This week we get to travel back in time to Valentines Day AND St. Patrick's Day as I play a little catch-up. But don't worry, I'm still behind on plenty...
Game of Thrones: The Night Lands
More like Game of Incest and Baby Killing, amiright? This episode taught us all an important lesson: if you're going to stick your hand down a random woman's pants, make damned sure she's not your sister first.
Seriously though, this episode continued the slow build from the premiere, catching us up with a few players missed in last week's episode while introducing a few more. Moving forward with these reviews, I'm going to steal a page from David Sims' book over at the AV Club and discuss things location by location.
Let's start with this episodes new locale, the Iron Islands and the capital of Pyke. Last season, Theon never made much of an impression on me, aside from being kinda douchey, and while he still is, this episode did a lot to round out his character and make him more enjoyable to watch (even if I still don't necessarily like him). Watching him struggle between the life he's known, the life he wants, and the reality that falls between both should be interesting. Meanwhile, his father, Balon, did make an immediate impression, conveying in one scene exactly the kind of person he is, what he wants, and how he feels about the Starks, while at the same time, the whole "iron price vs. gold price" was effective at quickly establishing the culture of this new land.
The King's Road
After a brief appearance to close last week's episode, we catch-up with Arya and Gendry. I was a bit surprised that she revealed herself to Gendry so soon, but presumably, that will come into play during the rematch between the Night's Watch recruits and the Goldcloaks (and, obviously, Yoren sending them running in this episode was pretty badass).
Tyrion continues to rock, and while his line to Vaerys about how he knows the game better than Ned Stark was used in a lot of the promotional material leading up to this season, it was still an effective summation of the kind of Hand he will be, and he backed up his words later by deftly removing Janos. I also appreciated that he was genuinely appalled by the Bastard Slaughter (though I was surprised to learn there was some question over who ordered it; I just automatically assumed Joffrey and never questioned it, and while I was ultimately right, I suppose I should have maybe suspected Cersei).
Beyond the Wall
More straight-up heroics from perhaps the show's most straightforward hero character, as Jon's curiosity gets the better of him and he discovers Craster is feeding his male babies to the White Walkers (presumably), thus fulfilling the episode's baby-killing quotient. On the one hand, I worry that Jon's eventual attempts to either fight Craster or help his disenchanted daughter-wife escape are too predictable; on the other hand, Jon is one of the show's few genuinely heroic do-gooders, so it makes sense that he would do one or the other, despite the risk. Also, Sam continues to rock, in his Neville Longbottom kind of way ("She's a person, not a goat.").
More political and religious wrangling going on, and while we have yet to spend a lot of time here, every time the show does, it leaves me wanting more (and while Stannis screwing Melisandre atop his giant war map table was pretty on the nose, symbolism-wise, it was also clearly loaded with implication for the future).
Again, just one brief check in with Daenerys out in the desert, but I did like the subtle way the show contrasted her with Cersei by showing that for all her fierceness and determination, Daenerys actually cares for her people in a way that seems anathema to Cersei.
The scene between Baelish and Roz was effective, but seemed kind of out of place in the episode, disconnected from everything else beyond vague thematic notions of power.
Much has been made on the internet about this show's use of "sexposition", and while some of that can be chalked up to HBO wanting to show boobs whenever it can (something I can't exactly object to), the only scene I felt was truly sexpositional was the one inside Baelish's brothel (the Theon scene told us a lot about his character and desires, while the Stannis/Melisandre one was clearly significant to the plot and Stannis' development), and even then, it could be read as subtle commentary on the sexposition itself, as we cut from Theon and the salt wife to a guy watching a guy watching a sex scene. I'm not quite sure what the show was trying to say with that transition, but it seemed like it was trying to say something.
Tyrion: You’ve perfected the art of tearing up papers.
Tyrion: I’m not questioning your honor, Lord Janos. I’m denying its existence.
How I Met Your Mother: Trilogy Time
Maybe it's just because I share a similar relationship with "the trilogy" (albeit a less regimented one), but this was a nice bounce back episode after one I didn't particularly enjoy. While nothing here was particularly groundbreaking, this episode was classic HIMYM in the way the narrative moved through time and spoke to one of the series' overarching questions: how happy am I with where I'm at in life at this moment? That's really the question Ted has struggled to answer (and struggled to change the answer of, when it was "not very") throughout the show's entire run, and "Trilogy Time" effectively contrasted Ted, Marshall and Barney's desires for their futures with the realities of their futures throughout the years, which, not surprisingly, lead to some great laughs along the way (I particularly enjoyed Marshall's relationship with his facial hair, and the ongoing political gags in the newspaper headlines, particularly in Fake 2015: "America regrets giving Bush surprise 3rd term."). I'm still not wild about the Quinn/Barney relationship, but I'm much more comfortable with where the show is heading on its way to the finale.
