Better Call Saul — A Review by Liz Warner (Season 3, Episodes 1-3 Spoilers)

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 10.15.39 PMBetter Call Saul’s premiere for season three is now history. The cold open featured Jimmy [Bob Odenkirk] as Gene at the Omaha Cinnabon taking a lunch break. When cops try to chase down a shoplifter, he points to the youth, but after police make the arrest, Gene yells out, “Get a lawyer!” Gene returns to work after lunch and passes out, falling to the floor.

The show then picks up immediately after last season’s finale. Jimmy helps Chuck [Michael McKean] take down his home’s mylar wrapping as they reminisce, but Chuck informs Jimmy he won’t forget what Jimmy did to him and the Mesa Verde documents. Chuck, staying on at his law firm, HHM, reveals the confession tape to Howard and “accidentally” to Ernesto when Ernesto brings him fresh batteries for his tape recorder. Chuck gives him a B’rer Rabbit warning.

Jimmy and Kim [Rhea Seehorn] continue their separate law practices, but Kim has to pick up some of Jimmy’s elder law clients (who know about flowers, including perhaps, lily-of-the-valley?) on top of her Mesa Verde work.  Paige tips Kim off as to what happened with HHM.  Kim starts second-guessing her drafting in a typing/retyping montage. The Air Force captain calls out Jimmy for his Fudge Talbot commercial last season.

Meanwhile, in a long montage, Mike looks for and finds a tracker in the gas cap of his car after he received a note, “DON’T” on his windshield. He gets a replica of the tracker, and programs it to call home. He drains the battery on the original so it emits a low power warning to his spies and places it nearby.  He replaces the original with his own, waiting for the trackers to come take it while he lies in wait, eating nuts.  This, ultimately, will lead him to the Gustavo Fring [Giancarlo Esposito] drug ring. While the screenwriter maxim of “show, don’t tell” was illustrated here, it was also an example of why a little exposition is really okay–the montage was a bit of a challenge to follow.

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Screen shot of Mike Ehrmantraut from Season 3 premier “Mabel.”

The show’s been criticized for its glacial pacing, and this season so far hasn’t surprised.  Whether another show could get away with this snail’s pace is uncertain. Here, though, viewers have grown to trust Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould as storytellers.  Also, it’s a prequel and viewers essentially know what happens, making the journey, not the destination, more interesting.

Better Call Saul, a prequel to Breaking Bad, is arguably a better show.  Why? The premise is more tethered to reality.  And, more importantly, the characters are more believable and sympathetic.  Jimmy is a charming and witty conman cum matchbook cover lawyer who looks for the easy way out.  His OCD brother, Chuck, studied diligently for his law degree earning his reputation the hard way, and resents his younger brother.  (Birth order matters here.)  Kim is meticulous and only flirts with thinking outside the box, which is part of her attraction to Jimmy. Crooked ex-cop Mike has the patience and wit to outsmart the best. Howard works at keeping the practice successful, despite personnel problems with neurotic Chuck.

Compare these characters to those on Breaking Bad. Walter White was a long-term high school chemistry teacher who inexplicably had no health insurance, but a pleasant middle class home and SUVs.  His pregnant stay-at-home wife Skyler only sold things on Ebay, despite the family’s financial distress.  They had a disabled teenage son.  Skyler’s childless sister, Marie, stole shoes and had a fetish for the color purple.  Her husband

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Screen shot of Mike and Gus from Season 3, Epsiode 3 “Sunk Costs.”

Hank was an arrogant DEA agent who eventually saw the light regarding Walt, who, after a terminal cancer diagnosis, decided  to “break bad” and start cooking and selling crystal methamphetamine to build a nest egg for his family when he’s gone. He met up with a former student and lost soul, Jesse Pinkman, who had drug connections. They used the skills of Mike, an ex-cop. Eventually, they connected with Fring’s drug ring, with colorful characters, but not very relatable ones.

