Vince Gilligan


1363363851-rectifyAden Young (above) as Daniel Holden, a Paulie, Georgia man released from death row after nearly 20 years incarcerated.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/rectify-gets-second-season-order-450176

After 4 episodes of The Sundance Channel’s Rectify, we feel like we know enough about the show to know this much: after the finale of S1, which will air on May 20th, we will be pining for the new original drama’s 10 episode return in the Spring of 2014, and its subsequent renewals, we hope, into 2015 and beyond.  As long as series creator Ray McKinnon (the creepy reverend from Deadwood & the very odd lawman from S4 of Sons of Anarchy, Lincoln Potter), and Breaking Bad EP’s, Melissa Bernstein and Mark Johnson are at it with this show, there will be no rectifying what ails Paulie, Georgia, where this show is set, and its pervasive, institutional ignorance.  Paulie is a dry town, for that matter, where the attitude prevails, even in Daniel Holden’s “family”, that if a jury convicted him, he must be guilty.

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And that a judge has set aside his conviction due to new DNA evidence does not quite seem to matter all that much.  Not when prosecutors, politicians, and even kin are loaded with ulterior motives that range from the obvious Machiavellian ones like Senator/former DA Foulkes (Michael O’Neill), whose career has been riding on this case for years, and who now does not particularly care “where the jizz landed.”  What he does care a whole hell of a lot about though is extra biscuits, as does the new prosecutor, who, when meeting with Daniel’s lawyer about a retrial, has her secretary interrupt the meeting to bring her biscuits with her dinner, which she claims, is the only interruption she permits.  Now we know how an AMC style drama works, which Rectify most certainly is, as AMC is the parent network for Sundance, and we must say, we are very pleased at how AMC dramas play out, with the patience that most of their dramas have been allowed to exercise in developing plot.  Only Rubicon has met an early end (which was probably a good decision), and much to our surprise and happiness, even The Killing and Hell on Wheels, which are not exactly run away hits, are coming back for 3rd seasons.  We anxiously await The Killing’s premiere in early in June.

Now if you spoke to us early last June, you’d have caught us positively incensed at the slow pace of The Killing, and all of the plot misdirection, which had many in the audience miffed at how the murder of Rosie Larsen was being dragged out.  And sure, in real time, the investigation probably did not take that long, but it is indeed frustrating when every single character, basically, except Linden, was a suspect at one time or another, as it is, in a sense, dishonest production, especially when we all know that the Danish version of the show and the Larsen murder wrapped up in one season.  But given time, we have come to really love Linden and Holder, and we understand that more than the case, it is they who make the show.  So forget the other characters here for a moment, and what you might consider trite or predictable dialogue (like Hal Holbrook’s soliloquy to Daniel’s new/competent lawyer Jon Stern, played by Luke Kirby).  Daniel Holden’s character makes this series go and we see it going far because of him, and the strong ensemble cast around him and quality production team.  Do we feel the show is a bit rough and clipped in its intros and breaks and whatnot?  We do.

We also feel that they have already set up some really interesting plot points, as a story like this one requires constant setup, and that Johnson and Bernstein, if they have learned one thing from Vince Gilligan, and they have obviously learned more than that, it is the use of Deus Ex Machina, which we don’t necessarily consider to be such a contrived and ill fitting device that lazy writers use for the sake of convenience, unless they are indeed lazy writers who are using the device for the mere sake of convenience.  While the Holbrook soliloquy was just so cliche that it had us shuddering, it is no doubt the way of the world in Paulie, Georgia, which, as Daniel’s mother suggests at Daniel’s homecoming barbecue, is caught in a most onerous time warp, sadly, like a lot of places in this country, where the progression of people is markedly less evolved than even those in Maycomb, Alabama in 1930’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  Atticus Finch knew he had to fight for Tom Robinson.  In Rectify, Rutherford Gaines (Hal Holbrook) was hoping to get Daniel Holden life in prison.

Life imitates art, and art imitates life, and in real life, let us not act as though there is no foreshadowing as to what is to come.  Obviously there has been some overt foreshadowing here, like with Amantha (Abigail Spencer, Suits) and Jon seeing the creepy brother of the murder victim in that bar a town or two over, and abruptly hightailing it out of there.  Of course we see where this is probably going, that the creep has a twisted crush on the way hot younger sister of Daniel, and could mean her harm in a revenge sort of way for what he perceives her older brother did to his younger sister.  And then there’s Senator Foulkes and his careless affair with the trollop from the diner, which will probably get him at least emotionally extorted at some point by Daniel’s lawyer, who will most definitely need to pull out every last bit of artillery he has in order to keep Daniel on the outside.

