All The Reasons Why It Was Definitely ______ Who Died In The Finale Of The Walking Dead

Apr 06, 2016 by Oliver Ward

Warning: this post contains spoilers.

In the ever-colorful exclamatory words of Abraham, “B!tchnuts.” The moment that fans of the comic book series have long dreaded – the “Red Wedding” of The Walking Dead – finally happened: Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his barbed wire-wrapped slugger named Lucille made their debut in the last fifteen minutes of the season finale. But the real moment fans were afraid of – the moment when a favorite character dies, and dies ugly – kinda didn’t happen. To be certain, someone got killed, but the camera angle left the victim’s identity a mystery.

Before we dive into that mystery, here’s a quick rundown of virtually everything else in the episode leading up to that moment: Morgan found Carol; Eugene found courage and vainly attempted to... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 1.7, "Inflatable"

Mar 29, 2016 by Alex Castle

We broke our streak of episodes featuring cameos by Breaking Bad characters this week – that is unless you count the inflatable stick figure that will one day stand sentry at the Law Offices of Saul Goodman, Esq., in which case it was the most satisfying and delightful cameo to date.

Realizing that, under the terms of his contract, he would have to return his sizable signing bonus if he resigned from Davis & Main after less than a year, Jimmy sets about getting himself fired by running a juicer in the break room, by leaving unflushed Deuces in the executive washroom, taking up the bagpipes, and by donning a familiar assortment of loud suits – the salmon was my favorite – around... Read More

Recap: The Walking Dead 6.15, "East"

Mar 28, 2016 by Oliver Ward

(Warning: this post contains spoilers.)

With so much anticipation for next week’s “Last Day on Earth,” it’s difficult to focus only on the second-to-last episode of the season. Ignoring as much as possible the imminent arrival of Negan and Lucille teased in the promo for the upcoming finale, “East” both closes the sixth season’s philosophical narrative and sets the stage for massive events that could drastically alter the dynamic of the show (as such, the last episode may seem like an introduction to a new, even more brutal series). In “East,” this feeling of finality is reinforced by the autumn scenery under heavy grey skies and every conversation between characters reads like a warning of some reap-what-you-sow reckoning doubtlessly underway.

“It’s all a circle: everything gets a return,” Morgan tells... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 1.6, "Bali Ha'i"

Mar 22, 2016 by Alex Castle

All this time, we’ve been assuming that the only thing keeping Jimmy McGill from totally embracing a life of situational ethics, a spinning moral compass, and a drawer full of burner phones is his dream girl, Kim Wexler, and that he would eventually, inevitably push her too far, lose her, and go visit Craig Sager’s tailor. But with this week’s episode, “Bali Ha’i,” Better Call Saul presents a much more interesting possibility: what if the Jimmy-to-Saul metamorphosis is actually Kim’s idea?

For the second episode in a row, Kim is elevated to main-character status, as her struggles at HHM – and Howard Hamlin, in particular – continue to chip away at her loyalty and her resolve to do things the right way. Howard has let her out of... Read More

Recap: The Walking Dead 6.14, "Twice as Far"

Mar 21, 2016 by Oliver Ward

(Warning: this post contains spoilers.)

The season finale promises to be an epic bloodbath, so in order to save some oomph for later while still pushing the narrative toward said disaster with “Twice as Far,” fans got a plodding, dual storyline episode that suddenly takes off in the final fifteen minutes.

Storyline A: Denise convinces Rosita and Daryl to lead her to a gift-shop / apothecary so she can finally get Tara some Orange Crush get more medicine for Alexandria. Covered in bloody handprints, the apothecary looks like hell, but the only walker inside is, well, not actually a walker. It’s mostly a pile of decomposing mush with a cast on its foot-mush. Still, they get the medicine and ultimately Denise finds that can of soda she’s been asking... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 2.5, "Rebecca"

Mar 15, 2016 by Alex Castle

There has been an ongoing discussion among critics as the second season of Better Call Saul goes on about the incongruity of its two main stories: the misadventures in the frustratingly buttoned-down Arizona legal world of James McGill, Esq. and the slow entry of brokenhearted ex-cop Mike Ehrmentraut into the Arizona underworld. Absent Mike’s high-stakes dealings with Nacho and the Salamancas, Jimmy’s exploits would make a top-notch legal drama, but it can be hard to focus on the ins and outs of document review when you’re expecting another scene about Mike, The Badass to goose the excitement level a hundred notches.

