Tag Archives: Breaking Bad

Over/Underrated 2015 – Honorable Mentions

22 Apr

This is it, folks! I’ve finally made it to the top of my Everest and am posting my last over/underrated entry for the year 2015. It only took me three months longer than it should have, so thanks to those of you who have loyally kept up with my sporadic thoughts on the best/worst that 2015 pop culture had to offer.

Like I mentioned at the start of this series, 2015 was a good year. For that reason, I leave you with a few On Pointe honorable mentions. 2015 wouldn’t have been such a banner year without them.

On Pointe

Jon Snow

WARNING: This entry contains major spoilers about season five of Game of Thrones.

It wouldn’t seem right to discuss all that was right (and yet so wrong!) in 2015 pop culture without talking about the “death” of Jon Snow on the HBO series Game of Thrones. I say “death” and not death because I’m still in denial about it.

What’s most surprising about Snow’s death is that viewers (like me) were still surprised. Considering the source material, George R. R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, was published all the way back in 2011, it’s shocking that flashing neon spoilers weren’t all over the internet in the days leading up to his murder on the show. Similar to the way they guarded the Red Wedding back in 2013 (see our entry on that here), it’s clear that fans of the GoT books are not about ruining the television experience.

Even if there hadn’t been spoilers only a novel away, you’d still think I’d have seen it coming, considering GoT had already killed off such notable characters as Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon. Still, somehow in my mind, Snow was the one character that somehow would survive all the violence and be standing even after Winter had come and gone. Apparently, like him, I knew nothing.

Whether or not Snow’s character is actually dead dead remains to be seen. No amount of money I’ve set aside for therapy would be enough if he actually is. After all, the night is dark and full of terrors, and I’m not ready to face it without him.

Jon Snow

Better Call Saul

There was never a doubt in my mind that Better Call Saul was going to be amazing. How could it not be? After all, Breaking Bad was deemed Absolute Best Drama by my fair Bestie only a couple years ago. A spinoff show helmed by the same geniuses (Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould), and centered on one of the most beloved characters seemed almost too good to be true. Well it’s not too good, and it’s true.

The first season* of BCS brought us an intimate glimpse into Saul Goodman’s past, showing us the conflicted double life of Jimmy McGill (Saul’s birth name). McGill is striving to be a straight-laced lawyer, but unable to turn off his love of the con game. Bob Odenkirk is perfection as Jimmy McGill, bringing a much appreciated sense of humor and flair to the Breaking Bad universe. The show has not become as dark as Breaking Bad, yet, but the presence of the Mexican cartel (Tuco!) and everyone’s favorite gun-for-hire, Mike Ehrmantraut, are indicators that McGill is just one wrong client away from more than he can bargain for.

For viewers, the anticipation of waiting for McGill to truly embrace his Slippin’ Jimmy side and become the Saul we all know and love is almost a more delicious burn than watching Walter White become the one who knocks. There are some (*cough* my husband *cough*) who might argue that knowing the end result makes the journey there less intriguing. I couldn’t disagree more. Seeing where McGill begins makes him a more sympathetic character, and makes his ultimate undoing in Breaking Bad even more heartbreaking.

All plot aside, BCS would still be what the critics mean when they talk about good television. Once again the team of Gilligan and Gould have shown us that the magic is in the details, and that no single frame of a show should be without purpose. If that’s not reason enough to give BCS a try, then I don’t know what is.    

*This post was supposed to have been written way back in January, so for the purposes of this blog entry I am choosing to pretend that I haven’t already watched season two of BCS. After all, I need to save something for my 2016 lists.

BCS

Mad Men Finale

WARNING: This entry contains spoilers about the final episode of Mad Men.

Don Draper’s personal journey on Mad Men was a long one, and he played about every role you can think of along the way. War deserter to advertising genius. Philandering husband to doting father. Cutthroat partner to encouraging mentor. Confident jackass to lost and confused drunk. Still, in all seven seasons of Mad Men, I can honestly say I never expected to see Don Draper: Hippie.

The final season of Mad Men found many of the characters, not just Don, floundering to find self realization. Could Joan really be content working under men who saw her as nothing more than a pair of walking boobs? Could Peggy have both her career and love? Could Pete find a way to redeem himself in the eyes of his wife and daughter? Could the seemingly never satisfied Betty find a way to leave this earth content with the life she’s lived?

