Monthly Archives: February 2016

The NFL Wine Cellar Team 1995-2015 -Part I : The Concept

Have you ever wondered what the best 53 man football team would look like? If so, here is Part I of the five part series of the greatest team ever assembled.

Before you read this, just keep one thing in mind. Hang in there with me on the concept. We are going outside the box on this one. There is a reason for the title and the years. But first I need to tell you some basics.

The Concept:

Before I go any further I must say this. The concept/idea for this post is not wholly mine. Rather it is a twist on it. All the credit for the idea and inspiration behind this endeavor should go to Bill Simmons. I am an avid consumer of all things Simmons since the early summer of 2010. It was then when I bought his second book; The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy. It was in this book, in the very final chapters that he unleashed this idea to assemble the greatest basketball team ever. Why would any of us spend time thinking about this? Well let me list a couple of criteria necessary for us fans to assemble an all-time team.

  • Ever see the movies Independence Day and Space Jam? Good, and if you haven’t, leave now. We don’t need you questioning our reasoning for doing this…… Now imagine that aliens came to our Earth and went Independence Day on us. With the survival of humanity hanging in the balance, we challenge them to a football game Space Jam style. Win and the aliens leave us in peace, lose and well, I think you know what happens if we lose.

 

  • Guess what, the aliens are really freaking good at football! We can’t just run out the 2015 Denver Broncos, we get the ability to choose any player we want. Nothing against 39 year old Peyton Manning, but I’m not going to war with a quarterback just hoping he “manages” the game with the fate of civilization at stake.

 

  • Hang in there with me. Not only to we get to choose whomever we want, but it just so happens that we can have whoever we want from whenever we want….that’s right, we have a TIME MACHINE!!!

 

  • Why do we need a time machine? Well one, no one ever turns down the prospect of using a time machine. And two, and this is essential, it’ll will helps us get the very best version of the player that we want. For example; I want Randy Moss. Cool. But which Randy Moss? Absolute athletically prime 4.20 forty Randy Moss from 1998; you know no one is keeping up with him on a fly route and he’s not quite the head case yet. What about 2003 Moss? Still in his absolute prime but with the knowledge and experience of playing in the league 6 years, but he also can’t keep himself out of trouble. Hitting parking officers with his car, a possible team cancer and getting high every day. Still don’t like those versions, what about 2007 Moss? Humbled by the disastrous Raiders experience, not as athletically gifted as the previous two versions but as we saw, has plenty of jet fuel in the tank. He did set the NFL record for receiving touchdowns that year, just saying.

 

  • Almost done. Now, why the name? The name is from Simmons’ chapter in his book, The Wine Cellar. He explains it as such; “Ask any wine connoisseur for their ten favorite Bordeaux of the last seventy-five years and they wouldn’t say, “Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite, Haut-Brion, Latour….” They would give you precise vintages. The ’59 Mouton Rothschild. The ’53 Lafite. The ’82 Haut-Brion…” And that is exactly what the last bullet point was talking about. I get it, you want Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson, but what versions of each? Do you want game-manager 2001 Tom Brady or 2007 Brady with a chip the size of the Grand Canyon on his shoulder? It has been my job to scour the internet and collaborate with the BTL staff to come up with the best 53 man team possible. Because you know, not like the future of humanity is at stake or anything.

 

  • Now on to the years, 1995-2015. Tagging along with Simmons point, to keep my credibility I am only choosing players from the years I actually watched the game. As much as I might want 1984 Dan Marino on this team or 1963 Jim Brown, I have to keep to players I actually watched. Don’t worry, Part II of this Wine Cellar team will have an in memoriam tribute. Just like the Oscars honor the people who died within the last year, so will we with players who would’ve been no doubters if the era guidelines were bigger. I might even play a somber tribute video of these players before the game, eh well, maybe. I don’t want to get too sentimental before we play the biggest Super Bowl the North has ever seen.

 

  • Last but not least, we are going to pick the best possible players who FIT with each other. I cannot stress that enough. There will be people left of the team for various reasons, but this is my team, and I have final say. Mad about it, leave a scathing comment or couple of comments, I’ll appreciate it, believe me.

 

So there it is. The criteria needed to assemble a team to save mankind. It has been more than fun researching, debating and assembling this team since that moment on the toilet reading Simmons’ Wine Cellar team. Yes, you read that right, I came up with this idea on the jon. I knew I couldn’t lead with this so I stuck it here. Now that I have you reeled in, enjoy the 5 part series of THE NFL WINE CELLAR TEAM 1995-2015.

