Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mad Men - Sally's Under the Couch

Where's Sally?!
Aye aye AYE! There are several truths to Sunday's episode of Mad Men, Misery Date Mystery Date. The first is that I was more shocked during several scenes of this show than Game of Thrones, so good onya, MM. The second is that I almost passed out watching every scene with Sally... I don't think I'm the only one who holds her breath the entire time she's on the screen. I have said this before and I will say it now: Somebody give this girl an Emmy! (Aside: why don't they create a child actor category for the Emmy's? Something like "outstanding performance of an actor or actress under the age of X." My guess is that perhaps there would be a year without any candidates, to which I would counter, then eliminate the award that year. I just feel like Kieran Shipka who plays Sally,  and now Maisie Williams who plays Arya on GoT have so much talent and bring such depth and weight to their respective roles that they should be recognized and won't through the traditional awards methods. And there are plenty of others who would fit this category. === runs to write letter to Emmys)

you're sickos!
It's not like Sunday's episode is the first time we have seen sexual violence manifest itself in various ways on Mad Men, especially from a dominant male point of view. However, this might be the most graphic, and the most prevalent as a theme throughout an entire episode. With the Chicago student nurse murders serving as a backdrop and also a focal discussion point for many characters, several male characters are portrayed as being misogynist or at the very least, uncaring towards women, specifically the women in their lives (I'm looking at you, Greg). Obviously, the scene where a feverish Don strangles Dream Andrea after having Dream Sex is the most egregious. But the argument could be made that Greg's indifference to Joan in volunteering to back to the war is, to a lesser extent, similar in its treatment of women. Is it possible that loose-canon newcomer Michael Ginsburg is the only male voice of conscience when he says "you're sickos" when Peggy, Stan and others are gathered around looking at pictures from the grisly murder scene. It's not a coincidence that Dream Andrea says to Don about their Dream Sex "you loved it and you'll love it again because you're sick." Interesting play on words since this is what sends Don into the craze that results in strangling her and stuffing her under the bed like dirty laundry, but also, you know, he's fevery sick.

And then there's Sally. Oh, Sally... how does this girl even stand a chance? No one cares about her hair! Just when we thought Betty would be the worst role model/ guardian she could have, now we have StepNana Pauline, who not only further terrifies Sally with gory details of the Chicago nurse murders (after Sally sneaks a newspaper to read about it), but then drugs her to sleep. Nana of the Year!

In probably the most genius visual puzzle-piece maneuver ever, we see Don shoving Andrea's body under the bed in one scene, then we cut to a pull-back into a wide shot of living room and, oh, Sally is UNDER THE COUCH. Shivers! Poor Sally was probably scared out of her mind and went there to feel safe, and we are reminded here (like a brick in the face) that the lone survivor of the Chicago Nurse murders saved herself by hiding under the bed. Unsettling to say the least.

- Can I say again that Keirnan Shipka's portrayal of Sally is just out of this world? First, her on the phone with Don, with perfect pre-teen boredom, whininess and snark. But Sally's interrogation of Pauline "was your mom strict?" and her reaction to PAuline's story of being hit for no reason and being better for it, which was at once interest, confusion, disgust and shock, was played so subtly on her face it deserves an Emmy in itself.
- Peggy! Her negotiation with Roger was probably one of her very best moments. Her eyeing her purse when Dawn is staying on the couch is probably not.
- oh, Roger... what's happening? Y U have so much cash? My guess is this is the only power he has left, since the world is evolving around him and he's being disrespected at every turn. Money still gets him what he wants.
- Joan! This girl is a survivor, she's gonna make it... she finally kicks Greg to the curb with a "you were never a good man, even before we were married. I think you know what I'm talking about." IT will be tough, but she's ready to kick ass solo style.
- I thought this blog entry on the episode had a fantastic insight into our new friend Ginsburg, and how the whole dark Cinderella mythology plays itself out in the episode, especially embedding itself in the psyche of Don and that one red shoe

one red shoe
So many layers to this episode, and so many shocking moments. Were you duped by the dream sequence? What's next for Joan? What's next for poor Sally? Hit the comments!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Trifecta - The Killing, Game of Thrones, Mad Men

Last night, TV was SO AWESOME that my brain almost exploded. Three of the best TV dramas ever were on, two with season premieres. Of course I am talking about the season premieres of Game of Thrones and The Killing (back to back eps!), while the third episode into the new season of Mad Men was also on last night. Let's just say there was some hyperventilating happening at about 8:45. All of these shows were deeply engrossing in their own, super fabulous ways. And while they are probably three of the most different shows possible, one unifying theme (besides strong characters in general) has to be the boatload of mom issues on these shows: missing Mitch, powerhungry-powerless-powercrazy Cersei and thyroid complications for Betty.
Where to start? To fully bask in my joy, I will start in order of viewing...

