Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

game of thrones recap Archive

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May 2016

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Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 3

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

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. 

The title of this episode, “Oathbreaker” is important as it’s just about the only defense that can be offered for Jon Snow’s desertion from the Night’s Watch. Many fans, including myself, expected Jon to leave the order, with the justification being that his death released him from his vows through the second line of the oath, “it shall not end until my death.” Trouble is, not only was this reasoning nowhere to be found, it was kind of irrelevant at that point.

The show could still reference the vows and it probably should, but that defense became moot the second Jon used his status as Lord Commander to execute Ser Alliser, Ollie, and the other conspirators. Jon’s death is an acceptable loophole, but he didn’t use it. He just resigned, breaking his oaths. This signals a big change in Jon’s character which should be very interesting to watch moving forward.

Samwell is back… The only reason I’m even remotely interested is because his father, Randyll Tarly, is one of the best tertiary characters in the books. What will be interesting to see is how the show handles the fact that becoming a maester takes years, which Sam doesn’t really have. I don’t expect to see Archmaester Marwyn in the show, but that would be very exciting as well.

Despite the great sword fighting, I was not a fan of the Tower of Joy. This is a major event in the books that was almost treated like a throwaway. While I understand show fans who aren’t familiar with the books aren’t going to have the same reaction, this is still a crucial element on a certain someone’s parentage. Howland Reed was also just kind of tossed in there like it was nothing.

In defense on the show, there are advantages to covering this flashback stuff through Bran’s dreams. In the books, we see glimpses of The Tower of Joy through Ned’s perspective in the first book, often through fever dreams. Obviously the show can’t do that with Ned dead and all, and it wouldn’t have made sense to do it back in season one. It just didn’t feel as important as it should have.

I’m not in love with the Dany storyline, mostly because I don’t think it’s necessary to add in the bit about the Khals needing to decide whether or not she can stay. The dialogue was a little weak, a common problem throughout most of the episode. I do suspect that Dany will use that opportunity to unite the Dothraki behind her cause, which forgives this current lackluster elements of the plotline.

Meereen improved slightly. Varys actually did something and to top it all off, there were actually guards present! You know who didn’t do anything? Grey Worm! The show even acknowledged how boring he is. If only the four amigos could go on a field trip somewhere. Maybe to Asshai? A man can dream.

Part of my dislike of the Meereen plotline comes from knowing that the show can’t really get into the huge war with Yunkai like the books, which makes Tyrion’s presence in Meereen a bit of a waste. I also hated how the show expects us to believe that the Unsullied are capable of fighting a war after how weak they were made to look all last season. It’s just lazy.

King’s Landing continues to be a mess, even with the return of Olenna Tyrell. Diana Rigg is a superb actress, but the whole plotline lacks any clear direction. The returns of Kevan Lannister, Pycelle (finally!), and Qyburn was nice and all, but still made me wonder why none of them seem too particularly concerned with how dismal the current state of affairs are, even though their combined forces could easily wipe out the Faith Militant.

I loved how the show made Qyburn look human with the “little birds,” who can’t talk in the books and are unwaveringly loyal to Varys, even after he left. Qyburn’s motives are one of the great mysteries of the later books and the show is doing a great job with a fairly minor character. It’ll be interesting to see how good he is at Varys’ job, which I’m hesitant to fully label “Master of Whispers” just yet.

Ser Gregor being called Ser Gregor was interesting. In the books, he’s known as Ser Robert Strong, with his true identity serving as a matter of speculation. I’m pretty okay with the switch as Ser Gregor being dead was crucial to the alliance with Dorne, something that doesn’t really matter here.

The show impressed me by adhering to its own continuity quite well at the meeting of the small council regarding whether or not Jaime rightfully had a seat on it. In the books, the Lord Commander always has a seat, but Ser Barristan was not present at the meetings in season one, nor was Jaime when he became Lord Commander, though he was rarely in KL for any of them.

The question of the seat does undercut the decision to dismiss Ser Barristan back in season one. If the Lord Commander doesn’t automatically get a small council seat, why did Jaime even need to be LC at all? That decision, along with appointing Tywin as Hand and Janos Slynt to the small council was all part of Cersei’s power play. Jaime still sort of fits into that, but definitely not as well.

