Justified Season 6 RayActions – Episode 4, “The Trash and the Snake”

justifiedOn January 20th, FX’s Justified began its sixth and final season. Based on several Elmore Leonard works, Justified follows Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), a US Marshal who is “exiled” to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. Raylan frequently finds himself in conflict with erstwhile mining buddy, now criminal mastermind, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), as the two attempt to coexist in a world that seems a little too small for both of them. Justified highlights the local culture and explores numerous themes, such as family, religion, history and the thin line that divides the good guys from the bad.

Join Jeff (of Slazenger1) and me in the coming months as we honor this criminally underrated drama with a series of “RayActions” to each of Justified’s Season 6 episodes. These posts will not be particularly formal, but will give us the chance to make some observations and reflect on each episode, likely culminating in a full Season 6 Dead Season Discussion after the finale.

This week’s RayAction is focused on Justified Season 6, Episode 4 – “The Trash and the Snake.” It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of Justified. Fire in the Hole!

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Patches
“The Trash and the Snake” was an episode that, presumably like Negroni, takes a little while to grow on a person (or me at least).

Wynn Duffy took Boyd on an adventure to meet his “crack” safebreaker. (See what I did there? Wynn would be proud.) Jake Busey’s and dirty blondes with snakes named Rudy were involved before Jake randomly exploded. That happened about halfway through the episode and it was never mentioned again. I enjoy Justified’s unique sense of humor as much as anyone, but Continue reading

Justified Season 6 RayActions – Episode 3, “Noblesse Oblige”

justifiedOn January 20th, FX’s Justified began its sixth and final season. Based on several Elmore Leonard works, Justified follows Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), a US Marshal who is “exiled” to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. Raylan frequently finds himself in conflict with erstwhile mining buddy, now criminal mastermind, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), as the two attempt to coexist in a world that seems a little too small for both of them. Justified highlights the local culture and explores numerous themes, such as family, religion, history and the thin line that divides the good guys from the bad.

Join Jeff (of Slazenger1) and me in the coming months as we honor this criminally underrated drama with a series of “RayActions” to each of Justified’s Season 6 episodes. These posts will not be particularly formal, but will give us the chance to make some observations and reflect on each episode, likely culminating in a full Season 6 Dead Season Discussion after the finale.

This week’s RayAction is focused on Justified Season 6, Episode 3 – “Noblesse Oblige.” It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of Justified. Fire in the Hole!

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Patches
Even if we’re still too early in the season for a trip to the fireworks factory, “Noblesse Oblige” still had a lot going on. Raylan and Rachel teamed up to investigate missing explosives, only to match wits (actually, that’s probably singular) with Harlan’s answer to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Choo-Choo explained the finer points of bank vaults to Ava after catching her spying for Boyd. Avery Markham demonstrated a callous disregard for both upper teeth and Federal kidnapping and terrorism statutes. And Boyd found out he was being played by Katherine Hale and Wynn Duffy before pledging to kill Markham. The look on his face did not seem to indicate his warpath would end there.

I know this is opening a huge satchel of worms (I’m going green) because everyone uses a different rubric, but it might be time to start asking if Justified is the best show on television right now. It has to be in the conversation, right? Continue reading

Justified Season 6 RayActions – Episode 2, “Cash Game”

justifiedOn January 20th, FX’s Justified began its sixth and final season. Based on several Elmore Leonard works, Justified follows Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), a US Marshal who is “exiled” to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. Raylan frequently finds himself in conflict with erstwhile mining buddy, now criminal mastermind, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), as the two attempt to coexist in a world that seems a little too small for both of them. Justified highlights the local culture and explores numerous themes, such as family, religion, history and the thin line that divides the good guys from the bad.

Join Jeff (of Slazenger1) and me in the coming months as we honor this criminally underrated drama with a series of “RayActions” to each of Justified’s Season 6 episodes. These posts will not be particularly formal, but will give us the chance to make some observations and reflect on each episode, likely culminating in a full Season 6 Dead Season Discussion after the finale.

This week’s RayAction is focused on Justified Season 6, Episode 2 – “Cash Game.” It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of Justified. Fire in the Hole!

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Jeff
God bless the writers, crew, cast and casting directors of Justified. I know that USA Network says “characters welcome,” but Justified does distinct and wonderful characters better than any other show on TV. Even in its final season, Justified is not satisfied to simply rest on everything it has built over the past five years. Instead, the writers continue to introduce colorful and interesting individuals who are fully-formed from their first appearance on the screen, no matter how short it is (Jackie Nevada, anyone). This episode is a notable showcase of just how awesome the series is in that respect. Continue reading

Justified Season 6 RayActions – Episode 1, “Fate’s Right Hand”

justifiedOn January 20th, FX’s Justified began its sixth and final season. Based on several Elmore Leonard works, Justified follows Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), a US Marshal who is “exiled” to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. Raylan frequently finds himself in conflict with erstwhile mining buddy, now criminal mastermind, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), as the two attempt to coexist in a world that seems a little too small for both of them. Justified highlights the local culture and explores numerous themes, such as family, religion, history and the thin line that divides the good guys from the bad.

Join Jeff (of Slazenger1) and me in the coming months as we honor this criminally underrated drama with a series of “RayActions” to each of Justified’s Season 6 episodes. These posts will not be particularly formal, but will give us the chance to make some observations and reflect on each episode, likely culminating in a full Season 6 Dead Season Discussion after the finale.

This week’s RayAction covers Justified’s Season 6 premiere, “Fate’s Right Hand.” It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of Justified. Fire in the Hole!

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Patches
Justified is back. And I mean that both literally and figuratively.

First, the literal part. I have missed this show more than any other show on television. I watch Homeland, Always Sunny, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Sherlock, and Game of Thrones. Most of those shows, I can watch when it is convenient. I have no compulsion to watch them NOW. The exception is Game of Thrones, which can sometime be – “oppressive” or “a chore” are too strong, but – heavy. It takes a lot of energy to watch Game of Thrones. It’s epic, meaningful, constantly tragic, and most of the time, almost relentless in its humorlessness.

I missed Justified so much because it so effortlessly avoids either problem. It is deep and meaningful and explores important topics and themes, but it’s loaded with quirkiness, humor, and local flavor. Justified is a lot like Raylan describes bourbon to a Mexican Federale: Continue reading

“AWK” for “Awkward:” A Dead Season Discussion of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Season 1 (Part 2)

title cardCreated by Dan Goor (Parks and Recreation) and Michael Schur (The Office, Parks and Recreation), Brooklyn Nine-Nine debuted on September 17, 2013 on Fox. Although conceived as a vehicle for Andy Samberg in his first post-SNL role, a top-notch supporting cast turned Brooklyn Nine-Nine into one of the best comedies of the year, winning Golden Globe awards for Best Comedy Series and Best Actor in a comedy (Samberg), and earning Andre Braugher an Emmy nomination for Supporting Actor in a Comedy along the way.

To celebrate the show’s Season 2 premiere, Jeff (of Slazenger1) and I break down Season 1 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

As usual, SPOILERS abound. Also, possibly penis graffiti…

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Welcome to Part 2, which is all about our Superlatives. What were the best and worst, the highs and lows, of Season 1? Let’s find out!

Best Performance
Jeff: Terry Crews. I must’ve been living under a rock, because I don’t think I knew about this guy until I heard he was the one Expendable I hadn’t ever heard of. He’s huge, he’s sensitive and he’s hilarious. (I liked Jerry Gergich’s “fart attack” on Parks and Recreation better though)
Patches: You’ve never heard of President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho? I’m doing the only thing I know how to do, which is to place Andre Braugher on a pedestal. Braugher, and the writers, forged the best gay character (I know of) on television. It’s a clear part of who he is, but it doesn’t define or trap him in any way. He’s a police officer who happens to be gay.

vlcsnap-2014-09-22-09h34m01s55Worst Performance
Patches: You’ve already mentioned her, but I’ll pick Continue reading

“AWK” for “Awkward:” A Dead Season Discussion of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Season 1 (Part 1)

title cardCreated by Dan Goor (Parks and Recreation) and Michael Schur (The Office, Parks and Recreation), Brooklyn Nine-Nine debuted on September 17, 2013 on Fox. Although conceived as a vehicle for Andy Samberg in his first post-SNL role, a top-notch supporting cast turned Brooklyn Nine-Nine into one of the best comedies of the year, winning Golden Globe awards for Best Comedy Series and Best Actor in a comedy (Samberg), and earning Andre Braugher an Emmy nomination for Supporting Actor in a Comedy along the way.

To celebrate the show’s Season 2 premiere, Jeff (of Slazenger1) and I break down Season 1 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

As usual, SPOILERS abound. Also, possibly penis graffiti…

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Patches: Jeff! It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, hasn’t it?

Jeff: Yeah, you know, the important stuff gets in the way: life, work, responsibility, binge watching the first season of Once Upon a Time….