The Killing

Due to a DVR glitch (*shakes fist in general direction of Comcast*), I had to wait until the 10PM viewing of The Game of Thrones, so I watched the first hour of The Killing, then took a GOT break, then came back to TK. This required more switching of gears than you would think.
The genius of this show is that dialogue is used sparingly and the weight of meaning and communication relies very heavily on facial expressions, or lack thereof. Because of this, the acting on this show is just incredible (sings: ...innnnncredibbbbbbble...). Also, EVERY.WORD.IS.LOADED. I spend a fair amount of time rewinding to make sure I have heard every word correctly. Last night's episode picked up pretty much right where we left off at the season finale.

~~ rant break ~~  Last year The Killing, after an absolutely phenomenal season, took a beating from reviewers and bloggers in regards to the fact that their season finale did not reveal the killer of Rosie. I found all of these negative comments to be preposterous. Besides the fact that the season finale had a terrific twistaroo in the last few seconds to set up season 2 with Linden realizing that some of the evidence against xx had been faked and/or planted possibly by her own partner (Holder) AND some seriously crazy shizzle happening with family friend Belko, no one ever promised that we were going to find her killer in season 1. Isn't it much more exciting to have a twist where the guy who you think all along has done it, hasn't? The Killing is such a far cry from your traditional murder mystery in just about every way, that I almost can't explain this backlash. Why would anyone think The Killing would be typical? I love this show so much and find it so brilliant, that I actually feel differently about Stephen King now, who publicly came out and criticized the show's finale. ~~ rant end~~

Stan emoting through his eyes, and stuff
As far as the gut-wrenching, slammed-by-a-truck emotional impact every episode had last year, this year is slightly different, if only because Moms (Mitch Larsen played by Michele Forbes) has disappeared and she was just heartbreaking in every scene. Picking up the emotional load are the sons, sis-in-law and hubby, although they had their fair share last year as well. Brent Sexton as Stan Larsen (hubby/dad) is probably the greatest emotional actor on TV. He comes off gruff with his boys who are so lost in this impossible situation, but you can see him breaking just underneath the surface. He just doesn't know any other way to deal with it. In the Most Opposite Statement Ever, Stan says, "the less we talk about this stuff the better" to sis-in-law Terry, who is basically taking care of the boys and is desperate for acknowledgement that the boys need to talk. You can see his turmoil on his face, when he wants to be comforting but just doesn't know how. Of all his emotions, anger is winning out, so that's what you get. His scene with Belko in the police interview room, when Belko is proudly telling Stan that "he got him" (meaning: shot primary Rosie murder suspect Congressman Richmond after killing his own sexual deviant mom) is just pure, amazing, dig-down-deep acting. His face conveys sadness, confusion, guilt, love, disillusionment... so perfectly that Belko exclaims "don't look at me like that!" repeatedly and ends with "that's not fair." It's not. Nothing in this crazy world of The Killing is fair. So, this is why after Belko kills himself in police custody, the police not providing security for the Larsens, and the police not getting the right guy for murdering his daughter, Stan goes to his mobster friends and puts a hit on the real killer. Will the mob find the right guy before Holder and Linden? dun-dun-duuuuuuuh...
Linden is talking to the wrong guy
Speaking of confusion, guilt and disillusionment, we start off with Linden figuring out there's been some shady police shenanigans messing up her Rosie Larsen case. When she finds out the photo from the tollbooth, the most crucial piece of evidence against Richmond, is fake (!), she has no other choice but to think that her partner (who tracked down the photo) is dirty and goes to her Lieutenant with this info. My reaction: "NOOOOOOOOO! NOT HOLDER!! AAAARRRGH...". But we believe along with Linden, because that's what the evidence is pointing to. As we follow Linden in her continuing investigation, all expressionless and snapping gum, do we know everything she is feeling, thinking? No, but we know that she is always thinking, those wheels are always turning. And emotions? She has them, but you'll barely know it. (Aside: her tiny, mini-explosion of emotion towards her son Jack (<-this poor dude) with "you are my son and you belong with me" and subsequent vending machine confession of "I love you" to Jack are kind of painful, but sum up her entire character.)

