The news that Mad Men returned in America to its lowest premiere rating since the season 2 opener is unimportant on one level – it’s on cable, it’s on its final demi-season anyway – but on another it simply confirms that, for whatever reason, we reached peak Mad Men some time ago. And even for a devotee like me it’s been difficult to disagree with the proposition that the last two seasons have failed to match the first four.
Looking on the bright side, though, I thought season 6 better than 5, and I’m sure that everyone connected with the show will want to go out on a high, particularly given that showrunner Matthew Weiner has always wanted to make seven seasons, suggesting that he has a fitting endgame in mind. (Given that, in line with current fashions, this final seventh season is being split into two, with the second half scheduled for 2015, it could be argued that he’s making eight seasons. But no matter.) And we in the UK are getting to see the show a matter of days after American transmission, which is always welcome. Weekly reviews here as soon as I can manage them (tonight, Sky Atlantic, 10pm).
CBS drama Intelligence definitely isn’t going to run for seven seasons – it’s completed its first (thirteen episode) run in America, with little chance of renewal. Which perhaps isn’t surprising: with Josh Holloway starring as an ex-Delta Force operative with a chip in his brain which enables him to access, y’know, the internet and stuff, it sounds like Sawyer off of Lost playing Chuck. There is, in fairness, a decent supporting cast – CSI’s Marg Helgenberger among others – and the reviews weren’t terrible, but I can’t see myself watching this (17 April, Sky 1, 9pm).
And another thirteen-episode drama, although this time one that’s already been cancelled in the USA, starts the day after. ABC’s Betrayal is about a couple having an affair who are also on opposite sides in a murder trial – yes, sounds like 13 episodes is about your maximum for that premise. Reviews for this one really weren’t good, and it’s based on a Dutch show anyway, which makes me wonder why we’re not just getting the subtitled original (18 April, 5USA, 10pm).
Finally, the BBC is providing us with “another chance to see” Parks and Recreation, which our CJ reckons to be just about the best thing on TV, from the start. (tonight, BBC4, 11pm).
Coming soon: season 2 of Orphan Black. And coming very soon: Fargo.
Somewhat tiresomely, though, “The Lion and the Rose” did make attempts to catch up with lesser characters and their lesser sub-plots before getting to the good stuff. The repellent Ramsay Snow and Reek side of things seemed like horror for horror’s sake: what was the point of that thoroughly nasty opening sequence? That Ramsay’s a pitiless sadist who delights in the ever-more-creative infliction of pain and degradation? I think we guessed that from several weeks of him torturing Theon last year. Move it ON.
And as for the demented “Lord of Light” crew, yes I understand, the point is that some people do terrible things in the name of religion and in the pursuit of power but it’s still not my idea of an entertaining watch. What is Stannis waiting for, exactly? Either move on Kings Landing again or go home, dude. Setting fire to your friends and relatives is really not a productive use of your time. Or ours.
Although, if you absolutely need to set fire to anybody, I’d suggest the above-mentioned Ramsay Snow.
The less said about the boring as anything Bran and his buddies, the better, meanwhile but at least our time with them was mercifully short, and the rest of the episode focussed on the Purple Wedding, where all the best characters (the ones that are still alive, anyway) gathered to watch Joffrey marry the fabulous Margaery Tyrell and *SPOILER* get what’s been coming to him for a looooooong time.
The wedding was about a lot more than those last two minutes, though. (Which is just as well since I was spoiled for them. Hurrumph!). Packed with intriguing and intense little tableaux – Cersei shocking Brienne (SQUEE!) and perplexing Jaime in the process, Olenna cheerfully sparring with Tywin and soothing Sansa, Oberyn Martell being amazing – it was a fantastic sequence, with Joffrey at his psychotic Joffriest bringing everything to a head. Tyrion of course was brilliant, throughout – I loved his scene with Jaime and his relationship with Sansa is becoming more interesting by the week – and, to be honest, I really hope Shae is truly gone because she just dragged him down. We shall see. Regardless, after this week’s events, I’m very, VERY excited to see where the Lannisters and their storylines go from here.
