With the 25th anniversary of its very first episode coming up in November, and FXX currently in the midst of a full series marathon ahead of the launch of its Simpsons World, we here at Hitsville have chosen our some very favourite episodes from everyone’s favourite Springfieldianite family.
Bart The Daredevil (Season 2, Episode 8)
chosen by Megan Fozzard
"Bart the Daredevil" was the first Simpsons episode I ever remember watching (not when it originally aired, I’m not that old). As I watched it, I was about as transfixed as Homer and Bart watching the advert for the Monster Truck Show featuring Truckasarus in the opening few minutes of the show. This newly found programme was hilarious to 10 year old me and a transition between ‘kids’ and ‘adults’ tv. And I couldn’t believe that according to the TV Guide it was on every single night on BBC2 at 6 o’clock, which was right after dinner as well (when the programme moved over to Channel 4, this lead to a dark era of ‘kids’ to ‘adult’ TV which introduced me to Hollyoaks). I wasn’t really watching for the ingenious cultural references and satire that has become a hallmark of The Simpsons, such as Dr Hibbert showing Bart a ward of children that have been injured trying to copy violent things they have seen on TV and commenting that ‘as tragic as all this is, it’s a small price to pay for countless hours of top notch entertainment’. I didn’t really understand all that yet. I was in it for the slapstick, as Homer accidentally tries to jump The Springfield Gorge with a long sequence showing him hitting various rocks on the way down, only to be airlifted back up, and then the ambulance crashes and Homer is heading back down the gorge again on a stretcher hitting the same rocks. Looking back, it was a great introductory episode of The Simpsons for me, showing Homer as the manchild parent and Bart as the mischievous boy, but of course I’ve learnt they’re more than just that in the past 11 years. Happy Birthday, The Simpsons!
Three Men And A Comic Book (Season 2, Episode 21)
chosen by James Daly
"Three Men And A Comic Book" is perfect example episode of The Simpsons. The plot is based around Bart (my favourite Simpson), but the main appeal for me is that the story is original. I know it’s riddled with homages, but the story isn’t a carbon copy of anything else and that gives this episode an integrity that many others just don’t have. For those who haven’t seen it, the plot follows Bart as he teams up with best friend Milhouse and resented acquaintance Martin in order to pool their funds and buy a rare Radioactive Man comic book. It’s not long before the alliance gives way to bickering as the three decide to the keep the coveted article in Bart’s tree house and all spend the night resulting in a sort of Lord Of The Flies styled conflict between the three that ultimately ends with the comic book being destroyed. The weight of this tragic occurrence is cleverly juxtaposed by Homer and Marge’s complete ignorance of the turmoil that the three-way comic book ownership caused, suggesting that what’s important as a child may not be when all grown up. On a personal level, this episode really appealed to me when I was younger because it combined my love of superhero culture – which I was a bit too removed from and therefore even more fascinated by it – with my childhood desire to have friends over and stay in a treehouse.
Mr Plow (Season 4, Episode 9)
chosen by Josh Bunham
"Do you come with the car?" I once got really drunk and broke into my girlfriend’s bedroom to tell her I loved her, made her watch Mr Plow with me and then fell asleep on her kitchen table table. That’s how great this episode is. That’s how quotable this episode is. I thought that if I didn’t get my girlfriend to watch it at that moment then we might spend the rest of our lives slightly out of sync, with her never quite knowing why I was telling people I had been at a pornography store, buying pornography. I would argue that Mr Plow is possibly the most quotable episode of The Simpsons ever. I know a lot of people would argue with me but….witch-ah. Yes, I do expect you to agree with me because I made a stupid noise. Homer and Barney find themselves pitted against each other in a lot of other episodes, but there are very few where they prove how much they care for each other as friends. Guest spots from Adam West and Linda Ronstadt (who she is I’m still not really sure but, Senor Plow no es macho…) are among some of the best executed in the history of the show and top off what is simply a perfect episode from a perfect season of a perfect show.
