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Posts Tagged ‘drama’

Breaking Bad - Courtesy AMC

Well, there you have it – everything is out in the open now. Hank and Walt’s epic showdown from last week was mirrored by an equally tense (but more tearful) faceoff between Marie and Skyler. The dawning sense of betrayal that came over Marie’s face as she realized that Skyler has known about Walt’s activities (to some extent) far longer than she (or Hank) had ever imagined was perfect and heartbreaking. When faced with it all laid out in front of her, Skyler could do nothing but cry and feebly apologize. When she was in it, she made the decisions that she had to in order to protect her family (from the man who protects their family) and she could compartmentalize things. But when Marie laid everything out for her, she was forced to look at the enormity of it all.

Or maybe she first realized the enormity of things when Hank called her, panicked, from the garage. Hank was quicker on the trigger than Walt (I loved hwo the shots were framed as a Wild West standoff as the garage door slowly closed) and he got Skyler on the phone first. As she walked into the diner, it was clear that Skyler felt like she was walking into a trap. And Hank was so focused on the end goal of nailing Walt that he completely misread the situation. He went into full cop mode, interrogating Skyler with the same tactics that he’d use to interrogate the average street drug dealer. But Hank failed to realize that Skyler might have been culpable in some of Walt’s crimes. He never stopped to consider that Skyler might be the one laundering the money and, as such, she might be a little reluctant to tell all the details of Walt’s crimes to a DEA agent, particularly one who insists that she did not need a lawyer. Hank’s strongarm tactics might work on average drug dealers, but Skyler is smarter than that. She needed time to think and formulate a plan, so she caused a scene and ran out, leaving Hank alone with his recorder.

Meanwhile, when he was unable to reach Skyler, Walt went straight to Saul. After immediately shutting down Saul’s suggestion that he simply send Hank to Belize (“I’ll send YOU to Belize” might be one of my favourite Breaking Bad lines ever), Walt went straight into damage control mode. Huell and Kuby went and brought him the money from the storage unit (after going full-on Scrooge McDuck, of course) and Walt took it to the site of his and Jesse’s original cook. Without the benefit of a team or big machinery like he had while he was burying barrels for the train heist, Walt spent all day digging by hand. After concealing the GPS co-ordinates as lottery ticket numbers, he immediately collapsed in front of Skyler in their master bathroom.

Awaking hours later on the cold bathroom floor (albeit with a pillow under his head and a blanket covering him), Walt was possibly at the lowest point he’d been since his moment of panic in the crawlspace. Dabbing his forehead tenderly, Skyler asks him if it’s true that the cancer is back. He confirms it and offers to give himself up, provided that she never speak of the money and keep it for Walt Jr. and Holly. However, the ever-pragmatic Skyler recognizes that this would never be possible. Hank tipped his hand to her during the interrogation – he didn’t have enough to get Walt on his own. He needed Skyler’s statement. For the time being, Skyler suggests, the best course of action would be to stay quiet. Never have the phrases “stay quiet” and “tread lightly” promised so much explosiveness in the weeks to come.

This explosiveness might come in the form of Jesse Pinkman. Like some kind of guilt-ridden drug-dealing Hansel, Jesse left a trail of thousands of dollars that led first a bewildered citizen and then the police right to him. Just as Hank was about to present his case to his boss without the solid proof he so badly needed, he found out that the one remaining living connection to Walt was in lockup at that very moment. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out if Jesse’s disillusion about Walt is enough to convince him to flip on Walt. Jesse may resent him and be consumed by guilt but will that be enough to overcome a lifetime’s worth of not talking to the police? Not to mention the fact that admitting everything would also send Jesse to jail for, at the very least, killing Gale. Will Hank be better at getting information out of him than he was at getting it out of Skyler?

Theory Time:

  • I don’t think Jesse will give Walt up. I think there’s too much history there, both between him and Walt and between him and Hank. As much as he hates Walt at this moment, I still think Jesse hates Hank more.
  • In the flash-forward, Walt is on the run with Skyler and maybe (probably?) the kids. That’s why his fake last name is Lambert (Skyler’s maiden name), not because he killed her. After seeing his refusal to even entertain the idea of killing Hank, I don’t think there’s any way he kills Skyler. She still might die, but not by Walt’s hand. If that’s the case, then I think he’s coming back to protect her/them somehow. The ricin and the machine gun must be to finish off whoever is still standing in their way.
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The Americans - Courtesy F/XAfter last week’s excellent (but unfortunately un-reviewed by me) episode, “Gregory”, The Americans picks right back up this week with the evolving dynamic of Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage as they attempt to move past Elizabeth’s emotional (and physical) affair with Gregory by taking the morning off and having a tryst in a hotel room. Unfortunately for the spies we love, the morning that they decided to take off was the morning of Ronald Reagan’s assassination attempt. The rest of the episode surrounds the chaos of the day, as the FBI understandably worry that the KGB were behind it and the KGB worry that it might be a starting point for a coup and that they’d better get Operation Christopher underway just in case.

I really liked the way that they took a major world event and brought it into Phillip and Elizabeth’s world without it feeling forced. The whole episode was really about everyone scrambling for information with whatever tools they could find, and sometimes those tools are wigs, giant radio transmitters, and a friendship with the neighbourhood FBI. Speaking of their friendly neighbourhood FBI, I was happy that Stan is still being portrayed as a competent agent, spotting Nina’s tail and seemingly able to meet with her without being caught. Of course, I suspect that poor Nina will be heading for a new life in Cuba before too long (by the way, heading for a new life in Cuba is my new favourite euphemism. Sorry Joyce). But for now, it’s exciting to watch everyone be competent on their struggles to stay one step ahead.

