BY DAILY ARTS STAFF
Published January 10, 2013
1. “Breaking Bad”
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After the explosive season four finale, it was hard to see how “Breaking Bad” could be better. But the fifth season moved full speed ahead in eight perfectly written, directed and acted episodes. We race through Walt and Skyler’s marital problems and Heisenberg’s rise to sole meth distributor in Albuquerque and, without even realizing it, set into motion the beginning of the end.
With Gus out of the picture, Walt assumes the role of head honcho, but struggles to maintain a firm grip around the reins of the operation. In true Heisenberg fashion, he scares and coerces everyone into submission — his methods aren’t always rational, but they sure as hell get the job done.
The front end of the season ominously lays out the various fates that Walt can face: retirement, discovery or death. And though the decision to step away is made, did anyone really think it would be that easy?
2. “Game of Thrones”
It’s not always obvious what a show will do after taking as big a risk as “Game of Thrones” did in its season one finale. It’s now safe to say that the HBO fantasy-drama has successfully maintained a high level of excitement and suspense after killing off the one hope that Westeros had.
Season two continued the battle of the Seven Kingdoms, introducing new players Theon Greyjoy and Stannis Baratheon to fight for control against fan favorites like Robb Stark and Daenerys Targaryen. In addition to the new faces, depth was added to existing characters Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister — both impossibly more badass than before.
Though the landscape seems sprawling, “Game of Thrones” kept us afloat among the details with vivid storytelling and visuals. And though it seemed impossible, season two has made us all hate Joffrey Baratheon more than ever before.
3. “Parks and Recreation”
It’s the little things that make NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” quietly superb: Jean Ralphio, Bert Macklin’s (FBI) guest appearances, Ron’s Tammy terror.
It certainly takes a tremendous amount of skill, dedication and heart for a series to so fully shake off humble beginnings and create one of the most expertly defined, lovable ensemble casts to grace our TV sets in years.
And the ensemble is what “Parks” is all about. Where would Ron be without Leslie’s birthday scavenger hunts and not-so-subtle matchmaking? Poor Tom would still be mourning Entertainment 720 without Ben’s restrained guidance, Andy and April would be lost (literally, in Andy’s case) without each other and Garry wouldn’t be Jerry without his exasperating co-workers.
Seamlessly blending new characters, challenges and campaigns, “Parks” is more than a sitcom. It’s a love letter to the idea that people can make a difference. And also, bacon.
The BBC’s edgy series, “Sherlock,” crafts a deftly clever name for itself amid endless Holmes re-imaginations by thrusting the famed detective into contemporary London while still faithfully assimilating Conan Doyle’s original vision.
Marvelously witty, the series plays on classic Holmes — with mysteries such as “A Scandal in Belgravia,” featuring the infamous Irene Adler, now a dominatrix — without losing any modernity in the process. The writing is unflinchingly smart, one could expect nothing less from “Doctor Who” veterans Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.
But the invigorating mystery series reaches new heights because of its superb cast and buckets of chemistry. Benedict Cumberbatch spins Sherlock as dismissively superior in both intellect and charisma. Martin Freeman’s Watson is a flawlessly on-point blend of cynicism, affection and protectiveness.