‘Mad Men’ Shocker: Nobody Saw This Coming

11 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Mad Men’ Episode 13: Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson, more than you will know.

How many of you could write this review for me? In the pilot episode of “Mad Men,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” Don Draper aced a pitch for Lucky Strike cigarettes by sidestepping the established science of lung cancer. “We can say anything we want,” he said, arguing that the best way to deal with the facts was to blow smoke so thick you couldn’t see them. “Everybody else’s tobacco is poisonous.Over the course of Mad Men’s seven seasons, we’ve spent time with many versions of Don Draper: the ad man, the husband, the father, the adulterer, the alcoholic.I wish I knew an obscure series from Uzbekistan available only through pirate websites that I could share, but I usually end up giving the same not-so-thrilling answer: “I really like ‘Mad Men.’” I know.

Heartbreak unfolds insidiously in “Mad Men” — the heartbreak of dreams slowly lost, of marriages slowly decaying, of characters falling into hamster wheel habits that do nothing but wreck their emotional lives.The epitome of tall, dark, and handsome, ad man Don Draper shocked audiences with a very big admission during the AMC series’ second-to-last episode. [Warning: Spoilers] The great Orson Welles once remarked, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.On Sunday’s episode of the hit AMC drama, one of the staples of the show, which is currently in its seventh and final season, was rocked with some rather unsettling news.

“It’s been a gift to me, to know when to move on”—so said a surprisingly self-possessed Betty to Sally, as she explained how she’d decided to handle her cancer diagnosis: Not by fighting a losing battle, but by living out her final days on her own terms. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” Mad Men is predicated on said “illusions”—family, martinis, glamour, all in the service of filling the existential vacuum. Henry is ready to fight telling her she is ‘going to be just fine’ but Betty already seems at peace with the idea she will die and is not interested in his treatment options. Can you believe this?!” And though 140 characters isn’t nearly enough for any of us to truly express ourselves when it comes to “Mad Men,” I knew what people were trying to say.

You want to look at that fundraiser for a man whose house burned down, and think about the house that burned down in Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?,” a song that has come to symbolize Don’s disillusionment. There was just the polluted, carcinogenic soot of the industrial era, made poetic by the warm glow of nostalgia and the long con of advertising. “I don’t care what they say — London Fog is a great name,” Bert Cooper said. This week’s “The Milk and Honey Route” tackles this dark chapter in Don’s life as he takes an extended pit stop in Wyoming during his impromptu, Kerouac-style trip through the heartland. Amid the handsome orgy of rhythms, hues, and moods, it’s also about the loss of innocence, this oddly deliberate rumination on the follies of man buried in a televised medley of zombies, drug lords, and dragons; an analog show in a digital world.

From Lucky Strike and London Fog to napalm-hustling Dow Chemical, “Mad Men” has tended to view advertising as an alluring but amoral form of con artistry, with Don as the master of the con’s dark arts. As such, whenever it devolved into melodrama, whether it be errant tractor, euphoric acid trip, or a little soft shoe en route to the great beyond, the punctuation was all the more pointed. But no series better illustrates the power of TV’s Second Golden Age or stands as a more perfect example of how television has surpassed cinema as the greater expression of film as art.

He makes a good enough impression that the innkeeper invites him to spend the night at the veterans’ Legion, slugging back drinks and swapping stories about their time in the war. It’s already impossible to say that there is a single “best” television show of all time, but certainly there has never been another show that we can say is better than “Mad Men.” And it all comes to an end Sunday night, as the 92nd and final installment airs at 10 p.m. on AMC. But Betty calmly turns them down, leading Henry to track Sally down at boarding school and beg her to come home and convince her mother to extend her life by another year. And it’s a dim view of Betty that sees attending to her appearance even in death as vanity; the kinder view is to see it as an attempt to die with dignity—rooted in the same impulse that gets her out of bed and off to class, even if she knows she might not make it to the end of the semester. When Don settles in at the Legion, he gradually (and uncharacteristically) opens up to his fellow veterans, sharing the origin story that turned him from Dick Whitman into Don Draper.

