Klansmen with machine guns! Al Capone! Omar! Nazis! Superman! I had completely forgotten how much I enjoyed this show. And I realize that what I’m about to say is nothing short of blasphemy, but I think I’m enjoying Boardwalk Empire more than The Sopranos. I know. Where’s my scarlet letter? But the show has a real old-timey radio serial feel to it that comes across really well in this teaser. And the only reason I’m comparing it to The Sopranos is because they’re both about the mob. And starred Steve Buscemi, and those cold, dead eyes of his.
Oh, True Blood – you are the slutty, crack-addicted sister I never had nor wanted but still love feeling superior to. I mean, what can you say about a show that has so enthusiastically embraced its own ridiculousness? It reminds me of Nip/Tuck in the way that it makes you shake your head and cover your eyes while you still peek through and laugh and gasp at the utter insanity of it all. It’s almost embarrassing to admit that you watch it – much less like it – because it appeals only to the most base instincts in all of us: violence, sex, and a level of drama that would make Susan Lucci roll her eyes.
But hell if it isn’t entertaining, and you’ve got to love it for knowing exactly what it is – no moral high ground here, no historical or ethical lessons – just pure entertainment. And the first episode of this season delivered that in spades. With such a dynamic ensemble cast, the show has found itself in the position of many before it – unable to adequately deal with all of the side stories, but fortunately, it seems to know which storylines are the most interesting to the audience and have relegated the second-tier characters to only a few scenes. And those scenes are the True-Bloodiest of them all – the silliest, sexiest, most violent and crazy. Tara/Toni’s turn as a lesbian kickboxer. Renee and Arlene’s doll-decapitating baby. Sam’s support group turned near-orgy turned stampede.
I was glad we merely touched on those stories (and that the faerie scene from the beginning was short enough so that my eyes weren’t stuck permanently rolled) and concentrated more on what constitutes “normal” life in Bon Temps a year and two weeks after we last left it. I thought the time travel element was executed well and to be honest, it was a relief to have a status quo from which to build on this season’s drama.
As usual, though, there was too little Pam, too little Eric and too little Nan Flanagan for my taste. These three characters are some of the most entertaining, and whether or not it’s by design, the fleeting moments we get with them always leave me giddy and wanting more, so the scene with Pam, then Eric, filming the commercial was especially fun.
I guess the measure of a good season opener is whether or not it left you excited for the rest of the season, and in that sense, I’d consider this episode a success. I’m looking forward to seeing how Bill’s new role as King will manifest, and I’m delighted to see Eric and Sookie’s relationship grow more complex. It’s going to be a fun ride, ya’ll – a crazy, tripped-out, deep-sigh, subversive giggle kind of a season, which is exactly what we want from True Blood – a chance to shake our heads and fan ourselves and pretend we don’t love the indulgence of it all.
TNT is like USA and TBS in that no one expects too much from their dramas. I don’t want to be too mean. I know shows like Burn Notice and The Closer have their audiences, but no one’s ever going to compare them to The Sopranos. And that’s okay, I guess. The point at which it’s not okay is when a show has the potential to be more, but is held back in order to better fit inside a network’s brand. Mediocrity, thy name is Falling Skies.
There are so many serious themes it seems like the show wants to explore, but it feels like it’s holding back just a little bit. Almost like it’s afraid to commit. Early in tonight’s episode, Captain Weaver allows John Pope to start working as the camp’s cook. Right now, Colin Cunningham is the best thing about this show. But while he’s telling everyone how to properly cook a chicken, it seems like people have forgotten that before taking him prisoner, he was heading a gang that took women prisoner and raped them. And if they haven’t forgotten, they don’t seem too bothered by it. Just thinking about it realistically, how would people react to working alongside someone like that? Right now, Pope is this show’s Gaius Baltar, except he’s on everyone’s s**tlist right from the start. I hope to see that explored a little more, rather than the character becoming the show’s comic relief.
“Prisoner of War” had Tom and a few others heading out, looking for Ben. After coming back to camp, they’re mobbed by parents asking if they saw their own kids. Tom tells them to put pictures up on a bulletin board, that way patrols can look through them before heading back out. And there’s another BSG comparison, when the bulletin board turns into a memorial for kids who’ve been lost.
