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Friday, 25 of April of 2014

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Justified – “Decoy”

“Holy shit. They circled the wagons.”

Justified TitlecardLES: It was a highly anticipated episode of Justified this week, with many of our fellow critics who’d seen the episode in advance – Alan Sepinwall, Ryan McGee and James Poniewozik to name a few – excitedly trumpeting “Decoy” as the best installment of the season, if not the series. And for the most part, I would say that this was an episode that delivered what it promised, with the U.S. Marshals and the Detroit Mafia turning Harlan County into their playground for an hour in the race to claim Drew Thompson as their prize. This was yet another episode that played to my appreciation of the show’s ability to deliver scenes where a conversation takes place and at any moment, somebody could decide to draw a weapon and it all goes to hell. There’s the glorious state of limbo as the marshal caravan is trapped by Colton’s explosives, the emotional needling Drew sends Raylan’s way all episode, and the ruthless stream of dick-sucking references Nicky Augustine throws at Ava. So many good scenes, I could have watched an entire bottle/vignette episode set at any one of them.

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Negative Track – March 11-18

As we divide our time across several television-themed blogs (approximately, Noel has cofounded or runs about 29 blogs), sometimes we don’t get a chance to properly address the issues that come up in the comments sections of the shows we review. We could but no one would read five paragraphs of comments (Nick is fairly certain people only skim his reviews as it is). So here we have a place for us to address the questions left out of the reviews or new issues that commenters have brought up.

Nick’s calling this the Negative Track for now (like those interludes between tracks on a CD that counted down and could only be found once you played through song — wait, do you remember what a CD is?) but, because the title might be a little esoteric, he’s pretty sure the Monsters will conclave to give it a better title.

This week: Ezra Fitz and the “rapist” label (from Pretty Little Liars, “I’m Your Puppet”), the real serial killer on The Following (from The Following, “Welcome Home”), and “The Farm” backdoor pilot being the bridge between The Office and Parks and Recreation (from The Office, “The Farm”). Noel will likely join next week, when he’s caught up on those other blogs. And maybe this one. GOOD GRIEF, HAS HE NOT WRITTEN A GOOD WIFE REVIEW IN WEEKS? DAMN HIM. (In his defense, the episodes have been pretty just okay.)

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Justified – “Get Drew”

Justified TitlecardSo, yeah, it’s been sort of insane for two of our regular Justified roundtable contributors, so much so that some folks are weeks behind (it wasn’t Noel, Noel stays on top of Harlan County, guys). In any case, Les managed to catch up and Greg Boyd offered to fill in for that slacker Cory this week to discuss the fact that, well, Drew Thompson has been on Justified for a while.

And it wasn’t, as Noel predicted, an older Raylan trying to close a time loop. Read more »


Justified – “Kin”

“You got a saw? You’re gonna need a saw.”

Justified Titlecard

NOEL: So, last week, Cory was all, “Best episode of the season.” I was sort of hesitant about that proclamation. But, Cory, if you’d like to make that statement again, I would not argue with you.

Twisty-turny procedural elements fed into the big arc about Drew Thompson. We’re closer to finding him, but only in the sense that we know he’s in Harlan, and that everyone under the sun is looking for this guy. Oh, and Ellen Mae is safe and sound. And was shocking violence and hill people. HILL PEOPLE, Y’ALL.

What say you, gents? Where do you guys want to start with this?

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Justified – “This Bird Has Flown”

“There’s money in fightin’ chickens, Raylan. You think about it…”

Justified TitlecardCORY: Gentlemen, I’m doubly happy this week. Not only is good to be back involved in our Justified chats, but it’s good to be talking about what is the best episode of the season to-date. “The Bird Has Flown” is driven by two stories with very different emotional beats, but are about some of the same things. While Raylan and Rachel attempt to track Lindsay and her husband down in what amounts to one of the show’s best procedural chases in recent memory, Ava struggles with how to handle the aimless and desperate Ellen May. Raylan and Rachel’s pursuit result in a few nice scenes for the show’s most underused character and Ava’s conflicted feelings helped Ellen May seem quite sympathetic. And most impressively, Taylor Elmore’s script gave both stories the same thematic center, with Raylan and Ava learning how to let go of people (and in Raylan’s case, money) a little easier  – even if they’re forced to learn those lessons.

What are your opening thoughts about this week’s offering?
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Justified – “Truth and Consequences”

“I think a snake bit him.”

Justified TitlecardLES: It was another fun episode of Justified last night that saw a lot of characters in their elements—Raylan’s back to making “get out of town” ultimatums, Boyd’s calling out his rivals in grandstanding fashion, and Art got be alternatively supportive and patronizing of the fuck-ups who populate his office. We inched forward on the plot of Drew Thompson by learning the FBI has a vested interest in him as a material witness, a move that furthers my hope from last week that Stephen Toblowsky’s Agent Barkley will be back soon to bluster at Raylan’s antics. And the opening was probably the closest Justified has ever come to horror, as I was legitimately on edge both in the scene where Boyd tries to buy Cassie off and the follow-up where poor Jimmy is assaulted by the residents of Billy’s herpetarium. (The latter leading to some hauntingly hard to watch moments.)

However, I do think that this is the weakest episode of the season yet, for a couple of reasons. The first being that it felt like more of a place-setting episode as opposed to a dynamic one, where a lot of elements are set up that we know will pay off in the future. Johnny meets up with Wynn Duffy to discuss the possibility of betraying Boyd, but there’s no real movement and none of the moments that make Wynn such a special character to watch. There are a couple instances of Rachel showing job fatigue*, but they all are on the fringes of the action and (again) feel like giving the character something to do, rather than setting up a character arc. And of course, Lindsey runs off with Randall and Raylan’s bankroll for the closing scene, setting up an obvious showdown next week or the week after. Certainly every show needs to get the ball rolling, but this was one where I could very clearly see the strings and the “act one” trappings of events.

