Rethinking Jedis and Jesse Pinkman: The Week's Best Pop-Culture Writing

The most intriguing articles about entertainment we've come across in the past seven days

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CBS

Slate
A Missed Opportunity: How I Met Your Father
Miriam Krule

There was a fix available this year, one that should have come sooner, and now is presumably too late. If they had just changed one word for Season 9, and renamed it How I Met Your Father, this final go-round would have instantly become far more inviting.

Yes, one of the main appeals of the show is how they reward regular viewers with in-jokes and storylines that play out across seasons. But just think of the possibilities for all the missed connections that we could finally see from the mother’s perspective! We’ve had hints throughout the show about her roommate and her time at Columbia; instead of repeating these tidbits, flesh them out! What better way to do that than to have her story integrated into the show, instead of just throwing her in at the end? They could have bagged Bob Saget’s introductory monologues and had some Full House fun by getting Gail Edwards to take over and set him straight. If only.

20th Century Fox

io9
The 9 Least Competent Jedi
Rob Bricken

1) Qui-Gon Jinn

Do you realize everything that happens in the six Star Wars movies is Qui-Gon Jinn’s fault? Sure, his decision to take Anakin Skywalker out of his life of slavery to train him to become a Jedi is pretty solid, but it’s his decision not to bother to free Anakin’s mother from the exact same slavery that sets up the eminently foreseeable tragedy that followed. And don’t give me that “Qui-Gon tried to save Shmi” crap because one half-hearted attempt to ask Watto if he wanted to gamble for her doesn’t count. Qui-Gon was traveling with a princess — there wasn’t anything he could trade for the mother of the most powerful potential Jedi in the galaxy? Maybe R2-D2? I don’t know what Shmi was doing for Watto, but I sincerely doubt he wouldn’t have preferred an astromech droid. But Qui-Gon didn’t care. And when the Jedi Council told him not to teach the ticking timebomb of midicholrians that was Anakin Skywalker, he told them to fuck off and then pretty much everyone died. Nice going, Qui-Gon.

ABC

Entertainment Weekly
12 Signs It's a Joss Whedon Project
Darren Franich

It's easy to forget that Whedon originally rose to prominence in the salad days of The WB, when the network was filled with teenagers who all talked like hyper-articulate twentysomethings. Self-aware dialogue ran rampant throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer — but unlike on, say, Dawson's Creek, the self-awareness helped to humanize the characters, who seemed to be reacting to the show's fantastical creatures with the same disbelieving skepticism as the audience.

Self-awareness has basically become the lingua franca of popular geek culture, and Whedon has led the charge: One of the hallmark lines of the Avengers trailer came when Tony Stark nonchalantly tells Loki ''We have a Hulk,'' as if the word ''hulk'' is just something two guys say. And when Whedon started a run on Astonishing X-Men, he had Cyclops deliver a mission statement for the writer's back-to-basics approach: ''Superheroes wear costumes. And quite frankly, all that black leather was making people nervous.'' AndAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begins with a lead character explaining the mouthful acronym Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division with a meta-gag: ''Somebody really wanted to spell S.H.I.E.L.D.''

Ubisoft

Grantland
Lost to the Ages
Emily Yoshida

"It is the first artifact of CD-ROM technology that suggests that a new art form might very well be plausible, a kind of puzzle box inside a novel inside a painting, only with music," came the impassioned, if grasping prophecy from Wired's Jon Carroll. "Or something."

Maybe that sense of halting was more prophetic than anything else. Yes, Myst went on to sell more than 6 million copies and was declared a game-changer (so to speak), widely credited with launching the era of CD-ROM gaming. It launched an equally critically adored and commercially successful sequel, and eventually four more installments. Fans and critics alike held their breath in anticipation of the tidal wave of exploratory, open-ended gaming that was supposed to follow, waiting to be drowned in a sea of new worlds.

And then, nothing.


BBC

The Guardian
Kanye West's Vaulting Ambition Does Him—and Others—a Disservice
Dorian Lynskey

Kanye is not alone in feeling snubbed by cultural gatekeepers in other disciplines: just ask any thin-skinned pop star whose ventures into painting or classical music have ended badly. What leaves a sour taste is his half-assed attempt to frame his setbacks in terms of racial politics, a doomed effort because no argument can escape the tractor beam of his Death Star-sized narcissism long enough to reach a satisfying point. He draws his conclusions from a sample set of one. I'm sure, for example, that when he ventures outside the music business he encounters racism. Wealth and power may trump race in the short run but once you've arrived in elite circles you can't help but notice that most of the faces are white. However, it's also possible that the right people genuinely didn't like his leather jogging pants and, if his pitching style is anything like his interviews, conceivable that they didn't relish working with him. Similarly, it's true that US radio has become increasingly unfriendly to black artists, but there are more prosaic reasons why daytime radio hasn't taken to the uncompromising harshness of his latest album Yeezus.


