Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Champions

Two excellent hours of TV on Sunday.  Both Mad Men and Game Of Thrones were at their best.

Mad Men's "The Strategy" was probably the best episode so far this season. It already makes me sad that there's only one more show to go before the long hiatus. We start with Peggy out of town at a Burger Chef--their new client--interviewing women who buy the family meal there.  Can't she hire other people to do this research? Meanwhile, Pete, who's been out of it this season, is flying back to New York with his new girlfriend Bonnie. He's going back to see his daughter.  Bonnie wants to be together, but looks like Pete also wants to spend some time apart.

Don is cleaning up his place--we can guess who's coming.  Joan's still living with her mom and son, and is getting ready for the office. At the office, Don is now working hard and in comes Bonnie.  He did meet her in L.A.  Pete joins them.  He insists Don, as a team member, join Peggy's Burger Chef pitch to Lou.  The pitch--a mom feeling guilty about fast food till her husband joins her--goes pretty well, but Peggy is put off by Don's presence, even though he's still in his friendly mode.

Roger's taking a steam at the New York Athletic Club when he runs into a guy from McCann.  They trade quips and Roger gets the better of him.  You don't mess with Roger.  They talk about fast food, cars, cigarettes, Don Draper--just boy talk.  Back at the office, Pete and Peggy meet in Lou's office and Pete wants Don to do the real pitch.  Ted's listening in too from California (whatever happened to Ted?) and Peggy, not thrilled, has to go along with it.  The way Pete talks, you'd figure Don's still in charge--in fact, Pete and Roger seem to be his only champions.

Upstairs, who's back but Bob Benson. (It's been so long since last season, the actor was on a series that's already been canceled in the meantime.) He's there with the GM people, and there's one-eyed Ken and Joan also meeting them.  Bob wants to see Joan again.  What are you getting at, Bob? Downstairs, Peggy informs Don of the pitch, pretending it was her idea.  Don mentions reworking the ad, but Peggy says no.  Now Megan comes into the office.  Peggy catches her first.  Stan also says hello.  Then Don walks by--hey, his wife came early.  As Don and Megan are leaving, Jim talks to Roger about Philip Morris--which could force Don out.  Boy, the partners don't get along. How much longer can this last?

Bob gets a late-night call. His GM guy was arrested for homosexual activity.  He's hurt, but he won't go to a hospital--doesn't want the info to get out.  When is Stonewall gonna happen already?  This wouldn't have happened in Detroit, where he knows his way around. Bob tries to separate himself, but it doesn't play. More important, GM is moving on, and Bob will be going with Buick.  Big news.

It's now the weekend, and Peggy can't sleep. By suggesting he was working on a new angle, Don put a bee in her bonnet that the idea wasn't good enough.  Over in Cos Cob, Pete meets his daughter, who doesn't even know him.  His wife is out, only the maid is there.  Does this mean no Alison Brie?  It's cruel enough we've lost her in Community, but is she out of the picture at Mad Men too?  He comes back later and she's still out.  He's obsessed and calls Bonnie--have fun tonight, I'm gonna stick around here.  Glad he did, since Alison finally comes back.  Their little meeting doesn't not go well.  She seems to be over him and he's gets high-handed (though he's got a gal stashed in a hotel).

Don sleeps in and wakes to sees Megan on the balcony. If only she wanted to be back, but her life is now out West. Peggy goes to the agency, takes residence in Lou's office and tries to work.  She calls Stan and wants him to come in.  He's busy.  So she calls Don and gets all Jill Abramsony, saying his ideas stink and now he's ruined hers.  He hangs up on her.

Bob comes over the Joan's, being his regular charming self.  Later that day, he offers her a ring.  He figures it'd look good for both of them, especially now that he's moving up.  (He also says she might like it in Detroit.  I know all about Grosse Pointe, but would anyone say this in 1969?)  Anyway, Joan, approaching 40, with a kid, is holding out for true love.  Maybe she's right, but its not the worst offer.  At Don's, Megan is going back to L.A.  And Pete in the hotel loses Bonnie--she doesn't want to go shopping, or wait for him, she's her own woman who wants a serious relationship.  The men are striking out right and left.

