“The Other Two” S2E03 & E04 – Chase Guest-Edits Vogue & Pat Hosts Just Another Regular Show

“I like sex too, obviously! I mean, not during the week, but on weekends. Like Sundays, before HBO.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I’m slightly disappointed that Pat doesn’t get as much of a hefty storyline in this week’s episodes as I’d like, mostly because I think Molly Shannon has been killing it in the titular role of the enthusiastic, optimistic daytime talk show host, but Brooke’s arc more than makes up for that disappointment.

There’s a moment near the end of the third episode where Brooke and Chase are walking back from the Vogue party (that Brooke had to miss) and she sees a version of herself getting wasted and falling down at a bar. For a split second, Brooke admires that person and even goes as far as saying that she misses being that person, only to realize that “[she’s] good”. She has done that life, and now she is a manager who misses big-name parties and spends most of her time on the phone in dull meetings. The best part? Brooke actually loves it.

Drew Tarver (left) and Gideon Glick (right)

That kind of growth from the character she was in season one who was jobless, pessimistic and living in celebrities’ apartments is instantly gratifying for us viewers. Her pride in the big empty apartment she scores is beautiful and satisfying, even if the show implies that all this wealth and fame is not a solution to her loneliness. The difference is that she was already lonely even when she had the toxic Lance in her life and a lackluster housing situation; at least now she is the kind of lonely that makes a living and is able to reach out to Cary for help when needed.

Speaking of Cary, I was very disappointed with his entire storyline. Not only was he dragging Jess along for no good reason, I hate the implication that “gays have to have a crazy slut-phase in their 20s before they can settle down”. In many ways, I think it’s a very important story to tell; however, the show missed an opportunity to subvert these stereotypes and have Cary actually treat Jess with a little more respect and dignity. Regardless, I’m glad this arc is over now and I’m looking forward for some character growth for Cary as we head deeper into season two.

“What If…?” S1E04 – Doctor Strange

Come, this way, Sorcerer Armani.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

That hit me right in the feels in a way I absolutely did not expect.

What If…? has been quite an interesting show so far. Unlike Loki, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and WandaVision (which remains my all-time favorite show of the year), the MCU’s first entry into animated television hasn’t had high enough stakes so far, emotional or otherwise. What if…T’Challa Became Star-Lord and now Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands are both exceptions. Where the T’Challa episode shone for obvious reasons (getting to hear Chadwick Boseman reprise his titular role one more time was the greatest gift 2021 ever gave us), Doctor Strange hits all the right marks that makes time travel stories so fascinating.

Stephen Strange (voiced once again by Benedict Cumberbatch) finds himself compelled to travel back in time and save Christine (the fantastic Rachel McAdams) to the dismay of Wong (Benedict Wong!) and the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton!). In spectacular time-travel fashion, every attempt fails. As the Ancient One explains to him, Christine’s death is an Absolute Point in time and therefore no matter how many times Strange tries to go back and reverse it, it will still happen.

Not that this particular explanation stops him from trying. What comes next is one of the most tragic sequences the show has produced yet, in which Stephen refuses to accept this, trying over and over (and over) again to save the love of his life. The episode also hilariously references the iconic “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain” sequence, but it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that the self-obsessed Strange doesn’t take no for an answer.

Along with tragic storylines and gut-punch-worthy moments, What If…Doctor Strange also delivers one of the most entertaining fight scenes yet. We get Strange vs Strange (and Cape vs Cape! Unless they were…dancing?) and tentacles and fire effects and a goosebumps-inducing score (and the Watcher almost interfering?), all of which lead to a truly devastating ending as we zoom out on a lonely Stephen in a universe that basically dies out of existence. It’s the kind of bleak, somber ending that I absolutely would have never expected from a lighthearted, 30-minute show like What If…? but it works, and I am still at a loss of words.

“Only Murders in the Building” – Episodes 1, 2 & 3

“You Goddamn true crime f*ckin’ numb-nuts.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Within the first 10 minutes, Only Murders in the Building makes it abundantly clear that this show is a love letter to true crime fans, podcast lovers, and Broadway enthusiasts. It also has something for comedy as well as mystery fanatics. So yes, this show is basically for everyone.

