Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 8: “Grace”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 8: “Grace”
Directed by Cherie Nowlan
Written by Megan Martin

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Dig” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Custody” – click here
Pic 1Pope (Shawn Hatosy) heads out late in the night, early in the morning. He seems on edge. What’s he doing? Where is he going? Back at Smurf’s (Ellen Barkin) place the weird vibes between J (Finn Cole) and Nicky (Molly Gordon) continue, as she’s still banging uncle Craig (Ben Robson). Plus, the girl finds out that “Javi cant come back” when she inquires about J’s gun. And the whole thing’s just… awkward, tense, strange.
Well, Pope is waiting for mom when she wakes up, watching as she sleeps. Creepy. She’s creepy, too. Naked under the sheets, calling her eldest boy in with just a sheet separating them to cuddle. Although he refuses; this time.
Pic 1AIn other news, Baz (Scott Speedman) worries about Smurf and her skimming. He makes the mistake of telling Lucy (Carolina Guerra), because the more people around him know the more they’re at risk. And everyone even near Smurf, or Pope, or Baz, are at risk, at all times. Doesn’t help that Lucy and Pope aren’t exactly friendly, either.
But he’s got issues with Baz, that’s where it all starts. I keep wondering when it’s all going to explode. He loves Baz as a brother, and there’s also a fucked up jealousy.
Deran (Jake Weary) is out of the closet, so he’s experiencing life as a gay man truly for the first time. Banging dudes without worrying. Even feels strange to him to get a compliment for fucking a guy well. I love him, he’s so innocent in a way in terms of his sexuality while simultaneously totally non-innocent in his life as a thief. The guy he’s with right now? It’s the dude from the local business owners meeting.
Pope’s still into Bible study with Amy (Jennifer Landon). During one of their studies the police arrive to speak with her, naturally worrying our man who’s acting so casual, so cool. Problem is the police are looking for Leon, an ex-con working with the church; he’s scared, not contacting them back. Looks like the boys’ robbery is putting others in harm’s way now. I continuously feel curious about whether he’ll be able to shoulder the weight of guilt throughout this whole ordeal, it’s always getting worse.
At the house, Smurf is making bullets, to help show J. She’s also contending with Baz’s prying, trying to keep him happy. And wondering about the self-destructive nature of Pope, how Baz can “take care” of him. Likewise she tells Baz: “I took you in because the minute I laid eyes on you I fell in love with you.” She’s trying to keep him close, close, close. As he keeps an eye on her, tracking her every move.
Pic 2 (1)Craig’s starting to scope out the next job on his own. Ingratiating himself to other employees of the company where he’s working. For a fuck up, the dude is charming. Very charming. And back in the garage, Smurf teaches her grandson to make “loads” for the gun, pressing their own bullets. Ah, family time! Grandma further works to pump him up again, to restore his confidence. She teaches him much more than just how to make a few bullets. They actually talk about his mom, as well. A rare occasion for Smurf, she obviously didn’t love her daughter the same as her sons, for many reasons.
We see a bit of the good in Pope, a glimmer of hope in his personality. He talks with Amy’s friend Leon, levelling with him about their time in prison, what it’s like to come out and deal with the real world. Seems the man’s got a drug problem. During the robbery, he was fixing on heroin. Doesn’t want his parole jammed up. So Pope suggests an alternative plan, to help the guy out. As well as to help out his own conscience from feeling worse.
Baz gets out to the storage place where Smurf’s got a stash. Since 2004. Whoa. That could mean she’s been skimming for quite a long time. He manages to bribe his way into finding the exact number of her locker. Using some shady gear to spy the safe inside.
When Pope arrives at his apartment later he’s got cops tossing his shit, some of the ones from the church. They’re suspicious, naturally. He plays it totally cool on the outside, a simmering anger inside and no doubt a fear of heading back to jail.
Pic 3But what does Pope do now? So much for that guilt, or that conscience. He plants a bit of evidence he still has kicking around on – you guessed it – Leon. What a low move, man. Just as I thought there was humanity left in him, he puts the frame on someone he doesn’t deserve it. You can tell it weighs on him, but what’s the good of a conscience when it does nothing, when it’s only a vestigial, useless psychological organ?
Smurf tries patching things up. She doesn’t “believe in sorry” so that means she hands over $20K to each of her boys, to make up for being such a control freak and ruining their collective trust. However, she requires something: she needs their cash, to launder through her business. Works both ways, though. Gets them a tax record. Choices to make for everyone. The trust isn’t quite there again, not yet.
Baz: “Thats a lot of free cash, man. What are you gonna do with it?”
J: “Nothings free, man.”
Now Baz is discovering there was a Confidential Informant file started on Catherine, by her cop friend Patrick. This is starting to lead our boy in quite a scary direction; scary for those who know more than they let on, who are involved more than anyone else knows.
Speaking of scary, I’m worried for Nicky, getting further into the family business with Craig pulling her in on the latest job. Not only that she’s trying to one up on J, to make him jealous. Scared this may lead someplace dark.
One nice bit? Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark) and Deran get together at his bar for a drink. They talk about life, where it’s headed for them both. Deran wants to buy the whole building where he has the bar, to “go legit” – Adrian wonders if his brothers will let him.
Closer and closer Baz comes to the truth. He believes Smurf will do anything, from stealing her boys’ money to having Baz’s wife killed. And expressing this sentiment to Pope isn’t the the smartest move. Little does he know.
Pic 4Pic 4AThis was a good episode because it didn’t have any wild action, or much of the thrilling robbery stuff. It worked well on a character development level, focusing on plot points headed our way in the near future. Specifically, we’re seeing more sides of Pope, more of his guilt, his lack of any morality, as well as Baz starting to discover more of Catherine’s disappearance. Where that leads could irreparably change the Cody gang and the Animal Kingdom series as a whole forever. “Custody” is next week, promising further intensity, as usual.

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Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 5: “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 5: “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”
Directed by Laura Innes
Written by T.J. Brady & Rasheed Newson

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Broken Boards” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Cry Havoc” – click here
Pic 1J (Finn Cole) is learning to shoot, under the tutelage of a professional friend of Smurf’s (Ellen Barkin); they set him loose on a training course, the range. With grandma’s help, her physical and emotional closeness, J’s able to pop off the impressively aimed shots. Their relationship gets deeper, even while indulging in gun violence. Dangerous sort of thing.
Meanwhile, Deran (Jake Weary) is stealing a truck from the airport long term parking lot. He’s not quite a full-time business man just yet. At his place, Baz (Scott Speedman) is working on his own part of the latest job, though he gets a visit from Lucy (Carolina Guerra) out of the blue. He has $15K for her. Their relationship’s not one of stability, sort of all over the place. Certainly would be different if he knew exactly what happened to Catherine, at the hands of his adopted brother Pope (Shawn Hatosy).
Speak of the devil, he’s half paying attention to the church and all it entails, including Amy (Jennifer Landon), half paying attention to their coming robbery. He and Amy are getting closer all the time. She’s got her own demons, though as I’ve mentioned before despite how bad they are they’re not AS bad as the ones lurking within Pope. Either way they’re propelled into each other’s arms. I wonder, will this cause him to mess up on the job? Or perhaps change his mind? One thing I do love about his character, it’s hard to predict what he’ll do from one moment to the next.
Amy: “You might have a special reward coming your way tonight
Pic 1AEverybody’s doing their thing and managing to keep their eye on the job, their little side things. At least for now. Craig (Ben Robson) isn’t as keen on J’s involvement as the others, even after quitting the job. He’s being a big “baby about it.” So Deran calls him out. And let’s face it, Craig IS a piece of shit.
J and Nicky (Molly Gordon) are still flirting around one another, both living at Smurf’s place. Grandma has her own worries, as well. A couple men jump out of a plumbing van and pull her inside. Kidnapped, like that! Shit. But don’t put her out, she’s a tough fuck. She taunts her captors, acting nonchalant about the whole ordeal.
The boys are at home, plotting for the job. Pope confirms the times, during which Baz and J will be waiting in the ducts. “You do not kill anyone,” Baz explains to the kid. Yet uncle Pope reminds him, if it’s necessary, it’s necessary.
Smurf is brought to Javier (Alex Meraz), he asks about Community South. A job she did with his dad. Says he ran off with the cash. Javi says she killed him. He wants “$300 grand in cash” within twenty-four hours. Or else tapes concerning the dark history of Smurf land in the hands of the cops. So, does she have a plan? I don’t think she has $300K lying around, not cash on hand. Might make her do something… stupid.
Pic 2At the house, Craig whines about not being on the latest job, although he quit. Nicky talks truth to him. And he’s too immature to take it serious. Doesn’t want advice from a teenager, doesn’t mind fucking one, either. Idiot. That relationship is going to cause a rough situation at some point. If they follow the film’s plot, it’ll be particularly tragic.
In the church service, Baz and J fit in, as does Pope acting as if he belongs there alongside Amy; in a way, he almost looks like he does. All appears set for the job to get underway. I’m always interested to see Baz and J together, because I keep wondering if he’s father to the kid. There’s always that thought in the back of my mind. When the collection plate passes by, they slip a bit in. Stuff they’ll get back soon.
Is it coincidence the church has raised about $335,000? Makes me curious. When Smurf needs just shy of that to take care of her debt. Perhaps we’ll witness a brutal divide between her and the boys brought on by her robbing THEM? I don’t know. Just a thought. She’ll do anything as it is, let alone when jail time is on the line. And serious fucking time, too.
Baz and J head for the bathrooms, as Pope goes for Bible study. When the hall is clear, the pair head into the ducts and Pope seals them inside before heading back to his little group. Thus begins the next phase of the robbery. They head further into the ducts, outside the building Deran stands watch. Pope has to stall, talking with Amy about the possible sex she suggested earlier. Sly, dude. Then he slips back to make sure the lock on the door is jammed. Game, set, match; right?
Drunk, Craig shows up in front where Deran is waiting. The two of them get into an argument. Also, in the vents, J scrapes himself deep on a metal edge; uh oh. If that leaves blood they’re fucked. At the same time, Deran causes a distraction outside, in between his fighting with his brother. Baz realises J’s bleeding, the metal dug into his leg. He rips the kid free, using duct tape to cover the wound. Only problem I’m curious about is, when J was helping the cops for that brief time, did they put him in their database in terms of DNA? If not, that’s no problem. I just keep feeling that bad things are headed for the Cody gang. In many, many ways. Certainly, in many ways, the bad things are already here.
Pic 3These dudes are sophisticated, using every modern technique at their disposal. Deran keeps an eye on the situation outside with the security guard, while J and Baz get themselves into the safe under the floor. They certainly leave behind a mess, between the soundproofing foam they spray to drops of J’s blood in the ducts. But, for the time being, our boys are off with another bit of money, another heist in the books. They try continually dropping the safe from a crane to break the locking mechanisms. Soon, they do, and they find bags filled with cash. An actual heist that was worth the effort.
Then there’s Craig, hammered and high on cocaine, flying through traffic on his bike. He whizzes through traffic, down to the beach. Then wipes out in the sand. Lucky he’s alive, really.
Celebrating the robbery, the boys also have a look at J’s leg. It isn’t good. They can’t take him to a hospital, either. It’s “staple gun” or “cauterise the wound” and J goes with the former. Uncle Deran holds him down while Baz closes the wound. He’s a tough enough lad. To which Deran responds warmly: “Welcome to the family.”
Pope and Amy wind up at her place. Naked. She asks him to touch himself. They move closer, nearly touching. Almost more sexual than anything they could’ve done. This relationship is massively interesting to me. I keep wondering how it’ll play out. I keep wondering if Pope can have true intimacy, after what’s gone on between him and Smurf.
Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 1.21.33 AMOn the beach where he crashed, Craig is found, unconscious, fucked up. Simultaneously, Nick helps poor J tend to his nasty wound. And fresh off a hitch hiking journey, Smurf makes it home with serious regrets from the past. All ain’t well.
Smurf (to J): “Once you decide to shoot, you keep shooting. You understand me?”
“Cry Havoc” is the next episode. We’re about to see fallout from the church robbery, as Pope falls deeper in love with Amy, into their intimate relationship. And we’re also going to see what Smurf chooses to do about her serious situation involving Javi.

