Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Monthly Archive: June 2015

Sunday

28

June 2015

1

COMMENTS

Interviews of Ice and Fire: Hamish Duncan aka Militant Penguin

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

Season five might be over, but I’m excited to keep the Interviews of Ice and Fire going with our next guest. Hamish Duncan, known throughout the ASOIAF community as Militant Penguin is a contributor to Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire. He is also one of the moderators for the ASOIAF subreddit.

One of your essay series covers the “would be” kings of Westeros. Given that none of them have POV chapters to call their own and we can only see them through the perspectives of other characters. Obviously this leads to some discrepancies depending on how the individual character felt about each king. Which do you think got the fairest shake from the characters in the series?

I’d say that Stannis probably gets the fairest shake of all of the kings. Robb is definitely a close second though. Stannis is viewed from multiple POVs all of whom have their own agendas and biases. However, I think that the greater number of POVs representing their own views about Stannis actually benefits his overall character and gives him a more realized form. Eventually all of these biases and views start overlapping and you see the more realized form of a character. It’s sort of a blend of a mosaic and a Venn diagram in a way.

Davos Seaworth, Eddard Stark, Maester Cressen, Melisandre of Asshai, Asha Greyjoy, and Jon Snow give us a more reasoned, positive, and deeper perspective into Stannis. They see beyond the hard, stubborn, teeth grinding king and battle commander. They see the man for what he is, a deeply conflicted, imperfect, and flawed man who is ultimately good in his own niche way.

Cersei Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, and Catelyn Stark have their own views on Stannis that are somewhat negative but do give a great insight into how hard it is to like Stannis when you deal with him on a shallower, administrative basis. Stannis is a stickler for the rules and the law, with some bending one way or another, and people like that are not really fun to be around and are quite unpopular. They get the job done but they are not well liked for it.

Theon Greyjoy and Samwell Tarly are scared of Stannis, although Theon is more afraid of Ramsay, because Stannis is absolutely terrifying. However, they give ample insight into what it means to know such an imposing man and be at the mercy of his mood.

Stannis gets the fairest shake of any king in the series because we hear far more peoples’ thoughts on him than any other king. The positive, the negative, the fearful, the shallow, and the deep all give a far more complete picture of Stannis Baratheon both as a king and as a man.

If you could give one of the kings a POV chapter, which would you pick?

Definitely Robb Stark. I would have loved to have seen the Westerlands campaign from his point of view. However, I think that Robb as a POV character would have been a great read. He strikes me as one of the more tragic and tormented characters of the series. He’s left in charge on his own at a very young age while a lot of the family he grew up with leave Winterfell, he rides to war to save his father who is ultimately killed, he is effectively blackmailed into a marriage pact with a woman he may never love, he has to earn the respect and win the loyalty of battle hardened veteran soldiers under his command, he must win victory after victory or risk annihilation, he is elected king at a very young age, he has to defend the indefensible Riverlands while the Greyjoys attack his home, his best friend betrays him and apparently burns down his home and kills his brothers, he is wounded and accidentally sleeps with a kind girl who nurses him in his darkest hour, he betrays a marriage pact to save her honour at the expense of his own because he’d never want his own possible child to suffer like Jon Snow did, his uncle apparently unknowingly botches his entire campaign plan that ultimately results in the him being effectively surrounded, he is abandoned by the Freys and Karstarks because he did what he thought was right if not smart, in his desperation he turns to the man whose marriage pact he betrayed for help while one of his top generals actively sabotages the war effort and plots behind his back, he finally figures out how to get back home before a wedding where his friends and allies are butchered before his eyes before he himself is murdered after possibly dying inside of his own direwolf beforehand.

Imagine reading all of that from Robb’s perspective. If you thought Catelyn’s chapters could be depressing imagine reading Robb’s right up until his death.

One of your other essays goes in-depth into The Great Council, which has an impact on the series that most people don’t really realize which of course directly lead to the Dance of the Dragons. How different do you think the series would be if Rhaenyra had ascended to the thrones?

I think the end result may have been the same on the condition that a civil war still occurred. The people would have turned against her, providing the war lasted the same amount of time and did the same amount of damage, and she would have likely died, probably being murdered by one person or another. I think Aegon III probably still would have ascended to the throne but would have had a lot of difficulty in ruling a land ravaged by dragons.

If the war never happened and succession went ahead like Viserys I planned with Rhaenyra ascending to the Iron Throne without issue there may have been a decent chance for peace. However, given her later paranoia, violence, and the past moves of Alicent Hightower, it probably would have come to war in one way or another if Rhaenyra made a move against the Hightowers and Aegon if she felt they were a big enough threat to her continued reign. 

The thing that bugged me about season five more than anything else was Jorah contracting greyscale. In reading your Rhaegar essay over, I see a fair amount of book parallels between Ser Friendzone and Jon Connington. 

Jorah and Connington are definitely birds of a feather when it comes to their histories and personalities. Both were exiled from their homelands, lost their honour in some way or another by being sellswords and either by slaving or by allegedly dying as a thieving drunk, and both are doomed to love Targaryens even if it ruins and kills them.

They are similarly tragic characters who are ultimately the architects of their own destruction and they’ll do it all for someone unattainable that they obsessively love.

Jorah wants to get back in Daenerys’ good graces after betraying her and being exiled. It’s about guilt for Connington who blames himself for Rhaegar’s death and is willing to do anything to make up for it. Guilt is one of their commonalities; Jorah’s actual guilt for being a spy and Connington’s imagined guilt over Rhaegar’s death. Love and guilt are ultimately going to destroy these men and they are too wrapped up in it to the extent that they haven’t quite realized the mortal danger they have put themselves and/or others in.

I really enjoyed your essay on Domeric Bolton. Is it safe to say you’re not a believer in the “Bolt-On” theory that Roose plans to pull a Buffalo Bill and wear Ramsey’s skin?

Thanks very much. I really enjoyed writing that essay. It was great fun trying to play detective. I’m not a believer in “Bolt-On” but I love that theory. It is a hell of a lot of fun to read. I think there was a YouTube video last year that laid out “Bolt-On” in all of its skinless glory and it somehow made not seem as farfetched as you’d initially think after reading it for the first time.

I will always encourage and support fans who do that amount of out of the box thinking. A Song of Ice and Fire is a great universe to play around when you make your theories.

You’re a moderator for the ASOIAF subreddit. Since this time last year, we’ve seen the releases of “The Rogue Prince,” The World of Ice and Fire, season five of Game of Thrones, and another TWOW sample chapter while of course the one thing everyone really wants is still sitting on GRRM’s Wordstar, Have you noticed a heightened sense of urgency within the fandom as the show is only a few months away from blowing past the books?

I would definitely agree that there is a heightened sense of urgency within the fandom and I am absolutely a part of that as well. When you’ve been waiting for a series of books to finish for a number of years and its show adaptation is blowing straight past it to completion while hitting almost every single high note that you’ve been waiting years to read about, it can absolutely affect your sense of urgency.

Not to sound like a purist but the book fans love the intricacies of the story and how it all builds up to each individual climax. I’d say that we love the journey as much if not more than the climax but when a ten episode season often blows over the journey and straight to the climax it feels underwhelming and unfair. We walked the journey, analyzed the text, and theorized about the probable outcome. The show, often by necessity, can skip the large part of the fun journey and build up, and just do the highlights.

I’d say the urgency in the fandom comes from a lack of journey in the show, due to basic budget and production requirements, and the seemingly unearned and spoiler heavy climaxes. We want to see what happens with Jaime and Brienne in the Riverlands when they meet Lady Stoneheart. We want to watch the Battles of Fire, Ice, and Winterfell and see how it compares to our beliefs. Will Jon Snow be reborn in the lordly light of R’hollor? Will Daenerys conquer the Dothraki? Will Euron hit Oldtown and how will the Redwyne Fleet fair against the might of the Greyjoys? How will Littlefinger fall? Will Arya get her revenge? Will hype be acquired? And most importantly, will the North Remember?

It’s about the how, when, where, why, and what. Like the Faith of the Seven would argue, it’s not just about one aspect, it’s about how they fit together to make the greater organic whole.

