Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Game of Thrones Archive

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September 2017

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

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Season Grade: B+

Character Grades:

Daenerys: B

Tyrion: B-

Cersei: B+

Jaime: A-

Euron: A

Qyburn: A

Jon: D

Ghost: F

Davos: A

Melisandre: D

Littlefinger: B-

Sansa: A-

Arya: C

Bran: F

Meera Reed: B-

Winterfell Maester: D

Winterfell Guards: F

Lyanna Mormont: A

Jorah Mormont: F

Sweetrobin: A

Knights of the Vale: A

Night King: A-

The Wall: D-

Coldhands/Benjen: F

Sam: F

Gilly: A

Tormund: A

Brienne: A

The Hound: A

Ice Zombie Hit By The Hound’s Rock: F

Gendry: A-

Raven that flew to Dragonstone: A+

Drogon: A

Rhaegal: A-

Viserion: B-

Beric Dondarrion: A

Thoros of Myr: A

Dickon Tarly: C-

Grey Worm: D

Missandei: D

Reek: F

Yara: F

Everyone from Dorne: F

Olenna Tyrell: C+

Stannis Baratheon: A

Bronn: A

Daario Naharis: F

Varys: C-

 

 

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August 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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20

August 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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31

July 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 3

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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24

July 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why isn’t Lyanna Mormont in charge of tactical?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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17

July 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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12

July 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Preview

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

It feels like a decade has passed since television’s worst kept secret regarding the fate of a certain Northern bastard was revealed. Those of you who followed along with my season six reviews know that I wasn’t a big fan of the finale, or with the frequent lapses in logic that culminated in Jon and Cersei taking their thrones, for reasons that still escape me. A month after the season usually ends, we find ourselves ready to journey to Westeros once again!

The fact that there’s only thirteen episodes left of the series makes me more inclined to forgive the show for deploying the “everybody dies” trope to clear up the King’s Landing quagmire. Screen time is always an issue for shows with ensemble casts, giving Game of Thrones’ high death count an added purpose. It may not have always made sense, but trimming down the cast in season six was a smart move as the show heads into the home stretch. Now screen time appears to be far less of an issue, especially with the recent reports that all six of the season eight (next season) episodes will have feature length runtimes.

The objectives of season seven remain somewhat unclear, with only seven episodes and a much more condensed power dynamic. The show has two remaining major arcs to cover, the power struggle for the iron throne itself and the greater battle against the White Walkers. I doubt either of these will be fully wrapped up in this season.

Four main power centers remain in Daenerys, Jon, Cersei, and Euron. From the looks of the trailers, it appears as though Daenerys will land somewhere in the Stormlands/Iron Islands. This also follows the (f)Aegon trajectory A Dance with Dragons, where his troops landed in Storm’s End to begin their campaign. Euron is really the only expendable major player left on the show. Yara/Reek’s alliance with Dany makes it likely that her army will fight him first, before turning to face Cersei and her Lannister troops.

For the first time in the show’s history, Sansa possesses perhaps the most interesting storyline. We, as fans, can understand why the show would make Jon King in the North as R + L = J was finally revealed, but it’s never made sense from a plot perspective. It should belong to Sansa. This fairly simple concept does not appear to be lost on Littlefinger, though his decision making process has been seriously called into question ever since he decided to marry Sansa to Ramsey. This power struggle should be an interesting arc to follow for at least the first half of the season, though I expect we’ll see the show split the main conflicts this season into Dany/Highgarden/Dorne vs. Euron and North/Vale/maybe Riverlands vs. King’s Landing for this season. Hopefully season six’s breakout star Lyanna Mormont will play a major role this season. The potential Tormund/Brienne of Tarth is also one to watch for, though Tormund may still be stricken with grief over the tragic death of Wun Wun.

Tyrion’s role remains a bit of a mystery. I imagine that a scene with Cersei and Tyrion would be almost as desirable as one with Cersei and Dany (or Jon and Dany), but I could also see the show holding off on Tyrion’s return to King’s Landing until next season. A reunion between Jaime and Tyrion seems more likely. I’d love to see Tyrion play the role of traveling diplomat on Dany’s behalf this season. Political Tyrion is far more interesting than battle strategist Tyrion, though anything’s better than having him waste away in a room with Grey Worm and Missandei.

