I am a fair person. And in order to prove it, I am going to do something unexpected: I am going to trash-talk Breaking Bad.
You might recall that in my Under the Dome review last week, I began by describing a scene from the previous night's episode of Breaking Bad, in an attempt to demonstrate how to properly film a suspense scene. I'd found Under the Dome to be egregiously guilty of failure in that regard last week, so in order to contextualize its failings, I thought comparison to a wild success was a good strategy.
So, this week, let me tell you about how last night's episode of Breaking Bad dropped the ball. Massively, in my opinion...although I have yet to read a review that seems annoyed with it at all. It appears to be me against the world. And I'm okay with that.
Let me set the scene, and try to have as few spoilers as possible for those of you who have foolishly opted to not hop on the Breaking Bad bandwagon:
In the New Mexican desert, two DEA agents come face-to-face with about half a dozen well-armed neo-Nazi mercenaries. The scene is tense, partly because of the fact that the preceding forty or so minutes of the episode have been incredibly tense, full of massive plot advancements and brimming with drama. This climax to the episode has been telegraphed; you know it's coming. It isn't the type of scene that hinges on plot twist; it's the kind that hinges on the emotion resultant from the inevitable. Six million or so people are hanging on the edge of their seats watching this. I am fully expecting the episode to fade to black, and for resolution to have to wait for seven days.
Instead, the shootout begins!
And all of a sudden, none of these people can hit a thing. Two DEA agents, at least six badass mercenaries (who have been used in highly badass capacity a mere two or three weeks ago), and for no reason I can fathom, they all become roughly as shitty at shooting weapons as your average Stormtrooper in a Star Wars movie. It's also reminiscent of how, in the G.I. Joe cartoons from the eighties, the Joes and the Cobras were constantly in shootouts but nobody ever got hit. Amazingly awful marksmanship.
I don't expect that from Breaking Bad. Depending on how the scene resolves next week -- it ends with everyone continuing to just miss each other -- then I will be able to let it slide on the grounds that it was for dramatic effect, to amp up the beginning of the next episode. But if it has a poor -- i.e., unbelievable -- resolution, then I'm going to call major bullshit on this episode.
I say that for two reasons: first, to prove that I'm not merely a slavish Breaking Bad fanboy; and second, to bring me to a place where I can make my next point.
Which is this: the only reason I am willing and able to cut Breaking Bad some slack is because it has earned it. It hasn't been immune to a bit of ball-dropping here and there, but those fumbles have been exceptionally rare. So until I know they've dropped it, they get the benefit of my trust in them.
Under the Dome has lost every bit of that trust. It lost it a long time ago, frankly. But there were several scenes in tonight's episode that really brought home for me the fact that this is a series I simply do not trust.
And yet, I kind of enjoyed the episode! We'll come back to that, but before we do, I've got to get the complaining out of my system.
One of the major plot point of "Exigent Circumstances" involves Barbie enlisting Angie's aid in helping him sneak into the clinic and save Julia from what he (correctly) assumes will be a potentially murderous situation. Now, as far as plans go on really dumb televisions shows like this one, Barbie's plan is a decent one. And it works! Not entirely without a hitch; Barbie has to whoop Junior's ass in order to make a getaway. But whoop that ass he does, and he and Angie are able to get Julia loaded into the amublance, ready to make their getaway.
Which, of course, means it is the perfect time for Barbie to take a time-out and tell Julia -- who, you may recall, is comatose and presumably unable to hear him -- that he loves her.
Bad writing doesn't get much more badderer than that. LOL, RAOTFLMAO, y'all. I mean, look: I get it. Once you go redheaded you never get clearheaded; that makes sense to me. But there's a time and a place for everything, and this was maybe neither for Barbie's strawberry fetish to demand to be vented.
But hold yer horses, pard! It does get worse, because moments later, Barbie decides to abandon Angie and Julia. He sends them on their way -- Britt Robertson screaming her head off, Rachelle Lefevre blissfully collecting a paycheck for pretending to be asleep -- and hops out, expressly so he can surrender.
The idea here, I guess, is that he's assuming that if he is captured, Big Jim won't worry about Julia. But even as I type that, I don't know if it's true, because it makes no sense. Literally no sense of any kind. Barbie decides he needs to rescue Julia because Big Jim will kill her lest she reveal that it was Maxine who shot her, and not Barbie; Barbie turning himself in will help her in no way. In fact, all he's done is risk her life further, and Angie's in the bargain.
Unless there is something I'm not seeing here -- and if there is, please, somebody by God tell me -- then I see no justification for what Barbie ends up doing.
Except that it takes the plot where the producers want the plot to go: Barbie, captive in front of the whole town.
Also on the stupid-as-hell list: Linda, who -- in the face of first-hand evidence that Big Jim has been lying and breaking the law on an ongoing, systemic basis -- has decided to simply believe everything Rennie is telling her. I thought Natalie Martinez made a fairly strong impression the first few episodes, but I believe everything has been downhill for her since the episode in which she commands people not to get near the dome and then immediately trots over and kisses the damn thing while her fiancee is on the other side. In tonight's episode, you can practically hear her muttering under her breath about how dumb her character has become.
There's more to say. How about how incredibly stupid the entire town seems to be. Which is one thing; but how about how incredibly boring they all are? They all look like they came from Extras 'R' Us Discount Dayplayers. Sorry, North Carolina; no offense. I've been to your state, and found it utterly charming. So trust me, it's nothing personal.
I was going to spend some time talking about things in the episode I liked. I guess I still could, but my enthusiasm for it is waning.
- The scene in which Big Jim kills Dodee is fairly effective, mainly because Jolene Purdy does a good job of being scared but trying not to look scared. The series made nothing of Dodee, and did nothing with Purdy, which is a combo of shame. But at least, in her final scene, she got to provide the series with something that felt like actual grit. (It's remarkable how toothless the series has been so far, isn't it? Especially compared to the novel.)
- I haven't always loved what Mackenzie Lintz has done as Norrie, but I think she's been good more often than not. And I thought she was very good in a few scenes tonight; she looked like someone who could plausibly decide to just plunge a knife into Big Jim. Of course, the screenplay had her utterly botch it; but Lintz was good.
- So I guess it turns out that the military has had eyes on everything going on inside the dome all along, huh? Everything visible to satellites and/or binoculars, at least. That makes sense. I never expected Jim's murder of Reverend Coggins to come to light via that sort of plot device, but in retrospect, it works well. And it also gives Big Jim semi-decent motivation for wanting the dome to stay in place.
- Speaking of the dome, I continue to be intrigued by the minidome and the soon-to-be butterfly. I know I probably shouldn't be; I just can't help it.
- Dean Norris continues to impress me, although the series has turned Big Jim into an actual villain so rapidly that I don't know how he managed to keep up. And frankly, Norris is less interesting when playing a mustache-twirler; he is great at nuance, and I fear the nuance for Big Jim has come to an end.
- Mike Vogel is doing the best he can. Poor guy; he's a good actor, and he's trying, but Barbie at this point in the series is so poorly written that I'm not sure 1985 Harrison Ford could do anything with the character.
- Carolyn finally comes back. She and Norrie are all parental/filial, which is kind of touching; might have been nice to see some of that actually develop in the previous few episodes, though.
I should say more, but frankly, I'm tried of writing about how garbage this series is. I'm going to call this one early, and head over to Netflix to watch an episode or Orange Is the New Black, which is a vastly superior series to this one.
One final note, though, just to amuse myself: tonight's episode was directed by Peter Leto, which makes me think of how Duke Leto killed Piter de Vries in Dune.
Yes, I am a nerd.