Frasier got a heavy dose on this list, and all three episodes work for very different reasons. Up front: It’s because I loved this show in the hospital, because it usually was just stimulating enough to make me think, but funny enough to make me laugh and get more oxygen to reduce pain. It was basically part of my rehab. But, for the three episodes, I’ll stand by them as being different enough to all make it: The first, “Rooms with a View,” is a thoroughly dramatic episode that accurately portrays some of the most difficult times a family can have. The second, “Three Valentines,” contains one of the most amazing solo performances on film. This one, though, is what happens when an ensemble comedy comes together perfectly. It does everything from puns to comic misunderstandings to over-the-top slapstick, and it does it well.
Rick gets drunk with a dragon and also dragons are real and kinda creepy.
Morty (Justin Roiland) goes with Rick (Roiland) on an adventure, only for it to be revealed that Morty had only agreed if he got a dragon. Rick, eventually giving in, gives Morty a dragon that he contracts with a Wizard to obtain. Morty rides the dragon, named Balthromaw (Liam Cunningham), but quickly realizes that the dragon doesn’t like him. When Balthromaw starts accidentally wrecking the house, Rick goes to get rid of him, but finds that the beast’s hoard is filled with things that he treasures. Upon talking to the dragon, the two start getting along and partying together, leading to them both ignoring Morty. After a particularly revelatory evening, Rick and Balthromaw end up soul bonding just as Morty revokes his contract. The Wizard returns to collect the dragon, but it turns out that Rick now feels any pain that Balthromaw does. Since Balthromaw is going to be killed for being a “slut” dragon, Rick, Morty, and Summer (Spencer Grammer) follow the Wizard back to his dimension, only for the Wizard to easily defeat Rick.
At the same time, Jerry (Chris Parnell) has been dealing with a talking cat (Matthew Broderick) that convinces him to fly to Florida. The cat constantly comments on the fact that he won’t explain why he can talk. Jerry and the cat have a good time until the cat blames Jerry for pooping on the beach, getting Jerry ostracized. The cat then tries to party with some college kids, but ends up pissing them off by questioning their games. The cat gets kicked off of a party boat and reunites with Jerry, asking for a ride home.
It turns out that Rick’s science doesn’t work in the realm of magic. Morty saves Rick with a magic spell, then Rick manages to build a “magic-punk” gun that allows him to turn Summer into a magic archer and devastate the forces of the Wizard… right up until Summer screws up and the Wizard retakes the upper hand. Morty frees Balthromaw and the group flees to a cave filled with other “slut dragons.” The slut dragons are revealed to be, in fact, extremely sexual, which unnerves Morty until the elder dragon forces everyone to soul-bond and create a soul dragon that destroys the Wizard and frees all of the dragons. Balthromaw follows the group back to Earth, but everyone just wants to be done with him, declaring it the “worst adventure ever.”
Rick goes to pick up Jerry and the cat, but ends up scanning the cat’s brain to figure out why it can talk. While undisclosed, the cat’s mind horrifies Rick and makes Jerry nauseous to the extreme. Rick is about to kill himself, only to instead wipe Jerry’s memory and get rid of the cat. It eventually meets up with Balthromaw and asks to go back to Florida.
So, this definitely was not one of my favorite episodes, but the more I thought about it while writing this review, the more I think that maybe it’s not as bad as I initially thought. I mean, it was never “bad,” because Rick and Morty is just naturally a bit more creative in storytelling than other shows, but I thought it was a little bit of a low point.
A big part of what I think is missing in this episode is the traditional A-plot and B-plot interplay that the show does so well (AND I WILL NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT IT UNTIL OTHER SHOWS GET IT RIGHT), but here the two don’t seem to really have any thematic connections on the surface and the B-Plot is extremely short. However, both of them are actually about dissecting two different sides of the fantasy genre. The traditional Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones high fantasy subgenre is shown to consist of a repressive wizard who captures and enslaves dragons for profit and dragons which are revealed to be very aggressively sexual, bordering on rapey. The cat, meanwhile, is a representation of magical realism subgenre. It’s just a cat that shows up, talks, and offers adventure to a poor schlub… but it turns out that the cat’s just kind of an a**hole (like most cats), the adventure is just a beach party that the cat ruins, and that the reason why the cat talks, which in most magical realism will be a major revelation, is never revealed and we’re apparently better for that. While it’s not the best subversion in the series, or even the season, it’s a little better upon realizing that both plots are at least hitting the same genre.
