Welcome to The Power Rankings! for the week ending April 28. It wasn't a particularly messy week because Game of Thrones had no intention of moving off the seat of power, no matter how strong Rectify was. Mad Men didn't put up much effort this week, but still improved with a glimmer hope. Vikings clings on in its final week, The Americans is still, well, all U-S-A,! U-S-A! and Orphan Black is still an ass-kicker. Next week, I open the doors to some comedies. Let flux and whimsy go on a rampage! And here's an important reminder for you types who don't read the fine print before arguing: The Power Rankings! are based on weekly episodes, not cumulative greatness. On my command, unleash hell! FYI: The Power Rankings! are where television series are ranked on a weekly basis according to their most recent episodes and the ever-changing-moods of yours truly. If you want to learn how The Power Rankings! started and the methodology behind them, check out the link to the Bastard Machine post on those issues of great import. Also: The Bastard Machine blog is on Facebook. And Tim Goodman loves Twitter.
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is on the throne and doesn't look at all willing to relinquish it. After carrying all of that massive story in the first two or so episodes, this is now a runaway train of great story lines. Apparently the god of light works in intriguing ways. We have all kinds of Lannister issues to work through and the scene of Jamie telling the real and full story of the Kingslayer was a fantastic performance and a riveting scene. If you're going to challenge this show, you'll have to catch it on a week where it slips. Because if the episodes play like this, Game of Thrones is not moving down anytime soon.
What an intense and moving and wonderfully languid series. Ray McKinnon has created a show about a man coming off Death Row after 19 years and his re-entry into small town society is like emerging into a strange dream world. Aden Young and Abigail Spencer are excellent in this thoughtful series. Its slowness, by design, is precisely why it works. Rectify feels like the first honest account of what it must be like to lose half your life, fear death constantly and then be set free. Sundance Channel is on quite a roll.
This FX series has seemed to take just the right step each week. It understands that getting to know the people at the center, the main characters, is what will make the violence and action pay off when it arrives. It's more cat and mouse than sprint and the pacing has really made it necessary television every week. Only one more episode to go and I can't wait to see it.
Not its best episode but one that remained solid nonetheless. And here's the thing about Orphan Black - its got this residue of anticipation all over it. It came to us stylized and almost fully realized, a stunning out of nowhere entry. That kind of start can erase much bigger lapses, so Orphan Black stays in the Top 5.
A modest uptick but also one that was earned. As I noted in my deconstruction of the last episode, there were hints that Don's willingness to look inside will return. It's the only element that can make him redeemable. Otherwise it's just more of the same and Mad Men has never been that content. The trouble is, 1968 as a framework for this season is going to take a toll on Mad Men. It was never meant to be a historical document and when it has to dramatize those events (rather than compartmentalize them as in the past), the series bogs down in trying to get the tone right. It's not a tone the show is designed for, so the less we spend on what happened that year in the news the better Mad Men is likely to be. There were two or three small scenes that lent some hope. Here's hoping there's a full episode of that storytelling next week.
I'm always open to arguments about what shows should be on this list. That's because each week that I construct the Elite 11, I know there are up to a handful that could easily make it (this week, Elementary for sure). As a fan of the first two seasons of The Borgias, where it was a frequent participant on this list, I can tell you the show or those involved with it could have been right in calling bullshit on its exclusion. But here it is, back where it belongs, and brothers and sisters I couldn't be more satisfied. Ah, yes. That. If you watch the show, you know what I referenced. If you don't watch, you should be. Welcome back to the Top 10, Borgias!
House of Cards
I'll say it again, as much as I love how Netflix allows you to speed through or marathon series, there's something missing when you can't chat about it week to week with your regular TV talkers. Everybody has a different schedule. But you go about your business, and I will give my appreciation solo if need be, no matter how loud the echo.
OK, Vera Farmiga is just flat out scaring me now. But I can't look away from her.
Da Vinci's Demons
All three of these last shows are fun to watch. They are entertaining. For some, that's the extent of their accomplishment. Others add fine acting and this one adds a level of fascination that I think is under-appreciated. I'll say it again: Leonardo Da Vinci was an interesting guy. You want him at your dinner table. There's a lot to mine here. And the so called "missing years"? Perfect fodder to invent something. Oooh, see what I did there? Just watch the damned thing.
Don't take the tiny drop as a sign of a letdown. The Borgias has added flux. I've been waiting for a fun sci-fi show -- outside of Falling Skies -- and this works quite well for me. Keep 'em coming.
Just like a Viking to fight all the way to the end, even with its back against the wall. The freshman History Channel series managed to stay alive in the Elite 11 for the entire run, despite the accents being crazy-ass all over the place. It was just entertaining. There were swords. The opening credits were great. And even though it didn't quite reach the heights of something so bold and accomplished as Game of Thrones, Vikings ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be.
Out: Top of the Lake and Southland had ended. Vikings will be out next week now that the season finale has come and gone.
In peril: Well, with The Borgias jumping up, that added pressure. But next week I can guarantee you that Veep will be here. I've been loving that show, just like Season 1, and I can't keep this All Drama Elite 11 going every week. Very strong consideration was also given to Elementary, which has provided a stellar performer week to week, so don't be surprise if that jumps back into the rankings.
In the mix: Hannibal, Hemlock Grove, Call the Midwife, Elementary, Grimm, Person of Interest, The Good Wife, Veep, Rogue, etc.