What drew us to the show before we even knew of it was not McKinnon or the “other” producers of BrBa, but a quick preview flashed in a Sundance montage for their network, in which Daniel is pacing in his prison cell, some tiny concrete box, juxtaposed with him pacing a tiny rectangular avenue on the carpet of his bedroom, that he has returned to, and that still has the feel and decor of a kid’s room, one who went off to college and returned to it as an adult.  Daniel has certainly gotten an education, you could say, as he reveals to callous moron step brother Ted Jr (Clayne Crawford), on the golf course, telling him of the regularity with which he was sexually abused when he first got to prison.  While Daniel was somewhat at ease with the revelation, we wouldn’t call him casual.  Daniel’s reacclimation–the subject of the snippet we saw–may never happen, which makes Ted’s petty concerns about Daniel wanting his shit job at the tire shop, or even his wife, so inconsequential that you want to reach into the television and slap the motherfucker and say “grow the fuck up!”  Especially since, when Ted’s wife Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) hugs Daniel, he gets a hard on which scares the fuck out of her, considering that he was on death row for rape/murder going on 20 years and they were, at that moment, alone together in a field by some remote woods.  And Tawney is this ultra naive, chaste, bible banging moron, who basically describes how the lord fills her up, causing us to recall Eric Cartman describing how he couldn’t get enough of Jesus’s juices all over his face.

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Newsflash to Ted: Daniel is inheriting the tire shop one way or another, and will probably bag the Jesus freak as well, probably right before he gets sent back to death row, as fate will likely have it.  In a certain way, this show reminds us very much of Enlightened (unfortunately cancelled by HBO), in that nothing is easy, few things work out, and the only real constant is hardship.  At the end of the day, Daniel has some very caring and upstanding blood relatives, and a whole hell of a lot of problems, and may be safer on the inside, with his one friend, a fellow death row inmate convicted of killing and raping a young girl, than on the outside.  As Daniel explained it, he made peace with death.  We count on him, however, having more trouble making peace with life.

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Walt and Jessie outside their new season 5 lab (above), one of many ingenious highlights so far this season.

Going down the stretch last year with the last few episodes of BrBa, we had predicted that money issues were going to be a problem for Walt this year, following along with that same theme, really begun when Skylar gifted that $600,000 to Ted.  Such was cemented when Walt, hoping to pay Saul’s guy to professionally disappear them, went to get the money out of the crawl space and it was gone.  Then Walt laughs maniacally, does the whole unhinged psycho thing, about to further entrench himself as the bad guy even worse than Scarface’s Tony Montana, along with the overlying show theme, “from Mr. Chips to Scarface.”  Obviously even Tony Montana drew the line at hurting innocents, and yet Walt was to use a child to reclaim himself with Jesse, when he most coldly poisons Brock with the Lilly of the Valley plant, and then blames it on Gus.  Walt chills us with the whole ‘now who do we know who would ever hurt a child’ speech, even more so as we look back to it at the start of season 5 when those in the audience who didn’t already surmise as much at the end of last season got their proof that Walt had indeed one upped Tony Montana.

We also got our confirmation of the Walt/money issues storyline when Walt has Jesse spot him the money for magnet project, citing an “IRS issue” and when Walt shows up at Saul’s, looking for an explanation as to how Saul could okay this idea to give all of his cash to Ted.  They obviously aren’t cooking, with the lab destroyed and Gus’s operation no more, and so that grand irony comes back into play, that Walt got involved with these shenanigans in the first place to make money, has broken just about every law including murder to get that money, and had bought a car wash to launder that illegal cash, but now finds himself with no money to launder.

Thankfully Vince Gilligan moves the story along at a fast clip, straightening out some of the heavy Gus aftermath in s5 e1, especially with Mike, while establishing the impetus behind Mike’s need to get back in the game due to his own financial reasons which become clearer in e2, when Gus’s illegal accounts are frozen.  By the end of e3, and with the help of Saul, “the three amigos” (sorry Saul), that unholy alliance between Jesse, Walt, and Mike, have not only put a new cook operation together, having worked out both logistics and particulars, but they have already cooked up a batch and gotten paid.  Good thing.  We were hoping for a quick resolution to last year’s money issues so that the show could concentrate on portraying what it is like for the duo at the top of the game, as the show’s ads have foreshadowed, with Walt centered around stacks of money, along with the caption “ALL HAIL THE KING”.

