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Primal Screen

'Game of Thrones' drama nearly sunk by rampant sadism

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Game of Thrones (8pm Sun, HBO)

Season two of Game of Thrones is in full swing, with five kings battling to claim the Iron Throne in fantastical Westeros. The series remains compelling and confusing, as a huge cast of characters jostle for survival in a realm of knights, savages, and dragons. This universe is stunningly rendered, from the torch-lit castles to the wolf-infested woods. The actors give the antique dialogue the ring of authority, and they look striking both in and out of clothing.

Yes, the sex is raw and explicit here. So is the torture — perhaps the sickest ever shown on TV. This week’s episode even combines sex and torture in one scene, when the cruel boy-king Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) gets sadistic with a pair of prostitutes sent by his uncle (Peter Dinklage). “Your grace, too much pain would spoil the pleasure!” says one of the unfortunate beauties just before things get really out of control.

I might say the same thing about Game of Thrones — too much pain can spoil the pleasure. How about less torture and more dragons?

Girls (9:30pm Sun, HBO)

Did you watch the premiere of this new dramedy like I told you to? Episode two is even better. This week, 24-year-old Hannah and her three friends are obsessed with love, sex, and disease, so…

Hannah (played by writer-director-creator Lena Dunham) often ends her sentences with the word “so.” She launches an idea and then lapses into silence as it drifts into the ether. This is authentic 2012 young-woman-speak, and you’re not going to hear it executed so precisely on any other TV show.

The characters aren’t just comic types. They’re complicated creations both cruel and tender, appealing and pathetic. Hannah herself is hopelessly awkward with guys but effortlessly funny and perceptive with her female friends.

I sense that we’ll come to like her even as she makes us cringe, so…

Eureka (8pm Mon, Syfy)

The wonderful seriocomic Eureka follows a group of geniuses who conduct secret government research in a small northwestern town. In the fifth and final season, the series has entered its baroque phase, with multiple levels of reality. The characters don’t understand what’s going on, and viewers can barely keep up either. But the whole thing is so much fun that it hardly matters.

In brief: A shadowy group has hooked up Eureka’s scientists to a Matrix-like system where they experience virtual reality. They think they’re living their normal lives, when in fact the evildoers are controlling everything that happens. The goal is to harvest any discoveries the scientists make for nefarious purposes.

The only problem, from the evil point of view, is that the program creating the virtual world isn’t perfect. The occasional glitch causes incongruous things to happen, such as a dragon flying around Eureka. That could make the scientists suspicious and allow them to catch on to the ruse.

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