I read a great comment from somebody who clearly hasn’t seen the show, arguing that it glorifies meth cooking as a source of easy money and isn’t something that should be watched by kids. Well, the commenter got that last part right, though AMC wasn’t exactly marketing it with a cartoon Erlenmeyer flask named “Crystal” who begged small children to watch and enjoy it. I don’t think kids tuning in will be a problem. If they do, I’m pretty sure acid-softened guts falling through a ceiling every few episodes will discourage them from taking up meth-cooking as a career.
Could this episode have been more depressing? Jessica Hecht’s odd cameo from a few weeks ago comes into sharp focus here, as we learn Walt’s old girlfriend is married to a former peer and colleague. We’re introduced to what Walt could have been if he had made different choices. The show smartly played it so we don’t get a clear indication of what those choices were—we just know they were wrong, and he regrets them and hates seeing how the other half live.
Also to the show’s credit, Walt’s old college buddy—whose birthday they were celebrating—was genuinely touched by Walt’s gift of cheap old ramen noodles, more touched than the Clapton-owned Stratocaster he just tossed aside. It’s that kind of depth and unwillingness to play stereotypes that makes this show a cut above. Then it reached its tragic apex, as Walt is offered a job—a nice, high-paying job, doing what he loves. Out of pity. Because Skyler spilled the cancer beans.
We’re then treated to a possible indicator of where Walt went wrong: pride and hubris. He storms out of the party and refuses the generous financial help extended to him by the wealthy couple. Instead, while he does finally opt for treatment, Walt decides to start cooking to pay for it. What’s going to happen when he gets deep into it and can barely walk? I don’t know.
Meanwhile, Jesse hooks up with some old friends and tries to cook using Walt’s formula and methodology. He can’t do it—it’s too cloudy. And suddenly his standards are too high to smoke this slightly inferior product. He forces the friend to just keep doing it again and again, until the friend finally ditches him.
In the end: “You wanna cook?” The band’s back together, reluctantly but necessarily. It’s funny that this line comes across both triumphant and tragic. If not for The Wire raising the stakes beyond anything we’ve seen before and Lost just airing the best show its ever done (ever), I’d call this the best show on television. Right now, it’s a close third.
So the Hudson Valley Virus jumped the “blue line,” Dale bought vaccine, but the Cheyenne government wants to confiscate it? Is anyone else thinking “genocide”? I wish I could say it was something as simple as stockpiling so the “important” folks in Cheyenne have access to the vaccine, but I don’t think that’s it. They’ve already vaccinated Jennings & Rall peons, which seems awfully presumptuous considering it only recently jumped the line. That, to me, means exterminating those who rebel against the new government (like, for instance, Jericho) while blaming the Columbus government for letting the disease get out of hand. Too conspiratorial?
Elsewhere, Darcy and Hawkins are becoming malicious partners in crime (good!), Bonnie wants to take a trip to Cheyenne (bad!), Jake wants to kill Goetz (good and bad!), and the plucky blonde whose name I don’t know (okay, I looked it up, and it’s Trish) is apparently undermining Jennings & Rall. Does this mean Bonnie’s trip to Cheyenne will end well, or is hooking up with Trish a recipe for disaster?
King of the Hill (Fox)—Poor, pathetic Bill. Poor, delusional Dale. One of the great things about the running John Redcorn gag is the way everyone ends up supporting his wild conspiracy theories because it’s easier than letting him known the truth about John, Nancy, and Joseph. So when a new woman enters Bill’s life, and her daughter gets a little too friendly with Joseph, neither Bobby nor Dale are happy. However, Dale takes the initiative to do a DNA test (because the daughter looks familiar).
In Dale’s world, the aliens who kidnapped and impregnated Nancy also kidnapped and impregnated Bill’s girlfriend. Unfortunately, when Bill’s girlfriend learns John Redcorn is also in Arlen, she’s very pleased. Bill is less pleased, because he has turned into little more than a babysitter for kids he can’t stand. In typical King of the Hill fashion, the ending is happy for both Dale and Bill, but in the worst possible ways. Dale continues living his lies, and Bill is relieved to have the kids out of his hair (but not the woman). Kind of a downer.
