Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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Monday

6

June 2016

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COMMENTS

Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 7

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. 

Tonight’s episode was unusual in that it showed a scene before the credits. I’m glad that the reappearance of The Hound and the introduction of Ian McShane were given such special treatment. In the books, the Hound’s reappearance is never actually confirmed, though he is heavily implied to be the Gravedigger at the Quiet Isles, which Brienne and Podrick travel through.

The Hound’s storyline is one that I can’t really judge as of this episode. My biggest concern is that in the books, he’s one of the few characters to achieve the ever evasive peace that eludes just about everyone else. Sandor gets a second chance to live out his days free of the hate he carried with him his entire life. While the book series isn’t over, there isn’t much reason to believe we’ll see him again besides the much anticipated CleganeBowl, which I personally loathe and hope never happens.

The show appears to take a different approach. I doubt we’ve seen the last of the Hound. The problem with this is that his season and a half long quest with Arya softened the character significantly more than the books ever had, making a redemption narrative seem quite unnecessary. He doesn’t fight Brienne in the books, though since they’re both in the Riverlands, a reunion seems likely.

Ian McShane’s appearance as Brother Ray was good, but his death was not at all surprising. McShane made headlines for leaking information about his appearance a couple months ago, which basically gave away the fact that he wasn’t going to be around for very long. His overall impact is yet to be determined, but it was a good little mini-arc.

What’s with the Hound’s neck/upper chest beard? Gross.

The absence of Lady Stoneheart makes the villainous turn of the Brotherhood Without Banners fairly confusing. None of the members of the group, even Thoros of Myr, are particularly devout followers of the Red God, which the show seems to want to use in an effort to make them appear more evil than we’ve actually seen. It’ll be interesting to see if they capture Brienne and Podrick as they do in the books. Part of me thinks they won’t, but there isn’t exactly a clear direction for that storyline either.

King’s Landing got a little more interesting, even if we were treated to yet another High Sparrow lecture. Margaery has mostly been sidelined this season and it was nice to see her get something to do. With the Queen of Thorns out of the picture, I suspect a Margaery/Cersei alliance could be in the works, which would make up for the uneven nature of this plotline as a whole.

The scene between Cersei and Olenna was perhaps the strongest of the episode, though the Blackfish/Jaime parley gives it a run for its money. We as viewers know that Cersei has made a huge mess and has essentially zero allies and thousands of enemies. I’ve often criticized KL as a whole for looking too weak to command any kind of power. Olenna reminds us that this sentiment is shared by many in Westeros.

The Riverlands were spectacular. Loved seeing Bronn back. Loved seeing the Blackfish. The scene with the Freys threatening to kill Edmure was practically identical to the books. The scene between the Freys and Jaime highlighted the poor battle strategy/bad attitude of House Frey in general. The worst part about no Lady Stoneheart/evil BWB is that they likely won’t go around killing Freys. Bummer.

Jaime really hadn’t done anything interesting since season three, mostly acting as a supporting character/taking part in the show’s worst plotline. I didn’t necessarily care that the Riverlands plotline was cut from last season, but it has been very strong so far this year.

Very conflicted about the Northern campaigning. Stannis did much of that off book in A Dance with Dragons. Longtime readers of my recaps know how I feel about him. These scenes were mostly strong, especially Davos, but there was one big elephant in the room the show failed to address.

The show was smart to acknowledge the problem of Sansa’s marriages to Tyrion and Ramsey, but failed to really address the fact that Jon is an undead Night’s Watch deserter. Why should any house trust him? Davos could’ve included a defense of Jon into his beautiful speech…

Does Lady Mormont count amongst the sixty-two Mormont troops? I hope so.

The scene with House Glover was my favorite of the Northern campaign as it highlighted something I’ve been saying for years. Robb made a lot of mistakes as king. The North bled for him while he spent most of A Storm of Swords/season 3 ensuring they’d lose. Loyalty only goes so far. As sad as it sounds, House Glover is smart to stay out of it.

