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Well, after a long “mid-season” break (both for the show and for my blogging “career”), Breaking Bad is back with a vengeance.

Last night’s episode was pretty much perfect, as far as I’m concerned, from the continuation of the flash-foward from the season premiere, to the final showdown in Hank’s garage. It struck a perfect balance between slowly revealing Walt’s new post-Heisenberg life and then immediately destroying that false sense of security with Walt’s realization that Hank is onto him and their subsequent cards-on-the-table confrontation.

But before I get to that, we need to talk about Jesse. Poor Jesse never really had a heart for the whole breaking bad thing, did he? He’s a shell of himself, sitting in his depressingly empty house (except for his bitching sound system, of course), starting into the distance, numbing his pain with pot and inane Badger-Skinny Pete Star Trek fanfic. He took Walter’s sarcastic and manipulative comment about Jesse’s money being “blood money” to heart and as a consequence, the suitcases filled with $5 million eat away at his soul like a tumour eating away at his insides. He tries to have them surgically removed, telling Saul to give half to dirtbike kid’s family and the other half to Mike’s granddaughter, and he doesn’t care what kind of questions a random $2.5 million will raise. He just wants the poison out of his life so that he can start to try to heal.

Of course, Saul calls Walt for a second opinion and he immediately brings the money back to Jesse. In the conversation, Jesse reveals that he still has the ability to think critically, recognizing (as Lydia did last season) that Walt would not have killed Mike’s men if Mike was still around to do anything about it. No matter how much Walt insists that Mike is alive and perfectly capable of taking care of his own granddaughter, Jesse knows the truth. And he can also finally see beyond Walt’s blatant attempts at manipulation. “I need you to believe me,” Walt repeatedly asks, until Jesse finally gives in. “I believe you,” he says. “He’s alive.” But the tears swimming in his bloodshot eyes and the fact that he can’t even look at his former mentor when he says these words reveal the truth.

In the end, Jesse gets rid of the money the only way he can think of. Inspired by a homeless man who asks for some “spare change”, Jesse gives him a stack of bills and then drives off to the bad part of town, throwing money out of his window as he goes. With every toss, the emotion of the past year comes out until Jesse is driving with tears in his eyes and a mixture of sadness, grief, rage, and maybe just a little bit of relief on his face. I hope that this catharsis is what Jesse needs to regain some of his sharpness and clarity in the coming days and weeks. Something tells me he’s going to need it.

Meanwhile, Hank goes on an emotion-filled drive of his own, emerging from the bathroom with Leaves of Grass stowed in Marie’s bag and a sudden, visceral need to get out of the White house and away from Walt. He has an anxiety attack on the road, hitting a mailbox and getting sent to the hospital to rule out a heart attack. Once home, Hank immediately gets his old Gale Boetticher file and compares the handwriting to Walt’s book – it’s a perfect match. He spends the next week at home alone, getting the Gus Fring evidence boxes brought to his garage. I enjoyed watching Hank meticulously map out everything, make connections, and remember things in a different light. Hank is a good investigator but until now he was blinded to Walt’s true identity because of their family connections. Now he’s able to see the events of the past year or so in full clarity and it’s terrifying and enraging all at once.

Meanwhile, although Walt and Skyler seem to be largely back on the same page (they’re even dressing in complimentary cream colours), running the car wash (and maybe even planning for an empire of car washes), Walt can’t quite resist keeping some secrets. Sure, he tells Skyler who Lydia really was when she comes to the car wash to try and entice him back to hold a “training session” but he hasn’t told her that the cancer has returned. We see him receiving chemotherapy and jumping up from a family dinner to run and vomit in the toilet. It’s then that he makes the discovery that his copy of Leaves of Grass is missing. After a futile search of the bathroom and the area around the nightstand, Walt realizes the only explanation – Hank must have it, and his mysterious illness must be a direct result of his new discovery.

Walt’s suspicions are confirmed when he checks his car and finds a GPS device like the one he helped Hank place on Gus’ car another lifetime ago. The next day, he shows up at Hank’s house, his fake-nice-guy smile plastered on his face. In true Breaking Bad fashion, there is no dragging out of the cat-and-mouse game, though. Walt shows Hank the GPS, Hank shuts the garage door behind him, and it’s on. I cheered when Hank punched Walt right in his lying face. The anger and betrayal written on Hank’s face were matched by glimpses of Heisenberg behind Walt’s facade. Admitting no guilt, Walt asked what could be gained by prosecuting a man who’s dying of cancer and who would never see the inside of a jail cell as a result. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to believe Walt or if he’s just saying anything to try to get Hank to drop it. In the end, though, it’s clear that Walt will not go down without a fight. After Hank tells Walt that he doesn’t know him anymore, Walt replies, with the perfect mixture of aggression and regret, “If you don’t know who I am, maybe your best course of action is to tread lightly.” Bryan Cranston plays that moment to perfection. Here’s a man who’s killed more people than I care to count, but there’s something different about realizing that your relative, someone you’ve known for over twenty years, knows the truth. If it was anyone else, Heisenberg would have killed him and had Todd get the barrels ready. But because it’s Hank, it’s not that easy. There will be no way to get out of this cleanly. Both men are going to have to tread lightly and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