Aquarius – Season 1, Episode 2: “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 1, Episode 2: “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game”
Directed by Jonas Pate
Written by John McNamara

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 premiere, “Everybody’s Been Burned” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Never Say Never to Always” – click here
IMG_0244Ken Karn (Brian F. O’Byrne) gives his wife Grace (Michaela McManus) and Dt. Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) a load of bullshit, about nearly being mugged at knifepoint. He won’t tell them about Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) almost raping him. Nor the fact he knows Charlie, and well. The other two are curious, as to why he’s hiding things. But Ken shuts it all down with his talk of knowing those in high places. Our detective is relentless, though. He’ll figure things out.
Up at the hippy ranch, Emma (Emma Dumont) is falling more and more for the persona of Manson. Although she’s hungry, they’ve got no food. He certainly isn’t working. He’s hypnotising them all into working “for the dream.” And what’s the dream? His career in music.
Dt. Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) is trying to get things done with Mike Vickery (Jason Ralph), but he’s also helping Hodiak, distracting him. The pair of detectives are unlikely, an interesting relationship. They’re parts of two different generations, vastly different, as Shafe has a bit of hippy in him. They end up heading down to a minority neighbourhood, where a woman’s been killed; blunt force trauma to the head. The victim’s husband is a racist, upset by the police not coming down there when they ought to; not liking “darkest monkeyville” where he’s living, in the “Congo.” His disgusting talk seems to really upset Dt. Shafe, too.
IMG_0245Ken meets with Hal Banyin (Spencer Garrett), who’s also aware of Charlie. He advises to take care of Charlie, get rid of the detective. It’s clear they’ve got mutual interests. And with political season around the corner, they can’t afford any big messes boiling over.
In a store, Emma gets caught trying to steal a jacket. This puts the store owner in the line of Charlie’s fire. He gets the jacket for them, not without some blood on his blade. “Do what needs to be done,” he tells Emma.
While the police force as a whole in America, particularly during the late ’60s, is a racist institution, Hodiak seems to have an actual relationship with black people, store owners, so on. Even more so with Shafe, he’s got a rapport with the people in the neighbourhood where they’re investigating the murder.
At least until Bunchy Carter (Gaius Charles) from the Nation of Islam arrives, shutting down the cops and their questioning; he chastises the “occupying force” of the LAPD, only concerned with white murders. All the while Sam is figuring out the murdered woman might’ve been done in by her husband. He uses Bunchy as a decoy, though. An opportunity to make the husband feel at ease? I’d bet on it.
Through Vickery and his man Art Gladner, Hodiak and Shafe make certain there’s no confusion about the latter being cool, not being an undercover cop. Clearing the path for more of their mission.
IMG_0246At a Young Republicans bash, Ken runs into Manson. He’s dropped by to give thanks for being connected to some music industry folk. The father also wants his daughter back. Except it isn’t something Charlie will grant, not without cash for a demo to shop his music around. So, it’s either cough up the money or face some “ugly ass genies” popping out their bottles to see the light of day.
Emma’s doing more for the hippy clan, she’s found them plenty food to feed on. This prompts Charlie to rename his girl Cherry Pop. Only more sinister because his hooks are in deep, too deep for her to escape.
A surprise shows up at Hodiak’s place: his son Walt (Chris Sheffield). He’s back from military duty, though his dad thinks there’s something strange about his apparent leave. Hmm. Sam’s got more to do down at the station, interrogating Bunchy as the husband of the murdered woman kicks around outside. All part of the plan. He orchestrates things to pull a confession out. A method to what previously seemed like madness.
We also see that there’s a good deal of tension beginning to bubble between Hodiak and Bunchy, something we’ll surely see more of play out soon enough.
Hodiak: “Wives can be a lot of things, but we dont get to beat them to death.”
IMG_0247Sam discovers why Shafe feels for the black community – his wife Kristin (Milauna Jackson) is black. Discovering things about each other all the time. The pair of detectives do jive, even if there’s a generational gap. Because it feels to me that the worst parts of Hodiak are the fact he’s a cop. It’s that side of him which draws out the primitive parts of himself, the badness.
He goes to see his ex-wife Opal (Jodi Harris), she’s been part of their son going AWOL from the army. Shit. Now there’s also the side of Sam which deals with duty, honour. He’s a military man himself and he’s disappointed in the fact his son has deserted his duty.
Grace dug up phone records on her husband and Manson’s conversations. Likewise, she brings up more. That, to her, Ken is like “a sphinx” and he’s a mystery. They only got married because she was pregnant.
And at the very same time, Ken is with Charlie giving him money for the demo. Half upfront, half later. Before they kiss. Such a psycho-sexual bond between these two men. Ultra strange.
IMG_0249What a whopper of a follow-up episode from the premiere. Things have gotten twisted, they already were at the start. But this episode truly gets things pumping, the deeper we watch these character open up, fall, and move through a dark world.
“Never Say Never to Always” is next and will bring up even more madness to chew on.

Aquarius – Season 1, Episode 1: “Everybody’s Been Burned”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 1, Episode 1: “Everybody’s Been Burned”
Directed by Jonas Pate
Written by John McNamara

* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” – click here
IMG_02281967, in Los Angeles. Emma Karn (Emma Dumont) is sick of her parents Grace (Michaela McManus) and Ken (Brian F. O’Byrne) fighting. She heads off in the night with Rick Zondervan (Beau Mirchoff) to escape to a party, a place of free love, fun, weed, drinks, music. What any young person the late ’60s hoped to enjoy. Except at that party, taking a shine to Emma, is a man named Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony). The manipulation he employs in order to meet her immediately shows his character, how eerie and possessive he is as a person. He speaks of the city, its lights as a “snake” which they’ll eat before it eats them. His hypnotism already at work.
Charlie: “I know how much it hurts, like a body, soul screaming to be heard.”
We meet Detective Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny), a local cop. He’s friends with Grace Karn, she calls about her daughter going missing. They need help. So, Sam is the man to get shit done. There’s a quick introduction to his character that serves him well, seeing him miss his keys, forced to hotwire his own car to leave. At the Karn place, he meets the parents and gets more information on their daughter. It’s revealed Ken is in politics, wanting to keep his wayward daughter out of the papers, unofficially. A point of contention in the marriage. Turns out Grace and Sam, they’ve got a romantic past, too.
IMG_0230Sam starts by talking to Rick, who threatens him with daddy going to court. Quickly, we see more of Hodiak, that he isn’t one to worry about such things. He’s a renegade cop, the type that still exist but ran absolutely rampant back in the ’60s, strong arming and doing whatever necessary during an investigation.
Up at the camp with Charlie, Emma is falling in with their little roving family. He’s charismatic, interesting, he plays guitar and sings, write songs. She seems to be enjoying this new adventure in life. She hears about Charlie’s “vision” of being “bigger than the Beatles.” Thus starts the psychosis of it all.
The streets are on fire with protests. At a diner, Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) is buying drugs from Mike Vickery (Jason Ralph). In fact he’s a cop, undercover. We also see that he’s not your typical officer of the law, even gets taken down by one of his own while trying to calm down a forceful cop agitating protesters. And this fighting spirit when he’s taken to the precinct impresses Hodiak, who wants a less clean, rugged type helping him on his latest case.
Shafe (re: other cops): “If its somethinyou dont understand you wanna hit it, fuck it, or shoot it.”
Fun to see Hodiak adjusting to the new rules for cops, concerning Miranda rights. They’ve actually got cards to remember them. Just a glimpse into the times changing, and whether he likes it or not the detective has to change. Or else be left behind, or worse. The detectives do wind up finding out a bit of info on Charlie, his biker friend Roy Kovic (David Meunier), so it’s something to go on.
IMG_0231Sadie (Ambyr Childers) is one of Manson’s ladies, she reels Emma in with romantic talk about their cult-like leader. She paints him as a new age philosopher, a psychic magician. All of which makes the girl feel that this is a place where she belongs, even if she’s being cruelly indoctrinated into a place of worship.
The rest of the work is done by the silken tongue of the devilish Charlie, hauling Emma further in by speaking what she wants to hear, playing on her broken spirit. Because he’s broken, too. He talks of her mother, what she did to him as a child, a brief glimpse into his wretched soul. Then they have ritualistic sex, as the other women come in to join the pleasure.
Charlie: “I dont look at you. I see you.”
Shafe enlists Sam to help with his recent drug deal and upcoming bust involving Mike. The two partners are getting closer. They also ask a young officer named Charmain Tully (Claire Holt) in order to infiltrate a party. There, Brian finds out more about Manson, and then meets Kovic, a member of the Straight Satans biker gang. Only it gets tense when Charmain thinks she might have to fuck Kovic. More than she expected out of this little mission. So Shafe topples the biker down the stairs, beating up his leg to get them out of there fast. Further than that we see that our young detective isn’t afraid to dip into the buzz while undercover. Might this come back to haunt him?
They start digging through Manson’s history, everything from assault to robbery to anything else under the sun. They visit his parole officer, finding out the guy likes to pimp women. He’s also connected to politicians – possibly why he knows so much about Emma, connected to her dad – and movie stars, so on. Yes, Ken knows Charlie because he’s a big time lawyer, one with political weight. Should be interesting to watch the Karn family’s story play out.
IMG_0232Manson soon confronts his old pal Ken, about what he remembers; and he’s got a looong memory, good one, too. Now he needs to be put in touch with some musicians, some big names. He’s trying to move on up in the world. Then he explains about Emma being with him, taunting with nastiness. Before starting to rape Ken at the end of a blade, nearly getting the job done before a car interrupts. This is the most vicious we’ve seen in the opening episode. Not the most vicious we’ll see later on.
IMG_0235Such a good start to this series. Always liked reading about Charles Manson, a truly despicable character in the history of modern America. “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” is next, starting to unfold more about Charlie and more of Dt. Hodiak’s personal story.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 10: “Lantern”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 10: “Lantern”
Directed by Peter Gould
Written by Gennifer Hutchison

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 3 episode, “Fall” – click here
Pic 1We see young Chuck reading to a little Jimmy by light of a lantern, two brothers once so close. It’s like a marker to show us how far Chuck (Michael McKean) and Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) have come, how deeply tarnished their relationship is at this point. A long, brutal journey. I’m also curious as to how long Chuck’s illness has been going on; were they camping, or was it merely how he liked to read, by lantern?
But more important, back to Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), who’s in rough shape. Alive, though. That’s the main thing. She’s been pulling way too hard for the business and it isn’t a case of she’s working too much, it’s a case of she has to work that much. Because being in a partnership with Jimmy requires you do the extra work.
What about Chuck? He’s in a meeting with Howard (Patrick Fabian) and a bunch of other lawyers. He lays out what he sees as the only options. He doesn’t want to be the “agent of [the firm’s] destruction” and would like to settle things quickly. With only a handshake between Howard and himself. His partner’s not so keen. Feels that Chuck has let the McGill vendetta takeover his better judgement in regards to the firm. Nor does he like that the old guy went straight for a lawsuit against him after a bit of a disagreement. Howard decides on paying Chuck millions out of pocket to resolve their dispute. Followed by a sort of public shaming, masquerading as gratitude.
Pic 1AJimmy looks after Kim while she recuperates in bed, unable to move much because of her cast and injuries. She replenishes her electrolytes while he cooks breakfast. He lays out his plans about the office, subletting and such. That she may want to work from home. Kim, instead of feeling happy to be alive, feels guilty for driving off the road. Could have killed somebody. Yet again, I have to say: JIMMY’S FAULT! She’s spent her time picking up after him. Sure, she got in the car herself. Doesn’t change the fact he’s put pressure on the business, as Chuck did with his own, due to a personal, family feud. Everything else stems from that.
Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) goes to the shop owned by Nacho’s (Michael Mando) father, to check out the whole outfit. The don wants to talk with papi, though Nacho is wary. The two men meet, they have a tenuous meeting. Hector pulls out a load of cash like it’s meant to make an impression; Mr. Varga is not impressed. His son urges him to be reasonable. Family is what keeps him from doing anything unwise. Despite his morals.
Note: Juxtaposition of the two different views of family values, from the Varga family to the McGills, is a truly poignant way to set these stories together throughout the various episodes. Makes for a cohesive flow you don’t necessarily see in the beginning, until the plots open up more.
Francesca (Tina Parker) is also taking care of things for Kim, helping out. She’s rescheduled things and made the workload easier during recovery. Kim is finally starting to slow down. She goes to Blockbuster – still open at this point a few years ago – renting a ton of movies. Is she trying to fill up her time and actually rest?
Pic 2Meanwhile, Jimmy goes to see Chuck, checking to see if he’s all right. Seems he is, as the place is lit up with lamps and music is playing on the record player. The younger brother is feeling guilty about what’s gone on between them. He has regrets about their relationship. The older brother isn’t particularly enthused with any of it. “Whats the point?” he asks. No reason to regret. He does not believe Jimmy can change: “You hurt people, over and over and over.” Then he drops the bomb that he’s never actually cared much about his younger brother, in one of the MOST COLD HEARTED LINES I’ve heard in my life. Just, whoa. Knocked my socks off.
Later on by himself, the oldest McGill shuts down all the power. Silent admission of his own inability to change, much as he chastises his brother. He thinks there’s still power flowing, even after disconnecting the breaker. He’s going full loony.
Jimmy drops over to see Irene, bringing her balloons and things for her cats. He’s excited about the settlement. It’s clear she doesn’t share that enthusiasm. The other women hate her now, the relationship has changed. His elaborate and nasty plan has ultimately backfired. The old ladies question her integrity; in reality, it his integrity. What a shit person he is, really. Much as I give him a chance, he’s not a good man. What he did to Irene and those ladies is despicable behaviour.
Pic 3Chuck is going mad trying to find the source of his discomfort, believing the electrical meter to still be turning even after he’s disconnected everything. And it does turn, only a tiny bit. It’s his mind amplifying it to magnified heights. The stress in his life, the relationship with Jimmy, everything is exacerbating the mental illness. So, he keeps searching, he won’t stop. He feels along the walls, looking for wherever the last bits of electricity are pumping. He starts ripping and beating holes in the walls, looking close as humanly possible. Leaving him and the house a wreck. Then he actually beats the meter off the pole outside to make it all stop.
In other news, Nacho meets his crew and Don Hector. They’re meeting Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Juan Bolsa (Javier Grajeda), bringing a message from Don Eladio. “Only one route” across the border from now on, via the Los Pollos Hermanos trucks. Hector gets mouthy with them, getting angry. His heart pumping. Leading to an attack. He hits the ground, passing out. Gus has one of the men call 9-11, sending Juan off and the others hiding guns. Nacho manages to get hold of the fake pills, switching them out for the real ones. And Mr. Fring knows exactly what’s happened.
There’s more to that despicable side of Jimmy. He’s in one of the exercise classes with the ladies again, only this time he’s filling in for the instructor. Erin (Jessie Ennis) interrupts, needing to speak with him. She calls him out on what he did, and he doesn’t realise that his headset is on, broadcasting everything to the class. YOU DONE FUCKED UP, JAMES! He comes across as the monster he is, exposing himself unknowingly to the old folks at Sand Piper. Yet it’s all part of his plan, to get Mrs. Landry to go back on the settlement.
Even though he sort of acknowledges his cruelty, he doesn’t actually accept it.
Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 2.27.27 AMKim and Jimmy are shutting down the office for good. Gone as far as they can go, and I wonder how far they’ll go together after this moment. She’s so loyal to him. It’s a car crash this time. What will it be next time?
And over at Chuck’s, the old guy has had enough. He’s littered the place with books, torn the place apart. Now he’s kicking his lantern at the edge of the table. Kicking it to the floor where it breaks, starting a fire that lights his home ablaze.
Christ. I wonder if this is the end of Chuck McGill. If, so, a vicious and wild end, a damned awful way to commit suicide.
Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 2.39.06 AMWhat a season! They have to go for a Season 4, if not there’s so much wasted. But you know there will be. I want to see the next phase of what happens concerning Fring and Don Hector and Nacho. Plus, we need to see what will become of Chuck! If he dies, this will truly bite at Jimmy’s heart, no matter how heartless he is; it’ll be the final nail in the coffin of his confidence, knowing then he’s someone who’s contributed in the long, terrible downfall of his brother.
Bring on Season 4!

