The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items will vary, as will the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest. The important thing is that it’s Friday and we are here to have some fun.
ITEM NUMBER ONE — Poor, poor Jesse
The Breaking Bad movie is officially happening. Vince Gilligan is on-board. Netflix gets the first crack at it, followed by AMC. Usually, people might be upset about something like this, fearful that spinning a story off of a near-perfect television show could tarnish the original in some way. That doesn’t appear to be happening here, though, probably because Gilligan and company have already spun-off a prequel series, Better Call Saul, that is way better than any show about the secondary comic relief in a bleak masterpiece has any right to be. These people know what they’re doing and, until presented with evidence to the contrary, we should probably just sit back and enjoy it. It’s good news. It’s good news for everybody.
Well, almost everyone. It is almost definitely not good news for Jesse Pinkman, the character Aaron Paul played in the original series who is also the focus of the movie. In fact, it is probably the opposite of good news. It is terrible news. Poor Jesse.
Let’s go back to the end of Breaking Bad. Jesse has just been freed from Nazi captivity by Walter. Walter succumbs to his wounds and dies. Mike is already dead. Saul is on the run and, we now know, headed to a sad existence as a mustachioed Cinnabon manager in Nebraska. Everyone’s life is sad and ruined or over except whoooaaaa Jesse hops in a car and blasts through the Nazis’ fence and screams a guttural scream of freedom as he speeds away into the night. It is the closest thing the show gives us to a happy ending. Gilligan alluded to this in the script, saying this in the description of the scene: “Grimly determined, fearing nothing, he speeds through the darkness. From here, it’s up to us to say where he’s headed. I like to call it ‘something better’ and leave it at that.”
Cool. Good for Jesse. That guy went through some stuff on Breaking Bad. His boss let his girlfriend choke to death on her own vomit next to him in bed. His other girlfriend got murdered in front of him. He got addicted to heroin. He was manipulated and used and beaten and, again, held captive by Nazis for an extended period of time, during which he was kept in a cage like a dog every second of the day he was not being forced to cook meth. It was not ideal. Guy really needed a win. “Something better,” if you will, although I suppose just about anything is better than being kept in a Nazi cage for months.
Gilligan agreed. After the show ended, GQ asked him what he thought happened to Jesse, and his response was “the way I see it is that he got away and got to Alaska, changed his name, and had a new life. You want that for the kid. He deserves it.” I don’t know if I would have picked Alaska, myself, because Alaska is very cold and empty and there are many small tropical islands that afford you similar luxuries, but fine. Alaska works. I can picture him in Alaska being happy. That’s what’s important here.
Unfortunately, the existence of this movie and the fact that it will focus on Jesse raises two problems. The first problem is that what I want for Jesse — a simple, peaceful life with no drama and no people shooting at him and significantly less narcotics — does not exactly make for riveting cinema. It would be kind of wild if that’s what the movie was, though, just two hours of Jesse Pinkman ice fishing in Alaska and drinking hot cocoa with his new wife, who does not at any point die of an overdose or get murdered by his enemies. People would be so mad.
The second thing is the first part of Gilligan’s answer about what he thinks happens to Jesse, which I omitted earlier:
“My personal feeling is that he got away. But the most likely thing, as negative as this sounds, is that they’re going to find this kid’s fingerprints all over this lab and they’re going to find him within a day or a week or a month. And he’s still going to be on the hook for the murder of two federal agents.”
Ah, right. The murders. I forgot about those. And the thing where he’s one of the most wanted fugitives in the country. And the thing where Walter’s death was probably huge national news and every reporter or person with a cell phone camera will have their eyes peeled for the infamous Heisenberg’s number two. Think about the media circus of the El Chapo trial and then double it because the criminal here is a homegrown former chemistry teacher who became the West Coast’s methamphetamine kingpin and evaded authorities for months.
Things are about to get really bad for Jesse. That’s what I’m saying here. That hope we all had in the moments after his escape, the breathing room the open-ended finale gave us to pretend things worked out for the show’s saddest puppy? About to be gone. We’re going to find out exactly what happened to Jesse Pinkman. Given everything we know about him and the general tone of the show, it’s probably not going to be super great. For him, I mean. Probably pretty okay for the rest of us, if we can bear seeing him put through even more hell. Which I don’t think I can. Oh God. Oh no. Poor Jesse.
