Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Following Ends

The Following concluded its three-year run on Monday, and I gotta say I was sorry to see it go. Though it started off slowly this season, it ended on one of its most riveting notes, a lot better, in fact, than anything in the second season.

Michael Ealy as Theo was a great sociopathic brilliant villain, in many ways better than Joe, though James Purefoy's performance as Ryan Hardy's signature nemesis was unassailable.  Max really came into her own in the end, with her radiant smile and love for Mike, and it would have good to see them finally together for a while next season.   Kevin Bacon as Hardy was outstanding throughout.

So where did The Following go wrong this final season?   Too little Joe, too late in the story.  Too much Mark, who should either have been killed last season or very early in this.   And too many heads of the unit or whatever they're called in the FBI - just one or two would made for a more appealing character.

The ending of The Following was excellent.  Ryan himself now living in the shadows - to protect his new family - and, for all we know, Theo alive, too.   This seems like more than enough for a new season, and maybe there'll be one, if Netflix or Amazon or some other streaming service come to the rescue.

But with the death of Joe Carroll,  the story won't quite be about a following any more.  Theo is brilliant - but, as far we've seen, has inspired nothing like the following that worked so well under Joe's leadership in the first season.  Still, the Ryan, Max, and Mike characters are different from what we usually see on television, and compelling.   And Theo is clearly one of the most ruthless, ingenious villains we've yet seen on TV, running rings around the psychos of Criminal Minds and even The Blacklist.

Hey, I'll be back here for sure with more reviews if The Following's back somewhere, sometime.

And see also The Following Is Back for Its Second Season ... The Following 2.2: Rediscovering Oneself ... The Following 2.3: Coalescing ... The Following 2.4: Psycho Families and Trains ... The Following 2.5: Turning Tides ... The Following 2.8: Coalescing? ... The Following 2.9: The Book Signing ... The Following 2.11: Lily not Joe ... The Following 2.13: The Downfall of Mike ...The Following 2.14: Twists and Deaths ...  The Following Season 2 Finale: The Living

And see also The Following Begins ... The Following 1.2: Joe, Poe, and the Plan ... The Following 1.3: Bug in the Sun ... The Following 1.4: Off the Leash ... The Following 1.5:  The Lawyer and the Swap ... The Following 1.7: At Large ... The Following 1.9: All in a Name, Or, Metaphor in the Service of Murder ... The Following 1.13: At Last Something of a Day for the Good Guys ... The Following Season 1 Finale: Doing Dead


Like a Neanderthal serial killer in the current world? Try The Silk Code

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mad Men: The End of an Era and the Ultimate Cool

I've been saying lately that we're in the third golden age of television, epitomized by House of Cards streaming all at once on Netflix.  Mad Men was one of the stalwarts of the second golden age - the revolution of cable over network and the first golden age of television in the 1950s.  Mad Men debuted just a month after the conclusion of The Sopranos, which initiated the second golden age.  And tonight Mad Men concluded in its turn, as well.  It was advertised as the end of an era, and it was - the end of cable television as the undisputed creative edge of television drama.

As for the stories themselves in this final episode, there was a lot that was good in them, even satisfying in some cases.  The best of this was Peggy finding happiness and true love at last with Stan.   Pete's ending is happy, too, and so is Roger's.

Joan's is bitter sweet,   In order to pursue her creative, professional self, she has to give up the man she loves.   The lesson there is that in the society of the early 1970s, at least, it was difficult for a woman, in contrast to a man, to have both.  Mad Men has been brilliant in showing the struggles of professional women in that era.  Presumably our world has improved at least a little in that regard since then.

And Don?  His ending is the most frustrating - for the audience as well as him.  He perhaps has finally shed the illusion that he built around himself, but what's left?  I always thought that Don Draper was the most real part of Dick Whitman, and now Don has neither.

Or maybe not.   Who did the Coke commercial we see at the very end?   Peggy and Stan would be the logical people, since we saw Peggy talking to Don on the phone about his doing it, which means it was certainly on her mind.   But could Don have gone back to New York and done it himself?   Or, was Peggy, Don's greatest student, finally putting into best practice what she learned from the master?  Or, in perhaps the happiest ending that went unseen, maybe the three worked on it together.

My wife correctly points out that Don has a motive to go back to New York - to be with his kids - and the Coke commercial could easily have been inspired by that Esalen or whatever hippy therapy group that was.  This would constitute an epic conquering and co-option of the flower-power counter-culture by the brazen commercialism of advertising via the reconstituted Don.  On the other hand, Don sitting there with that beatific smile on his face is a very long distance from Manhattan.

