Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

game of thrones review Archive

Monday

9

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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Sunday

21

June 2015

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Without the Iron Throne, Game of Thrones Can’t Figure Out What It Wants To Be

Written by , Posted in Game of Thrones

I’ve been searching for the perfect way to summarize my thoughts on Game of Thrones’ fifth season. Those of you who have followed my recaps know that I was pretty disappointed with the way things turned out. Part of me keeps returning to the question of whether or not I was being serious when they said I’d accept that this season would be much different from the books, but I think I’ve been fair despite my love of Stannis. There was one omission from this season that summarizes why this season was terrible.

There was no Iron Throne this season.

How can you have a “game of thrones” with no throne? How can Entertainment Weekly release features regarding who will win if there’s no prickly chair to sit on? While the Iron Throne and its occupant have rarely been at the center of the show, their absence from the narrative plays into a bigger problem.

I was surprised by how much I missed Charles Dance this season. I’ve known for years that Tywin would die. He’s not even one of my favorite characters and the King’s Landing plot was one of my favorite parts of A Feast for Crows. Jonathan Pryce did an excellent job as the High Sparrow and Lena Headley is one of this season’s standout performers. So why am I mad about the missing throne? Surely cutting Ser Pounce from this season was a bigger loss?

It’s hard to call season five a “transitional season” just because major characters died and others moved around. Season four had to deal with the loss of Robb and Catelyn. This season was supposed to feel different. We knew it was going to deviate from the books. Yet with all this preparation, season five felt like it had no idea what it was doing.

Case in point, Dorne. It’s one thing to make a change. It’s another to put filler garbage into a show that already has enough problems with screen time. That storyline was awful and has no redeeming qualities. I was happy that the show kept Bronn around, who isn’t in the last two books, but that joy has been sucked away. I don’t think I would have cried if he or Ser Stumpy had died and that’s a bummer. Tears should be shed for such awesome characters.

Then there were the plotlines that defied all character logic. For four seasons, we’ve come to know Littlefinger as a master manipulator, second only to Varys, with an odd love of Sansa Stark. There wasn’t a single good reason presented for why he would leave her in the care of the most sadistic house in Westeros. Sansa being back in Winterfell might have made for good television, in theory, but that starts to unravel when you consider how little sense it made.

Even though I hated this season, I do think that the show did reasonably well on the plotlines for its four major characters. Tyrion and Arya were fun to watch and their storylines were really the highpoint of the season. Successfully adapting Arya’s time in Braavos was no easy task and the decision to bring back Jaqen was a smart move for viewers (though I’m a fan of the Kindly Man).

The Jon and Daenerys stories were fine all things considered. I think we can all agree that “Hardhome” was this season’s best episode by a wide margin. The plotlines for these two will never get much further than the tips of the icebergs because they can’t there isn’t enough time to do Jon’s complex relationship with Stannis or Dany’s efforts to handle Meereen’s vast political structure. What we were given wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.

I figured I should mention Stannis here, though I have nothing new to say. Please don’t come back. The show has ruined you enough. #StandWithStannis

The time has no come for me to assign grades for each plotline. Is this the best way to do it? Probably not, but here they are.

Jon Snow/The Wall: B-

Daenerys Targaryen/Meereen: B-

Tyrion Lannister/Ser Friendzone: B+

Arya Stark/Braavos: A-

Cersei Lannister/King’s Landing: B

All the Tyrells/King’s Landing: F

Jaime Lannister/Bronn/Dorne: F

Sansa Stark/Reek/Winterfell: F

Grey Worm/Missandei Romance: F

Brienne of Tarth/Podrick/Whatever they were doing: F

Stannis Baratheon: F

Bran Stark: A+

Season Grade: F

Harsh? Not at all. Just look at Olenna Tyrell’s role. What a waste of Diana Rigg and there was zero resolution for the Tyrells as a whole. No resolution for Littlefinger either. I guess he forget about Sansa.

This was not a show that knew what it was doing, which is funny because it purposefully chose to ignore its source material to plot this silly path. It’s the kind of show that spends a season talking about how great of a battle commander Stannis is, only to have him wiped out in about two seconds. It’s a show that doesn’t care that its characters are three dimsensional and shouldn’t change whenever the show feels like they should (poor Ser Alliser). It’s a show that gives characters greyscale for no reason at all.

Even “Hardhome” is guilty of this. People like the episode because it was a much needed break from all of the other crap. It didn’t matter if the White Walkers are essentially all that we should care about now.

So Jon and Stannis might be dead, maybe not. I’m okay with waiting to find out. I need time to forget how awful this season was.

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Monday

15

June 2015

1

COMMENTS

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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Monday

18

May 2015

1

COMMENTS

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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