Mr. Robot – Season 3, Episode 1: “eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h”

USA’s Mr. Robot
Season 3, Episode 1: “eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h”
Directed & Written by Sam Esmail

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “eps3.1_undo.gz” – click here
IMG_0304Will we see Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) help the Dark Army enact “Stage 2” finally? Or, will our friendly neighbourhood hacker Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) be able to stop it after he was shot by his supposed friend?
We open on Irving (Bobby Cannavale) arguing with a woman at a fast-food joint called the Red Wheelbarrow about his punch card and its “faulty logic.” He’s a man of principle. He likes order. Quite the unique man.
He’s also been called up to Tyrell’s little HQ, to check on Elliot after the gunshot. Plenty of blood. There’s help on the way, so long as the young man survives. So, on appearance Irving looks like a used card salesman. When in fact he’s so much more, some sort of Dark Army operative, as he’s also given the name of Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) over the phone by his contact.
IMG_0305Mr. Zhang a.k.a Whiterose (BD Wong) keeps an eye on everything, of course. While others around him believe Elliot and Wellick both are unstable, the man himself is more inclined to watch on with a bit of a curiosity. He speaks about the former Mr. Alderson (Christian Slater). As well as the value of having Elliot around: “His unadulterated, focused rage.” However, it only lasts as long as he’s needed. Then he can die for the Dark Army, “just like his father.”
Oh, my. So much intrigue in only 10 minutes.
When Elliot wakes he finds Angela waiting. He wants to know what’s been happening, realising that Tyrell is indeed alive. Likewise, he discovers the power he once held has dissipated; greatly. He hates Evil Corp, but he doesn’t want to see people die if their facility is blown up. At the same time, the “ever looming presence” that was his father doesn’t feel present anymore.
He goes back to his apartment and finds Darlene (Carly Chaikin), worried about him and where he’s been. He tells her about people outside, likely watching, listening. She fills him in on Cisco’s death. Afterwards, he explains Stage 2, what could happen, the backdoor they infiltrated into E.Corp in the beginning. But it also splits the brother and sister slightly, considering she didn’t know about the plan. All the same, Elliot isn’t well. It wasn’t technically him who did all this, it was the influence of Mr. Robot.
With the power reduce by brownouts, there’s no internet. So, it’s a family outing somewhere Darlene knows they can get access, in hopes Elliot might close the backdoor into E.Corp and stop the planned destruction. They head to a sort of club/internet lounge, a “hacker space.” They’ve got to be careful, though. Could be Dark Army lurking at every turn.
IMG_0307And they’re everywhere.
So is the FBI. Before anyone can get them, Irving picks them up in a cab. They go to talk about Stage 2, and Elliot leaves believing he’s finished it all. Darlene isn’t so sure, and their divide widens. Now, our hacker sees how he’s “fucked society.” Nice play on the fsociety’s original name.
The mental illness angle of Elliot’s character comes out vividly through Sam Esmail’s visuals and his writing. Here, we see a great inward v. outward sequence, as Elliot rants: “What if instead of fighting back we cave, give away our privacy for security, exchange dignity for safety, trade in revolution for repression? What if we choose weakness over strength?” And as he narrates onscreen, walking through a scene doing a theatrical aside, he goes into voice-over narration, too. Great techniques.
Also now we’re seeing Elliot come to grips with having made things worse somehow. People who brand this as a leftist show, and in many ways it is, it doesn’t pull the punches when it comes to exploring how revolution is messy, and it doesn’t always go well, for either side.
They turned our dissent into intellectual property” – a timely line, right?


What does Elliot do from here? He goes to Angela, asking for her to get him a job at E.Corp. To help working from the inside out, to undo the hack, to restore civilisation so they can at least try rebuilding from a better standpoint. Right now, it’s all ruined. On top of that, our hacker asks his old friend to watch out for him, to make sure Mr. Robot doesn’t take over again.
That night, dad does show up. Is Angela taking advantage? Certainly seems that way. And that’s troubling. She’s one of the most unpredictable characters of the series, which is always interesting. However, she’s manipulative right now, telling Mr. Robot things he didn’t know Elliot’s been doing. Shit, this sets up a very compelling plot for Season 3. All of a sudden I can’t help resent Angela a bit, doing this to someone she considers a close friend, someone mentally ill. That’s ugly.
They go meet Irving. Discussing things moving along. The guy doesn’t know all about how things with Elliot and Mr. Robot work, so it’s questionable at first. Soon enough this changes. And who else is there? Tyrell. He feels terrible for having shot his friend. But Mr. Robot understands, for the most part. We see how they’re all manipulating this young, mentally ill hacker to their own ends. Under the guise of friendship. The only one who seems outwardly emotionally affected is Tyrell; that in itself is kind of… creepy. Angela kids herself that she’s actually talking to two different people, and that it’s all for the greater good. In certain ways, she’s as ill as him.
IMG_0314Perfect opener to Season 3. Just a spectacular way to begin, as always. Dig how Mr. Robot finds ways to refresh itself, recharging every so often, in the middle of a season and at the end, too. Esmail’s a genius. This show is a work of art.
“eps3.1_undo.gz” next week.

