“When you start something like this, it takes a lot of convincing. It’s all about whether or not the other person has as much to lose as you do, because you want to be able to trust them when it’s over.”
This week was one of those rather surreal episodes that Mad Men does so well, with a disjointed, hallucinatory feel that mirrored the perspective of the protagonists in its main plotline. Having found prestigious new clients Chevrolet to be demanding and impossible to satisfy, the staff of… whatever the newly merged agency is called pulled an all-weekend brainstorming session. OK, we’ve seen them do that before, usually with the aid of prodigious quantities of alcohol. This time, though, at the urging of new partner Jim Cutler, they were doing it with the aid of some pretty hardcore stimulants. The results were as messy – and as entertaining – as you’d expect.
“We do not choose our destiny. But we must do our duty now. Great or small, we must do our duty.”
With dozens of intermingling plotlines and enough major characters to fill a small army, Game of Thrones rarely gets to linger on any one setting or group of characters in much detail. When it does, as with this week’s episode, it’s always a treat, allowing the treacherous characters and their Machiavellian schemes greater depth. And despite the fact that not a one of them can be trusted (except perhaps poor, naive Sansa Stark, who somehow still doesn’t get it) I can happily watch this lot showing us more of themselves.
“I’m Clara Oswald. I’m the Impossible Girl. I was born to save the Doctor.”
Steven Moffat loves to engage with the fans of Doctor Who. And he particularly loves to bait some of the more humourless fans whose presumed ownership of the show makes their gorges rise in anger at the thought of anyone doing something with it that they personally don’t like. He’s got form, provoking them with titles like Let’s Kill Hitler and The Doctor’s Wife (which turned out not to be literal), then having the Doctor seemingly actually get married – or did he?
Not surprisingly, this week’s Mad Men concerned itself with the aftermath of last week’s surprise merger between Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Cutler, Gleason and Chaough. Like any merger, it meant that suddenly there was much duplication of work, and fear of redundancy stalked the offices of… what should we call it now? Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Cutler Gleason Chaough? That’s a mouthful even as an acronym – SCDPCGC. I think Lane Pryce’s memorial namecheck may be first for the chop.
“People work together when it suits ‘em. They’re loyal when it suits ‘em. Love each other when it suits ‘em. And kill each other when it suits ‘em.”
Love was in the air this week in Game of Thrones, though in keeping with the show’s usual style, it didn’t make Westeros seem any more appealing a place to live. Love, both emotional and carnal, was very much in the forefront of many of the characters’ minds (though the ‘carnal’ part is usually a given anyway). It fed into the many subplots which increasingly involve people being forced into marriage against their wills for reasons of political subterfuge, in this year’s script by original author George RR Martin.
“Hail to you, the Doctor – the saviour of the Cybermen!”
Having penned the instant classic The Doctor’s Wife, renowned author Neil Gaiman was back this week for a second stab at a very different kind of Doctor Who episode. Nightmare in Silver was an attempt at something more like a horror story, something which Neil can do very well – read Sandman issue 6 for a good example. And the Cybermen are good fodder for horror, as their 1967 story Tomb of the Cybermen shows.
There were more than a few deliberate echoes of that classic here; but even as a fan, I’m not sure Neil Gaiman really pulled off making this an effective horror tale. The mechanical horror of the Cybermen sat rather uneasily with his trademark quirky and whimsical imagination. Both aspects of the story were great, in isolation; together, I’m not sure they entirely gelled.
Let’s be honest, it’s going to be pretty much impossible to have a detailed discussion of this movie without revealing many important plot points the filmmakers have gone to great lengths to keep secret. So I’m not even going to try; I’m writing this with the assumption that you’ve seen the film, and want to see what I thought of it. All of it. If you haven’t seen the film, and don’t want to be spoilered, then don’t read on.
“Just once, I’d like to hear you use the word ‘we’. Because we’re all rooting from the sidelines, hoping that you’ll decide whatever you think is right for our lives.”
After last week’s thoughtful tussle with history, it was back to business with a vengeance for this week’s Mad Men. With Matthew Weiner scripting solo for the first time since the season premiere, this week saw the fortunes of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce on some kind of insane rollercoaster, as Big Decisions were made by sub-cliques among the partners who surely should have checked with the others before making them. As ever, it turned out to be (by a very lucky combination of circumstances), Don and Roger who came up smelling of roses, while the ever-unlucky Pete Campbell saw his stock both at work and at home go plunging.
“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
Another low key (by its standards) episode of Game of Thrones this week, which caught us up with a number of the show’s multifarious plotlines that have been slightly neglected of late. Central to the ep was the dangerous, laborious climb up the Wall by the Wildling commandos, with Jon and Ygritte taking part despite having their own agendas; and bookending the literal climb was Petyr Baelish’s musing on the metaphorical climb to power that so many of the characters are attempting.
“We must get to the bottom of this dark and queer business!”
In the late Victorian era, there was a peculiarly lurid, cheap and sensationalistic form of literature known as the ‘penny dreadful’. Capitalising on the recent upswing in literacy, these cheap, sordid tales (costing a mere penny, hence the name) were salacious, excessive, romanticised pulp fictions – so named because they were printed on the cheapest of pulp paper. The newly literate working class devoured this stuff with a passion.