Matthew Weiner, like David Chase before him, is a master of ambiguity. Instead of the sudden cut to black in The Sopranos, we get the Coke commercial - which, in terms of the most important things in life, is itself a blackness or a celebration of nothingness, just a stupid soft drink with caffein.  It's the real unreal thing, the ultimate McLuhanesque medium cool, a canvass that invites us to fill in the story.

But isn't that what Mad Men has always been most about, a celebration of illusions writ large, perpetrated by professionals and self-generated by consumers, in advertising and true life stories alike?  I don't know for sure, but I sure enjoyed the ride.

-> 20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) in 2007 at Light On Light Through

See also Mad Men 7.1: Vignettes and Playboy ... Mad Men 7.2:  Flowers and the Hung-Up Phone ... Mad Men 7.3: "Lunch with Rod Serling" ... Mad Men 7.4: Computer! ... Mad Men 7.5: Retrofit Paranoia ... Mad Men 7.6: The Dance ...  Mad Men Mid-Season 7 Finale: Telescope vs. Television ... Mad Men 7.8: Don, Rachel, and the Waitress ... Mad Men 7.9: Fast Ride ... Mad Men 7.10: "Fast Girl" ... Mad Men 7.11: The End of Sterling, Cooper, Draper. ... Mad Men 7.12: Poor Betty

And see also Mad Men 6.1-2: The Lighter and the Twist ... Mad Men 6.3: Good Company ... Mad Men 6.4: McLuhan, Heinz, and Don's Imagination ... Mad Men 6.5: MLK ... Mad Men 6.6: Good News Comes in a Chevy ...  Mad Men 6.7: Merger and Margarine ... Mad Men 6.8: Dr. Feelgood and Grandma Ida ... Mad Men 6.9: Don and Betty ... Mad Men 6.10: Medium Cool ... Mad Men 6.11: Hand in the Cookie Jar and Guy de Maupassant ... Mad Men 6.12: Rosemary's Baby, Dick Cheney, and Sunkist ... Mad Men Season 6 Finale: Beyond California

And see also Why "You Only Live Twice" for Mad Men Season 5 Finale ... Mad Men Season Five Finale

And see also Mad Men Season 5 Debut: It's Don's Party  ... Mad Men 5.3: Heinz Is On My Side ... Mad Men 5.4: Volunteer, Dream, Trust ... Mad Men 5.5: Ben Hargrove ... Mad Men 5.6: LSD Orange ... Mad Men 5.7: People of High Degree ... Mad Men 5.8: Mad Man and Gilmore Girl ...Mad Men 5.9: Don's Creativity  ... Mad Men 5.10: "The Negron Complex" ... Mad Men 5.11: Prostitution and Power ... Mad Men 5.12: Exit Lane

And from Season 4: Mad Men 4.1: Chicken Kiev, Lethal Interview, Ham Fight ... 4.2: "Good Time, Bad Time?" "Yes." ... 4.3: Both Coasts ... 4.4: "The following program contains brief nudity ..." 4.5: Fake Out and Neurosis ... 4.6: Emmys, Clio, Blackout, Flashback  ... 4.7: 'No Credits on Commercials' ... 4.8: A Tale of Two Women ... 4.9: "Business of Sadists and Masochists" ...4.10: Grim Tidings ... 4.11: "Look at that Punim" ... 4.12: No Smoking!  ... Mad Men Season 4 Finale: Don and -

And from Season 3Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture and 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy and 3.6: A Saving John Deere and 3.7: Brutal Edges ... August Flights in 3.8 ... Unlucky Strikes and To the Moon Don in 3.9 ... 3.10: The Faintest Ink, The Strongest Television ... Don's Day of Reckoning in Mad Men 3.11 ... Mad Men 3.12: The End of the World in Mad Men ... Mad Men Season 3 Finale: The End of the World

And from Season TwoMad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season OneMad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ...Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ...Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Breaking Bad: The Official Book: A Review

Breaking Bad is indisputably one of the titans of the second golden age of television - the first being Dragnet through The Twilight Zone in the 1950s-(early)1960s, the third being the masterpieces of streaming such as House of Cards on Netflix right now.  The second age, already fading just a bit, begins with The Sopranos and The Wire, and continues with American Crime (a brilliant exception to the fading).  It was born on cable, continues there to some degree, and inspired occasional greatness in network television.

Breaking Bad sits at the apex of this second golden age, not better per se than The Sopranos or The Wire, but even less connected to the crime stories of the past.   David Thomson, who edited this book, and wrote much of it, aptly says in the introductory chapter that "no American film of the twenty-first century has matched the achievement of Breaking Bad".  How could it - how could a narrative of let's say two-three hours possibly match a narrative of 52 hours, more or less, told over 5 seasons?

