"A Town Called Mercy" is an excellent reminder that it is possible to use the tropes of genre adventure to explore fairly complex ethical dilemmas. In fact, that's one of the things that Doctor Who does best.
If "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" turns out to be the weakest episode of Series 7, we can count ourselves lucky—parts of it were tremendous fun, and it had just enough substance to save it from total irrelevancy—but it is both overstuffed and undercooked.
Series 7 hits the ground running hard with an impressively scaled, impeccably paced story that cleverly marries the near future of this show to its distant and recent past.
Our latest two episodes of Mad Men each feature a major character leaving Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. One leaves in a considerably more permanent fashion than the other, but I'd still be hard pressed to say which departure is sadder.
Horseshit is the foundation, glue, and currency of this entire society. For all the talk about honor in the Seven Kingdoms, it's lies that have the power to form alliances, grant kingships, topple lords, and move entire armies into battle.
As the penultimate episode of Season Two of GAME OF THRONES, "Blackwater" doesn't just meet expectations: it blows them out of the water.
Life is nasty, brutish, and short on Game of Thrones, so who could begrudge characters acting from the heart?
I had, this week, a moment of clarity about Mad Men: it was the realization that none of these people—not a single goddamned one of them—will ever, ever be happy.
"A Man Without Honor" is an interlude, of sorts, but it's the kind of interlude that lends color and depth to this entire season of GAME OF THRONES.
Animals have always been important symbols on GAME OF THRONES, and now, as the walls of civilization crumble, the wild things that live within us all are refusing to be tamed.
America is changing rapidly: roles are becoming less narrowly defined, identities are becoming more fluid, and self-fulfillment is becoming more important than stability and the traditional markers of success.
We're one king down, and those remaining may find that their power depends less on strength and more on the loyalty they are able to inspire.
"Far Away Places" plays out in three short stories, occurring simultaneously, in which characters grapple with the tentative solidity of their own lives, the slippery hold they have on who they are and what is important to them, and the changing, sometimes elusive nature of reality.
Some people are born evil, some become evil, and some—if they're not careful—may go through life with the best of intentions but still leave evil in their wake.
A few thoughts about The Short and Happy Life of Peter Campbell.
"What is Dead May Never Die" focuses on men who do not quite fit this society's harsh definition of manhood, as we see them fight to hold onto their hearts in a culture where a heart is largely seen as a weakness.
Mad Men is largely about the moment when white, middle-class America awakens from that squeaky-clean, all-white, suburban fantasy of itself. This season is the transition point where the dark undercurrent that has always run beneath that fairy tale begins to overwhelm it.
"The Night Lands" is largely about the role of women in this male-dominated world.
"When is everything going to get back to normal?" Roger asks Don towards the end of this episode. The answer, of course, is never. Normal, as Roger understands it, is officially a thing of the past.
The old gods are burning, and there's a king in every corner. Welcome back to GAME OF THRONES. We've got a lot to talk about.
The white men have ruled the world of Mad Men all along, and their entire way of life has been built on racial injustice and the subjugation of women. Change won't come quickly, but it is coming.
In my last review of this show, I leave The Walking Dead where I found it: wandering aimlessly and emotionlessly through the empty fields of the television landscape.
Though the first forty minutes of "Nebraska" just offered us more of the same, the last ten minutes felt like a breath of fresh air blasting through the lingering stench of burning corpses and stagnant dialogue.
What Downton Abbey needs is someone to shake things up a bit. A video mash-up of two great tastes that taste great together.
It was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, with a touch of A Wrinkle in Time, and just a hint of Aliens at the end. It just wasn't very Doctor Who.
’Twas the season finale, and throughout Murder House,
not a creature was living (except Ben the louse).
This critic was watching in doubtful suspense,
In hopes that this season would somehow make sense…
"Birth" follows in the example of last week's "Smoldering Children" by being…well, not bad, really. "Birth" has an actual structure (rare for this show), it ties its threads together logically and with purpose (ditto), and—by American Horror Story standards, at least—is downright tasteful and restrained. (Granted, a gigantic antichrist baby kills its mother on the way out of the womb—but, you know, tastefully.)
Starz apparently has faith in Boss, and so do I—but the show needs to have a little more faith in itself. What the show needs to do now is to trust itself, and trust its actors, and give us room and reasons to truly invest in these characters.
What American Horror Story really needs—apart from a more savvy and tyrannical script editor—is an exorcist.
The penultimate episode of the first season of Boss feels like a siege story: Kane is holed up in his office—beaten, bleeding, and running low on ammo—while an unbeatable army waits outside.
American Horror Story makes it clear that what it's really horrified of is women.
