Breaking Bad finale, Felina

“Chemistry is the study of transformation.”

And so it ends, the AMC drama that started as gradually gestating cult hit turned last minute pop culture explosion: Breaking Bad. The final episode of the hit series, entitled “Felina,” brings every loose thread of plot to a definitive, poetic end. Walter White is dead, dragging Lydia, Uncle Jack and his gang to the many circles of hell with him. Jesse is free not only of Todd but of Walt as well. Crystal Blue remains, as far as the public knows, a product of Heisenberg’s genius and Walter’s family, at last, is provided for.
Bryan Cranston delivers one last powerhouse performance as the Modern Greek tragedy that is Walter White, the legendary Heisenberg. The character returns to ABQ in an eerie , reserved calm. There is no desperation, no panic, at last there is an end in sight: The ever- calculating Heisenberg has one more plan up his sleeve, and as usual it involves the scientific and tactical genius that blew Gustavo Fring half way to hell. But then it ends. The reign of Heisenberg comes to a close with Walter White bleeding on the ground surrounded by the tools and equipment by which he forged his legacy. Cranston’s final turn in the role is so elemental in force that should be declared a natural wonder of the world, showcased wonderfully in the last scene shared with his wife Skylar, played by Anna Gunn in a brief but poignant appearance. Walt says his goodbyes and finally tells her the truth behind his Meth empire: “I did it for me, I liked it. I was good at it.” Gone is the facade of the suburban milquetoast dad, or of the snarling monster from the end “Ozymandias.” At last Bryan Cranston reveals the true face of Walter White, that of a talented, prideful, and beaten man with a pathological need for validation.
Aaron Paul is beautifully tragic to watch as Jesse Pinkman, Walter White’s old partner in crime now held captive as a meth cooking slave to Todd Alquist and his neo-nazi Uncle Jack. We, as an audience, are finally treated to the violent revenge fantasy that has been cultivating in our twisted imaginations for weeks as Jesse chokes the life out of Todd with the chains that have bound him for months. But Jesse’s emancipation manifests not only in unlocking of his chains, but in his decision to not honor Walter’s wishes by killing him. Jesse finally breaks free of the control of “the great Heisenberg” and drives off into uncertainty.
The final star of this episode, and of this show really, is Vince Gilligan, creator of the show and the writer/ director of the finale. The directing in this episode if wonderfully tense and emotional. Numerous shots are downright Kubrickian in the way the shots are framed from far off wide angle distances accompanied by stretches of nerve-wracking silence. Walter lurking around the Shwartz’s mansion was like something out of John Capenter’s “Halloween”. Even something as basic as Walter trying to inch his hand a few inches forward so as to grab his keys without Jack’s thugs noticing becomes laborious to watch thanks to Gilligan’s mastery of tension. It’s almost pointless to praise the writing as by now the names ‘Vince Gilligan’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ have become synonymous with terms like ‘brilliant writing’ and ‘master storytelling,’and the finale is no different. The symbolism, the dialogue, the foreshadowing followed by the payoff, every factor and every variable adds together into the chemical equation for a perfect series finale to one of the greatest television dramas of all time. As the TV promos say, “all bad things must come to an end,” and what an ending it was. We’ll see you in the history books, Heisenberg.

