OldVenue, TV

Top TV Moments of 2015

2015 has been another amazing year for TV, and trying to pick a top moment is a difficult task. But, after long deliberation, my personal favourite moment has to be finally seeing Daenerys flying on one of her dragons in Game of Thrones. After five long years of waiting for her baby dragons to grow into the magical creatures straight out of myths and legends, Drogon’s rescue of his mother from those creepy, mask wearing Sons of the Harpy was an incredible moment (forgetting the whole tedium of the Sons of the Harpy and that plotline for the time being).

Surrounded and outnumbered by her enemies in Meereen, Daenerys faced execution, (because apparently they don’t appreciate strong, independent woman there). Her allies, including, amazingly, Tyrion Lannister (another incredible moment being when the two best characters in the show – nay in any TV show ever – finally met) were unable to protect her from the Meninists in Masks. Daenerys seemed doomed.

But what’s that in the sky? A bird? A plane? No, it’s a huge dragon that’s gonna burn your misogynistic, over-privileged asses to the ground. After defeating her enemies in an incredible scene with some amazing special effects, Daenerys climbed onto one of her dragons, and finally got out of Meereen in a spectacular fashion, flying far, far away from the patriarchy (so many metaphors I could make).

Of course, it had to be the best and the coolest dragon of them all, Drogon, who defeated the enemies and saved his mother (especially since she locked the other two in a tomb. That backfired a bit on reflection, didn’t it Dany?) All her friends and enemies could do was watch in awe as she truly lived up to her name, the Mother of Dragons.

Tyrion, new to all this dragon craziness after believing, like the rest of Westeros, that dragons were long extinct, looked particularly spellbound to see Daenerys and Drogon flying away, and it was clear to see that this was the moment that Tyrion realised, as the rest of us did five seasons ago, that this is a Queen we can get behind.

Drogon appeared to take Daenerys right back to where she started – Dothraki territory – so it will be interesting to see how the newly empowered (deep breath) Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons copes with the horde that now surrounds her. One thing’s for sure: with her dragons at her command, and her bad-ass, strong attitude, no one is going to mess with our Dany.

Hannah Ford

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Since this was the year in which Netflix seemed to take over, I thought it was only apt to pick Orange Is The New Black as one ofTV’sbestmomentsin2015.Themoment I particularly want to highlight is the last scene of season three, which aired back in June. When the inmates find momentary glory in what had otherwise been a gloomy season, the show pulled together for a rather stunning and beautiful piece of television. Critics and fans alike had been questioning the show’s pace (especially compared to the high-tension stakes of its prior season), but this singular scene eradicated all criticism.

The inmates finally find access to the lake that borders just outside the prison, and they all seemingly band together towards one goal: freedom, if only temporary. The shot of each character running against the sunlight towards the lake, followed by a cacophony of all different types of characters coming together in the water was captivating to watch. The direction and editing gently highlighted the characters’ complex differences between one another, whilst simultaneously binding them all together as a singular power.

Many themes run through the scene, and its slow-moving editing between different parts of the lake came across almost like an enlarged painting in gallery displays; each time your eyes trail along the painting, there is another hidden intricate gem to discover.

The scene transcended cliché – it transcended traditional narrative, it transcended what we expect from a TV show. It gave us hope, it gave us a moment to vicariously share, a moment to pause, reflect, and enjoy freedom. Where do I fit in? Where do I belong? Am I happy? Am I good enough? Orange Is The New Black wasn’t necessarily claiming to answer all these questions in its season finale, but it certainly tried.

Joey Levenson

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Magic, madness, and nineteenth-century mansions: it could only be the BBC’s adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s bestselling novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Proclaimed by Neil Gaiman as “the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years”, screenwriter Peter Harness had his work cut out for him in satisfying evangelistic fans of the book.

Ambitious certainly describes his condensing of 782 pages of minute plot detail into seven hour-long episodes. The TV adaptation, aired between May and June, unavoidably had to skim over some details of the book. Yet, this somewhat underrated fantasy drama doesn’t fail to capture the essence of nineteenth century Englishness and a superstitious society morbidly fascinated with black magic.

Beginning in 1806, the plot offers an alternative history of the Napoleonic Wars. With no magic having been practised in England for several centuries, the show opens with Yorkshire magician Gilbert Norrell (played by Eddie Marsan) attempting to prove to non-believers the usefulness of magic in the nation’s fight against Napoleon. Incredulity at this deviation from fact aside, this plot point provides the catalyst for the unravelling of the show’s storyline. Desperate to prove his skill, Norrell is led astray into summoning the power of the Gentleman, an evil faery, to bring back the young wife of Prime Minister Sir Walter Pole from the dead, thereby unleashing the dark forces of magic which he finds he cannot control, and which drives the plot from that point onwards.

Arguably the shining star of the cast however, is Norrell’s student and later rival, the other half of the title pairing, Jonathan Strange. Played excellently by Bertie Carvel, who any eagle-eyed viewer may recognize from behind the period costume as the two- timing Simon from the BBC’s most recent success, Doctor Foster, Strange’s descent into madness offers the right balance to the stoic, humourless Norrell.

Even with any shortcomings of plot felt by fans of the book, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell remains for me one of the TV highlights of 2015. With its gripping characters and cliff-hangers, Peter Harness gives an insight into the societal intrigue surrounding the unknown which kept me religiously tuning in every week.

Alice Spencer

01/12/2015

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