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Episode Review: Breaking Bad – “Shotgun”

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(Disclaimer: Breaking Bad is such a richly developed show that there is much more to discuss than there is in your average television drama. As such, this review is going to be formatted a little differently than normal and will be a little longer than usual, but I feel that’s necessary for a show like this. It will also be a discussion of major plot points in the episode so here’s your giant SPOILER ALERT. Don’t read this until you’ve seen the episode. It also assumes that you are a viewer of the show and have a basic familiarity with characters and plots. Onto the review.)

I hate to use a tired cliché but just when you expect Breaking Bad  to zig, it zags instead. We’d been set up to expect the potential demise of Jesse Pinkman, but he’s instead given new purpose from an unlikely source. Just when Walt and Skyler have seemingly set into a business relationship, they’re back together in bed – literally. And just when it looked like Walt was free and clear from Hank’s Heisenberg investigation, he can’t help but put suspicion right back onto himself. On second thought… knowing what we know about Walt’s ego, perhaps that should have been exactly what we expected him to do. Let’s load up and take a closer look at “Shotgun.”

Teaser
“I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking about you and the kids and… I love you.”
I don’t know if this is true of past seasons of Breaking Bad, but one of the more entertaining elements of the fourth season is trying to determine where the episode’s title will fit into the episode itself. For example, did anyone really see “Box Cutter” coming? To that end, titling the season’s fifth episode “Shotgun” opens any wealth of possibilities and, right from the jump, action is clearly on the agenda. The very kinetic opening captures the mood perfectly as Walt is frantically weaving the Aztek in and out of traffic, presumably on his way to confront Gus in the wake of Jesse’s disappearance. He seems almost resigned to his fate, making arrangements with Saul and calling Skyler to tell her that he loves her and the kids while simultaneously placing his .38 on the passenger seat. And the title card hits..

Act One
“Gus Fring. Gustavo Fring. Your boss. Now. Please.”
Indeed it is Gus that Walt is on his way to confront as he pulls into the parking lot at Los Pollos Hermanos. He immediately confronts a cashier and demands to see Gus and the manner in which the actress playing the cashier responds makes you wonder whether she’s somehow a part of the drug operation or is just someone who’s annoyed that this seemingly unstable man has just demanded to see her boss. Either way, it was a nice character beat. After being informed that Gus is not present and not believing it, Walt sits down at a booth and immediately begins casing the place, noticing a security camera that’s almost identical to what’s been installed in the lab. Is Walt beginning to regret this play already? He begins to see every person in and entering the restaurant as a threat, most particularly three young Latino men as they enter and approach the counter but it soon becomes clear that they’re just customers. Nice little paranoia that’s transferred over to the audience. As he sits at the booth, he gets a call from Mike asking him what he’s doing there [1]. Walt responds by asking about Jesse’s well-being and is assured by Mike that he’s fine, even getting to speak with him himself. Mike’s exasperation with every little thing that Walt does while at the same time getting off on fucking with him is entertaining to watch, showing just how indispensable veteran actor Jonathan Banks has become to the series’ ensemble. It’s clear that Walt is not in control of this situation and it’s killing him. After hanging up, he barges his way with gun in pocket into the back of the restaurant to Gus’s office only to find it empty, raising his frustration level even higher. Back on the road, Mike and Jesse take a tension-filled drive off onto a side road and it again appears like we may be witnessing Jesse Pinkman’s final moments despite Mike’s assurances to the contrary during his conversation with Walt. Jesse finally begins to show signs of snapping out of his funk as this is occurring, questioning Mike on what’s happening while Mike plays very coy with his answers. Readying himself by gripping his keys in his hand in a weapon-like fashion, Jesse watches as Mike stops the car and fetches a shovel from the trunk with the ominous creaking of a dilapidated windmill as the only sound in the beautiful desert vista [2]. Right now I’m thinking, “Holy shit. They’re actually gonna kill Jesse. They’re actually gonna do it.”  Jesse exits the car and readies himself for death, only to have Mike pass right by him and begin digging for something in the dirt. He ultimately produces a bag and it becomes clear that this was a money drop by lower level dealers from Gus’s organization. This is an interesting twist because are they ultimately just using Jesse for the day only to kill him at the end of it? Are they lulling Jesse (and thereby the audience) into a false sense of security by allowing him to survive this only to fall prey to something else? As Jesse stands by, likely contemplating some of these same questions, Mike grumbles, “You coming? We gotta do this six more times today with a lot of miles in between. I’d like to finish before dark,” before they drive off to another drop.

[1] And I’ve gotta say that this is some kind of efficient operation that Gus is running if Mike’s aware of what’s going on within minutes of Walt entering the restaurant. That’s pretty damned impressive.
[2] Seriously, kudos yet again to series’ DP Michael Slovis. This scene is almost poetic in its visual beauty.

Act Two
“You are not the guy. You’re not capable of being the guy. I had a guy but now I don’t. You are not the guy.”
“This freakin’ guy. I tell you what. It’s like Scarface had sex with Mr. Rogers or something,” is Hank’s dismissive response to his detective pal, Tim, in handing over his findings on Gale’s murder case and determining that Gale himself was Heisenberg. When pressed for details on who could have been responsible for the murder, Hank responds that he feels that Badger or Jesse could be potential suspects though when pressed on whether either of them, particularly Jesse, could have actually pulled the trigger he says, “That… would surprise me.” He tells Tim that he feels like he has closure now and that he’s done with the case, though this can hardly be the end for this storyline, can it? It can’t possibly be, right? Meanwhile, Mike enters a filthy warehouse to pick up another drop, only to sigh exasperatedly when he sees Jesse standing outside the car in, as Jesse puts it, “a guard like capacity.” I’m pretty sure that if there was ever a spinoff to be made that portrayed Jesse and Mike in an Odd Couple-esque setting, I’d watch the hell out of that show. As they continue on their drop pickups, episode director Michelle MacLaren brings back her time-lapse style of shooting from “Thirty-Eight Snub” in a very nice stylistic touch to convey the boredom and tedium of Jesse’s and Mike’s task for the day, also making it clear that Mike is barely concealing his desire to want to kill Jesse while Jesse seems to be onto Gus’s motives: “It’s finally hitting me what the plan is here. It’s to bore me to death. Well, it’s working. Good job.” He also has the balls to compare his drug operation to Gus’s [3] while demanding a bigger role within Gus’s organization, leading Mike to bark the quote at the top of this section [4]. Back at the lab, Walt is struggling to complete the day’s cook on his own and this leads to more great work by MacLaren, who has a great eye for conveying emotion through her visuals. Walt is exhausted from doing a two-man job and is barely there as he heads to the signing for the deed to the car wash, which is actually par for the course when it comes to his enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the wash. After the papers are officially signed, Walt and Skyler debrief on their feelings now that the deal is complete and as they prepare for celebratory drinks Skyler plays the message that Walt left on the answering machine at the start of the episode. Perhaps in a weak moment, she misinterprets the context of what Walt said and they end up back in the bedroom doing what adults do in a bedroom.

