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Skyler White is not a bitch.

Posted by finedaysunday on September 29, 2013

Skyler 1

Preface: I wrote this with only one episode left of Breaking Bad before the show leaves us forever this Sunday night. So unless you’re caught up on, you know, everything, I’d recommend you skip over this entry and come back after you’re all caught up. I’m serious. I’d hate to think I spoiled any part of this show for anyone.

I suppose you could consider this a companion piece to my thoughts on Walter White a few months ago, but I’d like to use it more as a vehicle to talk about something bigger than Breaking Bad. Spend any amount of time at all discussing this show, particularly online, and you are going to encounter an alarmingly disproportionate amount of disdain for Skyler White, Walt’s conflicted and emotionally troubled wife. Sadly, this was always going to happen. In a drama series centered around a morally gray anti-hero protagonist, the wife is usually the one who faces so much bile from the more misogynistic members of its fanbase. “She’s trying to spoil his fun! What a bitch!”

Yeah, it’s going to be one of those entries this week.

I think you can trace this sort of thing back to The Sopranos, and it lives on today in series like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. When a story like this tries to tackle very real family-centric dilemmas without diluting its characters to easily digestible “good guys versus bad guys”, the protagonist still has certain traits that flatter the sensibilities of certain male members of its audience. Walt is a calculating genius who thrives on playing the puppet master, Don Draper looks so damn cool drinking and smoking in his office while wearing a suit, and so on. Conversely, the wife is often perceived by that same slice of the audience as the nag who’s always trying to bring them down. It’s unsettling.

Let’s talk about Skyler’s character specifically for a moment. Her introduction into any sort of criminal conduct does not come from Walt, but from her affable boss Ted. When she discovers that he’s been committing tax fraud and calls him on it, he goes into an impassioned plea about how desperate he is to save the business he inherited from his father, as well as the jobs of dozens of employees going through the same economic hardships as the rest of the population. He begs her not to turn him in, and just like that Skyler is introduced to the idea that sometimes well-meaning people do bad things for noble reasons. She not only reluctantly agrees to spare Ted but, and this is the important part, volunteers her own accounting expertise to help him better cover his tracks. And just like that, she’s reached another level of complicity.

Skyler 2

Before long, however, Skyler gets wise to what her husband has really been up to, although on reflection it’s a wonder she didn’t discover his secret life as a meth cook sooner. As I discussed in my previous piece, Walt likes to see himself as this master manipulator, this suave and gentlemanly sort of criminal who puts on a public persona that’s impossible to see through. It’s exactly why he admires Gus so much upon first meeting him, and he tries to adopt such a strategy for himself. But Walt is no Gustavo Fring. He’s just finding his feet in this business, and can no better deceive his wife than he can anyone else. Skyler is always the first to suspect Walt is full of crap, because she knows him best. It’s as much a testament to Walt’s shortcomings as it is to Skyler’s perceptiveness.

Here’s where things get interesting, and we see just how loyal and cunning Skyler White can really be. She agrees not to hand her husband over to the authorities and, despite Walt’s insistence that she not get involved, eventually volunteers to launder his money to preserve his secret. It’s exactly what she did for Ted, but on a much bigger and more dangerous scale. Her motivation is simple: Their son must never find out the truth, lest their family be torn apart. It’s a solid foundation from our perspective as the audience, because Walter Jr is the only innocent character in this universe, and I’ve always considered him the easiest to root for. Keeping their son in the dark is of the utmost importance to Skyler, her one and only attainable goal to strive for during this ordeal Walt has put her through, this awful lie in which she is willingly complicit.

As the stakes get higher, one of the most surprising and entertaining developments turns out to be that Skyler may very well be a more skilled criminal than Walt. She possesses meticulous attention to detail, she’s better at coming up with a cover story and sticking to it, and she’s better at putting on an act without setting off warning sirens to everyone around her. She may not have a very strong poker face at the show’s outset, but when her son’s innocence is on the line, we see the vast depths of her dedication and resourcefulness. It’s an admirable thing to see in a parent.

