Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Monday

4

September 2017

1

COMMENTS

Often Casting Logic Aside, Season Seven of Game of Thrones Succeeds at Being Good Television

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

I recycled the title for my season six review, only opting to change a single word, because of one thought that constantly entered my head throughout this season. This is a television show. It is a special kind of television show since it has the ability to captivate the internet even when it isn’t airing new episodes, but it is still a television show. It is an adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s masterpiece, not a word for word recreation of it.

There are limits to what plotlines the show can adapt from the books. Season seven showed us that there also limits to what plotlines the show can adapt from the show. My preview article spent a lot of time talking about pacing. Seven episodes is either a lot of time or barely any at all, depending on what the show wanted to do with it. Turns out, the show wanted to do quite a lot, toward the end.

It is tempting to think that the long awaited meeting of the three most important power players in Westeros (Daenerys, Cersei, and Jon) would inevitably fall flat. It might even be true that we waited too long for this stuff to happen to have any kind of truly satisfying payoff, but the payoff was never really the problem. Those scenes were fun to watch.

As entertaining television, season seven usually succeeded. The battles crammed in at the end of many of the episodes seemed a bit rushed, but they were entertaining to watch. The trouble is that the external logic just wasn’t there most of the time.

Game of Thrones loves its big moments. Last season’s final shot of Dany’s armada heading to Westeros and this season’s view of the Wall crumbling under the heat of an ice zombie dragon are very memorable images. They look great as parting reminders of what this show can craft as each season draws to a close.

The show isn’t as great with the moments leading up to those memorable scenes. For the Wall to crumble, something had to happen to bring down a millennia-old structure. For Dany and Jon to head down to the dragon’s den of King’s Landing, there had to be a reason that neither reeked of Red Wedding Part Deux, nor crippled Cersei as a major character before the final season. That’s a tough tightrope to walk.

There are consequences for big moments. Dany’s massive fleet looked great, but season seven then had to explain why she wasn’t using her army that completely dwarves the size of everyone else’s to take King’s Landing in about five seconds. That beautiful shot of the Wall crumbling required a very silly plan to give the Night King control of a dragon.

These problems are distinctly related to the limitations of TV as a medium. While we don’t know the trajectory of the final six episodes, it is very likely that the Wall did not necessarily have to come down in the season finale and that it should have come down later. We, as viewers, are conditioned to expect big moments during season finales. The show went for the moment that people will talk about for the next year or so until season eight. Time will tell if that was a smart move.

This season revolved around Jon & Dany more than past seasons, which makes sense given that they are the two most important characters in both the books and the show. The show was smart to cut its losses on boring subplots like Dorne, allowing more time for the main players. The trouble is that Emilia Clarke and Kit Harrington have really bad on screen chemistry, a problem once again magnified by the shorter season.

Some fans have literally waited twenty years to see Dany land in Westeros. Once she finally did land, she basically spent the season hanging around Dragonstone with a moody Jon, instead of doing all the fun things we’ve fantasized about her doing, like conquering Westeros and killing Cersei. While I didn’t expect Dany to sit on the Iron Throne by season’s end, I didn’t think she’d do nothing but sit around either, save for two quick battles on Drogon’s back.

This show occupies a strange place in the entertainment world. It is an adaptation of a series that surpassed its source material in the middle of its run. Imagine how Harry Potter fans would feel if the movies finished before the release of The Deathly Hallows. Game of Thrones is inevitably going to be different from the books, but we don’t know how much. This can make the questionable logic decisions that much more frustrating.

Jon’s story is almost beyond intelligent analysis at this point. No one outside of the Wall knows how he was allowed to leave the Night’s Watch, which no one had ever successfully done up to that point. No one seems to care. Dany is the only person who seems remotely interested in the fact that he once died. The Northern army is beyond spent and yet Cersei treats it on equal footing with her forces and Dany’s.

We know why. Jon is a very, very important character. It makes sense that the show wants him on equal footing with the top players. What does not make sense is how the show decided to put him there. It is unbelievably stupid. I’d say I’m not 100% committed to covering any plot related to him next season if this nonsense continues, but I love Davos too much to do that.

Winterfell made for a needlessly complicated subplot. We don’t really know why Arya and Sansa had to fight, or what Littlefinger was doing all season. Now he’s dead and they’re not fighting. Oh well. Guess they had to do something.

I imagine that the showrunners aren’t huge fans of Bran as a character. He’s a dangerous character to have in a narrative given that he could solve a lot of problems with a few simple words. He doesn’t, and the show doesn’t really explain why because I don’t think it has a reason. Bran ex machina is the show’s biggest issue, which also explains why it shelved him for all of season five. The show can fill in the blanks for the book’s unfinished plotlines in most instances, but it struggles with Bran, a creation that reflects a lot of GRRM’s earlier work.

King’s Landing gets mostly passing marks despite the lack of interesting plotlines. Cersei really couldn’t do all that much that wouldn’t involve her losing to Dany. Lena Headley is always compelling to watch on screen and she made the most of her material. Cersei’s relationship to Jaime is in many ways the most interesting on the show. I can’t imagine what she’ll be like next season without him.

Season seven had a couple unexpected breakout characters, even if Dickon Tarly failed to become the next Lyanna Mormont. Beric Dondarrion worked extremely well as a foil for both Jon and The Hound, offering a much more compelling arc for the character than his book counterpart. Gendry’s return was a treat, even if the audience had to stomach the idea that he could become an Olympic runner through the North despite having never seen snow before. Euron may not have had many scenes, but he captivated every single one, offering the show an additional compelling villain besides Cersei and the Night King. Theon/Reek may have outlasted his usefulness as a character, but his uncle is certainly fun to watch.

Penultimate seasons carry heavy burdens to set the stage for the final chapter. Despite its flaws, season seven accomplished this objective quite well. It made for compelling television each and every week. We scrutinize shows like Game of Thrones because we love them. Some of us just wish we could love them without having to wonder how Sam cured a seemingly incurable disease with a knife and some Lubriderm. Oh well. Can’t have everything.