This week’s episode, “Rebecca,” almost directly addresses that complaint by putting the exciting stuff on ice and focusing almost entirely on Kim Wexler, who is determined to build... Read More

Recap: The Walking Dead 6.13, “The Same Boat”

Mar 14, 2016 by Oliver Ward

With three episodes remaining in a big-and-promising-to-get-even-bigger season, it makes sense to offer a bottle episode aptly titled “The Same Boat,” which focuses mainly on Carol and Maggie. Carol was MIA for a couple of episodes while Maggie’s deal with Gregory at Hilltop set in motion the entire attack on the Saviors’ compound. Both of them have lost time to make up for and feelings of guilt to explore (and no doubt the production savings will go toward an explosive finale in just a few weeks).

Eighty percent of this episode takes place in a single room in a safe house where Maggie and Carol are held captive by four Saviors: Paula (aka the kid from Dune), Michelle, Molly and Donnie. Bleeding from a gunshot wound, Donnie loses consciousness... Read More

Recap: The Walking Dead 6.12, "Not Tomorrow Yet"

Mar 07, 2016 by Oliver Ward

The Walking Dead has rarely – actually, almost never – been about the music, but “Not Tomorrow Yet” makes a point of reminding fans that, zombie apocalypse or not, a quality soundtrack never hurts. Because rival channel HBO now has Vinyl in the same timeslot, perhaps the bosses over at AMC decided to invest in some licensing fees instead of just woodsy background noise and zombie snarls. The episode opened with Parsonsfield and ended with Hozier, and in between there was a pulsing synth track that perfectly underscored the intensity of Rick’s attack on the Saviors.

The attack on the Saviors returns The Walking Dead to a familiar state of moral uncertainty. Were the Alexandrians justified in launching a preemptive strike on the Saviors? Or will... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 2.3, "Amarillo"

Mar 01, 2016 by Alex Castle

“What’d I miss? Anything blow up yet?”

With most works of fiction, the narrative tension comes from not knowing what’s going to happen. The unique tension of Better Call Saul comes from knowing exactly what’s going to happen, just not when or how. If there had never been a Breaking Bad, if we did not know Jimmy McGill will, only a few years hence, be knowingly representing murderers and drug dealers, and Mike Ehrmentraut will be the ruthless hit man/fixer for the Southwest’s biggest meth kingpin, an episode like this one, where really very little happens, might be enough to turn viewers off for good.

But there was a Breaking Bad, and we do know those things, and so every little thing these characters do is freighted with the... Read More

Recap: The Walking Dead 6.11, "Knots Untie"

Feb 29, 2016 by Oliver Ward

Warning: this post contains spoilers from the most recent episode of The Walking Dead. Watch the episode on Sling On-Demand before you read.

Maybe because it was also Oscars night AMC offered up a slightly superfluous episode of The Walking Dead.

Daryl summarized 75 percent of the latest episode when he said, “We want food, medicine, and one of them cows.” It basically played out like a game of Catan: Cities and Knights: in exchange for vowing to protect the walled Hilltop Colony from Negan and his band of robbers, Rick and his fellow defenders from the Alexandria Safe-Zone received a Year of Plenty (i.e., Catan-speak for commodities like grain – presumably sorghum).

Carol was nowhere to be seen for the second episode in a row. If you watch this... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 2.2, "Cobbler"

Feb 23, 2016 by Alex Castle

The symbolism of Kim’s gift to Jimmy in the week’s Better Call Saul – a “World’s Best Lawyer” travel cup, cheekily modified by Kim to read “World’s 2nd Best Lawyer” – was pretty hard to miss. Though it fit snugly in the cup holder of his trusty Suzuki Esteem, it does not quite fit in the cup holder of his company car, a brand new Mercedes.

Obviously, this is a metaphor for the idea that Jimmy will never really fit in at his new firm. But if you were patting yourself on the back for that little bit of ENG 210 close-reading, it’s fair to say that Jimmy probably missed it, shrugging it off by saying “Must be metric.”

While Kim likely meant Jimmy to take “World’s 2nd... Read More

Recap: The Walking Dead 6.10, “The Next World”

Feb 22, 2016 by Oliver Ward

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Warning: this post contains spoilers from the most recent episode of The Walking Dead. Watch the episode on Sling on-demand before you read.

Well, that was probably bound to happen. In a show where shocking deaths have become commonplace, the biggest shock of all comes when two characters hook up.

After the inevitable tragedy of the mid-season premiere, the following episode offered a lighter (clearly much lighter) leap forward to a time when Carl is mostly healed, the streets of Alexandria are zombie-free, the wall is once again fully operational, and Rick and Michonne spend their mornings discussing toothpaste and their nights… Well, Jesus (newcomer Tom Payne) certainly got an eyeful, to say the least.