I want to read about the events as they were originally built up and meant to be told before the show spoils the outcome of these events for me.

I recently wrote an article calling Kit Harrington’s interview with Entertainment Weekly a red herring. Have we seen the last of Jon Snow?

I’m thinking he’ll be back but in what sense is beyond me and that is something I am dying to read and watch. How will he return? Will we have a Beric Dondarrion/Lady Stoneheart situation? Will Jon live out his days in Ghost while his body is wighted? Or, and this is taken from an awesome, if grim theory I read a while back, will it even be Jon inside his body or will a much greyer character possess Jon’s body for his own purposes while Jon is left stranded inside of Ghost and trying to maintain his humanity before it fades away – the apparent fate of wargs when they make their final journey into their animal companions?

Jon will be back but he might not be the Jon we know.

Casting speculations have lead many to believe that we’ll see a Tower of Joy prequel scene next season. If you could film one event from before the main series, which would you pick?

Probably the Dance Over Harrenhal, an aerial dragon duel between Aemond ‘One-Eye’ Targaryen and Daemon Targaryen.

What were your thoughts on season five as a whole?

Season 5 had a lot of good going for it that prevented it from sucking outright. It was just meh to me. I wasn’t at all emotionally engaged. It was an entire season of “oh, well that happened”, imperfect writing, and not well thought out changes. I think it could have been really great if things were just executed better.

Season 5 was about a 7/10 for me. It was okay when it could have been brilliant.

In further detail though and to encapsulate it in one phrase, lack of immersion.

Unlike the previous seasons I just wasn’t encapsulates by the show. I just didn’t care overall apart from when it came to the Stannis changes but that’s an external and not an internal thing. To me there was just no tension or emotion in this season. It just felt hollow and there was no reason to give a damn or emotionally invest in characters anymore.

With previous seasons you were drawn into the show and felt less like a passive viewer and more of an in universe observer, as pretentious as that sounds. Stuff like the music and the effects drew you in and made you feel; hate, joy, love, fear, and even morbid laughter at times.

I wasn’t at all emotionally engaged with this season.

Episode 9 is a good example to highlight the issue I had.

The previous penultimate episodes definitely made me feel something before.

Baelor – Sadness for Ned, hatred for the Lannisters, and sadness and pride for Robb and Catelyn.

Blackwater – Hatred for Joffrey, morbid laughter with Cersei, pity for Sansa and Lancel, pride for Tyrion, Podrick, and Bronn, and awesomeness for Stannis.

The Rains of Castamere – Dread for Robb, Catelyn, Talisa, and the Northerners, morbid laughter with Walder Frey and the Blackfish, fear from Roose Bolton, happiness and sadness for Robb and Talisa, pride for Robb, happiness for Edmure, hatred for the Boltons and Freys, sadness for Grey Wind, and horror. It’s my favourite episode and I fucking love and hate it all at the same time.

The Watchers On The Wall – pride for Jon, Grenn, Sam, and Thorne, sadness for Grenn and Pyp, sadness for Jon seeing Ygritte die, morbid laughter at Hob, the Giant archer, and Janos Slynt.

Dance of the Dragons – meh.

What worked and what didn’t for you?

What Didn’t Work

– Dorne was not great save for Siddig, Flynn, and Coster-Waldau. Things like the dialogue, choreography, editing, and writing just didn’t work.

– Loras is a problem I’ve mentioned before. He’s a really bad gay stereotype, a pretty demeaning one at that, when he could be a really interesting character. Despite its wonderful and awesome gratuity at times, Spartacus knew how to write gay characters and they were awesome.

– Bad writing and characterisation. This affected a lot of people. Stannis, Olly, Sansa, Melisandre, Selyse, Sand Snakes, Elliara, Loras, Doran, etc. A lot of plot contrivances.

– At times, bad fighting choreography.

– Littlefinger’s ridiculous plan.

– Too many black and white characters. Not enough grey.

– New material often wasn’t that well thought out, written, and executed. I have no problem with new material but just as long as it is executed well.

What Did Work

– House of Black and White along with Arya.

– Acting was on point for a lot of the season, save for our serpent friends.

– Effects were great as always except for Dany on Drogo in episode 9.

– Hardhome was excellent. One of the best the series has ever done.

– Faith Militant and Sons of the Harpy were suitably imposing and intimidating.

– I liked Daznak’s pit and the gladiator showcase. A lot of good differing fighting styles were put on display for us to enjoy.

– Cersei’s walk was well executed.

– A lot of great chemistry between the cast members.

– Excellent music as always.

I often felt that this past season saw some unnatural character deviations, mainly from Littlefinger, Stannis, and Brienne. Am I being too hard on D&D?

I think it there are definitely some deviations in the show that are unnatural for characters. Littlefinger, as much as I hate him, is not stupid and wouldn’t risk Sansa’s life like that. She’s far too valuable to leave in that kind of unknown situation.

As for Brienne, I think this comes down to not having much for her to do this season. Some of her scenes were a little too obvious at times and a bit contrived but I think she remained as intact as she could, save for calling Renly the king – in no world was Renly not a usurper.

Properly characterizing Stannis has always been an issue for the show from his first appearance. Stannis is arguably one of the most morally grey characters in the series and that can be incredibly hard to capture in a limited amount of scenes that are just a few minutes long. Sometimes, and I’m hardly unbiased about this so take it with a pinch of salt, I think the showrunners intentionally made him a lot darker than he should have been. They just didn’t do a great job of adequately capturing a lot of Stannis’ inner and outer character conflict. They made him a sexually obsessive religious fanatic who proclaims his love for his Greyscale infected daughter one day and burns her alive the next and that is rushed characterization for anyone. There was no tension or build up. It would have been better if we got a truer sense of how truly desperate Stannis’ situation was. Also, giving him Melisandre’s lines from A Storm of Swords about the value of an innocent life against a kingdom, removing the fact that it was Stannis who, following Davos’ council, chose to go to the Wall to rescue the Night’s Watch, and having him burn people for being infidels as opposed to the outright traitors they were really sticks in my craw. Stuff like that is unnecessary and annoying.

Getting back to your original point, sorry for the rant by the way, I think we are all entitled to our criticisms and praise for a piece of work. When it comes to adaptations of a beloved series this gets slightly more intense because there is already a piece of original work to compare the adaption to, this original work is often almost sacred to a fan base and a lot of them don’t like changes being made to the source material, which I totally understand.

However, as much as I dislike a lot of the changes made by D&D, I accept that a lot of them are necessary for one reason or another. I think as long as you don’t make it personal, there is no reason why you shouldn’t critique a piece of work as much as you like for what that work is and how it is executed.

It’s an adaptation, and as much as I’m salty about various changes, it is its own beast now. Books are still awesome and the show is really good too, for the most part. In all honesty I really don’t have this kind of enlightened attitude during the show season. Come next season I’ll probably be caught bitching with the best of them. 

What’s the craziest theory that you actually believe could be true? 

Howland Reed could actually be the High Sparrow and I would be totally okay with that. It would definitely detract from the characterization of both the Faith Militant and Cersei in the books but I really wouldn’t mind that much. 

Generic question, but one that I always like to ask. Who’s your favorite character? Is the same true for the TV show?

Favorite book character has got to be my beloved Wyman Manderly. This doesn’t carry over to the show unless he is cast for next season so my favorite show character is Ser Bronn of the Blackwater.

I was excited to see Benjen in the “previously on” for the season five finale, though the wolf pup didn’t appear. I’ve always though there’s a bigger reason that he joined the Night’s Watch besides the fact that he wouldn’t inherit Winterfell. Why do you think he took the black?

Well, the Starks do have a history of sending younger sons to the Wall but given all that happened during Robert’s Rebellion and how many Stark lives were lost, I always thought there must be a greater reason why Benjen took the black. I’m thinking, in a fashion similar to Ned, Benjen carries around the guilt of knowing something, probably the truth that Lyanna willingly ran off with Rhaegar, and has essentially gone into self-imposed exile in order to assuage his guilt by serving a realm that he played a minor part in nearly destroying. He may have also taken the black in order to prevent him from benefitting in one way or another from the deaths of his father, brother, and sister if a succession issue should’ve arisen.

