A Week in TV - May 2013

A Week in TV – “I’m In” (5th May 2013)

“I’m in”. And with those words, it has begun.

With Sunday’s season finale of The Good Wife, which I’ll get to discussing momentarily, happening, the return of that harrowing time of year has arrived. In the next few weeks, a plethora of television shows will be heading off for the Summer, leaving us all with miserable holes in our lives until September. It’s five months, folks. FIVE MONTHS. I can’t.

But, despite the knowledge that the dreaded hiatus is looming once again, the next few weeks will surely be wielding some excellent, riveting and huge episodes of television that we’ll be discussing for a long time, and the excitement is palpable.

The Good Wife – What’s in the Box?

Of all the television shows I currently watch on a weekly basis that have a home on network television, very few instill such a consistent feeling of satisfaction each week like The Good Wife does. Even during weaker weeks, I come away feeling fulfilled and ready for more. So you can imagine how I feel after finishing this week’s season finale, which propelled events so far ahead that it’s absolutely unclear as to what direction they’ll head in for the fifth season.

So what happened this week? Well, we had Peter winning the gubernatorial campaign, despite being unwittingly involved in an voting fraud scheme; Peter’s victory inevitably means that Diane’s seat on the Supreme Court will be going ahead next season; and Cary’s plan to secede from Lockhart Gardner, along with a handful of other associates, went ahead, Mad Men style–WITH ALICIA!

tgw-image-01All of these aforementioned plot advancements are so significant, so completely show-altering, that I cannot even begin to imagine what season five’s landscape will look like. Things at Lockhart Gardner are sure to be dramatically different, even more so if Diane accepts the Supreme Court position, but the construction of Florrick, Agos and Associates introduces a whole new, exciting element to the show that, considering the talent in the writer’s room, is something I absolutely cannot wait to see.

In regards to the love triangle that exists between Alicia, Will and Peter, we had some traction in the finale but not enough to make me fully happy. At this point, my loyalties with either side of the ‘ship’ alternate on a regular basis, and I find myself a little uninterested in who she ultimately ends up with. I was, perhaps naively, hoping for something resembling an end to this subplot in the finale, but what we saw was just movement. Significant movement, yes, but still just movement.

tgw-image-03Does Alicia want to leave her marriage behind for something that failed the first time she attempted it? Is that why she decided to leave Lockhart Gardner, to de-complicate her potential relationship with Will so that their second attempt wouldn’t fail like the first? It looked like she was going to go for it with Will at one point, but then it looked that way with Peter. So which one does she want to make a go of it with? These are questions that remain without answers, and even though I’m not as invested in this particular story as I once was, I’m still interested in seeking the answers.

Overall, I have been happy with The Good Wife’s fourth season. There have been some genuinely exceptional episodes, culminating in an enormous, game-changing cliffhanger that will make the next five months an agonising period. There’s a reason that I consider, and have done for a long time, The Good Wife to be one of network television’s most impressive shows, and this episode embodied all that I adore about this show and more.

Right now, however, I am still buzzing over Florrick, Agos and Associates being an actual thing, and this will suffice for the time being.

Grade: A

Once Upon a Time – The Evil Queen

Oh dear, where do I even begin? The last two episodes of this inconsistent, lazily written show have disappointed me immeasurably. I loved the show in its first season, but all throughout the second it’s seemed as though the writers believe their audience have the combined intelligence of a goldish and thus treat them as such–and because of that, the scripts on Once Upon a Time have become sloppy and convenient, and if you want evidence of that, then this week’s episode will provide it.

ouat-image-01Chief among ‘The Evil Queen’s faults was the repeated story of how Regina is evil. Haven’t you grasped it yet, guys? Regina is evil. EVIL. So evil that we have to see yet another series of flashback scenes from the Enchanted Forest where she sets out to kill Snow White, finds herself compassionate towards her, almost turns good and then something happens to make her evil again. It’s like Groundhog Day only there’s no Bill Murray there to provide some small semblance of entertainment.

The problem with this story is that it’s been done many, many times already, and we learn absolutely nothing new each time. I get the impression that the writers are so eager for the audience to see Regina as the ultimate bastion of evil that they should detest and will to fail, yet because Lana Parilla is easily one of the show’s strongest actors and Regina one of the best characters, it has the opposite effect. It’s come to the point where I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if she and Gold laid waste to Storybrooke, everyone in it and reigned supreme over the Enchanted Forest, all in the name of PURE EVIL. It would certainly make the show more interesting if they did.

It’s not as though I’m claiming that Once Upon a Time has ever enjoyed what I would consider strong storytelling. Because it hasn’t. However, the difference between the show’s first season to its second is that in the former, the moments of strength came far, far more frequently than the latter’s. Once’s second season has been nothing short of a mess, with very few moments remotely resembling decency.

ouat-image-02It’s come to the point where I’m reconsidering my viewership of the show. The last three episodes have been major disappointments fuelled by sloppy writing (that ‘scientific’ leather cuff, anyone? Or the convenient failsafe built into the curse, because it’s nearly finale time and something needs to threaten to go boom and kill everyone), not to mention the vast majority of the characters becoming imbecilic to the point of astonishment. I could forgive the show if these episodes were a blotch on an otherwise spotless sheet, but they’re indicative of the show’s greater problem; a problem that’s growing wildly out of control.

