BREAKING BAD 516: FELINA

Felina

Who would have thought laser pointers would be so intimidating??

Ok folks.  Well this was it.  The episode that we had all been waiting for.  Some of us for months, some of us for years.  As much as it pains me to say, this Sunday brought an end to my one true television love:  Breaking Bad.  Personally, I was pleased with the ending and couldn’t have imagined it any other way.  For the last time, let’s get to talking:

1.  Thank God for resolution – As a general matter, I hate really open-ended conclusions.  It drives me nuts.  I like things wrapped up in a nice, neat bow.  While I haven’t yet watched the Sopranos (I know, shame), I imagine that the fade to black will annoy the heck out of me. So with that being said, I sincerely appreciated Breaking Bad taking the time tie-up the loose ends.  Walt and Skyler get closure; Marie and Skyler at least appear to have some sort of relationship; Lydia and the team of Nazis die a death they deserve; Walt is able to “give” his money to family afterall, and Jesse gets rescued.  Now it appears that some viewers thought the ending was too “neat,” and to that I would offer this counter-point.  Breaking Bad was a finite story; it was story about the transformation of Walter White.  That is the story that Vince Gilligan had been telling and that story must have a definite conclusion.  I would also say that not everything got wrapped up in a nice, little bow and it’s not like it was a happy ending.  Yes, the bad guys died, but the people who remained alive will have to deal with the ramifications of Walter White’s actions for the rest of their lives.  No one is riding off into the sunset on the back of a magical unicorn.  Who knows if Marie will ever recover from the death of Hank?  Who knows if Walt Jr. will ever be able to overcome his hatred for his father (remember, as far as Junior is concerned, he will always believe that Walt killed Hank…that will not be an easy thing to get past)?  Yes, Jesse is “free,” but will he ever be free from the demons of his past or will he forever be haunted by the number of people who died simply because they crossed his path?  While I think that Breaking Bad did an excellent job at ending Walt’s story, I think there are enough unanswered questions to weigh against the argument that it was too neatly wrapped up.

*I have also heard the argument that it was too easy for Walt to execute his plan in the end.  Walt has time and time again shown himself to be clumsy and reckless.  Most often his plans even when executed properly have unintended consequences.  In this final episode, however, Walt’s plans seem to masterfully workout.  In response I would like to point out that in coming back to Albuquerque, Walt did not intend to encounter Jesse.  And, when he discovered that Jesse was still alive, he first intended to kill Jesse along with the Nazis.  Instead, however, Walt found a beaten and battered up Jesse and this forced Walt to change his plans within a matter of seconds.  Walt saving Jesse was not part of Walt’s plan (at least I don’t believe it was).  It was another unintended consequence that Walt has so often created in the past five seasons.  This time it just happened to be an unintended consequence that the audience was happy about.

2.  Blue meth is Walt’s baby – I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Walt stroking baby Holly’s head as she slept and Walt stroking the equipment in the meth lab in his final moments.  What became clear in those final moments of Walt’s life was his absolute  love for his meth empire he created.  Blue meth was Walt’s baby, just as much, if even not more so than his own children.  And, while Walt’s confession to Skyler (i.e., that he entered into the meth business for himself and the meaning it gave to his life) highlighted the blue meth’s importance, I think Walt’s final moments in the meth lab really demonstrated the fondness and affection Walt felt for the product he created.

3.  Blood, Meth, and Tears – “Felina” was the title of Breaking Bad’s final episode.  There has been much talk about what the title stands for.  It may just be an anagram of the word finale or it may be a reference to Marty Robbin’s song “El Paso” that plays on Walt’s drive from New Hampshire (the song features a Mexican girl named Felina), but I do especially like that fact that it could be a compilation of the chemical symbols for iron, lithium, and sodium (Fe + Li + Na), the main components of blood, meth, and tears.

4.  Artificial sugars can kill – Do you think the sale of Stevia went up or down today based on its prominent role in Lydia’s death?  I am really just hoping I can convince CJ to dress up as Stevia this Halloween so that I can dress up as Lydia. Seriously though, thank goodness Lydia is dead.  Wasn’t she just the worst?  I think I hated her worse than Todd.  At least Todd had some boyish charm, even if he was a psychopath.  Lydia though was simply an uptight woman with no soul, who didn’t care who died as long as it wasn’t her.  I think the stress of knowing she was going to die from the ricin may have ended up killing her before the ricin actually did, but good riddance lady.

5.  Those were some impressive laser pointers – I will admit that I did not see the scene with the Schwartzes going the way that it did.  Not even by a long-shot.  I was fairly certain at the end of last week’s episode that either Elliot or Gretchen (or both) were going to die, so I was shocked with the way that scene turned out.  For me, I also thought that the lead up to Walt’s actual confrontation with the Schwartzes was the best part of the night.  His methodical closing of the doors to the compound, his surprise in finding the front door open, the humorous way he simply looked at their photographs while waiting to be discovered, was pure awesomeness.  And, aside from Todd’s Lydia ringtone, the funniest part of the night.

