Four Letter Nerd

Author - Jeff Merrick

Better Call Season 2, Episode 1 Recap: Switch

The assumption most fans have made regarding the transformation of Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman is that it would be a consistent downhill spiral. Jimmy, the public defender with a good heart who wanted to do the right thing, would move with each passing episode and season closer to the money laundering expert with all the slimy commercials in the greater Albuquerque area. But the Season 2 premiere shows of “Better Call Saul” hints strongly that peaks and valleys will be plentiful as Jimmy not only transforms into Saul McGill,  but also into a Cinnabon manager in Nebraska named Gene.

When we last left Jimmy McGill, he appeared to be straight on a road to Saul, spurning a job at a prominent firm because of an epiphany in Cicero, Illinois. But by the end of the premiere episode, Jimmy accepted the proposal with an office that literally could be anyway he wanted (well other than that light switch). He ends the episode on a career high note: a lawyer at a major firm working a high profile case. Instead of continuing back into his “Slipping Jimmy” ways (though we do get that briefly), Jimmy takes the high road of a respectable career path that we know he will only come crashing down from when it’s all said and down.

And I also was surprised at the pace the premiere episode took in addressing questions I thought might take the whole season to deal with. How long before Jimmy hooks up with Kim? How about half way through the premiere. How quickly will Mike move on from Price, the clueless IT at a pharmaceutical company, to more competent clients? How about ten minutes into the premiere.

But the season started almost identically to season one: in black and white at a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska.

Present Day: Omaha

It’s closing time for Saul (or Gene, as he goes by in Omaha) as he heads to the mall dumpster to take out the trash. But the door closes behind, locking him in with the dumpster. An emergency exit is available to Gene, but according to the note on the handle, the police would be contacted immediately. And Gene wants none of that. So he waits a couple of hours until a member of the night cleaning crew opens the door for him. But while waiting for help, Gene carved a little message into the wall with a loose screw, carving “SG was here.”

Gene Better Call Saul

Gene (Saul) locked out of the mall, waiting for help.

 

I didn’t expect the show to return to present day again so quickly. But Gene the Cinnabon manager is clearly holding the identity of Saul Goodman very close to him. And he seems miserable with his current, low profile identity. But will we return to Gene’s adventures running a Cinnabon at some point this season? And will any of Saul’s previous life find him in Omaha?

Jimmy Quits the Law Profession

With his brother’s betrayal and Marco’s death fresh on his mind, Jimmy has lost the desire to continue practicing law. Even an offer from another law firm is not enough to wash away the bitterness from Jimmy’s recent experiences. Of course, the $20,000 fee HHM paid him to take over the Sandpiper case didn’t hurt either. And Jimmy takes the money, tears down his sign at his office behind the nail salon, and spends his days relaxing at a hotel pool looking for people to con.

Jimmy relaxing at a hotel pool after abandoning his law practice.

But it may not have been either of the previously mentioned tragedies in Jimmy’s life that influenced his decision to turn down Davis and Main.

Jimmy and Kim

Before walking away from the offer, Jimmy had a conversation with Kim, asking what him accepting the position would mean for their relationship. Season one strongly hinted that Kim and Jimmy had a very close relationship while they both worked at HHM. But just how “romantically involved” they were before is still uncertain. We do know Jimmy is interested in kindling (or rekindling) those flames and he walks away from the opportunity of a lifetime when Kim is uncertain that will happen.

But Kim still cares enough for Jimmy to try and get him to reconsider the offer from Davis and Main. She goes to the hotel and pleads with Jimmy to return, but he’s undeterred. While having this conversation, a loud-mouthed financial advisor is bragging openly about the all the money he’s making. Jimmy is inspired and brings Kimmy along for his latest con job.

Kim pleading with Jimmy to accept the offer from Davis and Main.

Viktor with a K

The subtle foreshadowing Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould put into each episode is just brilliant. I am really glad that particular strength of their writing has continued with Saul just as strongly as it was for Breaking Bad. The subject for brilliant foreshadowing this week was a bottle of $50 a shot whiskey that Jimmy and Kim casually discuss during their “please come back to the law” talk.

Jimmy and Kim go over to the financial advisor (whose name is Ken) and tell him they are brother and sister, Viktor (with a K, as Jimmy is quick to point out) and Giselle. Ken gives them the sales pitch about all the wonderful things he can do with their money while Viktor and Jezeel casually order that $50 a shot whiskey.

And it turns out, while eating and talking with Ken, they drink the entire bottle of whiskey. Viktor and Jezeel sign a deal to work with Ken, and he agrees to pay the bill, which is of course far more than he expected to pay.

 

Jimmy, Kim, and Ken

Jimmy and Kim discussing “finances” with Ken.

Kim really took to conning naturally and enjoyed it so much that her and Jimmy spent the night together at the hotel. But after their fun night, Kim leaves to get back to work and Saul can’t seem to get in contact with her. He calls and leaves several messages, including a sales pitch for a new con. But after thinking things through, Jimmy reconsiders his situation and takes the offer from Davis and Main.

“Always Leave On”

Jimmy is now a lawyer at a respectable firm. After greeting all his new associates and being shown around by Clifford Main (played by Ed Begley Jr.), Jimmy settles into his new office. There’s a company car, a weird painting (which he can replace if he wants) and a desk that is larger than his previous office just on its own (but that is also another item Jimmy can replace). But there’s also this light switch with a note underneath it, saying “Always Leave On, Do Not Turn Off.” As his first act of rebellion (and I expect there will be many more this season), Jimmy turns that switch off. Nothing happens (at least not that we can see) of course. But I don’t think this “act of defiance” at the end of the show can be taken lightly. And I also have a hard time being happy for Jimmy here since we all know his demise at Davis and Main is inevitable. The only question is when and how.