Great to see them flush with money, or as Badger (Matt L. Jones) says to Jesse after he and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) rent some musical equipment for the op so they have cases in which their moving lab equipment will be stored, “stacking Benjies til the rubber band pops.”  By the way, how great was it to have a scene featuring Badger and Skinny Pete?  But that’s what Vince Gilligan consistently provides us with, the kind of moments that hardcore fans of the show just relish.  Whether it be Gus being blown up by Tio’s bell, which had been going off to no avail for almost 3 seasons, Merkert (Michael Shamus Wiles), in his final diatribe providing Hank with the ‘not who he seems’ speech, or any scene, for that matter, which features Saul Goodman.

This show has obviously struck a chord with the nation, pardon the pun, Skinny Pete, as we have now Lego sets depicting Walt and Jesse’s Crystal Ship and Laundry Lab, and while last week, Kim Kardashian and Aaron Paul are chatting it up on Twitter about Vamanos Pest.

Aaron Paul ‏@aaronpaul_8
“@KimKardashian: Anyone else think the same thing about those extermination tents or was I just crazy?” Meth lab. It’s always a meth lab.

Whilst we speak of meth labs…

Walt and Jessie in their laundy lab (above) in their hazmat suits, with blue crystal Lego in the left corner.

And of course, the Crystal Ship in Lego (2nd).

The new lab, a roving lab which borrows from the successful mobile aspect to their RV setup, but which is all the more brilliant and realistic, considering that they do not own the homes in which they are cooking, that they are hiding in plain sight, and that there are frequent stories about temporary meth labs in the news, as that is the latest innovation/industry trend limiting legal exposure for chemists.

http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/meth-lab-found-fema-temporary-housing-joplin

Also, a very nice touch it is to encase the temp lab in a Dexter style kill scene bubble tent.  Bravo!  As brilliant  as the new season has been with details, there’s just no getting around how bad Walt actually is, as he continues to further his criminal mastermind.  No regular viewer of the show could do anything but marvel at Walt in s5 e1, when Mike asks him why he should take his word that the magnet worked.

“Because I said so.”

Damn.  Then when Walt, in a scene eerily reminiscent to Michael Corleone in The Godfather II at the end of e1 tells Skylar, “I forgive you.”  (for blowing his money on Ted).  Walt is bad, alright.  If those aforementioned scenes didn’t do enough to illustrate, then what of Walt socializing with Brock (Ian Posada) over at Jesse’s (“I heard you were in the hospital”)?

Sure, that was chillingly cold, but for us, whatever Walt had to do get his relationship back with Jesse was justified, re-establishing the balance between the two that we most enjoy when the duo’s delicate camaraderie is in place.  And we know it’s only temporary, obviously.  In this modern Greek tragedy, there is no way for Jesse not to find out that Walt poisoned Brock and no way for Jesse to avoid learning that and feeling the acute misery and anger that will come from that knowledge.  If we were to venture a guess as to the real end of days for the show, it would have Jesse perhaps killing Walt over it, as we agree with the many fans who feel that Jesse is going to be the one to take Walt down.

But before that, we think there will be a whole hell of a lot more messes for Walt on the home front.  Obviously things have become very sticky with Skyler so forlorn, this week, plunging herself into the pool in a half hearted suicide attempt.  Is it only a matter of time before Walt decides a different approach with the wife is needed?  Recall that Walt has hidden that ricin in the house, and from what we know about BrBa, sooner or later they are going to have that ricin come back into play.

Mr. White (our Mr. White, not Walt) suggested that Skyler might get a ricin cigarette of her own.  Great forethought there.  We are gonna add our own to that theory, as we can’t see how things could break any worse for Walt than if Walt Jr., now a fast car driving little bad ass, were to ingest the ricin by accident.  We see Jesse, Walt, Mike, and Skyler all breaking much much worse by the show’s end, in true step with classic Greek tragedy.

And for show and Greek mythology enthusiasts, how great was Walt’s line at the end of e3, when he tells Jesse that perhaps, like Icarus, Victor had “flown to close to the sun”?  From Gilligan, that’s more likely deft foreshadowing than use of clever reference, though with Breaking Bad, it is no doubt a double entendre.

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Walt, Jessie, Gus, and Mike (above).