Part II: In Memoriam 3/2/16

 

-MikeV87

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #14

Sometimes there comes along a season that grabs a certain sect of the TV universe in a vice grip. It strikes a chord with the audience so deep that it alone stands apart from all other renditions or imitations. True Detective Season 1 did just that. It made waves early on with the casting of A-list lead Hollywood actors, Woody Harrleson (Detective Marty Hart) and Matthew McConaughey (Dectective Rust Cohle). The latter was smack dab in the middle of his “McConaissance”, coming off the mega-hits, Dallas Buyers Club (which he won the Oscar for) and The Wolf of Wall Street, and this was just before Interstellar hit. If there was any question about the validity of television as compared to its big screen counterpart, both Harrleson and McConaughey solidified the mediums’ standing as legitimate place for Hollywood’s elite.

Here’s the list so far:

#20 – The O.C Season 1

#19 – Nip/Tuck Season 2

#18 – Homeland Season 2

#17 – Mr. Robot Season 1

#16 – The Walking Dead Season 1

#15 – Game of Thrones Season 1

#14 – True Detective Season 1 – Score: 28

Rewatchability: 7

I remember watching this the first time and being immediately grabbed by the location and environment of Louisiana. It fit with the bleak and pessimistic Rust Cohle. There was a certain mysticism that held my attention in those first 4 to 5 episodes and the landscape was part of the reason why. The savagery and the symbolism of their first case, as much as it was tough to stomach initially, was captivating  me. Was there really this wealthy elite who were a devil-worshipping cult pulling all the strings in the desolate south and sadistic sacrificial murder was their calling card? It’s like those Illuminati videos that you sometimes get sucked into watching, you think to yourself “total bullshit” but at the same time, “why can’t I look away”? After each episode the curtain is pulled back a little further, and the pieces of “The Yellow King” and “Carcosa” puzzle is slowly put together. That is what made it for me. The clues that you try to look for and make sense of a much larger purpose at hand. When you catch someone else up, you wonder why they focus on a billboard. What does the symbolism mean? I see the spiral, does that correlate to life is a flat circle? Why the antlers? Is Rust really this fucked up……wait a minute, perhaps he’s brilliant. Good lord those are the greatest tits I have ever seen! Sorry, but I had too, any guy had the same thoughts about Alexandra Daddario.

Season 1, particularly the first 5 episodes, had their share of landmark moments. I’ll save the best one for later, but did anyone else let out a WTF when you saw Reggie Ledoux walking in the sticks with just underwear, a gas mask and a freaking machete?! That image has been forever seared in my mind as Cohle talks about “the monster at the end of the dream”. Throw in the shootout that followed in episode 5 as you saw the duality of both 1995 and 2012 versions go down was pretty cool to take in. And anytime we can get McConaughey to go on a prolonged monologue about the grand spectrum of how we process time and life, well I’m completely all in.

 

Acting Performances: 9

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When you sign two esteemed actors like Harrelson and McConaughey, you know what you’re getting. And given that much of the dialogue is centered around those two, it should be no surprise that this category pulled a 9. McConaughey gives a virtuoso performance as the philosophical but yet mysterious and complicated Rust Cohle. Not too far a deviation from the roles he did for all his “McConaissance” movies. He certainly has found a groove in that “out-there” style of performance. It nearly nabbed him the 2014 Emmy, but it was Cranston’s last dance with the pantheon show Breaking Bad.

As for Woody Harrelson, he was the perfect counterpart to his partners doom and gloom. I particularly found amusing their attempt at on the job male bonding. Harrelson dead pan looks at the sheer ludicrousness of his partners view on humanity and their back and forth jabs at each other brought a welcomed light to such a dark show. He was the perfect balance to McConaughey. But it wasn’t just these two, I found every villain or low-life scum in the detective’s way to be worth the squeeze; Dewall, Reggie Ledoux, Charlie Lange and the biker drug-addict Ginger. And I cannot forget to mention the two investigating officers, as Michael Potts (Det. Gilbough) and Tory Kittles (Det. Papania) were solid as well (you’ll see their other shows on this list as well).

