This post contains major spoilers for the most recent episode of The Good Wife.
If you've checked Twitter in the last 24 hours, you're probably aware of the fact that last night's episode of The Good Wife featured a twist so shocking that it caused friends and family you never knew were fans to come out of the woodwork and take to social media to discuss it. We are, of course, referring to the fact that Will Gardner (Josh Charles), died last night after being shot in the courtroom by his client. His unexpected death was not just shocking becuse neither fans nor his fellow characters could have seen it coming, but also becuase The Good Wife is not a particularly shocking television show.
Unlike Game of Thrones or House of Cards, which seem to find a way to make each episode more insane than the last, the drama on The Good Wife comes from either inter-personal conflict or the cases that Alicia Florrick and her colleagues at Lockhart Gardner take on. There are no battles or massacres, and rather than ending with a major character in mortal peril, the season-finale cliff-hangers usually center around Alicia starting her own law firm. Killing off a character with a stray gunshot is simply unheard of on this show.
Of course, The Good Wife isn't the first non-shocking show to feature a huge, plot-altering twist, and it certainly won't be the last. In honor of Will and his untimely demise, we've rounded up 10 of the most shocking television moments to be featured on realistic, straightforward television shows. Our condolences, Good Wife fans; you're not alone.
Brian Dies on Family GuyJust a few short months after the world managed to recover from the Red Wedding, Seth MacFarlane managed to bring the Internet to its knees when Brian Griffin, the sarcastic, alcoholic dog on Family Guy was killed after being hit by a car. Twitter was filled with threats about quitting the show if he wasn't brought back, websites scrambled over each other to interview MacFarlane and TV fans everywhere wondered how they missed the fact that people were not only still watching Family Guy, but could be emotionally invested in such a show. Of course, two weeks later, Brian was brought back to life, and everything settled back down to normal, but we shall always remember the time that a cartoon dog ruled the Internet.
Landry Murders Someone on Friday Night LightsThere are three things in this world that Friday Night Lights fans can unanimously agree on: Tim Riggins is insanely hot, the Taylors would be the best parents in the world, and the second season never, ever happened. That overwhelming denial is the result of everyone's favorite sidekick Landry Clarke killing a man who attacked Tyra, and then attempting to cover up the murder, a plot which even the writers agree was too insane for a show that specialized in quiet, realistic character development. Thankfully, the writer's strike resulted in the second season being cut short, and when the third season premiered, the plot had been all but retconned, and everyone continued on with their lives as if nothing strange had ever happened.
Sam Malone Reveals His Baldness on CheersOne of the things that made Cheers such a beloved television staple is the fact that watching it was like hanging out with a group of friends: everyone was relaxed, having fun, and attempting to guess when the perpetually will-they-or-won't-they couple would finally get together. Which is why the show's most shocking moment came when Sam revealed to Carla that his famously lush head of hair wasn't all his, and that, like Ted Danson, he was covering up his baldness with a toupee. Luckily, Danson and Sam are so charming that the world instantly forgave them of the deception, and instead went back to debating whether he should end up with Diane or Rebecca.
Taraji P. Henson Is Killed Off of Person of InterestDespite doing well in the ratings, Person of Interest has stayed under the radar since premiering in 2011. In fact, we're willing to bet most people didn't even know it's been on TV for that long. However, it properly entered the mainstream's consciousness when Detective Joss Carter, played by Taraji P. Henson, a fan favorite, was shot and killed in the line of duty. Suddenly, it seemed as if everyone was talking about Person of Interest, and you finally gave in and watched it with your parents the next time you had Sunday night dinner at their house.
Mr. Pamuk Dies in Lady Mary's Bed on Downton AbbeyLong before Downton Abbey turned into a full-blown soap opera and dispensed with most of the cast at regular intervals, the most shocking moment of the first season occurred when Lady Mary gave into her desires and spent the night with Mr. Pamuk, a handsome visiting diplomat, only for him to promptly roll over and die. Pamuk's death and the resulting cover-up was both surprising and hilarious, and is now likely looked back upon by disillusioned Downton Abbey fans with much fondness. Ah, the good old days.
Starburns Dies on CommunityFor all of the pillow-fort building, alternate timeline-jumping, and pop culture homages that make up Community, it has always managed to keep at least one foot in reality, even when the campus of Greendale is falling apart. Therefore, when Alex "Starburns" Osbourne died after the meth lab in his truck exploded, it was a genuinely shocking moment. It managed to cut through the insanity of Chang's military coup and the study group's latest bit in order to bring to light the genuine surprise and sadness that occurs whenever a friend or classmate suddenly dies. Don't worry, though; the gang incited a riot immediately afterwards, so everything went back to normal pretty quickly.
The Sound Guy Comforts Pam on The OfficeAlthough there are plenty of sitcoms on television that use a documentary-style of shooting, the production crews presumably filming everything are never acknowledged in any way. That is, until the episode of The Office where Pam revealed that not only were there real people behind those cameras and microphones, but she had become close with them over the years that they had been filming the staff at Dunder-Mifflin. The reveal of Brian, the boom-mic operator and his affection for Pam was enough to shock the show out of the rut it was in and allowed The Office to wrap up the show in an unexpected, emotional way. Plus, it kept fans engaged until the last episode, because they wanted to be sure that nothing would ever come between Jim and Pam.
Rayanne Sleeps with Jordan Catalano on My So-Called LifeMy So-Called Life has entered the Hall of Fame of teen dramas for being a smart, realistic show that dealt with the kind of issues that teenagers were actually going though. Issues like your best friend sleeping with the boy of your dreams, which Rayanne did towards the end of the show's run. Fans who had spent weeks watching Angela pine for Jordan were just as shocked and hurt as she was, and were torn between fury at Rayanne's betrayal, and understanding that nothing is more enticing that Jared Leto at his prime. Those cheekbones are definitely worth ruining a friendship over.
Marissa Shoots Trey on The O.C.Another classic of the teen drama genre, The O.C. was surprisingly down-to-earth considering it was a show about the obnoxious rich kids who lived in the most expensive part of California. That all changed, though, when Marissa Cooper (always the most dramatic person in Orange County) shot Ryan's brother, Trey, in order to protect Ryan. That shocking moment kicked off a full season of insanity, chronicling Marissa's downward spiral, which resulted in her own shocking exit a year later, and made it impossible to ever take an Imogen Heap song seriously ever again.
Zack Is the Serial Killer's Apprentice on BonesLike all crime procedurals, Bones has had its fair share of crazy, intense or scary episodes, but nothing came close to the reveal that Zack Addy, was working for the Gormogon, the cannibalistic serial killer the team had been hunting for months. Neither the fans nor the characters could have thought that shy, awkward, well-meaning Zack was capable of assisting a murder and blowing up a lab, but suddenly a beloved character was revealed to be the enemy. None of the twists that the writers have managed to come up with have ever topped this shock, though, and Bones has since gone back to being the show that everyone watched reruns of when they're sick.
Mini-series have long been a great way to while away a summer. The form had largely disappeared, but Under The Dome, an adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name, has seen a revival.The 1980s had the best ones, though. Part of it may have been the fact that we had a lot fewer distractions then, with many fewer channels, no cellphones or internet. Here's five of the best Miniseries from the age of shoulderpads and Swatches.
A rare case of the TV show/movie being as good as the book. They did a great job of bringing James Clavell's massive tome of the same name to life. Richard Chamberlain excelled as a white man in feudal Japan. Also, anything with Toshiro Mifune, who was one of the greatest Japanese actors of all time, in it can't be bad.
The Thorn Birds (1983)
This was a sprawling story that covered 60 years in the lives of the Cleary Family and starred Chamberlain as a priest who falls tragically in love with a woman. He OWNED the mini-series market during the '80s. He wasn't the most dominant Chamberlain, though. Wilt was having his way with thousands of women during this decade.
V: The Final Battle (1984)
The original campy version in the '80s definitely outshone the recent remake. Marc Singer was great as one of the main protagonists in this battle for the planet Earth against aliens who definitely aren't friendly like E.T.. The warlike extra-terrestrial visitors in this mini-series would eat that Reeses Pieces-loving alien for lunch.
North and South (1985)
A mini-series about the Civil War with a young Patrick Swayze, well before his Roadhouse and Dirty Dancing days. No, he didn't become a ghost and begin dancing during the series. It also had Kirstie Alley, David Carradine, and Johnny Cash. Cash didn't sing "Hurt" during this either.
Shaka Zulu (1986)
Christopher Lee was in it. Enough said. Anything with a badass like him is automatically worth watching. Even his character's name, Lord Bathurst, sounds like someone you don't want to mess with. The funny thing is that most of the mini- series takes place during a time after the titular character was dead.
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It's hard to think of any other 1960s TV series with as much staying-power as Star Trek. 47 years after its launch it's spun-off four live-action series, one animated series, dozens of videogames, and 12 movies. The latest, Star Trek Into Darkness, is on track to make $100 million its opening weekend. So why do we still care? Because The Original Series was just that compelling. Even when it was bad — and it could be a bad a lot — it was always interesting. It was always brimming with ideas about the universe and our place within it. Gene Roddenberry had one of the strongest visions ever brought to bear on the small screen. So in honor of the continuing voyages of the Starship Enterprise, we've ranked all 79 episodes of The Original Series from worst to best. We hate to be negative all upfront, but if we get the bad episodes out of the way first, we can spend more time relishing our faves. Guess what tops our list!
