The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Agents of SHIELD - The Complete First Season

Because there is no way I would have willingly plucked down money for this shit.

NOTE: This was supposed to go up on Marvel Animation Age, as I was sent a review copy for that purpose, but Stu and James Harvey have both been very busy and neither know when they will have time to post it. So here it is.

Like many of you, I was raised on Marvel Comics. I learned to read with Spider-Man comics. I went to see "Iron Man" on opening day and loved it. Likewise, I went to see each movie on opening day, never missing it. I loved "The Avengers", and the worst any of the MCU movies have ever been in my eyes has been just okay. Agent Phil Coulson grew on me and like most of you, his death hurt. I waved my "Coulson Lives" flag (there was a bumper sticker with the slogan on a street light in lower Manhattan right outside of Lombardi's Pizzeria) and was ecstatic when "Agents of SHIELD" was announced with a resurrected Phil Coulson played by Clark Gregg as the lead. I oohed and aahed over the trailer, and every piece of marketing. The potential was endless, and as we have spent the last few years in the golden age of television, I awaited the premiere was breathless anticipation.

Then the show hit the airwaves.

I was in denial.

I watched the second episode.

I tried to talk myself into thinking "well, it's... okay."

By the time the fourth episode aired I asked myself "am I actually enjoying this?"

I quit after watching the sixth episode after admitting what I didn't want to admit: I hated this show.

I read the showrunners' "our show does not suck, you're just watching it wrong" damage control interviews. There were a lot of those, mostly using the straw man argument that those of us who were disappointed were expecting superheroes or the Avengers every week.

I read that Clark Gregg called people who quit watching the show "losers".

I watched "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and believed there was potential for the ship to correct course.

I tuned in and finished the season.

The ship did not correct course. The ship went down faster than the Hindenburg.

Anybody who said it did improve was in denial. Or lying.

How did this happen? I was not expecting superheroes every week, I was expecting a decent TV show. I was expecting Joss Whedon-quality television. But this wasn't really Joss Whedon's show. The showrunners were Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen; Joss's less talented brother and sister-in-law. To make matters worse, the beneficiaries of nepotism had Jeph Loeb as their overlord, a man who has been busy ushering an age of low quality television ever since he failed upward into the seat of Marvel's television division. Together, they managed to hire people of little to no talent, and bring people who actually possessed honest to god talent down to their level. There is not a single moment in all twenty-two episodes of the show that feels sincere. Not one line of dialogue, not one example of cinematography, not even so much as an inflection or facial expression from any of the cast. This entire series feels like a master's program in how to produce the worst television series possible. I understand the concept of "so bad it's good", but this series is so bad that it's insulting.

Chloe Bennet as Her Greatness, the Special Snowflake Whom We All Love and Brett Dalton as Grant Ward epitomize everything wrong with the casting of this series all by themselves. One is a failed pop star turned actress (look up Chloe Wang's music video, "Uh Oh" if you're in the mood to cringe) and the other would benefit from Hayden Christensen as his acting coach. The rest of the cast doesn't fare any better with Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge playing walking, talking cliches; two scientists who each make the other redundant. Clark Gregg and Ming-Na, the two acting veterans fare poorly here, as bad directing and awful material prevents either character from even taking a step towards potential. Likewise, guest appearances by Samuel L. Jackson, Jaimie Alexander and Cobie Smulders would make you swear these three needed to attend acting classes if you had never seen them before.

If a series is only as good as its villains, then this show is the pits as our villains are personified by a dull girl in a flowered dress, a generic evil business man, and eventually, Agent John Garrett. Garrett is played by Bill Paxton, a mentor of Grant Ward, and an agent of HYDRA who's villainy is revealed when the series briefly ties into "Captain America: The Winter Soldier". I'd be lying if I said there was no potential in Garrett, but all of that is stripped away in the finale when he transforms into a Power Rangers villain, delivering a performance that would embarrass even Uwe Boll. It was like an 80s cartoon, where all the villains got dumbed down so the writers didn't have to think too hard. Oh yeah, and Deathlok is in this show, too. Do you care? I don't.

