Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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Monday

15

April 2019

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COMMENTS

Game of Thrones Season 8 Recap: Episode 1

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

It’s the beginning of the end! Table setting and reunions seemed to be the themes of the first episode of Game of Thrones’ eighth and final season. With only five episodes left, it made sense to take stock of where the major players found themselves heading into the final battles of the series. While the season might be shortened, six episodes still leaves a fair amount of time for things that don’t involve bloodshed and resolution.

The throwbacks to the first episode were apparent throughout the episode. The procession into Winterfell looked a lot like one that Robert made to visit Ned, and Jaime’s arrival harkened back to his first steps into the castle. It’s always fun when a show entering its final season takes everything back full circle.

The antagonistic relationship between Daenerys and Sansa makes plenty of sense for a lot of reasons, but few of them were on display in the episode itself. The Northerners have every right to be miffed at Jon for bending the knee not long after they gave him his crown, but politics contrasts with the dire nature of their situation. Questions of monarchy seem out of place in a region that’s currently being evacuated for the first time in either the books or the show. I get that the show needs additional conflict besides the Night King, but it still seems kind of weird that the Northerners are so hostile to a woman whose army is their best shot at survival.

Sansa’s scene with Tyrion was my favorite of the episode. Sansa has been underestimated by many in the show, as well as the fandom, but she’s been a survivalist all these years. As the natural choice to lead House Stark moving forward, Sansa did a great job throughout her scenes making sure that her family would remain power players even if Jon was willing to bend the knee.

The scenes with Jon and Dany also made a lot of narrative sense, as fans responded with lackluster enthusiasm to their pairing last season. Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke don’t have a ton of natural chemistry, but it’s good to see the show try and put in the effort to make their relationship seem convincing. The CGI dragon ride was well put together and sort of made up for the lack of elephants brought to Westeros.

As much as the Cersei/Euron pairing looks born out of convenience, it’s a lot of fun to watch. Lena Headley is perhaps the best actress in the series and is always a delight to watch, even in filler scenes. Euron is similarly delectably evil, aided by a standout performance by Pilou Asbæk.

Bronn’s plotline is a total mess.  While Jerome Flynn and Lena Headley aren’t on speaking terms, which explains why they’ve never shared a scene together, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to have him carry out some farfetched revenge plot against Jaime and Tyrion that the viewers know isn’t going to go Cersei’s way. If this is all they have planned for Bronn, they should have sent him to the North with Jaime.

Arya had a few great scenes this episode, but the best was her reunions with Gendry and The Hound. Arya and Sandor have been through quite a lot since their days roaming the Riverlands, but clearly still maintain at least some degree of affection for each other. Gendry looks at home as a blacksmith, unlike his stint at a marathon sprinter beyond the Wall.

Poor Sam. It’s bad enough to have to share a scene with Ser Jorah, but the news of his family’s demise was pretty brutal. The one positive thing that came of it was that the senseless Tarly loyalty displayed to the Lannisters last season appears to have in service to this scene. At least Dickon died for Sam’s tears!

Bran is a weird dude. There’s not enough time for small talk, but plenty to sit around the Winterfell courtyard. We don’t really know how much he knows, but the show is doing a good job treading carefully with a character who can deus ex machina whenever he wants. I’m a little bummed that he didn’t get to have a chat with Jaime but I’m sure we’ll see the two of them together next week.

Who could blame Yara for wanting to go back home to her nice island that’s far away from the ice zombies? I hope Theon heading North means that he’ll die in the Battle of Winterfell. I used to think Jaime would be the first major character to go, but apparently, he’s needed for the ever-important Bronn subplot so maybe it’s time for Theon to stop beating himself up for all the bad things he’s done.

Did the Night King preserve the arms in a Tupperware container to prevent them from becoming zombified as he made his mural? Does the fact that he knew there would be people left in the deserted far North to see poor Lord Umber strung up there mean he’s omniscient? I don’t know, but that creepy scene provided much food for thought. Always fun to see Beric and Tormund, though we don’t much clarity as to how they’re still alive after the wall blew up.

