Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

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I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Top 5: (Current) Character Deaths I Would Like to Facilitate

And to conclude, for now, my rather morbid fascination this week: characters I would kill.

This is off course purely in the realm of speculation, I have no control over any of this, but as a discerning (or overly opinionated, however you choose to see that) TV viewer, I have felt from time to time that certain shows could do without some characters and their ensuing storylines.  Even on the best of shows, there can be a lemon: a character who detracts to an extreme degree from the general awesomeness, or a character that just happens to annoy the ever living crap out of me.

Castiel, Supernatural
Sorry fangirls, this isn't personal, but if there is any hope for Supernatural to recapture it's glory, Castiel needs to die, and quick.  Remember when Sam and Dean were remotely competent at their job?  When they would find a mystery, investigate, and try try again until they found a solution?  Now they are sent on a job, call Bobby first thing, and then ask Castiel to fix it.  The former was engaging TV, the later is dull and baffling (if I were evil I wouldn't be afraid of these two either).  As much as I find Castiel amusing (and he really is), he's hobbled both the familial relationship between, and the professional capabilities of, Sam and Dean.  Goodbye Castiel, hello better show.

Becky, Friday Night Lights
(Alright, so this is cheating, since this show is technically finished, but I haven't watched all of it yet, so...)  I unapologetically morally disagree with Becky's choice to abort her child; I'm pro-life and always will be.  And yes, I know that sounds ridiculous within a post about how there are characters I would like to see no more of, and no more possibility of, on my nightly TV line-up.  But, that isn't why I'm putting her on this list.  Becky commits the fundamental sin in my book: she is dumb as shit.  She's not just not very bright, there are plenty of TV characters that are kind of dim (but their usually funny, making them sometimes/somewhat redeemable/useful), Becky is unrepentantly stupid.  She actively pursues, and insists that she is in love with, a guy that had sex with her mother!  Really?  Really?  It's like she saw The Graduate and thought it had a happy ending.  

Ezra, Pretty Little Liars
It isn't just the fact that Ezra is the (legal) adult in the most annoying relationship on any show I watch at the moment, but honestly that would be enough.  They are a blight on an otherwise entertaining show.  Every time Ezra and Aria interact I want to turn off PLL and never watch again.  Their insipid and repetitive conversations, mostly revolving around their inability to face the icky reality of their situation, eat up time that could be used so well with other characters.  Add on to this that Ezra has apparently never heard the term "statutory rape," and his hipster vests, and I just get beyond livid that on a show with such violent tendencies Ezra hasn't yet met with an "unfortunate accident."  Make this happen A.

Britta, Community
Boring.  So boring.  I think of Britta much like Mark on Parks and Recreation: a supposed love-interest that didn't pan out and then no one knew what to do with him.  And no one can argue that P and R has benefited immensely for swapping the sad-sack Mark for the amazing Ben (played by the oh so adorable Adam Scott) and the male-Leslie-Knope, aka Chris.  I'm not actually proposing to swap Britta for anyone, just kill her off and let the rest of the funny, messed-up, way-too-meta, darling characters get up to their high-jinks. And what couldn't Abed do with a major character death?  Meta-tastic!

Ser Alliser Thorne, Game of Thrones
This is purely, spitefully, because he is mean to Jon.  Which is evidence that he is bad at his job, and were this Soviet Russia, maybe that would be all the justification I would need.  There is being tough on your pupils in order to prepare them for difficult or unpleasant tasks, and then there is torturing young people because you are bitter about the way your life turned out.  Ser Alliser falls into camp B.  Bad enough, but, singling out Jon as his favorite punching bag is unforgivable in my eyes.  Jon doesn't need another person telling him that he is worthless, predisposed towards malevolence because his daddy wasn't married to his mommy, and that he was undeserving of the company of his siblings and attention of his father; he had enough of that growing up.  (Catelyn, I hate!)  There's nothing instructive or corrective about Ser Alliser's taunts and accusations; it is the jealous lashing out of a wretched man.  I'd welcome a bad end for him.

The TV Girl

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Top 5: Character Deaths I Rejoiced Over

I guess I've got death on the brain right now.  Oh well.  On we roll!

Not every character that bites the dust is a cause for tears and consternation.  Sometimes human beings, me specifically, are just vindictive bitches and we like to see a shit character get what he/she deserves.  And other times a character is so insufferable that being spared their presence makes for a much better, or at least less annoying, show.  Fictional worlds are better off without some people, that's just the way of it.

Coover, Justified
I'm sorry his mother smashed his hand with a hammer, that was sad, but Coover was frakking awful and I clapped in triumph when Raylan shot him and he fell into the mine shaft.  Coover wasn't just loud, vicious, useless, and a potential serial killer.  He was, jointly with his brother, responsible for Loretta being kidnapped by a pedophile, which caused her father to call the cops, an act of betrayal that Mags killed him for.  And then he tried to kill Loretta.  Done.  Coover had to go.  More than a necessary act of self-defense and defense of others, Coover's end was all the justice a little girl was going to get.