This show didn't even care about the HYDRA reveal as it was structured so that once SHIELD fell, nothing would really change anyway. Coulson and his crew were on their own all the time, hardly ever backed up by the greater organization, so nothing changed at all once "Winter Soldier" hit. Nothing. The worst part of the season finale, other than Bill Paxton chewing all the scenery he could, was the pointless FitzSimmons "drama". It was the "if we do this one of us will die!" and then they both lived anyway. What was the point? How can you have drama without consequences?

Now, some of you might wonder why I am so angry at a television series. I looked back at comments I've made over the past year and even asked myself "was I really that furious, why was I that furious?" Re-visiting these episodes for this review I reminded myself that I was furious because I despise these people! Why do I despise these people? Because drinking bleach seemed like a better use of my time than watching the Special Snowflake & Sidekicks behave like irritating idiots while the writers sprinkle in names like "Stark" and words like "Avengers" and "HYDRA", along with references to Captain America, the Red Skull, and Loki so that morons like myself would keep tuning in because we love the Marvel Universe.

Jeph Loeb's reign of terror at Marvel's television division began with the animated series, "Ultimate Spider-Man" and continued with "Avengers Assemble" and "Hulk: Agents of SMASH" and culminated in "Agents of SHIELD", and it shows no signs of slowing down. I have never seen such a smorgasbord of tripe that hearkens back to the days when television was known as the idiot box. We live in a golden age of television, an age that has given us TV shows like "Breaking Bad", "Game of Thrones", "Mad Men", "Downton Abbey", "Orange Is the New Black", "House of Cards". An era that started with "The Sopranos" and was pioneered years before that by "Hill Street Blues". Even "Arrow" is fun and brings quality, and while "Supernatural" is no longer as good as it once was, it still blows "Agents of SHIELD" out of the water on every level. There is no excuse.

Every great franchise needs an awful inclusion. STAR TREK has "Voyager" and "Enterprise"; BABYLON 5 has "Legend of the Rangers" and "The Lost Tales"; STAR WARS has the prequels; for the MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE, let's hope "Agents of SHIELD" is as bad as it gets. But, I will not be watching the second season, I have no good will left towards this show nor curiosity to discover what happens next. If you want to keep watching, then frankly I feel sorry for you. I understand loving Marvel, I do too. But I don't love the brand blindly, nor unconditionally. I love it enough to tell them when they suck, because it's the only way they will ever get better. Unfortunately, it's too late for this show, as the worst aspects are so ingrained into it, it would be a completely different show if they excised those elements. And for those of you who think it's genuinely good, you need to expand your horizons and watch better TV shows, I know this sounds insulting but I say it because it's for your own good. Before you post the angry comments, ask yourself this question and answer it honestly: would you care about this show at all if it didn't have Marvel's name on it?

I'm not saying it's the worst television series ever made, but it's definitely the worst television series I have ever seen. Nepotism is bad, Joss.

Now, after all of that, I had hoped to at least say that the disc was well done, but it isn't. The menus are ugly, and slightly confusing. The bonus features consist of "Journey Into S.D.C.C." documenting Jeph Loeb's appearance with the cast at San Diego Comic Con to a thunderous applause from MCU fans weeks before the series premiere... and I cannot help but wonder how many of them were disappointed when the show finally aired. Also included is the TV special: "Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe" which originally aired shortly before the premiere of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier".

In addition to that are several making of featurettes (called "Field Reports") that include:

* "The Malibu Jump" - A behind the scenes look "The Asset", specifically the assault on Quinn's mansion. Much props to Chloe Bennet's stunt double, who is thousands of times more talented than Bennet, herself.
* "The Bridge" - which documents the action sequences in the tenth episode of the series.
* "Asgardian Bar Fight" - Which features a look at the action sequences of "Yes Men", featuring welcome appearances by Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif of Asgard and Elena Satine as Lorelai... the only episode of the series I almost didn't hate.
* "Classified" - A look at the making of "Turn, Turn, Turn"... the episode where supposedly the world is flipped upside down, but due to how the show was constructed from Day One, nothing really changed.
* "Cello Duet" - A behind the scenes look at "The Only Light In the Darkness" which features a welcome appearance by Amy Acker as Coulson's former love interest. I've always enjoyed Amy Acker and I believe it is a shame that this series failed her.

