Passing the Torch

The other day I was talking to a young guy at work. Now, by young I’m talking relatively.  Looking at him and basing my opinion on appearance, work experience, the fact that he has a wife and a child, I’d say he’s somewhere between 27 and 32 years old.  Well, we were discussing stuff and Fred Flintstone came up.  We were talking about car tires and how Fred could chisel out a spare when he got a flat.  There were some general comments on the unenlightened character of Fred and I said that Fred was a cartoon copy of the Jackie Gleason character Ralph Kramden and how Ralph was a comical but fair representation of the working class guy of the nineteen fifties.  This elicited blank unrecognition of Jackie Gleason, Ralph Kramden and the Honeymooners in general.  I guess this surprised me.  After all older shows that I watched on TV as a kid were still well known to younger people.  For instance, The Three Stooges were from the 1930s and 1940s and yet they are a fixture on television and are still relatively well-known.  I guessed that the Honeymooners must have disappeared from television far enough back to completely disappear from the present adult population’s collective TV consciousness.  That bothered me.

Why do I think that the Honeymooners shouldn’t disappear? First of all I don’t pretend that the Kramden household represents some golden age portrayal of American marital bliss.  Ralph is portrayed as pretty dimwitted and Alice is given a certain amount of the female empowerment motive that has reached its disgusting fruition in our present feminized society.  She often wins the argument by proving to Ralph just how superior she is and how unfair her role as homemaker is.  Deference to her moral superiority is on display most of the time.  But the basis of the show is the underlying rock-bottom premise that a man should be the king of his castle.  Even in the derisive arguments that Alice gives Ralph at every turn is the bottom line of “so if you’re the boss, what do we do now?”  No matter what dumb thing Kramden does, he is the master of his soul.  He will have to find a way to prevail.  And like it or not, Alice will have to back his play.  And good, bad or indifferent she would rather go along with him than go it alone.  He may be the lowest rung on the totem pole but he is still the alpha male.  And in a few episodes he does get to prove himself the king.  The one that stands out is of course one of the least plausible.  Ralph has obtained a bag full of counterfeit money.  When the gangsters catch up with him they threaten Alice and the neighbors and when Ralph defies them they take him in the back room at gunpoint to work him over and make him comply on giving them the money.  And in this crisis Ralph prevails.  He beats up the thug and rescues his wife and neighbors.  Of course, in the next minute he tries to cash in on his achievement and makes himself ridiculous, but his victory stands as proof that he is the man of the house.  And for once even Alice can’t diminish his victory.

And the other aspect that endears the show to me is the working class ethos. For the most part, American TV exists to reflect the world-view and the sensibilities of the upper middle class.  Even when they are portrayed as struggling twenty-somethings you can see that missing a meal or not having the status symbol item is not part of their existence.  They are the cloud people.  By contrast, the Kramdens and the Nortons (their upstairs friends and neighbors) don’t have two nickels to rub together.  Even buying a new bowling ball can be outside the realm of possibility.  These are people who aspire to be lower middle class.  Ralph dreams up countless get rich quick schemes to allow him to make Alice proud of him.  And he always fails but he never gives up.  That is the kind of message that the young people need to get.  Not that everything will be handed to them on a silver platter.  And not that they can’t decide what is good enough for them.  For that is the message that is out there now.  The government will provide what you need and also decide what you don’t need (or deserve).

So I’m going to do my best to spread the word to the kids about Ralph Kramden and the Honeymooners. I think the show is an antidote for the namby pamby male sterotypes currently infesting television and the movies.  He may be a colossal failure but he certainly is king of his castle.  And that’s a good thing to be.

