Four TV Shows with Bad Fourth Seasons Part Two

Check out Part One here.

2. Justified

The FX show Justified is a real conundrum for me. The first time I watched it, I was very young and didn’t have much of an idea of what makes a great TV drama, so I thought it was all amazing. And undoubtedly, there are some things that make this show unique: the exploration of southern culture in Kentucky, the look inside the US Marshall Service, the atmospheric use of country music, the intense dialogue in that wonderful accent. But when I went back to it years later, after having seen The Wire, The Sopranos, and Breaking Bad, I recognized the many ways in which Justified really is not that good a show overall. It starts out amazing in the pilot episode, and then the next eight or nine episodes turn into a boring, generic cop show mess, before the last three episodes of season 1 are awesome again, and I’m sure I know where the problem lies, because the show’s saving grace is Walt Goggins as Boyd Crowder. As complicated as Raylan Givens, the actual protagonist, may be, and as nice as Timothy Olyphant is to look at in boots and a cowboy hat, Boyd Crowder has always been the coolest, the most captivating, and the most interesting character, and he just wasn’t present for most of season 1 because Goggins was off shooting Predators (and what a waste of his time and our money that was). Accordingly, the middle part of the season, when Boyd is in prison, had to be constructed around his absence and that just didn’t work. In season 2, Goggins joined the main cast, and it did the show a whole lot of good, because most of that season was great. There was Boyd trying to find himself after his faith in God was destroyed, his slow progress towards becoming Harlan’s leading gangster, and Raylan’s constant tension with the newly introduced Bennett family. Some parts still felt a bit forced or generic, and the writers would have done themselves a favor in making Winona a bit less annoying, but I could tell the show was finding its footing, whereas in the first season it didn’t seem to have a clue what it actually wanted to be. And then, well, the third season happened, and it was absolutely brilliant. The writers left all notions of generic cop shows behind and finally focused on amazing TV drama. There was one clear arc that led the season (where is the Bennett money?), but it had enough side plots to keep the audience on their toes, while there were betrayals, murders, and the introduction of some interesting new characters. As the best TV dramas are prone to, it also managed to blend drama and comedy, as we can see in that hilarious episode where Dewey Crowe runs around thinking someone stole his kidneys. And the season ended with an absolute bang, in terms of action as well as emotional impact.

The extremely high bar set by the season 3 finale was unfortunately also Justified’s downfall. The scene in which Limehouse chops off that creepy villain’s arm with a meat cleaver is pretty much the best scene of the entire series, and the moment when the audience realizes Raylan’s father really wanted to shoot Raylan and not the State Trooper was the most shocking, and the way in which this truth is revealed to the audience is beautiful and simply done very well. It just wouldn’t get any better than that, and that much became obvious in season 4: Justified had jumped the shark. Season 4 was just not very good. Apart from the introduction of some not very interesting characters, there was that nonsensical episode where Boyd and Ava have to go to this weird sex party organized by the former sheriff in order to achieve something (what exactly, remains unclear), not to forget the incredibly pointless and just plain stupid game cock episode. And going back to the structure of story arcs, this season functioned similarly to Teen Wolf season 4 because at the beginning of the season, a riddle was posed: who is Waldo? No, I am not kidding, that is the riddle. Some dude died some decades back, and apparently his name was Waldo, or maybe it wasn’t, and then Raylan has to find out who he really was. As far as story arcs go, this kind of idea is of course not uncommon, but whereas the stakes were high in Teen Wolf, in Justified season 4 the question remained: why do I need to care who Waldo is? The sad answer was: I absolutely do not care at all. It did not make any difference to anyone if Waldo was ever discovered. It seemed that the writers had used up all of their creativity on season 3 and just had nothing left. A few moments were still great, of course, such as the way Raylan’s father’s death was handled, or Boyd’s proposal to Ava, not to forget the finale, when Ava is arrested and Boyd completely falls apart. But while Teen Wolf and Community completely recovered from their terrible fourth seasons, Justified did not. Season 5 was a lot better, of course, as it went back to what had worked so well in season 2 with the Bennett family and introduced a new family: the Crowe clan from Florida. And I know Michael Rapaport’s accent was less than perfect, but I couldn’t help but be interested in the guy and his dynamic with Boyd. Nonetheless, the show couldn’t quite recover; the plot was a bit too convoluted, people scheming with and then against each other so quickly one had to stop and wonder what exactly the point was. This issue continued into season 6, although the finale was worthy of the show as a whole. Putting Boyd back in prison and making him a preacher again was a stroke of genius as it showed that some people are incapable of change.