The Light Switch

The Light Switch Jimmy turned off, despite the warnings.

Mike and Price

My only complaint about the premiere episode was how little a part Mike played in it. Now, I do not expect that to be a trend (and the scenes for next week indicate Mike will be a big part of that episode). But just saying, Mike’s an awesome character.

Price, the pharmacy thief, pulls up in a flame red and yellow Hummer with spinning rims. Remember when everybody wanted to own a Hummer? Mike cringes at the sight of Price’s new wheels and informs him that he will not be getting in that car because of all the attention it brings to a deal that requires as little as possible.

Now, we must remember that Price is a moron. And he decides that Mike doesn’t really do anything but stand there anyway, so he’s just going to save himself some money and go and meet Nacho on his own (another brilliant decision by a brilliant man).

Price’s new wheels

When Price meets Nacho, the exchange goes without any issue. But Nacho takes advantage of a clueless Price by looking and finding his vehicle registration (which includes the IT tech’s address). And we all know what Nacho likes to do when he finds out a dumbass is hiding stolen money.

Now, I want to be clear that I do not condone stealing. But because Nacho steals from stupid people like Price and the Kettlemens who don’t deserve the money they have, I think I can safely cheer when Nacho takes from these people like a modern age Robinhood of some sort (oh, and also, we need more Nacho this season).

After the theft, the police show up at Price’s house and the place has been trashed. But all Price seems to care about are the baseball cards that have been stolen. He accidentally  mentions some cash was taken, but quickly changes the subject. The police are skeptical of Price’s situation, seeing that his car is about the size of his entire home. The cops also notice a couch that appears to have been moved and it’s hiding a spot in the wall that would be the perfect hiding spot for large wads of cash (which of course is now empty). I do hope Price’s ultimate demise is delayed at least a little bit because of just how hilarious his incompetence is.

Police Investigating Price's house

Police investigate Price’s house being robbed.

Quote of the Night

“This business requires restraint. And this is the opposite of restraint.”

Mike explaining to Price why showing up to an illegal transaction in a colorful hummer is a bad idea.

Breaking Bad References

-Ken, the loud mouth business man who Jimmy and Kim conned, was also the same guy that gets his car blown up by Walt back in Season One of Breaking Bad. So apparently, Ken did not learn his lesson about bragging a little less publicly from the episode’s con job.

Here’s Ken from his time on Breaking Bad.

-The tequila used in the con was the same brand used by Gus to poison Don Eladio back in Season 4 of Breaking Bad.

This high quality Tequilla made a return appearance in the Better Call Saul Season 2 premiere.

-One of the officers who investigated Price’s house was Officer Saxton. He appeared in Season 3 of Breaking Bad after Walt moved back in despite him and Skylar being separated.

Officer Saxton and the White residence responding to a call from Skyler.

Questions for Next Week

-Now that Jimmy and Chuck are back working on the same case, how will they coexist?

-Who will Mike work for next? (did I hear him mention the name “Tuco” in the preview for next week?)

-Will Jimmy returning to the law bring him and Kim closer together? And are there any more scams in the offing for the two of them in the future?

-And what exactly does that light switch do?

I can’t wait to see Chuck’s return next week, as well as more of Mike. And I want to learn more about Jimmy’s new boss, Clifford Main. What kind of relationship will he have with Jimmy?

Game of Thrones Season 6 Photos Released!!!

As we anxiously await  the return of Game of Thrones for its sixth season, HBO gave us more morsels to chew on Thursday, releasing photos for the upcoming season. Some serve as simple reminders of where the main characters finished last season, while others pose interesting questions of where certain characters are headed this season.

Here’s a look at some of the more intriguing photos released yesterday:

Blind Arya

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark – photo Macall B. Polay/HBO

Arya is playing the part of the blind beggar after losing her sight at the end of Season 5. Will the fiery Stark bend to the will of the Faceless Men this season?

Septa Unella and Margaery

Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Hannah Waddingham as Septa Unella – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

Though you can’t tell, HBO has confirmed that it is Queen Margaery with her back to us, on her knees in front of Septa Unella in the Holy Sept. What, if any, punishment will she face this season for her knowledge of her brother’s “transgressions?”

Jamie Returning From Dorne (Thankfully)

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

I am thankful Jamie is out of that albatross of a storyline he had in Dorne last season. But he looks far less enthused about that in this picture than I am. That looks like a body (Myrcella’s obviously) behind him as he prepares to deliver the bad news to Cersei.

Jamie and Cersei

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

Have two incestuous twins ever had more to talk about than these two? How will the “shamed” Cersei respond to Jamie returning with her daughter’s dead body?

Jamie and Tommen in the Holy Sept

Dean-Charles Chapman as Tommen Baratheon and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister – photo Helen Sloan/HBOAny chance of a resurrected Myrcella this season are likely put to rest by this photo of her corpse laying in the Holy Sept while the King and Jamie look on.

Balon Greyjoy

Patrick Malahide as Balon Greyjoy – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

Remember this guy? We haven’t seen the Lord of the Iron Islands since the end of the third season. And it appears Balon has yet to move from that rock he’s lived on since we first met him back in Season 2. So what events could be happening that would bring him back into the narrative?