Arya continues to quietly be one of the show’s better storylines. The plotline doesn’t take up a ton of time in the books and this is likely a case of less is more in the show as well, which is hard to do with a character as popular as Arya. The pacing has been superb. I imagine there was a bit of foreshadowing with the mention of The Hound, who is pretty much confirmed to be The Gravedigger in the books.

The Bolton/Umber scene was the worst of the season. Just awful. I get that the Greatjon hasn’t been around since season one and show viewers don’t care about him, but are we supposed to believe that “Lord Umber” is stupid enough to go to Winterfell and insult a known psychopath while asking for his help even though he wouldn’t bend the knee? None of that was even remotely believable, including discovering Rickon Stark and choosing to deliver him to Ramsey. I’d say poor Shaggydog, but it’s probably for the best that he isn’t involved in such a ridiculous plotline. Call it euthanasia.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge how great a character Ser Alliser was in the show. His plot progression was almost completely different from the books, as he was not at the Battle of Castle Black and did not participate in the mutiny, but Owen Teale did an excellent job portraying him. And now his watch has ended!

That’s it for this week. Still no Littlefinger, even though he was in the “previously on.” I do think that this season is a significant step up from the last one. There’s a bit going on that makes no sense, but it’s been good fun. Just a reminder, I do live video recaps on my Facebook page after each episode. See you next week.

 

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April 2016

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Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 1

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

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 found myself constantly wondering about the timeline as the season opener progressed. At the beginning of A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin clarifies that the chapters aren’t necessarily linear and the show hasn’t always been either. The fact that several of the episode’s plotlines, mainly The Wall and Sansa/Reek appeared to happen immediately after last episode while others, mainly Dorne/King’s Landing/Meereen, clearly happened a little while later created a bit of uncertainty for me at least.

Pacing a ten episode season with a massive ensemble cast is very difficult. With that in mind, it seems hard to praise Davos’ bravery at the Wall with him still locked in that room by the end of the episode. I’m inclined to give this a pass, especially since I’m trying to purge the image of old naked Melisandre from my mind and am okay if that involves forgetting the rest of the plotline at Castle Black.

It is also important to note that there will likely only be thirteen episodes of the rest of the series after this season, which makes me think that a Sansa/revived Jon Snow/Stark reunion could happen sooner rather than later, depending on how quickly the inevitable Wildling/Alliser Throne conflict lasts. I say this mostly because Sansa’s story lacks any other logical direction and I don’t see how the merry band of Brienne, Poderick, Sansa, and Reek can wander around in the cold indefinitely.

Though it made sense for Brienne to finally stop wandering around Westeros in search of spare Starks, I have a bit of trouble accepting the fact that this woman obsessed with “duty” killed Stannis in cold blood. Longtime readers know my feelings regarding a certain One True King quite well, but this isn’t so much about what you think about Stannis, but rather whether or not Brienne’s actions were just.

Now you can make the case that Game of Thrones isn’t a show that’s concerned with having its characters have a black and white sense of moral justice, except that’s far truer in the books. We saw this on display in Ramsey’s first scene, where he displays a shocking amount of remorse for Miranda’s death. I was completely taken aback by how sympathetic the character was portrayed as, especially considering how controversial his rape of Sansa was last season. The show made up for this almost immediately with a rather out of place comment by Ramsey to merely feed her body to the dogs. Of course, Ramsey is a psychopath, but we didn’t need that scene to remind us of that. It seems puzzling as to what that scene tried to accomplish besides simply screen time for the character.

I have a hard time buying into the Lannister threat to the Boltons. In theory, this makes sense, but the Lannisters have never looked weaker. Who really thinks they’re in any position to move on Winterfell?

Cersei and Jaime aren’t really up to much at all. The whole prophecy bit made sense and all, but neither sibling seemed particularly troubled by Myrcella’s death and Tommen wasn’t even mention at all. For a show that constantly brings out the question, “who will win the game of thrones,” it doesn’t seem too concerned with who’s actually sitting on it.

The fact that Trystane Martell wasn’t even under arrest says it all about what the writers are trying to do with Dorne. I spent much of last season wondering where all of that was going and the answer is clear. Now that the show is freed from most of its obligations to the books, it doesn’t want people like Doran Martell and Stannis around.

