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Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending June 5, and no, we won’t suffer any grief for being late with it, nor questions on how it could possibly be late if there aren’t the normal Elite Eleven involved. Well, last week you’ll remember we had the Special Six (not our finest wording). The reason there were only six series is, well, complicated. Mostly departures and leftovers, which we chose not to pick from. This week, a much stronger (and in at least one case) stranger, field. So here then, I give you the Magnificent Seven. 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 (free ponies and beer for those who follow).
Game of Thrones
Blood, sex, betrayal, weirdness and a near total and utter lack of compassion — these are the traits that keep us coming back to the superb Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin wrote this complicated episode (what, there’s a war on that someone is not filming? Noooooo!) that tightened the tension quite a bit. If you’re wondering how they’ll wrap up this season in two episodes, well, so am I. Don’t count on a war — at least a war with an ending — because that might just be showing too much too soon. “The Pointy End” had some remarkable visual moments, such as when Arya and Syrio face the marauding horde, and Syrio, armed with only a wooden sword, does some serious damage; and the fight with Drogo, etc. (It also had some bits of nonsense, like when Hodor popped out of nowhere, naked, to show off is hulking manhood.) I didn’t see the House of Stark suffering such big blows, but it’s what Game of Thrones does best — multiple and unpredictable shorelines. Despite fierce competition this week, it remains in the No. 1 slot.
“Carnival Time” had some beautiful filmmaking in it, the kind of visuals and music combo that keeps people coming back (though it might be nice if there were more of them, even if Treme was already re-upped for season three). More importantly, the series has emphatically stated in this episode what has been clearly obvious in most of the other season two offerings: The story’s the thing. I’ve often believed that that visceral qualities of season one — see: music and cinematography — were what got people through the multicharacter, slowly evolving story, to the point where some fans couldn’t quite agree on why they liked the show or whether it was ultimately in the top tier. This season, all of the layering is paying off. We are now watching a series with an incredible amount of excellent and compelling stories (played by exceptional and compelling actors). “Carnival Time” basically put all the greatness inherent in Treme into a pot and cooked it up perfectly here. One of the strongest episodes yet.
Speaking of strong episodes, please welcome “Missing” to The Killing‘s nonstop fan debate. For those hoping for a little more depth to Linden — a necessity — and even some more to Holder (a bonus), they were blessed with a fine example of character depth. And yet, others probably hoped that with the season’s end in sight, more details about Rosie and the murder would be unveiled. Some were, clearly, given the Indian casino, but this was mostly about two seemingly disparate partners who barely function together realizing they have a lot more in common than they imagined. This was an episode that probably should have been slotted earlier in the year (Linden’s son bugging out with rebellion could have happened earlier in a believable fashion). But the series has so many other things going for it, that the ride has been almost intriguing enough without the lack of character fulfillment one would have wished for. But “Missing” was a step in the right direction. The next three episodes need to find a balance between story and character. However, good times with Linden and Holder (and how about Mirielle Enos and Joel Kinnaman’s performances? If ever there was an Emmy-submission episode highlighting the both of them, this was it).
Men of a Certain Age
A hearty welcome back to the best drama you’re not watching. Men of a Certain Age continues to be a wonderful combination of heartfelt angst, humor and tart lessons on life. Ray Romano continues his best and most underappreciated work. Airing six episodes in January and six starting in June is not ideal and might not spike the ratings on this series, but everybody should be playing catch-up on it immediately. Oh, and TNT is now big enough and successful enough to nurture a series through challenging times. It should stand by Men.
Friday Night Lights
Well, here’s a series that knows a little something about what Men is going through. It should also stand as proof that quality will win out. And here’s hoping the DVD sales made it worthwhile to all who supported it. The difficult aspect of talking about FNL is that it already concluded its run on DirecTV, has issued the final-season DVD and still — still! — managed to be forgotten or otherwise unfound by its supporters. I can’t tell you how many people are still asking when it’s coming back. Well, it’s back. And you owe NBC an apology. As for the show — yes. When there was doubt, it was well-founded. Now that there’s proof of its solid and stable return to greatness, then all is well.
In the trifecta of recent costume dramas, Camelot always finished behind Game of Thrones and The Borgias — probably rightly so. But there was an air of dismissal in that structure. Camelot has proved more worthy than many people suspected, and its return (after one of those odd little breaks) was welcome indeed. Can Camelot be cheesy? Sure. But it can also be better than it’s been getting credit for, and I found myself not only welcoming its return but thoroughly enjoying “The Battle of Bardon Pass” and complaining, when it was over, that only the finale remained. Turns out 10 episodes of Camelot just isn’t enough. No joke.
What the what? The midnight movie as TV show (on Adult Swim). The comedy deconstructed and put together again by unstable people. Apologies for having ignored the first two seasons (which I’m frantically trying to catch up on). What a sick piece of love. Thank God you’re here.
In Peril: Camelot ends its Season 1 run Friday. Others are not that far behind, sadly enough.
In the Mix: Listen, I like Glades and White Collar and all of that lightweight “blue sky” stuff as much as the next person, but it’s not going to be on here. I did watch three episodes of Falling Skies, however, and that will definitely be on this list.
Out: Modern Family. Glee.
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William Jackson Harper
Friends: The Reunion