Season Grade: B+

Character Grades:

Daenerys: B

Tyrion: B-

Cersei: B+

Jaime: A-

Euron: A

Qyburn: A

Jon: D

Ghost: F

Davos: A

Melisandre: D

Littlefinger: B-

Sansa: A-

Arya: C

Bran: F

Meera Reed: B-

Winterfell Maester: D

Winterfell Guards: F

Lyanna Mormont: A

Jorah Mormont: F

Sweetrobin: A

Knights of the Vale: A

Night King: A-

The Wall: D-

Coldhands/Benjen: F

Sam: F

Gilly: A

Tormund: A

Brienne: A

The Hound: A

Ice Zombie Hit By The Hound’s Rock: F

Gendry: A-

Raven that flew to Dragonstone: A+

Drogon: A

Rhaegal: A-

Viserion: B-

Beric Dondarrion: A

Thoros of Myr: A

Dickon Tarly: C-

Grey Worm: D

Missandei: D

Reek: F

Yara: F

Everyone from Dorne: F

Olenna Tyrell: C+

Stannis Baratheon: A

Bronn: A

Daario Naharis: F

Varys: C-

 

 

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Monday

28

August 2017

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COMMENTS

Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 7

Written by , Posted in Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

Of the Seven Kingdoms in Westeros, four have unclear leadership. We don’t really know who controls The Stormlands, the Reach, Dorne, and the Riverlands. We’re not even really sure who controls the Westerlands, given that the Unsullied took Casterly Rock and it isn’t quite clear whether Jaime or Cersei sit at the head of House Lannister (Cersei as Queen technically would not, if you go by how the Baratheons handled Storm’s End, but Jaime riding off on his own suggests he’s not really head either). While Littlefinger and knights of the Vale were prominent figures this season, we haven’t seen Lord Sweetrobin on screen since season five.

I mention this because Cersei’s sole condition for agreeing to the truce was that Jon needed to stay neutral in her fight against Dany once the ice zombies are all dead. This, coupled with the hiring of the Golden Company and their 20,000 men (plus elephants), signals that Cersei is pretty worried about the size of her army. The problem is that the North has been in continuous conflict since season one. Their army is spent. Cersei should not be worried about Jon. He really isn’t that important in any context other than the one where he’s a main character. A much better strategy would be to try and placate the Vale, something that Cersei already once did successfully during the War of the Five Kings and then to try and recruit former Tyrell/Martell/Tully/Baratheon bannermen in the regions. If there’s a million people in King’s Landing alone, there must be more troops. We’ve neither seen nor heard any conflicting evidence that would suggest these armies are gone.

We saw a similar lapse in judgment on Dany/Jon’s side of the equation. We had no reason to believe that they thought Euron didn’t actually abandon Cersei. That wouldn’t even really be that important, as long as his fleet wasn’t actually in King’s Landing. Jon and Dany sat around the dragon pit worrying about their failed plan without really ever considering attacking their very vulnerable opponent.

This episode’s meeting wasn’t about logic. It was the single largest gathering of major players since Robert Baratheon and his attaché marched north to recruit Ned to become Hand in the first episode of the series. The show knew the gravity of this moment, giving it half the episode.

The idea of expectations for such a meeting is fundamentally problematic. We weren’t going to get some Red Wedding style twist, not with six episodes left in the series. Instead, we got a bunch of reunions. Tyrion/Cersei, Tyrion/Bronn/Podrick, Brienne/Jaime, Hound/Brienne, Hound/Mountain, Euron/Reek, and Varys/all the people he screwed. That was essentially the only way that scene could deliver. There was no realistic way to live up to all the years of hype.

It hit its mark. It was fun television. The unveiling of the wight was a little over the top theatrical, with the Hound carrying it in on his back and Jon/Davos performing some kind of fire trick like magicians at a children’s birthday party. The plan worked and that felt kind of odd because the plan was stupid, but that was never the point.

This season’s biggest fault is that it has focuses way too much on where it wants to go and not enough time on how to get there. The Night King needed a dragon to melt the wall. The showrunners needed to get all the major players to King’s Landing for a meeting. So that moronic plan was hatched. And yet I can’t deny I was enjoying myself, sitting there watching a television show. We don’t want that to be enough since this is the kind of show where people log onto the internet after each episode to share their thoughts. Sometimes, it is enough.

The resolution of the Littlefinger plotline functioned in very much the same way. The master planner is dead because of a half baked scheme to plot sister against sister mostly hinging on an old letter that Sansa clearly wrote under duress. This doesn’t make much sense, but Littlefinger had outstayed his welcome on the show. So he died. For some reason.

Bran ex machine is tricky. The show could have done a better job of explaining how Bran knows absolutely everything, selectively. Sam bringing up the annulment right there during the R + L = J reveal was way too convenient. Bran is a problematic character in general, but the show isn’t even trying to explain how he chooses to dump his omniscient thoughts onto the characters. It forces the viewer to do the show’s work for it, taking joy in Littlefinger’s death without wondering how exactly that “trial” came to be set up.

This episode loved keeping its characters in the dark in favor of a dramatic reveal for the audience. It was fun to watch Jon tell Cersei he had pledged to Dany much to the surprise of his advisors. Euron’s dramatic exit was great, even though Cersei didn’t tell Jaime or seemingly any other advisor that he hadn’t actually abandoned them. Bran telling Ser Piggy about Jon was fun even though it makes no sense that he hasn’t told his sisters, or Jon himself. These are fun moments, if you don’t stop to think about them.

Reek continues to be the worst part of this show. He didn’t mention freeing Yara to anyone in King’s Landing, waiting until they were back on Dragonstone before whining to Jon. There’s been a Reek redemption cycle for a few seasons now. The whole forgiveness thing for his Stark betrayal was supposed to be settled when he resucued Sansa. Apparently not. It’s boring. He’s horrible. Please kill him.

I feel obliged to mention the Jon/Dany romance. I actually kind of forgot about it. It’s pretty forgettable. Putting the incest aside, the two have horrible chemistry. I’m sure this is partially due to the fact that Khal Drogo/Ygritte/Daario all played the pursuing role in their courtship of these two, but it also just seems rushed and inevitable.

Where is Gendry? Did he collapse from his marathon sprint back to the Wall? Or did the others make him row back from Eastwatch?

The Wall crumbles. I guess that capturing that wight was worth it… I hope Beric and Tormund survived. I imagine they did. Looks like show is going to deal with the ice zombies before the game of thrones is fully settled. Or maybe they’ll wrap up at same time.

Overall this was a good episode despite its shortcomings. It had to set the table for season seven. It accomplished that goal.

That’s it for this week, but we’re not quite done with the season just yet. I’ll post the season in review with the return of character letter grades sometime next week. Thanks for reading.

 

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Sunday

20

August 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 6

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

I want to first address the sheer stupidity of the magnificent seven’s journey beyond the Wall and the extreme, because I don’t want to focus on it for the entire recap. The idea that the sole purpose for this adventure was to convince Cersei that the White Walkers were real is beyond the pale preposterous. Jon even admitted as much on the boat, after the fact. Everyone should have known before. Absolutely everyone, except maybe Jorah.

