A Week in TV - November 2012

A Week in TV – Fifteen Minutes (4th November 2012)

In this week’s look at some of the episodes from the television landscape, we have another fine outing in the land of The Walking Dead, the first stand-out episode from Castle’s fifth season, a Halloween outing for the insane American Horror Story and another fantastic episode of Homeland, complete with fifteen minutes of the finest television you have seen, or will see, for a very long time.

Homeland – Q and A

Ok, where do I even start with this week’s episode of Homeland? With yet another twist in direction? With the sublime way in which it was done? Perhaps with that incredible fifteen minute scene between Claire Danes and Damien Lewis? Regardless, this week’s episode wasn’t good. It wasn’t even great. It was phenomenal.

Let’s start with the change in direction. After Brody’s arrest last week, it’s time for Carrie and co to make their attempt at extracting the truth from him and then reprogramming him to work against Abu Nazir rather than for him. And it was a success, or so we think.

Changing the direction in this way is a risk for Homeland. So far it has depended on the pretence of Brody doing his illegitimate dealings in secret while Carrie pursues him, watching from a distance. All of that has now gone out of the window. All of Brody’s cards are on the table and everyone is now working as one, even though I have doubts that Brody is as honest in his allegiance switch as we’re being led to believe. Such a thing would’ve been expected to have happened several seasons down the line rather than so early on, hence the risk.

Outside of that, mention has to be given to that fifteen minute long, uninterrupted scene between Carrie and Brody as she carefully unwound him and them put him back together again. Simply calling it incredible would be doing an injustice to its calibre. It was moving, dramatic, intense and acted to absolute perfection, as well as packing more plot and character development than other shows manage in entire seasons. Both Claire Danes and Damien Lewis are fantastic actors and when given a script like this to deal with, few others can hope to compare to the brilliance that emerges. The Emmys must surely be calling them already.

Make no doubt that Homeland is firing on all cylinders at the moment. It’s taking big risks, doing scenes that network television could only dream of doing, reeling in the Emmy nominations for next year and doing so with an audience utterly hooked at what’s unfolding on screen. There are few times when watching television that I am truly astounded at the quality of a single show but it’s happened once again with Homeland. Watch that scene again and you’ll know exactly why that is.

The Walking Dead – Walk With Me

Up until this week, The Walking Dead’s third season has only showed brief glimpses at what fate befell Andrea and Michonne once they combined forces. This week, however, that changed as the perspective shifted away from the prison confines that Rick and his group currently reside within to the too-good-to-be-true sanctuary of Woodbury.

Walk With Me was a relatively slow week compared to previous episodes of The Walking Dead. The focus was on introducing Woodbury as a location, its concept and also the characters residing within it, namely the reintroduction of Merle (last seen dismembering himself on a rooftop in season one) and the Governor – the devilishly charming leader of the safe haven. It did the things it set out to do well while also establishing a story that will inevitably be a main focus for the rest of the season, as well as encompassing the rest of the cast at some point.

While Rick and co are busy setting up shop in the prison, it was good to finally get an insight into Andrea and Michonne’s journey. The latter is also a good addition to the cast, whose aura of mystery and intrigue is something I greatly look forward to seeing unravel over time. Having the Woodbury storyline begin with those two was actually rather interesting as we’ll be able to get a deeper picture of things from a neutral perspective before Rick and his cohorts storm in and inevitably stir up the waters.

As for the characters Woodbury introduces, I can’t say that I’m a big fan of Merle, either now or the last time he was in the show. His metal arm replacement actually made me think of him more as a cheesy Bond villain than anything else but I’m hoping that will change.

Elsewhere, however, the Governor is a highly intriguing character that will be a joy to watch as time goes by. His motives aren’t immediately clear nor are his intentions and I like that. Plus David Morrissey is a very decent casting choice, albeit an unexpected one, that should be more than capable of doing the job well.

The Walking Dead’s second season started off unevenly and meandered heavily before returning to a somewhat decent path for its second half. Fortunately, the third season has yet to suffer the same fate judging from the three episodes broadcast so far and with several interesting storylines already set up, things are going to be getting much better by the looks of things. Zombies haven’t been this good, or successful, in quite some time.