It’s the week of the music festival – actually, I was going to say something like “finally”, but in truth it only seems that it was first mentioned like five minutes ago, so well done Mayor Teddy for pulling it together so quickly. Scarlett’s sulking because of Zunnar (?), and for the first time I can see why other viewers can’t be doing with her. Fortunately Avery, now the show’s MVP, is on hand to break it down for her: “You broke up with him, he’s moved on, and you’re a little pissed”. He’s also on hand later when he sweetly bails Juliette out of an on-stage meltdown provoked by a mixed audience reaction to the breaking news about her and Charlie Wentworth. And, inevitably, she falls in love with him. Well, this season, who wouldn’t?
Rayna is still intent on going to war with The Man – just because he wants to run a viable company he’s all about the numbers, man, while she’s about the music. Finally – finally – someone points out how fatuous her position is, particularly in this day and age, and it’s Luke, who’s starting to look as if he might be running point for Jeff. “Labels are great”, observes Luke, because they mean that musicians can actually get on with stuff while the label deals with the business crap. Even Jeff’s market research, confirming that there’s a reason why he wants to edit the Rayna/Liam masterwork, is ignored by Rayna, as she tries to raise $20m (!) to buy herself out. Even if Tandy is going to be running things, Rayna’s an idiot.
Deacon and Gunnar buddy up – a combo I don’t think we’ve seen before – in order to run a kind of guerrilla stage outside the festival, which convinces Zoey to go all bros before hos and commit to Gunnar instead of her BFF. Which is the prelude to a cracking end: Juliette goes round to see Avery, but finds Scarlett there; Will, consumed by self-loathing after sleeping with Brent, looks as if he’s going to throw himself in front of a train, except I don’t believe for a second that the show will kill off its only gay character. And someone – an exasperated viewer, probably – pretends to target Mayor Teddy in order to be able to shoot Crazy-Eyes. I suspect she’s expendable. A good episode.
“Can I just say I love this stuff?”
Oh Rowby, me too.
In this utter delight of an episode, Alicia and Cary go to bat for a pair of musicians whose easy listening arrangement of a rap song is appropriated by a musical drama series without acknowledgement or payment. (If the story sounds familiar, that’s because it is.) The increasingly obsessive Will teams up with F. Murray Abraham to defend the tv network and push Alicia’s buttons, Alicia pushes his right back and the whole business is indeed “like legal jazz”: gloriously funny, fast, smart and sizzling with sexual tension, yet again. And the song is so insanely catchy the cast and crew made their own music video for it – I’ve put it at the the top of this post and if you haven’t seen it already, trust me: you need it in your life. Julianna and Josh dancing? Matt Czuchry clapping? Christine Baranski ruling in curlers? Dudes. I LOVE THIS STUFF.
In a slightly less cheerful but still fantastic sub-plot, meanwhile, Eli hires Kalinda to investigate the paternity of the unspeakable Marilyn’s baby, resulting in perhaps the funniest cameo in the history of cameos (I won’t spoil it here but HEE) as well as a frankly brilliant twist that is going to affect every character on the show. Dudes. I LOVE THIS STUFF AS WELL.
Unfortunately, though, the one problem with this otherwise joyous episode is of course the Kalinda/ Damian/ Jenna axis of awfulness. As I said last week, Kalinda v Damian is basically a re-run of every utterly wretched “Kalinda vs Creepy Man” storyline we’ve ever had (and there have been a lot) and now the Jenna strand of it is a re-run of every equally wretched “Kalinda vs Creepy Woman who initially investigates her but then can’t get enough of her” storyline we’ve ever had as well, so right about now I’m ready for the “Kalinda vs Change of Career” storyline which will get her out of her rut and off this otherwise terrific show, but I fear I may be waiting a long time. DUDES. Um… Two out of three ain’t bad.
It’s the beginning of the end for Burn Notice and Michael is working deep cover for Noah Bennett to try and bring down old “friend” Nathan Petrelli… Is this what they meant by Heroes: Reborn?
More like Heroes: Close to Death as Michael’s cover as a depressed, alcoholic ex-spy washed up in the Dominican Republic isn’t really a cover, more a description worryingly close to the truth. While he slips deeper and deeper into the morass to try and convince, er, Nathan to take him on, everyone else seems to be managing fine without him, thanks very much. Back in Miami, Sam has Elsa and mojitos on tap. Jesse has his slick job and slick shirts. Fi has a new man and a new job which (bonus) still allows her to shoot people. And Madeleine is raising Nate’s son, Charlie, which isn’t a plot development I’m wild about since kids in action shows are fine once in a while but as regulars constantly getting kidnapped or in the way or whatnot? Hmmm.