Worst line of the night was when Sansa was critical of Stannis’ military prowess. Has she not heard of the Siege of Storms End, the Assault on Dragonstone, and the Greyjoy Rebellion. Maester Luwin didn’t do a very good job teaching the Stark children about history.

Tough to really analyze Arya’s stabbing. Will the theatre performers save her? Will she become Coldhands 2? Will she get another seen with Jaqen? I’ve been pretty complimentary of Arya’s plotline throughout the season, but this development was pretty puzzling.

Yara telling Reek to toughen up made for good TV, but he’s still an odd character. Did saving Sansa make up for all the other crap he’d pulled? I guess so.

That’s all for this week. No Dany, Tyrion, Strong Belwas, Coldhands, or Dornishmen. As a special programming note, my live video recap this week featured my sister, Bibble of House Malone. Check it out if you haven’t already. Thank you for watching.

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Monday

16

May 2016

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Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 4

Written by , Posted in Blog, Celebrity Apprentice, 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 think it’s safe to say that this episode was the best of the season and perhaps the best since season 4’s “The Watchers on the Wall.”

The reunion of Jon and Sansa is significant for a number of reasons. None of the major Stark children (excluding Rickon) have seen each other since season one and most have no idea which of the others are even still alive. Jon and Sansa don’t really have much of a relationship in the books, something that was sort of hinted at in the episode. Given that Sansa isn’t in the North in the books, this plotline will be especially interesting to follow.

Brienne’s hypocrisy is borderline intolerable. I sort of forgot about the weird Brienne/Davos/Melisandre dynamic since the Red Woman is the only one at the Wall in the books, but it was about as awkward as could be expected. Brienne, who “executed” Stannis on the “authority” of a dead pretender king, shows next to no animosity toward Melisandre, the woman who conjured up the shadow demon that killed Renly.

It is by no means a stretch to suggest that Melisandre played a much, much bigger role in Renly’s death than Stannis, being both the person who executed the plan and presumably also the one who came up with it. Couple Brienne’s carefree attitude toward her with Davos’ casual mention of Shireen’s death, in episode 4 mind you, and we have ourselves a prime example of the show’s laziness in closing up plotlines it doesn’t like. Like Dorne, Stannis’ arc was quickly wrapped up with little logic. I know most regular readers of these recaps are hoping for the day when I stop mentioning Stannis, but that was important to acknowledge.

The pacing of Sansa’s arrival to the Wall was superb, but the fact that Jon continues to hang around Castle Black is kind of weird. I liked how he mentioned his death releasing him from his vows, but if that’s all true, he sort of needs to move on. The divorce between Jon and the Watch looks quite messier than it should. At least he showed remorse for killing Olly.

Why does Tormund only have 2,000 warriors? What happened to the 100,000 that attacked the Wall two seasons ago? They couldn’t have all died at Hardhome.

It was hard to be excited about Littlefinger’s return since he’s one of the most inconsistently portrayed characters on the show, but his scene was excellent. His seemingly indefensible decision to marry Sansa to Ramsey was handled quite well by casting doubt on Lord Royce. The only thing that kind of bugs me is that Littlefinger does show genuine affection toward Sansa in the books. I wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out to be the case later on in the show, but it’s not really believable. Who wasn’t thrilled to see Sweetrobin again?!?!

The Meereen plotline got a much needed infusion of life into it, despite having two of the most boring characters on the whole show. Grey Worm and Missandei’s deficiencies only further show what a mistake it was to kill Ser Barristan last year. Tyrion was on point as usual, but he needs a stronger character to spar with.

Jorah and his magical durable shirt are back! Which means I have to make an obligatory “why does Jorah have greyscale?” mention. Doesn’t look like I’ll be saying that much longer. More on Dany at the end of the recap.

King’s Landing also perked up. I’ve been mentioning the Tyrell’s powerful army for about a year now. It’s about time someone brought up using it. Giving the key KL players something to do was long overdue. It’ll be interesting to see if both Margaery and Loras make it out alive. I’m guessing no, but I’m willing to sacrifice both if it means we don’t have to endure another High Sparrow lecture. Jonathan Pryce is great and all. I just don’t care about listening to him ramble anymore.

