August 21st, 2011
Admittedly, I am once again delayed in getting to Breaking Bad by another commitment (this time covering The Glee Project finale over at The A.V. Club), but I also think it’s another episode where an extra-long treatise feels sort of unnecessary.
“Cornered” is another straightforward hour for the show, getting right to the point thematically and having the characters more or less follow suit. Walt, in particular, has been an open book in recent weeks, at least to an audience that has been watching the show all along. It’s not quite a cry for help, as Skyler diagnoses it early in the episode, but I do think that it’s an obvious sign that Walt’s worst neuroses are rising to the surface.
And that Walt and Jesse are as much alike as ever before.
“A Golden Crown”
May 22nd, 2011
“That was not Kingly.”
Considering the title of the series, and the number of people who appear to be playing the eponymous game, the notion of what makes a true ruler is growing increasingly important as Game of Thrones continues its run. We’ve seen numerous conversations about what it takes to lead Westeros, as Viserys fights to reclaim his throne, Robert fights to keep it, and others on the margins consider whether it is a job they would ever truly desire (Renly, Joffrey, etc.).
We get some definitive action on this accord in “A Golden Crown,” which reveals a more deep-seated question of identity within these kingly questions. Throughout the various stories, notions of power and leadership are merged with questions of gender and sexuality while the duplicity of numerous figures is highlighted in order to further expand the series’ complexity, and further break down any single image of what it means to be the leader of Westeros.
February 24th, 2011
Of the first six episodes initially sent to critics, “Indianapolis” is the most subtle. It’s a straightforward pairs of comic setpieces: a dinner party and a night out at the Snake Hole have the characters moving away from the Harvest Festival in order to get some time to focus on the characters themselves. While the commendation for the Harvest Festival technically draws Leslie and Ron to Indianapolis, the episode investigates what happens after the ongoing storylines which have dominated the show since Ben and Chris’ arrival start to come to a close.
This is actually the last episode that I screened in advance, and it’s also the last episode to air until March 17th, but I think it’s a very strong note to go out on. Without a major guest star, and without a standout “scene” of the likes of “Stop. Pooping” or Ben’s breakdown on Ya Heard with Perd, “Indianapolis” is just a very funny episode of what is clearly a very funny show.
And yes, that’s apparently the extent of critical analysis that a show in this much of a groove inspires.
November 8th, 2010
To check in on a show you haven’t watched for a while is always a bit disarming, but being as media saturated as I am sort of softens the blow. I think the last time I watched House regularly was early in its fifth season, since then tuning in for special episodes (like “Broken” and “Wilson”) where the internet suggested it would be worth my time. However, because I spent so much of my time surrounded by people who do keep watching the show, I get bits and pieces: I wasn’t shocked to see Thirteen missing, for example, and I was thankfully prepared for the alarming sight of Cuddy pressing her lips against House’s lips (I think they call it kissing? It was icky).
And yet, the whole point of House is that we’re supposed to be able to jump right in, especially in an instance like “Office Politics” where a new character (and subsequently a slightly new dynamic) is being introduced. Amber Tamblyn’s arrival as Masters, who effectively replaces Thirteen since Olivia Wilde is off becoming a movie star, is not the seismic shift that perhaps the show needs to enter back onto my radar full time, but the episode has just enough dynamism to feel like an event for those of us who appreciate Tamblyn and like to imagine a world where House remains a relevant television program.
Of course, at the same time, the sheer similarity of the formula means that stepping back out is just as easy as one might imagine.
October 13th, 2010
Terriers is the best new show of the season, but “Ring-a-Ding-Ding” is a fairly dangerous outing.
I don’t mean to suggest that the show is doing anything particularly risky, but this is a thematically homogeneous episode in a way that presents distinct challenges for a serialized procedural of this nature. The episode is all about marriages, as each of our main characters grapples with the prospect of marriage while the case of the week deals with a marriage in its final hours.
For a show which is trying to establish itself as something more than a P.I. procedural, this homogeny – which would normally be commonplace in low rent procedurals – has the potential to go off the rails, but “Ring-a-Ding-Ding” is a satisfying and successful hour. Instead of using the marriage theme to simplify the storytelling, the show uses it as a point of conflict, offering a noir-ish take on procedural storytelling befitting the young series.
September 5th, 2010
“Open or Closed?”
Not writing up last week’s Mad Men was inevitable: I watched the episode in the wake of writing about the Emmys, and then it was my first week of my PhD program, and there were just too many reasons to let it go. I also didn’t feel like “Waldorf Stories” was particularly rife for critical analysis: it was a very good episode, but it was fairly devoid of subtexts. Don Draper continued his self-destructive behaviour, but the episode fairly elegantly laid it out for him, analyzing his behaviour itself and making my job more “pointing out the obvious” than “examining the episode.”
However, “Waldorf Stories” was another strong bit of escalation in a season which is unafraid to be “slow”: a lot of time has passed so far this season, but Don Draper seems to be stuck in a single moment, best exemplified by the scene where Don wakes up to discover someone entirely different in the bed beside him, an entire weekend gone like sand through the hourglass (and yes, these are the days of our lives).
“The Suitcase” is memorable because it is the point at which the show slows down to meet Don’s shattered life: as he lets Peggy into his world, the show stops to capture a single evening in the life of a broken man, an evening where he regains his connection to reality on the same evening where he loses the one connection to his past. It is the moment the season has been leading up to, that moment where Don less regains his previous form and more admits that he is entering a new stage in his life.
And, simultaneously, Mad Men’s fourth season heads into its next stage with a truly stellar episode of television.