TV: Game of Thrones and S1 of Twin Peaks

TV is really slow.  There are only a couple of shows that I watch which are still running and the early fall premiers aren’t here yet so I am doing a bit of streaming.  Thank god for Game of Thrones! 

Season Premier 

Game of Thrones (HBO)

It’s back! Finally!  One would think that in the penultimate season with only 14 episodes remaining that we would start moving quickly towards the battle for Westeros.  “Dragonstone” did not do that but rather followed the traditional 10 minute per character Game of Throne’s structure.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it made me a bit crazy waiting for the Dany to set foot on Dragonstone for 50 minutes.  In the meantime, we got the major players in place:  Arya in a cold- open wipes out the Freys and seems headed to King’s Landing to continue her murderous revenge tour on Cersei; John and Sansa consolidate forces in the North and are not necessarily on the same page – but they have Lyanna Mormont so who cares; Cersei is on the throne and working with Euron Greyjoy (who has had an offseason makeover); Jaime is skeptical of Cersei’s plan; Poor Sam is having a tough time in Old Town but not as bad as Sir Jorah and Dany finally sets up shop in Dragonstone.  We also see Brienne and Little Finger at Winterfell with the latter plotting away.

That leaves Bran who goes through the wall to Castle Black.  This could be (and I think it is) huge.  When Bran was touched by the Night King, the magic that protected the Weirwood and the Children of the Forrest was destroyed.  The same type of magic protects the wall.  By Bran going through, did he break those charms?  I think he did and the White Walkers will now be able to go South from the wall as shown in Bran’s vision.  It will likely be at Eastwatch where Tormund as well as the Hound (due to an intriguing vision by Beric Dondarrion) seem to be headed.  The pieces on the chessboard appear to be positioned for the wars ahead.

I love this show and thought the premier was good (apart from the Ed Sheeran cameo which was just bizarre).  I fully expect things to move much more quickly now with only a handful of stories left to tell.  I am concerned that Arya has gone to the Darkside and won’t be able to come back.  I can’t get Voldermort out of my mind and the horcruxes that contained part of his soul that broke away every time he killed someone.  I am completely and totally Team Stark (I still consider John a Stark as Lyanna Stark is his mother!) and will be devastated if Arya goes to that place.  In the meantime, I’ll be savoring every single minute of the few episodes we’ll get this season and reporting out as appropriate.

Streaming: (I’m watching on Showtime)

Twin Peaks (the original)

The current Showtime revival of Twin Peaks is getting rave reviews so I thought I’d go back and check out the original 90’s show to see what it is all about.  I’ve never seen an episode of Twin Peaks but it has a large cult following so how bad could it be?  I binge-watched Season 1 which was only 7 or 8 episodes.  The show is bizarre.  It takes place in a small logging town in the Pacific Northwest which has several strange inhabitants like the one-armed man, the lady who walks around with a log, crazy eye-patch lady, a very quirky FBI investigator who speaks to spirits as well as lots of people involved in affairs, prostitution and the drug trade.   A lot was going on in this town of around 3,000.  I can see how unusual the show was in its time and why it must have generated a big following.  However, 25+ years later, with all the advances in technology and TV dramas that have occurred, Twin Peaks looks like a cheap soap opera.

Apparently, the showrunners (the key one of course is the brilliant David Lynch) never expected anyone to watch the show let alone get a second season so when it was renewed, they weren’t prepared to do 22 episodes of who killed Laura Palmer and keep it interesting.  The first season primarily held my interest because I knew it was short and I was engaged in who killed Laura Palmer.  So, my big dilemma now is whether I bother with the 2nd season of apparently not very good (yet numerous) episodes or just suck it up, read up on who killed Laura Palmer and skip to the new revival.  I’m kind of leaning toward the latter but will let you know.

TV: 3 Very Good Premiers and Emmy Thoughts

 

Premiers:

Mr. Robot (USA) – Season 2

Mr. Robot premiered last year and it was the shock hit of the summer winning a Golden Globe as best drama and for Christian Slater in a supporting role. Rami Malek the star has just been nominated for an Emmy, as has the show for best drama. This cyber-hacking drama follows Elliot (Malek) who is a brilliant but disturbed computer wiz who falls in with a group of hackers intent on bringing down an “Evil” corporation and disrupting the infrastructure of the country. There are many twists and turns during season 1 but for those who haven’t seen it, I’ll leave it at that. I can’t say as I ever quite knew what was going on and some of the technical hacking sequences are out of my league but the story is intriguing and the acting very good.