Then, Tom brings one of the skitters back to camp, hogtied and completely on his own. Apparently, this is the first alien anyone’s ever had the opportunity to study up close, so they’ve brought in Steven Weber — introduced this week as the somewhat smug, self-assured (and also a little Baltar-esque) Dr. Michael Harris — to poke and prod the thing. There’s a little history between Harris and Tom, and Tom accuses him of leaving his wife behind when the aliens attacked. So we’ve got all these pots brewing, a few of which could skew a little dark. And underneath it all we’ve got Tom talking about now that civilization’s been brought to its knees and so many people are dead, those left should do their try to exemplify humanity’s best qualities. But the thing is, they’ve been doing that ALL ALONG! This is one of the most sentimental shows I’ve ever seen. When Tom isn’t taking a break in between alien ambushes to play catch with his kid, his kid is lightly punching him in the shoulder, telling him to “GO GET ‘EM!”
The comparisons with Battlestar Galactica are inevitable, and when they’re made you kind of expect Skies to be just as good. That may be unfair. But it is what it is. I don’t think it’s any sort of stretch to connect one show to the other, so if BSG is the show Falling Skies wants to emulate, it needs to step it’s game up. I need more of a reason to care whether these act one way or another. Right now, I’m more emotionally invested in the skitter they’ve got locked up. I’m not kidding. I felt sorry for the damn thing when Tom dragged him in.
And just FYI, I mean all of this criticism, but maybe only 85-90%. It’s still early days, so who knows where the show’s going to go.
As far the whole sci-fi mystery “what the hell are the kids doing” side of the story, we learned a few things this week. The reason Dr. Harris is important is because he’s found a way to detach the harnesses from the kids. But thanks to some ominous (what I like to call) eye-play, I’m led to believe that the harnesses and whatever nefarious s**t they plant in the kids’ spines forms some sort of telepathic connection between them and the skitters. Scary stuff. One thing I like that the show’s done is show how ruthless the aliens can be, ie shooting all those kids Tom and Hal had gone for in the back of the head. There was nothing sentimental about that.
In case you were wondering, that sound you just heard was me crapping my pants. That’s right. I’m an adult. And I crapped my pants.
Walt tells Jesse, “You are not a murderer. I am not, and you are not. It’s as simple as that.” As it turns out, it’s not quite that simple. Not when Walt sees Jesse making a move that will get him killed, if not by the two street toughs who killed Tomas, then definitely by Gus. When Mike visited Walt earlier that evening and said no more half measures, I don’t think this is what he had in mind. Mike was trying to say that Jesse was trouble. He knew he was trouble, Walt knew he was trouble, and sooner or later he was going to do something stupid that couldn’t be contained by some half-cocked scheme Walt and Saul cooked up on the fly. Right now, Walt’s trying to get Jesse out of the picture, only for a month or so. Just so he can cool off and forget about his vendetta against these dealers. Mike’s trying to tell him temporary solutions only work for so long, and eventually Jesse’s going to have to be taken care of.
Walt’s not a stupid man, so why would he respond to Mike’s cautionary tale about the abused woman and her drunk husband by running out and hitting two of Gus’ “trusted employees” with his car? Weeeeellll, I think something in Walt’s head finally clicked and made him realize that he and Jesse are in this together. Does Walt trust Gus? Maybe. He has to, at least a little bit. But he’s a man Walt knows he has to be on his guard around. Showing up at the hospital after Hank got shot. Inviting him over for dinner and delivering cryptic messages. Gus is making Walt rich and God bless him for that, but there always seems to be a thinly veiled hostility to everything he does. And I think what Walt’s taken away from all that is, more likely than not, his days are numbered. Walt needs Jesse on his side (preferably alive). So when he sees the news report about Tomas and pieces Jesse’s plan together, he jumps in his car and heads off to help his friend.
But not only are they in this together, they’re in this together. Tomas was killed as a direct result of Walt going to Gus. Yes, it’s nice to tell ourselves stories about noble intentions, and how we became meth cooks to help our families. Those will probably help us sleep better at night, but there comes a point where we look at the dead bodies piling up around us and come to terms with the fact that we’re not as noble as we thought we were. Walt’s come to that place where he can no longer hide from himself. Ever since getting out of rehab, Jesse’s been upfront about being the bad guy. Walt’s finally doing the same. Does any of this really explain why Walt did what he did? Maybe not. This is just my interpretation. I always allow for the possibility that I’m a complete idiot.