‘The Evil Queen’ had all the makings of a good episode just by name alone. Regina is a wonderful character being by a terrific actress, but the scripts are what is dragging the show into the abyss. The writers seem to be seeing their audience as so brainless and unobservant that they feel comfortable with sitting back and allowing the power of convenience and inconsistency to take the reins–and if the rot sets in deep enough, no amount of anti-magic nanobot machiney science things (really) will wipe away the problem.

Grade: C-

Game of Thrones – Kissed By Fire

I know I know. For the fifth week in a row I am mentioning Game of Thrones in these posts. There are two reasons for this: the fact that I adore the show to a point some would consider strange, and because its third season is proving to be consistently strong. Last week’s episode was a huge step forward for many of the show’s dozen subplots, and even though this week was somewhat of a chance to take pause and reflect, it still didn’t disappoint.

Firstly, ‘Kissed By Fire’ was Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s week. He’s seen much more screen-time in the current season than he did in the entirety of the second, where he pretty much spent the entire ten hours sitting in a cage being a loveable sarcastic douchebag, and it’s allowing his character to develop magnificently. Jaime is not an all-out villain that the definition of the word would suggest. He’s done bad things, and the public perception of him is tainted beyond recognition, but he’s not, at heart, a ‘bad guy’, and the chance to explore this story is proving to be one of this season’s strongest elements.

got-image-05On top of that, Arya’s story is coming along rather nicely as well, beginning the episode with one of the show’s most cinematic sword fights to date. We all know how excellent an actress Maisie Williams is, and her story has allowed for some genuinely interesting new characters to be introduced–and she’s playing her part in Arya’s adventures superbly. I particularly liked the scene with Arya questioning whether Thoros’ powers of resurrection could be applied to her father, because even though this was an event that happened all the way back in the first season, it’s still something that hovers over many of the characters like a dark cloud. The continuity is always there, but I appreciate the times when it’s made clear that the characters haven’t forgotten such a huge event that shaped their actions.

Elsewhere, scenes taking place in King’s Landing and beyond the Wall provided other highlights from this week’s outing, such as the final scene between Tywin and his two children (and the father of the year award does NOT go to Tywin Lannister), and Jon and Ygritte’s steamy cave sex (hurrah for Kit Harrington finally getting to take off those dreadful clothes!).

After last week’s episode and particularly this week’s, there no longer seems to be an abundant impression that Game of Thrones is setting up the events for the remainder of its episodes. Instead, the forward momentum in many of the stories is getting faster and faster, and as the final four hours of season three approach, I’m fairly certain that I’ll be mentioning this show in these posts for the foreseeable future. If you don’t yet watch Game of Thrones, you are seriously missing out.

Grade: A-

The Americans – The Colonel

This is my first time discussing The Americans on this blog but after this week’s season finale, I feel comfortable in declaring the show one of this season’s strongest new shows. It started off with a compelling premise, with interesting characters, and over the course of the season it’s continued to harness those strengths to create a finale worthy of attention.

theamericans-image-01Firstly, even though this was a season finale, there were few truly big ‘what the hell’ game-changing moments throughout the hour, but in many ways it benefitted from this. The Americans has always felt like it’s sitting on the very edge of something exploding and changing everything for the future, but it’s always just sat there, peering over the edge but never jumping. Some would find it frustrating, but I find it refreshing to see a show unreliant on huge plot twists to drive the story forward.

That’s not to say that nothing of value happened within ‘The Colonel’, however. For a start, Elizabeth and Phillip came the closest they’ve ever been to being discovered, and Elizabeth was shot as a result of that. Also, the KGB has begun a plan intent on turning Stan from foe to friend, and the Jenningses daughter, Paige, ended the episode literally inches away from discovering the secret her parents have kept for decades, and all of which played to a montage featuring the phenomenal ‘Games Without Frontiers‘ (yay 80s). But Elizabeth didn’t die, Stan is still very much a foe and Paige didn’t discover the secret inside the wall because as I said before, this show sits on the fringe of pushing forward with these events, and it’s terrific.

In regards to the season as a whole, I have very much enjoyed it from start to finish. The Americans pretty much exists with two halves of story running concurrently: the marriage between Elizabeth and Phillip, and their secret KGB activities. The show has always managed to find a way to balance both halves and frequently have one affect the other, and sometimes collide completely. As a result, neither defines the show and it is much better because of it.

theamericans-image-02Recently, I’ve seen people comparing The Americans’ first season to that of Homeland’s debut run, and I can see the similarities. Not just in the spy element to the story but because of the consistency and the balance of the story at large with the intricacies of the characters driving it. Philip and Elizabeth are every bit as memorable and well-paired as Carrie and Brody were, only far less destructive. I understand the comparisons, but I can only hope the second season doesn’t follow Homeland’s downward trend.

Nevertheless, The Americans has enjoyed an extremely strong first season and it ended with an episode worthy of being titled one of the best in the thirteen-episode run. The story branched off into different directions in preparation for the second season (it’s a year away. HOW DO I COPE?), but didn’t end on a whopping cliffhanger like I had expected it to. And I loved it so much more for doing that.

Grade: A

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