Scratch our recent criticisms.  Hey, we’ve admitted to being wrong before, if only on so seldom an occasion.  But with Breaking Bad’s season 4 premiere, “Boxcutter”, we have perhaps never been more happy at our own folly.  With a minimum of dialogue, Breaking Bad has seemed to restore what was to us a lost and past damaged working relationship between Gus, Walt, and Jessie.  And it was the murder of Gail (David Costabile), perpetrated by Jessie, now a full fledged and dirty handed cold blooded killer, that set the whole thing in motion and restored Breaking Bad’s universe to order, even if the “calm” turns out to be brief.

What we liked best about the plot turns we saw Sunday, in the first new episode of Breaking Bad in over a year, was that to us they were plausible for a show in the realism genre, and specifically, for this show, which had almost defeated its own intentions by setting the bar so maddeningly high for itself.  How lucky we also were to catch Aaron Paul, who plays Jessie Pinkman, in a very candid interview this afternoon about Breaking Bad, Big Love, Mad Men and more with John Hein on a new program on Howard101 called “What’s Worth Watching.”  Paul described the surreal nature of filming Big Love in Los Angeles and Breaking Bad in Albuquerque simultaneously, and going from the shirt and tie wearing boyfriend of Amanda Seyfried to Pinkman, our favorite meth head, how the Pinkman character was originally slated to be killed off in season 1, episode 5, and how Vince Gilligan completely switched up the story arc due to Cranston’s and Paul’s um, chemistry.

Paul told great stories about some of the actors he worked with on Big Love, such as Bill Paxton and Harry Dean Stanton, and then offered the highest praise for Breaking Bad actors Bryan Cranston, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, and Giancarlo Esposito.  The two then had a very interesting discussion about whether Walter White, Jessie Pinkman, and Don Draper–AMC’s 3 best leading men–were good or bad people, or whether they just do bad things.  On White, Paul said Pinkman’s former chemistry teacher started out as a desperate man caught up in some really bad decisions, but at this point, he really was a very bad guy.  On his own character, Paul said that Pinkman spent a lot of season 3 trying to live up to a bad person because of the guilt he associated with his girlfriend Jane’s (Kristen Ritter) death, but by the time he finds himself at Gail’s door in season 3’s finale, gun in hand, that the odyssey was complete.  On Draper, Paul was quick to label the Mad Men lead a terrible guy, and not surprisingly professed his love for both shows, for AMC’s original content and their foray into original programming, and for his own show for which he won an Emmy award most of all.

As you may know, we were very concerned here in this space that Pinkman’s character would go soft and that Gail would somehow escape with his life.  That he did not made all the difference for Walt and Jessie, who could have found themselves stewing in waste drums full of acid by the end of Sunday’s episode like Victor (Jeremy Bitsui), but instead, were casually chatting in a fast food joint while Jessie munched on fries and sipped at a large cup of Coke.  But with a minimum of words, Gilligan had orchestrated the demise of Gus’s boy Victor instead, which culminated in the bloody boxcutter scene and Gus’s mandate of “get back to work” because Victor was dispatched to Gail’s apartment, and he, and not Jessie was seen there and could have been placed there by witnesses.

Sunday we saw the incomparable Saul Goodman sweeping his office for listening devices, pretending not to hear Skyler on his office line when she refers to her husband’s job at a meth lab, at which point he calls Skyler a “Chatty Cathy”–all in his first scene–and then, when he calls Skyler back from a pay phone.  No doubt foreshadowing as to the changing landscape for Albuquerque’s leading criminal attorney.  The show’s opening scene, in which Gail tells Gus that he can “only” achieve 96% purity, and a subsequent one in which he tells Gus that the difference between the blue crystal’s 99% and his 96% really was a “wide gulf” were also telling clues that the dynamic duo would indeed be getting back to work.  In retrospect, Gilligan did much to foreshadow one aspect of the choice of saving Walt and Jessie over Victor when he had us watch an uncomfortable dinner date between Walt and Gus last season, when Gus proved handy with a knife in the kitchen.

While Walt seemed very uneasy in the aftermath of recent events in the lab, Jessie, who had murdered in cold blood less than 24 hours before, was well at ease.  Walt, the academic, couldn’t make sense of those events as well as the street wise Jessie, who explained to Walt that at least now they all had “an understanding.”  We also thought that Mike had a better understanding of the duo after watching them dispassionately disintegrate Victor’s body in acid.  While questions persist about Walt’s and Jessie’s longevity with Gus and about Gail’s cell phone and notes being recovered by the authorities, we are more comfortable with Breaking Bad’s direction right now than we have been in over half a season spanning some 15 months.

A lesson perhaps to have faith in your favorite things, or maybe, drug of choice?  Not really ironic considering the page, except when not in reference to a drug but rather, a television show (about a drug).

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