A Week in TV - May 2012

A Week in TV (21st May – 27th May 2012)

The Summer hiatus has officially begun and boy does it sting. The 2011-2012 TV season has been fairly decent, with surprise new shows that have captivated audiences, such as Once Upon a Time and Revenge, whilst others showed promise but ultimately fell far short of what a good show typically involves, cough Ringer cough. On the whole, however, it’s been pretty strong and memorable but now it’s come to an end, leaving us with a Summer devoid of anything but cable shows and repeats. Crack out those boxsets people because you’re gonna need them.

However, there were three new finales to discuss from this week. Firstly, House enjoyed its series finale this week (of which you can find my extended opinion on here ), as well as SVU and Revenge coming to the end of their extremely strong seasons. There is the Touch finale next week but Touch doesn’t strike me as a show that garners particular viewer discussion given its complex nature, so I’m afraid that one will have to go without mention here. As for the other two, let’s begin.

LAW AND ORDER: SVU – RHODIUM NIGHTS

SVU is an old show. It’s been going for almost 14 years and in that time, has given us thirteen finales. It being a Law and Order variation and ranking the procedural element up to 100% meant that very few of those finales were truly exciting. You’d simply be given a case that could be a part of any regular episode and then it would end  just like any normal episode would. Season thirteen has changed that trend. Yes, you have a bog-standard case of the week but there’s something different this time – something exciting, and it’s wonderful.

This week’s season finale features a bachelor’s party whose populace consist of secret service agents and other ‘important’ figures. Naturally, a girl ends up murdered and things get a little tricky for our cops when the roster of guests is at hand. The murder of the escort girl at the party uncovers a feud between two rival escort agencies, culminating in a brutal cliffhanger with one of the escort girls lying dead in Cpt. Cragen’s bed, with his hands covered in blood and his knowledge of the events being somewhat lacking.

As I said previously, there was something about this season’s finale that stood out among the previous. It’s possible that it was the increased emphasis on the character’s lives outside of the precinct, with Amaro’s marriage rapidly heading down the toilet and Cragen’s obvious bedtime issues. In fact, this entire season has been largely positive compared to previous years. Things had gotten stale, repetitive and tiresome. This year, new life has been breathed into the old goat and it’s brought back a sense of how good SVU used to be back in the old days.

A lot of people were unhappy with Christopher Meloni’s impromptu exit after the end of season twelve. After all, he and Mariska Hargitay were the two leading faces of the entire show and had been for twelve years. Their partnership had spawned endless ‘shippers’ desperate to see them become more than just colleagues. I know because I was one of those people. Unfortunately, that never happened and never will but it doesn’t matter, because as much as I love Christopher Meloni and Elliot Stabler himself, this season has, dare I say it, been better without him.

The new characters introduced, along with their backgrounds and personalities, has reinvigorated the dynamic of the show. It’s important for a show that changes its story every episode to keep a sense of consistency running through so that viewers don’t get lost along the way and Olivia, Cragen, Munch (with the few appearances he has) and Fin all provide that link to the past, whereas the newbies create one to the present. After twelve years of seeing the most heinous of crimes being committed, it’s remarkable that Olivia’s character still has places to go but, as far as I’m concerned, Elliot’s story had come to an end. He was a link to the past that wasn’t needed, so to speak, and although his departure was sad (especially as it was so sudden, given Meloni’s abrupt decision to not return), the show has survived and thrived perfectly without him.

Season thirteen has provided interesting new characters, a new development for Olivia, riveting stories and highly improved writing. Anybody that says that SVU is old and should be ‘put out of its misery’ is grossly mistaken. The show may be over a decade old but it’s got a whole load of stuff left to give and I’m beyond glad that it’s finally got a team behind it that are fully capable of harnessing that potential. Good work Warren Leight. Very good work indeed.

REVENGE – RECKONING

…and breathe. Be warned: before you watch the Revenge season finale, prepare for severe bouts of breathlessness as hordes of plot twists and cliffhangers are thrown at you so hard that they knock any air still inside of you right out into the open. We all know how tense and engrossing a regular episode of Revenge can be; multiply that by ten and you have an idea of how good Revenge’s finale was.

