Friday, December 21, 2012

Top 10 Episodes of 2012 - Part 4

This is part 4 of 5. I asked 20 friends to write about their favorite TV episodes of 2012 and this is the exciting results. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Peep Show – “Jeremy Therapised” (Season Eight, Episode 1)
By Joshua Carroll

[This episode contains major plot spoilers for the season premiere only in the marked paragraph.]
Flying by the seat of one’s pants for nothing more than personal gain is perhaps the driving force behind many of Peep Shows, a British television series (which, by the way, is what this rambling will cover) characters.  Mark and Jez, roomies, ‘El-Dude Brothers’, and perpetual assholes (can I say assholes?), exist in an ever-constant battle with each other and their individual dreams.  The show’s ‘gimmick’ is allowing us to hear Jez and Mark’s individual thoughts to a revealing extent; so we are right there with the two of them through everything.  And the result is some very layered and uncomfortable comedy.

Jez and Mark’s exploits are never what you’d think two guys could get themselves into, but, minus the wincing a viewer often wears while watching it all unravel and explode in their faces, we never doubt Jez or Mark as the performances and writing solidly sell the insanity.  Why is that?  I’d venture to say it’s the honestly they and the writers ground themselves within.  These two endearing twats excel in bringing to light that wonderfully wicked quality within us all: our ability, obsession, and incessant habit…of lying. 
Let’s be frank.  We all have a love affair with ourselves.  Why else do every single thing we do? In some way, it benefits us.  With our every action, we gain a smidge of something toward the completion our individual goals. ‘How dare you!’ you may exclaim. ‘What kinda monster are you?’ you may ask.  Well, maybe I am a monster or maybe I’m just honest.  Or I guess an ‘honest monster’ works so long as we’re getting picky (I can have one-sided conversations with myself!).   The point is, we aren’t great creatures, and since step one is admitting it, we can move on to step two.
Okay, you’re still reading, swell.  That monster thing was out there wasn’t it? That guy needs to be fired.  Anyhow, step three: ‘But Jez and Mark aren’t really monsters, are they?’ No.  Certainly not.  While we share a certain worldly culture of enjoying a good ‘ol train wreck, over time, very few of us would likely return to Peep Show if there didn’t exist that other very true human quality…compassion.
Jez and Mark use each other.  That said, they have limits.  If their need comes at too high a cost, they’ll back off.  Maybe.  Most of the time.  Then again, maybe not.  The close of the third episode this season (season eight) leaves us wondering just how horrible is Jez?  Will he actually do that to Mark.  Well, he might.  So maybe they don’t have limits.  Or maybe their limits have variables that they themselves evaluate – because who else is better to reason with then oneself when it comes to screwing over a friend for personal gain?  Dangit.  I’ve just contradicted myself.  But I stand by my contradictions!  Mark and Jez are horrific people that sometimes, maybe, will be there for each other and do the kinda right thing so long as it doesn’t stick a shiv into their own sinister goals.  Yes.
Whew.  Now what?  Philosophical stuff aside (did I mention I don’t write reviews?), Peep Show doesn’t necessarily require a viewer to start at Season One Episode 1 in order to fully understand the show or its characters.  Now, I’d encourage a fresh viewer to go back to the beginning at some point, but what I’m driving at is the skill of the writers and actors (again).  I noticed that the first episode this season could very well have acted as a Series starter.  While it’s not as good as the actual series starter (and shouldn’t have to be), it does not go out of its way to tell us who Jez or Mark are as people – Jez and Mark do that just by being themselves (as in their characters).  They simply show us ‘this is us’ and what of it?  In short, the series knows itself inside and out.  There’s no doubt in my mind there.   Nothing is forced.  And that’s a rarity in entertainment writing.
[Only the next paragraph contains major spoilers. The ones after are safe to read if you have not seen this season yet.]
Let’s examine a typical progression of the show (yes, it does have a formula, but hey – it works).  Mark is a jealous, frightened, insecure, shell of a man.  He’s great.  Episode 1 finds him worrying whether or not Dobby, his newest girlfriend (and yes, be prepared to ask yourself why she chooses him…often) is going to actually move in with him.  That worry eats at him and his insecure thoughts reveal the depths of his sexual paranoia as well as his consideration of locking her in his non-existent cellar once she hypothetically moves in.  In other words, it’s almost a victory in and of itself to just trick her into shacking up.  That’s normal right (refer to the ‘monster’ paragraph)?   Furthermore, Gerrard (who’s head over heels with Dobby) feigns an illness resulting in a doting Dobby and suspicious Mark showing up at his home to see if all is okay.   Based on his knowledge of Gerrard’s love interest and even pseudo-(when convenient)-friendship with him, Mark sees right through the plan and calls Gerrard out in private.  Gerrard reveals Mark is indeed correct but that he’s ‘playing the long game’ and increases his sickly boo-hoos receiving Dobby’s immediate attention.  Later, Mark and Dobby are attempting to have a romantic date, as they were interrupted by Gerrard the last time, and the phone rings.  It’s Gerrard.  But Mark refuses to allow her to answer it.  Instead, they have their reality show watching date.  Later, it’s reveled that Gerrard has died.  Mark is pissed, basically believing Gerrard did it on purpose.  And to make matters all the more awkward, Mark and Dobby’s living relationship ends up going into further obscurity (despite Mark’s sabotage attempts to Dobby’s microwave) as Gerrard left her a nest egg of money making it easier to afford her own flat.   Paranoia.  Selfishness.  Death.  A Delicious Cocktail.
So that typical show progression I mentioned?  Mark and Jez have goals and dreams but their own arrogance, insecurities , and rotten core, often stand  in the way in accordance to the whole ‘careful what you wish for’ motif.  Despite regularly failing, they somehow grow closer to each other and retain social contacts.  And we keep watching, wincing and shaking our heads but smiling between it all. 
Do we learn something from watching?  Anything?   I think so.   I mean why else would scour I the internet (YouTube) in search of these episodes for my friend Austin Lugar (good guy, who will totally do something in return for me now) and write this review (if my review is even kinda good enough maybe I’ll get some recognition)?  I do it because I enjoy writing (hey, I do!) and hope that this draws a larger audience to Peep Show (indifferent) and helps Mr. Lugar out (why is he having others do his work for him? What’s his angle?).
Just watch the show.