"VFX Breakdowns" offers a fairly decent look at the show before and after the visual effects (which were correctly defeated by "Game of Thrones" at the Emmys) were inserted, and finally "Bloopers of SHIELD" which features more heartfelt performances and humanity than the series itself, as well as a small selection of Deleted Scenes.

There are supposedly audio commentaries on the discs featuring various members of the cast and crew, but so far I have been unable to find them. Not under BONUS FEATURES, not under SET UP, or even under the episode selection. I've spent the better part of an hour searching; and I blame the design of the menu.

The Aspect Ratio is 1.78:1, 16x9 Widescreen. The Audio on the Blu-ray is 5.1 DTS-HDMA, while the DVD is 5.1 Dolby Digital. The episodes themselves are only in English with English, SDH, Spanish, and French Subtitles.

Overall, this is a mediocre release for a repulsive television series. I would avoid it, and keep on enjoying the movies because nothing in this series will ever influence the big budget feature films. Next week, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" arrives on Blu-ray, and I look forward to watching it again. It will be the perfect antidote to this filth.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Well Deserved!

Entire cast and crew Outstanding Drama Series

Bryan Cranston Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Anna Gunn Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Aaron Paul Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Moira Walley-Beckett (Ozymandias) Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

Much deserved, you guys went out on top. Congratulations.

Speaking of "well deserved", I am amused that Marvel's TV division submitted practically their entire cast and crew of "Agents of SHIELD" for Emmys, and except for a special effects nomination (which it rightfully lost to "Game of Thrones"), the show was shut out entirely. Yes, very well deserved.

Now, for those of you who are tired of my negative comments about "Agents of SHIELD", I'm on the verge of finally getting it out of my system. I'm receiving an advanced copy of the Blu-ray to review for a website which receives hundreds of thousands of hits a week. Oh, yes... this is going to be fun. I cannot wait.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

I've known Spider-Man all my life. I've known the X-Men most of my life. Batman, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Avengers; I can recite chapter and verse. But I have never read a "Guardians of the Galaxy" comic book in my life. I've read comics that have Gamora and Drax in them. I've heard of Rocket Raccoon and Groot; I knew next to nothing about Star Lord. So I went into this movie without any biases or pre-conceived notions. And whether it was good or not, I rooted for its success so that neither Marvel nor DC Studios would ever be able to say "this is too absurd for a movie" ever again.

I am happy to say the movie was good. That was the most fun I've had at the movies all year. My god. It was fun, it was offbeat... it was the exact opposite of a Nolan film (and I like Nolan films). I'm still gathering my thoughts, but I laughed and grinned my way through the entire movie.  It's not as thoughtful and topical as "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", but it doesn't need to be. This movie, like "The Avengers" before it, is the definition of a perfect popcorn movie.

The script is brilliant, this is a funny movie. The dialogue was witty without feeling forced and unnatural... something even the great Joss Whedon occassionally has a little bit of trouble with (and this is not a knock against Joss Whedon, I genuinely do enjoy his writing). I am tempted to say the script is the real star of the movie, because I rarely come out of movies like this thinking of the script first. But here we are.

As far as movies that are mostly shot on green screen, this one is better than most. It's bright, it's colorful, and everything is wonderfully alien. This is what Martin Campbell's "Green Lantern" should have been. Ben Davis did a wonderful job with the cinematography. The special effects were great. This is what the "Star Wars" prequels seemed to want to be, but failed at. Why? Because those movies put the SFX first when, despite everything I already said, as all the Marvel movies before it, the characters were front and center.