Season 2.1 of The Walking Dead has all been leading up to this moment, making it just one long shaggy dog story: a padded, drawn-out set up for a staggeringly cruel—and thematically essential—punchline. And it was almost worth it.
Kane is the Grand Inquisitor; he sees himself as one of the rare breed of men who can make the decisions other people aren't willing to make, who can take care of his people even if he has to enslave them, and even if he himself needs to become a monster to do it.
"Fine, let's discuss the brain eating." I mean, how can I hate a show where that line is possible?
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CAN WE PLEASE GET OFF THIS GODDAMNED FARM ALREADY?
Finally, Boss lives up to its potential. With a strong premise and a clear narrative throughline—focusing on the staff's attempt to control a bad news story—“Remembered” is a tight, tense, breathless hour of television.
"Open House," written by co-creator Brad Falchuk, is by far the weakest episode of American Horror Story so far, and demonstrates the show's fundamental flaws all too clearly.
The Walking Dead remains mired in a troubling view of women. "Whatever you do, don't give her a gun: she's on the rag."
Four episodes in, and I'm starting to feel that the problem with "Boss" may be its main character. Because there's actually a really good show struggling to come together in the space around Thomas Kane.
I guess it was inevitable. When you start a show at the absolute border of tastelessness, believability, and cable network standards, it's hard to keep upping the ante week after week. Yeah, yeah, raw brain. What have you done for me lately, American Horror Story?
Stop me if you've heard this one: How many morons does it take to get a zombie out of a well?
I like to imagine the writers' room at Boss as a constant negotiation between the side of the room that wants to do serious political drama and the side of the room that just wants lots and lots of gratuitous sex. In short, the battle for this show's soul is being fought between Team Wonk and Team Wank.
Violet’s in the kitchen, worryin’ bout the 'sitch she’s in:
Rubberman’s behind her, but doesn’t seem to mind her.
The man with the burned face, hands out, pissed off,
Wants for Ben to pay him off for knockin’ little Hayden off…
I don't want to sound too much like a college sophomore trying to get laid here, but it's amusing me this week to think of The Walking Dead as a modern, ultra-violent version of Albert Camus' 1948 existentialist novel The Plague.
I ended my review of the first episode of Boss saying that this show's success would depend on its willingness to balance its more sophisticated elements with its more sensationalistic ones. I'm already worried that Boss is not really interested in fighting that battle, as "Reflex" hews much closer to the sleazier side of the street than the pilot did.
Two gay ghosts; two ginger ghosts; two appearances by a homicidal Rubberman; one ex-mistress returned from the grave; one dead woman euthanizing her elderly mama; one woman with Down's syndrome getting struck by a car while wearing a "pretty-girl" costume; one burned man pounding on the door; one doctor sewing his dismembered baby back together with animal parts; and a sonogram so frightening it makes medical professionals faint. What can I say? It was a slow week at the old Murder House.
Am I asking too much? Is The Walking Dead really just well-made zombie porn, and should I just give up on anything resembling plot or character development?
In its pilot episode, "Boss" is doing many very ambitious things right, and has the potential to be one of the best new shows of the year.
If you put a group of horny 12-year old boys in a room, kept them awake for three straight weeks on pixie sticks, Mountain Dew, and methamphetamines, showed them every horror movie ever made, and then asked them to free-associate a TV show, they still wouldn't come up with the turgid, tortured mess that is American Horror Story.
Zombie Train is a really cool show, but have you noticed they never get anywhere? They just keep zombie-training.
Stupidly pretentious, embarrassingly unrestrained, and chaotically unfocused, this is a basic cable Hell for good actors who have made bad choices. It's a fiasco, but it's kind of fascinating, and way, way more fun that it has any right to be.
Sometimes, the most surprising place we can find ourselves is exactly where we expected to be. "The Wedding of River Song," the grand finale of the 2011 season of Doctor Who, is long on spectacle, but short on revelation. By its conclusion, however, we are well-positioned to move forward towards something very different indeed.
"Closing Time" provides a turning point for the season: instead of piling still more guilt on the Doctor, Moffat and Co. begin to shake off the cumulative darkness of the previous few episodes, and start moving us back towards a more joyous, edifying vision of the Doctor we know and love.
I had big hopes for "Terra Nova," which promised excellent production values, a decent cast, and a potentially-intriguing sci-fi premise. Unfortunately, the pilot episode spends two banal hours dumbing its potential down into lowest-common-demoninator television pap. It's not horrible: it's just not good.
This is the Doctor's fear: the people he likes that he cannot save; the people he loves but can't protect; the confrontation with his own limitations; the reminder that he is better off alone.
There's a reason so many of these supernatural shows center around teen characters: though no one since has worked the metaphors with the sophistication or wit that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" did, the intense drama of high school politics, adolescent longing, and burgeoning sexual power lends itself naturally to stories of good-and-evil, magic, and mythical destiny.