[3] Which is the type of hubris that, in part, got Victor killed back in “Box Cutter.” Seems to be more evidence pointing toward Jesse being murdered at the end of this episode.
[4] Largely due to its masterful delivery by Banks, it might be one of the best lines in the series’ history.

Act Three
“This is a two-man job. I can’t do it alone. I’m done. That’s it. Finished. Nothing else happens until I get my partner back.”
Back with Skyler and Walter in bed making small talk about minutia like the sheets and her hair in the most awkward fashion possible, it becomes clear that this is something that maybe neither of them should have dived into so quickly. In short order, Walt Jr. comes home and Walt and Skyler just about crap themselves trying to figure out how to handle the situation and what they should tell him and, predictably, they blow it as Walt yells back from the bedroom that they’ll be out in a minute. Walt Jr.’s look of disgust at this revelation is rather humorous. Skyler immediately jumps the gun and invites Walt to move back in – “Just so it’s easier to explain to everyone. Don’t you think?” – yet Walt doesn’t seem too enthused by the idea. Is it just that he doesn’t want to put the family in danger or is it that his ego won’t allow him to come back after being humiliated [5]? Back at the lab, Walt is out of sorts again having to complete Jesse’s duties as well as his own [6] causing him to scream at the camera (and by extension Gus) that he needs Jesse back immediately. This is his power play, and he’s making it now. He also looks frighteningly like a petulant child. More time-lapse shots, this time outside the lab, to show how long it takes for Gus’s response to come to light and indeed Tyrus is sent instead of Jesse. Walt vents his frustration as Tyrus calmly and silently goes to the forklift and operates it perfectly. While Walt is obsessed with getting Jesse’s help, Jesse and Mike are on what looks to be their final drop pickup for the day as they pull into an ominous looking back alley. Jesse waits in the car as Mike enters the adjacent building and HOLY SHIT THEY’RE ACTUALLY GONNA DO THIS. As Jesse sits idly, the camera focuses on the back windshield of Mike’s car and we see another vehicle pull up perpendicularly to the alleyway. A figure holding a shotgun [7] emerges and, as soon as Jesse realizes this, he puts the car in reverse and slams into the other vehicle at the end of the alleyway and flies out into traffic [8] to escape. Just then, Mike exits the building looking less than surprised and is soon making a phone call for a pickup only to be greeted by Jesse returning in his car and offering an explanation for what happened. And is that a glimmer of pride on Mike’s face? It can’t be, can it?

[5] Remember “I.F.T.”? Walt does.
[6] Seems that contributing to a Nobel Prize in chemistry doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to operate a forklift.
[7] Boom. Episode title.
[8] Worth noting that no shots were ever fired? We’ll see.

Act Four
“Maybe he’s still out there.”
As the next day begins, Walt wakes up in his old home and ambles to the coffeemaker. Walt Jr. enters and tells his father that he’s glad to have him home and Walt responds in kind. But, surely, seeing his son drink from a Beneke Fabricators cup and being informed that Skyler has already set a moving in date for him is giving him second, third, and eighth thoughts about whether returning home is the wisest move. Escaping to the lab, he finds Jesse working as if the events of the previous day (from Walt’s perspective, anyway) had never happened. He soon clues Walt in on what he and Mike were doing all day but Walt is dumbfounded by the confidence that Gus displayed in Jesse (“What is this? Some kind of joke?”). This only serves to begin driving a bigger wedge between the two as Jesse responds angrily and tosses out that he needs to finish his lab tasks quickly since he’s meeting with Mike later that day. Back at Los Pollos Hermanos, Gus takes out the trash as a cover to meet with Mike in the alleyway. He offers confirmation that the idea for the “ambush” during the last drop was his as Mike remarks, “Just like you wanted. The kid’s a hero.” It appears that Mike is not necessarily enamored of the plan but he knows better than to question Gus’s motives. It’s an interesting angle for the writing staff to take but it again shows just how cunning Gus really is. He’s given Jesse agency in a small part of the operation and, in doing so, has begun causing a fracture between Jesse and Walt, not to mention that Gus has likely gained at the very least a small measure of loyalty from Jesse. His endgame isn’t quite clear yet [9], but Gus has again proven to be Walter’s intellectual equal at almost every step. In the episode’s closing sequence, the Whites are again at Hank and Marie’s home for a dinner get-together, only this time Walt seems to be indulging in a bit too much wine [10]. He quickly moves to the kitchen after tapping the bottle of wine on the table, not only to get a replacement but to escape his situation for a brief minute. Is family life becoming too boring for him now? He’s become used to the adrenaline of the drug game and maybe he feels he’s above the boring humdrum of everyday life. Knowing his ego, that’s entirely probable. And speaking of that ego, after returning to the table the discussion veers toward the Gale Boetticher murder case as Hank offers almost effusive praise of the departed Gale’s meth cooking skills. Surely enough, Walt’s massive vanity gets the better of him and he mentions in his drunken stupor that he feels that Gale was too ordinary to be an innovator and that the real Heisenberg is probably still out there, much to Skyler’s visible disgust. He’s essentially in the clear, but he can’t stomach allowing Gale to get the credit for his work. He’s sealing his own fate in a nice callback to the season opening “Box Cutter,” where Gale stumped for Walt’s hiring at the lab. In the final scene, a much more pleasant and upbeat Hank [11] looks through the Boetticher murder file one more time before wondering out loud what a vegan like Gale was doing with a number written on a napkin for Los Pollos Hermanos.

[9] And, in being true to the Gus character, there’s no way in hell that we should know what that is yet.
[10] But really, at this point, can you blame the guy? It’s amazing that he hasn’t gone Jesse’s route, to be completely honest.
[11] Who’s finally being respectful and downright human to Marie by apologizing for his mess and politely accepting of her offer of coffee.

Overall Thoughts: Just a cracking episode that sent three different character arcs rocketing off into interesting directions. Jesse has now been entrusted with a larger role in the Fring operation just when it seemed that they no longer had any use for him. Hank is getting back to being Hank and shaking off the depression and anger from his shooting. And Walt… oh the egomania of Walt may just prove to be his ultimate undoing. “Shotgun” also shines a glimmer of light into what, to this point, had been a very bleak [12] season. I’m really liking where we’re heading here as, over a third of the way into the season, we’re heading down some very intriguing paths that will likely pay off very, very well as the season starts wrapping to its conclusion.

