Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Breaking Bad: AuGUStavo Fring

I personally think Gus and Max were gay lovers. But whether or not they were is really irrelevant because I believe Gus took Max under his wing for a different reason.

Specifically, Gus was showing the same kindness that Augusto Pinochet showed him as a young man. I believe Gus was the Chilean dictator's protege many years before, which is how Gus got the nickname "Generalissimo". When Pinochet was ousted in 1988, those close to him changed their identities to avoid prosecution.

Augusto's protege adopted the name Gustavo as a covert homage to the man who showed him such kindness. That's why there's no record of any Gus Fring in Chile prior to 1989.

EDIT: Someone noted elsewhere that Hank mentioned finding records of Gus Fring's entering Mexico in 1986. If so, perhaps Gus went there as an emissary for Pinochet, who was reportedly involved in drug running. Either way, I suspect Gus adopted the alias as an homage to his benefactor.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Breaking Bad: Open House

I absolutely adored the first two episodes of S4. In fact, I thought this season was off to the strongest start since S1. But the third episode ("Open House") was like Don Salamanca's watery deuce.

I just don't care about Marie or her kleptomania. I also find it ridiculous that Skyler would risk faking an EPA inspection, when one phone call to the agency would reveal her deception. All the moreso after her lecture to Walt about not taking unnecessary risks.

It just didn't work for me. At all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Torchwood: The Master

What if the Master is behind Miracle Day?

For those unfamiliar, the Master is an infamous villain from Doctor Who, the show that spawned Torchwood. He time travels using a machine called a TARDIS that's bigger on the inside than the outside.

I know Russell T. Davies has been insistent that Torchwood should never overlap with Doctor Who. But ever since it was revealed that PhiCorp's warehouse was bigger on the inside like a TARDIS, I can't shake my suspicion the Master is involved.

Miracle Day seems beyond the capability of PhiCorp. More likely, they're being exploited by someone more powerful for some purpose besides making money. Many, myself included, have wondered if the real motive is finding a way to kill Jack.

The Master has good reason to want Jack dead, particularly if the latter is the Face of Boe. In the Doctor Who episode "Utopia," the Doctor discovers a character is the Master in disguise thanks to a cryptic warning delivered by the Face of Boe.

I'm guessing the Master has realized that Jack is indeed the Face of Boe, and that killing him is the key to rewriting a timeline in which the Master suffers a series of humiliating defeats by the Doctor.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Falling Skies: Occupation

It seems like the aliens are bent on occupation, rather than genocide. Against that backdrop, their actions make some sense. For example, many have wondered why the aliens only attack at night. But what's the first thing occupying forces usually do? Impose a curfew.

Another big question is why the aliens only attack large groups. Perhaps such groups represent the threat of a large-scale uprising, which the aliens want to avoid. Not because they couldn't suppress such a revolt, but because doing so would require killing too many people.

The aliens harvest the children. Any accompanying adults are killed under the assumption they're parents who might try to take back their kids. But the aliens can't kill too many adults because that would mean no more children. They're following sustainable hunting practices.

This may even explain why the aliens are collecting scrap metal. Despite the EMP, some radios will have survived or been repaired by now. There were suggestions of this in episode 3, when the Colonel mentioned pockets of resistance across the country had made contact.

At some point, the aliens will need to use another EMP to prevent the resistance from coordinating. And when they do, their own electronics will have to be shielded. Perhaps that's why the aliens want aluminum roofing.They're building the mother of all aluminum foil hats!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fringe: The War Between the Universes Was Inevitable

A lot of fans seem confused how there could be a war between the universes if Peter never existed. After all, wasn't he the whole reason Walter originally crossed over? And didn't his conversation with young Olivia cause Walternate to figure out about the Blue Universe? The answer to both questions is yes. But I think were still meant to infer that the war between the universes was inevitable.

In "Peter," Walter said Belly was always urging them to cross over to steal more technology. We can assume, therefore, that the two would have done so at some point regardless. Also, Walter alluded to a "mistake" in "The Day We Died," suggesting the first crossing may have been an unintended error.

Once you assume the crossing was inevitable, then so was Walternate's discovery of the Blue Universe. Indeed, it seems odd to think Walter would be able to discover the Red Universe while Walternate would remain oblivious to the Blue. At a minimum, he would have figured out what was up once his universe started collapsing. Also, we know Belly approached Walternate at some point, presumably to get more technology.

