October 8, 2022

Better Call Saul

I just finished watching the final season of Better Call Saul. I agree with many others that these 6 seasons come together to make a great series. I am glad I watched it. It presents us with compelling & complex characters that I love to hate.

The Binge

I wanted to point out that I watched all 6 seasons of television in the matter of a few weeks. I don’t know what the show would have been like if I were forced to wait for episodes week to week. The show is a slow burn, and I was able to speed it up by plowing through several episodes at a time. I think it was improved by this. Some of the flaws were smoothed out by the fact that I could just move on to the next episode immediately.

I think about the last 4 episodes, which were almost an epilogue to the series. I would have hated to have to wait a week to watch each one of those. I liked this series a lot, and I think my appreciation comes partly because of how quickly I was able to consume it.

Breaking Bad

I enjoyed Breaking Bad. Despite my issues with some of the plot decisions towards the end, Breaking Bad may be one of my favorite series of all time. I did not love Saul Goodman. I wasn’t interested in watching his origin story. I didn’t have plans on watching Better Call Saul but I kept hearing how good it was. I decided to give it a shot and I am glad I did.

In Breaking Bad we were introduced to lovable Walter White. He deserved our sympathy. Life dealt him a bad hand. Then the show challenged each viewer to decide how long they were willing to stick with this guy. When did he cross the line? When did he become the “bad guy”?

In Better Call Saul they took a slimy character that I didn’t like very much, and gave him a reason for sympathy. The show endeared us to him, only to make us question again and again whether he deserved it. Jimmy lived in a fantasy for most of his life. He constructed a world where he was exempt from blame, and everybody else deserved whatever he decided to inflict upon them. My favorite character in the show was probably his brother, Chuck. He is a sort of villain, but if I were given Jimmy as a little brother I’m not sure I would feel much differently from him.

Breaking Bad created a compelling journey into evil. We saw Walter’s life spin out of control. Better Call Saul came at things from a different angle, and added complexity to characters and emotions.

Jimmy & Chuck

The relationship between brothers was my favorite thing of the entire series. I felt like I understood the dynamics between the two, and found their interactions fascinating. I loved Chuck’s voice and how his dialog came through on the audio. Better Call Saul was at its strongest when we were trying to understand the complicated relationship between the McGill brothers.

The show lost a lot when that relationship was over. The fallout of those events informed a lot of the plot and character motivations in the last couple seasons, but everything seemed to lose focus. We got some elaborate schemes to keep us interested, but we lost some of the heart.

Chuck was sort of evil, but also an extremely tragic character himself. His allergy to electricity was such a fascinating element to the show. It was irrelevant to the relationship dynamics between the brothers while at the same time informed almost every interaction they had. Even thought I didn’t like Jimmy myself, Chuck’s constant refusal to accept him garnered him so much sympathy. It was a nice callback at the end where they showed a scene where Chuck was trying to connect with Jimmy and he was the one who put up the wall.

Jimmy & Kim

The central relationship to the series was always Jimmy & Kim. From the beginning it felt as if Kim had taken pity on Jimmy. It was never clear why she hung around as long as she did. The show alluded to her past, but didn’t clearly explain what drove her. She seemed to like a charity case. She enjoyed the idea of being a con-artist. Both could be viable reasons for her dedication to Jimmy. Either way, I was never convinced of the Kim & Jimmy relationship.

Both of them exhibited self-destructive behavior. Both of them seemed scared of being happy. Jimmy was always willing to take a risk, and I think Kim admired that about him. When everything went down they each responded to it in completely different ways. Jimmy leaned into this life of crime and became the Saul Goodman we knew from Breaking Bad. Kim got out of there and lived an extremely boring life.

I guess we saw Kim’s threshold. She enjoyed the shenanigans up to a certain point, but when things got too crazy she wasn’t willing to stand by Jimmy anymore. For some reason the long lead up to that through the first 5 seasons didn’t ring true to me. It always felt like Kim was above it. She was too good for it. Characters in the show blatantly pointed that out, but it didn’t make it any better. Kim & Jimmy just never fit together.


The longer the series progresses the more the plot relies on these schemes that Jimmy comes up with. I’d forgotten how Breaking Bad started relying on a similar story telling strategy, but was reminded as I watched Better Call Saul. It didn’t work for me then, and I got tired of it here too. It is difficult for me to explain why. It was more annoying that interesting. There were some good character moments for the actors, but mostly it was annoying and plodding.

The final season features multiple episodes dominated by these chess games between characters. The writers are clearly talented at building these plot apparatuses and creatively use them to move characters through their journey. However, I become increasingly aware of them. They are at the same time interesting and distracting.