Breaking Bad was excellent, but even at the onset, it was difficult to like, or be sympathetic to Walt or most of the other characters.  The only ones I ever cared about were Jesse, Mike, and Hank, though these characters weren’t as well developed as they might’ve been.  You know it’s not going to go well for these people, but you stay tuned to watch the train wreck.

Contrast Better Call Saul.  Admittedly, there are many fans who hate Chuck, and in prior seasons, Howard was the subject of viewers’ wrath, but overall, the characters’ faults and transgressions are more credible, even Chuck’s anxiety of electromagnetic spectrum.  They have some pleasing qualities, even Chuck, who is devoted to the legal profession, and Howard, who has shown himself to be charitable at times.  Mike reappears, and we learn a bit of his backstory, which includes the unfortunate death of his cop son, who may or may not have been corrupt.

Personally, I’m in no rush for Jimmy to become Saul or for the Breaking Bad world to re-materialize.  I’ve been down that road already.  In fact, I’d rather see the transition from Saul to Gene, but we’ll likely only get our next glimpse in the premiere to the next season, where the Gene scenes are generally placed.

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Screen shot of Chuck and Jimmy from Season 3, Epsiode 3 “Sunk Costs.”

We know Chuck can’t forget Jimmy’s document tampering. He uses the brotherly psychopathy the McGills are known for to set up Jimmy, knowing Jimmy will break into his house, trash his desk, and threaten to get his taped admission back. In a momentary act of feigned or sincere concern (it’s hard to tell which), Chuck explains he’s called the cops on him for Jimmy’s own good (unlike what Gene did with the kid.) To Chuck, it’s an intervention. To Jimmy, it’s a betrayal, though his sabotage of Chuck last season was nothing less than reprehensible and unforgivable.

Chuck also sets up Jimmy’s friend, Ernesto, proving the rule that nice guys finish last.  He aims to negotiate the terms of Jimmy’s prosecution with the ADA which results in a plea offer that can’t go well and could result, minimally, in ultimately getting Jimmy disbarred.  This could leave Jimmy either practicing law as Saul Goodman without a license to practice altogether, or having him retake the bar exam under a false name.

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Screen shot of Kim and Jimmy from Season 3, Epsiode 3 “Sunk Costs.”

What happens to Kim, who Jimmy truly cares for, remains to be seen, but we don’t see her in the Breaking Bad universe nor have we seen her in the Omaha-Gene milieu (although she originally hails from neighboring Kansas.) Thus far, she’s remained loyal to him, though Jimmy won’t accept her offer for legal help (unlike what Gene recommended to the kid.)

We know what happens to Mike, but there is a good deal about his past that could be interestingly explored in this prequel. The law firm HHM is dependent on Chuck’s not cashing out, so there’s ample room for conflict there in future episodes.

BCS continues its signature style, interestingly now using 3-D printers and drones in the production of the show. The story unravels slowly but surely, with a flair for both drama and comedy.  There are too many show-don’t-tell montages for my taste, but the show’s tightly and intricately written. It’s also exceptionally well cast.  Odenkirk and McKean are particularly award-worthy.

I’ll be aboard this train for the long haul.

It’s Back … Better Call Saul. Scenes from the Los Pollos Hermanos Promotion in NYC.

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Better Call Saul, created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, and starring Bob Odenkirk (shown in the promotional poster above), Michael McKean, Jonathan Banks, and Rhea Seehorn, makes its Season 3 premier on AMC on April 10, 2017.

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As part of the Season 3 promotion for Better Call Saul, AMC  opened pop-up Los Pollos Hermanos restaurants in several cities, including Albuquerque, Los Angeles, and New York.  This one in downtown New York abutted a parking garage, but was a remarkable facsimile of an actual fast food franchise.  It was only open a few days prior to the premier and attracted fans of both BCS and Breaking Bad.

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Many fans lined up for approximately an hour to enter Los Pollos and from time to time, were able to pose for nice pictures.  Here, a fan is photographed with a mysterious man who carried a bag of what appeared to be “crystal blue” methamphetamine.  Could that be Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)?  Could he return in an episode of BCS this season?

