Author Bonus: 22a) Holly Jolly Secrets/I Remember You (Adventure Time)

Hey, guess what? YET ANOTHER ADD-ON. This makes 5, and this one’s actually a double. Aren’t you folks lucky that you’re getting so much more content that I’m pretty sure nobody reads? (Update: Okay, so, I do have readers now. And they’re all smart and attractive.). While one of these, “Holly Jolly Secrets,” did air before I wrote the original list, despite its merit, it didn’t become one of the best episodes ever until its emotional set-up was finally, truly, cashed in on by “I Remember You.” Since this is an add-on, I’m going to just go ahead and pair them. It’s my list, I do what I want.

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And I’m wearing this outfit

Adventure Time started as the single most generic fantasy show ever. It takes place in the enchanted land of Ooo, which is populated largely by princesses, magic creatures, and

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He was cuddly

whatever random thing can have a face drawn on it. However, it also is one of the best examples ever of the term “Cerebus Syndrome.” Cerebus Syndrome is named after a comic called Cerebus the Aardvark which started off as light and fun stories of a mischievous aardvark, then eventually revealed that all of the light and fun stuff had actually had huge consequences resulting in literal genocide, and ends with the main character being dragged off to what appears to be Hell. Basically, it’s when something moves from “kids’ show” to “adult,” or, if you’re from my generation, it moves from “90s Don Bluth” to “80s Acid-tripping Don Bluth.” The whole process of tone shift starts when it’s revealed that Ooo is not a different world, it’s actually Earth after the “Great Mushroom War,” which is revealed to be the nuclear war that blew a visible chunk out of the world and poisoned everything. Again, kids’ show.

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We ask the REAL questions here

The main characters are: Finn the Human (Jeremy Shada), a young boy, later a young man, originally believed to be the only human; Jake the Dog (John DiMaggio), his shapeshifting “brother;” Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch), the science savvy but ethically-challenged-at-times ruler of the Candy Kingdom; Marceline the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson), the 1000-year-old half-demon rock goddess; BMO (Niki Yang), an artificial intelligence robot with a child-like mind; and the Ice King (Tom Kenny), a crazy wizard with ice powers and an obsession with kidnapping princesses.

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SUMMARY

“Holly Jolly Secrets” starts off with Finn and Jake digging up a box of VHS tapes that the Ice King had buried. They return home to watch them, only for the Ice King, who doesn’t adventuretimeholly.pngremember burying them, to find out that Finn and Jake are watching “secret tapes” and wants to join them, unaware that they’re his. The episode mostly focuses on Finn and Jake listening to these tapes, which turn out to be Ice King’s boring video diary, while Ice King schemes to get into their house, using various Christmas themes (despite the fact that Christmas doesn’t exist in Ooo). Eventually, however, they get to the last tape, and the episode suddenly shifts. The last tape shows a man who vaguely resembles the Ice King. The man identifies AdventureTimeSimonhimself as archeologist Simon Petrikov, a man who bought a crown and put it on as a joke for his girlfriend. It turns out that the crown is cursed, and, while it gives him ice magic, it also drives him slowly insane. As the tape plays out, we are shown a man slowly losing his grip on reality, his form shifting more and more to resembling the Ice King, and the background showing us the apocalyptic war, until finally, Simon is shown screaming that he knows he’s going to “do things that hurt [people]”, and he begs their forgiveness because he can’t help it. At the same time, we’re shown that he also is screaming for his lost “princess,” his fiancé Betty, explaining why he feels a compulsion to kidnap princesses.

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Now, up until this point, the audience didn’t really know much about the Ice King except that he’s weird and often the antagonist. In this episode, we find out that he’s literally the victim of something out of his control, and he’s screaming for help from within the labyrinth of his mind. A later episode shows that this is literal: His mind lives inside a maze in the crown that he cannot leave. It’s rare for any show to so completely re-contextualize a character, and this show does it in 30 minutes. An amazing accomplishment, managing to show that the villain is just another victim, and reminding the audience that the people we think are evil may just be in pain. This would be a fine set of laurels to rest upon with Ice King, but the writers decided to one-up themselves hard in the episode “I Remember You.”

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“I Remember You” starts with the Ice King wanting to write a song in order to get the princesses to like him. This is a weird, but childish premise. He then decides to grab a AdventureTimeMarcybunch of his “old lyric notes for inspiration” and solicit Marceline the Vampire Queen for help. When he arrives, he is confronted by Finn and Jake who try to drive him off before being told by her that Ice King can stay. Finn and Jake leave, and Ice King starts to sing a song about his love of princesses, which slowly devolves into him crying about how alone and unloved he feels before randomly lashing out. Marceline tells him to “stop acting crazy,” and the Ice King flees her, scared. Marcy sings the song “Nuts” which reveals that she has spent AdventureTimeNuts.jpg1000 years periodically trying to hang out with him, but that his insanity inevitably drives her away until he tracks her down again. But, despite that, she still loves him and is happy to see him, leading her to question if she’s actually the one who’s crazy for her lack of self-preservation instincts. She then confronts him with his real identity, Simon Petrikov, only to find that despite his predisposition to find her, he doesn’t actually remember their history together or even his own.

Okay, so, this is pretty sad so far, but not into “I’m going to drink another beer and two shots after writing this review” sad. But, unfortunately for my liver, Marceline then finds that, among the papers that Ice King brought over is a letter addressed to her as a child, Adventure_Time_-_I_Remember_You.pngapologizing for what he is going to do.  Ice King, not realizing it’s a letter, convinces her to sing it, leading to one of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve ever heard, including the chorus “Please forgive me for whatever I do… when I don’t remember you.” The audience is then treated to a flashback of a child Marcy standing alone in the wreckage of the nuclear apocalypse, being given a stuffed animal by a still only partially cursed Simon Petrikov, with us knowing what he’ll eventually deal with.

END SUMMARY

It’s Alzheimer’s. The episode is about Alzheimer’s. The writers may not have intended it, but they nailed it. Ice King’s condition, while it makes him feel sad and alone, is more torturous on those who love him and have to see how he is just an unstable shadow of his former self than it is on him. You will hold out hope that maybe they can see you and remember you, and maybe for a few minutes you can feel like they do, but then they slide back into delirium and it breaks your heart all over again. Sometimes they’ll be afraid of you because you’re a stranger to them. Sometimes you’ll see them believe that there’s nobody who loves or cares about them because they just don’t remember it. And sometimes you’ll be standing in front of someone, knowing that they’re here, but not really here. You’ve lost them without losing them. This episode does in 12 minutes what entire books on the subject have trouble doing. If you aren’t heartbroken at the end, I don’t know if you’re human.

