Breaking Bad

The Red Road (TV series)

the_red_roadOn a whim I decided to watch The Red Road on Netflix and was pleasantly surprised. It has a dreary sort of atmosphere reminding me of The Killing. I kept thinking that at any moment Linden and Holder were going to come out and start questioning people. Despite the show being very easily paced, every episode felt surprisingly quick. My friend kept asking if it was only a half hour show, but each of the six episodes were about 45 minutes each. It is a Sundance TV original series that started in February of last year.

It starts with a college student gone missing in the Ramapo Mountains in Walpole, New Jersey. We see local cops like Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) looking for evidence as to his whereabouts.  We also see Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa) breeze back into his hometown after a long absence, asking about the missing boy. We get the feeling he is not with the cops…all we know is that his father sent him and probably drugs are involved. In a side story there is a Romeo and Juliet sort relationship with a Lenape boy and the daughter of the Jensens whose mother seems to have a hatred for the tribe. This side story soon turns into a much bigger, complicated issue that soon causes problems for everybody. In fact it’s the trigger that catapults everything into motion.

This show is just the right amount of tense drama; there are no overly violent or gratuitous sex scenes. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fight scenes but mostly they pull away pretty quickly. This show is a mix of The Killing and True Detective; whereas sometimes The Killing episodes seemed too long and True Detective would sometimes meander to the point where I was confused about things, I feel The Red Road is short and to the point. It is a lighter version of some of the heavier dramas, but I feel it is full of emotion…kind of like Breaking Bad was full of emotion despite the grit. The acting on all sides was so well-played. I saw this through Netflix and I’m not sure if they are playing reruns on the Sundance channel, but if there is any way you run into it I think you should give it a try. I definitely want to watch the second season when it starts on April 2nd.

*~Mild Spoilers Character Discussion~*

the-red-road-1Harold Jensen is a local cop in the fictional town of Walpole, New Jersey. We don’t really know what his deal is besides that it seems he and his wife are having some sort of problems. He seems an honest enough kind of man and pretty level-headed in comparison to his wife, Jean. Jean (Julianne Nicholson) is a recovering alcoholic, she seems withdrawn from her husband and overly protective of her daughter. Which at first seems okay, but then you start to wonder about her out right. Rachel (Allie Gonino) is the daughter that she is intensely worried about and rightly so…being that Rachel is the most infuriatingly rebellious daughter who manages to put herself into very alarming situations all the time. I pretty much hated her throughout.

I have to give Jason Momoa some praise because he gives such a strong performance as Phillip and even though he plays this threatening guy, you can feel that he is conflicted. He is without a doubt menacing but there is a vulnerability about him that is pretty strong. He is pretty confident in what he does and more than competent but when you see him put in scary situations you feel for him. In fact out of all the characters I feel for him more than any other. I don’t really feel that bad towards Harold besides the fact that he loves a woman who doesn’t seem to really care about him that much. Everything he does is for her and I don’t think she is worth it. She sure as heck doesn’t seem to appreciate it.

Another great performance was by Tom Sizemore who played Jack Kopus, Phillips father. Jack is so sleazy and creepy that just seeing him on-screen makes me itch. Anytime anyone went to his apartment I was freaked. He doesn’t even treat Phillip like a son either, more like a lackey and it’s sad to see Phillip trying to help his father when Jack doesn’t even seem to care about him personally.

The-Red-Road-TV-Series-image-the-red-road-tv-series-36650059-1024-683 I feel bad for Phillip and Junior because they are pretty much victims of their family poverty and bad environment. There are characters who seem to have made a decent life for themselves despite that, but still in Phillips case you can tell he wanted to live a straight safe life but everything was just working against him.

Phillips mom, Marie (Tamara Tunie) is a pretty straight character but even till the end I’m not sure how I feel about her and how she treats her biological son. He has to ask permission to hug her and she doesn’t seem to really feel anything towards him, despite the fact that he has only ever been sweet to her. She is raising Junior (Kiowa Gordon) who to this point I’m not even sure what he is to her. I think she just took him in when his parents died. He is pretty decent and kind-hearted and takes a real liking towards Phillip who he views as a brother and vice versa. I think it would have been easy for Phillip to feel resentful towards Junior who actually seems loved by a mother who doesn’t seem to love him, but Phillip seems to genuinely care about the boy. I mean despite the fact that he does involve Junior in some illegal activity; he seems to only include him when he really needs him. He tries to exclude him when he can.

When I step back from this drama it seems a show about family and the lengths one would go to protect and please. What road will you choose to take when things get rough? I think all these characters wish they had taken a different one.