This is already stressing me out. Leave him alone, Gilligan.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — And the Oscar goes to But What If No Beatles?
Few things bring me more joy than pretending I don’t know who the Beatles are. It’s really tough to pull off but so, so rewarding when it works. Those few seconds — it’s never more than a few — when people think I’ve never heard of the biggest band in history… I mean, I wish I could live inside them forever. The trick is to wait for a Beatles song to play somewhere and then do something like this:
YOU: This song is pretty good.
THEM: Yeah, it’s one of my favorite Beatles songs.
THEM: … The Beatles.
YOU: Are they new?
THEM: … No. The Beatles.
YOU: Never heard of them.
THEM: You don’t know who the Beatles are? John Lennon. Paul McCartney.
YOU: You mean the guy from Wings?
Really a blast. Also works great with Beyoncé. Anyway, here’s a trailer for Yesterday, a real movie that is coming out in which a guy bonks his head real good and wakes up in a world where the Beatles never existed, so, because he’s smart and enterprising, he plays all of their songs and becomes the biggest rock star in the world. The premise is right on the line between insane and brilliant and it’s so goofy and I can’t stop thinking about it. Just zap and the Beatles are erased from history.
It doesn’t look like the movie gets into the ripple effects of it all (no Beatles means no George Harrison which means no cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that ends with Prince in a red top hat shredding a guitar for like two straight minutes), which is a shame. If we’re going to do this, let’s really do it. Let’s get way into it. Let’s examine all the various wormholes this opens. It’s like the old “would you kill Hitler if you had a time machine?” question but probably more harmless and profitable. And imagine how ticked off you’d be if this happened to you and you saw the business opportunity but only knew like two Beatles songs. I want to talk about this movie forever. I doubt I’ll ever see it.
Anyway, if anyone needs me, I’ll be smashing my head into things until I wake up in a world where the song “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle doesn’t exist. I don’t want to play it or anything to try to get rich. I just really don’t like that song.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — The funniest thing Game of Thrones has ever done
The final season of Game of Thrones is zooming toward us and, as can be expected, the cast and crew are getting peppered with a zillion questions about the show. The showrunners, too. And because that is happening, this happened.
“Cersei hated the name ‘Ser Pounce’ so much she could not allow him to survive,” showrunner David Benioff tells EW. “So she came up with her most diabolical [execution]. Ser Pounce’s death was so horrible we couldn’t even put it on the air.”
The internet threw itself into a breathless tizzy over this, which is fine, all things considered. I much prefer Dead Fictional Beloved Cat tizzies to Previously Unknown Political Ghoul Said Something Predictably Ghoulish tizzies. But I want to go on the record as saying this is the funniest thing the show has ever done. It’s just so awful and unnecessary. They could have very easily just said “Yeah, I don’t know” or “He ran away.” They didn’t have to announce that a major character on the show killed her son’s cat — one the show’s legions of rabid fans have become attached to after seeing it in one single brief scene — in horrific fashion. And they knew that doing it would cause exactly the reaction it did. They were probably so fed up with cutesy questions about the dumb cat and they just wanted to be rascals about it and I respect it so much. Good for them.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Vincent Collateral!
Did you ever learn a new fact so shocking, so completely and fundamentally universe-altering, that it grinds the gears of your brain to a halt as though someone heaved a huge wad of chewed-up bubble gum in there? I ask because I just did, this week, via this tweet from Molly Lambert.
Tom Cruise’s character in Collateral was named Vincent Collateral. Vincent Collateral! This is amazing. I… I love it so much. I wish we could go back and retroactively change Tom Cruise’s characters’ names to the title of the movie in all of his movies, or at least the ones where it would work. Examples:
– Ethan Impossible
– Frank Magnolia
– Maverick Topgun
– Mitch Firm
– Charlie Rainman
– Brian Cocktail
Brian Cocktail! God, how much better would Cocktail be if Tom Cruise’s character had been named Brian Cocktail? Hundreds of times better. Thousands, maybe. I wish that were my name now. In fact, let’s pretend it is. From now on, please refer to me only as Brian Cocktail. Thanks.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — James Cameron’s love of the sea is ruining his life
ME: Oh, hey, James Cam-
“I think [Aquaman] is a movie I could have never made. Truthfully. I could have never made that film because it requires this total dreamlike disconnect from any sense of physics or reality. It exists somewhere between a Greek mythic landscape and a fairy tale landscape. And people just kind of zoom around underwater because … they propel themselves mentally? I guess? I don’t know. But it’s cool. You buy it on its own terms. But I’ve spent thousands of hours underwater. I’m very literal about my underwater. It needs to look like it’s real. And while I can enjoy that film I don’t resonate with it because it doesn’t look real.”