PREVIOUS – 23a: BoJack Horseman

NEXT – 20: Chappelle’s Show

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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Nuts/I Will Remember You:

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Reader Bonus: The Fisher King

Most of the movies proposed by my readers were terrible films or riff-able films, so imagine my surprise when one of my readers decided to select one of my favorite movies of all time for the list: The Fisher King.

If you haven’t seen the movie, rent it on Amazon. It’s $3. Do it right now. I’ll wait.

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You done? You’re welcome. If I make a Patreon, give me a dollar.

fisherbrazil.jpgAlright, first I watched this movie and didn’t think I needed to take notes because it’s not a shitty movie I’m trying to mock, and I’ve seen it at least twice. However, after trying to write the review, I realized that the movie is so deep and beautiful that I needed to have notes just to make sure I remembered all the things that I wanted to put in the review. I’m new at this, give me a break. So, I watched Brazil. Then, I watched this again right afterwards. Cards on the table, Brazil is a more interesting film, but this one has some parts that are right up there.

SUMMARY

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So, in terms of plot, the movie is pretty straightforward (unlike Brazil). Jack (Jeff Bridges) is a successful radio shock jock and professional *sshole who makes some off-the-cuff statements to a caller about yuppies. The caller then goes on a murder-suicide shooting spree at a yuppie bar, which, naturally, wrecks Jack’s career. Three years later, he’s working at a video store for his girlfriend, Anne (Mercedes Ruehl), and hating his life. After seeing an episode of the TV show he was supposed to be on, he goes on a bender and tries to kill himself. Before he can, a pair of yuppies mistake him for a bum and try to set him on fire. Jack’s rescued by a group of bums led by Parry (Robin Williams). Parry speaks in a blend of faux-Elizabethan mixed with regular Brooklynite, and often throws in allusions to Arthurian myth and famous works of literature. He believes himself to be on a quest for the “Holy Grail,” which is a trophy in a rich architect’s castle-like mansion.

Parry is insane and constantly harassed by a vision of a Red Knight, who comes whenever he thinks about his wife or past life. Unfortunately, it turns out that his madness is a result of watching his wife brutally murdered in the same shooting spree that Jack inadvertently caused. Before this, Parry was a professor of literature at Hunter College, explaining why he knows so many references. Jack feels guilty, believing that he caused Parry’s plight, and starts trying to help Parry. Jack follows Parry through his day, seeing how Parry lives within a blend of fantasy and reality. At one point, Parry lies naked on the ground, staring at clouds, and tells Jack a version of the myth of the Fisher King (covered later).

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Parry is obsessed with a girl named Lydia (Amanda Plummer), who he believes to be his romantic ideal. Jack and Anne help set Parry and Lydia up, and go on a successful double-date. However, when Parry walks Lydia home and successfully woos her, he again sees the image of the Red Knight, who he begs just to let him be done grieving and be allowed to move on. However, the Red Knight chases him back to the same place he met Jack, and there, Parry is stabbed and beaten by the same men who tried to light Jack on fire. Parry thanks them, and then falls into a catatonic state.

Meanwhile, Jack dumps Anne, gets his show back, and generally just becomes a professional *sshole again, even after helping put Parry in an asylum while he’s catatonic. However, after hearing a pitch about a TV show involving homeless people, Jack’s conscience finally returns, and he decides to help Parry by stealing the “Grail” in the hopes that it will rouse Parry out of his slumber. He breaks into the castle, steals the cup, and sets off the alarm as he’s leaving, which inadvertently prevents the architect from committing suicide. After getting the Grail, Parry awakens, he and Lydia become a couple, Parry is (mostly) healed from his affliction, Jack and Anne get back together, and presumably everyone lives happily ever after.

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END SUMMARY

FisherWilliamsFirst, I have to address the acting in the movie, because, it’s amazing. Bridges manages to play both the egotistical misanthrope, the broken man who lost it all, and the redeemed believer all in one film. Ruehl manages to deliver some great monologues on love, life, and the world, including when she’s having dinner alone after Jack bails on her, telling Jack off when he dumps her, and telling Jack off when he comes back. She got an Oscar for this. But it’s Williams and Plummer that really steal the show. Williams manages to convey a man who is covering for his own sadness and pain with constant energy and positivity, which, given his real life, is all the more tragic and impressive. It really showcases both his comedic and dramatic talents, often juxtaposing them within the same scene, and he manages to sell it all. Plummer, though she has less screen time, manages to mirror Williams, portraying someone who is broken, but trying to put on a brave and happy face to cover for it. It’s four amazing performances that really work well together.

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Next, the direction and writing. So, if you’ve ever seen a Terry Gilliam film, you probably know what you’re in for with this. Visually, this movie is a spectacle, the dialogue is FisherAnglefabulous, and there are always elements that make it seem just a few steps outside of reality. The camera angles in the movie usually have a Dutch tilt, either to reflect Parry’s madness or Jack’s drunkenness, and periodically a fisheye shot when one of the characters is dealing with a “normal” person, to make it more obvious that even “normal” behavior can seem inane from the right perspective. And that ties into one of the smaller themes in the movie: That everyone is crazy in their own way.

FisherDoucheIn the film, the homeless people discuss things that you’d normally hear about, like the Death Penalty and the Stock Market, they just have odd takes on them. One of the homeless men (Michael Jeter) is a cabaret dancer who just never had his chance… and is probably the wrong gender, although, the scene in which he goes all dancing and singing out is amazing. However, even though they’re depicted as poor, sick, etc., they’re depicted as at least having a level of magic, imagination, and freedom which escapes the more normal people. For example, in the beginning of the film, and when he returns to it later, Jack’s radio booth is lit to look like a prison. Later, when Parry puts a suit on for his date with Lydia, it’s directly compared to his straightjacket restraining him. This could be either a reference to being imprisoned by trying to be “normal,” imprisoned by pride, or both, or neither. This is a Gilliam film, so it’s anyone’s guess.

fisherkingtomwaits.pngAnother great scene in this theme is when Tom Waits (applause) says that the image of being homeless is the only thing that keeps some people from breaking free of the prison of everyday routine. He delivers one of the greatest quips in the movie, too, when Jack points out that a man putting money in his begging cup didn’t even look at him: “He’s paying so he doesn’t have to look.”

