“No man has ever come back from leave – even Napoleon.”
Mad Men is usually the most understated drama possible, much of its plots conveyed by subtext, implication, Don Draper staring enigmatically at nothing in particular. Every so often though, an episode startles you by bringing that subtext to the fore, making it… text, I suppose, with events that carry a real dramatic charge. A rape, a pregnancy, a suicide (or two) – all these are like a shock of ice-cold water to the face after a lengthy bathe in the nice warm water of the show’s usual near-ambience.
Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 7–Waterloo”
“There’s what I believe – and then there’s you.”
In a week when tribal differences were thrown into sharp relief by the triumph of xenophobic political parties all over Europe, it was another script from writer Fintan Ryan for this week’s In the Flesh. And following on from his poignant vignette of Freddie and Haley last week, this week’s ep foregrounded another of the more minor players in the drama – parish councillor and would be suitor to Amy, Philip Wilson. Not quite as separate a narrative as the Ballad of Freddie and Haley, this still stood apart enough to be a good character piece running alongside the ‘main’ plot.
Continue reading “In the Flesh: Series 2, Episode 4”
“You really want to help me? Show me how you think.”
I always know I’m in for a treat when Mad Men’s opening credits include the words “written by Semi Chellas”. Chellas, for my money is one of the best writers working on the show. She it was who (along with Weiner) wrote the storming season 5 ep The Other Woman, which showed us Joan’s heartbreaking decision to compromise her integrity for career advancement; I still rate that as one of the best single eps the show has ever done.
Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 6–The Strategy”
“Given the opportunity, what do we do to those who hurt the ones we love?”
With showrunners Benioff and Weiss on scripting duties again, this week’s Game of Thrones may have disappointed those who tune in for the show’s usual heady mix on action, sex, violence and intrigue. It was one of the eps the show occasionally does in which very little actually happens, but we get to spend a lot of time with the characters while they reflect on where they are, how they got there, and where they’re going.
Continue reading “Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 7–Mockingbird”
“You’re being used by them. What I’m doing is giving you a chance to choose the right side.”
As I said last week, the established dramatic style of In the Flesh is driven by the characters’ secrets; and with the relevant secrets revealed and resolved in the first series, the challenge for this second run is to come up with new secrets. In part, this has been achieved by a stronger focus on the Rising itself, which was rarely questioned in the first series. But the other approach has been to introduce new characters, and delve into the secrets driving them.
Continue reading “In the Flesh: Series 2, Episode 3”
“This is the best place to be right now, Don.”
Another tightly focused episode of Mad Men this week, as David Iserson and Matthew Weiner’s script dealt with three plots. Unusually for the show, they didn’t particularly intersect or inform each other; less unusually, the one which, at first glance, seemed light and comedic took a very dark turn by the end.
Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 5–Runaways”
“When I see what desire does to people – what it’s done to this country – I am very glad to have no part in it.”
I love a good trial scene! It’s been a few episodes coming, but it can’t have been too much of a surprise that this week, the trial of Tyrion Lannister took centre stage. What may have been a surprise to fans of the book though was the increasing diversion the various plots were taking – even though they ultimately seem to be leading to the same places.
Continue reading “Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 6–The Laws of Gods and Men”
“To hell with the living, mate. Undead and proud.”
As this second series of In the Flesh continues, it’s clear that this is a very different show to its shorter first series incarnation. Then, its genesis as a personal, intimate character drama was very clear even under the supernatural fantasy trappings; but rather than clashing, each element neatly complemented the other. One of the benefits of this approach was that the fantasy element was very subtly played, conveyed in hints of dialogue and direction rather than heavy handed exposition. It also meant that, while the drama had a supernatural setting, it was still all about the characters and their journeys, their plots cleverly juxtaposed with the fantasy concepts of a zombie apocalypse.
Continue reading “In the Flesh: Series 2, Episode 2”
“You have a fundamental misunderstanding of what went wrong here.”
This week saw an episode of Mad Men that took the often fruitful approach of focusing on just a few of the characters, and juxtaposing plotlines both professional and personal. On the personal level, we had Roger Sterling’s family crisis with his disappearing daughter. And while last week delved more successfully into the pit of Betty’s soul than Don’s, this week had more insight into Sterling Cooper & Partners’ former alpha male. As is often the case, it wasn’t pretty.
Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 4–The Monolith”
“What good is power if you cannot protect the ones you love?”
Game of Thrones episodes seem to fall into two distinct styles. There are the ones which focus very strongly on one or two of the major plotlines, perhaps paying lip service to a couple of the others, which are usually very strong. Then there are the more scattershot ones which take in so many (though rarely all) of the ongoing plots that we see little more than a tantalising vignette from each.
Continue reading “Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 5–First of His Name”