Tagged: Breaking Bad

Marc Alan Fishman: People Can’t Change!

If you believe one Charles McGill, Esq., then you might just agree with my column title this week. Charles, or just Chuck to his brother James – err, Jimmy – is quite the cantankerous coot when he wants to be. And when he’s not being cranky, he’s stripping his brother’s soul away, through a cruel and twisted life-view. It’s enough to drive a guy to throw years of attempted redemption down the drain in lieu of cheap wins and morally ambiguous behavior. And it’s a damned beautiful shame.

I’m of course talking about the recently completed first season of Better Call Saul, the progenitor to Breaking Bad. To be totally fair, Saul isn’t what one might truly dub a prequel per se. Instead, it’s a same-universe flashback, fleshing out of an otherwise ancillary character into a fully developed lead, worthy of his own show. Suffice to say, I’ve been on board since the first episode. But unlike Breaking Bad – which I believe attempted to keep its audience at arms length from truly embracing Walter White – here we’re given Saul Goodman in the real flesh, and we’re welcome to call him our hero.

If Breaking Bad is Vince Gilligan’s (and Peter Gould’s) grand opus, then Better Call Saul is most certainly his encore. Liken it say, to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven (but not definitely not Twelve, and not Thirteen). But, I digress. We have content to dissect!

As we knew him from Bad, Saul Goodman was the epitome of a made-for-the-late-night lawyer. The kind whose waiting room brimmed with the lowest of the lowlifes in the ABQ. His office, a mock Oval Office replete with faux-columns, and the finest pleather, was a testament to what a sleazy con man might surround himself with when he wants to appear above board. It took only seconds of screen time to define him as anything close to it. But, in true fashion to deliver more than meets the eye, Saul wasn’t an idiot. He was sharp, knowledgeable, and safe enough – a con man with a coherent (if often errant) conscience. Now, flashing back six years from when we’d first seen him, we get the details behind the facade. And all of it is built on a house of cards when we learn that Saul Goodman is actually ‘Slippin’ Jimmy McGill of Cicero, Illinois.

One of the biggest themes to be presented throughout the first season was change. Over the course of ten episodes, we found the soul of someone seeking redemption. Pinned for giving a Chicago Sunroof (look it up) to the man that would steal his wife, Slippin’ Jimmy – life-long loose-change con man – is given hard time. His clean-cut brother, high-powered Albuquerque lawyer is there for his brother’s release. And its there Jimmy vows to finally change for the good. His brother’s smile through the frown is enough to show us how much belief he had in the sentiment. As we’d later learn, Slippin’ Jimmy took his pledge in all seriousness. A move away from bad influences, a menial job mastered, and a night-course law degree earned over years begat a bar-passing honest-to-goodness lawyer out of a man who once slipped for money. Real change.

When Jimmy dropped his degree-bomb on his brother, he literally had to squeeze the phrase “I’m proud of you” out of Chuck’s bewildered lips. It was not a con (but it was a degree from University of America Samoa…). But in the eyes of the good brother, it wasn’t true penance for an otherwise wasted life. Jimmy, ever eager to prove his mettle, would start a home practice when the evil partner of Chuck (The Hamlin, of Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill) let Jimmy go from his mailroom position, and opted to only reassess Jimmy’s desire to work within the firm in six months. It was all a lie. This was merely the first jab in an astounding one-two punch.

The haymaker came shortly after Jimmy managed to wrangle a million-dollar class action lawsuit by literally swimming in sh*t long enough to earn it. And in the face of this victory – now cementing our hero as an imperfect guy willing to roll up his sleeves and earn his stripes – he met with the crushing realization that he’d never earn that spot at the table. Charles McGill, Esq. had been the one to force Hamlin to fire Jimmy before. And he made Hamlin out to be the bad guy once again, in offering to take on Jimmy’s big case… just without him anywhere near it.

There have been few moments on TV that rendered me utterly speechless. When Jimmy confronted his brother over the betrayal, and Chuck snapped back immediately with “No one ever changes!” I couldn’t muster anything but warm breath. Slippin’ Jimmy would always be Slippin’ Jimmy to Chuck. No matter the journey. No matter the facts. And with that statement, Gilligan and Gould shot Bruce Wayne’s parents. They killed Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy. They activated James McGill’s X-gene. Because now, fueled by the sentiment of the brother he still cares for, James – Jimmy – is no longer in the picture.