Bellevue – Season 1 Finale: “You Don’t Understand Me at All”

CBC’s Bellevue
Season 1, Episode 8: “You Don’t Understand Me at All”
Directed by Adrienne Mitchell
Written by Jane Maggs

* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “The Man Behind the Curtain” – click here
Pic 1On the lonely road in the woods, Brady’s been run down; dead. Annie (Anna Paquin) is left relatively unscathed. The driver of the other vehicle? Adam (Patrick Labbé), of course. He’s saved his estranged sister, keeping her safe from near death. He says he wanted to “end the cycle.” But what does this mean? He still isn’t satisfied, and he’s off running into the woods once more, away from her. The mystery still churning.
Welland (Shawn Doyle) and the others arrive not long after, carting away the body, left with the aftermath of Brady’s revelations concerning his incestuous feelings for his sister Briana (Amber Goldfarb), which eventually led to him killing Jesse. Afterwards, Eddie (Allen Leech) begs Annie to walk away from the job, if only for their daughter Daisy (Madison Ferguson). But we know there’s too much obsession in her veins for that. Especially now with her brother’s mysteries still floating in the air.
Pic 1APoor Briana, having to deal with her brother before and now with his death. All upsetting, despite the circumstances. She tells Annie about their abusive father, that Brady came to bring the worst of it on himself to save her from it. A troubled past, no doubt. Doesn’t change the ugliness which came later.
Coach Tom (Vincent Leclerc) gets a call about his daughter in trouble. He rushes into the woods, calling for her. His leg winds up caught in a bear trap. The police get there and hear the calls of a girl; it’s a recording, tied to a tree. They also see SANDY carved bloody across Tom’s chest. Ah, this is the heart of the whole thing.
They find more info from Maggie Sweetland (Victoria Sanchez), about the shack in the woods around New Horizons, about Tom when they were younger, all sorts of things. Father Jameson (Joe Cobden) was involved, too. As was Lily (Janine Theriault). Some more cruel than others, such as the priest. He “had a habit of humiliating.” Suddenly Welland and Annie decipher the LION clue from in front of the church, which leads them to find Jameson strung up, though not dead; SANDY carved into his forehead.
All those years ago, they tortured Sandy, locking her in the shack. Because Lily wanted the part of Mary in the school pageant. And one question remains: where’s Lily? They’ve found the other two. She must be out there, somewhere.
Pic 2Answers lie with Adam, his few clues that he left Annie. What’s driving him? What is the ultimate goal? Go back to the beginning, with the murder of Sandy. Immaculate conception, without sin, Mary. Did he help Sandy die because she wanted to be free? Was it “mercy“? Maybe something darker.
The idea of mercy leads them to a street of the same name, an old brewery. They find a lily on the floor. Further on are boot prints. Welland the rest dig out a pile of dirt and locate Lily in a coffin underneath. Each of the three culprits of Sandy’s humiliation not killed yet tortured to a great extent.
Adam turns up to see his niece Daisy. She opens the door for him bravely. “Youre the one who leaves the riddles,” she says without fear. They sit and talk about their family, their shared history, dear ole grandpa, and certainly mom. He speaks of Jesse, how he was treated like Sandy and driven to bad places by the bullies in their lives. Only I worry about his intentions with Daisy, I hope he’s not playing any dangerous games.
When Eddie and Annie can’t find their daughter, they’re frantic. Looking for clues anywhere possible. They see cutout paper people holding hands, posted on the trees. This leads her out into the woods alone, just as Sandy Driver once ran through the same path being tormented by the three torturers. Annie finds Adam, sending Daisy back to her father.
That day long ago, Adam found Sandy locked in the shack. He broke her free. They bonded instantly. Both of them feeling cast out by the world, their families, their friends. She pulled off the bloody fingernails loosened from scratching at the shack’s walls, then put his hands around her throat. A terrifying and subtle moment, it’s actually so powerful. Dark, but powerful.
Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 1.04.32 AMAdam (to Annie): “I am you. You are me. Dont you get it?”
The brother and sister confront their past, all those ugly pieces of their life that fell in whatever place they were able to fall. Adam embraces Annie, feeling somehow elated by all the confession and the revelation. But she laments him, the fact their father is dead because of him. Then he puts his hands around her throat, the same as he did Sandy. She puts a shot through him just before Eddie and Welland and the rest track them down.
Once things settle down, Annie’s planning on leaving. She needs to move on. Although Welland doesn’t think she’s okay, that she needs time to heal and grieve. Eddie wants to get his family out of Bellevue, for all their sake, particularly that of his daughter. There’s a lot of history, though. Welland is like a second father to Annie, he feels responsible for her after Clarence killed himself. Maybe feels more, confirmed by the conversation in the confessional which he had with Adam, one we see again briefly. Wow.
Regardless, nothing is easy. Definitely not goodbyes. Yet it’s a new beginning, as well. For everyone. No matter how tough.
Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 1.17.31 AMWhat a fucking show. I’m so sad this has been cancelled, it would’ve been nice to see a Season 2 and find out where Welland ends up, where Annie and Eddie do and if they last, if Bellevue would keep calling to Ms. Ryder. Even so, Season 1(and only) ended with a bittersweet note that does feel of finality.

Bellevue – Season 1, Episode 7: “The Man Behind the Curtain”

CBC’s Bellevue
Season 1, Episode 7: “The Man Behind the Curtain”
Directed by Adrienne Mitchell
Written by Morwyn Brebner

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Problem with the Truth” – click here
* For a recap & review of the season finale, “You Don’t Understand Me at All” – click here
Pic 1Annie (Anna Paquin) and Eddie (Allen Leech) aren’t on speaking terms at the moment. She actually takes a spill in the road chasing his car because he won’t say a word. She apologises for the previous night, his run-in with Brady (Billy MacLellan), though her ex isn’t totally in the right, either. She tells him about having a brother, named Adam (Patrick Labbé), that he’s lost, “messed up” and such. So, is her long lost older brother her Riddler? All these years?
Meanwhile, Virginia (Sharon Taylor) has poked holes in the alibi of Coach Tom (Vincent Leclerc). She and Annie interrogate him. Although he’s a bit drunk. They probed further about the night Jesse was murdered. Turns out he DID pick the kid up, and others were involved. Lily (Janine Theriault) and Father Jameson (Joe Cobden), to be exact. Welland (Shawn Doyle) asks his detectives to bring the priest and the mayor in for questioning.
And what about Adam out there in the wilderness? He gets a call on his radio from… Brady (Billy MacLellan), or is that someone else’s voice? Then at the station, Dt. Holt interrogates Father J, as Annie and Welland are in a room with Lily, and Victoria stays with the coach.
Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 11.58.03 PMThe three were “worried about” Jesse, supposedly. They wanted to convince her to play the game, not rock the boat in their little town; that’s all it was, not some altruistic intent on their behalf. Only problem is that Jesse took off from the church, not leaving with either of the three. They lied to save themselves the embarrassment, to not look weak in front of their town. Bunch of dummies. And why go to the church, simply to talk? Suspicious, if you ask me.
Furthermore, Annie goes to the church, determining someone else was there lurking behind the three and Jesse that fateful night. Afterwards when they’re alone together, she and Welland discuss Clarence possibly having another child. There’s no record of an Adam Ryder in the system, as if he’s invisible; or he does not exist. A ghost. But he’s very real. He’s keeping an eye on the mayor, the coach, and the priest. Was he the one in that church? If so, what is the ultimate connection? WHY Adam?
Annie and Welland are searching for their mystery man. Nobody seems to have seen him around Bellevue. Suddenly, Welland remembers a clue about “this mess” from Sid hearing the man talk. It was in fact a man called Bobby Storms, a military school boy; this is the mystery man, Adam. Psychological issues abound, sent away at a young age.
The two cops together go into the forest, they find Adam’s makeshift lodge. Annie sees relics of her youth, the clown statue, the doll. She remembers lost memories of her and Adam. He was strangely possessive about her: “Youre mine.” Such an eerie moment.
Pic 4A bit of a break comes when Daisy falls in the lake where Jesse washed up. She gets an antibiotic because of bacteria in the water. Thus, the killer might very well have some kind of infection requiring medication.
Annie and Eddie connect again, a little, as she tells him about Adam and what she can remember about their past. “Maybe he just wanted me all for himself,” she rationalises. Even if it wasn’t a paedophilic thing, it was still unsettling. A dangerous thing, possibly. It’s no wonder Clarence reacted by sending him away, I don’t exactly blame him. Either way, through the prism of Adam we watch Annie discover things about herself, her own possessive tendencies towards love. I’d like to think she can change.
With a clue from a note in the woods, Welland goes to the church where he sees Adam in the flesh. They casually sit in the confessional – a great little piece of symbolism – talking about the past, Peter saying he wants to take him in the woods and shoot him in the face. So the long lost brother has a few final things to say before running off. Only we don’t hear the words ourselves.
Virginia and Annie come across new information about Brady, his confidential informants. He’s also acting strangely. This sets Annie off, and she finds an empty bottle of antibiotics in his bathroom. Holy shit. There’s a white truck in the garage outside, too. Now he’s on the run from her, off into the night. Or maybe not. He pulls a gun on her from out of nowhere before she can contact Welland. He threatens that if she doesn’t play along, he’ll kill her daughter.
Pic 5Dt. Holt was there that night, watching in the church. The three pressured Jesse, not to tell the police, to serve his community. They effectively blamed him for “freak urges” inside. What exactly drove him further? Why has it affected Brady so deeply? He has feelings for his sister Briana (Amber Goldfarb), he loves her more than a man should love a sibling. An improper, taboo love. And that’s what drove him to it. When he tried to reach out to Jesse, equating his feelings of incest with the transgender issues Jesse faced, the kid called him “sick” and it drove him over the edge. Oh, god. Such devastating things we could’ve never seen coming.
Then, as he’s about to shoot Annie in the woods, someone hits him in their vehicle. Knocking his body bloody and lifeless onto the windshield in front of her.
Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 12.22.50 AMHOLY CHRIST! What an episode, I never saw any of this coming personally. Such intense, deep revelations. Just spectacularly dark writing, and comes together in a neat little package. Although there are still things to uncover.
“You Don’t Understand Me at All” is next, the final episode of the season and series as a whole.

Bellevue – Season 1, Episode 6: “The Problem with the Truth”

CBC’s Bellevue
Season 1, Episode 6: “The Problem with the Truth”
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Written by Waneta Storms

