Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Monthly Archive: May 2015

Wednesday

27

May 2015

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COMMENTS

Interviews of Ice and Fire: Aziz of History of Westeros Podcast

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

I am honored to welcome Aziz of the History of Westeros podcast to the site. The History of Westeros is one of the most in depth ASOIAF resources available; creating episodes that piece together the series’ confusing timeline along with commentary on the houses, theories, reviews of Game of Thrones, and just about anything else imaginable. Aziz is also a contributor for the recently released Tower of the Hand anthology A Hymn for Spring.

The History of Westeros Podcast features some of the most in depth discussions on ASOIAF. Can you tell us a little bit about the research that goes into each episode?

One of the most important things we do is take our time. We don’t rush to record anything. It’s easy to miss details, and we all know that. What’s not so obvious is that having a fresh perspective on a topic can really change your mind on a few things. There’s no way to have a “fresh perspective” if you work on the same topic steadily for several weeks.

So we are typically researching at least 5, often as many as 10 topics at once. This way every topic stays relatively fresh in our minds, which keeps us open minded with regards to new ideas.

As for research itself, we scour every book and all the Q&A records (SSM’s)  for references to whatever the topic is. Then we do the same for references to subtopics, all the while looking for good quotes. We dump everything we can find into a document, then start organizing it and figuring out the best order for everything to be in. Having things flow nicely is important when dealing with a large topic.

But it all starts with knowing where to begin, which comes from already knowing the material well before beginning any project. That of course, means reading the books many times.

Your website says you became a fan of ASOIAF back in 2000. What made you decide to start a podcast?

Technically, I didn’t start it. Our friend Steve Mangiameli did, and I first met him through a mutual friend. She told me he wanted to do a “History of Westeros” podcast call in show, and suggested I participate for fun. I did, and it was great. He invited me to be his co-host soon after and I got swept up in all the possibilities. So it was a bit of an accident, you could say.

Your podcasts use plenty of analysis found in the novellas, which many fans tend to overlook. Which one is your favorite?

Probably “The Hedge Knight” because we see so many different ancestors to so many major families, including so many Targaryens.

As someone who’s been involved in the ASOIAF world for fifteen years, can you tell us a little about how you’ve seen the fandom evolve with the TV show and later installments in the series?

Definitely. It’s incredible how well versed the fandom is in the material in general. Back when I was new to it all, even some of the most now-widely-accepted theories were a tough sell, and discussions would be rife with mistakes. There was no wiki nor e-books either, so it was hard to settle such things or even look things up. Now there are people who volunteer huge amounts of time track cross referencing every little detail amongst two canons (ASOIAF & HBO).

I’m constantly impressed by the devotion and intelligence of the fandom. I actually appreciate how long the books have taken to come out, (a recent realization) because without it, this amazing situation would not exist. The experience of living through the wait, of making friends, of podcasting… none of it would be here if the books came out quickly.

Did the release of The World of Ice and Fire cause you to want to go back and change any of your past episodes?

We’ve actually taken quite a few down, though partly it was due to our earliest episodes having some audio problems. We avoided quite a few topics for about a year and a half in advance of The World of Ice and Fire’s release, because we knew we we’d risk treading ground that was likely to shift.

Episodes of your podcast frequently focus on a specific house. Which house(s) would you like to see more of in Game of Thrones?

Some of the houses that are faves of mine and of many readers are barely represented or not represented at all. Dayne & Manderly come to mind. Velaryon as well, because of their Valyrian heritage. But none of those are likely. As far as something that might actually happen, I’ll say Greyjoy.

One of my favorite episodes of THOW was when you covered the Arianne TWOW chapter (still not sure how you managed to talk for two hours about that). As someone who’s been a fan for a long time, what do you think of GRRM’s decision to release so many sample chapters over a long period of time?

It’s a great idea and a smart decision. It renews interest for many fans and gives us all something new to break up the long wait. TWoW will probably have around 80 chapters, so even if we see 8 or so of them, it’s only 10% of the book, and it’s a 10% chosen for being on the side of set up and exposition, rather than major events and plot points.

What’s the craziest story you can tell about recording the History of Westeros?  

If we’re talking about the actual recording process, we have 5 cats that don’t get locked up while we’re on camera… They have video-bombed us many times, enough so that we have had many requests to talk more about them or even do a video specifically on them. We also once lost a recording to Ironborn raiders.

Was the Mad King truly mad?
I’d say there’s little doubt. He was so paranoid that his fingernails were as long, or longer, than his fingers. A sane man would at least cut his nails on his own. He believed the wildfire planted around King’s Landing, when lit, would transform him into a dragon. Even if the stories are exaggerated (possible, since many/most accounts of Aerys are tainted by being written under Baratheon reign), I trust Barristan’s and Ned’s judgement on the matter, and they both seem pretty clear on it.

