Television

Game of Thrones season 4 finale

How are you feeling, fellow book readers? It’s entirely possible that, like many of those who have read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series to-date, you are feeling left out in the cold a bit. You might find that your hands are cold. Your blood may be turning black. Your Belwas might not be so strong. Your honeypot could have run dry. Your heart, full of stone. If you’re caught in that ever-frustrating book reader loop that involves focusing on what the show didn’t give you rather than enjoying what it has given you, this season four finale of Game of Thrones might spell trouble. But enough of this advanced recapping cryptology. Let’s get into these Game of Thrones spoilers.

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Game of Thrones: Episode 410

When Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said this past week that their season four finale was their finest yet, it was easy to disregard at the time. Of course they thought it was their best, as any creator might. Little did we know at the time that they were absolutely correct. Season four’s final frame wasn’t just the end of a long, bloody and brilliant season of television. It also serves as an unexpectedly hopeful and wondrous start to the next chapter. When does season five start, again?

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BBC America

The penultimate episode of Orphan Black‘s second season takes the somewhat unusual tactic — for this show anyway — of actually wrapping up story-lines instead of inundating viewers with dozens more. The biggies are still left dangling of course, but two of the clones have their immediate threats dealt with in some fairly conclusive (and highly entertaining) ways. The remaining three — Sarah, Cosima and Rachel — see their story threads intertwined even tighter as the race to use the medical miracle that is Kira leads to her abduction. It’s an understandably dramatic moment, but some sloppy writing mutes some of its effect. Still, we’re set for one hell of a final episode next week as a mother’s wrath kicks into overdrive.

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Game of Thrones Spoilers: The Watchers on The Wall

What’s going to happen in the season finale? Who else has to die to satisfy the bloodlust of gods old and new? Plenty of questions will be answered in the next week by Game of Thrones, but so many more will likely be posed as the show finishes its massively entertaining fourth season. In this week’s spoiler discussion, I’m opening it up to all of you to discuss your theories about how GoT will finish season four. With not a lot of spoilery talk to be had about episode 9 — it was a big battle with a few logistical changes, but overall it was in line with the tone of what happened in the book — perhaps it’s best to look forward. But first, the spoiler warning…

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The Magic School Bus

“Magic School Bus, the old version, is remarkably popular on Netflix. It teaches science in a way that transcends generations.” Very true, Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. Magic School Bus does transcend generations — it taught my generation all about human innards, ecosystems and the benefits of dangerous, unplanned field trips. It’s why the show continues to be re-run on TV for today’s youth, and why those same re-runs are also extremely popular Netflix streamables. And it’s for these same reasons that Magic School Bus will be rebooted. To better appeal to…today’s youth. Doesn’t make much sense, but it might if Ms. Frizzle explained it to us.

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Keith Carradine and Billy Bob Thornton in Fargo

This week, for the penultimate episode of Fargo, I’d like to start with the title. I normally leave that for the end of the recap, but for once I found there to be a very clear meaning as it relates to the plot of the show. The name of tonight’s installment, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage,” is one variation of a classic riddle that most of us probably heard in elementary school. I don’t have to state the idea behind it, because for the second episode in a row we got to hear Agent Budge (Keegan Michael Key) lay the title’s origin out directly. The main thing is it’s about trying to keep predators away from prey (or more simply, keeping one thing from another thing that the first thing would eat) while transporting them all together. Similarly, the premise of this episode involved multiple situations where characters kept nearly coming into alignment where one of them would have been killed. That caused this to be the most suspenseful episode yet. Especially after some new characters were eliminated rather quickly (so much for my excitement with Stephen Root‘s joining the cast, though he was good while he lasted) and this being so close to the end of the show, it just seemed more deaths could come at any moment. I took it as though showrunner Noah Hawley and director (and former child actor) Matt Shakman were dealing with their own variation of the riddle, where they had to maneuver the characters around in ways to […]

