This Week in Pop Culture

Entertainment

Who’s Your Favourite Mad Man?: Breaking Bad and Dexter are two dramas about some heavy subjects and dark leading characters (a meth cook and a serial killer) that I can’t help comparing. I’ve been a long-time fan of Dexter, but I only just started watching Breaking Bad this summer (I’m caught up now). This weekend, we got the second-last episode of Breaking Bad‘s second-last season and Dexter‘s latest season premiere. My verdict? Dexter has become Breaking Bad lite.

Exhibit A: In terms of lead characters, Breaking Bad pushes the boundaries of how far you can send your protagonist over the edge, morally-speaking, a lot further. With Dexter, the show puts a lot of effort (through Dexter’s voiceover, mainly) to make him more sympathetic and palatable for the audience. We like him, and that makes the things he does easier to digest. With Breaking Bad, they don’t hold back. And it’s not just with their respective criminal tendencies. As a person, Walter is just a dick. His main, tragic flaw is his pride and it colours all of his decisions, most of which are selfish and often cruel and short-sighted. (And if my suspicions for the season finale are right, he’s an even more awful person than we’ve seen so far.) Dexter, meanwhile, is always the good guy – or, at most, he stumbles every so often just to see the errors of his ways and right himself again – which wasn’t such a bad thing until I started watching Breaking Bad and discovered the intoxicating flavour of real moral complexity.

Exhibit B: Speaking of Dexter‘s voiceovers… I can’t stand them anymore. I feel like they’re dumbing the show down and explaining every plot development and thought that Dexter has just in case we’re not following along, starting as far back as the final episodes of last season. And it’s not just unnecessary; it’s annoying and breaks the ole “show, don’t tell” rule a dozen times per episode. Breaking Bad, meanwhile, is so subtle and nuanced that you can miss things just by not paying attention, making it much more interesting according to my standards. In a single scene, Breaking Bad can turn everything you thought was happening on its head with single line or look, and every episode is like watching the characters build up to a big reveal where the players finally show their hands in a very lethal game of poker. Happy sigh. I could go on forever…

Guilty and guiltier pleasures: I’ve decided to upgrade The Vampire Diaries from a guilty pleasure to a perfectly justifiable pleasure – no guilt. When I first started watching, I’ll admit, it was mostly because everyone was just so gosh-darned hot. But I have to give them credit. The writing – albeit a bit melodramatic at times – is strong, and the plot twists are some of the best of any show on television. That being said, I think Elena could stand to be less of a wet towel, though I’m happy to see Stefan explore his darker side. Meanwhile… I’m downgrading VD‘s older and more popular sister, True Blood, down to a guilty pleasure. I know I touched on this before, and I did say that the season finale was better than usual, but on the whole, the show has gotten campier and more goofy – sloppy, even – of late. It’s struggling to juggle its giant roster of characters (something that Glee is starting to excel at, based on its second episode of season three, by the way) and Sookie’s character – inextricably tied to her love triangle, er, love square with Alcide, Bill and Eric – is getting worn out, plus I only have so much patience for annoying lead characters. It’s even gotten to the point where I’ll be watching and thinking, “This doesn’t look that hard. I could totally write for this show.”

Meanwhile, at the movies: I saw Drive last night and, despite my very high expectations, it was better than I thought it would be. I was thinking it would be, at best, a very good action movie, but it was definitely more than that. It reminded me a bit of A History of Violence in a few ways. On the whole, the directing right from the get-go was wonderfully bare bones and well-timed, and the story itself was interesting and even unpredictable, but it was Ryan Gosling’s character, with his quiet pacifism, seemingly inherent violent nature and merely hinted-at past that was the most interesting. More questions were raised than answers given, which is a good thing. I was looking at the credits for the movie on IMDB, trying to source where it went right, but I’m not actually sure. Based on director Nicolas Winding Refn’s credits, I’d say he’s a fan of violent films, and then there’s screenwriter Hossein Amini and James Sallis, who wrote the book it was based on. Best guess? A perfect storm of talent. One complaint: what’s up with the pink, 90’s font?

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