This season might just be Shameless' bleakest yet, and that is no mean feat. It's like when you started watching Breaking Bad, and thought, "It can't get worse than strangling someone and melting their body in a tub full of acid" – but then it did.
And watching Fiona's steady downspiral to implosion is certainly on par with watching that literal bloodbath burst its way through the ceiling on Breaking Bad. Yes, she gets bailed out of jail; yes, her tough public defender gets her out of serving actual time, but her face when she's read the crippling details of her three-year probation and lifetime as a convicted felon? It says it all. And even worse is watching Fiona yell out her guilt over Liam's overdose at an accusatory and stone-faced Lip – after he gives her the cruel truth that she might just have ruined her whole life with that ounce of cocaine, you could cut her self-loathing (not to mention Lip-loathing) with a knife. (We get even further down the hole when you factor in the fact that their screaming match was only put on pause because Frank is lying in his own refuse on the bathroom floor).
Yet, even as we feel for Fiona getting torn to shreds, Lip has a point. Liam could have died, and may even suffer lasting trauma (after getting teased on the bus, even Carl worries that Liam is now "retarded"). Lip can't trust his sister anymore, so he spends most of the episode carting Liam back and forth to his dorm room (it earns him serious points with the ladies – even his roommate's previously icy girlfriend), and the pressure of juggling school, work, and now a dysfunctional family of seven (did I count right?) all comes to a head in his blowout with Fiona. He doesn't want to be in her position; holding the Gallagher clan on his shoulders like a Southside Atlas – he wants to live his own life.
Well, tough luck, Lip. With the Gallagher family in the state it is now, he may never get the life he wants. Frank's dying and has less control over his bodily functions than ever, Fiona's to be on probation for the next three years, Ian's a drug-addled stripper – even sweet little Debbie has resorted to cutting (though given her shocked string of expletives at the pain, it doesn't seem like she'll be trying it again). No, the Gallaghers will continue on down, with no end in sight. It's all very Sisyphean, isn't it? Let's hope at least Sheila's having a good time on the Rez.
* Let's unpack this humdinger of a title: "A Jailbird, Invalid, Martyr, Cutter, Retard, and Parasitic Twin." Jailbird = Fiona, Invalid = Frank, Martyr = Lip? Cutter = Debbie, Retard = Liam, and Parasitic Twin = Huey (who, in V's words, "Ate Dewey").
* Yes, that's right: V's twins apparently resorbed their triplet. Which is a much grosser process than I'd previously thought.
* Mickey remains the lovelorn MVP on this season, perhaps even outstripping Lip's years of Karen Jackson-torchbearing. Though does he really have to punch every single person who calls him gay?
* Matt: "I should probably date girls my own age." Yes, Matt. Yes you should.
* I stand by my prediction that Lip will get it on with his roommate's girlfriend.
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James Franco is many things — an actor, a writer, a painter, a professor, and a poet, to name just a few — but of all of his roles, he is possibly best at being the enigma that is James Franco. Therefore, it's fitting that in his latest film, Maladies, he plays to his strengths and takes on a role very similar to who he is as a person. In the film, Franco plays a recently retired soap opera actor name James, who has stepped away from the spotlight to pursue writing. He lives with his emotionally distant sister, Patricia (Fallon Goodson) and his good friend Catherine (Catherine Keener), and is attempting to write a great memoir of his life, a feat that is complicated by the fact that he has recently begun hearing voices.
Watching the trailer, it's easy to become a bit confused about the premise of the film, and the role Franco is playing. Is he playing James Franco, or just another actor who happens to be named James? Is this a period film, or is everyone just hipsters? What's his memoir about? We figure the best way to understand what's happening in the trailer for Maladies is to break everything down, question by question.
So, is James Franco just playing himself? Yes and no. Although he shares many of the same traits, like a desire to leave acting for writing and a long run on a soap opera, James is a fictional character. However, he is somewhat based on Franco, so technically, Franco's playing an adapted version of himself.
That makes no sense. Is he or isn't he? The short answer: not really.
When does this take place? In the 1960s, which explains why the trailer feels like a period film.
Did James Franco direct this? No, the film was written and directed by Carter. Just Carter. Like Madonna or McLovin, he only needs one name.
Well, okay. Who is Carter, then? Carter is a visual artist and a director who has worked with Franco in the past, on the film Erased James Franco. The two are good friends, and plan to collaborate on many more projects in the future.
So, James Franco isn't playing himself. Is Catherine Keener playing herself?No, she's playing a fictional character named Catherine. She is a cross-dressing artist who lives with James, and the two of them have a pact to finish each other's life work if one of them should die.
Is her character based on anybody? According to Franco, Catherine is a fictional representation of Carter, and the friendship that the two of them share. He told The Believer, "In Maladies the two characters make a pact that if one of them dies the other will finish the dead person’s work. I would be honored to make such a pact with Carter, because he understands me better than most." He has also called the director his "double."
Okay, so it's a movie about James Franco and Carter's friendship, but they're not playing themselves. Yep. You got it.
So where do the soap operas come in? James, the character, was an actor on a popular soap opera before he left to dedicate his time to writing.
Like James Franco, then? Yes. In fact, Franco took his role on General Hospital after Carter encouraged him to. It was part of his preparation for the film.
Is the James from the movie an actor on General Hospital?They haven't said what soap opera his character is on. But, probably not.
Is James' soap opera character named Franco, like the real Franco's was on General Hospital? Probably not, but that would be awesome, wouldn't it?
What's with the sister?James and Catherine live with his sister, Patricia, who is described in the plot summary as being "mentally detached."
Does James have a "malady" as well? Yes. James has left his job because of a mental illness. The synopses have described him as having schizophrenia, although Carter said that he actually has "an unknown mental illness."
Does Carter have something specific in mind, even though it's not revealed to the audience? In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Carter said that he never wanted James to have one specific illness: "I studied The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the book that they republish every 10 years that lists all of the ailments that a person could have. It’s just for doctors. So I went through all of those and I wanted James' character to have every ailment in it, which is absurd, I know. That’s what he was suffering from, the unknown to everything at once."
So, if James has a "malady" and so does Patricia, does Catherine have one too? No. But she's gay, which isn't considered an illness now, but could have been in the 1960s, when the film is set.
Is that where the title comes from? Yep. See, you've got the hang of this.
Whose voice is that in the trailer? The narrator is voiced by Ken Scott, but the voice functions both as the voice in James' head and a narrator.
Something is bugging me. I feel like there already was a movie wherein James Franco played himself as a schizophrenic soap opera actor.You're right. Maladies will be the second movie of that description. The first was Francophrenia (Or Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is), which James Franco and director Ian Olds put together from footage of the actor on General Hospital. It was weird.
Okay. I think I've got it. One more question. Shoot.
When will Maladies be released? On March 21.
Cool. One final final question: why wasn't Franco nominated for an Oscar for Spring Breakers? We may never know. Perhaps the Academy didn't appreciate the way he whispers "Spring breaaak" like the rest of us did.
This week, on a very special Girls...
