What I'm Watching: I'll Be Gone in the Dark

Michelle McNamara, Patton Oswalt's late wife, was a crime podcaster/writer. The one she wrote about was the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker (rather overly functionally named: EAR/ONS). Much of this is framed in interviews with Patton in the few years since her death (prescription drug overdose), and it's certainly awkward watching him, not doing standup so I don't know what to expect from him, and he's obviously hurt, but he doesn't have a huge emotional range.

The show is all flashbacks, old footage, people reminiscing, and a few dreamlike, abstract reenactments—about a writer who only read books and endless forum posts, and interviewed people who had done the actual investigation, and thought she was contributing something to the cold case. "This is what I was born to do!", she says.

In Isaac Asimov's Foundation, Lord Dorwin is "awfully fascinated" by history, and the origin question (what planet Humans originated on, long lost and forgotten); but he does no field research, he just reads other peoples' books and papers and writes his own third-hand papers. That's also the trend in E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops, where original research and going outside is abandoned, people just make video talks (Youtube, but written in 1909!) about other video talks. I bring these up, because these dystopian distant-future visions of totally derivative non-research have already come true, and this is a show about it.

Michelle (and the voice actor reading her text) is incredibly preachy and pretentious; she was one of those writers who thinks a 5-dollar-word is better than a short one, that poetry in the middle of her exposition about a rape and murder makes it pithier. An editor would've told her to dial it back, but she was almost entirely self-published and unedited. The scope of her book, and idea of getting it done on deadline, was just implausible, solving a cold case as her first investigation, writing her first book. Even if you didn't see the news, her manner of death is unsurprising.

"Michelle was such a brilliant woman, she was such a talented writer, she was so into everything that we're all into, and she made such great contents. It's just an incomprehensible tragedy."
—Karen Kilgariff, "My Favorite Murder Podcast"

"Such great contents". Fuck. Let nobody be buried with that as an epitaph, OK?

Because EAR/ONS used wooded creeks as a "highway" between stalking sites, there's a repeat theme and little snippets of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. But this is weird, bordering on offensive; it's portraying the Creature as the rapist, Julie Adams as the victims. But in the actual movies the creature fights only in self-defense, he has no woman of his own kind and never hurts the girl, but he's hunted by a murderous, reactionary white lynch mob and murdered in his home; I'm always heartbroken by the ending. I haven't yet seen Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, but I understand it's in line with that. Surely they're not suggesting EAR/ONS is a tragic victim.

E1 almost completely lost me, I wasn't going to keep going, but I gave further eps a chance, and it does get better, but still spends entirely too long on Michelle's personal life and death, and it's all intermingled.

You get a segment on EAR/ONS in rather grim detail. A segment on research and interviews with the surviving victims. A segment on Michelle playing with her daughter. Shove in a blender with barely a screen blank for transition. That's appalling storytelling.

The case is, however, not solved by Michelle's book, or any of the paperwork, but by DNA evidence & geneology (many people are stupid enough to upload their DNA to random company websites!) years after Michelle's death, by detectives also working on the case. Almost nothing about the actual killer, his plea bargains and the additional murders he confessed to, is covered at all.

Real life's not neat and tidy like a good crime drama, but this biopic/true crime mix is an absolute mess, gives you whiplash going from subject to subject.

★★☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Bordertown, Freaks

  • Bordertown: The best of the grim Scandinavian crime dramas. Kari Sorjonen (the Finnish title is just his name), is a borderline autistic, Sherlock Holmes with a memory palace technique, and partner Lena, a Russian ex-FSB cop/thug/defector. There's a wife and a kid, and Lena has a daughter, sometimes, and there are a few too many household drama stories early on, but it mostly lowers that to a background level later.

But most of the series is Kari pursuing really crafty serial killers, including a repeat nemesis, supergenius high school chemistry teacher, not named Walter or Moriarty but oughta be.

Emotionally the show could not be more Finnish. Everyone is stoic and awkward, frosty to their friends, completely closed off to anyone else, until they have a giant emotional meltdown and kill each other. Secrets and actual intentions are rarely revealed and when they are, everyone's glum but takes it. The distance between Kari's emotional flatness and everyone else's emotional bunkers isn't far.