Jon finally knows the truth. I liked that the reveal happened in the Crypts of Winterfell, the only logical setting. It was weird to see Sam rail on Dany before dropping the news, but it’s understandable given the whole burning of the family situation. Jon took the news better than I’d expected, but it looks like they’re setting up a power grab between Dany and him. As much sense as that makes, it seems weird for them to fight while the show is simultaneously investing in their relationship.

That’s it for this week. Very strong episode, despite the abundance of lazy eunuch jokes. Quick programming note, if my written recaps aren’t enough you can catch me right after the show on Facebook for my live recaps, or on my new podcast every Tuesday for in-depth analysis. Thank you for reading and see you next week!

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Tuesday

5

March 2019

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COMMENTS

Leaving Neverland Lets Michael Jackson’s Accusers Speak Their Truth

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Reviews

Leaving Neverland is the kind of film that forces the viewer to question the very mandate expected of documentaries to present the truth, or at least its very best interpretation of the facts. The narratives of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who both accuse Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them as children, hardly produce much evidence to prove their cases other than the disturbing similarities in their accounts. For diehard fans of the legendary pop-star, the failure to offer up a definitive smoking gun proving their allegations might be enough to dismiss them entirely, to keep on believing in the man they adore.

Much of the coverage of the #MeToo movement has focused on the punishments doled out to the accused, fired from their cushy jobs or cast out from polite society. Such narrative framing is inherently transactional in nature, with the notion of justice guiding the reaction to each termination. Leaving Neverland lacks an outlet to pursue this objective, with Jackson’s death and the statute of limitations laws complicating any idea of closure.

Lost in the broader headlines of #MeToo is the more nuanced objective of many of the people who have spoken out over the course of the movement. For many, justice never enters the equation. For many, all that’s desired is simply to be heard.

Leaving Neverland is not a film about justice, but rather the long-term corrosive effect of years of abuse. Both Safechuck and Robson had complex relationships with Jackson that neither appears to have fully worked out just yet. There is no notion of righting these wrongs. The film paints a clear picture of the damage done to both of their families for the simple mistake of trusting the perceived generosity one of the most powerful celebrities in the world.

For a documentary with a runtime of nearly four hours, Leaving Neverland feels surprisingly intimate in its scope. Relying entirely on accounts from the accusers and their families, the film painstakingly explores their relationships with Michael Jackson. The documentary bounces between both families, chilling the audience with the consistency of each narrative. The broader context of Jackson’s sexual abuse trials and his death are held until the second part, though always framing the narrative through its impact on Robson and Safechuck. This isn’t Michael Jackson’s story, but theirs.

Leaving Neverland is a very hard film to watch. The documentary wields tremendous power in the simplicity of its narrative, almost like listening to the two families sit in therapy as they worked through the repressed horrors they endured. It’s clear that many members of each family loved Jackson and found it incredibly hard to cope with what he put the children through. This dynamic creates several moments of frustration toward the parents that failed to see the seemingly obvious, but the film rarely concerns itself with judgment. Reality is far more complex than any truths hindsight could have illustrated.

While the film will undoubtedly earn some criticism for its one-sided approach that never gave anyone from Jackson’s estate a chance to respond, Leaving Neverland never goes out of its way to vilify the pop star beyond laying out his alleged crimes. The film presents its case without any broader call to action. Michael Jackson’s legacy is a complicated one, but the documentary doesn’t concern itself with trying to deal with that. Its only focus is to finally allow the Robson and Safechuck families the chance to tell their side of the story.

Public opinion on Michael Jackson can be (broadly) divided into three categories. There are those who reject the claims of his accusers entirely, those who view him as a creep and want nothing to do with his body of work, and those who seek to separate the complicated man from his artistic genius. Leaving Neverland doesn’t try to move people from one of those camps into another, but it does force a light on the complicated mentality of the third group. People can enjoy his music while accepting the merits of his accusers, but much of the coverage of Jackson since his death has sought to sweep the unseemly portions of his legacy under the rug. This documentary reminds the public at large that there’s still a lot about the man that shouldn’t be forgotten when remembering him.

Leaving Neverland is a timely film for the #MeToo era, focusing less on the idea of justice than the simple power that comes from finally being heard. There’s nothing on earth that can fix the wrongs done to Wade Robson and James Safechuck. Their lives and those of their families were permanently damaged as a result of their relationship with Jackson. While justice won’t be served, the film draws its greatest strength through the closure that the process has hopefully offered these tragic victims.