The best scene in the movie, and one of the best scenes in film, period, is the first time that Parry tries to talk to Lydia at Grand Central Station. As he is trying to reach her through the commuter crowd in the station, it slowly transforms from a crowd of people commuting in sync to a crowd of people waltzing around the information booth. It’s a beautiful scene, and it combines the magical romanticism of falling in love with the constant, coordinated, but completely emotionally unconnected movement of the commuters on the subway. It’s taking something mundane, and transforming it into a work of art, because it reflects the love that Parry has for Lydia. If you can’t watch the movie, at least watch this scene.

Another notable element is the use of red throughout the film. The Red Knight (a reference to Arthurian Myth) represents Parry’s past and the trauma he’s dealing with, and the construction of the knight demonstrates that. The knight looks like he’s covered in blood and entrails, which we later see is what Parry looks like when his wife’s body was sprayed all over him after she was shot. The knight also breathes fire in bursts, which resembles Parry’s memory of the shooter. Throughout the movie, blue is shown to be surrounding red in background images, from the clock in Anne’s video store to the Chinese restaurant where the double date occurs, representing Parry constructing an illusion around his pain (specifically, because he compares his insanity to the imagination of images in the blue sky).

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Okay, so, I’d be remiss if I didn’t actually address the title. “The Fisher King,” in this movie, is the story of a King who was tasked by God to guard the Holy Grail, but was wounded for his pride when he tried to reach into the flames surrounding the Grail to grab it. The King’s wound kept growing worse, and he tried to have others bring the Grail to him so that it would heal him, but they failed. The King lost all faith in anything. One day a Fool came to the castle, and saw the King in pain and alone. The King asked the Fool for some water, and the Fool brings him a cup. When the King drinks, he’s healed, and finds that the cup was the Grail. He asks the Fool how he could find the Grail, and the Fool says “I don’t know, I only knew you were thirsty.”

So, Parry’s name comes from Parsifal, the Wagner Opera translation of Perceval, which translates to “Pure Fool.” That’s not what the original knight’s name meant (Valley piercer), but it works well within the movie. Parry starts the movie off as the Fool healing Jack, the broken King. When they meet, Parry immediately perceives that Jack is trying to kill himself, and that he’s in a miserable, broken state, and he saves him, first literally, then metaphorically. However, fixing him just makes Jack a victim of his own pride again, at which point he becomes a jerk again, and just buries his own issues under his illusion of success bringing happiness. Then, when Parry is injured, Jack instead must become the knight, retrieving the Grail to heal him, which is more akin to the traditional Arthurian tale of the Fisher King. In short, the roles flip, and they have now healed each other at the end. It’s an interesting take on the story, since the Pure Fool, Parry, ultimately cannot get the Grail, but the redeemed King Jack does. Also, yes, the name Jack is probably a reference to being a wounded King, as is Parry’s real name of Henry.

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There’s a lot to unpack in this movie, but there’s only one more thing I’ll address here. In at least one scene, Parry is quoting Don Quixote, while waiting for Lydia, who clearly plays the role of “Dulcinea” in his life, as a woman who he loves romantically, despite her FisherKingQuixotehaving no idea who he is. It’s a solid reference, but here’s my question: Since Parry is quoting a book about a crazy man obsessed with a false romantic ideal who is in love with a woman who doesn’t know he exists, is he also on some level aware that he is a crazy man obsessed with a false romantic ideal who is in love with a woman who doesn’t know he exists? It’s like when Khan quotes Moby Dick in Star Trek II, meaning he should recognize that his obsession with vengeance is going to damn him, but can’t stop himself. Parry can’t stop himself from being Quixote, but the fact that he knows he’s Quixote actually makes it all the more tragic. I’m interpreting it that way rather than that his madness prevents him from realizing what he’s doing.

Overall, this was an amazing movie that really holds up on re-watching.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

NOTES

Preliminary: Pumped for this. Just watched Brazil to set the mood and to get primed to see “Gilliam” scenes.

0:00 – “Hit the Road Jack” is the opening song. Nice. Jack’s room is clearly supposed to look like a prison.

0:03 – Dealing with Edwin is horrifying. Edwin is falling in love with a girl, but Jack twists that into hatred.

0:04 – The one black car in the cab-sea. And I love DHP as the agent.

0:05 – Jack’s apartment is so 80s, it has copies of American Psycho in the walls.

0:06 – Jack practicing saying “forgive me” while painting his face is amazing.

0:07 – “I’ve got the power” is a little too on point.

0:08 – Bridges nails the reaction. He knows his life is over.

0:09 – Transition shot shows the high-rise and ends on the slum. Also, “BRAZIL” Poster.

0:10 – Fisheye lens of being confronted by a woman saying absolute drivel is classic Gilliam, and it really conveys how ridiculous the banality of some people is. Bridges throwing porn at her is also Gilliam, but in a very different way. And I’m pretty sure she checks it out in the background.

0:11 – “Because it makes me feel better because of how not funny it is.” Man, that’s fucking great.

0:13 – Dutch tilt while drunk, pretty standard, but still good. Cab driver using the catchphrase from the show Jack lost out on, that’s awesome. “Forgive me” sarcastically is a great New York expression.

0:14 – The kid with the Pinocchio doll has balls. Approaches a homeless guy with a toy.

0:15 – Confessing to Pinocchio. What a neat idea.

0:16 – I’d ask where he got the weights on his feet, but apparently you can find anything under a bridge.

0:17 – If there are random gangs of people setting bums on fire in New York, I feel like that’s a bit of a concern. Sadly, nobody brings this up again, which means that even though there was a huge deal made about the uptown shooting at the beginning, dead homeless people don’t matter.

0:18 – 30 seconds in, and Robin Williams is amazing, he perfectly blends Arthurian Prose and modern speech. The bums coming out with a cross and lights is amazing.

0:19 – Robin Williams immediately identifies Bridges as suicidal. Jesus.

0:20 – Every major movement is capped off with a sound effect.

0:22 – Williams’s energy is so amazing, and the fact that the camera is never at a straight angle with he’s on screen makes him seem all the more unnatural and off-kilter.

0:25 – He’s got one eye closed because only one lens in his glasses. My god, Williams was great at this.

0:27 – “Really? You look married.” My god, that’s dark. Williams really has mastered that look of madness and sadness under a mask of joy. Which, I guess is what he was in life.

0:29 – “Kramer vs. Kramer, won an award. Go.” That’s some customer service.

0:34 – My god, the apartment is amazingly constructed. It tells you more about Parry the longer you look at it. The little shrines, the books, etc., all tell you about the character and the life he lost. Amazing.

0:35 – The Red bathrobe over just one shoulder like a toga reminds me of a painting of a man atoning, but I can’t find what it is, so I guess it just fits thematically in my imagination.