Generic question, but who is your favorite character in the books. Is the same true for the show?

Davos in the books, because we know he’s really as honest and loyal as he acts, since we’ve seen inside his head.

Tyrion in the show.  Davos is featured too little, and we don’t get that same sense of knowing him. Peter Dinklage’s acting wins the day in this medium.

What are your thoughts on season five so far and the changes from the books?

I have a very high threshold of tolerance for the changes. That’s how I set my expectations from the beginning, and I credit that as a major factor in my enjoyment of the show. I embrace the differences as much as I can, though I can’t help but be critical from time to time. That said, we’ve just now scratched the surface on real changes. Even late in season 5, most characters have not caught up with their book arcs, though many are extremely close, and of course a few have gone in a completely different direction. Season 6 is where we’ll see the biggest divergences, and that will likely be surpassed by season 7.

Ser Barristan’s death in the show has made me reconsider my thoughts that he’ll survive the Battle of Fire. Has anything that’s happened in the show caused you to reconsider your opinions?

The biggest to date, and expect there will be more, is the scene where the baby is carried far to the north by a White Walker, and given to what we’re told is Night’s King. When we did our episode on Night’s King, it was impossible not to at least consider how this could relate to the books. Ultimately, it needs to be treated separately, but undoubtedly there will be some parallels.

Can you tell us a little about your contribution to A Hymn for Spring?

In terms of the project, it was great to be part of a group who have all done similar projects before. Marc Kleinheinz made the process simple, all we had to do was write our essay and spread the word through our show. The essay itself, on the subject of Harrenhal and its curse, was a lot of fun to write and research. We tried to capture the feel of our show, which is to be perceptive, funny and thorough. We combined meta-analysis of what a “curse” is and what it means to Westerosi of all levels with historical analysis woven in.

A Hymn For Spring can be purchased here

 

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Monday

25

May 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 7

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

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. Spoilers will largely be kept to comparisons between the show and the books within the episodes themselves, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

This episode felt like a premiere for the rest of the series in many ways. Maybe that’s because it featured an usually high number of storylines. Maybe it’s because Aemon died or Sansa appears to be a different person. Maybe it’s because Tyrion finally met Daenerys. With three episodes left, the direction is still unclear for many of the characters, though some plotlines are starting to shape up.

The stakes in King’s Landing are much higher than they are in the books. In A Feast for Crows, Cersei is arrested for using members of the Kingsguard to give false testimony against Margaery for infidelity, keeping in mind that Tommen is still just a boy who likes to play with kittens. Here, the Faith Militant has arrested Cersei, Margaery, and Loras on legitimate charges (for Westeros in Loras’ case).

It remains to be seen how the Sparrow will navigate the incest charges without removing Tommen as king, which I don’t think is likely. There isn’t really a replacement for the Iron Thrones, which is why characters like Kevan Lannister openly admit that they believe the rumors to be true in the later books. It’s sort of a dead plotline that won’t move forward until Dany sails across the Narrow Sea.

The scenes with the Sparrow and Lady Olenna appear to exist solely because of the talent of the actors involved. I’m sure most people at HBO are giddy to have Jonathan Pryce share the screen with Diana Rigg, but something was missing from their interaction, which has been a recurring theme for the portrayal of the Tyrells as a whole.

The Tyrells are the most powerful house in Westeros. They have the largest army and the most money (especially in the show) and yet Cersei has repeatedly had her way with Mace. Lady Olenna is formidable, but not as outright dominant as she should be. It’s worth noting that in the books, the Faith releases Margaery into the custody of Randyll Tarly when he brings a big army to King’s Landing. Showing the Queen of Thorns rotting in a dungeon makes for better television, but it’s fairly illogical.

Let’s shift gears to Stannis and Shireen. Will he sacrifice her? Unlikely, though it is possible. I still think more will happen between Melisandre and Jon Snow this season, though as of now that’s looking to be pretty impossible.

Fun Easter Egg time. Davos reports that the Stormcrows, a sellsword company that Stannis had supposedly hired, had abandoned him. In the books, Daario Naharis is head on the Stormcrows, while the Second Sons are a different company initially working for Dany but later switch sides. Tyrion and Jorah also join the Second Sons after they escape from slavery.

I’m a little indifferent about Aemon’s death, though I loved that D&D kept the “Egg, I dream that I was old” line. In the books, his death served a bigger purpose (and his body appears to as well). Here it looked like someone decided that it was time for him to die and rushed it along. I don’t think Oldtown is completely off the table for Sam and Gilly, but it doesn’t seem likely as of now. I’m sad that we didn’t get to see a Stannis/Aemon scene. I will miss Maester Aemon.

