OK, rest of the world. You were right and I was wrong. I admit it. WORLD, YOU WERE RIGHT AND I WAS WRONG. So here are Scarlett and Gunnar, performing one of their songs for Kelly Clarkson. And it’s a lovely one (‘Lately’, written by Sally Barris, Ashley Monroe, and Sarah Siskind), one of the best of the series, which they give the full Civil Wars treatment, with lots of harmonies and ambiguous eye contact. Great stuff. “It’s such a special connection that you two have”, offers Clarkson – word, Kelly, their chemistry remains off the charts – and she’s so impressed that she would like the two of them to write something for her, which in the present climate is of course an extraordinary stroke of good fortune for a couple of young, aspiring songwriters. Right? Not according to Scarlett, who peevishly informs Clarkson that she and Gunnar aren’t in a good place, and turns down the offer. Then she goes home and admits that she wanted to punch Gunnar in the face, which is too much even for season 2’s saintly Avery, who is all, “Scarlett. You broke up with him. So knock it the fuck off.”
Of course, Avery kind of knows that Juliette is preparing his escape capsule to sizzling angst-free sex with a famous singer, so he can perhaps afford to start running out of patience. That’s if Juliette’s still alive; her public appearances are attracting protesters because she’s a homewrecker and, because of a selectively-edited video, an atheist. The death threats can’t be too far away. I think she should just claim to be bigger than Jesus and be done with it. Deacon, meantime, realises that he needs conflict in his life if he’s going to write – a commonly-held belief among artists, as I understand it – so provokes a fight with the hot attorney. But then he writes a song with Older Girl – and it’s another goodie, if no ‘Lately’ – so it’s a happy ending of sorts.
Last week’s episode finished with the possible death of two characters. Teddy’s griefstricken over the murder of his wife – yes, the light has gone from those crazy eyes – and is convinced that there’s something bigger going on. I can’t decide whether Teddy being right about this – the CIA, the mafia, the Cubans, the military-industrial complex, all ganging up on him, perhaps? – would be entertainingly bonkers, or just tedious.
But Will, last seen stepping in front of a train, is still alive, if missing. Gunnar and Zoey search his room, looking for clues and headwear semiotics. “He left his hat on the bed!” notes Gunnar. “Which means he was not thinking straight when he left!” (CJ called this last week in the comments.) Will’s grappling with his sexuality, particularly in the context of the country music industry, and Gunnar offers support, while also trying to smack some of the self-pity out of him. As I said way back when, this is a potentially interesting arc.
Strangely, the least compelling storyline this week belongs to Rayna, nominally the central character. Jack White-a-like Liam’s back (incidentally, the actual Jack White has worked with Ashley Monroe, one of the writers of ‘Lately’), and there are some arguments over what to release as the first single from Rayna’s doomed self-released album, but I’m finding it hard to care. Yeah, yeah, Artists versus The Man. That notwithstanding, though, this was another enjoyable episode, with some of the best music for a while.
One Lannister down….still plenty of torture and persecution to go around.
After the excitement of the Purple Wedding, GOT could probably have been forgiven for taking it easy this week but “Breaker of Chains” moves along at a cracking pace, with storylines battering on at top speed all over the place amid lashings of humour and pathos.
Set up for the murder of REDACTED, Tyrion’s in jail, awaiting trial and execution, but not necessarily in that order if his sister has anything to do with it. He doesn’t let imprisonment stop him from cranking out some magnificent one-liners, of course – I think Tyrion might actually be funnier in jail than he is free – but his scene with Pod is genuinely moving as well. Aw.
I have to disagree with him on the lack of any word from whiny girlfriend Shae, though: no news is not good news, Tyrion, because that suggests she’s still alive and will return to annoy me in early course. Blergh.
We do know what’s happened to wife Sansa however: successfully spirited off by Ser Dontos, freed from the Lannisters at last, hurrah, joy, break out the bunting… except don’t, because she’s now in some very slimy hands on a creepy ship off the coast and FFS when will this poor girl catch a break?
Alas, poor Sansa. Your life continues to suck.
Back on dry land(ing), however, the oldies are looking on the bright side. Since Tywin “never fails to take advantage of a family tragedy” (Hee), he immediately starts grooming young Tommen to be a better king than his brother, and since young Tommen doesn’t appear to be psychotic, he’s off to a flying start. And because Tywin is better at this game than almost everybody, he also manages to make a deal with the always awesome Dude of Dorne himself, Oberyn Martell, whom I could only love more if he didn’t keep having meetings in brothels. (Ladies, fellas – put some CLOTHES on).
Fellow OAP and Tywin’s only real challenger for the crown of Westeros Game Player of the Year, Lady Olenna is also thinking sunny thoughts, pointing out to a grumpy Margaery the obvious advantages of early widowhood if Joffrey is your intended spouse.
