Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Shows of 2011

10. Gossip Girl
This spot should probably go to Justified.  Or Louie.  Or Boardwalk Empire.  Or Community.  But I haven't made it to any episodes of those shows yet so, yeah.  They don't get to be on the list.  (But you should watch Community.  Because every smart person I know loves it and I'm all for saving a cult favorite).  So instead, soapy teen drama Gossip Girl gets on this list.  Why?  Because somewhere between getting rid of the extraneous cast members and a few juicy story lines (pregnancy, fraud, possible death) this show became one of the few that I look forward to every week.  But really?  It's all about Dair.  It's no secret that I'm a fan of the magic of Dan and Blair and this year introduced the best non-couple to grace the CW, well, ever.  It's great to find two characters who spark when they're in scenes together, even if their relationship isn't romantic.  The very unique nature of these two characters and their journey from hatred to friends to the potential for something more someday earns it a spot on this list.

9. Parenthood
I'm a little ashamed to admit that I wasn't sold on the Parenthood pilot and had given up on it for a short while before diving back in this year on the recommendation of a friend.  Thank god I did.  The Braverman clan is showing week in and week out that complex but relatable characters are all you really need to make great drama.  From Adam and Christina having to explain to their son that he has Autism, to Julia and Joel's baby woes and struggle to adopt, the show reflects real life problems in a way that is both painfully true and somehow heartwarming.  With the other Jason Katims show off the air, I'm glad that Parenthood has shown that it is the go to show for the heart that television too often lacks.

8. Game Of Thrones
If you've been reading my posts these past few days, you know that I just started Game Of Thrones.  But it still makes it onto this list.  I'm sure that something awesome is just down the road that would bump it even further up, but right now it earns a spot on its beauty alone.  Seriously, has there ever been a more visually stunning thing on TV?  The look of GOT instantly transports you to a different time and place and yet the story is still amazingly easy to connect to.  For a show with a ton of history and a plethora of characters Game Of Thrones manages to explain everything with flair.  The large cast also allows everyone to have someone to root for and against, which gives it a much wider accessibility than one would think a fantasy show would have.  I'm pumped to finish Season One and can't wait to see what next year will bring.

7. Homeland
Homeland is one of those shows that you are kind of surprised that no one thought of before but are glad that someone finally did.  Full of tense nail biters, this show kept viewers on the edge of their seats.  I adored the cat and mouse game (but who was who?) between Carrie and Brody and her eventually falling for him was a twist I didn't see coming.  When Brody's mystery faded away I became a little less enamored but it was still one of the best shows of the year.  We also got some damn fine acting from Damian Lewis and Claire Danes and I officially have to stop making fun of my mother for her decades-long crush on Mandy Patinkin.  I'm curious to see how Homeland can keep up the pace of the first season and am dying to see these actors in action in the new year.

6. The Vampire Diaries
2011 was the year that I stopped apologizing for loving The Vampire Diaries and began to tell all naysayers that they were biased judgemental minds who needed to give this amazing drama a chance.  I HATE that the show has such a stupid title.  I wish it were called Mystic Falls.  Maybe then people would realize that it is one of the few shows on network television with complex character relationships, a rich history, huge twists and a faster pace than should work but somehow does.  This year brought us the juiciness of Stefan The Ripper, introduced the entire original family, taught us that Vampire/Werewolf hybrids can and do exist and wasn't afraid to kill off the few characters who didn't work (Please, take Bonnie next!)  It also brought us some sweet movement towards a potential Damon/Elena relationship and introduced (and ended) the hotness of a Tyler/Caroline coupling, the best Vamp/Wolf couple there's ever been.  And we got guardian (aka Giles) Alaric!  If you aren't watching The Vampire Diaries, get off your high horse and start.  You'll thank me for it.

5. Awkward
I was a hard core Daria fan back in the day and have been scouring MTV shows for some quality ever since.  Enter Awkward, the most unexpected enjoyable show of the year.  Both offbeat and quirky, Awkward opens with our protagonist getting a mystery letter that tells her to stop being so invisible which then causes her to accidentally spill some aspirin and pull a cord into a bathtub, making it seem as though she tried to kill herself.  From the mystery of who wrote the letter, to Jenna's awkward school, home and boy issues, this show entertained in every hysterical episode of the season.  It also introduced perhaps the only love triangle in recent memory where I was torn over which guy was best and introduced "behymen" into the TV lexicon.  It's a little show that made a big impression and showed that the girl underdog is still alive and well on MTV.

4.  American Horror Story
Let's ignore the ramifications of turning this into an anthology show and instead focus on what American Horror Story was for most of its season...and that was fun, campy horror fun.  From crazy creatures living in the basement to the Rubberman and the ghosts of the Murder House, AHS took the broken Harmon family for a crazy ride that ended in their subsequent deaths.  I loved watching Moira(s) toy with the men who entered the house, got a creepy thrill seeing Vivien consume raw brains and literally gasped when Addy was hit by a car.  But most importantly, American Horror Story introduced us to great characters Constance and Tate Langdon.  Watching Jessica Lange steamroll her way over other characters in a blaze of racist glory was a joy to watch, and Evan Peters' turn as the most charming serial murderer/rapist/emo boyfriend there's ever been showed that this boy is one to watch.  I looked forward to watching this weekly more than any other show this season and am grateful for the time I had I had with the gals and ghouls of the murder house.

3. Parks And Recreation
This show has single handedly restored my faith in the network sitcom.  That was a heavy task, and yet Parks and Recreation proved with ease that it is possible to be crazy funny without needing a taboo topic as a driving force.  This show relies on having great characters (and fantastic actors playing them) to propel its humor and its story into something special.  From watching April and Andy become the most shockingly cute married couple to Leslie's decision to run for office while hiding her relationship with worthy Ben, the show evolved yet stayed true to its core.   I never tire of Tom's crazy attempts to become a crazy successful business man, love poor put upon Jerry and have even come around to uber peppy Chris.  And if that's not enough I have three words for you.  Ron Fucking Swanson.  I also adore that Parks and Rec does comedy with heart as I like some tears with my laughter.  Congrats for being so awesome Parks And Recreation.  Li'l Sebastian would be proud.

2. Friday Night Lights
They say that all good things must come to an end.  Well this was a really good thing that came to an emotional yet wonderful end.    In it's final season, Friday Night Lights let our new players grow, letting Vince become one of the show's finest characters and Luke and Becky the cutest couple since Matt and Julie in season one.  It also brought back most of our favorites, from Street, Tyra and Landry to the emotional reappearance of Matt and the heartbreaking return of a changed Riggins from prison.  We got a lovely makeshift family unit with Billy, Mindy and Becky and struggled to watch the Taylors manage to keep theirs in a good place.  We also got to continue out love affair with the East Dillion Lions, taking us to our first successful State win since the first season.  Seeing where all of these characters ended up provided a sweet sense of closure (although I'm still super game for a movie) and left me bawling like a baby.  The lights may be out in Dillion but this season will not soon be forgotten.

1. Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad reminds me why I love television.  It makes you hold your breath and cover your eyes one minute and has you cheering the next.  This year brought us the epic breakup (and manipulative reconciliation) of Walt and Jesse, proved that Hank may just be smart enough to figure everything out and made Gus Fring into one of the best TV villains ever.  From Walt declaring to his wife that rather than cower when baddies come to the door, he is "the one who knocks" to Gus poisoning the cartel this season was filled with more bad ass moments than should be possible in 13 episodes.  The epic finale, in which Gus was finally defeated and Walt finally seemed to "break bad" just took the show to a whole new level.  What's great is that they could end Breaking Bad right now and it would completely work.  But I'm thrilled that we have some more time to keep those heart pounding moments a'comin.  Breaking Bad, I love you.  Never change.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Episodes of 2011

10. Game of Thrones: Baelor/Justified: Brother's Keeper/Community- Remedial Chaos Theory
So I know what you're thinking.  What do these shows have in common and why are they so far down on this list?  Well, I'm ashamed to admit this but I haven't seen them.  At least not yet.  They are all on my list and I was hoping to have gotten to Baelor by now (remaining unspoiled to the major death in this episode is a NIGHTMARE) but alas.  However every single one of these episodes seems to show up time and time again on other people's lists, so it seemed wrong to ignore them.  So, um, here are those episodes.  I hear they were really great.

9. The Good Wife: In Sickness
In my last post I mentioned the scene from this episode where Alicia told Peter that she knew about his affair with Kalinda and kicked him to the curb.  But this was only one part of what was definitely the best episode the show produced this year.  We got "Hell Hath No Fury Alicia", who pumped up her son's IPOD and set herself free.  The scene where Alicia broke it to her kids convinced me that Juliana Margulies in fact does deserve all of her awards and accolades, as she played both parental strength and a woman in despair simultaneously with ease.  Even the show's case of the week, normally the weak part of the series for me, was above par with the return of Martha Plimpton's rival lawyer who is always a joy to watch.  This was the episode the series had been building up to and it didn't disappoint.

8. The Challenge, Rivals: The Storm Before The Storm
Yes, I know this seems like a bat shit CRAZY choice.  But hear me out for a sec.  The Challenge has been a  severely guilty pleasure show for me ever since it was called The Real World Road Rules Challenge.  That was back when Road Rules actually existed.  But in the past few years it has become an insufferable show where a pack of misogynistic bullies and their harem teach all the newbies that they have to kiss their ass and take what comes to them or be belittled into submission.  This episode served up some justice, not once but twice.  First the so called "Mafia" of the show was forced into turning on itself in the game and had to vote against one of their own.  It was great to watch them scramble  Then later, after Wes and Paula picked on poor Cara Maria, they finally were served a healthy does of their own medicine when CMs teammate Laurel went after them.  Hard.  And they cowered like the weaklings they truly are.  I loved that it was a strong woman who brought these people down and loved that someone finally took a stand.  Yes, watching these brats get theirs filled me with glee and I'd gladly watch this episode any time I need a little boost of joy.

7. Awkward: Over My Dead Body
Awkward does high school comedy in a way that is both emotionally resonant and really freakin weird.  And if you know me, you know that I love the strange.  This episode managed to do a good job of continuing the action of the series (The Matty/Jenna/Jake triangle) set against the craziness of Jenna having to be "Dead Stacey" in the school play.  That's right, every year the school puts on a play where a couple dies due to drinking and driving, and according to Jenna's mom, being Dead Stacey is the biggest honor there is.  The climactic moment of the episode, where we get to see the crazy altered version of the play in which Tamara gets her chance to (silently) act and Jake tells Jenna that he like likes her amidst all the fake blood is kind of fantastic.  This episode also turned Matty from a serious caricature to hard core character by revealing his issues with his brother and fleshing him out as an actual person, not just Jenna's dream boy.  This episode was both compelling and fun and would be a great starter for those who haven't given Awkward the chance it deserves.

6. Homeland: Pilot
I seriously considered putting The Weekend as my favorite Homeland episode as son many others have done, but in the end I think being a great pilot is a harder task than being a well written episode that storytelling dictates HAD to happen.  The pilot established a lot of back story without seeming annoyingly expositional, which is a crazy difficult task.  It introduced us to our cast of characters in an authentic way where I felt like I knew them already by the end of the episode.  And the general set up, including the mystery surrounding Brody and his true intentions, made this a show that you had to keep watching.  

5. Parks and Recreation: The Fight
I had a lot of trouble with how to begin talking about The Fight because I can't really think of a part of it that I didn't love.  Clearly the fight between (a very drunk) Leslie and Ann was the driving force of the episode, and it was both hard to watch(in the best way possible) and crazy funny.  The snake juice plot line let all of our characters get wasted an reveal the wackiest part of themselves, we got some adorable movement in the Leslie/Ben department, Ann finally got a government job and the April/Andy role playing game was the stuff that pop cultural references are made of.  This episode let all of out characters come out and play in their finest form, and proved why this is the best comedy on TV.

4. The Vampire Diaries As I Lay Dying
TVD did some really great work this year, but I keep coming back to the season two ender because it was that freaking good.  First, we had our bad boy vamp dealing with his werewolf bite, and sad tortured Damon is the best kind of Damon.  This lead to the unexpectedly sweet Elena/Damon kiss that fans had been waiting for since the series began.  Then we had crazy shenanigans like Sheriff Forbes shooting Jeremy, and his subsequent coming back to life and seeing his dead girlfriends' ghosts.  Finally, good vamp Stefan traded his freedom for a cure for his brother and gave up his future and his love to become The Ripper once again.  Seeing our normally milktoast and drained male protagonist go back to killing was a sight to behold.  The image of baddie Stefan, wide eyed and covered in blood, stayed with me the whole summer long.  This episode delivered the goods and brilliantly set up season three.

3. Breaking Bad: Salud
If I was putting more than one episode per show on this list, there is a good chance that Breaking Bad would take up half of it.  But when forced to pick a single hour that had me from start to finish, and I knew that Salud stood a hair above the rest.  Walt's storyline used the weakness that he had for the majority of the season to its advantage, having him tell Walter Jr. the story of his own father's death and how he never wanted his son to see him that worn down.  We also got a nice demonstration of his paternal love for Jesse, first with him crying when thinking of the fight the two had the night before and later with him calling his son his partner's name.  Then we have the Mexico storyline, which had my heart racing the entire time.  Jesse showing the chemists how it was done (and making Meth more pure than Gail's) was fun and the climactic scene where Gus poisons the entire cartel (and himself) was an epic moment of bad-assery.  And hey, Jesse got to save the day!  Salud showed why Breaking Bad may be the best show on TV.

