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Three quality dramas back: Mad Men, The Killing and Game of Thrones

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com
Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) grace televisions again tonight in the second episode of this season's 'Mad Men.'

Spring used to be when TV wound down for the summer. Now it's bigger than ever, with cable shows revving up their seasons. Last week, after 17 months off the air, a two-hour "Mad Men" episode blew minds by updating us a million different ways, from Joan Harris being a new mother to Pete Campbell playing Roger Sterling like a fiddle to the most awkward surprise birthday party we have ever seen.

Sunday, with AMC airing the second episode of the fifth season of "Mad Men," two shows start their second seasons, AMC's controversial noir "The Killing" and HBO's smash hit "Game of Thrones." Here is a primer on all three programs (spoilers ahead if you've never seen any of them):

"Mad Men"

When: 9 p.m. Sundays, AMC

140 character plot summary: The handsome, enigmatic, self-made Don Draper is creative director at a Madison Avenue ad agency dealing with the 1960s' turbulent changes.

Buzz: Deafening. It won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for each of its first four seasons.

Is there sex? Yes. Draper has had a lot of it with lots of women but appears to have settled down with his coquettish wife, Megan.

Is there death? Here and there, but it's not that kind of show.

Best good guy: Don Draper. The thinking (or maybe any) woman's sex symbol, the man knows how to wear a suit.

Best bad guy: Don Draper. A veteran womanizer and drunk, Draper's self-destructive streak is, as his colleague and sometime mentee Peggy Olsen noted in the premier, somehow more disturbing when he is happy.

What we think will happen: The agency will struggle with relevancy during the birth of both civil rights and the rock n' roll era. The vibe between Don and Megan will get weirder. Roger Sterling will stay hilarious.

What we think won't happen: Ken will get less annoying. Roger will quit smoking. Megan's teeth get their own show. Don will wear a dashiki.

"Game of Thrones"

When: 9 p.m. Sundays, HBO

140 character plot summary: The seven noble houses of Westeros vie for control of the realm in this wild, epic fantasy based on George R.R. Martin's door-stopping novels.

Buzz: Terrific. Fantasy shows are big risks and this one paid off huge for HBO, including a couple of awards for actor Peter Dinklage as the wonderfully conniving Tyrion Lannister, essentially the star of this season.

Is there sex? Scads, in many different combinations, as only HBO can deliver.

Is there death? See above.

Best good guy: Lord Eddard Stark, executed last season, was the show's hero and POV character. Now it's just competing interests, just like real life. That said, Tyrion has a singular charisma, and everyone loves Stark's tough, tomboyish daughter Arya.

Best bad guy: So many to choose from. The most evil is the sadistic King Joffrey Baratheon, with his covetous mother Cersei close behind. The most cunning is Petyr Baelish, the court treasurer and pimp.

What we think will happen: Tyrion will consolidate his power via his role as Joffrey's chief advisor, everyone will plan revenge on everyone else, and we might even see dragons that hatched at the end of last year's season.

What we think won't happen: Excessive CGI (at least, we hope not). One of the best things about "Thrones" is its interest in blood, steel and great locations over ostentatious effects.

"The Killing"

When: 7 p.m. today for the two-hour premiere, then 8 p.m. Sundays, AMC

140 character plot summary: Per AMC, "Who Killed Rosie Larsen?" A single-mom detective and her complex partner investigate the crime and unpack a cancerous scandal.

Buzz: Mixed. A remake of a Danish show, some folks loved the program's pitch-black noir vibe and Mireille Enos's understated performance as Detective Sarah Linden, but more were infuriated by the endless red herrings and lack of closure in season one.

Is there sex? Not much, and what's there is kind of creepy and depressing, just like the rest of the show.

Is there death? Rosie's haunts every nook and cranny. They don't really need more.

Best good guy: Sarah Linden, in her heavy sweaters, is an underrated TV presence.

Best bad guy: The city of Seattle. Soaking in rain and gray fog, no American city has ever looked this bleak on the tube.

What we think will happen: We will find out who killed Rosie Larsen at the end of season two, they swear.

What we think won't happen: The skies will clear.

Contact Joe Gross at 912-5926