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The 6 Biggest Problems With Game of Thrones Season 6

In the Game of Thrones, you either win or you [feel slightly underwhelmed in certain areas of the story, and whine about it a few weeks later.]

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Yes, yes, it has been weeks since the conclusion of Game of Thrones’ sixth season, making this piece all but irrelevant in the grand scheme of things…on the surface, at least. But this is freaking Game of Thrones we are talking about, the pop culture phenomenon that all but demands constant recaps, thinkpieces, and (let’s face it) clickbait centered aroudn it. This show is keeping the lights on for the entire entertainment blogging realm, so it feels very appropriate for it to be the centerpiece of the first actual article on Freshly Popped Culture. And hey, it was very recently in the news for the truckload of Emmy nominations it received yesterday, so it’s not entirely out of the zeitgeist.

And why not make the first article on this website a list of all the things that bothered me about a show the internet (including I, for the record) loves? I hear that fans tend to like that sort of thing. In any case, a few weeks late and multiple dollars short, here’s the six biggest problems I had with Game of Thrones Season 6.


1) Coup de Dorne (and Everywhere Else, for That Matter)


Oh Dorne. Dorne, Dorne, Dorne — will you forever be the nadir of this series? Hot off the heels of its big Season 5 debut (which I called “probably the worst thing that Game of Thrones has ever done” at the time of its conclusion), it was a smart move for the show to basically cut ties with the storyline, throw their hands in the air, and ignore all of Dorne until a quick scene in the finale. That being sad, even if the intent was pure, that doesn’t forgive how AWFUL the coup scene was in the Season 6 premiere. My mouth was literally agape at how rushed, poorly thought out, and just plain stupid the assassination of pretty much everyone of importance was, and how silly the concept of the Sand Snakes and Ellaria taking over the entire region was presented. Yes it was smart for the series to wash its hands of the storyline, but boy did it still come off as awkward and jarring.

And while we’re on the subject of rushed storylines involving the major political upheaval of an entire region, let’s talk about…well, everywhere else this season, it seems. It’s okay for so many places to suffer giant political developments this season — that’s been the show’s raison d’etre since pretty much the beginning. But what would once be the brunt of an entire character’s storyline for a season was now constricted to a couple episodes, if even that. And there’s both pros and cons to this quick and streamlined approach — we don’t necessarily need to spend 10 hours with Theon and the Kingsmoot, and lord knows I didn’t want to see anymore of Dorne than what was absolutely necessary. But to get all the plots in place for the main event of the season (and arguably the series’ entire endgame), things started to feel very rushed and underthought. It also don’t help that the coup in Dorne, the coup in Winterfell, and the coup at the Iron Isles all occurred within a two episode spans— believe it or not there’s such a thing as too much coup, especially at he pace it was dished out here.

There’s certainly a time in place to argue brevity in a plot (and boy will I in some storylines ahead), but when so much of the fun of Game of Thrones is the political machinations, I just couldn’t help but be disappointed at how many situations were solved by “surprise backstab!” throughout the season. And speaking of surprise stabbings…


2) Jon Snow: Dead and Loving It


No one really knew what to expect when Jon Snow came back from the grave. Yes we all knew it was going to happen (the breadcrumbs for that one were pretty noticeable), but where the story would take our resurrected bastard was a different matter entirely. And when actor Kit Harrington spoke of what was to come for the character following his return to living form, I think we were all pretty excited to see what this new direction would mean for the (soon to be former) Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

But boy was that a wash, huh?

For what it’s worth, it didn’t start all bad. Jon’s whole monologue about seeing “nothing” after death was pretty dramatic (and the only freaking reason I can see for Harrington getting an Emmy nomination in a year stuffed with great lead performances), and his execution of the traitors (including Olly!) was indeed pretty hardened stuff. But even in that execution, it was easy to see that the show would not make due on its promises of a changed Jon Snow — despite the ruthlessness of the act, Jon still showed hesitation in hanging the traitors. Our noble good guy was still clearly present, and narrative wise, that wasn’t a thing to celebrate.



