Game of Thrones

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die; there is no middle ground.

-Cersei Lannister

This Sunday the awesome-sauce that is Game of Thrones returns for its second season on HBO. I am practically giddy with anticipation. I can think of no better way to wrap up the weekend than the double header of Mad Men and Game of Thrones. That right there is some good television.

What makes Games of Thrones so great is that it has a little bit of everything. The main thrust of the story is the quest for the Iron Throne. He who sits upon it rules the Seven Kingdoms as their King. But the person in power can never rest on their laurels. You, or your family, had to fight and claw to ascend to the throne and you have to fight and claw to stay there. If you think the 2012 Presidential election is going to get dirty, that is child’s play compared to the Game of Thrones. It is literally a blood sport.

Admit it - that's a chair worth fighting over

But the fight over the throne isn’t just waged on the battlefield. In many ways Game of Thrones is a chess match where the participants must try to predict the moves of the other players. This results in a lot of espionage, uneasy alliances and general scheming and subterfuge. And I love me some diabolical plotting.  I am fascinated by the Anne Boleyn period of history and in a lot of ways the Game of Thrones reminds me of that. Everyone is always working an angle. Fail to figure out how to play the game and you’ll pay with your life. This is no place for morals and decency.

This is not to give the impression that Game of Thrones is all gloom and doom. It is also very funny, with most of the comedy coming from Tyrion Lannister (deftly played by Peter Dinklage). He brings some much needed levity to what would otherwise be a pretty dour landscape. There are also aspects of a family drama as much of the plot is driven by the different families that are vying for the throne who have their own baggage and dynamics. Throw in some illegitimate children, sex, the supernatural and dragons and that is quite a show.

Though I haven’t finished the George M. M. Martin books that the show is based on (I’m about ¾ of the way through book 1), most fans of the book have been very happy with the adaptation. Book fans are notoriously tough to please and the fact that most have given the show their stamp of approval should not be taken lightly. From my limited experience, the show is incredibly loyal to the source material, which is no small feat as the books are quite descriptive and have a lot going on. This also means that Game of Thrones, unlike some other adaptations *cough cough Walking Dead cough,* is willing to kill off characters. Any character. No one is safe, which adds another exciting element to the show. You don’t know what to expect.

Some people were initially turned off by what they say as the objectification of the female characters in the early episodes. There certainly is a lot of nudity in the show and 99% of it is female. But without giving too much away, part of what I enjoyed most over the course of season 1 was the evolution and empowerment of some of the women. They showed some of the greatest growth and certainly were not mere pawns in the game. In many ways they are the most interesting characters because they are more three dimensional.

If you need a crash course in the events of season 1, HBO has put together a handy refresher video:

I’m very excited to see where the action will take us in season 2. Alas, since I am not a “real” critic (at least not yet), I haven’t seen advance copies of any of the episodes. But if you are interested in the opinion of a reviewer that has seen them and whom I respect, check out Alan Sepinwall’s post here. If you are thinking of checking out the show, I’d definitely recommend starting from the beginning (there are only 10 episodes in the first season). There are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of, but it is worth the effort you put in. Winter is coming….and that is never good.

Season 2 of Game of Thrones debuts on HBO at 9 pm EST Sunday April 1st.

Anchorman 2

You may have missed some big news that went down on late night television. Well, big news if you are a fan of one particular San Diego anchorman. Ron Burgundy swung by Conon last night to play a little jazz flute and announce some future plans:

That’s right – Anchorman 2 is happening.

I, for one, am pretty excited for this. Anchorman is possibly my favorite Will Farrell movie. It’s a toss-up between that and Old School. While most of my guys friends can quote movie and TV lines all day, my references are more limited. My quotes primarily come from only a few sources: Seinfeld, Arrested Development, The Godfather, Heathers, The Wire (which no one ever gets) and Anchorman. I’m sure that people are sick of hearing me say “That escalated quickly” or “I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal.” There are just so many funny lines in that movie.

What makes my love for Anchorman unexpected is that I hated the movie when I first saw it. Hated it. Didn’t think it was at all funny. But then the more I watched it, the funnier it got. And when you are friends with someone whose nickname is derived from that movie, you wind up watching it a lot.  Somehow, the channel 4 news team wore me down and I slowly came to love the movie. Looking back on it, I don’t know how I ever thought it wasn’t funny.