Yara Greyjoy

Gemma Whelan as Yara Greyjoy – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

Nothing groundbreaking with this one other than to show that Yara Greyjoy is returning after sitting season 5 out after the failed “Save my eunuch brother” campaign in Season 4. Will she stay floating around in the North or return to the Iron Islands to answer to her father?

Sam and Gilly

John Bradley-West as Samwell Tarly and Hannah Murray as Gilly – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

When we last left Westeros’s most committed couple, Sam was on his way to Oldtown to train to be a Maester. So at what point of their journey do they end up on this boat?

Theon and Sansa

Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

It looks like Theon and Sansa survived their escape from Winterfell. Now where will the show’s most prominent victims go as they flee their Bolton torturer?

Daenarys and the Dothraki

So these guys didn’t have a friendly reunion reminiscing about the good ole days of Season One? “Hey, remember when you out a cow heart and your husband dumped liquid gold all over your brother’s head? Those were the days Khaleesi!!!!” Nope. The rope around her wrist indicate that Dany will start the season a Dothraki prisoner. Though considering how the Dothraki treat most of the women they find, this appears somewhat humane.

Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven

Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark and Max von Sydow as the Three-Eyed Raven – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

I saved the most interesting picture for last. Bran is back folks, and he’s seen here talking with the three-eyed raven (played by Max Van Sydow). But so many questions pop up from this photo. First, why is Bran standing? It’s likely a vision or dream of some sort, so how is his mentor able to speak to him in that vision? And what is their location? What are they looking at? The present? The past? The future?

Also of note are two things we did not see:

1. Photos of new characters

Other than the three-eyed raven (who technically appeared for the first time at the end of season 4), none of the rumored new castings featured. Never has HBO been more hush hush about the new actors they’re bringing in for the upcoming season.

2. No Jon Snow

No surprise here. It’s one thing to put his face on a poster or teaser trailer. But to show his picture here would end all suspense of the Lord Commander’s possible return. We also didn’t see him on a funeral pyre either, so just chew on that thought for the next two months.

Click here to see the entire set of photos. Game of Thrones returns April 24th.

Better Call Saul Season One Recap

Six days from today, “Better Call Saul,” the “Breaking Bad” spinoff that debuted last year on AMC, will premiere its second season. And I have decided to take on the task of recapping and analyzing each of season two’s ten episodes. But before doing that, let’s take a look at the major storylines of last season and how they set up the major players of the “Breaking Bad” prequel for the upcoming season.

(Spoiler alert: I mean, duh. It’s a season recap, so of course information is coming that would spoil the show if you haven’t seen it. But if you missed season one, you can head over to Netflix and catch up before coming back for my analysis).

Jimmy McGill, the Public Defender

Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in court defending “The Morgue Head Trio.”

Before Saul Goodman became the attorney of drug dealers and top authority on the subject of money laundering in the greater Albuquerque area, he was Jimmy McGill, a struggling underpaid public defender whose office was the in backroom of a nail saloon forced to take on hopeless defendants, including “The Morgue Head Trio”: three teenagers who went into a morgue, cut the head off a dead body, and proceeded to do unspeakable things to the head (and I think that’s all I need to say about that).

But Jimmy gained a new confidence as an attorney after a life and death negotiation with Tuco, the drug supplier Walt and Jessie had dealings with in Season 1 and 2 of “Breaking Bad,” and a couple of brainless skateboarders. The two idiots were in a scam with Jimmy trying to blackmail Betsy Kettlemen (more on her later) into hiring Jimmy as her attorney. But they got the wrong car. Instead, they got Tuco’s grandmother. The genius skateboarders tried to get money from Tuco after his grandma committed a hit and run. But knowing what we know about Tuco, that horrible idea played out just as we expected it to: with the Lindholms tied up and facing death. But Jimmy, through negotiations, convinces Tuco to go light on the boys: just break their legs instead of killing them.

 

Jimmy convincing Tuco (Raymond Cruz) to spare the lives of Lars and Carl Lindholm (Stephen and Daniel Spencer Levine).

That very graphic bit of lawyer work inspired Jimmy to become the hardest working public defender in New Mexico. Constantly negotiating with the district attorney (in hallways, parking lots, bathrooms), Jimmy takes pride in working for those who can’t afford representation. And that pride increases his boldness in a longstanding fued Jimmy’s been fighting for years.

Howard Hamlin

Howard Hamlin(Patrick Fabian), left, and Kim Drexler(Rhea Seehorn), right, at the offices of Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill.

When Jimmy first passed the bar exam, he was working in the mailroom at his brother’s law firm, Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill. But Howard informed Jimmy that the firm would not be hiring him on as an attorney.

Jimmy’s bitterness (which we will discover later was directed at the wrong person) towards Hamlin spills out in various situations, but none more hilariously than Jimmy’s attempt to take on Howard’s image. Using money he received in a bribe from Betsy Kettlemen (once again, more on her in just a bit) Jimmy bought a billboard using Howard’s hair, suit, teeth(yes the exact same teeth) and HHM’s identical colors and font. Jimmy’s stunt forces Hamlin to take action that proves successful, forcing the billboard to come down.

The stunt Jimmy uses to get much needed publicity for his practice.

But it appears Jimmy expected that, hiring a man to fall off the billboard while working on it so Jimmy could swoop in and play the hero while he was conveniently filming there.

             This article brought Jimmy publicity and a string of potential clients.

The publicity Jimmy gained from the staged event opened up significant business for the one time struggling public defender. But one pair of clients remained elusive throughout the first season.

