It’s twelfty-threven weeks into the COVID-19 lockdown (who’s even counting), and by now, most of us are probably out of those other necessities like booze, cigarettes, and a moment’s respite from listening to your spouse breathe. The impulse to revolt, to get up and get out of the house, to go and find some black market pepper steak pie and USB cables is real. But this would be a very bad decision, and making very bad decisions is a very bad decision. Like that movie Inception, except decisions instead of dreams. Kind of. You know what I mean.
Anyway, let’s watch other people make very bad decisions so we don’t have to.
Synopsis: A high school science teacher is diagnosed with terminal cancer, so he starts a meth business to pay for his medical costs. This is a very bad decision.
A regular feature on TV junkies’ BEST SHOW EVER lists, Breaking Bad’s 2008 season one debut introduced an almost entirely unprecedented premise – what if the good guy becomes the bad guy? Bryan Cranston, whose previous credits at the time included family-fun sitcom Malcolm in the Middle and not much else, is Walter White, whose cancer diagnosis and prospective debts make him a totally credible good guy. Cooking meth? That’s not so good guy, maybe, but his reasons – cancer and debt! – are ostensibly compelling. At first, anyway. It’s his chaotic slip ‘n’ slide into organised crime and Mexican drug cartels and the disintegration of his family that, in retrospect, make it actually a very bad decision.
BETTER CALL SAUL
Synopsis: A con artist wants to be a respectable lawyer, but ends up being an occasional con artist and disreputable lawyer instead. A very bad decision, maybe, but also an uncomfortably realistic one.
Although spin-off shows are trash as a rule, this Breaking Bad spin-off an exception. Saul Goodman, originally introduced as Walter White’s criminal-lawyer-for-hire (with emphasis on “criminal”, not “lawyer”), features in Better Call Saul as a kind of inverse of Breaking Bad’s character premise – the bad guy becomes the good guy, or tries super hard to, anyway, and if he becomes a bad guy as a result of those efforts, that’s like an existential metaphor and not even his fault.
Synopsis: Financial adviser Marty Byrde and his business partner launder money for a Mexican drug cartel, and secretly skim $8 million off the top. Not one, but two very bad decisions, and consequences will never be the same.
Ozark is frequently compared with Breaking Bad, and the similarities between them are not insignificant – but I think each one has its idiosyncratic chemistry (sorry, not sorry). Like Walter White, Marty Byrde is a boring suburban dad who gets mixed up with the wrong people, but where Walter is a revealed to be a narcissistic fascist whose virtuous persona is a disingenuous fake, Marty is a wretched victim of his own inconsistent ethics and very bad decisions.
And Ozark’s third season finale? Omg.
Synopsis: A lot of very bad decisions.
“This is a true story”, each season claims. It’s not, but if you keep up with news headlines out of Walmart locations in the US, it could be. Based loosely on the true-story-that-isn’t events of the 1996 Coen Brothers movie of the same name, each season of Fargo introduces a new plot and new protagonists, but with some narrative connections and the same “yuuuuuuh” Minnesotan accents. It’s not about “who did what” so much as “but why“.
Synopsis: New York jeweller and gambling addict Howard Ratner is in debt. In a haphazard scheme to solve his problems, he makes very bad decisions.
This is a movie, not a TV show, but it’s a Netflix Original and it’s inevitably watched with a constant series of dismayed BUT THIS IS A VERY BAD DECISION critiques from the viewer so it counts. And don’t skip it because it stars Adam Sandler – like Bryan Cranston and Jason Bateman, this guy has facets. Like a diamond. That’s also a clever joke about the movie.
Uncut Gems is a movie you want to go into knowing almost nothing about it, so go do that now.
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