Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

game of thrones Archive

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4

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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28

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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Monday

7

August 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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17

July 2017

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recap: Episode 1

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

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

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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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4

July 2016

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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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27

June 2016

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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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June 2016

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Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 9

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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.

Episode nine has become the most anticipated episode of the season for Game of Thrones fans.While it was clear that this episode was going to follow the Blackwater/Castle Black route more than the Ned’s beheading/Red Wedding, this is essentially the first major battle in the series where the outcome wasn’t revealed in the books.

I say that instead of “the first major battle where we didn’t know the outcome,” because it was pretty obvious. Littlefinger ex machina was always going to show up to save the day. That said, the battle was superb and easily the show’s most impressive action sequence.

Sansa’s role especially had an aura of inevitability to it. There isn’t really any logical way she’d be able to go find Littlefinger in time. I wasn’t particularly bothered by this lapse in plausibility, but I’d be remiss in my duties not to mention it.

Melisandre’s whereabouts was unclear for much of the season. I actually originally thought she’d headed south, only to see her hanging out by herself with the main forces. Her scene with Jon was important because it reintroduced the fact that Jon died and was brought back to life. The show doesn’t really do a lot with the Azor Ahai or The Prince that was Promised theories, but his revival shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought either.

Ramsey’s best line of the episode was when he mentioned that Jon was a Night’s Watch deserter. This is an elephant in the room that no one who wasn’t at Castle Black for his revival should ignore. I was disappointed that Lyanna Mormont didn’t bring it up two episodes ago.

Don’t love Rickon’s death. Many, myself included, figured he’d be Lord of Winterfell at the end of the series. The show doesn’t invalidate this, but he was still essentially just treated as a prop, which I don’t love. Clearly the show wants to position Sansa to have the clear claim, not a bad thing now that Ramsey is dead. I just didn’t love how a member of the Stark family was killed in such a nonchalant manner. We should care, but we also weren’t given any time to build a relationship with Rickon.

My only real complaint about the battle was the mountain of dead bodies. Who had time to stack all the dead people on top of each other? Wun Wun looked pretty busy being shot by arrows. Poor guy.

MVP of the battle: Wun Wun. Runner up: Davos, for doing his best. What are the odds that stag would still be in the snow? I thought winter was coming…

Where was Ghost? Did he desert Jon? Or did they not have the budget for a wolf scene?

Not that it really matters given the insignificance of House Arryn at this point in the show, but it’s interesting to note that House Arryn, one of the four main houses that lead Robert’s Rebellion, came to the aid of House Stark after sitting out the War of the Five Kings. Brings everything full circle.

I don’t really have a clue what’s next for the North. The Sansa/LF/Jon/Tormund dynamic is quite odd without considering what will happen if/when Brienne comes back. I suspect she’ll run into Lady Stoneheart next episode so this likely won’t happen. Odds are, the Winterfell gang will be limited to just a scene or two that sets up next season.

Unlike “Blackwater” and “The Watchers on the Wall,” this episode had other plots, albeit a single one, besides the battle itself. I liked that Dany got some screen time as she’s been sidelined for a few episodes now. Meereen is being wrapped up with the slaver’s defeated and Yara and Reek there to transport Dany to Westeros.

The mentioning of the Mad King was interesting. Yes, he was crazy and horrible. There are people in Westeros that miss him, considering Joffrey’s reign and all the war that followed. I don’t love Dany going around saying how awful her dad was. She hardly listened to Ser Barristan and Jorah’s criticism of him in the books. You can dislike your family, but mentioning it in public is a little declassee.

The final thing I’d note is that it’s hard to really get invested in what will happen in King’s Landing since it’ll be invalidated by Dany’s impending arrival anyway. This episode did an excellent job with the Northern plotline, which could have easily suffered the same sentiments, not only from Dany but also the White Walkers. Meereen suffered as a plotline as the culture of inevitability set in. Hopefully Dany arrives in Westeros quickly to set the stage for what’s to come. At this point, that’s really all we should care about.

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June 2016

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Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 8

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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.

I wonder how many people could receive multiple stab wounds to the vital organs region and still be able to run through a city in a Jason Bourne style chase? The morality surrounding Arya’s decision to leave the House of Black and White is essentially black and white. Jaqen took Arya in when she had nowhere else to go and trained her. In return, she broke the rules several times and abandoned him. As viewers and fans, we can be excited for Arya’s return to Westeros, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that she’s essentially defaulting on her student loans.

Many fans asked me about the potential “Jaqen as Arya” or “Waif is Arya” Fight Club twist this past week. Given Jaqen’s emotional ties to Arya, I didn’t want to rule it out. Their lackluster final scene certainly makes me wish that had actually happened.