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Tuesday

15

January 2019

0

COMMENTS

Mahershala Ali Brings True Detective Back to Form

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Reviews

The TV landscape has changed quite a bit in the half-decade since True Detective’s debut in 2015. The novelty of seeing big Hollywood names on the small screen has diminished in the wake of new series featuring A-list talent such as Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Michael Douglas. “Peak TV” exists as much as a cliché as a universal truth in this current era. There are more good shows on right now than anyone, even critics, has actual time to watch.

True Detective has always embraced the slow burn, a concept increasingly harder to sell in this bloated environment. After squandering much of its cultural capital on a forgettable second season, the show finds itself needing to balance suspense with the notion that its audience doesn’t necessarily need to accept that anymore. Mystique is an increasingly tougher sell, especially for week-to-week series.

Casting Mahershala Ali in the lead role was perhaps the best decision the show could have made. Ali has the power to mine intrigue from the mundane, an expressive actor capable of playing the same role across three time periods in a way that makes each feel fresh and unique. We don’t learn all that much about his character, Wayne Hays in the early episodes, but he plays the minimalism to his advantage. His ability to captivate in each scene makes the episodes fly by in a way that was sorely missing from season two.

The time jumps also provide some interesting commentary on the nature of America’s current cultural obsession with true crime series. Unsolved crimes, particularly ones involving children, remain alive years after their cases have gone cold through podcasts and Internet message boards. The unsettling nature of these heinous acts exists in a puzzling contrast with their status as entertainment symbols, something that essentially applies on a broader scale to fictional series like True Detective that deal with brutal murders.

Season three marks a return to form for True Detective, even if though it fails to reach the highs of its freshman effort. America seems less enthralled by anthology series in recent years than it has in the past, perhaps an inevitable development for a medium pushing its saturation point. A strong performance from Mahershala Ali keeps things interesting enough to wash the stink of season two away, even if the series isn’t likely to capture the country’s attention in quite the same way again.

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Wednesday

29

August 2018

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COMMENTS

Ser Jorah’s Empty Redemption

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

One of the great triumphs of the #MeToo movement has been the way it’s helping to change the way we look at what constitutes acceptable male behavior. Society has offered a lot of excuses for the persistent man who won’t take no for an answer, forgetting that there is a woman forced into the position of not being able to have her wishes accepted for the answer. “No means no,” somehow gets clouded when a man’s hurt feelings garner enough sympathy to seek shelter somewhere in the “boys will be boys” trope.

Ser Jorah of House Mormont is a bad man.

He sold slaves on Bear Island in a feeble attempt to make his wife happy living in a place he would have known would make her miserable if he had ever stopped to consider her feelings before taking her away from Oldtown. He ran away to Essos to escape justice for his crimes. He tried to sell out Daenerys in a similarly pathetic attempt to be allowed back home.

Ser Jorah of House Mormont is a pervert.

Daenerys is a teenager at the start of the series, in both the books and the show. The show aged her up a bit from thirteen to make sexualizing her a bit less creepy, but the idea that an older man/sworn protector would court her should still make one uncomfortable. Despite this, Jorah presses on, only to be politely rebuffed by Dany time and time again. The power dynamic is a mess, but Ser Jorah doesn’t care. Ser Jorah only cares about himself.

Ser Jorah of House Mormont is a disgrace.

When Daenerys learned of Ser Jorah’s treachery, she banished him. Many would have executed him for treason, but Dany took mercy on her disloyal advisor. You might think he’d take her kindness and leave her alone. Dany gave Jorah countless verbal cues to leave her presence and never return.

Ser Jorah of House Mormont only cares about himself.

Moving on is a key aspect of the human experience. We all face rejection at some point in our lives. Ser Jorah experienced plenty of his own, but he never learned to accept that another person might not want him in their life. He portrayed himself as a man who would do anything to earn Dany’s forgiveness, but this mentality is a disguise for his true intentions. It’s never about what Dany wants, only about how Jorah wants Dany to make him feel.

Ser Jorah of House Mormont cannot take a hint.