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Sunday

21

June 2015

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Without the Iron Throne, Game of Thrones Can’t Figure Out What It Wants To Be

Written by , Posted in Game of Thrones

I’ve been searching for the perfect way to summarize my thoughts on Game of Thrones’ fifth season. Those of you who have followed my recaps know that I was pretty disappointed with the way things turned out. Part of me keeps returning to the question of whether or not I was being serious when they said I’d accept that this season would be much different from the books, but I think I’ve been fair despite my love of Stannis. There was one omission from this season that summarizes why this season was terrible.

There was no Iron Throne this season.

How can you have a “game of thrones” with no throne? How can Entertainment Weekly release features regarding who will win if there’s no prickly chair to sit on? While the Iron Throne and its occupant have rarely been at the center of the show, their absence from the narrative plays into a bigger problem.

I was surprised by how much I missed Charles Dance this season. I’ve known for years that Tywin would die. He’s not even one of my favorite characters and the King’s Landing plot was one of my favorite parts of A Feast for Crows. Jonathan Pryce did an excellent job as the High Sparrow and Lena Headley is one of this season’s standout performers. So why am I mad about the missing throne? Surely cutting Ser Pounce from this season was a bigger loss?

It’s hard to call season five a “transitional season” just because major characters died and others moved around. Season four had to deal with the loss of Robb and Catelyn. This season was supposed to feel different. We knew it was going to deviate from the books. Yet with all this preparation, season five felt like it had no idea what it was doing.

Case in point, Dorne. It’s one thing to make a change. It’s another to put filler garbage into a show that already has enough problems with screen time. That storyline was awful and has no redeeming qualities. I was happy that the show kept Bronn around, who isn’t in the last two books, but that joy has been sucked away. I don’t think I would have cried if he or Ser Stumpy had died and that’s a bummer. Tears should be shed for such awesome characters.

Then there were the plotlines that defied all character logic. For four seasons, we’ve come to know Littlefinger as a master manipulator, second only to Varys, with an odd love of Sansa Stark. There wasn’t a single good reason presented for why he would leave her in the care of the most sadistic house in Westeros. Sansa being back in Winterfell might have made for good television, in theory, but that starts to unravel when you consider how little sense it made.

Even though I hated this season, I do think that the show did reasonably well on the plotlines for its four major characters. Tyrion and Arya were fun to watch and their storylines were really the highpoint of the season. Successfully adapting Arya’s time in Braavos was no easy task and the decision to bring back Jaqen was a smart move for viewers (though I’m a fan of the Kindly Man).

The Jon and Daenerys stories were fine all things considered. I think we can all agree that “Hardhome” was this season’s best episode by a wide margin. The plotlines for these two will never get much further than the tips of the icebergs because they can’t there isn’t enough time to do Jon’s complex relationship with Stannis or Dany’s efforts to handle Meereen’s vast political structure. What we were given wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.

I figured I should mention Stannis here, though I have nothing new to say. Please don’t come back. The show has ruined you enough. #StandWithStannis

The time has no come for me to assign grades for each plotline. Is this the best way to do it? Probably not, but here they are.

Jon Snow/The Wall: B-

Daenerys Targaryen/Meereen: B-

Tyrion Lannister/Ser Friendzone: B+

Arya Stark/Braavos: A-

Cersei Lannister/King’s Landing: B

All the Tyrells/King’s Landing: F

Jaime Lannister/Bronn/Dorne: F

Sansa Stark/Reek/Winterfell: F

Grey Worm/Missandei Romance: F

Brienne of Tarth/Podrick/Whatever they were doing: F

Stannis Baratheon: F

Bran Stark: A+

Season Grade: F

Harsh? Not at all. Just look at Olenna Tyrell’s role. What a waste of Diana Rigg and there was zero resolution for the Tyrells as a whole. No resolution for Littlefinger either. I guess he forget about Sansa.

This was not a show that knew what it was doing, which is funny because it purposefully chose to ignore its source material to plot this silly path. It’s the kind of show that spends a season talking about how great of a battle commander Stannis is, only to have him wiped out in about two seconds. It’s a show that doesn’t care that its characters are three dimsensional and shouldn’t change whenever the show feels like they should (poor Ser Alliser). It’s a show that gives characters greyscale for no reason at all.

Even “Hardhome” is guilty of this. People like the episode because it was a much needed break from all of the other crap. It didn’t matter if the White Walkers are essentially all that we should care about now.

So Jon and Stannis might be dead, maybe not. I’m okay with waiting to find out. I need time to forget how awful this season was.

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Tuesday

16

June 2015

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Entertainment Weekly Interview With Kit Harrington Is A Red Herring

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

Something not so surprising happened last night on the season finale of Game of Thrones. No, I’m not talking about Jon Snow getting stabbed. Even non-book readers could see that from a mile away with all the conspicuous shots of Olly looking pissed at the Lord Commander. I’m talking about the Entertainment Weekly interview.

People were shocked to see both Kit Harrington and Dan Weiss confirm Snow’s death. Seems rather unnecessary considering that the fate of the character is still up in the air in the books. George R.R. Martin hasn’t told us. So why did they?

More important, why did they talk to Entertainment Weekly before the episode had even aired? I thought HBO decided that doing that was a bad idea after the first four episodes leaked. So what’s the deal?

Jon’s stabbing was likely the series’ worst kept spoiler going into this season, but Harrington and Weiss went out of their way to try to persuade us that Jon isn’t Azor Ahai. The problem with that lies with a certain Red Priestess.

Why else would Melisandre go back to the Wall to be in Jon’s general vicinity right before he got stabbed? Does she enjoy the weather? Did she forget that Thoros of Myr could bring people back from the dead even though he was a terrible priest? I doubt it.

Yet there weren’t really any blatant Azor Ahai signs, though some fans are saying his eyes look like he’s warging. Ghost was nowhere to be seen, though he did make an appearances a few episodes ago.  Jon did look dead, though so did Beric Dondarrion. Would the show really kill off one of its major characters just like that?

Maybe, but doesn’t seem likely. I stated in this morning’s recap that I was okay with Jon being dead. The Entertainment Weekly interview has made that a nonissue. Jon Snow is alive. We’ll know for sure in a few months when leaked photos start to surface.

So why the charade? Seems like something Littlefinger would do (maybe that’s why he was barely in this season). With a show as big as Game of Thrones, it can be very difficult to surprise your audience. If you can’t shock them with content on the show itself, making a fake interview that posts right after the show airs seems like the perfect ploy to achieve that effect.

R + L might equal J, but an Entertainment Weekly interview with Kit Harrington doesn’t = Jon Snow’s death. Hopefully Stannis is dead though. The show has done enough character assassinations to House Baratheon.

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Monday

15

June 2015

1

COMMENTS

Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 10

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. 

While it should come as no surprise to those of you who have followed along that I’d love nothing more than to lead off with Stannis, I will in fact address the question that you’re all wondering.

Is Jon Snow really dead?

If there hadn’t been an Entertainment Weekly interview that suspiciously popped up immediately after the finale aired, I would say absolutely not. While Kit Harrington and D.B. Weiss are adamant that he’s really dead, this does reek of red herring. Problem is that a leak is inevitable if he isn’t dead so if that’s the case, maybe Harrington and Weiss are just trying to preserve the shock value.

From a storyline perspective, it makes no sense. Melisandre went back to the Wall, presumably to revive Lord Snow and deem him to be the real Azor Ahai. Season three’s encounter with Thoros of Myr showed her that people can come back from the dead, though people pointing to that as evidence are forgetting that that storyline was about capturing Gendry and may not have been foreshadowing. It’s worth noting that none of the traits associated with Azor Ahai were present in the death scene.

So maybe he’s dead. Maybe Kit Harrington wants to go to movies. He wouldn’t be the first actor who wanted to make the permanent move to the big screen. Maybe D&D decided that Dany was the only young savior they needed. We will see in a few months when fans start posting pictures from the set.