So, the war was inevitable, too, it was just a matter of time. By removing Peter from the timeline, however, the Observers made the conflict less personal between Walter and Walternate, setting the stage for their future cooperation.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fringe: Why Season 4 Should Be the Last

Fringe was only recently renewed, but the debate has already begun about whether Season 4 should be the last. Some argue the odds of a fifth season (while not impossible) are so slim that the writers should take the opportunity to end the series well, rather than risk leaving viewers hanging. Others counter that, because the series could conceivably continue, writing S4 is if it were the last might leave the writers with no story to tell in S5.

Both arguments have merit, so I decided to compare the Expected Value of the two aproaches to see if we can resolve this objectively. For those unfamiliar, Expected Value is simply a weighted average of all possible outcomes. For example, the probability of a six-sided die landing on any one side is 1/6 or about .167. The Expected Value of a die roll is thus 3.5 because .167(1)+.167(2)+.167(3)+.167(4)

So, what does this have to do with Fringe? Let's assume S4 and S5 could each rate a maximum of 10 points in quality. Let's further stipulate that the probability of the show's being renewed for S5 is around 35%, a rough but reasonable estimate offered by one proponent of the second approach (i.e., that the writers should hedge their bets on S5). By comparing the Expected Value of each approach, we can get a sense of which course is preferable.

Approach #1: The writers write S4 as if it's the last. There's a 65% chance they're right, in which case S4 scores a perfect 10 in quality. But there's also a 35% chance they get renewed after blowing their load in S4. In that case, S4 is still great but S5 suffers and rates only a 5 in quality. The Expected Value of this first approach is thus 11.75 because .65(10)+.35(15)=11.75.

Approach #2: The writers write S4 with an eye towards renewal. There's a 65% chance they're wrong, in which case S4 rates only a 5 in quality because they leave viewers hanging. But there's also a 35% chance they're right, in which case both S4 and S5 rate perfect 10s in quality. The Expected Value of this second approach is thus 10.25 because .65(5)+.35(20)=10.25.

From a probabalistic perspective, Approach #1 is objectively superior to Approach #2 because it maxmizes expected quality despite the possibility the writers might be caught with their pants down in S5. In fact, the same is true even if you assume that the probability of renewal is more like 49%, though it's a closer call. No matter how you slice it, therefore, the writers would be wise to write S4 under the assumption it's the last.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fringe: Were the First People Shapeshifters?

My whackadoo theory for the week is that the First People were shapeshifters. If Sam Weiss turns out to be a First Person, this would explain his comment that he's "taller" and "older" than he looks.

Maybe Sam was the source of the shapeshifter technology that Belly gave to Walternate. Perhaps the hybrid soldiers use technology to do what the First People evolved to do naturally.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fringe: Spooky Action at a Distance

In "6B," Walter described the elderly couple as occupying a state of "emotional quantum entanglement" and quoted Einstein's line about "spooky action at a distance" as justification.

Interestingly, Einstein was being derisive when he described quantum entanglement as spooky action at a distance. He found the very idea of quantum mechanics absurd and insisted that "God doesn't play dice with the universe."

Similarly, the most famous example of quantum entanglement (Schrodinger's Cat) was actually Schrodinger's effort to demonstrate the absurdity of applying the uncertainty principle to everyday objects like people or cats.

Ironically, both "spooky action at a distance" and "Schrodinger's cat" have become part of the lexicon of Quantum Mechanics despite Einstein and Schrodinger's derisive intent!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fringe: Dramatic Irony

Irony is a divergence between literal and intended meanings. One subset is dramatic irony, where dialogue means one thing to the character speaking it, and another to the audience hearing the line. The classic example of dramatic irony is Oedipus Rex, where the audience knows what will happen to Oedipus long before he does.

The most recent episode of Fringe offered another possible example -- the Observer's line that "It must be hard... being a father." The intended reference was presumably to Walter's dilemma as Peter's father. But I suspect the dialogue will take on a whole new meaning by season's end.

Many, myself included, believe that Bolivia is pregnant with Peter's child. If so, the Observer's line may be even more profound than he realizes. Specifically, Peter and Bolivia's baby may be yet another "unforeseen consequence" of the Observer's saving Peter as a child.