Wednesday, June 6, 2012

All Men Must Die - Mad Men, Game of Thrones, The Killing

One of these days I am going to write a blog entry all about the hilarious and genius comedies I've been watching. Today is not that day. Too much ridiculously awesome angst-and-death-filled television lately, including a few stellar season finales. I'm going to try to keep things short and simple, so I can try to talk about as many shows as possible before my brain explodes. (Ed note: it's impossible for the writer to write "short and simple," so here are three TV shows and some stuff at the end.)

Mad Men
... or the epitomy of visual storytelling. FOR.REAL. I'm pretty sure that with the last two episodes, Mad Men won all of TV.  I'm not sure how you can top these... if not for the Joan, Peggy and Lane storylines alone. And then there's Sally Draper who makes me cry all the time just by being on-screen, and with this last episode, I just devolved into a soupy mess. This girl! More on this later, but first let's go back two episodes to "The Other Woman." For those of you who know me, I loves me a good theme. And Mad Men is nothing if not theme-centric, from the title of every episode to the layers and layers of themey goodness found within - the music, the dialogue, the plot twists... every detail is a puzzle piece putting together the genius that is a Mad Men episode.
In this particularly delicious episode, much is made of going after the Jaguar business. The pitch is basically that Jaguar is like the other woman, something beautiful and expensive and not really within your grasp...  I guess? This is sort of how it's positioned and they land on the tagline "At last, something beautiful you can truly own." WOWZERS! Does this speak volumes of Don's psyche or what? Meanwhile, all of Don's "other women," as we shall call them, are clearly NOT being owned by anyone: Megan is challenging him with her follow-her-dreams escapades, Joan is truly the other woman for a night, but becomes a partner in the firm in the process, and Don's right-hand girl PEGGY LEAVES. You see, Don tried to own her, visually expressed by Don literally throwing money in her face. Peggy has to move on at this point, but she owes so much to Don - oh, the turmoil! Don figuratively throws money at her as well, trying to get her to stay: "there's always a number" he says, but to no avail. When Peggy thrusts out her hand for a businesslike goodbye handshake and instead, Don kisses her hand, that simple gesture encompasses their entire journey together. On the surface it's been all business, but really it's so much more.
The more overt storyline in "The Other Woman" is the juxtaposition of the Jaguar pitch with Joan's decision to spend a night with a smarmy Jaguar executive, and it is pure genius. Joan is also the beautiful thing you can own, seemingly. The surprise here is not so much that she went through with it, but the realization that Don's pleas to not go through with it were all for naught, since the deed was already done. No one really owns Joan though... certainly not now that she's partner.
Okay, moving on to the most recent episode, "Commissions and Fees." Oh, Lane. While sitting there on the couch in Don's office, I knew I was wrong about Pete Campbell. I had written earlier that I thought he might be just desolate and out-of-touch with himself enough to end his life. But watching Lane's reaction to Don's discovery of the check he forged, that is true despair.
The pit of despair
Was there any doubt that Lane would be exiting himself from the world? He may have been able to rally, concoct some new scheme, angle, life abroad... but then life just beat the crap out of him over and over, like it does. Joan dismissed him from her office abruptly when he talked of her being in an obscene bikini (kick!); his wife wants to CONGRATULATE him (smack!) for becoming an officer in the Four A's (side real-life note: I know what that is!! I have been involved with that organization in real life!) by BUYING him a JAGUAR and she "WROTE a CHECK" (flying side-kick to the gut!). Thank god those pretty Jaguars are shit though, right? Because it doesn't start when Lane tries to off himself in it and maybe he'll take that as a sign. Nope. Somehow, in his office at SCDP is the more appropriate setting for this final FU to Don and Joan and everyone. No less devastating though. Though his note is a boilerplate resignation letter, I suspect there is a real letter somewhere... to Don? to Joan?
Speaking of devastating... I know I say this all the time, but Sweet Jesus, it's true... I watch every second of Sally Draper on-screen like I'm about to jettison into the atmosphere: edge of my seat, gripping cushions and things, sipping my martini water fast and furious. You can never relax because you never know what's going to happen. Such is the quiet intensity of Mad Men. So this Sally-focused storyline of fighting with Betty (bitch!), showing up on Megan's doorstep, parent-approved school skipping and very non-parent approved having a boy over and going to a museum on said skip day and then, ahem, becoming a woman unexpectedly at the museum had me practically apoplectic.
Sometimes a girl just needs a hot water bottle and her mom,
no matter how much of a crazed bitch she is
THIS.GIRL. Wait, actually.... THIS.SHOW. I don't think there has been another portrayal of a girl in limbo as perfect as Sally Draper. From ordering coffee in the restaurant to holding her own in the girl talk to wearing her kick-ass grown-up go-go boots for her museum date, she so desperately thinks she's ready to be a woman. Until, you know, that womanly thing kicks in (which she handles only slightly better than Sansa Stark - but really, does anyone handle that well?). She runs home to her mom (because that's what kids do when they are overwhelmed) and breaks my heart with every step, because in my head I hear strains of Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon or maybe it was I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman. Either way, it was profound. And Betty actually rises to the occasion, making me cry with her tender words towards Sally, words of comfort but also of the real responsibilities and obligations of being a woman. Commissions and fees, indeed.
One more thing that I love about Mad Men: how bizarre is it to see Don and Glen together? So much has happened with Glen and Sally (and of course earlier with wacko Betty) it's just freaking WEIRD to have him re-introduce himself and then Don lets him drive his car. Moral of all of it: life is just fucked up sometimes, so drive a car.
Sometimes a dude just needs to drive a car
Game of Thrones
*Only read this if you have read the books or if you don't care about spoilery things, sorta, or maybe read anyway because who knows if the TV show will do the same things as the books, right?