Lisa’s First Word (Season 4, Episode 10)
chosen by Liam Whear
The Simpsons is a show without continuity, yet still one that involves you emotionally. Maybe it’s the sheer power it’s held over pop culture since its 1989 debut, making these characters unescapable. Or maybe it’s the sheer quality in the show’s writing during its peak. “Lisa’s First Word” is a shining beacon of this. It’s also hilarious. What works best about “Lisa’s First Word” is it creates a great snapshot of 1983 America, struggling in the grip Reagan bought down on it, as young families have to adapt to survive. Marge and Homer nearly have the chance to own their dream house crushed because of monetary woes, until Grandpa Simpson comes through in a heartwarming scene. The Soviet boycott of the Summer Olympics puts Krustyburger into bankruptcy. Cyndi Lauper is topping charts. The world seems to be on the edge of something but it doesn’t know what. In between all this confusion, Homer and Marge somehow find the time to bring Lisa into the world. Straight from Marge’s announcement of her pregnancy, scriptwriter Jeff Martin places the emphasis straight on Bart. His prankster side becomes a lot bitterer, screenwriter Jeff Martin capturing how it must feel for a baby boy to be shoved from the spotlight. It becomes almost emotionally draining to see him being ignored by Patty and Selma, and to see him taking his jealousy out on here. But it’s ultimately rewarding in the payoff, when Lisa’s first word is ‘Bart’, setting up the close yet feisty relationship Bart and Lisa develop throughout the entire show. The emotional dynamics explored in “Lisa’s First Word” have certainly been touched on an infinite amount of times before, and an infinite amount of times after. But “Lisa’s First Word” simply does it the best, and in a mere 20-minute episode that doesn’t sacrifice humour for sentimentality. And of course, there’s that perfect bittersweet ending. You know what I’m talking about.
Marge Vs The Monorail (Season 4, Episode 12)
chosen by Joe Murphy
There really is nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified six-car monorail. There may be more important episodes of The Simpsons, more inventive or possibly even funnier ones, but few condense everything brilliant about the show into a single package as neatly as “Marge vs. The Monorail”. Every line is perfect, every visual gag inspired, and it is as good an episode as any in the fourth season to mark the point at which The Simpsons embraced a new level of weirdness and never looked back. Above all else it offers a quite literally show-stealing turn from Phil Hartman, the greatest guest voice-actor the show ever had (Can it really be a coincidence that the golden age of The Simpsons ended around the same time that Hartman died?). The people of Springfield banding together in an act of mass idiocy was a theme the show had used before, and would continue to use to great effect for years to come, but here it reaches its peak, proving beyond doubt that a song, a dance and a sly suggestion of Shelbyville’s superiority are all it takes to whip Springfield into a frenzy. So, all together, sing it with me now: “Monorail, monorail…”
Last Exit To Springfield (Season 4, Episode 17)
chosen by Chris Taylor
"Last Exit to Springfield" is one of those episodes that even the writers look back on fondly and go, “Yep, we definitely did a lot of things right here”. For a very long time, this was the perfect example of The Simpsons’ mix of highbrow and low brow humour - often within the same jokes – at least until John Swartzwelder’s phenomenal run of episodes from 1995 to 1997. Focusing on the politics of the Springfield Power Plant and Homer’s employer Mr Burns, it sees Homer becoming head of the union to fight Burns’ plans to revoke their dental plan (“Dental plan! Lisa needs braces!”) It all sounds rather routine for an episode of The Simpsons but, in that half hour, the show manages to pile in as many jokes, references and parodies as they possibly can until the whole thing feels like its fit to burst. Moby Dick and “Classical Gas” bumps up against The Beatles and Batman, with a nice stop-over into Homer’s image of the world of crime a la The Godfather II. Even with so many jokes, it doesn’t feel too heavy handed and the traditional Simpsons heart still beats within. It’s hilarious, it’s heartwarming, it’s quintessential Simpsons. In its tidy half an hour length, it manages to boil down the very essence of what makes The Simpsons so great, creating something of a microcosm of the show as a whole. Pretty much the perfect starting point for anyone not yet acquainted with The Simpsons.