A great deal of attention went into making the experience authentic, right down to personnel and props.

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It was impossible to not be impressed by the intricate detail the promotional staff went to in recreation, both outside and inside.

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You could order, but at the NYC restaurant, you could only get spicy curly fries and a small cup of water in a signature red plastic basket.  While some fans complained about this, the price was right — free.  Given the difficulty in obtaining city food permits, you’d really have to consider yourself lucky.

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It may have been “Fuck Chuck” all over Reddit lately, but they’re too quick to forget the utterly unconscionable and unethical act of Jimmy’s towards Chuck last season.  When it was suggested to Micheal McKean at the event that Chuck could get Jimmy disbarred, in perfect character, he replied, “Believe me, I’m trying!”

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Season 3 promises to be interesting!

“Mr. Robot” – A Television Review by Liz Warner

Mr.Robot

“What’s Mr. Robot?” I wondered aloud.

“It’s a TV show about hackers,” was the response.

That’s all I needed.  A hacker I’m not, but in my world as a writer, hackers can fill the role of hero or villain very nicely.  They can save the world or horrify us all as much in a good story as they do IRL.  I decided to watch it.

The pilot begins: “Hello, friend.”

That’s Elliot Alderson [Rami Malek] in his annoyingly droney and psychotropic-stupor-induced voice, telling viewers in a slang even we geriatrics in our mid- to late 30s understand, that he is narrating his own story to us, his imaginary friend.  It’s with that hook we’re lured in, by line and occasional sinker.  Tearing down that fourth wall can be risky, but here, it’s sublime.

The script for the pilot is available online.  It’s good on the page,  perhaps the best pilot I’ve personally ever read, but it plays even better visually.  It’s safe to say, if you don’t like the pilot, you won’t like the show, period.

The shooting style is unique and edgy without being over the top and is among the show’s strongest attributes. Some scenes in its so-far two-season run, often with wonderful musical cues, are arguably among the best in television in terms of impact. Thankfully, the camera crew doesn’t bounce the gear for cheap thrills, using angles and lighting for effect instead.

Wikipedia claims Elliot suffers from anxiety disorder and clinical depression, but it’s quickly evident he’s got more than a little good old-fashioned neurosis and mood disorder.  He’s truly psychotic, presumably schizophrenic, on top of having a substance abuse issue with morphine, apparently requiring an emergency stash of Suboxone for withdrawal.

Nonetheless, Elliot seems to hold down a computer security engineering job at a cyber-security firm called AllSafe, run by a fretful Gideon Goddard [Michel Gill], thanks to his childhood friend Angela Moss [Portia Doubleday]. AllSafe’s largest client is mega-conglomerate, E Corp, which Elliot mentally morphs to Evil Corp, both visually and aurally.  We eventually come to understand E Corp was somehow responsible for the deaths of the main characters’ parents. The CEO of E Corp is Phillip Price [Michael Cristofer] who sees opportunity in crises.

After a DDoS attack against E Corp, Elliot happens across a .dat file in the company’s network which he discovers was implanted by something called fsociety.  Intrigued, he leaves it intact.  In the subway, he later meets up with a man who we will learn is Mr. Robot [Christian Slater].  Mr. Robot urges Elliot to Coney Island where he is introduced to fsociety, a misfit underground anarchistic vigilante hacker group, co-led by a troubled young woman named Darlene [Carly Chaikin]. The fsociety objective seems to be to erase all consumer debt and disrupt the world as it exists. They are somewhat successful.  This is where the story deepens.

Often through Elliot’s point-of-view and diminished mental status, we watch his perceptions of the grim reality around him, never quite sure how accurate it really is. We hear his questionable account of fsociety hacking, through voiceover, to us, his imaginary friend. By the end of season 1, we’re given an unsurprising revelation as to his supposed identity, thanks to Mr. Robot.  Darlene’s identity is further revealed, as well. (No real spoilers here.)