2. American Horror Story: Smoldering Children
If you were a crazy American Horror Story conspiracy theorist, chances are you realized that Violet was dead way before this episode where we finally found out for sure.  And yet somehow the reveal was still awesome (and truly the most "horrifying" that this show ever got).  Following her throughout this episode, from her fear of Tate after he beat the snot out of Ben (yay), to her discovery of her own demise and her semi acceptance was a crazy fun roller coaster of a ride.  We also got some good DeadTravis, Constance at her snarky best and the backstory as to how Larry got his burns.  Watching the Langdon family dinner from hell followed by post-drugged up but pre-school shooting Tate set Larry on fire was a thrill to watch.  Minimal Ben and Viv (who both got waaayyy better post mortem) and more of everyone else made this brilliantly paced episode the best of the series, and the most re-watchable one of the year.

1.Friday Night Lights: Always
I'm really glad that I watched Always, the final episode of Friday Night Lights, alone.  Because I cried.  I ugly cried hardcore the whole time.  I told this to people who had yet to see the episode who feared that I was spoiling something by telling them this.  But I wasn't.  There were no deaths, no crazy character losses.  I simply loved this show and these characters and was heartbroken that this was the last time I would see them.  All of the moments in this episode were special, from Matt proposing to Julie to Eric's heartfelt speech to Vince.  The final montage, where we saw the Riggins boys on their land, our East Dillion players in Dillion blue, Jess assistant coaching and Becky seeing Luke off to the army brought me to sobs and the shot of Eric with his new Philly players was one of the most beautiful moments of television of television ever.  And the final moment of the Taylors walking off while the lights, those ones usually up on Friday night, turned off one final time?  It left me a mess.  Tension and twists are always fun, but if an episode of television can move you as deeply as this one did?  It deserves to be number one.  Congrats Friday Night Lights.  You couldn't lose.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best Scenes of 2011


10. The Parks And Rec Staff Tell Leslie They Are Going To Help With Her Campaign
Perhaps the obvious choice this year from Parks And Recreation would be April and Andy's wedding.  And that was really great.  But my pick from the show is actually the last scene to air this year.  After Leslie's campaign team backed out following her "scandal" by dating Ben, it looked like she would have to give up her dream of running for office.  Instead, she walked into the offices with the entire department ready and committed to helping her win the race.  They each had a different job (Tom- Swagger coach, Andy- Security, sweeps, body man and javelin if need be, Donna-Transpo "aka rides in my Benz") and when Leslie remarked "I can't ask you to put your lives on hold" Ron rebutted with "Find one person here who you haven't helped by putting your life on hold".  As Leslie got choked up by the love and support of her friends, I found myself shedding a tear too.  What makes Parks and Recreation different is that it does funny with a ton of heart, and this moment was the epitome of what makes the show so special.

9. Adele Mash Up/Santana Slaps Finn
Ugh.  Yes, I know that I'm putting Glee on this list.  But I honestly couldn't stop thinking about this scene for days after it aired.  First, the Adele mash up was good.  Really freaking good.  I've hated pretty much every song that season three has had to offer, so this was a major standout.  In addition to sounding fantastic, it also was full of emotion and fittingly became a climactic point of the episode.  When the song ended and Santana slapped Finn, I cheered a little bit.  Because A) It was something I had wanted to do since season one and B) It was an actual complicated issue (Finn yanking Santana out of the closet after years of her torment) where Glee fell into a shade of gray for once.  I loved it, and damn it I'm done apologizing for it.

8. The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
The first of the many moments on this list involving ghosts, The Vampire Diaries was the first to start the trend of major moments involving the undead.  When poor forlorn Jeremy, who had just lost another person that he cared about, was brought back to life by girlfriend Bonnie it seemed as though he was destined to continue living a sad and unexciting life.  That night however, he wandered down the stairs and was greeted by not one, but both of his dead ex-girlfriends.  It was a great way to end the season with a bang and kept viewers guessing all summer long.

7. Carrie and Brody Come Face To Face
There are a lot of intense high pressure moments in Homeland and this...isn't one of them.  But I just love this scene outside of the vets support group where the two see each other for the first time since his briefing in the pilot.  There was a visible spark and undeniable chemistry between the two that on any other show would have been seen as a cute flirtatious moment.  But on Homeland?  You had to figure out who was playing who and just how much.  The cat and mouse game between Carrie and Brody took a different and exciting turn with this scene, and made the show an enjoyable mindfuck for a few episodes.  I love a scene with layers, and this one was practically an onion.

6. Everyone Shows Up For Kathy, Including The Dead And The Almost Dead
It seems that the best way to end a season this year was by throwing some old dead friends into the mix and you know what?  It always seems to work.  On the Big C, Cathy decided to run the New Years race in freezing weather to honor her dead friend.  Upon reaching the finish line, she sees her son, brother and doctor all cheering for her.  Then dead friends Lee and Marlene appear next to them.  Finally her husband Paul shows up and stands in the middle.  Cathy is psyched that "everybody came" but when her son points out that his dad isn't there she (and we) realize that Paul is actually standing on the side with the dead and not the living.  It was a lovely moment that ended with a brilliant way to introduce the potential death of Cathy's husband.

5. Good Wife No More
Alicia Florrick spent the first two seasons of The Good Wife being the dutiful, well, good wife.  She stood by her husband when he was found to have cheated with prostitutes, through his imprisonment and trial and finally through his campaign to get back his old seat.  But after he won, and she learned that he had slept with the woman who became her best friend, Alicia finally had enough.  In this amazing scene, she brought him to a brand new apartment and announced that it was where he would be living from now on.  She told him what she knew and refused to listen to his arguments.  When he asked what he could do to make it better, she told him "nothing".  After years of being the put upon wife, Alicia finally took a stand and proved that she was her own woman, and a force to be reckoned with.

4. Christina And Crosby's Fight 
I love a good argument and this one from Parenthood was the best of the year.  Christina and her brother in law Crosby had been building up a resentment towards each other for episodes for various reasons, without ever actually interacting.  When he showed up at her home, their pleasantries turned into a nasty fight.  When they finally finished screaming at each other he marched off, only to have her have to call him back...her water had broken.  It was great to watch these two have an evenly matched fight (in which both were right and wrong about various issues) and to watch them to have to so quickly drop all of their hatred to come together as a family.

3. Go Away Tate
I've already talked a bit about my love for this scene in my review of the episode, but as time goes on I find that I love it more and more.  What was great about this scene is that it is one that we had known had to happen eventually (Violet confronting Tate about all of his crimes) and yet it managed to live up to expectations.  First the timing of it, after Violet's mother had died, gave it more emotional weight than it would have carried as just a simple list of his sins.  Second, Tate's inability to still confess all, hoping in the moment that he could downplay his actions, was true to character and kept us all still guessing as well.  Third, her acknowledging that she still loved and forgave him but still adamant that he needed to be punished, made the whole thing much more complex and gut wrenching to watch.  Fourth, the reveal of Vivien, looking better in life than she ever had in death was a lovely button to the scene that gave Violet and us a little comfort.  And finally?  The actors knocked the thing out of the park.  American Horror Story did bloody and campy fun well, but this scene proved that it could kill at the dramatic as well.