[12] Not that that’s a bad thing. At all.

Rating: 93/100 

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TV Power Rankings: Week Of 8/22

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Quick note about the power rankings: This is a quick glance at what I consider to be the twenty best shows that have aired in the calendar year 2011 thus far. Also? I just really like lists. I’m only one man and, while I watch an obscene amount of television, I haven’t watched everything (yet). I may burn through a month’s worth of a particular show in one week and the results can fluctuate as a result. These ratings are dynamic, thus, subpar episodes of a show on the list may cause it to drop the rankings just as an exceptional episode can boost it. I’ll post these on a semi-weekly basis (except when I don’t) and you can find last time’s rankings in parentheses.

  1. (1)   Friday Night Lights (NBC) – Season 5
  2. (2)   Breaking Bad (AMC) – Season  4
  3. (4)   Louie (FX) – Season 2
  4. (3)   Justified (FX) – Season 2
  5. (5)   Parks And Recreation (NBC) – Season 3
  6. (6)   Game Of Thrones (HBO) – Season 1
  7. (7)   The Vampire Diaries (CW) – Season 2 (2nd Half)
  8. (8)   Community (NBC) – Season 2 (2nd Half)
  9. (9)   Archer (FX) – Season 2
  10. (10) Treme (HBO) – Season 2
  11. (11) The Chicago Code (FOX) – Season 1
  12. (12) Cougar Town (ABC) – Season 2 (2nd Half)
  13. (13) Bob’s Burgers (FOX) – Season 1
  14. (14) Childrens Hospital (ADULT SWIM) – Season 3
  15. (15) Parenthood (NBC) – Season 1 (2nd Half)
  16. (16) The Good Wife (CBS) – Season 2 (2nd Half)
  17. (18) Lights Out (FX) – Season 1
  18. (17) Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO) – Season 8
  19. (NR) Awkward (MTV)Season 1
  20. (NR) ThunderCats (TOON) – Season 1

Dropped Out: Teen Wolf, Torchwood: Miracle Day  

NOTES:

  • A lot of stasis in the rankings this time of year but expect some changes to start hitting in about a month as the fall season kicks into full gear. Not only will returning series have a chance to boost or hurt their positions, but a brand new crop of shows will be fighting for a way in. For a TV junkie, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.
  • I was recently having a conversation with a friend about Louie and he asked me if it was possible that it should be considered the best television show ever. It might be a little too early to make that claim as the series is only in its second season but I can say that there’s no show in recent memory that’s equaled the roll that Louie‘s been on over the past four or five weeks. I mean, we’re talking about the kind of episodes where, whenever the show finishes its run (hopefully no time soon), people will look back and list them among the series’ best. “Oh, Louie/Tickets” actually made me feel for Dane Cook for Christ’s sake. That takes some gargantuan talent to pull something that off. It’s fair to say that Louis CK is operating on another plane from every other comedian today and it shows in his vision for Louie. The only concern over its first season was its lack of consistency but CK always aimed for something, which is more than can be said about many of his peers. That lack of consistency has been all but completely eliminated this year and, after FX made the no-brainer decision to pick the series up for a third season earlier this month, it’s hard to imagine how it can improve next year on what’s been near perfection. If anyone can do it though, Louis CK is proving to be the type of guy who can.
  • MTV’s Awkward and Cartoon Network’s re-boot of ThunderCats make their first appearances in the rankings. As I mentioned last time, Awkward is a winning mix of comedy and earnestness that’s well on its way to being the most pleasant surprise of the summer while ThunderCats manages to balance both action that’s appropriate and entertaining for kids while giving adults enough of an actual storyline to keep the grown-ups interested. Plus, it’s just very cool to be able to watch something that I watched as a kid with my own five-year-old son. Both have been faring well with audiences with Awkward already receiving a second-season pickup and ThunderCats routinely placing highly in the 18-49 demographic on Friday nights. Here’s hoping for continued success for both series as they’re showing that they deserve it.
  • As always, feel free to chime in on the comments with your thoughts on what may be too high or too low in the rankings.

Written by jeremylikestv

August 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Posted in Power Rankings

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Episode Review: Breaking Bad – “Bullet Points”

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(Disclaimer: Breaking Bad is such a richly developed show that there is much more to discuss than there is in your average television drama. As such, this review is going to be formatted a little differently than normal and will be a little longer than usual, but I feel that’s necessary for a show like this. It will also be a discussion of major plot points in the episode so here’s your giant SPOILER ALERT. Don’t read this until you’ve seen the episode. It also assumes that you are a viewer of the show and have a basic familiarity with characters and plots. Onto the review.)

Jesse’s nadir looks to be on full display [1], Walt and Skyler develop an elaborate lie to explain their purchase of the car wash, and Hank’s storyline that began in last episode’s “Open House” apparently comes to an abrupt end in the season’s fourth outing, “Bullet Points.” The oddly structured episode essentially shunted the series’ leads into one half of the episode or the other, with the first half focusing almost entirely on Walt and the second half acting as Jesse’s show. But the ending… oh, the ending, a patented Breaking Bad cliffhanger that, were this any other show, would have a predictable resolution. But then, this isn’t just any other show is it? Time to dive a little deeper into “Bullet Points.”

[1] Giving Aaron Paul yet another chance to demonstrate his evolution into one of television’s greatest actors.

Teaser
A distinctively Breaking Bad visual puzzle opens “Bullet Points” with Mike sitting in the back of a refrigerated truck, leaving the audience wondering, “When are we?” Is this present-day? Or are we seeing a flashback of some kind? By the time that shots are fired through the back of the truck by a couple of unknown assailants, splattering packaged chicken batter all over the trailer like so much goo [2], the only explanation for the attack seems to come from the episode’s “Previously On” segment, which included a clip of Gus’s retribution against the Mexican cartel boss from last season. That looks to be really the only thread that connects the scene to the present narrative. Mike, badass that he is, responds in kind by single-handedly killing both shooters, leaving himself to tend to an errant gunshot that’s taken a chunk out of his ear. As he examines the damage to his flapping ear, the title card hits…

[2] Which was a very nice visual touch by episode director Colin Bucksey.

