Saturday, January 5, 2013

Commentary: 2012's Five Most Memorable Genre TV Moments

The 2012 television season was another great showing for genre shows. To choose the best memorable moments is a tough one, but I've managed to select five of the more notable scenes over the past year that were a standout.

I've based these entirely on my own emotional WTF reaction as I was watching them, so these top five in particular left an impression after it was over. I realize now that most are—and easily all could have been—character deaths, so I've tried to mix it up a bit. Bear in mind there are massive spoilers below, so only proceed if you've seen the series in question, or just don't give a hoot.

In the interest of being concise I chose a top five over a top ten, but I've sprinkled a few honorable mentions here and there.

Massive Spoilers Begin...

Sister Jude's drunken movie night.
Nor'easterAmerican Horror Story: Asylum
Season two of American Horror Story quickly cut itself a new path from its first outing, along with it, Jessica Lange as Sister Jude. Starting as the vindictive matron of the asylum, Jude acquiesces to hold a movie night—no small feat considering many of their endeavours turn into bloody messes like their group Christmas photo a few years earlier. Unfortunately, the Devil in the form of Eunice entices her back to her old binge drinking ways, leading to an inebriated Jude stumbling into the common room full of patients to slur her way through the introduction to Sign of the Cross, then break down in a monologue lamenting the death of the girl she believes she killed in a hit and run. It was humorous and disturbing, and another opportunity for Jessica Lange to prove she can do anything.

Obviously American Horror Story provides weekly doses of outrageous material, so it was a tough one to pick from, and since I didn't want the entire list to be character deaths, I chose the movie night given it made me laugh every time I rewatched it. This scene would come a close second to The Name Game's musical number but for the fact that episode aired the first week of January, so missed out on the 2012 list.

Lane's suicide.
Commissions and Fees,
Mad Men
Lane Pryce was one of the more beloved characters on Mad Men, the one who never seemed to get a break, stuck in a loveless marriage and always overlooked as the unnecessary partner at SCDP, despite that he was single-handedly responsible for its creation.

So when his debt incurred from helping the struggling firm forced him into the bad decision to temporarily skim some cash from the company funds, we all knew this would end badly. Circumstances led him to desperate measures to cover his tracks, but of course Don found out and refused to give him another chance. Fired, humiliated and faced with deportation, Lane attempted a couple of pathetic and failed attempts at suicide, including in the Jaguar his wife unknowingly gifted him (and incurred more debt). He finally succeeded in hanging himself in his office, leading to a disturbing and sad reveal as Joan, Pete, and the other partners discovered him.

For Don, it was even more horrifying. This was the second time he's led someone to kill themselves (by hanging), first by ignoring his brother's attempt to reforge a relationship with him. The shock on his face at what his decision caused capped a very morose episode. Even more ironic is that SCDP was subsequently awash in cash, and absent Lane it will be interesting to see how season six proceeds.

I have two additional honorable mentions that come in close to warrant inclusion—first Peggy's emotional scene with Don announcing her resignation in The Other Woman, and Megan's show stopping rendition of Zou Bisou Bisou in A Little Kiss'. As always, Mad Men delivers a season of memorable moments.

Opie's death.
Laying Pipe,
Sons of Anarchy
Since Donna's murder in season one, Opie has seemed like he's living on borrowed time, finding it difficult to even act like he cares about his new wife or even his children anymore. With his father's death courtesy of Clay, and watching his best friend Jax slowly giving in to the club's darker ways, Opie's had a big target on his back.

Faced with Damon Pope's harsh terms for payment of his daughter's death courtesy of Tig, Jax is put in the untenable position of picking who will die in prison—Tig, Chibs or Opie? When Opie purposely got himself arrested to protect Jax inside, it didn't come as too much of a surprise that something terrible was on the horizon. It was nonetheless heartbreaking to watch him get beaten to death in front of Jax, allowing him to escape the cancerous life of SAMCRO.

The fallout has had profound impact on the series, particularly pushing Jax on the path of Clay and orchestrating ever darker machinations to destroy his enemies. Opie was Jax's childhood friend, his right hand, and Jax's intended VP and eventual leader of SAMCRO. Without him Jax seems on a path to destruction.