2. Will You Take Me To Philadelphia With You Please?
It's hard to find a scene in the Friday Night Lights finale that wasn't amazing but this one stood out.  Throughout the years, Eric and Tami's relationship was the one solid unchanging part of the series.  In the finale, they both got job opportunities out of Dillion and it seemed that they were at an impasse, as she felt that it should finally be her turn.  When typically stubborn Eric broke and tracked her and Grace down at the mall and told her that he turned down his contract and asked if she would take him to Philly with her, my heart melted.  It was sweet, it was beautiful and it is exactly why people loved this show.  Full hearts indeed.

1. Jesse Pulls A Gun On Walt
Breaking Bad had A LOT of good scenes this year, and it is tough to ignore Jesse's speech to his NA group or Walt declaring "I am the one who knocks".  But truly, this scene was the climactic point to a very intense season.  After episodes of Gus turning Jesse against Walt, the two had finally parted ways.  When Jesse discovered that his ricin cigarette was missing and that the son of his girlfriend was ill, he was certain that Walt was responsible.  Jesse shows up at Walt's place and pulls a gun on him, but the tales turn and Walt managed to convince him that Gus was to blame.  There was so much to love about this.  First, the turn of them being against each other at the start to on the same team again at the end showed what a gifted team of writers this show has.  Second, the performances that each actor had to put in shows why these guys take home the big prizes.  And finally the fact that we later learned that Jesse was right and Walk managed to play him anyway, makes it even more fun to see on a repeat viewing.  That is the mark of a great scene and I'd gladly watch this one over and over again.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10: Best New Characters of 2011

10. Lemon Breeland  Hart of Dixie
I almost didn't put Lemon on this list because A) She is on Hart of Dixie and B) It reveals that I have seen Hart of Dixie.  (Hey, I can't help it.  I keep waiting for it to turn into Gilmore Girls.  It hasn't).  In a show where all of the characters are huge annoying stereotypes and the lead is a winy gnat who couldn't be a believable doctor if doing so would actually save a life, Lemon stands out.  Played with an underlying subtlety by Jamie King, Lemon appeared at first to simply the rich southern belle who was engaged to the lovely lawyer that our lead wanted.  But as time went on, we learned a lot about Lemon.  She loves her fiancee but also loves the town's Mayor, was abandoned by her mother at a young age and has since bared the responsibility of helping to raise her sister and being the poster child for the town. She's a young southern Bree Van De Kamp, but with a secret soft side.  And she often can make Hart of Dixie almost bearable to watch.  Almost.

9. Lee Fallon The Big C
A lot of people don't like The Big C, and I suppose I can understand why Kathy's cancer journey doesn't appeal to everyone.  How one deals with illness is extremely personal, and many feel unable to relate to her particular journey.  It's why I'm so incredibly grateful that they introduced Lee this year, to provide a different perspective on being a person with the big C.  Lee was everything Cathy wasn't.  He was a young gay male who believed in a minimalist lifestyle, few attachments and the enjoyment of strong goals and a fine wine.  Typically blissful, he called Cathy on her shit and got angry when the occasion called for it .  Oh, and did I mention he was played by Hugh Dancy?  Yeah, that had a lot to do with why I liked him too.   Lee's death, though incredibly telegraphed, was truly sad to watch and I will miss his character terribly.  He was a great one season friend, and the show will be a little worse without him.

8. Caleb Rivers Pretty Little Liars
It's kind of strange that a year ago, Caleb was not a part of Pretty Little Liars.  But in fact, the town's resident bad boy didn't appear until January of this year, shaking up Hanna Marin's life as well as the show itself.  Prior to Caleb's entrance, PLL was a rarity in being a show for gals that had very few good male characters.  Once Caleb popped up on canvas all of that changed.  A poor foster kid who took money to get close to Hanna before actually falling for her, Caleb represented that sweet angst that made him ultra appealing to the opposite sex, and sent the show runners in a tailspin to recreate that magic with other male characters (Hence the recasting of Jason DiLaurentis).  Played with broody hope by Tyler Blackburn, Caleb and Hanna became THE storyline to watch.  Pretty Little Liars was a better show for having Caleb on their canvas. (For More Caleb, check out today's post by The Angst Report)

7. Carrie Mathison Homeland
As far as characters go, Carrie is a great one.  She's totally committed to her job in a way that forced her to wreck every relationship she has, is driven by both passion and insanity and believes so certainly that she is always right even when she knows that her mental illness means that she may not be.  She's a great manipulator of man, to the point where I'm not sure how often she even believes herself.  The one problem with Carrie is that all of the things that make her a great character can often also make her an unlikeable one.  She's fun to watch, but from time to time you kind of want to slap her across the face.  This is the only reason that she hasn't made it higher on my list when someone that she knows well has.  Being the protagonist gives you more weight to carry and that is her burden as well as blessing.  Still, I'm  still invested in what she may do next, which makes her ripe for this list.

6. Tyrion Laannister Game of Thrones
Confession time.  I've only just started Game of Thrones which is sad as I suspect it may end up doing much better on these lists as I make my way through the season.  Still, in the short time I've been with it there is no doubt in my mind that Tyrion is a fantastic character.  He's accepted his dwarfism and instead of letting it control his life chooses instead to own it.  Peter Dinklage manages to play the role as somehow being the wisest person in the room and yet also the one having the most fun.  There's a reason that Dinklage won the Emmy this year, and I think it is one of those moments where a great actor gets a juicy character and magic simply happens.

5. Rebekah The Vampire Diaries 
The Vampire Diaries does dudes well.  Nearly every male character on the show is filled with layers of angst, a greater meaning that drives them, a love (living or lost) that brings them meaning.  Female characters?  Yeah, not so much.  Caroline's great and the occasional visit from Katherine can be fun, but otherwise the girls on this show are a snooze.  Enter Rebekah, who should have sucked.  She was the temporarily sleeping sister to our main baddie Klaus (the weakest male on the show) who used to hook up with Stefan who we know only has eyes for Elena.  Then she showed up in town and instead of going all fun evil bad ass she joined the cheerleading squad.  Seriously.  But then, somewhere along the way, something changed.  We began to realize the baggage that Rebeka carried...a mother murdered (by her brother, we later found out), a family lost and an immortality devoid of any real connection.  She had everything stolen from her and just wanted a little bit of normalcy.  That's right.  Rebekah made girl angst possible.  While she's currently been neutralized and is ashing away with a stake in her back, I hope we see her again soon to bring some much needed awesomeness to the girls on TVD.