The presence of Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood Without Banners remains a bit of a mystery. I incorrectly thought that their return signaled that the show was going to bring in Lady Stoneheart. It seems more likely that Arya will be involved with them somehow, given that we last left her old friend Walder Frey in the Riverlands. Her old direwolf Nymeria, who continues to reek havoc in the Riverlands in the books, could also make a reappearance. A conflict between the forces in the Riverlands and King’s Landing seems likely to happen this season, which could allow the long anticipated “Cleganebowl” battle (one of my least favorite fan theories) between Gregor and Sandor to happen.

I don’t expect Bran or the White Walkers to make much of an impact this season. That goes for Samwell in Oldtown as well, though I wouldn’t put it past the show to advance in such a manner that allowed him to complete his maester training. After all, this is the same show that has Varys traveling back and forth between Westeros and Essos about 15 times in a single episode. I’d be happier if the show just killed Samwell off, but I doubt that will happen.

The one character that really puzzles me is Daario Naharis. The last we saw of him was in Meereen, where Dany left him to rule. I highly doubt we’ll see Dany return to Meereen, unless she takes Varys’ magic boat, but it’s also highly unlikely that we’ve seen the last of him. His return could be held until season eight given how much Dany has to do in Westeros.

I imagine this season will largely focus on setting up Dany as a/the major player in Westeros while setting the stage for the final season. Season six took care of a lot of the smaller power conflicts that had been brewing over the past few seasons. This season should probably be more concerned with preparing for the end than with killing off major characters. Cersei seems like the most likely major character to die this season, but I have a hard time believing the show would want to kill her off before the final season. Thirteen episodes may not feel like a lot of time left, but the show will want to save much of its long anticipated action for the home stretch.

Programming note: my weekly live recap show will return this season, broadcast from my Facebook author page. Like last year, we’ll aim to start at 10:15 EST, but that will change if some episodes run longer than an hour. Be sure to follow my Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep up to date. Written recaps will follow on Mondays. Thanks for reading! Looking forward to watching along with all of you this season.

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Monday

4

July 2016

2

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Occasionally Casting Logic Aside, Season Six of Game of Thrones Succeeds at Being Good Television

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My thoughts on the events of the season finale line up pretty well with my feelings on season six as a whole, both good and bad. A lot of exciting stuff happened and quite a bit of it didn’t make sense. Characters died and others were crowned with very questionable claims to the thrones. Above everything else, season six had an obligation to set up the rest of the show, which only has two shortened seasons remaining. With that in mind, it carried out its duties quite well.

This season did often feel untethered by logic. The high body count seemed driven more by a desire to cut ties with unnecessary characters rather than what made sense for the story. With limited time left, it’s hard to argue against scrapping plotlines like Dorne, even if the execution made zero sense whatsoever. Avenge Oberyn Martell by killing off the rest of his house? As preposterous as it was to see the Sand Snakes seize control of one of the major regions in Westeros without any opposition from any of the legitimate houses, wasting more time on Dorne would have been worse.

It’s hard to believe how much hype was given to Jon Snow’s death prior to the start of the season considering the way the show handled it. His death only served as an out from The Night’s Watch, and even then, it’s hard to fathom why no one in the North besides Ramsey seemed concerned that he was a deserter. Also, I’ll say it again one last time. Jon’s decision to execute Ser Alliser, Olly, and the rest of the mutineers completely undercuts his “release” from his vows. If his death freed him from his duty, he shouldn’t have carried out one final order.

The decision to elect him King in the North is just as baffling as Sansa’s lack of explanation for why she kept the Vale army secret. Why does Jon need to be king? It doesn’t inherently change anything about R + L = J or even the Azor Ahai prophecy, which the show has played down.

By and large, the Northern plotline was pretty good, aided by latecomer Lyanna Mormont, who became this season’s breakout star. The Battle of the Bastards was one of the most visually impressive achievements of the series. My only problem was the unanswered questions. It’s frustrating because none of these gaffs are related to the bigger picture, unless the show wants to do a War of the Three Kings with what little time it has left. Just lazy writing.

