Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: True Blood "The Sun"

Non Spoiler Review:
Eric risks capture to learn the truth of the governor's agenda, while Bill attempts to decipher his dreams of Lilith. Sookie meets a fellow fae as Jason gets a family history lesson from his travelling companion. Alcide and Martha pay a visit to Sam.

The Sun was an okay episode. It's refreshing to get back to some of the supernatural origins for the characters like we do this week, rather than the boring subplots of the Bellefleurs and others, and Rutger Hauer's revelation was a nice little surprise. 

There's still plenty of character problems to sort out—Alcide and Jason, to name a couple. Bill and Jessica remain the strong points of the show for me. 

Spoilers Now!
Jason confronts the mystery man on the side of the road, and he explains he's not Warlow, but his fairy grandfather, Niall. He tells Jason several things about his early life, convincing him he's genuine. Warlow is probably the oldest vampire still walking and Jason is no match for him. He needs to straighten up.

Tara is in agony. Eric and Nora arrive and realize the police have new weapons. He digs out the slug and finds it's a silver bullet that emits UV light. Nora reminds them the general said they were developing new weapons. Eric says they'll give them war. 

Jessica wakes up to Bill's screams. He can feel the pain of all the vampires and lapses into a vision where he's brought to see Lilith in the sun. She explains events have been set in motion—and Bill must complete her work. There is no god but god. He asks what he's supposed to do. Jessica wakes him up and has a human volunteer over for Bill to feed on. However the woman's body is completely taken over and emptied of blood without Bill touching her.

Arlene angrily calls Sookie that she has a shift at Merlotte's. Terry is alarmed when Patrick's wife walks in. She thinks Patrick ran off with another woman so they opt to go with that story. Some tourists from LA arrive looking for Sam. They know he's a shifter, but they want to start a dialogue between humans and supernatural creatures. Sam takes Nicole into his office and she explains she's a founder of the Vampire Unity Society. They want him to come out as a shifter because the government won't stop their war at vampires. 

On the way to work Sookie finds an injured man, Ben, in the bushes. She realizes he's half-fae and was injured by a vampire. She brings him back home to recover and after awhile he's ready to go on his way. She tells him there's a safe place for faeries and leads him to the meadow.

Jason returns home with his grandfather, who asks where Warlow tried to break through. He brings him up to the bathroom where Sookie first saw him. Niall jumps through the portal, leaving Jason behind. The he abruptly reappears, wet.

Andy takes his four girls out to the meadow calling for Mirella to take them, but gets no response.

Rereading the Book of Lilith, Nora realizes a passage has been mistranslated. Nora tells Pam that Eric never revealed her existence because that knowledge could have gotten Pam killed, and he's more proud of Pam than anyone.

Eric spies on the governor's mansion and intercepts a man with an appointment. The governor's daughter Willa escorts him in for his meeting with her father. Eric reveals he's a vampire and orders him to stop his persecution. He attempts to glamor him to love all vampires, but Burrell is unaffected and calls his guards. They've figured out the glamoring trick and have special contact lenses to protect them. He has him taken away to camp but Eric takes flight and makes his escape.

Sookie returns home to find Jason and an introduction to her grandfather. He reveals Warlow was already there sometime in the last day. Warlow has been obsessed with their family for thousands of years, as they are the original fae and he's king of their tribe. Warlow massacred their village, and Niall never saw him when he murdered his parents. He tracked him over the centuries until Claudene banished him to a dark realm the night he killed Sookie's parents. He reveals there's a secret in their bloodline—they can channel their light into a single ball of energy that will kill any vampire it touches. It's a last resort for Sookie, given she is only part fae and can only use it once before being fae nolonger. He tutors her on how to practice her light. 

Sam goes home where Lafayette is looking after Emma. Martha shows up looking for her and learns Luna is dead. Alcide explains Luna's actions mean the government will be looking for all of them. Alcide thinks it's best Emma comes with them given she's a werewolf. Sam forbids it and argues with the group. Martha grabs Emma and Sam and Alcide begin to fight, leaving Sam and Lafayette both unconscious. The Vampire Unity group are watching from the trees.

Willa is in her room and removes her contact lenses just as she gets a visit from Eric who glamors her to invite him in. 

Jessica has disposed of the body, then she says a prayer over Bill. Lilith tells Bill he will know what to do and trust what he sees. Bill wakes up and watches a news report of a vampire being dragged behind a truck. Jessica is relieved to find him awake, but both realize it's the vampire Bill saw before. He can see the future. Bill then has a vision of Jessica, Pam and Tara in a prison, being burnt in the sun. They're all going to burn, he says.

The Verdict:
The Sun was decent episode, and the fairy stuff surprisingly isn't as annoying and silly as it has been in the past. Ben is somewhat intriguing, but obviously a potential love interest for Sookie. I'm impressed more with Niall's character so far, but they seem to have left the big opening of freeing Sookie of her supernatural nature by using up all her power in one blast (to probably kill Warlow). While I'm pleased to learn Niall isn't Warlow, I'm not entirely sure we can trust him just yet.

We certainly can't trust Burrell, whose true agenda is apparent now. The novelty vampire weapons are a nice touch, and it's interesting to see the humans actually taking the offensive and winning against what has always been perceived as a stronger enemy.

Alcide and Rikki continue to act completely out of character, which is tough to get passed. I just can't see him treating Sam and Lafayette that way, unless becoming pack leader gives him a big dose of werewolf hormones to turn him into a complete ass.

I'm not sure yet what to make of the Vampire Unity Group, except that they'll likely bring a host of trouble on everyone rather than solving anything. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: Mad Men "In Care Of"

Non Spoiler Review:
In Care Of brings the sixth season to satisfying end as Don's conflicting identity reaches some closure. There is plenty of change afoot at SC&P with the Sunkist account promising new opportunity in California. Peggy struggles with her feelings for Ted. And Don's penchant for making decisions for everyone catches up to him.

It's been an arduous journey following Don along his increasingly despicable path, so there was some expectation in how he would end up. I enjoyed the ending and some of the sense of consequences for his actions. Whether we will see a renewed Don next year or not remains to be seen, given we've watched this character slide back and forth so many times now. We could see a very different firm next year, as well, given the expansion of the business to the west coast, and plenty of changes happening in the lives of so many.

Spoilers Now!
As Thanksgiving approaches, Stan wants the Sunkist account because he'll operate out of the new satellite office in Los Angeles. Don warns him his expectations may be too high for California. Roger gets a visit from his daughter and her husband. She snaps at him for not taking him up on his investment and uninvites him from Thanksgiving. Ken and Jim are excited that they're pitching to Hershey and Don needs to take the lead on it.

Roger finds Bob giving Joan a gift for Kevin. Roger isn't impressed and calls him in to give him a performance review, accusing him of having a hand in every rung, and being involved with Joan. He warns Bob he's keeping an eye on him.

Don is forced to call Sally at boarding school because she has to give a statement regarding the burglary and needs to be free December 21. Sally concedes she doesn't want to do anything immoral by missing the summons, but maybe Don could just tell them what she saw, and hangs up.

When Royal Hawaiian shows up at the office, Don is in a bar so Ted has to deal with them. Don is chatted up by a religious man who declares Martin Luther King Jr and the Kennedys weren't true believers, prompting a flashback to the brothel when a drunk preacher was thrown out of the house. Don wakes up in jail in the drunk tank. He's told he punched a minister, and to sleep it off. 