Because what happened with all those talks of a “changed” Jon? As the season progressed, it quickly became clear the show was just going to ignore it, to concerned with the machinations of the plot to actually devote time to what could have ended up being a fascinating piece of progression for the character. And if the show wasn’t fully committing to Jon Snow coming back “differently” (as Beric Dondarrion teased many seasons ago), then what was even the freaking point of killing him in the first place?

The answer unfortunately is now obvious: they had to find a way that Honorable Jon Snow could be shackled free from the Knight’s Watch and actually join the fray, and killing him (and thus technically fulfilling the vow) was the easiest way of doing so. Yes it’s a decent way to move the plot forward, but that’s sadly all it ended up being. At the end of the day, the death of Jon Snow is just a footnote, something we’re bound to forget ever happened by the time the series concludes…if not already.


3) Repetitive Dany


On the subject of characters frustratingly refusing to change (the segways are coming fast and loose today), let’s talk about the Daenyrs storyline…again. On paper, her activities this season were fine: she got herself a big old group of loyal men, dealt with those pesky slavers, and seems to finally be on path to make her way to Westeros. Yes, all this is great, but certainly loses its luster the, oh, let’s say fifth time we’ve seen it happen.

Yeah that’s being a bit hyperbolic, but still — Dany’s plot seems to have been on the same rails for seasons now, and Season 6 did very little to change that. Yes we got a couple cool scenes (her leading the dragons to burn the ships at Slaver’s Bay was good spectacle), but it was hard not to feel like the “big” moments of her story were dulled substantially be a severe case of daja vu, the biggest example of course being the ill thought out burning of the Dothraki khals in “Book of the Stranger.” Once again, in theory, it should be awesome, and for many, it was. But I just couldn’t get into the scene, primarily because it highlights the show’s biggest problem with the Dany character: she always wins, is always confident (and arguably smug) that she will win, and faces little difficulty in conquering the problems around her. A couple seasons of that is fine, but after seeing it over and over again for six years, it can just get a bit grating. Like everyone else I absolutely loved that time she “dropped the whip” and burned the hell out of that asshole slaver back in Season 3, but constantly giving me that scene at least once a season just dilutes the brand a bit, does it not?

Thankfully the final scene of the series seems to illustrate that Dany’s circular plot motions in Essos will soon be coming to an end, and thank god for that. I don’t think I can take another scene of her shouting dramatically in a fake language to a crowd of brown people (often bowing to her) as a dragon roar blares in the background, her satisfied smirk closing out the episode. There’s a supercut of like half a dozen scenes of that EXACT SAME SCENARIO to be had, and for a show as varied as Game of Thrones can be, that’s not a good thing.


4) The Uselessness of the Riverlands


I don’t have a segway for this one, so this point is just going to be awkwardly introduced with little build up, and likely given much less time or reflectiion than the other points. Hey, wait, I guess I had a segway for the Riverlands plot after all!

Yes, it was nice to return to a region of Westeros we haven’t been too in a while, and taking Jamie out of King’s Landing was a necessary aspect of the plot…but ultimately, was that all the Riverlands story ended up doing? Simply move the characters of Jamie and Brienne to a place where they couldn’t be a part of the other storylines that no longer needed them? That’s fine as an overall narrative choice, but that doesn’t mean the show doesn’t have to have a little fun with it. What they introduced (the Blackfish forming his own little coup against the Frey’s) wasn’t a bad setup at all for an extended storyline, but it was resolved so soon and ultimately did so little that I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the whole thing.

And that resolution really struck in my craw too — it didn’t really show a different side of Jamie like in Season 3, and keeps him on the same disappointing trajectory he has been on since, what, Season 4? And look, I get it: his big developments are likely to come next season when he (probably) starts to have some massive doubts about his loyalty to his crazy sister, and the show felt it necessary to further build up that thread so it can (likely) knock it down come next season. But rather than that, couldn’t you have simply began to plant the seeds of doubt already, showing us how his experience in the Riverlands ultimately leads to his (not-confirmed-but-come-on-its-happening) betrayal of his sister? And that could have easily been accomplished by what the show was already doing: Jamie could have simply forced Edmure to command the Frey soldiers to ACTUALLY FOLLOW THEIR HOUSE MOTTO, retreat from the castle, and head to Winterfell. Everyone would have “won,” and you could have further showed how Jamie is playing both sides, torn between what he has to do for King’s Landing, his loyalty (and friendship) with Brienne, and a natural sense of honor and goodness (he’s still trying to keep the Stark girls safe and fulfill his vow to Catelyn, after all.) Instead we get this silly scene, which would have had a much greater impact if the character’s reunion had any dramatic payoff whatsoever:



Yes, I know I sound like I’m “backseat writing” for the show right now, but I was just really confused when this storyline came to an end, and seemingly nothing of note actually ended up happening there. Ah well, at least we got a Bronn appearance out of it. I guess there’s worst reasons for a storyline to be around.


5) Assassin Arya


Never would I think that perhaps my favorite character in Game of Thrones would be at the center of one of its worst storylines but, well, here we are. Arya is still a great character, and Masie Williams still does a great job of playing her, but oof. What a stinker of a season for her.

Now obviously there’s a lot of problems with Arya’s Assassin Adventure in the Magical Land of Braavos, to the point that it could be easy to become overwhelmed with all the little minutia of problems (such as parkouring like a crazy person the day after getting fucking shived in the stomach 2,000 times) But for the sake of brevity, I’m just going to talk about the biggest issue: functionally, nothing that happened here really made a lot of sense, and often times was flat out boring.

I’m not against the idea of seeing Arya train to become a badass assassin — arguably it should’t take two entire seasons to do it but, whatever, there was certainly a way for Weiss and Benioff to advance this storyline in an entertaining fashion even with its slightly bloated runtime. And as we could see from Arya’s final moments in Season 6, her training with the Faceless Men will influence her character going forward, so you can’t just argue the show would have been better skipping out on the whole thing. But why oh why did it happen to end up so flat out bad?



The answer in large part goes to pacing, and resolution. It felt like the show was inferring more about Arya’s training than actually showing it, taking more than a season to get to the point where she started to learn some skills and, even worse, showing very little of those skills in actual practice. If the show was going to stretch this out to occupy two years of time, couldn’t they have used that time to show her going on some Faceless Men assignments, and actually being somewhat skilled at the job until her identity finally kicked in and she (inevitably) betrayed them? Instead we got multiple episodes where Arya’s sole purpose is to get the shit beat out of her, which does little to advance both the plot and the character. And when Arya finally did get her eyesight back and began training again, what did we get? A couple of montages where she fights with a stick. And that’s all it took to be a competent assassin, I guess. It’s a rare example of a storyline both taking way too long to progress, but also feeling incredibly rushed.

And the resolution — oh boy, the resolution. Sure all the play stuff was great, and worked well as a way to “awaken” Arya Stark. But the show never really took the time to build up her identity of being “no one” in the first place, thus making it feel like Arya didn’t really change at all through any of the two season’s material. She trained a little, broke the rules, got in trouble, made up for it, and IMMEDIATELY AFTER fucked up again. Seeing Arya legitimately renounce her identity, become an assassin, and actually excel as a contract killer (at least for a while) could have been an interesting way for the show to present just how much the events in her life changed Arya, while also giving her the kickass powers she would need to make further events in the show possible. But just like with Jon Snow above, it seemed like the show refused to really do anything dramatic and risky with its characters — right when they were on the precipice of doing so, the writers would instantly pull back, all the better to preserve the “fan favorites” we all know and love. It’s a problem that many popular shows run into later in their lifespans, but with a series as willing to be as ballsy as Game of Thrones, it’s a shame to see it happening here.



And yes, I still DO love Jon Snow and Arya Stark — flat characterization isn’t going to change that. But for the sake of the story, you can’t pull punches here, and I can’t help but feel like George R.R. Martin isn’t going to when (if?) he ever gets around to finishing those books. If you’re going to change these characters, CHANGE THE CHARACTERS — don’t just go through the motions of doing so and call it a day.

Also, don’t have a parkour scene the day after a character nearly dies. And don’t have her triumphant moment of victory happen off screen. And don’t have her return to the people she betrayed, having her boss say she passed the test (???) just as she walks out…still fucking bleeding. Ugh, this storyline.