I thought it was a little odd that Ser Alliser told Sam he was low on friends. It seems as though Ser Alliser flip flops on being a semi decent bloke with every appearance. I will always love him after his speech in “The Watchers on the Wall.”

Sansa mocking Ramsey was fun to watch and made for good television, but it also highlighted the problems with the North as a whole. Seeing Sansa stand up for herself is great, but foolish from her perspective. She should be plotting. She should have tons of people besides that old woman who want to plot with her. I get that the show can’t really do a Northern conspiracy, but we should be allowed to see someone pissed off about the Red Wedding and the Boltons.

Dorne remains a mess. We still don’t have a good reason for the quest and were treated to some unnecessary exposition between Bronn and the Sand Snakes. We didn’t get enough Dr. Bashir. I’ll briefly mention Littlefinger here in the paragraph dedicated to senseless nonsense that I no longer care about. Moving on.

I actually loved how Jorah and Tyrion ended up finding their way to Dany. It condensed an unnecessarily long journey in the books and Dany and Tyrion might be the perfect remedy for an otherwise lackluster season. I still don’t know why Jorah has greyscale (I plan to bring that up every recap until we have an answer).

Episode nine is typically the “grandest” episode of the season. That’s where we had the battles of Blackwater and Castle Black. While there are two Northern battles that seem like great fits, the episode description suggests that it will likely be Essos heavy, potentially with the fighting pit scenes.

This might have been the best episode of the season. It’s hard to say. Some things are moving in a clear direction. Others feel like filler. I’m hoping Jon’s wildling visit will be more than just busywork and now that he’s armed with an obsidian dagger, I think it likely will be.

 

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Monday

18

May 2015

1

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 6

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

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. Spoilers will largely be kept to comparisons between the show and the books within the episodes themselves, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

Should we begin with the implausible or the underwhelming? Or the fact that Littlefinger, King Tommen, and Lady Olenna are walking around with too few guards, considering King’s Landing has been taken over by the Faith Militant. Perhaps I’m being nitpicky, but it sort of undermines Littlefinger’s whole credibility when he can be pushed around by Lancel Lannister.

Littlefinger’s plan is ridiculous and it’s hard to see where his infatuation with Sansa Stark fits into all of this. He wants the Vale and the North (he also has the Riverlands though Harrenhal, but that’s something the show apparently doesn’t care about). What then? Cersei was correct in saying that he isn’t a military commander.

Not to mention he brokered the alliance between the Tyrells and the Lannisters. He’s got his hand in so many different things that the show can’t even keep track of them all. Which should make his endgame more interesting, but it doesn’t. It’s implausible to the point where it’s hard to care.

I’ll give Olenna Tyrell the benefit of the doubt, but she should have brought enough forces to put the Faith Militant out of the equation. That trial was ridiculous. Show Loras is often criticized (George R.R. Martin’s editor called him a “gay cartoon”) and rightfully so. He’s terrible.

The show has a weird way of handling characters with features outside the typical Westerosi norm that the books never prioritize. In the books, Loras is gay, but it’s not a big deal and it’s certainly not a plot point. Varys and Grey Worm are eunuchs, but the books don’t go on and on about their lack of manhood. Even Tyrion being a dwarf seems to be excessively mentioned in the show (though he’s better looking in the show and doesn’t waddle so). Martin doesn’t exploit his characters. D&D do.

Arya’s stuff is weird, but that’s okay. I assume she’ll be sent out as Cat of the Canals into Braavos, where she’ll probably run into Mace Tyrell and Ser Meryn. She becomes blind for two chapters in the books. I’m not sure they’ll do that here and that’s also okay.

I like the Jorah/Tyrion progression. In the books, they get captured on a boat, along with Penny, one of the dwarves from Joffrey’s wedding. I loved seeing Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, whose performance as Simon Adebsi in Oz is usually overlooked on those “top TV villains” lists. I don’t know why Jorah has greyscale. Doesn’t make any sense.

Nor does Jaime’s quest to Dorne. None whatsoever. What a terrible plotline. Also, how did Ser Stumpy hold his own against the Sand Snakes when he struggled with those random people two episodes ago? Utterly ridiculous.

What was their plan? Walk in, take Myrcella with Trystan right in front of her, and then walk out? If Jaime and Bronn had both died right there, I don’t think I would have cared. Which is a shame.

I’m not sure I’d call the wedding in Winterfell ridiculous, but it was anti-climatic. There was not a single voice of Northern opposition, especially to Theon giving Sansa away which was a tremendous insult to just about everyone there except for Ramsey. They didn’t include a single line from a single Northerner attending the wedding. Where was Brienne? Why is she is Winterfell if not to stop this nonsense?