Throughout this episode, Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage was at the forefront as they disagreed about how to proceed. Flashbacks explained that Elizabeth had grown up knowing that the only person she could rely on was herself, but by the end, she realized that sometimes it’s okay to listen to Phillip. Indeed, despite the snippiness at each other during the day, by the time they crawled into bed, they were firmly back on the same team again, content in the knowledge that they are in this thing together, for better or for worse.

The same cannot be said for the increasingly strained relationship between Stan and Sandra. It’s perhaps a bit obvious, but I liked the juxtaposition of the Jennings’ relationship growing stronger every day while the Beemans continually grow apart. Sandra had built a life alone while Stan was undercover, and now that he’s back, they don’t know how to recapture what they had. It’s no coincidence that last week’s episode ended with Elizabeth asserting that she’s feeling something new for Phillip 20 years into their marriage and this week’s episode ended with Stan asserting exactly the opposite to his wife. They’ve lost their connection and it’s going to be exponentially harder to get it back when Stan’s job involves keeping secrets from everyone. Phillip and Elizabeth may have their problems, but at least they know (mostly) what each other does each day.

Overall, this was another strong episode in what looks increasingly like a show on the verge of greatness. The only thing that gives me pause is Phillip and Elizabeth’s daughter’s relationship with Stan’s son. I don’t mind a little Romeo and Juliet action but if they hit somebody with a car and then drive off, I might have to be out.

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Homeland - Courtesy Showtime

My first reaction as the lights dimmed on season two: Huh.

Then I realized that this season finale was just a compilation of different types of Holy Shit moments. Let’s break it down:

Holy Shit This is Corny – Carrie and Brody, back together at the infamous cabin from the first season, staring longingly in to each other’s eyes, joking about that time Carrie thought he was a terrorist and he pulled his gun on her and good thing they can all laugh about that now, amirite? And hey, Carrie has a mom! Who walked out on her family! And Brody is the only person she’s ever told! (Now accepting bets on which episode Mrs. Mathison will make an appearance in next season – I’m doubling down on episode 2). And hey, it’s super difficult to be in a relationship with someone with bipolar, but Brody can totally handle it since he’s, you know, the very picture of mental stability. Anyway, it’s not like Carrie is totally delusional. She does realize that dating Brody won’t allow her to continue working for the CIA, which would be a bigger deal if, at this point, there was any reason to believe she would be asked to rejoin the CIA. As far as she knows, she’ll be having to wear an embarrassing yellow visitor’s badge anytime she wants to drop in on Saul. She tells Brody she needs to think about it before making a decision. If only she’d shown the same kind of hesitation when she decided to become complicit in the murder of the Vice President.

Holy Shit Is there a Tim Horton’s on Every Corner in Rural Virginia Too? – Nice to see our northern answer to Starbucks make another brief appearance. No croissants in sight, but hey. Can’t win ’em all I guess.

Holy Shit Quinn Just Pull the Goddamn Trigger Already – Set up in a mirror image cabin across the lake from Carrie and Brody’s Love Cabin, Quinn watched them frolic in the woods for a day, then watched them get down to sexy time, and then chowed down on a delicious can of tuna. In the morning, when Carrie headed out on her Timmy’s run, he somehow sped across the lake, snuck through the woods behind Brody, watched him as he prayed, put his finger on the trigger and . . . nothing. Jesus Quinn, just do it. There’s already been a Jason Bourne. You can’t just stop being a trained assassin because you feel bad about it unless you’re also going to get amnesia and go on a rampage against those who programmed you.

Holy Shit This Is Really Bad Dialogue – Turns out, Quinn upheld a part of that last qualification, showing up super creepily in Estes’ darkened bedroom, gun across his lap, to threaten him in his most Batman-esque voice. Quinn’s job is to kill bad guys and – guess what? He doesn’t think Brody is a bad guy anymore. So suck it, Estes. Not only that though! He thinks killing Brody will also destroy Carrie, and that would be bad since she’s “The best analyst I’ve ever seen.” Uhhh Quinn – aren’t you an ops guy? What exactly makes you qualified to judge analysts? And anyway, if you were watching the same shit that I was this season and deemed Carrie the best, then I’ve got the best oceanfront property in Nebraska to sell you. Sure she was right all the time, but she’s hardly reliable.

Holy Shit Estes is a Pussy – So. After getting threatened by a newly morally-upstanding Quinn, Estes just folds like a cheap hooker who got hit in the stomach by a fat guy with sores on his face (credit: Joey Tribbiani). Why didn’t Estes just say, fair enough Quinn, you won’t kill Brody and you’re going to come into my home and threaten me with hokey superhero movie dialogue? Fine, you’re dead too. I mean, he’s presumably got an arsenal of trained killers on his speed dial, and some of them might actually be better at following orders. But no, instead, Estes calls the whole thing off, releases Saul from his captivity, and even tells him that the damning lie-detector report was in the process of being redacted “as we speak.” So . . . that whole storyline was just a waste of time I guess? No real ramifications? No real point except to make Estes evil, Quinn good, and take Saul out of the action for a few days.

Holy Shit Does Saul Ever Love Peanut Butter – A man after my own heart. Give him some peanut butter, crackers, and an extra carton of milk and he’s good to go.

Holy Shit Saul is the Only Reasonable Person on this Show – His showdown with Carrie in the halls of the CIA was perfect – thanks in large part to Mandy Patinkin. His disbelief at Carrie’s professed love for Brody was exactly what was needed, and I was vigorously nodding along when he told Carrie she was the smartest and dumbest fucking person he’s ever met. Yes Saul! Yes.