1. Boardwalk Empire

It was obvious right away that Boardwalk Empire would be great. It was produced by HBO, and they went all-out, employing Martin Scorsese as one of the main directors and Steve Buscemi for the lead character. The wardrobe alone must have cost HBO millions, not to mention the fact that they built a life-sized replica of the original Atlantic City boardwalk. So this show had no need to find its footing. Right from the very first minute of the series premiere, it knew what it was and it did the job: high quality TV drama in a historical setting. As is usual for HBO shows, the story is populated by innumerable characters, all of whom have their own interesting backstory, their own motivations, and are portrayed by brilliant actors. The show harshly criticized American politics, the ideal of the American Dream, and World War I, while simultaneously underlining the fact that pretty much all Americans are immigrants, and it managed all of that through intricate, complex plots and subplots, and the first two seasons were glorious. At the end of season 2, the show found itself at a crossroads when two main players left the game: Jimmy Darmody first killed his father, the Commodore, and was subsequently killed by Nucky. These two characters, especially Jimmy, had been central to the plot of the first two seasons, so a completely new story arc was needed, and boy, did the writers deliver. Season 3 brought us Gyp Rosetti, one of the most fascinating and unpredictable TV villains I have ever seen, and Bobby Cannavale seriously deserved the Emmy he received for that role. But his story ended after only one season, sadly. And season 3 was the best season of that show by far. It’s almost impossible to choose one scene as the best one when there are so many highlights to choose from. The fact is, this season could not be topped, and indeed it was all downhill from there. Boardwalk Empire, too, had jumped the shark, although it wasn’t immediately visible.

The fourth season started out great and definitely had its bright sides. The introduction of the FBI agent Knox, the vilest creature this show has to offer, did the plot a whole lot of favors. Unfortunately, the dark sides slightly overshadow the season. For one thing, there is Eli’s son Willie, who in season 3 was a very mature, reasonable young man who had to grow up fast in order to care for his legion of younger siblings while his father was in jail. Now in season 4, the character has been recast, which happens and isn’t a problem, and has undergone some significant personality changes, which very much is a problem. Gone is the mature, reasonable kid; it seems like going to college has made Willie regress into a snotty, emotionally unstable teenager who makes spectacularly bad decisions. Most of the problems in that season could have been avoided if Willie had just used his brain a bit more. Then, there is the new villain Narcisse, who seems interesting enough, but most of the problems he brought about could have been avoided if Chalky White had a) treated Purnsley a bit more like a human being and b) kept his dick in his pants. And that leads us to yet another issue I have with this season. Her name is Daughter Maitland. Yes, that’s her name. She is a very talented singer. And how do I know that? Because the writers of the show seemed to think it a good idea to have her sing at least one song in every. Single. Episode. That doesn’t sound like much of a problem at first glance, but hear me out. Of course she had to sing once to demonstrate her talent and justify Chalky’s interest in having her perform at his club. But every performance after that first one was completely redundant. This isn’t going to turn into a tangent about musicals, but Boardwalk Empire is not a musical, and if her singing does not contribute anything to her character or the plot (and it never does), then I do not want to hear it. Her constant singing, as pleasant as it may sound, gave off the impression that the writers were running out of ideas and needed to fill some minutes of screen time, so why not have the pretty singer perform some more? This feeling was rather disturbing because it really was not an issue I had encountered before. Never had any of the musical performances (and there had been quite a few) felt so forced and so redundant and so incredibly repetitive. It appeared inspiration was dwindling.

And this trend was continued in the abysmal season 5, full of flashbacks that told us nothing new, only repeating facts we had already been told in detail. We already knew everything (!) about Nucky’s involvement in Gillian’s introduction to the Commodore, so there was no point, none at all, to rehash it all in a flashback. Again, there seemed an acute lack of ideas and an acute need to just fill a few minutes with something, anything, and the season only ran for eight episodes. Of course, it had its highlights, but they were few and far between. And that is why Boardwalk Empire is number 1 on this list. While Justified tried to regain its footing after season 4 and managed to produce a fifth season that was noticeably better, Boardwalk Empire’s fifth season was even more disappointing than the fourth one.

Author: Miriam (@miri_mh8)

Movie Monday – Miri aka @OriginalSGreenD

7. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

We have been waiting for it a long, long time, and here it is now. The release of Episode VII is scheduled for December, so there is still an almost year-long wait ahead of us, but it is getting closer and closer.

I have to admit that I never was a big Star Wars fan. Born in 1990, the first one I saw was (unfortunately) Episode I, and even though I had no eye for cinematic quality as a kid, I do remember being bored out of my mind in the theater back then. That experience kind of spoiled the franchise for me a little, but I do recognize and understand the deep appreciation fans have for the original trilogy, and what little footage we were allowed to see so far looks great. I might be convinced to watch it in theaters.

Anyways, re-christening JJ Abrams “Jar Jar Abrams”, as some skeptical fans have, is unnecessary. Why anticipate the worst possible outcome?

6. Pound of Flesh

Now you might think I’ve lost my mind. What is Jean-Claude Van Damme doing on this list? Well, if you saw “The Expendables 2” and “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” (both 2012), you know JCVD can make for some really great end-boss action. The premise of this indie action flick sounds promising as well, with a missing kidney and an angry JCVD looking for revenge. This might be another candidate for direct-to-DVD, and I could not find a release date nor a trailer, but according to ssninsider.com filming had wrapped up in May 2014, so the chances are high we will be graced with it this year.

