SciFi Weekend: Breaking Bad; Dexter Finale; Sleepy Hollow; The Blacklist; Agents of SHIELD; Orphan Black; How I Met Your Mother

breaking bad granite state

If the television shows I watched this week really reflected reality, many of the characters would be talking about the Breaking Bad finale, with some catching up on Netflix and the AMC marathon. Breaking Bad has done what few shows can do in increasing interest, and ratings, as it approached its finale. Breaking Bad has succeeded against its rivals the same way that Walter’s blue meth has–being superior to the competition. The show has also become as addictive as blue meth. This is primarily due to basics such as high quality acting and writing, but Breaking Bad has also been assisted by modern technology. The ability of many people to catch up at no additional cost on streaming services such as Netflix has helped increase the audience over past years. High definition big screen televisions are necessary to fully appreciate the camera work.

Things appeared to be as bad as possible for Walt and Jesse at the end of Ozymandias. Matters got even worse in Granite State. Walt lived alone in isolation in New Hampshire, unable to spend his money on anything other than supplies from Ed, along with an extra hour of his company for $10,000. Couldn’t they at least give him a pile of good novels and a radio to listen to? Ed even provided chemotherapy. I wouldn’t expect such intermittent doses with no monitoring to be the best way to treat his cancer, but Walt did appear far stronger when he returned home than on his first attempt to walk into town, even if he became so thin that his wedding ring slipped off his finger. Walt’s attempts to save his family have failed, and he hit bottom with the the total rejection from his son, who wished he was dead. This was enough to get Walt to decide to surrender, until his pride took over when he heard Gretchen and Elliot deny him credit for his work creating Gray Matter Technologies on television.

Meanwhile things were so bad for Jesse that he wished Todd and the neo-Nazis had killed him rather than keeping him alive as a slave to cook blue meth. At points Todd appeared to be less than 100 percent evil when he spared Skyler’s life and gave Jesse some Ben and Jerry’s but showed what a psychopath he really is by so coldly killing Andrea (nothing personal).

This brought us to the scenes which started both halves of Season 5. So far we have seen a couple of possible endings–Walt living happy and retired from the meth business at the start of Season 5, and more recently exposed and arrested by Hank. Now we will see a third, and final, ending. We know Walt is well-armed and has retrieved the ricin from his old home. There are many predictions as to what will happen. The overall arc of the show has been for Walt to become increasingly evil, but some signs of goodness have remained from trying to save Hank to his continued concern for his family.  Will Walt be punished for his crimes, or will he survive? Vince Gilligan left us to wonder with comments on the ending such as “I feel like this ending represents on some level, however small, something of a victory for Walter White.”

Beyond coming out of this alive, the biggest potential victory for Walt would be to find a way for his family to be cared for and Skyler to escape prosecution. Perhaps he will force Gretchen and Elliot to give his family the money from Gray Matter which he believe should have been his (although he certainly was not interested in their money back in the first season).

Presumably Walt will get his revenge over Uncle Jack and Todd. The neo-Nazis must be punished. However, as this is so predictable, either it will occur quickly and the finale will concentrate on other things, it or the outcome will include an unexpected element. How Jesse and Walt will react to each other remains a big question. Perhaps Todd’s demise will involve Lydia as opposed to Walt or Jesse. Unlike on his role of Landry on Friday Night Lights, Jesse Plemon’s character is unlikely to get the girl this time. It would come as no surprise if either winds up killing the other.

What is Walt planning to do with the ricin? Perhaps it is intended for Gretchen and Elliot. Maybe we will even see a flashback which more clearly shows what happened between them and Walt. If a flashback does show them screwing Walt out of what should have been his share of the company and a fortune, I would assume that the two wind up dead.

The ricin might also be for Lydia, should Walt want to undo what he has done and shut down the distribution of blue meth. Yet another possibility is that Walt saved it for himself to ensure that he will not wind up living in prison, after being in a situation as bad as imprisonment in New Hampshire. Maybe he will take the ricin, and then arrange a deal where he goes to prison in return for a deal not to prosecute Skyler. There are also several other characters who might knock off Walt sparing him from going to prison beyond the obvious ones, including Skyler, Marie, and perhaps even Walt, Jr. Perhaps Marie deserves the honors, considering how much she was hurt by Walt while never becoming tainted as was the case with Skyler.

At this point I suspect viewers are mixed regarding their hopes for Walt. If the evil characters are punished, this should include Walt, but the show has always been about rooting for Walt to triumph. Jesse wasn’t initially intended to survive past the first season, and now having Jesse survive would be welcomed by fans. Jesse’s survival could also provide an answer to Brock’s fate. There are lots of other characters to wonder about. Will Saul return from Nebraska? At least we know why Better Call Saul will have to be a prequel show. Did Huell ever get out of that room? Is Baby Holly fated to one day take up chemistry?

While we won’t know what happens to Walt and Jesse until Sunday night, we do know what is next for Vince Gilligan. He will be doing a crime series for CBS next season taking place in Battle Creek. I’m not sure if I’m more disappointed that he will be on network television or that it takes place in Battle Creek, but most likely Gilligan will exceed expectations for such a scenario.

