‘The Killing’ Procures A Suitable Ending For A Choppy Existence

The Killing Season 4

God, I had such high hopes for The Killing. Nothing I love more than detective stories, awesome. On a cable network boasting Mad Men and Breaking Bad, awesome. Setting it in the atmospheric and oft creepy area of Seattle, awesome.The previews made everything look perfectly moody, with the classic sparring opposites of detective partners I was all in. Everything was good, at least for the first couple episodes, and then everything slowly sliding out of control, things got more and more unbelievable and it became clear that in whatever way we weren’t going to satisfied by the ending. But, who would ever think that they wouldn’t even tell us the killer as the first season ended, incredible.

Of course, I watched the following seasons because I’m a masochist. Season 2 was even worse than the first, while season 3 had its moments, it still ultimately suffered the same fate. What always kept me going was the relationship between Holder and Linden, our two detectives, how often they were at odds with each other, but always held an affinity and curiosity in each other that always made their scenes click.

Netflix gave the multiple-times cancelled show a six-episode final fourth season, and it seemed like that’d be the perfect way to go out and for the most part it did just that. As always the Holder Linden relationship kept rolling and held everything together when things seemed on the frays. But, most importantly the nailed the scope and presence of their main case, it wasn’t anything big or something with huge twists and turns, but enough for six episodes that simply involved the a killing and the boys academy that surrounded it, enough for suspects and a main threat. Joan Allen got to cut her teeth perfectly as the head of the boys academy trying to protect their image as well as some secrets she wouldn’t want the police knowing. While this was going on the show still managed to deal with the fallout of season 3 as a B or a C story that was used sparingly enough not to take over or feel like a drag.

In the end it was a perfect ending for a imperfect show with many imperfections. Holder and Linden got perfect endings for who their characters were and realistically what would happen to them. They didn’t go out gracefully or with merit badges, but as troubled as they came in and uniformly connected through the bumps and bruises they procured together.

Advertisements

‘House Of Cards’ And ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Progress To Differing Second Seasons

Orange Is The New Black

Fundamentally, House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black don’t have much in common. Besides the fact that they’re both the stalwart first drama series for Netflix and have gained some critical notoriety in some aspects, although one more so and deserving of the other. The first seasons of both shows left me pretty neutral, I wrote before on House Of Cards and how it didn’t really provide anything we haven’t seen done expertly better in other dramas. With Orange Is The New Black I enjoyed it much more than “Cards” because it offered something new and provided a new perspective on what we expect from these sorts of dramas.

For me House Of Cards was really just a continuation one everything the first season did so mediocrely. Just a continuation of Frank Underwood getting his way, and slowly but surely seeing all his plans come together until he’s to become president. It’s comfort food drama at it’s best, hitting all the same beats you would expect. A surprise death or two, the lead character in a seemingly unescapable predicament that he finds his way out of, last minute twists, betrayals and all that. Which is all fine and good, but it just doesn’t seem to care about trying something new, knowing full well that staying in this path is just fine for what they want to accomplish. The performances are good and help cover up the lacking other parts of the show.

Orange Is The New Black on the other hand operates on a multitude of levels that help develop and push the show in different directions. The show is mainly quarantined just within the prison, but it really causes no problems in thinking of inventive storylines and happenings. Along with this they expertly focus on one character an episode and flashing back to how they found themselves in prison, allowing a break from the prison locals and letting us out into the world. The strength of the show is no doubt in the colourful character of all different shapes, sizes, backgrounds and motives, creating odd relationships and different combinations to play off of.

House Of Cards was the perfect launch show for Netflix, had a bankable star, an engaging enough premise and a broad reach for who’d enjoy it, guaranteeing it at least moderate success at the commercial level. Orange Is The New Black came along and pushed things a little further, being a bit of an unsafe choice, one that doesn’t follow all the rules and allows for some freedom coming on the tails of the brand maker of House Of Cards. The second seasons of both shows cemented these differing statuses for each, and for good or bad, we get a look at what’s to come for the foreseeable few years as these show top a new era in TV popularity.

‘Arrested Development’: Season 4

Arrested Development Season 4

Look, I like Arrested Development and all it’s a good and funny show, but I kinda hate all the hardcore fandom and worship that the show constantly gets. Every quote, reference and call-back has to be turned into countless memes and recited in numerous comment sections where copying and pasting your favourite quote makes you seem intelligent and adding to the conversation. Now obviously there’s nothing wrong with being a fan of a show, and even more-so if it’s something you engage with through different avenues, but the way the zeitgeist of the people attached itself to Arrested Development and it’s circumstances of being cancelled “early” fostered a simple and tedious engagement with the show. I like Arrested Development, but the consistent boy’s club of references and quotes sometimes seems like it’s the ONLY way people expect you to watch the show, like you have to be a hardcore fan to enjoy every facet of it, when that’s simply not the case. That’s what’s great about AD, you have the call-backs and wrap-around plots and jokes with some stuff only noticed after the fifth re-watch, but the main story and comedic through-lines still exist for the base level of the show. Arrested Development has fostered this exclusive fandom that has put me at a relative distance in terms of how it’s engaged with outside of the confines of the direct content of the show, that while developing new meanings and points of reference, also clouds the expectations for the show and how it effects its content.