Act One
“For a fired schoolteacher who cooks crystal meth, I’d say you’re coming out pretty much ahead.”
An extra-long first act begins with Skyler in bed, alone, scribbling something onto a notepad an attempt to create an elaborate script to explain away the Whites’ sudden windfall that’s allowing them to purchase the car wash, despite neither of them being currently employed in the legal sense of the word. I mentioned in the review of “Open House” that I was hoping for something to tie up this loose thread as soon as possible and, again, the writers have delivered and I’m glad that they’ve done so in such quick fashion. Quick cut to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, so the explanation is that Walt is a recovering gambling addict and the cash has come from his winnings. Inventive and not really the angle that I would have predicted them going with but it makes a kind of sense and the resulting shot of Walt struggling to stay awake in the GA meeting is rather humorous to boot. Back at the house after the meeting, Skyler and Walt decide to lay their cards out on the table (pardon the awful pun) that night to Hank and Marie as they discuss, in painstaking detail thanks to Skyler, the best way to keep their stories straight. When Walt voices his opinion that he’d rather just tell Hank that the Whites’ are paying his medical bills (a secret Marie is still hiding from him), Skyler responds, “I seem to recall that you’d rather sell drugs than take help,” which is a nice callback to season one and demonstrates the resentment that she still harbors toward Walt even as they’ve found some semblance of civility and even camaraderie with one another of late. That said, Skyler has simply become a disagreeable character and, other than the scene where she charms her way into Walt’s condo in “Box Cutter,” I can’t think of anything she’s done this season that’s resonated with me. Even in this situation, her call for extreme detail and penchant to micromanage in order to feel in control is off-putting. Her script includes the line, “We want to tell you the whole story. It’s a doozy, so hold onto your hats,” and really shows how out of her depth she really is. Walt is barely able to feign interest but his vanity and huge ego rears its ugly head when he takes issue with the word choice, spitting, “This whole thing makes me look like crap. Where’s the ‘I slept with my boss’ bullet point? I can’t seem to find THAT anywhere,” once again reminding her of the reason for his current line of work, before apologizing to her but only in the context of the script which is a nice touch that’s fitting of Walt’s arrogance and stubbornness. The act then continues as the Whites’ with Walt Jr. in tow [3] arrive at Hank and Marie’s for dinner and we see a cleaned up Hank [4] make small talk before taking both Walt and Walt Jr. to take a look at his baby, the mineral collection where Walt essentially emasculates Hank through his vast chemistry background as Hank tries to attempts explain some basic facts about the collection himself. However, Hank (unwittingly) gains a measure of payback for his embarrassment after pulling out the file on Gale’s murder and popping in a DVD of the deceased chemist performing a bad karaoke version of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom.” The fear on Walt’s face as he realizes how his worlds are colliding is astonishing as the act (finally) concludes.

[3] Seriously… when’s the last time we’ve seen this kid this season? Have I mentioned him in these reviews at all? The baby’s been more visible so far, for crying out loud.
[4] Which is kind of jarring but maybe that was the intended effect.

Act Two
“Walter H. White. A man of hidden talents.”
At the dinner table, Skyler spins her intricately planned story about Walt’s gambling problem prompting Hank to utter the above quote. Conveniently enough, though, just as Skyler needs Walt to remember minute details about their lie, he’s rattled and completely preoccupied with what Hank has just shown him. Whereas his disinterest with the story was somewhat of the crux of the first act, his all-encompassing fear of being caught is what precludes him from paying full attention to it here. It’s an interesting shift. Quickly excusing himself from the dinner table, he sneaks back into Hank’s bedroom to frantically page through the file. He finds the lab notes binder that we saw at the end of “Box Cutter” but has to hastily put it away once Hank comes back to check on him. There’s a wonderfully awkward scene in the hallway as Hank offers an ear to Walt’s gambling problems – “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere,” while Walter selfishly reciprocates the gesture and, for the slightest instant, it appears that Hank may be onto him but that quickly passes. With the fact that all of this Heisenberg evidence has essentially been under Hank’s nose for the entirety of the series, is it worth wondering if Hank’s actually as good at his job as he’s portrayed? Or is that a little unfair? As it turns out, Hank’s operating theory is that Gale – not Walter – is Heisenberg and that’s an interesting wrinkle that I didn’t see coming. You almost have to wonder if Walt’s ego and vanity will allow him to let this pass, however. Hank almost seems resigned to the fact that his Heisenberg is now a lost cause as he laments that he’ll never get a chance to bring him in himself, making a nice reference to Popeye Doyle’s similar circumstance in The French Connection, but does make a passing mention that it shouldn’t be too hard to track down his killer. This, of course, leads to Jesse’s first appearance as Walt barges over to the Pinkman house to confront him over his sloppiness in carrying out the murder. This is the first time that he’s seen Jesse’s home in the “seventh circle of Hell” mode but Walt is too egomaniacally self-centered to care as he walks in to see a newly shaven-headed Jesse shaving some random stranger’s head on his staircase. The first and only thing on his mind is pressing Jesse [5] for every little detail about the shooting to make sure there aren’t any loose ends in what ends up as an incredible scene. Their mindsets are in perfect contrast – Walt wants every minute detail spelled out just as Jesse has done everything short of suicide to make himself forget. It’s masterfully played by both Paul and Bryan Cranston, and, I’m bordering on becoming a broken record of sorts, but if Paul doesn’t win an Emmy for this season [6] there’s really no justice in the world. Walt finally gets Jesse to concede that he forgot to remove the shell casings from Gale’s apartment before he pays one of the partygoers to forcibly remove Walt from the house.

[5] Who’s initially very nonchalant about being tracked down by the police, figuring that if they had anything of substance they would have gotten to him by now.
[6] And, Jesus… we’re only four episodes into the season. I can’t even imagine what else may be in store for Paul to play before it’s all said and done.

Act Three
“Yeah… you do have a little shit creek action happening.”
A couple of very interesting seeds are planted as the third act opens. First, in a scene between Hank and his detective friend from “Open House,” credit goes to the writing staff for reminding us that Hank is still aware of Jesse’s involvement in the sale of blue meth from the events of season three. It would therefore stand to reason that he could suspect Jesse of being involved in Gale’s murder, which opens the possibility that Hank could conceivably come back to Jesse at some point in the course of his investigation. Score a victory for continuity. Secondly, during a meeting between Walt and Saul [7], after expressing his frustration with Jesse’s mindstate (his vanity again coming to the fore as he exasperatedly wonders, “Why am I the only person capable of behaving in a professional manner?”), the car wash situation [8], Skyler, Mike, and pretty much everything else, Saul opens the door for what he calls a disappearing act. He mentions to Walt that he’s willing to provide him with the number for an individual that he’s worked with in the past who could erase Walt and his families’ identities for a large sum of money. He stresses that this is only a last resort type of move and is not to be taken lightly. Ultimately, Walt declines to take his card but this is clearly a possible season endgame. There’s almost no doubt that the conflict with Gus will come to a head at some point before this season ends – there’s too much tension for it not to – so this would seem to be a route that Walt could be returning to in the future. Otherwise, why introduce it now? The act closes with Jesse returning home from work to find a suitcase full of money missing from his dresser, responding to its loss with apathy and by playing some Xbox with some random chick in his house. Surely, this sloppiness is going to end up costing him, but how soon?

