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Category Archives: TV I’ve Been Watching

TV I’ve Been Watching: Breaking Bad: The Finale & Aftermath

In the past week, I have watched pretty much the last two complete seasons of Breaking Bad, including the finale tonight, right at 9 p.m. EST.  I am still debating whether this was my proudest moment: being able to manage my time in a manner that allowed me to get caught up with a series just before it aired its finale.  I was barely able to do that with Lost, and I loved that show.

After watching nearly 65 episodes of this series, I find I am still unable to explain why I continued to watch it, beyond the curiosity on how the characters got to that point.  I admit, my interaction with Breaking Bad is different from a lot of viewers.  Unlike I would hazard a guess and say the majority of viewers, I only jumped onto the Breaking Bad train a little over a month ago; I did not give myself the luxury of time with this series.  Unlike the majority of viewers, I did not start watching the series upon the pilot episode, nor did I get caught up two seasons in and then watch season by season with the rest of the viewing audience.  The finale was the only episode I did not watch on either Netflix or OnDemand.  And that could say a lot about how people watch TV and follow TV, but that’s another essay for another time.

So I didn’t have a lot of time to get to know Walter White.  I didn’t have the time to breathe after he let Jane die – I just moved into the next episode.  And thanks to Netflix, I didn’t even have to click the button to say yes, that I wanted to watch the next episode; Netflix did the heavy lifting for me.  Thanks, Netflix!

I didn’t have time to rationalize Walt’s manipulation of Jesse in “Full Measure,” where, to save their hides, he sent Jesse off to murder Gale in cold blood.  Jesse didn’t realize the full extent of what he was doing, but Walt sure as fuck did.  But unlike the majority of the viewing populace, I didn’t take that moment to breathe.  The next thing I knew, Gus Fring was walking down the staircase and brutally and wordlessly slicing Vincent’s neck open with a box cutter.

One of the downfalls of the new ‘binge-watching’ that’s going on, in my opinion, is that the audience is not given the chance to build opinions, to test them, to fully understand them.  I plowed through 63 episodes in about eight weeks.  There are some who have been watching for almost six years.  I didn’t have the time to know how to feel about Walter beyond my first impression: that though he may have started out cooking meth in order to make money to support his family after his death, somewhere along the line he decided — for himself — that he liked it.  And at that point, where he decided that he wouldn’t take an opportunity to return to his family life — that is where I decided that my opinion of Walter’s character was unfavorable.

And people really – really – didn’t understand why I don’t like Walter.  It comes down to this: I reacted exactly how Vince Gilligan wanted me to.  His main objective in creating Breaking Bad was to try and find the point, the moment, the line — where a normal, everyday, humdrum, boring person could descend into villainy, and then descend so far that he decided that he liked it.  And I think part of the reason I couldn’t identify with Walter is because I grew up with superheroes and police officers as role models, and the idea of a person getting away with multiple murders – yes, mostly of gangsters and other villains, but let’s not forget Gale, nor the assisted manslaughter of Jane, nor the poisoning of Brock in the interest of manipulating Jesse again – does not jive with the idea of ‘role model,’ or with the idea of ‘a person one will root for.’

My father raised me on Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four: normal, everyday human beings who, given the chance for amazing powers, decide to use them towards good.  When I was little, I read Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew; when I was older, I graduated to Kinsey Millhone and John Grisham novels — they were always the underdogs, scrambling to secure justice for even more under-underdogs.  In my late teenage years, I fell in love with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which did so much for girl power, and justice, and the idea of doing the right thing instead of the wrong thing, and being able to show the consequences for both types of power (because doing the right thing can also be a bad thing at times).

Having those formative influences — not to mention Indiana Jones, Marty McFly, Eddie Valiant, and Elisa Maza from Gargoyles — in my childhood and, well, formative years?  Of course I’m going to root for Skyler and Hank!  Why would I root for Walter instead?