Long live Saul Goodman, manager of an Omaha Cinnabon.


Molly Jackson: Fantasy Living

I’ve been sick with various colds for the past couple of weeks. I managed to pass the miserable, sniffling time by rewatching the Starz series Spartacus.

In case you haven’t watched it yet, Spartacus is a great story and bingeing it was just a blast. I basically “lived” in that world rather than pay attention to my sniffles and coughing. After watching it for hours on end, I noticed that I picked up phrases and British accents from the show. (Side note: Why is almost every accent end up as British on TV? Do producers realize Americans know there is more than one European accent?)

To be honest, this isn’t the first time this has happened. When I binge on certain series that I love, whether it be TV, movie or literature, I “adopt” phrases and inflections/accents from the show into my daily life. It’s weird but it’s true. I really get into the shows I watch and the books I read.

Every time this happens, it’s because I am invested in the story. Good stories can suck you in and let you live among them. And if I let them, they transport me right to where the action is. If the story is so good, I tend to carry it with me. Granted, it sounds weird but I doubt I am the only person who subconsciously does this.

This has gotten me into some confusing moments, like recently saying to a friend I wanted to “break words” rather than let’s talk. Or after watching Breaking Bad, I had a strong urge to add bitch to everything I said for a day. That was a bad situation I managed to mostly avoid.

I may be crazy or a little delusional, but wanting to live in a different world or time sounds fun to me. Not to mention, my imagination + binging on TV is the closest I will probably get to having a holodeck. Still, good stories are ones I always want to carry with me, in some form or another.


Jen Krueger: The Twist Ending

Jen Krueger: The Twist Ending

It’s rare for me to watch a movie and not have at least one complaint about it before the credits roll. I’d chalk that up not to me being overly critical of films, but to how incredibly difficult it is for a movie to hold water all the way through yet not also disappoint in some way. Edge of Tomorrow turned out to be one of the rare cases where I was wholly satisfied, but the second the credits began, two guys sitting in my row started loudly discussing why they weren’t. They were disappointed that the movie [spoiler alert] doesn’t have a twist at the end. And while I guess I can’t blame them for expecting it to have a twist given how pervasive twists have been in entertainment over the past few years, I couldn’t fathom why they’d be disappointed the story didn’t have one.

The very nature of a plot twist means it reframes the context of the story it’s in, but if someone’s taken the time to really flesh out a world, develop characters, and craft an intriguing plot, it’s unlikely changing their context at the eleventh hour will strengthen any of those things. While there are many reasons why I could endlessly sing the praises of Breaking Bad, perhaps the biggest one is the fact that every single thing that happened in the show was inevitable because of who the characters were and the roads their actions consequently took them down. The narrative as a whole was a string of dominoes whose end wasn’t necessarily visible at the beginning, but with each piece that toppled it became clear what the next few would be. I love that kind of storytelling, because it lets a plot be delightfully potboiling while avoiding seeming predictable, but it does so without the writers having to resort to throwing a random wrench into the gears just to shake things up.

And perhaps that’s exactly why I tend to dislike a twist at the end of a plot, because (with the odd exception) it’s little more than a cheap, empty thrill employed for the sheer sake of a shock. But by changing the context of a key element of the story just to surprise the audience, a plot twist often also undercuts that element at the same time. There’s always a part of me that feels cheated when I learn a character isn’t who they were purported to be, or worse yet, when I can see who they really are from the outset and have to wait for the story to catch up to the reveal. But with the increasing pervasiveness of twist endings, viewers seem to frequently be doing the latter, leaving writers unsuccessful in their attempts at pulling the rug out from under the audience as a plot approaches its conclusion. And if audiences are so often ahead of the process that these attempts fail, why do writers keep persisting with them?