[7] And in a classic Bob Odenkirk levity moment he says of Hank’s possible pursuit of Jesse, “(He) goes after him how? On his Rascal scooter? That perhaps sounded insensitive.”
[8] Hey! Me too!

Act Four
“I know he and Walter come as a team and he won’t like it, but something has to be done.”
The final section of “Bullet Points” opens with Jesse being awakened unexpectedly by Mike, raising the question of how Mike ended up there? Was it through Tyrus’s surveillance or through Saul tattling after his meeting with Walt? Jesse learns that Mike has “invited (his) guests to leave,” and has tied up one of the partygoers for stealing the $78,000 that was in Jesse’s dresser that he seemed less than distraught to lose. After displaying extreme nonchalance with Mike’s actions and the implications of the thief’s fate (“Is this the part where I’m supposed to beg you not to do it?” is Jesse’s response), he trudges back up to bed while barely changing his expression, as a backlit Mike [9] at the bottom of Jesse’s stairway warns, “You’re on thin ice you little shithead. You know that?” Cutting next to a meeting between Mike and Gus [10], Mike describes Jesse as “increasingly uncautious” and seems to suggest a drastic course of action to Gus. Were this any other show, we’d know that nothing’s likely to happen to Jesse but here? I’m not convinced. Paul has been given such meaty work so far in the fourth season that it realistically could have been his goodbye, and that’s only a small measure of the greatness of the show showing such unconventional approaches to storytelling that killing off one of its leads is a truly realistic possibility. In the lab, Walt is becoming increasingly agitated at Jesse’s absence, so he abruptly leaves to tear into Jesse yet again about his “unprofessionalism” but finds Jesse’s house empty to his dismay, even more so once he calls Jesse’s cell phone only to hear the phone ring just feet away from where he’s standing. Knowing that something isn’t right, he returns to the lab and growls into the security camera, “Where is he?” The final image is of Mike and Jesse alone in a car driving into the middle of the New Mexico desert and Jesse’s clinical apathy leads to a final chilling exchange. Mike: “Wanna ask where we’re going?” Jesse: “Nope.” With as on point as Paul has been so far this season, we can only hope that this isn’t the beginning of the end for Jesse Pinkman.

[9] A very ominous visual, that.
[10] Which is the first time we’ve seen the chicken man since “Box Cutter,” adding to the gravity of this situation.

Overall Impressions: “Bullet Points” was on par with both “Box Cutter” and “Thirty-Eight Snub” as upper echelon episodes of Breaking Bad, and the fourth season is off to a rollicking, tension-filled start. Aaron Paul has been beyond phenomenal this season, turning in some of his best work yet in this episode. Selfishly, I don’t want to see him go if that’s indeed where the show is heading, but Vince Gilligan and his writing staff have been on such a roll in the last season and a half that I trust them implicitly. If Jesse’s exit is a necessary aspect of serving the story, then so be it. The abnormal structure of the episode, essentially sequestering Walt and Jesse from each other save the scene where Walt confronts him about the shooting was an interesting choice and only adds to the sense of Jesse’s impending doom. The wait for the next episode is going to be a long one after the way that this one ended.

Rating: 95/100 

Written by jeremylikestv

August 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm

What The Marriage Of The UFC And Fox Means For The UFC

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The landscape of sports on television is ever changing. Within the past few months, we’ve seen the approval of the merger between Comcast and NBCUniversal lead to NBC’s decision to rebrand Comcast property Versus as NBC Sports Network, with their long-term plan being to position the newly renamed network as a competitor to television sports behemoth ESPN. To that end, NBCUniversal announced a new deal with Major League Soccer (MLS) earlier this month that will bring the fledgling soccer league to the NBC stable of networks beginning in 2012, taking over broadcasts that are currently handled by Fox Soccer Channel. NBC and NBC Sports Network will televise two regular season matches, two playoff matches, and two national team matches on NBC and 38 regular season matches, three playoff games, and two national team matches on NBC Sports Network, a move that will raise the league’s profile exponentially and thus lend more legitimacy to soccer in the United States.

However, the visibility and popularity boost that MLS will receive via the NBC deal will likely pale in comparison to the deal that another sports organization struck with a major network this week. On Thursday, it was announced that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) had come to an agreement with Fox Sports on a seven-year deal that would see UFC content spread amongst the Fox Network (the first time that the UFC has been shown on network television) and cable properties FX and Fuel [1]. It’s hard to understate what this deal means to the UFC.

Really, it means everything.

The UFC, for years, has struggled with the wrongheaded and outdated belief that it’s nothing more than glorified cockfighting, a view that largely draws from the organization’s early days in the 1990s of running toughman contests that would pit, for example, a barroom boxer against a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner to see which fighting discipline was superior. Essentially, anything and everything was allowed in those fights and that fact has largely shaped how the organization is seen by some even to this day. It’s an outdated viewpoint that is no longer valid largely due to three elements that have shaped the UFC as we know it today.

One was the purchase of the UFC in January 2001 by Zuffa, LLC, a company run by brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta and Dana White, who with his brash manner and role as president of the UFC is well-known as the public face of the company. Under the Zuffa banner, the Fertittas and White sought to legitimize the sport by gaining the sanctioning of state athletic commissions in a manner similar to how boxing operates. Once they gained approval in the state of Nevada, a large majority of other states followed to the point where the UFC is now regulated in most of the country [2].

The second was the finale of the UFC’s now wildly popular reality series, The Ultimate Fighter. The Ultimate Fighter, or TUF for short, premiered in early 2005 to relatively little fanfare on Spike TV and allowed up and coming fighters a chance to compete for a place in the organization as well as the six-figure contract that came with it. The fighters were placed in a single-elimination tournament that spanned 12 weeks and culminated in a finale in Las Vegas that saw 2.6 million viewers to tune into the final match between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, a fight that is recognized by many as one of the best in UFC history and is credited by White as saving the UFC. This fight was the flashpoint that ignited the UFC’s popularity and sent mixed martial arts (MMA) and the UFC itself into the stratosphere.