Have you ever been out to dinner with someone who is way, way into wine, to the point that it almost ruins their entire meal? Like, they’ll get cranky about the wine list and then order a glass of whatever and you can tell — even as they try to grin and fight through — that they want to pull the waiter aside and grill him about the way the wine has been stored? That’s what this is, just with the ocean. James Cameron knows so much about the ocean that he’s not really capable of enjoying it on a simple level. He sees too many flaws, too many things that are just a little off or not quite as they should be, and every time he catches one it’s like a person sitting behind him flicking him on the back of the neck with their index fingers. It’s kind of heartbreaking, really. Or at least it would be if it weren’t hilarious. He went full Degrasse Tyson. You never go full Degrasse Tyson.
That’s not even the funniest part, though. The funniest part is that James Cameron did direct an Aquaman movie. Kind of. He directed the fictional Vinny Chase-starring version of Aquaman in Entourage, which set a fictional all-time box office record opening weekend. Mandy Moore played Aquagirl. James Woods played the villain. Aquaman’s birth parents were played by — I promise this is true — Sharon Stone and Ray Liotta.
I bring this up because, again, it’s hilarious given Cameron’s comments this week, but also because now I really want to see the hyper-realistic, scientifically-accurate James Cameron version of Aquaman that stars Ray Liotta as Aquaman’s dad.
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or, like, whatever you want, shoot them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “RUNDOWN” in the subject line. I am the first writer to ever answer reader mail in a column. Do not look up this last part.
Do you think the cast of Game of Thrones is glad the show is ending? I’m sure they’ll miss the paychecks and the camaraderie and the perks of being on the biggest show in the world but don’t you think they’re all just a little sick of it and ready to be done?
Oh, definitely. Poor Kit Harington hasn’t had a real haircut in almost a decade, for one. I hope he goes nuts the first chance he gets. I’m thinking like a blue Mohawk. Or maybe he just goes completely shaved, like Lex Luthor. Live it up, my dude. You’re free. Shave a lightning bolt into your head like it’s 1992. Go to an airport without throngs of amateur paparazzi snapping pictures of you to prove your character is coming back to life in the next episode. Live on the beach for a year and get fat and drink sugary umbrella drinks.
But even more generally, I’m sure all of them are very ready to leave the annoying parts of the job behind. The crowds, the mandatory events, the same questions being asked over and over (see above), there’s a lot of extra stuff — extra obligations — that goes into being a part of a worldwide phenomenon. This is why huge rock bands break up at the height of their popularity. They’ll probably all look back on it fondly a decade or so from now at the reunion special, and I doubt any of them take for granted the opportunities they have because of the show, but I bet there’s a sliver of everyone involved — somewhere between 20 and 50 percent — that is just ready to move on and try new things and go six months without being asked about a dragon.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
I must know everything about this at once. Spill it, NPR.
Some enterprising chimpanzees at the Belfast Zoo in Northern Ireland’s capital, propped a tree branch against the wall of their enclosure Saturday to make an improvised, yet sturdy, ladder.
This is so great. Apparently, a storm knocked down some branches of a tree in the chimpanzee enclosure and the chimps used one of the loose branches to scoot up and out and over the wall. The only way I could love this more is if one of the chimps had pressed play on a boombox loaded with “Sinnerman” by Nina Simone to give it all a fancy Thomas Crown Affair vibe. Let me be very clear about this: I support all chimpanzee zoo escapes on the condition that the chimpanzees do it with no human assistance.
What I do not support, on the other hand, is any of this:
“Don’t escape, you bad little gorilla,” a child chimed in as stunned zoo visitors filmed the breakout. (She was right about the absconding, if not the actual animal). Two chimpanzees manage to make it to the top of the wall as a third attempts to scramble up and join them. One perched above scurries away. The child repeats with more urgency, “Mom, it’s escaping!”