Defining Moment: “The Tracking Shot”

This for me takes the cake. By the end of this scene, I was clutching the couch with white knuckles and absolutely on edge with tense feeling I couldn’t quite shake. What the hell just happened?! Only a minute later as I began to come down  was I told that this scene was a single tracking shot that lasted 6 minutes!! No edits, no cuts. Just 6 minutes of pure perfection. It is considered one of the greatest tracking shots ever done.

 

Season Plot Arc: 6

I’ve sang some pretty high praises of Season 1. But if I had to point out a flaw, it’d have to be how the story seemed to stall in the final episodes before the finale. And I get it, not every show can continue to build the tension and anticipation episode after episode. True Detective started out a little slow but that was necessary for the plot, then it ramped of with the pursuit of Ledoux and the first rumblings of “The Yellow King”. In my opinion the story really peaked after episodes 4 and 5. And it makes sense, the 1995 storyline was always a little bit more interesting. Almost an origins story on how present day Rust and Marty came to be. Like what exactly led to Cohle looking like this in 2012? I myself felt a waning interest when the show veered towards the “Rust did it” arc. I thought it was a cop out, it was too easy for us to believe that storyline and yet the show did it anyways. It also delved into the demise of Marty Hart as well. Not unwatchable but also not like both the detectives going undercover in a highly dangerous drug mulling biker gang. I will give them credit for keeping the pacing going with the Yellow King storyline and Carcosa. In those weeks leading up to the finale, every possible scenario was thrown out on who was the man behind the curtain and his monster who did his bidding.

Finale/Cliffhanger: 6

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There are times when the anticipation for a certain event or closure of a show are at a fever pitch. Breaking Bad experienced this when they concluded their series run. The reveal of “The Carver” in Nip/Tuck’s Season 3 finale was up there as well. Unfortunately, the reality almost never matches the hype. This was the case for the True Detective finale. The whole series we were pulled by this carrot of the Yellow King of Carcosa. We finally knew who the monster at the end of the tunnel was as Errol Childress was revealed at the end of episode 7 to be the man with the horrible scars. Their pursuit of the Childress into the hellish labyrinth that was Carcosa definitely lived up to its billing visually. Even the final showdown between good and evil in that open tower was pretty amazing to take in. This inherently evil monster that seemed to have super human strength only added the lore that was built up around him. But when good prevailed and Marty and Rust dramatically defeated the monster. I was left feeling a little let down. Who was the Yellow King? Where was this cult of wealthy devil worshipers? The finale ends with both Rust and Marty improbably surviving and recovering at Lafayette General. Marty helps Rust outside so he can look at the stars. Rust goes on another monologue about life and what he saw of the after-life. It hits him pretty hard. And he even leaves with some optimism, “if you ask me, the light is winning”.

But to not even touch the subject of who the true Yellow King was, even after leaving clue after clue was disappointing to say the least. But all in all, it was a good finale, not epic but at the end of the day I felt that I finished something that was special. And that means something more to me, the experience, that is what will stay with me forever.

-MikeV87

 

 

 

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The Top 20 Television Seasons – #15

Here is the other dance partner to my last ranking. As I said in the post before, #16 and #15 are almost legacy rankings here. The HBO juggernaut Game of Thrones followed the premiere of The Walking Dead by a mere 6 months and their shared success has irrevocably changed the landscape of TV since. This started the transition from the traditional male anti-hero relatable theme (Breaking Bad, Sopranos, Mad Men etc.) to a larger scale movie-like production that didn’t necessarily have to adhere to the common rules of television. Shows like TWD and GOT (Game of Thrones) could take more risks because one, they already had the literary foundation already in place and a somewhat established fan base. But more importantly, they were just too big to fail. And it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they are both the most consumed products on TV right now. It is they who sit on the iron throne of television at the moment and they don’t look to be relinquishing that title any time soon.

