GAME OF THRONES--"Blackwater"--Written By George R.R. Martin; Directed By Neil Marshall
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR GOT
"Blackwater" depicts the epic battle in A Clash Of Kings. The show didn't jump around to the other characters. The action remained in King's Landing as Stannis attacked and Tyrion led the troops to save the kingdom. "Blackwater" is terrific for a number of reasons. I love what Martin does through the battle, narratively. Joffrey's a piece of shit king who tortures people for fun, and Stannis is a piece of shit would-be king who murders his brother in cold-blood in a power move. So, who does the audience root for? It's like a lose-lose. Meanwhile, Cersei's inside ready to kill herself and Sansa if the battle goes awry. The execution of the Wyldfire and the scope of the battle on a limited budget is one heck of an achievement. Martin's battle in the book spans 80 pages. It all works, though. The characters are amazingly written and so the audience cares about Tyrion and Sansa (well, I care about Sansa). It's awesome that neither of the two sides are good in the sense of how good is depicted in other war depictions. Game Of Thrones is complex and morally grey, and so damn good.
TREME--"Tipitina"--Story By David Simon & Anthony Bourdain/Written By David Simon & Eric Overmyer; Directed By Anthony Hemingway
"Tipitina" closed the third season of Treme. Davis bids farewell to his music career in a song that's by far the most popular thing he's ever created. The characters come together to raise money for LaDonna's recently burned down barn, which features one of the greatest tracking shots in television's history, as we weave through the set and see everyone. Treme isn't about happy endings for the characters, because that'd be crass in a post-Katrina drama. Happy endings exist in fairy tales. LD publishes his expose on the homicide cover-ups in the days after Katria, which is a triumphant moment for the character, but it's rendered meaningless because nothing will be done about it. LD still goes home happy. Toni gets testimony she needs to put away a dirty cop. That testimonial scene, by the way, is among the most moving scenes of TV in 2012. I was really, really deeply moved by the witness' testimony, and Melissa Leo played it really well (I acknowledge the scene might've been in #309). So, yeah, there are scenes of triumph and resolve but there are scenes of sadness and disappointment and rejection. The one image that plays in my head, which seems representative of the show, is Big Chief Albert Lambrioux receiving his chemo. The Big Chief is sick, but he's trying to get better, even if the treatment makes him horribly nauseous. Treme is a terrific show. "Tipitina" is absolutely wonderful.
COMMUNITY--"Introduction To Finality"--Written By Steve Basilone & Annie Mebane; Directed By Tristram Shapeero
Community's third season was up-and-down. "Introduction To Finality" is damn-near perfect. Dan Harmon wrote the episode as his goodbye to the show--it capped the three wonderful madcap seasons of the show in a way that should allow fans to watch the series, with the new show runners, without feeling angry that Harmon couldn't complete his tale. Harmon did complete this tale. Jeff Winger was alternately the hero and anti-hero of Community. Jeff becomes the hero in the finale, makes a killer speech that kills Evil Abed, and injects all sorts of change into the group. I love the three seasons of Dan Harmon's Community. I'm disappointed he got fired. "Introduction To Finality" offers great closure for Harmon's story.
THE VAMPIRE DIARIES--"The Departed"--Story By Brett Matthews/Elisabeth R. Finch/Teleplay By Julie Plec; Directed By John Behring
Immediate reaction from Twitter declared "The Departed" a superior finale to LOST's "Through The Looking Glass," which nearly caused me to pass out from shock. Let's not get crazy. TVD's third season finale is great, but "Through The Looking Glass" will never be topped (well, it might be around June...). The Vampire Diaires will never receive the critical adoration it deserves (or deserved, depending on your feelings on the second half of season three and the first half of season four) because it's CW show about vampires, werewolves, and all that stuff that's frowned upon as Fake Art. Hitfix's Dan Fienberg bravely put TVD on his Top Ten list of Best Shows from 2011 list last year, though it missed this year. TVD's not better than BtVS or ANGEL, but it's the best show about vampires since ANGEL's cancellation.
"The Departed" sort of saved the latter half of season three. The Originals never went away, the triangle stuff kept going in circles, etc; however, Julie Plec, Caroline Dries, and the other writers really brought it for the season-finale. There's flashbacks to the last day before Elena's life changed forever to juxtapose the present day when her life would change for ever again. Significant Elena character stuff happens while a badass (temporary) conclusion to Klaus happens and a bunch of little stuff is hinted at for the fourth season. Elena's story is the most special in "The Departed," though. It's beautiful, cathartic, wrenching, and a goodbye, but it's also a great beginning to a new chapter in the show that's been quite interesting to watch. I'll stand by my boast that TVD is a terrific show.
ARROW--"Pilot"--Story By Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim/Written By Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisburg; Directed By David Nutter
Arrow's among the most solid network dramas on television currently. The series started strong with the "Pilot" and never dipped in quality; but it never elevated its quality either. Berlanti, Kreisburg, and Guggenheim know the identity of Arrow; that's why its "Pilot" was confident and why the rest of the series has been. The "Pilot" is incredibly efficient. Pilots are among my least favorite episodes of televisions because the writer(s) has to accomplish and establish a great deal, and they mostly leave me empty. I know the second and third episode will yield more than the first. Arrow's different. It's impressively consistent, tonally and narratively. Arrow owes its tone to Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy. Oliver Queen's a rugged dude after five years trapped on an island, just like Bruce Wayne leaves the League of Shadows ready to fight the crime the city doesn't.
Oliver's fight is a noble one. The "Pilot" establishes his motivations, the history of the city and the Queen's role in its denigration. Aside from the world-building and all-around narrative, David Nutter establishes an insane quality for the fight sequences. Arrow has the best fight scenes on television. I was stunned watching the first fight scene in Arrow. Heck, I was amazed by Oliver's movements when acting as the vigilante of Starling City. He looked like a character in a video game; like, it did not seem possible for an actual person to move the way Amell (probably his stunt double actually) did. So, yeah, Arrow makes the list because it hasn't produced a bad episode yet, and I felt really happy after the first episode because it didn't suck the way Guggenheim and Berlanti's last superhero show sucked.
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