Don has to explain his whereabouts to Megan and admits he's gotten out of control. He also realizes he doesn't want to be there anymore—he wants to move to California. Megan is dumbfounded. She has opportunities in Hollywood but had never considered it. He would have his own small team for Sunkist and he reminds her they were happy there. She breaks down and agrees.

Don reveals his plans to the partners and welcomes them to vote on the matter, leaving them to discuss it. Jim tells Ted this is good for him. Stan goes to talk to Don, who assures him he might be able to get him out there eventually. But Stan says no.

Pete is getting established travelling to Detroit. He gets a shocking telegram that his mother is lost at sea, having fallen off her ship. Pete finds out Manolo and his mother got married on the cruise. On their way to the airport to Detroit Pete confronts Bob about the situation, accusing him of being an accessory to murder. At Chevy, Bob arranges for Pete to drive the show car around the room. It's a standard, which Pete can't drive, and he proceeds to back over a display. Bob assures them they'll pay for that, but they call Pete out for not being able to drive a stick.

Peggy heads out early because she has plans. She goes home to find Ted waiting in her building, needing to talk. She admits her date was terrible. He confesses he doesn't want anyone else to have her and they end up kissing. He loves her and is going to leave his wife. Later, in bed, he promises they won't have to sneak around, but she doesn't want a scandal. She can wait.

Don gets a late night phone call from Betty informing him Sally is suspended for buying beer. She needs him to go get her the next day. Don can't but Betty is at a loss and breaks down that Sally needs more than she can give her. Don concedes and tells her it isn't her fault. 

Pete is back to the office early, admitting he's done in Detroit. His secretary says his brother has been trying to reach him. Pete is outraged even though the cruise is trying to track down Manolo, who is now aware that she had limited financial resources. He and his brother decide that an extended and costly investigation won't bring her back and  let it drop.

Ted sits down with Don to explain he wants to go to California. He wants Don to stay and let Ted go. He needs to start over. With Peggy, Don adds. With his family, Ted corrects. It's his only chance to save his family and he can't throw it all away by remaining in New York. Ted pleads with him to help him put 3000 miles between him and Peggy or his life is over. But Don needs it too and they're already writing Megan off her show. It's too late. 

At the Hershey meeting Don makes his pitch that the chocolate bar is the currency of affection, telling a made up story of his childhood. Don notices Ted is looking lost, and realizes his own hand his shaking from not drinking so much. He abruptly confesses he was an orphan who grew up in a whorehouse and read about Hershey in a magazine. He would go through the johns' pockets and if he got more than a $1.00 she would let him buy a Hershey bar. It was the only sweet thing in his life. Ted, Roger and Jim are astounded and Hershey admits it's quite a story. Ted and Don are left alone, and he tells Ted he wants him to go to California.

Roger asks Don if any of that is true. Don goes home to Megan, and he fills her in on what's happened. She's furious, given she already has a bunch of meetings out there. She tells him she doesn't know why they're fighting for it anymore. They don't have kids. She used to pity his children but realizes they're all in the same boat. He tells her he can be out there all the time with her. She storms out.

Ted breaks the news to Peggy that he's leaving. She learns Don gave up his spot for him. He admits he needs to hold onto his family or he'll be lost. He loves her that deeply he can't be around her. Peggy tells him to get out. 

Pete visits Trudy to say goodbye before he leaves for Los Angeles. She tells him he's free of everything now.

Don is called in to a partners meeting on Thanksgiving. They confront him about his recent behaviour and he gets defensive. The verdict has been reached, Bert says. They think it's best he takes a few months off from the firm. Bert can't give him a return date, and they admit they're all in agreement. Don walks out. At the elevator he runs into Duck and Lou Avery, on their way to meet with the partners. 

Joan has Roger over for Thanksgiving, only to find Bob there. She tells him she's inviting Roger into Kevin's life, but not hers. Stan finds Peggy settled into Don's office.

Don picks up all the kids and takes them to an old house in a bad neighbourhood, telling them that's where he grew up. He and Sally share a look as they stand in front of the decrepit house, as she gets the first insight into her father's past.

The Verdict:
In Care Of was certainly a cathartic end to Don's season-long self-destruction. I'm excited to see where we meet him next year, given it appears (for the moment, anyway) that the Don Draper persona has been shed and we'll find Dick Whitman again. It's likely come at the cost of his marriage to Megan. His meltdown with Hershey was one of the best moments in a long time. It was definitely a surprise that the Sylvia affair didn't play at all in the finale, and chances are when next we see Don he'll have moved out of his building.

Pete's mother and Manolo has been a confusing storyline, and I don't know what we're to take from it—is Bob involved in it? Was it a scheme all along? Or just an accident. But it looks like Pete could be making his own move out west, which felt tacked on at the end.

I'm happy that Ted and Peggy did not work out and we'll be seeing him less next year. She needs to stand on her own two feet, and finding her in Don's office at the end was quite a pivotal moment for her.

So there was no big death, no reveal about Don's affair, but he received a welcome intervention by his fellow partners (including Joan). We'll see what happens in the final season as Mad Men finishes out the tumultuous sixties.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: Man of Steel

Non Spoiler Review:
Probably my most anticipated film of 2013 is Warner Brothers' Man of Steel, the latest attempt to give Superman the feature film he deserves. With Zack Snyder directing there was the potential for greatness (Watchman, 300) or falling flat (Sucker Punch). I'm very pleased to say he managed to exceed my expectations in nearly ever respect.

Man of Steel stars Henry Cavill (The Tudors, Immortals), Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne and Chrisopher Meloni, with Michael Shannon as main villain General Zod. Directed by Zack Snyder (The Watchmen) with screenplay by David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Rises), and additional help from Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) who also served as a producer.

Man of Steel is a full-fledged retelling of Superman's origin, but it doesn't get mired in a linear story, providing flashbacks throughout to illuminate aspects of Clark's development and point of view. The film opens with an extended look at the final days of Krypton, as Jor-El and Lara have conceived the first child in centuries among their genetically engineered population. So baby Kal-El is already pretty special, and as Kryptonian society (and the planet) are in decay, General Zod attempts a coup, prompting Jor-El to act to save his son. Kal-El is, of course, sent to Earth, where he's found by the morally solid Kents and raised to hide his unusual abilities, something that isolates him from humanity. As an adult, he continues to seek the truth about himself, and his journey brings him face to face with Lois Lane. His search has also awakened distant remnants of Krypton who follow him to Earth in hopes of unlocking his secrets.

Superman has had a difficult history following the success of Superman II. Most recently Superman Returns made a fair attempt at modernizing the hero, but where it managed to achieve a level of maturity as far as the character interpretation, it fell into the trap of idolizing the Donner films and refusing to start fresh. While Superman I and II are classics, they remain a product of their time and the crystaline Krypton and land grabbing Lex Luthor no longer fit with our modern day. Thankfully Snyder began anew, revisiting the origin and tweaking it here and there, but remaining true to the mythology that has evolved in print over the decades.

Henry Cavill is perfectly cast. His Kal-El is troubled from years of constantly holding back against bullies and subverting who he really is. Some have criticized the role as being too brooding, but I found it worked extremely well for this incarnation of Superman. Coupled with the Kents' moral guidance, the man that emerges is not the one-dimensional boy scout we're used to, but a complex and evolving man.