Details on the Anchorman 2 plot are pretty limited at this point, but it has been confirmed that both Steve Carrell (Brick) and Paul Rudd (Brian) will be back. I can’t believe that David Koechner (Champ) is that busy, so I assume it will only be a matter of time until he signs on as well. Christina Applegate (Veronica) might be a little trickier with her commitment to her NBC show, Up All Night, but they may want to go in a different direction anyway. Judd Apatow will produce.I do wonder if they have painted themselves into a bit of a corner with the ending of Anchorman revealing what happens to all the characters: Ron and Veronica become co-anchors on cable news, Brick become a political advisor to George W. Bush, Champ get fired from his job with the NFL after sexually harassing Terry Bradshaw and Brian become the host of a reality show on Fox called Intercourse Island. Of course, I don’t think they are going to be limited by things like reason and consistency 🙂

It was an added bonus, though no surprise, that Farrell made this announcement on Conon, as he and O’Brien are very good friends. Farrell was O’Brien’s first and last guest during Conon’s too brief tenure hosting The Tonight Show.  Hopefully many of the people who will watch Ron Burgundy’s appearance will decide to check out Conon as well and give the show a ratings bump. It really is a fun show (Team Coco!).

Since the script isn’t finalized, we will probably have wait for a while until we actually get to see the sequel. But this confirmation that it is actually happening brings us one step closer. Until then, tide yourself over with this clip of Ron Burgundy auditioning for ESPN:

 

Some Thoughts on the Return of Mad Men

Spoiler alert: I’ll be discussing the events that occurred in the episodes that aired Sunday night, so if you haven’t seen them yet and don’t want to know what happened, you may want to skip this post until you’ve had the chance to catch up.

My cable was finally restored Monday night, so I was able to DVR an encore presentation of the season 5 premiere of Mad Men. It’s so good to have the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce gang back! However, after a 17 month hiatus (plus 2 days for me), there was no way that the show could match my heightened level of expectation. It was fabulous, of course, but the show had been away so long that my anticipation simply set the bar too high. This show always moves at a slow pace, particularly in the first episodes of the season, which I should have been more prepared for.

During the downtime between seasons 4 and 5, fans kept themselves busy by guessing where we would find the characters when they show returned. How far in the future would the show jump? Would Don and Megan actually get married? What would the status be of Betty and Henry’s marriage? What would the financial situation of the firm? Would Joan have the baby? For the most part, we received answers to these questions: The show picks up about 9 months after the events at the end of season 4; Megan is in fact the new Mrs. Don Draper; Betty and Henry are still married, though we don’t know how happily as they didn’t appear in this episode; the firm is doing good, but not great; and Joan did in fact give birth to Roger’s adorable little bastard.

With that business out of the way, Sunday’s episode was all about power – who has it, who wants it and who fears losing it. We see that beyond the happy and perfect veneer of the current Draper marriage that there is a bit of a struggle over who is in control. Pete believes he deserves more power as the person who brings in the most business to the firm, which puts him in direct conflict with Roger, the person most likely to lose power in Pete’s rise up the ladder. Joan fears that she has lost power while out on her maternity leave and returns to the office to reassert it. The African American protesters outside of Y&R want power, though that is clearly going to be a prolonged struggle. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Other observations:

  • Even though Don hasn’t always been the best father, it’s clear how much he really does love them.
  • Sally Draper is clearly a little more uneasy about the idea of Megan the stepmother vs. Megan the babysitter. Hope they have a lot for Sally to do this season, as Kiernan Shipka is a fantastic little actress (though not so little any more.) I hope she doesn’t “age-out” of the role.
  • Welcome to the fold, Bobby Draper #4. Hope you like January Jones more than your predecessor.
  • Don referring to Betty and Henry as “Lurch and Morticia” was pretty hilarious, especially given that house they are living in
  • Harry remains a douchebag. Consistency is important.
  • My goodness – the Roger and Jane Sterling marriage sure did go to pieces pretty quickly. They can barely stand each other. Best exchange of the night:

Roger: “Why don’t you sing to me like that?”

Jane: “Why don’t you look like him?”

  •  “Zou Bisou Bisou” has been stuck in my head all day. And I really loved the dress that Jessica Paré wore while singing it.
  • I’ll be curious to see if this season will focus more on the Civil Rights movement. We may have reached a point where these characters will finally be unable to avoid the conflict.
  • Somewhat surprising that after his love affair with his “chocolate bunny” last season that Lane was so hesitant to leave the wallet with the African American cab driver. I guess I thought he would have been more enlightened than that.
  • Any speculation on whether the owner of said wallet is going to turn out to be “somebody?”
  • Speaking of which, Pete continues to be the only main character that seems to have problems with the racism of the times, which adds an interesting dimension to him.
  • Despite all they have gone through, Pete and Trudy Campbell continue to be a pretty good team. Hopefully Pete will realize this and not listen to the men on his morning commute.
  • Was anyone else SHOCKED that Megan knows about Dick Whitman? When she made reference to it, my jaw literally fell open. A very interesting development.
  • Joan continues to be awesome. The scene when she visits the office was the best of the episode, partially because it subtly reminded us of all the relationships and dynamics in the office. I especially enjoyed the look between Peggy and Pete, given their history.

Anxiously looking forward to next week. Between this show and the return of Game of Thrones, it will be a great night of television.

What did everyone else think?