I do have one complaint about the episode. And this comes from watching too many episodes of The Wire and reading too many books about the Mob. But would Gus, who’s now supplying crystal meth to the entire American Southwest really go into a meeting with two street-level dealers? What’s going to happen when these guys get pinched and are looking at ten years in [Prison Mike] ‘da clink? [/Prison Mike] They’re going to tell the cops, “The Los Pollos Hermanos guy! It was him!” Not very smart, Gus. And speaking of Gus and stupid moves, I’m having a hard time figuring out who came out of this little pow-wow he set up with more egg on his face. Was it the dealers, for killing Tomas when Gus specifically told them no more children? Was is Jesse, for going after them after telling Gus he wouldn’t? Or was it Gus himself for thinking he could settle this whole thing with a handshake? Do you think he’s seen The Wire? Doesn’t he know that when s**t like this goes down, someone’s got to get got?
The last five minutes of “Half Measures” may be the greatest five minutes of television I’ve seen in the past year or two, and a definite turning point for the show. Up until this point, Walt’s only been dipping his toes in the Bad Guy Pool (trademark pending). Now he’s all in, and while he’s ever the scientist, ever so analytic, I don’t know if he’s planned an exit strategy for himself. So who knows how deep he might go.
In the first minutes of Louie’s season premiere, Louie CK’s daughter tells him that she likes spending time at her mom’s house because she’s a better cook than he is. That, and she loves her more. CK takes this in stride. It’s just one more unpleasant truth in a long string that I imagine began not long after he was born. They finish brushing her teeth and as she heads off to bed, Louie gives her finger, and says that he loves her.
The ability to take unpalatable truths and turn them into something we can laugh at is what makes Louie such a unique show. Fans of CK may know the story of how the whole thing came about. FX offered him the chance to develop a show, but said they couldn’t pay him as much as other networks. To make up for the low paycheck, they gave him complete creative control. CK writes, directs and edits every episode of the show. And rather than get a group of friends together and tell the same dick jokes over and over again — I’m looking at you, Nick Swardson — he put together a show that, whether it’s funny or slightly depressing, always manages to stick with you.
And the thing about Louie is that it can take almost any premise and turn it into something thoughtful. In this week’s episode, Louie’s pregnant sister comes to visit. They spend some time shooting the breeze, complaining about Louie’s ex-wife and raising kids. Later that night, Louie hears her screaming about some pain in her stomach, and has to rush to get her to the hospital. His neighbors, who Louie doesn’t know, come over to help. One of them stays with his kids while the other one helps him to the hospital. As a group of doctors and nurses roll his sister into the emergency room, all yelling over each other, she farts. And, well, that’s it.
Is it crass? Yeah, a little bit. But I think it says something about getting our hopes up and ultimately being let down, or having things turn out differently than expected. Louie’s sister is screaming and pregnant, so obviously something’s wrong with the baby. But it turns out to be gas. Louie spends years raising and caring for his daughters only to have his youngest tell him that she loves her mother more. In these situations what can you do besides stand there and wave the stink out of your face?
I’ve seen the first four episodes of the new season, and they tend to skew a little darker than what we saw last year. And that’s okay. Serious Louie is just as good, sometimes better than funny Louie. And after being hit in the face with those promos for The New Girl, I’m convinced we need a show like Louie if for no other reason than to bring a sense of balance back to the cosmos.
Well, Wilfred is definitely a thing that happened. And not surprisingly, given its cuh-raaazy premise, my opinion of the show changed about every five minutes.
First and foremost, a big round of applause for FX for taking a chance on it in the first place. Wilfred is the kind of show that’s either going to be brilliant or fail spectacularly. And even though I haven’t seen enough to make a judgement either way, I’ve seen enough to make me want to see more. The show follows Ryan (played by Elijah Wood), a late-twentysomething who’s reached a point in his life we’re all familiar with. That point where we’re not quite happy with the way things have been going, we’re questioning the decisions we’ve made and trying to decide whether we need to make a change or maybe just end it all. After a botched drug overdose, Ryan meets Jenna, his neighbor who asks if he wouldn’t mind watching her dog while she’s at work. Of course, Ryan doesn’t see a dog. He sees Wilfred.
Wilfred’s a show you have a hard time accepting at face value. From the very beginning you begin looking for something to explain why Ryan’s seeing things the way he is. He took a lot of drugs, so maybe he’s hallucinating. Later in the episode we hear Wilfred quote a line from Dune, a copy of which we saw earlier on Ryan’s nightstand. So maybe that’s it. This is all happening in Ryan’s head. But as one day drags into the next, Wilfred sticks around and Ryan doesn’t drop dead, we begin to suspect the problem may go a lot deeper than we originally thought.