Season two premiered this week with a 90 minute show that picked up somewhere after the massive season ending hack that brought down the economy.  Elliot has left his computer world and is struggling with himself and “Mr. Robot” as he tries for some normalcy in his life.  His former buddies, fsociety, is moving forward with more hacks and coming to grips with what they have achieved.  We aren’t really sure what Wellick and his wife are up to nor what role Wellick played in the hack but they are probably not up to anything good.  Several new characters have been introduced which should provide some interesting plotlines. I can’t say as I completely understood everything in the premier but that was partly because I was very tired and kept falling asleep, waking up and rewinding. Looks like a good season again and I’m totally in. I’ll do an interim update after getting through more episodes.

Stranger Things (Netflix)

Stranger Things starring Winona Rider dropped on Netflix Friday the 15th. Normally stories about the paranormal aren’t really my thing but this has very good reviews so I thought I would check it out. I believe it is meant to be homage to all things Spielberg. It has the feel of E.T., Poltergeist, a little Star Wars and Super 8. I’ve seen the first 2 of 15 episodes and there is some sort of electrical force/monster that has kidnapped a young boy and potentially killed others. This “force” is connected to the Department of Energy facility  in a small Indiana town in the early 1980s where a bunch of employees are clearly quite knowledgeable about what is going on.

There are several intersecting plots that are introduced in the initial episodes.  The first is the search by 3 young nerdy boys for their kidnapped friend Will. They enlist the help of an almost mute young girl who they are hiding from their parents. We don’t know much about her except that her name “11” is tattooed on her arm and that several nefarious men are tracking her down. The second storyline involves Will’s older brother and one of the boy’s older sisters. We also have a romance between Winona Rider’s character and the police chief who isn’t exactly on top of his job. Finally we have Will trying to communicate with his mother (Ryder) through the electrical light system. So far it is interesting but they are going to have to give me a little more in the way of answers before I say that this is the next E.T.  Ryder is great, however, and it is nice to have her back in a leading role.

The Night Of (HBO)

I covered this last week so just a reminder that it has started, it is great and I can’t wait for Episode 2.

Thought on the Emmys

Just some random musings:

  • The Americans finally got nominated for Best Drama, Best Actor and Best Actress. These are LONG overdue for what is arguably the best show on television. I doubt the show will win anything but at least it is finally being recognized. This is a real stunner in that shows that have been overlooked for years by the Academy almost never are rewarded later in their run.
  • HBO’s wonderful mini-series “Show Me a Hero” with such an amazing performance by Oscar Isaacs was inexplicably left out of the nominations.
  • The Leftovers had a brilliant 2nd season, won a Peabody for it’s excellence and yet wasn’t nominated for an Emmy? All the actors in this show do a great job but Carrie Coon in particular should have gotten a nomination. This is more typical of what I expect from the Academy.
  • Rectify is another great show that missed out
  • Loved the nominations for Mr. Robot and Rami Malek but where was Christian Slater’s Golden Globe winning performance!
  • The OJ Simpson mini-series walked away with a gazillion nominations – most of which were well deserved although I thought Cuba Gooding Jr.’s and John Travolta’s nominations could have been given to more worthy performances.
  • The academy nominated a wide variety of some of the great newer comedies but wish “You’re the Worst” and Aya Cash’s work was recognized.
  • Loved the Constance Zimmer nomination for UnREAL but no Sheri Appleby?
  • I’m ok with no Orange is the New Black nominations because Season 3 was not that great but I hope this year’s  much better Season 4 results in some nominations next year
  • Game of Thrones is one of my favorite shows and I’m happy it walked away with nominations but it seems overly generous for a season that was up and down.
  • Samantha Bee deserves a nod – her show is great.
  • Unlike the Oscars, the Emmys nominated a very diverse slate of actors and actresses, showing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science how it should be done.
  • While some old tired shows like Modern Family, Downton Abby and Homeland (although last season was a bit better) keep getting nominations, the Emmys are making progress in recognizing some newer shows that are really good.  I doubt the voters actually watch even a small portion of all the shows out there so we’ll see what actually wins but I am encouraged.  Usually on Emmy nomination day I just throw things at the TV – this year I’m in a much happier place!
  • It might be time for the TV Academy to rethink how they can reward these performances when there are over 450 scripted dramas a year in addition to comedies, mini-series, movies etc. Even I can’t watch 450 drama let alone the academy voters who are passing judgment on these shows.