Ruby, Supernatural
Back in S4, when SPN wasn't a shameful disaster, there was a demon, a seal, and Sam.  But the real demon was Ruby, the seal was Lilith, and Sam was a pawn used to release Lucifer from his prison.  So even though it wouldn't change the outcome of events, Dean stabbed the crap out of Ruby, for the pure fact that she was an evil bitch, and it was perfect.  There was much shouting in my kitchen as the lights (literally) went out in Ruby's eyes.  It was nice to see Dean vindicated in his 2-season-long campaign espousing Ruby's evilness, it was canonical within the show (because a) if you have sex with Sam you're either going to die or you're evil and b) if you're an actress on the show who happens to be dating Jared Padalecki in real life your character will be killed), and honestly, another season of the rather grating Genevieve Padalecki (I believe it was Cortez at the time) wasn't what anyone needed.   Those were the days.

Trinity, Dexter
Since Dex is a vigilante, tracking down and methodically killing the vile people who escape the law, almost every episode of Dexter has a little thrill of seeing a bad person punished.  But, Dexter dispatching the Trinity killer was especially gratifying.  A season-long game of cat-and-mouse between Dexter and Trinity, perpetuated in equal parts by Trinity's "ordinary" facade and Dexter's reactionary existential crisis, culminated in both Trinity's release from his torment and Dexter's reclamation of his life's purpose.  It really was the world set to right, and who could help but be overjoyed by that?  Everything was glorious!  (Expect for that pesky fact that, unbeknownst to Dex, Trinity had brutally murdered Rita.  Depending on your perspective, this was a double win for Dexter.  I don't see it that way, but some people do.  Poor Rita.)

Marissa, The O.C.
Marissa dying in a car crash when her crazy-pants ex-boyfriend drove her car off the road was sad.  She was a whinny dumb-ass with very little personality and even less dignity, but Ryan loved her and you just wanted the kid to be happy, so as an audience we paused respectfully for Marissa's untimely demise.  Until S4, and it became clear just what a drain on the show she was and how fun things could be without her.  Freed from Marissa's endless self-pity and univocally bad life choices, the way was clear for the hilarious scheming of her younger sister Caitlin, the surprising heartwarming pairing of Ryan and Taylor, and Summer's transformation from vapid party girl to ideological crusader.  I wonder if the show runners had known just what an improvement Marissa's exit would be whether they would have killed her off sooner?

Jimmy, Sons of Anarchy
So many happy deaths to choose from I'm almost overwhelmed.  But for me, seeing Jimmy get got was magical.  Jimmy was a double-crossing little toad, without loyalty to either cause or kin, and everyone from the muckity-mucks of the true IRA to the Russian gun dealers wanted, and in some cases needed, him dead.  What made Jimmy's termination so fulfilling was that Chibs got to do the deed.  For Chibs it was a personal act of retribution against the man who stole his wife and a preemptive strike to prevent his daughter being raped.  No way around it, Jimmy had to die, but because Chibs hastened him to the afterlife there was a sense of cosmic balance to it that left this viewer in awe.

The TV Girl

Monday, June 27, 2011

Top 5: Character Deaths I Never Got Over

Some shows, like Lost, earn a badge of honor by how unexpectedly and ruthlessly characters can be killed off.  Other shows only kill characters when they have run out of all other melodramatic options.  In the former type you end up spend a great deal of your viewing time simply counting down the minutes until someone bites it, while in the later type the whole thing is so overwrought and drawn out you, instead of the character, end up feeling like the one who has been released from suffering by death.  But for shows that simply accept death as an essential part of the human experience, a character's death can be as irrevocable to the show and the viewer as that of a real-life loved one.  Here are 5 characters that I still get a little choked up when I see them on a re-watch/they're mentioned/something stupid happens on the show they vacated/the actor luckily went on to another job.

Ianto Jones, Torchwood
Pretty much everyone who could die was dead by the end of Torchwood.  (I'm not acknowledging this mythical S4 until it is in front of me, and even then I will probably ignore it, so as far as I'm concerned this show is at its end.)  Owen and Tosh were sad, Jack's grandson was gruesome, but Ianto was just unforgivable.  Loyal, kind, competent Ianto stood by Jack's side, ultimately to his detriment.  His love outweighed his sense of self-preservation, and the futile nobility of it was heartbreaking.

Donna, Sons of Anarchy
In the timeline of the show, Donna has been dead for less than 6 months (I think, I might be off about this).  At the end of S1 Donna was gunned down by Tig, mistaking her for Opie, on Clay's order because Stahl framed Opie as a rat.  There is a lot of human collateral damage on this show, but Donna will always be the benchmark of tragedy.  As Donna drove down the street we waited for some miracle, something that would stop the forthcoming devastation, but in the unrelenting candor that is SoA, there was no such rescue.  In a shower of bullets Donna's life, the opposing forces of which she had recently rectified, spilled on the street.    And as far as I'm concerned, Charming will never be the same.

Chris, Skins
I cried and cried and cried.  I might cry thinking about it.  I have re-watched Skins S1 and 2 up until the end of "Chris" and I cannot get any farther knowing that in the penultimate episode of S2 funny, messy, loving Chris will fall victim to the same genetic condition that killed his brother Peter.  I, like Cassy, just want to run away from it.

Fred, Angel
Fred.  Seriously, Fred.  Fred survived being trapped on a demon planet where she nearly lost her mind hiding in caves, got rescued and sane again, fell in love twice, became an essential member of Team Angel and the successful scientist that she was always meant to be, only then to have her soul burned to cinder when an ancient demon took over her body.  It would have been sad on it's own, but what pushes Fred past the limits of tolerance for character death is that after she died the thing that killed her walked around in her body, mentally and emotionally torturing the people who loved Fred, especially Wesley.  Without Fred, Wesley succumbed to a world without hope and (essentially) drank himself to death.  Even judged on the Whedon-Scale-of-Tragedy, this was horrifying.  

