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Breaking Bad 5.11, Confessions Review

Published September 25, 2013 by gossipzoo

Confessions

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

For an episode titled Confessions, the characters on this week’s Breaking Bad stay relatively clammed up. At this point, everyone in the show except for Holly is guilty of something, but nothing you thought would be revealed this week is.

Hank tells no one at the DEA about his knowledge of Walter’s illegal activities and Jesse gives Hank no information to help his investigation. When Walt sits down with Junior for what seems like it might be a talk about his criminal activities, he tells him instead that his cancer’s returned in a successful ploy to keep him from talking to Marie. And maybe most revealing of all of this non-confessional theme is the opening teaser in which Todd tells his uncle about Heisenberg’s great train robbery while leaving out the part where he murders a 13-year-old kid, describing the heist as perfect and witness-free.

But the episode isn’t without its profound revelations for some characters. Despite its inconsistent presentation, Confessions does more to move the story along than last week’s Buried. Now, Hank has a genuine obstacle in his investigation of Walt. We know Todd and his gang are moving into New Mexico with the huge tank of methylamine (which is being pulled along the highway in plain view). Most importantly of all, Jesse’s allegiances are totally up in the air. He is officially out of Camp Heisenberg.

The way things are shaking out, the principle actors – Hank, Jesse, Saul, Walt, and Todd – are not neatly filing into alliances for a final showdown. They have all become independent movers with loyalties all their own.

Unfortunately, the episode is quite a bit weaker than the first two of the season. It is weaker right from the start. While the opening teaser with Todd’s gang is fine, if a little overlong, Hank and Jesse’s conversation is nowhere near as dramatic as last week’s cliffhanger teased. All the scene ends up establishing is that Jesse knows that Hank knows. They make no deal and the whole interview is interrupted by Saul’s entrance after only a couple minutes. There are consequences to the conversation, but they come much later. Obviously the show’s writers are under no obligation to meet audience expectations, but my disappointment at the anticlimactic scene is hard to suppress.

Part of what makes Confessions weak is the more far-fetched plot threads. Last week I mentioned that the show is typically very good at justifying its characters’ actions, and last week’s episode held true to that principle. Confessions falls somewhat short of that standard.

For one thing, Hank seems to know a little more than he should in the scene with Jesse. While he knew of Jesse’s connections to both Walt and Heisenberg before he even knew Heisenberg and Walt were one and the same, his assumption that they’re partners is both a little presumptuous and a betrayal of a belief expressed by Hank earlier in the series that Jesse was not likely a major player in the Heisenberg operation. Of course, finding the kid with millions of dollars changes that assumption. But he also seems to understand that Walt and Jesse are having a little “trouble in paradise.” Hank is a very good cop with excellent intuition, so it’s not out of reach for him to draw these conclusions; he just moved to them a little quicker than the show usually depicts, apparently putting it all together in the few minutes it took him to drive to APD and almost perfectly deducing the exact nature of Walt and Jesse’s relationship.

I’m also not especially impressed by how Jesse came upon his very important revelation. The whole thing with Huell stealing Jesse’s dope felt a little contrived. Jesse’s behavior in Saul’s office is bizarre. The gravity of what he’s about to embark on seems to be setting on Jesse as he prepares to meet Saul’s vanisher, so why he wants to hold onto a little bag of weed in the first place is hard to understand. I know he’s a loose cannon and that placing more emphasis on his drug habit is an attempt to highlight that, but it still seems a stretch. Huell is also tough to imagine as a master pickpocket; call me a skeptic. It’s all just too convenient and too obvious of a plot device to take seriously. The way Jesse stands by the side of the road and suddenly knows for sure because his weed is missing is even thinner than the Leaves of Grass book Hank found.

But how he found out matters less than that he did find out. Jesse knows now that Saul, on Walt’s orders, had Huell steal the ricin cigarette from Jesse’s pack so Walt could poison Brock and blame it on Gus. Before finding out, though, Jesse meets Walt in the desert to discuss options for how to navigate Hank’s investigation. Jesse’s been onto Walt’s game for several episodes now and calls him out for “working” him. This scene, in which Jesse pleads with Walt to be direct and upfront, culminates with one of the most bizarre hugs I’ve ever seen.