Starring Steve Martin, Selena Gomez and Martin Short, the show follows three neighbors who find themselves investigating a crime that took place in their apartment building on the Upper West Side. The trio have little to nothing in common, besides a shared interest in Serial-esque podcasts and keeping secrets.

(left to right): Selena Gomez, Martin Short, and Steve Martin

One of the strongest things about Only Murders, at least in the first three episodes (all of which Hulu decided to release at once), is its incredibly fast-paced nature and quick zingers. The premiere in particular wastes no time in setting up the premise of the show–besides a cringeworthy in medais res that we’re all going to pretend didn’t happen–and introducing us to the colorful characters of Arconia, the apartment building in which they all live. Director Jamie Babbit also does some incredible shots of the trio in every elevator shot that we see in the first three episodes (and we see a lot of elevator shots), so credit where credit is due.

Surprising no one, Martin, Short and Gomez are wonderful performances that bring so much nuance to their respective characters. Whether Mabel (Gomez), the archetype Millennial, is correcting Charles (Martin) on how he doesn’t need to sign every text or how she looked up “all of the websites on the Internet”, or whether Oliver (Short) lives every moment as if he is shooting a Broadway play, there’s plenty of meta-commentary on the cultural exchange that occurs, and it’s safe to say this would have easily fumbled with lesser performers. Gomez, who I have not seen in an acting gig since Wizards of Waverly Place, doesn’t quite the kind of hefty material her male counterparts do in the first episode. Luckily, that is slightly rectified by the time the credits rolled over the third episode (no spoilers).

Just when I thought the pilot was going in a very expected trajectory, the episode ends on a brilliant cliffhanger. It’s the kind of ending that is reminiscent of a network TV show closing out their pilot with a bang, forcing people to tune in the following week for more. While the consequent two episodes aren’t quite as meticulously plotted, I’d be damned if I didn’t say I am already hooked and can’t wait for more.

“The Other Two” Season 2 – Episodes 1 & 2

In more Gay News, Laura Stern is slated to star in a new FX series, which I already stan.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s been almost two and a half years since we last saw The Other Two, and it’s safe to say a lot has changed since then (both in the real world and for the Dubek’s) —but one thing remains absolutely the same: this show is still one of the funniest shows on TV right now.

As much as I want to praise the show’s first season (and, by extension, Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider) for its hilariously accurate depiction of millennial anxiety in the modern world, the first two episodes of season two immediately highlight just how much these characters have grown and matured. Now airing weekly on Thursdays on HBO Max, The Other Two starts with a news-like montage of what everyone has been up to. While Chase has decided to give up singing to go to college (for “however many years”), Mama Pat has become a famous and successful daytime talk show host, to Brooke and Cary’s dismay. Cary, no longer living with his toxic “straight” roommate, now has a boyfriend Jess (played by Gideon Glick), and Brooke is browsing TikTok on the hunt for the next “ChaseDreams”.

Drew Tarver (left) and Heléne Yorke (right)

Molly Shannon gets a significant boost in screentime this season already, and I’m absolutely hyped for her story arc. Shannon takes the goofy/lovable/cringey mother stereotype and turns her into a hilarious multi-dimensional character. Pat’s show (ridiculously title pat!) is filled with a series of repeatable catchphrases that her audience seem to love as well as an entire segment where she FaceTimes her kids. It’s brutal, in the most perfect way possible.

I’m also happy to report that the show is even gayer than ever. While Cary’s acting career hasn’t taken off the way he’d hoped, he still manages to give us some of the show’s funniest bits as he updates us on Gay News and is a recurring guest on BuzzFeed, BagelBitesTV and Thrillist, where he is the “token gay” host. The fast-paced, pop-culture references are sometimes blink-and-you’ll-miss-it types of bits, but they’re all very cleverly written in a way that is so remarkably relatable to queer millennials.

There’s a lot more to love and appreciate about the wacky, witty world that The Other Two operates in, and I can’t wait to see how this season unfolds.

