Counting down to one: What I’m watching right now

the walking dead welcome to the tombs

It’s that time of year. Some of my favorite shows are working toward their season finales, with just an episode or two left. I’m glued to the TV (well, not literally).

Here’s the best of the best:

“The Walking Dead.” This season, the third, has been a big improvement over last year, which spent way too much time at Herschel’s farm. Much of the current season – which ends with the season finale Sunday night – has been split between the prison, where Rick and the other survivors have stopped, and the town of Woodbury, where the so-called Governor rules.

Pivotal events this season – the death of Lori, the birth of “Little Ass-Kicker,” the full acceptance into the group of Daryl Dixon, the return of Merle Dixon (the incomparable Michael Rooker) – seemed to come in the first half of the season.

In the second half of the season, its as if the showrunners decided to avoid the problems of season two by not repeating, over and over, scenes of the cast standing around and ruminating.

Instead, episodes have focused on small groups of characters. Like “Clear,” in which Rick, Carl and Michonne go back to Rick’s old sheriff’s station in search of weapons only to find that Morgan (Lennie James), Rick’s friend from the first season, has holed up in the town.

Morgan has lost his mind after losing his wife and son, and his madness and complete failure to cope with the post-apocalyptic world sent a message to Rick (Andrew Lincoln), who was spending too much time in Crazytown himself.

the walking dead season finale

Other episodes focused on Daryl and Merle – ending tragically for the newly reunited brothers – and on Andrea and the Governor, both of whom came off as badasses.

I’ll be watching the season finale, “Welcome to the Tombs,” this Sunday.

Meanwhile, “Justified,” the FX show about Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), continues to be one of the most clever and sarcastic shows on TV. The over-arching storyline of the season, ostensibly, was the 30-year-old mystery of thief Drew Thompson, but the story is less important than the parade of great characters we’ve been able to enjoy, ranging from the regulars – who have more to do this season – to great new faces like Constable Bob (Patton Oswalt).

“Justified” has always had some uneven moments, but this season has had some of the best episodes of the series to date. The season finale airs Tuesday night.

dallas

There’s another sort of pleasure to be had from “Dallas,” the continuation of the classic American soap opera about the Ewing clan of Texas.

The death of beloved actor Larry Hagman in November left the show in a tough spot mid-way through the second season: How to continue without J.R., a character who symbolized the show even as the real-life illness of Hagman reduced his presence in the new series.

The producers have handled Hagman’s passing well. On the show, J.R. died, the victim of a shooting, in Mexico. But the scripts have taken the mystery of J.R.’s death in a new direction, with Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and the younger generation of Ewings trying to figure out why J.R. was trying to find Pamela (Victoria Principal in the original series, who is apparently not returning).

J.R.’s presence still figures into the show and his death allowed for the return, even briefly, of classic “Dallas” characters like Gary Ewing, Val Ewing and Afton Cooper.

The show has five episodes remaining this season, so we can look forward to more Ewing scheming in the weeks to come.

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