Going beyond the wall in general is a very bad idea. We learned that in the opening few moments of the show and then again in the first season when Benjen Stark went missing. If that wasn’t enough, we had Joer Mormont’s “great ranging” in season two that completely decimated the already severely depleted forces of the Night’s Watch. Not smart! Not worth a dragon and poor Thoros of Myr, who everyone knew was a goner the second Jorah brought up the Siege at Pyke.

This show has been making ridiculous decisions all season just to protect Cersei as a major player. She is a great character, one of the show’s best. That doesn’t really explain why she’s queen or why Dany’s significantly larger forces have to suffer strange and unrealistic losses. The show offered very weak excuses for why the entire armies for both the Reach and Dorne are all gone due to losing single battles against weaker foes, especially when this very episode made a big deal out of the 20,000 Vale soldiers (the Tyrell should have had at least double that, even without the Tarly’s). An easier solution would have been to have Dany sail into Westeros with a fleet that didn’t outnumber everyone else by a 3 to 1 margin. The show likes its big moments. It just often doesn’t care how it gets them.

This episode was probably the best of the season. The narratives were expertly paced, benefitting from a narrower focus. The trouble with a seven episode season is that sidelining major characters for even an episode matters, but Game of Thrones is usually at its best when it isn’t trying to juggle the entire cast.

The trouble with even saying it was probably the best is that it forces us to put aside the utter stupidity of the events that put all these fun characters beyond the wall, as well as the equally absurd notion that Dany would be in any position to save them all the way in Dragonstone. I’d prefer if we didn’t have to do that. Part of the reason I’m such a big book fan is that George R.R. Martin respects the intelligence of his audience. His writing is some of the richest and most complex I’ve ever read. This show does win a lot of Emmys including for its writing, so I could just be full of hot wind. Suspension of disbelief allows us to accept that there are dragons and ice zombies in the show. It isn’t meant to explain how Jon could have Gendry run back to the Wall to have Davos send a raven to Dragonstone that somehow gets to Dany in enough time for her to climb aboard her dragons and journey up beyond the Wall.

Jorah’s conversation with Jon has me thinking he’ll take the black again, following through on his father’s dying (book only) wish to Sam. I’d care more about this if it didn’t mean that he’d have to depart from Dany yet again. Why couldn’t he have died instead of Thoros?

Why would Jon wait until they were beyond the Wall to try and give Longclaw to Jorah? Was he planning to throw snowballs at the wildlings?

Were they using obsidian? Kind of just looked like normal weapons. So much for all that mining!

Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion have the odd distinction among tertiary characters of having been treated both better and worse by the show than their book counterparts. Their show reputation suffered in season three when they sold Gendry to Melisandre, which didn’t happen in the books. Show Gendry is essentially a composite of two of Robert’s bastards. Book Gendry stayed with the Brotherhood Without Banners, while Edric Storm was Robert’s bastard who Davos saved from Melisandre. Beric and Thoros did try to ransom Arya for profit, but they intended to bring her to her mother at Riverrun. Not quite the same thing.

Why did they only bring major characters on the journey? The overhead shots all show additional characters that aren’t seen in the closeups. Don’t they know redshirt characters are always the ones who die? Poor Thoros.

Beric is also the one who dies in the books, though he sacrifices himself to allow Thoros to resurrect Catelyn Stark in the form of Lady Stoneheart. Thoros eventually regrets this decision as Lady Stoneheart spends most of her time in command hunting down Freys, which wasn’t really the purpose of the BWB. Between their fun times with The Hound and Beric’s scenes with Jon, the two have certainly been more fun in the show.

Does The Hound also have a crush on Brienne? I’d normally approve of a love triangles, but Tormund and Brienne need to get married ASAP. The show is almost over!

How does Eastwatch have a maester but Castle Black does not? Did one of the wildlings go to the citadel? Were those brothers of the Night’s Watch with Davos? Who is in charge of things!?!

Tyrion’s scene with Dany regarding succession demonstrated the messy nature of war and politics. He’s right to note that a clear line of succession is important and that Dany can’t have kids. Dany is right to note that Tyrion is the brother of her sworn enemies and doesn’t have the best track record as of late. Tyrion probably shouldn’t have brought up that topic when they were alone either. His position is a rational one, but that was not the best time to discuss it.

The separate mentions of children in conversations involving Jon and Dany suggests they’ll almost certainly have kids. Biological ones, not dragons. I don’t think the final season of Game of Thrones would be complete without more incest!

Sansa and Arya’s fight also demonstrates the complexity of the mess. We can say that Arya was being irrational and shouldn’t have been so suspicious of her sister, but how rational should we really expect Arya to be? Playing the game of “who’s suffered most” is a risky proposition, but Arya was all by herself for a lot longer than the rest of the characters and only recently returned. She’s also killed a lot of people. It is completely normal that she’s actually completely irrational and paranoid.

Sansa’s forced letter to Robb was inaccurate. Ned only conspired with Renly, not Stannis. If you’re going to be coerced into writing something, at least get the facts straight!

It’d be nice if Bran could step in and stop the fight. He doesn’t have to know everything to know when to be a good brother.

Littlefinger lives to die another episode. This season has played up his creepiness, but it hasn’t really addressed his love of Sansa. Some might say he’s not actually in love with her given what happened with Ramsey, but Book Littlefinger does show “true” affection for Catelyn/Sansa. I put true in quotation marks because it’s pretty impossible to know what Littlefinger really feels.

Why hasn’t Jon sent Sansa any letters? He seemed to be able to communicate with Dany quite easily. Is Littlefinger hiding the letters? Or is Jon just only interested in sending ravens to his aunt/future wife?

Poor Viserion. If only he could have traveled a little slower. The timeframe of the battle is quite a mystery. Jon sent Gendry to get help when they were in trouble, but managed to hold out for the weeks it would have taken the raven to get to Dragonstone. The show’s CGI budget is probably more important than logic.

Obligatory Coldhands/Benjen mention. Did Bran send him? Does the show care enough about logic to specify? I doubt it.

This episode sure felt like a typical penultimate one in the vein of “Blackwater,” “The Watchers on the Wall,” “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards,” but this season is three episodes shorter than usual. GOT finales tend to either wrap up old plotlines or table set for the following season. I imagine next episode with focus more on the latter, though a former Master of Coin might find his time in Winterfell coming to an end at the hands of a familiar dagger. Maybe Jorah will depart again too! One can only hope. See you next week.

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Saturday

19

August 2017

9

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That Time Uber Kicked Me Out for Being Transgender

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

Transitioning in Southern California has been a mostly positive experience. Despite the Republican Party’s efforts to scapegoat transgender people for the nation’s problems, life generally goes on without anyone trying to give me a hard time. That is, until I got in an Uber.

