“Mad Men” thoughts, Season Seven, Episode One: “Time Zones”

April 14th, 2014

“Are you ready? Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something.

Do you have time to improve your life? Do you have precisely 30 seconds for a word from AccuTron watches?

The watch appears, bottom third. The second hand moves with a fluid sweep, and above it? ‘AccuTron Time.’

You go into a business meeting. Is there food in your teeth? Ashes on your tie? And you’ve got nothing to say. The meeting is boring, but you can’t be. But you’re wearing an AccuTron. This watch makes you interesting.”

Freddy Rumsen’s right. This is the beginning of something: the end. And the ad pitch for AccuTron watches that kicks off Mad Men’s seventh and final season (or at least the first half of it in this Sopranos/Breaking Bad-style last-season split) tells us a lot about how our heroes will handle it. If Matthew Weiner hadn’t intended us to “pay attention” to the ad for the watch, he wouldn’t have called this episode “Time Zones.”

I’m back on the Mad Men beat for Wired this year, hooray! Once again each review will view the episode through the lens of the ad campaigns the characters are working on. Mad Men is my favorite show on the air right now, and I love writing about it, though it’s a real challenge. If you watch it, I hope you’ll enjoy what I have to say about it.

“Game of Thrones” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Two: “The Lion and the Rose”

April 14th, 2014

Now’s as good a time as any to point out that this episode was written by author George R.R. Martin — a smart move for several reasons, one of which involves defusing potential complaints about the show’s now-innumerable deviations from the source material. For example, sexual sadist Ramsay Snow taking on a female partner in crime was a headscratcher, though that kind of killing couple is hardly without precedent (google the Moors Murders, if you can stand the result).

The other advantage is to allow the series’ demiurge to try his hand at its unique strength: pairing off characters and just letting them talk. Jaime and Bronn, Roose Bolton and Ramsay and “Reek,” Melisandre and Stannis and his wife Selyse, Cersei and Brienne, Jaime and Loras — the list of dynamite dialogues goes on and on. The dessert course may overwhelm the palate somewhat (loved that close-up of the bird blood in the pie!), but the whole episode is a feast of conversation, cooked up by the master’s hand. And note that in Martin’s original novels, Jaime and Brienne don’t make it back to King’s Landing until after the wedding, meaning some of the episode’s best exchanges wouldn’t even be possible without the show’s changes.

But many of its strengths do indeed originate with the originals. The entire ghastly, endless humiliation of Tyrion by Joffrey came straight from their pages: destroying Tyrion’s painstakingly selected wedding gift, hiring dwarves to put on a grotesque show and damn near forcing Tyrion to participate, dousing him with wine and ordering him to serve as cupbearer. Most revealing is Joffrey’s adamant refusal to let Tyrion play any of this off as accidental, or as “an honor.” Joffrey wants everyone to know exactly what’s going on, and nothing short of spelling it out will do. Joffrey’s not just cruel, he’s stupid — a terrible politician who likely wouldn’t have lasted long on the throne regardless. His final act is to point at the wrong man, for crying out loud. Here lies Joffrey Baratheon: He was the worst, even at dying.

Purple reign, purple reign: I reviewed last night’s Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone.

The Great Don Debate: Discuss the Greatness of Mad Men‘s Anti-Hero

April 14th, 2014

The terrific writer and critic Hazel Cills and I are debating Don Draper and Mad Men for Netflix right this very minute. Come by and talk to us about it.

The Self-Destruction of “Mad Men”

April 10th, 2014

But now that the subtext is the text, now thatMad Men‘s storyline has caught up to the countercultural moment that would eventually lead to works like, well, Mad Men, the show’s original aesthetic appeal has been tossed out the window like so much suicide foreshadowing. If you were the kind of Don-bro able to turn off your brain and just enjoy early Mad Men for its lush portrayal of a jocularly misogynist time when men were men, women were women, and everyone looked amazing (even if they smelled like ashtrays), brother, you’re out of luck now. It’s like if David Chase had gotten so fed up with the “Who’s gonna get whacked?” side ofThe Sopranos‘ audience that he spent the last few seasons chronicling Tony Soprano as an honest-to-God waste management consultant. It’s enormously gutsy. And while Matthew Weiner (who, unlike his mentor Chase, at least allows his non-Dons to evolve) couldn’t have known he’d get this far when he spent years lugging the unsold Mad Menpilot around in his briefcase, it was a certainty if the show ever succeeded. Mad Menwas designed to self-destruct.

I wrote about Mad Men‘s deliberate demolition of its nostalgic appeal for Esquire. I’ll also be covering the show again this year for Wired, and you might see me pop up in another place or two about it as well. I like writing about this show, which is the best on tv.