Craig and Betsy Kettleman

County Treasurer Craig Kettleman(Jeremy Shamos) and his wife Betsy(Julie Ann Emery), meet with Saul to discuss their legal situation.

Taking the prize for biggest morons Jimmy interacted with in Season One (and there was stiff competition for that prize to win considering the competition from “The Morgue Head Trio” and the Skateboard Con Artists who called Tuco’s grandmother a “bizznitch”) were the Kettleman’s. Craig was the County Treasurer under whose watch 1.6 million dollars disappeared. Now, it was obvious from their first appearance that Craig stole that money. But if he didn’t steal it, isn’t it worse to have 1.6 million dollars disappear when your whole job is to keep up with that 1.6 million dollars?

But Betsy is very clear with everyone she talks to that they are innocent and will only accept a lawyer who will fight for that “innocence” in court. After turning Jimmy down on two separate occasions (including once after bribing him to keep quiet about money he found on a “camping trip” the Kettlemans took a fair distance behind their backyard), they came crawling back when HHM attorney Kim Drexler (a very close friend of Jimmy’s) insisted their best deal was to plead guilty and return the money. Because of the leverage held over him for taking the bribe, Jimmy took the case. But out of loyalty to Kim, he found a way to get the Kettlemans to go back to HHM with the help of one of the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe’s best characters.

Mike Ehrmantraut

Mike Ehrmantraut(Jonathan Banks) manning his parking attendant job, the main location we see him for the first half of season one.

In my opinion, the best part of Season One was the backstory of Mike, the ex-cop from Philly who did lots of dirty work for Gus, Saul, and Walt on “Breaking Bad.” But as it turns out (though not unsurprising), Mike was a dirty cop in Philly, just like every other cop in his precinct. That is, every cop but his son, Matty. Because of Matty’s unwillingness to embrace the practices of the precinct, his two partners had him killed.

Knowing it was Matty’s partners who murdered him, Mike kills them before fleeing to New Mexico, where the series starts with him tormenting Saul over proper parking validation procedure. But Mike’s past caught up with him when two detectives from his former precinct show up to question him about the murders. Jimmy come to Mike’s aid as his lawyer and the seeds for an occasional partnership are sown.

In lieu of payment for his services, Mike assists Jimmy in stealing the Kettleman’s stolen money and using it to make them go back to Kim and accept the deal she negotiated for them.

While babysitting his granddaughter Kaylee, Mike begins to realize the struggles Matty’s widow is having financially. Through a vet where he gets a dog for Kaylee, Mike comes across a “business opportunity:” protecting a pharmacist named Price who stole prescription drugs and now wants to sell them on the black market. Price has never committed a crime and is clueless about the whole enterprise (and many other things I believe). So Mike is pivotal in walking him through the process. They meet with Nacho (levelheaded adviser to Tuco who I will have more to say about in the last section) and make the sale (a sale Nacho does not want Tuco to know about).

Mike and Nacho

Mike, Price(Mark Proksch), and Nacho(Michael Mando) meeting to discuss a deal.

Mike appears to have found his new “career” and I look forward to more of Mike on the job in season 2.

Sandpiper Crossing

Jimmy pointing out concerns about the bills the residents of Sandpiper Crossing are paying.

With the Kettleman’s settlement in the rearview mirror, Jimmy returned to elder law, the direction his practice took following the billboard stunt. While meeting with one of his clients, Jimmy noticed that Sandpiper Crossing, the company running her current residence, were overcharging.

When he returned to gather more information, Jimmy was greeted by a new policy prohibiting lawyers from soliciting business on the grounds of Sandpiper. And behind a locked door with the curtains pulled down, a woman is shredding documents (once again, the people Jimmy has the “privilege” of running into are complete buffoons. I mean, could you not pause the shredding of those documents until AFTER the lawyer sniffing around your corrupt company leaves?)

Jimmy does a little dumpster diving (which proved hilariously unnecessary since the shredded documents were in the paper recycling bin) and gathers the pieces back to his lawyer brother Chuck’s place. Chuck pieces them together and a meeting is called with Sandpiper’s lawyers. The evidence in the documents is enough for Chuck to lay down the gauntlet to Sandpiper: “pay $20 million dollars, or we will see you in court.”

Jimmy can finally envision himself as a real lawyer, handling high profile cases by the side of his brother. But Jimmy was completely unaware of a very powerful force that’s been working against him this whole time.

Chuck

Chuck(Michael McKean) and Jimmy looking over the Sandpiper documents.

The major reveal of the first season was that Jimmy’s brother Chuck, the man Jimmy took care of as he struggled through his “illness,” has been the main reason Jimmy has found it so difficult to break into the legal profession. In fact, it appears Chuck is the main reason Jimmy will become Saul instead of a lawyer of solid reputation. If Chuck would have allowed HHM to hire Jimmy after he passed his bar or been ok with Jimmy helping his firm with the Sandpiper case, maybe Saul Goodman never airs a single commercial.

Chuck is Jimmy’s brother who claims to suffer from “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity.” He has a great reputation amongst the law community in Albuquerque and an exceptional knowledge of legal precedence. But Chuck’s law career grinds to a halt because of his unwillingness to expose himself to anything with electromagnet waves. He won’t leave the house nor have any electricity in his home or own a cellphone, making it pretty difficult to practice law.