The incident happened early Friday morning at 1:30 am. I was traveling with a friend from Sunset Boulevard, where we’d seen a concert, to her apartment close to USC. From there, I planned to take a separate Uber back to my apartment in Long Beach.

Being a popular night to go out, it wasn’t difficult to find an Uber for either trip. The second Uber pulled up to my friend’s apartment less than five minutes after we’d exited the first. I got into the backseat, excited to be in my own bed in a short period of time.

The driver seemed flustered from the moment I walked up to the car. He grew flustered as I said hello, his breath making heavy sounds. He put his foot on the gas, but stopped about two hundred feet or so down the road and abruptly said, “Actually, I’m not going that far.” His tone displayed both firm aggression and clear discomfort, speaking fast while continuing to take heavy audible breaths.

This puzzled me, as Long Beach is not generally considered far from USC, especially with no traffic at that time of the day. The eventual trip, with Lyft, took 24 minutes. I’ve lived in the LA area for two years and have never met anyone here who would consider 24 minutes a long period of time to spend in a car. It’s also unclear why an Uber driver who appeared to only want to make trips shorter than a 24 minute duration would select a trip out of the 90007 zip code.

I replied, “Okay, but Long Beach isn’t really far at all.” At this point, he said, “Get out faggot,” speaking in a similar sharp and aggressive tone. As I opened the door, he added, “Fucking tranny.”

There I was. Kicked out. The street was not very well lit. It was late. My friend hadn’t even gone inside her apartment yet, so I did not feel particularly unsafe, except for the fact that I’d been kicked out onto a city street at 1:30 am while an Uber driver hurled derogatory insults at me. That part sucked.

The driver did not cancel the ride. He kept driving for a few blocks, racking up a $5.35 charge in the process. The real trouble with this is that it prevented me from being able to call a different transport, though fortunately there are competing companies. This really could have been a dangerous situation, if he’d driven a few more blocks before his disgust for LGBT people overwhelmed him.

I made it home okay. A Lyft driver came, who somehow managed to make the “long” 24 minute drive back to Long Beach without using any homophobic or transphobic slurs. I reported the Uber driver as soon as I was able to, describing that I’d been kicked out and that the driver had used multiple derogatory insults.

It took about an hour for Uber to respond on the app. I’d also tweeted about the incident, including Uber’s handle, which earned a response in a little under 40 minutes. Uber asked for my e-mail via DM, which I provided.

Uber’s response in the app noted, “Sorry to hear about the experience you described on this trip. We will be reaching out to the driver to investigate this matter and take appropriate actions.” Does that sound like a company that’s actually going to do anything? The message indicated no intent to follow up with me.

I returned to Twitter to voice my displeasure at their indifference, especially since Uber had sent a mass e-mail titled “Standing up against hate,” earlier that day, vowing to “act swiftly and decisively to uphold our Community Guidelines.” You’d think a company taking that strong a stand against Neo-Nazis would want to find out all the details regarding an incident where their own driver was accused of using hate speech. Guess not.

An Uber representative, named Rolando, did leave a voicemail expressing an interest in hearing what had happened. Rolando did not return my voicemail indicating when I’d be available, which included the entirety of his remaining shift that day, and closed down our message thread, preventing me from replying further. Rolando also included the rather presumptuous, “I am hopeful that your next trip with Uber is as hassle-free as it should be,” as if it was a given that a person who’d experienced that kind of hate from their service would ever use it again. One thing is clear, Uber does not actually want to hear from me. I told them I was writing this article and wanted to talk. It would have been easy to do so.

Uber’s “Report an issue with this trip” section doesn’t actually have a feature that allows you to report a trip that didn’t actually happen. You’d think it would, since this sure seems like a major reason people would contact Uber looking for a refund, but apparently not. The closest comparable option under the “I would like a refund” section is “Someone else took this trip.” The difference might look like one of semantics, except the issue isn’t really that “someone else took this trip.” The trip didn’t even happen at all.

Uber has a lot of problems lately. That corporate rot appears to infect the whole tree from the top to the bottom, the roots through the trunk, all the way to the branches. I don’t write this account because I’m hurt by what happened. I’m not, but I’ve been devastated in the past when people have attacked me with that kind of language. It has taken me years to get to a place where I can brush it off as a petty attack by an equally petty person. The suicide rate for transgender people is many times higher than the general population. That situation could have ended up very badly, very easily, given the circumstances. That is not okay.

Uber is a bad company run by bad people. There are too many red flags to ignore. Companies like Uber talk a big game when events like what happened in Charlottesville occur, putting out memos pretending to care. That’s all it is. Pretend. Uber doesn’t care about bigots. It just doesn’t want you to know that.

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Thursday

17

August 2017

1

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Halt and Catch Fire is the Best Show on Television

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

There was a fair degree of love at first sight for me with Halt and Catch Fire, having been a big fan of Lee Pace since Pushing Daisies aired in 2007. Oddly enough, season two established the technology driven period piece as the best show on television, after Pace’s Joe McMillan had been relegated to supporting status. Reshuffling the deck has grown to be one of HaCF’s defining traits, practically rebooting the plot each year.

Many shows succeed through the risks their characters take, endearing them to the audience along the way. Halt and Catch Fire has always upped the ante, fearlessly blowing up the show whenever it best suits the plot. Television shows inevitably leave a lot on the table. The medium only allows for so much ground to be covered in ten or thirteen episode increments over a few years’ time. Having spent its entire life suffering from low ratings and an uncertain future, HaCF has always understood this better than most.

The character development of the five lead characters over the course of the first three seasons demonstrates Halt and Catch Fire’s masterful deployment of its assets. The time period is fun to explore, but just with Mad Men, the actors and the writing are the true defining features. These characters endear themselves to the audience in a unique way because they’re not held back. They all have extremely messy relationships with each other. The show never tries to hide that or superficially fix it for the sake of the plot. It wears its emotions on its sleeve, allowing the audience an intimate look at what these people are going through as they try to make their mark on the world.

The show has mastered the art of the emotional payoff. There have been times throughout the first three seasons where I’ve thought the plot is dragging on a bit, only to be blown away by the story’s progression. It understands pacing like few other shows on TV.

Season four will be the last round of adventures for Joe, Gordon, Cameron, Donna, and Boz. I say that with sadness because I’ll miss them terribly, but there is comfort in the fact that this show gets to go out on its own terms after spending four seasons holding nothing back. Too many shows, including the one that originally endeared me to Pace, haven’t been afforded that chance.

Halt and Catch Fire was never a ratings success. It’s been ignored at the Emmys. Its final season will start in two days, on a Saturday, the insulting, irrelevant graveyard slot. I could write that this is somehow poetic, or that The Wire received a similar cold shoulder throughout its initial run, but it bothers me. There are a lot of scripted TV shows currently airing. Hundreds. Probably too many, but I still say with certainty that this one is the best of the best. I don’t really believe in the concept of “peak TV,” as I imagine this is a label the present era will always want to hold, but HaCF is the best example contradicting that notion.

