Forever Knight. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel. Moonlight. True Blood. The Vampire Diaries. There’s been a lot of beloved vampire content on TV over the years. I’m here to tell you that The CW’s The Originals, which took its final bow on Aug. 1, ranks at the top.
This is actually a bit funny, considering I had little use for this ancient clan of vampires when they were introduced on The Vampire Diaries. Klaus, who was quite the fearsome Big Bad in the books by L.J. Smith was kind of underwhelming. Though actor Joseph Morgan’s theatrical scenery chewing was mesmerizing, as a character Klaus felt like a Napoleonic manbaby whose slaughter of people was rooted in temper tantrums. I did like his stern older brother Elijah (the delicious Daniel Gillies) and his perfect combo of sociopathy + suit porn, and their inexplicably Australian sister Rebekah (Claire Holt), but I really didn’t root for them in any meaningful way. Not with the established core cast of Salvatore brothers, Elena, and Bonnie right there! In fact, my reaction to them getting their own show was, and I quote, “Tell me again why Klaus needs his own spin-off? Isn’t it bad enough that he ate #TheVampireDiaries with a giant, whiny spoon?”
Marcel and Freya each got to shine.
I was soon eating crow with that same spoon. Because remarkably, on their own series—on their own turf of New Orleans—the Mikaelsons blossomed. The one-note vampires stirring up trouble in small-town Virginia turned into a gothic family saga of Shakespearean proportions. Klaus’ temper and constant posturing—baffling on The Vampire Diaries—made so much more sense amidst familial power struggles going back thousands of years! And each of his siblings and loved ones, imbued with their own goals, their own responsibilities to this loose cannon, got a chance to shine. We got to meet Klaus’ adopted son (and Rebekah’s long-time love), Marcel Gerard, played by the staggeringly hot and charismatic Charles Michael Davies. And the eldest Mikaelson sibling, Freya, who was long-thought dead. Awakened from a curse and brought back to her family, Freya (Riley Voelkel) quickly became the fiercest champion of their safety—almost at the cost of herself, until she realized she was allowed to have her own life. Indeed, the Mikaelson family motto— “always and forever”—often proved as dysfunctional as it was devotional…and provided the core thrust of the series. No matter what transpired over the course of five seasons, everything came back to those three little words.
With season seven of HBO’s Game of Thrones wrapped and season eight denied us until 2019, I would just like to say one thing: I told you so! Sort of. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) took their fraught political alliance to a very naked level in the season finale — but a romantic endgame isn’t necessarily in the cards! And despite the giant relationship anvils dropped over the course of a few frenetically paced episodes — with advisors Tyrion and Davos basically dragging out their ‘shipper pom-poms — many viewers are still reeling from Jon and Dany taking this highly incesty step. There’s a lot to process!
First, there’s the storyline implications of the Mother of Dragons and the King in the North doing the Westerosi Watusi. Neither has any idea they’re related, and their seafaring sexcapade was set, ominously and ickily, to Bran Stark and Samwell Tarly talking about their shared DNA. Ew. Jon, the guys revealed, is actually Aegon Targaryen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Yes, that throne that Dany has had her eye on for years. You think she’s going to let some cute curly-haired upstart steal that throne just because he bent the knee to her and then rocked her boat? These two can’t possibly have much of a honeymoon phase in their relationship with that truth-bomb ticking away — and their allies and enemies are going to be rocked to the core as well. (Except the Whitewalkers. I’m pretty sure they have no horse in this race.) Tyrion, who had the misfortune to overhear Jon and Dany’s game of moans, certainly didn’t look thrilled. Despite all of his teasing from the weeks before, he’s no doubt worried about what the hookup means for his beloved queen and the Iron Throne — and that’s without knowing that Jon Snow is Rhaegar Targaryen’s heir!
