Archives For Opinion

Girls: Finale Sadness

June 18, 2012 — 7 Comments

I’m not sure what the production of Girls was like, but I have to imagine the episodes were written mostly in sequence. I say this because the season quite remarkably got better as it went. Now, I still think the best episode was ‘The Return’ from right around the middle of the series, but in terms of the series’ arcs, it really did find a footing over time. When the show first premiered there were a lot of online discussions as to what Girls was actually about. Was it supposed to be some New Age feminist tract, or a representation of the modern young female? Was it just a new version of Sex and the City, or was Lena Dunham trying to do something completely different? By the end of the finale, none of these things are true (though in a way they all are). Girls, instead, is a show about its characters, plain and simple. It goes where the characters need to go, and where that is is anyone’s guess.

The season finale also confirmed the tone Dunham has crafted. Very much influenced by producer Judd Apatow, the series takes wild swings at small emotional moments. This isn’t Mad Men, where a single shot can be filled with meaning and mystery and allusion. But it is the kind of show where a shot of a girl sitting alone on a beach eating a slice of wedding can breathe emotion and wisdom. It’s also the kind of show where ending a season on such a shot, sad as it is, feels completely appropriate and satisfying. Click to read more.

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The season finale of Mad Men‘s long-awaited fifth season was a levelling off. It was a reflection on the events of the preceding 12 episodes, a mourning for for the events of the previous episode, and a look forward to a future of repeating cycles. The fascinating thing about the characters on Mad Men is not that they do crazy or unexpected things, but that no matter how hard they try they succumb to the malaise of the American Dream.

It’s instructive to look at Pete’s journey through the season. Here’s a man who should be more than comfortable with his position, both at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and at home. He should be happy and content and feel accomplished, particularly for his age. Except he’s none of those things. He looks upon his success with disdain for the emptiness of it all. A marriage he has no heart in and a job where nobody truly respects his talent. Of course, he doesn’t help himself by wallowing, and instead of working on bettering himself he merely digs himself further and further into scumbaggery. Click to read more.

Spoilers for Mad Men Season 5, Episode 5 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5

No, seriously, big spoilers. So big I’m keeping everything on the other side of the jump.

Click to read the post.

Spoilers! for Mad Men Season 5 up to Episode 11!

Mad Men’s central character, Don Draper, used to be the coolest guy in the room. That may still be the case for the most part, but Season 5 has painted Don in a new light: the out-of-touch, middle-aged businessman. The generational gap has been a major running theme this season, embodied most clearly in the age gap between Don and his new wife, Megan. But while this theme has been played in the forefront, in the background we’ve seen a more subtle change in Don which came to a head in last night’s episode, “The Other Woman”.

In the past, Don Draper has been defined by his relationships with women. Specifically, Don has been the great philanderer. His approach to the women in his life has been primarily one of domineering, almost always sexually. Don controls the women in his life, or at least, he used to. The first break in this trend was marrying Megan. Not only are they far apart in age, but Megan represents the opposite of his previous wife, Betty. Where Betty was quiet and obedient, Megan is loud and upfront. Both characters often act like petulant children, but Betty usually displays this trait by being cold selfish. Megan is more primal, prone to lashing out in fits of rage. Don could control Betty. He can’t control Megan, and he doesn’t totally seem to want to. Part of what seems to appeal to him about their marriage is Megan’s unpredictability. She adds spice and vigor to his otherwise dry life. It’s not just Megan, though. Click to read more.

If there’s anything that last night’s episode of Girls proved, it’s that Judd Apatow‘s true home is television. The writer/producer/director is famous for The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, but his roots are in programs like The Ben Stiller Show, The Larry Sanders Show and Freaks and Geeks. Now, I love what Apatow has been exploring with film. He’s made some great movies himself, and though they’re flawed, films like Funny People are remarkably honest comedies. Girls, the show created by Lena Dunham, is Apatow’s first foray into TV since Undeclared in 2001. While Lena Dunham is clearly the creative mastermind behind the show, one look back at Tiny Furniture reveals a slightly different sensibility at work in her newest venture.

The most recent episode, ‘The Return’, makes it obvious that the Apatow style has bled into Dunham’s work. First of all, the episode lists Apatow as a co-writer, which is signal enough, but that also shines a light on Apatow’s influence as a producer on the rest of the series. While I did enjoy Tiny Furniture a good deal, it suffered from an overriding air of melancholy. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it made the film feel like it was taking itself ever so slightly too seriously. Judd Apatow’s work has always had hints of melancholy, yet he always balanced that out with goofiness to bring out honesty in his characters instead of depressing self-indulgence. This is what he brings to Girls and it’s reminded me how much I’d love to see him make TV his focus again. Click to read more.

Inspired by this great A.V. Club piece, I have decided to try my hand at picking one of my favourite TV shows and describing its worst episode. And heck, why not making it a semi-ongoing series!

Firefly, Episode 13: Heart of Gold

The show only had 14 episodes (and a movie), but there is no doubt in my mind that the only one that is not very good is Heart of Gold. There are definitely a couple other “lesser” Firefly episodes, but Heart of Gold is the one I often skip when I’m re-watching the series. It’s not that the episode is outright bad. It’s really not. The episode even has a couple classic moments, mainly involving Jayne.

Unfortunately the rest of the episode is just forgettable. It feels like the episode was a bit of an afterthought. Had the show gotten a full 22-episode order this episode would have been considered pure filler. There is some important development regarding the Mal-Inara situation, but even that feels forced, and it was never a driving element of the show to begin with.

The worst thing about the episode is that it actually feels out of place with the rest of the show tonally. This is a little unexpected considering the Western cliché of it all, but it’s the truth. The sentimentalism of the episode. The reasons for the crew getting involved. None of it feels like regular Firefly. It all seems out of touch with what makes Firefly so good. Sure, the show has a sentimental streak, but it reaches that through a combination of sly sarcasm and general cynicism. It also doesn’t help that the idea of the Firefly crew protecting a brothel seems silly even in concept.

Though I wouldn’t say that Firefly has any outright bad episodes, Heart of Gold definitely comes the closest, and for that it is the show’s worst episode.