Maybe because there are so few truly original movies these days. From Marvel Studios to my childhood toys to reboots of sci-fi classics, it’s hard to ignore the fact that we’re living in a golden age for movie franchises. To sell audiences on the idea that there’s something new enough at the heart of properties that have been around in some fashion for years or even decades, employing a twist in concert with basic modernization seems to be the order of the day. And while I do enjoy a number of the not-so-new franchises that have become popular in the last few years, I’d be hard-pressed to ever pick watching an installment of one of them over watching something original that stands on its own. Really, it’s an awful lot like the plot of Edge of Tomorrow. Movies are looking to repeat the same formula over and over while implementing one small change in the hope that it’s enough to yield success, but total deviation from the plan everyone thinks should work is much more likely to win the day in my book.

And despite how much I dislike them, this column unfortunately has a twist ending of its own: it’s my last. Other commitments have made an increased demand on my time and sadly left me unable to continue with a weekly column, but I’ve loved my time at ComicMix and will certainly miss you, dear readers!



Batman-Assault on ArkhamBURBANK, CA (May 7, 2014) – Batman, one of the world’s most valiant super heroes, faces a villainous squad of criminals in an epic battle of good vs. evil in the DC Universe Original Movie, Batman: Assault on Arkham. Set in the world of the best-selling Batman: Arkham video game series, this action-packed film takes place between the Batman: Arkham Origins and Batman: Arkham Asylum video games.Available on August 12, 2014 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, on Blu-Ray™ Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD, this hit is one DC Comics fans won’t want to miss.

Gotham is in great danger when the government assembles a group of villains — code named the Suicide Squad — and forces them to break into Arkham Asylum to retrieve top secret information stolen by the Riddler.  Things take a turn for the worse when one of the Squad members (Harley Quinn) frees the Joker, who is intent on blowing up Arkham Asylum and Gotham City.  Batman must use his super hero wits and strength to thwart the wicked plans of the Joker and the Suicide Squad.

“Batman: Assault on Arkham is a thrill-ride with everything a fan would want — a courageous super hero, depraved villains, and suspenseful plot twists,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, WBHE Vice President, Family & Animation Marketing. “Featuring voice talent from some of today’s hottest television actors, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is proud to release this as the next DC Universe Original Movie.”

“Working on a new Batman story is always exciting,” said Sam Register, President, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series. “As a fan of the Arkham video games, I know this movie is going to entertain all Batman groups, from comic book and super hero fans to the most dedicated gamer.”

Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series) voicesBatman, and joins forces with several Hollywood greats to bring the legendary characters to life.  Adding to the celebrity-laden cast is Neal McDonough (Justified, Desperate Housewives) as Deadshot, Troy Baker (The Last of Us) as Joker, Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) as Riddler, CCH Pounder (The Shield, Warehouse 13) as Amanda Waller, Greg Ellis (24) as Captain Boomerang, and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Revolution) as Black Spider.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment, Batman: Assault on Arkham is directed by Jay Oliva (Man of Steel, Justice League: War) and Ethan Spaulding (Son of Batman) from a script written by Heath Corson (Justice League: War). Sam Register (Beware the Batman, Teen Titans Go!), Benjamin Melniker (The Dark Knight Rises) and Michael Uslan (The Dark Knight Rises) serve as executive producers. James Tucker (Son of Batman) is Supervising Producer.

Batman: Assault on Arkham has tons of exciting enhanced content. The Blu-ray Combo Pack will include:

  • Arkham Analyzed: The Secrets Behind the Asylum – This is the documentary that traces the strange, demonic history of the location where horror is mixed with the extremities of the criminally insane. A place where Batman must keep his watchful gaze, to insure that what goes in does not come out …. ever.
  • The Joker’s Queen: Harley Quinn – If The Joker were to have a girlfriend, what would she be like? This featurette covers the story of the deviancy and often provocative side to The Joker’s greatest ally, Harley Quinn.
  • An advance look into the next DC animated feature film with the creators and cast.
  • Four episodes from the DC Comics Vault.

Jen Krueger: I Love This Show, Please Kill It

Krueger Art 131224When I watched the recent season finale of Homeland, I was left speechless. If you’re not caught up on this Showtime thriller about the CIA and terrorism, don’t worry; I won’t give anything away. Confining myself to spoiler-free praise, I’ll just say it struck me as pitch perfect and was satisfying to a degree that television shows achieve rarely, if ever. I loved it so much, in fact, that as the credits rolled I found myself hoping the show would get canceled before any more episodes air.