Do you like Nathan Fillion as Malcolm Reynolds in "Firefly"? Then you will like Chris Pratt as Peter Quill aka Star Lord. He brings a lot of charisma and his offbeat sense of humor to the part. A close friend of mine is a huge fangirl of Captain Mal and I said to her "if you don't fall in love with Star Lord, then I don't know who you are". In a lot of ways, this movie does feel very much like a much more comic booky version of "Firefly" and that is a good thing.

Before this movie, I did not count myself as a fan of Zoe Saldana. I'm not sure why, but she never really wowed me. Oh, what the right part can do for a thespian. I loved her as Gamora, and despite the more offbeat tone, I was able to buy into her as the deadliest woman in the galaxy. I was a little confused at her motivations early on, but thankfully my patience was rewarded, and her actions earlier in the movie made sense to me. I just wish I had gotten a little bit more.

Gamora and Star Lord definitely have a Beatrice and Benedict romance going on, and it doesn't feel forced. I've found that romantic relationships in comic book movies are seldom done well. The only ones I've ever bought into were Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone's Peter and Gwen, and Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter. Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes? Nope. Superman and Lois Lane? Nope. Tobey Maguire's Peter and Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane? Hell no... and I love Peter and MJ in the comics. Don't even get me started on Thor and Jane Foster. But Star Lord and Gamora? Yes, I bought into them and I look forward to seeing what's next for these two.

Drax and Groot are very well done. But the show stealer was definitely Rocket Raccoon, and he had to be. If they screwed up, Rocket would have been the Jar Jar Binks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I think most of us comic book geeks were nervous about Rocket going in, but he lived up to the hype. Rocket is probably one of the hardest characters in the Marvel Universe to translate to the silver screen, and they did it... *glares at Warner Bros* come on, guys, what's your excuse now?

The villains weren't the most engaging characters, but they got the job done. Ronan was effective and intimidating. I felt he could accomplish what he set out to accomplish. Likewise, Nebula was fun and I only wish she had some more screen time; but I have a feeling we'll be seeing her again. As for the Mad Titan himself? I will admit, I think his character design could use a little bit of work, but I liked what we saw... and he's only there for two short scenes, this isn't Thanos' time yet. We'll get there eventually, but I already fear for my favorite Avengers when the time comes to throw down with him... assuming they all survive Ultron next May.

Finally, the soundtrack for the movie was orgasmic. It was just beautiful. It was more than just background music, it was a character in and of itself. I'd say more, but you'll understand when you see it, and I don't want to spoil too much of it.

Go out, go see it, have a good time. I did, and you all know how picky I can be. I give the movie a solid A.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Paramount lays out its next two years of sequels and remakes - Yup, Bayformers 5 is already greenlit, as is another G.I. Joe, and a sequel to "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters". But, yay, more Bayformers!

Look, when I go to the movies I don't want to have to think or understand. My day-to-day life of pedestrian job and web surfing is just so incredibly taxing that I can't handle any thought in my free time. I just wanna sit there and see crap blowing up and robots punching each other and guns and boobs and stuff. You can enjoy your coherent plot and developed characters and gay-ass stuff, and I'll be here enjoying the rapping robots in the next Transformers movie...

... So, how was my impression? I've had years to study, observe, and perfect it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Valar Morghulis

Lord Tywin Lannister on the throne.

And so, the fourth season of "Game of Thrones" comes to a close, and what a close. The best show on television left me wanting more, and now the long wait begins before season five premieres. Evenings like this just make me so happy, and remind me why we are, indeed, living in the Golden Age of television.

First of all, some of the story lines which were less interesting to me got some much needed shots in the arm. Now that Bran has reached his destination, I cannot wait to see what happens next. Likewise, while I enjoy the Wall, it never intrigued me the way the events down south did... as such, I think the arrival of Stannis Baratheon and his court will result in just the right amount of spice benefiting both story threads. I look forward to seeing how Jon Snow and Stannis play off each other, and likewise what Melisandre sees in the young bastard.

The penultimate episode of the season, "The Watchers On the Wall" was a terrific action sequence which felt to me very much like the Battle of Helm's Deep from "The Two Towers" but far more real. Yes, this is what a siege looks like... even if giants riding mammoths are involved. And while I knew Ygritte was done for, it was still a heart breaking moment. Shot through the heart, indeed.

