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With Its Make-It-Or-Break-It Season Finale, Westworld Season 2 Opted For The Latter

Even as a massive fan of HBO’s sci-fi drama, I can’t ignore what a convoluted, disappointing mess this finale turned out to be.

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I’ve been a pretty big fan of HBO’s Westworld, pretty much from day one. It is a show, however, that isn’t without its fair share of criticisms, and I’m pretty sympathetic to most of them…even when I heavily disagree that the series is too complicated, or too mysterious, or not dramatic enough, or what have you. While the journey of the last nineteen episodes has been far from flawless, I’ve mostly found the ride to be incredibly compelling and, at its peak, some of the most superbly crafted television we’ve been lucky to get in the past decade. Warts and all, minor frustrations aside, I can’t say I ever found myself truly against what this show was, and what it was doing.

But in the heat of my post-finale pontification, and while absorbing all I can about just what happened in “The Passenger,” I think I can finally say it — Westworld Season 2 kind of lost me, not exactly in what is going on (that more or less makes sense to me), but why the show is even making the creative decisions it is making to begin with. And even as optimistic about the show as I am, I’m not sure what the show can do in the next few seasons to get me back up to the same level of enthusiasm and passion I had back at the start of the season. To put it bluntly: for the sake of the season and the series moving forward, the grand finale of Westworld Season 2 had to work. And, boy, I’m not really sure it did at all.

Which, fuck, is a really different place from where I was at the conclusion of the series’ debut season. That finale, “The Bicameral Mind,” was able to cap off all its big plot threads while also serving as a promising tease for what was to come, AND be an entertaining episode in its own right (when it comes to Pew-Pew Robot Action, Maeve’s posse escaping the Mesa is still one of the show’s finest set pieces.) We don’t get much of any of that with “The Passenger,” though.

While the finale technically paid off the bigger questions of the season, it was belted out in such a half-hazard, messy way that connecting the dots seems like such a fool’s errand. And it wasn’t like the plot of the season, at the barest level, was all that complicated: our main characters all want to get to a place, and when they get to that place, things will happen. Sure, you have the future timeline messing things up a bit but, even with that included, the drive of Season 2 was expressed clearly from the start: everyone (Bernard, Dolores, William, Maeve, etc.) wants to get to the Valley Beyond/The Door/The Forge/The Server Room of Requirement. They all had different motives and drives, but the destination was the same.

And when, in the penultimate episode, it became clear that the brunt of the finale’s story would take place in The Forge, it was hard not to be excited. What exciting possibilities could come from all our characters converging in this one location? And considering just how hyped it had been by everyone involved, how would the show manage to blow our minds and, essentially, make this entire season’s journey worthwhile?

Because, as I said before, a lot was riding on this season finale. Coming off of a saggy middle portion, and a storyline in danger of collapsing on itself, Westworld HAD to deliver the goods in “The Messenger.” And while the popular storytelling edict of “it’s the journey, not the destination” is mostly 100% the case for long-form narratives, I’m going to just say it: I don’t feel bad for placing so much pressure on this episode. Because Westworld forced these heightened expectations on itself — simply due to how the story is constructed and paced, there was no way to separate the endgame from the journey in this particular instance. When your season rests almost entirely on the revelations that will take place in the final destination, that final destination better deliver big time.

Which, like most parts of this article, is just a long rejoinder designed solely to set up the following declaration: it didn’t.

Instead of something show-changing and dramatically powerful being kept within the crypts of The Forge, it just contained…well, what it was said to contain from like halfway through the season: a bunch of data about the people who had visited Westworld in the past, and a “door” to another world, specifically developed for the hosts. What exactly is in that world (or, hell, what that world really even is) is painted rather obliquely, as is Dolores’ intentions for the guest’s data (to, umm, learn stuff about the leader of the Extraction Team preparing to land at the park? Not sure how she plans to utilize said knowledge, what with her ZERO allies and resources to pull from, but whatever, bigger fish to fry here.)

