” It doesn’t look like Bohannon’s done much thinking himself. For some reason he takes off from the job that morning after getting pissed that the Swede is taking half his crew to look for Mrs. Bell (who’s now been dubbed The Fair Maiden of the West). And once he finds her — which isn’t a very apt description of the process, more like he rode in a straight line from camp to where she and Black Moon were laid up — he hangs around just long enough to pull a piece of shrapnel out of her shoulder, tip his hat to Black Moon and ride off. Except before riding off he realizes that if Black Moon comes into camp with a white woman slung over his saddle he’s going to get himself killed. Yes, Bohannon happens to be right, but when he makes the realization he’s got this look on his face that says, “Well, looks like ole’ Cullen’s gonna have to save the day, AGAIN.” It’s all kind of annoying as hell. And it gets worse still. After saving her (AGAIN) from a group of scallywags intending her harm, Bohannon takes her to edge of camp, drops her off and takes rides away without even turning back to wave… because that’s just the kind of guy he is. You know, I bet you he didn’t even leave camp looking for her. He was going after that sergeant and found Bell COMPLETELY BY MISTAKE. And saving her and all the rest of it was an inconvenience for him. Really effed up his day’s chi. Oooh I hate him so much.
For Durant, who may not be the best part of this show but is consistently great (and maybe that makes him the best part (I don’t know, further study is needed)), the railroad, his railroad, represents a chance to cement his place in history. And not to just go down as someone who made a lot of money building the Transcontinental Railroad first, but someone who could lead and inspire men. In the aftermath of the Indian attack on the surveyors, the people in camp want blood. And while, at the funeral for those killed, Reverend Cole — who could probably kill a few men himself… with BOREDOM! — tries to frame the entire thing as a lesson in turning the other cheek, making peace and not war. Durant interrupts him. He stands up, quoting scripture framing what they’re doing there as a call from God; strengthening the country and bringing civilization to the heathen Indians. He holds up Black Moon as an example. The Indian speaking our language and wearing our clothes. For so many of our characters, the railroad represents a chance at something better than what they’ve got. But for others it represents the death of their way of life. We know how all of that turned out. But at least here we’ve got Colm Meany’s scene-chewing to make it all fun to watch.
I think I felt worse for the chickens hobbled at the start of this episode than I did all the men, women and children I’ve seen slaughtered in the series so far. So I think I’ve got my priorities in the right place.
What we saw in this week’s teaser does bring up an interesting question. We see Patricia feeding a barn full of walkers. Now, we know the food isn’t doing anything to sustain them; it’s not being used up by natural metabolic processes (although I do wonder where it all goes when they’ve eaten too much of it), but how long can these things actually survive? Walkers aren’t alive, so despite the fact that they’re all running around and doing stuff they’re bodies are pretty much just wasting away. Isn’t it possible that eventually they’re all just going to fall apart? I understand that there’s a steady stream of new zombies replenishing their numbers, but that’s not going to hold out forever, right? So maybe in a sense Herschel’s got the right idea. Maybe holing up in out in the middle of nowhere and waiting for the whole thing to blow over isn’t the worst thing he could be doing. Keeping all those zombies in the barn, though? That will only get messy.
Could it be that our heroes are finally getting ready to get the hell out of here? I sure hope so. Spending this much time at Herschel’s may have been something the show needed to do after its less-than-stellar first season. With the apocalypse kept mostly at arm’s length, we’ve been able to focus more on the characters and their relationships with each other. And even though a few of them are still kind of a pain to be around — *cough* Andrea *cough* — this time has made everyone more bearable. But we’re starting to get the feeling that it’s time for the gang to move on. And so is Herschel, from the sound of it. You had to wonder — but maybe not too much — at why he’d be keeping a barn full of walkers, keeping them “alive” with the blood of innocent chickens. And now we know. Herschel’s wife and step-son are also in that barn, and he’s holding out hope that eventually they’ll find a cure and get better. I wonder whether or not he actually believes that’s a possibility. His family sounds like they believe it, until you prod them a little bit. Then they snap back to reality pretty quick. At least Maggie does. And I wonder if that’ll lead to any sort of split once Herschel runs Rick and co. off the farm.