Sally is forced to play the role of adult once again to the parents in her life — Henry breaks down in front of her, weeping about Betty’s near death and asking Sally, “What am I going to do?” And Betty has little hope that Henry will be able to keep it together enough to see her end-of-life wishes through. When his Caddy breaks down, he finds himself stuck at a run-down (by his lofty standards) inn, forced to live the simple life: reading old books, eye-fondling housewives by the pool, and sipping plastic cups of cheap booze in his room while focusing on a broken miniature TV. “I killed my CO,” Don says. “We were under fire and fuel was everywhere, and I dropped my lighter, and I blew him apart. The remainder of that letter revealed that, for all her squabbling with Sally over the years, Betty had finally come to appreciate her daughter and her strong-willed ways, and to look forward to the life of adventure Sally will have as a result—a life in which Sally will pursue her dreams (yearbook, Spain) before it’s too late. Since the very beginning, there’s been a kind of hypocritical reaction to the women in Don’s life: Fans know Don is an awful, womanizing liar, while simultaneously attacking each of his partners for somehow not being good enough for him.

It’s one of those rare defining moments in a person’s life (and the single moment that set the Don’s life, and by extension the entire series, into motion). So she gives Sally a letter and tells her daughter to read it only once she’s passed — instructions that Sally quickly ignores upon returning to school. And I got to go home.” The proprietor of the inn is, like Don, a veteran, and invents him to the local American Legion chapter to drown their sorrows in liquor and raise some money for a fellow vet.

I am well known for not having a ton of patience for the character, but when it came to Betty’s imminent demise, creator Matthew Weiner played me like a violin. Mad Men has been especially cruel to its female characters lately: Rachel died, Joan lost her job and a lot of money, Peggy did a badass walk-of-fame right into an office that will probably end up treating her like a secretary. Betty, forever vain at heart, has included a photo of what she wants to look like for her burial — in the picture she is happy, beautiful, young, next to Henry. After giving the money back Don gave him a lift to the bus stop, but decided to give him his car and waited at the bus stop for the next stage of his wandering. What a wonderfully redemptive moment this was for Betty, a character who has suffered a lot—at the hands of her philandering ex-husband, but also, it sometimes felt, at the hands of the series’ writers, who trapped her in that haunted Victorian that Henry picked out, saddled her with a beastly mother-in-law, made her wear a fat suit, and gave her a daughter who often seemed wiser than herself.

Some of these developments can be blamed on the fact that the early 1970s wasn’t exactly the most progressive era for women, but it’s hard to blame cancer on the times. Asleep in his hotel room later that night, he’s awoken by the men, who accuse him of stealing money raised to support one of their fellow veterans. “Do you really think I need your spare change?” Don sneers as they beat him with a phone book. Back at the agency a heavy drinking Duck Phillips showed up and asked Pete for a personal favor, to meet private jet company Learjet and recommend him to fill their marketing vacancy.

When Betty collapsed on the stairs on her way to Freud 101, my first thought was: Of course it’s going to be poor Betty who is going to catch the lung cancer that just about every character in this series seems likely to succumb to. Though the veterans are short-sighted and reactionary enough to blame Don for the lost money, Don is smart enough to identify the real culprit: Andy, the money-grubbing schemer who works at the hotel. For many, the height of New Hollywood was “The Godfather,” and “Mad Men” shares with that film an overarching theme about the corruption of the American dream. Pete asked ex-wife Trudy to come along and play the dutiful partner but when she refuses Pete stands up the client for dinner with his brother for advice. But in killing her off, the writers finally found a way to make Betty likeable, to give her a chance to be more of a rock than Henry (who approaches the diagnosis as if it’s a problem that can be solved with a few calls to well-connected bureaucrats) and one step ahead of her world-weary daughter, who, it turns out, doesn’t yet know it all.

