Inside Amy Schumer
It’s been a banner year for “Comedy Central”: the premieres of “Broad City” and “Review,” the return of “Key and Peele,” and an increasingly confident second season of “Inside Amy Schumer.” In the latter, Schumer offered a twisted take on gender norms and sexual politics that was as funny as it was feminist. But the best sketch of the season, “A Very Realistic Video Game,” left me staring at the screen, too shocked to laugh. Schumer tries to play her boyfriend’s first-person shooter game, and a straightforward joke about sexist video games turns into a grim (and hilarious) indictment of the military’s treatment of rape victims. It’s dark humor at its finest.
I wrote a harsh review of “Silicon Valley”’s first season, calling it sour and retrograde, and I stand by that. But even I could appreciate the season finale’s tour de force, a long scene of the young techies figuring out the algorithm they need via a whiteboard, equations, and a lot of dicks. (Sadly, HBO hasn't made it available online.) The deadpan discussion of “shaft ratio,” “mean jerk rate,” and “optimal tip-to-tip efficiency” lampooned the casual misogyny and gay panic that the earlier episodes had bought into. If the show is going to be all dick jokes, let them all be this layered.
Game of Thrones
For all the special effects and elaborate battles, “Game of Thrones”’s real hallmark is the medieval power-play: long scenes of characters battling wits and asserting dominance. No one is better at this particular kind of match than than Cersei Lannister, who was for the most part ill-served by the fourth season, her character development mostly forgotten after the rape that launched a thousand think-pieces. But the fifth episode showed Cersei at her most human and jaded. Lena Headey’s delivery here is steely and resigned as she tells a rival king the truth: “Everywhere in the world, they hurt little girls.” In the months since, that line has been impossible for me to forget.
Don Draper and Peggy Olsen slow-dancing to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” sounds like an idea Matthew Weiner might come up with after a few vodka gimlets, before discarding the next morning. But when the two characters finally reconciled in the half-season’s penultimate episode, the moment was tender and honest, bathed in ambivalent nostalgia for earlier seasons and earlier eras. Here was Don Draper at his most, well, relatable. (“What do you have to worry about?” “That I never did anything, and that I don’t have anyone.”) For once, Weiner gave the audience exactly what we wanted, and it was perfect.
It’s hard to pick a standout moment from “Transparent”—the ten episodes of Jill Solloway’s comedy-drama hybrid feel too magical, like a perfect gem. In the eighth episode, Mort (Jeffrey Tambor) visits a camp for transvestites and dances with the wife of one of the other attendee’s. Mort is giddy and unencumbered as he gets his first taste of a life as his true self. But we also see what his journey may have cost his children, as a 13-year-old Ali roughhouses with a much older guy on a beach. When a grown-up Ali appears onscreen, it’s one of the show’s only forays into magical realism, but it never feels out of place in the intoxicating, scary, dreamlike scene.