The story doesn’t always unfold linearly, and the storyteller is unreliable, so there’s always some uneasiness as to what it is we’re to make of it.  Plan on second-guessing a lot.  If you’re not a fan of speculation, pattern matching, or hunting for Easter eggs, this may not be your show.

As wonderful a show as creator Sam Esmail has created, though, it’s not without some problems.  The cast of characters other than Elliot could be developed more fully.   To be fair, season 2 endeavors to do this.

The hodgepodge of characters is certainly appropriate in the setting of Gotham City, where people of all cultures and backgrounds are densely packed into shit-hole walk-ups, cooking with not much more than a hot plate and sleeping on Murphy beds, but even so, it sometimes seems more like a nod to diversity hiring than enriching the story, at least so far.

The women on the show are generally quite vacuous, and not relatable, serving the narrative by primarily by being victims of different types of abuses, intentional or otherwise. The dialogue, especially for the female characters, but some male ones as well, is almost embarrassingly on the nose.  There’s also plenty of exposition through dialogue, though I’ve never been particularly put off by that in this or other shows.  What’s depicted here on computer screens is minimized, and is purportedly grounded, thanks in part to a technical consultant, Andre McGregor, brought in for season 2.

In the adult hour of TV, there must be the occasional obligatory sex or romance scene.  In the case of Mr. Robot, though, that cannot happen with dysfunctional Elliot, unless, perhaps, it’s with a close blood relative. One is left presupposing the writers’ room consists only of lonely men.  (Surprisingly, it isn’t.)

One female character, an FBI agent named Dominique DiPierro [Grace Gummer], who sucks a roll-your-eyes Tootsie Roll pop à la Kojak, shows some promise.  She quickly evolved to become insightful, and a bit alienated herself, talking to Alexa in bed alone at night, amplifying the dystopic alienation of people in the digital age, even or especially in densely populated areas, amidst trying professional and personal circumstances.  Her goal, of course, is to foil the evil hackers who caused such disruption. At the end of season 2, we believe she may just do so.

Speaking of which, a gripe of mine continues to be the underemphasis of the crisis that would emerge in a world where people cannot easily access their money.  Surely it would be more chaotic than depicted.  The few scenes attempting to show this do it well with wonderful set pieces, but several months after the so-called 5/09 attack, one would expect more reaction from an alarmed world and the bureaucrats trying to contain the unrest.

Out there in the nether world of Mr. Robot is White Rose [B. D. Wong], a transgender woman and head of the dreaded Dark Army, who morphs into Zhang, China’s Minister of State Security.  Where all this goes next is anyone but Esmail’s guess.  It could succeed or bomb spectacularly.  I’d be up for this character to be used to draw out a sophisticated plot line or character arch based on currency (or Ecoin) manipulation by the Chinese, furthering the idea that monetary control is illusory.

Regardless, I’ll be lurking around for the duration of Mr. Robot if only to see how Esmail and his room worm their way through this dark matter.  Having invested a fair amount of time to the series, I’ll be annoyed if USA pulls it before it receives an honorable ending.  I’m fairly optimistic it will, however, as the series has generally received critical acclaim and won some awards, even if the audience ratings aren’t especially stellar.

I’m further encouraged by the fact that Esmail apparently originally wrote Mr. Robot as a feature, which suggests he envisioned a beginning, middle, and end.  This should lessen the chance it will devolve into an unwieldy mess that highly serialized shows are prone to becoming under network executive pressure to either wrap too soon or drag on indefinitely.  Still, the second season had some pacing problems.

So what is Mr. Robot?

The logline could be something like, “Under the leadership of an identity-disordered, delusional cybersecurity engineer, misfit millennial hacktivists seek vigilante justice to avenge their parents’ deaths and to change the world by attacking the computer architecture of the world’s most ubiquitous mega-conglomerate.” The theme centers around the notion that “control is an illusion.”

Mr. Robot is a hybrid.

It’s a dystopic psycho-techno-eco-thriller reality and time bender mind-fuck where you really must chose your own adventure.