Billy, Battlestar Galactica
Characters of greater significance died (and came back) on BSG, and for the most part, they were all sad, but for me, Billy's death was too much.  Mostly because it was so unnecessary.  Billy wasn't a solider, he was an administrative aid with a very good heart who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So despite the fact that she was on a date with another guy, Billy sacrificed himself for that bitch Dualla!!!  Yes, that is my interpretation of events, feel free to disagree with me.  He was trying to be a hero, because by being with Lee, Dualla was clearly stating that Billy wasn't the kind of man she wanted, and so he made a very foolish choice based on that impetus.  So, a good and ordinary person, the kind of people that the fleet was supposed to be protecting in order to rebuild the human race, died, casting doubt on the efficacy of the Galactica crew, and reminding us (as every episode tended to do) that there would be no (lasting) relief for the remains of civilization.  Oh, and if all that didn't make you want to crawl into a hole, because Billy died we were subjected to the unmitigated atrocity that was Lee and Dualla's marriage.  Shudder.  Puke.  Shudder.

The TV Girl

P.S. Yes, I know that there is a SIGNIFICANT character death on Game of Thrones that I haven't written up yet (actually that I haven't watched yet, long story), but I can't even begin to tell you how upset/outraged/frustrated I am about that.  But I will tell you, eventually, later this week, I hope.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Weekend Fling: Monday Monday, Season 1

I'm going to have to rename my blog "What Andrea Watched When She Couldn't Sleep."

The combination of a nasty head cold and the emotional fall-out of some dear dear friends moving out of DC made sleep an impossibility the other night.  So good old Netflix rescued me with Monday Monday Season 1.

Okay, maybe rescued is too strong a word, because honestly, this show isn't fantastic.  It's not terrible, but I'm pretty sure if it were different circumstances I wouldn't have picked the ease of just clicking "next episode" until I finished and the sun came up.

Monday Monday is one of those workplace comedy/dramas and our main protagonist is the overworked and unappreciated Sally (Morven Christie), who just happens to be as romantically challenged as she is professionally stagnate.  In the employ of faltering supermarket chain Butterworths, Sally is the PA (personal assistant, I know that should go without saying, but it took me forever to figure it out, maybe the accents) to HR Manager Christine (Fay Ripley), a hardcore alcoholic.  The company is down on it's luck, with the recession and all, so the headquarters has just moved from London to Leeds, and despite the fact that her job is awful, Sally makes the move.  It might be that her fiancee has just called off their wedding.  To improve performance, the board has hired watchdog Aylson (Holly Aird), much to the chagrin of longtime head Roger (Peter Wight) and his faithful PA Jenny (Jenny Agutter).  Trying to give her new life a shot, Sally goes home with Steven (Tom Ellis), a nice fellow she meets in a bar, and as if throwing up in his shoes weren't humiliating enough, it turns out Steven is Alyson's PA, and secret boyfriend.

Things proceed pretty much as you'd expect: Alyson is so career driven she'll stop at nothing to cut the dead weight, but when her life circumstances change it might turn out that she has a heart after all; Christine abuses Sally relentlessly by forcing her to do all the work for the department while demanding constant reassurance of her worthiness before flitting in and out of rehab; Sally and Steven fall in love, but he just can't seem to get disentangled from that pesky affair with his boss.  There are a few surprises: Christine isn't keeping her job in the way that you'd expect; Roger has additional reasons for being suspicious of and resenting Alyson.  But by the end, mostly you just find out that these people are a lot less pleasant than the genial format and comfortable staging would like you to believe.

As a girl filled with shame and regret about the life choices that lead to her soul crushingly dead-end job and who hasn't even managed to bother to like a guy in the last 5 years, you would think I would really connect to a show like this, feel a deep empathy for Sally and her struggles.  And to an extent I did.  It is sad to see a basically decent person mired in mediocrity and humiliation.  I wanted better for Sally.  But then I just got mad about this stupid lie that TV is trying to tell women: just wait around at your crappy job because that really cute guy you happen to work with will eventually fall in love with you.  Uggg, enough.

So, aside from insomnia, is there any reason to watch Monday Monday?  The cast is pretty good.  They approach their characters (as limited or grating as those may be) in a straightforward and polished way: no one really changes all that much, but you easily believe that they are who they are.  And Tom Ellis really is quite handsome, so there's that in the plus column.  Miranda Hart (the amazing comedian who stars in the phenomenal show Miranda, (which also features Tom Ellis)) has a small part, playing the tall half of a PA team both named Karen.  Ms. Hart is an unending delight to watch; she is so distinct and remarkable, her humor both dry and slapstick, so even though she is a very minor character, she really brightens up the show.

Essentially, Monday Monday is a pass-the-time show.  Neither exceptional nor dreadful, it fills in the space that you aren't interested in filling with anything you care about.