Even after being snubbed, Sansa still had her best season. Her storyline was one of the most compelling and she helped guide the Northern plotline in the right direction after Jon spent a few episodes moping around Castle Black. Her final scene with Ramsey was perhaps her best of the show. While it was time for Ramsey to get what he deserved, he was easily the show’s best villain.

One element of the Northern plotline really bugged me as the season came to a close. The Brienne/Davos/Mel dynamic was pretty bizarre, but what was even weirder was the show’s decision to wait until the finale to discuss the burning of Shireen. The passing of time was an often discussed topic throughout the season, with characters traveling all over the map at unfathomable speeds. The idea that it took a full season and the chance discovery of a wooden stag left over in a snow covered old battlecamp for Davos to question what really happened to Shireen was a little preposterous.

That said, Davos was simply excellent this season. Best character on the show by far.

The audience’s knowledge of Dany’s impending arrival to Westeros presented a unique challenge for the King’s Landing plot, which needed to present itself as a high stakes storyline given all the key players involved. It all looked like it was headed somewhere… and then everybody died. No Mountain trial by combat. No Margaery planning. Just Cersei as Queen even though she blew up the most sacred religious building in the city, perhaps even in Westeros.

Could there have been more to King’s Landing? Of course. We didn’t need multiple High Sparrow lectures. We didn’t need all that buildup to a Tyrell/Faith Militant spat, only to have a stand down that didn’t go anywhere. Tommen could have had a personality. I really wanted to like the KL storyline, but there really wasn’t much to like here besides some quality acting from Lena Headley, Diana Rigg, Natalie Dormer, and Jonathan Pryce.

Meereen suffered from many of the same problems. Everyone sat around waiting for Dany to come back. Even the characters knew how boring their plotline was. The many Tyrion/Grey Worm/Missandei conversations weren’t aided by Tyrion’s admission that his companions were lame. Tyrion is perhaps the best character on the show, but had nothing to work with this year. I’ve said this in a few recaps and on my live show, but this season really highlighted the mistake of killing off Ser Barristan last year. He could have singlehandedly improved Meereen and it’s not as if his death really served some great purpose.

I was however, a big fan of Dany’s storyline this season. Outside of her two big moments in winning over the Dothraki and sailing to Westeros, she didn’t have much to do, but made the most of every scene she had. Furthermore, limiting her onscreen time allowed much of the other plotlines to breath. It can be hard to care about Westeros when you know that Dany is about to arrive with her massive army and three dragons. The ending of episode four was perhaps the best executed scene of the season and the fact that it came midseason just makes it even more impressive.

My only problem with Dany’s storyline was Ser Jorah. It’s baffling that he’s still alive after this season killed off nearly every expendable secondary character on the show. Telling him to go out and find a cure for his incurable and unnecessary disease was a little ridiculous. I love Iain Glen, but Ser Jorah is nothing but a deterrent at this point. The show handled Dany’s breakup with Daario as well as it could. I wish Ser Jorah had been mercifully allowed to become one with the many rocks in the Dothraki sea.

Arya’s story is a bit hard to judge without instantly thinking about the absurd Terminator 2 style chase through Braavos. Like Dany, Arya had to spend much of the season waiting for other events to unfold before she could return to Westeros. I mostly enjoyed this and don’t want to let the ridiculous fatal stabbing detract too much, but that image comes to mind just about every time I think of Arya. That said, her storyline for next season should be on the most interesting.

Oh Bran. I can’t really say I hated his story, aside from that horrible moment where Hodor valiantly dies saving him as a result of some weird time stuff that the show probably didn’t need to cover, but his absence from season five highlights how little I care about him in general. The three-eyed raven was a bit underwhelming, as were the revelations of Benjen as Showhands and the Tower of Joy. He wasn’t really in this season that much though and that’s probably for the best.

Perhaps it’s fitting since he had the worst storyline of last season by far, but Jaime likely had the best arc of season five, unless you want to count The Hound’s fun couple of scenes as a major storyline. The Riverlands were excellent on all accounts. Jaime’s scene with Edmure in the tent was one of my favorites. Jaime also had a great moment with Brienne which showed the depth of his character, with his deeply conflicted feelings. The show also provided some good moments for Bronn, who hasn’t had much to do since leaving Tyrion’s service.