The current list so far:

#20 – The O.C. Season 1

#19 – Nip/Tuck Season 2

#18 – Homeland Season 2

#17 – Mr. Robot Season 1

#16 – The Walking Dead Season 1

#15 – Game of Thrones Season 1 – Score: 27

Rewatchability: 7

The oft-mentioned caution when recommending GOT to anyone is the enormity of the characters that are thrown at you in Season 1. Yes, the show does pull you in immediately with one of the better opening scenes you’ll see on TV. But soon you are dragged into a minutia of characters that all belong to one family or another and it gets difficult keeping the names straight, at least the first time that is. I think I’m on re-watch #4 or #5 as I am currently catching up my roommates in time for Season 6. Every time I watch it the show gets better and better. GOT S1 has subtle hints about future events littered throughout, and whether that hint may come to fruition 5 episodes later or 5 seasons later, the second and third time through watching Thrones often brings a superior viewing experience than the first. Season 1 does offer some iconic moments for the series as a whole. Mainly the absolute and unexpected beheading of show favorite Ned Stark in the seasons penultimate episode (which has started a noticeable trend, every episode 9, you know shit is going down). We also had the birth of dragons and the ascension of  Daenerys Targaryen from Dothraki queen to the aforementioned Mother of Dragons. Season 1 set the tone for many of things in GOT to follow and it gets on this list because it was the first to do so, and do it very well. Of course that is not to say that it is the only GOT season you may see on the list, guess you’ll have to wait and see.

Acting Performances: 7

Tywin-Lannister

Thrones has always been a strong performer in this category. Mainly due to Peter Dinklage and his role of the dwarf imp Tyrion Lannister. In 2011, Dinklage took home the first of his now two Emmy awards for Best Male Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (2011 & 2015). He has been nominated every year since and has been a staple of a talented and well-rounded cast. Lena Headey (Queen Cersei Lannister) and Emilie Clarke (Daenerys  Targaryen) showcased strong female leads in Season 1 that now has become commonplace in GOT. I for one was riveted by the performance given by acting veteran Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister). In Season 1, Lady Olenna’s comment about Tywin in Season 5,”it is so rare these days that a man actually lives up to his reputation”, could’ve be used for Charles as much as it was for Tywin. I must mention a few more noteworthy actors before we move on. Aiden Gillen (Lord Petyr Baelish) who some of you remember from his unforgettable role in The Wire, was another vital cog to this show. As far as Season 1 is concerned, Sean Beam puts his own memorable stamp on the honorable Ned Stark. And as it pains me to say it, Jack Gleeson as everyone’s favorite little shit, Joffery Baratheon, has to be mentioned as well. And last but not least, Maisise Williams as little Ayra Stark. I could go on but that might take the rest of the day. Stellar casting as always.

Season Plot Arc: 6

Immediately we are shown the White Walkers in as gruesome of a start to a series as you will see. One of the better teases to start a show because we rarely see them again in Season 1. The somewhat boring story arcs is really base on legends and mythology, and not actual experience. We are taught of Robert’s Rebellion, Ned Stark’s bastard, the dragons of old and that winter is coming. But no flashbacks, no visual memories, just words and even more words. We finally see some action as the cut-throat political game begins to take shape as Ned investigates the death of former Hand of the King Jon Arryn. The Lannisters and Starks are at odds throughout most of Season 1; from Bran’s fall and attempted assignation to Tryion’s capture and the eventual betrayal and beheading of Ned Stark by the vicious Lannister bastard, Joffrey Baratheon. On the other side of the world in Essos, the last two dragons Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen begin their slow journey to take back the iron throne in Westeros. Daenerys becomes a fan favorite early on because we sense that she is meant for bigger and better things (the nudity doesn’t hurt either). Her meteoric rise from Dothraki timid bride to the eventual Mother of Dragons is captivating to say the least. Each step she takes, she asserts her power more and more. But she also begins to show the qualities of a ruler worthy of the name and title.

There are many landmark moments in Thrones S1. I will touch on two in a moment but cannot forget to mention some of the lesser known ones because they too built the framework of what is Season 1. Rob Stark assuming the house leadership once his father is imprisoned is a seminal moment. My favorite moment of Rob is perhaps his first battle against the Lannisters. His anointing of the King of the North is another. Robb Stark ascension to “The Young Wolf” is one of the biggest reasons why I contend Season 1 belongs on this list, that and……..

Defining Moment

Again, given the flow of the post I’m going to put the Defining Moment here. It was a tough call between this and the final moments of Season 1 but this generated more WTF and outrage than the birth of dragons.