Joshua’s Top 6 Episodes of 2012
1. Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1)
2. Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
3. Sherlock – “The Hounds of the Baskervilles” (Season Two, Episode 2)
4. Peep Show – “Jeremy Therapised” (Season Eight, Episode 1)
5. Peep Show – “Business Secrets of the Pharoahs” (Season Eight, Episode 2)
6. Peep Show – “The Love Bunker” (Season Eight, Episode 3)

Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgraiva” (Season Two, Episode 1)

The triumph of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' series Sherlock is that it's both familiar and totally fresh.  This new BBC series takes Holmes and Watson out of Victorian England and places them squarely in today's London, with mobile phones, blogs and thoroughly modern interpersonal relationships.  The season two opener, "A Scandal in Belgravia," written by Moffat, is a brilliant remaining of Doyle's "A Scandal in Bohemia," and it's this great series' most charged and tightly-wound episode.
Doyle's story opens with the line "To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman,” and continues with Watson’s observation that there’s no place for “softer passions” in the mind of a reasoning machine.  Moffat and Gatiss’ Sherlock is all about relationships, especially in this great episode – Holmes and Mycroft, Holmes and Watson, Holmes and Molly Hooper, Holmes and Mrs. Hudson, and, mostly importantly here, Holmes and Irene Adler.  Describe someone as “The Woman” today and what do you get?  Moffat’s answer is dominatrix, with a website of her own. What a brilliant answer it is.
But has Sherlock fallen under Irene’s spell, or is Irene enthralled by Sherlock?  I’m not going to divulge any details here.  Watch for yourself, without letting me or any one else spoil even a single twist or (apparently) incidental bit.  This Sherlock may be all about relationships – indeed, all of Moffat’s work seems to be obsessed with how people connect – but there’s also a dazzling plot that truly challenges Holmes on every level.
“Brainy is the new sexy,” Irene says to Holmes at one point.  “Scandal in Belgravia” is both.