Hug

In my review of Blood Money I pointed out that Walt has been treating Jesse the same way he did Skyler throughout the first half of the fifth season. He treats both Jesse and Skyler as though their loyalty is a given; he affectionately embraces them even as they’re telling him what a monster he is and how he’s made their lives a living hell. But Jesse is not Walt’s spouse. He’s seen up-close what the man is really capable of. Even after Walt begs for Jesse’s trust, Jesse remains convinced – correctly – that Walt killed Mike. Walt can’t hold Jesse hostage the way he can Skyler.

What’s interesting about the scene is that Walt really seems to care about Jesse. Obviously, his suggestion that Jesse leave town is to suit his own purposes. But murder has never been off Heisenberg’s list of options. He needs to tie up the Jesse loose end and would rather do it non-lethally. It’s small consolation, but it’s a sign that for Walt, Jesse, like Hank, is off-limits. The desert tarantula crawling around is certainly an homage to the tarantula from the train heist episode, in which a 13-year-old boy is shot, but it won’t be possible to interpret its symbolism until we find out what Walt and Jesse are going to do with one another.

One of my favorite moments from the episode is its other very important revelation. Namely, Hank finds out for the first time that Walt paid for his medical treatments after the cartel’s attempted assassination. While I think Walt’s gambit with the phony confession is a little farfetched and probably a bad idea, using the fact that he’s given Hank nearly $200,000 against him is brilliant. This scene illustrates for me the true genius of the show’s writing. People often assume the entire show is figured out and elaborately schemed from the very beginning. On the contrary, the writers just have incredibly good memories. They live and breathe in this universe. Events unfold in a way that is not spectacularly coincidental but an organic progression. The Whites paying for Hank’s medical bills seemed so insignificant before; now it’s absolutely crucial.

The scene at the taquer a where Walt hands Hank the phony confession is unusual for the show. It seems straight out of a 90s sitcom; never before has there been so many extras doing something so normal as eating in a lively restaurant. Any time there are a large number of people assembled on the show, it’s usually an awkward party, a bunch of criminals, or a roomful of cancer patients. Thanks to the waiter, the incredibly tense scene tries to also be most of the episode’s comic relief. It doesn’t really work.

Breaking Bad is normally very good at making the audience feel what the characters are feeling. Often, everything in a scene builds to a similar emotion. If someone is about to commit a murder, there will be tension and dark lighting and moody music. Instead of that, Confessions is filled with tonal dissonance, not the least example of which is the taquer a scene. Elsewhere, though, the show is more successful. When Skyler is concerned about their phony confession and Walt tells her, “We’re fine,” the lighting is such that he is almost completely hidden by darkness. Clearly, they are not fine.

By now, the show has several new meme-worthy tropes to go along with Junior’s love of breakfast. Hank does entirely too much whispering, particularly in the first scene with Jesse. It reminds me of last week’s hard-to-understand scene with Walt and Skyler in the bathroom. I had to rewind the episode to watch several of Hank’s lines multiple times so I could hear what he’s saying. Enough already with the whispering; I recognize that people do whisper and much of the dialogue is not the kind of thing anyone would scream, but it’s frustrating to have the volume turned all the way up and still not be able to understand a word. Additionally, every phone conversation with Walt and Saul seems to just be Walt saying, “Saul, listen… Saul, just stop… Saul, listen to me… shut up… I’ll be there… Saul!” Either Saul needs to learn to stop interrupting or Walt needs to learn to listen.

Jessesaul

Like Buried, Confessions ultimately felt too short. Both episodes ended right as they started to pick up steam, right as they seemed to be setting up a wow moment. In this case, Confessions ends with Jesse dousing the White home with gasoline after beating a confession out of Saul and Walt on his way – with a gun – to intercept him.

What helped make Blood Money such a strong episode was that we got to see Walt and Hank’s dialogue. If it had ended instead with Hank’s garage door closing, it might not have been nearly as satisfying. Given the anticlimactic resolution to last week’s cliffhanger, I’m a little nervous about how this week’s cliffhanger will pan out. Will Walt get to his home in time? Will he kill Jesse? Is Walt Jr. in his room listening to his headphones oblivious to what’s going on in the living room?

