April 15, 2013 4:28pm PT by Tim Goodman
The Power Rankings! A Big Show Goes Down, And It Goes Down Hard! Flux! Surprise! Possible Outrage!
And down goes pretty boy! Well, who saw that coming? I didn't -- and I'm the one who does this damned thing. But that's the beauty of The Power Rankings! You come in hard or you get sent tumbling, if not outright packing.
Some outstanding performances on any number of shows brought some big-time flux to the Elite 11. And yes, we're still in All-Drama Mode.
This week is proof, by the way, that anyone can be No. 1. All they have to do is bring it.
Now, tell your gods to ready for blood. Because here come The Power Rankings for the week ending April 14. 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 is on Facebook. And Twitter.
Well there's a hell of a jump, yes? And that's because not only was that one hell of an episode (and followed, arguably, a previous episode that should have been ranked higher) from The Last Great Cop Show. I swear, if this things goes off the air, Shawn Ryan better do some kind of Shield spin-off and quick. Who else out there is ready to launch a first class cop show? People, we need fewer detectives and more uniforms. We need boots on the ground. Stories from tough cities. In Southland, we got procedural mistakes made in the defense of an unlikable partner, bad decisions made from another partner that went sideways, and enough intrigue, tension and craziness to fill two hours at least. Standout performances all around. One of the best hours of TV all season.
Game of Thrones
You've got to hand it to this show (OK, you saw that coming like a neon truck down a freeway at 2 a.m.), it just keeps lifting the heavy weights for us. So much story, so little time. And yet, this episode definitely quickened the pace. It was probably the most humorous Game of Thrones episode in a long while -- until it wasn't. The Breinne and Jaime walkabout had been, till the painful end, a great little buddy/nemesis road-show comedy built into a series about mostly brutal business. It helps that Jaime has been such a conflicting character, so bad that he's likable. Cutting off his sword hand? Whoa. There ends the laughs. You get the sense that Game of Thrones is finding its jogging speed now that it has hoisted all of those stories on its back. Unless there's another phenomenal episode out of Southland or Mad Men, we could see upward movement here.
Top of the Lake
The Power Rankings! are at their best when there's flux. Not only does it allow me to use "blood on the floor" yet again, but it exemplifies how great series can be greater week to week than other great series. The best of the best trying to get the best of each other. And so I always know the task has been done right when I regret certain placements. One should have doubts when dealing with this many top-tier shows. Top of the Lake has been incredible television, and Sundance Channel can be extremely proud of this miniseries. Rewatching an episode always prompts the, "Oh, hell, this should have been higher" regret from me. So the jump up here is more than well-earned. In the next Power Rankings!, the two-hour finale will definitely hold some serious weight. Everybody else better not bring the weak stuff.
So, you doubters are still going to raise an eyebrow (or two, if you can't get the one to go up) over this? Remember, it launched at No. 1. Staying steady at No. 4 says a lot about its surprising quality, built-in intrigue and, of course, Tatiana Maslany. I'm loving this series.
Well, that didn't last very long in the No. 1 slot, now did it? The second episode (third hour -- and that's the last time I'm going to differentiate the two-hour premiere as it relates to total number of episodes), drops like an anvil this week. Why? Because it felt like an anvil was being dropped on my head while watching it. Where was the subtlety? A number of people have said that 1968 is a more blunt, aggressive, obvious time and that the show is just reflecting that. Bull. A great series that has made its bones on being smart and subtle and extremely well written can apply nuance to agitated times and still get the same points across. The pilot was beautifully written with great imagery and metaphor. This one? Don and Pete are bad people. OK, we get that. Maybe Don is doing what he does because he was raised in a whorehouse and peeped through keyholes. Fine, that's a lame conclusion, but whatever. Is it easier to pinpoint something in his past that might directly and obviously be related to his current actions than, say, suggesting a more complicated notion that the man is just unhappy and can't figure it out? Yes. Don't do that anymore. On the other hand, my recent story about whether Don Draper was likable wouldn't have been necessary after this episode. Even Don knows that handing cash to a woman you just slept with -- who is not a prostitute -- is bad form. Whatever his shortcomings, and there are many, in most situations Don was better than that. And this was one of those situations where he should have been. Pete? Has the series truly detailed his spiral? Not thoroughly enough for the behavior we witnessed Sunday night. What I took from the opening exchange with the two wives at the party he and Trudy hosted was that he'd already slept with the other one -- the one making the most flirtatious overtures to a man whose wife was mere feet away, and that messing with Brenda was the next step. Maybe there have even been others. He's got the apartment. He went through the routine like it was rote once there. I loved the Trudy scenes but just wish we were given more of their unraveling. Certainly not a bad episode, but less fluid, elegant and astute than the premiere.
