Summer is officially here and gone from the airwaves are many of the television series that demanded our attention week after week. In this TV Finale Wrap-Up, the Kabooooom! Crew reflects back on their favorite shows from this past television year and shares their thoughts on their big finales.
Arrow; Matt Morrison
Whatever else may be said of Arrow‘s season finale,”Unthinkable”, it was not dull nor was it without surprises.
All of the supporting cast were brought into play for this final battle between Team Arrow and the army of super-soldiers created by Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson. This was a welcome change after several episodes which left Roy Harper in a coma or Diggle and Felicity with nothing to do but stand around the Arrow Cave waiting for Oliver to come back in need of someone to talk at. Diggle took a direct hand in trying to stop A.R.G.U.S. leader Amanda Waller from attempting to solve all her problems with drone strikes and the newly recovered Roy had perhaps the most heart-breaking subplot of the episode.
The best part of the fianale was the fight sequences and it will be a travesty if Arrow does not pick up the Emmy for Stunt Coordination or Technical Direction. The stunt team and camera crews deliver film-quality action sequences on a weekly basis. The final battle between Oliver Queen and Slade Wilson is a work of art, with scene of the present day fight intermixed with the first battle between the former friends from five years earlier.
This is not to say the episode is entirely without flaws. The show still has no idea what to do with the character of Laurel Lance now that younger sister Sara has been transformed into this universe’s Black Canary. “Unthinkable” drops some hints that Laurel may still take the identity in the future but these hints don’t ring true. How are we supposed to believe Laurel can become a superhero when her only purpose in this episode (and indeed, most of the episodes this season) was to be taken hostage so Ollie/Sara/Quentin could save her? Such qualities are not becoming of a Canary!
At least Arrow did defy many critics’ predictions and none of the female cast were fridged (i.e. killed off to create drama for a male character), though the fate of some of the male cast is up in the air. Still, there are very few cliffhangers going into season 3 and a promise that the series will be addressing one of the bigger questions to come out of season 2 – what is Oliver Queen’s prior relationship with A.R.G.U.S. and Amanada Waller?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; Matt Morrison
Two problems have plagued Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the beginning – a lack of originality and a lack of urgency.
Despite being set in one of the most unique settings in modern American mythology, the show rarely took advantage of its connection to the Marvel Comics universe. Oh, we’d get the occasional bone thrown to us – a mention of Black Widow and Hawkeye here, an occasional villain with the name of a character from the comics there – but the actual plots of the show did nothing to suggest an affiliation with the MCU. Most of the show’s storylines would work just as well into an episode of The X-Files, Eureka or Warehouse 13 with only a few character name changes.
The lack of urgency is a larger problem. To say Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a leisurely start would be an understatement. The series didn’t really start moving past “monster of the week” storylines until after its tie-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Even then, more effort seem to be spent on Ward and Skye’s will they/won’t they pseudo-romance than on making the action scenes thrilling.
These problems are prevalent in the finale. All sense of suspense is killed when Nick Fury shows up to save everyone’s respective asses. Samuel L. Jackson may as well have had “Deus Ex Machina” spelled out in studs on the back of his leather trench-coat. The only surprise in the episode – and indeed the only reason for most of the fans to return for season 2 – is the revelation that Patton Oswalt will be returning as a series regular. Maybe he’ll be able to inject some badly needed humor into this series, which – I am sad to say – reads like a lumbering fanfic trying to ape Joss Whedon’s writing style. Badly.
Fargo; Shannon Hsu
A droll Minnesotan city that seems to be stuck in a perpetual state of winter may not seem like the most exciting backdrop for a dark humor crime drama, but FX’s critically acclaimed miniseries Fargo has proved otherwise. Helmed by Noah Hawley and inspired by the Coen Brothers’ film of the same name, it primarily follows the stories of four characters.
Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), an insurance salesman who suffers from all manners of personal inadequacies, is gradually led down the path of evil by Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), a sociopathic contract killer who nonchalantly carries out his murders with no sign of a conscience. As Lester finds that evil is actually rather befitting for him, allowing him to transform from the biggest loser in Bemidji to Stud Extraordinaire, his new life is threatened by the investigation of Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) and Officer Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks).
Macabrely funny and characterized by an oppressive malice that hangs thick over the bleak landscape of an unrelenting Midwestern winter, Fargo bears an intriguing absurdist quality that is vaguely Pinteresque or even Beckettian in its delivery. Its strongest points are its characters, the standout for me being Molly Solverson, a talented cop who earnestly fights for her voice to be heard despite being constantly stymied by her often idiotic male colleagues. Although Fargo’s finale culminates in both Lester and Malvo receiving a satisfying butt-kicking from karma, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by the oddly insufficient role Molly played in finally delivering justice. Spurred on by Malvo’s murder of a beloved colleague, she has been struggling relentlessly to catch those responsible all throughout the series. Yet, it is Gus, her only ally and later husband, who catches the baddies in the end, making Molly’s storyline feel rather futile.
Despite this disappointment, however, Fargo is still one of the boldest and most impressive little gems I’ve seen on television this year, and my only regret is that if a new series is commissioned, it will not feature the same remarkable cast.