Joffrey’s parents, however, are losing their damn minds.
Cersei, mad with grief, wants Jaime to kill Tyrion. Jaime, mad with something else, rapes her next to the body of their dead son. There are times when this show is challenging, there are times when this show is brutal and there are times when I have no words for what this show is and I don’t want to know them if they exist. Suffice to say, the Internet has – entirely justifiably – nigh-on exploded over this scene, and the director saying it wasn’t rape (it was) while the show runners say it was (it was) and GRR Martin says it was different in the book (it was) hasn’t really helped. Much as I love the show, every now and then I have to clutch my pearls about some of the things GOT is actually getting us to accept in our characters: I mean, we’re treating lean, teen revenge machine Arya and her big Hound pal careering around the country as a comedy buddy movie, for a start. And we all happily forgave Jaime for pushing a ten year-old out of a window (and loads of other horrors), so much so that he’s become one of the most popular characters in the show. But now he’s a rapist? No. Too far, show. Too far. I hate myself a little bit for saying it, but I think I’m just going to have to forget this scene happened entirely. The thinking behind it was obviously muddled, as was the presentation and unless we’re supposed to go back to hating Jaime again, I think I’m going to come down with some self-induced selective amnesia.
And, now, rant over, back to our scheduled posting.
Life wasn’t any slower for the non-Lannisters either this week, as Dany took over yet another slave town in the east, only her scenes were miles better than usual because the new Dario “Liam from Nashville” Naharis is both magnificent and hilarious and I love him. You can keep your dragons and your Targaryen princess: give me all Dario all the time. In the north, meanwhile, Smoulders in the Snow seems to have been promoted to a) man whom everyone listens to and b) man in an even bigger coat – both of which are good looks for him, since glaikit really wasn’t his colour, poor boy. And in a direction I’m still not sure of, Ser Davos and Shereen, the only things I like about the Stannis storyline, were pretty much the only things we got, so yay for them and for this episode. Apart from the scene which I’ve decided didn’t happen, it was terrific.
2006. Like the film, “a true story”. Unlike the film it’s set in Bemidji, Minnesota, a town apparently populated by amiable souls, and watched over by patient, diligent police officers. I’ve never been to Minnesota, and most of what I think I know about it I’ve taken from the works of Garrison Keillor: “the Lutherans of Lake Wobegon don’t use much irony, like they don’t use much curry powder”. So the appearance of mysterious outsider Lorne Malvo (an excellent Billy Bob Thornton), combining an almost gentle irony with the unmistakeable don’t-fuck-with-me malevolence his surname suggests, is bound to have consequences, like a lump of potassium dropped into a bowl of water.
Meantime, underachieving insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), a perpetual disappointment to his wife, a source of shame to his successful, ham-massaging younger brother (“Sometimes I tell people you’re dead”), and still being bullied by his high school nemesis Sam Ness, attends hospital, where his path crosses that of Malvo, who after very little preamble offers to kill Ness, an offer which Lester doesn’t decline quite as convincingly as he might have. From there, and also from the (literally) cold open, in which a man escapes the boot of Malvo’s car and runs off into a subzero night clad only in his underwear, the body count starts to pile up. Investigating the deaths are Chief Vern Thurman (Shawn Doyle) and his deputy Molly Solverson (a stunning performance by newcomer Allison Tolman). An immediate complication is Ness’s reputed link to organised crime, referred to in this episode as “Fargo”, presumably the local source of all that is urban and disreputable.
This first episode, ‘The Crocodile’s Dilemma’, is amusing, deceptively smart, unexpectedly gory, and influenced by the film (I relished the sex worker’s “Yah, oh yah”) without feeling enslaved by it. Going forward there are, it seems to me, a couple of potential pitfalls: given this week’s attrition rate, if Fargo’s going to run for ten episodes it’ll need some more plots and characters, and there’s always a danger that the show will become too cluttered. I’m also not quite sold, yet, on Martin Freeman’s performance: he can do you a great put-upon, but perhaps he needs to tone down the klutziness a bit. (And although I’m no expert, I thought the accent a little shaky.) But if you’re wanting a potentially great American TV drama without all of the guys-being-guys machismo of True Detective, I’d say that Fargo might well fit your bill. I loved it.
Milton Bobbit is The Undertaker, a specialist contract killer covered in lesions (ew), living in a house full of mushrooms (ew), which he liquidises and drinks (ew), and able to perform a party trick with his nose (EW EW EW). Bobbit’s MO is to induce strangers to commit apparently motiveless murders, then kill themselves, making investigation enormously difficult. The same premise, in broad terms, as Strangers On A Train, for example, but with mushrooms. It’s agreeably unpleasant and tightly-plotted – who are the killers? what leverage does Bobbitt have over them? – and perhaps a little more compelling than the story of last week’s Blacklister.