Binging Update:

Jane the Virgin (the CW; Season 1 on Netflix)

When Jane the Virgin premiered a few years ago, I watched the pilot and decided it wasn’t really for me. After on-going critical acclaim, I decided I would try it again this summer. It is always difficult getting through an hour-long show with 22 episodes a season but I’m several episodes in and it is pretty good. The show has a lot of heart and strong performances by the actors.  The writing is great and I’m enjoying the world of the “Telenovela”.  With several new shows starting and vacation looming, I’m not sure how much more I’ll get through but I’m going to give it a go.

TV: GOT hits a new high; OITNB hitting its stride and a pretty good new show

Premiers:

Thirteen (BBC America)

Thirteen, a British mystery mini-series, premiered in the Orphan Black timeslot this week. The first episode finds a young woman named Ivy, escaping from a house. She says she was kidnapped 13 years age at age 13 (hence the title). In the interim, apparently there had been several imposters so at first the police are skeptical that she is who she says she is. After all the DNA swipes have taken place, the police interrogate her as if she is a criminal rather than the victim.

To the show’s credit, the DNA test is quickly analyzed and she is who she says she is. That leaves her and her family to deal with the fallout. Ivy’s childhood boyfriend comes to visit and hides the fact he is married even though she clearly thinks he has waited for her. Ivy’s sister struggles with having her older sister back functioning as a young girl. Ivy’s parents have long since split but her father moves back into the house to hide it from her.  Her kidnapper is on the loose and there is a connection between him and the headmaster of her elementary school.  The police are desperately trying to find the man who did this to her.

Thirteen at first glance succeeds at what the recent ABC show “The Family” tried to do but failed.   Many of the plot lines are the same (the separated parents reuniting, the sibling difficulties etc.) but Thirteen makes them more realistic and has better, subtler mysteries. I’m only one episode in but I think this is going to be the solid mystery that “The Family” couldn’t pull off.

Finales:

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Season 6 of Game of Thrones has been a bit uneven. There have been great episodes (Hodor and the Door) as well as some rather bizarre plot lines. I guess that is to be expected given that George R.R. Martin has not completed the book that the season is based on. The action episodes (which Martin has clearly conveyed to the show runners) are fine but the dialogue and character development seem to be off in several episodes. I have to believe it is because the show runners don’t have the written material to work with. I must admit, however, that not having the book knowledge this year made the season more enjoyable.

This was the year of the women with strong performances by Dany, Sansa (although her character does some very bizarre things), Yara Greyjoy, Cersei and Arya. There were certainly episodes that seemed to have an inordinate amount of filler but again, I think that it is because there wasn’t a book to provide the detail.  We also had the consummate episode 9 battle. This year’s was “Battle of the Bastards” and was fought between Jon Snow’s forces and those of Ramsey Bolton for control of Winterfell. The battle scenes themselves were a technical masterpiece – one of the best battles we have ever seen on television- but the plot around the action was very suspect. Lots of reviewers have written about this in depth so I’m not going to spend time on it other than to say only the writers understand why Sansa withheld  critical information from Jon and what the implications are for her character. Either Sansa is stupid or she is developing into a darker more power-hungry character than we are comfortable with given her history. For most of us, it just seems like an error on the part of the show runners but we’ll have to wait for next season to see how Sansa develops.

The finale was fantastic on all fronts – one of the best episodes in the history of the show (Spoiler Alert Ahead). We receive confirmation as to Jon’s parentage, which had been figured out by most fans. Our favorite ten-year-old ever, Lyanna Mormont, killed it as she shamed the rest of the Northern Houses into supporting Jon who is elected Warden of the North. Let’s get a spin-off with her as the lead character a.s.a.p. It is still unclear as to whether Sansa has her sights set on power nor how her bizarre relationship with Littlefinger is going to unfold.  We have to be very worried about Arya’s dark side after killing Walter Frye and for the remaining Stark, Bran. Is he going to go inside the tree? How will he get to Winterfell and will he tell John what he saw in his vision.   We understand more about the Wall based on Uncle Benji’s explanation, which hints at a major plot line with the White Walkers. Dany and Tyrion are a force to be reckoned with as she brings her fleet, dragons and Dothraki forces towards King’s Landing where Cersei is the new Queen on the Iron Throne – a job that doesn’t come with a long lifeline. The music, cinematography and pacing were all great in this episode and the many GOT fans are sinking into depression as we speak knowing it will likely be close to a year before we have new episodes and when we do, there will only be seven.

