TV I’ve Been Watching: Firefly, Orphan Black, and Breaking Bad

02 Aug

I know I’ve been (relatively) quiet lately.  While it may be bad news that I haven’t yet watched Shawshank, or Pulp Fiction, or any of the frillion titles I’ve taped off of TCM for Insomniac Theatre (plus a bunch more that will be coming this month, thanks, Summer Under the Stars!), the good news is that I’m catching up on TV that isn’t Hannibal.  Because I think if I mentioned Hannibal to one more person, they would somehow contact Dr. Lecter and tell him I’ve been rude, and then he’d have to give me a Columbian Necktie of my very own, just to shut me up.


So the TV I’ve been powering through is an a show I should have watched a long ass-time ago, a new show that EVERYBODY NEEDS TO WATCH, and a show that I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, and in fact I want to write out some thinky thoughts I have about it, and this is pretty much the only venue I have for it.

So.  Let’s begin with this Western that takes place in space for some reason.

you can't take the sky from me

I am seriously kicking myself for not watching Firefly sooner.  But again, it’s a case of “I knew a lot about this subject before watching it, so I’m not terribly surprised at the plot or who the characters are” (see Star Wars: A New Hope).  I knew Nathan Fillion (Pretend Boyfriend #5A [for those times when Joel McHale is unavailable], and now I feel okay calling him Captain Tightpants because I know which episode that’s from now) played Captain Mal Reynolds, and Gina Torres played Zoe Washburn, and no matter how much I love Zoe, or love Gina as Bella on Hannibal, and all the other roles she’s played in which she has been awesome, Gina Torres will always and forever be Anna Espinosa to me.  And if you haven’t watched Alias yet, then, get on that, would ya?

And there are other people who went on to be famous people: Summer Glau playing River, Alan Tudyk playing Zoe’s husband Wash, and Adam Baldwin playing Jayne years before I fell in love with him as John Casey — though at this moment, I am pretty sure I prefer Jayne to Casey.  And the whole team is awesome – from Kaylee who can speak to engines, to Inara the paid companion who slowly becomes part of their ragtag team of reprobates, and even Simon Tam, who comes up with the idea of storming Ariel’s castle in an Ocean’s Eleven-esque caper that nearly goes bad.

The show is funny with a lot of heart and tons of emotion – “Out of Gas” is a fantastic episode from a storytelling point of view, as well as an origin story for the team before the Tams join them.

I don’t know why I’m trying to recommend Firefly to everyone; I’m certain I’m one of the last nerds in the ‘verse that hadn’t seen it up till now.  I guess I’m typing these paragraphs as a way to say, “Look, I finally saw this, and now I get all those jokes & references I’ve been seeing for nigh on to ten years, and do you think Fox will still accept my letter asking them to put it back on the air?  No?  Oh, there’s a movie?  Okay, I’ll check that out.”

(Although I heard that [SPOILER] dies in it, because guns don’t kill people, Joss Whedon kills people, so maybe I’ll just let my happy little Western in space end where it does.]

Next up: Orphan Black.

orphan black

If you pay attention to the Emmy nominations, first of all, allow me to offer my sympathy, along with a swift kick to the ass, because there is no bigger farce in the ‘verse than the Primetime Emmy Awards.  But anyway, if you pay attention to the nominations, you may have heard a slight rumbling on the interwebs about the lack of nomination for Tatiana Maslany, the lead actress in Orphan Black.  I also saw a couple of people talking about the show and raving about it, and then My Friend Sarah was told to watch it by her sister, and I checked to see if I could still watch it, and God Bless BBC America for having entire seasons available OnDemand, because I watched the entire first season in three days and lo, it was AWESOME.

Here’s the premise: Tatiana Maslany plays Sarah Manning, a no-good punk who’s trying to get home one night when she watches a woman jump in front of a train.  Except that the woman has her face.  So Sarah takes the woman’s purse and breaks into her house, and then starts impersonating her to get $75,000 so she can take her foster brother, Felix, and her daughter, Kira, out of Toronto and start a new life.

Except this woman she’s impersonating, Beth Childs?  She’s a cop.  A cop that’s being investigated for accidentally shooting a woman.  And being blackmailed by her partner.  So in order to get the money, she has to pretend to remember a shooting that she didn’t do.

