You’d think the ensemble cast for Argo could not be challenged, but that would be a mistake. At every location, meeting, and level of government, Zero Dark Thirty is populated by familiar faces. And interestingly, many (not all) of these actors are prominently known for their television roles.
Jessica Chastain: She’s amazing. And while she is starring in basically every film that comes out these days, some people (like me!) might remember her role as Veronica Mars’s disappeared pregnant neighbor in the season one episode “The Girl Next Door.”
Jason Clarke: I associated Jason Clarke with his starring role on the defunct show, The Chicago Code. I championed that show until the bitter end, so I hope Jason Clarke at least gets a big film career as a consolation prize. Bonus!: I remember where I saw him most recently: in Texas Killing Fields being hunted by…Jessica Chastain.
Kyle Chandler: He really wins this year because he is also in Argo. Of course, his prominent television role is Friday Night Lights (I know, I know, I need to watch) but I can’t help but constantly think of his stint on Grey’s Anatomy. Remember how that one time there was a bomb and Kyle Chandler needed to diffuse it?
Jennifer Ehle: I honestly can’t look at her without thinking about her role opposite Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice.
Harold Perrineau: Lost. Oz. Sons of Anarchy. The Unusuals. (And Wedding Band? Sorry, Wedding Band fans — it’s a goner.)
Mark Strong: You might know him from every film ever, but his role in Kick-Ass sticks out to me.
Jessica Collins: One of those, “don’t I know her from something?” The answer must be I know her from Rubicon. Yet another show I watched to the bitter end. It really just served to prove that AMC can and will ax shows.
Fredric Lehne: You may know him from every television show ever: American Horror Story: Asylum, Lost, Supernatural, etc. Seriously, he is the epitome of the character actor.
Mark Duplass: How can you not love him?? He’s making his mark on TV (The League, The Mindy Project) and in film (Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister’s Sister).
James Gandolfini: Tony Soprano himself!
Stephen Dillane: You may also know him from everything in the world but these days I tend to shout out (mentally) “Stannis!” whenever I see him. So, Game of Thrones but also Hunted, John Adams, etc.
John Barrowman: a.k.a. Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood, as well as his recent gig on CW’s Arrow. Singer, actor, host and all-around constant personality…in Zero Dark Thirty. Randomly great.
Joel Edgerton: Discussion of all other roles must be preempted because I just discovered (remembered/had a flashback to) the fact he is “young” Uncle Owen in the Star Wars prequels. I instantly seized upon a mental image of the trading card I have (yes, I collected Star Wars cards but I was waaay more into my Lord of the Rings collection…) and knew this to be true. And then my mind exploded. I guess I should quit wondering where this Joel Edgerton guy came from if he has actually been on the fringes all these years.
Chris Pratt: Parks and Recreation! But before Parks and Rec, my thought would have been Everwood! Wow, that really takes me back…
Taylor Kinney: This guy pops up on The Vampire Diaries, then starts dating Lady GaGa, and now has a starring role in Chicago Fire. So I imagine he made some kind of deal with the devil.
Christopher Stanley: Honorable mention since whenever I see him I can only think of Mad Men; “Henry Francis.”
Mark Valley: Human Target, Fringe, Boston Legal, and Body of Proof apparently, etc. All I can think about for some reason when I see him is that he was married to Anna Torv. But not any longer…
I stopped hoping/predicting Emmy nominations a long time ago because going down that road inevitably leads to disappointment. But foregoing your hopes and dreams allows for another thing: pleasant surprise. Yes, most of the nominations were easily predicable but more so than usual, this year is shaping up to showcase some very deserving ensembles and individuals. One thing I won’t discuss: the snubs. I fear making that list will result in insanity and depression. Forewarning: since my thoughts range from actual having an observation to just “yay!” this is a mishmash of ideas more so than an actual post. For a better breakdown of exactly how this year is surprisingly positive, check out Tim Goodman’s analysis at The Hollywood Reporter.
Downton Abbey: Having returned for a second season to PBS, it was necessary for DA to move from the miniseries category to the drama series category. It took America a year to catch Downton fever, and I am just a little bummed that it happened on a less than stellar season. Nevertheless, I am happy for it to be included. The show even garnered far more acting noms than expected: Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, and Jim Carter were all nominated. The Brits are already laughing at our outdated obsession.
