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.
While I’ve now added episodes from other, more recent shows as alternates, when I originally drafted this, this was the most recent episode on this list. Give me a break on the add-ons, I’m only guessing how well they’ll hold up. Despite the fact that it had just aired, I was confident that it would hold up as not just one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones, but as one of the most memorable moments in television. Looking back on it now, I don’t regret my choice. I think that I have had episodes of the show I have enjoyed more, but I still remember the way everyone talked about this episode the week after it aired. It basically covered the internet for a month. It was big, is what I’m saying. It was the Red Wedding.
A Nice Show to… Watch Again!!! (I will not apologize…
BoJack Horseman returns for the first part of its final season and holy hell do I want to see the rest of it.
There’s no summary. Just go watch the damned thing. I waited a month to post this, but I still want you all to watch it.
The characters are BoJack (Will Arnett), Mister Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), and Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul). The creator is Raphael Bob-Waksberg. There are too many guest stars to name.
BoJack Horseman is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and yet I fully admit that I didn’t enjoy most of the first season. The thing about the show is that it started out defying the usual tropes of sitcoms by having nothing in the show ever really go away. Things didn’t reset in this world the way they do, for the most part, in animated sitcoms like The Simpsons or Family Guy. Typically the only things that are permanent in sitcoms are when someone dies or gets married or marries a ghost. Hell, some shows write out major characters (like Chuck Cunningham) and then later pretend they don’t exist.
When stuff happens here, it lingers. They sometimes use the audience’s familiarity with sitcom tropes about resets and lost plot points to make us think that something that happened has been dropped, only for it to be revealed that it wasn’t. Instead, BoJack’s fame and wealth and sometimes pure dumb luck keep him from suffering the consequences at the time. We’ve seen BoJack do wonderful things (like returning a lost seahorse child) and terrible things (like leading his friend Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal) to start using drugs after she got clean, resulting in her fatal overdose), and sometimes it felt like those things were forgotten. However, this season makes it clear that they weren’t. Moreover, these things are being remembered just as BoJack starts to remember them, because, as he puts it “I remember everything. I’m sober now.”
That’s what this show appears to be setting up for: The great sobering of BoJack Horseman the show. A big theme of last season was addressing the issue of whether or not people should be looking up to BoJack (or his character, Philbert) or using his depression and self-abuse as an excuse to feel better about their own personal failures. While ultimately BoJack acknowledged that he needed to be better and going to rehab, there’s still a question of accountability. At the end of last season Diane gave BoJack a talk about how there are no good guys or bad guys, there’s just guys and that believing that you’re bad is just an excuse to be bad. He counters that he’s asking to be held accountable and she says that “…no one is going to ‘hold you accountable.’ You need to take responsibility for yourself.” However, now that BoJack is ready to do just that, the world seems to be setting up to take him to task. It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out, but it really seems like they’re preparing to take down more than just their lead. They’re going to try and take down all the people that view him as something to emulate or something to use to excuse their own shitty behavior. I could be wrong, but as that would be the most amazing way to end a show this self-aware, I’m hoping that I’m not.
They also seem to be building a parallel plot that I can’t quite figure out how it’s going to tie-in to the central narrative. A company called Whitewhale, run by a White Whale named Whitewhale (Stephen Root), has begun acquiring almost all of the companies in America and has begun murdering anyone that gets in their way (because Congress made murder legal for billionaires… despite that being a state crime and not a Federal crime in most cases). It could just be a set-up for a plot with Diane trying to take them down, but I am willing to bet heavily that there’s a joke pending involving “Ahab” and “Rehab” that is dependant on BoJack’s newfound taking of responsibility for himself being what finally forces the public to demand the same of all our celebrities.
The end of the show kind of always had to be BoJack being destroyed. I mean, the opening sequence changes every season, but it always concludes with BoJack drowning and looking up through the pool as everyone looks down at him. Does that mean that he’s going to die at the end? Well, possibly. It wouldn’t shock me if the first shot of the last half of the last season is a tribute to Sunset Boulevard with BoJack lying in a pool narrating how he got to this point, only for it to be revealed that he’s now broke and cleaning pools for a living or something. I mean, with all this set-up, BoJack can’t be allowed to end without some form of consequences and BoJack has grown into the kind of person who will accept them.
Either way, the show was amazing, and I’m so sad it’s ending, but also so glad that it existed.