Castle – Probable Cause

Since it returned for its fifth season last month, Castle has enjoyed an increase in quality from its fourth season. For a start, the relationship that was brewing between the two main characters finally went beyond friendship. However, the first true stand-out episode so far came this week.

Episodes like this that put a main character in jeopardy usually work well, especially on a show like this and with a character as popular as Castle. They make you root for the good guys and the pay-off is ultimately satisfying. Seeing Castle framed and threatened in the way he was this week was compelling and the conclusion worthwhile, even with the fact that we all knew that he was going to get found innocent eventually and the glaringly obvious ending.

The beauty of Castle has always been in the characters and it continues to be that way. For a start, I am loving the newfound relationship between Castle and Beckett. They work perfectly together, their characters have a natural fit and dispensing with the on-off part of their partnership has allowed the characters to shine more. I’m glad they got together when they did rather than later because it felt like the right time to do it.

This week’s episode of Castle provided two things: a compelling story that endangered the main character in a way he hadn’t been threatened before; and a message that the bond between Castle and Beckett is strong and unlikely to change any time soon, and considering that it’s been such a pivotal part of season five so far, that’s fortunate for us.

American Horror Story – Nor’easter 

I only recently caught up with American Horror Story after trying the pilot last year and hating it. Needless to say I’m extremely glad that I did as not only is the show addictive and exciting but its insistence on not giving you all of the plot right there and then is refreshing.

This week’s episode, that rather appropriately aired on Halloween night, continued to glide along like season two has so far. The spooks were there with the brief glimpse of the alien (I think), the horrifying creatures living in the woods outside the asylum and the nightmarish ending with poor Shelly having her legs forcibly removed. American Horror Story is exceptionally good at being disturbing rather than scary and it managed to do it again this week.

While I cannot say that I’m fond of the alien plot line, I’m finding everything else to be just as good as, if not better than, season one. I’ve always found Asylums rather creepy so naturally the setting has been identifying with me but changing everything from the characters to the story has been very refreshing. After season one felt like it came to a natural end, I’m glad they didn’t drag it out for another run..

It also goes without saying that Jessica Lange is doing a brilliant job once again as Sister Jude. She was excellent in season one and she’s firing on all cylinders once again this year. At her side, Zachary Quinto is doing a fine job at providing some sanity to the insanity of the show and a possessed Lily Rabe is an utter joy to watch. Then there’s James Cromwell being truly disturbing as the mad doctor and doing a terrific job at it.

The reason why I disliked American Horror Story last year was because it felt like it was being crazy just for the sake of it and neglecting a coherent plot as a result. As I watched it, it became clear that amidst the insanity, there was a plot there, it just wasn’t as rapidly fed to us. Now, rather than see it as an irritant, I appreciate what it tries to do and I can’t get enough of it.

Now we’ll conclude this week’s post with the usual ratings highlights, whether good or bad.

Earlier in the week, Hurricane Sandy threatened to wreak havoc with Monday’s television plans. Still, that didn’t stop The Voice doing huge numbers for NBC once again, or from Revolution continuing to be surprisingly popular as it garnered a 3.0 demo.. My opinion on the show is very negative but I can’t deny its popularity either. Castle also provided average figures for its latest offering at a 2.2, which while not anything special, is certainly no cause for concern as of yet.

Elsewhere in the week, Nashville fortunately didn’t decrease much further as it obtained a 1.8 rating, while Arrow saw its first troubling sign as it secured a 1.0 demo – down from the 1.1 it gained last week. Don’t worry just yet, however, as that may reverse next week.

The first live shows for Fox’s The X Factor also managed to underwhelm as it only managed a 2.7 rating for Wednesday’s show before falling even further to a meagre 2.3 on Thursday. In the battle of the singing shows, The Voice is most definitely wiping the floor with its competition, as did Person of Interest on Thursday night, which comfortably beat The X Factor with its decent 2.9.

And in the good news department, Fringe rose from last week’s 0.9 to a 1.0. However, Nikita finally managed to get back up again after its disastrous 0.2 rating last week to rise to a 0.4, which while still not good, is obviously much better than it could have been. We can breathe a sigh of relief after that. I know I will.

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