I was surprised that the show opted for a tame version of Ramsey’s wedding night. In the books, he has a far more disturbing encounter with fake Arya, who’s really Jeyne Poole. Poole had been presumably kept in a brothel by Littlefinger after Ned was arrested back in AGOT and was beaten and abused by Ramsey and probably other people beforehand. Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen to Sansa.

This season has been weird. All the Northern plotlines have been rushed and it’s hard to care about many of the others. The show seems hell bent on blowing through AFFC and ADWD, but the direction seems unclear and illogical in many areas. I’ve heard hype about a “Red Wedding”esque twist and can honestly say I have no idea what that will be.

Two fun things to announce. Aziz of the History of Westeros Podcast will be stopping by for the next Interview of Ice and Fire. Also, Five More College Dialogues was released today! Hope you enjoy them both.

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Wednesday

13

May 2015

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Interviews of Ice and Fire: Jeff Hartline aka BryndenBFish

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I am honored to welcome Jeff Hartline, known throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire community as BryndenBFish, to the site. Jeff is one of the most decorated ASOIAF commentators who serves as a moderator for the asoiaf subreddit and is one of the masterminds behind the Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire blog. Jeff is also one of the contributors for the recently released Tower of the Hand anthology A Hymn for Spring.

When did you first start reading the ASOIAF books?

I first started reading the books in June 2012. I just finished Season 2 of Game of Thrones, and I had to know what was going to happen to Samwell. They wouldn’t kill Sam, right? I finished reading in October 2012, and I think embarked on an immediate re-read.

How did you get involved with the ASOIAF community?

Well, once I finished reading, I had dinner with my brother (another bookreader), and he told me about this great community on reddit called /r/asoiaf to discuss everything about the books. I immediately got an account on reddit and joined the community. The 1st post I remember reading on reddit was a fan-recount from The World of Ice and Fire on Aegon’s Conquest. I was hooked!

What was the first theory/in depth essay you ever worked on?

The 1st one was an essay series called The Complete Analysis of Robb Stark as a Military Commander on reddit. In a series that had war as a prominent feature in many character and plot arcs, there was a disproportionate lack of analysis and exploration of the topic.

So, I wrote an analytical evaluation of Robb Stark as a military commander exploring each of the battles and phases of the War of the Five Kings. Ended up coming to the conclusion that Robb Stark was an excellent tactical commander, but a failure at the strategic level. Since then, I’ve revised my original thesis some, but I still look back on those essays with a lot of fondness.

Looking back, I think the most important thing about writing on the military side of the series was its comfort level for me. Sometimes, people think they have to write about certain topics, because it’s what people are interested in. But in reality, writing about something you’re interested in will make for more compelling writing.

So, advice to folks writing/analyzing ASOIAF, start in your comfort-zone and move your way out.

Though the show, The World of Ice and Fire, and the novellas offer new ideas, there hasn’t been a new book in four years, yet the community seems as vibrant as ever. What do you think keeps people engaged with the series?

A Song of Ice and Fire is a fun read by itself, but it becomes an incredibly engaging and engrossing read when you get past the easy plotlines and start looking into the individual character arcs and deeper meanings of the story. When you embrace the meta, you start feeling rewarded for reading. It becomes a fun experience to discover deeper meanings, hidden truths and Lord knows that every ASOIAF fan loves the foreshadowing (but only on re-read)

As one of the moderators on the ASOIAF subreddit, what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen during a heated discussion?

To be honest, nothing really crazy. I’ve seen plenty of essay length responses to things, and I… may have done that once or twice.

Your bio mentions that you are a veteran. Has serving in the Army impacted your approach to ASOIAF?

It certainly helps with understanding the military campaigns and some of the battle tactics used. But there’s something more. Though my experiences with war are nowhere near the experiences of many fellow veterans, I also don’t have to imagine what the carnage of a battlefield looks like.

It’s funny to me – when I first read ASOIAF, I thought that GRRM had to have a military background in order to write his military/battle scenes the way he did. When I found out that he was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, it made me re-evaluate the story as having a strong anti-war component to an already gritty low fantasy epic.

In the ASOIAF community, particularly asinine theories are commonly referred to as “tinfoil.” What’s the craziest theory that you think might actually be true?

There’s plenty of crazy theories out there. Of all the theories out there, I think there are probably 3 theories that I hold to that could be construed as tinfoil. They are:

  • I think that Brienne of Tarth was raised from the dead by Lady Stoneheart at the end of A Feast for Crows
  • I think that Varys is a secret Targaryen
  • I believe that Euron Greyjoy is following the Iron Fleet to Meereen and will seize a dragon out from under Victarion in The Winds of Winter.