Holy Shit You Guys, Walden and Nazir Were the Same – The dual funerals functioned in a couple different ways, but the most blatantly obvious one was to underline the fact that who’s a terrorist and who’s a hero is just a matter of perspective. Nazir gets a respectful but anonymous burial at sea, while Walden gets memorialized in what I’m sure would’ve been a string of services glorifying a career that was essentially built around killing people. The other reason for the simultaneous services was to again show Saul’s sensitive side and make sure there was an iron-clad reason for him to not be at CIA headquarters when shit went down.

Holy Shit, Who Moved Brody’s Truck? – This was, obviously, the turning point of the episode and maybe the show. Brody, apparently miffed at all the glorification of Walden’s drone program, silently motions to Carrie leave the memorial and they have a little lover’s romp through the apparently completely empty CIA complex. Then, just as Carrie tells him that she’s decided to give up her entire life to run off with an avowed (former?) terrorist, Brody looks out the window and notices, holy shit, someone moved my truck. Carrie barely has time to curse before the truck blows everyone at the memorial to smithereens. Was it shocking? Absolutely. Did it provide one of the only legitimately tense moments of the episode when Carrie came to just before Brody and had the presence of mind to grab a gun (that was just sitting loose in a drawer?) and point it at Brody, assuming that he’d played her and that he was behind this whole thing? You betcha. Did it make sense? Well . . . I mean, okay, yes. Technically everything Brody said by way of explanation made sense, even if it was a little awkward and, I don’t know, hitting us over the head with it all. “Don’t you see? He set it up from the beginning! He wanted to get caught! He wanted us to let our guards down!” Thanks for the recap Brody, but we probably could’ve put some of that together ourselves, especially since it didn’t answer the most pertinent question, which is who exactly put the C4 in his truck and moved it into position? The way it just came completely out of nowhere took something away from it for me. I would’ve loved either a shot through the trees watching Brody park (to at least suggest someone watching), or a gloved hand reaching for the trunk, or something. Just something to suggest that something bad was going to happen and give the whole thing a tension leading to the explosion, rather than just going for the shock. I suppose the point is of not doing this was so that we would have fallen in to the same false sense of security as the characters, which I guess I get, but I would’ve just preferred some warning.

Holy Shit Everybody’s Dead – Well, not everyone of course. Our beloved red headed terrorist/congressman/fugitive will naturally live to see another day, but Estes, Mrs. Walden, Finn Walden, and a ton of other nameless CIA agents are all gone. And with that, so is much of the core of this season. It’s like the bomb was a big reset button. Estes proved himself to be a wuss, but the threat of Evil Estes would have always been lurking in the background. Not so much anymore. Now, Saul’s the senior director and they’ll be able to (plausibly) bring Carrie back into the CIA since they’ll be ridiculously short-staffed and need all the help they can get to figure out what the hell happened. I don’t mind this. A lot of what bogged down this season for me involved Estes/the Waldens, so with them out of the picture, there’s a chance the show can get away from the political intrigues and back to straight forward surveillance and intelligence.

Holy Shit, Best Episode of Storage Wars Ever – Carrie, realizing that Brody will be (with reason) suspected of placing the bomb, manages to escape the CIA compound and takes Brody to her storage unit, which, disappointingly is not filled with thousands of valuable newspapers from the day Elvis died. Instead, there’s just a giant case filled with money, guns, and fake IDs. Once again, Jason Bourne would be impressed. Carrie explains that she has a guy (conveniently located along the route between Virginia and Montreal) who is expensive but can make the best fake IDs around. The plan is to go to him, then go up to Montreal, and from there meet up with her friend June who will get them to Newfoundland, where they can board a boat into international waters. There they can . . . I don’t know, broadcast Major League Baseball with implied oral consent instead of expressed written consent (thank you, Simpsons). Anyway, I can get on board with this plan as a short term solution. I’m willing to buy the fact that Carrie has contacts who are able to make this whole thing possible. Plus, Brody definitely can’t stick around and try to clear his name since . . .

Holy Shit, Terrorists are Good at Framing People – This is one part of the episode that I can truly say I loved. I should’ve known that the terrorists would’ve made copies of Brody’s suicide video, but I didn’t. Releasing it after using his car to blow everyone up was a stroke of genius. Well played, terrorists. Now not even Brody’s own family can deny his culpability. While it displayed questionable mothering instincts for Jessica to force her kids to watch their dad’s own suicide message, it was worth it to see them all realize, a year too late, exactly what Brody was capable of. It’s even more narratively gut-wrenching considering that he didnt’ actually do anything this time! (Or did he? I’ll get to that). Plus, Dana had just gotten Brody to essentially admit that he had been planning on blowing up the VP that fateful night, but that he’d changed his mind and wasn’t like that anymore. So she thought she knew exactly what she was talking about when she insisted to the investigators that her dad couldn’t have done this and then . . . that damn video. Poor Dana. For a moment, I thought she was going to go into the garage and take out Brody’s gun and just end it all there. I mean, could you blame her? She kills someone, has it covered up, realizes that the world is supremely fucked up, realizes that you can never really know anyone, and then her dad, who she thinks she knows, is a terrorist and killed 200+ people right after telling her he wouldn’t. I mean, Jesus. That’s a lot to deal with, and I don’t know if she even knows at this point that Finn is also dead. I predict a lot more angst from Dana next season and this will probably be what pulls Brody back in from whatever fishing boat he’s hiding on.