Jimmy comes by regularly to take care of his brother, who bailed him out of a very dicey legal situation in Cicero, Illinois. And Jimmy receives council and advice from his brother throughout the season in his work as both a public defender and while practicing elder law. But the Sandpiper case seems to revive Chuck to a point where he can go outside for just a bit and avoid the freaking out he experiences in previous episodes. And the case becomes so huge that Jimmy thinks HHM is needed to be able to handle it. Of course, Jimmy assumed he would be a part of those proceedings. But HHM just wants the case, not Jimmy. One phone call from Chuck made sure of that.

Chuck

Chuck sneaking out to make a phone call ensuring that Jimmy would not continue with the Sandpiper Case.

As it turns out, Chuck never respected Jimmy as a lawyer. He’s the reason HHM didn’t hire Jimmy when he passed the bar and made sure HHM would not include him once they took over the Sandpiper case. He doesn’t think Jimmy has worked hard enough to get where he (Chuck) is and still believes the lawyer version of Jimmy is no different than “Slippin’ Jimmy” from Cicero, Illinois.

You are not a real lawyer! University of American Samoa for Christ’s sake? An online course? What a joke! I worked my ass off to get where I am! And you take these short cuts and suddenly you’re my peer?! You do what I do because you’re funny and you can make people laugh?! I’ve committed my life to this! You don’t slide into it like a cheap pair of slippers and then reap all the rewards!

Chuck in episode 9, explaining why he never wanted Jimmy to become a lawyer.

Slippin’ Jimmy

Marco (Mel Rodriguez) and Jimmy reuniting during Jimmy’s return to Cicero.

Before moving to Albuquerque, Jimmy was a con artist who, with his friend Marco(You might recognize him as Todd from “Last Man on Earth”) scammed patrons of local bars. But Jimmy ran into some legal trouble when, while intoxicated, he performed a “Chicago Sunroof” (pooping through an open sunroof of a parked car) on the car of the man Jimmy’s wife cheated with and left him for. The problem was the man’s children were sitting in the backseat, opening up the possibility of Jimmy being charged as a sex offender. But while Chuck was able to get Jimmy out of those charges, “Slippin Jimmy” had to leave his old persona behind.

But after discovering his brother’s sabotage of Jimmy’s attempts to rebuild his life, he heads back to Cicero to see his old buddy. Jimmy and Marco get back into the con game and Jimmy agrees to relive one of their best cons from the glory days (the fake rolex scam from Episode 4). But Marco has a heart attack and dies during the con.

A grieving Jimmy comes home to a job offer from another law firm. But instead of accepting the offer, Jimmy recalls the $1.6 million in stolen money him and Mike took from the Kettleman’s, but didn’t keep. Inspired by his recent return to the con game, Jimmy turns down the law firm’s offer and ponders why he gave all that money back. His response: “Whatever stopped me from taking it is never stopping me again.”

Heading to Season 2…

-Jimmy ended Season 1 taking a giant step to becoming Saul. How much closer will he get in Season 2?

-Will more be said of the history of Jimmy and his close relationship with HHM attorney, Kim Drexler?

-Will Chuck return to the courtroom or stay locked up in his house? And will his relationship with Jimmy fray further this season?

-How many more adventures of the Mike and Price Show will we experience in Season 2? Will Mike upgrade to a better partner than the bumbling pharmacist before the end of the season?

-Season 1 featured “Breaking Bad” characters Tuco and two of his henchmen, No-Doze and Gonzo. One of my first observations was his level headed advisor, Nacho, never appeared in “Breaking Bad.” Will Nacho’s solo missions (the attempt to steal the Kettleman’s money and the drug deal previously mentioned) create a divide between him and Tuco?

-And will any other characters from “Breaking Bad” appear in cameo, recurring, or regular status this season?

Better Call Saul premieres Monday night on AMC. I’ll have recap of the season premiere up next Tuesday.

 

Analysis: New Game of Thrones Season Six Promo Videos are Out!!!!

On Friday, 93 days until the premiere of Game of Thrones new season, HBO decided to throw all of us GOT fans another bone with three 25 second videos promoting the new season. Let’s take a look at each one of them individually, breaking down what they could mean for Season Six (Spoiler alert: if your not caught up through Season 5, stop reading now):

1. The North

The voice in this one belongs to Iwan Rheon (you know him as Ramsay Bolton). The Bolton’s further cemented their claim to the North by defeating Stannis at the end of Season 5. But that boat carrying the Banner of Stark looks ready to challenge the Bolton claim.

But who is left from the Stark house to pose any threat to the Roose and his crazy bastard son? Last we saw her, Sansa was fleeing Winterfell (assuming she survived the fall). Arya is blind in Braavos. And Bran is somewhere far North learning from the GOT version of Yoda. And Rickon (remember that guy???) hasn’t been seen since Season 3. Could the threat to Bolton rule in the North be the “deader than dead” Jon Snow returning to life?

Who is left to challenge (from left to right) Roose and Ramsay Bolton in the North?

2. King’s Landing

The voices here are the High Sparrow (played by Jonathan Price) and Septa Unella (Shame, shame, shame!!!). And that banner is obviously the Lion of Lannister. Could their be a showdown of peasants lead by the High Sparrow vs. the Lannisters and their place on the Iron Throne?

3. The Tattered Targaryen Banner

Who out there also missed hearing Dothraki spoken on Game of Thrones? I’m not sure who this is, but it’s clearly a Dothraki mocking Daenarys (“Queen of Nothing, Millionth of her Name”) while a tattered Targaryen flag flies with smoke billowing in the background. Dany was in a very rough spot when we last left her, dragonless and surrounded by a Dothraki horde. Will Dany be made to pay for the death of Khal Drogo from Season 1? And who (or what) is responsible for all those flames that created that smoke in the background?

