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Friday, June 8, 2012

Last Week in TV #35

Following the Game of Thrones finale last Sunday, we limp to the final "Last Week In TV" post for the 2011-2012 season. Which means, amongst other things, we won't get around to discussing the rest of Glee or the final Community episodes of the Dan Harmon era, because I am just that far behind in TV watching.

But "Last Week in TV" will be back sometime in September with the start of a new TV season, and, most likely, with a slightly different approach. But we'll get to that in due time. First, here's some final thoughts on a few finales.  

Game of Thrones: Valar Morghulis 


For better or worse (and in some cases, it was both) this episode was less a typical season finale and more a season epilogue that also did a lot of work to setup season three. Even before the horde of zombies arrived to give us our "here's what's coming" cliffhanger, we were given a very clear picture of where most of the characters are headed in the next season. Which is interesting only because that's the kind of work that's usually done in season premieres (and one of the reasons why season premieres are usually pretty boring). By doing the work of establishing the upcoming conflicts and character arcs at the end of the season (with last week's "Blackwater" serving as the climax of this season), Game of Thrones is able to tie the setup of next season to the epilogue of this one, making for a more satisfactory experience I'd like to see more shows try to emulate.

King's Landing
So as I feared, Tywin is being hailed as the savior of the city, Tyrion is being shunned despite his own efforts to save the city, and Jofrrey is still an insufferable twit who's received no comeuppance. The one bright side I see to Tywin being the Hand of the King is that Tywin will see firsthand what a cruel and incompetent ruler his grandson is, while Joffrey is likely to yearn for his uncle when he realizes how little of his crap Tywin will take.

Similarly, Joffrey's upcoming sham wedding to Margaery will likely feature more than either bargained for, as Margaery will, I suspect, soon learn what a twisted brat her fiance is, while Joffrey is likely to discover his hot new girl isn't a pushover, and can hold her own against him better than Sansa.

Meanwhile, Tyrion may be powerless and injured at the hands of someone paid by his sister to kill him, but Peter Dinklage is still knocking it out of the park. The scene between Tyrion and Shae when he admitted that despite his current situation, he still enjoys and knows he's good at playing the game, followed by his tearful relief when Shae assured him she would stay with him was top notch stuff, as good as anything in the previous episode. 

Dragonstone
Just a brief scene of Stannis licking his wounds and looking to call Melisandre on her BS, but it's good to know he's still a player, and that the war for the iron throne is far from over.

On the Road
Jamie gets to see Brienne in action, and despite my better judgement, I'm starting to enjoy the relationship between them. Their easy back and forth while trying to pass Jamie off as a thief was a lot of fun, and I appreciated the look of respect Jamie gave her after she easily took out the three Northerners.

On a different part of the road, Arya has a final conversation with Jaqen that more or less sets up her arc for season three: helping save her family, even her sister (the implied reluctance in that was the funniest moment of the episode). But we also got the episode's title, and the neat/freaky bit where Jaqen changed his face. I only hope Arya doesn't spend too long trying to get back to her family, because I'm really stoked by the idea of her going to Bravos. 

Robb's Camp
I'm not sure there's anyone who's been screwed over by the events of Blackwater more than Robb. Even Stannis is in a better position. Robb is left fighting a war for a throne he doesn't want, and while he and Stannis were never officially allied, Stannis presence meant the Lannisters couldn't put the full force of their armies against Robb. With Stannis on the defensive, there's nothing to stop the Lannisters and Tyrell's from marching north and wiping out Robb's forces. Meanwhile, he's unknowingly lost the seat of his power, his family is more scattered than ever, and he's openly defied a carefully crafted strategic alliance by getting married. I think even Jon has things easier than Robb at this point. 

Winterfell
In a brilliant counterpoint to Tyrion's rousing speech in "Blackwater", here Theon gets his own opportunity to rally the troops, and while the speech is almost as good, it's immediately undercut by Theon getting knocked out by his second in command and the small force from Pyke retreating to the sea. After what he did, it's probably not the end Theon's deserves, but it'll be interesting to see how he reacts to the copious amount of scorn he'll receive back home.