Lorie's death.
Killer Within, The Walking Dead
Killer Within started out quietly enough, coming on the heels of a string of eventful and frenetic episodes. It felt like we were in for a more character driven and subdued hour. After months on the road managing to scrape by, Rick and Lori have never mended their bad blood over Shane, and now that she's certainly carrying Shane's baby, it's a constant reminder to Rick what he's had to do to keep them alive.

The two endure a cold but diplomatic conversation before some walkers get let out, throwing the prison into chaos and splitting up the survivors. Lori goes into labor and in the course of a few minutes decides she needs to have a C-section in the boiler room, something she won't survive. Before we know it Lori has given Carl a final mother/son pep talk and Maggie slices her open. And that's the last we hear of her. 

With the baby delivered, Carl takes charge and puts a bullet in his mother's brain so she won't resurrect, and he, Maggie and the baby make their way outside where Rick and the rest have been battling walkers. Rick collapses in horror. It's all worse considering the way he's treated her since the start of the season, and he never even got to say good-bye or have any kind of closure with her. To add insult, he goes to her body, only to find that she's been entirely consumed by a walker in the boiler room.

Readers of the graphic novel anticipated her death down the road, but not in this manner, so it came as a shock to new viewers and fans alike. While she was a love her/hate her character, she went out in a memorable way, leaving Rick on a questionable mental footing and viewers wondering what's next for Carl.

The death of pretty much everyone.
Wrath of the Gods, Spartacus: Vengeance
Given the story of Spartacus and its bloody first season and prequel, it was no surprise that there would be a great battle wrapping up season two. Every character was poised to have some resolution. But as Wrath of the Gods progressed they started dropping like flies in a relentless string of deaths that was hard to keep up to, much less mourn.

Some were long-deserved and others heartbreaking—Ashur (at the hands of Naevia, who seemed to barely escape death herself), noble Oenomaus, and Mira, as well as a host of secondary soldiers and rebel characters we barely got a chance to know. While some could be seen coming (Mira had a target on her the moment she and Spartacus broke up, and as soon as Oenomaus lost his eye, it was questionable how well he would manage in the future), others were true shockers. Spartacus' war of revenge against Glaber came to a glorious end as he murdered him after defeating his forces, with Glaber's last words warning them of their ultimate fate—Rome would send legions in his wake.

But the singular moment was Lucretia revealing her master scheme to her dearest friend—to steal Ilithyia's baby for her dead husband by literally cutting her out of her was one thing, but then she walked to the cliff ledge while Ilithyia struggled to crawl after. Used and abused all season, Lucretia revealed this was her plan all along. It was just desserts for Ilithyia, who had betrayed her enough times in the past. Lucretia wasn't just taking the child, she was taking the child into the afterlife for Batiatus. She lets herself fall over the cliff with the baby as Ilithyia watches in horror and drops dead herself.

There are no Roman characters left alive by the end of it, and a leaned down core of rebels taking the series into its third and epic final season.

Honorable Mentions:
Annie's unfinished business.
The Warchild, Being Human
With all the originals dead and gone but Annie, it fell to her to find her unfinished business (which just happened to be saving the world). In an exciting culmination of the season's storyline as well as four years of Annie's struggles, she opts to kill the baby she's been sworn to protect, saves the world by eliminating the old ones, and goes off into the afterlife where her friends are waiting for her. As sad as it is to see her go, she got a wonderful send off, and the writers have managed to introduce a compelling new set of characters to carry the series into its fifth season. The one thing that would have secured this episode in my top five—guest appearances by Mitchell, George and Nina.

Deb kills LaGuerta.
Surprise, Motherf**ker!, Dexter
With LaGuerta putting the pieces together about Dexter and the Bay Harbor Butcher, there was no viable solution to his dilemma that didn't result in her death. When it came to the chilling moment and Deb discovers her brother about to kill LaGuerta, she has to save him or kill him. Deb opts to shoot LaGuerta. Sad to see a major character (even one who could be as unlikable as LaGuerta) end on such a note, but how this point of no return choice affects Deb's character next season (as well as her relationship with Dexter) we just have to wait.

With American Horror Story's second season wrapping up, the second half of Walking Dead, the premiere of Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and a host of other great series, 2013's memorable moments will offer an equally difficult task to sort through.

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