The TV Girl

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Game of Thrones: First Impressions Aren’t Often Wrong

(1.07 “You Win or You Die”)

In the sea of red, the Lannister camp, the mighty Tywin Lannister is skinning a stag.  Yes, that both is and is not a metaphor.  There’s no better time to have a heart-to-heart with your son than while removing the entrails and skin of a recently deceased animal.  Tywin’s not so impressed with his son Jaime, rebuking him for attacking Ned, but also for letting Ned live.  Despite believing Jaime has wasted his potential so far, Tywin insists on giving him 30,000 men to go retrieve Tyrion, who though the lowest of the Lannisters is still family, and if a Lannister can be abducted without retribution then their name will no longer be feared.  And it is the name that will live on after the current generations have passed, so Tywin’s done waiting for Jaime to decide to be the man he is supposed to be.  In King’s Landing Ned and Cersei have a singularly unpleasant conversation about paternity.  Ned reveals that he knows Cersei’s children are Jaime’s and that that fact is what Jon Arryn died for.  Unashamed, Cersei explains that, as twins, she and Jaime belong together, and that when she first married Robert she loved him, but he was still in love with Lyanna (Ned’s dead sister).  Ned encourages Cersei to take her children and get as far from King’s Landing as possible, because he’s going to tell Robert the truth.  Cersei practically laughs in his face, chiding him that he should have taken the throne the day the city fell during the rebellion, since after all “when you play the game of thrones you win or you die, there is no middle ground.”  Littlefinger has a new employee, Ros the whore of the north, but she isn’t up to par.  Littlefinger gives her some advice about sexually satisfying her clients, she has to go slow enough to convince them to forget that they paid her, which makes for a nice analogy to how he must proceed in his pursuit of the girl and the glory.  Theon seems sadly affected by Ros’ relocation, because he tries to get friendly with Osha after they have a really confusing geography/etiquette discussion.  Maester Luwin interrupts, which is probably for the best, since Osha looks like she could break Theon in half, which he might have preferred to being reminded that a hostage can be treated very well.  After Theon beats a hasty retreat, Osha clues Luwin in to the fact that there are some monsters stirring in the woods north of the wall.  Atop the wall, Jon and Sam see a horse approaching from the north, but without a rider.  It turns out to be Benjen Stark’s horse, but without a trace of Benjen, an understandably upsetting event for Jon.  Ned’s upset too; due to the fact that Renly runs up to him to tell him that Robert’s been gored by a boar while hunting.  Hobbling to the sickroom, Ned finds Robert, surrounded by friends and family, telling Joffery that he should have been a better father, and then he kicks them all out so he can talk to Ned.  Robert knows he’s dying, and that he hasn’t left the kingdom in the best of shape, so he charges Ned as Protector of the Realm, to help Joffery be a better king than he was.  He has Ned take down his last testament, but Ned balks, and instead of writing Joffery he writes “true heir,” unable to tell Robert on his deathbed the monstrous lie his life is, but unwilling to perpetuate Joffery’s fake claim to the throne.  Finally, Robert informs Ned that he’s changed his mind about Dany, and to do what he can to stop the assassins sent after her.  Leaving Robert to be heavily medicated, Ned lets Varys know about Robert’s changed of heart, but Varys has some bad news of his own, for it’s his opinion that it’s too late to call back the birds on Dany’s death.  Not yet knowing the danger she’s in, across the sea Dany is having some trouble convincing Drogo that he should pursue the Iron Throne, because though his son will be the stallion that mounts the world, he believes the world ends at the sea.  Dany is frustrated.  Nothing like a walk to make you feel better.  Jorah and Dany go walking in a market, where he takes off to see if there are any letters for him.  The letter he’s been waiting for actually has arrived; his royal pardon!  Time for Jorah to go on home.  But when he walks back towards Dany he sees a wine merchant chatting her up, trying to give her a fine cast as a gift.  Suspicious, Jorah insets himself, demanding that the merchant try the wine, and Dany picks up on his wariness.  Knowing he’s made, the wine merchant/assassin makes a break for it, but Dany’s bodyguards catch him in no time flat.  Maybe Jorah is more committed to Dany than he thought.  Back on the Wall Jorah’s dad has some news of his own, assignments in fact.  Jon and his class are ready to take their vows, to be men of the Night’s Watch, in one of three departments: builders, stewards, or rangers.  Sam and Jon are joking around, both kind of happy, and agreeing to take their vow in front of a heart tree/the old gods.  That is, until Commander Mormont reads from his list, naming Jon a steward.  Shock.  Furious at being named a glorified maid for the rest of his life, he storms off.  Sam, being the good friend and voice of reason that he is, follows Jon, and doesn’t even mention that Jon told him moments before that there is honor in being a steward.  He explains to Jon, that despite the fact that he’s wanted to be a ranger forever, by being the Lord Commander’s steward, Jon will be groomed for future leadership.  And as just another example of why Sam is awesome, instead of leaving Jon to feel like shit for acting like a shit, he tells him that he always wanted to be a wizard when he was growing up.  It’s funny.  Not so funny is Renly approaching Ned suggesting that they take Cersei and her kids into custody and crown Renly himself instead of his older brother, and Robert’s heir, Stannis.  Ned has two problems with that, the first that he won’t disturb Robert’s last hours by apprehending his “family” and the second that Stannis is the rightful successor and Ned isn’t just going to ignore that because Stannis is unqualified.  Littlefinger goes to visit Ned, whose just sent a letter to Stannis.  Littlefinger encourages Ned to support Joffery’s claim, to act as the protector, thereby rule by proxy, and if Joffery proves unmanageable they can reveal his paternity.  Ned refuses, determined that they follow the letter of the law, which puts him in an awkward position.  Knowing that he doesn’t have enough men to stop her if Cersei decides she won’t go quietly, Ned haltingly tries to ask without asking if Littlefinger can bribe the Gold Cloaks to fight for them.  Littlefinger, sensing and taking advantage of his distress, agrees to support his plan, since after all, the Gold Cloaks protect the man that pays them.  Ready to forsake all payment, Jon, Sam and some witnesses head beyond the Wall to the heart tree.  Jon and Sam say their vow, rise men of the Night’s Watch, and there are hugs.  It’s wonderful.  Until…Ghost comes bounding up with a human hand in his mouth.  Ick.  Loosing a hand is the least of the wine merchant/assassin’s worries, seeing as he’s tied up in a tent and Jorah tells Dany he’s going to be dragged behind the horses in the morning, whether he can walk or not.  Drogo arrives, checks on Dany, and then proclaims for all that he will take the Iron Throne.  It’s on bitch.  King Joffery might want to watch out.  Yes, the little squint is on the throne, summoning Ned to bend the knee and prepare for his coronation.  Undaunted, Ned produces Robert’s will, which Cersei tears up, almost laughing in Ned’s face.  With a nod to the Gold Cloaks, Ned calls for her arrest.  With a second nod the Gold Cloaks slaughter Ned’s men.  With a knife to his throat, Littlefinger remind Ned that he told him not to trust him.