Perhaps because Andrea – who is still alive and in... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 2.1, "Switch"

Feb 16, 2016 by Alex Castle

Before I saw last night’s second-season premiere of Better Call Saul, I previewed the new season by asking five questions that I figured would be answered over the course of the season. Imagine my surprise when four of them were answered over the course of this first episode: Jimmy and Kim did get together, he did take the cushy partner-track gig at the bigger firm, Mr. Price did return (and is clearly going to need a lawyer), and there was a Breaking Bad cameo: Ken, the Bluetoothing investment d-bag that Jimmy and Kim fleeced out of a bottle’s worth of high-end tequila was the same dude Walt took revenge on by squeegeeing his car battery way back in season 1. To top it off, the $50-a-shot tequila, Zafiro Añejo,... Read More

Five Questions for Season 2 of Better Call Saul

Feb 15, 2016 by Alex Castle

“Happy Monday” is seldom said unironically, but I for one am looking forward to tonight’s season 2 premiere of my favorite new show of last season, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s Breaking Bad prequel/spinoff Better Call Saul.

What’s interesting about this show, which follows luckless attorney Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) on a journey that Breaking Bad fans know will eventually bring him into an office with a giant U.S. Constitution on the wall, a “Saul Goodman, Esq.” nameplate on the desk, and casual suggestions of murdering witnesses bandied about in the air, is that it somehow manages to be surprising even as we all know where it’s headed.

The revelation at the end of season 1 (spoilers follow – catch up on Netflix!) that Jimmy’s brother Chuck was the... Read More

Recap Digest: The Walking Dead 6.8, "Start to Finish"

Nov 30, 2015 by Alex Castle

I came into this season of The Walking Dead more interested than I had been since those heady days back in 2010, when the postapocalyptic zombie hellscape was mostly unmapped, Rick Grimes had no idea what was going on, and the endless circular debates about whether to stay on the farm were but an index card on Frank Darabont’s white board. I’m ending this half-season with the dashed hopes of what might have been.

Season 5 ended in a fascinating place, with Rick and company arriving at the Alexandria Safe Zone, whose citizens had managed to stay safe enough to retain their humanity and the structure of their small Mayberry-esque society. Rick, on the other hand, having been through the farm, the Governor, the prison, and Terminus, had become... Read More

Recap Digest: The Walking Dead 6.7, "Head's Up"

Nov 23, 2015 by Alex Castle

Well, that was lame.

The problem with the reveal that Glenn survived his stagedive into a mass of hungry walkers wasn’t disappointing because we wanted Glenn to be dead. It was because almost everyone on the Internet guessed exactly how the plot was going to play out weeks before the show confirmed it.

Fans guessing about what’s going to happen on their favorite shows is nothing new, but the best shows manage to keep us guessing even as they confound our expectations. Breaking Bad zigged when we thought it would zag roughly 10,000 times; so did Mad Men, Deadwood, The Sopranos, and The Wire. Just this morning, Game of Thrones cannily deflected this kind of disappointment by confirming with its teaser poster what everyone has been predicting: that... Read More

Recap Digest: The Walking Dead 6.6, "Always Accountable"

Nov 16, 2015 by Alex Castle

At this point, it’s becoming clear that we are not going to find out for sure what happened to Glenn until the other characters do. It’s also becoming clear that this season – or half-season, since AMC splits them into eight-episode halves – has been structured to take place entirely in the space of a single day, the day of Rick’s harebrained plan to move thousands of walkers 20 miles up the road, with each episode following a different part of that plan. This week, we followed Daryl, Sasha and Abraham on their two-pronged mission to lead the walkers along the highway.

It didn’t go so well: coming under an ambush of automatic gunfire, the team split up, with Daryl heading into the woods on his motorcycle while Sasha... Read More

Preview Digest: Into the Badlands

Nov 13, 2015 by Alex Castle

When your weird little genre show turns out to be the biggest thing on TV, how do you follow it up? If you’re AMC, you come up with another genre show.

