Ask Matt: To ‘Game of Thrones’’ Villain Should Go the Spoils

Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan/HBO
Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Welcome to the weekly Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist”) Matt Roush, who’ll address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines unless it’s common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter.

Question: Iwan Rheon surely deserves an Emmy nod. His portrayal of Ramsay Bolton was mesmerizing, malevolent and God-awful scary. — Barbara

Matt Roush: Can’t argue with this. With all due respect to Tyrion Lannister—or should I say, the twice-honored (and always nominated) Peter Dinklage—this was not his year. It would be refreshing to see someone like Iwan Rheon acknowledged for creating one of the great villains of recent times. I wish I’d thought of him for my recent list of would-be Emmy contenders. But according to the official Emmy ballot, he’s missing among the nine Throne actors in various categories who have been submitted for nomination. (Whether the lapse is his or the show’s, I don’t know.) Unless there’s a write-in campaign, I’m afraid he’s lost his best chance. Although, oddly, he is submitted among the supporting actors in comedy for his role on PBS’s Vicious. (Where he’s not nearly as vicious as he was as Ramsay.) For the record, here are the Thrones actors submitted for nomination: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie), Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Emilia Clarke (Daenarys), Lena Headey (Cersei), Sophie Turner (Sansa), Carice van Houten (Melisandre), Maisie Williams (Arya) and, in the guest-actor category, Max von Sydow as The Three-Eyed Raven.

Emmys’ Uneven Playing Field?

Question: Do you think it’s fair that network TV shows have to compete with no-holds-barred cable shows like Game of Thrones? I don’t, and think it’s time to bring back the CableAce Awards—which I believe stopped being broadcast way back when because of the lack of quality scripted series on cable at that time. My, how times have changed. —Maurice

Matt Roush: Some historical perspective required here: The CableACE Awards was established by cable’s trade association in 1978 because cable shows weren’t even invited to the Emmy party until 1988. It was disbanded in the late ’90s—not because cable programming wasn’t up to snuff, but because the ACEs were seen as redundant once cable programming raised its game and started winning Emmys. As it stands, there’s no incentive to reboot the CableACE Awards from cable’s point of view. By your argument, maybe the broadcast networks should create their own awards (something beyond People’s Choice) so they can convince themselves their shows are worthy. But that won’t happen. And it shouldn’t. While it may not be entirely fair that shows like Game of Thrones enjoy a greater advantage, producing fewer episodes on a far greater budget and scale than most network series could ever dream, segregating network series from cable would cheapen the process. If network shows want to compete, they need to raise their game: not necessarily by producing epics, but by embracing originality, topicality and taking more risks. It would also be nice to think that if a network show did such a thing (think the best years of The Good Wife), that it would be considered an equal of HBO, Netflix and other shiny new services. That’s where the real inequity lies, in the biases and seemingly narrow viewing habits of Emmy voters. Which will likely be on display once again when the nominations are announced on July 14.

Penny Dreadful

Patti LuPone, the vampire slayer

Thrones and Penny Finales, Part 2

Question: Totally disagree with the recent suggestion that Season 6 of Game of Thrones was a slow-burn meandering buildup to the final two episodes. I thought that overall it was one of the best seasons of all. So much going on. I get the disconnect when characters disappeared for long stretches (Bran, etc.), but there are so many with so many subplots that I was thrilled to go on to the next and wait while David Benioff and Dan Weiss stitched it all together. And the final two episodes were so magnificent—the finale actually leaving me thinking I can wait until Season 7—that anyone who complains is picking some seriously puny nits.

As for the abrupt end of Penny Dreadful: I can see where the show had a lot of space to keep going, but John Logan is a playwright first and foremost, and he had an endgame in mind, and he’s much in demand for feature films. So sometimes you leave the stage with the audience wanting more. – Michael

Matt Roush: I know it’s sacrilege to even breathe a whisper of discontent about Thrones, and I’ve got no issues with the final episodes, which were magnificent enough to make the show a front-runner for a second consecutive Best Drama win. But as an episodic series, too many hours this year were spent with characters spinning their wheels, declaring what they intended to do while we waited, seemingly endlessly, for something to actually happen. It’s a curse of this sort of epic storytelling, and as I noted in last week’s discussion, shorter seasons with more concentrated, focused episodes may remedy that problem. (I wish I held out such hopes for the still-to-come books.) As for Penny Dreadful, I’m more in sync with the next correspondent.

Question: I just read your most recent Ask Matt column, and I hope you’ve watched the Penny Dreadful finale by now. If you have, maybe you can understand why I just don’t buy that this is the way it was planned to end all along. If this is the way it was meant to end, why all the Hound of God talk concerning Ethan when what he did to Vanessa could have been done by anyone—even though she wanted it to be him? Why was Ethan (according to Kaetenay) turned into a werewolf for the specific purpose of saving Vanessa when that had absolutely nothing to do with the ending?

There were so many stories that seemed like they were leading up to something, and then the show abruptly ended with no payoff whatsoever for those stories. It felt like a “let’s just get this over with” type of ending to me. I loved the show and had invested a lot of my time watching it, and was so disappointed at how the characters were treated in the finale. If that ending was the plan all along, so many things that happened before it make no sense to me at all. — Jana

Matt Roush: I always worry when characters start talking about “destiny” as a catch-all for motivation and narrative contrivance. Which was my main problem with the way the final scene between Ethan and Vanessa played out. I did finally make time to watch the two-hour finale, colored as you’d expect by the foreknowledge that this was indeed the end. I enjoyed much of it in the way I always do, as an extravagantly voluptuous sensory experience: the writing, the photography, the acting. And I hadn’t realized I’d subconsciously been dreaming of the day when I would see Patti LuPone actually slaying vampires. But otherwise, it did feel awfully rushed, and until the “The End” title appeared, you could still believe this was just the end of an arc, leaving room for so much more story. Whatever the reason Penny Dreadful was cut short, creative or corporate, the result was a feeling of dislocation and dissatisfaction that will be hard to shake.