I urge you to watch this show. The first three seasons are on Netflix. I know everyone has shows they’re meaning to get to. Take my advice and put those aside in favor of this one. You won’t regret it. No one I’ve recommended the show to has.

AMC deserves credit for recognizing what a special show it has, even if it dared to air it on Saturdays. It probably would have been a smarter business decision to cancel it and spend the money on another battle sequence for The Walking Dead. As Halt and Catch Fire has demonstrated time and time again, the economic bottom line shouldn’t be the only consideration. There’s also the matter of the heart. These characters have more heart and more than any on television.

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Tuesday

15

August 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 5

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Bronn’s upper body strength is pretty incredible, managing to lift Jaime and all his armor from the bottom of that river. Both of them must have pretty good lungs too since everyone was gone by the time they resurfaced. Jon could have sailed to Eastwatch and back in that amount of time!

Randyll Tarly was responsible for the only Targaryen victory in Robert’s Rebellion. I don’t mention that as a book fanatic nitpicking at a detail casual fans wouldn’t remember (like Littlefinger’s old scroll), since this fact was brought up this very season, when Randyll met with Jaime in King’s Landing. The idea that he would let himself and his son be burned to death in the name of Queen Cersei of all people, who he didn’t even support at the beginning of the season, is laughable. His excuse that Dany was foreigner with no ties to Westeros is one of the worst things the show has ever tried to pass off as logic. I guess Dickon Tarly won’t be the new Lyanna Mormont. Tragic.

That scene didn’t even really serve its function as a way to set up Dany as an unpolished ruler with potential anger management issues. Sure, Varys and Tyrion had a cute little chat about the need to curtail her death by dragon fire desires, but we were also later treated to a scene building up a potential romance with Jon, a reunion with Ser Jorah of House Greyscale, and to both of these men’s departures. Are we really supposed to be “that” worried that Dany likes to burn people when she’s busy giving this many hugs?

This episode marked the fourth time that Jorah has left Dany’s company since season four. Why is he still on this show? It is honestly beyond ridiculous at this point. He has had the most ridiculous storyline of any character on this show by far. We occasionally forget that rooted in his inability to die of incurable diseases, or to simply go away, is his creepy love of Dany, who will never reciprocate his affection. Please kill him. No more reunions. He should contract a new strain of greyscale from the ice zombies.

Let’s talk about this plan to get Jon back beyond the wall to have another battle with the White Walkers. Oops, I meant to write the plan to convince Cersei that the ice zombies are real, because that’s the reason the show has given us. Because apparently, that’s a smarter idea than just sending Davos and a team of assasins into King’s Landing like season two. Or you know, dragons.

This plan is absurd for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most ridiculous of them all is the likelihood that Cersei would still not care if they existed, even if she actually believed them. It seems like quite a gamble to send Jon on a suicide mission that probably wouldn’t work even if everything went according to plan. There are many ways to get rid of Cersei. The problem is that none of these plans take eight episodes and none include a battle with ice zombies featuring several popular characters. Alas.

Joer Mormont actually tried a similar plan to prove to King’s Landing that the White Walkers were real back in A Clash of Kings. He sent Ser Alliser Thorne with the zombified hand of the wight that tried to kill him in the first book/season to convince Tyrion, then Acting Hand. The wight died on the way there. Tyrion was not convinced.

The whole plan to go capture a White Walker seems designed strictly to get Jon off Dragonstone and to reunite Tyrion with Jaime. The reunion was fun from a fan perspective, especially seeing Jaime’s conflicted guilt over his role in Tywin’s death. This is actually a case where casting logic aside made sense. Tyrion could sit down and explain why he had to shoot their father with a crossbow and it could all be rational, but it wouldn’t change the fact that Jaime’s guilt is hardly misplaced. After all, Tywin was their father, even if he was willing to let Tyrion die for a crime he knew he didn’t commit.

The show did do two things I’ve been whining about all season. Davos finally brought up that Tyrion’s wildfire killed his son in the Battle of the Blackwater and we finally heard from the knights of the Vale! I’m glad D&D read these recaps.

Gendry is back! Davos even paid homage to the long running “still rowing” fan joke. Amazing. As if we needed another reason to love Davos.

The Arya/Sansa feud was kind of strange to watch, mostly because it felt like something out of season one. Arya has spent years training at the House of the Undying to become a deadly assassin. Sansa is governing Winterfell and all the political complexities that come with it. Seeing them bicker like that ignored the immense growth these two have undergone since they last shared the screen together.

Sansa was right to not take a firm stance defending Jon against the Vale lords. They owe him nothing. They didn’t come for Jon. They came for Sansa, who is still their liege lord’s cousin even if he never makes another appearance on the show. Jon is not. He is an illegitimate Night’s Watch deserter turned king, although probably not their king. I don’t say to belittle Jon, only to describe the current situation up North.

The messy political landscape is a big part of why Littlefinger is such a great character. We, the audience, hate him because of all the terrible things he’s done to characters we like. This doesn’t change the fact that he’s also the only reason any of them are in Winterfell, saving Jon at the Battle of the Bastards. I know a lot of people want Arya to kill him and I suspect that will happen sooner rather than later, but I’ll miss him when he’s gone.

For those wondering about the scroll, she found, it appears to be the letter Sansa was coerced into sending to Winterfell back in season one, calling her father a traitor and claiming that the Lannisters were nice hosts down in King’s Landing. This appears to be an effort to turn Arya against Sansa. If only there was an omniscient character at Winterfell who could foil this plan…

Why aren’t there any brothers of the Night’s Watch at Eastwatch-by-the-sea? Davos mentioned that Jon isn’t Lord Commander and can’t just wander around wherever he wants, except that seems to be exactly what he could do. I think I might have laughed if you told me a few years ago that Jon, Gendry, Jorah, Davos, Tormund, The Hound, Beric Dondarrion, and Thoros of Myr would all be headed beyond the Wall together. Now I guess it makes perfect sense, for some reason. Logic!

Finally, we get to that bombsell that Gilly casually mentioned to Sam, only to be ignored. Apparently, Rhaegar Targaryen received an annulment freeing him of his marriage to Elia Martell, allowing him to marry Lyanna Stark. This likely means that Jon is not a bastard and also now has the best claim to the Iron Throne under Westerosi law. This is also probably a major spoiler for the books, if George R.R. Martin ever finishes writing them.