This first episode was a good’un, though. Impressively bloody and dark, despite the ever-present sunshine, the humour was left – sensibly – to Bruce Campbell and the rest of the gang in Miami while Jeffrey Donovan flexed muscles of both the physical (OUCH with the fighting) and acting variety, to give us a Michael who still has all his spy tricks but very little else. The best thing about Burn Notice is, for me, the sparky relationship between the main characters, so I hope they get the entire gang – Michael too – back together as quickly as possible, but this was still a solid, interesting way to start the process.
A good-natured barman faces down a couple of thugs; later, when he’s locking up, they beat him up. But the result is that one of the baddies is killed with his own knife, the other hospitalised, and the barman, Jack Anderson, has gone missing. Steve lets Grover, a buddy of Anderson, tag along as they try to find him. First they need to find out why Anderson was able to overcome two hoodlums, one armed with a knife. It comes as a bit of a surprise to Grover that his friend is so tasty in a brawl; there will, of course, be a reason for that. But Steve and Grover get to bond, even if Grover’s Secret Pain remains, for now, a Secret.
But why no Danny? Well, he’s having a meet-cute at a gas station with a toothy babe by the name of Amber Vitale (Lili Simmons, who played Beth in True Detective), who is then shot as she drives away. Oh no! Fortunately Danny’s there to solve the mystery. I half-expected that, like Anderson, Amber would have a secret, perhaps WITSEC or something. Maybe she does, because we don’t really get to find out why she’s on Oahu. Perhaps it won’t be a thing.
Meantime, Kono – filmed both above and below the waist for the first time in weeks – has found Adam. It’s over, apparently; everyone of relevance is dead or in jail. Adam can come home. So there we go. Phew. I may not ever have been less invested in a plot arc.
And – really not a spoiler at all – it all ends happily enough, with Grover making chilli for the H50 extended family, including Kame and Flipper; and, significantly, with Duke now promoted from crime scenes to hanging out with the bros. Not Fong, though? Anyway, like quite a few episodes this season, this was nothing remarkable, but was further evidence that the standard this year has generally been higher than in season 3.
Bromance Watch: “What’s going on here? First you invite him over for Thanksgiving, then you guys partner up… people are going to think you like each other.”
And the return of Women in the Workplace Watch: Catherine wasn’t in it, Kono was tracking her boyfriend down, because a gal needs her man, and Amber was looking for an unspecified fresh start. But there was a cheerleading camp.
After last week’s Reese-light classroom visit, this week’s POI goes full-on Reese-tastic again as the focus shifts firmly back to the Man in the Suit, still stuck at Rikers under the increasingly demented eye of the Man in the Orange Ads.
The chemistry between Carter and the Boy Wonder is palpable throughout; the degree of intimacy (ok, not that kind – yet. ) between them is so obvious, her “interrogation” of him frankly shouldn’t have fooled anyone with eyes. Or ears – he doesn’t let just anybody hear that vulnerability in his voice, y’know. Nor that much of his past; I mean, the names and places might be different, but how much of that cover story was based in truth? And how sad is it that John is at his most open and honest when he’s lying?
Those interrogation scenes are great to watch, but Rikers also gives us a few more surprises in the shape of an old enemy and an old er, “friend”, as well as another player in the game. With all these riches, I’m not sure we needed to re-run the Kara Stanton flashbacks in parallel – we get it, Reese thinks he’s a monster, the truth is more complicated than that, we know – but I suppose the reason for that particular trip down memory lane becomes obvious in the very last shock of the episode. I say very last shock, because there’s another shock before that which isn’t as surprising as it’d like to be but is still completely brilliant – you know the one I mean. It rocks. Then the aforementioned very last shock takes that previous shock and stomps all over it – you know the one I mean there too. WHOA. And then WHOA again. Apart from the bafflingly stupid and inconsequential supermodel cameo – what is this? Hawaii Five-0? – this was thrilling, edge-of-the-seat stuff. I loved it.