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Vinyl – Season 1, Episode 10: “Alibi”

HBO’s Vinyl
Season 1, Episode 10: “Alibi”
Directed by Allen Coulter
Written by Terence Winter

* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “Rock & Roll Queen” – click here
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This episode begins with Richie (Bobby Cannavale) making a deal with two feds. He’s now to be an informant against Corrado Galasso (Armen Garo). Is life going to get any easier now? Highly doubt that.
Meanwhile, Clark (Jack Quaid) is in the clubs getting Indigo out to the nighttime crowds. Things are definitely going better, people are jamming to the record and disco seems to be taking hold quite well already. Love this opening sequence, as we see a guy like Clark coming up while someone like Richie is on his way down. Definitely speaks to a shift from rock n’ roll in the ’60s to the different forms of music that birthed in the ’70s.
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At the same time, Kip (James Jagger), Alex (Val Emmich) and The Nasty Bits aren’t exactly doing the greatest. Seems perhaps the situation between Alex, Kip and Jamie (Juno Temple) has been making things into a mess. Like we didn’t see that coming. Poor Jamie, she’s really trying to make an honest go at being a manager or an agent, anything, yet the power of love, the attraction of power itself all makes things more difficult.
Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano) is uptown meeting with Corrado. They talk like buddies, then Zak moves into business. He wants to chat about Richie. Uh oh. This is starting to get dangerous. Zak and Richie’s personal troubles come out, now clear to Galasso. There may be some fallout from this conversation.
Over at American Century Records, Skip (J.C. MacKenzie) lets the gang know Indigo, somehow, is playing well. Julie (Max Casella) and the others are surprised. They’ve got no idea about what’s been happening. Also, Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor) brings up a problem with The Nasty Bits’ song “Woman Like You” – Lester (Ato Essandoh) wrote it while under contract with Maury, so they need permission from him as an artist to use it. Only Maury suggests to send “a few of Corrados boys“, which is something Richie wants no part of. Especially now that he’s a federal informant.
All the while, Zak is planning on ousting Richie from ACR, he and Scott (P.J. Byrne) have already got things in motion, now with Galasso knowing their situation things are moving. Zak’s still trying to get the career of Gary a.k.a Xavier (Douglas Smith) going, the kid even has a ton of ideas for some space opera-style costumes and stage designs, so on. They’re juggling a lot, these two. Something about Scott is uneasy, though.


The Nasty Bits are being pumped up by Andrea (Annie Parisse) and Richie as the next big thing. Joe Corso (Bo Dietl) tries to put his two cents in. Then Galasso turns up, saying he has “bad news” for Mr. Finestra. This all leads to something Zak had never expected. Now it’s all out in the open. Corrado doesn’t like him being “rat fuckinshit bag” against his friend and colleague Richie. Zak didn’t follow the old mob rules, which turns his latest plans on their head. “I dont give a fuck what your problems are,” Galasso makes clear before leaving. But the furthest divide is between Richie and Zak – the former admits everything’s his fault, though, he does at least have ideas about how to get through it all. Add to that the cops still have a bug in ACR, the local ones, and they’re trying their best to keep an eye on things, even if the feds are now playing their own games.


Kip and Jamie continue falling apart. She’s fallen for both him and Alex, too. This prompts Kip into quitting the Nasty Bits, throwing Jamie out, and likely he’ll be falling head first into some heroin soon enough. Can’t mean anything good for the label. At least Indigo is “charting“, again to the surprise of Skip, Scott, and Julie. Clark did a good thing by not sending out a later, he and Jorge (Christian Navarro) decided to pimp the record out to the clubs and have found an “untapped market” for this dance music.
Cut to Lester and Richie. The permission for the song is not coming easy, but Richie’s also not aware of Kip quitting. Not sure how that’ll play into things going forward. Either way, Richie tries his best to persuade Lester, even cutting a cheque, too. Their bridges keep mending then burning and falling to bits all over again.
Problems are happening for Zak, as well. He’s collected by a man belonged to Galasso – so fast his shoe is let in the middle of the street. So Richie gets a call, and down he goes to a meeting with Galasso and his men. A raid came down because of what was on that wire tap. It looks like Zak’s fault. No good, for anybody. They gun down Corso, all to make a point. “Now go make some fuckinmoney,” orders Corrado. For now, the ACR boys make it out alive.
And sadly, Kip has done what we could’ve all predicted – Lester and Jamie find him, overdosing on heroin, and try their best to help out. Ah, the life of a rockstar in the 1970s. Glamorous.


Love the scene where Queen is playing and they’re amazed by his voice, as well as that his real name could be Freddie Mercury. Then there’s Zak, hiding in his office, drinking booze, taking pills. Like anyone would after witnessing a man get a bullet to the head. He takes out a nice pair of shoes, he looks sullen, remembering better times. Is he planning something regrettable?
Down at the venue, Richie and the gang try to revive Kip for his gig. They’re going to bang a bit of coke up his veins to get him going again. Rock n’ fucking roll. Nothing can sway him, though, even after coming back from the dead. Lots of their personal bullshit comes out in front of Richie and Lester. This gets Jamie fired, and Richie commands them: “Do your fucking job.” Plus he makes clear there will be tons of women. Turns out Jamie isn’t fired from the company, only “from them“, so she still gets to stay, just has to stay away from the Bits.
Out on the stage, above it hangs a disco ball. Almost as if threatening to drop on all the rock, to obliterate it, and pave the way for something else. But when The Nasty Bits come out, as the crowd boos and wants The New York Dolls, something in the air changes when Kip starts to rock out. As the music hits people, even with The Ramones in attendance, people start to enjoy the edge, the attitude, the bluesy punk. Everybody begins to get it, and maybe The Nasty Bits will make it after all, despite the odds, the girl troubles, the heroin, the jealousy. Richie adds a nice flair to things by calling the cops and having them rush the stage. Publicity is flowing already, journalists scribbling everywhere, people chanting for the band.