Holder and.. wait, aren't those
corroborating witnesses back there?
As for Holder, he is smarter than your average crackhead bear. He begins to suspect some similar dirty cop shenanigans and submits a different backpack into evidence (to a very specific forensics dude very specifically determined by the Lieutenant) than Rosie's very bloodied pack that showed up on the Larsen's doorstep (...from the real killer who we now know is still out there but now the police can't help or admit to it because that would make them look stupid.... *gasp* *inhale*). When the info comes back that the only prints were Rosie's, we know along with Holder that some crazy shizzle is happening and he is soooooo in the middle of it. We already know that his friend and confidant Gil, who supplied him with the photo, is a bad dude from earlier scenes that show him talking to the opposing candidate for Congress' team. Holder only finds out when he tells Gil what happened with the backpack and then it's out: Holder was specifically chosen for this case because he was a crackhead who needed a chance and who was going to believe him if dirty secrets got out? Gil says "you wanted the badge more than you cared that you were taking shortcuts."
When Holder figures out how messed up everything is, he goes to see Linden who still suspects him of being the dirty one. Frustrating for us to watch, as Holder begs Linden to talk to him while Linden quietly waits on the other side of the door. Holder waits in the hallway, twirling his new Detective badge, then ultimately leaves the badge in the hallway as he walks away.  This better get cleared up fast, because I need Holder and Linden on the same team. I think the world does. Well, my world.

Other stuff:
- Duck is the new Lieutenant! (Mad Men peeps will get this.)
- This Seattle hospital is the worst. A Congressman gets shot on live TV and it's the biggest story in the city and the doctors and nurses are all "whatever. he can't walk. whatever." They should definately have taken Richmond to Seattle Grace.
- Sooooo... the other candidate running for Congress is the one planting all the evidence within the police department to get Richmond arrested? how is this going to play out now that we know Richmond is not guilty?
- What, if anything is going to happen with Stan and Terry? I think it will be horrible, but I think it might be inevitable. They are both so lonely and sad and overwhelmed. I feel sick just even writing about it here.
- Linden... someone's watching you watching other people... snap, snap, snap goes the camera

Game of Thrones

Switching gears to some medieval fantasy awesomeness, Game of Thrones came back with a jam-packed premiere - woot! I'm not sure how they pack an hour of TV into, like, 14 minutes... at least it only feels like 14 minutes. Must be some R'holler Lord of Light magic for sure.
First, I have to say that the casting on this show is amazing... everyone looks pretty much like I picture them in my head from the books. My one exception is Stannis, who I expected to be bigger, broader, and sterner. I didn't think he looked this way particularly last night, but in previews for next week, he looks more the part.

I wish she had killed him instead
Fraking Joffrey. The most hateful character in the history of ever. He is played so perfectly by Jack Gleeson that I wonder if he regularly gets slapped walking down the street. In the opening scenes, we see what the boy king is all about: his right-hand man "Dog" slaying opponents for sport, then it's  nearly death by wine for drunkard ex-knight Dontos when he commands that he get "more than his fill." Sansa and Dog to his rescue on that one, when he instead makes Dontos his fool, but we know Sansa will pay for that. Later, we see Joffrey talking to his moms, Queen Bitch Cersei and he confronts her about the "disgusting rumors" he's hearing about her and his Uncle Jamie. She denies of course, but Joffrey then demands to know about any of his father's bastards that may be hanging around. He asks in the most loathsome, vile, Joffrey way possible which results in The Slap Heard 'Round the Seven Kingdoms from Cersei. Like Tyrion's slap last season, it was cathartic (see epic 10-minute slapping session here). But last season, Joffrey wasn't king, he was just a sneering, sniveling, privileged, overindulged kid. Last night's slap was riveting, not only because it was his mom doing the slapping, but because Joffrey is now King Douchebag and in that instant you're not sure if he will have her killed on the spot or not. He says as much (that he has the power to kill her) and Cersei's face shows that while she loves her child, she has groomed a monster. We then see scenes of babes and children being ripped out of mother's arms and stabbed on the spot by the king's knights - Joffrey is having all of his father's bastards killed. Just one is not found: Gentry is on his way to the wall.