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Allison Tolman

If you’ve been holding off on watching Fargo, the television spin-off of Joel and Ethan Coen‘s cinematic classic of the same name, now is a pretty good time to get going on the FX series, not just because the limited series is approaching its end, and not just because it’s getting to be seriously good, but because it features one of the most exciting and zippy leading ladies to hit the small screen in quite some time. Basically, you’re going to want to get on board with superstar-in-the-making Allison Tolman right now, at least before the accolades and other roles start pouring in. (Some spoilers follow.) Fargo is best described as a spiritual twin to the film (though later episodes do quite directly link up the series and the movie), so it should come as little surprise that the show’s most cheer-worthy and compellingly human character is a female police officer (in this case, a deputy), just like in the 1996 black comedy, which found its heart and head in Frances McDormand‘s police chief Marge Gunderson. Tolman’s Molly Solverson is similarly the soul of the series, and even when the series gets oofta-sized rough, she remains unfailingly interesting and damn charming to watch.

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True Detective

True Detective is in a slightly difficult position right now. The first season of HBO’s detective story was a fantastic eight hours of television. The central mystery itself was fairly routine, but that’s not what the first season was about: it was about seeing Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle’s (Matthew McConaughey) wildly different world views conflict and come together. Each second with Marty and Rust is a treat. Their limited exposure (in an age of 9-season TV franchises) is part of what makes the experience special. Those episodes said everything we needed to know about their relationship. Since they’re not the focus of season 2, show creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto has to create a new dynamic that will be inescapably compared to the star-gazers. Considering how people responded to Marty and Rust, that won’t be easy. Right now all we know about season 2 is it’s set in California and focuses on two men and one woman. One of the show’s executive producers, Scott Stephens, participated in a panel at the Los Angeles’ Produced By Conference over the weekend. While he couldn’t discuss any specifics, Stephens did explain how much more challenging the production will be on season 2.

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Game of Thrones: 409

This review of Game of Thrones is intended for those who are show watchers and not book readers. Please refrain from putting spoilers in the comments. There will be a separate article marked Spoilers Discussion for that in the coming days. And you thought after last week that Game of Thrones wouldn’t have any big moments for episode nine… Believe in one thing when it comes to season four: there are plenty of moments to go around. It’s a testament to just how great the third book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire was in comparison to the others. It needed two full seasons and it has been gripping down the stretch. This episode nine, thanks in large part to some operatic directorial work from the series’ hired gun of epic battles Neil Marshall, feels like the well-earned big finish this season was working toward. As a bonus, there’s still one more episode to go.

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BBC America

It seems like only last week that I was mildly decrying Orphan Black‘s habit of tossing new, important characters into the mix late in the game, thus creating new questions as an alternative to actually answering much in the way of previous questions. The latest episode has some fun at my expense by not only not bringing back last week’s newbie (Michelle Forbes) but also by introducing yet another brand new character in the opening scene. Of course Tony’s not just any new character though as he’s actually a clone off the same assembly line as Sarah and the rest. Born a female like the rest, Tony’s on his way to becoming a man through the use of testosterone and possible surgery (that or he has a sock stuffed down his boxers). Beyond what he brings to the narrative table — which is surprisingly little — Tony is a big step in the evolution of the show in that he allows star Tatiana Maslany to try on a new persona well outside of her normal beat. But while she earns points for trying, it looks like we’ve finally found proof that Maslany is human after all and capable of failure.

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Fargo "The Heap"

First off, I want to note that I’m not going to put forth any more claim that this show has left the shadow of the Coen Brothers influence. Last week, I personally felt that it was standing enough on its own that I was no longer looking for or noticing references, but of course I was pointed to a couple fairly significant instances of quotation. I still feel like it’s departing from the pastiche, though, and that’s a good thing. But sure enough, it continues to make certain connections and allusions now and then. I did sense a Barton Fink homage in tonight’s episode with the close-up on a poster of women walking on a beach. And there’s an image of Molly (Allison Tolman) midway through that easily reminds us of Marge in the Fargo movie. More on that in a moment. Because of the narrative course of this week’s episode, titled “The Heap,” I do think it continues to break free in a way that makes it plausible that the series could continue beyond this mini run. The world of the show is strong enough. At the same time, this sure could have been a great series finale. You’ve got a kind of closure on some story lines, even if they’re not necessarily satisfying to the characters, or maybe some viewers. And then you have a device that pushes the plot forward in a way that we’re used to only seeing done in the very last episode of a show. Or, […]