Finland has a harsh and beautiful wilderness, and the cities are the grimmest of industrial shitholes, and then the interiors are mostly sterile black and white unadorned furniture, like Jony Ive set designed it; when you see a warm set it's just jarring. The cinematography and music are great; I'm unamused at the pretense the daughter sings the title song, tho, and in this last season she got way too much screen time doing so. Apparently the actress is a wannabe Miley Cyrus.

I read subtitles fast, and can usually rely on being able to pick up some spoken words, but Finnish is annoying; English lets me pick up enough Dutch, Norwegian, or Swedish to recognize many words, my bad French lets me get a lot of Flemish and Belgian, and so on… but Finnish sounds like gibberish, and these people talk fast; I usually complain about slow-talkers, but here it's a little stressful. So good thing this is on Netflix where rewinding for a complex scene is easy. It'd be unwatchable on 'zon's terrible video player.

S3 switches from overlapping almost-season-long stories to more episodic 2-parters, but there is a continuing story.

Picking on some of the non-plot elements aside, this is just a perfect crime drama, watch it.

★★★★½

  • Freaks (2018): It's Firestarter; this Charlie ^W Chloe is a different kind of little girl freak, but the "psychic powers make your eyes bleed" thing, the father, the low-rent treachery, the government murderers are straight out of Stephen King. The Shop ^W ADF is funded like post-9/11 counterterrorism, not a CIA hobby project.

I'm both amused and horrified by a trick used to get the ADF to kill innocent people, the writer's not original but able to embellish well.

Once you realize the scope of Chloe's, and her family's, and the missing mommy's powers, the question of "is this overreaction" changes to "what would you do for species survival"; altho Dallas probably had it coming. Little Chloe also learns to kill like a teenage boy playing Call of Duty, way faster than a supposed 7-year-old (actress was 9) should. No way she should see this movie or the evil shit her character does.

★★★★☆ — despite the near-plagiarism, this is well done.

What I'm Watching: Godzilla Raids Again, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Player

More of my HBO Max queue. I absolutely hate that they make me choose my profile every single time. I have one profile, it's a purple cock-ring that says "Mark" in it, there is zero reason to make me choose a profile every new window! Netflix now lets you choose movie characters for your profile image, so there I'm Hup from Dark Crystal 2019, but they only make me choose my profile if I've logged out and back in.

In the old days, I watched 3 movies every night from the video store: One B-movie, one studio flick, one known-good movie (often a rewatch). And that's kinda what I did here:

  • Godzilla Raids Again (1955): On Monster Island, Godzilla is back from the dead (or a second Godzilla!) fighting a 30m-long Ankylosaur "Anguirus" (actual ones were up to 6.25m long), dated at 70-150 MYA (in reality 65-67 MYA), which is certainly better than the first Godzilla's 2 MYA dates. Dr Yamane returns to show stock footage from the first movie, without sound effects or context, and then he is never seen again (smart, take your paycheck and run from this film). They also get to use some military stock footage to show air & naval search for the kaiju. Boy this is a cheapass movie so far.

    The drama of the pilots & radio girls (the pretty one is the boss's daughter, of course) relationship is maybe a repeat of Ogata & Emiko from the first movie, but it fills the Human interest requirement fine. There's a prison break story which has fuck-all to do with Godzilla, it's just B-roll, but serves to screw up the blackout/light lure plan. Oda Motoyoshi was a terrible but prolific waste-of-film director, and in more competent hands the prison story could've been given some pathos.

    The monster fights are goofy, accelerated footage instead of more properly slowed-down to look like 50m-tall monsters, mostly wrestling instead of the more acrobatic fighting of later Godzillas (admittedly these early suits were heavy). The miniature cities, and historic Osaka Castle(!!!), are clearly empty shells inside, when the original tries to not make that visible, and later ones succeed even more. There's a flooding subway scene that's fairly effective, though we don't see the victims; presumably nobody was willing to risk their lives for Oda's filmmaking.

    The music is not great. Anything dramatic or horrifying in the original has heavy Ifukube Akira music. Here, there's a little bass line behind the monster scenes, and light "laugh now" or overbearing brass band music in every Human scene.