But while Andy gets Don in trouble, he also turns out to be a kindred spirit: an unformed, aspirational dreamer who’s willing to be a conman if it will propel him into the life he truly desires. The duo were building a field hospital when Dick accidentally caused an explosion that killed Draper, and with Draper’s body burned beyond recognition, Tricky Dick switched dog tags and assumed Draper’s identity. Sally tells her she “won’t get treatment because you love tragedy.” Betty’s strong-willed response to her family — and her impending death — feels like the show’s rebuke to critics who thought less of her.

Don — playing the role that the hobo once played for him — offers hard-won advice: “If you keep [the money], you’ll have to become somebody else, and that’s not what you think it is. Throughout the series, “Mad Men” tells the story of people leading secret lives, rigidly conforming to social expectations on the outside while inwardly raging against the emptiness within. “Mad Men” is set in the advertising business during its Golden Age, the 1960s.

One cannot help but notice, however, that right as many of the characters on “Mad Men” seem to be getting what they want, or right as they carve out a new identity, life arrives to stand in their way. You think this town is bad now, wait ’til you can never come back.” As a parting gift, he gives Andy his Cadillac, sowing the seeds for the possible rise of another proto-Don. Joan believed she was finally in a position of power at a major corporation, but misogyny in the workplace cut that down and left her packing her bags. Don murdered Draper, a married man about to complete his tour of duty, in order to be rid himself of his brothel-soiled name and begin anew as a man of substance and character. Henry reacts to his wife’s crisis like a stereotypical politician, with bombast, threats and angry rants that cover up anything that might resemble doubt or fear.

The protagonist – certainly no hero – is Donald Draper (played by Jon Hamm), the creative director at a small agency and perhaps the most talented Mad man of them all. But before she goes, she got to deliver her own version of “The Wheel’s” famous Carousel pitch. “Sally, I always worried about you, because you marched to the beat of your own drum.

He has, like Amazing Amy, faked his own death, escaped the societal strictures weighing him down, and assumed a different identity—that of Dick Whitman. It seemed significant that our hero came clean about killing his c.o., the darkest element of Don Draper’s origin story, after initially lying about his rank. For a while now, neither woman has had the privilege of believing lies because they, unlike the men in their lives, have both had to live with their consequences.

When Sally accuses her of refusing treatment because she loves tragedy, Betty calmly tells Sally that she watched her own mother die, and she won’t make Sally go through the same thing. “I fought for plenty in my life,” she says. “That’s how I know it’s over. He spent his early years thriving on balancing frat boys’ ways with the obligations of married life — something he seemed to have settled into based on societal duty alone.

As the episode begins, Don checks in with Sally at school, and they share a casual conversation about field hockey and her upcoming study abroad trip. A few flings and steadies here and there, but, mostly, Pete has been alone — a dedicated ad man trying to make sense of himself as a bachelor in the world.

In any given episode of Mad Men, the only thing more likely to come out of a character’s mouth than the trailing smoke of a Lucky Strike cigarette is a witty one-liner. Betty’s advice to Sally is so good, you think she might have actually learned something in psychology class: “I’ve learned to trust people when they say it’s over,” she says. “They don’t want to say it.

Sleeping around and being unfaithful doesn’t appeal to him anymore — he says to his brother over dinner that such behavior “feels good, and then it doesn’t.” Unlike Don and Roger, Pete did not jump into another marriage, or fall into self-sabotaging habits. As we enter the final days of Sterling Cooper & Partners, Slate’s TV Club will celebrate the show’s retorts and rejoinders by highlighting a Mad Men Zinger of the Week for Slate Plus. Much of it was a business-like list of demands and requirements, but Jones gave the whole thing an air of vulnerability (there was almost a catch in her throat when she asked Sally to show the funeral-home people the picture of her in the blue dress. So it’s usually the truth.” Meanwhile, doesn’t it seem so perversely true to form that “Mad Men” kills off Betty on Mother’s Day and then gives perhaps its happiest ending to the show’s most despised regular character?