The Ironborn could have been a great storyline. Book fans rejoiced at the prospect of a kingsmoot. It was all pretty lame, including Reek’s bizarre journey from the middle of the North to the Iron Islands, as a highly sought after captive with no money for a ship. Yara had some good moments, but Euron was a big fail. Hopefully he gets some good scenes with Dany next year.

Sam gets some points for not being in this season much. He loses points for everything else he did. Why did he take his father’s sword? Why didn’t he leave Gilly and baby Sam at Hornhill, the safest place possible? Why didn’t the Citadel know about Joer Mormont’s death?

While this season had its fair share of eye rolling moments, it was quite effective in setting up the rest of the show. Perhaps more important, it made for very entertaining television. Thank you all for reading. Also for another bit of self- promotion, I recently came out with a new book. If you’ve enjoyed my recaps, please consider ordering The Princess and the Clown or any of my other books. They’re pretty cheap on Amazon. Thank you for reading!

Finally, back by popular demand, it’s time for some letter grades for this season!

Jon Snow: B

Lyanna Mormont: A

Sansa: A-

Davos: A

Melisandre: B

Tormund: A-

Wun Wun: A

Ramsey: B-

Rickon: F

Littlefinger: B

Sweetrobin: A (King in the Vale?)

Dany: A-

Tyrion: C

Varys: B- (better time traveler than Bran)

Grey Worm/Missandei: F

Ser Jorah: F

Daario: B

Cersei: B

High Sparrow: F

Tommen: F

Olenna Tyrell: B

Margaery: C+

Pycelle: A (I’ll miss him)

Qyburn: B-

The Mountain: A-

Sand Snakes: F

Sam/Gilly: D

Randyll Tarly: B+

The Hound: A-

Beric/Thoros: B+

Jaime: A

Brienne: F (why didn’t Brienne/Tormund happen?)

Bronn: A-

The Blackfish: D

Edmure: A-

Bran: C-

Hodor: A (never forget)

Stannis: A (still haven’t seen a body)

Arya: B

Jaqen: B

The Waif: C+

The Braavos Theatre Company: A-

Season as a whole: B+

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Monday

27

June 2016

2

COMMENTS

Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 10

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This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. As the show has largely deviated from the books I’m not sure how much this matters, 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 fit in line perfectly with two of the big themes of this season. Expendable characters died while the show set itself up for the future. If the reports that we’re only getting seven episodes next season are to be believed, it makes sense that the unnecessary King’s Landing players see a quick and simplistic demise.

It’s hard for me to call it particularly satisfying, even with the music that played through much of the KL storyline. For weeks, I’ve been critical of the obvious low stakes of the entire plotline. We endured several unnecessary High Sparrow lectures with hopes of either an epic Margaery master plan or a big trial by combat fight.

Instead, everybody died. Well, almost everybody.

I’m not a fan of wrapping plotlines like that, but there’s also the notion that it’s good to be done with most of that nonsense. Of all the deaths, Pycelle’s was handled the best. I’ve predicted that Varys would be the one to do him in and got it wrong, though some of the lines were taken verbatim from his execution of Kevan Lannister at the end of A Dance with Dragons. Close enough! I’ll miss Pycelle probably more than any character who’s died this season besides Hodor.

Lancel’s death may have made sense, but the way he died reminded me of a James Bond scenario, where the villain tells Bond his plan and gives him just enough time to foil it. While Lancel didn’t stop the wildfire and we kind of needed him to be there to see what would happen, that entire scene made zero sense from a narrative standpoint.

In any other scenario, I’d be more critical of Cersei being made queen. It’s absurd. A Baratheon cousin/male relative would be in line for the throne, which isn’t something that anyone wants to see and more important, doesn’t matter since Dany is on the way. In some ways, it made sense to kill Tommen off now so Dany doesn’t look bad by killing a little boy king. I just don’t think Cersei’s coronation was anything to praise. Looked very foolish.

I feel the same way about Jon being made King in the North. From a storyline perspective, it looks great. It may even feel great. But the houses in the North and maybe the Vale just made a Night’s Watch deserting bastard their king while a trueborn heir sat beside him. I’d be willing to let that one go if the show bothered to offer a single explanation for why any character would be okay with any of that. Just one!