The reach and power of the music business is evident so hilariously when the feds talk with Richie, so interested in groupies, the nightlife of rockstars. Great writing by Terence Winter. For the time being, Richie’s giving up little bits of information to his handlers, though, nothing that meaty so far. He’s almost playing both sides of the coin, both gangsters and the cops.
But most interesting is the bar where Richie meets his fed. He ends up chatting with the owner, who tells him of his plans to have bluegrass, country, blues, all kinds of music at his new place after it revamps: CBGB, he has written on a pad of paper, trying to figure out a name for the place when it starts out. Love this little inclusion, and hopefully it means good things for Richie somewhere down the line.
At the ACR office, a party is raging a little while after The Nasty Bits blew everyone away at the Dolls’ show – now, the launch of Alibi Records. A speech by Richie leads into the explanation of choosing Alibi or the name of the new sub-label, as well as an impassioned statement about music, youth, and the future of rock n’ roll. They break out some spray paint then to get the spirit of punk flowing through their veins. The entire office gets chaotic in the most enjoyable way. Across the room, Richie catches Zak’s eye, and something is still not quite right, nor will it ever be, I can’t imagine.


Love this season.
Sadly, HBO has recently decided they won’t continue with their renewal. They’ve gone ahead and reneged on that renewal and cancelled the show. Too bad. Some others didn’t dig it. I thought there was lots of good things happening. Oh well, thems the breaks!

Vinyl – Season 1, Episode 9: “Rock and Roll Queen”

HBO’s Vinyl
Season 1, Episode 9: “Rock and Roll Queen”
Directed by Carl Franklin
Written by Debora Cahn

* For a review of the previous episode, “E.A.B” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Alibi” – click here
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Richie (Bobby Cannavale) is trying to get himself out of jail, drug sweats and all. He and his lawyer are in an interrogation room trying to work things out. But things are looking rough for Mr. Finestra. There’s a deal being worked out. If Richie will help the feds bring down Corrado Galasso (Armen Garo), then he’ll be all right. Otherwise it’s manslaughter, as well as a possibly tough god damn time in jail.
Over at American Century Records, Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor) is making things complicated for everyone. Zak (Ray Romano) is not too happy, but does what’s needed to get by. Maury’s an old school-type, also one who’s connected tightly to the mob. This is a messy situation for Richie.
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In a room with her new photographer friend Billy (Richard Short), Devon (Olivia Wilde) is embracing the photographer in herself once more. Also, they’re pretty much falling love. Or for the time being it’s a sexual release for her. Either way, she is free of Richie. For how long who knows.
Boardroom time. ACR is trying to get moving again, to start signing a few new acts and so on. In the mix, again, is Maury, which sort of makes everybody nervous. Julie (Max Casella), Skip (J.C. MacKenzie) and the rest are discussing business; The Nasty Bits, even the prospect of Hannibal coming back to the label, et cetera. Not everything is hunky dory, though. A bit of interjection from Maury causes a dull uproar over the direction of the label, the sub-label. All of it. And when things get too much for Richie, he goes to do some cocaine. Instead, he opts to toss it. Is this a new side to him? He needs his wit to deal with the cops. Better off without the coke.
Everyone’s in a bit of a hard spot. Jamie Vine (Juno Temple) is kicked out on the streets, though, she does have Kip (James Jagger) to take her in, to comfort her. Meanwhile, Clark (Jack Quaid) is attempting to get along with his new colleagues, doing a decent job so far; I feel there’s more to his story that’s coming, I hope so anyways.


Trying to kick the habit, Richie has to watch everyone around him snort to their heart’s content. Joe Corso (Bo Dietl) is around, too. Being an idiot. Is it realistic to believe Richie will be able to get himself clean?
At a photo shoot for The Nasty Bits, manager Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh), Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse) and Jamie try to corral the band. When Kip gets a bit pissy, Danny (Rodrigo Lopresti) offers to chop off his long locks to make things balanced. Looks like there may be a future for this little punk outfit after all.
Julie goes to Richie, about some acts, all that stuff. Well, he ends up talking about Devon, seeing her at the bar during the last episode. The two men bond over broken marriages. But Julie has a few choice words for his boss and friend over all the things happening, personal life and business wise, every last bit of it. Nothing is sunny at ACR. No one is happy, especially not the guys who’ve been there longest like Julie, Zak, the others. Even Cece (Susan Heyward) – she’s got issues with Hannibal returning.


Richie: “Screaminyour heart out into a mic, it aint cheap anymore. And if you dont have $800,00 in the banktruth and sound, it aint available.”
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There’s a lot of things happening at the office. Andrea’s not pleased with the “stupid fucking twats” around banging the acts, from Cece – now pregnant – to Jamie, whose semi-management of The Nasty Bits is slightly jaded for the fact she’s sleeping with Kip.
At the same time, Lester is very unhappy. The sight of Gold in their boardroom absolutely crushes him. He is not impressed with Richie and his involvement with Maury/Galasso. So many things are basically crumbling around Finestra, from the actual label itself to the employee-employer relationships to, obviously, his shattered marriage. Speaking of which, Devon is supposedly living her “divorce fantasy“, but it’s anything other than that to her. “I dont know what Im doing,” she tells her friend desperately.
So Richie goes searching for her. He ends up at the apartment where Devon stays with Billy, just as the latter is trying to kill a bat flying around. This is a hilarious situation, after Richie whacks Billy in the face accidentally with a tennis racket, trying to help. Then, he realizes who the guy is, and they slowly shuffle away from each other. When Devon shows up, naturally, they argue. She makes clear the rift between them is not closing, not anytime soon, anyways. He loves her, but like everything else in his life there’s always this necessity to do the easy thing, not the right thing. Which only ends up making his life that much harder. At least he gets to see his kids for a bit.