I don’t think any of that preceding paragraph made any sense, but I’m too tired right now to make it work. Basically, just a long-winded way of saying “I like Arrested Development, but not in the super-fan quoting everything way, and sometimes that part of it detaches me from the show itself.” Get it? Probably not, so let’s talk about how season 4 kinda sucked, but was also alright.

I would say that the first 2/3’s of the season were bad, well, more like 2/3’s in total as “Colony Collapse” and “Red Hairing” were good with “Smashed” and “Queen B.” being a couple down episodes until the great closing stretch of the last five episodes. “Bad” is the wrong word I guess, just really average episodes that had a couple good jokes but nothing special, definitely bad though in comparison to the heavyweights of season 1 and 2. I have always wanted some show to be told episode-by-episode through the eyes of a different character so we could understand the world of the show and how differently each person thinks about everything and how they engage with the world. I’d say they got it about half-right, I realize that they mostly used this device since they couldn’t usually get all the actors at the same place at the same time to film, so this allowed for easy focalization on one character at a time. Spinning off of this, the story was told out-of-order with something’s not becoming clear ‘till further on down the line and again feeding the Arrested Development reference, call-back and easter egg qualities that everybody seems to love so much. I found doing it this way short-shifted some characters who didn’t have much of a storyline at all and often felt disconnected from everything going on in the main plot. George Sr. and Lucille stick out to me as two great characters who didn’t have all that much to do, and when they did was never anything of consequence or reference to the main thrust of the story. Also, with the nature of this segmented story and out-of-order placement the payoffs wouldn’t come until later, but while the set-up early episodes were lacking, the resolution and tying of most things together in the final stretch of episodes was terrific.

On the flip-side of this, the Gob, Tobias and George-Michael showcase episodes were pretty perfect in highlighting the quirks of these characters and almost strictly following them for the whole half-hour was a delight that held together much of the season. I don’t know if it was supposed to be maturation, change in writing, performances or what, but often the characters just felt “different” and someone completely alien from the person we had got to know over the first three seasons. Michael seemed to have fell down a flight of stairs between seasons, because he was dumber than a special needs doorknob. Especially with scenes between him and George-Michael and attempting to comprehend things, it seemed like the writers just decided to make the only relatively sane Bluth as dumb as the rest just for the jokes, but ignoring, like, how he was never like this. Also, Portia de Rossi’s plastic surgery or whatever the hell happened to her face in the six years since we’ve got new episodes was wholly distracting and made me double-check IMDB to see if they had recast her. Bizarre. One “change of character” thing I did like, and the best part of the whole season, was George-Michael and Michael Cera’s portrayal of him. As we are a few years down the road it was cool to see how George-Michael had grown up into this weird, awkward, sexualized  independent dude who seemed exactly like an extension of the young version we’ve all come to know. His growing separation with Michael was an excellent through-line and worked terrifically as a focal point of the show (and series) as it reached a boiling point at the end.

I was never fiending for more Arrested Development whenever the rumours would pop up years ago. I thought a wrap-up type movie would have been cool, but I never would’ve dreamed to get 15 half-hour + episodes of the show again. Again, I can’t say it would effect me too much either way whether we get more or not (pretty big bet that there’s more coming though), but of course I’ll watch it and be just dis-connected enough to enjoy most of it. On the whole of things I was let down by season 4, but trying  to recapture the gold of the first two seasons and parts of season 3 is an immeasurable task on one of the best comedies of the past decade and a benchmark for comedies since. The first few episodes were rough to get through, but I’m glad it was able to all come together for the most part at the end and deliver a competent season of television that I never thought would ever exist.