You might imagine that hosting two of the most iconic, critically acclaimed shows of the last decade – Mad Men and Breaking Bad – would have been enough to vault AMC to a commanding position among TV networks, but nope: it was zombies. While Walter White and Don Draper languished in the ratings, The Walking Dead has been the biggest show on television for five-plus seasons now, and the network is doubling down on its genre winnings with this summer’s launch of the prequel series Fear the Walking Dead and this Sunday’s premiere of the post-apocalyptic kung fu series... Read More

Recap Digest: The Walking Dead 6.5, "Now"

Nov 09, 2015 by Alex Castle

Though last week’s Morgan-centric episode was one of the best The Walking Dead has ever done, it did interrupt a ripping yarn in progress: Rick’s plan to lead a massive herd of walkers that had escaped from a nearby quarry away from Alexandria’s walls. The plan was not going well: an attack by the Wolves caused a tractor-trailer to crash into the city wall, leaving its horn blowing for several minutes, thus attracting the herd back to Alexandria; Glenn’s effort to divert a pack of them into a burning building ended with the erstwhile pizza guy in a dead end at the bottom of a zombie feeding frenzy; and Rick was trapped in a broken-down RV surrounded on all sides by walkers, looking genuinely concerned that he’d reached the end... Read More

Recap Digest: The Walking Dead 6.4, "Here's Not Here"

Nov 02, 2015 by Alex Castle

After ending last week’s episode on a huge cliffhanger – Glenn at the bottom of a pile of hundreds of walkers with no apparent means of escape, whether or not the entrails being pulled out were his, and Rick in a non-functional RV surrounded on all sides – showrunner Scott Gimple continued with this season’s experiments in storytelling structure by cutting away to an extended flashback detailing how Morgan came to be the bo staff-wielding pacifist that found his way to Alexandria in the season 5 finale.

How you felt about this narrative detour, I suspect, will depend largely on how you feel about Morgan as a character. I happen to be fascinated by him, and as eager as I am to find out what happens to Rick, and... Read More

Recap Digest: The Walking Dead 6.2, "JSS"

Oct 19, 2015 by Alex Castle

As different as The Walking Dead is from just about any other TV show either before or after it, it has always been very straightforward and conventional in its storytelling. It is just about always a straight line from point A to point B. The most formally daring move it ever made was in the pilot, when Rick woke up from a coma to the zombie apocalypse.

These first two season 6 episodes suggest that the show is going to be experimenting a little more. Last week’s premiere was split between black-and-white flashbacks to the immediate aftermath of Morgan’s arrival at Alexandria and Rick’s killing of Doctor Pete, and plan to lead thousands of walkers out of a quarry and away from Alexandria, a plan that was going great... Read More

Recap Digest: The Walking Dead 6.1, "First Time Again"

Oct 12, 2015 by Alex Castle

“I don’t take chances anymore,” Rick tells his long-lost neighbor Morgan, who after being the one to fill Rick in on the zombie apocalypse and then declining to join Rick’s travel party, has been found by Daryl and brought back to Alexandria with a spiffy new set of staff-fighting skills.

Rick means that in the five years (or however long it’s been in in-show time) since he saw Morgan, he’s learned that some people can’t be saved, some people can’t help, and some arguments are best settled permanently. We don’t know what Morgan’s been doing for all this time, other than practicing staff-fighting, but it appears that he still retains a little bit of the optimism and faith in humanity that made Rick such a conflicted, at times unsteady leader... Read More

Preview Digest: The Walking Dead Season 6

Oct 08, 2015 by Alex Castle

I once was lost, but now I’m found.

I was just as excited about The Walking Dead as everyone else when the show premiered in 2010, and played my part in making it the biggest hit in the history of basic cable. But I must confess that somewhere between Herschel’s farm and the Governor, I got bored. Bored with the thinly drawn characters, bored with the endless debates about whether to stay or go, to kill or spare. It seemed this show couldn’t have someone go to the bathroom without a 7-minute scene of grim deliberation. I quit watching, and I totally missed the prison season and the Terminus season. When I stuck my head back in midway through season 5, I was delighted to see that all the... Read More

Recap Digest: Fear the Walking Dead 1.6, "The Good Man"

Oct 05, 2015 by Alex Castle

“You can’t save everyone,” Alicia tells her stepbrother Chris with a chilling matter-of-factness, echoing her mother and his father’s difference in approach to the zombie apocalypse. Each episode has carried the characters a little closer to understanding that Things Are Never Going to Be the Same, but this was the one where they really started acting like it, with often fascinating results.

As the Clark-Manawa-Salazar clan plots to bust into the impromptu military base where junkie Nick, Nurse Liza, and deceased Griselda are being held, Andy the captured soldier offers to draw them a map in exchange for his life, an idea Daniel rejects because as we learned last week, Daniel is a ruthless bastard. Sensing Travis' weakness, Andy persuades him to let him go, and Travis does.

... Read More

Recap Digest: Fear the Walking Dead 1.5, "Cobalt"

Sep 28, 2015 by Alex Castle

Chris and Alicia, the teenaged characters whose main plot function to this point has been to give their parents something to worry about, had an interesting little scene in this week’s episode. After finding the home of a particularly affluent neighborhood family abandoned, they looked around for a while, then started playing house, then eventually got all dressed up, she in evening gown and he in tuxedo. Then they trashed the entire house.