In tonight’s episode, Wilfred and Ryan break into the house of a neighbor who’s constantly making all sorts of racket with his motorcycle, driving up and down the street and generally treating everyone like an a**hole. There’s this weird Fight Club element that plays into the whole show. Wilfred begins picking Ryan apart, pointing out things he doesn’t like about himself and using a chewed-up tennis ball as an object lesson on what Ryan needs to do to man-up and get back in control of his life. And he does it with such a deadpanned, gruff intensity that you either bust out laughing, or stare at your television, wide-eyed and wondering if what you’re watching is one of those rare, brilliant pieces of art you’ll never fully grasp or understand. All you know if that you like it.
My biggest problem with the show doesn’t lie with tonight’s episode. It lies with episode 10, and season 2, and season 5. Where exactly does a show like this go? There are some practical questions I think deserve to be looked at. Wilfred isn’t Ryan’s dog, so can the show justify pairing them together each week? Maybe the thinking’s that, if we’re willing to accept a talking dog, we’ll accept anything else the show throws at us. And if that’s the case, maybe what they’re doing once they’re together won’t matter, either. Eventually, though, it’s going to have to be something more than digging holes in the backyard or humping the attractive waitress’ leg. I guess you have to make those jokes (because he’s humping her leg!), but they’re only going to take you so far. Ryan’s problems finding a job hint at a world beyond the sofa in his apartment, but we’ll have to see how the show does in the coming weeks before knowing whether it does anything worthwhile with it or not. There’s definitely a strong chemistry between Wood and Jason Gann, who plays Wilfred. And we get a lot of scenes of them just hanging out. Sitting on the couch, walking down the street. All this is pretty strong stuff despite the fact that there isn’t much going on, and maybe that’ll carry the show a ways longer yet.
So it’s all very interesting. I don’t know if I’d say FX has got a hit on its hands — I’m sure there are going to be people out there who hate this show — but they do have something very different, and that ain’t nothing. Maybe the whole thing will go nowhere, but I imagine there’s at least 5 or 6 episodes worth of good leg-humping jokes. Going forward, I may not be reviewing this show every week, but I’ll definitely pop in every few episodes to see how things are going.
Remember Time Trax? What about Space: Above and Beyond? Babylon 5? M.A.N.T.I.S.? Sliders? The 90s gave us a glut of sci-fi TV that all seemed to be cut from the same tonal cloth. Many of these shows never lasted more than a season or two. Small budgets and bad special effects kept them from ever becoming too dark. More than anything else, they were meant to entertain. Don’t get me wrong, I love shows like Battlestar Galactica, shows that’ll throw me down and stomp on my neck. But there are times when I look back at this bygone era and shed a small tear. They just don’t do TV like that anymore.
So I was excited when I stated seeings trailers for Falling Skies — shoved down my throat at every movie I’ve seen these past six months — and realized this was just the 90s throwback, watered-down science fiction show I was hoping would maybe come along sometime (/pull quote). It looked entertaining and well-written, and non-offensive. That is, it would never hurt my head by making me confront issues like torture or mankind’s relationship with God. Because seriously, after binging on shows like The Wire, The Shield and Game of Thrones these past few months, I need an effing break.
Falling Skies takes place roughly six months after an alien invasion. This isn’t like your Independence Day or War of the Worlds, where aliens attack and a week later it’s business as usual. Falling Skies portrays a humanity that’s had its ass pretty well handed to it. Cities have been bombed, governments and militaries have been scattered and people survive as bands of roving scavengers. Always on the move, with an eye looking back over their shoulder. Noah Wyle stars as Tom Mason, a former history professor and second in command of the Second Massachusetts, a militia leading survivors out of Boston. Tom has three sons. Hal, the oldest, fights alongside his father while Matt, the youngest, travels as a civilian. Ben, the middle son, was taken by the aliens when the invasion began. Rounding out the core cast is Will Patton as the 2nd Mass’ blunt commanding officer, and Moon Bloodgood, a doctor who also serves as Tom’s confidant.