Game of Thrones Q&A: Rory McCann/The Hound

April 7th, 2014

You guys are shooting in Iceland this year — where you used to live, right?

I hadn’t shot in Iceland with Game of Thrones before — I’d always shot in Malta or Croatia, and [I] was far too hot in that armor. When I was told I was going to Iceland, I couldn’t believe it. Six or seven years ago I went there to do a Viking film, and at the end of it they were like, “You’re going now?” “No, I’m staying.” “No, no, the job’s over.” [firmly] “No. I’ve got my tent. And I’m staying. Thank you very much.” I phoned my agent and went “Don’t phone me unless I’ve definitely got a job.” He didn’t phone me for a year. [Laughs] “Hello? Anything?” I ended up being a carpenter, building houses. Then their whole market crashed, and I borrowed some money off an actor pal that I met up there and hitched out of the place.

I got there last year to do [this season of] Game of Thrones. I’d hitched out of the place on borrowed money, and suddenly there’s this beautiful blonde driver beside this white Range Rover, all smoked out, going [in Scandinavian accent] “Hello, my name is Herta. Should we go skinny dipping before we go to the hotel?” [Laughs] “That would be lovely, Herta.”

Then I was meeting people over there that still didn’t know me as an actor, they just knew me as the guy who used to go to the library. Some still thought I was a local there. I met old friends again, had my bicycle again, did all my old things again. I only partied on the last night, because I was behaving myself. I thought I was gonna have to get my top off for a scene, so I was working out — I mean, I didn’t even drink water for the last 24 hours. On the day, the director comes up to me, and I’ve got dumbells on set, like [makes weightlifting motions] “YEAH! UHHH! FUCKIN’ READY!!!” He touches me on the shoulder and goes “Rory, I was thinking about it last night — I think we’ll just keep the top on,” and leaves me. “Fucking…I haven’t been out for fucking four months! I haven’t had a beer in fucking three months!”

So that night, Maisie was there, it was our last night in Iceland, it was my one night out…and we got stopped by the police. [Laughs] We were all in a van, we had a designated driver, and we were all drunk — but for Maisie, of course — and singing. The police stopped us, he had his hand on the holster, and the driver went “It’s the cast of Game of Thrones.” “Oh yeah? Open up.” I had the nearest seat. I’ve obviously had a few drinks, and I’m very excited. He looks at me, and I go [booming voice] “Hello! I’m the Hound!” And he looks and says “…Hello, Hound! You enjoy Iceland?” I said a few things in Icelandic, and he’s like “Fuck yeah! Well, you have a good time!” And we went on singing. [Laughs]

I interviewed Rory McCann, aka Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound, for Rolling Stone, and it was my favorite interview ever.

STC @ MoCCA

April 3rd, 2014

Come see this smiling mug in person at the MoCCA Arts Fest at the Armory in NYC, this Saturday and Sunday from 11a-6p. I’ll either be circulating or making a nuisance of myself near Julia Gfrörer at table G4, so make sure to grab me and say hi if you see me. It’s an alternative-comics convention, so I’ll no doubt be hankering to discuss the membership of the ideal Kingsguard.

The Shocking 16: TV’s Most Heartstopping Moments

April 2nd, 2014

I wrote up 16 of the New Golden Age of TV’s most surprising and suspenseful scenes and sequences for Rolling Stone (with a little help from my fabulous editor David Fear). Battlestar Galactica, Breaking Bad, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Deadwood, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Lost, Mad Men, Orange Is the New Black, The Shield, The Sopranos, True Detective, Twin Peaks, The Walking Dead, The Wire. Read, then vote in our neat bracket tournament thing!

The Game of Thrones Season Four Cheat Sheet

April 2nd, 2014

Bone up on Thrones: Over at Rolling Stone I wrote a cheat sheet for the show so you can get the lay of the land before this Sunday’s premiere. Share it with that special “wait, who’s that guy again?” someone in your life.

Apologies if you’re getting sick of all the GoT/ASoIaF stuff, but a) you haven’t even seen the half of it here, and b) just you wait a couple weeks when Mad Men season begins.

The Top 40 Game of Thrones Characters, Ranked

April 1st, 2014

Valar Dohaeris or what have you — I ranked 40 major characters from Game of Thrones from worst to best for Rolling Stone. I never do this kind of thing, which is why I had to do it. I think I’m gonna do one of those supermarket “you’re our millionth customer” prizewinner things in the comments, only for people who say “obviously you’ve never read the books.”

The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 28!