Upon delivering Tyrion to Dany, Jorah found himself banished again. No amount of rejections would matter to Ser Jorah, because Ser Jorah cannot process rejection. It’s only ever about him, what he wants, on his own terms. “No means no, unless I don’t want it to,” is the motto of Ser Jorah, even after he contracts an infectious disease. Not even greyscale can keep Ser Jorah away from the pursuit of a woman who had rejected him many times. No amount of rejection could ever be enough for him.

Ser Jorah of House Mormont does not care about service.

What drives Ser Jorah’s many comebacks? He frames the narrative as a chance for redemption, but such a situation would require Jorah to let go of something he cannot give up: control. Jorah only accepts others on his own terms. Dany is not a Queen to him, no Khaleesi to his greyscaled soul. To him, she is the woman who politely refused his offer of a drink at the bar. He cannot accept any outcome that doesn’t console his bruised ego.

Those of you who have followed my Game of Thrones recaps over the years know that I have not been a fan of Ser Jorah for a long time. I think he’s beyond creepy and should have been killed off a long time ago. As I think more and more about what I want out of season eight, I realize that my biggest wish is one that should have been granted already. I want Jorah off the show.

Jorah’s story is not an important story. You might be inclined to disagree, perhaps because you like him, or just because you don’t view this as an objective truth. One of Game of Thrones’ greatest strengths is that its ensemble cast has many different narratives. Supporting characters live fully fleshed out lives, with goals that can exist independent from their leads.

The depth of GOT’s narrative complexities means that protagonists like Jon and Dany can have goals that conflict with each other. Jorah can certainly desire Dany even if she doesn’t want him back. A viewer doesn’t have to view him as an antagonist just because he won’t take no for an answer.

Trouble is, Dany’s story isn’t allowed to exist without him. Even when she turns him away, he always comes back. This woman cannot live her life independently of a man she politely rejected many times. Too many women in the real world know this feeling all too well.

Jorah’s narrative is full of empty redemption. He seeks forgiveness only under his own terms. The greatest gift he could have given Dany was to not return to Meereen. The books may be able to alter course from Game of Thrones by killing him off in the Battle of Fire, but the show has let his stain linger for far too long already.

No means no. That means you too, Ser Jorah. We all heard Dany loud and clear the first a hundred times. All of us, except you and every other man who felt he was owed something from a woman who rejected him. Do Westeros a favor and go away.

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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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Thursday

23

April 2015

0

COMMENTS

Should HBO Skip Screener Copies for Season Six of Game of Thrones?

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

It took HBO about two weeks to respond to the pirates who leaked the screener copies of the first four episodes of season 5 of Game of Thrones. Given the ratings records set by the premiere, it’s hard to accurately assess the damage. The warnings sent out suggest that HBO isn’t particularly interested in a bunch of lawsuits which would likely lead to nowhere anyway. It’s hard to imagine that HBO is particularly pleased with the leak though, which makes me wonder how HBO will handle the release of season six.

Networks generally send out screener copies of the first four episodes of new seasons to publications as a way of generating buzz. Since most shows aren’t a worldwide phenomenon, piracy tends not to be too big of a problem. With a show like Game of Thrones, a leak was practically inevitable.

HBO has been pretty proactive in its efforts to combat piracy. The recently launched HBO NOW offers HBO without a cable subscription for a flat rate of 15 dollars a months (currently only available on Apple Devices). This was also likely done as an effort to try to get millennials and others who have gotten rid of cable, but use their parents’/friends’ HBO GO to pay. HBO NOW hasn’t been around long enough to determine whether or not the service has been a success, but the idea is fundamentally sound.

While the presence of HBO NOW might help cut down on piracy in general, it wouldn’t have prevented the leak. The screener copies had content that no one could see legally for weeks after the premiere. The only way to prevent the screener copies from leaking is to stop sending them out entirely.

The benefits to this are pretty easy to see, but the risks are a little more complicated. One might argue that a show like Game of Thrones doesn’t need to get a stamp of approval from The New York Times or Entertainment Weekly and there’s something to that. Problem is that buzz has value that’s hard to quantify. The mass exposure from hundreds of publications does play a part in the success of the show.