It’s akin to the moment in Breaking Bad’s brilliant episode “Ozymandias” where Walter White permanently crosses over to the dark side, coldly telling Jesse he let Jane die before fighting off his terrified wife and son, kidnapping baby Holly, and speeding off. Peggy knew when to leave her job for another venture, and when to come back. (Hopefully, she understands that it’s time to leave again.) And Trudy… well, poor Trudy never learns. They drink too much, carry on affairs, live ostentatiously – essentially do what they can to paper over their truths. “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness,” Draper says. “And you know what happiness is?

Pete tries to invite Trudy out to a business dinner to serve as his “wife” that night, but she politely declines — “I’m jealous of your ability to be sentimental about the past,” Trudy says to Pete as Pete waxes nostalgic about their past nights arm-in-arm at company functions. “But … Every decision she makes is in line with what we’ve seen Betty evolve into over these seven seasons: her refusal to consider treatment; her obsession with making sure she looks beautiful at her own funeral; her stoicism in the face of news that would drive almost anyone else into a panic; and, above all, her cold appraisal of what each of her family members can handle. You might say that he seemed romantic about the past—the pitfall that Trudy was so wary of when Pete first let on that he might want to rekindle things.

But Jones did fine work in this episode, and if this truly is Betty’s final hour on the show, this was an excellent way for her to go out — on the way up (a set of stairs, but she was on an upward trajectory metaphorically as well). Julia, Hanna: I’m very eager for your take on the Pete plot, and to hear whether you have high hopes—or any hopes—for the reconstituted Campbell clan.

It’s the kind of upheaval that makes a person take stock of their life, and Pete takes the excuse to re-propose to his ex-wife Trudy (Alison Brie.) “I want to start over, and I know I can,” says Pete. “I’m not so dumb anymore.” Trudy, who has so reliably called Pete out on his failings, is eventually swayed by his enthusiasm, and they take their first tentative steps toward reuniting their family again. Starting over sometimes lands you right back where you began, and we’ve seen that a lot this season, as characters make the same mistakes again and again. Pete gets the job because he’s a “real knickerbocker … right schools, right family.” There’s great value in making elite white men feel comfortable. It might seem like a happy ending for Pete — but anyone who has been paying attention knows that none of Pete’s high-minded ideas about rebooting his life are even a little realistic. (“I’ve never loved anyone else. It’s a little hard for me to believe in his epiphany—that he’s recognized in himself his father’s insatiable appetites and decided to reform himself.

The episodes spill over with memorable surprises: Betty (January Jones) shooting at the neighbor’s pigeons, the John Deere incident, Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) performing a swan song just for Don. That his path to betterment is paved by the wonderfully crazy and conniving Duck, and a very rich offer from Lear, suggests to me that as earnest as Pete may have been in that great moment with Trudy, this will prove a passing fancy. But no one there is surprised — this is Don being Don by most people’s estimates, and a level of acceptance over Don’s departure has settled peacefully over people like Pete.

We’ll read into the characters’ actions and endings what we want to see, and as I’ve already admitted in this post on what I want from the ending, I want things to go OK for these people. He sexually assaulted the au pair down the hallway, cheated on Trudy repeatedly, made a grand display of fly-by parenting and distinguished himself for his whiny, selfish, scheming behavior in an office of whiny, selfish schemers. I have a slightly hard time imagining Pete in Wichita, even if he does have a jet gassed up in the backyard and even if Kansas proves as wholesome as, say, Oklahoma. But despite the jarring change in scenery, Don still finds himself drawn to the same things he was drawn to back home in NYC, like a moth to the flame. Going into this half season, I don’t think anyone would have predicted that the penultimate episode wouldn’t feature Peggy, Joan, or Roger, or that Don would be entirely disconnected from every other recognizable character in the series.