Later, Don goes to the office to meet frustrated Peggy.  Maybe the most painful thing this season has seen these two--former mentor and protege, the most creative people around--be at odds.  She's being annoying at first, but he's open, helpful and charming.  Even honest. You don't always know what works.  You've got to do what you want, even in a pitch.  They bond. What is this campaign really about?  What is life about?  Peggy just turned 30, and doesn't know where he life is going.  Don sort of feels the same way.  Peggy imagines a beautiful place where you can go, break bread, and be with family.  That's the idea they need.  "My Way" comes on the radio and they dance. She lays her head on his chest.  The camera pulls back and it looks like the end of the show.

But it's not.  The song continues and we see both Bonnie and Megan flying back home. In first class, of course.  And then next day's meeting going over GM dropping the account.  Jim's idea, misdirection--advertise the computer and make Harry a partner.  Roger and Joan are disgusted, but the others are willing to try it.  (Don, who's still a partner, has some reason to like Harry now that he got useful info in Los from him.)  Hary has always struck me as the Lieutenant Scheisskopf character--not too smart, not too much talent, but he's just the kind of guy who keeps rising through the ranks until he's in charge of everything.  Joan and Roger, who both had inside info (Joan from Bob, Roger from the steamroom) meet and compare notes after this horrible moment.  Are they coming back together?

Now comes the final scene.  Don meets with Pete--who's now free--at a Burger Chef. (I remember Burger Chef. Maybe some day I'll tell a story or two about it, but this post is already too long.)  Peggy joins them.  She wants to shoot the ad here.  The eat a Burger Chef meal.  Every table here is the family table, as Peggy notes.  Don backs her up.  And here we have this wonderful moment, rare--maybe unique--in the series, where the three main characters are all together, having a nice, family moment.  And they need it, since they've failed everyone else they know.  The camera pulls back, and that's it.

Only one more episode before the break.  Is the firm going to fly apart?  Who will stick together, when all is said and done?

Over at Game Of Thrones, in "Mockingbird," plenty of action and plenty of maneuvering, and each story has something interesting happening.

Tyrion's back in his cell, awaiting trial by combat.  Jaime can't believe he refused the deal that Tywin suggested.  It's not looking good for his brother.  Not that long ago, Jaime would have been his champion, but missing his right hand, that's not gonna happen. Oh well, at least Tywin's plans are screwed up.  And we see who'll be fighting for Cersei--the Mountain, as fearsome as ever.  He kills a few people for practice.  Can anyone stand up to him?

We cut to the Moutain's little brother, the Hound. He and Arya come up to a man who's been attacked and is waiting to die. The Hound does him the favor of killing him, stabbing him in the heart. Then someone jumps on the Hound and bites him in the neck before he's taken care of.  Then the freed prisoner who threatened to do awful things to Arya is also there, explaining that Joffrey is dead and a hundred stags of silver go to anyone who kills the Hound.  She doesn't know his name so she's not on his list, but once he says it, she stabs him in the heart.  She learns quickly.

At Castle Black, Jon Snow is back, but, as always, the bureaucrats who run the place don't understand the threat. Jon wants to seal the tunnel, fill it with rocks and ice--something that's never been done.  But then, they've never had to deal with Mance Rayder.  Jon's seen giants, but Castle Black's middle management decides against it.  I think they'll be paying for that decision before the end of the season.

Bronn drops in at Tyrion's cell. (Guess he can have regular visitors now.) Now here's a champion with a track record.  But Bronn isn't the same guy he was back in the Vale.  He's got money and position now, and he doesn't like his odds against the Mountain. Tyrion can't pay him enough to take the chance. Cynical Tyrion expects nothing less from cynical Bronn. The two shake hands. It's a warm moment, and it may be their last.

Over in Meereen, Dario, still being sort of a jerk, breaks into Dany's room.  He wants to do something for her, not just serve as head of the local police force.  She figures there is something he can do, and has him take off his clothes.  Poor Ser Jorah--how come he never gets these kind of orders?  He sees Dario coming out of Khaleesi's chambers next morning.  She's sent him off to retake Yunkai and kill all the masters.  He talks a lot about whom to trust--but what will happen if Dany ever finds out that he was once sent to spy on her.  She's on her crusade against slavery (though Jorah was a slaver) and he notes, like Barristan earlier, you can't always fight evil with evil. No one's all bad.  He advises she offer mercy, and she allows the Meereen guy with the unspellable name to be her ambassador first.  Go tell Dario I've changed my mind--in fact, tell him you changed my mind.

