Sunday Night Death Match: Game of Thrones vs. The Killing

A couple of nights ago, two of the more awaited shows of the Spring started their second seasons. Of course, I’m talking about Game of Thrones and The Killing. While these two shows are very different, they actually share a lot of the same DNA. They were both prestigious television awards bait that debuted last year. They both had impressive pilots that were extremely well received with many members of the cast receiving specific nods. They both rely largely on tone, strong visuals, and heavy conversations. And finally, they both had extremely controversial endings.

But I want to talk about which show I’m personally more impressed by going into this season. Since I’ve never read the books, Game of Thrones left me with the rest of the unsuspecting audience in complete shock as Eddard Stark played by headline actor Sean Bean was brutally killed off. I’m still kind of speechless and this happened a year ago. Going into this season I was hoping for a few things: vengeance for this deed and dragons!

Unfortunately, the audience wasn’t given any of this in the season premiere. I honestly could not name one actual plot point that happened in the episode “The North Remembers.” We got some good status updates on the power relationships between several of the characters, but it was nothing more than exposition and set-up for things to come. There was the great sequence between Cersei (Lena Headey) and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) where he posits that knowledge is power, only to be undermined by her clunky but malicious retort, “No, Power is power.” We also had some priestess voodoo, a sympathetic Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) in the desert, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in shackles, a few good Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) quotes, and not nearly enough Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley).

I think I’m in the vast minority when I say in the titular game of thrones, I’m rooting for the Lannisters. The Starks don’t really have a claim to the throne in the way that a Baratheon does, and if it weren’t a phallocentric society, Cersei would be in charge. I also think Joffrey, played by Jack Gleeson, is one of the most fun villains in a long time. He is so power hungry that he turns on his own mother and tries to kill a man by alcohol poisoning. While it might just be true that I have a thing for beautiful blonde people doing evil things, that’s fine. It is quite possible my four favorite characters are Tyrion, Cersei, Jaime, and Joffrey. Long live the Lannisters!

The Killing, on the other hand, had America in abject anger when Rosie Larsen’s killer was never revealed and left as a glaring cliffhanger on the season. After Veena Sud promised America again and again that we would really find out whom the killer was this second season, America returned warily to the show. I was in the minority in that I wasn’t upset that the show didn’t tell us. It’s a T.V. show, people! They can do whatever they want and it’s still not real. Let them tell a story. Too bad the story didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. That’s called good storytelling. You just didn’t like getting manipulated.

Going into the second season, I just wanted more of what I really liked in the first season, which was a lot of moody conversations, detective work that seemed good only if you never questioned it, and Michelle Forbes crying, because she is one of the most emotionally interesting mothers I’ve encountered in a while. Sadly, only two of these three simple criteria were in the season premiere. Forbes was nowhere to be found. I instead was forced to watch Mireille Enos wiping up the floor and actressing her way all around everyone else. The story of Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) was actually really well told and I see Kristin Lehman’s character Gwen becoming one of the breakout characters of the season. However, I felt this episode stagnated even more than episodes in the past. If the main critique of the show is too many red herrings, don’t just present more leads to be followed. Even if they are the correct leads, it still just seems like more of the same.

Ultimately, I will keep watching both shows. I love a good fantasy epic and I think a detective show on one case is important to have on television if only to prove to CBS that there is another formula to the detective show. However, after two B+ season premieres, there must be a winner. And in the world of television demographics, you win or you die. Congratulations Game of Thrones. I’ll see you next Sunday.

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