Many fans, including my own sister, may hate me for saying this but I’m perfectly okay with Show Jon being dead. It’s basically a given that Book Jon will be revived and it’s also a near certainty that The Winds of Winter won’t be out before season six. Taking two drastically different directions would preserve the books. As a fan of books, this doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t make much sense for the show, but that’s true for a lot of things.

Like Davos being at the Wall. What’s he supposed to do? Become Lord Commander? I made at joke about this on Twitter last night, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen.

The only other thing worth noting about the mutiny was the unnecessary presence of Ser Alliser Thorne. The show flip-flops on whether or not we’re supposed to like him with just about every appearance and it’s really unimpressive. He didn’t need to stab Jon.

Sam and Gilly finally go to Oldtown! In the books, this happens early on in A Feast for Crows and it was Jon and Aemon’s idea and certainly not Ser Piggy’s. The only problem I saw with Sam’s logic is that it makes him look even more craven for wanting to put as much distance between himself and the white walkers as humanly possible. I don’t blame him.

Let’s switch gears to the “battle” of ice. I can kind of sympathize with the show deciding to basically not show it all. I imagine their budget is pretty spent after fairly elaborate fight scenes in the past two episodes (though Vikings manages to have them in almost every episode). We all know the show hates Stannis. I don’t need to go on another diatribe about that.

Except it was stupid and lazy. The show should’ve just killed Stannis after the Battle of the Blackwater. He was season two’s “big bad” and became an afterthought once the wildfire started consuming his ships. We’re constantly told that the show and the books are different. Well, they should have been different more in this case. Book Stannis, I will always love you.

So Brienne comes back. Remember her? I love how the show has her talk nonstop about duty for a few seasons, only to have her neglect that for vengeance. Oathkeeper is great for oaths, except when it’s needed for spite.

Were we really expected to believe that Stannis would still be alive after all (except for that one guy) his men died? Ramsey is crazy, but he isn’t stupid. He would know to make sure killing the Mannis was a top priority. The show said no to logic so that Brienne could have her moment. Great…

Reek and Sansa was fine. I’m glad Miranda is dead. She sucked. In the books, Reek and fake Arya go to Stannis’ camp. You see, in the books, Stannis is great and isn’t a complete idiot who burns his daughter (#StandWithStannis). I imagine they’ll go to Brienne, but who knows? Maybe they’ll go to the three-eyed raven because they know Bran is alive (I wish I believed that this isn’t going to happen more than I do, though I’m putting it at maybe 25%).

Back to Brienne for a moment again because I hate how the show decided that this was a good idea. She neglects her oath to Sansa to fulfill some “oath” to Renly, who never told her to kill Stannis. Nice going! Also, your squire left a perfectly good rabbit in the snow. Where’s PETA when you need them?

Littlefinger, where’d you go? Waiting in the snow pile to catch Sansa? I hope so.

Arya! That was fun. I’m surprised they stuck with A Feast for Crows and made her blind. I don’t imagine that’ll last long. I’m also happen Jaqen isn’t dead. His appearance this season might be my favorite change from the books. Poor Ser Meryn (just kidding). Maybe he should have been more like Brienne and focused on his vows, provided there wasn’t something better for him to do…

I liked the Meereen scenes because of the talent involved, but much of what was said was silly. Killing Tyrion should never have even been discussed. It was pretty clear from the previous two episodes that Dany liked him. Ser Friendzone was just being a curmudgeon and not in the typical fun Ser Jorah way. It was nice to see Varys too. I don’t imagine Ser Jorah will be pleased to see him either.

Say it with me for one last time this season, why does Jorah have greyscale? Say it to yourself a few times and maybe you can make some sense out of it. I certainly can’t.

Dany seeing the Dothraki was also fun, though I would have preferred some Quaithe visions like the books. Oh well. The only thing I’d add is that the Dothraki have been absent for so long that their reintroduction might have lost some of its impact. I’ve long hated how the Unsullied have replaced the Dothraki as Dany’s personal guard (in the books, they stick around as well), but that’s probably nitpicking.

Dorne… I’ve got nothing. Talk about wasting Dr. Bashir all season. In my last Interview of Ice and Fire, I asked Radio Westeros if they would have preferred if the Ironborn had been in this season instead of the Dornish. I know I would have. Poor Myrcella. No more Mr. Nice Ser Stumpy. I wish I cared more.

Which takes us to King’s Landing, our final destination for this recap. I thought it dragged on a bit, but I like Cersei’s shaming. Great acting from Lena Headley.

We also got to see Ser Robert Strong, who actually did look a lot like Frankenstrong. In the books, you can’t see his face at all because we’re not sure if he actually has one since his head was promised to Dorne. I imagine that the show switched this because causal viewers might forget that this is supposed to be Gregor Clegane. While I’ll okay with showing a little bit of face, it does make you wonder how Kevan and Pycelle let Qyburn parade him around.

That’s all I’ve got to say for this episode. I will do a review of this season as a whole (leave your guesses for the grade I’ll give it in the comments) sometime later this week. Perhaps when I’m done grieving over the loss of Stannis, though it was for the best.

I want to thank you all for reading. The feedback on these recaps has been spectacular, which is surprising since I wasn’t sure how a book heavy recap would be perceived. It’s been a fun ride, even when the show wasn’t so fun.

One bit on shameless self-promotion. If you enjoyed these recaps, please consider buying one of my books. They’re all $4 on kindle and only slightly more in paperback. I don’t get paid for these recaps and while I’d do it for free, it seemed prudent to inform you all of another great opportunity to read words that I wrote!

For the Watch!

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Sunday

14

June 2015

1

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Interviews of Ice and Fire: Radio Westeros

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

I am very excited to welcome Lady Gwynhyfar and yolkboy of Radio Westeros to the site. Radio Westeros, the only radio station this side of Asshai, produces insightful and entertaining podcasts on all topics related to ASOIAF. RW has also teamed up with the History of Westeros podcast for book to show reviews for Game of Thrones’ fifth season.

Radio Westeros is hosted from two different countries with Lady Gwyn stateside and yolkboy in the U.K. Can you tell us a little bit about how you two decided to team up?

yolkboy: We were regulars at the westeros.org forums and both liked each others theories and writing. We started messaging, got along very well, and both felt like we wanted to do something more ambitious in the ASoIaF realm. Eventually I mentioned that I knew how to put a podcast together and asked if LG was brave enough to take a step into audio. Once we agreed on the concept, everything just came together. The distance between us has never really been an issue, although our episodes do take heaps of preparation and coordination.

Your most recent episode focused on Ser Barristan Selmy. How did you feel about his death on Game of Thrones?

yb: Given the changes they’ve made in the Meereen storyline we weren’t entirely surprised, but we think he’s got more story left in the books. Ultimately we suspect he’s a doomed character, but it was sad to see him go out like that.

 

You’ve partnered with the History of Westeros Podcast for book to show reviews of season 5. How do you (generally) think the changes have been handled?

LG: In general we’re very understanding of the constraints faced by the showrunners, so overall we’re pretty philosophical about them. That doesn’t mean we like or agree with every change though.

 

What’s your favorite change so far? Least favorite?

yb: The visit to Hardhome was thrilling television, excellent. Sansa’s story though seems to have sacrificed a lot of character development, It’s a shame to see her take steps backward.

LG: I agree that seeing Hardhome on screen, rather than off page, made for great television. On the other hand the changes to the Dornish storyline were pretty disappointing. Although I can see that the decision not to include certain characters made some changes necessary, it would have been nice to see a greater differentiation between the Sand Snakes for instance, and in my opinion the changes to Ellaria Sand’s character were not positive.

The ASOIAF/GOT community is certainly at its busiest when the show is airing new episodes. Do you find yourselves altering your approach at all to lure casual fans into the world of ice and fire?

yb: The only change we made is to team up with History of Westeros for their show reviews. Radio Westeros will always be books only analysis, so this was a great outlet and chance to connect with new people.