Of course, we already know to an extent what will happen. Thanks to the cold open, we know that within the year, everyone will know that Walt was Heisenberg. Their abandoned house had it spray painted on the inside, and Walt’s former neighbour reacted with terror when she saw him leaving the house after retrieving the ricin from behind the outlet. Armed with the ricin and a machine gun in the trunk, it’s clear that Walt has returned with only violence on his mind. The question is, who will be in his path?

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Another weekend away means I will not be able to post my Homeland or Boardwalk Empire reviews at the usual time this week. I will, however, try to have a Homeland review up by Tuesday, 10/30. Can’t wait to see Brody in captivity!

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I’m on vacation for Canadian Thanksgiving and unfortunately will not be able to post reviews of Boardwalk Empire or Homeland this week (unless they’re exceptionally good and I can’t help myself, in which case posts will be up on Thursday, 10/11).

Check back next Monday for my reviews of the 10/14 episodes!

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Man, Louie has had a tough couple of months (or is it weeks? I’m not sure about how quickly time passes in the Louieverse). Anyway, this season has been almost unrelentingly dark, but this episode may have been the darkest of them all. For some reason not revealed to the audience, Louie is terrified of his father. Just the prospect of seeing his father causes him to become physically ill, vomiting out of nowhere at his comedian-friends poker game (which now includes Sarah Silverman) and developing a rash on his neck, which he absentmindedly scratches throughout. His anxiety was brought on by a visit from his mysterious Uncle X, who speaks circuitously of credenzas and Mexico before finally getting around to insisting that Louie go see his father. His comparison between Louie’s father and a prostitute was, I’m hoping, just another weird metaphor (he argues that you can protect yourself from a prostitute’s wretchedness with a condom, but you can’t have any barrier between family). When Louie finally goes to Boston, everything reminds him of the reason he’s there. The pilot announces they’re landing in Boston (“where your father lives”) and Louie gets into an extended dialogue with his GPS (why does he need a GPS to get to his father’s house? Has he not been there before? Why not?). In talking back to the GPS, who asks him why he’s being such a pussy about seeing his dad, Louie reveals that nothing bad happened with his father, he just “feels weird” around him.

But is that really the truth? Louie gets to the front door and waits while a shadowy figure walks towards him. In the last minute, he runs away, taking first one of those middle-aged 3-wheel motorcycles, and then a speedboat. He doesn’t stop fleeing until he’s in the middle of the water, away from everything and apparently safe for the moment. He starts laughing (perhaps at the absurdity of it all?), but the show ends with a long shot of Louie looking contemplatively out at the water. Whatever happened with his father, it remains unresolved.

There were two other scenes at the beginning of the episode that initially seem unrelated to the rest. The episode opened with Louie’s daughter Jane (played by Ursula Parker) playing the violin beautifully. Louie interrupts, telling her that it’s not time for violin, it’s time for homework. In a classic reversal, Louie’s daughter doesn’t want to stop practicing, and Louie has to forcefully take the violin from her, muttering, “this is bullshit.” I guess a connection between this and the rest of the episode could be a commentary on Louie’s parenting, but there’s a far cry from forcing your kid to do her homework and doing whatever Louie’s father did to cause the kind of anxiety that Louie feels. The other scene, in a Best Buy-type electronics store was strange – the employees first ignore Louie, then patronize him, and then set him up to trip over a box. When he complains to the management, they laugh at the footage rather than offer to help him. The best part of that section, for me, was when Louie sees himself on the video and it’s played by another actor. He asks if that’s him, to which the management confirms it is, and it’s a nice little observation about the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how we really are.

Ultimately, this wasn’t my favourite episode of Louie, but it was certainly a wonderful experiment in television and a glimpse once again into Louis C.K.’s artistic genius.

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I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but whatever expectations there were for this episode were completely subverted and blown out of the water with the reality of it. What appeared last week as a relatively standard trope for TV and movies – the quirky girl and the regular guy – quickly had all the fun sucked out of it with TapeRecorder’s manic behaviour (yes, I know her name is Liz, but I like TapeRecorder better. Liz is far too normal.) This episode is a series of montages that calls back to the Miami episode, juxtaposing the fun and easy relationship between Louis and the lifeguard with the tense and sometimes frightening date with TapeRecorder.