That doesn’t stop a good portion of the episode from focusing on the two concepts, starting with the weird use of Logan as The Forge’s, umm, receptionist I guess, and leading to a gigantic library containing the “code” for the guests, which the show claims is essentially a complete copy of a human consciousness, represented by a book. Or something. Nothing more is made of this after Dolores cracks open the “Karl Strand” novella, and gives it a quick speed read. She then exits The Forge (which you can just do with sheer willpower, I guess — look, nothing about The Forge/The Cradle makes much sense, but you’ll just have to roll with the show on that one), and declares that she plans to destroy all the guest data so she can, umm, pass. Before she has the chance to enact her (let’s say) “plan,” however, AI Secretary Logan reveals to Bernard that he has control of The Forge and its real purpose: serving as a door to a virtual world, built by Arnold, where the hosts can frolick forever, outside the control of those pesky humans.

All this is revealed in what seems like 75 seconds so, if you are at all confused by any of it well, BUCK THE FUCK UP PAL. There’s still a lot of shit to get through in the next half of the episode. I’m not going to go over all of it, but let’s just say that what transpires inside of The Forge is BONKERS, in a way that first kind of impressed me, if I’m being honest. By the time a magic portal literally opens in Westworld, and the hosts (led by Akecheta, whose done a swell job of gathering every bot in town for the big event) begin strolling into this random field that looks like a Windows screensaver, I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. It wasn’t even bad, per say — just strange, a mode “The Passenger” would stay in for a good portion of its remaining runtime.

Why is all of this Forge content so underwhelming? Because it fails to present us anything compelling that we didn’t already know. The theme of humans being the REAL robots has been in the show’s DNA for years now, so not much a revelation there. Furthermore, the show is kind of at odds with itself regarding all the talks of how humans=hosts. It’s a rather simple idea that the series keeps presenting as so deep man, leading to many, many monologues in which the characters just keep repeating the same goddamn thing they’ve already said one scene prior. It gets very tedious, very fast.

The concept also seems to completely turn its back on one of Season 1’s main points: how memories and our past experiences define us. That served as the entire distinction between host and human back then, and when Ford decided to place “reveries” inside of the hosts’ minds, allowing them to experience memory and the passage of time itself, their path to achieving true consciousness began. But in Season 2, the series is arguing rather cynically that we are simple, dumb creatures who can’t change, and can be rebuilt and replaced easily just by applying the right, rudimentary code. But Sizemore ends up proving the show’s cynical viewpoint of humanity wrong just moments previoiusly by literally going against his “code,” and doing a selfless act to save others. Which could have been sold as a counterpoint to what Ford and the rest are arguing…if the show cared to present a counterpoint at all to its philosophizing. Instead, it feels more comfortable going on long spiels about how HUMANS are the ones who lack free will, NOT hosts. GETIT??? REVERSAL!

And on the subject of things we already know that propels so much of this episode: yeah, we get that Arnold and Delores are on opposing sides of this robot uprising, so what exactly does their disagreement over what to do about The Door add to the proceedings? The existence of the virtual world built by Arnold could have been something show-altering, but the show doesn’t seem to care enough about it outside as a plot mechanic to make it worthwhile. Hell, it’s not even clear we’ll ever see this Robot Eden (get it, BIBLE) ever again, which maybe explain why the show put so little thought or care into setting up and presenting this new universe. It was barely a concept: it was just a means to an end.

An end that, first and foremost, tied loosely into Maeve’s series-long arc. Of all the stories this year, Maeve’s has probably been the most succinct (although when hasn’t that been the case, really?) Even still, the big payoff that comes from Maeve “rescuing” her daughter and “sacrificing” herself just landed with a thud to me. Not only has a LOT of Maeve’s relationship to her daughter gone unaddressed and unexplored (she’s a walking motive device, not an actual character), but there’s still a lot of weird plot and thematic issues that the show refuses to dive into on that end (The girl’s new mother might actually have an opinion on this whole situation, and Maeve should at least consider the ethics of what she is doing by controlling her and the girl in the way she does.) But all of that is pushed aside just so we can see Maeve make an (admittedly cool looking) heroic sacrifice, dying so her daughter can make it to the shimmering Robot Eden.