How did Theon get a boat? Seriously. Anyone?

The Yara/Theon interaction was another highlight in a very strong episode. Yara is the obvious candidate to rule the Iron Islands, though A Feast for Crows had a different idea. Euron stands as a better challenger than Reek, but this will make the Kingsmoot dynamic all the more interesting. It’s hard to speculate as to what Theon’s role will be beyond a mere endorser of his sister.

Osha falls victim to the “let’s get rid of all the characters we don’t want anymore” cleanse. I’m kind of okay with it. She’s a fun character, but the show was right to acknowledge the fact that Ramsey would definitely know about her involvement in their escape. Another scene where she gets to speak would have been nice, but this episode had a lot going on.

Finally we go to Vaes Dothrak. I was rolling my eyes at the idea that Daario and Jorah would help by somehow retrieving Drogon, Dany’s scene with the Khals was excellent. As with the Sansa plotline, I was surprised with its fast pacing, but that’s a good thing. Meereen is bound to be a complete wash with everyone inevitably setting their eyes on Westeros in the not so distant future.

The parallels to the end of Dany’s season one arc were to be expected, though probably not in episode four. I assumed there would be some kind of trial, but am pretty happy that there wasn’t. Dany now commands the largest force of anyone besides the White Walkers. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of opposition the show puts against her, given the mess in KL.

It is worth noting that GRRM has said that Dany is not immune to fire in the books. This is obviously different in the show, which is a good thing. That was a great way to end the episode.

Side note: Aggo, one of the Dothraki mentioned, is one of Dany’s bloodriders in the books. I’ve often been critical of how the Dothraki just disappeared after the Unsullied were introduced, but it was nice to see a tiny throwback.

That’s it for this week. No Arya, Bran, Dorne (yay), or Sam & Gilly, but this was a very strong episode. See you next week!

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Monday

9

May 2016

0

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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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Monday

2

May 2016

2

COMMENTS

Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 2

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. 

He’s back. I’m honestly surprised that anyone is surprised. This had to be have been one of the worst kept secrets in popular culture. Kit Harrington was even listed in the opening credits.

That said, I was pretty underwhelmed with the way Jon Snow’s return was handled. Not only was the reviving ritual fairly lame, I don’t think the show ever did a good job explaining why Davos was willing to give his life to defend Jon Snow’s corpse. You can say that he didn’t believe that Ser Alliser would have actually let him go, but that was communicated.

It all felt too inevitable, including Melisandre’s presence. Which is what you get when you hype something for a year. Considering that every one of the brothers of the Night’s Watch standing in that room knew how important it is to burn corpses before they become White Walkers, I just wasn’t very impressed. It felt lazy. Foreshadowing Jon’s revival in previous seasons doesn’t mean that you don’t need to explain why characters make the choices they make. Davos is probably my favorite character left and the show should’ve given him more of a reason to be willing to put his life on the line on a whim like that.

The show is obviously setting up a Jon/Ramsey conflict as the Lord Commander is now released from his vows, having died. I don’t mean to suggest that I’m angry that Jon is back. His return just represented the same kind of lazy writing I’ve criticized the show for over the past two years.

Bran is back too! I’ve been critical of how eerily similar Bloodraven’s hideout is to Dagobah, both in the books and the show. Bringing in Max von Sydow to play a more colorful Bloodraven is probably a good idea for the show, but he did seem a little Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque, which is exacerbated by the fact that von Sydow was just in the new Star Wars.

I’d give the show points for how they handled the fact that Bran is now too big to ride on Hodor’s back, but I’d have to take them away for the fact that both Bloodraven and Euron Greyjoy both only have one eye in the books. Not really a big deal, but sort of annoying for book fans, especially since they were both introduced/reintroduced in the same episode.