0:37 – Parry quoting Don Quixote while sitting atop a car watching a clock is interesting. Parry clearly is Don Quixote, in a way, because he’s a crazy guy obsessed with the ideal of knighthood and he’s on a quest. But, if he knows he’s Don Quixote, does that mean on some level he knows he’s nuts? Or is he saying that Don Quixote might have had a point? It’s like when Khan quotes Ahab in Star Trek II: Is he unaware of the irony, or is he saying that it doesn’t matter, because it’s what he feels driven to do? Parry is in love, and, like Quixote, it’s basically more with a romantic ideal than with any part of reality, but does him referencing it mean that he knows he’s doing it? F*ck you Gilliam, I love you so much right now.

0:38 – I would probably spy on Amanda Plummer too. I get it. Williams somehow makes everything about Parry so sad and yet joyful.

0:39 – Garbage is such an interesting presence in this movie, drawing a comparison of New York and the Middle Ages, and the homeless all appear to be insane, but acting in ways that mirror many of the “normal” people.

0:41 – Parry’s random interjections to invisible people are f*cking jarring.

0:42 – I love Williams’ costume.

0:43 – Nobody seems to care that there’s a crazy homeless guy having an attack in the street. New Yorkers, I guess? Okay, first sight of the Red Knight, and he still looks a bit Jim Henson-ish, but frightening enough. He’s supposed to represent the death of Parry’s wife, which is why he looks blood-spattered, has smoke coming out of him, and periodically has bursts of flame. It works.

0:49 – The Asylum looks like a round table. Well-played, sir.

0:50 – TOM WAITS CAMEO!!! Love it. “He’s payin’ so he doesn’t have to look.” God, I love this man.

0:53 – Is a group of Nuns a Gaggle? Also, this waltz scene is amazing. My god, there’s hundreds of people dressed as commuters waltzing almost perfectly around a disco ball over the information booth. This is one of the best scenes I’ve ever watched, and this is the 2nd time I’ve watched it just for this review.

0:54 – And then it just ends with the train. The illusion broken.

0:55 – Mercedes Ruehl won an Oscar for this movie, but my gosh, this solo dinner was really a great scene.

0:56 – Light it however you want, that’s still Robin Williams’ dick.

0:57 – The captions are censored. Interesting. Also, again, Williams manages to convey so much energy, madness, and sadness all at once.

0:58 – Robin Williams telling the story of the Fisher King is hypnotic.

1:00 – The fool just saw the king needed a drink.

1:02 – Arthur and Guinevere exchange is brilliant. But, man, does it drive home that scene with the girlfriend.

1:04 – Michael Jeter as the homeless Cabaret singer with a mustache should be my screensaver. Also, he’s dead. That’s sad.

1:08 – Okay, if I was Lydia this would be my nightmare, I’ll go ahead and acknowledge that. I probably would have attempted to burrow through the floor from awkwardness.

1:09 – I don’t get why they couldn’t have gotten Parry a shower, but I probably just missed it.

1:11 – That’s on whoever stacked those videos. Also, I love the neon clock.

1:14 – “You have a wonderful set of… Dishes.” It’s at this time I should remember that this movie is actually done by the guy who directed “Huge… tracts of land.”

1:15 – “Behold my magic wand and unleash your golden orbs.” Man, it’s basically poetry.

1:20 – The scene between Plummer and Ruehl doesn’t seem to pass the Bechdel test, but it’s still pretty interesting, watching two very different women approaching dating.

1:23 – I love Robin Williams’ suit, and the line “there’s nothing trashy about romance,” is beautiful.

1:24 – My god, Plummer really nails being awkward and clumsy.

1:26 – The use of Blue and Red in this movie is so beautiful.

1:31 – Jesus, Lydia has had terrible relationships. And Amanda Plummer perfectly nails resignation to the horrible fate. She mirrors the joy, sadness, madness that Williams puts forth in this scene, and it’s impressive as all get-out.

1:35 – Parry begging the Red Knight just to be allowed to move on a little, and then him reliving his wife’s death in such visceral detail.  The camerawork and the color is just amazing.

1:37 – My god, the suit as the straightjacket, Parry thanking them for stabbing him, the train covering up the sounds of his torment, this is an intense minute of film.

1:40 – Not gonna lie, this weird, spontaneous, post-sex breakup thing never made sense to me.

1:41 – “Do you love me?” “I don’t know.” Yeah, seriously, this sequence seems only here to make us realize Jeff Bridges is an asshole. But, it just doesn’t really seem to follow completely logically. I dunno.

1:42 – Ruehl is a hell of an actress, and my god does she look hot in that outfit.

1:45 – I don’t know if that’s how catatonia works, but, hey, good movie mechanic

1:47 – Man, Jeff Bridges really is selling the “I’m an asshole again” thing. Back in the cell.

1:48 – “I’ve got the power” again. And damn, he just snubs Jeter. The Pricks-formation is total.

1:49 – The TV premise is pretty much just to remind everyone that there’s more than one way to view the movie. In case we forgot. Oh, and we’re bringing back the Pinocchio doll, because, again, levels.

1:51 – Christ, the asylum looks terrible. I wonder if it’s an actual asylum

1:55 – You know you didn’t have to wear Parry’s clothes to do this, right? Also, how is that twine holding up that anchor?

1:56 – “Thank God nobody looks up in this town.” Because Batman isn’t real.

1:57 – Stairwell shot is amazing, lighting and angle makes it look reminiscent of MC Escher.

1:58 – Dude, you’re at the front door. The alarm is now pointless. Run.

2:02 – Jesus, movie, I didn’t need to cry here. Yes, you can miss her Parry. You can miss her and move on.

2:03 – So, he saved the Architect by setting off the burglar alarm? Interesting twist.

2:06 – Come on, Jack, you know she deserves better. Show her you care, you asshole.

2:08 – I know the movie ending isn’t real, but it’s beautiful.

Author Bonus: 23a) Fish out of Water (BoJack Horseman)

Okay, so, this is the fourth of the add-ons, and unless something amazing comes on before I finish the last 22 entries of this list, there will only be one more. Given that I write this before Season 2 of Stranger Things comes out, I might already be setting myself up for failure, but this is probably going to be it.

BojackHollywooBoJack Horseman, the show, is weird. It takes place in a world where humans regularly interact with anthropomorphic animals as if it’s just a natural part of existence. It also takes place in Hollywoo (the D gets stolen and then destroyed), a place that, regardless of which universe you’re in, is filled with so many fake identities and false personas that an animated talking horse isn’t that much different than some of the real people. Because of the setting being so distanced from reality, however, the show can address issues that most shows probably couldn’t without significantly more backlash. However, most of those are not fun issues.