Breaking Bad: The Official Book presents every aspect of this tour-de-force you could possibly want, including in-depth interviews with creator Vince Gilligan and the people who called all the visual and acoustic shots.  There's a section on the show's predecessors and inspirations, ranging from The French Connection to Scarface.  The titles of each episode are compellingly deconstructed.  Each of the characters, major and minor, is analyzed to the max, all the way up and down, in life, and, usually, death. You'll find a whole section just on the chemistry of Breaking Bad - the literal science, ranging from ricin to lilies of the valley, which often literally ignited the narrative. This made me realize that another predecessor of Breaking Bad would be MacGiver - in addition to its other superlatives, Breaking Bad is also a masterpiece of science on television, educational against all odds, a Mr. Wizard set to riveting narrative.

The visual imagery is itself the story of Breaking Bad, and it's powerfully represented in this book with photography, including of the cars in Breaking Bad, that rivals what we or at least some people used to expect in Life Magazine.  Music was also an important part of the story, and my one regret about this book would be that I couldn't press an image on a page and get some music playing out it - but, hey, that's what the interactive Breaking Bad: Alchemy is for, and one of the joys of Breaking Bad: The Official Book is that this bad puppy doesn't need batteries to enjoy, and has more than a hundred new images to boot.

I have no doubt that the series will be watched and talked about for hundreds of years to come, and Breaking Bad: The Official Book will be a welcome and indispensable companion.

See also Breaking Bad Final Episodes #1: Walt vs. Hank ... Breaking Bad Final Episodes #2: Skylar and Jesse ... Breaking Bad Final Episodes #3: The Ultimate Lie ... Breaking Bad Final Episodes #4: Old Yeller ... Breaking Bad Final Episode #5: Coordinates ... Breaking Bad Final Episode #6: The Knife and the Phone ...  Breaking Bad Penultimate: $10,000 for 2 Hours ... Breaking Bad Finale: "I Did It for Me"

Talking about Walter White and Breaking Bad

And see also Breaking Bad Season 5 Premiere: Riveting Entropy ... Breaking Bad 5.3: Deal with the Devil ... Breaking Bad 5.7: Exit Mike ... Breaking Bad Final Half-Season Finale

And see also My Prediction about Breaking Bad ... Breaking Bad Season 4 Debuts ... Breaking Bad 4.2: Gun and Question ... Breaking Bad 4.11: Tightening Vice ... Breaking Bad 4.12: King vs. King ... Breaking Bad Season 4 Finale: Deceptive Flowers

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bones 10.19: Do You Buy Booth's Gambling Addiction?

A good espionage-like Bones 10.19 last night, with Booth in Iran, Bones in Washington, and the rest of our team connected via Skype or whatever converging on an investigation in Iran to free Aristoo from potential imprisonment or worse.  The action reminded me of Homeland, with less fighting and more science, as is the hallmark of Bones.

But the real action - or, the enduring action, at least - concerns Booth's gambling, which we've seen building up to a confrontation with Bones for the past few episodes.   In 10.19, Bones asks Booth point blank if he's gambling - after she discovers that he is - and Booth, in one of the worst interactions I've ever seen from him, lies right to Bones' face.  It's a bad moment, and Bones throws him out.

Can we blame her?  I'm not sure - maybe she should have taken the approach of trying to help him, with her love and support.   But I'm also not sure that I agree that the character - Booth - would have lied like that when Bones asked him to please be truthful with her.

Booth might well lie to protect Bones, as he's done before.  But lying to protect himself is something quite else, and I'm not sure I buy it.  I guess we're supposed to believe that when someone is gripped by the gambling addiction, they'll do anything to protect themselves, including lying and even stealing from people they love.  But although this may be clinically true, I guess I'm not buying that Booth is in fact in the jaws of such an addiction.

And that's because there may not have been sufficient build-up for that to believable.  As it is, and though I hate to say it, this almost feels as if Bones needed a reason for Bones and Booth to be in danger of falling apart, and his gambling was a good gambit.

We'll just have to see how this works out in the concluding episodes this season - assuming it does.