Shannon's portrayal of Zod was a surprise. I really had little experience with this actor, so I was thoroughly impressed with how he pulled off what could have been a flat villainous role. Snyder succeeded in creating a nemesis that wasn't out for pure destruction, but was motivated in a way the audience can relate to on a level. Antje Traue as Faora was an equally impressive side-kick. The remainder of the villains got little focus to allow us to distinguish faces and names.

The human characters also get to be heroic and noble. Perry White, Pete Ross, and numerous others did a fair job getting some screentime against the larger storylines, and future films will no doubt give them more to do. But Amy Adams certainly brought a refreshing, more modern Lois Lane. And Crowe and Costner provide two solid father figures for Kal-El.

The film borrows heavily from more recent iterations of the comic book lore, including Birthright and John Byrne's Man of Steel (which is my favorite version). These include Clark wandering the world to learn about himself and the genetically engineered focus of Krypton.

Sets and costuming were meticulously detailed. When it comes to super-heroes onscreen, I've always fallen into the camp that favors the uniform look versus a costume. The classic Superman red shorts are abandoned to something functional, with roots in Kryptonian culture. It's a vast improvement on the original, with darker colours and a CGI rendered cape for added effect. Hans Zimmer's score is poignant and ominous, much like his Batman work. It's certainly memorable and iconic, and I'll definitely be picking that up for repeated listening.

As far as Zack Snyder's direction, this movie is oddly his most realistic looking, despite the incredible number of special effects. He took great care in making it look like the real world. Everything from Superman's flight, to spaceships hovering in the air all seem as if they're taken through the lens of a handheld camera. Dust, debris and haze are prevalent in plenty of shots, and characters look real, right down to Martha Kent's sun damaged face. It's especially evident when contrasting it with a movie like Green Lantern, which came off as extremely artificial looking. There are plenty of iconic shots, too, and the super-powered moments are the most stunning ever committed to film. It feels like we've been waiting decades to be able to watch Superman cut loose on screen, though some will critique Snyder for creating action porn.

Most of the criticisms I've read stem from those who hate Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder, and enjoy their super-heroes with plenty of camp and jokes. To be blunt, while Superman I and II are still enjoyable in context, they are extremely flawed in plotting. Christopher Reeves buried the franchise with his Superman IV and it's taken years for Warner Brothers to break from the past and proceed with something suitably epic for their property.

Having just watched Star Trek: Into Darkness, which left me cringing at ridiculous plot devices and poor writing, I can say there is very little that had me scratching my head with Man of Steel. It all held together (once you walk into a movie accepting the notion of Superman's powers). The motivation of the villain made sense, and the hero's journey held together. For the first time the greater context of Superman's extraterrestrial origin is a primary plot point, and how this is a first contact situation for the people of Earth. It all resolves itself pretty tightly, and you won't find any flying around the world in reverse climaxes here.

One thing I noted that did not get addressed at all is the massive loss of life that simply had to happen with the apocalyptic destruction in Metropolis. Whole city blocks were immediately flatted and towers kept toppling throughout the climax. There's a moment where Superman throws one of Zod's men through a gas station, and super speed punches send characters careening through several buildings at a time, and not once do people comment that it might be a good idea to take the battle out of the city. If this is my only criticism, then it's certainly not a big one. What I did like is the film delivered the weight of loss and big things happening with serious consequences at stake. But it is Zack Snyder, so the violence is pretty heavy-handed.

I kept my eye out for easter eggs, and while Lexcorp figured prominently in the background, I doubtlessly missed quite a few given the frenetic and shaky battle scenes. There is ample fodder to be found for sequels, though.

Man of Steel is an outstanding interpretation of the Superman mythos, modernized and evolved where necessary to keep the character contemporary. With a fantastic cast, a lot of emotion and a serious tone, it's easily one of my favorite movies since Dark Knight Rises (ironically enough). DC has a winner with this creative team, and it appears they will be continuing together with the sequel and a potential Justice League film. I'll be rewatching this one for a long time to come.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: True Blood "Who Are You, Really?"

Non Spoiler Review:
Who Are You, Really? kicks off the mystery of who and what is the resurrected Bill Compton. As Louisiana turns against the vampires, Jason sets off on his own when it seems Sookie remains loyal to them. Alcide sees the benefits of being pack leader, while Andy and Sam both tackle child rearing.

As True Blood premieres go, this wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either. I find the Bill storyline the most interesting, but it runs the risk of quickly derailing if the whole Lilith mythology doesn't hold up. Sam, Andy and Alcide all got short shrift given the vampire-centric opening.

It used to be that I really anticipated the series premiere. But after a couple of sketchy seasons, the series really needs to pull things together and go for some solid storytelling over the rampant craziness that has become its trademark. There are still great characters here—Bill and Jessica, Alcide, Lafayette, Sam, and Pam and Tara that can sustain the series, if only the writers treat them seriously.

Spoilers Now!
Eric and Sookie run to the elevator but the power goes off as a resurrected Bill goes on a rampage. The two of them climb up the shaft. Jason, Pam, Jessica, Tara and Nora make their way outside as Bill sets the building on fire. Eric and Sookie drive up and everyone piles in as the building explodes. They watch as Bill emerges from the flames and stares after them. It's not Bill anymore, Sookie says, and he flies into the sky.

Eric believes he let them get away. They hear on the radio that Louisiana Governor Burrell has declared a vampire curfew and is closing all vampire businesses in his state given over two hundred people have died since the True Blood bombings.

Pam is offended Eric never mentioned Nora in all the time they knew one another. Eric shoots back that there are more important things going on at the moment. He asks Nora if anything could explain what they just saw but she's at a loss to understand it. If Lilith is walking the earth they have to destroy her. Nora needs to talk to Jason and wonders how he knows about Warlow. Eric has never heard the name before.

Sookie consoles Jessica. They're both afraid that whatever rose from the dead isn't Bill. She thinks they have to let him go.

Nora attempts to glamor Jason for his knowledge on Warlow. Jason explains he murdered his parents, but he pulls a gun on her when he recovers himself and demands to know where Warlow is. Nora admits she's never laid eyes on him, but he's in the Book of Lilith—Lilith's progeny and one of the first vampires. Sookie demands he put the gun down and steps in between them.

Jason declares she loves the vampires more than her own blood and says she's dead to him too. He runs off. Jessica abruptly turns around, feeling Bill is summoning her and unable to stop it. Eric tries to hold her back but she vomits blood and faints. Jessica is in agony so Sookie decides she's taking her to Bill with or without them. She and Sookie go off. Tara wants to follow but Eric stops her and orders Pam to return to Fantasia while he flies off with Nora.

Luna lays dying and asks Sam to look after her daughter. Sam returns to the bar to find Lafayette, who comments on Luna transforming from Newlin on television and creating alarm there are other kinds of supernaturals. 

As the pack eats the body of J.D., Alcide's father urges him to partake if he's to become pack master. He does so. Martha warns Rikki that power is more of a drug than the vampire blood and will wear away at his decency. Alcide receives the fealty of his new subjects and they run off together as wolves.

Sookie and Jessica arrive at Bill's mansion, following a trail that ends with a pile of dried blood. They find Bill on the porch looking his old self. He just wants to talk. Nora and Eric attack but he easily restrains them. Sookie shoves a wooden stake through his back. Bill turns to her and pulls it out, suggesting they talk now.