Patches: Once Upon a Time? Oh, Jeff… I understand. I’ve also made some terrible decisions where attractive ladies were involved… Wait, did that make it sound like I think your wife is hot? Wait, did that make it sound like I think your wife is ugly? Godammit…

Let me change the subject by linking Robert Carlyle’s Wikipedia page. This the least flattering picture in the history of photography, right?

Jeff: What a beautiful woman! Too bad even she can’t save OUaT. But we’re not here to talk about fairy tales, we’re here to talk about a show that actually tries when it comes to writing: Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Let’s get to it!

Patches: Very well! From our brief conversations on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it seems as though we both enjoyed it and think the show has a lot of potential. If not for the surprising resurgence of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, B99 would have been my comedy of the year. Then again, I’m not a big comedy guy, which I suppose makes the fact that I’m watching it pretty big compliment itself. So, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF SEASON 1, OVERALL?

Jeff: B99 was the comedy with the most promise for the 2013 fall season. Not only did it have the pedigree of Schur and Braugher (which was a big sell for yours truly), but Continue reading

24: The Longest Dead Series Discussion of Our Lives – Superlatives

Title Card24 is a groundbreaking and important television series. Beyond the thrills, kills, twists, and tragedies is a show that reached a new level of serialized storytelling and set the bar for action and suspense on network television. Lasting for 8 full seasons and one “limited series”–204 episodes plus a TV movie–24 is one of the longest-running shows of the past 15 years. Others, like Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, Smallville, two CSIs and two or three Law & Orders, may have run longer, but the argument can be made that none of those shows are equally as worthy of contributing to the debatably labeled and vaguely-defined “Third Golden Age of Television Drama” that began with The Sopranos in 1999 and is now fading with the end of Breaking Bad and the impending finale of Mad Men. Perhaps 24 doesn’t quite reach the dramatic heights of those shows, or others like The Wire and Deadwood, or even The Shield, Lost or Battlestar Galactica, but it was always a strong awards and ratings contender and it was just so addicting and fun to watch.

For the last year, we—Patches, Zach, Jeff and MegaMix—looked back at the entirety of 24, from its 2001 premiere to 2014’s Live Another Day. This month’s discussion focuses on our Superlatives, the Best and Worst that 24 had to offer through 206 hours of television.

It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of 24 and strong language. Parental discretion is advised. Discussion occurs in real time.

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Season Rankings
Jeff: Three, One, Two, Four, Five, Seven, Eight, Live Another Day, Six. As much as I’ve turned around on 5 and as much as I find 7 to be a delightful breath of fresh air in the late-series doldrums, I’ve simply got to dance with the one that brung me.
Zach: Take Jeff’s and swap Five and Four.
Patches: Three, Seven, Five, Four, Two, One, Eight, Live Another Day, Six. My big upset here is Season 7, which was the first season since S3 to introduce characters I truly cared about and the only season to seriously grapple with the War on Terror and the show’s own ideology.
MegaMix: Gots to go Three, Five, One, Four, Seven, Two, Eight, LAD, & Six. Wow.

Best Season
Jeff: Season 3, home to (arguably) the best episode of the series, which is also, thanks to a presidential press conference moving it from Tuesday 4/13/04 to Sunday 4/18/04, the lowest rated episode in 24’s initial 8 season run.
Zach: Season 3.
Patches: Season 3. We’ve said all there is to say. Well, not really. But we’ve said all we’re going to say.
MegaMix: Tres.

Worst Season
Jeff: Season 6.
Zach: Season 1 of 2.4.
Patches: Season 6. Yup.
MegaMix: 6, but honorable mention to LAD. 6 sucked, period. LAD was a disappointment. Sometimes disappointments are worse.

Best Performance
Jeff: Kief aside, I’ll go with Gregory Itzin as Charles Logan. It’s a role made for sinking your teeth into, and Itzin devours it. Cherry Jones may be the only non-Sutherland to win an Emmy for 24, but Itzin gets my vote.
Zach: Kiefer Sutherland. The show simply doesn’t exist without him.
Patches: It has to be Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, right? Master of the tortured tortured torturer? For the sake of discussion, I’ll go with Dennis Haysbert who expertly portrayed the president we wished we perpetually had. I’m not sure anyone on television emanates Haysbert’s level of integrity, strength, patience, wisdom, and moral certitude.
MegaMix: Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe O’Brian. Honestly, Kiefer was fantastic, but Mary Lynn came out of nowhere with this role. She’s mostly done comedic work outside of this and absolutely steals most scenes.

