The Return of Game of Thrones and Even Stranger Bedfellows on Sunday Nights

Game of Thrones

April 1st marks the welcome return of the most visceral and entertaining show on TV, HBO’s violently epic fantasy series, Game of Thrones.  I was a reluctant watcher when the show premiered last spring, but it sucked me in with its carefully tailored bouts of sex, war, politics, beheadings, kids in jeopardy, dragons and plot twists. 

Emilia Clarke is the dragon woman.

From the opening episode that left me screaming, “Holy shit, they threw the kid outta the window!” to the season finale’s smoldering closing scene featuring a bare-breasted maiden and some newly hatched dragons that had me screaming, “Holy shit, look at that rack…oh, and damn, there be dragons up in there!” I was addicted.  The whole shebang is ferociously entertaining, and I learned my lesson well from last season – stay off the message boards where people who have read the books are far too eager to spoil huge plot points!  I was tipped off a few episodes early about a certain Stark’s beheading – but that singularly brilliant moment in the series tipped off a new trend in the trendiest of shows (witness the killing of Jimmy in Boardwalk Empire to the killing of Shane in The Walking Dead) where no character is safe.

Wicked hot Carice Van Houten joins the able-bodied cast for season two.

In a series with so many characters and plot lines, favorites, of course, emerge.  I loved from the start Peter Dinklage’s conniving royal dwarf (a role for which he deservedly picked up beaucoup awards), but it was the emergence of some strong female characters like Emilia Clarke’s rising queen (she of the great rack…and great dragons), the warring matriarchs played by Michelle Fairley and Lena Headey, and the feisty little girl who mastered the sword played by Massie Williams that helped the show rise above its medieval-tinged fantasy-land trappings.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Season Two.

Grade after Season One: A-

Grade after the Season Two Premier: A-

The Killing

Also returning April 1st is AMC’s deliberately twisty and slow-moving police procedural, The Killing, which for the second year running makes for a strange bedfellow to the raucous shenanigans on Game of Thrones.  I was probably one of the few who wasn’t angered by the season one finale where we were tricked into thinking we knew “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” only to be bamboozled into a deeper mystery.  I respected the writers’ desire to create a larger conspiracy where Rosie’s death was just one small piece…but in doing so, they run the risk of succumbing to X-Files Syndrome where the conspiracy just grows and grows until the show and its characters are sucked into a black hole where no mystery will ever be solved and viewers no longer care.

Why does Mireille Enos look like a midget in this picture?

Though everything moved at a snail’s pace, I did enjoy the development of Mireille Enos’ character (though seriously, what is up with that lame subplot with her estranged fiance?) and of the Larsen family.  Yet there was probably one too many scenes of some Larsen sobbing – you know, we get it, they’re grieving.  The production values were murky for a show of this caliber, and I wonder just where the writers intend to take things, as they already backed themselves into a few corners in season one.  Still – I keep watching.

Grade after Season One: B-

Grade after the Season Two Premier: B

Mad Men

But what was an odd pair last year now becomes an even stranger threesome as last Sunday saw the long-delayed return of AMC’s awarding-winning uber-show, Mad Men.  Oh, the fashion!  Oh, the ads!  Oh, the 1960’s social mores!  It’s all back!  But a lot has happened in its nearly two-year absence.  The television landscape has changed considerably with the emergence of shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Homeland.  It seems as if Mad Men has been on hiatus since the 1960’s. 

Much like The Sopranos, this classy serial soap has had its ups and downs, but more often than not emerged as the best written show on television, though I hold firm that Boardwalk Empire has since surpassed it in that regard.  Still, I would argue that one episode from Mad Men’s season two entitled “Three Sundays” was the single best written hour of television in the history of the medium.

Don and the new Mrs. Draper.

For those who decry this is a show about nothing, an awful lot happened at the end of season four including Don getting remarried, Joan getting knocked-up and Betty getting Bettied.  Admittedly not much happened in the two-hour Betty-less season five premier.  It was still good to have Draper and the gang back, however, and we did witness a Mad Men first when the new Mrs. Draper (Jessica Pare) out va-va-voomed Joan with a sexy French song-and-dance number followed later in the evening by a kinky cleaning romp.  My jaw dropped.

Grade after Season Four: A-

Grade after the Season Five Premier: B+

So here’s to a grand two and half months of top-flight television!  Whether you like rollickingly violent, political and sexy fantasy series; unsolved murder mysteries; or nostalgic shows about nothing – there’s something for everyone on Sunday nights.  Enjoy.



  1. David—

    I have yet to see any episodes of THE KILLING or MAD MEN (or THE WALKING DEAD for that matter) but of course I have watched every episode of GAME OF THRONES -including the opening segment of Season 2 – and am as enraptured as you are with the narrative arc, the feisty performances, and an irresistible presentation in every sense. The behaeading shocked me (and emotionally it disappointed me) but I was told that actor never makes it beyond the first season in any show he appears in. When the boy was pushed from the window afrer witnessing that shocking act, my mind was on the comeuppance of that character. As you say the series brings together so many elements to make for a captivating sit. I’m sold lock, stock and barrel, and applaud you on this stellar assessment.

    Sam – as fun as it is to watch, The Walking Dead really is amateur hour when compared to the thick, layered and totally absorbing drama of Game of Thrones. Mad Men is a matter of taste, but I’ve always found the writing uncommonly strong on that show, and there’s been a bevy of beautiful ladies in various stages of 60’s dress (and undress) that have kept me coming back. The Killing is a bit of a mess, but compelling if you got sucked in from the beginning. –DHS

  2. I love “Game of Thrones” for a number of reasons– the beautiful cinematography and production design, the crackerjack action and fantasy angles– but mostly I dig how it’s become a socially conscious deconstruction of the whole fantasy genre and its beholden nature to feudal-monarchist politics. One of the (many) things that turned me off from Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” movies was just how much they pined for the olden days of diving right by bloodlines, where all the problems in the world could be solved by uniting under the banner of a single king, never mind the tyranny that usually ensues. I was especially put off from them having, at the time, the “Star Wars” prequels as a foil with their focus on how easily democracies can turn into dictatorships (I’ll take awkwardly staged promotions of freedom over Shakespearean monarchist propaganda any day).

    With “Game of Thrones”, we have a series that can focus on the high lives of kings and queens while also showing just how bloodthirsty and despotic most of them are (and how innefectual and deluded the good ones can be, if you’re lucky), and especially in this second season just how exploited and victimized anyone outside of the noble-born classes can be, and how precarious anyone’s social status or comforts are. It’s right up there with the Machiavellian power struggles and religious manipulations of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” books (if HBO knows what they’re doing, they should be optioning a series based on them right the fuck now). It’s “Upstairs Downstairs” with fire and blood (and tits).

    I categorically refuse to watch anything on AMC ever since they cancelled “Rubicon”.

  3. UPDATE: Grades as the seasons are now coming to a close –

    Game of Thrones: B+ (had its ups and downs this season but ended on a high note)

    Mad Men: A- (progressively grew more engrossing as the season went on and is still after all these years the best written show on television)

    The Killing: B+ (I’m in the minority, but I thought this season was better than the first, and, well…the finale is technically next week and supposedly we will know who the killer is…finally…if we don’t, I’ll be sure to lower this grade)

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