Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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April 2019

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Game of Thrones Season 8 Recap: Episode 2

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

Ideally, final seasons of long-running series seek to achieve two objectives, to remind fans why they fell in love with the show in the first place and to provide a satisfactory conclusion for the narrative arcs of their characters. Game of Thrones has had its eye on fan service for a few seasons now, perhaps best illustrated through Gendry’s reintroduction last year, when Ser Davos acknowledged the long-running “still rowing” meme. Episode two, appropriately titled “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” was an episode chock full of fan service.

Death is coming to Winterfell. Characters we’ve spent the last eight years with are going to die. As much as the show has emphasized the role of death with its high body count, Game of Thrones has usually done a good job emphasizing the larger narrative arcs of its key players. Season six serves as perhaps the one exception, where numerous characters were unceremoniously killed off in what looked like an effort to clear pieces off the board.

Episode two featured a lot of hanging out, waiting for the world to end. Like the premiere, reunions were in abundance. Moments that fans have wished for over the past decades finally came to fruition.

Ser Brienne has a nice ring to it. After all she’s been through, it was great to see Brienne finally get the recognition she’s long deserved. Women catch a lot of crap in Westeros, but it was great to see her receive the title that best suits her abilities. Gwendoline Christie handled the scene masterfully, letting the typically stoic Brienne take in her moment with plenty of emotion.

Ever since the first episode, fans have wondered what would happen to Jaime if he ever saw that boy he pushed out the window again. Turns out, not much, as was to be expected. I don’t love the idea that he still didn’t tell anyone about what happened, but such a revelation would’ve called for actions that the episode clearly didn’t care about. Bran’s not angry, might as well let that be that.

Bran also isn’t a very helpful battle strategist. I get that the show doesn’t want to fully deploy Bran ex machina, but this whole “use Bran as bait to lure the Night King” seems kind of ridiculous. We’re still not 100% sure what Bran knows about everything, but the idea of having Theon protect you seems fairly half baked.

Arya and Gendry. What a pair. No more “will they, won’t they.” They did it. Is there anything more to say? Probably not. For a girl who’s been as consumed with death as Arya has, it was great to see her have a moment like that with someone she cared about. Hopefully Bran wasn’t watching.

Davos cooked soup! Is there anything this man can’t do? Expert battle survivalist, master chef, all-around great guy. Hoping for the best for new Shireen.

Daenerys and Sansa are seemingly destined for conflict. Why? Because there’s time to fill, of course! Not the greatest conflict, two people fighting over a monarchy when the army of the dead is right at their doorstep, but the show does need a few conflicts to carry it to the end once that’s all finished.

The Dany/Tyrion conflict also seems quite born out of an interest to have something to argue about after next episode. Yes, Cersei lied to them. No, that’s not surprising to anyone. Does that make Tyrion a bad Hand? Sort of, but there isn’t really anyone else up for the job, a job that hasn’t really seemed all that important at all. His judgment isn’t really at fault here, other than the fact that he didn’t stop that idiotic quest beyond the Wall last season.

Ser Jorah got a few great moments. He got told off by Lyanna, received a fancy new toy from Sam, and had Dany tell him that Tyrion took his job. Hopefully this means he’ll die next episode! What else is there for him to do?

Beric Dondarrion sure looks like a goner. Great voice. What a man. He’ll be with Thoros soon.

We got to see Ghost again too! Direwolves haven’t been a big part of the show in recent years, likely a casualty of the CGI budget, but it’s great to see him around for the big battle. Somebody should give him a dragon glass retainer to bite white walkers with.

One of either Grey Worm or Missandei appears quite destined for death next episode. My money’s on Missandei, since I think Theon and Varys are also unlikely to survive the battle. Can’t kill all the eunuchs is one fell swoop!

R + L = J has been the definitive fan theory to rule all fan theories for the past twenty years. In the two episodes since its reveal in the season seven finale, we’ve seen it treated as essentially a footnote. Jon wasn’t in this episode much, but when he was, he sure wasn’t talking about his new parents. At least, not until he took Dany into the crypts of Winterfell.

Was the eve of a massive battle the right time to tell her? No. Obviously not.

The show has had close to a decade to figure out how to handle its biggest secret. The method it’s decided on appears to be to walk things as slowly as possible, something it’s done in tandem with all of Bran’s Three-eyed Raven powers. The result created this weird situation where Dany questions how Bran knows this stuff, putting aside the fact that no one appears to have told her what’s going on with the middle Stark child. The show just needs to pull the R + L = J band-aid off once and for all.

No scenes in King’s Landing this week, which I guess is fitting given that the next episode is going to be taken up mostly by the battle. Overall, this was a very enjoyable episode. We got to see many of our favorite characters interact for what could be the last time. Some of it was a little forced, but that’s okay. After all these years, a little fan service is not a bad way to spend an episode, especially since next week looks to be pretty brutal.

That’s it for this week. Tune in tomorrow to the Estradiol Illusions podcast to hear our roundtable analysis. See you next week!

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Monday

8

June 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday

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December 2014

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Could the Onion Knight Bring a Belated Gift to the Bastard Wedding?

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

While the separation of the Stark children can lead one to forget about the importance of the North in general, excluding The Wall, much of A Dance With Dragons alludes to the depth of the Northern conflict. There’s been plenty of blog and podcast speculation on the Battle of Ice and for good reason. At first glance, we tend to forget about minor houses like Ryswell, Dustin, and Cerwyn in favor of speculation surrounding the more important characters. I initially set out to write an overview of my thoughts on the outcome of the battle, but instead want to focus on a more specific x factor in all of this who could change everything.