6) The Battle of the Brainless


I’m going to try and keep this one short and sweet, because if you made it this far into the piece, you’ve already suffered enough. But “The Battle of the Bastards” is one of the most iconic episodes of television ever, so it feels like I have to talk about it in some degree and, funny enough, will spend time discussing about it in both this list AND the “best of” list forthcoming. Which is apt, because boy have I never been more mixed on an episode of television than with this one.

Because though the spectacle was incredibly, I was one of those people who just couldn’t forgive what the writer’s had to do to get there — namely making every character a gigantic idiot. I’m not going to complain about the fact that Jon Snow (or Sansa for that matter) wasn’t going to die during the battle: at this point in the series I’m okay having a few “safe” characters, and I think killing off Jon just for the sake of a shock would have been a bad move overall. But just because Jon (and seemingly every other character in the battle) has plot armor, it doesn’t mean you have to make him a bumbling fool.

At this point, we’re supposed to buy that Jon is a pretty capable leader of men, and a strong warrior: the two battle episodes he was in before this, “Watchers on the Wall” and “Hardhome,” very much proved this. And both episodes did that by showing Jon survive against insurmountable odds, just as “The Battle of the Bastards” seemed to set up as well. Jon was going into a battle where he was clearly outmatched, against a foe who (until that point) proved to be unbeatable. Showing Jon thrive and win the battle through his own skills would have been a pivotal point of development for his character, but that didn’t happen. At all. And I really can’t wrap my head around why.


Yes Jon, just run up alone to the hundreds of men with swords on horseback. THAT’S NOT STUPID AT ALL.


Narratively at least, I can somewhat understand having Littlefinger come in and save everyone — it brings Baelish back into the game, so to speak, and creates an interesting situation going forward (Jon and Sansa owe everything they have to Littlefinger, and he’s not one to forget who owes him a favor.) But did you have to make Jon a massive dolt who survives purely on luck and plot armor in order to make that happen? Couldn’t you have used this opportunity to further Jon’s growth as a leader, rather than oddly regress it? And that’s not even bringing up the Sansa of the whole thing — her keeping the information about the Knight’s of the Vale from Jon is incredibly stupid, and I doubt you need me to tell you that.

Swinging back to the pure technical aspects of the battle, let me say this: what Miguel Sapochnik and his crew were able to pull off here (on a $20 million budget no less) is incredible, and nothing I say can take away from that fact. But even taken as simply spectacle, I feel like there was something missing, a moment that I would always remember from the series. In “Blackwater,” there was of course the lighting of the bay with the wild fire, or Tyrion’s badass speech to the troops before “fucking them in the ass.” In “Watchers on the Wall,” there was the oath under the tunnels, or the giant freaking scythe taking out a bunch of dudes, or that 360 degree shot of Jon fighting Styr, or like every other moment from that episode because it’s just the coolest. Likewise for “Hardhome,” which had the wights destroying the gate to assault the beach, Jon shattering a White Walker with his sword, and of course the Night King chillingly giving Jon the stink eye in the episode’s final moments. All these things were incredible, defining moments of Game of Thrones for me, and I’m honestly not sure there’s a moment that comes close to matching ANY of them within “The Battle of the Bastards.”

And once again, I don’t even think it was Sapochnik’s fault — he did absolutely the best he could do with what was given, and managed to elevate the entire battle beyond its simple descriptions. But despite the massive declarations of love and support for “The Battle of the Bastards,” I couldn’t help but come away from its final moments feeling like something — or more likely many things — were missing in its conception. And that of course just left me feeling disappointment, rather than excitement. Oh well, at least Ramsay got the brutal death he deserved. We’ll always have that, at least:



Whew, that’s that: the six biggest problems I had with this season of Game of Thrones. Remember: I actually love Game of Thrones. I really do.

-Matthew

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol' ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)

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Games

You Won’t Believe This, But That Live-Action Halo TV Series Is Facing Development Troubles!

The series has lost director Rupert Wyatt, and reports of budget concerns put the adaption’s future in jeopardy. But what else is new?

