Posts Tagged ‘The Wire’
Marvel is on a hot buttered roll right now, with its tentacles touching everything from movie theaters, television networks, and even on-demand giants like Netflix. The world’s arguably foremost comics company is currently in the midst of a near-unprecedented, sprawling journey that sees it bringing its characters to screens everywhere in an interwoven narrative, and ABC’s Marvel’s Agent Carter is the latest offshoot on this voyage.
Taking the Peggy Carter character from the Captain America series and building a show around her, Marvel’s Agent Carter stars Brit Hayley Atwell as the titular Carter. As the central personality, Atwell has a strong screen presence that allows her to anchor a cast of familiar faces that that includes Dominic Cooper returning from the films as Howard Stark (AKA Iron Man/Tony Stark’s father), Shea Wigham (Boardwalk Empire’s Eli) as her superior at the S.S.R. (Strategic Scientific Reserve), and One Tree Hill’s Chad Michael Murray and Dollhouse’s Enver Gjokaj as fellow agents. The thrust of the series sees Stark enlisting Carter to clear his name after he’s accused of treason by way of selling weapons to enemy organizations, thus putting the S.S.R. on his tail and Carter in a number of precarious positions as she hides her clandestine mission from her co-workers. There’s also a twist near the end of the first episode that puts allegiances in question in an interesting manner as the narrative moves forward.
What sets Marvel’s Agent Carter apart from the Marvel series that it’s replacing in the ABC lineup – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – is that is has style to spare, which is evident almost immediately with the shot of Carter walking to work in her bright red hat and lively blue suit, the only hint of color in a sea of drab gray commuters. It also feels – at least in its first two hours – less like a television show and more like a Marvel film that’s been chopped into eight equal parts, as the first season will run only eight episodes. That, along with its production values (which are high), already make it feel more like a true Marvel project than Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does, though I’m admittedly only halfway through season one of that show and have heard that there was a quality uptick. Its fight sequences are also impressively staged, making Atwell potentially the next in a long line of strong female television action heroines.
With more Marvel television shows on the way as a part of the company’s deal with Netflix – which includes April’s Daredevil as well as series based on the Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist characters – Marvel’s Agent Carter stands perhaps as the template for the quality that we can expect in future series that promise to bring all of the fun of Marvel’s big-screen adventures to the comfort of your couch.
Episode 1.01/1.02 Grade: B+
*Shea Wigham just can’t stay away from period pieces, apparently, as his Roger Dooley has more than a little Eli Thompson in his DNA.
*In addition to the actors listed above, other TV vets like Lyndsy Fonseca (Nikita) as Carter’s new neighbor, Andre Royo (The Wire) and Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) as notable guests in the first two episodes respectively, and Costa Ronin (Oleg from The Americans) as Howard Stark’s future partner Anton Venko are all present in the first two hours. Agent Carter apparently has one hell of a casting director.
*As someone who’s only familiar with the majority of these stories via the films, the fact that Howard Stark’s assistant Edwin Jarvis shares a name with the butler/OS software that Tony Stark uses in the Iron Man films and in The Avengers isn’t a coincidence, is it?
TV Diary | Breaking Bad – Episode 5.01 – “Live Free Or Die” – Original Airdate: 7/15/12
Episode Grade: A-
Ed. Note: Yeah… so it was my intention to shelve TV Diary, as I’d said in my last post way too long ago. And largely, it still is, except that I kind of made my bones last year on this site with my reviews of Breaking Bad so, with its return for the first half of its fifth season spanning over the next eight weeks, I felt compelled to run these shorter reviews because it’s, you know… Breaking Bad. I’m a lying liar, I know. Anyway, enjoy.