What followed was a bit confusing, as Bran, Rickon, Hodor and Osha emerge from the catacombs to a burning Wintefell. The impression I got was that Theon's men were going to either toss Theon out to the bannermen surrounding Winterfell and/or sneak out the tunnels; I'm not entirely sure why they also burned the place, or why the bannermen allowed it to happen (or, conversely, why the bannermen would have burned it). 

Qarth
Poor Daenerys finally got some forward momentum with her story, and while a good chunk of her scenes in Qarth this season ultimately feel superfluous, this was a strong ending to the Qarth plot, and even moreso than the birth of her dragons in last season's finale, leaves her in a better position to get back to Westeros.

North of the Wall
Jon's adventures north of the wall come to an end, at least for this season, with Corin Halfhand's plan to integrate Jon with the Wildlings seemingly working, though Jon has to kill him in the process. And in the episode (and season's) closing moments, we get our first glimpse of a zombie horde that suggests political and military wrangling south of the wall are the least of the various kings' problems. 

Other thoughts
One of the unifying themes in this episode is characters being given an opportunity to change their circumstances but declining to do so - Tyrion leaving with Shae, Arya to go to Bravos, Theon to go to the Wall, etc.

At first I thought perhaps Warlock Dean Pelton had taken the dragons from Dany to prove she really wanted them, and the various visions she encountered in the House of the Undying were meant to test her resolve (ie leave behind the throne for the dragons, leave behind Khal Drogo and your son for the dragons), but then it turned out he just wanted her trapped with the dragons. So I'm not quite sure what the source/point of those visions/premonitions were, as excellent as they were.

Loved the oh-so-subtle symbolism of Tywin's horse taking a massive shit before all the political wrangling and back-slapping went down.

Stupid Sansa. Should have left with the Hound. I really hope Baelish isn't planning on making grandchildren with her...

I'm interested to see what comes of Ros' alliance with Vaerys, simply because whatever she does is new compared to the book.

I hope we get to see Bronn again. I enjoyed him, and his odd friendship with Tyrion.

Loved that Xaro Xaro Ducksauce's vault was empty, and the glee Dany's people took in finally being able to pillage in Qarth. 

If Tywin and the Mountain were having difficulties suppressing the rebellion of the Brotherhood around Harrenhal, I can only imagine Baelish will do a much better job of it now that he's in charge of the castle...

Game of Thrones to The Walking Dead: we'll see your zombies, and raise you zombie horses.

Khal Drogo: Or maybe I refused to enter the Night Lands without you. Maybe I told the Great Stallion to go fuck himself and came back here to wait for you.
Daenerys: That sounds like something you would do.


Once Upon a Time: A Land Without Magic


Give this show credit: while I fully expected (and, admittedly, hoped) this episode would be the one where Emma finally accepts the truth about Storybrooke, I never expected that realization to occur so quickly, nor did I expect everyone else in town to "wake up" as well. That is a huge game changer, and for a show that's been so conservative in dealing with its mythology thus far I'm truly shocked. While Emma coming around was expected (and a dramatic necessity at this point), I figured we were in for several seasons of Emma slowly working to wake up enough other characters to mount an offensive against Regina, a kind of extended version of the second half of Lost's final season.

But we're in for a whole new world in season two - I have no idea what Mr. Gold's big purple cloud means, beyond the vague "there's magic in the world now" (I mean, sure, whatever, but how will that effect the narrative?), but the fact that everyone in town, including Emma, remembers FTL means that next season can't be more of the same - and, for as much as I do genuinely enjoy this show, that's definitely a good thing.

Other Thoughts
Earlier in the season, much was made of comparing this show to Lost. Perhaps the dramatic change to the status quo is the ultimate such comparison. Maybe OUAT wisely learned the value of upending the narrative structure each year from Lost (let's just hope it also learned from Lost's mistakes and remembers that telling the end of a story is important too...).