5. The Fall season 2

One British production has made it onto my list of things to look out for in 2015: the amazing series about a sexy serial killer in Belfast consisted of only five one-hour episodes for its first season, but the story was knitted so tightly it could not have been realized any other way. Also the shortness makes it possible to watch the entire thing in one go, which I strongly recommend you do. The tension and thrill of it are breath-taking, not to mention the actors are fantastic, the scripts are intricate and pay an amount of attention to detail I have only seen on HBO so far. Altogether this five-hour thriller was not something I would have expected the BBC to produce.

I am aware that technically, season 2 was released in November 2014 and that should disqualify “The Fall” from this list, but I have not been able to see it yet. If I can, I will watch the six episodes in one go again and then probably sleep with the lights on. Also, I did pick a trailer for you to watch, but to be honest, I did not watch it, because for this show, spoilers are deadly.

4. Justified season 6

FX’s “Justified” is one of the most underrated TV shows I know. The story of Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens returning to his hometown Harlan, Kentucky, and his life-long friend/nemesis Boyd Crowder was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, and some of the intrigues and schemes hatched in that show really remind you of “Jackie Brown” and make Leonard’s best qualities shine through.

Even though “Justified” was graced with several Emmy nominations and a few wins and has made it to its sixth and final season, the show never reached the popularity I feel it deserves; in my list of all-time favorites it would easily crack the top five. I am sad to see it end now, but at the same time I am anxious to see how the story about crime, friendship and betrayal comes to a head. If you haven’t seen this show, but you like drama series quality with brilliant, quick-witted dialogues, a gloomy atmosphere and bloody shoot-outs, there is only one thing I can tell you.

Watch it.

3. Community season 6

When I watched the pilot episode of “Community” I knew this was going to be a big thing. This TV show was possibly the funniest comedy ever. Oh, the quotes, the hints, the constant insertions of meta-elements and jokes you could only understand if you knew your way around movie history – I was in fan-heaven, even more so when Abed’s promise of “Six seasons and a movie!” for the low scale NBC show “The Cape” was taken out of its in-show context and referred to “Community” itself.

Countless hearts were broken – mine included – when the show was canceled after only five seasons. (I still wish for all NBC officials to get nothing but socks and Chris de Burgh CDs for Christmas for the rest of their lives.) All hope seemed lost when suddenly Yahoo! Screen turned out to be the unexpected knight in streaming armor. I guess most fans were thinking the same thing: TV series, web series – who cares, as long as there’s another season! A few members of the original cast have already left, and new characters will be added, but as long as Danny Pudi’s Abed and Dan Harmon are still on board, what can possibly go wrong?

Now the only thing we need is a movie and Abed’s prediction will be fulfilled.

2. Better Call Saul

If you cook meth for a living and you get into a tight spot with the law, who you gonna call?

No, not the Ghostbusters. You know who I’m talking about.

In “Breaking Bad” Saul Goodman aka Jimmy McGill was one of the most popular characters, even though he only entered the series at the end of season 2. Why? Well, the answer is obvious: he was comic relief, he was slightly ridiculous in everything he did, he was the epitome of a slimy lawyer, but at the same time he was sympathetic and honest and had the greatest catch phrase. Not to mention, “Mr. Show” Bob Odenkirk did a fantastic job portraying him. I have to admit, the moment I first saw him on the show, he immediately became my favorite character.

Hence, when I heard there would be a spin-off called “Better Call Saul”, I was over the moon. I still am. This will probably be the TV event of 2015 for me.

1. Skin Trade

If you are a true lover of the medium of film, you cannot get around watching the old action classics, and in that genre there is no way around good old Dolph Lundgren. He is “The Punisher” (1989) and the “Red Scorpion” (1988), after all. And now, after a successful and joyous return to the big screen thanks to Stallone and the Expendables franchise, he has written, produced and starred in a new movie that’s supposed to be released this year: “Skin Trade”.

With human trafficking the movie touches on an important subject, and the action in the trailer looks nice; still, there is a chance this production could end up as direct-to-DVD, considering “The Expendables” (2010) was Lundgren’s first cinematic release in over a decade. However, the involvement of Tony Jaa and Ron Perlman (!) might lead to a theatrical release in more countries than just the US.

I have a deep appreciation for Dolph Lundgren because, while he is not a great actor, he is almost always fun to watch. That’s why I had to put “Skin Trade” to the top of my list. I am really looking forward to some good action reminiscent of the old days.

Agree with my list? Do you have anything to add that has not received the attention it deserves? Feel free to let us know.

Miri

Twitter: OriginalSGreenD

Skin Trade trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsGH6_qbBxU

Better Call Saul trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK_70f7PamE

Community season 6 trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQ3qzm0c7FA

Justified season 6 trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DH6J4UFMI_w

The Fall season 2 trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXuJONpEpXg

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMOVFvcNfvE