The Top TV of Twenty-Twelve (Part Two)
Part One is HERE. It explains things. Read it first, it’s a pre-requisite. If you already have, then feel free to read the continuation here.
Homeland – New Car Smell
Though it may be contentious now the early episodes of this season were without argument some of the classiest on TV this year. Many would argue that the show’s golden run this season both culminated and climaxed in Q&A but for me this was both the better and more memorable episode, especially when you know the consequences of those interrogation scenes, when you know what comes next.
Almost as important to my singular enjoyment of this episode though was the fact that I really didn’t know what was coming next. Sure the show was stepping in some of the prints that we had all prophesied it would during this second season but it was doing so far swifter than we could ever have expected: the final scene of New Car Smell perhaps ten strongest example of that, showing what we all would have expected the show to save for a season finale here before even the halfway point. Not only was the occurrence of said scene shocking – and the intricacies of it spectacularly staged, centred as it is on character like all of the shows best plot points – but what it suggested of the season still to come, the heights that the show could possibly reach, was intoxicating.
Just as the show’s unwillingness to shackle the characters with secrets seemed such a grand idea in the first season – having people communicate properly on a show like this is revolutionary – but has subsequently sapped the show of some stakes and drive this speed of story and pace of plotting has also turned out to bite as much as boon the show going forwards, perhaps even dooming it. Regardless of that though I still really love that they tried, that they attempted to push past the established barriers and into the minefield of the unknown. Sure it blew up in their face, but because of them future shows now have a safer path to follow.
Mad Men – The Other Woman
While the selection of show is about as safe a bet as you can get in this racket the episode that I selected may not be given that it was the most controversial in the show’s history. Mad Men has never shied away from the sexism inherent in its sixties-set world but it has, for the most part, dealt with it in the subtle, everyday terms that the show is known for. Here though the stakes are driven sky-high as the drama moves into much more overt and obscene territory: political prostitution.
That the scene in question shocked a large section of viewers should have come as no surprise to those making the show; it is structurally designed as a slap in the face, the show subverting its sequential nature for only the second time (discounting flashbacks) so that it comes as a shock. How people tried to put their shock into words though seemed a little strange to me, skirting what was most uncomfortable about the scene.
The main criticism these people cited was that it seemed out of character for Joan to submit like this – i disagree for a number of reasons both textual and meta-textual but I won’t get into those here – and that is where the discussion stayed. For me though the main question people should have been asking isn’t would she have done it, it’s should she have. Though it is sickening to think of the show never outright portrays this as a sad or terribly tragic revelation and Joan, ever stoic, barely mentions it again, almost unphased by it all. It happened to her, it happened in real life to Other Women, so does a lot of shit.
In a season that was derided for being too blunt it is subtlety like this that kept the show as must watch television for me and also what made it so fun to write about each week. All this and I’ve only began to cover one scene ( even including my lengthy original review which is HERE I still don’t feel anywhere near satisfied with the coverage) in an episode full of them, each as tempting a text as the next.
Adventure Time – I Remember You
From one extreme to another, this will be the real controversial choice. “A cartoon! He couldn’t possibly!” they’ll say, shaking their heads like the do when I review a comic. Unlike Mad Men I doubt that Adventure Time will see a spot on many top ten lists this year and besides the obvious but arbitrary reason of it being an animated show for non-adults ( in theory) there is the very reasonable one of its episodes only being ten minutes long. How can you possibly tell something in ten minutes that is as effecting as a full hour or the fourty five minutes of network? You cut a lot of corners, that’s how.
This though is a compliment and not a criticism because in compensating for its condensed running time this show becomes even stronger than it could otherwise. For one-hundred plus episodes it has solidly shown a level of daring and imagination that most major drama’s would fail to live up to but the best thing about it is that it often demands that same imagination of you, something that those other show would never do. What am I talking about?
Well, I Remember You is, on the surface, a fairly standard episode of the show: it follows two subsidiary characters as they get together to write a song ( music being a mainstay in the series). What eventuates from the episode though is so much more that that, a subtle yet drastic evolution of the show as a whole and this momentum comes mostly from a single short scene at the very end of the episode.
With those few seconds it both calls back and ties together a host of subtle elements from the shows past into the soul of a very sad story that has been hidden behind the series this whole time. Better yet: because the scene is so sparse and so much goes unsaid the meat of the tale is then up to you to tell. It’s challenging, confident storytelling and not just for a children’s show but for any medium and the wave of serialization that it started is a sign of only more great things to come. Plus, the songs are all super math.