Bill explains he brought them there because he's no monster nor wishes them any harm. He says he is Bill Compton, but clearly something more. He sees everything differently now. The man who put fear in their eyes is gone. Sookie says she felt Bill die and doesn't believe it's him, asking him to prove it. She wants him to stay away from all of them. Jessica disagrees. She wants Bill to stay and tells the rest to leave. All they want to do is kill and ask questions later, and she accuses Sookie of betraying her trust by trying to stake Bill. The earth shakes as Bill orders them away, leaving just the two of them.

The governor meets with one of the True Blood producers, offering a government bailout—a partnership with True Blood. Her clients are vampires and she doesn't want to partner with him. He reveals he has an old oil refinery that has been refurbished as a bottling plant, something she can use free of charge until her facilities are back up and running. The partnership can be a silent one. Once the vampires have their True Blood he hopes they will return to peaceful law abiding members of society. Louisiana needs revenue and so does he if he wants to be re-elected. That's what's in it for him. 

Alcide changes back to human form with his new follower Danielle and proceeds to make out with her until Rikki shows up. He apologizes but she takes over and tells Danielle to join in. She informs Alcide she's his number one bitch and don't ever forget it.

Back at Fantasia, Tara can't understand why Pam keeps taking orders from Eric. Pam tells her she can't ever replace him. The police arrive to close down the bar and Tara threatens them, only to be shot.

Eric offers Sookie money so she can start a new life, but she realizes Bill will find her if he wants. She knows she's changed but he says she'll always be the girl who walked into his bar. At her home he gives the deed back to her. It's the least he can do. She admits she wants her old life back so she can be that girl again, and rescinds his invitation to her house. He tells her goodnight. Eric and Nora then conspire to find Bill's weakness, but he insists they stay away from Sookie from now on. 

Arlene tells Andy he has to look after his new litter of fairy babies. He admits he doesn't know how to take care of them. Later as he sleeps Andy, Terry and Arlene are woken up by the rapidly aged children, now young girls.

Bill tends to Jessica, but when she drops her glass it suspends in mid air, thanks to Bill's new found abilities. He didn't know he could do that and he admits he doesn't have answers. He explains that during the war General Sherman started out as a good man but as the years passed and he grew more powerful he turned mad. He needs Jessica to keep him honest and tell him as it is. She's the only one he trusts. He lets her sleep.

Jason is picked up on the side of the road by an older man. He explains he was in Bontemps a long time before and asks about Jason's family to pass the time. Jason recounts the tale of what's transpired. The driver finally suggests he can't keep Warlow away from Sookie. Jason fires his gun, but the man has vanished and the car veers off the road.

As Sookie sleeps the scroll next to her begins to glow. Bill, meanwhile, has painful visions and hears his name. He finds Lilith standing in his study. He asks who she is and she flies into his body.

The Verdict:
There's not much to say at this early juncture about the direction of the series. Who Are You, Really? keeps Bill and Jessica's relationship as one of the strong points of the story. I really enjoy that these two continue to be at its core. As for the rest of the bunch, I don't care about Andy's babies, nor does Eric and Nora really inspire me all that much.

Luna was dispatched so quickly I didn't even have time to remember what happened to her in the finale. I'm not sure I want to see Sam as a father at this point. Which could mean Emma is passed on to her grandmother. Martha's speech doesn't portend well for Alcide. But I'm guessing Sookie is done with vampires and might move on to werewolves, which could likely save him from going to the dark side. I realize Alcide is currently high on V, but he's in danger of becoming a caricature of himself like Jason has.

The introduction of Warlow hopefully will prove to be an inspired storyline, and maybe he won't even figure as a villain despite the ominous introduction. And it remains to be seen if the Louisiana governor has everyone's best interests at heart as he professes.

So an apathetic review at this point. Given so many other series have overshadowed True Blood's former greatness in the last few years, the writers can either pull the show out of the doldrums or let it fade out. It would be nice if they could somehow recapture the fun and excitement of season two.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead 111

Non Spoiler Review:
As Rick, Andrea and Michonne train with the Kingdom, Jesus rounds up recruits at the Hilltop to join them. Back home, Spencer sees an opportunity in a surprise visitor.

Issue 111 continues the build up to the attack with plenty of planning and training. It wasn't the most gripping chapter we've seen, and felt more like padding for the larger story. Aside from the Negan scene it was mostly fluff. 

Spoilers Now!
Andrea and Rick wake up at the Kingdom. She remains suspicious but he (ironically enough) tells her she needs to relax a bit. Michonne is feeling more at ease, as well, but not so much that she won't sleep with her sword at hand.

Jesus leaves the Hilltop with some men to train, after having words with Gregory about his lack of leadership skills. He has allowed Gregory the luxury of plausible denial if things go south with Negan. Maggie notes what an idiot he is, and Brianna agrees, but no one else wants the job.

As training gets underway, Rick estimates they could have up to 70 people once Jesus arrives. He wants to start tackling Negan's outposts and scouting out how many men he might have.

As Jesus, Rick and Ezekiel discuss their new army, Dwight has revealed the locations of the outposts that they can begin to whittle away at. Unfortunately Negan never sleeps alone, so Ezekiel dismisses the possibility that Dwight could get close enough to kill him. Rick has to continue on to get supplies given Negan's imminent visit.

Negan shows up unexpectedly at Alexandria, and though informed that Rick is away scrounging for supplies for him, opts to stay and await his return. While relaxing, he's visited by Spencer, who asks to chat and informs him Rick can't be trusted. Things were much better when his father was in charge, and Spencer could be a good ally to Negan if he saw fit to replace Rick.

Negan takes him for a walk and guts him, telling him that Rick is a far braver man for facing him down while Spencer waited until he was a way before making his power play. He tells his men to get rid of the body.

The Verdict:
While 111 was a quick read, it was a nice surprise that Kirkman had Spencer taken off the board in a rather abrupt manner, but it provided a unique opportunity to show Negan's personal code (and in this strange instance, a very brief moment where he was somewhat likable). 

Ironic that Negan appears to respect Rick despite him conspiring behind the scenes, and removing a major obstacle to Rick's power. And it's certainly fortunate Spencer was kept out of the loop on matters. Will Rick be able to keep the plan together when he returns to town and finds Negan there?

Meanwhile, I remain suspicious that Ezekiel might be more dangerous than we're led to believe and is just waiting for the opportunity to remove Negan as his biggest rival. We'll see. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Mad Men "The Quality of Mercy"

Non Spoiler Review:
As Don continues to suffer the guilt of his indiscretions, Sally has had enough and wants to go to boarding school. Don finds a target to direct his self-loathing, creating further tension at the office. Meanwhile, Pete gets some surprising news and an opportunity.

While it's been hammered into our heads all season that Don is a monster, he gets told as much in The Quality of Mercy. As an interesting contrast, Pete continues to evolve, and is faced with a familiar choice this week hearkening back to season one.

I enjoyed Quality of Mercy, not for the Don stuff, but for the increasingly interesting Pete and some further revelations about Bob Benson. There was also a fantastic laugh-out-loud scene with Joan, Don, Ted and Peggy that was worth the watch. I really have no idea what will happen in the finale next week, unless it stems back to the Rosens, but I hope we get some cap on the all the development (or rather, regression) of Don this season.