One of the key distinctions that separates Skyler from Walt, however, is that she ultimately gets cold feet. She is faced with an unwinnable situation: overcome with guilt and yet unable to back out. She is afraid of the same power that Walt craves. She is helpless to wash her hands clean of the entire mess, and yet is forced to continue holding back the dam as its foundations mercilessly crumble. She is horrified and disgusted by her actions, the most alarming of which is the realization that Ted is so intimidated by her that she can’t resist reinforcing his fear because it’s convenient. She is mortified at her own willingness to wield that sort of power, and is possibly even afraid that she might enjoy it too. Her conscience began setting off alarms much earlier than Walt’s ever did, culminating in a venomous verbal shouting match over the fate of their family that ultimately tears the once-happy couple in two. The man has been so manipulative and emotionally abusive for so long that it’s a wonder she hasn’t punched him in the throat.

Skyler 3

And so, that’s Skyler White, put into a hopeless situation from the moment her husband decided to break bad. To hear it from a certain portion of the audience, however, all of that apparently reduces her to the needless and thoughtless title of “bitch”. Skyler is no angel, but there’s a very visible line between “she’s just as guilty and manipulative as her husband” and “she needs to be grateful and learn her place.” It’s not okay that anyone should have to have that spelled out for them, and yet one of this show’s hottest talking points revolves around the disproportionate loathing heaped upon this one character by inarticulate troglodytes. As a huge fan of this show, this sort of vile, misogynistic sniping is far too common among certain types of fans that I often go out of my way to disassociate myself from.

But of course, any time a man speaks out against sexism, you can guess what happens next. A certain breed of stupid begins to seep out from between the cracks of the internet to accuse him of “white knighting” or “just trying to get in good with women.” You can set your watch by it. I’ve come to refer to this fine collection of folks as the Gallery of the Terminally Unimpressive. Their banally predictable accusations are heinous and sleazy on two levels. First is the implication that the only reason a straight man would have a problem with sexism is because he has some ulterior motive, thereby painting the accused rather than the accuser as the sneaky one. Second is the fact that it stifles all potential discussion we could be having on the subject instead. This is not at all limited to Breaking Bad or drama series like it, but it does happen to be the most relevant example of the moment, and it’s been bothering me for so long that I couldn’t let it slide without saying something.

Leave it to me to wait until the eve of the final episode to talk about it.

“Are you invulnerable while break dancing?”
“I’m dead while break dancing.”


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Walter White is not a badass.

Posted by finedaysunday on July 28, 2013

Walt 1

Breaking Bad is coming back. At long last, the story of Walter White is coming to an end. I could not be more excited and neither could you. Unless, of course, you haven’t watched the show yet. Let me be clear about this right up front: I make frequent, wholehearted recommendations to watch Breaking Bad on a fairly regular basis in my day-to-day life (as of approximately one year ago, when I began watching). Whenever people drop a casually cynical “TV just sucks nowadays”, this show is my go-to counter-argument. It’s a laser-focused, filler-free character study concerned entirely with its own artful and carefully crafted depiction of one man’s slow yet steady self-destrucion. It’s also one of the most important shows of the last decade. If you’ve been following some of the other stuff I’ve written around here, you know that I’m a sucker for moral ambiguity. Well, that’s kind of Breaking Bad‘s entire thing, so naturally I ate it up.

All right, enough gushing. I am probably going to spoil quite a bit about Breaking Bad in the following entry. To that end, I’d advise you to stop reading now if you’re not up-to-date or if you just don’t care (note: you should care). Still with me? Last chance.