Holding steady with another excellent episode, The Americans remains one of the shows you can't DVR and watch later. It has to be watched immediately. I like the progression here and the consequence. I'm not sure Gregory needed to go out like that -- nor that we couldn't have learned a lot more about him had he stayed in the picture, instead of leaving us wondering what turns a man against his own country -- but if he's not going to Moscow and he's already framed for the murder, why not go for the cinematic last walk, last cigarette, blaze-of-fire exit? It's television. It's meant to entertain. It's meant to tell stories about characters. If all of those stories end with, "Gregory gets on a plane and apparently lives happily ever after practicing his Russian," then it's no fun.
Up two slots from last week has to be a given when (maybe?) the last vestiges of Norman's niceness pay off in a way he'll remember for a while. But mostly I liked this episode because Dylan, who looked to be a temporary addition to the series, has really opened up the possibilities of making Norman less under the spell of Norma. Who thought Dylan was going to be the poster child for well-adjusted? At least he's a survivor. I am refraining this week from talking about my thing for you know who. I'll resume next week.
House of Cards
House of Cards is a series on Netflix. Two things happen when I try to talk about it, both here and elsewhere: Some people haven't heard of it or don't do the Netflix thing, negating the discussion. Other people have seen it from start to finish already and want to tell me about what they assume I've seen, when in fact I haven't yet, negating the discussion. They do seem pretty smug that they're ahead of the TV critic, though. If they push too hard on that last part, I always say, "Let me tell you what happens in the next couple of Game of Thrones episodes that haven't aired." Which negates the smug gloating.
Da Vinci's Demons
Welcome to The Power Rankings! young Da Vinci. Here's a series that got a 62 on the Metacritic aggregation and that was probably higher than most people thought would happen. But just as some of the early anti-buzz seemed tossed off, the predictions of a flop were also ill-informed and too early. Da Vinci's did great numbers and is likely to stick. Better yet, the episodes increase in quality and once a show finds its footing, we always get a better sense of the possibilities. What I like most about Da Vinci's Demons is that they are turning the original Renaissance man into someone who's as cheeky as Robin Hood and several hundred times smarter. They're also giving him a -- wait for it -- Buffy-esque set of pals to kick around with. Let's stay on board and have some fun.
All hail our lone network entry! And not a token one at that, since Hannibal moved up a notch from last week and has promise written all over it, even if NBC can't see it. But then again, NBC doesn't know its ass from its elbow, so that's not exactly breaking news. If you're hesitating here, don't. Start watching.
They're baaaaaack! Our lovable marauders return to The Power Rankings! dripping blood and wiping food off their beards. I'm just tempted to write "Vikings! Vikings! Vikings!" every time this show makes the Elite 11. Lots of entertainment to be had here.
Out: Justified and Shameless had their season finales.
In peril: Hemlock Grove is on the way. The Borgias has arrived and Defiance will be eligible next week. Let's see how they do and if they can shake things up. Plus, Veep is back, and I'm beginning to feel more open to comedies getting a crack at this list soon. If I can't field 11 excellent dramas, then I fling the doors open to the comedies, which have been waiting (if not patiently).
In the mix: Borgias, Defiance, Hemlock Grove, Call the Midwife, Elementary, Grimm, Person of Interest, The Good Wife, Veep, Rogue, etc.