Ned Stark executed

Season Finale/Cliffhanger: 8

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Cliffhanger. The image or scene that leaves you without words and contemplating what the hell just happened. The Thrones Season 1 finale was very good, not epic but very few on this list are. We are left to pick up the remains in the immediate aftermath of Ned Stark’s beheading. Most of us held out hope that because we actually didn’t see his head chopped off, maybe, just maybe he lived or was saved. Yeah…they wasted about 3 seconds in the finale before Ser IIyn Payne carried off his head in a basket. Robb Stark swore revenge, Lady Catlin urged patience before uttering, “kill them all”. But the drop the mic moment was in the East. Khal Drogo was a vegetable after Daenerys black magic attempt the save him backfired and she paid for it with the death of her newborn son. Beaten down and nearly broken, she played her trump card. She marched into the fire burial of Drogo with her three dormant dragon eggs. Most of her followers left and even the most ardent of believers looked on with doubt as their Khaleesi walked into the burning flames. Alas, in the morning Ser Jorah Mormont saw as the smoke and ashes gave way, Daenerys stood naked, unscathed and with three tiny dragons. The mythical and fabled creatures of lore had been born of fire, and their mother stood tall and like a queen to be feared, loved and respected all in one. We were left thinking that while there maybe be White Walkers in the North, there is now dragons in the East and shit will go down.

-MikeV87

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #16

The next two on my list I group together as almost a legacy starting point. Both of these shows are the biggest and most aggressive projects going right now. They started the future of TV back in 2010 and 2011 with innovative new ways to showcase what use to be small screen medium, and make it feel like a movie experience. The first one at #16 is the The Walking Dead Season 1.

Here is the list so far:

#20 – The O.C. Season 1

#19 – Nip/Tuck Season 2

#18 – Homeland Season 2

#17 – Mr. Robot Season 1

#16 – The Walking Dead Season 1 – Score: 26

Rewatchability: 7

I still contend to this day that the best stretch that TWD (The Walking Dead) has ever had was its first six episodes. Although with the way the second half of Season 6 has started, it may have some legit competition very soon. The first season of TWD grabbed everyone’s attention for a couple of reasons. Yes the visual effects were amazing. Yes, zombies are in right now as part popular culture. But in my opinion, it was the first real attempt to tell the long-form story of the post-apocalyptic world on the small screen. Myself in particular was riveted by what I would do in Rick shoes as he begins to see the landscape of a world that he truly does not recognize anymore. The ultimate nightmare that we all may have had in our dreams was now his walking reality. His slow march on horseback into a desolate Atlanta is one of many lasting impressions TWD makes in Season 1. Everyone remembers the first time Glenn radios into the tank that Rick is hiding in as his silent prayer is answered. All of us Boondock Saints fans were immediately 100% in when we saw Murphy McManus aka Daryl Dixon come through those woods as part of the new group. What separates TWD from other shows that didn’t make the list and even other TWD seasons, was that we got to see the end of the world first hand on a large scale. What it would feel like, how we would survive and what does hopelessness really look like. Make no mistake, we took every step along the way with Rick, from the hospital room to the CDC. And it never gets old.

 

Acting Performances: 6

Definitely their weakest category here. I put it as slightly above average. Never once was TWD nominated for a single Prime Time Emmy for acting since 2011. And that is fine, not every show needs a behemoth like Jon Hamm or Bryan Cranston to get on this list. I feel that the overall story of the human emotion in a show like this is really the bigger focus here. Obviously their ratings are just fine without the need of any award show prestige. Andrew Lincoln’s (Rick Grimes) performance in those first couple episodes were probably the best work he’s done since the jail scene when his wife Lori dies. I also enjoyed the brief but notable role of Noah Emmerich as the CDC Dr. Edwin Jenner in the Season 1 finale. Good stuff, but not what TWD hung its hat on.

 

Season 1 Plot Arc: 7

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Being static in my opinion has been the main downfall of numerous TWD seasons. We all suffered through what seemed like an eternity on Hershel’s farm in Season 2, till walkers burned that place down to the ground. Season 1 struck the perfect balance of keeping the scenery fresh episode to episode. And each time it changed, we gained more and more information on just how dire the situation really was. We see the dead had overrun Rick’s hometown. But what about the bigger metro areas of Georgia? Surely a major American city like Atlanta had not fallen in a matter of months? Wrong. And we see the absolute chaos the city had become as thousands upon thousands of walkers occupied every corner of it. As Rick said in his radio transmission to Morgan, “The city now belongs to the dead”. Was anywhere safe? The backwoods were to a degree, but eventually they got over ran towards the end of Season 1. The mission to the CDC was great theater for me as it represented a symbol of hope and maybe some clarity on an answer to the season long question, can the zombies be stopped?