One of the most interesting things a television program can do to take advantage of a diverse ensemble is throw a universal theme at the bunch and observe how each character reacts differently. And there’s no theme more universal than death. Maybe Game of Thrones, but that’s out of season. So this week, Girls thrives on the disparate ideologies of its collection of Brooklynites by killing off pseudo-character David Pressler-Goings.
So how does each character react, what is her or his relationship with death, and — most importantly — what does this tell us about the lot of ‘em?
Let’s start with Jessa this time…
…partially because she’s the first person Hannah breaks the news to (after she herself is hit with the tragedy after showing up to David’s office for a meeting), and partially because she’s the only other character who has a tangible story in this episode.
Jessa’s thoughts on death tread on the grand, philosophical side:“It’s something that happens. Like jury duty or floods.” “It must have been so heavy. That moment that it was all going down.””I kind of look forward to the day I die. If you think about it, time isn’t linear. Every moment that has ever happened, or that will ever happen, is happening right now. We just choose to live in this moment to create some illusion of continuity. So, really, we have already died, and also have not yet been born.
But there’s reason to believe that Jessa might not entirely buy into this quantum ideology, at least emotionally. As she reveals to Shoshanna over a subdued lute-plucking, Jessa had a friend named Season who died a long time ago. "My favorite friend," she sweetly reflects. A young woman who she cherished, suffered with, and comes to learn in this particularly eventful episode, is still alive.
After thinking about Season drums up some heavy feelings, Jessa calls Season's mother to get some emotional closure (the usually stoic Jessa is so vulnerable over this situation that she has a difficult time just saying the word "grave"), learning that her deceased friend and fellow addict faked her death long ago in order to get the problematic enabler Jessa out of her life for good. Rattled, angered, and hurt, Jessa tracks Season down to her Brooklyn brownstone, where she lives with her husband and baby, losing her s**t over the revelation that somebody she loved desperately pretended to die in order to get away from her. So far this season, Jessa has been able to keep her issues of loss and loneliness in relative control, but we can't imagine she'll be recovering from such a puzzling punch to the gut so easily.
Though a stranger to David, Adam's heart sinks when he hears about the death of Hannah's editor. What's more, he cannot fathom how his girlfriend is exhibiting such a dearth of emotional sensitivity to the issue (she's primarily concerned abou the fate of her eBook).
Adam's thoughts on death are far more visceral, to the point where he can't even spell them out beyond unsettled groans in response to Hannah's detachment for most of the episode. Until:"If I died, would you just be like, 'Oh, I hope I can make rent"? If you died, the world would blur. I wouldn't know what a tree was."
We don't get any insight into whether or not Adam has a personal experience with a close friend or family member's death, but clearly his sensitivities to the issue are especially potent.
Shoshanna, for a quick sec...
Shoshanna is roped into the story only via the aforementioned scene in which Jessa reveals her Season story, but she does have a lot to say. See, Shoshanna lost a friend too, back in high school, and the experience drummed up enough sadness to inspire her to write a book of poems. Of course, it also allowed her to usurp her role in their social clique, so win some lose some.
He really just shows up to provide another, definitively more surprising, foil to Hannah's attitude. Ray, who intellectualizes every concept, genuinely feels over the death of David (who he only met during last week's bar tustle) and insults Hannah for own "sociopathic detachment." But he spends the rest of his screentime laughing with Colin Quinn at Marnie's music video, so maybe don't consider him such a saint just yet.
"My whole life has been death," Laird says to Hannah. "Sometimes at dinner, when I am sitting at my table, I imagine I am in dialogue will all my dead ones." While Laird also tells Hannah that "you're just going to get number when it all comes like a waterfall," he also breaks down in tears during the tender, painful story of a young girl's death bequeathed unto him and Hannah by Adam's crazy, possibly psychotic sister Liney, from whom Hannah might not be too far a cry...
Hannah opens up to Liney about David's death and about the more pressing issue (in her mind) of Adam's disappointment with her reaction to it. Liney responds by instituting an ad hoc death-themed adventure, leading Hannah and Laird through a cemetary romp and challenging the depths of Hannah's detachment with a tragic story about her and Adam's young cousin who died of cerebral palsy. When she recognizes that Hannah doesn't even grow misty over the story, Liney cackles with delight, admitting that it was all made up, and celebrating Hannah's demented lack of feeling. But it's not the cemetary frolicking or crazy Liney's endorsement of Hannah's callous ways that are especially unsettling. Not compared to the grand finale...
In truth, there could be no character better used as a vehicle for this story than Hannah. Firstly, because she is our vessel into this world, and thus the character we most automatically empathize with (even when we're disapproving of her). But secondly, because Hannah's exhibition throughout and at the end of this episode is a horror story not limited to the parameters of the subject of death, but to the all encompassing reach of life. We see Hannah alter the way she introduces the news of David's death to her friends as the day goes on. First, she tells Jessa, complaining straight away about the uncertain fate of her eBook. She works up a softer approach for Adam, but still jumps into the selfishness quite abjectly. Afterwards, we see Hannah toss in phrases like "I lost a close friend" and pass off her lack of empathy as numbness, knowing full well that she couldn't possibly care less about David's passing. But the culmination of her chilling behavior comes when she, hoping to restore the favor of Adam (the person she claims to love and treasure), recounts the very same fake story that Liney told to her, provoking authentic tears from the sensitive Adam as she produces her own set of synthetic waterworks.
It's a horrifying scene because of how much it does hit home, on both sides. It takes a special kind of person to pull what Hannah pulls here, but the idea of emotional manipulation is not a strange one to anybody in any kind of relationship. Really, it's scary to see how close some of us might be to the capability of this act. Saying whatever possible to get things back to the way we're comfortable with them, convincing others (and ourselves) of outright lies in order to restore order or feel better. If you don't shudder with the familiarity of the final scene of this week's Girls, then good for you for living honestly so far. But although Hannah does take a very extreme and dark measure here, it's just a smidgen too close to home, and it's not a pretty sight.
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The holidays. It's a time of joy, giving, kindness, and time off of work. But all of that free time on your hands can sometimes seem intimidating, and going to see all of the big Oscar contenders in theaters can get pretty expensive, so we've decided to help you out by coming up with a better, less costly use of your time. We're sure there are plenty of television shows that you've been wanting to watch all year, but haven't had the time to check out. So, we've rounded up the best of them to give you a foolproof guide to catching up on television over the holidays. Consider it our gift to you.
The Ones You've "Been Meaning to Get To"With all of the shows currently airing on television, it's understandable that you wouldn't have had time to get to them all. But since you're likely to have some free time over the holidays, why not take the opportunity to catch up on those shows that you've had saved on your DVR for months, the ones you keep hearing your friends talk about, and the ones you want to start watching before they start winning all kinds of awards next month.
