March 28th, 2010
The Pacific spent its second episode demonstrating the horrors of the Pacific front, the death and destruction that soldiers endured and doled out in the midst of the conflict on Guadalcanal. The Marines who emerged from that island were bruised and broken, and so their long layover in Melbourne, Australia as the American naval forces were being reinforced in order to support another attack could be seen as a break from that conflict, an opportunity to relax and unwind.
But “Part Three” of the miniseries indicates that such breaks, such opportunities to avoid conflict, are in fact misleading, and while Melbourne may not have the chaos of Guadalcanal and America may be protected from the conflict, those locations are still overcome by the ramifications of these conflicts, signs of loss and complication which will do nothing to allow these soldiers to live their lives independent of the terror they’ve experienced. At times ethereal and at other times stark, this hour reminds us that there was no space untouched by the war, and even those spaces which seem like they offer some form of sanctuary are inevitably shattered by the harsh reality surrounding them.
“Take a Dive”
November 8th, 2009
I was going to write about how it’s been a while since I’ve checked in with Bored to Death here at Cultural Learning before I realized that, in fact, I’ve never checked in on it at all. I watched the pilot and was intrigued if not overly engaged, and since that point I’ve sort of been watching the show off and on while following critics’ reactions to the series. So, instead of reaffirming previous statements about the show or potentially offering a different point of view, I need to start from the beginning.
I like this show, but I’m having trouble falling in love with it. There’s something about Ames’ style and the way the show is being organized that keeps us as an audience at a distance, which the pilot was indicative of: there were logical leaps and bounds that were simply never explained about why Jonathan would ever become a private detective. And while I’m aware that part of the show’s charm is how uncomfortable Jonathan can be in that environment, and that the randomness of some of the cases often gives the show a unique sort of tone, I wanted to be able to watch “Take a Dive” and completely buy into the character development it seemed to imply. This show is full of great actors and some very solid material, but there a few points in this finale where I questioned less this individual episode (which I really enjoyed) and more how, precisely, these kinds of developments haven’t taken place up to this point.
The show has sort of been meandering around the same themes for a while, and the finale was largely a vessel through which Jonathan, George and Ray all find some sense of purpose in their largely aimless existences. Because of the talent involved, this episode goes well, but I do wish that the investigation of that aimlessness had been a bit more even.
“As Fast as She Can”
May 11th, 2009
After “Right Place Right Time” was sold as a rather ‘epic’ episode in the grand scheme of things, evoking the titular story while providing one of those stories that separates itself amongst the various characters, “As Fast As She Can” was perhaps necessarily slower and less eventful. While it doesn’t directly connect the dots as to how these events relate to Ted’s discovery of the future mother of his children, it does provide events that feel like they put Ted into a particular location where those events could take place.
I just wish that it could have been a stronger episode overall: whereas last week was ostensibly about Ted but realistically more about Robin, Marshall and Barney, this week’s episode was primarily Ted and more Ted, and that’s problematic. I don’t mean to rag on poor Josh Radnor, who really wasn’t bad in thise episode in terms of acting like a total tool, but the character just isn’t that funny, and since we’ve already established Stella (Sarah Chalke) as a black hole of comedy it meant that the drama and the comedy were isolated within the episode.
So while I’m still excited for the finale, this didn’t do anything to build any momentum and, in actuality, probably slowed things down a bit too much.
“Right Place Right Time”
May 4th, 2009
[Spoiler Alert: Don't read the Episode Tags if you don't want to have the episode spoiled! - MM]
When it comes to the combination of comedy and mythology on How I Met Your Mother, the show has always operated on a tight rope of sorts as it relates to the identity of the eponymous mother. The reason for this is not that the mystery isn’t interesting (it is the very premise of the show, of course), but rather that the character at the center of the drama is the show’s least funny, often least interesting, and at times most frustrating. Ted Mosby is really only tolerable when he’s being sweet and romantic, and even then he’s rarely funny in those scenarios. He’s better when he is taking a supporting role, not so much the center of the drama than he is an observer who just happens to be our “lead” character.
What “Right Place Right Time” does is position itself as an episode about Ted but really spend almost all of its time with the characters that are more capable of being funny. Utilizing a traditionally unique structure (at what point does it become its own cliche? I remain unsure), the show lets Bob Saget take us through how a series of random and ridiculous events force Ted to end up at the right place at the right time where, holding the epic yellow umbrella we’ve seen in previous episodes, when a woman taps him on the shoulder.
I like this approach because it minimizes being repetitive with Ted’s various destiny speeches, but the show at this point is running a serious risk with its mythology. What happens in this episode appears to actually answer the titular question, but I don’t think it does: there is more than enough wiggle room for them to pull the rug out from under us yet again. Considering who ends up tapping him on the shoulder, I’ll be happy when I’m vindicated and they pull out the “Just kidding!” next week, but the more the show does this the less we’ll be able to trust them, and the mythology will only be getting in the way of the comedy.
And that’s the last thing the show needs.
“Do I Know You?”
September 22nd, 2008
There’s a lot of things that we don’t know about Stella – she walked into the series in a guest appearance, returns to make Ted realize the brevity of life, and then all of a sudden at the end of last season she was, potentially, about to become Ted’s fiance. Our limited knowledge of her is what has me convinced that she can’t be the titular Mother – there is just something about the way they met, and the way they are progressing, that makes this feel like one of those emotional rollercoasters that leads Ted to self-awareness and his eventual soul mate.
And the show isn’t pretending, as other shows might, that this is a match made in heaven – the opening episode is all about two relationships, each that has either a lack of information or damaging preconceptions standing in the way of their future. As Ted struggles to get to know Stella, Barney struggles to get over himself in order to show Robin a new Barney. The episode jumps back and forth between the two, connecting these two narrative threads and their importance to the future of the series.
The end result is an episode that never transcends to laugh out loud, that doesn’t feel like a showcase for any one of the show’s elements, but nonetheless represents a good investigation into the insecurities and indulgences of this series. So while the characters might be struggling to find their own footing in this new frontier, this is likely to serve as a foundation of growth and, hopefully, a strong fourth season.