Conclusion

The clear theme is conflict:

Bolton vs. Stark(???)

Lannister vs. The High Sparrow

Dany vs. The Dothraki

But still missing from these promo pieces: actual footage!!! Never has HBO kept a tighter lid on scenes (or any actual information, for that matter) for an upcoming season of Game of Thrones than they have for Season 6. Let’s all hope that changes soon.

 

 

24: Reasons for Optimism and Concern Regarding the Show’s Return

It’s official: Fox has ordered a pilot for a new series of “24,” which they are currently casting for and will be filming soon.

But the new series, “24: Legacy” intends to take the series in a mostly new direction. I mean, yes, it will still be CTU fighting against various terrorist threats on US soil. But many significant changes are in order for this iconic franchise.

24: Legacy

“24: Legacy,” the title for the new 24 pilot being filmed this winter.

Here’s a breakdown of, in my opinion, the reasons to be excited about the renewal of the great series as well as reasons to be concerned:

Reasons for Optimism

1. The 12 hour format

During its heyday, “24” did an amazing job keeping the show intense through the entire 24 hour run of each season. But this became harder and harder to replicate in the later seasons. So Legacy will wisely take on a shorter, half season format that has proven beneficial to many of the best shows on television today.

The recent “24: Live Another Day” worked very well with just 12 hours, so it definitely should work better for any future “24’s” going forward.

2. New Cast, meaning no Jack Bauer

How can the loss of Jack Bauer, the central character that made 24 what it was, be under Reasons For Optimism? Well, as we saw with the new Star Wars, new blood can bring new life into a series. And if properly cast, the same can happen for 24.

And I think enough time has passed between the shows original run and this new edition to allow for the unthinkable just 7 or 8 years ago (a Bauerless 24), to be a possible breath of fresh air for the franchise.

Reasons For Concern

1.  Seriously, no Jack Bauer?

I know, I know. I praised the decision just right above this section. But that decision is not without significant risks. Jack Bauer is 24. And how can the show move forward without him or, at the very least, some passing of the guard to whoever takes his place?

The initial press release indicated a co-lead was likely, with a male actor “as different as Jack Bauer as possible” who is going to be either an “African American or Latino.” And I am all for shows seeking diversity (because we all know the Oscars won’t give us that don’t we). But there is going to be a ton of pressure on whoever fills the large shoes Kiefer Sutherland’s Bauer leaves behind.

Will “24” moving on from Jack Bauer prove to be a needed change of direction for the franchise, or will it fall apart without its main protagonist?

2. How Original Can the Show Truly Be?

The press release that came out Friday claims “Legacy” is “a whole new story” for this restart of “24.”

“It’s a completely different story in terms of the special ops groups that we’re focusing on. It’s a very contemporary feeling story about the potential to activate new sleeper cells in the United States and radicalizing Americans. It’s a whole new story. There are nods in the pilot to prior CTU agents, there are a couple photos that will feel reminiscent of the original, but no ongoing [returning] characters.”

But hasn’t “24” always been about unknown terrorist in America terrorizing US citizens on home soil (otherwise known as sleeper cells)? And will the “nods” to previous characters be enough for long-time fans of the series before (much like I mentioned previously with Bauer)passing the torch on to a whole new cast of characters?

We’ll see how things turn out for “24:Legacy” as the cast comes together and we get closer to pilot season. And let’s hope that cast is ready to fill the large shoes left by the previous crew that manned CTU in the 24 universe.

(Here’s the article that served as the source for this one covering the press release last week)

 

 

 

 

Netflix: Shows to Look Forward to in 2016

The reboot of a classic family sitcom, the sophomore seasons of a number of 2015 hits, and the beginning of a highly anticipated historical series are some of the highlights the world’s top provider of streaming entertainment will be bringing our way this calendar year. Here’s a detailed look at the most intriguing of these options:

Fuller House (Premiere Date: February 26th)

Fuller House

The classic family sitcom of TGIF fame returns with a familiar premise as two of Danny Tanner’s daughters (the Olsen twins are not slated to return) and annoying friend Kimmy Gibler raise DJ’s three boys after the death of her husband. Here’s the teaser trailer for the “new” show:

House of Cards Season 4 (Premiere Date: March 4th)

The series that turned Netflix into an original programming giant enters a presidential election season (which may provide us with better candidates than our real life election) with plenty of marital drama to match coming from the Underwood home. Here’s a mock presidential campaign video promoting the new season:

Daredevil Season 2 (Premiere Date: March 18th)

Daredevil Season 2

2015 was the year Netflix convinced us they could successfully enter the superhero genre. Jessica Jones was a huge hit towards the end of 2015. And Daredevil was so well-received that the streaming giant moved plans for a second season ahead to this year.

And now Season 2 adds Punisher and Elektra (let’s hope it’s better than the Jennifer Garner version of the heroine) to the stable of Marvel characters fighting crime in Hell’s Kitchen.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2 (Expected Premiere Date: Spring)

In a banner year for Netflix, Kimmy Schmidt deserves as much claim as any other series the streaming giant put out in 2015. And per the agreement Netflix made with NBC, Season 2 will be back for another 13 episodes of hilarity as Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) continues her reintroduction back into society following 15 years living underground. And as a bonus, does any show on television have a catchier theme song?

If that song is in your head now, then you’re welcome!!!

