This has a been a generally terrific second season of Boardwalk Empire, with slow first episode (again) but picking up a lot faster than the first season did. The Sunday night season finale was gutsy in the sense that they ended the Jimmy Darmody story, but the really tripped out episode was the penultimate one, where Jimmy finally got his origin story and we got all the back story we could have ever wanted, and more. It's not just Game of Thrones, it's not TV; it's HBO: The Incest Channel.
It's a mistake to kill off Jimmy in the sense that Michael Pitt played the most riveting of the four main characters (Nucky, Margaret, Agent Van Alden being the other three top billed leads) to a large degree because he has been just so riveting to watch, so easily period, with a silent film star's profile, always lit beautifully. It'll be interesting to see if the show can recover. My bet is on Michael Shannon -- the little hint of things to come is his moving with au pair and infant to Cicero, IL, which is where Al Capone kept his home base. Maybe the disgraced agent uses that cover to infiltrate and take a shot at redemption as a Fed?
I diligently watched two other HBO shows, comedies, starting with Hung's third season. By the end of the first season the show had found its feet (and other body parts), a great conceit that showed America in recession, the growth of man who's just starting to find his feminine side, and a very smart, funny cast with Jane Adams possibly the funniest character on TV -- her Tanya always so needy, so ready to compromise morally to fulfill her needs, so transparent. Season two was peak Hung but this season, with Thomas Jane's Ray and Tanya finding some success (and still more farce), some terrific comic sex scenes, and a tender start to rapprochement with his wife, Jessica, a career highlight for Anne Heche. It wasn't quite as necessary overall as season two but always put a smile on my face from start to finish.
Then there's the Best Television Show of 2011 You Aren't Watching, Enlightened. Written by Mike White and Executive Produced by White and star Laura Dean. The story is of a female corporate exec who has a meltdown when she's fired essentially for having an affair with a married boss, then comes back from a meditation retreat in Hawaii all "enlightened" only to struggle as all those she returns to are not. Diane Ladd (her real life mother and the false Mrs. Mulwray in Chinatown) plays her uptight, loner mother, Luke Wilson does he own career highlight work as her drug-addicted ex-husband with whom she's also trying to connect, and Mike White plays her co-worker, a nebbish who's also trapped in the new basement division doing data entry on an ominous 1% vs. 99% computer program.
While often inducing cringes over Dern's character's innocence and spiritual/political activism in situations where her corporate colleagues and former friends think she's a freak, the highs of the story are huge, and Dern turns in yet another brilliant performance. She's David Lynch's muse, alright, and did a blowaway Katherine Harris also on HBO, and her level of commitment and specificity is wonderous.
Then there was this preview, and all the other shows, well, they just didn't seem quite so critical:
Let's hope Mad Men in January is enough to keep me happy until April. Otherwise it's just a wait.