    A little "Human interest" goes a long way in a kaiju movie, but post fight there's just endless people talking bullshit about romance and business, corporate drinking in a circle worshipping the boss, nothing to do with the plot. Incredibly tedious, and the comic relief pilot is badly written. Please make this end.

    They really don't seem to have watched the first movie. A fire fence is supposed to keep Godzilla in place? It was born from the hydrogen bomb, breathes fire, stomped thru a burning Tokyo. It lives in the deep freezing ocean. There's no fire or ice solution that's going to stop it. The bombing runs use a mix of miniatures, stock footage, and rear projection to fake in-aircraft camera shots, and the "miniature" terrain and mattes are bad.

    I'm giving this movie way more thought than was put into making it, or has deserved for 65 years. But I'm disappointed.

    ★★☆☆☆ only because Anguirus is slightly cool, being a completely non-humanoid kaiju.

  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: I haven't seen the previous Fantastic Beasts film, which is nowhere to be found, but how much context can a "wizzarding world" flick need? Unfortunately after a pretty good prison break scene with badass Grindelwald (who seems to have the right idea, magical revolution now!), the story switches to whiny, useless "Newt" as protagonist, and then nothing happens forever, and I lost all interest.

    The cinematography looks like absolute shit, it's dark and color-distorted, you can't see anything, it's all CGI cartoons and fast cuts over bad actors, almost a parody of modern terrible filmmaking. Maybe there's plot later, but after 30 minutes of reading my phone while I waited for plot to start, and it didn't, and I loathe all the "good guys" so far, I gave up.

    ☆☆☆☆☆ and may Cthulhu have mercy on their souls.

  • The Player (1992): Haven't seen this in decades. Goddamn that initial long tracking shot. Tons of movie references, I dunno I've ever seen Absolute Beginners, just heard the Bowie song; adding that to my list. The Sheltering Sky I've seen and was bored out of my skull by, all of Bertolucci's films were some mix of fantastic cinematography, pretty girls, dumb assholes, fascists, wandering aimlessly, never intersects a plot, like Last Tango in Paris; he was the original Ridley Scott (right down to the unwatchable but very pretty oriental set piece flicks). I love Fred Ward and he's good at laconic delivery of both useful and menacing lines, but he doesn't get to do any violence here, which is a shame. There's a metric fuck-ton of cameos by Old Hollywood people, before it all went to shit.

    "It's Gods Must be Crazy except the Coke bottle is now a TV actress." "Exactly, it's Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman." made me crack up completely. I can't stop giggling at these people and their awful pitches.

    Oh, I miss movies like this, with writing and characters and cinematography that isn't just cyan/orange filters. I want everyone involved in that Fantastic Beasts flick to watch this, and then blow their brains out in shame.

    "Can we talk about something other than Hollywood for a change? We're educated people." … … [laughter]

    Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is kind of too easy-going to have his job, but he steps up to crazy eventually. Vincent D'Onofrio didn't have his known career of being a crazy person yet, so his unstable writer act now looks too obvious.

    "I would hate to get the wrong person arrested." "Oh please. This is Pasadena. We do not arrest the wrong person. That's L.A., see, L.A., they kick your ass, and then they arrest you." A year after Rodney King.

    The first act is great, just a perfect storm of everything coming down on Griffin Mill. Second act develops his guilt and romance, and it's fine, but a little slow. Third act should be a massive storm of catastrophe, but instead nothing happens. Rich people get to be rich and goof around.

    ★★★★☆

Spoiler screenshot but this is the story they wrote and inserted into the paper:

player-newspaper

What I'm Watching: Bosch, Tales From the Loop

I have 'zon Prime for shipping, but the video channel's good sometimes.