To those who are criticizing “Live Free Or Die,” Breaking Bad’s triumphant fifth season return, I have but one request. Shut up. No, seriously. Shut up. What? That’s not fair? Ah… you might be right. I apologize. Let me phrase it like this: Shut the fuck up. This is the second-to-last season opening summer premiere we’re going to get  and I’m not going to have your entitled whining ruin it for the rest of us. So just keep your mouth shut, OK? For the rest of us, “Live Free Or Die” may not have lived up to the tension-filled heights of Gus murdering Victor by SLASHING HIS THROAT WITH A GODDAMNED BOX CUTTER in last season’s season-opening “Box Cutter,” but it still had more than enough goodness to let us know that Vince Gilligan and company have slacked exactly zero percent over the past year. After the now traditional puzzling season-premiere cold open , much of “Live Free Or Die” finds Walt, Jesse, and a reluctant Mike scrambling to tie up some loose ends in the wake of Gus having half of his face blown off. Walt realizes that the security camera that Gus had trained on them every minute that they were in the superlab could theoretically have been recording footage that could now serve as the smoking gun (lab?) that could bring all of them down, so the unlikely trio hatches a scheme to destroy the laptop that contains the footage, which is now in the possession of the Albuquerque Police Department.
What results is one helluva good caper episode, with the impetus for the scheme hatching from Jesse’s brain . Suffice it to say that it involves an industrial strength magnet, an abandoned truck, and Walt and Jesse getting close enough to APD headquarters to erase the contents of Gus’s laptop via said magnet. Maybe I’m a sucker for a good caper, but watching this unholy trio put their plan into motion and execute it seemingly perfectly  was a blast. That the chaos caused in the APD evidence room allowed the police to uncover more information about Gus’s dealings that they otherwise may not have thanks to a broken picture frame caused by Walt and Jesse’s intervention was just the icing on the cake. I appreciated Gilligan’s approach in bringing the three men together because, although Mike can barely contain his disgust for Walt  at this (or any) point, the possibility that Gus may have recorded all three men in the lab at one point or another served as an organic reason for them to be forced to team up. Plus, Jonathan Banks’ performance as Mike is a treasure and I’ll take more of it any time Breaking Bad wants to give it to us. “Live Free Or Die” also served to further illustrate that Walt’s descent into pure villainy (as per Gilligan’s stated goal for the series – to show how a good man can be corrupted into an unrecognizable version of himself) is in full, glorious effect. From Walt telling Skyler, “You don’t think I rate a ‘hello,’ at least?” after she returns home following his confirmation of his involvement in Gus’s death, to answering Mike’s question about why he’s so sure that leaving the truck behind at APD wasn’t a bad idea (“Because I say so.”), to his chilling “I forgive you,” to Skyler after learning about her attempt to pay Ted Beneke off in season four and the subsequent unfortunate events that befell him, Walt is a full-on villain now. The only question left is how deep he will go, which is something I’m beyond anxious for Breaking Bad to answer over the next two months. Breaking Bad is back, everyone. And that’s for damned sure nothing to complain about.
 Thankfully, AMC has done the right thing and has decided to split this final batch up into two bite-size chunks to be aired over the next eight weeks, with the ensuing eight episodes airing over another eight weeks this time next summer. I applaud AMC loudly for this because I wasn’t ready in any way, shape, or form for this to be the last summer of the show. I just wasn’t, and you probably weren’t either if you’re being honest with yourself.
 Here (DEEP BREATH) showing Walt with a full head of hair and a full beard wielding a fake ID from New Hampshire, celebrating his birthday in a Denny’s while conducting a business transaction with Jim Beaver’s (Deadwood) gun dealer, Lawson, for an assault rifle in the bathroom. As Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall pointed out in his review, the “52” that Walt fashions out of the bacon on his breakfast plate signifies that the rest of the episode takes place roughly a year prior to the open. Whether we’ll know how we got to the Denny’s by the end of these eight episodes remains to be seen.
 As shown in a great scene where Walt and Mike argue with one another, all the while Jesse is in the background asking a variation on, “What about a magnet?” four or five times before The Bickersons actually pay attention to him.
 Well, almost perfectly. As a friend pointed out, one of the great things about Breaking Bad is that every action on the show causes another domino to fall.
 Although he’s clearly developed an affinity for Jesse, as evidenced by the paternal disappointment in his, “Oh, Jesse,” line reading when he realizes that Jesse’s thrown his lot back in with Walt.
*One of the things that Breaking Bad does better than maybe any show except arguably The Wire is its ability to make being a criminal look like the most unglamorous thing in the world. There are always repercussions. There is stress on stress on stress. And although Walt has gotten away with almost everything to this point in the series, he’s going to go down soon. And he’s going to go down spectacularly.