*I also was very happy to see Skinny Pete and Badger one more time.

6.  Seriously, who called the cops? – This is my one issue with last night’s episode.  Who called the cops at the end?  I was under the impression that the Nazi compound was out in the middle of nowhere.  None of the Nazis called the cops they were dead.  Jesse didn’t have a cellphone on him.  So, what?  Some neighbor nearby called it in?  This seems strange to me.

7.  Yeah bitch! – Going into this last episode I repeatedly said that all I wanted was for Jesse to live.  And he did.  Thank goodness.  The final moments of Jesse speeding off and the pure joy and excitement in his face is enough for me to believe that he is going to be okay.  Finally, Jesse is free.  Free from the Nazis and free from Mr. White.  He can go where he wants and do what he wants.  I just hope he finds a good therapist and is able to reclaim his life.  Aaron Paul will be the single thing that I will miss most about Breaking Bad.  I don’t know how I will ever look forward to a Sunday without him.

8.  Too much redemption for Mr. White? – Not in my eyes.  I have always been looking for redeeming qualities in Walter White though.  Some sort of glimmer of hope that he wasn’t completely lost to the dark side.  Therefore, I was pleased with the fact that Walt wanted to and was able to make some amens before ultimately leaving this earth.  He was able to give Skyler some closure by admitting that he did all of this for himself and not for his family as he has always claimed; he gave up where Hank and Gomez were buried (and hopefully in finding Hank’s body and being able to do a proper funeral, Marie will also get some closure); and ultimately he saved Jesse.  I think it is too simplistic for Walt to have become completely evil; people are more complicated than that.  Walt hit his rock bottom during the phone call with Junior last week and so I don’t think it is implausible for Walt to at least try take some measures to fix what he spent the last two years breaking.

Ok guys, I could go on forever, but I won’t put you through that.  I doubt we will never speak of Breaking Bad again on this blog, but this is it for me for now.  Sundays will never ever be the same.  We will miss you Breaking Bad.

-LJ

YBTV’s Top 10 Episodes of Breaking Bad: Part 2

As I mentioned in the post yesterday, with the upcoming series finale of Breaking Bad, we here at YBTV thought it might be a good time to take a look back at the journey of Breaking Bad. To do so, we are counting down the top 10 episodes of Breaking Bad, at least according to this bloggers humble opinion.

We discussed episodes 10-6 yesterday, so let’s get into the top 5, starting with:

5. Episode 505 — “Dead Freight”

Sifting through the brilliance of Breaking Bad, attempting to come up with a top 10 has been a real challenge for me. But a top 5? Come on! Breaking Bad has always had a western style to it, but this episode went full on John Ford. It’s a Breaking Bad train robbery episode. How awesome is that? It’s also a very important episode in setting the story in motion of the final 11 episodes. The death of Drew Sharp is the straw that broke the camel’s back for Jesse. This is also where we get our first glimpse into the true evil of Todd, which has come into play so much in the final 8.

4. Episode 310 — “Fly”

The first episode of Breaking Bad directed by Rian Johnson, a personal favorite, is one of the series finest. This is made even more impressive by the fact that the episode is a true bottle episode. It’s just Walt and Jesse, and they remain in the super lab the entire episode. This episode is this high on this list for a couple reasons. The first is the technical marvel of the episode. It’s one of the most beautiful and impressive episodes, due largely to the keen eye of Mr. Johnson. But it also deserves this lofty position because of the character arc of Walt in the episode. We’ve all wondered how and when Jesse would find out about Walt’s involvement with Jane’s death (which we now have answered of course), and we saw it almost happen here. What was truly amazing about that though, was that Walt did not almost tell Jesse out of anger or spite or vengence (the way he actually told him), but this was at a time when Walt still had some humanity to him, and he almost told Jesse out of pure guilt. An amazing episode, and not the last time you will see Rian Johnson come up on this countdown.

3. Episode 411 — “Crawl Space”

This show gave us many excellent “freak outs” from many amazing actors, most notably Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn, but this episode contains the best Bryan Cranston “freak out” moment. After the events of Salud, Walt knows that his time could be running out as he realizes he’s not good enough to beat Gus, and it also appears that Hank is not too far from tracking down the real identity of Heisenberg. So what is Walt to do? Make his family disappear…Only, he can’t. Skyler gave all their money to Ted. Cue amazing manical laugh.

2. Episode 507 — “Say My Name”

Maybe you expected me to embed to a video of the scene in the desert with Decland that is the name sake of this episode. But no. That’s not what makes this episode perfect, and gut-wrenching. Mike Ehrmantraut is without a doubt my favorite character of the many amazing characters this show has given us. Mike’s death is one of the most difficult I faced, and it was so beautifully played by Jonathan Banks. It’s such a great, and important, episode, that I felt it necessary to embed two videos from it.

