Category: TV Reception

TV Reception: ‘Doctor Who’ Season 6, Episodes 1-7

Posted by – June 7, 2011

Doctor Who Season 6’s mid-season finale closed with quite the emotional moment a few nights ago. Not to spoil anything here, but every time a TV show hinges its plot on a pregnancy in jeopardy, I’m wired to think that it is about to be cancelled. (Thanks, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.)

Nevertheless, the show (and Matt Smith) have been renewed for Season/Series 7, so that’s not something we need to worry about for the time being. The wild ride that began in April with the Doctor and Amy coming to America has reach its cliffhanging crescendo, and the show followed through with a few surprises, somehow managed to orchestrate another prophecy-driven cataclysmic event, and even tried to emulate Star Wars while introducing a healthy crop of new cast members.

One of hallmarks of the Steven Moffat era has been the tendency to keep viewers on their toes by introducing characters with Doctor-related histories and letting you guess as things unfold as to whether or not you should know what’s going on. After “A Good Man Goes to War,” you can bet that one or more of the Doctor’s friends, Vastra, Jenny or Strax, will be back in some fashion. They’re all ripe for many more stories.

Best of all, Moffat finally played the “Who is River Song card?” I won’t ruin that for anyone who hasn’t seen “A Good Man” yet, and many watches likely saw the revelation coming a mile away, but it really did work in a number of ways. Not only did it deepen her relationship with the Doctor; it also cooled the weird quasi-romantic tension his presence created between Rory and Amy.

Admittedly, “A Good Man Goes to War” had a breakneck pace to it that constantly rushed right past explanations and encouraged assumptions and guesses about what was going on along the way. The scads of new characters who have shown up in the mix this season have really enriched the Who-verse, though, and it’s worth noting that new LGBT characters in particular have been on the front lines, from Canton Delaware to Vastra and Jenny, and even the “Thin One” and “Fat One.” The show was already lightyears ahead of Star Trek with its sexual identity diversity, but it really is nice to see a big production like this use gay and lesbian characters whose sexuality isn’t co-opted and reduced to being a caricatured stereotype.

As for the final payoff, Season 6 didn’t need to do much more for me after it brought Richard Nixon on in the first arc, but between Neil Gaiman’s episode and hints at more Silurian tales to come, Moffat and company wrapped up these episodes nicely, and it’s really going to blow some minds if they manage to keep up when more installments arrive in the fall.

TV Reception: ‘Game of Thrones’ Episodes 1-3

Posted by – May 5, 2011

Three episodes into HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” I feel like I’m finally ready to have a fair opinion about it. The first two episodes, “Winter is Coming” and “The Kingsroad” really seemed to wander for me.

If you’re curious to know how the series deviated from George R.R. Martin’s original work, I recommend starting out with Sean T. Collins’ initial review; suffice it to say the series does take a few liberties, but none of them involve compartmentalizing plot for the sake of writing episodes that are much more thematically or structurally cohesive than the chapters they were plucked from.

Meandering story was a problem for me during Episodes 1 and 2, but as of this week’s installment, “Lord Snow,” the pacing of the adaptation seems to be more established, and the momentum and tension leading up to winter are lively and taught. All three episodes work much, much better as a whole, and I’m inclined to believe that when Season 1 is over, the same will be the case with future installments. That’s fine, and it’s probably fair to the books. However, it may keep the show from entering the same realm of TV masterworks that I consider “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” to be in.

The range of settings and landscapes that HBO has employed are incredible. Breaking down all of the drama and history that the Targaryens, Baratheons and Starks bring the story takes no small amount of exposition. The consequence of this exposition is that the very large cast cycles around on a sizable merry-go-round of storytelling turns, and the show spends more time focusing on characters telling tales to set up political and historical circumstances and getting bloated by lingering on sex scenes. By the third episode, the sex arc with Emilia Clarke’s character does makes a lot more sense, but it also seems to weigh the first two down.

The show’s greatest strengths thus far lie in its fully-realized world and strong acting from its leads. The bleakness of feudal existence in an unforgiving world of brutally long winters comes across, and by the time “Lord Snow” ends, the personalities and rivalries have been made much more clear than they were during the pilot.

As of right now, the wait has been worth it. I’m optimistic that the rest of Season 1 will be as well after the snow settles in.