Ever since the heyday of The Sopranos, HBO has conned me into appointment television on Sunday nights. It’s the only night of the week I watch TV religiously. Over the years when my favorite HBO show has been on a long hiatus or they occasionally produce a dud (John From Cincinnati, I’m looking at you, lame surfer dude!), AMC and Showtime have been there to pick up the slack. Sometimes two great series will be running at the same time…but not since Mad Men and Dexter ran parallel seasons a few years ago have there been stranger back-to-back bedfellows on Sunday nights than The Killing (on AMC) and Game of Thrones (on HBO).
The Killing - Okay, so it’s a remake of an acclaimed Danish series, but you can’t tell me the American producers weren’t thinking of Twin Peaks when they brought this to Seattle’s shores. Who killed Rosie Larsen? Part of the fun is trying to figure it out for yourself, and there are plenty of red herrings and suspects abound in this slow to unwind and increasingly complex crime thriller/melodrama.
Essentially what they have done with The Killing is taken away everything that made Twin Peaks the Lynchian psychodrama that it was and stripped the serialized murder mystery concept down to its bare bones. There are no dancing midgets or weird dream sequences or evil spirits and doppelgängers lurking in the woods (yet…ha ha). Police procedural shares equal time with family drama. What I really like so far is the slow unveiling of character motives (I still haven’t quite figured out lead detective Mireille Enos’ real deal) and the sympathetic, down-to-earth nature of the Larsen family torn apart by their teenage daughter’s murder. The direction is a little murky (think early era X-Files in terms of the show’s look) and the pacing may eventually work to the show’s detriment. Ultimately it falls into the same Peaksian trap. If you solve the murder at the end of the season – then what?
Five episodes in, and I give it a solid B rating.
Game of Thrones - I was drug reluctantly into the premier of HBO’s newest mucho-hyped series. I’ve had it up to here with ho-hum medieval inspired soap operas on other networks (Showtime seems to feast off these carcasses posing as quality television), and adding a fantasy aspect to it didn’t inspire me much. Fantasy, especially of this ilk, is too easy to do poorly, and is so rarely done well. But against all odds, this adaptation of an epic book series I had never heard of wowed me on every level – from its Lord of the Rings style production values to its Rome-esque debauchery and political intrigue.
The first five minutes completely sucked me in with its creeping mood of menace and evil. Then the opening credit sequence knocked my socks off. What followed in the first hour was a cavalcade of intertwining plotlines and larger-than-life characters. Amidst beheadings, a bevy of bare-breasted maidens, and the foreshadowing of winter, war…and maybe a dragon? – two instant favorite characters emerged: a lecherous and conniving dwarf (take that, The Killing!) played with winning spirit by Peter Dinklage and a strong-willed but good-hearted kid named Bran played by newcomer Isaac Hempstead-Wright.