vlcsnap-2013-11-17-00h24m36s193Worst Performance
Jeff: It’s hard to find a main character who isn’t brought down by bad writing alone. I’ll go with the Season 6 Palmers, Sandra (Regina King) and President Wayne (DB Woodside). Both are as flat as their dialogue. Also, and this may be sacrilege, but as great as he is in certain moments, I often feel like William Devane as James Heller is reading off of cue cards.
Zach: Fuck off, Cheng.
Patches: Leslie Hope as Teri Bauer in Season 1. 24 casted well enough to avoid anyone terrible joining the main cast, but Hope’s performance struck me as bland, boring, and uninspired. The writers sure didn’t do her any favors either, but “listless” isn’t the best way to elevate a character.
MegaMix: Elisha Cuthbert as Kim Bauer. As cute as she is, everything about her screams BLEH! She sticks out like a random cougar in the middle of a season. Continue reading

24: The Longest Dead Series Discussion of Our Lives – Live Another Day

“PRESIDENT HELLER FORGOT TO PUT A TITLE HERE”

Title Card24 is a groundbreaking and important television series. Beyond the thrills, kills, twists, and tragedies is a show that reached a new level of serialized storytelling and set the bar for action and suspense on network television. Lasting for 8 full seasons and one “limited series”–204 episodes plus a TV movie–24 is one of the longest-running shows of the past 15 years. Others, like Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, Smallville, two CSIs and two or three Law & Orders, may have run longer, but the argument can be made that none of those shows are equally as worthy of contributing to the debatably labeled and vaguely-defined “Third Golden Age of Television Drama” that began with The Sopranos in 1999 and is now fading with the end of Breaking Bad and the impending finale of Mad Men. Perhaps 24 doesn’t quite reach the dramatic heights of those shows, or others like The Wire and Deadwood, or even The Shield, Lost or Battlestar Galactica, but it was always a strong awards and ratings contender and it was just so addicting and fun to watch.

From September through May, we – Patches, Zach, Jeff and MegaMix – looked back at 24, discussing one season per month until the premiere of the 12-episode miniseries 24: Live Another Day, which we subsequently discussed in a series of “ReJacktions.”

This month’s discussion is focused on Season 9 of 24, aka Live Another Day, which concluded July 14 after premiering in May of 2014.

It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of 24 and strong language. Parental discretion is advised. Discussion occurs in real time.

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Patches
A fable…

The 24pion and the Stud

Once upon a time, a remarkably handsome man came upon a large stream, wishing to cross to the other side where he could find the best shows on television. The current, however, was swift and the Stud knew swimming across would require all his strength.

“Perhaps you could help me. I also need to get to the other side, but I can’t swim.”

The Stud, surprised that he wasn’t alone, looked down to see a 24pion. “Why should I trust you?” the Stud asked, “You’ll sting me with obstructionist bosses and other inconveniences that exist only to kill time. Leads will appear only slightly less randomly than family members we didn’t know existed. They’ll be moles and presidential leadership issues. I don’t want any of that.”

“Why would I do those things?” answered the 24pion. “Then we would both drown.” The Stud gave the 24pion a skeptical look. “Really,” the 24pion insisted, “my metasoma is ‘limited run.’ I don’t need any of those things. I could set on your back while you swim across and it would just be a tight, simple, fun story. You’d trust a BSGila Monster or a Justifieding Fox or a Wireus — Yeah, Wireus works — You can trust me.”

“Alright,” said the really, really, really ridiculously good looking man, “hop on.”

Despite his otherworldly attractiveness, the Stud wasn’t much of a swimmer. However, he could adequately backfloat. The 24pion climbed onto the Stud’s washboard abs and the two set off. As the pair made it about halfway across the stream, the 24pion’s tail snapped downwards, piercing the Stud’s skin and releasing six or seven episodes worth of venom.

“Dammit!™ Why did you do that?” the Stud cried as his strength faded, sinking manly-yet-well-kempt-beard-deep into the stream. Now we will both drown.”

“I couldn’t help it,” the 24pion replied, “It’s my nature.”

The Moral of the Story

Much like the original story’s titular frog, I forgot or ignored the nature of what I was dealing with. I let The Wire, Justified, and Game of Thrones convince me that we were going to get some flagship HBO version of 24.

Nope. Continue reading

Knapsacking Up: Favor the Bold

There is probably no other franchise in all of television that broke as many boundaries as Star Trek. From interracial kisses in Star Trek to kisses between actresses of the same sex (Saying same-sex kiss is a bit oversimplified with the Trill) in Deep Space Nine to presenting, throughout the franchise, a society that had moved on from the racial and gender issues that divide us so starkly today. Despite being far ahead of its time in most respects, Star Trek rarely broke the mold with strong female characters until Deep Space Nine.

