For many weeks now, my Sunday night has been dominated by two polestars; at 11 PM on AMC, the sodden crime drama ‘The Killing’, and at 11PM on HBO, the juicy fantasy epic ‘Game of Thrones’. Of course, this is not to say that I would actually watch both of these shows one after another. ‘The Killing’ was so slow-paced, so full of drizzle and wooly sweaters and people sitting at tables and crying meaningfully, and ‘Game of Thrones’ so fast and so vast (literally, the show is set in a world with so many separate kingdoms that the title sequence was a helpful map) and full of characters and plot and sex and gore, that to go straight from one to the other would be like being on one of those old-timey railroad devices that you moved by pumping a large lever up and down, and trying to jump onto an Acela.
This past Sunday was the season finale of both shows, neither of which I was able to watch live (I was in St. Louis seeing the most excellent production of the most excellent musical ‘Legally Blonde’ at the most excellent ginormous outdoor theater, The Muny). When I arrived back on Terra New Yorkus, I looked forward to an evening catching up with the finales. First, ‘The Killing’, since that one was more of a cliffhanger. Then, well, then I had to go on the interweb and join the collective shouts of rage at such an unsatisfying, craptastic ending to a long and shaky season. I finally watched the ‘Game of Thrones’ finale last night, which was a solid, exciting ending to a season that grew more and more confident as it went along. So, given these two finales, I would like to address AMC.
Listen, AMC, you’re officially on probation with me. You started out strong with ‘Mad Men’, a slow-moving, neutral-colored art piece that perfectly captured the tentative forward movement of America at a very particular time. The characters are beautifully drawn, the plot feels real and is rewarding, the pace is leisurely, but perfect. It’s a great show. However, you then tried to put this same pacing and color scheme to work on ‘Rubicon’, a codebreaker conspiracy show that started strong with the first episode (‘Oh NO!!! There must be a CONSPIRACY!!’), and then seemed to get lost chasing its tail as every subsequent episode focused on how… oh NO!!! There must be a CONSPIRACY!!. And now, ‘The Killing’, in which the pacing was slow, the color scheme was gray and brown (seriously, I can only hope that Benjamin Moore does a line of neutral paints inspired by AMC – the names can be things like ‘Seattle Drizzle’, ‘Middle Distance Gray’ ‘Interior Angst’ and ‘Naptime for Anika’), and characters and plot details seem to shift oddly as each episode moseyed from one week to the next.
Basically, HBO is kicking your ass, AMC. And you know why? Because when you watch ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘True Blood’, batshit insane stuff happens. There are dragons, werewolves, direwolves, fairies, incest, decapitation, and vampires. And yet, both shows are written so confidently that you, as a viewer, trust that the people in charge know what they’re doing. Every action, every character, no matter how out there, is part of a bigger whole, and it’s all woven expertly together. Even if you watch and think ‘I can’t believe they just did that!!’, you never watch and go ‘what are they doing?!?!’. But you, AMC, you talk big, but then when it comes down to it, you don’t seem to know what the hell is going on in your own worlds. It’s a bad sign when one of my Sunday finales features a cop gone corrupt, and one of my Sunday finales features a girl walking into a funeral pyre and walking out of it alive and covered with baby dragons, and the second one seems more realistic.
And oh, AMC, the finale of ‘The Killing’, how could you. I would say that you jumped the shark, but that wouldn’t be the correct metaphor here, as that implies that you once were good and went bad. Instead, to alter (and torture) the metaphor, it’s as though you set up your entire season on the promise that there would be a really cool, scary shark, right over there, see it? No really, the water’s murky now, but wait until you get there, it will all be clear. And then, the finale happened, and we were all excited to see the promised cool, dangerous beast itself, and we slowly realized that what we had been looking at the whole time was just an old tire and some floating garbage.
So get it together, AMC. And the next time you pick up a show, I suggest that you make damn sure that the people in charge can tell you the entire story of their world before you start with even one episode. Because I’m starting to wonder about you guys.