The general consensus amongst the ASOIAF community before this season premiered was that fans were accepting of the fact that this season was going to be vastly different from the books. Given the general lukewarm reaction to this season, do you think that may not have been the case?

yb: When you’ve lived and breathed these books, changes become very jarring and sometimes hard to take. It’s a simple fact of being fanatical about the books.

LG: I agree. Also, people always have lots to say about adaptations like this, whether they’re casual fans or more serious students of the source material. I worked in a bookstore for fifteen years and every page to screen adaptation engendered some level of discussion. So while fans may accept the fact that changes will be made and spoilers will arise, it comes as no surprise to me that they will still have plenty to say about it.

This season has largely ignored or heavily changed all the plots of A Feast for Crows. Given the book’s positive reception amongst dedicated fans, do you think this was a mistake?

LG: Given the compression of many storylines and the fact that the show has moved into book spoiler territory, it was disappointing not to see them take up the story in the Riverlands , for instance, in favor of diving into TWoW territory. Leaving that out this season left Brienne’s character fairly static, and I think Gwendoline is one of the best assets GoT has. (We can always hope for next season though!) That said, I can understand the need to eliminate settings and characters in any given season. Feast and Dance are both hugely expansive, in terms of the world of ASoIaF, and present major challenges in terms of adaptation.

Would you have rather seen the Ironborn instead of the Dornish (this can become its own question if your answer is long)?

LG: I would have rather seen them spend more time developing Dorne actually. Hopefully we’ll see the Ironborn next season.

Two of your episodes focus on characters that died and came back to life with Catelyn Stark and Sandor Clegane (well, likely in The Hound’s case). For a series often known for its death count, how do you feel about Martin’s decision to revive certain characters, which has lead to lots of fan speculation on just about every dead character?

LG: I think second life, in one form or another, is a major theme throughout the books. And it definitely lends itself to conspiracy theorizing, which can be both a blessing and curse in the fandom.

Cersei and Catelyn have both made many decisions which, often inadvertently, endangered their children’s lives? Who’s the better mother?

LG: Having done episodes on both of these characters, which means deep dives into both arcs, I can say that I believe they both love their children. But Cersei is a product of her own upbringing, and is both a selfish adult and someone who views children as pawns. I don’t believe Cersei truly has anyone’s best interest other than her own in mind. On the other hand, Catelyn agonizes over her children’s welfare often, and is continually placed in a position of having to choose the lesser of two evils, or one child over another. Sure she made some choices that can be questioned with the hindsight of a reader, but I don’t think we can deny that she is written as THE mother of the story, and it is her conflicts in that role that define her as a character. Even one of her post mortem monikers- “Mother Merciless”- speaks to that fact. But I’d like to say that judging “best” is very difficult. You have to judge based on intangible things like inner reserves and moral character, as well as past experiences and present situations. It’s not a level playing field for these two in that regard, so I recommend empathy for both.

What is the most ridiculous theory that you think might actually be true?

yb: That ‘The Winds of Winter’ will be delivered before Season 6!

LG: I wouldn’t actually call these ridiculous, but my pet theory is that Lem Lemoncloak is Rhaegar’s squire Richard Lonmouth… yolkboy’s is that Melisandre is the daughter of Bloodraven and Shiera Seastar.

Episode 9 certainly caused a stir by likely spoiling The Winds of Winter with the sacrifice of Shireen. While other deaths such as Ser Barristan and Hizdahr can’t exactly be called spoilers given the massive plot deviations, are you concerned about the book/show relationship moving forward?

yb: The show overtaking the books will be very sad for hardcore book fans. Surprises will be slaughtered. Fans will canonise show events, and some of them won’t be from George’s hand. There will no doubt be nerdrage on an epic scale.

LG: Yes, it will be very difficult. As yolkboy pointed out on a recent History of Westeros review, if the shows had been made prior to AFfC & ADwD being released, fans might have considered Sansa + Ramsay canon, and assumed it was coming in the books! On the other hand, events like Cersei’s arrest by the faith and Dany’s departure on Drogon would have been spoiled. It will be great if George manages to release TWoW early next year, but it will only postpone the inevitable choice book readers will have to make– continue watching, or have the end of the story spoiled by the show.

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

yb : To read, it’s Arya. To study, it’s Melisandre. I like them both on the show too.

LG: I don’t really have a favorite, but I love studying Sansa, Arya, Brienne and Theon. And yes, probably same for the show.

What’s next on the agenda for Radio Westeros?

LG: We have an episode on the Battle of Fire coming out very soon, featuring contributions by Aziz from History of Westeros, Steven Attewell of Race for the Iron Throne, Valkyrist from Vassals of Kingsgrave and with guest host BryndenBFish of Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire. It’s done in a ‘live news-report’ style and is our most ambitious production yet. After that we have Daenerys and Tywin.

Radio Westeros episodes are avaialable from their website, YouTube, or iTunes

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Tuesday

9

June 2015

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Ours is the Fury: #StandWithStannis

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

It’s been a rough twenty four hours to be a supporter of Stannis Baratheon, the One True King of Westeros. Ever since episode nine aired, I’ve been fielding questions as to how I feel about the sacrifice of Shireen Baratheon. Anger is the appropriate emotion, though not at Stannis, but rather at David Benioff and D.B. Weiss for completely destroying one of the best characters in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Ever since his introduction in season two, Game of Thrones has gone to great lengths to denigrate Stannis, portraying him as a puppet of Melisandre and a religious fanatic. The truth is, Stannis cares very little about the Lord of Light in the books. Selyse is the true believer in the Red God and Stannis appears to support R’hllor mostly because it’s just about the only thing he has going for him in A Clash of Kings.

Which one might consider disingenuous until you consider that this very train of thought goes against the stubborn, rigid description of the character. Now, it’s not just D&D who feel that Stannis is a cold, brooding, and arrogant individual. Most of the characters in both the books and the series hold this opinion of Stannis.

Except the opposite grows to be true. The Stannis we see in A Dance With Dragons is not the Stannis we were introduced to in ACOK. This Stannis cares little of birthrights and knows that he must save the realm to win the throne and not the other way around.

I direct your attention to this image, courtesy of “The Rains of Castamere” Facebook page.

QqylH8J

This is the Stannis that earned the title of “The Mannis.” Book and show fans have long been divided with regard to the middle Baratheon son for good reason. Show Stannis has little in the way of honor or integrity. Why? Who knows?

I thought that we might have turned the page with Stannis’ horrible depiction (I won’t say portrayal since Stephen Dillane is excellent) in the show with last season’s finale. When Stannis saved the Wall, it seemed like the show finally understood the vale of the One True King. I even wrote an article about it.

Unfortunately, that was short lived. We saw little development of the Jon/Stannis relationship, which is one of the best aspects of ADWD. Instead, the show returned to previous depictions of Stannis as a demanding fool with no political savvy, relying on Davos’ word to convince the viewer that this guy isn’t a complete religious narcissist. It’s as if The Battle of Castle Black never happened. Maybe that’s why he didn’t show up at the end of “The Watchers on the Wall.”

I now direct your attention to this quote from Theon’s sample chapter from The Winds of Winter, which is from a conversation Stannis had with Ser Justin Massey.

The knight hesitated.  “Your Grace, if you are dead — ”
” — you will avenge my death, and seat my daughter on the Iron Throne.  Or die in the attempt.”

Does this look like a man who would burn his own daughter? Certainly not. In the books, Shireen, Selsye, and Melisandre remain at the Wall. It’s been long assumed that Melisandre will try to sacrifice her and the show practically confirmed that.

Why Stannis needed to be involved is beyond me. It completely ruined the character for show viewers and that’s a shame. What’s an even bigger shame is that Stannis fans now have to once again become Stannis apologists.

While the show and the books have always been separate entities, it’s clear that Stannis has been a victim of this more so than any other character. I’m not sure any book fans will be able to convince show only viewers that Stannis isn’t a completely horrible person. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.

While “Hardhome” went a long way in salavaging the season, it doesn’t change the fact that season five has largely been a complete disaster. When it’s not boring, it’s completely nonsensical (not to suggest that the two are mutually exclusive). Stannis isn’t the only character who’s been made to suffer the indignity of actions unbefitting to his character. There’s also Littlefinger, but at least he didn’t burn his daughter.