Okay, let’s do this. You probably saw the title of this entry up top. At some point in the show’s run, during Walt’s rise to power, there’s been this viewpoint gaining a lot of traction that Walt has somehow morphed from meek and mousy into a stone-cold badass. I have never agreed with that stance, at least not entirely. Oh, Walt has certainly changed, no doubt about it. He’s been very deliberately pushing every last boundary in the little world he’s built for himself, all the while desperately trying to convince everyone around him (including himself) that he has no choice but to continue for the sake of his family. But has he learned anything in the past year of his life? Is he half as good at lying to others as he is to himself? Has he separated himself entirely from that meek yet slow-simmering cauldron he was when we first met him? I submit “no” to all of the above. And he is certainly no more of a badass now than he was the day he began cooking meth.

Walt 2

Walter White is many things, but first let’s talk about what he is not. There are two instances that I frequently see being singled out as examples of supposed badassery. The first comes when his wife Skyler implores him to abandon his criminal life and come clean to the authorities. Walt is having none of it, and dives headlong into a heated and largely inaccurate speech about how untouchable and indispensable he is in the meth business. In an effort to convince his now-terrified wife that he is not in danger, Walt goes too far, inadvertently revealing just how much of a part he played in murdering the only character in the show that didn’t have it coming. He immediately appears to be ashamed of himself, realizing he didn’t mean to say it so badly when he just wanted to appear intimidating. Even Walt’s not impressed by his own faux-macho posturing.

That’s the clearest example of how Breaking Bad, on numerous occasions, will juxtapose Walt’s proclamations of being in control of his life with how little control he actually has. The second alleged badass moment comes when Walt is at the height of his power, drunk with overconfidence and self-satisfaction:

This scene serves as the culmination of Walt’s power fantasy. He sees himself the same way a Hollywood crime thriller movie would idealize the drug kingpin lifestyle, and he puts on a show hoping to project that very image. That’s really the crux of this whole scenario. Walt may have been able to convince himself that he’s a badass, but he’s not convincing those around him, and he certainly isn’t convincing us. That’s part of what makes him so pathetic. It’s not a recent development, either. As early as the first season, Walt has this false image of how drug dealers do business, adopting a shady alter-ego complete with a pork pie hat and sunglasses. Somewhat understandable, as the only frame of reference a squeaky clean guy like him could possibly have for criminal life are movies and television. Right away, both his partner and his enemy chastise him for wanting to do deals in cliched deserted areas with no witnesses instead of, say, at the mall. Walt eventually admits he has a lot to learn, but the foundation for his little fantasy world has already been set. For all his talk about wanting to remain cautious and professional, Walt is very resolutely neither, and everyone around him knows it.

So, if not badass, then what is Walter White exactly? He is weak, impotent, egotistical, hypocritical, arrogant, selfish, greedy, prideful, stubborn, volatile, self-sabotaging, paranoid, manipulative, deceitful, cowardly, and pessimistic. He has cripplingly low self-esteem. He takes incredibly dangerous risks. He possesses a defeatist attitude, readily taking the easy routes and always jumping to the worst possible conclusions. He has a dangerously fine-tuned self-preservation instinct that trumps all else. He refuses numerous golden opportunities for help from those closest to him, and he has thoroughly earned everything he has coming to him. None of those qualities strike me as being particularly positive or ideal.

Walt 3

Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but the word “badass” has become overused to the point of redundancy, especially on the internet, where words like “epic” have already been distorted beyond usefulness. On a show like Breaking Bad, where there are no moral absolutes or one-dimensional characters, a word like “badass” seems awfully reductive.

I will say, however, the one point when I was genuinely impressed by Walt came during the final two episodes of the fourth season. His careful machinations were awe-inspiring as he worked to rid himself of his biggest threat, not so much in a way resembling a typical badass but in a manner that struck me as the surest sign yet of his manipulative, sociopathic nature. Remember watching Alien for the second time, when you already knew what Ash’s deal was, and it lent his every scene an extra chilling quality? A repeat viewing of these two episodes has precisely the same effect, terrifying in just how completely that knowledge changes the tone.