It was a nice little kabuki version of the story this season appears to be telling: though the spreading virus that’s got the recently deceased up on their feet certainly started the process, society’s reaction to it, more than the zombies themselves, are bringing society down. Like last week’s excellent “Not Fade Away,” this episode was... Read More

Recap Digest: Fear the Walking Dead 1.4, "Not Fade Away"

Sep 21, 2015 by Alex Castle

Where each of the previous episodes of Fear The Walking Dead has begun almost at the exact moment the last one left off, this was the first to let a little time elapse, to let a few things develop offscreen, to let the characters change and adapt so that when we rejoin the action things are a little different than when we left.

Nine entire days have passed since the Manawas’ neighborhood was secured by the U.S. military (calling forward to the Alexandria storyline on the original series), and things have settled into a New Normal, with Travis positioning himself as a liason between the community and the military, his ex-wife Liza providing nursing services to everyone inside the fence in need, their son Chris making video journals, Ofelia... Read More

Recap Digest: Fear the Walking Dead 1.3, "The Dog"

Sep 14, 2015 by Alex Castle

Picking up exactly where the last episode left off, “The Dog” begins with Travis and Madison separated and both under siege: Madison and her children trying to maintain some sense of normalcy with a game of Monopoly – its flimsy paper play money now seemingly just as valuable as the kind that comes from the U.S. Mint – while undead neighbors scratch at the door and eventually eat the dog; and Travis and his ex-wife and son, still holed up with the Salazar family in their barber shop, forced to make a break for it when the storefront next door catches fire. Griselda, the barber’s wife, gets her foot crushed in the escape, prompting a trip to the nearest hospital that fills in a blank or two about how Rick... Read More

Recap Digest: Fear The Walking Dead 1.2, "So Close, Yet So Far"

Sep 01, 2015 by Alex Castle

“When society ends,” pimply-faced high school student Tobias, who seems to be the only person who fully grasps what’s happening, tells his guidance counselor Madison just before she saves him from their shambling, undead principal, “it ends fast.”

This second episode may be disappointing the more bloodthirsty segment of Fear the Walking Dead’s audience, who are eager to get to the free-for-all zombie killing sprees of its parent show, but I found it fascinating in the ways it imagines the beginning of the end in Los Angeles.

In a lot of ways, society is still holding together, as police are still out on the street trying to control the chaos – and in a very clever inversion, incur the wrath of street protesters who don’t understand the nature... Read More

Preview Digest: Fear The Walking Dead

Aug 19, 2015 by Alex Castle

AMC’s zombie-apocalypse drama The Walking Dead began with a fascinating hook when it premiered in 2010: Georgia cop Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma to find that society has completely crumbled and most of humanity has either died or been infected with a virus that turns them into undead drones with a taste for living flesh. It was a brilliant in media res opening that thrust the viewer directly into the action, while at the same time putting us into Rick’s shoes, trying to make sense of what happened. The show quickly became the biggest hit on TV and has shown no sign of slowing down – indeed, it’s only gotten better as it’s gone along.

While the coma was a very effective way to kick off the series,... Read More

AMC's Fraught, Complicated Humans

Jul 22, 2015 by Alex Castle

A normal family with an overwhelmed working mother and a father who can’t keep up with the chores gets one to help around the house. An aging doctor is so attached to his malfunctioning old model he can’t bring himself to upgrade to a new one. One unit, specifically designed for sex, rebels and goes on a killing spree. And it seems that a few of them are more than they appear to be, with independent thoughts and feelings and memories.

In a world where we are increasingly relying on our little pocket computers to communicate, to amuse ourselves, to direct us to the supermarket, to conduct business, etcetera etcetera, the leap that AMC’s new sci-fi drama series Humans presents – that fully functional humanoid robots called Synths are... Read More

Halt and Catch Fire Catches Fire

Jul 15, 2015 by Alex Castle

I don’t want to say that Halt and Catch Fire was a bad show in its first season. It had engaging, well-drawn characters, the setting (early ‘80s Texas) was specific and convincing, and the overall story (trying to create the first portable computer) was compelling.

But the show made a few odd missteps in that first season, starting with keeping its most compelling character (Kerry Bishe’s hardware whiz Donna) mostly peripheral to the main plot and ending with its protagonist, Lee Pace’s Steve Jobsian tech visionary Joe MacMillan, setting fire to a truck containing the first shipment of the Giant, the aformentioned portable computer.