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As opposed to some other Very Special Episodes

The show follows the title character BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett), a washed-up actor who had a long-BojackHorsin.pngrunning Full House-esque 90s family sitcom called “Horsin’ Around.” During the first season, we follow BoJack trying to get some of his fame back by releasing a ghostwritten biography. The human ghostwriter, Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), is also the girlfriend, and later wife, of Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), an anthropomorphic dog that had a show that was essentially a rip-off of Horsin’ Around. We’re also introduced to the human homeless slacker who sleeps in BoJack’s house, Todd (Aaron Paul) and his agent/ex-girlfriend Princess Carolyn (Amy “I deserve more work than I get” Sedaris). The second season depicts him filming the role of a lifetime in “Secretariat,” and this season, the third, features him trying to win an Oscar for Best Actor (despite the fact that he actually had been replaced by a CGI version of himself, meaning he did no actual acting in the film).

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This was before Disney made that an acceptable practice

Part of the theme of the show is the nature of happiness. BoJack, who, during the course of the series, has a fortune from residuals, gets a best-selling biography, and finally a starring role in the movie he dreamed of forever, is one of the most lonely and miserable people in existence. He is constantly either questioning why he isn’t happy, or finding a way to distract himself from being happy, usually with sex, drugs, and hijinks. He doesn’t connect with people, despite the fact that he keeps becoming progressively more popular. His relationships are shown to be self-sabotaging, his friendships consist mostly of him screwing other people over or doing selfish things that drive wedges between them, and his family, until the most recent season, consists only of his horribly abusive mother (whose backstory is actually even more tragic than BoJack’s, when revealed). BoJack almost always chooses to do the easy thing, or the selfish thing, and yet even when that’s pointed out to him, he never manages to really change himself (though, in the most recent season, he actually shows signs of being better).

This is made even more stark when he is paired with his counterpart Mr. Peanutbutter, who, like most dogs, is almost unwaveringly happy, even though he also has dark events in his past. While BoJack is intelligent and hesitates on almost anything, Mr. Peanutbutter tends to not think things through and blindly charge ahead on any idea, even insane ones, if he thinks it’s a good thing to do. Despite his hesitation, however, BoJack does often want to do the right thing. He’s not necessarily a traditional bad person, he’s just horribly weak. Many episodes end with his weakness or irresponsibility hurting someone, even if he didn’t mean to, and BoJack trying to avoid responsibility. This episode, however, goes the other way. And it does so with almost no dialogue, making it more impressive.

SUMMARY

When the episode starts, BoJack is headed to Pacific Ocean City to promote his film Secretariat for the Pacific Oceanic Film Festival (a POFF piece… get it? Sometimes they don’t have to try that hard). As the festival’s name indicates, it’s underwater, and BoJack wears a helmet that prevents him from speaking. Meanwhile, all the underwater residents, mostly fish and sea-mammals, speak what sounds like gibberish to air-breathers. So, once he’s underwater, dialogue stops being a thing. Most of the citizens communicate with air-breathers by pantomime. BoJack first ends up accidentally causing a scandal, of which he is completely unaware, but we see in the background of the episode, by giving a thumbs-up, which is the most offensive gesture underwater.

BojackThumb
Is he worse than Hitler? The Media says “Sure, why not?”

bojackseahorse.jpgHe then sees the ex-director of the Secretariat film, Kelsey, whom he did not stick up for after she got dismissed for shooting a scene the producers didn’t agree with, and attempts to write her an apology note that is designed to avoid any personal responsibility. In the process of trying to give it to her, he ends up on a bus going out of the city, then gets caught up delivering the babies of a very pregnant, and, accurately, male, seahorse. After getting off the bus, now lost and without any money or way of communicating, BoJack finds that one of the seahorse babies has clung to him. The rest of the episode is a series of colorful and entertaining shenanigans while BoJack tries to return the baby. When he finally does, the seahorse dad is not particularly appreciative, at first ignoring him, then offering soup, then money. Finally, the seahorse dad appears BojackLetterto ask “what do you want?” and BoJack, suddenly without the purpose he had for the episode, does not have an answer. On the way back into the city, he manages to write a heartfelt, sincere apology-note to Kelsey that takes responsibility for his actions. When he finally gets it to her, however, the ink has blurred, because they’re underwater, and Kelsey leaves angrily. Just to drive home his failure, it’s then revealed that the helmets have a function allowing for speech, BoJack just didn’t know to use it.

END SUMMARY

Okay, first of all, any episode that manages to keep you entertained without dialogue is impressive. There are a few others on this list, and for good reason. They engage the mind in a way that being told something doesn’t. It allows us to project ourselves more completely onto a character, as well as to think more deeply by forcing us to interpret non-verbal cues. That’s always a good start. Putting our main character into an unfamiliar situation, both in terms of location and in actions within the episode is also brilliant. The latter, though, is really what makes this episode. BoJack causes a scandal in his usual fashion, but that’s put in the background. Instead, we focus on BoJack trying to do something good, for which he doesn’t seek attention or reward. He’s trying to return a lost baby, and he goes through some harsh trials to do it. He’s actually pretty heroic. He even manages to write a completely uncharacteristic apology, contrasting with everything he usually does. But, ultimately, he fails to deliver it, and, at the end, he’s still miserable, and by the next episode is unchanged.

Change begets change, but that only goes so far. A new job or a new city may be an opportunity to redefine yourself, but, deep down, you are still you, and changing that is harder. In this episode, they speed up the process by completely changing everything around BoJack, allowing his better angels to prevail, for once. And what’s the term for something else that has had everything around him changed? A fish out of water. Sometimes they do work hard on these.

PREVIOUS – 21: Futurama

NEXT – 22a: Adventure Time

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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Episode’s on Netflix. Watch it.

21) Godfellas (Futurama)

UPDATE: Futurama is now getting a review of the complete series. Including, now, this very episode!

Futurama almost had three episodes on this list. Around ten were nominated in general, but three almost got on. This one, “Lethal Inspection” which brilliantly address mortality through a presumed immortal being, and “Prisoner of Benda,” because it actually generated a mathematical theorem within group theory that is now known as the “Futurama theorem.” Ultimately, though, this one was the only one that made the cut.

Zoidberg

Futurama is, for me, one of the ultimate hit-and-sort-of-miss shows. A few episodes are boring or ill-conceived or based on a one-joke premise that just can’t sustain 22 minutes. Most episodes are pretty good. But, once in a while, the show would earn another season or two by producing something amazing. This episode is one of the latter.

