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Qualler's Episode of the Month: June/July 2011

Wow, the summer has melted away so much that I let a month of best TV episodes also melt by the wayside. And yet, June and July has produced episodes of TV among the best of the year. Granted, a lot of that has to do with some of the best shows on TV airing their seasons throughout these months, but it's been one fantastic summer of television thus far. Hey, it beats the hell out of spending $9.50 on Transformers 3, amiright? With apologies to Treme and Curb Your Enthusiasm, which I have yet to catch up on, these are the best episodes of June and July of 2011.

Louie is back and arguably better than ever in its second season. As Chris pointed out, Louie is not afraid to go even darker than last season. Most specifically, in the season's second episode "Bummer/Blueberries", Louis CK's complicated feelings about mortality and bizarre sexual encounters are laid out for everyone to see. But it was the season's third episode "Moving" that encapsulated why Louie is easily one of the best shows on TV right now. Combining the riotously hilarious standup bits that encumber every episode along with the surreal elements that frequently litter his episodes (see: Louie and Pamela checking out a crazy man's apartment, Louie's impromptu vision of he and his realtor dancing) and the straight-up wonderful, long scenes of dialogue (Louie talking to his accountant), "Moving" is a sensational half-hour of comedy. It also contained an instantly classic line: "What about Obama?", Louie's response to his accountant telling him that he can't afford a house that costs 17. Million. Dollars. Oh, and it was, in the end, touching as ever, with Louie imagining him telling his realtor that he was going to buy that house for his (totally adorable) daughters.

Game of Thrones, as we documented in this week's episode of Blogulator Radio, is more than just a good adaptation of a good book. It has taken off as its own living, breathing HBO series, in the tradition of great HBO series. Although it's more difficult than usual to pick out a specific episode from a show as dependent on the continuing season-long narrative as GoT naturally is (having 10-hour seasons based on 1,000 page books will tend to leave the bottle episodes away, after all), the show's first season, much like the book it was based on, ratcheted up its intensity, to the point where it produced two breathtaking episodes, "Baelor" and "Fire and Blood". In the show's ninth and tenth episodes of its ten-episode first season, the plot machinations brought things to a head incredibly efficiently. The final scene of "Baelor", where Ned Stark shockingly meets his doom, is as spine-chilling as the scene feels on the page, but done in a good TV way. And the final episode, "Fire and Blood", serves as an effective epilogue while setting up season two like gangbusters. It's final scene is equally memorable to the final scene of "Baelor", with Daenerys emerging from the ashes of Khal Drogo's burning with her newly hatched baby dragons. Even knowing how the book ends, that moment was essentially spoiler-proof because of how incredibly well-executed it was (with a hat tip to director Alan Taylor, who has directed numerous episodes of great HBO shows.) If you're gonna have a show with dragons, you might as well set it up in a way that you really earn them, and GoT earned the shit out of those dragons.

In any other month, Breaking Bad, would be the far and away winner of Qualler's Episode of the Month with its ballsy season premiere "Box Cutter". How many ways was "Box Cutter" one of the best season premieres I have ever seen? Start with the opening scene, a flashback with Gail and Gus chatting about the new meth superlab, or the deeply intense mood-setting post-credits scene with the cops chatting with neighbors about Gail's murder. Or, start with Skylar, breaking into her own bad habits by casually lying to the locksmith so she could break into Walt's apartment. Or, most likely, start with the showstopping, completely and utterly shocking (even with the foreshadowing of the title weapon being a prominent object in that opening scene) scene with Walt nervously trying to show his power over Gus until Gus slashed Victor's throat and let him die...right...in...front...of...Walt and Jesse. Or Jesse's total shock and silence in the wake of his murdering of Gail. This season premiere is the work of a show that knows exactly what its strengths are and utilizes the hell out of them. Where the fourth season will go is anyone's guess, but it couldn't have kicked off any better than "Box Cutter".

So, it would take a really special show, with a really special episode, to cause "Box Cutter" not to be the best episode of TV in June and July. And, that is the case with Friday Night Lights, in its gorgeous series finale, "Always". There's a lot to love about the series finale, from its gentle resolution of Coach and Mrs. Coach's biggest fight of their marriage, to Matt and Coach's hilarious interactions about proposing to Julie. Oh, and Riggins and Tyra's understanding of each other: "Maybe some day our lives will merge" says Riggins. And the final state championship scene was, as Chris pointed out, some real Terrance Malick shit. Who said TV can't aspire to be as cinematic as cinema? Here's to hoping that Peter Berg doesn't really get a new movie produced about Coach and Mrs. Coach in Philadelphia, because it would rob us of this perfect ending to this mostly perfect show.

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  1. Blogger chris | 11:45 AM |  

    I suppose "Baelor" aired too late for it to be considered for the Emmys, right? Too bad, cuz that (and the finale, obvi) was wayyy better than the pilot, which is what's nominated for script/direction.

  2. Blogger qualler | 11:47 AM |  

    I believe "Baelor" is the one they submitted and got nominated for on script, actually, while the pilot "Winter is Coming" was for directing.

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