"Overly complicated" and "dumb" is a deadly adjectival combination for any show, and Ringer is about as dumb as television gets.
Make no mistake, "The Girl Who Waited" is essential Doctor Who, and its themes echo and ripple throughout the past and future of this entire franchise in dark and troubling ways.
We might recognize "Night Terrors" as something of a filler episode, but I have a feeling that children who watch it from behind their sofas may remember it as an absolute classic: an episode that scared them, and comforted them, and told them exactly what they needed to hear.
"Let's Kill Hitler" is a little bit clever, and a little bit of a mess, and more than a little unsatisfying.
"Bullock Returns to Camp" is structured around pairings, as individual characters interact with old friends, encounter kindred spirits, and recognize slightly distorted reflections of themselves.
By all the laws of nature, by everything that is holy, by any reasonable assessment of quality of life, Miracle Day should be put to rest. Let's stick a red clothespin on it, throw a blanket over its pathetic carcass, and roll it gently over to the incinerator to be put out of its misery.
This incredibly foul-mouthed, frequently violent, sex- and greed-driven show is one of the most deeply religious programs ever produced for television.
"Dead is dead," and that just about describes my interest and patience. Torchwood: Miracle Day is too stupid to take seriously, and too self-serious to be fun.
I have to be honest: I'm losing my patience with this show. There is a limit to the number of programs I can watch every week—let alone write about—and unless things get better quickly, the (slowly evaporating) affection I have for Russell T Davies and the Torchwood brand isn't going to be enough to justify keeping Miracle Day in the rotation much longer.
Throughout this episode—and from this point forward—we'll see that, in the absence of the law, there is just the hope of grace, manifesting itself through the actions of human beings. In this way—through random acts of kindness, and individual acts of justice—Deadwood will begin to become a community
I'm starting to worry that Torchwood: Miracle Day might have been far better without the "Torchwood."
Like Torchwood: Children of Earth, Miracle Day has a big, global concept at its center: what if, one day, everyone on Earth simply stopped dying?
Few movies or TV shows capture history as flux in quite the way that Deadwood does. Deadwood provides a microcosm of American history that seems to develop before our eyes like time-lapse photography, in a time when the Old West is disappearing, and "progress" is coming on a daily—even hourly—basis.
"Fire and Blood," the 2011 finale of GAME OF THRONES, gives us a brutal dividing line between the prologue of history and an uncertain future.
As we discover in the first two episodes, things sort out fast in Deadwood.
Given a choice between love and honor, wouldn’t we pick love every time? And, by that logic, can something be dishonorable and still be right?
Welcome to fucking DEADWOOD. It can be combative.
The slender threads that held this world together have all snapped, and Westeros is quickly falling back into chaos.
One of the best episodes of New Who, "A Good Man Goes to War" could also be a game-changer in terms of the Doctor's character development.
As we learn this week on Game of Thrones, all politics is personal.
Since Episode Two I had been bracing myself for the discovery that this whole season was either an alternate reality or a dream, either of which I would have hated. But this is so much better: a huge twist that somehow doesn't invalidate what has come before.
"A Golden Crown" is all about justice; it's filled with characters all protesting, "It's not fair!" But justice, as we see this week, is very much a work-in-progress in GAME OF THRONES.
"The Rebel Flesh" certainly looks like a classic, stand-alone Doctor Who story, but there are definitely clues here that this story may be much more important than it appears.
Of all the shows that could feature a guy getting a knife through the eyeball, a bludgeoning dwarf, a breast-feeding 7-year-old, a spontaneous equine decapitation, and a discussion of the economics of cadaver fucking, GAME OF THRONES has definitely become my favorite.
Since 1963 we've seen this mysterious blue box that promised to be the gateway to all the stories to come. And last night, after more than 47 years, we finally met her.
In such a heavily structured society as that of Westeros, what happens to the outcasts, the cast-offs, the people who just don't fit?
"The Curse of the Black Spot" isn't even going fun to crap all over. It's not horrible, it's just not much of anything at all. It's a filler episode, a budget-controlling episode, a go-do-this-while-we're-over-here-working-on-the-ones-that-matter episode.
I needed a new television addiction like I needed an ice-cold broadsword up the ass.
Last year's Doctor Who season opener, "The Eleventh Hour," was—by coincidence and design—a good jumping-on point for the series. With this year's season opener, on the other hand, Moffat seems to have different goals entirely, and "safe" is nowhere on the agenda.
I doubt anyone involved in the creation of Doctor Who would have predicted that the show would be thriving well into the new millennium, but—whether by accident or intention—there's no denying that they built this show to last.