79. “Turnabout Intruder” — The very last episode of the original Star Trek series is also its worst, a dispiritingly sexist commentary on gender roles that sees Capt. Kirk switch bodies with a female scientist that makes incredibly bizarre claims: like that women are barred from being starship captains in Starfleet, something that has been disproven by almost everything else we know about Star Trek. Luckily, there’d be 25 seasons of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise to remove the awful taste in our mouths left by the end of The Original Series.
78. “Spock’s Brain” — The third season of The Original Series was a bit like the fourth season of Community. Its original creator, Gene Roddenberry, was marginalized so NBC could make Star Trek almost a parody of itself. That’s clear from the season opener, in which aliens remove Spock’s brain…because they can! Now, there are some good episodes in Season 3. But you’ll find that much of the bottom of this lost also comes from Star Trek’s wildly uneven last year.
77. “The Alternative Factor” — An early foray into the idea of exploring “parallel universes,” the Enterprise crew encounters a man named Lazarus who’s hellbent on tracking down his antimatter double from another dimension. When matter and antimatter collide it’s supposed to explosive, but the drama here certainly isn’t.
76. “Wolf in the Fold” — Scotty is accused of murder on an alien world! The kind of episode where you no he didn’t do it and you know he’ll inevitably be cleared so what’s the point? Stick around, though, for a supporting turn by the great John Fiedler.
75. “The Way to Eden” — Hippies in space! It could be a Muppet Show parody, but yes the Enterprise crew encounters 23rd century versions of the flower power set and have an incredibly reactionary response.
74. “The Paradise Syndrome” — Kirk is brainwashed into thinking he’s a Native American. Seriously.
73. “The Man Trap” — To his credit Roddenberry like to present non-humanoid alien threats as much as he did humanoid ones. But these parasites that leach off of the salt in human bodies (in the very first episode of The Original Series that aired!) are incredibly pointless.
72. “Elaan of Troyius” — Just from the title alone, you know this is going to be a bad episode. Kirk has to escort a spoiled princess through hostile terrain. A spoiled princess who loves to wear barely-there tinfoil jumpsuits.
71. “Mudd’s Women” — Jovial con man Harry Mudd is the kind of nemesis who only could’ve worked in the ‘60s. His introduction in Season 1 has him swindle dilithium miners out of their crystals in exchange for three beautiful women — three women who only appear beautiful when the miners are taking hallucinogens.
NEXT: Numbers 70-61 on our list.
70. “Miri” — Children are the only survivors of a planet-wide calamity. Roddenberry really loved the kiddies (see also: Wesley Crusher on The Next Generation) but he never seemed to know how to integrate them compellingly into the drama.
69. “The Mark of Gideon” — Kirk is abducted by a race of aliens to help them solve their overpopulation problem. Uh, considering his interstellar bedhopping, Kirk is the last person qualified to deal with overpopulation issues. Which is why this episode makes no sense.
68. “Bread and Circuses” — The Enterprise crew encounter a planet that’s patterned itself on ancient Rome. Not the first time they’d discover a planet modeled on a violent period of Earth history, nor the first time they’d be forced to fight in gladiatorial games, “Bread and Circuses” reveals the tremendous capacity of the creators of The Original Series to repeat themselves.
67. “Return to Tomorrow” — Ditto for this Season 3 episode about telepathic aliens taking over Kirk and Spock’s bodies to build stronger, mechanical versions for themselves. Another thing Roddenberry loved over and over again? Non-corporeal aliens that can take over your mind!
66. “The Lights of Zetar” — Probably most notable for introducing the Memory Alpha station that lends its name to the Star Trek wiki. Again, “energy-based” life-forms are the threat.
65. “The Omega Glory” — Kirk faces down both an insane starship captain and a deadly plague while trying to stop an intertribal war. The umpteenth episode about protecting a less-advanced civilization that appears to reside in the rolling hills of Southern California.
64. “Friday’s Child” — Again, the Enterprise crew intervene in a tribal dispute that’s gotten out of hand, this time because of Klingon meddling. Most notable for McCoy’s immortal “I’m a doctor, not an elevator!”
63. “Is There In Truth No Beauty?” — An alien being the Enterprise is transporting must remain inside a black box because its physical form is so hideous. A Twilight Zone-style concept that could’ve been great in the hands of Rod Serling but just didn’t make a thought-provoking jump to the 23rd century.
62. “Plato’s Stepchildren” — So you already know one alien society patterned itself on ancient Rome. Here’s one that patterned itself on ancient Greece! But wait, wait, there’s more…
61. “Patterns of Force” — …Like this episode in which an alien civilization based its culture on Nazi Germany. At least here there’s some interesting commentary on how some ideologies are truly irredeemable, not just an opportunity to see Kirk wearing a swastika.
NEXT: Numbers 60-51 on our list.
60. “Whom Gods Destroy” — There are two frequent career paths for starship captains that you’d do really well to avoid: One is to be endowed with god-like powers and try to take over control of the universe; the other is go insane and think you have god-like powers with which you try to take over control of the universe. The latter is featured here.
59. “The Cage” — The first pilot Gene Roddenberry shot starred Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike. He commanded the Enterprise before Kirk (much like Bruce Greenwood’s Pike in J.J. Abrams’ movies) but his first officer wasn’t Spock — who then was just relegated solely to science officer — but a woman, Majel Barrett’s “Number One.” By the time it went to series, Roddenberry rewrote the concept to fit more comfortably into the prevailing chauvinism of the era, with Barrett playing Nurse Chapel instead. But “The Cage” is a fascinating experiment in projecting a profoundly progressive view of the future, even if it’s ultimately a bit of an inert non-starter.
58. “Requiem for Methuselah” — Kirk discovers an immortal human living as a hermit. We liked this concept better in “Metamorphosis,” appearing higher on this list.
57. “The Squire of Gothos” — The god-like being Trelane, who patterns himself on an English gentleman from the 1800s, has complete control over the minds and matter of Kirk’s crew. We’d say it’s a whimsical concept, but it’s been done so often in Trek. All of these petty gods are building toward The Next Generation’s Q.
56. “And the Children Shall Lead” — There was an “evil imaginary friend” episode on Next Generation as well, but not nearly as crazy as this one, where a kids’ game of make-believe summons forces greater than Kirk could ever have imagined.
55. “That Which Survives” — A supercomputer is the only survivor of an alien race that succumbed to a deadly plague. It now chooses to represent itself solely as holographic projections of scantily clad women. Because it can!
54. “Obsession” — Kirk gets his Ahab on trying to track down the mysterious entity that killed much of the crew of his previous ship. A rare opportunity to go inside the good captain’s pre-Enterprise history.
53. “The Empath” — The Enterprise landing party are subjected to unfathomable torments to test an alien race’s empathic ability. The whole concept of “empaths” was another thing Roddenberry seemed curiously fixated on — see also the empathic Lt. Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
52. “The Gamesters of Triskelion” — The first and best of the episodes in which the Enterprise crew are forced to participate in gladiatorial games. The stuff Simpsons parodies are made of.
51. “A Private Little War” — Kirk tries to protect primitive aliens from Klingon interference. Not as exciting as “Errand of Mercy” or as unforgettably bizarre as “Friday’s Child” earlier on this list, it’s still really fun to see the Captain tangle with “those Klingon bastards.”
NEXT: Numbers 50-41 on our list.
50. “Catspaw” — Two aliens with “magical powers” wreak havoc with the crew. This sounds like many others we’ve already mentioned, right? Wrong! “Catspaw” was Star Trek’s attempt at a Gothic horror episode to be released near Halloween. Stylish and silly.
49. “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” — An asteroid hurtles toward a Federation world and our heroes rush to prevent the collision…only to discover that the interior of the asteroid is inhabited by aliens who are totally oblivious of the universe around them. An engaging Russian nesting doll concept. Also, how could you not love any episode with this title?
48. “The Ultimate Computer” — Federation computer genius Richard Daystrom (he gets a shout-out in Star Trek Into Darkness) tests out a new artificial intelligence onboard the Enterprise. Catastrophe ensues. But it shows just how much Roddenberry was ahead of the curve when it came to operating systems and computer networking — just as he was with cell phones and tablets.
47. “Day of the Dove” — In case you were wondering, this the point in our list where we start getting into the good episodes. An energy-based alien life form that feeds off anger amplifies the tensions between the Klingons and Kirk’s crew, until the two adversaries finally realize what’s happening and turn against their common enemy. An early glimpse of the détente that the Klingons and Federation will one day achieve.
46. “This Side of Paradise” — A Federation colony that should have been wiped out by lethal radiation is actually thriving, its members living in a state of euphoria because of mysterious spores. However, those spores rob those affected of ambition and self-discipline, basically making them an early version of the dream-fulfilling Nexus cloud that’s central to the plot of Star Trek: Generations.
45. “Shore Leave” — One of Trek’s more hallucinatory episodes, “Shore Leave” presents the crew getting a few days of R&R only to find a white rabbit, a sword-wielding samurai, and Don Juan menacing them. Also, we learn Dr. McCoy really loves showgirls who wear rabbit-fur bikinis.
44. “The Savage Curtain” — The third to last episode of The Original Series is actually really thought-provoking as aliens force Kirk and Spock to join forces with figures of good throughout history (Abraham Lincoln, Surak) vs. historical figures of evil (Hitler, Genghis Khan, Col. Green).
43. “Spectre of the Gun” — Aliens force Kirk & Co. to play the losing side in a reenactment of the Gunfight at the OK Corral! Like “The Savage Curtain” it’s a challenging examination of the nature of monstrosity and whether it’s something that’s fated or learned.
42. “The Cloud Minders” — Star Trek created the original Cloud City, 11 years before The Empire Strikes Back. A vicious class disparity plunges a floating mining colony into full-blown civil uprising, all while the Enterprise crew race against the clock to recover resources they need to fight a plague.
41. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — Roddenberry’s second pilot introduced Shatner’s Kirk and established the idealistic tone of the series: exploration of the universe as discovery of the self. Do you use the accumulation of knowledge for wisdom and self-improvement? Or for vulgar power like Gary Mitchell? Writ large, that choice could determine humanity’s destiny.
NEXT: Numbers 40-31 on our list.
40. “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” — Nurse Chapel sure knows how to pick ‘em! Her fiancé, exobiologist Roger Korby, discovered an alien machine that creates android replicas of living people and uses that machine to replace Kirk with an identical robot and try to take over the Enterprise. Nice going, Christine.
39. “I, Mudd” — What does Harry Mudd do when he has unlimited power? We find out in his second appearance on Star Trek, in which he has now become the king of a planet of androids.
38. “By Any Other Name” — More god-like beings! This time from the Andromeda Galaxy! They’ve taken over the Enterprise and modified it for the long, long journey out of the Milky Way. Shows how, even on The Original Series, Roddenberry and his writers understood the vastness of the universe.
37. “Who Mourns for Adonais?” — So guess what about all those Greek gods from mythology? They were real! Except they weren’t gods, but omnipotent aliens who passed through our solar system during the days of Priam and Achilles and meddled a little too closely in Earth affairs. Kirk & Crew encounter the last survivor of those wanderers, Apollo, who had been worshipped as the sun god. And trust us, it really went to his head.
36. “Operation: Annihilate!” — This is another time we actually delve into Kirk’s personal history. Unlike J.J. Abrams’ reboot, he grew up with his father, George, and brother, Sam. Only in this episode Sam gets killed by flying amoebas at his space colony. Remember what I said about things that like to leach off human bodies for their salt! Always a worry in the 23rd century.
35. “The Immunity Syndrome” — Speaking of space amoebas, the Enterprise almost runs smack into a giant, asteroid-sized paramecium floating in the void. It’s also draining power from the ship and threatening to suck it in, and the only solution is for Spock to try to meld with it. Okay, writing this right now, it sounds like the worst thing ever. But trust me, it’s unquestionably awesome!
34. “The Deadly Years” — Kirk & Crew are afflicted with a disease that causes rapid aging. For my money, if the producers of the current Trek franchise ever want to bring back William Shatner for a movie without a time-travel twist they’d infect Chris Pine’s Kirk with this disease and suddenly it’d be $#*! My Captain Says.
33. “The Changeling” — The Enterprise runs into a 20th century NASA space probe that may have already wiped out a couple worlds deep in the interstellar void. It overcame its crude 20th century programming and developed sophisticated, if psychopathic, artificial intelligence. I know, I know, it’s the plot of The Motion Picture, right?
32. “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” — A powerful allegory for racial discrimination about a race of white-and-black aliens that shun certain members of their species depending on which sad is black and which is white. It may be a little heavy-handed for today’s sensibilities, but it was groundbreaking in 1969.
31. “Dagger of the Mind” — The ninth episode of the series is notable for being the first time Spock ever performs a mind meld. But it’s also a tightly-wound psychological thriller about a madman running an insane asylum.
NEXT: Numbers 30-21 on our list.
30. “Court Martial” — It’s a shame that it aired just a few weeks after an even better courtroom procedural, two-part ep “The Menagerie,” but when Kirk is court martialed for negligence after a crewman was killed during an ion storm it’s still slow-burn pressure cooker.
29. “The Conscience of the King” — Unlike Pine’s Kirk, Shatner’s grew up on the Earth colony at Tarsus IV. A colony that, in his youth, was ruled by a murderous governor who became known as Kodos the Executioner. Decades later in “The Conscience of the King,” Kirk suspects that a Shakespearean actor is actually Kodos in disguise. Also, yes, the name Kodos inspired one-half of the cannibalistic alien duo, Kodos & Kang, on The Simpsons. And just so you know, Kang was also a Kliingon on The Original Series.
28. “The Return of the Archons” — The Enterprise reaches the planet where the USS Archon was reported lost a century earlier and discovers that a society modeled on 19th century Earth civilization has sprung up. Unlike 19th century Earthlings, however, they live in fear of a telepathic being named Landru who wants to absorb them and the Enterprise crew into its collective.
27. “Wink of an Eye” — Invisible aliens that exist on a faster plane of time than we do — you could only glimpse them in the blink of an eye — take over the ship. Even with the limits on their makeup and special effects budget, “Wink of an Eye” shows how Roddenberry’s writers and directors could innovate, such as with the radical slow-motion technique they used once Kirk is on the same temporal wavelength as the aliens. Even a phaser beam is slowed down to the point of being dodge-able.
26. “Metamorphosis” — Kirk discovers the final hideout of Zefram Cochrane, the legendary pioneer who invented warp drive and made first contact with the Vulcans on April 5, 2063. But how could Cochrane (played here by Glenn Corbett and in Star Trek: First Contact by James Cromwell) still be alive 200 years later? Thanks to a glowing energy-based alien, of course, who’s keeping him prisoner while keeping him alive.
25. “Errand of Mercy” — The Klingons made their Star Trek debut with a warlike bang when they invade the peaceful planet Organia, inhabited by peasants who aren’t exactly what they seem. Kor, the leader of the Klingon invasion force, was played by John Colicos who came full-circle by playing the character once again on Deep Space Nine in 1998.
24. “Assignment: Earth” — For the first time, the Enterprise time-travels by slingshot-ing around the sun, something that would enable the events of the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. This time they travel to 1968 Earth, where a time-traveler named Gary Seven (Robert Lansing) has been perceived to be altering history. Roddenberry had hoped “Assignment: Earth” would be the pilot for a Trek spin-off starring Lansing. That didn’t happen. It is notable for featuring one of the earliest appearances of a young Teri Garr.
23. “The Tholian Web” — The USS Defiant goes missing in hostile Tholian territory and the Enterprise is tasked with investigating. Turns out the Defiant is phasing out of our universe and into another dimension, and Kirk is trapped aboard. To make matters worse, the Tholians, screechy, insectoid aliens that fly crystal ships, have caught up with them and are building an impenetrable web around both Starfleet ships to prevent their escape. The best kind of race-against-the-clock thriller on Star Trek.
22. “The Enemy Within” — A transporter accident causes Kirk to be split into his good and evil selves. The former is mild-mannered but lacking initiative and resolve. The latter is undisciplined, aggressive, maybe even murderous. But neither can function on their own and both are necessary for Kirk to be a complete individual. The supposedly “evil” Kirk is strong, commanding, and decisive, qualities needed in a starship captain, along with the compassion and gentleness found in his “good self.” A provocative, value-neutral consideration of the qualities that make greatness.
21. “The Menagerie, Parts 1 & 2” — NBC recycled that old footage from Roddenberry’s first Trek pilot, “The Cage,” and made a much better episode. All the clips from “The Cage” became flashback video footage as Spock tries to explain before a Starfleet court martial why he acted in defiance of orders to help his old friend, and the Enterprise’s former captain, Christopher Pike.
NEXT: Numbers 20-11 on our list.
20. “The Apple” — Is the Federation a benevolent government that seeks to unite like-minded souls in safety and fellowship? Or is it a collective into which individual cultures are absorbed and dissolved? That’s the question at the heart of “The Apple,” wherein Kirk boldly violates the Prime Directive to impose freedom on a primitive people who absolutely don’t want freedom. They’re being ruled over by what appears to be a miniature-golf obstacle, a being named Vaal, and Kirk won’t have it. He’ll see to it that they think for themselves no matter what. But the question is, can you ever force someone to be free?
19. “A Piece of the Action” — The best of the “Alien Civilizations Modeled After Turbulent Periods in Earth History” episodes, “A Piece of the Action” takes us to a world modeled after the gangster culture of 1920s Chicago. But Kirk’s fuzzy fedora steals the show.
18. “The Naked Time” — A virus causes various members of the crew to lose their inhibitions and reveal their true selves: one becomes suicidal with fear and doubt about man’s place in the universe, another thinks he’s descended from Irish kings, and most famously, Sulu goes shirtless, grabs a foil and starts challenging everybody onboard to a duel. That’s because, as Spock puts it, Sulu is at heart “a swashbuckler out of your 18th century.”
17. “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” — An encounter with a black hole sends the ship back to 1960s Earth, in the first time-travel episode Star Trek ever attempted. The question is, can they mingle with 1960s humanity without altering history?
16. “A Taste of Armageddon” — A virtual war, but a brutal one, is being waged between two worlds solely by computer. Every so often members of each society must willingly sacrifice themselves as casualties in order to avoid actual nuclear warfare. The question is: how far are you willing to go prevent full-on war?
15. “All Our Yesterdays” — One of the most emotional Spock episodes, the Vulcan is trapped in the ancient history of a world doomed for destruction. He falls in love with one of its inhabitants before realizing that he has to make the return journey back to his own time.
14. “The Devil in the Dark” — A mysterious creature has been killing Federation miners. What is this menace? Turns out to be a silicon-based lifeform called the Horta and its just trying to protect its young from the miners’ brutish intrusion. Spock’s attempt to mind meld with the Horta is one of the classic moments of the series.
13. “Charlie X” — The second episode ever aired is a bold, primary-colored fantasia of ‘60s pop art. Kirk gives shelter aboard the Enterprise to a 17-year-old named Charlie (Robert Walker, Jr.) who grew up all by himself on an alien planet as the sole survivor of a spaceship crash. He developed psychic powers, however, which he is far from emotionally mature enough to use. And, oh, does he use them when he goes into a tantrum after not getting his way! He causes one Enterprise crewman to lose her face, causes chess pieces to melt, and has a really passive-aggressive workout with a shirtless Kirk.