I’m kind of okay with that. Book fanatics have been trying to figure out Doran’s plan for years. The show basically went and admitted that he doesn’t have one at all, but this shouldn’t alarm book fans. The show simply doesn’t have time to integrate a character like that into its end goal in any substantial way.

So why include them at all? I have no idea. The Sand Snakes don’t seem to have much appeal to anyone, especially after they committed needless treason. Is the viewer supposed to feel sympathetic to their desires for vengeance, which involved killing two innocent teenagers? Like much of their dialogue, this plot is laughable.

The Dothraki dialogue was also painful to read. I still can’t believe the writers won an Emmy last year. Pathetic.

Margaery in jail could have been handled better. It took me a while to remember why she was even there (for lying about Loras’ homosexuality). Jonathan Pryce is always a treat to watch, but it’s hard to care about what they’re doing.

I like the direction of Dany’s story. She likely needed Dothraki help even before the Sons of the Harpy burned her Meereen fleet. As a character, Dany works best as the underdog and it’ll be interesting to see how the Vaes Dothrak storyline plays out.

Obligatory Jorah still has greyscale for no reason mention (yes we’re still doing that and we always will). It looks worse. The scene where he and Daario discuss his weird love for Dany was creepy. Not as creepy as old naked Melisandre, but then again few things are.

The Tyrion/Varys exchange was a pleasant throwback to season two, but that also highlighted a major problem with Tyrion’s plotlines since. Tyrion hasn’t really done much big picture stuff since he commanded the troops at the Battle of the Blackwater. He spent season three recovering, four in prison, and five on the road/hanging out with Jorah. Now he has power, but he’s really far away from the main action. Peter Dinklage is one of the show’s biggest assets and while keeping him in Meereen makes sense given the timeline of the books, it doesn’t seem like the best place for him now that the show has gone completely off book.

Which is something that needs to be considered as the show moves forward if the rumors about there only being thirteen episodes left are to be believed. The show doesn’t have a ton of time to waste having Tyrion rule a city that’s relatively inconsequential to the bigger picture. I don’t want to come down too harshly on the whole plot based on five minutes of screen time, but the last season didn’t inspire a ton of confidence in that realm.

Arya is actually still relatively on book. Her blindness only lasts a single chapter in the books though. I don’t think blind Arya is particularly interesting so hopefully the show follows a similar path.

No Littlefinger, Samwell, Ironborne (if they’re actually coming), or Bran this episode. I hope there’s some direction for LF’s incomprehensible Northern plans. I sure don’t see any logic there.

All in all, this was a pretty good premiere. I don’t think it completely fixed the wrongs of season five, but there does seem to be some direction for most of the major players. After last year’s mess, I’ll settle for some entertaining set-up that promises better things to come.

Just a slight programming note. After each episode airs, I’ll do a live video on my Facebook page summarizing my thoughts. Written recaps will be posted on Mondays. Thank you for reading.

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June 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 10

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

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

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

Is Jon Snow really dead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Watch!

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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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June 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 6

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. 

Should we begin with the implausible or the underwhelming? Or the fact that Littlefinger, King Tommen, and Lady Olenna are walking around with too few guards, considering King’s Landing has been taken over by the Faith Militant. Perhaps I’m being nitpicky, but it sort of undermines Littlefinger’s whole credibility when he can be pushed around by Lancel Lannister.

Littlefinger’s plan is ridiculous and it’s hard to see where his infatuation with Sansa Stark fits into all of this. He wants the Vale and the North (he also has the Riverlands though Harrenhal, but that’s something the show apparently doesn’t care about). What then? Cersei was correct in saying that he isn’t a military commander.

Not to mention he brokered the alliance between the Tyrells and the Lannisters. He’s got his hand in so many different things that the show can’t even keep track of them all. Which should make his endgame more interesting, but it doesn’t. It’s implausible to the point where it’s hard to care.

I’ll give Olenna Tyrell the benefit of the doubt, but she should have brought enough forces to put the Faith Militant out of the equation. That trial was ridiculous. Show Loras is often criticized (George R.R. Martin’s editor called him a “gay cartoon”) and rightfully so. He’s terrible.

