Kevin McFarland reviews the medieval fantasy drama’s extra-brutal season closer.Read the rest
Kevin McFarland reviews an unusual, action-packed episode that takes place almost entirely in and around a single location.Read the rest
Kevin McFarland reviews the latest episode of G.R.R. Martin’s merciless fantasy epic. For Tyrion and his champion, the squeeze is on.Read the rest
Echoes of Tyrion’s past are about to collide in the present. Kevin McFarland reviews the latest episode of Thrones, where the dwarf’s uncertain doom approaches.Read the rest
It’s crunch time for the show’s heroes, but Kevin McFarland finds that some of the humor in Silicon Valley lacks bite.Read the rest
Peter Dinklage delivers the speech of the season as Tyrion Lannister, facing the false justice of the kingdom–and his family. Kevin McFarland reviews the latest episode of Game of Thrones.Read the rest
Silicon Valley takes aim at the emotional insecurity behind superficial male genius, writes Kevin McFarland. But it also fails to escape stereotypes about women in the tech industry.Read the rest
AND SO, TIME marches on. Joffrey Baratheon is no more, and Tommen, “First Of His Name,” owner of the cuddly Ser Pounce, rises to take his place on the throne. But he’s just a boy, able to be pushed around by the blustering of his advisors and those who seek to gain power in King’s Landing. Tywin has Tommen’s ear—especially after that birds and bees talk—and Margaery has her secret visits, but according to Olenna Tyrell, she’ll have to out-maneuver Cersei to finally secure her place beside the Iron Throne as Queen.
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Did you catch it? It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for Silicon Valley to address in some capacity—the divide between the tech corporations in Palo Alto and the blighted district to the south. (East Palo Alto is a misnomer—EPA is bordered by Menlo Park to the west and Palo Alto to the south.) The first four episodes of Silicon Valley have attempted to subtly insert regional details about the Peninsula into the dialogue of the show, which has always made the Bay Area kid in me beam. Episodes have referenced Sand Hill Road, which is the exit off highway 280 that leads right to the Stanford University campus (dotted with venture capital firms all the way down) and other geographical details that make the series feel lived-in. But tonight, in the opening scene between Erlich and popular graffiti artist Chuy Rodriguez, in a neighborhood referenced as high-crime and which clearly makes Dinesh uncomfortable, Erlich obliquely refers to their location.
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Kevin McFarland offers a spoiler-filled review of the latest episode of Game of Thrones, where violence against women and the oppressed--and its consequences--lurk in the background of every power play. Read the rest
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On Silicon Valley, Erlich proves he’s more than just hideous facial hair [Season 1, episode 4 Recap]
Silicon Valley indicts the region for its over-reliance on dubious ventures to manufacture a grand façade of happiness, satisfaction, and wealth. Take Peter Gregory’s toga party, the fourth annual “Orgy Of Giving,” a scene of false Roman bacchanalia. Just a few weeks ago, in the pilot episode, Gregory was giving a TED talk in front of a large crowd and projecting the standard image of the tech billionaire, albeit with some left-field views on entirely eschewing higher education in favor of immediately hitting the tech workforce. Now, in a social setting instead of a business one, he’s uncomfortable and curt while thanking rapper Flo Rida as “Florida” (as more people should, since it’s a ridiculous name) for his introduction. Just like the Kid Rock-headlined party that opened the series, this is Silicon Valley pretending to be something it’s not— because the area wants to be as exciting as Hollywood.
“Articles Of Incorporation” is the first episode of Silicon Valley that really gets room to breathe, allowing the characters space away from the crunch time of the story to bring Pied Piper to fruition.
This is a show with an eight-episode first season, so there isn’t a ton of time to waste on the plot front—so long as this season builds to Pied Piper hitting the market in some kind of nascent form. But this kind of episode is a test of what kinds of story Silicon Valley can tell when it gets away from the Hooli/Peter Gregory competitive binary and just focuses on some kooky developers chipping away at making a startup into a formidable company that puts out a viable product.