I know, I know... I just can't stop talking about how every character on this show is perfectly cast. I keep saying this, but I feel now that these words are somehow misleading... like these people are perfectly cast because they look exactly like how I pictured them in my head. They do, but really, when you see these actors not in character, it is really a testament to their phenomenal acting skills how they truly embody these characters. Usually I like to go on and on about Tyrion or Arya or Joffrey, but the season finale had me realizing that probably one of the most "perfectly cast" characters (read: plays the part impeccably), is that of Varys. So much so that is is shocking to see this actor out of costume. What do you mean Conleth Hill isn't a bald eunuch?!
I wonder if they use Nair on his face?
The finale, "Valar Morghulis," had me wondering if I would be a better viewer had I not read the books. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE this show. It's brilliant. However, some of the deviations I am enjoying, but others leave me baffled as to how they make sense or how they will make sense down the line. Of course some I understand sort of have to happen for this medium - they're certainly not going to make us watch Peter Dinklage with half a face and no nose.
Face and nose intact for your viewing pleasure
And I suppose the argument could be made that Dany's book experiences in the House of the Undying would be too lengthy and complicated to put on the screen. [Aside: ooooooo... Dany walks through what looks like The Wall to get to that tent... winter is coming! But more importantly, I see this as a clear sign that My Big Theory - heretofore to be referenced as Lisa's Big Theory of How it All Ends - is right on. I shall not disclose at this time, but I have it written and dated in an journal. I believe I am channeling GRRM's mind with LBToHiAE.)
Deviations I think I like include: Dany's dragons in the House of the Undying (much more compelling!), showing this intimate part of Stannis (almost killing Melisandre! Regret over Renly! Seeing things in the flames!), showing some of Varys' spidery moves (and possibly making this Ros character something substantial) and possibly this accelerated plot of Littlefinger helping Sansa (we'll see on this one).
"I will eat  you!... Later... I guess..."
And now the rant about the White Walkers. (Oh, don't worry, there are other rants in the Other Character section below, but this is a doozy if you ask me.) WHAT the WHAT is going on at the end of this finale with White Walkers walking by a juicy Sam Tarly?! Okay, yes, great scene as far as creepiness factor - and so many of them! But what the hell? At first I thought here is where one comes up and attacks Sam and he kills the WW with the dragonglass. But that so very clearly doesn't happen. And I am here to tell you that there is no White Walker that will walk past a living dude. Nuh-uh. No how. How are they going to explain this next season? Maybe Sam's a gonner? #deviationidonotlike

Other Characters:
Brienne - I really love the storyline in the books of Brienne and Jamie and I hope they keep all of it next season, or at least try to harness some of it. And also she kicked full ass in this finale. Not half, full.
Rob - I don't know... do I care at all about this marriage to a medic or nurse or whatever they call her? Does anyone? I guess not, although I think it was all unnecessary. From a TV standpoint, I suppose it makes sense to show how Rob was just soooo in love that he just haaddddd to break his word with the Freys. But truthfully, I don't think it's that compelling a love story and it seems so out of place in this world. There ain't no stinking medics on these fields! Also, how does she get straight access to the godamn KING all the time? The Frey shitstorm could come without all this.
Too much puppy dog, not enough direwolf
JON SNOW - I am very very concerned that JON SNOW (all caps, all the time - he's that important) is not being portrayed here with Qhorin Halfhand as phenomenally awesome and honorable and conflicted and dutiful as he should be. But maybe that's just me and I think he should be backlit in every scene so as to show him in glowing light always. Maybe.
Sansa - Joffrey is to wed another! Happy day! oh, no... not here, deary. Sansa is just damned no matter what she does. So it is so very interesting that Littlefinger tells her he has a plan to take her back to Winterfell. Very interesting indeed. I am excited to see how this plays out, but I am hoping that some very pivotal scenes from the book remain intact.
Theon - I... I just... I just can't even hardly look at him I hate him so much, but wow do they do a good job of humanizing him. And portraying his inner struggles while his outward ineptitude shines on. He fancies himself a tough warrior, but the war horns are breaking him before the battle even begins. He's a poor thing, really. I will have much more to say on him in the future.
Bran/Rickon/Hodor/Osha - So, I guess Osha is going to sort of take on the book characters of Jojen and Meera Reed? Interesting. I'm not sure I hate that entirely, but I would like to perhaps see them down the road... maybe sometime in Season 3? I think we might need them.
Xaro Xhoan Daxos - I've been thinking this for awhile, but was anyone else unnerved whenever someone said his last name and it sounded like "ducksauce?" Just me? Okay, carry on then.
Arya/Jaqen H'ghar - perfect, perfect, perfect. Valar Morghulis.
Say it again
The Killing
And if you think those two other shows are depressing... these people haven't seen the sun for two seasons.

That freaking keycard
First, I love The Killing. I do. Love, love, love. Readers here will know how much I love The Killing. Smart characters, smart writing, a magnificent story and just unbelievably terrific acting. Twists and turns and puzzle pieces galore! However, I need to say here publicly that I almost put my fist through my beautiful TV at the end of Sunday's episode, "Bulldog." Like, almost lost my mind with that funky ass twisteroo at the end. I hate so much that that smarmy mayor was able to recode the keycard back to Richmond's office. At least that's what I think happened. At first I was like "okay, so now I kinda get how people were frustrated last year" (not really, but more sympathetic maybe). But immediately after that, I thought, "God, I LOVE this show for making me think! and love things! and hate things! Really, really hate things." I think that she showed the keycard in the elevator so that she would have proof that it existed if it went missing, like all of the other Rosie Larsen evidence (now that FBI will have tapes?). But that gave the casino bitch time to contact people and have stuff rearranged.... arggghhh!
I have some consolation that things will get wrapped up in next week's episode, at least where Rosie Larsen is concerned. But I do have fear that the Mayor will get re-elected and the show will then be focused on Holder and Linden trying to take him down (still). The ideal for me would be that the Rosie case is solved, Richmond gets elected, Linden gets reinstated and boom, there's another case to solve. Yanick is dead (whoa!), so maybe this isn't so far fetched. But I will miss Stan and the boys. We shall see...
Maybe next week I will talk about how much I want Holder and Linden to get together. Two terribly broken pieces should make a whole awesome, right?

Additional Unrelated Things:
Revenge - Now THAT'S a finale: the plane crashed! Victoria is dead! Emily's mom is alive! Charlotte may have killed herself! Amanda is back! ...and PREGNANT! Daniel and Emily are splitsville... will Danielle and Ashley get it on now? Seriously, this show is one of the most entertaining shows on right now. And even if it's not deep or brilliant on par with MM or GoT, it is still very clever and keeps you (me!) guessing. Can't wait for this to start again!

Some new shows that are awesome and need people to watch: Girls, VEEP, Network... all on HBO.

Fall TV - okay, THIS is just awesome and is the one show so far that I am anxiously awaiting. I anticipate watching this until my eyes bleed. Yes, I know it's June.