Bart Of Darkness (Season 6, Episode 1)
chosen by Joe O’Brien
’Twas an understandably difficult and virtually impossible task to pick a favourite episode of The Simpsons. Of the 500-odd episodes the show has produced, I adore at least 200 of them, and picking an all-time favourite is beyond my decision-making skills. “Bart Of Darkness” though, is an episode that always stood out for me. Season 6 is quite possibly the season I’ve watched more than any other and this season/DVD opener is one of the cleverest, most memorable and most quotable of the bunch. If you’re reading this, you are probably a massive Simpsons fan yourself and so describing the plot of the episode would be pointless. To keep it short; it’s the one where Bart breaks his leg and The Simpsons get a swimming pool. Although it’s terribly obvious to me now as an educated film fan, there must have been at least a dozen times where I’ve watched this episode and not known that it was largely a parody of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. As if my appreciation for the episode wasn’t great enough, discovering this fact a few years ago certainly gave me a whole new level on which to enjoy it. In fact, it’s only been in the last five or six years that I have started to notice just how many references The Simpsons cram into every episode. It’s quite remarkable, and for a pop culture guy like me, it’s an absolute treat. All that aside though, what truly makes “Bart Of Darkness” a classic is the comedy. To me, some of the show’s most unforgettably hilarious moments can be found in this episode, from “trashcan or no trashcan!” to “Shut up, brain! I got friends now, I don’t need you anymore.” to “’Tis a fine barn, but sure ‘tis no pool, English” to “Oh, I see! Then I guess everything’s wrapped up in a neat little package!” to “Take your best shot! I’m wearing seventeen layers!”, “Bart of Darkness” is relentless when it comes to delivering the funnies, and let’s not forget the infamous creation that is “Milpool”.
And Maggie Makes Three (Season 6, Episode 13)
chosen by Lewi Hudson-James
A reoccurring theme throughout The Simpsons seems to be Homer’s carefree, almost dumbfounded attitude towards his job, his family and life in general, and although there are episodes where he shows his feelings and an emotional side, this is normally left to the female characters or the more sensitive males, such as Millhouse or Ned Flanders. However, in Maggie Makes Three, I was literally bought to tears at how the writers approached the theme of the episode, and the sweetness, genuineness and sentiment of Homer’s actions. After paying off all of his debts, Homer is finally able to go for his dream job at the Springfield Bowling alley. But, when Marge becomes pregnant for the third time (with Maggie), Homer has to quit the job he had been wanting for so long as the wages he earns there aren’t enough to support his growing family and their needs. He asks Mr Burns for his old job back at the power plant, and at his work station are the words on a plaque which read “Don’t Forget, You’re Here Forever”, which Homer partially blots out with photographs of Maggie – both on her own and with him, leaving the sentence “Do It For Her”. The both heart-warming and heartbreaking actions of Homer, acting as a third time father and showing his deep down caring side, and sacrificing a large part of his financial and personal happiness, really resonated with me, and clearly affected millions of other viewers too, as this episode was the fourth most viewed Simpsons show the week it aired on Fox in January 1995.
A Fish Called Selma (Season 7, Episode 19)
chosen by Sean Lewis
I’m not a big believer in black and white thinking, but one of the few things I am adamant on is that Planet of the Apes: The Musical is the funniest three minutes to ever be broadcast on television. I love the name. I love the concept. I love legitimate theatre. I really just want to shake the hand of the writer who thought of the idea of replacing the words to “Rock Me Amadeus” with “Dr. Zaius, Dr. Zaius”. The fact that I still get that song stuck in my head at completely random times is a testament to how great that whole bit is. The other moment that cements this episode as my favourite is the perfectly paced scene where Homer and Troy McClure are drinking on the night before Troy’s wedding, and Troy admits that he’s only marrying Selma as a publicity stunt. The classic Simpsons “suspense” noise plays. It then cuts to the wedding day. The camera slowly pans across to Homer. It focuses in on his head, and we hear him thinking… the riff to “Rock ‘N’ Roll Part 2” by Gary Glitter. I literally have no idea what is said in the next scene, because I’m always laughing too hard by that point.
El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (Season 8, Episode 9)
chosen by Joe Armstrong
The brilliance of “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer” is the way it balances relatable issues with its surreal storyline, offering the best of both worlds. In an entertaining tale about Homer going on a vision quest, the episode still manages to address everyday problems such as loneliness, relationship complacency and alcoholism. Much of the episode takes place at Springfield’s annual chilli cook-off. Chief Wiggum’s been trying to cook up a batch that can singe Homer’s legendary fireproof stomach, and, thanks to the help of some Guatemalan insanity peppers, it looks like he’s succeeded. That is, until Homer coats his mouth with molten candle wax to avoid the chillies burning his mouth. Then things start to get weird. Eating the psychotropic peppers causes Homer to trip balls (I think that’s the technical term). This part of the episode contains some of the finest visuals and animation the show has ever produced. Homer’s body takes on a strange fluidity, swirling and splashing as though he’s made of liquid. Stars and planets coalesce in the sky to reveal the grinning face of a coyote, his spirit guide (voiced by Johnny Cash). The coyote’s message to Homer is to find his soulmate, a journey that leads him to a lighthouse and finally to a greater appreciation of Marge. This episode’s one to savour for years to come.