In a creepy bathtub scene (they have one each week), Melisandre and the Queen have a talk about the Lord of Light.  Sometimes you need fake magic to impress people--you need to lie to get to the truth.  The two are about to travel somewhere.  To Braavos?  I don't think so.  Stannis isn't going to get some more ships and attack King's Landing right away, will he? The timing wouldn't be bad, but didn't he already do that?  Anyway, I recall the Red Woman being quite concerned about events at the Wall.  Maybe Jon will be getting some help.  Anyway, the matter at hand is whether or not to bring along daughter Shireen, who's a heretic.  But Melisander assures the queen she'll be needed.  That doesn't sound good--this witch would as soon burn someone as say hello.

The Hound now has a festering wound.  Arya is willing to burn away the bad part, but he's got the thing about fire.  Poor Hound.  People with festering wounds don't do well in this world. Remember Khal Drogo?  I'm thinking before the season's out, Arya may have to do the Hound a favor.  In fact, the show gives Sandor a nice speech about his brother and his past--the kind of character moment people sometimes get before they're about to be offed.  That'd be a shame.  Arya works great with literally anyone in the show, but her coupling with the Hound has been a highlight.

Brienne and Pod eat a nice kidney pie at an inn. Prepare by whom?  A very talkative Hot Pie! Of all the characters in GOT, he's probably the luckiest.  Born in Flea Bottom, sent to the Wall, he's ended up in a job and place that's perfect for him.  Brienne (partly to shut him up) explains her quest to find Sansa.  Hot Pie's not sure if he can trust her. The Lannisters want all the Starks dead, after all.  But later, when she and Pod are saddling their horses, and Pod thinks Brienne should be quiet about their quest, Hot Pie, thankfully, comes out and tells the truth.  He doesn't know Sansa, but met Arya. This is big news, though Brienne takes it pretty calmly.  HP explains their adventures and how the Hound took her. Pod, a helpful squire, figures Clegane is heading for a reward at the Eyrie. In fact, that may be where Sansa is. Good thing they've got a place to go.  Westeros is a big place, Essos even bigger--the idea that Brienne would march around the entire world looking for a girl in hiding seemed almost pointless, but now she's got a quest.  Wouldn't it be great if Brienne, Pod, Arya and The Hound all met up with Sansa at the Vale? (Though would Littlefinger let them in?)

Back in Tyrion's cell, the third act.  Prince Oberyn wants to talk. He's figured out what's going on.  He knows how Cersei wants Tyrion dead.  But, sounding quite a lot like Inigo Montoya, he makes a speech about his need to avenge his family.  Wow, Tyrion actually has a champion.  I don't know if Oberyn can beat the Mountain, but I'm guessing we'll find out next week.

Finally we get to the Vale.  Sansa makes a snow castle to remind her of Winterfell. Snotty little Robin comes in and messes it up. She slaps him. Hanging out with Littlefinger has made Sansa harder, and less naïve.  Littlefinger, who saw what happened, comes over. (It's a castle, but the place seems mostly empty except for Sansa, Littlefinger, Robin and Lysa.) She thinks she's never getting home, but he says never say never.  He explains how he loved his mom, but she's even more beautiful, and kisses her. (Sansa does look pretty good right now.  I'm guessing in the books Cat and Sansa were described as major babes.) Arya's been engaged to one guy, married to another, and also attacked, but I don't think she's ever been kissed.

Alas, everyone seems to be watching Sansa, and Lysa sees the kiss.  In the throne room, Lysa explains how she's been willing to kill everyone necessary to get Petyr.  Then she's about to throw Sansa out the moon door when Littlefinger shows up.  He convinces her to let Sansa go. I think we know what's about to happen, but Littlefinger is so wonderfully cold the scene still works. He promises her the moon, but she only gets the moon door.  And just before, he tells her he only ever loved one woman.  Your sister.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! End of show.

Sansa gets to see all this.  Better not mess with Littlefinger, but she already knew that.  Only three more episodes this season and what's left.  Well, there's Mance's attack on Castle Black.  Stannis and Davos and Melisandre's plans, wherever they are.  The trial by combat. Brienne getting to the Vale. Perhaps the Mountain and Arya getting there.  Dany doing something, though I don't know what (and what's the deal with her dragons?).  Theon pretending to be Theon for Ramsay.  Bran finally getting to that tree.  And a few other things here and there that need to be cleaned up. Plenty of action for only three more hours.

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