Rick being a dragon is a neat parallel to draw. Rick, like a dragon, is destructive, old, and also brilliant. Rick and Balthromaw end up bonding over his hoard, because while Balthromaw hoards valuables, Rick hoards his technology from anyone else. They both thrive on keeping stuff from others to make themselves superior. Unfortunately, they don’t really leave it up to the viewer, instead having both Balthromaw and Rick himself say that Rick is a dragon.
One thing that I both like and dislike about the episode is that the show couldn’t let Rick be powerless. When Rick is shown to have no technology in the wizarding world (sue me, Rowling) and Morty quickly starts to recite spells from the book, it seems like we’re looking at a rare role-reversal with Morty taking the lead. This quickly gets undone by Rick managing to create a new version of technology using magic that puts him back in charge. When I first watched the episode, that kind of annoyed me because it rendered Morty’s use of the spellbook as mostly pointless, but in retrospect it just shows us that Rick’s mind is so amazing that he can adapt to new laws of nature. Magic is just a sufficiently advanced technology and vice-versa. Still, I kind of want to see Morty have the upper hand more often and this was a good opportunity.
I also kind of liked the idea of the villain being a slut-shamer, except that the dragons he was shaming ended up being creepily sexual, so… really a plus and minus there as well.
Oh, and Rick interrupts the Wizard masturbating, which is funny.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
There aren’t a ton of floating theories here since there is no indication that Rick planned all this nor is there anything about the situation that would give him a motive to. So, instead, I’m going to take a stab at the big unknown:
WHY DOES THE CAT TALK?
First, what do we know? The cat was not born able to talk, because that would be his explanation. Instead, he somehow gained the ability from something which he is extremely ashamed of. It’s also something that is horrifying not only to Jerry, but, more impressively, to Rick freaking Sanchez. Rick is about to kill himself out of pure disgust, as opposed to his usual depression, so he’s seeing something worse than the stuff he does which means worse than enslaving a planet or a lot of genocide. While we don’t see what it is, we hear a few things. We hear what appears to be boots marching in sync, explosions, and babies crying. HUMAN babies. We also get the implication from Jerry that no one else would remember the events, which is why Rick chooses to remember them.
Second, what is the cat a reference to? Well, several things, but most prominently the 1978 Disney movie The Cat from Outer Space, which the episode even directly references. In that movie, there’s a cat that talks telepathically and, like the cat in this episode, hardly ever seems to stop doing cat things while talking (because it was a real cat in the movie and cats are a**holes). However, none of the events of that film really lend themselves to a backstory like that… unless you consider that at the end of that film, Jake, the titular cat, has a girlfriend, superior technology, and a pending litter. While Jake can’t really talk or use his powers without a collar, it’s stated in the film that the telepathy powers are only AMPLIFIED by the collar. They are innate to Jake’s species, unlike the telekinesis which the collar provides. So, what happens when Jake’s offspring learn what happens to common cats like their mother, like being locked up in the pound or put down? Well, they might end up very, very upset at humanity for how they treat cats… and that their dad can call down an armada.
My proposal, therefore, is that the cat in this episode is the son of the cat from outer space. He ended up using his species’ superior technology to eradicate humanity on another Earth, but humanity ended up taking the cats out with it, since this is the only survivor. Since one of the collars in the film was ultimately given to the humans as a token of goodwill and the other would be with his father who likely would oppose his plan, in order to destroy humanity, the cat had to focus and develop his powers to be able to talk without a collar. Him learning to speak ultimately destroyed both sides of his family. So why does that look worse than Rick’s usual murder sprees? Well, because this is presumably an army of cats clawing people, including children and infants, to death, ensuring total genocide of both species. That’s going to be a very, very, graphic image, even for Rick.
Or maybe the cat’s Cthulhu, but I’m going with the reference here.
LEAVING THE CORNER
This was still one of the weaker episodes of Rick and Morty, but I still had an okay time with it. Plus, it referenced The Cat from Outer Space, which I love.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.
The second of my add-ons, and this one might be the most controversial of them.
Gravity Falls is not the most well-known show, but it deserves to be. It’s only 40 episodes, but, and I say this with total sincerity, it’s one of the only shows where I don’t think there’s a bad episode. With most of the shows on this list, I can think of at least one episode which I either didn’t like, thought didn’t fit within the show, or even absolutely hated. Even the Twilight Zone sometimes had a miss. I’ve even fought over whether or not there is a bad episode of Breaking Bad, and I go with “probably.” But, I don’t actually think the quality of Gravity Falls varied much from a very strong start. If you like the first episode, you’ll like the rest of the series, and it just keeps getting…
Doctor Who is over 50 years old, it’s died twice, been revived twice, and managed to have more people play the lead character than almost anything besides Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes. You can’t really say that there’s a “standard” episode, because it varies so much in tone, quality, and style over the run that it’s very difficult to describe in broad strokes. It also creates some very long-running jokes or callbacks, some so long that it spans a generation or two. As such, it’s often difficult for new fans to really get into the show, because even if you join after the latest incarnation, there’s so much mythology built up that it gets intimidating. This episode, though, avoids that.
The premise of the show is that there is a being called the Doctor that travels through time and space with various companions to fight evil. He’s an alien who lives…
Fry’s dead and Leela’s guilty. Time for some crazy trippy dreams.
Fry (Billy West), Bender (John DiMaggio), and Leela (Katey Sagal) are told they’re not good enough to collect Space Bee honey for the Professor (West). Leela insists they are and drags the other two on a mission, even though it killed the last Planet Express crew. The crew reaches the space bee hive and paint Bender like a bee so he can communicate via dancing. They eventually find the previous Planet Express crew, a load of honeycomb, and a flow of royal jelly. Leela collects a baby queen bee and some royal jelly as the crew tries to collect the honey. Bender accidentally insults the queen of the hive and the crew is chased back to the ship. On route to Earth, the baby queen tries to kill Leela, so Fry jumps in front of her, sacrificing himself by being impaled with the stinger. He dies.
Fry’s coffin is ejected into space after a sad funeral. Leela, blaming herself, eats some space honey to ease the pain, knocking her out. She dreams of a still-alive Fry telling her that he left her a surprise in his locker. She goes to work to find it and discovers that Fry did indeed leave her a one-eyed stress-relieving doll as a gift. Leela says this proves Fry is alive, but a brain-scan by the Professor says that she’s just blocking out memories due to grief. She has another dream of him being alive and awakes to his jacket on her, only for it to turn out to be her jacket when she shows it at work. They inform her that she might be having issues because she’s eating spoonfuls of Space Honey, which, if overused, can lead to permanent sleep. Leela tries to use it again that night and knocks over the jar, reconstituting Fry from the jelly. She celebrates Fry being alive, until Fry tells her to wake up, revealing it’s a dream.
Leela starts hallucinating regularly and envisioning all of the crew telling her that she killed Fry. She decides to take enough honey to dream forever, only for Fry’s voice to reach her and tell her that sleeping forever isn’t an option. She’s stronger than that and she should fight against it. She starts to be surrounded by bees attacking her only for Fry’s voice to tell her that he loved her. She cries, only to wake up in the hospital next to Fry. It turns out that the stinger DID go through Fry… into Leela, who got all the poison. Fry had to get a new spleen, but after that he never left her side, begging her to wake up for two weeks. The voices she heard were him watching out for her. They hug.
