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Olivia Pope

  • Everyone. Is. Going. Nuts. Over. Game of Thrones.
  • Potential Once Upon a Time spinoff, Once: Wonderland, has cast its Alice, English-born Aussie Sophie Lowe. Lewis Carroll is unamused. (via Hollywood Reporter)
  • The Killing is apparently still happening. AMC has promised a two-hour premiere on June 2nd for all those who haven’t yet figured out that Maggie Simpson shot Rosie Larsen. Duh. (via Vulture)
  • Justified received its well-deserved fifth season renewal along with the news of FX’s new sister network, FXX, a comedy-centered outfit launching in September, buoyed by new seasons of It’s Always Sunny and The League. Reportedly, FXXX is still in the works, featuring a 24-hour stream of Keri Russell sex scenes in a variety of hairstyles. (via Warming Glow)
  • Doctor Who summed up pretty well in visualizations and spreadsheets and visualizations from The Guardian. Plus news of returning favorites David Tennant and Bill Piper for the 50th Anniversary special. But, really? Spreadsheets? (via TVbytheNumbers)
  • And who is the greatest TV couple of all time? Aside from me and Claire Huxtable Olivia Pope. (via Entertainment Weekly)

This week AMC revived its Danish import police procedural The Killing for the summer. The series follows Detective Sarah Linden, played by Mireille Enos of double Big Love fame (she played twins, get it? and also apparently was nominated for a Tony) as she attempts to solve the mysterious murder of a young girl with an abundance of secrets à la Twin Peaks but with considerably less strange and stereotypically more Seattle rain and gloom. The catch, what separates this detective drama from the Dick Wolfian sort viewers more easily recognize, is that it’s only one case, only one dead girl. Whereas Mariska Hargitay could probably solve this case in 40 minutes with any schmo partner available in the precinct at the time, Linden needed 13 hour-long episodes just to find the wrong guy. AMC decided to give her another go at it, despite last season’s declining ratings.

The two-hour premiere leapt right back into the thick of things—more downcast, more drizzle, more reasonably competent detective work, and many more extended scenes of raw exposition. The Killing places an awkward magnifying glass to the face of plain-Jane detective juggling work and family, a young deadbeat addict seeking redemption behind a badge, and arguably most captivatingly, a aggressively endearing family that has just lost a loved one, and often, the show just lets it sit there. Scenes just linger past the quota for dramatic progression. We’re clearly in no rush and the show hints at everything being important to the case, from raindrops to phone calls with crummy ex-husbands to little boys acting out at the dinner table. In reality, it’s not. Rosie Lawson’s murder isn’t the new ‘who killed Laura Palmer?’ no matter how AMC tries to sell the parallel to us in ads.

The case for The Killing is, in fact, the exploration of what makes television enticing, interesting, suspenseful, and emotional. Following the murder of this young lady—not so unlike any of the other little girls television kills for dramatic purpose each and every day in primetime, daytime, reruns, and your local news—for 15 episodes and counting is an experiment in how little it’ll take to find the stride of riveting drama, that almost magical thing that keeps viewers so personally invested in the will they or won’t they?s or who done it?s of television.

As mentioned before, Twin Peaks performed a very similar experiment way back in 1990-1991, but the difference being that much of the investment was, on some level, placed in Laura Palmer, not as a character but ay first an ideologue of certain virtues and then their impermanence. She acted as a televised Russian doll just as the Soviet Union fell, the 90s crept close, and we began to uncover certain aspects of ourselves. The accompaniment of the quirky and weird, the delicious pie and the flailing dancing, just made it all palpable.

The Killing doesn’t go for any of that. Now in it’s second season, the is plainly a reductionist attempt to attract investment in the concept of drama itself. We already know we enjoy dead young women and solemnly badass leading ladies, we already sympathize with lost and distrust politicians. The series paints a crystal clear portrait of all of that and various other tropes of the genre, but what it does best is force you to keep looking at it, stay there for much longer than normal. There’s a reason viewers invest in drama, a rationale behind the infatuation with murder and sex and scandal. The Killing is surely well presented, a full fledged cinematic production with each airing. The problem, if there actually is one (besides a dip in ratings for this season’s premiere when compared with last season’s), may be in our apprehension to the truth behind our investment in all things apprehensive on television.

What if, in our peripheral we enjoy watching families go through suffering unimaginable, whether to put our own pain in perspective or to relate or just to gloat? Is it as fun when everything—the shrubs, the windows, the binoculars, the set timetable, the caricatures, the gimmicks—are stripped away? Or are we voyeurs desperately in need of the pretense?

Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori)

It’s almost par for course that a television series, after a certain number of episodes, after a certain number of typical start to finish storylines, will eventually go all in media res on us, thrusting the viewer right into the thick of the action, early, and then explaining as the story progresses. So it’s no surprise that The Walking Dead in the midst of its second season dusted off the trick and put it to work this past week for the opening scene of “18 Miles Out”. Glen Mazzara, the Brit who replaced the show’s creator, Frank Darabont, as showrunner this past July, has refreshingly decided to heighten the action and seemingly (if not actually) quicken the pace of the series, utilizing the tools at a writer’s disposal to the benefit of the viewer- our bloodlust and waning attention spans.

The teaser before the opening credits starts with zombies chasing folk; reminding everyone why ‘zombie apocalypse’ as a premise was appealing enough for AMC to remake Lost without any of the original’s selling points (no island, no time travel, and despite how hard Shane tries to Sawyer it up each episode, no Sawyer), and hypnotic enough to have record-breaking cable viewership each outing. While so much time has been spent up to this point closely examining the contrasting ideologies of the good cop and the bad cop, thoroughly dissecting what defines humanity and community in an allegorically bleak America, and other thematic bores, this episode, for the first time in an embarrassingly long time, brings the visceral image of zombies to the forefront, literally.

The zombies, like star pupils in a college writing workshop, show instead of tell and allow for more compelling story progression. The establishment of an A-plot that bears a resemblance to what the series once promised us, even makes the B-plot, and characters therein, flourish in ways the previous glacial pace hadn’t allowed. Did we know that the show had female characters before this episode? Maybe. Did we know that they were more than simply mothers, daughters, sisters, and liabilities? We do now.

While the boys were out expelling tension with fisticuffs (as men sometimes do) and piercing zombie skulls (as Lori claims men should always do), the girls discuss suicide and the role of women in a zombie-riddled society. The first ladies of The Walking Dead, Andrea and Lori, have understandably conflicting views and get at each other’s throats in a way that has all the perks of a cat fight while maintaining or even establishing these characters as dynamic female leads. Andrea stands on her own without clamoring to be simply Shane’s female counterpart, and Lori almost has us forget that she’s the worst person on the show. Sounds like progress.

The Black guy, the redneck, the Asian, the old guys, and the kid who got shot weren’t in this episode, but they’re still alive, so diversity for diversity’s sake is still preserved. This episode seemed to be more about moving away from being a “cul-de-sac” of narrative or The Talking Dead as some critics have written, and many viewers have lamented. It seems like at some point the show stood completely still on AMC, questioning if it could be the Mad Men that viewers actually watched or the zombie story that was about something more. Interestingly, in rolling out a trope of televised fiction (if I remember correctly, The Flinstones always teased in media res before the theme song), “18 Miles Out” was a confident step in the direction of setting the series apart from every other cable drama, if only for reminding us we have a show about zombies on television, something invariably special.

Zombies.

Zombies eating flesh and zombies getting their brains bashed in. Zombies slowly chasing people as they inexplicably trip. Close calls. Blood and guts. Why wouldn’t the first few pages of every The Walking Dead script look just like that?