Spoilers Now!
Don is a mess. Megan wakes to find him in Sally's room. He didn't want to wake her when he came home. She doesn't know what's going on but advises he pulls back on the throttle a bit. Making breakfast, Don pours some vodka into his orange juice as Megan asks him to stay home and sleep it off. Meanwhile...Ken is off hunting with the Chevy boys. When one swings his gun around to shoot, he hits Ken.

Don does stay home, switching channels, which ranges from a Nixon ad to Megan's soap. Betty phones to chat about Sally. She's refusing to come visit him again. Betty suggests it could be the burglar, or the fight she had with Julie after the model UN, but she wants to go away to a boarding school. 

Megan gets home, happy to see Don looking better. He gets a phone call from Harry in California who is excited that Sunkist is interested in a huge television campaign. Don warned him to drop Sunkist and explains they can't conflict with Ocean Spray. Megan wants to spend the day with him, so they take in Rosemary's Baby, but have a surprise run-in with Ted and Peggy, who claim they were getting inspiration for the St. Joseph's Aspirin campaign. It's a bit awkward, but Megan invites them to join them for dinner. Peggy says she has a date. Megan and Don return home and remain curious as to why the two of them went to the movies in the afternoon. Don realizes he needs to call Harry.

Ken gets into the office wearing an eye patch, explaining to Pete that Chevy shot him. He hates Detroit, cars and guns and declares Chevy is killing him. His wife is going to have a baby, and he wants out. Pete says he would gladly take his place with Chevy and confesses he and Trudy are separated. 

Roger and Don meet with Ted and Jim with big news—Harry's deal with Sunkist. Ted brings up the conflict with Ocean Spray but Sunkist doesn't seem to mind. Ted is dreading calling Ocean Spray and points out their word as an agency means nothing anymore. The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Don admits they're right and must work closer together. No more surprises, Jim agrees. But he's excited about Sunkist himself, which means millions. Ted thinks Peggy should be on it.

Pete is excited about the possibility of Chevy and goes to meet with Bob, Ken, Bert, Jim and Roger. Ken admits he just can't be on the ground in Detroit but can remain on the business in New York. Pete is anxious to step in. Bob will be a big help with the transition, they tell him. Pete wants to bring in his own team but Jim and Roger point out continuity is essential to maintain the level of service. Bob excuses himself so they can discuss it freely. Jim and Chevy like Bob and if Pete doesn't like Bob, they'll find someone who does. Pete acquiesces and thanks them all for their trust. Later as they shake hands, Pete tells Bob he's sick. Bob points out he only expressed his admiration and wasn't making a sexual advance. He cares about Chevy. And he warns Pete to watch what he says about people. 

Betty drives Sally to her boarding school interview. Betty remains curious why she wants to go but Sally isn't forthcoming. She wants to be a grown up, she answers. Betty drops her off for her overnight stay. 

Pete tells Duck he's not looking for a new job anymore. He brings up they need to get rid of Bob and wants leads to offer him in order to push him out the door. Duck is happy to help as long as he gets paid. Meanwhile, Bob is on the phone speaking to Manolo.

Don walks in on Joan, Ted and Peggy choosing photos for the St. Joseph's campaign. The three of them act out the ad for Don, but he can't help but notice Ted touching Peggy's waste. After they leave, Joan tells Don that they're over budget with this particular campaign. Later, Pete's mother comes to see him with her new nurse Josephine. She's planning on traveling and Manolo told her he's upset how he's treating his friend Bob Benson. 

Sally finds out from her two roommates she's supposed to look after them given her acceptance hinges on their recommendation. That night Glen climbs in through the window with a friend, Rolo. He's brought a bottle and something to smoke. Sally picks up that Glenn and Mandy might know one another. She thinks they've met. She takes him away to read her diary, leaving Sally and Rolo. Rolo moves in for a kiss but Sally isn't into it. She tells Glen to come out and Glen berates Rolo that Sally is like his sister. Sally tells them Rolo tried to force her so Glen proceeds to beat him up. Rolo storms out and Glen goes off to follow, ensuring Sally is all right. Sally apologizes. Mandy thinks Sally likes trouble.

Ted is furious with Don when their casting was interrupted by a phone call from St. Joseph's to stop it, thanks to Don sending over the budget. Peggy's heart was set on it and Ted is disappointed he has to give her the news. Ted asks Don to back him up on it in the morning when they meet with the client. 

Duck phones Pete that he'll need more on Bob Benson. He doesn't even know if the name is real. The previous job Pete referred him to led to a Bobby, a rube from the south who served as a manservant to a senior vice president and then disappeared with their Christmas card list. His only job opportunity has been with someone who doesn't ask any questions, which is SC&P. Duck admits he's never seen anything like this before. Pete says he has.

At the St. Joseph's meeting the next morning, the client likes the idea, but thought they paid a lot less for it. Ted says the cost is a fraction of what it will deliver. St. Joseph's maintains that they agreed on a budget and have to stick to it, despite Ted continuing to urge him to the contrary. The client gets angrier given he had to justify the budget. Don interjects that the reason he wants is a reason why they are pushing him like this. Don admits the reason is very personal. Ted doesn't know what he means. Don answers yes he does, and Ted looks at Peggy, mortified. Don assures him it's okay and he can tell them, and so Don does...It's hard for Ted to say, but it was Frank Gleason's last idea. Ted slowly agrees and admits to being overly sentimental. The client acquiesces to up the budget a bit more but can't go the whole cost. After he's shown out, Peggy is furious, asking Don if that was really necessary. Ted asks she leave them alone.

Don tells him that was the best he could do. Ted isn't thinking with his head and is embarrassing himself. Everyone sees him pining over Peggy and his judgement is impaired. He leaves him to consider that. 

Pete goes into Bob's office confronting him about his previous profession. He asks what he does when he's found out, and who hired him. He says Pete did. Bob asks him for a day's head start. But he doesn't believe Bob is going to run and is afraid what he can do in a day. Pete explains he will benefit from the fact Pete's been in this position before and has learned not to tangle with his kind of animal. He surrenders. Pete wants him to graciously accept his apologies, work alongside but not too closely. Pete is off limits. And he wants him to get Manolo out of his mother's life. Bob says Manolo doesn't like women. Pete tells him to make sure.

On the ride home Sally maintains her silence with her mother. Betty says she got in if she wants it. Sally opens up more and Betty gives her a cigarette. She admits her father has probably given her a beer. My father has never given me anything, Sally says.

Peggy wants to see Ted but he went home. She instead goes to rail against Don. She tells him to stop hiding behind the ad and knows what he did. He hates that Ted is a good man. Don tells him Ted's in love with her. She fires back that Don killed Ted and the ad. He can stop now. He's just looking out for the agency, he protests. Peggy calls him a monster and walks out. Don curls up on his couch in the fetal position.

The Verdict:
A Quality of Mercy had its share of humorous moments—Ken getting shot (well, it was funny after we learned he survived), Megan's reaction to Rosemary's Baby, and Don's wah, wah bit. I'm struggling to see where the season is going to end up next week unless it ties together Don's affair with a final conflict with Ted.