 

Season Finale/Cliffhanger: 6

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Hope is a great word to describe the finale. This episode hinged on it. And that hope was all but extinguished as Dr. Jenner refused to open the doors, only for him to relent and provide the group refuge after Rick’s hysterical eleventh hour pleas were answered. This was an impenetrable fortress that was built to house even deadlier diseases and threats than what was outside those walls. For the first time the group experienced some solace in the form of a hot shower, a warm bed and a chilled glass of wine. But even that was short lived. We learned very early on in TWD Season 1, never get too comfortable with anybody or any place. Dr. Jenner quickly dashed any prospect of a zombie end game for the group. The United States was overrun, Paris was the last known place to hold out but even they, he believed, had fallen to the dead. For all the comfort they found within those walls, it would be soon their final resting place as Jenner had triggered the self-destruction of the facility with a 30-minute countdown and was allowing no one to leave. The finale left us with the prospect of giving up or continuing to fight for even the slightest sliver of hope. And that, in the end, is all what Rick and the group wanted. Jenner gives in and opens the door, but not before he whispers some very valuable information that we do not get to know until the very end of Season 2. The groups moves on and so do we as we wait for the smoking gun that will ultimately end this nightmare of a reality.

Defining Moment:

I went a little different here. Usually I pull a YouTube clip that is directly from the show. But this time I went with a music video that splices together almost all of the Atlanta scene. Enjoy.

 

-MikeV87

 

BTL Packers Podcast 2.13

Our final edition of this years BTL Packers Podcast. We waited until the dust from Super Bowl 50 had settled to wrap the 2015 Packers.

In this episode:

-Talk about the one X-Factor the Packers need in order to reach Super Bowl 51 in Houston

-We hand out position group grades; highlight players who stood out and those that regressed

-We ask some important questions about the coaching staff and the front office

-And I give you a preview of my new project, “The NFL Wine Cellar Team 1995-2015”.

It’s a good one, so as always, enjoy and be sure to like and share the podcast!

-MikeV87

 

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #17

We live in an age of instant reaction. Whatever was just last is often over hyped and overindulged. In doing this list I’ve wondered if I am held prisoner of Mr. Robot’s moment. It was the unquestioned “show of the summer” and in my opinion, the best show in 2015. Mr. Robot met and exceeded all expectations. It had as close to a perfect first season as one could get. So in short, I don’t think I’m pulling a Skip Bayless putting it at #17.

Before we jump in, here is the list so far:

#20 – The O.C. Season 1

#19 – Nip/Tuck Season 2

#18 – Homeland Season 2

#17- Mr. Robot Season 1 – Score : 26

Rewatchability: 6

Sometimes in a show, the second and third time through reveals more to the eye and gives you even greater satisfaction than the inaugural viewing. Mr. Robot is the shining example. The show initially draws you into its main character Elliot Alderson, a socially awkward computer hacker that has obvious physiological problems. Its main character voice-over narration is very similar to Dexter in that you have to take the narrators’ point of view as truth. But as you go along, Mr. Robot begins to break all of televisions’ rules and yet the audience never loses faith, in fact quite it’s the opposite. You begin to question what true meaning is behind some of these scenes, even when you are on the 3rd or 4th time. Like why does Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) only seem to interact with Elliot in the beginning of his recruitment in F Society? Or how much of Elliot’s morphine-fueled withdraw hallucinations can be taken at face value or is there some deep seeded clue that is lingering in there. Then there is Elliot breaking the 4th wall of TV multiple times and directly talking to the audience only for us to question ourselves as much as he does his own sanity. Everything leads up to the atomic bomb Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail dropped on us at the end of episode 8 where Darla turns out to be Elliot’s sister. That leads Elliot down the dark rabbit hole to finding out Mr. Robot is in fact his father. And just when you think the Fight Club homage is not possible because it’d be way too cheesy, Esmail drops the perfect cover for The Pixies, Where is my Mind, at the end of 9 and it just clicks . I’m on re-watch #4 and I still can’t get enough of it.