Rectify. When it comes to shows that you should be watching but just haven't gotten around to, Rectify is probably at the top of the list. Set in a small town in Georgia, the show picks up after Daniel Holden has been released from prison after spending 19 years on death row, and follows Daniel, his family, and the people who live Paulie as they try and deal with the aftermath of Daniel's release. The show has topped almost every television critic's end-of-the-year list, and has been declared to be a must-see. With only six episodes in the first season, it should be easy to catch up over the holidays - all of the episodes are available on DVD - so that you can finally check it off your list, and start feeling superior to your friends how haven't discovered it yet.
Broadchurch. You may have missed this British drama when it first aired at the end of the summer, but there's no excuse for not catching up on the mystery now. The show aims to portray how the death of a child in a small town affects all of the people living in Broadchurch, and shows both the human aspect of the murder as well as the investigation being performed by the two leading detectives, Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman). If you're looking for a twist on the standard crme procedural, are interested in seeing Tennant take on a completely different role, or were one of the few people truly upset by AMC's decision to cancel The Killing (again), then Broadchurch is the show for you.
House of Cards. Sure, Orange Is the New Black was the runaway hit of the summer, but if there's any show currently streaming online that you haven't gotten around to yet, it's probably House of Cards. Kevin Spacey stars as Francis Underwood, the House Minority Whip, as he schemes, plots, and deals his way through Washington DC. Even if you don't get sucked into the fascinating and addicting world of underhanded politics, it's worth watching House of Cards to see Spacey chew the scenery and mastermind every move the Senate makes. Plus, there's an incredible supporting cast, including Robin Wright as Francis' equally devious wife Claire, Corey Stoll as Peter Russo, the representative who is juggling his position in the House with his numerous addictions, and Kate Mara as the ambitious journalist Zoe Barnes. Trust us, when the second season is released on Netflix on Valentine's Day, you don't want to be the only one out of the loop.
The Ones You Forgot AboutSometimes the best shows on television don't earn dedicated fanbases or win a clean sweep of awards. Sometimes, you pass them by when flipping the channels on the way to something else. Well, allow us to point out a few of those smaller shows that are a much better use of your time than yet another Law and Order marathon.
Shameless. Most of the time, when US networks remake British shows, the result is a disaster that alienates fans on both continents. But occasionally, the result is a show that is somehow better and more compelling than the original. This is the case with Shameless, the Showtime series that showcases the up and downs of the Gallagher family, warts and all. Led by the alcoholic, thieving Frank (William H. Macy), the Gallaghers do whatever they need to to survive life on the Southside of Chicago. High school dropout Fiona (Emmy Rossum) works odd jobs to care for her siblings, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) uses his intellect to scheme his way out f responsibility and into some money, Ian (Cameron Monaghan) is closeted and carrying on an affair with his married boss, Debbie (Emma Kenney) is trying to navigate middle school and reconcile her father and her sister, and Carl (Ethan Kutkosky) keeps setting fire to everything. It won't take much for you to be drawn into the Gallaghers' struggles, and after the first season, you too will begin bemoaning the injustice of Rossum's lack of Emmy nominations. And if you catch up now, you'll be ready to watch the fourth season when it premieres in January.
Trophy Wife. With a title that terrible, it's no wonder you put this ABC sitcom out of your head, but it has turned out to be one of the best new shows on television. Malin Ackerman stars as Kate, a former party girl who fell in love with and married and older man (Bradley Whitford), and now must balance her new role as a stepmother, his two ex-wives and her old, still-partying friends. The show is surprisingly accepting, and is more about a blended family learning to love all of its members than drawing humor from its fish-out-of-water premise. But let's be real, here: the real reason to keep watching is Bert, who, played by Albert Tsai, is arguably one of the mot consistently funny characters on television right now. The show's still in its first season, so there's not too much for you to catch on before it returns from hiatus in January; what better way to bond with your own family than by watching this hilariously dysfunctional one try and balance it all?
The Hour. Part espionage thriller, part behind-the-scenes look at the makings of television and entirely brilliant, The Hour is probably the best show you've never seen. The British drama focuses on Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), the producer tasked with getting The Hour, the BBC's first nightly news program off the ground in the 1950s. She's joined by her good friend, Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw), who s more interested in integrity and chasing the story than he is with catering to the network bosses, Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor), the worldly foreign correspondent who acts as Bel's mentor, and Hector Madden (Dominic West), the program's cocky new anchor. The acting is incredible, the writing is exquisite, and the stories are exciting and compelling, and once you've started The Hour, you'll understand just why it's "the hour you can't miss". Although it's no longer airing, having been cancelled after its second season ended on a cliff-hanger, but it's easy enough to find online,a nd is sure to be the perfect way to spend a few hours of your time.
The Ones With The Hardcore FanbasesSometimes, a television show connects so strongly with a particular audience that its fans become more than just causal viewers; instead, they feel the need to talk about their favorite show whenever they get the chance, constantly recommending that you watch it, and refusing to take no for answer. Well, sometimes, those intense fans are right, and the shows they love are actually really good, even if their fanaticism may put you off. Here are the recommendations you should be taking seriously.
Orphan Black. This is probably the millionth time someone has recommended that you give Orphan Black a shot, but that's because it really is worth a watch. Starring Tatiana Maslany as seven different and distinct characters, the show is probably best described as a sci-fi mystery as well as being one of the most addicting shows currently on television. The plot follows Sarah Manning, an English grifter who watches a woman - who looks just like her - commit suicide by jumping in front of a train. After Sarah decides to adopt the dead woman's identity, she is thrown into a major conspiracy that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about herself. his show definitely lives up to all of its hype, and once you watch it, you too will find yourself with a brand new favorite actress.
Sleepy Hollow. When Sleepy Hollow was first announced this fall, nobody thought it would turn out to be a decent show. And sure, it might be a lot more ridiculous and campy than many of the shows on this list, but if you're looking for a fun, entertaining way to spend some time this holiday, then this is the show for you. The off-the-wall plot, which centers around Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), who has been sent forward in time 200 years to modern-day Sleepy Hollow, New York, where he must team up with Detective Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) to stop the impending apocalypse, is balanced by compelling, engaging performances. It's got the perfect combination of self-awareness, goofy adventures, supernatural spookiness and well-rounded characters to make it perfect holiday comfort viewing.
Bob's Burgers. You may have noticed us recommend this show before, but we strongly believe this little show about the weirdest, funniest, most accepting family on television is one everyone should watch. Every episode is hilarious, well-acted and original, and it's rare to see a family on television who are so loving and accepting of one another, from Linda's inventive songs to Louise's appetite for chaos and destruction to Tina's hormonal awkwardness to Gene... well, being Gene. Just trust us on this one, and give it a try. You won't regret it.
The One You Gave Up On That Got Better
The Mindy Project. There's no denying that the first season of The Mindy Project was fraught with issues. However, when it returned for a second season this fall, it brought with it sharper jokes, better paced episodes, more character development, and a cast overhaul, all of which resulted in it being a much stronger show than it was before. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) is just as much of a mess as she was before, but she has wittier one-liners, and she has settled in to a much more comfortable rapport with her co-workers, who include a newly-added Adam Pally as the frat bro doctor Peter Prentiss. If you liked or were indifferent to the show before, the holidays are a perfect time to give the new episodes a chance, because you just might find that the show you gave up on has gotten better when you weren't watching.