All I knew from outside sources before diving into Breaking Bad was that the protagonist is supposedly this awful, evil human being. Upon first watching, and seeing this hunched and sniveling old man that I instead just felt sorry for, I remember keeping an eye out for the heel turn, the point of no return when he would suddenly become someone to root against. This singular moment never comes. Walt’s transformation is gradual and virtually silent, as he keeps taking progressively bigger risks and makes increasingly flimsy justifications for his actions. That hesitant “this is wrong” look in his eyes slowly disappears. He stops weighing the pros and cons of murder. Before long we begin to hope for his destruction simply because it would be a kindness, a relief to see him put out of his misery. He’s a car wreck you can’t look away from. To my amazement, he is now such a thoroughly unsympathetic monster of a person while still possessing nearly all of the traits that defined him at the show’s outset. I don’t know how it happened, but Breaking Bad manages to accomplish through Walter White what almost no other character arc in recent memory has.

Walt 4

Brief tangent: Did you ever notice how if this were any other show (say, a procedural cop show), Hank would be the gruff protagonist and Walt would be the recurring villain constantly eluding capture? Hank even goes through an arc that fits your typical flawed hero, going from puffed up and overconfident to dangerously obsessive, then to the lowest he’s ever been, and ever since then he’s been diligently building himself up into exactly the sort of man he needs to be to bring down the bad guy. His character’s progression mirrors Walt’s exactly, and makes him the perfect foil for his brother-in-law, exactly the “endgame” final boss that, quite honestly, we should have seen coming since the beginning.

And so here we are, with Walt standing right on the precipice with nowhere else to go but down. Finally, the game is up and it’s entirely his own doing, just like Mike told him it would be. As the fifth season opens, we see a brief glimpse of what becomes of Walt in the future (and only now do we have some context for how he reaches that point). Something awful has clearly happened, but beyond the scruff, has anything changed in him? Has he taken away some small lesson from his experiences? And then we see him refuse a hostess’ offer to pick up the tab for his meal, and we realize: Classic Walter White, always unable to accept a handout. He hasn’t learned a damn thing, and now he’s about to do something incredibly stupid.

Walt 5

I recall some part of me wanting the series to end on a sobering note, a reminder that, though we may root for Walt’s demise, somewhere deep down inside there is still that sad sack of a family man who just wanted to do right by his wife and children, someone who may see even the merest hint of redemption. Is that still remotely within the realm of possibility? We’ll find out soon enough.

“To W.W., my star, my perfect silence.”

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Not cool.

Posted by finedaysunday on May 5, 2013

Short entry this week, somewhat related to what I brought up a few weeks ago about Dead Poets Society. Check out this Audi commercial:

On the surface, a very cool and relatable concept. Shy kid on his way to prom, empowered to take progressively bigger risks just by driving his dad’s car. By the time he gets there, he gets that “now or never” butterflies feeling in his gut and decides to just got for it and assault the prom queen. Big dumb jock prom king (because of course he’s a big dumb jock) reacts less than favourably and gives the kid a black eye for his troubles. Kid drives off with a shit-eating grin on his face as if he’s suddenly got a success story he can share with his buddies over the summer. Not exactly progressive stuff we’re dealing with here.

Oh, and we see a reaction shot of the prom queen meant to assure us that no, really guys, she was totally cool with it all along. That actually makes it so much worse.


We live in a time when there’s no way for me to say this stuff without someone coming out of the woodwork and accusing me of being some new age lame-ass internet white knight, but you know what? This particular brand of assault under the guise of a grand sweeping romantic gesture wasn’t cool when Emilio Estevez did it in St. Elmo’s Fire almost 30 years ago, either. Take a look at this absurdity if you think you’re ready for it:

Like I said, it’s hardly progressive material for a movie made in 1985, and is even less so today. I also really wish I could say that this is its most outrageous scene. On a lighter note, sweet mother of God, there is not a hint of irony in the use of that music. Then again, I guess that’s part of what dates this movie.

But seriously, though. Tell me those two scenes aren’t almost completely interchangeable. Guy works himself up into taking rash action, girl is into it, guy is framed as the hero. I’m not even taking that latter scene out of context, either. What I see on the screen is what I see on the screen. And what I see on the screen is something that I think needs to stop being encouraged as ideal.