Mad Men: What do I love about the Mad Men noms this year? Well, Jared Harris for one (who replaced John Slattery in this category). I was a huge fan of Lane this season and while I could sit here and work myself into a fit over how much I think Weiner blundered his storyline, Jared Harris was awesome throughout. He devastated me for well over a week. I was happily surprised by the nomination for Ben Feldman as Michael Ginsberg in the Guest Actor category. His scene where he describes himself as a martian to Peggy is one of the standout moments of the season. And semi-related: Jon Hamm was nominated for Don Draper but he was also nominated for Guest Actor in 30 Rock. I know he doesn’t consider himself a comedian but he never ceases to be hilarious in comedies and on SNL. He may not be able to win for Mad Men, but he was definitely a standout on the 30 Rock live episode.
American Horror Story: Due to what can be deemed downright mischievous, FX submitted AHS as a miniseries, arguing that each season is a self-contained anthology (never mind the fact this was decided after it aired). Due to a sparse field of competition, this has allowed AHS to CLEAN UP. I am very excited to see Denis O’Hare recognized in the Supporting Actor category because he’s awesome.
Sherlock: And speaking of strategies, PBS entered “A Scandal in Belgravia” into contention as an TV movie. Huh? It is a single episode in a continuous series that involves the same principal characters but okay. I can’t really complain too much because I may in fact be rooting for Benedict Cumberbatch in the Lead Actor category far more than anyone else at the ceremony. Martin Freeman also got some love in the Supporting Actor category so I can’t argue with the results of this subterfuge.
The Year of the Creator/Actor?
Girls: Not only was it nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, but Lena Dunham got nominations for writing, directing, producing and Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Louie: Louis CK may have missed out on getting his actual show nominated but he successfully got nods for writing, directing and as Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Even more impressive? He now holds the record for most nominations for an individual in a single year (7).
Max Greenfield: I know that Zooey Deschanel also got the nomination, but I have to give it up to Max Greenfield for making New Girl one of the funniest new shows on television this year. The evolution of Schmidt was a great thing to watch throughout the season and I am very glad that it was noticed.
Writing in a Comedy Series: Talk about a category that got it completely right. Girls, Parks and Recreation, Louie, and Community (The “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode!!!) all represented. I can’t wait to see what episode picks up the award but they are all so deserving.
The Hour: I just recently devoured the first season of The Hour and adored it so I am sad to see that the series was ignored (or “miniseries” I should say…er) as well as Dominic West and Ben Whishaw. However, Abi Morgan did get a nomination for Outstanding Writing.
Modern Family: I…don’t get it anymore. I watch it and it often makes me laugh but not everyone on the show needs to be nominated particularly since it wasn’t a very strong season. I would nominate Ty Burrell, that’s all folks. Instead of some of the other adults I would also nominate the kid that plays Luke, Nolan Gould, because he makes me laugh more than most of the cast combined.
Last week I wrote about the unfortunate dichotomy that exists between watching Game of Thrones and then switching over to Mad Men. This week I didn’t get to re-test my theory thanks to traffic. My guess is that my distractedness would have been less pronounced, as this week’s GoT started to wind down the action in its closing moments. Luckily, I am glad that I didn’t risk detachment to Mad Men like last week, because “Mystery Date” was…AWESOME. When AMC teased that fans of The Walking Dead should be equally excited by the return of zombies of the 1960s, they weren’t kidding. And by that I mean Mad Men was really channeling the rise of Hitchcockian terror with Richard Speck’s infamous killing spree of eight nurses in Chicago. By July 1966, Psycho, The Birds, and a plethora of Roger Corman films had entered into mainstream pop culture. But this post is about “Mystery Date” and the personal nightmares that enveloped our characters this week:
Megan: Her nightmare is by far the most…usual: How long will I have to continue to face my husband’s philandering past? Should I be worried? Questions that all spring from a chance encounter with Andrea, a former fling of Don’s. (Don’s defense: They are in Midtown. I mean, what does she expect? What exactly are the stats at this point, Don?). For the most part, as we will see, Don is way more concerned about this than Megan. And while these are legitimate concerns, Megan seems in control: she rightly points out that it is Don that brings up Andrea again later (“And all I can think is that you feel guilty, which makes it worse than I thought”) and that he cannot blame Betty for his (numerous) past indiscretions: “That kind of careless appetite — you can’t blame that on Betty.” Preach!