The show has a weird way of handling characters with features outside the typical Westerosi norm that the books never prioritize. In the books, Loras is gay, but it’s not a big deal and it’s certainly not a plot point. Varys and Grey Worm are eunuchs, but the books don’t go on and on about their lack of manhood. Even Tyrion being a dwarf seems to be excessively mentioned in the show (though he’s better looking in the show and doesn’t waddle so). Martin doesn’t exploit his characters. D&D do.

Arya’s stuff is weird, but that’s okay. I assume she’ll be sent out as Cat of the Canals into Braavos, where she’ll probably run into Mace Tyrell and Ser Meryn. She becomes blind for two chapters in the books. I’m not sure they’ll do that here and that’s also okay.

I like the Jorah/Tyrion progression. In the books, they get captured on a boat, along with Penny, one of the dwarves from Joffrey’s wedding. I loved seeing Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, whose performance as Simon Adebsi in Oz is usually overlooked on those “top TV villains” lists. I don’t know why Jorah has greyscale. Doesn’t make any sense.

Nor does Jaime’s quest to Dorne. None whatsoever. What a terrible plotline. Also, how did Ser Stumpy hold his own against the Sand Snakes when he struggled with those random people two episodes ago? Utterly ridiculous.

What was their plan? Walk in, take Myrcella with Trystan right in front of her, and then walk out? If Jaime and Bronn had both died right there, I don’t think I would have cared. Which is a shame.

I’m not sure I’d call the wedding in Winterfell ridiculous, but it was anti-climatic. There was not a single voice of Northern opposition, especially to Theon giving Sansa away which was a tremendous insult to just about everyone there except for Ramsey. They didn’t include a single line from a single Northerner attending the wedding. Where was Brienne? Why is she is Winterfell if not to stop this nonsense?

I was surprised that the show opted for a tame version of Ramsey’s wedding night. In the books, he has a far more disturbing encounter with fake Arya, who’s really Jeyne Poole. Poole had been presumably kept in a brothel by Littlefinger after Ned was arrested back in AGOT and was beaten and abused by Ramsey and probably other people beforehand. Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen to Sansa.

This season has been weird. All the Northern plotlines have been rushed and it’s hard to care about many of the others. The show seems hell bent on blowing through AFFC and ADWD, but the direction seems unclear and illogical in many areas. I’ve heard hype about a “Red Wedding”esque twist and can honestly say I have no idea what that will be.

Two fun things to announce. Aziz of the History of Westeros Podcast will be stopping by for the next Interview of Ice and Fire. Also, Five More College Dialogues was released today! Hope you enjoy them both.

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May 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 5

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. 

This was a weird episode. We’re at the halfway point in the season and it’s mostly clear where the plotlines are going, at least the ones in this episode (which does leave big question marks on KL and Dorne). Problem is this that there isn’t a ton of logic behind any of the stories in this episode besides Mereen, I suppose.

I had actually forgotten about Jon and the wildlings when I wrote last week’s recap. Given their limited screen time this season, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I suppose Jon going north is better than Jon going south, but why Stannis would lend his ships to Jon and a bunch of wildlings with seemingly no compensation is beyond me.

The politics of The Wall make up some of the best chapters in A Dance with Dragons. You have Jon struggling to lead the Night’s Watch, Stannis and his men who don’t actually all leave and know that the Watch owes them for saving the Wall, and the wildlings who aren’t being held captive at all. There’s a ton of great stuff with Northern campaigning and even a marriage alliance.

None of that’s really here. The Watch looks even weaker than it does in the books and yet Jon apparently appears to be able to broker beneficial deals with Stannis. It’s also worth noting that Melisandre, Selyse, and Shireen all stay at the Wall, along with plenty of men.

Stannis also doesn’t have the upper hand against the Boltons in the books. The show has mentioned that he does numerous times. One might think that this would be pointing to an upset and problems for the One True King, but with Brienne and an anti-Bolton Winterfell faction brewing, that’s hard to see.

I’m surprised to see that the Samwell/Gilly/maybe Maester Aemon Oldtown storyline appears to be a go. In A Feast for Crows, the three depart toward the beginning of the book. It seemed like a big storyline for the show to give to fairly insignificant characters, especially when characters like Davos had their storylines scrapped. I don’t think that Aemon will go though. He’s probably not long for this world.