Tom’s kidnapped son gives us an entry point into the show’s mythology. The aliens are taking groups of kids and attaching them to “harnesses,” which latch onto their spines and insert all sorts of nefarious sh*t into their heads. The militias have been able to take some of the kids back, but whenever they try detaching the harnesses they self-destruct, killing them in the process. From what little has been revealed so far, finding a way past the harnesses, and what their ultimate effect on the kids is will be one of the threads we follow over the course of the season. There also seems to be some around why they’re taking kids in the first place. But while these threads will keep some viewers coming back, I don’t think they’re meant to anchor the series down. The show kind of follows the Walking Dead formula in that, aside from these season-long arcs, it gives the characters some specific mission to carry out in each episode. In “Live and Learn,” Tom and a small group are sent to a food cache to bring back supplies. In “The Armory,” they’re sent to (you guessed it) an armory to search for weapons. Along the way, the group runs into aliens or, as in the second episode (penned by Justified creator Graham Yost) your typical post-apocalyptic outlaws, stealing food and weapons because, what else are they supposed to do?
The aliens themselves look like a strange cross between spiders and rhinos, who never quite feel that menacing thanks to some less than stellar special effects. I think what makes them feel threatening is not how they look, but what they’re doing to the kids they’re taking. I’ll be interested to see how the show pays these storylines off, but like I said, I don’t believe it’ll be its main focus. The show spends much more time focusing on the bonds between the characters. We see Tom finding time to play catch with Ben, Hal making the ladies jealous. Things like that. What’s best about all this is that the show is self aware enough to not make these moments feel sappy or overly sentimental. It doesn’t gloss over them, but it’s careful not to dwell on them, either. When Tom, the history professor, constantly finds examples from throughout history to contextualize they’re current predicament, people give him crap for it.
The show at least attempts to address some weighty issues, such as the relationship between civilians and the military during a time of war, but it never digs too deep. What Falling Skies seems more intent on doing is delivering a solid hour of entertainment. And while I usually gravitate toward shows that are a little grittier than this, I found myself really enjoying it. These first two episodes were a really nice starting point for the show, and while it’s possible the whole thing will take a big nosedive, it could turn into something quite good. And if that happens, I’ve still got 40-some-odd episodes of Time Trax I downloaded online.
Did anyone catch The Killing on Sunday? Because apparently, it’s finale was more offensive than The Sopranos, Lost and the Holocaust all rolled into one.
What was it about the finale that ripped the internet in twain? It was a few things, actually. So let’s see if we can’t make some sense out of it before we burn AMC to the ground, rape its women and take its children as slaves. If the show had one root problem from which all others stemmed, I’d have to say it was its pacing. Creator Veena Sud sold this show as an “anti-police procedural,” even though what we were getting was really a police procedural stretched out over 13 episodes. And, on paper, that’s okay. Police procedurals can be good. Look at Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue. But while these shows usually take an hour to show a pair of detectives gathering evidence and chasing suspects before finally catching their man, The Killing took weeks to do the same thing. And this, as the internet has told us, is unacceptable.
You could be charitable and call that a slow burn, but even that wasn’t what hurt the show. It was the fact that when Linden and Holder were chasing down Bennet, or interrogating Rosie’s friends at school, that’s all they were doing. I’d say that for the first two thirds of the season, the show seemed like it was capable of doing only one thing at a time. The pacing felt clunky, and when we saw things like Stan putting Bennet in the hospital — where he presumably dropped off the face of the planet before popping up briefly in Sunday’s finale — the story felt disjointed. And because it looks like neither Rosie’s friends nor Bennet had anything to do with Rosie’s death, it feels like the show was just wasting time, fooling us with one red herring after the next before pulling it away and saying, “Nope, wrong again! What about this one?”
It seems like many people were ready to forgive the show these indiscretions, as long as the finale brought the investigation to a satisfying conclusion. Instead, things became even more complicated when we saw Holder working with some shadowy, unknown figure, framing Richmond for Rosie’s murder. Sure, it was unexpected, and I don’t know if I like the idea of Holder as one of the bad guys, but I don’t have a problem with the show stretching the story out over multiple seasons. As far as I can tell, neither AMC nor Sud ever said that the finale would see the case closed. I can see why people were led to believe it would, and I’m pretty sure the Danish series wrapped things up in its first season. But regardless of whether or not the promise of resolution was real or imagined, that’s what people wanted. And they’re right pissed that they didn’t get it.