 

 

My Favorite Show Last Night

So I’ve repeatedly called the Trump presidency “the greatest show on earth.” Honestly, it really is.  I watched the President’s address.  My only objection was having to hear one or two minutes of Shep Smith yammering in the background before the broadcast.  But that faded out of my mind right away.  One of the first things that struck me was that President Trump was having a good time going through the ritual.  He shook hands with Pence and Ryan more than once before he got started.  He always added something at the end of a sentence to intensify or personalize what he was reading off the teleprompter.  He applauded all of his guests very vigorously and he seemed at certain points to be speaking directly to the Democratic Congress as if to chastise them for their lack of enthusiasm about undeniably patriotic and sympathetic topics.  At one point, his expression and his hand gestures seemed to be saying to the Dems, “Come on applaud!”  The news said it was one of the longer SOTU addresses but honestly it seems to go quickly for me.  And I’m not just comparing it to the torturous Obama addresses.  Even W was too long for my tastes.  Probably because it didn’t entertain.  Trump was fun to watch.  The hand gestures, his claims to non-partisan motives and the general appeal to a patriotic agenda were highly effective.  I especially enjoyed his rhetorical shot at the NFL Anthem Kneelers right before the Super Bowl.  Masterfully done.  And, of course there was the kill shot, “young Americans have dreams too.”  Gold, Jerry, gold.

I’m sure there were some right wingers who were upset about the 1.8 million dreamers being brought up as a pillar of Trump’s four part plan on immigration but honestly, there isn’t a prayer in the world of Cryin’ Chuck accepting the wall and all the rest of the good stuff Trump loaded into his plan. I look at it as a poisoned pill that the Dems will refuse to touch.  What other choice will Trump have than to go to the American people and tell them to give him more Republicans in November to get his job done correctly.  I’m guessing a few years ago I would have been one of those complaining about this offer.  But I have learned my lesson.  Ann Coulter was right, “In Trump We Trust.”

Some of the other facets of the experience were the cutaways to people in the audience. Pelosi was the most consistent.  Her expression seemed to be saying, “That egg salad sandwich I just ate must have gone bad.”  Honestly she looked like she had to throw up but was gritting her teeth to stop it.  Schumer was draped over his chair like it was a recliner.  He was just sitting there taking it all in.  Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus looked enraged, especially when he talked about historically low black unemployment.  One of the highlights was when Trump mentioned the presence in the audience of Congressman Steve Scalise, recovered from the gunshot wounds he received at the hands of a crazed Democratic supporter last year.  That was a feel good moment that Trump seemed especially to relish.  First Lady, Melania Trump was in the gallery with the guests and looked typically dignified and lovely.  I read this morning that CNN claimed that Melania wore white as a protest against her husband’s alleged dalliance with a porn star, although why white would be an effective protest color is beyond my meager understanding.  Honestly, these people really have lost what little minds they had.  Several of the guests were associated with MS-13 gang related violence.  There were the four parents of two murdered Long Island teenage girls and an Hispanic law enforcement officer who ignored death threats to lock up a large number of these gang members.  These were highly emotional moments that made a deep impact.  However I believe the most charged moment came when Trump said that American heroes lived not only in the past but also today and the Republican audience started chanting USA, USA, USA.  At that point Democratic Representative  Luis Gutierrez literally got up and walked out of the assembly.  Good times, good times.  So what else could you ask for?  Well, actually, if you remember my recent “Trump vs SOTU” spoof, I included Trump insulting his enemies and having the FBI “Secret Society” members frog-marched out of the House of Representatives in the middle of the address and hauled off to jail.  Well, sure that would have been cool.  But you can’t expect reality to be as cool as my imagination.  But, then again, this is Trump so maybe he’s just saving something for next January.

Science Fiction TV Series Review – Stranger Things – First Season

Full disclosure, I am the only one I know who still uses Netflix for DVDs and doesn’t stream.  Oh, the shame of it all!  So last month the first season of Stranger Things became available to rent on Netflix (or as it’s now known DVD.com) and they sent me the two discs.  I was busy with life and the holidays so I watched it after the Christmas during some time off from work.  For anyone who hasn’t seen it but is interested or for anyone who wants my opinion here are my thoughts.