From a certain perspective, this wasn’t the most exciting episode: light on the sword fights and the wow-I-didn’t-see-that-coming information, heavy on the talking and the veiled threats.  I can see how this thought could cross someone’s mind, but instead of focusing on what this episode wasn’t, let’s look at what it was, namely a perfectly crafted succession of conversations: sifting through the fragments left behind by momentous acts, arranging the pieces to (perceived) best effect.

And the mighty Tywin is on the scene now.  Whatever your disagreement with his message, you have to admit, there is no better way to get across that you mean business than to scold your child while skinning a giant animal that represents the house of your enemy.  Tywin’s cold precision, as if the entrails he was discarding were an afterthought, brilliantly reflected his estimation of Jaime, a man he sees as having wasted his talents in ways that do not solidify the Lannister’s as the house that will always be respected.  It can only emphasis your words of disappointment in your golden son when you say them wiping blood from your hands.  Tywin stages his scene masterfully, both reiterating Jaime’s flaws, as well as acting out what he is trying to make Jaime understand; it is by methodical pursuit, not rash outburst, will the enemy fear him.  The joyous irony is of course that Tywin doesn’t address, either because he doesn’t know or he doesn’t want to know, Jaime’s gravely misguided behavior that will really bring shame on the Lannisters.  Tywin doesn’t see his children as individuals, as people, he sees them as Lannisters, and it sort of makes sense that if you view your family as an undifferentiated whole, you might not notice that Jaime and Cersei were more attached than brother and sister should be.  Tywin misses this big issue, but because he makes no distinction between a Lannister and the Lannisters, he also misses the small ones.  Tywin doesn’t hear in Jaime’s voice that he loves Tyrion, that Jaime isn’t concerned that Catelyn abducted a Lannister, he’s concerned about his brother’s welfare, and in missing that, Tywin misses that he and his son are to some extent talking across purposes.  Tywin can browbeat and manipulate his son into acting the way he wants him to, but unless he can convince him to care about the same things, he will never really have his son’s loyalty.      

And loyalty is hard to come by.  I pretty much ignore Dany and all that in my analysis, and there’s a pretty simple reason.  I don’t care.  I don’t find her a particularly compelling character, since she is, as yet, pretty much a blank slate that everyone draws his or her desires upon.  Furthermore, everyone is pretty much in agreement that a “claim” to the Iron Throne is determined on whether you can take it and keep it, not on any cosmic ordination of legitimacy, so Dany doesn’t provide any kind of just contrast to Robert’s dynasty; her family could not keep their crown, so she would be equally a usurper to Robert that Robert was to her father.  Therefore it’s hard to think of her as some underdog that we really want to root for.  What she is, a trait that could help her become more interesting, is pragmatic.  She doesn’t turn away from reality in front of her, no matter how unpleasant it is.  She is not always good at recognizing initially a situation for what it is, she needed Jorah to point out that there was something fishy about the wine merchant, but she ties him naked to her horse as the preferred punishment of her adopted people, taking the situation for what it is.  In this way, she is much like Tywin Lannister.  But with a marked difference: Dany engenders loyalty because she inspires love.   

Sorry, I must digress into my love for just a moment.  I love the Night’s Watch’s vow, the actual words.  I read it over and over again in the book, just relishing how finely balanced the simple sentence structure is, how it builds to this sense of heroic finality, how it is a straightforward ideology that completely stands apart from the every shifting ambiguity of thought all the other characters are either trying to figure out or trying to manipulate.  Watching Jon and Sam take their vow, and then Jon help Sam stand up, actually got me a little choked up.  Here are these young men who have no place in the world, who are reviled and mistrusted for no other reason than birth or disposition, and with a single paragraph they are give a code by which they can structure their lives and orient their hearts.  I love it. 

And I love Sam.  Yes, it’s a total must-have for the fantasy genera to have a fat sidekick named Sam, but Sam Tarly is sort of magical.  Maybe he could have been a wizard.  Sam has that rare combination of humility and low self-worth that allows him to see what is best in other people even if he cannot always see what is best in himself.  He doesn’t indulge Jon’s (correct) paranoia that Thorne has gotten his revenge by denying him a position as a ranger, because Sam knows Jon doesn’t need that.  (I’ll admit, when I was reading the book and Jon was named to the stewards I actually let go of my book to clap my hands over my mouth in surprise, and then I was super thankful that I was reading on my bed because it was my Nook, and it had fallen on the floor it might have broken, and then I would have been really unhappy.)  He know that his friend has spent his life being told what he won’t have, he needs to be told what he can have, what his commander is giving him a chance to earn.  And he doesn’t leave Jon to feel unhappy, he gets him to laugh, coupling comfort with correction.  Sam’s father was an idiot: Sam would have made a wonderful lord. 