So, things are relatively calm right now. But that’s not to say that everyone’s walking around hand in hand, kissing each other on the cheek. For some reason, Dale’s chosen this week to tell Shane he knows he’s planning on leaving the group, and not to think he forgot about that time in the woods when Shane and Rick were hunting and Shane held Rick in his sites and watched him with those dead eyes of his. Now, we’ve already established that Shane is a very bad man, but did Dale have to bring all this up now? I don’t doubt for a minute that Shane’s still got Lori on the brain, but for just a minute, things were beginning to look up for him. He had a nice afternoon with Andrea. They drove out to case a neighborhood, had a run in with a group of walkers, got their adrenaline all pumped up and had sex in the car. And then Dale had to get all in his face and ruin that. Maybe he had a legitimate beef, or maybe he got jealous when he saw Shane moving in on his woman. Whatever the case, Shane made it very clear that if he were the kind of person who’d kill his best friend, he’d do all sorts of nefarious shit to Dale, who he doesn’t even like for some reason. I like Dale, and I’d like to think that Shane wouldn’t do anything crazy to him. But I keep flashing back to poor Otis, getting shot in the leg, having a pack of zombies bite into his fleshy hindquarters. So who knows.
Speaking of Shane and Andrea’s afternoon outing, I’d like to say a couple of words on how characters who are usually at least moderately smart sometimes do the stupidest things in service of the plot. Like tonight, when Andrea and Shane get caught in the middle of a group of walkers while going through that neighborhood. They run out of the house, stop 20 feet from the car and start shooting. The car is 20 feet away! Why are you wasting ammunition on zombies you could be driving away from? But I guess if it weren’t for their high-octane escape, they wouldn’t have so easily given in to their primal carnal urges.
A little surprisingly, Lori wasn’t able to keep her pregnancy under wraps very long. Her confession to Rick led to another over-dramatic conversation about bring children into such a bleak world and if they can’t keep hope alive then it’ll only become bleaker and bleaker. Just before you hear yourself telling them (out loud) to stop it, Lori tells Rick that she slept with Shane. And Rick tells her that he knows. And he sounds cool with. Because Lori thought he was dead, RIGHT?! I wonder if there’s the teensiest bit of self-delusion in all of that. After all, Rick seems like he’s developing a talent for ignoring life’s ugly truths. Or at least pushing them off to the side. But if Rick knew that Lori slept with Shane, what else does he know? Does he know about Shane’s feelings toward him, and the feelings he still has for Lori? And what was it that Jenner whispered into Rick’s ear at the end of last season? Sure, he could have said that Shane was sleeping with Lori, but I think the show would want to make that particular secret a little darker, like Shane trying to rape Lori. Or not. I’ve been wrong before.
In any case, it was refreshing to have Rick in the know, and for he and Lori to that whole thing out in the open and move past it. The show had dragged that out long enough. And now that it looks like the group’s going to be leaving Herschel’s farm in their rear view, they’ll have some fresh new hell to deal with.
Jimmy’s really starting to piss me off, you know? Last year, when we saw him living in Johnny Torrio’s bordello, learning the ins and outs of being a gangster, I liked him. He was a nice kid, that Jimmy. Taking care of Pearl after she got her face cut. Blowing Sheridan’s head off. Now, though, he’s turned into kind of a brat. So I felt no small amount of pleasure as I watched his plan to get rid of Manny Horvitz — all because he doesn’t want to pay him the $5,000 he’d OWED — blow up in his face. And it turns out Manny’s really got some stones on him. After getting clipped in the shoulder with a sawed-off shotgun, he smashes and pulls his attacker through a glass door, wrestles him to the ground and smashes him in the head with a meat cleaver. The look on his face after finding the box of matches in the guy’s pocket with “Atlantic City” stamped on the side does not bode well for Jimmy Darmody. And not only because Manny coming after him is just one more on a laundry list of problems this guy’s got. It was Meyer Lansky who suggested to Jimmy that if he didn’t want to deal with Manny anymore, he could just pay the guy and he’d be gone. But that wasn’t the route Jimmy wanted to take. This, after waffling on the decision to put out a hit on Nucky a couple of weeks back. Whatever business is being done in Atlantic City is obviously a pretty big slice of the pie, and if Jimmy is seen as being weak, or if his decision-making comes off as a little erratic, how long will it be before Lucky, Capone and the others start thinking about taking their business elsewhere, or withholding support when Manny comes knocking on his door.