Most importantly, why can’t I know the answers to these questions this week instead of having to wait until next? This isn’t an idle gripe; my favorite episodes of Breaking Bad are those with self-contained stories. They give you a chance to reflect on what just happened in addition to wondering what will happen next. Almost every episode ends on some kind of cliffhanger, but the last two episodes ended with an unfinished scene.

Still, frustrating as it is, I know I’ll be back to see how things shake down with Walt and Jesse. Breaking Bad is good enough at subverting audience expectations that Walt’s revolver might not even be meant for Jesse. I don’t know who else it’d be meant for, but I believe Walt wanted things to end peacefully with Jesse when they met in the desert. We’ve known for more than a year that the show is heading to Heisenberg on the run. It could be that Jesse is one match away – or Walt one bullet away – from setting that scenario in motion.

The post Breaking Bad 5.11, Confessions Review appeared first on WhatCulture!.

TV Review: Parks and Recreation 5.14, “Leslie & Ben”

Published June 24, 2013 by gossipzoo

leslie and ben

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I know the fourteenth episode of Park and Recreation’s fifth season is titled, “Leslie and Ben,” but I strongly feel that it should be titled, “ADORABLE-FEST 2013” – yes, in all caps. When a series does a wedding episode it’s easy to simply douse the audience in gooey saccharine sweetness and lovey-dovey mushiness then call it a day. Parks and Recreation has once more proven itself among the upper echelon of sitcoms for going above and beyond in this respect.

Granted there was enough cutesy sugar-coating to give all of Sweetums’ shareholders diabetes, there were also several moments of genuine emotional weight, and not all of them were aw-inducing (that’s kittens aw, not divine majesty awe). Chiefly I’m thinking of Andy’s disappointment at being told he didn’t make the cut regarding Pawnee’s finest. As I mentioned last week, I was really curious what direction the writers would take Andy in light of this revelation and I was very pleased to see the typically upbeat man-child amidst some truly grown-up disappointment not because I’m a sadist, but because I like Andy and think he deserves to be shown in a light which casts him as something greater than a man-boy with a heart of gold and an awesome wife.

But now that I think about it, even Andy realizing that the one thing in his life he thought he really nailed being snatched away from him was fairly aw-inducing thanks to Chris’ “paternal” (according to baby-bound Ann) words of wisdom. So I take it back – the entirety of this episode was comprised of nothing but moments that brought me to the edge of tearing up sprinkled with enough solid laughs to keep me from needing my own glass of Lagavulin and I loved every minute of it, especially Ron punching out Jamm, which I’m genuinely surprised he survived.

The post TV Review: Parks and Recreation 5.14, “Leslie & Ben” appeared first on WhatCulture!.

TV Review: The Mentalist 5.8, ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’

Published November 25, 2012 by gossipzoo

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It’s official. After over four years of speculation, we now know for a fact that Red John is a character we’ve already seen on The Mentalist (at least that’s how I read it). Or as Jane (Simon Baker) said in the episodes closing moments, “he’s someone I know.”

I wasn’t surprised at all that Jane was attempting to break Lorelei (Emmanuelle Chriqui) out of prison. It’s well documented the lengths he’s willing to go to in order to catch Red John, if he didn’t make that clear back when he shot a man dead, then it’s time for you to reevaluate your thoughts on the character.

The Mentalist once again delved into its endless pool of brilliant guest stars, this time bringing back Brett Stiles (the magnificent Malcolm McDowell) for his fourth appearance on the show, albeit for one scene.

But what a great way to start the episode, from the great chemistry Baker and McDowell share down to the cinema setting and classic film allusions with North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959) seeming to foreshadow events down the line. Also, CONTINUITY was observed. Jane cashed in the favor Stiles owed him after he helped the cult leader out last season in 4.16 ‘His Thoughts Were Red Thoughts’, as the Visualize church provided the personnel and transport for Lorelei’s escape (notice the small sticker with visualize logo on the back of the truck – an excellent detail I missed on first watch).

After initially seeming disappointed that it wasn’t Red John who’d planned her escape and telling Jane she’ll ‘never’ tell him who or where Red John is, Lorelei and Jane escape to the beach for a while. The scenes on the beach – up until the tense encounter with the park ranger (Ron Perkins), anyway – were strangely beautiful as Jane and Lorelei’s undoubted connection was amplified yet again. They huddle for warmth, lying together in the sand and falling asleep.