*Ted ain’t dead, but he’s in a very bad way and his misfortune serves as an object lesson to Skyler on exactly who she’s in bed with at this point. Just as I’m sure that Jesse’s going to be the one to eventually put Walt down, I have a feeling that Skyler’s going to have a big hand in his demise before everything is said and done.
*I wonder how Denny’s feels with the continued product placement as the go-to diner for meth-producing megalomaniacs?
*Toasting himself in the mirror is a very Walt thing to do.
*According to Gomez, teeth do a “popcorn thing” when they get too hot. Who knew?
*The look on the APD officer’s face as he enters the evidence room and sees what’s happening is priceless.
*Very nice point made by The AV Club’s Donna Bowman in her review of “Live Free Or Die”: Walter’s “I forgive you,” to Skyler at the end of the episode is almost the inverse of her “I fucked Ted,” at the end of season three’s “I.F.T.” Gotta love a show that brings things full circle in this way.
*”Keys, scumbag. It’s the universal symbol for keys.”
*”You know how they say it’s been a pleasure? It hasn’t.”
*”If you have any brains, you’ll take that money you saved and you’ll skip town. Now. Today.”
*”What’s wrong with them, anyway? Why would anyone wanna put a metal ring through their prick?”
*”YEAH, BITCH!! MAGNETS!! OOOOHHHH!!”
*”Because I say so.”
*”You’re not Clarence Darrow. You’re a two-bit, bus bench lawyer and you work for me.”
*”We’re done when I say we’re done.”
*”I forgive you.”
TV Diary | Justified – Episode 3.12 – “Coalition” – Original Airdate: 4/3/12
Episode Grade: B+
Tonight, people. One episode is all that’s left in Justified’s exemplary third season and based on how “Coalition” set that finale up  it most certainly looks like we’re in for a cuckoo-bananas finale which, really, is the only way that a story this sprawling, violent, and masterful could conceivably end. “Coalition” moved all of our principal characters into what feels like will be their final positions . Raylan is still in pursuit of Quarles and, following the shooting of Trooper Tom, the war between the two men has been made all the more personal. Limehouse has revealed himself to be surprisingly decent and, frankly, true to what he says he is – someone who’s looking out for the well-being of Noble’s Holler, which is clear both from the way that he leads Raylan to Loretta’s house  and how he sets Quarles up to be squarely in Boyd’s crosshairs during the bank robbery that Boyd, Dickie, and Errol are attempting to pull off. Of course, this being Justified and with another episode to go, the robbery plot – originally brought to Boyd’s doorstep by Dickie and Errol – turns out to be a Limehouse plot to take Boyd out of the equation by getting him thrown into jail and in the ensuing chaos that sees a bomb detonated underneath Quarles’ car by Wynn Duffy and his henchman  eventually leads to Quarles gunning down Tom and escaping with Boyd in tow. It was a very exposition-heavy episode that’s definitely building to a grand-scale war in tonight’s finale. What we saw in “Coalition” – and likely what we’ll see in tonight’s finale – is all of the seeds that have been sown this season beginning to bear fruit. Now, that seems an obvious thing to say when talking about television shows because the majority  build towards their finales, but what Justified has done this year has been almost Wire-esque in its scope and we’re seeing what a smart, smart decision that was. Instead of one villain (Boyd transitioning to Bo in season one; Mags last year), this season has seen so many come through and be essential to the overall narrative – Limehouse (before the seeming reveal of his decency in “Coalition”), Quarles, Wynn, Dickie, Errol, Dodd, Ash – that the comparisons to the morally ambiguous characters that inhabited The Wire’s Baltimore are easy to make. That’s not to say that Justified is The Wire because The Wire occupies a level all its own in television history, but the storytelling and the ambition of the storytelling has had much in common for a lot of this season, and that’s made Justified an even better show than it’s been in the past. One episode left. I can’t wait.
 And that the episode is titled “Slaughterhouse.” I mean… Jesus.
 For clarity’s sake, I don’t mean “final” as in “dead,” although I still remain convinced that Quarles isn’t making it out alive.
