TV: Why “Game of Thrones” is better than “Mad Men”

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From the May 9, 2013 edition

As surprising as it is true, “Game of Thrones” has been better than “Mad Men” this season … so far. While both series are excellent — and a wonderfully odd Sunday night pairing — it’s worth figuring out how “Game of Thrones” is besting one of television’s greatest dramas.

“Game of Thrones” has been killing it the last four episodes, moving at a breakneck storytelling pace while parceling in solid character moments. Dragons have melted slave masters. Heads have been callously, righteously removed. Tywin Lannister seethed verbal malevolence upon everyone in his presence. A eunuch exquisitely orated about the evil priest (who took his d---) in a box. And Jaime Lannister has become the MVP of “GOT”?!

“Mad Men,” on the other hand, started with a great — not incredible — premiere and muddled along with Don Draper’s latest affair and how it ties back to Dick Whitman’s sad upbringing. Something just felt off.

Thankfully, the last two episodes were much improved (and everything at the SCDP office has been fantastic). “The Flood” was solid in addressing the MLK assassination, but could’ve brought more depth to the underused African-American characters. Last Sunday’s outing, “For Immediate Release,” was an amazingly intriguing episode for our cast of advertising anti-heroes.

It could become an all-time great “Mad Men” episode — even if the “Shut the Door. Have A Seat,” Part Deux business move doesn’t create innovative avenues for the characters, the episode sung with great dialog and story. And that game-changing merger could have colossal ramifications, especially for Peggy and Joan. I hope Roger Sterling’s renewed vigor at work is long-lived.

I have no idea what the rest of either’s season will hold — I haven’t read any of the “Game of Thrones” books, and predicting “Mad Men” is futile — but the next few episodes are crucial for both. “Mad Men” could make me eat my words with a string of sheer greatness; I’d take being wrong for that to happen. But “Game of Thrones” still has the infamous ninth episode in its cache — the previous two penultimate episodes featured Ned Stark’s shocking death and the climactic Battle of the Blackwater.