4. Constance Langdon American Horror Story
When I was in high school, I became a little bit obsessed with Blanche Dubois (I was a weird kid), the protagonist of A Streetcar Named Desire, who simply wanted youth, beauty and human connection.  A total liar, I was enthralled with the ways this aging southern blond could manipulate and entice until she finally cracked.  Ten years after first meeting Blanche, Constance Langdon popped up on my television. She's the epitome of the Tennessee Williams belle but with far more strength and determination.  Although she lead a tragic life (dead children, cheating husband, unsuccessful career), Constance refused to let anyone get in her way, sometimes choosing the wrong methods (murder, typically) to come out on top.  Played with brilliance by Jessica Lange, Constance is a character's character, and I have loved watching her steamroll over others week after week.  She will be missed but I have a feeling that the actor may get a little awards show love for making this character so much fun to watch.

3. Nolan Ross Revenge
Revenge is fun, but I don't seem to think that it's "Ohmygodthebestshowever" like many people that I know do.  I do, however, think Nolan Ross is the best new character on network television this year.  Not only does he provide the one real source of humor on the show, but he's also the smartest.  Couple that with him being the only true ally our lead had (if only she has willingly accepted it) and a true lonely little rich boy thing going on and he is utterly fascinating to watch.  He still remains a bit of a mystery (is he totally gay or just gay for blackmail?) which keeps him interesting.  Gabriel Mann has made Nolan the unexpected heart of the series and I can't wait to see what he does with him next.

2. Nicholas Brody Homeland
I wonder how Brody was first described to Damian Lewis when he got the part.  "You've been away from your wife and kids for eight years.  You were a prisoner of war.  You were savagely tortured.  You may or may not be a terrorist yourself".  How an actor can even begin to process how such a role should be played, I have no idea. But Lewis has done it with flying colors, making Brody one of the most compelling characters of the year.  He's fascinating to watch.  You don't want to trust him, but you do, you don't want to feel for him, but you do, you want to figure it all out, but you can't.  He's as complicated as complicated gets and so incredibly compelling to watch and  Lewis is simply killing it.  Television as a whole was better for having this unique character exist.

1. Tate Langdon American Horror Story
You know how you know you're a good character?  Set a man on fire.  Murder fifteen people in a school shooting.  Kill (and sodomize half of) a couple.  Rape your girlfriend's mother and get her pregnant with the Anti-Christ.  Now go on the internet.  If people still love you, are still making excuses for you?  You are a great fucking character.  Tate Langdon managed to be both American Horror Story's evil incarnate and it's teen heartthrob all at the same time.  He was hard to figure out (A psychopath?  Possessed?  Abused?) and fans had a ton of fun coming up with theories.  As the series went on, we seemed to find out more and more just how bad Tate was (yup, he's the notorious Rubberman) while the character simultaneously seemed to be falling in love and finding the one reason in life to finally be good.  Evan Peters proved to be an acting force by making the boy scary and dangerous while somehow also charismatic and sexy.  I fear that he will never properly be praised for his amazing work here, which is simply criminal.  Tate Langdon truly made American Horror Story what it was and made you rethink what made someone fascinating to watch.  He is by far and away the best character of the year and has set the bar for 2012 pretty damn high.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Best Movie Of The Year?

For the rest of this week, I'm going to overload you with with TV top ten lists.  Although the year may not have started out that way, it kind of ended up being a great year for television.  For the rest of pop culture?  Yeah, not so much.  Sure theater had Book Of Mormon and music had some nice indie bands break through, but compared to the wealth of goodies on TV it just doesn't measure up.  And don't even get me started on film.

I hated almost everything I saw in the theaters this year.  The few films I didn't hate (Hanna, Hugo, maybe even X Men) ranged on the spectrum of "like", not even falling close to the "love" category.  There was only one film that had me feeling truly good about it when I walked out of the theater and I'm semi-ashamed to even bring it up out of fear that my film school friends would disown me.  But here it goes.  The best film of the year very well may be Crazy, Stupid Love.

Let's get the obvious out of the way for a minute.  Yes, it is a horrible title.  It says nothing about the movie and it doesn't mean anything.  Yes, the film is also a little oddly structured and perhaps a bit too long.  But I don't care.  Compared to the shit that has come out this year, it might as well be Citizen Kane.  It has great actors in somewhat complicated roles, it can be crazy funny and has provided the most effective twist in any medium this year.  Due to illness and a general lack of quality at the movies this year, my family stayed in for Christmas and watched this.  It was my third viewing.  I still laughed, still got embarrassed and worried for the characters, still rooted for everyone to make it right in the end.  If you ignore the now out of date jokes (one on Steve Jobs, the other on Ashton and Demi) it manages to hold up remarkably well.  It may be light and sweet, but it's a good little film.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Little Christmas Music

It's almost Christmas Eve y'all!  I'm always a little bummed when the Christmas season comes to an end because it means that the new radio stations that popped up to celebrate the holiday 24/7 will be no more.  For a Jewish girl, I'm oddly attached to my Christmas music.  So before we big adieu to the season, here's a mini tribute to my top ten Christmas songs.

10. Linus And Lucy

This would have made it higher on the list if I actually felt it was a Christmas song.  The radio stations seem to, but I consider it more of a Charlie Brown thing.  Either way, I've always been obsessed with the  jazzy easiness of this song (if I ever learn to play the piano, THIS is what I want to learn to bang out).

9. Silent Night 

One of the slower songs of the holiday, Silent Night is that song that you play at the end of a movie when families have reunited, learned a lesson and finally understood the true meaning of Christmas.  It has a soul that resonates and is a quiet force.

8. Rockin Around The Christmas Tree

This song makes me think of Home Alone.  Home Alone makes me happy.  Thus, Rockin Around The Christmas Tree makes me happy.  Enough said.

7. White Christmas

White Christmas is one of my mothers favorite movies and as a kid we watched it every year.  When the song comes on, I'm reminded of my childhood and my mom so it resonates on a pretty personal level.  Also, who doesn't want a White Christmas?  It's a lovely little song from a lovely little film.

6. Jingle Bell Rock

Okay, so my attachment to this song is totally personal.  When my little brother was five, he was in a junior glee club that performed Jingle Bell Rock.  They sang the song and did an adorable little dance.  The problem was, my brother's pants were waaayyyy too big on him so as he did the moves, almost on cue, he would grab his belt loops and do a hike/jump thing every time the song said "rock".  It cracked us up and I can't help but lift my own pants every time this song comes on.  Seriously.  It was adorable.

5. Little Drummer Boy

This is one of those songs that I discovered late in life.  I guess because it tends to fall under a more religious umbrella, Little Drummer Boy is not something that we sang in school.  Maybe I like it because it still seems sort of new, but I tend to just think it is a really pretty song.