1. Episode 514 — “Ozymandias”

And now we reach the top spot. There is only one episode that could take this spot, and it happened just two weeks ago. Ozymandias, again, directed by Rian Johnson, is not only the best episode of Breaking Bad, but is arguably one of the greatest episodes of dramatic television in the history of the medium. Techincally, it’s simply perfect. Emotionally, it will rip your heart out. Breaking Bad has often been a show where you had to remind yourself to breathe while watching, but never like this. It’s an episode so great, that even Vince Gilligan has publicly said many times that it is simply the greatest episode of his series. And he couldn’t be more right.

So kids, there you have it. YBTV’s Top 10 Episodes of Breaking Bad. I’m sure some of you are asking where your favorite episodes are, and I assure you, they were considered. This list was so difficult to make, and it kills me some of the episodes I had to leave off. Here are a few that just barely missed the cut:

  • Episode 406 — “Cornered” — “I am the one who knocks”
  • Episode 506 — “Buy Out” — “I’m in the empire business”
  • Episode 508 — “Gliding Over All” — Hank figures out Walt is Heisenberg
  • Episode 401 — “Box Cutter” — Gus kills Victor
  • Episode 408 — “Hermanos” — Flashback to Gus first meeting Don Eladio

–CJ

YBTV’s Top 10 episodes of Breaking Bad: Part 1

As we count down to the last episode of Breaking Bad, I thought it would be an appropriate time to take a quick look back at where we’ve come from. To do so, today, I will start a look back at my 10 favorite episodes of this amazing run of TV. This is not necessarily the 10 “best” episodes of Breaking Bad, even in my opinion. Instead, it is simply my 10 favorite episodes. I guess I should also mention that this list is the list of CJ, not LJ. But I like to think she is smart enough to agree with me on such important issues. In Part 1, I’ll discuss episodes 10-6, and in Part 2, we will look at my top 5.

On to the list, starting with 10:

10. Episode 303 — “I.F.T.”

I don’t think you could do this list without having this episode on it. It has a couple of my favorite Breaking Bad moments with Skyler saying those 3 little words to Walt, and the infamous pizza toss (which Bryan Cranston dominated in one, single take). This episode also shows the first attempt of Skyler to get rid of Walt, calling the police on him, to no avail. Plus, Gus showing his muscle with the cartel, which is looking for Walt’s blood after the death of Tuco.

9. Episode 313 — “Full Measure”

I often talk about the Harry Potter books and movies as if they were 2 separate parts. There are the first three and a half books, which are whimsical and fun and about these kids learning about magic and the power of friendship. Then, there are the second three and a half books, after Voldemort has come back, and everything changes. Full Measure, for me, is where everything changes for Breaking Bad (one could argue it happens in the previous episode, Half Mesasures, as well). Once Jesse pulls that trigger and shoots Gale, nothing will ever be the same.

8. Episode 206 — “Peekaboo”

The importance of this episode on the series overall can not be over stated. This is the episode where one of Walt’s first lies starts to unravel. It is in this episode that Gretchen learns (from a phone call with Skyler) that Walt has been claiming Gretchen and Elliot have been paying his medical bills related to his cancer. But more importantly, this is where we first see the emergence of a theme that would pop up time and time again as the show progressed, Jesse’s love of children. He does everything he can to protect the child of the meth heads, and we see how much he loves Brock and how the death of Drew Sharp hurt him.

7. Episode 307 — “One Minute”

Breaking Bad had done plenty of great episodes in the first two and a half seasons, but I would argue that this is the first real Breaking Bad masterpiece. Written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Michelle MacLaren, this episode is one of the most tense and beautiful of the entire series. We get our first great Jesse Pinkman speech when he goes off on Walt from his hospital bed, and we get the amazing shoot out in the parking lot between Hank and The Cousins. On man…That phone call. Damn.

6. Episode 410 — “Salud”

Gus finally gets his revenge on Don Eladio for the death of his best friend (lover?) we see in the flashback in episode 408. Seeing the cold, calculating way in which Gus and Mike kill every member of Don Eladio’s crew shows us that Gus Fring is always in control, and we start to wonder if Walt will ever be able to better him. Another amazing episode directed by Michelle MacLaren, this is the episode that sets the events of the final 3 episodes of season 4 into motion (more on that later).

Well, there is Part 1 of my Top 10 of Breaking Bad. Come back later this afternoon or tomorrow for Part 2, where we count down the Top 5.

-CJ

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: 2013 FALL “MOM” SHOWS

ALBERT TSAI, NATALIE MORALES, GIANNA LEPERA, RYAN SCOTT LEE, MALIN AKERMAN, BRADLEY WHITFORD, MARCIA GAY HARDEN, MICHAELA WATKINS

This is the first of what I hope is several posts comparing a variety of different shows.  The comparisons might be between shows of a similar premise or shows that run in the same time slot.  The possibilities seem endless.  Also, because there are few shows that warrant week to week reviews, this is our attempt to provide a brief guide into what we are at least watching.  First up:  Mom v. Trophy Wife.  Let the games begin. (yes, I said that in a Bane voice).