Will Gilly ever mention this again? Maybe. She doesn’t necessarily need to, with Bran ex machina presumably also knowing that, and everything else. A marriage between Dany and Jon would render this point moot as well. It was a fun revelation for the fans, even if it is a big spoiler.

That’s it for this week. A lot happened. None of it involved Theon. Hopefully that continues next week. See you then.

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August 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 4

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Note to readers: Don’t go into battle against a dragon. Not even if you have a giant crossbow, that can apparently be manned by one person. Definitely not a good idea.

So Highgarden is up for grabs? It’s almost as if it isn’t the seat of an ancient ruling house in Westeros. Granted, the Tarly’s now control the Reach, which should be in good hands now that Sam’s baby brother Dickon is around. Hopefully he doesn’t get burned to death too soon. Could be the next Lyanna Mormont!

The book fan in me wants to go and on about the debt repayment. It was way too easy. You don’t erase twenty years of heavy spending with a single plunder. The Crown’s debt is a far more interesting plotline in the books as Littlefinger is a likely saboteur with his lending schemes. The show has been hinting about debt for ages, but it’s hardly compelling television. With nine episodes left, pushing it aside does make some sense. I’m not really quite sure what role the Iron Bank needs to play in the rest of the series, but Tycho Nestoris is fun to watch and it gives Cersei something to do besides torture people.

The show is handling Bran fairly well. I imagine the writers would prefer not have a deus ex machina ever knowing character around to annoy everyone with hidden knowledge of literally everything. This episode did a good job of dancing around that fact.

Meera was wrong to state that her brother Jojen died for Bran. Jojen actually died so the actor could film the movie series The Maze Runner. Maybe that’s why Bran was so nonchalant about her leaving. Let’s all shed one more tear for Hodor, or a hundred.

Meera is leaving Winterfell to return to her father, whose role in the show has been heavily downplayed. Howland Reed (Ned’s BFF) is the only living person, besides Bran/Yoda (if he’s alive), who knows Jon’s true parentage. I’m not sure how much the show cares about this little detail, but something to watch out for.

The reintroduction of the Valyrian steel dagger could go a lot of ways, most involving Littlefinger’s demise. The mystery of who ordered the assassin to try and kill Bran has never really been solved in either the books or the show, even though Littlefinger was correct to note that the action basically started the whole war. In the books, Littlefinger does lie about losing the dagger to Tyrion, but both Tyrion and Jaime independently deduce that Joffrey is the likely culprit, in a sick effort to impress Robert. I’m not sure if Joffrey will be identified in the show too, or what that would add to the narrative. I also liked how the books didn’t feel the need to tie up that loose end. Let’s hope the show doesn’t make too much of a big deal about a detail I’m sure most casual fans forgot about.

Arya is back in Winterfell. Sansa is in no rush to tell her that Bran is back, or that Rickon is dead, or that cousin Sweetrobin saved them all before suddenly disappearing. Their reunion was way better than Sansa and Bran’s, or any scene involving Bran, though we still don’t know the mystery of who made Ned’s Winterfell statue. Probably Ramsey. Really aren’t that many other options.

Brienne is still around. We finally learned why. It wasn’t to protect Sansa or to have a relationship with Tormund or Jaime, nope. She’s still on the show so she can kick Arya to the ground in a friendly duel, making Sansa feel bad in the process for being the only living Stark without superpowers. Good job!

Boy those Dragonstone drawings sure are convenient. Jon probably drew them himself, using crayons Shireen left behind. I’m not sure which is more deus ex machina, the drawings or Bran. Probably the drawings.

At least Davos finally floated the idea of marriage to Jon. About time the onion knight learned the rules of politics, though I’d pretty much forgive him for anything. Best character on the show by far. Jon does not deserve an advisor as loyal and amazing as Ser Davos Seaworth.

Theon = eww gross go away. He’s so awful. Please, please kill him. We’ve had enough of his misery. He belongs in a Lifetime channel original movie, co-starring Ser Jorah of House Greyscale.

We had another end of the episode battle that popped up out of nowhere. Apparently Dany snuck away from Dragonstone with her Dothraki army and three large dragons without anyone noticing. They were probably busy drawing more pictures on her basement wall.

The battle was amazing to watch. I have very little to criticize (surprise, surprise). It was great to see Jaime in an actual military conflict. Too often he’s underutilized as a sounding board for the other characters. This sequence was some of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s best acting, subtly expressing the horrors as his character watched his army burned. At least Randyll had time to tell him the plunder was safe.

Could have done without Bronn being chased by a single Dothraki through the vast carnage before using a massive crossbow all by himself nail Drogon. There is this thing called suspension of disbelief that reminds us that major characters occasionally do unrealistic things for the sake of the narrative. I get that, but this was a little much. Reloading/aiming that thing would have been pretty impossible for one person. Alas.

No, Jaime is not dead. Logic would normally tell us that he would sink, because of all his heavy armor. This is superseded by a greater logic. If a main character is not shown to be definitively dead on screen, he or she is not dead. The real question is, who saved him? My money’s on Gendry…

Overall, this was likely the best episode of the season. Only three more episodes left in this abbreviated season. I doubt we’ll have any resolution to the war in Westeros by season’s end. That’s probably a good thing.

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July 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 3

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Jon and Dany’s first meeting has been one of the most anticipated moments of the series. It isn’t really one of those scenarios that can “deliver” on the hype, as we can’t really expect anything major to happen immediately on the beaches of Dragonstone. Some table setting was certainly in order.

It’s almost as if season two never happened. Davos mentioned being on opposite sides of the Battle of the Blackwater, but not that Tyrion’s wildfire killed his son (multiple sons in the books). You may have forgotten that Davos even had a son, or that Varys once explained to Tyrion that he’s not a huge fan of the Lord of Light. While the Spider wasn’t exactly warm to Melisandre, he didn’t try to pick her brain either. At least the show mentioned Tyrion’s marriage to Sansa!

Also, how is Melisandre going to get to Volantis? Varys’ magic boat? Does Westerosi Uber pick up from Dragonstone?

Varys does know that Ned knew about Robert’s assassination attempt on Dany. He threatened to resign as Hand over it. I doubt this will come up later, and I don’t see what it would change, but worth mentioning.

Marriage used to be a very helpful tool in sealing alliances. While Targaryens are known for marrying each other, Dany is the last of the line. Logic would tell us that the next best suitor would be head of one of the Seven Kingdoms. Of those, two are basically extinct (Baratheon, Tully), two and a half are already allied with her cause (Tyrell, Martell, half of Greyjoy), and one and a half are surefire enemies (Lannister, the other half of Greyjoy). That leaves us with Jon and everyone’s favorite forgotten lord, Sweetrobin of House Arryn, whose troops are sort of allied with Jon.