Acting Performances: 8

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MR. ROBOT — “hellofriend.mov” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Christian Slater as Mr. Robot, Rami Malek as Elliot — (Photo by: Peter Kramer/USA Network)

This is where Mr. Robot makes its bones. Esmail hit a grand slam with the casting of Elliot Alderson in his choice of Rami Malek. Only seen before in smaller roles in the Night at the Museum series and Need for Speed, he was a relative unknown before Mr. Robot. I have always thought that an actor’s eyes can tell the entire story of the moment with no need for words. Malek owned this role with his eyes, they are piercing, confused, emotionless and downright chilling when called upon. I expect him to win to win the Emmy for Best Actor hands down, unless someone pulls a 72’ Marlon Brando between now and June, Malek takes home the hardware.

But this isn’t just the Elliot show. The grizzled veteran Christian Slater puts up a career performance with his portrayal of the shows calling card, Mr. Robot. He is the conscience and soul of the show. He is both the little red devil and the white angel on Elliot’s shoulder, steering him towards saving the world and at the same time absolute chaos. Slater just took home the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, now while it is not the Emmy, don’t be surprised if he grabs that one too (Dinklage will have something to say about that though).

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Martin Wallström who is a modern day Patrick Bateman with his role as the young psychotic executive of Evil Corp. Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday and Frankie Shaw killed it as the ladies of Mr. Robot. Esmail didn’t just hit a home run with Malek, he hit on seemingly every single major cast member. Very few were as good as Mr. Robot was in this category on the list.

Season 1 Plot Arc: 7

Every first season’s plot arc has a feel. Some start fast and then cool till the finale. Some take a little while to get going, sometimes too long. The better ones build the tension like a steady incline on a roller coaster, and then all the sudden the bottom drops out and you are not quite sure where the hell you’re going from here. That is how this season felt for me. The initial mission of “saving the world” through erasing the global debt in the modern day era had me hooked. But with that, the journey through our protagonist’s unstable neurosis of mind was just as captivating. Whether it was the hallucinations during the withdrawal, the mission in Steel Mountain or Elliot’s deal with the Vera. Everything always felt like the house of cards were about to come crashing down….. Until they eventually did with Elliot’s psychosis rearing its ugly head at the end of episode 8. And through everything there was still a world to be saved, a tyrant to be brought down and it all was held together in the mind of Elliot Alderson….or maybe it was Mr. Robot…you know what, even now I’m not completely sure who gets the credit. Even if it was just for one episode, I got to see what the “end of the world” looked like, and that was pretty cool.

Defining Moment:

(I’m putting the defining moment here because it flows a lot better with the arc of this post. Unfortunately YouTube does not have a full clip of this yet, so a description will have to do)

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There are so many to choose from. My personal favorite is in the penultimate episode at the very end of 9 where Tyrell confronts Elliot with the truth and makes him choose between death or partnership; with Where is my Mind playing in the background, Elliot takes him to the F Society headquarters and reveals everything. When asked what he hoped to accomplished by Wellick, Elliot pauses and in the most truthful moment he has had yet delivers, “I don’t know….I guess I wanted to save the world”. Elliot then glances towards the popcorn machine where he knows a gun is hidden.

Season Finale/Cliffhanger: 5

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In light of the terrible tragedy of two Virginia TV reporters on air deaths, the finale was postponed one week. Esmail made the right call in respect to the families of the deceased. The finale as a whole was solid in my opinion, but not spectacular. We wake up with Elliot as he had apparently blacked out of the course of a couple days since his meeting with Tyrell Wellick the episode before, only Wellick is nowhere to be found and Elliot is in his SUV alone. The mission to wipe all the debt from Evil Corp was pulled off during Elliot’s black out. The world is free and yet in turmoil at the same time. We see an Evil Corp executive commit suicide on national television over the despair of both his company and existence in ruin. Elliot is finally confronted by his dad, but this time accompanied by a younger version of his mom and sister. The course of action “he” has now taken is irrevocably set in stone. Elliot saved the world but what is next? Was he ever prepared for the new world he has now created? And where the hell is Tyrell Wellick? Elliot runs into his wife and child outside of his apartment, she has some rather threatening words to Elliot should anything bad have had happened to him. A whole new world…but is it better?

As I said, rather average finale. The entire episode gets a boost from a bonus scene at the end of the credits as we are shown a secret “illuminati-esque” gathering at a secluded mansion. Make no mistake, the men who play god with the world are hardly worried about the supposed death blow dealt by Elliot and F Society.