While nothing will ever fill the hole left in our hearts after Freaks and Geeks was canceled so many years back (some wounds never heal, NBC!), seeing Lindsay Weir pop up in our favorite shows is the next best thing. After her short stint on Mad Men, Linda Cardellini will play a recurring role on New Girl as Jess' outrageous sister Abby.
Abby is “the wild-child sister who brings a real Springer energy to every situation,” and her first episode will feature Jess trying to bail her out of jail, all the while keeping her from meeting Jess' boyfriend Nick. Cardellini’s first episode is slated to air in February; Jamie Lee Curtis, who has played Jess’ mother in previous episodes, will also appear.
And of course, there's a handful of sibling enmity in store. A young Jess and Freaks and Geeks' Lindsey would never have gotten along, thanks to Jess’ tendency to attack every situation with her quirkiness dialed up to about a 14 on a ten point scale. Likewise, there seems to be some animosity burning between the two sisters judging by Abby's character description. Maybe that's why she hasn't been mentioned by Jess before?
It will take some serious creative wizadry in New Girl writing room to convince us that Jess suddenly has a sister we've simply never heard about, especially after all of the flashbacks to her childhood and visits from her parents that were noticeably absent of any siblings. But sitcoms often play fast and loose with canon, and a sister suddenly being retconned into or out of existence isn't terribly egregious (after all, we're still waiting for Judy Winslow to come down the stairs on Family Matters). As long as the character is funny and adds a creative spark to New Girl, which has yet to hit its comedic stride this season, then Jess' mystery sister is welcome, especially if she's played by an actress like Cardellini.
And now, the story of a wealthy queen who frost everything. And her one sister who had no choice but to save them all from weather. It's Frozen.
(Warning: Frozen spoilers to follow)
We expect every contemporary animated movie to sport a layer of comedy just for the adults in the audience. While the kids are mesmerized by the magic and kept giddy over the screwball sight gags, the parents, older siblings, and babysitters are kept from dozing off by double entendres, relationship humor, and — most of all — sly pop culture references. The Shrek films upped the ante on this trade, and many a big screen cartoon has followed suit since. But Frozen gives us something unprecedented: numerous direct references to Arrested Development.
Admittedly, they're subtle. So subtle that I wondered, leaving the theater after my dazzling experience with Frozen (these instances aside, I absolutely loved it, as did our reviewer Hans Morgenstern), if I was just reading too deeply into a few innocent gags. But right behind me out of the auditorium were two men about my age dicussing the very topic that was haunting me. "Did you notice all the Arrested Development jokes?" one said to the other. That's proof enough for me. So here they are.
The Chicken DanceEarly on in the story, the Scandinavian town of Arendelle is invited inside the new queen Elsa's (Idina Menzel) palace walls to attend her coronation party. This is when we meet Alan Tudyk's obnoxious autocrat, the Duke of Weselton — the character responsible for a good supply of Frozen's villainy as well as the first and third Arrested Development references. The Duke insists upon a dance with Elsa's sister, Princess Anna (Kristen Bell, the hero of the piece), bouncing around her in an animalistic fashion... one of which he is well aware. The Duke boasts openly about his feral rhythm, likening his movements (with pride) to the graceful chicken. But as he delivers this line, the Duke takes a posture that doesn't quite resemble that of any ordinary chicken... with his fingers fanned out atop his head and his legs jutting to either side, the Duke's chicken is almost identical to that dreamt up by one Lindsay Fünke in her rendition of the Bluth family Chicken Dance.
Finish Each Other's...Okay, maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe the animators were simply opting for the funniest way in which the squirmy Duke might contort his body. That's what I figured... until just a few minutes later, when Anna and her newfound love Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) break into their romantic duet, singing enthusiastically about just how compatible they are. The true measure of compatibility is exhibited in this couplet:
Hans: It's like we finish each other's...Anna: Sandwiches!
Okay, wait a minute, now that's a joke torn directly from an episode of Arrested Development. When Michael Bluth rattles on about the inspired connection he has found in a woman he believes to be his estranged sister, reveling in this fact that he and this relative stranger Nellie "finish each other's...", Michael's non-estranged sister chimes in with the conclusive "sandwiches?"
Buster's MantraCould it be that a pattern is amounting, or is this just wishful thinking? Maybe I didn't catch the Duke's chicken dance quite right, allowing my AD fandom to inform how I interpreted his quick movements. And sure, that sandwich gag might have originated on Arrested, but I seem to recall its subsequent adoption by other comedic entities (Community, for one, subbing out "sandwiches" in favor of "pie"). I was teetering on the edge of believing that Frozen could, in fact, be fostering a running gag for Arrested Development devotees. At this point in the film, all I needed was one minor gust of wind to force me over. And then it came.
"She's a mooonsteeer!" Yes. Once recognizing the powers of creating snow that lived within Elsa, the nefarious Duke belted this condemnation in a tone a little too reminiscent of one self-loathing, hook-handed Buster Bluth. And it was so. It couldn't all have been an accident.
The last AD nod I noticed was, admittedly, the flimsiest. Fleeing the wrath of the frightened and enraged townspeople, Elsa sprints away over a liquid lake that freezes upon her contact with it. If it weren't for the three preceding gags, I wouldn't have entertained the thought that this might be a reference to Rita Leeds' (Charlize Theron) illusionary stroll across the surface of a swimming pool and her cinematic brainchild The Ocean Walker (itself all a reference to the '79 film Being There).
I'll give you that this one is quite a stretch... but the other three? All in such rapid succession? You're gonna tell me that those aren't Arrested Development references?
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Who couldn’t fall in love with television’s not-so-sweet sweetheart? Torrey DeVitto tells Hollywood.com about playing the sometimes nice, sometimes bat s**t crazy characters on TV’s most popular shows. She has left her mark on pop culture portraying Melissa Hastings on Pretty Little Liars, Dr. Meredith Fell on The Vampire Diaries and the unforgettable Nanny Carrie on One Tree Hill – and somehow she still finds the time to try to save the world.
Pretty Little Liars, Vampire Diaries, Army Wives? How did you manage being on three of television’s most popular shows?
I felt really fortunate being able to work on 3 really popular shows these last couple of years. Luckily for the most part, none of the shows filmed at the same time. I have realized sometimes I do better working under a crazy schedule. It gives me less time to over think things and forces me to be present.
Do you find it strange that your characters seem to have a bit of a tick to them? They seem one way and then turn out completely surprising the audience.
I do find that a bit strange! I was worried for a while that it was some sort of reflection of me that all I seemed to be getting were these characters that were a tad bit loony. But I love it. Those are the most fun characters to play! It gave me the opportunity to really do something rather than just show up, say my lines and then leave.
Are you ever surprised by the roles your characters tend to take?
Not anymore. I've gotten pretty used to it - as has my family. It used to really surprise my poor grandmother that in one way or another I would end up psycho or evil, but now even she's used to it.
When will we see you again on Pretty Little Liars?