Dexter Ending

While most have high hopes for a satisfactory ending to Beaking Bad, the series finale of Dexter was a disappointment–as was much of  the final season. The two problems are interconnected. A better ending would have meant a better lead up during the season. There were two possible satisfactory scenarios. Dexter could have been caught at the end and the final season could have been about Dexter desperately trying to cover his tracks while at risk of being uncovered. Alternately we could have had a big bad who eventually killed Dexter, but there was nobody this season who was big enough to provide a satisfactory conclusion in this manner. A variation of this would be Hannah being the enemy who kills Dexter, but the season did not play out in a way to make that plausible. Instead we saw a number of potential menaces pop up during the season, but none provided a compelling enough story to justify them being the one who beat Dexter.

The finale was disappointing on a couple additional levels. Having Dexter survive at all seemed implausible until we were reminded that Dexter did have a small life boat available on the Slice of Life. While the final episode did blatantly foreshadow the fact that Dexter would never see his son again and that Hannah would be raising him, they might have given a small clue that the life boat existed nearer the conclusion.

The big disappointment is that Dexter’s decision just made no sense. He has brought doom to some people around him, especially Deb, but Deb died because he changed and did not kill Saxon, not because of his dark passenger. His decision would have made more sense if Dexter’s killing someone is what had led to Deb’s death. Besides, leaving the country with Hannah and getting a fresh start would seem to be a reasonable solution, while still allowing him to be with his son. Even after having Dexter fake his death, it would have been more satisfactory if the ending was like The Dark Knight Rises and Dexter was eating with Hannah and Harrison in an outdoor café in Buenos Aires.

There were so many implausible elements in the finale beyond Dexter’s decision to lead a solitary life. He spared Saxon, leaving him to be killed by the state, and then risked everything to kill him. There was no guarantee his connections with the police would lead to those viewing the film to so easily go along with Dexter’s story. I predicted that Saxon would cut off the guy’s tongue after he said he knew he would not speak, but how did Saxon avoid getting covered in blood? A hospital might be in chaos during an evacuation, but not likely to the point where Dexter could turn off Deb’s life support and carry her out of the hospital. Is it really wise to trust that Hannah will give up killing forever and make a good mother for Harrison?

Scott Buck defended his idea for the finale in this interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Clyde Phillips, show runner in earlier seasons, had a better idea as to how the show should end:

“In the very last scene of the series,” Philips explained, “Dexter wakes up. And everybody is going to think, ‘Oh, it was a dream.’ And then the camera pulls back and back and back and then we realize, ‘No, it’s not a dream.’ Dexter’s opening his eyes and he’s on the execution table at the Florida Penitentiary. They’re just starting to administer the drugs and he looks out through the window to the observation gallery.”

And in the gallery are all the people that Dexter killed—including the Trinity Killer and the Ice Truck Killer (his brother Rudy), LaGuerta who he was responsible killing, Doakes who he’s arguably responsible for, Rita, who he’s arguably responsible for, Lila. All the big deaths, and also whoever the weekly episodic kills were. They are all there.

“That’s what I envisioned for the ending of Dexter. That everything we’ve seen over the past eight seasons has happened in the several seconds from the time they start Dexter’s execution to the time they finish the execution and he dies.  Literally, his life flashed before his eyes as he was about to die. I think it would have been a great, epic, very satisfying conclusion.”

Phillips further explained that his idea for the ending was inspired by An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, the 1890 story by Ambrose Pierce about a Confederate soldier that is famous for its time-altering, plot-twisting ending. When the soldier is hanged, the rope breaks, he falls into the river, swims to shore, runs toward his family, see his wife and children and right before they are reunited, the rope catches and he dies. It turns out that the entire story takes place in the two to three seconds between the soldier’s initial drop and his neck snapping.

As SciFi Weekend is supposed to be about science fiction (even though I frequently cover other show) it is time I returned to science fiction in the video above. It is an animated version of Badger’s idea for an episode of Star Trek as presented at the start of the second half of the final season of Breaking Bad. The humor as well as the drama of Breaking Bad will be missed.

I will wait a while longer to come to any conclusions about the new season. Sleepy Hollow showed promise in the first episode, but after the second I’m not sure that I really want to devote an hour a week to it. One thing which might keep me interested is that John Noble will have a recurring role. Nicole Beharie answered questions about the show here.

So far The Blacklist looks like the best new show, with all the twists providing a perfect vehicle for the talents of James Spader. The show does remind me in some ways of Hannibal. A key difference is that with Hannibal we know the broad outline of where the show is going. We were left with lots of questions on The Blacklist.

SHIELD premiere

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a recurring mystery of its own regarding what really happened to Agent Coulson. In some ways it is a light, Disneyized version of Torchwood. Torchwood, in the early seasons, dealt with a team working in a universe where people knew about the Doctor and experienced alien invasions, while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a team working after the events of The Avengers. Both introduced their agents by recruiting from the outside–Gwen on Torchwood and Sky on SHIELD. Both pilots even used a sci-fi serum at a pivotal point but in far different ways–Retcon to cause amnesia on Torchwood and a truth serum on SHIELD.

I do have one nitpick about the pilot for SHIELD. (Two if I mention how obnoxious Fitz is). I realize that we must accept a lot of implausible things related to fictitious science and superheroes. There are things which none of this should change from our reality. I have been in many hospitals and have never seen one with big open windows in patient rooms which would allow someone with superpowers to leap out and jump to the ground.

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Orphan Black has started filming for the second season, with Sarah once again trying to get reunited with her daughter.

Lilly met the mother on  How I Met Your Mother and we got a scene from a year later showing her with Ted. She does look like the right woman for Ted to wind up with, and now that it has started I think that a season long wedding will work out fine.

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