There are scores of TV shows out there, with dozens of new episodes each week, not to mention all that Hulu Plus, Netflix streaming, and HBO Go have to offer. How’s a viewer to keep up? To help you sort through all that television has to offer, we’re compiling the five best moments on TV each week. This round, we bring you a serial killer, a welcomed recurring character’s return, and three badass dragons.
Hannibal, The First Well-Reviewed NBC Drama in Years
Hannibal had all the cards stacked against it: a late season premiere, a fifth-place network, and a world-famous franchise’s shoes to fill. But against all odds, Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen have made the prequel/procedural work with more than a little help from series creator Bryan Fuller (of the dearly departed Pushing Daisies) and supporting star Laurence Fishburne. Dancy and Fishburne’s brand-new characters stand up well to Mikkelsen’s spot-on young Hannibal Lecter, and last night’s season premiere set the show up nicely to become the potential sleeper hit of this summer. A creepy update on the serial killer mini-genre spawned by Criminal Minds and Dexter, Hannibal might also be just the kind of show NBC desperately needs: a compelling drama to anchor its solid comedy lineup.
Tran’s Return on New Girl
An otherwise middling episode of Zooey Deschanel’s sitcom about being a manic pixie dream girl just trying to make it in this crazy world, “First Date” was given a jump start by the return of one of the show’s best running jokes: Tran, Nick’s friend and sounding board, first introduced a mere 14 episodes ago in “Menzies.” Unsure what to do about his romantic tension with Jess, Nick takes to a park bench and talks things out with Tran — or rather, talks at him — before resolving to ask her out on the date that gives the episode its title. It was a great way to insert a running joke and reward regular viewers, explaining how a mere minute-long scene that’s basically Nick talking out loud managed to steal the episode’s spotlight.
Parks and Rec Goes DFW
A few years ago, Parks and Recreation showrunner Michael Schur directed the incredible video for The Decemberists’ “Calamity Song,” a recreation of the nuclear-war-simulation tennis game Eschaton from David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus Infinite Jest. In this week’s Parks episode, Schur, who wrote his undergraduate thesis on Wallace and own’s Infinite Jest‘s film rights, paid homage to the thousand-plus page novel by inserting subtle references throughout “Partridge’s” 21 minutes of runtime. The names of a law firm, a hospital, and even a “parenting compatibility quiz” all reference characters from Infinite Jest, and two bit parts are named after patients in the novel’s rehab center. Here’s our annotated guide to the episode’s Wallace references.
Daenerys’s Dragons Are (Mostly) Grown Up
In a season premiere otherwise lacking in flashy payoff moments, Game of Thrones gave us a thrilling look at Daenerys Targaryen’s adolescent dragons, who certainly aren’t babies anymore. After torching a creepy warlock in last season’s finale and hunting/roasting their own food on the boat ride from Qarth to Astapor, all three of Dany’s “children” have become gorgeous, fire-breathing death machines in their own right. Though they’re not nearly as big as they’re doubtless going to get by the series’ end, the scene was a wonderful example of what Game of Thrones‘s gigantic special-effects budget can buy, and a rare unambiguously uplifting moment in a show that loves to remind its audiences this isn’t a nice cheery fantasy world where the heroes always win. Dracarys!
Community Gets Back in Top Form
In the middle of a season where Dan Harmon’s absence has been all too noticeable, Community‘s “Herstory of Dance” has been lauded as a fun, and more importantly, funny return to the show at its best. There’s “Britta”-ing, hijinks, and one of the more over-the-top Dean Pelton costumes to date, not to mention weighty storylines for most of the major characters. Britta attempts to come up with a feminist alternative to a Sadie Hawkins dance, with predictably disastrous results, and Abed attempts to maneuver a classic sitcom double-booked date, with refreshing moments of self-awareness and personal growth for both. It may not have been “Modern Warfare,” but it’s good to know that one of television’s most avidly loved (and endangered) shows isn’t a completely lost cause.