I go back into filming next week!
You recently went to Africa to film a documentary with hospice. Can you tell us about it?
I have been volunteering with hospice for about 6 years now. Going to Africa was being able to take my volunteering and my passion for hospice one step further. The documentary we were filming is called 'The Road to Hope'. It's a sort of follow up to the last documentary they did called 'Okuyamba'. It follows child caregivers. These children take care of their moms and/or dads while they are dying and then once they are gone have nowhere to go and no money. No one willing to take care of them. The title 'road to hope' comes from an actual organization that was started by the National Hospice Foundation and PCAU (palliative care association of Uganda). Road to Hope is an organization that helps get those kids back in to school and helps find them a place to live. Doing these interviews and meeting these children was not just heart breaking, it was inspiring. It really puts life into perspective and makes you want to better yourself. I met some of the most amazing people during this trip. It's a time in my life I will never forget.
For more info go to: roadtohopefilm.org
Who has been your favorite role?
Funnily enough, nanny Carrie (One Tree Hill) is still one of my top favorite roles. I just had so much fun, and I felt like it was the first time that someone really gave me something to sink my teeth into and take risks with.
I hear you have one of the most recognizable Chihuahuas on Twitter.
I do have the most adorable little Chihuahua mix. I adopted him about 3 1/2 years ago from Much Love pet adoption, and he has been the love of my life ever since. His name is Beau, or as my sister and I like to call him ' mushy mush' because he truly is just a pile of loving mush that just melts in your arms.
What’s next for Torrey DeVitto?
Next up is I'll be going back to Pretty Little Liars for a bit, and you can still check out a movie I did called Evidence with Stephen Moyer OnDemand.
Okay, it's a bold statement, but I stand by it: 1984 was the year that Top 40 radio achieved perfection. Spurred by the twin successes of MTV and Michael Jackson's Thriller, radio playlists were fully shaken out of the doldrums they'd been in since the disco slump of 1979. Colorful and photogenic British new wave and synth pop acts had been making slow inroads into the Billboard Top 40 since Gary Numan's "Cars" back in early 1980. But the UK pop stars of the day were making overt plays for the American airwaves, and established stateside artists ranging from Prince and Bruce Springsteen to Billy Joel and Tina Turner were responding with some of their biggest-selling albums. And in the middle of it all, two newcomers named Cyndi Lauper and Madonna Ciccone were offering very different -- although equally interesting -- new takes on what it meant to be a female pop star. Here, in chronological order by the week they debuted on the chart, are a baker's dozen of 1984's biggest and best. We could have chosen at least as many more.
Tina Turner -- "Let's Stay Together" (chart debut February 18, reached #26)
In one of the first cases of a vintage R&B star being brought back by younger musicians, a thoroughly washed up Tina Turner was recruited by Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh of the electro-pop trio Heaven 17 to record vocals for a song by their side project the British Electric Foundation. That track led to a hit single with a stark but impassioned synth-driven take on the Al Green classic "Let's Stay Together." That single's U.K. chart success led Capitol Records to sign Turner to an album deal, resulting in the massive-selling Private Dancer LP. She had bigger songs later in the year, including the career-defining #1 "What's Love Got To Do With It," but this smaller hit still sounds the best.
Tracey Ullman -- "They Don't Know" (chart debut March 17, reached #8)
British actress and comedian Tracey Ullman later became a beloved TV figure (not least because she gifted us with The Simpsons), but this note-for-note cover of the late Kirsty MacColl's brilliant 1979 girl-group homage was the first we ever heard of either of these talented women. Literally: that explosive "BABY!" that slams home the final verse is MacColl's powerful voice, not Ullman's charming but thin instrument. And yes, that's Paul McCartney at the end: Ullman was co-starring in his big-budget vanity project Give My Regards To Broad Street when the video was filmed.
Billy Joel -- "The Longest Time" (chart debut April 7, reached #14)
After a string of albums that seemed like increasingly naked attempts to be taken seriously as a songwriter, Billy Joel made the best album of his career just by going back to the '50s R&B and pop singles that had been his first musical love. An Innocent Man had bigger hits, like "Tell Her About It" and "Uptown Girl," but perhaps the best was this doo-wop homage that doubled as an atypically sincere love song for his then-new sweetheart Christie Brinkley. Both his later albums and the marriage went south, but whadaya gonna do? To their credit, Joel and his touring band were unafraid to look like complete ninnies in this silly video taking place at a high school reunion.
Madonna -- "Borderline" (chart debut April 14, reached #10)
After the dancefloor-centric singles "Everybody," "Burning Up" and "Holiday," Madonna proved her pop suss with this incredibly hooky single. It's as easy to move to as any of her other early tracks, but the beat was de-emphasized by the bell-like synth riffs and addictive synth-bass pulse. Brazilians call the sense of aggreeable melancholy on display here saudade, and it gives "Borderline" an elegance that her next couple of singles, "Lucky Star" (the video of which was extremely important to my 14-year-old self for obvious reasons) and "Like A Virgin," would lack.
Cyndi Lauper -- "Time After Time" (chart debut April 21, reached #1)
The goofy "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" made it seem like Cyndi Lauper was going to follow Nena's "99 Luftballoons" into the annals of one-hit-wonders, but this heartbreaking ballad made it clear that despite her perhaps-questionable fashion sense, she was a genuine talent. She's So Unusual was jam-packed with hits ranging from "She Bop," the most overt hit about female masturbation until DiVinyls' "I Touch Myself," to a gorgeously minimal cover of Jules Shear's "All Through the Night." But "Time After Time" was the only one awesome enough that no less than Miles Freakin' Davis recorded it.
Night Ranger -- "Sister Christian" (chart debut April 21, reached #5)
All together now: MOTORIN'! The archetypal power ballad, "Sister Christian" was the song that made it okay for girls to like poodle-haired dudes in spandex and mascara. Although this means Night Ranger were therefore partially responsible for some of the worst hits of the pre-"Smells Like Teen Spirit" era, the song's use in the supremely bizarre home invasion scene in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights almost makes up for "When I See You Smile" by Bad English.
Duran Duran -- "The Reflex" (chart debut April 28, reached #1)
The original mix of "The Reflex" that opened Duran Duran's third album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger, was kind of a botch, sluggish and overlong. For the single, the Durans enlisted Chic's Nile Rodgers (yes, the same dude who made Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" so awesome) to remix the song from top to bottom, and his tighter, punchier and more inventive take scored the band their first American #1 hit. As primitive as it seems now, this video looked positively state of the art in the spring of 1984. It was mildly controversial in the halls of Levelland Junior High, as I recall: the sequence that starts around 3:20 was rumored to suggest...um, y'know...it's a giant wave of white fluid hitting audience members in the face, you figure it out.