“You’re very persistent, Tron.”
“I’m also better than you.”

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DOs and DON’Ts of The Amazing Race

Posted by finedaysunday on April 28, 2013


After 22 seasons of watching The Amazing Race, you’ll no doubt notice certain patterns emerge that separate the successful teams from the not-so-successful teams. The former are the ones with great chemistry and a fierce competitive spirit, while the latter camp can often be seen making baffling errors in judgment and unraveling at the worst of times. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of DOs and DON’Ts as a message to those who hope to someday compete on The Amazing Race. In writing these up, I’ve observed that most of it is just common sense for traveling abroad with or without the context of a competition-based TV show, so take that for what it’s worth.

DO: CHOOSE YOUR PARTNER WISELY. This is by far the most important element at play here. Travel compatibility is essential on any trip, but it’s doubly true on The Amazing Race. You need to have a strong rapport with your teammate that can withstand the trials of a grinding marathon. Assertiveness, positivity, discipline, and an outgoing personality can go a very long way. On a more basic level, you want to travel with someone in strong physical condition, or someone knowledgeable about world history and geography. If your partner is neither of those things, you had better be. Oh, and at least one of you needs to know how to drive stick. It wouldn’t hurt for both of you to learn in advance.

DO NOT: Leave your passport unattended for any reason. This one is so obvious, and yet it shocks me how often I see teams get done in because one or both of them got careless with their travel packs. I don’t care how insecure you are about having to wear a fanny pack. Use one.

DO: Your homework. Before the race, study and memorize useful phrases in several languages. Examples include “hello”, “please”, “thank you”, “can you help me?”, “how much?”, “wait”, and “give that team the wrong directions no seriously they’re really annoying.” This is useful information to have regardless, so you have nothing to lose by educating yourself. Just as importantly, use the downtime between legs (or on periods of long waiting during a leg) to read up on the city you’re in. Is there a significant historical monument or landmark? Odds are it will come into play at some point.

DO NOT: Be an ugly American. The race is a high-stress environment, absolutely. This does not excuse berating the locals when you get impatient or flustered. You’ll be surprised how far common courtesy can get you. In relation to the above section, you have no excuse for being annoyed that the people of a non-English speaking region of the world do not speak English.

DO: Make nice with other teams. Yes, it is a competition first and foremost, but making a good impression on your competitors can make all the difference in the world. This means helping them out once in a while and generally being a good sport. The only strike I had against Jet and Cord, one of the strongest teams I’ve seen on the race, is that they largely ran alone. Learn not to put a massive target on your back, or you’ll make it that much easier for other teams to U-turn you without a moment’s hesitation. On that note…

DO NOT: Get squeamish when the time comes to U-turn another team. Unless you are absolutely certain that you’ve got a substantial lead on the pack, be ready to take advantage and give your team some breathing room. Yes,this often means making a target of yourself if the U-turned team comes back to haunt you, but the U-turn doesn’t usually come into play until late in the race as it is. The herd is already starting to thin out by this point, and everyone’s competitive side is likely to have fully emerged by now.

DO: Keep in mind that, at some point, you’re probably going to have endure heights, going underwater, or eating something you’d rather not.

DO NOT: Be either of these two people:


DO: Read your clues carefully. This is even more basic than keeping your passport on hand. While you’re still riding the high of completing a task, don’t speed-read your next clue only to realize later that, yes, you were in fact supposed to travel on foot to the next location rather than by taxi.

DO NOT: Hang around if your taxi driver appears lost or overwhelmed. This one’s a bit fuzzier than other pieces of advice, but as a general rule, if your driver just plain does not know where he’s going, bail. The time it takes to hail a new taxi may be shorter than however long it takes the first guy to get his bearings. More promising teams have been done in by bad luck with cab drivers than I can remember.

