HBO Roundup, April 24th

Ah, a new season of great television is upon us. Last Week Tonight and John Oliver continue to provide us with the best commentary on news since Jon Stewart and 'Stephen Colbert' abandoned us. And new seasons of Game of Thrones and Veep kicked off! My thoughts on the episodes that aired this past Sunday.

Last Week Tonight. First, I routinely checked the show's website in preparation for my NYC visit. I was supremely disappointed to discover the show is off the Sunday I will be in town. Wish I could have seen the show live! Anyway, this episode was, typically, perfect. This week, John Oliver covered Saudi Arabia, Norway, and Obama's latest trip to the UK. His take down of the London mayor and the questionable camera work in Saudi Arabia notwithstanding, the best part was just Prince George in his bathrobe, greeting President Obama. Finally, for his full length segment, which has been excellent in the past and totally destroyed all of Trump's claims, he looks at the debt crisis currently ongoing in Puerto Rico. Basically: wow, we've really screwed them over! At one point, the current governor of the territory says: it's not politics, it's math. You know it's bad when they're just naming basic school subjects. But then Oliver brings out everyone's favorite Puerto Rican (accompanied by his favorite Cuban) and there's a rap about the island that is perfect and I'm not crying, you're crying. Here is a video of it; the music starts around 19:00. Last Week Tonight continues to be an excellent show that brings talent and entertainment together to educate people and effect real change. Keep it up, basically.

Game of Thrones. And now we leave real-world drama for the craziness that is Westeros. Good news: no one gets raped this episode; it's just threatened a lot. We start off with what has to be the longest 'previously on' in the show's history. The introduction continues to seriously impress me. It's just so excellent, setting up the world we're in and also just looking great. And then we come in to Jon Snow, on the ground. And the boy is DEAD. Look, let's be real: don't take too long to bring him back, show runners. Sure, pretend he's dead for an episode or two, but then just put us all out of our misery and bring the dude back. I don't care how interesting his blood stains are. You're one of the most popular shows in the world right now. You don't need to play with this. Melisandre shows up and worries about her vision - she saw him fighting in Winterfell! Calm down, Melisandre. He's not permanently dead, obviously, and you can probably help out with that. In general, people at the Wall seemed way too chill with their Commander being murdered. But this is just life in the seven kingdoms this time of year.

And then we switch to Ramsay. He gets a moment of empathy and humannness before he devolves into being a piece of shit again. Good. We really have enough villains we are struggling to remember why we ever hated (Jaime Lannister!), we didn't need a modicum of empathy for this asshat. Next, we switch to the most recent escapees of Winterfell, Sansa and Theon. The show skips over their miraculous jump out of Winterfell last season (not even a broken leg?). They're in the woods outside the castle and shit is getting real. Luckily, Brienne finally gets to save a Stark girl! And the Stark girl is finally smart enough (or desperate enough) to take her up on her offer. Brienne destroys the Ramsay henchmen and Pod saves the day. Everyone wins - Theon even gets to kill a guy! Honestly though, it's nice to see Brienne get somewhere and for Sansa to have honest help and not someone with a dozen hidden interests.

Then we move on to King's Landing and shit continues to get real. Cersei is so happy to see Myrcella, literally jumping in anticipation, only to discover she's died on the way over. Lena is so good here as she talks about Myrcella, who was good, so sweet. It's an interesting discussion. How could someone like that have come from Cersei? Where did she come from?

Margaerey is still in jail, blah blah blah. Natalie Dormer is great but I just have no stake in her storyI will say, this is definitely an improvement over the books. The way she ends up in jail in the books is so messy; what the show did was cleaner. It doesn't mean I care about her more, just neater from a plot point of view.

And, now, for last season's worst bits: Dorne! Within a couple of scenes, everyone in Dorne is dead; is this better or worse than last year? The scenes had a few good bits as women claimed that 'weak men will never rule Dorne again' and the Sand Snakes call each other 'greedy bitches' None of it is groundbreaking but it's better than anything we had last year with these characters.

Over at Mereen, Varys and Tyrion continue to provide our comedic relief as Tyrion struggles with the language, offering to eat a woman's baby, and pokes fun at Varys's lack of genitals. But they realize their ride back to Westeros is in flames, literally. Since we are really running out of episodes, I wonder what the end game is. Shouldn't we be converging plot lines at this point? Get people back to Westeros, please. Now on to Jorah and Daario, not the most inspired coupling GoT has provided (that is between Brienne and Jaime and The Hound and Arya, obviously). I guess Jorah's impending death, as shown by his grey scale development, is interesting? Honestly though, how did he find her ring? At least pretend some type of animal (Drogon!) was involved. Next, we're back to Dany herself. How far the Khaleesi has fallen. She introduces herself with a continually impressive set of titles. Hey, at least it gets her out of rape! But now she's stuck in Khaleesi widow camp.

And again, our penultimate check in. Side note: this show has way too many characters and sets and stories. I think each set got a scene today? Pick the best and move forward, show runners. Start bringing people together. Five minutes an episode does not an interesting plot make. Anyway, it's Arya this week. She's still blind, but now she has the added benefit of being beaten up by the Waif. The Stark kids continue to never catch a break. Remember your lessons, Arya: be a water dancer! Real talk: I figure it will be some combination of Jon Snow and Dany T. on the Iron Throne at the end of it all, but all I really want moving forward is a few of the Stark kids to reconnect. I don't care if it's Tree!Bran and Rickon or Sansa and Arya, I just want them to find each other again. But anyway! Not today, not today, Stark Kiddos.

Back at the Wall, Davos causes some drama, which leads us to the episode's big reveal and title: Melisandre and her true form. It's very well done and honestly comes out of nowhere. I wonder if the show runners always knew her true form or if George R.R. Martin sprang it on them during season six preparations. Melisandre just got ten times more interesting.

Overall, this was a fine episode. It seemed to primarily serve to set up future episodes. My biggest complaint though: start bringing shit together. I was excited last year when Tyrion and Dany finally connected two convergent story lines, only for that to last for five minutes. As it is, the series could use for a heavy editing hand. Also, don't dilly-dally too long in bringing Jon Snow back... Can't wait for the Tower of Joy episodes, etc.

And now for our final series: Veep! This show is just so much fun. For political series, you have The West Wing. This is smart but also hopeful and positive and optimistic and other good words. Then there's House of Cards, which is what TWW would be if Aaron Sorkin thought the worst of people, especially those interested in public office. Veep is basically if House of Cards was funny instead of dramatic. Everyone is an asshole, everyone is out for his or her own best interest. Everyone is incompetent and way over their heads. It's oddly assuring. If this asshat can be president, I can manage to get through the week at least. Finally, we need a series like this, either to add levity to the current political clusterfuck under way or to remind us that it could be worse. I'm leaning towards the former, since it's unlikely the real thing can be mocked this year. Basically: the election process in this country is a joke few understand; a handful of states, or a single state, end up way too powerful. And recounts for everyone!