Mom (Mondays, 9:30pm, CBS) –  In this comedy, Anna Farris stars as a recovering alcoholic single mom who blames her shortcomings as a mother on her own recovering alcoholic single mom, played by Allison Janney.  Thoughts:  The pilot was a little all over the place and did not flow.  Allison Janney was definitely the funniest part of the first episode.  Anna Farris had her moments.  But the supporting characters all seemed like characachers, especially the employees at the restaurant.  The worst thing about the pilot was the laugh-track.  I had forgotten that shows even used those anymore.

Trophy Wife (Tuesdays, 9:30pm, ABC) – Here, Malin Akerman plays a former party-girl turned wife and step-mother to three kids.  Bradley Whitford plays her new husband.  Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins play the two ex-wives.  Natalie Morales places Akerman’s best friend.  Thoughts:  A lot was packed into this pilot.  Afterall, we had to learn Akerman’s backstory and then had to have her deal with her first parenting fiasco all in 30 mins.  Akerman was charming and I honestly thought the little Asian kid was pretty funny.  Enough goodness to make me tune in for another week.

The similarities:  Both shows center around two very blond young mothers attempting to navigate the field of parenthood.  Both shows star West Wing alumni.  Neither show had a particularly amazing pilot.

The verdict:  Trophy Wife wins by a land-slide.  Akerman was incredibly charming and the supporting cast around her was much much stronger than those characters on Mom.  I also didn’t excessively notice a laugh-track in the background while watching Trophy Wife, which means I was actually paying attention to the story being told.  Plus, as much as this will pain CJ to see, Josh > Claudia Jean, in my eyes.

-LJ

BREAKING BAD 515: GRANITE STATE

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Who wants $10,000 to sit with me for an hour?

Yeah, like I have that kind of money.  Apologies for the delay in posting this week’s review.  CJ and I were in Vegas this weekend celebrating CJ’s 30th birthday and let’s just say that we are still recovering.  We had an interesting time trying to figure out how and when we were going to watch this week’s episode of Breaking Bad (since we came home to find our cable out), but a 40 min drive out to CJ’s parent’s house seemed worth it.  And, it definitely was.  Let’s get to talking…

1.  There goes the happy ending – I have been holding out hope desperately that Jesse will be saved by Walt and will be reunited with Andrea and Brock and go on to lead a productive and happy life.  Well folks, it seems like that ship has sailed.  Not only is Andrea dead (which I still don’t think I have recovered from), but it is becoming very very clear to me that Walt really doesn’t give a shit about Jesse.  At no point in his months stranded in the wilderness is there even a hint that Walt feels bad about Jesse.  I would be shocked at this point if Jesse gets saved by Walt.  [Insert heart-break.]

2.  Poor Junior – Is it just me or has Junior had more scenes these last 8 episodes than he did the entire rest of the series?  I found the scene with Walt and Junior on the phone to be particularly gut-wrenching.  Didn’t your heart just break for Junior?  I was glad that Junior finally got an opportunity to tell his father off, afterall I am sure that he had been running over and over in his mind what he would say to Walt if he ever got the chance.  The words “why aren’t you dead yet” still send chills down my spine when I think about them.

3.  Does Schwartz really mean black? – According to the internet it does.  You know who the last people on the planet I would want to be right now, Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz.  Something bad is coming their way and his name is Walter White.  So does this mean that the ricin is for the Grey Matter group and not Lydia?  Or, is both the gun and the ricin intended to be used on the Schwartzes?  I don’t think it is a far stretch to assume that Walt doesn’t give a crap about his fortune anymore (and thus isn’t going back to get rid of Uncle Jack) because as Junior said, his family doesn’t want any of it.  That then leaves a possibility that Walt’s final trip back to New Mexico is merely for revenge for all the wrongs the Grey Matter team committed against Walt over the years.  Just a thought.

4.  I could really go for a Cinnabon – It appears that this week we said goodbye to Saul.  But, he certainly did not go out without a bang.  The final argument between Walt and Saul was intense and I left that scene realizing that other than Mike, Saul is probably the most self-aware character on this show.  Saul realizes that this money making adventure he has been on with Walt is over and it is time to move on.  Although I can’t imagine that he is particularly happy about it, I think Saul will end up being just fine as a manager of a Cinnabon in Omaha.  Maybe, AMC should have done a sequel, instead of a prequel with Saul.  I would like to see Saul trying to navigate the terrain in Nebraska shopping mall.

5.  Who do you root for? – Not an atypical question for Breaking Bad and one whose answer has probably changed over the season.  As we enter into this last episode, I can’t help but feel conflicted.  Do I want Walt to come out on top?  Is Jesse truly the only person I really care about?  I know it my heart that I want Jesse to get out of this mess that he is in.  But, I also crave some sort of redemption for Walt.  Let’s be real though, what are the chances that Breaking Bad has a fairy-tale ending?  Slim to none.

What did y’all think?