Many of those features would still exist without the screeners, but it’s not hard to imagine a reduction if they weren’t sent out ay all. It’s harder to write about something when you don’t know the specifics. Those publications might turn their attention, and cover stories, toward other shows instead. Game of Thrones’ massive popularity makes that harder to fathom, but it’s still a risk that HBO would need to take into consideration.

Which brings us back to the damage. If Game of Thrones sets ratings records, are the leaks really a problem? Would 10 million people have watched the premiere instead of 8? There’s no way of knowing, but it does stand to reason that the number would be higher. How much that matters is up to HBO.

The solution that I would consider if I were head of HBO would be to reduce the number of episodes included in the screener copies. Four might be the standard, but cable shows also generally have thirteen episodes a season. The screener copies account for 40% of the whole season. Cutting that down to two would reduce the potential damage while also appeasing the big publications.

One option I would not consider is a switch to a Netflix delivery style, mostly for reasons I covered in my recent article on House of Cards. For a show of Game of Thrones’ magnitude, dropping all the episodes in one fell swoop isn’t a great way to get proper bang for your buck. That would actually exacerbate the spoiler problem as people would know the ending right from day one.

Piracy will always be a problem for massively popular shows. HBO could reduce its subscription fees to a dollar a month and this would still be the case. There are some possible ways to cut back on the damage though which HBO should consider as the show goes on and the stakes are raised. When the final season rolls around and the death count starts to skyrocket, HBO isn’t going to want people knowing who lives and who dies weeks in advance.

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Saturday

27

December 2014

2

COMMENTS

The Case of the Cutter at Dunkin Donuts

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

While much of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s humor is derived from the predicaments that Larry David gets himself into as a result of his inability to keep quiet when in the presence of a faux pas, we should take note that the world needs more people like him. Too often, we find the internet to be a dumping ground for instances where a person was wronged yet took to social media when the battle should have been waged in reality. Never being much of a hash tag activist myself, I decided to live the Larry David mantra and engage a man who wronged me at Dunkin Donuts.

The incident occurred at the Old Greenwich Dunkin Donuts, my personal favorite franchise of the popular Northeastern chain. I was second in line to a woman, who had finished her order and paid for it. The employee made the coffee and handed it to the woman, signifying a completed transaction to most who understand how businesses operate. Unfortunately for me, someone thought otherwise.

A man walked into the Dunkin Donuts and proceeded to the front of the counter. Being a regular at the establishment, the employee shot me a confused glance as I starred at the man, disdainful at the thought that this man had clearly not paid attention in kindergarten on the day that the concept of lines was explained. Before the employee could explain the breach of etiquette, the man said, “I’m with her,” pointing at the woman, who was presumably married to this rude piece of existence.

He proceeded to order a bacon, egg, and cheese. Patrons of Dunks know that these sandwiches are not only gross; they slow down the line especially when only one person is behind the counter. This being around noon and Old Greenwich not being a peak location at all hours of the day, this sandwich meant that it was going to be another couple of minutes before yours truly could get his large iced dark roast with a splash of milk and one sugar.

The problem was, being “with her” no longer signified anything for this man. The woman had her coffee and had already paid for it. This was a separate transaction. Sharing a bed with the woman who had just ordered does not represent a sense of ownership over all future orders at a business. But this man was either not aware of this or did not care. Perhaps a mixture of both?

Now I found myself in a predicament of my own. The employee had clearly demonstrated that she too, felt this man was demonstrating an abuse of power over his wife’s limited domain. But she’s a coffee shop employee. Not Pontius Pilate. This was my battle.

The man was pacing around Dunkin Donuts in the long duration between ordering a gross breakfast sandwich and receiving it. When we made eye contact, I decided to air my grievance at this abhorrent human being. Little did he know he was in for a bout of social justice.

“You know when you pay separately, you’re not really together,” I said to the man. Firm, but non confrontational. I wanted to give the man a chance to right his wrong. Sadly that was not to be.

He looked bewildered at this long haired brightly dressed young chap who called him out on his nonsense. “It’s not a big deal,” he said to me, clearly showing that he has final say on my opinions.

“Well, you ordered a sandwich which takes a couple of minutes to make,” I replied. Pausing for a second, I added, “I could have ordered and left in this amount of time. You sir, are a cutter.”