It’s unclear if the show’s huge pivot in this second season toward its more interesting characters – Donna and Mackenzie Davis’ temperamental code prodigy... Read More

Recap Digest: Mad Men 7.14, "Person to Person"

May 18, 2015 by Alex Castle

Having worked as David Chase’s right-hand man on the last couple of seasons of The Sopranos, it makes sense that Matthew Weiner would end Mad Men with an echo of that series' famous cut to black. Cutting to the famous “I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke” ad, strongly suggesting (but not stating outright) that Don Draper returns to New York with a fresh idea, a new outlook on himself, and a new commitment to his children made for a slightly elliptical, mostly satisfying end to the show.

For a minute there it seemed like Don was going to reject advertising once and for all and go back to his roots tinkering with cars, and absent the fact that he has children, I would have been happy with... Read More

Recap Digest: Mad Men 7.13, "The Milk and Honey Route"

May 11, 2015 by Alex Castle

Out of all the predictions and guesses about how Matthew Weiner would end Mad Men, I don’t think anyone imagined that a happy ending for Pete Campbell would be a part of it. I certainly didn’t. But with the amusing return of Duck Phillips, now a corporate headhunter and still an unrepentant drunk, Pete is swept off his feet into a new job as head of marketing for Learjet, where he’ll have access to his own plane to go anywhere he wants anytime he wants, in addition to a generous signing bonus and his full negotiated settlement with McCann. Best of all, he takes the opportunity to put his family back together and bring them with him to Learjet’s hometown, Wichita, Kansas, showing that he may actually have learned something... Read More

Recap Digest: Mad Men 7.12, "Lost Horizon"

May 04, 2015 by Alex Castle

After learning last week that Sterling Cooper & Partners was to be dissolved and the key employees absorbed into the massive, fully corporatized culture at McCann Erickson, this week was about the actual transition into that new world, and the different ways Our Heroes adjusted—some smoothly, some less so, some not at all.

Don is greeted the most warmly, and McCann honcho Jim Hobart’s remark that he’s been chasing Don for ten years, and the shabby way the rest of the SC&P team is being greeted, suggests that the whole acquisition was just an elaborate way of acquiring Don. If that’s the case, they’re in for a rude awakening, as it looks like Don may have attended his last market research meeting.

Pete and Ted are like fish... Read More

Recap Digest: Mad Men 7.11, "Time & Life"

Apr 27, 2015 by Alex Castle

A distinct feeling of déjà vu pervaded a big chunk of this week’s episode, as the five principals of Sterling Cooper & Partners, once again faced with an existential threat to the firm, scrambled to fight for its survival.

What at first looks like a clerical lapse—SC&P has not paid its rent, and receives notice of its eviction from their office space in the Time & Life building—turns out to be an intentional move by the firm’s new corporate parent to dissolve and absorb it into McCann Erickson.

Mad Men has rarely been better than in the moments when the characters are trying to keep themselves afloat professionally; there is an Ocean’s Eleven, putting the team together, sneaky scam kind of vibe to the episodes where the old... Read More

Recap Digest: Mad Men 7.10, "The Forecast"

Apr 20, 2015 by Alex Castle

Don Draper, as well as his fellow partners, continue last week’s theme so aptly summed up with the Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is?” in this week’s episode. Not many Mad Men episodes have as explicit a framing device as Roger’s assignment to Don to give their corporate masters at McCann a “Gettysburg Address” about the future of the firm, but as the show winds down it certainly seems appropriate to have Don asking the big questions, of himself and the people around him.

It’s striking how steadfastly Don has clung to his look even as everyone around him gives in to the spirit of the times; not only does he still keep his hair short and Brylcreemed, he just refuses to give up on that fedora;... Read More

Recap Digest: Mad Men 7.9, "New Business"

Apr 13, 2015 by Alex Castle

Something didn’t sit right with me for the duration of this episode; I felt disoriented throughout all of it, as the storyline with Don and Diana the waitress from last week surprisingly continued, with Don spending some shoe leather on how to find her at her new job and then striking up a courtship.

They didn’t seem to have anything in common at first other than a tendency to skip right to dessert (so to speak) without a lot of chit-chat, so I was puzzled by this relationship that they both seemed to be treating as important right away. But then it hit me, when Diana spoke of her lost daughter and abandoned home in Wisconsin, that Diana is like a female Don: she cut and run when things... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 1.10, "Marco"

Apr 07, 2015 by Alex Castle

We have come to expect a certain level of fireworks from season finales: shocking revelations, reversals of fortune, betrayals, hookups, breakups. The first season finale of Better Call Saul had none of these, instead serving as a kind of quiet postscript to last week’s wrenching episode in which Jimmy was so thoroughly betrayed and rejected by his big brother and role model Chuck.