Don: One path I can take with this is that Don’s nightmare is himself, or his former self, the man he no longer wants to be yet is obviously very paranoid about changing back into. The other path is that Don…has some problems, clearly, because he imagines murdering Andrea for accusing him of loving his old ways. Would I have been so disturbed had his fever dream been about him reverting to his old ways and cheating on Megan? I don’t think so. But I guess we can also assume that Don is equally paranoid about another hidden aspect of himself, one which has the capacity to rage-strangle former lover Andrea and then shove her body under the bed. The imagery was also startling: it reverses what we learn from the Richard Speck murders (that beneath the bed is a safe place) and it drudges up the imagery that new wunderkind Michael used in his Cinderella pitch (a woman with one shoe, hobbling along the cobblestones).
Roger: This week in Roger’s nightmare we still see his struggle hinging on a fear of irrelevancy. And even though he was shamed by Pete last week, he still decides that napping in his office is preferable to giving Michael his Mohawk assignment. So he must turn to Peggy, who swindles him out of a cool $400 to lie about covering his tracks. The Roger horror show lives to nap, drink, quip and smoke another day.
Peggy: I like that Peggy’s “nightmare” segment starts off with an actual horror movie riff. The SCDP hallways are dark but Peggy hears a sound. She thought she was alone but…actually Don’s secretary Dawn had decided to sleep in the office for fear of the night time commute for a female African American. High on power from her encounter with Roger, Peggy insists that Dawn stay at her apartment. And as much as she tries to commiserate with Dawn (they are women in a man’s world, they were both Don’s secretaries) she is put in her place almost immediately by a 5 second lingering glance at her purse. How shaming for Peggy who was probably about to float away on her goodwill and progressive actions; she questioned the safety of her money and Dawn saw it. That, along with asking Dawn whether she “acts like a man,” leads us to Peggy’s true nightmare: when it all boils down, she isn’t who she thinks she is.
Joan: Joan is the only character that makes headway into effectively vanquishing her nightmares in this episode. Her biggest problem can probably be summed up as the embodiment of her husband. He raped her, she married him anyway. He goes off to Vietnam when he fails as a doctor in New York and Joan gets knocked up by Roger. By kicking him out of her life, things can only look up: she can find a non-rapist boyfriend (Lane?!) and avoid the nasty issue of paternity (for now). Joan, dropping some knowledge: “You’re not a good man. “You never were. Even before we were married, and you know what I’m talking about.”
Sally: Sally, separated from the rest of the action at the Francis Haunted Mansion, is being looked after by Mama Francis. Pauline is engrossed in the coverage of the Speck murders but tries to hide the details from Sally. Of course, overcome with curiosity, Sally rescues the paper from the trash and reads about the gruesome crime in bed. Naturally, she is too scared to sleep and appears abruptly to startle Pauline (another horror movie trope). Pauline does more damage by imagining, along with Sally, the scenario in which Speck entered the duplex and then offers Sally a Seconal to help her fall asleep. Both of them end up knocked out, with Sally having crawled under the sofa as a means of feeling safer (meanwhile, somewhere, Don in his fever dream is stuffing Andrea under the bed). Sally may have avoided her nightmares at the expense of opening herself up to a new one—as many have pointed out, this will probably be the first of many pill-infused nights for Sally.
Michael: As opposed to everyone else, newbie Michael seemed to be spinning the nightmares himself. He may have shied away from graphic images of the Richard Speck murder victims but he wasted no time in pitching his Cinderella ad for a shoe company: she hobbles along the cobblestones missing one shoe when a strange man comes out of nowhere to touch her shoulder from behind:”She knows she’s not safe, but she doesn’t care. I guess we know in the end, she wants to be caught.”
Mad Men brought the creepy and I liked it. Also, Mystery Date, the game is now terrifying to me. “Will your mystery date be…?” Dreamy? A dud? A psychopathic serial killer and/or rapist that will shove you under the bed? Or just a thief? What happens if you marry your mystery date even though he raped you, is terrible at his job and chooses Vietnam over you and “his” baby? What if your mystery date is preying on you because you lost a shoe outside the castle?
