Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Sunday night TV returns with “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones”

By Kevin Romani

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Sunday night television just got a whole lot better.

AMC’s “Mad Men” – the four time consecutive Emmy winner for Best drama – made its much-anticipated return on March 25. The fifth season premiere – “A Little Kiss” – aired after a 17 month hiatus due to a negotiation stalemate between AMC and show-runner Matthew Weiner.

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” debuted its second season premiere – “The North Remembers” – this   past Sunday.

The fantasy set “Thrones” airs at 9 p.m. on Sunday nights followed by the 1960s set advertising drama “Mad Men” at 10 p.m. These shows may be of completely different genres, but they make for a fantastic night of television.

Both premieres shared two important characteristics. The pacing of each was slow, as they are both building up to much larger plot points. “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones” also reminded its viewers why they stand out as excellent dramas in their own ways.

The “Mad Men” team was conscious in their need to reward fans for their patience. A two-hour episode was showcased for the first time with “A Little Kiss.” And everything that “Mad Men” viewership has grown accustomed to was present – humor, sex and cigarettes. The premiere could be summed up in five words that highlight how bizarre – in a good way – the show can be: “Zoo Be Zoo Be Zoo.”

“A Little Kiss” answered many of the questions asked by the season four finale within the first few minutes. We see the home of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his new wife Megan (Jessica Pare) in the opening scene. Don is taking his second crack at domestication with Megan and seems to have taken strides towards becoming a better father. He cooks breakfast for his three children and seems happy, which for Don has become a confusing disposition.

“Mad Men” has not ignored its staple feature of reflecting the time period in which it’s set. As the series moves later into the 1960s, Civil Rights issues have now reached the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Price. The always playful Roger Sterling (John Slattery) puts out an equal opportunity advertisement that was meant as a joke towards another agency. The joke ends up being on our favorite ad men, however, as several African Americans apply to work for the company, much to the annoyance of all of the partners.

The two-hours crept along at a calm pacing, but that is not unusual for “Mad Men.” Weiner allowed the audience to slowly get re-accustomed with all of his fascinating characters, and to see where they now find themselves somewhere between one and two years after the end of last season. The second-hour was much stronger, as Slattery was as funny as ever avoiding work and getting into everyone else’s business. The sub-plot involving Harry (Rich Sommer) avoiding Don after Megan overhears “what he would do to her” was one of the most humorous story-lines “Mad Men” has offered to date. Audience members have a whole season to see how Don and everyone at Sterling Cooper Draper Price adapt to the changing times of the 1960s.

Fans of “Game of Thrones” may not have had to wait as long for their program to return, but the premiere had to answer far more questions both plot wise and stylistically than “Mad Men” did.

“Thrones” has the difficult task of continuing on with an ensemble of actors who were relatively unknown before the series began. This is not a major concern to true fans, but casual and potential audiences have to be convinced to watch the program that no longer has a formidable star. This comes after the shocking death of Sean Bean’s Ned “Eddard” Stark towards the end of last season. Fortunately, the series became so popular last summer that this should not be a concern.

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss took their time establishing all of the characters, who are now competing for the iron throne of Westeros. The imp Tyrion Lannister (Emmy winner Peter Dinklage) has reached King’s Landing to serve as the Hand of the impatient and malicious King Joffrey. He will attempt to reign-in the careless actions of the youthful King and his mother, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey). Robb Stark (Richard Madden) continues his military campaign South towards King’s Landing, and must choose over which Baratheon brother to join forces with in an attempt to place the rightful heir of the late King Robert Baratheon on the throne. Newcomer Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and his strange advisor Melisandre (Carice van Houten) seek to claim the throne without forming any alliances. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) with her newly hatched dragons struggles to find food and shelter for her people, and is unsure of how long it will take for her dragons to grow.

Despite all of these storylines, “Thrones” is never repetitive and is always anxious to the plot along quickly. Audiences should not fear being stuck with all of these developing stories for too long, as shocking and major events will be sure to occur over the coming weeks.

“Thrones” most impressive quality may be its unpredictability, which was featured at the end of its premiere. Just when the episode seemed to be over after introducing characters both old and new, it ends with a despicable order by King Joffrey that is almost too much for television. “Thrones” has been re-writing the rules of television since its pilot episode, and does not appear to be done doing so after its sophomore season’s premiere. Based on the events that transpired in this episode and the preview for the entire season that followed, this season of “Game of Thrones” will offer even more blood, sex and magic than the last.

Television fans were reminded of why Sunday night is the best night of the week. “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones” both made a welcome return to their respective channels, and will be sure to be a major force in the remaining spring and early summer months.

Kevin Romani can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinRomani.

 

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