Top 10 television shows for 2015

Mad Men 2015

It’s December, and the thing the internet loves the most at this time of year is the end-of-year Best Of list, so they can disagree with them. This is my first time writing such a list, and it’s difficult. I thought about writing a separate list for Australian shows, but I don’t want to ghettoise them, so they’re in here too. There are things that aren’t on here because I don’t watch them (The Walking Dead, Hannibal) or haven’t had time to catch up (Transparent, The Leftovers, Parks and Recreation), so just know I haven’t forgotten them. I didn’t forget anything, there’s a reason I left it off. Fargo isn’t on here because while I thought it was very good, I didn’t love it – although Kirsten Dunst did give one of the best performances of the year. My favourite show of the year has the top spot, everything else is in alphabetical order. Hopefully the shows I’ve collected here are a good range of the different things I’m enjoying right now. Writing a Top 10 list is hard, and while I’m only super passionate about half to two-thirds of the shows on this list, they’re all here for a reason. I’ve written about all of these shows previously, so there’s just going to be a paragraph about why each one is there, with some links to some things I’ve written. My only warning is that if you watch the “Best episodes” of the show, you will be spoiled for some plot developments.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 13: “The Promise”

Raylan: After everything we’ve been through, there’s one thing I keep coming back to.

Boyd: We dug coal together.

Raylan: That’s right.

This is the final exchange that takes place in Justified, and it’s perfect. All along, ever since the pilot, this show has been about Boyd, Raylan and Ava. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how Boyd was supposed to die in the pilot, “Fire in the Hole”, but Graham Yost and company decided they liked Walton Goggins so much that they changed their minds. In the end of the short story Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard, upon which Justified is based, Raylan kills Boyd but he isn’t happy about it. Art asks him why, and Raylan replies, “I told you. We dug coal together.” I was worried that the series finale of Justified would end up as a bloodbath, and even though the finale wasn’t as bloody as anyone was expecting, ending on Elmore Leonard’s words felt right. The bond between Boyd and Raylan that formed in those mines transcends any animosity they had four years previously. They also have more in common than either of them would like to admit. This is your only spoiler warning.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 12: “Collateral”

Boyd Crowder: You’ve given up everything that you are so that you can murder me.

A now well-known fact about Justified is that Boyd Crowder was supposed to die in “Fire in the Hole”, as he did in Elmore Leonard’s short story of the same name, but Graham Yost and company were so impressed with Walton Goggins that they decided to keep him on. And really, Justified wouldn’t be half as good as it is without the character of Boyd Crowder. Walton Goggins is phenomenal and he has such great chemistry with Timothy Olyphant that Boyd and Raylan’s antagonism towards each other wouldn’t be the same if they had taken a different direction. This show wouldn’t have just been another procedural if Raylan hadn’t had an antagonist. Maybe he would have stayed with Ava. Maybe Aunt Helen would still be alive. The hypothetical final season would probably come down to a Raylan/Arlo confrontation, but that wouldn’t be as good as what we’re getting now, because Raylan and Boyd dug coal together. I have no idea who’s going to get out of this alive next week, but if it’s only one of them, my money’s on Loretta. And Constable Bob.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 11: “Fugitive Number One”

This is going to be a rough one, guys. I’m sick and I didn’t take notes as I was watching the episode because I had just finished baking a cake. Anyway. This week’s episode of Justified didn’t have the fantastic gut punch of last week’s, but there were still some great moments (Wynn and Mikey 4EVA), and the chessboard has been set for the last two episodes of this show.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 10: “Trust”

He’s too smart. – Raylan and Boyd, about each other.

I was not predicting what happened at the end of the episode, even though it makes perfect sense from both a story and character perspective, so I have no idea where this review will go. I don’t normally post spoiler warnings for my reviews, but they’re implied by the way I write them after every episode. I’m going to leave the big stuff for after the jump, but FYI, it’s going to be fairly spoilery. So for now I’ll leave you with what I wrote before the episode started and my first few dot points of notes:

This week on Justified, there’s a big thing that happens, based on the way the internet is reacting to it! Did Boyd or Ava die?

  • We’re going back to Dewey Crowe?
  • Mikey has a code – is he going to rat on Wynn?
  • Is Wynn the one who dies?
  • This is the issue with knowing that something big happens

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 9: “Burned”

Raylan: Boyd ain’t gonna stop. He’s just going to go after it harder and stupider.

Rachel: And to think there was a time I was excited about having the big office.

If there’s one thing we learned from this week’s episode of Justified, it’s that you should always make sure your solarium is secured just in case the Marshals come to visit. This week we focused in on our Harlan characters, Raylan, Boyd, Ava and Loretta. We also learned who the snitch was in the Grady Hale case, and Avery Markham’s money did not get stolen by Boyd Crowder. The quotes up the top are those that best describe Raylan and Boyd. When Boyd suffers a setback, he doesn’t give up. Instead, he doubles down. Raylan does this too, and Rachel has been learning how difficult it is to keep an eye on Raylan (and by extension, Boyd), and that having the big office isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Then again, maybe her job would be easier if Raylan wasn’t working for her. Not that Raylan really works for anyone.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 8: “Dark As A Dungeon”

You could just have easily been an outlaw as a lawman – Ava Crowder

Ava spat that at Raylan in a fit of anger today, as she has no idea what’s going to happen to her while Boyd and Raylan keep circling each other. The most significant aspect of this line is the fact that it’s true. The only reason he never became an outlaw is because his father was one, and Arlo was the person he hated most in the world. We saw as much when Raylan burnt Arlo’s possessions and prepares to sell his house by removing his body and gravestone. Raylan doesn’t particularly care where Arlo’s body ends up, he’d even prefer not to know. Winona’s speech did a number on Raylan last week, and he’s getting ready to leave Harlan. As much as Winona and Raylan say they love each other, Raylan doesn’t have that connection with Winona the way he does Ava or even Boyd. They grew up together, they dug coal together, and now they might die together, in the darkest possible ending for Justified. This is the third episode of the season in which Raylan and Boyd shared a scene, and it was delightful as always, but definitely more menacing.

Continue reading

Why it can be good, and not so good, to read other people’s reviews.

I started this blog to write about television, and occasionally I write about film and books as well. But I wasn’t using it, so I decided that I would write at least 500 words every day this year. Depending on what I write, the length of the piece varies. What I’ve noticed since I’ve started writing more television reviews is that I’m not reading reviews on any other websites.

The main benefit of that is that I’m focusing on my own opinion of the episode, rather than having my opinion influenced by other people. On the other hand, if I’m not sure about whether I like something or not (my initial reaction to Birdman was “huh”, and I didn’t know what to make of it), it’s useful to seek out both positive and negative reviews and think about which one you agree with the most. My method is to get inspiration from the articles and use them as a source if I use specific ideas in my own review. I read Kayla Kumari’s review of The Good Wife‘s “Dark Money”, before I wrote my own, but the time between reading her review and writing my own was long enough that it didn’t matter as much. But of the shows I write about regularly, Jane the VirginBetter Call Saul and Justified, I’ll only occasionally read a review over at The A.V. Club or on Alan Sepinwall’s blog afterwards.

I’m still relatively new to this, so there are people who watch television more critically than I do. It’s a skill I’m still developing. Therefore I need to read other people’s reviews to enhance my own insight into what I’ve just watched. My case in point for this week is Justified. Last week, I wrote a more of a recap than a review in that it was mainly a plot summary that didn’t go into theme or character at all. Then I went to the review over at The A.V. Club, and read a fantastic character study into how Raylan’s personality was informed by the antagonistic relationship he had with his now dead father. The hatred of Arlo is what drove Raylan for four seasons, and the show has definitely changed since he died – why is Raylan still in Harlan? Given that I watched the first four seasons of this show in succession (it wasn’t quite a binge watch, since I was finishing my Masters degree at the time), I haven’t watched it as critically as I have shows that I watch on a weekly basis. Then in my review this week, I was looking too much into Boyd changing the magazine on his gun – on their podcast, Joanna Robinson and Ryan McGee thought it was just an illustration of how Boyd can no longer trust Ava – this makes the most sense, but I still hope there’s more of a possibility than that. It was a semi-ambiguous moment, and I need to remember that just because other people see it differently than I did, it doesn’t mean that I interpreted it wrong. Just differently. Still, I haven’t read any other Justified reviews this week, so I only know the opinions of two people. It’s food for thought.

Another thing I wrote about last week was my issues with the second series of Broadchurch. On her podcast with Ryan McGee, Mo Ryan articulated some of her problems with the show – I had heard that it was soapy, but that’s not necessarily the whole problem. What was good about the first series of Broadchurch is that it wasn’t about the big twists, and it has become that in the second series, instead of a character based piece about the murder of a child in a small town. It became more Scandal than Friday Night Lights, to use Ryan McGee’s analogy. You can read more about the issues with the second series of Broadchurch over on Mo Ryan’s website.