Game of Thrones; Sarah Moran
As book adaptations go, you won’t find many that are more faithful to their source material than HBO’s Game of Thrones. Is it a 100% accurate representation of what’s written on the pages of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series? No, but to attempt to do so would be ridiculous, and thankfully showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss – themselves book authors – have found the perfect storm of faithful and loose adaptation.
Season 4 of Game of Thrones is the first season where they really began to play with book readers’ expectations. There were multiple scenes that never even happened in the books, but with constant oversight from Martin, provide added context to an already sprawling world. To non-book readers, however, these changes are unnoticeable because Benioff and Weiss are happy to do their own thing. Audiences already struggle with remembering characters, places, and the plotting that ties them all together, so any material sacrificed for clarity is understandable (thought some times still regrettable).
In its finale, “Children”, plot threads weren’t necessarily wrapped up as they were exploded! In King’s Landing, Cersie (Lena Headey) relishes in revealing the nature of her and Jamie’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau) relationship to her father; Jamie helps Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) escape his sentencing, to which Tyrion uses the opportunity to exact revenge on Tywin (Charles Dance) and Shae (Sibel Kekilli). At the Wall, Jon (Kit Harrington) seeks out Mance (Ciarán Hinds) but isn’t able to kill the King-Beyond-the-Wall before Stannis (Stephen Dillane) arrives with his army and completely annihilates the wildling forces. Further North, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), Hodor (Kristian Nairn), Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and Jojen (Thomas Brodie Sangster) find the children of the forest and finally meet the Three-Eyed Raven. Out East, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is forced to imprison her dragons – minus Drogon, who’s still terrorizing the countryside – after a shepherd presents her with the burnt bones of his daughter. And in the Riverlands, the two pairs of vagabond travellers – Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman), The Hound (Rory McCann) and Arya (Maisse Williams) – meet on the road and the two non-knights have an epic showdown.
Game of Thrones season 4 finale was a jam-packed, 60+ minute whirlwind of chaos, intrigue, bloody battles and shocking deaths. With standout performances – in particular Dinklage, Christie, and McCann – more than a few “Holy S#*t!” moments, and expert plotting that even the most insightful of book readers won’t have any idea where the series is heading next.
Hannibal; Sarah Moran
While watching Hannibal‘s second season it’s almost unbelievable this show was on the chopping block after its first season. The direction, writing, acting, set decorating–everything about the series is top notch and of a quality usually reserved for the premium networks. But NBC smartly chose to give Bryan Fuller’s very loose adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon – the first novel starring the famed serial killer, Hannibal Lecter – a second chance.
And what a second chance! For a series to so dramatically alter its own formula in only its second season is practically unheard of, as Hannibal quickly did away with the ‘serial killer of the week’ motif in favor of further exploring the intense relationship between Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). It’s was brave decision and one that not only had a profound effect on how this season played out but allowed for many marvelous scenes between Mikkelsen and Dancy that will surely earn them their share of nominations this award season.
Hannibal‘s season 2 finale, “Mizumono” was a collision of ideals and characters, as practically everyone convened at Hannibal’s home by episode’s end. Though this wasn’t for a dinner party, but rather the culmination of both Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and Hannibal’s manipulation of Will. Still grappling with his inner demons, Will chooses to help Jack – not that there was much question he wouldn’t – but it’s too little, too late and Hannibal has already set his own trap.
Hannibal isn’t about to be caught so easily, managing to escape arrest and leave Jack, Will, and Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) all in serious peril by the time the credits roll. This is the devil triumphant, the bad guy winning, the ending of The Empire Strikes Back (though far, far more bloody). Yet, it’s the psychological blows that land harder than the physical ones as Hannibal reveals his trump card before riding off victoriously: Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) has been alive all along. Dancy puts in some of his finest work in those final moments when he’s elated to see Abigail alive, then so very quickly we see his joy turns to ashes in his mouth as Hannibal slits her throat.
With almost every character in jeopardy and the villain escaped there’s really no telling where Hannibal is heading in season 3, but there’s no way I’d miss it.
Orphan Black; Ron Ackner
One of the reasons that Orphan Black had such a successful first season was its boldness: Creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett were completely unafraid to take major storytelling risks. Where another show might have been content to stick to one story, Orphan Black was unafraid to blow everything up and adapt to a completely new story, somewhat appropriate given the themes of the show.
Season 2 very much continued those trends, giving the audience a season that was vibrant and bursting with energy. Season 2 may have lacked some of the cohesion that existed in season 1, but it made up for that by throwing so many crazy ideas against the wall that something had to stick. If the season was inconsistent, it was rarely a problem because no story dominated the show for too long.
The one major constant of both seasons has been Tatiana Maslany’s breakout leading performance. It’s an indescribable feat that she is able to do so much in her various roles, even beyond what costuming and camera trickery can enable technically. Maslany continues to give what is unquestionably one of the best performances on TV.
Season 2’s finale, “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”, wraps up much of the (great) insanity of season 2. It would take far too long to attempt to summarize the plot, given just how much of it there was, but we end the season with each character having had a satisfying ending to their story, while also in an appropriate place to have more interesting events going forward. Giving satisfying conclusions to existing stories is one thing, but this episode also ends on a massive cliffhanger, one that leaves audiences with so many questions that season 3 is already a must-watch for 2015.
These are only a few of the Kabooooom! Crew’s favorite shows from this past television year. Share which series (whether listed above or not) you’re most exited to see return and why in the comments below!