The Springfield Files (Season 8, Episode 10)
chosen by David Scott
If you were to ask me what is one of my most vivid childhood memories, it wouldn’t be a family holiday, or maybe my first kiss. It would be the words, high pitched and creepily sing-song, "I bring you looooove", spoken by a drugged out, glowing (and genuinely kind of creepy) Mr Burns. ”The Springfield Files” has stuck with me in a way few episodes of television have. Sure, the episode is home to some truly iconic jokes that are hard to forget, from Homer’s horror at a billboard proclaiming him to DIE (or something far worse), his hypnotic ‘lava-lamp’ jiggling or Abe’s battle with a toothy tortoise. But there’s a mad genius to every scene, whether it’s beautiful little details - The X-Files' iconic Cigarette Smoking Man lurking during Homer's explosive lie detector, the “most illegal shot” of the show’s history exploding the episode’s sci-fi references in just a few seconds, or Homer’s camping equipment, all tagged with “property of Ned Flanders”- or some truly bizarre and stupid jokes, like Leonard Nimoy’s utterly ridiculous introduction - "and by true, I mean false" - Moe’s hidden orca or “The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down”, that I just cannot help but adore. Like Urkel! To me, “The Springfield Files” is quintessential Simpsons. Jokes fire at rapid pace, brimming with genius and joyous stupidity at every turn. Scene after scene chock full of the kind of pop cultural markers that Simpsons nerds adore and iconic visual gags that are still passed around in photosets and gifs to this day, and it is just an incredibly fun and entertaining watch. Plus, it’s hard to ignore Fox Mulder resplendent in a speedo on his FBI Badge. Stupid sexy Mulder.
Expletive Supercut of the day: When it comes to cursing in sitcoms, very few come close to It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (arguably The Gang are neck and neck with the South Park kids for foulest-mouthed characters on TV). But oddly enough, their go-to swear is one of the tamest possible, and probably barely even raises an eyebrow for most people; “goddamn it”. In fact, it’s used so often by Charlie, Dee, Dennis, Frank and Mac that one presumably extremely patient fan has compiled every utterance of the phrase in the show’s entire run to date in one handy six and a half minute video, which is remarkable when you consider it takes one second to say, at most. Goddamn it, we want Season Ten as soon as possible.
Instagram Portraits of the day: Who knew all it took to class up MTV’s VMAs after last year’s Thicke/Cyrus twerking kerfuffle was hiring photographer Amanda de Cadenet to snap some rather slick backstage portraits (with requisite IG filters).
Next year Doctor Who will have been back on our screens for a decade. How difficult it is now to remember a time before 2005, when the resurrection of the BBC’s dust-gathering time travel franchise must have seemed as unwise as it was unlikely. Fast forward to 2014 and it seems equally as inconceivable that a new series of Doctor Who could be anything other than a major television event. Doctor Who has risen from one of television’s museum exhibits to one of its flagship productions.
It has also been, at least in recent years, a flagship where mutinous murmurs of dissent have abounded. Showrunner Steven Moffat has claimed that he based the revamped clockwork-based opening title sequence on a fan-made version he found online. If he was indeed venturing into the world of Doctor Who's online fandom, he could hardly have failed to notice the scathing criticism of his own performance as showrunner. Common targets of backlash include his tendency for incomprehensible plotting, the Doctor's increasingly unlikeable messianic streak and the shivery vein of barely concealed misogyny that had crept into the writing. Series opener “Deep Breath” arrived with two unenviable tasks: introduce a new Doctor in the form of The Thick of It's Peter Capaldi, and reassure fans of the direction being taken by the entire show.