I loved the Stannis/Samwell scene. Randyll Tarly is one of the biggest badasses in Westeros and the real military leader of the Reach. He’s barely in the books so I don’t fault the show for not having him in it, but he’s great. Given how pathetic Mace Tyrell looks in the show, it’s nice to see that the show didn’t take the same approach.

Just quickly to get it out of the way, who is sending ravens to the Wall updating them on Dany’s progress in Mereen? Doesn’t make any sense.

Let’s play a game with the Winterfell storyline called “what doesn’t make sense”. Ready, set, go.

Littlefinger leaving Sansa with no guards doesn’t make sense.

Roose allowing Reek, who sleeps in the dog kennel, to serve his food doesn’t make sense.

Roose allowing Ramsay to parade Reek around in front of Sansa doesn’t make sense.

Roose allowing Ramsay to let Reek give Sansa away doesn’t make sense. In the books, he does it so the Northern bannermen will accept fake Arya (Jeyne Poole) as real since he grew up with her, but that’s not really contested at all.

The lack of Frey troops given Fat Walda’s pregnancy doesn’t make sense. I know I said this last week, but what are they doing?

Sansa being allowed to roam the castle free as a bird doesn’t make sense.

I hate Myranda and am sure at some point, she’ll do something that doesn’t make sense. For now, she’s just creepy.

Brienne being allowed to creep up on Winterfell undetected doesn’t make sense. Don’t the Boltons know everyone hates them?

They do. They know Stannis is coming. So what’s the plan?

It’ll be interesting to see how the show approaches the wedding. There have been rumors that Greatjon Umber, who’s been absent from the show since season one, will return. The Boltons would have to be pretty stupid to think that having a bunch of Northern men in Winterfell when Stannis is on his way is a good idea.

I was surprised to see the Stone men storyline kept. In the books, that happens when Tyrion is traveling with Jon Connington and (f)Aegon. Jon Con is also the one who gets infected with greyscale. More action is usually a good thing.

Except when it leads to Ser Barristan’s death. Ugh. Jorah’s infection makes Ser Grandfather’s death extra puzzling. He will be missed, though moreso by book fans.

I’ve generally hated the Grey Worm/Missandei “romance,” but I liked it here. Ser Barristan and Grey Worm always had a strong respect for each other in the books and it was nice to see him mourn the loss of the old knight. Dany’s supporting cast are often treated like props who only interact with her and it was good to see that that’s not always the case.

Show Hizdahr is far less interesting than book Hizdahr. I guess that’s not too surprising. Seeing Dany force the marriage on him and not the other way around was weird. Not sure where that storyline is going.

That’s it for this week. I didn’t love this episode, but it set some things up. I can’t stop thinking about the Melisandre/Jon dynamic and that I doubt it’ll be addressed this season given logistics. Maybe I know nothing…

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May 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 4

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. 

This episode was more or less completely off book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though I’m pretty upset with idea of losing Ser Barristan (less so with Grey Worm, but I’ll get to that later). It looks like the changes made to the King’s Landing plotline have been made to speed things up, but there have been some puzzling changes made in the process. Let’s start with the Faith Militant.

In the books, Cersei allows the Faith Militant to be reformed as a concession for the Faith forgiving a rather large debt to the Iron Throne. It’s also worth noting that at this point in the books, the Iron Bank of Braavos has not thrown in with Stannis. Having Cersei be the one to suggest reforming it is the complete opposite, but it actually fits well with the Queen Regent’s inevitable downfall.

The plotline in King’s Landing through A Feast For Crows is largely summed up by Cersei being paranoid that Margaery is trying to control Tommen. The militant hasn’t done anything drastic and Margaery and Tommen haven’t had sex and don’t even share the same bedroom. We’re not even really sure that Margaery is scheming at all. Tommen is much younger and mostly plays with his kitties throughout the books, though it looks like the age of the actor and HBO’s desire for more sex scenes were the main causes behind the change.

The show isn’t tethered to Cersei’s POV and has chosen to cast Margaery as a legitimate force of opposition to Cersei instead of allowing her to simply cause her own demise. The Faith Militant actually serves both of these purposes, creating more problems for Cersei as well as fueling the feud between the Queen and the Queen Regent. As I said last week, it also makes sense to utilize the talents of Jonathan Pryce, which is also why Olenna Tyrell appears to be headed back to King’s Landing. More Diana Rigg is always a good thing.