FuturamaCastThe show’s premise is that a delivery boy, and complete idiot, named Fry (Billy West) gets frozen in the year 2000, wakes up in the year 3000, and becomes part of an interstellar delivery company for his great-great-etc. nephew, Professor Farnsworth (West). He usually goes on adventures with his cyclops captain/love interest Leela (Katey Sagal), and his best friend, Bender the robot (John DiMaggio). Also, since I’m mentioning characters, why not Zoidberg? (West) He’s a giant, broke, incompetent, crustacean doctor. He’s not really in this episode, but if you liked the show, that was an inside joke.

FuturamaZoidberg.jpg
He’s all the memes

SUMMARY

So, as the episode opens, the crew are attacked by Space Pirates, which are like regular pirates, but in space. During the fight, Bender gets launched out of a torpedo tube while the ship is going at full speed, meaning it’s impossible to ever catch him. Bender then drifts through space before being hit by an asteroid, later revealed to contain miniature life, called “Shrimpkins.” The Shrimpkins begin to worship Bender as a god. Bender appoints a prophet, and even issues commandments. Specifically, the one commandment – God Needs Booze.

Commandment
A message we can all enjoy

In return, Bender tries to answer the prayers of all of the Shrimpkins, but, at each turn, he accidentally hurts or even kills the worshippers. Eventually, he is told that a group of Shrimpkins that moved to his backside have felt that Bender has ignored them, which he has, because they’re on his ass, resulting in them becoming atheists. With a holy war looming, Bender’s prophet, Malachi, begs Bender to smite the unbelievers to save the faithful. Bender declines, saying that every time he acts, he messes up. Bender’s non-interference seems to be going well, right up until the faithful Shrimpkins decide to start a nuclear war with the atheists, resulting in the entire species being wiped out in a matter of seconds.

Bender, alone again, wanders through the cosmos until he sees a galaxy signaling in binary code. Bender tries to signal back, but doesn’t know binary. Fortunately, when Bender asks if the galaxy speaks English, it responds with “I do now.” The galaxy’s nature is never fully revealed, but it is speculated by Bender to either be God, or a computer which collided with God. Bender and the Entity then proceed to have a deep conversation on the nature of being God, which the Entity summarizes with “If you do too much, people depend on you, and if you do nothing, they lose hope,” concluding with “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” Bender then asks if he can be sent back to Earth, to which the Entity replies that it would need to know which place Earth is.

CarmenSandiego.png
See? Even God-ish has trouble with this.

Meanwhile, Fry is desperate to find Bender, and has gone to the monastery of Dschubba, or Teshuvah, depending on the audience. The former is the name of a star, the latter is the Hebrew word for “Answer” or “repentance,” and both make sense. The monastery is actually a giant radio telescope, allowing the monks to try and discover the physical location of God in the universe, and broadcast a simple prayer to him. The monks refuse to let Fry search for Bender, but Leela locks them in a laundry room.

FuturamaGod.jpg
Welcome to Divinity.

After 3 days of searching, Fry gives up, angrily swiping at the controls, which end up locking onto Bender and the Entity. Fry then unwittingly broadcasts a prayer to get Bender back, allowing the Entity to know where Earth is, and send Bender back through space until he lands on Earth directly in front of Fry and Leela, in what Leela calls “the least likely thing to ever happen.” Fry then remembers they never left the monks out, but decides against returning to released them, believing that their prayers to God will lead to them getting released. Bender responds that “You can’t count on God for jack. He practically told me so himself,” and the trio go to release the monks. The camera then pans out to the Entity, who repeats “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”

END SUMMARY

At the end of this episode, you might have more questions than you got answers from the viewing. Bender certainly seems to have received almost no definitive answers from talking with the Entity. The thing is, that’s the only definitive answer that the Entity gave:

That, if you’re doing things right, you aren’t going to give people the answers, you’re only going to remind them that the answers exist, and then let them find things on their own.

FuturamaTaoIronically, despite the fact that the episode often interacts with the Entity as if he is the Judeo-Christian God, this is closer to the teachings of Taoism, which states that when a master governs well, the people will believe they did everything themselves. Does the Entity send Bender back because Bender wants to go? Or because Fry prayed for it? Or because the monks are praying to get out? Is it all of them? We don’t know, and that’s the point of this literal Deus Ex Machina… involving both God and a machine.

Pun.jpg

Faith is believing that things are being done for a reason, even if it’s one that we’re never able to fathom. It’s believing that there is something watching over the universe. This episode tries to not only justify faith, but also to justify why faith is supposed to be difficult. If you knew God existed for sure, you can’t have faith. If the universe seems completely without meaning, then you can’t have hope (although, other episodes on this list have posited philosophical answers to that). For a 22-minute cartoon about a robot, this episode manages to touch upon and convey an incredibly complex set of concepts, and, true to the nature of such things, leaves it to the viewer to find their own answers.

PREVIOUS – 22: Breaking Bad

NEXT – 23a: BoJack Horseman

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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22) Ozymandias (Breaking Bad)

This episode was going to be on the list if I just used the marketing for the episode, featuring Walter White (Bryan “I should have been Lex Luthor” Cranston) reading the title poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Run down to the bookstore and pick up a copy of all of Shelley’s works if you can, he was pretty amazing. The poem was written as a friendly competition between Shelley and poet Horace Smith, each about Ozymandias and the statue of him that was to arrive in Britain. The poem describes finding an ornate statue in the desert, and on the pedestal, are the most well-known lines:

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Those words, when read right, are dramatic, threatening, and glorious. Cranston does them perfectly, however, it’s the next three words that he truly nailed in the ad.

‘Nothing besides remains.’

Desert.jpg
Where once a mighty empire stood

Cranston truly captures the simple truth of those words: Every empire will fade. The world will change and leave it behind. And that’s what we have in this episode.

Breaking Bad is a show about Walter White’s decline and fall. Walter starts as a sympathetic guy with cancer who decides to partner up with his ex-student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to cook meth so he can provide for his family after he dies. By the fifth and final season, Walter is, by almost every standard, no longer sympathetic. In fact, at the end of Season 4, you probably were on team “Please kill him now, cancer,” because he’d just done something unthinkable in order to motivate someone else to kill for him. He’d dragged his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) into it, even though he’d worked to hide it from his son Walt, Jr. (RJ Mitte). I will confess that the ending of Season 4 had led me to believe that Breaking Bad was, effectively, over. That there was no more merit to the show. To tell you how wrong I was, two episodes of Season 5 are on this list.