 I assume you’ve read the books more than once. Which book do you think benefits the most from a second read?

A Dance with Dragons for a surety. When I first read A Dance with Dragons, I was disappointed. Sure, we got our Big 3 characters (Tyrion, Daenerys, Jon Snow), but the plot was disappointing. Where were the battles? Where were the kickass moments from A Storm of Swords?

But after several re-reads, I came to realize what Martin was doing with A Dance with Dragons. He was showing the consequences of the wars and the badassery. And that puts a pretty amazing spin on the book. Instead of chafing against Dany’s quest for peace in Meereen, I began to understand what was going on. Daenerys was walking the hard road of peace just as Jon was.

Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for those who want ASOIAF to move back to the bloodletting of the 1st 3 books), both Daenerys and Jon turn against peace at the end of their arcs in A Dance with Dragons. So, we’ll see a return to bloody form come The Winds of Winter.

Much has been written about the (pun intended) stark deviations from the books this season. Have you been pleased with season five thus far?

Season 5 has been a disappointment so far. In an attempt to move the plot along, they’ve taken 2 books and tried to adapt it into 1 season. This has major consequences. Major storylines and characters have hit the cutting room floor. And other major storylines have been dramatically shortened. In contrast, the show spent 2 seasons going through A Storm of Swords (and early scenes from A Feast for Crows & A Dance with Dragons).

Jon’s election as Lord Commander suffered the most from this. In the books, the plot tension ratchets up with Jon considering Stannis’ offer to become Jon Stark and the Lord of Winterfell. Meanwhile, Samwell conspires to get Jon elected as Lord Commander. These two plotlines work in parallel until the very end when Jon is elected as the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. It’s great writing and keeps your gaze fixed to the page.

In the show, it was over and done with in 15 minutes. It was a disappointment. But I have hope that Season 5 will improve as the season progresses.

Generic question, but who is your favorite character(s) in the books? Is the same true for the show?

In the books: Jaime Lannister by a country mile. I love the ambiguity, and I think GRRM accomplished something akin to a literary triumph with Jaime Lannister. We think he’s an asshole and a murderer in the 1st 2 books. And like many of you, I groaned when I saw that the 1st chapter of A Storm of Swords after the Prologue was JAIME. But as I read, I became more and more engrossed. I loved Jaime’s fall, the ironic loss of his sword hand and the revelations about the Mad King. I saw a superhuman humanized. By the time of A Feast for Crows, Jaime was firmly my favorite character in the series. I loved his turn against Cersei, and I loved his alternating guilt and desire to become Goldenhands the Just.

I won’t lie though. I’m fearful of what will happen to Jaime in The Winds of Winter.

In the show: Eddard Stark: Sean Bean did a wonderful job portraying Ned. I can’t picture Ned when I re-read the books without seeing Boromir’s visage giving grim looks.

Which character from the books would you like to see in the show that isn’t already?

I miss Jon Connington. I don’t think that we’ll see JonCon, but in A Dance with Dragons, he’s an amazing and tragic character. (I won’t spoil it for your non-book reader fans). I also miss Arianne & Quentyn too.

In terms of who might show up… I suppose I’d like to see Lady Stoneheart or Randyll Tarly in future seasons.

Tell us a little about A Hymn For Spring. What can we expect to see out of your contribution and the anthology as a whole.

A Hymn for Spring is an anthology book of A Song of Ice and Fire essays from various luminaries from the Tower of the Hand website. The essays in there range from character analysis on characters like Barristan, location analysis on Harrenhal, military analysis on Robert’s Rebellion, economic analysis on the schemes of Littlefinger and various other interests in the series. It comes in at over 200 pages. So, if you’re looking for some fascinating analysis on A Song of Ice and Fire, this is your ticket.

My contribution was an essay on Stannis Baratheon entitled Iron Bends. In the essay, I take a contrarian view to the common perspective of Stannis Baratheon as an inflexible justice robot. As I read through A Song of Ice and Fire, I came to find that Stannis bends all the damn time. (Though no one recognizes it as such). So, I invite your readers to read my essay with an open mind and if you disagree, let me know. I love a good discussion as Ian will tell you!

Thanks so much for having me!

A Hymn for Spring can be purchased here

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Monday

11

May 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 5

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

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. Spoilers will largely be kept to comparisons between the show and the books within the episodes themselves, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

This was a weird episode. We’re at the halfway point in the season and it’s mostly clear where the plotlines are going, at least the ones in this episode (which does leave big question marks on KL and Dorne). Problem is this that there isn’t a ton of logic behind any of the stories in this episode besides Mereen, I suppose.