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The Viper and The Mountain

Moving is hard work, especially when you’re a chubby blogger who doesn’t normally lift things and has an affinity for buying heavy things. Though even through all the strife of moving into a new home, there’s no large bookshelf that’s quite so heavy as the weight of the nice man from the cable company telling me that my cable wouldn’t be installed in time to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones. You see, it wasn’t just about being timely or being able to come through with my weekly column on the subject, it was about knowing what was coming… There was no way I was missing the fight between The Mountain and The Viper. Luckily I’ve got great friends with quality internet connections and HBO Go logins, so the day was ultimately saved. Weary from my moving adventure and with a system pumped with muscle relaxers, I settled in for what I and any book reader knew would be one of the more brutal and explosive episodes of the entire series. And now it’s time to have a little Game of Thrones spoilers chat about it.

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Game of Thrones: The Mountain and The Viper

This review includes details up to and including Game of Thrones season four, episode eight, “The Mountain and The Viper.” It does not include book spoilers, but does include a book reader sobbing softly over the death of his favorite character. Why does the simple man keep smashing the bugs? That’s the question asked in the unpredictably jovial and lighthearted scene between brothers Jaime and Tyrion Lannister right before the latter’s fate is decided. Because perhaps it’s his purpose, the show seems to answer several minutes later as it executes an excruciating scene with shock value rivaled only by the much famed Red Wedding. Some men smash because it’s what they know, others live with much greater purpose. Prince Oberyn Martell lived with a much greater purpose… and look where it got him.

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BBC America

This is how good the most recent episode of Orphan Black is — not only did I not miss Helena, but I didn’t even realize she was absent until the episode was over. If you’ve been following my coverage here you know that the Shakira-maned former assassin’s personality (along with Tatiana Maslany‘s performance obviously) has made her the show’s VIP for the last few episodes, but “Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motions of Things” moves at such a fantastically exhilarating clip that there’s no real time to pause and ponder what’s missing. Even better, for as fast as the episode moves it’s accomplished with a spectacular balance between the dramatic and the comedic. The ending’s homage to a certain messy car scene from Pulp Fiction doesn’t hurt either.

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Corey Stoll in The Strain

While Robert Rodriguez and crew are holding down the sexually suggestive vampire-themed content over on the El Rey Network, king of the monsters and the star of your Spanish-subtitled nightmares, Guillermo del Toro, has been cooking up his own version of the bloodsucking beasts for FX. If there’s anyone who can bring the threat of a deadly strain of humanity-ending vampirism to life on television in grotesque, hyperreal detail, it would be the man who thinks that a guy with eyeballs in the palms of his hands is just your average everyday challenge for a little girl to face. The teaser for the new series, titled The Strain, is ever so brief, but it gives us just enough to work with – vampires aren’t just made after midnight through a flexing of fangs and a couple of puncture wounds to the neck anymore. It’s a transmitted disease that can infect anyone, anywhere, and it’s making a huge batch of former humans do a little more than just sparkle.

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True Detective Season Two

Jonesing for your True Detective fix before the beloved and HBOGO-killing HBO hit comes back for its second season? We might have something that can help you with that. We’ve long known that the Nick Pizzolatto-created series would essentially reboot with each season, with a new cast and a fresh location, which means that fans of the show (conspiracy theorists, all) would have plenty to mull over and pick apart before the show returned to them. Pizzolatto knows this, which is probably why he’s been doling out little bits of tantalizing information for months now. No, the creator isn’t cruel, but he is wily. In the latest batch of True Detective news, Pizzolatto has let on a couple of interesting details: that the show will now have three leads and that it will take place in California. Who will play those leads is not yet known (besides the fact that Jessica Chastain will not be playing any of them, sadly), and we still don’t know when the show will take place, what kind of crazy source material it may pull from, what sort of evil we might encounter or pretty much anything else. But that doesn’t mean we can’t analyze the things we do know.