“The Chair” – Season 1

I feel like someone handed me a ticking time-bomb because they wanted to make sure a woman was holding it when it explodes. –Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I started watching this show over the weekend, but within just a couple of episodes I was hooked — and eventually bingewatched all six episodes in less than 5 hours.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From the very start, as Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim (played by the incredible Sandra Oh) unwraps a gift of a desk nameplate that reads FUCKER IN CHARGE OF YOU FUCKING FUCKS, The Chair distinguishes itself from a typical dramedy. It never takes itself too seriously, while still tackling heavy subjects and modern-day “cancel culture” here and there. It’s bold and funny and unapologetic. And it’s amazing.

Created by Amanda Peet and Annie Wyman, the show revolves around Ji-Yoon, the new chair of the English department of the fictional Pembroke university, who is trying desperately to put out fires. Tasked with fixing the issue of enrollments going significantly down, Ji-Yoon must do so in an industry that has severely awarded older, white men for years even though she knows that change is necessary.

Oh’s performance, if you haven’t been blessed by her Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy, is nothing short of extraordinary. She tackles every interaction with every character with so much nuance — whether she is confronting her somewhat lover/somewhat friend Bill (Jay Duplass) for “not getting his shit together” after losing his wife and acting out in class, or trying to connect with her young daughter, I found myself emotionally attached to Kim’s story and constantly wondering when she is going to catch a break.

(L to R) SANDRA OH as JI-YOON, NANA MENSAH as YAZ, and HOLLAND TAYLOR as JOAN

Another reason to fall in love with this show is Holland Taylor and Nana Mensah, who play Yaz and Joan, respectively. Taylor has some of the show’s most iconic lines (“fanny”) even as she is stranded with what I believed was the weakest subplot — fighting over how she got stuck with a tiny closet for an office in a push to get her to retire. Mensah, a Ghanaian-American actor, writer and director, on the other hand, is given some hefty material. In one of my favorite arcs of the season, Yaz finds herself forced to share a classroom with Elliot (played by Bob Balaban), a white, older, tenured professor. The clash of Millennials and Boomers across the show’s six episodes goes about as well as you’d expect, but the writing elevates these scenes with witty dialogue and multi-dimensional storytelling. I wouldn’t mind spending another season or two with scripts like this.

The Chair ultimately does leave room for potentially more episodes to come. While the finale is satisfying in its own way, there is an open ending of some sort to Bill’s controversial storyline (much of which I would rather leave unspoiled). Overall, the show is both a hilarious and tragic insight into the academic environment, with powerhouse performances and a tight script from start to finish, no doubt making it a strong contender for next year’s Emmy’s.

“Gilmore Girls: AYITL” – Winter

Haven’t done that in a while. –Rory Gilmore

While I may or may not have seen all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls a little over 5 times already (don’t judge), I realized I’d only seen Netflix’s 2016 revival “A Year in the Life” twice prior to this viewing. So, naturally, I had to fix that.

Originally, I had lots of thoughts and feelings about AYITL. I thought it was messy and uncoordinated, lacking in charm and wit. Those feelings changed as I let the four-episode (each an hour and a half long) special sink in a little more. AYITL is messy, yes. But it is charming. It is witty. It’s sort of poetic. It’s beautiful.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Taking place nine years after the series finale, Winter starts off with a very solid Stars Hollow tour as we catch up with what’s been happening in the Gilmore world. The Good: Lorelai and Luke are still together, unmarried (don’t get me started) but otherwise doing well. The Bad: Rory is lost, having never really “made it” in journalism besides publishing one New Yorker piece (which Luke is super proud of), and stringing along a boyfriend of 2 years while…get ready for The Really Bad, still hooking up with a very hot and very-much-engaged Logan. The Good: Paris. ‘Nuff said.

WHAT WORKED

More on the “good” part is the tour that Lorelai gives Rory in the beginning. It’s every writer’s dream to be able to pull the audience back into their fictional world with a literal tour of what’s been going on. In this case, given how Stars Hollow has always been wacky and unconventional, Amy Sherman-Palladino actually pulls this off quite brillaintly.

Kirk is…significantly more attractive now (but that’s just me). And he’s still with Lulu! Love wins. Plus: Ooober.