The epilogue has an entire episode about a mall caper. I was not on board with that one at all.


I would highly recommend watching Better Call Saul. That feels like a contradiction. I didn’t really like the main character. I didn’t buy the core relationship that was central to the entire series. Still, it was such an interesting show that I got into and couldn’t stop watching. The ending was fitting, and actually pretty satisfying.

I loved seeing more Gus Fring. I loved all the Mike Ehrmantrut we got, even though the attempt at his backstory felt half-assed. Better Call Saul introduced Nacho & Lalo Salamanca, two more memorable characters that added greatly to the series.

I think I would be fine if this were the last peek we got into the Breaking Bad world. I’m also satisfied with Jimmy’s ending and don’t need to see him or Kim Wexler ever again. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the show… it just means it ended well.

September 10, 2022

Better Call Saul

Over the last several weeks I binge-watched the first five seasons of Better Call Saul. I was a huge fan of Breaking Bad, but for some reason I didn’t find it necessary to watch the movie El Camino or the Better Call Saul TV series. Saul Goodman was one of my least favorite characters from the original show, so that didn’t help things either.

I continued to hear how good this show was, so I finally decided to try it out.

Season one starts out slow. It was difficult for me to get into. By the end of the first season it settled into a nice character drama. That continued through the first 4 seasons. I ended up really enjoying the vibe of the show. Even though I didn’t love Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad, I did quite like Jimmy McGill. I liked that the show centered on his relationship with his brother. That story-line was interesting to me. We also get lots of Mike Ehrmentrout and Gus Fring… which were two of my favorite characters from Breaking Bad.

Better Call Saul exceeded my expectations in every way. I am looking forward to watching the 6th season. I just have to figure out how. I’ll probably buy it on Amazon streaming. My only complaint with the series is that things start to feel exaggerated in season 4. They start to get away from the even-keel character drama and have to set up the character that we get in Breaking Bad. The evolution was believable, but didn’t make me love the direction the show is going.

I loved Breaking Bad, but really felt like the show limped to the finish. I didn’t dislike the ending, but they leaned too much into the action and lost focus on the characters. I haven’t seen the last season of Better Call Saul, but I feel similarly about this show too. Everything is slowly unraveling and it seems like they will continue amping up the stakes and drama.

June 11, 2022

Stranger Things Season 4 - So Far

It has been 3 years since we last saw our friends from Hawkins. A couple weeks ago Netflix dropped the first 7 of 9 episodes of Season 4. I watched them all in less than 48 hours. I have enjoyed Stranger Things since the first season, but I also believe it has been over-hyped. I have talked to several people who think Season 4 of Stranger Things is the best one yet. I don’t agree. Maybe the ending of the season will chanhe my mind. I do think it is on par with the other season so far, which is… fine.

I am not going to argue with anybody who loves this show. The early seasons created a nice warm blanket of nostalgia & suspense. The latter seasons have provided more spectacle and intensity. The whole thing is good, and extremely watchable. [1] However, for me seasons 3 & 4 have lost the emotional core of the show. I don’t think I care what happens anymore. I am along for the ride, but some of the magic is gone.

Stranger Things is reliant on 3 things...

  • Nostalgia
  • Likable Characters 
  • The Mythology

Those are the things that really hooked me into the first season. I came back for Season 2 to see where the characters ended up and see if they had learned anything else about the Upside Down. Nostalgia just kinda comes with the whole package.

Now that we made it to Season 4 I have to say they have lost me on their main two drawls. The only character I care even a little bit about is Eleven. I used to care about Hopper, but they took one of their best characters and tied him to one of their worst, and sent them away on a Russian subplot that I cannot get excited about. I’m no longer invested in the character arcs (except for maybe Eleven) but i still want to see what happens.

The other item that used to get me excited about watching was the mythology of this whole alternate universe. I wanted to know what it all meant. My interest is starting to wane here as well. I think each season has had an effective monster. I think Season 4 has one of the best. However, I have given up trying to figure out how this all fits together and what exactly is going on with the Upside Down. Are all of the monsters the same? Do they all come from the same place?

It has been a while since I have watched the previous seasons. Maybe this all makes more sense and I just haven’t been able to keep it straight. It feels like things might be coming together, but I’m not persuaded they are going to get there by the end of the season.

I’m nearly the perfect age for the nostalgia of Stranger Things. That hooked me from the start. I found the suspense and horror elements to work well. However, as the series has prgressed I have found it less fun [2] and less meaningful. Maybe it is just me. I’m ready (and hoping) for a satisfying resolution to this story.