Those words must have melted into his heart of stone for he did not respond. He walked to the other side of the Dunks, clearly saddened by his bruised ego. His wife stood a few feet away from her, possibly contemplating divorce after witnessing what the public perceives of the man she agreed to unite with in Holy matrimony. We’ll never know.

I got an apology only from the employee, who hadn’t done anything to be sorry for and could not speak for the man, who declined to voice a further opinion of his actions. She and I have joked about the incident several times since. It’s good that laughter could come out of tragedy for I will never get those minutes back. I only hope that when I’m old and on my deathbed, thoughts of bacon, egg, and cheese’s are far from my mind.

I suppose the question you might ask is, was it worth it? Was the man right in saying it wasn’t a big deal? Should I have kept quiet with regards to the injustice?

The answers to those are yes, no, and no.

I feel great about the whole thing. That probably wouldn’t have been the case if I had just tweeted about it. The man did something wrong and now he knows that it didn’t go unnoticed. If the whole world were this vigilant, there would be far fewer things to complain about. Catharsis was achieved. Maybe that man changed his ways or maybe he was kicked out his house. Let’s hope he doesn’t cut again.

If you see something, say something.

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Friday

5

December 2014

0

COMMENTS

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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Sunday

19

October 2014

1

COMMENTS

The Importance of George R.R. Martin’s Anthology Work

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

“Finish the book” is a phrase that’s become intrinsically linked to George R.R. Martin in the wake of Game of Thrones’ success in 2011. The long wait for The Winds of Winter has many fans angry, though it’s worth noting that the delays are neither surprising nor unprecedented. Five year gaps have become the norm with A Song of Ice and Fire and that was before Martin became one of, if not, the most famous author on the planet. But Martin hasn’t been away from writing while he’s traveled the world giving interviews and attending launch parties.

Since A Dance With Dragon’s release in 2011, Martin has scripted four Game of Thrones episodes, served as the coeditor of five anthologies (also a contributor to two), and as a coauthor of The World of Ice and Fire, which comes out next week. He’s also released several TWOW chapters, though it’s still pretty unclear as to how far along he is with the book. For a man in his sixties who famously detests writing on the road, that’s a pretty heavy workload.

As expected, his work on other projects takes a backseat in the media to ASOIAF. That’s what happens when you author a worldwide phenomenon. While anthologies don’t create the kind of buzz that garners much mainstream attention, it can be easy to overlook the value of the work he’s doing on them.

Martin’s rise to fame is much different from other celebrity authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, who achieved mainstream success quite early on in their careers. Martin’s first novel was released twenty years before A Game of Thrones, which in turn was released nine years before A Feast for Crows debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list in 2005, placing him in the upper echelon of fantasy writers. That being six years before GOT premiered on HBO, showing us the long and unusual journey he took to stardom.

So what does this have to do with anthologies? Let’s look at Robert Silverberg’s Legends, the anthology that housed The Hedge Knight, the first Tales of Dunk and Egg novella. It’s certainly possible to make the case that Legends has the most star power of any fantasy anthology ever written with contributions from King, Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, Terry Pratchett, and Raymond E. Feist among others. Legends II includes Terry Brooks, Neil Gaiman, and Diana Gabaldon, adding to the series’ immense name recognition.

The funny thing about Legends in the year 2014 is that Martin wasn’t even famous enough to be featured on the front cover when it came out in 1998. He didn’t get that accolade until the sequel in 2003. To your average consumer, Martin would likely be placed second behind King if the book came out today for the first time.

The success of Legends contributed to the fortunes of the lesser-known writers, who benefited from the exposure that they received from being featured alongside established names like King and Jordan. Many copies of A Game of Thrones still feature Jordan’s stamp of approval. While that’s something that’s easy to overlook, that sort of quote can be a tremendous boost for unknown writers.

Which is why Martin’s work on anthologies is not only important to the literary world, it also shows his true character. This is a guy who busted his ass for decades to get where he is now. But he didn’t make his fortune without some help and he remembers that. Pay it forward at its finest.