-LJ

THE YBTV EMMYS: IF WE WERE IN CHARGE OF THE WORLD

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The 65th Annual Primetime Television Emmy Awards are set to air this Sunday, September 22 on CBS.  Thus, like everyone else in the TV blogging world, we will be doing our own list of winners.  These are not predictions.  It is who we think should win based on the list of nominees for each category.  Do we agree with the nominations in each category…definitely not.  But, we have decided to work within these shackles and come up with our favorites.  One thing should become clear, we (CJ and LJ), unsurprisingly, watch a lot of the same shows.  Apologies for any repetitiveness.

BIGGEST NOMINATION OVERSIGHT:

CJ’s pick:  Walton Goggins, Justified

LJ’s pick:  Emmy Rossum, Shameless (*not only should she be nominated, but she should win)

WIN THAT WILL HURT THE MOST:

CJ’s pick: Damian Lewis, Homeland

LJ’s pick: Anything from Homeland.  Also, anyone from Downton Abbey (*I actually like Downton, but this year, it just can’t win)

DRAMA SERIES:

Breaking Bad, AMC
Downton Abbey, PBS
Homeland, Showtime
Game of Thrones, HBO
House of Cards, Netflix
Mad Men, AMC

CJ’s pick: Mad Men

LJ’s pick: Breaking Bad

LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES:

Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey, PBS
Bryan Cranston, Breaking  Bad, AMC
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom, HBO
Jon Hamm,  Mad Men, AMC
Damian Lewis, Homeland, Showtime
Kevin  Spacey, House of Cards, Netflix

CJ’s pick: Jon Hamm, Mad Men

LJ’s pick:  Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES:

Connie Britton, Nashville, ABC
Claire Danes, Homeland, Showtime
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey, PBS
Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel, A&E
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men, AMC
Kerry Washington, Scandal, ABC
Robin Wright, House of Cards, Netflix

CJ’s pick: Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

LJ’s pick:  Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men (*This close to picking Kerry Washington)

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES:

Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire, HBO
Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad, AMC
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad, AMC
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey, PBS
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones, HBO
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland, Showtime

CJ’s pick: Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad

LJ’s pick:  I am emotionally torn between Aaron Paul and Jonathan Banks.  Ok, Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES:

Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad, AMC
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey, PBS
Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones, HBO
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife, CBS
Morena Baccarin, Homeland, Showtime
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men, AMC

CJ’s pick: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad

LJ’s pick: Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones

COMEDY SERIES:

The Big Bang Theory, CBS
Girls, HBO
Louie, FX
Modern Family, ABC
30 Rock, NBC
Veep, HBO

CJ’s pick: Veep

LJ’s pick:  Veep

LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES:

Jason Bateman, Arrested Development, Netflix
Louis C.K., Louie, FX
Don Cheadle, House of Lies, Showtime
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes, Showtime
Jim Parsons, Big Bang Theory, CBS
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock, NBC

CJ’s pick: Louis C.K., Louie

LJ’s pick:  Full disclosure.  I watch none of these shows.  So, I abstain.

LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES:

Lena Dunham, Girls, HBO
Laura Dern, Enlightened, HBO
Tiny Fey, 30 Rock, NBC
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation, NBC
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep, HBO
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie, Showtime

CJ’s pick: Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

LJ’s pick:  Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES:

Adam Driver, Girls, HBO
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family, ABC
Ed O’Neill, Modern Family, ABC
Ty Burrell, Modern Family, ABC
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live, NBC
Tony Hale, Veep, HBO

CJ’s pick: Adam Driver, Girls

LJ’s pick: Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES:

Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory, CBS
Jane Lynch, Glee, Fox
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family, ABC
Julie Bowen, Modern Family, ABC
Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie, Showtime
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock, NBC
Anna Chlumsky, Veep, HBO

CJ’s pick: Anna Chlumsky, Veep

LJ’s pick: Anna Chlumsky, Veep

WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES:

George Mastras, Breaking Bad, “Dead Freight”
Thomas Schnauz, Breaking Bad, “Say My Name”
Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey, “Episode 4”
David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, Game of Thrones, “The Rains of Castamere”
Henry Bromell, Homeland, “Q&A”

CJ’s pick: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, Game of Thrones, “The Rains of Castamere”

LJ’s pick: George Mastras, Breaking Bad, “Dead Freight”

DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA SERIES:

Tim Van Patten, Boardwalk Empire, “Margate Sands”
Michelle MacLaren, Breaking Bad, “Gliding Over All”
Jeremy Webb, Downton Abbey, “Episode 4”
Lesli Linka Glatter, Homeland, “Q&A”
David Fincher, House Of Cards, “Chapter 1”

CJ’s pick: Michelle MacLaren, Breaking Bad, “Gliding Over All”

LJ’s pick: Michelle MacLaren, Breaking Bad, “Gliding Over All” (*The one and only time I considered something from Homeland)

WRITING FOR COMEDY SERIES:

David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, Episodes, “Episode 209”
Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon, Louie, “Daddy’s Girlfriend (Part 1)”
Greg Daniels, The Office, “Finale”
Jack Burditt and Robert Carlock, 30 Rock, “Hogcock!”
Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield, 30 Rock, “Last Lunch”

CJ’s pick: Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon, Louie, “Daddy’s Girlfriend (Part 1)”

LJ’s pick: Once again, I abstain.  Womp, womp.