And then a mysterious phone rings, and it’s a woman asking her if she’s met the German yet.  And then the German shows up, and it’s another woman with her face.

And essentially, Orphan Black is about a bunch of women who start to realize that they are clones.  And Tatiana Maslany plays all of them.

EVERYONE GIVE HER ALL OF THE AWARDS, because she is brilliant.  I have watched a lot of sci-fi over the years (and I’m only now either realizing it or admitting it, but still), and there have been numerous episodes where actors have played clones, and I cannot remember a single instance where one actor has been able to play multiple roles so fluently.  I honestly forget at times that these different women — vastly different women, ranging from soccer mom to biologist to schizophrenic maniac — are all played by the same person.  It’s crazy and uncanny, and I want her to win all the things.


Speaking of winning all the things, Breaking Bad had never really been a title I’d been horribly interested in.  I knew Bryan Cranston’s won a lot of shiny things for his portrayal of Walter White, and I knew that this was the last season for it.  Apparently it was a big deal or something — I watch a lot of Conan, and whenever he has one of the actors on his show, he can’t say enough good things about Breaking Bad.  Apparently, Breaking Bad is Conan O’Brien’s Hannibal.

And since I am still firmly With Coco (plus, I really try to own my Pop Culture Glutton status by watching Very Important Things), I started watching it a few nights ago on Netflix.

I … I don’t know.

It’s interesting, I’ll give it that.  I know the overarching premise is to show the arc of how Walter White, an ordinary, humdrum, Lester Burnham-esque suburban chemistry teacher devolves into a criminal mastermind, and I know that the creator Vince Gilligan has talked about how every individual has the ability to fall onto the wrong side of that line between good and evil, and he wanted to explore how someone who’s always been on the right side turns to the wrong side.  There was also discussion of creating a show where the audience has sympathy for the villain and ends up rooting for the villain, I believe.

Anyway.  I just finished watching the first season, and I’m … I don’t know.  I don’t know how to feel about Breaking Bad.  I applaud the actors for giving excellent performances.  I recognize the premise and can say that, within those first seven episodes I’ve seen, it’s executed well.  I am curious to see the progression of the series, and will most likely continue watching it, but honestly, I also feel like I could walk away and be done with it.  I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it with all my heart, either.  I don’t want to say I’m ambivalent, because I don’t think I am; I just don’t know how to feel about it.

I will say, I thought I saw the epitome of grossness with Dr. Gideon’s Columbian Necktie (I can’t link to that .gif again, you guys; I just can’t).  And then I saw the acid-eaten remains of a dead body fall through a second floor bathroom.  Thanks, Breaking Bad; I totally can’t un-see that image.

I keep wanting to compare it to Mad Men, but I don’t think that’s completely fair.  I approached Mad Men with the same sensibility: “a lot of people like this, it’s critically acclaimed; maybe I should watch it.”  And with Mad Men, I became curious as to how it would end, but I didn’t feel (until this season) that I was involved emotionally with the series.  (Blame this season on Pete Campbell and his excellent sideburns-ey delivery of “Not great, Bob!!”  And also the following .gif.  Because I would watch an entire hour of that.)


I keep coming back to it’s interesting, and I don’t hate it.  That’s not exactly high praise, I know, but it’s the best I can muster at this point.  Which I feel awful about, because Vince Gilligan wrote my all-time favorite hour of television!  And no, I’m not talking about the Pete Campbell Falling Down Stairs Hour, or even “Savoreaux,” the finale of Hannibal.

I’m talking about “Bad Blood.”


The best episode of The X-Files and my all-time favorite 42 minutes of television, EVER.  EVAR.  I have watched “Bad Blood” so many times I can recite entire sections of it without needing to have the show on in the background.  This page on tumblr only scrapes the iceberg of how much I love it.  Luke Wilson as the Sheriff!  The heightened personalities the agents take on in each other’s stories!  Large Marge, who’s going to read a lot of Gertrude Stein!  The autopsy scenes!  Drugged!Mulder singing “Shaft,” people!

So anyway.  I want to like Breaking Bad more than I feel right now.  But I’m just … meh.

And there’s a joke about “meh” being one letter away from “meth” in there somehow, but I’m too bored to find it right now.

I’ll return to my irregular non-schedule for Insomniac Theatre in the near future.  Until then, if you haven’t watched “Bad Blood,” go do it.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in TV I've Been Watching


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