Lauren Graham’s delivery of the line “I smell snow” never fails to give me goosebumps. How Graham didn’t win a single Emmy for her beyond perfect portrayal of Lorelai throughout the show’s entire run is, quite frankly, illegal.

The troubadour is still here! (But not for long?)

Who else remember the Rabbi at the Gilmore house?

“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…and Sewers for Stars Hollow!”

So, let’s talk about Michel. In this episode, it is revealed that he is married to a Frederick (who sadly remains off-screen). People have debated Michel’s sexuality throughout the show’s entire run, but I was a bit disappointed that ASP couldn’t bring it up at all until the revival. I would have loved to see Michel dating men, breaking up with men for stupid reasons, and even falling in love with men. We were robbed.

Kirk yelling “you have arrived!” after Lorelai walks out of his Ooober admittedly brought a chuckle out of me.

Let’s talk about how utterly devastating and gut-wrenching the image of Lorelai, Rory and Emily in black dresses sitting in the back of a limo is. The entire funeral sequence, as Tom Waits’ Time plays in the background, brings me to tears every time.

I hated Digger (Jason Styles) in the OG. It is admittedly kind of cute seeing him catching up with Lorelai at the funeral. And what ever happened to him suing Richard? Remember how that storyline got dropped?

There are lots of thoughts about Lorelai getting drunk and telling an embarrassing story about Richard abandoning her. I thought it was quite on-par with the character. She is resentful and she’s got years of built-up and unresolved anger towards her father, of course it’s all going to come out in the most devastating way possible.

Miss Patty is still teaching dance. Cool.

Best Scene of the Episode: Lorelai and Emily lashing it out in the kitchen. Their fights are a true Gilmore tradition, but to see Emily striking a cord with her daughter by bringing up the casualness of her and Luke’s relationship…my goodness, it is perfect. Seriously, how are Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop not carrying around an Emmy for their performances here?

Oh Paris, how much I missed you and your unfiltered humor.

Caesar makes an appearance! Is it sad or wholesome that he still works at Luke’s?

I never cared for Hep Alein, or Zack and Gil, but I always loved Brian. I guess it’s kind of cute that they’re all still practicing together.

Lane deserved better than Zack, don’t @ me.

Emily having a “body-shipping cash” envelope in her safe is frankly the most Emily thing I have ever heard.

The cliffhanger, with Lorelai unknowingly signing up for therapy with her mother, is inspired. Perfect way to keep us invested, seeing as how the Lorelai/Emily dynamic was always the show’s biggest obstacle. Well done, ASP.

YEAH, THAT DIDN’T WORK

Everything is in HD now. I don’t know why I’m complaining about this, but it feels very un-Gilmore Girls and it deserves to be in this section of this “review”.

More on the “this doesn’t feel right“: Lorelai saying she just hit her steps. Stop, Lorelai. This isn’t 2016 yet. You still don’t have a smartphone or a Fitbit or anything like that. I refuse to accept anything else.

OK, so the opening scene at the gazebo is a major WTF-is-going-on moment. I love Alexis Bledel (she rocks in The Handmaid’s Tale), but good lord she is awkward AF in this scene. It’s unnatural and I hate it.

Even the “La La La”s are significantly different here than they ever were in the original show’s 7-year run. There’s more of a violin-esque to them. Not a huge fan.

No Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) = sad Chris.

Berta (played by Rose Abdoo, who also plays Stars Hollow’s Gipsy) is a strange addition to the show. I know ASP loves theatre, and that’s why she did this, but it almost feels unnecessary.

Again with the Logan twist…nope. Nope. Nope.

The fact that we never hear Carole King’s Where You Lead (until the VERY end of the last episode “Fall”) is 100% illegal. Who in their right mind thought it would be a good idea to keep the theme song away from the revival? Are they fired now?

FAVORITE LINES

LORELAI: You’ve been stuffed in a tin can for seven hours surrounded by people with consumption, diphtheria, scabies, hummus dip, rabid dogs, drugged up children attacking your chair, stealing your change.
RORY: What airline are you flying?

LORELAI: Al’s Pancake World won best Christmas decorations again.
RORY: It’s that nativity scene with eggplant Jesus. You can’t beat it.