So we got a pretty definitive date for Ted meeting the mother there, didn't we? On the one hand, revealing Ted's daughter will be born late 2014/early 2015 could be a good sign that Bays and Thomas are nearing their endgame; on the other hand, it could just mean some ridiculous temporal stretching if CBS is unwilling to let the show go after next season and they have to scramble to either "make time" for future seasons or undo this reveal.
The various flashbacks and "fake" flashforwards in this episode were a nice way to integrate Robin into the episode while still sticking to Adult Ted's declaration last episode that he and Robin wouldn't see each other for awhile.
Dr. Bitz and I were discussing this, and a quick search on the internet provided no answers, so if anyone follows this stuff more closely than I do, here's what I'm wondering: I know that in this season's finale we'll learn who Barney is marrying. But is that wedding set to occur at the end of this season (meaning, May 2012 for the characters) or some undetermined time in the future? Because if that wedding is supposed to occur for the characters within in the next few weeks, it's either going to be Quinn (which would be disappointing) or else the show is going to have to jump through some pretty awkward hoops to make it be Robin (which would also be disappointing because of the hoop jumping).
For the record, while I share Barney's love of Star Wars, I do not share his particular Stormtrooper fetish.
Ted: At least tell me that you will have changed the by-then nine-year-old beer commercial reference.
While not as good as last year's "Silly Little Love Songs", this episode was not as bad as a Valentines Day episode could have been (which seems to be a refrain with these Glee reviews of late, which is I suppose is a good thing). It was a little random in some of the storylines it dealt with (like the God Squad) but some of that could just be because it's been awhile since I last watched the show.
Of course, the big deal with this episode was meeting Rachel's dads, and they didn't disappoint, though it would be hard for Jeff Goldblum to do so. Better yet, I appreciated that their "we're totally okay with it" perspective on Finn and Rachel getting married turned out to be a ruse; this was probably the closest the show'll ever come to dealing with that plotline realistically, even if their ruse was the kind of thing that would only happen on TV.
The other main storyline was the God Squad bit, and while it felt a bit random (especially the insertion of Dreadlock Jesus, whom I assume is another Glee Project winner/castoff) and the conclusion mostly spoke to my bias (that Christianity is about more than a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible), it worked for the most part as a bit of tertiary plotting to lend the episode some structure. Also, I liked the sort of tongue-in-cheek way it commented on how we can watch Finn and Rachel make out all the time but networks (and some viewers) freak out as soon as it becomes a same sex makeout session.
That said, Figgins is seriously the worst administrator in history. All it takes is one complaint for him to haul Santana and Brittany into his office? Geez, if I'd known that, I would have complained to the principal of my school a lot more back in the day.
I feel for him, and in general I like the Karofsky storyline, but dude, Kurt has a boyfriend. What did you expect?
No Sue this week. Didn't miss her.
Artie and Rory's infatuation with Sugar was also a bit random, but whatever. It's Glee.
Loved Puck automatically asking when the baby was due after Finn and Rachel announced their engagement. Also, I loved how Sugar nipped Will's fundraising in the bud by simply handing over the money they needed (but still: NOW the club is worried about money for costumes? Where has the money been coming from previously?).
Stuff I Shouldn't Worry About: Okay, so Rachel and Finn have dinner with their parents, go to bed, and then Rachel begins her over-long bedtime routine, culminating in the two of them fighting, then getting back together off screen, then deciding to join their friends at Breadsticks...at 7:15? They did all of that before 7:15? Rachel starts getting ready for bed when the sun is still up?
Santana: I fully support your right to be unhappy with Finn for the rest of your lives.
Will: Hey gang, Regionals are next week, but instead of practicing or preparing for it, we'll spend the week singing love songs.
Favorite Song: I wasn't particularly wowed by any of the songs (and I abhor "Love Shack") but most were decent. I guess I'll say "L-O-V-E", just cuz I like Nat King Cole and it was nice to see Tina and Mike sing together.