Jim opted out of having a Top Ten Episodes list but offers this additional commentary.
I don’t have a top ten list.  There haven’t been 10 gems among the (few) shows that I watch regularly, and I don’t think rediscovering “Frank the Potato Man” (Picket Fences, Season One, Episode 5) or Fraiser episodes “Three Valentines” (Season 6, Episode 14) and “Room Service” (Season Five, Episode 15) is what Austin has in mind.
I did like “What Up, Bro?,” Raising Hope (Season Three, Episode 6), which offers a nice message.   Standout for the year may be “The Final Page, Part Two” from How I Met Your Mother (Season 8, Episode 12).  It’s been an up and down season for HIMYM, but where this episodes ends is totally lovely.  Part of what’s so great here is you know all those ups and downs?  Turns out that’s what you do to get to the lovely.

Spartacus: Vengeance – “Libertius” (Season Two, Episode 5)
By Pedro Aubry

[Editor’s note. Instead of reviewing the episode, Pedro decided to write a running commentary of him watching the episode. What resulted was so strange and hilarious that I’m not going to edit a single word. This obviously spoils the entire episode. Also there is a lot of strong language.]
I will be reviewing the 5th episode of Spartacus: Vengeance.
I’m watching it now, as I type this, with a less than fresh memory of the previous episode or two, apart from the fact that the end of the 3rd episode saw Crixus knocked out by Ashur while biding time for Navia and Spartacus and the other to escape the mines. The next episode saw the three rebels captured in the mines alongside Oenomaus, previously taken by Ashur while severely weakened from constant and consecutive fights in the pits (his attempt at suicide as he had no honor in his life left to live for, his wife and the ludus of Batiatus being all he had, both now gone). One of the four was tortured and killed at the ludus as a party piece, the other three being left to await execution in the arena.
Now the 5th episode opens, with two gladiators fighting in the arena of Capua. Once their game ends, the horns sound for the execution of the three rebels. Once on the sands, Varinius announces to the crowd (and condemned) that their execution will be carried out by Gannicus, the only gladiator to ever earn his freedom on the sands. Now this was a big deal for me. Gannicus is …the shit. Again, he actually gained freedom from being so awesome (many of you may recall, this was the Fire-Net episode of Gods of the Arena). He may be my favorite character of this whole show. So I watch in a weird, anxious excitement as they make a scene of opening the gates, thinking to myself “oh my god, is it really him? Is he coming back? He has to be right? Why else would they have a whole mini-season prequel thing with him as main of character as he was, if they weren’t gonna bring him back? Is it finally time?” Then I realized what was happening…. He was going to (very likely) make his appearance …IN ORDER TO KILL CRIXUS AND OENOMAUS!!(and some other guy I don’t really care about)! Now my emotions have pulled a complete 180, and I have a whole new string of sentences flying through my head on how there’s no way he’ll succeed but at the same time how he (I so dearly wish) can’t die, and bear in mind that all this happens within a span of …however long it takes them to open a set of gates (seconds).
Then they actually show him (AND IT’S REALLY HIM!) and he struts out, being the shit (which he is) and with his awesome cocky half-smile greets Oenomaus as an old friend, mentioning how they’re finally meeting each other on the sands, what he said was Oenomaus’ wife’s “greatest fear.” Oenomaus, clearly seething at the sight of Gannicus given what Ashur had just imparted him the day before, asks him if it’s true that he slept with his wife the night she died. When Gannicus hesitates at a reply, Oenomaus strikes at him, starting the fight. By now I’m on the edge of my seat, quietly freaking out, when all of a sudden BOOM ….cut to “One day earlier”. So of course the episode’s actually starting now (or at least the meat of the episode), and being a good one, I’m forced to sit in anticipation for what the hell’s going to happen when they get back to Gannicus and Oenomaus (the other guy might be dead by now for all I know or care (even though I know he’s not); by now I actually care more about his girlfriend than about him).
So now, at most 5 minutes later, the episode more-or-less actually gets started. Ok, so now after finding a (mostly) abandoned temple, the rebels take refuge and come along an old Roman (priest?) who couldn’t give two shits for the Romans. He tells Spartacus of the coming executions and Spartacus gets it in his head that they should save their brothers. Now I’m all for it, I wanna see him do some crazy shit. But at the same time he’s saying “who knows more about the arena than those who’ve fought on its sands” and I’m thinking “um…. Anyone who was allowed to walk freely within, not confined to the sands and their cells.” But whatever, let’s see where this goes.