For a tense half an hour, it seemed as if “Deep Breath” might succeed in neither goal. Where previous episodes tasked with selling us a new Doctor have felt the need to be a major event, this was a lower-key first outing: a steam-punk penny dreadful that ended not with a grandstanding finale, but with a much more sedate and contemplative confrontation between the Doctor and his foe. The production design and cinematography were more gorgeous than they ever have been, and it was all solidly orchestrated by rising star of British horror Ben Wheatley (director of cult classic like Kill List, A Field In England, and Sightseers), but there seemed on first glance to be something lacking. It wasn’t until nearly halfway through, when Capaldi was discussing his new appearance with one of Victorian London’s homeless poor that the brilliance of this more unassuming approach came into focus. Moffat had simultaneously rectified two fan complaints by avoiding his tendency to get lost in his own narrative acrobatics, and by allowing some space to establish a new character for the Doctor and a new direction for the show. “I’ve made many mistakes,” declared Capaldi’s Doctor, and in his regret it was hard not to hear the closest we’ll ever come to Moffat offering an apology for the derailment of the show that occurred on his watch.
Arguably the single biggest beneficiary of Moffat’s change of gear was Jenna Coleman, an extremely talented actor who until this point had been struggling in vain to save a character so staggeringly ill-defined and two dimensional it was a wonder she never simply vanished from existence. Here, for the first time, Coleman’s Clara seemed to coalesce into an actual character capable of expressing actual emotions and thinking actual thoughts. “Deep Breath” certainly had the least dubious gender politics of any episode in quite a long while, even going as far as acknowledging previous misguided attempts at creating sexual tension between the Doctor and his companions. If the rumours of Clara’s departure at Christmas are true, it will be sad to see Coleman leave the show just as it has figured out what to do with her.
Which is not to say that the episode didn’t give hope for the future: in so many ways “Deep Breath” belonged to Capaldi. It hardly seems necessary to state at this stage in his career that he is a brilliant actor, but it was thrilling to see him take less than an hour to escape the formidable, sweary shadow of Malcolm Tucker and cement himself as a genuinely iconic figure. After too many years of cheeky, handsome young men with floppy hair, here was a darker, more fire-and-brimstone Doctor who ends the episode on a note of chilling moral ambiguity. This is not to say that Capaldi cannot be charming and witty, as he patently can. But he has succeeded in doing something that nobody has been able to do in years, perhaps even decades: he has made the Doctor an enigma again. It is this enigma that will hopefully now become the driving force of the show, as the Twelfth Doctor sets out on his own distinct path. I don’t know where this path is likely to lead, but I do know that for the first time in years, I’ll gladly be watching.
Posters: Simpsons World: If you’re someone who already has every Simpsons episode hardwired into your mind and soul, but hasn’t had the time, inclination or means to download them to your computer via less-than-legal avenues, then the announcement of FXX’s Simpsons World was probably like manna from yellow-skinned, four fingered heaven to you. The service, which allows us Springfield obsessives to stream episodes, create playlists, share and search for specific clips, and even follow along with the original script, launches in October, after a 552 episode - the show’s entire run to date - marathon, 24 hours a day, seven days a week from August 21st to September 1st. These posters, designed by Cold Open, Arsonal and Gravillis Inc, to promote the launch are utterly sublime, and there are sure to be more than a few fans clamouring to have these hanging on their walls.
Excellent T-Shirt of the day: Most pop culture mash-up t-shirts end up being kind of lazy or obvious - shoehorning references to Adventure Time or Doctor Who into the iconography of some other beloved nerd property - but this Joy Division x Star Trek: The Next Generation's Worf is truly inspired. Alas, thanks to Threadless' mechanics, it's unlikely to ever be up for sale, but I'm sure the internet can find a way to remedy that.
Most fans, including myself will agree that 24 should have ended sometime around May 2006, at the end of it’s stellar fifth season. The show was at an all-time high and delivered an exhillarating 24 episodes of high-octane, suspenseful action, choked to the fullest with twists, turns and deaths aplenty. Since that fifth season, the show has never really managed to recapture the same energy it had in this season, or the four preceding it, and it unfortunately went out with more of a whimper than a bang. When I had heard that they were bringing the show back for a one-off season, I was skeptical. The nail was already in the coffin and I don’t think any of us thought Live Another Day would feel like the good old days, but surprisingly, it turned out to be pretty awesome and without a shadow of a doubt a lot stronger than the show’s final three seasons. Thank the Lord, Jack really is back this time!