DIRECTING FOR COMEDY SERIES:

Lena Dunham, Girls, “On All Fours”
Paris Barclay, Glee, “Diva”
Louis C.K., Louie, “New Year’s Eve”
Gail Mancuso, Modern Family, “Arrested”
Beth McCarthy-Miller, 30 Rock, “Hogcock! / Last Lunch”

CJ’s pick: Lena Dunham, Girls, “On All Fours”

LJ’s pick: Lena Dunham, Girls, “On All Fours”

**All selections were made independently and at separate locations.  We take this stuff seriously (probably too seriously).

Gilligan’s End Game?

LJ took care of the review of Ozymandius below. But I wanted to do something we hadn’t been doing here at YBTV so far this half season: prognosticating.

I spent much of my day on Monday doing what I’m sure most of you were doing: talking with coworkers, friends and family about the gut wrenching “Ozymandius.” Let me first say that while I do think this is one of the finest hours of the Breaking Bad writer’s room, among many, many fine hours, I think so much credit for what makes this such an incredible hour of TV belong to director Rian Johnson. TV is a writers medium, but Breaking Bad might just buck that trend. The work by the incredible directors of this show, most notably Johnson, Michelle MacLaren and Gilligan himself, has set new heights in showing what is possible with television direction.

Now, on to the theorizing. In the discussions I’ve had and the thinking I’ve done on this episode, I seem to keep coming back to one thing: Scarface. Gilligan has said time and time again that his goal with this show was taking Mr. Chibs and turning him into Scarface. As I sit here today though, and I’ve seen the actions of Walter White over these last 16-17 months, I wonder if he ever was what “Mr. Chibs” represents, or has he always been Scarface, has he always been Tony Camonte or Tony Montana, just waiting to come to the surface? In the beginning, we the audience, and Walt the character, always justified his actions by saying they were “for the family.” But is that true?

At the end of episode 512, “Rabid Dog,” Jesse says to Hank that he wants to get Walt “where he really lives.” Jesse is of course speaking about Walt’s money. Walt didn’t do this so that he could send Flynn and Holly to college, despite the fact that he’s been trying to convince himself of that for all this time. But had that been his real goal, he would have stopped after he had $737,000, the exact amount he calculated would set his family at his death. Instead, Walt kept on going, earning more than 80x that amount. He didn’t do it for his family. He did it for his ego. He did it for his pride. He did it because he got screwed out of billions of dollars related to Gray Matter. And when he saw his brother-in-law with a gun to his head, he thought so highly of his money, the money he earned for his family, that he thought he would be able to buy Hank’s freedom with that money. Money is Walter White’s family. No one and nothing else, just like Tony Montana.

This brings me to my thoughts on Scarface. I keep going back to the scene in episode 503, “Hazard Pay,” with Walt watching Scarface with Flynn and Holly. Included in the scene is a stray comment by Walt, “everyone dies in this movie.” I do know that this line was an ad libbed line by Cranston on the set, and not in the script. But I still find it interesting and instructive. Not only because of the line itself, but because of the context it adds to the scene, and to Scarface the film. Tony Montana goes down in an amazing blazing glory in the famous “Say Hello to My Little Friend” scene, but I’m most struck by the scene immediately before that one.

The scene involves Tony looking for his sister, Gina. And when he goes to her house, what he finds is his partner, Manny, in a robe, opening her door. That part of the scene is not necessarily relevant, but I wanted to set the stage. What comes next though, is what I believe to be instructive. After seeing Manny in that compromising position, Tony kills Manny. Manny was Tony’s best friend, and business partner in the drug trade.

So if everyone dies in the end of Scarface, and Tony kills his best friend and business partner, what does that mean for our hero, Jesse? Today (and I make no guarantees past today with this show), I think it means that the show might end with Walt killing Jesse as Walt starts down his own blazing glory, much as Tony Montana did. I know we all want to believe that Walt is coming back to ABQ to “rescue” Jesse from the Nazi’s, and maybe that is still true, but (1) even if he comes back to save Jesse, that doesn’t mean the circumstances can’t change once he gets there, and (2) given the state of the Walt/Jesse relationship, and the confessions about Jane we just witnessed, doesn’t it seem unlikely that Walt would be trying to save Jesse? He does blame Hank’s death on Jesse after all, right?

If Gilligan really is taking this meek, quiet, whipped husband and man from being Mr. Chibs to Scarface, I believe we have to look to the source material for guidance. I could go on for probably about another 2,000 words comparing the arcs of Tony Montana to Walter White, but I think I’ll leave it at this for now, because, let’s just be honest, none of us can see what Gilligan has coming.

-CJ

BREAKING BAD 514: OZYMANDIAS

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Would you like my 80 million dollars?

