WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Alan Sepinwall, a 1996 College graduate, definitely watches more TV than you. As a TV critic for HitFix.com, he watches dozens of shows each week “at a minimum.” This former 34th Street managing editor spoke with The Daily Pennsylvanian on Tuesday about that shocking Game of Thrones season finale, the growth of weekly TV recaps and shows he really doesn’t like.
Weekly episode recaps — which Sepinwall helped popularize — were not always the preferred format of TV recaps.
“It started online,” Sepinwall said.
He began blogging about TV while at Penn, sometimes surreptitiously completing recaps of his favorite show, NYPD Blue, during an all-night editing session at The Daily Pennsylvanian office.
“I had kind of fallen for NYPD Blue in my sophomore year,” he said.
Once Penn students were first given emails, he began meeting other NYPD Blue fans online, encouraging him to eventually set up his own blog. At The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. — where Sepinwall wrote from 1994 to 2010 — he recognized the necessity of reviewing HBO’s smash hit The Soprano episode-by-episode.
“When a significant thing happened like Ralphie getting whacked, I knew we had to write about it immediately,” he said. “By season six, I realized I needed to [recap] every week.”
On his blog “What’s Alan Watching” at Hitfix, Sepinwall recaps at least ten shows — some more regularly than others — and writes longer essays about the TV industry. Like many critics, Game of Thrones’ explosive season finale on Sunday left Sepinwall suspicious about a certain character’s apparent assassination.
“If he’s dead — and I don’t want to believe he is — if he stays dead, its bad storytelling on about 17 different levels,” Sepinwall said of fan-favorite Jon Snow’s supposed demise.
Besides, keeping a familiar presence at the Wall, where the existential threat of legions of White Walkers looms, is necessary.
“Who’s our point of view there [on the Wall]? Davos? I like Davos but he has no interaction with zombies or White Walkers,” he added.
Sepinwall also chimed in on a controversial scene earlier in the season, where a popular character was raped. Sepinwall, who had been overseas the week the episode aired, had not posted a recap of the episode.
“The show has a history of not usually handling [sexual assault] very well,” he said. The scene drew pointed criticism for being a deviation from the show’s source material — where a minor character was raped instead — and for focusing the camera on Theon Greyjoy, another character witnessing the assault.
“Ultimately, she inspires Theon to be a man again,” he said. “That’s not a good move.”
Despite its all-too-constant displays of sexual violence, Sepinwall said he enjoys Game of Thrones. But that other famous show with zombies? Not so much.
“Walking Dead is not one of my favorite shows,” he said. “But it’s capable of being a good show.”
How about the polarizing Netflix drama House of Cards?
“Thankfully, the worm has turned there and people have recognized it’s junk,” Sepinwall said.
Although the critically-acclaimed dramas of recent years feature “middle-aged white guys going through midlife crises,” Sepinwall thinks the potential for diversity is expanding.
“If you look at Jeffrey Tambor on Transparent, fifteen to twenty years ago that character is treated as a joke in one episode of a show,” he said.
As for the Netflix hit Orange is the New Black: Many of those characters "wouldn't have had their stories told" years ago.
Whether or not the future for television is bright, Alan Sepinwall will certainly be watching.
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