Bosch, S6: Hieronymous Bosch (inexplicably, an ex-Marine LAPD pig detective, not a Dutch painter) continues to always be right, thug his way thru cases, and it's an agreeable enough crime drama. This season has 4 main stories:

  1. Sovereign Citizen group is suspected of domestic terrorism, extorting dangerous materials, and being rude to pigs, and so they're portrayed very badly. I can't tell if the writers are aware of how shitty the LAPD is and are using the "308s" to hold up a mirror, or if they actually believe the paramilitary bullshit. Bonus, the cute Feebee agent and some douchebag G-Men are kind of the anti-X-Files; they do not want to believe.
  2. Cold case of a street girl's death, daughter of one of the junkies from last season's drug camp.
  3. Chief Daniels or whatever he's called here running for Mayor but unwilling to play dirty which is an obvious career-limiting move AND is inconsistent with previous behavior.
  4. Jedgar (Marlo Stanfield's actor continuing to amuse me as a cop) spending an implausible amount on clothing for a supposedly clean LAPD pig and hunting down a war criminal from his native Haiti who's now killed cops here.

Which is all a little busy, and then every one of the major cast gets a half-ep or more B-story about them, and I really don't care about a lot of these. A serious editing pass would've cut half the content and treated what's left with twice the detail.

Jedgar's story is by far the most complex, but it gets the least screen time, and the conclusion's mess is going to have to be next season. Bosch's story is sordid, and mostly just him knocking on doors, few firefights like last season's adventure.

There is far less annoying jazz (but I repeat myself) than previous seasons, at home Bosch is mostly listening to lounge singers instead of the whiniest trumpets he can find, which is a great relief to those of us with hearing.

★★★½☆


Tales From the Loop

High in the North in a land called Svithjod there is a mountain.
It is a hundred miles long and a hundred miles high and once every thousand years a little bird comes to this mountain to sharpen its beak.
When the mountain has thus been worn away a single day of eternity will have passed.
—Hendrik Willem van Loon, History of Mankind (1922)

And that's what it feels like to watch this show. Nothing happens. Eternity passes. More nothing happens. A magical event is never explained. An old annoying man acts preachy for a moment. The episode ends with no meaning or purpose.

The premises range from "what if time travel, but boring?" to "Freaky Friday, but boring", and on and on ripping off Twilight Zone or Disney movies without the action.

☆☆☆☆☆

What I'm Maybe Watching: Omniscient

Brazilian show about pervasive personal drone (annoying little robot bees that don't need to recharge?) surveillance and a murder that somehow isn't recorded, but the premises are so stupid it Black Mirrors itself:

  1. Surveillance footage is impossible for humans to watch and held by a trustworthy AI. What government would let that happen?
  2. AI is still somehow Human-programmed by 2 whole programmers & a couple interns. As opposed to the hundreds or thousands on less complex project teams IRL. That's convenient for the plot which has to obviously point at one of these programmers.

Girl protagonist (Carla Salle) is super cute, tho. Gidget/Amelie/Audrey Hepburn type.

So I may watch another to see if it sinks further into Black Mirror/The Scary Door territory.

What I'm Watching: Unbelievable

A police procedural about a Washington/Colorado area rapist, adapted from an NPR piece. I'll say up front I watched this in a couple sittings, it kept my attention mostly, but also I didn't like it and it's not entirely worth watching.

What's mostly unbelievable are the caricatures. This show may be proof that artificial intelligence or aliens are here: Nothing Human would be able to write something this in-Human and artificial. As a case it's interesting; as writing it's bizarre.

First ep, the unbelieved victim is cute but fragile-looking, and so turns out to be a complete flake. First with poor recall of a traumatic event, then folding under hostile interrogation. The fucking pigs who take her statement and harass her into recanting are the worst kind of obnoxious honkie state-sanctioned gun-thugs, rather than any kind of police; they have no personalities or lives beyond this. Her ex foster parents are treacherous, the affectless, sociopathic stepmom slanders her to the pigs, the foster dad is played by Brent Sexton, the traitor sheriff from Justified, scumbag ex-LAPD (making him a double scumbag) in Bosch, one of my favorite heavy thugs in anything he plays, here he's almost normal just being a rotten unsupportive asshole. "It's nothing personal" he says calmly shooing off a foster daughter clearly in a distressed panic.