Devon: “You stood in front of me coked out of your mind and told me you spent the week with a dead man.”
Richie: “Yeah, and you fucked a live one.”
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At Kip’s place, he and Danny and Jamie rock out together. Is this a burgeoning threesome situation? Could mean for some nasty band relationships. Right now, it’s as if Kip doesn’t mind a whole bunch. The three of them are enjoying themselves. Let’s see how long the Golden Age of their good times lasts.
Zak and Richie have a bit more personal time together. The former does his best to ensure Richie his marriage will get better. A good drunk, a nice fuck, all is forgiven. Then there’s Clark, who heads out for another night in the clubs with that good music spinning on the tables. He’s busy trying to get Indigo’s new album out for some play. Except it clears the dance floor after the DJ puts it on for people to hear. Not a hit. At least not immediately. A minute or two pass by and then people start grooving, dance circles form, and the music gets people to move.
On the phone, Zak gets a call from Vegas to fly him out, free of charge. Because of his “patronage“, what he says was only $800 at the table. He and Skip talk, but it’s not immediately evident to Zak what’s happened. Although, the seed is planted in his mind. It grows, quickly. The concept of Richie’s betrayal dawns on him. What an awful feeling and a terrible turn of events, particularly for Richie who has enough trouble already.
So Zak gives Richie a few whacks in the elevator. He takes out his rage, best he can. This is a true fracture, a possibly unfixable one in their relationship.


After his beating, Richie goes to the Chealsea Hotel. He sees Devon, admitting that he killed Buck Rogers, in self-defense, but also that he tried covering it up. This is what made him fall off the wagon. He comes clean to her about every last detail. Clearly shocks her to the core. Why wouldn’t it?
But where does this go from here? Will Devon somehow understand the plight of her husband? Will she help him? Or is Richie about to fade away into the muck and mire of addiction? Hard to tell. I’d like to think he’s going to face things head on. There’s no guarantee either way. One thing’s for sure: Richie has the spirit of rock n’ roll flowing through his veins, it’s only a matter of whether he can keep himself from going off the deep end. If so, American Century Records could turn things around.
Richie may not live to see that day. In the end, he decides to take the deal and help the cops take down Galasso. Uh oh.


Stay tuned for the Season 1 finale “Alibi”, which airs next week. Loving this series. Excited to see where the finale takes us and where Season 2 will begin from afterwards.

Vinyl – Season 1, Episode 8: “E.A.B.”

HBO’s Vinyl
Season 1, Episode 8: “E.A.B.”
Directed by Jon S. Baird
Written by Michael Mitnick

* For a review of the previous episode, “The King and I” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rock & Roll Queen” – click here
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Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), his boys Zak (Ray Romano) and Skip (J.C. MacKenzie) are out talking with a loan officer named Allen Charnitski (Michael Kostroff). Trying their best to woo him, which starts with Skip hugging the man as they come in the bank, to awkward reception especially from Richie. But life goes on. They do the best they can. Although, their best may not be enough.
Meanwhile, Richie needs some cocaine. He needs to get things done and that requires the boost he knows will work.
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Richie: “And besides, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, Sherlock Holmesthey all thrived used cocaine.”
Zak: “Sherlock Holmes; not a real person.”
Richie: “Give me the fucking coke!”
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In other news, Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse) is trying to turn the company image around. She’s left dealing with Hal Underwood (Jay Klaitz), whom she eventually fires because he’s outdated like a dinosaur in a cheap shirt. Plus, this shows us how big her balls are, and that she can get shit done.
Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh) is still going hard at managing The Nasty Bits. Kip Stevens (James Jagger) has all but completely lost his edge, as the band is now some sort of watered down bit of Brit Pop. Doesn’t seem like Richie’s too impressed anymore – they’re opening up for the New York Dolls soon. He tries to light a fire under the Bits. Jamie (Juno Temple) and Julie (Max Casella) watch on, as Richie talks about how their demo was the “soundtrack” for “all the madness of this city” and that they need to recapture that essence. “I dont need a hit, guys,” Richie explains: “I need a Nasty Bits song.”
Zak and Scott (P.J. Byrne) attempt to sign the singer from the Bat Mitzvah – Gary (Douglas Smith) – whose voice they hope to exploit, in order to get American Century Records back on track proper. And his voice is incredible, for sure.


At the office, Richie finds Joe Corso (Bo Dietl) waiting. He’s worried about the cops poking around concerning Buck Rogers. They know about the three of them together that night. There’s all sorts of animosity between the two of them. Corso all but threatens to out Richie to the police if he’s caught himself. Yikes. That situation might degrade faster than expected.
In studio, Lester decides a lesson in “foundation” is necessary for the Bits when they’re tapped out. He drops a bit of rhythm on them all, even singing slightly to a riff. Nothing like the blues to get things hoppin’. “Dirty it up,” Lester even suggests. This starts to get the blood flowing.
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Richie deals with a bit of Skip’s mutinous feelings. He knows that Skip is likely doing the skimming that’s alluded to on his part. But in bust the other two yokels, flying high about signing the kid from the Bat Mitzvah. Zak is willing to put a lot on the line to get the guy signed, even putting his personal finance on the line – all because he still thinks he’s the one who lost all that money in Vegas, unknowing that Richie was the one who did them in. Afterwards, up turns Hal who is a Satanist of some sort, and lays a hex or something on everybody in the office. A hilarious and also kind of sad moment.
Up on the rooftop for a smoke, Lester bonds a little with Kip. Until Kip tries to get Lester to teach them his song, so they can turn it into a Nasty Bits tune. No response from the manager. For now.
At the same time, Clark (Jack Quaid) is making better friends at his new position in the mail room. He and one of the other guys bond also, only over a bit of cocaine. They bump a little then get to talking. Then to dancing.
Across town at the Chelsea Hotel, Devon (Olivia Wilde) has troubles with some of the neighbours. Not the place for children, that’s for certain. To stay she needs to produce more work, as they cater to artists. Those dreams of hers don’t come easy.


Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor) receives Richie at his office. The younger of the two is admitting to trouble with ACR. He starts leaning towards going to the mob, but Maury knows the price of those decisions. Richie doesn’t want to see his friends, particularly Zak, go in over their head. “Have you ever seen somebody choked to death?” asks Maury, as a preamble into his advice about going to the mob for loans.
At a club, Devon goes with friends to see Bob Marley (Leslie Kujo), Pete Tosh (Aku Orraca-Tetteh) and the gang onstage. Beautiful reggae music flows over the crowd, as everybody jams to the gorgeous rhythm. She sees John Lennon at a booth, but across the place Julie spies her. Interesting. Even more so because she ends up getting Lennon’s picture, as well as finding herself getting close to another man.
Richie and Zak head to see Corrado Galass0 (Armen Garo), whose disposition is scary to say the least. They manage to get a cash guarantee. Then there’s also a request to share office space. Naturally, the boys don’t push their luck and accept readily. Without admitting to any guilt, Richie tries assuring Zak things will be fine, and that he takes responsibility for the mess they’re in currently. Not long after Richie’s picked up by the police.


The cops try grilling Richie, but he’s a fairly cool cucumber under pressure. They’re very convinced of his guilt. Yet he manages to keep them off his back, for the moment. Then they bring up Corso’s name. They throw suspicion, doubt onto the fire. A tape is played for Richie. No surprise – they’ve bugged his office.
And so the plot thickens.
We end on the finale of this episode with The Nasty Bits playing a new tune. Their manager has come through big time. Zak and Scott each fantastize about the potential of Gary’s career. A nice little montage culminates with Richie in his jail cell, and a cut to Clark joining his new buddy on an excursion to a club somewhere in a big building, people dancing everywhere. Amazing. Like Clark stepped into a brand new world.


Excited for the penultimate episode of this season. A great show. Not my favourite episode, but a good one. Stay tuned with me for “Rock & Roll Queen” next Sunday!

Vinyl – Season 1, Episode 6: “Cyclone”

HBO’s Vinyl
Season 1, Episode 6: “Cyclone”
Directed by Nicole Kassell
Written by Carl Capotorto & Erin Cressida Wilson

* For a review of the previous episode, “He In Racist Fire” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The King and I” – click here
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With everything all but falling down around Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), the first season of HBO’s Vinyl moves further towards the finale.
This episode starts with “Tequila” by The Champs playing on a radio outside the home of Mr. Finestra, as he sits inside railing cocaine in a craze. This guy is seriously developing more of a habit each day. He’s hanging out with old pal Ernst (Carrington Vilmont). He isn’t much of a good influence, pretty much egging Richie on about Devon (Olivia Wilde) and what she might be up to. At the same time, in come his kids while he’s high as fuck. What a father. What a dude.


Richie: “I should freeze my accounts
Ernst: “You should fuck!”
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Meanwhile, Devon’s off on her own at the Chelsea Hotel. Seems there’s a bit of plaster casting going on, in which she’s involved. And then she gets even more involved when the shoot gets troublesome, offering to take off some clothes and jump in, head first. If Richie can have fun, why can’t she? Nobody should be judging her any more than him. All around a very provocative scene. All the same, nothing makes her feel full. Like Richie, constantly chasing a bigger, better, high.
Off the rails spins Mr. Finestra. He rampages through American Century Records like the titular cyclone, shouting orders, talking to himself.
Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano) welcomes Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse), and she seems ready to do business. Everybody’s happy to see her, from Skip Fontaine (J.C. MacKenzie) to Scott Levitt (P.J. Byrne). Then there’s the bossman who is a bit too over-the-top for everyone, clearly higher than Jesus. He leaves a little later, and it makes things easier for all involved. He heads off to cheat on his wife, but that doesn’t work.
Zak asks a little about Hannibal, to which Richie replies: “Because he tried to shove his dick inside my wife. Any other questions?” It’s just all out madness around the office. Richie’s falling apart, completely, right in front of everyone’s eyes.


Elsewhere, Julie Silver (Max Casella) requires Richie and his presence, concerning The Nasty Bits. “You kissed this broad not me,” says Julie. The problem is there are too many hippies at the auditions for a new guitar player. Richie trips out in front of everyone. We literally watch his tragic descent in front of the room. Then there is Ernst, reporting on Devon and her whereabouts. It’s all too much for Richie to handle right now, on top of the mountain of cocaine in his head. He takes off on the auditions leaving Jamie (Juno Temple) with Julie, the band, and no coke of her own.
Andrea takes Zak with her to go see David Bowie (Noah Bean), who jams onstage: “Is that Andy fucking Zito?” he calls down between jams. The guy playing Bowie looks SO MUCH like him, particularly in that era. Great sequence including him. Love the inclusion of all these musicians played by actors. Also gives Andrea lots of credibility, introducing her as a character quickly and efficient. But then Zak goes too heavy at Bowie and drives him away. Hilarious.
Outside a club, Richie ends up assaulting Andy Warhol (John Cameron Mitchell) by tossing him to the ground, then getting tossed into the road himself. His paranoia is building, especially after he finds out Ernst knows about what happened to Rogers – because Richie told him. The pair hotwire and steal a car, heading out for a little nighttime drive. Where to? Probably to track down his wife.


Devon is enjoying herself, blowing off steam. They talk about Ernst, Richie, all kinds of things. But Devon would rather not talk of her husband, his “bender” and such. Or is it more than that? She’s more drowned by the monotonous life at home, stuck with a husband, children. It isn’t exactly what she wanted, yet that life was forced upon her. This whole thing brings up the idea of artistry, what it means to be one, when you are one, who says, and so on. Love this whole sequence. Because then there’s the side of Devon which knows she’s bringing chaos to her kids, the family, and it pains her. Not all her fault, though. “Im so lonely,” she says: “Its pathetic. Im not myself anymore.” And that’s what it’s about: losing herself in the life of her husband, giving him everything with nothing left for herself.