Did anyone else think that Game of Thrones followed by Mad Men would be an unstoppable tour de force on Sunday night? Er…last night, things sort of converged to disprove this belief. Of course, Game of Thrones was amazing. It also unintentionally catered to my favor by including a super awesome Petyr Baelish scene with Cersei and by making Gendry the focal point of its typical, episode-closing cliffhanger. So while I was reeling from that I had to switch on AMC and adjust to life in the 1966 world of Mad Men. Unfortunately, it was a rather dull episode and my thoughts often wandered back to GoT. Hopefully Mad Men will bring its A game next week and my fears that a GoT/Mad Men pairing really isn’t ideal will be quelled. Regardless, GoT left me with a lot to think about this week as I eagerly await next Sunday.
The hour barely gave us enough time to check in with all the characters before the episode was over BUT it more than satisfied my expectations. I got two Littlefinger scenes, the first being in the Small Council and the latter being his epic confrontation with Cersei that ended with her proving the argument that “Power is power” rather than the Master of Coin’s argument that “knowledge is power.” Then I got to check in, briefly, with Ser Jorah Mormont over in The Red Waste as Daenerys continued to listen to his sage, dragon counsel (basically whatever your decision, you will be killed for your dragons).
Now I would be lying if I said that I didn’t spend every scene hoping the next would lead into one with Arya (and by association, Gendry). The episode gave away tease after tease by continuously name-dropping Arya, and with all the intrigue over her whereabouts I thought for sure a cutaway to her was coming. But no, GoT was waiting to throw me into a complete tizzy. By the time I realized that the scene with Lord Baelish’s whorehouse was leading into Janos Slynt’s hunt for Robert’s bastards, my brain was screaming Gendry at the screen. And then the cliffhanger of the show actually ended with the reveal of Gendry (with Arya) on the Kings Road. I am perhaps most excited by the idea that the show places as much importance on Gendry as I do when I am reading the books. And if I had an end game in mind of the books, it would be Gendry on the throne at King’s Landing and Jon Snow as Lord of Winterfell. But with so many claimants to the throne, Gendry really is only one of many who may inherit.
Other thoughts (with some book/spoiler mentions):
- At Joffrey’s name day celebration, (with the main attraction being duels to the death, naturally) we met Ser Dontos, the drunken fool, cleverly saved by Sansa’s machinations. The mere presence of Dontos, the Hound, and Tyrion in one scene all lined up to hint at the (MANY!) future “suitors” of Sansa.
- Oh Theon. Does anyone remember Aaron Ashmore on Veronica Mars as Troy? He legit broke my heart. I thought he was the perfect romantic/interest for Veronica and he was actually a terrible person. This is how I prematurely feel about the television incarnation of Theon. I want to intervene somehow, give him a hug, and make him realize that Robb loves him. And that the Greyjoy clan back on the Iron Islands is absolutely terrible; being Ned Stark’s ward was the best thing that could have ever happened to him.
- This post was going to be titled “The North Remembers and a Clash of Kings Begins” but to be truthful, the most appropriate title would be GENDRY GENDRY GENDRY….so I decided on a compromise. This is a really interesting instance (in the realm of GoT) where one of my favorite characters from the books is being played by an actor I already liked in the real world, Joe Dempsie. (For example, Littlefinger may be my favorite character, but Aidan Gillen playing his part was what ignited my interest in the show, and the books. I like Jon Snow but Kit Harington appeared out of a puff of smoke to play him). So in between Joe Dempsie’s character, Chris, on Skins being my favorite, my freakout at his brief appearance in the season one finale of GoT, and watching The Fades a few months back…my fandom for Joe Dempsie and my love of the character of Gendry have super combined to create…obsession. He appeared for 5 seconds last night and I flipped.
- I thought I was seeing things at first but nope, it was Hannah Murray from the same Skins generation as Joe Dempsie playing Gilly.
Less time has past in the Mad Men world than the real world since we last got a new episode. But who cares now that the denizens of SCDP and their friends are now gracing our televisions again? After Matthew Weiner’s moratorium on premiere spoilers, we were presented with no large surprises; in fact, everything is as you would have guessed at the end of season four. Mad Men is the rare show where I honestly don’t care how much plot is moved in any particular episode. I’ve missed these people and just hanging out in their lives for two hours was good enough for me. And what better way to appreciate us fans than to stage an elaborate surprise party where (mostly) all of those characters are in attendance. Especially one where we can peel back all the layers of interaction utilizing four seasons of knowledge. At this point the road to the finale is paved with many surprises and twists but I have teased out a few points that I am going to continue to watch out for as the season progresses:
The unsettling nature of a changed Don: Like we glimpsed in “Tomorrowland,” Megan’s effect on Don has now officially changed him into a shiny new Draper 2.0. Like Peggy, I don’t like it. I don’t trust it to be permanent, and Don’s happiness is always ephemeral. I have spent seasons lamenting Don’s abusive emotional treatment of others, but his current personality has the potential of wrecking the stability of SCDP when it inevitably blows up, especially as the star employee (whose phone is ringing off the hook), he doesn’t care about work. The greater the happiness Don finds probably means the harder disappointment and dissatisfaction will come down on him later.