Once again, though, the A-plot is little more than an amuse-bouche for the important part of the episode. Keen, acting on Red’s suggestion, is staying with Tom, the better to find out what he’s up to. They are effectively, therefore, deceiving each other, which means that when Tom suggests to Keen that they renew their wedding vows, Keen is widely enthusiastic. Tom’s “brother” – another member of Team Berlin – turns up in town to officiate and kvetch to Tom about Keen. They swap hilarious vows which are groaning under the weight of double meanings, then Red and Keen grab the brother, and go all 24 on his ass, asking the eternal question, “WHO DO YOU WORK FOR?” In time-honoured fashion Brother replies “You have no idea who you’re dealing with”, which is undoubtedly true, and barely worth saying; why, otherwise, would they be going to all that trouble? The episode ends, though, with Tom and Keen agreeing to have sex out of an unspoken sense of obligation, which suggests that they may have the hang of this marriage business after all.
“I’m tired of the games and the backbiting.”
Me too, Judge Victor Garber, me too.
The legal plot of this week’s TGW involves a “double jury trial” – possible but very rare, apparently – where Will and Diane represent one half of a couple, Alicia and Cary represent the other and Geneva and Matan prosecute them both in front of two juries, a judge who quickly comes to regret his own smartness in “separating” the trials, and an increasingly exasperated bailiff. Like all TGW legal plots, it’s a very clever, twisty look at an odd area of legal practice, but while there’s a lot to like and plenty of humour from the jurors’ jealousy of each other and the various practicality-related shenanigans, it’s one of those episodes where the bickering gets a little wearing. Cary besting Kalinda was ace and I did enjoy the episode overall but Diane is right: things would be better if they all worked together, and I’m more than ready for the Will vs Alicia viciousness to stop. I love Will more than can possibly be healthy and I hate that Alicia betrayed him, but even my patience has limits.
Although Will more than made up for it in the brilliant political plot of the week.
I don’t understand why anyone would choose to answer most of Marilyn Garbanza’s questions – as Will pointed out, she’s not running a grand jury investigation – and I also don’t understand how a woman apparently so politically savvy can be so astonishingly stupid (as IF Peter was going to waive privilege) but it did give us a framework for the hugely exciting electoral fraud storyline to kick off proper. I cannot believe I just typed “hugely exciting electoral fraud storyline” and meant it but that’s the joy of The Good Wife. Eli was entertaining throughout, but Peter was at the heart of the story: Alicia confronting him was obviously great, but my favourite scene was the face-off between him and Will. Chris Noth and Josh Charles going toe-to-toe is always electrifying and this was no exception – I loved it.
Fargo, the next contender for the best new drama of 2014, starts tonight. It comes with both the benefit and potential handicap of being based on Joel and Ethan Coen’s more or less perfect 1996 film of the same name, meaning that it’s probably for the best that the TV series is “inspired by” the film, rather than being a lengthy rehash.
Like True Detective, Fargo comes with an impressive cast – led this time by Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman – and also like True Detective, it arrives on UK screens borne aloft by critical hosannas. On top of that, as a Coen fanboy, I’m prepared to regard the presence of both brothers on the list of exec producers as something of a guarantee of quality. And once again British transmission is hot on the heels of America, so well done Channel 4. We’ll be reviewing the first episode at least. Thereafter, with both Orphan Black and 24 starting soon, it might be that Fargo gets squeezed out of the review schedule; we’ll see (tonight, Channel 4, 9pm).
Michael’s back in Miami, theoretically, to help new boss
Noah Bennet Strong find and take out the guy who blew our man’s cover last week. Since Strong seems to have an enormous team and boundless resources, however, and keeps telling Michael “NO!” it doesn’t seem to me like he actually wants our fallen hero around for anything other than to torture him a bit: Strong has surveillance running on Sam, Jesse and (painfully) Fiona, so Michael can watch, listen and remember what he’s missing, while also turning his already high level of self-loathing up to eleven. Oh yeah, and the only contact he’s allowed to make with anyone he loves is to yell at his mum. Nice motivational style you got there, Strong.
Of course, Michael can’t and won’t just watch his friends from a distance for long but, while we wait for his breaking point, we have some fun with Sam and Jesse interspersed with some ill-advised and unnecessary flashbacks to his first meeting with Fiona in Ireland. As soon as I saw the caption “Dublin, Ireland 2001″, I knew this meant poor Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar dragging out the the faux-Irish accents again…. Why, show? We’ve watched them for years now – we know what Fiona and Michael meant to each other. Could we not just have flashed back to their relationship in Miami and saved the cost of Fiona’s be-fringed wig and Michael’s woolly jumper?
Cheesy flashback aside though, this was a decent, well-tooled episode, although the angst is already wearing a little thin. Can Michael finish his mission and get back to Miami and his buddies soon, please? I don’t really want to spend the last season of Burn Notice watching him brood.