DO: Book your flights in advance whenever possible. Call a travel agent in the cab on your way to the airport. It may make the difference between getting two seats on an early flight and being stuck at the back of the pack.

DO NOT: Be afraid to abandon a task at a detour and try the other option. Use your best judgment and learn to recognize that there’s no sense banging your head against a brick wall if you’re making zero progress. Who knows, you may even be surprised to see that the other task is easier than you thought.

DO: Remember every city you travel to along the course of the race, as well as several significant details about each one (flag, location on a map, etc.). Keep a diary if possible to help you remember. Don’t forget to make note of each person greeting you at the pit stop. Nearly every season of the race ends with a memory task to see if you were paying attention, and it’s often the final challenge before the sprint to the finish line. If this moment is going to be a game-changer, make sure it turns the tide in your favour. Good luck.

DO NOT: Worry about being as likeable as Bopper and Mark. It’s just not going to happen.

“Save me Barry!”


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In Defense of Verner Vollstedt

Posted by finedaysunday on April 14, 2013

Entourage 3

Entourage is, on its surface, a wish fulfillment fantasy show for white heterosexual males, in which a promising young actor makes it big, and all of his closest friends come along for the wild ride. At its heart, it’s about the strength of male bonding and camaraderie. I’ve even heard it described as Sex and the City for guys. It’s not an especially challenging show on an intellectual level, and rarely asks much of its audience. Conflicts arise and are dealt with, plot threads come and go, but on the whole these characters don’t face a lot of real adversity, and rarely experience anything less than a comfortable, privileged, pampered lifestyle. Nothing’s wrong with that, of course. I can absolutely get behind some male-targeted “good times” superficiality just as much as I can enjoy watching something a little more morally and ethically charged.

It only becomes a problem when the show tries to juggle both.

Let’s keep the back story short: Season Four of Entourage ends on a major downer of a cliffhanger. Movie star Vincent Chase’s crime drama and Pablo Escobar biopic, Medellin, is a massive flop. This is a big deal because the show has spent nearly its entire run up to this point hyping up Medellin as Vince’s dream project, and having the fourth season end on such a resounding thud sets the stage for an unprecedented introspective turn.

A few months have passed by the time Season Five begins. Medellin is released straight to DVD after stinking up the Cannes Film Festival, and Vince is now considered unemployable in Hollywood. The vast majority of this season centers around his efforts to rebuild his reputation from the ground up by taking on smaller projects, so that he can once again be seen as a viable movie star… and he gets rejected every step of the way. He is brought crashing back to Earth, and is forced to learn a little humility. His professional life and public image might have taken a few bumps in the show’s early goings, but never before now has he had to take a good hard look in the mirror and take stock of his life. At one point he even confronts his agent Ari Gold, by far his most outspoken supporter, and asks him straight up, “Do you think I’m a good actor?” Ari is unable to look him in the eye and give him a straight answer. This is all great stuff, and I was genuinely impressed that the show was going to bother going down this road at all after years of dishing out nothing but relatively minor speed bumps in the lives of Vince and company. Although on reflection, maybe four seasons deep really was the right time to mix up the formula lest it become stagnant.

Well, so much for keeping it short. Anyway, in the season’s home stretch, circumstances lead to Vince landing a secondary role in Smoke Jumpers, the story of a team of heroic firefighters, which it is hoped will give Vince the shot at redemption his career needs. The director is Verner Vollstedt, an esteemed German filmmaker with a reputation for demanding the most out of his actors. The two don’t exactly get along, to say the least. After discovering that Verner has been giving many of his lines to his co-star, Vince approaches the director and promises to redouble his commitment to the film and give a worthy performance.