It’s as intriguing as it is hard to quite grok.  That’s not a bug, it’s its feature.

Whether Elliot turns out to be the ultimate hero, villian, or antihero remains to be seen, but for now, we can just take him at his word — that he wants to change the world.

Mr. Robot has been renewed for a third 10 episode season on USA Network beginning in October 2017, all directed by Sam Esmail.

WINNERS – EMMYS – 2016

Lots of love this year for Game of Thrones. Not so much for my picks…

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It’s that time of year when the Academy picks the best from their best of the best on the small screen and the verdicts are in.

* My pick.  W! Winner.

Continue reading “WINNERS – EMMYS – 2016”

L. Warner on Emmys 2016

In the Age of Peak TV, does it get any better than this?

                                                                     EMMYS – 2016

It’s that time of year when the Television Academy picks the best from their best of the best on the small screen.

No predictions from me; I’m known to not get a true or false question right until the third try, so I’m sure I wouldn’t know.

This is just my wish list.
Continue reading “L. Warner on Emmys 2016”

Silicon Valley “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack” S-3, E-3 Synopsis & Review

HBO’s Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, completed its third season with aplomb. Here is a synopsis and review of Episode 3, “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack,” directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Adam Countee.

HBO’s Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, completed its third season with aplomb.  Here is a synopsis and review of Episode 3, “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack,” directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Adam Countee. 

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John shows Richard, Gilfoyle, and Dinesh their future in a box. 

SYNOPSIS

Opening scene of a mole-ish, pony-tailed guy named John, giving Richard, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle a tour of Maliant, a data center. This is your life and where one of the PP boxes would go, he says.  And another.  When they state that seeing one is like seeing them all, John says that’s what he thought, till he saw them all.  John then asks if they’d like to see the desks, where they’d install a PP engineer.  Huh?  Your sales team told me we’d have a PP engineer on site for maintenance 24 hours a day for at least the first year, he tells them.  The guys are horrified.

Even at night?  Gilfoyle asks. There’s no difference between day and night, John observes. Richard suggests it might be a good time to leave.  John asks which of the 16 staircases would they like to go out of.  Richard suggests John’s favorite. John thinks about it for a beat, then escorts them, but the guys get lost in the maze of racks, their calls for John echoing and unanswered.

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Jack Barker reads Richard the riot act. 

After opening credits, Richard approaches Jack in his office, saying he doesn’t want to bury his algorithm in boxes at Maliant.  Short-term, he says, it’s okay, but not long-term. Jack’s more worried a fish in his aquarium might be dead.  He points out his Conjoined Triangles of Success chart on the wall.  They’re in a box, he notes. Admiring the serendipity of the coincidence, he instructs secretary, Gloria, to call the fish guy.

If we build the box, will you promise to let us build the platform?  Richard asks.  We’ll worry about that then, Jack says.

Hearing the meeting with Jack went poorly, Gilfoyle tells Richard he’s changing his LinkedIn status to “Looking for Work,” asserting the box is “artless commerce.”  Jared tells him there’s paperwork in quitting.

At the house, Gilfoyle gets swag delivered from new companies trying to recruit him, including hoverboards and an Oculus. He catches Erlich eating his Popcornopolis and Dinesh wearing a gold chain around his neck and rags on them.

Richard tells Gilfoyle to return the gift baskets because Monica just called and got him in to see Laurie. Jared questions the wisdom of breaking protocol by going over the CEO’s head, but Richard tells him when you push a man so far he goes out and buys a gun and shots and robs a bank.  “I wouldn’t.  I wouldn’t.  I’m not. I’m not going to,” he backpedals.

By the pool, Erlich asks Richard if he’s angry with him.  When he wasn’t invited along to the new offices, Erlich was hurt.  He wants Richard to want him to talk to [Jack] Barker. Richard reluctantly agrees.

