I loved the first season of Showtime’s “Homeland,” I was incredibly disappointed with the second season, and now I’m just full-on hate-watching the third season.
In anticipation (which is clearly not the right word for how I feel about watching another hour of this train wreck) of the new episode this weekend, I wanted to note one thing I’ve been thinking about all week:
I suspect that, after last week’s episode in which the horrible Carrie story arc seemingly comes together with one stunning revelation, the show’s creators are feeling pretty proud of themselves.
They should not be.
They took a fascinating premise and ran it into the ground, mostly by refusing to knock off a character who they’d intended to kill (solely because audiences liked him). Then they turned their new show into “24,” their previous show that just kept getting more outlandish. And then, just when you thought there was no way they could possibly do anything more to treat their audience like slavering troglodytes, they reran the same off-the-meds CIA operative schtick from Season 1 for five crazy-eye-rolling episodes … all so they could make it seem like she’d turned on her job, her colleagues, and her country, and then surprise (?) us when we discover, literally two minutes later, that she actually hasn’t. Except, of course, that the unspoken subplot of the whole season is that, in fact, she has done exactly that by spiriting a (twice) suspected terrorist bomber away from the scene of a successful attack on her job, her colleagues, and her country. So, yeah.
Oh, and that guy they refused to kill off in the first season because audiences loved him? We’ve seen him for a grand total of half an hour so far this season; he’s still alive and kicking … but this time he’s an international fugitive living in Caracas with a nasty heroin addiction.
As you do.
I’ve been thinking a lot about last night’s “Breaking Bad” series finale; what follows are some thoughts and impressions about justice and the moral universe of the show.
Spoilers abound, so click at your own risk.
I liked it. I was good at it. And I was alive.
Walter White sums it all up.
On a special Sunday edition of the Hero Report podcast, we discuss the way that heroism and villainy is treated in “Breaking Bad” as the show comes to the end of its spectacular run tonight. Plus, we make some predictions about what the series finale has in store.
Tell us what you think about this episode, discuss these issues with us on Twitter (Matt Langdon / Ari Kohen), and join us every week on Google+ for our live broadcast (where you can chat with us while we’re on the air and contribute to the conversation).
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With only one episode of “Breaking Bad” left, I’ve been reflecting a lot on this stunning half-season. For the longest time, I told people that I didn’t know how the show would end because I didn’t know anything about the morality of Vince Gilligan’s universe. But I have the sense that we know now.
First of all, “Breaking Bad” is phenomenal television. I can’t remember ever watching tv and feeling the way I’ve felt for the past few weeks. My pulse is racing; my mouth is hanging open; I’m feeling anxious; I stand up and walk around, clenching and unclenching my hands; I can’t go to sleep afterward.
These final episodes are very difficult to watch. I very much doubt I’ll ever watch them again. I’m horrified by the way the story has unfolded, by the brokenness of the characters’ world and the unfairness of the violence.
And, as I said to one of my students this morning, I feel like we deserve it.
For all the times, early on, that we rooted for Walt and Jesse; for all the times we didn’t root for Hank or we bad-mouthed Skyler; for the people who made or bought Heisenberg t-shirts because they appreciated Walt’s swagger when he adopted that persona … now we’re being shown the consequences of the choices we made. We never really saw the human costs of Heisenberg’s criminal enterprise, beyond its effect on drug dealers. There aren’t extended scenes of kids smoking meth or anything like that. But now the chickens have all come home to roost in a way that’s just unrelenting, culminating — for me — in the perfectly callous murder of an absolutely innocent person.
You ought never to root for the guy who breaks bad; if you do, the past three episodes show you what you’ve really been rooting for.
TV Is Better Now
One of the most surprising pleasures I have when it comes to watching great television shows these days is reading or listening to smart, interesting people reflect on the shows the next day or during the week between episodes.
I’m trying to imagine how much additional pleasure I would have derived from “The Wire” if there was a Grantland podcast about it and if various major websites had dedicated staff writing recaps every week for five years.
A lot, I’m sure.
Basically, smart people talking about tv makes tv better.
Infographic of the day: An epic timeline of wardrobe colors in “Breaking Bad”
Yet another reason “Breaking Bad” has been so consistently excellent over the years: Attention to the sort of detail to which I never knew anyone needed to pay attention.
Farewell, Jack Germond.
As a result of these fantastic SNL sketches I watched in middle school, Germond was almost certainly the first political reporter whose full name I knew.
Obamacare’s 10% tax on tanning bed services is racist against white people because darker-skinned people don’t need to tan. At least, that’s what Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) advised Speaker John Boehner to claim in order to turn people against the Affordable Care Act.
It’s good to see the tanning tax making its way back into the public consciousness, just as it’s good to see that the GOP is still fighting the good fight against the Affordable Care Act. I mean, there’s literally nothing else to do these days, nor has there been for the past few years.
Of course, if the fantastically-named Rep. Yoho had truly been on his game, he could have grabbed the national spotlight way back in 2010 when Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi made this her own personal political issue:
"I don’t go tanning anymore because Obama put a 10 percent tax on tanning. [Sen. John] McCain would never put a 10 percent tax on tanning. Because he’s pale and would probably want to be tan," she said.
Snooki was referring to a provision in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act that mandates tanning salons impose a 10 percent tax on UV-ray sessions.
Clearly, Obama can’t relate to Snooki’s problems, she added, commenting on Obama’s skin color.
"Obama doesn’t have that problem. Obviously," she said.
So thanks, Rep. Yoho, for finally hearing the pleas of engaged citizens like Snooki, and for having the courage of your convictions to stick up for white people and to say “No!” to the blatant racism of a tanning tax.
It’s good to see an elected official finally dealing with the real racism that exists in this country, namely the way a 10% tax on tanning affects white people.
Here, finally, is the leadership we expect from Congress.
On yesterday’s episode of ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption,” Michael Wilbon casually mentioned that the death penalty doesn’t deter people from committing murder.
Right around the show’s 2 minute mark, during a discussion of whether or not Ryan Braun’s suspension will deter other baseball players from cheating, Wilbon said, “If the death penalty can’t serve as a deterrent to murder, I don’t know that there’s a real deterrent that’s applicable.”
Though I assume Wilbon’s words weren’t fully processed by his audience, and so might not have made much of a mark on them, a whole lot of people nonetheless heard those words about the death penalty and, in the context of the conversation about deterring PED use, they might reflect on how deterrence works — or doesn’t. Either way, this is a very far cry from the days when the deterrent value of the death seemed so obvious to everyone that they simply chose not to believe statistics that challenged the deterrence hypothesis.
It’s great to see a journalist challenge the deterrence myth — even if he’s a journalist who covers sports rather than criminal justice or politics.