This episode was a lot darker on rewatch than I remember. Leela’s not only in a coma, but while in the coma she is seemingly about to make an active choice to put herself to sleep forever, which I can only assume means never waking up again in real life. Even worse, she’s doing it because she thinks that she’s killed Fry and is desperate to see him again. Despite the fact that Fry and Leela’s on-again-off-again relationship is not currently on, we see in this episode that Leela truly is starting to have feelings for Fry that are just as strong as his feelings for hers. More remarkably, it happens without Fry having the brain worms from the last time she was smitten with him. Having the entire episode inside of her head gives us a clearer picture of this character right before the show was going to need to wrap up this plotline. Still, having her so grief-stricken that she’s essentially going insane and about to kill herself is freaking dark.
What’s more impressive in some ways is that the ending to this episode doesn’t feel like a cop-out to me. I mean, this is an episode where the twist is that it was all a dream, an episode where they fake having a main character die, and an episode where somehow you can dream within dreams and yet I didn’t hate it the way that I usually hate all of those cliches. I think it’s that this episode was pretty early in hinting to the audience that it wasn’t real and that it used the dream setting perfectly as a way of trying to show everyone how devastating grief can be. Leela blames herself for Fry’s death so completely that all of the walls in her apartment are chanting that she killed him. This is only made worse by the fact that Fry actually sacrificed himself for her. I also appreciate that in reality, Fry still did try to sacrifice himself for her, even if he ended up only losing a spleen. It shows again how much he cares for Leela.
Overall, I like this episode a lot. I really enjoy the spontaneous musical number and the final hug between Fry and Leela.
There’s a shot of all of the women Fry has slept with from the show. During the shot, Kug (Tress MacNeille), the Amazonian that banged Fry in “Amazon Women in the Mood” says “Him do good Snu-Snu” only for all of his other exes to say “eh….” Remember, Kug had never had sex before and it seems unlikely that she’s had it since, so her perspective might not be great. The other women we see present are Petunia (MacNeille) the hooker “Put Your Head on My Shoulders,” Morgan Proctor (Nora Dunn) the bureaucrat “How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back,” Michelle (Sarah Silverman) his frozen ex “The Cryonic Woman,” and the other 21st Century girl he hooked up with from “Love’s Labours Lost in Space.” However, next to them is a radiator… a reference to Fry saying he hooked up with a radiator woman from the radiator planet at the Miss Universe contest in “The Lesser of Two Evils.” Since this is in Leela’s mind, that means that Leela must, on some level, believe that Fry DID in fact hook-up with a radiator alien. I love that this is the man she eventually ends up with.
If you’re confused, read my post on add-ons. So, now that we’re through that, here’s the review:
Black Mirror is designed to be a British Twilight-Zone-like anthology about media and spectacle. The screen we look at, the screen upon which this is read, the screen upon which it is written, these are all the black mirrors in which we look to see ourselves, others, and ourselves through others. For the first 2 seasons, the show usually had about 1 great episode in 3, with another 1 being good/really good, and another being okay. After Netflix took over, I think the quality rose a bit in season 3, if only because they managed to produce this episode.
Or because they have funding now!
“San Junipero” is, in a lot of ways, the opposite of a Black Mirror episode. The episodes usually take the point of view that the “Screen”…
Roland Emmerich takes a shot at telling the story of one of the most important battles in the history of the world, but it’s a tough story to tell.
The movie tries to narrate the story of the Battle of Midway. It starts shortly before WWII with the US Naval attache Edwin T. Layton (Patrick Wilson) discussing the possibility of war with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa). The Admiral warns Layton that if the US tried to stop their oil supply, Japan would have to start a war. On December 7, 1941, this becomes prescient, with Japan bombing Pearl Harbor, something Layton tried to warn the White House about. The US enters WWII and Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) takes over command of the US Pacific Fleet, which is now greatly reduced by the Japanese attack.
In April 1942, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) leads a bombing raid on Tokyo that convinces the Japanese to try to solidify their position in the Coral Sea. Layton has cryptographers working around the clock under Commander Joseph Rochefort (Brennan Brown) to try and crack the Japanese code as to a crucial target known as AF, which they determine to be Midway. In preparation to ambush the Japanese, the US concentrates all of its aircraft carriers and battleships, expecting the Japanese to launch an attack on ground troops on June 4, 1942, which will leave them vulnerable to reprisal from the sea.