By the way, I’m just going to state this and move on: Skyler is a fantastic character.  I only questioned her motives a couple of times during the entire series, which makes sense, because everyone makes decisions sometimes that other people will question, based upon the outsider’s formative influences and personality.  Anyone who comes to me and says that they are sorry Skyler didn’t die in the finale?  Turn around; there’s the door.  I don’t want to talk to you anymore.  You go think about what you’ve done, and you go think about a lot of things: the tentative treatment of women, both in Hollywood and in real life; the state of marriage today; how strength of character shines through in the oddest of moments; you just go think, Person.  Because seriously; I do not want to talk to you Skyler-Haters right now.  Because she is amazing and one of my favorites (and almost the only one that didn’t die).

And this brings me to my final question that I need to sort out: was the show perfect?  Because a lot of people are saying that it is.

I’m saying … I can’t answer that.

Because of who I am, and what I believe, and my moral code and my formative influences and my yada yada, my instinct is to say ‘no.’  But I can’t hold myself to that.  Here’s what I can say:

The finale was the perfect finale for this show.  I one-hundred-percent admit, it did exactly what it was supposed to do, and for the show, it was 100% satisfying.  And guys, I’ve watched a lot of TV (an actual quote: Mom: “No one watches TV the way you do, Alaina.”  [I don’t think she was saying it as a compliment.]).  That means I’ve watched a lot of series finales.  Do I think it was the best series finale in the history of ever?  No.  But was it the perfect finale for this show?  Yes.

Before I get into how the show worked on its own and how the finale enhanced it, I’d like to use a metaphor.  In the episode “The Limo” of How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson whips out his Perfect Party Mix CD and describes the Philosophy of the Mix CD thusly:

Barney: People often ask me, “Barney, how is it that you’re so psyched, so much of the time?”
Lily: By who, who asks you that?
Barney: And the answer is right here – my own personal Get Psyched Mix.  Now people often think a good mix should rise and fall, but people are wrong.  It should be all rise, baby!

And if nothing else, Breaking Bad treated its run like it was the perfect Get Psyched Mix CD.  It was all rise.  My Friend Sarah has tried at least twice to get into Breaking Bad, and can’t get through Season 1.  For what reasons, I’m not sure; Twitter’s not the best at elucidation.  And people have told her to just keep going, “Season 3 is where it really picks up.”  And that is a stupid reason to watch a TV show.  Why would you watch a TV show from season 3?  If seasons 1 and 2 are so not good, why would you watch them?  So I totally understand Sarah’s hesitation in powering through Breaking Bad.

As for me, I powered through because my curiosity to see the arc of the characters overwhelmed my boredom and frustration with the early seasons.  And once Season 3 started, yes, the action picked up, and it was like a runaway train (from which people were siphoning off methylamine); it was all rise.

Going back to the curiosity for a second.  Because I didn’t get into Breaking Bad in the traditional method — watching it from the beginning on TV like normal human beings — I was a bit spoiled on certain events.  Because I maintain a healthy Internet presence, and spoilers abound.  So I knew going in that Gus Fring was going to have half his face blown off.  I knew that an airplane crashed over Walt’s house (I guess I didn’t know it was two).  I knew that Gus Fring’s weapon of choice was a box cutter.  I knew that at some point, Walter poisoned a child; I didn’t know it was Brock, and I didn’t know until I watched the episode that it was merely Lily of the Valley.

But the point is here, that I knew that these mile markers existed.  And since I knew that Walter started off as a meek chemistry teacher with a lung cancer diagnosis, and ended up orchestrating the murder of ten men in three different prisons, I was curious as to how that arc progressed.  And that was what kept me watching; not emotional ties to the characters, but a curiosity as to the plot and its progress.