4. Santa Baby

The "sexy" Christmas song, Santa Baby is fun and playful and is that song that every female artist seems to want to cover.  I prefer the original Ertha Kitt cover, which somehow still has a little bit of a coy chasteness about it.  

3. Baby It's Cold Outside

There is a reason that everyone wants to do a duet of this and its because it is kind of awesome.  It's a fun back and forth (although I've never been certain that the person who thinks that they really can't stay actually wants to go) and is sweetly romantic.  I adore the version that Glee did last year with Kurt and Blaine, although any rendition will bring a smile to my face.

2. All I Want For Christmas is You

Truly the one successful Christmas song of modern times (sorry 'N SYNC), All I Want For Christmas Is You is just a good fun song that embraces the playfulness of Baby Its Cold Outside in a whole new way.  It always makes me think of Love Actually, but you have to give Mariah Carey props for being the original voice of this song.

1. Carol of the Bells

I simply love this.  I did it in Glee club man years ago and can appreciate the difficulty of the various parts and the swiftness of the tempo.   I adore that various orchestrations bring whole new directions and dimensions to the tune and feel that it is the one holiday song that has a certain sense of tension.  It's kind of the bad ass Christmas Song.  And for that, it gets the glory.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Murder of American Horror Story

And there it is.  The end of the Harmons, the Langdons and the Murder House.  Goodbye Moira, so long Hayden, hasta la vista Chad and Patrick.  We will never see you again.  At least that's what Ryan Murphy says.  And he's a man who is true to his word.

Here's the thing.  I initially intended on doing two blog posts on American Horror Story this on the finale and one of the season as a whole.  But now having watched it a few times over, having seen all of the press on the future of the show, having intense questions about how the finale affects the entirety of the series I realize that it is impossible to address one without talking about another.  So instead, this will be one mega post on all things AHS.  There's a lot to talk about here people.  So let's begin.

The finale itself began with the Harmon's decision to move from Boston to LA before flashing to lone survivor Ben on a quest to take the baby back from Constance.  He realizes that Tate is her son and that he's dead where I guess is where it all finally clicks for Ben that yes, they are in fact not in Kansas anymore.  With Viv and Violet unwilling to appear to him, Ben decides that the baby will be raised by his aunt and while he goes to snack on some bullets.  His family appears to him and forces him to chose life. Hayden, however, has other plans and with the help of the house intruders from episode two kills Ben by hanging him to the chandelier.  The final Harmon bites the dust.  This all happens within the first fifteen minutes.

For the rest of the episode, we see the Harmons playing house as a newly re-bonded if not a little bit dead family.  When a new brood moves in our old family realizes that if they don't do something there is a good chance that the current living residents will suffer the same fate that they did.  The round up all the good ghosts in the house and do their best scary movie impressions, promptly sending the family heading for the hills.  Then Vivien finds Nora with Ben's baby in the basement, which she gets custody of when Nora realizes that this kid kick she's been on for almost a century was just a passing phase.  She asks Moira to be the boy's godmother and they all live happily ever after.  Forever.

Meanwhile, things aren't as peaches and cream for the Langdons.  Tate tries to kill the new boy who moved into the house so Violet could have a plaything because she's just not a flowers and chocolate kind of gal.  She shows up and gets up to back off, but not before finally telling him goodbye.  And she means it.  Lonely Tate shows up to try to chill with Ben, who points out that the kid's a psychopath, therapy doesn't work and he'll never be redeemed of the many sins he finally starts to recount.  Tate is forced to watch A Murder House Christmas out in the cold with Hayden, intent on just waiting a literal eternity for Violet to come around.

Constance discovers Ben's body and goes to fetch her grandson from Hayden and is helped in getting him away from her by DeadTravis, who distracts the adulteress by slicing her throat.  Connie hides the child away for years, finally deciding that raising the little monster (not the Gaga kind) is her mission in life.  At the end, she returns home to find that three year old Michael has murdered his nanny and is all giggly about it.  End credits.  Nothing more to see here.

My initial problem with the episode was pacing.  We have spent 11 hours with these people and they are the ones I care about.  And the big question of the season...would they all die, was answered almost immediately.  The show somehow effectively turned Ben, who I found to be one of the biggest assholes ever on television into a sympathetic character deserving of an arc and more importantly, of redemption.  I wish that he had been killed around the 40 minute mark and in a more dramatic fashion.  Where was his family to defend him against his assailants?  Since the episode was originally supposed to be two hours, then one and a half and was ultimately 52 minutes I suppose it is possible that they had planned on a longer stretch of life for Ben and it is what suffered with the time cuts.  If I watched this episode as a one off, it might have been fine, but I cared too much to have the death treated with so little weight.

When I finished watching it for the first time, I ultimately decided that while it wasn't on par with the show that I have come to know and love, I was fine because it was fun and cathartic and provided a really nice set up in a lot of ways for season two.  I then dragged by sick butt into bed, took a nap and woke up to find out that there in fact is no Santa Claus. Murphy told the press that this was the end of this Murder House and that none of the characters would be seen again.  At best, perhaps some of the actors would return but the world that we have spent all this time is now ceases to exist.  Say your goodbyes fans.  We ain't coming back.

Over the next few hours, I went through my stages of grief and got stuck on acceptance.  I should begin by saying that I like the idea of an anthology series.  I think it could be fun.  I also love the idea of having a group of actors, almost like a theater repertory group, in different parts each time.  What I do take issue with is that A) this would have been an easier pill to swallow if they just let us all know that this was in fact the case and not tried to toy with the fans and B) This story is not over.  There are just too many questions unanswered, too many set ups that go nowhere.  And I'm heartbroken that they will forever stay that way.

The biggest thing, of course, is Michael.  Clearly boy is hella evil, but is that just because of who his daddy is or is he in fact the Anti Christ?  That's kind of a big deal and we don't know what it means.  Then there are all the questions that NEED answers.  What is the Infantata?  I still don't know if it is dead or alive, if it has aged or if it means to do harm/is just a victim.  Why does Moira look older than she is?  If scaring out new owners is so easy, why haven't the ghosts ever done it before?  Why did Moira do Constance's bidding?  What is so special about this house that ghosts get stuck there?  What killed the twins in the pilot?  Why do some ghosts have wounds and others don't?  Why can some remember their deaths when others can't?  Is Bilie Dean for real?  Who is Constance's fourth child?   And then...there's Tate.

