Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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8

June 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday

26

April 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 3

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

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

Many of the changes from the books have been for one simple reason. Screen time. George R.R. Martin is perfectly content to have certain characters disappear for multiple books at a time, but that doesn’t really work in show business with actors who will find other work if their roles are greatly reduced for full seasons. From a creative standpoint, it also makes sense to give characters something to do. There’s quite a lot of sitting around doing nothing or wandering around doing nothing in A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons.

Sansa and Littlefinger do not go to Winterfell in the books. Not yet at least. They sit in the Vale and hang out with Sweetrobin. Littlefinger does a little bit of plotting, but Sansa remains Alayne and nothing really happens besides some plotting to marry Sansa off to Harrold Hardying, who’s the heir to the Vale behind Sweetrobin. Sample chapters from The Winds of Winter show that this stasis continues at least into the early parts of that book.

So the show decides to do something interesting. Hard to blame D&D for deciding that sitting around didn’t make for great television. Only this plotline doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.

Littlefinger is taking too much of a risk on Roose and Ramsay. Putting aside the fact that Cersei is weaker than ever, it’s hard to imagine a single scenario where whoever is in control on King’s Landing isn’t furious that Littlefinger has been secretly hiding a girl wanted for regicide. The fact that he brings her to marry into the most dishonorable House in Westeros not named Frey is simply ridiculous.

Littlefinger is not an idiot, but his involvement with the Boltons complicates this. It would be completely out of character for him to do a background check on Ramsay and he wouldn’t have to do very much digging to find out what a monster he is. Even putting aside his weird infatuation with Sansa, it’s unfathomably foolish of him to put any amount of trust in Roose and Ramsay. While it makes sense from a storyline perspective to give them all something to do, it doesn’t really add up.

Book fans have often noted that much of Littlefinger’s scheming is perfectly in line with what Stannis needs to take the throne. With the Iron Bank of Braavos now backing the Mannis, it seems even more likely that the two should want to put aside their differences. If Stannis can’t have Jon Stark ruling Winterfell, Sansa is the next best thing (perhaps even more so given that she isn’t a bastard currently sworn to the Night’s Watch).

I criticized the handling of Jon’s election to Lord Commander in the last recap. Here I’ll criticize the execution of Janos Slynt. Lord Slynt will not be missed by many, whether it be characters or people watching. Problem is that you kind of feel bad for him as his head gets chopped off.

From the moment Slynt arrives at the Wall in the books, which is right after the Battle of Castle Black and not well before in the show, he plots to have Jon killed. Slynt had to die and in killing him, Jon earns the respect of both Stannis and Ser Alliser. That seems to be accomplished here as well, but Slynt was never really made to look like much of a threat. Maybe this is not a big deal, but I wasn’t a big fan of the way it was handled.

Davos’ speech to Jon was certainly interesting. It’s looking like the Night’s Watch might head south of the Wall, which would be a major deviation. While that would be odd, I am certainly not against it.

The Cersei/Margaery/Tommen feuding isn’t terribly interesting right now as it’s pretty predictable, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the High Sparrow gets involved. He isn’t in the books much, but casting Jonathan Pryce is all the reason you’d need to feature him more often.

Arya and Tyrion’s plotline stay mostly true to the books beyond deviations that already happened. I’ve been looking forward to seeing Tyrion and Ser Jorah together as Peter Dinklage and Iain Glen are two of the show’s best actors. Their interactions in ADWD are among the best aspects of the book.

Varys’ future is a complete mystery. I wonder if he’ll continue on his way to Dany or if he’ll head back to Westeros. With no Aegon in the show, the former seems likely, possibly before Tyrion and Ser Friendzone arrive.

No Dany, which is probably for the best as the show’s version of the Meereense Knot needs time to unravel. Could’ve used less Brienne this episode as her thoughts on Renly are old news and that was screen time that could’ve been used elsewhere. I think Podrick will die, if for any other reason than it will make Brienne sad.