30 Rock: St. Patrick's Day
I'm starting my attempted catch-up for 30 Rock with this episode, simply because it's the most recent one I've watched (don't expect regular coverage of the show quite yet, as I may skip writing about episodes in order to get closer to the present), which is a shame, because it's probably the episode I enjoyed the least since the last one I wrote about ("Today You Are A Man"), with "The Tuxedo Begins", "Leap Day" and "Standards and Practices" being particular favorites in that batch. But that's the price I pay for falling behind. Certainly, this episode isn't awful, but the show definitely wasn't firing on all cylinders. Dennis got in some good lines (like the fact that the lesbian movie he was watching was The Kids Are All Right) in his plot with Liz, but that was the rare storyline that was more about character development than laughs. The Jack plot, usually an episode's biggest strength, was similarly light on laughs beyond his admittedly comical obsession with a tabletop RPG, while the Tracy/Jenna plot was a rehash of earlier episodes. Again, nothing terrible, and 30 Rock fires enough jokes a minute that I laughed plenty throughout, but definitely a step down after a handful of really good episodes.
Community: Pillow and Blankets
Again, it could be my (admittedly somewhat irrational) affection for Ken Burns documentaries, but I thought this episode was absolutely brilliant, depicting the blanket/pillow fort war in a clever and hilarious way (substituting the Burns-standard "reading from letters and journals" device with excerpts from emails, texts and Facebook updates was fantastic). My biggest complaint would be the complete absence of Vice Dean Layborne, missing despite so craftily bringing about the conflict in the previous episode. But I get how inserting Layborne into the documentary structure wouldn't have worked, and I'll happily take his absence in exchange for what we got, especially since I doubt the Vice Dean's efforts to win over Troy aren't over, even if Troy and Abed are, for now, once again friends.
The bit that got the biggest laugh from me was the explanation of all the north, east and west named buildings that had little to do with their location relative to the directions after which they were named.
The tag, with Troy and Abed in a pledge drive PBS style, was one of the show's best.
Saturday Night Live: Sofia Vergara and One Direction
Not exactly a strong bounce back episode after a couple clunkers and a hiatus, but this episode was still solid, featuring a few truly hilarious sketches, some so-so ones, and one out-and-out clunker. Sofia Vergara acquitted herself well, working within her limitations and generally handling whatever she was asked to do, even if she wasn't the most dynamic of hosts.
Cold Open: Another ho-hum Romney open, this time mocking his propensity for loving every place he's in despite being totally unfamiliar with it (but really, isn't that just a political thing? Don't all politicians do that?).
Monologue: Nothing too exciting, but I am glad that Vergara actually did a monologue, instead of singing, or taking questions from the "audience", or having cast members come on stage pretending to be people, etc.
Just Friends: Not awful (I laughed a few times) but nothing to write home about. Not one of the better pre-taped bits this season.
Bein' Quirky: Glad to see this one back, and in the top spot. Clearly the standout sketch of the night, with a spot-on Drew Barrymore impression from Wiig (more of this, less whacky Wiig, please). Taran Killam's Michael Cera and Abby Elliot's Zooey Deschanel remained hilarious. Also a plus? Andy Samberg as Mayim Bialik.
Almost Pizza: Bizarre, but funny. Hader really sold it, and Wiig did a nicely-restrained crazy person. “Sure smells like pizza.” “That was their intention.” “WHOSE?!”
Anchor Commercial: One of the night's "meh" sketches, a one joke premise that wasn't that funny and went on too long.
Gilly: The WTF? moment of the night, as we'd been previously assured that Gilly had been retired, yet there she was. I have no idea why she came back, but she was as painfully unfunny as ever (which isn't to say I didn't laugh at Brian Moynihan or Keenan in the sketch, because I always do, but they're not worth putting up with Gilly).
Weekend Update: This seemed shorter than usual, and not just because we only got one guest appearance. Drunk Uncle isn't my favorite Weekend Update character, but he's always good for a few laughs ("Netflix me, Netflix me!").
The Manuel Ortiz Show: Another meh sketch, but I don't consider it a terrible one, as the dancing and insane escalation is mildly funny, even if it is repetitious and the same sketch every time out.
Watch What Happens Live: My other favorite sketch of the night. I've suffered through more than enough Andy Cohen thanks to his role in all the Top Chef reunion episodes, so I greatly enjoyed Killam skewering him at his douchey worst.
Shampoo Ad: After popping up in the Watch What Happens Sketch, new cast member Kate McKinnon took center stage with a Penelope Cruz impression. The voice was spot on, but she looked nothing like her, which is pretty much a sad commentary on SNL's complete lack of diversity.
Hunger Games: Surprised this was placed so late in the show. Having neither read nor seen Hunger Games, this was probably not as funny for me as it could of been, but there was enough general funny stuff that I enjoyed it.
Favorite Sketch: Bein' Quirky, but man, Watch What Happens Live comes close.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 5/18
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 7/18