This article will approach things more from a literary/storyline perspective. There isn’t a lot of textual evidence so most of this should be treated as educated speculation. I’ll include some links at the bottom for more information on the Battle of Ice.

When we left Davos Seaworth in A Dance With Dragons, he was about to embark on a dangerous mission to secure the loyalties of House Manderly for Stannis’ cause. This involves traveling to the dangerous island of Skagos to retrieve Rickon Stark, who set out there with Osha and Shaggydog after A Clash With Kings. We don’t really know if they’re actually there, but for the sake of the storyline, I think it’s fairly safe to assume they made it.

There’s something odd about the placement of Davos’ chapters in A Dance With Dragons. They’re over well before the end of the book. Now you can argue that this doesn’t have to mean much because there’s a ton of characters and other major POV characters like Bran get similar shafts. But Davos’ quest has immediate ramifications to the story line while characters like Bran and Arya play more into the bigger picture.

The real question is, could Davos have enough time to go to Skagos, get Rickon, and make it to Winterfell before the battle?

Let’s look at a map and see.

Credit to James Sinclair of A Wiki of Ice and Fire

Credit to James Sinclair of A Wiki of Ice and Fire

 

Skagos is a bit far from White Harbor. Davos doesn’t really know anything about the island. It’s also kind of far from Winterfell and we don’t know that Osha and Rickon even want to go with Davos. It’s also winter and Davos isn’t an expert in Northern geography. Things rarely go perfectly in these books and they would need to for Davos to factor into the equation. Doesn’t look too promising, right?

Maybe.

Time is tricky in A Song of Ice and Fire. The events of Robert’s Rebellion are supposed to take place in just a year, which leaves plenty of discrepancies that haven’t really been explained. Factor in the fact that Davos is an experienced smuggler and Osha knows the area and you’ll see that we have what appears to be the best makings to pull off a job like this. Davos is the man who got past the Tyrell blockade to save Storm’s End after all.

The other kicker is the start of the battle itself. It hasn’t started yet and doesn’t appear to be completey imminent either. Stannis has his hands full with what to do with the Karstark’s and the Greyjoy’s. To answer the question of where or not its possible Davos to make it, the best answer is that it can happen if Martin wants it to happen.

Another thing to consider is what would happen if The Winds of Winter picks up with Davos in Skagos or even further behind in his journey. That pretty much takes this particular plotline out of the equation for the whole book, as we’d likely be treated to another traveling narrative. This plotline isn’t completely needed to fuel the Northern story, but its absence would create somewhat of a holding pattern that doesn’t seem too terribly likely with what’s happening at the Wall and in Winterfell.

Davos isn’t the only x factor in all of this. There’s another character whose placement is important when considering the likelihood of the return of a Stark to Winterfell.

Wyman Manderly

What’s he doing at the Bastard Wedding? Why does this obese man want to make the long trek in bad weather to attend a wedding of people he hates? Couldn’t he have sent someone else with his Frey pies and added that to the list of things he does to piss Roose Bolton off?

Yes, but he didn’t and that means something.

Davos’ quest is all about securing Manderly’s loyalties and yet Manderly seems to have a death wish at Winterfell. Bolton knows he’s up to no good. Is there really a scenario where Manderly isn’t a surefire goner in this battle?

It’s right up Martin’s alley to have Davos show up with Rickon right as Manderly bites the dust, or snow if you will. Which doesn’t really mean that Manderly’s army doesn’t defect, but the cause would be without its biggest Northern supporter still alive save for the captured Greatjon Umber. If Manderly is a goner and Davos doesn’t show up, doesn’t that sort of take some of the fun out of the White Harbor chapters?

Outcomes of the Battle of Ice are tough to speculate. It could go many ways. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Stannis loses, but doesn’t die. What does Davos do without Stannis? It’s not like he’s a throwaway character. With what’s happening at the Wall and with Mance fooling around, winning doesn’t necessarily mean all is well in the land of the Mannis either. Having Rickon doesn’t mean that all of the other houses will flock to his cause either. This whole thing is a mess, but that’s a big part of why it’s so entertaining.

Here’s my simple speculation for the outcome of the Battle just to give you an idea where all I think all of this could go (I am not at all confident that this is how it will actually go). Stannis wins after the Umber’s and Manderly’s unite behind him, Roose dies, and Ramsay flees back to the Dreadfort after seeing that Rickon’s presence ruins everything and they Frey’s won’t support him. This gives the fans an outcome without concluding anything in the North.

But I am confident that Rickon will be a factor. Why? Because now is the time where he matters. Wizard Bran, Azor Azai Jon, and Littlefinger backed Sansa aren’t part of the equation just yet, but likely will be down the road. Stannis needs some sort of boost to keep him in the picture, unless the Battle of Ice is his last stand. Which it could be, but if it is then where does Rickon come in at all? The Onion Knight should deliver because that’s what Davos does. He’s one of the series more bankable characters and easily the best person for this particularly job besides possibly Drogon.

So here’s my speculation. Is any of this hard evidence? Not when you compare it to something like R + L = J. But the depth of those theories is a big part of why ASOIAF is so special and not every single thing that happens requires a prophetic foreshadowing. This one’s foreshadowing comes from surface level logic. Thanks for reading and please leave a comment with your own speculation/thoughts if you feel so inclined.

Here are some links to check out for Battle of Ice related content

https://cantuse.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/the-mannifesto/

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syFM7936yMs

 

https://bryndenbfish.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/a-complete-analysis-of-the-upcoming-siege-of-winterfell-part-1/

 

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