12. “The Trouble With Tribbles” — A dispute between the Federation and Klingons over colonization rights to a planet get thrown for a wrench with the introduction of Tribbles, furry little pests with voracious appetites and an alarming birth rate. You’ve all seen the famous image of Kirk standing waist-deep in the critters, but the highlight of the episode may not be Tribble-related at all, but rather how easily the Klingons bait Scotty into a fight by calling the Enterprise “a garbage scow.”
11. “The Corbomite Maneuver” — A giant spaceship blocks the path of the Enterprise, its alien crew claiming that the Federation is expanding too quickly and will be halted in its march across the stars. It really looks like this could be the end of our five-year mission. But Kirk does what he does best. He bluffs. He says they’ve got a weapon called a “corbomite deflector” that will rebound all weapons fire directed to the Enterprise back to the firer. That gets the alien crew’s attention, so Kirk & Co. are welcomed aboard only to find it’s a crew of one: Balok, a jovial man-child played by Clint Howard, who resides in Bacchanalian surroundings and spends all day drinking tranya.
NEXT: The Top Ten
10. “The Enterprise Incident” — The Federation wants a cloaking device of their own, so they have Kirk & Spock go undercover aboard a Romulan ship to steal one. It’s a great heist episode, mostly because of how it pulls in a couple directions at once: you want to see our guys beat the Romulans, but at the same time Spock’s seduction of a female Romulan commander is almost unbearably cruel…to the point where you’re not certain who to root for.
9. “The Doomsday Machine” — Kirk & Commodore Decker lead the hunt for a massive ancient weapon that can devour whole planets. For Kirk, it’s still a job. For Decker, it’s become akin to an Ahab-like obsession. The final moments of “The Doomsday Machine,” as Kirk is about to be swallowed by the monster and keeps telling his crew “Gentlemen, I suggest you beam me aboard,” are among the series’ very best.
8. “Journey To Babel” — The first time we ever get to see the founding races of the Federation — humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites — in one place, this proposed peace summit becomes an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. There’s nothing better than a Star Trek whodunit.
7. “Amok Time” — A.K.A. “Spock Gotta Have It.” Our Vulcan friend’s green blood turns hot when he enters the Pon Farr, the uncontrollable urge to mate that overcomes Vulcans every seven years. It can only be cured if the sufferer meditates, fights an opponent to the death, or has sex. The last option should be fine for Spock since he’s betrothed to T’Pring. But T’Pring’s heart turns fickle and she withdraws from their engagement, meaning that Spock has to fight it out — and he does so against Kirk!
6. “The Galileo Seven” — Spock’s away team is trapped on the surface of a planet surrounded by hostile natives, and their shuttlepod is damaged. A claustrophobic waiting game ensues, as the crewmen do everything they can to survive while waiting for rescue. Just about as suspenseful as any Star Trek episode ever.
5. “Space Seed” — Known now and forever as the episode that introduced Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) as Kirk’s greatest adversary, it’s also a pointed commentary on how far humanity has come even since (or especially since) the 20th century that produced Star Trek. Khan is a 20th century warlord who was genetically engineered with superhuman strength and intellect. But rather than transcend the petty ambitions and power struggles of Earth in that time, he lost himself in them. He’s a relic of a time — still our time in 2013 — when humanity cared more about power, prestige, and riches than enlightenment. Khan throws into relief everything that humanity tends to be…when we don’t strive to be anything more than what we already are.
4. “Balance of Terror” — Enter the Romulans. No hostile alien race in Star Trek, not even the Borg, had a greater debut than Spock’s pointy-eared brothers from another planet. What Khan represents to humanity — an unenlightened part of our history that we’d like to forget but do so at our own peril — the Romulans do to the Vulcans. Not to mention that “Balance of Terror” establishes the submarine-warfare aesthetic of all of Star Trek’s future space battles.
3. “Mirror, Mirror” — Take everything you know about the set-up of Star Trek then turn it on its head. That’s the idea behind the “mirror universe,” which presents doubles of our heroes living on another dimensional plane, doubles of our heroes with polar-opposite values, personalities, and skills. Rather than there being an enlightened Federation, Earth rules its corner of the universe as the barbaric Terran Empire. And we know they’re barbaric because of their incorporation of sashes, daggers, and bikini tops into their uniforms. Also, if you wear a goatee, you’re probably a doppelganger from a mirror universe.
2. “Arena” — The Gorn were only seen once in Star Trek until nearly 40 years later when they finally returned, given a CGI makeover, on Star Trek: Enterprise. But their first appearance, when it’s clear it’s just a dude wearing an unwieldy lizard costume, is their best. Godlike beings force Kirk and the captain of a Gorn ship who just ordered the destruction of a Federation colony to fight it out mano a lizard, to contain the bloodshed. Kirk’s final act is heartbreaking and beautiful.
1. “The City on the Edge of Forever” — Star Trek’s greatest episode has challenged all storytellers since not to use time-travel as a mere gimmick but as a prismatic tool for examining history and why we made certain choices along the way. Kirk & Spock travel back in time to 1930s Earth, looking for a drugged and psychotic McCoy, and meet a charity worker named Edith Keeler (Joan Collins) with whom Kirk quickly falls in love. She’s a forward-thinking 23rd century soul living in the midst of the Great Depression and dreaming of a future that Kirk knows will come true someday. But she’s doomed to die in a car crash within days. And, if Kirk doesn’t let her die, she’ll go on to lead a pacifist movement that will prevent the United States from entering World War II…allowing the Nazis to conquer the world. Edith has to die, so that the world she dreams of can exist. Time-travel has never been so emotional.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt and follow Hollywood.com @Hollywood_com
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The new trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness does something no previous trailer for J.J. Abrams' sequel has attempted: it actually conveys the plot of the film. Paramount has overseen one of the most cryptic publicity campaigns in recent memory and gotten an astonishing amount of a mileage out of "Is Benedict Cumberbatch's villain John Harrison really Khan?"
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Away with the teases! The new two-and-a-half minute clip makes it abundantly obvious that John Harrison is not Khan. Still, the mano a mano battle he engages in with Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness may have a connection to other bits of previously established Trek lore. Let's take a deep dive into the trailer and try to piece together what we can expect from the movie, and just what the heck Harrison's after.
To start off the movie, London is in for a devastating terrorist attack. The franchise has never taken us to the U.K.'s capital — much of time spent on Earth has previously been in Federation capital San Francisco or New Orleans, home of the Sisko family's creole restaurant on Deep Space Nine.
What's interesting about this shot is that it shows a Union Jack waving overhead. Since the early 22nd century, Earth has been ruled by a single world government, so it's a little odd that the Brits are still waving their own standard. It may be, however, that all of the old nations now serve as constituent states of the world government, which itself is a constituent of the Federation, hence why the Union Jack and the Federation flag are waving side by side. In the Original Series, Uhura mentions in one episode that she's from the United States of Africa, so maybe some of the pre-world-government jurisdictions are still in place.
‘Star Trek’ Into Darkness: Khan We Tell Who the Villain Is?
London looks like it's the site for a big conference of some kind, or that it's home to a big spacedock or starship repair facility, hence the next shot.
This is the facility that John Harrison bombs. It looks like a much, much larger version of the Enterprise's shuttle bay, so it's probably a docking facility. Maybe it facilitates Starfleet personnel getting to their ships in orbit, or maybe it's the landing site for visiting dignitaries. Either way, Harrison wants to see it up in smoke.
Whatever his objective, Harrison's blast takes a major toll on the London skyline. Thankfully, though, St. Paul's Cathedral (on the lower right corner) is spared. If it could survive the Blitz, it can survive whatever Harrison doles out. Apparently, the completion in 2012 of The Shard, the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe at 95 floors, must kick off a major building boom throughout the 21st and 22nd centuries. This cityscape is packed.
Harrison drinks in the devastation he unleashed. An admiral of Starfleet Command says that Harrison was one of their "top agents." A top agent — not a top captain, or Starfleet officer. That, plus his penchant to wear black and his affinity for terrorism, subterfuge, and urban warfare could mean that he is, or was, a member of the black-ops intel organization Section 31.
For you non-Trekkers, Section 31 is a group of spies and "agents" who aggressively work to protect the Federation against perceived threats by using brutal tactics that run counter to every utopian ideal the Federation holds dear. Section 31 was first introduced on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and later appeared in its infancy on the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise. On DS9, Section 31 tried desperately to recruit Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) to their cause because he was genetically enhanced — gifted with super-intelligence and tremendous physical abilities. It definitely seems like John Harrison has had some modifications to his genome because of his ability to make impossibly high leaps and crash through glass barriers. The original Star Trek Into Darkness synopsis called him a "one man force of destruction," indicating that he's somehow superhuman. and he himself says stuff like, "I am better...at everything."
So, what if he's a genetically-enhanced superbeing who's been working for Section 31 and feels that Starfleet Command's leadership are essentially traitors for allowing the destruction of Vulcan to take place in the 2009 film and not do what needs to be done to step up security on Earth? Launching a terrorist attack on London could be a way to show how vulnerable Earth is and Starfleet Command look ineffectual and impotent. Like Section 31 always does, Harrison can act like everything he's doing is still serving the best interests of the Federation...even when he's killing Federation citizens.
