Mad Men returned for its second week (and third episode), giving us an okay dramatic hour that focused mainly on the unsympathetic Betty Draper. HBO premiered its spectacular Game of Thrones, which showed that it will continue to be a must-watch series and maybe the best of the Spring. AMC had its two-hour premiere of the murder mystery The Killing, a show that had a shaky, uneven first season and returned in better-than-expected shape this week. Here are some of my viewing observations....
The scoop on Betty -who was absent from last week's premiere- is that she has a lump on her thyroid and is also, simultaneously, many pounds heavier. The closing scene, where she finishes her daughter's ice cream, tries to give the "real" explanation for her weight gain: overeating, or eating too many sweets. Her character has since the beginning been defined by an incapacity to be happy and a debilitating depression (remember her hand trembling and the consequent car crash with her children in the back seat?). Yet it spends the whole episode dealing with her potential death due to cancer. The story line was okay. I thought the dream sequence where Betty sees her children and husband mourning her at the dinner table was particularly weak. January Jones isn't a very expressive actress. In that way, she was always good as the cold, one-note Betty. But she fails here to make any impression in an opportunity to be an actually good actress.
Of course Peggy is another story. Here, she is given the task to hire a new copy writer for the important returning airline account. Her face is extremely expressive, and she spends the episode revealing inner worry and judgment (also a lot of offense) at the new potential hire - a young Jewish guy with smart and fresh advertising ideas. I wasn't impressed by this actor, either; but he has time yet to prove himself worthy of being among the Mad Men cast. Peggy / Elisabeth Moss should make a good teacher.
The show took a bit of a break from Megan, giving her lines that only suggested her jealousy of Betty. But of course she should be jealous - Betty is, after all, the mother of Don's children and his first love. As far as Don's continued interest in her - is he, possibly, still in love? I have no idea; I cannot read Don, or at least the show hasn't allowed me to. I only can tell that he still feels a connection to her and regards her as a "house" woman, as opposed to the more liberal, less-motherly Megan. We saw in this episode that he questioned whether Megan could be a real mother to his children, if Betty were to shuffle off this mortal coil.
Roger is still living in continuous self-doubt, relishing in his single talent of charming clients via alcoholic drink. Still funny. Still providing Don with the only good advice on the show.
The episode was entertaining; watching Betty and Peggy squirm was fun. Not watching Megan sing and dance was equally nice, giving way for more important plot development in the form of a Hebrew serenade on the part of the new hire's father. Last week gave us a new Black hire; now we have a Jew. Now let's get to actually giving these characters some dimension. Or is Don and Peggy all Mr. Weiner really knows?
Game of Thrones
Thrilling as ever, Game of Thrones had a strong premiere Sunday night. It was really more of the same: intrigue, prostitution, snooty children, roundtable war discussions, heavy wool coats, knives to throats, bastards, bastards being killed, and sly, underhanded remarks. And much more, all beautifully shot and told at a perfect pace. No one character/locale really stood out this episode; everyone was given a chance to update their situation, which was pretty much a continuation of last season. The eldest Stark son is still waging a war against the Lannisters and on his way to being "King of the North"; Daenerys is also seeking her place as a leader, marching towards the North; and Jon Snow is moving beyond the wall, heading towards disaster and unknowingly awaiting the arrival of his younger sister, Arya, who we only see at the end of the episode. Cersei was the most entertaining to watch, as she continues to prove how well she handles and understands political power dynamics; she even managed to out-wit (or out-bodyguard) resident jester and political deviant Little Finger. This is a great show, and I'm glad it's back.
The show everyone loves to hate, The Killing had a mediocre yet entertaining two-hour premiere Sunday. AMC has been less-than-impressive these past couple of years, with the exception of its two golden children Mad Men and Breaking Bad. But I still give The Killing a chance, mostly because of its two magnificent leads. I love the combination of the sinister mood set and the garbled, suave voice of actor Joel Kinnaman. I wish the mayoral candidate and his team would just go away - or be recast - but that won't happen. Just give them less screen time! Make them less important to the plot! Please! Introduce some new secondary characters. I'm personally tired of Stan, his sister-in-law, and those bratty, uninteresting children. I actually would prefer the return of their mother's incessant crying and hot bath sessions. But every scene with Linden is captivating, as are those with Holder. They just need some better story lines and characters around them. But I'll be back this weekend for more.
What were your takes on these episodes? Post your comments below!