LORELAI: There’s a debate about taking the phone booth out.
RORY: Where would Superman change when he comes to save our town from Ben Affleck?

LORELAI: He’s like a superhero, but his power is that you can’t remember him no matter how much time you spend with him. Kind of like every Marvel movie ever.

RORY: You sure I didn’t wake you up?
LORELAI: Not unless you were dressed like a urinal cake. You hungry?
RORY: Because you said “cake”?

RORY: Some people might say drinking coffee in the middle of the night could hinder your sleep.
LORELAI: People are dumb.

PAUL: I’m not a breakfast person.
LORELAI: As in, you already had breakfast?
PAUL: No.
LORELAI: (turns to Rory) Did you know about this?

EMILY: Go home! Go back to your beloved town with its carnies and misfits. Tell them how your intolerable mother yelled at you at your father’s funeral. They can all console you and tell you what a witch I am and how perfect you are!
LORELAI: Full…freakin’…circle.

LORELAI: What could possibly elicit that kind of smile in this house?

LORELAI: You don’t wanna toss a ball around with your son?
LUKE: There’s Jess.
LORELAI: I said toss a ball “with” not “at.”

PARIS: Don’t stand there shaking. Just go. Apologize to your parents. Tell them you’ll pay them back for the semesters you studied Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s effect on the feminist agenda.

EMILY: I was starting to feel claustrophobic. I’d wake up in the night feeling like the house is closing in on me. Like I couldn’t breathe, you know?
LORELAI: Oh, yes, I know.

Mad Men – Season 2 Review

A lot of shows can impress me right off the bat, but not that many shows can truly be as consistently poignant, well-made and sharp as Mad Men.

The best thing about the show’s sophomore season is that it addressed the only little problem I had about its debut year: Peggy. Her development in the thirteen episodes following the season one finale is glorious to watch as she goes from having a baby and giving it away to becoming the only female copywriter with an office at Sterling Cooper. She’s still trying to fit into the boys’ club, but it’s less cringe-worthy and more satisfying to watch this time, and more often than not her journey reminds me of Alicia Florrick’s rich development on The Good Wife, another excellent special show. As always, Elisabeth Moss continued to prove that she is more than capable of portraying a strong, career-driven and empowered character struggling to survive in this masculine world, and I’ve never been more invested in her journey as I am now.

More than anything, the overarching theme of the season is family. Don’s struggles with his wife are put front and center as he tries to repair his marriage, and Jon Hamm’s top-notch performance makes this storyline captivating to watch. I don’t remember the last time I watched a show whose main character we knew so little about, and the bits and pieces we established regarding Don’s previous life had me glued to the screen. His little trip to L.A. proved to be a season highlight, and his interactions as well as flashbacks with Anna Draper (the real Mrs. Donald Draper) were riveting, I truly never wanted them to end.

In addition, Mark Moses joined the cast this season as Duck Phillips, a new entity at Sterling Cooper. His exchanges with Don and Roger were a hoot to watch, but as much forward momentum this season had compared to season one, the writers never lost focus on what makes Mad Men so unique: the characters. From Joan to Peter and Ken, each member of the advertising agency is distinctive and colorful, and they all add a small-world feeling to the show.

Finally, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect final shot to bookend this stellar season: Don and Betty holding hands as she tells him she’s pregnant. It’s a depressing and bleak vignette to end the season on, but that moment of silence between them as we zoom out is stunningly beautiful and perfectly encompasses everything this season was about for Don, and I can’t wait to see how this particular development affects him next year.


Bits

– The season premiere’s biggest shocker: the casual throwaway line revealing that Salvatore (the closeted gay) has a wife. As we later find out, it’s none other than Sarah Drew (who I loved on Everwood but cannot stand on Grey’s Anatomy). Let’s see if I end up liking her here.

– Hearing everyone’s reactions and jokes regarding the American Airlines’ plane crash was appalling, and yet I couldn’t stop smiling at all these ‘60s references.

– I love that the crass comedian, Jimmy Barrett, had several guest appearances throughout this season, even though he is horrible. The small-world feeling I get from this show reminds me so much of all the judges that frequently appeared on The Good Wife, and I love that.