The episode prior to that one was terrific, with the shocking end of Oberyn Martell at the hands of the Mountain. I should have blogged about that, but that was a fine example of a guy who could have won if he didn't need to showboat and be a complete asshole. But then I remember that he wasn't doing it for Tyrion. He wanted the Mountain's confession and he died getting it. What this means for the next season, I have no idea. But they did cast a lot of new Martell characters.

But tonight's episode, the season finale, was pure, bittersweet, cathartic bliss. It's the mark of a great series when I don't question how a character will escape a precarious situation, but will they escape the precarious situation. I honestly believed Tyrion was dead. After Ned Stark's beheading, all bets were off. Hell, last year ended with the Red Wedding, I could easily see Tyrion dying. So I was relieved when Jaime showed up to help his brother escape.

More shocking was when Tyrion went to the Tower of the Hand to confront his father, Tywin. I honestly don't know what was going through his mind as he did that, but I just about fell out of my chair when he discovered Shae in Tywin's bed. Of course, despite all his supposed hatred of whoring, Tywin hired whores.. and to think, a few weeks ago I was wondering if he had gotten laid since his wife died. But that makes perfect sense. To Tywin, appearances were everything, as long as he's not publicly seen with them. He wanted to be respected and feared. And perception was the key to his power, which was made obvious when we found out he was not as rich as we once thought. But that was the final stab in Tyrion's heart, I didn't think anything could top Shae testifying against him, but this did it... and what followed was heartbreaking.

Then came the scene, where Tyrion confronted his father one last time. The scene was bittersweet, cathartic, and wonderful all at once. Tywin Lannister. The Lion. The Warden of the West. Hand of the King. Most powerful man in the world. Died on the crapper. For personal reasons, given my relationship with my father, this was very cathartic. But it was also bittersweet since Charles Dance as Tywin was one of my favorite performances in the series, and I'm going to miss him. But I loved it because, well, how often do we see characters as dignified as Tywin always presented himself die such an undignified, inglorious death? It's just never done. He was, by many appearances, the Big Bad of the series up until now. Imagine, for a moment, Lex Luthor, or Norman Osborn, or Gus Fring, or Demona dying on the toilet. It's never done, and yet... it was perfect. The climax of four seasons worth of material... every scene led to this moment. Combine that with Cersei confessing to Tywin that the rumors of all her children being conceived by incest with Jaime were true, and I am so happy this episode aired on Father's Day.

Lord Tywin Lannister on the throne.

I am relieved Tyrion survived, as a character I've identified with since Day One, I'm glad he had this moment. But I don't think it will come as a relief to him. His entire support network (yes, he did have one) is now gone and he is a fugitive. What this means for him in the fifth season, we don't know yet. But I imagine all of the Lannisters are in peril now that the father of the pride is now gone.

It was a beautiful ending for a beautiful season of a beautiful TV show. I look forward to the Emmy nominations, because while I know it will not win, I believe the show deserves the recognition of being nominated. Likewise, I think both Peter Dinklage and Charles Dance have more than earned their nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series. Their last scene together alone is worth the price of admission for the whole series. Wonderful, just wonderful.

My final grade for the season finale is an A+

What am I doing now? Well, I need a new TV show to obsess over now that season four of "Game of Thrones" is over. I've been watching "Mad Men", "The Walking Dead", and I plan to give "Dr. Who" a second chance as well as check out season three of "Sherlock" and the debut season of "True Detective". But, honestly, "Mad Men" is winning right now, and I have A LOT of that to watch.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Godzilla (2014)

The marketing for the movie was brilliant. I was excited for this movie, I was pumped. That doesn't happen to often. Godzilla looked terrific, and to headline the human story, they cast Bryan Cranston... one of the best living actors of my generation. The studio swore up and down that the lessons of the Emerich movie from 1998 were learned. The trailers seemed like an apology for that movie. I couldn't wait.

We did not get that movie.