In Jack’s office, Erlich pronounces Jack’s fish as dead and says he’s sorry for his loss.   He calls to Gloria to take “this daughter of Neptune to whence she belongs.”  When she gives him a quizzical look, he clarifies, “the toilet, dear.”  He then broaches the problem.  “What information do I not already have?” Jack demands.  He doesn’t want to hear any “free-form, jazz-odyssey of masturbatory bullshit” from Erlich.  Unsuccessful, Erlich reports to Richard that he needs to either build the box or talk to Laurie.  On his way out, Erlich speaks Japanese to the gardener.

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Erlich prepares Jack’s dead fish for her last rites. 

Richard goes to Laurie, who views art with Monica–a question mark harvested from human hair from dead Indians.  “It’s a pun,” she informs him, about asking the big, hairy questions. She agrees the box is an “uninspirational application of technology,” and says she’ll call Jack.  “I was never here,” he tells her. “You are here, now,” she notes. Monica explains Richard meant he’d prefer she didn’t say anything to Jack. “Yes, because the other meaning makes no sense,” she replies.

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Laurie critiques artwork. 

She calls Jack after Richard returns to the office with the guys. Richard is called into Jack’s office.  He asks Richard who he thought he just got of the phone with.  Richard feigns ignorance.  He tells him it was Laurie, and she said she thought the box was “woefully misguided,” and wanted a plan for the consumer platform Richard and his team wanted to build within 48 hours.  Richard agrees, but Jack says no, build the box.  But Laurie’s the investor, Richard protests.  Yes, Jack agrees, but he told Laurie if she did that, she’d have to fire him, and she wasn’t willing to do that at this time.  Get a prototype in 12 weeks, Jack demands.  On Richard’s way out, he warns, “If you’re going to shoot the king, you’d better be goddamn sure you kill him.”

Back at the house, Jian Yang answers the door.  A TwinX recruiter delivers liquor to Gilfoyle, telling him he must take a meeting first.  He agrees.

Meanwhile, Richard approaches Monica about Laurie firing Jack. She can’t fire Jack, she says, it would look chaotic after she just fired Richard.

Unbeknownst to him, Gilfoyle’s interview is with Endframe.  You stole half our algorithm, he says. He’s told they already have the other half of code for middle out, showing him a diagram, thanks to Nevine and Eric from Nucleus. They want Gilfoyle because he’s a full-stack engineer.

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Gilfoyle interviews with Pied Piper’s nemeses. 

Cut to the diagram at the house. They have the entire prediction loop “down to the last semicolon.” Richard laments that they’re building a box, while Endframe is building their platform.  At least we’ll make a little money, says Dinesh.  To buy gold chains, Gilfoyle taunts.  He sees Dinesh isn’t wearing the one he had earlier and even Jared busts his balls.

Dinesh concludes they must do as Jack wants.  Erlich enters the room, booming, “Or do we?”  He’s ignored.  Jared agrees with Dinesh. “Or do we?!” Erlich repeats.  Erlich calls on the team to build the platform the way they motherfucking want to.  Just tell Jack what he wants to hear.   Richard reasons that Jack wouldn’t be able to complain after the fact because to do so, he’d be admitting he didn’t know what was going on in his own company, and meanwhile, Laurie was already on board with it.

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The guys plan a skunk works. 

Dinesh still needs some convincing.  A skunk works is underway.  They plan it out as a team.  Dinesh points out they’re shorthanded, but Erlich knows just the man for the job.

Cut to the pool at night.  Carla’s there.  She wants back wages, lost wages from the old job, and damages from “Jared’s sexual harassment her into being friends with that Monica-chick”   simply for not telling Jack about their plan.  They pay her off with most of their remaining cash, about $20,000, in what they dubbed extortion.

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Carla Walton extorts Pied Piper. 

In a time-lapsed scene, the guys finish their plan.  Even Dinesh is in on the condition his gold chain isn’t made fun of ever again.  They realize they have to fake liking going to work.  Jared calls it Meinerzhagen’s Habersack, which he explains is a principle of military deception of pretending.  This also means, Gilfoyle insists, they have to keep on making fun of Dinesh’s gold chain.  At 7:30 AM, they drink to the plan. Except Jared, who pours his shot back in the bottle.