The preview for next week’s series finale didn’t even include any of the customary, inscrutable snapshots of the episode, omitting even the vaguest of hints about how the series might end. Betty’s been plagued by health scares since Season 1, when she sought therapy after suffering repeated numbness in her hands, to the Season 5 weight gain and subsequent lump discovery/cancer scare. But as the vets get skunk-drunk, they begin confessing what they had to do to get home — one implies that he fell into cannibalism to survive being stranded in the snow during WWII.

The vets urge Don to share, and finally he says he “killed his CO” and relays the events that led him to adopt his Don Draper identity — all the while not admitting that he conned his way into a new name. While the two polar opposites have butted heads over the years—who can forget the moment Betty almost had her committed after she was caught masturbating at a friend’s house (“She was masturbating, Don!

Read through our list of the most promising shows of the season, and a few new names to your DVR lineup. (We’re only including shows with a set release date, and will update the list as other great shows nail down their premiere dates.) After several misbegotten stabs at period dramas, Starz scored with this buzzy adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s series of historical fantasy novels. Witness the way Betty brushed past a devastated Sally in the kitchen because Betty was angry at Henry for having gone behind her back and told Sally the news. It might sound a little goofy, but Outlander sells the premise with style, leaping deftly from genre to genre for a story that’s not quite like anything else on television. Hilary Mantel’s brilliant novel about the court of King Henry VIII — told from the perspective of his often-maligned advisor Thomas Cromwell — gets a lavish small-screen adaptation.

Here’s how she’s progressed: She knows herself well enough to know that she won’t really change, and she’s willing to stand up for her choices with more vehemence. Wolf Hall’s dense reappraisal of British history packs in all the political intrigue of Game of Thrones, and a faithful adaptation should prove no less addictive or hypnotic. AMC’s brilliant drama, which centers on a Manhattan advertising firm in the 1960s, has already secured its place among the great shows in television history. A justified critical darling, Louie C.K.’s experimental sitcom is one of TV’s most unpredictable shows; by playing freely with form and style, C.K. ensures that viewers never know what they’re going to see when they tune in. It took her a long time to figure out what she wanted, as opposed to what the men around her wanted, but she finally did, and then that choice got taken away from her.

Charlie Cox stars as Daredevil, a blind superhero who fights crime using his enhanced other senses. (The remaining three shows — centered on Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage — will premiere later, with a miniseries combining all four characters to follow.) Daredevil has a fiercely loyal following among comics fans, but the first major adaptation of his story, which starred Ben Affleck, failed to connect with audiences in 2003. But there’s something exciting about the idea that the antihero of this show, which has been embraced by advertisers for seven seasons (and made auto pitchmen and fashion models of its stars), might reject advertising and New York entirely.

Since then, Marvel has essentially rewritten the book on superhero adaptations, and it’s hard to imagine it will botch the opportunity to reintroduce a character with so much potential to mainstream audiences. If Weiner wanted to find the way to redeem the character, the way to do that was to have her final act be selfless — she is determined to spare Sally and her boys the experience of watching their mother suffer through a series of debilitating cancer treatments. As Don tells the receptionist: “Let’s take it one night at a time: I’m an optimist.” A quick note: These recaps are not intended to be exhaustive; that would be exhausting for all of us.

Building on a third season that was easily the show’s best, HBO’s scathing political satire returns as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer — thrust into the nation’s highest office after the unexpected resignation of the president — battles to keep her role in a contentious election. The second season of Orphan Black was a step down from the addictive, propulsive first, but no matter how much it went off the rails, the sci-fi head-scratcher would be worth watching solely on the basis of its star.

Logan Hill is a journalist who has contributed to The New York Times, New York, Rolling Stone, “This American Life,” Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Wired and others. The genesis of Happyish is a sad story: the dramedy originally starred Philip Seymour Hoffman, who had already filmed the pilot before his sudden death. Those who have seen the originally Happyish pilot have testified to Hoffman’s brilliance in the lead role, and while it’s a shame that viewers will never get to see him in a recurring TV role, the new version of Happyish — which replaces Hoffman with Steve Coogan — still has plenty of promise.