Martin’s name recognition changes the lives of the authors in his anthologies. His name headlining collections like Dangerous Women and Rogues is huge, even for the writers featured on the back of the book, like Martin once was. The literary world is as large and dense as Westeros and it’s very difficult to get exposure for books if you’re an unknown. Being featured in an anthology with someone like Martin’s name of the cover is practically a gift from R’hllor himself.

While “finish the book” is a catchy phrase, it’s important to remember that Martin is a man who achieved his dream late in life is and doing what he needs to do to get his creative vibes in order. That process serves as a tremendous benefit to the literary world as a whole, which needs people like Martin to champion works that might otherwise go unnoticed.

The wait for The Winds of Winter is certainly annoying and perhaps even more so now that the show is starting to catch up with the books, but there are still plenty of other Martin related works to enjoy. Who knows, you might even discover a new author. Anthologies might not be what the masses want from Martin, but he’s doing work that represents his continued devotion to maintaining interest in books as a whole. As Tyrion once said, “a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, there’s a Game of Thrones category under the blog section. I also have a Facebook page and would appreciate a “like” if you feel so inclined.

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Sunday

31

August 2014

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The 2014 Summer TV Season Wrap Up

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a state of disappointment over the summer TV season, a mentality that dissipated a bit as summer wore on. New shows such as Extant, Satisfaction, Rush, Tyrant, Halt and Catch Fire, The Last Ship, The Strain, Manhattan, You’re the Worst, and Married certainly weren’t bombs, but it’s hard to call any of them must see television either. They join sophomore offerings Ray Donovan, Under the Dome, Defiance, Maron, Graceland, and Hemlock Grove as shows that have niche audiences that don’t really draw the same wider excitement that older summer shows like Six Feet Under, Rescue Me, Entourage, Nip/Tuck used to have. This could be largest offering of ho hum shows in summer TV history.

Which leaves a few standout shows that for the most part existed either on the front or back end of the TV season. Louie and Orange is the New Black were long awaited gems, but they were also done before June was even halfway over. For all that was on in July, Rectify and Masters of Sex were the only universally praised shows airing new episodes. The fact that they air on Saturday and Sunday doesn’t do much to help the lull of must see summer television. Then there are Royal Pains, Falling Skies, Suits, and Covert Affairs, which have devoted fan bases, but aren’t really turning heads with innovation or ratings. True Blood is the sole veteran show to bid farewell and followed in the footsteps of Burn Notice and Dexter in supplying plenty of reasons for why its departure should be celebrated and not mourned.

The new shows mentioned all share in common that they exist in the middle ground between celebrated and irrelevant. The aggregate for the positive say they’re entertaining while the common complaint from the detractors is that they’re meh. Then there’s The Leftovers, which might have a similar Metacritic rating but doesn’t belong with the aforementioned rookies as it was easily the most polarizing show of the summer season. Damon Lindelof’s first show since Lost deserves most of its criticism, but I can’t say that I regret watching the grim yet sporadically satisfying post Rapture drama.

August began to change my opinion of the season as a whole. Outlander and The Knick are exactly what the summer season needed. Both shows are visually stunning, well acted historical dramas that haven’t proved they belong among TV ‘s best yet, but show far more potential than any of the other freshman shows. Garfunkel and Oates is in a similar position, which isn’t a big deal as we tend to forget that many shows don’t hit their stride in their first season anyway. The potential is there and it’s appreciated. It’s also worth noting that as neither have finished their runs, this could change sooner rather than later.

So what to make of the 2014 summer season? There was plenty to watch and if you tried all the new shows, chances are you liked at least one or two. How memorable they’ll be moving forward is another story.

I can’t think of another summer season that saw so many rookie shows wind up in the no man’s land between good and great. The rise of Netflix makes that territory less appealing as there’s no reason to watch something that you aren’t completely into with so many other choices at your disposal. If even just one or two had separated themselves from the pack, we’d be looking at a very strong summer season. Perhaps we still are. But that will vary from person to person when it could’ve been a consensus.

Opinions of the 2014 summer TV season remain largely subjective. But there’s something to be said for all the failed potential. TV’s in need of a few new headlining must see programs and we didn’t really get that this summer. But if you look at what we did get, you see that it could’ve been one for the ages. History could be kinder to it should any of those shows step up their game, but for now it was a puzzling year marred by odd scheduling and missed opportunities.

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