No Jaime or Bronn either. I’d love to see what’s going to happen with this Dornish plot, which looks pretty weak compared to the Dornish Master Plan in the books. That doesn’t appear to be something that will be resolved this season.

All in all I think this was a solid episode. It looks like the show is building more for the future right now and that’s not necessarily a problem. The changes are interesting and it’s hard to judge them until we see how it all plays out.

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Sunday

1

February 2015

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Game of Thrones IMAX Proves Some Free Things Are Worth Paying For

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

Last night I went to see Game of Thrones in IMAX. The allure of seeing the Battle of Castle Black on big screen was enough to get me to shell out money to pay for something I could not only watch for free, but have already watched for free. This being the first time that a TV show was shown in theaters also had some appeal as a fan of popular culture.

The biggest surprise of the night didn’t come from the episodes, naturally, but the theatre attendance. The theatre was at around 75% capacity. Granted, it was a Saturday night, but the attendance wasn’t noticeably smaller than the crowd that was at the showing of The Hobbit I attended (coincidentally in the same theatre in that cinema). Game of Thrones is a worldwide phenomenon and clearly more than the die hards showed up. There weren’t many people sporting GOT attire, but I did see one Hodor shirt. I probably would have left if there weren’t any.

The episodes translated beautifully to the big screen. The battle looked like any battle you’d see in any epic fantasy, maybe even better with emphasis on actual people instead of CGI. I spent most of my first viewing of the episode counting the differences between it and the battle shown in A Storm of Swords and found that the IMAX was so aesthetically overpowering that I could just sit back and enjoy the show.

“The Children” fits well as a companion to “The Watchers on the Wall” for the big screen. The decision to start the episode at the Wall when the previous episode was nothing but Wall proved intelligent as movie goers were treated to the complete narrative, briefly interrupted for a “previously on,” and the credits for a second time. The episode is less about battles and more about plot resolution, but there’s enough in here to justify its presence on the big screen.

The trailer at the end was a nice treat. I’m glad I didn’t watch the leaked version before seeing it in theatres as it was beautiful to watch on IMAX (particularly Peter Dinklage’s new goatee). As some characters are completely caught up on the books (though some are not entirely through A Storm of Swords), this coming season will have plenty of fresh material for book and show viewers alike. The days of “that didn’t happen in the books” may not be over, but they might get increasingly standard, as it becomes more the rule than the exception.

Was it worth it? It wasn’t cheap. The ticket was the standard cost of an IMAX film despite not being a film or anything new besides a few minutes of trailer. That doesn’t answer the question.

Yes.

It was fun. That’s the point isn’t it? The battle was beautiful. Brienne fighting the Hound was luscious. Hodor hodoring through crisp sound was marvelous. IMAX makes everything better and that was certainly the case here.

I don’t think this has widespread ramifications for the TV to big screen debate that’s sprouted up as a result of this event. Analysts are quick to judge the viability of TV on the big screen as this is the first time its been done. The fact that many viewers watch the show on a computer or tablet is certainly a relevant point. “It’s not TV, it’s HBO” took on a whole new meaning, but I wouldn’t call this a game changer just yet.

This worked for two reasons. First, Game of Thrones is huge. Big enough to justify the hype. The only other show with the fanbase to make something like this work is Downton Abbey. I’d probably pay to see that in theatres too.

Second, these two episodes worked perfectly in conjunction for something like this. Without the battle centric “The Watchers on the Wall,” it wouldn’t have worked. The narrative jumping around as it does normally would’ve made it feel much more like a TV show than a movie. Having just The Wall made it feel just like a movie.

The only other season of Game of Thrones that could’ve pulled it off was season two with “Blackwater” and “Valar Morghulis.” I don’t doubt that HBO will want to try this again with season five. Whether or not that’s a good idea remains to be seen, but without a battle centric episode, it seems like a bit of a reach.

It was a unique experience. I wouldn’t flock to the theater to see TV in more or less any other instance, but as an ASOIAF fanatic, I felt obliged to indulge. It could’ve used more Stannis, but all in all it’s worth seeing if you’re a big fan of the show.

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