King’s Landing continues to be a bore, which is a shame considering how many talented actors are involved. The High Sparrow storyline needs more direction. I did enjoy seeing Ser Robert Strong, but wish the show would at least make some effort to explain the current political structure in KL. I’ll give the show some credit for how it’s handled Tommen, who isn’t a particularly interesting character in either the book or the show.

The lack of guards continues to be annoying. Are we really supposed to believe that anyone thinks it’s a good idea for Tommen to walk around with only his one handed uncle/father as protection? The same holds true for Tyrion in Meereen and even Roose in Winterfell. Less people makes for a more intimate scene, but it isn’t very realistic.

Meereen is a mess. Killing off Hizdahr may not have been a big loss, but why does Meereen not have a single local official acting in any capacity? Are we supposed to believe that the Tyrion/Varys/Grey Worm/Missandei quartet is handling everything? I don’t think the show needs a ruling council like the books, but the current situation is borderline laughable. Tyrion did deliver the line of the night with “I drink and I know things.” That makes up for the ease with which he freed the dragons.

Roose’s death was a bummer considering how he was just talking about the Northern political structure, which is one of my favorite parts of A Dance with Dragons, but I get it. As I said last week and in my video, the show appears to be getting rid of characters it doesn’t need moving forward and that’s okay. I loved how Roose mentioned how preposterous it was to suggest killing the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch given how revered the order is in the North. Both he and Fat Walda will be missed. Ramsey got to be a monster in a way that progressed the story.

One thing that really irked me was the introduction of a new son of Rickard Karstark. This might be a minor detail, but the death of his sons was used as legitimate rationale for why he was so pissed at Catelyn for letting Jaime go. Having a new son pop up out of nowhere cheapened that.

Shouldn’t Brienne at least consider killing Theon for treason? Her character’s righteous indignation is appalling. Though we still don’t know for sure if Stannis is dead.

In The Winds of Winter sample chapters, Stannis is currently holding Theon, and Asha/Yara, captive and at least publicly plans to kill him to appease the Northerners, though he’s too valuable of a hostage for that to be fully believable. This has led me to think he’ll at least consider taking the black. I liked how the show referenced that possibility as well, though it’s probably not the best direction for the character.

The reintroduction of the Ironborn was handled quite well. Balon had more personality in this episode than he ever did in the books, though we only see him in A Clash of Kings. It was interesting to see Euron personally kill him as this has not be confirmed in the books, though it is basically a foregone conclusion that he hired an assassin, likely a Faceless Man, to carry out the deed. Like many, I am very excited for the Kingsmoot, which could be the highlight of the season (maybe).

Arya wasn’t in this episode much either, but that’s okay. Her storyline with Jaqen doesn’t need to move faster than it is. As I said last week, I didn’t expect Arya to remain blind for very long.

That’s it for this week. No Dany, no Dorne, no Littlefinger, no Pycelle, but this episode had enough going on. Despite my criticisms of Jon’s revival, I thought the episode did a good job building on last week in establishing the season’s storylines. Very little wasted time.

Just a reminder, I do live video recaps on my Facebook page after each episode. See you next week.

 

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Friday

28

August 2015

1

COMMENTS

Game of Clickbait: A Song of “Journalists” and Thieves

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

I saw something unfortunate on Twitter this morning as I looked through my friends’ tweets. The Huffington Post’s Bill Bradley put out an article on Wednesday claiming to have a “new” Game of Thrones theory regarding the parentage of Jon Snow and Meera Reed. Given that A Clash of Kings, the first book to feature Meera, was released in 1998 and that this series can be called a worldwide phenomenon since at least 2005, when A Feast For Crows hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list (a rare feat for a fantasy novel), it is more than safe to say that this theory is anything but new.

If you google “Jon Meera twins,” tons of posts come up that are earlier than Wednesday. Without even clicking on a single link, I see one from asoiaf.westeros.org from 2012. I doubt that’s the oldest either.

It’s embarrassing that HuffPo calls this journalism. The site has been praised by many for ushering in the modern day era of the news. While there’s plenty of truth to that, things like this thievery aren’t just a disgrace, they’re sad.