I urge people to remember that last episode featured actions committed not by Stannis, but rather by the showrunners who don’t understand the character. I will continue to love Stannis. You should too.

#StandWithStannis

Also, Courting Mrs. McCarthy is out today! 

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Monday

8

June 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 9

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. 

Game of Thrones has two distinct uses for its seasons’ penultimate episodes. One and three prominently featured executions while two and four were dedicated to big battles. While this episode featured both executions and battles, it wasn’t quite the same.

“The Dance of the Dragons” said goodbye to two characters who are alive and well in the books. Shireen Baratheon and Hizdahr zo Loraq aren’t exactly fan favorites (though show Shireen is quite endearing), but they’re also not really characters that anyone would wish death upon either. Their deaths have much different ramifications for the books. One of them is pretty important.

As I’ve pointed out in earlier recaps, Melisandre, Selyse, and Shireen all stay at The Wall in the books. Davos is also off doing recruiting for Stannis at White Harbor and later goes to find Rickon. It’s been long assumed by many book fans that Melisandre will sacrifice Shireen as she did in this episode. Problem with the show was that Stannis let it happen. That’s a big problem.

Book Stannis and Show Stannis have rarely matched up well, less so than any other major character. We know that D&D don’t particularly like him and that’s a big reason why show fans often struggle to understand the cult following behind “Stannis the Mannis.” I wrote an article about this last year.

Book Stannis is noble and also a master politician. BryndenBFish has an excellent piece on Stannis on his site that’s a must read for fully understanding the character. Show Stannis killed his daughter. I hate this.

In the books, Melisandre goes behind Stannis’ back to swap Mance Rayder out for Rattleshirt because she knows that Stannis’ sense of morality would prevent him from letting Mance live, though she obviously saw some use for him. While Melisandre’s allegiances certainly seem to be shifting toward Jon in the books, she can at least respect the code of law for Stannis.

Killing Shireen all but confirms that she’ll die in The Winds of Winter. That’s unfortunate. This might be the first real instance where the show has spoiled the books (maybe Ser Barristan, but that plot is so off course that it’s hard to say). Further more, the show basically forced all its viewers to hate Stannis. After he saved the Wall and had that great scene with Shireen earlier this season, that’s quite unfortunate. I’ll stop here because I could go on and on about how much I hated the burning of Shireen, but I’m sure most of you don’t wish to read that.

I did really like this episode’s depiction of Ser Alliser, who I like much better in the show than the books. He clearly hates what Jon is doing, but he’s smart enough to know that there’s at least some solid reasoning behind it. I would’ve like a scene mentioning Aemon’s death, but that’s not really all that necessary.

Olly will stab Jon. No doubt about that. Moving on.

The Dorne plotline sort of got some semblance of resolution even if it was stupid. Doran Martell could’ve easily refused Jaime and let that be that. King’s Landing is a mess right now. Why would anyone think that Myrcella is safer there than Dorne when her mother is on trial for regicide even with the Sand Snakes plotting?

It still remains to be seen whether or not there will be some sort of Dornish plan or if the Martells will just be treated as comic relief like the Tyrells. I hope there’s something going on or else it seems kind of pointless to introduce them at all. I would’ve rather seen the Greyjoys than this pathetic version of the Sand Snakes.

I like most of the Braavos storyline. It’s predictable, but that’s okay. Arya has managed to stay enjoyable without much in terms of plot.

It was also nice to see Tycho Nestoris again. This is another case of the show character being better than the books. I wish I could say the same for Mace Tyrell. What an idiot.

I get that Mace is portrayed as a complete idiot in the show. He’s basically an idiot in the books too, but not as outwardly pathetic. But where were the Tyrell guards? He has the largest army in Westeros and yet shows up to Braavos with Lannister men and Meryn Trant? Foolish. That is all.

While I don’t love how simplified Dany’s plotline has been, I actually really liked her scenes. While Hizdahr doesn’t die in the books and isn’t a complete fool either, I was okay with his death. The Sons of the Harpy stuff has been pretty inconsistent. They were a huge factor early on this season and then they were absent for a while.

Why does Jorah have greyscale? At least it wasn’t mentioned this episode, though I’m not sure why he’s not concerned about infecting Dany. Oh well.

Dany does fly off with Drogon in the books, though not in the middle of a battle, but the rest of the Meereen plotline is completely different. In the books, the city is about to be attacked by Yunkai with Ser Barristan prepping the defense. I imagine that will be swapped for Tyrion, Jorah, and Daario dealing with the Sons of the Harpy. Maybe we’ll see the Dothraki again. I hope so.

Where is Grey Worm? Have we stopped caring about him? I know I have. The Unsullied were pretty unimpressive in battle.

That’s it for this week. Only one more episode. There’s a certain stabbing that hasn’t happened yet, which requires a certain red priestess to be at a certain large wall, which probably means the end of a certain One True King. We’ll see if that actually happens.

Hoping for Lady Stoneheart. Well, maybe. She’s kind of weird.

Courting Mrs. McCarthy comes out tomorrow! Hooray for books!

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4

June 2015

11

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Poldark Is More Than Just “The Next Downton Abbey”

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

Note, I have seen all eight episodes of Poldark. This review does not have spoilers.

Did the world need a new Poldark adaptation? Given the success of the original, which aired two series in the 70s as well as the failure of the recent Upstairs, Downstairs remake (though to be fair, the failure falls on the second season which lacked Eileen Atkins), I’d say that’s a no. Fortunately, we got one anyway.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Poldark is about Ross Poldark, a man who returns to run his late father’s copper mines after serving for three years in the British Army during the American Revolution. Poldark finds his estate in near ruin and his sweetheart about to be married off to his cousin. Rather than pout about the changing times, Poldark goes to work putting the pieces of his life back together.

What is it about Polark that makes it such great television? Two words, Aidan Turner. In just about every scene, Turner captivates the audience, making you forget about the books and the previous series. It’s rare that you have a leading man who seems equally appealing to both genders. Men want to be Ross Poldark, women want to be with Ross Poldark. It’s hard to believe that TV’s most captivating leading man was a supporting character in all three Hobbit movies, but that’s Aidan Turner for you.

The production quality is also top notch. From the costumes to the scenery, Poldark impresses on just about every level. In what’s up and away the best era for visually stunning period television, Poldark manages to separate itself from the pack.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Poldark is that it feels fresh. Like Downton Abbey before it, the series waded into well trodden territory without feeling derivative. Comparisons are inevitable, but Poldark succeeds on its own merits and not just as an updated nostalgic romp through 18th century Cornwall.

Though Poldark deserves consideration as one of the best shows on television, its status as the best costume drama is unquestionable thanks to subpar showings from Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones (while I wouldn’t call the second half of Outlander’s first season a failure, it definitely didn’t raise the bar). Aside from Hannibal, I’m not sure there’s a show more deserving of the label, though True Detective will likely be a contender when it returns. With DA’s swan song only a few months away, Poldark’s timing couldn’t have been much better.

The comparisons to Downton are inevitable and certainly not misguided, but it’s important to note that Poldark is more than just the next placeholder for the label of “favorite costume drama.” It’s more than that. It’s a great show in its own right and certainly surpasses DA’s last two seasons by a wide margin.

It’s also hard to imagine the comparisons being particularly beneficial to Poldark besides the publicity boost. Though the past two seasons haven’t been top notch, Downton Abbey remains a worldwide phenomenon, a claim that very few shows can rightfully make. As good as it is, it’s fairly unlikely that Poldark will join that exclusive club and be watched by hundreds of millions of people and that’s okay.

Poldark doesn’t need to come close to DA’s viewership to be one of the best shows currently airing on television. The summer doesn’t look too great for original programming. There are worse things you could be watching than a shirtless Aidan Turner. I’m not entirely sure there’s anything better.