The show took a weird deviation last season when Tywin told Cersei that the Lannister’s mines were empty and they were broke, when in the books it’s the just the Crown that has money problems. The Tyrell alliance was forged for military purposes and nothing else. Perhaps the show didn’t want to include the Faith’s loans to the Crown because it’s confusing that a religious organization would do something like that or because it heightens the Iron Bank/Stannis problem.

It’s also worth noting that Loras Tyrell is a member of the Kingsguard in the books and his homosexuality is never used a big plot point, though most characters seem to know about it. Cersei sends him away to take Dragonstone and it’s claimed that he was severely injured, but there are plenty of reasons to think that wasn’t the case. I still think it’s possible that he could be elevated to Kingsguard, but more on that in future recaps.

Sending Ser Merywn to Braavos with Mace Tyrell seems to suggest that he’ll run into Arya, which follows her plotline albeit with different characters. That’s from a The Winds of Winter sample chapter though so I won’t go into it here. I don’t care much for Mace so it’s nice to have him out on King’s Landing.

Time for some Stannis! There’s another weird deviation when Melisandre brings up being left behind at the Battle of the Blackwater and tells Stannis not to do that again. In the books, she stays at the Wall when Stannis rides south to Winterfell.

The show’s emphasis on Shireen seems to reinforce fan speculation that Melisandre will sacrifice her to the Lord of Light. The show went out of its way to mention that she should come to the Wall last season, which also suggests that she’s important. That scene with Stannis and her was maybe the most touching scene in the whole show. If you didn’t shed a tear, you might not have a soul.

I think that Jon will join Stannis and march on Winterfell, which is both a deviation and a violation of his vows. This seems fitting as Jon doesn’t have much to do at the Wall and I don’t think there will be anymore fighting between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings for now at least. Jon does decide to go to Winterfell eventually in the books, but that turns out to be a not so good idea. I do think that Melisandre will eventually cast Stannis aside as Azor Ahai in favor of Jon, but probably not until the end of the season.

I continue to find Sansa in Winterfell completely implausible from Littlefinger’s perspective, but nothing really happens so I won’t spend too much time on it. Something worth noting is that in the books, a large part of Roose Bolton’s army in comprised of Frey’s after he makes a deal to give them the Dreadfort after he dies since Ramsey will inherit Winterfell (though it’s doubtful that Ramsey would ever honor this).

Since Littlefinger is Lord Paramount of the Trident, he’s actually the Freys’ overlord. Though neither the books nor the show pay much attention to Littlefinger’s possession of Harrenhal, this is a possible reason why there aren’t any Frey’s besides Fat Walda in Winterfell. Or maybe they’re just overlooked like Dany’s Dothraki bloodriders. Maybe I’m reading too much into this.

Time to talk about that horrible moment when Ser Barristan and Grey Worm get stabbed, which most certainly did not happen in the books. I hated every bit of it. The show has never done justice to Ser Grandfather, who’s a complete badass in the books. I don’t think the show will kill them both off and it seems more likely that Grey Worm will survive.

So why kill perfectly awesome living characters? There’s a couple reasons. In the books, Dany has by far the best supporting cast, which makes up for the fact that she’s pretty annoying herself (I covered this in an article last year on Strong Belwas, who isn’t in the show). The limited screen time makes it impossible to do justice to all her great characters so they’ve cut most of them. With Tyrion, Ser Jorah, and possibly Varys on the way, perhaps they wanted to make room for new characters in Meereen, though with Tyrion there it stands to reason that there would be more screen time to accommodate them. Ser Barristan also doesn’t like Ser Jorah and wouldn’t trust a Lannister so maybe they killed him off to avoid having to address that.

Another reason is the fact that there really hasn’t been a ton of action so far. All the action scenes including Brienne’s weird killing spree, Jaime and Bronn in Dorne, the Faith Militant’s Occupy King’s Landing Movement, and now with Sons of the Harpy, have all been created just for the show. AFFC and ADWD don’t have a lot of action. The action was kind of mindless in the case of Brienne, but for the most part it’s been nice.