Sarah. Helena. Cosima. Alison. Krystal. Rachel. MK. Beth Childs, whose death set a stunning chain of events in motion. Any devout member of Orphan Black’s “Clone Club” knows those names by heart. For those new to the show, which is airing its fifth and final reason right now, here’s a revelation: All of those characters are played by the same person, the jaw-droppingly talented Tatiana Maslany. While they are technically genetic clones, the brilliant and mind-bending BBC America series boils the relationship down to a level more spiritual than cellular. They’re sisters. No matter what.
It’s not easy to find a show where a romantic ‘ship isn’t somehow the driving force, but Orphan Black is sublime when it comes to prioritizing family over flings. There have been memorable relationships — the scorching chemistry between Paul (Dylan Bruce) and Sarah will never be forgotten — but even if we appreciate Alison and Donnie’s quirky and steadfast marriage or Cosima and Delphine’s beautiful love story, it’s the sisters who matter the most. It’s the sisters we want to see “end up together.”
TNT’s dark and filthy drama Good Behavior ― aka “Lady Mary’s Come Undone” ― wrapped its high-tension 10-episode run with the same heart, black humor and shenanigans that made its pilot so compelling.
Michelle Dockery’s explosive breakaway from the staid walls of Downton Abbey, as an alcoholic con artist with more wigs than Sydney Bristow, proved worth the binge ― and the hangover! Recently released jailbird Letty Raines, who gets off on stealing, loves to get high, and just wants her biracial son, Jacob, to love her is no scheming noble. She’s painfully honest, unable to be anything but herself, and when she meets a hit man who’s accustomed to wearing dozens of different identities ― played by Argentine hunk-and-a-half Juan Diego Botto ― it’s the catalyst for adventure, growth…and more than a few missteps. All of which make for riveting TV.
The many faces of Maslany
Award nominations are always a crap shoot. As someone who’s been involved in several smaller-scale award slates, I can testify to how complicated and idiosyncratic the process can be. But all of my knowledge—and the world-weary acceptance of a long-time TV and movie fan— doesn’t help when the Emmy and Oscar ballots come out and some stellar performances get overlooked for tired always-haves.
The 2015 Primetime Emmy nominations were announced today and the list saw some joyous inclusions — like Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, who plays several distinct clones with a mind-blowing talent and Taraji P. Henson, overlooked and underused on CBS’ Person of Interest and a force to be reckoned with on FOX’s Empire as Cookie Lyon.
I am beyond thrilled for Tatiana, Taraji and How to Get Away With Murder‘s Viola Davis. But the status quo hasn’t really changed. Where are the nominations for Orphan Black and Empire as shows? The latter brought in unprecedented numbers and had viewers riveted. Was Mad Men sincerely better this year? The Academy continues to rely on the Homeland/Modern Family/whatever-we-did-last-year model of nominations. We again see premium cable and Netflix cleaning up, without any recognition some of the year’s most breath-taking performances on network and basic.
After six seasons, FX’s Justified came to a perfect close this week. Though buckets of blood bathed the episodes leading up to the finale, the last hour was all about quiet, hard-won farewells. Viewers said goodbye to so many memorable characters. Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens, the gunslinger who, despite his white hat and noble intentions, was never quite the good guy he hoped to be. Joelle Carter’s Ava Crowder, the fierce survivor who struggled to look out for #1 and damn the consequences. Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder, the charismatic black hat to Raylan’s white and the other side to his coin. Tim, Rachel, Art, Wynn, Loretta…this season’s Big Bad, Sam Elliott’s Markham. Justified was a veritable community of personalities, almost impossible to leave — just like Harlan County itself, constantly drawing its residents back into damnation.
In any given discussion of Game of Thrones and the badassery of its characters, you’ll hear about Arya Stark, the mischievous daughter of Ned Stark of Winterfell who must find her way alone after his execution. Charged with learning to “stick them with the pointy end” and hiding amongst her enemies, the wily and troubled Arya is a fan favorite and often lauded as the strongest and most feminist character in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. But, here’s the thing, over the course of five books and four seasons, I think it’s clear that her older sister Sansa Stark is a badass, too. She may not handle a sword or seek out the Braavosi trick of shifting faces, but she handles equally sharp things and wears her own mask.