Sean Witzke on Breaking Bad, Nina Stone on True Blood, Tucker on Louie, Childrens Hospital and National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle. Been a while.
Louie - "Country Drive"
While the funniest part of this episode is definitely the part when Louie accurately describes Huckleberry Finn as a white trash piece of shit that parents dread reading aloud, as the character never met a statement he couldn't sandwich the word "nigger" into, the most exciting part had to be the song length air guitar rendition of "Who Are You" that Louie delivers while driving his daughters to meet their 97 year old great aunt. It's an audacious, aggressive piece of comedy--only somewhat funny, mostly malicious--but there's few moments that better point to the comedians alchemical mix of committed, brutish realism (the crack of his voice, the hyena-zealot quality that his ugly sneer turns into) and cliched Americana family referencing. (The essential message of the scene is secondary to the fact that you're witnessing it, but the structure of the scene is built around Louie's oldest daughter realizing that her father is kind of a dork, that he's still in charge, and eventually accepting her fate as a passenger, and later participant, in a family drama that's still mostly about him. The real guy may just want to sing along and act like a loon, but the dad is hellbent on providing New and Broadening Experiences.)
Childrens Hospital "Stryker Bites The Dust"
Is there another show on television that serves as even remote competition to Childrens Hospital in terms of having funnier women? Week in, week out, Lake Bell, Malin Ackerman, Megan Mullally, Erinn Hayes and Zandy Hartig never miss. Even on a week like this, where Ken Marino's impersonation of Anne Frank worked me into such a lather that I had to rewind the tape just to catch what the hell else happened after he opened his mouth, the entirety of the show could have just hung its hat atop Lake Bell's one woman show, Megan Mullally's hellish stream of tea party rhetoric OR the sight of Erinn Hayes vacuum cleaner inhalation of food. Nobody's pumping as much comedy into such a short period of time right now. Nobody's even coming close.
National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle "One Cabeza, Two Cabeza, Three Cabeza...DEAD!"
Whereas Childrens Hospital could (but doesn't) get away with letting just a few members of its cast deliver five minutes of humor and bail on the rest, NTSF: SD: SUV's first episode pretty much did exactly that: it had some really funny bits (a robot drinking coffee, June Diane Rapheal's obsession with college) and spent the rest of its time delivering leaden imitations of television shows like CSI Miami so tame that they wouldn't have been out of place at a Christian summer camp's skit night. There's no reason to bail on the show this soon--with a cast like this, it's worth taking 15 minute chances--but it's got a ways to go if it wants to compete on the level Childrens has established as of late. (Kate Mulgrew's grizzled, eyepatched chief shows an exceptional amount of promise.)
True Blood - "I'm Alive and On Fire"
True Blood is back! And yes, it has found yet another dark piece of magical folklore to add to its mix of vampires, shape shifters, werewolves, rednecks, faeries and the like. This time it's witches and black magic. A desperate, mousey woman who lacks all sense of command is often and suddenly possessed by the spirit of a witch (or maybe witches) and has managed to wipe Eric's memory clean. (He removed his shirt himself.) He knows he's a vampire, but he has forgotten who he is. And in forgetting who he is, he is more...docile? Friendly? How about vulnerable. It's making for fertile ground for all that sexual tension between he and Sookie to grow into something more. She is a free agent! (Oh, by the way, he lives in her house, because it is now his house. That's the result of a strategic move he made while she was in faery land for five minutes, which was apparently a full year in human time, and he now owns her house and does not need permission to enter.) If we're being honest, this version of Eric is endearing, and of course, we are rooting for something to happen. Sookie for the Iceman!
Oh, and just what has been happening to that mousy woman? Who is she possessed by? Apparently it was a witch who was burned alive, at the stake.