Good for Pete for learning from the past and opting to handle Bob differently than the mess he made with Don in season one. I'm a little more impressed with Benson's backstory now that it ties in with Don's made up past and how both men have managed to succeed by rewriting their history. It's an added twist that he appears to be gay, which draws interesting comparisons with both Don and Sal, as he's not afraid to strike back if he's pushed in a corner (unlike Sal).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: Game of Thrones "Mhysa"

Non Spoiler Review:
Mhysa closes a gripping and successful third season while servicing multiple plotlines. Roose Bolton and Walder Frey revel in their elevated positions, while Tywin lectures his son on matters of family. Arya finds an outlet for her rage. Daenerys considers if she may be a conqueror or a liberator. Bran meets a new friend, while Jon attempts to get back to Castle Black. Joffrey attends his small council.

The finale was certainly enjoyable, but it lacked the memorable end scene we've grown accustomed to the last couple of years. I believe the writers had to catch up with so many characters given the recent focus on a small number of stories that it took up the entire episode. So while not as strong as previous offerings, it was still enthralling. I just wish it had ended with a little more of a memorable event.

There were a few interesting revelations and reunions, just no major shocks like The Rains of Castamere. It leaves a lot of excitement to anticipate in season four given so much of Mhysa was set up for ominous goings on. Season three managed to shake up the status quo significantly, leaving politics and families in disarray. And so begins another long wait.

Spoilers Now!
Bolton surveys the burning encampment of Robb's army as Frey's men continue their massacre of the bannermen. The Hound makes his way out on horseback with Arya, grabbing a Frey banner to provide cover for their escape. Arya wakens as they lead out a bound and decapitated Robb on his horse, with Ghost Wind's severed head sewn to his body.

In King's Landing, Sansa and Tyrion are out for a walk with Shae following from behind. Passersby snicker and laugh at them, and Tyrion is making a list of their names, though his wife suggests he should learn to ignore them. Tyrion disagrees and Sansa wonders how they will punish them. Tyrion can speak to Varys and learn their perversions. Sansa poses that they sew sheep dung in their mattress, something Arya used to do to her. Tyrion thinks that's amusing, but Podrick arrives to advise that his father has called together the small council.

Joffrey shows up to attend the meeting, anxious for Tyrion to hear the news. Tyrion is stunned to learn of the deaths of Robb and Catelyn. Joffrey wants Robb's head to serve to Sansa at his wedding feast. Tyrion advises him she's no longer his to torment, but Joffrey warns him to remember he's the king and his uncle is just a monster. Tyrion counters that if he's a monster then monsters are dangerous, and kings are dying likes flies. Joffrey goes into a rage again, and Cersei attempts to appease him by dismissing Tyrion as bitter, and Pycelle speaks up that he should apologize immediately. Tywin tells his grandson that any man who must say I am the king isn't a real king. He will remind him of that when he wins his war. Joffrey shoots back to his grandfather that it was his father Robert who is the real king that defeated the Targaryens while Tywin hid at Casterly Rock, prompting a deadly stare from the patriarch. He suggests Joffrey is exhausted and needs sleep, advising Pycelle give him nightshade to help. Cersei leads her son off, and the rest of the council disperses, leaving just Tyrion and Tywin.

Tyrion mocks his father's treasonous statements. Walder Frey will get all the blame and the credit. Tyrion knows he would never have risked such an action if he didn't have Tywin's support. His father explains he orchestrated it to end the war and protect the family. Tywin will always defend his blood. The northerners will never forget, Tyrion warns. All the Stark men are dead, Winterfell is a ruin, Roose Bolton will be Warden of the North until Tyrion's son comes of age, Tyrion explains, and orders him to get Sansa pregnant one way or another.

Tywin lectures him that the house that puts family first will always defeat the one that puts the whims and wishes of its members first. Tyrion says its easy for him to preach when he's making all the decisions in his own interests. Tywin disputes that, and admits he would have killed Tyrion the day he was born, but instead he let him live and brought him up as his son because he's a Lannister. Tyrion goes to find Sansa. She has heard the news already and he leaves her alone.

Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen find the Nightfort, but Bran has doubts about the unsettling stories he's heard of it. He recounts the tale of a Night's Watch cook who was angry with the king, and while he visited the Nightfort killed his son and served him to the king in a pie. As punishment the gods turned the cook into a giant white rat who could only devour its own babies but never be satiated. The crime was not murder—he killed a guest beneath his roof, something the gods can't forgive.

At the Twins, Frey is gloating his victory, being named lord of Riverrun. Bolton warns him the Blackfish escaped. Frey toasts Roose as the newly appointed Warden of the North. Bolton admits Robb ignored his advice at every turn. Frey then asks what really happened at Winterfell. Roose explains he sent his bastard Ramsay, offering Robb's amnesty for the ironborn if Theon was delivered. They turned on Theon as he knew they would, but Ramsay has his own way of doing things.

Meanwhile, Ramsay continues to taunt Theon, having removed his genitals and leaving him bound as he eats dinner. Theon begs for death. Ramsay decides he doesn't want to call him Theon anymore, and suggests Reek is a better one. He beats him until Theon admits to the new name.

Bran wakes up in the night, hearing heavy breathing in the halls. Everyone rises and watches something come up the stairs. Meera brings it down, then hear a woman's screams from below to stop. It's Sam and Gilly, on their way to Castle Black. Sam sees the direwolf and realizes it's Jon's brother Bran, having heard of Hodor, as well. He introduces himself and explains he'd be dead if it wasn't for Jon, and will do anything to help them. Bran wants to be taken north of the Wall.

Sam recounts what they've been fleeing from and asks them to come with them to Castle Black. If Jon is alive, that's where he'll be. Jojen knows Sam saw the White Walkers and the army of the dead, and no one in Westeros will be able to stop them. Bran examines the dragon glass Sam found and listens to him explain how he used it to kill the White Walker. Sam gives them pieces for their arsenal and reluctantly sees them off through the passage through the Wall as he and Gilly continue on their journey to Castle Black.

At Pike, Balon Greyjoy receives a message and a box, with an ultimatum to leave the north by the full moon or every islander still in their lands will be flayed as they flayed the ones at Winterfell. Included in the box is Theon's penis. More boxes will follow with more of Theon if they don't leave. It's signed by Ramsay Snow, son of the Warden of the North.

Balon tells Yara that Theon disobeyed him and the boy is a fool. Now he can't even further the Greyjoy line, and he won't give up the lands he has seized. Yara protests he's his son and her brother. He's not a man anymore, Balon says, and warns her to watch herself as he's made his decision. Yara has made hers. She's going to take the fastest ship and their fifty best killers and march on the Dreadfort to find her little brother and bring him home.

Davos goes down to the dungeon to visit Gendry. He commiserates with him about being lowborn. They were both born in Fleabottom in King's Landing. Gendry confesses he had never been with a woman and was taken in by Melisandre's words. Davos tells the story of how he became a lord in helping Stannis. He accepted the position for his son, so he would have something better, but he's dead now.

Varys comes upon Shae watching the ships, asking when she came to Westeros. Thirteen, she replies. She has been a good influence on Tyrion, he muses. Now she's his wife's servant, Shae admits, but she does love Sansa and would kill for her, but it doesn't make it any easier on her. Varys agrees and points out that neither of them will ever be their countrymen. Varys hands her a bag of diamonds and tells her to sail across the sea and start a good life far from Westeros. Tyrion is one of the few people alive who can make the country a better place, but Shae is a complication. Varys knows she loves him. He's asking her to leave because her presence endangers him. Find a true home while there's still time. Shae tosses him the diamonds. Tyrion can tell her to leave himself if he wants her gone.