Devon: “Day after day in that house I hear this creaking, back and forth, its the sound of me hanging myself from the rafters.”
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While his wife is pondering the big questions, Richie’s sleeping off a bender in the car. And forgetting important things. Simultaneously, in a guitar shop Kip (James Jagger) might’ve come across someone worth having in the band. Not only for his guitar player skills, but his scheming initiative. They both take off with guitars from the shop, and eventually Kip turns it into an offer.
Devon heads home, and almost instantly the sad quiet of that life returns, smothering her. Before she hears the kids, the one thing anchoring her there at all.
At the Bat Mitzvah, things are pretty much over. Zak isn’t overly happy to see Richie, after a six hour party. Such an awkward scene, as Richie makes a fool of himself, higher than the sky itself. He tries to apologize for everything over the past few months. Is it enough? Not so sure. “You ruined my life, and my familys life,” Zak yells at his boss. And Richie gets the toss, naturally. High and yelling at a Bat Mitzvah. Not a pinnacle of good living.


Worst of all, though, Richie knows he’s responsible for his problems, all those issues plaguing his life. He recognizes it all too well. Likely why he huffs down the drugs at such an incredibly dangerous rate, why he’s pretty much intent on self-destructing.
At home he finds Devon. He talks a good game – “Im gonna fix this” – but will anything truly change? He says the right things, makes the right moves, only she knows there’s more behind it all. Then he goes way too far and pushes her past the point of no return. She quickly grabs a few things, as well as the children. She finally decides to get out of there, recognizing the cyclone that is Richie, fueled by rage, ego, and cocaine.
Great montage of scenes as Trey Songz sings Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” and Zak mulling over his life, plus Richie discovers Devon and the kids gone.
Then we discover Ernst is dead – a hole in the back of his head. Has been all along. Could’ve guessed it, yet I still love this episode. A great bit of writing. What follows is an eventual car crash, as Richie hallucinates his long dead friend and gets totaled by another car in the road. A massacre to end such a wild, frantic episode. Then out steps Buddy Holly (Philip Radiotes) for a quick jam. And then Richie sits in his car, totally fine, staring at the Cyclone rollercoaster in front of him. Psyched out, man. Did he kill Ernst in a crash, is that how he died? Pretty sure. Love the intricacies. It becomes more and more clear with each passing episode that Richie turns everything to shit once it comes into his life, one way or another.


This was a whopper of an episode. Fun writing, excellent direction, and dedicated to the memory of David Bowie. Looking forward to “The King and I” next. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans!

Vinyl – Season 1, Episode 3: “Whispered Secrets”

HBO’s Vinyl
Season 1, Episode 3: “Whispered Secrets”
Directed by Mark Romanek
Written by Debora Cahn/Adam Rapp/Jonathan Tropper

* For a review of the previous episode, “Yesterday Once More” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Racket” – click here
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Rollin’ like a stone, Vinyl just keeps on coming!
This episode starts off on a record label banquet. Jackie Jarvis (Ken Marino) is up giving a speech for a Lifetime Achievement to Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor). Jarvis takes a shot at a few people, under the guise of comedy, even Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) who feels slighted. Richie’s also busy staring at the card on a table reserving Rogers’ seat; in between flashes of beating Rogers to death.
But after a sniff of cocaine, Richie’s feeling fine. His wife, Devon (Olivia Wilde), is not happy about hearing of her husband’s record label sale being called off from Jarvis. So Richie confronts Jarvis then goes to speak with Maury. Because Richie has things to ask Maury, about the mob connections to Corrado Galasso (Armen Garo). Except Maury has nothing but venom for his old protege.
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Cut back to the end of last episode. Richie sits with Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh), trying to act like old pals. It’s clear Lester is only worried about keeping himself “grounded” whereas Richie sits across from him, blowing his nose into a handkerchief and seeing blood. You can hear a low, raspy quality to Lester’s voice, obviously from the injury he suffered at the hands of Galasso and his men years ago. Rich has the old tapes from their sessions, he wants to give Lester a chance after all these years. Only Lester lost his voice. He tosses Richie out, threatening him to never comeback.
Then, coming back to ’73, we get the visual metaphor of water swirling down a drain. Just like Richie’s life.
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At the American Century Records office, Richie gets a note from Joe Corso (Bo Dietl) – a matter of “mutual interest” requires their attention. More coke, more flashbacks to Buck dying, then Richie is off.
Julie Silver (Max Casella) runs a bunch of names past Richie – from Terry Jacks, Dr. Hook, to Status Quo and Grand Funk Railroad, and so on – along with Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano). Some acts get cut. Others are obvious keepers, some possible moneymakers later on. Everybody’s stressed about money. Richie only wants to save money, so they can keep running.
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Zak: “While youre at it see if you can say a fuckinprayer for this company
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In Lester’s building we see an early D.J. fading songs in and out of one another. Watching on, Lester sees two old men start to boogie who rag on the young man for not letting songs play all the way through. But Lester encourages him to keep on working at it. Dig this scene. Perhaps a new way for Lester to make it in music – hip hop? Can’t wait for more of his story.
Clark Morelle (Jack Quaid) meets Alice Cooper (Dustin Ingram) in the recording studio. He knows of Richie and the label. Morelle tries to influence Alice into going solo because the band is just a band behind him, and “Youre Alice.”
Then there’s Julie, along with Jamie Vine (Juno Temple), trying to get The Nasty Bits into shape playing some Knicks. Jamie isn’t happy about the band sounding unlike themselves. Out of nowhere, the band and the others are surprised by the owners of the building. Apparently. Everyone packs and up and leaves quick, as the owners start calling the police. Is this some backstory of Jamie’s, or what? Or is she just a sly dog?


