Shows I kept current with: Hannibal, Inside Amy Schumer, iZombie, Game of Thrones, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Mr. Robot, My Mad Fat Diary, Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, Penny Dreadful, Sense8, Silicon Valley, UnREAL, Veep
Pilots tried: The Scarlet and the Black (1993), Another Period, Big Time in Hollywood, FL, Killjoys, Poldark, Stitchers (this was awful)
Non-current shows: Gilmore Girls (season 3, episodes 20-22; season 4 in its entirety; season 5, episode 1), Lost Girl (season 1, episodes 1-7), North & South
Things of note:
Game of Thrones
Man, I was not into this season. I’ll keep watching because the production values remain amazing and I do want to know what happens, but my emotional investment has been waning since Season 4 and certainly nothing in Season 5 really brought it back. So, why did this season is particular suck?
- Watching it alone. When I watched the show in college, I would discuss it with friends1 afterwards and that may have been essential. Seeing strangers (over) react to episodes on the internet is very much not sufficient—it is, in fact, OBNOXIOUS, and the whole culture of filming reactions and being ~shocked~ at every character death or whatever is one of the things that makes me really dislike the series, even though it’s not totally2 the show’s fault.
- Departure from the books. This was inevitable, since the show is starting to outpace George R. R. Martin’s writing and the fourth and fifth books are a bit overstuffed. So like, sure, it is totally reasonable that this would occur, but it also means that most of the plotlines that book readers were excited to see adapted to the screen have already occurred or been skipped and it’s now just a matter of faith in the showrunners’ ability to come up with new material. Plus, there was still some good shit that was cut out—some stuff on the Wall, the Queensmoot, the Frey Pies, etc.
- Over-reliance on death/rape/brutality. That’s always been part of the show, but it was portioned out more effectively in the past, so that when it happened, it really had impact.The first three seasons were structured in a way that made it clear what the Definitive Moments were supposed to be—Ned’s death in season 1, the Battle of Blackwater in season 2, the Red Wedding in season 3, each occurring in episode 9—the penultimate episode of the season. Season 4 started to depart from that, as you could probably argue that the Purple Wedding (episode 2), the Red Viper’s death (episode 8), and the battle at the Wall (episode 9) were all Definitive Moments. This season, seemingly every episode had a Definitive Moment (Mance Rayder’s death, Barristan Selmy’s death, Sansa’s rape, Shireen’s burning, Jon Snow’s death, etc) so none of the Moments actually felt as Definitive as they should have? Part of this is because of the structure (or lack thereof) of the last two books, but still—since the last two books were so long, there was enough other stuff happening that these events (well, the ones that actually happened in the books) had slightly more impact. Because it wasn’t just like totally brutal shit every chapter.
- Ugh, the Sansa rape scene. This has been discussed to death, so we’re not going to get to deep into it, but:
- Yeah, sure, that happens in the book to another character and we’re mostly fine with it, so what, are we saying that Jeyne Poole “deserved” it and Sansa didn’t? No! But we don’t really know Jeyne Poole, while Sansa is a POV character. Let’s not pretend that we’re such good people that we’re equally emotionally affected by the rape of a stranger and the rape of a friend.
- Yes, focusing on Theon’s reaction makes it about a male character’s development, but honestly, if they needed to have the rape happen, it’s probably better to show that than to show Sansa, because there was no way this show would have done that without making it somehow sexy.
- Yes, it was the natural outcome of Sansa’s marriage to Ramsay. BUT: the marriage to Ramsay was a shitty adaptational choice. Because it’s basically a retread of her engagement to Joffrey and that’s just not that interesting. The problem is, we don’t know what her plotline in the books is going to be—it at least seems like she’s going to be becoming better at manipulation under Littlefinger’s tutelage, and it might have been interesting to explore that, since she would be facing a completely different sort of danger than the type we already saw her face in King’s Landing.
- Yes, even though this show is fantasy, it’s based on the Middle Ages, so maybe the “historical accuracy” argument holds some sway. But no one seems to be majorly put off by the anachronism of, say, all of the shaved vaginas3 on the show, so um…fuck the “historical accuracy” argument.