Holy Shit, Carrie Made a Good Decision! – Together in the woods just south of the Canadian border, Carrie and Brody were at a crossroads. As Brody helpfully pointed out, the woods are always symbolic for these two. In this case, though, instead of bringing them together, it frames their goodbyes as Carrie realizes she can’t give up her life at the CIA. There’s a heartfelt-but-maybe-a-little-too-over-the-top goodbye scene, as Brody and Carrie tearfully promise each other that this isn’t goodbye and that one day, somehow they’ll be together. Okay, so they’re both still delusional, but as Brody disappeared into the woods and Carrie sped home towards her rightful place at Saul’s side, it felt like maybe the writers were on the right path. This entire season has seemed like the writers were just contriving situations to place Brody and Carrie together, to remind everyone that they both love each other so much, and it has felt at times very forced. The greatness of their relationship last season was rooted in its unexpectedness and in its inherently fucked-up nature. Last season, when they were together, they both knew it was doomed. This season, they spent most of their time together talking about how they could actually make this thing work long-term and it just felt too cheesy and unrealistic. So, for me, creating distance between them in season 3 can only bring good things. I’m not naive enough to expect Brody’s absence from the show will last more than, say, half an episode, but as long as he and Carrie aren’t in the same room, I think that some of the narrative tension that was there in season 1 will come back.

Holy Shit, Saul Totally Knows, Right? – The look that Saul gave Carrie at the end said so much. Mandy Patinkin is a master at showing subtle emotions, and to me, when he finally turned and saw Carrie standing there, there was both relief and anger written on his face. Of course he’s happy she’s alive, but at that moment, he had to realize that there was a good chance Brody was too and that she had helped him escape. Where else would she have been for a day? I’m really looking forward to see how this plays out. With Saul effectively in charge, it’ll be a different dynamic than last season when they had Estes to blame when bureaucratic red tape that held up their investigations of Brody. Saul’s also always been the one who was able to break through Carrie’s bullshit and call her out when she needed it. I’m hoping he’ll continue to be able to do that.

Holy Shit, What’s Going to Happen Now? – Well there you go. Season 2 in the books. It was uneven bordering on the absurd, but in the end I think I liked it. I do want to know what happens next. I want to know if Brody had anything to do with the bomb in his truck (my gut says no, but they’ve left the door open just enough that he might have). I want to know who’s the terrorist now. I want to watch Carrie and Saul and Virgil and Max watch people through hidden cameras and long-range lenses. I just have to change the way I watch it all unfold. After the first season, I watched this show expecting it to be like Breaking Bad or The Wire when really, it’s probably more on the level of Sons of Anarchy. It’s not in the upper echelons of TV like I thought it was, but it’s still heads and shoulders above most of the crap out there. While Breaking Bad and The Wire were masters of creating complex characters and slowly building up to outrageous situations so that they somehow still felt grounded in reality, Homeland is more like SOA in that it’s ultimately a soap opera in which a lot of shit goes down every week (seriously, think about the amount of shit that went down this season in either show. It’s crazy the amount of plot they run through). They’re both exciting, they’re fun to watch, and fun to think about. I thought Homeland was going to be more, but really, that’s my own fault for wanting it to be something it didn’t want to be and maybe never was. So, with that, I’m going into next season with excitement. I can’t wait to see how they’re going to bring Brody back after the first episode, I can’t wait to see if it ever comes out that he was involved in Walden’s death, I can’t wait for the inevitable Quinn-Carrie hookup, and ultimately I can’t wait to see what crazy shit the writers will throw at us. 

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Homeland - Courtesy Showtime

Formerly (and more awesomely) known as “The Motherfucker with the Turban.”

Perhaps it’s fitting that this episode changed its name from something shocking (at potentially offensive?) to something a little more standard. The first half picked up right where last week left off, to the point where I was internally writing a eulogy for the Homeland that once was. And then, Abu Nazir died, and things started clicking into place again. It’s just that it’s getting increasingly difficult to put aside the ridiculous stuff and appreciate the acting and the emotional scenes on their own merits.

The beginning of the episode was another 24-ish romp as Carrie withheld significant information from Quinn (that Brody/Nazir are the ones who caused Walden’s pacemaker to malfunction), lied unconvincingly about how, exactly, she managed to escape from Abu Nazir (she got lucky, I guess?), and quickly jumped to the conclusion that Galvez must be the mole who helped Nazir escape since he, you know, just got out of the hospital and everything. This particular leap would be fine for just Carrie and her sleep-deprived brain to make, but they lost me a bit when Quinn leapt off the proverbial cliff with her, concluding that it “made sense” and leading an FBI chase of Galvez who, it turns out, was just going back to the hospital because he’d popped his stitches (or is that just what he wants us to think?!?!).

The one bright spot of the first half was Carrie’s botched interrogation with Roya. Nevermind how absurd it is that Carrie got into the room with her in the first place (she’d gone to wash her face while Estes explicitly told Quinn not to let her in the room, and then, when Quinn got back, Carrie was already in the room). That’s some ninja interrogation shit right there. Anyway, what I liked about it was that, while it seemed at first that we were in for another demonstration of Carrie’s expert interrogation skills, Roya quickly turns the tables on her. She tells Carrie what she wants to hear, feeding her some bullshit about what it’s like to be around someone who you know is bad for you, and who makes you do bad things, but you just can’t help yourself. A single tear falls down Carrie’s battered face, and Roya pounces. She grabs Carrie’s bruised wrists, and spits insults at her in Arabic. It was a powerful moment and would have been made all the more powerful if only there hadn’t been so many leaps necessary to get Carrie in the room in the first place.