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “How Do I Remember?” – click here
* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “The Man Behind the Curtain” – click here
Pic 1If it wasn’t obvious by now, Annie (Anna Paquin) is obsessed. She’s whittling away at the similarities between the deaths of Jesse Sweetland and Sandy Driver. Eddie (Allen Leech) grew up with Jesse’s mother Maggie, so he gives his two cents. Even young Daisy (Madison Ferguson) has opinions.
There are no clear answers, though. Everybody has some sort of dark secret in Bellevue. There’s a muddy past behind every door. Welland (Shawn Doyle) has his big secrets, some of which our lead detective has already figured out, resenting him for, obviously.
Moreover, Annie wants to see her father Clarence’s (Patrick Labbé) notes from before he died, concerning the case of Sandy’s murder. She starts digging into the details, starting with Randy Oldring (Kent McQuaid) whose entire life has been shaped negatively due to finding the girl’s corpse, fingernails missing, all that. Something we don’t often see, aside from the murder victim – the people who’ve seen the remnants of brutal murder, corpses left in the woods like garbage, they must go through difficult psychological issues. Still, they weren’t murdered, and no matter how bad Randy seems he’s alive; unlike Sandy.
Pic 1AWe see that young Ms. Driver was Mary in the school play, same as Bethany Mansfield (Emelia Hellman) is now. Mayor Mother Mansfield (Janine Theriault) is in a photo, also in the play. What’s her connection to Sandy, I wonder?
Annie finds a cut out page in her father’s notes. Something involving a 9-11 call and Lily Mansfield. When she listens to the call on a tape, Annie discovers mentions of an intruder at the house who left “fingernails.” Yikes.
She comes across VHS tapes, as well. Trusty ole Brady Holt (Billy MacLellan) has a VCR at home, she heads over to watch the tapes with a few beer. They bond, chat. And on the tapes they find Lily as a girl, her answers to questions about Sandy. Lily says she’s an “old soul” and she clearly comes on to Clarence. Uh oh, I am seeing this heading someplace problematic. Starting to become apparent why dad tore out those pages.
Or is it? Part of why I love Bellevue – tragically, seeing as how it’s cancelled now – is that the mystery is always deep, incredibly palpable. In that, at times, you can never decipher whether things are headed where it seems. Although it looks as if maybe Clarence knocked up Lily, who on the hush-hush supposedly had an abortion years ago.
Annie goes to see the Mayor of Bellevue. The woman is less than forthcoming, acting like a real jerk. “I have a fucking alibi,” she crows through gritted teeth. No information coming out of this one, that’s for sure. When Annie brings it all to Welland, he confirms part of his trying to protect her was to avoid any awkward revelations about her father. Except, why did Clarence not file anything about the fingernails, the 9-11 call, everything else? WHY?
Pic 2Later, Welland gets a call from Sid Oak (Raphael Grosz-Harvey), saying he’s heard the voice of the Riddler again, down at the bar. Ah, a lead, and Peter actually invites Brady to go along, so it looks legit. Just another way to make himself look genuine? Hard to tell.
Meanwhile, Virginia Panamick (Sharon Taylor) is running down leads of her own to connect all the dots. She’s starting to wonder about their boss, what he’s investigating. He might’ve included Brady in helping round up men at the bar, but he certainly didn’t say much else.
A code of numbers written on Clarence’s notebook corresponding to his pager and the symbols on it lead Annie to another clue, leading back to previous pieces: New Horizons. She requests a patient list for the old mental hospital. At the same time, she’s becoming more and more suspicious of Welland, that it was possibly him involved with Sandy, not her father.
We see a flashback to young Lily, a younger Peter responding to her call and collecting the fingernails. She flushed the evidence down a toilet, not wanting the grief. Followed by seduction. Welland took the 9-11 call that night, prompting everything else. So it’s less a sinister act on his part, more the fact he’s a liar who made a mistake and let things snowball into a fucking avalanche. Now he’s lost the trust of Annie, too. In a massive way.
She has other problems aside from that. With Eddie. She wants them to be together, to finish all the nonsense between them. Yet he worries about her, constantly, about things going crazy. He can’t do that anymore. He wants a “calm, simple” life, one that doesn’t jive with her, so he says.
Eddie: “You dont have to feel pain to be with someone
Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 11.06.07 PMWelland goes to see Lily, demanding to know more about the man who left the fingernails. He’s very serious. He’s pissed, and lashes out in anger. The guilt of Clarence killing himself over the case tears him to pieces. And Lily, she feels that Welland brings out the best in her, that she can’t be real with anyone else. It’s a dark thing they have together.
Virginia’s finding out more about Coach Tom. That his wife wasn’t home the night of Jesse’s murder, which then means she can’t alibi her husband. Hmm, curious, no?
In the woods at the cabin, Annie stumbles into a man as she rages in a drunk stupor. Who is he? Is it the Riddler? She almost believes it’s her father, at first. Then, back in the cabin, she finds another clue, about someone named Adam; his height etched into the door frame above her own.
Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 11.10.33 PMAnother solid chapter, unravelling a bit of the mystery while still retaining the core, the darkness which makes the atmosphere of the series so interesting. “The Man Behind the Curtain” is the penultimate finisher. I hope that, despite its cancellation, this sole season can end on a good note story-wise. We’ll see!

Bellevue – Season 1, Episode 5: “How Do I Remember?”

CBC’s Bellevue
Season 1, Episode 5: “How Do I Remember?”
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Written by Jane Maggs & Thomas Pound

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Hello Little Light” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Problem with The Truth” – click here
Pic 1Talking through the surveillance system, Annie (Anna Paquin) talks to the Riddler, the mystery man. She thanks him, for helping with her father’s death. He helped give her purpose, in a strange way. He tells her now to “trust her instincts” about his identity. She asks him more about the murders of Jesse Sweetland and Sandy Driver, how they’re connected. It’s a strange relationship she has with the Riddler. To keep it going any further, she asks more of him. Although he doesn’t give her much more than before, only cryptic references and no promise of any concrete answers.
Maggie (Victoria Sanchez) goes to talk with Danny (Cameron Roberts), about how to remember Jesse at the funeral, what do for him; he replies only with the word “she“. At the same time, Annie’s figuring out more about Rainmaker Jed (Neil Napier), whose further information about his drug distribution sends the detectives in other directions. The package in Jesse’s room wasn’t done up like how Jed and his operation do things. So, there’s somebody else in the mix. Someone dangerous.
Not only that there’s trouble with Eddie (Allen Leech). Annie sees him punching his truck window, looking very angry. She knows’s something is up. Moreover, she starts believing he is caught in a bad place, possibly trafficking drugs. All the more troubling for the fact Daisy (Madison Ferguson) is around him. Could make for nastiness. Simultaneously, Annie believes the mystery man is suggesting things about her estranged boyfriend. He responds by telling her to wear Neil Driver’s watch during the funeral for Jesse. Hmm, why?
I dropped a stone, but youre not seeing the ripples.”
Pic 1AAt the funeral, tensions run through the crowd. Particularly when Danny comes in. But Bethany (Emelia Hellman) and others embrace him as a big part of Jesse’s life. Maggie talks about her boy, mourning his death; more importantly, she refers to Jesse as “my daughter.” Suddenly, Mr. Driver (Andreas Apergis) barges in saying she deserves everything that’s come to her family before cops pull him outside.
What’s the full history between Maggie and Sandy Driver?
Down by the lake, being morbid, Daisy hears a woman’s voice calling out in the woods. She runs into Bethany and Danny and Max (Ryan Doherty). They call out in grief to the woods, saying they loved Jesse, that it hurts having lost her. Finally they’re able to grieve, out in the open. A sad, tragic openness.
Eddie is tasked with doing something by the people for whom he’s working. While he’s doing that Annie finds their daughter’s dog in his freeze. Weird. He admits to her about owing money, but denies planting any drugs at Jesse’s place. He says the drugs were stolen from him. The dog was killed in retaliation for his debt, obviously. In way over his head.
Welland wants him to testify the drugs belong to him; they were stolen AFTER Jesse’s death. These two have history, the cop doesn’t exactly like him. Except he knows that Eddie, at heart, is a good man. So with it being a first time offence, a self-professed “one time thing” Peter is willing to give him a chance. Afterwards, he leads Annie on with more lies about the burning of the shack and the fire at his house Still playing towards something dark, unknown.
Pic 2Such a strange connection between the Riddler and Annie, like two strange souls linked together in the night. She’s starting to realise that, too. She believes he’s getting his kicks from watching her scramble, listening to his clues. Yet I can’t help wondering who he is, why he’s doing all this to her. She gets a trace on his line and finally something’s come back. Annie follows the signal out to the grave of Sandy Driver, where she finds a phone and a text message reading YOU’RE NOT CRAZY.
But she wants this relationship done, sickened by the manipulation she’s allowed.
Cali (Catherine Kidd) has ties to the drugs, whether she’s top dog I don’t know. Regardless of that, Eddie goes to her, he wants to be relinquished of their ties; it’s clear she wants Annie taken out of the equation. This requires he take a beating instead, which he does willingly.
Maggie tells Annie about the “retribution” she’s faced, for what she did to Sandy back then. Before she can tell her story, though… she passes out, having binged deliberately hard by herself on pills. No telling if she’ll survive, but the chances are good with Annie being there at the right place, the right time. We at least know there’s a strong connection between Maggie and the death of Sandy.
Annie goes back to talk with Neil, about the night his daughter die and where he was supposedly working. He kept the receipts of being on the road, all these years. In order to remember that he actually did not kill her. He gives them over to our detective, providing another bit of evidence from which she can work.
And later at home, Annie falls back to the relationship with the Riddler. Trusting in him more than she does herself, or anyone else for that matter.
Pic 3The building of character is as good as the plot development, all the backstory. Bellevue deserved better in terms of viewership. I think because of it being a Canadian show and done by the CBC, it might not have been eagerly watched by too many. Certain viewers likely didn’t expect the gritty, deep, mysterious (and weird) take on the typical crime-mystery series that we received here.
“The Problem with The Truth” is next, I’m looking forward to seeing further things about Eddie and his situation, and again – what is Welland up to? Need to know.

Bellevue – Season 1, Episode 4: “Hello Little Light”

CBC’s Bellevue
Season 1, Episode 4: “Hello Little Light”
Directed by April Mullen
Written by Jane Maggs

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Guy with Fire in His Eyes” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “How Do I Remember?” – click here
Pic 1Annie (Anna Paquin) is setting her place up for surveillance, in light of recent events. And she’s not giving up on the case of Jesse’s death, either. Even though it’s all clearly weighing on her heavy. So many things surrounding the case, her own life, it’s a wonder she’s keeping her head above water.
She and Welland (Shawn Doyle) and the other cops go check out a house belonging to Rainmaker Jed. He’s a drug dealer, apparently. Brady (Billy MacLelland) comments that Jed is “so white” and that it’s a surprise he’s allowed to live on the reservation. Virginia replies that he’s married to a woman from the tribe, she doesn’t spend much time there. They find Jesse’s boyfriend Danny (Cameron Roberts) kicking around, he looks after the place from time to time. Inside they find fake eyelashes and size 13 platform boots. This leaves Welland and his crew wondering if he has a “sexual proclivity for young boys.” Moreover, we see that the boss man is slipping a bit in front of his detectives, he’s got his own issues going on. Still curious about what exactly he’s into, his secrets.
Virginia and Annie go to the Rattlesnake Bar, talking with Jed. He’s a sly one. They also run into Eddie (Allen Leech), his latest fling Briana (Amber Goldfarb) – sister to Detective Holt. To that Virginia replies: “Fuck him. Girl power.” LOVE THIS WOMAN! God, I hate that they’ve cancelled this already. I wanted more of her, more of the queer Native perspective through her character, among other good things about the series. Still, at this point in time in Canada we deserve more roles like this for Native actors, specifically women.
Pic 1ASo the question is now, what’s Jed got to do with Danny, Jesse, et cetera? They’ve found a pink Eiffel Tower earring on the man’s property. Belonging to the dead boy; buried. Virginia further digs up info on his past, that he was sexually abused as a kid and has anger issues. She and Annie interrogate Jed, whether drugs were stolen by Jesse, if there was a sexual relationship, a three-way thing between the two of them and Danny. Or, was it something more forcible? Was the earring a trophy of a murderer? Rainmaker Jed lawyers up, either way. And he says that all he was trying to do was help. Hard to tell. Suspicious and eerie nonetheless.
Annie presses Welland about the mystery man’s riddles, asking if he’s found out anything more. She further wonders about the fire at his place, knowing there’s something more to it than coincidence. Oh, my. Dig the dark tension that’s always lingering, the show has impressive atmosphere. Welland does some pressing of his own, talking with Sid Oak (Raphael Grosz-Harvey), the local sex offender. He wants to know about the Riddler, if he’s heard from him since, so on. Threatens to put false charges on him if things don’t go his way.
Part of a crime-mystery show like Bellevue, this dark and dreary-type stuff is the fact that we see the grey areas of the law. Where things aren’t always black or white, which they aren’t in life. Part of the intrigue is seeing how characters cope with being on either side. Annie isn’t perfect, far from it. But she’s miles from Welland, whose character is obviously a deep, scary kind of his own sort.
Pic 2Meanwhile, Annie is diving into the past of her father Clarence (Patrick Labbé), the psychiatric records and tapes of his sessions with a doctor, things she’s never heard before. It’s tough for her to hear, though necessary. It helps us come to understand her past. Also, it’s leading Annie to wonder if Neil Driver (Andreas Apergis) is her Riddler. He is, indeed.
Or, is he dissociating, and taking on the personality of the mystery man?
A man named Anthony Greene (Karl Graboshas) who works for Jed is in the interrogation chair now. Brady and Virginia ask him about Jed, using his sister as a bit of leverage. Anthony burned the white truck belonging to Rainmaker Jed. He’s officially the prime suspect in the murder.
Mayor Mansfield (Janine Theriault) has borderline psychotic tendencies, slapping herself in the face to stop a crying jag; her daughter Bethany (Emelia Hellman) sees it, though has her own issues with everyone at school texting her WHORE. And the small town itself seems at odds with Annie, who isn’t wholly sold on Jed’s guilt. She finds comfort drinking with Brady, talking about his sister and Eddie, the case; even if there’s an awkward moment before she leaves where things feel sexually charged.
But she heads out to sneak into the home of Mr Driver, seeing an almost shrine-like kitchen table with words carved into the wood, a paper with a front page concerning the death of Annie’s father, her name circled in the newspapers paragraph. And at her place later, she hears someone speaking through the surveillance system outside: “Hello, little light.” Was someone out there, or did they hack in? Becomes clearer Neil isn’t the Riddler. Poor guy thinks Annie is his daughter Sandy.
This means someone else is creeping about.
Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 2.42.46 AMWhat’s the ultimate connection between Jesse and Sandy? Could the latter’s father have killed her, then years later killed the boy? Welland doesn’t think so, and Annie’s father never believed Neil murdered his daughter. Our fearless detective finds a note on a nearby swing, about a bracelet. This leads her to call up Daisy (Madison Ferguson), about the hospital bracelet  she found belonging to her grandfather. This and the watch together, the time of 12:13, adds up to more mystery.
When Neil is let out of the hospital, he finds Annie at his place. She’s asking about the references to 12:13, the time with links to his daughter’s death. We see a flashback of him yelling at her, fighting physically. His watch broke on that particular time. We find out more about someone being there with Sandy that day – Jesse’s mother, Maggie (Victoria Sanchez). Our detective goes to talk with the grieving mom, suggesting Jed may not be her son’s killer.
But the evidence stacks up against the guy. He acts as if he knew the real Jesse, as if he cared. It’s so difficult to cut through to the truth. At least, for Jed, he’s got Annie semi-rooting for him. She judges his character by him knowing Jesse and Danny were planning on running away, and that he didn’t tell anybody. This is a caring gesture, deeper than most anyone in town offered the kid.
Jed: “She was a good kid
Annie: “Jesse referred to himself as she?”
Jed: “She did at my house
Pic 4Solid episode that builds on the case itself, in favour of leaving some of the Riddler stuff as secondary. Not that I don’t dig Annie’s personal little mystery, I do. It’s just nice to see the development in Jesse’s case, seeing more of him as a character instead of him just being a trans victim. “How Do I Remember?” is next. Hoping to see more of the Riddler story this time, as well as how Welland ties in. He’s a sneaky one, that Peter.