Jump back in time, as Devon stares at an obvious Andy Warhol painting. She and Richie are in bed together, the latter with a period-appropriate grease-stache. A happier time in their lives, juxtaposed with the chaos of their present days. What’s clear is that Devon, somewhere along the line, stifled her creativity to allow Richie everything he wanted. So now she’s seemingly forever under his thumb.
Over at ACR, Richie’s banging cocaine up his nose while talking to an employee. He’s trying to get ahead of Jackie Jarvis and his big mouth. They need to make the label look better. After his first meeting, up shows Corso, who needs to talk. Turns out he has a possible act for Richie to sign. Maybe.
Back with Morelle, he’s still chatting to Alice Cooper, and also trying to get a random woman’s hand off his dick. He’s continually trying to make sure Alice will seek out ACR, promising a few little things here and there. Johnny Thunders (Jonny D’Ambrosio) arrives to talk a bit of shit. In the background, a nice painting is defiled with shaving cream. Rock n’ roll.
Devon needs a bit more cash for an event. Instead of being understanding at all, Richie denies her. But his wife is not pleased with what he’s “thrown” her, which all but confirms her giving up dreams for him.


On the golf course in the early morning, Morelle watches Alice drive some golf balls. Clark’s also got a bit of leftover eye shadow on, plus a big snake wrapping around his neck. These pieces with Alice are incredible. Gives us such an insight into how Cooper really acted behind the scenes. Seems like a fun dude.
At his apartment, Lester listens to the old sessions, picking up his guitar. He sits and plays it a little. He sings, too. Although his voice is rusty, a bit harsh, you can hear the soul in him come out. This turns into a vision of him singing beautifully again, sat under the blue stage lights, almost like being back in the day once more; the sound of a band behind him, his old voice in his throat. He envisions a life with a family, gold records on the wall and a beautiful house surrounding him. Only the tragic cut edits us right back into ’73, with Lester croaking out the blues.
Meanwhile, Devon isn’t fairing too well either. She is out to see Andy Warhol (John Cameron Mitchell). He immediately puts her on the camera, his new skinnier one: “Everythings skinnier now,” Andy remarks. She has the picture from her wall, the one she stared at earlier. She wants Andy to sign it – but only so she’ll be able to sell it, which Andy knows is the case. Devon tries to sell her own idea of the ballet company, eventually crying a little. Her old friend understands the need to sell the picture, and agrees to sign it.


Hoping to create another sub-label to ACR, Richie brainstorms while listening to Howlin’ Wolf – who actually shows up in one of the brief segues we’ve come to expect from Vinyl. From the blue, Maury and Galasso arrive for a chat. Galasso wants to know about the cop who came to see Richie concerning the murder they’re tangled up with; little do they know of Finestra’s trouble. Things go smooth for the time being.
Right afterwards, we find police and the coroner discovering a body: that of Buck Rogers, head bashed into strawberry jam.
While Alice jams with his band, Clark shows up. They’re in the midst of testing a guillotine prop. Then Alice turns on Morelle, alerting the band of what he’s up to. Well a story comes out about Richie Finestra and how he fucked Alice/the band over. This whole thing has been a tease. They frighten the hell out of Clark and send him packing back to ACR.
At least Devon’s having a better time. Now with a Warhol in-tow, making the ballet company leaders quite happy. Sadly, though, they want another ten thousand dollars out of her, which really puts a damper on things.


Onstage are The Nasty Bits for a showcase in front of Richie. He’s not impressed: “Theyre oatmeal.” He liked their “raw, alive” demo. The stuff he wanted was the wild, crazy sound their demo had. His disgust shows, even to Kip Stevens (James Jagger). But Jamie rushes the stage and tells him to play their actual stuff. She tosses a beer bottle to convince Kip, gladly accepting the chance. Rather than leave, Richie heads back to the stage so he can hear. He digs. “What the fuck just happened?” asks Julie, bewildered.
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At home relaxing, Richie puts the tape Whispered Secrets into his player; the one Corso gave him. Then, as if the stars align, Corso calls to tell Richie about the body being found by some “kids playinin a lot” – it obviously rocks him. So he plays the tape, starting with “Danny’s Song” in a nice folky sound. The song is like a bittersweet moment, as the beautiful voice pours from the speakers and Richie can only sit silently, unable to concentrate on the music, the Warhol missing from the wall. Nothing is in its right place.
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Next episode, “The Racket”, ought to be interesting. Love the progression of the plot and the characters. This series is really picking up. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans.

Vinyl – Season 1, Episode 2: “Yesterday Once More”

HBO’s Vinyl
Season 1, Episode 2: “Yesterday Once More”
Directed by Allen Coulter
Written by Terence Winter

* For a review of the pilot – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Whispered Secrets” – click here
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Open on Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) watching a martial arts flick with Bruce Lee on the big screen, attempting the moves himself, all the while snorting coke. Problem is he’s not alone and “disturbing the other patrons” causing troubles.
Cut to Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano), Skip Fontaine (J.C. MacKenzie) and Scott Levitt (P.J. Byrne) trying to stall the Germans, as Richie is quite late. Zak reels off a story, everyone laughing and trying to play things up.
At the Finestra house, the television is left smashed with the Bo Diddley guitar still in it. Devon (Olivia Wilde) gets a call from Zak, letting him know about the Richie bender. She’s absolutely not impressed with her husband, though, she puts on a good face for the children. At the office, Zak slips some pills in order to cope with the stress; he does not look happy, either. And finally, up shows Richie looking like death walking – he’s still bleeding, covered in dust from the collapse at the New York Dolls show. Seems like Richie has a God complex now, or something similar. He feels almost invincible, between the cocaine and surviving the building falling down on top of him. He says they aren’t selling the company, then a wild scene breaks out as the boys try to calm their friend down. My favourite bit so far? The cuts to Jerry Lee Lewis (Lance Lapinsky) playing “Breathless” in a silhouetted, smokey frame.