It won’t be long until Sally is those boys’ sister and a mother of sorts, and Sally has already had to comfort a lost and terrified Henry, who will be in no position to take care of anyone else once Betty dies. We know how strong and smart Sally is, but to become the head of the family before she’s even out of high school — that is a lot for any human being to bear. You could make the argument that Pete is merely returning to the status quo of his past — soon he will once again be a rising corporate executive with a smart, socially savvy wife by his side. Anchored by an unmissable performance from Eva Green and an impressive comeback role for Josh Hartnett, Penny Dreadful is TV’s most compelling horror show. Night Shyamalan’s offbeat thriller series is so clearly inspired by Twin Peaks that it almost borders on plagiarism — but if you’re going to crib, you might as well crib from the best.

Matt Dillon stars as a Secret Service agent sent to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents in a small Idaho town, only to discover that the entire town is a bizarre slice of Americana filled with strange secrets. Their reunion certainly didn’t seem arbitrary: Though we haven’t seen them together a ton since they divorced, the actors and the characters have such an easy, familiar connection that their reconciliation scene absolutely worked. When Pete’s voice caught during his speech to Trudy, I almost teared up a little — when Pete’s sitting on a couch being extra-sincere, that is very difficult to resist. The cultshly adored comedic film — which follows a group of counselors through a surreal series of misadventures at a summer camp — is finally getting its long-discussed prequel in the form of a Netflix limited series.

Impressively, the series has managed to assemble pretty much everybody from the movie’s insanely stacked cast, including Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, and Elizabeth Banks. (Our original previews for each of these shows were published earlier this year. We’ve left those curtain-raisers untouched, but appended updates to each item.) After successfully reinvigorating its sophomore drama Agents of S.H.I.E.LD., Marvel is delving into its past with the limited series Agent Carter.

My husband’s response to the Don story was, “I’m really kind of over Don spending time with people we’ve never met before.” And I get that, though I didn’t have a serious issue with Don’s hobo jaunt. Terrence Howard leads the gleefully soapy Empire as Lucious Lyon, a hip-hop mogul who must decide how to dispose of his vast fortune when he’s diagnosed with ALS. Riffing on both King Lear and The Lion in Winter, Empire proudly wears its serialized ambitions on its sleeve, from an unusually large cast for a network drama (including a scene-stealing role from Taraji P. Once again, Don confessed a truth about his past, and at this point, it feels like maybe the only people who don’t know the truth about Don/Dick’s past reside in deepest Siberia? UPDATE: Empire is an astonishingly massive breakout hit, with ratings increasing week to week for every single one of its episodes — a virtually unprecedented feat in any era of TV, let alone an era with DVR and streaming services.

These confessions tend to have less and less impact over time, but if, in the end, they allow him to grow/change/accept himself/blah blah, it’s all good. Danny Boyle’s dark satire follows an American public relations whiz (Brit Marling) hired to improve the sagging public image of London’s Metropolitan Police Department. All of Don’s scenes were undergirded with the tension that came from wanting to shout, “Don, you nitwit, get home to your children, who are going through or about to go through a tremendous, harrowing crisis! Girls’ cultural footprint may be larger than its actual viewership, but there’s still plenty to admire about Lena Dunham’s unique depiction of life and love in your twenties. Season four takes a bold step by shifting the narrative away from Brooklyn, as Hannah Horvath (Dunham) begins a program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. (Don’t worry — the rest of the cast, including Adam Driver and Allison Williams, are staying put.) UPDATE: Girls’ ratings have more or less plateaued — after four seasons, you probably know if you’re a fan or not.