Don’t we all kind of wish Ned had a friend like Sam in King’s Landing.  I suppose at one time that was Robert (or maybe more likely Robert was Jon and Ned was Sam, but this isn’t really important).  It most certainly isn’t Littlefinger.  It never occurs to Ned, a man who wants so little, that Littlefinger could want so much, could want to punish Ned for ending up married to the woman he loves (I still say, Catelyn, really?) as well as position himself for whatever his next move will be.  The saddest part is that in this case, Jaime’s assessment of Ned is true: “brave man, terrible judgment.”  Littlefinger made his views clear, told Ned outright what he wanted for the kingdom, Joffery to be king, and how that was going to be achieved, through money, and Ned willfully ignored all that.  Ned limps towards his own doom because he is participating in a game that he is not acknowledging, and it is just heartbreaking.

The TV Girl

Monday, June 6, 2011

Top 10: Shows That Could Be Used For Therapy

KP and I were texting yesterday.  At the end of the exchange she informed me that since she was having kind of a rough day she was going to watch some Friday Night Lights for therapy.  I heartily encouraged her in her plan, and it got me thinking.  There's art therapy, music therapy, but could there be TV therapy? So here is my suggestion of what to watch if you are experiencing some of the common difficulties that drive people to the couch.

If You're Grieving Watch: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Sounds counter intuitive, but if you've lost someone the little show about the girl who saved the world over and over is exactly what you need.  At it's core, Buffy is a show about how we live day to day with the inevitability of death, and slowly but surely this show will reveal to you that there is no easy answer to that conundrum of humanity, but rather an ever shifting balance of love, humor, sacrifice, bravery, and purpose that must always be reevaluated with each new experience.

If You're Heartbroken Watch: How I Met Your Mother
What better way to come to terms with you romantic disappointment then to watch how it is possible to re-frame your own failures, humiliations, and triumphs in love as pieces of the whole person you have to become in order to find a fulfilling relationship?  It's simple everything-happens-for-a-reason, but post break-up who can remember that?  Let Ted, Marshall, Lily, Barney and Robin remind you.

If You're Having an Identity Crisis Watch: The Big Bang Theory
The geek-gods of TBBT are absolutely and completely themselves.  Even Leonard, uncomfortable with being dismissed by women and the social stigmas associated with being a nerd, ultimately lives his life as the person he is.  You might not want to emulate their taste in movies or hobbies, but we should all want to be that determined to love what we love, to be the fullest version of ourselves, no matter what anyone says.

If You're Having a Career Crisis Watch: Spaced
Spaced is my go-to safety blanket show: I curl it around me to protect and comfort me in almost any mood I might be in.  But, if you happen to be in the midst of a professional meltdown this is what you want.  Tim, Daisy, Brian, Mike and Twist bounce constantly between knowing what they want to do with their lives and the external/internal obstacles hindering their achievement of those goals.  Sometimes it's the circumstances (lousy job market) and sometimes it's us (laziness), but there will be a time in life when you're not the shiny star of your field.  But if you can have as much fun despite that as these North Londoners do, you're doing just fine.

If You're Having (Temporary) Insomnia Watch: Castle
A prolonged sleep problem (which sucks more than you can imagine if you don't have one) requires much different coping mechanisms, but if you're experiencing a short bout of disruption to your normal sleep pattern, Castle is excellent company for the wee hours.  As a show that really has something for everyone it's pretty much the O Negative of TV: charming cast, fun mysteries, exciting chases, tender family moments, requited-but-not love, wit galore. If you are to be denied the sweet restoration of a good night's sleep this perfect balance of highs and lows, joys and sorrows will help those hours pass blissfully.

If You're Having Anxiety Watch: Sons of Anarchy
Again, counter intuitive.  Seems like the last thing that would help anxiety would be a show about a gun-running biker gang that is relentlessly violent and soul-scorchingly tragic. Never ever underestimate the power of catharsis.  A single episode of SoA will stretch your nerves past the point you would think possible and then shatter them like glass, leaving you completely wrung out but immensely more relaxed that you were before.

If You're Overwhelmed Watch: Friday Night Lights
We all make mistakes.  We all do things for which we think can never be forgiven.  We all face challenges we think we can never overcome.  We all confront the defeat inherit in our human limitation.   Inertia is a common response, but often that is the route to despair.  Or, there is the FNL route.  FNL offers an example of the unwavering belief that a life lived with dignity and humility is essentially beautiful and valuable; that the only true failure is to turn adversity into bitterness.  We won't always win the big game, but that doesn't mean we lost, as long as we persevere.

If You're Having Family Conflict Watch: The Riches
Imagine if all your ordinary family problems were compounded by living under a revolving door of assumed identities and sustaining your lifestyle by a series of ruses and rooks.  I promise, the Malloys will make you think your family is functional and normal, in an at-least-I'm-better-off-than-that type way.  Most families get the chance to deal with their problems but if you are preoccupied by what your name is this week and which string of your web of lies that you need to pull, it's more than likely that more typical family conflicts will not receive the attention necessary for resolution.  So at least that's not your family, right?