I always got the feeling that Lorelei wasn’t your average evil serial killer accomplice, and that was proven here as we got some backstory and an explanation for her Red John connection.

Her sister, Miranda (Erin O’Brien), was raped and left for dead, and this is after she was initially SOLD to another couple as a kid. I should’ve put the dots together a lot earlier, especially when Lorelei spouted the usual Red John philosophy so similar to what Rebecca (Shauna Bloom) said in 2.08 ‘His Red Right Hand’, but I didn’t. When I saw the crime scene photo of Miranda’s murder, the familiar Red John alias ‘Roy’ carved into the floor, I was genuinely surprised – so that worked very well as a reveal for me personally.

Red John had murdered Lorelei’s sister in order to make her a victim and then ‘save’ her, bringing her on side to his warped mantra of ‘no light without darkness, life without death’ and so on. Sounds an awful lot like what Red John is trying with Jane in some way, only that’s a much longer game. Plus it’ll never truly work. As dark as Jane will get and as twisted as his actions may become, he’ll kill Red John in the end, not join him. Though could he join him without even realizing it? OK, I’ll stop.

All of this makes Lorelei a much more sympathetic and rounded character than any previous Red John cohort – mostly because they’ve always been killed so soon after capture. As a character, Lorelei is a joy to have on the show, so I’m very glad she’s still here. That being said – I don’t see her lasting beyond this season.

Lorelei won’t believe Jane’s revelation about Red John murdering her sister – even after seeing the crime scene photo. As Jane presses on with the revelation, Lorelei becomes the umpteenth person to note the similarities between Jane and his nemesis, before responding to Jane’s subsequent denial with a line of such great importance that it cannot be stressed enough:

“How would you know? I know. I only wonder why the two of you didn’t become lifelong friends the moment you shook hands.”

That’s right, Red John is someone Jane (and almost certainly the audience) has already seen. Fans have suspected as such for a long time, but that was purely because we think it would be more interesting and entertaining. For the characters though, they’ve been looking for a needle in a haystack – think about how many people there is in California alone. Now that has been significantly whittled down.

However, not only has Jane met Red John, but they shook hands. Yes, literally shook hands (see next weeks Canadian PROMO). The question is, did this happen on or off screen? Will I be judged for re-watching every episode to see who shakes Jane’s hand? Will I care if I am?

Of course, Jane’s main reason for letting Lorelei go off by herself is both that he’s already gotten an amazingly vital piece of information out of her and that he hopes his humility towards her will bring her back to him once she finds out the truth about Miranda and Red John. I do get the sense though that the genuinely cares for her, especially now that he knows she’s more of a brainwashed victim than anything else.

Lisbon (Robin Tunney) spent the entirety of this episode working with creepy Bob Kirkland (Kevin Corrigan) of Homeland Security, who we were introduced to in last week’s episode as he told Lisbon to back off the Volker (Henry Ian Cusick) case. I say ‘introduced to’, but we actually glimpsed him briefly in the 100th episode ‘Red Dawn’, as he seemed to be the one giving orders to FBI Director Alexa Shultz (Polly Walker) to keep an eye on Jane and the Red John case from the moment he was in on it. Very suspicious indeed. Is he working for Red John or just another man going after him? Saying that, he’s not just another man, he’s HOMELAND SECURITY. Just how high up does this thing go? It doesn’t get much higher than that. That flashback in 5.05 and his odd ‘no, but I know you’ greeting to Jane in 5.07 have certainly put him on some fans radar as a possible Red John disciple, possibly even the man himself.

After faking a crash in order to complete his ‘kidnapped’ cover, Jane sits in his CBI attic of demons and broods in the dark, this time with added neck brace. Of course Lisbon knows Jane set the whole thing up – does anyone know Jane (at least this Jane) better than Lisbon? Certainly not. Well, Red John does, I suppose.

I’m happy that Jane told Lisbon what Lorelei told him. I honestly don’t care that he’s being ‘selfish’ and going off on his own a lot – the darkness in Jane is compelling – but it’s nice to see he still trusts her the most, even if he’d rather protect her by holding it back.

Looking at Jane, his face battered and bruised as a slightly manic smile crosses his face, I realised once again that nothing will stop him when it comes to Red John. Luckily for him, after this episode, he’s closer than ever.

OTHER POINTS

  • This was such a well-made episode. The directing by Simon Baker, writing by Daniel Cerone and (as ever) the music by Blake Neely all deserve a special mention.
  • How creepy was that atmosphere created as Jane entered Miranda’s cabin? I half expected to find Red John inside at one point.
  • I missed the team this week, though their limited screen time was understandable.
  • I’m reminded of last season’s finale ‘The Crimson Hat’ as the show again went for the look and feel of a feature film. Mission accomplished, guys.
  • Malcolm McDowell and Emmanuelle Chriqui both guest starring in the same episode. It doesn’t get much better.
  • The slow motion shot of Jane running to the cinema, the music – that’s how you start an episode.
  • As a film lover, the filmic references in that opening scene were great to see. Plus, both North by Northwest and Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944) are two of my favorite films – go figure.

Such is the importance of this episode in discovering the identity of Red John; I thought I’d post my short suspect list here. It’s just the names in no particular order, as I don’t want to bog down the review in too much rambling. Tell me what you think in the comments and hit me with your own theories.

JJ Laroche’s Connor’s Suspect List:

  • Walter Mashburn
  • Gale Bertram
  • Max Winter
  • CBI Ron
  • Virgil Minelli

These are my suspects for various different reasons, however the fact remains that there is only two people who overtly match the personality I’d expect to see in Red John – Brett Stiles and Patrick Jane himself. It’s not the latter, and the former seems too obvious to me (he is literally perfect for it in both personality and resources), though maybe that’s the point? Is Stiles a red herring or a double bluff? It’s important to note also that Red John, like Jane, is a master manipulator – so he won’t necessarily come across as we expect him to (charming, persuasive, egotistical, magnetic).

Not only was this an expertly crafted piece of television that keeps up The Mentalist‘s stellar start to its fifth season (which is shaping up to be the best since its first run), it was also an incredibly important episode – maybe the most important yet.

Please do tell me what you think of my review and anything about the show in the comments.

Check back next week for my review of 5.09 ‘Black Cherry’, for which you can watch the extended CBS PROMO HERE.

TV Review: Dexter 7.5, “Swim Deep”

Published October 30, 2012 by gossipzoo

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“OOooOOooohh!” That’s all I heard when Dexter was having his episode opening conversation with Ghost Harry. I know he’s not actually a ghost but a projection of Dexter’s unique psyche, but the device evokes the same sense of cheesiness. I commend the series this season for using it so sparingly, but I’m still not a fan when it is used. The flashbacks with Harry (we ought to see Mrs. Morgan one of these days too) are much more useful and compelling.

While talking to his dear dead dad, Dexter notices evidence of someone having recently cleaned up a bloody mess on his boat, someone other than him. He eventually comes to find it’s Louis’ blood and although this realization is interrupted by even worse news from Deb regarding LaGuerta’s determination to discover the true Bay Harbor Butcher, Dexter never returns to this thought so we don’t know if he’s assumed Isaak took out Louis, but we can probably assume as much.

When Deb does get into LaGuerta’s investigation, with a subtly and sneakiness not typically exercised by the young lieutenant, spurred by some very funny fretting from Masuka (particularly when pleading with Quinn), she does a superb job of playing both sides – both her official duty to support an investigation into some troubling evidence and protect herself and her brother’s from the short arm of the law – because she is genuinely split between these two motivations. Such conflict is the most captivating the character has experienced and Jennifer Carpenter continues to deliver top notch performances. Her scene alone in the elevator where she loudly curses to herself was not only reminiscent of Michael C. Hall’s “FUCK!” performance last episode, but a really nice character moment, the likes of which aren’t seen enough on this show.

Ray Stevenson also really got to shine this episode. The cat and mouse dynamic between Isaak and Dexter was supremely entertaining. Watching Dexter watch Isaak leave his apartment (the shot of Isaak sitting calmly in front of his assortment of tools was among the most iconic so far this season) was exciting and the pair’s phone conversation was crucial in bringing both characters onto the same page in terms of Isaak’s motivation, but more on that later.

Immediately after, Dexter informs Deb of their new threat in a great scene where we really get to see the dirty mechanics of their new reluctant partnership. I love how Deb had a nice little meta moment in yelling at Dexter for proactively withholding evidence in order to nab his own kill. Deb making Dex promise to never steal another case from her was a big deal because it’s one more concession Dexter has to admit to in his ongoing defense of his extracurricular activities.

Dexter is then called in to assist Angel in sitting down with Hannah while she walks the detectives through some key pieces of evidence. I liked this scene but couldn’t help but have logistical problems with it. What new information was derived from this exchange? Even though they’re directly handling evidence in an ongoing investigation, why would Dexter be truly necessary here? Anyway, it provided an opportunity for Hannah and Dex to give each other fuck-me eyes a few more times and this is where Dexter also first truly notices Hannah’s lack of genuine remorse or fear or PTSD or anything while handling the evidence. Later at the dig site, we get a nice bit of Dexter-esque crime scene reenactment, only the first of two big ones we’re treated to this episode. Hannah is practically swooning with flirtatious excitement while Dexter narrates her murder and is noticeably unsatisfied when he stops short to prevent incriminating her. The two characters’ flirtation is so intriguing not only because we love watching attractive people make googly eyes at each other (your basic human needs disgust me), but because we know Dexter is sizing Hannah up to kill her, not seduce her.

While attempting to remain out of Isaak’s scope, Dexter suggests he and Deb stay the night together at a cheap hotel – and Debra feigns discomfort but is clearly not too hesitant to participate in the situation in at least one aspect. Although she was definitely disappointed when she said, “This is so not how I imagined spending this night.” I love that Deb’s bonkers infatuation with her brother hasn’t been overplayed this season but instead subtly informs their new circumstances.

We then see Debra and LaGuerta at the home of the one family of potential new Bay Harbor Butcher victims in Miami to try and find whatever they can that would give them a lead. It’s a fantastic sequence because Deb and LaGuerta both hear how helpful the Butcher really was in removing Miami’s worst citizens from this plane of existence. The son of a man Dexter killed, Barnes, a wedding photographer who liked to abduct young women and beat his wife and son, couldn’t stop emphasizing how much better his family’s lives became as soon as his father disappeared. This is where Deb also deliberately removes evidence which would incriminate her brother, something that later further contributes to Dexter realizing the messy consequences of even his neatest kills.

The climax of the episode at the end of the second act is where Dexter, knowing he’s being followed by Isaak, leads the man into “the wrong side of town” into a bar owned by Isaak’s heroin competitors, the Columbians. I loved the subsequent sequence in which Dexter and the team arrive at the scene and we actually get to see the visualization of Dexter’s reenactment, somewhat CSI style. I hate all those acronym police procedurals and I hate how popular they are, but the crime scene reenactment device is popular because it’s effective, as it was here. Plus, as Deb notes, it makes Isaak look like a god damned Terminator and Ray Stevenson aptly rises to such a description. His bloody, “brutally efficient” killing spree was almost the highlight of the episode if not for his last scene in “Swim Deep” after being incarcerated in which he tells Dexter a charming little anecdote about his great uncle. It’s a great story and serves to seemingly instill some authentic fear (or just anger?) in Dexter. I’m very glad this is not over.

I loved all the talk at the beginning and end of the episode about tides and erosion as a metaphor for the destructive nature of Dexter’s hobby. Combined with Debra’s talk of Myrtle Beach, it creates a thematic consistency in the writing that makes for very good television. Deb’s continued loyalty to her brother may let her keep tabs on LaGuerta, but it appears she’s determined to not become involved any further. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an intense scene in which she tells Angel in her best official superior voice that he needs to, “back the fuck down” from the suicide of Alex the bartender, something he’s sure not to do.

Regular readers may have noticed this review is a bit choppier, more abrupt, or more blunt than usual; that is because, as you may have heard, what may be the worst storm in 20 years is directly passing through southern New Jersey where I live. For fear of losing power and delaying this review any more than it already has been, I tried my best to get through it as quick as possible without ruining its integrity.

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