Sort of like how Sansa apologized for hiding Littlefinger’s army without explaining why she made that boneheaded decision, especially after she complained about not being asked for her opinion during the pre Battle of the Bastard’s war council. Jon’s coronation also undercut the Sansa/LF weirwood scene, which was a highlight of the episode. The power dynamic between those two makes for much better TV than just about anything else going on in the show right now.

The show clearly wanted to draw parallels to Robb’s coronation in season one, but it mostly fell flat aside from Lyanna Mormont’s brilliant scene. Robb being made king actually made some sense. Jon? Not so much, unless you want to step outside the realm of show logic and argue using facts that no one present at Winterfell could have possibly known. More on that at the end of the recap.

I wish I cared more about the Jon/Davos/Mel scene. It’s about ten episodes too late. Seriously. Are we expected to believe that Davos never received an explanation for Shireen’s death until now? What did they talk about while they were traveling around the North? I’d be more forgiving of the delay if Mel had a narrative purpose beyond bringing Jon back, but she’s done next to nothing since.

Does anyone care about Sam? At least he’s doing his duty, even though he doesn’t know that his buddy isn’t Lord Commander anymore. That shot of the library looked cool and all, but was pretty absurd for medieval architecture, even in a place like Westeros. I don’t really see the point in bringing Gilly/baby Sam or the Tarly ancestral sword along. Seems like she’d be much better off in Hornhill.

I like that Olenna Tyrell is still alive. Couldn’t care less about the Sand Snakes, but I hope she’ll have some good scenes with Dany next season. I suppose it’s sort of good that Dorne reappeared, but I doubt many people cared that they were gone, myself included.

The parallels between Walder Frey and Jaime made for an interesting scene. The old man was correct to note that there are plenty of similarities. Jaime was correct to be horrified by that. I certainly would have been. Walder’s thoughts on war made for one of the best scenes of the episode. I wonder if they’ll do anything with that with Jaime in the future, considering he can’t really “fight” in future battles, with his golden sword hand.

Loved Arya and the Frey Pies. In the books, it’s widely suspected that Wyman Manderly, who made his first appearance of the show in the North, killed three Freys and baked them into meat pies to bring to Winterfell before the battle of Ice. Obviously the show couldn’t have done that, but it was fun to see Arya get her revenge in a way that appeased the book fans.

Poor Daario. That scene accomplished two important tasks. Like many, I wondered if Dany was planning on straight up abandoning Meereen when she left for Westeros. Leaving the Second Sons in the city makes it look like she cares while also removing unnecessary characters from her entourage. Having Daario in Westeros really wasn’t needed, especially considering how few episodes are left in the series. He got a raw deal, but he wouldn’t be the first in the show.

The one thing that really bothered me was Tyrion bringing up the Mad King yet again. We get it. He was crazy. Imagine if you had a relative you loathed. Wouldn’t you get a little annoyed if someone unrelated to you constantly brought them up to criticize them? Seemed very unnecessary.

How did Varys get on the boat after being in Dorne? Can he teleport? Control time like Bran? Travel by map? Even if we accept a broader timeline, it doesn’t make much sense for him to personally travel back to Meereen, only to come right back to Westeros. Traveling is supposed to take forever in these kinds of stories.

Finally we end with the “big” reveal. R + L = J… sigh. What should have been a pivotal moment in the series came across as almost an afterthought considering everything else that happened. I wish that reveal had been made at the Tower of Joy. Diehard fans know already. I’m not sure how much casual fans cared that Jon is part Targaryen. Even then, without mentioning Rhaegar anywhere in the scene, it might have been a bit much to expect anyone who didn’t know already to put two and two together.

That said, I’m glad that’s out of the way. Bran looks like he’s headed south, which should actually make him the King in the North. That power struggle will be interesting.

That’s it for this week. No Brienne or the Hound. I was wrong about Lady Stoneheart…

Just as a programming note, like last year I’ll be doing a full season in review article with letter grades for each character. There will also be a season in review recap video! Also for a bit of self- promotion, I have a new book out tomorrow. If you’ve enjoyed my recaps, please consider ordering The Princess and the Clown or any of my other books. Thank you for reading!

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