Bellevue – Season 1, Episode 3: “The Guy with Fire in His Eyes”

CBC’s Bellevue
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Guy with Fire in His Eyes”
Directed by April Mullen
Written by Jane Maggs

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “He’s Back” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Hello Little Light” – click here
Pic 1Now that Annie’s (Anna Paquin) found the body of Jesse Sweetland, and Virginia (Sharon Taylor) found out about the boy’s boyfriend Danny (Cameron Roberts), among other things, there’s so much going on in Bellevue. Welland (Shawn Doyle) isn’t particularly impressed that Annie has been running around investigating on her own, not telling him things. All the same she’s found some intense, very possible connections to the Sandy Driver murder. The relationship between Annie and Welland is not doing well. Still, he knows she’s good at her job, he’s just worried.
Welland: “So tell me that you understand that you may be talking to a killer right now
What we have now is Annie reverting to the old games she played with the mysterious man in her past, leaving notes in the mailbox at the tree in the woods. Christ, it makes my skin crawl. In the best sort of way.
Pic 1ABellevue’s been rocked with the death of Jesse. Even Dt. Brady Holt (Billy MacLellan), usually a bit of a hard man, seems to feel it. However, they’re police, and they’ve got to keep on investigating, to figure out who killed the young man. He was killed with blunt force trauma, then tossed into the water.
Biggest clue so far? Danny’s mention of a white truck.
At church, Maggie Sweetland (Victoria Sanchez) mourns her son, as Father Jameson (Joe Cobden) tries comforting her. She laments in the belief of God, that he’s only about “punishment” and nothing more. Then they’re shocked to discover one of the paintings on the church walls has been defaced. More religious iconography, a hand with a knife drawn on in red paint.
Young Daisy Ryder (Madison Ferguson) has a fixation on Sandy Driver. She’s actually doing weird rituals in the attic, cutting her hand to drawl blood. Afterwards, she sees a man yelling through the darkness: “Theres no point in coming back to life. Well just kill you again.” Real? Or is she seeing things? It was Neil Driver (Andreas Apergis), scaring the shit out of her.
Possibilities become real when Annie sees a picture of coach Tom Edmonds (Vincent Leclerc) with Jesse, and his white truck. Hmm. There’s definitely more to this guy. He wanted more for Jesse, wanting him to focus on hockey instead of his identity. Not realising that for so many who struggle with gender identity, wondering if they’re transgender, identity is everything.
Pic 2After Daisy gets in trouble for her little seance, Eddie (Allen Leech) is pissed with Annie. He feels she’s starting to become “obsessive” as her father started out, apparently. Did the mystery of Sandy Driver’s murder all those years ago drive him mad? It’s all certainly threatening to push his daughter over the edge in present day.
Someone I find a bit repulsive is Mayor Lily Mansfield (Janine Theriault). Very opportunistic, a cold person. She worries more about investors than the killing of a boy. Don’t think she’s guilty of any crimes. Just of being a terrible human.
In the woods, Tom has his boys fighting over beefs. Jacob (Robert Naylor) and Max (Ryan Doherty) are called into the middle of a circle where they beat the shit out of each other. Primal and nasty, hypermasculinity in its ugly glory. But what’s most apparent is that Tom is a bit insane.
Annie finds out that the coach was destined for an NHL career, sidelined by an accident. Ah, broken dreams. Surely has something to do with his aggressive way of handling the team. The story familiar to many who’ve played sports when they were young, myself included.
Most creepy is the continuing game between the mystery man and Annie. She comes across Welland on the road, they then run into Tom and the the team, smearing their faces with some “Lord of the Flies blood shit.” Certainly does not help the case for the coach. At the same time, I wonder about Welland. I’m not sure if he’s got his own secrets, or if he’s mainly just angry with Annie. Either way he goes overboard chastising her for being like her father.
Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 10.29.16 PMThe relationship between her and Eddie isn’t good, either. They get in a fight, she runs out to a bar dancing with another man, and he goes straight for her. They’ve got a love-hate thing going on, exacerbated by the fact she’s wildly unpredictable. So is he, though. No shortage of issues between these two, from emotional to drugs and alcohol. Also doesn’t help that Annie is obsessed with her job, the past, all of it mixed in a mess together.
AND WHAT THE HELL IS WELLAND DOING? He’s tossing the fingernails into a bonfire he sets in the shed on the old New Horizons grounds. What the fuck? This is beyond suspicious. Does he have a connection to Sandy Driver? Shit.
Annie and Victoria chat with Danny, hoping to find out more about Jesse. There’s connections to the reservation, so Victoria takes the lead. Danny talks more with Annie about coach Tom, how the relationship changed between him and Jesse. They went to a motel somewhere to meet a scout. After that, hatred. Doesn’t sound good, at all. Tom’s wife further confirms questionable behaviour.
Tom sees a prostitute, where he brought Jesse to have sex with her, as well. At the motel. He wanted to make Jesse into a star hockey player, seeing his identity as a barrier to that. But, is it motive? Did he feel it wasn’t panning out? Annie thinks he’s got “motives buried deep” and he’s one of those quiet types, capable of snapping loose.
Annie and Welland question Tom, about the hooker and everything else. His masculinity is incredibly fragile. He thinks men are meant for “another world” like we’re cavemen. He’s definitely insane, in his own way. Did he kill Jesse? Tough to say.
Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 10.38.09 PMSomething else to add into the investigation: a large quantity of MDMA, half a pound, in Jesse’s closet. Perhaps a distributor for a local drug dealer. More clues to lead them in other directions. Good, especially for the fact they can’t pin anything on Tom as of yet.
Then the working girl Tom sees lets slip more information: he may have “walked into traffic” suggesting his long ago accident was not so. And only days after the death of Sandy Driver. He keeps a sign in the arena basement, a Bellevue sign with his name on it. The boys… like to see it.
So this connects to the latest riddle about a hero’s fall from glory. Annie goes to the arena, she finds a picture of Tom as Joseph in a pageant back then. More religious symbolism and iconography combining, in regards to the pageant with Sandy back then.
And Annie’s been locked in the basement. Someone pours gasoline into the room. Ready to light the place on fire. She pleads for her life, to be trusted again. Such twisted shit.
Dont trust the guy with fire in his eyes,” says the man with the riddles. Is he speaking of Welland, who himself recently lit a fire? Indeed. Plus his house is on fire, as he looks on. What exactly is his secret?
Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 10.49.57 PMSo many things to ponder. I already know that Bellevue won’t return for another season; I hope they finish on a good note at the end of this one. Pity, because I’m really into it. Lots of mystery, intrigue, so many characters with their own lives and deep secrets. Great stuff from CBC. A true shame this won’t be renewed, I guess it didn’t impact others as it did me.

Bellevue – Season 1, Episode 2: “He’s Back”

CBC’s Bellevue
Season 1, Episode 2: “He’s Back”
Directed by Adrienne Mitchell
Written by Jane Maggs

* For a recap & review of the Pilot episode, click here.
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Guy with Fire in His Eyes” – click here
Pic 1At the old church, Annie Ryder (Anna Paquin) brings Peter Welland (Shawn Doyle) back to see the bleeding mural she found. She has pictures, from the one sending her riddles, and luckily because it’s gone now. As if it were never there. She also shows Welland the UR MY LIGHT message written on her back windshield.
Welland doesn’t want her going down the old path she went as a younger woman, when the mystery man and his riddles drove her to the brink of insanity. He wants to take care of it himself.
Annie’s whole life is in a mess. Her daughter Daisy (Madison Ferguson) isn’t feeling so great about her, and Welland’s constantly worrying about her psychological state. The two of them and Virginia Panamick (Sharon Taylor) and other police are investigating the scrapyard where the items belonging to Jesse Sweetland (Sadie O’Neil) were found. Not much to go on, but bits and pieces; such as a tooth and some skin.
Jesse’s mom Maggie (Victoria Sanchez) is keeping a keen eye on the other people in her town, to “look in their eyes” and see if she can figure out if someone’s done something to her boy. At the same time, she hears people disparage Jesse for wearing women’s clothes. The poor woman misses Jesse, and some people couldn’t care any less. It’s tragic to see.
Maggie: “Evil looks just like you and me
Pic 1AMaggie flips out on Father Jameson (Joe Cobden) about his relationship with Jesse, so of course Annie talks with him more. Wondering if someone connected to the church conducted a “violent form of conversion therapy.” With all the religious iconography and imagery connected, it has to be somebody of faith, right?
At the school, Annie and Virginia probe friends and acquaintances about Jesse, his problems, so on. Some girls suggest talking to people on the reservation, where he hung out. Welland talks to coach Tom Edmonds (Vincent Leclerc) and the rest of the hockey team, only digging up very surface-type things. Nothing too concrete thus far.
Note: Loving Virginia’s character, I hope they don’t bury her. She seems like a straight up, honest cop. Interested to see exactly how her relationship with the reservation and her people works.
Bethany: “Dont native people like wear dresses and dance around a fire?”
Virginia: “Yeah and every year we sacrifice a privileged white girl
When she sneaks around at night, Annie catches the Mayor’s daughter Bethany (Emelia Hellman) snooping in the scrapyard. Looking for something. The young girl plays it off with legal threats, clearly she knows more than she’s willing to let out.
Annie’s got bigger things to worry about, like who planted the creepy doll in back of her car. It’s one her father Clarence (Patrick Labbé) gave to her years before, to protect her when he’s not around. Moreover, the doll’s been dressed as the Virgin Mary.
Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 1.55.27 PMAt the church, Maggie talks to Father Jameson and tells him that she knows Jesse is “who he is.” She doesn’t need him to be fixed. She kisses Jameson, saying: “When you put on your dress, I thought it was a phase, too.” Such a STELLAR line! I love that. Because religion is a fluid as identity, if you want it to be. To those of us who don’t believe. A way for Maggie to sort of say fuck you without having to actually say those words.
So, what does Bethany Mansfield have to do with Jesse’s disappearance? What was she looking for up there? Annie wants to find out. She tells her about finding the tooth, his skin on the fence. Bethany calls him “sick” and that Jesse didn’t want to be the way he was anymore. Except he did, it was his friends who wouldn’t accept him. They were holding the pictures of women’s bodies in front of the fence; he reached out and the photos were pulled away, giving him the shock, those cross-like burns.
Jesse later told Bethany he was leaving, that he cared about her deeply. She’s too repressed to feel anything for him, causing a scary confrontation between him and Bethany’s boyfriend, Jacob (Robert Naylor). When Annie susses things out, the boyfriends turns on his buddies who in turn start telling the truth. She and Brady Holt (Billy MacLellan) press Jacob, taunting about Bethany being with Jesse. Picking at his fragile, young masculinity. Until finally the kid says he saw his friend get into a white truck headed for the reservation.
Bullshit? Or no?
Virginia meets with Danny Debessage (Cameron Roberts), Jesse’s boyfriend; he isn’t honest about their relationship totally at first, before she shows him a picture of her wife. Ah, see, she’s even more interesting than I even thought before!
Meanwhile, Annie goes to see Eddie, feeling lost in the world. “These are my arms,” she says. They’re not together, yet there is a huge connection. Something’s been keeping them apart as a couple. They’re still very close. I think she lets her job and her past lead her life too much. Not easy NOT to do, but it’s obviously something driving a wedge into the relationship between her and Eddie.
Her mind is consumed, entirely. The past is everywhere. In the road Annie comes across a truck that backs away quickly, something between the vehicles. It’s an animal carcass, in its side is carved REMEMBER ME. She thinks about the memories of the past, the riddles, the doll. So she checks inside the doll and finds nasty fingernails wrapped in plastic stuffed in one of the legs. Disgusting, and so compelling.
Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 2.02.37 PMThis all relates back to the death of Sandy Driver, those many years ago. He fingernails were never recovered. Bringing her back to those memories, that place in the forest. Where there hangs a mailbox, taking us back to the opening scene where she sees her own mailbox at home, hanging crooked. Great imagery.
Annie starts figuring out a riddle, connecting to an old mental hospital named New Horizons. A place in the woods now only a wreck, barely anything remaining. When she goes up to have a look, to “find a fish out of water” like the riddle says, there are scratches, blood. Is it from when Sandy died? One thing’s certain, it’s all fucking with Annie’s head.
Not long and she finds the corpse of Jesse, lying face down floating in the water close by. So goddamn sad.
Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 2.14.40 PMClear now there’s a big connection between Sandy’s death and the tragic death of Jesse. But what is it? “The Man with Fire in His Eyes” is next, I’m hoping we’ll see a few more weird, exciting developments. Bellevue has got me hooked now, two episodes in.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 9: “Aporia”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 9: “Aporia”
Directed by Keith Gordon
Written by Bob DeLaurentis & Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Who Rules the Land of Denial?” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 finale, “Somebody to Love” – click here

a·po·ri·a
əˈpôrēə/
noun
  1. an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text, argument, or theory.