Game of Thrones recap: 'Breaker Of Chains' explores the many feuds of House Lannister [season 4, episode 3]
The episode picks up just before the end of what fans of the series have dubbed the Purple Wedding, as Cersei screams at the top of her lungs for Tyrion to be arrested for Joffrey’s murder, and frantically demands Sansa be taken into custody as well. But let’s skip ahead to those two incredible scenes in the Great Sept of Baelor, both of which take place with Joffrey’s cold, lifeless body lying in the center of the room, ever-present in nearly all shots in this location.
Tywin Lannister, as played excellently by Charles Dance, is one of the most fascinating characters in the giant patchwork of Westeros. He’s the only character I care about enough to have watch one of those extensive YouTube supercuts stringing together all of his scenes in one video. (It’s a marvel how memorable he is with only around 85 minutes of screen time. What a supercut like that reveals is how maniacally obsessed Tywin is with preserving the permanent honor and prominence of House Lannister. In a previous season he made passing mention to his father, who nearly let the house fall into some ruin. As such, he’s made it his life’s mission to further the reputation of House Lannister at the cost of any happiness for his children, who he commands to do their duty to the family at all costs.
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Silicon Valley’s pilot offered the allure of the billion-dollar tech startup, giving Richard Hendrix the opportunity of a lifetime thanks to his potentially game-changing algorithm. But “The Cap Table” is when reality sets it, tough choices need to be made, and the limitations of all involved come screeching into focus. Having decided to take Peter Gregory’s offer to start small, Richard Hendrix now has to figure out how to build the foundation of a company where before he just had something a lot of other people were telling him had a gargantuan valuation. It’s such a good idea that Jared Dunn (Zach Woods, Gabe from The Office) wants to leave Hooli in order to join up. But Erlich feels threatened by anyone intruding, and threatens the poor guy with the ghostly features on the eve of Pie Piper’s first appointment with Gregory.
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Spoilers. Spoilers spoilers spoilers. Are we good now? All right, let’s dig into “The Lion And The Rose,” which isn’t a particularly thrilling episode of Game Of Thrones, but does feature one giant event that most fans of the show have been waiting for since the very beginning.
I’m convinced that most of the people who profess publicly that they haven’t read the Song Of Ice And Fire books actually know most of what’s going to happen on the show. (I haven’t read the books. I know what’s going to happen. I’m not scared of spoilers. It is what it is.) There’s not much else to explain this piece, which stakes an early claim on “predicting” Joffrey’s death this season. And in true Game Of Thrones fashion, there’s no delay getting to that event. It’s shockingly cathartic for the object of most fans’ ire to sputter and expire in the second installment of a 10-episode season. King Joffrey is dead. Long live the equally illegitimate King Tommen.
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Justified circles back to old friends and enemies to close out its fifth season [TV Recap: season 5, episode 13]
It was never really about the Crowes, or Ava going to prison, or the trip south of the border, or the gangsters in Detroit. This season of Justified, and by extension the entire series, has all been one long road to a final showdown between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder.
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Community is here to let you know everything will keep going when the show ends [TV Recap: season 5, episode 12]
At some point, it all has to end. NBC's Community will close up shop, whether it’s later this spring when NBC announces its fall schedule, after six seasons and a movie, or after it somehow incomprehensibly surpasses The Simpsons for longest-running sitcom and everyone complains even louder how the show isn’t as funny as its earlier golden years. But Community isn’t like other shows. It staved off cancellation due to low ratings thanks to a fervent fan base; it survived the departure of creator Dan Harmon and a creatively tepid fourth season; and now it sits a half hour away from yet another uncertain future after Harmon’s return. Community wants everyone to know that no matter how many stays of execution it earns, the end of a show is ultimately inevitable.
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Nearly everyone who sees the Game Of Thrones title sequence praises it for its sheer stylistic audacity, introducing the epic scope of the show with a booming theme song and sweeping summary of the world’s geography. Silicon Valley, Mike Judge’s return to television, accomplishes the same feat with a 10-second title sequence. The camera pans across a SimCity-esque landscape of Silicon Valley, dotted by corporate headquarters for Twitter, HP, and Oracle. Napster pops up as a hot air balloon, and then quickly descends out of sight. AOL topples off a building that becomes Facebook. It’s the proliferation of the tech companies throughout the south peninsula and Santa Clara Valley in microcosm, representing the present moment in the corporate climate where companies pop up and disappear, with major projects existing in a digital realm.