Jon Snow, you beautiful bastard
To the Wall! At the Wall, our Jon Snow (*swoon*) is no longer even at the Wall, as a group of the Night's Watch have started an expedition beyond the wall to see what's happening with the wildlings and see if more intel can be discovered on those pesky undead wights. They stop by ol' Craster's - nasty wildling Craster who makes his daughters his wives on an infinite loop. "What happens to the boys?" asks Jon Snow. Oh, wise, clever, amazing Jon Snow!  (No matter what that bitch Ygritte says... but I digress into unseen territory - sorry!) We don't get an answer to that $100,000 question in this episode. There is much made of Jon Snow's good looks here, but just somewhat more importantly we learn of Mance Rayder, a former wearer of the black who abandoned his vows, now calls himself King of the Wildlings and is gathering an army to march South of the Wall.
South of the Wall, all hell has broken loose. Joffrey's kingship is being challenged by several players: Stannis Baratheon, Robert's oldest brother, who sends out word to all corners of the world the truth that Joffrey is not a Baratheon but a product of Cersei-Jamie incest (along with sis Myrcella and lil bro Tommen); Renly Baratheon, Robert's youngest brother who believes himself most kingly and beloved by the people; Robb Stark, son of Ned Stark, who declares himself King of the North and seeks vengeance against Joffrey and the Lannisters for the death of his father at their hands.
Speaking of hands... THE BEST PART OF EVERYTHING: Tyrion Lannister returns to court in place of his father as The Hand to the King. This dude. Tyrion and his whipsmart cleverness returns in fine form: "Don't get up. More ravishing than ever, dear sister. War agrees with you." The truth is I could fill this whole blog entry with just Tyrion quotes and rhapsodize about this character endlessly.  For now, and for your sanity, I will post the video below of the best Tyrion scene ever and say that Peter Dinklage plays this part to perfection. Perfection! I smile every time he is on the screen because he is just that awesome. And, things are going Tyrion's way, so I can.

Tyrion being the freaking MAN
The red comet means only one thing: Dragons. We find Daenerys and her dragons struggling in some far-flung desert, miles away from anything. Her horse given to her from Drogo, symbolically collapses and instead of collapsing, Daenerys finds the strength to give strength to her followers (encouraged, of course, by her right hand man Jorah who gives her her strength, you see? lots of stregnth talk here.) and gives instructions for her guards to go in all directions to find civilization. I'm pretty sure dragons and people alike eat the horse, but we didn't see that.
So much else to talk about, but as things evolve, I will delve more into various factions of characters. Here's some of the other stuff I didn't even get to:
- Robb Stark has Jamie Lannister captive, knows about the incest, knows about him pushing Bran off the wall, is sending word to the Lannisters with a list of demands for Jamie, and is preparing to send mom Catherine to treat with Renly to see if they can all be friends. Let's just say Robb's busy.
Call him what he is: Kingslayer
- Bran is seeing things in his dreams as his direwolf, or we are to assume
- Great use of direwolves in this episode: Although I don't think we saw Jon Snow's Ghost, we see Bran's direwolf Summer in the weirwood, and we see Robb's direwolf Grey Wind menacingly in the cage with Jamie.
- We are introduced to new characters Melisandre and Davos, both loyal to Stannis. Melisandre says Stannis has been chosen by the Lord of Light to be the King of the World, so he abandons his old gods. Davos shares others views that this is not right, but keeps quiet, as he is a loyal subject of Stannis. We find out Melisandre has legit powers when someone tries to poison her and there is no effect. In other news, I heart Davos Seaworthy.
- I didn't even talk about Littlefinger and that very cool albeit not very character-like chiding with Cersei. Littlefinger says knowledge is power, Cersei instructs her men to slice his throat and stops them just before it happens demonstrating that indeed, power is power... for however briefly you may have it. - Much to P's chagrin (he has not read books), I groaned every time I saw freaking Theon Greyjoy on the screen. I can't help it - it's visceral.
I feel like this episode is somewhat of the calm before the storm... or rather, the gathering before the war. You get the sense that even though some things seem positive, things are changing minute to minute.