The big problem I have with Ser Barristan’s highly probably death is the fact that it could serve as a spoiler for the books. Ser Grandfather commands Daenerys’ forces in the Battle of Meereen (a battle that will not be happening in the show), which takes place at the beginning of The Winds of Winter (three sample chapters depicting the start of the battle are available already). There’s a ton of fan speculation of how the battle will go and much of it pegs Barristan the Bold as a goner. As someone who was skeptical of Ser Barristan dying during the battle itself (though I’m much less skeptical that he’ll survive all of TWOW), I’m annoyed that the show has caused me to reconsider.

We’re almost at the halfway mark for the season. It feels like it’s going rather fast, but things are certainly shaping up to be exciting. As a devout book fan, it’s kind of nice not really knowing what will happen, with only Cersei’s plotline heading in the same direction as the books (possibly Arya’s as well).

 

 

 

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April 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 2

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

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

While I’ve generally been completely fine with the deviations from the books, this episode featured two that I thought were mistakes. Since the beginning, Jon and Cersei have been two of the show’s favorite characters. This generally means that deviations will work to these characters’ benefit as much of what needs to be cut from the books will come at the expensive of a different character.

Which made the ten seconds the show gave to the election for Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch puzzling. This is a big deal in the books and it should be a big deal in the show as well. Yet for whatever reason, the show gave it just about as much time as Brienne’s dinner with Podrick.

Naturally the election is far more complex in the books. It’s worth noting that Lord Janos Slynt, not Ser Alliser Thorne, was the bad guy candidate in the books. It was also heavily implied that Jon would have been executed if Slynt were elected.

The show did allow Samwell to play a part in the election, though it stripped him of his elaborate plan inspired by Maester Aemon. In the books, Samwell convinces Denys Mallister, commander of the Shadow Tower, and Cottor Pyke, commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, to drop out of the race and support Jon because neither alone would have the backings to beat Slynt. This House of Cards style manipulation was reduced to a simple heartfelt speech in the show.

Samwell has never been a favorite of mine and the scheme would’ve been too elaborate for the show to pull off. The only problem with the election itself was that I don’t really think a convincing argument was made for picking Jon over Ser Alliser. Janos Slynt probably should have still be the candidate as he’s not an experienced Brother who didn’t play a pivotal role in the defense of Castle Black.

The more important problem was the neglect of Stannis’ offer to legitimize Jon. This is also a big deal. Jon could avenge his father, brothers, sister(s), and fulfill a lifelong desire to truly become a Stark with one word. He doesn’t and ultimately, we know why, but the show decides to scoot right by this without giving it the proper attention it deserves.

Honor is a big theme in Game of Thrones. Characters like Ned and Robb pay heavy prices for choosing honorable decisions. Cersei and Littlefinger get ahead by ignoring it. It shouldn’t be surprising that Jon chose to stay true to his vows, but we missed out on the grappling that should have occurred. This would have been a great opportunity to have another heart to heart with Maester Aemon about duty and family.

The pacing of the Wall storyline kind of explains this. The election happened in A Storm of Swords and I don’t think lingering much longer would have been a good idea and other storylines even at the Wall are well into A Dance with Dragons. Problem was that it was really only mentioned in passing last episode. The seed for this could have been planted last episode, possibly instead of burning Mance, which didn’t need to happen this early.

The other deviation in this episode that really bugged me was with Cersei and Kevan. In the books, Cersei offers Kevan the position of Hand of the King, which he says he will only accept if Cersei also makes him Regent and goes back to Casterly Rock. This offer also happened in a private conversation rather than during a Small Council Session. There is no “Master of War” in the books and its presence in the show is strange, but not particularly important.

It goes against the Lannister commitment to family to have Kevan call out his niece in front of the Lord of a rival House, though the show has made no effort to make Mace Tyrell look like any threat at all. Kevan isn’t a character that the show, or the books for that matter, have paid much attention to, but he is a Lannister and Lannister’s don’t pull that kind of nonsense. As the person Tywin trusted most, he should have known better. The seeds for Cersei’s fall have been planted, but in a weird way.

The Daenerys stuff is pretty straight forward, though sort of boring. I like the Sons of the Harpy plotline as a war with Yunkai would be difficult to pull off in the show given Dany’s resources and allotted screen time. In the books, Dany has a relatively large force behind her, but the show has reduced this significantly to merely her Unsullied, the Second Sons, and Ser Grandfather.

