May 30, 2013 2:10pm PT by Tim Goodman
The Power Rankings! We Shrink to the Great 8! It's A Bloodbath For No. 1! Flux Returns!
With Game of Thrones, Veep, Family Tree and DaVinci's Demons deciding to take the week off, we now shift from the Elite 11 to the Great 8, a device employed in the past to keep out the weak and the wannabe greats. We don't just hand out ribbons here. You don't get a gift bag at someone else's birthday party in our world! Oh, and if you're asking defiantly, well, if four shows dropped out, how come it took you so long to post? -- then I'm saying, well, I don't know. So there. But let's stay focused! Even with four shows missing, a late great and on old favorite return this week, making things tense. It's Thursday -- no more time for blathering. So welcome to The Power Rankings for the week ending May 26. On my command, unleash hell! FYI: The Power Rankings! are where television series are ranked on a weekly basis according to their most recent episodes and the ever-changing-moods of yours truly. If you want to learn how The Power Rankings! started and the methodology behind them, check out the link to the Bastard Machine post on those issues of great import. Also: The Bastard Machine has its own Facebook Page. And Tim Goodman loves Twitter.
Well helloooo, Bad Betty. Someone got their figure back and figured they'd put it to use seducing the ex (wow, that sounds soapy). But this was a nice return to form for Mad Men, in an episode that brought out all of its best qualities. The story telling was sharp, the ability to take a premise about duality and "The Better Half" of ourselves or our relations and fit multiple meanings around it is a staple of the show. It held its core attribute fairly steady -- Don's life of wandering around hopelessly in search of happiness and meaning. Plus, well, Peggy stabbed Abe with the strangest spear concoction ever (it was an accident, or otherwise this would sound even more soapy) Bob Benson continues to be a mystery and Megan wore the same shirt that Manson Family murder victim Sharon Tate wore, which lit up the internet. Lots to pondering of this episode can be found in my weekly deconstruction of the series.
This brilliant little gem on Sundance Channel had its Season 1 finale and went out as oddly moving as it came in. Rectify managed, in a very brief run, to be one of television's most compelling series. It topples from last week's coveted No. 1 slot only because of a particularly strong competitor and also in part because the vicious beating of Daniel had essentially been given away by Sundance promotions from the start, robbing it of its emotional wallop (not that it still wasn't painful to witness). It seems sloppy or just a poor decision to give that scene away with so many obvious hints. Otherwise, it was another masterstroke from creator (writer and director) Ray McKinnon. Rectify absolutely must be in the Emmy discussion. Here's to Season 2.
Here's how tight this week was. At more than one point prior to writing The Power Rankings!, I had Orphan Black at No. 1, Rectify at No. 1, Mad Men at No. 1, then Orphan Black back at No. 1, etc. Hugely competitive week. I've been all over this series since it started and consider it one of the biggest surprises on the small screen. Exceptional work by all involved - writing, acting, concept, etc. And I would be remiss in not taking every possible opportunity to talk about how brilliant lead actress Tatiana Maslany is. Who knows what Emmy voters will ever do or think, but they'd be hard pressed to find a better performance on television.
And the world was finally put to right. The return of Arrested Development has been a great gift to television and even if the first couple of episodes are struggling to find their tone and work within the intricate structuring of the series, they are still funny and - having gorged on all 15 for my THR review -- snowball into real comedic genius soon enough. Let's just say that Arrested Development probably isn't going anywhere off The Power Rankings! for the next 14 weeks (as I'll treat each episode as a per week entry, like I did with House of Cards).
The season finale of Bates Motel certainly delivered enough evidence that things will be getting weirder as we go forward. Norman proved he was built differently than the average teenage boy because he had a chance to sleep with his hot teacher and, well, killed her instead. His mother, Norma, proved that she was capable of being loonier every week (allowing Vera Farmiga to be all over the map, from coy to sexy to shrieking). And it looks like Bat Manuel will be back for another season as sheriff. That could be quite nice. My worry, however, is that Bates Motel closed with such a flurry of weirdness (a good thing, mostly) that it will be hard to modulate Norma - and the main reason I'm watching at this point is for Farmiga. But the series made this list every single week, so here's hoping for more in Season 2.
With HBO effectively out of the game because it ran a movie, it's nice to see that Showtime came through again with old favorite The Borgias. I don't know the fate of this show after the end of Season 3 (and there are still episodes left) but it's been a joy to watch, week to week. It may not have the sustained buzz of other series, but it does excellent work at all times. Not a lot of shows can say that. Also, I just like saying the name "Lucrezia" all the time.
With a big leap up, Maron on IFC takes advantage of some major absences. But make no mistake about it, this show has staying power. It's been on the list since the premiere, Marc Maron is proving he can get it done on television and it retains his fearless approach to comedy and personal revelation. I mean, why choose niceness when you can have a dominatrix? Who washes her, um, utensils in your dishwasher. Anybody can take the easy road, people. Funny every week.
Welcome back to The Power Rankings! Mod Fam. No stranger to this list in the past, though the season finale marks the first appearance this time around, Modern Family is a show I've probably taken for granted too often (plenty of others fit in that category as well). I love the humor and the characters, but it can start to feel too much like the machinery is moving in a predictable manner (and I'm less keen on all the sweet angles, but that's just a reflection on my bitter self). Still, few series are this reliable and the season finale did what Modern Family does best -- nail enough laughs to keep you watching and give the sweetness a believability. And, to its enduring credit, the show always manages to toss in two or three very small but very funny jokes that may not have the huge payoff of others, but are much appreciated by people like me. Also, if I'm not mistaken about the intent, there was a very nice shout out to Arrested Development in this finale.
Out: Well, the both Rectify and Bates Motel had their season finales, as did TPR! returnee Modern Family.
In peril: Hell, so many shows are returning next week, I'll have to expand back to the Elite 11. And there are new arrivals. Like The Killing.
In the mix: Certainly Longmire on A&E. And something else might crack the ranks. But it has to come in hard.