Second ep, the perfect victim is inhumanly steady (massively, morbidly overweight, but nobody ever brings it up), talked to the rapist and got a full description and some personal info. The nice cop on this case is a woman, and cares, and uses good psychology and is diligent in her investigation, never interrogates… Much of the ep is the nice cop's personal life. Just impossibly smart for a cop, and sweet within limits, total Mary Sue.

Third ep, tough bitch cop in Colorado can't accept help or "no", can't apologize, and acts like Dirty Harry on a bad hair day. Another victim with the same MO, this time a fairly unhelpful middle-aged black woman, but maybe the first non-caricature person? The mathematician friend of the steady victim is an unbelievable asshole machine-person, because of course that's a mathematician caricature. Flake victim from first ep is being harassed online now, apparently unaware you can turn off a phone and don't need to let people post on your badly-TV-whitewashed Facebook page; or even have one. But the caricature is that online harassment can't be escaped, so this show leans 200% into it destroying her already shitty life. Her nice not-quite-boyfriend is friendly and nonthreatening but of course that's because he's religious, not because he's got a personality.

Fourth ep, they've finally gone to the Feebies for help. I had a weird reaction to Agent Billy Taggart's name; turns out it's the same as Marky Wahlberg's dirty cop in Broken City (a bad but not unwatchable drama), probably no relation but weird coincidence. Additional coincidence, slight "what?" reaction every time I hear it, flake girl's PD lawyer is Mr Hughes. Finally another non-caricature appears, a college student I thought at first might be a rape victim as well, with as nervous as he was, but instead ratted out a college campus rapist, who is the very picture of a douchebro campus rapist, zero effort.

Eps 5-7 are straight police procedural, interrupted by flake girl repelling everyone she knows, and telling a therapist about surviving in zombie shows. Nice cop and Dirty Grace finally catch the rapist, have some character development at long last; not a lot, but they're less walking outlines now. There's a lot of "all cops are wifebeaters" and "men have no idea that rape is traumatic and urgent" which came directly from a very special episode of Law & Order: SVU. Otherwise the show finally found its stride, something it's good at.

Ep 8 finally they discover flake girl was telling the truth, the fucking pig has to face his fuckup and torture of the girl. Which I don't believe, from the zero character development he ever got, that he's capable of; a real fucking pig would fight evidence kicking and screaming. Court goes perfectly and takes no time, which is impossible. Perp says he "knows he can't be out there and was never going to stop", which is not what convicted rapists usually say. Then flake girl gets everything she wants and buys a very unsafe car and has a series of fantasy closure moments.

I almost hate this. When there's procedural, it's good; when it's robotically repeating trite lines from paper-thin characters, it's the worst shitshow on streaming. Nobody involved in writing or directing this is a Human, or has ever met a Human, or even heard recordings of Humans speaking.

★½☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: The Devil Next Door

The '80s-'90s trial of John Demjanjuk, immigrant Cleveland auto worker, claimed by accusers to be Ivan the Terrible, a sadistic guard from Treblinka. There's a lot of footage of the death camps, and the survivors after the war, and mostly very bad flickering VHS transfers of the trial. The period testimonies are the strongest part.

Modern interviews with his defense lawyer Sheftel are charming, if that's a word for this situation. Most of the other modern interviews are so cut up to avoid spoilers of the next episode that they're uninformative, or openly… deceptive? Pushing a point of view, anyway.

I'm horrified by the delusional belief in eyewitness testimony 40 years after the events, especially in a less technical legal system like Israel's (of the '80s; maybe they've modernized since). And the crowds of Jewish people chanting for death for someone, turning completely into their former persecutors. You'd have a more just trial by flipping a coin or studying bird entrails.

Up to episode 3 or so is at least informative and has an interesting narrative. After that the series falls apart badly.

I followed the first part of the case back in the '80s, but got distracted after his first conviction, waiting for the appeal, so was never really aware of the outcome.

The appeal and "happily ever after" are given short shrift, just a recounting of the events and brief glimpses of the exculpatory evidence. Then even shorter shrift, with only the barest video of the start, of the post-Millennial second extradition and German bullshit trial where all evidence was ignored, a 91-year-old man was convicted of maybe—probably, but without hard evidence—being a soldier at a different camp. Before dying of old age in prison, and rendering the whole thing moot.