Meanwhile Ashur and Lucretia keep doing their backstabbing sneaky shit, to what avail I’ve lost track of by now. Clearly Lucretia’s doing fine cause she’s insane and a vessel of the Gods and Glaber likes having her around. Maybe Ashur could do with some more power cause he’s kinda still being treated like a slave, but why they’re working together… whatever, it makes for good TV.
Cut to a whorehouse, where I’m 99 percent sure we’ll find Gannicus (HELL YEAH). Oh, and there he is.
Looks like he’s found himself a pretty young thing, who quickly (after a romp) takes attraction to his rudus (a wooden sword that tells of his victories on the sands). Now I tend to like these brothel scenes in this show because (apart from the obvious) they usually have a collection crazy, jaw-dropping cuts, and by this point they’ve even conditioned you to expect an up-and-coming orgy/brothel/wtf-sex scene with this funny, high-pitched squeal of a score, as if the makers of the show know how ridiculous all this is. Not so in this scene. There’s no squeaky score, nothing out of the ordinary, and once Gannicus settles down for a cup of wine with his newfound companion, things get serious and emotional, with him telling this (presumably slave) about his rudus and how it’s a symbol of his freedom. The whole time, I’m just thinking of how awesome Gannicus is and it seems (to me) that the calmness is just an homage to Gannicus, and that the brothel, and entire scene, are just basking in his glory and awesomeness just as his companion is. But then they cut to him recalling the cup of wife that killed his best friend’s (Oenomaus’) wife, one they shared just after their (agreed) final affair. That was a downer, and brought Gannicus down to a human level, not the God of the Arena that he is. But whatever, makes him more awesome cause …it just does.
Well Ashur does some more sneaking and reveals to Glaber his wife’s intention to abort their child, which is cool and all, but doesn’t really stir any emotions on behalf of Glaber or Ilithyia (though perhaps for their unborn child) cause pretty much any non-slave is a terrible person who you just want to die. Also (big shocker) Ashur tells someone of someone else’s secret, thus further elevating himself and blah blah blah …Really I just hate fucking Asher cause he’s a slimy cunt.
Anyway, finally we’re back to the arena, oh and by the way, Spartacus and his crew just did some badass Navy SEALs shit, lifting their head out of the water in a body disposal sewer, presumably to attack the arena like he said before. Then after stealing roman soldier uniforms, he ends up standing by the gate while Gannicus awaits being released onto the sands, by which point I’m jumping up and down in my seat again. Fuck yeah, Gannicus.
I pause now, to watch the fight, maybe to type withought looking at the screen. Hell yeah, they’re setting fire to the arena, more more so, Hell Yeah for the fight. We’ve always secretly wished to see the best of the gladiators fight seriously, and Gannicus and Oenomaus are fulfilling that desire perfectly. And holy shit dozens of spectators are falling into a pit of fire, and oh shit dozens more just did.
Nice fucking shot Spartacus, on throwing a spot on spear right at Glaber, but of course Glaber’s a trained soldier so he just barely dodges it and this other guy gets hit. Awesome thing is he’s the guy who loves fucking slaves while getting they’re getting fucked by filthy gladiators, in other words he’s a fucking creep (prolly one of the biggest ones in the show), and when he gets hit with the spear he goes down like a little bitch, so he gets his just deserts.
The rest of the episode wraps up well, Ilithyia’s dad gets his face smashed by Glaber, kindof sweet. And Oenomaus and Crixus get rescued, with Gannicus helping at the end. So Wooo, all I hoped for at the beginning came true and no one important died.
All in all, prolly the best episode of the season. Awesome fights, engaging story, catches our attention early on, and FUCKING GANNICUS!!!

Pedro’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012
1. Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1)
2. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
3. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
4. Spartacus: Vengeance – Libertus” (Season Two, Episode 5)
5. Sherlock – “The Reinchenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
6. Breaking Bad – “Say My Name” (Season Five, Episode 7)
7. Spartacus: Vengeance – “Wrath of the Gods” (Season Two, Episode 10)
8. Breaking Bad – “Gliding Over All” (Season Five, Episode 8)
9. Top Gear – “India Special” (Season 18, Episode 0)
10. Doctor Who – “The Angels Take Manhattan” (Season Seven, Episode 5)

In the final part, you get to read about the crassest political show on the other side of the pond, a look at New Orleans from a guy who now lives there and why The Walking Dead isn't just about killing zombies. Also you get to see the results of the tabulated Top 10 lists. Read on!

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