The guys go to the PP offices.  Richard has a file folder in hand.  They get off the elevator and Richard trips over the gardener’s watering hose.  The papers go flying, and Keith picks them up.  Skunkworks?    Keith takes the papers to Jack.  Richard brought the papers into the office to shred.  Jack comes out of his office:  “Guys?  My office.  Now.”

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The guys are caught in the act of sabotaging Pied Piper. 

REVIEW

It’s hard to not be impressed by Richard’s development throughout this season as he asserts himself, but this episode shows Erlich at his very best.  (Spoiler alert, he reverts to being an arrogant prick soon!)  Here, he’s about as humble as he could possibly be, and manages to inspire an action that will be instrumental for Richard and the guys throughout the season.

Jack, conversely, is an asshole this episode when he seemed like a reasonable guy when he first arrives on the scene.  He’s growing impatient with the development of the box and becomes downright petulant with setbacks from Richard, and later, Laurie.  His admonition to Richard about killing the king was foreboding.  By episode’s end, Jack’s positively apoplectic when he learns of the skunk works.  He has a great arc.

Laurie exhibits character growth, as well.  While she sees the inadvisability of the box, she can’t quite nix it, coldly calculating the business risk of firing a second CEO so quickly.  She amplifies she has the wherewithal to contribute to PP’s anticipated short-term success.

Third, we had what seems to be a semi-satisfying conclusion to Carla’s arc when she learns of the skunk works planned and uses the information for “self-help.”   It was a bit of a stretch to think the guys wouldn’t foresee this, although it could be attributed to the characters’ overall social ineptitude.

The funniest moment perhaps belongs to Laurie when she drolly replies to Richard’s request to keep their meeting to herself.  All the characters in this show have very unique voices, but Laurie’s (and Jared’s) are probably my favorites.  They’re inherently funny characters.

Erlich’s oratory skills almost always delight, and here, he elicits some laughs with his pronouncement of death of the fish, requesting that Jack’s secretary take care of final arrangements.

John delivered some memorably humorous lines, too.  It all starts with a great script, of course, but when combined with a great cast, the show becomes a master class for the crafts of screenwriting and acting.

The most touching moments were, unexpectedly, Erlich’s.  His wanting Richard to want him to talk to Jack shows a level of desperation inconsistent with his typical cockiness.

The coolest moment was when the guys got lost in the opening scene because it displayed the hermit life so many of these people live in the vast wasteland that is a data center with its sameness and drudgery.

The dumbest moments throughout the season are Big Head’s and Jian Yang’s.  Big Head has been effectively infantilized, even though last season, he and Richard were BFFs.  I didn’t buy it. And, in this episode, Jian Yang is again a completely dispensable character.

Fortunately, Dinesh’s gold chain gag didn’t come up again this season.  It played out quickly.

The wonderful twist in this episode was Gilfoyle’s unintended interview with the Nucleus/End Frame engineers.  As we as an audience gleaned they had put together the missing piece of middle-out compression, watching Gilfoyle realize it for the first time was instructive as to just how loyal to Richard and PP he really is.

This episode delivered the goods both in terms of comedy and drama.  The actors, even those with minor roles, are so perfectly cast, and the interplay and interaction are all spectacular. Mannerisms and facial expressions work for great reaction shots and add a lot to the comedy.  It’s an exceptional viewing experience as a result.

All images Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Screenshots are reproduced pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine of the Copyright Act.

Lords of the Awards: Who’s Up for Emmys in 2016?

Lords of the Awards: Who’s Up for Emmys in 2016? In the Age of Peak TV, the choices are pretty good…

LORDS OF THE AWARDS:

Who’s Up for Emmys in 2016?

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has released its 2016 Emmy Award nominees.  In the Age of Peak TV, it’s no easy task.  By and large, their choices were good.  (My picks, if any, are asterisked or listed in italics.)