Then there's some moralizing about war as a criminal act.

The attitude by Representative Holtzman seems to be—never clearly stated but strongly implied—that all soldiers on a losing side should just be charged with murder and executed. If that was wartime law, nobody would ever surrender and wars would rage until half the population was exterminated. There'd be peace on Earth, eventually, when the last two people killed each other.

When WWII ended, the US brought home Wernher Von Braun, one of the worst war criminals in history, who killed maybe a million people with his weapons, used Jewish slave labor hand-picked from the camps. He was made an American citizen, never tried for war crimes because he was useful, got our space program and ICBM global thermonuclear war systems running, constantly lied about his former devotion to the SS, slowly went crazy religious, died at peace. Is that justice? Certainly not. But it was practical and merciful.

We accepted many immigrants after WWII from Germany, Italy, Ukraine, France, and elsewhere who had been enemy soldiers, because war is not subject to peacetime law, and they could put their past behind them and work. If they worked and kept their heads down, they were of value to us. And we'll want the same mercy extended to us if we lose a war again. Demjanjuk's former line supervisor gets this, and the son-in-law gets it.

Holtzman especially doesn't seem to understand the difference between being drafted and fighting for your country, doing the job assigned to you, when they just happen to be Germany or Ukraine or Italy; or modern-day Illinois Nazis who do it because they're assholes and do not have the excuse of wartime service.

The whole series needed a hard editing cut of about half the footage, put the interviews back together to be coherent, rather than the chopped-up mess it is, and show more hard evidence. Maybe get a military lawyer to talk about wartime law, and immigration lawyer and the Open Borders comic author to talk about accepting immigrants of dubious backgrounds. No such effort was made.

★★★★☆ up to E3, declining to ★☆☆☆☆ by the end.

What I'm Watching: Agatha Christie

The ABC Murders (2018, Amazon Prime): John Malkovitch is a fine actor. Sadly, he is 30cm too tall, very not Belgian, his accent fades in and out even in the same scene, and wouldn't shave down to a moustache, instead keeping a slightly scruffy Van Dyke which he ridiculously dyes in the first ep. Perhaps they should have done an animated Hercule Poirot show, and got him a Belgian voice coach.

Inspector Japp dies after a brief cameo (spoilers for plot-irrelevant elements, oh no), the new guy is awful and hostile, and there's no Arthur Hastings at all, so too many scenes are literally Malko-Poirot sitting alone silently waiting for the mail, instead of explaining his reasoning. No mention of his little grey cells, and even his background as gendarme is questioned with a ludicrously melodramatic new backstory which adds nothing to the plot. ABC is quite well played by Eamon Farren, the rest of the cast is forgettable.

I like the original story, and wish I'd just reread it instead of seeing this farcical reimagining.
★★☆☆☆

Ordeal By Innocence (2018, Amazon): A non-detective murder mystery. First it has to get over a big hurdle with me: It's about a rich English family, and I loathe everything about that. The father's the epitome of what most disgusts me about Humans, but there's also the thug son, the asshole son-in-law, the simpering daughter, the utterly forgettable daughter, the meek black daughter (for they are all adopted, it turns out), the gold-digging secretary, and the maid (who is apparently also an orphan, but not adopted? Well, English need someone to do the dirty work; and what you expect in an English manor is what goes on in an English manor), and the mother who was a harpy, until someone killed her.

Jack, the son accused of murder, seems like the only half decent one, but he's not around. And then an alibi shows up to distress everyone. Casting's pretty generic, tho they had to reshoot every scene of the original thug son with a new actor after the first was accused of sexual assault; but that doesn't matter much since almost every scene is two assholes leaning in doors or sitting straight in uncomfortable chairs sniping at each other.

The dead mother is increasingly shown to be worse than a harpy. You know Harry Harlow's monkey experiments with the wire mother and terrycloth mother? This woman's a wire mother. Functional but unloveable. I know the feeling.

There's a theme of fear of nuclear war, but until quite late it's never discussed, only mentioned in passing. This would've greatly enhanced the show if it was. And John Wyndham's book The Chrysalids, which is of course about nuclear war, family secrets and betrayal, rejection of the outsider and mutant.