I had actually forgotten about Jon and the wildlings when I wrote last week’s recap. Given their limited screen time this season, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I suppose Jon going north is better than Jon going south, but why Stannis would lend his ships to Jon and a bunch of wildlings with seemingly no compensation is beyond me.

The politics of The Wall make up some of the best chapters in A Dance with Dragons. You have Jon struggling to lead the Night’s Watch, Stannis and his men who don’t actually all leave and know that the Watch owes them for saving the Wall, and the wildlings who aren’t being held captive at all. There’s a ton of great stuff with Northern campaigning and even a marriage alliance.

None of that’s really here. The Watch looks even weaker than it does in the books and yet Jon apparently appears to be able to broker beneficial deals with Stannis. It’s also worth noting that Melisandre, Selyse, and Shireen all stay at the Wall, along with plenty of men.

Stannis also doesn’t have the upper hand against the Boltons in the books. The show has mentioned that he does numerous times. One might think that this would be pointing to an upset and problems for the One True King, but with Brienne and an anti-Bolton Winterfell faction brewing, that’s hard to see.

I’m surprised to see that the Samwell/Gilly/maybe Maester Aemon Oldtown storyline appears to be a go. In A Feast for Crows, the three depart toward the beginning of the book. It seemed like a big storyline for the show to give to fairly insignificant characters, especially when characters like Davos had their storylines scrapped. I don’t think that Aemon will go though. He’s probably not long for this world.

I loved the Stannis/Samwell scene. Randyll Tarly is one of the biggest badasses in Westeros and the real military leader of the Reach. He’s barely in the books so I don’t fault the show for not having him in it, but he’s great. Given how pathetic Mace Tyrell looks in the show, it’s nice to see that the show didn’t take the same approach.

Just quickly to get it out of the way, who is sending ravens to the Wall updating them on Dany’s progress in Mereen? Doesn’t make any sense.

Let’s play a game with the Winterfell storyline called “what doesn’t make sense”. Ready, set, go.

Littlefinger leaving Sansa with no guards doesn’t make sense.

Roose allowing Reek, who sleeps in the dog kennel, to serve his food doesn’t make sense.

Roose allowing Ramsay to parade Reek around in front of Sansa doesn’t make sense.

Roose allowing Ramsay to let Reek give Sansa away doesn’t make sense. In the books, he does it so the Northern bannermen will accept fake Arya (Jeyne Poole) as real since he grew up with her, but that’s not really contested at all.

The lack of Frey troops given Fat Walda’s pregnancy doesn’t make sense. I know I said this last week, but what are they doing?

Sansa being allowed to roam the castle free as a bird doesn’t make sense.

I hate Myranda and am sure at some point, she’ll do something that doesn’t make sense. For now, she’s just creepy.

Brienne being allowed to creep up on Winterfell undetected doesn’t make sense. Don’t the Boltons know everyone hates them?

They do. They know Stannis is coming. So what’s the plan?

It’ll be interesting to see how the show approaches the wedding. There have been rumors that Greatjon Umber, who’s been absent from the show since season one, will return. The Boltons would have to be pretty stupid to think that having a bunch of Northern men in Winterfell when Stannis is on his way is a good idea.

I was surprised to see the Stone men storyline kept. In the books, that happens when Tyrion is traveling with Jon Connington and (f)Aegon. Jon Con is also the one who gets infected with greyscale. More action is usually a good thing.

Except when it leads to Ser Barristan’s death. Ugh. Jorah’s infection makes Ser Grandfather’s death extra puzzling. He will be missed, though moreso by book fans.

I’ve generally hated the Grey Worm/Missandei “romance,” but I liked it here. Ser Barristan and Grey Worm always had a strong respect for each other in the books and it was nice to see him mourn the loss of the old knight. Dany’s supporting cast are often treated like props who only interact with her and it was good to see that that’s not always the case.

Show Hizdahr is far less interesting than book Hizdahr. I guess that’s not too surprising. Seeing Dany force the marriage on him and not the other way around was weird. Not sure where that storyline is going.

That’s it for this week. I didn’t love this episode, but it set some things up. I can’t stop thinking about the Melisandre/Jon dynamic and that I doubt it’ll be addressed this season given logistics. Maybe I know nothing…

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Tuesday

5

May 2015

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Reign Is A (Mostly) Fun Costume Soap Opera

Written by , Posted in Pop Culture

Since I’ve been doing a lot of articles on costume/period dramas, I thought it prudent to feature the only one currently airing on network TV. Reign is best described as a guilty pleasure that’s the offspring of a one night stand between Gossip Girl and The Tudors. Despite not being much of a success with ratings or critics, The CW picked it up for a third season despite possessing what’s probably the deepest roster in the network’s history. Perhaps some executives couldn’t get enough of the “historical” telling of Mary, Queen of Scots’ time in France.