 

 

The Brilliance of Vince Gilligan: Top Seven X-File Episodes

A relative of mine recently became hooked (har har) on AMC’s Breaking Bad which is basically about a chemistry teacher who finds out he’s dying, so he starts his own meth lab in order to secure his family’s future. Yeah, It’s an intense show to say the least, and no character is purely good or bad….everyone is flawed. It’s dark comedy really. Some of the episodes have been too intense for me to watch but I recognize good writing when I see it. So I was shocked to see that Vince Gilligan was the creator of Breaking Bad. His work on The X-Files is legendary to me. He’s written at least thirty of its episodes and most of them are quintessential must-sees and that was just his first television gig. When counting off my favorite episodes I realized he wrote most of them….So without further ado here’s the top seven X-File episodes written by Vince Gilligan.

7. “X-Cops” 7×12 Starts off with the COPS “Bad Boy” theme song and is shot in the same documentary style with the camera man jogging here and there. This episode was not my favorite Gilligan episode but it was definitely intriguing and fun to watch. Mulder and Scully are investigating reports of a monster in L.A. Basically this monster turns out to be whatever people’s mortal fear is and that’s what makes it so interesting… suspects include werewolves to Freddy Krueger. You’ve got to admit it’s pretty hilarious, not to mention Scully being uncomfortable with the COPS crew following them around.

6. “Bad Blood”  5×12 The teaser to this episode has to be one of the most memorable in X-File history. It’s pretty hilarious and one of the funniest episodes period. Mulder and Scully plan to tell Skinner exactly what happened in the teaser, unfortunately they don’t see things quite the same way.This episode plays the same story twice told through Mulder’s and Scully’s very different perspectives.

5. “Tithonus” 6×09 This episode is more serious and Scully is partnered with someone else with Mulder helping whenever he can. It’s a strong episode with an old (older than you think) newspaper photographer who attempts to take pictures of people just before their death in an attempt to finally die, unfortunately his camera is pointed at Scully. This episode sort of cemented the belief among fans that perhaps Scully is immortal which was first suggested in the episode “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” 3×04

4. “Small Potatoes” 4×20 Come to think of it a lot of the funnier moments in The X-Files have been Gilligan written. Martinsburg, West Virgina a town with a prolific birth rate in a short period of time has a problem.These babies are being born with tails….turns out a local resident is pretty good at changing his appearance. One woman even thinks Luke Skywalker is the father of her baby.This episode is awesome because Duchovny gets to play someone else playing Mulder and it’s just comedic.

3. “Paper Hearts” 4×08 This was a heartbreaking episode. It deals with one of the longest running questions of the show: what happened to Mulder’s sister?  It challenges Mulder’s belief that she was abducted by aliens, and asks what if she was murdered instead. It’s a disconcerting episode whose villain is among the most memorable in the show. Duchovny’s acting in this episode is simply heartbreaking.

2. “Unruhe” 4×2 This is actually my favorite episode of the X-Files. It’s one of those where Scully gets kidnapped but Dude its intense! It involves the idea of psychic photographs and the nightmares revealed in them. The killer is convinced he is rescuing his victims by giving them lobotomies with an ice pick. Even worse, he is convinced Scully needs to be “saved.” Pruitt Taylor Vince plays a frightening Gerald Schnauz. This episode still has me checking beneath my car before I get in….it scared the heck out of me.

1. “Pusher” 3×17 This episode tops my list because not only is the premise creative and scary (a man with the ability to push others to do his will and ultimately harm themselves,) it’s a wonderful acting platform for Duchovny and Anderson. The Russian roulette scene at the end is enthralling and scary with Mulder turning the gun on himself and Scully. I saw an interview with New York Magazine where Gilligan mentions this about writing:

“Show your story, don’t tell it. Try not to depend too much on dialogue. Try to remember that it’s very much a visual medium and that sometimes more can be said with a look between characters than a whole spate of words.”

and that last scene demonstrates this quote so much. Not much is said, but so much is conveyed in looks and actions. The tension is so thick in “Pusher” and to me it’s one of the greatest Vince Gilligan episodes.

I only listed seven, but there are so many great episodes written or co-written by him “Memento Mori,” “Christmas Carol,” “Emily,” “Kitsunegari,” “Roadrunners” and Dreamland I & II to name a few. Overall, I guess what I’m trying to say is Vince Gilligan rocks and television is so much more interesting because of him.

What’s your favorite X-File episode? Or Breaking Bad for that matter?

Oh! and on a side note check out the awesome X-File ads over at The X-Files 3 in 2012 Facebook page…they’re pretty cool.