Cersei visits Tyrion, goading him about his married life. He wonders if she'll be as philosophical when she's wed to Loras, but she is confident she won't be marrying him. She advises he give Sansa a child so she can at least have some happiness in her life. As happy as Cersei, he asks. She admits even Joffrey gave her pleasure. He was always happy when he was with her. No one can take that feeling away from her, not even Joffrey. Tyrion asks how long it can go on. Until they deal with all their enemies, she answers, even if they create more each time.

The Hound and Arya come upon some of Frey's soldiers boasting of their role in the Stark massacre. Arya leaps off the horse as they discuss the difficulty keeping the wolf head on Robb's body. She asks if she can keep warm at their fire and is told to get lost. She offers up the coin Jaqen gave her as payment, and drops it as the one man reaches for it. As he bends over to pick it up she stabs him repeatedly in the back. The Hound rushes to face off and kill the other men who leap to his aid. When it's done he asks where she got the knife. From you, she says. He asks if it's the first time she's killed a man. The first man, she answers. He warns her the next time she's going to do something like that to tell him first. As he returns to the horse, Arya holds the coin and speaks "Valar Morghulis."

Jon drinks at a pool only to find Ygritte behind with her bow trained on him. He tells her she always knew who he was and he had no choice. He has to go home now. He knows she won't hurt him and he loves her and she loves him but he has to go. Jon turns to get on his horse and she shoots him in the back. He manages to mount it and ride off, but not before she puts two more arrows into him and cries as he gallops away.

At Castle Black Sam and Gilly tell their story to Aemon. She's decided to call the child Sam. Sam protests it's not his child, but one of Craster's, and he's remained true to his Night's Watch vows. He has seen the night gathering and it's coming for all of them. Aemon assures that she and her son will be their guests for the time being and they won't be sent back beyond the Wall. He then has Sam write a letter. All their ravens will fly that night.

Davos' reading is much improved, and he sits with Shireen reading the latest from the ravens. He finds the one from the Night's Watch just as the bells of Dragonstone begin to ring. Davos tells her to bar the door and goes to find Stannis and Melisandre, who have learned Robb Stark is dead. Melisandre explains her faith has been rewarded. Davos knows that uniting the Seven Kingdoms with magic is wrong and evil, yet Stannis reminds him that Aegon conquered Westeros on dragons. Stannis will not forget or forgive his enemies and they will be punished with any arms at his disposal. Davos asks him to spare the boy, given they intend to burn Gendry as a sacrifice, but Stannis maintains he must die.

Davos heads to the dungeon and tells Gendry he's leaving, helping him to escape. He takes him to a boat on shore and directs him where to go, rowing for a full day and night to King's Landing and not to stop lest Melisandre find him. Gendry has never been in a boat before. Davos explains he's doing it because it's the right thing to do.

Jon's horse reaches Castle Black and he falls off. He's brought inside and he opens his eyes to see a relieved Sam and Pypar. He's carried inside to be tended to.

Jaime and Brienne arrive in King's Landing, walking on foot. Jaime is treated like a commoner among the people on the street. Cersei is in her chambers when he walks in. She turns around and lays eyes on him.

Davos is brought to Stannis and admits to letting Gendry go. Melisandre chides him for saving one innocent against dooming tens of thousands. Stannis sentences him to die this time, but Davos advises him against it. He'll need him, and hands him the letter from the Night's Watch.

Stannis reads it—the lord commander is dead in the north, while one survivor returned warning of the White Walkers. Melisandre reads it, then burns it. She stares into the fires and suddenly declares the war of five kings means nothing. The true war lies north. Death marches on the Wall and only Stannis can stop him. Davos says Stannis needs someone who can raise an army for him. Stannis refuses to change his decision, but it's Melisandre that counters him, advising Davos is needed and has a role to play in the war to come. Stannis is amused at the irony that Davos is now in the army of the fire god.

At Yunkai, Daenerys stands at the gates of the city awaiting her new subjects to come to her. She wonders if they feel liberated or conquered. The doors open and hundreds of freed slaves file out. Missandei addresses them, announcing it is to Daenerys they owe their freedom, but Daenerys stops her. She says they don't owe her their freedom as it's not hers to give. They must take their freedom themselves. The people begin calling out mhysa, a word that means mother. She tells her dragons to fly and goes out among the people while Selmy and Jorah watch nervously. She's hoisted up and carried on their shoulders as the throng of thousands pour out of the city around her.

The Verdict:
Mhysa overflowed with storyline catch ups, but mostly setting up next year rather than delivering a final wow scene on the level of its preceding seasons. What we got was a pleasant Daenerys moment, but one that was very much similar (and anticlimactic) to her departure from Astapor, so in that respect alone it was a bit disappointing.

I'm relieved Jon returned to the Night's Watch, especially abandoning Ygritte in favor of his duty. His plotline really struggled last year and much into this one, so he has redeemed the honor of his character. His reunion with Sam and Pypar was a touching one.

Arya's altercation with Frey's men must be singled out as my favorite, as it contained a laugh out loud moment with the Hound berating her for not warning him what she was doing. Invoking valar morghulis promises excitment to come. I also hope it means the two of them will go on an avenging rampage across Westeros (something I think the Hound could get behind).

Bran's story of the rat cook implies a very nasty end for Walder Frey, which I don't doubt will be coming. But I'm curious to see who it will be from. As for Bolton, he's a much smarter man and less the maniacal villain, but will he be fine relinquishing his appointment as Warden of the North when Tyrion's heir comes of age, or will he plot against that, too? As for Ramsay, how he can let him run amok without concern that he might mess up his own plans is a stretch. At least we have confirmation what happened to Winterfell. All of that theorizing may be moot given the north is about to get a whole lot busier with Yara attacking the Dreadfort and two armies preparing to march south.

Ramsay provides a nice comparison to Joffrey's sadism. Poor Theon has certainly illicited sympathy this year, but his storyline stalled. I doubt he will die, as that would make such a waste of screentime, but it occurred to me about the only thing he could be good for now is becoming a red priest. Interesting that Yara is leaping to his defense given how she treated him.

The Lannisters have seen plenty of development this year, and this week the disintegrating relationship between Tywin and his grandson continues. I thought it odd that Joffrey worships Robert as much as he does. But Tywin looks like he has no patience left, and if he should find someone else to sit on the throne, I think he could easily dispatch with his grandson.

Plenty of storylines got short shrift. I wish we had gotten a scene at King's Landing to see Tywin's reaction to Aemon's message. Or Sansa's reaction at being the last Stark (at least that's what everyone thinks). Jaime's return was very underused, especially given the relationship he developed with Brienne.

It looks like the north is going to be the center of attention next season. Not only is Mance Rayder's army and the White Walkers about to engage the Night's Watch, but Roose will be facing off against Yara's forces. I really hope that Tywin and Joffrey get their just desserts, and surely Daenerys must be ready to make her trip across the Narrow Sea. The series remains strong and immensely enjoyable. The only thing that could make it better is HBO announcing a 12 episode season.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: Mad Men "Favors"

Non Spoiler Review:
Arnold and Sylvia's problems spill over into Don and Megan's household while Sally is in town for a visit. SC&P continues its growing pains. Pete finds out his mother's nurse might be too good for her.