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I’ve been following film and TV news for the better part of a decade and a half, and writing about it for nearly as long. And, in that time, you start to become numb to the cycle of development — creatives are always leaving, executives are always balking, and yada yada yada. Let’s just say there’s a reason why most of the movies in development hell stay there — once a project begins circling the drain, it’s hard to really pull it back out. So after years of this painful back and forth — this developmental ballet — I start to lose faith entirely. For pop culture that has been developing for years, my optimism for it actually get made morphs into the fun category of “I’ll believe it when I fucking see it.” Which, for the record, is why I still don’t believe Kingdom Hearts III is coming out next month. I don’t care that it has a release date, I don’t care that it has gone gold — until the damn thing is in my hands, it’s just vaporware. And you know what else is just vaporware? That goddamn Halo TV series.

Or should I say live-action Halo movie. Really, it’s all the same tale — Hollywood has been trying to monetize the Halo brand since shortly after the first game was released, and became one of the defining video game titles of this millennium. Creating a movie just seemed like the next logical step, and Hollywood recruited Alex Garland to do just that. And Peter Jackson to do just that. And Neil Blomkamp to do just that.  And D.B. Weiss to do just that. And so on and so on. Eventually, that entire project stalled and Microsoft, with the live-action rights back in their hands, decided to shift the game’s adaptation to the world of television, and partnered with a pretty big name to do it: producer Steven Spielberg.

That was five years ago. Just to show how much the world of TV has changed since then, Microsoft initially planned to release the series independently, through the Xbox TV brand. That brand no longer exists which, to these outside eyes, would seem to indicate the TV series was no longer happening. But, nope! After years of silence, Microsoft returned and announced that the TV series was still happening (sure), and that it would be released on Showtime (sure.) A little more time passed. I assumed the concept of a Showtime produced Halo TV series was just some weird fever dream I had. And then, boom! the Halo TV series was off towards the races, with Showtime hiring on showrunner Kyle Killen, a bunch of writers, a big name director — everything! The plan was set for filming to commence at the tail end of 2018, for a late 2019 launch.

And I never believed that shit for a goddamn second. This is a Halo live-action project we are talking about. It’s doomed to fail. And if news from today is any indication, the process has begun in earnest.

As reported by Variety, the “big-name” director hired to helm many episodes of the project, Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), has departed the series. On the surface, it seems like an innocent enough departure: standard scheduling issues. Wyatt even released this statement corroborating the reported reason:

“It’s with great disappointment that changes to the production schedule of Halo prevent me from continuing in my role as a director on the series. My time on Halo has been a creatively rich and rewarding experience with a phenomenal team of people. I now join the legion of fans out there, excited to see the finished series and wishing everyone involved the very best.”

So yeah: “changes to the production schedule” is the culprit. But the question must be asked: why did the production schedule change in the first place?

Well, thankfully, /Film looked into just that, and found that production on the series is not going as smooth as it might have sounded like it was a few months ago. The budget “has spiraled out of control” according to the website’s sources, and the people in charge are none to happy about what the series is becoming. Well the first few scripts were in line with what Showtime was looking for, latter scripts saw “the entire series balloon in size and cost, leading to some cold feet.” Well it’s possible the series might work through these issues (Game of Thrones, which Showtime is clearly hoping to ape here, ended up doing so), history is not on this franchise’s side as it paves its way to the live-action realm.

And, in my mind, that makes absolute sense. Putting aside the curse an old Hollywood witch doctor performed upon this franchise some time ago, I always thought that TV was a weird fit for the Halo brand. The games are massive, large scale explorations of intergalactic war. They are big war movies, essentially. Unlike Game of Thrones (which peppered its big fantasy moments with plenty of scenes involving political intrigue, dramatic exchanges, and other TV budget friendly concepts), there’s not a whole lot more to Halo than the big action sequences and massive, universe spanning lore. Which is fine and dandy for a big blockbuster movie to tackle. But a TV series? I literally did not see how this could happen. And if these troubles just continue to get worse and worse, that may indeed be the case. Will yet another live action Halo project fall apart right before it reaches the starting line?