Except, yeah, no, that’s not what’s going to happen. Which is another big issue “The Passenger” runs into many times in this episode: in its quest to make everything feel EVENTFUL and BIG, it delivers a lot of seemingly major character deaths. Sizemore, Elsie, Hector, Armistice, Maeve, Hale, Dolores, AND Arnold all seem to be disposed of at some point but, really, I never bought that Westworld was killing off its extended cast in such a major way. To put it bluntly, Westworld done Infinity War-d itself — by stacking up the deaths so impossibly high, I immediately pulled back from any emotional response to it, knowing that the show was going to find some silly way to bring them all back. For Dolores, Arnold, and (kind of) Hale, that has already happened. For Maeve and her crew, it’s heavily hinted (Felix and Sylvester are on the case!) That makes humans the only real casualties coming out of this episode , an expected if not disappointing outcome.

Because, despite what “The Passenger” argues, didn’t Westworld just make a major step forward in the defining the mortality of its robotic characters? Wasn’t the ENTIRE POINT of blowing up The Cradle (as stated in the show itself) making it so that the hosts were now mortal? How exactly are all these dead hosts, from both “The Passenger” and earlier episodes, being brought back to life? Were there more backups of their consciousnesses in The Forge? If so, why does The Cradle matter at all? Fuck, why do ANY of these server farms matter at all? Death doesn’t have to be the end all be all of stakes (it wasn’t even a concern I had for the show back in the first season), but when you’re going to present the concept of mortality being placed on immortal beings, I expect it to be at least ADDRESSED when immortality is randoly back on the table.

Case in point: the brief re-appearance of Teddy, whose death in the last episode seemed to be as close to a send-off as a host character could possibly get on this show. But, nope! In a great example of delirious editing and leaps of logic, we see Teddy for one brief moment all up in Robot Eden, chilling alone. Is this real? Is this just Delores imagining things? Maybe, but that certainly doesn’t explain how the hell Teddy ended up in the flooded Valley Beyond at the beginning of the season — from those clues, we are led to believe that Teddy made it to Robot Eden, which doesn’t make any goddamn sense.

On that note: can you BELIEVE we haven’t even got to the future part of this finale yet? Because, boy, is all that a dozy. Not only do we learn that Charlotte Hale is actually Dolores INSIDE a clone version of Charlotte (despite seemingly being murdered by Bernard back in the past story), but we also get to see the full extent of her plan — murdering Strand by shooting him in the goddamn face (glad that book of Strand cheat codes came in handy!)  She then decides to reverse her position on Robot Eden, for reasons unclear, and launches the brain egg containing Robot Eden (JUST ROLL WITH IT) into an unknown location where it will “never be found.” Unless the show starts to run out of plot, in which case, it will possibly be found! Who cares though, as the finale zips to another scene of convoluted reveals and increasingly fraught storytelling, this time centering on the reveal that…Stubbs is a host?

Fuck this man, I’ve already written like 2000 words here! I don’t have time for “Ashley Stubbs is a fucking robot too, ha ha!” I don’t know why this matters long-term, or why any of us should give a shit about this development, but it definitely leans into the direction the show should not be going in, in which every major character is revealed to be a host, just for the shock of it. It’s generic robot sci-fi storytelling, and Westworld already made its mark on the concept to great effect with Bernard in Season 1. No, no, none of that reveal is earned at all, from any perspective. So let’s just move on to the final moments of “The Passenger” itself: Delores going off island with a bunch of pods containing the character sheets of whomever the fuck the show wants. Let’s say…Moe.

All this leads to the final moments of the episode, in which we learn that Delores REBUILT Bernard, who she murdered before leaving the park to cover her new Charlotte Hale sized tracks. This comes only a few moments after the initial reveal that Bernard REBUILT Delores, who he murdered before leaving the Forge because she was, well, kind of crazy. As crazy as reading all the events of “The Passenger” when presented together, you could say. In any case, the one-two punch of death/revival and death/revival gave me hardcore whiplash, and frankly is exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to pissing away all the stakes. It seems that these hosts can just be rebuilt from the bottom up so damn easily, despite the show’s MANY arguments to the contrary in the last few seasons, and the idea that death for the hosts were now permanent after the destruction of The Cradle. No backups, no problems, I guess.

As the 90 minutes of a lot drew to a close, we’re simply left with yet another reversal of the Arnold/Dolores sit down, this time with Dolores, now back in her own body (she remade it, but kept the Hale body around and put someone else in it…y’know, for Season 3 plotlines) monologuing about how she’s the Magneto to Bernard’s Professor X. Or something. Bernard then leaves the home they are in (the same one Arnold showed Dolores in a previous flashback), opening the door to a new chapter for Westworld. Where exactly is he? How long as it been? What the fuck is this story even about now? Wait for next year (or, more likely, a couple years), folks!