The final element was the evolution of the sport of MMA, which is often used interchangeably with UFC due to the organization’s prominence in the sport. Whereas in previous years fights would match, for instance, a wrestler against a kickboxer, fighters today are schooled in multiple fighting disciplines that are molded together to create a truly entertaining and unique sport. To make a comparison, think of MMA as an MP3 to boxing’s eight-track tape. Boxing was an essential part of the 20th century. Fighters like Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Mike Tyson, and Rocky Marciano were historical figures who helped to define a century. What boxing was to the 20th century, MMA will be to the 21st. In order to do that, however, the UFC needed a network presence, which is why the deal with Fox was so essential.

Network television is the white whale that Zuffa has been chasing ever since the first TUF finale in 2005 and landing this agreement with Fox will likely be looked at as a seismic event similar in importance to the Griffin/Bonnar fight in future years. While their six year relationship with Spike TV was beneficial for both the organization and Spike TV, moving to a network was clearly the next step in the organization’s evolution. Terms of the deal include four live events per year to be shown on Fox Network on Friday nights, another six live events on FX, a revamped Ultimate Fighter on FX on Friday nights beginning in 2012 that will include a live fight each week [3], and other various UFC library and highlight shows to be spread across other Fox properties. Ultimately, this means that Fox’s broadcast umbrella will allow for 36 weeks of live fights per year which is gigantic for the sport’s profile and place in the sporting landscape. Another coup of the deal was retaining their own production for the events on Fox, a rarity as most networks prefer to use their own production styles but, for anyone who’s ever watched a UFC event, their production is top-notch and is a defining characteristic of the organization. The importance of keeping that consistency and control had to have been a major goal in any deal so Fox allowing the UFC to keep it speaks to their belief in not only the sport, but in the UFC as a whole.

Rightly or wrongly, a presence on network television helps to define a sport’s legitimacy. Just ask MLS what they expect their relationship with NBC to do for their league. The importance of being able to draw eyeballs to your sport via a network television relationship is immeasurable. The success of TUF helped to increase the UFC’s profile immensely and they have been experiencing a higher level of coverage on ESPN over the past year or so, but landing on network television via this deal with Fox is a gigantic step in the UFC’s growth and will ultimately prove to be yet another boon to one of the most exciting and rapidly growing sports in the world.

[1] Cut to me furiously checking my cable listings to determine whether or not I have Fuel.
[2] With one notable exception being the state of New York where the UFC continues to campaign for approval to compete.
[3] Whereas the current version of the show is taped months in advance of airing and includes a taped fight at the end of each episode, The Ultimate Fighter on FX will be shot essentially live, with each week’s episode containing footage that was taped the previous week and will culminate with a live fight at the end of each episode on Friday nights. This is a very interesting wrinkle that’s being added as the show will enter its 15th cycle by the time it reaches FX next year.

Written by jeremylikestv

August 19, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Fall Pilots Preview: The Secret Circle

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(With a little over a month until the fall’s crop of new shows hits, now seems like a good a time to start previewing all of the new network offerings. As I’m not a professional critic, I don’t get access to all of the nice, shiny screeners that the pros do, so I’m basing my opinions somewhat on their thoughts as well as on teaser clips that the networks have released. These are very rough thoughts that could very well change once I’ve seen a full pilot. With that in mind, onto the preview.)

The Secret Circle
Who: Stars Britt Robertson (Life Unexpected), Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Gale Harold (Desperate Housewives), and Natasha Henstridge (Species).
Where: The CW
When: Thursdays at 9:00 PM (Premieres September 15)
What: The CW’s description via The Futon Critic: Cassie Blake was a happy, normal teenage girl – until her mother Amelia dies in what appears to be a tragic accidental fire. Orphaned and deeply saddened, Cassie moves in with her warm and loving grandmother Jane in the beautiful small town of Chance Harbor, Washington – the town her mother left so many years before – where the residents seem to know more about Cassie than she does about herself. As Cassie gets to know her high school classmates, including sweet-natured Diana and her handsome boyfriend Adam, brooding loner Nick, mean-girl Faye and her sidekick Melissa, strange and frightening things begin to happen. When her new friends explain that they are all descended from powerful witches, and they’ve been waiting for Cassie to join them and complete a new generation of the Secret Circle, Cassie refuses to believe them – until Adam shows her how to unlock her incredible magical powers. But it’s not until Cassie discovers a message from her mother in an old leather-bound book of spells hidden in her mother’s childhood bedroom, that she understands her true and dangerous destiny. What Cassie and the others don’t yet know is that darker powers are at play, powers that might be linked to the adults in the town, including Diana’s father and Faye’s mother – and that Cassie’s mother’s death might not have been an accident. The series stars Britt Robertson as Cassie Blake, Thomas Dekker as Adam Conant, Gale Harold as Charles Meade, Phoebe Tonkin as Fay Chamberlain, Jessica Parker Kennedy as Melissa, Shelley Hennig as Diana Meade, Louis Hunter as Nick, Ashley Crow as Jane Blake and Natasha Henstridge as Dawn Chamberlain. Based upon the book series by L.J. Smith (author of The Vampire Diaries book series), The Secret Circle is from Outerbanks Entertainment and Alloy Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios with executive producers Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries, Scream, Dawson’s Creek), Andrew Miller (Imaginary Bitches), Leslie Morgenstein (The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl) and Gina Girolamo. Elizabeth Craft (The Vampire Diaries, Lie to Me) & Sarah Fain (The Vampire Diaries, Lie to Me) were executive producers on the pilot which was directed by Liz Friedlander (The Vampire Diaries, 90210).”
Jeremy Likes TV’s Thoughts: This is the third series in three years (after Supernatural and Nikita) that The CW has attempted to pair with its biggest hit, The Vampire Diaries so clearly the network is hoping that the third time is the charm. Commissioning a series based on a novel series by the same author responsible for The Vampire Diaries and then hiring most of the creative staff of The Vampire Diaries (as is evident from the above network description) definitely seems to be a recipe for success. As an avowed fan of The Vampire Diaries, I will definitely be giving this show a long look although with witches being much less a part of the current zeitgeist it remains to be seen if The Secret Circle will experience the same immediate success as The Vampire Diaries did upon its premiere in 2009. That said, this is clearly the most compatible partner that show has seen yet.
Chances It Gets A Full Season: 98%
Recommendation: Thumbs up, particularly if you’re a Vampire Diaries fan [1],  as that show evolved from a guilty pleasure to one of the most entertaining series on television. The Secret Circle, at least based on its trailer, looks to be squarely in the guilty pleasure category but for right now? That’s enough.

[1] And if you’re not, why aren’t you? It’s at #7 in our most recent power rankings.