Oddly enough, in the trailer Starfleet Command doesn't even seem that interested in tracking Harrison down—it seems like that's up to Kirk, who takes the initiative himself—which, again, keeps with the tradition of Starfleet not really worrying about keeping Section 31 on a tight leash. Star Trek Into Darkness could be a philosophical inquiry into Starfleet's mission statement: Are they committed to exploration, to seeking out new life forms and new civilizations, or are they a military force ready for war? Do they have to choose between one or the other?
NEXT: We now know who Peter Weller is playing. And how could Alice Eve not be eye candy in this movie?
We've gotten glimpses of Starfleet Command before — most notably in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country — but never quite like this, with the Federation's most notable admirals and captains all convened in one place. Of course, having them all convened in one place, means that if you take them out, the Starfleet leadership goes with it...
So Peter Weller is not playing a villain, or the real power behind John Harrison or whatever. He's a Starfleet admiral. Odd that he's wearing the delta logo, even though the delta should really just be the symbol of the Enterprise at this point in the mid-23rd century, not the symbol of Starfleet as a whole, like it will be later following Kirk's legendary exploits.
I had thought it odd that Abrams would cast Weller in Star Trek Into Darkness, since the Robocop star had already played a character — a villain no less — on Star Trek: Enterprise. There, he was a militant isolationist, someone who felt that humanity shouldn't venture out into the cosmos nor interact with aliens. In fact, he was kind of a segregationist who believed that humans and aliens should be very much separate, and not exactly equal either. I was hoping that Weller might be playing a version of that character in the new movie, but he seems to be fulfilling the Tyler Perry role this time: someone who's around for a few minutes of screentime to deliver exposition and then is never seen again.
You'll notice that Weller's admiral is wearing a uniform that's nearly identical to the one that William Shatner's Kirk wore when he was the chief of Starfleet Operations in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That J.J. really has an eye for Star Trek lore, even though he keeps saying he was always more a Star Wars fan than a Trek enthusiast.
Despite being merely a science officer Alice Eve's Carol Marcus can obviously kick some ass. She accompanies Bones and a redshirt to subdue Harrison at one point in the film. The fact that Bones needs to use a hypospray to knock out Harrison adds to the mounting pile of evidence that this guy is superhuman.
But Carol Marcus is also there for eye candy. Because this movie, like its predecessor, needs a gratuitous underwear scene.
Whatever Harrison's up to, the Enterprise sure ends up taking a beating. Luckily, Constitution-class starships are capable of atmospheric flight. Watery crash-landings are another matter.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures]
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J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness is going where Christopher Nolan has gone before. In the 60-second teaser for the next installment, we've gotten a glimpse at what seems to be a grim tale of vengeance and urban terror set largely in glistening 23rd century San Francisco. Starfleet is rocked by tragedy and James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) haunted by a superhuman, shampoo-free Benedict Cumberbatch who's out for blood. But even after the release of the movie's official synopsis, teaser poster, and now this mini-trailer it's still not conclusive what Trek villain Cumberbatch is playing—if he is playing an established character at all. Is he Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically-enhanced Sikh superman (formerly played by the inimitable Ricardo Montalban) who rained terror upon the crew of the USS Enterprise in the original series episode "Space Seed" and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? Well, Cumberbatch is nursing a wrathful grudge and does seem to have extraordinary abilities. And in the Japanese version of the teaser, there's the image above.
Any Trekker worth his space salt knows that's a deliberate homage to the teary ending of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, when Spock (Leonard Nimoy), infected with deadly radiation and stuck behind a plexiglass partition, places his hand up to Kirk's and says, "I have been and shall always be...your friend. Live long...and prosper..." Basically, that's the ultimate male-weepy moment. But even with that reference we're still skeptical. Unless Khan is being retconned as a pasty Englishman, we'd bet against that being the identity of Cumberbatch's villain.
In fact, there's reason here to believe he's another original series character gifted with superhuman skill: Lt. Gary Mitchell, originally played by Gary Lockwood in the 1966 classic "Where No Man Has Gone Before," which served as an alternate pilot episode for the show and had a mythologically-resonant resurrection arc. Let's look at the evidence:
A Somber, Funereal Mood: Following this desaturated shot of the San Francisco skyline, the first indicator that Star Trek Into Darkness will be a largely earth-bound affair, we see various Starfleet officials sitting before a dais as if at a memorial service. Then triangular shuttles (or attack craft) fly overhead with ceremonial precision, as if comprising the military flyover tribute to a fallen Starfleet officer. Benny Batch's ominous, detached narration plays over all of this: “You think your world is safe. It is an illusion, a comforting lie told to protect you. Enjoy these final moments of peace. For I have returned. To have. My. Vengeance.” Now, such a dark portent seems very worthy of Khan.
But what if the Starfleet officer being eulogized is Cumberbatch's character himself? In "Where No Man Has Gone Before" Lt. Mitchell isn't killed, but he is briefly knocked out when the Enterprise journeys through the barrier at the edge of our galaxy and into the black void of star-less space. Literally, into darkness. When he's revived, he finds himself gifted with god-like powers: telepathy, telekinesis, hypercognition. The kinds of things that could explain Cumberbatch's sky-high jump when he's first introduced in this teaser. (Of course, his jump could also be explained away by the genetic enhancements that made Khan a superhuman.) Let's say Cumberbatch's character is presumed dead, only to return seeking vengeance for having been left behind. The official synopsis says that the villain is an "unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization." Unless J.J. Abrams has decided once and for all to obliterate Star Trek canon, Khan Noonien Singh was never a Starfleet officer. He was a 20th century warlord exiled from earth in 1996, more than two centuries before the timeline-altering events of the first Abrams Trek flick. However, Gary Mitchell was one of the Federation's finest. And the next photo looks very much like a souped-up version of the planet where he met his doom in "Where No Man Has Gone Before": Delta Vega.
Delta Vega, seen from space in the original series episode, is a red planet. Could that be because of these mysterious red vines we see Kirk running through? (We know the idea of having a planet defined by one topographical feature alone is more a Star Wars trope, but it could apply here too.) Do note that the original production order for Delta Vega in 1966 called for "weird vegetation."
When I first saw the perfectly coiffed Alice Eve, my kneejerk reaction was that she must be Dr. Carol Marcus, the blond Federation scientist with the Callista Gingrich haircut who pioneered the Genesis Project in Wrath of Khan—and was the mother of Kirk's simperingly annoying son, David. But compare her insteato Sally Kellerman's Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, Gary Mitchell's friend who also acquires superpowers when she journeys past the galactic barrier, but uses her abilities to stop Mitchell's quest for destruction. A pretty striking similarity, huh?
When introducing Cumberbatch, the trailer has some very video gamey shots of him leaping high over people's heads in front of some kind of circular window (or portal). This illustrates very clearly the synopsis' claim that this guy is a "one man weapon of mass destruction."
If that is a portal behind Cumberbatch, could that be the Guardian of Forever?
Also, the hood the baddie is wearing here is very much like the one Kirk himself dons on that red licorice planet. That further establishes that there's a pre-existing connection between Kirk and the villain, don't you think? I guess hoodies are the next big thing for Starfleet away teams.
Finally, we get the shot we've all been waiting for: Cumberbatch, up close, disheveled, and sinister.
Though much of the film appears to take place in San Francisco's urban sprawl, there are still some moments of exploratory wonder that feel more in line with Gene Roddenberry's optimistic idea of Star Trek as a quest for knowledge and enlightenment among the stars. Case in point: the magma-belching volcano that Spock (Zachary Quinto) rappels into. Nice to see more of this than the three frames Abrams introduced on Conan.
Or this, an image of the Enterprise (if you squint, you can just make out its Starfleet registry NCC-1701 on that warp nacelle) rising from an ocean.
It's clear, though, that this is going to be a dark film with a dark villain who follows in the footsteps of other recent pop culture characters nursing a grudge: Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Silva in Skyfall, and Loki in The Avengers, in particular. You could take Tom Hiddleston's "You were made to be ruled" voiceover from the first Avengers trailer and play it just as easily over these images from Star Trek Into Darkness. Again, the synopsis promises "an epic chess game of life and death," and this final shot of Cumberbatch smirking into the camera while wearing a faded Starfleet uniform (note the almost worn-off delta symbol) promises a large-scale headgame. ("An epic chess game" is certainly worth of Khan, but why would he be wearing a Starfleet uniform?)
Finally, the money shot. The Enterprise, or another Constitution-class starship, crashing into San Francisco Bay.
All this really puts the tease in "teaser." I'm not entirely ruling out a Corinthian leather-obsessed villain, but do you agree with me that the key to unlocking Cumberbatch's character may really be Lt. Gary Mitchell? And does this look anything like Roddenberry's Trek to you?
[Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures (13)]
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Much to the chagrin of the adults who caught Star Wars in 1977 or even the ones who grew up with the film in years to come George Lucas designed his follow-up prequel trilogy with a different audience in mind. As he believed of his original films the prequels would be crafted for children of the day. As we all know the expansive colorful often-goofy escapade didn't sit terribly well with those who kept a place in their hearts for Luke Leia and Han.
With his first of three Hobbit films An Unexpected Journey Peter Jackson daringly attempts the same maneuver aspiring to capture the essence of his Lord of the Rings trilogy while translating it for a younger crowd. Rightfully so — as W. H. Auden notes in his 1954 New York Times review of Fellowship of the Ring The Hobbit "is one of the best children's stories of this century." What Jackson understands and gets wonderfully right in An Unexpected Journey (and that Lucas failed to understand with 1999's The Phantom Menace) is that kids dream like adults. They harbor different sensibilities their concept of life's big challenges evolve but children can be captured by the same iconography as their parents — they just needed it painted in broader strokes.
So Jackson splashes his brush in paint and goes wild. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey sports a lighter tone than its predecessors — comedic routines and a brighter palette making Middle Earth palatable to the youngsters — but the film doesn't lose any of the adventure or danger necessary for J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy. The film follows the titular halfling Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) enlisted by wise old wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) to accompany 13 dwarves on their quest to retake the Dwarven homeland now ruled by the nasty dragon Smaug. After surviving the dwarves' impromptu dinner party — a true display of Bilbo's neurosis and Freeman's knack for physical and linguistic comedy — Gandalf and the band of pint size warriors embark on their journey.
The first half of the An Unexpected Journey is stuffed (perhaps overly so) with backstory introductions to old friends (Elijah Wood makes his necessary appearance early in the film) and silly characterization of the new characters. Jackson loves having the dwarves in his arsenal an ensemble who can sing songs scarf down food and let loose in the fairy tale world. Not since The Frighteners has the director had this much fun on screen and it's a choice that might turn off fans of the grim original trilogy. Even the keystone of the franchise composer Howard Shore opts for a more playful style with bellowing vocals and brighter melodies. For kids and anyone who throws memories to the wind it's a hoot.
If An Unexpected Journey relied solely on big comedy moments to entrance kids (and their parental guardians) it would fail. But through Bilbo it puts younger kids in the driver's seat and reminds adults of that low status time in their lives. The central conflict is between the hobbit and the headstrong leader of the dwarves Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). The dynamic is like a cool kid and his younger brother — Thorin is saddled with Bilbo the only one of them capable of sneaking into the Lonely Mountain and stealing back treasure from Smaug. Thorin lets him run with the pack but embarrasses him to show power. He also protects him from pursuing Orcs (newly added characters who hunt the group and add a necessary amount of action to the plot) when necessary. Thorin is no Aragorn — the relationship between him and Bilbo thinner than anything in LOTR — but it's warm and familiar.
The movie is equally rooted in a love for storytelling speaking directly to anyone who has ever been tucked in and told a bedtime story. Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) opens the film with a history of the Dwarven people; Gandalf name drops the kooky brown wizard Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) before the action cuts to his story thread and early into their quest an elder dwarf Balin (Ken Stott) tells a tale of Thorin's early adventures fighting an Orc off with only a hunk of wood (flashbacks being another digestible way for Jackson to sprinkle action into the simple tale). Exaggerated details ("and then the mountains turned into people!") even make the film feel more like a story passed down through time than LOTR's urgent in-the-moment quality.
An Unexpected Journey doesn't have the looming danger or live-or-die stakes one hopes of a Middle Earth journey making the film's epic nature — the movie clocks in at two hours and 50 minutes — feel meandering by the second. Thankfully Jackson's expert direction and production value keeps attention hooked. Sets costumes makeup and CG characters are once again expertly crafted and even more imaginative than past films. Three enormous starving orcs and a society of underground Goblins — ruled over by a tubby king with an enormous jowl — both feel like margin doodles come to life. Same goes for the film's main adversary a frightening albino warrior who rarely looks out of place when placed side-by-side with his human counterparts. Gollum (Andy Serkis) appears once again to challenge Bilbo to a match of wits — one of blockbuster cinema's best scenes of the year — and the enhanced special effects makeover job never lets the mind question the reality.
The film was also screened for press in Jackson's new toy 48 frames per second which gave the entire production a strange tangibility like of that of a BBC TV show or uncalibrated HDTV. In the dialogue scenes it put the audience in the room with the actors even making the CG characters look more real. Only in the film's swiftest action moments was there blur. An interesting experiment that mostly works but perhaps a tad distracting for those who want to sit back and lose themselves in Middle Earth.
The technological prowess feels like a cherry on top knowing The Hobbit was stretched into three films by Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. The trio successfully find a thematic entry point to their first Hobbit and pace it with everything a fan needs from the established world. An Unexpected Journey has large-scale battles — from Elven warriors clashing with Orcs on wolfback to the dwarves versus an insurmountable army of Goblins to original trilogy callbacks and foreshadowing to what might come next (let's just say The Hobbit may not be stretched over three films after all). Performances make the film as engrossing as any other in the series — McKellan rediscovering the charm of Gandalf Freeman being the perfect fish out of water and the dwarf troop finding a balance between comedy troupe and faithful heartfelt companions.
The film has its moments of shock — if the kids are too young for a good ol' fashioned Orc beheading An Unexpected Journey is not for them — but in the end it aims to be the fantasy read played and explored in the imaginations of people of all ages. A fresh free-spirited form of fantasy Jackson's latest provides a younger generation with the right kind of stepping stone to his later films while serving the adults who want more. No destroyed childhoods here.
Much to the chagrin of the adults who caught Star Wars in 1977, or even the ones who grew up with the film in years to come, George Lucas designed his follow-up prequel trilogy with a different audience in mind. As he believed of his original films, the prequels would be crafted for children of the day. As we all know, the expansive, colorful, often-goofy escapade didn't sit terribly well with those who kept a place in their hearts for Luke, Leia, and Han.
With his first of three Hobbit films, An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson daringly attempts the same maneuver, aspiring to capture the essence of his Lord of the Rings trilogy while translating it for a younger crowd. Rightfully so — as W. H. Auden notes in his 1954 New York Times review of Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit "is one of the best children's stories of this century." What Jackson understands and gets wonderfully right in An Unexpected Journey (and that Lucas failed to understand with 1999's The Phantom Menace) is that kids dream like adults. They harbor different sensibilities, their concept of life's big challenges evolve, but children can be captured by the same iconography as their parents — they just needed it painted in broader strokes.
So Jackson splashes his brush in paint and goes wild. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey sports a lighter tone than its predecessors — comedic routines and a brighter palette making Middle Earth palatable to the youngsters — but the film doesn't lose any of the adventure or danger necessary for J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy. The film follows the titular halfling, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), enlisted by wise old wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) to accompany 13 dwarves on their quest to retake the Dwarven homeland now ruled by the nasty dragon Smaug. After surviving the dwarves' impromptu dinner party — a true display of Bilbo's neurosis and Freeman's knack for physical and linguistic comedy — Gandalf and the band of pint size warriors embark on their journey.
The first half of the An Unexpected Journey is stuffed (perhaps overly so) with backstory, introductions to old friends (Elijah Wood makes his necessary appearance early in the film), and silly characterization of the new characters. Jackson loves having the dwarves in his arsenal, an ensemble who can sing songs, scarf down food, and let loose in the fairy tale world. Not since The Frighteners has the director had this much fun on screen, and it's a choice that might turn off fans of the grim original trilogy. Even the keystone of the franchise, composer Howard Shore, opts for a more playful style with bellowing vocals and brighter melodies. For kids and anyone who throws memories to the wind, it's a hoot.
If An Unexpected Journey relied solely on big comedy moments to entrance kids (and their parental guardians), it would fail. But through Bilbo, it puts younger kids in the driver's seat and reminds adults of that low status time in their lives. The central conflict is between the hobbit and the headstrong leader of the dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). The dynamic is like a cool kid and his younger brother — Thorin is saddled with Bilbo, the only one of them capable of sneaking into the Lonely Mountain and stealing back treasure from Smaug. Thorin lets him run with the pack, but embarrasses him to show power. He also protects him from pursuing Orcs (newly added characters who hunt the group and add a necessary amount of action to the plot) when necessary. Thorin is no Aragorn — the relationship between him and Bilbo thinner than anything in LOTR — but it's warm and familiar.
The movie is equally rooted in a love for storytelling, speaking directly to anyone who has ever been tucked in and told a bedtime story. Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) opens the film with a history of the Dwarven people; Gandalf name drops the kooky brown wizard Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) before the action cuts to his story thread, and early into their quest, an elder dwarf Balin (Ken Stott) tells a tale of Thorin's early adventures, fighting an Orc off with only a hunk of wood (flashbacks being another digestible way for Jackson to sprinkle action into the simple tale). Exaggerated details ("and then the mountains turned into people!") even make the film feel more like a story passed down through time than LOTR's urgent, in-the-moment quality.
An Unexpected Journey doesn't have the looming danger or live-or-die stakes one hopes of a Middle Earth journey, making the film's epic nature — the movie clocks in at two hours and 50 minutes — feel meandering by the second. Thankfully, Jackson's expert direction and production value keeps attention hooked. Sets, costumes, makeup, and CG characters are once again expertly crafted, and even more imaginative than past films. Three enormous, starving orcs and a society of underground Goblins — ruled over by a tubby king with an enormous jowl — both feel like margin doodles come to life. Same goes for the film's main adversary, a frightening albino warrior who rarely looks out of place when placed side-by-side with his human counterparts. Gollum (Andy Serkis) appears once again to challenge Bilbo to a match of wits — one of blockbuster cinema's best scenes of the year — and the enhanced special effects makeover job never lets the mind question the reality.
The film was also screened for press in Jackson's new toy, 48 frames per second, which gave the entire production a strange tangibility, like of that of a BBC TV show or uncalibrated HDTV. In the dialogue scenes, it put the audience in the room with the actors, even making the CG characters look more real. Only in the film's swiftest action moments was there blur. An interesting experiment that mostly works, but perhaps a tad distracting for those who want to sit back and lose themselves in Middle Earth.
The technological prowess feels like a cherry on top knowing The Hobbit was stretched into three films by Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. The trio successfully find a thematic entry point to their first Hobbit and pace it with everything a fan needs from the established world. An Unexpected Journey has large-scale battles — from Elven warriors clashing with Orcs on wolfback, to the dwarves versus an insurmountable army of Goblins, to original trilogy callbacks, and foreshadowing to what might come next (let's just say The Hobbit may not be stretched over three films after all). Performances make the film as engrossing as any other in the series — McKellan rediscovering the charm of Gandalf, Freeman being the perfect fish out of water, and the dwarf troop finding a balance between comedy troupe and faithful, heartfelt companions.
The film has its moments of shock — if the kids are too young for a good ol' fashioned Orc beheading, An Unexpected Journey is not for them — but in the end, it aims to be the fantasy read, played and explored in the imaginations of people of all ages. A fresh, free-spirited form of fantasy, Jackson's latest provides a younger generation with the right kind of stepping stone to his later films, while serving the adults who want more. No destroyed childhoods here.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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Over the next few months, we’ll see new series soar, old series sour, and so much Jersey Shore madness, we’ll want to shower. Let’s face it: The Fall TV season is intimidating. With dozens of new and returning shows hitting our small screens, we know we have some big choices to make. So, to help you determine what to watch, we’re digging deep into the most notable series premiering this season. Where did each show leave off? Where is it headed? And who should you watch it with? Next up is NBC's bit new mystery show Revolution. The Beatles told us you wanted it, so here it is.
New Series: Revolution
Premiere Date: Monday, September 17, at 10 PM on NBC
Tag Line: "What happens when all the lights go out?" In the first scene, some crazy event happens that knocks out all forms of electricity on the planet Earth. Planes crash, cars die, and society goes absolutely berserk. There is only one scientist who knows what happens. Cut to 15 years after "the event," and the country has been divided into tiny hamlets that are ruled by regional warlords. One of them kills the one scientist, who sends his daughter Charlie off on a quest to find his brother and, hopefully, turn the power back on.
Famous Pedigree: JJ Abrams is a producer.
Failed Advertising Slogans: "Revolution is electrifying." "When there is no power there is still great responsibility." "It keeps going and going and going..."
You’d Like It If…: You think that Terra Nova was cancelled too soon, that Lost was the best show ever on television, that the only problem with The Walking Dead is all the zombies, and that the Unabomber actually had some good points.
You’ll Hate It If…: You like all your questions answered at the end of the hour, happy endings, and doing your hair with a curling iron.
Hollywood Trend Watch: Just like Katniss Everdeen, the Avenger Hawkeye, and Daryl on The Walking Dead, everyone uses bows and arrows. Apparently guns use electricity. Really? Are you sure?
Character to Love: Giancarlo Esposito, who chilled hearts as drug lord Gus Fring on Breaking Bad isn't breaking his bad reputation. He plays Capt. Tom Neville, a militia leader with a mean streak and a few secrets.
Character to Hate: It's a tie between Graham Rogers' Danny, a ne'er-do-well son of the famous scientist who seems like he's going to be getting into a lot of silly Kim Bauer-from-24 scrapes. Cue the mountain lion. His rival is Zak Orth's Aaron, who is like Hurley from Lost, an overweight billionaire who is just along to provide the necessary comic relief and inspirational aphorisms at key moments. Get a real character, Dude.
Character That Will Most Remind You of a Twilight Character: I don't know if it's the buff body or the simmering stares, but JD Pardo's Nate is basically Taylor Lautner's Jacob with a, you guessed it, bow and arrow.
Famous Faces: Elizabeth Mitchell, from Lost, joins the cast in episode two when she was recast to play the famous scientist's second wife and Danny's and his bratty sister Charlie's (yes, that's a girl) evil stepmother. Well, at least that's what they think.
Setting: It starts off in a small town, but soon the action travels to Chicago, which is still a big city, but one that looks more like Deadwood than Tron. Also, there are trees growing on all the buildings. That's how you know the power is still out. Danny also ends up on a farm. Maybe if we're lucky, he'll buy it. Oh, and it's in the future. Did I mention that?
What You're Most Like to Yell at the Screen: "Why aren't you using guns?! Guns don't use electricity!"
DIY Revolution: It's pretty easy to recreate this show in your very own home. Just go into the basement, shut off the power, and then sit in the darkness. For added effect, you can get your neighbors to chase you around while shooting arrows.
High Point: The surprising ending. No, I'm not going to tell you what happens. This isn't the spoiler page.
Low Point: The groan-worthy death scene of our famous scientist. It's like the cartoon version of a gasping man dying in the street with just one more secret he needs to get out before he expires.
If You Love This Show, You'll Love...: Ashrams, Mennonites, archery.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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Here's how I know Tom Hiddleston is one of the most talented up-and-comers in Hollywood: he's the nicest guy in the world, fully capable of playing the most evil dude in the universe.
I had a chance to sit down with Hiddleston at New York Comic Con to discuss The Avengers, his second round of playing the villainous Loki, God of Mischief. Judging from the recent trailer (and the preview footage we got a glimpse of at the film's panel), Loki looks more powerful than ever, enhanced by (if the end of Thor is any indication) otherworldly forces. Still, charm is his deadliest weapon—something Hiddleston has plenty of in his arsenal.
This is the second time you're playing the God of Mischief under two very different men. What are the differences playing the character under Kenneth Branagh in Thor and Joss Whedon in The Avengers?
Tom Hiddleston:The thing about the two of them is that they actually share more than you might first imagine, weirdly. Joss is a huge Shakespeare buff and Ken is a closeted comic book fanboy. True story. But they also have a pan-literacy about storytelling and mythology and literature and comics, and they understand classic tropes of storytelling. Narrative arcs.
They're also both immensely passionate people. Really good at leading, really good at inspiring actors. All that stuff. But everyone has a different artistic fingerprint, and whatever that is changes as you grow older anyway. Ken has a very classical warmth. Thor is both warm and classical in tone. Joss is really interested in comedy as well, within a sci-fi context. You have this huge canvas where eight superheroes are teaming up to save the world, and he's brave enough to make it funny.
How did that affect your performance as Loki?
TH: He changes in that he's definitively more menacing. A lot more. I think Loki in Thor is a lost prince. There's a degree of vulnerability and confusion about his identity. In The Avengers he knows exactly who he is, he's completely self-possessed. He's here with a particular mission.
Why does Loki take out his vengeance on Earth?
TH: Like all autocrats, he doesn't see it as vengeance. He sees it as a good thing. Essentially, he's come down to Earth to subjugate it, to rule as their king. His primary argument is that this planet is rife and populated with people who are constantly fighting each other. If they're all united in their reverence of one king, there will be no war. [Laughs] I'm not sure he's right about that.
But to bring [Chris] Hemsworth into it, I think Loki's still jealous that Thor has a kingdom, Asgard. And Loki has nothing. So he's going to make his own kingdom.
Do you get any comedy in this movie or are you all hellfire and brimstone?
Oh, a lot of hellfire and brimstone [laughs], but Joss had two notes for myself: more feral and enjoy yourself. And I think there's a kind of relish that Loki takes in just being who he is, that I hope the audience will enjoy as well.
You have a lot of physicality at the end of Thor, will we see more of that as well?
Are you working alone or do you have some cronies?
TH: [Laughs] There's a lot of working alone, but there's a little support too.
How does one bad guy take on eight superheroes?
TH: It's all in a days work, man! There's something about Loki that's been expanded. He's a enormously powerful being. He's the God of Mischief. Between the end of Thor and the beginning of Avengers he's evolved. It's as if he's been on three years of military training and he knows a few extra things. A few tricks up his sleeve.
It was really fun and hugely physically demanding for me. Because there's a kind of lethal, yet sinewy strength that he has, that sometimes is about magic and supernatural power that he has, but other times a raw physicality that's just me and my body.
Did you and Chris discuss how you were going to make your relationship different in this film than in Thor?
TH: Well we sat down with Joss individually, then we kind of talked about it together. Joss had such good ideas, we kind of followed his lead. Because it's not a sequel to the Thor film, it's a sequel to the Iron Man films and the Captain America film…his ideas were just so smart. I took it as a huge compliment that what I did in Thor was OK enough to warrant putting me in the next one. Joss has a soft spot for Loki, he likes him as a character and thought he could take both Thor and Loki further down that path. Make the sibling rivalry a really interesting element of the clash of egos in Avengers.
We see you playing with a weapon in the recent trailer. What were you wielding?
TH: It's a kind of evolution of the staff he played with in the end of Thor. That was Odin's spear. This his own makeshift staff of mischief.
There's a lot of New York blowing up in the trailer. Is the action primarily set there or does the movie have a larger, global scope?
TH: Well, no, it's not just one city, but Manhattan becomes a focus point mainly because that's where Tony Stark lives. There's one shot in the trailer where you can see the jet flying towards Stark Tower, which in the fictitious world of the comics, Tony Stark has a huge, interestingly-shaped [laughs] tower, opposite the Chrysler Building. So that becomes a focus point.
How familiar and immersed were you with Marvel mythology before playing Loki?
TH: Well, in England we have this game called Top Trumps and it's like a really simple game for kids. You have them for racing cars, fighting planes or something. And I had the Marvel Superhero Top Trumps. Each hero is on each card, with each of their vital statistics. You'd have Thor and I'd have Loki and you'd say, 'height, 7'2"' and I'd be like 'uh…' and then you'd win Loki. Galactus, he's the Top Trump!
Because you were the movie's villain, did the other cast keep you at arm's length or was there camaraderie on set?
TH: [Laughs] No, no they didn't. All the Marvel movie's have a code name to keep them secret. Thor was called 'Frostbite' and The Avengers was called 'Group Hug.' There was a huge camaraderie on set. Partly because none of us could quite believe we were there making this movie. Also, we were shooting in Albuquerque and Cleveland, and of course, no one is from Albuquerque or Cleveland so no one has anywhere to go. So you finish up at work and it's like, 'does anyone want to grab a beer or something?'