Leaving on such an unabashed cliffhanger wouldn’t be so bad, if any of the plot developments in this episode had me excited whatsoever for what is to come. Well there’s an argument to be made that going into unexplored, unpredictable territory for a series is good, I tend to believe that a strong finale should serve as the conclusion to the season’s major plotlines, while also serving as a teaser for what is to come. As I said before, “The Passenger” did a piss-poor job of doing either, and the fact that the finale left me feeling ambivalent about seeing more of this show is a massive, massive bummer.

AH, BUT THERE’S MORE!!! Because if 90 minutes of plot development wasn’t enough for you, “The Passenger” has a post credit scene too. And though I have some massive frustrations with the Season 2 finale overall, NOTHING is at the same scale as the anger I have towards the Man in Black scene that punctuates the entire season. To be quite blunt, it’s dogshit. The fact that every recap and review had a wildly different interpretation of what the fuck was happening in it is extremely telling, as is the fact that the people involved basically had to lay out it all out, because the text of the show itself gave us so little to work with. I shouldn’t have to do homework in order to figure what the fuck is happening, Westworld. And that homework shouldn’t be so damn impossible that I have to cheat on it by being told all the answers, either.

And even putting aside how badly told it is…ugh. The fact that we have another timeline to deal with, and that William’s story shows no sign of slowing down (even if Season 2 should have served as the proper note to end it on, IMHO) pisses me off. Just ending the Man in Black’s story for the season with him making it to his endpoint, only for us NOT TO SEE WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENS TO HIM THERE, and just showing up alive on the beach later, only to be back in the elevator MUCH LATER, makes me want to throw something at the damn screen. Considering all the complaints that the split-timeline got this season, I can’t imagine how adding another FAR, FAR FUTURE time into the mix will make things any better.

But just to make things clear, my issues with Westworld Season 2 as a whole (and this finale especially) are a lot more complicated than “two timelines are confusing.” The framing device has problems, but I would argue that too much attention has been put on the split timeline scenario, as though that is the end-all-be-all problem with the season as a whole. To be quite frank, I disagree entirely. I think the conceit could have worked, if the payoff for the decision was something far grander. Hell, at times, it did — I still maintain the initial “seed” of the idea rests in Bernard himself confusing the time he is in, creating an echo of chaos and confusion that the show very clearly wants us to sympathize with. It’s a neat idea that was also toyed with last season, but with a far greater sense of purpose: Dolores coming to terms with her past is what ultimately led to her becoming awake, after all. But here? It seems to mostly serve the twist of Dolores being inside a host version of Charlotte, an underwhelming and mostly just perfunctory way of getting Dolores out of the theme park. At the end of the day, even if the season was presented in chronological order, though, I see no reason why that would make things any better. No, the problems with Westworld Season 2 stem far closer to the series’ creative direction as a whole.

And, look, I get it: sophomore seasons are incredibly hard to make work, especially following something that grew into a pop culture sensation. But when a show manages to pull one off, there’s almost nothing better. As a viewer, my trust in the series and its creator’s skyrockets, and I can feel comfortable moving forward in my belief that what I am watching is truly of value. But when the opposite happens, it can throw the entire support system of the show crashing to the ground. And with the big ol’ narrative and dramatic flop that was “The Passenger,” I can’t help but now view this season — even with its moments of true, objective greatness — completely flawed as a whole.

But even saying all of that (and the whole “make-it-or-break-it” part of the headline), I don’t think the failures of Westworld Season 2 represent the end-all-be-all for Westworld. I believe the show can climb out of this hole and, with a bit of course correction, find its footing again. There’s still too much greatness in Westworld for me to throw it out completely, and Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are both immensely talented people up to the challenge of presenting an evolved, but refined version of Wesworld. BUT if the series manages to never right its way again, and its remaining days just present us with diminishing returns after diminishing returns…well? I’ll know exactly which episode to pinpoint the beginning of the end. And if that’s not a heck of a dull note to end a season on, I don’t know what is.

…At least Ramin Djawadi’s score still kicks ass, right?


Also published on Medium.

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.


Also published on Medium.

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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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