A Week in TV - April 2013

A Week in TV – Dracarys (28th April 2013)

So, have we recovered yet from Sunday’s totally amazing episode of Game of Thrones? Have we recovered from the sight of Dany, in all her magnificent glory, laying waste to the corrupt populace of Astapor, before leaving with an eight thousand-strong army and three dragons? I’d say that no, none of us have regained our senses after that, and won’t for a long time. Which leads me to…

Game of Thrones – And Now His Watch Has Ended

It would be very simple for me to only type ‘OMG OMG OMG OMG’ throughout this entire section when discussing this week’s installment of Game of Thrones, now approaching the middle of its third season. Instead, I will display my overly positive thoughts to the episode in a more eloquent, less infantile manner, but rest be assured that my words are simply saying the same thing.

To decree that this week’s episode was every synonym for ‘amazing’ would be putting it too lightly. While the first three episodes served to establish events for the rest of the season to come, ‘ANHWHE’ vaulted over the framework and moved several stories significant moves along, from Commander Mormont’s murder at the hands of his own men, Theon’s torture resuming after a bout of psychological maiming, Cersei becoming abundantly aware–and fearful–of Margaery’s manipulation over her son, and Daenerys finally taking control of her own army, and becoming a true contender in the game of thrones.

got-image-02Let’s talk about that final scene for a moment. Everything that came before it, except for Bran’s pointless dream sequence (this story is moving so frustratingly slowly), already contributed to the episode being as strong as it was, but those final six minutes catapulted the quality immeasurably. I’ve seen excellent and memorable scenes in this show before–and several are produced nearly every week–but most pale in comparison to seeing Dany finally take what she wanted, with fire and blood.

The scene didn’t come as a surprise to me, as I had already read it and was quite eager to see its depiction on screen. But even I wasn’t prepared for how much justice they would grant it, and how closely they would follow the book’s version. It was simply incredible. I absolutely adore Dany and Emilia Clarke’s impeccable interpretation of the character, but this was her defining moment; the moment when Dany became a true force to be reckoned with. This was when an already strong female character became even stronger, and I have few words to use to describe its pure excellence other than acronyms capitalised to emphasise my joy.

Also, it’s worth mentioning the scenes involving Varys this week. His scene with Tyrion, where he vividly describes how it was that his manhood was lost to him, was chilling, unnerving and after ending with a shot of the captive sorcerer that originally did the deed to Varys, made me see the character in a different light. Conleth Hill has made the character his own during his tenure on the show, and the more depth his character receives, the more I appreciate his presence.

‘ANHWHE’ was a truly fantastic episode of Game of Thrones. It was progressive, moved beyond simply establishing the framework for the rest of the season and produced an ending that could easily have served as a season finale cliffhanger. Not content with doing that, several exceptional performances from the likes of Conleth Hill and Emilia Clarke propelled a strong episode into the stratosphere, raining down bits and pieces that when collected and combined, made for the strongest episode in the season so far, and one of the best of the series to date.

Grade: 5/5

Arrow – Home Invasion

I haven’t talked about Arrow since last October-ish when it first premiered simply because I found it to be a decent show but not something particularly worthy of extensive discussion. But, it has improved in several of its most recent episodes, though this week’s honed most of its focus on something central to the show but which has been mostly clouded and hidden away for some time, and something that the show could really do without.

Of course I’m talking about the supposed romantic bond between Oliver and Laurel. We saw glimpses of it at the beginning of the show, and it’s been mentioned fleetingly since then, but since she formed a relationship with Tommy, it’s been something that’s been locked away and only used when required. This week, however, that lock came off, and after Tommy walked out on Laurel at the end of the episode, it’s unfortunately clear that the lock won’t be going back on any time soon.

arrow-image-01I have no problem with Oliver becoming romantically entwined with somebody, just not Laurel. Why? Because both Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy share absolutely no chemistry that I can distinguish–and without that, any relationship between the pair of characters, no matter how hard the show tries, is never going to have the impact it needs.

I know that Oliver and Laurel’s connection is solidified within the mythology of Green Arrow, and I understand why the show wants to keep to it, but it’s unfortunate that it’s so unnatural, so forced and jarring to watch–and especially when it becomes the epicentre of an entire episode, forcing everything else that’s far more interesting to watch into the background.

While the central theme for ‘Home Invasion’ disappointed me, the combined stories of both Diggle’s hunt for Deadshot, who’s fast becoming a truly formidable foe, and Oliver’s mission to defend a helpless child against a ruthless assassin (played superbly by Angel alum J. August Richards, I might add), flowed around the dross of the romantic theme and helped to alleviate what otherwise would have been a lacklustre episode.

Arrow has become stronger the further the season has progressed, and I’m wholeheartedly looking forward to seeing what the few remaining episodes of the season have to offer, but after this week, it’s evident that Oliver’s love life is going to become more of a profound element to the show. Normally I would welcome it, and not just because it would mean more instances of toplessness for Stephen Amell, but because his love interest is Laurel–and because the actors share no chemistry to make the pairing believable–I find myself concerned that the increased focus on this story element may drawf everything else that makes Arrow so exciting to watch. I hope I’m wrong.