Let me start with the strongest impression the show left.  Almost everyone in the show is not particularly likeable.  Let me expand.  Many of the characters are annoying or worse.  In particular, the character who should most attract our sympathy, the mother of the missing boy, played by Winona Ryder, is hands down in the top three of the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen in a movie or tv.  Several times I was hoping the town sheriff would pull out his gun and shoot her or at least pistol whip her to make her shut up.  There was one character I liked.  He was a strong, caring, humorous, warm, responsible, regular guy who used good judgement and compassion to help a troubled runaway pre-teen.  He was shot in the head about six minutes after his first screen appearance.  After that it was annoying nerds, arrogant jocks, clueless suburban parents, alcoholic lawmen and nefarious government officials all the way down.  Eventually the hell-spawned creature makes some appearances, and interestingly, I found myself kind of rooting for him.  At least he didn’t blather on.

The season is eight episodes long and I finished them.  After reading what I just wrote, you may be wondering why I did finish them.  Well, surprisingly, I found myself sucked into the story.  Maybe this was an artifact of having all the episodes in front of me, time available to watch them and post-Christmas-Feast stupefaction.  But for some reason, at the end of each episode I wanted to see the next one.  And even after I knew how it would go I wanted to see it through to the end.

So, what’s my recommendation?  Well, guarded at best.  The plot is some kind of bastard spawn of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and the X-Files.  The tropes are hackneyed and the characters, as mentioned, are mostly stereotypes and annoying ones at that.  Two episodes in you know how it will go and who will do what.  Honestly if someone had told me this ahead of time, there is no way I would have watched it.  But now that I have watched it I’m wondering if I should wait the year and watch Season 2.  My gut tells me that there is no way to make the next season even as mildly interesting as this first season.  And the thought of listening to Winona Ryder screeching at her unfortunate neighbors again is hard to justify.

I was starting to like how the sheriff usually settled difficult negotiations by punching people in the face.  His timing was really good.  The sheriff, played by an actor named David Harbour, is a big guy who drinks too much and sleeps around with the various lonelier ladies of the small midwestern town where the story takes place.  I found him the only character that I actually believed might exist in the real world.  But is seeing Sheriff Hopper pummel various “men in black” enough of a reason to sit through this thing again?  I doubt it, but it’ll be a whole year before I have to make that decision and pickings are so slim, so who knows.  Anyway, consider yourself warned, if a review that’s a year behind the times can be considered a warning.

21SEP2017 Update

So today is the last full day of summer.  Gahhh!  The horror begins soon so it’s time to have fun while we can.  Saturday I’ll have my two older grandsons over for a Lord of the Rings marathon.  I think the extended version comes to about eleven hours.  Breaking it up with grilled cheese sandwiches for them and corned beef and swiss for me, it will be a full day.  Dinner will be another fan favorite spaghetti and meat balls.  Camera Girl will do the cooking but abstain from the cinema.  She’s a Tolkien agnostic, heaven help her.

As anyone who faithfully reads my reviews knows I consider Justified the most consistently well written and actualized tv drama I’ve ever seen.  I have a theory that it’s because the source material is much better than that of the typical (or even superior) tv-show.  So, I’m putting it to the test.

Right now, I’m reading Elmore Leonard’s Raylan Givens novels and short stories.  I read the short story “Fire in the Hole” that was the basis for the first episode of Justified.  The other stories in the collection (of the same name) were all very good too.  Leonard has an enormous reputation as one of the most popular crime writers.  And he has had over twenty of his books made into movies (not counting the tv series Justified).  Based on all that I figure I’ll find out what all the hype is about.  So, I want to see how I like his stuff.  So far, I’m impressed.

The political scene continues to boil like the spaghetti pot I’ll be involved with on Saturday.  Trump continues to engage all important events in his typical iconic and bombastic style.  Of course, you’d have to be made of stone not to be nervous about all the various balls in the air.  But I’ve learned to give Trump some time to get things done in his own way.  After all he is herding particularly annoying cats (and rats).  The right-wing folks are going through some growing pains on the various sites.  Hopefully it’ll sort itself out sooner than later.  I take a sort of neutral position on these things and wait to see how things are settled.