Lost—Lost is one of those rare shows that has particular moments that just…completely blow your mind. The ending of “Walkabout,” for instance. Or “We’re gonna need the boy.” However, this is the first episode that has been a full hour and two minutes of complete, mind-blowing insanity. I hung on every second of it, absolutely loving it. Desmond has been such a wild character from the start, and his psychic premonitions last season felt a little far-fetched (even for Lost)—but if this is the payoff, it was all worth it.
Now I want to know what’s going on with Farady, perhaps the most interesting new character since Eko left this mortal coil. I don’t want to harp on the intricacies of time travel (or why this was such a well-constructed example of it), because that’d be worthy of a column by itself. All I know is, I’m both baffled and hooked and kinda want this show to go on forever.
Medium (NBC)—In the best episode of the season (so far), Allison finds herself working for shady defense attorney Larry Watt to find out whether or not a client (the underrated Bill Sadler) is guilty. The labyrinthine plot showed deft use of misdirection in Allison’s dreams, while the very setup of getting sent to Watt by Devalos, and the family’s financial situation in dire enough straits for her to accept the “job,” allowed for some great character conflict all around. Even the subplot, with Joe discovering Arielle is charging classmates for psychic readings, was solidly constructed. This more than makes up for last week’s lackluster offering. Gold star for Medium!
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox)—So is Cameron going to start donning wacky disguises every week? First the cop, then the ballerina—it’s actually kind of a fun element to the show, because of the impossibility of her ever assimilating. Although, to the credit of the writers, Cameron’s clear desire to understand the human condition, and trying to use dance to do so, was effectively subtle and pretty awesome. A nice twist.
Meanwhile, Dr. Silberman from the movies returns. This time, he’s played by Bruce Davison (perfectly cast) and he’s in charge of dropping the big reveal bomb: not only did Silberman start to believe in Sarah’s future after The Incident at Pescadero—Ellison believes. I have to say, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I didn’t see it coming. There’s also the craziness of Sarah Connor saving him from Silberman’s burning cabin. Their relationship dynamic has suddenly changed—for better or worse.
I had hopes this show would be good, but had no clue it’d be this good this fast.
The amazing thing about Kenard is not his youth but his anger. Granted, it’s more amazing considering his youth—but for as long as we’ve known his name, we’ve known him as a harder corner boy than thugs twice his age. His very character, coupled with his killing Omar, is just another point the writers have underscored from day one: one of the reasons for the decay of the modern city is disrespect, in all forms. In this case, disrespect for elders, for what comes before you, for legends. On the streets of West Baltimore, respect was one of the few things that kept people from just killing everyone who looked at them funny (which, you’ll note, is exactly what Marlo’s done since day one).
I also loved the way Beadie’s speech underscored Omar’s death. Nobody seemed particularly shocked or broken up about the man’s death. Maybe Renaldo will, but who knows when or if he’ll find out about it? Point is, Omar didn’t have any true family. At the end of the day, he had nothing. He was a legend in West Baltimore, and will probably remain so for a few years, but he didn’t matter. He didn’t make a difference. He just was, and then wasn’t.
Elsewhere: shit is ramping up. Templeton’s out, I’m sure, but I have this weird feeling McNulty will get off scot-free. I think his callback to Bunk’s classic line—“You’re no good for people”—is key. McNulty will be okay, while everyone around him falls. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am, because they don’t deserve it nearly as much as he does. One well-deserved comeuppance that I think we will see: Carcetti’s going to fold in on himself. There’s no way the crime rate will go down, and without the homeless to latch onto after McNulty’s bullshit explodes in their faces, his political career will stagnate.
All in all, as we head to the finale, the elements of what felt at first like a shaky, unbelievable plot have converged and reminded me why The Wire is the best show on television.