I liked the rest of the episode. It’s pretty clear (and disturbing) what Littlefinger is planning to do with Sansa. Brienne is following her because she has nothing else to do. Roose and Ramsay are having fun in Winterfell with Reek being Reek.

At first, I disliked having Jaqen H’ghar take the place of the Kindly Man in the House of Black and White, but it makes sense. That storyline is weird and having a familiar face around makes it (sort of) less weird. He and Arya are great together too.

It was nice to see Bronn, who isn’t shown in the books after his departure prior to Tyrion’s trial (though we hear about plenty of amusing Bronn antics). Jaime’s plan seems farfetched, but he and Bronn have great chemistry. The Dorne stuff isn’t an interesting as I’d hoped, but that was true of them at this point in the books as well.

That’s it for this week. If you enjoyed this recap, I encourage you to check out my other GOT/ASOIAF related articles.

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April 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 1

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. 

For all the talk of how different this season would be from the books, the episode got off to a start that pretty much paid homage to A Feast for Crows. One of AFFC’s strongest attributes is the intimate look it gives the reader into Cersei’s thoughts/backstory, as it’s the first book to feature her as a POV character. The flashback with Maggy the Frog is certainly foretelling of things to come for the Queen Regent.

This episode largely played catch-up, setting up the plots for the season. GOT premieres and finales are tricky as they generally involve the entire cast, which makes screen time problematic. Balance wasn’t much of a problem as the episode allotted a fair amount of time to just about everyone.

I particularly enjoyed the Varys/Tyrion scenes. Varys disappears from the tail end of A Storm of Swords all the way until the epilogue of A Dance With Dragons and it would have been a waste for the show to abandon him for that length of time. My mouth did salivate a bit at the thought of future Varys/Daenerys scenes.

I haven’t written at all about my thoughts on scrapping (f)Aegon from the show, largely because I approve of it. The last thing this show needs is more characters and this season will already introduce Dorne and the rest of House Martell. Condensing Tyrion’s long and problematic voyage to Dany seems to be in the best interest of the show.

The Castle Black plotline also seems to be accelerating rather rapidly. Parts of it aren’t caught up to A Storm of Swords while others are well into A Dance With Dragons. By the time Mance was “burned alive” in the books, Jon had already been elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. That plot was hinted at, but played a backseat role to Stannis’ need for more troops. I did find it odd that the idea of legitimizing Jon Snow wasn’t brought up, though I imagine that’s coming fairly soon.

Like many, I’ve criticized the show’s handling of Stannis, who’s affectionately known as Stannis the Mannis to many. Stannis and Jon develop a mutual respect for each other in ADWD that makes the often quite boring Wall chapters far more enjoyable in the books. The potential bromance will undoubtedly be called in question after Jon mercy killed Mance, though it’s unclear whether the show will follow the books with what happens to The King Beyond the Wall.

The Littlefinger scheming is also very interesting and so different from the books that comparing the two almost seems silly. I sort of gathered that they could be heading to Essos, which makes me wonder if Littlefinger will head to the Braavos to consult with the Iron Bank or try to throw in with Dany. I really liked the way that Sansa has grown as a character, treating him like more of an equal than a protector.

Dany’s plotline was mostly like the books, though I detest the show’s love affair with Grey Worm, who isn’t really all that interesting in the books. A certain large eunuch by the name of Strong Belwas would have been useful when the fighting pits were brought up. I can’t be the only book fan who thought of nothing but him during those scenes.

The pacing of the King’s Landing plotline was pretty flawless. The show took its time setting up the inevitable Cersei/Jaime conflict and the reintroduction of Kevan and Lancel Lannister without biting off more than it could chew. I also like that it kept the Mountain/Qyburn stuff for another episode, though I’m sure viewers are wondering what is up with Frakenstrong.

It remains to be seen what Brienne is going to do with herself, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see her involved with Sansa in some way if for any other reason than she doesn’t appear to have anything else to do. This was a strong opening episode that did everything it needed to do to set up the season. The changes were welcomed as they all appear to work toward translating the often uneven plot progressions of AFFC/ADWD to television. As a fairly hardcore fan of the books, I didn’t have a problem with any of it, though I am concerned that the show will try to villainize Stannis, who will soon turn his full attention to the Bolton’s, who are the actual bad guys in the North. Well, them and the White Walkers.

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