So my new goal is that once I have written my review of a film or television show, I’m going to seek out others. It’s the best way for me to think more critically, and definitely the best way for me to learn.

Justified Sesason, 6 Episode 7: “The Hunt”

“You left me in prison. You did nothing for me… I was going to die in prison, Boyd”  Ava Crowder

We’ve passed the halfway point in the final season of Justified, and I can’t remember things being this tense since the last eight episodes of Breaking Bad. This week was great because characters were finally laying their cards out of the table, and even if they can’t feel the end coming, the audience does, but the audience also has that foreknowledge. I’m glad that this week the focus was back on Raylan, Boyd and Ava. Markham was in there, but barely, and he had a great scene with Art. Katherine Hale and Wynn Duffy were nowhere to be seen, and as much as I love Wynn Duffy (after I saw him the first time, I never dreamed that he’d become a series regular), the focus back on the core trio is what was needed.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 6: “Alive Day”

These guys know killing, but they don’t know crime

The Choo Choo train has stopped. Once again I’m writing on my phone, so it’s going to be short until I can get to a computer with a working internet connection to edit it. Despite the fact that Raylan has Ava back on board as an informant, and ud between the Crowders and the Randolphs appears to have been resolved, things aren’t going too well for our favourite characters on  Justified.

This week we pick up immediately where we left off; Raylan has been to see Ava and kissed her. We don’t know if anything else has happened, bit it might have (in my opinion it would be a shame to deprive the audience of a shirtless Timothy Olyphant). Then Boyd comes home! I was immediately worried that Ava’s cover had been blown or that they’d be caught in bed, but Raylan is just hanging out in the kitchen and claims to be looking for Dewey Crowe, which is a relief. Over at the Marshal’s office, Rachel had been tracking Ava and Raylan’s phones  so she suspects that Ava tried to run and also they might be sleeping together. She says as much to Art, who then reveals why he gives Raylan so much leeway: it’s either get the bad guy out compromise the investigation to save your ass. These people may seem like sticklers, but they’re more like Cedric Daniels than Bill Rawls.

Art is over at the office so that he can get out of the house (he says he’s on the way to the shooting range) so that he can ask Rachel about the Hale case, the first big case she worked on. There was a wiretap, but they never got Katherine because she never used a phone. At asks Rachel about a snitch, but Rachel was completely unaware that there was one, it seems. Over at Katherine’s hotel room, Avery Markham proposes, which absolutely floors her, and then asks if she was the snitch, which makes him second guess her assumption that Markham got her husband killed. If it wasn’t Markham, Katherine has no reason to steal his money and then kill him. She talks to Wynn Duffy, who tells her maybe it was a clever play on Markham’s part, intentionally throwing off her suspicions. Over at Markham’s base, we have the issue of Choo Choo accidentally killing the person they were trying to get information from. It turns out they’re not very good at hiding the body, and it’s found very quickly. Raylan also figures out who killed Buddy, so they head over to the pizza parlour.

One thing I love about Justified is its sense of dramatic irony. Markham orders his team to kill Choo Choo for his mistakes, but they’re hesitant. Raylan and Tim follow Sea Bass out to where Choo Choo has Buddy Garrity’s ‘girl’, and ambush them before they have a chance to kill him. There’s an ensuing firefight where no one seems to get hurt, and Choo Choo manages to get away somehow. When he was driving along, I thought Choo Choo was trying to commit suicide by train, based on his name, but the train managed to stop in time and it turned out that our new favourite character (since Buddy Garrity died last week) was already dead, and spent his final moments on the train tracks anyway.

The most fascinating storyline this week was the Crowder/Randolph feud, which seems to have resolved (or at least there’s a truce) when Zachariah talks to Ava before heading down the mineshaft with Boyd. Then we learn that Zachariah actually tampered with the hole Boyd fell down. He must have made the trap when he told Boyd that they would have to wait before they went down the mine. What I want to know is why he saved Boyd. Is it for Ava or because he had to save face? What he doesn’t know is that if Boyd had died, Ava would have been better off, especially now that Limehouse has ratted her out to her fiancé. I can’t see that things are going to end well for the Crowders.

Other thoughts:

  • The past few reviews have been heavily recap-y, and the only way I’ve been able to edit these posts is by using the computer at work once I’ve finished everything I need to do. Hopefully I’ll be able to sort out my internet issues soon.
  • I hope we get Raylan and Boyd in a burning house soon.
  • There were another two people added to the body count this week, and each of the three sides has suffered a setback.