 Also revealing that he didn’t steal Mags’ money from Dickie. He gave it to who Mags intended it to be given to – Loretta.
 Wynn has gone all in on the Theo Tonin plan of offing Quarles while also jumping into bed with Boyd. The alliances set up in this episode were dizzying to say the least.
 The serialized ones, anyway. And remember the rule of thumb, kids – if a show isn’t serialized, it probably sucks.
*Forgot to mention, even with all of the other variables leading into the finale, we can’t discount Arlo running around half-cocked and with a loaded gun. He clearly wasn’t thrilled with Boyd’s decision to put money above vengeance and align with Dickie to the point that he breaks free of Ava’s watch by tying her up and throwing her in a closet. Oh… and he’s also hallucinating and carrying on conversations with a dead Helen. If there’s one wild-card heading into the finale, Arlo’s the guy.
*Speaking of Arlo, it’s clear that he views Boyd (or perhaps previously viewed Boyd) as a surrogate son after he tells him that he’s proud of him when Boyd mention Wynn’s plan with regard to Quarles. Hard to imagine him saying the same thing to Raylan.
*The look on Boyd/Walton Goggins’ face when Dickie ambles into the bar to propose his deal is a goddamn marvel of acting.
*Just as I felt every other time that Dickie Bennett was placed into a potentially lethal situation, I’m glad that Justified hasn’t offed him yet. He’s much too valuable to not keep around.
*Napier has clearly resolved his feelings for Quarles: “And Deputy, if you get a chance to put some bullets in that tow-headed son of a bitch, sure be nice if he knew one came from me.”
*Quarles was at his hedonistic best in partying with the whores in the trailer at Ava’s brothel. Even in being shackled by the ankle, he’s up for getting high and having fun with them. Of course, it turns out to be a ruse as a means of securing his escape but still… Also, the REO Speedwagon was a nice touch.
*Funniest moment of the episode: The loser, middle-aged bank manager trying (and failing) to secure a lunch date with Ava.
*Loved Boyd’s response to Wynn informing him about Theo Tonin talking into the ear that he carries around in his pocket: “And what does he say?”
*Wynn Duffy FTW: “Does Theo Tonin sound like the kind of man to whom you’d like to say, ‘I’m sorry, but he escaped from a disease-ridden whore factory up in Inbred Holler?”
*”Oh, I’m sorry. I probably should have checked with the proprietress.”
*”Boyd, (if) you don’t finish this pile of donkey shit I’ll do it myself.”
*”You ever see Platoon?” “That movie with the old people where they go to outer space?” “That’s Cocoon.”
*”We got customers inside waiting on mouths to get in there and blow ’em.”
*”Any noise out of that filthy whore mouth of yours and I will rip her head off with this chain. Do you understand?”
*”Now, are you sure you’re OK with this?” “$3.2 million? I might find a way to get right.”
*”What if when that car blows up there’s a man inside and say that man inside had brilliant blue eyes?” “And a big stupid baby head?”
*”You gonna bench me while Dickie Bennett sits out there eating all our pretzels? Hell no!”
*”Escort’s a nice touch. It’s like visiting the Wizard of Oz.” “Yeah… I never seen it. All them flying monkeys? Uh-uh.” “Well, you should stick with it. At the end they pull the curtain back, turns out the guy’s kind of a pussy.”
*”You rest easy, Dickie Bennett. You ain’t gonna die this night.”
*”You’re just a stupid, craven, hillbilly piece of shit.”
*”Marshal, do I strike you in any way as a Van Halen fan?”
*”Are you smoking OxyContin in my motor coach?” “I most certainly am.”