On the photography front I’ve added the ability to embed photos in the comments so go ahead if something in a post inspires a photo of your own.  The plug-in that makes this possible has the following instructions:

This plugin embeds image links in comments with the img tag so the images are visible in your comment timeline.

Image formats supported:

  1. .jpg
  2. .gif
  3. .png

 

I’m not an expert on this computer stuff so I’ll do my best to get things to work but have patience if there are problems.

On the review front, I’m going to write something on my recent toe-dip into anime.  In addition to my recent viewing of Cowboy Bebop I watched Ghost in the Shell 2.0.  I’ll share my thoughts.

Other film ideas, I rented the second John Wick film and I’ll put together my thoughts on both films after watching it, maybe this weekend.

I haven’t decided what sf&f book to read next.  Suggestions are always welcome.

Cowboy Bebop – A Sci-Fi TV Review – Part 3

I have now finished off all the Cowboy Bebop (CB) available as DVDs on Netflix (Discs 4 and 6 are permanently unavailable).  This includes the 2-hour movie which I watched last night.  And I think that’s sufficient to allow me to make a definitive judgement on the series vis-à-vis my taste.

It’s good.

It has some weaknesses from my point of view.  There is a silliness that can be annoying for me.  The crazy adolescent girl Edward can be a bit much.  Some of the episodes are pretty thin on plot.  And some of the space battle scenes seem (not surprisingly) cartoonish.  I think most of this can be chalked up to the standard cartoon sci-fi conventions.  Things are simplified and standardized to allow economic production of the animation product.  And to be fair, since I have never been a comic book or movie consumer, I’m not their primary audience.  To an anime consume, CB is probably well to the right side of the standard deviation curve with respect to production values, plot and characterization.

I like the quality of the animation especially the scenes in outer space.  Some of it is strikingly well done.  I liked the scenario of independent contractors moving in and out of the legitimate world acting as bounty hunters while they themselves are not without a certain air of criminality.  And obviously here are the similarities with Firefly.  After viewing the majority of CB I’ll state that I’m convinced that Whedon borrowed heavily from it when making Firefly.  But I’m sure CB borrowed from earlier anime for some of its ideas so I don’t think it’s a big deal.  But I will say that at this point I’d much prefer a big screen (or big budget tv) version of CB were made rather than of Firefly.  Whedon is such an SJW that he’d probably have Serenity going back in time just to battle Donald Trump.   My only hedge on having CB instead of Firefly is that is I’d like to see Jet Black played by Adam Baldwin.  He would be damn near perfect for the part.

Anyway, I would say that the CB movie demonstrates how a longer treatment of the material improves it.  More characterization shows through and there is more scope for interesting story telling.  Also, the animation of the city in the movie was extremely well done.  It looked like whole sections of New York City were digitized to make the action possible in the chase scenes.  And speaking of the chase scenes, one of the flying chases was a little too long.  Although intricate and well laid out it eventually started to drag on.  The fight scenes between the protagonist Spike and his nemesis were very good and enjoyable.  Most of the minor characters were fairly well utilized.  Surprisingly, the seemingly superfluous presence of the welsh corgi dog on the space ship actually felt like a positive addition to me.  But maybe I just like dogs.

So, bottom line, Cowboy Bebop is good sci-fi anime.  If you don’t particularly like anime you still might enjoy it.  It has piqued my interest in the genre enough that I’m going to give another anime movie (Ghosts in the Shell 2.0) a look-see and find out if this was just a one off or not.

See you Space Cowboy!

Cowboy Bebop – A Sci-Fi TV Review – Part 2

Cowboy Bebop – A Sci-Fi TV Review – Part 1

So I’ve watched two and a half of the discs.  Interestingly Netflix says there is “Unknown Availability” for Discs 3 and 6.  How’s that for the customer is always right?  I’m liking the show.  The episodes vary.  Some are back story.  Some introduce new characters.  There’s usually at least a little bounty hunting involved.  The ratio of comedy to drama is high.  The visuals are a mixture of standard cartoon and high-end graphics.  Some of the space scenes are especially well done and interesting.