It’s almost impossible for a TV show to stay great from pilot to series finale. I know, I know, Breaking Bad proved it can be done, but Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece is the exception that underscores the rule. There are just too many things to ruin great shows, and an executive hitting the cancellation button even isn’t first on the list. Simply being left on the air too long is more than enough to take the wind out of the sails of something once lovable, whether it’s because the show starts stretching into weird new territory like on Fringe, or because intended end points keep being passed by in the hopes of squeezing out another lucrative ratings year, like with Dexter. And of course there’s the plot and punchline recycling that can occur when a show’s left lingering, making episode formulas uncomfortably obvious (*cough cough* Simpsons).

Outside circumstances rearing their heads can be damaging too. With many shows, a featured actor leaving would minimally rock the boat, and some end up capsizing altogether rather than recovering. Just hearing that Topher Grace was leaving That ’70s Show was enough to make me tune out, and leave me completely unsurprised when I heard the first Eric Foreman-less season was also the show’s last. The 2007 Writer’s Guild strike took down its fair share of TV, from amazing shows immediately unable to sustain themselves through it like The Riches, to shows that pushed through but hobbled on forever changed, like Heroes.

But while there have been plenty of shows that have gone downhill in front of my eyes, there are of course many others cancelled before their time. If you’ve never seen the 2008 BBC show Survivors, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s an amazing yet little known sci-fi drama that follows a small group of people who lived through a widespread virus wiping out most of the population, and it’s the best treatment I’ve ever seen of the “band of survivors must start anew” premise. The caveat that comes along with this recommendation is the fact that the second season finale ends on a cliffhanger so amazing that I was literally yelling at my television when I realized the show hadn’t been renewed for a third series. Then again, maybe letting sleeping dogs lie is best; Arrested Development‘s fourth season didn’t live up to the first three by even the most generous standards.

Yet even on the rare occasion that a show manages to go out gracefully under the pall of cancellation, I still can’t help being sad for it. The writers for the criminally under-appreciated Terriers knew there was a strong possibility they’d never see a second season, and deftly handled their finale in such a way that viewers could interpret the episode as teeing up another major story arc if renewal did come through, or as a beautiful farewell if the hammer fell, which it sadly did. Going out so skillfully even though they hadn’t gotten their narrative due was impressive, but oxymoronically reinforced that they should’ve been given another season to find a bigger audience.

So if it’s so hard for shows on TV to stay great and for great shows to stay on TV, why do I want one of my favorites off the air? Because, intentionally or not, the writers served up a season finale to Homeland this year that put the perfect cap on the show. Yes, there are some signs about what season four will entail, and yes, the writers of this particular show have proven time and again that they’re capable of taking the story and characters into increasingly compelling territory even when it seems they’ve already struck a narrative critical mass. But the way this finale wrapped up a major story arc (again, no spoilers!) left me with the rarest of my potential reactions to a TV show: content. I could walk away from these characters now and be happy to leave them because I know they’re all right where they should be.

Of course, I realize I could preserve this feeling of contentment by choosing not to watch the fourth season of Homeland when it debuts. But I’d be lying to myself if I pretended to have the willpower for that. I mean, did you see how amazing the third season finale was?!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis (maybe)

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold (definitely)


Jen Krueger: Perils of the Group Watch

Krueger Art 131210Hello ComicMix readers! My name is Jen, and I’m really excited to be joining the fold here so I can expand the arenas in which I nerd out about comics, movies, TV, books, and any pop culture ephemera that strikes my fancy. I host a podcast to dive into stuff that’s under the radar, take a look at how things in popular culture now got there, and muse about where trends may go in the future. But exploring pop culture in the written word is another beast entirely, and it’s one I’m pumped to tackle! So let’s get to it!

My favorite TV show is Doctor Who. I embrace every opportunity to talk about it, and have maybe, possibly, sometimes (read: definitely, absolutely, often) turned conversations about entirely unrelated things toward the Doctor, and why the person I’m talking to really should give him a shot. In fact, I’m such a big Whovian that I’m part of a show that does an improvised episode of Doctor Who twice a month! All this being said, I’m sure you can imagine that I had no shortage of invitations to viewing parties for “The Day of the Doctor,” my beloved series’ 50th anniversary special. Yet I didn’t say yes to a single one. Because I hate the group watch.