Match Game

Not your mother’s Match Game

Match Game So Crude It Makes Me _________

Question: ABC is so stupid. How stupid are they? ABC is so stupid, they put a bunch of idiots in a conference room to revive the classic Match Game. But instead, all they came up with was a pile of BLANK. Please tell us you’re not getting good comments about this mess. No real celebrity would set foot on that stage under this X-rated, word-bleeping format. The contestants don’t stand a chance of winning their questions unless they stoop to the lowest of behavior in that the only winning answers are those that are designed to be vulgar by the question. They also don’t stand a chance, because so far, at least, those “stars” are only there to benefit their failing careers and not the contestant’s needs. I know Gene Rayburn and company were risque back in the day, but this is just obscene. So since I am supposed to Ask Matt a question, Is this _______ really popular? — Deon

Matt Roush: Yours is the first response, positive or negative, I’ve seen on this topic. And it cracks me up. My memory of the Gene Rayburn version as a kid is of a bunch of B-list celebs, apparently getting more tipsy by the episode, being as naughty as TV would allow. And TV allows a lot more these days. So yes, I’ve groaned while watching the reboot, but the whole thing is so silly that I can’t work myself up to a state of high dudgeon—and is the new incarnation of Family Feud, celebrity or otherwise, any less crude in its innuendo? The “Fun & Games” Sunday night lineup seems to be doing well for ABC, especially by summer standards, and I’ll put up with anything as long as it keeps The $100,000 Pyramid on the air. That appears to be really popping, and it’s the purest of the game shows ABC has resurrected, and a blast. An hour a week hardly feels like enough, and I’d happily sacrifice either of the other shows to get more. Maybe next summer they can try to resurrect Password? But please, folks, keep it clean.

A Blacklist High-Water Mark

Question: Not a question, but a comment. Without Liz’s “death” on The Blacklist, we would not have gotten “Cape May,” which I consider one of the best hours of TV I’ve ever seen. James Spader deserves an Emmy nod and so do the writers. I was questioning until the very end if it was all an opium-fueled hallucination, or parts of it were, or if every bit was actually happening. – Diane

Matt Roush: A strong stand-alone episode to be sure, but I’m not sure it justifies such a hokey ruse and pretext. Thankfully, that’s now in the rear-view mirror.

The Bloom Is Off the Brooke

Question: How long do we have to endure Brooke Shields in Hallmark’s Flower Shop Mystery movies? She is awful—as wooden as a matured dracaena. Her furniture commercials are better, and they have a plot. Can’t they bring back Mystery Woman and send Shields packing? The other three mystery franchises are solid with likable actresses and good storylines. — Nikki

Matt Roush: Kudos for making me look up dracaena, and for the comparison to a furniture ad. Ouch. I tend to rely on my mother as a critical guide to the new wave of cozy mysteries, but I’ll take your word on this one.

Duchovny, Yes; Manson, No

Question: I watched the first season of Aquarius and found the Charlie Manson scenes to be my least favorite. Nice to know I don’t identify with crazed killers. However, like with many of his characters, David Duchovny’s rapier-witted Sam Hodiak was a delight to watch. After viewing the first episode of the second season, while Manson and his followers are still very much a part of the show, it seems the writers/producers also have seized on the attraction of Duchovny’s character and are having him follow other story lines. Your thoughts? – Nonnie

Matt Roush: I haven’t kept current this season, but it seemed to me that was always the intent of the series, to foreshadow the Manson reign of terror while broadening out the crime drama with Hodiak and his fellow cops tackling cases that reflect the social turbulence of the late ’60s. I agree Aquarius generally does a better job at the latter than the former.

Wynonna Earp

Wynonna Earp star Melanie Scrofono

Lightning Round

Question: Any word on a second season of Wynonna Earp? I’ve been loving everything Syfy has been putting out lately and this show is no different. I know it’s still early, but after that season finale I need to know if my binge of the show was for naught. – Anthony

Matt Roush: No word yet that I’m aware of, but with Comic-Con and the TCA critics’ press tour on the horizon, maybe news will break soon. However it plays out, even should the worst happen, I don’t see how it was time ill spent if you enjoyed your binge to such a degree.

Question: Can you tell me if anyone is looking to pick up Game of Silence? I fell in love with this show and it was canceled before it had time to take off. The worst thing is they showed the season finale and left us hanging. I will never understand why networks do that. It’s torture. – Dawn

Matt Roush: Hard to imagine this having a future, and jeers to the producers and the network for not wrapping the first-season story up, if that’s the case. No excuse.

Question: Will there be another season of Last Tango in Halifax on PBS? Really enjoyed it. – Joanne

Matt Roush: By all accounts, there will be a fourth (though possibly final) season of this delightful drama, but the show’s creator, Sally Wainwright, is very in-demand these days, also responsible for Netflix’s brilliant Happy Valley among others, so no word yet on when to expect to see new episodes.

That’s all for now. Thanks as always for reading. We’ll pick up the conversation again soon, but I can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Or submit your question via the handy form below: