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Breaking Bad 5.13, To’hajiilee Review

Published July 22, 2014 by gossipzoo

Handshake

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Hug someone you love before watching this week’s Breaking Bad.

To’hajiilee is an action-packed return to form after the last couple of sluggish episodes. A chess analogy continues to invite itself: with all the pieces finally maneuvered into their final positions, the big bang everyone has been waiting for finally happens. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know the consequences. We get to see everything explode, but we don’t get to see who’s still standing. And that’s really not a metaphor.

The neo-Nazis are back in the forefront of the action. They take the entire show down an even darker path than it’s tread before. All the villains used previously have been endowed with a handful of redeeming personality traits, but Uncle Jack’s pure, skeevy malevolence makes the show almost frightening to watch.

In the cold open, Todd cooks his best batch of meth yet: 76 percent pure. Uncle Jack, who doesn’t need to wear any sissy gas masks, and Lydia are both present. Unfortunately, despite the higher grade, Todd’s meth is not blue. Lydia insists that it must be. Bizarrely, Todd has developed a crush on her and is fairly forward about it. Actually, even though this is a man we’ve seen execute a 13-year-old, his advance toward Lydia is one of the most aggressive things Todd’s done. The camera is right up against Lydia’s face to highlight Todd’s invasion of her personal space, but she rebuffs him and tells him to get the cook right, seemingly unaware of his flirtation.

Then we see Walt’s phone call from the end of last episode from Todd’s perspective. Any doubt about who Walt wants Jack to kill is gone. Jesse is the target. While Todd is on the phone, he notices Lydia’s lipstick stain on her coffee mug and puts his lips over it for a drink. Again, it’s a creepy moment, but significant for the characterization of Todd. Up until now he’s been almost sympathetic, portrayed mostly as an order-taking, highly loyal top lieutenant. When he escorts Lydia away from the mass killing at Declan’s lab in Blood Money, it seems he’s doing it because his momma raised him to be chivalrous. In this episode, we see Todd for the first time evince a personal desire, a lustful one. We knew already he’s a murderer, but there is now an even baser darkness to Todd than we’ve seen before.

Meanwhile, Jesse, Hank, and Gomez are concocting their plan to nab Walt, and it’s a good one. When Jesse told Walt at the end of last episode that he’d get him where he lives, it seemed like a clear threat to Walt’s money. Sure enough, the team goes that route. How they do it is actually one of the most interesting schemes the show has ever detailed. They’re met with setbacks but are continually clever enough to make the plan work anyway.

Jessebrains

First, Hank brings Huell to a safe house for questioning under the phony premise that Walt is tying up loose ends and Huell is next. Huell isn’t buying the story until Hank shows him a picture of Jesse with his brains blown out. In the previous scene, Hank plopped a raw brain straight from the butcher onto his kitchen floor and poured blood around it. It’s a gas when you find out why – the picture he shows Huell is of Jesse lying next to the mess. After he sees the picture, Huell sings like a canary. Sadly for Hank, Huell is being honest when he says he doesn’t know where Walt took the money.

What he does know, however, is enough for a lead. Walt probably buried the barrels full of money and Huell tells them the rental company. Hank finds out the rental company took its GPS units off their vehicles so there’s no way to track where the van went. It seems like another busted lead until Hank gets another idea.

Meanwhile, Walt negotiates the price for Jesse’s head with Uncle Jack, but it isn’t money the neo-Nazis want. They want Walt to show Todd how to cook. This scene puts a vacuum right on Walt’s already-forfeited soul. For the first time since the Heisenberg side of Walter White fully took over, Walt is small, weak, and holds no leverage. When Jack names the price, Walt initially says no, but he is significantly less confident than in his first dealing with Jack. In that meeting, Walt had all the moxie in the world; this time, he is on a chair in the center of the room and surrounded by neo-Nazis who aren’t interested in taking no for an answer. There is intimidation pouring out of this scene; Walt cannot simply put what he’s asking for back on the shelf and leave the store. He agrees to a single instructional cook with Todd to be done after Jesse is killed. The smiles on Todd and Jack’s faces say it all: Walt is theirs now.

Walt then visits Brock and Andrea in an attempt to draw out Jesse. Unfortunately for him, things continue to not go his way. When Andrea calls Jesse, the phone she dials is actually in Hank’s pocket. After listening to her message, Hank says exactly the same thing Jesse said at the payphone last episode: “Nice try, asshole.” Andrea has no idea what’s gone on between Walt and Jesse so she treats Walt politely, but Brock looks at him suspiciously. After the revelation that Walt poisoned Brock, the two of them have been in the same room twice, but while both meetings have been awkward it’s never been clear if Brock recognizes Walt. I hope the question of who actually fed Brock the Lily of the Valley berry is addressed, because it isn’t clear yet that Walt actually did it. Nor is it clear when, where, or how he could have – sneaking up on him in a playground, perhaps?

Carwash

Everything is really being pushed to the wire at this point. Walt is growing impatient and concerned that Jesse hasn’t shown himself. Saul shows up at the car wash looking for Walt and has a funny repartee with Walt Jr., who recognizes Saul from his ads and thinks lightly of the unlikely visitor. Bob Odenkirk peels off an especially funny line when he tells Junior not to drink and drive but to call him if he ever does. At one point, Saul, Skyler, Walt, Holly, and Junior are all in the same frame; it’s a weird moment and a comical one as an embarrassed-looking Walt pops in the door, sees Saul, and quickly heads back out. But neither Walt nor Saul know yet that Jesse is working for Hank, and that’s a big advantage for the good guys.

At the car wash, Walt receives a picture message showing a barrel full of money buried in the dirt. Immediately after, Jesse calls and tells Walt he’s found his money and is prepared to burn all seven barrels of it. Walt speeds off to the money, blasting through red lights, while Jesse treats him to a Speed-esque ultimatum: if Walt doesn’t stay on the phone, Jesse is going to torch all the cash. Aaron Paul delivers an Emmy-worthy performance here, sounding like a man in a very serious position of authority. He calls Walt by his first name with a special amount of contempt. It’s a role he’s never played before and he’s incredibly convincing. Moreover, Walt spills the beans about everything, copping to murders and more during the doubtlessly recorded phone call.

Actually, Walt makes a good point during the phone call: Brock is alive. For all Jesse’s anger, I’ve always felt the Lily of the Valley thread seemed like an inadequate nail for Walt’s coffin. The plant is poisonous, but non-fatal; Walt didn’t kill Brock, he only used him. Of all the evil things Walt has done, this action seems to be not among his worst. But only a sociopath could truly rationalize the poisoning of a child, and Walt is unable to get Jesse to see it his way. He drives straight to the desert where he expects to find Jesse waiting.

In my last review, I made what I thought was a snarky comment about the show ending in a hail of gunfire. Turns out it was an accurate prediction.

Upon arriving at the site where he buried his money, Walt figures out pretty quickly that he’s been set up. He braces himself for battle with Jesse and calls Uncle Jack for reinforcements, reading to him the coordinates from his lottery ticket. As Jesse pulls up with Hank and Gomez, however, Walt calls Uncle Jack off. Walt won’t be responsible for Hank’s death. He hangs up the phone with an excited Uncle Jack asking, “What do you mean, don’t come?”

Waltarrested

Everything about the next several minutes is profoundly satisfying. With Walt bested and prepared to give himself up, Hank’s voice echoes through the rocks: “Walt! Come on out! It’s over!” The look on Bryan Cranston’s face is extremely emotional, as though he’s trying desperately to stretch his last few seconds as Heisenberg, unbeatable drug lord, as long as possible. Eventually he comes out of hiding and moves toward Hank for a textbook arrest. Hank slaps the handcuffs on him with a dramatic clink. Jesse’s utterly stunned face watches as Heisenberg falls before his very eyes.

But the satisfaction is not to last. Breaking Bad is extremely good at setting up a scene, and the longer Hank and Gomez stand around in the desert the larger and more palpable the specter of the neo-Nazis showing up grows. It’s one of the moments of the show where, as a viewer, you want to slap some sense into the characters: didn’t it occur to them Walt might have called for backup? Why not drive him to the precinct as quickly as possible or at least call the arrest in? What are they standing around so long for? It’s knowledge of what’s coming that you have and the characters don’t that make the scene so intense. When Hank calls Marie to tell her about the arrest and says he loves her, text saying, “Bad things are about to happen” might as well have popped up on the screen. But obvious foreshadowing is a useful dramatic tool when the event is right around the corner.

In one of the saddest episode endings yet, Uncle Jack’s gang shows up and opens fire on the hopelessly outnumbered Hank and Gomez. Jesse slinks away, apparently unseen by the neo-Nazis. He is Hank and Gomez’s only hope; they may live if the neo-Nazis don’t want to draw the kind of heat that comes from killing cops and go after Jesse instead, but as the episode ends it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. The way Hank is heroically framed with the sun behind him, just after his finest moment and his phone call with Marie, makes the scene completely heartbreaking. Walt’s plaintive, desperate, futile cries from the backseat of Hank’s car make it even more gut-wrenching. Maybe for the very first time, Walt truly seems to care about somebody and fear for their safety, but he is powerless.

Aryan Gunfire

Nobody’s death is shown and the episode cuts to black with bullets still being fired. Actually, this alone is the reason for To’hajiilee’s half-star deduction. Like this season has been in the unfortunate habit of doing, To’hajiilee ends not on a cliffhanger but with an unfinished scene. This time in particular it’s agonizing. If Hank dies, this episode will rank as probably the cheapest cliffhanger the show has used. I can already feel the sucker punch of spending an entire week wondering by what incredible method Hank might escape with his life only to have him die as it seemed he would anyway.

But such is the strength of Breaking Bad, the completeness of its characterizations, that a death like Hank’s is one I feel myself. It’s the kind of emotional impact that is the domain of the world’s great literature, and here it is on American primetime. Last week I lamented the show’s lack of action; now I feel I’d give anything for a dozen more Hank and Jesse-centric episodes where nothing happens and everyone stays safe. It seems pretty clear that these are the events leading to Walt’s “on the run” future. It also now seems clear that, as many fans predicted, the weapon Walt purchases in the season’s flash-forward is for a standoff with the neo-Nazis. Even if Hank, Gomez, and Jesse all die in the desert, there are plenty of others still in danger because of Walt’s actions, not the least of which are his wife and kids.

Roller coasters are often called upon as metaphors for great drama. The past three episodes have been a steady uphill climb, but now the car has free-fallen down a completely vertical hill. Your heart is in your throat and it feels like the car might just crash through the track and into the ground below. It’s an unsettling feeling, but this is Breaking Bad. Nobody said it would be easy.

The post Breaking Bad 5.13, To’hajiilee Review appeared first on WhatCulture!.

TV Review: Dexter 8.10, “Goodbye, Miami”

Published July 22, 2014 by gossipzoo

810

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

In my last review I explained how the “Anything can happen” evaluation of Dexter‘s final season is not the praise typically seen among cheap endorsements of common thrillers, but rather about as scathing a condemnation as a supposedly suspenseful show can earn. “Goodbye, Miami” suffers from the same lack of momentum as “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” but feels even more offensive as this time the definition surrounding the plot and the motivation of the characters aren’t so much fuzzy as just plain incongruent. How did Oliver/Daniel go from leaving his mother segments of people’s brains to stopping by for meals? When exactly did Deb stop being in love with Dexter and realize she still has feelings for Quinn? Why does Dexter want to save a woman he was ready to write off so recently? This last question is actually explicitly discussed throughout the episode, but its answer is so phoned in it becomes apparent just how little the writers care anymore.

Dexter claims he “feels” like he needs to protect Vogel from her son. When Hannah questions this claim citing that feelings were never really part of his kills it’s meant to be a big moment. It’s meant to illustrate that Dexter realizes he’s a real boy. The thing is, that’s exactly the opposite of what Vogel believes, which is part of why Dex was ready to walk away from this woman mid-season.

Also, shut up, Hannah. We’ve known Dexter longer than you have and Dexter’s emotions – no matter how much he denied their existence – were evident from the very first kill he ever committed on the show, a scene which was referenced as Dexter set up his kill room for Oliver (plus, I’m petty sure his feelings got in the way when he didn’t kill you and later decided to take out your dad, among many other instances). Unfortunately, Dexter’s arc since that fantastically dark and exciting first scene has been a bit of a farce.

Every season Dexter struggles with his feelings and his need to kill until he doesn’t. This series more than any other has made it abundantly clear that its protagonist is a good guy, a hero, and that his homicidal habit may briefly appear to take a heavy emotional toll, but ultimately it’s always necessary for the greater good and the good of Dexter himself. And that’s the issue that’s become so apparent in “Goodbye, Miami” – the writers have never been able to decide whether Dexter is a bright, shiny vigilante hero or a pained protagonist plagued by his own demons. They’ve always tried to have their cake and eat it too, and playing this circular game has grown tiresome. Is Dexter going after Oliver to protect Vogel? Other innocents? Himself and his family? To satiate his own sense of morality? Or simply because Ghost Harry told him to (and is no longer the counterbalance to the Dark Passenger, just its replacement)? The answer according to “Goodbye, Miami” is apparently “All of the above,” and it’s just too much, too safe, too empty, too little, too late.

As much as Dexter’s plethora of weak motivations bothers me, Vogel’s been a terrible disappointment as well. Much like the dreaded sixth season, Vogel kicked things off with plenty of promise for an exploration of what makes Dexter who he is, but any such promise turned out to have died early on so Dex could chase a bunch of red herrings until these last few episodes of plot, plot, plot (or more accurately, doing nothing while feigning action), until, “Oh, it’s the finale? Where does the time go?” Specifically, in “Goodbye, Miami” Vogel first begs Dex not to kill her son because he, while angry, clearly isn’t actually trying to kill her so much as seek her rehabilitation and attention and care, things which she is willing to provide (crazy as it is). But then, because Dex shows Vogel a video of something she already knew, Vogel isn’t so willing and asks that Dexter just kill her son without making him suffer. Which is it? I guess audio/visual presentations do go a long way. And does it bother anyone else that if Dex just hopped on a plane then Oliver never would have slit his mother’s throat?

The sloppiness isn’t confined to Dexter and Vogel. Deb has essentially been trudging in circles since her apparent epiphany after failing to kill herself and Dexter over four episodes ago. Gone is her potential romance with Elway, or the fact that she killed a man for frightening her, or that Dex killed her mark/boyfriend, or that she killed LaGuerta, or that Hannah tried to kill her, or her confused romantic feelings for Dexter, or pretty much any of the arcs the writers have at one point started to send Deb on but eventually forgot about. None of these have had any actual resolution (except for the borderline misogynistic notion the writers haven’t abandoned that Deb needs a man). Despite what she tells Deputy Marshal Clayton, Deb is nothing more than her brother’s reluctant keeper.

Speaking of Clayton, why is he around? Is it his pursuit of Hannah which is going to keep Dexter from getting away? If so it’s going to be a crowded party as Elway is also still looking to take down Hannah, which confuses me as both these characters have only been around for a blink of an eye compared to Quinn whose function I had hoped would have been to accidentally expose Dexter (since Doakes and LaGuerta are dead and Angel is, well, Angel), especially since Quinn was all about catching Zach Hamilton, but it looks like Quinn’s only function is to essentially look at the camera while shrugging and saying, “Chicks, amiright, brah?” Regardless, this is another one of those examples of “Anything can happen,” not because this show is so deft at navigating through its well established world to surprise its audience, but because the writers pretty much just throw everything at the wall and even they don’t seem to know what’s going to stick.

Obviously Dexter’s never going to make it to Argentina, but the real question is whether Masuka’s adult daughter whom he did not raise and just met, like, a week ago will stop smoking pot on Saturdays. Wait…

The post TV Review: Dexter 8.10, “Goodbye, Miami” appeared first on WhatCulture!.

TV Review: Dexter 8.6, “A Little Reflection”

Published May 22, 2014 by gossipzoo

Episode 806

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

After reaching the half-way point in Dexter’s final season I expected the story to be in a very different place. Whereas the first half of the season was apparently all about seeing Deb hit bottom so she could start to accept Dexter back into her life while introducing Vogel, the second half will of course result in Dexter’s end one way or another, but getting there is still no more clear than it was at the beginning of the season. Having killed Yates, a figure which loomed high in the background of the story before revealing himself to be much less deserving of so much focus, the season has shifted to the Zach Hamilton arc which “A Little Reflection” spent the most time developing. When this plot was introduced last episode I rolled my eyes and groaned for mostly the same reason why I did so at the beginning of season three – it’s predictable. What’s worse is by now we’ve seen it done more than once: Prado, Lumen, Hannah. Dexter, you cannot have a murder “intern” – it never works out. We’ve learned this lesson, why can’t the writers? As I’ve mentioned before, the biggest strength of this season so far has been knowing it’s the last, not any significant element of the story itself, which is a real shame. I hoped the final installment of the series would really go for broke and instead things feel about as par for the course as ever.

Just as abruptly as the Yates arc was “resolved” (or impaled, whichever) the Zach arc is here established. I appreciate how much time was spent on attempting to build Zach up as a tangible character with as authentic a fascination with blood and the macabre as Dexter, but the kid’s presence taking pictures at crime scenes still felt sudden and stilted. I think besides this story’s predictability, familiarity, and synthetic quality (elaborated in my comment on my previous review regarding the very similar Jeremy from season one), the core problem is that I can’t buy into a new character’s homicidal psychology when our protagonist’s – even after all these years – has still yet to find much definition or clarity. I was more intrigued seeing Dex and Vogel discussing the role of serial killers in society; this felt like a much more promising frame within which to watch Dexter make real progress toward a satisfying conclusion. The “intern” angle is just redundant. (And I have to say also slightly ironic in that the newest character I felt was the most effectively introduced – the actual intern, Louis Greene, of season six – had the most potential, but was eventually (and literally) cast aside as nothing more than a creepy extortionist in the beginning of season seven as an obvious loose thread.)

There were contradictions both in the characterization of Zach and Dexter’s impression of him. This episode succeeded in portraying Zach as a creep (his line about “that dead chick spill[ing] all her blood just for [him],” and Dexter’s remark that the boy, “Treats the blood like a swimsuit model,” were effective in this vein), which is why it was difficult for me to buy into feeling sympathy for him as Dexter did on his killing table. And why was Zach taking so many photos of Sophia, his father’s new mistress, if his intended target was his father all along? I guess he suddenly changed his mind? He is new at this after all, but it’s bad writing when the audience is forced to fill in the blanks not out of an effective use of ambiguity, but to fill in plot holes like this. The episode worked hard to paint Zach as a deviant foil of Dexter then thought it would pull the rug out from under us by revealing Zach as a directionless kid just trying to relieve himself of the “evil” inside him by protecting his alcoholic mother from his father’s affairs, but instead it just came off as inconsistent and unbelievable.

Dexter’s initial reaction to Vogel’s suggestion of The Code’s potential to save Zach from himself (and Dexter’s knife) rang much truer than his decision to spare Zach by the episode’s end. Instead of watching Dexter fail (again) in attempting to share The Code, I’m much more interested in hearing Dexter argue against Vogel (verbally or in action) with the obvious truth of the matter that although Dexter is more than likely better off for having Harry and The Code in his life, it hasn’t exactly “spared” him from tragedy. The simple fact is that no matter how prepared an individual is, no one is ever spared. This is one of the high-minded discussions for which the series’ premise was made, yet time and again they are introduced as isolated incidents early on in a season then eventually neglected in favor of action and plot masquerading as actual story.

Speaking of plot fodder, “Reflection” updated us on Masuka’s daughter, Angel’s decision to promote Miller over Quinn (two threads which honestly aren’t even worth discussing here), and Deb’s relationship with her boss, Elway. This subplot was the only one which really worked for me because even though Angel’s decision to promote Miller over Quinn sent him to Zach and in Dexter’s way, it yielded nothing more than a minor plot contrivance whereas Deb’s dealings with Elway at least reflected what she’s gone through with Dexter in a general sense (protective brothers making the sisters cry) as well as more specifically what Dexter experienced with Cassie. Both interactions Dexter had with Cassie were terribly awkward for the same reason Deb was so put off when she finally realized Elway is romantically interested in her – the siblings don’t know how to let others in while avoiding the murders which have come to define their lives. Whereas this makes sense with Deb – it’s all still relatively new to her – I figured that even though it’s been a while since he’s dated, Dex should’ve figured this out by now, especially since Dexter’s sexuality, formerly quite contained and wrapped up in his damaged psychology – a character trait that not only made sense but was legitimately intriguing – since season six’s random high school reunion and convenience store clerk hook-ups, has gone pretty bro, as evidenced by this season’s premiere.

This commonality between the two Morgans is what made it so sad (or just maddeningly frustrating) when Dexter wasn’t truthful to Deb about taking on an “intern”. After apparently repenting since the attempted murder-suicide, Deb is allowing Dexter to be an active part of her life and could be his only true collaborator. Granted he didn’t have much of a chance to come clean before Deb mysteriously passed out just before Hannah waltzes in out of nowhere (yet another red herring, I’m sure), but he didn’t seem to be very eager to let Deb back into his unseemly private life. This makes sense as Deb is still in a delicate state regarding the situation, but returning Dexter – the character and the show – to places of relative normalcy are boring and supposedly not an option in this final season. Regarding Hannah’s reappearance, considering she was in the episode for all of ten seconds there’s nothing really to comment on, other than the fact that it, like the Zach arc, feels like a waste of time, just another distraction before the big finale which increasingly looks like it will absolutely fall flat.

A moment in this episode which already fell flat was the scene between Dexter and Harrison. I’ve noted how Harrison has been slightly acting out, which, while normal for children, takes on a new significance on a show about a serial killer who is also a father (for the most part – Astor and Cody who?). Apparently the build-up was merely leading to a confrontation in which Harrison accuses Dexter of lying for disposing of a bloody stuffed animal and telling Harrison it was lost. That’s it. All the (arguably) suspicious behavior we’ve seen Harrison exhibit has resulted in some potentially damning evidence. Maybe. Well, you know what they say about Chekhov’s stuffed puppy…

ritas kids

“Yeah, I’ll still love you guys in Orlando…totally.”

It’s kind of funny to think that despite having made some strides compared to the weaker elements of the series, this season is still failing to rise to its former glory. One could argue it’s a marked improvement that the episode structure has not necessarily relied on Dexter vetting, stalking, and killing someone new each episode; that the narrative structure has shifted from this model to one which is built around larger arcs. Unfortunately even this late in the series I don’t feel these arcs flow with much momentum or cogency (based solely on this season). I’m glad the subplots aren’t as disconnected from the primary plot as much as they have been in the past, but I still really don’t care about Quinn’s professional trajectory, and especially not Masuka’s estranged daughter. Although I’m sure we’ll hear more about Dr. Richard Vogel in episodes to come.

Even within the main plots there were just too many suspensions of disbelief in “Reflection” which took away from the fun of the show as opposed to contributing to it. For example, when Dex called the yacht club to see if Zach’s supposed target, Sofia, was working, her supervisor immediately let Dex know she just left. When I worked as a restaurant manager I never gave out information on employees’ schedules, especially not to people calling without identifying themselves. Also, it was far too easy to manipulate Jamie into calling Quinn off of Zach’s trail, but this is just another example in a long line of conveniences which allow Dexter to do what the episode requires. Also, finding the photos of Norma Rivera bleeding out were one thing, but to include in them a mirror reflection of Zach holding both the camera and the murder weapon? We get it, okay? Dex is always the good guy and there is no gray area! The trouble is the show is interesting because of its gray areas, at least it was back when they existed. The bottom line is that after the barren and fruitless valley that was season six, and the steady (though not flawless) climb upward that was season seven, I hoped season eight would be a peak on which we could all be satisfied with departing from the show. Instead I feel about as low to the ground as one of Dex’s trash bags at the bottom of the sea.

dex breaking bad shot

By the way, anyone else get a Breaking Bad vibe from this shot? The episode was directed by John Dahl who’s directed episodes of Dexter in the past (also Hannibal, Justified, True Blood, and Battlestar Galactica, among many others) as well as the second season episode of Breaking Bad, “Down.” I can’t remember if that episode had one of the show’s patented worm’s eye view shots, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

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TV Review: Skins: Rise – Part 2

Published May 22, 2014 by gossipzoo

Skins Rise Cook Charlie Emma

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

WARNING: This review will contain spoilers.

This is the way Skins ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper. Last week’s taut urban drama has basically been replaced by Skins Does Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1. That’s what it feels like in a nutshell. Half of it is Cook, Emma, and Charlie on the run in the woods in a really slowly paced runaround with the episode’s villain that abruptly jumps to a climax. Which, as well as being flawed in itself, is a really disappointing way to pull off the programme’s last ever episode.

Unfortunately, the idea of exploring Cook’s personality post-Series 4 (which was a prominent theme in Part 1 and should be the focus of the whole story) is largely ignored in this episode. The only moments where it gets a look in is where he discusses the possibility of murdering drug dealer Louie and says that killing “Feels like nothing”, and the climax where he slips briefly back into his Series 4 finale mentality but holds back from committing murder this time. Beyond that, the episode is mainly written as a tense thriller that sadly lacks any real tension because of the slow pacing and most of the really dramatic stuff (such as a leading character’s murder) happening offscreen.

This also stops there being any proper development between secondary characters Charlie and Emma apart from a very brief scene that sets them up as possible love rivals in another story element that never really gets the chance to grow before the episode ends. But since the plot of a possible love triangle between Cook, Emma, and Charlie is pretty half arsed, it at least doesn’t end up being a rehash of Generation 2’s Love Triangle Of Doom.

Skins Rise Emma

The biggest character flaw in this episode though is Emma. Just Emma. Apart from providing a place for the main characters to hide, she does almost nothing other than have sex with Cook and be so hysterical that she has to be given Valium just so she won’t give away the group’s position to Louie. She falls asleep from the Valium just over halfway through the episode and, apart from a brief shot of her briefly opening her eyes and stirring while semi-conscious, the next time we see her is after she’s been kidnapped and lynched offscreen. In this episode, she’s nothing but a sacrificial lamb and is just there to die so the audience can think “The bad guy killed a character we’re supposed to like. I really hope he gets what’s coming to him”.