Bruce Springsteen -- "Dancing in the Dark" (chart debut May 26, reached #2)
Born in the USA was lavishly praised from nearly all corners critically, but living in a small west Texas town at the time, I distinctly remember a lot of Springsteen's biggest fans around me finding "Dancing in the Dark" an overt slap in the face. Powered by a nagging synth riff and a booming, Phil Collins-like four-on-the-floor snare, it sounded like a "f---y little disco song" to the "Born To Run"-loving jocks. I found his willingness to listen to recent musical trends rather encouraging, but I was mostly just into the video for the really cute girl he pulls out of the audience at the end, who a decade or so later turned out to be Courteney Cox.
Dan Hartman -- "I Can Dream About You" (chart debut June 2, reached #6)
A primo piece of Hall and Oates-style '80s blue-eyed soul from a writer-producer who'd had a minor disco-era hit called "Instant Replay," "I Can Dream About You" was somewhat notorious at the time for its video. Not the one above, which was rarely if ever shown on MTV, but the actual clip that MTV had in heavy rotation at the time, which is seen in the TV screens in this version. That clip was a scene from the now-forgotten teen-angst flick Streets of Fire, in which a doo-wop quartet (including future indie director Robert Townshend and Forrest Gump costar Mykelti Williamson) lip-syncs Hartman's vocal. To this day, there are probably people who adore this song who have no idea that it was sung by a baby-faced white guy with a really bad perm.
Prince and the Revolution -- "When Doves Cry" (chart debut June 9, reached #1)
Nearly three decades later, it can be hard to remember just how weird this song sounded when it first hit the airwaves with a burst of Hendrixian feedback and some mumbled chanting. As skeletal as it is undeniable (ever notice that it doesn't have a bass line?), "When Doves Cry" was the song that confirmed that Prince was even weirder, and even more talented, than we had thought. As a musician, anyway: Purple Rain is a strong contender for the coveted title of Worst Film With The Greatest Soundtrack.
John Waite -- "Missing You" (chart debut July 21, reached #1)
The thing about John Waite, who had been the leader of a short-lived rock band called The Babys before he went on to a solo career (and who later was the frontman of the aforementioned Bad English), is that there's this weirdly cynical vibe about him. You just can't believe a word the guy sings. Ironically, that's what makes the chorus "I ain't missing you at all" work as well as it does: a more empathetic singer wouldn't put across the paradox nearly so well.
Bananarama -- "Cruel Summer" (chart debut August 11, reached #9)
Back in the pre-internet 1980s, it sometimes took literally years for a British hit single to attract enough of an American audience to hit the U.S. charts. Bananarama's "Cruel Summer" was the "Blurred Lines" of the summer of 1983 in their native land, but unless you were the kind of person who haunted the import section of your local record shop, it was a little over a year later before it reached your ears. Even though it had been the opening track on the trio's self-titled second album, released in the spring of 1984, it hadn't been London Records' first choice for an American single off the album. That honor went to "Robert De Niro's Waiting," a bouncy little tune that underneath its happy-go-lucky surface appears to be about the post-traumatic stress of a sexual assault victim.
George Michael -- "Careless Whisper" (chart debut December 22, reached #1)
When George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley started Wham!, the duo meant for their music to be a cynical commentary on Thatcherite economic policy. Seriously: go listen to their first single, "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)." Or better yet, don't: it's absolute rubbish. When a song as fluffy as "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" is a huge improvement over your prior output, it's clear that you started from a bad, bad place. But that first American hit's follow-up "Careless Whisper" (released as a George Michael solo single everywhere but the US, where it was somewhat confusingly credited to "Wham! featuring George Michael") was the first indication of Michael's Elton John-like talent. And you can't fault that sax solo: it just encapsulates the 1980s, doesn't it?
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Given the astronomical ratings of The Big Bang Theory, currently the most-watched scripted show on television, CBS could get decent ratings for the rest of Thursday night if they just ran a loop of old aspirin commercials from the 1950s. Y'know, the ones with the little animated jackhammers attacking a cartoon x-ray of the pounding skull of a man in a gray flannel suit.
Actually, now that I say that, that would be awesome. They should totally do that.
Sadly, it would be more entertaining than either of the new sitcoms CBS has currently scheduled for Thursday nights between The Big Bang Theory and the increasingly irrelevant Two and a Half Men. Both The Crazy Ones and The Millers have excellent casts and high-powered off-screen talent, and yet both are seriously hampered by terrible scripts and inconsistent characterization.
Look At Me, I'm Wonderful!
The Crazy Ones is a bizarrely self-indulgent trifle from David E. Kelley, who indulges all of his most irritatingly whimsical mannerisms on this tale of an aging Chicago ad executive. Speaking of whimsical mannerisms, Robin Williams returns to television for the first time in over thirty years as creative genius Simon Roberts, caught in a strange no-man's-land between the cocaine-fueled anarchy of his old stand-up persona and the icky sentimentality of his "serious" film roles. Sarah Michelle Gellar has the thankless role of his daughter and creative partner Sydney, an underwritten part that's supposed to serve as the buffer between Williams' antic riffing and the audience. But since she spends most of her screen time being exasperated by her dad's schtick, the audience also finds his tics obnoxious and tiring.
The genuinely talented Hamish Linklater is utterly wasted as the agency's art director; his sole memorable character trait is that he talks at the same time as Sydney, making both of them unintelligible, which I suspect we're supposed to find endearing and make us want the characters to hook up or something. James Wolk, last season's Mad Men breakout, plays a smarmy charmer who makes Bob Benson look the soul of office discretion. But by far the most annoying is Amanda Setton as Sydney's assistant. She's a likeable actor, whom you may remember from the early episodes of The Mindy Project, where she gamely did the best she could as the generic Jersey-girl receptionist before she was written out of the show. But her key scene in the pilot, where she offered to let Simon smell her hair because "the scent of a young woman's shampoo" is supposed to reinvigorate an older man, was Kelley at his creepy, patronizing worst. I mean, it was just really icky.
Congratulations, Dads, You're No Longer 2013's Worst Sitcom
Still, as annoying as it is, The Crazy Ones is still at least slightly better than The Millers. Creator and executive producer Greg Garcia is in danger of losing all the goodwill he got as the creator of My Name Is Earl and the genially charming Raising Hope with this formulaic tripe. With Will Arnett, Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges in the leads, the show has an immensely talented cast. But the by-the-numbers plot (local news reporter Nathan finally tells his bickering parents that he divorced his wife, which promptly causes his father to walk out on his mother after 43 years) is more suited to one of those tongue in cheek retro series that they're making on Nick At Nite. The quality of the writing is even worse: unrealistically sitcommy, with telegraphed jokes and obnoxiously broad characterizations. The enormously talented Martindale is stuck playing a shrill, intrusive mother, and as the clueless and accident-prone dad, Bridges gives Homer Simpson a run for the most too-stupid-to-be-alive character currently on TV. The always-appealing Jayma Mays, as Nathan's younger sister Debbie, comes closest to likeable, but she's nowhere near enough to save this mess.