Other Reading About The Secret Circle:
HitFix’s Dan Fienberg
The Futon Critic 

Written by jeremylikestv

August 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Episode Review: Breaking Bad – “Open House”

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(Disclaimer: Breaking Bad is such a richly developed show that there is much more to discuss than there is in your average television drama. As such, this review is going to be formatted a little differently than normal and will be a little longer than usual, but I feel that’s necessary for a show like this. It will also be a discussion of major plot points in the episode so here’s your giant SPOILER ALERT. Don’t read this until you’ve seen the episode. It also assumes that you are a viewer of the show and have a basic familiarity with characters and plots. Onto the review.)

Other than two fairly standout scenes, “Open House” was much more of a utilitarian episode of Breaking Bad than it was barn-burner in the sense that it moved some runners ahead a base in order to set up storylines for the future rather than trying to hit one out of the park on its own, but those two scenes alone were worth the price of the episode. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at “Open House.”

Teaser
The consequences of Walt’s impetuousness at the close of season three are still being felt as he shows up for work at the lab sporting a black eye courtesy of his dust-up with Mike at the end of “Thirty-Eight Snub.” As he begins checking the machinery, he notices that Gus has installed motion sensing cameras in a Big Brother-esque move. Walt fires off a big “fuck you” in the form of a middle finger in full view of the cameras, expressing his distaste for the new world order. And title card…

Act One
“I had an argument with a co-worker, OK?”
I’ve mentioned before that I’m having a difficult time connecting with Skyler’s storyline, so the fact that the car wash angle dominates much of this episode is probably why I wasn’t as high on “Open House” as I normally am on Breaking Bad episodes. Skyler shows up to Walt’s condo to talk about (shocker) buying the car wash yet finds him none too keen on letting her in because of the shiner underneath his eye. After finally entering and seeing the damage to Walt’s face that he explains away with an, “I had an argument with a co-worker, OK?!” she begins pressing for more details. It’s a nice move because it demonstrates that while Skyler thinks she’s in deep after learning about how Walt’s making his money, she’s nowhere near as deep as she thinks she is. While her main concern is how to explain away their illegitimate cash influx by purchasing the car wash as a front, Walt is merely trying to stay alive after incurring the wrath of a brutal drug dealer and really has no use for any discussion of trivial thing such as the car wash. To wit, Skyler pleads with Walt to go to the police and turn himself in to save himself further harm, while we (knowing what we know) are aware that this simply is not an option at all. Yet, to Skyler, it’s the best course of action. Walt tries to paint a rosier picture of the fight with Mike by describing him as a “much older man” and saying that the dispute has been resolved but Skyler demands assurances that he will warn her if things grow more dangerous. While the Whites are making plans for the car wash, Marie has been frequenting open houses and making up elaborate backstories [1] for herself in discussions with realtors as a way of coping with Hank’s anger. We know that Marie’s mental stability has not always been on solid footing [2] and it’s likely the stress of serving as Hank’s nursemaid/punching bag has taken its toll. This becomes ever clearer as she returns home to Hank [3], only to have him berate her for picking up Fritos instead of Cheetos and for getting a fantasy football magazine replying, “And the draft isn’t for two months so this is virtually useless.” The outro shot of a ceramic pig on the nightstand is something less than subtle.

[1] In one, she’s a divorcee with a child that she plans on home-schooling, in another she’s the hand model wife of an astronaut who doesn’t want children, and in a third she’s the mother of a child with health issues who used to live in the UK.
[2] Remember her kleptomania from season one?
[3] Who amusingly scrambles to turn off a porno once he hears Marie enter the house.

Act Two
“For what it’s worth? Having the shit kicked out of you? I’d hate to say you get used to it, but you do kind of get used to it.”
At the lab Walt is venting his frustrations to Jesse about the influx of surveillance equipment as they wrap up the day’s cook: “I don’t like it. It’s a violation of the workspace.” Jesse is devolving into a mental mess who’s desperate for company, thus he doesn’t seem as concerned with the cameras but instead more with trying to convince Walt to go go-karting with him. Sensing the desperation, Walt asks him how he’s doing [4] only to have Jesse quickly turn the conversation back to Walt’s eye. Back at Walt’s condo, more car wash talk [5] as Saul’s been brought into the discussion with Walt and Skyler. Despite Saul’s attempts to steer them towards the purchase of a nail salon, Skyler is bound and determined to buy the car wash instead, mostly due to the way that the owner treated her in “Thirty-Eight Snub.” After some delightful miscommunication where Saul thinks she wants to use some giant air-quotes intimidation to get the owner to sell, Skyler plays on Walt’s vanity in telling him what Bogdan, the owner, said about him [6] which quickly brings Walt to her side. It’s clear that the car wash itself is one of the few things that Skyler can control due to all of the changes in her life so that crystallizes the storyline a little more but still, to me, doesn’t justify the time that’s been spent on it thus far. Meanwhile, Marie’s kleptomania arises again at an open house, drawing the suspicion of the realtor while Jesse has gone off go-karting by himself. After returning home [7], we see that Jesse’s house has mutated from debauched house party to, as Alan Sepinwall put it, “an outer circle of Hell.” Seriously, this scene is almost as harrowing as the firecracker-laden drug den scene in Boogie Nights as Jesse’s home now looks like a seedy crackhouse with people aggressively screwing on the floor while others shoot up and generally destroy the place while Jesse sits down on his couch and blankly surveys the damage [8].

[4] Almost as an afterthought, such is the megalomania of Walter White.
[5] Obviously thrilling me.
[6] Basically, that Walter was too much of a pussy to face him on his own so he instead sent his woman to do his dirty work for him.
[7] To the sounds of Fever Ray’s incredible “If I Had A Heart.” I mean, seriously, there may not have been a better choice of music for this scene. The video for the track itself is embedded at the end of this post. Judge for yourself.
[8] This would be one of the two standout scenes that I mentioned in the open.

Act Three
“You know what, fatty? You are so lucky that I’m late for an appointment.”
Things finally come to a head for Marie as she visits her third (that we’ve seen, at least) open house, this time conversing with the homeowners themselves [8] before having the misfortune to encounter the same realtor that suspected her of stealing from the previous house in the episode. The knowing look when Marie realizes that she’s about to be busted is telling and is a nice beat for Betsy Brandt to play. As she tries to escape quickly to her car, the realtor confronts her and grabs her bag, which crashes to the ground and proves that she not only stole from the previous house as suspected, but from this home as well. She responds, tactfully, with the above quote before being seen next at a police station. On the phone call to Hank, Dean Norris plays the scene with a very interesting combination of annoyance and concern that shows that although Hank’s been kind of a major dick so far this season, he’s not far gone enough to let his wife rot in a jail cell. He has a detective friend do a favor to have Marie released after the homeowners refuse to press charges, but in the moment we get an explicit example of the immense pressure that Marie is feeling as she looks terrified to return home, breaking down in the detective’s arms [9]. Cutting back to car wash [10], an EPA agent is confronting Bogdan about the contaminating runoff from the chemicals he uses in the wash’s operations. In attempting to scare Bogdan into retrofitting the wash (at quite a costly sum of money) we’re clued into the fact that this is being orchestrated via Bluetooth by Skyler to an actor posing as the EPA agent. Admittedly, this is a somewhat inventive means to end the story, but I’m just happy that the snoozer of a storyline has seemingly been resolved more so than how it was actually resolved.