- Ugh, all of the “deep” monologues. To be fair, these have been part of the show since the beginning—character starts telling a story from their past or a sort of metaphorical parable and it’s delivered with the cadence of This Is Super Meaningful Guys Please Give Me an Emmy, but the actual words involved are…not really that insightful? Anyway, it’s a writing tic that really starts to grate when the show doesn’t have as many other things going for it.
North & South
This was…not good. I don’t know anything about the novel it’s based on or Elizabeth Gaskell in general, but North & South just comes off as Jane Austen minus any wit or subtlety and plus some commentary on industrialism? It’s a Generic Period Romance to an almost hilarious extent. Word vomit ahead:
The basic premise is that this young woman, Margaret, and her parents move from southern England to an industrial town in the North because…something involving her father disagreeing with the Church and leaving the clergy. Anyway, Richard Armitage is a hot Northern (that accent!) mill-owner and he and Margaret have ideological disagreements and have the same exchange basically over and over again where she’s like “you only care about money, you cruel Northern bastard!” and he’s like “you’re a soft, spoiled Southerner and can’t understand the intricacies of industrialism! Let me (lustfully) glower at you.” And of course, he confesses his feelings to her in the second episode (of four) and she rejects him, but then she grows to understand him and realize that he’s a good person deep down, but then he sees her embracing another man and jumps to conclusions, but still lies to the police about it to Protect Her Reputation, BUT NO it was her brother and she couldn’t tell him because her brother was on the run from the law (although obviously not for a real criminal offense, because again, this is the Most Generic. He was in the navy and stood up to a cruel commander or something? So like, justified mutiny?) and she’d rather have Thornton think badly of her than endanger her brother because OF COURSE even though now that he has performed the Obligatory Redemptive Gesture of lying for her, she’s totally in love with him. Obviously, by the end of the miniseries all misunderstandings are cleared up and they both, independently, head on trains to see the other person and so miss each other at their actual destinations but end up meeting midway as they switch trains and make out on the platform and it’s all very OF COURSE but, you know, also very satisfying.
Ultimately, worth it to see Richard Armitage give a fucking master class in Walking Purposefully Whilst Glowering. This came out I guess a year before the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice and man, what could have been. Because Knightley is pretty much the perfect Elizabeth Bennet to me (I definitely fancast her as Lizzie when I first read the book, before the movie came out), but Matthew Macfadyen was, I think, totally miscast as Darcy, which kind of brings down the movie as a whole in comparison to the 1995 miniseries.
Not worth it for super cringe-worthy, on-the-nose lines like this:
My word, Margaret! To admit that the South has its faults and that Mr. Thornton has his virtues! What has happened to bring about such a transformation?
Orange is the New Black
I think my main complaint about this show boils down to the ~wackiness~ of the humor—it tends to undercut the grimness of the characters’ situation (you know, PRISON), in a way that I think is not completely intentional and was maybe handled better in Season 1. OITNB seems dedicated to realism in a lot of aspects, but then some of the dialogue and the situations….just feel so “look how clever we are” from the writers and, like, primed to be made into GIFs. But then it’s also sometimes way too precious—some of the childhood flashbacks this season and the lake stuff at the end. Ugh, just wasn’t really feeling it last season and definitely not feeling it this season. It probably should have just been a one season wonder, although tumblr clearly does not agree with me.
I loved this show. A lot (most?) of the dialogue was cheesy as hell and mayyyybe the whole premise4 was sort of dumb, but fuck it, the novelty of different combinations of characters interacting with each other and helping each other never wore off and I hope it gets another season.
 Who had read the books and were thus not scared of spoilers, one must note. ^
 I mean, it’s maybe something the showrunners have started to aim for, given the publicity that people’s reactions to Ned’s death or the Red Wedding or whatever generated, but it’s not a property that’s inherent to the show, you know?^
And in general, that weird way that all of the characters fit into 21st century conventions of attractiveness when people in the Middle Ages were probably pretty grimy and/or wearing crazy (to our modern eyes) makeup—like, Cersei would probably be putting mercury or white lead on her skin to make herself paler. But then she’d probably be unfuckable and we just can’t have that.^
 Essentially, these 8 people across the world have like a psychic connection that allows them to communicate with each other and lend each other their skills. From the writers/directors of The Matrix. Yep. ^