The Life & Times of an Auteur.

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Winter is Here

The last several years have been a sublime period for television. When did the "Golden Age of Television" arrive? I'm not sure. In a lot of ways, "Hill Street Blues" in the 1980's was the great grandfather of the golden age. "The Sopranos" really began blowing it up in 1999. But I'd say it finally hit between 2008 and 2010. Shows like "Breaking Bad", "Mad Men", and "Game of Thrones" really define the era of TV we're living in. Two of those shows have since come to an end, and now "Game of Thrones" is beginning to wind down.

How do I personally compare "Game of Thrones" to other TV shows? It's not as good as "Breaking Bad" or "Better Call Saul". It's not as good as "Mad Men". It's not as good as "The Sopranos". But saying that is by no means a put down, those shows are among the best. "Game of Thrones", however is better than "House of Cards" (which I do like), better than "Arrow" (okay first season, great second season, really awful third and fourth seasons), better than "The Flash" (which I can't get into no matter how hard I try), better than "Supergirl" (the episodes I tried to watch put me to sleep), better than "Daredevil" (good show, but has a ton of problems), better than Jessica Jones (which I love... is legitimately great). So yeah, aside from "Better Call Saul", "Game of Thrones" is better than anything else currently in production.

There are a lot of TV shows you can point to and say "yeah, this was it's best season". For example, I'll easily point to season three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as that show's best season. For "Breaking Bad" it's a toss up between season four and season five (that show just kept on getting better). Arrow's best season was it's second (although, that's the only season of the show I actually like). But I don't think "Game of Thrones" has a best season (maybe it's first)... while it clearly has a worst season (the fifth, no contest)... there are a lot of exceptional episodes peppered in to most of the seasons amid a lot of episodes that act as building blocks towards those exceptional episodes. Season six is a prime example... most of the episodes built up to the great stuff. "The Door", "Battle of the Bastards" and "The Winds of Winter" truly stood out as among the show's best episodes.

I have read the first book in "A Song of Ice and Fire", and I plan to read the rest once the show winds down. So this isn't going to be one of those entries where I point out what the show did differently to the book to complain about it... spoiler alert, I like the show. I love the show. And believe me, I understand how some people can feel... I get annoyingly nitpicky about Spider-Man adaptations. But sometimes I wonder if we're as annoying as, let's say, a hardcore fan of Peter Benchley's "Jaws" novel and think that Spielberg butchered it by ignoring the Mafia subplot, not depicting Matt Hooper's affair with Ellen Brody, and having Martin Brody kill the shark by blowing it up via bullet to oxygen tank in the shark's mouth... in the book, the shark just tires out and dies. And then there's the Tolkien Fandom who still haven't forgiven Peter Jackson for his critically acclaimed, commercially successful, Academy Award winning "Lord of the Rings" trilogy which, honestly, I prefer to the books... there I said it.

I'm blathering on, I know. But I felt I had to acknowledge all that in the last paragraph. I read. I read a lot. But I speak the language of film. Neither of us are right or wrong, we're all approaching this from our own angles and bringing our own baggage to it. As such I feel like this entry is less about the show itself and more about the conversations I've been having about the show for the last few years. But those conversations have been part of my experience, and while the show is by no means perfect (season five, I'm looking right at you), I still think it's exceptional television.

I feel like season six benefited from listening to feedback they received from season five, because this felt very much like a response to it. Not saying everything was. I think "Battle of the Bastards" was going to play out as it did no matter how Sansa and Ramsay's wedding night was received. But little things like Dorne being downplayed, which was welcome by me. I thought Oberyn Martell was a terrific character in the fourth season, so I was looking forward to exploring Dorne in the fifth season. What did we get instead? Jaime Lannister wandered on to the set of "Hercules the Legendary Journeys" (one of the most abysmally awful TV shows ever made... and I thought that before we found out Kevin Sorbo was a trump). So in "The Winds of Winter" when the Queen of Thorns was visiting Dorne and telling the Sand Snakes to shut the fuck up, I can't help but feel like she was speaking for those of us in the audience who did not enjoy those characters.

If I had to describe season six in one word, it would be triumphant. The threads we've been following are finally beginning to converge. Jon Snow is now the King in the North. Daenerys Targaryen has her dragons, her army, her fleet and is setting sail to Westeros. And Cersei Lannister now sits on the Iron Throne. Our "heroes" triumphed over enemies that have plagued them for a while, and will now come to a head. But not without obstacles. Cersei has alienated all of her allies, so this cannot and will not end well for her. Jon Snow is now in Littlefinger's crosshairs. Daenerys seems to have everything going well for her... but a little bit too well. Plus there's a Night's King beyond the wall getting ready to attack. And will Mad Queen Cersei allow another King in the North... will she allow Sansa Stark to remain alive when she conspired to murder her precious baby Joffrey (or so she believes)?