Back to the Perfect Get Psyched Mix.  In every season, Walt’s actions escalated.  From killing Crazy Eight to telling Tuco he was Heisenberg, to watching Jane die and not doing anything to help her, to manipulating Jesse into murdering Gale, to orchestrating the suicide bombing of Hector Salamanca and Gus Fring, to the Great Train Robbery and the involvement of the Neo Nazis … the action was all rise.  I can see how the viewing audience would get swept up in its fervor.

And to that end, the finale was the perfect finale this show could have: it wrapped every plot point up wonderfully, with a little bow on it, even.  Everything and (almost) everyone came back into play, and either died or was redeemed or maybe, both.  Spoiler Alert!  Walter White does not walk off into the sunset with Grace Kelly.  (That was Gary Cooper, asshole.)  Walter White’s end was fitting, though — I admit — not what I wanted.  But again, I have different opinions than the majority of viewers on that subject.

So the final question – is Breaking Bad the best show — the most perfect show — in all of television history?

No.

Now, admittedly, I am not a television critic.  (At least, I’m not getting paid to be one, so I don’t think I can exactly put that on a business card.)  (Although I might, right above a line declaring me to be an Obtainer of Rare Antiquities.)  But using my knowledge of television, my history with television, and my formative influences, I can say that Breaking Bad had flawless construction: its cinematography, its direction, its writing, and the overall arc of the series and the fact that it achieved what its creator intended; all of those facets combined to make Breaking Bad a truly great television show, if one uses the term “great” as one does when describing Jay Gatsby, not as if one is describing how the show made one feel.

But perfect?  I feel that I cannot consider Breaking Bad to be ‘perfect’ when I cannot identify with its main character.  I guess, granted, that was the creator’s intent, but … I don’t know.  I’m not sure.  After watching 63 episodes in almost as many days, I still feel disconnected with Walter.  I understand his actions, though I do not approve nor empathize with them.  So admittedly, I am looking at this question with biased eyes.  Because I do not approve of the main character’s actions — and that disapproval therefore bleeds into my assessment of the show — I do not think I can ever say that Breaking Bad is the most perfect show in the history of ever.

But then again, a lot of my favorite shows were flawed.  The aforementioned Buffy?  If I had my way, I would have ended it at “The Gift.”  While that would not have given us the amazing “Once More With Feeling,” and while “Chosen” is a very good series finale, “The Gift” is, thematically, an excellent stopping point.  (I also know it was supposed to be the series finale, but then the show was brought to UPN, so that kind of ruins my metaphor.)

Arrested Development was the show of my heart for years, and I thought it was flawless.  But there were bad points.  Don’t talk to me about “Ready, Aim, Marry Me!” — it’s my first least favorite episode.  And there were network notes, and overall lack of support which caused the quality of the show to suffer.  And I still don’t know how I feel about Season 4 beyond a shade of “… huh?”

Alias suffered BIG TIME in its later seasons.  As much as I love it – and I do! – there were problems with it, and it did not end the way I would have wanted it to.

Don’t even talk to me about Lost.  I’m still not over it.

So while I believe that Breaking Bad is an imperfect show because of my disconnect with the characters, at least the network didn’t interfere with it like others did with my favorite shows.  At least the quality of writing didn’t diminish.  At least the creators and actors and everyone involved on the show loved it from Day One until the end.

Again, I guess I can say the construction of Breaking Bad was flawless, and everything anyone who ever works in the business could ask for, production-wise.  In terms of how I interacted with the story it told, and the characters it presented, it left me cold.  Yet I still feel that that was what Vince Gilligan wanted when he set out to create the show in the first place.

Maybe it is perfect.  I don’t know.  I think I started trying to talk everyone into believing me, but I ended up believing the hype.

I guess I’ll end with this: Breaking Bad was a good show.  It is not the worst show I’ve ever seen, but neither is it going to be anywhere near my list of favorites.  And I mean ‘good show’ in the most technical terms possible.  Because I firmly believe that if it was a bad show, or a poorly-made show, I would not have let it get past the three-episode rule.

