A lot of big TV stuff has happened lately, from Better Call Saul‘s series premiere to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s transcendent episode, “Charlie Work.” Let’s go through it, one at a time.
Better Call Saul
The highly anticipated spinoff of Breaking Bad premiered last Sunday, followed by another episode the next day. Two things immediately became crystal clear within fifteen minutes: Better Call Saul is no joke. It’s a fresh perspective on the Breaking Bad universe, led by the always charismatic Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill, the attorney who hasn’t realized his inner Saul Goodman yet.
While Better Call Saul is different, there’s no mistaking the shadow of Breaking Bad looming over it. Indeed, there’s something unmistakably familiar about Better Call Saul, from the cinematography (especially unique camera angles, like the second episode beginning with an extremely close shot of red bell peppers being chopped up) to the relentless character development, where every single minute of the show is put to efficient use in furthering the story in some way.
In terms of the future, the question isn’t whether Better Call Saul will be good. The real question is this: will it ever be as good as Breaking Bad?
Who knows. Maybe it will end up being the Frasier to Breaking Bad‘s Cheers.
The Walking Dead
For years, I’ve been one of The Walking Dead‘s biggest critics, citing its poor attempts at character development, befuddling plot sequences, and a general reliance on the gimmick of being a zombie apocalypse show.
After enduring almost three seasons of underachieving television, I finally walked away, satisfied in my assessment that it was the most overrated show in history. Then, after the fourth season started, I heard rumors through the grapevine that the show had inexplicably flipped some kind of switch.
It was smart. It was tense. It was… good. You know what? Those people ended up being right. I started watching the fourth season and immediately noticed how much smarter the characters were, and how their decision usually ended up being the right one – even if it led to seemingly unethical actions.
A show that was only borderline interesting during fight scenes started to balance it out, to the point where the scenes with pure dialogue became just as interesting as seeing zombies get stabbed in the head.
Even Carl became bearable. Speaking of Carl, there’s a moment near the end of the fourth season where he almost gets raped while Rick and Michonne are held at gunpoint and Daryl is getting the shit kicked out of him.
Rick takes matters into his own hands, literally biting the main bad guy’s throat out and savagely stabbing the unsuccessful rapist over and over and over and over and over and over again in the gut while the rest of the group watches with a mixture of absolute horror and justified vindication.
It was disturbing. It was gory. It was… highly satisfying. Watching Rick defend his son with such animalistic and primal instincts was one of the best parts of that season. It was also the defining moment of my transformation from The Walking Dead hater to The Walking Dead advocate.
I mean, don’t you remember the good old days when Carl was an annoying little bitch and you were practically begging a zombie to bite the kid’s carotid? Now I was just as amped up as Rick to see Carl turned over on the grass, helplessly wriggling like a worm cut in half.
I’m currently on season five, episode six, which means I’m a little behind. The second half of the season started last Sunday, and I don’t know how that went. I did hear one of our beloved characters passed away, which is unfortunate.
Here’s to The Walking Dead and a surprise resurrection after three seasons.
P.S. I love you, Maggie. <3<3<3<3<3
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Last week, there was an episode revolving around, um, cream and pies.
Two weeks ago, there was an episode that transcended anything the Gang has ever done. Did they accidentally fire a nuke at North Korea? Did they finally kill Rickety Cricket? Did Dennis and Dee inexplicably enter an incestuous relationship?
No. No, none of those things happened.
“Charlie Work” was about a surprise health inspection of Paddy’s Pub, with Dennis, Dee, Mac, and Frank brushing off the impending death sentence as nothing while they attempt to pull off a scam involving the contamination of frozen steaks with (living) chickens.
Charlie, on the other hand, is known for doing all the manual labor in the bar. He’s especially adept at killing rats, as we all know. “Charlie Work” is one of those episodes where the token idiot character (well, the Gang as a whole leaves a lot to be desired) suddenly ends up being the smart one.
Here, Charlie seamlessly navigates between assisting the Gang with their heinous plot while overseeing the health inspector’s movements to ensure everything doesn’t come crashing down like the show’s general likeability over the past few seasons.
Whoa, that ambush came out of nowhere! Well let me explain, jeez: It’s Always Sunny is in its tenth season. It’s getting old. Seriously. Sometimes, the Gang acts so dumb, I wince and look away. It’s especially searing when Charlie acts like a moron. I mean, these people are technically adults!
It’s the same kind of vapid energy that sometimes pokes its head out in shows like Fawlty Towers. There’s something sadistic about watching a bunch of people (or just one, in Fawlty Towers‘ case) fail miserably at something, especially if it’s because of a lack of communication and/or a continuous run of bad timing. In It’s Always Sunny, that’s a common occurrence.
For me, that’s why “Charlie Work” was so magnificent. Not only was it a technical marvel (more on that in a second), but it was one of those rare moments where the Gang actually did something right and accomplished their mission.
Perhaps more importantly, the episode was basically one long tracking shot, similar to that one scene from True Detective, or the work done by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki in films like Children of Men, Gravity, and Birdman. Birdman, of course, is especially notable because it’s an entire movie that is composed of a handful of tracking shots edited to look like one. Just amazing.
Even Dennis and his pathetic Matthew McConaughey impression was great, mostly because it told me the episode was inspired by True Detective, and not Birdman as I had initially thought. Or, just maybe, it was inspired by both.
More TV Happenings
- Jon Stewart surprised his audience and the nation when he announced his plans to retire from The Daily Show. It has been a while since I’ve watched an episode from beginning to end, but he’ll still be missed because of his humor and his intelligence. Poor Comedy Central. Colbert. John Oliver. Now Stewart.
- Parks and Recreation‘s final season is steadily marching towards the finish line and the season’s episodes have been gooey in all the right ways. My only regret is joining the bandwagon last year, in the midst of a massive Netflix binge.
- Nobody cares about the Grammys.