If You're Contemplating the Ultimate Meaning of the Universe Watch: Lost
Because any philosophy/belief system/principles/life path that you can come up with on your own is better than this gibberish.

If You're Rendered Incapable by Fear Watch: Pushing Daisies
Fear is totally natural, it's part of our instinct for self-preservation.  But allowed to run wild fear can swallow our life.  Every character on Pushing Daisies was afraid of something, and more often than not that fear led them to keep secrets that eventually hurt someone they loved.  Even so, the Pie Maker and his cohorts all faced the choice between fear and the bright magical colorful world and (eventually) none of them picked fear.  This show threw the world into relief: everything was just a bit exaggerated because (every so often) that is how we have to see the world in order to remember that it really is a miraculous gift to us and our fear will never be worth loosing that.

The TV Girl

Game of Thrones: Justice, Too, Is an Abstract Concept

(1.06 "A Golden Crown")

I'm feeling this unbearable self-pity about my job lately (I don't like being a harpy, it just happens) but then I remember that at least if I were to get stabbed through the leg by my boss' spouse's sibling then I would probably get workman's comp, so life really isn't that bad.

Ned wakes to find Cersei and Robert hovering over him, obviously very concerned about his well-being after Jaime’s attack.  He takes the blame for Catelyn’s abduction of Tyrion, an act according to Cersei is the highest act of treason.  She justifies Jaime’s attack of Ned (and the murder of Jory) by claiming that Ned was stumbling drunk out a brothel and attacked first.  Everyone has the good grace not to laugh at how preposterous that is.  Cersei cannot keep her mouth shut, telling Robert off for being to weak to punish Ned and Robert slaps her across the face.  Ned does nothing, she leaves.  Robert insists that he doesn’t care “what happened between you and those yellow-haired shits” and that since the kingdom owes a great deal of money to one Tywin Lannister, Ned has to make peace by having Cat return Tryion and not pursuing Jaime (whose bound home to Casterly Rock). Robert reinstates Ned as Hand and goes off hunting.  Across the Narrow Sea Dany contemplates her dragon eggs, deciding to put one in the fire.  When she takes it out her servant grabs the hot rock out of her hands.  Dany’s hands are unburned, unlike her overly zealous employee.  North in Winterfell, Bran dreams of walking after the three-eyed crow again, waking to his newly finished saddle.  While Bran rides whooping through the forest, Theon tries to convince Robb that he must call the Winterfell bannermen to pursue Jaime for his attack on Ned.  Robb reminds Theon that neither of them have the right, but that Theon doesn’t even have the duty, as he is not a Stark.  Riding out of sight, Bran is set upon by wildlings on their way south, who could make good use of his shiny pin and his pretty horse.  Robb manages to kill two and take one, but the leader gets a knife to Bran’s throat.  As Robb is about to surrender, Theon puts an arrow through the wildlings back, barely missing Bran.  The Starks have a new hostage; the woman (who happens to be played by one Natalia Tena, aka Harry Potter’s Tonks) surrenders and throws herself on Robb’s mercy.  Robb is less forgiving to Theon, furious for almost killing Bran, but Theon is less than apologetic, for in his eyes “there was only one thing to do so I did it.”  Tyrion is in less than comfortable circumstances, rolling over in his sleep only to wake and find himself dangling off the sheer drop from his sky cell.  Eager to get out, he calls Mord the turnkey, but isn’t able to convey the concept of bribery to the simplistic Mord.  Arya, distressed by her family’s loss and maiming, is a bit quicker on the uptake, quickly grasping Syrio’s point that since battle takes place in times of trouble she must learn to focus on the moment.  But Syrio is both fighter and philosopher, for according to Syrio, there is only one God, Death, and the only thing one says to Death is “not today.”  Dany is having a big day in the sacred city of the horse lords, partaking in a ritual where she eats an uncooked horse heart and a wise-woman proclaims prophecy about her unborn baby.  Viserys is less than impressed that Dany’s son will be the stallion who mounts the world and unites all people into one herd.  Angry over the love and respect shown to Dany by the Dothraki, Viserys tries to steal her dragon eggs to fund his invasion plans.  Jorah stops him, unmoved by Viserys’ argument that he cannot lead without “wealth or fear or love” and forces Viserys to drop the eggs before letting him go.  After another false start, Tyrion convinces Mord to take a message to Lysa for him: Tyrion is ready to confess his sins.  Prepared for some gloating, Lysa summons the nobles and the knights to witness, but everyone gets a bit of a surprise.  Tyrion launches into an amusing account of his many transgressions: whoring, gambling, even filling his uncle’s boots with goat shit.  As interested in his stories as Robin is, when Catelyn reminds Tyrion that he stands accused of hiring someone to kill Bran and conspiring to kill Jon Arryn, Tryion takes the crowd to task for the shame of justice Lysa is putting on.  He demands a trial by combat, to which many a knight wants to stand for Lady Arryn.  Tyrion upsets the applecart, asking for his brother Jaime as his champion, but Lysa refuses to send for him.  Facing a hostile room, Tyrion searchs the faces for anyone who’ll stand for him, and at the last second Bronn the sellsword steps forward.  Tramping through the forest looking for something to kill, Robert waxes poetic about the good old days of forthright enemies and willing women.  Renly counter-argues that the good old days were bloody and bleak, finally furiously storming off.  Somewhat unfazed, Robert keeps on a drinking.  Ned could use a drink too, listening to the complaints of the kingdom in Robert’s stead.  Men from the Riverlands have come to tell their tale of woe: brigands are burning their crops, raping their women, setting their children on fire, and leaving fish, the symbol of House Tully, all over the place.  The men describe their attacker as lead by a huge man, clearly Ser Gregor the Mountain.  Littlefinger, in the most hilariously obvious manipulation, asks if there is any reason Tywin Lannister would send his mad dog against Cat’s people.  Ned, ever brave and not at all falling for Petyr’s bullpucky, denounces Ser Gregor, names him an outlaw, assigns Ser Beric Donndarion to take 100 men to apprehend him, and summons Tywin Lannister to court to answer for his bannerman.  Littlefinger, suddenly nervous about goading Ned into declaring war, reminds Ned that coin trumps soldiers, a point Ned scoffs at, for “why then is Robert king and not Tywin Lannister.”  Back in the Eyrie, Tyrion is hoping that the combination of coin and soldier can win his freedom, as the single combat battle over his innocence beings.  After a few minutes of slash-and-dash around the room the tide turns for Bronn, and he battles the champion of the Eyrie to the Moon Door, the hole in the floor that drops one hundreds of feet as the form of “elegant” capital punishment the Eyrie has to offer.  With a last significant examination of Cat and Lysa, Bronn executes his opponent and “makes him fly.”  Catelyn doesn’t look.  Now freed from his shackles, Tyrion gets his money back, bows to the (former) Tully ladies and takes his leave to head home.  Sansa has a look of displeasure similar to her mother’s, as she baits and bitches at her septa, but when Joffery arrives she’s all smiles.  Apologizing with a necklas, Joffery promises Sansa that she is his lady and he will never be cruel or neglectful of her again.  Proving herself to be a real cheep date, Sansa falls all over herself to forgive him.  Ned, finally, decided to send Sansa and Arya home, a decision met with much protestation.  Arya doesn’t want to leave Syrio, Sansa wants to marry Joffery and give him golden haired baby lions.  Arya reminds her that his father’s house is a stag, but Sansa insists that Joffery is nothing like Robert.  Struck by thought, Ned sends his daughters to pack and consults the book on the Houses of Westeros that Jon Arryn was reading before his death.  Turns out Baratheon men have been dark haired, up until Joffery.  Ned is on to something.  Viserys thinks he’s onto something too when he shows up to dinner drunk, and assaulting Dany.  Demanding the crown he was promised in exchange for Dany, Viserys threatens to cut out her baby for Drogo to keep when Viserys takes Dany back.  Drogo agrees to give him his crown, and once Dany is safe, takes Viserys in hand, melts the golden belt he was wearing, and crowns Viserys by pouring the melted metal over his head.  Dany will not turn away, disgusted by her brother, who would not have been burned if he were a true dragon.

