Oh, It’s All Good Man

I liked “Torchwood”. As far as spin-offs go, it’s a pretty good one. I am still not a huge fan of “Fear the walking dead”, though the last season finally started to take steps in a direction I’m willing to go along with. I am, however all in for “Better call Saul”!
When it was just announced that this series is going to be produced, and by the same folks who gave us “Breaking Bad”, I was excited and worried at the same time. Excited because I can watch Saul Goodman doing his thing all day, but worried because being a spin-off to a show of that magnitude (“Breaking Bad” is, in fact the best TV drama ever. It’s a fact because… reason) it had the perfect opportunity to fail. Having finished watching season 4, I have a few things to say about what I consider to be the best current drama show on TV.

They took their time

It was something of an itch, to some of us Saul Goodman fans, to see the guy from Breaking Bad come out, guns blazing from the get go. Luckily the gifted production team, starting from the writers, with the perfect delivery of Bob Odenkirk and the wonderful cast, decided to take their time and show us how Jimmy McGill becomes the man we all knew and loved. It wasn’t a gag fest of “criminal lawyer” Saul Goodman. Instead it is – as a good story should be – an arc. We take the ride with a very relatable character, with plenty of flaws, and we cheer for him. Even if we know he gets corrupted, we understand. We get it. It’s all good man!

Those aren’t really cameos

Sure, there are a couple of faces who show up with limited purpose, but for the most part, characters who we originally met in “Breaking Bad” and were introduced into “Better call Saul” were introduced because there’s a story to tell, and they either play a major role in it, have some back story to show or both. The best examples might be Mike and Tito Salamanca. Along with Gustavo Fring and others, they don’t just play the “Hey, these guys were on Breaking Bad” roles, but move the story forward, or serve as part of the setting (we all know that at some point, Walter White meets Saul. It’s part of a bigger story).

They are respectful

The way the story is written, and told both by way of script, as well as the way it’s screen-played, shows a great deal of respect to “Breaking Bad”, to Saul and his cast of course, and perhaps most of all to the fans. There is an independent story here, told with great care, putting the focus on the main character – Jimmy/Saul – and woven into this, the larger story of the set of characters who feature into the “Breaking Bad” universe. There is a lot of correspondence with the original series, both obvious (again, not just for cheap pops – with a purpose), as well as far more subtle. I may be barking at the wrong tree, but there are many scenes that I can immediately relate to “Breaking Bad” without them even having to do with the story directly. An example of that, I find, was the scene in the last episode of season 4 (Spoiler alert if you haven’t watched yet), where Mike is about to kill Werner. Mike’s character is of a person who always owns up, and even if for a brief moment there was hope for the German, it was never going to be different. And why does that scene corresponds to the original? In my mind (and I believe that it was done with thought behind it), this was very similar to when Mike was going to Kill Walter, and the only reason he didn’t was Jessie getting to Gale, leaving Fring without a cook. Werner is a professional like Walt, who’s skills are valued. Unlike Walt, he could be replaced and had no backup.

Bob Odenkirk

On a “Breaking Bad” panel, I heard Bob say that “It’s just the writers”. That he just comes to work, reads what they tell him to and go home. Rrrriiiigghht…
I don’t think Bob Odenkirk is a good actor. I think he is a phenomenal actor. I think he can do a Psycho killer, a lover, a tough military guy or a clown with the same level of credibility and grace. He is required to do a nice range of acting in this series and I think he nails it on every turn.

The timeline

I think that part of what makes this series so great, is the decision to have it as a kind of prequel, and not a disconnected series of events. By making that choice, the producers committed themselves to an end. An end that we are all very familiar with and as such, it is tied to some expectations. This gives the writers an obligation to stay true to the character, and not go off on some crazy bunny trails that in so many cases result in completely losing focus and faith from the viewers.
Whoever is in charge of making the decision better let these guys take this series all the way to its satisfying end.
You want the end to be Walter White walking in with a silly disguise, trying to influence him to keep Badger quiet – great. You want to end it simply by receiving his first customer in his tacky strip mall office – great. But let it get to its natural conclusion.  However you want to – It’s all good man!

 

The Very Real Story Of Walt Longmire

First of, no. This isn’t becoming a TV review site anytime soon. It’s a matter of coinciding schedule on Netflix. You can read the short post I wrote about The Punisher” here. That was written after a binge. This here post on the other hand was not. Yes, I doubled up on episodes of Longmire (because damn it, I love this show), but I let it last a whole week (trust me, it took a lot for me to hold off). After all, this was the last season, so I thought I’d make it count, in hope that they made it count too.
Well, the short version is – they did.
But we’re not here to take shortcuts. No. We’re here to celebrate one of TV’s most underrated shows.
Like quite a few TV shows I loved, this one was recommended to me by good friends in Georgia (other notable mentions: Justified, Top of the lake, The walking dead among others.). Had I not gotten this recommendation, chances are I’d never watch an episode of Longmire.
I mean, come on. It’s the second decade of this millenium for crying out loud. Who tells a story about Cowboys and Indians? No zombies, no high-tech, no weekly deaths of main characters, no full frontal…. Jeez…. right?
Wrong.
Like many less than flashy productions, Longmire is a proof that a good story could be told and acted, regardless of the year. And yes, there are still cowboys out there, and thankfully a few native Americans.