First of all, for a two hour movie, Godzilla is only in ten minutes of it. Let me be clear, those ten minutes are awesome. Every moment Godzilla was on screen, I loved it. I loved the design, he radiated power. They nailed him. That being said, this was not his movie, and not because he had so little screen time, but because you could have removed him entirely from the movie, and it would have been the same movie. Godzilla felt like an afterthought in what should have been his own movie. It was not about him.

Likewise, the marketing around this movie centered around Bryan Cranston's presence in the movie. Even more so than Godzilla. When I first heard they cast him, I thought it was a brilliant move. Nobody goes to a Godzilla movie and ever comes out caring about the humans... with the exception being Dr. Serizawa from the 1954 classic. And it seemed like Cranston's casting was going to pay off. Every moment he was on screen was electric. He is one of the most charismatic actors alive, he could read out of the phone book and it would be mesmerizing. He drew me in, and I cared about his character and story even though this time he was playing something I've seen a million times already. Then they kill him off forty-five minutes into the movie, and the rest of the movie focuses on Aaron Taylor Johnson playing his son, with only slightly more charisma than Hayden Christensen in the "Star Wars" prequels.

Ken Watanabe is in this playing the wise Japanese scientist who acts only as the voice of exposition. His character is named Serizawa after the heroic scientist from the original, which I was fine with as a nod. Watanabe tries, and does the best he can with the material given to him. I would have loved to have watched a movie with Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston teaming up to deal with this menace, that's what the marketing promised us... but we didn't get that movie.

This movie was about the MUTOs  (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). They were the menace of the movie. They are the reason Cranston's wife dies at the beginning of the movie. They feed on radiation. They are going to reproduce, and lay thousands of eggs in the heart of San Francisco. They need to be defeated, because Aaron Taylor Johnson's wife and son live in San Francisco and are in danger. While Godzilla kills them both in a battle that is in the background, Aaron Taylor Johnson destroys the eggs in a very standard scene we've seen a million times already, and then reunites with his family.

In the middle of the movie, when Aaron Taylor Johnson knows these three monsters are converging on San Francisco, he speaks to his wife on the phone and doesn't tell her to grab their son and get out... he says "I'm coming to get you and I'll get you out" and I'm wondering "what the hell?" His entire motivation for fighting the MUTOs is to save his wife and son, when he could have gotten them out of danger before word got out that San Francisco was a target. This succeeds in making our protagonist look as intelligent as he is charismatic.

Godzilla is barely explained. Apparently he's millions of years old and existed in the prehistoric age as he is now, as the alpha predator. The MUTOs are his prey, and he's been swimming around the Pacific for millions of years unnoticed until 1954 when Japanese and American forces tried to nuke him, but he survived and continued to swim around for another few decades until the MUTOs awoke and went on a rampage. Then he rises out of the ocean, fights them and kills them... but he doesn't even eat them. You know, his prey. There is no logic to his presence, and I know I shouldn't look for logic in a Godzilla movie, but this was glaring.

So what do I think happened? I think they had a script for a movie about the MUTOs, a standard giant monster movie where a beast you don't care about wrecks havoc and gets defeated. Nothing original, nothing special. Then Warner Bros scored the Godzilla license from Toho and with some very quick re-writes, they forced him in... again, as an afterthought. The result left me unhappy. This was as much a Godzilla movie as "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" was (remember, Godzilla pops up for a few minutes there, too)... but Pee-wee was fun and entertaining, this wasn't. What gets me is that this movie wasn't even poorly made. It was beautifully shot, the monsters looked great, the direction was good. The script was bad, and they forced an iconic character into a movie he had no business being in to draw a larger audience.

I believe Aaron Taylor Johnson vs the MUTOs could have been an average, if standard and forgettable, giant monster movie. Calling it Godzilla was what set others and I up for disappointment... that and the "Bryan Cranston is our star" marketing. Likewise, upon getting the license, they should have started from scratch. No MUTOs, none of that. Focus the movie on Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe teaming up to save the city (Tokyo, New York City, San Francisco, whatever) from the Godzilla we saw in this movie, and that could have been pretty great.