WalterWhite.jpg
I was wrong to doubt you, great one.
BreakingBadHank
Hank, before the fall

During the first half of season 5, Walt pretty much continues to indulge his bad nature. He has a ton of people killed, kills a few himself, and is willing to tolerate the killings of others fairly freely. He even partners with the Aryan Brotherhood to help kill a number of people at once. The result? He makes $80 million dollars. As the first half ends, however, Walt’s brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), discovers that Walt is the kingpin “Heisenberg.” The second half starts with Walt’s cancer finally coming back, and Hank trying to find any way to prove that Walt is Heisenberg. Walt and Hank both play an elaborate chess match trying to determine whether or not Jesse will betray Walt for most of the season. Finally, Jesse sides with Hank, and tries to help Hank set up a trap to find Walt’s millions. Hank subdues Walt, just as Walt’s team shows up to kill Jesse. And, just before this episode begins, a firefight ensues.

SUMMARY

At the start of the episode, Walt and Jesse have been hiding from the gunfire, Hank is wounded, his partner is dead, and Walt’s crew, led by Jack Welker (Michael Bowen) are perfectly fine. Walt begs for Hank’s life to be spared, offering all of his money. Jack responds by executing Hank, who refused to beg or negotiate, and stealing 6/7th of Walt’s money, before taking Jesse with him to “interrogate.” As Jesse is being taken away, Walt taunts him by revealing his role in the death of Jesse’s ex. Then, Walt takes what money he has left, goes home, and finds that his family will not run away with him. Walt steals his baby daughter, Holly, and starts to run.

BreakingBadBaby
Weird how rarely “steal baby” is a good idea.

As he talks to Holly, all she says is her first word, “Mama,” breaking Walt’s heart. Finally, Walt calls and plants fake information on a recorded call to exonerate his family from any connection to him, and leaves Holly to be returned to her mother. As the episode ends, Walter completely abandons his life for a new identity.

END SUMMARY

Nothing besides remains.

At the beginning of this part of the season, Walt seemed untouchable. He had millions of dollars, people supporting him, and the only crack was Hank’s suspicions which were tenuous at best.BreakingBadEmpireBusiness

BreakingBadStatue
Among other comparisons

Five episodes later, he has nothing, not even himself. His empire has crumbled. All that remains is Heisenberg, his criminal shell. At some point in the episode, every main character drops to their knees in grief, in reference to looking on his works and despairing, further driving home the comparison.

Ultimately, this episode was almost the climax of the series, despite not being the last one, because this really shows us what has befallen Walt for his hubris. We’ve followed his arc from sympathetic hero to outright villain, but now, we see all of him in one episode. He begs for the life of Hank, the man trying to take him in. He cruelly mocks Jesse as he is being taken away. He attacks his wife. He reveals his crimes to his son. He takes all the blame to save his family. He kidnaps his daughter and returns her. Finally, he surrenders his identity. All of these contradictory actions are taken but none of them ever feel wrong. That’s how well Walter White’s character was crafted. Because we had watched his rise and fall, both in terms of power and morality, we were able to see why he does everything. That’s the hallmark of a great character.

PREVIOUS – 23: How I Met Your Mother 

NEXT – 21: Futurama

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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Here’s the Poem:

The Show’s on Netflix.

23) Right Place, Right Time (How I Met Your Mother)

When I was compiling this list, most of the entries were on some other lists of top episodes, which is how I narrowed down the candidates from “everything on television ever” to “stuff I can reasonably watch within 4 months of hospitalization.” Gonna be honest, I still overshot and ended up with a ludicrous amount of TV to watch. But, this episode probably is the least critically acclaimed on the list. Not only is this not usually a highly rated show, this episode isn’t even particularly high within rankings of How I Met Your Mother episodes. The critical reviews of this episode average about a B+. Why then do I think this episode is worthy of this spot on the list? Because it’s telling us something that everyone desperately needs to hear.

bro-code-e1517805092820.jpg
No, not the Bro Code
howimetyourmothercast.jpg
Pictured: So. Much. Talent.

How I Met Your Mother had some weaknesses as a show, and it definitely dragged at a few points. If the cast hadn’t been amazing, it probably would have died earlier. However, because of the premise of the show, that it’s a dad telling his children a story, they were also able to experiment sometimes with narrative structure in interesting ways. Sometimes they worked. Sometimes they didn’t. This one did, but I honestly don’t know if the show even knew how much it did when they made it.

The overarching theme of the show of How I Met Your Mother is usually secondary to the humor, but it’s still there: You cannot control most of what happens to you in your life, even your own choices, but you can control who you are when things happen to you. And nowhere in the show is this more brilliantly shown than in this episode.

SUMMARY

Right_place_right_timeThe episode starts by showing the main character, Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor, future voice Bob Saget), leaving his apartment with a yellow umbrella (which the audience knows is a big part of the story of him meeting his wife), stopping at a newsstand, giving cash to a homeless man, and then stopping to wait at a crosswalk before an unseen person touches him on the shoulder. At this point, the narrator, future Ted, takes us back to explain why exactly he did everything the way he did on that walk.

First, he explains that he left the apartment because his roommate and on-again-off-again romantic interest Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) tells him that he needs to HowIMetYourMotherPukeclear his head after having difficulties with his solo architect work. He decides to get a bagel. She also tells him to take an umbrella.

Once Ted goes outside, he turns right for a moment, then instead goes left. This is explained as being because his favorite bagel place had given Robin food poisoning, so he goes left to his second-favorite bagel place.

Next, Ted stops at a newsstand to look at a magazine. This magazine is revealed to be a copy of “Muscle Sexxy” which he feels compelled to read because his friend Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) slept with the cover girl due to a misunderstanding. The audience sees that this delays Ted for a minute.

HowIMetYourMotherChart
This still makes me laugh, though.

Next, he crosses the street to give money to a homeless person. This is revealed to be because, a few weeks prior, his friend Marshall (Jason Segel) had become addicted to making graphs at his new job, to the point that his wife Lilly (Alyson Hannigan) asked the gang to hold an intervention. After Marshall proved hesitant to change, Ted threw all of Marshall’s graphs out, including the ones he needed for a huge presentation. Ultimately, Ted had to offer to pay a homeless person who had taken the graphs $1 million at a rate of $1 per day.

And that’s what brings Ted to that particular street corner at that exact time. Future Ted then tells his kids that if he hadn’t been there at that time, then they wouldn’t have been born. He says that, if he had known then what all of those circumstances would have led HowIMetYourMotherStella2to, there’s something he would have done differently.

The show then breaks into a montage of Ted hugging every person involved in his life, from the homeless man, to his friends, to the bagel place that poisoned his friend, all set perfectly to the song “Glad Girls” by Guided by Voices. It’s then revealed that the hand touching him belongs to the woman who just left him at the altar 4 months prior, Stella (Sarah Chalke).

