Lazlo’s Clicker: Game of Thrones, Power, Murder in the First

SPOILER ALERT – If you haven’t watched this week’s finale of Game of Thrones, or for that matter are playing catch up with the last few episodes, do not read any further.

The book is better, everyone knows that.  If you’ve ever watched a Harry Potter movie with a fan of the book series, you’ve heard that before.  If you’ve read the books, morever, you’ve agreed with them.  More often than not, the book is better.

That’s been true, even of HBO’s indescribably good fantasy series Game of Thrones, based on the Song of Ice and Fire book series by George R.R. Martin.

No matter how good the series has been, there’s always so much more you can put in the books, so the amazing visual recreation of The Wall, or the remarkable detail given to creating the Dothraki race, right down to the creation of a language “Klingon style,” even last season’s shocking and intense depiction of the Red Wedding, was always “not as a good as the books.”  Then Season 4 happened.

We can put aside that Peter Dinklage will probably win another Emmy.  We can put aside that Lena Headey ought to win one too.  We can put aside that I don’t know where they found Maisie Williams, but this young actress is otherwordly good and probably deserves her own category of award for being the world’s most awesome 16 year old.  Game Of Thrones has proven it is operating on another level from every show on television right now.  Now comes the spoiler alerts.

Name another show that can jettison the kind of insane talent GOT did this season and just go right on from there.  The Walking Dead comes the closest, but there was only one Scott Wilson.    Game Of Thrones meanwhile, started season 4 by offing its most visible and despicable villain, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).   Later we saw the last of crazy-ass Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) and we hardly knew ye newcomer Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal).  Then during last week’s epic battle at the wall, we saw Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) lose his one true love Ygritte (Rose Leslie).  But the coup de gras came this week, as Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Shae (Sibel Kekilli) both passed on.  Their part of advancing the story seemed mostly complete, but we also saw the last of Charles Dance as Lord Tywin Lannister, but only after two final confrontations and lessons in manipulation with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Cersei (Lena Headey).  Finally, and most memorably, we have apparently seen the last of The Hound (Rory McCann), after a memorable sword fight with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) that was decidedly NOT in the books.

Game of Thrones, Charles Dance

What a way to go: Charles Dance as Lord Tywin

Thus Game Of Thrones has actually transcended its source material, simultaneously bringing to life (ahem, so to speak) all of the most memorable and powerful sequences from the books, while at the same time streamlining the story (in a good way, not in a “cut this to movie length” Harry Potter way) and being able to handle significant character deaths in a way that seems neither gimmicky nor manipulative.

All of this, of course, works because of a seemingly endless supply of outstanding actors and performances.  Dance and McCann had what you’d have to call at best secondary and many times even tertiary roles, yet they created unforgettable characters who demanded screen time even while sharing it with the likes of the aforementioned Williams, Dinklage and Headey.  All of Game of Thrones is seemingly like that, as the largest ensemble cast in the history of television is also arguably the most talented ever assembled.

I know where the books take the story through the next couple of installments, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just as eager to see the next season of HBO’s adaptation as I was to get my hands on the next book in the series.   The book is better?  Not this time.

FROM EXECUTIVE producer 50 Cent (who also contributes original music), Starz Network is looking for a new take on the criminal-as-protagonist narrative with Power, which focuses on James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), a middle-man drug dealer whose front businesses include a dry cleaner and a popular nightclub.  Wait, a dry cleaner?  George Jefferson, 21st century thug?

In reality, Power so far fails to live up to its inspirational anti-heroes:  Tony Soprano in the suburban version; Walter White in the new wild west version.  Instead, Power stalls a bit in its endless preoccupation with urban macho fantasy.  Lacking the originality of a sex and violence fest like Banshee, Power feels more like you’re watching Grand Theft Auto:  Cable TV Edition.

This is not to say that Power is without its charms.  The storytelling is not awful, and if the show can curb its inclination to forfeit legitimate street cred for soap opera-y plot twists, the storytelling could be downright engrossing.

In addition, there’s the presence of the lovely and multi-talented Naturi Naughton as Ghost’s too smart for her own good wife, Tasha.  So far, it’s been an alternatively interesting but also thankless role for this underrated actress, and I can only hope that Tasha’s storyline will cut through the macho bullshit, as she is far and away the most interest character.  More on point, it’s been five years since Notorious:  when is someone going to write a good part for Naughton?

Power, Naturi Naughton, Omari Hardwick

Power Couple: Omari Hardwick and Naturi Naughton

Power has a chance to grow into a decent show, but it first must acknowledge the reality that you can’t make a whole show out of the narrative contained in a four minute rap song.  If the show embraces its torn-between-two-worlds tag line, it might have a chance to survive.