Still stinging from finding out that it was Chuck, not Howard Hamlin, who had been blocking his professional progress, Jimmy headed home to Chicago and reconnected with his old running buddy Marco for a week of cons and scams, ending with Marco dropping dead of a heart attack in the middle of a reprise of the old Rolex routine.

When Kim calls to tell Jimmy... Read More

Recap Digest: Mad Men 7.8, "Severance"

Apr 06, 2015 by Alex Castle

It is always great to rejoin the characters at Sterling Cooper at the beginning of a new season of Mad Men; they’re all such sharply drawn, specific characters that more than most shows, they feel like real people, and it’s exciting to see what they’ve been up to since we left them. Last season (or half-season) ended on the moon landing and Sterling Cooper & Partners selling out to McCann Erickson, making the partners rich and saving Don’s job, and as the story picks up nine months later, in April 1970, Don and Roger are catting around, Don is visited by a vision of Rachel Katz (from season 1), who he soon learns has just died of leukemia, Peggy and Joan are dealing with a rather startling level of chauvinism... Read More

This Week on Sling TV

Apr 06, 2015 by Alex Castle

The first nine episodes of Better Call Saul have been far better than they had any right to be. Where fans once feared the show might tarnish the legacy of the near-perfect run of Breaking Bad, it’s turned out to be every bit as compelling, thanks to stellar writing, inventive direction of a piece with the Breaking Bad house style, and a lead performance by Bob Odenkirk that his past work has never even hinted at. Last week’s episode was probably the best of the series so far – something I think we’ve said three separate times so far – and the stage is set for a great season finale. (10pm Monday, AMC)

The war between North and South can be seen through... Read More

Let's Get Ready To Stumble: The Final Season of Mad Men

Apr 03, 2015 by Alex Castle

So many questions: What year will it be? Will Don figure out how to love himself enough to love someone else? Will Pete come back from California? Will Peggy find a life outside the office? Will Betty’s marriage to Henry last? Will Henry become Mayor of New York? Will Sally get kicked out of boarding school? Will Bobby get recast again?

If you are as excited about the final season premiere of Mad Men as we are, you’ve been gobbling up the many, many previews and remembrances and thinkpieces that have been flooding the Internet for the last couple of weeks.

Here are a few of our favorites…

Vulture’s Margaret Lyons explores the show’s unstated distinction between loving and really knowing someone:

Pete and Peggy’s... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 1.9, "Pimento"

Mar 31, 2015 by Alex Castle

The beauty of Better Call Saul is in the way it manages to surprise even when you know where it’s headed. We know that Jimmy McGill is going to change his name to Saul Goodman. We know that he’s going to establish a law practice with considerable, shall we say, ethical compromises. And after last week’s episode, we had a pretty good idea that the class action suit against Sandpiper was going to be, if not the last straw, a very big one, as the show telegraphed that Howard Hamlin would somehow steal the case away from Jimmy and Chuck and leave Jimmy in the cold.

And that is more or less what happened. But I for one did not expect Chuck to be the bad guy. I thought... Read More

Recap Digest: The Walking Dead 5.16, "Conquer"

Mar 30, 2015 by Alex Castle

Just when it looked like The Walking Dead was about to do something unconventional and interesting – namely, have its protagonist go crazy and force the ensemble around him to deal with it – the show blinked. Rather than show Rick as an increasingly hostile, uncompromising, paranoid megalomaniac deciding to get the girl the same way he’s learned to get everything in the zombie apocalypse (by taking it), instead his group rallied around him and the people of Alexandria decided they didn’t really have a problem with his erratic behavior.

With just a little sweet talk – “I was thinking, How many of you do I have to kill to save your life? But I’m not going to do that. You’re going to change.” – Rick is back in... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 1.8, "RICO"

Mar 24, 2015 by Alex Castle

As the shockingly great first season of Better Call Saul moves into its homestretch, it’s becoming clear how the show plans to change its protagonist from put-upon do-gooder to scheming criminal lawyer (emphasis on ‘criminal’): by demonstrating the old saw that underneath every cynic is a disappointed optimist.

I can’t say I expected Jimmy’s foray into elder law to yield anything more important than a few Matlock jokes, but this show is surprising me yet again by turning it into a potential bonanza: his keen eye for scams (as a scammer himself) notices a pattern of overbilling at Sandpiper, the assisted-living facility he’s been trolling for clients, and next thing you know he’s looking at a potential multimillion-dollar class action suit for fraud.