I can't say for certain where this will all head. Most hope for Jon Snow and Daenerys to wed and rule the seven kingdoms together... but that is a little bit too neat, too tidy. George R.R. Martin promised a bitter sweet ending. Jon and Dany ruling together with Tyrion as their Hand while Sansa governs the north after all unite to defeat the Night's King sounds too good to be true. Because I don't believe the true villain of the tale is the Night's King or even Cersei Lannister. It is Littlefinger and Littlefinger is not your typical fairy tale or high fantasy villain... Cersei is the Mad Queen and everyone knows it. The Night's King is, for all intents and purposes, the Dark Lord and most know it. Littlefinger is the Devil you don't see, he's what rises when you're not paying attention... and nobody is paying attention to him, except for Sansa Stark.

If this tale is three acts, then Act One ended with the Red Wedding (or when Tywin Lannister died on the crapper... it's debatable), and Act Two just ended. We're marching towards Act Three and I look forward to it.

I give season six an A-.


  1. I don't think this season was as strong as Seasons 1 through 4, but it was a big step up from Season 5 so I couldn't really complain or be bothered by it all that much, and I totally agree that episodes 5, 9, and 10 of this season were standouts that showed what the show is capable of doing right. (That whole Godfather-esque sequence where people were getting killed in the midst of Cersei's trial and then Cersei had the sanctum, half of King's Landing, and much of it's population blown the hell up gave me the chills!) I also absolutely agree that season 5 was clearly the low point of the series (I think it's a toss up between seasons 1 and 3 for best season) and that this season did a lot to make amends for the damage done in the previous season.

    My bets are on the Night's King being the final boss while Cersei's just a self-destructive wannabe, but Littlefinger is absolutely the ultimate villain of the story. He set the conflict in motion to start with, and I think he'll play a big part in moving it towards it's end. And I think Jon and Dany will both make it to the end alive - it's everyone and everything else that I worry about.

    For the show, Act One definitely ended after the Red Wedding at the end of Season 3, with the next three seasons and 30 episodes being Act Two. But in the books, Tywin dying on the crapper actually was the end of Act One since (spoilers) it happened in Book 3 rather than 4 as it was with seasons. Books 4, 5, and 6 were thus Act Two, and now the last season(s) and last book are the final act. Good news is that Book 6 will be out in Winter 2017, so the books and show's plots will be in perfect alignment before the end comes. Can't wait!

    (Oh, and you know what "Hercules: The Legendary Journey" really could have used? James Woods as Hades!)

    1. James Woods as Hades makes everything better!

    2. Sure does! Heck I'd take Greg Germann as Hades (best thing to come out of yet another once strong US show that went down the crapper after 3 seasons in) over anything "Legendary Journeys" offered us!

      Oh, and you forgot to mention "Supernatural" Season 11 in your brief coverage of shows still on TV. (The total garbage like "Agents of S.H.I.T" and That LA Cop Show With The Devil's Name that shall not be named.)

    3. I need to blog about season eleven of Supernatural... maybe next week. In short, I really loved it and thought it was the best season since five.

      And you just covered the other shows for me there. ;)

    4. wait. When did you hear it will be out in winter 2017? So far no release date has been confirmed.

  2. I admittedly watched some of legendary journey''s on netflix; I liked the finale episode because Hera's redemption actually made sense; between her being freed and getting her memory back she bonded with her grandson; during the final fight the grandson is hit and the only way to save him is to combine her powers with zeus; Hera ultimately decides that the life of her grandchild means more than her revenge.

    It's simple, yet works; the life of the little kid matters more than revenge.

  3. Hercules was.....cheesy in a lot of ways but it had a few decent moments.

    I felt Hera's redemption wasn't sexist like it could have been and it was simple yet elegant.

    In any case, I'm wondering if the Night's King is the final boss; little finger's the guy you beat with behind the scenes maneuvering; The night king you beat in a sword fight

  4. Ugh... can you please stop talking to me about Hercules? I. Don't. Care.

    As for the "final boss". Part of me also thinks that it could be Daenerys... who says she and Jon Snow will be friends.

  5. The night's king has serious "evil overlord" vibes and he's the leader of the white walkers so he has satanic vibes; hell in the books he was a lord commander who was seduced to the walkers and was so god damned evil the wildlings and starks joined together to beat his ass. So he has the rep to back up his status as the big bad.

    The moment I saw him on that dock raising the dead he gave serious vibes of "the story will end with jon and the night's king in a sword fight".

    Dany MAY be the final boss but I'm guessing that shit make have a cost; The night's king falls and little finger faces justice but at the same time Westeros is a wreck.

    THat's kinda sweet but bitter too. Westeros needs to rebuild and given what cersei did even if she falls the status quo is gone (house tyrell is doomed, House Lannister will almost definitely fall from grace, House Baratheon is extinct.....three great houses gone) the river lands are still torched. It's one of those "bitter taste of victory" things. Not as bad as God of War III's ending but pretty bad nonetheless