TV Diary | Justified – Episode 3.11 – “Measures” – Original Airdate: 3/27/12
Episode Grade: B+
After last week’s blowout episode and with the season finale just a scant two episodes away, “Measures'” main aim was to reset the board in preparation for what I expect to be one helluva finish to Justified‘s third season. As Scott Tobias mentioned in his review over at The AV Club, it’s a credit to Justified’s storytelling ability – well-developed over three seasons – that its table-setting episodes can be as strong and entertaining as “Measures” was. We saw new alliances formed and betrayals set in motion, all of which are going to lead to one epic  finale in just a week . Let’s assess where we currently stand: Quarles is a marked man, not only by Raylan, but by his boss Theo Tonin (Adam Arkin, Sons Of Anarchy) back in Detroit who’s sent a couple of goons to eliminate the host of problems that Quarles has created for his operation; Dickie Bennett has enlisted the help of Limehouse’s right hand, Errol, in sussing out the money he believes Limehouse has stolen from him; Wynn may be about to turn on Quarles after being offered a pretty sweet deal by Theo Tonin; and Boyd is, himself, in possession of Quarles after setting a trap to lure Quarles to him via Sheriff Napier. I think… that about does it. The storytelling this season has become so labyrinthine and intricate – in a good way – that it can be difficult to untangle. What’s starting to become clearer is that the mystery of this season isn’t going to be whether Quarles gets killed. Rather, it’s going to be WHO kills Quarles. We already know that Raylan has a hate hard-on for him. Tonin wants him dead, thinking that he’s become more trouble than he’s worth to his criminal enterprise. Wynn is only out for himself and when Tonin offers a bounty on Quarles , he contemplates making a play against Quarles himself. Napier was screwed over by Quarles, though he may be just looking for a way out. Limehouse is still owed money by Quarles and he’s proven to be ruthless when the situation dictates. And then there’s Boyd, whose blood feud with Quarles has become almost as strong as Raylan’s. In the end, it’s clear that Robert Quarles isn’t long for this world. It’s now just a matter of who it’s going to be that’s going to take him out of it.
 And I apologize for using that word. It’s become way too prevalent in today’s society to describe things as “epic” but in a story that’s being as grandly developed as this one, I feel it fits. Much as I hate having to use it. And I do hate it.
 I’m a little behind. Life happens.
 $100,000 to deliver Quarles dead; $200,000 to deliver him alive, although Tonin warns Wynn that the smarter play may be delivering him dead since Quarles has proven himself to be very resourceful.
*Quarles to Sheriff Napier: “I guess if I were to offer to back yet another one of your campaigns, I’d say that as long as I’m putting up the money I’d put you anywhere I Goddamned please.”
*Have I mentioned recently how much I love Robert Quarles?
*On the other hand, Theo Tonin seems like a pretty menacing badass, but Ironside’s mention that Tonin carries around a human ear in his pocket and speaks into it as a way of getting people’s attention seems more than a little cartoonish in its villainy.
*Perfect characterization of Wynn when he admits that he sent Tonin’s hitmen in to meet Raylan hoping that either they or Raylan would end up dead. Always the pragmatist, that Wynn Duffy.
*It must be said that Dickie Bennett’s hair is an amazing wonder of nature.
*Justified seems to have a hard time in figuring out why Tim and Rachel are even around so, hey… put ‘em together on a case. That works.
*It’s not considered heresy to say that this season is turning out to be very Wire-esque in the intricacy of the web it’s weaving, is it?
*”And what if Givens comes by wanting to finish the game?” “You may tell him he’s welcome to wait.”
*”You want a shot in that?” “I usually like to wait until the sun’s all the way up.”
*”This friend of ours… I’m betting you wouldn’t forget him. He looks like he even shits blonde.”
*”Oh, good… see. There’s gonna be another time.”
*”I thought it was a top priority that I go bring in Quarles for the capital offense of hurtin’ my feelings.”
*”I’m gonna kill Dickie Bennett, and when I do I’m gonna take my time.”
*”Art, I’ve already got a daddy.” “I’ve met your daddy.” “Fair enough. Continue.”
*”Whatever your failings are going to be as a father, I’m pretty sure your child is going to be better off if you manage to stay above ground long enough to make his acquaintance.”
*”Why didn’t you guys just walk away and let nature take its course?” “Why don’t you just shut the hell up?”
*”Pretty smart holding all of your meetings here. The smell of blood in the air… plus it gives you an excuse to hold a knife in your hand.”
*”Oh, he’s alive. Do you want him to stay that way?”
*”And I guarantee you’re not gonna like it. His initials are ‘Boyd Crowder.'”