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In the moments between that one last Executive Producer: Vince Gilligan and a frenetic phone call from my college roommate, I struggled with the uncertainty that hits some of us after experiencing anything as grand as the Breaking Bad series finale: Was that — could it possibly have been — as perfect as I thought it was? Would everybody else in the world feel the same way, or would this be the Lost finale debacle all over again? (Hey, Walt did leave us in a pose quite reminiscent of Jack Shephard's final bow.) But then I got the call. I logged onto Twitter. I caught a few moments of glee emanated by the Talking Bad panel. I knew that this wasn't all stemming from my will to leave this program on a high note. This was real. The Breaking Bad finale was, unequivocally, perfect.
Perfect in its pacing. We got the big blow-out episode two weeks back, when Hank and Gomey bit the dust, Walt kidnapped baby Holly, and a border collie scampered across the New Mexican highway. While the world anticipated a Walt Vs. The Nazis showdown in this final chapter, that was really just the capper: the meat of the episode was the deliberate, somber cobblestone pathway leading up to that explosive end. The drama that booms inside of Breaking Bad, not the thriller that coats its outer shell.
At first, "Felina" made some of us hesitant to believe that it would accomplish everything it needed to. After a menacing stop at the Schwartz household and a quick visit with Lydia and Todd, we might have wondered if the show was delivering its final episode in a form that felt too much like a staccato bucket list. But we were validated in our hopes that the ep would soften its edges. Once Walt hit Skyler's depressing new pad, paying a visit with the secondary intentions of leaving her with the tangible evidence capable of freeing her from the law's grasp once and for all and the primary intentions of bidding one last goodbye to his wife and infant daughter (and, through a tear-stained window, his son — so shattered by his father's villainies that he has abandoned one of their most symbolic kinships: driving), the episode evened out to a steady flow that not only proved unconditionally captivating, but also retroactively acknowledged all that came before it to have been so mechanically necessary.
From that point on, we came to realize that the first half of the episode (jeez, we're already more than halfway done!) was spotted with perfection. We were sold on the grimacing opener — Walt shivering in the snowed-in car he steals up in New Hampshire, praying to a God who has no business paying him any mind and ultimately receiving the bounty for which he asks: the keys to the ride takes across country, stopping first at the Schwartz's place to put the fear of death into them in return for Elliott's boneless agreement to transfer Walt's nine million smackers to Walt Jr. upon his 18th birthday. The whole scene — a break-in that Danny Ocean would treat to an impressed nod — plays with the cinematic poise and aggressive suspension of disbelief you might find in a Hollywood heist flick. Walt, reproducing some amalgamation of Heisenberg, Mike Ehrmantraut, and the dapper leading antiheroes in whatever movies he asked Robert Forster to pick up for him during his time in the mountains, recognizes just what sort of folk he's dealing with this time around: his sort of folk. Not the hardened Salemancas or sociopathic neo-Nazis that see straight through his falsified bravado, but the kind of people he can so faintly remember being. So, he can take this one final opportunity to tout the character he has built... sans hat, but close enough.
And to concede that this scene isn't at all a deviation from the Breaking Bad universe but very much just a machination of Walt's toxic drives paying off in the only sort of community they ever really might, we find out that the two "expert hit men" he hired to shine sniper rifels into the chests of his Prague-going victims are none other than Badger and Skinny Pete. Here is a sign of the depths to which present day Walt, with millions in tow, has sunk. And just as importantly, it is a sign of series creator/episode writer and director Vince Gilligan's appreciation for his fan base. There might have been plenty of ways to convey that Walt had no intention, or means, of actually harming Elliott and Gretchen. And a dozen and a half, easy, of Walt solidifying the realization that Jesse was still at large. But none would have been more crowd pleasing. More fun for the long-time viewers. Here's one for the fans, Vince Gilligan must have smiled while writing these scene. Proof that even in its darkest, bleakest attire, Breaking Bad is not intrinsically joyless.
On, past quick shots of Walt parading through diners, his broken down old home on Negra Arroyo, and glaring ominously into his trunk, to his next victim: Lydia. A predictable sort (and predictably one, at that), Walt is able to determine the time and place of Lydia's next meeting with Todd as well as exactly what she'll be drinking at the time. The sort of beverage into which a cigarette's worth of ricin might find itself dumped during a frantic ad hoc meeting (a meeting that also gives Walt the opportunity to get a leg in to a reunion with Todd's dirtbag brethren. All in one stone. And although this scene isn't likely to stay with us the way that Walt's tyrannical traipse through the Schwartz home, his miserably poetic sit-down with Skyler, or any of what comes thereafter will, it is a point we needed to visit, and of which to watch the undertaking with a cautious and hungry eye. Walt is lucky, yes (very), but he's also quite good at much of what he does.
In a quick break from Walt, we see the Lambert sisters taking to their pre-series dynamic: high on the leverage her noble tragedy gives her over the decrepit narrative worn by her sister, Marie phones Skyler to play a condescending (never vindictive, just inherently competitive) guardian, letting her know that Walt has been spotted back inthe neighborhood, and that she best be on the lookout — because we're lucky enough to be watching Breaking Bad, it is immediately after this phone call that we realize Walt is already in the picture. When he does finally say his goodbyes to Skyler, to baby Holly, and (tacitly) to Flynn, Walt allows us something we haven't experienced in full seasons: he impresses us. Walt comes clean to himself, using Skyler as the push, that he didn't do any of this for anybody but himself. Cooking meth, ascending to the top of the kingdom, it was all to be something he never got a chance to be. To grab at the missed opportunities that have haunted him through every car cleaning and every ungrateful high school student. He needed to feel like the man he never was. And all the decay he has come to discover, and to endure, has finally made Walt open his eyes to that.
It is the first time of several in this final episode that Walt shows us something in him that we can reflect upon as sympathetic. We'll never root for him again. We'll never give him the benefit of the doubt. But we can grow wistful over shines of the man he once was. In Walt's exchange with Skyler, we see that old Walt in him again... we hold onto memories of a Walt we can remember loving. In Flynn's defeated, physically weakened trodding from bus to front door, we see an abandonment of the Walt we might ever have rooted for. And in Walt's stroking of the hairless head of a sleeping baby Holly, we see the hero, and father, he never got the chance to be. Worse even than the crumbling Skyler and altogether abdicated Flynn, we see a daughter who won't remember him at all. But he'd hang onto her, and this moment, even if he lasted another five seasons.
And then comes the boom. Walt's endeavor toward justice. We're not certain where he stands on objective, at this point. Is he just trying to reclaim his throne? Is he vying for the rest of his money, with which to shower a resentful Walt Jr.? Revenge for Hank? Freedom for Jesse? Some kind of principled takedown of the White Power movement? Or maybe, in the simplest and possibly most gratifying terms, a scientist driven to carry out a calculated plan?
Walt is ushered through the team's gates, salivating with anticipation over his opportunity to let loose his machine gun-rigged automobile. The simplest and most foreseeable of problems takes hold immediately: they snag his car keys (the weapon is operated by the unlock plooper thing — for the life of me, I have no idea what else you'd call those gadgets, and my father always used the word "plooper"). And then, a larger problem: Uncle Jack wants Walt dead. Why, exactly? Eh, who knows? He's a menace. He's a threat. He's a jackass. Take your pick. But Uncle Jack, that same Uncle Jack who so graciously gave Walt a barrel of his own dough, will not be called a liar when Walt accuses him of partnering up with Jesse Pinkman to create the blue meth that is selling hot throughout Europe these days. So, Uncle Jack parades the shackled Jesse out into the open for Walt to gaze upon. Not a partner, but a slave.