I’VE OFTEN WONDERED why no one has tried, in a very long time, to recreate the old Murder One format of having a single case take up an entire season.  It allows for deeper characterization, more detailed storytelling, and, if you do it right, a much greater payoff at season’s end.  Ask the guys at True Detective if you don’t think I’m right.

TNT apparently got the message, because its new drama Murder In The First will also quasi resurrect that format, with the added twist that it will employ a Law & Order style procedural of investigation, arrest and trial.  So far so good.

Now throw in what every good cops and robbers mystery needs:  some good villains.  That part of the show is also shaping up well.  Tom Felton is perfectly cast as internet millionaire Erich Blunt, whose private life is intertwined with two unsolved murders.  TV veteran Richard Schiff is sufficiently prickly as his personal attorney.  James Cromwell hasn’t quite entered the picture yet, but you just know he’s going to kick ass as criminal defense attorney Warren Daniels.

Murder In The First, Tom Felton

Good to be bad: Felton as the suspect

So what’s the catch?  The catch is that the show, so far, has spent far too much time tagging along with the boring as hell cops (Taye Diggs, Kathleen Robertson) assigned to investigate the murders.  Otherwise good storytelling – the set up of the crimes and their proximity to suspect Blunt leaves the viewer in a perfect suspended state between suspicion and reasonable doubt – is hamfisted with these characters:  an early storyline about Diggs’ terminally ill wife feels rushed and forced and throws too much information at you before you’ve had any reason to really care about his character at all.

There is a ton of good TV talent bring Murder In The First too life, including co-creator Steven Bochco.  I have to believe that the good guys’ part of the storyline will eventually catch up to the bad guys’, or at least that the show will eventually ditch these cops in favor of a good courtroom drama stretch run.

 

Quick Takes

So here’s at least one vote that Louie keeps Pamela Adlon on as Louie’s love interest for next season.  Adlon, who played Louie C.K.’s wife on the long ago HBO sitcom Lucky Louie, is a perfect foil to C.K.’s unenthusiastic befuddled everyman.

 

Reality Check:  VH1 is a perfect server upper of pop culture mini-bytes.  We’re talking, after all, about the network that invented Pop Up Video, because no one can be expected to pay attention through an entire three and a half minute music video without fun distractions.  Accordingly, the network’s on-going decade retrospective brought us I Love The 2000s this week.  While you ponder whether you can actually be all that sentimental for a decade that basically just ended, similarly ask your self how long five years is compared to the aforementioned three and a half minute attention span we all have.  I Love The 2000s might be properly retitled Hey Remember This Shit?, but either way, it’s another fun distraction from a network that specializes in them.

 

I started watching The Good Wife this week.  I don’t mean the last few episodes, or even the psat season, I started watching it, for the first time, from the pilot.  It occurred to me that I’ve watched a lot of shows like this:  I saw The Wire and Buffy The Vampire Slayer in their entirety after they were off the air, and picked up Battlestar Galactica and Parks and Recreation midstream.  It almost goes without saying that I totally love The Good Wife, which I had heard nothing but good things about.  The lesson here, I suppose, is that it’s never too late to jump on the bandwagon.  Next up:  guess it’s time to take a look at Orange Is The New Black.  

 

Educational TV.  Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) Feelings are gross and boring and rude and too private and yuck (Louie); 2) Laughter is not the best medicine.  Percocet is the best medicine (Chelsea Lately); 3) Hillary Clinton will be hard to beat in the parts of the country where women live (The Colbert Report).

 

The Critics Choice Awards may not be the most famous awards show around, but you can’t say they don’t know talent:  Allison Janney won two awards, one for her heart rending guest role on Masters of Sex and the other for her slam dunk hilarious supporting role on Mom.  Well done.

 

Looking Ahead

The series debut of The Last Ship airs on TNT on June 22.

True Blood returns to HBO on June 22.

The series premiere of Rising Star airs on June 22 on  ABC.

Falling Skies returns to TNT on June 22.

The Musketeers debuts on June 22 on BBC America.

The season premiere of Teen Wolf airs on MTV on June 23.

The series premiere of Tyrant airs on June 24 on FX.

Covert Affairs returns to USA on June 24.

Taxi Brooklyn debuts on NBC on June 25.

The final season of Wilfred begins on June 25 on FXX.

The series premiere of Young & Hungry airs on ABC Family on June 25.

Big Brother is back on CBS on June 25.

Girl Meets World premieres on June 27 on Disney Channel.

 

TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet.  Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on?  Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an email:  RobNJ564@yahoo.com.  I welcome your input!

 

[image source 1, 2,  3,  4]

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