Also, wouldn’t a kidnap and lynching scene add a lot of drama to this episode? Actually witnessing Emma dying should have been what tips Cook over the edge rather than seeing the body hanging from a tree and then walking straight past it because he’s so focussed on revenge. A much more powerful version of events would have been Cook, Charlie, and Emma all being knocked out and abducted, and then Cook and Charlie coming to, only to find themselves restrained in some way while Louie hangs Emma.

On the technical side of things, the camerawork is nothing spectacular but the use of very low lighting in all of the night scenes works well, especially in a scene that takes place in a deserted shack in the woods where almost all of the light in the scene comes from a lighter used by Cook and Charlie. Though, in other scenes, the colours are a bit muted which gives those scenes a bit of a drab feeling, but that does fit well aesthetically with the snow-covered woods where the episode’s latter half takes place.

The soundtrack is serviceable though largely unremarkable, but one track that stands out is a rap played during scenes of the main characters escaping through the woods. It’s not your generic celebration of excess rap piece and the lyrics do have a fairly deep meaning that suits the story but it just doesn’t fit with what we’re seeing onscreen. Had this been included in last week’s episode, it would have slotted in nicely because it would have complimented the aesthetic of urban Manchester. It doesn’t suit the considerably more rural aesthetic of a snow-covered wood or create a tense enough atmosphere for the scene it’s played over.

Skins Rise Jason Dream

Another minor niggle but still one that bears mentioning is the use of dream sequences, following on from last week. But rather than being a stylistically shot look into Cook’s disturbed psyche like last week, this episode’s dream sequence is performed and shot as though it were a scene that actually happens to the characters. Except that one of the characters in it is drug dealer Jason, who was murdered in Part 1.

Dream Jason advises Cook to abandon Charlie and Emma, and run off alone. Not only is this scene annoyingly reminiscent of the constant hallucinations of Grace in Series 6 (though considerably less stupid since it’s explicitly shown that this is a dream) but Cook says outright in his opening narration that he didn’t like Jason, and their most notable interaction in last week’s episode was Jason beating him up. Which begs the question of (even though it’s a dream) why would Cook be so convivial with him and even take his advice. But the real issue with this scene is that it’s basically pointless. Right after the dream, Cook wakes up, realises that Louie has abducted Emma, and we jump more or less straight to the climax; meaning that Cook won’t take Dream Jason’s advice, rendering the scene completely moot. Though Dream Jason’s head being wet since he drowned is a nice artistic touch.

Skins Rise Cook Shotgun

Even though the scenes directly following it are absolutely woeful in how they’re written, the climax is the best part of the episode. Cook’s monologue while facing down the barrel of Louie’s shotgun has some gravitas to it and the way it’s written and performed does give the feeling that Cook has matured but still has elements of his earlier characterisation. Despite it directly drawing inspiration from the awful climax to Series 4, it still works pretty well and the fight between Cook and Louie that follows it is well coordinated and feels very real and animalistic. It’s just a shame that the episode’s end can’t match it, as Cook and Charlie part ways after calling the Police, leaving a conscious and presumably able to walk Louie alone and completely capable of escaping and continuing to be a complete monster.

Also, special mention once again has to go Liam Boyle who continues to play Louie as an affably evil villain who’s completely at ease with what he does, and refrains from overplaying the character, which makes him seem unpredictable and like a more genuine threat.

Despite a well written and executed climax, this was an ignoble end to such a decent programme. It was pretty much just three twenty-somethings milling around a house and pub for twenty minutes and running around the woods for another twenty minutes with a final ten minutes to wrap it all up. It doesn’t do anything big in terms of character or story which is one of its biggest problems. It just plods along trying to be dramatic until the climax.

If Rise Part 2 was just another episode, I’d probably be less dismissive of it and treat it as a run-of-the-mill misfire. But unless there’s a revival at some point in the future, this is Skins’ last hurrah. An episode that features a single returning character, doesn’t really do a lot, and doesn’t contain any of the themes, messages, or general content that was at the core of Skins.

That is ultimately its biggest failing. As a finale, it feels far too disconnected from what it’s finishing off and is a hugely disappointing way to round off the programme after seven series. A very disappointing end but one that’s not without a few good moments.

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Ripper Street 2.4 Review, ‘Dynamite And A Woman’

Published January 29, 2014 by gossipzoo

Ripper Street Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Without the appearance of the established villain Shine, the episode was seemingly a ‘crime of the week’ format. Damien Molony is given a chance to show-off his acting credentials in the forth episodes of Ripper Street’s second series as young DC Flight is sent undercover to infiltrate proposed Irish terrorists and yet, the first scene of the episode see’s Flight in a confessional, seeking repentance for lying, what could he have done?

With an Irish prisoner carted through the Irish sector of London, we knew that the poor lawman driving the cart would have an unfortunate end, but it was one so mysterious which caught the eye as he seemingly, died of natural causes and plunged off of the cart, allowing Aiden Galvin (Stanley Townsend) to go free and start causing havoc on Detective Inspector Reid’s streets.

Flight finally got his chance to Shine, he has been portrayed as naive over the last two episodes, now his loyalties are tested, torn between his Irish roots and his career in Whitechapel – an internal conflict which never quite reached a pinnacle, I’m sure most viewing at home weren’t too moved by his story for we are yet to know his character truly.

Galvin proceeds in his actions as a xenophobic politician is blown up in his bed. Galvin is a character to behold in Ripper Street, the 2004 Irish times Best Actor Award winner (for Shining City) Stanley Townsend moulds this fantastic character through gestures and gleeful grins, an eerie yet intriguing villain who rules the episode.

Some police brutality conveys the idea of the xenophobic hierarchy in Britain at the time, a period of tense culture mixing and racism towards the Irish, colonisation at its height. But this episode is not solely focused upon the Irish Home Front, for it is revealed that electricity has played its part with both men’s deaths. Curiously juxtaposing the Irish revolution and electricity contracts, a far fetched plot yet one which worked in Ripper Street’s world. The construction of power stations was simply the goal for two sides, the cause for the violence.

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Flight constructs a character to seduce Evelyn, the violin soundtrack haunts these scenes giving them a quintessential charm, the two have great chemistry which is evident throughout. The episode is beautifully coloured, bright and charming, casting Flight and Evelyn half in light and half darkness as they both lie, her claiming she has no father, and he playing the part of Bertrand. The most interesting scene came from Jackson giving Flight lessons in seduction, before Drake gives him a black eye for show, a whole-heartedly scene that displays the friendship and humour between the leads. Reid and Cobden’s relationship seems like it would reach a romance and yet Reid rejects her advances, the only sparks (I apologise for awful puns) are those of a gruesomely fried goats at an electricity demonstration.

A paternity struggle is thrown into the mix at the climax as a plot to blow up politicians is placed in front of Galvin by the man who freed him, one who looks to profit from such an ordeal. As always, Reid and co. arrive at the right moment to foil the villainy, before an ending that resonates that of the first episode of the show.

As the show continues to try to develop to something more than just a police procedural, the audience, for the second week running, have their sympathies lie with the ‘antagonists’. The episode was not the pinnacle of the shows run, i’m sure that is soon to come, as the pace of the episode remained pedestrian, most of the time to the stories benefit but at some points it kept it in the realms of just a good show.

As a side note, if you were watching Ripper Street on BBC you may have noticed the craftily placed advert for Panorama’s Britain’s Secret Terror Force which will focus on the troubles and Britain’s secret army against the IRA, this was definitely not just a coincident.

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Person Of Interest 4.9, ‘The Crossing’ Review

Published January 27, 2014 by gossipzoo

The Crossing

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Last week I said Person of Interest delivered the best episode of the season, but that was just topped by ‘The Crossing’. The episode was tense the entire time through the story, delivering twists, great character interactions, excellent acting and very surprising moments. Emotions rode high throughout and did not let up until the episode’s closing moments.

‘The Crossing’ reminded me very much of Season 1 s standout episode and finale ‘Firewall’ as several groups converged on Reese, but much more than Reese’s life was on the line this time around. The majority of the POI team was under attack as HR raced to rescue its captured leader. Speaking of him, Quinn’s banter got a little tiresome as he kept repeating lines such as “This is my city, don’t you get it?” or “You two are on the losing side” or variations of those. That is my only negative of the episode, but then it was very pleasing to see Reese sedate Quinn as he was in the middle of one of those lines.

Since the promos hinted at Fusco dying, a large portion of the emotion came from his end as he spent the majority of the episode in Simmons’ custody. His torture was fairly brutal and the acting displayed by Kevin Chapman was the best I’ve seen of him on the show thus far. Fusco has been a character who has fallen flat for me on several occasions. It’s not that I don’t like him or Chapman, it’s just the writing team have seemed as if they don’t know what to with him from time to time. One moment he’s being a clean cop, the next he’s doing something a little dirty to protect his skin. ‘The Crossing’ though showed his true mettle as he lied to Simmons’ about the location of Carter’s evidence, buying himself and the rest of the POI team to strike at HR. His heartfelt phone call to his son was not only one of the strongest scenes of the episode, but one of Chapman’s overall best scenes of the entire series. One subtle aspect of it I loved was the look of relief and thankfulness on his face as Shaw saved his son, being completely okay with the fact it would probably mean his own death as long as his son lived. Then they had to go and add icing on top with an escape even Reese would be proud of.

Person of Interest

Reese and Carter’s interactions were another positive aspect of the story. As a viewer of Person of Interest since the beginning, I very much appreciated the nods to the start of the series as Reese reflected on the subway fight and their very first discussion in the pilot. While Reese and Carter have shared a camaraderie due to their military experiences, once again shown when they literally compare battle scars, I’ve never thought they’ve had much romantic chemistry until this episode. That’s not to say there hasn’t been some level of sexual tension between them as Reese has often been very protective of Carter, but the kiss was something I still did not see coming though strictly because they never played those romantic feelings up so much before. At first I found it a little jarring, but came to like it after some thought; on any other show Reese and Carter’s relationship would have played out with the Will They or Won’t They? question continuously lingering over them, but it felt a little more natural in ‘The Crossing’.

The HR story has closed, at least for time being, but not without a huge loss. Because of the kiss, I had thought Carter was safe since it looked like the series would pursue a new direction between herself and Reese, but the final moments proved that belief wrong. It was an ending I didn’t quite see coming in an episode already full of unpredictable events. I’m personally excited to see how Reese handles this loss in the conclusion to Person of Interest’s three part storyline and if Simmons’ number will finally be up.

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TV Review: The Bridge 1.11, “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll”

Published November 18, 2013 by gossipzoo

Troll Toll

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

During the first half or so of “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll” the biggest “R” I was feeling would have to be regret; regret that maybe the series I had felt the greatest anticipation for at the beginning of the year met its end at the hands of a revenge-killin’, cliched piece of genre trope like David Tate. Actually, I thought that despite my disappointment in what I felt was a lack of synthesis between Tate’s motivations of those of the politically minded Bridge Butcher, the character was portrayed by both Eric Lange and the writers and directors quite well, but Elle’s line just felt so right to parody there. Anyway, throughout the beginning of the episode I grew increasingly mournful over what steadily resembled a very well produced series that looked more and more like a weaker version of Se7en. But ultimately the head was in the box here too and after getting to know Detectives Marco Ruiz and Sonya Cross over the course of the season I was feeling a much more powerful “R,” remorse.

Not remorse for a show I thought had grown a bit watered down in its plot structure or slightly simplified in its characterization, but remorse for the characters themselves. Having witnessed Daniel Frye’s struggle with addiction and even more so with self-worth, seeing him at the mercy of Tate’s lethal manipulation of Marco’s rage, clearly not wanting to die, but never pleading to live was pretty gut-wrenching, especially since I genuinely had no inclination of whether Marco would pull the trigger. It’s nice to know he survived the gun shot (from Tate) and the fall, but extensive brain and spinal damage in an ICU isn’t exactly getting off scotfree. After Sonya had her eureka moment at the sink, realizing there was something off at the house where Tate had been staying, I assumed she would find Gus, wet and frazzled, but alive. Once I realized I was only half-right about that, Sonya’s Somerset revival wasn’t so much weak as it was painfully poignant. The same effect was achieved through Marco’s Mills (same initials, though it’s this series’ characters’ first names and the film’s surnames, but still, funny coincidence, no?) revival as his anguished scream cradled in Sonya’s arms, while not necessarily as powerfully depicted as Tate’s upon seeing his son’s mangled body, was still quite palpable. Plus, this iteration of the familiar situation, while not exactly happier – thankfully – was slightly more optimistic though not less meaningful thanks to the twist of Sonya’s intervention.

After the climax on the bridge the episode’s denouement was what really crushed my soul (in a good way of course; better to feel something negative than nothing). While speaking with Hank Sonya smiles when she’s reminded that out of all the tragedy at least she kept Marco from playing into what Tate wanted (though seeing as how it’s fair to say that despite being interrupted by Sonya’s bullet to his leg, Marco did make the decision to kill Tate therefore Tate did still technically get what he wanted, to make Marco “like [him]”). Nonetheless, Sonya is hesitant to see Marco at the hospital and with good reason. Diane Kruger did an amazing job portraying the bravery Sonya had to conjure just to visit Marco, and she broke my heart conveying just how utterly devastated Sonya was to hear Marco say that they’re not friends, and repeatedly yell at her to leave. As mentioned, it was genuinely heartbreaking, but we can hardly blame Marco as he’s clearly in a very bad place right now. The episode’s final shot of him limping out of the hospital morgue to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ “Push the Sky Away” may have initially felt a little on the nose, but veteran TV director John Dahl’s bet paid off as the lingering of the shot made the coupling of the visual with what is an excellent song work (at least for me). Seeing this very thoroughly broken man soldier on is a genuinely interesting prospect.

Although “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll” uncharacteristically focused for the most part on just this one plot, I think doing so worked well to keep the tension of the situation high enough as any breaks in between to check in on Steven Linder or Charlotte Millwright would detract from each plot’s overall efficacy. Nonetheless there was a bit of an update in the cold open where we found Ray dragging his old buddy’s corpse through the tunnel for what appeared to be yet another terrible decision in what is probably a long line of terrible decisions in this character’s life. They were already in the desert when they shot Tampa Tim, why not just bury him there instead of bringing him back to the property Charlotte owns? Anyway, once Ray got through he found a classic, “OH GOD, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?” bloody crime scene, and watching him navigate through it, taking a man’s life and a lot of narcotics to boot (another brilliant call, Ray), was filled with suspense as the scene appeared fresh and there was no way of knowing what monster Ray might encounter while exploiting the space as best he could (which still wasn’t very good – Ray doesn’t seem to understand the fine intricacies of forensics or planting evidence).

While the Bridge Butcher/David Tate arc does at present feel a bit anticlimactic as the killer’s grand scheme devolved from a morally intriguing plot surrounding pertinent cultural contrasts to one which boiled down to a very convoluted, familiar, and petty revenge plot (though executed about as well as these things can be), I’m still curious to see how Fausto Galvan will play into the dangling threads of Charlotte and Ray’s dalliance with smuggling and the ATF, as well as Steven’s arc as “the finder of lost children” (and prostitutes)/Jules’ “Mr. 9 millimeter” (I don’t know what’s up with me and all the Tarantino references this week). Tate may be apprehended, but there’s still two more episodes to watch Sonya and Marco mend fences while setting up for a potential second season, one I’d be more than happy to tune in for granted this season sees a satisfying conclusion that reinforces part of what made it so strong in the first place, its intricate and fresh world-building.

Tom Jane

Couldn’t help myself.

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