Grade: 3.5/5

The Vampire Diaries – The Originals

In the event that you don’t yet know, this week’s episode served as the backdoor pilot to The Originals–a spin-off from The Vampire Diaries centering around Klaus, Rebekah and Elijah and their escapades in New Orleans. The show has recently been picked up by The CW, and after watching the backdoor pilot, I’m intrigued enough to check the show out when it does eventually premiere later this Fall..

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that The CW would want to expand on The Vampire Diaries’ universe. It’s quite easily the network’s most financially profitable show, and gains large amounts of buzz online from those watching it every week. But simply having The Originals look and feel exactly like its parent show but with different characters wouldn’t have been a viable option, and the backdoor pilot made it quite clear that that’s not the case.

tvd-image-01Having Klaus serve as the show’s main character is an odd choice, however. For a long time he’s played the role of antagonist to TVD’s other characters, and now he’s essentially filling their role on The Originals. It’s an odd choice because Klaus is not a good guy by any definition, and a main character that has no sympathetic or redeemable qualities is hard to cheer on or will to succeed. He wants to overthrow Marcel’s control over the city not because he wants to right his wrongs, but because he doesn’t like somebody else commanding more power than him, and power is everything to Klaus.

It’s tricky because if Klaus was not chosen to be the show’s main character, who else would be? Elijah and Rebekah have more relatable qualities but they’re also, in effect, bad guys, and Hayley couldn’t have been the show’s protagonist, aka the good guy, because her character is nowhere near as established enough to have an entire spin-off revolve around her. Having a bad guy as the show’s main character doesn’t automatically mean a show cannot succeed, and there are plenty of examples out there to prove that, but it also means that the writing has to be strong to compensate, and it’s far too early to tell whether The Originals will have that or not.

Despite some potentially problematic elements to The Originals, the backdoor pilot did make me interested in seeing where the show could head, and how the removal of the Originals from TVD might alter that show, either positively or negatively. I’ll be there to watch it when it arrives as a show of its own, but I have reservations, though I can still be surprised.

Grade: 4/5

Doctor Who – Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

When I initially read the description of this week’s Doctor Who episode, it filled me with glee, because it was a story set entirely in the Tardis, exploring the labyrinthine structure and uncovering its many secrets that we always hear of yet never see. The Tardis is, essentially, a character of its own in Doctor Who, and any chance to see it come to life is going to tick all the right boxes. And it was fortunate that, for the third week in a row, I’ve been immensely satisfied with the episode, though not completely.

Let’s start with the good this week. For a start, exploring the Tardis through the eyes of Clara, somebody as oblivious to the ship’s nature as the viewer is, was satisfying. The last time we had any form of extensive exploration of the Doctor’s other companion was in series six with ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, so it was good to have an episode set almost exclusively in the Tardis, and one with more than just the console room on display.

On top of that, we had yet another display of fine acting talent from Jenna-Louise Coleman, who portrayed the wide-eyed and amazed version of Clara, as well as the terrified and scared version that came to be once the monsters came prowling. Coleman continues to do a truly sublime job of demonstrating just why she was the perfect choice to travel through space and time next to Matt Smith, and Clara’s character develops and grows nicely along the way.

Then we get to the bad parts, namely the guest stars and the plot resolution. We’ll focus on the latter for now.

doctorwho-image-01Recent Doctor Who episodes have continued the noticeable trend of rapid, rushed plot resolutions. We had it in ‘The Bells of St John’, in ‘Cold War’, last week with ‘Hide’ to some degree, and now this week. It was quite clear to me that once Clara discovered the Doctor’s name in this episode, and was told of the mystery surrounding her, that some convenient time reset device would be employed to haphazardly scrub them away before they inevitably return to her memory or are re-told to her in the finale.

There seems to be a continuous debate among some folk that Doctor Who might benefit from extending its normal episode length to an hour, increasing the allocated time by fifteen minutes each week. There are advantages to both time lengths, but as the resolutions to these episodes continues to prove unsatisfying, I’m beginning to see some merit to giving the writers an extra fifteen minutes to wrap up their stories to a suitable standard.

In regards to the other huge negative about this episode, the casting for ‘Journey…’ was seriously off this week. Recently we’ve had the likes of Celia Imrie, Liam Cunningham and Dougray Scott make appearances, and next week we even have the legendary Diana Rigg. And this week? Three random, unknown actors that appear as though they were chosen at random on the streets, given a script and told to get on with it. I have no problem with unknown actors…when they’re good. These three were absolutely not, and one was so bad that I have to question how he even made it past the audition stage without somebody with some semblance of sense laughing him back home. Because they were quite big parts of the episode, their absolute lack of acting talent made their presence horrible to endure, and damaged the episode quite significantly.

Ultimately, despite quite glaring faults, ‘Journey…’ was another solid outing for a run of episodes that is proving to be surprisingly consistent the further it progresses. That being said, the combination of atrocious guest stars and an overly convenient resolution to the story stopped the episode from being as strong as it could’ve been.

Grade: 3.9/5

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