Anyway, after Carrie’s failure, Quinn insists that she go home and rest, but for some reason sees it fit for her to drive herself home (in what was presumably a CIA-issued vehicle). However, the drive leads Carrie to realize that when Roya told her that Nazir wouldn’t run, she meant it literally – he had to still be at the abandoned mill (sidenote: I’m pretty sure Nancy Drew and the Abandoned Mill was a book I read in elementary school. Just something to think about for next season, Homeland writers. Maybe move away from the young adult mystery genre). She naturally heads back there against Quinn’s advice, and finds everybody packing up to go. There’s only one tactical team left and, probably just to shut her up already, they agree to go back in for one more sweep. Naturally, again, Carrie is left alone with only one guy (after an explicit conversation earlier in the episode where it was discussed that they always go in pairs), quickly finds a hidden room, and waits in the hallway while the lone operative goes in, finds where Nazir was hiding, and promptly gets his throat cut. The show then shifts from 24 to pure horror movie, as Carrie runs away screaming “HE’S HERE.” She manages to fight Nazir off not once, but twice, before the tactical team can swoop in and shoot him as he kneels on the floor in front of them and reaches into his pocket to pull out what I’m sure will end up being a cell phone.

The parallels between Nazir and bin Laden are fairly obviously drawn, but I especially liked the distinction between the popular reaction to bin Laden’s death (jubilant cheering, U-S-A chants) and Carrie’s quiet realization that she’d succeeded in taking down the person she’d devoted the last 10 years of her life to catching. There was no trace of jubilation on her face, but rather a mixture of satisfaction, relief, exhaustion, and a strange sense of sadness and pity. Abu Nazir was probably the person she knew the best in the world, and now he was lying bloodied on a gurney in front of her, looking like just any other person, not an evil terrorist mastermind.

As I mentioned above, after Nazir’s death, things changed. When Brody is told, his reaction is just as compelling as Carrie’s was. He breaks down weeping before attempting to pass it off as tears of relief to his family. It’s clear though, that Nazir’s death hits him hard. Before, he was lost because he was trying to follow the rules of too many people. Now, he’s killed Walden and Nazir is dead – the only person he has left to answer to is Carrie. Since the terrorist threat is apparently neutralized, the unhappy Brody family is allowed to go home (much to Chris’ chagrin).

What they don’t know, however, is that Brody’s life is in fact in more imminent danger after Nazir’s death. Saul’s detainment last week was for a lie detector test that Estes will use to blackmail him later, if necessary. I loved the return of the lie detector operator from last season, and equally loved that the actual administrator of the test was a stone-faced Estes henchman. I loved that the questions were framed in such a way as to trap Saul with partial truths (did he technically give Aileen the weapon she used to kill herself? Well yes, but there’s far more to that story, obviously). Saul correctly identifies the motivations behind this line of questioning, telling the operator that the only reason he’s being investigated is because he knows about the plot for the CIA to assassinate a U.S. congressman. This is, of course, left out of the official report. While I will eternally love Mandy Patinkin, this plot seems a little heavy-handed in terms of Estes’ rapid shift from authority figure harshing the main characters’ collective spy buzzes, to actual evil guy involved in blackmail, murder, and all sorts of shady dealings. Last season, Estes controlled Saul by revealing truths to him about the nature of intelligence and the war on terror, this time, he controls him by blackmail? It just seemed like a bit of a leap.

In any case, Estes tells Quinn that the plan is still very much on, and that he needs to kill Brody sooner than later so that they can just blame it on blowback from Nazir’s death (it’s best not to think too hard about exactly how this would work – would they really pretend that there’s another congressman-terrorist on the loose in DC? Exactly how incompetent is the CIA anyway?) Anyway, the spectre of Quinn’s gunshot hung over the final scenes, adding heart-pounding tension especially to Jessica and Brody’s breakup conversation in the car. While their decision to finally divorce was a long time coming, the way it got wrapped up into a neat little bow felt a bit forced. I mean, one day they’re yelling at each other, jealous of each other’s affairs, and the next day, they’re having a quiet conversation about how it can never work between them? I suppose it was set up by Jessica’s assertion at the beginning of the episode that “everything has changed” after Walden’s death. In any case, I thought the fact that Brody went right up to the point of telling Jessica everything before she stopped him by saying she doesn’t want to know was true to character. No matter how much Jessica proclaimed herself to want the truth, she couldn’t handle even the glimpses of the true Brody that she saw. Her realization that the only person he’s ever told the truth to was Carrie and that “you must really love her” was both cheesy and effective.

When a bullet didn’t explode through Brody’s head the minute Jessica exited the vehicle, it was clear that Brody would be going to Carrie’s. I hoped beyond hope that when the doorbell rang it would be Saul or Quinn telling her that Brody had died (because this would have been unexpected) but instead it was Brody, feeding Carrie lines worthy of my guilty pleasure, Days of our Lives. He did what he did to Walden because, if the choice was Walden’s life or Carrie’s, it wasn’t even close? Carrie naturally swallows it up, which I can hopefully attribute to her not having slept for 2 days. Was she really just able to ignore the fact that the whole reason Brody was a terrorist in the first place was because he wanted to kill Walden? Anyway, she tenderly kisses his hand and brings him inside while Quinn watches through the scope.

There’s only one episode left and a hell of a lot to get through. I’m hoping that, in the end, Carrie will realize that Brody is a terrorist and her happily-ever-after fantasies are both unrealistic and pathetic. I hope she’ll be the one to kill him, but no matter who does it, I want him dead. I don’t see how Brody can live and have this series continue to exist under any semblance of plausibility. As it is, I don’t really know how they can continue. Saul is out, Carrie is out (even though she single-handedly took down the world’s number 1 terrorist, I can’t picture control-freak Estes keeping loose-cannon Carrie around and not Saul), the whole Brody clan is out, Nazir is dead, Walden is dead – the whole series is begging for a reboot. Personally, I hope that Carrie, Saul, Virgil, and Max get together and form an elite private investigators’ unit and, through their surveillance of cheating spouses and insurance fraudsters, stumble upon a terrorist plot that’s even bigger than Nazir’s ever was. I just can’t imagine how they’re going to wrap it up next episode though.