  1. Even re-watchable if they release a season one edit that removes Joyce Beyers.  ↩

  2. Although I can never get enough of Steve & Dustin.  ↩

May 15, 2022

Ted Lasso Season 2

I finally got around to watching the second season of Ted Lasso on Apple TV+. Like the rest of the world I really enjoyed the first season. For some reason I wasn’t chomping at the bit to dive into season 2. I definitely expected it to be a come-down from the great first season. When it had come out I didn’t hear near the amount of buzz that was out there for season 1. I was confident that season 2 was going to be a bust… so I put it on the back-burner.

I am not sure what prompted me to finally hit play, but I am happy to say my expectations were exceeded in nearly every way. I really enjoyed the second season… I would say almost as much as the first. I think it is on par with what we got the first time around. It was awesome in nearly every way.

I love how Ted Lasso is able to create this world that feels so warm and inviting. I love spending time with the characters. There aren’t many shows that pull this off, but Tedd Lasso is one of the best. There is a sense of community and familiarity with every episode. Turning on an episode is like putting on a warm blanket, or spending time with old friends. That alone makes the show so nice to watch. It is difficult to explain, and I don’t know exactly how some shows do such a good job and other shows miss this feeling completely. Spending time with the Richmond football club captures that feeling extremely well, which is why I will watch as many seasons of Ted Lasso as they are willing to make.

My only criticism with the season is the story of Nate. I saw it coming from a mile away… which is fine, but the whole character arc felt clunky to me. Nate was one of my favorite charters from the first season. I guess I understand what they were trying to do in the 2nd season, but the character suffered because of it. It was all very cumbersome. I am not sure I totally understand why he became so bitter with everything. Maybe there is a more nuanced narrative that I missed, but it didn’t work for me.

Nate is clearly going to be the coach of the rival team. We will see how that goes. I don’t think they have done enough to set him up as a worthy adversary to Ted. That is my only complaint with the second season. I didn’t like the direction they took Nate and I didn’t think they did it very well. Aside from that I think it was a good season, and will be a little bit quicker on the uptake to watch season 3. I do like being able to binge watch all of the episodes all at one. For some reason I don’t think the show will work as well watching it week-to-week.

April 2, 2022

The Will Smith Slap

It is bizarre that I just finished reading Will Smith’s autobiography last week and then he slapped the shit out of Chris Rock at the Oscars just a few days later. I thought it was worth posting about anyway.

Everybody has to weigh in on whether they think the whole thing was staged or not. I am torn. I think it is absolutely possible that it was real… real emotion and a spur of the moment decision by Will Smith. However, Rock’s reaction to the slap felt prepared. The slap itself looked fake. However, the shouting and then the awkward transition into the documentary award seemed genuine. At that point Rock looked visibly shaken. I don’t know what to make of it all. I could go either way. I’m 50/50.

So what insight did I get from Smith’s autobiography? I will say that he felt like he had done a disservice to Jada in their marriage. Will acknowledged that he was too focused on his own goals and ambitions that he didn’t appreciate how his wife felt and what she wanted.

This sentiment fits with the reaction to Rock’s joke. Initially he laughed. Will thought it was funny. Then he looked at Jada and realized she was not happy. Only then did he take offense and decide to administer the slap. He felt like he needed to defend her. It was “on brand” with how he felt he had failed her in the past based on my reading of his book.

At the same time it feels completely insane that he would choose that moment to defend his wife over something so trivial. The host of the Oscars is there to make jokes. Why would Will make such a big scene? In that respect it felt very immature from Will, but he is also a fan of large over-the-top gestures.

There is also the fact that the Oscars has had terrible ratings that have been getting worse year over year. I love movies and the Oscars would be a whole event for me 10 years ago. I haven’t watched live in the last 4 years. I am content to catch up with a YouTube video of the best parts. It could be great for ratings if something insane happened during the broadcast.

March 26, 2022

Greenlights vs Will

I just finished reading Will Smith’s auto-biography, Will. It reminded me a lot of another movie star auto biography, Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey. I can easily say that I liked Will a lot more than Greenlights, even though they share a lot of similarities. If you like Will Smith, Will is worth reading. It is an entertaining read and I learned a lot about the musician/actor.

Either one of the books, about Smith or McConaughey, would not be interesting or remarkable if they were not famous. I think all of us have the desire to tell our own stories… whether those stories are worth telling or not. In both cases the stories are worth telling, but only because they became famous. I think Will Smith does it better, and creates a better book out of his life.

I like an auto-biography… so I guess I create a low bar to clear. Usually they contain a lot of interesting facts, but most aren’t worthy of creating a post about. I think Will checked a lot of the boxes for a good auto-biography. Greenlights is fine, but I could never recommend it. While most of it was entertaining there were a few parts I actively disliked. I didn’t connect with the message. The through-line didn’t work for me.