The answers to all of these questions arrived in the show’s series finale. Sure, to some extent the finale felt a little too neat, making sure that all the loose ends were tied up nice and tidy with a pretty bow on top. But despite those ends being tied up, they weren’t always what the fans necessarily wanted (Betty’s illness and Pete’s family reunion, to name a few).

What made the finale truly classic was the result of Don’s quest for self-actualization. Up until the final seconds of the finale, I was starting to doubt that we’d see that same kind of closure for our antihero as we’d been seeing for the rest of the characters. What on earth could his retreat to California have at all to do with the rest of the series? What did it all mean?! But, all it took was a Mona Lisa smile to appear on Don’s face and the singing of Coca-Cola’s most famous advertisement for me to get it. And just like that, the ending of Mad Men made its way into series finale history.  

MM

Over/Underrated 2013: Part Five

5 Jan

Overrated

Forest Creatures (“The Fox”)

–Andrea (@prettyandink)

What does the fox say? It’s a question that up until recent months had never entered my psyche. There was never a fox in Old McDonald or on any episode of Sesame Street that I can recall, so to ponder what a fox might sound like was just something that had never occurred to me. To be honest, even if the question had by chance arrived in my mind, the answer would probably be “I don’t care.”

Now, thanks to Norwegian duo Ylvis, the question is followed in my mind by a series of electronica dance beats that then remain in my head for the rest of my waking day. What was originally created as a joke, “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say” became the top trending video of 2013. Throw in a little controversy (the song may or may not be a Norwegian phrase for smoking marijuana), an appearance on Glee, and you have yourself a “hit.” Now earworms are frustrating enough in themselves, but that frustration is amplified by the fact that the answer to the aforementioned question is still a resounding, “I don’t care.” No wait, I take it back. Now that I’ve been asked so many times, the answer is, “Who gives a flying fuck?”

It would be bad enough to be haunted by foxes on the radio airwaves, but this fall brought a bumper crop of forest creature related memorabilia to stores everywhere. There was an entire plate set with a fox design on them at Target. I saw several deer placemats, statues, etc. mixed in with the Thanksgiving decor at Michaels. Then there was my favorite one: a t-shirt featuring a squirrel on it at Old Navy. I don’t know about you, but when I think about the animals I’d like to have represented on my wardrobe, the mighty squirrel is not one of them.

I’d like to take this time to give retailers a word of advice. Stick with the one forest creature known to have positive connotations like wisdom democracy: the owl. They’re cute, friendly, and we all know what they say.

Underrated

Dean Norris

–Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

Over the summer I, like millions of other Americans, sat down to watch Under the Dome. With every new episode, I willed it not to sink to any new depths, but the creators seemed determined to explore just how bad a show could be and still get great ratings. Despite being the joke of summer 2013 programming, there was one consistent high point: Dean Norris as Big Jim Rennie.

Norris was also part of another TV drama. Maybe you’ve heard of it? On Breaking Bad he played Hank Schrader, brother-in-law and DEA agent to Bryan Cranston’s over-qualified Chemistry teacher turned meth cook turned drug king pin Walter White.

At first Hank seems like kind of a tool. He makes inappropriate jokes about women and ethnic minorities. He also seems to have questionable judgement (like the time he took Walter Jr. to the Crystal Palace and introduced him to prostitute/junkie Wendy).

Perhaps that was creator Vince Gilligan’s way of staying one step ahead of the audience. Maybe he was trying to make it seem like Agent Schrader wouldn’t be a threat to Walt if he ever found out about how Walt was spending his post-cancer diagnosis days.

But then all hell broke loose, and in a show rich with character development, one thing was certain: Even though Cranston won all the awards, Norris was equally successful in bringing a level of depth to Hank that few expected, and the game of cat and mouse between those two made for some of the best TV possibly ever.

Aaron Paul got a lot of credit as the supporting actor on the show, and it was well earned and definitely deserved. But in a show like Breaking Bad where ALL of the actors are so talented (except for maybe Betsy Brandt as Hank’s wife Marie), maybe we could spread the love?

Well, maybe he’ll get nominated for the final season of Breaking Bad (Hey, a girl can dream). If not, there’s always Under the Dome. Lord knows there’s no competition there.