With Viet Nam weighing heavily on this season, it at last directly impacts Don and Megan, leading to a series of events that bring a long running plotline to a head (at last). Meanwhile, Ted and Don continue to hash out their territory, which reflects the greater rivalry within SC&P as a whole.

This one was relatively mediocre for the season, with an odd Peggy side story, and an attempt to flesh out Ted's home life. But it regained its legs at the end with an unsettling shocker. Apparently there's an internet rumour that Megan is going to die at the end of the season (given Don's Sharon Tate related hallucination in A Tale of Two Cities). We'll see about that, but there certainly is a sense of build up that something is going to happen in that apartment building.

Spoilers Now!
Roger let's Don know they've acquired Sunkist. Pete's mother arrives at the office with her new Spanish nurse Manolo. Pete goes into speak with him leaving Peggy to sit with her. She explains she's pleased to see she and Pete reunited for the good of the child they have together. A shaken Peggy realizes she thinks she's Trudy, but his mother goes on to say how happy she and Manolo are together. 

Don comes home to find Sylvia and Arnold's son Mitchell talking to Megan. He leaves, and Megan explains he's in a lot of trouble—he's 1A, having sent his draft card back in protest, so he was reclassified. He wants to run to Canada. Don advises her to leave it alone. Mitchell can't spend the rest of his life on the run, and it's not their problem. 

Pete, Peggy and Ted are out for dinner and drinks to celebrate Ocean Spray. Ted is happy to have the agency he's always wanted—ambition, brains and beauty. Ted goes to check in with his wife, and Pete picks up on the looks between she and Ted. Peggy knows, but nothing can happen. Pete is happy to have an account, and he tells Peggy at least one of them ended up important. He asks that Peggy not pity him, because she really knows him. She does really know him, she says. Peggy then tells him about her conversation with his mother. She thinks she's making love with Manolo. Pete is shocked to learn they're sleeping together but enjoy a laugh at the thought of it, and when Ted returns he notices their chemistry.

Arnold shows up at Don's home. He apologizes for Mitchell's visit, as his son told him, too. He and Don go out for a drink and Arnold admits he never even knew Mitchell had left school, but has noticed that Sylvia is lying about things, as well. He asks Don what he would do. Don explains Korea was very different. He wanted to go. Arnold thinks his son is soft and likely won't survive Viet Nam. 

Ted comes home to his wife who is chagrined he missed dinner with his family. She thinks he's working too hard but he's also obsessed with it. 

Don meets with Pete to ask if he still has a friend at the Department of Defense. He needs someone who can really pull strings. Pete is a little annoyed and reminds Don he's meeting with General Motors, so he can try asking them, given they're a large defense contractor. Pete then learns that they acquired Sunkist, which conflicts with Ocean Spray. Ted snaps at Don that he should read a memo once in awhile. 

Betty is dealing with Sally's mini university field trip to Manhattan with her friend Julie. In the city, Mitchell meets Sally and Julie in the lobby of Don's building. Julie tries to flirt with him. Sylvia comes down berating him for not getting their cab. Later the girls are both infatuated and make a list of things they like about him.

Pete's mother visits him at home and he points out Manolo is her nurse and she might have misconstrued his attention for affection. She informs him she's entitled to the pleasures of love. Pete declares they will have to let him go, which prompts her to call him a sour man who has always been unlovable and goes home. 

At the Chevrolet dinner, Don takes the opportunity to bring up Mitchell's 1A situation. Ted is uneasy at the direction he's taking the conversation and the table grows awkwardly silent about talk of the war. Roger saves the day by changing the topic. 

Peggy finds rats in the apartment and phones Stan in the middle of the night. He tell her he's not her boyfriend. She realizes he has a girl with him and Stan suggests the rat will be dead by morning, and hangs up.

Ted confronts Don the next morning about the evening's conversation, especially since he said he wouldn't involve himself with Chevy. Don admits he doesn't know what to do about his friend's kid. Ted considers it and says his flying teacher is a general in the National Guard, who is always looking for pilots. He'll call him, but first Don has to stop the war he's waging against Ted. They're going to get Ocean Spray, so he'll need to drop Sunkist. Don thanks him and shakes his hand. Ted reminds him the handshake is a binding contract. He suggests the kid should write a letter about his childhood dream of being a pilot, and goes off to make the call.

Don phones Arnold, but gets Sylvia, and explains the favor he's called in. Sylvia is very grateful but Don warns her they have to act fast. Sylvia breaks down and tells him she hopes he knows she was just frustrated with him. She didn't want him to fall in love and doesn't want to go through it again. He was better to her than she was to him.

Pete berates Bob for referring him Manolo and insists he fix it. Bob assures him that he doesn't think Manolo's interests are that way. More important, he points out Pete even admits she seemed happy. And when it's true love it doesn't matter who it is, Bob says. His knee touches Pete's. Pete pauses and then says he will given Manolo a month's pay, and asks Bob to tell him it's disgusting. 

As the girls get ready for their mini university, Julie informs Sally she slid their letter under Mitchell's back door in order to set them up. Sally rushes home and asks the doorman for the keys given she lost hers. She heads up to the Rosen apartment and listens at the back door, knocking lightly. When she hears nothing she opens it, but finds the letter isn't on the floor. It's on the counter and she takes it. She turns and sees Don having sex with Sylvia in the maid's room and drops the keys. Don is shocked to find her standing there. Sylvia freaks out as he dresses and runs after her. Don nearly breaks down in the elevator. The doorman tells him he helped her get a cab, explaining she lost her keys. Still in a fugue, Don goes outside.

Pete comes home to his quiet apartment. Peggy watches television with her new cat. Ted arrives to spend the evening with his family but his wife is asleep on the bed.

Don sits in a bar and finally goes home drunk to find Megan having dinner with the girls. Sally sends him a look and remains silent. Don goes to lie down but Megan insists he eat. Arnold and Mitchell show up and Sally tries to excuse herself. Mitchell thanks him for pulling some strings, and Arnold fills in Megan what he did for them. Arnold tells him he owes him. Sally announces her father makes her sick and runs to her room. Don goes off to talk to her.

Standing outside her door, Don explains he was comforting Sylvia. It's very complicated and he asks if she understands. Sally finally answers okay and Don goes to his room.

The Verdict:
In hindsight it was inevitable that it would be Sally to stumble upon Don's affair. Of course Don wasn't over it, and how much of him helping Mitchell was with the intent that it might make Sylvia love him and take him back? I doubt this ends here. Arnold remains the wild card that's been hovering in the background, and surely he and Megan have to find out by the end of the season.

Poor Sally. Again she's seeing adults behave in an adulterous fashion (At the Codfish Ball), and that time it was Megan's mother. She is definitely going to be as screwed up as her father when it comes to relationships.

Bob's pass at Pete seemed to come out of left field, given he has been courting both male and females at the agency. It doesn't add up that Pete is the final object of all his work, though. I got the impression that Manolo was gay and that's how Bob knew of him, but it was unclear if he was really sleeping with Pete's mother or not. Whatever the case, it felt very anticlimactic.

Peggy's rat infestation was a B plot that went nowhere, but her scene with Pete was quite effective and really shows how far these two characters have come. And of course it raises questions as to where their child is (and if we'll ever find out).
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