Will doesn’t necessarily have a through line. It is merely a story about an extremely famous man, told from his own perspective. I have no real basis to judge it, but it feels genuine. It was grounded and relatable… at least the extent it can be.

I enjoyed reading about Will’s life. I think he did a good job with the book. It only started to lose me a little bit at the very end. It was almost cliche to have the ultra busy movie star step back and realize what is really important in life. It was an obligatory last act where the main character undergoes a change.

I’m glad I read both Greenlights and Will, but Smith created a better book. Still not 100% sure which one of the two people would be more interesting to sit down and have a conversation with.

February 5, 2022

The Harder They Fall

The Harder They Fall is another Western on Netflix. This one is quite a bit different than The Power of the Dog. It was recommended to me as a fun movie with cool western scenes.

It is an all black cast featuring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, & Zazie Beetz. It adheres to all of the classic western tropes but uses modern music and language. I haven’t seen a classic western in a while, but these scenes were easily recognized as throw-backs to classic movies that I can’t exactly name.

I loved the vibe of this movie. I agree it was a lot of fun. It is intense, but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I didn’t love the plot. Mainly because the actions of some characters just didn’t make a ton of sense to me. It all culminates in a bit of a surprise ending. I think the surprise itself was interesting, but the way it was executed didn’t satisfy me.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this film. It captures the fun of a western, and has plenty of action and violence as well. For me there wasn’t enough substance. As soon as I finished it I didn’t really think about it again.

Strangely, this is one of those films I could totally see myself sitting down and watching again. I actually think it would reward a second watching and I might get more out of it.

January 15, 2022

The Power of the Dog

This movie has been getting a lot of attention recently. It was already on my radar. It is a western. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch. It is easily available on Netflix. There weren’t any reasons for me not to watch it.

Right from the beginning it was clear this movie was going to be a thinker. I strapped in and got ready to absorb all of the meaning. I watched…. I kept watching… it was completely nonsensical. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t understand what was going on… it was just that it didn’t seem to matter. I couldn’t figure where this story was going, or even who the main character was.

It is a beautiful movie. New Zealand is standing in for Montana, and it looks great. The acting is great. I loved Cumberbatch’s surly Phil Burbank character. It has a methodical pace that forces you to keep your horse at a slow trot… we aren’t going to gallop. I like all that. I like being led through a world at a leisurely pace. But, I want to feel like I have some idea where we are going.

This movie wants you to be uncomfortable. It forces you to sit in uncomfortable situations where people don’t really want to play the piano. It constantly creates this vibe where you are not in a safe place. It is not a place where you can be yourself. It is a place you kinda want to get away from, and you might feel trapped there.

This all makes little sense until the very end of the movie. It all sets the stage, but it takes a very long time to get us to the point where something actually happens. I guess it could be up for debate how everything goes down at the end. I am going to (SPOILER ALERT) do my best to describe the ending of the movie and the sequence of the events that occurred.

I’d be very interested to know you if you agree. At first it came across more like a series of fortunate (or unfortunate) events… but I definitely ascribe malicious intent to everything that went down.

Okay… so definitely going to spoil the end of the movie with the rest of the post. I mean, I’m going to spoil the whole movie by describing the sense I made of it after it was over.

  • Phil Burbank is…
    • an asshole that likes to make everybody else miserable. He especially likes to mess with Rose and her awkward son Peter.
    • a college educated fancy boy who likes to act like a tough cowboy and exhibit toxic masculinity.
    • never going to wear gloves, even when handling bloody cow testicles.
    • gay
  • Phil’s brother George marries Rose so he doesn’t have to feel alone anymore. They all live together on a ranch.
  • Rose gets so stressed out by the whole situation that she becomes an alcoholic.
  • Peter moves back home for summer and Phil commences tormenting him.
  • Peter finds Phil’s hideout with dirty mags and maybe witnesses Phil getting handsy with a hanky? I’m not sure about that part. Anyway, Phil becomes concerned with what Peter might know about him and decides to befriend the boy. Phil is determined to make Peter a hand-woven rope as a gift to be completed before he returns to school at the end of summer.
  • Phil teaches Peter how to ride a horse and they generally start spending a lot of time together. Rose doesn’t like it one bit.
  • Peter finds a diseased cow laying dead when he is out for a solo ride. He skins it and takes the hide, though we never see that part on screen.
  • Rose gives away all of Phil’s healthy cow hides to the Native Americans even though Phil has been adamant from the beginning of the movie that they will not get his hides. Phil is super pissed because he doesn’t have the leather he needs to complete the rope for Peter.
  • Peter steps in and gives Phil strips of hide as a gift.
  • Things get really homo-erotic between Phil and Peter. Peter is leaning into this because he knows that Phil has a cut on his hand from when they were trying to scare a rabbit, and Phil is using diseased cow hide to make the rope. This is going to be fatal for Phil because he never wears gloves. Peter is getting pretty jazzed that his plan is coming together and wants to give Phil a boner before he dies.
  • It works… Phil dies.
  • George and Rose are happy to be rid of the terrible brother and will now live happily ever after.

So that is is. In my mind that is what happened. I don’t know if Peter’s plan was meticulously orchestrated, or if he just got really lucky. I don’t know if Peter had been thinking about this all summer long or if he just seized an opportunity.

Regardless, this is a movie where very little happens for the first 80%. It lulled me into a sense that this is going to be one of those artsy films that doesn’t really have a plot or a clear direction… just enjoy the acting and the beautiful cinematography. Then all this stuff happens right at the end and I was like… what the hell?

It was weird, but it was pretty good.

January 12, 2022

Spiderman: No Way Home

I waited a couple of weeks for the theaters to clear out before I ventured in to see the third MCU Spiderman film. I enjoyed the previous two, but I didn’t think there was anything particularly special about them. Tom Holland’s Spiderman was the same character, but it always felt off. It was a different creation that existed to serve the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Going into this 3rd and final Marvel Spiderman film I didn’t think about how they were going to handle that. I didn’t think about the fact that Marvel had to give this character back to Sony in roughly the same state in which they found him. That is what this movie was all about, and they did a really good job with it.

I had a great time watching this movie. It was far better than it had any right to be. The action was mediocre, as has been the case with the prior two films in this trilogy. The pivotal scene in this movie that was supposed to elicit the most emotion was laughably bad. The plot was a little nonsensical, which is what happens when your plot is driven by magical spells that brainwash millions of people.

Even with all of those complaints, Spider-Man: No Way Home pulled off one of the greatest achievements I may ever see in film. That alone was worth the price of admission many times over. I don’t see any sense in spoiling what happens so I won’t talk about it in detail, but this film feels catered directly to me, a teenager when the first Sam Rami Spider-man movie came out.

No Way Home had a lot of contortions to do, but in the end they put Spiderman back exactly where they found him, in the same broken condition as every Spider-man that has come before. That alone was an impressive feat. The stage is set for a new era of Spider-Man, cleansed of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will any of these subsequent movies be good? I hope so. Will Tom Holland ever be Spider-man again… I doubt it.

So is this Tom Holland trilogy the best set of Spider-man movies? I’d say yes. The first two entries were solid. The last one was bonkers with plenty of highs and lows. It makes me want to revisit the older films and try to stack them up against what Marvel did with the character. It made me very interested to see what Sony does with the character going forward. It feels like the stage is set for a solid franchise. It is hard to say it wasn’t a good film when it sparked that much interest in the character, and made me excited to see what might come in the future.

January 5, 2022

Succession Season 3

I just finished the 3rd season of Succession on HBO Max. This show took me a while to get into, but it has become one of my favorites.

If you know nothing about *Succession*I will give a quick description. It is about a huge media company that also has theme parks and cruises. I imagine Disney… if they also owned Fox News. From a leadership standpoint it is like if Walt Disney was still alive and still ran the company… and he had 4 shitty kids who are waiting for him to die so one of them can inherit the CEO job.

The whole thing is a bit preposterous and can feel like the plot is spinning in circles. Still, it is an extremely entertaining ride. Over the course of the seasons we feel sympathy towards characters and then we come to hate them even more than we thought possible. They are spoiled, entitled brats that have had everything handed to them their entire lives and their dad kinda hates them for it.

It is clear that he doesn’t trust his company to any of them. It is also clear that all of his kids think they are completely capable and obvious choices for CEO.

The show is filled with scheming, backstabbing, & plenty of strategy around mergers and acquisitions. Billions of dollars hang in the balance with almost every meeting or press appearance, and they almost all go badly. If this family were real I feel like they would be a total joke. Sometimes it is difficult to believe they’ve managed as well as they have up to this point.

Season 3 had some really enjoyable moments. However, the plot feels like it is stalling out a bit. Everything wasn’t resolved to my satisfaction so I hope they have another season in the works, but I also hope Season 4 will be the last one.

Succession crept in and took a spot among my favorite TV series of all time. The characters are so memorable and extremely enjoyable to watch. It is like a car crash you can’t look away from. I think the only sane person in the show might be cousin Greg’s grandpa.