Was it better than the 1998 movie? Well, it was more competently made; and while I hate the 1998 movie, at least that was honest about what it was. You could make a case that this movie was false advertising. Avoid it like the plague.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tyrion may be innocent, but Agents of SHIELD is guilty

Once again, "Game of Thrones" hits a home run with its most recent episode, "The Laws of Gods and Men". Many subplot are pushed forward, such as Daenerys discovering that conquering is easier than ruling; Reek's messed up relationship with Ramsay Snow (who I swear is the scariest person on television); and, of course, Stannis and Davos traveling to the Iron Bank of Braavos... and Davos heartfelt speech about how much he believes in Stannis, which convinces the Iron Bank to invest in him.

I don't believe I've mentioned how much I love the idea of the Iron Bank. A cold, soulless organization that just about everyone is afraid of, even the Lannisters. It doesn't matter how big and bad you are, if you are in debt to the Iron Bank, they will recover their money one way or another. Most fantasy I have read doesn't feature an institution like this. It kind of reminds me of Sallie Mae.

But all of those plot lines, excellent as they are, pale before the real meat of this episode: Tyrion Lannister's trial for regicide. The trial is, naturally, a farce. Tyrion is innocent but he's going to be found guilty because that's what his father, Tywin Lannister, wants. The coldest aspect of this had to be when Jaime made a deal with Tywin to spare Tyrion's life... and considering how fast Tywin agreed to it, it was all about Jaime. The coldness, the sheer monstrosity of all this. I know there is a meme out there about how Norman Osborn or Fire Lord Ozai are the worst fathers... but I think both of them pale before Tywin Lannister.

Then Shae, Tyrion's ex-girlfriend (or ex-whore) is brought out to testify in a scene that is so painful, Tyrion finally breaks. Tyrion had been married to a whore before, until Tywin had her gang-raped and the marriage annulled... because he's a super nice guy, that way. So, years of anger, bitterness, hatred and resentment in Tyrion finally exploded and... what can I say about this scene? I think it speaks for itself. Give Peter Dinklage an Emmy, now. Please!

I love this show. Thank you, HBO, for continuing to offer quality television a midst a cesspool of garbage.

Sadly, it's time to talk about "Agents of SHIELD". The season finale was so bad it made me wonder how the hell it's legal to produce television like this. Now, people say the show has gotten better since "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", so I came back to check it out and see how things would play out. At least no one can accuse me of not having an open mind.

The Big Bad of the season, John Garret (played by Bill Paxton), at first seemed like a breath of fresh air... then he turned into a cartoon character. I don't know who directed the season finale, but they shouldn't be allowed near actors ever again. Paxton's performance was so over the top that Cobra Commander and Rita Repulsa would be embarrassed. I know Garret was supposed to be crazy at this point, but my god...  Faye Dunaway's performance as Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest" was subtle compared to this. It was painful to watch. Gods, I hate this show.

The show continued to demonstrate its lack of balls. Ward is still a villain, but he survived and was taken into custody (if he's still a regular next season, expect a lame redemption story). Fitz and Simmons were thrust into a situation where only one could survive and, naturally, both of them survive. If this were any other show with Joss Whedon's name on it (and I know he's barely involved), Fitz would have been dead. Gods, I hate this show.

They tried to leave a few mysteries open, like teasing Mary Sue Poots' father... naturally, I don't care. Why is this character still alive? Gods, I hate this show.

Oh yeah, and Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, helps them beat Cobra Repulsa Crawford, and disappears again. I'd ponder why SLJ chose to do this, but he had no problem appearing in the "Star Wars" prequels. So Coulson is now director of SHIELD, and his first course of action is to rebuild... which could be a fascinating show, but this is Marvel TV under the direction of Jeph Loeb, so it won't be.

And so ends the debut season of the worst television series I have ever watched. Normally, this would be the part where I rant about how it is beyond me that ABC could renew this, but nobody ever went broke underestimating the tastes of the American public.

Game of Thrones: A+