On the morning of June 4, 1942, the Japanese launch the attack. After the US fails to successfully hit any aircraft carriers from the ground, a US submarine, the USS Enterprise, locates the Japanese fleet, including all of its carriers, and attempts to torpedo them. They’re unsuccessful, and the Japanese command the battleship Arashi to stay behind and keep the sub pinned down so the fleet can escape. However, Commander C. Wade McClusky (Luke Evans), spots the Arashi and, on a hunch, follows it to the fleet. While the Japanese try to re-arm to fight the US Naval fleet, McClusky and Lt. Dick Best (Ed Skrein) manage to bomb the fleet, taking down two of the carriers, while other squadrons take down a third. Best manages to rearm and take another run and hits the last of Japan’s four carriers. With the Japanese fleet now in ruins, the US has essentially shifted the tide of the war in the Pacific.
The Battle of Midway was one of the most influential days in the history of the modern world. While the Japanese still had 8 aircraft carriers left after the battle, four more than the US Pacific Fleet, they lost almost half of the skilled maintenance workers in their navy. As the Japanese Navy focused more heavily on fewer, highly-trained individuals compared to the American Navy, this was a major loss that slowed the progress of the Japanese long enough for the US to finally start producing larger carriers in 1943. At that point, US Manufacturing and training just flat-out outpaced the numbers that the Japanese could produce. Moreover, it proved that the Japanese were not the unstoppable Naval force that they were viewed as at the time.
The problem is that this battle requires a LOT of explanation in order to drive home the significance and, well, that eats up time. It requires a lot of characters, which eats up storytelling. It doesn’t end the war, and the Japanese devastate the Americans after at Savo Island, so even though it seems happy, it doesn’t resolve a ton. That’s probably why the movie just never really finds its feet. It has to show so much and so many people and still make the actual battle look reasonable that it just can’t spend the time and energy to get us fully emotionally invested in anyone. Hell, it’s hard to say who exactly the movie is following because many of the people that we follow die during the film. I think it’s McClusky’s, Best’s, and Layton’s film, but that’s still at least 3 protagonists, one of whom barely sees the others, and there are at least a half-dozen deuteragonists and, of course, the antagonist Yamamoto. There are just too many moving parts in this movie, because it’s trying to tell the whole story of a major event.
There’s also the random subplot of the Doolittle Raid which eats up about 20 minutes and mostly seems to be there so that the ending can include a mention of how much the Japanese massacred the Chinese, probably because this movie was largely funded by a Chinese company. While the US mostly remembers all the stuff the Germans did, the Chinese remember how many people were massacred during Japan’s occupation of the country, and this movie is a less-than-subtle reminder for the audience.
Despite the fact that this is the most expensive independent film ever made, the effects aren’t always at their best. Roland Emmerich knows explosions, but it bothered me a lot that all the ships at Pearl Harbor were mostly empty during the initial bombing run. Not that I wanted to see a lot of people die, but it still made the scene ring false. When the actual battle happens, it looks good, but it’s also noticeable that most of the attack scenes tend to be very isolated and focused only on one attacker and a target for the purpose of budget.
The acting ranges from great (Wilson) to “clearly there for the money” (Harrelson) to bad (Skrein), and all of that is pretty standard for Roland Emmerich’s direction. Like I said, the plot’s super light on emotion and that meant that the acting needed to lift more weight and it doesn’t. There are also a few weird changes that I don’t quite get. For example, the movie accurately shows Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas) getting captured, but he’s killed by the Japanese tying him to an anchor and throwing him overboard. In real life, he was killed… by tying him to a water-filled kerosene can and throwing him overboard. That’s just a weird change that I honestly was annoyed by, even though I’m probably the only one. There are a ton of little inaccuracies like that and they build up, because… Jesus, guys, just read a few books.
Overall, not a bad movie, but it’s trying to capture a really complicated moment in time and it makes it feel unfocused. The fact that the director doesn’t exactly pull out the best performances doesn’t help. I think more people need to know about Midway, but this is not the film for it.