END SUMMARY

howimetyourmotherquote.jpgPart of the human experience is understanding that control is, for the most part, an illusion (this is not to be confused with the Ellen Langer “Illusion of Control“). People will say that choice is an illusion (mostly the Matrix), but that’s never going to be my take on it. You have choice, but you only have choice within a larger series of events that are dependent not only upon random chance, but also upon the choices of others. Sure, you can say “I’m choosing to order pizza,” or “I’m choosing to watch Netflix,” but you had almost nothing to do with those options even being available to you. You’re just pretending that the small control you get over some things compensates for the fact that the majority of the universe will just move indifferent to you. That can be scary sometimes. But, it can be freeing, too.

You only get one life, as far as you know. You may believe there’s more, but you can only be certain of this one. And anything you get out of it, good or bad, contributes to the unique experience of living. When you manage to get something good, take a second to realize that even the bad things in your life contributed to you being in the place to get something good now. They may have hurt, they may have even crippled you in ways that keep you from ever being the person you once were, but they haven’t kept you from ever feeling good again. I’m not saying go hug the homeless guy who mugged you, I’m saying that maybe you can let go of all of those bad things. They can’t be changed, they can’t be undone, but they can be learned from and appreciated as part of existence, for your own sake. It doesn’t change that bad things happened, but you don’t have to let them change you for the worse. And, hopefully, you can learn this lesson in montage form.

PREVIOUS – 24: House

NEXT – 22: Breaking Bad

Here’s the Montage:

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Here’s the Episode:

24) Three Stories (House)

Dr. Gregory House (Hugh “Seriously, I have range guys” Laurie) is basically Sherlock Holmes with a medical degree, a Vicodin addiction, and a limp. Never forget that Holmes was a cocaine and morphine addict, kids.

HouseHolmes
Recovering.

Really, making a Holmes medical drama is extra fitting, because the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes was Joseph Bell, a Scottish Surgeon famous for his demonstrations of deductive reasoning. It somehow brings everything full-circle. In addition to being extremely intelligent and observant, House is a Vicodin addict, has a pronounced limp, and is an almost entirely insufferable human being. But, his worth as a diagnostician usually outweighs the difficulty of working with him.

This episode is the closest thing I have to an example of a pataphysical structure. It’s not really one, because it doesn’t quite go far enough, but it’s close. In this episode, we see someone tell a supposedly true story, or three, as it were, that he is seen interacting with, changing things within, and reconfiguring as he goes. It’s not entirely unique in this, but the way it’s presented and what truth is revealed through the stories definitely reframes the episode in a very different way than most television shows would even try. And this is from a show that, aside from a handful of episodes, is known for being formulaic.

House
Not quite this formulaic, but you get the idea.

In a typical episode of House, a patient comes in to the Princeton-Plainsboro teaching hospital with a disease that nobody knows, House and his team, Drs. Foreman (Omar Epps), Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), and Chase (Jesse Spencer), misdiagnose the patient six or seven times before finally figuring out what’s wrong with them. During this process, House makes snarky and mean comments, says dirty/mean things to his boss Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), and hangs with/screws up life for his only real friend Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). This episode manages to avoid most of that. (Update: Wrote this before adding the image above, but it supports my summary)

SUMMARY

housecarmen.jpgHouse agrees to lecture about diagnostics at the med school in exchange for fewer clinic hours. As part of the lecture, he decides to propose three hypothetical situations based on one single common symptom: Leg pain. The first is a farmer who was bitten by a rattlesnake. The second is a female volleyball player who appears to be having tendinitis. The third is Carmen Electra who has severe leg pain while mini-golfing. Which, according to House, in his combo flashback/story/lesson/fantasy, she was doing while wearing a traditional golfing outfit with short-shorts.

As I said before, the structure of these stories is really interesting. The med students make suggestions, and House’s hypotheticals play out based on them, while also interacting with them himself. It gives the stories a very different feel to have them be both metaphysical and yet physical at the same time to the characters. It creates a weird twist on reality within the show, which builds up to the climax.

houselecture.jpgAs the farmer’s story plays out, the farmer has a reaction to anti-venom, and it’s revealed that he lied about the snake, because his dog bit him. The dog had a prior bite report, so the dog would have to be put down if the farmer told the truth. House uses this to continue his frequent theme of “everybody lies.” Ultimately, the farmer loses his leg to an infection and his dog to euthanasia, but the farmer gets a prosthetic and a new dog. To balance it out, the volleyball player ends up having osteosarcoma, but beats it and keeps her leg.

The third story progresses a little differently. First, Carmen Electra turns out to be a male golfer, who complains of pain until given Demerol, which he grabs out of the nurse’s hand and injects himself. The students, naturally, assume that he’s a drug addict looking for a fix. However, the patient then starts to undergo organ failure, and the med students can’t figure out why, angering House. His team, as well as Wilson and Cuddy, arrive at the lecture, and determine that the patient was suffering from an aneurysm that led to an infarction, before further realizing that this is the story of how House got his limp.

HouseHospitalHouse, in the past, refuses to have his leg amputated, instead opting for a procedure to try and restore function. However, he suffers a heart attack and dies, briefly, seeing the other two stories he’s told during the lecture as visions. Wilson, in the present, asks if he believes the visions were real.

House responds that he finds it comforting to think they were just images his mind conjured as he died, because then all of life isn’t just a test. In the past, House is put into a coma, and his then-girlfriend Stacy will, on the advice of his future-boss Cuddy, subject House to a different surgical procedure than he requested, which results in the chronic leg pain he suffers now, the source of his drug addiction.

END SUMMARY

house_gregory-3
It’s not just because a cane looks classy.

Aside from the format, this episode also receives marks for having a main character reveal his secrets, albeit indirectly, before an audience of strangers. This episode is basically House’s origin story, but, more than that, it’s his confession and his justification for who he is. He’s an atheist, and for a very specific reason. He’s an addict, but he actually is constantly in pain. He’s an asshole to his boss, because he blames her for his situation, and might be right to do so. And, despite thinking that they were just meaningless images, House still used the two other stories as a way to cope with his own fate, and to enable himself to be honest about his past. It ends up being a complex, layered narrative, but Hugh Laurie manages to sell it, and the structure ends up drawing you further in than most stories could.

Also, the title is a pun on three-storied house, so that’s fun.

PREVIOUS – 25: Family Guy

NEXT – 23: How I Met Your Mother

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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House is… difficult to find on a streaming service, but you can buy it on Amazon.