March 31st, 2014

The Quality of Mercy: GeorgeRRMartin.com’s new “The Winds of Winter” Sample Chapter

It is a weeping, and a moaning, and a gnashing of teeth: Hot on the heels of our last installment comes yet another BLAH about yet another Winds of Winter sample chapter! For all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s about Arya Stark, this one’s pretty clearly the most talked-about yet. Should we believe the hype, or is this often disturbing chapter chronicling Arya’s further Faceless adventures in Braavos edgy for edginess’ sake? And if we see it as the latter, who’s to blame — an author pushing the envelope, or an audience out for blood? It’s our most conflicted sample-chapter discussion yet. Bone up on some recommended reading referenced in the ep first, if you’re up for it, then tune in and see where you come down.

Mirror here.

Previous episodes here.

Podcast RSS feed here.

iTunes page here.

Sean’s blog here.

Stefan’s blog here.

Destructor and the Wiegle

March 31st, 2014

For the first time in many moons, a new set of Destructor pages is up at the online home of my science-fantasy webcomic. These will be my longtime friend and collaborator Matt Wiegle’s final Destructor pages for a while; we hope to bring in a new artist to keep the saga careening forward to its retrospectively inevitable destination. Thank you for reading, and give Matt a hand when you see him.

The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 27!

March 26th, 2014

Wild Is the Wind: The New “The Winds of Winter” Sample Chapter in the World of Ice and Fire App

[WARNING: A PODCAST FULL OF SPOILERS AHEAD]

Once more unto the breach, dear friends: George R.R. Martin has unveiled a new sample chapter from The Winds of Winter, this time ensconced in the World of Ice and Fire app on your friendly neighborhood smartphone, and Stefan and I are back to pick that sucker apart! The POV character is Tyrion Lannister, the place is Meereen, and the scene is a slaughter — the Battle of Fire is now fully underway, so via the Imp we get a picture of how the fight is going, who’s involved on what side (the Windblown! the Ironborn! the Second Sons!), and how Tyrion feels about it all. From the strategic situation to Tyrion’s own psychological battles, there’s a lot to talk about. And with GRRM promising much more ASoIaF material on the way at a pretty rapid clip this year, we’d better get cracking!

Mirror here.

Previous episodes here.

Podcast RSS feed here.

iTunes page here.

Sean’s blog here.

Stefan’s blog here.

Everything I Do

March 24th, 2014

Hi! My name is Sean T. Collins and I am a writer. Here are links to basically every place on the internet where you can find what I do. A site for everything and everything on its site, that’s my motto. Non-tumblrs up top, tumblrs down below.

Attentiondeficitdisorderly: My main site, located at seantcollins.com. A clearinghouse for pretty much all my work — criticism, comics, TV, film, music, what have you.

About Sean: Here you can find out who I am and what I do and where I do it and how to reach me if you want to talk to me about any of it.

@theseantcollins: My very frequently updated twitter.

Sean @ Rolling Stone: My contributor page at my main freelance gig, for which I mostly work as a television critic.

Sean @ The Comics Journal: Reviews and interviews for the finest comics criticism publication in English. (Just a google link but it gets the job done.)

Other prominent recent freelance work: WiredBuzzFeed MusicEsquire.

Comics by Sean: This page contains links to every comic I’ve written; some you can read, some you can buy, one or two you can but dream of.

Destructor: My science-fantasy webcomic, written by me and thus far drawn by Matt Wiegle.

The tumblrs:

All Leather Must Be Boiled: News and views on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and its television adaptation Game of Thrones, located at boiledleather.com. Home of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour podcast, co-hosted by Stefan Sasse. Of all my tumblrs this is where you’ll find the widest range of posts, as I often rope in pretty much anything I’m thinking and writing about television, fiction, fantasy, genre storytelling, politics, whatever. Beneath the gold, the bitter steel.

The True Black: Comics written by me and drawn by a host of talented collaborators. Also contains news of upcoming comics projects.

Bowie Loves Beyoncé: You can’t say no to the beauty and the beast, darling. Images of two of the best human beings and popular musicians, David Bowie and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. This was my first tumblr, so it’s what shows up when I like your posts.

Fuck Yeah, T-Shirts: No man with a good t-shirt needs to be justified. Good pictures of our greatest garment.

Superheroes Lose: Superhero publishers love putting pictures of their superheroes losing on the covers of their comics. I love putting them on this tumblr. When we imagine people who can do anything, this is what we imagine.

Badge: Stories of police brutality, overkill, and overreach in the United States of America, reblogged from around the internet with minimal comment.  Before they bring the curtain down.

The Deep Ones: There’s something in the water. Sea monsters real, extinct, and imaginary. Co-founded and co-curated by me and Julia Gfrörer.

