Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: Mad Men, Adventure Time, and Veep!
Max Robinson is watching…
Season 7, Episode 14: “Person to Person”
Sundaya at 9pm ET on AMC
The very last episode of Mad Men was a slick package, the kind of calculated effort worthy of
Sterling Cooper Sterling Cooper Draper Price McCann Erickson. Watching it, you get the feeling of being played to: Peggy and Stan finally get together, Roger embarks on an assuredly doomed marriage to Megan’s awful French-Canadian mother, Joan finally strikes out on her own in a business venture finally worthy of her talents. Shit, even Pete gets a happy ending. (We all thought that jet was going to crash, right? I’m not crazy?) And while it’s not a happy ending, January Jones’ terminally ill Betty leaves the show with a certain grim dignity that feels appropriate. In fact, the only character to truly get a truly ambiguous ending is Don Draper. And that’s the con.
The episode, written and directed by show creator Matthew Weiner, brazenly manipulates our emotions by showing us what we want to see happen to these characters we’ve grown to love over the better part of a decade. But with Don, we’re given an ending that isn’t easy. There’s no period put on the end of his story. We’re left to believe he (apparently) created the iconic “Buy The World A Coke” commercial but that only leaves us with more questions. Who is the Don Draper of the seventies? Was his new age compound catharsis genuine or merely a tossed off experience that he could turn into ad revenue? That his final victory is a creative one genuinely feels earned; for all his strengths and weaknesses, Don Draper is a developmentally static character. His final, powerless phone conversations with Betty and Sally, the two most important women in his life and two characters who have left the show markedly changed, serve to highlight this fact. Ingeniously repackaging Age of Aquarius good vibrations in a soda commercial feels like an appropriate lasting achievement for a character whose emotional fulfillment has always been out of reach.
Episode Highlight: Maybe it was corny and maybe it was inevitable, but Stan and Peggy realizing their feelings for one another right before our eyes, through what starts out as a throwaway phone call, was powerful. Elizabeth Moss plays Peggy’s overwhelming and conflicting feelings of terror and blossoming excitement to a breaking point, threatening to bubble over just as Stan breathlessly appears before her. A perfectly choreographed scene and a mini-master class in acting.
Kayleigh Hearn is Watching…
Season 6, Episode 36: “Hoots”
Thursdays at 7:30pm EST on Cartoon Network
It’s a testament to Adventure Time’s strengths as an animated series, as well as its colorful, surrealist, indie comic sensibility, that an episode about a cosmic, prophetic owl inspired by light appearing over a urinal doesn’t feel the least bit strange. The Cosmic Owl (memorably voiced by M. Emmet Walsh) has appeared sporadically throughout the series, usually in dreams and premonitions. “Hoots” is a welcome re-introduction to the Cosmic Owl, presenting the deity as a lonely, ordinary schlub who lives in a galactic motel and plays board games. While passing through Finn’s dream, the Cosmic Owl spies a mysterious and shapely bird woman, and becomes obsessed with her—but to find her he must continue looking through dreams, and every dream he appears in has the consequence of coming true.
“Hoots” is the classic story of a guy who risks it all for love, and if dreams are to be believed, it also foretells dark times ahead for our heroes. A handful of episodes now, including the recent “Graybels 1000+,” have hinted at a dark, unspecified fate for the Candy Kingdom in either the near or distant future, and “Hoots” gives us a big idea of what that cataclysm might be. Clues to the mysterious bird woman’s identity are also cleverly hidden throughout her dreams, though the reveal when she wakes up is still a big surprise. As for the other dreamers watched by the Cosmic Owl, I bet there are fans picking apart screencaps for hints and symbols as intensely as Mad Men fans are scrutinizing that Coke commercial. “Hoots” is a fun episode for anyone who’s ever woken up after an especially bizarre dream and wondered, “What the hell was that about?”
Episode Highlight: Finn’s dream features a strange reunion between the boy hero, his estranged father, and Sweet P (formerly the life-hating Lich). Like Finn, the viewer is left wondering what the dream foretells, and if it’s meant to be taken symbolically or literally. Perhaps it’s foreshadowing the Season Six finale?
Adam Pelta-Pauls is watching…
Season 4, Episode 6: “Storms and Pancakes”
Sundays at 10:30pm ET on HBO
If you’re not watching Veep, you’re missing out on the smartest comedy on TV right now. It stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the fiery if bumbling Selina Meyer, the now-no-longer-titular President of the United States, and an ensemble cast that includes Anna Chlumsky, Gary Cole, and Tony Hale. The show is written by Armando Iannucci (known over here in the UK for a show called The Thick of It, which launched the career of Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi) in the role of the foul-mouthed Director of Communications Malcolm Tucker. Now in its final season, Veep‘s cast & crew have given us episode after episode of its best stuff, in terms of both acting and writing.
The Veep writers have spent this season crafting scenes that spotlight the incredible talent in their ensemble. Last week, Amy Brookheimer (Chlumsky) delivered a rip-roaring performance as she quit her job (explosively) as President Meyer’s campaign manager and yes-man. This week saw her and fellow ex-Meyer staffer Dan Egan (Reid Scott) adjusting to life after life in the West Wing.
The storm of the episode’s title is a hurricane that, like everything else, Meyer and her team try their best to politicize. This week’s real star, though, was the newest addition to the cast, Hugh Laurie, putting his comedic skills to work in his perfect American accent. His selection as Selina’s replacement Vice President (which occurred last week) is the central concern of the episode. His character, Senator Tom James, is exceptionally charming and genuine, which is contrasted with Selina’s own, more fragile facade. His brazen earnestness and “goofy uncle” sensibilities are a brilliant addition to the jaded and brusque Meyer posse.
Basically, go watch this show. The chemistry in the ensemble is incredible, the writing is vulgar and gut-busting-laughter funny. Seriously, it’s like the funniest parts of The West Wing with way more swearing, or a more sexually frustrated House of Cards. But whereas House of Cards and the West Wing present politics in a dramatic and grandiose light, it’s much easier to believe that the reality is closer to that of the world in Veep: a lot of fuckups. And that’s what makes it that much more entertaining, because it might be true.
Episode Highlight: While Selina campaigns on the road, some of her staff, like her stoic assistant Sue (the brilliant Sufe Bradshaw) and White House Chief of Staff Ben (Kevin Dunn), remain at the White House, holding down the fort. Ben makes several ridiculous attempts at befriending Sue throughout this episode, and the results are amazing.