I’ve been trying to think of what I can compare the viewing experience to.  As I said in my last post, there is a decidedly close resemblance to the look and atmosphere of Firefly.  But because it’s animated it’s obviously not identical.  And in a related sense it is reminiscent of Westerns.

Not being a recent consumer of Japanese cartoons, I guess another thing it reminds me of are the Japanese cartoons that were on when I was a kid back in the sixties.  One that has a little relevance was “Eighth Man.”  The story was completely unrelated.  But just something about the pacing makes it seem akin in my mind.

With respect to back story, the protagonist, Spike, has a history involved with a crime family.  There is an evil brother figure lurking in his past.  Down the road there is sure to be a reckoning for past sins.

I still don’t know what the relevance of the welsh corgi will be.  Maybe he’ll turn out to be super intelligent.  Right now he’s just sort of annoying.  They’ve also added a young girl who is also (of course) a world class hacker to the crew.  I’m guessing she’s the River Tam of the crew.

So, just to update, not sure where it’s going, still liking it.

Summer 2017 – When the Blockbuster Formula Ran Out of Gas

What do most of the Twilight Zone episodes, the third season of Star Trek and Transformers VI (or whatever number they’re up to this year) have in common? They were no good, nobody wanted to see them and they were written by hacks. Sure, there were a few good Zone episodes and also a few of the Trek episodes were fun or interesting. What I think you’ll notice with these is that the episode was written by somebody creative. The rest of the dreck in these categories was ground out by talentless hacks who couldn’t even spell the word plot let alone write one. And that brings us back to Transformers XX or whatever it is. Great Caesar’s Ghost!

Is the business really that bad? Is there no other way to fund and produce movies than to pile sequel onto sequel? How many times can Sylvester Stallone climb into the ring or jump out of a crashing helicopter? How many times can that stupid alien ravage human colonies before somebody gets around to inventing industrial strength Raid for aliens and drop it on their ugly butts?

As even Deadpool himself said (before his upcoming sequel of course), and I paraphrase, how many times can Liam Neeson let his daughter be Taken before we assume he’s just a not a very good father. Wasn’t Godfather III enough to prove that even the best stories can’t be endlessly resuscitated without being turned into crap?

But you notice, TV is able to make some pretty good stuff. I’ve just finished Justified and I’d put that up against anything I’ve seen in the theater in the last five years. Why the disparity? First of all, Justified was adapted from the works of Elmore Leonard whose stories have time and again translated well into movies. Whereas with these endless sequel franchises, I assume they are assembled from some formula that is somehow supposed to capture the original flavor of the first episode but without the high price of the original screenwriter. Apparently, they’ll pay tens of millions to get Bruce Willis or Jamie Foxx and millions more to CGI the explosions but they’ll settle for the story line to be written by the corporate lawyers who put the financial deal together for the studios.

I think I read that because of the cable fees TV is actually able to monetize their quality shows pretty successfully whereas on the big screen only a giant blockbuster success is lucrative enough to even attract sufficient funding to get made. And that means Terminator 30 gets made before something well written and entertaining like possibly a faithful version of one of Heinlein’s juveniles. I imagine that Citizen of the Galaxy or Farmer in the Sky in the hands of a good screenwriter and director would be very entertaining and very commercial.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Focus Photog, focus. What’s your point? Bring this back around to the title. Bring it home.”
Fine, I will. Hollywood is dead. Long live TV. Except for some extraordinary slam dunks like “The Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” Hollywood is too paralyzed by the fear of losing gobs of money to try and put a quality product together from quality components. And that’s why I don’t feel deprived when I skip whole decades at the theater. There’s nothing there. Even the occasional stand out ends up being barely acceptable. I remember hearing raves about Gravity. When I finally rented it, I was puzzled what all the fuss was about. Okay would be a generous appraisal. The same with “The Martian.” Adequate would cover it.
And it couldn’t happen to a nicer set of people. If DiCaprio and Depp start only making seven figures instead of eight I certainly won’t cry. When they’re replaced by AI – CGI maybe the stories won’t be as insulting to the dirt people. What a concept!