We can assume that Walt's agitation of Jack was only to bide time while he squirms for his key plooper on the fleetingly guarded pool table, and that Walt had no real intention of seeing Jesse again — at least at this particular juncture — or using him as a pawn in his plan to take down the nazi troupe. But a monkey wrench in thrown into the gears when Todd drags Jesse into the line of Mr. White's sights, and the man who just gave the wife he destroyed one last look at the good that lurks someplace inside of him surprises us yet again: he looks at Aaron Paul, but doesn't see Jesse. He doesn't see the loud-mouthed, bright-eyed, beaming idiot with a heart of gold that came under his tutilege back in the days of the desert. He sees what is left of that scrappy young pup, and feels something — call it guilt or responsibility, maybe just pity, or (if you are an idealist, like I am) a flicker of love. Corroded love. But in taking one look at the boy whose name he cried out during his painkiller soliloquy, Walt sees someone else he cares to rescue. A tackle to the ground, a quick press of the plooper (sorry if that's robbing the summary of its gravity) button, and the guns howl with fury, taking out — in a twist of fate so romantically gratifying that you're not going to call it out for being "too convenient" — every one of the low-down bastards but Todd and Uncle Jack.
Todd is left to Jesse, who strangles the monster with the very shackles in which he placed him. That's elementary poetic justice. But then Walt enacts perhaps the most surprising move we get ever in the show: he cuts Jack off, with a bullet to the head, right in the midst of a threat that he'll never know how to find the rest of his millions. That unapologetic decision tells us that this whole endeavor was not for the money, nor even for the pride. It was for freedom. It was his goodbye to this world, on the part of his trembling family and — a priority that came into being as soon as he laid sad eyes onto him — Jesse.
To articulate the currents that erupt between Walt and Jesse in their final moments together would be a task I'm not equipped to take. Walt allows Jesse the opportunity to kill him; hell, Walt allows himself the opportunity to be killed, to be put out of his demonic misery, by his proverbial son. But Jesse — wanting so badly for Walt to be out of the picture, refusing so resentfully to do him any last favors, and so painfully unable despite everything and anything else to take the life of someone who has (for better or much, much, MUCH worse) been so very important to him — can't. Won't. Doesn't. "Do it yourself," Jesse tells Walt.
In discussing the scene to follow with a few friends post-viewing, I recognize it as that which will be called out as the finale's only weak link: Walt's phone conversation with Lydia. On the one hand, we don't need to hear him tell her that she's dying, as we already know. And she, soon enough, will know. But this call isn't for us, for Walt, or for Lydia. It's for Jesse, for whose benefit Walt speaks in hearty exposition just before the tattered young man can make his way out of the incarcerating gate. Jesse needs to know that he's free. That this world to which he has been bound so mercilessly since pre-Day 1 is under the ground. Walt has plucked every major player from the meth game, topping off the list with Lydia, thusly ending Jesse's ties to this cold, chemical, blue hell. And with Jesse taking note of Walt's abolition of him, he might even set Walt free, too: of the hate. Whether or not he still holds onto the very real anger he must feel for the latest father figure to abandon him, Jesse offers Walt one final glance of sincerity. A "thanks for the memories," or a "it's been real"? Maybe. Probably, if only just a bit. It might be asking too much to think that the find, wordless stare shared by the men is anything close to the love or fraternity we always sort of wanted to believe they shared. But it's certainly civility. And, if that's not enough to make you tear up a little, it's shared history. And then, it's a goodbye.
The most wonderful goodbye we'll say to any Breaking Bad character, as Jesse speeds dynamically through the gate he tried to scale one episode and so many months before, laughing like the child he never got to be not only at his freedom from his underground cage, but from the pen in which Walter White has kept him for the past two years. Killing Walt, or seeing Walt put in jail, might never have given Jesse the ease he feels in this beautiful instance. A true understanding and trust, despite everything, that the man who has controlled his life has decided once and for all to let him go. And then once he flips on that engine, Jesse's life is, for the first time in the series, his. He belongs to himself alone. And he's off to do whatever he might wish — build boxes, draw cartoons, flee to Alaska, take care of Brock. Tying everything up so neatly, the show lets our imaginations run wild. Breaking Bad says, "Give Jesse the ending you've always wanted for him." And that's not only okay, it's perfect. Jesse, now, can have any ending he wants. And we love him. So let's all give him the one we love best.
Note: And yes, in the cold light of morning, I understand the frivolity in deeming Jesse's ending a "happy" one. Sure, he is free now in a tangible sense, and ostensibly able to escape hold of the trade for his days to come, but this is the same young man of pulverized heart and spirit that we saw lifelessly opt to flee to Alaska not so long ago. Actually, it's a man worse for wear, now that Andrea has been killed right before his eyes. Jesse will never be free, not from all that has been tattooed onto his soul thanks to the legacy of Walter White. Holly might not remember him, but Jesse won't go a moment without Walt's claws piercing him so viciously. It's a given that Jesse's life won't be perfect, and might never be "good." But I do think we can latch onto that unadulterated relief we see in him in that final second. That momentary glee. The ability to feel something in the neighborhood of hope again. I think that's a happy enough ending, and that we can have fun determining for ourselves in what way it will manifest.
And as for Walt... his ending is quite clear. As he steps with the chemist's awe into the nazis' meth lab, glowing over the machinery that gave him the torrential past two years, Walt is happy to hold fast to every twinge and twitter that he has know in this tour. He has come to a point to realize that his reasons for getting into the game were all sour, that his actions were all missteps, that everything he has done to his family and friends has been nothing short of satanic. But he has not forgotten any of the other side of it: having known all that, to some degree, this entire time, there was a reason he kept going. Everything he explained to Skyler — the feeling that he was finally what he wanted to be. A king, a hero, a man, a winner. At the expense of his wife and children, his in-laws, friends, coworkers, and of Jesse, Walt gave himself life.
It's a sad, terrible, monstrous, tragic story. But it's a human one. And as the cops flood in and we Walt fall bloody to a Jack Shephardian death, weakened by a nick from one of his own bullets and long torn down by the disease brewing inside of him, finally ready to let go after settling everything on the outside and inside alike, we recognize the human inside of Walt. We don't forgive it. We don't entirely sympathize with it. We can't say we love or root for it whatsoever. But we see it — him. We see a man. And for all he's done to everyone around him — and to us as well — we'll sure miss his story.
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In this riveting four-part sequel to GMC's hit gospel play production the saga of the Walker sisters continues as they learn that the millions they received after their father's death cannot buy happiness. Instead, the four women discover they have inherited an entirely new set of challenges, including career setbacks, romantic disappointments, charming gold-diggers and self-destructive tendencies.