In the end, that’s really the difference between this season and last season. Last season, the unpredictability was this show’s greatest asset, and even when it seemed like they’d painted themselves into a corner, they always managed to find their way out, even if it meant jumping through the window. I always trusted that the twists they would take us on would feel earned and would contribute to taking this show to greater heights. This season, when the show has its back against the wall, it fights its way out with explosions when exposition would do, and it takes us on wild goose chases rather than the simple path from A to B. After last week, I don’t trust it to do itself justice anymore, and that’s a real shame. I hope they can redeem themselves next year and the only way they can do that is by killing Brody and starting fresh in season 3.

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Boardwalk Empire - Courtesy HBO

Well, they might not have lived up to last week’s heights, but it certainly ensured that season 3 went out with a bang. Many bangs, in fact. From the beginning montage where Al and Chalky terrorized Atlantic City over the mayor’s futile assertions that he runs Atlantic City, it was clear that it was just a matter of time before things went very badly for old Gyp Rosetti. Indeed, his men quickly realize their days are numbered, and so opt to spend their final moments of life getting drunk at the now-abandoned Artemis Club. Masseria comes to visit Rosetti to inquire as to what exactly has been gained as a result of this bloodshed, but Gyp doesn’t have any satisfactory answers and Masseria leaves in a bad mood, ripe for flipping.

When they’re not fixing cars and reminiscing about the old days, Nucky and Eli hatch a plan. Well, Nucky is the one who hatches the plan, but Eli gives him the push he needs. When Nucky begins to lose hope that anything can ever go back to the way it was, Eli reminds him to search for all the angles. And there Nucky hits upon a plan – he gets Mickey Doyle to call up Arnold Rothstein and let him know that Nucky’s running Mellon’s distillery. Meanwhile, it turns out that the cops that arrested Luciano and beat him into turning over 50 lbs of heroin were on the payroll of Rothstein, who now has said 50 lbs of heroin and is using it as a bargaining chip to get Masseria to pull out of Atlantic City in exchange for 99% of Nucky’s distillery. I think that’s about the gist of it anyway – things got pretty complicated pretty quickly. In the end, of course, Nucky ultimately beats even the normally cautious Rothstein by calling up Gaston Means who whispers to Mellon to tell Esther Randolph to arrest none other than Arnold Rothstein for his illegal takeover of his distillery.

So there’s the whole federal law thing sorted out, mostly thanks to his own ingenuity and the ability to call in favours at the most opportune moments. In terms of the actual violence, Nucky also relies on the help of his friends, both known and unknown. Capone and Chalky’s men might scuffle in the lumberyard, but they’re willing to do battle when it counts and they do the heavy lifting in the war for Atlantic City. However, Nucky also receives some help from a couple of unlikely sources – Gillian and Richard Harrow.

Treated exceptionally cruelly by Gyp’s men and rejected by Tommy (when she even brought him Oreos!) Gillian comes to the much belated realization that perhaps the Artemis Club isn’t the best place for Tommy after all. The problem is, Gyp won’t let her walk out, and Gillian uses her only skill set (her ability to zero in on men’s sexual desires) to figure out that Gyp would very much like to be choked with a belt. Why she doesn’t just choke him until he passes out is beyond me, but she reaches for a syringe full of heroin just a moment too soon and is caught by Gyp, who injects her with it instead. This gives Gyp just enough time to hear Masseria’s men abandoning him and he rushes downstairs to find out what’s going on when — BANG.

Richard Harrow enters. In one of the most fist pump-worthy scenes of the entire series, Richard enters the Artemis Club with about a dozen guns strapped to his person. He takes out the remainder of Gyp’s men, with only Gyp and his lieutenant surviving. When he finds Tommy being held hostage by a nameless Rosetti goon, Richard even thoughtfully tells Tommy to close his eyes before shooting the man in the head. Following the massacre, a bloodstained Richard takes Tommy to Julia’s house. Julia is understandably shaken at the sight of Richard’s bloodied face (perhaps she’s wondering how one cleans a face-mask such as his), and her for-once sober dad tells her to take Tommy upstairs to his dead son’s room. He doesn’t ask questions, but seems to understand that Richard’s been through a war. He tells him that a real soldier wouldn’t come home without cleaning up first, but Richard replies that as long as Tommy’s safe, that’s all  that matters. We don’t yet find out Richard’s fate, although I’d imagine it’s about 50-50 that he’s heading off to the woods to finish what he started so long ago. I hope that he reconsiders and at least ends up working for the new, improved Nucky Thompson. Anything to make sure Richard stays in our lives.

When Nucky and Eli observe the carnage at the Artemis Club, it’s with a mixture of horror at the sight and disbelief at their dumb luck. They stumble across a high Gillian, who’s made it out in to the hallway and tragically seems to be reliving her past, when Nucky sent a 13-year-old Gillian up to the Commodore’s room. To add to the pathos of it all, she seemed to think that Nucky had actually come to check up on her and make sure she was alright. Last week, I wanted Gillian dead almost as much as I wanted Gyp to die, but after that scene, I think I’m okay with her living for awhile longer. As long as she leaves Tommy with Julia.

Nucky and Eli find Gyp’s lieutenant hiding in the closet and send him to dispatch his not-so-beloved leader, who is ranting on the beach with two other fortunate-to-be-breathing followers. Gyp brushes off his crushing defeat, saying “you can’t lose what you never had” and insisting they’ll just go to another town and start again. Can’t be that hard right? And then, as he takes a piss while singing “Barney Google,” his lieutenant stabs him, at the orders of Nucky and as payback for his dearly departed cousin whose head had been bashed in by Gyp’s shovel not so long ago. Nucky and Eli send the lieutenant back to Masseria with the message that this can be the end of their troubles or the beginning – Nucky’s read to oblige him either way.