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1

June 2015

5

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Interviews of Ice and Fire: Preston Jacobs

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

I’m very excited to welcome Preston Jacobs to the site. Since his YouTube debut last year, Preston has stirred the ASOIAF pot with his “Rereading Ice, Rethinking Fire” series of videos, amassing over 40,000 subscribers. Covering topics such as theories, book to show comparisons, and individual episode commentaries, Preston’s videos have over 5,000,000 views.

I’ll lead off with the question that I think everyone thinks when they watch your videos. How do you come up with them?

That’s quite an existential question: where do ideas come from? What’s funny is that normally people strive for original ideas. I’m instead trying to discover GRRM’s ideas hidden in the text. In the end, we shall see if I’m successful in my quest to not have an original idea.

But regarding the creation of ideas, I think a fundamental aspect of their creation is identifying a gap in logic or information. After finding the gap, the mind will then naturally search for a solution.

Can you take us briefly through your research process?  

To produce a video, I usually start with a topic that has been bugging me or another fan. I then reread the chapters surrounding that topic and look for things that don’t quite make sense. Finally, I try to come up with solutions that explain the inconsistencies. I find six techniques really help me: 1) I reread the series by character or by location; 2) I focus heavily on the seemingly extraneous information and characters; 3) I read the appendixes; 4) I do quite a few word searches on the electronic version of the story; 5) I constantly think about character allegiance, best interest and motivation; and 6) I often consider POV conclusions to be inaccurate.

That last technique may need a bit of clarification. What I mean by that is GRRM likes listing plans and possibilities and then going with something that isn’t listed. For example, in Tyrion’s first chapter of A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion thinks he might be going to Braavos, Tyrosh, Myr, Dorne, the Wall or Lys. In the end, it’s Pentos. When a POV character has solved a mystery, I question it. And that’s a huge reason why I don’t think Euron killed Balon – because Asha is certain of it.

When it comes to your longer series, are your ideas fully fleshed out before you start making them or do you discover some new stuff along the way?

To my own detriment, I’ve never been a planner. And few, if any, of the ideas in my video are fleshed out when I start. When I finish “Part 1” of a series, I have only a vague notion of what “Part 2” will be. It’s actually pretty perilous and, for this reason, my series do often meander a bit. For example, The Littlefinger Debt Scheme wandered so much that I had to spend half an episode centering it again. The Dornish Master Plan, on the other hand, had more of that satisfying, big picture cohesiveness. A series can actually cause me a bit of anxiety. I’m continually frightened that I won’t be able to bring things together or find the answer. But, at the same time, that fear motivates me quite a bit.

Most of your older videos ended with you saying “I’m probably wrong about half of this.” When you craft a theory, do you account for potential errors?

I recognize that human beings make connections that aren’t always there. We form opinions, become emotional and suffer from confirmation bias. I know I must be guilty of this. And I am human and make mistakes. As it turns out, GRRM and his editors are humans as well and also make mistakes.

I also recognize that GRRM is trying very hard to deceive us. For example, we were clearly led to believe that Bran’s attacker was hired by Cersei or Jaime. Then, out of nowhere, it turns out the attacker was hired by Joffrey. GRRM hid this reveal very well and even laid down false information about this event to keep the reader confused.

What is difficult, however, is divorcing my error from GRRM’s error from GRRM’s misdirection from a legitimate clue. For example, Summer and Shaggydog fail to smell Wex as he hides in a tree at the end of A Clash of Kings. This seems very off to me. Am I in error in not knowing the ins and outs of a wolf’s nose? Is GRRM in error in forgetting that the wolves should have smelled Wex? Is GRRM screwing with us by planting inconsistent information? Or is this a clue on the nature of Wex? I certainly hope it’s a clue. And it’s a lot more fun to think it is.

You’re possibly the most famous R+L=J skeptic on the internet. Does the story about how GRRM asked D&D who Jon Snow’s mother was at their first meeting sway your opinion at all? 

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that make me think that R+L might equal J, but the Game of Thrones series is not one of them. GRRM is writing his magnum opus and the mystery of Jon Snow’s mother is a major piece of it. It’s a mystery that GRRM has guarded for two decades. Ask yourself, if it were you, would you trust D&D with the answer? Would you trust anyone with the answer? I certainly wouldn’t.

Also, if one looks at GRRM words about the meeting, he says that D&D “answered correctly.” Not to split hairs, but answering correctly is different from having the correct answer. If someone has been properly deceived, they are answering correctly in a way.

You’re also likely Sweetrobin’s number one fan. What is it about the Lord of the Vale that captivates you? Is he destined to marry Shireen? 

Like Tyrion, I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things. But, it goes beyond that. I’ve always been bothered by children acting too old for their age in fiction. And admittedly, our story is very guilty of this. For example, Ned claims that Rickon, at three years old, “must learn to face his fears” and is old enough for a direwolf. It’s laughable. Sweetrobin, of course, acts too young for his age, but his situation is still much more realistic and relatable than the reverse.

I am also intrigued by the mystery of Sweetrobin’s abilities. How does this small, weak boy know the things he does? He recognizes an aunt he only met when a baby. He hears Marillion’s posthumous singing. He knows Harry the Heir wants him dead. How?

A Sweetrobin-Shireen marriage does seem pretty likely to me. They are of an age and the alliance would be a powerful one. The only thing that makes me think it won’t happen is that Maester Cressen already suggested it in A Clash of King. And, as I mentioned, GRRM doesn’t like fulfilling announced plans. 

Your Tower of Joy series breaks down the timeline problems with Robert’s Rebellion. Do you think GRRM would go back and make the war longer if he could?

I’m not sure if it’s the length of the war that is the issue necessarily, but where GRRM placed the events. The real problem event is the Battle of the Bells and the real problem testimony is Jaime in the Harrenhall bathhouse in A Storm of Swords.

The Battle of the Bells seems like a battle that should be at the beginning of the war. After all, it leads to the Tully alliance, Ned’s marriage and him marching off to war and leaving Catelyn for a year. But then Jaime describes the Battle of the Bells as happening near the end of the war. According to Jaime, the battle quickly leads to Tywin’s abandonment of Aerys, the wildfire incident and Aerys’ death.

No matter how you slice it, our characters are spending months upon months twiddling his thumbs somewhere. Ned either sat at the Trident for seven or eight months or spent that time in Dorne. I think GRRM’s big mistake was not adding more events between the Battle of the Bells and the fall of King’s Landing.

When I first read “The Hedge Knight,” I wrote it off as just a fluff contribution to Legends. Your videos, particularly your “Dragonless Ambitions” series, use quotes from the novellas. Do you approach using them differently than you do with the main books in the series?  

In my opinion, the Dunk and Egg stories are the best of GRRM’s writing. They are simply fantastic stories. That said, they seem to be a little more straightforward than his other work. I will say they are good for understanding the nature of Targaryens, how bastards are seen by society, the Faith of the Seven and Bloodraven.

The Rogue Prince and the Princess and the Queen are the opposite. On first read, they are quite dry, but they are also dense and filled with glorious lies. The stories remind me greatly of the Roman histories of Suetonius and Tacitus and I’m certain that’s what GRRM was going for by having the story told through “Archmaester Glydayn.” We have a biased author collecting the writings of other biased authors. One has to know the biases and catch the contradictions to unlock the truth.

Do you think that GRRM will need more than two books to finish the series given the amount of ground that still needs to be covered?

It’s hard to imagine that he can do it two books. And it’s certainly in his publisher’s best interest to push the series to eight. I would say there’s a very good chance there will be an eighth book. Many people simply assume that there will be a lazy slaughter of characters to close plot lines in two books.

That said, GRRM’s other stories do not shy away from ending unresolved. His first novel, The Dying of Light builds up to a huge showdown and then ends before the fight. It makes me ask myself things like: if the Ironborn story ended with Theon and others returning home for a new kingsmoot, would I be satisfied? Does Theon need to win the kingsmoot or is returning home good enough for me? Because there’s a good chance GRRM will end it unresolved. 

Which character do you think is best at backdoor politics/scheming?