‘House Of Cards’: Season 1 Review

'House Of Cards' Banner

We’re only talking about House Of Cards because of its method of delivery. It’s a slightly below average show that is only getting large press because of it’s revolutionary mode of having the entire first season available at one time on the streaming service Netflix. Well, there’s the Kevin Spacey and David Fincher draw as well, but even big stars like that get washed over after awhile. That’s the thing though, Netflix knew they needed to play it safe, having a show with equal draw to all demographic as their first foray into original television. House Of Cards is a straight-down the middle show, not too controversial to appeal to all, but with some racy elements to satisfy the “cable” drama type viewers, everybody likes political intrigue and behind-the-door dealings, and like I said earlier, has the draw of Spacey and Fincher with a great actor and an auteur with his own stylistic flourishes. Hemlock Grove is too niche and genre to start out with and altough Arrested Development has devoted fans, it’s too segregated to start out of the gate with it. House Of Cards is perfect because it’s just so average, not terrible, but no “Sopranos,” ‘Breaking Bad,’ or ‘The Shield.’ either, it’s just there.

On a more base content level, ‘House Of Cards’ is like ‘Entourage.’ Yes, that HBO “comedy” series of a few months back with a couple good seasons at the start, and some godawful ones that killed its early success. More specifically, Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood is exactly like Adrian Grenier’s Vinny Chase in that aforementioned show. At the start of any given episode or season of ‘Entourage’ Vinny and his crew might be faced with getting fired from a movie, or getting into money troubles or with the law, but rest assured these problems or obstacles agains the main character aren’t faced for long, by the end of the episode or season, everything is neatly and easily tied up, and Vinny remains on top of the world with no problems. This is how House Of Cards treats Frank Underwood, he might get down for the better part of an episode, but always comes out on top, unscathed and better than everybody else. Nothing drags him down for an extended period of time. Whether it’s troubles with an eduction bill and its opponents, his handling of Peter Russo or his maneuvering into a possible Vice-Presidency slot, he never faces obstacles that have everlasting repercussions. It’s hard to get behind or invest yourself in a character or show when the dramatic tension and events are always skewed towards the main characters’ victories, and by sticking to this plan it ruins surprises or twists, or in actuality makes them non-existent as the end result can be clearly seen as choreographed to Underwood’s end.

Whereas it was hard for me to fully understand the characertization of Underwood and how he was being manipulated to an easy end by the writers, Corey Stoll’s character Peter Russo who was running for Governor of Pennsylvania became  my favourite character and best storyline of the entire show. Russo was a flawed as a drug addict and alcoholic, but who at his heart was a good man who wanted change for his constituents, and after getting clean was well on the way towards his goals. Of course, Underwood was behind the scenes pulling the strings and ultimately led to his death, both physically and strategically. Russo worked as a character and storyline because there was always a tinge of uncertainty, whether it be with his addictions, his family and significant other relationships, his dealing as a political leader and connections to the larger world of politics. Nothing was set in stone with Russo, and unlike Underwood who you could always see the directions of his moves, Russo could go either way, and it was understandable within the show and believable for him either way to fall back or spring forward. Corey Stoll did fantastic work in his limited run, and I’m concerned for the show going forward that its best element of the season and one which was the most consistent is by and large gone.

I enjoy Robin Wright as an actor, and she was largely good in this, but was hardly  given anything of great heft to do, and was subsequently left hanging around the sidelines. I’d love for her to take a step forward in the next season and get an actual, you know, storyline where she can stretch her legs (figuratively and literally would be nice……) and maybe become an antagonistic force to her husband or others, as it seemed the way they pushed her slightly in the first season. Her relationship with her husband is interesting in their love for each other running alongside a equal parallel of distance and separation between the two. Broadening this out into a storyline or a catalyst for a motivation on her end towards her husband, with lasting ramifications would do wonders to separate herself and give her some room to operate. I’m a fan of Kate Mara as well, she’s a decent actor and fine to look at, and although that’s what we got to start the show, she became more and more a problem and nuisance as the season went on. At first she was a main component of the show, forcing her way up the newspaper ranks, beginning a sexual relationship with Underwood in exchange for scoops that she used to further herself. Unfortuantely, this fizzled into nothing, and her character had little to no bearing on the events of the close of the season. Usually these storylines would dovetail with the larger goings-on, but nothing fell from it that was worth any weigh at all. She just remained on the fringes and further drifting away from the centre of the show. It seems like she’s being set up to further dig into Underwood’s administration now that they are at odds, it could be fun, who knows, all I do is that they should’ve killed her off instead of Russo.

House Of Cards is just there, it doesn’t really push anything forwards too much and is nothing we haven’t seen in a thousand other shows. It just has an inside edge and advantage, not because of its content, but because how we were exposed to it and supposed to view it. These outside factors shouldn’t affect how we understand the show, view and criticize it, but unfortunately in some circles it seems like it has. It has the potential to be a great show as long it doesn’t wallow in the storylines and easy decisions that will guarantee viewers, but never pushing into anything worthy of thinking about or reading into beyond entertainment and escape. I think they could do it, but I really doubt they want to.