As expected, the season-long FTL narrative more or less concluded in this episode, and I imagine we'll spend next season watching Snow and Charming retake the kingdom from the Evil Queen and Charles Widmore, further putting them into the position in which we found them when the Evil Queen cast the curse earlier in the season.

For all the status quo changes and big reveals in this episode, it's biggest flaw was how rushed some of those things were. I mean, Belle was released from the hospital and reunited with Rumpelstiltskin, but the whole thing sped by pretty quick to get to the whole purple fog of magic business. It would have been nice to see some of the events of this episode unfold earlier in the season - I'd have gladly taken more time spent with Gold and Belle or scenes between Emma and Regina in which Emma knows the truth about Regina and less time spent on the town thinking Mary Margaret murdered Kathryn.

I'm also not quite sure how Emma kissing Henry made everyone remember FTL and/or how that fits with what we've previously been told about how the curse works, but I suppose that's what happens when "magic" is so prominently used as a plot device. 

Glad to see Malificent back, as I remember being underwhelmed by her when we first met her way back towards the start of the season. The dragon effects were even pretty decent, give the show's sometimes spotty SFX work.

Emma and Prince Charming fighting the dragon at the same time was the kind of obvious-yet-fitting storytelling this show does very well.


Alcatraz: Garrett Stillman/Tommy Madsen


To say the Alcatraz finale was a disappointment is a bit of understatement, but not because of how bad it was, but rather because of how much potential it showcased. We didn't get answers to everything, but we were never going to - this was intended to be the show's first season finale, not the end of its run. As such, it does a marvelous job of providing some answers while at the same time suggesting new and interesting ways the story could move forward (such as the struggle between Madsen and Simmons or the idea that 63s are popping up all over the country). So we're left with a frustrating finale, simply because we know the show will never be able to explore the myriad possibilities it establishes.

Other Thoughts 
Nothing will change the fact that we're not getting any more episodes of Alcatraz, but even then, it would have been nice if the show had setup some of the stuff from these two episodes (like the present day Madsen/Simmons conflict) sooner.

There's a ton of questions that were never addressed, but it feels silly to get into them, considering no one involved in the show intended for these thirteen episodes to present the entire story.

Amongst all the various plots that will go unexplored, I am perhaps most intrigued by whatever happened to Tommy in Korea that made him aware of what his blood can do. Also, the idea that Hauser has friends in the military and the ear of the President, and whatever it is that happened to him in Paraguay.

Back patting time: in "Garrett Stillman", I totally called it that he never switched the parole reports, and that Warden Tiller was actually giving the board the doctored report. 

Lucy's answer about what traveling through time is like was nice and poetic, but I was thinking more along the lines of "I went to sleep and woke up in 2012" or "there was a flash of light" or something like that.

Lucy: Try not to shoot anyone if you can possibly help it.
Hauser: I don't know what you're talking about...

4 comments:

  1. I'm not a big "compare the book to the show or movie" person, but they really dropped the ball with the burning of Winterfell. One of the only times I thought a change hurt the material. I won't say what happens in case they are trying to save it for next season, but it's very straightforward in the book. Otherwise I really liked the episode a lot.

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  2. @Jeff: . I won't say what happens in case they are trying to save it for next season, but it's very straightforward in the book.

    Yeah, my brother, also without spoiling anything, pretty much said the same thing. He was similarly hoping it would be made more clear next season.

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  3. Khal Drogo was one of the highlights of the episode. Well and Tyrion, natch.
    I'm more concerned about what the hell happened to the army outside winterfell? I mean, they're camped outside, Theon gives a speech, gets knocked out, they leave. Someone burns the place down, then the kids come out and the army is completely gone. And it can't have been that long, because what's his face hasn't dies from his spear wound yet.
    Where did the army go so quickly? It makes no sense to me

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  4. @Sarah: And it can't have been that long, because what's his face hasn't dies from his spear wound yet.

    Ah, yeah, good point. I hadn't thought of that. The whole burning Winterfell thing was very odd.

    And Khal Drogo was fantastic.

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