Reign’s premise is fairly simple. It tells a story (I hesitate to use the word “the” given the historical inaccuracies) of the relationship between Francis II of France and Mary, Queen of Scots. If the writers know any of the actual history beyond what can be read on Wikipedia, it doesn’t show. In fact, if the writers’ training consists of anything other than watching old episodes of Melrose Place and The O.C., that doesn’t really show either.

Despite this, there’s something oddly endearing about the show. The plots are stupid, but Reign rarely tries to hide this fact. This is a soap opera that knows exactly what it is. Beautiful people scheme in a beautiful castle. That’s Reign in a nutshell.

Reign is carried by the talent of its two lead actresses. Adelaide Kane and Megan Follows dance circles around the rest of the cast as Mary, Queen of Scots and Catherine de’ Medici. Tory Regbo plays a rather spineless King Francis and Torrance Combs has had very little to do since season one as Francis’ bastard brother Bash. Queen Mary’s ladies maids/ladies in waiting all occupy various degrees of odiousness.

Which is why I enjoy it. We’re in the era of costume/period dramas. Reign has its place in the circle of life as the only one regularly airing on network TV. Being on The CW means that it’s going to be more soap operatic than it would be if it aired on the other networks, assuming it wasn’t intended to be a comedy like Galavant, but that’s okay too. We don’t really need network rip-offs of Game of Thrones, Outlander, and Vikings that can’t have excessive violence or nudity because of the FCC.

Granted, Reign’s status as a guilty pleasure show has been called into question with a pretty subpar second season. I blame that on the episode count. Twenty-two episodes a season is tough for most shows, let alone a costume drama. The plot has moved at a glacier pace since the death of King Henry, often recycling stories every three episodes or so. Quality has never been Reign’s strong suit, but even the melodrama has suffered with so little progression.

It’s hard to see Reign lasting very long past season three. History told us that already given the brevity of Francis and Mary’s marriage, but I’m not sure how relevant that is to this show. The CW’s line-up is pretty stacked, leaving little room for an expensive show with sagging ratings.

From the show’s third episode, which features sparring match between King Henry and Bash played to Bastille’s hit “Pompeii,” you could tell exactly what Reign was going to be. Popcorn fluff. Better that than most of what’s currently on network TV. You could certainly make the case that The CW is delivering what its audience wants better than NBC or ABC (Fox has Empire and CBS has all its procedurals so I’ll give them passes).

Reign is (usually) fun. That’s all it needs to be. One should not look to The CW for a history lesson. There are these things called books, which are good for that kind of stuff.

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Monday

4

May 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 4

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. Spoilers will largely be kept to comparisons between the show and the books within the episodes themselves, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

This episode was more or less completely off book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though I’m pretty upset with idea of losing Ser Barristan (less so with Grey Worm, but I’ll get to that later). It looks like the changes made to the King’s Landing plotline have been made to speed things up, but there have been some puzzling changes made in the process. Let’s start with the Faith Militant.

In the books, Cersei allows the Faith Militant to be reformed as a concession for the Faith forgiving a rather large debt to the Iron Throne. It’s also worth noting that at this point in the books, the Iron Bank of Braavos has not thrown in with Stannis. Having Cersei be the one to suggest reforming it is the complete opposite, but it actually fits well with the Queen Regent’s inevitable downfall.

The plotline in King’s Landing through A Feast For Crows is largely summed up by Cersei being paranoid that Margaery is trying to control Tommen. The militant hasn’t done anything drastic and Margaery and Tommen haven’t had sex and don’t even share the same bedroom. We’re not even really sure that Margaery is scheming at all. Tommen is much younger and mostly plays with his kitties throughout the books, though it looks like the age of the actor and HBO’s desire for more sex scenes were the main causes behind the change.

The show isn’t tethered to Cersei’s POV and has chosen to cast Margaery as a legitimate force of opposition to Cersei instead of allowing her to simply cause her own demise. The Faith Militant actually serves both of these purposes, creating more problems for Cersei as well as fueling the feud between the Queen and the Queen Regent. As I said last week, it also makes sense to utilize the talents of Jonathan Pryce, which is also why Olenna Tyrell appears to be headed back to King’s Landing. More Diana Rigg is always a good thing.

The show took a weird deviation last season when Tywin told Cersei that the Lannister’s mines were empty and they were broke, when in the books it’s the just the Crown that has money problems. The Tyrell alliance was forged for military purposes and nothing else. Perhaps the show didn’t want to include the Faith’s loans to the Crown because it’s confusing that a religious organization would do something like that or because it heightens the Iron Bank/Stannis problem.