Cowboy Bebop – A Sci-Fi TV Review – Part 1

Years ago, I had read that Cowboy Bebop might have been one of the influences on the making of the TV show Firefly.  Being a big fan of Firefly, you would have thought that I would have tracked it down and watched Cowboy Bebop long ago.  And you would have been wrong.  I never did.  Now this might have been because it was an animated series.  Or maybe because it wasn’t originally an English language show.  Or maybe because I figured it wasn’t as good as Firefly.  Who knows?  Anyway, I started watching the first few episodes last week.  My first conclusion is that Joss Whedon definitely borrowed heavily from the look and feel of Cowboy Bebop.  Secondly, it is an enjoyable show and stands on its own merits.  Now let me qualify that second statement.  It’s a cartoon.  The characters and the action are larger than life.  When a gun fight breaks out bullets saturate every last square inch of wall space around the protagonist.  Every fight has fists and feet flying in all directions and every facial close up has clenched jaw muscles and popping eyes.  Basically, everything is exaggerated to cartoon level.  Oh, and there’s a Welsh Corgi as part of the crew of a space travelling bounty hunters.  Suffice it to say that reality is in no way a condition for something showing up in this show.  But the characters have consistent personalities, the look of the show is very well done, there’s a fascinating backstory with terrible enemies and mysterious women and the plots although wildly unrealistic are (in my opinion) enjoyable.  As I’ve said, I’ve only watched the first five episodes but I like it well enough to want to keep watching it.

 

Alright, now what’s it about?  Cowboy Bebop is a space ship that so far has a crew of three humans and one Welsh Corgi.  They are bounty hunters who work for whatever government (or other organization) that can provide a large enough pay day.  Like on Firefly the culture seems to be a combination of American and Chinese culture.  Also, as on Firefly, humans inhabit a number on moons and planets (but this time within our own solar system).  Cowboy Bebop seems to work on both sides of the interface between the criminal and legal spheres.  Their biggest problems seem to be monetary.  They are chronically short of funds.  The protagonist is named Spike and seems to be a young man in his thirties who enjoys his job as much for the fighting as for the rewards.  In his past, he worked for a very high-level mob boss.  Spike’s partner is an older man with a much angrier façade but can also be depended on in a fight.  The similarities to Mal and Jane Cobb in Firefly are pretty strong.  The regularity with which the ship comes up empty handed after a mission is also a point of similarity to Firefly.

I consider that I prefer live action movies to animation but I’ll go on record as saying that Cowboy Bebop seems a highly creative show and has many features that make it interesting and entertaining.  I look forward to seeing the remainder of the series and will report back on its qualities.

 

So now I know where Whedon got his inspiration.  And maybe his own effort may not have been the superior to the model.

Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 5 – Season 5 & 6 (Conclusion)

Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 4 – Season 3 & 4

 

Wow!

That’s some damn show.  I won’t drop any spoilers.  Suffice it to say that in the last four episodes everything seemed to be going to hell and I was incensed at the trajectory I saw for the plot.  But by the conclusion I was satisfied that there wasn’t a better possible ending.  I’ll take a while to digest the whole story.  There’s a lot there.  Criminals and cops and their girls.  But at the end Raylin and Boyd together are the motor that runs the show.  They are like the two poles of a magnet.  Opposite and linked.  And then there’s Ava.  Who’s responsible for that disaster?  And then there’s just the sheer scope of the mayhem. By the end of the show the killing becomes like a steady rain.  I seriously wondered if the last episode would close on nothing left of the cast but body bags in the morgue.

Justified is a very well-made crime drama.  The main characters are interesting and in some ways sympathetic.  The run of the show is neither too short nor too long to provide a solid entertainment experience.  The story runs its course and the potential of the situation like the coal in one of the Harlan County mines is extracted and exhausted.