Tate is bar none the most complicated character in the AHS universe and people have had a lot of fun figuring him out.  Does he know he's dead? (Yes, all along)  Does he remember what he did? (Finally we learned that yes, he does)  Is he simply pure evil or are his acts a product of abuse/the house/possession/an evil twin?  According to Ben on this one, Tate is simply psychotic and a lying liar who lies.  Fine.  The problem that I have is that the scene between Tate and Ben (the best in the finale, in my opinion) we never got an admission that Ben was right.  So as a theorist for weeks, its hard to believe it is that simple without being directly told by the character in question that it is.  Especially when we have another scene where the known killer, around no one to need to manipulate, has trouble killing someone.  I just can't buy the "He's A psycho, the end" BS that Ben was trying to sell.  With Tate playing the part of the lonely boy in search of another until the end and it seemed that a redemption arc for him may have been possible.  Now we'll never know.  We'll also never know when/why he got those scratches on his face between burning Larry and shooting up the school or if he was abused.  Young Tate seemed far more innocent that Young Michael (understatement of the year).  Was this monster born or made?  And if it was the latter, how did it happen?  I still don't know and I hate that I don't know.  Unsolved plot is one thing, but unresolved character issues are unsettling and leave you wondering why you spent so much time with someone in the first place.

In addition to all that we don't know, there is also all that we didn't get to see.  I would have loved to have seen a scene between Vivien and Tate (an eternity and she is never going to confront her rapist, who she lives with?).  I wanted to view Tate meeting Hugo and realize that his mother killed him.  I want to witness Hayden being shut out by the Harmons, as I refuse to believe that she would just go quietly into the night.  I wanted a conversation between DeadTravis and Constance where he adorably said something stupid about stardom while sweetly making his feelings for her clear.  I want to see what's next for Chad and Patrick.  I want Moira to stand up to Constance.  I want Larry to get one over on his former lover.  I want Tate to meet his kid.  I saw none of these things.  And I felt cheated.

The big question is how do these disappointments...these longings and questions, affect the show as a whole?  As someone who liked the Lost finale, I hated when people who didn't said that it ruined the entire series.  But now I get it a little bit.  It's hard to go back and know that all of the questions are never answered, that the theories are all for naught.  Was it all just a waste of my time?  I'd say yes, but its hard to forget how much fun I've had watching it.  The great affect of the Violet's dead reveal, the biting humor of realtor Marcy, the uncomfortable brilliance of Addy's "pretty girl" mask.  And the characters.  the fact that I thought that the Harmons sucked and ended up caring about them, the fun learning about Moira and Larry and the very real notion that Constance and Tate are some of the best TV characters I have ever seen,  I looked forward to seeing what happened to these people (and ghosts) every week.  That can't be taken away by one show runner interview.

Finally it has become clear to me that American Horror Story wasn't bad.  It was simply, like so many of its inhabitants, murdered.  It was promising and loved and would have gone on to do great things if it wasn't forcibly being taken before it's time.  I think I'd still recommend it to people, perhaps with a warning before viewing so everyone knows exactly what they are getting into.  And because I'm a glutton for punishment, there is a pretty strong chance that I'm tuning in for season two.  But really?  My fingers are crossed that this is some Ryan Murphy conspiracy and that at the end of next season, our new characters will end up at the Murder House on a dark and dreary night. 

I know.  But I'm daring to dream.  Because I refuse to let the murdered be forgotten.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Jewish Christmas Dilemma

It isn't easy being a Jew on Christmas.  I mean, it's actually probably more easy than it is to have to stay up until four in the morning putting together toys and eating cookies (actually, that part sounds awesome) but there is a whole other set of problems to contend with.  Where do you eat your Chinese food, for instance?  Do you go out or order in?  And then there's the big question, the one that every Jew spends the pre-holiday season worrying about...What movie do you see?

In the past, the choice was usually clear.  We either went to see movies about families (It's Complicated, The Family Stone), magic (Michael, The Family Man) or a dark yet attention grabbing musical (Dreamgirls, Sweeny Todd).  Last year was a bit of a struggle, and we finally settled on Tangled, which may have been a tad young for a family with adult children, but we all loved it (the 3D aspect helped) none the less.  There has always seemed to be one choice that was the most obvious.  This year?  I have no flipping clue.

The one "family-esque" film that is out, Hugo, just so happens to be one of the two films that I have seen recently.  The other is The Descendants which would have also fallen under the film about families category, but I'm happy to spare my own brood that cinematic disappointment.  The flicks that I'm most looking forward to...Young Adult, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Artist, don't exactly appeal to the rest of my family.  I have no desire to see We Bought A Zoo, my mother thinks Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is too 911 for such a joyous occasion and War Horse, which could be perfect, is playing nowhere near us.  This leaves New Year's Eve, which you know sucks without having to watch it or Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol, which I normally would have never seen but is starting to look like the best option.  Why no one decided to put out a film this year about a zany family who undergoes some kind of magic spell and can't stop singing, I'll never know.

So I'm taking votes.  If you were (or are) a lonely Jew on Christmas, what would you go see?  Or would you screw the whole thing all together for some netflix-ed fare.  Because I think that's where we are headed people.  Thanks Hollywood, for ruining my Christmas tradition.  You have failed me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Great Scene: Love Actually

It's almost Christmas, and for so many popettes this means settling down with a cup of cocoa/cider/nog and watching a holiday classic.  But most of the people that I know don't pop in Miracle on 34th Street or It's A Wonderful Life or even A Christmas Story.  No, the holiday film that every seems to own is Love Actually.  Is this really a Christmas film?  I mean, there is a lot of the holiday in it.  And yet, one could argue that it's far more a film about love.  It isn't called Christmas, Actually is it?  Well to those people, I say "Bah Humbug".  Of course it's a Christmas film.  And it's BECAUSE it's about love.  The holidays are truly that one time of year where people choose to express what others mean to them.  Screw that commercial Valentines day...this is the holiday where love actually does exist.

The film is filled with great scenes, but perhaps the most famous (and deservedly so) is where newlywed Juliet opens the door to Mark, her husband's best friend.  She has just discovered that the wedding video he took was all of her and after years of thinking that he hated her, she realizes that it is very much the opposite.  The scene is very sweet and quite beautiful, all brought about by the actor's reactions.  I love that we know that these two will never be together and yet it is a brilliant moment of connection that we are thrilled to be a part of.

Great.  Scene.

Monday, December 19, 2011

American Horror Story: Births, Deaths and Break-Ups.

Oh hey, remember last week when I said that I was going to talk about American Horror Story and then didn't because life got in the way?  Yeah, I was really bummed about that.  But better late than never, right?  Because A LOT happened in this week's episode, setting up what may be a super bad ass (or really terrible) finale.  Let's discuss, shall we?!

The Death:  Vivien Shuffles Off This Mortal Coil
Another Harmon bites the dust.  Poor Vivien, who always wanted to leave the house and was this close to escaping, got sucked back in to casa de crazy where she will seemingly remain forever.  And it didn't have to happen this way.  Viv could have gone straight from the loony bin to the airport and flown away from the murder house forever.  But for some reason, the Harmons felt like they just had to go back and retrieve their teenage daughter.  If only Violet had been up front and told her parents that she was dead, perhaps they could have been spared another loss. (Although super dad Ben simply assumed his kid was on drugs when she did eventually tell maybe not).