And see also Bones 9.1: The Sweet Misery of Love ... Bones 9.2: Bobcat, Identity Theft, and Sweets ... Bones 9.3 and NCIS 11.2: Sweets and Ziva ... Bones 9.4: Metaphysics of Death in a Television Series ... Bones 9.5: Val and Deep Blue ... Bones 9.6: The Wedding ... Bones 9.7: Watch Out, Buenos Aires ...Bones 9.8: The Bug in the Neck ... Bones 9.9: Friday Night Bones in the Courtroom ... Bones 9.10: Horse Pucky ... Bones 9.11: Angels in Equations ... Bones 9.12: Fingernails ... Bones 9.13: Meets Nashville, and Wendell ... Bones 9.14: "You Cannot Drink Your Glass Away" ... Bones 9.15: Hodgins' Brother and the Ripped Off Toe ... Bones 9.16: Lampreys, Professors, and Insurance Companies ... Bones 9.17: Spartacus in the Kitchen ... Bones 9.18: Meets Day of the Triffids ... Bones 9.19: The Cornucopic Urn ... Bones 9.20: Above the Law ... Bones 9.21: Freezing and Thawing ... Bones 9.22: Promotion ... Bones 9.23: The New Intern ... Bones Season 9 Finale: Upping the Ante

And see also Bones 8.1: Walk Like an Egyptian ... Bones 8.2 of Contention ... Bones 8.3: Not Rotting Behind a Desk  ... Bones 8.4: Slashing Tiger and Donald Trump ... Bones 8.5: Applesauce on Election Eve ... Bones 8.6: Election Day ... Bones 8.7: Dollops in the Sky with Diamonds ...Bones 8.8: The Talking Remains ... Bones 8.9: I Am A Camera ... Bones 8.10-11: Double Bones ...Bones 8.12: Face of Enigmatic Evil ... Bones 8.13: Two for the Price of One ... Bones 8.14: Real Life ... Bones 8.15: The Magic Bullet and the Be-Spontaneous Paradox ... Bones 8.16: Bitter-Sweet Sweets and Honest Finn ... Bones 8.17: "Not Time Share, Time Travel" ... Bones 8.18: Couples ... Bones 8.19: The Head in the Toilet ... Bones 8.20: On Camera ... Bones 8.21: Christine, Hot Sauce, and the Judge ... Bones 8.22: Musical-Chair Parents ... Bones 8.23: The Bluff ... Bones Season 8 Finale: Can't Buy the Last Few Minutes

And see also Bones 7.1: Almost Home Sweet Home ... Bones 7.2: The New Kid and the Fluke ...Bones 7.3: Lance Bond and Prince Charmington ... Bones 7.4: The Tush on the Xerox ... Bones 7.5: Sexy Vehicle ... Bones 7.6: The Reassembler ... Bones 7.7: Baby! ... Bones 7.8: Parents ...Bones 7.9: Tabitha's Salon ... Bones 7.10: Mobile ... Bones 7.11: Truffles and Max ... Bones 7.12: The Corpse is Hanson ... Bones Season 7 Finale: Suspect Bones

And see also Bones 6.1: The Linchpin ... Bones 6.2: Hannah and her Prospects ... Bones 6.3 at the Jersey Shore, Yo, and Plymouth Rock ... Bones 6.4 Sans Hannah ... Bones 6.5: Shot and Pretty ... Bones 6.6: Accidental Relations ... Bones 6.7:  Newman and "Death by Chocolate" ...Bones 6.8: Melted Bones ... Bones 6.9: Adelbert Ames, Jr. ... Bones 6.10: Reflections ... Bones 6.11: The End and the Beginning of a Mystery ... Bones 6.12 Meets Big Love ... Bones 6.13: The Marrying Kind ... Bones 6.14: Bones' Acting Ability ... Bones 6.15: "Lunch for the Palin Family" ...Bones 6.16: Stuck in an Elevator, Stuck in Times ... Bones 6.17: The 8th Pair of Feet ... Bones 6.18: The Wile E. Chupacabra ... Bones 6.19 Test Runs The Finder ... Bones 6.20: This Very Statement is a Lie ... Bones 6.21: Sensitive Bones ... Bones 6.22: Phoenix Love ... Bones Season 6 Finale: Beautiful

And see also Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love? and 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes and 5.3: Bones in Amish Country and 5.4: Bones Meets Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives and Ancient Bones 5.5 and Bones 5.6: A Chicken in Every Viewer's Pot and Psychological Bones 5.7 and Bones 5.8: Booth's "Pops" and Bones 5.9 Meets Avatar and Videogamers ... Bad Santa, Heart-Warming Bones 5.10 ... Bones 5.11: Of UFOs, Bloggers, and Triangles ... Bones 5.12: A Famous Skeleton and Angela's Baby ... Love with Teeth on Bones 5.13 ... Faith vs. Science vs. Psychology in Bones 5.14 ... Page 187 in Bones 5.15 ...Bones 100: Two Deep Kisses and One Wild Relationship ... Bones 5.17: The Deadly Stars ...Bones Under Water in 5.18 ... Bones 5.19: Ergo Together ...  Bones 5.20: Ergo Together ... Bones 5.21: The Rarity of Happy Endings ... Bones Season 5 Finale: Eye and Evolution


Neanderthal bones