Mad Men Field Trip

Credit: AMC

I don’t expect wholesale change for Don Draper before Mad Men finished next year. I don’t expect it because people don’t usually change, at least not voluntarily, and if they do change then it’s typically not by much. Mad Men has been committed to the idea that change is slow and incremental, and even apparent change, like Pete Campbell in the season premier, is often temporary. Mad Men is mostly the story of how much a man wanted to change, and how difficult it is to do so.

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The Americans Martial Eagle

Credit: FX

When I go home at the end of a work day, I leave work behind. Sure, I may check my work e-mails and plan what I am going to do the next day, but for the most part I don’t have to take it home with me. The work me is not very similar to the home me, and if you ask, I’ll tell you that the home me is much closer to the real me. For the three main characters in The Americans, there is no meaningful separation between work and home, and the work versions of those people are the only ones who really exist.

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Orphan Black Governed By Sound Reason and True Religion

Credit: BBC America

I don’t know exactly what is going on in Orphan Black, and I think that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing because none of the clones (or other members of Clone Club, like new member Art) really know what’s going on. If we had a clear grasp of what Dyad and the Proletheans were up to then it’d be easy for us to decide if Sarah and the other clones are making the right choices. As it stands now, we are as confused as they are.

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Game of Thrones Oathkeeper

Credit: HBO

While there have been isolated moments in the TV series in which I have had no idea what was going on, the last part of “Oathkeeper” wins for most bewildering part of the series for book-readers. Bran and his companions showing up at Craster’s was strange enough and then that was topped by something completely unexpected: showing what happens to babies given to the White Walkers. I’m not sure what to make of all this.

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Fargo The Rooster Prince

Credit: FX

The second episode of a series is always interesting. The first episode, the pilot, is often the result of months if not years of work, of someone writing a script with little to no hope that it will ever be read by a person in a position to greenlight it, much less have the script produced. Everything has to go into that script and the resulting episode; it has to be the template for the series going forward, to lay out the major plots and promise that what is to come will be at least as interesting as what we’ve just seen. The second episode of a series is when the writer and the cast and rest of the crew attempt to deliver on that promise.

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Mad Men A Day’s Work

Credit: AMC

The best episodes of Mad Men draw me in to the point that I have to remind myself to breathe. I find myself waiting to hear what someone will say or see how someone will react and even though the wait is measured in seconds, it feels like an age. I think I may have turned blue during season four, especially during “The Suitcase”, which still stands as this series best episode. Why do I mention it now? Because the scenes between Don and Sally in “A Day’s Work” are as good as anything the series has done. And I was holding my breath watching them.

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The Americans New Car

Credit: FX

The confidence with which The Americans is conducting its second season has been impressive. The writers understand exactly what the strengths are of the show and even in an episode like “New Car”, which primarily functions to move things into place for the end of the season, the writers are able to weave in themes that have been developed over a season and a half to make, and make it richer.

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Orphan Black Nature Under Constraint and Vexed

Credit: BBC America

I have written before about how much I dislike it when shows feature a secret global organization with almost unlimited power and resources. It was the reason I stopped watching Revenge (the Initiative) and it’s the thing I dislike most about Scandal (B613). Yet, I really love Orphan Black and am not bother by Dyad or the Prolethians (the fish people). Why is that?

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Game of Thrones Breaker of Chains

Credit: HBO

It’s a staple in any series with a large cast but it’s critical in a series like Game of Thrones with the largest cast on television and numerous locations. I’m talking about the use of a bit of dialogue or an image at the end of one scene to comment on or introduce the next. In “Breaker of Chains”, the writers used such a transition to comment on both scenes as well as another scene in the episode, and on a theme in the series as a whole.

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Fargo The Crocodile’s Dilemma

Credit: FX

Like probably every fan of the Coen Brothers’ movie Fargo, I was apprehensive about a TV series inspired by the movie. I felt somewhat better when I read that series creator Noah Hawley wrote the pilot on his own and the Coens got involved only after they read the script and liked it. This made it seem less like a cash-grab and more like a case of someone’s inspired love making something interesting. The good news is that based on the first episode, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma”, Hawley has made a series that echoes the movie and feels inspired in the best way, but is not slavishly devoted to its source.

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