Pic 1AAn older gentleman is killed in his home by the silent, deadly Meemo (Andy Yu). This man is Marvin Stussy.
At the station, Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) sits to talk with Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor), who’s there to confess, so he said. He warns not to let anybody in if they say they’re his lawyer; ahem, V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), ahem. The remaining Stussy talks about his dead brother, their father – “basically bald from the shins down” from wearing nylon socks – and family memories. He admits to killing Ray at his apartment. He laments what he’d done, all their lives, to his younger brother. He tricked his brother all those years ago into taking the Corvette, just as Ray told us originally. In between Emmit tells Gloria how he cut his brother’s throat when they fought over the framed stamp.
Emmit: “Thirty years Ive been killinhim. That was just when he fell.”
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 1.04.10 AMVarga’s still scheming. I’m curious as to his endgame. He’s got Meemo driving a transport truck and headed lords knows where. At a red light, Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) tosses a grenade through the truck’s window, as Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) fires an assault rifle on them. Well, the bullets are real. The grenade ain’t; just a paperweight. The two bandits make off with the truck easily. An awesome little trick. Nikki and Wrench look through the back of the truck when they can, they find a briefcase of particular interest. That’s all they take with them when they leave the vehicle behind and head out in a car.
Needless to say Varga isn’t thrilled. He gets a call from Ms. Swango. She has lots of information now, using it to extort $2 million. Although I doubt he’ll give it over. I can see a great deal of violence heading their way. Heading every which way.
At the station, Emmit’s locked up. Bit of a culture shock when he has to explain that he’s not wearing a sweater: “Its a cardigan.” Gloria talks with Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval), she’s at the scene of the latest Stussy killing. Suspicious, no?
I’m also STILL HOPING they give us even an ounce more of Thaddeus Mobley before the end. Only one episode after this left, so it better happen fast.
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 12.56.43 AMOver at a different house, another Stussy, there’s a dead body. More Stussys piling up. Moe Dammick (Shea Whigham) is starting to wonder if there’s something strange happening around their jurisdiction.
Moe: “This guy must really hate Stussys
Ruby Goldfarb (Mary McDonnell) comes in to speak with Gloria, telling her about the dinner she had with Emmit and Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg). She explains they were speaking about business, et cetera. They get around talking about when the men each left, all the little details. But a big commotion starts when Moe believes he’s got the killer of all the Stussys, including Ennis. Now we see the V.M. endgame in full, clear vision. What we also cannot dispel is the fact Gloria isn’t going to let this stand. Her intuition knows better.
You’ve never seen anything as oddly disturbing as Varga sitting on the toilet eating chocolate ice cream from a tub. Not long after he goes to meet Nikki. They have their tenuous meeting, she’s as slick as he is, and she is incredibly smart. Up above, Meemo waits with a sniper rifle to take her out on command. No good when Wrench is on the ball, pointing a gun at the back of HIS head. He signals Swango downstairs, allowing her more confidence. She threatens turning a hard drive over to police, and this visibly frustrates him. Not used to dealing with a tough lady like her. She gives him one more day to produce the $2 million. Or else…?
Gloria and Emmit sit down for another chat. She talks about her husband, how he came out as gay and in love with another man, then left. “You think the worlds somethinthen it turns out to be somethinelse,” she says. After that she lets him free. Because a Stussy killer is on the loose. All part of the Varga plan. Now the remaining Stussy brother is out of the pan and into the fire.
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 1.14.31 AMVarga: “Its not that there is evil in the world, the problem is that there is good. Because otherwise, who would care?”
Finally, Gloria mentions to Winnie something about the Mobley books – The Planet Wyh. She talks about the robot, always trying to help. She says she relates to the robot, how she feels trying to do her work, to do justice. AND she also mentions the oddities – such as the automatic doors not working for her, the soap dispensers, so on. “I dont actually exist,” Gloria says. Except in this bar, the dispensers work for her, the automatic faucet. Like a new start, a fresh outlook on life.
Larue Dollard (Hamish Linklater) at the IRS finds a package waiting in his office. Inside, a stack of papers with a flash drive, pertaining to Stussy Lots Ltd. Oh, mercy. What’s the fallout from this going to be? Varga won’t like his business dealings pried into any more, on top of every other Emmit Stussy issue plaguing him.
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 1.48.52 AMGreat penultimate episode to this fascinating season. Truly, I’ve loved Season 3. I don’t know if I love it more than the first season, which is my personal favourite. Regardless of that, they all match up in quality. They’re each awesome in their own rights. “Somebody to Love” is the finale next week. Sad to see these characters go already. Hoping to find some explosive moments in the last episode.

Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 3: “Bleed For It”

 

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2
Episode 3: “Bleed For It”
Directed by J. Michael Muro
Written by Megan Martin

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Karma” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Broken Boards” – click here
Pic 1A (1)On the road, Smurf (Ellen Barkin) takes J (Finn Cole) to the wake for Manny after he’s finally passed. She hadn’t seen the guy for about 20 years. I wonder how things will go for grandma and her boy. Meanwhile, Baz (Scott Speedman) calls Pope (Shawn Hatosy) to go pick up his daughter, neglecting things while he’s in Mexico with Lucy (Carolina Guerra). Baz meets with Marco (Joseph Julian Soria), who’s helping on a new job, without the Cody matriarch’s knowledge, of course.
Over at the bar he’s purchasing, Deran (Jake Weary) makes plans for construction on the bar, he wants it to be old school like before all the new money moved onto the beach. He’s interviewing people for jobs and trying to get the place off the ground.
And Pope, he’s getting to know Amy (Jennifer Landon) and the rest of her Bible study group. He actually seems to have read the Bible. Weird seeing him amongst a bunch of normal people, of any sort.
Nicky (Molly Gordon) is still kicking around at the house, though it’s clear Craig (Ben Robson) is tiring of their relationship, which was actually clear awhile ago. Might be that she’s starting to realise it now.
Pic 1A (2)At the wake, J and Smurf meet Manny’s old crew, including old buddy Jake (Jack Conley). Looks like before the guy passed, there was big trouble with his crew. Being run by Javier (Alex Meraz), apparently a real “sick piece of shit.”
It’s also becoming painfully obvious that Craig has no ambition, or at least no sense to make ambition reality. He and Deran are at odds over the bar, what to do, how to do it. Most of all, Deran worries about being an ex-con and that it might make things problematic come inspection time.
J has a chat with Javier, the guy’s got issues with Smurf, which isn’t hard to tell. He thinks she’s there for other reasons, not out of the goodness in her heart. There’s something very, very eerie here. They have history; dark stuff. They were once like family; Manny, Javier and his dad, as well.
In Mexico, Lucy’s brother Marco offers Baz up a bit of business on the side, though he doesn’t want much part of it. Lucy later tells him she thinks Marco’s in trouble. Back home, Lena’s being watched over by uncle Pope. Seeing him with the girl is tragic, in a lot of ways. For the fact he killed her mother, and loved her, for the fact he’s clearly got a nurturing side to him, even if it’s buried by all the worrisome history he has with his mother. Great moment where a pigeon hits the window; Pope is about to put it out of its misery, then it flies away. A humanitarian lesson there for him, so often quick to take action.
Pic 2In the motel room J and Smurf kick back. She receives a late visit from Jake, apparently Manny was recording things near the end of life to keep his memory strong. That’s going to be a large problem for her. If he said anything troubling, could mean jail time. Or worse. What’s she planning on doing about it? Will she look for the tapes?
Nicky, alone at the Cody palace, snoops around the house, finding cash, trying on Smurf’s clothes. She accidentally knocks a pair of sunglasses to the floor and finds an automatic weapon under the dresser. She pretends to fire it like a child with a toy gun.
Alone together, Lena asks her uncle: “Is mommy dead?” He’s caught off guard, answering slow in a reassuring tone. She’s also curious why her father doesn’t show his sadness the way she does. Pope tells her he’s “secret sad.” Certainly he can’t tell her the truth, so he talks about not having a dad as a boy; problem is he DIDN’T turn out okay.
Smurf tells J more of the story concerning Manny, how he was a mentor to her after she got out of her first little stint in jail. She was a young, impressionable girl, learned to steal and grift and lie with the best. She then asks J to put a bullet in her if she loses her mental faculties. And she’s serious, too. So he promises. Then she kisses him on the lips. Yikes. I hope she doesn’t take him down the same path as Pope.
Now with so much at stake, Craig decides he’s dumping Nicky. After she knows about the guns, money, his love of drugs, and she knows about the bar. Dera wants to keep it from Smurf until the grand opening. Not sure if that’ll happen at this point. I worry, deeply, for Nicky.
Pic 3Using a story Smurf told him about Manny, J does an impromptu robbery at a diner using grandma as the perfect pretty bait. Uh oh, this is not good. Not just the fact he’s becoming closer with her, I worry that her strange affections will spread further over her grandson. It’s terrifying, really.
Smurf: “Youre a natural. Not like the other boys.”
When Craig talks with Nicky, she asks about what her dad helped them with, what sort of bad shit he got into before leaving for Guam. She demands respect, seeing as how he enjoys all the perks of their relationship and not the fact they’re actually in one together. He doesn’t break up with her. Yet.
Deran gets inspected finally and he’s nervous. He tells the man upfront about his time in jail, the charges. He also tells him about being a competitive surfer, and when that went south he went off the rails. It all looks good, especially with him choosing not to offer a bribe and remaining honest. Looks like the possibility of a new life for Deran.
Amy goes to see Pope. She wanted him to know about her past. She had a son who was in the car with her while she had a drunk driving accident and she hasn’t yet forgiven herself. Wonders if he’ll hold it against her. Little does she know who she’s talking to, the type of person he’s become over the years, what he’s done. He can accept just about anyone.
Pic 4Baz goes to Gia (Karina Logue), their fence. He finds out that the Cody matriarch doesn’t want them doing business with her. Cut off. This will cause a good deal of grief in the long run, right now it’s pushing the gang further apart.
He gets back home to Lena and Pope, glad to see his little girl. He also fills Pope in about the latest problem involving Smurf, they have no buyers and a job coming up in two weeks. So they’ve got to figure something out. Baz turns up after Gia leaves work, to speak with her employee Monica (Tembi Locke). They might be able to strike up a deal.
What scares me above all? Javier’s going to listen to the tapes Manny made. He’s going to find out something terrible, something he’ll hold over Smurf. Perhaps something that might make him angry enough to kill.
Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 8.52.37 AMStunning episode. So much happening. Particularly, I’m worried constantly about Smurf exerting a strong, bad influence over J. He’s already falling into her lap, as a boy lost after losing his mother. It only gets stronger with every passing day, the more they spend time together.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 9: “Fall”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 9: “Fall”
Directed by Minkie Spiro
Written by Gordon Smith

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Slip” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 finale, “Lantern” – click here
Pic 1Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is one slick fella. He buys packaged cookies, then wraps them up like he made them himself. Over to see a few people at Sandpiper Crossing, mainly the “class representative” for the case, Irene. He’s digging around for information about the case, any settlements. He winds up going through a box of an old lady’s things, looking at papers. Trying to influence her decisions. There’s an offer for settlement on the table, he pushes her to take the deal. Although she’d rather listen to the lawyers.
The guy is strapped for cash, not being in business is a kick in the ass. I’m just wondering where this line of thinking, this desperation, the scheming is going to head in the long run. Well, we know already: nowhere nice.
Pic 2 (1)Back with Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), he’s meeting with a familiar face from Breaking Bad over at Madrigal: Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser). This is the deal with Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). He’s a “logistics consultant” at the company, on paper. But we absolutely understand what he’ll be doing for Fring, it isn’t consulting on anything. All a way to launder a bit of money, making things look legitimate. Mike’s smart, though. He covers all bases before moving ahead. On anything.
Note: What we get to see here is the beginning of the network which causes trouble for Mike and Lydia and Walter White in the late stages of Breaking Bad after Mr. Fring is murdered.
Trouble with the insurance over at Hamlin, Hamlin, & McGill. The stuff Jimmy started previously. Poor Chuck (Michael McKean) isn’t happy with what’s going on now, as the insurance company makes clear that coverage for him after his recent court appearance has become a problem. He threatens litigation, then the brokers leave displeased. Howard (Patrick Fabian) is trying to fix the situation, asking Chuck to “hang up [his] spurs.” And he isn’t suggesting, he’s telling his old friend this is how it must be.
And Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is off working on more business, as usual. She’s working with Mr. Gatwood (Chris Mulkey), looking into problems with the border on the land where he’s drilling. When she goes to leave she ends up stuck in the dirt, so she finds a piece of board for traction. She gets the car out and nearly puts it into some railing, but manages to stop. She doesn’t need anybody’s help, she’s great on her own. In many ways.
Pic 2 (2)In a parking garage, Jimmy meets with Howard. He wants to talk about Sandpiper. All he gets is humiliation. Howard calls him down to the dirt for being phoney, only wanting a nice payday and not actually caring about clients as he claims. Ouch. True, though.
Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) and Gus Fring meet, accompanied by the usual crowd such as Nacho (Michael Mando). They’re having a phone conference with another business partner. Seems that things aren’t going the way Don Hector would have preferred. Los Pollos Hermanos has the safest route, which does not please him. Then an attack starts hitting him. He reaches for his pills, swallowing some; the fake ones Nacho slipped. How long until this puts him in that wheelchair?
Mall-walking, Jimmy purposefully runs into Irene and her old lady friends. Here, we’re privy to how horrible Jimmy is, truly. He’s digging deep now and doing some of his worst moral work. He plies her with new sneakers, hoping she’ll sway on the settlement. Perfectly fitting that The Night of the Hunter plays in the background while Jimmy goes further, talking to the other old ladies from Sandpiper. He plays them against one another. Using the shoes against her now. Such a bad man. Totally morally bankrupt. He’s perfect for the criminal life.
Nacho talks with his father about Don Hector’s plans, bending him to work for the cartel. It’s a difficult conversation, one he’d hoped they wouldn’t need to have – the coming of Don Hector. All pressured further by the deal recently struck in favour of Fring. There’s nothing they can do, so Nacho advises they go along to get along. Then his father kicks him out.
Pic 3Things spiral out of control with Chuck and Howard, when the former decides on suing the firm. He won’t be kicked out, or else he’ll get paid for his share of the legacy: “Imagine me as your enemy.” Man, oh, man. I don’t see this all ending well for Chuck, though I’m not entirely sure how it’s all going to happen. He’s clearly still having trouble with the electricity issues, coaching himself through using anything with power running through it. There’s got to be a breaking point, unfortunately.
More scheming – Jimmy’s doctoring himself a bunch of numbered balls, maybe a bit of Bingo for the crowd at Sandpiper? You got it.
He’s rigging the game for his own purposes, something further to turn the ladies on one another. Irene gets a cold shoulder from every one of them. So sad! Breaks my heart. And he’s playing with these lives all for his own gain. He passes out new cards, handing one specifically to Irene, and then the grift begins. She gets BINGO pretty quick, which pisses off the other women. Tsk, tsk, James.
Jimmy: “B9. Lets hope that biopsy comes back be-nign.”
When nobody claps for Irene it embarrasses her in front of the crowd, she rushes out crying. Jimmy heads out to talk with her. She’s feeling the effects of all the cruelty, then he reels out the story he’s concocted with all his fuckery. SUCH A TERRIBLE MAN. Lord, is he ever a shitheel. Scamming old people to this extent is downright nasty.
Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 1.41.08 AMAfterwards, Jimmy shows up to see Kim – with a bottle of that fictional Zafiro Añejo tequila from Breaking Bad – raving about the settlement at Sandpiper. She’s too busy to celebrate. He’s so focused on his deviousness he keeps forgetting about real life happening all around him.
Kim ends up falling asleep briefly at the wheel, putting herself off the road. Files everywhere, her fast is beaten up and bloody. Overworked to the worst extent. She’s not gravely injured; injured nonetheless. This is symptom of her relationship with Jimmy, he’s paying attention to all the wrong things while she’s faced with taking on all responsibility. All alone on the road of life. She could’ve died – maybe another symptom of being involved with him too long is death, far enough down the line. I keep waiting for the day she realises how destructive their relationship has become.
Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 1.54.32 AMJimmy somehow escapes all these situations intact. While everyone around him suffers, whether it’s Chuck, Kim, the people at Sandpiper; nobody truly matters to him, ultimately. Much as I pull for him, this episode is one of the worst depths to which he’s sunk. Even if we consider his later trajectory in the original series run of Breaking Bad. This episode’s shown us a lot more of that reptilian side in his personality than ever before.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 8: “Who Rules the Land of Denial?”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 8: “Who Rules the Land of Denial?”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Monica Beletsky & Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Law of Inevitability” – click here
* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 3 episode, “Aporia” – click here
Pic 1There’s quite a setup going on along a dark road. Meemo (Andy Yu) and the boys are preparing for the big moment when the prison transport passes. Yuri steps into the road wearing the bear’s head. The bus flies off the road, smashing up everybody inside. Including poor Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard), among others. Then, in come the boys to try and collect her.
While Wrench fights off the cop assassin (DJ Qualls), Nikki tries getting them free. They escape out the back, into the woods.And the three criminals wearing their respective animal heads must give chase, plus deal with a couple witnesses on the way.
In the forest, Nikki and Wrench attempt ridding their chains. Although they keep quiet for fear of being found amongst the trees. They walk on until morning, though unsure of where to go next. At the same time, a hunter puts an arrow into the bear head Yuri’s wearing, almost putting him down for good; problem is, now he’s got a crossbow to hunt his own prey.
Pic 1AThe death of Ray (Ewan McGregor) haunts Nikki, she doesn’t stray far from thoughts of him and their last moments together, that final conversation before he left to go get their money. Yet she pushes on, she and Wrench walk through the day and into night once more. When they find an axe, he tries to break their handcuffs. Soon arrows are flying at them. Wrench takes one in the shoulder, a knife in the back. Nikki gets one through her calf. But they manage to take down the one dressed as a cop, literally CUTTING HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF! Yes! The surprising bits of blood on Fargo never disappoint.
It doesn’t slow ’em down, either. Wrench shoves a stick in Nikki’s mouth to bite on as he removes the arrow from her leg. A bit worse for the wear, however, they’re free of the cuffs now, too. And Wrench even sliced off an ear with the axe before Yuri and Meemo made off.
The unlikely pair of Nikki and Wrench stumble onto a bowling alley where they’re able to rest for a moment. And drink whiskey. We see a familiar face from when Gloria (Carrie Coon) went on her Mobley investigation: Paul Marrane (Ray Wise). He’s sitting at the bar next to Nikki. He even hauls out a precious little kitty, perfectly named Ray. Is the dead Stussy’s soul kicking around in that cat? Never know.
Note: the name Paul Marrane is a different name given to the Wandering Jew, which obviously connects to some of the Jewish and Hebrew-related quips this Paul provides Ms. Swango; a very interesting little addition to the writing. Also, a great explanation of why Paul shows up so randomly. Never anything random in Fargo.
Paul: “Simply deliver a message when the time comes
Nikki: “A message. To who?”
Paul: “To the wicked! Tell them, though thou exalt thyself like the eagle, though thou make thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord.”
Further note: This exchange – particularly the final bit – is from an essay by P.H. Sweetseh called “The Bible Birds No. VII – The Eagle” which you can find in a periodical called The Ladies’ Repository.
Pic 2Yuri ain’t doing so hot. Bleeding from the top of his head, from the hole in it where his ear once sat. He’s also visited by Mr. Marrane, who clearly knows him well. He says he’s brought a message from Helga and a rabbi. This takes the Ukranian back to an older time, seeing a vast crowd of people standing in the hills. What could it mean?
Back to Christmas Day with Gloria and Nathan (Graham Verchere), they’re trying to do the holidays right even if things aren’t exactly top shape. She gets a call, of course, and has to run. Out to the bus crash, where she worries about Nikki and whatever happened to her.
Meanwhile, Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) goes to see Emmit (McGregor). But the last Stussy alive is… resting. Meemo and Varga (David Thewlis) are kicking around the house, the wolf is, as always, having a lunch. Feasting on leftovers he’ll surely yak later, like a true capitalist pig. Either way, the bond between Emmit and Sy is weakening, as Varga drives a wedge between them purposefully. After having tea, Sy leaves for the office. Something ain’t quite right with that tea, though. It’s got him in a bad way. So much so he vomits over the floor by the front desk. “Well thats not right,” he says before hitting the floor and getting rushed to the ER soon after. God damn, that’s cold.
Sy winds up hooked to machines. For a couple months, in fact. Grows a beard, goes through hospital staff. There sits Emmit at the bed’s edge, acting as if things are fine and knowing they’re not. Outside the room waits Gloria and Winnie (Olivia Sandoval), asking questions he doesn’t want to answer. People around him aren’t faring so well these days. When Emmit arrives back at the office he finds pictures plastered everywhere around the place, they’re a 2-cent stamp. Ole Sisyphus pushing that goddamn boulder; the absurdity of life. And you betcha Stussy is freakin’ out now.
Pic 3There’s something creepy about Varga and his computers, stowed away in that secret room. He’s not just Googling anymore, he has a properly sinister setup. Then Emmit calls, believing Ray’s still alive due to all those stamps and because his car was at the hospital. No time for any of that nonsense. The wolf has other business for them.
Varga: “You won
Emmit: “I won? What did I win?”
Varga: “Life
When Emmit passes out after some drinks, he wakes with a moustache on his face. It won’t come off. He’s literally transforming into his brother. Creepy thing is, Varga and Meemo, they’ve got no part in it. So they claim, so it seems. Above all, their evil influence has fully swept Emmit away, to another place. He’s no more in control of his life than he is in control of the business at this point. Varga’s the darkness behind the curtain, pulling on the strings.
Instead of falling into sleep with the sedatives they’ve given him, Emmit goes to the station. To confess.
Pic 4One of my favourite Fargo episodes; period! Such a great mix of symbolic writing, solid plot, and further character development. Excited to see the penultimate episode “Aporia”  next week. One closer to the finale. I wonder how everything will tie up? Either way, I’m digging this season. Personally it might be favourite, though I’ll be sad if we don’t see anything more come out of Thaddeus Mobley. Would be a real wasted opportunity.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 8: “Slip”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 8: “Slip”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Heather Marion

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Expenses” – click here
* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 3 episode, “Fall” – click here
Pic 1Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is back at the old family store, looking in an old stash spot in the ceiling. He finds a tin of coins; one of which is an “Indian Head penny.” He needs cash, and bad. Things are getting tight. We also get a glimpse into Jimmy’s early days as a young thief, though one who saw the world as it was while his father seemed to have a doe-eyed idealism in him. Not saying it led the soon-to-be Saul Goodman anywhere good. Still, there’s a certain truth to how he sees things, even if he’s slowly but surely falling into criminality. As evidenced by the fact he knows how many patrol cars will come blazing through the neighbourhood.
In other news, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) stops on a road in the desert. He has a pad of paper with him, likely with the location of where he’s headed, and a shovel, too. Even a metal detector. Soon, he comes upon a spot where readings grow strong. He digs, and digs, and digs, and digs. Until he finds a hand. But then he calls the police, claiming he was looking for arrowheads. So, is this a play to fuck up more of Hector Salamanca’s (Mark Margolis) business? Or something else?
Pic 1ABack at his place Chuck (Michael McKean) meets with a doctor (Clea Duvall) about his condition. He’s improving, getting better by the day. He wants to get back to the firm and start working without accommodations for his mental illness. He hopes to get back to regular life, to light the house again and have parties. She tries to make sure he keeps his expectations in check.
Jimmy’s still trying to sell the brothers at the guitar shop those commercials and airtime. They don’t particularly want to stick with him, but he’s a slick talker. Not good enough, they aren’t convinced. Instead, he quick-thinks a plan. Jimmy slips a drumstick onto the floor, has his crew roll their camera, then frames the place up for an insurance nightmare.
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) meets once again with her Mesa Verde clients. Things are chugging along nicely. She’s even getting more work from them via referrals. Then, at the same restaurant, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) and his buddies show up. He comes around acting like a pathetic ‘alpha’ male, trying to assert dominance. He’s so fake it’s painful. Rather than let it slide, Kim sticks one in his eye in front of his people, as well as hands over a cheque to settle the money Hamlin, Hamlin, & McGill have held over her head. Nice touch, lady! He has problems with the way she handled the case between Jimmy and Chuck, she’s disgusted with most everything about him. Although I have to say: that guilt is going to come back and bite her hard one of these days. I just know it.
Pic 2Where’s Nacho (Michael Mando)? He’s preparing the fake capsules of pills for Hector, hoping to keep his own father out of the drug business, from being strong-armed by gangsters for whom he works. I keep wondering, is this how the old man ends up in his wheelchair? Best part about this is the tension, waiting to see how it plays out. Perhaps Nacho won’t succeed. We know he’s long gone when Breaking Bad‘s timeline starts, so there’s definitely an end to his time in the cartel business, somewhere along the road. Right now, he’s practising all the moves, down to the minuscule things, in order for his plan to go off without a hitch.
Chuck goes out into the world again, trying his damnedest to fight off the mental affliction that’s plagued him so long. He concentrates on the natural things around him, ignoring all the electricity and the digital elements. Until he looks for the soy milk, where he has to pass through a row of coolers on either side. And it’s tough.
But he made it through, and Howard drops by, pleased to see his progress. They also have to talk about Chuck’s “malpractice insurance.” Y’know, the tricky little wheels his younger brother set in motion at the insurance company last episode. Uh oh.
Over at the restaurant, Nacho’s purposely put out the AC. He and boss Salamanca sit around counting money, sweating. He goes a step further trying to switch pills; first try is a no go, the second time he pulls them from Hector’s pocket. He then prepares to make the switch with those new, fake pills.
What a tense scene! Jesus. He actually manages to pull it off, not without the shake of a few nerves naturally.
Pic 3Out off the highway, Jimmy continues working away at community service. This also gives us a look at more of his slick talking con artist game. He offers a fellow worker – a drug dealer doing his own time in service – a way to make up hours; price tag is $700. Then Jimmy lies down on the ground, telling the boss his back is paining. He says he’ll sue the boss personally, not the city. Then he lays it on thick with a ton of legal talk to put a scare in the guy. Plus, he gets those seven bills.
Jimmy: “Out here you might be King Douchenozzle, but in court, you are little people.”
It’s becoming more apparent every single day to Jimmy he’s better off going outside the law than sticking within it. Getting closer to the end of Season 3, I’m seeing the endgame finally. Only I’m curious how it’s all going to come out in the wash; part of the fun of this series.
Over at Los Pollos Hermanos, Mike goes to meet with Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). He’s looking for a way to launder a bit of cash, so his family will be taken care of if something happens to him. Fring wants to keep their business relationship very secretive, and he adheres to a relatively honest way of operating for a drug kingpin. An agreement is struck, one that will last a long, long time.
Pic 4AMC knocks it out of the park every week with this one. I can’t get enough. Penultimate Season 3 episode “Fall” is on next time. What’s going to happen? Will Hector be sidelined? And I’m eager to find out what’ll go down re: Chuck and the malpractice insurance. Hmm.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 6: “The Lord of No Mercy”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 6: “The Lord of No Mercy”
Directed by Dearbhla Walsh
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The House of Special Purpose” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Law of Inevitability” – click here
Pic 1Open on a concerned Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor), sitting through night until morning worrying about Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) after the brutal beating she took at the hands of Meemo (Andy Yu) and Yuri. She only remembers so much. They did an absolutely savage number on her.
But Nikki isn’t one to stay down, neither literally nor figurative, either. Then there’s Ray, he certainly isn’t going to let any of this stand. A pretty solid, unbeatable team. Capable of anything.
Note: love that opening, silent shot going from night until morning, it’s a fantastic moment of filmmaking.
V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) tells of history, his interests of course lying in food. World War I started “over a sandwich.” Then he tells of the moon landing being filmed on a “sound stage in New Mexico,” which Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) just refuses to believe. Roundabout is the sly, bulimic wolf convincing Emmit (McGregor) and Sy to do more things they don’t really want to do. I can’t help feeling the character of Varga, and his actions/intent, are similar to the shady businessmen we see shambling through the corridors of power today.
The poor IRS auditor (Hamish Linklater) is caught in the middle of all the nonsense. Meemo poses as an upstanding lawyer in order to take care of their problems. Meanwhile, he and Yuri are followed by Stussy and Swango as they plot their revenge and bide their time.
Pic 1AUp at the Stussy offices, Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and Winne Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) arrive to talk with Emmit and hoping to speak with Sy about his vehicular accident. While picking his nasty teeth bloody Varga hears them speaking, so he greases his way into the conversation. The two officers bring up Ray’s name, the homicide of Ennis Stussy, Maurice LeFay, so on. The tangled web of Fargo‘s chaotic world. The officers have connected the dots and believe – what we, the audience know to be true – Maurice, dumb as he was, killed the wrong Stussy. Too many coincidences. And as we know, in Fargo there are rarely any coincidences that amount to nothing.
I worry now. Because Varga’s a dangerous, creepy man. His picture of Stalin on the wall, his Google habits. He’s interested in Ms. Burgle, so he dispatches Yuri to the little Eden Valley Police Department where there’s no computers, only files. Reconnaissance mission. Furthermore, he gives the order on Stussy and Swango: “execute.”
Soon, someone comes knocking at their door as they hide out together. Only it isn’t the V.M. death squad, it’s the police. So, what’s their plan? Fucking bolt. They pack up what they can carry in two arms then pile into the car, heading for a motel. With a tail. Then Ray realises he forgot their getaway cash. He leaves Nikki alone – with Meemo lurking in the shadows – while rushing home.
Pic 2When Ray gets home to get his money, he finds Emmit waiting in the dark. He wants to end their feud. He’s tired. He offers up the stamp to his brother. “You cant give me what was mine from the start,” Ray balks, wanting him to take it back. In a struggle a piece of the glass in its frame smashes, poking into Ray’s neck. He pulls the shard and starts bleeding out all over the place. And his brother stands there, doing nothing. Watching him die.
Emmit makes a call. To whom? Oh, you know: Mr. Varga. He’s an unsettling man, even while listening to a beautiful piece of classical music. The remaining Stussy needs help, and he sure called the right lad. One thing I know is that Emmit thought he was in deep before. He was, sure; financially. At this point it’s beyond any money troubles, he’s in the dirty moral soup.
Varga: “Things of consequence rarely happen by accident
Back at the motel, Meemo waits to kill Nikki. Right before she walks into the room he gets a call, though. Then he’s gone without a trace, and she’s left alive. He’s helping Varga over with Emmit at Ray’s place. Those perpetual criminals have it covered. They’re using Nikki’s wounds, her criminal past, all to make it look as if she killed Ray for being an abusive partner. Yikes, that is coooooold blooded.
And trusty ole Gloria, she’s headed to Ray’s place. She has suspicions. Oh, my. OH, MY!
Pic 3What a wild, unexpected episode. This series only gets better with every season and each episode. So much to love. The characters are well rounded and even downright symbolic at times. Loving Varga and Gloria most this season, as well as – of course – Nikki Swango!
Up next week is “The Law of Inevitability” and I can only imagine the fallout of what happened this episode.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 7: “Expenses”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 7: “Expenses”
Directed & Written
by Thomas Schnauz

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Off Brand” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Slip” – click here
Pic 1So what does Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) do while he’s not practising law for the next year? Well for starters, community service with the Parks Department. Paying his debt to society. Funny to see a lawyer handed an employee agreement to sign and urged that he doesn’t need to read it all. Jimmy and a bunch of others are given a mechanical grip, a fluorescent safety vest, and sent to pick up garbage. All the while Jimmy runs Saul Goodman Productions hawking commercials. Trying to, at least. He gets docked hours of service for being on his cellphone.
Pic 1AAfter they’re finished Jimmy rushes to do a quick wet wipe wash, strip down, then change, so he can rush off to do a Saul Goodman job at a furniture store. He’s good at directing commercials. Lower budget ones, anyways. Only there’s still trouble selling all the time, as hard as he tries. He and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) still have their office to manage. It’s just one bill after another bill after another. Although he manages. Just barely. He’s killing himself to keep up appearances spending the last cash he has on Chinese food for he and Kim.
Nacho (Michael Mando) goes back to his old buddy with the baseball cards, Pryce (Mark Proksch). He’s looking to do business. He wants empty pills, replicas of the ones his boss Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) takes for his health condition. For $20K. That’s a heft price tag.
Back with Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), we see his stash of money under the floorboards. A considerable size. He takes out a hunk to pay for supplies, for the church playground his daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon) asked him to help build. We see him interacting with other people for the first time ever, really. In the sense that they’re doing normal people things, rather than the criminals we usually see him around. Speaking of, he finds baseball card dummy Pryce waiting for him at work. Needs him to help on the latest job he’s been offered. Mike isn’t interested until he hears Nacho’s name, and even then he still won’t agree.
Pic 2Poor Kim’s so overworked she has to set a timer in the car for 5 minutes, catch a quick bit of shut eye. At Mesa Verde, she starts feeling the pangs of guilt about what’s happened with Chuck (Michael McKean) as her client gloats. There’s eventually going to come a time when she lets that guilt bubble over, and it’ll do something more than just end up as a passive-aggressive moment with a client. She is a good person. I can’t see her living with every last thing Jimmy’s going to put her through.
Kim: “All we did was tear down a sick man
Every single day is a routine for Jimmy now. Like he’s in prison without being IN prison. He rushes from community service work to his wet wipe bath to another commercial set with his faithful crew of industry hopefuls. They head to a music shop called ‘ABQ in tune’ where twin brothers have cold feet about paying so much for a lot of bullshit mostly. He ends up offering it to them for free with a promise they’ll pay the original rate for more commercials after business picks up. Resulting in him handing out all his money yet again. Never getting ahead, and it’s affecting him. The world keeps beating him down.
One of the women from the church (Tamara Tunie) is in the same support group Stacey attends. Mike seems to further connect with her more than they did while working earlier. A genuine relationship with another soul. I love Mike as a character because he’s a good guy. Yes, he ends up in a terrible place doing bad things. Doesn’t change that underneath it all he started as a good man, going down the rabbit hole because of a need for duty; his being to provide for his family. So seeing him and this woman connect, even if it’s only brief, it is special.
And now Mike decides he’ll help the hapless Pryce, another sense of duty calling him to keep providing for the day he’s not around to anymore.
Pic 3Like old times, Jimmy goes out with Kim for drinks. He keeps on keeping up those appearances. At a nearby table they spot someone to pull a quick grift on. Jimmy gets a bit dark, his criminal self coming out further. And in that moment Kim can kind of see the darkness, more than ever. He sort of loves it. What she sees is the lengths he’ll go, that it isn’t only talk. That he will do all sorts of things in order to keep himself above water; many of them illegal. Furthermore, it’s clear to her that even if Jimmy does feel guilt somewhere he’s buried under anger, and that road leads nowhere good. For now, she’s still by his side. Though the clock is ticking.
Nacho meets with Pryce, and Mike. The old fella knows about the nitroglycerine pills, Hector’s heart medication. He advises Nacho about what he’s getting into, then he discovers the whole debacle with Nacho’s dad. No choices left. Mike gives his best advice: once the deed is done, switch the pills back so all looks legit. Smart.
At his insurance company Jimmy meets someone about his policy, wondering about a refund. No dice. He’s paid in full and there’s just no way for them to cash out unused coverage. Not to mention after he’s reinstated the price goes up 150%. Even after his suspension is over he’ll be held down by various rules. Right now his car won’t start, he has no money, he has no family left who cares about him.
He has a use for tears. This shows us more of his duplicitous nature.
Then the younger of the McGills lets slip – yes, purposely – that Chuck had a breakdown in court. Ah, insurance issues headed for the older brother. One small bit of revenge. Only what will it bring? What does this revenge beget in turn? I hope it won’t affect Chuck’s health. That could be the turning point finally for Kim if Jimmy’s responsible for anything serious. He already nearly put his brother out once last season.
Jimmy: “I just need a break. Just one break.”
Pic 4Yikes, this was a solid episode. Intense and emotional. I’m itching for “Slip” and we’re getting close to the end of Season 3. You know that we’ll get a Season 4, there’s no way we can’t get another! The storytelling is damn good it’s ridiculous.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 4: “The Narrow Escape Problem”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 4: “The Narrow Escape Problem”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Monica Beletsky

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Law of Non-Contradiction” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The House of Special Purpose” – click here
Pic 1Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and his brother Ray (McGregor) are portrayed in a juxtaposed couple shots showing how different they are truly, at the same time the latter’s trying to impersonate his brother. Also, the instruments of the score play us through, every character – named by animal – has a sound.
Great opening sequence, from the Stussy brothers to Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) helping her man prepare for their latest con, to Sy Feltz (Michael Stulhbarg) keeping an eye on the situation at the office, and V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) who likes to binge eat and throw up apparently. Can’t forget Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), either; fresh off her trip to LA in search of clues about Ennis Stussy a.k.a Thaddeus Mobley.
Loving this season. The characters are incredibly interesting, almost more than ever because there’s a true air of mystery, particularly with Varga.
Pic 1ASo Ray’s pretending to be his brother, looking for the safety deposit box. Nikki does her best to pump him up for the work at hand. She definitely believes in him, which I wasn’t so sure of at the start. Inside he goes for the box, briefly meeting a woman from Bemidji, Minnesota which of course was the setting of Season 1. Ray ends up in the office of Buck Olander (Dan Wilmott), he knows Emmit well. Most interesting is how we, and Ray alike, see the difference between the brothers. At first he finds it uncomfortable. Then uses it to his advantage to get the box opened.
When he gets inside there’s a small bag filled with dog ashes. At least he gets out with $10,000. After Emmit finds out he and Sy aren’t happy, but they have bigger fish to fry with Varga. Their money worries are quite real, and they’d rather not find out what worse a wolf like V.M. might do if triggered.
Plus, there’s Meemo (Andy Yu) and Yuri Gurka (Goran Bogdan) up to no good for their eerie, mysterious boss.
Ray: “Buck, if I wanted an opinion from an asshole Id ask my own.”
Meanwhile, Gloria investigates the death of Maurice LeFay, going through his belongings at the morgue. Where she soon comes to find a Parole Board business card amongst them. Only a few steps to Ray Stussy, then a few more to connect him, his problems with his brother and the death of ole Ennis. Moe Dammick (Shea Whigham) thinks she’s digging too deep into something that requires no digging.
Pic 2One thing prevalent in this series is the chaotic randomness inherent in our world.
First, Gloria passes Nikki on the way into the Parole Board offices. Then, as it happened to her previously at another building, Gloria’s ignored by the automatic doors. Will this little nugget come to play a bigger part? It’s the same thing in the washroom when she tries getting soap, water, the sink and dispenser refuse to acknowledge her. There’s got to be more to this, I know it. Random events often come to mean bigger things in the Fargo universe.
So now Ray meets Gloria. She discovers his last name’s Stussy. No relation, of course. But curious to note for our woman of the law. They get talking about Maurice and his death, his involvement in the death of Ennis, that he may have been looking for something at the old guy’s house. When she leaves the balder of the Stussy brothers he’s visibly shook. No wonder.
He has worse problems. Pictures of him and Nikki turn up from their night out gambling. The higher-ups aren’t happy with him. They offer to sweep it under the rug, if it’s just a “one time thing.” So, he has to choose love or his job. They also threaten to revoke her parole if he chooses the former. Eventually he talks them down and leaves his job behind. But if he officially gets closer to Nikki, then it’s increasingly likely that Gloria will be more suspicious about what happened to Maurice, at Nikki’s apartment building, et cetera. Yikes, what a mess. A beautiful mess.
Ray: “They always find a way to screw ya, dont they?”
Gloria: “They try
Officer Lopez, who ran into Gloria while in the Parole Board office bathroom, is over chatting with Sy about the car accident reported. He’s real cagey, too. Not a good poker face. With the big Russian and Meemo lurking around the office it’s never good having a cop around.
Pic 3At Emmit’s door arrives Varga, sniffing out pork chops. He sits with the family and eats. A very nervous dinner, indeed. The sly Brit intimidates while being sweet as a slice of apple pie. And when he’s finished his meal, he goes to the bathroom to keep himself thin with a vomit. Later, the two men talk business, though Emmit does so reluctantly. “Youre living in the age of the refugee, my friend,” Varga tells him cryptically, as he speaks of class war, capitalism, and how when things go to shit nobody will differentiate between a guy who pumps oil or a guy who makes tons of cash leasing parking lots.
Interesting how much Varga knows, of the Brothers Stussy, their struggle. Also note that V.M. has a picture of Stalin on his wall near the computer. What a creep. I doubt he idolises the man. More so he’s the type who thrives under a dictator, one who reaps the spoils of such a situation. A dirty opportunist of the lowest, darkest sort. And Emmit’s right in his cross-hairs.
Note: I suspect Varga’s bulimic tendencies are symbolism, of how the upper class gorge themselves, purging, then gorging; all for the sake of it rather than out of need.
At home Gloria contemplates the case of Ennis’ death. She gets a late visit from Officer Lopez about her visit to the Stussy office. Bringing about the conversation about Ennis, two brothers with the same last name and one living in Eden Prairie. Ahh, the pieces are really falling together now.
Pic 4Love the twisting and turning plot of this season. This episode deepened that to further lengths. Great, labyrinthine writing!
Next episode is “The House of Special Purpose” and I’m never sure what’ll happen in any episode, so I look forward to a new surprise.