…Probably, yeah.


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Geek Binge

The 100 Best Episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants

In tribute to recently deceased Spongebob creator Stephen Hillenburg, let’s take another look at the 100 finest moments of his all-time classic series.

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NOTE: This post was previously written for the website Geek Binge back in the summer of 2014. With the unfortunate news of creator Stephen Hillenburg’s passing earlier today, we thought it would be appropriate to repost it its 25,000 word entirety here. The man leaves behind a legacy of some of the best pieces of animated comedy to ever exist. He will be missed. 


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the official list of the best episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants! In this article, we’ll dive into the rich history of the show and give you a definitive list of the greatest episodes. Ten episodes will drop here every single day for the next two weeks, culminating in the final spots near the 15th anniversary of the show’s premiere. So read around, comment, bask in the nostalgia, and enjoy all the funny images, memes, videos, and memories from the last fifteen years in one of the greatest TV shows of all time.  We here at Geek Binge love SpongeBob, and we hope you do too.

You may notice the interchangeable nature of the word “episode” in this list. Really, an episode of SpongeBob is two segments put together with commercials, and so technically this is a list of the 100 greatest segments. But some episodes are only one long segment, and sometimes there are three in one, since this show doesn’t like being pinned down to one structure. So just know that you are not crazy, and that I am purposefully being weird about the jargon. Ignore it and you’ll be fine, trust me.


100. “Help Wanted” (May 1st, 1999)

What better place to start on this list than the first episode of SpongeBob? The pilot for the show is the only episode in history to have three segments instead of the usual two, and “Help Wanted” is the second best of the bunch (another is further down the list). It helped establish SpongeBob’s enthusiasm for The Krusty Krab, Squidward’s apathy towards The Krusty Krab, and the tone for the series, all within a brisk eight minutes. It’s an ambitious premiere for a kid’s show, and has a diverse range of humor and animation styles. It’s hard to think what the world would be like without the yellow sponge, and it’s a good thing this initial pitch episode not only did well enough to land it into a full series, but is good enough to still enjoy fifteen years later.

You may remember this particular segment from:


99. “The Great Patty Caper” (November 11th, 2010)

From the oldest entry on the list, we now get to the newest one. The TV special known as “Mystery with a Twistery” is actually a thinly veiled adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express but I use the word adaptation very very loosely. For a full length episode (22 minutes instead of the typical 11) it has a lot of references and call-backs, and has a lot of time to successfully pull off an entire mystery story. It features a terrific new character and straight man in Orin J. Ruffy (The Butler) who counteracts the goofiness of Spongebob and Patrick, only to be later exposed as the real bandit. It’s one of the better special episodes, and is surprisingly funny and clever for being such a recent episode. If you watch modern SpongeBob you know it isn’t up to snuff, but I’m glad there is still the capacity for this show to knock one out of the ballpark every once in a while.

You may remember this particular segment from:


98. “Opposite Day” (September 11th, 1999)

A nefarious plan by Squidward to make sure Spongebob doesn’t get in the way of selling his house, “Opposite Day” challenges the preconceived notions of who Spongebob and Patrick are by forcing them to be someone they aren’t. The characters do the opposite of what they normally do, and at the end straight up pretend to be Squidward. It’s sort of dark if you think about it; a lot of insults are thrown around without sarcasm and the only reason they aren’t taken seriously is because they’re taken as compliments thanks to the holiday. It can be pretty mean in parts, but doesn’t come off as being written that way, just that the characters have the potential to be so. Squidward impersonations aren’t uncommon, but having a climax consist of two Mr. Tentacles is genius.

You may remember this particular segment from:


97. “Jellyfish Jam” (August 28th, 1999)

A relatively straightforward episode (Jellyfish enter Spongebob’s house, he makes them leave, the end), “Jellyfish Jam” focuses not on its plot, but on its sight gags, its catchy music, and commitment to being as silly as it possibly can. There’s a lot of animation on display here: various insert shots of dolphins playing in the ocean, live action underwater footage of sea critters, flashy colors and multiple jellyfish dancing about in fun creative ways. Not every Spongebob story has to be witty, or make you burst into tears with laughter; sometimes you can simply be entertained with what’s going on. “Jellyfish Jam” certainly falls into that category, and suffice it to say, that techno song is still stuck in my head. Not the first time this show has done that though, there’s a lot of fantastic music that’s bound to pop up further down this list.