The Crown (Premiere Date: Sometime in 2016)

The Crown

Six seasons are planned for this biographical series about Queen Elizabeth (or Princess Elizabeth as she is called at the start of the series) and her rise to the British Crown. The first season will focus on post World War II England with John Lithgow playing Winston Churchill. Here’s the trailer for the much-anticipated historical drama:

Honorable Mentions:

Narcos (Season 2)

Orange is the New Black (Season 4)

Arrested Development (maybe, Season 5)

Luke Cage (debut season)

 

“Honorable Mentions” were more from my lack of knowledge about those shows as opposed to some ranking placing them below the others. If you have any knowledge to drop or have a show you’re really excited about that’s not mentioned, feel free to discuss in the comments.

Game of Thrones is Out of Source Material: What This Means for You

George R.R. Martin, writer of the “Song of Ice and Fire” series (inspiration for HBO’s Game of Thrones) made a very unpopular announcement for book readers to start out 2016.

Posting on his “Not a Blog” page, Martin delivered the bad news that he would not be finishing the next book in the series, “The Winds of Winter,” before the upcoming season of Game of Thrones:

“The book is not done, not delivered. No words can change that. I tried, I promise you. I failed. I blew the Halloween deadline, and I’ve now blown the end of the year deadline. And that almost certainly means that no, THE WINDS OF WINTER will not be published before the sixth season of GAME OF THRONES premieres in April (mid April, we are now told, not early April, but those two weeks will not save me).”

So what does this mean for viewers of the popular show (book readers and non book readers alike)?

1. The Show will officially spoil the books for any and all.

This one has been expected for a long time. But now it’s official. The TV series will end, giving away the ending to the series before Martin (who still has another book to complete after “Winds of Winter”) finishes the books. And even though the producers of the show have started going their own way with many book storylines, they still consult closely with Martin and intend to end the series the same way Martin will be ending it (at least that’s what they’ve said previously).

D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, the producers of Game of Thrones, now take the lead for all of us with Martin’s story.

2. No more taped reactions of shocking moments during the episode.

Fan reactions have produced much internet gold as book readers, anticipating certain major events, began filming their unsuspecting non-book reader friends during such major events (don’t click on any of these links if you aren’t caught up through season five and don’t want any spoilers) as the the “Red Wedding,” the “Purple Wedding,” and the ending to season five.

Well now this tradition, at the very least, will be greatly diminished as book readers can no longer prepare their phones for the moment when the shocking scene happens.

Jon Snow reactions revised

Expect fewer internet reactions to appear for major events in the show, such as this group reacting to the final scene in the Season Five finale.

3. Book readers have now lost their insider knowledge.

I, like many others, wanted to get “Winds of Winter” read before the start of the next season. Now with that an impossibility, book readers will have to accept that most everything that happens from now on will be the first time for all of us. I know my wife will appreciate this, as she never liked me knowing about things on the show before she did. I only hope my lack of insider knowledge now won’t cause the other guys here at 4LN to give me the boot (#istillhavevalue).

4. No more saying “It was done so much better in the books.”

Have you ever been angry with a book reader (not just Game of Thrones, but any literature based movie or series) who, as they watched, informed you how the current media you are taking in compares nothing at all to the printed version? Well, no more for Game of Thrones as the TV series will not have the books to be compared to.

Now when I say “books to be compared to,” I am referring to an actual text one can pull off the shelf or bring up on a tablet and say “Here, this is what it should be happening right now.” Many book readers will continue to make comparisons, but it will be in a hypothetical edition created in their minds of how Martin will do it, which of course, “will be so much better.”

But there is no way to know what Martin will actually because none of it because he hasn’t finished writing it yet. And maybe it will be “so much better” than what the TV show puts on the screen. But no one will actually know this until Martin (hopefully in this lifetime) finishes his book.

So we are all now in the same boat. Season 6 will be almost entirely fresh material for all of us, so let’s sit back and analyze it on equal terms April 24th.

Game of Thrones Season Six Teaser Trailer: Six Observations

HBO continued its Season 6 hype build for their emmy-winning drama Thursday with the release of a 41 second teaser trailer for Game of Thrones. Here are some thoughts and observations about the teaser (and I want to emphasize the teaser part since it is not a full blown trailer) clip, it’s content, and what it means for the upcoming season.

(Be warned, this clip is full of very important moments from previous seasons, so if you are not caught up through season 5, stop reading now.)

 

 

  1. No New Footage of the New Season                                                                         It is important to emphasize the term “teaser trailer” here. A full blown trailer would be expected to have scenes from the upcoming season. But this “teaser” gives us no footage from season six, only flashbacks of the most important (and brutal) moments of the previous seasons as if someone is seeing them in a dreamlike sequence all-together. But there is at least one element from season six included in this “teaser:”

2. The Voice of the Three-Eyed Raven

Remember this guy from Season 4?

That old man hanging out in the tree is the Three-Eyed Raven, the man Bran’s entire Season 3 and 4 story arc was spent getting to.

The roll, played in the picture by Struan Rodger (if you’re bored and need something to do, look for this British actor in the movies Chariots of Fire and Four Weddings and a Funeral) has been recast for Season 6.

And the voiceover we hear for most of the clip is that of Max von Sydow, the man who will play Bran’s Yoda in the upcoming season (look for him as the villain in the Bond movie Never Say Never Again and in Minority Report). So if it’s the Three-Eyed Raven speaking, we can safely assume:

3. Bran is the One Seeing the Flashbacks

Of course, Bran’s face warging (if you’ve forgotten or are not familiar with the term, it’s when he takes over an animal and controls its actions) into something at 30 seconds of the clip and his voiceover at the end saying “They have no idea what’s going to happen” are dead giveaways as well.