*How wonderful was that interaction between Rachel, Art and Raylan? “How many times has Wyatt Earp done the same thing?” “Well, he’s a lost cause.” Raylan looks offended.

My second issue is that I’m also a little concerned about one of the reveals, the fact that Drew Thompson is on the run for witnessing Theo Tonin murder a federal witness. It seems more than a little coincidental that the same man who sent Robert Quarles into Harlan last season to get him out of the way is also the same man who was tied to a body falling from the sky 30 years ago into the same county. I certainly don’t have a problem if the show wants to bring Adam Arkin back in some capacity because Adam Arkin is terrific both in front of and behind the camera, but to tie him into this case feels like a wholly inorganic way to do so. We set up in the final episodes of last season that Duffy was trying to pitch Tonin on taking over Quarles’ proposed Oxy operation, and I think it’s entirely reasonable he could take credit for Quarles’ death and become as much Detroit’s man as the Dixie Mafia’s, which would further draw Tonin into Raylan’s orbit. This reveal seems to be forcing him into the story, and—sadly—has killed some of my initial investment in the season’s mystery.

Thoughts?

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Justified – “Where’s Waldo?”

“I thought we were a circle.”

Justified TitlecardThis week on the Justified roundtable, it’s more on the bag in the wall as season-long mystery and a case-of-the-week instigator, whether or not Raylan could cut it as a exotic dancer, and how much we all love Art. Seriously. Art’s the best.

LES: Well, it’s the second week of Justified, and what a week it’s been. Raylan, Arlo and Tim went on the trail of the Waldo Truth ID and crossed paths with a true white trash family, in a move that led to Raylan having to disarm a 13-year-old boy. Raylan learned that his bartending friend-with-benefits Lindsey not only has an ex-husband, but one who’s a bare-knuckle fighter capable of taking down two men without breaking a sweat. Ellen May fled the confines of Audrey’s for the Last Chance Salvation church, leading to a fantastic preach-off between Boyd and Billy. And we saw the return of some wonderfully familiar Justified faces, as Sheriff Shelby tried to draw the boundaries of his relationship with Boyd and Wynn Duffy showed up in Harlan, no longer overshadowed by Quarles and able to give free reign to his own sadistic impulses. (The latter gave us the episode’s best line: “But I don’t even trust the way you just now said I could trust you.”) Read more »


Justified – “Hole in the Wall”

Justified TitlecardInstead of regular reviews for Justified, Cory Barker from TV Surveillance and This Was Television suggested doing a Justified roundtable, similiar to what he had done with Les Chappell and Andy Daglas during Mad Men, and I get to be included this time (though Andy is too busy to join in this week)! We’ll host the roundtable here at Monsters, so check back each week for thoughts on the latest episode from the fourth season of Justified.

Up first is the premiere of season four, “Hole in the Wall.” Raylan becomes a bounty hunter to make some quick cash (even though it’s against Kentucky law for him to do so), Boyd and Ava deal with the pains of growing a criminal enterprise but an old friend has arrived to help, and Rachel just sits at her desk. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT RACHEL DOES APPARENTLY.

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You Should Be Watching: Alphas

“Respect the badge.”

Alphas: Season 2 poster

The premise may seem really familiar by now: a group of genetically-enhanced misfits are brought together under the guidance of an idealistic doctor/psychiatrist/scientist to fight the super-powered and morally-ambiguous.  Alphas (don’t call them mutants) are under pressure from government regulation and misguided terrorist organizations to blend in or fight the power, all except for a gifted few that iterate in the gray area between the poles of intolerance.

It’s tread territory (X-Men, Heroes), particularly lately as we lump vampires into the mix of misunderstood entities of abjection (True Blood). The dynamic between Red Flag and Dr Rosen’s team of misfit toys is terribly familiar (though we don’t have a Magneto or Sylar — yet). The stakes involving government’s tenuous peace with the “good” Alphas are just as high as in the Marvel universe. The analogy to marginalized minorities is equally palpable.

That being said, Alphas (second season starting tonight) is worth your time. And I’ve got five good reasons for you to watch. None if them have anything to do with a dude with metal claws and a bad haircut.

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Season in Review: Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

“Now cease everything you are doing to gaze at me, only letting your heart still strum.”

Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine title cardAround the sixth episode (“Prison of Love”) of Lupin The Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, I started to feel slight glimmers of what the show may have been after. After the ninth episode (“Steamy Desire”), I had a bead on the series. By the end of series, I realized I had been more accurate than I thought. Fujiko Mine is, from the onset, about gazing, what that gaze is capable of, and how it entangles all of us, male and female. It’s about spectatorship (in the broad, psychoanalytic sense, not an individual’s reception) and its ability to satisfy wish-fulfillment impulses when we sit down to consume media.

I’m stating the obvious, though. The series isn’t shy about its aims (the words of this post’s epigraph are the first words you hear at the start of each episode), but despite its willingness to show how gazing and vicarious thrill rides through fiction fulfill us (or even sustain us), it still ultimately reaffirms the power and importance of the straight guy’s looking, and that’s hardly anything new.

This will be a spoiler-heavy discussion of the series, so if you’re at all interested in watching it (and you should be), come back later. I linked to the show’s Hulu page above, and you can watch it there. If you’ve already seen the series in its entirety, let’s continue. Just let me don my owl mask first. Read more »