Breaking Bad‘s Pilot Has It All, And Yet Has Nothing

It’s all there. And none of it’s there.

As I talked about on the Pilot Study Podcast, the Breaking Bad pilot tells you everything you need to know to watch and understand the series. It gives you Walter White, the down-on-his-luck, spineless high school chemistry teacher who’s sleepwalking his way through life. It gives you the hint of an interest and a talent within him that goes unnoticed and unregarded by everyone around him. It gives you Skyler and Walt Jr., Hank and Marie, Jesse Pinkman and so many other figures who make up his world, with just enough color to get a sense for who they are. It gives you the cancer diagnosis that ignites something in Walt, that causes him to take control of his life. And it gives you the sense of the consequences of that change and that choice, the subtle transformation that sets him on a different trajectory.

But what isn’t present, what’s barely even hinted at in this first installment, is where that slow-burning transformation will take him. That’s the beauty of Breaking Bad, and it’s devotion to the idea of change embodied in Walt’s speech about chemistry. We see the first chemical reaction here, the catalyst that sends a lowly science teacher down a new path. We see brief sketches of his wife, his brother-in-law, and his new, less-than-reputable business partner. But we can’t see how much these individuals, and our view of them, will shift and flip over the ensuing five seasons of one of television’s all-time great dramas.

This pilot gives you everything you need to dip your toe into the world of Breaking Bad, but only gives the slightest hints as to how deep and how dark the water goes.

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Bob’s Burgers: Tina Belcher Chooses Girl Power over Stink Bombs in “V for Valentine-detta”


You could be forgiven for getting whiplash from the on-again, off-again romance between Tina Belcher (Dan Mintz), Bob’s Burgers’ resident love-struck tween, and Jimmy Jr. (H. Jon Benjamin), her longstanding crush. The show’s featured each one pursuing the other; it’s had them alternatively dating and feuding, and it’s even shown them pulling off wild stunts to impress the other, without ever really settling on a consistent level of interest, as befits the messy world of middle-school romance.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Is About Making Mistakes, But the Trip to the Casino Planet Isn’t One of Them

Even viewers who loved The Last Jedi tend to point to its trip to Canto Bight — the luxurious planet full of well-heeled gamblers and wealthy libertines — as a misstep. It’s been decried as pointless, indulgent, and ultimately inessential to the other major events of Episode VIII.

But while not the strongest element of The Last Jedi, that sojourn to the casino planet is vital to Finn’s arc, to the animating ideas at the center of the film, and to the movie’s parting shot, in a way that fully justifies its inclusion in the movie, even one already pushing a 2 ½ hour runtime.

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Relief Can Only Be Temporary when The Good Place Takes the “Leap Into Faith”

The Good Place likes pulling the rug out from under its audience. Even before the big reveal in last season’s finale, the show was constantly offering twists. And it’s only gotten wilder from there.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Embraces the Past, Instead of Discarding It


CAUTION: This Review Contains Major Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Throw away the past. The rap on 2015’s The Force Awakens, the film that revived Star Wars for a new generation, was that it was too derivative, too indebted to A New Hope, too bound to the blueprint that had launched the series. There was a sense that in its second outing, this new incarnation of Star Wars needed to break new ground, that having established this new setting, these new characters, and its new conflicts and mysteries, it was time to break from what had come before.

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The Walking Dead Warns This Is “How It’s Gotta Be” in a Trying Mid-Season Finale


If you’re a Walking Dead fan who’s made it this far, you’ve gone through a lot. As someone who watched that first fateful episode on Halloween nearly eight years ago, it’s easy to feel, in a weird way, like you’re one of the survivors from the show. After all, you’ve stuck this thing out, experienced good stretches and bad stretches, while more and more of your friends and acquaintances drop out, many of them resigned to the fact that things can never go back to how they used to be.

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Hope in the Shadow of the Empire: Star Wars and the Jewish Identity

Star Wars has always drawn a connection between the Empire and the Nazis. From the very beginning, the franchise presented images of Grand Moff Tarkin and his officers, replete with enforcers dubbed “stormtroopers,” wearing uniforms that likened them to the men who served Hitler. It’s a visual choice that’s meant to tell the audience who the Empire is at a single glance, without needing to unpack the details that the franchise would explore in the ensuing decades.

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Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith Is Just The Room in Space

This December can boast the release of a pair of films from two very different franchises. The first is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the inescapable cinematic behemoth set to capitalize on the new, Disney-fueled era of Star Wars. It’s primed to tell the next chapter of the new trilogy that began with 2015’s The Force Awakens. The second is The Disaster Artist, a movie, based on a book, based on the making of another movie. That other movie is The Room, a transcendently bad, gloriously inept film that is the modern challenger for the title of “The Worst Movie of All Time.”

And on the surface, Star Wars and The Room have nothing in common. One is set in a distant galaxy, and the other is set in San Francisco (and not even the futuristic sci-fi version of the city from Star Trek). One features magical warrior monks doing battle with laser swords, and the other features (comparatively) average people, mostly tossing footballs at one another. Star Wars shows off imaginative new technologies on a cinematic scale, and The Room includes someone secretly recording their fiancée with a Nixon-era tape recorder.

But look past those surface-level differences, draw down to the core elements of each franchise’s installments, and you’ll discover something shocking — Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is just The Room in space. Search your feelings; you know it to be true.

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The Walking Dead Has Good Ideas and Bad Dialogue in “Time for After”

The continued struggle of The Walking Dead is remarkably consistent. The show’s unhurried pace often gives it time to delve deeply into the theme of the week and really chew on it rather than just gulping it down and moving on like the eponymous, ravenous zombies who populate the series. Sure, some episodes are little more than epic climaxes or piece-moving adventures, but for the most part, even the worst episodes of the show have something they’re trying to say and some idea they’re trying to dig into.

But the show is almost impressively bad at crafting the sort of dialogue for its characters that can ground those examinations in something that feels like real human experience and interactions.

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Ed Wood and Who Art Really Belongs To

In the wake of disquieting fan revolts over superhero films, video games, science fiction awards, and genre works of all stripes, there’s been an ensuing debate over who “owns” art. Whether you’re talking about a particular release, a broader genre, or even an entire industry, there’s an ongoing discussion to the tune of “who does this belong to?”

And the responses are legion. Is it the creative individuals behind these works? Their most ardent fans? The would-be arbiters of taste? The studios and publishers who fund them? Is it the dye-in-the-wool traditionalists or the boundary-pushing innovators? Who among these gets to decide what’s acceptable and what isn’t, let alone what’s good, great, or even art in the first place? These are questions at the heart of Ed Wood, the 1994 film from director Tim Burton.

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