– On that note, I only recently discovered Utz (the chocolate-covered pretzels, not the chips) – and boy they are yummy.

– Father Gill (Colin Hanks) and Peggy’s scenes were amusing, and I’m surprised that nothing romantic happened between them. How shockingly uncontrived!

– Not enough Don/Roger scenes this season. Not cool, writers!

– How amusing were Roger’s scenes with his daughter, especially after news of his relationship with his secretary come out?

– I never understood the Peyton List obsession…until now. Every single scene of hers is beautifully filmed, and she looks stunning in every single frame, I was often distracted. I might even give her new show Frequency another chance now (if it gets renewed)!

– Even though I love Roger and Jane (because Peyton List), I’m still rooting for Roger and Joan to end up together.

– Betty’s departure from the family picnic by throwing all of their trash on the grass was horrifyingly hilarious. There’s a thin line between “it’s the ‘60s” and “this is excruciating to watch”, and Mad Men walks that fine line perfectly.

– I loved every campaign this season, but we didn’t get one in every single episode, as was the case in the first season.

– Pete refusing to adopt a baby was another fascinating subplot this season.

– Heartbreaking moment as Freddy says goodbye to Don and Roger after being fired for peeing in his pants.

– Everyone’s reaction to Marilyn Monroe’s death was truly intriguing to watch.

– I want to know more about Hollis, the black elevator operator.

– How long until Betty starts sleeping with Arthur (Revenge’s Gabriel Mann)?

– The season finale, brilliantly titled Meditations in an Emergency, won an Emmy for best writing in a drama series in 2009. Very well-deserved.

Quotes

Peggy: Sex sells.
Don: Says who? Just so you know, the people who talk that way think that monkeys can do this. They take all this monkey crap and just stick it in a briefcase completely unaware that their success depends on something more than their shoeshine. You are the product. You feeling something, that’s what sells. Not them. Not sex. They can’t do what we do, and they hate us for it.

Peggy: I’m capable of making my own decisions.
Anita: Really? The State of New York didn’t think so. The doctors didn’t think so.

Roger: If you put a penny in a jar every time you make love in the first year of marriage, and then you take a penny out of the jar every time you make love in the second year, you know what you have? A jar full of pennies.

Peggy: One day you’re there, and then all of a sudden, there’s less of you. And you wonder where that…part went, if it’s living somewhere outside of you. And you keep thinking maybe you’ll get it back. And then you realize, it’s just gone.

Rating
A

Mad Men – Season 1 Review

It didn’t take very long for Mad Men to win me over. It practically has everything I look for in a TV show: great production values, beautiful cinematography, top-notch performances and sharp writing. However, the true winning factor for me is the universe the show exists in. After 10 near-perfect episodes, I find myself completely immersed in the show’s world and its quiet, atmospheric world.

I’m not usually very fond of TV shows that take place in the ‘60s, but Mad Men forces you to love this era despite all the heavy drinking and oh-god the smoking (yes, there’s a lot of that). Jon Hamm is the alpha male at the advertising agency where he works, and his character Donald Draper takes us on a gripping journey into life in Manhattan before smartphones, laptops or high-res television sets ever existed. You can go ahead and add “fidelity” to that list because almost everyone on this show has an affair at one point or another, and it’s brilliantly plausible and realistic. In fact, a part of me wasn’t sure whether to root for Don and his housewife Betty (the gorgeous January Jones) or him and any of his other mistresses.

The writing is impressively crammed with intricacies and rich subtext that are bound to make any TV buff thrilled, and the overarching theme of the first season delves into who Donald is. Sometimes, the writers are literally asking us “do you really know who this man is?”, and other times they’re dangling this question over our heads with some fascinating layered subplots. He’s a loving family man, competitive coworker, encouraging boss, and cheating husband all at once. I wasn’t sure where the show was going when they revealed he’d also been hiding a big secret—changing his identity from Dick Whitman—but showrunner and writer Mathew Weiner brilliantly used this opportunity to add another layer to this fascinating character instead of going for cheap Hollywood twists.

