Plus, 'Swarm,' 'Lucky Hank,' and 'The Mandalorian' takes a detour
Two things. First, Lieberstein was a disaster as the showrunner on The Office so I'm not surprised Lucky Hank doesn't work. Second, The Last of Us finale was just another zombie apocalypse "everyone is evil" trope. How the heck do the Firefly doctors know that the only way to generate the cure was to cut open Ellie's head? Maybe they could take some time and see if there were alternatives before ruthlessly killing her? It's not like there's a time crunch here.
‘The Last of Us’:
– I thought Ashley Johnson was excellent casting because she resembles Bella Ramsey, *before* finding out she had played Ellie in the game. Just great work by them, Merle Dandridge, and of course Pedro Pascal as usual.
— TV has conditioned me to wonder if, given the jump cut from the flashback of Ellie’s birth to her in the present, her distraction might at least in part have been because it was her birthday. I’m undecided on whether or not to be glad that wasn’t established.
— I felt as I watched that Joel was maybe letting down his guard too much in joking with Ellie, whether from the dam having finally broken on his protective, paternal feelings towards her or his trying to get her out of her shell again following the trauma of the previous episode, and his scorched-earth actions at the hospital may well have reflected *his* blaming himself for letting down his guard (no matter how good the Fireflies are).
— I appreciated someone’s comment on another site that Marlene was perhaps subconsciously setting up Joel to rescue Ellie, given how the stuff he lays out was not the brightest work from her otherwise ultra-competent self. Ditto the observation that Ellie had been essentially laid out on a butcher’s block two episodes in a row; I can only imagine her being *awake* on the operating table.
— We really needed more narrative space to indicate Joel’s recovery, especially because Ellie’s having withdrawn makes it seem that little time has elapsed no matter that, of course, her reaction to what happened could be evident for ages. I still can’t believe we skipped over most of their cross-country trek this season.
Wow, I thought The Mandalorian this week was really bad. Neither Pershing nor Kane are inherently interesting characters and while I don't mind the idea of this show using its occasionally episodic structure to take digressions outside of Din's latest quest, showing how the New Republic was in fact bad just felt jarring and like a long tangent. Maybe if I were remotely invested in either character from their appearances in previous seasons, this would have worked. Instead it felt like a lot of time with the equivalent of Nikki and Paolo.
The finale was a big miss for me. I see what it was trying to do with Joel, but it doesn’t feel like an earned ending. Maybe if the villains like the cannibal pedophile priest or the “revolutionaries are as bad the fascists” dictator had any nuance to them so you thought “eesh, maybe Joel shouldn’t have done that” at any point before the final action sequence, I would have bought in.
Alan, did you also feel Joel became combat fit too quickly after just recovering from his severe injuries? Like you mentioned in the season finale review, the last shooting sequence felt too much like a video game.
Looking forward to Lucky Hank, though it does not sound like matches one of my favorite shows from recent years, The Chair, by Amanda Peet starring Sandra Oh (and with one of my favorite theme songs ever "Oxford Comma"!). Really wish that show had had at least one more season.
Alan, I love your writing and often agree with your opinions, but I think you missed the boat on Swarm. I thought it was exceptional, and I think it'll end up on my best-of-2023 list. I felt like every episode was of a whole and didn't feel wildly different except for "Fallin' Through the Cracks", which is necessarily different so we have some information about the finale compared to what the show shows us from Dre's POV. And the explorations of each episode are so interesting and varied and fun, it's like a more f*cked-up, opposite, better version of Poker Face, in a way. Dre leaves ruin and death and destruction in her wake, which is pretty much the opposite of Charlie. And its commentary on fandoms and parasocial relationships was both biting and important in this day and age IMO. I highly recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest interest in it, and I've already forced a few friends to sit down and watch it with me. The pilot alone is so strong.
I started watching Lucky Hank basically just because of missing seeing Bob Odenkirk on the small screen post-Breaking Bad and -Better Call Saul (which I'm sure is what AMC is counting on), but I'm enjoying it decently. No question it's more of a slight show with a sardonic sense of humor that isn't breaking any new ground or doing anything especially gripping. It's a decent aftershow for after I watch Succession or Yellowjackets on Sundays (although Showtime has strangely been dropping Yellowjackets on streaming on Fridays so far for some reason?).
Hi Alan! Were you making recaps of Succession s1? I just started this awesome show, but can’t find your recaps anywhere
— I’m always happy to see Katy O’Brien pop up, but the whiplash to Coruscant was severe. My impression the entire time was that it was like a weirdly compartmentalized backdoor pilot — even more specifically that it was like the ‘Mandalorian’ stuff that got shoehorned into ‘The Book of Boba Fett’, except Bizarro-style because this would-be new show wasn’t a proper thing yet — despite my recognizing the characters from Moff Gideon’s orbit and realizing that it would all be somehow relevant to the show’s main plot later. I was just utterly disinterested in what transpired *and* disappointed in how these elements of the New Republic were portrayed.
— The actual Mandalorian stuff was quite good. I loved that after Din and Bo-Katan’s recitation of the familiar creed, Grogu seemd to be trying to echo “This is the way.”
Hi Alan - your Russo reference reminded me of one of my great UK frustrations, which is that the adaptation of empire falls with Ed Harris and Paul Newman has never been available here. Was it good?
I dunno Alan, I feel like the Mandalorian has been all over the place so far. I thought the first episode was underwhelming, the second one great, and this one? Definitely felt like Favreau was trying to show that he can do serious Star Wars too, and it missed the mark pretty badly. First off, they did a poor job in reestablishing these characters, whom I only vaguely recognized. Then the story beats were all simplistic and telegraphed. The opening was thrilling though! I was having Battlestar Galactica flashbacks.
The Last of Us did a good job capturing the ending of the game. The game is still a better version of this story. I just don't see how this serious separates itself from The Walking Dead. I enjoyed TWD more early on and tapped out in season 3. This story doesn't appear to have an endgame in mind either so that's a huge warning sign.