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Game Of Thrones picks up as the Lannisters cope with apparent victory [TV Recap: season 4, episode 1]
The end of Game Of Thrones’ third season offered the bloodiest dramatic high point of the series so far. The Red Wedding capped off the darkest year of the show, and effectively offed the family that in any other classical version of this fantasy arc, would end up victorious. (And that’s essentially why George R.R. Martin got rid of them—to completely buck that trend.) So the big question at the outset of season four, which will depict roughly the other half of events from A Storm Of Swords, is what the Lannisters at King’s Landing will do now that they’ve wiped out the last fully formed threat to their dynasty.
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'Community' knows Jeff Winger’s real age, and knowing is half the battle [TV recap: season 5, episode 11]
Many of the episodes in Community’s fifth season have been modified sequels to previous fan-favorite from previous seasons. “Cooperative Polygraphy” echoes bottle episode “Cooperative Calligraphy.” “Bondage And Beta Male Sexuality” has strains of “Mixology Certification.” “Repilot” and “Advanced Dungeons And Dragons” have easily identifiable equivalents. “G.I. Jeff” is this season’s attempt at a storyline similar to “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” the second-season standout that takes place entirely inside Abed’s rattled mind as he grapples with his mother’s absence.
Community revisited one of its best episodes and avoided the sequel curse [Recap: season 5, episode 10]
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” stands as one of Community’s all-time greatest episodes, both stylistically impressive and narratively heartfelt. It’s an immensely satisfying episode of television that forms the peak of the show’s run in the heart of its second season. For the show to tackle that style again flies in the face of how the show has normally operated. The paintball sequel was a chance to make a stylistic adventure cap the emotional narrative struggle within the study group. But this is much riskier. And Abed blatantly states the meta-joke that everyone will ascribe to Dan Harmon, as the group makes the plan for a second role-playing game intervention: “A satisfying sequel is difficult to pull off. Many geniuses have defeated themselves through hubris, making this a chance to prove I’m better than all of them. I’M IN.”
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“We’ll always be friends. It’s just never going to be how it was. It can’t be. It doesn’t have to be a sad thing. There’s so much wonderful stuff happening in all of our lives right now, more than enough to be grateful for. But the five of us hanging out at MacLaren’s being young and stupid? It’s just not one of those things.”
On various social media channels Monday night, it must’ve seemed like the “group of white people hanging out” sitcom equivalent of The Red Wedding had just gone down. The finale of How I Met Your Mother inspired wildly vitriolic reactions, from righteous indignation to calls for CBS boycotts—that now threaten to undercut the legacy of a good-to-great sitcom about young people living, loving, and learning in New York City.
I never thought I’d say this, but Justified could really use Arlo Givens back. Without his father, Raylan Givens has meandered throughout the season, unmoored from his family connection to Harlan County, and detached from his ex-wife and infant daughter now residing down in Florida. He’s truly the lone wolf now, with barely any professional connection to the other Marshals in his office, a Cold War standoff with Art, and a clean break from Alison. There was a time when a lonely Raylan made for some fireworks—as recently as last season, with him living above the bar, getting into trouble with the owner downstairs. But now, as he ticks closer to his breaking point of frustration with the area, with the office, and with the long lonely existence ahead of him, Raylan has become a lethargic quip-machine. It’s still a joy to watch Olyphant in the part, and his drawl is intoxicating, but he’s now been around the track one too many times, rounding up criminals who are just a spectral repetition of more interesting characters from previous seasons.