Mad Men

Switching gears again into a different kind of unrest, Roger sums up the whole episode with "When are things going to get back to normal?"  HA, oh Roger! Normal is gone, whatever that was. You're getting old, you gotta get hip to the times of 1966. Nothing is going to be the way it was, silly.
As part of the overarching theme of old vs. young/new, there's a pivotal scene where Roger is experiencing a downward spiral in his struggle to be relevant in his own ad agency ("I'm tired of holding on to the ledge") as a result of Pete's public coup of a client, and then Don tries to give him some perspective with the real downer that "Betty has cancer." Really? Well, maybe. Roger replies: "oh, real life. I gave up on that."

Betty gets the "good" news
Oh, Betty. Betty's back, and there's more of her to love (*air quotes*). Mostly to cover January Jone's real-life pregnancy, the character of Betty has put some weight on. We knew things weren't perfect in the Francis household, based on Betty herself saying so at the end of last season. But what is this? The doctor finds a lump on her thyroid and we see her weight gain as a symptom of possible cancer, whereas up until that moment, it was just a symptom of ennui (<-- also the name of my new emo band). When she finally hears the results that the lump was benign and says "I love to be put through the ringer and find out I'm just fat," you would think she would be more relieved, but she seems almost disappointed. Did anyone else notice that Betty was seemingly more relaxed, more affectionate and generally less toxic in this new body? Yes, a lot had to do with this life threatening news, but I'm feeling that the moral of this story should be "eat ice-cream, doubles if you want, and just enjoy what life has to offer, especially your kids." But this is just not going to happen with Betty Francis. Despite her husband proclaiming, and actually demonstrating, his love for her no matter her size, she will not believe it. I predict a trip back to the doc for diet pills and we will have a raging, pill-popping Betty she-devil to deal with in the very near future. And then Sally will run away and become the youngest hippie in history.
Betty's Sundae is the name of this pic and my band
How very appropriate that as Betty is looking for Mother's Little Helpers (sorta), Don is being sent to see the Rolling Stones about a possible ad campaign based on the client's teenage daughter's listening choices. This is a new Don, as an old Don would have told the client "not gonna happen." But new Don has a 20 something wife and is trying to... what? fit in? renew? go with the flow? Or maybe it's just Don realizing he is NOT in the know anymore with what resonates with people these days, thus the interrogation of the teen backstage at the show.  His age shows there, though, when the girl says "You guys don't want us to have any fun just because you never did," and he replies "No, we're just worried about you" as if he is talking to Sally.

Are you the secretary? And she still hires him!
In the other great sub-story line supporting the big themes of change and evolution, two words: Michael Ginsburg. I LOVE this dude. The addition of the Michael Ginsburg character represents so much: will he be the Pete to Peggy's Roger? will he in fact outshine Peggy as seemingly everyone is telling her? if nothing else, he represents a sign of the changing times, and specifically evolution in diverse personnel as he will be the first Jewish person on staff, and this quickly on the heels of the hiring of Dawn, Don's secretary and the first black person hired at SCDP.  But above all that, this dude is fantastic and rivals Roger for best one liners (something Roger will resent immediately). Who doesn't love a guy who says his stomach sometimes sounds like the F word when it growls? When he says "I have no hobbies, no girlfriend, no friends" I simultaneously wanted to yell "Danger! Danger, Peggy Olsen!" and "awwww...". He is different and a bit irreverent and definitely not conformist, so he is about to shake up the place. A little more shaking up is a good thing... maybe some French duets in the hallways?
Tell that stomach to watch it's mouth
Other stuff:
- Don called Betty "Birdie"... I swear I have never heard him say that before, but I Googled it and I guess it's a thing (I recall other nicknames such as Betts, but not this one). In any case, on the one hand it was kind of shocking to hear him using such a personal nickname when talking to her, given all of their history. On the other hand, it was endearing and heartfelt and comforting to her in her time of need.
- Sally didn't finish her sundae. Probably because of the horrible eating disorder she has as a result of Betty's cruel mothering, specifically that awful scene at the dinner table. I don't think any of us forget that.
- What up, Harry Crane? Dude is 10x more cringeworthy this season, which is fantastic.
- The look on Don's face when backstage and one of the girls says "advertising? like Bewitched?" is absolutely priceless
- Megan, getting washed over with advertising. I love that skill.

So much to talk about here! What are your thoughts on all of it? I am trying like heck to figure out this commenting problem, so give it a try and see if it works. If not, email me and I can post for you!