[8] And using the UK story, I believe.
[9] My wife, as she watches this scene: “She’s what you would call an ‘ugly crier.’”
[10] Oh, joy.

Act Four
“$79,000? Do you know how much I make in a day?”
Hank is still being Hank as the episode’s final act opens, treating Marie like crap but being pleasant to everyone else as his detective friend stops by for a visit but it soon becomes clear that this isn’t merely a social call. The detective is looking for help with Gale’s murder case and wants to lean on Hank due to the drug connections in the case as well as Hank’s DEA background. Hank’s eager for the detective to pass it off to Gomez back at the DEA, but the cop has career aspirations and doesn’t want the case getting turfed over to the DEA. After being reminded about the favor that the detective did for Marie, Hank begrudgingly agrees to take a look at the case file. I love what Gilligan and his writing staff have done here – essentially diverting the restless energy that Hank’s been expending on his “mineral” obsession and replacing it with finding Gale’s killer and, ostensibly, leading him right to Walt. Meanwhile, Skyler and Walt play a little hardball with Bogdan, ultimately securing the wash for $79,000 less than Skyler had originally offered. Blah… thankfully this is over although, how exactly are the Whites going to explain coming up with the cash to buy a business when they’re supposed to be almost destitute? I trust Gilligan and the staff to come up with a plausible reason for this, but I hope that happens soon. In the den of darkness, he’s tossing dollar bills into an unconscious partygoer’s mouth before tossing a fat stack of bills into the air just to amuse himself by watching the dregs that are occupying the house fall all over themselves for a few dollars. Looks like the jig’s about to be up though, as Tyrus sits outside the house to assuredly report back to Gus about Jesse’s increasing liability to the operation. Really, at this point, Jesse is so far gone that you wonder how the show’s ever going to be able to pull him back, but that’s just another mark of the excellence of the show. You know they will, but you probably won’t see it coming. And we’re left with the second standout, Hank deciding in the middle of the night as he passes time with an infomercial to reach over, grab the file left with him by the detective, and begin to become Hank again. Strap in, because I love where we’re going.

[11] Otherwise known as Jesse’s house.

Overall Impressions: As I mentioned in the opener, this was more of a moving the chess pieces around the board type of episode more than anything else. We spent far too much time on the car wash storyline but it seems to have gained some decent forward movement, at least. The Marie as wacky open house patron storyline seemed kind of odd, but it was the vehicle that served as the transportation for Hank to become the badass law enforcement agent again, and I can’t say enough about the storytelling in regard to his character. Hank’s interest in minerals was the slow burn that displayed the pent-up energy that he had no real outlet for until now, jumping right back onto Heisenberg’s trail. And pretty much everything at Jesse’s house? The show’s obviously done dark before, but this is right up there with the bleakest the show’s ever been. And it works well.

Rating: 78/100

FYI: As promised, here’s the video for Fever Ray’s “If I Had A Heart,” which is about as foreboding as the scene that it accompanies in “Open House.”

Written by jeremylikestv

August 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Fall Pilots Preview: Free Agents

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(With a little over a month until the fall’s crop of new shows hits, now seems like a good a time to start previewing all of the new network offerings. As I’m not a professional critic, I don’t get access to all of the nice, shiny screeners that the pros do, so I’m basing my opinions somewhat on their thoughts as well as on teaser clips that the networks have released. These are very rough thoughts that could very well change once I’ve seen a full pilot. With that in mind, onto the preview.)

Free Agents
Who: Stars Hank Azaria (The Simpsons), Kathryn Hahn (Step Brothers), Al Madrigal (The Daily Show), and Anthony Head (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
Where: NBC
When: Wednesdays at 8:30 PM (Premieres September 14 at 10:30 PM)
What: NBC’s description via The Futon Critic: Free Agents is a crooked workplace/romantic new comedy from creator John Enbom (Party Down) and Emmy Award-winning director Todd Holland (Malcolm in the Middle) based on the cult U.K. series of the same name that explores the trials and tribulations of two public relations executives on the rebound. Alex (Hank Azaria, The Simpsons, Huff) is newly divorced and can barely keep himself together while his co-worker Helen (Kathryn Hahn, Hung) thinks she has it together but is obsessed with her deceased fiancé and actually is falling apart. Then a drunken Alex and Helen end up in bed together, and in the resulting sober confusion, Helen decides that they should only be friends. Meanwhile Alex’s co-workers, Dan (Mo Mandel, Love Bites, Modern Family) and Gregg (Al Madrigal, Wizards of Waverly Place, Gary, Unmarried), and Stephen (Anthony Head, Merlin, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) fail in their attempts to help him get back out on the dating scene. When Alex finally agrees to a date, Helen gets a little jealous, and he gets cold feet, so they end up back where they started — in a casual, intimate and beautifully awkward relationship. Also starring is Joe Lo Truglio (Backwash, Mad Love) and Natasha Leggero (Ugly Americans, ‘Til Death). Free Agents is a production of Universal Media Studios in association with Dark Toy and Big Talk Productions. Enbom is executive producer/creator along with executive producer/director Holland. Karey Burke (Miss/Guided) executive-produces, along with Big Talk Productions’ Kenton Allen (Free Agents, BBC Network) and Nira Park, as well as Chris Niel.”
Jeremy Likes TV’s Thoughts: There are a lot of people creatively involved in this that I like (Enbom’s Party Down was pretty close to genius, I’ve always been a fan of Azaria, and it’s great to see Head back on TV because, as has been mentioned, I support Buffy alumni) but the buzz on this from most of the critics that I follow is just toxic. If someone’s said something good about Free Agents, I’ve yet to see it. That said, I’m at least checking out the pilot but I’m tempering my expectations quite a great deal from where they were when the show was announced.
Chances It Gets A Full Season: 15%
Recommendation: Thumbs squarely in the middle. I have a hard time believing that this much talent can be responsible for a complete dud, but I suppose it’s possible.
Other Reading About Free Agents:
The Futon Critic

Written by jeremylikestv

August 12, 2011 at 11:05 pm