Verner and Vince

The strangest scene of this little circus happens when Verner finally takes Vince aside and tries to patiently explain to him that he just doesn’t think he has much range as an actor. He makes Vince sit through clips of his own work, and points out each and every one of his poor mannerisms and instances of wooden delivery. It’s clear that Verner’s attention to detail goes much deeper than anyone expected. We don’t see this footage ourselves, but we do see Vince’s baffled reactions while he watches himself on screen. Has he never seen his own body of work before? Does he just not notice his own personal tics? Or maybe he does notice them, but just doesn’t see them as the sort of deal-breakers that Verner does? Or is it simply the fact that Stellan Skarsgard is a much better actor than Adrian Grenier, and was therefore more able to convince me to take his character’s side? This was the moment I decided that Vince just might be in the wrong here.

To his credit, Vince eventually owns up and realizes that Verner has a point, and he dedicates time to work on his bad habits. With a renewed focus, he announces to Verner that he’s ready to give it his all, and prepares to film his most emotionally intense scene. This is where things spiral out of control.

Vince proceeds to deliver such an awful performance that I’m still not sure if Adrian Grenier just can’t handle a heavy emotional monologue, or if he’s deliberately playing a guy who can’t handle a heavy emotional monologue. Either way, a frustrated Verner storms off the set. Now the clash of the two egos comes to a head as the director tears into Vince, calling him a shallow Hollywood pretty boy incapable of delivering anything with real weight and humanity. He reveals that he never wanted Vince in the first place, claiming that the studio forced him into the movie at the last minute against the director’s wishes (which we already know to be true, by the way). Vince, having been surrounded by nothing but yes-men for most of his career, fires back that Verner has unrealistic expectations and simply refuses to be satisfied, and that he has had it in for Vince from day one. It’s worth pointing out at this point that Verner has two Oscars to his credit, a fact that all of the main characters are aware of.

And so, Vince runs crying to mommy, telling his agent that the big bad director is being mean to him. Ari flies out to the set of Smoke Jumpers to back up his highest priority client and lock horns with the “dictator”. Yeah, I should also mention that Ari Gold is Jewish, and you’ll be unsurprised to hear that the writers go for the low-hanging fruit of comparing the German director to Adolf Hitler at every possible opportunity. A power struggle ensues in the studio headquarters in a scene that attempts to frame Vince as being the bigger man in all of this. And just in case there was any doubt left that we’re supposed to read this whole mess as “Vince good, Verner bad”, the director suddenly throws a fit and runs up and down the halls, yelling for the studio’s CEO (to the tune of Rammstein’s “Du Hast”, because why not at this point). Once he sees this madman foaming at the mouth, the studio head realizes what a disaster the production of Smoke Jumpers has become. He decides to cut his losses, and promptly pulls the plug on the entire movie. Vince and company dejectedly leave Hollywood for Queens, New York, and Verner Vollstedt is never seen or heard from again.

Verner Rage

Look, I get that you could call me out for reading waaaay too much into a TV show that, quite honestly, never had a great deal of depth to it. And you’d be entirely correct if not for the fact that Entourage ups the ante by tackling bigger subject matter beginning with the closing moments of Season Four, carries it all throughout the following season, and then tries to go backwards. The three-episode Verner Vollstedt arc represents a regression in the way the story presents itself, and by the sixth season, the show has retreated to the safer and lighter fare of its early years.

There’s an interesting moment one episode before Vince gets his world rocked by Verner: a rival agent, who has been presented as nothing but a grade-A douchebag since Season One, has a shocking moment of sobriety and tries to delicately tell Vince that his career as a can’t-miss bankable film star might be coming to an end. He is immediately told to take a hike and, you guessed it, is never seen or heard from again. Hey, Vince? If the one-dimensional asshole is breaking character in order to send you a message, maybe you ought to stand up and take notice.

So, that’s my defense of Verner Vollstedt. No reasonable person could say that he ever did anything out of line, until his cartoonish explosion in the studio HQ when the writers realized they didn’t want us to root for anyone but the hapless protagonist. One episode later, the fifth season ends as Vince’s career is suddenly put back on track through no effort of his own, and he never seems to learn a lesson of any kind from this ordeal.

Or, to put it another way, it’s all gonna work out ’cause Vince is doin’ the movie!

“He’s the master! … Of thumbs.”

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