And just like that, most everything that happened since Gyp Rosetti rolled into town is voided. Sure, there have been some casualties along the way, but order is finally restored. Things aren’t the way they were but there is, as Oprah would say, a new normal emerging. Chalky will get his club on the boardwalk. Eli is back into the fold as Nucky drastically scales down both his ambitions and his operations. He only wants people they can trust around them, he says. Margaret is living in a hovel in Brooklyn and goes to see an abortion doctor to have her love child with Owen “taken care of.” When Nucky goes to see her, she stares at him as if he’s a stranger, and when he offers her money, she scoffs. Nucky doesn’t understand why she’d choose the life that she’s living once she’s experienced the luxury, but he doesn’t realize that it was the luxury that was the outlier for Margaret. Poverty, she knows. She lived it for most of her life. The last couple years of riches have brought nothing but pain. Perhaps she’s just finding comfort reverting to the status quo. Or perhaps, when some time has passed, she’ll return to Atlantic City and try to find Nucky again. She might have more difficulty than she had in the past, as he won’t be wearing his signature flower. No longer wanting to be the toast of the town, Nucky seeks anonymity. I can’t wait to find out how the new Nucky survives in the new city he’s going to build for himself.

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For some reason, I’m having a hard time writing a regular review for this episode. Perhaps I’m spent with all the excitement of Boardwalk Empire or perhaps it’s because so much has happened this episode (and this season) that I’m running out of steam. Whatever the reason, I think I’m just going to stick to bullet points for today. Hopefully next week, I’ll be feeling more energetic!

  • So, we don’t really know what exactly happened between Brody and Abu Nazir during the 12 hours he was off the grid. The story that he tells Carrie, Saul, Quinn, et al. seems plausible enough, but Brody didn’t tell them that he prayed with Nazir, so who knows what else he’s hiding. I think it is significant that his discussions with Nazir about Allah revolved around personal motivation and force of will. I really liked the way the show kept us guessing by just showing us snippets of the flashbacks.
  • Still, Brody’s panic to ensure the safety of his family after he watched Nazir drive away seemed authentic.
  • The plot to blow up the vice president at a ceremony for 300 returning soldiers is at once symbolically typical of Nazir and also too simplistic. The plot from last season was layered, and I have  a strong feeling that this plot has more to it than meets the eye.
  • Mike, Jessica, and the kids are essentially playing house, and Mike occupies the role of father better than Brody ever has. I especially liked how he shut down Dana’s whining.
  • Mike and Jessica’s middle of the night guest room tryst echoes Carrie and Brody’s cabin tryst of last season. Both Brody and Jessica look more comfortable with their secret lovers than they do with their spouses.
  • I also thought it was significant that Brody wasn’t mad when Carrie told him that Mike was with his family. He is either ready to give up on his marriage and family because a) he genuinely recognizes that they’re better off without him and his baggage; b) he knows he’ll be dead soon thanks to his role in Nazir’s bomb plot; c) he knows that he’ll be in jail soon thanks to his role in Nazir’s bomb plot; d) he has deluded himself into thinking he can somehow run away with Carrie and everything will be fine; or e) he’s got too many other things on his plate to worry about that
  • Meanwhile, Saul has had Virgil and Max keeping tabs on Quinn, and they discovered that he has a different name, lives in extremely spartan living conditions, and a secret baby and baby mama who happens to be a police officer in Philadelphia who is immune to the charms of Saul’s beard.
  • Quinn is apparently adept at the city bus system and has a secret meeting with someone who Saul and Estes know, but who for now remains mysterious. So, he’s not a mole but just working for another agency? Or another part of the CIA? I’m interested to see where this goes.
  • One place that it apparently goes is that Quinn has standing orders from Estes to kill Brody the minute that Abu Nazir is captured. Brody’s saved at the last minute this time, but perhaps he won’t be so lucky next time. I can’t imagine Carrie will be too happy once she finds out this little detail.
  • Is Carrie just playing Brody or does she really have feelings for him that are compromising her integrity? I’m starting to lean more towards the latter.
  • Ambushing Roya and Nazir’s guys at the diner seemed slightly premature. I thought they were going to wait until they got to the location of the reunion?
  • I can’t wait for a Carrie-Roya interrogation scene next week.
  • Do you think they’re using Carrie so sparingly this season because of Claire Danes’ pregnancy? I can’t help but wonder how differently this season might have shaped up had she been able to participate more fully.
  • I can’t imagine what this show is going to do for the next 3 episodes. A normal show would have the interrogations and the frantic search for Nazir occupy the end of the season, but this show will probably cram those into the first half of next week. I can’t wait to see where they take us next.
  • Brody is going to die this season, right? I mean, now he’s got Abu Nazir’s henchmen AND the CIA pointing guns at him and he can only escape so many times. The only question is how it’s going to go down – will Quinn, Nazir, Saul, Estes, Walden, or Brody himself pull the trigger? Or, will Carrie finally be forced to prove once and for all whether she’s able to put her feelings for Brody aside when homeland security is at stake?

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“Everything’s connected, Charlie. You just need to stop and think it through” – Meyer Lansky

In what may be the best episode of the entire series (definitely of this season), Meyer Lansky’s words proved prophetic as all the story lines that were carefully laid out along the way finally started coming together in some of most exciting ways possible.