One of the smartest decisions made by the production team and FOX was to make Live Another Day just limited series of 12 episodes and brand it as a “ television special event”. With this considerably shortened season length, the show became immediately that much more enticing. For fans and newbies alike, it meant less of a commitment and more importantly, it made for a tighter story. With just 12 hours on the clock for Jack and co, it meant that there was a greater urgency to the season, and the episodes flew at a terrific pace with hardly a dull moment throughout.
The season takes place four years after Season 8. James Heller (Senator from Season 4) is now President of the United States and is negotiating a treaty with the British Prime Minister (played by the ever-brilliant Stephen Fry) in London. One of the freshest things about Live Another Day is the London setting. Although they certainly could have hired a few more genuinely British actors for the season, it still feels like a nice change of scenery from the LA/NY central seasons of the past. Our hero Jack Bauer is on the run and turns up to London to warn the President of a threat on his life. Fan favourite Chloe O’Brian is part of a hacker collective also situated in London and Jack enlists her help as always with s**t hits the fan.
As with most 24 seasons, there are two main arcs. The first is about Margot Al-Harazi and her family of terrorists who have gained control of six US drones and intends to attack London in order to seek revenge for her husband’s death. This is where it becomes personal for President Heller (doesn’t it always for Presidents in 24?), because Margot blames him for the death and so she wants to assassinate him personally. It’s an exciting arc for sure, and Game of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley is particularly excellent as the cold-blooded Margot. Jack, with the help of Chloe, Heller’s daughter and Jack’s former lover, Audrey Raines, and CIA agent Kate Morgan, manages to save the President’s life and catch the terrorists, like he always does. What 24 always does so brilliantly is create more danger and more villains right where we think the day is saved, and that’s what happens here, too. As it turns out, there was a mole in the CIA (perhaps 24’s biggest cliche) and indeed Chloe’s partner (both hacking and seemingly romantic) has more or less been working for the bad guys too; even if he didn’t know it. A familiar face pops up in the final third of the season, Cheng Zhi and stirs up plenty of shit for Jack to deal with, kidnapping poor Audrey and maliciously bringing China and and the US to the brink of war.
The Al-Harazi plot feels like nothing compared to the scope of danger that is created when Zhi hits the scene. In the history of the show, there has been some ridiculously high stakes, but this one definitely deserves it’s place up there with the highest. For Jack, stopping Zhi is not only for the good of his country, but it’s also very, very personal. Zhi had both Jack and Audrey captured and tortured years before, and for Jack, revenge is the only thing on his mind. In the season’s saddest and maybe even most shocking turn of events, Audrey is killed at the hands of Zhi’s henchmen and when Jack hears word of this, he goes into all-out commando mode. The finale is one of the best we’ve seen on 24, and the action in the second half of the episode is utterly exhilarating. It’s great to see Jack doing what he does best; kick ass, and he really does it in style. The technicality of these action scenes must be commended too. Again, it’s up there with the best action the show has ever produced. As expected, Jack finally captured Zhi, and after ensuring that the country is safe, he slices his head off with a sword. Badass. In one final twist (literally in the last five minutes of the episode), Chloe has been captured by the Russians, and Jack makes a trade with them; her life for his. It’s a brave, unselfish move by Jack, and we’ve come to expect nothing less than him. Now that Audrey is dead, Chloe really might be the only friend he has left, and as he flies off in that helicopter with the Russians, we wonder if we’ll ever hear from him again. If this really is it for Bauer, at least it’s good to see him go out on a high note.
Despite a rocky enough start in the first couple of episodes, Live Another Day quickly found it’s footing, and with a lot of help from fan favourites (O’Brian, Audrey, Heller) and some genuinely great additions to the cast (Kate Morgan) it turned out to be a lot better than most of us had expected. The emotion, action and suspense were all there and despite some predictable plot twists (the mole), there were enough surprises and new ideas to make it feel fresh. Jack Bauer has survived another day, and I for one, am very grateful for that.