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Key and Peele in Fargo

The show has had its ups and downs so far, but with its seventh episode Fargo is suddenly a series worth celebrating as a standalone entity. With “Who Shaves the Barber?” I finally forgot about all the Coen brothers blood that was pumping life into the heart of the show from the beginning. This was the best episode since the pilot, and in some ways it was even better because it didn’t rest on all that pastiche and influence. It’s a shame that we only have three more installments to go, as now I could see it actually continuing beyond its predetermined ten parts. That’s a big change of my mind from a few episodes ago when I wondered how series writer Noah Hawley was going to stretch out the show’s two main storylines for the whole series. But now we have the introduction of comedic duo Key & Peele — sorry, that’s actors Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele — providing the next level in the never-ending mouse hunt that is the pursuit of Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton). It’s a brief debut for their two FBI agents, and we’ll have to see how well they mesh with the show going further, but they sure do seem like an invigorating addition.

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Mad Men Season 7 Waterloo

Cooking a hamburger is difficult work. Patties must be placed on a griddle; they must be flipped; they must be taken off the griddle at a time neither before nor after they have reached the ideal temperature (I’m sure I’m glossing over several key steps, thus illustrating the extremely difficult process we’re working with here). Burger King knew burgermastery is something attained only by a precious few. This is why, in the 1950s, they commissioned the creation of a Flame Broiler, a giant machine that transports disks of meat across conveyor belts through jets of fire, thus ensuring every patty emerges cooked to perfection. No longer would fast food chains require multiple tenured professors of burgerology on payroll. Burgers were finally for the people. The brothers who actually built the first Flame Broiler, Frank and Donald Thomas, realized the innate potential of a great greasy contraption that could perform all the same labor as a high school junior, but with none of the backsass. So they packed up their machines and they started their own fast food joint: Burger Chef. The first franchise opened in 1954, and in the next ten years, Burger Chefs sprouted up all over the country. By 1968, Burger Chef was a big deal —  big enough that the whole company was bought out by the General Foods Corporation. But not even the corporate world could contain the massive growth spurts of Burger Chef and his boy sidekick Jeff, because General Foods buckled under their titanic, […]

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BBC America

For a show featuring murder, abduction, sexual assault and the subjugation of women by an oppressive patriarchy Orphan Black can sometimes vie for funniest series on television. This is not a particularly new observation one and a half seasons in, but but while past episodes have left most of the comedic styling to Alison and/or Felix this episode drops that responsibility squarely in Helena’s lap. She’s made us laugh before of course, but those small moments were no comparison to what the smile-inducing assassin manages here. A road-trip with Helena and her “seestra” Sarah is guaranteed to be a good time for viewers on the face of it, and Tatiana Maslany and the show’s writers don’t disappoint. The sixth episode of the second season isn’t just very, very funny though as it also furthers the plot with a handful of answers and (surprise!) several more questions. Sarah gets a somewhat informative face to face with the elusive Swan Man, Helena is coaxed back into captivity and a whole bunch of odd pairings raise new doubts and concerns over who exactly can be trusted. Increasingly, and sometimes frustratingly, the answer to that question seems to be not a damn soul.

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Adam Goldberg in Fargo

In many ways, I liked this week’s episode of Fargo, titled “Buriden’s Ass,” as much as I disliked last week’s (both of them were directed by Colin Bucksey). It wasn’t perfect, but it had a good deal of action and racked up a serious body count. Not that deaths make a good show, but it was enough that stuff was happening. And much of that stuff led to conclusions for certain characters and questions for and about others, questions that are intriguing rather than frustrating. Some characters make really dumb choices, as is expected in this series, but interestingly Lester (Martin Freeman) was not one of them this time. He finally made decisions that indicate he could just make it through the finale alive, after all. There are two moments in the episode where characters are shown to be really thinking about what to do next. For Lester, it’s with a surprisingly lengthy close-up on Freeman’s face as he works out his plan. And by episode’s end, it seems to have been a good plan, albeit one involving a very cliched escape scenario and a few too many instances of illogical luck (why did no one from radiology look for their scheduled patient? why did Lester’s nephew do nothing when he saw the guy creeping around the house?). Then there’s Stavros (Oliver Platt), whose thought process was accompanied by those annoying reminder flashbacks. And by episode’s end, it seems his decision was not a good one at all.

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