It’s also worth noting that Loras Tyrell is a member of the Kingsguard in the books and his homosexuality is never used a big plot point, though most characters seem to know about it. Cersei sends him away to take Dragonstone and it’s claimed that he was severely injured, but there are plenty of reasons to think that wasn’t the case. I still think it’s possible that he could be elevated to Kingsguard, but more on that in future recaps.

Sending Ser Merywn to Braavos with Mace Tyrell seems to suggest that he’ll run into Arya, which follows her plotline albeit with different characters. That’s from a The Winds of Winter sample chapter though so I won’t go into it here. I don’t care much for Mace so it’s nice to have him out on King’s Landing.

Time for some Stannis! There’s another weird deviation when Melisandre brings up being left behind at the Battle of the Blackwater and tells Stannis not to do that again. In the books, she stays at the Wall when Stannis rides south to Winterfell.

The show’s emphasis on Shireen seems to reinforce fan speculation that Melisandre will sacrifice her to the Lord of Light. The show went out of its way to mention that she should come to the Wall last season, which also suggests that she’s important. That scene with Stannis and her was maybe the most touching scene in the whole show. If you didn’t shed a tear, you might not have a soul.

I think that Jon will join Stannis and march on Winterfell, which is both a deviation and a violation of his vows. This seems fitting as Jon doesn’t have much to do at the Wall and I don’t think there will be anymore fighting between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings for now at least. Jon does decide to go to Winterfell eventually in the books, but that turns out to be a not so good idea. I do think that Melisandre will eventually cast Stannis aside as Azor Ahai in favor of Jon, but probably not until the end of the season.

I continue to find Sansa in Winterfell completely implausible from Littlefinger’s perspective, but nothing really happens so I won’t spend too much time on it. Something worth noting is that in the books, a large part of Roose Bolton’s army in comprised of Frey’s after he makes a deal to give them the Dreadfort after he dies since Ramsey will inherit Winterfell (though it’s doubtful that Ramsey would ever honor this).

Since Littlefinger is Lord Paramount of the Trident, he’s actually the Freys’ overlord. Though neither the books nor the show pay much attention to Littlefinger’s possession of Harrenhal, this is a possible reason why there aren’t any Frey’s besides Fat Walda in Winterfell. Or maybe they’re just overlooked like Dany’s Dothraki bloodriders. Maybe I’m reading too much into this.

Time to talk about that horrible moment when Ser Barristan and Grey Worm get stabbed, which most certainly did not happen in the books. I hated every bit of it. The show has never done justice to Ser Grandfather, who’s a complete badass in the books. I don’t think the show will kill them both off and it seems more likely that Grey Worm will survive.

So why kill perfectly awesome living characters? There’s a couple reasons. In the books, Dany has by far the best supporting cast, which makes up for the fact that she’s pretty annoying herself (I covered this in an article last year on Strong Belwas, who isn’t in the show). The limited screen time makes it impossible to do justice to all her great characters so they’ve cut most of them. With Tyrion, Ser Jorah, and possibly Varys on the way, perhaps they wanted to make room for new characters in Meereen, though with Tyrion there it stands to reason that there would be more screen time to accommodate them. Ser Barristan also doesn’t like Ser Jorah and wouldn’t trust a Lannister so maybe they killed him off to avoid having to address that.

Another reason is the fact that there really hasn’t been a ton of action so far. All the action scenes including Brienne’s weird killing spree, Jaime and Bronn in Dorne, the Faith Militant’s Occupy King’s Landing Movement, and now with Sons of the Harpy, have all been created just for the show. AFFC and ADWD don’t have a lot of action. The action was kind of mindless in the case of Brienne, but for the most part it’s been nice.

The big problem I have with Ser Barristan’s highly probably death is the fact that it could serve as a spoiler for the books. Ser Grandfather commands Daenerys’ forces in the Battle of Meereen (a battle that will not be happening in the show), which takes place at the beginning of The Winds of Winter (three sample chapters depicting the start of the battle are available already). There’s a ton of fan speculation of how the battle will go and much of it pegs Barristan the Bold as a goner. As someone who was skeptical of Ser Barristan dying during the battle itself (though I’m much less skeptical that he’ll survive all of TWOW), I’m annoyed that the show has caused me to reconsider.

We’re almost at the halfway mark for the season. It feels like it’s going rather fast, but things are certainly shaping up to be exciting. As a devout book fan, it’s kind of nice not really knowing what will happen, with only Cersei’s plotline heading in the same direction as the books (possibly Arya’s as well).

 

 

 

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