Video: Game Of Thrones’ new cast members: Thanks to ComicCon currently whipping up a frenzy in San Diego, we’re getting a wealth of news and material from the biggest shows and film franchises around, and even though it’s barely been ten minutes since the fourth season of Game Of Thrones ended, but already the hype machine trundles on for the next eagerly-awaited instalment. HBO have given us a look at the new additions to the world of Westeros, with most having real names which seem like they could very well come from the mind of George R.R. Martin. The new cast members include:
- Alexander Sellig (who looks remarkably like Community’s Danny Pudi in ten or twenty years) playing the Prince Of Dorne Doran Martell.
- Toby Sebastian (clearly the show’s new aggravatingly handsome heartthrob) playing Trystane Martell.
- Nell Tiger Free playing the oft-recast role of Cersei’s daughter Myrcella Baratheon.
- DeObia Oparei playing Areo Hotah, a guard of Doran’s who married his axe. Yes, really.
- Enzo Cilenti playing Yezzan, the richest man in Yunkai.
- Jessica Henwick plays Nymeria Sand, one of Oberyn Martells’s bastard daughters and one of the infamous Sand Snakes.
- Rosabell Laurenti Sellers plays Tyene Sand, another of Oberyn’s bastard daughters and a Sand Snake.
- Keisha Castle-Hughes plays Obara Sand, another of Oberyn’s bastard daughters and Sand Snake (fun fact: Castle-Hughes was nominated for an Academy Award in 2003 for Whale Rider).
- Jonathan Pryce plays The High Sparrow, who, if fan theories are found to come true, will be a very important player indeed.
In slightly disappointing news, it’s also been revealed that none of the major directors to work on Game Of Thrones over the past four seasons - Tim Van Patten, Neil Marshall, Michelle McClaren, Alex Graves, Alan Taylor - will be returning to helm these new episodes. The fifth season of Game Of Thrones is set to start airing in spring 2015
In the opening minutes of the new season of Channel 4’s Utopia, Rose Leslie’s Milner balances on one foot over a drop into the guest in a lavish mansion party. For those familiar with the show, it will hardly come as a surprise - the superb first season of Utopia continually did this; knife-edge tension during moments of extreme calm and beauty. The show’s return for a previously uncertain second season began in wholly unfamiliar territory. Through a 4:3 aspect ratio and ’70s TV filter, we see the early origins of the Utopia story, a young Jessica Hyde, and a young Arby, as more of the show’s clandestine villains are exposed and their motivations explained.
Philip Carvel, the writer of the fabled Utopiamanuscript from the first season, is played superbly with a Kubrickian tint by Tom Burke, not only in appearance but in character traits, which only lends itself to the retro interiors and sets. There’s a distinctly familiar feeling to the opening episode, as we watch the bittersweet and uneasy, but relatively undisturbed lives of Milner and Carvel before the events of the first series, scored impeccably by Cristobal Tapia De Veer who uses childlike theremins and choirs in equally effective measure. Rose Leslie as a young Milner is brilliant, a zealot for her cause whose descent (or ascent) into the character we know is brilliantly spelled out. It’s once again, pretty tough going, but honestly, with Utopia, it’s hard to have it any other way.
The second episode brings us crashing back to present day, catching us up to Jessica Hyde (Fiona O’Shaughnessy who is as enigmatic and venomous as ever. In a mirror to the pilot, Ian ( Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) is once again stuck in his office job, though his growth since the pilot is immediately apparent, as is Arby’s, who now plays happy families with his girlfriend and her daughter, and insists on being called by his birth name of Pietre. Old characters are dripped into the plot, which doesn’t quite shift into top gear immediately. Parallels can be drawn with the pilot over and over again, as hints of danger and unrest boil below the surface. It’s perhaps for the best, as new viewers of the show are able to watch without feeling overwhelmed with the pace and it benefits from having a slow, anxious buildup to the darker events of the episode. It’s still light-hearted, too, with Grant (Oliver Wooliford) and Ian clashing early in the episode as they’re reunited.
The show is still stunningly shot, with a plethora of superb sets and moments of cinematic style that make this show stand out above the rest of British television. There’s no disparity of quality between Utopia and American hit shows, with the exception of the upper strata of television, and like those hit shows, sometimes Utopia is victim of tedious dialogue and writing with patronising plot exposition that was present in the first season rearing its ugly head from time to time.
Promising start for the second season of a show which may have ended abruptly enough to never have a second season. Thankfully it’s back and hopefully can cement itself, much like the graphic novel in the show, as a cult classic.