Panda's Best of 2012

2012 was an odd one. Quite a bit happened in TV land, yet not a lot at all in some ways. We saw a heap of shows really hitting the ground running and churning out some seriously great material (see Once Upon a Time, and The Vampire Diaries' third season), the birth of some promising newbies (Arrow), the death of potentially amazing ones (The Secret Circle :( ) and some shows have run themselves into the ground entirely. Some things didn’t change at all, though, like Ringer’s sucky second half and the Walking Dead’s proclivity for the disgusting and gory. I guess all this is pretty standard every calendar year in television. So, here are my thoughts on 2012, and what 2013 needs to bring.

Last year I made my own best of that ran through the best TV moments of the year. I had a lot more time back then, so maybe this year I'll keep it simple.

The Vampire Diaries
There was a moment during season 3’s final arc when I kind of wondered if the Vampire Diaries is all that well written. I mean, things seem to fly at us, never really settling for too long (The Originals’ blood link), others gestate for an excruciatingly long time (Klaus), characters tend to cross that all too blurry line between colourful and over-zealous and it all got me thinking; what is it that makes me love it so much? Then the final 3 episodes happened and it came to me; the show has balls.

I think back on that clique ridden tripe that we were subjected to when this show started out and it’s difficult to say how it could have grown into something as complex and crazy as it is now. Season 4 is similar enough to last year, albeit slightly less exciting and a lot more personal, but it’s still the boldest network show around, especially considering its teen heavy fan base. I’m not sure if next year is going to be as great as this past one has been, but the show still throws caution to the wind, and that’s something to be commended.

Best Episode: The Departed
Best Character: Caroline
Best Moment: Alaric dies in Damon’s arms (sob sob sob) (The Departed)

The Walking Dead
Let’s face it; season 2 was a hot ass mess. Those first 7 episodes all bleed into one monotonous, farmy moan-fest. When February came around I wasn’t even sure I was gonna come back, even considering how strong that barn scene that closed 2011 was, but the second half really surprised me. It’s like all the writers’ inhibitions were thrown away, and we saw the show start to grow into its own skin. It still had a few growing pains, and it was far from perfect, but for the first time I saw the kind of story that was trying to be told.

Season 3 was the best possible example of a lesson learned. Every episode was tightly constructed; the filler stuff never anything more that it needed it to be; those character driven moments always resulting in something concrete; and the less important characters never straying too far into the spotlight. The time on the farm seems like a cake walk compared to the hell that these guys are going through now, but it all seems like the right direction to take this show in. It’s always been about what humans are all about deep down, when you take away the comfort and power. It’s raw, brutal and unbelievably engaging.

Best Episode: The Killer Within
Best Character: Maggie
Best Moment: Rick realizing that Lori is dead, and his son was the one that had to kill her. Ouch. (The Killer Within)

Ringer
Possibly last year’s most embarrassing creation, Ringer didn’t really see anything new in 2012, other than its inevitable cancellation. Looking back on my own reviews, it’s obvious that I had a lot of hope for it. There was something buried underneath all those fake-outs, lifeless twists and Sarah’s confused facial expressions, but that something never really came full circle.

There were a few glimmers of hope strewn here and there, It’s Called Improvising, Bitch! being the show’s sole example of how great it could be if it adopted the Vampire Diaries’ signature confidence. Then the finale happened and it went back to its, by then, standard inaccuracies and general lameness. I’ll leave you with the same line I wrote last April; Sarah deserved better than this.

Best Episode: It’s called improvising, Bitch!
Best Character: Catherine, if only for the sheer amount of battiness she brought to the series
Best Moment: Bridget finally realizing Siobhan was alive, even if her reaction was a little flat.

Revenge
I always get a sinking feeling watching a show fall apart after a strong opening stretch. Last season Revenge was a really consistent and ambitious soap that always played on the audiences’ expectations in the greatest way. I even enjoyed the trial heavy arc that plagued the first season’s second half, and the finale kinda blew me away. This season I’ve often felt like we’ve been forgotten. How many times do we need to see Daniel do his best Wall Street impression, and is there any way we could just dump this whole initiative thing entirely?

Though part of me loves the mystery, the back-stabbing and the excitement of the show’s central plot, I almost wish we could just drop it all in favour of some softer character based stuff. After all, it’s those rare times when we see Emily break down and show that devastated young girl she once was that we remember what we’re here for.

I’m enjoying this season as a whole, but I just wish we could skip to the good stuff already.

Best Episode: Reckoning
Best Character: Emily/Amanda
Best Moment: Emily hearing first hand her mother’s feelings for her, Kara not knowing she’s talking to the real Amanda Clarke (Penance).

True Blood
True Blood has to be the most schizophrenic show on television. Each season seems to come with so many different problems than the one before it, and with so many shifts in direction each time, but personally I really enjoyed season 4. It was far neater, and a lot more entertaining than season 3, which relied a lot more on shocking the audience through sheer zaniness and less on genuinely great writing and characterization. When season 4 came along it almost felt like Alan Ball understood all these issues and tried to rectify them, even if there were a few dull arcs left over.

Unfortunately, 2012 saw True Blood fall back into the same trap that it fell into pre 2011. Gone was the precise plotting and those understandable character moments. I felt like the show was treading water with the authority’s quest for absolution, not to mention Terry and Arlene dull side-stories. Although, a few plot threads were fun to watch, Tara’s transformation into a vampire made her a genuinely absorbing character, and I even enjoyed seeing Sookie accept her fairy heritage. Sadly, I’m sort of at odds with True Blood right now and with everything still up in the air when the season finished, I’m not sure we can leave all this behind just yet.

Best Episode: Gone, Gone, Gone
Best Character: Pam
Best Moment: Pretty much every Tara and Pam scene. I’m seriously shipping for those two.

Honorable Mentions

Once Upon a Time
No need to talk this show to death here, but as you can tall from my reviews, I really enjoyed most of what we were offered in 2012. Here’s hoping 2013 keeps things going.

The Secret Circle
Again, my feelings are already clear where this show’s concerned. Seriously though, what happened?!

Teen Wolf
Season 2 was a work of art, or at least a work of art where batshit, supernatural teen dramas are concerned. See my reviews for more ranting and raving! Season one reviews coming soon...

Arrow
The one new show I’m really excited about. It’s not there yet, but I’m enjoying it enough that its reservations don’t bother me all that much...at least not right now.

So, yeah, maybe not that simple after all...What about you guys? Was 2012 a good TV year, or was it just so awful that you wanted to cry into your boxsets and smash the hell out of your cable provider? Let me know in the comments and Happy New Year!

4 comments:

celticmarc said...

Wow Panda

Very thorough. Too bad I watch....none of these shows ! LOL

ChrisB said...

Great article, Panda.

Love it or hate it, we all seem to have very strong feelings about this season of The Vampire Diaries!

Roman said...

You really nailed the True Blood post. Most people agree that Pam and Tara were the best, probably only good part of last season. I'm not going to hold my breath, but maybe things can get a little better with Alan Ball out of the picture, since he has the same schizophrenic narrative approach that Ryan Murphy has.

PlatinumRosebud said...

Nice 2012 wrap-up, Panda.

With TVD though, i'm starting not to like it already.
I hope it picks up (at least for me) in the coming eps.
I hate the story line recyclings. :(

Revenge, I like very much.
Especially now that Ems and Aidan are together.

Teen Wolf, looking forward to its return this year.

Arrow, they better give more a**kicking screentime to Kelly Hu.

Happy New Year to you! :)