Also, it was very rude of Arya to criticize Lady Crane’s soup. Being stabbed is no excuse to skirt one’s manners!

Could have done without the finger in butthole joke. Still hesitant to judge The Hound’s return until we see more. Under normal circumstances, I’d praise a potential alliance with the Brotherhood Without Banners given the need to give The Hound something to do. Problem is, the show didn’t need to give him anything to do. He could have just stayed dead.

The rapport between the Hound/Beric/Thoros (who rocked an awesome top knot) were pretty great. I wasn’t a big fan of the evil turn of the BWB last week and it seemed odd to see them completely reverse course an episode later, especially considering we haven’t seen them since season three. I also found it interesting that Beric knew about the White Walkers. As we saw with Lord Tarly, most of Westeros is either skeptical or unaware of the problems north of the Wall. Unless Thoros’ powers extend beyond reviving Beric and having great hair, I’m not sure who would have told them. Rumors of a Lady Stoneheart appearance have increased over the past few weeks. I’m not sure that would be a great thing for the show, but I also don’t think there’s a single book fan out there, myself included, who wouldn’t want to see it.

Once again Varys and Tyrion, the most famous dwarf in the world, are walking around without guards. I suspect Varys will be on his way to kill Kevan and Pycelle, something I naively suggested could happen last season, though Varys never made it to Meereen in the books as he was backing (f)Aegon.

Varys’ heartfelt goodbye with Tyrion was a good scene, but also helped remind us just how wasted Peter Dinklage has been this season. The show has tried to made light of how awkward the Tyrion/Missandei/Grey Worm dynamic is, but self-awareness isn’t really an excuse. Meereen as a whole has been very weak this season.

I received a few questions about the rumor that Cersei and Qyburn discussed in the throne room. My best bet is that it had to do with Margaery’s insincere piety. A more fun show answer would be whether or not Lancel confessed to his part in Robert’s death and Cersei’s incestuous infidelity, but I’m not holding out hope. Or maybe the Sand Snakes will reappear… I hope not.

Interesting that both The Hound and The Mountain had gratuitously violent scenes. I’ve always hated the idea of Cleganebowl, but that certainly looked like a plus for that theory. While The Mountain/Frankenstrong has been a more than adequate bodyguard, if I were Cersei, I’d definitely beef up security given the absence of trial by combat.

Jaime’s scenes were my favorite of the episode. It is important to note the change in power dynamic between Cersei and Jaime from the books to the show. In the books, Jaime, still a member of the Kingsguard, leaves King’s Landing because he won’t serve as Hand. At this point in A Feast for Crows, Cersei has near complete authority over KL.

This distinction is important as it sort of undercut the Brienne/Jaime relationship. Here in the show, Jaime is still completely in love with Cersei. The absence of Lady Stoneheart (for now) removes the need for Jaime to rescue Brienne, robbing fans of their much desired courtship, even if it would have created a weird Brienne/Tormund/Jaime/Cersei love square.

Pod and Bronn’s scene was also quite fun. A nice throwback to the days when the show didn’t take itself so seriously.

Poor Edmure. At least Jaime accurately laid out the situation. I would note that the idea of “good guys” and “bad guys” is much more ambiguous in the books. Stark loyalists might feel some loyalty to Edmure, but he’s always been portrayed as weak in the show and has been absent since I was in college (season three). The books make it easier to choose whom to root for, but the Jaime/Edmure dynamic was certainly fun to watch.

The Blackfish was completely butchered. His desire to defend Riverrun at all costs clashed with the book’s interpretation of the character as the Blackfish spent much of his life in the Vale with Lysa, though that wasn’t depicted in the show. The Blackfish also doesn’t really care about the Stark branch of the family, and has a particular distrust of Jon through Catelyn which also wasn’t depicted in the show.

It just seems odd that he’d pick a senseless death in the name of a good swordfight over fighting for his kin. Brienne’s escape also seems odd. She went there to recruit the Tully forces, something that wasn’t necessarily rendered void by Edmure’s surrendering of the castle. Couldn’t she have theoretically asked to have Edmure lead the Tully forces for Sansa? Oh well.

Where is Melisandre? Looking for Gendry?

Dany is back in Meereen. The pacing of her plotline has been pretty puzzling, though sensible I guess considering the bigger picture. I’ve said this before, but Meereen as a whole this season really made me wish they hadn’t killed off Ser Barristan, who is still alive in the books. Would have certainly given Tyrion some more characters to work with.

That’s it for this week. No Sansa, Jon, Reek, Yara, Bran, Showhands, or Hot Pie. See you next week!

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