-MikeV87

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #18

#20 – The O.C. Season 1

#19 – Nip/Tuck Season 2

#18 – Homeland Season 2– Score: 25

Say what you will about Homeland the series as a whole, the first two season’s stand apart. Season 2 is its best because while Season 1 introduced us to something that was very current with the time in 2011; an internal threat from radical Muslim extremists. Homeland’s second rendition built upon everything Season 1 accomplished but really outdid themselves in terms of pure drama. Season 2 was by far their finest hour.

Rewatchability: 5

There were many landmark moments. The mission to capture Abu Nazir really opens a Pandora’s Box as Brody compromises the CIA’s attempt at the leader of al-Queda. The cat and mouse game of the CIA, Nazir and Brody is riveting as we don’t know for sure who is going to get caught, and with what, and what does that mean going forward. Throw in the fact that Carrie is spear-heading all of this and is as emotionally unstable as anyone in television history just adds to the constant theatrics. Saul finding Brody’s confession tape, and then showing it to Carrie and Estes. The arrival of Peter Quinn and the threat of Estes using Quinn to pull the trigger to kill Brody is a constant through the entire season. I’d say more but we got to leave room for the meat and potatoes of what made Homeland S2 so memorable.

Acting Performances: 7

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This is probably its strongest category. Both Damien Leiws (Nicholas Brody) and Claire Danes (Carrie Mathison) were nominated for the Emmy for their performances in the lead drama role. With Danes taking home her second consecutive Emmy win for the role of Carrie Mathison. The show also garnered the Emmy win for Best Writing in 2013. But what wait, there’s more lol.  Mandy Patinkin (Saul Berenson) also received an Emmy nod in for Best Supporting Actor, his second in a row. We also saw Navid Negahban (Abu Nazir) have a lot more screen time than in the first season, and as the chief antagonist and the show’s symbol of evil, he portrayed a man unequivocal in his believe that he was just in his actions. His scene with then captured Carrie Mathison was simply memorizing as he delivered perhaps the show’s best monologue as he described the obstinate unbreakable will of his peoples cause.

Season 2 Plot Arc: 5

Season 1 was about Brody turn and Carrie’s suspicion. Season 2 the cat is out of the bag, everyone knows, and Brody decides to turn yet again and become a double agent for the CIA in their ultimate pursuit of capturing Abu Nazir. Brody is continually torn between the right path; whether that means his loyalty to Nazir and his country, or Carrie and his family. But what makes this season remarkable is Nazir himself. He is planning an attack on the US as he finally lands stateside during the middle of the season. While capturing Carrie, he threatens to kill her unless Brody gets Nazir the serial number to the Vice President’s pace maker. Brody does and his actions lead to the VP’s death. Nazir is eventually shot by snipers and the CIA lands an important victory. But what to do about the former traitor Brody? As the main character, we all find it hard to have a show without him but he is constantly in the crosshairs of the Estes and the CIA, more than once there is an attempt on his life. But each time, mostly by outside forces, he escapes clean. Until….

The Finale/Cliffhanger: 8

Nazir is dead. Brody’s life is safe for now. He has made the decision to leave his family and continue on with Carrie. All that is left is a memorial at the CIA headquarters in Langley for the death of Vice President Walden. Saul is in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere to oversee the water-burial of Abu Nazir. Everything is tying up neatly. And what happens next is one of the greatest out-of-leftfield/where do we go from here moments! As Estes gives the eulogy to the near 300 mourners in attendance, Carrie and Brody sneak off to Saul’s office to speak. Brody looks out the window and sees his car has been moved and parked right outside the doors to the memorial hall, EXPLOSION!!!! The building is leveled! Carrie and Brody escape the brunt on the blow but are still knocked unconscious. As they come to, Brody pleads with Carrie as he had nothing to do with it. They flee and will try to leave the country as it looks really bad for Brody. As they fill up with the necessary supplies, they see a news report that Al-Queda has taken responsibility for the attack and play Brody’s confession video from Season 1. Brody is now public enemy #1. Carrie leads Brody to the Canadian border where he must make it to Montreal on foot, Carrie leaves him, promising to clear his name. Carrie meets up later with Saul at Langley as he stands among the rows and rows bodies. The death toll is 200 and rising; Estes, Walden’s family, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security, all dead. Saul is now acting director of the CIA and Carrie must clear Brody’s name.

Defining Moment:

Unfortunately there is not one single YouTube clip on the Season 2 ending (I know, shitty). But I will leave you with a still of the explosion.

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-MikeV87