Summer Binging:

Orange is the New Black (Netflix) – Season 4

I binged through all 13 episodes of OITNB this week and although it was a bit uneven, the last few shows were extremely powerful. Season 1 was excellent and fairly comedic (even entered the Emmys in the Comedy category). Seasons 2 and 3 were all over the place and Season 3 in particular was not very good. Finally in Season 4, we have a show that seems to understand its place in the world and it is drama, not comedy. Prison isn’t a happy place and this season focuses on the darker side of the experience including the new and abusive guards, overcrowding and the many downsides of a privatized prison. The psychological impacts of abuse, rape and the constant struggle for survival within the prison walls are explored and as a result, we have the drama that this show was always meant to be.

This season also has freshness to it with perhaps the biggest cast in television. The Latinos have gained power and many characters we weren’t familiar have larger parts with intriguing backstories. We watch Pennsatucky struggle with her rape by a prison guard by continuing to have some sort of relationship with him. Although we cringe when we see her kiss him, we actually have some sympathy for a character that was season one’s most despised inmate. We get a lot of Lollie, her backstory and what impact Prison can have on the mentally ill.  By the time we get to the last few episodes, the tragedies are mounting until we have one of the saddest and most compelling deaths in TV this year. The aftermath of the death is devastating for all involved and finale cliffhanger may well take the show to a new place.

If you gave up on Orange last year, go back for Season 4. It is good.

 

SUMMER BINGING SCORE:

Great: 1 (UnREAL S1; Pride and Prejudice)

Good: 1 (OITNB S4)

OK: 0

Not Good: 1 (Bloodline S2)

TV: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones (HBO) 

This week I’m not following my normal format for TV of “premiers” and “finales” as there isn’t much happening except the premier of Game of Thrones so I’ll dedicate this post to my favorite TV show. I’m not saying it is the best TV show – I’ll defer to the Americans or a couple of others for that – but for pure joy, I’ll go for Game of Thrones. It is the one show I look forward to each week and have to see at the same time as the East Coast viewers. I have read all the books so in previous seasons had a pretty idea of what would happen although last season, the producers started to deviate from the written word. This year, the show is has gone beyond the books, as George R. R. Martin has not been able finish up the new one so each episode is going to be something new and unknown for me and millions of others.

Sunday night was the Season Six premier and we didn’t find out a whole lot but I’ll say it was one of my favorite GOT premiers. The scenery and camera work were amazing – more like a feature film. These premiers are often not very good, as the seasons tend to progress slowly and culminate in a fantastic episode 8 followed by great finales in episode 10. The Showrunners have said that this is going to be the best season ever and if the first episode is any indication, they could be right!

So what happened (SPOILER ALERT)? Sansa and Theon somehow survive their fall but are recaptured and rescued by (no surprise) Brienne of Tarth. Arya is blind and begging on the street with the suggestion that she will learn to fight and be the new Daredevil. Dany has been captured by some new group of Dothraki and looks to be put into an old “widow’s” home while of course Ser Jorah finds her ring. Although the small patch of green within the ring of dirt from the horses made that somewhat plausible. Meanwhile back in Meereen, Tyrion is struggling to keep the peace while Dany’s fleet is burned in the harbor. Guess they won’t be going to Westeros soon. We had a brief glimpse of Dorne where the Sandsnakes killed Prince Doran and his son. Hopefully this could be the end of Dorne (least interesting plot line) unless Jamie and Cersei come to avenge the death of their daughter (they are in King’s Landing grieving for her).

And then there is Jon Snow. It doesn’t appear that he warged into Ghost as the direwolf is left in his prison howling for his master. It doesn’t appear that the “Red Woman” breathes life into him as she takes one look at him and leaves. Although, when she goes back to her room and takes off her magic necklace, she ages about a million years. This was an interesting twist but I wish she had used her powers on the Lord of Castle Black. Jon Snow appears very, very dead. Nothing could be more depressing. The writers killed off the best two theories on how Jon would return from the dead in one fell swoop.

So the stage is pretty much set for the Ladies of Westeros to kick ass although we didn’t see Bran or Hodor yet. Can’t wait for them to return this season. Can’t wait for next week!