The original Star Trek featured Lt. Uhura as a member of the bridge crew. I would criticize Star Trek for failing to develop Uhura as a character, but Star Trek was about the triumvirate of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Everyone else, regardless of race or gender, was an afterthought. Nearly every other female on the show was little more than window dressing or a love interest.

21 years later (or 100, depending on your perspective), Star Trek: The Next Generation threatened to introduce a groundbreaking female character. Lt. Tasha Yar, Enterprise-D’s though-as-nails security chief, was Trek’s first strong female character since the nameless Number 1 in the failed Star Trek pilot. Unfortunately, she was killed by an alien tar monster after she realized her character was going nowhere. With Yar’s subordinate Worf already a recurring character, it made storyline sense to simply promote Worf rather than introduce a similar female character.

Doctor Beverly Crusher was probably the least developed and least interesting TNG cast member and Deanna Troi’s job was dealing with emotional issues, helped by her ability to sense others’ emotions. A woman, clad in a low-cut uniform, in tune with feelings? GROUNDBREAKING! Next Generation’s intentions were good, but the show was hampered by male writers who had no clue how to write female characters. Only 12 out of TNG’s 176 episodes were written by women.

Although Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had even fewer female-written episodes, they got it right. Lt. Jadzia Dax was a sarcastic friend and mentor (again, Trill are complicated) to Captain Sisko, but only when she wasn’t busy out-Klingoning Worf or otherwise kicking ass. Major Kira Nerys probably had more crowning moments of awesome than anyone this side of Bill Adama. She was strong, badass, and confident, but still in touch with her femininity, giving her an advantage over Tasha “Man with Boobs” Yar. DS9 showed a generation of sci-fi fans that it was okay to be a woman and awesome at the same time.

The less said about Star Trek: Voyager’s cat-suits, or just Voyager in general, the better. Enterprise featured an intelligent, sexy, powerful first officer, the Vulcan T’Pol. However, the other female regular, Lt. Hoshi, was criminally underdeveloped.

The Star Trek franchise deserves all the credit it receives. Even if, by today’s standards, the franchise wasn’t always successful in challenging gender conventions and stereotypes, it undeniably helped blazed the trail for future shows to get it right.

24: Live Another Day ReJacktions – Episode 12 (10PM-11AM)

After a four year absence, 24 is returning to TV in the form of a “limited series.” Shortened seasons for broadcast shows are in right now. Big-network programs like Hannibal, The Following, Sleepy Hollow and Under the Dome are taking a page out of the British/Premium Cable model, offering shortened seasons of around 12-15 episodes without the traditional option of extending the season. 24 is embracing this model as well, cutting Jack Bauer’s “day” in half to (theoretically) tell a tighter story and keep costs down. How well 24 translates into 12 remains to be seen, but there is no denying of the excitement of having Jack Bauer back on the small screen.

As a limited run companion piece to our series-spanning Dead Series Discussions we—Patches, Zach, Jeff and MegaMix—will be posting reactions to each episode of Live Another Day as it airs. These “ReJacktions” are not as long or formal (ha!) as our other posts on the series, but instead give us a chance to add some reflections and observations for each episode. Once the season has ended, we’ll give Live Another Day a proper Dead Season Discussion before bidding farewell to 24. At least until Jack comes back again.

This week’s ReJacktion is focused on Episode 12 of Live Another Day, “Day 9: 10:00 p.m. – 11:00 a.m.”

It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of 24 and strong language. Parental discretion is advised. Discussion occurs in real time.

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Patches
There were numerous episodes this season where Live Another Day turned me into the snarky reviewer I can’t stand. Then, numerous others made me think that LAD would end up a top-half season. Some of it is because LAD was the most intensely inconsistent show I’ve watched. Some of it is because HYPERBOLE, BITCHES! No proclamations this week. Just disappointment.

My suspension of disbelief was itself suspended (without pay) several times this week as second shooters appeared where it didn’t make sense for one shooter to be, Kate and the CIA used their precision handguns to take out a sniper, China took several minutes to assemble an amphibious invasion large enough to capture Okinawa, the Chinese Premier had no desire to, you know, actually see Cheng, who of course knows martial arts, presumably because he is Asian.

Even worse, the finale did nothing to make LAD greater than the sum of its parts. Continue reading