In a crime story that has both, it’s sometimes difficult to strike the correct balance between drama and comedy.  In my opinion Justified manages that balance unusually well.  With the large and shifting parade of criminals and lawmen, victims and friends, there were many colorful characters that provided ample opportunities for laughs.  But often that laughter was tinged with disgust at the ignorance, greed or stupidity that was the source.  And the laughs were often at the expense of the lawmen too.  Trying to outsmart idiots sometimes ended up poorly.  And Raylin consistently had troubles with his love life.  Too often it intersected with his work.  And when that happened, his boss Art would call out, “Raylin, would you come in my office and close the door?”

Critiquing entertainment is far from an exact science.  Objectivity is not even a theoretical consideration.  Why I like Justified so much probably has more to do with me than with the show.  And if your tastes are at all different from mine then we could completely disagree on the quality of this TV show.  With all of that said, I highly recommend Justified to anyone who likes well written and acted drama with a healthy dose of ironic humor thrown in for leavening.  Everything about the show is well done and enjoyable.  And probably best of all it has the correct balance.  There is a beginning, middle and end.  At the end, it was enough.  Anymore extracted from these characters will need to be a different chapter in a different place and with a different flavor.  Harlan County, Kentucky has been successfully mined and the treasure collected and sold to the consumers.  Amen.

Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 4 – Season 3 & 4

Justified – Part 3

Camera Girl and I have polished off the first four seasons of Justified and only have seasons 5 and 6 left.  Although a sort of pattern has emerged vis-à-vis the season finale we remain extremely satisfied with the quality of the show and the progression of the story line.  Over the course of the first four seasons we’ve really gotten to know Raylin Givens and his friends and family and enemies and their families.  We’ve seen some major characters come and go (mostly to the great beyond courtesy of Raylin’s pistol) and we’ve seen Raylin’s personal life undergo several painful dislocations.

And we’ve watched Boyd and Ava Crowder move steadily to the dark side.  When I say this, I don’t mean that the shows have gotten a lot more more violent.  It’s already at intermittent gang war levels.  But what the show is doing is chronicling Boyd’s ascent from small-time gangster to Appalachian mob-boss.  Along the way his scruples and humanity are peeled away crime by crime.  At each step he’s only doing what he has to to avoid the law or his rivals but eventually you see that nothing good remains.  Now I think this is similar to what was done in the series “Breaking Bad.”  There a man was driven by circumstance to adopt crime to help his family and finds himself and those around him consumed.  The difference being Boyd’s family already was criminal and his only attempt at honest life is pretty much extinguished in season two.  The Good/Evil dynamic is more represented by Boyd’s earlier friendship with Raylin.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Raylin and Boyd are two sides of a coin flip.  Either might have ended as the other.  Probably the show itself is a meditation on why they’ve so far ended up on opposite sides of that very narrow line.

And I don’t want to claim any dramatic depth to the show.  It’s entertainment pure and simple.  But the characters are engaging and the mixture of action, drama, comedy and suspense is very nicely prepared.  What I’m not sure about is whether Raylin Givens will end the show better, worse or the same as he started.  He straddles a lot of lines and he seems to be willing to cross those lines when he thinks he has to.  I can see that may bring him to a bad end.  It’ll be interesting to see where the arc of this story lands him.

For my part I’m interested to see where the relationship between Art and Raylin heads.  Art is sort of a surrogate father figure for Raylin.  But whether he’ll end up a stern old testament type father who has to sacrifice his son on the altar of the law or the father of the prodigal who is able to welcome him back into the fold, I don’t know.  But either way I do hope he gets more time in front of the camera.  He’s been limited lately and I want to see him assert some order over the wild west atmosphere of the Harlan County Marshall’s office.

Oh, and for the record, although Raylin has an assortment of fine looking women jumping into bed with him, he certainly has no instinct for avoiding criminals.  Then again maybe he isn’t trying.  Maybe he thinks they’re more fun and he can always arrest or shoot them if he has to.

Currently we’ve received the first two DVDs for season five.  We usually restrict ourselves to two episodes at a sitting.  But we’ve been waiting for these disks for several days now and I suspect we’ll binge through both disks by Saturday.  Patience is definitely not a virtue when Justified is in your DVD player.