You may remember this particular segment from:


96. “Scardey Pants” (October 28th, 1999)

This is the first Halloween episode of the show and it premiered just in time for the 31st. The SpongeBob writers have a propensity towards the spooky, scary, and the occult, but at the end of “Scardey Pants” it goes straight Cronenberg with its creepiness. But, it makes the list for reasons non-gore related, including a classic first appearance by The Flying Dutchman, and a lot of really good jokes and an attention to detail that remains an intricate part of the show (Halloween decorations, music cues, ambient sounds, Mr. Krabs writing ‘souls’ on that bag, Squidward not knowing what a goldfish is doing in a bowl of water). There are funnier episodes that deal with fear, and better Halloween themed shows, but this is certainly a good first step.


95. “Tea at the Treedome” (May 1st, 1999)

It’s hard to imagine SpongeBob Squarepants without Sandy Cheeks, the show’s only above-water animal to venture into the depths of the ocean. A lot is established within this segment: the Treedome, Sandy’s love of karate, and the water helmets that Patrick and SpongeBob use for the rest of the series. But this doesn’t get on the list for being a stepping stone, it actually holds up on its own merits. The main running gag of the episode is “putting on airs”, which no child would ever understand, and it leads to a nicely paced and tension filled storyline where SpongeBob dries up and could potentially die. On paper that sounds rather hardcore, but it’s not so harsh when you put whimsical comedy around it. We all remember “pinky out” and “I’m a quitter”, and episode also gave us some delightful live action jokes and a bit of karate.

You may remember this particular segment from:


94. “Texas” (March 22nd, 2000)

If you can stomach all the stereotypes, “Texas” has a big heart underneath all the snark. It’s a bit on the heavy side at times, and speaks to something we can all relate to: feeling home sick in a place we just aren’t familiar to. But thankfully, a lot of endearingly stupid and goofy moments bring enough levity to balance out how sad Sandy is most of the time. I mean, that song about missing Texas, it’s so good. And, if you hate Texas, that’s certainly a plus I guess. I don’t know how much people from Texas actually use quotes from this episode, but I imagine it’s more than you think. Unless Texans don’t have TVs or electricity there yet, or can’t understand cartoons. I’m kidding, of course, relax, readers from Texas.

You may remember this particular segment from:


93. “Culture Shock” (September 18, 1999)

In typical SpongeBob style, some things do not make sense, no matter how much you break it down. Why do people go wild for someone mopping rotten tomatoes? And only when SpongeBob does it? Who cares. “Culture Shock” doesn’t have much going for it, other than the sheer lunacy of the jokes and the absurd number of non-sequiturs (‘Mouth Full of Clams Day’, Squidward’s interpretive dance, “free socks with every meal”, Gary’s incomprehensible poetry). But somehow it all clicks, and the end sequence at the talent show cements “Culture Shock” onto the list and into the classic repertoire of signature moments for the show. For a good while, there is absolutely no dialogue, which is hard enough to pull off, and you might not even realize it. That’s good writing. Plus, there’s a reference to Allen Ginsburg. How cool is that?

You may remember this particular segment from:


92. “Krusty Love” (September 6th, 2002)

Falling in love can be an incredibly complicated and often taxing thing to do. I mean, how can we impress the person we are dating when Spongebob keeps spending all of our hard earned cash? The premise of “Krusty Love” doesn’t sound all that funny on paper, but it’s all in the execution. Despite the story ending very abruptly, it’s always interesting to watch a character like Mr. Krabs have to struggle to keep two things he loves in his life simultaneously: Mrs. Puff, and money. Throw in some terrific jokes, like the ‘imported music’, seeing what Mr. Puff looks like, and ‘renovations’ in the Krusty Krab being gigantic bandages, and I think “Krusty Love” turns out to be an underrated and under appreciated episode.