DN

Off the Mark

The Following

–Brook

Fox’s The Following is just another example of a project that falls flat despite a talented cast.

From the brooding, alcoholic detective so affected by previous cases he’s unable to take basic care of himself to the multiple murders of young women (misogynistic much?), The Following is (sadly) a show steeped in cliche.

What’s even more disappointing about the Fox drama is that it was created by Kevin Williamson, a man once credited with breathing new life into the horror genre with his 1996 hit film, Scream.

The show’s premise is that imprisoned killer Joe Carroll has been able to convince his “followers” to commit a plethora of heinous crimes including kidnapping and murder. Detective Ryan Hardy is left trying to make heads or tails of the senseless acts of violence.

The plausibility of a cult leader brainwashing the masses isn’t totally out of the question, in fact, it’s a decent jumping off point for a television drama. There is a history of cult leaders preying on the weaknesses of others to achieve their own depraved ends (in no specific order): Charles Manson, David Koresh, Joseph Smith Jr., Jim Jones, Adolf Hitler, and Justin Bieber…just to name a few.

The problem with The Following is that it assumes the audience is just as week willed as Carroll’s acolytes. The show tries to class it up by rattling off gibberish about Edgar Allan Poe and the general populace’s desire to be part of something.

However, what is intended as brilliant commentary on the psyche of a serial killer comes across as hollow, and never really says anything meaningful about him or the society that equally created him and glorified him. I think Fox took for granted that no one would notice the show plays out as little more than an Intro to Gothic Lit class.

This is not to say that James Purefoy and Kevin Bacon as Carroll and Hardy respectively don’t play their parts brilliantly. On the contrary, great acting kept me watching the entire season when I might have otherwise given up.

There’s no denying that in this country we have issues with violence, and Hollywood capitalizes on that (and our obsession with serial killers) every day. The debate about whether Hollywood exploits our fears or simply gives us what we want will likely never be settled.

Season 2 of the Fox drama premieres on January 27th, and can I give you some advice? Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Following

 

 

Over/Underrated 2013: Part Three

3 Jan

Overrated

The 20/20 Experience

–Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

For all the hype it got, the second coming of Christ will pale in comparison to Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience.

Before die hard *NSYNCers demand my head, let me just say: I am one of you! My bedroom would’ve been plastered in posters of Justin, JC, Chris, Joey and Lance if my dad would’ve let me hang stuff on my walls. He never did, but the fact remains I’ll go to my grave proclaiming *NSYNC was and always will be the superior boyband, which is an argument I seem destined to have for all eternity given that my bestie is all “BSB 4 EVA” (who knows what I ever saw in her). I digress…

The point is I was waiting with bated breath for his follow up to FutureSex/LoveSounds, arguably one of the best albums in the last ten years. After seven years of frenzied anticipation, I was let down.

Don’t get me wrong. The 20/20 Experience is fine. Kind of like when you really want Starbucks but the only option is Caribou. You know…fine…

Actually, some of the songs are pretty good like “Suit & Tie” from part 1 and “TKO” from part 2. Sure those songs are singles, but I maintain they were chosen as singles for a reason…they’re the strongest tracks and probably the best representation for how JT wants to be seen as an artist.

I also like Amnesia from part 2, but only because it is seriously reminiscent of *NSYNC at the height of their popularity. There’s a “Gone”-esque feeling to the song, and when I listen to it, I literally hear smooth, five-part harmonies. But since JT is trying hard to distance himself from his boyband past, he probably wouldn’t be too thrilled to hear me say that.

That’s just the problem. He’s trying so hard to distance himself from the thing that made him so great in the first place. I can understand and even appreciate an artist wanting to grow and evolve, but it can’t come at the cost of why fans love them.

FutureSex/LoveSounds was a fun, young record made by a fun, young guy. It was full of jams made equally for a night at the club or a drive with the windows down.

He said The 20/20 Experience was more about spending time with that one special person, which makes sense because he’s married now. And I suppose it’s true because when I listen to it, I don’t want to go to the club. I want to turn on the 6:30 news and be in bed by 9.

That being said, it’s also difficult to appreciate something when it’s constantly being pushed in your face. What with the Justin Timberweek on Jimmy Fallon and the SNL hosting and the Target commercials and the 20 minute performance at the VMAs, it was hard not feel beaten over the head with it especially since it was broken into two albums.