This presentation has the awful habit of showing spoilers for the next episode over the credits, so skip forward as soon as one ends.

I don't recall this book at all, so it's somewhat of a mystery to me, but I also don't feel sympathy for any living character so don't care if they all did it.

The final scene's a little ridiculous, out of character, and unnecessary after the actual finale a minute before. Some producer had to piss in the soup to say he contributed, I expect.
★★★½☆ — I complain a lot, but I watched it in one sitting. Still hate everyone except dead Jack.

What I'm Watching: Goliath S3

S1 and S2 were great scrappy lawyers vs giant foe shows, with some treachery and Billy's shitty personal life (and incidentally, he should very obviously have been named "David" instead, the writers really dropped the sling stone there). Fantastic work. Billy Bob Thornton and Nina Arianda are fantastic in these seasons.

S3 has Billy, inexplicably scruffy despite the millions he must've made in S1-S2, wandering in a daze through a shitty Indian casino, drinking and talking to a barfly, occasional hookups with "Applebees" from last season, vague yet menacing subplots that go nowhere. See, the California drought is being taken advantage of by a nefarious almond farmer Wade Blackwood (so the writers are on point with that naming; played by Dennis Quaid), borderline incestuous sister Diane, her two adopted black sons who are cuckoo, Littlecrow (Graham Greene, aka Malachi from Longmire) the casino operator, Stephanie Littlecrow (Julia Jones) as a stuntwoman who is one of the few competent, interesting characters, and "Roy" (Beau Bridges) as the sorta sympathetic conspirator.

And why not, they bring back Cooperman (William Hurt) and Marisol Silva (Ana de la Reguera) from past seasons even though they have nothing to do with the plot. The daughter and the hooker are in college, and at least they have some hope of escaping from this clusterfuck of a show. Patty just gets dicked around and keeps forgetting to bring comfortable shoes for wilderness treks.

Sherilyn Fenn shows up in flashbacks as the cause of this case, and… she does not look good. Like, she's a couple years older than me, and she looks 20 years older. Props for showing adult women on TV, but jeers for letting her on camera looking like this.

Nothing happens for hours, days of basically b-roll pickup shooting pushed onto the screen. Once in a while you catch a glimpse of a plot. Finally they do a flashback which explains most of the start of the story, and the actors/writers/director all sober up enough to film some court scenes, get through some depositions—WOO! Most exciting thing in this very very slow season. And then in the last 1.5 eps they finally have everyone do crimes to cover up their previous crimes, and happy or sad endings are distributed like drunk, diarrhetic Bad Santa showed up on the set.

To say this was a pointless waste of time is an insult to pointless wastes of time. I would've been more rewarded by watching Real Horny Housewives of East LA or whatever the fuck is on broadcast TV.

★☆☆☆☆ pretty much solely for Julia Jones' couple of fight and chase scenes, which are literally from a movie within the show.

What I'm Watching: El Camino

Don't be fooled by the title, the El Camino barely appears in this movie, and it teaches you nothing about the history and operation of the hybrid car-truck.

Instead, we have a lot of flashbacks and added scenes for a show called Breaking Bad which was a popular show about a science teacher like Mr Wizard and his little buddy Jessie.

OK, seriously, it's the final episode that the show gave Walter but didn't give Jessie. But since it's been a few years, it's all bottle episode with only a little new content. In between the flashbacks are Jessie continuing to be very stupid and revisit past haunts. There's brief cameos by people who obviously can't be present.

I call Jessie very stupid, but it's erratic. He'll make a very good decision, a cunning ruse, and then follow it up with completely idiotic unthinking reactions; he can't tell who's a cop and who isn't, can't figure out how much money he has, can't cut and run instead of taking revenge.

And it's slow. The flashback scenes are awful, just misery porn except too slow for me to feel any concern. Jessie wants to be a victim and always puts himself back in that position.

The one heroic, effective scene is then completely implausible, because everything goes right, no hilarious fuckups or bad side-effects. The writer just gave up on who Jessie Pinkman is for this scene.

★★½☆☆ – a whole extra episode of BB. Whoo.