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

The Americans FX

Better Call Saul AMC

Downton Abbey PBS

Game of Thrones HBO

Homeland Showtime

House of Cards Netflix

*Mr. Robot USA

(They’re ALL good picks, and I won’t be disappointed.)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA 

Kyle Chandler Bloodline

Rami Malek Mr. Robot

*Bob Odenkirk Better Call Saul

Matthew Rhys The Americans

Liev Schreiber Ray Donovan

Kevin Spacey House of Cards

(All very acceptable picks.)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA

Claire Danes Homeland

Viola Davis How to Get Away with Murder

Taraji P. Henson Empire

Tatiana Maslany Orphan Black

Keri Russell The Americans

*Robin Wright House of Cards

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA

*Jonathan Banks Better Call Saul

Peter Dinklage Game of Thrones

Ben Mendelsohn Bloodline

Christian Slater Mr. Robot

Kit Harington Game of Thrones

Michael Kelly House of Cards

Jon Voight Ray Donovan

(These are all very passable choices, but I would nominate Michael McKean as well as Jonathan Banks in Better Call Saul.)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACRESS IN A DRAMA

Maura Tierney The Affair

*Maggie Smith Downton Abbey

Lena Headey Game of Thrones

Emilia Clarke Game of Thrones

Maisie Williams Game of Thrones

Constance Zimmer UnREAL

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES

Joel Fields, Joe Weisberg The Americans

Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey

David Benioff, D.B. Weiss Game of Thrones

Robert King, Michelle King The Good Wife

*Sam Esmail Mr. Robot

Marti Noxon, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro UnREAL

(Noticeably absent were any Better Call Saul writers.)

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES

black-ish ABC

Master of None Netflix

Modern Family ABC

*Silicon Valley HBO

Transparent Amazon

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Netflix

Veep HBO

(To me, this is a no-brainer selection.)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY 

Anthony Anderson black-ish

Aziz Ansari Master of None

Will Forte Last Man on Earth

William H. Macy Shameless

*Thomas Middleditch Silicon Valley

Jeffrey Tambor Transparent

(Another easy one.)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Veep

Ellie Kemper The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tracee Ellis Ross black-ish

Laurie Metcalf Getting On

Amy Schumer Inside Amy Schumer

Lily Tomlin Grace and Frankie

(This category could go any way, and I’m okay with that.)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY 

Louie Anderson Baskets

Andre Braugher Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Keegan-Michael Key Key & Peele

Ty Burrell Modern Family

Tituss Burgess Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tony Hale Veep

Matt Walsh Veep

(I would’ve selected all the usual suspects in Silicon Valley, an exceptional cast, but I guess that’s just me.)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY 

Niecy Nash Getting On

Allison Janney Mom

Kate McKinnon Saturday Night Live

Judith Light Transparent

Gaby Hoffmann Transparent

Anna Chlumsky Veep

(I really liked Suzanne Cryer in Silicon Valley myself.)

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES

Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan Catastrophe

Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang Master of None

Dan O’Keefe Silicon Valley

*Alec Berg Silicon Valley

David Mandel Veep

Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck Veep

(Though Dan O’Keefe would work, too.)

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES

American Crime

Fargo

*The Night Manager

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Roots

(Though Fargo was pretty good.)

OTHER

Some miscellaneous mentions: Downton Abbey should merit “production design for a (one-hour) narrative period program,” and “costumes for a period/fantasy series.”

Silicon Valley easily earns “production design for a (half-hour) narrative period program” and is an easy shoo-in for “casting for a comedy series.”  (Exceptional!)  Both Mike Judge and Alec Berg of Silicon Valley are up for “directing for a comedy.”

Mr. Robot competes for best “casting for a drama series.”

Better Call Saul’s Kelley Dixon, and the team of Kelley Dixon, Chris McCaleb are deserving of “single-camera picture editing for a drama.”

There are other categories, of course, but these are the ones I’ll be most closely watching on September 18th.

Until then …