Joan and Lane: how natural they both seemed to be in conversation. Two deeply lonely people that find some respite together? More please. Actually more Lane in general, I love Jared Harris. The way in which Lane described the surprise party (“I saw his soul leave his body”) and the way it delighted Joan was one of the most purely lighthearted moments of the premiere. Mad Men has a tendency to shine the brightest when it micro-focuses on relationships (like in “The Suitcase”) so I hope that the odd, yet charismatic bond between Joan and Lane will be explored again in later episodes.
Pete, King of the Smirk (and the Pout): Bert is so irrelevant no one invites him to meetings; Roger’s only client, Lucky Strike, is no longer at the firm; and Don doesn’t care: enter Pete and Peggy, the hardest working members of the SCDP team. Pete is, overwhelmingly, aware of his contributions. But unlike in season one, Pete’s entitlement is justified: he has a large client base and maintains the stability of the firm. And his signature pout even has a place in a world where he tirelessly works while Don leaves early to get home to his wife. Yes, a pouting Pete is still irritating and he goes about trying to get what he wants in the most annoying way possible. And yet, Pete is the Don of yester-seasons: he looks dissatisfied with life, especially with his new home and Trudy in general, but is succeeding at work. When Megan criticizes SCDP employees for smirking rather than smiling, Pete is the main character guilty of this. Best smirk of the night? Pete, now relocated to Harry’s former office, self-satisfied with his own dirty trick on Roger (scheduling an insanely early, fake meeting in Staten Island for Roger to poach). The season seems primed to put Roger and Pete in a cycle of one-upmanship and I am not sure where it leads, but right now I would not be surprised if only one is left standing. And if the firm is smart, it will be Pete.
Accountability for Mistakes: The season opens with Young and Rubicam committing a pretty extreme faux pas by dumping water on the protesters beneath their building. As a joke, Roger (clearly not thinking about consequences) posts an ad for SCDP, claiming it an equal opportunity employer. This little twist of the knife to Y&R leads to two unintended consequences: Joan’s concerns over her job being replaced and, more importantly, the civil rights movement marching right into the lobby of SCDP. Loads of men and women show up with résumés, ready to be interviewed. This little misunderstanding has no easy fix: hiring an African American is not the main issue; the fact is SCDP has no budget to do any sort of hiring. However there is no way to side step the implications of turning away the applicants, and risk a reporter pouncing on the story. The only immediate solution was to dismiss the men (awkwardly) and collect resumes, with the potential solution of firing a secretary in favor of a new hire. I am curious to see in what direction the show goes with this: will SCDP actually hire a black secretary? For whose office? And where will she sit? What treatment will she receive? Will this little mistake be a boon for the firm or lead to controversy in the press? And on the macro-level, how many little errors in judgment (like the one Roger made in printing the ad) will lead to repercussions for the characters? The personal worlds of our characters are built on a foundation of secrets. Each person should be held accountable for something they have buried. Maybe this season we will see more immediate repercussions for hasty decision-making. Another ultimate accountability? Roger fathering Joan’s baby.
Roger: I think one of the most exciting things about this season will be the next evolutionary step in the life of Roger Sterling. Without Lucky Strike his position at SCDP is precarious and he is well aware of his predicament. Pete is outshining him at every turn and has a valid reason for wanting Roger’s office. But when Roger gives Pete a concession without the ultimate one (his office) by having Harry trade down and switch offices, he proves that the fight is not over: he can still play the game even if he has no cards. Similarly, while it is true that showing up to Pete’s meetings (where Roger is a more effective man’s man charmer) is harmless in the long run, these are the actions of an increasingly desperate man. What will his next steps be to ensure his viability? And should he care this much? New battle lines are being drawn at SCDP and Don is MIA.