During Season 4, Bran warged into a tree for the first time, allowing him to see visions of the past and the future. That appears to be what’s happening here. And though we see only the past visions Bran witnesses, the quote previously mentioned doesn’t give a lot of hope for the residents of Westeros based on what Bran sees for their future.

4. 15 more seconds of the “deader than dead” Jon Snow

Has a show ever used a character killed off in a previous season to promote the next season more than HBO is using Jon Snow? Just like with the first preview poster, here he is yet again. Of course, this is Bran looking at the past, so maybe he’s just remembering Jon Snow fondly. But they sure didn’t give us 15 second clips of his father, mother, and brother, who all died tragically as well.

5. Did I mention there seems to be a real emphasis on tragedy here?

Ned Stark’s beheading, scenes from the Red Wedding, Jamie Lannister losing his hand, Jon Snow’s “death” at the end of last season are all featured prominently in this flashback teaser. But amongst all the prominent tragic moments, there’s also a clip of the “Night’s King,” you know, this guy:

standing triumphantly. That, of course is another flashback. But I don’t think his inclusion here bodes well for the people of Westeros.

6. Closing Thoughts (Yes I know, it’s a stretch making this my sixth observation)

No, there wasn’t anything new included in the many visions of Bran Stark, but the final conclusion here is that things are likely to turn very dark in Season Six, maybe darker than at any point in the show’s run. And there’s also that dead bastard named Snow who keeps popping up in all HBO’s promotional stuff for the new season. So let’s all chew on that until the next bone HBO throws our way as we eagerly await Season Six.

Mockingjay Part 2: Spoiler Free Review

A recent development in the movie industry the last ten years of “splitting the finale up in two” sometimes turn out to be very well done.  Other times, the series gets so drawn out that they would’ve been better sticking to one.

The splitting of the final Hunger Games movie into part 1 and 2 was on the side of the former, a solid choice that allowed the last part of the series to play out as it should. In fact, it proved to be a necessary tactic for the final installment of the Hunger Games saga.

Mockingjay is a reset for the entire series. Every thing leading up to Mockingjay is focused on the Hunger Games. This includes Catching Fire, which centered its plot around an all-star Hunger Games featuring previous champions only to shift that focus at its conclusion.

Mockingjay turns the complete focus of the series to the rebellion that’s been brewing under the surface of Panem. It’s hinted at throughout the series, but a lot of background was needed to establish the new primary focus.

And I believe only one movie would’ve rushed that process. Our main characters have mainly been in their home districts or in an arena fighting to the death. To be in the camp of a separatist living a regimented lifestyle while stirring up rebellious sentiments in all the districts required time for the audience to adjust to.

Jennifer Lawrence and Julianne Moore during a critical scene of Mockingjay part 1.

And parts one and two worked perfectly in sync to do that. Some of the complaints about the first Mockingjay were its lack of any real climatic moments. But part 2 brings them in spades, making good use of all the solid character development part 1 provided.

And while I entered the theater concerned the Hunger Games finale would come up short in developing the key plot twists that lead up to its conclusion, I was overall pleased with the subtlety in which these key developments were introduced while not slowing down the forward momentum the story gains once the rebels begin their march attempting to overthrow President Snow.

Gale and Katniss in the foreground during Mockingjay Part 2

I don’t feel any  need to discuss the performances of the actors here since each one owned their roles with the same effectiveness they have throughout each of the previous movies.

The appropriate conclusion in tone and style, Mockingjay, Part 2 brings an end to the Hunger Games saga that does not overstate the way so many movies do today while still effectively bringing all the overarching themes of the entire series together in a satisfying way.

Game of Thrones Season Six Promo Poster Released by HBO

On its Facebook page yesterday, HBO put out its first promotional poster for Game of Thrones Season 6 and the ramifications of its content are significant.

In fact, there are two major reveals from this poster, one that is obvious to everyone, but another that only those of us who follow GOT news in the offseason would realize.

But before discussing those revelations, let’s take a look at the poster (stop reading if you absolutely positively want zero spoilers for season six):

Now obviously, observation number one is Jon Freakin Snow!!!! Now is it possible that HBO is pulling a bait and switch here and that is really just the dead body of Jon Snow that will be burned in the first episode. Sure, but would they really want to build anticipation like this for five months only to piss off their fans in the first episode? That would be the ultimate dick move and very bad for business.

I think the safer assumption is Jon Snow will be returning despite his demise being insisted upon by everyone involved with it at the end of last season. But so much evidence has leaked since the end of last season that HBO finally decided to come clean and admit that yes, Jon Snow will be coming back to life for season six.

The next, less obvious reveal here is the likely premiere date for Season Six. For those that haven’t been following, seeing April as the month for the Season 6 premiere is not surprising. After all, only one of the previous five seasons has not premiered in April (and that was Season 3, which premiered on March 31st).

But HBO only runs one centerpiece drama at a time. And a new series, Vinyl, will be holding down GOT’s 9 pm/ 8 pm central time slot until April 17th. And since that only leaves one Sunday left in April, you can tentatively mark your calendars for April 24th has the date Game of Thrones Season 6 will premiere.

Now, that is by far the latest premiere date for a Game of Thrones season so far. I hope it gives George R.R. Martin enough time to (finally) get his 6th book out before the new season (and give me enough time to read it before the new season, which will likely include material from the yet to be printed Winds of Winter).