Will I ever rewatch it?  Probably not.  Will I watch the prequel, Better Call Saul?  Maybe, but that’s because I love me some Bob Odenkirk and I’m kindof hoping David Cross gets to be his best friend in it.

I guess, the best thing I can say about Breaking Bad is: it is the first show I’ve ever watched where I’ve analyzed it more than I’ve enjoyed it.  It made me think about a lot of things; some things for the first time under the context of television-watching.  And I guess, I have to commend it for that.

But I probably won’t rewatch it.  And I definitely do not understand how people fell head over heels in love with it, and with Walter White.  And I never will, nor will I try.

If you need me, I’ll be over here taking a breather, watching me some Once Upon a Time, and going back to shows that don’t make me think.  For a while, at least.

Goodbye, Breaking Bad.  May I never cross paths with you in a darkened alley again.

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in TV I've Been Watching

 

TV I’ve Been Watching: Breaking Bad

I am now halfway through Season 2 on Breaking Bad.  I have watched thirteen episodes and am fifteen minutes into my fourteenth.  I had to stop watching it temporarily because there was this scene, where Jesse was talking to Walt about “handling the business,” and the whole situation was so ludicrous (as was his explanation of what happened), that I ended up laughing myself into hysterics.  Like, you guys, I can’t emphasize enough: legit hysteria.  I could not stop laughing.  And I know it was legit hysteria because I didn’t know why I was laughing, or what I was laughing at.

To be honest, there was a brief moment where I was afraid there may have been a possibility where I could cross that magical line from ‘laughing hysterics’ to ‘crying hysterics,’ but I was able to dial it back in time before I began bawling onto my laptop.  If I had passed into ‘crying hysterics,’ I would at least be able to explain it away through work-stress, exhaustion, whatever — it wouldn’t have been Breaking Bad‘s fault, and this post wouldn’t have been written, and all would be right with the world.

But as it stands, I had legitimate laughing hysteria over nothing for three minutes.  It was not brought on by stress, I am not exhausted, and I have no idea why I continue to watch Breaking Bad.

A few nights ago, I had this twitter conversation with Sarah (you know Sarah – she was the one who so wonderfully recommended that I watch Hobo With a Shotgun that one time.  But no, seriously, she’s one of my best friends, and for all the bitching, I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.  Look at all the bitching I’m able to do now because of it!):

@Me: Just spent 2 hrs watching #BreakingBad instead of sleeping.  Why do I think I’m going to end up getting caught up before the final ssn? #Help
@Sarah: So, should I go back and try #BreakingBad again?

Oh, right — Sarah’s tried, what, at least a couple of times? To ‘get into’ Breaking Bad.  Friends told her to watch it because it’s supposedly awesome and the best show ever, and … she hated it.  Or she just wasn’t interested in it.  I can’t attest to whether hatred was involved.  But whatever; she gave up before the end of the first season, because she didn’t see any reason to continue.  And that is totally and completely okay.

Anyway, I responded to her question about whether she should try it again:

@Me: No, I just think I’m incapable of not watching a show. & I’m not obsessed with it; just curious to see how it ends up.
@Sarah: Ah, I see.  And I’m so glad you can maintain objectivity in the face of everyone going ‘BEST SHOW EVAH!!’ hahaha

And that last tweet of Sarah’s got me thinking.  Unfortunately for me, the thinking was at 5:30 a.m. and I had to work that day, so, hooray for insomnia!  But I scrawled out a page of notes so I could remember them and finally was able to crash for about four hours.

So my thoughts all came back to the same concept that is confusing me (boiled down to the “objectivity” that Sarah mentioned, which was the catalyst for this whole damn thing): I am not in love with this show, and yet I keep watching it.  WHY?