Every story, absolutely must have these things (a very condensed checklist):

relatable main character:
You can’t get much more relatable than Walt Longmire. A man of the law (automatic good guy), Widowed due to murdered wife (we’re on board) and father to a beautiful, loving and caring daughter, leading a police force of seemingly less than stellar cops. Walt’s as real as they come. He seems to have quite a few of those very human flaws and just enough charm and guts to get us behind him.
Strong antagonist/s:
We had the chief of the reservation police Malachi, and his successor Mathias. Both in constant ends with Walt and his view of police work and interests.
Branch Connally and his father Barlow were a different kind of opposition, as were investigators trying to tie Walt to a murder.
The Irish Mafia came to town, and of course, the one guy who always walked the fine line between legal and charity – Jacob Nighthorse.
Add the different antagonistic forces that came with the sub plots and you have yourself a very strong, forever threatening opponent. Some of whom were truly a mirror of sorts. Keeping Walt on his guard, both as it relates to the threat they posed, as well as to what their similarities told him about himself.
Secondary/Supporting characters:
First and foremost, Walt’s best friend Henry Standing Bear. How do we know he’s his best friend? Well, he answers the two qualities of such person. He tells it like it is. There is no beating around the bush, walking on egg shells type of BS about Henry. When Walt Effs up – Henry is there to tell it to his face. And even though they may disagree or even downright oppose each other, Henry is always there for Walt (and the same is true the other way).
Cady is a character that manages to stay away from cliché. Yes, she stays by her dad after her mom dies and yes, she is that one who always wants to leave “small town USA” and falls in love with the good-looking quarterback (or bull rider). But she is also an intelligent, independent and driven person, who may irritate her old-fashioned dad, but ultimately (and recognized for it by him eventually) she is what Walt evolved into (though we will never actually see it on-screen).
Vic (Philly) is the outsider who wants to understand Walt, admires him and frustrated by him. Her being that stranger is what makes this slow burning, tense love story so effective.
Yes, there are others, but these three are the most important for the story and for the main character.
A believable plot and sub plots (within the rules of the story world):
A small (fictional) county, with “regular folk” and yet a lot seems to happen. Sure, when you say it like that, it may not be believable at all. Especially if you bring in the Irish mob from all the way out in Boston. But all told, every event makes sense. Either via cause and effect or by reasonable explanation.
The intermingling of plots and the relationships between White Americans and Native Americans, as well as the inner working of those societies living side by side (which in itself is a story), make for a very interesting mix of dilemmas and questions. Those drive character change and development in subtle but impactful ways.
The journey:
Oh, how far did we go in six seasons. From the loner drunk, stubborn and – let’s face it – selfish sherif of season 1, to the open-minded, flexible, emotionally engaged and proud father and lover we said goodbye to this season.
Every episode and every season brought Walt closer to that beautiful man we saw in the finale. And no, it wasn’t just a sequence of make a mistake, learn, improve. One of the most beautiful things about this story is that it is very real. It’s a tale of real men. You know, those who make the same mistake more than once (or three times) before they learn. Real men like us. relatable.
And after winning some of his battles and losing more than his fair share, this man learns to overcome his grief, open his heart to another woman, understand his daughter completely and come to terms with his imperfections.
Hey, He even has his own cellphone!
Voice:
Perhaps in TV is easier, because these words are spoken, but think about it. It’s not only the difference between cowboy Walt’s everyday guy English and Henry’s official-talk. It’s also the differences between Henry, Mathias and Malachi. Cause you know… not all injunes are the same. It’s also the way Cady differs from her dad (not to mention Vic from Philly).
And if we want to look at the voice of the story-teller, we can follow the camera and the directing and editing. A really solid work of modern-day Cowboy/Indian world creation.
Longmire is one of my all time favorite shows. I will surely re-watch it.
One point of contention though…
This series did such a phenomenal job in telling a story about a Native Indian society without falling into the trap of making it look like a group of identical individuals on the one hand, or go science fiction on the other. I loved that fact that visions and symbolism played a part in the story.
One thing I wish they kept out. In the last season, Cady helps a native American lady kidnap a kid in order to get him “proper” medication.
I truly believe this was unnecessary. If we credit visions and symbolism (which we should), we really should have not fallen into the trap of western medicine’s superiority over that of native Americans. It felt preachy and uncharacteristic.
But hey, it’s just a little piece of a very big and beautiful puzzle of story telling and TV production.
So long Walt (seems to be a great name for a phenomenal protagonist). See you later.


An idiot. With a box and a screwdriver, passing through, helping out, learning.

Good morning. Or evening, or…. Well, it’s got to be morning somewhere… I mean sometime… you know, this whole time thingy is confusing so I’ll just stick to my original version. Good morning. Definitely morning. Or not.

Continue reading

Mixing Business With Pleasure (Bloodline on Netflix – No Spoilers)

Hello world.
Netflix could be really irritating. There could be six months stretches of nothing new but semi amusing stand up comedies and straight-to-video “blockbusters”, during which I find other things to do with my time. Then, there could be bursts of releases that make it difficult to find the time to handle all that wealth…

Continue reading

Criminally Gifted – Dexter Vs. Breaking Bad

Hello everyone and welcome back to this little cyberspot. Some of you may have been a little confused to see a post in unknown characters. That was my mother tongue – Hebrew. I decided to accomplish two goals, one was to expose my musings to people who either dislike reading in English (yeah, I know…) or can’t read it, and also to practice my native language so I may not forget it. I will continue to mix Hebrew and English posts and hopefully have enough to go around. Continue reading

10 Favorite TV shows (what the what?)

Hello world (that was humanly generated. if you get it, you’re my buddy).

I have come to the conclusion that my brain is incapable of multi-tasking. It is a single-minded organ who can work in one of many modes, albeit ONLY one at a time. Case in hand? I am an IT professional (sorry) and I’m also a writer, a husband, a father and a few other things all at once. Continue reading