What could the show do to make things better next season? Well, since you asked…
1. Change things up. ”I’ll Let You Know When I Get There” and “Missing” were two of the season’s best episodes, and worked even better right next to each other. What it showed us was that the show was capable of multitasking. One week it was investigating Belko and giving us a look at a side of the Larsens we had never seen before, and the next we saw Linden and Holder develop their relationship while looking for Jack. We didn’t spend four episodes stuck dealing with Bennet and the FBI. It gave us a sense of forward momentum where other episodes felt stagnant.
2. No more crooked politicians. So Richmond’s dead (or is he???), and I can’t say that I really care. There were short, fleeting moments in which the whole campaign side of the show was interesting, but it mostly held things back. And really, do we need another story about a politician/businessman killing a hooker?
3. No more FBI. No more Muslim extremists. One of the greatest things about the show was its moody setting. All that dark and rain seemed to bring the show’s focus in and make it more personal. The FBI investigation ruined that, and turned the show into more of a big picture affair. Things worked best when it was just Linden and Holder.
4. Ditch the “1 episode = 1 day” format. It’s good, but mostly bad. On the one hand, it gives us episodes like “Missing,” in which Linden and Holder are free to spend an entire day driving around while they’re waiting on a warrant. On the other hand, we were forced to watch Mitch Larsen grieve for thirteen weeks, and were never really able to explore her as a character. It was interesting at first, and a good piece of acting, but turned into the biggest pain as the season went on. It’s a shame, too, because Michelle Forbes is a great actress and would have been game for anything the show could have thrown at her. I think the format also works against the show’s pacing. People seem to get an awful lot done in a single day, until they’re waiting around for a warrant.
Will The Killing get its act together before next season? Maybe. Maybe not. Veena Sud seems like a person who’s completely convinced that her work is groundbreaking and beloved by all. Part of that may be delusional. Part of it may be what every producer says about their work. And the fact that she didn’t listen to any outside criticism and work the show accordingly isn’t necessarily her fault. Most of the time, a season of whatever you’re watching on cable is in the can before it ever airs. So there’s rarely ever a chance to course correct. Before the writing staff gets together to start hammering out season 2, she’ll hopefully be able to weed through the backlash, ignore the BS about AMC’s damaged brand and how The Killing’s first season was one of the worst in TV history, and find a way to fix the legitmate problems everyone agrees were there.
Just a few quick thoughts on the finale itself…
Part of me thinks the reason they’re extending this story into next season is so they won’t have to recast the entire show. If they continue with the format, I hope things pick up a little into the future, so characters like Stan and Mitch will have had some time to put Rosie’s death behind them, and do a little more than mope around all season.
I thought Rick had put the kibosh on their relationship, but at the end of the episode we see Linden and Jack heading off to Sonoma. Does this mean we’re going to get more “will they or won’t they” episodes next season? I really hope not.
I understand the death of your child is a traumatic thing, but what the hell kind of sense does it make to deal with that by leaving the rest of your family? Mitch tells Stan that everything about their home hurts her. Does that include Stan and the boys? If she can’t bear to live in the apartment anymore, WHY DOESN’T STAN JUST SAY THAT HE BOUGHT HER A HOUSE? I understand characters not sharing information because it moves the story forward, but Stan and Mitch need to back that truck up. Beep. Beep. Beep.
I gave up hope a long time ago that The Killing would ever be as good as Mad Men or Breaking Bad. Honestly, it was never going to be. Even when set up against AMC’s other original series, The Killing may actually be the weakest of the bunch (I think it finishes slightly ahead of Rubicon, but that’s another story). But despite its problems — and it had more than its share — this was still a show that I really enjoyed. And my DVR and I will be there whenever season 2 rolls around, although we’ll save it until after we’ve seen that night’s Game of Thrones, because priorities, right?
Ooooh, man! It’s finally here! This is the episode where Game of Thrones pays everything off! Joffrey may be king, but he killed Ned, so you know he’s gonna get his! And Robb’s King of the North? I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do to the Lannisters! And did you see Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch heading out past the Wall? Don’t they know there are zombies and stuff out there? And DRAGONS?! Dany’s ’bout to straight up MURDER some people here! Like my favorite Black Eyed Peas song says, let’s get it started! I’m sorry, what? Spring 2012? Oh, okay. What did everyone think of The Killing?
Yes, it’s true. “Fire and Blood” works more as a prologue to season 2 than it does as a finale to season 1. And after everything was said and done, I found that I was okay with that. I was okay with spending the episode checking in with everyone, in most cases watching them mount their horses and set off for the Next Big Thing. I’m okay with whatever this show decides it’s going to throw at me because it’s so effing good.