While Don may be the protagonist of this story, it’s the supporting characters that bring this show to life. The vibrant Joan Holloway certainly stands out from the crowd, and Christina Hendricks does wonders in the role of the snarky office manager everyone loves to hate (and fuck). I was initially a bit turned off by Peggy (Elisabeth Moss)’s naivety in the first few episodes, but if the finale is any indication, then the show is gradually developing her to become much stronger and self-assured. The rest of the cast is just as impressive, and while I still find Vincent Kartheiser (Peter Campbell) more suited for a creepier role (think Connor from Angel), there’s no denying he is a very capable actor and he does bring this rather one-note character to life.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and his refreshing dynamic with Don. The two men aren’t your typical competitive male colleagues, nor are they the typical “bros”; there’s an intriguing backstory to their relationship, and I can’t wait to see more of this developing friendship and partnership in future seasons.

 


Bits

– I adore the show’s creative title credits, from the various characters appearing as posters on buildings to Don’s silhouette jumping off to that final shot of him lying on a couch with a cigarette between his fingers. It also encompasses everything Don’s character went through this season right up until his “downfall” at the end. Brilliant.

– Visually, the show excels at giving us 1960 vibes, and I particularly loved the opening scene with Don speaking to the black waiter, followed by a white manager immediately showing up to ask Don if he’s being “bothered”.

– I’m very careful about using the word ‘twist’ to describe any plotline on this show, but the final scene of the pilot episode revealing Don at a suburban house with a wife and kids was quite the shocker.

– Talia Balsam (who plays Roger’s wife) is married to John Slattery in real life. How cool is that?

– I hated Midge (and the actress looks a whole lot like Helen Hunt, doesn’t she?). Hope we never see her again.

– Betty’s scenes with her therapist were always fascinating, although I do think the show was desperate to make her seem more sympathetic.

– I loved Helen, the Drapers’ neighbor who is sinned for raising a child of divorce. On the other hand, her son Glenn (played by Weiner’s real-life son) is creepy and annoying.

– Harrowing moment as one of the Drapers party guests slaps a child for spilling a drink. Good God, the ’60s weren’t all that great, folks.

– Hilarious moment as Don and Roger make sure to take their shoes off before entering Bert’s office.

– I love the scene where we find out Don has a brother and a whole other life in 5G. Sadly, this was a bit of a rushed storyline as his feud with Pete gets resolved rather quickly and his brother ends up hanging himself within just a couple of episodes.

– Is there a ‘ship name for Roger and Joan because I love them.

– Also in 5G: I love the subtext when Don works on a campaign for an “executive account” in which a man keeps his private life private, paralleled with what he goes through with his brother in that same episode later on. Sidenote: I love the campaigns on this show.

– I actually like Ken. He doesn’t laugh as much as all the other men.

– Peggy getting the Belle Jolie lipstick idea feels like a significant, satisfying moment for her character. Way to go, P.

– Sal turning out to be gay was a complete shock to me. How refreshing that he actually turned down that client’s invitation to his hotel room?

– I love that Don and Roger mention that Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East.

– Betty grabbing a shotgun and shooting at her neighbor’s birds at the end of the ninth episode is such a shocking ‘60s moment, if you forget the fact that a similar thing just happened recently in Lebanon. So much for Paris of the Middle Est, eh?

– I loved Peggy standing up to Pete and asking him if he’s going to be nice or cruel to her today.

– Shocking moment as Roger falls and has a heart attack in the middle of sex.

– Kudos to the costume design for putting Elisabeth Moss in a fat suit in the season’s last few episodes. I certainly noticed, but it didn’t even occur to me that she might be pregnant. Amazing.

– Awfully depressing moment as Betty ‘gets off’ by the washing machine’s vibrations as she imagines bringing the salesman up to her bedroom and having sex with him.

– Hildy probably had 2 or or 3 scenes throughout this season, but I absolutely LOVED her. The way she turns down Pete and questions the way he treats her were two of my favorite moments.

– So, Pete and Trudy can’t have children or does Pete just not want any?

– Don’s speech about memories intercut with photos of his family throughout the years is one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen all year.

– Tear-jerking moment as Peggy refuses to hold her baby.