First, we get Nucky and Eddie as a bad-ass duo, fighting off Gyp’s men in the early morning hours at the Ritz, Margaret and the children already having been safely dispatched on a train to somewhere. Nucky’s shotgun blasts through the door were a thrill to watch and for a moment I thought we were going to get an exciting and lighthearted buddy caper starring Nucky and Eddie, the only man he can trust. Alas, Eddie was shot in the stomach, and Nucky soon had to take over the driving. With Gyp’s men all over town, including the hospital where he has a fucking wing named after him, Nucky’s forced to go to “the other side of town” and call on Chalky White. Now, any episode where we get this much Chalky White is going to automatically improve a notch in my book, and this episode shows Chalky at his very best. He doesn’t make it easy on Nucky, but he ultimately promises to help him and even calls his daughter’s med student boyfriend over to help with the ailing Eddie. What does Chalky want in return for this generosity? Only the promise that he be allowed to open a club on the boardwalk where Babette’s used to be. Nucky promises that, if he gets his town back, Chalky can have his club, but points out he might lose, in which case Chalky might need to make new friends. “Too old for that,” Chalky says, and with that Nucky has at least one ally he can trust.

Of course, Gyp Rosetti is doing his very best to undermine that trust by placing a $25 000 bounty on Nucky’s head. When Nucky asks Chalky if he trusts his men not to be tempted, Chalky replies that he doesn’t trust anybody. But, the men are loyal enough to Chalky to not do anything right away. When Gyp comes to Chalky’s beach shack, we finally get a showdown between two of the show’s most dynamic characters. They approached each other cautiously – Gyp tells Chalky his full name, then says people just call him Gyp, and “How do I address you?” Chalky’s reply was gold: “You’re doin’ it.” Then, Gyp makes awkward small talk about both of them having been left out in the sun for too long, with Chalky a little longer than himself. Chalky replies, “You just ain’t done cookin yet, friend.” I could listen to Chalky White talk all day long.

But, as much as this episode was a powerhouse one for Chalky, it was also an introspective one for Nucky. When he was under attack at the Ritz, the only person he could rely on was Eddie. Throughout the day, it became clear that Eddie was both his best friend and a complete stranger. He can’t understand his German babbling, and he didn’t even know he had a wife and two sons. He’s been utterly reliant upon Eddie for years (he didn’t even know Chalky’s phone number), and yet the man is a mystery to him. Nucky’s concern for Eddie and his insistence that he receive proper care and protection was touching and perhaps more sensitive than we’ve ever seen him.

Nucky also had plenty of time to think while riding alone in the back of Chalky’s van as they tried to move him away from those who might be tempted to turn him in for the reward. Steve Buscemi’s performance here was powerful, going through the range of emotions and showing just how far the mighty Nucky had fallen. When the truck gets stopped by Gyps men demanding to look inside, it’s unclear for a moment whether Chalky and his men will turn him in. I mean, I didn’t really expect Nucky to die, but the tension of the show had built up to such an extent that it felt like anything could happen. Luckily, Chalky proved his loyalty by killing the men, and when they open the truck to find Nucky crouched behind the crates, gun drawn, it’s clear Nucky has reached a conclusion. He’s not going to run after all. This is his city, and he’s going to take it back or die trying.

Nucky and Chalky go instead to the lumber yard where Eli’s oldest son works (remember how he showed initiative and an interest in the business way back when?). He serves them day-old doughnuts and coffee and Chalky and Nucky have a conversation about needs and wants before they’re interrupted by the unexpected sound of vehicles riding up. Stepping out to face what he clearly expected to be his certain death, Nucky is instead greeted by Eli, back from Chicago, and, in the most applause-worthy, fist-pumping final moment, Al Capone. He’s been on the road for 18 hours, so he wants a bath and some food, but come morning “You and me sit down and we talk about who dies.” Fucking Al Capone. Finally. The only thing that would’ve been better is if Van Alden had been with him but there’s still time for that. I can’t freaking wait.

As if the Nucky-Chalky-Gyp-Al story wasn’t enough, the two side plots were equally as riveting. Lucky Luciano and the aforementioned Meyer Lansky discussed whether they could trust a mute mobster from Buffalo who offered to buy 5 lbs of heroin for $15000. Lansky preached caution, nothing that everything’s connected and, with the situation between Nucky and Masseria up in the air, it would be more prudent to wait and see which side was victorious so as to not end up on the losing side of the proposition. Naturally, Lucky didn’t listen and, equally naturally, the Buffalo mobster and his sidekick both turn out to be cops. It’s unclear exactly how this storyline will tie in to the goings-on in Atlantic City, but I’m sure they will.

More clearly related is Richard Harrow’s unceremonious ejection from Gillian’s employ. Gillian crossed a line early in the episode, going through Richard’s scrapbook and finding the picture of him with Tommy and Julia on the boardwalk. She coldly reminds Richard that he’s just half a man, and that Julia doesn’t look blind, so there’s no way she’d ever want him. When Gyp comes to the Artemis Room and announces that he’s going to set up shop there, Gillian realizes that she might have sided with the wrong gangster, but by then it’s too late. Gyp’s men take over and turn the Artemis Room into, well, a common whorehouse, with men having sex with women in the lounge and talking back to her when she tries to regain some semblance of order. She storms upstairs to check on Tommy and instead finds Richard getting him ready to go outside. After Richard lied and said they were just going for a walk around the grounds, Tommy admits they were going to Julia’s and Gillian has Richard forcibly removed by Gyp’s henchmen. In the final montage, we see Richard in Julia’s brother’s bedroom, carefully laying out an impressive collection of firearms. Gillian finally went a step too far. I only hope that after Richard kills her, he stops to help Nucky/Chalky/Al defeat Gyp before riding off into the sunset with Julia and Tommy.

Next week is the season finale.  I can’t imagine how they’ll be able to top this one.

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