Breaking Bad - "Boxcutter"
In an interview this week, Vince Gilligan mentioned that "Boxcutter" was an explicit reference to Chekhov's Gun, where if an element is introduced in the first act, it has to pay off in the third act. You call something boxcutter, and you see Gail using a boxcutter in the first scene, you know that boxcutter is important - most likely that someone is getting their throat cut. But even then, the first thing we see is Gail setting up the lab and writing his own death warrant by what he's saying - telling Gus to hire Walt without knowing what he's saying. You think that, with Breaking Bad's history of dealing with audience expectations, Gail is not actually going to die because they are showing you this scene. Instead, he dies immediately, and without fanfare, a half-blink away from the final moment of last year's season ender. So this feels a lot more dangerous already, because they aren't following their own patterns anymore, so anything is on the table.
What happens this episode - mostly it's a locked room drama, a fucking Pinter play of Walt and Jesse, Mike and Victor, and later Gus. The rest of the time it's Skyler trying to find Walt, and catchup with the rest of the cast - Saul is paranoid, Hank is going stir-crazy, Betsy is annoying Hank, the kid is boring. There, you're caught up. Skyler's plotline is most intersting because it portrays her as someone deeply caring about her husband's welfare, but also horribly nosey and manipulative - her little show for the locksmith is a perfect snapshot of where she's at as a character right now.
The bulk of the episode is kind of a classic show of talkers/non-talkers - Walt is an extreme talker, everyone else in the room with him is not. None of them want to say anything, but betray their characters by how they act. Jesse says nothing while they are in the room. Mike says little, mostly on the phone. Victor gets pissy and starts yelling, making the definitive wrong move for a non-talker in Mike and Gus' eyes. Gus doesn't say anything until he has to. This is why this show is such a gut-churner. Most of the show is in a room where no one, except for the lead character who is fearing for his life, is saying anything. The specifics of interactions, they're really not so important as to what is said - it's about who talks and who doesn't and when, and what it says about them. Jesse is crushed. Walt is scared. Mike is angry. Victor is hysterical. Gus is sick of this shit.
The diamond hard core of the locked room drama is the protracted scene wherein Gus walks in, says nothing, puts on hazmat gear, kills Victor for getting spotted while locking eyes with Walt, cleaning himself off, and then leaving, but not without telling them to get back to work. The best writing in maybe the whole series' run is just this scene - Walt flailing like he did in the season ender but now with more conviction, after having killed the biggest obstacle in his way. Victor smugly assuming he's a bigger player in this than he ever could be. Gus just blankly letting them dig their own graves - Walt metaphorically, Victor less so. Gus, like the rest of us, liked Victor better when he said nothing. Now he's just some loud asshole. Jesse is finally at the point where he's not the guy in the room talking out of his ass, and that makes him such a larger character than he was last season. Gus is a figure of action, always will be. Now we know he's willing to even do it himself.
(I don't think the visual callback, of Walt moving his feet out of the blood pooling at his feet, to No Country For Old Men is accidental)
We really find out how killing Gail effected Jesse in the scene in the diner, where he says outright that now everyone understands each other. This isn't a respectful relationship anymore, it's Walt/Jesse/Mike/Gus, each one as likely as the other to kill one another, even though there are clear demarcations of who is on whose side. I think, if there is any indicator as to what part of the episode is the indicator of what is coming this season, it's that. It's that Jesse now sees them all on equal footing. The scene starts off with Walt reassuring Jesse that he did the right thing, and Jesse not really giving a shit. The scene ends with Jesse reassuring Walt, that it's him and Walt versus them, and they're all willing to go as far as they need to.
The other thing, the big reveal, is Gail's notes, the connector pin thats going to collapse the whole enterprise. It is the one thing that none of them see coming, and it is the one thing that is certain to happen and fuck all of them over, simply because it is neither random chance or carelessness or action, but because it is the one thing they couldn't think of. Bad shit is coming, for all of them. Isn't this exciting?
-Nina Stone, Sean Witzke, Tucker Stone, 2011