The Devil in Love: A man of wealth and taste. Images of the infernal with undeniable aesthetic and/or erotic appeal. Founded by Julia, co-curated by me.

Homage to Catalonia: Images of churches on fire or in ruins as a means by which to contemplate the positive and negative energy generated by the buildings and realized in the flames. Founded by me, co-curated by Julia.

Comics Democracy: Comics with over 10,000 notes on tumblr, found while tumbling and reblogged without comment. I will show you a world without gatekeepers.

Cool Practice: What I wanted to be and how I wanted to be it, one song at a time. Thoughts on music and its intersection with “coolness.”

Sean T. Collins on Comics: A repository for writing about comics (mostly comics on the web, mostly alternative-genre comics at that) for my former day job, this tumblr will also sometimes reblog writing-about-comics I’ve done elsewhere.

Sean T. Collins on Culture: The twin of seantcomics, this tumblr houses my old dayjob writing on genre culture that influenced me as a kid. Who knows what I’ll get up to with it eventually?

The Boiled Leather Audio Hour: A dedicated tumblr for my ASoIaF/GoT podcast, created for iTunes syndication purposes, but hey, you can follow it if you want.

In addition, I created several one-off tumblrs to host individual webcomics written by me and drawn by other people. I plan to reblog all of them to The True Black eventually, but here they are in their native habitats:

The Side Effects of the Cocaine: David Bowie 01 April 1975 – 02 February 1976 (with Isaac Moylan)

Hottest Chick in the Game (with Andrew White)

Murder, She Wrote (with Andrew White)

Who He Is, and How He Came to Be: The Secret Origin of Chuck Bass (with Dan White)

Kiss of Life/Roman Charity (with Isaac Moylan)

1995 (with Raymond Suzuhara)

BIEBERCOMIC (with Michael Hawkins)

“True Detective” thoughts, Season One, Episode Eight: “Form and Void”

March 18th, 2014

Just realized I never linked to my review of the True Detective season finale. Fittingly it was a mix of “gripping” and “a mess,” like the whole season.

Your Grand Unified “True Detective” Theory Is Missing the Goddamn Point

March 7th, 2014

My own wild speculation is that clue-hunting and twist-anticipating entered the hive mind via cinemas in 1999 with the one-two twist-ending punch of The Sixth Sense and Fight Club. Sure, The Crying Game was still a recent memory, but not for the fanboys who flocked to Shyamalan and Fincher’s films and whose tastes were about to become post-millennial mainstream culture’s bread and butter. On the small screen, the phenomenon had its precursors — “Who killed Laura Palmer?”, The X-Files’ sprawling and eventually suffocating mythology — but the blame-slash-credit must be laid at the four-toed feet of Lost. Fueled by decades of pulp-fiction tropes and pop-philosophy mindbenders, structured as a Russian nesting doll of mysteries within mysteries, and riddled with more Easter eggs than the White House lawn, ABC’s sci-fi smash knowingly worked fans into a frenzy of message-board theory-mongering. Turns out it was more or less a shaggy dog story the creators were making up as they went along, but this didn’t stop viewers from applying this mode of audience speculation-cum-participation to virtually every big series since.

Which is fair play, when the show in question invites it. For example, Lost’s big nerd-culture contemporary, the cult-classic critics’ darling Battlestar Galactica reboot, teased its big mysteries in the opening-credit text of every episode, and thus had nothing but itself to blame when viewers gave the whole series a thumbs-up or thumbs-down based on those mysteries’ solutions. But even relatively realistic shows, based not around unraveling enigmas but on studying the complexities of human relationships, are now treated like glorified Sudoku puzzles by vocal viewers. The Sopranos’ David Chase worked overtime to design a series finale that would actively defy this kind of clue-hunting closure, but that didn’t stop a host of amateur sleuths out to close the book on that infamously open ending. More recently, the ostensibly sophisticated audience of Mad Men treats everything from promo art to costume choices the way medieval soothsayers treated goat entrails. In this light, the decision of Game of Thrones to largely drop its epic-fantasy source material’s host of cryptic prophecies and hidden truths (google “R+L=J” if you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes) in favor of character work and realpolitik seems like the smartest act of adaptation since Francis Ford Coppola dropped Johnny Fontane as a main character in The Godfather.

Over at Esquire, I wrote a piece on the fan fervor for theory-mongering that surrounds True Detective which wound up being kind of an historical overview of the practice’s slow takeover of pop culture. It was fun to do — and commissioned by a loyal All Leather Must Be Boiled reader! See kids, tumblr dreams come true!