Because loyalty is something these guys talk a lot about, but gets thrown out the window pretty quick once it gets in the way of business, as we saw with John McGarrigle during Nucky’s trip to Ireland. Nucky made the trip across the Atlantic to offer the Irish a deal: a thousand Tommy guns (and if you’re going to introduce a gun, you better find a way to use it) for ten thousand cases of whiskey. Seems like a no-brainer, until McGarrigle says that the British are offering a truce and that their war may be coming to an end. Well, that was a decision the other members of the cause didn’t particularly support — Owen Slater included — and as Nucky’s being driven back to the shipyard we see a bullet being put in poor Mr. Garrigle’s head. But Nucky doesn’t need to worry. The Irish have decided that they’ll take his guns, and give him their whiskey. My biggest problem here is the conversation Nucky and Owen have once they get back to shipyard. Nucky asks him how long he knew McGarrigle, and if he knew what was going to happen to him. Owen knew McGarrigle since he was 17 YEARS OLD (sure, we don’t know how old he is now, but more than a few years have passed by), and didn’t try to do anything to save the guy, because hey, he wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind. Nucky’s answer to this: “I don’t like secrets.” One, yes you do. You’ve been keeping them from everyone since the series started, and probably for a while before then, inside Terrence Winter’s head. Two: WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT SECRETS?! I’d be much more worried about Owen “not being able to change anyone’s mind” and putting a gun to the back of my head. Especially when that burning in his loins for Margaret just gets to be too strong. You’ve got to watch that burning in your loins. It’ll getcha.
Speaking of Margaret, things has been a bad couple of weeks for the poor woman. First, her brother tells her to get lost and never to come back, and then her little girl is diagnosed with Polio. Watching the doctors give Emily that spinal tap was one of those scenes you kind of have to grit your teeth to get through. This is an interesting development, as it puts Nucky in a tight spot and forces him to ask how committed he is to taking care of Margaret and the kids (as he’s obviously not leaving behind his more nefarious affairs to take care of them, as he said in last week’s episode). What I don’t like about this is what it says about where the show may be taking Margaret. This is something she holds herself responsible for, as we hear her whisper to Emily in the children’s ward. So I’m wondering if we’re in for another bout of “should I be involved in this huge criminal enterprise or not.” You know, it’s not a bad thing to have characters ask themselves these sorts of questions, but eventually they should decide whether they’re in or out and just stick to that. Take Walt from Breaking Bad, for example. Cooking meth, getting mixed up with Tuco and then Gus, these were all decisions he struggled with. But the deeper he got, the more sideways everything went and eventually he admitted to himself that shooting drug dealers in the head and poisoning small children was just something he was going to have to do to survive. Yes, I’m sure he still asks himself questions about whether he’s doing this himself or if he’s just a victim of circumstance, but at the end of the day, I think he realizes where he is and prefers to keep a safe distance from questions of moral ambiguity. This is where Margaret needs to be. At the beginning of the season, she seemed like she had made the turnaround and was there to support Nucky. Now it seems like she keeps going back and forth. She’s a strong woman and a good character and this is a problem the show shouldn’t be giving her at this point.
But polio and Margaret’s conscience aren’t the only problems Nucky’s going to find once he gets back to the States. It looks like Chalky’s taken his advice and engineered a strike. And his partner in crime is none other than Dunn Purnsley, who got his ass handed to him when he found himself sharing a jail cell with Chalky in “Ourselves Alone.” Scenes like we saw tonight, with the kitchen staff — egged on by Purnsley — having finally had enough of their poor work conditions and wrecking the kitchen while their boss cowered on the floor are one of the many reasons I love this show. But it looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer to see exactly how this plays into the bigger picture of Nucky taking things back from Jimmy and the Commodore. It seems like the season is building toward an appropriately big finish, but in the end I have a feeling Nucky getting back in the driver’s seat isn’t going to be that big a thing. Jimmy doesn’t seem cut out to be grand poobah, as an understandably uncomfortable Mickey called him tonight. He seems much more comfortable listening to the wireless with Richard (really wish they had been able to do more with that boxing match), making out with women who look like they may be coming down with something.
Oh, The Office. I want to keep loving you, but you’re making it so hard. Looking back, there have been so many good moments we’ve shared. The child-like innocence of Michael when he would turn everything to shit but redeem himself in the end. The occasional moments that provided a bit of human-like softness to characters like Dwight or Stanley. The bat-shit crazy interactions with Creed. Those were good times! However, lately, it’s been hard to figure out just why I continue to tune in every week. Why I keep giving you more and more chances to redeem yourself.
I think part of what keeps me coming back is hope. The same hope that all those celebrities talk about these days to show us that they’re “down with Barack”; the hope that things will get better. But it’s been nearly two months and things haven’t changed. Eight episodes is more than enough time to get your shit together and set up some arcs to carry the season (or even the series). Instead, this season has stumbled forward with the central problem being that Andy simply doesn’t feel as though he’s accepted by his peers as manager. And that simply isn’t enough.