This is exciting stuff, exciting... Read More

Recap Digest: The Walking Dead 5.15, "Try"

Mar 23, 2015 by Alex Castle

Though it’s been foreshadowed ever since Alexandria came in to the picture, it was still a little shocking when Rick finally snapped this week, attacking Pete the surgeon in an effort to have Pete’s wife/punching bag Jessie for himself and ending the episode bloody and ranting about how he and only he knew how to survive. Tellingly, no one had his back, unless you count Michonne, who ended his tirade by bashing him on the head from behind.

After spending season after season lurching from one Big Bad villain to the next, the idea that Rick himself has broken bad and will have to either be brought back to sanity or taken down – by Michonne or someone else – is the most interesting story turn this show has... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 1.7, "Bingo"

Mar 17, 2015 by Alex Castle

After filling in the heartbreaking details of Mike’s back story last week with “Five-O,” widely called the best episode yet of Better Call Saul, the show quickly wraps up the Mike-vs.-the-Philly-Cops storyline in the cold open before turning back to everyone’s favorite delusional embezzlers, the Kettlemans, and along with them, the breezy but inventive tone that has characterized the bulk of this first season.

I couldn’t help imagining how much worse Walter White’s adventures would have gotten if he had married Betsy Kettleman instead of Skyler; he probably would have gone down in a hail of machine-gun fire in Season 1.

The episode’s real delight was Mike’s method of finding the money the Kettlemans had stashed, which led to Jimmy doing “the right thing” (air quotes his), which... Read More

Recap Digest: The Walking Dead 5.14, "Spend"

Mar 16, 2015 by Alex Castle

This week continued to explore the interesting notion that Rick, Daryl, Carol and the rest are too damaged by what they’ve been through in the post-zombie hellscape to ever assimilate into a “normal” society again; last week Carol graphically threatened a child who caught her stealing back some of the group’s firearms, and this week Rick seemed to be considering killing a dude so he could steal his wife even before the guy was suspected of being an abuser.

But is Alexandria a society this group would even want to really assimilate with? They are not exactly bursting at the seams with valor, as we see them leaving each other to the wolves (the wolves in this case being zombies) throughout this episode. “I’m not combat ready,” Eugene insisted; “I’m... Read More

Recap Digest: Better Call Saul 1.6, "Five-O"

Mar 10, 2015 by Alex Castle

Last night’s episode of Better Call Saul shifted things into another gear by putting Jimmy’s parking-garage nemesis Mike, who Breaking Bad fans know will eventually become Saul’s fixer and private investigator, at center stage and filling in the back story only hinted at previously: how Mike went from being a cop to a ruthless, unflappable assassin.

It seems that a couple of Philadelphia detectives have taken Mike in for questioning, but they can’t get any more out of him than a stonefaced, one-word reply: “Lawyer.” Jimmy owes Mike one for helping him find the embezzling Kettlemans a couple episodes back, so Jimmy’s card is the one Mike gives the detectives. When Jimmy arrives and Mike won’t tell him anything other than how he wants Jimmy to help him lift the... Read More

Put Better Call Saul On Retainer

Mar 09, 2015 by Alex Castle

After ending one of the most critically acclaimed, universally loved drama series ever with its best season and a finale that pleased almost everyone, it would have been very easy for the creators of Breaking Bad to disappear to a tropical island on the SS Crystal Blue Persuasion.

Instead, they decided to stay in Albequerque and run the clock back a few years for another origin story: not how Walter White became Heisenberg, but how downtrodden public defender Jimmy McGill became flamboyant “CRIMINAL lawyer” Saul Goodman.

I have to admit that my hopes for this show were not very high. I expected it to be good, because I don’t think Vince Gilligan knows how to make bad TV, but I underestimated just how much of Breaking Bad’s panache... Read More

Why You Should Be Watching The Walking Dead

Mar 06, 2015 by Alex Castle

I can’t remember exactly when I stopped watching The Walking Dead – sometime in the middle of the second season, I think. It was during The Farm Period, when Rick and Lori and Shane and the rest found an idyllic farm, seemingly untouched by zombies, and set about persuading the owner Herschel to let them stay. They discussed it. And discussed it. And discussed it. Somewhere around the fourth or fifth episode of discussion, with just a dusting of zombie-killing for flavor, I started to realize I was looking at my phone more than I was watching this boring show and decided to bail.

I stuck my head in again for parts of season 3 – The Woodbury Period, where Rick’s group found an idyllic town, seemingly untouched by... Read More

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