For some reason this episode took me forever to write up.  I ended up watching it three times, but just couldn’t get around it to putting thoughts to keyboard.

So, is there justice in the Seven Kingdoms?

Depends on who you ask. 

I have been waiting for Tyrion’s trial in the Eyrie since this show started (yes, six weeks, patience is not my thing) and I was not disappointed.  It was brilliant.  A shiver ran up my spine when Lysa described flinging someone hundreds of feet to be dashed upon the rocks as the “elegant” form of execution.  In a single word, delivered by a disturbed woman, the breach between fact and expression in the Eyrie, and by extension the rest of the kingdom, lit up like a Christmas tree.  To call an ugly thing by a pretty name only makes the ugly thing uglier.  And Tyrion called her the frak out on her hypocrisy, using it to earn his freedom! Because he isn’t willfully turning away from reality Tyrion could use the tools available to him in order to actually get a chance at justice.  Watching him wind up the crowd with smutty stories to then spring the trap that he deserved to be treated equally under the king’s law was like being balanced on a pin: the viewer’s tense expectation paralleled Tryion’s forced restraint as he used his captor’s ammunition against them.  The battle of looks between Catelyn and Tyrion was a perfect mirror to the sword fight between the champions: him allowing himself only as much exuberance as would be a balance to her alarm as she saw her case fail in the clash.  Maybe saddest of all, at the moment of death for the brave knight, who just had the bad luck to be picked for a thankless task by his nutso lady, Catelyn closed her eyes.  She demanded a trial but could not face the consequences, expressly opposed to what her husband taught their sons.  

Ned does not close his eyes.  He’s perfectly aware that Littlefinger is making a show of baiting him in front of the court, but part of his job as Hand is to keep the king’s peace, to pursue justice for those under the king’s protection, and even knowing that his action could, and probably will, provoke war, he proceeds.  Though there is the possibility that his denunciation of Ser Gregor is tainted by his silence when Robert strikes Cersei.  I wouldn’t, but the argument is there. 

Is Theon’s argument really there though?  Does Robb have any right to act in his father’s place if it meant a chance to right the wrong done against him?  Robb balks due to his own lack of authority, Theon demonstrates the authority of pragmatism.  

No matter what side of the justice issue you fall on, there’s one point upon which all can agree.  There is a war coming and EVERYONE knows it.  From the king and his counselors to the whores and the cart drivers, all of Westeros seems pretty aware that the state of things is soon to become no longer tenable.

But for the record, if Peter Dinklage doesn’t get an Emmy then there is no justice in this world. 

The TV Girl

I'm basically adding this picture just because he's hot, not because it helps me prove a point.