Why don’t I love the show?  What is keeping me from loving this?  Is there something wrong with me?  Why am I still watching it if I’m not one hundred percent loving it?  (oh wow i just found a super-long arm hair and that’s all i can concentrate on right now, has that happened to anyone else? OH LOOK I’M ALMOST DEMONSTRATING MY POINT brb)

I would like to say before I really dig into this, that I want to apologize in advance: six a.m. notes be damned, I do not have an outline for this, I suppose you’d call it an essay.  I’m really trying to figure some things out, so this may get rambly and incomprehensible.  Preemptive apologies all around.

I guess it comes down to two things: curiosity, and how I interact with media.  Because to answer the question about why I keep watching Breaking Bad, I guess I have to first answer why I started watching it in the first place.

I think I’ve mentioned before: I consider myself a pop culture glutton.  Despite the apparently huge amount of things I haven’t seen, there are still a lot of TV and movies that I have.  And even the ones I haven’t seen, I still know a lot about them, or can connect other movies with them, or some such nonsense.  But I am … not driven, I guess, but at least determined to ‘catch up’ on a lot of critically acclaimed or popular titles.

And Breaking Bad has been on my list of Things To Catch Up On.  Along with Firefly, Sports Night, Freaks & Geeks, Doctor Who, Torchwood, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Big Love, The Wire … and there are more.  Mad Men had been on that list for a very long time.  But two years ago I got the series on Netflix and blew threw the first four seasons in a month.  I had been keeping up with True Blood until things got crazy last year, but as soon as I finish Firefly off, the last two seasons on DVD of that campy vampire show will be coming and I’ll get caught up.

I guess we should all be very thankful that I don’t have a blog called TV Alaina’s Never Seen; you’d never shut me up.

Regardless: I knew Breaking Bad was entering its final season, and it was on my list.  It was on my list because it had been so critically acclaimed – how many magazines or webzines or blogs had put it in its Top Ten list of TV Shows Ever Produced in the History of Ever?  So I considered it had this… clout, this aura of importance, and if I didn’t watch it, then I’d be missing out.

So I started watching it from the beginning (THANKS, DODGE NETFLIX!).  And I didn’t fall in love with it immediately.  And look, sometimes that happens.  I have given a lot of shows the benefit of the Three Episode Rule: I’m going to watch you for three episodes, and if I am not completely in love with you, then I’m turning you off.  It happened to Beauty and the Beast this year; poor Revolution didn’t even have that long.  The Vampire Diaries almost fell victim to that rule, but luckily Damon Salvatore swanned into Mystic Falls and started with the ~feels, and that was my latest obsession (before Hannibal, of course).

What surprised me about Breaking Bad was that I recognized that I wasn’t in love with it, and I kept watching it anyway.  Why?  Why am I still watching it?

And the answer is: curiosity.  I am curious to see how everything ends up.  And the worst part?  Is that I know how everything ends up, which just adds to my confusion.

Everything I’ve read about Breaking Bad details the fact that Walter White (Bryan Cranston) doesn’t start out as a drug dealer.  He is a humdrum, boring, mild-mannered chemistry teacher with a pregnant wife and a son.  He is diagnosed with cancer, and then he turns to a life of cooking meth to make money to support his family.  Somewhere along the way, he becomes this uncontrollable villain, and the interesting thing that the articles and the actors and creators and everyone who has ever talked about this show is that the audience finds itself rooting for Walter – we are made to sympathize with the villain and hope that he is able to continue to build his drug empire.

So I shouldn’t be curious at all – I know what’s going to happen.  Unlike when I started watching The X-Files after the Season 4 finale, when it appeared that Mulder had killed himself.  (And I still have a sense memory of that night, watching the finale in my dark attic room, watching Scully stand up at the desk and report that Fox Mulder had shot himself with his service pistol, then watching blood drip from her nose.  I don’t remember a lot of shit, but that I remember?)  Or when I started watching Buffy from season 1, but in 2003, so I knew about “The Gift” and “Once More, With Feeling.”  Is it just plot that is making me continue to watch this show?

