Power is Power

Game of Thrones Electric Season Opener

Power is power,” hisses the icy blonde Queen Cersei to the impudent Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in Season Two’s premiere episode.  In other words, “Don’t get any ideas about using your ‘hint’ of incest against me or I’ll cut your throat!”  Things are about to get even tougher on Cersei than the wagging tongue of a smart-mouthed courtier.  Her son, King Joffrey, is unstable and cruel, and does not show much filial piety to her.  He is also the product of incest between Cersei and her brother Jaime Lannister, who is a prisoner of House Stark.  The whole of the North has risen against Joffrey since he beheaded the honorable Eddard Stark, whose son Robb has taken on the title of ‘King of the North.’

Stannis Baratheon, rightful heir to the throne now that Joffrey’s paternity has been made an issue, has raised his own army to support his claim.  In his train is the ominous Melisandre, a priestess of R’hllor who brings her new religion to the shores of Westeros.  She is also a rare thing thus far in Game of Thrones – a person who wields ‘real’ magic.

North of the Wall, Jon Snow and his brothers in the Night’s Watch patrol to discover what is going on.  Mance Rayder, they learn,  is raising an army of wildings to bring against them.

Across the sea, Danaerys Targaryen now has her dragons, but her Dothraki people have no water, and she needs to find a way across the Red Waste, a hostile desert of little appeal.

The War of the Five Kings has started, and everyone is playing for keeps.  All of the dead King Robert’s bastards are coldly put to death by the Lannisters, even an infant, except for one blacksmith boy who escapes with Arya Stark in a cart at the end of the episode.

There is a reason why many think that Game of Thrones is the best show on television.  From its incredible sets to the density of its dialogue, it is far superior to almost any other.   The hour-long episode flew by.   George R. R. Martin has been called the American Tolkien, but this misses the mark.  Game of Thrones is something of a cross between the War of the Roses and The Godfather.   Political intrigue is the true heart of the series, not magic or the other usual tropes of fantasy.  Game of Thrones could just as well be a historical production on a par with The Tudors or The Borgias but for the presence of very limited elements of the fantastic.  I find that I am enjoying the television series more than the novels on which they are based.


Mad Men Premiere Rocks, Men Still Jerks

Mad Men‘s fifth season premiere, A Little Kiss, lived up to its hype.  There is a reason why this show has won four primetime Emmys.  Every season is like a novel, with each episode a densely written chapter.   The show has been gone for a long time.  We are reintroduced to (almost) all of the characters.  Don Draper (Jon Hamm)  is still married to Megan (Jessica Pare), who throws him a surprise fortieth birthday party.  Don being Don, he can’t accept the party with the graciousness expected by Megan, who proceeds to make him very uncomfortable with a burlesque song and dance routine sung in French.  Really!

Roger (John Slattery) is in fine form, and distributes cash to all and sundry during the episode.  What gives?  Has Roger become so mercenary?   And why is he honing in on all of Pete Campbell’s (Vincent Kartheiser) client meetings?

Joan (Holloway) Harris (Christina Hendricks) is exhausted by her newborn, who also just happens to be Roger’s baby.  It’s a looong story.  Elizabeth Moss is her usual sparkling self as copywriter/working girl/young woman trying to make it in a man’s world Peggy Olson.

Mad Men‘s writers are merely setting the table with the premiere.  It will be a while before we see any conclusions to the storylines now being developed.  But Mad Men, more perhaps than any other show on television today, rewards close and faithful viewing.  Stick with it.  It is already well on its way to a fifth Emmy.