In this week’s installment, “Gettysburg”, Andy sets out on another quest to prove he can lead and motivate the people of Dunder Mifflin/Sabre by teaching them that business can be compared to war. He, along with half of the office, set out on a field-trip to the Gettysburg battlegrounds. While Andy, Jim, Dwight, Oscar, Darrell, Erin, Phyllis, Creed and Gabe are out of the office, the rest of the staff meet with Robert California to brainstorm on a new “game changer” for the company. What a wacky premise!
I’m about to lose my shit on the problems with The Office as a whole, so I’ll start with some points on just this week’s episode.
The Good: The Big Mac Idea.
The Bad: What a mess of a story. Did Andy really think that a field trip with half of the office would finally gain him some credibility? How many more episodes are we going to have to suffer through before Andy finally slips back into his rage-filled ways and let’s the office know that, while they may not all agree with his management style, he is their manager? Yes he went to anger management, but he’s still got his demons.
Robert California appears to have taken on the role of the new Creed. Creed with power. Creed with power and the fear of his employees. Given that the beginning of this season set up that Robert was a bit of a “mind wizard”, how is he bested by Kevin. Remember a couple of seasons back when Holly thought he was retarded. Come on.
The episode simply felt like a waste of time. Nothing was pushed forward, no character development, no purpose. Hopefully the mini pep-talk that Jim gave Andy in the last 2 minutes will be the final push needed to move this show along.
Right. Now with that’s out of the way, let’s get down to ass tacks. Brass tacks? Ass tacks.
There’s no more drama between anyone in the cast. Sure, The Office is a comedy, but what kept many people interested were the dramatic arcs between different characters. The JAM love story. Will they get together? That was awesome story telling. Michael’s choice between Jan and Carol, and the atrocious relationship he got himself into. Dwight and his desire to lead his co-workers. Even Ryan and his on-again, off-again relationship with Kelly that is now, off-again? It’s all gone. Jim and Pam are together, Michael is gone and happy with Holly, and Dwight appears to be content with the fact that things won’t change. Pretty much every character seems to have slumped down into a Toby-like funk. The actors themselves seem to simply dial-in for their occasional one-liner, and that’s that.
I was really hoping that when Steve Carrell left, The Office would carry on without him. Of course, there would be a bit of a mourning period, but things would settle and get back on track. Unfortunately, it has become clear that the sting of losing him did not just damage the characters of The Office, it damaged everyone involved with it as a whole. Damage that I fear may be permanent.
“We open on a typical day at Greendale, only the students all look happy, and you can’t smell that smell.”
Say what you will about “Remedial Chaos Theory,” but I thought this episode was the best this season, maybe one of the best ever. Or maybe I’m just prematurely mourning the impending loss of this brilliantly funny show. Why, NBC, why?
The cold open set up was strong, but the real action started almost immediately after the credits stopped rolling.
“Where’s my script girl?”
That dialogue pattern is so similar to another critically lauded, under-appreciated, cancelled-too-soon but soon-to-be-resurrected-on-Netflix series. And we’re letting another one go. For shame, people. FOR SHAME.
This episode was nonstop – the overarching story built up in a steady but believable way, and all along the journey, there were moments of pure gold, from Jeff’s impersonation of the dean to the dean’s attempt to get Shirley to play the happy/threatening (aka sassy) black woman. And the moments were always born out of the characters – like Jeff going the extra mile to avoid helping and Britta and Troy’s awkward hugging exchange, punctuated by “if you get this wrong one more time, I’m segregating the school!”
Dean Pelton just got more and more hysterical as he dragged more characters into his sick, twisted world. It was so awesome to see Gary again as the microscope who wasn’t taking advantage of the motion sensor technology – the dean was right, that was clearly a frog who can’t get out of a box!
Even the final collapse was driven by genuine character insight as Britta the licensed psychology major helped Annie overcome her Stockholm syndrome and the rest of the cast realized that yes, the dean really had gone insane.
Watching these characters dissolve through the lens of Abed’s documentary was just such a fun framing device, and having seen neither Heart of Darkness nor Apocalypse Now, I know there were levels to the story I missed out on. But even so, I loved this episode despite the saccharine everything-works-out-okay-because-we-all-pitched-in ending.
Plus, Luis Guzman. I loved him in IMDB too.