Because here’s the other thing: I don’t have any empathy for any of the characters.  None.  You will not see me photoshopping flower crowns onto Walt’s bald head.  I will not be able to defend Skyler (although I almost want to).  I want to punch Marie right in her whiny, shoplifty face (although her rant about El Paso was hilarious, but only because the aforementioned Sarah lives in El Paso, and I have reason to believe that Vince Gilligan may have plagiarized my friend).  The only characters that I even kind of like are Jesse and Hank, and that is because they are clearly meant to be comic relief.  (Although I did find myself gasping when it looked like Hank may be getting shot, because he is my favorite and I don’t want him to get hurt.  ALTHOUGH I KNOW HE DOES EVENTUALLY because I can read, and also, it’s because I can’t have nice things because SOMEBODY SHOOTS THEM.)

So if I don’t like the majority of the characters, and I know what happens, why am I still curious?  Why do I care?  Why am I still watching?  I’m not watching it because I feel I have to; regardless of My List, I don’t feel that critics and friends and whoever are forcing me to watch it.  I don’t feel like I have one opportunity to watch it — unlike Lost, where I felt a crippling need to rewatch the first five seasons before the final season started, I’m not tuning in to Breaking Bad now because I feel I have to.  I’m not emotionally connected to any of the characters, so unlike with Hannibal or even Vampire Diaries (or Lost, or Alias, or whatever), I am not compelled (heh – that’s funny because I mentioned vampires) to follow the arc of a character because I need to know s/he will be okay at the end.  I’m just …

I had to sit back and really, actually, think for a few minutes.  And I think I keep watching because I’m waiting for the a-ha moment.  That moment where it will suck me in, where the show will grab me, where I will start to connect with someone, where I will start rooting for someone, where I will start caring about what’s going to happen.  The moment where Xander goes to save Jesse because he’s his friend, even though he’s a vampire, and then he gets sad because Jesse, Man tries to kill him.  The moment where Hannibal serves Will people!sausage and I laugh because Will thinks it’s delicious.  The moment where a spark of Damon’s humanity shows through, and I think, deep down, he wants to be saved from himself.

The moment where Walt’s success at drug lord-ia becomes more important than keeping his family safe.

The moment where all the acclaim and frothing at the mouth about how great this show is is given credibility and value.

So I guess my curiosity doesn’t stem from the plot or the characters of the show; it’s curiosity about how I interact with the show, and how I find an emotional connection with it.

I hope I end up liking it.  And I want to be very clear here, because after nearly two thousand words, I’m afraid I may not have been as crystal (heh again) as I could be: I don’t hate the show.  I really don’t.  If I hated the show, it wouldn’t have survived the Three Episode Rule.  You’d be reading an entirely different essay if I hated it.  Giving credit where credit is due: the writing is very strong.  The acting – especially Bryan Cranston’s — is superb.  If I ever complained about him winning awards, I take it all back.  He is fabulous in this role and deserved every shiny thing he has ever won.  Aaron Paul, too (although you don’t have to over-enunciate all the time.  Sometimes your pronunciation is weird, but I’m going to overlook it, you crazy bastard).  I don’t hate Skyler — in fact (and some people may hate me for saying this), but as of Season 2, Episode 7, I’ve actually sided with her on a couple of things in her fight with Walt.  (Smoking while pregnant is NOT one of the things I’ve sided with her on, however; fear not.  Some things are Just Not Done.)

The direction, the cinematography – everything about the show is well-done.  I am not deriding the quality of the show in any way.

I don’t hate it.  I just don’t love it.

So.  That’s that, I guess.  And now that it’s three a.m., I’ll hit post, finish watching this episode, and maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to post an addendum that THIS was the episode that grabbed me, and everything will be coming up flower crowns from now on.

Maybe.

But I doubt it.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in TV I've Been Watching

 

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

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.

ANYWAY.

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.

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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.)

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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.”

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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