Legend of Korra, Civil Wars Part 2

As usual Legend of Korra proves to be a landmark in animated family entertainment, or at least a continuation of one (of course I’m referring to it’s predecessor, Avatar: the Last Airbender). I use the term “family” in place of “children” because honestly this show has something to enjoy for any generation, tonight’s episode being no different. “Civil Wars: part two” had great comedy, compelling, dramatic storytelling and wonderfully resonant themes and lessons that members of the whole family should take to heart. The narrative of the episode follows three threads: Korra’s struggle to maintain peace between the northern and southern water tribes (while being manipulated by her dubious uncle); Mako, Bolin and Asami meeting with Varrick while Bolin attempts to get out of his restricting relationship with Korra’s domineering cousin (spoiler alert: hilarity ensues); and finally a continuation of Tenzin’s search for his missing daughter at the southern air temple.
A refreshing change was the fact that for once my favorite part had nothing to do with Tenzin (though his segments were still great). Korra’s struggle with her Uncle’s plot to assert the power of the Northern Water tribe over the Southern Water tribe makes for a compelling parallel to Avatar Aang’s major conflict in “The Last Airbender.” Rather than trying put an end to a long going war we see the new avatar try to prevent the start of a new one. Another interesting parallel I’ve noticed is the fact that all of “Legend of Korra’s” major villains have been water benders (Amon/Noahtock, Tarrlock, and Yakone in season one and now Unaloq and the Northern Water tribe this season), in juxtaposition to last airbender where the overarching conflict was derived from the imperial forces of the fire nation.
Meanwhile Mako, Bolin and Asami meet with Varrick, who’s still in hiding after conspiring to incite revolution again Unaloq. This is all done While Varrick continually proves to be a hilarious new addition to the cast as a crazed Howard Hughes-esque shipping magnate. Then, over at the Southern Air Temple, Tenzin finally finds his missing daughter Ikki where we, as viewers, are shown a heartfelt reflection on the issues felt by both children and adults alike: the stresses and annoyances of being part of a family.
All in all the episode makes for a strong entry in an already strong second season. No scene is wasted, making for a fast-paced progression of the story without feeling rushed. One minor complaint I have (which is just nitpick, really) is the dialogue between Korra and her Uncle in the first few minutes of the episode. It come off as a little stiff and stilted, both in the voice work and the animation (which consisted of one wide profile shot of the two from the side for a good duration of their dialogue). But that aside I found it to be thrilling, touching and hilarious and I eagerly await what next Friday night’s episode has to offer.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D- pilot

           So tonight was the series premier of Joss Whedon’s new television show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. What can I say, I enjoyed it. As a long time fan of Whedon’s work, what can I say, I’m a huge fan guy the guy. Firefly and Dollhouse are two of my favorite shows and the guy gave us The Avengers. The man’s work is staple in nerd culture. That being said, there’s definitely room for improvement.
There is a bit of a corniness factor as there often is with Whedon’s work. His quirky sense of humor is deeply ingrained in each of the characters personalities, so whether or not that complements your whimsy will determine how well these characters jive with you, particularly the characters of Skye, played by the lovely Chloe Bennet, and the super CSI duo Fitz and Simmons, played respectively by Lain Decastecker and Elizabeth Henstridge. Bennet makes for a fun character, though she will seem very familiar to people well-acclimated with Whedon’s other shows. The latter two make for cute comic duo of awkward/ sweet but could definitely use more fleshing out as characters, this however is a very minor complaint as it is only the pilot episode of what I foresee being a long running series.
Playing the straight man/ woman to these comic foils were Brett Dalton and Ming Na Wen. Brett Dalton plays Agent Grant Wars, a young, no nonsense field agent who is reluctantly drafted into Coulson’s team with Ming Na Wen as a field agent turned desk jockey with a bitter aversion to returning to field work. Dalton mostly seems to provide a handsome face for Chloe Bennet to swap banter with (although he does get a few good lines), while Ming Na Wen turns in a very reserved performance but still manages to exudes the aura of battle-worn fighter in self-imposed exile. Some great groundwork has been laid down for both characters to grow as the show develops.
The stand out performances for me were that of Clark Gregg and J. August Richards. Clark Gregg returns to his role as the once-thought-to-be-dead S.H.I.E.L.D agent And fan favorite Phil Couslon, alive under mysterious and most likely dubious circumstances (this will certainly provide an interesting overarching plot thread for the first season). Gregg brings his usual soft-spoken, affable charm but the suitable edge befitting a seasoned spy. J. August Richards plays the heavy for the episode: An Everyman archetype endowed with super strength by a shadowy organization that gives him to power to either rise up as a hero or buckle under the stresses of working class America and succumb to the instability of his condition. Richards brings forth a very likable character who, even in an Extremis-fueled rage, maintains a level of humanity and truly embodies the Everyman archetype he has been written into.
It is this notion of the Everyman that truly drives home what seems to be the dominant theme of the show (a show in which none of the main characters have superpowers): that even in a post-Avengers world ordinary human beings can still make a difference, that this human element that could be so easily lost in a franchise of alien gods green rage monsters can still kick ass.

Opening statement

Greetings Internet, my name is Phil and welcome to I’ll be using this blog to post reviews of movies and television programs, both of which are mediums I’m very passionate about and greatly enjoy sharing my thoughts about with who ever would care to listen (or read in this case). The reviews will be most likely be written, though I would like to eventually start posting video reviews if can find the time, either way I can’t guarantee any sort of regularity to my posts but I’ll try to get one up as often as I can. I can’t wait to really get started 🙂