For what it’s worth, all of those things are great if the record can live up to them. The issue here is that what might’ve been the second coming was simply just another solo project from an ex-boybander.

2020

Underrated

Mom

–Andrea (@prettyandink)

I’m not going to lie. When I first watched the pilot for CBS’s sitcom Mom, I was actually sort of offended. I had high hopes for the show, given that I respect Anna Faris and Allison Janney’s acting chops, but I was beyond letdown by what the pilot had to offer. Did you know that it’s fun to ridicule alcoholics? Teen pregnancy: hilarious, right? Still not laughing? Ok fine, how about teaching your elementary-aged child to beat up a prostitute in Grand Theft Auto? Good stuff.

Call me square, but I take all of the above issues very seriously. Some things just aren’t meant to be funny. But, I have a rule when it comes to watching new television shows: never judge the series based on the pilot alone. Nearly all of my favorite television shows had pilots that were mediocre at best. Thank goodness I have that rule, because otherwise I would’ve missed out on some of the zaniest comedy available this season.

While it’s true the show’s stance on moral issues continues to be questionable, Anna Faris’s Christy never once claims to be doing things right. Instead what we see is a flawed character trying to make the best out of the wrong choices she’s made in her life. Faris has the art of deadpanning down to a science, and her comedic timing is near perfect, but it’s Janney who really steals the show. I always knew Janney was funny (Juno, anyone?), but she shines as Christy’s mother Bonnie, the only person worse at being a parent than Christy herself.

Bonnie is the type of character who says what everyone wants to say, but feels is too impolite to actually udder. She faces her challenges with blunt honesty, and is the first person to admit that she is nowhere near perfect. Her character played by any other actress would come off as a crass caricature of a woman who never should have been a mother; Janney makes her lovable for her imperfections, and painfully real.

If I remember one scene from a comedy this television season, it will be the immaculate one in which Janney’s Bonnie plays the role of jilted lover, satisfyingly bringing her ex-fling to his knees (literally) by making him watch as she slowly and strategically smashes each and every one of his beloved (and expensive) bottles of wine. This scene was acted to perfection, and I laughed so hard I cried. The only problem is that due to Mom‘s lack of  buzz and acclaim (the show was snubbed by the Golden Globes, but did manage to garner a People’s Choice nomination), I may have to continue to laugh alone.

Mom

On Pointe

Breaking Bad

–Brook

If there ever could be an empirical test devised for naming the absolute best television drama, Breaking Bad would be the hands down winner. Since no such test exists, I guess you’ll have to take my word for it.

I can’t delve much into details since Andrea hasn’t finished the show yet, but suffice it to say that Breaking Bad is a slow burn that builds to an almost unbearable climax (we’re talking storytelling here…get your mind out of the gutter).

While I was watching the season 3 episode “One Minute,” I think my heart stopped beating for the last five minutes. Rare is the time TV evokes that type of response, and Breaking Bad did it more than once (think the pool scene at Don Eladio’s Mexican villa in season 4).

Vince Gilligan and his team did what the Dexter team could not (or would not) do. They took their antihero and made him the all-out, no holds barred villain. In the end, Dexter is a man seeking salvation any way he can find it. He is tortured by his “dark passenger.” Not Walter White. By the end of Breaking Bad, you’re no longer rooting for Walter White. Jesse Pinkman, maybe. But not Walter.

Vince Gilligan said he wanted to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface, and after watching the entire series, I think Walt was Scarface all along and any Mr. Chips in his personality was a facade.

The show stands as a stark metaphor for drugs and their ability to rip a person’s life apart. And just because you don’t *use* the drugs doesn’t make you any less susceptible to their influence. As for the one junkie in the main cast, Jesse is one of the most relatable and least despicable characters. Despite his demons, he the most pure hearted and innocent. “We flipped a coin…Coin flip is sacred,” he reminded Walt and reminded the audience of his childlike worldview.

Even though it’s over, the good news is the spinoff series. If Better Call Saul is even half as good, fans are in for a treat. As if Bob Odenkirk reprising his role as fan favorite Saul Goodman, the incredibly competent lawyer with a malfunctioning moral compass, wasn’t enough, Gilligan has promised that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul will make cameo appearances.

Just be sure to have a bucket of your favorite, fast-food chicken on hand for the premier.

breaking-bad-fly-worst