Last week I was discussing Game of Thrones with a friend who had never watched the show but had read all the books. He called it the story of a group of people who had overthrown their king, and now, years later, we were checking in on them to see how they were doing in his place. So, now that we’ve spent ten weeks checking in, we can ask. How are they doing? I guess the answer would be, not too hot. With King Robert dead, the Lannisters and Starks — not to mention Robert’s brothers — are all going back to war, this time against each other. It’s going to be long and it’s going to be bloody, and as Mormont reminded Jon Snow, it isn’t even the worst of their problems. Whatever lies beyond the Wall is waking up, and the Night’s Watch is heading out to meet it, not at all content to sit and wait for whatever it is to show up on their doorstep. And because this isn’t enough, we’ve got Daenerys Targaryen killing Khal Drogo rather than watch him spend the rest of his life as a vegetable. And the next morning, in the smoldering remains of his funeral pyre we find her sitting alone, clutching three newborn dragons. I think we can safely assume that the Seven Kingdoms united under one ruler is a thing of the past. This is more like the North fighting against the South in the Civil War, if the South had dragons, and there were snow zombies living in Canada. What I mean is that things will never be the same again. Ever.
And this isn’t only because our characters’ circumstances have dramatically changed. It’s because they’ve changed as well. Take Dany, who at the beginning of the series was little more than a bargaining chip, sold to the Dothraki by Viserys in exchange for an army that would sail to Westeros and help him reclaim the throne. She was scared and she was alone. But she grew, and by learning how to handle Drogo put herself in a position where Viserys would never be able to touch her again. And now that she’s hatched these dragons — however that worked — will anyone be able to touch her?
It took a war to make it happen. but Tywin Lannister finally saw that Tyrion was smarter than he had been giving him credit for all these years. And now that it’s plain that Cersei won’t necessarily be able to keep Joffrey on any sort of leash, he’s sending Tyrion to King’s Landing to serve as Joffrey’s Hand. And after seeing how things played out last week, I have to say that Tyrion will probably be better suited to the position than Ned was. Ned assumed everyone was playing the same game he was. Tyrion will be able to look at people like Littlefinger and know when he’s being played and when he’s being lied to.
Robb being declared King of the North seems like a pretty big development, as far as the politics of this world are concerned. He can’t have Joffrey’s throne, at least not yet, so he’ll go ahead and take his own. And while he’s at it, he’ll take Jaime Lannister. He’s a smart leader and there seems to be real affection among those swearing their allegiance to him. And while anyone can do what he’s doing, say they’re tired of playing and take their toys home, I see Robb’s new kingdom as a more noble venture, and one that makes a lot of sense. There was a reason we connected to Ned as a protagonist for the show. He was noble, if naive, and passed that trait on to his kids. You could think of Robb as the new Ned, just maybe a little more hip to the ways of the world.
While we tend to focus on these characters — Dany, Tyrion, Joffrey, Robb — it’s easy to overlook others, like Sansa, who are having to grow up awful fast. There was a time when I thought I could never be sympathetic toward her, annoying and eternally 13-years old as she was. But after seeing what Joffrey did to Ned, and knowing that he still intends to marry and “put a son in her,” I think I can safely say that I’ve come over to her camp. And when we notice Sansa noticing how close Joffrey’s standing to the edge of the bridge as he forces her to look at her father’s decapitated head, we think, okay, she wants this little s**t dead just as much as we do. And that’s something we can all be cool with.
I’ll admit that while I was watching all of this unfold, I couldn’t help but think of all the little people. The villagers you see in the background, moving bundles of sticks and riding mules. These are the people who don’t shape events, but instead get caught up in them. This really struck home in that shot of Robb being declared King and the camp stops what it’s doing, distracted by the army’s chanting. It’s one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments, but I was happy to see it in there. The show spends so much time zoomed in, showing us the nitty-gritty of these characters’ lives that I enjoy when it zooms back out and gives us a glimpse of the bigger picture.
This was a great end to a great season, and at the same time a great beginning to the next. It’s all one long narrative, but it felt like the right place to stop and catch our breath. We’ve made it through this long prologue, and I’ll be happy even if what we get next year is only half as exciting.
