Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Breaking Bad: Season 5

Like that famed "Heisenberg Blue," it's the best stuff on the streets at the moment, whenever the right cook's in the kitchen. I don't have much to say on this series finale other than it was "pretty good," which is where I'd place the series as a whole. For every ace plot construct and callback, or Walt's multi-layered leap into the amoral abyss, I took issue often with building up other emotional, semi-layered character arcs and then relegating those like Skyler and Jesse to somber, blank-faced emotional palettes episode after episode. Anna Gunn's Emmy reel had to be several looong minutes of THIS face...

Congrats to Gunn though for surviving that odd move from hyper-prude pushover to empowered free-thinker, back down to stifled victim. She did the utmost at keeping some balance whenever the show seemed unwilling to give her much dialogue to play with. Even more congrats to her then for surviving this show's rabid fanbase, who persist to praise the show's layering and dimensions and still refer to her as "Walt's naggy bitch wife." Thankfully she got one of this episode's best moments, finally making it clear to Walt and to his devotee's that we're all sick of it. This isn't about family. It's Walt's ego, always was. Even plot convenience Baby Holly ain't buyin' that shit no more.

In future I won't be one of those mentioning this series alongside the likes of Mad Men, The Wire, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under or Buffy the Vampire Slayer (all of which, to be fair, had their slight ups-and-downs), but I'll gladly credit it as an addictive and singular approach to the art of seasonal television. Vince Gilligan and crew hit the 92% level more often than not, and it's nice to know with Heisenberg closing up shop, they've left their most loyal customer base on a solid high.

Downton Abbey: Season 4 (Ep. 401 & 402)

My expressions everytime we get a scene involving crazy-eyed Cora, ignored Edith,  hyper-empathetic Anna, or gratuitously underdeveloped patriarch Robert... or god help us, Mr. Bates...

"There are problems with the Abbey," Maggie Smith noted as some point in these first two episodes of the new season, as if it weren't already obvious to everyone involved. Julian Fellowes knows it. We know it. Maggie's pursed lips seem so desperate to dispel, "It's the godawful writing!"

The problems are none more obvious than in these first new episodes, which sees more inelegant plate-spinning than if servant Mr. Moseley had gotten wicked soused again. (Admittedly dull) Lynchpin heir Matthew Crawley died in a car accident, and Ms. O'Brien has stink-eyed her way into another family. Both are relatively major characters to this series, and yet their disappearances feel epically minor. All to showcase how this series has fallen from frothy ensemble fun to the stuffy, stagnant period fluff you thought it was before you ever watched it.

Underlining everything in bold, then recycling scenes again moments later so we can feel even more numb to the exposition--  which, if the plot is any good to begin with, will definitely be wrapped up by the end of the episode. Torturous, extended plots like Mr. Bates conviction, are instead given full weight over an entire season, and new bland faces are written in and gone by next week... Maybe someone in Downton will spend six episodes helping another random someone just so they can avoid having any personal depth of their own? Maybe Edith has another childhood friend/burn victim? The series seems driven to circle its wagons right back around, again and again, ignoring the endless possibilities within its seemingly endless (and totally capable) cast.

When Mary asks her grandmother, six months after her husband's death, "So...you think I should choose life?" It doesn't feel like the emotional crux needed to get Mary back on the horse, it instead seems like ham-handed filler. Of course your grandmother isn't gonna tell you to kill yourself! (Although Maggie Smith would certainly deliver the hell out that...) And when Anna suggests Mary take a walk and get some air in her purple shawl? Mary, dour as ever, raises an eyebrow, "I'll wear the black one." Just... UGH...

In upcoming weeks, Lady Mary better bet fuck somebody to death again... something! Anything! Hell, I even miss when the show was just about the logistics of a local flower show! Dreamy star of Weekend, Tom Cullen, joins the cast next week so we can assume a new love interest is in the works. OR he'll be gone the following week and Mr. Bates will decide to do something pointlessly noble to avoid having any sexual chemistry with his wife. STAY TUNED!

The Real Housewives of New Jersey: Season 5

-"I don't save my textseses." 
-"You don't save your textses?!"

A season more phony and orchestrated than a Posche fashion show. The show deserves the revamp it's getting after dragging its family feud plot out well beyond anyone's interest, including that of the family that's involved. Now that Teresa and Joe Giudice face a whopper of a 39-count indictment, all that's left is to wait for the other Louboutin to drop. Teresa's denial of anything other than Milania Hair Care and Fabellini's, is ironically the only thing that remains compelling. Searching for a glimmer of soul behind that high-pitched screeching and forehead of hair... That's the fun I suppose. She's a curiousity for sure, but then only when she's pushed into a corner. The mundane minutia of Caroline's Hoboken hideaway and Kathy's "can anybody hear me? I'm somebody!"-schtick just aren't cutting it. While at it's core Bravo's basically branded a squabbling group of surgically-mangled strangers forced to have dinner parties together, the New Jersey region always kept the extended family in focus. We knew they never liked each other, but now they know it, too. Maybe that's the difference.

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