– Don going back home in the last scene of the finale and telling his wife and kids that he’ll be joining them on their Thanksgiving trip was delightful…and then it turned out to be a dream. What a sudden, depressing twist, and boy did I just love it.


Quotes

Don: Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.

Don: The reason you haven’t felt [love] is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.

Bertram: How much do you know about Pete’s family?
Don: Nothing, except that they put out a mediocre product.

Rachel: They taught us at Barnard about that word, “utopia”. The Greeks had two meanings for it: ‘eu-topos’, meaning the good place, and ‘u-topos’, meaning the place that cannot be.

Don: I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie, there is no system. The universe is indifferent.

Don: Listen, I’m not here to tell you about Jesus. You already know about Jesus. He either lives in your heart or He doesn’t. Every woman wants choices, but in the end, none wants to be one of a hundred in a box. She’s unique. She makes the choices and she’s chosen him. She wants to tell the world he’s MINE. He belongs to ME, not you. She marks her man with her lips. He’s her possession. You’ve given the gift of total ownership.

Peggy: I know what men think of you. That you’re looking for a husband, and you’re fun. And not in that order.
Joan: Peggy, this isn’t China. There’s no money in virginity.

Betty: I know people say life goes on, and it does. But no one tells you that’s not a good thing.

Peggy: Those people, in Manhattan? They are better than us. Because they want things they haven’t seen.

Roger: (to Joan) Look, I want to tell you something because you’re very dear to me. And I hope you understand that it comes from the bottom of my damaged, damaged heart. You are the finest piece of ass I ever had and I don’t care who knows it. I am so glad I got to roam those hillsides.

Joan: I said congratulations, didn’t I? Although, sometimes when people get what they want they realize how limited their goals were.

Don: Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.

Rating
A-

Rectify 1×01/1×02 – Always There / Sexual Peeling

I’ve never been a fan of slow-burning shows, but in the past month I’ve immersed myself in 3 of the slowest yet well-produced and thought-provoking pieces of television. It all started with Breaking Bad (which I finished in less than two weeks), and when that was over I felt the need to replace it with another slow-moving series. Mad Men seems like the perfect show to bingewatch now due to its terrific production values and stellar cast, but I never thought I’d love Rectify, despite all the critical acclaim it’s gotten over the years.

Always There is a brilliant opening, one of the best I’ve seen in recent years, as it perfectly introduces us to the show’s characters and its quiet world. Daniel Holden (an outstanding Aden Young) spent 20 years in prison after confessing to the rape and murder of his high school girlfriend. Now, new DNA evidence has proven that he was not responsible for the crime, so Daniel is released and has returned to his family in a small rural town in Georgia where he must adapt to a new world.

The most impressive thing about this hour is that it lacks exposition, a usual trademark for pilot episodes, and it moves along a brisk albeit fresh pace. It’s also interesting to note just how bleak and depressing the show can be when it takes place during the present time (I’ve seen 2 episodes already), yet every time we flash back to Daniel’s time in prison, it’s unexpectedly positive and uplifting. It’s tonally jarring because you’d expect that the prison scenes would be haunting and hard to watch, but the show luckily deviated from any cliched tropes. At least for now.

Of course, Rectify is also gorgeous to look at it with its beautiful scenery and exquisite cinematography. More often than not, it reminded me of the first season of The Affair; both shows are atmospheric and beautiful to look at and there’s a central mystery surrounding both seasons. Also, the cast, which includes the always stunning Abigail Spencer as Daniel’s sister Amantha, the heartbroken mother (J. Smith Cameron) or the sleazy senator (Michael O’Neill), is just as impressive. By the time the first episode comes to an end, you’ll definitely want to spend more time with these characters.

Quotes

Daniel: I can’t quite get a handle on the concept of time yet. There have been moments here today where I feel like I’ve only been gone a few weeks, and I’m still in high school. But mostly it seems like I was always there.

Daniel: I had convinced myself that kind of optimism served no useful purpose in the world where I existed. Obviously, this radical belief system was flawed and was, ironically, a kind of fantasy itself.

Kerwin: I can’t do time the way you do it.
Daniel: I don’t do time.
Kerwin: That’s what I’m talking about. I can’t do time by not doing time the way you do time.

Rating
A