I did watch last night's Community and Parks and Rec, but I'll cover them in next week's post, especially since the former is going to take some time to unpack. In the meantime, here's thoughts on the rest of the stuff I watched this week.
The Simpsons: Beware My Cheating Bart
It could certainly be my bias showing, but I greatly enjoyed all the Lost spoofs in the Homer B-plot ("Oh my god. Inside the coconut...my pet cat, from when I was little."). I was tempted to ding them once again for failing to mock something at the height of its relevance, but the fact that Homer was only now getting into the show was part of the plot, so it worked (his refusal to watch the pilot with Marge when it originally aired was classic). The main plot was a pretty basic Bart-has-a-crush story, with all the limitations therein caused by the fact that he is still only ten. Perfectly adequate, nothing groundbreaking, though notable for being the first time Bart has seen a girl's boob.
Homer: Lousy Marge. Ruining the delicate relationship between a man and his TV show...
Bart: Oh my god! It’s just like Dad’s!
Bob's Burgers: Food Truckin'
Though filled with the usual manic energy and affording a unique opportunity to have the entire family together in one place and in one plot, this episode felt like the first step down since the show's return. There were still plenty of laughs (I loved Gene and Louise's sign on the food truck: NOT OUR PARENTS — HELP!), but the plot felt more perfunctory and predictable than usual. We knew exactly how Louise and "Dina's" antics at the food festival would play out, just as we knew, the moment Teddy mentioned the grease trap, that it would be used to slip up pursuers at some point. Again, nothing here was terrible and there were plenty of good bits, but the pieces never quite gelled into a great episode the way the other episodes this season have.
Game of Thrones: What is Dead May Never Die
For me, the centerpiece of this episode was Tyrion's brilliant manipulation of the Small Council in order to ferret out who is loyal to Cersei. The sequence in which he laid out a different plan for marrying off his niece to each of the council members was brilliantly directed and tons of fun. This led to a trio of great scenes: Cersei admonishing Tyrion for planning to marry off her daughter (which showed that perhaps Cersei isn't as in control and she thinks or likes others to think), Tyrion sending Master Pycelle, revealed as the Cersei loyalist, packing, and the brilliant discussion on the nature of power between Varys and Tyrion (much of which was lifted for the season two trailers), which more or less could stand as a treatise on the season, if not the show.
Poor Sansa also popped back up, making an appearance at one of the most awkward family dinners ever. Given Cersei's abhorrence at seeing her daughter married off like Cersei'd been, it's interesting that she doesn't have more sympathy for Sansa, forced to play nice with the people who murdered her father. While Cersei's reaction to Tyrion's plan was clearly meant to engender sympathy for the character, her continued treatment of Sansa does a lot to undercut that sympathy, showing Cersei to be some combination of selfish and short-sighted.
I mentioned on Nikki Stafford's blog and on Twitter my frustration with Theon siding with his jerkwad family. I was glad when he stood up to his father and pointed out that he was given away and hadn't stayed away by choice; I was hoping that would lead to him telling the Greyjoys to shove it, but instead he was baptized and seems set to betray Robb. While I could understand being reluctant to go back to the Starks were Ned still around, Robb has, as far as we've seen, always treated Theon with respect and friendship, whereas his blood family has done nothing but needle him for circumstances outside his control. Seems like an easy choice to me. My only hope now is that Robb suspected Theon's betrayal, and that Balen and Yara will find an army waiting for them in the North despite Theon burning his letter of warning to Robb.
While it was nice to catch up with Renly since his departure from King's Landing at the end of the first season, the big event here was the introduction of two new characters: Brienne of Tarth and Renly's queen, Margaery. We thus far know little of the former aside from her size, fighting prowess and devotion to Renly, while the later proved to be surprisingly pragmatic when it came to her husband's sexuality (heck, in a land where the Lannisters are schtupping their siblings, while not call in your brother as a fluffer?). I've only watched the first season of The Tudors, but I greatly enjoyed Natalie Dormer in it, and was excited to hear that she was cast in GoT. Her first appearance, at least, suggests a character at least as compelling as Anne Boleyn.
North of the Wall
Last episode's cliffhanger is resolved perfunctorily, the big reveal being that (not so shockingly) Craster's sacrificial sons are well known to the Night's Watch, another lesson in pragmatism for the episode. The scene between Sam and Gilly was sweet, if omnious, though.
So Bran is starting to think that when he dreams of being a wolf he is seeing through the wolf's eyes. Way to catch up with the rest of us.
The King's Road
Arya proved witness to the episode's big action quotient as Joffrey's men returned in force to claim Gendry. While the scene between Yoren and Arya made it painfully clear Yoren would soon meet his end, it was nonetheless a fantastic one that spoke to the intensity of revenge and how it can warp a person, something that, I suspect, will prove to be particularly resonant for Arya. And when it was Yoren's time to go, at least he went out Boromir-style, taking down numerous opponents with an arrow sticking out of his chest (I loved that it took several men holding him down to finally kill him).