True Detective ends its first season as it began: with two indelible performances [Recap: season 1, episode 8]
It’s helpful, I think, to look at True Detective through the lens of Nic Pizzolatto’s career before the bidding war for this show reached astronomical levels. He was an English professor, teaching creative writing and literature at schools like UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Chicago, and DePauw. But he left academia in 2010, the same year his first novel Galveston was published, to work as a screenwriter, first on the staff of AMC’s The Killing (he’s co-credited along with showrunner Veena Sud on the infuriating first-season finale) and now with a presumably lucrative overall development deal at HBO. I’ve heard many people from various universities argue, dismissively, that this is the route to go in order to make something more than a paltry living as a fiction writer in the current market. But plucking out his work as a novelist is the key to looking at True Detective as an eight-hour story. That sounds about right for the amount of time it would take to read a crime novel on the denser side.
Never let it be said that Community goes halfway in its genre homage episodes. “App Development And Condiments” is a full-on dystopian meltdown that pitches Greendale into a disastrous state of rigid social classes determined by an upstart social network. It’s not as airtight as some of the show’s other clear homage episodes, nor is it as coherent as some of the more sprawling, cafeteria-homage episodes (like the David Fincher Ass-Crack Bandit episode earlier this season), but at least it has a kernel of a clear message. If I’m placing this on my scale of Community styles, this is a batshit insane, throw-everything-at-the-wall stylistic extravaganza, but not everything sticks.
“Life’s barely long enough to get good at one thing, if that long.”
Sharing a defining event links people together for life. Rust Cohle and Marty Hart have the covert assault on Reggie Ledoux’s cookhouse, the seemingly culminating event in the worst case they ever drew as detectives. For better or worse, landing that Dora Lange case has defined nearly 20 years in the lives of these men, and there’s still lingering guilt and emotional damage because of it. The pilot opened with a few shots in the darkness: someone carrying what turned out to be a body, a bit of burning brush, and then a field of crops engulfed in flame. That left the first sign of a sinister undercurrent running throughout the bayou. But the total confusion of those first moments—meeting Rustin Cohle and Martin Hart, discovering their work in Louisiana, peeling back the first few layers of a complex and perplexing series of disappearances and murders—is now almost by the wayside. All that’s left is the present-day conclusion.
The fifth season of Community isn’t breaking new ground, but it’s a perfectly satisfying addition to a catalogue of episodes that now breaks down into a number of categories. Right now, I think there’s a bit of a gradient along which episodes fall: Conceptually ambitious and serious (“Virtual Systems Analysis,” “Critical Film Studies”), the lightly serious (“Mixology Certification”), the lightly comedic (“Introduction To Teaching,” basically most of the first season), and the structurally adventurous joke factories (“Epidemiology,” “Paradigms Of Human Memory,” “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics”).
Episodes fall into or between those categories, but largely that’s what the show is working with at this point. “Bondage And Beta Male Sexuality” falls into that second list. It’s not structurally overambitious, nor is it a consistent laugh-fest. But it’s an earnestly serious episode with many laughs examining two male relationships—a pair of old friends out of touch and a student/teacher interaction—that haven’t been featured previously on the show. Read the rest
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Justified’s fifth season reaches the midpoint by firing a round of narrative buckshot [Recap: season 5, episode 7]
As Boyd and Johnny Crowder sit outside of a Mexican cartel house south of the border, hands zip-tied behind their backs, Boyd’s “silver tongue” doesn’t talk his way out of the predicament he set up, but he does offer some sage advice about the criminal life he and his cousin have chosen. He says he made peace with the idea that his lifestyle wouldn’t allow for him to have a peaceful death at the end of a long natural life. That’s the risk entailed in attempting to make a better life through ill-gotten gains instead of working in the coalmines.
True Detective drops more hints about the possible identity of the Yellow King [Recap: season 1, episode 6]
In the rapturous aftermath of the “oner” from the end of True Detective’s fourth episode, Alyssa Rosenberg wrote the most astute pushback against all the hype. In her analysis, the show went into a project in the New Orleans area and didn’t reveal anything about the lives of the people there. That long take depicted all of the minority characters as some kind of criminal, either as residents of a stash house full of drugs, or toting automatic weapons and running through the streets to fend off the biker gang in the robbery-gone-wrong. Read the rest
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