The events of the finale kick off very quickly after last week’s, with Nolan kidnapped by the white haired man and Emily still intent on hunting said man down and killing him in return for WHM killing her father all those years ago at the Grayson’s behest. She comes close to doing just that but in the end, she doesn’t. Meanwhile, the Grayson empire is starting to crumble; the evidence implicating the firm in the terrorist plot years ago, and by extension its owners, is out in the wild and just so happens to find its way into the hands of the FBI agent leading the investigation. Emily thinks that it’s all over, that her plan has been completed and she can finally be with the man she wants to be with – Jack. She’s ended her engagement to Daniel, who’s rapidly turning into a carbon-copy of his father, and in typical Revenge fashion, the game changes at the last minute when you least expect it.

Upon arrival to inform Jack of her real identity, the fake Amanda Clarke makes a convenient return bearing child, forcing Emily to withdraw her plans and concede defeat. If that wasn’t bad enough, the plane carrying the only two witnesses against Conrad (Lydia and Victoria) seemingly explodes in mid-air, killing both and destroying the evidence at the same time. Charlotte, upon seeing the news on TV, proceeds to take copious amounts of pills and is found unconscious by her father. Then, to top it all off, Emily discovers that her mother is still alive and kicking. Phew.

First thing’s first: Victoria is not dead. I can all but guarantee it. Madeleine Stowe is probably the most recognizable face that is affiliated with Revenge, or at least one of them, and there’s no way the show is going to kill her off so easily. She and Emily represent both sides of the morality spectrum: Emily’s on the good side, fighting for justice and revenge, whilst Victoria represents the other side, showing immorality and cruelty. They’re the two main characters and that’s not going to change, of that I’m sure. We saw Victoria hesitantly walking up the plane’s stairs but she’s not an idiot and she will have realized the danger and made a hasty retreat.

We were told that two deaths would occur in this finale and I’m certain that Lydia is one of them and Charlotte the other. Both serve very little purpose in the ongoing story so their deaths seem like the most inconsequential compared to the game-changer that would be Victoria’s death.

As a finale, ‘Reckoning’ did its job extremely well. It wrapped up several stories, made significant progress in others and left just the right number of cliffhangers to keep us drooling for another four months. I’m glad they’ve chosen not to go for an entirely new cast and revenge story for season two because the current set are too familiar and well-loved at the moment. Perhaps further down the line when the current story has been saturated but not at this moment in time and so early in the show’s life.

I’ve said it before that Revenge has been one of this season’s biggest surprises. It literally came out of nowhere from being a relatively unknown ‘maybe’ show to being an adored favourite. The cast work surprisingly well together, with a sympathetic protagonist and a devilishly-exciting villain, who both play incredibly well off of each other. Yes, the show frequently veers off into ‘soap territory’ but it’s this element that I think works better than anything else. I’d like to call it a guilty pleasure but doing so would imply that watching it induced feelings of guilt, of which I am pleased to say are absent entirely.

It’s been a fantastic first season and I cannot wait for more, especially with the move to Sunday’s. ABC clearly have a lot of faith in this show to put it in Desperate Housewives’ old slot. I share that same faith wholeheartedly.

Oh, and those final few minutes with Florence + The Machine’s ‘Seven Devils’ playing over scenes of the plane were simply exquisite. The message was that vengeance rules over justice and it was heard very loud and very clear. 

And so that wraps up this week’s post, for this week and for this current TV season. I will be putting these posts into hibernation until September from this point on, given the lack of TV during the Summer months. When I do bring it back, I am considering making a few changes: first of all, giving these posts identifiable titles seems like the most obvious route to go down, rather than a set of dates that give no clue as to the content inside. As for more changes, I will give that some thought over the Summer but the core concept of these posts will remain intact. I’m not sure whether people actually like reading these but given the views and likes they get, I’m going to assume they’re relatively well-received.

I would also be extremely grateful for any thoughts as to how these posts could be improved. They would help – a lot!

Over the Summer, I am considering replacing the TV aspect of these posts with a gaming element, aka A Week in Gaming. The potential issue would be that I don’t always play a great variation of games. For example, on some weeks all I play are online matches repeated over and over again, severely limiting any potential for lengthy discussion on a weekly basis. I’ll give that some thought, however.

I will also begin work on a season overview post very soon, whereby I’ll look over the whole 2011-2012 season and talk about what worked, what didn’t work and vice versa. I expect it’ll be somewhat large, therefore requiring multiple posts. I don’t know when you should expect to see this but it shouldn’t be too long. I already have a large collection of notes to work from, I just need to start writing it.

Anyway, this is it until September. I’m already looking forward to it!

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