So of course, as it would happen at the Murder House, Viv goes into labor while waiting for Violet in the car and is forced to go back into the not-so-humble abode.  Lucky for her, the house has seen the deaths of quite a few medical professionals in its time.  Not so lucky for her...modern medicine isn't exactly their forte.  Also, they are all dead, which can't bring about the most calming of birthing experiences.

Also, her husband isn't all that present during the whole experience.  He's either remembering fonder moments, like Violet's birth (and how nice to see that there WERE good times for the pair) or is so freaked out that he's envisioning himself going all Cuckoo's Nest in the corner.  I'm really hoping that Ben's flashes of himself were only meant to signify how helpless the man feels during the birthing process (especially this one) and not a hint that Mr. Harmon is secretly in a room with padded walls imagining the whole thing.  Because I will throw something at my TV. (Well, my roommate's TV.  Some things just aren't worth it).

And so, after giving birth to the twins (more on that later), Vivien begins to bleed out and while her pansy of a husband tries to keep her in our realm, she's drawn the the voice of her dead daughter instead.  She's gone, the ghosts are gone, the babies are gone and Ben is left alone with a bunch of candles.  There was a lot of talk this episode about how lonely the house can get, and this scene made me realize that it's true.. ghosts aren't the most reliable source of company.  I almost felt sorry for Ben as he mourned the wife he scorned, and felt myself wondering if he would be the one to escape or will find his happy ending by joining them.

The Birth: Not Enough Babies To Go Around
Man, does everyone and their mother want these Harmon babies.  Constance wants Tate's, Nora and Hayden each want one, Chad and Patrick wand both and the Harmons themselves were pretty content with the idea of having their own kids.  It seems like the only person who wasn't clamoring to steal the little tykes was the baby daddy of the one with horns (While this is a joke, the lack of seeing the actual bundles of joy-who instead just looked like bundles of towels- makes me wonder what exactly it is that Vivien gave birth to). 

The fight for the twins began before Viv was even back in the house.  Chad and Patrick, determined to make their eternal relationship work by adopting and then smothering the tots (yeah, because that always works) decorated the nursery in preparation for their arrival.

Although it may have been the only paint colors that they had around, the fact that the cribs are an angelic splash of white and a underworld-ian shade of red is a nice reminder that one of these kids is probably the Anti-Christ.  The cribs themselves are most likely left over from when the Langdon children were young, as Constance fondly seems to recall something when she sees them for the first time.   The chance to finally get it right (How many chances do you get, Connie?) leads her to spar with Chad over who gets to take home the bundles of joy, where she reveals that one of the babies is in fact her grandchild.  He's intrigued by the soapy drama of "Norman Bates Junior" knocking up his girlfriend's mom, but insists that he wants both kids.  Quinto and Lange were killer in this scene, where both characters went for the jugular.  It was super fun to watch.

When the twins are finally born, neither the Harmons or Chad and Patrick even get to touch them.  The first, presumably Ben's (although can we really be sure?) is a stillborn (but once again, can we really be sure?) that Charles gave to Nora.  Given that she seems to forget children once they grow, perhaps what she has always needed was a dead baby to love forever.  The other child is taken by Constance, who adoringly looks after him with Moira, both pleased as punch over the new addition.  Mere seconds later, Hayden points out that she too will be clamoring for the kid and I also have a feeling that Ben wont be giving up without a fight as well.  The custody case of the Anti-Christ is just getting started.

The Break-Up: Go Away Tate
With all the baby-hoopla going on, Violet did what any good big sister would and spent her time trying to get rid of any ghosts who wanted to get their literal gold dead hands on her little brothers.  When psychic Billie Dean told her about the Roanoke's banishing their dead with a talisman and the uttering of "Croatoan", she set out on a mission to oust Chad and Patrick from the murder house.

While Violet was all for listening to Billie Dean's theories on exorcism, she was less apt to care about the woman's severe reaction to being in the same room as Tate.  Instead, Violet continued to ignore her boyfriend's evils and asked him to help her get the ring that Patrick wears so that they could get rid of him for good.  Like any good boyfriend, Tate obeys his girl by trying to seduce the dude upstairs who just can't get over the fact that Tate murdered and sodomized him (geeze, some people never forgive) and promptly beat the shit out of our favorite mass murderer.   

As Patrick let his aggression out on Tate, who seemed to find the whole experience more funny than frightening, he revealed that he was planning on leaving Chad before his life was taken from him and is now doomed to be stuck in the house with the man he wanted to escape forever.  Chad overhears and Patrick takes off after him, but not before the reveal that Tate has in fact snatched the ring off his aggressor's hand. 

Unfortunately for Violet, Billie Dean's theory was a crock and instead of getting rid of Chad and Patrick, she instead was gifted with the information that the boy who loves her is also the Rubber Man who raped her mother and fathered her new sibling.  After her mother's death, Violet returns to her bedroom to have the confrontation with Tate that we have all been waiting for.

She tells him that her mother is dead and makes him recall his own passing, questioning what it is that brought the police to shoot him up. He still claims not to know and she tells him about the school shootings, which he appears to still not understand.  She lists his other crimes and he realizes that the jig is up.  He IS the darkness, she points out and he rebuts by promising her that while that may have been true she is the light that has changed him.  Violet believes him, but points out that it doesn't matter...he is a criminal and criminals must pay for their crimes.  She screams at him to go away, which we all know he must do in the Murder House.  He cries.  She cries.  And then he is gone.  These two are so over.

Violet sobs for a while alone in her room as the camera pans around her...and then a hand comes on her shoulder and we realize that she is not alone at all.  Vivien is with her and she pulls her daughter into a comforting embrace, telling her what she did was very brave.  A tear-filled Violet apologizes for her mother losing her baby and Vivien looks into her daughter's eyes, that of her very first baby, and tells her that she didn't.

God, I loved this scene.  I loved the break up, I loved that we are still left with ambiguity about Tate (Does he really not remember the school shootings?  And what could that mean?), I loved that Violet was able to both love him and banish him and I loved that Vivien was there.  Connie Britton gives really good mom.  It was the perfect ending to a really strong episode.  The themes (loneliness, second chances) were incredibly present yet subtle, we got to see all of our favorite ghosties come out and play in a way that felt true to the world of the story and most importantly, we have a pretty strong set up for the finale.  I assume that between Ben and Constance, one will get away with the remaining baby and one will remain in the murder house forever.  But really, this is just one of dozens of possibilities of how this season will play out.  I'm thrilled about getting to see what happens but I'm also a little sad that the season will be over and crazy nervous that I might be let down.  There is a lot to do in this finale and I really hope it can all be done.  Fingers crossed kids.  I have a feeling its about to be a wild ride.