From the very beginning, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be a lighthearted date. First, she forgets her coworker’s name, and then, in a rare move away from Louie’s point of view, we see the bartender refuse to serve her after “what happened last time.” We never find out what that is, but it must have been extreme to have a bartender in NYC remember you. After insisting that they walk around, she forces Louie to try on a sparkly dress in a vintage shop (rewarding him first with laughter and then a kiss on the cheek). Whatever chance there was for Louie to escape the date and cut his losses was gone as soon as he pulled that dress over his head. I go back and forth on trying to decide whether he genuinely still liked her after her increasingly erratic behaviour, or whether he was just curious about what might happen next.

I was surprised at Louie’s gullibility with the TapeRecorder lie, although by then she’d shown herself to be “out there” enough to perhaps make it possible to believe anything. I wonder if the cancer story was even true. I also wonder about the scene with the homeless man. Was this a genuine moment, or was it another one of her dares? Was she doing it because she felt a connection to the man and his mental illness, or because she wanted to challenge Louie’s half-assed altruism? Was it just another way of showing how she takes everything to the extreme? They couldn’t just give him food or some money, they had to buy him expensive medicine and put him up in a hotel.

Whether or not Louie went along with everything for fun or because he felt cornered, it all came to a head when TapeRecorder bullies Louie into climbing the endless stairs to the top of the building. He stops multiple times, insisting that he can’t do it, but she won’t have any of that. When they finally burst through the door onto the roof and she exclaims that it was all worth it, Louie replies with “it really wasn’t.” I wonder if that sums up how he’s feeling about his decision to stick this date out.

The scene on the rooftop was so intense that I had to watch it through my fingers. I was convinced that she was going to jump or fall and Louie would be left dealing with the aftermath. She’s clearly lying when she says that she’s not afraid to be so close to the edge because she doesn’t want to jump, and her utter disregard for Louie’s discomfort is just cruel. He does flash a brief smile when she says she won’t jump because she’s having too good of a time, but I don’t think it’s enough to continue seeing her. It might have been a night he’ll never forget, but that isn’t always a good thing. One thing’s for sure – despite her knowledge of children’s books, she’s far too unstable for him to bring around his daughters.

P.S. I usually file Louie under “comedy” because that’s what it ostensibly is. However, this week, I’m leaving it as “uncategorized.” I think that’s the point of what Louis C.K. is trying to do anyway.

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Introduction

As a PhD student, I spend most of the day in front of my computer, researching, writing, editing, deleting, and re-writing. I’m not one of those people who needs absolute silence in order to concentrate. In fact, I’m the opposite. I need noise of some kind of my mind (and mouse) start to wander. Most of the time, I have my trusty study playlist going, but first thing in the morning (it takes awhile for my brain to warm up), over lunch, and sometimes in the afternoon, I’ll watch TV online. The shows that I watch during the day are usually the kind that don’t require my full attention. For example, globaltv.com uploads full episodes of my high school favourite, Days of Our Lives. It’s perfect — it requires little to no thinking and yet provides me with the precious moments of distraction that are needed for me to properly focus. I also watch the shows that my husband rolls his eyes at, such as America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, Castle, The Mentalist, Revenge and Smash. Again, most of these don’t require any complex analysis (or even full attention), so they’re perfect for my daytime research/watch routine.

Of course, the above list probably does not give the best impression of my TV taste. I save the quality programming for my evenings, when I can give my full attention to a program. My current favourite shows are Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Modern Family, Happy Endings, House, and The Office (although, I’ll be honest, this is more out of habit than of any delusion that the show is anything like what it once was, but I digress). Much like The Office, I also haven’t been able to quit Survivor or The Amazing Race, but I think I may be able to overcome those attachments soon enough, and HGTV or TLC are  pretty typical options when nothing else catches my fancy.

I also watch sports. Baseball is my favourite (go Cubs) but I also enjoy CFL (go Bombers), NFL (go whoever is on my fantasy roster), NBA (playoffs only), March Madness (go whoever is in my bracket), and NHL (Jets and Stanley Cup only). Recently I’ve also found myself not leaving the room in disgust when my husband turns on golf and tennis, so I’m afraid that may soon seep into the regular rotation.

Basically what I’m trying to say here is thank God for pvrs and the Internet.

I’m not sure yet what form this blog will take. I intend it mostly as a space to write about my thoughts on my favourite shows, but I expect musings on my work and life in general will inevitably seep in.

So, let’s see what’s on and where this will take us!

Heather

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