In the past few years, “event TV” has been making a concerted effort to regain the time-of-broadcast viewership it lost to DVRs. And of course, the fear of encountering spoilers on Twitter or Facebook before getting to view an anticipated show has also helped to draw audiences back to consuming TV at broadcast rather than after the fact. With more people consuming event TV as it airs, maybe it seems natural that viewing parties would become more common. If we’re going to be watching something we enjoy, and our friends are going to be watching the same exact thing at the same exact time, why not do it together? A lot of people I know not only embrace this philosophy, they take it a step further: if we all love Doctor Who or Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, then why get together only for the anniversary special, or last episode, or season finale? Why not group watch every episode to maximize the amount of shared enjoyment?

I’ll tell you why not: because other people are distracting! I don’t want to sit next to a fidgety person while I’m trying to keep the myriad of characters in Westeros straight. I don’t want to miss the second step of one of Walt’s plans because someone in the room with me starts commenting on the first step. And I definitely don’t want to pause for someone to go to the bathroom just as things are getting really timey-wimey. When I love a show, I become pretty OCD about preserving the dramatic flow and catching every detail, and I just haven’t found these things to be possible in a group watch environment.

That being said, the distraction of other people isn’t even the largest deterrent to the group watch for me. The biggest reason I don’t like to view my favorite shows with other people is the fact I tend to react… let’s be generous and just say strongly to the shows I love. “The Red Wedding” made me cheer loudly (feel free to call me a monster, but I think they had it coming), it’s hard for me to think of an episode of Doctor Who that didn’t make me cry, and the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad filled me with a mix of emotions so intense I was literally shaking. I love that TV shows can move me to such extremes, but I’m not exactly dying for other people to see that happen, nor do I want to struggle to hold in my reactions for the sake of not embarrassing myself and distracting people around me.

So for the sake of everyone involved, I’ve gotten in the habit of declining invitations to group watch. But even though I don’t like viewing parties, I still feel bad turning them down. After all, I like my friends – I just don’t want to watch TV with them. Conveniently, I spent the day of “The Day of the Doctor” traveling, so I could truthfully say I wasn’t able to watch with anyone rather than having to fess up to the fact that I wouldn’t want to even if I could. But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced my dislike of the group watch is defensible. If my friends like a show enough to get together to watch it, I don’t think they’ll blame me for liking it so much that I want to relish every second of it. After all, they already know what an OCD nerd I can be.

And now you do too.




Doctor Who Anniversary prequel – “The Night of the Doctor”

Rule One: The Moffat Lies.

Rule One-a: So Does The McGann.

After nearly a year of what showrunner Steven Moffat described as “lying through my teeth”, the prequel to the Doctor Who anniversary episode “The Day of the Doctor” reveals that the one fact that upset people the most is the one that was the biggest lie.

Watch, and squee with me. (more…)

The Point Radio: BREAKING BAD The End According To Walt

The fans and the cast of the critically loved BREAKING BAD have one common question about these last few episodes – where is it all going? We get reactions to that very topic from, Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul and creator Vince Gilligan and you might be surprised at how they feel. Plus we finally get our “New Flash” on ARROW.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: BREAKING BAD How Will It End?

We continue our interview with the cast and creator of AMC’s BREAKING BAD as Anna Gunn and Brian Cranston talk about the opportunities it has awarded their careers and how they want to see it all wrap up. Plus THE AVENGERS on network TV? And take a look at the most expensive piece of original art in comic book history.

Don’t miss a minute of pop culture news – The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: Kevin Bacon, Brian Cranston & ARROW

Fresh from ComicCon 2012, we’ve got interviews with some of the hottest new shows (ARROW and THE FOLLOWING with Kevin Bacon), plus returning favorites like NTSF:SD:SUV and new web channels like STAN LEE‘S WORLD OF HEROES. Plus Brian Cranston explains what’s next on BREAKING BAD and Ryan Cartwright fills us in on the direction of SyFy‘s second season of ALPHAS.

Don’t miss a minute of pop culture news – The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.