I mean, where does one start?  This week’s episode was probably the hardest one for me to watch.  This was due to a couple reasons.  First, going into the episode, I was fairly certain that this was the end of Gomez and Hank.  I had prepared myself for Hank to die, but that still didn’t make saying goodbye to Dean Norris any less difficult.  Second, this week’s episode seemed to just keep sucker-punching us with gut-wretching moments.  I found it hard to catch my breath during the commercials.  It seems like most people took Ozymandias pretty hard, so let’s get to talking and work through the pain…

1.  Hank goes out like a badass – Hank has never been the hero of the show in my eyes.  And, he certainly is not a character without flaws.  Heck, I can still hear him screaming at Marie about those damm minerals.  But, he no longer is the joke of a character he appeared to be at the beginning of the show.  Further, in his last moments on this show, he showed that he had more integrity, strength, and intuition than Walt will ever possess.  As Walt stood begging for Uncle Jack’s mercy and stupidly giving up his meth fortune (the only real thing that could ever be considered justification for Walt’s horrendous crimes), Hank stood (or in this case laid) in stark contrast.  Instead of crying like a baby when faced with the end, Hank took it like a champ.  And, once and for all, Hank proved to be a higher caliber man than Walt could ever hope to be (he even told Walt he was the most intelligent man he had ever met with his last words).  Let’s give a slow-clap to Dean Norris.

2. Poor Gomez – While I felt like Hank got a proper goodbye send-off, Gomez definitely got the shaft.  The first glimpse we get of Gomez is of his corpse.  Now, I know he had to die and I expected it, but come on.  No one even asks what happened to him until the end of the episode.  Surely, he deserved better.

3. Walt Jr. chooses sides – Finally, Walt Jr. knows the truth about his father, although it seems to take Junior a significant bit of time for the truth to actually soak in.  I know Junior has had his dad on a pedestal this entire series (and I get that, I think my dad walks on water most days), but Junior has figured out that Walt is a liar by now…so should he really be so defensive when he learns the truth?  I guess there is a pretty big difference in being a liar and being a meth king murderer, so I should probably give Junior the benefit of the doubt.  Afterall, no one has dropped a bomb on me like that ever.  I do think that when Junior saw his dad fighting with his mom over the knife everything clicked for him and I am proud that he made the courageous decision to choose team Skyler.  I think it would have been inauthentic if he hadn’t.

4. Does Walt take the high road? – Against my better judgment, I always seem to be looking for redeeming qualities in Walt.  I seem to have a real difficult time believing him (or really anyone) is completely evil.  Therefore, I believe that Walt’s call to Skyler after the Holly-abduction escapade was an intentional decision by Walt to shield Skyler from the blame and therefore shield her from criminal conviction.  What is less clear to me was whether Skyler knew that was Walt’s intention or whether she actually believed Walt was the monster he appeared to be on the phone.  In any event, I believe the phone call was a step in the right direction towards redemption for Walt.  However, I simply will never be able to forgive Walt if he doesn’t rescue Jesse in these last two episodes.  Never.

5. The stray dog that is Jesse Pinkman – My heart breaks for Jesse.  Can this kid never catch a break?  He seemingly escapes from the clutches of the Nazi gang by brilliantly hiding under Walt’s car, only to be almost shot in the head, then told that Walt murdered Jane (after which I am sure he wished he had taken a bullet to the head), then locked in an underground cage where he appears to have been beaten almost to death, and finally forced to cook meth in order to save the only two people in this world he has left to care about.  Seriously, how much can one person handle?  Two things I want to note about Jesse this episode.  First, we again have more references to Jesse as some sort of stray dog.  Todd hooks him literally up to a leash while he is in the meth lab.  Second, Jesse’s half beat up face was way too reminiscent of Gus’s half-blown-off face and of the pink teddy bear.  Both of which symbolize death.  Now, maybe this is meant to imply that Jesse is essentially dead–he has no fight left in him and has met his breaking point.  I hope that is the case and it isn’t a foreshadowing of Jesse’s actual death to come.  Fingers crossed.

I could go on for hours about Breaking Bad (y’all know that by now).  But, no one’s got time for that.  What did y’all think?

-LJ

WHAT TO WATCH: FALL 2013 (LJ EDITION)

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So CJ claims each month he will be posting a list of “things to watch.”  I like his idea, but am going to put my own twist on it.  Below you will find a list of shows that I am most excited about watching this fall.  In other words, if you are exactly like me (which clearly everyone is), these are the shows you should be watching.  As you can tell, I possess a certain loyalty for returning shows, so unfortunately, my list is skewed a little against the new shows we will be seeing this fall.  This shouldn’t be taken to mean that I will not be watching any new programming over the next couple months.  If I am being honest, it just takes me a bit of time to jump onboard with anything new (consider this a character flaw).  Here we go:

10.  The X Factor (FOX, Wednesday, September 11 8:00PM) – I can already see CJ’s eyes rolling when he sees that The X Factor made my top 10 list.  Admittedly, I did not make it through Season 1 of The X Factor, but I vowed last year to give B. Spears my support and stuck it out.  And, you know what, I still find Mr. Simon Cowell amusing.  Plus, I have a huge girl crush on Demi Lovato (also, I should probably mention that my musical tastes match those of a 12 year old girl).  Now, unfortunately, Brittney is gone this year, but Demi and Simon remain.  I watch this show for the judges and not for the talent that is “discovered,” and I am excited to see what is in store with Kelly Rowland added to the panel.  I am cautiously optimistic. [Full disclosure, I watched last night’s premiere and I didn’t hate it.  I actually liked a lot.  Second episode is on tonight.  Set your DVRs.]