When Walt got into the meth business, he did it with the best of intentions. He had cancer, and so a very finite amount of time left with his family. He needed to get in and make as much money as he could so that they’d have something by the time he shrugged off his mortal coil. But the cancer went into remission and Walt’s plan changes. Instead of shaping up and flying straight, he only went deeper. Fast forward several months (I have a hard time keeping track of the show’s timeline) and we’re seeing Skyler walk down the exact same path. A few weeks back she was able to come up with a story that would allow Walt to pay for Hank’s hospital bills without raising any suspicion. The first in what’s going to many, many large — and don’t forget weekly — bills came this week, and Skyler must have been taken back by the amount at least a little bit because she went to Walt and insisted on learning exactly how he was cleaning his money. Because like she said, by the time it got to Hank and Marie, it had to be unimpeachable.
And even though Skyler went through the motions of meeting Saul — in another scene that proves what a brilliant addition Bob Odenkirk has been to the cast — and later, arguing with Walt about being his Danny, she was involved in Walt’s business from that moment on. Skyler, with good reason, has always been disapproving of Walt’s more illegal activities, and sees herself as someone much more mature than he is because of them. So when she says that money has to be unimpeachable, not only for Hank’s and Marie’s sake but for her’s and Walt’s as well, she sees herself as a natural choice in helping Walt go about that. I think that right now, Skyler’s making a practical decision, but I can’t help but think back to Ted Beneke and his heated bathroom tiles. Skyler’s decision may not be a good one, but you can’t really fault the logic. But once more of that sweet, sweet meth money starts coming in, I think we may see Skyler following Walt down that same path.
Wherever Walt is on that path, I think Jesse occupies a place way ahead of him and at the same time far behind. He was back at the Narcotics Anonymous meeting this week, with Badger and Skinny Pete (“My name is Brandon, and this, I believe, is Peter.”) pushing his meth. When they tell Jesse that they’re having a hard time of it because these are all people trying to make serious changes in their lives — not to mention the fact that Walt’s hip to Jesse’s scam and there’s no new product coming in — he gets angry and sets out to show them how it’s done. So he hooks up with Andrea, who at first is nothing more than an object lesson. But as he gets closer to her, meets her son, hears about her brother, Tomas — who as it turns out is the one who shot Combo last season — he begins to care for her. And when she says she wants to take him up on that meth he offered, Jesse reels back and asks what kind of mother she is. That Jane-shaped hole in his life is still a little too fresh, and while he has no problem selling to people he knows nothing about, watching someone he cares about poison themselves the way Jane did is a bridge too far. It’s an interesting comparison, Andrea and Tomas. While Jesse couldn’t stand to see himself hurting her, it looks like he’s got no problem going after him, or at least the people who put him up to shooting Combo. Watching Jesse in that last scene, walking away from the buy with that expression of rage on his face was great. And it’s really those small, personal moments that push this show above others around it.
We saw this week that Hank’s begun his physical therapy. In a show full of men who are all strong in there own ways, Hank’s the only Alpha Male. And although he’s come to some pretty scary realizations about the life he’s been leading all these years, he’s still very macho, very prideful, so it makes sense that he’s going to have trouble in therapy. We know he’s going to give his nurses lip and shirk off Marie even though she only wants to help and be there for her husband. For the character it makes sense, but it’s something we’ve seen sooo many times before that it’s hard to keep fresh. I’m much more interested in seeing how Hank reacts if his recovery isn’t as speedy as he’d hope.
In the middle of all this, there’s Walt. Trying to listen to and placate those around him. He listens to Saul and although his ideas are a little out there he realizes that he’s not a complete idiot. He listens to Skyler and eventually agrees to let her run the car wash he’s going to buy. He’s watching Jesse, making sure he doesn’t do anything that’s going to get them in deep with Gus. And he listens to Gus, who out of the blue invites Walt to his house for dinner, and makes all the cryptic statements and gestures you’d expect from a man who holds your life in his hands. When Gus tells Walt not to make the same mistake twice, I guess there are several different ways you can take it. The one I picked up was that Gus new Walt and Jesse’s cook had been coming in a little light and wanted to make sure they were keeping their hands out of the damn cookie jar. We’ve already seen how serious Gus is about his business, so this is just one more thing Walt’s going to have to plan around. And if that just takes Walt and his family further down that rabbit hole, that’s just how it’s going to be. Walt’s getting good at thinking on his feet, and things have worked out so far, relatively speaking, so maybe they’ll work out for a while longer.