No Robb, Jamie, Daenerys, Stannis or Joffrey this week.
While I enjoyed Caetlyn's smirking barbs to Renley (her son is fighting a war, not playing at one), I question how sound it is to mock the man with which you're seeking a desperate alliance. Then again Caetlyn's never been much of a thinker...
The other Sansa scene involved Shae arriving to be her handmaiden (a rather brilliant move on Tyrion's part). I thought it was interesting that the writers undercut the sympathetic dinner scene by having her be a total bitch to Shae, but I suppose it's consistent with the character.
Smart thinking on Arya's part at the end there; I honestly hope that's the end of the "kill Robert's bastards" storyline, as I'd like to see Gendry and Arya's story unfold without that additional threat looming.
Shae: Every man who has tasted my cooking has told me what a good whore I am.
Yoren: I always hated crossbows. Take too long to load!
How I Met Your Mother: Now We're Even
Though not as structurally nor thematically sound as last week's episode, this one was rather funny, nicely escalating the silliness (as in the increasingly-ludicrous title cards). Of course, finding out the whole thing was just an excuse to explain away Ted in a green dress from last year's "The Mermaid Theory" (something I only vaguely recalled long after the episode ended, which was affirmed for me by the internet) takes some of the fun out of it, and the whole Barney/Ted plot was rather predictable (it was painfully obvious that Barney kept insisting on creating legendary evenings to keep his mind off Quinn being gone stripping). The Marshall/Lily plot was the kind of inoffensive, mildly humorous story those two seem to get handed a lot lately, while the Robin plot did a nice job of integrating her into the episode while keeping her distance from Ted, and presumably setup the next chapter in her story. The scenes of everyone watching with bated breath as she tried to land the helicopter were genuinely touching.
Ted: I don’t feel the need to keep score; that’s like a thousand points right there.
Marshall: Not the rose quartz of the slightly embarrassed, or the tomato red of the mildly abashed; vermillion—the color of carnal shame!
Glee: On My Way
Oh Glee. For the first third or so, this was a perfectly good episode. It brought the simmering Karofsky storyline to a head and addressed head-on the very real issue of teen bullying and suicide in a way that was for the most part true to the characters and deftly handled (by Glee standards). Of course, it was then quickly shoved aside to get to the Regionals business, but at least lip service was paid to how the events of the first third of the episode were informing the second third. Karofsky's story, and the message Glee was trying to present, deserved at least a full episode, but the show still has to do what it has to do.
If the tonal shift had stopped with Regionals, it wouldn't have been so bad. But then we're suddenly dealing with the farce that is Finn and Rachel's wedding as the show slides fully away from our reality and into its own, and by episode's end it goes and spoils what was a pretty well-crafted and performed episode (at least in the first third) by a shoehorning in a PSA as a mid-winter break cliffhanger. Whereas the issue of teen suicide was woven into the fabric of the show and the culmination of a long running storyline (however slighted it might have been by the very nature of the show), the ending slipped far too easily into the realm of soap opera gimmick. In another episode, it may not have been so bad, but here, the shift in tone was far too jarring, making the whole thing fall flat. Karofsky solemnly dressing in his best suit, his dad finding him and howling for help, Kurt sitting down with his tormenter and helping him dream of a better life were raw, intense, wonderfully depicted moments Unfortunately, those moments were an oasis unto themselves, otherwise surrounded in the sea of Glee being Glee.
The scene in Figgins' office with the teachers was also very good.
Look, I'm glad Sebastian stopped twirling his mustache in the face of Karofsky's suicide attempt, but the character had been presented as being just so one dimensionally evil that the sudden change of heart seemed out of character, such as it is. I honestly expected to find out he took the money raised for charity to put towards a death ray or something.
Similarly, we got Normal Person Sue back. I like that version of the character so much. I'll miss her when the show inevitably brings back Super Villain Sue.
Also, she's pregnant. Who's the father? I couldn't care less.
Part of me really wanted Rory to taste peanut butter and be like, "eh, it's okay."
The scene where the kids went around in a circle and said what they were looking forward to was nice, although some of their desires were odd (shouldn't Kurt's dad already be in Congress?).
Jeff Goldblum continues to crack me the hell up, though it's beyond ridiculous that four adults couldn't step in and stop that wedding.
Never, ever show Will reacting to the kids' performance the way he did in this episode again!
Things I Shouldn't Worry About: It was nice to see Rachel's dads and Kurt and Finn's parents in the audience, making this presumably the first performance of the glee club either set of parents (or any Glee parents) have ever seen. Also, who the hell were the random background girls with Mercedes, Santana, etc. during the Troubletones song? If they're former members of the Troubletones, why don't they perform with the rest of the group during the joint numbers?