The fourth season made bold choices by splitting up its protagonists into distinct narratives, and a flash-forward in the finale indicates that the schism will continue. For four seasons, Showtime’s underappreciated dramedy has followed the ups and downs of the blue-collar Gallagher family, led by the deadbeat patriarch Frank (William H.

The Duplass brothers take their talents to television for this warm dramedy about a pair of middle-aged couples attempting to put their lives in order. UPDATE: The Fall’s second season was a hit abroad, and Netflix’s unquenchable thirst for exclusive programs means it will always have a home in the United States. Nearly 20 years after its premiere, Terry Gilliam’s cultishly beloved sci-fi movie makes its way to the small screen, with X-Men alum Aaron Stanford stepping in for Bruce Willis in the main role.

Stanford stars as James Cole, a time traveler sent back to prevent the terroristic release of a virus that will kill the vast majority of the world’s population. UPDATE: 12 Monkeys proved divisive with critics, but SyFy was confident enough about the series’ long-term appeal to order a second season, set to air sometime in 2016. Occupying the post-Daily Show slot once held by The Colbert Report, The Nightly Show promotes The Daily Show’s longstanding “Senior Black Correspondent” to the host of his own series. The books and stories of Elmore Leonard have long been among Hollywood’s favorite sources of adaptation — but there’s never been anything as impressive as Justified, which successfully improves upon Leonard’s original conception of U.S. marshal Raylan Givens, who appeared in several of his novels.

Timothy Olyphant gets top billing, but he’s equaled by Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, a grandiose, speechifying criminal who serves as Raylan’s greatest threat and occasional ally. If Betty hadn’t evolved beyond the petulant version of her that we saw in previous seasons, it’s likely she would have been perturbed at someone implying that she was an “older” woman. Once again, men discuss Betty’s life without even talking to her directly, all of which makes it even more understandable that she would make her own decisions without consulting them. You can’t change the channel without finding a grim drama focused on a murder mystery, but there are promising signs that Fortitude will be a cut above your standard entry in the genre. UPDATE: Fortitude is weirder and more sprawling than its initial episodes might have indicated, using both Stanley Tucci and the frozen setting to hypnotic effect.

Messing with the history of a show as revered as Breaking Bad is a tricky prospect, but it’s also an intriguing one — and while Walter White and Jesse Pinkman aren’t slated to appear, viewers will be thrilled to see the return of fan-favorite character Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). UPDATE: Better Call Saul doesn’t have the relentless narrative momentum of Breaking Bad, and the overarching story feels unfocused, but Bob Odenkirk’s lead performance is more than enough reason to tune in.

Coming off a half-season that finally — finally — lived up to The Walking Dead’s promise, the zombie drama returns for another batch of episodes following Rick Grimes and Co. The series was originally supposed to debut a 13-episode first season on NBC this spring, but in a complex series of maneuvers, the network ceded the sitcom to Netflix, which picked up two full seasons on the spot.

The cultishly adored sitcom, which follows an offbeat group of students attending a community college, has weathered storm after storm: perpetually low ratings, the firing of its showrunner, the re-hiring of its showrunner, and the departures of numerous cast members (including three who were there from the pilot). To make up for cast departures, the new season of Community will introduce several new characters, including two new regulars played by Paget Brewster and Keith David. Liv discovers that by eating the brains of the murder victims that pass through her office, she can partially recall their memories, enabling her to help in solving crimes. The creators of FX’s Damages take their twisty sensibilities to Netflix for Bloodline, which chronicles the rift that develops in a family when its prodigal son returns.

UPDATE: Only the most dedicated viewers will have binge-watched all 13 episodes of the Netflix drama over the weekend of its premiere, but reviews have been largely positive (if not a little muted). An English muffin with peanut butter on it will sate our starving boys for up to 25 minutes, enough time to boil up some macaroni and cheese or order a pizza. It is my greatest hope that someday they’ll sit down to dinner with their own families (just having repaired their own drywall), see that gravy boat, and get the point.

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