ABC

The Huffington Post
The Worst Part Of The Kanye-Kimmel Saga? It's Hardly Surprising
Kia Makarechi

For some, it was just another of West's "rants," another time that Angry/Crazy/Unhinged Kanye West let his ego get the best of him. Those people are basic.

Kanye's greatest genius might not be music or Air Yeezys or anything you can listen to or hold, but his self-fashioned status as a mirror: The collective American reaction to Kanye is and has always been a damning look into how we choose to see people. West was a beloved, even cute performer to America back when he was wearing Polo shirts and smiling his way through interviews. But now, the man usually clad in black leather and a scowl challenges dominant media narratives at every turn and gets hell to pay for it.


AMC

The New York Times
The Critics and Jesse Pinkman
Ross Douthat

Now I too, feel for Jesse, and I think the idea of him both as Walter’s most intimate victim and as a kind of sin eater whose very body pays the price for his partner’s crimes is true to the spirit of the show. But the idea of Jesse as somehow merely “bad” in quotation marks, and far more sinned against than sinning, feels more like an emotional reaction to Aaron Paul’s bravura performance than a logical response to how the character actually behaves. A victim he is in many ways, but there’s a big difference between being a victim and being an innocent. And an awful lot of the critical analysis around Jesse’s character ignores the extent to which, Walt’s malign influence notwithstanding, most the sins he suffers for are essentially his own.


Young Money

Noisey
Grand Theft Aubrey
Drew Millard

One of the things that people both love and hate about Drake is that he seems almost too good to be true—too charming, too adept at fulfilling cultural archetypes, too skilled at making music that sounds like a godless 69-ing between art and capitalism. Drake contains within his Canadian veins the exact combination of nonflaws that feels ominous, carrying with it the subliminal stench of evil, the sort that might make a dog in a Flannery O'Connor story piss itself in a fit of pure instinct. The truth, however, is there is nothing despicable, or detestable, or even dislikable about Aubrey Drake Graham. He is a man without affect. It isn't a schtick, or if it is one, he's comfortable enough to wear it as a second skin. But for all intents and purposes, Drake is just like this, and that drives people nuts.

However, for those who are frustrated by his icy veneer of pure aptitude, it will be comforting to learn that he sucks at soccer. 


AMC

Salon
How Breaking Bad Made Millennials Watch Live TV
Lindsay Abrams

But if the Internet normally works to steal away television’s audience, the relationship between the two mediums is more complex when it comes to “Breaking Bad.” While fans last Sunday were finding out how the final pieces of the show’s end game are beginning to fit together,325,000 tweets documented its every twist and turn. With its relatively small audience, it wasn’t setting any Twitter records (that honor belongs to “Pretty Little Liars,” which at full force is capable of generating 70,000 tweets per minute), and it wasn’t even the most widely discussed show on social media that night. But the tweets that were sent out were distinctly spoiler-heavy. When it came to the Emmys, Twitter was a shortcut for finding out which TV shows collected the most awards without having to sit through the three-hour slog of a ceremony. For anyone still racing to catch up on “Breaking Bad’s” backlog, it was the most dangerous place on the Internet.


CBS

Wired
From Anonymous to BitCoin, The Good Wife Is the Most Tech-Savvy Show on TV
Clive Thompson

In most shows, technology is painted as either implausibly superpowered (“Wait—enhance that image!”) or alarmingly dangerous. Procedurals have been particular offenders. On Law & Order, the Internet is mostly just a shadowy place where teens are lured to their death. On Person of Interest, government agencies use pervasive surveillance technology to predict malintent with pinpoint accuracy.

The Good Wife avoids this Manichaean trap. This is likely due to the fact that the show’s creators and showrunners, husband-and-wife team Robert and Michelle King, are inquisitive nerds. “I’m just fascinated by how society is changing through social networking and the influence of Silicon Valley on almost every facet of life,” says Robert King. His goal is not to make a polemical case for or against technology, he adds. “The show doesn’t try to damn things, because I don’t think that’s reality. The advances being used in a totalitarian society like China are also used to prompt the Arab Spring. Social networking was handled very simplistically on TV. We thought we could make it our own.”

Presented by

Nolan Feeney, Ashley Fetters, Spencer Kornhaber

Ashley Fetters and Spencer Kornhaber edit The Atlantic's Entertainment Channel. Nolan Feeney writes for and produces The Atlantic's Entertainment Channel.

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