Bottom line – Richie’s renewed his love of rock n’ roll. Then he pulls out some Bruce Lee shit on his buddies, except for Skip who dives over the couch to avoid an ass-kicking. “Is this how you do business in America?” asks one of the Germans. “Take a hike you Nazi prick,” Richie replies. Stumbling away with Zak and Scott bleeding, Skip tells them: “Its like the lottery in fuckinreverse.” Over in his own office, Richie talks with Julie Silver (Max Casella), who wants to know what’s happening. Everyone seems to know what sort of guy Richie is, obviously he’s had problems in the past of which everybody at the office is aware. But Julie’s got no problem doing a bit of coke with the boss.
Now we switch over to Devon, who daydreams of a time before. Lou Reed (Connor Hanwick) plays with The Velvet Underground, as Andy Warhol (John Cameron Mitchell) and others sit around watching them. Richie is there looking quite different, as is Devon; before they were together. Devon takes pictures and Richie casually asks about her a little, they lock eyes and a connection is clearly imminent. In a bathroom, they meet and form an instant, steamy bond. Outside, Lou and the band rock on to “Run, Run, Run”. Coming back to reality, Devon drives on listening to a song on the radio, seeing Karen Carpenter in the car next to her – until she realizes her children aren’t in the car with them. She forgot the kids, but turns back quickly.
Meanwhile, Richie is busy shaping his staff up for the new regime. “Take that fuckinJefferson Airplane poster with you,” he screams at an employee, firing him and tossing his ass out the door. Richie wants kick ass, balls to the wall music, he wants everybody to start looking for the best stuff with the right kick. A hilarious scene, though, sort of disturbing because we know Richie’s off the wagon hardcore. Afterwards, Jamie Vine (Juno Temple) heads in to talk with her boss. She wants to know if he thought The Nasty Bits were any good, which he says they were, but they need an “MC5” sort of thing to give them better edge. Richie gives Jamie a chance to show what she’s worth by setting up a showcase for the band, plus she also hauls some coke out of her bra just as he asks for another vial; the look on his eyes spell THANK YOU. “If you ever rat me out again to Richie, Ill kick you in the fucking cunt,” Jamie quietly tells the receptionist on her way out.


Devon is reliving part of her old life, too. She takes pictures of the television with the Bo Diddley axe in it, artistically framed and such. Then receives a call from the police informing her of Richie’s car being near the building collapse, which obviously worries her as she hasn’t seen her husband yet. Even though he’s just at the office, coked up.
Zak is getting his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah ready. Only now the money is racking up and the deal isn’t going through. On top of all that, his nose is smashed to bits. Things are getting heavy for Zak now, but he takes it half decently. For now.
Another scene cut in here of a musician playing – this time, Bobby Bland (Jo’ell Jackson) sings “I’ll Take Care of You”, crooning away. Cut to Devon finding Bobby in the shower, upset at him yet glad he’s alive. For his part, he loves her. Maybe he’s fucked up, he definitely is. But he loves her, and she loves him, too. Only he can’t let her know what the real pressure happening is about; he claims it’s work, his birthday. It’s the murder, though. Clearly.
And right after they start to talk, a detective shows up: homicide division. It isn’t about Buck. It’s about Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor), his association with the mob, and a recent murder tying them all together. One the cop leaves, Richie breaks down: “Im a bad person,” he cries to his wife, weeping in her lap.
Flashback to hanging with Andy and all those folk. Richie has a slightly different look, now he and Devon are together. They’re all taking drugs, relaxing at what is likely The Factory. Andy’s a little jealous of Richie, being Devon’s boyfriend and all. When Andy comes over he is coy, faux-friendly, but somehow slightly sweet. Richie talks Devon into going on camera for Andy, which only requires her to sit there and look nice. The whole time she and Richie look at one another across the room.


Julie’s busy with Jamie, listening to The Nasty Bits. He is not impressed; not with the singer Kip (James Jagger) or his voice, not with the music, none of it. Julie does his best to explain how they can “suck less” and lays out the way they’ll impress Richie, as well as possibly get signed. This includes learning a Kinks tune to play for the boss, to which The Nasty Bits agree after a bit of whinging.
Having a worse is Zak, whose life becomes more and more a pain with each minute. His money problems are spiraling now that their huge deal for the label isn’t going through. I can feel something building, but what? Where will Zak turn? His wife certainly isn’t making it any better, having become accustomed to their obviously fairly lavish lifestyle. He gets out of bed and heads to the garage. In his car, he seems to contemplate taking a handful of pills then decides against it. Instead, he beats the hell out of the back-end with a wrench.
Flashback to the old days of Richie and Devon, as their present isn’t so wonderful. They’re hanging with The Factory crowd a little more, everyone drinking, making out, so on. Things were once incredible.
Back to ’73, as Devon wakes up to find Richie gone, their bed empty. Out on the street, Richie looks all business. He’s in the black neighbourhood where we saw him get a gun pulled on him during the pilot, where we saw his brief reunion with Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh). Richie carries a huge envelope inside, right to the door of Lester who reluctantly lets his old friend inside: “We gotta talk,” says Richie.


This was an excellent follow-up to the first two-hour extravaganza from Martin Scorsese. Looking forward to the next episode, “Whispered Secrets” – stay tuned with me!