We had some fun houses. Chris Evans had a good table tennis table. Loki beats the crap out of both Thor and Captain America at table tennis. And one night Chris Evans sent a round robin text message saying 'Avengers Assemble' [laughs] and we ended up at a bar in Albuquerque, the place where everyone goes to hang out on Saturday night. What was quite interesting was that your regular Albuquerque bar-goer looking around going, 'Is that Jeremy Renner doing a lunge on the dance floor?' Or, 'why are Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson at this bar dancing together?' But, yeah, it was really fun.
What is Loki's relationship with Stellan Skarsgaard's character in this movie? We know at the end of Thor the two of you were quite close.
TH: This is where I can sense the red dot forming on my forehead and the Marvel sniper on the roof over there has his eye on me.
Working with Stellan is amazing. I really do think he's an exceptional actor, capable of bringing a layer of complexity and truth to roles, which in another actor's hands might seem dry and invisible. He's been doing it for so long—I love the fact that he's done so many different things. Lars von Trier so many times, Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean, Angels & Demons and he's in Fincher's new movie, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. A kind, sweet man.
He plays the same character in The Avengers, Eric Selvig. He's employed by S.H.I.E.L.D. after his encounter with S.H.I.E.L.D. in Thor. And that is all I can say [laughs].
How does Loki contend with the eclectic mix of superpowers presented by The Avengers? How do they balance all the characters?
TH: I think Joss is a great genius in the way he put the film together. These guys don't find it easy to share the space. It's not a easily functioning team. You've seen the bit in the trailer where Steve Rogers and Tony Stark bickering. A lot of the strength and the uniqueness of the film comes from square pegs/round hole fitting.
With Loki being the big bad in The Avengers, do you have any particularly threatening lines you drop on the team?
TH: Oh God…there's so many. There's on in the first scene, if I can remember. It's connected to the one in the trailer, which is, "You were made to be ruled." That smacks of an entitlement and arrogance and a menace that sums Loki up pretty well. There's more where that came from.
S04E13: Let's be honest. Almost nothing was going to live up to our excitement for the Breaking Bad Season 4 finale. First of all, Season 3 concluded with one of the most intense pair of episodes that many of us can remember seeing on television in the past several years. Secondly, somewhere around the middle of Season 4, the episodes began embracing more and more drama, tension, excitement and terrific storytelling (both back and forward), culminating with the colossal episodes "Salud," "Crawl Space," and "End Times." So this episode, which was a little lighter on the dramatic elements and more interested in just wrapping things up, might have paled a little in comparison. But it was still very, very good. Just not edge-of-your-seat good.
The episode picks up immediately from last week's: Walt runs to the hospital parking garage to remove the bomb from Gus' car, and then rushes hastily into the hospital to speak with Jesse and find out why Gus turned away from his car -- a question we never get the answer to. Or will we? Could this loose end be one that brings up a whole new string of problems in Season 5? Walt versus Jesse. Walt probes Jesse for information on where he can surprise Gus. He wants to find a spot where Gus will inevitably end up -- without cameras, like his home and workplace -- so that Walt can plant the bomb there. As Walt and Jesse chat, a pair of detectives approach and demand Jesse come in for questioning regarding his claims to Andrea that Brock was likely poisoned by risin.
As this questioning gets underway, Walt rushes to Saul's office for aid in the matter. He breaks in while Saul's secretary is shredding documents, and asks her for a phone number where the incognito Saul might be reached in exchange for an inordinate sum of money. The scene is a fun one because the woman goes off on Walt and how he ruined her life. The value (other than comic relief) is that it clues us into all of the minor, nameless and faceless people whose lives Walt and Jesse have ruined via their catastrophic endeavors. We see this woman in many episodes, but we have never heard any of her story. Breaking Bad humanizes everyone, eventually. So this was interesting and fun.
Anyway, in order to pay the woman off, Walt must head to his house and get some cash from his crawl space -- but, there is the strong possibility that his house is not safe. Gus has people everywhere. So Walt, watching from a reasonably safe distance, has his neighbor head into the house with a fake errand as a decoy. She emerges safely, and Walt sees two of Gus' men leave the backyard. A safe (but close) interim period between the men's departure and return allows Walt to retrieve the money from the crawl space. Cut to Saul cutting Jesse's interrogation short.
"Did you tell them anything?" - Saul
"I told them they're dicks." - Jesse
"He's quite a wordsmith." - Saul
Saul also meets with Walt to discuss some information Jesse gave Saul about Gus: every so often, as we have seen, Gus visits Hector Salemanca at the nursing home to taunt him. So, Walt pays a visit to Hector—the first time he has seen him since their very tense meeting in Season 1 (which is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series, for what it's worth)—and offers him a chance to get revenge on Gus, who, if you recall, recently killed everyone of Hector's family members and friends.
Hector is silent, communicating with his nurse via a board of letters, and requests a meeting with the DEA. His wish comes true and he speaks specifically with Hank, but he uses the meeting to spout obscenities and apparently insult the DEA and waste their time. However, the plan is to arouse the suspicions of Gus. And he does. Tyrus stakes out the meeting and informs Gus, who decides to take action himself. First, Tyrus goes in to Hector's room at the nursing home to see whether or not it is safe. He brings a metal detector, but fails to notice Walt hiding outside on the ledge (Breaking Bad has done this sort of thing before, and has done it better each time before, but this is a minor detail).
Among these scenes, we see Jesse set free from the detectives' interrogation. Risin is ruled out as a poison, which makes all us cock our heads a little. Immediately after he is released, Jesse is tasered and kidnapped by Gus' men, and brought back to work in the lab.
Then, Tyrus and Gus pay Hector a visit. Gus insults Hector for talking to the DEA and reveals a needle with which he apparently intends to inject (and kill) Hector. But before he can, Hector begins ringing his bell frantically, setting off the bomb that Walt apparently strapped to his chair (after Tyrus' inspection) and rigged to be activated by the bell, killing all three of them. Hector was well-aware that he was going to die; we never explicitly see the plan being detailed, but we do see Walt asking Hector if he is "sure" he is willing to do this, to which he rings once: yes.
"What kind of man talks to the DEA? No man. No man at all." - Gus
And the bomb goes off. Gus emerges from the room, standing upright. We only see his profile at first, but the camera revolves to show that half of his face was blown off. Gus adjusts his tie, and falls to the ground. Dead. Now, this is kind of a weird choice. On one hand, it's off-beat and interesting. Plus, one can assume that, since Gus was the primary antagonist for the past two years whose death has been plotted for a while now, that the show wanted to let us see him in his last moment before death. And it shows him as he lived: dignified, yet destroyed. The series is intent on keeping his air of sophistication, even though he is a vengeful, maniacal drug dealer. But on a visceral level, it's just a strange, kind of silly scene. But I'm willing to ignore that. It is, after all, Breaking Bad.
So, Gus is dead. All is well, right? Walt finds out via FM radio, and then meets with Jesse to put all matters to rest. Walt shows up at the lab, killing the two Gus cronies who are watching over Jesse, and then informing his friend that Gus is dead. The two take immediate action in destroying the entire superlab. It's a brilliant montage (for lack of a less '80s-movie-reminiscent word), visually, musically, and in terms of the story and characters. They set the fire alarm on the way out as to free all of the laundromat employees from their bondage to this horrible institution.
"Walt, what did you do?" - Skyler
"I won." - Walt
And, in a final cathartic scene, Walt and Jesse speak on the hospital roof. Jesse explains that Brock is going to be fine (yay), and that it was actually Lily of the Valley that poisoned him, not risin. Again, we cock our heads. Jesse says that sometimes, kids eat berries off Lily of the Valley, a flowery plant, and it makes them very sick. We're all a little set-off at this point, emotionally. Last week, the big question was: Who poisoned Brock? Gus or Walt? And now, it seems that it was just a strange accident. Not very Breaking Bad. We don't know how to feel, really. But Jesse feels guilty about 'helping' to kill Gus now that he was not involved in Brock's poisoning. Walt assures him that Gus still needed to die, which Jesse reluctantly accepts. The two shake hands and head their separate ways.
Walt calls Skyler, who heard of Gus' death on the news. Horrified, she asks him if he was responsible for this. Walt gives the best, most in-character answer he could have given: "I won." Way to go, writers. Then, he drives home, passing Gus' empty car in the hospital parking garage.
As an ending song plays, we see the empty backyard of the White household. At first we assume it's just some kind of artistic shot. After all the yard has been a place of a lot of important scenes over the years. Season 2's plane crash thread had floating stuffed animals in the pool. Walt got his son drunk there in a fit of pride. Just recently, we saw him spinning his gun while waiting for his doom.
But then, the camera begins to zoom in. On what? Oh, nothing. Just a table. With a potted plant on it...a Lily of the Valley.
And there's the spine-tingling rush. Thinking back to the gun-spinning scene, that's actually probably when Walt devised the idea. The gun probably pointed to that very plant. But that's just wishful thinking.
This does pose two questions, however. One: how did Walt get the Lily of the Valley to Brock? And two: if risin was not Brock's poison, what happened to Jesse's missing risin cigarette? This is one question we never got the answer to. Will we? Could this loose end be one that brings up a whole new string of problems in Season 5? Walt versus Jesse?
And what else is in store for Season 5? As of now, Jesse finding out about Walt's involvement seems to be the biggest dramatic element. Skyler is also pretty mortified by her husband's actions, so that might come up. And, of course, the DEA. But Gus is dead. The cartel is dead. Who remains? Mike (sick in a 'hospital' bed in the middle of the desert)? What on Earth will happen?