No one suggested that Dany propose a marriage pact with Jon, her only viable suitor who isn’t a sickly young boy. I get that some people might think it’s gross because Dany is Jon’s aunt, but they don’t know that. Targaryens also don’t really care about incest (certainly not the only ones in Westeros). That would be a really simple fix to everyone’s problems. But no. That would require logic.

The rest of their meeting was fine and all. It was nice to see Tyrion and Jon interacting again. I don’t expect that the two would get married immediately, or even at all. It seems quite irresponsible of Tyrion, Davos, and Varys to not even float the idea around.

Also, Davos’ speech endorsing Jon was great and all, but paled in comparison to Davos’ legendary Stannis speech in Braavos back in season four.

Ellaria Sand is a problematic character. She’s had very limited screen time, creating few opportunities to endear her to the audience. She’s killed Doran Martell, Areo Hotah, and Myrcella Baratheon in cold blood. She is boring. Why should anyone care what Cersei does to this horrible character?

Cersei’s one redeeming quality, at least in the books, has always been her genuine love of her children. Cruel Cersei was mostly on display this episode in killed Tyene Sand, but why is the viewer supposed to care? The show never gave us a reason to. One can look at outside morality to judge Cersei, but we’re in the realm of fiction. The story is supposed to do that kind of work. The Sand Snakes have consistently been the worst part of the series since their introduction. I cannot be upset with Cersei for ridding the world of them.

But I can mention once again how stupid it is that Qyburn is Hand. Moving on.

Jaime doesn’t like Euron. Cersei may not either. The whole Jaime/Cersei romance has been a mess for a while now, even without the Brianne subplot. Their scene was okay and all, but kind of unnecessary in an otherwise eventful episode.

Reek is alive, and not on Gendry’s boat. I wish the show would just kill him. He’s definitely the Smeagol/Gollum of this show and that’s definitely not a compliment.

Sansa is a better leader than Jon. Funny, since she should be Queen of the North, especially since Bran/Yoda doesn’t want it. Littlefinger seemed quite interested when the new Maester mentioned how Maester Luwin kept copies of all the raven scrolls. I expect this could come up later on.

I guess Bran coming back was a big deal. The show played cutesy with the reunion, as Arya seemed to be the likely returning prodigal Stark. I still miss Hodor too much to care about Bran and his weird shit. Reminds me of a college freshman who comes home for break acting like a hipster. We get it. You think you know everything.

Jorah is cured of a highly contagious/deadly disease and no one cares! We still don’t know why this poor character had to suffer through it at all. I guess Joer Mormont only told Sam to tell Jorah to take the black in the books, which makes his greyscale even more pointless and stupid. Though this means we don’t have to keep pondering about it anymore! I’ll miss asking that question.

I’m getting a little tired of these mini battles at the end of the episodes. The show doesn’t have the budget for weekly extravagant sequences, but two episodes in a row of these deus ex machina power changes is a bit much. House Tyrell is supposed to have the biggest army. Their decision to side with the Lannisters won the War of the Five Kings. They’ve participated in no major military conflicts since then, so logic would dictate that they should still have a pretty big army.

But no, apparently not. The show attempted to explain this sudden charge in authority by having Randyll Tarly defect to the Lannisters, but it’s still lazy writing. The Tyrells are more powerful than just one bannerman. Olenna’s death might have been compelling television, but it made little sense within the context of the story.

This is the problem with the season six finale. Dany had a ridiculously large army with the Tyrells, Martells, Greyjoys, Dothraki, and Unsullied. It was too big to make anyone else besides the White Walkers look like formidable foes. Now for some reason, she has a smaller army. Why? Obviously the show doesn’t have much time left, but that doesn’t mean logic needs to be tossed out the window like a child who saw Jaime and Cersei making love.

This episode once again suffered from trying to tackle too many plotlines in one episode. The show needs to do a better job allotting screen time to characters who will be affected by the final scenes. Too many cooks in the kitchen is never a good thing, especially when Hot Pie doesn’t even appear in the episode.

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July 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 2

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This episode was a strange one. Sam picked pus riddled greyscale off of Ser Jorah and Grey Worm had sex with Missandei, two things I hardly expected season seven to deliver. As if that wasn’t enough fun for one episode, Reek abandoned ship to board a piece of driftwood, presumably to find Gendry after an action sequence that came out of nowhere at the tail end of the episode.

Pacing was my main concern heading into the season. It doesn’t seem like there’s many more episodes left, but the characters do have to do something to pass the time before the big ice zombie battle. For Daenerys, this involves making baffling military decisions and bizarre back and forths about power with an overzealous intelligence expert, who once tried to have her killed.

Dany’s massive army creates problems for the show’s pacing. She has more troops than everyone combined, even if the Ironborn/Dorne were wiped out and Randyll Tarly ended up siding with the Lannisters. That is how powerful the Unsullied/Dothraki/Dragons are (and how much of a mess everyone else’s army is in). Tyrion telling her not to use them sort of makes sense on paper, if you don’t give it a second look. Why would the people of Westeros prefer to be conquered by siege rather than dragons? Why would care about foreign troops when Cersei is their self-appointed queen? Probably to save the show’s budget. Dragons are expensive to show on screen.

The ship battle was brief, most likely in an attempt to cut costs since the players were people we’re hardly given a reason to care about. The Sand Snakes have never made any sense and the viewer has never really been given a reason to care about them. The same sort of logic applies to Yara, whose major redeeming quality seems to be that those around her tend to be less interesting. This is kind of problematic when you factor in Euron, who’s at least charming and fun to watch. I wish they’d just kill Reek. He’s horrible.

Tyrion is married to Sansa. Just thought I’d remind everyone of that. The show appears to have forgotten, even though Melisandre had plenty of time to bring up the Prince that was Promised prophecy that’s been pretty ignored in the show (though Maester Aemon brings up the gender issue in the books). This episode had a couple throwbacks to earlier times, but seems to not care about a pretty big one.

Omitting their marriage is lazy writing, just like another Jon/Sansa debate in a public setting. Haven’t these people ever heard of a conference room? Jon even mentioned it last episode, as if anyone cares. It could have been a substantive debate too. After all, Dany is Jon’s aunt, whose father murdered Jon and Sansa’s grandfather and uncle. Dany’s Hand is also Sansa’s husband, which makes him Jon’s half brother-in-law based on information currently available to the characters. The characters may not know about Jon and Dany being related through R+L = J, but the web is still pretty tangled even without that detail. It would have been nice to see the show really try to dive into that.

Jon is an ungrateful brat. Stannis saved him back in season four and Jon repaid him by mercy killing Mance Rayder and trying to get him to leave the Wall. Littlefinger saves him from Ramsay and he tells him he can’t tour the crypts of Winterfell and attacks him. Rude.