Favorite Song: I recognized very few of the songs in this episode, but while I enjoyed the "Fly/I Believe I can Fly" mashup (as I usually enjoy the mashups), I'll go with "Cough Syrup", a song I've never heard before but which perfectly underscored Karofsky's suicide attempt.
Community: Origins of Vampire Mythology
There have been episodes of Community that have made me laugh more than this one. Heck, last week's episode was funnier, as good as this one was. But I can't remember the last time I laughed with this show as hard as I did when Abed opened his door to find the Dean standing there and announced, "I need help reacting to something." This show continues to amaze with the versatility of the cast; here, we get prolonged interactions between Troy, Abed, Annie and Britta (and the dean), while Jeff and Shirley got to spend more time together at the carnival. The ability to break the cast up into these little pieces is one of its strengths, as is its ability to sell genuine character moments amidst all the insanity. While all the meaningful glances at the end almost reached the point of parody, the climax of the episode, and the subtle communication between Annie and Britta that Troy had sent the "nice" text, was genuinely touching.
I've realized I've become a total shipper with this show. I was pleased to see the return of both the Troy/Britta relationship and the Annie/Jeff one.
The Chang/Pierce storyline was fairly insignificant, but a nice way to position those two characters while everyone else was having touching moments.
I am both glad that Troy and Abed are still friends and that Vice Dean Layborne's desire for Troy to join his school hasn't been forgotten. I'm having my cake and eating it too!
The sequences involving Annie trying to be Blade and the dean, Troy and Abed trying to sound like a carnival was also hilarious.
Saturday Night Live: Josh Brolin & Gotye
A pretty solid episode. While there were a few sketches that either went on too long or didn't work for me (even if I saw what they were going for), there were no out-and-out clunkers, which is saying something. Josh Brolin acquitted himself well, never really being asked to carry a sketch but sliding in effortlessly for smaller bits.
Cold Open: One of the better cold opens recently, as something about the show bringing together all the whacky Republican candidates always works in its favor. Mitt being the boring straight-laced one is a lot funnier when he has someone like whack-a-doo Michelle Bachman to bounce off.
Monologue: Basically an excuse for Jay Pharaoh's Will Smith impression, but since that's awesome, I really didn't mind. It was also an effective way for Brolin to plug MiB3 beyond the usual "so, I'm in this movie.."
First Look: Game of Thrones: Like the Hunger Games sketch last week, this probably didn't work for you if you've never seen the show, but if you have, it was damned hilarious. The idea that one of the chief consultants on the show is a 13-year-old boy, because of all the boobs, is one of those "funny cuz it could be true" things, and just the sight of Brian Moynihan as George RR Martin (he really dresses that way) cracked me up. “All of that aired on television, right after Rango!”
The Californians: Not sure if this was spoofing an actual show or just the mannerisms of Californians and soap operas, but it was the first sketch of the night that started out mildly amusing before going on too long (I think two segments would have been better, instead of three). But man, Bill Hader started breaking almost immediately, which was odd (for him), but also funny.
America’s Next Empire State of Mind Parody Artist: Again, nothing standout nor awful here, and another sketch that had maybe one iteration too many. Props to Andy Samberg for his Weird Al though, and nice to see Jay Pharaoh featured so prominently.
Digital Short: Laser Cats! Space Nazi! Steven Spielberg mocking himself ("Hitchcockian!"). What's not to love?
Weekend Update: Mrs. Teebore and I just fast forwarded right past Garth and Kat, as we usually do, so you guys let me know if they were actually funny this time out. Seth's "What Are You Doing?" was funny, but still seemed like a poor man's "'Really?' With Seth and Amy".
Piers Morgan: This sketch, one of the "excuses for celebrity impressions" sketches, worked a lot better for me this time, perhaps because it wasn't leading off the night. I particularly enjoyed Armisen's Ice-T and all the Law and Order jokes, as well as (like usual) Nasim Pedrad's nasally Kim Kardashian.
Slow Motion High School: One of the lesser sketches of the night, but nothing awful. Some of the sight gags were funny, some weren't, it went a bit too long. That is all.
Digital Short 2: It was no "Laser Cats" but funny in its own way (I think Killam makes a nice partner for Samberg), and it thankfully did what it came to do and left without going on too long.
Booker T. Washington Prom: The final sketch of the night was another mildly humorous, overly long affair. I enjoyed Pharaoh's principal and bits of Brolin's wasted and lecherous teacher, but a bit of editing probably would have turned this into a memorably zany end-of-the-night sketch.
Favorite Sketch: Gotta go with the Game of Thrones one, but by no means does that diminish my love of Laser Cats.
Herman Cain: This country just isn’t ready for an African-American president.
Steven Spielberg: Be honest, what did you think?
Lorne Michaels: I hated it.
Spielberg: OK, now, don’t be honest.
Michaels: That was great!
Ozzie Guillen: We had just played a baseball game against St. Louis, so I figured
everyone was wondering, hey Ozzie, what are your opinions on Fidel
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 5/19
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 7/19