91. “Skill Crane” (May 20th, 2005)

I love episodes where Squidward is obsessed with something he shouldn’t be (like Krabby Patties). And with “Skill Crane”, the central joke is how easy it is for SpongeBob to win at a crane vending game, and how Squidward can just never seem to win. A lot of well-timed audio cues (the sounds the machine makes when someone wins or losses), strong editing, and the manipulative behavior of Mr. Krabs makes watching Squidward’s misery all the funnier. What’s most impressive about this episode is how a good portion of the story takes place in one corner of the Krusty Krab, which might categorize this as a bottle episode. Not once do you notice how much of it takes place in front of that skill crane, and for that I tip my hat to this episode.

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10 Other Members of The Americans Cast Who Should Be Put In A Star War (And The Roles That They Could Play)

Keri Russell should just be the start of alum from FX’s hit spy drama joining the Star Wars universe.

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The talk of the fanboy town this weekend was Keri Russell, a frequent J.J. Abrams cohort, joining the cast of Star Wars: Episode IX (or whatever it might end up being titled.) The think pieces came fast and furious from nearly the moment the casting was first announced, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise: when any new detail drops about one of these Star Wars films, people will inevitably spend way too much time theorizing about what is to come, for better or (mostly) worse. But when it comes to my initial reaction to the casting, I only had two thoughts: 1) oh my god what is J.J. Abrams going to do to Keri Russell’s hair this time and 2) it’s so damn great to see The Americans cast get work.

Coming off of five years of being perhaps the best dramatic ensemble on television, I truly would be happy to see all of the cast members of The Americans land roles in huge films following the conclusion of the show. And not just huge films, mind you — I’m talking Star Wars huge films. Truly The Americans cast is versatile enough to land any role they could want in the galaxy far, far away, and with Russell’s casting, all I could think about (aside from how amazing she’s going to end up being in the movie, of course) was what her fellow cast members could also bring to the extended franchise.

And I’m a silly person who happens to have a blog so, sorry, you have to be present for my ramblings on such niche, unasked subjects! So here are 10 other members of The Americans cast who deserve a shot at a Star Wars gig and, for the hell of it, the character archetypes they would be great for in the universe. Thank me later, Kathleen Kennedy!


Matthew Rhys (Philip Jennings):

I’ll let my first post-Keri Russell casting tweet speak for itself here:


Holly Taylor (Paige Jennings):

Rey’s previously unmentioned bestie/roommate back home on Jakku. They stay up all night chowing down on dehydrated bread and talking about desert problems, as you do.


Noah Emmerich (Stan Beeman):

Maybe it’s recency bias, but I can’t help but imagine Emmerich playing a tough bounty hunter character. That being said, it will be pretty tragic when he realizes his co-pilot and best friend was his target the whole time. What a dramatic scene they will end up having in the Star Wars equivalent of a parking garage, though.


Brandon J. Dirden (Dennis Aderholt):

Brandon J. Dirden holds himself up with such calm and levelheaded prestige as an actor…making him a perfect choice to play a hapless senator trying to do the right thing, but missing the fact that OOPS an electric wizard is in control now. Bummer!


Costa Ronin (Oleg Burov):

I can definitely see Costa Ronin playing the cool, confident gangster type. He’ll also have a robot arm, for some reason. And he should keep his Season 6 beard, because DAMN does he rock the hell out of it.


Alison Wright (Martha):

Padme in a set of prequel remakes. Because if anyone could sell the anguish of being betrayed by someone they deeply loved for years, only for them to end up being a completely different person than who they thought they were, it would be her. Poor Martha…


Margo Martindale (Claudia):

It’s Character Actress Margot Martindale! Let her be whatever she wants! A Jedi master, a Sith Lord, a crime boss, a droid, a wookie, a gungan — she can do it all, dang it!


Frank Langella (Gabriel):

Let him be the kindest Jedi master ever. OR the most evil Sith Lord to ever exist. Frank Langella is somehow capable of channeling both.


Mail Robot (Mail Robot):

The new official droid mascot of Star Wars, duh! NEXT.


Keidrich Sellati (Henry Jennings):

…He can also be present.


Also published on Medium.

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