Also, are we really supposed to believe the two most powerful people in Winterfell haven’t had a proper chat until one of them brings up his love for the other’s sister/cousin and sort of motherly figure who never really liked him? What exactly is the Vale army doing? Where is Sweetrobin? Why hasn’t he made anyone fly yet?

Why isn’t Lyanna Mormont in charge of tactical?

The show’s new pacing logic means that a raven sent from Dragonstone now reaches Winterfell in a single scene. The bird must have traveled over on Varys’ magic boat. I wonder how much money he makes from moonlighting as a mailman?

Looks like Qyburn, not Jaime, is Cersei’s hand. Neither are particularly good choices given that one is the Queen’s brother/lover and the other is a mad scientist. You know who would have been a good pick? Randyll Tarly, who was actually floated as a choice by Kevan Lannister in A Feast for Crows. Offering him that post would’ve been a brilliant tactical move, and Qyburn hardly needs the job to keep doing weird things. But that would make sense. The show doesn’t seem to be a big fan of making sense these days.

For those of you who started reading these recaps last week or have forgotten, the “why does Jorah have greyscale?” question has been a running joke since he contracted the disease back in season five. I had a few people message me about that. Jon Connington got greyscale from the stone men in the books. He isn’t in the show. I’m not sure why someone else had to contract his infectious skin disease instead. Alas.

The Samwell/Jorah plotline is clearly headed toward Jorah joining the Night’s Watch, fulfilling Joer Mormont’s dying wish to Sam back at Craster’s Keep. Unlike the Tyrion/Sansa omission, I liked how the show didn’t bring this one up yet. Something for the fans to chew on! Sure could’ve done without that gross scene. Jorah has suffered enough. Please just kill him and Reek.

Arya and Hot Pie’s reunion was fun, even though Arya is pretty scary these days. I’m glad we got some answers as to how much information Arya knew. Given the current pacing, she could have arrived in Winterfell the very next scene!

Part of the reason this episode felt kind of uneven was that all the major characters appeared, crunching down on available screen time. Arya’s brief reunion with Nymeria was a perfect place to end the episode, given the magnitude of the event. But I guess now we get to spend the week wondering where Reek will float off to. How exciting!

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Be sure to catch my live recap show on my author page that airs at 10:15 EST following the episode.

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July 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 1

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If Tyrion is Daenerys’ Hand and Jaime is Cersei’s, who is Jon’s? As I much as I love Davos, I hope it’s Lyanna Mormont. Way better than her greyscaled riddled uncle.

This episode was more concerned with setting the table than supplying an appetizer. No death, no resurrection. It did contain an event that some fans have been waiting for since 1996, which was given a minimalistic touch that’s perhaps fitting given how much time has passed since Viserys spoke of Westeros to Dany all those years ago. The whole scene was also overshadowed by the massive amount of suspension of disbelief required to accept the idea that Stannis Baratheon (still haven’t seen a body) would leave Dragonstone completely unguarded for anyone to visit, without even having to buy admission (or a souvenir at the gift shop). It will still be a very enjoyable scene.

Jon’s emphasis on dragonglass points to a future alliance with Dany, as Dragonstone has large reserves of Dragonglass. Stannis had urged Dragonstone castellan Ser Rolland Storm to begin mining for it in A Dance With Dragons and I imagine we’ll see something similar in the show. There is a more pressing alliance that Jon needs to fortify before he journey south however.

A conflict between Jon and Sansa is inevitable given the power structure. Sansa is the rightful heir of Winterfell. Jon isn’t. I’m not quite sure who in the show is actually aware of this teensy little minor detail, but it’s bound to create some drama down the road, especially since Littlefinger is no fan of Jon. The whole public debate over the Karstarks and the Umbers (who don’t betray the Starks in the books) seemed odd, but set Jon apart from Ned and Robb.

It is important to remember just how bad Ned and Robb were at political strategy. Good men, yes. Good leaders, not by a long shot. Jon now finds himself with lots of enemies, including a bunch of ice zombies. Best not to forget where things previously went wrong.

Eastwatch-by-the-sea was prominently featured in this episode. As one of only three active castles manned by the Night’s Watch out of nineteen, this wouldn’t normally be surprising, except the Night’s Watch doesn’t currently include a ton of important characters. Bran and Meera are currently at Castle Black. You’d think Tormund and the Brotherhood Without Banners would head there rather than a castle with no significant characters. I suppose the new three-eyed raven could journey there as well. I doubt we’ll see any clashes with the White Walkers until the end of the season at the earliest, which allows plenty of time for characters to move around (especially if they borrow Varys’ magic boat).

The King’s Landing dynamic went about as well as you’d expect it to. Cersei has no heirs and a fairly meager army. An alliance with Euron makes sense just as one of them betraying the other also makes sense.

The problem is that Dragonstone is really close to King’s Landing. I don’t know how much the show cares about this detail, but Dany is literally right there, with by far the largest army. Cersei and Euron could be completely wiped out next episode and it would make sense from a geographical standpoint. I assume Euron is going to impede that progress somehow, maybe by attacking Tyrion, but prolonging a siege of King’s Landing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I’ve been wondering about how much Arya knows about what’s going on in the North. If she knows Jon and Sansa are alive, it would make much more sense for her to head there rather than King’s Landing. Also, why didn’t Ed Sheeran play “Shape of You” in the opening scene? Talk about wasted opportunities…

Why does Jorah have Greyscale? Yes, we’re still asking that.

Maesters can’t have families. Brothers of the Night’s Watch can’t have families. Samwell is at the bottom of the maester trainee totem pole yet he gets a suite for Gilly and baby Sam. Utterly ridiculous. I know rules don’t matter, but it might be nice if someone at least pretended they did.

The scenes with the Hound, Thoros of Myr, and Beric Dondarrion ended up being my favorite of the episode. As someone who was against the Hound’s return last year, this surprised me. I’m glad the show isn’t doing Lady Stoneheart, which allows the BWB to actually look like it cares about the realm. I was pretty surprised that the group is still on the show, but it’s working out fairly well.

This episode probably wasn’t as exciting as many would have hoped given the long wait, but I found it to be quite satisfying. The table is set for the remaining twelve episodes and the episode covered all the necessary bases, except for why Sam gets a honeymoon suite at the Citadel or why Jorah is locked away with a contagious disease. Some may regard these as minor details, especially when there are broader concerns, like how Stannis will react when he sees people staying in his castle. Hopefully we’ll cover that next week!

Bit of a scheduling note. My live recap show airs at 10:15 EST right after the episode on my author page. Written recaps follow on Monday mornings. Thanks for reading!

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