It’s sad because there are countless ASOIAF/GOT fans who have put in thousands of hours of research and discussion who then go uncredited by major news websites. This goes even beyond that. You have a guy who pretends they don’t even exist and that he’s the first to make this groundbreaking revelation.

We know why. Game of Thrones has over a hundred million fans. Articles like these are cash cows, especially when the research only takes a three-word Google search. It’s free money.

Dishonest money. I’m lucky to consider many of the top ASOIAF commentators to be friends. I’ve featured many of them here in my “Interviews of Ice and Fire” feature. I haven’t featured Bill Bradley and don’t plan to. I wouldn’t want to go through the trouble of finding someone to answer his questions for him.

The people who work hard to produce new content whether it’s articles, podcasts, or even just posts on the subrebbit or other the forums play a crucial role in Game of Thrones’ worldwide popularity. They’re the reason why genuinely new theories are still being discovered years after the last book in the main series was released. Without them, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed would have no one to steal from.

Here’s the thing that really bugs me and the reason I decided to write this. The top commentators in the ASOIAF/GOT fandom are good people. Beyond that, they’re not difficult to get ahold of. If they answer my tweets and e-mails, I imagine they’d respond to requests for paid freelance work.

I imagine this article will be discovered by a crony of one of the clickbait websites at some point in time. If you feel ashamed reading this, good. You should be ashamed. There used to be a code that journalists abided by. Just because you’re behind a computer writing for an online publication rather than a print newspaper doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be integrity in your work.

For you, the reader, check out the work of this expansive fandom. It’s good stuff and you won’t have to wait years for mainstream media to find it.

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Tuesday

16

June 2015

0

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Entertainment Weekly Interview With Kit Harrington Is A Red Herring

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

Something not so surprising happened last night on the season finale of Game of Thrones. No, I’m not talking about Jon Snow getting stabbed. Even non-book readers could see that from a mile away with all the conspicuous shots of Olly looking pissed at the Lord Commander. I’m talking about the Entertainment Weekly interview.

People were shocked to see both Kit Harrington and Dan Weiss confirm Snow’s death. Seems rather unnecessary considering that the fate of the character is still up in the air in the books. George R.R. Martin hasn’t told us. So why did they?

More important, why did they talk to Entertainment Weekly before the episode had even aired? I thought HBO decided that doing that was a bad idea after the first four episodes leaked. So what’s the deal?

Jon’s stabbing was likely the series’ worst kept spoiler going into this season, but Harrington and Weiss went out of their way to try to persuade us that Jon isn’t Azor Ahai. The problem with that lies with a certain Red Priestess.

Why else would Melisandre go back to the Wall to be in Jon’s general vicinity right before he got stabbed? Does she enjoy the weather? Did she forget that Thoros of Myr could bring people back from the dead even though he was a terrible priest? I doubt it.

Yet there weren’t really any blatant Azor Ahai signs, though some fans are saying his eyes look like he’s warging. Ghost was nowhere to be seen, though he did make an appearances a few episodes ago.  Jon did look dead, though so did Beric Dondarrion. Would the show really kill off one of its major characters just like that?

Maybe, but doesn’t seem likely. I stated in this morning’s recap that I was okay with Jon being dead. The Entertainment Weekly interview has made that a nonissue. Jon Snow is alive. We’ll know for sure in a few months when leaked photos start to surface.

So why the charade? Seems like something Littlefinger would do (maybe that’s why he was barely in this season). With a show as big as Game of Thrones, it can be very difficult to surprise your audience. If you can’t shock them with content on the show itself, making a fake interview that posts right after the show airs seems like the perfect ploy to achieve that effect.

R + L might equal J, but an Entertainment Weekly interview with Kit Harrington doesn’t = Jon Snow’s death. Hopefully Stannis is dead though. The show has done enough character assassinations to House Baratheon.

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Monday

8

June 2015

0

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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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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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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 3

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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