It’s a boring answer, but Varys. Somehow Varys rose up from humble beginning to be Aerys’ Master of Whisperers and then, somehow, convinces Robert not to kill him. That’s pretty impressive. The guy hides in walls, moonlights as a black cell guard and seems to get men that hate him (like Ned and Barristan) to do things for him. The only other person that comes close to working this hard is Littlefinger. 

Which two characters would you like to see sail together on a small fishing boat through Valyria on their way to Meereen? 

I feel Cersei and Lady Stoneheart would have some very interesting conversations. 

What are your thoughts on season five so far?

Season five, quite frankly, is a disaster. The actors have done their best and many scenes are beautifully written, but the larger story just doesn’t make any sense anymore. I believe the big problem was trying to combine plots and characters. It forced characters to do illogical things. In my opinion, D&D should have just written a new story. After all, the title of the series has “Game” in it and I think a big element that people love is the logic to that game. They love hypothesizing about what characters will do next. There is such a massive leap in logic with Littlefinger handing Sansa over to Ramsay that it’s hard to get over.

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

I fluctuate, but when it really comes down to it, it’s Theon. He is such a real, flawed, relatable and tragic character. And he’s the one I really care about and am overwhelmingly invested in emotionally. Theon’s escape from Winterfell was one of the most nail-biting reads for me. I want him to live and find happiness, if he can.

When it comes down to it, Theon is a lot like Jessie from Breaking Bad. He may lack wisdom, but he has deniable raw talent. And he may annoyingly use faux-confidence to cover his insecurities, but he is actually just looking to make friends and find acceptance. He has done some horrible things, but he is actually a good person underneath. At some point, Theon, like Jessie, has become our son.

Which character do you think has gotten the worst treatment by the show?

Jaime, hands down. Jaime’s story should be an unexpected tale of redemption. In the books, he starts out the worst of villains –he murders the king, he sleeps with his sister, he tries to murder Bran and he kills Jory. Then, somehow, it all turns on its head during his journey with Brienne. Jaime becomes someone worth rooting for.

Jaime of the show has no journey. He just starts out pretty likable and never really changes. I understand why they made this change. The story is filled with characters and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau needed screen time to familiarize the audience with Jaime. That said, by endearing the audience to the character of Jaime early, they spoiled everything.

Last but certainly not least, what the hell happened at Summerhall? 

There is a paradox in the word “dream.” We know that dreams are a jumble of past memories, yet we use the word to talk about our ideas of the future. And, somehow, the notion that dreams are prophecy has sprouted up.

Shakespeare’s Othello deals with this subject in great depth. Iago whispers in Othello’s ear, which, in turn, becomes Othello’s dream. Othello then thinks his dream is prophecy – a “foregone conclusion.” In the end, Othello kills his lover and himself.

So, when I hear about Valyrians, their dragon dreams and their doom, I’m not so concerned with how they killed themselves. Clearly at Summerhall, Egg or one of his kin believed some crazy idea about hatching dragons or bringing forth the Prince That Was Promised. And it resulted in a fiery mess. The real question is: who is the Iago?

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 8

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. 

The question I get asked more than an other by casual Game of Thrones fans is “who do you think will win the game of thrones,” a question undoubtedly aided by the show’s title as well as just about every mainstream media feature focused on the series. It’s not a question I tend to answer, not because I don’t know (though I don’t), but because that question is of secondary importance. What really matters is the song of ice and fire.

As soon as the white walkers made their entrance, I knew that they would lead off the recap. It was a fairly intriguing battle sequence, though one with some weird inconsistencies. The white walkers infested the wildings at a fairly rapid pace, perhaps too rapid, and I’m not really sure how that wall stopped them when they appeared to be capable of some sort of flight. Then there was the emphasis on dragonglass when arrows and swords seemed to work just fine. I don’t mind that the ice zombies couldn’t swim, but it seemed odd that people could jump in and out of that water, which must be close 0 Kelvin, without instantly dying (even the giant).

So while I thought the zombies resembled The Walking Dead perhaps a little too much, I liked that well enough. This season hasn’t had a ton of action, especially not from the Night’s Watch. There’s just one problem though, one that I posed on twitter right after the episode.

How are we supposed to care about anything else now that the white walkers are here?

I’ve been comparing the ice zombies to the smoke monster from Lost all morning. Like the smoke monster, the ice zombies have been around since the beginning of the show. They make sporadic appearances and we’re always aware of them, but they never played a predominant role in the show’s narrative. The smoke monster’s entrance into the main narrative as John Locke signaled the beginning of the end of the show. Where does the ice zombies introduction leave us? Perhaps I wasn’t wrong when I said that last week “felt like the premiere for the rest of the series.”

Tyrion meeting Daenerys is an event that some book fans have been anticipating for well over a decade (the true seeds for this were planted after A Storm of Swords, though I guess you could say longer for certain people). Considering how separated all of the many characters are for most of the series, this was huge and yet it trumped by Jon Snow of all people.

There was a fair amount of needless exposition in this episode. The Samwell scene was unnecessary. Dany talking to Tyrion about their fathers was fun, but it raised plenty of questions. Dany probably should have killed Tyrion, a man who killed his father whose brother killed her father, both in direct violation of Westerosi ethics (kinslaying and oathbreaking are just about the two biggest faux-pas). We know why she didn’t but the show didn’t do a great job of convincing us on its own.

Let’s jump back to the beginning (I actually intended for this recap to be linear, but the ice zombies screwed that up) where Tyrion introduces himself to Dany. This is easily the most authentic Tyrion scene since his speech at his trial last year (which was easily his weakest season). He approached the Jorah issue quite well and much more diplomatic than you’d expect from the show.

There was one problem with Tyrion’s speech to Dany about the difficulties she’ll face in rallying the great Houses to her side that bugged me. He said House Tyrell alone wouldn’t be enough. False. House Tyrell has pretty much more troops than everyone else combined. Maybe this it nitpicky, but I don’t understand why the show won’t take them seriously.

Time for the weekly “why does Jorah have greyscale” question. I still don’t know. Here’s a big difference between the way the show and books handle supporting characters. In the books, Jorah exists solely for purposes related to Dany (and much later, Tyrion), whether it’s plot progression or creepy filler. We aren’t expected to invest in Jorah himself apart from the POV characters. Iain Glen is talented and he’s been around since the beginning, so we get Jorah scenes without any of the major players. That’s not a problem, though his greyscale is stupid and I hate it.

Let’s briefly talk about Arya, whose plot is basically irrelevant since it doesn’t involve dragons or ice zombies. This is fairly close to the books, though we’re getting very close to the point where we’re all caught up with her. She’s learning to be a Faceless Man (woman?) and that’s something that will be more fun when we know where it’s going long term.

Sansa, Sansa, Sansa. I actually liked her scenes a lot, even though it seems odd that Reek would tell her that Bran and Rickon are alive. Since she can’t go to Dagobah to be with Bran and she can’t go to Skagos to rescue Rickon from the cannibals, what good is this information? The only thing I can think of is that it makes one of them Lord of Wnterfell and not Ramsey. Which could come in handy if Reek does help Sansa escape to Stannis’ camp.

As for the Battle of Ice, it’s not shaping up to be terribly epic. Ramsey will take his men and probably cause problems with the Mannis. I’m not entirely sure we’ll see resolution with this plotline before the end of the season, which is okay since I had serious doubts as to whether or not Stannis would survive at the beginning of the season. I still have doubts, but they’re not as bad.

Brienne? Where are you? She probably found Lady Stoneheart or she and Podrick went back to eat at Hot Pie’s restaurant, probably with Gendry.

The Cersei stuff is problematic. As I said last week, the charges against her are far more severe than the books. She’s being accused of regicide and yet the stakes don’t seem to reflect that. Well, Sansa is also wanted for regicide and the crown seems to be okay with letting her fool around in Winterfell so maybe killing the king isn’t such a big deal.

No Dorne. I’m perfectly fine with that, though we haven’t gotten to see enough of Doran Martell. Don’t people know that Dr. Bashir needs more screen time?

This was easily the best episode of the season, though it does feel like the beginning of the end. I don’t really see them being able to carry on for more than two seasons now that the ice zombies have officially entered the fray. I guess we will see!

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