9.  Psych:  The Musical (USA, Sunday, December 15 9:00PM) – I know what you are thinking, what the heck is this?  Unfortunately, that means that you have not been watching the past seven seasons of Psych.  Let me tell you, you have been missing out.  This comedy is very clever and very witty.  Yes, it is pretty crazy at times, but it’s characters are incredibly loveable.  And, Dule Hill is, as always, amazing.  You have until December to get caught up.  Trust me, you will want to.

8.  Raising Hope (FOX, Friday, November 8 9:00PM) – We are now on Season 4 of Raising Hope and it has a new time slot.  I sincerely hope this is not the beginning of the end.  I feel like this show does not get enough credit.  Admittedly, I have been a skeptic.  But the fact of the matter is, this show is hilarious.  Yes, the characters are somewhat ridiculous, but this show has a lot of heart and I can guarantee that you will enjoy each and every episode.  Plus, Hope is so dang cute, how can you not love it??

7.  The Carrie Diaries (CW, Friday, October 25 8:00PM) – I will fully disclose that I was and am a huge Sex & The City fan.  I mean, I don’t have any t-shirts, but I will watch reruns pretty much anytime they are on.  Initially, I was skeptical about this show and it did take me until May to finish watching Season 1 on my DVR.  But, you know what, this show turned out pretty good.  AnnaSophia Robb is great and I am now a huge fan.  (Did you see her in The Way Way Back this summer??).  This is obviously a light-hearted show, but it is certainly entertaining and I am looking forward to Season 2 this fall.

6. Bob’s Burgers (FOX, Sunday, September 29 8:30PM) – If you haven’t ever watched Bob’s Burgers, then your life is a sad, sad place.  True statement.  And, this is coming from someone who doesn’t really like cartoons.  It is probably worth it to watch each episode just so that you can see the clever burger pun Bob has put on his restaurant chalkboard.  This show is clever and witty and undeniably funny.  Heck, Jon Hamm guest starred as a talking toilet last season.  That should be enough to convince you right there.

5.  Nashville (ABC, Wednesday, September 25 10:00PM) – As much as I didn’t want to like this show last year, I got roped in hard.  The beginning of the first season admittedly started out shaky, but mid-way through I was hooked. Yes, it is definitely soapy, but just accept the show for what it is and jump on board.  What became of Rayna and Deacon (we ended with the in a horrible car crash), is Peggy having Teddy’s baby, what will Scarlett’s answer be, will Jonathan Jackson’s hair still be most excellent?  All questions I need answers to.

4. New Girl (FOX, Tuesday, September 19 9:00PM) – Last season New Girl proved that even a “happy” couple can be funny.  This, of course, is no easy thing to accomplish and I hope that New Girl keeps it up this season.  We left last season with Nick and Jess agreeing to give couplehood a shot, while Schmidt was asked to chose between Cece and Elizabeth.  I can’t wait to see what this season has in store.  Also, extremely excited for Damon Waynes Jr. to return as Coach.

3. Arrow (CW, Wednesday, October 9 8:00PM) – Ranking my top three shows, was extremely difficult.  The amount of time I have spent thinking about it, is embarrassing.  Arrow’s first season was incredibly solid.  And, the finale was action packed.  I will not say how the season ended because that is how much I want you to watch the first season before October 9.  I am not kidding, DO IT.

2. Scandal (ABC, Thursday, October 3 8:00PM) – Kerry Washington, Scott Foley, and Joshua Malina.  That should be enough for you right there.  But, just in case it’s not, Olivia’s affair is now public and we know that Jake has been taking orders from Olivia’s dad.  What is going to happen next?  There is no way to predict.

1. The Walking Dead (AMC, Sunday, October 13 9:00PM) – Season 3 of this show was fantastic, especially the first half.  It fully solidified the fact that I love zombies.  I do.  Granted, I am actually afraid that the zombie apocalypse will happen (I know, I wish I was kidding…but it really could happen!) after watching this show, but that is just how good it is.  We left off with Rick and his gang admitting a bunch of Woodbury residents at the Prison, but the Governor is still out there.  And, I am very concerned about Daryl after all that happened with Merle at the end of last season.

What are y’all excited to watch?

-LJ

*Other shows considered:  The Blacklist, Parks & Recreation, Grey’s Anatomy, Homeland, 30 for 30, The Michael J. Fox Show, The Talking Dead, S.H.I.E.L.D., the 65th Annual Emmys.

**Times listed are for the East Coast.